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Old July 12 2012, 08:52 PM   #31
Mistral
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

I haven't been in the fan fic section in quite some time and I was delighted to see one of your stories, Badger. I agree w/Cejay and the others-you're doing a bang up job here. Looks like I'll be popping in for more chapters...
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Old July 18 2012, 12:02 AM   #32
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

I've also caught up with this tale and hope we'll see a new installment soon.
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Old July 20 2012, 05:56 PM   #33
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Apologies for the delays in updating, but hopefully I should get the next chapter up over the next few days. I've got a couple of days off, practically unknown recently!

Jerrican, Mistral and Count Zero, it's good to have you onboard, and I hope you find the rest of the story entertaining.
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Old July 22 2012, 10:32 PM   #34
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Archaeological Site, Herroton.
29th November, 2151.

With Tovan, Reed, and the marines swapping war stories, it was up to Phlane to take Archer, Tucker and Sato down to the entrance of the ziggurat. They travelled in a four wheel drive electric buggy. Phlane set a steady pace, keeping as far as possible from the edge of the spiralling track. Archer couldn't blame her. It was a long way down, and the edge seemed to be crumbling slightly. Enthusiastic as he was about seeing the site, he didn't want to rush things.

As they descended, he became gradually aware of an almost unnatural chill in the air. At first he put it down to his imagination, spurred on by the sense of awe at the size and design of the ziggurat. Yet he soon realized it was more than that, much more. The chill leached into him, robbing the warmth from his bones. Involuntarily he hunched his shoulders, pulling Porthos, who'd been sat on his lap, closer. He wasn't one to believe tales of the supernatural, but he could not help be reminded of ghost stories told round the camp fire. He thrust those thoughts away, seeking a rational explanation. Perhaps the ziggurat was constructed of some material that absorbed heat very efficiently? Or perhaps---

"It's cold down here." Sato said. "I wish I'd brought a coat."

"The nights are always cold round here at this time of year, very bitter." Phlane said. "A few hours of direct sunlight makes all the difference, but the sun is too low on the horizon to shine down to the bottom of the pit. So, it stays cold."

Archer cleared his throat.

"Oh, I know that sound." Tucker said, grinning. "The cap'n's embarrassed by something. Ya didn't think this place were haunted, did ya'?"

Archer turned in his seat and held up his dog, pointing him at the engineer. "Porthos, attack! Kill!" The beagle yawned, and wagged his tail lazily.

"It's actually warmer inside," Phlane went on, "well, in the First Chamber at least. That's where the generator is located, and it puts out a bit of heat as well as electricity. But if you are planning to venture further, do take warm clothing. Also a beacon and a mapper. And personally I'd recommend a bottle of water, and some food."

"Did Carl have all this stuff when he went missing?" Sato asked.

"Carl? Oh, you mean Dr Halliwell. Yes, he was very conscientious about such things. Everything was in his briefcase, apart from a flask of, what do you call it, coffee? Yes, a flask in the pocket of his coat. That was in one of the corridors, near the chamber where his briefcase was found. So either he'd dropped the coat on his way to the chamber, or...

"...Or he'd left his briefcase in the chamber, and dropped his coat on the way back to the entrance." Archer finished. "But why would he do either?"

"Maybe he'd made a discovery?" Sato suggested. "Doctor Smith said the briefcase had been found where he had been working. Perhaps he'd had some stunning revelation, something so important he wanted to share it with the others, and started running back. He always did like running. And he could have dropped his coat if he got too hot."

Phlane hesitated. Clearly she didn't want to dash Hoshi's hopes. "I'd have to say that is....unlikely. Dr Halliwell's personal computer was still in the briefcase. Dr Smith has checked it carefully, it hadn't been used that morning, so he hadn't done any work. But it did have all his earlier notes in it. Smith says it is inconceivable that Halliwell would have simply abandoned it."

"Oh." said Hoshi, quietly.

"And that doesn't explain where Carl disappeared to." Archer added. "Or Velen, the guard. His disappearance is just as important, and just as much a mystery."

"Thank you captain." Phlane said.

Presently they arrived at the bottom of the pit. With the great mass of the ziggurat towering over them it was hard to believe more than two thirds remained unearthed. Phlane parked the buggy and disembarked, leading them towards the oval orifice. It was a couple of metres higher than the base of the pit, a ramp of hard earth reinforced with metal mesh led up to it. Six powerful lights on tall stands shone into it, yet Archer could see only a little way in, the darkness swallowing the attempts at illumination.

There was something....unreal about the structure, as if it wasn't really there. Something off-putting. He hesitated, not afraid, but unsure. Besides him Sato and Tucker had also halted on the ramp. In contrast Porthos was straining at his leash to get to the entrance.

Phlane was halfway up the ramp. She stopped and turned to face them. "Don't worry. Most everybody gets like this the first time. Even some of the archaeologists, who've been in here hundreds of times, still hesitate. It's never bothered me though." She barked a laugh. "I must have no imagination!"

Archer forced himself to take a step, then another. Once in motion his misgivings faded, though he'd be lying to himself if he said they'd gone completely.

Misgivings or not, the structure was breathtaking. Each block was the size of a small shuttlepod, and up close he could see that, rather than slightly purple stone, as he'd first surmised, they were made from light grey stone, coated in a translucent purple substance. A polymer of some kind, from the look of it. Despite the primitive appearance of the ziggurat's design, it was clearly the result of a technologically advanced people. Perhaps that explained the structure's unreal appearance too. The polymer wasn't reflecting light as the mind expected it to. That's probably it, he told himself, and was almost convinced.

As they reached the top of the ramp Tucker fished a small scanner from a pocket and ran it over the intersection between two adjacent blocks. "Huh. How 'bout that?"

"Something up Trip?"

"Nope, this here, cap'n, is a perfectly straight vertical line, 'zactly as it should be. Only....if you take a few steps back...yeah, just here, does it look like a straight line to you?"

"Can't say that it does." Archer admitted, rubbing the back of his neck thoughtfully. "There's a definite curve."

"Yeah, but which way does it curve?" Tucker asked.

"To the...the...it's...Damn it, that's weird. I can see the curve, but I can't tell which way it goes. And if I get closer...yeah, a straight line."

"The angles." Hoshi said softly. "The angles are all wrong."

"It's got to be some sort of illusion." Archer said. "Maybe something to with this coating, on the blocks? It might be refracting light oddly. Phlane, has this phenomenon been studied?"

Phlane shrugged. "You'd have to ask one of the scientists about that, I'm only the security."

"I'll tell you what it is doing." Sato said, rubbing her brow. "It's doing my head in. I'm not going in if it's like this in there, it's making me dizzy."

"The effects are much less pronounced inside." Phlane reassured her. "Possibly because you can only see a small amount of it at a time."

"Well let's get in then." Sato said, keeping her head down as she went up the rest of the ramp and in to the darkness.

Following, Archer found her leaning against the wall and taking deep breaths. "Are you alright?"

"Yes sir, I am now thank you. That was just...oh, I don't know." She closed her eyes and shook her head rapidly to clear it. "Yeah, that was strange. I'm alright now."

"Are you sure?" he insisted. "We can head back outside, get one of the Marine medics to check you out."

"Honestly sir, I'm fine. It was a bit...disturbing out there, but I'm OK, really."

He nodded reluctantly. "OK then. But if it happens again, you let us know at once. That's an order."

She tossed a flippant salute. "Yes Sir, Captain Sir!"

He gave her a mock imperious stare, though inside was relieved. If she was joking about it then that was a good sign. "Same goes for you Trip. Any ill effects and you let me know. Is this sort of reaction typical, Phlane?"

"Some people can get a little disorientated. The effects are only temporary though, and never severe."

"So far." Archer said.

She regarded him steadily. "You suspect this effect is somehow responsible for the disappearance of the two personnel?"

"It's possible. Maybe they got so badly affected they couldn't think straight, went wandering off into the tunnels." He shrugged. "We've not really got enough data to draw any conclusions yet."

Phlane was shaking her head. "In the years since we've gained access to the interior, the only major effects have been out there, at the entrance. I can't say it's impossible for people inside to be affected so badly, but it is unprecedented."

Archer nodded slowly. He'd been reaching for a solution, without having enough facts. By now his eyes were adjusting to the dark, and...no, no, that was not it. It was getting lighter. Looking up he could see a series of thin, extendible metal bars wedged just below the ceiling. Each held a light bar, along with what looked like a motion sensor. In the illumination they provided he could see that the corridor they were in was lined with much smaller blocks, though they, like the ceiling and floors, were coated in the same purplish translucent material as the larger ones outside.

"Something else you should bring." Phlane said. "A good flashlight. The lighting they've put in is all well and good, but to save energy it only comes on when there's someone nearby. If you want to see further than a few metres, you'll have to provide your own illumination. And of course, only a fraction of the complex has been fitted with lighting, so if you leave the explored areas, well..." She didn't finish the sentence. She didn't need to.

With a modicum of illumination present it could be seen that several smaller corridors branched off this one. Phlane shone her flashlight down the nearest. "When this place was uncovered this part was packed full of earth. It took a while to excavate. There are dozens of rooms down there. All empty. The archaeologists guess they were used for storage at one time, but whatever they were holding has long decayed. Eventually it got to the point where they didn't bother digging them out unless they thought they could find something. Look."

She turned the beam onto what was clearly another opening, except this was still filled with a solid mass of dried earth. Archer prodded it experimentally. Some dirt crumbled away, but it was too hard to pick do more than that.

"They used an ultrasonic scanner to get an idea of what was down each corridor, only digging out the ones that seemed promising. Eventually, they found this one." Phlane said, leading them deeper into the ziggurat. If Archer was any judge, they were approaching the centre of the structure.

The corridor opened out, revealing a large chamber. Even with Phlane's flashlight the other side was lost in darkness. Yet some things were obvious. Just two metres or so from the corridor entrance the floor just stopped, giving way to a gaping chasm. It was quite clearly designed that way, not the result of subsidence or some structural failure. On the right a stone staircase descended into the dark, on the left another made the ascent. A series of barrels, ropes strung between them, had been placed along the edge as an impromptu safety barrier. Two metal structures, like bridges, jutted part way into the darkness. Again, these were clearly additions by the archaeologists, not part of the original design. One terminated in a large cage, hanging from a collection of sturdy looking cables. The second had no such cage, though the cables stretched both up and down into the gloom.

"An elevator system?" Archer asked.

Phlane nodded. "It's a jury-rigged system. But quite safe, I'm assured. And a lot better than the staircase. In the early days that was the only way to go, so this is a big improvement." She lead the way across the bridge, which rattled alarmingly under foot, to the cage. Sliding the door open, she stepped in.

Archer picked up his dog and followed, keeping his gaze fixed ahead. The cage-elevator swayed alarmingly as he entered, and he grabbed tightly onto the metal bar welded into place as a hand hold. It brought some reassurance. Hoshi followed lightly, she'd obviously shaken off her earlier dizziness. Then came Tucker, looking up at the cables.

"Looks sturdy 'nough." he opined. "Look like QB-19 rated cables, 'less I miss my guess. You can haul an elephant on one o' those. O' course, I can't see what they attached to, up there. That might give way." he added mischievously.

Phlane said "You'll be delighted to hear that one of the survey team has worked out what to do if we do find ourselves falling."

"Yes? What?" Archer asked.

"Accelerate downwards for two hundred metres and then become very still. And flat." She slid the door firmly shut, shook the handle to ensure it had fastened, then turned to the controls. A small screen displayed the interior of the cage, seen from ceiling level, at the back. Something about it struck Archer as odd, then he realized that there was no one in the cage on the screen.

"There are two elevators?"

"Right. Counterbalanced so that as one descends, the other rises. As a safety precaution we have cameras set up in each, just there." Phlane pointed. "It makes sure no one sets off whilst someone is getting into or out of the other. Prevents accidents. And before you ask, Captain, the images from the cameras are recorded, so we can keep track of who has used the elevators. So if Dr Halliwell and Velen did leave for some reason, they would have had to climb the stairs. Not impossible, but quite challenging. Now, is there anything else before...?"

Archer looked to his officers, then turned back to Phlane. "Let's go."
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Old July 23 2012, 02:46 AM   #35
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

It's all quite mysterious. I hope we'll learn who the builders of this structure were.
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Old July 25 2012, 06:52 PM   #36
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

This place gives me the willies. It's bad enough that it's all creepy looking from the outside but you can't even see more than a few yards ahead because they can't pay their light bills? Man, you couldn't ask for a better horror/slasher movie set-up.
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Old July 25 2012, 08:41 PM   #37
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Interesting elevator arrangement. How's Porthos dealing with it? My dogs HATE elevators.
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Old July 29 2012, 12:08 AM   #38
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Archaeological Site, Herroton.
29th November, 2151.

There were a series of metallic clunks, then the elevator swayed dramatically before beginning it's descent. Archer reaffirmed his grip on the metal bar, and Porthos whined in alarm. Within seconds they had lost sight of their surroundings, the dim light of the elevator not reaching to the walls of the surrounding chamber. It was somewhat disorientating.

To take his mind off it, Archer turned to Phlane. "So, is there much need for security here?"

"Not as such, no. We're part of the colony's overall security department, but here at the site we mainly act as emergency response teams, on standby in case some one gets into trouble. That rarely happens. Doctor Cruikshank fell off a ledge and broke her leg last year, that's probably the most significant thing we've had to deal with. Up until now, of course. We've had to borrow extra people to help with the search."

"What about the colony in general? Is there much need for security?"

She shook her head. "Not really. We're a police force, essentially, in what is a fairly small, quiet town. We have the occasional training exercise, so we can turn at a moments notice into steely eyed killers, should the Antarans suddenly decide to launch a major assault on an unimportant colony on the far side of our space from them. But mostly it's the quiet life. And to be honest, that's how most of us like it."

"The quiet life. So there's been nothing like this before then?"

"Unexplained disappearances, you mean?" Phlane raised an eyebrow. "No, nothing like this. Well, I say that, we did have a case some four or so years back. A group of youngsters went off on a hunting trip to the mountains. We never found three of them, but we found the other two. Bits of the other two, anyway. They'd been attacked by vrex."

"Vrex?" Tucker asked. "That councillor we met? I know she seemed a bit harsh, but..."

Phlane laughed. "No no, that's Councillor Vrok. An admired and respected member of the colony's administration, I assure you. And not, adamantly not, a cold blooded self serving vicious and callous predator."

"Ah, my mistake. So, is there good huntin' in the mountains?"

"So I'm told, if you can avoid getting devoured by vrex. Are you a...." She broke off as the second elevator rattled past them on it's ascent. "Are you a keen hunter, Mr Tucker?"

"Since I was so high." He held his hand down to demonstrate. "Not been for a while though. If'n I can get this power problem sorted soon 'nough, I might just go to these mountains of yours."

Sato said "You should take Red with you, she'd like that." Isobelle 'Red' Grant was one of the marines, a top tracker and hunter.

Archer grimaced. "I think we've got enough on our plates at the moment. And we didn't come all this way just to slaughter the local wildlife."

"Oh believe me, you'd be doing us a favour captain." Phlane said. "Those vrex are dangerous, not so much to us as they are to the chevans, our major meat source. The colony faces lean times ahead, there have been a few of us arguing for a cull."

Archer's ears popped as the elevator descended. He swallowed a couple of times to clear them.

A sudden burst of light from below startled him. It wasn't all that bright, but it seemed momentarily dazzling to his dark adjusted eyes. The elevator slowed to a halt by a platform of the ubiquitous metal mesh. A ring of lights illuminated a short ramp down to the ground, the now familiar arrangement of stone blocks under purple coating. In the wall directly opposite the elevator lay a large opening, a tunnel high and wide enough for Beowulf class landing craft to pass. About five metres along, four thick hydraulic struts stretched floor to ceiling. Just beyond them stood a wall of metal, clearly not part of the original design.

It was cold down here, very cold, his exhalations clearly visible in the pale light. And again Archer was struck by the conviction that there was more to this than a mere low atmospheric temperature. Irrational as the notion was, he could not fully rid himself of it. It was also quiet, now that the rattling of the elevator had stopped, unnaturally quiet. An environment like this really ought to have water dripping in the background he thought.

The clatter as Phlane slid the cage door open was almost shocking in it's intensity. He took a couple of breaths, steadying his nerves, then followed the Denobulan woman down the ramp.

"You OK, cap'n?" Tucker asked softly, concern evident in his tones. He'd obviously picked up on his mood.

"I'll be fine, Trip. Thanks."

Porthos, on the other hand, seemed perfectly fine. Indeed, he strained at his leash to get closer to the tunnel the moment Archer put him down.

As they entered the tunnel he could see that the four struts were holding something up, a slab a good fifty centimetres or so thick. It was pushed up into a slot in the ceiling. Regular tooth like protuberances jutted from it's bottom edge, and looking at the floor he could make out where matching depressions had been, though now they were filled with rubble and sand.

"This is a door?" he asked.

"This," Phlane said, "is indeed a door. The only way into the complex, as far as we can tell. It took nearly a month to prise it up far enough that they could get these struts in place, and another week to lift it up all the way. I've been told it's now locked in place, but we're leaving the struts here for safety. You wouldn't want to be underneath if it suddenly decides to drop. Or trapped on the wrong side, for that matter.
"Now this," she added, rapping her knuckles against the metal wall, was put in by the archaeologists, to stop draughts mainly."

There were a few small holes along the top of the wall, through which snaked a hydra like collection of cables. Archer recognised them as the ones supplying power to the rest of the ziggurat. Two hatches, one large, one small, were embedded in the wall. Phlane tapped a long number into the keypad by the smaller one, which promptly swung open, and beckoned them through.

Keeping a tight hold on Porthos' leash, Archer entered. The first thing he noted was the sudden rush of warmth, most welcome after the chill in the outer chamber. The lighting here was uncomfortably bright, but as his eyes adjusted he began to recognize the scale of the area. This cavern was huge, in size---and shape---reminiscent of a decently sized aircraft hanger. The walls, floor and ceiling here were bare stone, without the coating. At the far end, directly opposite the entrance, a tunnel mouth led off into the darkness. Much of the chamber was filled with barrels and containers of various sorts. To his right a large rectangular generator hummed away happily to itself. It seemed to be the source of the warmth. To the left was a large metal shed with a window. The lights inside were off.

Sitting by the shed, playing some sort of board game on a low table, were two Denobulans. Both wore the same sort of coveralls as Phlane, and carried holstered guns. They stood as the party entered, staring at the humans with curiosity.

"Shouldn't you two be at the communications board?" Phlane asked. "There are people in the tunnels at the moment."

"Sorry ma'am." one said. "It's the cleaning fluid, the fumes are making us sick. We've got the door propped open and the volume turned way up. We'll be able to hear if there's a distress call."

Archer walked round to the side of the structure. The door was held wide open, a barrel pressed into service as a door stop. He approached the doorway, becoming aware of Porthos' reluctance a moment before he was hit by an eye stinging acrid stench. "Lord, that's potent. What happened?"

Phlane shrugged. "There must have been a problem with the environmental systems. The place was dripping with condensation, absolutely smothered."

"When was this?" he asked.

"You're determined to find a connection to the missing people, aren't you?" she asked. "Well, alright then, we found it like that the morning they disappeared. But if it's relevant in any way, I can't see how."

"Condensation in the guard's shack." he ruminated. "No, to be honest, I can't see how that fits, either."

Sato was examining a large rack mounted to the side of the shack. "Are these the distress beacons?" she asked, holding up one of the small cylinders.

"That's right. Each individually numbered. When anyone goes into the tunnels, they take one, noting it's number and their name for the records." Phlane gestured to the clipboard hanging from a length of cord by the rack. "Most of the humans tend to use the same one over and over again, as if they personally own it. But really they are for communal use."

Sato looked thoughtful. "Do you mind if I borrow one? I've an idea as to how we could get a bit more communication with these."

Phlane looked sceptical, but nodded. "If you can do that, it would be useful. Please, take number eleven. That was the one your Doctor Halliwell favoured."

Sato hesitated, then selected the appropriate one, signing for it on the clipboard.

Despite his earlier misgivings, Archer was strongly tempted to investigate the tunnels further. He reminded himself that he had an appointment for lunch with Trex and a number of officials, and that there would be opportunities later. "Guess we'd better be heading back. Thanks for showing us---"

He got no further, as Tucker suddenly exclaimed "Hey, wait a minute, that ain't right!" He pointed to a large collection of barrels a few metres away. "You got trellaline stored right next to ya' coolant fo' the generator. You have to keep 'em well apart. If'n they ain't prop'ly sealed, an' the fumes mix...boom!"

The guards looked alarmed, as did Phlane.

Archer said. "Right, lets get them shifted. Porthos, sit, stay."

With them all working together, it didn't take long to move the trellaline to a safe location. He would of thought that would do, but Trip insisted they move the coolant as well, as it's current position was inefficient from an engineering standpoint, apparently. Those barrels were larger and heavier, and difficult to move, but eventually Trip declared himself satisfied.

"Sorry' bout that, cap'n, but I couldn't leave things like that. It's bad form."

"Understood Trip, but now we really must be---oh, now what? What have you found, boy?"

Porthos was barking excitedly at him, rushing back and forth to the spot where the barrels had recently stood.

There, in a shallow depression in the ground, the floor was discoloured, stained a greyish brown.

"That looks like...blood." one of the guards breathed.

Phlane nodded. "It does indeed. Better get Phlox here to take samples, see if we can identify who's it is. And if it turns out to be Velen's that has some severe implications. Especially for your Dr Halliwell."

"For Carl? Whatever do you mean?" Sato demanded.

It was Archer that answered. "That blood stain, if that's what it is, was hidden under those barrels. Deliberately. That means someone has acted to conceal the evidence of injury. Someone who had something to hide. And right now Doctor Halliwell is the only person we know of inside the complex. That makes him the prime suspect."
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Old August 1 2012, 01:04 PM   #39
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Sounds like this is turning from a horror/creature episode into a full-scale crime thriller. Somebody seems to be trying to cover up a crime. The question is, what crime? Something tells me dead bodies are involved. It has that kind of creepy feeling to it.

Looking forward to finding out some answers to a number of questions.
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Old August 1 2012, 03:14 PM   #40
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

I suppose it's the blood of the guard that was killed in the beginning.
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Old August 3 2012, 06:19 PM   #41
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Another excellent installment, Badger. Looks like a bit more going on than simply creatures running loose, since someone - or something - is actively trying to conceal evidence of the killings. Looking forward to more, sir.
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Old August 3 2012, 10:19 PM   #42
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Thanks for the ongoing support. I've made some progress with the next part, should be up in the next day or two.

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I suppose it's the blood of the guard that was killed in the beginning.
Aha! That is certainly a reasonable hypothesis. But would I be that obvious?*


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Old August 4 2012, 05:07 PM   #43
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

UES Enterprise. Orbiting Herroton.
29th November, 2151.

In operation, the small hooded viewer attached to the science station made a variety of noises. Murmurs, hums, whirs, chirrups and burbles all combined into a melodic, even lyrical, whole. Yet gradually this morning those pleasing sounds had become obscured by the frustrated mutterings of Professor Partridge as she stared angrily into the device. Abruptly she straightened up, pushing herself back in the chair and slapping at the off switch. She missed, catching the console instead, and bit back a curse as she shook her sore hand.

"No luck then?" Commander Hernandez asked sympathetically.

Partridge didn't turn, but took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "No. Not really. Thank you for asking." she said in the tight, precise, controlled tones of someone trying very hard to stop themselves shouting.

Hernandez looked around the bridge. Everyone was studiously monitoring their own stations, not willing to risk getting involved. "But didn't you say you'd found something earlier?"

"Yes, on the passive scans. Observations in visible light and infra-red show a variety of phenomena. Regular shapes that would seem to be artificial in origin. The ancient remains of roads, aqueducts, maybe even cities. Or possibly some geological process inherent to this world. To determine which, we'll need more data than the passives will give. Yet when we try to run active scans...we get practically nothing back. At best, resolution is so low as to be worthless. In some cases, we are getting no return at all. We're trying to map a planet and it's all blank spaces. What can we do?"

Mayweather said "You could do what they always used to. Write 'Here be dragons'."

Partridge spun in her chair, staring straight at him for an uncomfortably long time, jaw clenched. Then a smile flickered across her face. "Good idea."

"So, what do you reckon?" Hernandez said. "A system fault?"

Partridge rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hand. "Must be. Can't think of anything else that would do this. Mind you, the system worked well at Galador, so it must have gone wrong between there and here. Dammit, that means a full diagnostic. Or recalibrate the....no, no, that won't work, I'd need to run it at full power to get a benchmark. Too dangerous for the people on the planet. So it'll have to be a diagnostic. A complete pain in the....Ah, I can do without this." She stood, and stretched, working the kinks out of her muscles with several audible clicks. "Ouch."

"Admit it." Hernandez said. "It was a good idea to reposition your viewer."

When first installed, the viewer could only be operated from a standing position. This proved unsuitable for two reasons. Many bridge crew found the sight of Partridge standing, bent almost double, legs splayed wide, to be most distracting. This was especially the case for those at the helm and navigation consoles, located directly behind her. It was bad enough when she wore her typical catsuits, but so much worse on those occasions she donned her distressingly short mini dresses.

It also became quickly apparent that operation of the device in that position was not conducive to good posture. Several officers who used the viewer quickly complained of back ache. Partridge herself, who possessed a physique susceptible to bad backs at the best of times, admitted that she too had had problems. So the viewer was relocated to a more convenient and comfortable position.

Still, several hours hunched in the chair had an effect. Partridge bent back as far as she could, pressing her fists over her kidneys, and groaned. "It's no good, I'm going round and round in circles here. Need to do something else, take my mind off it...Blimey, I'm parched. Any one fancy a brew?"

That threw Hernandez, until she realised what a Brit would mean by that. "A cup of tea. Yes, I would, thank you."

Partridge looked round, counting up those who wanted one. "Right, I'll stick the kettle on then."

After she'd left, Moshiri asked "OK, hands up every one who thought she was going to hit Lieutenant Mayweather?"

There were chuckles, and several hands raised.

"I hope she figures it out soon." Hernandez said. "You know what she was like the last time she got stuck on a problem."

"I hope she doesn't. For the same reason." Mayweather smirked.

Along with Tucker, Partridge had been instrumental in developing a solution to the warp drive problem. For some reason Hernandez did not understand, her contribution had involved securing a long piece of spare piping vertically in the obs. dome, arranging several tables in a circle at it's base, and writhing around it to the accompaniment of excessively loud music. And, indeed, it had been whilst spinning upside down during a fast tempo version of 'Fly Me To The Moon' that she'd had a moment of insight, that later, with much work, had proved crucial. The presence of numerous baying crew-members and marines was, apparently, essential to the process. That at least was what she had said when pocketing the money they'd thrown.

"Moon's coming up." Moshiri commented conversationally.

Indeed it was. Herroton had two satellites, though one was small and distant, only just visible with the naked eye from the surface. The other, about half the size of Earth's moon, was considerably closer. It was also remarkably brighter. As it rose over the horizon of it's home world, it appeared as a featureless, almost luminous object.

"Darken the view screen." Hernandez ordered. "Lord, that's bright."

"Yes Ma'am." Moshiri operated the relevant controls. "Unusually high albedo for an object of it's type. I'd reckon that down on Herroton it would literally be bright enough to read during a full moon."

Now the light levels had been reduced, it was possible to make out some variation. Most of it was still featureless white, but now a darker area could be made out, still bright, but much more like the surfaces of other lunar bodies Hernandez was familiar with.

There was a warbling from the sensors station, next to the science console. Ensign Kaufman checked his readouts. "Automated report from the courier Ma'am. It's reached it's departure point and will be going to warp shortly."

"A little behind schedule, but at the speed those things go that won't matter much." Hernandez mused. "It'll be...what? Warp five?"

"Yes Ma'am." Moshiri confirmed. "Back to Earth in four and a half days."

"I've been meaning to ask about that." Kaufman said. "How come the couriers are so much faster than us? Even the Vulcan's haven't got anything that fast. I know they're a lot smaller and lighter, but there's got to be more to it than that, surely?"

"Well, mainly it is the small size and low mass," Moshiri explained, "but it's also to do with the time barrier."

"The time barrier?"

"Yes, it's something that that has been observed empirically for---" Moshiri began. She was interrupted as Partridge returned with a tray.

"Tea's up! I've brought biscuits as well. Hands off the jammy dodgers, they're mine." Apart from a plate with assorted biscuits, the tray held a milk jug, sugar bowl, and several mugs. She went round the room, handing them out to the crew. "There you go, strong enough to stand a spoon up in. When you're tired of tea then you're tired of life, as the song goes."

Hernandez accepted a mug with thanks, added a touch of milk, no sugar. The tea was a rich, full brown, almost orange. After a moments consideration she selected a chocolate biscuit.

"Polly, you understand the time barrier don't you?" Moshiri asked.

"Of course. It's part of my curriculum at Cambridge." She sat, and took a long sip. "Aaaahh."

"So could you explain it to Mr Kaufman?"

Partridge paused, swivelled in her chair to look at him, and blew out her cheeks. "No offence, Simon, but the people I usually teach have just spent years training their minds to the point that they can even begin to comprehend the physics involved. It's not the sort of thing one can easily clarify with a quick chat. Why the sudden interest?"

Kaufman shrugged. "I was just wondering how come the couriers were so fast compared to us."

Partridge waved airily. "Ah, well. They're smaller and lighter. More important though, they are unmanned. Entirely automated. Ask me why that is so significant."

"Why is that so significant?" Kaufman asked, looking round for moral support.

"Because of the time barrier!" Partridge said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Aren't you paying attention? Honestly, and to think we rely on you to keep an eye out for alien ships sneaking up on us and whatnot. We're doomed. All of us, doomed."

"Professor..." Hernandez chided.

"Oh, all right then. It'll take forever and a day to explain why things happen, so I'll just get on with what happens. To cut a long story short, when a ship exceeds a certain speed, the warp field begins to generate chroniton particles. The exact speed depends on a variety of factors: size and mass of the ship, power output, warp dynamics and so on. With me so far?"

"Right..."

"OK, now up to a point the chronitons are negligible. And they will naturally dissipate around the shield bubble. But eventually they build up to the point that they start to have an effect. Time will run at different speeds in different areas of the ship. And I'm not talking about Friday on the bridge while it's Saturday in the engine room. Tiny alterations, just fractions of a second, popping into and out of existence all over the place. Should they occur inside a living organism, they could cause a great deal of damage. Accelerated cells require more nutrients and oxygen than the rest of the system can supply. Slowed nerves can't cope with the excess of information. Permanent mental and physical damage will result. It could easily be lethal.
"The same goes for ships systems. Think how important it is to ensure a computer's circuits are synchronised. Timing is essential. A single alteration at a crucial point can ruin everything. Because of the physics involved, the anomalies are repelled by the energies of the ship's engines and warp core. That's not to say they can't form there, just that it is less likely. So all the computers and really vital systems are built right next to the core. That raises a fair few engineering problems in itself, but it works."

She swirled her tea around in her mug, staring into it as if it held the secrets of the universe. "The time barrier is the single greatest obstacle to increased speed. If we can overcome that...there may be no limits to how fast we can go." She grinned ruefully. "Unless, of course, there's some further restriction we don't know about."

Hernandez thought about it. "So that's why information has to be carried on passive data chips. If it were in active memory there'd be a risk of corruption. And, I'm guessing, why the couriers have such a high maintenance requirement."

"Right on both counts." Partridge said with a cheery wink. Looking round absently, she caught sight of the main view screen, watched it intently for a moment, then slammed her empty mug down on the console. "Aha! I said earlier, didn't I, that to solve the scanning problem I'd need to do something else, yes? Well I've worked out what I should do!"

"Well?" Hernandez demanded. "What should you do?"

"I'll do something else!" Partridge replied triumphantly. "Look, the problem is, we're not getting good return on our ground scanners, and we can't run the systems at maximum output---which we need to do to establish parameters---without seriously mucking up the planets ecosphere. But, if we scan that moon instead...."

"You'd be able to get the data you need without risk." Hernandez concluded. "That moon's a dead world."

"Right. If it works, we should be able to work out what's going wrong, reset the system, no prob's. Otherwise..." she trailed off.

Moshiri cleared her throat. "Can the planetary scanners work over that range? They were designed to be used from orbit. That moon's nearly three hundred thousand kilometres away."

Partridge rubbed her chin. "I'll have to compensate for that of course, but we should get something useful. Ah. Problem. The planetary sensors are located on Enterprise's belly. We'll have to re-orientate the ship."

"Mr Mayweather," Hernandez said, thankful that there seemed to be some progress, "sound the manoeuvre alarm, then adjust orientation at your discretion. Let's give the professor something to look at."

Mayweather opened his mouth to speak, hesitated, as if choosing his words carefully, and eventually settled on a none controversial "Aye ma'am."

"OK," Partridge said, re-activating the viewer, "let's get a good look at you. There'll be a slight delay, we're using light speed sensors here, but that shouldn't...what the deuce!" She sat back, nonplussed.

Hernandez stood and joined her at the station. "What's up?"

"It's working perfectly. Well, almost perfectly, but allowing for the distance....it's working just as well as it should be."

"That's good though, surely? Means you don't have to run a diagnostic, right?"

"Well, yes. But it doesn't explain why we couldn't get a good reading from Herroton. It's bizarre!" she added with what Hernandez thought of as a 'facial shrug', head tilted to one side, eyebrows raised, corners of the lips turned down. She turned back to the viewer. "I mean, even at this range, I'm getting high resolution scans of the surface, geography, tectonic plates, chemical composi---Hello! That can't be right!"

Hernandez was getting slightly annoyed with all these mood shifts. "Oh, now what?"

"I've found out why that moon is so bright. Obvious really, on reflection. No pun intended." she added absently. "I think, before we go any further, we should get the Solar Observatory up and running. Yes, yes, I think that would be a very good idea indeed."

And there was something in her tone, in the careful way she spoke, that Hernandez found to be somewhat worrying.
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Old August 5 2012, 11:22 PM   #44
CeJay
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Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

That surface clearly doesn't want to give up its secrets, even to somebody as skilled and knowledgable as Partridge.

Good job on the technobabble on the pseudo-science relating to warp drive limitations. That was thoroughly convincing.

By the way how does she maintain her knockout figure with such a diet? Also, I petition they change the setup of her console back to the original layout ...
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Old August 6 2012, 08:49 PM   #45
The Badger
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Location: Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
Re: Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Thanks! That whole 'time barrier' business has been percolating at the back of my mind for a while now. There's a line in 'The Cage/The Menagerie', Navigator Tyler telling the survivors on Talos "You won't believe how fast you can get back to Earth. The time barrier's been broken." Little bits of dialogue like that hang around in my head, searching for something to do.

It's something of a mystery as to how Polly maintains her figure in the face of all those bacon sandwiches. There are those who see it as evidence of genetic augmentation. Others suggest she's found a technological way to ensure fat does not gather in some areas of her anatomy, but does at others. The occasional use of industrial strength corsetry may also play a role. Still, whilst no one really knows why it happens, a lot of people are glad that it does.

After all the complaints, there's no chance the viewer will be put back in it's original position. Quite apart from anything else, Dr Locke issued a medical warning due to the high amount of painkillers requested by people using the device. So, not going to happen, sorry. But perhaps you'd care to sign Cpl. James' petition, to have a pole and circle of tables permanently installed in the obs. lounge?
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