Starship Enterprise (Alternate Version) "Regeneration"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by The Badger, May 3, 2012.

  1. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    OK, just a quick bit for now.

    UES Enterprise. Orbiting Herroton.
    28th November 2151.

    "Now if you would all follow me please...up these stairs. They're very steep, so please take care. I recommend you hold on to the railings with both hands." Despite his warning captain Archer used only one hand to steady himself. Porthos was tucked tightly under the other arm. The little dog had previously taken a tumble down the steps---fortunately a short distance, and he wasn't hurt---so Archer didn't want to take chances. He'd also instructed his officers to intersperse themselves at regular intervals amongst the guests, to help out if there was any trouble.

    He emerged at his destination through a wide trap door, the huge, thick hatch held open by heavy duty pistons. It was located at one end of a short corridor. There was a door on either side, marked with the symbols for male and female lavatories. They were also labelled in a variety of languages. Denobulan was not one of them, but per his instructions Sato had added the appropriate words via sticky labels. At the opposite end of the corridor was a standard hatch, propped open. He put Porthos down and gestured to Trex, first up the stairs after him. "If you would care to go through, Governor."

    He followed him through, trying to gauge the Governor's reaction. The room beyond was reactively long for the Enterprise, with quite a high ceiling. Rather than the customary straight lines and right angles, here the walls curved up and over, giving the room a lozenge shape. The walls were made of meter wide featureless plates, dark grey in hue, joined to each other by chromed struts. Directly to Archer's left there was a small food preparation area, it's surface covered with many trays carrying plates under plastic covers, to prevent them going cold. To the right was a bar with a variety of beverages. Several drinks had already been prepared. Half a dozen smartly dressed crewmen stood ready to act as waiters for the meal.

    Towards the front of the room lay a raised area with several comfortable chairs and a small, old fashioned, optical telescope. The presence of the latter seemed incongruous, given the utter absence of any window or port hole.

    A handful of tables, normally spread out around the room, had been pushed together to form one long table with enough room for all of the party. Archer cast an eye over it critically, ensuring that everything was in place. Denobulan cutlery was rather different from that used by humans, but the guys in the workshop had been able to run something up to his specifications. He'd given the first set manufactured a quick try out earlier, and it seemed to be as he remembered.

    As Major Reed, bringing up the rear, came through the hatch, Archer nodded to Crewman Daniels at the bar, who started to hand out the drinks. "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you've found the tour so far to be interesting---" there was a general murmur of assent "---and I also hope you've worked up an appetite. Chef has prepared a variety of courses for us. Some are delicacies from Earth, but he's also turned his hand to several Denobulan recipes. Granted we don't have access to the correct ingredients, but I'm rather intrigued to see exactly what he has come up with. And I can't think of a better place to partake than this, my favourite part of the Enterprise."

    Some of the guests looked slightly bemused by that. There didn't seem to be anything of great interest here. Archer smiled, and waited for a moment, letting them wonder. When the time felt right he gestured to Crewman Jacobs, stood next to a control panel. Jacobs saluted, then touched the appropriate controls.

    The lights dimmed, slowly as to not alarm anyone. Gradually, the grey wall plates began to fade from view. Soon they were utterly transparent. Were it not for the chrome struts, it almost seemed as if they stood unprotected upon the outer hull of the Enterprise, the long shaft of the primary hull jutting forward ahead of them, the toroidal ring of the secondary hull half filling the sky like a giant metal rainbow behind them. And to the left, as the ship was orientated, the globe of Herroton itself, inky black save for an illuminated crescent edge.

    There were gasps and exclamations of joy and admiration from the guests, and even a smattering of applause, the sort made by people trying not to spill their drinks.

    Archer waited until he had their attention again. "Ladies and gentlemen." He held his glass aloft. "To Denobula, and to Herroton colony!"

    The drinking of toasts was a custom shared by the Denobulan people. Trex held up his own glass. "To Earth, and the UES Enterprise!"

    They drank. The humans present had been given champagne. Archer knew from experience that Denobulans had no taste for sparkling beverages, as the bubbles irritated their sensitive nasal passages. He did however know of a suitable substitute.

    "Ah, now this is rather pleasant." Commissioner Tovan said, rolling the remains of his drink round the bottom of the glass. "Brings a warmth to the bones. What is it?"

    "Apple schnapps. I'm glad you enjoy it. We've got a little bit more, if you'd care for it." Following the Enterprise's first mission there had been a few changes of crew. One of those departing had left quite a stockpile of the drink on board, although thanks to administrative error this hadn't been discovered until after the second mission was under way. It was, he thought, the sort of thing Denobulans would appreciate, and was pleased to see he'd been right.

    "I would indeed, thank you." Tovan gestured around them. "So. This room. Not standard for a Declaration class ship, am I right?"

    "No," Archer said, beckoning Daniels to refill Tovan's glass, "the observation dome is unique to the Enterprise."

    Tovan nodded slowly. "Now we seem to be located outside the main hull...and that flight of stairs looked like it was re-purposed from a loading tube..."

    Archer cringed inwardly. Most of Tovan's questions so far had taken a decidedly martial direction, and he could anticipate what was coming next.

    "...so I'd say that on other ships of this type, there'd be some sort of torpedo or missile launcher located here. Am I right? Given the width of the tube not your usual anti-ship weaponry, I'd say. Orbital bombardment weapons, perhaps?"

    "That's right." Archer admitted reluctantly. "There's no need for them on our mission, so the mechanisms were replaced by improved sensors, and this lounge. You've seen our main science labs. They're located in what would be the missile bays. Ah! Malcolm! Now's your chance."

    "Sir? a baffled Reed asked. He'd been talking to Sato when Archer suddenly singled him out.

    "Governor Trex informs me that the Commissioner here is a veteran of the Denobulan-Antaran conflicts. Now I know you've studied the official histories, but didn't you want to ask a few questions from some one who was there?"

    This was, in fact, a massive and rather desperate bluff on the Captain's part. He really couldn't face any more of Tovan's questioning, and getting him to talk shop with another soldier seemed the best way to distract him. He had no real idea if Reed had any interest in, or indeed knowledge of, that particular conflict, but it seemed a likely gamble.

    Reed stood stock still for a moment, and Archer thought he'd miscalculated. Fortunately the marine seemed to snap into life. "Right. Yes, right. Right. Yes. I, ah, I've been meaning to...yes. Yes that's it. The standard Defence Force carbine. Did you find that the plasma dissipation past a hundred or so metres was a significant drawback?"

    "Ah, you'd think so wouldn't you, you'd think so. As it happens though most of our engagements took place...."

    As Tovan droned on, Archer took a step back and let out a soft sigh of relief. He offered a quick mouthed 'thank you' to Reed, who apparently was so caught up in the Commissioner's explanations he didn't notice it. Well, at least those two would be happy together, Archer thought. He realized Trex was watching him. The Governor smiled widely and lifted his glass in salute at his adroit deflection of Tovan's questioning. Archer raised his own glass back. He looked around, satisfied at the way everyone was mingling. It was what he'd hoped for.

    "Captain?" said Sato, approaching. She kept her voice low and she sounded troubled.

    "What's up Hoshi?"

    She hesitated. "Sir, it's just that... I've looked at the place settings and...they've got me sat next to Dr Soong. I'd really rather not be near him, sir. My country was hit bad in the Eugenics War, and I'm very uncomfortable with supporters of Augmentation."

    Lots of countries suffered in that conflict, but it wouldn't help to point that out. "Well, we originally planned to have the Professor sit there, but considering how the reception went, I thought it wise to move her away from him. Sorry Hoshi, I should have consulted with you first. Let's check with Trip and Malcolm, see if either of them will swap with you."

    She sounded relieved "Thank you sir."

    Archer nodded, and surreptitiously ran a finger under his collar. Despite what Hernandez might think, he also found dress uniform constricting. He just hid it better. As if summoned by his thoughts, the XO appeared at the entrance to the lounge. "Captain, sorry we're late. The Professor insisted on giving me her life story before agreeing to apologise."

    "What absolute poppycock!" Partridge exclaimed, bursting into the room. "You held me captive until I divulged my secrets. We all know the deep envy you hold for me Maria, and your desire to absorb every scintilla of data about my magnificent and wondrous life borders upon the obsessional. Quite understandable really."

    Perhaps in recollection of her earlier actions several of the guests had drawn back nervously at her entrance. They were not reassured when one finger flashed out to point, almost accusingly, at the man she had struck. "Doctor Arik Soong! Yeah, that whole punching you in the face business? Yeah, err, sorry about that. I was a bit...tense."

    Doctor Soong wore a sticking plaster over the bridge of his nose. The skin around it was discoloured, and dried blood flecked at his nostrils. Despite this he grinned back at her. "No need to apologise Polly, I quite understand."

    They started talking. To Archer's trained eye there still seemed to be a lot of 'tension' around Partridge. Whatever had worked her up clearly wasn't a simple matter. But for now at least the matter was in hand. The guests seemed to relax a little too, and the conversation resumed. They were still rather cautious though, as evidenced by the way they all looked round nervously when Partridge piped up. "Hoshi, I couldn't ask an enormous favour, could I? I notice you're sat next to Arik. Could I swap with you? We've got so much to catch up on!"

    "Sure thing Polly!" said a happy sounding Hoshi.

    "Splendid!"

    Archer glanced at his watch, then over at Jacobs questioningly. The crewman spoke into the intercom, listened carefully to the answer, then gave Archer a confirming nod. The captain walked up to the head of the table and picked up a spoon, which he rang against his glass for attention. "Ladies and gentlemen. Our dinner is ready, so if you care to take your places, we can begin."
     
  2. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    She's going to hit him again, isn't she? :devil:
     
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    The man has some diplomatic chops, I give him that, the way he uses his tactical officer to deflect difficult questions. A tactic all in itself, no?

    As for Polly and Soong. I'll be watching very closely.

    Great stuff.
     
  4. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    UES Enterprise. Orbiting Herroton.
    28th November 2151.

    "...and if Captain Archer hadn't figured it out when he did, well, I very much doubt I'd be here today." Polly Partridge said, waving a spoon full of apple pie and cream for emphasis. Her ability to tell stories rivalled her desire for attention, and the guests had been held spellbound. Although too much of a scientist to exaggerate or embellish, she was able to gauge her audience well, discussing in detail matters of interest whilst glossing over quickly the less exciting elements. She did have a tendency to dwell on what Archer thought of as irrelevancies, most notably precise descriptions of what she had been wearing at the time.

    "By Kralon, a most harrowing ordeal!" exclaimed Commissioner Tovan gallantly. Next to him Hernandez rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. And on the other side, Archer noticed, the young councillor, Vrok, maintained a politely neutral expression. It was difficult to work out what she was thinking, like Hoshi Sato on poker night.

    "Indeed, we must be grateful to the captain for his quick wittedness." Governor Trex said, finishing off his desert. "And, for providing us all with such a splendid meal!" There was a chorus of "Hear, hear!" from the human guests, whilst several Denobulans responded with "Egreeta!", literally 'seconded'.

    "Thank you, it's been our pleasure." Archer said. "I'm glad the dishes we were able to offer have met with your satisfaction. I had hoped to finish with a guman fruit pie, but even Chef, genius as he is, was unable to accurately reproduce it's taste with the ingredients available, based solely on my memory of the flavour. A pity, as I rather enjoy it myself."

    Vrok grinned widely. "Then you're in luck Captain. The Governor has quite a large supply, grown in our hydroponic greenhouses. I'm sure he'll be able to provide you with some. In the interests of interplanetary relations, of course. Right, Governor?"

    "Of course." Trex said through a brittle smile. "I'm sure we can find some."

    Tovan cleared his throat noisily, still fixated on the earlier anecdote. "So, Professor. There's one aspect of your narrative I didn't quite understand. A phrase you used, an Earth expression I presume...hog-tied?"

    "Ah, I'll explain later." Partridge said, finishing her pie, before adding mischievously "Or perhaps I'll demonstrate."

    Not for the first time Archer wished his chief scientific advisor would show a little more decorum. He caught her eye and shook his head, mouthing 'behave!' at her. She just grinned. Still, at least she'd deflected Tovan's interest in the Enterprise's combat capabilities. You could give him a pad with the entire ship schematics right now and he probably wouldn't notice, the captain mused.

    Archer signalled the waiting crew to remove the dessert bowls. They were serving the final course of cheese and biscuits when Crewman Daniels approached with a whispered message. Archer listened, then nodded.

    "Governor Trex. Your Command Centre wish to speak with you. We can have the message piped through to here, if you like, or if you prefer privacy the communications suite is at your disposal."

    "Thank you, I'll take it here."

    As Daniels showed Trex to the intercom, Archer helped himself to a large chunk of cheddar, cutting a slice off for Porthos. The little dog, who had sat patiently by his chair, caught the piece in mid air, gulping it down in one go.

    "That didn't even touch the sides, did it?" Archer asked rhetorically, cutting off a larger piece.

    Reed took a sip of wine. "So, tell me Doctor Soong. Why does an archaeological expedition need a geneticist?"

    "Good question." Soong replied. "Early investigations found traces of DNA at the site. Possibly belonging to whoever built the complex. It's hoped we can use this to learn about them, maybe even figure out what they looked like."

    "Any luck so far?"

    "Not really, the DNA traces are unbelievably corrupted. Ancient. I can't even be sure the builders were from this planet. There's genetic similarities with some local species, but unless we can find more samples it will be impossible to make certain."

    Tucker leant forward. "Who ever built it, we ain't talkin' 'bout diggin' away with stone axes, right? From what I hear, it's a pretty major construction, right?"

    Doctor Smith, head of the group, answered. "Oh yes. From our studies of the the site, clearly they had burrowing and construction abilities equal, probably superior, to our own. Indeed, it's possible that, quite apart from the archaeological value, we may learn new construction techniques."

    "Something our financial backers would be rather pleased with." Soong added. A few of his colleagues chuckled at that.

    "So are there any other structures on this planet?" Tucker asked. "Cities, roads, other sites like this one?"

    "Possibly." Smith replied, taking a sip of wine. "Hmm, this is rather good. What you have to remember, Commander, is this site is old. Very old. On our world, the oldest known site is Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey. That's about eleven thousand years old. As far as we can tell, this site dates from at least two hundred thousand years ago. Possibly more. That's about the time humanity, in it's current form, first evolved."

    Tucker let out a low whistle of surprise. He hadn't imagined the site dated back anywhere near that far.

    Smith continued. "Furthermore, this world is...damaged. There's evidence of a great environmental crisis sometime in the past. Something, we can only speculate as to what, caused mass extinctions. If the builders were native to this world, they certainly perished, along with more than half the species on the planet, practically over night. If there were cities and roads here, they've long since eroded from sight."

    "Besides," Soong added, "there's never been a full topographical survey done. The funding didn't run to that!"

    Archer said "Well, while we're here we can help with that. The Enterprise is outfitted for planetological surveys. It should be easy, right, Professor?"

    Partridge nodded. "Absolutely. If there's anything left to find, I dare say we'll find it. Shouldn't take more than a day or two at the most. Pass the stilton."

    Vrok snorted. "Forgive me, but I would have thought that the pride of Earth's fleet could do it quicker than that."

    Partridge went very still. "Oh, we could do it faster, much faster, a matter of hours. But that would involve pumping a great deal of concentrated ionising radiation directly into the atmosphere." She gestured through the domed ceiling to Herroton, though her eyes never left Vrok's. "You have such a...pretty little world, and it's already had one environmental catastrophe. It'd be such a shame for it to have another." Vrok looked away.

    Opposite Hernandez, Sato mouthed meow! and made a clawing gesture. Hernandez wiped her mouth with a napkin to disguise her smile. Partridge could be annoying at times, but Hernandez found this Vrok insincere. She'd tried to ignore her feelings, perhaps that was just how female Denobulans behaved, but over dinner Hernandez had found herself hoping that the rest of the tour would include the Enterprise's gym, and that Vrok would show an interest in the boxing ring, and Hernandez would have the opportunity to demonstrate it's use...She shook herself, driving the image, pleasing though it was, away.

    Trex returned to his seat, his face grim. Archer caught his mood. "Is there a problem, Governor?"

    Rubbing his forehead wearily, Trex nodded. "Yes. There's been another power failure. The entire colony was affected. For nearly eight minutes. Eight minutes!"

    "Was anyone hurt?" asked the Denobulan doctor, Phlox.

    Trex snorted. "Some young idiot thought that, with the traffic control system down, he had a licence to drive how he liked. An inconvenient building put paid to that idea. Broken leg and a couple of fractures. Just himself mercifully. It's only a matter of time before something really bad happens."

    "Governor, I'm sure your technical staff are more than capable," Archer said, "but if there's anything we can do to help, please, let us know."

    "Thank you Captain." Trex said, seeming to relax slightly. "To be honest, even if it weren't for this latest incident, I had intended to ask for your help in this matter. These power losses are becoming more and more common."

    "What sorta power plant you guys got?" Trip asked.

    It was Tovan who answered. "It's a small fusion generator, more than adequate for our current needs. But the problem doesn't seem to be with the plant itself."

    "Oh?"

    "Our records indicate it's all been working normally. The problem seems to be with the power broadcast system."

    "A wireless transmission system?" Tucker asked. "Yeah, they can be a bit tempremental. Mebbe some enviro'mental factor, messin' things up. What d'you say, Polly?"

    "That's plausible." Partridge absently wrapped a blonde strand around her index finger. "As I recall, the high atmospheric particulate levels on the Alpha Colony played havoc with their attempts to install a broadcast system. In the end they just went with big cables for distribution."

    "Yeah, thought I read something 'bout that. At any rate, Governor, me an' mah gang'll be happy to have a look see at your system."

    "Thank you Commander. How soon can you send a team down?"

    "One moment." Vrok said. "The Council has yet to vote as to whether to allow visiting privileges. No offence Captain, I'm sure they will vote in favour, and I myself am entirely in support, but surely the Governor would not wish to exceed his authority by ignoring due process."

    Tovan muttered something under his breath. Even sat next to him, Hernandez couldn't make out the words, or even the language. She did recognise his tone of voice, and suspected that she would agree with whatever sentiment he offered.

    "Surely..." Captain Archer started, then paused. Very deliberately he dabbed at the sides of his mouth with a napkin. The Professor wasn't the only one adept at getting attention. "...surely, though, this is a different matter? The Council has yet to vote on the matter of shore leave, it is true, but that is recreation. What we are discussing now is the crew of the Enterprise providing assistance to Herroton Colony. Now, if you are certain that these outages pose no threat, and that no one will be harmed by them...no one else that is, we've already heard of one injury...if you are certain that you are safe, then we will of course remain in orbit until your Council decree otherwise.
    "On the other hand, if it is felt that there is a risk to the colonists, then perhaps we should move ahead with all due haste."

    "A most valid point, Captain." Trex said. "Indeed, I think enough of the council are present for an emergency quorum. And now that we have reports of an injury, this certainly classifies as an emergency. Of those Council members present, who votes for allowing the Enterprise crew to investigate, and hopefully fix, the power supply problem?"

    All Denobulans present raised their hands. Hernandez was interested to see that Vrok was very quick to respond.

    "And does any one oppose?" Trex continued. No hands raised. "Then it is settled. On behalf of Herroton Colony I formally request your help in this matter Captain."

    "We'll do what we can, Governor."

    Vrok sounded pleased. "Oh, thank you Captain, I'm so glad to hear we can rely on your help. I hope you will forgive my apparent opposition earlier. I merely desired to see that all the formalities were properly observed."

    Archer regarded her steadily. "Of course. Protocol is so important in matters such as this."

    She smiled, demurely. "I'm glad you understand."

    "Oh, I understand completely." he replied.

    Turning to the Governor, Smith asked "Any news on Halliwell, or your guard?"

    "I'm sorry Doctor," Trex replied, "nothing yet."

    "Another problem?" Archer asked.

    "Two of the dig team have been missing for a couple of days." Smith said. "One of the Denobulan guards, Velen, and Doctor Halliwell, our xeno-linguist. We've been---"

    "Halliwell?" Sato interrupted. "Carl Halliwell?"

    "Yes. You know of him?"

    "Of course. He was a tutor of mine. And a friend. That was a long time ago, but still....And you say he's missing?"

    Smith paused, marshalling his thoughts. "Two days ago he signed into the dig site, several hours before the rest of the team were scheduled to start. He preferred to work on his own when he could, said he could concentrate better without the rest of us distracting him. And he tended to rise early anyhow."

    "Yes," Sato said softly, remembering, "he always did say that dawn was the best part of the day."

    "Yes. Anyway, when we arrived at the site, we found Velen was not at his post. But his distress beacon was still in the charging port. As a rule anyone who leaves the main chamber must take a beacon with them. The place is a maze down there, very difficult to navigate. The beacons are a wise safety precaution." Smith explained.
    "Of course, it's possible that Velen left the main chamber for some reason, and simply forgot to take his with him. Doctor Halliwell, however, had taken his. We were able to trace it to section four, chamber D. Hardly surprising, that's where he had been working recently. We got there, and found his briefcase, with the beacon and his mapper inside. Of the Doctor himself, not a sign.
    We've been searching systematically since then, but so far, nothing."

    "But what was he doing here?" Hoshi demanded. "Last I heard he was on Vulcan!"

    "Ah, I'm afraid that's my fault." Soong said hesitantly. "When I was recruited, they mentioned that whey had found ancient writings at the site. I'd got to know Carl quite well, there weren't that many humans on Vulcan, and thought he'd be interested. I think he was enjoying his work, but found the gravity and heat oppressive, So he agreed to come here for a couple of years."

    Sato said nothing, but Archer noticed she gripped her cutlery so tightly her knuckles went white.

    Reed said "Well, if you need more bodies on the ground, me and my people have some experience in searching."

    Vrok spoke quickly. "Governor, again I hate to point this out, but allowing military personnel to conduct operations on our territory is another matter entirely. While I can not overstate my concern for the missing personnel, our sovereign rights as a---"

    She got no further, as Archer spoke, steel in his tone. "Governor Trex. Whilst I fully recognize the legal status of Herroton as a Denobulan colony, I must emphasize that one of the missing people is a citizen of Earth. As such, he is under the protection of the UEMA. I must insist, then, that you give your permission for Enterprise to carry out a search using all the means at our disposal." Come on, come on Trex, figure it out!

    Trex looked puzzled, hesitant. Then understanding seemed to spread across his features. "Forgive me Captain, I have no wish to appear obstructionist...but surely insist is to strong a word? Legally speaking, we are entitled---"

    Again Archer broke in. "Governor, I said 'insist', and that is what I meant. I intend to send troops to search for the missing persons, both missing persons. If you refuse permission, it could cause a lot of...unpleasantness."

    "Unpleasantness?"

    "Diplomatically speaking."

    "Ah." Trex leant back in apparent submission. Turning his head so Vrok would not see, he offered Archer a wink. That gesture was not part of Denobulan culture, but he may well have learnt it from the humans. "Well, I suppose you're just looking out for you own. So, let's put it to the quorum."

    Unsurprisingly, no one seemed all that willing to bring 'diplomatic unpleasantness' to Herroton. The vote was unanimous in support of sending down a search party.

    And later, as the tour resumed with the shuttle bay, Tovan took Archer to one side.

    "Well played, lad." the old soldier said with a smile. "Well played."
     
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    OK, now that the diplomatic hurdles have been crossed, it sounds as if we're about to get to the meat of the story, as it were. I've been burning to find out what's really going on on this colony this the very first chapter.
     
  6. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Ah yes, I do tend to spend a lot of time setting things up, before getting on with things!
     
  7. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Location:
    New England
    But we enjoy that. The journey is half the fun.
     
  8. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Herroton Colony Landing Ground.
    29th November, 2151.

    The environmental conditions on Herroton were a known quantity, certified safe for humans. As such there was no need for atmospheric tests. The moment the pilot gave the all clear, Captain Archer stood and made his way to the aft of the Beowulf class landing craft, thumbing the button to swing open the wide double doors and lower the boarding ramp. Captain's privilege allowed him the honour of being first onto the surface of a new planet, if he so chose---and regulations allow, he thought wryly, glancing at one of the Marines, Corporal James, in passing---but on this occasion it was Porthos, straining on his leash, that made that one small step.

    It was warm, the air still and heavy. There was a curiously salty aroma, rather like being at the beach, despite the colony's location far from the sea. There was also a distinct burnt smell, though that was most likely due to the Beowulf's landing thrusters catching the ground. A small, new colony like Herroton had only the most basic of landing facilities. There was a concrete runway for those vehicles that needed it, but VTOL craft like the Beowulf made do with patches of hard ground, reinforced with metal mesh, surrounded by blinking landing lights. A couple of hangers stood nearby, along with a control tower. A pair of emergency vehicles stood ready, along with a long bulky transport on large balloon tires. As he watched, the latter began to rumble in their direction.

    Looking round, the landing port was located fairly near the middle of an open plain, some two dozen or so kilometres across. After so long in the cramped confines of Enterprise, he felt a slight disquiet at the wide openness surrounding him. It soon passed. A large collection of buildings, low and squat, made up the colony in the distance. At about half the distance, in roughly a straight line, a small cluster of structures marked the archaeological site. Above him the sky was blue, with a very slight hint of green. A few clouds scuttled slowly across. All in all, a pleasant day.

    The transport halted nearby, before tuning on the spot, all four wheels moving independently. With a hiss, the vehicle lowered. A set of steps unfurled at the back, leading up to a hatch, which opened.

    "Good morning Captain!" Commissioner Tovan said, descending. "Welcome to Herroton. Governor Trex sends his apologies, he's a bit caught up at the moment. Council business, you know how it is."

    "Good morning Commissioner. Yes, I quite understand. The Governor must be very busy. Now, you remember my officers, I'm sure. Commander Tucker, Major Reed, and Lieutenant Sato."

    Tovan greeted them in turn. "And I see you've brought a few of your crew with you."

    Archer nodded. "Representatives of the engineering staff, to help with the power distribution problems. And Mr. Reed's Marines, to carry out the search for the missing personnel."

    Craning his head to peer into the interior, Tovan asked "Anyone else? Your first officer....? Or perhaps...perhaps the charming Professor?" he added, trying not to sound too eager.

    "No." Archer said simply, watching disappointment spread across Tovan's face."As we've not yet been given permission to bring down landing parties for purposes of shore leave, it would be inappropriate for any member of my crew to set foot on this world, apart from those involved in either the engineering team or the search team. Apart from myself and Hoshi, that is. We're here for diplomatic purposes. But apart from us, no one." And that, if Archer was any judge of personality, would guarantee Tovan would add his voice to those willing to allow shore leave.

    There was another reason for Partridge's absence. Despite her comments at dinner the other evening, the planetological survey was taking longer than expected, a lot longer. She had no intention of visiting until she had some worthwhile results, certainly not if there was any chance of that Councillor Vrok finding out.

    "Hmm. Very well. If you'd care to come with me, Captain." Trex said, climbing the steps.

    Hoisting Porthos under one arm, his luggage under the other, Archer followed. The interior of the vehicle was reminiscent of the bus on which he'd gone to school as a child, rows of seats and wide windows. He went with Tovan to the front, sitting directly behind the driver. Once his crew were all onboard the hatch closed, the vehicle raised slightly, and they sped off in the direction of the city. The only sound was the faint hum of electric motors and the occasional rattle as the big wheels kicked pebbles and gravel up against the underside.

    "I hope you don't mind the use of this transport." Trex said. "We do have a few flyers, but given the current problems the governor has put them all on emergency standby. In case someone gets hurt, needs rushing to hospital. That sort of thing."

    "No problem. It's a very comfortable ride, and it gives us a chance to see the scenery. Being on a new planet is always an exciting experience."

    Tovan half turned in his seat. "Major Reed. I've set up accommodation for you and your people at the dig. It's a bit basic, so if you'd prefer something better in town itself, just let me know and I'll see what I can arrange."

    "Thank you Commissioner. I'm sure it will be suitable."

    There was a mutter from one of the Marines. "Don't say that till we've seen the place, boss. It might be a dump."

    "Then I'm sure it'd suit you down to the ground, Tipping."

    Presently they arrived at the site. Several single story buildings with the look of offices and accommodation to them, and a larger storage facility. A bulky excavator vehicle was parked next to it. As they approached a feature of the landscape, previously obscured from view by the lay of the land, became visible. A huge, wide pit, deep into the ground. And as the transport skirted the rim...

    "Good God." Archer breathed. From his vantage point he could see the pit's contents. A vast ziggurat, a stepped pyramid, filled the excavation. It was, as far as he could estimate, at least a hundred metres in height, constructed of blocks of some smooth, slightly purple stone. Floodlights on tall stands pointed into an oval shaped opening at the base. Despite the bright illumination they provided, the interior remained defiantly dark. A spiralling ramp had been carved into the edges of the pit, allowing access to the entrance. Somehow, Archer could not explain why, this place felt old. Ancient, inconceivably so. And yet, there were no signs of erosion or age. It could have been built yesterday.

    "Impressive, isn't it?" Tovan remarked. "Doctor Smith assures me that less than a third of it has been uncovered. The actual entrance is more than two hundred metres further down. No one is sure what that hole is, maybe ventilation or something, but it's a convenient access point."

    "That's more than twice the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza!" Hoshi exclaimed.

    "Yeah. Sure is somethin'" Tucker added, a hint of disbelief in his drawl.

    "And that's just the structure itself. For all it's size, Smith reckons it's nothing more than an entrance, a way into the tunnels beneath." Tovan said. "Ah, here we are. Accommodation for you and your people, Major."

    The transport had drawn up next to one of the buildings, a prefab structure in dark green. As the vehicle lowered and the Marines disembarked, Archer asked. "Any chance of a quick look at the site while we're here?"

    "Oh, I expect so. I'll have to clear it with Doctor Smith or one of...ah. She'll do." Tovan had spotted a Denobulan woman approaching the transport. He got out, signalling her over. Archer followed him down the steps, but turned instead into the low building. Inside the Marines were already making themselves at home. There were plenty of camp beds, more than were needed in fact, storage lockers, and cooking facilities.

    "Mind your head, Captain!" Reed called out as he entered. "Sandstrom here's already clocked himself on one of the beams."

    Sandstrom was a huge man with an incredibly thick neck. He was clean shaven, and shaved his head bald too, but with his unnaturally blue eyes and blond, almost white, eyebrows he looked like a stereotypical Viking. So much so that it was slightly confusing to look at him, the mind insisted in trying to portray him with flowing hair and beard, and their absence was like some weird optical illusion. He was seated on one of the beds, Dumont the medic seeing to a cut on his forehead. There was a very clear dent in one of the metal roof struts.

    "Ooh, nasty." Archer said. "Are you OK, Sandstrom?"

    "Yes sir. It's just my head, nothing important!"

    "He never uses it anyway." said Corporal James. "Don't worry Captain, I've come up with a fool proof scheme to ensure this will never happen again. Look." She held out a piece of paper, about two centimetres square. Peering close Archer could just make out the words 'Take care' inscribed upon it. She licked the back of the paper then stretched up, for she was quite short, and pressed it against the strut. It adhered in place.

    "I'm very sorry about this Corporal but I think you've put that upside down." Archer said.

    "Not a problem sir, most of this lot can't read anyway." she replied. Without taking her eyes off Archer she reached out at serpent like speed to catch a pillow thrown at her from the other side of the room. "Thanks Tipping. An extra pillow would make my bed much more comfy. It's very kind of you to give me yours."

    There was a moment's silence, broken my Tipping's muttered "You cow!", then a burst of activity as the assembled troopers snatched up pillows, blankets and mattresses from the extra beds. Those fastest were able to assure themselves a more comfortable night's sleep.

    "I see you're all making yourselves at home." Tovan said, entering. He was accompanied by the woman he'd seen earlier. She wore simple coveralls, with a holstered side-arm. Her hair was greying and her face lined, but she carried herself with strength and vigour, a decidedly military bearing. Making an estimate of her age, Archer concluded she was probably too young to have served in the last major Denobulan-Antaran conflict, but could well have seen action in the minor skirmishes that had followed. "Captain Archer, Major Reed, this is Phlane, head of security for the dig."

    Before Archer could respond, Reed barked "Attention!" The Marines responded instantly, and the Major himself offered a crisp salute to the newcomer. "Ma'am. Allow me to offer my sincerest thanks for allowing myself and my men to assist in the search for our missing personnel. I realize this must be very frustrating to you, having outsiders intrude onto your jurisdiction is never pleasant, but we both have the same goals here and work to the same ends. Rest assured your authority in this matter is recognised, and we will work fully with you."

    The slight hint of anger present in Plane's features passed, replaced by a startled expression. "Ah, yes, well, ah...Major. Ah, thank you, and, ah, welcome to Herroton. I, ah, look forward to working with you. We'll give your people some time to settle in, and, ah, acclimatise, then we can get planning. I'll fill you in on what we've done so far, and you can bring me any suggestions for future tasks. All activities subject to my approval, of course."

    "Of course." Reed agreed, glancing to Archer.

    The Captain gave a faint nod of approval. During the shuttle wide down he'd discussed this matter with Reed. There would be someone in charge of security, he reasoned, someone in charge of the search so far. That person might not be happy with the Marines being suddenly included into proceedings. Yes, the addition of extra people would make things easier, but it could be interpreted as a lack of confidence that they were capable of doing the job, that the authorities thought it best if someone else take over. An insulting notion. So Archer suggested Reed make it very clear that he wasn't there to usurp anyone. It seemed to have worked.

    "Right." Phlane adjusted her gun belt. "Captain, the Commissioner tells me you would like a look in the site itself. Well, I can take you to the First Chamber. Any further than that we'd need Doctor Smith's permission, and he's deep in the tunnels at the moment. Out of touch."

    Reed frowned. "Don't you have communicators?"

    She shook her head. "Don't work down there. No one's sure why, probably the mineral content in the walls. We have emergency locator beacons, but they just send out a signal. Powerful enough to detect at range, but too imprecise to carry a message. The beacons act as receivers too, if there's an emergency we can send out a signal to recall everyone down below, but as for talking to individuals, no chance."

    "What about some form of intercom?" asked Corporal M'boto. He was one of the Marines tech specialists. "Surely you could just lay cables or something?"

    "Yes, that was discussed. In fact, Dr Soong had the idea to use the cables for the lighting system to carry messages. It was never put into practice though, we'd need a prohibitively large amount of intercom sets to cover even a fraction of the area."

    "Cables? I thought you had some sort of broadcast power distribution system?" Reed asked.

    Tovan said "The colony does. But, like radio signals, it doesn't work in the tunnels. There is a generator installed in the main chamber itself, powering all the lighting and equipment. In fact, when the blackouts began, they laid extra lines up here. This building, and the others round here, are powered by that generator, not the one in the city.
    "At any rate, the Governor will be expecting you for lunch. So if you want to take a brief look into the site, now's the time to do it."
     
  9. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2011
    Badger -

    I finally have managed to get caught up with Regeneration, and one again I'm finding myself breathless with anticipation for what's to come. You've thrown some very nice curves - love the introduction of Arik Soong - but where the story shines is the characterization. The Denobulans are complex, with motivations far outside the overt demands of the story, and the little things just add to their depth. Polly is wonderful as always, but it's good to see Archer in his element, confident and sure of his place. And the setup is perfect, gently pulling us into the main plot bit by bit with each installment.

    I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to reading this story. I will try to keep up with each future installment. :)

    Looking forward to reading what happens next!

    Jerriecan
     
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Kudos to Archer and Reed by placating their hosts early on. The Earthers attitude clearly threw off the security chief who now doubt didn't expect that tone from their guests.

    Now the question is if they can work together to solve this mystery.
     
  11. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    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...
     
  12. Count Zero

    Count Zero Watching Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    European Union
    I've also caught up with this tale and hope we'll see a new installment soon.
     
  13. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    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.
     
  14. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    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."
     
  15. Count Zero

    Count Zero Watching Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    European Union
    It's all quite mysterious. I hope we'll learn who the builders of this structure were.
     
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    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.
     
  17. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Interesting elevator arrangement. How's Porthos dealing with it? My dogs HATE elevators.
     
  18. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    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."
     
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    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.
     
  20. Count Zero

    Count Zero Watching Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    European Union
    I suppose it's the blood of the guard that was killed in the beginning.