((Bridge, USS Yarahla))
Henshaw: =/\= Njörðr, this is the USS Yarahla. We have your coordinates and we are spooling up our slipstream drive. Hold tight; we'll be with you in an hour. =/\=
::Message recited, the ginger captain of the Yarahla looked toward the operations station, where an olive-skinned Vulcan was working. New to the Yarahla, Strom's efficiency had nonetheless seem him fit almost seamlessly into the existing crew. There was a pause, lasting only a few moments, but it hung heavy in the cool, sterile air of the bridge.::
Strom: Message has been acknowledged, sir.
Henshaw: Keep them updated with our ETA.
Strom: Aye sir. Engineering reports thirty-eight minutes until slipstream available.
::Christopher — always a Christopher, never a Chris — turned toward his XO. The Delbian woman had been his right hand for a good five years now, and he was certain she'd be moving on soon to a command of her own. It was simultaneously a source of pride and dismay; he'd miss her advice and wry sense of humour, but he knew she was going to make for a fine captain.::
Henshaw: What's her complement?
Zheenath: A standard Dakota-class carries 375 crew. The Njörðr is listed as having an additional passenger complement en route to the Deluvia system, ::she lifted amber eyes from the PADD supplying her with that information,:: as well as prisoners.
::Prisoners? The Njörðr must have had quite the little adventure before encountering whatever catastrophe had befallen them.::
Henshaw: That makes things a little more interesting.
::A quirk of the woman's dark eyebrow and head indicated that was perhaps not the choice of word she would have used. Delbians were not given to understatement, or at the very least, she wasn't.::
Zheenath: I will circulate their images to all crew and inform the chief we will need additional security present.
::Christopher relaxed back into the command chair as he thought. There was a quiet hum of activity, of consoles responding to inputs and commands from their users, the soft murmurs of conversations as the bridge officers made their preparations for a rescue, the press of tension in the air as they tried to anticipate what they'd find. Nothing good, from the brief message. He'd have to make sure the counsellors were prepared to see to the crew, once all was said and done.::
Henshaw: What's sickbay got to say?
Zheenath: Doctor Cerqueira reports that he intends to use the main cargo bay as a triage point and that it will be ready to receive patients by our arrival. Additionally, he confirms that the N'Vea Hospitals on Deluvia Four are ready to receive all casualties. Operations is reconfiguring all cargo transporters to quantum level mode, and all transporter technicians are entering the bay as their primary beam destination.
::He nodded. His crew knew their jobs, knew the preparations and contingencies that needed to be put into place. They'd do everything in the power to help... once they got there.::
Zheenath: The waiting never gets any easier, does it sir?
::He looked toward her, with an appreciative smile for the gentle show of concern. Slipstream drives had revolutionised search and rescue, allowing rescue vessels to reach ships in distress within hours, rather than days or weeks. But he knew all too well that even an hour was enough time for a disaster to complete itself, and there was always the chance that the only thing they'd find would be wreckage and bodies.::
Henshaw: No, it doesn't.
((Forty-Eight Minutes later…))
Meja: ::Hushed,:: By the Prophets…
::The scientist's sentiment was shared across the bridge, the officers upon it staring at the sight on the viewscreen. There, the wounded form of the Njörðr was bleeding out in front of them. One of the upper nacelles had been ripped from its pylon, and the ship looked as though it had been gored by some tusked beast, whole sections of the hull ripped out and exposed to space. Debris glittered in a field around the starship, and that there were also dozens of bodies in there, Christopher had no doubt.::
Meja: Uh. ::She recovered her composure, turning pale blue eyes back to her console.:: That cloud is resistant to most of our scans, and it'll take me a while to parse what data we've got. It seems to be… ::she shook her head,:: *eating* the ship? for want of a better description. I can't tell you what it is, sir, except that it's not a nebula.
Henshaw: Alright. Take us to red alert, and move in closer. Slow, one-quarter impulse.
::The tactical console chirped in response to its Trill operator's command, and the lights dipped to a hellish red glow. As the shields snapped into existence around the Yarahla, phasers priming with energy, torpedoes loading into the launchers, the helmsman nudged the search and rescue vessel closer.::
Meja: It's moving. Away from— ::She frowned and corrected herself.:: No, it's moving out of normal space. It's retreating into subspace.
::And so it was. There was a flare of light, and then vibrant cloud of white, blue and purple faded right in front of Christopher's eyes. Gone in a matter of seconds, as though it had never been there at all. Only the ship it had been feeding on remained, and while it wasn't his field of expertise, Christopher was fairly sure that it was beyond recovery.::
Henshaw: Meja, would we get warning if it came back?
Meja: Yes, sir, I think so. There was a distinctive tetryon spike when it opened a passage into subspace. I'd expect the reverse to be true if it tried to come out again.
::Christopher took a moment to think, weighing up the risks and benefits in his mind. The Njörðr could hardly afford any more delays, but equally he had to think of the safety of his own crew in mind. But had the cloud caused the Njörðr's situation, or simply taken advantage of it, some kind of carrion feeder descending on a carcass? It was impossible to say for now, so all he could do was to proceed... with caution.::
Henshaw: Take us down to yellow alert and start the evacuation.
::The lights came back up, and the chatter was immediate, bridge officers liaising with their departments to rescue those still struggling for life aboard the Njörðr.::
((Primary Cargo Bay))
::It was the ideal spot to receive the Njörðr evacuees, more than enough room to house everyone, while giving the Yarahla's staff plenty of room to work. Cots had been laid out in neat, orderly rows, ready to accommodate the walking wounded. Critical cases — those who required immediate intensive care or surgery — would be moved immediately to the two awaiting sickbays.
::Security had marked out the target zones the arrivals would be beamed into, ready to swoop into action as necessary. Most of the time it would be to support the medical staff with the injured, but they were also on the lookout for the prisoners the Njörðr had been transporting.
::With a familiar whine of contained energy, a group of confinement beams materialised in one of the marked areas, the first of the Njörðr's complement brought to the safety of the USS Yarahla. Medics and support rushed toward them, ready to move them to where they could be cared for, and make way for the next incoming group of wounded.::