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Old December 12 2013, 09:05 PM   #121
CeJay
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

That's alright. Sometime you just gotta step away until you can find your muse again. Hopefully you'll reconnect with her soon.
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Old January 18 2014, 07:12 AM   #122
BrianLocke
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Great Story Badger, I hope you get over your writer's block soon. I too like many others came to this story after finding Polly mentioned on tvtropes. I just spent the last week or so reading all three stories and enjoying them immensely. I have a few minor nitpicks though. Just an FYI you should never feed a dog chocolate, it contains theobromine which is fine for humans but poisonous to dogs, something Polly would surely know.
The only other nitpick I have is with he Broken Bow story. I would think that every torpedo made by UEMA would have a serial number traceable back to the ship it was assigned to, as well as individual component with their own serial numbers. if a Torpedo were found to be lacking those serial numbers, or had serial numbers that didn't match, or matched a known torpedo still in inventory on another ship, or in a warehouse somewhere, then it would be known to not be of UEMA origin. Even were someone to tear a torpedo apart and remove every visible serial number (a lot of work for something that is going to be vaporized anyway), the actual chips themselves have identifiers under the casing, as well as being traceable to a particular model and revision number, as well as the batch based on the components. That is why the ATF loves unexploded bombs, even when they go off they leave lots of evidence behind. They should have been able to say "this torpedo was lost with the (blank)" or "this torpedo shows to be on the (blank)". Weapons like that leave a trail, and the lack of a trail itself is a huge clue to it's origins.
Like I said, a minor nitpick because the story moved along fine without it, and I hope you don't interpret that as negative feedback. I love the story and the characters and I feel that you have done a wonderful job making them seem real. Please do continue. I await anxiously your next installment.
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Old January 19 2014, 02:51 PM   #123
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Hi Brian, welcome aboard! I'm glad you've enjoyed things so far. Thanks for the input, it's very helpful to hear what people think.

You're quite right about the chocolate, I did know that but I guess it slipped my mind. Well let's just retcon that and say that by the time of this story commercially available chocolate doesn't have theobrominein in it! It's probably something Polly invented, she was out at the park one day, saw a mother tell her son not to give the dog chocolate as it was bad for him, and by the time she got home she'd mentally developed a new formula that's safe for dogs and tastes just as good. Probably less fattening too, there's a reason she keeps her figure.

As to the torpedo and serial numbers, you raise a very good point. I should have thought of that. We'll assume that the damaged torpedo was delivered to Earth Military Intelligence, who will examine it to determine it's point of origin.

Apologies again for the lack of updates, quite apart from the writers block I've been having quite a busy time recently. I've got a few days off soon, so I should be able to get started then. I've decided to change my plans. The next chapter was intended to be a flashback to the young Denobulans on their hunting trip, detailing how they found the ziggurat and what happened to them next.

I just can't make it work though, for some reason, so I've decided to drop it and get on with the main story. That probably means another exposition heavy scene sometime later, but at least it preserves the narrative flow. It won't be the first time I've dropped a chapter because it didn't fit in. I had planned an earlier humorous sequence, but decided against it as it added nothing to the story, slowed the pace, and was far, far too rude, even for me.
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Old January 21 2014, 06:58 PM   #124
BrianLocke
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

I understand having a busy time, I'm a father to two year old identical twin girls who have more energy than is possible and who get into everything they can. You can also explain the fact they didn't track the serial number due to the fact that didn't have access to that information on their ship. Once the returned to Earth, that would change.

You could also explain the chocolate as vets in the future have either treated dogs or engineered them so they have some sort of enzyme that breaks down the theobromine. That seems to me more likely since dogs have a habit of getting into anything laying around including chocolate. It also has a lot to do with the type of chocolate. Dark chocolate has a much higher concentration of theobromine than milk chocolate does. for a dog around Porthos' size, it would take about 8 oz of chocolate to be fatal, but it is still dangerous.

I think I have some idea where you are going with the Mahwee and bugs, but I haven't figured out how you are going to deal with the power loss. I would just shut down the transmitter and run a power line to the colony and then cables to the vital structures as a temporary measure, assuming of course they can scrounge up enough cable. Otherwise I would try moving the generator from the dig site to the colony and using it to power the hospital and maybe command center. Again, that assumes that there is no major issue with that.

One last nitpick, I'm a Texan, and I have to say, Trip's grammar is bad even by Texas standards. Using "were" instead of "was" in one spot is pretty atrocious. Some words that Texans do use are "Y'all" as a contraction of "you all" and can be both singular and plural, and "gonna" instead of "going to". Ex: "Y'all gonna finish that sandwich?" Another one is "doin" instead of "doing". Ex:: "what the hell are y'all doin? I'm gonna kick your ass". You can also look on youtube for Dr. Red Duke, he did a lot of health segments and is a sample of how someone can be very intelligent and talk with a thick Texas accent.

Hope that helps
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Old January 29 2014, 02:03 AM   #125
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Herroton City.
1st December 2151.

Governor Trex winced as he entered the access corridor to the Command Centre. It was noisy in here. Too many people trying too hard to be heard over everyone else, too loud and too excited. He nodded to Tovan, who along with his immediate staff had accompanied him.

"Quiet please. QUIET!" the Commissioner bellowed. There was a momentary lull, then, their attention now drawn to Trex, the people swarmed forward, thrusting datapads for examination, demanding answers, requesting instructions. "I SAID QUIET!!!"

This time it seemed to work, the crowd drawing back slightly. Trex sighed in relief. "Thank you Commissioner. Now, I know everyone has questions and suggestions, so let us get things organised properly. Councillor Chren, if you can spare the time, could you kindly see to that? The briefing rooms are at your disposal. Make sure all incoming information is directed to those who need it, and all questions answered as best we can. Thank you."

Chren, who had been in the group waiting in the corridor, nodded. "Certainly Governor, I'll see to it personally." he said, as if that were his own idea rather than what he'd been asked to do.

One of Trex's aides raised her hand. "Not briefing room four, the human engineers are in there. Trying to think up a solution to...all this."

"Very well, all the others then." Trex leant closer to Tovan, and added softly "Better get a couple of guards outside four, we don't want anyone interrupting them." He got a nod in return.

As Chren bustled the crowd away---despite his being one of Vrok's flunkies, he was a very good organiser---Trex presented his identification to the guards outside the Control Centre. Only when he and the rest of the group were positively identified were they allowed admittance. It was considerably calmer inside, but with a subtle edge to proceedings that wasn't present in day to day affairs or practice drills.

One of the staff approached with a datapad. "Latest report sir. Power has gone down completely on three livestock farms, and is critical at four others."

Trex glanced at the display. As he'd expected, and feared, the farms furthest from the city were worst affected. "Damn." A failure in the electrical fences would be a disaster. Whilst the chevan beasts were fairly docile and unlikely to roam far, the fences were intended to keep them safe from predators. A pack of vrex could do a lot of damage. Of course, the community had a lot of chevan, a single attack would be an inconvenience rather than a disaster, but if several packs were to raid the farms, if the power was off for any length of time or---worse yet---permanently, then things would get very bad very quickly. "Tovan, round up all the security personnel you can spare. Get them out to the farms out towards the edge of the plain, guard duty. We can't risk our livestock."

As Tovan nodded and hurried away, Councillor Vrex appeared from a side room. "It's not just the livestock. Many of the hydroponic farms are similarly affected."

For a moment Trex didn't see the importance. Then it hit him. He stalked to the meteorological station. "What's the latest weather projection for tonight?"

It was not good news. Nights always got cold at this time of year, and this night would be no different. A lot of the basic food plants needed carefully controlled environmental conditions. Without heating they'd be vulnerable to a sudden frost.

"I hope you don't mind, Governor," Vrex said, "but, as you weren't here, I've taken the liberty of ordering thermal blankets to be put over the green houses to trap as much heat as possible."

"I was managing things from my office. Bad for morale if I go running to the bunker at the first sign of trouble." he said defensively. Realising this he went on the offence. "I'm not sure that would work. We'd need a heat source in each one to make a difference. And anyway, do we have enough blankets to spare? I rather think the citizens might need them more."

"If things get that bad, Governor, there are always the basements."

Vrex was referring to the Denobulan tradition of ensuring they always had a secure place to wait out an emergency. It came from the turbulent Groz'Tran period, a mini-ice age that had dramatically altered both the physical and political landscapes. With rival clans warring over vital, but suddenly rare, resources, the ordinary people had set up hidden sanctuaries to which they could flee when needed. Nowadays the tradition endured to a much lesser degree, but every house had a basement with the necessities for a few days of life, if not comfort. As the latitude of Herroton City was such that it could get very cold in winter, the basements were well insulated.

"I don't like ordering people to the basements. It'll be like admitting we can't handle the problem."

"Can we handle the problem?" she asked.

Trex didn't answer.

Her lips pursed slightly, then she looked around. "Where's Chren?"

"I sent him to do something useful. Oh, now what?" The latter was as another technician approached with a datapad and a worried look. Trex took, the pad and read it. "Just what we need. The sewage reclamation plant is no longer functional. Phlox warned me about that, said there's a risk of Tallaron fever breaking out."

Vrex paled. "Surely we have enough medicine to cope with an out break?"

"Oh yes," he said wryly, "for just such an emergency. Kept in special climate controlled storage, as it has very narrow temperature range before it...goes off, or whatever the technical term is. The storage has battery back up power, in case of an outage, but if we don't get our supply back by this time tomorrow..."

"I had Tallaron fever as a child." Vrex said softly. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone, even with medication." She shuddered.

Trex cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Well...let's hope, eh?" He turned to one of the staff members from the city maintenance department. "Choris, what's the news? Any luck finding cables and whatnot?"

Choris held up a hand in a polite but firm gesture indicating he should wait. Her other hand was to an earpiece as she struggled to make out what her colleagues were telling her. After a few moments she signed off. "Sorry Governor, the signal was very weak, I could hardly make out what was being said." She paused, and that pause spoke volumes. "We set this colony up with a broadcast power system. No one ever anticipated this sort of situation."

"There's no backup system?" Vrex demanded, scandalised.

"There is Councillor. There's a secondary generator in case the first fails, a second broadcasting tower, multiple redundancy on all systems...but that was all to deal with a failure in the system itself. The trouble is, the system is working perfectly, able to transmit power at peak efficiency. But for some reason, it's fading away before it can get to the receivers."

"So. Not enough cable to go round." Trex said.

"Not enough capable of carrying the load, Governor. Most of what we have got would burn out pretty quickly."

"Could we move the generators to where they are needed?" asked Vrex.

Choris hesitated, glancing momentarily at the governor, unsure of how exactly to respond. "Ah, no Councillor. They're huge, assembled on site. Entirely immobile."

"Governor Trex!" That was another member of staff. "The human engineers would like to speak with you."

***

"Please tell me you you have good news, Lieutenant...Crispin, is it?"

"Yes sir. Governor." he amended, remembering the proper form of address. "And a mix of good news and bad news, I'm afraid."

Trex sighed, and gestured to the chairs at the long table. Perhaps old Tovan was being over cautious, but he had not yet given the humans permission to enter the Command Centre itself. They remained in briefing room four. "Shall we sit?"

Crispin, left in charge of the engineers at Herroton city by Trip Tucker, picked up a datapad and fiddled with it nervously. "We've been thinking about the generator at the dig site. It's a lot less powerful than the ones in your power plant, but it should be able to run your hospital. Maybe a couple of other places besides."

"And have we enough cable to reach from the dig site to the city?"

"Not enough to carry that load, Governor. Sorry."

"Hmm." Trex wondered if all engineers the universe over used the same phrasing."Well, that doesn't seem to help very much, does it?"

"Er, no sir. Governor. Now we could bring the generator here. But there's a problem."

Rubbing his forehead wearily, he said "Of course there is. Go on."

"The generator is inside the First Chamber, within the ziggurat. It would have to be shut down and at least partially disassembled to fit in the elevators, and of course, as it powers the elevators...well, they won't work then."

"Oh, Klarno." Trex muttered.

"However," Crispin went on, "if we were to land a sufficiently powerful craft outside, I mean right outside the ziggurat, we could use what cables we do have to let it run the elevators. One of our Beowulfs should do the trick. We can then disassemble the generator, take it out, load it up, fly it to where it's needed and put it back together again. Oh yeah, we'll also need to jury rig some kind of transformer. Make sure the power systems are compatible. You don't want to mess that up, it could burn out your systems if your not careful."

It sounded like a lot of work to Trex. "How long to you think this will all take?"

Crispin looked down to his pad, more to avoid Trex than to find an answer. "Fourteen, maybe eighteen hours."

Trex bit his lip, grasped tightly the arms of his chair, and glanced at the clock. It was still early afternoon, but an eighteen hour delay? Even fourteen could be disastrous. "Lieutenant, we will need power sooner than that. We will lose food, potable water, heating, and medicines."

Crispin was silent for a very long time. Then his face cleared. "Have you tried asking the Enterprise for help?"

***

"I'm sorry we can't do more Governor, but we're not really equipped for humanitarian relief." Commander Maria Hernandez said. "If humanitarian is the appropriate word."

It was odd, Trex thought, that visual communication with a starship in orbit was easier than voice only with his own people here in the city. The direct laser link took more power than the planetary radio system, but seemed unaffected by whatever strange force was degrading the signal. "That's alright Commander, this will help, somewhat. Have you heard any more from Captain Archer?"

If he was any judge of human body language, she was weighing up what to tell him. "They've found what seems to be some sort of control centre in a second, smaller ziggurat in the mountains, and are trying to figure it out. Also, they encountered three creatures...of some type."

"Creatures? Like the one encountered at the main site?"

"Apparently so."

There was something she wasn't telling him, he was sure of it. Just as sure she'd evade if pressed on the matter. He decided to let it go, for now.

"Also," she added, "there are reports of three casualties."

"Casualties! Not serious, I hope."

"One of our Marines was attacked and injured. She'll pull through though. I'm afraid to say two of your people seem to have come down with a mysterious disease. Don't worry though! " she added quickly, "Doctor Locke will take good care of them."

"I'd rather see them get too---" Trex broke off, aware that under current circumstances the hospital would do little good.

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Perhaps they could be shipped to our sick bay for treatment. If the circumstances warrant." she added quickly.

And that, he thought, is a very polite way of saying that your own people come first.

"At any rate," she went on, holding up her pad, "I'd better get started arranging all this. If there's nothing else...? OK then, Enterprise out."

The screen blinked off. Trex sat staring at the test patten without really seeing it, then stood with a sigh and left the communications alcove. The main Command Centre now seemed even busier than usual. He wished he was somewhere else.

Vrex approached. He wished she were somewhere else. "Well?" she demanded, hands on hips.

He looked at his pad. "A couple of small generators, they'll need to be adapted, but Commander Hernandez said her people can do that. Emergency ration packs. They've not got enough for everyone in the city but it'll help. Water purifiers, they will be useful. Some medicine, basically anything that they can spare and will work on Denobulans. They do have a small storage unit, climate controlled, for medicines."

"Enough for the Tallaron fever drugs?" she asked.

"Yes. If" he added glumly, "we only use it for that. There a lot of different medications. We can't keep them all. Let's face it, unless Archer and his people get the power back on soon, we'll have to make some hard decisions. And it looks like, whatever we decide, people are going to die."
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Old January 29 2014, 08:57 PM   #126
CeJay
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Things are starting to become desperate for the Denobulans. Archer and co. better shift solving this mess into high gear before people are going to die.
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Old February 9 2014, 05:12 AM   #127
Duncan MacLeod
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Look, it's from Polly's calendar. Not sure which month.

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Old February 12 2014, 01:48 AM   #128
BrianLocke
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Another great chapter. I feel proud to have had some input
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Old March 16 2014, 12:32 AM   #129
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Very, very short update. I'm just finding it difficult to write at the moment.



The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

A casual observer might have been impressed at the speed with which Corporal James readied her weapon when she heard footsteps in the corridor. She, however, was not. Her movements were jerky, imprecise, her posture rigid, and her finger pressed tightly against the trigger. She cursed, forced herself to relax, correctly place the stock to her shoulder, and adopt proper trigger discipline. She hated to admit it, but her encounter with the creature had left her rattled. Or maybe it was the pain killers. "Armed Marine! Advance and be recognised!" she shouted.

"Marine Pathfinders!" came Major Reed's voice. He turned the nearest corner, holding his weapon across his chest, a position that was non provoking but allowed him to quickly bring it to bear if need be. "It's just us, Corporal, all present and correct. How are you doing?"

"Fine sir." she said automatically as the others arrived. "Captain Archer, both Doctor Locke and Commander Tucker wish to speak with you ASAP."

Archer nodded briskly. "Good. I want to see them. So are you sure you're alright? You took quite a battering."

She smiled, casually tapping a couple of buttons on her wrist-comp."I'll live sir. Did you find anything interesting on that communicator?"

"Oh yes. Very interesting. I'm just not sure how useful it is. Problem, Malcolm?" The latter was directed to Reed, studying his wrist-comp intently.

"Ah...no sir, no. Just general data...you know how it is."

Archer regarded him steadily and went "Hmm." Going "Hmm" was, with the right expression, a surprisingly versatile means of communication. It's very imprecision was useful, as it made the listener interpret it in their own way. He'd picked the skill up from his diplomat father, developed it over his career, and honed it to a razor's edge in conversation with the Professor.

Reed cleared his throat then turned to his troops. "Right. Tipping, you stink to high heaven, so take over guard duty here. We don't want you offending the nice ladies and gentlemen." He ignored Tipping's muttered complaint. "As far as we know there are no more hostiles, so let's not take chances with the civilians." He barked out orders, assigning Marines to bodyguard duty. Archer was not surprised to see that James got to look after Partridge.

As the Marines rushed away to their assigned tasks, Archer kept close to Reed. "So..."

It was a conversational gambit just as good as "Hmm". Reed hesitated, then inclined his head towards the stairs. They started to descend, and he held up his wrist-comp so Archer could see. "These things monitor our life signs. James shot me hers on a private frequency."

Archer looked at the display. "So what does it mean?"

"Well, I'm no expert, but I'm guessing this wobbly line going up and down means she's still alive. In this case though, the medium is the message. Rather than inform one of our medics, she sends the data to me, covertly. That means she's worried about her health, though not enough that she wants treatment. She's still in the game, but not at her best. And she doesn't want it known by everyone. That's fair enough, we've all got our pride. So, I've given her a job where she can still be useful, but is pretty low risk."

"Guarding the Professor."

"Right." Reed nodded. "Can you think of anyone less likely to seek out trouble?"

They had reached the bottom of the stairs. "She doesn't have to." Archer said wryly."It usually finds her." Looking around he saw Locke and Partridge, now with their bodyguards, at the base of the stairs to the entrance door. The two infected Denobulans were lying on the bottom step under silver thermal blankets. Partridge waved as she saw them. Archer waved back, heading in that direction.

"I'd appreciate it if you don't keep what I've said confidential, Captain." Reed said.

"Of course." Archer said. "And I'm sure Hoshi will too."

"Naturally sir." Hoshi purred from behind them.

Reed jumped and spun, rifle at the ready, to be confronted by a knowing smile and a raised eyebrow. "Dammit Lieutenant, don't sneak up on me like that! I could have shot you!"

"Sorry Major, but I didn't sneak up. I just followed you down the stairs. Didn't you hear me?"

Archer chuckled. "I've often wondered if she's descended from ninjas, she's so quiet. But there's no point in asking, she'd say 'no' either way. Phillip, how are they?"

Locke waited in silence until they got closer, studying the readouts of his equipment. He stood with a grunt and pressed his hand to the small of his back, pressing against a sore spot. "Not getting any worse, for now. With Partridge's help I synthesised an antiviral agent. Along with the drugs I've been giving them we've got this thing stopped, but it's a temporary measure."

"How long?" Archer asked.

He shrugged. "A few hours, a day maybe. After that point the infection will start to spread again."

Sato leaned over the recumbent Denobulans, concerned. "Can anything else be done to help them?"

"Not with the equipment we have here, no."

Partridge offered a reassuring smile. "Don't worry Hoshi, the hospital in the city can handle this."

"Assuming the hospital's still operational." Reed said.

"Then, Mr. Reed, we shall have to offer the Denobulans use of our state of the art facilities on the Enterprise." she said brightly. "Shan't we Johnny?"

Archer nodded. "Of course Professor. OK, Phil, keep 'em comfortable for the time being. I should see what Trip wants. You better come too, Hoshi."

They, followed by Reed, Partridge, and James, made there way to the centre of the circular structure. There Tucker and a couple of his crew were darting back and forth, comparing hieroglyphs on various parts of the wall. Trooper Cross, acting as Tucker's bodyguard, saluted as they entered.

"Hey, Cap'n, c'mon in. The whole thing's gettin' mighty active over the last ten minutes or so." He pointed to the nearest wall, where symbols danced and swirled.

Archer looked round for Porthos, who he spotted apparently asleep on Tucker's discarded jacket. "Have you made any sense of all this?"

"Some of it. This section here's fairly obvious, if you're an engineer. Power flow. See here? Looks to me like that there's the input, from the environment. An' now the city too. An' here we have some sort of internal distribution network. Mus' be conduits o' some sort roun' here, probably under the floors. Also, some form of energy storage, a capacitor maybe, where it all builds up until there's enough to use."

Partridge leant forward, looking where he had gestured. "You know, I'd wager quite highly that the room we were in was one of these storage areas. Those translucent columns with the pink glow...some form of plasma containment system, though quite unlike anything we use."

"How much would you wager?" asked Sato.

"Why? Do you think I'm wrong?"

"Ahh...never mind."

"Sounds interestin', must have a look later. But look here Cap'n. The next section. Now you tell me that isn't a bar chart o' something."

Archer shrugged. "Well, it is a bar chart, pretty obviously." Four bars, the ones on the right, were full. A fifth was nearly full, and a mark at the baseline next to it suggested the presence of a sixth. The runic symbols that they were beginning to recognise as the Builder's written alphabet flanked the chart, occasionally flickering into new messages.

"Right, now lookit this." Tucker pointed to the power flow section. "That circle there. I figure it's a graphical representation o' the amount of energy bein' stored in one of the capacitors. Now, if you pay real close attention, you'll see---"

"---it's growing." Archer said.

"Right. Now it's about, what, twenty centimetres across? If it keeps doin' what it's been doin'...any second now...There!"

In the blink of an eye the circle shrank to almost nothing. Simultaneously the fifth column in the bar chart shot up to maximum, and the sixth column went to around twenty percent.

"Uh-oh." said Sato.

Archer pointed to the chart. "How long 'till it fills in?"

Tucker grimaced. "It doesn't seem to be a steady progress, far as I can tell, but based on averages....about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes."
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Old April 28 2014, 11:38 PM   #130
The Badger
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

Archer stared at the power display and swore under his breath. Twenty minutes at the most...."OK. Hoshi, Professor, we need answers. Find out what's going to happen when this place is fully charged."

"We don't actually know that anything is going to happen." Partridge started. "It might just be..."

He held up an interrupting hand "Professor, I will accept 'nothing is going to happen' as a legitimate answer. Providing we know that for certain. Now find out!" He turned to Tucker and Reed. "Trip, Malcolm, find a way to shut it off."

"Aren't you rather assuming that whatever happens will be bad?" Partridge asked. "It might be perfectly harmless."

Archer took a deep breath, and reminded himself that she was far and away best qualified for the job. There were times, however, and this was one of them, when he wished he'd selected someone who followed the chain of command. He wasn't going to say that to he face though.

"Best to have a plan in place, Polly. We don't have to use it if it's not needed." Sato said.

"We could try blowing up some of those glowing columns." Reed suggested. "If they are power storage that should scupper things."

Partridge shook her head. "That may be....a bad idea. The outer casing looked to be the same stuff coating all the surfaces in here. In which case it is extremely durable and self healing. And if those are storage cells, blowing a big hole in one could release all that energy in an unmanageable form."

"Translation from Polly speak," Tucker said, "boom!" He moved his hands apart to mime a large explosion.

Reed said dryly "I'll bear that in mind."

With Porthos padding at his heels, Archer left the circular structure to find somewhere he could get a clear signal to the communications post on the surface. "Archer to Grant, how are things up there?

A slight pause, then "Ah, all clear at the moment sir. No sign of vrex, or any other problems."

"Good. Listen, we've got evidence that something, we can't be sure what, may start happening soon. Could one of you get to the bus and bring the two Denobulans we left on guard back here in the next ten, fifteen minutes? I'd rather have us all together."

"Captain, even knowing the route, it would take at least ten minutes to get to the bus, same time to return."

"Could you signal them? Guide them to you?"

"Not directly sir. Radio communications are almost completely dead...stand by." Another pause. "OK, Pashmut says we can route a message via Enterprise. The main transmitters should be powerful enough to warn those guys, get 'em heading our way. Delaney and Sandstrom can set off flares and smoke here, start them heading in the right direction. Just to make sure I'll go out to meet them on the way."

Archer frowned. "Are you sure that's safe? I don't want you missing them in the forest or getting lost."

The LOSIR link robbed speech of it's inflections, but Archer thought he could make out an affronted tone. "That's not going to happen sir."

"No, of course not." Despite himself he smiled. "OK, do it. And connect me to the Governor's office."

***

Herroton City. The Command Centre.
1st December 2151.

"That's not a lot of time." Trex said, glancing at Tovan and Vrok. "And you say you have no idea what will happen when the system is fully charged?"

There was a slight, but noticeable, pause before Archer could reply. Direct radio communications were still functional within the city, but not over the range needed to reach the mountains. The conversation was being relayed via laser link from the Enterprise, hence the delay. "I'm sorry Governor but that's all we know at this time. I've got our best people on it and we'll do all we can, but I thought it wise to warn you to prepare for the worst."

Trex nodded sadly. "Very well Captain, thank you for that." He sighed. "I'd hoped we could avoid this, but I'm going to order all civilians into their emergency bunkers. I don't know if it is warrented, or even if it would do any good, but..."

"I concur, Governor." boomed Tovan, showing his support.

Vrok was silent for a moment. "If nothing else, it would be a useful test of our emergency procedures." she eventually conceded.

"If you need any help contacting any of your outlying settlements, please feel free to relay any message through the Enterprise."
Archer said. "Do all the farms and outposts have bunkers?"

Tovan said "It is our way, Captain."

"Yes, I remember seeing them when I visited your home world. Hopefully they will not be needed, but it is a sensible precaution. Right, I'll inform my people on the Enterprise. If we learn anything more, we'll be in touch. Archer out."


As soon as the connection was cut Vrok muttered "That's not really a lot of help."

"It's a warning." Tovan said. "Without the humans we would be taken unaware."

"A warning of what?" she sneered. "That something might happen in a few minutes, but then again it might not? And if it does happen, what will it be? Answer me that!"

The last words came out louder, harsher, than intended, and she was suddenly aware of all the Command Centre staff looking up from their work, before turning quickly back to what they had been doing. To her surprise Trex stepped closer and put a hand on her shoulder. "It's all right." he said simply. "We are all worried. Very worried"

***

The Mountains.
1st December 2151.

The exercise facilities on the Enterprise were adequate for the ship's regular crew, but not for the Marines. Since landing on this planet they'd taken what opportunities they'd had for long runs and callisthenics, but, as she made her way through the forest, Trooper Grant had to admit it wasn't enough. She was breathing more heavily than she would have liked, and could feel her heart thumping. She was not unfit, not by any stretch of the imagination, but was not at the peak of physical condition she was used to. Perhaps there was some way to fix this. A new exercise regime, perhaps. Surely, if the interconnecting hatches in the Enterprise's habitation ring were propped open, there would be an effectively endless running track? And also---

A distant crack-hissss! caught her attention. Another flare going up. She glanced back over her shoulder but could see nothing, the tree canopy here too thick. Hopefully the two Denobulans had a better view, and were heading in the right direction. That she was heading in the right direction was certain. Even without the inertial mapper in her wrist-comp, that would allow her to retrace her steps better than any trail of breadcrumbs, she could easily make out the tracks made by the expeditionary party on it's arrival.

A noise to her left, something moving through the undergrowth. Couldn't be the Denobulans, not here, not yet. They'd still be a good five minutes away, and that was assuming they matched her speed. Unlikely. She brought her rifle up as a precautionary measure. Pashmat's rifle actually, with the short barrel and under-slung launcher filled with shotgun style canister rounds. Her own sniper rifle was of little use in such close terrain so she'd left it with the others. Unwilling to trust her life to just a pistol, she'd borrowed the EM-414.

The noise turned out to be a small creature, some sort of predatory mammal, from the look of it, that scurried away from her quickly. For a split second she was transported back to her childhood, camping out with her father, the fox wandering so close she could almost touch it...

A pleasant memory, but now wasn't the time. Taking a sip of water she continued on her way.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

"This had better be important." Locke growled as he reached the centre of the circular structure. "I don't appreciate having Marines order me about."

Partridge blinked in mock confusion. "I'm very sorry Doctor, there must be a misunderstanding. I told Autumn to ask you to join us, not order you. Besides," she added, beaming, "this will only take you a moment. Then you can get back to your normal routine of smoking and scowling. I see you've started the latter already."

Archer rubbed the back of his neck wearily. "We don't have much time. Professor, please show him what you've discovered."

"Oh all right." She led them over to a display. It didn't mean much to Archer, a collection of small spheres linked by dotted lines, but he was half convinced that it was a representation of a chemical compound. Sato stood next to it, comparing the hieroglyphs to the image on her pad.

After some contemplation Locke said. "That looks familiar...the basic structure at least. It would help if we knew exactly what these were." He gestured to the spheres.

"This any good?" Sato asked, handing him her pad. He took it and studied it carefully, looked back to the display, back to the pad, then once more at the display.

"Ye-es." he said eventually. "Yes. That does help. Hmm. Yes. I'm fairly sure...Yes, it's the chemical make-up of a distinct pheromone signature, as I'm sure Partridge has already told you."

She nodded. "Well, it's obvious really. But identifying the species, that's the important thing. I have my suspicions, but not enough data to be sure."

Locke glanced at her. "And that's why you wanted me? Well, I don't have the pheromone signature of every species memorised, nor am I particularly familiar with lifeforms on this planet. But then, you just wanted someone to confirm your suspicions, right?"

Partridge said "Or deny them. Either way, let's get an answer."

"An answer you shall have. As I'm sure you remember, I have been reviewing their medical data recently. Yes, this is the pheromone signature for a Denobulan."

"The pheromone signature..." Archer murmured. "Why is that important. Important to them, the Builders? Important to this place?" He gestured around them.

Partridge curled a strand of hair round one finger."I can only speculate...but..."

Sato patted her on the back. "Hey, so far your speculations have been pretty near the mark."

"Hmm-mm. OK. Remember those insects that swarmed earlier? I think they may have been imprinted some how, so they instinctively hunt for and infect anyone with these pheromones. They didn't bite any of us, remember. They might not like the taste of humans, as it were."

"Yeah, but they only got two of the Denobulans, not the rest." Archer said.

Locke nodded. "That's easily explained. From my examination of the one Corporal James supplied, I think it had only recently emerged from a dormant period. The vast majority of the swarm were probably just trying to leave the structure, not really in hunting mode. Only a few were awake enough to be aware of the Denobulans in their midst. You know, insect minds are fascinating Captain. They're practically robotic, following simple orders regardless of other factors."

A chill went down Archer's spine. "So there's a cloud of insects out there, hunting down Denobulans, waiting to infect them and turn them into those nightmarish monstrosities we saw?"

Partridge waved a hand airily. "I wouldn't worry too much Johnny. The prevailing winds will be taking that swarm we met away from the city. In fact...." She closed her eyes for a moment, muttering to herself. "Yes...there are no Denobulan buildings anywhere near the danger zone. Hmm, danger zone, sounds nice and dramatic. I must use it in conversation more...Oh no!" She suddenly reached out and grabbed Archer's arm painfully tight.

"What is it?" he asked, trying to extricate himself.

"The bus! The bus we came on! It's parked nearby! It's possible that the insects could find it and get to the two guards we left behind!"

Archer swore loudly. "Grant's heading there now. We'll contact her. If she can get them back here soon enough---" He broke off at a shout from Tucker.

"Cap'n, the power display's just shot up. It's maxed out!"

Instinctively they looked around, anticipating some calamitous event.

Nothing.

Locke lit a cigarette. "Somewhat anti-climactic. No boom."

"No boom today." Partridge said absently. "Boom tomorrow. There's always a boom tomorrow."

"There's a cheerful thought." Sato said.

Archer went over to Tucker. "So, no sign of any activity?"

"Nope, nothin'. In fact, 'part from the lights comin' on, there don't seem to be anythin' goin on here at all."

A nasty suspicion began to form at the back of Archer's mind. "Nothing going on here?" he repeated.

"Nope."

The suspicion grew. "Can we be sure," he began cautiously, almost afraid that to voice his thoughts would bring them to reality, "can we be absolutely sure, that this display represents this ziggurat?"

"Well what else can it....oh." Tucker trailed off. He looked at Sato, who appeared concerned, and then at Partridge who had a look of horror on her face.

In a sudden burst of activity the three began darting around the circular area, following traces on the display, examining hieroglyphs, comparing notes. After a few moments of frenzied chatter they apparently reached a conclusion, and it wasn't a happy one. Sato snarled something in a language Archer was glad he didn't understand, Partridge put her hands to her mouth, and Tucker's shoulders slumped.

"You're right Cap'n. It ain't this place at all. This here display is moniterin' the main structure, down on the plains."

***

The Archaeological Site.
1st December 2151.

"How close can you get us?" Lieutenant Crispin asked. He stood, grasping the back of the pilot's chair for balance, in the cockpit of the Beowulf lander. Through the transparent aluminium windscreen he had a near perfect view of the top of the ziggurat, with which they were level.

The pilot considered this carefully. "Looks like some loose earth down there, so we'll probably kick up a lot of dust, Nothing we can't handle. I don't know if that entry ramp will support our weight though. We can get right at the bottom of it, no worries. That close enough?" she asked

"Should be, we've got enough cable. Hey! You weren't kidding about the dust! I can't see a thing out there." Appearing from nowhere a thick oily cloud suddenly cut visibility to nothing.

"This isn't dust, we're not low enough for that. I'm taking us out of the crater. Hold on.".

An alarm started warbling. The systems operator flicked several switches rapidly. "We're getting contaminants in the air intakes! Nothing major but I'm closing them to make sure."

As the landing craft rose it emerged from the cloud like a submarine from the depths. "What the hell is that?" Crispin asked.

The crater was now filled with a swirling vortex of black. And even over the roar of the engines, a distant hum could be heard.

"Look" the pilot said, pointing to the windscreen. Plastered to it's surface were the bodies of several insects.

Crispin leant forward, staring into the pit. "My God, there must be millions of them! I think we better tell the Captain!"

And below them the cloud of insects rose higher and higher, rising from the pit, where the early evening breeze blew them inevitably towards the city.
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Old April 29 2014, 04:21 AM   #131
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Just keeps getting better!

Now, there's a real threat out there - the only question is why Denobulans? They aren't native to this world...right?
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Old May 2 2014, 05:42 PM   #132
GeorgeKirk
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

I am not normally a fan of fan fiction. I think that most of it is crap, especially the stuff I've written. But this is really, really, really, really well done. The characters are engaging, there's a real sense of mystery and suspense, and I'm not getting the sense that the story is just assembled from a collection of preexisting Star Trek plot devices. I also really love how the technology is depicted in a realistic, grounded, non-magical manner.

My only quibble is with the character of Polly. I'll come right out and say it-she's a Mary Sue character. She's incredibly attractive and intelligent with a list of accomplishments more suited to someone three times her age. Everyone wants to sleep with her, or be her best friend, or both. My teenage self would think she's a bit over-the-top, and he once wrote a Star Trek/Star Wars crossover that featured his very own Mary Sue character-a 16-year-old Starfleet lieutentant-getting Jedi training from Yoda before having a lightsaber fight with his evil Mirror Universe doppelganger.

But still, even though Polly stretches believability to its breaking point, I am still enjoying the heck out of this story and eagerly look forward to more. Fantastic job!
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Old May 9 2014, 04:12 PM   #133
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Thanks for your criticism GeordeKirk, and I'm glad you are enjoying it.

I agree, Polly is very much a May Sue. There's little point in denying it! Heck, I even had her say a line of dialogue from 'A Trecker's Tale', the spoof on bad fan-fic that gave us the term Mary Sue! I suppose if I were a more disciplined writer I'd have approached the character differently. On the other hand a few of my readers have been rather supportive of her, so I must be doing something right.

I do try not to make her too much of the focus of stories. Although she has always played a major role in the plot, she's not been the one to solve everything and save the day. I do understand that you find her OTT though.

Thanks again for your comments.
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Old June 3 2014, 12:17 AM   #134
Duncan MacLeod
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

I have always rather liked Polly.

Yeah, I know, big surprise.

In part it's because she's built "like a brick outhouse", but also because her scenes are just so much fun to read.
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Old August 6 2014, 12:21 AM   #135
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

OK folks, 9001 apologies for the lack of updates over the past three months. I just couldn't get into it for some reason. It's just as well I'm not doing this professionally, I'd starve...

Anyway, here's a bit more, I hope you enjoy it. Just got to wrap it all up now.

*********************

The Ziggurat Interior.

Captain's personal log, 1st December 2151.
We've now determined that the creatures that attacked us were once Denobulan, their bodies twisted, their minds warped by an alien virus. But that information may be too late. The crew of the Beowulf lander report that a vast swarm of flying insects---carriers for the mutating infection---has risen from the main archaeological site. Already they have over run the nearest farms and settlements, and carried on the evening winds will be at Herroton City itself within half an hour.


"We have to do something!" Sato exclaimed, wringing her hands.

Sharper than he intended, Archer said "I'm open to suggestions."

"Nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure." Reed said wryly.

It was a measure of the seriousness of the situation that Professor Partridge, an aficionado of twentieth and twenty first century media, didn't pick up on the reference. "Not possible. The Enterprise isn't fitted with bombardment missiles, and there's no way a spatial torpedo would survive atmospheric flight."

"Besides," Tucker added, "a nuke powerful 'nough to wipe out all them insects, would flatten the town as well. Maybe...OK, what if we loaded smaller yield warheads onto all our shuttle-pods, flew 'em remotely in a line, spread out along the length of the swarm, and set 'em all off? Take a lot of the bugs out that way I think."

Sato shook her head. "I'm still not sure that I'm reading this right, but it looks like they've released less than ten percent of the insects they've got stored so far. We'd run out of shuttles before they ran out of insects."

They, Archer thought. His people were thinking in terms of a 'them' to be opposed. And that was understandable, a result of human thought processes when dealing with adversity, but it wasn't quite correct, was it? There wasn't a 'them', an unseen enemy with plots and schemes. There was only the ziggurat, a construct, part building, part computer. Could that be it? Was it nothing more than a machine, a device, unthinkingly following the orders of it's long dead masters?

He recalled how Doctor Locke had earlier described insect behaviour as 'robotic'. He knew what was meant by that. He had vague memories of a high school biology lecture about a type of wasp, one of those charming varieties that paralyse it's prey before implanting eggs, so it's hatching young would enjoy a still living first meal. This particular species (he couldn't recall the name, he'd have to ask Partridge later, she would doubtless know) lived in burrows in the ground. When returning from a hunting trip it would leave it's helpless prey near the burrow, going in to ensure nothing else had moved in whilst it was away. That done, it would collect the prey. But, and this was the point the lecturer was keen to explain, if the prey was moved a short distance whist the wasp was inspecting the burrow, by an interfering experimenter for example, the wasp did something quite odd. On emerging from the burrow it would search for the prey, find it, and return it to the exact place it had left it before. Then, despite having checked it's burrow just seconds ago, it would check it again. However many times the experimenter moved the prey, no matter how near or far, it would always follow the same pattern of behaviour, over and over and over again. It had no choice in the matter, it made no decisions. There was no room for introspection or innovation. The same pattern of behaviour, hard-wired into it's simple, mercilessly efficient brain. It did nothing else because it was capable of nothing else.

Archer rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully and looked up. Reed had asked if it was possible to use the ship's plasma cannons against a ground target. Tucker was explaining, in great detail, exactly why they would need to be recalibrated before that was possible, whilst simultaneously Partridge pointed out that the weapons would be ineffective against an insect swarm. The two were talking very quickly and very loudly, and Reed looked rather harassed. Meanwhile Locke was describing to Corporal James how, yes, they had developed an antiviral agent, but no, they couldn't produce any where near enough for everyone in the city.

"We have a two fold problem." Archer said. "We have to stop the insects reaching the city. And we have to find a way to shut the ziggurat down. Otherwise, sooner or later, all this will happen again."

***

The Mountains.
1st December 2151.

Trooper Grant was somewhat concerned. She'd been making good progress through the forest, and should have seen some sign of the Denobulan guards by now. Nothing. There were two possibilities. If they had been heading off at an angle then she could have missed them entirely. That seemed unlikely, the forest canopy was thinner here, and the flares launched by her colleagues were clearly visible. Even if the guards had got lost in the deeper forest, she would have encountered their tracks by now, and could have followed them to catch up.

The alternative was that the guards were either moving very slowly, or not at all. Having remained at the communications post whilst the others had investigated deeper into the ziggurat, she only knew the limited information that had been passed on. But she did know that two of the Denobulans had fallen ill. If the same had happened to the guards at the bus, it would explain their lack of movement. But it also raised it's own problems. All Pathfinders had some level of medical training, but she wasn't qualified to deal with alien diseases.

She brought her borrowed rifle to her shoulder, setting the sight to thermal mode. She didn't like doing that, professional pride saw the use of gadgets as cheating, but it would be foolish to ignore all her options. A soft sigh of relief escaped her as the scan picked up two traces, humanoid in shape, dead ahead. Possibly mahwee, but they looked more like Denobulans. Not far now.

Behind her came the crack as another flare was launched. She frowned, turning. There was supposed to be a five minute gap between them. This time there'd been only two. And the sound hadn't been the same, slightly deeper. The flare rocketed into view. Instead of the intense blue-white she'd been expecting, this one burned with a sputtering crimson glare. At it's apex it burst with an echoing bang, splitting into multiple smaller flares that drifted slowly under parachutes before burning out. Before leaving the comms post they'd agreed to use the red flares as an emergency measure, to call her back in the event of trouble.

"Merde." she spat.

***

The Command Centre. Herroton City.
1st December 2151.

"Tovan, what is the status of our people? Are they all in the shelters?" Governor Trex asked softly. He carried a data pad.

"Most of them, yes. Those in vital jobs have volunteered to remain at their posts until we have a better idea of what threat, if any, we face. But what is wrong, old friend? You do not look well."

Councillor Vrok, studying a computer screen nearby, looked up. "The Governor has been under a lot of stress recently. It takes it's toll on even the most dedicated of us." she said, loudly enough for the staff to hear.

Trex handed the pad to the commissioner. "This just came through from the humans. Sound the emergency sirens. Get everyone into the shelters. Now, right now!"

Tovan paled as he read the message. "Kralon preserve us. The sirens...yes, yes, I'll order it straight away."

As he barrelled off to make the arrangements, Vrok nimbly plucked the pad from his hand. Her eyes widened in shock as she read of the approaching cloud of insects, carrying their horrific infection. She leant closer to Trex. "Can we be sure our shelters are safe? They are very crude compared to the ones back home, very basic. Could these insects get in through the ventilation grills, or under doors?"

The only reply was the look in Trex's haunted eyes.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

Sato glanced at her comms equipment after it beeped for her attention. "Message from Herroton City sir. They received our message, and are getting everyone to the basement shelters. But...they express concern that the shelters may be inadequate for this situation."

"They may well be." Archer muttered. From his time on Denobula he knew they were effective for their purpose, but that purpose did not involve protection from insect swarms. Especially swarms that were hunting pheromone traces. He grabbed hold of that idea. "Doctor, Professor, would it be possible to lure the insects away with some sort of artificial scent?"

Partridge looked at Locke, who took a long drag on his cigarette before saying "Yes. In principle. But we'd need a lot of time to manufacture enough scent to make any difference."

"If we could use all the facilities on the Enterprise and in the city, approximately seven months." Partridge said flatly. "That's assuming no more power interruptions in city, and a constant supply of the necessary raw materials. Raw materials we do not have."

Archer glanced at his watch. Just minutes left. He'd had an idea, earlier. It had come to him at the same time he'd realized that shutting down the ziggurat, whilst less immediate, was just as vital as stopping the swarm. Two birds, one stone. But it wasn't an idea he liked. He kept pushing it away, hoping, praying someone else would suggest something better. They hadn't.

Slowly, reluctantly, he flicked his communicator open. "Archer to Enterprise."

***

The Mountains.
1st December 2151.

No sooner had one red flare burnt out than another was sent up to replace it. They had to be running low on them now, and wouldn't be using them at such a rate unless things were real bad. Grant paused near the tree top to send up a blue flare of her own, to let them know she was OK. No more time to waste though. The mini circular saw from her survival kit made short work of the branch, cutting through in seconds with it's dentist drill whine.

Back on ground level she turned to the healthy Denobulan guard. "Please, your jacket. Take it off." She did the same with her own, then stripped the worst of the twigs off the branch she'd brought down. It was perfect for what she had in mind, a little over two metres long, thick as her upper arm, and fairly straight. A good match for the one she'd prepared earlier.

The jackets were laid on the ground, open, and the first branch fed through the left sleeves. The second went through the right. Grant looked over at the second Denobulan. He did not look at all well, slumped insensately at the base of a tree, drooling. That explained the slow progress they had made. He'd been bitten by some sort of bug back on the bus, and according to his colleague had started to show symptoms soon after. When the order to go to the ziggurat had come he'd been capable of walking, but had been steadily slowing down. Now he couldn't even stand unaided.

But the jackets and branches made an effective improvised stretcher. They'd be able to get to the ziggurat soon.

Hopefully soon enough.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

"...and get all three fusion reactors up to maximum ASAP. As soon as you've got enough power to manoeuvre, start heading this way. Get into a stationary orbit as low as possible over the main archaeological dig site." Archer ordered.

Hernandez's voice was flat through the distortion, but a hint of puzzlement crept through. "Yes sir. Should we ask the Denobulans for permission to break orbit?"

It was a complication he hadn't thought of and could do without. "No. We don't have time. Send them a message saying you are moving, but what ever they say keep going."

"Aye sir. Navigation and helm officers have plotted a course to a point approximately one hundred kilometres above the dig site. We're on our way now."

"Good. Do they anticipate any problems holding the orbit?" Unlike the standard orbit, where a ship was held stationary at the point where gravity balances centripetal force, orbits at other locations would become unstable over time.

"We'll need constant thruster fire to maintain position sir. Maybe the use of the impulse engines as well."

"Shouldn't be a problem. If this works you'll only need to be their for a few minutes. Now, make sure the Enterprise is orientated dorsal to the planet, and bring the main planetary sensors online. They're going to have to take full power and we don't have time for a warm up, so alert engineering to look out for electrical surges and be ready to bypass if needed. Then we'll need to---"

"NO!" Partridge shrieked as she realised what he had planned. "Johnny, you can't do this. It's monstrous! It's...it's...you can't do this!"

Archer went very still. "Stand by Commander." he said into his communicator. "Professor. Do you have a better idea? One that would work? Because, believe me, I want someone to come up with a better idea, really I do. Have you?"

A pause. "No."

"And will this work?"

In a voice little more than a whisper, she said "Yes."

He handed the communicator to her. "Here. The next bit gets technical, and I think you have a better chance of minimising the side effects. Hoshi, lend me your communicator please. I need to contact the Beowulf."

***

Just outside Herroton City.
1st December 2151.

Lieutenant Crispin peered over the systems operators shoulder at the display board. The optical tracking sensors---essentially high powered digital telescopes---showed the streets of the city to be deserted. There had been a nasty moment when it appeared someone was clambering over the rooftops, but that had turned out to be a mahwee. No sign of any Denobulans, and that was good. So far they'd not gotten a full briefing on what was going on, but knew enough to say the insect swarm was dangerous.

"Message from the Captain." the sys-op said, putting a hand to his ear. "He says we're to put down immediately...and harden for EMP!"

"What?" Crispin barked.

"The hell is going on? Are we going to have nukes 'round here?" the pilot asked. "Better strap in Mr Crispin, I'm taking her down fast!"

The sys-op hit a row of circuit breakers. "Soft systems powered down, panel shields in place."

Crispin only just managed to get his buckles fastened before the landing craft dived. Fighting the sensation of his lunch making a bid to escape, he tried to recall all he knew of the Beowulf class and it's resistance to electromagnetic pulse. As a military craft all vital systems were resistant, and with the auxiliary systems deactivated and isolated they should be OK.

Assuming, of course, that the Beowulf survived the source of the EMP in the first place.

***

The Command Centre. Herroton City.
1st December 2151.

"EMP?" Tovan gasped, not sure if he'd heard the communications technician correctly. "Are you certain that's what Archer said?"

"Yes sir. Though we have his message recorded if---" the technician began, but Tovan was already hurrying to alert Governor Trex.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

"Have you any idea what they've got in mind?" Reed asked softly, leaning closer to Sato so she could hear.

"No sir. But I'll tell you this, it's got Polly worked up."

"I don't think the Cap'n's to happy 'bout it, either." Tucker added. His normal good humour was absent.

Sato asked "Do you know sir?"

"I gotta mighty strong suspicion. An' I don' like it myself, so I'm keepin' my mouth shut an' prayin' I'm wrong."

Sato leant back against the nearest wall, head tilted, and tried to analyse the facts. She had the nagging suspicion that she'd heard or seen something over the last few days, something relevant to what was going on. She tried listening in on Partridge's instructions to the Enterprise, in case they offered some clue.

"...need to bypass the safety protocols entirely. Not just the software, you'll have to remove the BX-14A circuit physically from the system, and replace it with a standard BX-14. They don't have the extra safeguards. And then...alright, alright, I'll wait till you've done that."

"Polly, while you're not using that communicator, can I borrow it?" Tucker asked. She handed it over wordlessly. "Thanks. OK...Tucker here, can you patch me through to power distribution? OK, yeah....OK, Sam, it's the boss here. I don't think the wiring will hold for what the cap'n's got planned, so use the main weapon's power feed for as far as possible. That'll be junction fourteen I think. From then on you'll have to bypass the regular wiring with heavy duty cables, and have maint'nance teams standin' ready. Full protective gear, we don't wan' someone hurt if anythin' blows. Emergency protocol Beta is in effect for the bypassed areas, an' get medics on standby..."

Reed and Sato exchanged worried glances.

***

Herroton orbit.
1st December 2151

The impulse engines burned a hellish red as the Enterprise powered to it's destination. It twisted in it's course, bringing the lower sensor array to bear on the distant speck that marked the location of the archaeological site. Thrusters on the underside of the ship fired almost continually, lifting the bow enough that the main engines could fight the growing embrace of gravity at this low altitude. As such, the Enterprise's progress was not the usual arrow straight flight, but rather an almost comical belly-first motion, like a dog on it's back legs straining for a treat. Unusual aspect or not, the Enterprise made swift progress, arriving at the designated zone moments before it's franticly working crew finished their jury-rigged modifications.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

"It's done." Partridge said wearily. She handed the communicator to Archer without meeting his eyes. "I've done what I can to limit the damage. Probably not enough."

"Thank you, Professor."

She grunted an acknowledgement. "Better thank Trip. Thought of something I hadn't. It couldn't work without it, and would probably have blow the ship up."

"Now that's an exaggeration." Tucker said. "Well, a bit."

Archer looked at his watch. No time, no time to delay...He flipped the communicator open. "Commander, what's the status of the modifications?"

"Just a moment Captain...I'm told they're making the final alterations now. Power systems are on standby, they just need to secure the cables."

"Understood. What about the progress of the insect swarm?"

"Mister Kaufman is tracking it now. It's difficult to judge exactly where the leading edge is...perhaps two minutes from the city, maybe less. Stand by sir...sir, I've just been told that the modifications are ready."

Archer tried to ignore the look of dismay on Partridge's face, and Tucker's stony expression. He tried to speak into the communicator, felt it catch in his throat, swallowed, then said simply "Energize."

***

The skies above Herroton.
1st December 2151.

At Archer's order an invisible lance of energy poured forth from the Enterprise's planetary sensor array. Initially the output was weak, but as the crew monitoring the jury rigged circuits recognized that their modifications were holding, they gradually increased the power, drawing directly from all three of the ship's fusion reactors. Straight as an arrow, the energy beam punched through the atmosphere targeted on the main ziggurat far below.

As it did so it's presence became obvious. Although the beam itself could not be seen, it's energy was such it began to shred the molecules of the air itself. Lightning flashed across a cloudless sky, a vivid purple glow engulfed the dig site and hot greasy air crackled with a noise like tearing silk on a massive scale. Sparks danced around the edges of exposed metal surfaces. And the ziggurat itself began to pulse with an unearthly green light.

On board the ship engineers and technicians stood ready to tackle the inevitable side effects caused by such a procedure. As circuits began to heat they rapidly re-routed power, passing as much as possible through the original wiring. Despite not being designed for such a load, it was hoped that this distribution through as many systems as possible would reduce the amount of damage taken by the heavier circuits. The approach was only partly successful. A loud bang, flash of light, and cloud of acrid smoke saw the end of many systems. Others were simply shut down by their own inbuilt safeguards to prevent such a burn out. In less than a minute the ships capacity to deliver such an onslaught of energy had degraded by almost half, and what was left was on the verge of failure. Meanwhile Kaufman at the sensor control struggled to keep it focused on target, as the rapidly heating column of air acted as a lens diffusing the beam.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

"C'mon Hoshi, c'mon." Archer muttered impatiently, clenching and unclenching his fists.

"One moment Captain." she replied, trying to keep the irritation from her voice. She knew it was her job to tell him what he needed to know, but she didn't like being talked to like that, especially when stressed. She also knew that he would have to be stressed himself, very stressed, to speak like that, and she should make allowances. But now she was wound up to the point were making allowances was far too difficult. She sighed, and concentrated on the hieroglyph like symbols flickering and changing on the wall. "It looks like the main ziggurat is showing an extreme and rapid increase in electromagnetic radiation, although it seems to be levelling off."

Archer's brow furrowed at that. That wasn't good. He reached for his communicator, which whistled for his attention before it was out of his pocket. "Commander, I was just about to call you. Status report?" Hernandez's voice was barely audible over the crackle of interference. He adjusted the filters. "Say again?"

"Captain, circuits are burning out faster-" crackle "-can replace them. If we power down fifty percent, we-" hiss "-nother five minutes. Or if we drop to twenty per cen-" crackle "-aintain indefinitely while we repair the damage."

Archer glanced at Partridge who was checking her scanner. She looked back and solemnly shook her head. "That's negative Commander. We don't have the time. Put everything you've got through the remaining systems. One big push, now, right now."

There was a hesitation before she replied, and it had nothing to do with technical matters. "Aye sir."

***

The Mountains.
1st December 2151.

They were getting close to their destination now. Grant could easily make out the tracks of the rest of the expedition from earlier. She was glad they didn't have far to go as she was getting worried. Quite apart from the medical condition of the sick Denobulan, and the regular launch of red flares, things had been getting weird. A distant roaring noise, like a waterfall, had been growing in intensity over the past minute. Through the think forest canopy she had spotted flashes of actinic light. A strong breeze had sprung up from nowhere. And her wrist-comp had detected an increase in various types of energy. Not dangerous, according to the display, but any sudden change in the environment could be important, especially if the source was unknown.

She frowned as the wrist-comp vibrated yet again (as a tactical system, it's alerts were silent). This was a much more insistent pulsing than previously, which indicated a greater risk. Indicating to her fellow stretcher bearer to lower the wounded man, she checked the display and swore in French, to the confusion of the Denobulan.

"Have you sunglasses?" she demanded, rapidly putting her own on as close to her eyes as possible. As an extra precaution she pulled her beret low on her forehead, cursing the fact she didn't have her helmet on. Not only would it's visor provide more protection, it would have come down automatically.

The Denobulan shook his head, then at sudden remembrance checked his unconscious colleagues pockets. A brief search found a pair which he held up for her inspection.

"Put them on! Quickly!" she barked, cutting a length of cloth from the sick man's sleeve. She wrapped it round his eyes as a makeshift blindfold. Should he wake, it might save his sight. That done they set off again as fast as they could, with Grant wondering what could cause the sudden, dangerous increase ultra-violet rays...

***

The skies above Herroton.
1st December 2151.

If Grant had known what the Enterprise was doing, she might possibly have fathomed the answer. Her scientific knowledge was limited to those areas of immediate relevance to her military duties, but, as a scout trained to evaluate and survive in alien environments, this included basic environmentalism.

The final desperate surge of energy from the ship tore ravenously through the skies. That included the ozone layer, some twenty eight kilometres above the surface. Under it's voracious assault the molecules were clawed asunder into single atoms, atoms that did nothing to halt the progress of ultra-violet light from the system's sun. Though now low on the horizon the star's output of this form of energy was still significant.

Though they were guided to their prey by pheromones, the insects now intruding onto the city's limits navigated by numerous means, including visual. Within seconds of exposure to the UV they were blinded, their organised flight decaying into maddened swirls. That was merely the beginning, with the damage wrought on their fragile bodies beyond the limits of their endurance. Those still within the ziggurat survived longer, but the moment they emerged from it's shelter they too were doomed.

Sheltering in the Beowulf landing craft, Crispin and the crew watched open mouthed as, with a noise like rain, the bodies of the insects poured from the sky, covering the ground in a thick black snow that piled and drifted across the landscape.

***

The Ziggurat Interior.
1st December 2151.

"Here!" Sato said, pointing.

Archer looked at the hieroglyph. "Are you sure?" It looked like the one they had seen before, but this was Sato's area of expertise.

She nodded. "I'm certain. The environmental readings are shooting way up, so to prevent damage the system is shutting itself down."

"Just like before," he said, "when the star flared up."

She nodded. "The automatic safe guards. In fact, I think...yes, yes. The displays. They're becoming less responsive. Look. Soon they'll be frozen again, displaying the last thing they're showing."

"Until the system reboots in five, ten years time." Partridge added.

Reed approached. "I've just had a message from the guys on the lander. Those bugs---insects," he corrected, before Partridge could berate him, "they're just falling out of the sky."

"Dead?" Corporal James, hovering near the Professor, wanted to know.

"Either that or they all are having a nap."

Archer let out a long, weary exhalation. He could feel tension draining from his shoulders, and the twisting knot in his stomach subsided slightly. This wasn't over, not by a long shot. The colony would have tough times ahead. But the immediate threat was over.

Reed looked round. "The lights are going off. Flash-lights on, people!"

"We better get moving." Partridge said. "I'm not certain, but I think the shut down will seal the doors. We don't want to get trapped down here."

As they hurried to the exit stairs she leant close to Archer. "Did we do the right thing? Yes, we deactivated the ziggurat, and the insects are dying. But at what cost?"

And Archer had no answer.
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