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The Adventures of Beer Keg of Science! (Cover)

Chapter 16

The Adventures of the Beer Keg of Science!

Main Bridge, NMS Beer Keg of Science!
Zenith Jump Point, Stettin System, 13 August 3158

Lea’s eyes opened, but it seemed at first like she was looking down a dark tunnel. She could hear the discordant din of alarms, of her distressed crew, but they were muffled, jumbled together for a moment, as her vision and hearing slowly returned to normal. “Status report,” she ordered blearily, as her awareness of her surroundings took greater hold. The room felt entirely too bright.

{“Ship’s nominal, on station at Stettin for ten minutes, sensors are clear, crew is mostly incapacitated, and I’ve assumed control. Drones are wrangling the worst cases,”} Mac replied tersely.

“Good to hear,” Lea replied, still shaking off the effects of what had to be the worst jump she’d ever experienced, her vision still struggling to adjust. Her first duty, ensuring the status of the ship, was taken care of – Mac had an eye on things, and would let her know if there was an issue that needed her immediate attention. Ascertaining the status of her crew was next, and also something that Mac was monitoring, but also something each department and department head would be handling, including her. “Bridge crew, sound off. O’Brien?”

“Not dead yet.”

“Phoenix?” she continued.

“I'm not sick, but I'm not well.”

“Rozhenko?,” Lea continued.

“Here, Captain.”

“Kent?” Lea was greeted with silence.

{“Vitals are steady, but I can't read neurological state.”}

“I've got him, Captain,” Ensign Phoenix announced, floating over to Lieutenant Kent. “He’s out cold, but it doesn't look like he’s seizing.”

{“Help’s on the way.”}

“Excellent,” Lea stated evenly. “See about getting a head count on how many people are incapacitated. I suspect our medical teams will be working overtime for a bit. Bridge to CIC,” she continued, keying ship’s comms. “Still with us down there?”

{”Kirk here. I’ve got two crew incapacitated, but the Fuchikomas are taking them to Med Bay, and relief is on the way. I’ve gotten a report from Mac. How are you up there?”}

Lea could hear an edge in her first officer’s voice, and she suspected that he was not recovered himself, but, like her, was doing his best not to show it. Before she could respond, a Fuchikoma drone opened the hatch, used its cold-gas jets and limbs to push itself inside, and scooped up Lieutenant Kent, taking him off of Ensign Phoenix’s hands. “Off to Medbay,” it announced, before carrying her incapacitated navigator out the hatch again. Lea blinked a few times, trying to clear her vision. The room still felt overly bright, colors too rich. She could feel a headache starting to build, her brain trying to cope with the wringer the jump put it through.

Lieutenant Commander Michael Rozhenko was the next to speak. “Did anyone experience…” he trailed off for a moment, seemingly reluctant to continue before finding his voice again, “…auditory and visual hallucinations during the jump?”

Lea could hear murmurs from around the bridge, as her own mind tried to suppress memories of the event. Leaning back heavily in her command seat, she momentarily reached for her head, where the headache brought on by the intensity of the lighting and, she presumed, TDS-like symptoms from the jump, continued to build. It wasn’t incapacitating yet, but if it continued it might be soon. “I think,” she finally replied, breaking into the quiet murmurs, “that we probably have many crewmembers who experienced something like that, Commander, given how we were all completely incapacitated after that last jump. Are you all right now, though?”

Rozhenko nodded. “Well enough to continue my duties, Captain.”

“Good,” Lea replied. “Could someone check the bridge lighting? It’s seems far brighter than it should be.”

“Captain,” Mo spoke up, “it’s not any brighter than normal. Is it alright if I check your eyes, see if they’re dilated?”

“Please,” Lea replied, nodding. She popped the seals on her helmet, removing it, to make it easier to examine her. With no pressure leaks in the hull, and the Keg safe at its destination, there was no need to continue to wear it. Briefly, she closed her eyes to relieve herself of the strain on her vision. “James,” she said to her XO over the comm, “you have the Conn.”

{”Aye, Captain.”} Kirk replied, concern starting to seep into his voice.

Mo moved from her station to the Captain’s, settling in front of Lea. As she did so, the lights began to dim a bit. Not enough to make their jobs difficult, but hopefully enough to help her captain’s symptoms. “Thank you, Mac?” The gruff AI just grunted in reply.

“OK, Captain. The lights have been dimmed a bit. Could I get you to open your eyes?”

Lea nodded, then opened her eyes. “That’s considerably better.”

“OK, Captain, let's see if…oh what the hell?!”

“O’Brien?” Lea asked. “What is it?”

“Captain,” Mo asked shakily, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but your pupils weren’t vertical slits like a cat’s before we jumped, were they?”

“If you’re joking, Lieutenant, then it’s not at all funny,” she replied, fighting to hold off the tide of madness accompanying her memories of the jump that her mind fought to repress.

“She’s not joking, Captain. Now that your helmet’s off, I can see a streak of white in your hair that wasn’t there before we jumped, either. What in the name of Gre’thor happened during that jump?”

“In the name of what, Commander?” Lea asked.

“Hell. In the name of hell.”

Mo turned to stare at him, unconsciously flexing the fingers of her left hand as she did. “That wasn’t what you said, Commander. You said ‘Gre’thor’.”

“What the heck does that mean?” Rozhenko asked, his irritation warring with his confusion.

“You tell me, sir!” Mo replied.

“Enough!” Lea barked. “We’ve all just been put through an unknown, currently unexplainable phenomenon as part of our jump. There will be time for contemplation of its bizarreness, but later. Right now, we take care of our crew, ensure we’re mission-capable, and ascertain the status of our jump drive. Mo, how long will it take to tune the HPG to this system’s parameters?”

“At least 48 hours, ma’am.”

“Can we send a fax?” Lea continued.

“Yes, Captain,” Mo confirmed.

“Mac, do you see anything broken in our KF Drive systems?”


“Good. Briefing, all senior officers, one hour. And let’s see if our medical staff can take a look at my eyes at their convenience.”

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