“Now, if all concerns are addressed,” muttered Dr. Ganshar as Jansha prepared for the tests, “we will begin.”
“Nazay,” called Arsha, “we’re going to the Borsootha Slime Oasis. I want Jansha to help us maintain a surveillance distance as the Grand Storm hits.”
“Setting course for the Borsootha Slime Oasis,” confirmed Nazay. The Endeavor moved towards the oasis at a speedy rate. Jansha made calculations to observe the storm en route.
“Responding as normal,” reported Dr. Ganshar.
“Slamfal wants to talk,” reported Shalvey.
“Put him through,” directed Arsha.
“Hey, Arsha!” called Slamfal. “Look at you, gaining fame! I see you’re on the way to my domain!”
“Yep, a surveillance mission on the Grand Storm,” replied Arsha. “We’re testing out a new crewmember.”
“The robot?” asked Slamfal. “I hope you’re treating her right.”
“I heard that!” hissed Dr. Ganshar.
“Ah, you ARE in the room,” realized Slamfal.
“Your committee has been harassing me for some time!” hissed Dr. Ganshar.
“This IS a new life-form,” argued Slamfal. “I won’t be so gauche as to argue right now. This is not the time. I’ll see you once Jansha’s tests are completed. Slamfal out.” The call ended.
“Stupid Arties’ Committee!” she griped.
It took the Endeavor well over an hour to get into a proper survey position. Jansha calculated that it was necessary to ensure survival. “All survey equipment online,” reported Jansha while Arsha had assumed her post on the bridge.
“Very good,” praised Arsha.
“Helm, maintain a safe distance from the storm,” ordered Oak.
“Understood,” confirmed Nazay.
“Oak, may I see you in my ready room?” asked Arsha.
“…Of course,” replied Oak. The pair got up from their seats and entered the Captain’s ready room. “Is something wrong?” asked Oak.
“Commander, may I ask why you’re still here?” quizzed Arsha. “On this ship?”
“I don’t think I understand,” muttered Oak.
“I heard you were offered the Captain’s chair of the Realmtrail!” explained Arsha.
“I decided not to pursue that commission at this point in time, ma’am,” answered Oak.
“She’s a fine ship, Oak,” urged Arsha.
“I must insist that I not pursue that commission,” replied Oak. “It would be counterintuitive for me to do so, given that I’ve submitted my retirement letter last night.”
“…Retirement letter?” repeated Arsha. “You’re leaving Realmfleet?!”
“Rose is pregnant,” explained Oak. “I need to be there for her and my future sapling. She retired a year ago.”
“Oh,” sighed Arsha. “When are you leaving?”
“After Jansha’s tests are completed,” replied Oak.
“I see,” murmured Arsha. “Well, it’s been an honor having you on the Endeavor as long as I’ve been in command.”
“The honor is all mine,” replied Oak as they shook hands.
“Would you mind watching over the bridge for a minute?” requested Arsha. “I need to talk to Rokalla and see if I can get a good replacement First Officer.”
“I believe Commander Denstra Welmeva will be a suitable replacement for me,” answered Oak as he left the ready room. As the door shut, Arsha connected with Rokalla.
“Captain, a pleasure to hear from you again,” he greeted, now more warmly than when she started her career. “What can I do for you?”
“Did Realmfleet receive Oak Mosstrunk’s retirement letter?” she asked.
“I take it he told you he was leaving along with Rose,” guessed Rokalla.
“He did,” confirmed Arsha, “and he recommended a Commander Denstra Welmeva as his replacement. Do you know anything about…?”
“Denstra?!” yelped Rokalla. “That upstart?!”
“Upstart?” repeated Arsha.
“Captain, if Commander Welmeva’s going to be your First Officer, keep a close eye on her!” ordered Rokalla. “She takes risks and, being part Neko, has a tendency to be high-strung!”
“Part…Neko?” gulped Arsha. “I think I see your point.”
“Well, I can’t stay chatting,” finished Rokalla. “Good luck with Jansha’s tests.” The call ended.
Malak sat at Tactical with his arms folded. As the Endeavor held its position, there wasn’t much for him to do. He was about to nod off when his console flashed a light for a second. “…Meh, I’m seeing things,” he muttered to himself. The flash came back. “Then again,” he then said aloud. “Captain to the bridge!”
“What’s going on?” asked Shalvey as Arsha arrived.
“My console indicates there’s a vessel approaching the starboard side,” reported Malak.
“Shalvey, open a channel,” ordered Arsha.
“Channel open, Ma’am,” replied Shalvey.
“Incoming vessel, this is Arsha Royana,” announced Arsha. “You are coming too near a Realmfleet survey of a natural occurrence. Turn back immediately.” The crew waited a few seconds.
“No response,” reported Shalvey.
“I say again, turn back immediately,” urged Arsha. “You are too near the twin funnels of the Borsootha Slime Oasis’ Grand Storm. It is too dangerous for untrained vessels to be near it.” There was still no reply. “On screen,” directed Arsha. The screen showed off a cloudy expanse, but there was no vessel.
“That…doesn’t make sense,” remarked Malak. “Maybe my console’s on the fritz.”
“Channel’s still open,” replied Shalvey.
“…A cloaking device, perhaps?” guessed Elmar.
“Those are illegal,” recalled Arsha.
“That was the agreement Realmfleet reached with the Goblins,” recalled Oak, “but I don’t think pirates have such scruples.”
“Hail them once more,” ordered Arsha. “I want to know…”
“WEAPONS DISCHARGE!” warned Malak. The ship lurched as it was hit by an invisible weapon. The crew picked themselves up.
“Report!” ordered Arsha as she moved her hairpiece to her waist.
“Weapons discharge struck our starboard hull!” answered Malak. “Minor hull breaches on decks 17, 18, and 19!”
“Raise shields and ready weapons!” ordered Arsha. “Red alert!” The Red Alert sounded throughout the ship as all crewmates moved to battle stations. As the Endeavor readied its weapons, the enemy vessel faded into view. It was a brown vessel with two red windows, a sensor array on the bottom, a pair of slender, pincer style claws, and the name and registry read BEX-01, Scorpion.
“Enemy vessel sighted!” reported Malak.
“Beam weapons! Now!” ordered Arsha. Streams of light across the spectrum went in a straight line towards the enemy vessel. An orange shield absorbed the shots.
“No effect!” reported Malak.
“Torpedoes! Fire!” decided Arsha. Malak keyed in the command…but nothing happened. “Malak! Torpedoes!”
“My console’s not responding!” called Malak.
“Engineering! What’s going on?!” demanded Arsha over shipboard communications.
“A computer virus has infiltrated our systems!” replied Thangred. “We’re doing what we can to get rid of it!” Jansha and Dr. Ganshar then arrived on the bridge.
“Did you hear the news?!” asked Arsha.
“I did!” answered Dr. Ganshar. “Jansha, demonstrate your abilities! Get rid of the virus.” …Nothing happened. “Jansha?!” called Dr. Ganshar. Still nothing. “Fine time for you to malfunction!” hissed Dr. Ganshar. “I’ll do it!” She moved to an Engineering console. Then, it happened. Jansha grabbed Dr. Ganshar by the shoulders, spun her around so she could face her creator, then slammed her fist into Dr. Ganshar’s gut. “What are you…?!” coughed Dr. Ganshar. “How?! Jansha, the Directives should be correcting you on that! Look, you’re malfunctioning and I can fix you, but we need to save the Endeavor before it’s destroyed by the enemy vessel!”
“The Endeavor will not die by the Scorpion’s weapons,” argued Jansha.
“…So that IS the name of the enemy vessel?” asked Arsha.
“Correct,” confirmed Jansha.
“How do you know it won’t destroy us?!” argued Dr. Ganshar. “There’s a virus on the ship that’s taking control of various functions of this vessel! If we don’t purge it from the systems, we’ll either be destroyed by the enemy vessel or drift too close to the Grand Storm!”
“The latter will happen,” declared Jansha.
“Then help me get rid of the virus so it WON’T happen!” insisted Dr. Ganshar. “That’s an order!”
“You idiot!” hissed Jansha. “Who do you think planted the virus on the Endeavor’s systems?!” That statement stunned everyone on the bridge.