But now it is different, so I have finally undertaken the task of piecing together all the information I can find from the various log reports and suchlike as well as interviewing Commander Katherine Jarrod, née Jenny, and it goes something like this.
* * * * *
The USS Heracles was on a routine mission passing through a relatively uncharted region of space using newly acquired star charts from the latest addition to the United Federation of Planets. Known locally to be a bit of a Bermuda Triangle, the USS Heracles was proceeding with interest and caution. Can you imagine their excitement at the discovery of a vessel adrift in space?
Initial scans showed it to be of a completely unknown design, so foreign it must have originated from very far away, and abandoned. An oxygen-based atmosphere was detected and thus an Away Team was assembled and sent over to investigate. Consisting of six team members, upon landing they found the air to be breathable if not entirely pleasant. Without circulation and purification, it had become stagnant and stale. Dead perfume also hung in the air.
It was dark and cramped too. Only dim emergency lighting illuminated the way, and the corridors were small and narrow with low ceilings, which indicated that the original crew must have been of a much smaller stature than most humanoids. Even the shortest member of the team, Ensign Kate Jenny, had to duck at every doorway.
The team soon split up, two of them making their way up to the bridge, two more down to the computer core and the last two—Ensign Jenny and Lt Peter Fairfax—towards Engineering at the rear of the craft.
Jenny and Fairfax continually swept their tricorders from side to side taking readings and using them to guide the way towards their quarry and soon found it. It wasn't a large ship by any means and quite simplistic in design.
The doors to Engineering opened grudgingly at their bidding and Fairfax, a tall, rugged-looking man with straw yellow hair gasped in disgust.
"Jeeze! It stinks in here," he complained, raising the back of his hand to his mouth to mask it. The effort was wasted of course.
"It is pretty dire," agreed Kate, but as an engineer, she was more interested in seeing what sort of engines and propulsion systems this alien vessel featured. They stepped through the door and began their investigations wandering off in different directions, their tricorders buzzing and beeping away as they registered the surroundings.
Both officers stopped at various stations to study the controls and readings, but the markings were indecipherable and the systems unlike anything they had ever seen before. Both decided to leave well alone until they had sorted out where the main reactors were and which station was likely to do what.
"Hang on a minute!" exclaimed Jenny suddenly, and she scowled at her tricorder.
"What is it?" prompted Fairfax from the far side of the room.
"I have a life sign!"
"A life sign? But initial scans didn't pick anything up? Are you sure?"
Kate checked her equipment and fiddled with the calibration settings to maximise them.
"Yes," she scowled. "This is definitely a life sign."
Fairfax approached, unconvinced by her interpretation of the readings, but as he looked over her shoulder, he had to agree. Reactivating his own tricorder, he took his own readings, which only served to verify Kate's.
Cautiously, the two made their way towards the signal wafting their instruments from side to side as they went. They followed it through a low, wide arch and found in the darkness, a row of four missile cases laid out before them.
"What the heck are they doing with missiles in engineering?" Kate wondered aloud. It made no sense. She scrutinised them further.
Three of the missiles were apparently live but the last one—the fourth one, wasn't. It was, however, the source of the life sign.
Confused and wary, the two glanced at each other and then Kate stepped forward.
"Careful Katy!" shouted Fairfax. "It could be a booby-trap!"
"It could, but I'm not detecting any explosives or mechanisms. From my readings, I'd say it was an empty shell casing—well, almost empty."
Kate closed her tricorder and passed it to Fairfax before stepping up to the missile.
About five feet in length and a foot in diameter, it was dirty white in colour and covered in a layer of fine dust. With the delicate touch that one would expect of an engineer, Kaye gently began to loosen the cover. A quiet gasp of air escaped from it that caused both officers to freeze for a moment. The freshness of the air surprised both officers, but not as much as the gurgle that also escaped.
With eyes agog, Kate looked to her friend and superior. He stepped forward with his tricorder and pointed it at the container. If it was a booby-trap, he wanted to gather as much information as possible about it before it went off if, for no other reason, than to help those that came after them.
Cautiously, Kate proceeded to lift the cover off, but neither of them expected to find what they did.
Inside, cradled in the missile's interior, lay a small infant loosely wrapped in a blanket.
"What the heck!" exclaimed Fairfax.
"It's a baby!" exclaimed Kate.
"I can see that! But what's it doing there?"
"Don't asked me!" she exclaimed, snatching her tricorder back and opening it to scan the child.
"It's Human," she declared.
"It can't be!"
Katherine glanced around the ship again with its low ceilings and cramped spaces. It was unlikely that Humans had occupied this vessel. It simply wasn't built for a species as tall as a Human, but her tricorder insisted the baby was of that species.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, it's Human," she confirmed.
The two stood staring at the child that lay, gurgling and blowing bubbles before them. It seemed quite a happy baby despite its ordeal. It couldn't have been there long though. The oxygen in the missile case simply wouldn't have been enough and the gasp of air as they opened it revealed that it must have been airtight, but the layer of dust suggested otherwise.
A deafening wail suddenly ripped through the silence, the baby burst into a bawl and the lights dropped into a deep crimson hue. Red alert had been activated.
"Fairfax! Jenny! Get the hell outta there! We've set off the damned self-destruct. We have about ten seconds!" someone screamed over the comms channel.
"Acknowledged!" shouted Fairfax into his badge, but both officers knew the problem they had. They needed to put distance between themselves and engineering where the main reactor was housed and would interfere with the transporter beam.
"Grab the baby!" shouted Fairfax.
"Me! Why me?"
Jenny had always openly admitted that she had no maternal instincts whatsoever.
"You're a woman aren't you?" he screamed over the siren.
"So!" she retorted, but there was no time to argue. Screwing up her nose in disgust, Kate roughly picked up the bawling child and held it at arm's length, eager not to come into contact with it. Then, holding the child out before her, Katherine ran following Fairfax into the corridor until his tricorder flashed a green safe light. Fairfax tapped his communications badge.
"Three to transport!" and they faded from view as the transporter beam whisked them away.
* * * * *
Back on board the Heracles, on the bridge, the captain watched on the viewscreen with a heavy heart as the vessel exploded silently in the vacuum of space. As the sparkler of yellow lights faded and died and the debris began its eternal flight through space, he sighed. It was always sad to witness the death of a ship. It was especially so in this case as this one took so many secrets with it.
"Transporter Room," he asked. "Do we have the Away Team?"
Thank goodness for that, he thought.
"Plus one," added the voice over the intercom.
The Chief of Security didn't need to be told. In an instant, a security team had been despatched and the XO was on his way down, curious to see who this extra person was.
As he burst in through the transporter room doors, he pulled up to an abrupt halt and his jaw dropped. The team of six were still assembled there and Ensign Katherine Jenny was standing in the middle of them, holding the child out, wishing, for the love of all that is holy, that someone would take the damned thing off her.
"Good grief, Ensign! What have you got there?"
"It's a baby, sir," she scowled angrily, still cross that she should have been left holding the baby. She didn't like babies. They were soggy, sticky things that leaked from every orifice.
"I can see that!" he shouted, but then his mood softened as the child giggled and kicked out, stretching its arms out to him.
"Why in god's name are you holding it like that, ensign! It's not an unexploded bomb you know."
"On the contrary, sir. All babies are unexploded bombs and I'm not sure if this one's about to go off, sir. What do you want me to do with it?"
The XO could not help but smile at Ensign Jenny's obvious discomfort.
"I'd take it to sick bay if I were you," and nearly laughed himself silly as the ensign disappeared through the doors, veritably running with the child still held out at arm's length before her.