Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by The Badger, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    UES Enterprise. Concealed behind Theta Iota 6-F.
    17th May 2151.

    The warning light ceased their flashing. The klaxon fell silent. A voice boomed over the tannoy, "Beowulf One is away."

    Then silence.

    Polly Partridge stared at the spot where the landing craft had stood, just moments ago. "I have friends on that ship." she said softly, to no one in particular. Her shoulders were slumped, and her eyes glistened with tears.

    "Yeah." Maria Hernandez said. "Me too." She meant the words as a show of solidarity, an attempt to lift the scientist from her sudden depression by showing that she was not alone. To her own surprise, she realized she meant it.

    Partridge gave no sign of having heard. "They could get hurt. Or worse." She leant against a nearby shuttle pod, lifting a leg and reaching for the ankle.

    Hell, she is upset, Hernandez thought. Going to wear flat heels. Right, better snap her out of this mood she's in, and quick!

    Grabbing Partridge's arm, Hernandez spun her about and marched her towards the exit hatch. "Come along, we mustn't dawdle about here! We are needed on the bridge. Lots to do!" she said with forced enthusiasm.

    "Careful!" Partridge said as she was bundled into the main passageway. "I nearly tripped."

    That gave Hernandez the opening she'd been looking for. "Really? I thought you could walk in heels. You'd better flatten them then. I'm in a hurry and can't wait around for you, stumbling around in those silly things."

    Looking affronted, Partridge said "Oh I can walk in heels alright. I can run in them. You just set the pace, Missy, and I'll be there."

    That's good. I push her and she pushes back. Let's raise the stakes a little. "Yeah, right, sure. I'll see you on the bridge. When you get there, eventually."

    Turning from the other woman, Hernandez set off at a fast stroll, ducking under a low conduit, stepping over a network of pipes. As she reached the next bulkhead she heard a rapid tap-tap-tapping from behind.

    "Whoah, every part a moving part!" muttered Crewman Jacobs, coming through the bulkhead hatch and seeing Partridge's approach. He noticed Hernandez and looked mortified. "Ah, Ma'am, ah, sorry Ma'am, I...er..."

    "Never mind Crewman, never mind. Just try to keep your thoughts to yourself in future."

    "Yes Ma'am."

    As soon as Partridge had caught up with her, Hernandez continued her fast pace along the next section. She was pleased to note that Partridge was able to keep up. OK, that's distracted her from the risks the others are taking. Now, let's keep her mind occupied. What what she want to talk about?

    "So, Polly, you never did tell me, why do you wear that sort of thing?"

    "Ooooh, do you want the short answer, or the long? The short answer is, I like this sort of thing."

    Hernandez glanced across. "That doesn't really tell me much. What's the long answer?"

    Partridge seemed to be looking back across the years. "I've told you about my childhood. Would it surprise you to learn that it left me a little mixed up? When I was at University I....well, I was never diagnosed, but looking back on it I think I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I...I didn't really know who I was."

    "That must have been..." Hernandez searched for words "...distressing."

    "Distressing. Yes. I was, not to put to fine a point on it, miserable. Lost in a slough of despair. Lots of people, lots of influences, all telling me which direction to go in. But not the same direction. I got...confused. That's not something I'm used to. I don't like it."

    Hernandez began thinking that this had been a mistake. She wanted to cheer her up, not remind her of an unpleasant past event. She opened her mouth to change the subject, but Partridge spoke first.

    "But then, as I was at my lowest ebb, something happened. I was sharing student digs with a few other girls, and one of them, Claire, noticed something was up with me. She didn't know how bad I was, no one did, but she could tell I was feeling down. She said she had something that would cheer me up."

    "This isn't going to be a story about what girls in college get up to, is it?" Hernandez asked with a raised eyebrow. "Because I'm really not interested in that sort of thing."

    Partridge shot her a sideways look and smacked her arm. "Get your mind out of the gutter Commander. No, Claire was studying the history of media, films and television. She'd found some old science fiction, what people in the twentieth and twenty first centuries thought life would be like in our time. Most of it was hilarious. But there were a few things that still stood up dramatically, even today."

    They passed through another hatch. Hernandez noted that even though Partridge was breathing heavily, she was now setting the pace.

    "So, I started watching that sort of thing in my spare time. And then I noticed something. There was a certain...type of character that turned up in some of those productions. The Avengers, the Matrix trilogy, Underworld. A woman, cool, calm, confident. Supremely in control. And dressed in something figure hugging and shiny."

    "And that's who you wanted to be?"

    "Oh yes, more than anything. And much to my surprise, I soon got my chance. One of my other flatmates, Doreen, was studying materials technology, but wanted to be a fashion designer. She saw some of these films. A month later I was wearing a catsuit, in front of a panel of supposed experts. They were unimpressed. An hour after that, I stood in the manager's office at the local bank. He was impressed. Very. We walked out with a small business loan. Inside of six months Doreen's new fashion house was making a profit. She offered me part ownership, but that wasn't for me. Instead I did some modelling work for her, which helped pay off my own student loan very nicely, and I get anything I like from her range. Just between us, she only keeps making the catsuits for me. They're not a big seller, but I do like them."

    Hernandez asked "And it helped you? Dressing up like that, it gave you a sense of identity?"

    "It did. There has been a lot, and I mean a lot, of speculation and hypothesising and theorising, by psychologists both amateur and professional. But, at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is that I am happy. And on the subject of psychologists, you're not too bad yourself, Maria."

    "What do you mean?"

    Partridge grinned. "A bit of exercise? Getting me to talk about myself? Just what was needed to lift me out of my mood."

    ****

    The Bridge.


    Haleh Moshiri was in the centre chair when they entered. She saw Hernandez and stood.

    "Status report?" the XO asked.

    "We are maintaining our location concealed behind the moon. Power levels are seriously depleted, we are running on impulse power only. The warp core remains at hot shut down, it can be brought on-line at five minutes notice. However, the engineering department report that, with the crystal damaged, it can only operate at twenty, maybe twenty five percent of rated output, and only for a few minutes.
    "We have a sensor drone up over the horizon, so we can keep an eye on things. Both contacts have entered the upper atmosphere of Theta Iota 6, and we've lost direct track of them. Assuming they maintain their approximate course and speed, they should meet in about seven minutes. Also, Mr Kaufman has noticed something odd at the projected rendezvous point."

    Hernandez said "Well, whenever I hear the words 'something odd' I automatically think of Professor Partridge. Professor, why don't you take a look at the sensor records."

    "Certainly."

    Moshiri continued. "Beowulf One has passed over the horizon, but we can maintain communications via the sensor drone. While they are in transit we can use the narrow beam laser, so there is negligible risk of detection. Once in the atmosphere we'd have to use radio. Even with burst transmission that risks giving our presence away."

    Hernandez knew this, of course, but she kept silent. She had made enough mistakes at the start of the mission, she didn't want to alienate anyone now.

    "Do you want the Conn?" Moshiri asked.

    Hernandez shook her head, gesturing the other woman back to the chair. She then ran a check on the Gunnery station, cursing softly as the results came through. Enterprise had to put a lot of energy into maintaining it's position in defiance of orbital mechanics, meaning there was little left over to charge the capacitors for the plasma cannons. After a moments consideration she rerouted the power so that only the smaller three fifty gig cannons would charge. That would give them some firepower at least. Once they were armed she could start on the big guns.

    She then changed the torpedo warhead load. Tubes one and three, facing forward, carried atomics. So did tube five at the aft. But atomics were too dangerous for close up work. So tubes two, four, and six now carried the prototype focused fragmentation warhead. In principle a direct hit could do near atomic levels of damage without the risk to the firing ship. But, like so much on Enterprise, it was untested under real battle conditions.

    There was little more she could do at the moment, so she went over to the Helm console.

    "Ensign, how's she flying?"

    Mayweather looked up from his controls. "She's been better Ma'am. She's hurting. Enterprise is a tough bird, and if we have to fight, she'll fight. But...it might not be the wisest thing."

    Hernandez snorted. "Travis Mayweather, talking about wisdom and avoiding fights? Now I've seen everything!"

    "I've been hanging around with these UESPAs too long."

    Partridge was waving for her attention. "Commander? Maria? Yooo-hooo!"

    Hernandez leant closer to the grinning helmsman. "OK, she does her job well enough, but she doesn't quite fit in on the bridge of a starship, does she?"

    "Heh, not quite." he replied.

    "What have you found?" Hernandez asked.

    "Ah, well, it's your Mr Kaufman who found it."

    Kaufman nodded. "The point where the two contacts are meeting. There's slightly higher than usual atmospheric activity in that area."

    Hernandez looked between the two of them, slightly nonplussed. "And?"

    "Well in itself that's unimportant." Partridge pointed out. "There's always a certain amount of variation in a gas giant. We are tracking seventeen other areas with similar activity right now. But even so, that still makes up less than three percent of the entire surface. Now either it's a massive coincidence that there should be activity at the rendezvous point, or there is a reason that they should be meeting there."

    Hernandez thought about this. "It could be that this activity is easily detectable in the atmosphere. If you are planning a clandestine meeting, it helps if you both know where to go and how to get there."

    "So they don't get lost in the fog? So to speak." Kaufman suggested.

    "That's good Maria, that's very good. You're beginning to use that brain of yours, and think logically. Mind you, that's entirely due to my influence of course, you mustn't take any credit for it."

    Kaufman chuckled, but went silent when he saw the look Hernandez gave him.

    Partridge went on. "The most recent data tells us something interesting. A few minutes ago the rendezvous point passed onto the night side. It's showing a lot of heat. A lot. It didn't show up before as the whole area was in direct sunlight. If we were watching directly we could have spotted this earlier, but the sensors on the remote drone aren't as effective. And none of the other active areas are showing any hot spots."

    "What does it mean?"

    Partridge pulled a strange expression, cocking her head, lifting her eyebrows, turning the corners of her mouth down whilst putting her lower lip out. A sort of shrug of the face. "Well, obviously, there's some sort of heat source down there, but as to what it could be..." She shook her head slightly.

    "Alright." Hernandez said. "We'll contact Beowulf One by laser, let them know what we've learned. And hope it's of use to them. Moshiri, I'll take the Conn."

    Sinking into the seat, she asked herself What the Hell are they getting into?
     
  2. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    New England
    Very nice, Badger.

    Nice background on Polly and Diva.

    Also, it's good to know that although Travis may like to fight, that doesn't mean he's stupid about it.
     
  3. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Once again, very good. I always enjoy the realism you bring with regards to the tactics and technology and how they intermix. I am especially refering to the use of a tightbeam laser as opposed to the radio for comms between the Enterprise and Beowulf-1. Well thought out. :techman:
     
  4. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Between the candle and the flame
    Good but you had Kaufman speak and Polly replied to Maria right near the end there.
     
  5. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^Ah, yes. I added Kaufman's line to clarify what was going on. Polly was responding to Maria. I should have amended things but forgot.
     
  6. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Beowulf One. En route to Theta Iota 6.
    17th May 2151.

    "Is there a problem with your chair, Commander Tucker?" asked Lieutenant Reed. It was difficult to tell through the helmet's visor but he appeared to be smirking.

    "No." Trip replied. "Why d'you ask?"

    "It's just that you seem to be fidgeting rather a lot. I know these chairs aren't all that comfortable, but they're not usually that bad."

    Trip felt his cheeks colouring. "Nah. It's jus' that I...I, er, I'm a lil' bit nervous 'bout the mission. That's all."

    Reed nodded. "I see, I see. Well, nothing for you to worry about, really. We'll take good care of you."

    "That's good t'here."

    There were a few seconds of silence.

    "Incidentally..." Reed went on, casually, "...you did remember to use the modelling clay we left out for you? To fill the...hollow areas under your pressure suit?"

    Ah, crap, Trip thought. He knows. "Yeah, I did that."

    "Good, good. You don't have to use it all of course, just enough to fill the gaps."

    Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Trip thought NOW you tell me! Heck, I thought it was a big packet.

    "That reminds me." Reed said. "If we are suddenly exposed to a vacuum, you're going to have a major attack of wind. Don't fight it. You could damage your internal organs that way. Just let the pressure equalize."

    Archer looked up from the pad he was studying. "Great. Anymore last minute advice?"

    "No, but if we do run in to trouble I hope for your mother's sake you put on clean underwear this morning."

    Trying to take his mind off his discomfort, Trip looked over Archer's shoulder. "What ya studyin'?"

    "Just making sure I can find my way around a Neptune. Fortunately it's got a fairly straightforward internal layout. Hopefully though it'll be a case of get in, find the Premier, and get out again. If we're really lucky, they won't even know we were ever there."

    "I just hope it's worth it." came a voice over the intercom. Tipping, if Archer read his helmet's display right.

    "You think we should abandon the head of an allied power, leave them at the mercy of God knows who?" Archer snapped ferociously.

    Trip held his hands up. "Careful John, that ain't like you." He's more stressed out than he's lettin' on. Better make sure Reed keeps an eye on him.

    "You shouldn't pay attention to anything Tipping says, sir." said Reed.

    'Red' Grant added "We don't."

    "Ever." Sandstrom added.

    To everyone's surprise, T'Pol said. "There is some logic in Trooper Tipping's view. This craft carries sixteen Marine Pathfinders, plus a two person flight crew, a highly regarded UESPA Captain, a top rated engineer, and one of the most talented linguists in known space. Plus, of course, myself. It would be foolish to disregard the potential negative consequences of this endeavour. There is a Vulcan saying. The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few."

    Archer had heard that saying before. "Then why exactly are you joining us on this mission?"

    It was a rhetorical question, and T'Pol knew it. She turned in her chair to get a better look at him.

    He leant forward, steepling his fingers. "It's not just about one man. The abduction of the Premier drives a wedge between our two nations. The diplomatic effects could be catastrophic. Our actions today will determine the destiny of our species for decades to come."

    "So, no pressure then." Corporal James muttered softly.

    T'Pol nodded. "Quite correct. In this instance, we are the few, whose needs are insignificant against those of the many. The populations of our respective worlds."

    She paused, then added "The matter is not simply a symbolic one. Even if he chooses to step down from his post as a result of his experiences, the Premier will take his place amongst our Honoured Elders. He will contribute to Vulcan politics and diplomacy for many decades. His loss would deprive us of his great wisdom and experience."

    Archer was about to speak when a warning light flashed. The pilot's voice came over the intercom. "Stand by for high gee manoeuvres."

    "Secure all equipment and make sure you're buckled in!" Reed called.

    "High gee manoeuvres in three, two, one, mark!"

    The Beowulf flipped over, facing back the way that it had came. A second later a throaty roar filled the cabin as the main thrusters fired.

    Up until this point the Beowulf had been travelling away from it's intended destination, increasing distance. Now it began it's approach. Using the gravitational pull of the moon, along with it's own engines, it would build up the phenomenal velocity needed to reach the rendezvous point in the fastest possible time.

    After perhaps two minutes the main engines fell silent. If all had gone to plan, they wouldn't be needed again until the craft had entered the upper atmosphere of Theta Iota 6, currently beyond the horizon.

    Sato hadn't been shown all her combat suits controls, but they weren't that hard to figure out. She called up the flight plan on her visor's display, a ghostly green-grey image floating in front of her. Theta Iota 6, beach ball sized to this scale, hovered directly ahead. Above it was the fist sized moon. Arrows pointed out the positions of Enterprise, Beowulf One, and the sensor drone, too small to see otherwise. A bright line showed the planned flight path. It lead straight up from the Enterprise (or rather from were the Enterprise had been when they launched, there was a small but noticeable gap as the ship had moved along it's orbital path) to a tight hair pin bend. It then described a curve around the moon, into a near straight line to the gas giant's surface. Again, this was not to where the rendezvous point was now, but to where it would be when they arrived.

    They were almost at the point of closest approach to the moon. Sato cleared the display and glanced round. It was impossible to tell for sure, but from their body language the marines were all deeply engrossed in their own Head Up Displays. It was a simple matter to check the data feeds and see which one was being accessed the most.

    It was the external visual scanners. The moon's surface, pockmarked and cratered, blurred by beneath them. Ahead Theta Iota 6 was slowly rising, filling half the sky. There was something intimidating about it, something disturbing...

    Sato shook herself. She was not usually a superstitious person, and tried to dismiss her misgivings. All the same she found herself deactivating the display with more than her usual haste, and looking round the crowded cabin. How many will return? Will I be one of them?

    "Don't think environment is suitable for a game, Ma'am." said the Marine, Tharpa, sitting opposite. She looked at him blankly before realising she'd pulled a deck of cards from her pocket.

    "Ah, this? It brings me luck, and I think I might need that." she said. It was partially true. Fact was fortune turned her way with any deck of cards. She was of the belief that you made your own luck. It was sometimes useful though to convince people that you believed in a particular lucky charm. Let them manoeuvre you into surrendering it, and they think you're at a disadvantage.

    And when people think you are at a disadvantage, you have an advantage.

    "What about you?" she asked. "What brings you luck?"

    The serene smile didn't falter. "This work for me in past." he said, drawing a knife. The thick blade was a full thirty centimetres in length and curved like a dog's leg, whilst the handle looked to be made from bone. "Kukri, ancient weapon of my people."

    Sato's eyes widened. "Good grief. I should have brought my sword."

    Reed's voice came over the network. "Stop trying to impress the ladies with the length of your blade, Tharpa. I've told you before, it's what you do with it that counts."

    Sato sat back, experiencing that odd emotion where impatience to get to the journey's end mixes with the dread that it will happen to soon. She looked round for a distraction, and noticed three Marines, Tipping, Dumont and James, sat oddly, their helmets touching. After a moment she worked out why. Such contact would allow sound vibrations to be transmitted directly, letting them talk without using the intercom. Obviously they wanted their conversation to be private.

    And it would have been, too, if she didn't know how to lip read.

    The conversation was of little significance, but following it kept her distracted. She was flattered to note that her appearance in the staging area, dressed only in the elastic pressure suit, was a matter of much discussion, although certain terminology they used was rather crude. They also seemed rather taken with T'Pol, who turned out to have rather an impressive figure when not swamped in the usual Vulcan robes. And, not to her surprise, it had been Tipping responsible for the lack of uniforms in the lockers. That was a bit of information worth squirrelling away for later. Blackmail was an ugly word, but a useful tool and, in the right circumstances, a whole lot of fun.

    An icon flashed in her visor. An incoming message from Enterprise. She didn't have to do anything, it was being routed by the Beowulf's own systems operator, but as a courtesy to her position she was being kept informed.

    Captain Archer read the text then turned to Reed. "Malcolm, can you bring up the forward thermal display?"

    "Yes sir."

    Turning the visual display back on, Sato shuddered. Theta Iota 6 was a wall in front of them. Only by straining her head hard to the side could she see the horizon. Directly ahead lay a swirling billowing cloud, rendered in violent red by the filters.

    Tucker's voice. "What the hell....?"

    There was muttering, swearing, a fragment of a prayer over the intercom.

    "Fascinating..." T'Pol breathed.

    The Captain's voice cut through the hubbub. "Hoshi, prepare a burst transmission to be sent by laser. Acknowledge receipt of this data, and confirm we are proceeding with the mission as planned."

    "Aye sir."

    Inevitably it was Tipping who spoke up. "You're still going through with this? Sir?"

    Archer was quiet for a moment. "Trip, you want to chicken out?"

    "Not me, Cap'n."

    "What about you Hoshi?"

    Sato wasn't at all sure of the situation, but she kept her poker face. "No sir!" she said, sending the transmission.

    "Well, it seems we in the UESPA are up for it. What about you Marines? You want to run on home?"

    There was a chorus of "No sir!"

    Reed caught Archer's eye and nodded. An effective, if slightly underhand, means of ensuring motivation.

    The pilot came over the intercom. "Secure all stations. Entering atmosphere now."

    A faint hissing could be heard from outside, that in seconds became a harrowing roar. At the same time the craft began a series of violent gyrations to convert it's downwards movement into a lateral one towards the predicted rendezvous point. Sato thought of activating her external display to see what was going on then realised that it'd be futile. She had her eyes screwed tightly shut.

    After what felt like hours the course levelled out and the noise abated to a more reasonable level. She went to rub her tired eyes, banging her hand on her visor. "Well, that was fun."

    "Eh, we shoulda bought Polly with us." said Tucker. "This military decor is kinda drab, an' after that journey ah'm sure she'd bring a spray o' colour to the place."

    The pilot spoke "Possible contact, dead ahead."

    Reed responded. "Alright. I'm coming up. If you'd care to join me Captain? Let's get a close up look at them."

    Two minutes later, having ascended the narrow ladder, Archer crouched in the cramped cockpit, as they approached the heat source. The thick gas clouds were highly obscuring, but as they swirled glimpses could be seen.

    He took in a very deep breath and let it out again. "They can't see us can they?"

    The systems operator tore his eyes from the view through the canopy. "Er, not likely sir. There's no indication of active scans, and we're running stealthy. In these clouds the chances of visual contact are practically zero. So..." He trailed off, staring ahead again.

    Archer couldn't blame him. He keyed the intercom. "Trip? How many Neptune class frigates are unaccounted for?"

    "Three Cap'n. The Hermes, the Bismark, and the Phoenix."

    "Yeah. Yeah that's what I thought. Just thought I'd double check." He cut the transmission. "Well that complicates things."

    "I was never good at sums at school." Reed said. "But it seems to me we have two ships too many. I mean, there are five of them, aren't there?"

    Archer nodded. "Five. Yeah. Now that one--" he pointed "--looks to be pretty badly damaged. So I think it's fairly safe to say that it is Hotel-2. And that one looks to be only partially constructed. The other three are just docked to this, this..."

    Reed shrugged. "This hidden, concealed, sneaky, secret, dastardly..."

    "...ship construction station." Archer finished. "Yeah, this complicates things alright."
     
  7. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Oooh, more complications...this part read so well, I felt like I was reading a published book. Great job!
     
  8. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Oh boy. :) This just got alot more complicated, things are just never as easy as they are supposed to be are they? Well done, looking forward to see how the crew handles this. Mistral is right, this did have a "published" quality to it. I really do wish we had been treated to this version of Enterprise instead of the half thought out version we got on TV.
     
  9. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Thanks for the kind words, it really means a lot to me.
     
  10. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    The unknown station. Upper atmosphere of Theta Iota 6.
    17th May 2151.

    The room was dark, cold, and, apart from the distant thrum of powerful engines, silent. It was also unoccupied, so there was no one to notice the soft metallic clunk of something attaching itself to the exterior wall. Moments later, accompanied by a faint whirring, a spot of red light glowed dully against the same wall. When it faded it left behind a small hole.

    Like the nose of a mole cautiously leaving it's burrow, a probe edged through. It was a black, pencil thin rod tipped with a glassy domed optical sensor. Only when it--or, more accurately, it's operator--was satisfied that no one was present did it proceed further. One, two, three meters. Not rigid, but moving with an undulating, almost serpentine motion.

    The probe cast it's cyclopean gaze over the room's contents. Row upon row of shelving, packed high with boxes and crates. It then turned back on itself, examining the wall through which it protruded. More shelves, placed directly against the wall. It looked at them closely, before reversing back through the hole.

    The small red spot returned, about half a meter above it's initial point. It began to move anti-clockwise. It was slow, stealth not speed was the order of the day, but where it passed it cut cleanly through the metal wall. When the spot had completed it's orbit a meter wide circle of metal had been cut free. It fell back, out of the room, but was caught before it could hit anything and make a sound.

    Hands emerged from the darkness behind that hole, grabbing items from the shelves directly in front of it, clearing a space.

    Clad only in helmet and elastic pressure suit, Corporal Autumn James, United Earth Military Authority, Marine Division, slithered nimbly out, between the shelves, and into the room. It was a tight squeeze, even without her body armour or backpack. Once through, she paused, EM-33M plasma pistol at the ready, alert for any movement.

    Nothing.

    Slowly she stood and gestured back through the hole. A magnaclamp was handed to her. She then moved cautiously through the rows of shelving to the door. There was no window or observation port.

    The magnaclamp, an engineering tool consisting of two rectangular boxes linked by a flexible 30cm rod, had not been intended for the purpose it was about to be put to. It was supposed to be a handle for lifting and carrying objects, that could be attached and removed as needed. But using equipment for alternate purposes was something of a marine tradition.

    James pressed one of the boxes firmly against the door, near the edge, securing it with the magna adhesion field. The second box was attached to the neighbouring wall in the same way. Flicking a switch turned the connecting rod rigid. After pulling on it with all her strength she stepped back, satisfied. Whilst the clamp was in place, no one would be getting in through the hatch in a hurry.

    M'boto, still in the Beowulf's entry tube, had already begun cutting through the shelves that partially blocked the entry hole. With James' help from inside the store room the way through was soon cleared.

    The marines had entered the station.

    ***

    "Good work Corporal." Archer said as he crawled through. He looked around the storeroom with interest. Half the marines were here now, securing the place.

    "Thank you sir." James replied, pulling on her body armour.

    Archer stood and looked over to Reed. "So we are safe here now?"

    Reed nodded. "Yes sir. There's just one sensor package in here, up there. Very basic, more to detect fires or sudden pressure losses than intruders. M'boto has had a look at it, it's sending out an 'all's well' signal permanently now."

    "So all is well. For us at least."

    "I wouldn't go that far sir, but we've got on board with no one noticing. That's a good start. We've been lucky."

    Archer nodded. Luck had indeed been on their side. Whilst examining the concealed station Trip had suddenly recognised that it was, at least partially, constructed from a number of ships welded together. One of these was an obsolete model of Vulcan freighter. Though long out of service, it shared some design elements with newer ships, allowing T'Pol to suggest the best point of entry, a storeroom that, because of it's exposed location near the hull, would be used for low priority items. And hence, a low chance of anyone being present.

    "Lucky." Archer echoed. He reached over to the nearest shelf, opening one of the boxes. "Ah well, looks like our luck didn't hold. It'd be rather convenient to find a box packed full of the dilithium we need."

    "Very convenient. All the same, this is interesting." Reed said, looking into the box. "Combat ration packs. The same sort we found on the Rexus station. I think we'll take some of these back with us. As evidence, of course."

    Red Grant appeared at the end of the row of shelves."There's some Vulcan food in these boxes. And I've no idea where this stuff comes from, I don't recognise the writing on the packet at all."

    She tossed it to Reed. Archer watched it's flightpath with interest. There was no indication of artificial gravity on the station. Instead, it was orientated so that Theta Iota 6's own gravity had the desired effect. At this height, the upper atmosphere, the force was significantly lower than Earth at sea level. Still high enough to have some positive health benefits for those on-board, low enough for ships to come and go without major problems.

    Half a dozen powerful engines, efficiently spaced, allowed the station to remain at it's current altitude. It was these that had put out the heat detected by Enterprise. Trip had looked at the layout and declared "That were done by someone who knew what they were doin'."

    Having originally planned an operation on board a ship in zero gee, Reed had insisted that his men carried the EM-119a laser, under slung below the plasma rifles. Now that they knew they'd be in a positive gee environment, he'd changed his plans. The Beowulf carried a few spare EM-303 Munition Delivery Systems. A 22mm grenade launcher, it was a favourite amongst the troops. Most of it's ordnance was unsuitable for use on a ship or station, but the flechette round was the exception. Firing a swarm of tiny arrows, it was devastating to human tissue but unlikely to punch a hole through the hull.

    There were too few 303's for everyone, so Reed had given them to his biggest, bulkiest people. They'd have the mass needed to keep on target in low gee. That hadn't gone down well with the others, especially James, who following the Rexus station had a deep distrust of the 119a.

    In addition, the 500mm long barrels normally used on the EM-414 rifles had been replaced with the 350mm version. Nicknamed 'the lil' brother', the shorter barrel lacked the range and stopping power of the more common variety, but was lighter and much easier to use in close quarters battle. That could well give them a major advantage.

    Reed examined the packet Grant had found closely. "Hmmm. Doesn't ring any bells with me. We'll get T'Pol and Sato to take a look, they may recognise it, let us know who else is on this station. And we'll take some of these with us. Get the eggheads back on Enterprise to analyse them, find out the dietary requirements of whoever these---CAPTAIN!! What the HELL are you doing?!"

    Archer paused, half way through unsealing his helmet. "Ahh, didn't the probe say there was breathable air here?"

    "Yes sir. At the moment. But if we are detected, they could simply blow a seal and vent the atmosphere. You don't want to be struggling to put your helmet back on if that happens. Even if we are not detected, every time you breath out you're leaving DNA traces. Best not to give 'em any idea who you are. Besides which--" Reed knocked a couple of times on Archer's visor "--this might not stop a direct hit, but it's armoured against glancing blows and shrapnel."

    "So noted Lieutenant." Archer said with a contrite expression.

    "What was the shouting?" Sato asked, crawling out of the hole. She was followed closely by T'Pol. Archer fought to keep a straight face at the Vulcan's less than entirely successful attempt to maintain a dignified posture.

    "Just Malcolm reminding me of what I should already know. Take a look at this, Hoshi. Recognize the language?" He handed the alien ration pack over.

    "Huh, that's a new one on me. These circular symbols bear some similarities with the Denobulan 'Krelgar' script, but there's probably no real connection. Give me some time and I might be able to work on a translation...but no, I don't recognize it."

    T'Pol leant forward for a closer look. "I also am unfamiliar with these markings. That is...curious, as I am aware of all warp capable species in this sector. This warrants further investigation."

    Archer nodded. "Alright, we'll grab a few boxes of this stuff. More importantly, Hoshi, have you made any headway on our communications problem?"

    With the boarding party splitting into two groups to search a much larger environment than planned, the Line Of Site Infra Red system might not prove adequate. They hadn't enough spare relay units to maintain contact throughout the station. Each squad would be able to talk amongst themselves, but not with the other squad or the Beowulf. Conventional radio signals were out, as they could easily be detected by the enemy.

    Sato lifted her hand and waggled it from side to side rapidly. "Ahh, partial solution sir. T'Pol helped. There's an electrical storm passing a couple hundred clicks south east of here."

    "Very common, in gas giants of this type." T'Pol added.

    "Right. Every time there's a lightning flash, it puts out an electromagnetic pulse. Now if we really needed to send a signal, we could record a message, compress it down to a fraction of a second, and transmit it with similar properties to these EM pulses."

    "And hope they mistake our signals for lightning bursts?"

    "Yes sir. Although chances are, with all the activity that's been going on, they've silenced all the usual alarms you get with strange EM pulses. There's a couple of drawbacks. We'd have to keep each message short, to fit the patten of the real pulses. Also, even if they have shut off the alarms, too much activity would gain someone's attention. We'd have to use it as little as possible."

    Reed was impressed. "Better than what we've got at the moment. How long would it take to set this up?"

    "Ten, maybe fifteen minutes. I'll start right away."

    "Good work Hoshi." Archer said. He was about to say more when he noticed Tucker coming through the entry hole.

    "Hey, cap'n, Mr Reed. Come have a' look a' this."

    He looked round, cleared a space on one of the shelves, and put a computer pad on it. It displayed a schematic of the station, based on the passive scans they'd carried out on the approach. He pointed to a spot.

    "Now, folks, far as ah can make out, all this area is for buildin' an' repairin' ships. So ah'm guessin' that's our best bet for lookin' for dilithium."

    Archer nodded. That made sense. "This area looks like it could be living quarters...what do you reckon Malcolm? Could they be keeping the Premier there?"

    "Well, I can't tell from this if there are any prison facilities...on the other hand, given his health problems, it'd make sense to keep him in or near their sickbay. And this does seem the most likely place for those."

    Archer straightened up, trying to control the sick feeling at the pit of his stomach. Coming on this mission had been his idea. Right now it seemed like a bad one. He took a deep breath. "Alright. Get everyone ready. Once Hoshi's got communications working...we proceed."
     
  11. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Wow, this was great! As always I love the way you describe the tech, especially as it relates to the more martial aspects of the scene. It seems so much more real than we actually saw on TV. Granted by the time of TOS and TNG you could scan behind a wall to detect life signs, but here we get to see the probe in action, that was great! My new word for the day is "cyclopean" (now I wish we had a cyclops smilie).
     
  12. ParticleMan

    ParticleMan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Location:
    Zooland, NC
    I've been catching up on your story the last week or so and haven't made a comment thus far...I'm really digging the whole thing. You manage to end each post on a cliffhanger that really whets the appetite for the next installment. Great job!
     
  13. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Thanks Avenger. As I've said before, adding detail can often add realism to scenes. That's what I'm trying for, and I'm glad you think it works. I also wanted to get away from what we saw in televised ENT, where the technology was pretty much the same only with different names.There is some room though for the birth of new tech, the 'poly spectral analyzer' Polly builds is meant to be a forerunner of Spock's science station display.

    Thanks for saying that, and welcome aboard! Given the length of the story so far I'd pretty much assumed I wouldn't be getting any new readers. I'm glad to see I was wrong, and I complement you on you're stamina wading through it all!:) I also hope you are not put off by my occasional excesses and self indulgences (i.e. anything to do with Polly Partridge!).
     
  14. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Another fine piece. I second Avenger re: your tech. That's one of the things that makes your story stand out, and I think I've commented to this effect before. You explain and describe in a logical manner without burying the reader in jargon or boring the snot out of them(him, whatever). You would seem to have some kind of professional tech background, yourself.
     
  15. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Excellent chapter. Great moment when Malcolm went ballistic as Archer tried to remove his helmet. Likewise it was good to see Archer accepting what Malcolm was saying, something B&B's Archer would not have done.

    And you know that I, at least, love anything to do with Polly. ;)
     
  16. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Well I've always loved background details, so try to add them where I can. But I'm also aware that they can get in the way of the story. Whilst rereading the last chapter I concluded I'd actually put too much tech details in, things like the different ammo that could be fired from the EM-303. It might have been interesting to some readers, but had no relevance to the plot, so out it went.

    I've no professional tech background, but I've always been interested in science and technology. The various Trek Technical manuals have been consulted often whilst writing this. I've also been inspired (or 'nicked ideas from') the excellent 'Aliens: Colonial Marine Technical Manual'.

    Ah, well, I understand why they did it, but I hated that moment in the BSG finale when Apollo is leading a rescue team through the Cylon base. 'Breathable atmosphere! Everyone take your helmets off!'

    Really? Hadn't noticed.:)
     
  17. ParticleMan

    ParticleMan Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Zooland, NC
    I too will chime in that the "realistic" tech is a big attention keeper for me...this plus the character interaction and the glimpses into the political/military situations of the era seem like they would fit between the modern day and what we know of original series Trek...

    And while Polly can be a bit over the top, dangit, she's just a fun character... :D
     
  18. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England

    You hadn't? :confused: :vulcan: Then I shall have to try harder. :devil::cool::devil:
     
  19. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Ah, Polly's personal motto!

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

    The unknown station. Upper atmosphere of Theta Iota 6.
    17th May 2151.

    Archer tried to keep himself in good physical condition, and he certainly was used to low and zero gee. All the same he was glad when Reed called for a break. They'd made good progress through the stations infrastructure, avoiding main corridors to take advantage of the network of service tunnels and crawl ways.

    Every time they reached a hatch or junction they stopped so M'boto could check for sensors, disabling them if necessary. They then dashed quickly to the next point. It was this stop-start progress that made it difficult to adopt any steady rhythm. It was more like a series of sprints.

    The marines seemed used to it, maintaining a staggered formation with overlapping fields of fire. Archer and T'Pol had been kept in the middle of the group as they'd advanced. Keeping to the stations edges, to minimise the risk of discovery, they'd passed many storerooms similar to that they'd docked to. After checking it was safe, Reed had ordered the break in one of these.

    Sinking gratefully onto a packing crate, Archer tapped the spot on his collar to extend the drinking straw inside his helmet, gulping down the deliciously cold water. His throat was parched, and the back of his calves burned.

    "T'Pol." he started, then winced and took another drink. "T'Pol, run a scan, see if you can pick up any thromium waves. We must be getting close to the living areas."

    "Yes Captain."

    Archer looked up to see Reed standing over him. "Ah, I guess I'm not in as good a shape as I thought I was."

    "Don't knock yourself, skipper. You're doing better than we expected."

    Archer grinned ruefully. "Thanks. But I don't feel like I'm doing well."

    Reed nodded. "It's the EPS. The elastic pressure suit. Sometimes the elasticity helps you, sometimes it hinders you. So you end up using your muscles differently. It takes a bit of getting used to. We've all had training, so we know how to cope."

    "Thanks for calling a break."

    "Oh, we were due one anyway." Reed said. Seeing Archer's surprised expression he went on. "What, did you think we'd just run ourselves ragged? We're here to carry out a mission, not prove to the world and his dog how tough we are."

    He pulled another case up in front of Archer and sat down. "At one point, early in the Axanar war, I was assigned to Veltran. I was still in the ranks then, a sergeant. Still in regular forces too.
    "The Southerners, and their Axanar allies, had almost total control of the jungle regions. My unit was sent to a Forward Operating Base in the area. We hadn't the numbers to go into the jungle and take 'em on in a stand up fight, but we couldn't wait around in our bases to be attacked. So small units would go out in stealthed shuttles at night, drop into a clearing somewhere, and carry out combat patrols. We'd make our way, on foot, through hostile terrain, looking for signs of the enemy."

    "And if you found them?" Archer asked.

    "Deal with them, as...appropriate. If it were a small group, a patrol like ours, we'd plan an ambush. Larger groups we'd avoid, but if possible call in air support or other assets to take 'em out. We found quite a few supply dumps, which, depending on circumstances, we'd either blow up, booby trap, or set up OP's to keep tra...OP's? Observation Points. Yeah, we'd watch 'em, get some intel about who was using them and how often.
    "Anyway. What was I talking about? Oh right, yeah. So, we weren't the only unit at this FOB. There were five, all doing the same mission. And there was this one platoon that always seemed to be doing badly. Not problems with the enemy, but general health. On average they had to be extracted three, four days sooner than anyone else. They covered less ground in country. Took longer to get over illnesses. Things like that. No one knew why.
    "Eventually a doctor had a look at them and worked it out. Malnutrition. Turns out that their CO had heard some daft phrase and thought it sounded good. Her unit would be a 'lean, mean, fighting machine'. And to ensure the 'lean' part, she carefully regulated their diets and exercise routines so that when they went in country, they didn't have a spare gram of fat on 'em."

    Archer thought about that. "Now at first that sounds like a good thing, but...how long did these patrols last?"

    Reed smiled, pleased he'd got the point. "Days, weeks, it varied. But under those conditions it's not practical to constantly resupply. You have to carry all your supplies with you. Oh, in principle you can forage for food and live off the land, but that's something you just don't want to bother with in a combat patrol. And ration packs walk a fine line between the energy they give you and the weight you have to carry around.
    "Now the rest of us made sure we put on as much weight as possible whilst back at base. That way we'd have our own inbuilt reserves. Guess we should have realised something was up when no one from that platoon went for seconds at dinnertime. Still, we didn't complain. Meant we got thirds.
    "Now the point of this long and rambling tale is that in military operations, getting the job done is what matters. Setting a fast pace 'cause it gives you a tactical advantage is good, doing it to show off is bad. My men are in excellent shape. Tharpa over there runs marathons for fun. Cross got the hundred metre in her year. As a unit, we got the record for circling Schofield Station. But we're not going to rush things unnecessarily. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to have a word with M'boto."

    He left. Archer took another sip of water. Idly the thought crossed his mind that maybe Reed had called a break on his behalf after all, and had told his tale to spare Archer's feelings. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps he just liked telling war stories.

    He stood, almost leaping involuntarily into the air. Partly the low gravity, partly the springiness that the EPS gave to all his movements.

    A big, red headed marine whose name tag read Delaney grabbed his arm to stop him falling. Archer thanked him and turned to T'Pol. "You got anything?"

    "Captain, may I see your scanner for a moment?"

    He handed it over.

    "Curious. There seems to be a...discrepancy. At first I considered it a fault in my scanner, but yours shows the same effect."

    "What sort of discrepancy?" he asked.

    T'Pol moved the scanners from side to side, comparing their readings. "I am attempting to determine range and direction to the thromium source detected. We would appear to be heading in the right direction. By triangulating from two points I have determined the range, approximately one hundred and seventy meters."

    "So we know the Premier's here and we know roughly where he is." Archer said. "So what's the problem?"

    "The energy readings are significantly stronger than they should be for that amount. Judging from this, the range would be between eighty and one hundred meters. Most perplexing." She paused, deep in thought. "It is possible that Professor Partridge made an error in her design or construction of these devices."

    "Possible, she is primarily a theorist." Archer conceded. "On the other hand she has done a number of practical projects."

    T'Pol nodded. "It is also possible that there is a second source of thromium in close proximity to the first, though for what purpose I could not yet speculate. Alternatively, some phenomenon may be either amplifying the energy output, or distorting it in some manner as to give a false triangulation reading. I know of no means by which the latter may occur, but thromium wave output has been known to increase in the case of...certain energies."

    "Such as?"

    Despite the typical Vulcan stoicism, Archer could just make out a slight tremor in her voice. "Delta radiation."

    "God, that stuffs bad. But surely we'd be able to detect it if there was a source?"

    "Not if it were well enough shielded. Ironically, the more penetrating thromium waves would pass through such shielding."

    Archer tried to put his hands to his face, only to be stopped by the visor. "Why would anyone do such a thing?"

    "At this moment, Captain, we have only supposition that they have. There may be other explanations."

    "Well, let's hope."

    T'Pol seemed to have recovered her composure. "Hope is illogical. It will not change the situation."

    "No, but it can change how we deal with it."

    Reed returned. "Captain. I'm not interrupting am I?"

    "Not at all. T'Pol has worked out a couple of possible locations for the Premier."

    "That's good news. Now, have a butchers at this." He held up a pad, showing a plan view of the station. "M'boto's been running his own scans. Picked up a lot of thermal traces from this area here. Looks like a lot of people gathered together. Now, if they're running on Earth Standard time, they'd probably all be having their dinner about now."

    T'Pol examined the pad. "Then, unless the Premier is currently joining them, he must be being held at the further of the two possible locations. Approximately...here, on the map."

    Archer leant closer. "Well then, it seems to me our best plan would be to carry on round here, avoiding that populated area entirely. If we can get to...this point undetected, we can run another thromium scan, and see if that gives us a better idea of the situation."

    "Yes sir, looks good to me." said Reed. "Alright you lazy goldbrickers, on your feet. We got more terrain to cover before we go home."

    Archer took a last sip of water and retracted the drinking straw. Idly he found himself wondering how Trip and the others were doing...
     
  20. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Who do you think I was channeling? ;)

    I like this one and have developed a great deal of respect for your version of Reed. Never imagined him as a maverick, but now that I know that, his rank makes more sense to me.

    All in all an excellent chapter with only one flaw.


    No Polly. :( ;)
     

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