Pike was the last one in. As he entered the briefing room, the others all stood.
“As you were,” the captain said, and took a seat at the head of the table. “Thank you for coming. Number One?”
He nodded toward his second-in-command, seated to his right; she leaned forward.
“We’ve recovered part of the station log,” she said. “A small portion—about a minute’s worth—from the day of the attack. The images are heavily compressed; artifacts abound, both auditory and visual. The audio, in fact, disappears entirely less than halfway through the recording. But even so—”
“Hang on.” Commander Tuval leaned forward. “Part of the station log? Where did that come from?”
A fair question, Pike thought, considering that the base itself—Starbase 18, the Federation’s farthest outpost in this sector of the galaxy—was pretty much space junk at this point. A fact Tuval knew better than anyone else in the room. Two days ago, the commander— Enterprise ’s security chief—had almost died exploring its remains. The skin on the right side of his face was still pink, and he had half-healed burns over most of the right side of his body. His lungs were functioning at sixty percent capacity; according to Dr. Boyce, they’d never reach a hundred percent again. All in all, though, Tuval was lucky.
The other three members of the landing party were dead.
“You can thank our science officer,” Pike said, nodding toward Spock, who sat to the captain’s right, at the far end of the table. There were seven of them in the room; Chief Engineer Pitcairn, Commander Tuval, and Communications Specialist Garrison on one side of the table, Number One, Boyce, and Spock on the other. “He can explain it to you.”
Pike gestured to the Vulcan to go ahead.
“Starfleet’s communications infrastructure in this sector is a patchwork affair,” Spock said. “You are no doubt aware of this, Commander.”
“Of course. The trouble we’ve had getting through to Starfleet Command …”
“This is because some of the subspace amplifiers in this region date back to the early years of exploration; to link these early models with current Starfleet equipment requires the use of multiple communications protocols as well as additional processing modules. It occurred to me that stored within some of those processing modules—”
“You talking about the RECs, Mr. Spock?” That from Chief Engineer Pitcairn.
“The REC-twos, Chief.”
“Model twos. Not sure I remember those.” Pitcairn frowned—or maybe it was a small smile. On the chief’s craggy features, it was hard for Pike to tell the difference.
Three months into his five-year mission with the crew, the captain was still learning their little personality traits. And quirks. And likes and dislikes and how they got along with one another. Which members of which department worked well together and which were like oil and water. In that regard, he’d expected to have some problems with Spock. There were a lot of people who still held a grudge against the Vulcans for the way they’d treated humanity in those early, post–First Contact years. Holding back key technologies, refusing Earthers an equal voice among the quadrant’s space-faring races. Most of that seemed to be in the past now, but occasionally, a bit of that xenophobia still popped up. Pike had prepared himself to have to deal with some of that among his crew; he’d suspected he might have a problem with Pitcairn in that regard. Glenn was old-line Starfleet, senior member of the crew, and the longest-serving non-flag officer in the fleet. But the chief and Spock got along like gangbusters.
Would that the rest of his crew mixed half that well.
“The model twos were identical to the original RECs,” Spock continued. “Except that they were housed in significantly larger storage frames to allow for a wide range of potential expansion requirements.”
Pitcairn was still frowning. “Well … they couldn’t be completely identical, then, could they? Larger mass, they’d need a larger stabilization unit to make sure they didn’t drift off position. Am I right?”
Spock considered the point. “You may be correct, Chief. I only glanced at the construction specifications briefly. I cannot recall the exact increase in mass of the REC-two relative to the original. Perhaps later we can—”
“They might’ve changed the composition of the beacon, too,” Pitcairn said. “They did that a lot, back in those days. Experimented with different materials. I knew a guy who actually worked at Bozeman—”
“Chief. Mr. Spock.” Pike leaned forward. Get those two talking about old Fleet technology, they’d be there for hours. And they didn’t have hours. “Let’s stay on track.”
“Exactly,” said Boyce, who looked annoyed. And impatient. An improvement over his mood earlier that morning, at least. “Captain, I would appreciate it if we could hurry things along. Dr. Tambor is still in regen, you know. A critical stage of it, in fact. And I want—”
“I know,” Pike interrupted. “You want to be there. We’ll wrap this up as quickly as we can.”
The doctor nodded, stone-faced, just as angry as he’d been before, when Pike had pulled Tuval out of regen therapy. “He’s got another day to go,” Boyce had said. “You risk permanently compromising his lung function; you risk all sorts of complications. Why do it? He’s not going to be much good in a fight. I won’t certify him for any sort of exploratory mission, either.” Pike understood his doctor’s warnings but didn’t feel he had a choice at the moment. He needed Tuval’s experience right now; therapy had to wait.
If Conn was alive, it would be a different matter. But Conn was dead, and Tuval’s new second was a kid, and he was not going to trust a kid’s judgment in these matters.
“To answer your question, Commander,” Spock said. “Standard Starfleet protocol automates mirroring of all base logs at Starfleet Archives via subspace transmission. For Starbase Eighteen, this mirroring takes place via the amplifier designated Echo one-one-nine, one of the old REC-two amplifiers. It occurred to me that those messages might have needed processing within the unit before being passed along. A corollary of that assumption was that portions of the messages might remain as fragmentary information within—”
“Oh. Automated backup,” Tuval interrupted. “Why didn’t you say so?”
Spock frowned. “I believe I just did.”
Chief Pitcairn laughed. He was the only one.
“What?” he said. “That’s funny.”
Maybe it was. But Pike didn’t have time for humor right now.
“All right. Now that we all understand how we got this information”—the captain looked around the table and got a series of nods in response—“let’s take a look at it.”
Number One leaned forward and waved a hand over one of the table sensors. The briefing room lights dimmed. The wall opposite Pike doubled as a monitor screen; it filled now with video static. The speakers hissed an audio version of the same. Then both cleared, and the screen came to life.
Pike and his officers were looking at the interior of Starbase 18’s flight tower, a circular room with floor-to-ceiling windows. A man in a Starfleet uniform stood with his...