Star Trek - Genesis

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

  1. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    All I can say is, wow ....

    I just found your little epic here and I am VERY impressed. I'm nowhere near caught up yet, but I'm really enjoying the journey you're taking us on. You're weaving a very interesting and compelling story, and I love the detail you're adding.

    And I have to say, while I was not a big fan of "the movie", the first thing I said to friends when we walked out was, now that they got all the characters on the Enterprise, I was very hopeful about what they can do with a good story in the next movie. You're proving the potential the new franchise has.

    And now, time to dive back into the story. :cool:
     
  2. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: ARTIFACT

    Deeper mysteries. What's out there? Who's playing with holograms?
     
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Another fascinating discovery on the surface and another host of mysteries accompany it. It’ll be interesting to see how the Gorn interpret it’s presence.
     
  4. SiddFinch1

    SiddFinch1 Captain Captain

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    Nicely done so far. Very interesting take. Is this a preserver artifact they have found??:vulcan:
     
  5. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    Whew! What a ride. I'm really enjoying this, as well. I probably can't add anything of substance to what has already been said. But, I would like to compliment you for the way in which you're weaving into your story so many familiar threads from the "Prime Universe", and doing so in such an interesting and unique way. :bolian:

    Looking forward to seeing where you take us next.
     
  6. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    SPEARS

    SPEARS
    Doppelgänger, Southern England
    Stardate 2359.3.4
    - 1950 hours -
    The sound of engine noise boiled to a groan as the capsule descended, rising to a howl just before touchdown, then fading to a distant hum once the craft finally planted its landing struts in the grass some fifty meters away from the obelisk. It didn't sound like an old-Earth combustion engine, but it wasn't quite an impulse engine either. It was a noisy, oscillating sound, something that reminded Kirk of the pulse-detonation engines on WW-III cruise missiles. It was an almost human-like design: a flattened teardrop shape that, now that it was safely situated on the ground, open like a clamshell on one entire side that exposed the glowing innards of what was clearly some kind of high-capacity transport chamber.

    Kirk stopped in his tracks and turned here, squatted in the tall grass where he could still see with his own eyes. It wasn't quite two hundred meters, but if the Gorn were here for this obelisk--and they certainly appeared to be--it was more than far enough.

    The transporter chamber came ablaze with sparkling orange light, and then several moving figures materialized there, hauling equipment packs and sensor devices as they scattered around the site. Scale was had to judge at this distance but he knew from Sulu's report that the Runner stood just shy of five feet tall even accounting for his long flexible neck. These Gorn weren't much larger: biped reptiles about the size of human pre-teens. They all seemed to be wearing some type of uniform, except for the first two off the craft, who seemed to be armed and wearing body armor. They all walked with an almost simeon posture, their legs never quite straight, yet they moved with a kind of artful grace and casualness, the way a diver might move through water.

    It suddenly occurred to Kirk that all of these were indicators for the kind of environment the Gorn were used to. Their posture and movements were dead giveaways for a high-gravity world with a thick heavy atmosphere. Which suggested, to his anxiety, that despite their small stature the average Gorn was probably much faster and stronger than the average human.

    Spock kept his attention glued to the tricorder, while Rand and McCahil squinted through their monocles. "Phasers safe," Kirk reminded them, fearing an itchy trigger finger might accidentally turn surveillance into a shooting match. Both of them obeyed, as did Miri, though her attention seemed to be less on the Gorn and more on the mysterious 'something' that had caught her attention earlier.

    His communicator beeped again and Kirk answered it quietly, "Kirk here."

    "We're in position, Captain. Standby for beamout..."

    "Hold on that for a moment, and keep this channel open. Energize on my signal."

    "Aye Captain... but sir, changing our position means we've dropped into a much lower orbit. The transport window closes in four minutes and won't reopen again for another forty five."

    "Understood, Enterprise. We'll keep you posted."

    Spock touched Kirk's shoulder, radiating concern out of every pore.

    "They took the time to observe our mission," Kirk said, "It's only fair we take the time to observe theirs. Besides, I don't want to risk being outdone by our invisible friends out there." For the time being, he kept an open communications line to the Enterprise, ready to give the order to beam out at a moment's notice. If he waited too long, the transporters would have to extract the away team under fire and the six of them would be trapped in a combat beamout situation. If he beamed out too early... well, that ran the relatively small risk of not seeing exactly what the Gorn were up to. It almost wasn't worth the risk when he thought about it, but then, curiosity was a heinous virtue of starship captains...

    For nearly half an hour, the Gorn moved around the monument, unpacking equipment from antigrav cases in a manner not unlike Spock and McCoy earlier. Spock could identify Gorn versions of a few basic devices--gravity sensors, ultrasound probes, life form scanners and a few others--along with a few whose purpose he couldn't begin to guess. Several attached some elaborate-looking devices to the surface of the platform which--once activated--were flung away from it as if propelled by explosives.

    "Electron resonance probes," Spock said, carefully scanning the failed devices as the startled Gorn scrambled to retrieve them, "They're attempting to determine the shape of the object by inducing an electric current on its skin. Intriguing methodology. Futile, though, in light of the composition of the platform."

    Actually, they seemed to have better luck attaching similar devices to the obelisk on top of the platform. Kirk briefly wondered if this method would be more effective than Spock's failed attempt to scan inside it. Even if it was, he doubted there was anything useful inside the monument that would give them clues as to the origins of this planet; the monument was much too conspicuous for that.

    After what seemed like a long, tense delay, one of the Gorn approached the obelisk with a stubby cylindrical object in hand, looked along its surface for a moment, then found a corner section of it and pressed the cylinder against it. Kirk saw the violet snap of a force beam and realized this was some kind of core drill, pulling samples out of the surface layer and encasing them in a slide or capsule for later analysis. So far, the Gorn were exactly replicating Starfleet's examination procedures except for their seemingly greater preparedness...

    Then the tip of the obelisk flickered and a lance of orange flame snapped out from the tip, right down over the head of the Gorn with the core drill. The beam swept through the long axis of the hapless creature and carved a six-inch section out of him, neatly splitting him in two from head to groin. The bisected Gorn collapsed into a heap, then the beam swept out a circle around the perimeter of the platform as the remainder of the Gorn team scrambled for cover.

    In doing so, they confirmed Kirk's suspicions: the little reptiles were blindingly fast.

    The beam stopped as quickly as it started. Spock looked up from his tricorder now with an almost gleeful expression. "Fascinating! Tricorder indicates a power output in the thousands of megawatts..."

    "I'm more interested in the trigger, Mister Spock. Am I crazy or did that thing just react to the core drill?"

    Spock nodded slowly, "It is fortuitous that Doctor McCoy took it upon himself to take that sample. This device appears to be programmed to defend itself against any non-human aggression."

    "Probably to avoid accidentally blowing up inquisitive locals..."

    "Indeed."

    "Meaning we can take samples," Kirk decided, "But the Gorn can't."

    Spock nodded again. "That would seem to be the logical assumption, Captain."

    Kirk came to a decision all at once. He slipped off his phaser and his tricorder and quickly recovered the core drill from Spock's field kit before the science officer even realized what he was up to. McCoy reached over with a cautionary gesture, but much too late; the Captain was already to his feet and marching through the overgrown grass towards the landing site, where a dozen Gorn were still cowering behind the hull of their capsule or any other rock big enough to conceal them. They didn't need to be told, but Rand, Dallas and McCahil all trained their phasers on the Gorn camp, not so much to prevent a hostile action as to be able to respond in the event that the Gorn found the Captain's actions as incomprehensible as his own away team.

    With most of their attention on the obelisk, the Gorn didn't notice him until he was almost forty meters away. They found his arrival almost as perplexing as the force beam that had torn through their numbers a minute ago, but much easier to deal with since--at the very least--a humanoid life form wasn't completely outside the realm of their experience. Kirk approached with both arms in the air, core drill in hand, so the Gorn could see he wasn't approaching in a fighting posture or with any overtly aggressive intentions. Even so, three of them partially emerged from concealment, each brandishing a short javelin-shaped object at its shoulder. Kirk hesitated for a moment, wondering about the alien weapons; surely a space-faring civilization had something more tactically threatening than hand-thrown spears?

    When they didn't cut him down where he stood, Kirk picked up his pace and walked directly to the obelisk. This both put the Gorn at ease--at least on his account--and frightened them back into hiding as they became convinced that another force beam attack was about to vaporize their human counterpart. Before they could get more nervous, Kirk walked to the same spot where McCoy had taken an earlier sample, set the drill against a corner of the platform and let its tiny sampling beam scrape a few microns off the surface of the structure. Then he stepped up to the obelisk and did the same, collected both samples into separate slides, and very carefully set the slides and the drill down on the top of the platform and walked away from it.

    When the obelisk failed to slice him in half, the Gorn emerged from concealment again, watched and waited. When another minute passed with no activity, one of the spear-carriers carefully approached Kirk while his companion bounded up the steps to collect the drill and the sample slides. Seeing--and perhaps for the first time, realizing--what they were, he looked back to the capsule where his companions were still cowering and fired off a long and complicated series of musical whistles that Kirk's translator--eventually--rendered as "The transmitter is programmed to permit human examination only."

    Kirk picked up on this and asked, "Transmitter?"

    The closer one with the spear in its hand, though no longer raising the spear as if to impale him with it, sang out a long composition that translated to, "This object here, we've identified it as some kind of long range communication device. It has seen to resonate at three specific subspace frequencies."

    "My science officer thinks this device might be powered by geothermal energy. Maybe using a dilithium lattice for thermal conversion."

    "Geothermal power transformation... but the device would have to extend many thousands of kilometers down."

    Kirk nodded, "According to our readings, it does."

    "Fascinating!"

    Kirk smiled. "This device seems to have a defensive program in place. It may misinterpret your analysis as a hostile act."

    The Gorn nodded, apparently come to the same conclusion on its own.

    "You may have guessed by now that this object wasn't created by the inhabitants of this planet."

    "We have suspected this. The transmitter is not consistent with indigenous technology. We do not know where this came from."

    "Let's work together on this one," Kirk went on, seizing what seemed to be a brief rapport with his Gorn counterpart, "You know I've made this offer to your ship before, and now I'm making it in person. If we combine our resources, we can help each other to solve the mystery of this planet."

    "That is a wonderful idea..." the Gorn stared at him for a moment, "Who are you?"

    "I'm James T. Kirk, Captain of the Federation starship Enterprise."

    "I am Seventh and First Cycle the Spearbender. I am chief inspector of the Gorn starship Francium."

    "It's in our mutual best interest that we cooperate on this mission. We're stronger together than apart."

    "Oh, I fully agree with you, James T. Kirk. But the decision is not mine to make."

    "Whose decision is it?"

    "The orbit commander at this time is Second and Twentyfirst Cycle the Dancer. He tends to make decisions that are not in anyone's best interest."

    "Is there someone else up there we can talk to? Someone more open to a cultural exchange?"

    "Our navigation commander, Eighth and Fifteenth Cycle the Boneless. She is far more reasonable, and is more flexible in her interpretation of our instructions."

    "Instructions?"

    The Spearbender lowered his head and tilted it horizontal, what Sulu had determined was their equivalent of a nod, "From our harbor. We have been instructed to avoid contact with your species and to collect information about this planet and its technology. The harbor was not more specific than that. Eighth and Fifteenth is open to cooperation if it is necessary, but for some reason Second and Twentyfirst interprets these instructions as an order to prevent you from getting that same information. It is a source of some controversy among my colleagues."

    "What about your Captain?"

    "My what?"

    "Um... who has highest authority on your ship?"

    Spearbender stared for a moment and pondered the question. Then he came to a realization and said, "Each watch is a team, each watch has authority. We do not dispute between watches."

    "You have no single commander who oversees the entire mission?"

    "Yes. Our ship performs multiple missions. Orbit mission is commanded by Second and Twentyfirst. Navigation between planets and stars is for Eighth and Fifteenth."
     
  7. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Kirk thought about this for a moment, then nodded, "You're saying you have different commanders for each mission phase."

    "Yes..." The Gorn seemed unsure about his end of the translation, but it seemed close enough to his own understanding. "Yes, different commanders."

    "That may be a problem."

    "It may be a problem. Yes. Cooperation is unlikely while we are in orbit of this planet. And while we are on the subject," the Gorn craned its head almost one hundred and eighty degrees, back towards the reentry capsule where another Gorn was in a low crouch position, having a very animated conversation with its ankle bracelet in that rumbling/musical language of theirs, "My team leader," the Spearbender gestured to this one, "must now make a report to the Francium. If I know Second and Twentyfirst, the new instructions regarding your people will not be pleasant."

    "Perhaps if you let me explain to your commander..."

    The transporter chamber began to hum. "Go. You do not have much time."

    "But..."

    "Go!"

    Sighing, Kirk turned and started jogging back towards the landing party, reaching for his communicator as he did. Behind him, the Gorn likewise jogged over to his team leader, already in conversation with their command ship above. There came from the two of them a brief but frantic exchange of vocalizations, almost certainly a heated argument. A few seconds of gesticulating and elevated voices culminated into a sweeping gesture by the leader, followed in short order by a change in posture from almost the entire Gorn away team. The transport chamber glowed furiously, and then the size of the Gorn team doubled as the new arrivals took their positions. All of them--even the one Kirk knew as "the Spearbender"--hoisted their weapons up to shoulder height and prepared to launch them. Kirk doubled his pace and broke into a run.

    It all happened at once, too quickly for him to register and too abruptly for him to anticipate let alone understand it. There was an ear-splitting crackling sound overhead, then the snap/whistle of a phaser beam, followed immediately by a compression wave and a blast of heat slamming him to the ground as something exploded in the air above and behind him. On some level he knew a fight had broken out, Gorn reluctance and Starfleet altruism notwithstanding, and he scrambled back to his feet and kept up running to the away team's positions. What he couldn't figure out, even as he finally reached Rand and McCahil's positions, was what could have possibly exploded in the middle of an open field on an increasingly dead artificial planet.

    The three security officers were firing off in bursts when Kirk slid into the grass in front of them. Spock was glued to his tricorder screen while McCoy was bitterly growling obscenities under his breath. Only at this point he noticed the phaser pulses were the fiery orange of a high material-disruptor setting instead of the blue-violet pulses of the life form setting. "Keep your phasers on stun," Kirk said, "they're not heavily armed, and they're reluctant to fight with us..."

    "The latter may be true, Captain," Spock said tersely, "But they are quite heavily armed..." as he spoke, Kirk heard another crackling sound in the air and this time looked up to find its source. Something like a rocket or a missile was rising into the sky overhead, then arcing down towards them on a ballistic trajectory like an old-style ICBM. Two more rose into the sky behind it, then a third, and tracing it back to its source Kirk saw to his private amazement that each of these missiles were actually being thrown into the air by the Gorn themselves.

    Spears indeed; he chided himself for not seeing the obvious. With their high physical strength, each of these Gorn was a walking missile launcher. "Enterprise, away team! Require combat beamout immediately!"

    "Standby, away team. We're coming around in our orbit again. Transport window opens in two minutes, twenty seconds."

    Crewman Dallas fired his phaser into the air and the beam swept through the sky in auto-fire. Three of the missiles exploded on their descent, but two more continued on until Rand and McCahil added their own fire. Kirk figured that their targeting monocles were probably better suited to this kind of work, so he retrieved his own phaser, set it for stun, set the targeting sensor to automatic and aimed it downrange. Without a monocle, the phaser locked its target on whatever target was closest to centerline; when Kirk squeezed the trigger, that target was the Gorn team leader still babbling something into his ankle communicator. When the blue flame of the phaser pulse struck the Gorn, the hapless creature stiffened and then collapsed like a tree falling in the woods.

    "The guidance systems on those missiles are quite sophisticated, Captain," Spock said admiringly, "They are keyed to home in on a specific alien life form reading, each missile coordinating with its neighbors to avoid duplicate attacks. They also appear to use some type of swarm intelligence, no two missiles use the same flight profile."

    "You mean they're getting better at attacking us."

    "I mean," Spock looked up from his tricorder, "that either the next salvo or the one after it will be able to avoid our phasers."

    "That's not good."

    "I shall endeavor to reduce their effectiveness, Captain," Spock started adjusting the controls on his tricorder now, toggling through scan modes into the tactical operations menu that--both of them knew--would allow the tricorder to operate as an ECM device. Theoretically this would only be sufficient for jamming sensor devices in a similar power class, namely other tricorders or portable surveillance devices, but the small size of the missiles probably made them equally susceptible to the same kind of jamming.

    Several short phaser blasts snapped off, one after another, each aimed at a different Gorn, each scoring a direct hit in the thickest parts of their skulls. They didn't seem to be coming from Kirk's position, but once he traced the sound of the phaser fire back to the source he was able to make out the shape of Crewman Hallab, lying prone on a small outcropping of rocks almost fifty meters away, methodically plinking at the Gorn landing party as if she were shooting at tin cans on a fence. Scoring headshots, she managed to stun a dozen of them in under twenty seconds, and at this time the remainder of their ground team disappeared behind the relative safety of their reentry capsule. "Miri's pretty handy with that rifle..."

    "She's had training," Rand said, "How do you thinks he got to those rocks so fast?"

    After another moment, Spock said, "Jamming mode is active. That should disrupt their guidance sensors, but not for long."

    Not a moment too soon either, as several Gorn re-emerged from behind their capsule and began throwing missiles into the air, one after another, only to dive back into concealment before Miri could pick them off. They were practically tossing them like darts now, holding a fistful in one hand and launching with the opposite for a kind of steel rain effect. Rand and McCahil fired a sweeping burst, striking several missiles at once, but a second shot from Dallas had no effect; the missiles that had been his target suddenly began zig-zagging in the air like flies dodging the clumsy swat of a hand. Only the tricorder's jamming signal saved them now, as the remainder of the missile salvo--almost ten weapons total--flew far back over the heads of the away team and exploded in the dirt behind them. Another trio of Gorn soldiers came into the open and started heaving their hand-thrown missiles; Miri picked off two of them in short order, until she realized that their missiles now aimed at her, and rolled off the outcropping and disappeared back into the tall grass as the missiles came pounding down on that spot just where she'd been laying moments earlier.

    Kirk reached for his communicator as he fired again. This time the phaser couldn't get a solid lock on a target and the beam swept past without hitting anything, but it was enough to keep their grenadiers ducking for cover instead of throwing more missiles at them. "Enterprise, away team! I strongly suggest you beam us aboard now!"

    "Away team, Enterprise. We're coming into position now, so... aw hell... standby, Captain, things are getting interesting up here."

    "Define interesting."

    "The Gorn vessel has changed orbits, coming over the horizon on a high-angle trajectory. At their present heading, they'll be in firing range in about five minutes."

    Kirk was afraid of that. Apparently the Gorn orbit-operations commander--who by Spearbender's account had blanket authority over anything that happened while still in orbit--was a bit too impetuous for his own good. Probably he'd decided it was simpler to dispose of the alien presence in orbit with them than continue to worry about potential complications. "Beam up Spock and McCoy immediately! If you have time left, get McCahil and Dallas on the next transport!"

    "Copy that, Captain... we have a lock! Transport in six...!"

    Spock's tricorder whistled a warning and the Vulcan looked at the screen in alarm, "They've locked onto my tricorder!"

    "...five... four..."

    "Covering fire!" Kirk shouted to the security team as he snatched the tricorder from Spock's hand. A second later he could hear and feel the stingy crackle of a confinement beam isolating Spock from the surrounding environment. A swirling maelstrom of orange light was already building up around him as the transporter deconstructed him into a phased-matter stream.

    "... three... two..."

    Kirk wound up and threw the tricorder as hard as he could, high up into the air and back towards the Gorn as the three security officers opened up with their phasers. This time their missiles completely avoided the phaser blasts, and the entirety of the spread zeroed in on the tricorder as it tumbled through the air.

    "... one..." the transporter beam fizzled out of existence, and Spock was gone. So was McCoy a few meters away, and thus both of them were absent from this planet the moment a spread of missiles all detonated within two feet of Spock's flying tricorder in series of concussions so intense that Kirk's eardrums almost started to bleed.
     
  8. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That was exciting. I like your description of the Gorn hierarchy-very clever. More please.
     
  9. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    CLOSE ENCOUNTER

    CLOSE ENCOUNTER
    Doppelgänger, Southern England
    Stardate 2259.3.4
    - 2021 hours -

    Combat beaming was a risky proposition even under ideal conditions. The objective was to ensure the transporters had enough time to extract everyone without interference from a weapon or a jamming device but without giving the enemy enough time to adjust their tactics. This was best accomplished by the application of intense covering fire and "Shoot and scoot" maneuvers; one group would cover while a second transported, then a third group would cover while a second transported, and so on and so forth until the last remaining group had to be transported themselves. Not only did this put the last group at risk--who then had to find a place to hide for several seconds until they could be transported up--but this type of beamout operation necessarily left the ship vulnerable to attack, which was a substantial risk even in the absence of an orbiting starship.

    After all, any civilization advanced enough to threaten a Starfleet away team was usually advanced enough to threaten their ship as well.

    The Gorn's sensor devices had detected the transporter beams, but they hadn't stopped throwing missiles. Rand and McCahil rigged up two more tricorders to jam the Gorn missiles, then the five of them took off in a sprint as the very next missile barrage homed in on the source of the ECM signals. Once they were far enough, Kirk gathered them into a tight V-formation around him and then set his own tricorder on ECM mode. His men knew what to do before he told them, but he told them anyway for the sake of clarity, "Split up by twos and then by ones. I'll be the last one out. Miri, Dallas, you're up first. Retreat sixty meters and standby for beamout."

    "Yes, Captain..." Miri came to her feet and began a crouched jog, but made it all of four steps before Chief McCahil practically slide-tackled her, grabbed her by the bicep and shoved her back towards the Captain. "You stay here. Dallas and I are going first."

    "But the Captain sa--"

    "Go! Now!"

    She knew better than to argue with her superior. She doubled back to the Captain's position and crouched down in the void left by McCahil.

    The sixty meter spread was close enough that Kirk with Rand and McCahil--or rather, Rand and Miri--could still cover them but far enough that the Gorn would still have to get through the cover team to threaten them. "You and me, George," Kirk said to the security chief, "They'll be focussing on my tricorder primarily. Set your sensor for long range firing, try to pick them off before they can--" only out of the corner of his eye he noticed McCahil wasn't McCahil and recognized the wiry frame of one Crewman Miriam Hallab in his place. "Miri? What happened?"

    "The Chief told me to come back!"

    Kirk sighed. He didn't have the time or the wherewithal to wonder what McCahil was thinking, he just accepted it and acted on the circumstances. "You two, set your phasers for wide-field sweep. Let's see those missiles try to dodge that!"

    "That'll drain the power cells," Rand warned him, "We'll only get a few shots."

    "If this works, we'll only need a few. Have a little faith, Janice."

    "Aye, Sir..." Rand toggled the settings on her phaser and the weapon snapped the other, high-capacity barrel into place. Miri did the same, though not as quickly, since it took her a moment to remember exactly where the beam settings were on this high tech weapon two centuries out of her world. As all three of them knew, however, a wide-field phaser sweep would discharge in a cone-shaped spray pattern instead of a single concentrated beam; this would limit the range of the phaser beam, but within their effective range they were all but unstoppable.

    Several more missiles raced high into the air, this time already zigzagging to avoid defensive phaser fire. They were flying higher and farther than they should have been if they were coming after him, and Kirk realized with a sinking feeling that the missiles had decided to treat the jamming signal as a decoy and track, instead, the largest moving heat source. That meant that Dallas and McCahil had perhaps a handful of seconds left to live unless they were taken away from this planet right now. "Enterprise, lock on McCahil and Dallas! Transport immediately!" turning over his shoulder, Kirk saw the two of them were still running to their mark. They weren't at sixty meters yet, and wouldn't make it in time. "George! Calvin! Don't move!"

    McCahil and Dallas froze in their tracks and turned to face the Gorn. Both crouched down low and closed their eyes as the transporter beam gripped them tight.

    "Transport in six... five..."

    The missiles reached the apex of their flight and started to descend. Miri and Rand aimed their weapons and fired, and the emitter crystals split the beams into a dozen separate discharges all with slightly different angles until the air was full of dancing incandescence. Several of the missiles disintegrated in the air, a few detonated prematurely as their proximity sensors malfunctioned. At least four of them continued undaunted, and towards the capsule more were on the way.

    "... four... three..."

    Kirk saw it out of the corner of his eye, and even that view gripped his heart like a vice. McCahil's eyes were open, his head looking up at the sky; in the last seconds before the transporter beam would have begun to de-materialize him, the specter of approaching missiles triggered something primal inside his psyche and he succumbed, finally, to animal panic. Dallas vanished into the transporter beam as expected, but McCahil turned on his heels and broke into a run, bursting free of the confinement beam. All twelve missiles seemed to change their course at once, and all twelve swooped into the ground beneath McCahil's feet and around his tracks in a series of explosions that dismantled him at least as throughly as the transporter would have. And high above them, another wave of missiles was already descending towards them, maybe a thousand feet up and coming down fast.

    Kirk aimed his phaser and fired again. The wide spread of phaser beams rippled out of the emitter, then fizzled down to nothing; a beeping noise from his phaser told him his power cell had been depleted, and the same went for Rand's phaser not far away. Miri's rifle fired one last spray, clearing the rest of the inbound rocket barrage...

    But as the rifle died, more rockets rose into the air to join them from the area around the capsule. Checkmate scenario: no defense, no chance of escape, no reinforcements can make it in time.

    "We need a miracle," Miri bowed down on her knees and began to pray. Or perhaps just sob uncontrollably, Kirk couldn't tell.

    "Captain..." Rand threw her phaser on the ground and grabbed onto his arm, more like a scared child now than a security officer.

    Kirk turned his attention with his own tricorder, desperately fiddling with the settings looking for some hidden function that might--by some miracle--come in handy now. "Just need something... anything...."

    "Captain Kirk, I... um... I need to tell you something..."

    "C'mon, Jim think of something..." the Gorn rockets looked like ICBMs falling towards him now. For a moment he almost considered picking up his phaser and throwing it at them, that would be at least as effective as running away. His perhaps last remote hope was that he would feel the tingle of a transporter beam begin to deconstruct him in the final moments before those missiles could smash him into a pile of meat. "Hell with this..."

    Rand pulled his arm harder and shouted into the air, "I love you, James!"

    Kirk looked at Rand in puzzlement, not sure what he heard, not even sure that he'd heard anything at all, "Wha--"

    The sky above them opened up into a concussive fireworks display as some fifteen missiles all exploded at once. A long series of bright blue phaser pulses was passing through the middle of them, enough energy behind each to set off their proximity sensors and detonate them prematurely. Each pulse was immense, easily the width of a man's torso, and each individual pulse came blazing over the horizon from the southwest, directly through the center of mass of each individual Gorn. That kind of power and accuracy could only have been from a starship's phasers. "Way to go, Spock!"

    "Enterprise to away team, standby for transport."

    Kirk snapped open his communicator and answered, "We're ready, Enterprise. Beam us up." He closed his communicator and turned to Rand with a smile, "You can let go of my arm now, Janice. We're not going to die."

    Rand dropped the Captain's arm, not even realizing she was still holding it. "Thank you, Sir."

    The phaser pulses continued, blasting individual Gorn into the air and knocking them across the field one after another as the balance of them cowered in fear. After a very brief pause, the color of the pulses changed from blue-violet to an almost lime-green, and several shots slammed against the Gorn capsule, doing no obvious damage but triggering arcs and streamers of electrical energy as the pulses disabled the craft's electrical systems. That would be the anti-electrics mode--a stun setting for starships--something possible only for the newest generation of Starfleet phasers.

    "Thank you, God!" Miri gasped, fully moved to tears by the very miracle she'd been praying for, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you..."

    "Transport in six... five..."

    "What was that you said, again?" Kirk asked, looking at Rand out of the corner of his eye.

    "What do you mean?"

    "You said something a minute ago."

    She glanced at him for a moment, showing slight confusion but nothing more. "No I didn't."

    "Yes you did."

    "... three... two..."

    Rand squinted at him as the transporter beam began to sparkle and swirl around them, "Must have been your imagination, Captain..."

    The ship was already on Red Alert when Captain Kirk and his two wards materialized in the transporter room. That was to be expected, considering the circumstances. What he did not expect was the sudden lurch against the hull and the sound of power generators straining somewhere as the deflector screens struggled to repel some kind of attacking energy. The inertial dampeners quickly cancelled out the vibration, and the Captain leapt from the transport pad to the hatch, already sprinting on his way to the nearest turbolift.

    He got as far as the transporter room door when the room suddenly filled with screams. He made out the voices of Crewmen Rand and Dallas, plus the transporter chief whose name he could never remember. But there was a third scream in the room, an almost animal-like howl of greater power and intensity than any human could aspire to, and it was coming from the transport chamber.

    For whatever Miri had been on the surface of Doppelgänger, the thing that beamed back to the Enterprise was far from human. Standing seven feet tall, a black charred apparition with compound eyes and a pair of spiny mandibles for hands, roaring madly with a mouth large enough to swallow a man whole. It wasn't moving, it wasn't lunging, it wasn't even cowering as a frightened animal might. It was simply standing there, looking at its own clawed hands, screaming.

    Whatever she had become, she was still Miriam Hallab. Kirk didn't understand how or why, but with a battle unfolding around him he had exactly zero time to investigate. Once out of the transporter room, Kirk punched an intercom panel and paged throughout the ship, "Doctor McCoy to transporter room one! Medical emergency!" and without waiting for a reply, dove into the nearest turbolift for the bridge.
     
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    CLOSE ENCOUNTER

    "Evasive action, Mister Sulu, all phasers continuous fire," said Commander Spock, six seconds later as the Captain emerged through the turbolift on the starboard side of the bridge. The ship lurched again as something struck the deflector screens, but Kirk kept his footing just long enough to drop into his command chair as Spock moved towards the science station. "The Gorn vessel has moved into attack position, Captain," Spock reported along the way, "Shields are holding, but main deflectors are beginning to overheat."

    "Tactical plot, Mister Chekov," Kirk ordered. And at a push of the navigator's fingers, a tactical display appeared on the starboard HUD, showing Enterprise's position in near orbit of Doppelgänger amidst a constellation of small, fast moving objects that any other day might be mistaken for torpedoes. Through the main viewer, Kirk could almost see some of them maneuvering out there, propelled by some kind of thruster jets as they dodged outgoing phaser blasts very much like the hand-thrown missiles on the surface. But these were clearly something other than mere missiles, as every few seconds once of them belched an elongated fireball into space that streaked towards Enterprise and exploded against the deflector screens. "Analysis, Spock."

    "Autonomous attack vehicles, Captain. They are armed with some type of plasma-energy weapon, comparable yield of approximately five isotons. They have surrounded us at a range of two to six hundred kilometers, attacking from all sides."

    "Arm photon torpedoes! Target the alien vessel and prepare to fire a full spread!"

    Chekov released safeties from his console, which in turn kicked the order to the tactical officers at the ops station to the left and in front of him. The port HUD transformed itself into the Fire Control graphic, showing load status of the torpedoes and a sensor scope image of the Gorn vessel framed in the targeting scanners. Within a heartbeat the Ensign answered, "Torpedoes armed and ready! Targeting Gorn wessel... guidance lock, Keptin!"

    "Fire torpedoes!"

    In the forward viewport, the crimson flashes of short phaser pulses were still criss-crossing in space, defensive patterns meant to drive back the ferocity of the Gorn attacks. At this moment, a series of bright flashes danced over the saucer section as a a salvo photon torpedoes passed into view and then vanished into the distance. Eight torpedoes in four seconds, one full discharge of the main launcher's autoloader, and it took only slightly more time than that to reload for a second volley.

    If the Enterprise was a shoebox, the distance from the Gorn ship would be nearly a thousand feet; the spread of eight photon torpedoes covered that distance in about twelve seconds, homing directly on the energy signature from the Gorn ship's maneuvering engines. Though naturally too far away to be seen with the naked eye, a magnified image now filled Enterprise's viewscreen showing the distant vessel maneuvering in space as a second wave of its drone units launched from slots along the hull, forming a defensive formation all around it. The gaps between them began to sparkle and then become translucent, and in the instant before the torpedoes impacted, the Gorn vessel disappeared behind a kind of geodesic dome of what looked like luminescent smoked glass.

    It was obviously some kind of force field, and a powerful one at that. But even against eight photon torpedoes, the Gorn's force barrier might as well have been a sheet of cardboard in a hailstorm: the first six exploded in a maelstrom of collapsing energy fields and spalling radiation, while the last two smashed forcefully through the barriers only to bounce anti-climatically off the Gorn's armored hull.

    Briefly, the Gorn attack drones fell back out of range, and Enterprise' phaser crews switched into the electronics mode and unleashed a concentrated barrage at their mother ship. A handful blazing-green phaser pulses his connected, even with two solid hits near the engineering section, but Enterprise' fleeting advantage only lasted until the Gorn ship suddenly deployed a new screen of weapon devices. Once these were in place, the large fin-like structure on the underside of its drive section sparkled briefly and then flashed into a thick beam of green light, focussed directly on the bow of the Enterprise.

    It felt as if the entire ship had collided with a brick wall. Kirk just barely managed to avoid being launched out of his chair like a rodeo cowboy, and even then only with the help of the ship's inertial dampeners cutting the impact force in half. The viewscreen was filled with blue-green light as a titanic collision of energies played out between Enterprise's deflector screens and the new Gorn weapon, like a maniac with a flamethrower trying to burn down a igloo. For a moment the larger ship seemed to be holding its own, but as the Gorn weapon ceased fire a fresh wave of autonomous attack vehicles surrounded the Enterprise again, pounding from all sides with blasts of ultra-high energy plasma.

    A small alarm sounded from the left side of the bridge, drawing the Captain's attention to one of the HUD displays that now showed a "Shield Status" graphic. It was a simple double-bar graph above a set of four T-shaped icons, each representing one of Enterprise's force field generators. The number two icon was flashing red, and the twin bar lines that represented it--one for load and the other for output--were oscillating violently, as if someone were working over the sensors with a jackhammer. Kirk knew this pattern, of course, even before Sulu reported, "Damage to number two shield! Phaser room, concentrate all, fire starboard aft!"

    "Engineering to bridge!" Scotty's voice thundered in the intercom, "Main deflectors just red-lined! Estimate thirty seconds to primary system failure!"

    Thirty seconds, Kirk thought. Plus the half minute or more it had taken to get to the bridge and the few seconds it took for them to trade punches with their primary weapons. For some reason, Kirk remembered Lieutenant Cartwright, another non-believer in No Win situations, his tactical operations instructor on their sophomore training cruise on the Farragut. Cartwright once told him that the outcome of any engagement was decided in the first sixty seconds of fighting; anything after that was merely an effort by the defeated party to delay the inevitable. The real trick, Cartwright said, was knowing when to get the hell out of dodge before those sixty seconds were up, to break out of an engagement before the outcome was permanently decided.

    In this case, Kirk still had a few seconds left. And looking at the situation, he decided to settle for a draw. His deflectors still had a few seconds of life to them, therefore--by definition--so did his warp engines. "Set photon torpedoes for transverse pattern!"

    "Torpedoes armed, Sir," Chekov reported.

    "Fire a full spread! Sulu, bring us to absolute heading three oh one mark zero, warp one!"

    "Turning, Captain. Warp power coming up... twelve seconds to space warp..." Another salvo of torpedoes slipped out from under the saucer, a line of receding fireballs racing into the distance even as they began to arrange themselves into a carefully programmed attack pattern. Beyond the rim of the saucer and the Gorn drones, Kirk saw the horizon of the planet below shifting and turning as Sulu maneuvered the ship, vectoring the impulse exhaust to throw the ship through space like a stunt fighter. After a few moments the ship stabilized its attitude and Sulu keyed up the ship's intercom, "All sections, standby for warp in six... five... four.. three.. two..."

    The ship took one more powerful salvo from the drones before the stars themselves exploded all around them. The ingenious conspiracy of field coils and plasma dynamos that were the Warp Drive Engines began to assault the very fabric of space-time, tearing and twisting like an old piece of cloth until the entire starship was shaken loose from the cosmic bedrock. Enterprise leapt forth--freed from the tyranny of Newton and even of Einstein--in an orgasm of speed and power that registered on the Gorn monitors only as a massive gravitational disturbance and a rainbow-splash of radiation marking the passage of a starship traveling faster than light.

    It would take a handful of seconds to surge out of Doppelgänger's orbit, less time than that to clear the Gorn's firing range. Once the drive engaged, Kirk silently counted to four, and then ordered, "All stop"

    "All stop, Aye Sir," Sulu cut output from the warp engines, and almost at once their velocity dropped to nothing. Just as quickly as it had burst free, Enterprise came crashing back to the universe of mass and inertia, another floating object hurtling lazily and unpowered through space. Their new position was much higher in orbit than their original point, and it took a few moments of thrust from the impulse engines to give the Enterprise enough "real world" momentum to maintain a circular orbit without ultimately plummeting to the world below. "New position on viewer, Sir," Sulu reported, "We are one point four million kilometers from the Gorn vessel."

    "Photon torpedoes have impacted, Captain," Spock reported from his sensor scope, "No major damage to the alien ship, although I am detecting widespread energy fluctuations consistent with deflector shield overload. Curious..." Spock looked up and slid his chair over to the library computer interface, "Their shield configuration is highly unusual. It seems to be generated by the Gorn's drone weapons."

    Kirk nodded, "Compute a course for orbit of the planet's outermost moon. The Gorn won't follow us that far."

    Spock looked up from his science console, "How did you come to that conclusion, Captain?"
    "Their science officer said something about their command structure being divided into different mission commands. He tried to warn me that their orbit operations commander is a bit trigger happy, and that if we wanted to get anywhere we should talk to their navigation commander."

    "I don't understand..."

    Kirk turned his chair and rested his elbows on his knees, "In the old days of space exploration, NASA used to have what they called the Ring of Command. You'd have seven astronauts, each with their own speciality. One would command the launch phase, one would command the ship during planet crossings, one would be responsible for the landing, another would lead the expedition on the ground, another would be responsible for the launch and docking, and so on. At each phase of the mission they completely rearranged their entire command structure, so that each person was an expert in one particular field and merely proficient in all the others. It's kind of like we do today with different ship departments, you know?"

    "And you believe the Gorn follow a similar Ring-structure for command authority?"

    Kirk shrugged, "It may not be, but it's something like it. It was explained to me that they don't have an ultimate commander for the ship, it depends on what the ship's doing at any given time."

    "Your theory seems correct, Keptin," Chekov volunteered, "alien wessel is not pursing us."

    "Did we damage their engines or are they just hanging back?"

    Spock looked at his sensor scope for a moment, "Our torpedo attack seems to have overwhelmed their defense systems. Their drone weapons are maneuvering erratically... the Gorn seem to be having difficulty recovering them."

    "New orbit confirmed, Captain. ETA, six hours eighteen minutes to orbit of the outer moon," Sulu reported as a navigational graphic on the left side HUD showed their new orbit and a spiral course that turned into a ring five hundred kilometers over the surface.

    "They won't follow us," Kirk repeated, "Navigation between planets would require a shift change. If their orbital commander wants a fight, he has to wait for me to come back into his jurisdiction. Besides, I think we've demonstrated that we're a pretty even match when it comes to combat."

    "In the mean time," Spock said grimly, "We are effectively prevented from any further action on this planet until the Gorn leave the area."

    "For the time being, yes. But we haven't run out of options yet." To this end, Kirk turned around and faced the communications station with a self-satisfied smirk, "Uhura, secure from red alert, assemble a damage report from all sections."

    "Aye, Captain... and what about the Grazine, Sir? Should I tell them to abort the rendezvous?"

    "Negative. As soon as they drop out of warp, arrange for new rendezvous coordinates in orbit of the--"

    "Sickbay to bridge! Urgent!"

    Kirk had almost forgotten about Miri. Remembering now filled him with a sense of dread even greater than the prospect of battle with the Gorn. Punching the intercom to sickbay, Kirk said, "Bones. How's the girl?"

    "Sedated, Jim. She's in a state of shock. Understandable considering what's happening to her."

    Kirk looked at the intercom as if someone had painted a clown face on it. "Yeah... what the hell is happening to her? Transporter malfunction?"

    "I uh... Jim, honestly, I think you'd better get down here. Bring Spock too. You're gonna want to see this in person."
     
  11. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    RAPID AGING

    RAPID AGING
    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.4
    - 2055 hours -
    "That's her?" McCoy asked of the withered figure in the tattered midshipman uniform on the biobed. He'd been merely curious when he walked into sickbay and saw a mysterious woman in her mid seventies lying there in the infirmary section, and that curiosity had grown into near panic when he recognized the scrape patterns from Miri's uniform. "Really?"

    McCoy nodded. "We did another genetic screening a minute ago. The DNA is a perfect match to Miri's pattern. Besides, she looks exactly like Miranda Anderson in her interviews in the 2070s"

    "But the thing that materialized on the transporter..."

    "She didn't stay that way for long. When we tried to take her to sickbay she..." McCoy shook his head in disbelief, "I don't know how to explain this, but we were carrying her--what she'd become--on a stretcher, and suddenly there was a flash of light and she as gone. There was this thing on the gurney the size of a baseball, this malformed lump of flesh... if I didn't know better, I'd say it was a fetus."

    "A fetus..." Spock pondered this for a moment, but didn't comment further.

    Kirk looked at the withered figure again, vaguely resembling the Miri he knew, but aged into a woman maybe a century old. "She transformed into these things?"

    "She did it right in front of us. It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen." And just in case there was any doubt, Bones walked to a computer console next to the biobed and replayed the security video from sickbay during the Gorn attack. The malformed lump of flesh that had been Miriam Hallab had already collected itself into something of a distorted toddler form, the kinematics of a premature baby with the size and girth of a three year old. At the first touch of the hypo, the poor child steadied and then seemed to inflate itself, rapidly into that of the elderly woman on the biobed now.

    "I'll be..."

    "Fascinating," Spock folded his arms, "Do you have any theory on how to account for this phenomenon?"

    "I have a few, none of them good. I figure it has something to do with that weird duplicate planet she came from. And on Doctor Marcus' theory that the planet was recreated using some kind of nanotechnology, I did an electron microgram of a blood sample just before you two came in."

    Kirk asked, "What did you find?"

    Bones shrugged, "There's something weird in her blood plasma. A chemical trace, something complicated like I've never seen before. My tricorder picked up a trace of it when I examined her a month ago, reads like an explosive compound but it could also be something with some flimsy electron bonds... whatever it is, her blood and muscle tissues are saturated with it."

    "Could it have been caused by the transporter beam?" Kirk asked, "We know our sensors can have an effect on the planet's variable aging cycle."

    "If that's what triggered it, she would have gone through this the first time we beamed her up. It's got to be something else."

    "The Gorn weapons perhaps? Or emotional stress?"

    Spock stirred suddenly as something occurred to him, "Our shields were raised almost the moment the last of the landing party beamed aboard. The subspace distortion from our deflectors may be partly to blame..."

    There was a crackling/scratching sound from behind them, and all three turned just in time to see the wrinkled old woman change forms again, like a timelapse of a person aging, but in reverse. In a handful of heartbeats she again became Crewman Miriam Hallab, exactly as she had been when she beamed down; the newly restored youth sat up on the biobed and looked around perplexed, then looked at her hands and the tatters of her uniform and--finding them all relatively normal--asked plaintively, "Bones... where the hell am I?"

    Kirk stepped forward from the group and put his hand on her shoulder, "How much do you remember?"

    Miri took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly, "That's a bigger question than you realize, Captain. I guess it depends on how much of it was real."

    "What if all of it was real?"

    "Then I remember all of it, Sir. But it couldn't all be real."

    "Why not?"

    "Because I remember..." she hesitated at this point, not wanting to give away something that might either incriminate her or convince her newfound crew of her loss of sanity, "I remember things that couldn't possibly... couldn't logically have really happened."

    Kirk looked at McCoy helplessly.

    "Miri," the Doctor said tenderly, "you underwent some kind of transformation. We don't know how or why, but we think it might have something to do with the use of our deflector shields. Do you remember any feelings or sensations that went with the transformations?"

    Miri shook her head. "When we were beaming up, I remember feeling that we were finally going home. Then I looked at myself and my body was all..." she shuddered, "It was strange. It looked like I'd been burnt in a fire, but I felt cold."

    "Cold?"

    "Terrible, terrible cold. So cold it was painful."

    "Then what?"

    "I remember... I remembering being small, not being able to move, then..." she decided to skip some of the details. Seventy five years worth of details, to be exact, and summarized it all as, "There was a jumble of crap that makes no sense at all, and then I think I passed out."

    "You seemed to undergo an entire human lifecycle in the span of a few minutes," Spock pointed out, "Beginning from the moment of conception through a adulthood to old age."

    "Lifelike pantomime," Kirk said, "This is... worrisome."

    "Tell me about it," Miri hung her head, "You don't know why this happened to me?"

    McCoy sighed, "We've never seen anything even remotely like this. I don't have the first clue as to the cause."

    "What would you need in order to find out?"

    "It'd have to take some tissue samples, run a few tests. It'll take some time. Meanwhile," McCoy looked at Miri, "Take a few days medical leave. After that, if you feel fit to return to duty..."

    "Bones, I know how this is going to sound, but right now the last thing I need is to be sitting around, left to my own devices, with plenty of chances to scare the hell out of myself. I want to go back on duty as soon as possible."

    "I understand that. But until I know for sure your condition is stable, I'm ordering you to take the day off from your normal duties. If you must occupy yourself, I suggest you study up on your midshipman's service manual for next month's exams."

    Reluctantly, Miri nodded in agreement. "You know where to find me..."

    "Right down the hall to the left of the armed guards and the cluster bombs." McCoy winked at her.

    Slightly embarrassed, but feigning ignorance, Miri left sickbay and found her way to the turbolift at the end of the corridor.

    "McCahil wanted those kids disarmed," McCoy said when she was safely out of earshot, "He was worried they might try some ill-advised takeover of the compartment..."

    "I have spoken with the one called Peter the Rabbit," Spock said, "He denied any knowledge of the subject, of course, but he insisted--hypothetically--that any visitor to the Enterprise would take such prudent measures as long as the reavers were aboard. I also agreed to his... er... hypothetical scenario."

    Kirk grinned, "I've been hearing about that kid. Some kind of junior philosopher of the group..."

    "Despite his unusual moniker, the boy is blessed with a very studious intellect. Though I have not been able to locate his original, I suspect he may have been well regarded in his adult years."

    "Speaking of the reavers," McCoy said, "When Miri went through that trans--"

    "Lemme step you for a minute..." Kirk raised his hand in a "halt" gesture, "those two reavers are still on board, right? What do you want to do with them?"

    McCoy folded his arms, "If it was up to me, I'd send them back where they came from. But Ramsi's against it, and I almost agree. With the rapid aging effect on that planet, it's basically a death sentence. Then again, they're not much better off with us. Alive, yes, but not much else."

    Spock nodded in agreement, "Despite our efforts to stimulate what may remain of their sapient background, the two reaver specimens and their three caveman counterparts have demonstrated no higher cognitive function beyond expression of basic instinct. Their main activities are sleeping, consuming food and copulating, and they are capable of little else.

    "Sounds like paradise if you ask me," Kirk said.

    "Are you finished being an idiot, Jim? This could be serious."

    "Sorry, Bones. Go ahead."

    McCoy sighed, and continued his earlier interrupted thought, "When Miri went through that transformation, I got a good look at the tissues and body structures involved. It wasn't just the mutilated flesh of a transporter accident. It transformed her into a completely kind of organism. She changed into a fetus pretty quick, but the transformation did leave a bit of residue on the gurney from the original form. I had Chapel put the scraps under a microscope, just in case."

    "What did she find?"

    "This." McCoy tapped an icon on one of the monitor screens and a micrograph report came up on the screen. "The exobiology lab thinks it's some kind of acidophile tissue from complex, multi-cellular life form. High proton mobility, probably all-around kinetic-acid stability. Also alot of crystalized carbon in the cell membranes."

    Kirk looked at Spock, wondering--and hoping--that his science officer knew what McCoy was talking about.

    Spock did, but not to the point of its relevance. "This would suggest an organism adapted to extremely acidic conditions."

    "And extremely high temperatures at that," McCoy added, "Or so the exolab thinks. Lieutenant Collins says it's the sort of thing that would be comfortable on Venus."

    Kirk flinched, "All this in the last, what, half an hour? When did you have time to send tissue samples to the exolab?"

    McCoy frowned, "I didn't. These are from tissue samples I took from one of the reavers after I tried to remove some of its malignant muscle tissue. They started developing these weird chemical burns in post-op, so I took some tissue samples and sent them to the exobiology lab. They found these foreign tissues, growing right out of the healthy tissues under the malignancy. I had Chapel run a base analysis on the samples from the gurney and the computer, and a few minutes ago they found a file match to these."

    "So if you were to strip the Reavers of all their cancerous tissues..."

    "...they would heal as whatever organism this," McCoy pointed at the monitor, "belongs to."

    Spock nodded slowly, finally comprehending. "Then the form that beamed back to the Enterprise was a form indigenous to this planet."

    "It's Miri's true form.... or, well... the form of whatever Miri was before the planet was transformed," McCoy said. "Remember that little pet theory of mine? The creators of this planet probably used the original inhabitants as source material. That basic pattern must still be in there somewhere."

    "Interesting as that is," Kirk asked, "How exactly does that help us?"

    Spock stood a little taller, as if inflated from within by a sudden explosion of ideas. "Obviously, the humanoid form of these creatures is being sustained artificially. There may be an identifiable mechanism at work here."

    "How do you propose we go about identifying a mechanism hundreds of years beyond our technology?"

    Spock only half registered the question. He was already on his way out of sickbay when he composed an answer, almost as an afterthought, "When I have, Doctor, you shall be the first to know."
     
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    - 2104 hours -
    Samir and Michael stirred at the sound of the turbolift. Not that they expected an alien invader would travel through the ship by turbolift, but there was always a need to seem innocent and--most importantly--unarmed whenever Starfleet officers came through this part of the ship. Though unscheduled visits were rare, ship's business came in many shapes and sizes, and reports of a bunch of squirrelly kids wandering around with sub machinepistols would create complications that the Onlies did not need.

    Both boys briefly pretended to have absolutely nothing to do, Michael leaning nonchalantly against the corridor wall and Samir suddenly paying very close attention to the screen of an iPod that hadn't worked in years. The turbolift stopped at the deck below, and then footfalls sounded from the ladder well down the corridor as someone began to climb. When Miri emerged into the corridor, they relaxed a little, but kept up their charade of nonchalance until she was close enough to talk in just-above-a-whisper, "Where's everyone?"

    "Talking to Peter," Samir said, without looking up from the screen. He didn't need to look up, over the years he'd sharpened his peripheral vision into an almost radar-like precision, "Everyone's all jumpy. What's going on out there? What happened to your uniform?"

    "Come on, I'll tell you all about it."

    "Shouldn't we stay here on guard? What if the monsters get loose?"

    "Just come on. You'll want to hear this. All of you."

    As it stood, everyone else was gathered in the corridor begging Peter the Rabbit for answers anyway. He was by no means the wisest or most experienced of the group, but he had the most confidence of them all and a knack for pulling up wild guesses that just happened to be correct, and this made him valuable in a crisis of impotence. Miri remembered from a year ago that Peter the Rabbit had managed to whip the entire crew back into working order after a storm had killed the diesel on their fishing boat; while Miri got together an ad hoc engineering crew to make repairs, Peter single handedly sequestered the crew in the wardroom and bombarded the lot of them with such artful rhetoric that would have made Malcolm X look like Alan Colmes.

    Presently he was in the middle of a long speech about how their indomitable spirit had carried them through far greater trials than this when Miri entered the passage and stole the stage by default. Peter the Rabbit seamlessly transitioned from speaker to audience as all eyes turned to her.

    The first words she spoke were the most pertinent, even if they weren't most relevant to what the Onlies were worried about. "Guys, the dreams aren't dreams. They're real."

    Everyone looked at her confused for a moment. Forest-Forest-Gump was the first to ask, "What dreams?"

    "The dreams that Jasmine and Leila and Nabi and... and..."

    "Samir and Louis and Khan and Horace," Miri finished as Peter stepped back into obscurity, "We all had the same dreams. We all thought they were premonitions. But they're not premonitions. They're memories."

    "Memories?" Samir asked.

    "Memories of the people we were meant to be. I think whatever created our planet wanted to be able to rewind and fast forward to different points in history. It gave us all the memories we would need along that continuum, but we couldn't use those memories until the right time. Like the second moon. None of us remember there ever being two moons on Earth, right? The time when we first noticed it, I'm sure that's as far back as our real memories go. Everything before that is just copied data."

    A stir went through the assembled group. Not panic or disturbance, just a bit of incredulity and anxious acceptance of what half of them had already begun to suspect.

    Peter the Rabbit was the first to ask, "So what are we? Walking VCRs?"

    "Maybe..." but that didn't seem right to Miri. Whoever had bothered to get this information also found a need to give it expression in living thinking talking bodies. More to the point, it had stopped the playback at a specific moment and allowed part of those stored memories to be overwritten with new ones. Obviously, the old memories were still intact somehow... "I don't think it matters though. We were allowed to come aboard this ship with these people, so I think that for whatever purpose we were made, we've fulfilled that purpose and now we can do as we wish."

    "Or maybe we're just not needed right now?" asked The Other Jasmine, "You know, I'm not religious like Pete, but I was just thinking, what if this is all part of God's plan?"

    From somewhere deep within a memory that Miri had recently had the horrifying pleasure of experiencing, she asked, "Define God."

    "Um... the creator of the world... and everything..."

    "Same difference. Whatever created our world--let's call it God, for simplicity--whatever it is, it had a purpose for us. It must have been a very specific purpose because we all have a lifetime of memories stored inside of us somewhere..."

    "How do you know this all of a sudden?" Asked Leila, neatly interrupting her brother who was about to ask the same question, "What's happened out there anyway?"

    Miri summarized: "They needed me for a mission on the planet. We all beamed down to stonehenge in England. Except it wasn't stonehenge... it wasn't the stonehenge of the Other Earth. It was some kind of alien machine that extends all the way to the center of the Earth. The Gorn--the other aliens--landed there too, and we ended up in a gunfight."

    "Whoa!"

    "You got shot at by aliens?"

    "Did you kill anyway?"

    "What'd they look like?"

    "Did they have acid for blood?!"

    "Did they have two heads?"

    "Was it scary?"

    "Shut up!" Miri stomped her foot, and the corridor became silent again, "Mister Spock beamed us back aboard right when their starship attacked us. The Captain fought them off, but we've had to change orbits now so we're much farther from Earth than before. The weirdest thing is, when the transporter brought me aboard... well first it turned me into an alien, and then I turned into a baby and aged into an old lady all in a few minutes. And all the time I had all my memories of my whole entire life. It was exactly like my brain was being fast-forwarded."

    "But you're okay now?" asked The Other Jasmine, "You look pretty normal."

    "I'm fine. Better than fine... well... sort of fine. I feel like I just woke up from one hell of a crazy dream, and for some reason there's alot of new things that I know about..."

    "What about the monsters?" Nabi asked, "The battle didn't... like... loosen their cage or anything, did it?"

    "No, they're all safely locked away. I heard them talking before I left, they're doing some experiments on the monsters to see if they can turn them back into normal people."

    Peter the Rabbit nodded sagely, "That would be a nice change of pace. Maybe we could save some of the people who--"

    "You know something? Mister Spock thinks the monsters only change when they're close to Earth. I think he's wrong. I think if Bones transforms those monsters back into people, he's just asking for trouble. There's too much weird stuff going on here that Starfleet doesn't understand."

    "Like what?"

    "Their transporter device transformed me into all sorts of different things. They don't even know why."

    "God alone knows why," said Peter the Rabbit, "But do you want to know my theory?"

    His theories were getting more interesting every day. Miri shrugged, "Go ahead."

    "I think it was a message."

    "A message?"

    Peter the Rabbit nodded.

    "From who? From God?"

    "Maybe... but I think, a message from the planet."

    Miri put her hands on her hips and stared at him angrily. This was not one of Peter the Rabbit's better theories. "The planet sent us a message?"

    "Yeah."

    "Really?"

    "It's a pretty smart planet."

    Miri sighed, "If you say so..."

    "I found a movie in the Enterprise's computer. An old American movie. About these guys at the bottom of the sea, they find a space ship with a big golden ball in the middle of it. One of the scientist guys thinks the ball is alive, because it has a reflective surface, but it doesn't reflect everything. Like their suits and their lights, for example. This is how they figured out that the golden ball was actually a living thing."

    "What does that have to do with anything?"

    "Well think about it. We came from a planet that's, like, basically a mirror image of another planet. It had everything on it that the old one have, but the one thing it didn't have was humpback whales."

    Miri remembered the summary report Mister Spock had given her to review, mainly on the assumption that she might want to add something form her own unique perspective. She had added quite a few notes and confirmations and cleared up a few confusions of details, but for her, the report had raised more questions than it answered. "Mister Spock thinks that whoever created this planet created it just to harvest those whales for some purpose."

    "That could be, but I doubt it."

    "How would you know? Spock's a genius."

    "But he doesn't know this planet. And he doesn't know us. And besides, he's one of those smart guys who makes big stupid assumptions without realizing the obvious. Like the religious teachers we used to have. He just assumes that somebody out there must have created this planet, just like the religious teachers always assumed that God created the Earth. Well you know and I know that this planet probably created itself."

    "We know that?"

    "I know that."

    "How do you know that?"

    "I just do."

    Miri rolled her eyes.

    "But we just recently found out that this planet was created in the image of another planet. Which means..."

    Leila smiled brightly, finally catching on, "Wait... the planet created itself... but it created itself in an intelligent way... I get it! That means it's a smart planet!"

    "Exactly."

    "Smart planet..." Miri thought about this, and in a way it was beginning to make more and more sense. Certainly the one question Spock's report had raised for her was the matter of how an alien intelligence could have gathered that much information about Earth and its people without being noticed. Quite probably, it didn't have to: it simply looked across the cosmos and reflected what it saw there, duplicated it without really knowing what it was duplicating. Smart planet indeed, but with the question in mind, "Why wouldn't it copy those whales?"

    "Maybe it just doesn't like whales?"

    Miri thought about this for a long moment. But since they were on the subject of old American science fiction anyway, another idea occurred to her from a half-remembered (but oh-so-cherished) novel she once read in that shattered library in Haifa, years before all the books had decomposed, "Maybe it does like whales? Maybe it likes them so much that it decided to use them for some special purpose?"

    "Like what?"

    "Like... a hunting dog."

    "A hunting dog?"

    "Well this smart-planet transformed us into something else, whatever it is we used to be. Maybe it transformed the whales too?"

    "Transformed them into what though?"

    "I don't know. But considering some of the things I remembered when I was getting old earlier, I've got a really good feeling that we're about to find out."
     
  13. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    This is one of the most creative, original stories I've read in ages. Your imagination roams freely, coming up with ideas most of us wouldn't even think of. I think that's why I'm enjoying your story so much. I never know what to expect-except a good time.
     
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    I agree with the sentiments above.

    The combat sequences planet-side and in orbit were dramatic and well paced. The crew's ongoing investigation into the mystery of the planet's creation is simply riveting.

    Very well done. :techman:
     
  15. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    THE GENESIS FILE
    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.5
    - 0650 hours -
    Captain Kirk got the planetologists' reports as part of his daily briefing, typically two hundred thousand words worth of memos, protests, reports, announcements, mission logs of the department heads, and journal-style abstracts from every department of the ship, even the engineering section, each of which had the unnerving tendency to make otherwise terribly boring subjects seem both urgent and interesting.

    As Captain, it was Kirk's job to sign off on the daily digest and commit it to archives for transmission to Starfleet with their next upload. It wasn't necessary to read over every last detail of the reports; the department heads would handle that, and summarize any outstanding issues in the report summary. It wasn't even necessary for the Captain to read through every summary; that was the First Officer's job, being ultimately responsible for the allocation of ship's resources. Kirk reserved the option to read all four hundred pages of the daily digest if he so chose, but he was only responsible for reviewing the executive summary prepared by the First Officer as to any issues or line items that might factor into a command decision. And over the past six months Kirk had discovered Spock was amazingly efficient in this capacity, and seemed to have a natural capacity to assimilate and organize encyclopedic amounts of information. It was rare, in fact even unheard of, for Spock to miss something the Captain might have any reason at all to know about, and it was even more rare for him to draw the Captain's attention to something beneath the scope of his attentions.

    So it wasn't really a mystery why today's executive summary highlighted an official protest from the Enterprise' planetology department over the allocation of their resources for the course of this mission. The protest was strongly worded and extremely detailed, evidently the third such incident the department had logged in as many weeks. But it was also unusually verbose, and considerably more detailed than was usually called for, which probably meant that Lieutenant O'Grady had filed the protest in extreme frustration and anger.

    Enterprise's single planetology lab was a large circular room built into one of the research modules in Compartment 105, five decks below and immediately aft of the bridge. Normally, the room was dedicated to the rapid and detailed analysis of alien worlds using combinations of probe readings and orbital scans to construct a perfect digital model of that planet and its manny natural features. The model itself dominated the center of the room as a six foot translucent sphere lined with forcefield diodes, host to a realtime dimensional image so detailed that one could pick out individual skyscrapers with a large enough magnifying glass. On his arrival, Captain Kirk saw the model of Doppelgänger flickering erratically as minute details were fed into the holographic matrix to alter its overall shape. The computer model wasn't just a recording tool, it was also a predictive tool that helped that planetologist refine the fidelity of their model against the real thing; every few hours, the sensors would take another detailed sweep of the planet in question and then compare those scans with the model, recording any differences and leaving the scientists to modify the equations and functions in their model until those differences vanished.

    The source of their frustration was already evident. The fact that Doppelgänger was in a kind of chronological flux introduced so many random factors that the model was probably unacceptably randomized even under the best of circumstances; this alone would be tolerable to a team of dedicated Starfleet explorers who loved a challenge anyway, were it not for the presence of Doctor Carol Marcus and three other civilians who were, at this very moment, feeding variables into the simulation computer using an old Hesperian palmcomp with an old-fashioned fold out keyboard. A large crowd of blue-uniformed paleontologists had congealed around a monitor station on the far side from the door, most of them muttering angrily to each other in quiet but furious protests. The arrival of the Captain changed their mood from one of resentment to one of hope, since there was little other reason he could have been here now except that Lieutenant O'Grady must have made good on his threat.

    Doctor Marcus didn't even notice his arrival, though her two companions--Bates and McGreggor, if he remembered the names correctly--regarded his arrival with shrill terror and astonishment, like a couple of commuters watching a bengal tiger climb into their train. Kirk didn't mince words with any of them, his purpose here was much too specific. He simply cleared his throat, reached past Doctor Marcus and plucked the wire from the palmcomp out of the simulation computer.

    Marcus whirled on him as if she was about to throw a punch. She very nearly did, even after she recognized exactly whose hand had unplugged her handset. "Why would you do that? What the hell's wrong with you?!"

    "The Enterprise planetology lab," Kirk said slowly, "is designated for Starfleet use only. Civilian use is not permitted without proper authorization."

    Marcus rolled her eyes and plugged the computer back into the terminal, "Don't quote regulations, Captain. This mission is too important to hide behind legalisms and archaic rules of con--"

    "This mission," Kirk unplugged it again, and this time snatched the computer from her hand, "is under Starfleet authority. As long as you are aboard my ship, you will abide by those legalisms and archaic rules of conduct. Is that understood?"

    "Captain, look, I'm sorry I annoyed one of your precious science officers," she shot a glance at O'Grady, who--along with the rest of her staff--was watching the scene with an increasingly satisfied grin, "I'll try to be more accommodating in the future. But this simulator is the only computer on the ship that could handle the test parameters we're working on. With a conventional unit, even a supercomputer, it might have taken us years just to develop a suitable engine--"

    "If you do not get proper authorization for the use of Enterprise's resources," Kirk cut her off, "Not only will you never again have access to this computer, but I'll see to it you never get access to any computer, ever again, anywhere in the Federation."

    "Jesus Christ..."

    "It's pronounced 'Kirk'. And this is the one and only warning you get, Doctor."

    Marcus shifted her weight angrily. As was her custom, she immediately assumed that Kirk's objection to her activities was in ignorance; like so many others, he must have misunderstood what she was doing here and couldn't grasp how important it really was.

    Much as it demeaned her to do so, she would have to enlighten him. "We have some working theories about how the transformation might occur. I'm working on a self-regulating phase-wave process, something a bit like the force-transfer fields in photon torpedoes. I think the timeslip anomalies aren't as random as we thought, they look to me like aftershocks, like standing waves left over from the planet's creation. It's an emergent property, so it's hard to analyze but if we run the sequence in reverse," Marcus grabbed the wire and plugged it back into the computer, even without bothering to retrieve the actual handset from Kirk, "we can get a general process template for the planet's formation on macro-scale. Obviously this isn't very helpful in determining the causal mechanism, but it gives us a good paradigm to simulate the finer details of--"

    Kirk pulled the wire again, just as Marcus' simulation started to load on the hologram. This time, he turned off the palmcomp and handed it to one of her subordinates, then walked slowly away from the modeling computer and gestured for Marcus to follow.

    "Well don't you understand?" Marcus said as she followed him--it turned out--right through the door and out into the corridor, "Not only will this solve your paleontologists' collective headaches, it'll help us unlock the secrets of this planet. This is, like, the goddamn holy grail of modern terraforming! This is what humans have dreamed about since we invented the first telescopes."

    "Terraforming." Kirk leaned on the corridor wall next to the door, "I thought so."

    Marcus flinched, "Thought what?"

    "Your accent, the way you talk, that damned old computer in there... You're Hesperian aren't you?"

    Marcus looked slightly offended. But only slightly. It was a trait of Martians in general and Hesperians in particular to be proud of their colonial heritage while at the same time profoundly ashamed to have it recognized by outsiders. "Is there something wrong with that?"

    "Only that your dossier lists your ethnicity as European, which is obviously fake..." come to think of it, there had always been something eerily familiar about Carol Marcus since the day she came on board. He'd thought it was simply the odd similarity she bore to his aunt Betty (before she left for Tarsus IV; she was never the same again when she came back). But there was something more specific than that, something personally familiar that he associated with not just the person but the name too. And if Carol Marcus really was from Mars, he had a pretty good idea what it was. "That means you lied about your age to get into Oxford," he said, recalling her dossier, and then going on a hunch he added, "And you probably had Old Gil pull some strings for you too."

    "Yeah, So what?" Marcus scowled at him, "This coming from the most inexperienced captain in the entire Starfleet... wait..." she flinched, "How do you know John Gil?"

    "Because I sat three rows behind you in history class in college. University of Iowa, class of 52. I'm not surprised you don't remember me..."

    "You were at Iowa? James... you're that James?"

    Kirk smiled, "What James?"

    "Gary Mitchel's friend James? The guy who used to hang out with Ruthie at that hick bar in the cornfields?" Marcus took a step back, stunned and surprised, but also overjoyed, "Christ... I thought you were in prison!"

    "Breaking out of prisons is an old hobby of mine," Kirk said only half-jokingly, "Though I don't think I'll have to worry about that anymore with this new job. Still, I didn't recognize you until I realized you were Hesperian. In college you were a typical bookworm, totally anti-social, just plain hated everyone. And now you're... well... more confident, well adjusted," and he refrained from the excessive honesty of adding, "beautiful."

    "I don't remember anything about you except that you had a big mouth and a bad sense of humor. That's probably why you were hanging out with a dickhead like Gary Mitchell... what happened to him anyway? I figured he was probably in prison with you after the thing with that Suliban musician..."

    "That wasn't us. Some drunk Tandarians got in a fight with the guy, and they followed him home and tried to burn his house down. Anyway, I ended up convincing Gary to join Starfleet. He won't graduate until 61, though."

    Marcus grinned, "Starfleet's recruiting guidelines are more lax than I relized. I thought it was an astronaut corps, not a repository of society's losers and rejects."

    Kirk returned the grin, but not the humor, "Why do you have such a chip on your shoulder, Carol?"

    "What do you mean?"

    "Ever since you came aboard you've done nothing but stomp around this ship like everyone here is in your way. Like anything that isn't done specifically for you is a cosmic inconvenience."

    She shrugged, "I can't help it, I'm Hesperian."

    "Don't give me that. You know good and damn well the data we're gathering from this planet could take generations just to process it all, let alone understand and replicate the process. Why are you in such a hurry?"

    "Isn't it obvious?" Marcus looked up and down the corridor as if the answer was some big secret. Whether personal conceit or long-developed reflex, it was hard even for her to tell, "I just told you, this technology is the holy grail of human terraforming. The first person who figures out how it works will have a place in history right next to Isaac Newton and Zephram Cochrane..."

    "And there's nothing more personal than that?"

    Marcus stared at him for a moment, "What are you asking me, exactly?"

    "Forget it, it's not important. There's only one thing that is important: the Enterprise is a starship, not university science lab, and as long as you are a guest aboard my ship, you will observe proper procedures for the allocation of resources and equipment. If I get any more reports about your team interfering with normal Starfleet operations, I'll strand you on Doppelgänger until its creators show up and give you the secret in person."

    "Don't even joke about that..."

    Kirk looked her dead in the eye, the kind of fierce penetrating look that a lion usually gives to its unsuspecting prey just before making a kill. With this, he said slowly, "Do I look like I'm joking?"

    Doctor Marcus decided not to answer the question, since the rational part of her knew that he was, but another part--the primal, instinctual part that was still programmed to react to body language instead of intellectual discipline--wasn't so sure. "It... um... won't happen again, Captain. I'm sorry."

    "That's good to know," but his expression didn't soften. And unbeknownst to Doctor Marcus, Kirk had actually spent most of his sophomore year at the academy perfecting this look, and had polished it so thoroughly that it ultimately earned him an honorary 'Best Poker Face Ever' award in the academy yearbook. He even managed to hold the expression when his communicator chirped and he answered the call in an official and regular, "Kirk here."

    "Captain," Spock's voice said on the intercom, immediately indicating this page as some extreme importance, "the Cardassian starship Grazine has dropped out of warp and is moving into orbit of Doppelgänger-B. Estimated time to orbital rendezvous is three hours, eighteen minutes."

    "Linguicode standard greeting, confirm their identity and rendezvous coordinates. Kirk out." He snapped the communicator closed and--still staring a hole in Doctor Marcus--said, "Duty calls. Stay out of trouble, Carol."

    "I'll do my best, Jim..." she watched him turn on his heels like one of the generals in old war movies and march into the nearest turbolift, probably headed for the bridge. Once he was gone, she returned to the planetology lab were her defeated contingent was standing off to the side, watching the Starfleet team thoroughly enjoy being able to use their own equipment for the first time in four days. Marcus was annoyed, as there was still more work to be done and more data that needed modeling, but so far she was satisfied with what the computer had already shown her and she decided to process this little bit before coming back for the rest later. "Bates, McGreggor, let's compile the simulation with what we have so far. That'll give us some idea of how big the gaps are that need to be filled."

    Both of them seemed to love this idea, since it meant no longer tempting fate by stepping on Starfleet's numerous and well-armed toes. He handed over the palmcomp to Carol and then handed over three of its memory cards; Carol plugged all three cards into the computer's data slot and then set the computer to translate the machine code from the simulation computer into object code for the imaging program on this palmcomp's more powerful big brother. Compiling the program took a handful of seconds, but it ground to a halt once the computer prompted her for a file name. "What the hell?"

    "What?" Bates asked.

    "It's asking for a file name. Didn't we already have a file name from the last batch?"

    Bates shrugged dumbly. Hesperian computers were famous for their quirky idiosyncrasies, their annoying inability to perform even basic tasks without random and unpredictable hickups.

    Marcus first tried the file name they'd been working with for the past several weeks already, typed in Project Marduk, and told the computer to save. Marduk, of course, being a reference to the Summerian creation myth, the deity that slew the monster Tiamat and created the world by forging order out of cosmic chaos.

    Another dialog box and a synthesized feminine voice told her, "File already exists."

    And why the hell did it go to voice command all of a sudden? Stupid machine. "So overwrite the existing file."

    "Cannot overwrite. File name Project Marduk is being used by another application. Do you wish to save the compiled program under a different name?"

    "What other application? It's a PION file, I don't have anything else that runs PION."

    "Cannot overwrite. File name Project Marduk is being used by another application. Do you wish to save the compiled program under a different name?"

    Carol sighed, "There are not enough words in the English language to describe how much I hate this computer..."

    "File name must be sixteen characters or less. Please choose another filename."

    If this thing didn't contain information so priceless to her career, she would have smashed it against the wall right then and there. First, though, she swallowed her temper, gave it half a second thought, and rattled off a quick filename that was similar enough to the original that she could still find it and change it back once this stupid machine recovered from its temporary bought of electronic idiocy. "Save under 'Project Genesis.' And then port it to a memory card, universal format, so I can run the program on a set that isn't an outdated overpriced piece of junk."
     
  16. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Ah, computers, aren't they fun? I like Kirk being-well, Kirkish. A command presence. Nice bit.
     
  17. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    RENDEZVOUS

    RENDEZVOUS
    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.5
    - 0940 hours -
    The Detapa Republic Space Vessel Grazine eased into a slot position off the Enterprise's starboard bow, its fusion drives firing at almost right angles to the ship's present orbit. For some reason the Cardassians had decided to make the final rendezvous with a complicated plane-change maneuver instead of simply aligning their entry point to bring them right to interception point with Enterprise; Kirk suspected it was a way to look over their potential ally from a distance before making the actual rendezvous.

    Grazine was smaller than Kirk expected, just a hundred and twelve meters long and massing a little over five thousand tons. The little cruiser had a modular design he couldn't help but appreciate, though different as it was from any Starfleet standard. Its impulse engines were in their own separate compartment at the very aft section of the ship, divided from the drive section at the midpoint by a long boom to which a large cluster of external propellant tanks was fixed by aluminum trusses. The middle-most module shored up a pair of stubby, trapezoidal warp nacelles on what looked like retractable pylons, while the foremost and largest section--obviously the command module--bristled with sensors and weapon emplacements, both being altogether distinguishable since their weapon mounts were little more than fancy gun barrels imbedded in armored turrets. Kirk thought it looked a little like an old Nazi U-boat sliced into sections and converted into a space craft; God only knew what the Cardassians thought of the Enterprise.

    "It bears a striking resemblance to the early DY-300 class vessels," Spock pointed out, almost admiringly, "If memory serves, the vessel of choice for Zephram Cochrane's advanced propulsion testbed."

    "Tactical analysis," Kirk ordered at once. Not that he didn't trust Bailey's knowledge on the subject, but it was always best to make sure.

    Spock ran a detailed scan for a few moments as the Grazine's attitude thrusters turned the bow towards "prograde" orientation, aimed towards the horizon along the present axis of their orbit. Naturally, it wouldn't stay that way; as both ships orbited the moon their un-changing orientation would be constantly changing with respect to the surface, and thirty eight minutes from now both ships would be hurtling through space with their bows pointed straight up away from the surface.

    Finally, Spock reported, "Grazine is equipped with twenty chemically-fueled thermonuclear missiles, estimated yield of five point six megatons each. Six small weapons turrets, apparently a close-in weapon system combining medium caliber autocannons with a small battery of high-velocity guided rockets. Also reading several large caliber projectile weapons, chemically powered recoilless types, estimated one point three isotons standard yield."

    Kirk nodded, relieved. "All in all, nothing we couldn't hold off with minimal shields... how about their defenses?"

    "Reading some sophisticated jamming devices, and several small canisters capable of deploying chaff constellations and decoy units..." Spock raised a brow, "And what appears to be a single RIM-2 phaser cannon in a turret mounting near the bow."

    Now that was an interesting surprise, but not quite enough to make the Captain uneasy. The RIM-2 series was the first production-model phaser cannon ever produced, and after a short-lived heyday was deemed obsolete by the end of the First Romulan War. Since then, it had become a staple of close-range defense for the Earth Cargo Service and various mercenary outfits that couldn't afford more effective weapons, although its cheaper successor--the RIM-4B--was also a common sight on some of the newer Boomers. Either weapon was still decades ahead of anything the Cardassians could have developed on their own, though, which in itself was somewhat worrying. "Have you translated their message, Lieutenant?" Kirk asked, turning to the comms. station.

    Uhura nodded, though tentatively and not with total certainty, "They've stated a desire for direct face-to-face meeting aboard the Enterprise and have requested permission to dispatch a... well... either a shuttlepod or a parasite, the translator isn't sure which fits better."

    "Grant permission in either case. We'll meet them in the shuttlebay in half an hour."

    "Aye, Captain."

    "Meanwhile," Kirk stood and gestured at the senior navigator, "Let's prepare to greet our guests, Mister Bailey. You're with me."
     
  18. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Your Mom
    RENDEZVOUS

    - 1012 hours -
    Kirk had never seen a Cardassian before, but from what he remembered of their profile they were reptilian bipeds, vaguely human-like in structure and stature, most notable for a cold-blooded metabolism, a delightfully rhythmic language that sounded poetic even to the untrained ear, and a peculiar haploid reproductive system that--according to rumors--made them capable of breeding with almost any other carbon-based life form in the galaxy. Novelty of their race aside, there was nothing novel about their uniforms and equipment, which were simple khaki-colored jumpsuits adorned with insignia and thick black boots that reminded Kirk of some old 20th century military garb. The five of them even carried sidearms at the hip, slug-throwers from the look of things; judging by their uniforms Kirk imagined they were the Cardassian equivalent of Colt .45s.

    They had objected to the use of transporters partly out of a general phobia of the device (lacking one of their own) but mostly because of the desire to see the Enterprise up close from one of their own shuttles. Watching them climb down the ladder from their vehicle, Kirk found the craft somewhat quaint, if not admirably utilitarian. Actually, it looked a bit like an old NASA lunar and Martian landers with its four spidery landing pads and cylindrical hull studded with heat-shield ballutes. It had even taken Uhura almost ten minutes just to convince them that they didn't need to bring spacesuits with them on the crossing; how these people ever made it into deep space, Kirk could barely comprehend.

    "According to our information, Captain," Lieutenant Bailey said softly from behind him, "One of the Cardassian nation-states, the Detapa Republic, obtained basic warp drive technology after capturing and reverse-engineering a Shofixi vessel that crash landed in one of their oceans forty years ago. Afterwards, they went on a brief and sort of violent campaign to establish global hegemony, and they've acted as the de facto world government for the pasty thirty five years. Their experience with alien cultures is pretty limited, in fact the Federation is the only alien power they have any peaceful contact with."

    "Has there been much un-peaceful contact?"

    "Their region of space is pretty crowded. They're in close proximity to seven other warp-capable species, including the Breen, the Tzenkethi, the Ferengi and the Talarians. We've heard reports that their home world was attacked by Klingon raiders last year, and a few months ago one of their mining colonies was literally carried off by... something."

    "Tough neighborhood," Kirk said as the Cardassians finally began to disembark from their craft, "Well it's a small galaxy, let's try to make a good first impression."

    As all five stood beneath their craft's boarding ladder, their eyes turned to the surrounding shuttlebay and their faces opened into what must have been a Cardassian expression of awe. At a time like this the shuttlebay was hardly a hotbed of activity, but standing inside the cavernous miniature harbor gave a sense of robust purpose that perhaps the Cardassians weren't used to on anything other than a full-sized space station. "Gentlemen," Kirk greeted them to capture their wandering attention, "Welcome aboard. I'm Captain James T. Kirk from the United Federation of Planets, this is my senior navigator Lieutenant George Bailey." A second or two later, Kirk's communicator chanted a facsimile of his voice in extremely different words and inflections: "Branous. Pardes thraval. Ligra Gul James T. Kirk, Ru'ta Botu Dentalla Likandes. Tes Gister Likandra Glyn George Bailey."

    One of the five--apparently the ranking officer--stepped forward, clicked his heels together and threw both arms high into the air. Kirk suppressed a chuckle; it reminded him of a Banzai salute from those old war movies hybridized with some kind of overdone tap-dancing movement. "Branous, Gul!"

    "Greetings, Captain!" rendered the translator as a strong, firm voice.

    "Ligra Gul Dalek ta Dakan Grazine, ru'ta Detapa Bodrino..."

    "I am Gul Dalek of the cruiser Grazine, representing the Detapa Republic..."

    "E'tes rutas raskanous, Glyn Lynoi."

    "This is my science officer, Glyn Lynoi," he gestured at a small, lightly-built female behind him, "and my flight crew Gerin Jelad, Gerin Horan and Gerin Gamar. We've been sent here under orders from the our space probe service and I have been briefed on the overall situation."

    Kirk nodded, and carefully worded his response, "I appreciate your enthusiasm, but we're all friends here. No need to be so formal."

    Once the translator related Kirk's words in Cardassian, Gul Dalek's entire body seemed to unclench itself from its absurdly rigid posture. He became an organism once again instead of a caricature of archaic military discipline. "This ship of yours," Dalek said, this time in a language subtly different from the one he'd used earlier, "it's unbelievable!"

    Kirk smiled brightly. "She's only the second vessel of the 1700-class, and by far the largest and most powerful starship we've ever put into space."

    "My Grazine looks like a lifepod next to this monster." Dalek turned and looked back out to the enormous cavern that was the shuttlebay, "It could almost fit inside of your hangar."

    "Well not quite, but..."

    "Your one vessel," he gestured around him, "could overpower our entire fleet!"

    "Perhaps we could, but we wouldn't. Starfleet is a peacekeeping force, not an invasion army. Earth's Starfleet is probing deeper into space than we've ever been, and the Federation wants us to be prepared for everything. I like to think of this ship as... well, she's more of a flying starbase than an actual vessel. We have factories, laboratories, workshops, foundries, even conservatory for animal and plant samples from the various worlds we visit."

    "Amazing!"

    Kirk gestured for Dalek and his men to follow, "If you'd like, Lieutenant Bailey has arranged to give a brief tour of the Enterprise's facilities."

    "We would like that very much, Captain. Thank you. My flight crew will remain here, if you don't mind."

    He gave the nod to Bailey, who took Gul Dalek and his science officer through the airlock and into the service corridor leading to the nearest turbolift. Bailey had planned that tour extremely carefully, Kirk knew, to give the Cardassians the best possible impression of the Enterprise's capabilities and what exactly it was designed for. This would include a brief overview of the engineering section, its various factory blocks and manufacturing machinery, the bussard collector and the main deflector dish, the fuel lab, the navigational control center, and ultimately up through the EVA complex in the neck of the ship to the living quarters and duty stations in the saucer section on their way--finally--to the officer's lounge where the briefing was scheduled to start in twenty five minutes.

    It would give Kirk enough time to settle some other ship's business. Flipping open his communicator, he stepped into a turbolift and quickly queried of the computer, "Locator for Crewman Janice Rand."

    The communicator's display screen printed out: Deck Ten, Section 307. Upper recreation level on the starboard side, a place the crew had started calling the Clownface Cafe after the holographic bartender of the same name. He couldn't remember why the program was called Clownface, except for some obscure reference to a popular Phaserbrane song. He had never actually been to Clownface Cafe, so he decided he had just enough time to have Rand show him around the place while he broke the good (or was it bad?) news to her.

    The turbolift opened four seconds later to a corridor just around the corner from the Cafe. Kirk's untrained ear picked up the sound of a woman's voice singing in untranslated Japanese what--judging by the tempo--was probably a pop-genre love song. Assuming, of course, that the song was about anything at all; despite the best efforts of programmers, linguicode translators still couldn't properly account for the subtleties of wordplay and rhythm, so a growing number of song writers composed song lyrics by throwing random words together from a dozen languages just because they happened to rhyme. For a moment, then, Kirk made the mistake of leaving his translator on automatic mode and was briefly subjected to a fetching soprano voice singing "Fish certificate, book girl lampshade, chicken wing, table wall, letters falling man me do..." then he set the translator back on manual and went back to pretending the music was that of a Japanese love song.

    The Cafe didn't quite dominate an entire compartment, it mainly conformed to the section of the pressure hull where the the five massive floor-to-ceiling windows looked out at the starboard nacelle and the desolation of Doppelgänger-B, spinning slowly a thousand kilometers below them. Most everyone was focussed on the source of the music--Lieutenant Hayase, if Kirk remembered the name right--but there was something else in the background that was gathering more and more attention until, once Kirk traced it to its origin, even the singer had to stop and stare as the computerized music dropped out for a moment. It looked like a brawl in progress, which curiously enough seemed to revolve around a single heavyset Nigerian who was in the progress of fighting off no less than six different people with his bare hands.

    Janice Rand was just entering the fray now, along with two other security officers who had obviously been called here for exactly this situation. All three tackled the Nigerian as a singular force, slammed him to the ground and held him there. Kirk heard Rand shouting in desperation, "Onise, Calm the hell down before we have to h--" one of the security officers was propelled into the ceiling by some incredible force as, heartbeats later, Janice and the other officer were thrown over a table not far behind him. Lieutenant Onise leapt to his feet and took a powerful lunge at something. Two science officers moved to block his path, and both were immediately swatted out of his path with a single wave of his arm, like a pair of grass stalks in the path of a tractor. Someone in the path of this deranged officer screamed; Kirk recognized her as one of Uhura's communications officers... Ayala, was it?

    Acting before thinking, the Captain drew his hand phaser and launched himself into the path of the officer-turned-maniac. He'd just begun to utter a single word of warning before Onise's fist slammed into his chest like a jousting lance. Kirk tumbled backwards over a cafe table and landed on his shoulders, and just as he scrambled back to his feet he heard the electronic snap of a hand phaser in pulse-mode. A long series of blue pulses tore into Onise's back from behind him, phaser energy rippling around his skin and stripping electrons from his central nervous system, first to trigger paralysis, then unconsciousness.

    Impossibly, Onise didn't go down. Instead he whirled on the source of the phaser fire--Crewman Rand taking cover behind a cafe table--and bellowed an almost primal growl that barely pronounced the words "Kill on you! Kill on you!"

    Kirk picked up his hand phaser, fixed the aiming laser on the base of Onise's spine and fired. A hand phaser--unlike the larger pistol-style service phasers--was a general purpose weapon approximately the size and shape of pocket knife, lacking any advanced targeting mechanisms or amplification systems, and capable of only the lowest anti-life form settings and two low-level disruption effects. When his finger pressed the trigger, Kirk's phaser let off a high pitched scream and a long continuous blue beam right into the small of Onise's back, just as Rand joined in with another burst of short pulses. Onise howled something unintelligible, then stiffened, and collapsed to the deck like a tree falling in a forest.

    Things seemed calm now, but surveying the aftermath Kirk had to wonder seriously how all of this started. Nearly a dozen people were sitting, standing or lying around nursing bruises, cuts, scrapes, and--in the case of Ensign Ayala--a painful looking wound on the left bicep. "Are you alright, Ensign?" Kirk asked, helping her to her feet by her uninjured arm.

    Ayala started to answer before she really knew who was asking. Once she recognized him, she transitioned between admiration and standoffishness half a dozen times in as many seconds before she finally settled on gratitude. "I'm fine, Sir. Could be worse."

    "What happened here?" Kirk looked at the wound, dark blue Orion blood staining the arm of her otherwise red uniform.

    "Onise and I haven't been getting along lately," Ayala began, apologetically, "It's a longstanding argument of ours... kind of petty really..."

    "What happened?" Kirk asked again.

    She shuddered, struggled to keep his composure, "I um... I'm not really sure..."

    "What are you sure about?"

    "I was just sitting here, having a drink with Ensign Meaney, minding my own business, when all of a sudden Lieutenant Onise comes up and grabbed me around the neck and pushed me down on the table. He... I think... I think he tried to rip my pants off."

    Kirk's eyes widened. "Just so I'm clear... you two have no prior relationship in this context...?"

    "Actually, we pretty much hate each other, Sir. But then I scratched him in the face to try and get him off, and that's when he bit me."

    Kirk looked at her wound now in astonishment, "He bit you?"

    Ayala nodded.

    Not far away, Crewman Rand took this all in and made a snap decision. She flipped open her communicator and keyed it to the medical intercom channel, "Security to sickbay. I need a stretcher and some medics at the Clownface Cafe. Bring a tranquilizer."

    "He's been acting weird all week, Captain," Meaney said, "I thought maybe he was just drunk, but he never seems to go back to normal, and he's getting worse."

    Rand added to her communicator, "Sickbay, have a toxicology screening and a cerebral exam scheduled for Lieutenant Kembi Onise and forward those results to the security office as soon as they're ready."

    Doctor McCoy answered, "I'll run it as soon as he comes in, Rand, but you know confidentiality rules, I can't release the test results to anyone except the chief of security..."

    "Bones," Kirk leaned over her communicator, "Crewman Rand has been appointed to acting Security Chief until further notice. She has full security clearance as of today."

    "Well... okay then. I'll have it for you in two hours, Chief. Sickbay out."

    Rand looked at Kirk with surprise and betrayal now, "Acting Security Chief?"

    "Not really 'acting,' I'm making it official as of midnight today, authorizing a promotion to the rank of Sergeant First Class." Kirk started for the corridor to the turbolift and gestured for her to follow. The medical team passed them on the way in, carrying an antigrav stretcher.

    "Effective until when?" she said, catching up to him as he pressed the controls to summon a turbolift.

    "Until further notice. Probably permanent."

    "You can't be serious!"

    "Can't I?"

    "Jim, c'mon, I am in no way qualified to--"

    "You didn't hesitate under fire, Janice," Kirk said as he stepped onto the turbolift, "and you kept your cool when going got rough, which is more than I can say for McCahil. Plus I like the way you handled Onise back there. Very impressive."

    Recently-promoted Sergeant Janice Rand followed him, resisting the competing and paradoxical urges to kiss him and punch him in the nose. "What about Crewman Dallas? Or Lieutenant McKena? Or Lieutenant Badjarule? Or that creepy Russian guy with the eyepatch?"

    "You need me to go down the list? McKenna has no hand-to-hand combat training, Badjarule's still on disciplinary for smoking cannabis on duty, and Corporal Loganoff put in for a transfer to the Concordia at the end of this mission. And I already asked Dallas, he turned down the position because he wants to transfer back to the sciences division."

    "That coward..."

    "In a nutshell," Kirk explained succinctly, "McCahil was a last minute replacement for someone a hell of a lot more qualified. Now McCahil's dead, and you're the only one left who could fill those shoes. And the next person down the line... hell, there is no one down the line, Janice, so I'm not giving you a choice!" Kirk punched the lift controls in the wall, keying a destination for Deck Three, section zero, near the command briefing room just aft of the bridge.

    Rand ground her teeth at him, "That is a blatant violation of regulations, Jim!"

    "File a complaint when we get back to starbase. Until then, effective immediately, you are now Security Chief Janice Rand. And you may not like it much, but if you don't do this job there's a good chance we could all get killed out here, so just do the best you can until someone higher up the food chain overrules me."

    Rand sighed, then straightened up at something like attention, "Yes, Sir, I'll do my best."
     
  19. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Re: RENDEZVOUS

    That was cool. I liked the detail about the Universal Translator and the Cardassian ship design. Well thought out. As for your crazed Nigerian-You've got me wondering....
     
  20. adm_gold

    adm_gold Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    The story pace quickens. I like it. You have the characters down well.