AUGUST 2008 CHALLENGE - An Unexpected Guest
The Lost Kingdom by Mistral
Captain Hans Moffat sat in his office, checking cargo manifests. A cup of coffee sat, steaming, on the corner of his desk. The latest load that Hermes carried was a mixed bag at best. A pair of deuterium tanks trailed the load that was strung out behind Hermes, followed by two Starfleet stasis chambers filled with vaccine for Rugalan fever destined for Beta Hydroxi Six, Kelvan’s World. After that were five standard cargo carriers with an assortment of luxury trade goods. Each container was held to the next by a “belt and suspenders” system of force locks and duranium cables. Moffat had to figure his course after the drop-off at Kelvan’s World so as to maximize his profits and minimize his fuel loss.
“Captain, uh, sir?” Terrence Lagos sounded a bit disturbed, even over the intercom.
Yeah, Terry, what is it?” Hans was more than a little distracted and didn’t hear the catch in Terry’s voice.
“Sir, I have a very strange object on the long-range sensors. It’s … um, biological.”
Hans dropped the padd he’s been reading. “It’s alive? In space?”
Now Terry sounded uncertain. “Not exactly, Captain. It shows up as a biological entity, but it lacks all of the usual life signs one would expect. I guess it could be a corpse but its kind of big, y’know?”
Hans sat and considered his reply for a moment. Terry wasn’t the best operational officer in the galaxy but he’d been with the Hermes for over fifteen years. Hans trusted him enough to wonder what he’d found. “Terry, let’s set a course that will allow us to get a tighter scan, as long as it doesn’t cost us too much time. Who knows, maybe we can sell whatever it is to Starfleet.”
“Yes, sir, we’ll do that. We should have something more in an hour or so.”
“Thanks, Terry.” Hans picked his padd back up and began to read. His now forgotten coffee sat there growing cold.
Forty-seven minutes later by the ship’s chronometer Terry hailed Moffat. “Captain, um, we have the object on the screens. You might want to come up here.”
Moffat had been so immersed in his graphs and charts he’s forgotten the earlier call and it took him a moment to respond. “Uh, yeah, I’ll be right up.” He got up and headed for the turbo lift.
On the bridge the navigator, Mercedes, and the head engineer, V’Shanti, were staring at the screen. Terry got up from the central chair as Moffat entered. “What the hell is that?” Moffat asked. Everyone was looking up at the peculiar brown object tumbling through space.
V’Shanti spoke, and his antennae bobbed a bit, signifying his agitation. “Hans, what ever it is, it’s coated with a biological organism. Sensors say there is a fusion generator under all of that, as well as a number of commonplace materials. I think,” and here his blue face scrunched up a bit, “that it is a machine but the outer surface is alive. It draws power from solar and cosmic background radiation to sustain itself. Without a closer examination I can’t tell you anything else. I’m sorry,” he apologized, “but Hermes’s sensors don’t have the refinement to tell us more.”
“Do you think that it might be dangerous?” Moffat looked at Terry as he spoke.
“The scans aren’t detecting any kind of viral agent or anything like that. I think we can take it aboard the shuttle deck if we run it through a decontamination cycle.” Terry didn’t sound overly worried so Hans made his decision.
“Go ahead and bring it in, then. Maybe Starfleet will be interested. V’Shanti, see what you and Bill can learn about it. If we give them a preliminary report the ‘Fleet boys will be thrilled.”
The Andorian engineer left the bridge as Terry began manipulating tractor beams to drag the unknown item on board. Moffat took the center seat and watched through the viewscreen until the strange object was out of sight.
Moffat was back in his office, monitoring the price of deuterium on Halifax Five when V’Shanti paged him. “Captain, we have finished a preliminary analysis.”
Moffat pulled himself away from the subspace feed in a distracted fashion. “Analysis?” he asked.
V’Shanti sighed. “Of the object we found, Hans.”
Moffat visibly shook himself free of his current activity. “Oh, right, the thing we found. So what is it?”
“Well, we still don’t know what the biological sheath is made of. Underneath it is a Terran fusion reactor, a few square yards of transparent aluminum, about forty kilos of duranium and an assortment of metals and plastics that would seem to be mechanical wiring.” V’Shanti paused for a moment, then continued, “Hans, we’re also picking up what would seem to be a human corpse in the center of it all. Oh, and the whole mess is between three and four and a half centuries old. That’s all I know.”
Moffat rocked back in his desk chair, stunned. “Thanks, V’Shanti,” he said, in a weak voice. Switching channels, he said,” Terry, contact the closest Starfleet vessel and tell them we have something they may be interested in.” Shaking his head, he returned to his reports. “Problem solved,” he said to himself. He just didn’t realize how wrong he was.
When the call from the Hermes came in Captain Niklesh Sanjay of the Oberth-class science vessel Cochrane was deep in meditation in his quarters.
“Captain to the Bridge.” T’Mon’s voice was devoid of emotion as always but the strength of its tone penetrated Sanjay’s mantra.
“On my way, Commander,” Sanjay replied. Sighing, he uncrossed his legs and rose, tugging at the hem of his tunic. It was a short walk from his room to the Bridge.
“Commander, what do we have?” His first officer turned from the main sensor and communication console.
“The cargo ship Hermes has taken aboard an unusual find. They are requesting that we take possession of it.” As Sanjay opened his mouth, T’Mon anticipated his question. “It was a bit unusual in its composition and when I heard the description it reminded me of a report filed by the Enterprise.” T’Mon stopped speaking and Sanjay was about to open his mouth again when the Vulcan continued, “Although I am relying on the Hermes’s engineer’s report, it would seem that they have found a cryogenics tube dating from Earth’s late twentieth or early twenty-first century. The person encapsulated is apparently dead but the historical value of such a find…” His voice trailed off.
Sanjay knew that Earth history was, not a passion, but certainly an area of extreme interest to the Vulcan. “Very well,” he said, “Make course for the Hermes, warp six.”
“Thank you, Captain,” T’Mon responded.
“Well, I’m just glad to contribute to the Federation’s base of knowledge,” Captain Moffat said from the viewscreen. From Sanjay’s perspective, his face filled the screen completely. The sweat on his brow was quite apparent.
“Is something wrong, Captain Moffat?” Sanjay asked. Moffat shook his head emphatically.
“Not really, Captain. I just want to get on my way. We’re carrying vaccine for the outbreak on Kelvan’s World and I’m in a hurry to get back on course.” Something about his demeanor raised warning bells in Sanjay’s mind but he acted as though nothing was wrong.
“Of course, Captain. We’re transporting the object to our cargo bay now. You should be on your way in a few minutes.”
“Thank Go-I mean, that’s great. Thank you, Captain.” The viewscreen reverted to a starscape with the Hermes sitting in the center of the screen. Sanjay and T’Mon exchanged curious glances.
“Captain,” Chief Engineer Korlu had an eager tone to his voice, “The package has been delivered. My men are working on it now.” When Sanjay opened his mouth to reply the Hermes dashed to warp. T’mon’s eyebrows climbed high.
“Very good, Chief. Let me know when you’ve found something.” Sanjay glanced at the navigator’s panel. Hermes was leaving at warp seven, a dangerous speed with the cargo she carried. With a sinking feeling, Sanjay turned the Bridge over to T’Mon and headed for the cargo bay. This just didn’t seem like it was going to work out well.
Sanjay hadn’t gotten very far when the inter ship hail whistled and the voice of Lt. Burke, Head of Security, echoed through the corridors. “Burke to Sanjay.” Sanjay slapped his combadge.
“Um, Captain, I’m at the rec deck. Sir, I haven’t had a drink. I just got here.”
Trying not to sound exasperated, Sanjay replied, “That’s just fine, Lieutenant. What seems to be the problem?”
“Sir, uh, well…” There was a pause and then the security officer continued, “I’ve been talking to an …intruder, I guess.”
Sanjay paused to consider for a moment. “You guess?”
Burke was decidedly uncomfortable. “Well, he’s about four feet tall and he’s wearing a tuxedo jacket and a pair of red shorts with big yellow buttons. And he’s a mouse.”
Sanjay didn’t say a word. He began running tactical situations through his head for re-taking the Cochrane’s recreational facilities from a deranged security officer.
“Captain?” Burke sounded sane but seriously distressed.
“Mr. Burke, why don’t you, ah, ask our visitor where he or she came from.”
“Uh, yessir,” Burke replied. Sanjay switched off and began making his way towards the rec room. As he rounded the corner of deck four, seven very short men with picks and shovels walked past him in the other direction, whistling. Sanjay just gaped at them as they went by. He was reaching for the nearest communication panel when T’Mon’s voice sounded through out the corridor. “Captain Sanjay, please respond.” Sanjay slapped his combadge again.
There was a pause and then T’Mon said, “Captain, it is my duty to inform you that two apparently intelligent Earth chipmunks have engaged the ship’s computer in an argument about our current course. They are utilizing the secondary navigation station to do so.” Sanjay almost had a chance to respond before T’Mon cut him off. “One of them is wearing what I believe is called a ‘pith’ helmet, sir, as well as a khaki vest.” Sanjay sat down in the corridor, oblivious of the stares of passing crewmembers. Time passed. “Captain?” T’Mon asked.
“Tell the computer to ignore the chipmunks’s commands and…just keep an eye on them for now.” Sanjay stood back up and walked briskly towards the cargo bay. “Korlu, what’s going on down there?”
The Tellarite engineer sounded perplexed. “Sir, whatever this thing is, the report from the Hermes supports what we’ve found so far. It’s definitely an old-fashioned cryogenic unit. The bio-sheath around it will need some study. We’re having problems taking readings, though. There’s some kind of flying animal swooping on my technicians and they have to keep aborting their scans to duck. What kind of crap is this? Uh, sir,” he added.
Sanjay pinched his nose. “Could you describe the creature, Chief?”
“Well, it’s got four legs, it’s kind of fat and grey and it has the largest ears I’ve ever seen.” Sanjay remembered a trip he’d taken as a child to Paris and sighed.
“Chief, it probably won’t hurt you or your technicians. Just find out all you can about the object.”
“Aye, Captain,” Korlu replied.
Sanjay headed for the turbolift. It opened and he stepped inside, his head still whirling from the reports he’d received. He barely noticed the other person in the lift until after the doors had closed.
Sanjay’s head jerked up at the figure next to him. And up. And up. The bear was scratching his head and smiling down at Sanjay.
Eyeing Sanjay’s uniform, the bear said, “Sorry, pal, I seem to be underdressed for this occasion. I guess you could say I’m wearing.” And he gestured with one meaty paw, “the bare necessities.” The turbolift doors opened and Sanjay fled into the corridor.