"What do you mean? NO. He's not here." Commander M'Butu said immediately.
There was a moment of crackling static before the transporter technician said, "Sir. He didn't come through... Wait... There's a procedure to follow if this happens... where is it?"
"Joe, we need you to look at the transfer bridge." Jimmy said as he ran to Joe's side.
"In a minute Jimmy." Joe said as he waited to see what Commander M'Butu was going to do.
"We don't have a minute. We just received a report. There's a tornado heading our way, it's five miles wide and getting bigger. If we don't get a shield up right now we're all going to die!" Jimmy said desperately.
"I'll take care of him Joe. I promise. Don't let everything that Vincent did be in vain." Commander M'Butu said seriously.
Joe looked at Commander M'Butu with pain for an instant, then said, "Oliver, please call me as soon as anything happens. Can you arrange for Benny to beam aboard? When they find Vincent, he might be afraid and I don't want him to have to be alone."
Benny looked at Joe with surprise then saw the anguish in his expression.
"I'll take care of it Joe. Now go on." Commander M'Butu said with sympathy.
"And I promise that I'll take good care of Vincent." Benny added as a solemn vow.
Joe gave Benny a grateful smile and a nod, then turned to Jimmy and said, "Okay, tell me what you've got done so far."
* * * * *
Commander M'Butu turned his attention back to his communicator and firmly asked, "To whom am I speaking?"
"This is Ensign Bergman sir." The transporter technician said in a frightened voice.
"Commander, the roof just came off the clinic. I think we got everyone out before it went..." An Ensign said as he ran to Commander M'Butu's side.
The Commander nodded to indicate that he heard then carefully said into the communicator, "Ensign Bergman, I need for you to open the transporter's log file and find out where Crewman Winters was transported."
There was a loud crackle of static, then a pop that coincided with a particularly close lightning strike.
"Um... I just...okay. I've got it." The transporter technician said in a desperate voice.
There was a booming crack of thunder that could be felt as well as heard and a trickle of dust fell from the ceiling.
"Where is he Ensign?" Commander M'Butu asked, wishing he could reach through the communicator and shake the answers out of Ensign Bergman.
Benny looked around the room in fright and noticed that the town council were gathered in a tight group around a communications console.
"There... I've got him... he's in the transporter's buffer... it can't... finish him. Oh God! The pattern's been corrupted. I've got his matter, but the transporter can't put him back together." The transporter technician said in panic.
"Ensign Bergman. Lock down the transporter and call Chief Morgan to deal with this. You're out of your depth in this matter." Commander M'Butu said firmly.
"Sir.... yes, sir. I can do that. I'll call him now." The Ensign said in a terrified voice.
"Uncle Oliver, you should think about getting your people out of here. There's a tornado closing in on us and it may only be a matter of minutes." Cyril said as he ran to Commander M'Butu's side.
"I think you know that's not going to happen Cyril. There's no way my people would willingly leave anyone behind. Just work to save as many as you can." Commander M'Butu said seriously.
Cyril nodded his understanding, then turned to go back to the group of the colony's leaders.
For the first time in weeks, the colonists heard nothing.
Everyone looked around in wonder as the devastating storm seemed to completely disappear in an instant.
There was a crackle of static from the communicator in Commander M'Butu's hand, then a familiar voice.
"Ensign Bergman says we have a bit of a problem here, would you care to fill me in?" Chief Morgan asked, somehow managing to sound casual.
"Crewman Winters shut down the reactor and was exposed to some radiation in the process. When he tried to transport up a combination of the radiation, the storm and the solar flares must have corrupted his signal. Now his matter is stored in the transporter's buffer and the computer doesn't have enough of a pattern to put him back together." Commander M'Butu said carefully, trying to be brief while providing the most important facts.
"Oliver, from what I understand, you have quite a situation on your hands down there. Leave this to me. I'll call you when I have this all sorted out." Chief Morgan said in a confident voice.
Commander M'Butu smiled with relief and said, "Have I mentioned how happy I am that you're back?"
"I believe so, but I don't mind hearing it again from time to time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll attend to Crewman Winters."
"Of course Richard. Thank you. M'Butu out." Commander M'Butu said with an aire of relief.
"Morgan out." The Chief Engineer said before terminating the transmission.
Commander M'Butu turned and gave Benny a considering look, then said, "First things first. You have a promise to keep, and in order to do that, you'll need to be on the ship."
* * * * *
After a moment to look over the transporter, Chief Morgan turned to the frightened young Ensign and said, "Ensign Bergman, I have a very important job for you. Are you up for it?"
"Yes sir." Ensign Bergman said as he tried to compose himself.
"Good. Since Crewman Winters was on the surface, he must have transported down. I need you to find out where he transported from and locate his transporter trace file." Chief Morgan said seriously.
"How can I do that? There have been hundreds of people transporting since we got here and no one has kept a record of who was coming and going." Ensign Bergman said helplessly.
Chief Morgan shook his head and said, "Damned sloppy. We'll just have to do this the hard way. Make a ship wide announcement if you have to. Just find out who transported the nine year old Crewman to the surface."
"Nine? I killed a kid?" Ensign Bergman asked as tears welled up in his eyes.
"No. You didn't kill him. He's alive and floating in an electronic limbo inside this device. But if you want to keep him alive, you'll find me his transporter trace." Chief Morgan finished firmly.
"Yes... yes sir. Right away." Ensign Bergman said quickly, then ran out of the transporter room.
Chief Morgan shook his head, then pressed the comm switch on the transporter console.
"Communications." Was the immediate response.
"I need Ensign Radovanovich in transporter room three immediately." Chief Morgan said seriously.
"Yes sir. I'll get him to you as fast as I can. It's good to have you back sir." The woman in communications said quickly.
After a moment to consider the voice, Chief Morgan gave a gentle smile and said, "Thank you Debbie, It's good to be back. Morgan out."
"Patterson out." Debbie said, then closed the connection.
Chief Morgan placed his palm flat on the console before him and said in a gentle voice, "Don't worry Vincent, we'll get you through this."
* * * * *
Commander M'Butu walked up the stairs and into the main room of the town hall to find Joe, Susan, Darin and Jimmy looking at him with anticipation.
"Chief Morgan is personally taking care of Crewman Winters. I'll keep you posted. Would you care to fill me in on what you just did?" Commander M'Butu asked with interest.
"Darin... I mean Ensign Cooper suggested that instead of using the shield generators to create shields over the main buildings, that we synchronize them and create one massive shield to cover the entire colony." Susan said with accomplishment.
"But the units were designed to operate independently and can't cover nearly that much area. How did you manage that?" Commander M'Butu asked curiously.
"Vincent and I were talking about the Yorktown's field generators and how to do a seamless power transfer before I beamed down. That made me think about applying the same reasoning to the modulation of the shield harmonics to make them work in tandem. The synchronous field harmonics allowed us to extend the maximum area of the shielding. We constructed a data transfer bridge to synchronize them and with everyone's help, we made it work." Darin said with excitement.
"How will this effect our evacuation efforts?" Commander M'Butu asked carefully.
"It will actually make things easier. We just have to give the Yorktown our shield frequency and she'll be able to beam people through the shield as if it weren't there. And the way this thing is rigged, we should be able to keep it up until the last person is transported out." Joe said seriously.
"Good work. All of you. I assume that you'll need to stay here and monitor the equipment." Commander M'Butu said in thought.
"Yes sir. The shield is stable, but we should really have the team here to keep it that way. Especially with the tornado that's about to hit." Joe said with a look of regret directed at the commander.
"Understood. I'm going to get back to the business of evacuating this place. I'll let you know as soon as I have any news." Commander M'Butu said seriously.
"Thank you sir." Joe said, and reluctantly looked over at the bank of portable shield generators all wired into one central unit.
* * * * *
"Ensign Radovanovich reporting as ordered." Rad said as he hurried into transporter room three.
"Come over here, we have a crewman stuck in this thing. I seem to recall hearing that you faced a similar challenge once before." Chief Morgan said seriously.
Rad paled at the statement as he walked over to the console.
"Do you think you can help him?" Chief Morgan asked with hope.
"I don't know... The last time I tried to do this it didn't turn out too well. What came out of the transporter... well, fortunately it didn't live." Rad said grimly.
"Perhaps you have looked back on that experience and wished that you could have done something differently. Now you have that chance. I don't know of anyone else on this ship who would have a better chance of retrieving Crewman Winters from the transporter's buffer." Chief Morgan said honestly.
"Vincent's in there?" Rad asked with horror.
"Yes. And to make matters worse, he was exposed to radiation before he transported up." Chief Morgan said, then pointed to the radiation reading from the transporter's log file.
"I need his trace... we were together in section D when Commander M'Butu told him to transport immediately, so he probably went to transporter room five." Rad said in thought.
Chief Morgan hit the button on the console quickly and said, "Transporter room five, this is Chief Morgan."
"Yes Chief, what can I do for you?" The technician asked quickly.
"A nine year old crewman beamed down to the surface some hours ago. We believe he might have used your transporter." Chief Morgan said hopefully.
"Yes sir. I remember him." The transporter technician said carefully.
"We need his transporter trace pattern. Is there any way you can locate it? We need it desperately." Chief Morgan said urgently.
"Um... yeah. I went on break right after I transported him. Let's see... yeah. There's the log showing where I signed off... so now I can just go back by the time stamp on the files... yeah, everyone else was beaming up. His was the only outgoing transport I had in that session. Where do you need the file sent?" The technician asked seriously.
"Transporter room three." Chief Morgan said abruptly.
"You should have it now. I hope it helps." The technician said with concern.
"Thank you, who am I speaking to?" Chief Morgan asked curiously.
"Ensign Foster sir." The transporter technician said professionally.
"You may have just helped to save a crewman's life Ensign Foster. Thank you for your help. Morgan out." Chief Morgan said seriously.
"Foster out." Ensign Foster said, and a smile could be heard in his voice.
"This isn't going to be easy." Rad said as he looked at the transporter trace.
"Just tell me what you need. I can tear one of these things down and put it back together with my eyes closed, but what you're about to make it do is unfamiliar territory for me." Chief Morgan said seriously.
"I've only tried this once before... But I've got to make it work." Rad said in concentration.
"Oh, excuse me. There's one other thing I must attend to." Chief Morgan said absently, then pressed the comm button.
"Communications." The voice responded immediately.
"Debbie, would you locate Ensign Bergman and tell him to return to transporter room three." Chief Morgan asked as he watched Rad examining the pattern buffer data.
"He's right here. He's been trying to get me to make a ship wide announcement, but I can't make sense out of what he wants me to say." Debbie said frankly.
"It doesn't matter now, we found what we were looking for." Chief Morgan said seriously.
"He heard you, he's on his way. Did Ensign Radovanovich make it down there?" Debbie asked with concern.
"I'm right here Debs. Kinda busy now, I'll tell you all about it later." Rad said, not taking his eyes off the screen before him.
"Got it Rad. Communications out." Debbie said quickly and terminated the transmission.
"I think I can make this work. I just need to render the transporter trace pattern and make some adjustments before we can use it." Rad said carefully.
"How do you mean?" Chief Morgan asked as he watched Rad punching in commands.
"When we did this before, we didn't take into account things like clothes, jewelry, the things in his pockets. The transporter usually takes care of those things automatically, but this is like an ultra strict version of the manual mode. We have to be very specific about what's to be done. And even then... well, we can't worry about that." Rad said, then pressed one final button and waited for the image to appear on the screen.
"I honestly didn't know that could be done." Chief Morgan said in an impressed voice.
"Well, it can't without a little reprogramming. I just imported a program that I wrote a while back and prayed that I would never need." Rad said, then started typing in commands.
"Starting with the trace image... First, I'm removing the uniform." Rad said seriously, then executed the commands.
"Next the boots... then the socks... finally the underwear..." Rad said carefully.
"I find the fact that you can do this somewhat disturbing." Chief Morgan said honestly.
"Don't worry Chief, I'd never use my powers for evil." Rad said with a smile, then zoomed in on Vincent's face in the image.
"I didn't think he had any jewelry, but I had to be sure." Rad said seriously, then adjusted the view to look at his hands.
"Good. That's the easy one." Rad said, then stored the altered file.
"How do you mean?" Chief Morgan asked curiously.
The door to transporter room three opened and Ensign Bergman hurried into the room.
"I mean, that his image isn't complete. I don't know how bad it will be, but don't let it bother you. We're going to use his transporter trace to fill in the blanks of whatever is missing." Rad said seriously.
"Proceed." Chief Morgan said, then glanced to see Ensign Bergman standing at his side.
When the image finally resolved, Ensign Bergman took in a gasp of horror at the sight.
Chief Morgan looked away, unable to bear the sight of the grotesque monster before him.
The image showed portions of Vincent's face missing and a claw-like hand clutching a blanket.
The first thing that Rad thought when he saw Vincent's rendered image was 'The Cryptkeeper'.
"Oh Vincent..." Rad said with pain.
"Did... did I do that?" Ensign Bergman asked in a small voice.
"No Ensign. The radiation and the storm did that. Your logs show that you did everything perfectly. None of this was your fault." Chief Morgan said seriously.
"Thank you Chief." Ensign Bergman said, not sounding convinced.
"Let's get rid of that blanket..." Rad said carefully as he entered a series of commands.
The image changed to expose large portions of Vincent's body without skin, and his hands were little more than bones.
Rad shook his head and said, "We're going with plan B."
"And what, pray tell, is Plan B?" Chief Morgan asked as he hesitantly looked at the screen again.
"Vincent's core... his brain and neural activity, are the most protected parts of his pattern. I'll have to assume that that's intact." Rad said carefully, then pressed a few buttons and the view changed.
Black patches began to fill in most of the areas of missing skin, the effect was somehow more disturbing than the mass of bones and muscles they had been looking at before.
"This shows his cellular viability. I'm just going on a hunch here. But from the look of it, the radiation has already killed off a significant portion of the skin on his hands and face and... his eyes are severely deteriorated... and his lungs... oh Vincent." Rad said as he looked at the image with pain.
"Keep your focus, you're doing fine." Chief Morgan said quietly.
Rad nodded, then said, "What I'm going to do is an overlay. Wherever there is missing data, we'll fill it in from the transporter trace... that's plan A. If we just left him like that, he would be blind,? permanently disfigured and I don't even know how extensive the lung damage would be. I think we can do better."
"Plan B. Wherever we find dead cells in one profile, I'm going to replace them with living cells from the other profile... In theory, the two patterns should have exactly the same amount of mass and when the unified pattern is applied to the matter stream he should come out of it with living skin and eyes." Rad said carefully.
"What about the radiation?" Chief Morgan asked slowly.
"I'll take care of that now." Rad said seriously, then pulled up the transporter log to see the types of radiation and the levels.
"Since the radiation is absent in the original transporter trace, I'll just have the filter flush any traces of radiation that aren't present in both images." Rad said as he keyed in the instructions.
"Why don't you have it flush out all the radiation?" Ensign Bergman asked curiously.
"Because I'm not sure how that would be interpreted by the program. It might stop all neural activity, effectively killing Vincent without any hope of reviving him." Rad said, then activated his program.
"What condition do you expect him to be in when he emerges from the transporter beam?" Chief Morgan asked with concern.
"I wish I could tell you. I'm using every trick I know or have ever dreamed of here. I can't predict how the computer will interpret my commands on an operation of this scale. I've tried to keep it as simple and straight forward as I can." Rad said with worry.
"I'm going to brief the captain then request that a medical team be present when we rematerialize Crewman Winters." Chief Morgan said firmly.
"That sounds like a good idea. I've got a few more minutes of work to do here. I still have to compensate for his digestive processes." Rad said in concentration.
Chief Morgan nodded, then turned and left the transporter room.
* * * * *
When the transporter beam finally faded, Benny looked around cautiously.
"If you'll just move off the transporter pad, someone will be here in a moment to take you to get you some food and find you a place to sleep." The transporter technician said in a sympathetic tone.
"I... um... I'm supposed to find someone named Ensign Bergman." Benny said hesitantly.
"You need to find Terry? Oh, give me a second and I'll find him for you." The transporter technician said and started pressing some buttons on his console.
"He's logged in at transporter station three. Just walk through these doors and right across the hall." The technician said professionally.
"Thank you." Benny said shyly.
* * * * *
"We can watch after the shields if you want to go check on him." Jimmy said quietly.
Joe looked up with pain in his eyes, then said, "Commander M'Butu was right. Vincent went into that reactor to save all these people's lives. If I let anything happen to them, then his sacrifice would mean nothing."
"You're talking like he's dead. He isn't. They just misplaced him. You know that Commander M'Butu will tell you what's going on, even if it's something you don't want to hear... right?" Susan asked firmly.
Joe reluctantly nodded his agreement.
"Then right this minute all we know for sure is that Vincent has been misplaced and Chief Morgan is personally taking charge of finding him. Right?" Susan asked as she looked him in the eyes.
"Right." Joe said as he fought to get his emotions back under control.
"Now lets check out these systems, it looks like the tornado is about to hit us." Susan said as she turned her attention back to the equipment.
Joe let out a resigned sigh, then said, "Right."
* * * * *
"Captain Byrne, do you have a moment?" Chief Morgan asked hesitantly as he walked to the Captain's side on the bridge.
Captain Byrne gave Chief Morgan a considering look and said, "Yes, of course. In fact, I believe it would be a good time to regroup and assess our situation."
Captain Byrne looked at the helm and said, "Lieutenant Morris, you have the bridge."
"Yes sir." Lieutenant Morris said immediately.
"Lieutenant Patterson, please have Cyril, Commander M'Butu, Dr. Perry and Lieutenant Simms meet me in the conference room for a briefing. You should be there as well." Captain Byrne said as he started walking toward the turbo lift.
"Right away sir." Debbie said quickly, and began trying to locate the requested individuals.
* * * * *
"Excuse me?" Benny said as he walked into the transporter room.
"You can't be in here. Just wait a second and I'll get someone to take you to the rec hall so you can get something to eat and get checked in." Ensign Bergman said as he walked toward Benny.
"Vincent's Daddy Joe asked me to come here so I can stay with Vincent when you find him. He doesn't want Vincent to have to be alone." Benny said quickly.
"Come on in. What's your name?" Rad asked from the console.
"I'm Benny." He said quietly.
"Come over here Benny and I'll fill you in on what's going on." Rad said seriously as he watched his program manipulating the image.
Benny walked to Rad's side and gasped when he saw the grotesque image of Vincent covered with huge areas of black.
"What happened to him?" Benny asked in horror.
"Honestly, I don't know exactly what caused this. It appears that the areas most affected by the radiation were... lost." Rad said in a considering voice.
"Can you do anything to help him?" Benny asked desperately.
"That's what I'm doing now. Just hold on Benny. I can't say for sure, but I think I might be able to undo most of the damage." Rad said carefully.
Benny looked at the picture on the screen, then noticed one of the black patches disappear.
"You're putting him back together?" Benny asked as he looked at Rad with question.
"That's right. We have a... well, it's kind of a pattern that was created when he transported down. We're using that to fill in the gaps where there's missing information." Rad said carefully.
"Wow. That's really amazing." Benny said as he looked at the console's screen again.
"Benny, I don't want to get your hopes up. This might work, but what you're seeing on the screen is the composite pattern that I'm constructing. When we try to take Vincent's matter and apply it to the pattern... well, I honestly don't know what will happen." Rad said in a pained voice.
"I don't understand." Benny said with concern, not looking away from Vincent's image on the screen.
"What you're seeing is a very simplified version of the actual pattern. It's a computerized estimation in the same way that a globe is an incredibly simplified representation of the Earth. I'm making corrections based on what I can see here but... I just don't know what condition Vincent will be in when we get him out of the transporter." Rad said, feeling pain at saying the words.
"Is there anything else you can do?" Benny asked quietly.
"No. This is it. This is everything I know to do to help him." Rad said quietly.
"Then it will have to be enough. I promised that I'd stay with Vincent and no matter what condition he's in when he comes out of the transporter, I'll keep my promise." Benny said, trying to sound definite.
Rad nodded his agreement.
* * * * *
"It's here." Jimmy said as he looked out the window.
"Do you really think this is going to hold?" Darin asked Joe quietly.
Joe smiled at Darin and said, "I think it's got a good chance of holding up. If this works, you'll know that you saved a few hundred lives."
Darin looked at Joe with wonder.
"The way we were going to set up the individual shields would have offered protection to... maybe two or three hundred people at the most. There's just no way we could have saved everyone from this tornado. On top of that, the Yorktown would have to compensate for each different shield frequency, which would have slowed the evacuation effort. If this transfer bridge holds up, you may have just created something that will be saving lives for years to come." Joe said seriously.
"Wow. And all I did was apply the same logic from power distribution to field harmonics." Darin said in amazement.
Joe chuckled and said, "You sounded like Vincent when you said that."
Darin's smile faded as he thought about Vincent being hurt and missing.
Joe put a hand on Darin's shoulder and said, "Susan's right. All we know for sure is that he's missing. Hopefully they've found him by now and he's back on the ship waiting for us."
Darin nodded. He couldn't find any words of comfort or encouragement to offer in return.
* * * * *
"Commander M'Butu, we'll start with you. What's the situation on the surface?" Captain Byrne asked from his place at the head of the conference table.
"Much improved. Deflector Control was able to put up a shield to blanket the entire colony... or what's left of it. Without having to fight the weather, the search and rescue efforts are going much more smoothly. We've been able to evacuate approximately 50% of the colonists so far." Commander M'Butu said professionally.
Captain Byrne nodded, then asked, "Dr. Perry, what can you tell me about the condition of the colonists?"
"They're cold, hungry and several have been injured as a result of the storm. We're being overwhelmed by the shear number of people in need of medical attention, but the injuries haven't been life threatening for the most part. We've called on personnel with medical training from other departments to aid in the treatment. So far we've been keeping up with the demand." Dr. Perry said in thought.
"Good work. Lieutenant Patterson, what is the status of communications?" Captain Byrne asked seriously.
"Currently, we have no communication outside this system. We're in the process of modifying a series of probes to act as relay buoys away from the local star. It's our hope that when they're launched, we'll be able to have full communication with Starfleet." Debbie said carefully.
"How long until we're ready to launch the probes?" Captain Byrne asked cautiously.
"Five minutes at most. In fact, if I may be excused, I would like to launch them as soon as they're ready." Debbie asked hopefully.
"Yes, go on. And contact me as soon as we have communications with Starfleet." Captain Byrne said in thought.
"Yes sir." Debbie said immediately, then hurried out of the room.
"Lieutenant Simms, any matters of concern with security?" Captain Byrne asked cautiously.
"No sir. I've instructed my people to treat our guests with the same courtesy we'd extend to visiting dignitaries. So far everyone has been very cooperative and things have been running smoothly. But I'm concerned about what's going to happen when the rest of the colonists are brought onboard." Lieutenant Simms said frankly.
"What concerns you?" Captain Byrne asked with interest.
"When a large group of people are packed into a small space, violence will erupt. I don't have any suggestions of how to prevent it from happening, I'm just saying that it's a well documented psychological phenomenon. We've been working to disburse the people evenly through the ship, directing them to all the mess halls, assigning them quarters as family units and trying to keep them focused on helping each other. But as the number of people increase, I anticipate problems with short tempers, violent outbursts... possibly even claustrophobia issues." Lieutenant Simms said seriously.
"I see. Keep me informed of any developments that concern you. We'll do our best to minimize the impact on our guests. Any thoughts on the matter Cyril?" Captain Byrne asked of his son.
"The council may be able to rally people to keep a positive attitude. Once communications have been established, it might be helpful if we could get some indication of what's to happen to us. If I can tell everyone where we're going, it would allow them to focus on the future rather than worry about their losses." Cyril said carefully.
"I'll see what I can do. Now Chief Morgan, what can you tell us of the condition of Crewman Winters?" Captain Byrne asked seriously as he turned his attention to the Chief Engineer.
"When he was transported aboard, his pattern was corrupted. We have his matter, but the transporter can't reassemble him." Chief Morgan said frankly.
Captain Byrne looked down at his folded hands in front of him as he said, "I see. What steps are being taken?"
"Ensign Radovanovich has had to deal with a situation like this once before. He's using the transporter trace from when Crewman Winters transported down as a template for his reconstruction... From the level of degradation of the transport pattern, I can't say that I'm optimistic, but it's the only chance Crewman Winters has for survival." Chief Morgan said gravely.
"Is there anything we can do for him?" Captain Byrne asked carefully.
"Yes. I'd like for a medical team to be present when we bring him out of the transporter. There's no telling what condition he'll be in." Chief Morgan said in a reluctant voice.
"Yes, of course. Dr. Perry will see to it that someone is there." Captain Byrne said and spared her a glance.
"I'll take care of it personally." Dr. Perry said immediately.
"I'd also like to have one armed security officer present." Chief Morgan said reluctantly.
Captain Byrne looked at Chief Morgan with surprise.
"It just might end up being the most merciful thing." Chief Morgan said as his gaze fell to the table.
"I'll be there." Lieutenant Simms said quietly.
"Captain, I have Starfleet Command for you." Debbie's voice came over the intercom.
"Good work. Put them through." Captain Byrne said as he looked at the view screen.
"Leland, I was beginning to worry about you. What's your situation?" Admiral Morrow asked with concern.
"As near as we can tell, when the orbits of the planets of this system brought them all on the same side of the local star, the combined gravitational forces caused a violent reaction in the star. The result being sunspots, solar flares, and subspace interference. The effect on the planet has been devastating. Violent storms are effectively scouring the surface clear of every living thing. The colony has lost an estimated one hundred people and the solar radiation and storms have severely hindered our efforts to evacuate the colony." Captain Byrne said carefully.
"I see. I'll divert the Enterprise immediately to aid in the evacuation. What else can we do to help you?" Admiral Morrow asked with concern as he nodded to someone off screen.
"It's been suggested that the morale of the colonists might be greatly improved if they had an idea of where they were being taken. Uncertainty about their future might contribute to the feeling of confinement that they will almost certainly begin to experience as the reality of their situation begins to set in." Captain Byrne said frankly.
"I understand. We'll get right to work on that and get back to you as soon as possible... The Enterprise is expected to arrive at your location in three hours. Perhaps making preparations to relocate a portion of the colonists to the Enterprise will take their minds off other things for a while?" Admiral Morrow suggested.
"Yes, I believe I'll let the colony's governing council handle those arrangements. They should be able to include their people in the decision making and divert their attention for a time." Captain Byrne said with a considering look at his son.
Cyril nodded his agreement.
"We've received your log reports and sensor data. Contact us immediately if there is any further support we can offer." Admiral Morrow said seriously.
"Yes sir. Thank you." Captain Byrne said respectfully.
"Starfleet out." Admiral Morrow said calmly.
"Yorktown out." Captain Byrne said, then pressed the button to terminate the transmission.
"Anything further?" Captain Byrne asked as he looked around the table.
Everyone looked around and shook their heads.
"Keep me posted. And Richard, let me know immediately how things work out with Crewman Winters." Captain Byrne finished in a sympathetic tone.
"Yes sir. I believe Ensign Radovanovich should be ready to attempt retrieval soon." Chief Morgan said as he stood.
"I'll be down in a few minutes." Dr. Perry said as she got up from the conference table.
"I'll go down with you Chief." Lieutenant Simms said in a low voice.
Chief Morgan nodded and reluctantly began to walk toward the turbo lift.
* * * * *
"How are you doing Joe?" Commander M'Butu asked as he approached the group.
"How's Vincent? Did you find him?" Joe asked desperately.
Commander M'Butu nodded, his expression letting Joe know that all was not well.
"Please, tell me." Joe said in a whisper, bracing himself for the news.
"His pattern was corrupted when he transported. His matter is being held in the transporter's buffer." Commander M'Butu said quietly.
Susan's eyes began to fill with tears as she felt arms come around her.
She turned to see Jimmy looking back at her with tear filled eyes and holding her gently.
"You need to call Rad, he knows what to do..." Joe said in a burst.
"He's already there Joe. Everything that can possibly be done is being done." Commander M'Butu said seriously.
Joe fought down his emotions and haltingly said, "Thank you Oliver."
"I'll come and tell you as soon as they've gotten him out of there." Commander M'Butu said quietly.
Joe nodded that he heard.
Commander M'Butu turned and walked to the other side of the room to get back to the business of evacuating the colony.
* * * * *
"Report Ensign." Chief Morgan said as he entered the room with Lieutenant Simms at his side.
"The program should be done with the overlay and substitution any second. After that we just apply the filter, then start the matter stream." Rad said reluctantly.
Chief Morgan nodded.
The doors to transporter room three opened to admit Dr. Perry and two medical assistants.
"Whenever you're ready Ensign Radovanovich." Chief Morgan said carefully.
Rad looked down at his console and said a quick internal prayer for Vincent's protection as he brought the transporter's filter online.
"If you want, I could take over." Chief Morgan said gently.
"No sir. I'll see it through." Rad said quietly.
Chief Morgan nodded and stood away from the console.
"Here we go." Rad said in a shaky voice, then activated the control to apply the pattern to the matter stream.
The transporter sounded like it was straining as the bluish light started to sparkle on the transporter pad.
"It's trying to resolve the incongruities between the pattern and the matter stream. Give it a second." Rad said in concentration.
"I see something." Benny said with worry as he saw a faint outline in the transporter's beam.
"Stay back. We don't know how stable he's going to be." Rad said with concern.
Benny looked at Rad with confusion at the statement.
"He might pop." Ensign Bergman said, then a look of horror came over his face as he realized just how inappropriate it sounded.
Chief Morgan looked at Ensign Bergman with disapproval for a moment then said, "A bit simplistic, but essentially true. Come over here and wait with me young man."
Benny hesitantly walked to Chief Morgan's side.
"Why is it taking so long?" Dr. Perry asked as she watched the barely visible form trying to resolve into being.
"Because the filter is doing about twenty things at once. The process is slow, but with any luck Vincent will come out of there in better shape than he went in." Rad said as he watched the console before him with concern.
"Is it working?" Chief Morgan asked carefully.
"The program hasn't thrown any errors. So it's doing what I told it... I just hope I told it the right things." Rad said as he watched the readings carefully.
A beeping drew everyone's attention.
"Something's wrong." Rad said as he started checking the readings.
"What is it?" Chief Morgan asked immediately.
"It's showing that there isn't enough matter to complete the reconstruction... I screwed something up." Rad said in horror.
"What are you going to do?" Ensign Bergman asked in confusion.
"He needs more matter... wait... 0.00032... it's just a few particles." Rad said with relief.
"I don't understand." Lieutenant Simms said cautiously.
"It's nothing. The transporter was just trying to make an 'exact' match between Vincent's pattern and the available matter. I'll just have it disregard the missing particles and it will be fine." Rad said as he started pressing buttons.
"There." Rad said, then pressed the activation button.
There was a sparkling in the transporter beam and a humanoid shape started to take form.
"It looks like you may have done it." Chief Morgan said as he watched the boy's body resolve into being.
Silence fell over the room as everyone saw what had taken form before them.
It was a mass of misshapen raw flesh and open sores from head to toe, there were ribbons of loose skin hanging in places and only a few small patches of pink skin to let anyone know that the thing before them had once been human.
The sound of the door opening broke the silence as Ensign Bergman dashed out of the room.
Benny's eyes went wide in horror as he took in a gasp at the sight before him.
Chief Morgan instinctively pulled Benny to his side and held him close in a hug of comfort.
Rad's eyes filled with tears at the horrifying sight before him as he felt like there was some horrible force inside him, crushing his soul.
Dr. Perry looked on with amazement at the sight before her. In her nearly thirty years of being a doctor, she had never seen anyone in this condition... No one alive anyway.
Lieutenant Simms reluctantly raised his phaser, then adjusted the power setting to 'kill'. He tried to fight down the image of the nine year old boy who sat across from him in the conference room the day before and focus on the necessary and 'merciful' thing that needed to be done.
The moment of silence seemed to stretch on forever as Lieutenant Simms raised his phaser and pointed it at the hideous lump of flesh.
As his finger tightened on the trigger, a small voice quietly asked, "Can someone help me? I can't see."