(Previous Post was Francois' "Field Training")

Setting: Orbit around OMICRON THETA
Stardate: 63071.1200

The USS ETNA, NCC 32406, Alliance-Class research vessel had fallen into a peaceful standard orbit around the planet that had become infamous to the Federation because of a single incident in 2386… 77 years ago.  The Crystalline Entity had left its mark on that world then and Captain Dave Banks had been sent here also eight decades later to investigate and see if life had managed to return a world left completely barren.

Setting: USS ETNA, Captain's Ready Room
Stardate: 63071.1215

"Captain's Log, Stardate 63071.1215.  The ETNA has arrived at OMICRON THETA and long-range sensors have confirmed what the entire science team had suspected… the planet shows no sign of life.  Lt. Commander Bellis, my Chief Science Officer has requested permission to lead an away team to the planet surface for a more detailed scan.  I have granted his request but am ready to bet that he will not find anything different," the ship's CO said with a sigh as he glanced at the planet in question through the window in his office.

=/\= Captain, =/\= the voice of the Executive Officer came over the communication channel.  =/\= Lt. Commander Bellis is reporting in with his initial findings. =/\=

"I'll be right there," the Captain replied as he stood from his chair and straightened his uniform.  Surprise had not been something that the CO had even considered to be a possibility.

Setting: UNKNOWN (a dark room)
Stardate: 63071.1220

A large holographic display located on a perfectly black wall displayed the planet and the single Federation ship in orbit.

"Initiate life form scan," an artificial, metallic voice commanded.  The words reverberated with an icy chill, one that could only hint to the unseen creature's ultimate purpose.

The image on the holographic display soon changed to show the USS ETNA surrounded with an eerie red glow, a colour that also appeared on a very small dot the planet's surface.

"Confirmed life onboard vessel and on the planet," a similar artificial, metallic voice replied with the same lifeless echo present in each word.

"How do we proceed?" A third voice from the darkness inquired in the exact same tone as the previous two.

"Extermination!" was the only reply offered by the one who had initially spoken.  The answer had been given almost immediately after the question, and showed that there had been absolutely no debate as to what course of action these beings needed to follow based on the information that their scans had shown.

"By your command," the others replied in perfect unison, hinting to an efficiency born of mechanical ingenuity and driven by a single unifying goal.

Setting: OMICRON THETA, Away team landing site
Stardate: 63071.1245

"Sir," one of the scientists began; a distinct tone of discouragement present in his voice.  "I have the feeling that it won't matter how long we stay here.  The readings all show the same thing… there is absolutely *no* life on this planet.  I doubt that we would be able to find a single microbe if we could put the entire planet through a biological scanner."

"The Crystalline Entity didn't just sap the life from this world," another scientist offered.  "It drained it of the ability to recover.  The readings and soil samples show the exact same thing reported by the TRIPOLI over 70 years ago… nothing has changed.  This planet is *dead*… not even the Genesis Device would be able to reverse what happened here."

"At this rate the atmosphere will degrade to the point of an away team needing EVA suits within the next 60 to 70 years," a third member of the away team reported as she studied the readouts on her tricorder.  "Without vegetation to replenish the air, it is only a matter of time."

Lt. Commander Bellis gazed back at his team and reluctantly admitted defeat.  The Chief Science Officer of the USS ETNA had come to the planet with the hopes of discovering that life had returned, even if only in a microscopic manner, but instead he was made to see that life had not won this battle.

"Away team to ETNA," the CSciO said after having tapped his comm badge, "we are ready to beam back to the ship."

Instead of a reply though Lt. Commander Bellis heard nothing but static on the opened channel.  With a rapid glance to his team another officer repeated the gesture and announcement only to receive the same result. The channel had been open, so something had been wrong with the ETNA… but what?

Before anyone could voice their concerns as to the reason for this inability to contact their ship the sound of energy weapon's fire filled the air.  Within mere seconds OMICRON THETA had been returned to a state of complete lifelessness, the beings who had carried out this attack not registering on any sensors as being 'alive' despite their ability to act in a most vicious of manner.

Setting: Orbit around OMICRON THETA
Stardate: 63071.1300

A cloud of debris floated in the emptiness of space where the USS ETNA had been only a few moments prior.  No traces of life could be found in orbit or on the planet surface… the only clue as to what had taken place.                                                                                                                   

Sabrina Jones {sabrina_sweet@hotmail.com}
Captain Sabrina Rikar
Commanding Officer

"We are Grey, we stand between the Candle and the Star, between the Darkness and the Light"
-Entilza Delenn, Babylon 5