Historian's note: The main events of this story take place two weeks after "Raising the Stakes" and roughly concurrently with the DS9 episode "Extreme Measures".
Opening chapter note: Aldea was the planet featured in the TNG episode "When the Bough Breaks". For the purposes of this story, Aldea is said to be in the Epsilon Minos system as in canon, while the planet Minos from "The Arsenal of Freedom" and my previous story is in the Beta Minos system.
Planet Aldea, Epsilon Minos star system
It was the discovery of a lifetime.
Diggers throughout a drab desert region were continuously applying pikes and shovels to a grayish-brown rock face, trying to unearth a buried artifact. From the look of what had already been exposed, the artifact was a shiny stone structure-- perhaps an obelisk. At the bottom of the structure, where the diggers were chipping away at dirt and rock, was what appeared to be foreign script. Two of the men participating in the dig removed recording devices from their belts and placed them near the writings, hoping to translate it at a later time.
The carbon dating of the artifact revealed it was hundreds of thousands of solar cycles old. Such a discovery would indicate that the Progenitors, the technologically advanced race who left the ancient Aldeans with everything they would ever need, had been on this planet for millennia longer than was presently believed.
Crantor was the leader of this expedition, overseeing all aspects of the study of this artifact. Today, he was conferring with chief linguistic historian Akos about the writings on the structure. His task was to compile some type of translation matrix using languages from ancient times as a point of comparison. Based on his preliminary findings, Akos was finding the translation process a lot easier than he had anticipated.
“We went into this whole process,” Akos explained to Crantor, “assuming this was an unfamiliar language, but with similarities to our ancient languages. I admit that was a stretch, but it was a good starting point, even though very little is known of the First Settlers. After careful examination over the last five rotations, this is
, in fact, the ancient language of the First Settlers.”
“Astonishing,” Crantor replied. He was just as fascinated by this finding as his former student. But at his advanced age, he was willing to contain his own enthusiasm. True, it provided some clue as to the origins and history of Aldea’s first humanoid inhabitants. His years as a professor of archeology had taught Crantor humility. Prior to this discovery, his hypotheses about the First Settlers were nothing more than unfounded conjecture in the scientific community. Add to that, his line of work was largely discouraged for many millennia, as their leaders saw very little incentive to broaden the boundaries of their knowledge. Only recently did the planetary government discover that the technology left behind by the Progenitors was rendering the inhabitants sterile.
Crantor was lost in these thoughts when Akos began reciting what each of the phrases at the bottom of the obelisk said. “This one says, ‘The time of the beginning’,” the young man said of one of the inscriptions. “And… and this one says ‘The proliferation of future generations’. This one…” He consulted an electronic pad to double-check his translation program.
“What?” Crantor asked, sensing an ominous tone in his former pupil’s voice. “What does it say?”
“It says,” Akos said with a slight stutter, “‘Approach with extreme caution.’”
Those words diverted the attention of nearby diggers, who were not certain whether they should continue their work. Before Crantor, Akos, or anyone else in the near vicinity could speak, the ground began rumbling. Many of the diggers scrambled away from the obelisk as the ground quakes became harder and faster. Akos escorted Crantor away from the rock face as the obelisk slowly rose out of the ground, sending down chards of stone from the top of the cliff.
The obelisk was now towering hundreds of meters above the people who were previously trying to dig it out of the ground. Many of them stared in awe, wondering what kind of advanced technology had just been unearthed.
At the top of the obelisk, a red light flashed five times at varying durations. The flashes were a message sent to a rectangular-shaped ship with spires jutting out from the top, bottom, and sides that was hiding in the star system’s asteroid belt.
“Like I said, your Exalted One,” said a masculine voice of someone observing what had transpired on Aldea. “This is only the beginning.”
“Q,” replied an elderly feminine voice, “they have only just begun to grow out of their infancy. We are still sworn not to interfere in their affairs.”
“Yes, I know,” Q scoffed. “They would have learned nothing if we had simply cured them of their sterility. Picard and his lackeys proved smarter than I previously gave them credit for, considering that was after Riker refused my gift. But their race’s survival is not all that is at stake here. The future of all the mortal races hangs in the balance.”
“What do you propose, Q?” the Q matriarch skeptically asked.
“Seek an audience with one of the human ship captains. That may be difficult considering they’re busy fighting some silly war for reasons both sides have probably forgotten. But still, I have demonstrated the human potential to move beyond petty questions of property and territory, the compulsion to improve themselves, to expand the depths of their knowledge. I am certain to get one of them to listen to me.”
“Proceed as you wish, Q. And needless to say, you must still tread carefully.”
“Of course, of course…”