Star Trek - Genesis

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Crazy Eddie, Aug 29, 2009.

  1. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    IRRATIONAL

    IRRATIONAL
    Doppelgänger Orbit
    Stardate 2359.1.1
    - 2040 hours -

    USS Enterprise was designed to function in deep space for years at a time without ever visiting a starbase. Its interiors were therefore intentionally spacious and forgiving, despite being intensely compartmentalized and reinforced against fire and exposure damage. In the saucer module--which contained almost the entire volume of the ship's habitation spaces--the inner hull was divided into three concentric rings, each in turn divided into sixteen independent compartments. Berths for officers and crewmen were divided up between the two habitat sections in the outer rim of the saucer module, port and starboard. At this radius from the core, each single compartment comprised a portioned slice of the saucer module, five decks high and nearly fifty meters long from the outer edge of the saucer to the innermost gauntlet of emergency bulkhead couplings. Four of these sections made up each "Town" of the habitation spaces, Blue Town to starboard, Green Town to port, and each penned in, forward by service areas (stores, laundry, galleys and equipment lockers) and rearward by recreation sections and the machining spaces of the impulse deck.

    For morale purposes, Enterprise's quartermaster had arranged berthing assignments for a greater amount of diversity in different compartments, so that both "Towns" would have multiple representatives from all departments in each "neighborhood" compartment. Individual compartments were in some ways isolated from each other like New York Boroughs, and--ironically--for the same reason: turbolift stops to the midpoint of most compartments precluded the need to walk through adjacent compartments to get anywhere, unless you were just out for a stroll. The few places where crew members from different compartments actually encountered each other were the common areas they all shared: work areas concentrated in the inner sections of the saucer module, engineering spaces on the impulse deck, manufacturing and powerplant systems in the lower decks, shuttle pilots in the hangar section and department heads and administrators in the office block at the very lowest decks of the secondary hull. Both half-rings of crew-members had their own mess areas in the forward saucer straddling the bow, and each had their own recreation spaces in the aft saucer straddling the impulse deck. The logical solution to the morale problem had been to assign berths by crew assignment, so that nobody on the ship would ever have to live near someone they worked with or work with someone they lived with. The old human saying "familiarity breeds contempt" wasn't entirely logical, but in alot of cases it was an undeniable truth.

    What Security Chief McCahil was finding increasingly puzzling was the few cases where contempt had been cultivated to a large degree in the complete absence of any familiarity. The number of fights between on-duty officers had more than tripled since New Years, and though on one level he knew this to be the usual holdiay-season dustup, some of the disorder was beginning to exhibit patterns now that he was beginning to see the same faces dragged into his security office over and over again, each time for totally different yet somehow totally same reasons. He'd last seen Lieutenant Onise, for example, after a fist fight with one of his supervisors in the belief that the latter was too friendly with his ex-girlfriend; similar case for Ensign Ayala, who was confined to quarters for three days for tattooing the words "chauvinist pig" on the forehead of one of her inebriated co-workers. His overall conclusion was that both of these people were a pair of maladjusted misanthropes who were probably secretly in love with each other and hated themselves for it. Having them both dragged into his office at the same time for involvement in the exact same incident was... well, interesting to say the least. "Let me get this straight," McCahil leaned over his desk towards Ayala but fixed his gaze on Onise, "You're reporting Ensign Ayala for... attempted murder? Is that it?"

    "Yes, Sir, I am."

    McCahil looked at him incredulous. Then he leaned towards Onise and looked at Ayala, "And your contention is that the incident you recorded in your log..."

    "It was an accidental shooting, as I reported. Therefore his accusation is groundless and he should be reprimanded for making it."

    McCahil raised a brow, "You don't reprimand people for having opinions, Ayala. What I'm more interested in is how the hell you managed to accidentally shoot a man in the testicles with a perfectly functional phaser rifle."

    Ayala cleared her throat, struggled to maintain her facade of complete knowledge and control of the situation, "There was some odd behavior in the firing circuit. It had happened once before and I thought it was going to discharge so I tried to warn the Lieutenant. He didn't listen."

    "Your warning was a threat!" Onise snarled at her, "You were mad just becau--"

    "First of all," McCahil cut him off, "A phaser on low stun at a distance of five meters, discharged into the lower abdomen, is not a life threatening injury. Not even close. If anything it'll temporarily lower your sperm count, which isn't such a bad idea considering the duration of this tour. So your accusation is completely groundless."

    Onise sighed, "Yes, Sir, but..."

    "But the accidental discharge story..." McCahil shook his head, "I'm having trouble buying this, Ensign."

    "Respectfully, Sir, I'm not selling it. It's just a fact."

    "Then how do you explain the operation log from the targeting monocle that suggests the phaser discharged intentionally?"

    "The unit malfunctioned, Sir. I can't explain why it wouldn't reflect that fact. In any case, I had determined by myself that the malfunction was in the fire control circuit, which I have already replaced with a spare."

    "How convenient."

    "You can check that with the maintenance division, Sir."

    "I intend to. Either way, consider yourself on report." Leaning towards her, but turning back to Onise, McCahil asked, "And what's h story?"

    "My story about what, Sir?"

    "Do you have any theories about why one of your shipmates might desire to intentionally shoot you in the gonads?"

    "Simple malice, Chief."

    "That's one theory... but see, most of the time when someone is pissed off enough to take a phaser to you, they'll just shoot you in the back and then claim ignorance. This is called "fragging." It usually happens to an officer with a big mouth and a small mind, which based on your record is you in a nutshell. But see, I'm curious right now as to what exactly would prompt one of your fellow officers to specifically shoot you in the nuts."

    Onise cleared his throat and struggled to maintain his facade of complete knowledge and control of the situation, "I didn't want to say anything, Lieutenant, but... well, during the away mission, and even before that, Ensign Ayala's behavior has been incredibly erratic."

    "Really?"

    Onise nodded, "I um... well, the Ensign has made a number of advances... sexual advances, Lieutenant."

    Ayala looked at him sideways, as if he was claiming to be in contact with the Virgin Mary.

    McCahil's expression was little different. "Really?"

    "I believe Ensign Ayala was angry with me for rejecting those advan--"

    "You know what, forget I asked. You two... I don't know what the hell is going on with you and I really don't care. You need to pull your heads out of your asses and focus on your damn jobs. Is that understood?"

    "Yes Sir," they both said.

    "Now," McCahil turned his attention to his desktop computer and pulled up their personnel files, "Lieutenant Onise, you're berthed in 312, port side. Ayala you're in 304, starboard side. Obviously, there's no reason you should run into each other while off duty, so take steps to keep it that way. I'm also changing your duty roster so you'll never have to work with each other again either. And let me make this clear: if you can't find it in your combined willpower to get along with each other, you do us all a favor and avoid any further contact for the duration of your tour. Is this understood?"

    "Yes, Sir," they both said in unison.

    "Good. Now get the hell out of my office. Ayala, you go first. Onise, stay for a minute, I need you to drop of a requisition form to the machinists."

    Ensign Ayala did go first, not sure if McCahil was going to talk privately with Onise, and not really caring. She walked out of his office and down the pristine, shiny white corridors of the administrative section to the nearest turbolift, conveniently parked at the stop just for her. Four seconds later, the lift opened to an identical but light blue colored corridor--color coded for her residential section--which, in turn, lead into the vast open space of the Blue Town, Compartment 304.

    No other starship in the fleet had accommodations like this, and Enterprise probably wouldn't survive without it. Like the others in Blue Town, Compartment 304 was a large open atrium, three decks high, with faux skylights built into the ceiling and a set of strategically placed circulation fans hidden in the bulkheads, all for a fairly convincing sensation of being outdoors. This single compartment had nearly a hundred eight cabins--one per individual crewman--serviced by elegant but inconspicuous walkways and interconnecting sky bridges. At the ground level--in the open space between hatches for quarters and the raised patios before their entrances, was a trapezoidal court yard the size (but not quite the shape) of a little league baseball field. It actually reminded Ayala of one of Earth's indoor shopping malls, though considerably less cluttered, and much more livable. Between the eight compartments of Blue and Green Towns, a similar section further inboard for the senior officers provided Enterprise could comfortably house up to a thousand people, perhaps as long as a decade, before anyone on board even noticed the relative close quarters to which they were confined.

    The courtyard was the center of social life for each compartment, and Blue Town's courtyard contained a green faux-grass field lined with metal picnic tables and a large empty platform where some kind of statue was probably supposed to have been mounted before Enterprise left space dock. Presently, that statue was occupied by a mechanical pitching machine firing sixteen-inch softballs at a spot in the courtyad that had been emptied of tables by Ensign Meaney and Lieutenant Badjarule, the latter holding a wooden baseball bat and crouched in a stance, a mangled officer's field manual doubling as home plate. A few others sitting off to the side were half watching the game and half chatting amongst themselves, Ensign Meaney being in the midst of it all along with Ensign Riley and Lieutenant Sulu. Crewman Torens and Ensign Doyle were there too, but not engaging the others in conversation; actually, they had both squeezed into a single chair in one corner of the table where they were both intensely and lovingly admiring each other's eyes.

    The pitching machine fired off another salvo, Badjarule swung and blasted the softball at an angle towards the far uppermost corner of the room. There it passed through a region of almost null-gravity (out of range of the grav-plates in the walkways and the main deck) before bouncing off a structural column and beginning a chaotic, pinball-like ricochet around the compartment. Perhaps a dozen officers standing on walkways and bridges in this open space tracked the ball's progression, ready to reach out and grab it if it should come within range; some of these officers were playing in the game, knowing that whoever caught the ball before it hit the deck would get the next turn at bat, while others were just passively involved, trying not to get hit.

    Ayala wasn't in the mood for ball games today. She found an empty seat at the table with the others and quietly dropped into it. A conversation was under way, currently dominated by Ensign Meaney, in the middle of explaining, "It's a fact of sentient life forms. Everyone has this one pet peeve that drives them totally insane. Just the mention of the subject makes them crazy. At least one, but everyone does. It's like a ticklish spot of everyone's psyche."

    Crewman Torens looked dubious, but not actively so. Just bored with Meaney's usual nonsense and eager to talk about something else. "If you say so..."

    "I'll prove it. See, I happen to know Lieutenant Sulu's pet peeve is the idea of having a food slot on the bridge."

    Sulu looked at him angrily, "Don't you start that again."
     
  2. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
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    IRRATIONAL

    Meaney shrugged, "What? Don't you think it be nice to have a food slot on the bri--"

    Sulu came half out of his chair, "No it wouldn't be nice to have a food slot on the goddamn bridge! What the hell is wrong with you?! It's a command station, not a cafeteria! How the hell do you have time to eat something in the middle a bridge rotation?! The whole shift is only four hours long! You can't wait a couple of damned hours to get something to eat?! Christ! If you're that hungry in a duty cycle, you'd better be curled in a diabetic seizure, call a goddamn medical emergency if you can't wait two freaking hours for the next cycle! What are you, bored?! Do you not have enough to do on the bridge that you have to sit their munching on fried chicken every fifteen goddamn minutes?! This is a starship, not a buffet table you fat bastard!"

    Not even halfway through Sulu's tirade, everyone within earshot had fully collapsed into hysterical laughter. Including Torens, who found the entire display not only hilarious, but completely unprecedented.

    And Meaney wasn't even finished. Gasping for breath, he slapped the table a few times to get his composure and then offered sheepishly, "Okay, no food slot... how about a coffee maker?"

    A vein popped out on Sulu's forehead, "Oh yeah, that's exactly what I want sitting on my console during combat maneuvers, a big dumbass pot of hot-freaking-coffee! How about we install some water fountains in the engine room too? You never know when those high voltage lines might get ya thirsty! Christ! How the hell did you get on this ship if you can't make it through a duty cycle with a goddamn coffee pot plugged into your gut?! You can do what the rest of your shipmates do and get your coffee from the galley, you thirsty son of a bitch!"

    Ensign Riley was laughing so hard his face had turned bright red. Torens and Ayala were already hunched over the table in spasms. Meaney was quietly chuckling to himself at having pushed Sulu to the edge of madness for the fourth time today, and it didn't seem like the man would ever become any less irritated by the very mention of the subject. And as he had before, he diffused the entire mood by commenting simply, "How about a tea kettle?"

    Sulu started to launch another rant. Then he thought better of it, and seemed to immediately return to his usual calm, collected, thoughtful personage they had all come to know and love. "Tea's fine," he said gently, "It's good for you."

    "Damn, Hikaru," Ayala rasped, wiping tears from her eyes, "Just damn."

    Sulu shrugged, "Don't even talk. We all know what it takes to set you off."

    "What? What do you mean?"

    Not that it was meant to set off Ayala, but it definitely triggered something close to the surface in the rest of her comrades. All eyes turned to her, and the expressions of five officers turned to accusing scowls.

    "Okay... what'd I do?" Ayala asked in protest.

    Meaney was the first to ask, "Is it true that you shot Lieutenant Onise in the balls?"

    Ayala shrank a little bit. "So what if it is? We gonna have a problem here?"

    Sulu shrugged, "Don't get so defensive, I mean this is Onise we're talking about, he probably deserved it. We're all just wondering... you know... what exactly was he doing that would prompt you to shoot him in the balls?"

    "Quick question," Ensign Riley held up a hand, "What did Onise do to deser--"

    "Shut up, Riley." Meaney turned his attention back to Ayala, "He didn't... you know... try something, did he?"

    Ayala's first thought was, for the sake of rumor control, she might as well let everyone go on thinking the worst so at least they wouldn't look down on her for loosing her temper. On the other hand, she understood that she was messing with forces she couldn't really control and opted to keep her exaggerations as small as possible. "We had an argument to that effect... but the phaser discharged accidentally. I really didn't mean to shoot him."

    "So, well, what happened?"

    "He didn't try anything but he was getting ready to."

    "What do you mean?" Riley asked, "Did he threaten you?"

    "He'd assumed an aggressive posture."

    Long glances cycled the table as everyone there tried to figure out what she was talking about.

    Ayala's cheeks turned blue as she started to blush, "I saw that he was flexing some of his muscles in preparation for a certain action..."

    "He had an erection," Badjarule said, half listening to the conversation from home plate.

    Everyone sat up and looked at Badjarule, then at Ayala in amazement.

    Ayala hung her head. "I honestly thought I was in danger. But I really never meant to shoot him."

    "I don't believe that for a minute," Meaney grumbled, "And besides, I hope you're aware, human males don't have manual control of that part of the anatomy."

    "You don't?"

    "No, we don't. It's mostly automatic reflexes and instinct. And since I know you're next question: No, human beings do not have ovisepticles."

    "What's an ovisepticle?" Sulu asked.

    Meaney said plainly, "Orion men have a prehensile penis. They use it to move egg sacks from one chamber to the next, sort of like an elephant's trunk. Compare that to ours, which is really just a big dumb rod that gets pushed around with brute force."

    "Wow..." her cheeks turned almost bright blue now and she stared at the table in a state of interminable self-horror. "That actually sounds kind of... romantic."

    "Romantic?"

    "I mean... if you think about it, it's sort of an anatomical geiger counter, right? It'll respond automatically to the attractiveness of a nearby female. You can't hide your true feelings, because your sexuality isn't something you can control."

    Meany started to say something else, but Riley had his attention on the corridor at the other end of the atrium to say, "Apparently we have some trouble controlling turbolifts too."

    When they looked in that direction, they saw Lieutenant Onise standing there, scanning the walkways and sky bridges and the alcoves along the bulkheads until he finally located Ayala at the table. Obviously his goal, he approached the table with the kind of arrogant swagger and a look of smug superiority that almost made Riley want to shoot him as he stood up to greet the man, "Aren't you supposed to be on duty, Onise?"

    "Shut up, Riley. Ayala, can I have a word with you please?"

    Ensign Ayala slowly stood up, then sat back down in her chair facing him.

    "In private, Ensign."

    "I'm off duty, Lieutenant."

    "I'm your superior officer, and I just told you..."

    "I'm your superior officer," Sulu interjected, "And I'm telling you to check that attitude in the corridor. We're all having a nice peaceful conversation here, there's no need for all this hostility."

    Onise glowered at Sulu, then glowered even harder at Ayala. "Look. McCahill obviously won't do anything to resolve this situation, so I thought we could settle this like adults. So... I... uh... I really think that you owe me an apology."

    Ayala chuckled, "I'm sorry you don't have conscious control of your reproductive functions. Must make for some embarrassing public moments."

    "Ensign Ayala..." Onise chuckled lightly, menacingly, "You and I both know, you can't afford to loose this commission. Once Starfleet cuts you loose, there's a whole galaxy full of colorful characters ready to make a new home for you. If that's what you want... well... it can be arranged."

    "So could another phaser malfunction..."

    "And if you ever try that again, I'll make you wish you were never born. One way or the other, you will show me proper respect."

    Even Sulu thought this was going a little far. And more to the point, it was a little out of character for Onise, whose most aggressive posture usually stopped at snide sarcasm and a rolling of the eyes. "Kembi, what the hell's gotten into you?"

    "Mind your own business, rice picker! I can handle my own woman!"

    Everyone at the table looked at Sulu--and Sulu looked back at them--in tickled amazement. The thought they all shared was a universal concern, but Onise didn't seem to be drunk...

    Riley stood up from the chair and very firmly, very carefully, gestured for Ayala to stand up, "And we all know how to handle a drunken asshole on a power trip," he pushed her aside and picked up the chair she had been sitting on until now, "And you know what, I think this chair is about to have a malfun--" he spun around and flung the chair, as hard as he could, directly at Onise's head. The Lieutenant was fast enough to dodge the chair, but not fast enough to dodge the suddenly-running Irishman who pounced on him in a dive, grabbed the back of his uniform shirt and pulled it over the top of his head like a hood. Blinded and disoriented, Onise swung his fists in the air, until Sulu and Meaney joined Riley and grabbing him by his arms and legs and flinging him, bodily, into the nearest turbolift. Sulu punched the code for Cargo Bay 4 and then stepped out before the doors could close on him.

    Riley returned to the table to find Ayala beaming at him, a look of joy and gratitude he hadn't seen on a woman since that time he sowed the nose back onto his baby sister's teddy bear. "That was really sweet of you, Riley."

    The Ensign laughed nervously, "Awww... well... it was uh..."

    "Oh, please, don't get him started," Ensign Meaney said as he rejoined the table, to the agreement of Sulu and Torens.

    "Gentleman, I do believe the lady just paid me a compliment. Don't get all salty on me just because you're jealous."

    "We're not jealous," Sulu said, "We just hate you. Anyway, what the hell's gotten into Kembi lately? I've never seem him act like that before."

    Ayala nodded, "And him talking about 'my woman.' What's that all about?"

    "Maybe he's infatuated?" Riley said, "I heard somewhere that Orion woman sometimes emit pheremones that--"

    Ayala shot Riley a look so angry, so chillingly violent that for a few seconds he actually forgot how to speak.

    "Um... the... I... I mean, it's just a rumor."

    "I'm sure you've heard alot of rumors about Orion women."

    "God... don't get her started." Meaney grumbled.

    "Maybe some time we'll get together and I'll show you how many of them are true. But until then," Ayala leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, "I still hate you"

    Riley sighed, "I'm so confused..."

    "Shut up, Riley," Ayala patted him on the cheek with a heartwarming smile and then headed off to the stairway to her quarters on the second level.

    Riley watched her go, then buried his head in his arms and groaned in frustration. "Screw you all. And one day I'm gonna marry that girl. And we're gonna have, like, six kids. I'm gonna become an Admiral. And I'm gonna have a whole planet named after me."

    Sulu patted him on the shoulder sympathetically, "We know, Riley. That's why we hate you."
     
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    There was almost too much good stuff in this segment! The crew interactions were priceless, and you conveyed a true sense of fun and camaraderie shared by the officers and enlisted personnel involved in the scenes. I absolutely loved Riley and the others’ Stuff-n’-Dump of Onise into the turbolift. :lol:

    I’ve got to wonder about Onise, though, and whether his behavior signals the arrival of the mutagenic virus onboard the Enterprise? Once again, you’ve delivered the goods. I’m eagerly awaiting more.
     
  4. Kaziarl

    Kaziarl Commodore Commodore

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    Location:
    Portland, OR (Kaziarl)
    Yeah, there is certainly something going on. But one thing that's curious is on this planet it appears to be the females who have been mutated into sex crazed monsters. So why is Onise the one showing those signs? Will be interesting to find out more.
     
  5. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Is he contaminated? Or just an a hole?
     
  6. adm_gold

    adm_gold Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    Just a quick "wow" to this adventure. I'm still catching up, finally on the 3rd page of postings. The only "oh brother" moment was one of the kids saying his name was Forrest Gump. Otherwise, I'm not getting enough work done because I'm reading this story! :techman:
     
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
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    Actually, that quote almost cost me a new laptop. If I'd been enjoying a beverage at that moment, I'd have spit it all over my screen! :lol:
     
  8. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    ENLIST

    ENLIST
    Doppelgänger Orbit
    Stardate 2359.1.5
    - 0940 hours -

    "Bones, seriously, what's with the salt shaker?" Miri asked, half complaining and half just curious, "You keep waving that thing around like--"

    "It's a scanner head," Doctor McCoy said, finishing his third and final set of physical exams for his patient. If there were any remaining cancer cells somewhere in her body, the mutation cycle would start again, and he didn't want to have to subject her to another round of surgeries if he didn't have to.

    "What does it do?" Miri asked.

    "It takes detailed sensor readings for my tricorder."

    "What's a tricorder?"

    McCoy held up the small metallic device sitting on the desk next to her, keeping the readout display facing him. "It's a machine that uses three different senses to gather information. Sight, sound and smell."

    Miri raised a brow, "It can smell me?"

    McCoy chuckled, and touched a key on the tricorder to change the scanner's mode. Since he was finished with the active scan anyway, he decided to switch to the passive chemical scan--for Miri's amusement--at which point the low-pitched hum from the scanner head became a series of soft clicks. "It analyzes chemical traces in the air," he explained, "Just like the receptors in your nose. Except it's thousands of times more sensitive. Hell, if I programmed it right, it could tell me what you had for breakfast yesterday."

    "Cool..." She smiled fondly at the thought. Of course it was just a fancy gadget to her, but in the broader context... it was a fancy gadget on a space ship, just like the big glorious space cruisers on those TV shows and DVDs she used to watch, in those early years before running for her life came to consume all her free time. Just a reminder of those easier days--that time of peace and innocence--made her giddy with joy. "So Bones, tell me again: how far are we from Earth?"

    "Five thousand kilometers, give or take," the tricorder picked up none of the chemical traces of the cancer tissues from before. It picked up something else, though, something it couldn't quite identify and therefore broke down into a list of chemical constituents: oxygen, carbon, phosphorous, hydrogen, nitrogen, and water vapor. The way it was configured it almost looked like an explosive compound. "Have you been handling firearms lately?"

    "Not since you zapped me up here. Why do you ask?"

    "Oh, nothing..." he tapped another key and the scanner head started to emit an oscillating high-pitched whine.

    "What's it doing now?" Miri asked.

    "Ultrasound." McCoy passed the scanner over her shoulders and torso, where the most intensive surgeries had removed kilograms of tumors from her chest and abdomen. "I'm making a map of your insides."

    Miri folded her arms self-consciously. And maybe just to distract herself from the examination asked, "How far are we from your Earth?"

    "I don't remember... hey Ramsi," McCoy waved Doctor Ayash over to the biobed from across the room, distracting the junior surgeon from the all-consuming task of lasering an errant hangnail off his thumb. "How far are we from Sol right now? What was it Spock said?"

    "About twenty one light years," said Doctor Ayash. Using a translator instead of his own rendition of English, his accent had all but vanished. "Which is pretty close in galactic terms."

    "How long a travel?"

    "Don't know. Half a day, maybe, with a skilled navigator."

    "I'd like to go there some day." she smiled, her mind light years away, "Maybe even move back to Gaza? Who knows, maybe I might find a copy of myself out there?"

    "You're not bothered by that prospect?" McCoy put the scanner away and returned the tricorder to his medical kit, "I don't think I would be comfortable with the idea of having a clone living a whole other life on some other planet."

    "Why not?" Miri grinned, "I think that would be neat. Like if there were two of me. We could get a lot of work done."

    "Young people and their adaptability..." McCoy chuckled, and as his last act as her surgeon, compared the tricorder readings with her chart displayed on the console screen next to her biobed. "Well, Ramsi?"

    Doctor Ayash came to her side and looked at the chart. He nodded in approval, and said to her with a look to match, "Looks like you are having clean bill of health. We can officially set you free."

    "Thanks to you and Bones. I was terrified that one day I was going to change into one of those... those..." Miri banished the thought and strategically changed the subject to something a little less terrifying, "So what's your Palestine like, Doctor Ramsi? Don't tell me we're still fighting the Zionists after all these years."

    Doctor Ayash smiled warmly, almost patronizingly, "Not exactly."

    "Well you must have overcome them somehow or else you wouldn't be here, right?"

    Ayash looked at his feet, embarrassed, "There is much history to go through, but I should say that on Earth right now, there is no more Palestine."

    Miri's expression dropped a little. Not that she had ever particularly cared about the outcome, but it was growing more and more important for her to place her identity in the scheme of a much larger universe than she was used to. "You mean we lost."

    "Not exactly."

    "You keep saying that..."

    Ayash chuckled, "I not suppose you know what an Augment is?"

    Miri flinched, "Is that... uh... kind of bird?"

    "No... bear with me, okay? I am having to try to skip some of the details, so try to keep up."

    "Okay..."

    "There was a man in the Israeli Government, a few years after your time, named Ehud Jabez. He was intelligent, charismatic, extremely effective leader. He used his intellect to engineer political change all over middle east, installing people he could trust into positions of power, including the Palestinian Authority and even his own government. To make things easier, he unified Israel and Palestine as a single country, divided it into four Federalized districts, two Palestinian and two Jewish. He abolished the racist policies of the extremists and brought both peoples together in peace... for a time."

    "What went wrong?"

    "As we finding out some years later," Ayash went on sadly, "Jabez was what we came to call an Augment: a product of genetic engineering from the Cold War when NATO countries were trying to create race of super-soldiers. Jabez was one of dozens of augments who simultaneously seized control of a few powerful governments. Along with Uday and Qussay Hussein, Pierre DeVries, Pervez Musharoff, Barrack Obama and Khan Noonien Singh... they were all stunningly effective leaders, but they were all terribly ambitious. Between them they split up into two camps, an eastern and western coalition lead by Jabez on one side and Musharoff on the other. When the dust finally settled, both sides were ruins, most of the augments were either assassinated or vanished. After Zionist movement collapsed, the Jihadists ran out of things to complain about, Israel remained Federalized, and it having been peaceful ever since."

    Miri took this all in, patiently and sagely, like the passionate history student she had once been before circumstance promoted her to Admiral of a fleet of ragtags. "So you mean that entire fifty year struggle for freedom was... what? A historical joke?"

    "If it is joke, it was as our expense. I thinking that as a people--both the Palestinians and the Jews--we spent the majority of human history as race of sheep, wandering around looking for some good shepherd to lead us. Sometimes it was God images, other times just political leaders. Most of them lead us like lambs to slaughter." By stunning coincidence, the sickbay doors opened as Commander Spock walked into the room, busily studying a palmcomp display while at the same time navigating his way towards Doctor McCoy, "And then we meeting the Vulcans," Ayash nodded at Spock.

    The science officer paused, noted his sudden focus of attention, then moved slowly to the Doctor's side. "Can I help you, Doctor?"

    "As I have just explaining to the young lady here," Ayash gestured at Miriam, "How mankind having reached a state of clarity thanks to the Vulcans. You see, Miri, an American scientist tested a new star drive for the first time, and a Vulcan space ship noticed the test and following him back to Earth. They make first contact with our people, and finding the planet in chaos, they offering us... I guess you could say 'humanitarian aid' to help us rebuild. It changed everything, our society, our values--"

    "Doctor Ayash is, of course, quoting the conventionally accepted history of First Contact, as taught in many European high schools," Spock said, "In truth, humanity remained in a generally barbaric state for another five decades. In point of fact, many regions actually regressed even deeper into authoritarianism and poverty, achieving no significant political or economic progress until the early twenty second century."

    Miri looked back and forth between Spock and Ayash, sensing a field of tension beginning to stretch between them.

    "We were making some progress," Ayash began.

    "You were making mistakes," Spock corrected, "The same silly and illogical mistakes your species had always made."

    "Now wait a minute..."

    "The former Eastern Coalition degenerated into the so-called 'Post Atomic Horror,' a collection of peasant states enforced by drug-addicted mercenaries and ultra conservative jurists using a quasi-Confucian legal system. Even the most enlightened efforts to achieve some kind of public order were ultimately sabotaged by vested political interests of neighboring partisans."

    Bones chuckled, "Like the Tokyo Incident. I almost forgot about that."

    "What was Tokyo Incident?" Ayash asked, remembering the name but not the details.

    "In 2075, the United States government was implicated in an plot to detonate a thermonuclear warhead near the Vulcan Embassy in Tokyo, apparently in an attempt to sabotage relations between the Vulcan government and the Japanese Empire."

    "Why?"

    "Because Japan was the central member of the Eastern Coalition," McCoy said, "And arguably the most gruesome member of the Post Atomic Horror. Supposedly it was some cockamamie scheme to get the Vulcans to cut their support to ECON members and lean more towards the Americans. Of course, they got caught red handed and the whole plan backfired."

    "Resulting in a new policy, which forced any remaining governments to renounce membership in both WESCON and NATO or face a termination of interplanetary aid," Spock said, "This resulted in the collapse of both organizations, and catalyzed the formation of the United Earth Treaty Organization in 2105, which eventually become the United Earth Government. The social elites who had prospered under WESCON were largely marginalized and continued to denounce Vulcan as an obstructionist power even after Earth joined the United Federation of Planets."

    Doctor Ayash looked shocked and disgusted, "That's completely untrue..."
    "One second, though," Miri asked, just to make sure she understood correctly, "Most of the people on this ship are from western countries. Like Bones is from America, isn't he? I mean... well, it seems like everything turned out well in the end."

    Spock nodded, almost professorial in what was quickly turning into an impromptu history lesson. "It does represent some historical irony. Starfleet, for example, was founded by the embittered elements of those same social elites, mainly in an attempt to compete with the more successful exploration initiatives of the United Earth government. Indeed, in 2151, Captain Jonathan Archer--commander of the first Enterprise--publicly accused the Vulcan High Command of attempting sabotage Starfleet's first deep space exploratory mission. He was either unaware or unwilling to consider that the Vulcan Space Command had previously provided direct material support to three previous UESPA missions and various elements of the Earth Cargo Service, support that opened the Sol Sector to the galactic economy some thirty years before Starfleet was founded."

    "When did all that change?" Miri had her attention focussed completely on Spock now. Not so much because of his superior authority, but only because Spock's version of the story was more compatible with what she already knew about humanity.

    Spock almost smiled. "Ironically, it was our illogic that was humanity's salvation."

    "What?"

    And Ayash looked even more puzzled, "What?"

    "At some point, not long before contact with Earth, the Vulcan government came to be dominated by a kind of petty autocracy marked by elitism, prejudices and vested political interests, not unlike the old Earth systems of the twenty first century. Socially, we had begun to embrace obedience under the banner of logic and order, and in the end we failed to recognize the logic of disobedience towards errant authority figures. Our failure to recognize these problems nearly destroyed us, first during the Syrranite Revolution, and again thirty years later in the Second Romulan War."

    "And that saved humanity?" Ayash asked, astounded, "Really?"

    "It is, difficult to explain in detail, Doctor. Suffice to say, it is ironic that humans could finally banish the creeping elitism in their own society only after witnessing the havoc it had caused in ours. Both cultures made the logical choice to abandon privilege in exchange for survival, and the result was the total collapse of the existing class structure in both societies."

    Ayash took a small step back and thought this over, "That is interesting perspective..."

    "But there's always rich and poor in a society," Miri said, "Even when nobody has any money. Somebody always has more than the person next to him."

    "True," Spock nodded, "But in a meritocracy, a person is only as valuable as his gifts, not his birthright. The Captain of the first Enterprise, for example, is widely believed to have gained his command through family connections and personal favors from friends in Starfleet's upper echelons. Several more experienced command officers--many with thousands of hours of deep space experience--were rejected without explanation."

    Ayash snickered, "Not unlike the Captain of this Enterprise..."

    "If you are referring to Captain Kirk, I'll remind you that his mastery of this vessel comes with the blessing of several command officers far more experienced than you."

    "Same difference... but still, he is much less experienced than John Archer was."

    Miri asked before Spock could get too far, "Who is Captain Kirk?"

    "The commander of this vessel, and a source of controversy within Starfleet. He was promoted to Captain largely because of his conduct in a previous incident."

    "He is also youngest Captain in Starfleet history," Ayash added, "Hell, he was not even active duty officer when disabling that Romulan doomsday weapon."

    Drifting into earshot, Doctor McCoy sidled into the conversation in his usual abrupt manner, "He's a hero is what he is. I don't care how young he is, it took some major cojones to pull of that little stunt on the Narada..." and exchanging palmcomps with Spock added, "and whatever it is Vulcans have."

    "If you are ask me," Ayash said, "Spock should have getting command."

    "Then it is fortunate, Doctor, that no one asked you, since I have no present ambitions to command this or any other vessel." Spock looked at the palmcomp, then nodded with satisfaction. Turning to Miri he added, "Now that you have been medically cleared, I shall have had the duty officer arrange quarters for all of you, but since we do not know the details of relationships I leave it up to you, Miri, to see to berthing accommodations."

    Miri squinted at him, and Doctor McCoy promptly translated, "He's saying we need you to help pick rooms for the Onlies."

    "Oh... sure, I can help with that. But before I do, there's something else I wanted to ask about."

    "And that is?"

    Miri smiled nervously, "I... um... well, I know I'm not exactly the best and brightest, and I know astronauts are supposed to be some kind of geniuses, but I was thinking maybe about joining the crew here? Perhaps becoming a doctor like Mister Ayash?"

    Spock tilted his head slightly, "Your medical qualifications do not seem adequate for that task... however, if your desire is genuine you may be able to pass the physical and intellectual requirements for midshipmen-in-training."

    McCoy snorted, "You've got to be kidding me..."

    "Enlisted duties are not overly complicated, Doctor, and Enterprise does have facilities adequate for field training." For a moment or two, he actually looked Miri in the eye, probed her resolve for any cracks or pretenses. Finding none, he concluded safely, "If you are willing to learn, we are willing to train you."

    "I am, Sir. Completely. Ever since I was a little kid I always used to dream about being an astronaut."

    "This may not live up to your expectations. A life in Starfleet can be difficult, dangerous, frightening, and often surreal. Much of what you may encounter on this ship will certainly exceed the grasp of both your knowledge and your imagination. Are you prepared for that?"

    Miri smiled, "I'm on a space ship, Mister Spock. This is already way beyond my knowledge, and don't underestimate my imagination."

    "Then I will arrange to have the duty officer meet with you tomorrow evening. Until then, your first duty as cadet midshipman will be to see to quartering arrangements for the other refugees by 1400 hours tomorrow."

    "Uh... sure... y-yes sir, Commander!" Miri jumped off the table and saluted.
     
  9. Kaziarl

    Kaziarl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR (Kaziarl)
    Another good entry, only one thing stood out as odd to me. Obama as an augment? Anyway, probably a minor point. I liked the background stuff you put in about earths trials after first contact. Keep up the good work.
     
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    Just a figment of my own twisted imagination. You know what they say about gift horses...

    Pay it no mind.:lol:
     
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Interesting history lesson, with an amalgam of what we knew from TOS and Enterprise, with some unorthodox additions all your own. :lol: And Miri as a midshipman... who knew?
     
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    COOPERATION

    COOPERATION
    Doppelgänger Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2359.4.8 - Captain's Log
    Enterprise is now nine weeks in orbit of the planet Starfleet has officially named Doppelgänger. Mister Spock's theory about "planetary chronological instability" or "rapid aging" seems mostly confirmed. Orbital observations show the Gaza Strip region where we recovered survivors three weeks ago has decayed into ruins, seemingly thousands of years old. The instabilities are also having damaging effects on the planet itself; seismic irregularities continue to escalate, and ambient radiation levels on the planet's surface have increased four hundred percent since our last landing party scouted the Andean Mountain region a week ago.

    Aboard the ship, morale is relatively high, though we're still faced with the problem of what to do with those twenty four survivors we brought on board. For the most part they seem happy to be out of danger, but they are understandably anxious about their futures. Doctor McCoy has explained the situation to them as best he can, but I imagine this is quite a bit to take in even for the best adjusted of them. Crewman Hallab seems to be coping best of all of them, though I can't say whether this is because of her greater maturity or the welcome distraction of her newfound duties, or maybe both.

    The Cardassian Union has responded to our request for assistance on the condition that we coordinate with their space service and share all information we can obtain about this planet and its creators. We're still awaiting the arrival of their flag ship--the Grazine--with the long-range sensor images we commissioned two weeks ago. I've been reviewing the contact reports from the Achilles on Cardassian culture to prepare for the meeting; Captain Balze's impression was that the Cardassians are generally an insecure, suspicious, yet deeply passionate people, not too different from some humans I know. Culturally and technologically they're equivalent to 20th century Earth norms. Hopefully we'll be able get along...

    We are definitely
    not getting along with the Gorn. We have been broadcasting our offer of assistance for twelve days, but the response remains 'stand by.' Lieutenant Uhura has detected a massive subspace distortion from the Gorn vessel that is probably a long range transmission to their homeworld; let's hope the response yields good news for us.


    - 1240 hours -
    The Enterprise's many interlocked compartments constituted a kind of "double hull" within the protective cocoon out of the hull plating; strip away the outer hull, and the ship would appear as a vast maze of tubes and manifolds the size of office buildings, each one with a completely independent life support system, and interconnected through service conduits, self-contained corridor sections and the snaking lines of fully-insulated turboshafts. The turboshafts were probably the most important artery for the ship's functioning, because they also doubled as the spinal supports of high-voltage power conduits, water and oxygen supply lines from the engineering module, and a network of much smaller turboshafts that branched off through the entire ship to common areas, recreation sections, and even to the more lushly furnished quarters of the senior officers in the inner sections of Blue and Green Towns. The system was designed with such efficiency that someone--Doctor McCoy, for example--could select an item from the food slot's menu in the officer's lounge, then count to ten, and at the end of that time hear the buzzing/hissing sound of a turbocar race under his feet to its final destination in the slot in front of him. Finally the slot doors opened to a tiny transport car containing two small plastic trays which, between the two of them, supported a bowl of grits, half a grapefruit, a plastic cup of grape soda, four deviled eggs, a chicken sandwich and a cup of coffee.

    Somehow the replicator system hadn't processed these as separate orders despite arranging them on two different trays. McCoy set them on a table next to the gigantic officer's lounge windows that arced high overhead like a gigantic greenhouse and then got to the complicated puzzle-breaking task of dividing up his order from the Captain's.

    Kirk took the sandwich right away, then set the coffee in front of him, but it took two tries and multiple exchanges to figure out how many sugar packets were for the coffee and how many were for McCoy's grits until the doctor grudgingly conceded all of them to Kirk and spooned his grits in the raw. "It's better plain anyway," Kirk said, stirring his coffee triumphantly.

    "When I was little my mother used to make it with honey."

    "Ew..."

    "Try it sometime, it's a good satisfying breakfast. Hell, if those fabricators didn't churn out that sickly abomination the galley section laughably calls 'honey' I'd have that instead."

    Kirk nodded in agreement. "It reminds me of sugar-free gelatin."

    "It reminds me of modeling glue. Speaking of which," McCoy craned his head towards the hatch, which had half a second ago opened for Commander Spock on his way through it. Kirk turned his head just in time to miss the Vulcan land a parting kiss on the cheek of Lieutenant Uhura before making his own way to the food slot behind them. "How long has that been going on?"

    "What?"

    "Spock and Nyota."

    Kirk raised a brow. "Something's going on between them? I never would have guessed."

    "Jim..."

    "It's none of my business, Bones. And none of yours either." He checked and made sure Spock wasn't quite in earshot yet and added, "I just hope he knows what a lucky bastard he is..." and now that Spock was closing in, tray in hand, "Care to join us, Commander?"

    Spock acknowledged with a nod and dropped into a chair between the two. He set down a tray that contained an odd mixture of multi-colored polygons that were either children's building blocks or a salad composed of impeccably diced exotic fruits. Whatever it was it had an oddly soothing sweet and sour aroma to it; McCoy wondered what it would taste like with grits.

    Kirk asked immediately, "You seem preoccupied, Spock." and took a bite of his sandwich while he awaited a reply.

    "Indeed, Captain. I have been mulling a matter of extreme personal importance since this mission began, and recent events have only exacerbated my dilemma."

    "Dilemma?" McCoy asked.

    "In what way?" Kirk added, as if he already knew what Spock was thinking but only needed the details.

    Spock sighed, "As you might have guessed, I have a great personal stake in the possibility of locating and harnessing the technology that created this planet. I am, after all, a member of a species that has recently been deprived of a homeworld, and such technology may prove essential to the survival of the Vulcan race."

    "Yeah, no kidding..."

    "This has been on my mind constantly since discovering this planet. However, our findings with the sapient life forms--Miri, for example--have lead me to consider another strange possibility."

    Kirk took another bite of his sandwich and waited patiently for Spock to continue.

    "The same power that created this planet," Spock said, "that created a duplicate Earth... it is possible, though unlikely, that a duplicate Vulcan may already exist."

    McCoy said, "If your theory is correct, this planet may have been created in the first place just to harvest an extinct cetacean species..."

    "Quite right, Doctor. But the possibility exists that the force that created this duplicate Earth may have a reason to preserve endangered species from a multitude of worlds, for whatever reason. Since we do not know the method of duplication, I am intrigued by the possibility that Vulcan may also have been so preserved."

    Kirk nodded, "It sounds like a ray of hope, Spock."

    Spock raised a brow, "Hope is an emotional yearning, Captain, and a completely illogical proposi--"

    "Hope," Kirk cut him off, "is the most logical thing in the universe for a people on the brink of extinction."

    "Perhaps." Spock dug into his meals with some type of pointed utensil, something that reminded Kirk of a type of miniature spear. The colored rectangles made deep indistinct crunching noises when Spock bit down.

    "What is that, exactly?" McCoy said.

    Spock pointed with the barb in his hand, "This is pat'su, kriyat, selit, and tofu."

    "Reprocessed vegetable matter from four planets." Kirk shook his head in amazement and sipped his coffee, "You're a braver man than I am."

    "Most carbon based life forms have similar protein and amino acid requirements. Probably a matter of chemistry and convergent evolution." Spock took two more consecutive bites, one of a green and another of a yellow rectangle. He chewed, he swallowed, he contemplated for a moment and then added, "I am wondering whether or not we share sufficient cultural commonalities to open communications with the Gorn."

    Washing down a mouthful of grits, McCoy asked, "You mean diplomatically or at this particular moment?"

    "Both, Doctor, but obviously the more immediate circumstances remain foremost on my mind."

    Kirk shrugged, "Sulu thinks they came here on a fishing expedition. But even without knowing that, it's a foregone conclusion that their goals and priorities are vastly different from ours. We should just give them a wide berth and let them do whatever it is they do."

    "That would be my impression too, Sir. However," he frowned slightly, "we learned of the Gorn's motives through a conversation between Sulu and the one called The Runner. It is a safe assumption that the Gorn scout presented a similar report to his superiors on arrival on his ship, in which case the Gorn are now well aware of our reason for being here."

    McCoy nodded, "In other words, they know this is a duplicate Earth."

    "Precisely, Doctor. This fact may have sparked their curiosity, since clearly a force that can create and engineer planets would be as attractive to them as it is to us."

    "Of course. You can design a planet that'll support any tasty morsels you want." Kirk smiled, "A kind of planetary-scale agriculture program."

    "Indeed."

    McCoy asked, "You're thinking we should make contact with them?"

    "If their interest in the planet is as strong as ours, a mutual exchange of knowledge would be the most logical arrangement."

    "What about security? Whatever we find here is bound to be classified top secret by the Federation Council."

    "Yes, but we're already involving the Cardassians," Kirk said, "Besides, according to the Federation Charter, the Council cannot classify information it does not yet have."

    "Starfleet can."

    "Starfleet hasn't. And I agree with Spock on this one. If the Gorn could be of help to us, it doesn't hurt to ask."

    McCoy shrugged, "If you say so. But don't say I didn't warn you... by the way, Jim, I meant to tell you yesterday, this pointy-eared lunatic just approved an enlistment application from one of the Onlies."

    Kirk smiled, "One of the children?"

    "Crewman Miriam Hallab is sixteen years old," Spock said, "her qualifications include a demonstrated proficiency in problem solving skills, as well as extensive maritime experience. Her physical health and fitness are above average, as are her scores for gross memory retention, visual-spatial reasoning and marksmanship. Counselor Giza has performed a full psychological evaluation and deemed her fit for duty."

    "Par for the course," Kirk shrugged, "I don't see the problem."

    "The problem, Jim, is that this girl just spent the last few years of her life in the festering ruins of a dead planet. I don't see how she could possibly adjust to life on a starship."

    Kirk chuckled, "How did any of us get used to it? That's the whole reason we have shakedown cruises, to help break in the crew. A starship has to get test-flown and certified before it even gets a name."

    "I still worry, Jim. This is a big adjustment for her, I don't want to dump too much in her lap before she's ready."

    "You're CMO, Bones. The mental health of the crew is your responsibility."

    McCoy nodded, "Trust me, I'll keep an eye on her."

    "Your concern is admirable, Doctor, but thoroughly unwarranted," Spock said.

    "Really, Spock? You being the expert on human nature..."

    "Human history, Doctor. Need I remind you that the force that created this planet also duplicated its inhabitants in painstaking detail. Did it not occur to you that the survivors may themselves be duplicates of real people alive on Earth during the twenty first century?"

    McCoy considered that for a moment, then looked at Spock in amazement, "You mean you found the original Miri?"

    Spock recited the biographical page from memory, having finally received a response to his inquiries from the United Earth historical archives, "Lieutenant Colonel Miranda Anderson, also known as Miriam Hallab, born in Gaza City on January 31st, 2000. Twice detained by security forces in 2010 and 2013 for collaboration with Hamas, later gained Israeli citizenship under the Jabez Federalist reforms in 2018. She joined the Israeli airforce under an assumed name and later claimed more than forty seven confirmed victories against Pakistani aircraft during the Eugenics Wars. She moved to the United States in 2024, entered astronaut training that same year. Three trans-lunar missions on DY-100 class vessels, later assigned to Mission Commander of extrasolar mission USS Calypso in 2041, the first manned expedition to successfully probe beyond the Solar system. Personal information is hard to come by, but statements by her peers and her ex-husband described her as a workaholic, a genius, and was described by an older sibling as, quote, 'Too fucking stubborn to fail at anything.'"

    "I like her already," Kirk chuckled, "Spock's right, Bones. If she is a copy of Miranda Anderson, I'm sure she'll fit in just fine."
     
  13. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    - 1920 hours -
    "I have your vector, Mister Chekov," Lieutenant Uhura was saying as Kirk arrived on the bridge, "Set coordinates for beacon one eight zero four."

    "Beacon one eight zero four, aye. Computing coordinates now..."

    Lieutenant Bailey at the helm took thruster control now, "Coming to assigned coordinates," Through the view-screen window, Kirk saw the stars swirling as the ship turned, the disk of the planet below dropping out of sight below the rim of the saucer. Finally the ship stopped, properly oriented in space with its main deflector pointed in the right direction to send a subspace signal to Starbase 11. As per standing orders, every starship was required to transmit log entries and telemetry data to the nearest sector command base every two to four days, or failing that, to drop a recorder marker on autonomous return trajectory. The thing was, a starship's subspace transceiver only had enough power to transmit over relatively short distances of up to a few light hours or less. Interstellar transmissions required the greater power of the ship's main deflector, acting in this case as a kind of electrogravitic megaphone that could blast the ship's digital voice halfway across the galaxy or, in burst transmissions, even to other galaxies.

    Chekov had now turned the ship to aim the deflector at a Federation relay satellite near the Vulcan Corridor, which would pick up the message, process it for clarity and destination, then route that message through the communications network until it reached the transceiver array at the Epsilon Hydrae colony where the computers would recognize it as Starfleet traffic and route it to the command facility at Starbase 11. Far off in the distance came the low rumble, rising into a mechanical whine as the warp core channeled its full power to the main deflector. Uhura worked her communications console for a few moments, then got the response from the computer and replied, "Transmission complete," at which point the sound from the deflector dish faded out.

    Kirk took his seat only now, not wanting to break the flow of activity in the middle of an operation that had cost the Lieutenant forty minutes of her own leisure time. On a mission of this great political importance, Kirk knew it was unwritten protocol to make these transmissions with greater regularity and thoroughness than usual, and the entire communications section had its hands full pulling the many thousands of terabytes of information together. Naturally, transmitting from this deep in a stellar gravity well, it would take slightly under two hours for Starfleet to receive the transmission, and longer still to transmit a response. "Chekov, what's the ETA on our Cardassian friends?"

    "Long range sensors have their position at approximately four hundred milliparsecs. At their present speed of warp four, they should arrive here within six point five hours."

    Kirk felt satisfied that the wait was nearly over. Enterprise had been loitering in orbit of this planet for nearly two weeks, incessantly probing the surface of a world that stubbornly refused to yield any further secrets to them. Maybe at long last they would get some answers, or at least, they'd have a better understanding of what questions to ask. "What should we expect from that ship, Mister Bailey?"

    "The Grazine is a deep space exploration cruiser, basically the Cardassian's equivalent of the Enterprise. Its equipment is unsophisticated, but extremely versatile. They don't have a lot of experience, but their space service is highly disciplined and well trained."

    "Tactical capabilities?"

    Bailey shrugged, "Their main offensive weapons are nuclear-pumped x-ray lasers. No shields, no deflectors, just missile-based point defense and some sophisticated jamming devices. Also, Cardassian ships are powered by fusion reactors so they have a very limited fuel capacity, especially at high warp."

    Kirk grinned. "Chekov, punch up Constellation's survey report for the rest of this system..."

    "Scans show two gas giants in the Jupiter-Saturn range and one in close orbit of the central star," Chekov reported immediately, having already pulled up that report in anticipation of the request, "the inner planet has a plentiful supply of deuterium and tritium in its upper atmosphere that could be extracted for fuel processing."

    The turbolift doors snapped open and Kirk noted Spock's arrival, palmcomp in one hand, tricorder in the other. He knew without having to ask that the Vulcan had just completed another up-close survey of the reaver specimens they brought aboard the Enterprise from Gaza; he also knew from the Vulcan's body language that this session had been as fruitless as all the others. Even so, "Anything from our guests, Mister Spock?"

    "Both reaver specimens remain uncommunicative and overtly hostile. I might be tempted to offer them my pity if I believed they were capable of understanding the concept."

    Turning back to Uhura Kirk asked, "Any reply from the Gorn, Lieutenant?"

    "None sir, not even a response to stand by."

    "Have they received an answer from their home world yet?"

    "I don't know, but there's been no anomalous subspace traffic so I doubt it."

    "Keptin," Chekov started to boil in his chair again, overly excited as usual whenever anything happened on the Gorn ship, "Picking up another landing craft departing from the alien wessel. Entering low orbit approach, descending towards the planet."

    Kirk chewed his thumbnail for a moment, slightly worried, but mostly curious. "Spock, what do you make of those capsules? The Gorn have dropped quite a few of those in the past few days..."

    "Nothing more substantial than previous analysis, except the peculiar lack of life signs in any of the capsules."

    "Well they have to be landing away teams somehow. Our scanners show life readings on all their landing sites..."

    Spock looked up from his screens, "As we've theorized, Gorn transporter devices are probably less advanced than ours. It seems they still require transport hardware at both ends of the beam."

    "So those capsules contain... what? A transporter pad?"

    "It is already our own practice to carry portable transporter systems on long term away missions to aid high-volume matter transport. The Gorn may rely on the landing capsules as a type of transportation gateway both for manpower and equipment."

    Kirk nodded, "Makes sense... so where's this one headed?"

    Chekov punched in the numbers and displayed a graphic on the main viewer, "Southern England, Keptin."

    Spock raised a brow, "Curious... apart from harvesting of invertebrate life forms, the Gorn's only interest in this planet has been a catalog of its space launch facilities and industrial sectors. There is very little in their destination zone consistent with this pattern."

    "How long until that capsule lands?"

    "At present course, it should make planetfall in one hour and fifteen minutes."

    Kirk almost jumped out of his chair on his way to the turbolift, barking as he went, "Spock, we're beaming down. Uhura, have Doctor McCoy and a security escort meet us in transporter room one..." and then it suddenly occurred to him, "And have Miri join us as well. At the moment she's our resident expert on this planet."
     
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Uh-oh, Kirk’s being impulsive again. Methinks this might bode ill for the crew if the Gorn aren’t in a talkative mood. I’m anxious to see the crew’s interaction with the Cardassians when they arrive, and what their visual telemetry of the planet’s formation reveals.

    As always, great character interplay here as we get acquainted with these ‘new’ versions of our old favorites.
     
  15. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    THE ONLIES

    Short bonus chapter. Enjoy!:biggrin:
    _____________________________________________________



    THE ONLIES
    Doppelgänger Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2359.4.8
    1900 hours
    The guest quarters in Compartment 202 were usually set aside for civilian guests, the sort of passengers and evacuees who needed to be brought aboard as something less than crew but more than cargo. Mainly for this reason, C202 didn't have the large spacious atriums of the other habitat compartments, or even its port-side counterpart, VIP suites in Compartment 214. It was a somewhat more traditional habitation space, essentially a conglomeration of airtight cylinders packed together in an array, joined by common access tunnels through which the Enterprise's familiar corridors joined the different modules and the half-dozen two-person suites crammed into each of them. Three weeks earlier, Miri had helped arrange her fellow refugees--who sill called themselves "the Onlies"--into something of a working order not too different from where they had been when they were still the ad hod crew of her father's fishing boat. That all twenty four of them could fit into just two modules--along a single length of corridor with pressure doors at both ends--was both convenient and fortunate, since most of the children didn't completely trust their saviors after all.

    Actually, neither did Miri. Certainly she had no doubt of their intentions, in fact she was still half convinced that this was a ship of angels sent by God just to deliver them to paradise. What she doubted, and rightly so, was their complete mastery of the situation at hand, and their ability to predict everything that might go wrong with their current mission. It may have been a vibe she'd picked up from the senior officers, or maybe just experience from her own struggle for survival and all the strange things that seemed to go wrong with her world. But even with all their technology and knowledge, the Enterprise's crew was only human, and they no more understood what was happening to her world than she did.

    So Leila and Nabi set up defenses. Quietly, discretely, and always out of sight of the security officers who guarded this length of corridor. Miri used her status as a crewman-in-training to get access to the cargo bay, and from there she'd managed to recover most of their weapons, plus a few other goodies that Lieutenant York's people had found. Using these, Ramsi and Jasmine had managed to rig the doors of all twelve quarters with old clusterbombs and a crude but reliable fuse that could be armed and disarmed with a pull string or a switch, just in case someone decided to enter who didn't believe in knocking. Sami and The Other Jasmine drew up a patrol schedule, so at any given time at least six of the children were stationed in the corridor, two at each junction just beyond the pressure door armed with well-hidden Steyer guns and two at the midpoint with RPKs. Then during Spock's training seminar she learned more about the actual layout of the ship, and with its double-hulled configuration the fact that there was nothing beyond the walls of the corridor but vacuum and forcefields; at that point, Miri revised their defense plans, planning escape routes through the access tubes and providing six of the Onlies--one for each patrol watch--with the access codes for the emergency bulkheads, and then spent the better part of the next week teaching her crew how to use the space suits.

    Since then, the Onlies had learned most of the safety and auxiliary systems of their little slice of the ship, and except for occasional (and predictable) visits from Doctor Ayash, were mostly left to their own devices for the better part of the month. That their little section of the corridor was technically a pair of completely independent modules with their own battery and life support systems (if only for emergency use) was not lost on them, and by now they had come to consider this part of the Enterprise to be already their space ship. And Peter the Rabbit had already sent out feelers and discovered what the most acceptable name for their ship would be. "We should call it Al-Kahf!"

    Miri looked at him surprised and amazed, as if he'd suddenly grown a feathers and a second pair of arms. "The Cave?"

    "Yeah!"

    "You're serious?"

    "Absolutely!" Peter the Rabbit sat down behind the short little desk in the two-bunk cabin he'd shared with The Other Jasmine for most of the month. Miri couldn't remember what she came in here to talk with him about, she'd only found him in here bouncing around, totally excited for some reason when he suddenly announced his good news. "It totally fits what we're going through right now, don't you think?"

    Miri thought about it, and in a vague sense she figured he was right. On the other hand, Peter the Rabbit--whatever his real name was, nobody could remember anymore--was the only one of the Onlies who might actually pass for religious, unlike Miri, who never got much farther than a vague half-remembrance of what Al-Kahf was actually about. "Weren't there only seven sleepers in the cave?"

    "That's not the point. The thing is, they fell asleep in the cave and they didn't wake up for three hundred years. When they finally came out again, there was nobody left to persecute them."

    "Right..."

    "Oh, and then there's the part about the Green One."

    Miri squinted at him.

    "Don't you remember?"

    "Why would I? I haven't seen a Quran in six years."

    Peter the Rabbit rolled his eyes. "He's that crazy ancient prophet that taught Moses, and then Mohammed taught him."

    "Oh, I get it." Miri smiled, "You're thinking we can teach these Starfleet guys a thing or two."

    Peter the Rabbit flashed a bit toothy grin and nodded.

    "You're insane, you know that? These people are three times your age and most of them have been to college. You didn't even finish kindergarten."

    "Yeah, but what do they know about Earth? Nothing, that's what. They've only seen a few parts of it and they haven't seen what we've seen. Plus, we still haven't told them about the dreams."

    Miri stared at him for a moment, grappling with the implications of this. "What difference does that make? They're just dreams."

    "They're premonitions."

    "No they're not. Obviously not since none of the things we dreamed about are ever going to happen. I mean, think about this, we're already on a space ship right now, and this ship looks nothing like the one from the dream. And besides only seven of us in this entire group even have..." it occurred to her now what Peter was getting at. She wasn't sure even he realized what an odd coincidence it was until just this minute, how the fates just seemed to line up to put it all together. "How does that verse go again?"

    Peter the Rabbit actually had the page up on his monitor--and so ended the mystery of his sudden scriptural recall--and read the passage breezily, "You would have seen the sun rise and set, from the right side to the left, while they lay in the open space in the middle of the Cave. You would have thought they were awake, while they were asleep, and We turned them on their right and on their left sides: their dog stretching forth his two fore-legs on the threshold. If you had come up on to them then, you would have turned back and fled, you'd be filled with terror from the sight of them. Such as they were, we roused them from their sleep, that they might question each other. Said one of them, "How long have we been here?" They said, "We have stayed perhaps, a day, or part of a day." But in the end they all decided, "God alone knows how long we've been sleeping in this cave..."

    Miri skimmed a few verses down, reading the part she'd been looking for all along, "And they'd stayed in their cave for three hundred years, some say nine more."

    At this point, Peter the Rabbit looked at Miri with an idea, "Did you know Mister Spock thinks our planet is only sixty years old?"

    "He may be right. Remember all that business a few years ago about the second moon?"

    "My dad said that was a miracle. The moon split in half..."

    "But they were both complete moons. Totally round. How could that just happen like that?"

    "God works in mysterious w--"

    "We're on a space ship, Peter. Be serious."

    Peter the Rabbit groaned, "How should I know? I've just finally figured out how to use this stupid computer."

    "Never mind..." the thought was still bothering her, though. At the risk of trying her friend's already strained patience, she asked, "Pete, what if... you know, the things we remember from way long ago, before the mutations started... what if none of those things actually happened?"

    He looked up at her for a moment, processed the question carefully. Then failing that completely, he asked, "Huh?

    An electronic chirp from Miri's communicator put this tortured conversation out of its misery. She answered it as promptly as she'd been taught to, and immediately heard Lieutenant Uhura's voice ordering, "Crewman Hallab, report to Transporter Room One. Bring your field jacket and hand phaser."

    Miri flinched, "Lieutenant, I haven't been issued a field jacket. Or a phaser."

    "See the Quartermaster on the way there. Compartment 104, Deck Five."

    "I'm on my way. Hallab out." snapping the communicator shut, Miri leaned down and patted Peter the Rabbit on the shoulder.

    "Hey Miri," he said, responding to her touch, "Do you ever get this feeling... like... like there's something really important we were supposed to remember?"

    "All the time." She marched right out of his cabin--pausing, naturally, to disarm the small antipersonnel bomb mounted to the door--and then greeted the guards in the corridor on her way to the turbolift. The Onlies could hold down the fort while she was gone, she'd taught them well and prepared them even better. Some of them, she knew in the back of her mind, were uniquely qualified for the job, trustworthy in ways that went beyond their abilities or even their experiences. Trustworthy in ways that Starfleet was trustworthy.

    "Are they really just dreams?" she wondered as the turbolift quickly deposited her in the corridor near the Enterprise's quartermaster. For the millionth time, she dismissed it as just a fantasy or a half-remembered book from somewhere; fiction, certainly, nothing more. Even if the Americans did have a space ship named Calypso, she was the last person in the world they would ever let near it.
     
  16. Kaziarl

    Kaziarl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR (Kaziarl)
    hmm... intriguing. I wonder what the dreams are about.
     
  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    I'm not sure if I should be troubled or encouraged that the Onlies aren't more trusting of Kirk and the Enterprise? Given what they've been through, I think they're correct in being paranoid, it's what's kept them alive so far.

    Interesting look into the spiritual ramifications of this twin Earth from a child's perspective.
     
  18. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    This condition, then, carries traces of the lives of those they were recreated to imitate.Calypso. Those that had a destiny beyond the War carry bits of their future selves. Cool.
     
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    ARTIFACT

    ARTIFACT
    Doppelgänger, Southern England
    Stardate 2359.3.4
    - 1925 hours -

    Crewman Rand was already waiting for them in the transporter room, already in a field jacket, mid way into adjusting the settings on her phaser and the targeting scope on her monocle. She'd taken Spock's advice and brought her issued side arm this time and was feeling especially pleased with herself, to the extreme chagrin of Crewman Dallas and Security Chief McCahil who both arrived only seconds ahead of the Captain and science officer, still bleary eyed from an impromptu cat nap.

    Miri arrived last, struggling into a field jacket that had been issued to her by the quarter master literally minutes earlier. She looked as comfortable in a Starfleet uniform as she ever did in the dingy rags she'd been wearing when Enterprise found her. She looked excited, yet explosively nervous. So much like a raw cadet on a first assignment. "Crewman," Kirk said, her voice snapping her immediately to attention, "Are you checked out on the EM-102 service phaser?"

    Miri shook her head, slightly nervous. "No, Sir. Just the hand phaser, but I haven't been issued one yet."

    "Now's a good time to learn. So here's the situation," and he addressed this as much to the rest of the landing party as to Miri, "There's a Gorn capsule heading for Southern England, and I want to have a look to see what they're after. I don't want to be there when they arrive, so this is a quick look, in and out. Miri, since you have more experience with this planet than anyone else, you'll come along as our resident expert."

    "I... uh... Sir," Miri shrank a little, "I've never actually been to England."

    "Neither have I." Kirk strode to the equipment locker and snatched out three tricorders and three phasers, handing one of each to Spock and Miri. "This isn't like the SKS," Kirk said, "It's an energy weapon, which means there's no recoil, but it also means there's no lead time. There are lots of different complicated settings and everything. You don't need to worry about those. Right now," he took the weapon in hand and adjusted the settings himself, then locked them with his thumbprint, "It's set for a narrow field autofire. All that means is that that this rifle is programmed to discharge in single short pulses every time you pull the trigger. It's a bit like the semi-automatic rifles you're used to, except there's no bullet drop or lead time. Just point and shoot."

    Miri took this all in and then nodded. Since to her it was basically a death ray, all of these things seemed immediately intuitive. Obviously, this weapon could be programmed to do all kinds of different things to her enemies in all kinds of different ways, but the Captain had intentionally locked it onto its easiest-to-use setting because he didn't want her fiddling with the advanced settings she wasn't trained for. Which, more or less, was exactly what Gideon did when he first taught her how to shoot... "Is there a safety switch?" she asked, suddenly remembering her first lesson from way back then.

    Kirk smiled, "The phaser knows if an authorized user is holding it. It will not fire--ever--unless you pull the trigger."

    "Sounds simple enough."

    Kirk handed her the targeting scope calibrated for that particular rifle and adjusted it properly on her head. He didn't bother fitting a scope for himself or his hand phaser; auto-targeting was accurate enough at close range, and the three security officers could handle anything at a distance, assuming they ran into trouble at all. As for Miri... unlike his security team, she had lived on this planet long enough to know what to look for, and was more likely to respond appropriately to whatever surprises the place might still have in store for them. In a way, though the least experienced person on the entire ship, she was the only one aboard who hard the experience he needed to guarantee the away teams' survival. "I want you on the lookout for reavers," he told her, "The eyepiece aims through the phaser's emitter crystal and has a telescopic range of about two kilometers. It's set for stun, so you don't need to ask permission to fire."

    "Yes, Captain... wait... stun?"

    "Anti-life form setting," Kirk explained, "It's one of things you don't need to tinker with..."

    "Setting-L, right? And L-Three is the strongest non-lethal setting..." and Miri found the appropriate control on the side of the rifle and checked herself to make sure it was indeed set to anti-life form level three: the strongest non-lethal stun setting. "Gideon told me," Miri said, "Never ever fire a weapon you haven't checked yourself."

    Spock admired her diligence, but not her tact. "Phasers are not firearms, crewman, and they operate at such a level of complexity that you should bear in mind that their maintenance and upkeep are no concern of yours."

    "Yes, Sir. I'll try to remember that."

    "Chief," Kirk looked to the transporter technicians, now that his team was basically assembled, "do you have a fix on the Gorn capsule's landing site?"

    "Just got it from Ensign Chekov, Sir. And get this: if they don't make any course corrections, their landing site is within five kilometers of Stonehenge."

    "Really?"

    "Always wanted to go there," Crewman Rand said.

    "No time like the present." Kirk shot her a big obnoxious toothy grin and instructed the technicians, "Set us down... let's say, fifty meters south of the monument. It's a good concealed location, we'll use it as a beamout site."

    "Aye, Sir."

    Doctor McCoy came through the hatch now, wearing a medikit on his shoulder and a scowl on his face. "Jim, what the hell kinda--"

    "The Gorn are headed for England. We're just gonna pop in and take a look before they get there. Who knows? They might know something we don't."

    "Maybe they're just going down to collect centipedes or something?"

    Spock said as he stepped onto the transporter pad, "So far we have yet to land an away team on the British islands. At the very least this will allow for a more thorough report."

    "Doesn't cost us anything to have a look," Rand said, stepping up behind him. Kirk followed next, and the two bleary eyed security officers last of all.

    McCoy took in the enthusiasm of the three, then the apparent lethargy of the other two. His hesitation tripled on the spot. "Dallas, McCahil, you two look half asleep."

    "We're fine, Doctor. Let's just get this over with."

    McCoy sighed and stepped onto the pad with them. Since the transporter only had six pads, he squeezed into a space next to their youngest member and patted her reassuringly on the shoulder, "How you feeling Miri?"

    "Nervous, Sir."

    "Scared?"

    "No, Sir. Just been a long time since I've worked with grups."

    McCoy raised a brow.

    "Grownups, I mean. Adults."

    McCoy growled, "What adults?"

    Once the Doctor was finally situated, Kirk ordered, "Energize," and McCoy clenched his teeth, closed his eyes and waited with shrill terror to be dismantled molecule by molecule and fired across space like a human particle beam. He began to feel the tingle of the phase coils buzzing through his skin, crackling behind his eyes, inverting his ear canals and dropping his scalp into his liver...

    "There it is," Kirk said just in front of him, and McCoy opened his eyes to discover that he had already materialized on the planet's surface before he had ever felt the first of these sensations. "Wait a minute..."

    "Is that it?" Rand asked in complete puzzlement.

    Miri looked in that direction and nodded, "I recognize it from the almanacs. That's it alright."

    Spock snapped open his tricorder and started scanning intensely. He didn't even need to say it, the word "fascinating" was printed on his face like the registry on Enterprise's hull. "That," Spock said, "is not the stonehenge of Earth."

    What it was--as they all saw to their complete disbelief--was an enormous obelisk some ten meters high, mounted on a tall platform like a stage or shrine. Spock's tricorder showed him that it was in the exact latitude and longitude in which the Stonehenge monument should have been, and yet his immediate readings had a spectral pattern that told him the monument was neither manmade, nor was it even made of stone.

    "What do you make of that, Spock?"

    "Unknown, Captain. It corresponds to nothing in the Earth archeological catalog."

    "What about alien artifacts?"

    Spock adjusted the reference mode on the tricorder and tied it directly into Enterprise' library computer. In a few moments, he had his answer, "No known alien architecture on file."

    Miri looked at them puzzled. Her first instinct was to ask whether or not the obelisk had been made by humans... but then she remembered, this entire planet--including her--was actually artificial anyway, which lead to the question, "Could it have been made by my people?"

    Kirk started at the question, "Could it?"

    "Well, it could have been constructed by whoever made my planet, right? On the other hand, if it's older than the rest of the planet, it could be something indigenous to... well... whatever this planet was before it changed."

    "True... and this does seem to be the Gorn's destination," Kirk said, and started walking towards the obelisk. Miri was right. If it wasn't created by the force that duplicated this planet, it could easily be a surviving artifact from whatever this planet was transformed from. That would make it a valuable point of reference to trace the true age of this world; the Gorn wouldn't be interested in it otherwise. "Rand, McCahil, take up positions one hundred meters to the east and west. Dallas, Miri, you're with us."

    Rand and McCahil started on an angle, both in opposite directions wide of the obelisk. Kirk, meanwhile, led the rest of the team to the shadow of the object and spread out to all sides of it while Spock squatted at the base. He unpacked the field science kit with one hand and kept his tricorder trained on it with the other. Kirk, meanwhile, flipped open his communicator and checked the timer: the Gorn capsule would make planetfall in another fifty two minutes.

    Spock made the best of his time. First thing's first, he set his tricorder to an ultrasound mode and set the device to map the entire surface of the monument down to nanometer resolution. The tricorder could do this on its own, so he set it down facing the obelisk and unpacked the rest of his gear.

    "Need a hand, Spock?" McCoy set the medical kit down and squatted next to the science gear. Spock nodded a welcome, and McCoy added two more hands to the process.
     
  20. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    ARTIFACT

    Two minutes later the scan cycle was finished. McCoy collected a core drill from the kit while Spock set the tricorder to a EM-scan mode, modulated pulses of ground and metal-penetrating radar. The scan image from the inside of the object turned back completely blank, as if only the outermost surface of the monument even existed. After an ultrasound sweep turned back the same blank results, Spock reported, "I am unable to scan the interior of the object."

    McCoy started up the core drill and stared down the eyepiece, focussing on a tiny section of the corner of the platform. A narrow force beam snapped out from the end of the drill, sliced into the surface of the material a few nanometers thick and then deposited those samples inside of a sealed plastic slide for examination later. He pulled the slide out of the drill and slipped it into a container in the science kit before starting up the steps to the obelisk itself. Then he looked back at the specimen container and marveled: the thin film of dusty grains on the slide sparkled like a lightning storm in miniature and then vanished. "Whatever it's made of, I can't get a good sample of it. The material just disintegrates into nothing."

    "It isn't material at all," Spock said, squinting at his tricorder screen, "Trace analysis is picking up ozone anomalies and ion distribution. Resonance scan reads it as a type of electrically charged phased-matter, similar to the quantum resonators in Suliban cloaking devices."

    "Suliban technology?" McCoy shook his head in wonder, "That's a long way off."

    "The similarity is noteworthy, but not necessarily meaningful. It also has a superficial similarity to our own defensive force fields, but vastly more coherent."

    "Holograms," Kirk said, noticing a trend in this analysis, "Or something like it."

    "Far more substantial than what we would call a hologram, Captain. But, again, similar in principle." Spock set the tricorder down and unfolded from the science kit a large telescoping device shaped like a crossbow with a tripod section on the base of it. He arranged it with the arms perpendicular to the obelisk and then set the device active. Everyone--even Rand and McCahil in the distance--felt a slight vibration in the ground as the device emitted a series of powerful gravity waves and measured the reaction from the obelisk. Spock picked up the tricorder again and set it to "node" mode, and the instrument results appeared on its screen, "Fascinating!"

    Kirk had known Spock just long enough to be able to tell when his science officer had discovered something valuable. He bounded down from the platform and knelt down next to him, silently awaiting a report.

    "The platform here seems to extend deep below the surface, far beyond the range of our sensor equipment. It seems to extend at least as deep as the mantle, possibly all the way to the planet's core."

    Kirk looked at the platform now totally awestruck. This was just the tip of one mind-numbingly huge ice berg after all. "Mass reading?"

    "Strictly speaking, a phased-matter structure of this type is characterized by a relative lack of mass, although I estimate potential energies equivalent to some two hundred and forty kilograms."

    "Can you get an indication of the overall shape?"

    Spock frowned, "Gravitational sensors are not that precise. However, based on ground-penetrating radar to a depth of two hundred meters, I estimate the platform is the top of an extremely long isosceles pyramid.... judging by the angle, the apex of which is at a depth of some six thousand three hundred and twenty kilometers, give or take twenty kilometers."

    All the way to the core, Kirk realized. He suddenly had a premonition of some alien creature manifesting a steering wheel on the side of the obelisk and piloting this planet through the cosmos like a giant yacht.

    "This obelisk looks different from the platform. Maybe a real substance to this one," McCoy said from his spot at the top of the platform, "the samples don't disintegrate."

    Spock held up his tricorder and scanned it himself, "There is a slight energy reaction... it seems to be metallic, but my scans are not reflecting back."

    "So there's no way of knowing what's inside it?" Kirk asked.

    "The core drill is able to penetrate the surface, Captain, so it may be possible to cut through it."

    Kirk shook his head, "I don't want to resort to that yet. For all we know this could be some kind of... burial ground, or something."

    Spock raised a brow, "A force-barrier tomb powered by geothermal energy?"

    "Geothermal?"

    "I can think of little other reason for the extreme depth of the object, Captain. It is probably drawing energy directly from the action of the planet's core, using either a dilithium matrix or some type of thermocouple. That may also be sustaining its existence, as a forcefield of this coherence and complexity would obviously require a tremendous power source."

    Crewman Dallas said, "I didn't know you could use dilithium in a geothermal generator..."

    "Dilithium crystals are well valued for their energy conversion properties," Spock cut him off, "in particular, its capacity to regulate the conversion of antiparticles in high-energy conditions. The high temperature and magnetic potentials of the deep mantle may suffice for that."

    "You think there could be a warp reactor somewhere inside this thing?" McCoy asked, suddenly very unhappy to find himself still standing on it.

    "Perhaps, Doctor. Assuming it does extend as far as the planet's core, this device may be capable of force outputs in the thousands of isotons."

    McCoy carefully stepped down from the platform and placed the core drill back in the science kit.

    Spock, meanwhile, unpacked a large flat device wit a single-leg stand facing the obelisk and set it to ran scans. A hair thin line of green light swept the structure from base to tip, several times in a row, slowly at first and then a series of rapid sweeps. Spock read the data off his tricorder, then frowned in disappointment, "Microscopic DNA scans show no anomalies, indigenous life only."

    "Meaning there's no trace of the aliens who put this thing here."

    Spock nodded.

    "You know, we might be able to get a good look at the root of this ting, maybe see how dee it g--" Kirk's words were drowned out by the singular chirp of a phaser rifle a few meters away. He dropped to the deck and looked to see Miri drawing a bead on something close to the horizon, something into which she was now discharged a second, much longer phaser blast in a kind of sweeping motion, almost as if she was using the beam to search for something. Which was somewhat worrisome, now that Kirk thought about it, since phaser rifles only fired in their semi-automatic "beam" mode when they did not have a clearly-defined target. "Reavers?" he asked, coming back to his feet.

    "No... I'm not sure..."

    "What did it look like?"

    "I don't know. I'm not even sure it was really there. It was just a shadow..."

    Spock held up his tricorder and started to scan.

    Kirk walked over to her side, where the Crewman-in-training was still drawing a bead on something with her phaser rifle. "Miri, I know you're nervous but..."

    "It's not a Reaver," she said, closing one eye to turn her attention to the targeting monocle. The rifle's targeting sensor was her only view of the world now, whatever it was she was looking at, "but whatever it is, it's moving."

    "What's it look like?"

    She squinted through the eyepiece, but shook her head. "It's like a glimmer or... I don't know... maybe just a mirage?"

    Kirk looked over his shoulder at Spock. The Vulcan was scowling at the tricorder readings. "Whatever it is, it does not fully register on my tricorder. But it is there. Moving away from us at a rate of zero point seven meters per second, approximately eight hundred meters away."

    Now the Captain looked at her in surprise, "How did you even see it at this distance?"

    "I was looking for Reavers, Sir, scanning the horizon. I saw... something in the brush, and I fired at it."

    "Indeterminate life form readings. And an anomaly in the ultra-violet range..." Spock put away his tricorder and brooded, "It appears we are being watched, Captain."

    Any further speculation was brought to an abrupt end by an explosion overhead, a single monstrous thunderclap of a sonic boom as something passed through the atmosphere at a fantastic rate of speed. Kirk saw the source of it almost before he had time to ponder the implications, falling out of the sky like a fireball from the heavens, so bright it almost outshined the sun. "What in the world...?"

    "The Gorn capsule, Captain. Nearly half an hour ahead of schedule," Spock already had his tricorder out again and aimed directly at it, shielding his eyes with his free hand, "Fascinating... it appears to be using some type of force field as an aeroshell, vastly increasing its drag coefficient. It will descend to this vicinity within fifteen minutes."

    "Pack it up, Spock," Kirk said as he whipped out his communicator, "Rand, McCahil, get over here on the double! We're beaming out!"

    "Yes Sir!"

    "Aye Sir!"


    Spock and McCoy collapsed and re-stowed the science equipment in the kit, not quite as neatly as regulation but enough to close the box and take it with them at least. That accomplished, Kirk waited a handful of seconds for Rand and McCahil to catch up, then keyed up Enterprise's frequency and called to the ship. "Kirk to Enterprise, standby for transport."

    His response--somehow unsurprisingly--was a hiss of static through which Uhura's voice barely penetrated, "Standby, away team. That capsule's reentry is putting out alot of radiation, we're having to reposition to get a lock."

    "I was afraid of that..." actually, this was the very reason Kirk had wanted to use Stonehenge as a beamout site, hoping that the natural cover of the monument would conceal them if the reentry plume disrupted the ship's line of sight. The non-existence of the henge had caught him so off guard that he'd almost forgotten about the need for cover. "Tall grass nearby," he said, gesturing to the field around them, "we'll move out two hundred meters and lay low. Miri, you keep an eye on that whatever-it-is out there. Move out!" Kirk lead by example, of course, sprinting off due east in the opposite direction of the whatever-it-was that Miri had fired at. The rest of the team followed in his heels, not quite in a sprint but fast enough to keep the Captain in sight so they would at least know when to stop and gather around him.