THE FROZEN HEART
Previous: The Good Ship Potemkin
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2265-December 21st (4 Months, 22 Days)
Settling in aboard Pokey as Potemkin was affectionately known wasn’t difficult. Zane and I were ensigns on our maiden cruises, midshipmen in the vernacular, and if we were treated like utter scutmonkeys for the first few months as the Potemkin stooged around the edge of the Beta Quadrant as the crew shookdown, none of the tasks we were given were particularly onerous. The lieutenants and petty officers in charge of turning fresh academy graduates into actual functional officers had no reason to push too hard and there wasn’t really much rush. The workloads were heavy, but not crushing, and getting familiar with the reality of edge of explored space medicine / operations was an experience all its own.
Then the strange stuff started happening.
We were doing a planetary survey of Nu Pegasi VII, a barely habitable L-Class trans-jovian planet far enough out from the primary to, in theory, support Vulcanoid life. It’s year was… quite long, but Nu Pegasi is quite bright, and so the planet was only a bit frosty. Okay, it was a frozen ball of rock, but one covered with a dense argon / oxygen atmosphere and massive ice oceans. A little terraforming, and it would be colonizable, if wet.
Our away teams were shuttling down equipment, equipment I’d been placed in charge of double checking as it was unloaded (Zane, lucky bastard, was upstairs doing the same on the loading side of the mission). Strictly speaking, I was supposed to be along in case the survey teams needed medical help, but since no one was injured yet… aside from Lt. Caffery who’d managed to break his toe… such emergency, much medicine… I was doing, guess what? Scutwork!
At least I didn’t have to do the actual unloading. All I had to do was check that each pallet had what it was supposed to have and that the various pieces of equipment went to the proper department’s huts. Everything was ticking along without complications… right up until we started getting movement warnings all around us… which was impossible, seeing as how the ship’s scanners had picked up exactly no sign of complex life anywhere on the planet.
But scans or not, the flight of Icebirds that launched themselves out of the glacier we were standing on seemed fully lifelike to me. They came slicing out of the rock-hard ice, showering our team in powder, several hundred of them, and, circling once, flew off towards the nearby mountain peaks. Each looked to be about a meter and a half from wingtip to wingtip and about 250 cm from beak to the end of their triple-pronged tails. They were absolutely gorgeous, translucent, and my tricorder was telling me they were made entirely out of various forms of water-ice.
A cry for “Medic!” drew me away from further study and I rushed over to where Ensign Showalter was clutching his arm, shock on his face, a spray of blood staining the snow, a whiteness of bone showing where one of the Icebird’s wings had simply sliced the limb off a third of the way down from the elbow. I quickly rigged a pressure bandage and flipped open my communicator. “Ensign S’Janus, two and one arm to beam up, medical emergency.”
I set the limb in place, though the ship’s chief medical officer, Dr Yue (and yes, I considered laughing at that, but her first name was neither Wellington or Wana or anything else that started with W. In fact it was Asuna.) took over the reattachment.
That kept us busy for a couple of hours, and by the time I was able to check on what was happening planetside, we were seeing vast changes in the surface of the planet as more and more icebirds… and bigger ice creatures… all moved slowly, but steadily, for a point directly beneath our ship’s geostationary orbit. Apparently, the Captain was considering moving the ship, but for the time being was holding off. Wasn’t my decision, don’t know what I’d’ve done in his place.
Several more injured crewmen were brought up over the next few hours before the Captain ordered a total evacuation of personnel from the planet. Unfortunately, one of the teams was deep inside an ice cave and couldn’t be raised. As the junior-most Doctor aboard, the Chief Medical Officer ordered me to assist the rescue mission, in case there were any injuries.
A team consisting of Lt. Commander Struchen, Lt. Th’iryrrath, and Ensign Rockhound, all of whom were from cold weather climates (Peru, Andoria, and Europa (the planet, not the continent) respectively), joined me in the transporter room. Commander Struchen looked at what I was wearing, the same thing she and the others were wearing, heavy parka, face scarf, thermal gloves, and smirked. “You sure you’re going to be warm enough in that? Might want to wear an enviro-suit.”
To which I responded “If you can handle it ma’am, I can handle it.”
She didn’t press further. “You’re the doctor.”
We beamed down to the missing team’s shuttle’s location, then followed the line of beacons they’d left to guide themselves back to the mouth of the cave. I pulled out my tricorder, scanning the cave. “I’m picking up faint life signs… three… four… five… they’re about half a klick inside the cave and about 120 meters beneath us. The signs are pretty weak, but I can’t tell if that’s from distance or medical issue.”
The Commander nodded, then said, “We’ll go in, but if anything looks like it’s moving or anything starts shaking, we’ll pull back.” We placed a transporter relay beacon at the mouth of the cave and headed in, using phasors set to broad beam to bore our way through the ice. We weren’t bothering to follow the natural curves of the place, but rather seeding field stabilizers every 15 meters to keep the walls in place until the cold resolidified them. About the lifeforms which could move through the ice as if it were empty space, we all had our tricorders set for any kind of moment. As we went, I noticed something curious.
“Most Illogical.” I said, causing the Commander to chuckle.
“Oh? Yes Ensign? What pray tell has piqued your Vulcan curiosity?”
“It is getting colder as we descend. That is not logical. The pressure and lack of surface convection should mean the temperature should be, slowly, rising.”
“That is curious. But not of pressing concern… it’s not getting that much colder, is it?”
“5 Degrees Kelvin since we entered the Glacier.”
“Well, keep an eye on it.”
Within 20 minutes, we’d covered the distance to our missing away team and found them, huddled for warmth around a generator, next to a large pool of what looked like water but which scans revealed was actually a bio-organic plasma, deep sapphire blue in color, and nearly 100 degrees Kelvin… or -171.2 degrees Celsius (-276.16 Fahrenheit)… slightly warmer than liquid oxygen. The temperature in the cave around it was -94 Celsius (-136 F), so cold it was rapidly degrading the health of our people and even the Andorian was having trouble. Me? I was fine, though through my winter weather gear it was hard to tell that I wasn’t responding like a normal Vulcan would. I edged towards the pool as the Commander checked on our people and my fellow Ensign set up the transporter relay.
“What are you doing, Doctor?” Lt. Th’iryrrath asked.
“I am attempting to obtain a sample of this substance. I can do nothing for our people until we get them back to the ship.”
The Lt nodded, “Very well, just… be careful.”
I was, using tongs and a isolation bottle to collect the sample. While I was curious to see if I could safely touch the substance, I wasn’t foolish enough to plunge my hand into an unknown biological specimen.
“There’s interference with the signal, Commander,” Ensign Rockhound announced, right before the pool extruded a tentacle of Ice and punched right through the Ensign’s chest, smashing the relay he was adjusting into shards. He grasped at the thing, but his body was already freezing solid, his expression of, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’ fixed on his face. Even though I knew he’d be fine as soon as the Warehouse patched him up, I couldn’t help yelling “ROCKY! Noooo!” and reaching for my sidearm.
Lt. Th’iryrrath was faster, however, drawing and firing at the tentacle in a heartbeat. The thing recoiled into the pool, the surface twitching.
“Up.. Out of the shaft. Now!” The Commander yelled, kicking at our stunned and half dazed crew. They reluctantly abandoned the generator’s warmth and shuffled towards the tunnel, looking like they were suffering from a mixture of severe hypothermia and shock.
I snatched my hypospray off my belt and injected each of them with a combination stimulant, powerful blood flow restorative, and anti-crystallizing agent. It helped, and they began to pick up speed, shuffling up the gentle grade in their iceboots.
“What the hell was that?” the Commander asked, looking at Rocky’s frozen corpse.
“Ice tentacle” I said, helpfully, as the Lt. shot the pool again just as it was seething uppity-like.
“Thaanks,” the Commander drawled. “Let’s get out of-” But then the entire chamber started to crack apart, the cracks widening into crevasses that showed writhing sapphire blue tendrils crawling up the walls, shattering the floor beneath us. Time slowed. I grabbed the Commander and shoved her into the tunnel, then tossed an ice grenade into the nearest chasm and followed it up with my phaser, set to overload in 5 seconds. Still moving in overdrive, I pushed the Lt. into the tunnel and yelled “GO! I’m right behind you!” But I wasn’t.
As he ran, I turned back to the coming monstrosity and, sending Rocky’s frozen form back to the Warehouse, flash froze everything around me, pumping out ice as fast as I could, letting it push me back up the tunnel. Talk about fighting fire with fire. I ran out of juice 58 meters later, gasping for air, wondering if I dared draw upon the cold all around me. I shrugged, figuring that cold was just… cold, and sucked on the elemental power within the massive glacier.
The sensation was… like nothing I’d ever imagined. In Infamous, Cole upgrades his powers by tapping into the city mains, sucking up more electricity than any simple building hookup could possibly contain. I’d tried to do the same with sources of cold back in Infamous World. Liquid Nitrogen, Glaciers, Icebergs…. And it’d worked, of course. Why wouldn’t it? I’d also tried it again in Mass Effect World, with entire Ice Planets. And again, the results had been what you’d expect. Increases in what I could do, once I figured out what the new power did, but pretty much just following the same curve. This… this wasn’t that.
This cold was… it was what I imagined when I read D&D books and they talk about ‘Para-Elemental Ice.’ This was living cold, cold that hungered, cold that thrived, cold that hated… not heat. Oh, no. That would have been simple. No, this cold hated the noise. It longed for silence. And our machines, our force-fields… they were its noise… and so were our engines. And it was going to do something about that very soon.
I gasped, feeling the planet beneath me. It wasn’t a planet. It was a thing. An entity, older than the galaxy… resting here, soaking up solar radiation, argon, ice. That’s why none of the other planets in this system had rings. Why there weren’t any comets in the system. This creature had eaten them all. I flinched away from it as it became aware of me.
“Child of the Ice,” it called to me, as if it recognized a kindred spirit. “Make the noise stop, Child of the Ice… or I will Silence it.”
I gulped, then dropped the connection, wrenching away from it. I aparated out of the Glacier, landing next to the away team’s shuttle, hoping that they’d beamed up the moment they reached the surface. There was no one in sight. I looked around, pulling up my OmniGear (which had already absorbed my tricorder’s systems specs) and scanned for my crewmates. Transporter residue, but no lifesigns within 12 kilometers. Excellent.
I looked at the shuttlecraft. It was toast; one of the nacelles had been smashed by a footprint the size of a walrus and the other had snapped cleanly off when the vessel rolled over as the ground dropped away from it.
“Dr. S’Janus to Potemkin. Do you read me Potemkin? I am at the coordinates of Shuttlecraft Volga. Requesting evac transport. It is very cold and I’ve lost my gloves. Recommend moving the ship out of orbit. I think the planet is preparing to attack.” I was shivering. I never shiver. And my teeth were chattering. I felt cold! For the first time since Hoenn, I felt cold! And not in a good way.
Then I felt tingly, swirly, beam-me-upsy, and then I was on Potemkin’s transporter pad #3b. I tried to say something, but all that came out of my mouth was supercold air and I blacked out from hypoxia.
Four hours later, I came too, to find the Captain looking down at me. “That was very brave, Doctor. The Commander and Lt Th’iryrrath say you saved their lives with your quick thinking.”
“Th… the planet?” I croaked.
“Yes… we’ve moved. None too soon. Turns out, that structure it was building out of… living Ice?” I nodded, my throat feeling like it had been scoured with sandpaper, “was some kind of photon cannon. The lens was almost three kilometers across. We’ve pulled back to a safe location and continue to monitor conditions.”
“Planet… not… Planet. Bird. Dragon… Dunno… alive. All of it. Living Ice. Can… can move.”
The Captain looked stern. “You’re certain of that?”
I nodded, gasping out, “Educated… Guess.”
He nodded, then commed the bridge. “Navigation… is the planet… moving?”
“It seems to be flattening a bit captain. Hold one… Yes. It seems to be slowing its orbit.”
“Take us back, one quarter impulse speed. Drop some sensor pods, I want reports every five minutes.”
The process wasn’t quick. It was, however, graceful. The Captain invited me to watch from the bridge as the immense creature slowly unfolded itself. It looked like a bird. Not one that had hatched on any known world, but still, a bird. Huge continent sized feathers spread slowly out from it as the atmosphere collapsed inward, forming a sapphire blue haze all over its forward edge. The white was eye searing, brilliant and growing brighter as it turned towards the system’s sun and away from us. “Where’s it going, Helm?”
“Hard to tell, Captain. It’s pointed deeper into the Beta Quadrant. Mu Pavonis, maybe.” The creature, Snowbird as the Captain referred to it, built up speed, faster and faster it went as solar gravity dragged it in. It glowed, brighter, brighter, a brilliant coma building up behind it as it reflected almost, but not all, of the solar energy hitting it… body narrowing, becoming almost a needle two fifths of a light second long… and then, just as it was about to cross the edge of the sun, it jinked, ever so slightly… and jumped to warp… a warp faster than even the fastest ship in Starfleet could go.
“Well, that was impressive,” said the Captain. “Hope next planet we come across gives us a warmer reception.” Everyone on the bridge groaned… except the Lt Commander, who chuckled.
And that’s how I got my first commendation as S’Janus, the Star Cross. Oddly enough, it felt good, even though I’d gotten medals before, lots of them over the last 6 jumps in fact, somehow, I felt I’d really earned this one.
Meanwhile, Ensign Rockhound was replaced by CPO Stone and Rocky was retelling the story whenever he could corner one of the others someplace where there weren’t any muggles around to hear. He seemed inordinately pleased at the experience.
Next: Episode Two
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