Star Trek - Genesis

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

  1. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.5
    - 1122 hours -
    The turbolift opened to Deck Three at the semi-circular corridor just aft of the bridge. Captain Kirk followed the curving passageway around to the command briefing room where Doctor Marcus, Spock and McCoy were already gathered at the conference table, along with a newly-arrived pair of Cardassian officers just now entering through the opposite hatch with Lieutenant Bailey bringing up the rear.

    Kirk stopped and took them in for a moment, giving his newly anointed Security Chief some time to get comfortable with her sudden authority. Gradually the entire group took their seats around the long table; Spock took his customary station at the library computer terminal, and all seats around the table were arranged facing a circular bank of HUD windows, designed to display information without compromising the line of sight between any two seats. Kirk spoke first, as he knew he was expected to, "Gentlemen," he said, addressing the Cardassians first, "How was the tour?"

    "Enlightening, Kirk," said Gul Dalek, this time by way of a universal translator Lieutenant Uhura had programmed and clipped to his breast pocket. Now at least Kirk could hear a rendition of his voice in standard English through his own earpiece, although he still had to adjust to Dalek's lips moving totally out of synch with his words, "This ship is very impressive. We were told ahead of time that your vessels are equipped with artificial gravity devices, but to be honest I'd expected this was an exaggeration."

    Kirk chose his words carefully, not wanting to offend, "Actually, I was impressed with your Grazine when I first saw it. It's a surprisingly large vessel for a ship with no gravity control. I imagine it takes a bit of technical ingenuity to solve the microgravity problem, especially during combat maneuvers."

    Dalek suddenly seemed uncomfortable. "Well... actually, the Grazine's primary mission is exploration. We prefer to avoid combat whenever possible." He was choosing his words equally well; that sentence took almost two seconds longer to finish in Cardassian than the translation let on.

    "I know the feeling." Of course, he didn't mention the anomalous fact that a black-market phase cannon wasn't totally consistent with that mission, considering the number of seedy connections the Detapa government would have had to cultivate in order to purchase such a thing.

    Glancing around, Kirk spread the focus of his attention to the remainder of the room and began, officially, "Anyhow, Dalek, we're extremely eager to have a look at your findings. We weren't expecting your government to send a whole ship to deliver them, but the fact that you are here suggests you turned back something pretty interesting."

    "You could say that, Captain." Gul Dalek gestured to his science officer, who retrieved an encapsulated silver disk from his sleeve pocket and handed it over to Spock. The Cardassian government had transmitted the specs for their computer systems over subspace days earlier, and Spock and Scotty had spent the last four hours rigging a disk-drive adaptor for the Enterprise's computer and the Cardassian data disks. It was into this adaptor that the disk was fed, and Spock went to work hammering out any compatibility differences and formatting the information in time to display it on the monitors, seconds later, as a programmed presentation briefing.

    "Astonishing!" Gul Dalek came half out of his chair, "You were even able to preserve our system's formatting!"

    Spock almost smiled. "I have simply programmed equivalent formatting into this computer terminal. It is logically identical to your native configuration."

    Glyn Lynoi rasped, briefly in that whimsical sing-song Cardassian language before the translator kicked in, "How could you do that so quickly? It would take an entire team of programmers with access to the source code--"

    "Mister Spock is the foremost authority in computer science aboard the Enterprise," Kirk said with a note of pride, "and as a Vulcan, he is trained in high-level logical analysis."

    Gul Dalek squinted, "A Vulcan... you are not human?"

    "I am half human. My father was Vulcan."

    Gul Dalek was about to comment further when Doctor Ayash interrupted on the ship's intercom, "Security Chief, please report to sickbay. Code blue, urgent."

    A dark cloud suddenly flooded the room, hanging over the heads of the Starfleet officers--and Sergeant Rand in particular--knowing that "code blue" indicated that someone on the ship was either dead or dying and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

    Rand snapped into her communicator, "I'm on my way," and then nodded apologetically to the Captain and swept out of the room like a humanoid breeze.

    "If you care to continue, Dalek," Kirk said, salvaging the meeting from any further derails.

    "Yes, of course..." and turning to the monitors Dalek announced, "Stage one, begin playback."

    The image on the monitors became a split-screen, four separate frames dividing the screen, one showing a navigational plot of the Grazine's position, another showing numerical scrolls of raw un-processed sensor data, another showing a multi-colored, multi-line graph of spectral analysis, and the last showing an extreme range telescope view of the system that now contained the Enterprise, the Grazine, and the so-far unnamed Gorn trawler. "Our first reading was taken from these coordinates, a distance of sixty one light years distance. We were able to identify the planet," as he said this, the telescope image adjusted and panned, slowly and haltingly as if under manual control, until it settled finally on Doppelgänger and its two Class-D moons. "Visual observation shows an oxygen nitrogen atmosphere, equatorial diameter of approximately twelve thousand seven hundred kilometers, gravitational flux at eight point one meters per second. Average surface temperature of approximately two hundred and eighty kelvins."

    "Identical to the planet as it is now," Kirk said.

    Spock shook his head, "The gravitational attraction is almost twenty percent lower. I am not sure how to account for that discrepancy... except possibly instrument error."

    Dalek shook his head, "We thought so too, but we double checked using diffraction measurements of nearby stars. The gravitational flux is lower at this time, but maybe more relevantly, distant observations showed circumstantial evidence of a subspace field surrounding the planet."


    Glyn Lynoi said, "We determined the planet was generating an electromagnetic field between five and eight hundred thousand gauss. With proper modulation, a field of that intensity could easily produce a subspace differential."

    "Thereby reducing the effective mass of the planet," Doctor Marcus said, "Lowering its gravity."

    Kirk asked, "Why would anyone need to lower the planet's mass? It's not as if it was being moved anywhere..."

    "We think it may have been accidental," Gul Dalek said, "Or, that is to say, a consequence of the planet's formation. Speaking of which," and to the computer he said, "Stage two, continue playback."

    The screen images all changed at once. The timestamp in the corner showed this second set of readings was taken some two days later, and again the image panned and zoomed until it finally identified Doppelgänger.

    Only it wasn't Doppelgänger, at least not yet. The object on screen now was a Class-E world surrounded by a thick greenish yellow cloud layer and intermittent flashes of high altitude lightning. "At a distance of sixty nine point two light years. Spectral analysis indicates an oxygen-methane atmosphere prone to spontaneous combustive episodes, and a hydrosphere containing high concentration of phosphoric acids. Visual observation gave an equatorial diameter of roughly eight thousand kilometers with a gravitational flux of twenty six point two meters per second, average surface temperature of three hundred and ninety kelvins. There's some evidence of life forms, but our sensors aren't designed to take those kinds of readings from a distance. We also identified two oddities: firstly, the the planet's orbit at this time is about twenty million kilometers closer to the star than it is today, and secondly, that at this time the planet had three moons, the outermost being highly geologically active. Obviously, the absence of the third moon presents a bit of a mystery."

    Lieutenant Bailey asked, "How sure are you that this is the same planet?"

    "We surveyed the entire system and visually confirmed all ten major planets in their proper orbits; Doppelgänger was the only anomaly. We even checked twelve nearby dwarf planets just to be certain. Of course, at that distance it's still possible we were in error."

    "In any case," Spock says, "this is a revealing development, since no planet similar to the one you observed currently exists in this solar system."

    Dalek smiled, "We haven't even gotten to the best part... Stage eight, continue playback."

    The image changed three times in rapid succession, each time pausing for a few seconds to show an extremely abbreviated summary of the long-range sensor findings. "We made several warp jumps at one light-year intervals," Dalek explained, "basically, observing the planet one year at a time. After one of our jumps, we lost track of the planet and picked it up again in its transformed state, almost identical to our first observation, so we backtracked by three months, then three more, then forward again by four weeks... and so on. Finally we were in the right position and our telescopes recorded this." The final stage began, with Grazine's telescopes zeroing in on the Class-E world with its bands of poisonous oceans and toxic atmosphere.

    But even before the telescope could zoom in, something else was already in the frame. It was moving quickly--at the scale of the image, much too quickly to be anything but a warp driven space vessel. At this distance, identification would be impossible; even at the highest resolution of Starfleet telescopes it would have appeared as little more than a fast-moving pinprick of light that was only visible because it happened to be traveling at warp speeds. But as they watched the recording, that singular point of light assumed a heading directly into the northern hemisphere of the greenish-yellow world and slammed through its thick atmosphere without even slowing down. A titanic burst of energy rippled out from the impact site, followed by an expanding madness of orange and yellow streamers as if the entire planet had been coated with thermonuclear warheads all detonating in sequence.

    "What am I looking at?" Kirk asked, as the glowing fiery effect slowly enveloped the entire planet.

    "We don't know at this point, but our sensor logs suggest it might be a t--"

    "Material transformation," Doctor Marcus answered breathlessly, staring at the frame that contained the raw unprocessed telemetry data, "the entire planet is being transformed at the subatomic level! I've never seen anything like it!"

    "What could cause that?" Kirk asked.

    Marcus stood up and leaned half over the table, freezing the playback and maximizing the sensor readouts on the screen, "The readings are fuzzy from this distance," she said, "But the energy signature reads like... almost like a thousand small transporter signals all overlapping."

    Kirk looked at the monitor himself, baffled, "Where do you see that?"

    "I believe Doctor Marcus is correct," Spock added, watching the presentation on his own monitor. After a moment he resumed the playback and manually highlighted the data fields relevant to both of them. They were just gibberish to everyone else in the room, but simultaneously Spock, Marcus and Glyn Lynoi all shared an expression of wonderment. "It's as if the planet is being dismantled and reconstructed by an enormous matter replicator."

    Doctor McCoy asked, "Now wait a minute, didn't one of you say something about how this would require some kind of giant machine? Like a planet-sized transporter?"

    "Evidently not," Marcus said, too lost in her amazement to care about any past theories. "Back it up a minute or so, mister Spock... look at the spectral pattern at the blast site."


    "At forty five through sixty... you see it?"

    Spock did, and then raised both eyebrows, "Fascinating. The planet's atmosphere has been converted into gaseous carbon and helium, with rapidly increasing levels of oxygen and nitrogen."

    "Fusion transmutation?" Lynoi said.

    "Energy output is too low. Possibly cold fusion or subspace-modulated transmutation..."

    Kirk interrupted the scientific spectacle with a terse, "We can leave the details for later. What I most need to know right now is what kind of technology could cause all that to happen. Obviously, by the time this process is complete, the planet transforms into what it is now..."

    "As I have surmised," Spock said, "based on the composition of the artifact at stonehenge, the most likely culprit is a type of sophisticated phased-matter process."

    Lynoi looked at him as he if he'd just invoked the existence of God. "I beg your pardon?"

    "It is a concept widely in use by our technology, sometimes called photonics or programmable energy," Spock explained, "It is known to your science in the field of quantum process physics, what your people currently regard as a fringe theory. In principle, it describes a method of imparting specific information on the force carriers of electromagnetic fields--virtual photons, in other words--in such a way that the transmitted energy may be delivered to a specific destination in a specific form and function. Our transporter beams, for example, can deconstruct an object at the subatomic level and encapsulate its constituent molecules into energized capsules, composed of electrons and virtual photons, which are themselves programmed with an assembly matrix that will allow them to re-construct the transported object in a specific location of the operator's choosing."

    Gul Dalek smiled, "Sounds like nanorobotics. You program millions of tiny robots to take something apart, then go somewhere and put that thing back together in a new location."

    "Conceptually, yes," Spock nodded, "Except the so-called 'robots' in this case are themselves created from programmed photonic energy transmitted as a phased-matter particle beam, which is under indirect control by the transporter operator. Our primary weapons and defensive shields employ a similar principle, both using phased-matter particles called nadions."

    Glyn Lynoi looked incredulous, "How could that possibly be true? I mean... building atoms out of light beams?"

    "Virtual photons and electrons," Spock corrected, "And not atoms, but a type of pseudo-material composed of non-nucleonic particles. The applications for the process are numerous, but phased matter cannot exist for more than a few seconds at a time without an external energy source."

    "I've never heard of anything like this before..."

    "The details of these processes can be made available from our library computer if you so desire."

    "I do desire, Mister Spock. I won't believe a word of this until I see it myself."

    "Theoretically, you've already seen it yourself," Doctor Marcus said with a gesture to the viewscreen, where the once-toxic Doppelgänger was already beginning to stabilize from an unnatural orange glow until something vaguely Earth-like. "Although, with a caveat, I might disagree with Mister Spock on one aspect. Gul Dalek mentioned nanorobotics... that seems more consistent with what we're seeing here."

    Now it was Spock's turn to look incredulous, "Doctor McCoy earlier made mention of your hypothesis to this effect. What is your basis for it, Doctor Marcus?"

    "Storing a completed pattern for phased-matter duplication would require both an enormous and complicated database and an inconceivable amount of power. You'd have to harness the total output of an blue giant just to support a process like this. But what we see here..." Marcus shook her head, "This is a different approach. See, if I wanted to reduce the hardware requirements, one of the ways I might do that is a kind of self-organizing data matrix, maybe some kind of fractal algorithm for data compression. Phased-matter processes don't perform well in fractals, but quantum computers do, especially in nanoscale. So the device that struck the planet... it's not a giant device to do the job, but billions of tiny devices each doing a microscopic part of the job, like bees constructing a hive. I think what we're probably seeing is the effect of a swarm of nanorobots, each equipped with a tiny phased-matter device. They're probably programmed to make use of the planet's structure for raw materials and rearrange it to a specific pattern."
  2. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    Spock thought about this for a moment, "Such an endeavor would require an alarming number of nanoscale devices..."

    "Ultimately, yes," Marcus said, "But you could start the process with just a handful if they were self-replicating. Like a Von Neuman device or something, maybe cannibalizing part of the planet to make more of themselves. We don't know what they're using for an energy source, but whatever it is, it's obviously powerful enough to propel a small vessel to warp velocities. That should be enough for the initial boost."

    "Indeed..." Spock nodded, slowly conceding defeat, "They may be powered, or even controlled, by subspace differentials or electromagnetic fields... if that is true, then the energy emissions from our own sensors may have reactivated some of the constructor devices on the surface, perhaps triggering a malfunction in the construction process... Captain, it has just occurred to me that, if those devices are still present in Crewman Hallab's body, it may also explain the incident in the transporter room when we tried to beam her aboard. Based on what we've just seen, I suspect that creature she briefly transformed into may have been a form indigenous to this planet prior to its reconstruction..."

    "This is all very interesting, Spock," Kirk said, quickly terminating what had already mutated into a scientific brainstorming session, "But we're overlooking two very simple things. Firstly, the entire system is in a different orbit than it was at the time of this recording. Second... well, I don't mean to be dense, but what the hell happened to the third moon?"

    "That," Gul Dalek said, "is where this recording gets interesting."

    As if it wasn't interesting enough, Kirk thought. But then Dalek's prediction became true, as the newly-terraformed Doppelgänger, now transformed miraculously into the spitting image of the planet Earth, suddenly erupted at the night side with a hundred tiny flashes, like new stars being born in tiny stellar nursery. "We don't know what those lights are, but two hours later," the recording skipped this interval automatically, "we recorded several large objects lifting off from the planet's surface. Their spectral patterns are identical to the object that hit the planet in the first place and triggered the transformation. Most of them converged on the third moon, and they impacted simultaneously." The recording showed this as well, and for the second time the glowing flare pattern consumed yet another world, this time more quickly than before, until the volatile third moon stabilized into a cold dense sphere of reflective grey material. "According to spectral analysis," Dalek concluded, "The third moon is now encased in a layer of pure iridium at least five kilometers thick. We fixed our telescope on it for a few hours, and then..." the recording skipped this interval also, transitioning to a moment only seconds before the now-silent moon suddenly lit up with a galaxy of swirling blue lights, as if a million highways suddenly lit up with traffic for a million city-sized vehicles.

    "What the hell's going on?" Marcus asked.

    "The moon is generating some type of force field," Spock said, and watching the sensor data added, "Am I reading your telemetry correctly, Gul Dalek? It appears to be towing the entire system into a higher orbit."

    Gul Dalek nodded, "It's a type of tractor field we've never seen before. Power levels are off the scale, but our observations record that the Doppelgänger system was moved into a higher orbit over the course of just seventy five hours. After that..." the now-transformed third moon released its hold on its former siblings, then moved out of its once-stable orbit and raced off into the distance, leaving a rainbow-colored after image in its path. Though it didn't seem to be moving that quickly, the telltale splash of the Tachyon Effect indicated that it was moving somewhat faster than the speed of light, already passing warp two on its way out of the system.

    "What happened?" Marcus asked.

    "The moon went to warp," Dalek said, "Or, at least what was a moon, until whoever-they-are got to it. We think they may have used the same material transformation process to rebuild the third moon into a gigantic space vessel."

    "A vessel..." Kirk drummed his fingers on the table, grasping an implication he hadn't considered earlier. After all, whatever alien force had the power to transform a planet into some pre-selected form could, conceivably, transform any large body into any form it wanted, even something self-propelled and heavily armed.

    For the moment, Kirk brought their attention back to the monitor, "Doctor Marcus, your theory is that Doppelgänger and its third moon were rearranged by a swarm of... what? Microscopic robots equipped with fabrication equipment?"

    "It's just a hypothesis, Captain," Marcus shrugged, "For all we know, it could have been Jesus."

    "But it does partially fit the facts, Captain," Spock added, "At the very least, the radiative emissions from our engines could result in the time-slip effect we observed, especially if the constructor devices were spurred into undesired action by those emissions. The Gorn arrival several years ago may have had a similar effect that resulted in the planet's instability..."

    "And the people too," Kirk said, and suddenly a thought occurred to him, "But it can't be radiation alone. Our engines and sensors have had no further effect on the survivors from the surface, or even the reavers for that matter. Bones, you said the effect only lasts while they're on to the planet?"

    "And in Miri's case, brief return to the planet might account for the transformation when she was beamed back aboard. Who knows what those things are programmed to do under those circumstances?"

    "A nanorobot formation would probably operate using swarm intelligence, Captain," Spock added, "separating a small portion of them from the remainder of the group would undoubtedly diminish their operating capacity to an extremely low level. In Miri's case, returning her to the planet may have allowed them to briefly reestablish their network, and her sudden separation from it probably resulted in what we might call a 'reboot' of her molecular structure."

    "Well, good to know, but primarily I'm wondering..." Kirk hesitated for a moment. The implications were starting to turn bitter, "Doctor Marcus, suppose Miri's still carrying those little robots around. It should be possible to isolate a few of them for study, don't you think? I mean," he glanced at Spock, "This could be that unknown factor you mentioned, the difference between the Onlies and the reavers we brought back. It might be that the children still have active units operating inside them while the reavers have been fully isolated from the swarm."

    Doctor McCoy straightened up a bit, "I'm not really sure how to go about testing that, Jim. If Doctor Marcus is right, those machines could be extremely small, maybe even molecule-sized. We can't search for something that small unless we have some idea what they're made of, what kinds of molecules they contain. If they're made of the same phased-matter quasi-substance as that platform on the surface, then we'll have a hell of a time just identifying their presence, let alone studying them."

    "And again," Spock said, "it is only an hypothesis. We do not even know for sure that there is anything within the Crewman's body for us to find."

    "I might be able to help you with that." Marcus punched up something on a palmcomp, and a prompt appeared on the monitor for an indexed file being pushed electronically from Marcus' unit. Spock opened the file, and the Cardassian splitscreen was replaced by a similar but differently formatted playback, one showing security video footage from the transporter room, the other three showing energy readouts from the main transporter sensor. It was a playback of the away team's combat beamout, specifically the last transport of the incident with Kirk, Rand and Hallab materializing on the transporter pad. The blackened apparition that materialized behind Kirk and Rand looked so totally alien as to be utterly unrecognizable, but Marcus' focus was on one of the sensor readouts: a gyrating line graph labelled space-energy flux. "Just before Miri beamed back aboard," Marcus said, "The transporter sensor registered a very brief disturbance in the subspace Z-Band. It only lasted a few seconds, but the pattern had modulation characteristics that, at least to me, looked artificial. Mister Conrad thinks it might be a transmission from that alien artifact, maybe instructions to Miri's nanomachines to execute the program Doctor McCoy observed. If this is true th--"

    "Doctor Marcus," Spock paused the recording, and by the sound of his voice something very unsettling had just crossed his mind, "This would appear to be a duplicate copy of the transporter diagnostic log."

    Marcus nodded. "Of course it is."

    "How did you obtain this?"

    "I uh... downloaded it myself. Why do you ask?"

    "With whose security clearance?"

    Kirk bristled, now that it occurred to him--just as it moments ago occurred to Spock--that despite her un-avoidable presence on the Enterprise Doctor Marcus was still a civilian, and even basic information like the transporter logs required at least a crewman-level access code and the engineering department's written authorization.

    Marcus raised a brow, "I didn't get any clearance. I didn't think it was necessary."

    "Then am I to understand you gained access to this transporter log by circumventing the computer's security protocols? By, I presume, enlisting the services of Mister Conrad?"

    "Who's Mister Conrad?" Kirk asked.

    "Graduate Student from Cal Tech, the science team's information technology expert with advanced degrees in subspace harmonics and information warfare, presently working towards a PhD in cryptography." Spock looked at Marcus in what--for anyone other than a Vulcan--would have been a threatening glare, "You circumvented our security protocols to access this data?"

    Marcus looked apologetic, but undisturbed. "Didn't think anyone would mind."

    "You thought wrong, Doctor," Kirk said, and immediately snapped open his communicator, "Sergeant Rand, you're needed in the briefing room."

    "Already on my way, Captain."

    "Oh, good grief..."


    "You're calling the cops on me? For this?" Marcus rolled her eyes, "Be serious, Jim. Because of this, we have a real chance of identifying the actual mechanism behind the alien transformation techn--"

    "Because of this," Kirk corrected her, "the security of this ship may have been jeopardized. There's a reason diagnostic subroutines require Starfleet authorization, Carol. I've already warned you once today not to interfere with the operation of this ship."

    "I didn't interfere with anything! It's just the transporter logs!"

    "And you, as a civilian, should have gone through proper channels to obtain them."

    "Look, Jim," Marcus drummed her fingers on the table, "This transformation technology isn't fundamentally beyond anything the Federation has now. I mean, the basic principles are simple..."

    "Doctor, y--"

    "Do you not understand what a Von Neuman machine is? We can make something like that with our own technology. Imagine if you programmed an industrial fabricator to scoop some of the regolith off the lunar surface and use that material to make a copy of itself. You'd have two fabricators, then four, then eight... in a few days, you'd have a million of them. With a million fabricators you could transform the moon into anything you wanted, you could transform dead rocks into fertile soil, you could turn sand into oxygen, you could even..."

    The briefing room doors opened and Sergeant Rand entered the room with along with two additional security officers. She'd come here, obviously, under the assumption that the two Cardassians were making trouble; at the sight of Doctor Marcus' body language, she realized it was actually much worse than this.

    "Sergeant, Doctor Marcus is to be confined to quarters until further notice. No further access to Starfleet equipment or data is permitted."

    "Wait a minute, Jim," Marcus stood up, and took a few steps away from the security contingent to give herself some extra time, "Look, okay, I needed to know something about the kinds of transmissions used to instruct the nanomachines and prime them for action. I didn't think anyone would mind something that small, okay? But now that we have that, we're not just shooting in the dark anymore, we can experiment on--"

    Captain Kirk was not impressed. "Carol, I specifically told you that if I caught you breaching protocol again there would be consequences."

    "That was before--!"


    What was supposed to be a formal but voluntary confinement to quarters instantly turned into an arrest. Doctor Marcus bolted for the door in an utterly failed attempt to break a tackle by Sergeant Rand and the other two officers. As the Cardassian guests looked on, Marcus devolved from an otherwise ambitious but dignified researcher into an angry teenager in the midst of a violent tantrum. Rand stepped aside, and the two security officers grabbed her arms, left and right, and dragged her kicking and shouting towards the door, "For crissakes, Jim, quit being such a fucking boyscout and look at the big picture! Do you have any idea what this could mean to the Federation, what potential this technology has for our future?! We could transform the entire galaxy! We could bring an end to poverty, war, disease... not just for Earth, but for the entire gala--" the briefing room doors closed behind them, leaving only silence and a frustrated-looking Sergeant Rand in her absence.

    "She may be right, you know," Glyn Lynoi added, ever so cautiously, "Our sensors detected a subspace anomaly that matches the pattern in your transporter logs. That might have been some sort of alien control signal..."

    "She was almost certainly right about that," Spock said, "She was, however, seriously in error as far as her methodology. But I am forced to wonder," he looked at the Captain, "if that is your only reason for the confinement."

    Kirk sighed, "I have my reasons... in any case," looking at the Cardassians, Kirk said, "I can't thank you enough for your help, Gul Dalek. Once again, we're happy to share with you some study materials about phased-matter physics if it'll help you understand the theory behind this technology. Although..." he knew he shouldn't, but he was tempted to add, "Considering the armaments on your ship, it seems you're already familiar with the subject."

    Gul Dalek squinted at him, "Armaments?"

    "Your vessel is equipped with a phase cannon, is it not?"

    "How could you know that?" Dalek's eyes widened.

    "Oh, don't worry about it. We'll adjourn for now. In the mean time, you're welcome to stay aboard as long as you like. Mister Bailey will see to your needs."

    "Ah... thank you, Captain, for your hospitality." Unhappily, Gul Dalek rose from the table and followed Lieutenant Bailey out of the room. He had the look of a man--well, a Cardassian--who did not like being one-upped by a potential enemy, or even a potential ally.

    That was admirable, on some level. Cardassians, like some humans, seemed to have a natural distaste for ever being at a disadvantage.

    With only Starfleet personnel left in the room, Kirk said, "Here's the problem. Doctor Marcus could have asked permission to view the transporter logs if she needed to. But she didn't. She went out of her way to avoid asking permission and had one of her team members hack our security system to get that information.

    "Just getting authorization would have been easier," Scotty said, having several moments ago realized this himself, "Why go to all the trouble?"

    "Because this alien technology could make her career. She wants to be the first to unlock its secrets, and she doesn't want Starfleet to beat her to her prize."

    Doctor McCoy frowned, "Why would she worry about a thing like that?"

    "She has cause to worry," Spock said, "Starfleet's resources vastly outstrip those of the Federation Science Council. She may feel that we are a potential competitor and not an asset."

    "And I've just realized that in relation to our Gorn friends out there," Kirk said, "And the Cardassians too. Francium's orbit commander must have figured out that the basic technology that created this planet isn't so exotic that it can't be replicated, and they want to be the first to cultivate it. The Cardassians are probably thinking the same thing."

    Scotty chuckled, "Bloody chance of that. Those laddies are still decades away from developing their own transporters."

    "If they bother to develop them," Kirk said, "The Cardassians obtained warp drive by reverse engineering a derelict space craft, and they probably obtained phase cannons form the Orion Syndicate or God knows who else. They probably figure they could speed up their entry onto the galactic stage by getting a corner on this whole planeteering thing. And there's at least one other party involved that hasn't overtly revealed itself yet."

    "So it's a competition," Bailey said, "A good old fashion space race..."

    "Captain," Sergeant Rand, who'd been standing by the doorway since Doctor Marcus was so ingloriously escorted out of the room, "Lieutenant Onise has a malignant tumor in his brain. Doctor Ayash just confirmed, it's definitely reaver tissue."

    "Aw hell..." without another word, Doctor McCoy was out of his chair and out the door on his way to sickbay, almost running the security chief over on his way.

    Kirk nodded. And then he rubbed his temples as his head started to throb, "So what else can go wrong today?"

    "Bridge to Captain Kirk," sounded Lieutenant Uhura in the ship's intercom circuit, paging the conference room specifically instead of the entire ship as normal.

    Sighing, Kirk punched the intercom button, "Kirk here."

    "Probable SADAR contact at ten AUs on a direct heading for Doppelgänger at warp speed. ETA, eight minutes, twenty seconds. There are no other vessels expected at this time."

    "Me and my big mouth." Kirk sighed once again and stood painfully from the conference room chair, "Uhura, sound yellow alert, and have Lieutenant Bailey escort our Cardassian guests back to their ship."
  3. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame

    I find your technical discussions just freaking amazing. They sound real! And the ramifications of what the Cardies learned is troubling. This has the feel of a Star Trek Episode(albeit more detailed). You're doing a great job.
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The way you’ve woven various elements from TOS and the TOS movies into this story, along with TNG inclusions like the Cardassians is simply masterful. I concur that the scientific briefings and debates between characters are incredibly complex and detailed without becoming burdensome to read.

    You’re crafting magic here. I just hope this turns into a series in and of itself, because you’ve hooked me as a reader.
  5. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.5
    1150 hours -
    Spock relieved Ensign Garcia at the science console without so much as a word. The junior science officer slipped over to the auxiliary station with all due relief, happy to no longer have the responsibility of being the ship's eyes and ears in the face of potential combat.

    Kirk, likewise, took the Captain's chair as the bridge hummed with activity for the second time in as many days, and waited for Sergeant Rand to find her way to the standing security console next to the communications station before asking, "Readiness status."

    "All sections report standby battlestations," Rand said.

    "Tactical status."

    Sulu reported immediately, "Number two shield is still a bit twitchy, but all systems are operational."

    He had a million more questions to ask of the situation, but first things first, "Rand, where are the Cardassians?"

    Checking her status board on one of the HUD windows, Rand reported, "Their shuttle is still finishing pre-flight checks, they'll be departing momentarily."

    "Tell Gul Dalek to put a rush on it, and give him clearance as soon as he's ready."

    After several minutes, a jittering alarm sounded on Spock's science console. A moving indicator on the overhead monitor that had been showing the target's position flickered erratically, as if the computer was suddenly confused as to where exactly the contact was. Spock reported, "We've lost SADAR contact, Captain. The alien vessel may have dropped out of warp."

    "Long range scan. Let's try to identify them before they move on us."

    Spock switched over to the telescope screen, his eyes illuminated by displays from the scope hood. A tentative reading did appear on his scanners, but only for an instant before he moved back to the larger gravitic sensor display of the SADAR panel, "Vessel has gone to warp again. Moving towards the planet at warp factor one point..." and then the screen flickered, "Dropped out of warp in high orbit. Estimating five hundred thousand kilometers distance."

    "Long range scans in that region, Mister Chekov."

    "Scanning, Keptin..." Chekov's navigational sensors were, in some ways, more precise than the scientific instruments slaved to the library computer. Spock's sensors were designed to use a more narrow beam, condensing details from the subtle vapors of nuance that an ordinary beam of electromagnetic and electrogravitic energy could discern. But the navigational array had a simple task: scan the heavens to find a particular object and then determine in the most general sense what that object looked like. In this mode, even with the brief time delay from the sensors, the main viewer suddenly flickered with the magnified overlay of the distant craft as it emerged from the rainbow-colored plume of a warp drive distortion. A sleek, long-necked space craft with a bulbous command module and a flat, almost aerodynamic engineering section.

    The stuff of every cadet's nightmares. "Wisual identification," Chekov said, "Klingon warbird! Type D7!"

    Which was, in fact, exactly what Captain Kirk was hoping the intruder would not turn out to be. Rumors outnumbered real intelligence about the new warbird's capabilities, except it was generally accepted that the D7 was the one thing in space that was guaranteed to outgun anything in Starfleet. "Red alert! Deflectors up full!"

    And for the second time in as many days, the lighting on the bridge plunged into deep red as the entire ship suddenly transformed into an instrument of war: no longer ready to merely respond to an attack, but ready to actively seek out and challenge any potential threat in the sky.

    "Phaser banks fully charged, torpedo bays loaded," Sulu reported, passing on the reports from the weapons officers at the ops stations in front of him.

    "Shields activated, Keptin! Deflectors powering up!"

    "Grazine's shuttlepod has docked, the Cardassians are moving to a lower orbit," Spock reported.

    The ship's main deflectors began to audibly power up at the Captain's order, channeling full warp power to generate a type of subspace field that would repel any incoming object smaller than an asteroid. Like the warp drives that were a part of their function, the deflector screens took some time to build up to full power, but once they were fully energized they could repel the force of a dozen disruptor blasts even from the most powerful Klingon battlewagons.

    But no one knew for sure what the D7's armaments were. The Klingon Empire hadn't used photonic weapons in more than a century, but even at that time their version of the photon torpedo was vastly more powerful than anything Starfleet had deployed before or since. If they had switched back to using projectile-based weapon systems, Enterprise's defensive shields would have to be swung into position to block the attack. And with that number two shield still acting up...

    "Klingon vessel has gone to warp again, Captain," Spock reported, and a moment later added, "It seems to be on a direct course for--"

    Through the overlay of the magnified image, a flash of rainbow-colored light indicated the arrival of the Klingon warship, not in a holographic image or a sensor display, but through the actual viewscreen, close enough to be seen with the naked eye. Even at this distance it was merely a moving spec against a background of specs, but already a string of glowing meteors was fanning out in space, racing towards the Enterprise at velocities much faster than Kirk cared to fathom.

    Spock reported, "Incoming fire!" just seconds before the first projectiles made contact. Enterprise tossed to starboard with the very first impact, as if struck across the nose by a giant bowling ball. For just an instant there was a pained howl from the main engines as something crashed through the deflector screens, then almost as one a half-dozen of the Klingon projectiles slammed into the Enterprise just above and to port of the bridge, each tearing enormous divots out of the outer hull and wreaking havoc on the delicate hardware beneath.

    To Kirk's surprise, these appeared to be ordinary projectiles: solid slugs of something incredibly dense being propelled at hundreds of kilometers per second. Even if they pushed through the deflectors, any ordinary object traveling at that velocity should have flattened against the shields like raindrops on a greenhouse. "Evasive action, full impulse power!" Kirk could barely hear himself over the cacophony of of alarms and the sounds of explosions reverberating from the outer hull, but somehow he knew his words were reaching their destination, "Fire all phasers, defensive pattern!"

    A thousand things happened simultaneously. All of Enterprise's forward phasers acquired the Klingon ship and fired off a deadly salvo, full power, in massed concentrations intended to block the warbird's line of fire. At a range of just over a thousand kilometers, their accuracy was quite good; a dozen of those strange high velocity shells were fired and nearly all of them were destroyed in space before they could even come near the Enterprise. At the same time the ship's impulse engines roared to life, blasting a plume of ionized hydrogen through a gauntlet of angled forcefields that twisted the ship in space like an ethereal rudder. Under Sulu's expert hand the Enterprise yawed gracefully to starboard and then began to launch itself into a new orbit, a diving ellipse sharply away from the Klingon vessel with a perigee just a handful of kilometers above the surface of Doppelgänger's moon.

    Already, two more shells slipped past the phaser barrage and both slammed into the engineering section just below the torpedo bay. A new series of damage reports rattled over the intercom, and an alarm on Sulu's console warned, "Number three shield at twenty percent, number four is off line!"

    "Just from that..." there was only one other weapon in the galaxy that could have had such a devastating effect on their shields and still penetrate all the way through the hull. And yet Kirk had zero time to contemplate the implications of this, as only seconds later the Klingon vessel made a sudden and surprisingly sharp turn, swinging up and away from the Enterprise, its weapons no longer firing, not even to cover its retreat. In another few seconds, the warbird rolled ninety degrees to starboard, and then it vanished into a rainbow-colored flash receding over the horizon as its warp drives flung it back into the void from whence it had emerged.

    "Klingon vessel has entered warp," Spock said, "I am attempting to reacquire..."

    "Engineering to bridge! Deflector power is down ninety percent! One more like that and we'll loose the mains!"

    Kirk stabbed the intercom and thundered, "Divert deflector power to main drives! We might have to make a run for it!"

    "Aye, Sir!"

    "Chekov, program escape trajectory, five-second warp pulse. Let's give those shields time to recharge."

    "Aye, Keptin!"

    "I have a fix on the Klingon vessel," Spock reported at last, "It has again dropped out of warp, now in trans-lunar orbit on the far side of Doppelgänger, one point two million kilometers distance."

    "Are they setting up another attack run?" Kirk asked.

    "Their weapon systems remain active, however they are not maneuvering to intercept us..." Spock stared at his scope for a moment, then looked up slowly, "The Klingon ship has begun launching sensor drones on a wide dispersal pattern. Their drones are proceeding to equidistant positions in orbit of Doppelgänger."

    "But they're not coming after us?"

    Spock shook his head, "No further action from the Klingon vessel."

    Kirk didn't completely buy it. But whatever they were up to, at least it would give them time to cool down their deflectors and brace for another attack, if another one was immanent. "Sulu, keep your finger on that button. Get ready punch it at the first sign of trouble."

    "Aye, Sir."

    "Scotty, do whatever you need to, just put those shields back together!"

    "Charging now, Captain! You'll have full shields in forty five seconds!"
  6. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    For the remainder of those forty five seconds, the universe seemed to stand still. Captain Kirk waited patiently, listening to the far off hum of shield capacitors reasserting themselves near the impulse deck as the fusion reactors struggled to replenish their energy reserves. At this point, the shields were fully charged, and the deflectors must have cooled down enough that the Klingons' next attack would barely even rattle the deck plates. Especially now that Enterprise knew what they were using; it would be a simple matter of boosting the power to extend the deflectors a few extra kilometers, give the phaser crews more time to make their intercepts.

    But surely the Klingons knew that. They wouldn't break off an attack for this long just to give their opponents time to restore their strength. After still another uneventful minute, Kirk asked, "Still nothing, Spock?"

    "No further action, Captain. We were fortunate."

    "Were we, though?" Kirk left his command chair for the first time in nearly five minutes and walked directly over to his science officer's console, looking to confirm that report for himself. Sure enough, the Klingon warbird was still there, coasting gently along its high orbit as a constellation of sensor drones maneuvered for thousands of kilometers around it. "They fire on us and then run... what is that, Klingon for hello?"

    Spock folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, feeling perhaps a sense of intellectual helplessness. "There are some logical possibilities, Captain, all of them quite complicated."

    "Doesn't seem that complicated," Kirk was thinking out loud now, "Why would they fire on us and then break off? Not to pick a fight, they had us dead to rights in the first attack."

    "A warning, perhaps?"

    "They would have opened a channel for that..." speaking of which, "Uhura, hail that Klingon ship and request visual communications."

    "Aye, Sir..."

    "Maybe to lure us away from the Cardassians?" Kirk said, "Or maybe just to discourage us from interfering with them?"

    "Possible, but it does not explain the deployment of sensor probes."

    "True..." Kirk raised a brow, "So they came here looking for something. As soon as they got here they opened fire on us..."

    Spock pondered this for a moment, as some more security-minded aspect of his mind had been doing for some time now. The only remaining possibility was perhaps the most menacing, "Mistaken identity?"

    "Channel open to Klingon vessel," Uhura said.

    Which meant it was up to Kirk to initiate Enterprise's half of the conversation. He strode back to his command chair and punched the "ship-to-ship" button on his arm control, knowing that as soon as he did his face would be appearing on the Klingon bridge. "This is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise to Klingon warbird. Please respond."

    In turn, the face of the Klingon commander appeared on the main viewer, seemingly staring down from a high throne somewhere with a circular red light above and behind him that both shadowed his face and gave him the appearance of some kind of mythological demonic overlord. Kirk had heard this was partly to intimidate enemies of the empire, but mostly it was an accident of the design of the Klingon bridge, whose communications screen was slightly below the main viewer. "I am Ha'lok son of Kempa, Captain of the Klingon warbird Kor'ah... James Kirk... you wouldn't be related to Robin Kirk, would you?"

    All eyes turned to the Captain's chair, expressions varying from incredulity to awe. Kirk answered the only way he could, "That's my grandmother... why do you know her?"

    "We fought many campaigns together, sometimes on the same side. It is good to know that the warrior tradition is not yet totally gone from your race."

    Kirk cleared his throat as a preamble for his first non-personal (and non-awkward) question, "Explain your actions a moment ago. Help me to understand... you don't seem to be here for a fight..."

    "Quite right, James T. Kirk. In my haste to intercept our primary target, I failed to properly confirm your configuration against our recognition database. I'm surprised you were able to survive that barrage."

    Surprised, Kirk thought, but not exactly relieved. There was a natural Klingon dislike for failing to destroy a target, even an unintentional one.

    On the other hand, this raised another question for Kirk, "You were chasing someone? Who?"

    "A Romulan preybird," Ha'lok said, "one of three that evaded our blockade of your neutral zone. The first of them was intercepted and destroyed by our sister ship, the Hor'quan, the other attempted to engage us so the third could escape. We believe our target has been in this system for some time."

    Kirk suddenly thought about the phantom image Miri had fired at on the planet surface. Rumors about the improved Romulan cloaking device had been circulating for years, but whether or not it was possible to cloak something as small as a person... "Why would the Romulans come here?"

    "Apparently they intercepted and decoded a subspace transmission originating from somewhere in this star system. We were unable to decipher it ourselves, except to determine that it was using a common Terran algorithm, and our intelligence officer was concerned that the Romulans were planning to attack a Federation outpost with the intention of drawing them into our conflict. I can see, however..." Ha'lok looked off to one side, apparently at one of his sensor monitor screens where something fairly unsettling was being displayed, "... there is much more to this situation than we expected. Do my eyes deceive me, James T. Kirk, or is this planet physically identical to the Terran home world?"

    Kirk thought carefully about what to say next. Not that he had any particular mistrust of Klingons in general--except in the broadest sense, the tendency of private citizens to start wars for no particular reason--but relations between the High Council and the Federation hadn't exactly been cordial lately, and disclosing too much at a time like this could create more problems than it answered questions. The last thing this political/scientific free for all needed was another highly formidable contender. "We've seen no sign of a Romulan vessel," Kirk said, "And as for the situation... well, there's more to it than even we expected. We're not totally sure what's going on here ourselves." Which, actually, was far from a lie. Strictly speaking, even Spock and Marcus didn't fully understand how Doppelgänger came to exist, theories and clues aside.

    "We have detected two other vessels in the area, both of unknown design... I take it they are here for the same reason you are here."

    "Probably, so are the Romulans. There's a great deal of interstellar interest in the technology that may have created this planet."

    Ha'lok nodded. "There always is when the First Federation is involved."

    Spock almost jumped out of his uniform as quickly as he leapt to his science console. Kirk meanwhile felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. "Are you familiar with this phenomenon or its creators?"

    "Not personally, no, but according to Imperial records, the First Federation is a cooperative of very ancient, very advanced civilizations. One of their members--the Chameloid--have a penchant for..." Ha'lok almost grinned, "...imitation."

    "No record of such a race, Captain," Spock said, exhausting the databanks of Enterprise's library computer, "however, Klingon space exploration pre-dates even the earliest Vulcan archives by several centuries."

    "And another competitor takes the blocks." Kirk turned back to the viewscreen, "Captain Ha'lok, would you be willing to share some of your data regarding the First Federation and their technology?"


    The abruptness of the response was startling in itself. "Not even to honor the grandson of Robin Kirk?"

    "Your family name is an honored one, but you have won no honor for yourself, James T. Kirk."

    "Well then... how about a trade?"

    "A trade of what?"

    "We have some information about this planet, and what the First Federation have been doing here for the past few decades. We'll exchange that information for anything you can tell us about their home territory."

    "A mutual exchange of information," Ha'lok said, "Beneficent to both sides, allowing a more complete picture to emerge that will eventually lead to the truth."

    "Exactly. So, what do you say?"

    "I say you are a fool for making such an offer and I would be a fool to accept it. Our governments are not allies, and neither are we. Nor have I any inclination to seek this damnable technology in the first place, and if you are wise, neither should you."

    "Ha'lok, I... don't think you understand what I'm--"

    "We Klingons have traveled these stars since your people were living in grass huts. I can tell you James T. Kirk, the technology you're searching for... it is not an ultimate weapon, it is not your salvation, it is not the key to paradise, it is not a fulfillment of prophecy. It is the science that nightmares are made of. And we will have no part of it." Ha'lok left those words to resonate in their ears as he closed the channel.

    Disturbing as this was, dubious as Ha'lok's warning might have been, Captain Kirk got the distinct impression that his Klingon counterpart knew something he didn't. Something perhaps so obvious that he had overlooked it until now, and yet so dreadfully relevant that he chided himself for not realizing it sooner. For on a duplicate Earth turning silently in space, a civilization of billions had been conjured into being, and in the space of only a decade, massacred in droves until only a handful survived. An orgy of violence and misery almost too terrible to comprehend, that six billion people could end their lives screaming and terrified, eaten alive by their own deranged and mutated loved ones...

    And this, of all things, was what the Federation wanted to duplicate?

    "Just when I think this mission can't get any weirder," Kirk muttered to himself, "the voice of reason turns out to be a Klingon mercenary."
  7. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame

    Great end line. I like your Klingons-they seem less of a charicature than the TOS ones.
  8. Blip

    Blip Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    May 2, 2001
    Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 200ft
    Awesome. I had very little appreciation for the new movie, but your superb characterisations and the level of detail you have crafted go a long way toward reconciling aspects of it with the TOS we all know and love.

    Keep up the excellent work!
  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that your Klingons are every bit as fresh and unusual as the other Trek species you’ve presented in this story. Ha'lok makes a very salient point about the potential for the technology that created Doppelganger to run amok and induce untold destruction and misery. The fact that the Klingon Empire would eschew such technology is as startling as it is refreshing.

    Continued excellence… :bolian:
  10. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    [ Private Communique ]
    To: NCC-1701, USS Enterprise - Attn: Captain James T. Kirk, Commanding Officer
    From: ACR-105, Deneva Colony - Commandant Robin C. Kirk, CINCSOL (ret)
    Hi Bugsy. I know you've been a busy man with your new job and all, but it's good to finally hear from my squirmy little grandson after all these months. I've been following you on the news, we're all very proud of you here on Deneva. You know I hate to do this, but I have to point out the irony: you've been elevated to the rank of All-Time Bigshot by kicking Romulan ass... that's exactly how your father got his oh-so-brief command, and it's exactly how I got mine, and it's exactly how your great grandfather wound up on the Montezuma the year I was born. Hell, if it wasn't for the Romulans we'd all be plowing fields in Iowa right now. Call it a family curse... or a blessing... or whatever.

    Your message, of course, was a request for information on a Klingon warrior named Ha'lok. I know him very well, but I have to admit I don't actually know much
    about him. I know that he's an Augment, a career mercenary, and in his younger days used to have a puppydog crush on a certain Starfleet helmsman he met on Rigel VII. I also know he comes from a peasant family that could never afford their own ships, which explains why he would be working for an outfit like the Imperial Klingon Army. The IKA is basically a mercenary corps on the payroll of the high council, the hired guns who do the dirty work the nobles can't be bothered with. Like most commoners--and Augments in particular--Ha'lok is thoughtful, methodical, patient, sometimes even charming. More importantly, though, he is a ruthless cold-blooded and highly efficient killer, exactly the kind of person you do not want as an enemy.

    It's possible that the years have tempered him a bit, but I wouldn't count on it. And don't bother name-dropping, thinking maybe he owes me one. Ha'lok isn't stupid enough to fall for that, and frankly Bugsy, I've always found you kind of annoying and I'm not prepared to vouch for you if you get on his bad side.

    Good luck out there.
    - Grandma Robin
    - Stardate 2259.3.6

    - 1140 hours -
    It was about the response that Captain Kirk expected from his invincible grandmother, more than a day after sending the message by way of the civilian comms network at Epsilon Hydrae. He wasn't sure if she was joking about the last part--he had never been able to tell when she was joking--but even at the ripe old age of ninety four she still had a reputation for being brutally honest and more than a little abrasive. Either way, he believed her: the former Commander in Chief of Starfleet still had influence enough to hand pick half the captains in Starfleet, and yet she had taken a whole six and a half minutes telling him what to go do with himself when he asked her to "grease the wheels" for him Sophomore year at the academy.

    The time delay had given him enough time to look up the historical record as to how and where she would have met someone like Ha'lok in the first place, and so he'd spent the last two days looking up not only the personal history of then-Lieutenant Commander Robin Kirk, but also the battle record of the two starships she served on during and immediately after the Second Romulan War. Which, inevitably, lead him to review the history of the war itself... a smart move considering the Romulans had evidently joined this galactic treasure hunt (albeit secretly) in this system without a name.

    He rediscovered, having never truly forgotten, that the Second Romulan War was the first major conflict Earth had ever been involved with. Historians were still a bit fuzzy on the exact date of its beginning, but the story of the war mostly began with the ousting of the new Syrannite Government in 2178 and the return of what turned out to be a proxy Romulan government under the dictatorship of High Minister V'Las. Starfleet had refused to get involved then, citing the non-interference directive of General Order One, but the Earth Cargo Service had no such compunctions, and the first shots of the war--technically--were fired on Stardate 2181.20.5 by the ECS Kaiko Maru, using a pair of outdated phase cannons to bombard the Vulcan government building in support of a Syrannite counter revolution. A Romulan fleet arrived days later to support the so-called "legitimate meritocracy," and were met in space by the mercenary Boomer fleet and what was left of the Vulcan Space Service, who fought a valiant holding action for three weeks until Starfleet finally mobilized and secured the planet. The Romulans responded by launching a blitzkrief-style invasion of Earth, which inevitably drew the Tellarites and Andorians into the conflict, which then escalated to involve (on one side or the other, and sometimes both) the Suliban, the Xindi, the Tholians, the Tzenkethi, the Rigelians and--in an apparent hissy fit at having their plans inconvenienced--even the Sheliak.

    The extent of Klingon participation in the Second Romulan War was not well understood, and by all accounts it never would be. Mainly this was because the Klingon concept of war was that of an activity--similar to farming, singing, dancing, hunting, etc--and not an actual event with a clear beginning or an end. Klingon historians documented the activities of warriors, ships and families, and typically ignored the astropolitical context of their battles. It was known that several Klingon task groups had participated in fleet actions against Romulan forces near the Gamma Hydra junction, and a few independent families even had working relationships with the Andorian Air Force. There was no indication whether Ha'lok had gotten directly involved in combat or merely served as an asset to Grandma Robin, or even if he'd had anything to do with the war at all. On the other hand, the old mission logs of the USS Achilles--Robin's command during and after the war--made repeated mention of an unnamed individual cryptically identified as "HSK," usually listed as an asset, and at least twice named as a cause of severe battle damage.

    "Good news?" McCoy asked from behind the Captain's chair, once he was sure Kirk had finished reading the printout of his grandmother's message.

    "Bad news," Kirk folded up the paper and shook his head, "My sources on Deneva strongly advise against antagonizing this Ha'lok character."

    "Sound advice from a former commander in chief, even if our potential adversary were using conventional weapons," Spock added from the science council, "and they most certainly are not."

    Kirk nodded to that, "Have you finished your analysis?"

    "Weapons lab confirms their effects are similar to the quantum torpedoes used by the Narada, though significantly less powerful. The projectiles have very limited propulsive capabilities and seem to be propelled only by the initial boost of the launcher mechanism."

    "A railgun," Kirk summarized, "A railgun powerful enough to punch right through our shields."

    Spock nodded grimly, "It is safe to assume the Klingons may have copied other components of the Narada's technology. Their sensors and navigation system also seem far superior to ours."

    "Yeah, considering how quickly they were able to plot our position and drop out of warp in front of us. Their navigational system is at least equivalent to ours, maybe even a bit more advanced."

    "Add to this, the fact that the Kor'ah is less than one third the size of the Enterprise and barely one tenth the mass. They can easily outmaneuver us on impulse power."

    Kirk thought this over for a moment. It was worth considering that Klingon technology was already far superior to the Federation's, even without the critical boost they must have gotten by studying 24th century Romulan weapons for twenty five years. "Is there any advantage we can take? Anything we might have on the Kor'ah if worse comes to worse?"

    Spock folded his arms, "As I mentioned yesterday, Captain, the likely case is a disparity of power and precision. Kor'ah is smaller and more maneuverable, Enterprise is more powerful and with greater ammunition reserves. Any such contest would depend on our capacity to minimize their advantage while maximizing our own."

    "Well, this leaves us with two major problems," Kirk said, now largely thinking out loud, "Firstly, we have an implacable Klingon mercenary on a search and destroy mission who doesn't really like us."

    "Fortunately," Spock added, "he is at worst indifferent to us and unlikely to attack without provocation."

    "That's the one thing we have going for us right now... but the other problem is, somewhere in this system, maybe even in orbit with us, is a cloaked Romulan warship."

    Spock nodded sagely, "Intelligence dispatches contain no indications of a man-portable cloaking device."

    "That only means they haven't been caught using it against any of our informants yet..." Kirk thought silently for another few moments, "Spock, do you suppose the portable version operates on the same principle as the larger one?"

    Spock pondered the question for just a moment, "Possibly. Starfleet personal forcefields are similar enough to their ship-borne counterparts."

    "Down on the planet, you had a partial reading on whatever it was Miri fired at. Assuming she was firing at a cloaked Romulan observer..."

    Spock nodded, following the thought to its conclusion, and threw all of his concentration into the library computer console, "We should be able to extrapolate their parameters from the telemetry feed from the tricorder. I should say, a more detailed analysis is in order."

    "Agreed. In the mean time let's go to yellow alert, just in case that analysis turns up more bad news."

    - 1143 hours -
    Miri was just about getting used to the insanity of the turbolift system. It took her a few days to wrap her brain around the idea of an elevator that moved at nearly the speed of sound--and without any feeling of movement at all--but like most things on the Enterprise she simply accepted them as the usual technological magic of the New Earth. Then she spent a few days shuffling logistics reports for the maintenance division and kept seeing references to something called "inertial stabilizers" and gathered from her midshipman handbook that the aforementioned device was the magical technology she had been confused about, the one thing that made all the difference to a perfectly functional machine.

    There were a lot of those little gizmos in the logistics reports, and as a midshipman-in-training she was increasingly required to actually know the names and functions of these gizmos to be able to answer basic questions and queries, such as the question Ensign Ayala was now asking her for the third time in as many hours, "What's the word on that transtator array?"

    Miri answered without even looking at her palmcomp, "The CRM114 you ordered... still in queue, but Lieutenant Hobus should have it up before the end of the shift."

    Ayala stared despairingly at her otherwise useless communications monitor console in an otherwise bustling room full of identical consoles and extremely busy communications officers. "What is the holdup?"

    "The planetology team placed an order for some specialized equipment that Hobus didn't have in inventory. It's taken a while to get it done."

    "What kind of equipment?" Ayala asked.

    Miri shrugged, "I don't know, that's just what Hobus said."

    "Typical... go back to Hobus and tell him that ship-board orders take priority. And tell him to remember that the Enterprise is a starship, not a retail buy-n-fly."

    "Should I use those exact words?"

    "Those exact words. You know, this is the fourth time I've had to play second banana to that da--"

    "Yellow Alert, Yellow Alert. All sections to standby battlestations." A single-tone horn blasted from the intercom panel over Miri's head, and a sudden change of lighting transformed the ship's atmosphere from one of a peaceful exploration to a self-contained battleship in a transitory state between dormant and deadly. It was the third time in three days an alert had been called, and like everyone else in the room Miri couldn't help but wonder who else in the universe had arrived to try and pick a fight with the Enterprise. More and more these days, Doppelgänger was becoming the scene of an intergalactic starship tournament.

    Miri knew, from a lifetime of memories that weren't technically hers, that the number one cause of death for all astronauts was panic. So she quieted her first nervous impulses and asked, calmly, "What do I do now?" knowing as she did that the second greatest cause of death for astronauts was failing to ask questions when they needed to know something important.

    Ayala answered tersely, "You're a midshipman in training. That means you do whatever your superior officer tells you."

    "And that would be you?"

    "That would be me. Now go down to the machining section, wring Hobus' neck and get me those goddamn transtators!"

    - 1207 hours -
    "I have something, Captain," Spock plotted its position on the overhead screen above the science station even as the more detailed data streamed through his scope, "radiative anomaly in the ultraviolet range, bearing one oh two mark forty one. Constant range, distance approximately eight hundred kilometers."

    Kirk raised a brow, "That close? Are you sure you're reading it right?"

    "UV anomaly has the same interference pattern we observed on the planet. Intensity is negligible, sensors barely read it at all."

    Kirk felt a red alert blaring on the back of his neck. If the Klingons hadn't spotted the Romulans yet, there was no telling how long that cloaked ship--if that's what it really was--had been shadowing the Enterprise. It could have been there for hours, days, or even weeks by now. Or it could have just arrived in the last few minutes... but in either case, there were very few reasons to move so close to the Enterprise while under cloak. Except to attack, or possibly... "Spock, reconfigure internal sensors to scan for UV anomalies."

    Spock raised a brow, "Inside the Enterprise? That may take several minutes."

    "I know. Put a rush on it." Kirk moved away from the science console and stabbed the intercom on his command chair, "Sergeant Rand, listen carefully. We may have intruders aboard the ship. I want security teams mobilized and heavily armed in staging areas. Keep this quiet, I don't want the intruders to know we're onto them."

    "Scanning of engineering section shows negative reaction, Captain," Spock said, scrolling through reports from individual sensors--tens of thousands in all--probing the large spacious frames of the secondary hull. This would take far longer than a search of the saucer module, both because of the more cluttered environment packed with machinery, and because of the need to be more thorough in high-security areas. "Frames one through five are clear. Now scanning frames six through ten."

    Kirk was most worried about frames seven and eight, where the warp core complex was situated with its sensitive equipment and power conversion systems. If the Romulans had come with an intention of sabotage, there were a thousand ways they could destroy the Enterprise without firing a shot.

    "Frames six through ten are clear," Spock reported, and even he sounded relieved.

    Kirk stabbed the intercom again, "Rand, use emergency overrides to block all passage between primary and secondary hulls. Seal all hatches and emergency bulkheads."

    "Aye, Sir."

    "Are you so sure there is an intruder, Captain?" Spock asked as the sensors began to sweep the saucer module with their new settings.

    "Call it a hunch," Kirk said, "Besides, if I had an advantage like that, one my sworn enemies didn't know about, that's exactly the move I would make."

    Spock nodded in agreement, and yet for the moment the sensors showed the saucer module, also, totally clear of anomalies. "Nothing on scanners, Captain."

    Kirk breathed a sigh of relief, "Sulu, raise deflectors to a minimal defensive level, just in case they do try to board us."

    Spock looked up from his console with a worried expression, the gears of logic furiously grinding away in his highly-ordered mind. "I would like to begin a second scan, Captain."

    Kirk looked at him curiously, "Something you missed?"

    "My earlier scan was based on the assumption that UV radiation was not completely deflected by the Romulan cloaking device. However, this seems an illogical proposition, considering such devices are obviously designed to be used in direct sunlight, deep within solar systems and strategically vital worlds. Therefore, the UV anomaly may be an artifact of electromagnetic phase-shift, possibly capturing the user's own thermal emissions and pumping them to a higher frequency, skipping the visual range into the high UV band..."

    "Then you're adjusting sensors to compensate for this?"

    "No, Sir." Spock turned away from his console for a moment, "Mister DeCasta, go to manual on environmental controls, increase internal temperature to thirty five celsius and increase humidity levels by forty percent."

    Ensign DeCasta, the ship's life support technician, nodded, "Tropical rainforest, Aye Sir."

    Kirk nodded in understanding, "Turn up the heat, they become more visible."

    "Exactly, Captain."

    "Let's just hope to hell that scan turns back just as negative in the hotbox or we're going to have a very sweaty firefight on our hands."
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yeesh, there could be Romulan operatives onboard, possibly for some time. Clearly not a good thing. :eek:

    Great background information on Kirk’s grandmother as well as his potential Klingon adversary.

    Question: You are obviously utilizing the cutting-room-floor footage from the movie that revealed that the Narada’s crew had been in Klingon custody for the quarter-century between the ship’s collision with the Kelvin and their capture of Ambassador Spock. For those of us not up on the details, how did Nero and his crew get their ship back?
  12. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    I have no idea, but even if I did, my intention is to leave it open to interpretation, with or without the deleted scenes. For simplicity sake, one may assume that the Klingon had their own dealings with Nero over the years (he did first appear near their space, after all) and that their relationship was occasionally voluntary.

    Not to disclose too much "back room" information, but as far as the Klingons are concerned: I envision it as a kind of feudal oligarchy with an uneven distribution of wealth, resources, weapons and manpower. The High Council is dominated by a handful of the wealthiest families in the Empire, which is both why and because they are on the Council in the first place. This monopoly gives them control of the best resources, the most powerful ships, the most advanced technology Klingon civilization has to offer, and yet this monopoly is a tenuous one, and Council members live in constant fear of being ousted by other aspiring families. This is the reason the IKA exists as it does, partly because those few families are able to build ships and weapons far more powerful than any of the Romulan/Ferengi/Whoever hand-me-downs used by, say, the House of Mogh's private army, but also because nobody but the lowest peasants of their society can be trusted not to take those advanced weapons and turn them against their masters. Take from that what you will, but the implication is this: there are Klingons who would be willing to trade just about anything with Nero to get a technical advantage, with or without the support of the "Empire" as such.
  13. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.7
    - 1210 hours -
    Rules... regulations... the shallow pretenses that small people placed in front of themselves to pretend they still had control of their lives in a universe of uncertainty. Carol Marcus knew that kind of control was an illusion, that most people--even the most powerful--were often slaves to the whims of others, and however else the universe changed, this one constant never would. Nowhere was this more clear than on Doppelgänger, where an entire world had been fashioned from the dormant seed of another simply because someone in the universe had a craving for whale meat. Six billion lives had been created and then horribly destroyed just for this purpose. How many more could be spared from suffering by more compassionate use of this same process?

    Or so she told herself, plugging another round of new settings into the signal processor in the corner of the room. She'd been trapped in her quarters like a prisoner for a day and a half with only a palmcomp and fifty tracks of Phaserbrane to keep her company (only a handful of Phaserbrane songs actually had lyrics; Carol stuck to the heavy guitar riffs when she was in a bad mood). But with a quarter million credits worth of lab equipment packed into what had otherwise been her living room, she hardly noticed the passage of time. Sergeant Rand had cut off her terminal from the Enterprise's computer network, but the ASDEC unit she brought with her from the lab at Hesperia Planum--in itself, a kind of scientific swiss army knife with more functions than she could count--was more than enough for the job now. She still had the data from that Z-Band pulse, that unique pattern that had triggered such an astonishing change in Miri's genome, and in such a specific and controlled way. After days of study, Carol was convinced the transformation was intentional, maybe a form of communication, or an attempt by the planet's nanorobot swarm to prevent her from being captured by what it now interpreted as a hostile force. The only way to know for sure was to test the pattern on infected tissue and see what happened.

    And for the twentieth time today, she locked in the latest round of settings to the computer and pushed another slide into the microscope slot. ASDEC was a desk-sized machine with a half dozen shoebox-sized modules arranged in racks; the module she was using now was designed to bombard tissue samples with any form of radiation from radio waves to theta rays and could even handle a few subspace frequencies if you fed it enough power. It had the right range for that recorded SZ-pattern, and relative to the size of the tissue samples she'd so expertly pilfered from the bio lab, it should have been more than powerful enough. But now, for the twentieth time today, she started up the antenna for a full three repetitions of the pulse and watched in biting disappointment as the translucent cells on the slide--in this case, liver-cell cultures from one of the Onlies--briefly turned black as coal, churned for a moment, then immediately returned to their original form as if nothing had happened to them.

    "Son of a bitch..." it was the same as the other nineteen test runs. Interesting as it was, ASDEC's limited archives couldn't furnish an answer as to why this was happening, or even what was happening to the cells. She half doubted even Enterprise' computers were smart enough to figure that out, but with better equipment at least she'd have a fighting chance.

    And to think that the Starfleet crews weren't even bothering to experiment with the SZ-pattern!

    The sound of the door chime snapped her out of her introspection, automatically muting a chinese-language Phaserbrane song. It was one of those few sounds she'd programmed herself to respond to no matter what she was doing, sleep or awake, just in case it represented a business call and some time-sensitive matter from one of her colleagues. No such luck, now, as she plodded over to the door panel and saw Doctor Ayash's face in the small video screen next to the door. Probably not a social call, since he had his medical kit with him, so she decided against pretending to be asleep and pressed the release to open the door.

    "How you are doing, Doctor Marcus?" Ayash asked in his watered down Arabic accent.

    "Could be better. Just... well..." she gestured at the ASDEC set crammed into the corner of her not-exactly-spacious living room, "I'm working on that Z pattern we recorded on the surface. Unfortunately my equipment is about a hundred years old, I can't get any decent results."

    Ayash nodded as he pulled a medical tricorder from his kit and tinkered with the scanner settings. "I have hearing something like that. That is Z pattern that making Miri transform?"

    "Yeah. I'm convinced it's some type of alien control signal, maybe a set of command instructions to the nanomachines in Miri's body. I was thinking that if we could get a response from those machines we might be able to isolate them and study them in greater detail."

    "That is not bad idea... though I am thinking it is too late for doing this."

    Marcus stared at him for a moment, fearing the worst. "What's been happening out there, anyway? The guard said something about an attack."

    "It is not major thing. We having exchange of fire with Klingon warship. They have using some new weapon type, but damage is only outer hull, no one having injuries. The problem is rumor I am hearing, that Captain Kirk was told by Klingon commander that this technology belonging to a group called First Federation. He is thinking now we should abandoning this investigation."

    Marcus was mortified, but not completely surprised. It fit too well into Kirk's growing reputation as a policy wonk and an overgrown boyscout who was probably just now discovering that he was in way over his head. "That would be a shame for Starfleet. But sooner or later, someone's going to have to keep up the chase. It might take a few years longer, but I'm not willing to give up."

    "I am not thinking Kirk would abandon the effort on a whim. He may having something right to be worried about." Ayash switched the scanner head to trace mode and started a series of slow sweeps around Marcus' shoulders and neck. There was the faint whistle of spectrometers and chemical traps and the hiss of air being pulled through the scanner, and after a few moments Ayash switched the scanner to ultrasound mode and started another sweep of her chest and stomach.

    "I don't feel like I'm dying," Marcus said coyly, "Except this room feels awfully stuffy..." and now that she thought about it, "Why is it so hot in here all of a sudden?"

    "I do not know, it just happening in last few minutes. Environmental malfunction, maybe?"

    "Oh, so it's not just me... in that case, what are you doing here anyway?"

    "Doctor McCoy's orders," Ayash said, almost apologetically, "Medical screening for everyone having beamed down to Doppelgänger."

    "Screening for what? Something going on?"

    Ayash sighed, "One of away team members having developed reaver malignancy. No one else seems being affected, this is just precaution."

    "One of the away team...?" Marcus raised a brow, "Are you checking for chemical traces of cancer tissues or the ionic compounds of the alien nanomachines?"

    "Lieutenant Onise testing positive for both, so I scanning thoroughly for both."

    Marcus' eyes lit up like a pair of miniature suns. "One thing I've been thinking about here... well, the tissue samples I have here are mostly from Miri's second examination after she beamed back from the planet. And also from reaver tissue we collected earlier. I'm not getting any results from these, but I just realized... well, if the Reavers are disconnected from the constructor matrix, and if Miri's constructors have already encountered this program, we might need a fresh sample."

    Ayash raised a brow.

    "Lieutenant Onise hasn't been back to Doppelgänger since the away mission, right?"

    "I see..." Ayash smiled, "You are thinking of duplicating Miri's transformation using Lieutenant Onise's samples."

    Marcus shrugged. "It's worth a try. I mean, if nothing else it'll exhaust the Z-band angle and get us to look in a new direction."

    "What if not working properly?"

    "Probably, nothing will happen. But if you do get a reaction, we'll be able to observe the effect in a laboratory setting. We'll be able to isolate exactly how the machines work and maybe catch a few of them in the act."

    Ayash smiled even brighter, "That is not bad idea... maybe we finishing this examination in sickbay, Doctor?"

    Marcus almost jumped out of her skin, "You can do that? I thought I was under house arrest."

    "Medical priority. You being more familiar with this than I am. But we must being quick or Captain Dunsel may object."

    She didn't need to be told twice, and the idea of leaving the ship's commanding greenhorn out of the loop was somehow highly appealing. Call it karma, or divine justice, or whatever. In any case, Marcus scooped her palmcomp off the ASDEC table and darted for the door after him... but not before pausing just long enough to extract the memory tape with the hand-written label "Genesis" on the case and set it on the ASDEC table for safekeeping. It was never a good idea to keep both copies of your data in the same place, after all.
  14. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    - 1215 hours -
    As far as Miri could tell, being pigeonholed as a "runner" for the communications department had almost the same dynamics of her previous life in the slums. Run from one place to another, gathering supplies and delivering them to the people who need them most. The only difference was the supplies were easy to find, just incredibly hard to get, and required a set of social skills she had never had occasion to learn, even less so on a starship almost totally alien to her despite its Earthly origins.

    She was, for example, completely unequipped to deal with Lieutenant Hobus' blithe dismissals when she arrived at the machine shop for the fourth time that day. Ayala had rejected his first excuse (blaming the planetology team) and patiently accepted the second ("We're closed down for the shift change"). The third simply didn't fly, and neither would the fourth, but Miri lacked the vocabulary or the social graces to make this clear to Hobus in a way that would grab his attention. "I know we're at alert stations, Sir, but Ensign Ayala really wants that transtator," she repeated, "She's been waiting patiently for a while."

    Hobus was listening, but much of his attention was on some kind of delicate task at the large work bench in the corner of the machine shop. There were dozens of these benches around, all oriented around a central terminal that had a kind of miniature turbolift door and a conveyor that, from time to time, spat out stacks of unfinished machine parts and electronics equipment. Miri had come to understand that somewhere below the machine shop was a "fabricator," a device that used some technical magic she didn't understand but otherwise was capable of making just about anything. For some reason it couldn't make anything complicated, only parts and components, which--once manufactured--had to be assembled piecemeal by skilled machinists right here in the shop. She couldn't tell what Hobus was putting together, but whatever it was it was the size of a briefcase and required some precision work with laser-soldering iron and a magnifier in his eye. "She's been waiting," Hobus said, "But not patiently."

    "She's getting impatient..."

    "She's always impatient. Seems to be an Orion trait."

    Miri sighed, "If I go back up there without that transtator, she's gonna send me right back down again."

    Hobus grinned without looking up, "And this concerns me why?"

    "I'm getting tired."


    Miri sighed again, gritting her teeth and checking a temper she didn't realize had been fraying, "Look... I know I'm just a trainee, I know I'm nothing compared to you officer guys... but see, I'm just trying to make the best of this situation, and you're not helping matters much by being difficult."

    Hobus chuckled, "Look, don't start crying on me or anything. It's just some spare parts. The fabricators are already working overtime on that specialist equipment and we don't have time to assemble a transtator array right now. So unless you want to pick up a tool belt and do the work yourself, Ayala is gonna have to wait."

    "That's not good enough..."

    Hobus looked up at her for the first time, "You're dismissed, Crewman. Get the hell out of my machine shop."

    "Yes, Sir." One of her very first lessons in the orientation briefing was that when a superior officer tells you to do something, you do it, period, no questions asked. In another lifetime she'd spent enough years flying F-22s in the Israeli Air Force to understand the consequences if she failed to live up to this implicit military convention...

    "Wait a second, crewman," Hobus waved her back over and then quickly finished whatever it was he was working on. Miri stepped up to the work bench as he said, "Take this to Doctor Ayash in the Isolation Lab. It's a priority job he just sent down." He closed up the outer shell of the case and handed it over to Miri.

    "You have time to do rush jobs for Doctor Ayash?"

    "It's just a stock part. Surgical tractor beam with a manual control input. The Isolation Lab only has automatics."

    "Alright... er... Aye, Sir." She left the machining shop in a seething frustration and stepped into the turbolift at the end of the corridor. She spat her destination to the computer, and then two seconds later the door opened again to a completely different part of the Enterprise.

    Miri had been to the Isolation Ward before, not long after her transcendental mutation that had granted her the knowledge and experience of an eighty five year old ace pilot and career astronaut. From that experience she understood that an Isolation Lab was usually used to quarantine highly contagious medical patients or samples of things that, if not properly handled, could contaminate the entire ship. It was not a place she preferred to go if she had a choice, but there were already rumors around the ship that one of the crew had started turning into a reaver, and her curiosity far outweighed her present anxiety.

    Plus, for some inexplicable reason it was unbelievably hot on the ship today and the Isolation Lab--with its own independent life support system--was probably the coolest place on the ship right now.

    Doctor Marcus was standing at a computer console to one side of the lab, partly reading a spreadsheet on the monitor but mostly watching a writhing mutated form under a stack of medical linens, something that might have once been human except for the popping veins the size of garden hoses and distended lumps of tissue sticking out of his chest and the side of its head. Though heavily sedated, it was clear Lieutenant Onise was in a fantastic amount of pain. For some reason, Miri even felt responsible for what the man was going through now, as if his being exposed to her world was, somehow, her fault. Marcus recognized Miri's approach, then recognized the object she carried, then smiled with satisfaction. "That was fast. Thank you."

    Miri handed over the case and Doctor Marcus, in turn, handed it off to Doctor Ayash, who began the apparently simple process of swapping its contents with a corresponding less suitable device. The thing inside the case looked something like a fluorescent light tube, about a foot long and an inch wide, mounted on the end of a black plastic rectangle with a small control panel and screen on the side of it. The one Ayash replaced was mounted on a swingarm attached to the ceiling; unlike the new one, the old device had no control panel or screen, and Ayash discarded it with due care in a corner of the room while he attached the new device to the arm. "So how you wanting to do this?" Ayash asked, "Program Z-pattern manually?"

    "I have it on file here," Marcus said, waving a memory card for him, "Just plug it in and give it a blast. Keep it simple: two sweeps on blood samples, two on bone marrow, two on liver tissue, two on cancer tissue. If there's no reaction from any of those, we'll try a sweep on the Lieutenant and see if there's a reaction."

    "You should kill it," Miri said, almost chidingly despite her station on this ship. She spoke now, not just with the experience of someone who had lived through the Reaver plague on her world, but as a woman who had lived through two global wars and a nuclear holocaust and spent more time wrestling with unknowns in space than either of them had been alive. "Get it over with now before things get complicated."

    Doctor Ayash rolled his eyes, "This is not old Palestine, Miriam. We not simply disposing of people because they are inconvenience."

    "Neither do we. We fought and killed our enemies. Your enemy is anyone or anything that's trying to kill you. You get them before they get you, and you get to live a little longer."

    "In twenty third century, we having more evolved sensibility. We holding all forms of life in high regard, respect for all things' right to exist."

    Miri grinned, "Heard that before... but as Jabez used to say, continued existence is a desire, not a right. The desire to exist is something worth respecting. But this man is becoming a reaver... reavers don't desire anything, except to kill, eat and breed. Some of them don't even sleep."

    "Lieutenant Onise isn't a reaver yet," Marcus said, extracting a bone marrow sample from his left arm using a medical core drill, "And if this experiment succeeds, he never will be."

    "You'll be sorry."

    "Let's get started." Ayash pushed the memory card into a reader slot on the side of the tractor beam and moved its swingarm over to an examination table in the corner. Doctor Marcus joined him after a moment with a tricorder and three small vials of tissue samples she'd just extracted from Onise's body: one blood, one of bone marrow and one taken from deep in his distended abdomen where part of the reaver-tumor had pushed three of his ribs half a foot out of his chest like a mountain of meat and bone. "We should know right away if there's any effect," Marcus said, "Program for Z-band modulation. We'll do the reaver tissue first."

    "If you don't mind," Miri moved towards the door, "I've got an obsessive compulsive Orion girl to deal with. I'll see you in a f--" she froze as the doors opened in front of her, partly in shock from the blast of warm humid air that filtered into the room even through the double-layered quarantine field leading to the rest of the ship. It felt like stepping out of a refrigerator into a sauna.

    The feeling of heat had made her stop and pause, but someone who hadn't been expecting the pause bumped into her from behind on his way through the door. Miri didn't give it much thought for the first instant, but in rapid succession she suddenly realized that there was no one else in the Iso-Lab except for Ayash and Marcus and both of them were on the opposite side of the room. More out of curiosity than anything else she whirled around to see who exactly had bumped her, and out of the corner of her eyes saw something move past her that wasn't completely there.

    It was just a ripple, almost a man-shaped mirage moving casually through the air, like the way a man might stroll through a park or a market looking for nothing in particular. She wasn't even sure she was really seeing it at all--perhaps it was just a heat shimmer from cold dry air mixing with warm humid air?--until she remembered seeing this exact same shape and pattern once before, down on the surface of her duplicate world. Then, as now, she'd thought it was merely a mirage, but even Spock had confirmed that something had been there, and that something was monitoring their progress from concealment...

    The 2089 biography of Miriam Hallab pointed out that her instinct for self-preservation frequently overwhelmed her sense of discretion, and this time was no different. The instant she perceived the image as a threat, she drew her hand phaser out of her belt, dialed it up to its highest disruptor setting and fired at the middle of what she imagined was this thing's chest. In doing so, the "mirage" in front of her suddenly flickered into the shape of a perfectly visible person, which instantly folded over backwards as the phaser burned a fist-sized hole in his chest. The newly-dead intruder appeared to be wearing some kind of body armor, with a large bulbous helmet and camouflage colors that otherwise might be mistaken for twenty first century battle dress... except for the icon of the bright green raptor painted on the top of the helmet, and the fact that the wearer was now lying in a pool of dark green blood.

    Then three other "mirages" that Miri hadn't noticed until now made sudden ducking motions, drawing unseen weapons from unseen holsters. Instinctively, she dove back through the doorway as the three fired disruptor pistols directly over her head. A salvo of speeding fireballs sliced through the air like tracer bullets, each carrying with them the energy of a hand grenade. Several of them exploded against the far bulkhead of the isolation lab, blasting furniture and lab equipment about the room at nearly five hundred gravities. One of the equipment racks in their path exploded in a shower of sparks and tumbled a few feet until it knocked Doctor Marcus' legs out from under her and sent her spinning to the deck. Marcus reached for the nearest thing in range to stop her fall, which unfortunately turned out to be the surgical tractor beam on its swing arm; the arm rebounded and swung itself back to its default position, and the newly-modulated energy beam snapped into action directly into the middle of Lieutenant Onise's chest.

    Half a second later, the Isolation Lab flared up as if a bucket of firecrackers had been setoff on the examination table. Sounds of confusion were heard in at least four distinct languages, overlapping phonemes in Romulan, Arabic, English and Hesperian. Lastly came something that was neither a voice nor a language, just a primal scream of rage and power from the creature that used to be Lieutenant Kenbi Onise.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2009
  15. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 5, 2007
    Between the candle and the flame
    Wow. Excrement, meet fan. That was intriguing. It's too bad the crew doesn't take Miri's sudden influx of knowledge into account when dealing with her-it might make her life a little easier.
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Oh, crap! :eek:

    Onise is in the hurt business, and brother, business is a-boomin'!

    Set phasers to fugly, and let the games begin! :devil:
  17. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom


    Their collective memory spans billions of years, to a time when the Milky Way Galaxy was still a malformed globular cluster churning sloppily in the cosmos, slowly collapsing into itself in the cosmic dance that would one day stabilize into a natural spiral. They had been the first to understand the true nature of gravity, the secrets of space and subspace and hyperspace and quasi space. They had watched empires rise and fall on a million worlds, they had guided new species to prominence and quietly blotted others out of the book of life. They were timeless, eternal, immortal, all knowing and all powerful. Yet they were the humblest of all life forms produced in the universe, utterly powerless against even the most benign chemical changes, suffering and dying in radiation more intense than moonlight.

    Eons ago, on a homeworld that had long ago been incinerated, in a star system that no longer existed, they had been microbes in the salty marshes of a dying world, eeking out a pathetic existence in pockets of life, nourished by chemical elements baked out of the mud by their sun's increasingly harsh radiation. By all other accounts they were an evolutionary cul de sac, never to develop into the kind of complex life that might build cities, roads, starships and colonies. And yet here, as on many other planets, the miracle of life spawned that rare miracle of intelligence, all the more amazing for the risks it took and the hurdles it overcame. It evolved, as intelligence often does, from the simplest forms of communication, the chemical signals used by bacterial colonies to indicate changes in salinity and temperature. As the signals became more complex over tens of millenia, so too did the mechanism of acting on them, until action itself became a form of communication, and the messages began to order themselves into patterns. Overlapping patterns spawned new patterns, and then the new patterns gave rise to orders and classes and relationships that had almost nothing to do with the simple genetic algorithms that spawned them until, after untold thousands of generations, the first vague twinkle of consciousness began to emerge: complexity slithered from the slime of almost perfect simplicity.

    In terms of individual entities, there were more Chameloids on Doppelgänger than there were stars in the galaxy. But unlike other beings who reveled in the illusion of self-continuity, the demarcation for an individual Chameloid was tricky, and sometimes totally arbitrary. While the number of life forms on the planet numbered in the millinos of trillions, the fact was that only a single distinct entity existed here, a singular identity supreme to all others. It was also true that five thousand two hundred and forty identities existed on this world, all of them integral but vastly less intelligent subsets of the whole. Each of these multitudes was conscious and sentient, but fully conscious only of themselves and that which truly distinguished them from one another. They were aware of the Whole only in the vaguest sense, with a distant understanding that they were part of something larger and more powerful than themselves, something which they could not access but, in any case, had access to them. Presently, several of these beings felt the inexorable call of their master, they a part of it and it the entirety of them. Their orders were given as if it were their purpose to exist, as a mind gives an order to an arm, an arm to a hand, a hand to a finger. At these orders, a group of twenty organized themselves into an appropriate form and rose silently from the depths that had hidden them until now, first to the surface of Doppelgänger's dying oceans, then into the upper atmosphere as their power plants became fully alive.

    The trouble was immediately evident. The skies were crowded with messy aliens, creatures confined to unmoving bodies, isolated from each other, part of nothing but themselves. Distinctly unlike "us," and yet similar enough that on some level of organization, common ground could be reached. They sensed that aboard one of the alien vessels, a single of their number had tried to do exactly that, breaking itself deliberately and carefully into fragments as small and as isolated as the rodents that had discovered them. Without a means to share their thoughts, there was no way to know if that effort had been successful, and yet scanner beams beyond even their comprehension had identified the problem.

    Something new had been born. Something unplanned, something uncontrolled. It had been created by the rodents, probably accidently, most likely in curiosity and an attempt to learn more. Like most newborns, this one was confused, hungry, and frightfully temperamental. It could be absorbed by the Scout if it came to that, but more likely it would continue to rampage until it matured, and then it would probably reject absorption in ignorance and fear and continue on its ravenous path in a slightly more organized but still horrifically savage path.

    Though they cared little about such wayward offspring, it was always best to prevent this if it was ever possible. Absorption was the best option, as it would mean either the death of the newborn or its recreation in a less disastrous form. Of course, the rodents who inhabited the ship called 'Enterprise' would find the solution almost as perplexing as the problem itself... as if anyone cared about the desires of humanoids.

    Doppelgänger-B Orbit
    USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)
    Stardate 2259.3.6
    - 1212 hours -
    Doctor Ayash would never understand what was happening to him. Understanding would have required more time than remained in his abruptly terminated life, and the jumble of sensations he now experienced would only complicate the matters. His mind was still trying to process the shock of seeing The-Thing-Lieutenant-Onise-had-become physically envelop the examination table and most of the bulkhead next to it, as if melting the materials from body heat alone. When it stood, the table and the bulkhead had become a living, moving part of his body; the former parted and became an extra pair of legs, the latter straightened into a shaft protruding between what still almost resembled shoulder blades to form something like a scorpion's tale above a headless, throbbing torso. It wasn't even a creature as Ayash understood the concept, just an amorphous jumble of body parts and limbs, all of them specialized for something, but thrown together on a body in a state of such complete disorder that one wondered if it hadn't been dreamed into existence by a feverish toddler.

    He had two seconds to try to process this image before one of those highly-specialized limbs snapped out from the headless torso and impaled him through the chest. It instantly tore his heart in half, and then a set of spiny mandibles attached to that limb opened in his chest cavity, the arm parted down the middle, and Doctor Ayash was torn in half like a wet napkin, upper and lower torso tossed to opposite sides of the room. Yet just as quickly as it had killed him, the creature slithered through the ruined isolation lab until it reached Ayash's shattered torso, knelt down over the remains, then formed a mouth from a convenient orifice between two of its legs and scooped the remains whole. It paused for a moment, digesting the carcass, and then seconds later seemed to collapse in on itself until it took on a new form. This one more organized, more natural; man-shaped, but not quite human, almost apelike in build and stature. And still headless at that: where there should have been a neck, there was a only a large gasping maw lined with crooked white teeth, opening and closing reflexively.

    Doctor Marcus watched this with a fascinated horror and a touch of disbelief, like watching a mountain lion eating a bear. She understood instantly that whatever Lieutenant Onise had become had suddenly panicked when its form had been disrupted, that it killed Doctor Ayash in order to obtain DNA information on what it was supposed to look like. It was just as evident that the new creature hadn't been very careful in assimilating that DNA, it had accomplished only a gross and undetailed approximation based on what it assumed were the most relevant features. Relevance, in this case, was a horrifying epiphany: apart from its enormous muscle mass, the only other "correct" features it had copied was that weird toothy maw in the neck hole and a complicated bulb on its stomach that, unless Carol's imagination had gone haywire, appeared to be a set of extremely exaggerated genitals.

    Miri's horror was anything but fascinated, and laced with fury. It wasn't only that she'd gone out of her way to warn everyone how dangerous the Reavers really were, but in their tinkering they had gone and created something far more dangerous, something more... pure. The knowledge wasn't exactly her own, but on some level she understood that she was part of something that did understand, and that something--whatever it was--scorned Starfleet for bringing this thing into existence. And precisely as she expected, Miri saw a pair of beady globes open and close on its chest, just below that toothy maw, like a pair of eyes on an upside-down face. Those eyes fixed directly on her, and the creature began to stomp towards her, snapping its teeth in an unnerving mixture of hunger and lust.

    Miri's phaser was still grasped in her hand. She shined the guide beam on the middle of its chest and fired, full disruptor force, at a distance of less than five feet. The creature flashed into flame where the beam hits its chest and it recoiled from her in agony; she fired again, this time at the waist, and the beam drilled right through it to tear a gash out of the wall behind it. It had had enough of this; in pain and terror, it bolted for the door and ran frantically down the corridor in no particular direction, simply seeking shelter from something it perceived as a source of pain.

    But if Miri had her way, it would find no sanctuary on this ship. She ran after it, snapped open her communicator and toggled to the intercom directory for the Cave. Leaving in such a hurry, she no longer noticed or even cared about the three squatting mirages ducked down in the corridor and ran past them without a second thought. Nor did she notice those three barely-visible figures rush into the Isolation Lab after her departure, and last of all failed to notice the sounds of weapons fire from the lab and the brief, highly abbreviated screams of Doctor Marcus as a plasma rifle robbed her of consciousness.

    "Peter, this is Admiral Miri! Call in the troops!"

    "No kidding! Something in here smells like Reavers! Did one of them get loose?"

    "It's a new kind of reaver," Miri said, running down the corridor after it. It was moving quickly, but stopping just long enough to tear through the pressure doors that had closed when the ship went to yellow alert. Since it didn't know about turbolifts, Miri knew she would have no trouble keeping up with it. "The Starfleet crew found it somehow. It's looking for food and a breeding source."

    "A breeding source?"

    "You know these Reavers eat their mates. But this one's different. It becomes what it eats."

    She heard Leila and Nabi say in unison, "Like the those chicken-headed things on Cyrpus?"

    "You're right! I forgot about those. Every time they kill someone, they turn into a weirdo version of that person. And they split down the middle and copy themselves..."

    Only Peter answered, "Who did it eat? Who does it look like?"

    "Doctor Ayash. But it didn't transform all the way yet..." Miri paused momentarily, finding two security officers lying unconscious in the corridor. Both looked as if they'd been slammed into the walls, one with a badly broken arm and the other bleeding from the nose. They were alive, and from the looks of things they'd even managed to do some damage of their own; Miri followed a trail of dark red blood down the corridor to where the Reaver was right now in the process of tearing a pressure door off its hinges. It was doing so in a strange way; its hands had somehow melded into the actual structure of the door, as if it was spreading its fingers in a wall of soft butter. Then a swift jerk of its arm pulled the entire pressure door off its frame, the Reaver folded the entire door up like a piece of cardboard and tossed it out of its path so it could continue running.

    "This could be interesting..." Miri picked up both of the guard's phaser pistols and picked up her pursuit, "Get everyone together, get all the firepower you've got. We'll take him down just like those chickenheads on Cyprus!"
  18. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    - 1214 hours -
    "All security teams mobilized!" Sergeant Rand said on the intercom, "I'll do what I can, but all hell's breaking loose in that compartment, Jim!"

    Kirk could see that from the security board. Spock's sensors had detected almost a dozen UV anomalies, mostly centered around the science labs and some of the library computer access ports. It was obvious that the Romulans were helping themselves to any information Enterprise could collect on Doppelgänger, and much less obvious that they had probably done a thorough inspection of every sensitive military device on the entire ship for intelligence purposes. Far from obvious was just what the hell was happening in the isolation lab, with computer reports of a totally unknown life form followed by failure reports as something crashed through a series of pressure doors in Compartment 106. Whatever it was, it was headed for the core module in the very center of the saucer, and had evidently moved up three decks to make a beeline for the communications center below the bridge.

    Too much was happening too quickly and with too many unknown factors to take into account. No wonder the Klingons were staying out of this. "Security teams in place in Compartment 106, decks two through five," Sulu reported, "Additional alien life form reported on Deck Four! It's a Reaver, Sir! A big one!"

    "It's headed for the communications center," Spock added, monitoring the pursuit on his console, "Security Team Four is in nearest defensive position. Contact in five seconds..."

    "Phaser fire in Compartment 212," Sulu said, "UV anomalies and... wait... now reading plasma weapon fire! And a life form!"

    Spock added, "I read it as Vulcanoid, Captain. Probably an additional Romulan infiltration team."

    Kirk pounded his fists on his command chair, "We need more security... where the hell are Rand's people?"

    "Security teams moving into position near Compartments 212 and 307. Additional Romulan presence detected in Compartment 308, near the starboard impulse engine. They may be attempting to reach the engineering module."

    "Send an ad--" then Kirk thought better of it. The Romulans almost certainly had some kind of plan for how to escape the Enterprise if they were discovered, and were probably instructed to commit suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured alive. If they thought they could get to the engineering section, then their next actions might be wholly predictable. They could be contained, maybe even dealt with, as long as they were routed through a pre-determined path into an ambush... "Spock, assuming they're headed for the engine room, what would be the best manual route?"

    "The ladder-way dorsel access, forward frame. They would enter the engineering section just aft of the fuel lab. Although, Captain, I suspect the Romulans may attempt to leave the Enterprise using our own airlocks as an egress point. Probably Airlock Three, Causeway levels six through eight."

    Kirk nodded, "Steal some thruster suits and jump overboard. Once they're outside our screens, their ship can beam them back."

    Spock nodded, "Yes, Captain. However, the possibility of sabotage to our engine systems remains a factor..."

    "True that," Kirk punched the intercom for the engine room, "Scotty, incase you haven't heard, we've got ourselves some uninvited guests on board..."

    The answer was filled with static, a voice in the distance through a cloud of white noise so thick Kirk could barely make out Scotty's voice, "Aye, Sir! I've got a jammer operating incase the bloody Romulans planted a noisemaker! Keenser's got a team checking the plumbing now!"

    "A miracle worker, that's what he is. This might just work..." he punched the intercom again, this time for Rand's communicator, "Status report, Sergeant!"

    "All teams moving into position, Captain. We've secured compartment 307, but it looks like the Romulans are barricading themselves in sections 212 and 310. I can't imagine what for, it's not like they can go anywhere."

    "Let 'em go, Rand. I want a clear a path for them into Airlock Three, that's their most likely exit plan. Hopefully we can force them off the ship with a minimal fight. Meanwhile, divert two fire teams to deal with that Reaver before it does more damage than it already has."

    "Captain, I request manual environmental control through the security board. It'll be easier to encourage their movements if I can decompress compromised sections."

    Kirk shouted, "DeCasta!"

    "Security override engaged," the environmental officer reported, "It's all yours, Sergeant."

    - 1221 hours -
    "This is the bridge! All personnel, evacuate decks eight through ten, sections 209 through 212. Repeat: all personnel, evacuate decks eight through ten, sections 209 through 212!"

    Miri heard the announcement, but from what she could remember of the Enterprise's arrangement on the fly she was nowhere near those sections. The "two hundreds" were in the second ring from the middle of the saucer and everything above "oh eight" was on the port side of the ship. Presently she was passing through an intersection with a label in one corner reading, "D4-C105," meaning "Deck Four, Compartment 105." She knew exactly where she was now, because she remembered that this compartment was close to the Communications Resource center where Ensign Ayala and fifty other linguists were still busily processing and categorizing the thousands of gigabytes of audio, video and sensor data gathered from the away mission three weeks ago. Somewhere in that communications center, Ensign Ayala was still fuming over the lack of a working transtator array in the library computer board, and that was probably the Reaver's destination after all.

    When the Onlies landed on Cyprus last year, they'd encountered a small group of strange reavers that seemed to change their shape depending on their surroundings. When they first encountered them they looked like a pack of six-foot chickens, pecking at shipping containers trying to get cockroaches. When they discovered the Onlies, about a dozen of them cornered Big John (the second oldest boy in the group, one who had a crush on Miri ever since Gideon died) and ripped him to pieces, eating the flesh in large chunks without seeming to even chew. In short order all twelve of the creatures transformed into duplicate images of their victim, wearing the same clothes he was wearing, and two of them even talked like him, though the other ten didn't have anything intelligent to say other than garbled threats and curses.

    She had to wonder if the thing that attacked Ensign Ayala a few days ago really was the transformed Lieutenant, or just a clever chickenhead that beamed aboard the ship in his place. Either way, she knew exactly how to fight these things. All of the Onlies did, and one check of her communicator confirmed that they were all in the right position. "It's headed for the communications center. Where are you?"

    Peter the Rabbit answered, "We're on Deck Seven, just outside Compartment 204. Ready for your call."

    And Miri didn't even need to ask why they were where they were. Chickenheads always sought lower ground when startled, and moved instinctively towards the largest open spaces they could find. That meant that even if it got to Ayala before Miri did, it would be easier to drive it towards the lower decks, heading into the larger and less cluttered compartments where it could find more room to maneuver. And Peter the Rabbit must have figured out, somehow, that Ayala would probably head straight for her own quarters if she had to run for it. His position was perfect for both contingencies, and Bluetown had just the right architecture for it too.

    Exactly how Peter could know any of this was something of a mystery. But Miri knew it too, and she knew it with enough certainty that she didn't bother wondering how or why.

    She climbed a ladder and rounded a corner on her way to the communications center where, half an hour ago, Ensign Ayala had ordered her to retrieve that transtator array for the fourth time. There was no sign of the Chickenhead here, but it couldn't be far away. Somehow Miri could "smell" it moving nearby, like the scent of burning garbage carried on a non-existent breeze. It was down a corridor somewhere, waiting for something. It was changing somehow, but Miri couldn't tell into what. Nor could she tell how she was able to tell any of this just by the scent of it; for the first time, she was becoming aware that there was something else outside of her that was involved in this task, something that had an interest in seeing the Onlies succeed.

    "God is with us," she said, taking comfort in the revelation, "God will provide."

    The Communications Center looked like business as usual, except for the cloud of nervous energy hanging over everyone's heads and the half dozen security officers situated in flanking positions near the room's two exits. It wasn't a good look, the exits were far too close together. Miri made her way to Ayala's station and batted her on the shoulder, "Ensign, can you come with me please?'

    Ayala spun in her chair in surprise, "Where have you been? Did you talk to Hobus?"

    "We've got more important things to worry about."

    "Yeah, I think we've been boarded. The security teams can handle that, though..."

    Miri took one of the phaser pistols off her belt and handed it to Ayala. "No. No they can't."

    "What are you talking about?"

    "Trust me."

    "What's going on?"

    "Just trust me. We need to get out of here right now." Miri started for the opposite hatch, the one that opened to the starboard side closer to Blue Town. It would be preferable if they could make a calm retreat to where the Onlies were waiting for them, but it wasn't all that likely with a reaver chasing them. Ayala followed in an anxious stroll, feeling very much like she was being lead somewhere at gunpoint but without an actual gun pointed at her.

    Just short of the hatch, Miri caught a powerful whiff of that burning garbage smell and turned to the other end of the communications center as another person entered the room. The reason for the smell was immediately obvious, as the figure of Doctor Ramsi Ayash locked its eyes directly on Ayala and started moving purposefully through the rows of computer stations to follow them.

    Just like a chickenhead. It'll try camouflage first until someone tries to challenge it. "Come on. We don't have much time..."

    "Ensign Ayala!" The imitation of Doctor Ayash shouted through the room, "I am needing a moment of your time, please..."

    "Oh, right, my physical," Ayala turned from the door, feeling more than a little relieved to be involved with something other than Miri's creepy desperate errand.

    "Ayala, don't!"

    "I had a physical scheduled twenty minutes ago. I forgot to..."

    Miri drew her phaser, snapped into the disruptor setting, and fired a single blast directly at Ayash's head. The phaser pulse vaporized the top of his skull and almost knocked him over a computer console behind him. Almost. He caught his balance and stared at Miri in shock and surprise, until his more primal instincts reasserted themselves and the surprise gave way to rage. His disguise no longer valid, his form began to change; not completely away from Ayash's general outline, but more of a distorted monstrous version of him, as if he had swallowed Doctor Jekyl's fabled concoction.

    The communications officers became a stampede of red-shirted cattle, flooding the exits in a disorganized panic that almost swept Miri along with it. "Blue town! Now!" Miri grabbed Ayala by the arm and dragged her through the hatch before they were both trampled to death. For the moment they became part of the stampede, running down the corridor in no particular direction as the sound of phaser fire--probably from the security officers guarding the door--framed their retreat. From the sound of things, the phasers were on a strong stun setting; that would probably slow it down, buy them enough time to get closer to their destination. The nearest turbolift was just down the corridor from the comm center, but already a dozen of the fleeing officers had crammed into it and closed the doors behind them. "Keep going!" Miri said, and spun around in the corridor towards the now-distant hatchway.

    "Going where?"

    "Blue Town! Your quarters!"


    Miri snatched the other phaser from Ayala, snapped it to the disruptor setting and pointed it at her head, "Because if you don't, I'll kill you and feed you to that thing!"

    Ayala didn't have the wherewithal to wonder if Miri was serious. She sprinted down the corridor as fast as she could, catching her bearings just long enough to make sure she was heading in the right direction. It was still another hundred meters to the outer habitat ring, and without knowing anything about what was happening Ayala didn't want to risk not having enough time to make the dash.

    Miri planted herself in the now-empty corridor next to the turbolift doors and thumbed a control to call the lift. It would be a few seconds longer than usual, what with the security alert and computer verifications and all. Which was just as well, because if the lift got there too early it would throw her timing all to hell. The sound of phaser fire from the communications section dwindled away, followed by screams and cries of alarm as the chickenhead--obviously unaffected by phaser stuns--disemboweled a handful of them. The turbolift doors opened, then when no one entered, closed again; Miri swore silently and this time waited before calling another one.

    It was taking longer than usual. It must be smarter than the ones on Cyprus, Miri realized, actually taking the time to assume new forms instead of just blindly rampaging through the ship looking for a host. She wondered for a moment if it was trying to impersonate one of the security officers... but then the hatch reopened, and something the size of a buffalo stomped into the corridor. Miri couldn't make out an actual shape of the thing anymore--it wasn't using clearly defined arms or legs, just flailing powerful limbs propelling it by any surface they could reach--but from the look of things it had probably ingested three or four of the security officers and used them to replace damaged or stunned body parts.

    So it was changing forms, but only to heal and grow stronger, and not to camouflage itself. It wasn't that much smarter than the Cyprus creatures after all... this plan should still work.

    Miri punched the turbolift controls again, then aimed both phasers and fired at the thing, as close to its center of mass as possible. Flaming red bolts tore fist-sized chunks out of its bulk, and with each impact the thing reacted as if struck by a cannonball. It collapsed on the deck twice under the barrage, but kept rushing forward with redoubled effort, even as the last pair of phaser pulses tore off a piece of it nearly three feet wide.

    The turbolift opened. Miri ducked inside and pressed the manual controls, set the turbolift to deposit her at the next station in Compartment 204, one deck down. The way this thing was moving, it would catch up to her in less than a minute. Hopefully, Miri thought, she could extend that by another minute or two, depending on how well these two phasers held up...
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom

    - 1228 hours -
    Sergeant Rand watched the display on her tricorder screen, relayed from the ship's internal sensors, tracking the cluster of UV anomalies moving through the corridor on the other side of the hatch. Teams three and five were in the adjacent passageways perpendicular to the one the Romulans were in now, ready to unleash a barrage from their phaser rifles if the Romulans did not continue to move in the proper direction towards Compartment 309 and the vertical causeway to the engineering module. She watched them go, waited until exactly the right moment, then hit the controls to open the hatch and fired her rifle in a long, sweeping beam through the curving corridor, forcing several of the Romulans to flatten themselves against the circular walls to avoid the blast. Rand held the rifle over her head and kept the phaser beam firing continuously, sweeping it back and forth like a flashlight as the other five security officers crouched low, advancing on the Romulans under her covering fire. The intruders could do little in this situation and in these close quarters, and they knew it. A few disruptor blasts tore pieces out of the corridor in a vain effort to discourage their pursuers, and then the last of the Romulans vanished behind the next pressure door, sealing the passage behind them.

    Rand keyed her communicator again, "Security to bridge. Intruders have entered compartment 309, Deck Twelve. Maintaining pursuit along pre-arranged path."

    On the bridge, Uhura relayed the report to Commander Spock, who in turn collected the report into a mental picture of the situation and reported to his captain, "Intruders have entered the causeway, Captain, sealing hatches behind them. Confirming approximately fifteen individuals, seven of them moving downwards on the forward ladderway, the others covering their retreat."

    "Uhura, evacuate Airlock Three," Kirk said, "have all security teams continue herding the Romulans there! I want those intruders off my ship!"

    "I have a reading on the alien intruder on the starboard side," Spock added, "It is now moving at speed towards Compartment 304 amidst intermittent phaser fire. Security teams are having difficulty tracking its movements, but report they should have it cornered momentarily."

    Kirk nodded, feeling the situation teetering on the brink of his control. On a starship with a crew of a thousand, it shouldn't have been this difficult to neutralize an uninvited guest.

    Uhura's voice boomed over the ship's intercom, "This is the bridge, all personnel evacuate compartments 204 and 304, decks six through ten. Repeat: all personnel, evacuate compartments 204 and 304, decks six through ten. Security teams secure both compartments..."

    "Captain," Spock's attention was drawn away from the internal security monitors for a moment as something intense flared on the overhead screen. It was a celestial tracking display from the SADAR computer, really just an elaborate graph of virtual graviton paths from different directions through the Enterprise's gravitic sensors. "SADAR contact from the planet," and turning to the more precise sensor scopes he added, "There is a large body approaching from the direction of the planet. Possibly a vessel."

    "The Gorn," Kirk said, scornfully. Their timing couldn't be worse.

    "Mass reading is inconsistent with the Francium, Captain. I read a small craft, less than two thousand tons in mass, some one hundred meters in length. Unknown power, unknown configuration. Life form readings indeterminate."

    "Then it's just another new contestant in this little treasure hunt. Great. Whoever they are, they're just gonna have to wait until things calm down." Another inquisitive alien was the last thing the Enterprise needed right now. And though on some level Kirk was a little concerned as to how another alien vessel could have arrived without being detected on the long range sensors, for the moment he had much more important matters on his mind. Not least of which was...

    "Airlock Three is already opening, Keptin," Chekov said, reading his status display console, "The Romulans have their own thruster suits, it seems."

    Spock confirmed those readings with his own scientific sensors, "Reading sixteen Romulans in thruster suits, unknown type. Six of them are cloaked, three are visible. Seven appear to be enclosed in some type of ballute-style lifepods."

    Kirk could already picture them: large inflatable spheres just large enough for a man to sit in, containing little but a fold-out computer console and a spigot for a very limited supply of fresh water. They were the starship's equivalent of an inflatable life raft, a device that could be deployed by a desperate crew-member in seconds instead of the five to ten minutes it would take to find and dress a space suit. "Probably using them to transport their wounded," Kirk decided, "And maybe any information they might have stolen from the Enterprise... either way, they'll be easier to deal with outside the Enterprise."

    "Romulan contingent moving away from us under thruster power, towing the ballutes behind them," Spock added. Then he noticed something peculiar, something that didn't quite jive with his understanding of the Romulan methods or objectives. All seven of the ballutes contained discernible Vulcanoid lifesigns along with several kilograms of other materials that were probably pilfered Starfleet equipment and memory tapes. But one of the ballutes--towed through space by what was probably the ranking officer, judging by their formation--appeared to be completely empty, save for a small object that read like a Hesperian palmcomp, and an ultraviolet refraction consistent with a portable cloaking device. "Captain, the Romulans h--"

    "Enemy wessel becoming wisible, Keptin!" Chekov shouted as the viewscreen image told the same. It was close enough that Kirk could almost see the outline of the giant alien bird painted on the underside of the hull, maybe a dozen kilometers away. Closer than any hostile vessel should ever be.

    Kirk immediately ordered, "Deflectors, full intensity! Standby photon torpe--!" a ball of green flame erupted in space half a kilometer from the bow, the first of what suddenly became a series of explosions as the Romulan bird of prey opened fire with its main plasma cannon. At this range, it was hard for the Romulans to miss; nearly a dozen direct hits struck the deflectors in as many seconds, shaking the Enterprise slightly but not seeming to cause major damage.

    "Too close for torpedoes," Chekov reported.

    "All phasers, fire at will. Impulse power, evasive Flanker Three Starboard. Spock, analysis of Romulan weapon..."

    "Their ballutes, Captain!" Spock shouted to complete what had been interrupted by the Romulan attack, "The Romulans may have a hostage!"


    "Multiple phaser hits, Keptin," Chekov reported, "Their forward shields are down!"

    "Transporter beams!" Spock looked up from his sensor scope with an urgent, almost emotional expression, "The intruders have beamed aboard the Romulan vessel. They're taking evasive action, now moving towards... they've powered up their main drives!"

    Framed in a thick barrage of phaser fire, the bird of prey glowed brightly for a moment and then exploded into a streak of white light, racing into the distance faster than even the sensors could follow. The Romulans had gone to warp, taking with it not just a treasure trove of military secrets, but a living prisoner for the Romulan intelligence services to interrogate.

    "Pursuit course! Maximum warp!" Kirk ground his teeth; he'd allowed himself to become overwhelmed by the sudden confluence of disasters and hadn't considered all possibilities. The Romulans had outmaneuvered him completely, and to think one member of his crew might have been endangered by that mistake... "Security check on all personnel, find out exactly who's missing! Sulu, Chekov, I don't care how you do it, you find a way to get tat ship out of warp!"

    "We'll try Sir, but we do not know enough about Romulan wessels to--"

    "No better time to find out! Get to it!"

    "Aye, Keptin! Programming pursuit course!"

    "Warp engines standing by," Sulu reported, then punched the intercom on his consoles, "All sections man battle stations. Standby for warp..."

    1225 hours -
    Ensign Ayala heard phaser fire behind her, then the tortured screams of whatever that nightmare was that was chasing after her. The next pressure door on the left opened into Blue Town, Compartment 304. The way that thing was moving she wondered if she would be safe even in her own quarters. Maybe if she crawled into a rescue pod and rolled into the closet it might not find her, or maybe...

    She heard the sound of grinding metal behind her, and turned her head just enough to see the shape of something large and shaggy racing down the passage after her. It was barely keeping its form anymore, just a jumbled mass of limbs and jaws mated together with patches of seared flesh. There was no sign of Miri to keep the thing at bay now; the only thing between Ayala and Blue Town was that last pressure door, and she was now quite sure this thing was about to kill her within sight of her bedroom door.

    The pressure door opened in front of her, almost miraculously, just before she would have crashed into it. Then it closed again just as quickly, though obviously less miraculously as Ayala turned her head and saw two of the children from Doppelgänger squatting down next to the door with Kalashnikov rifles, one of them still pounding the door control as if trying to make sure it closed all the way. Just as the pressure door closed completely, something massive crashed into it from the other side, knocking it completely off its tracks but not quite breaking it down. The two children guarding the door scurried off, but they were hardly alone. The spacious atrium of Compartment 304 had become a kill zone, with twenty five Onlies, heavily armed, perched like pigeons on its walkways and foot bridges.

    Ayala slowed down just long enough to take this all in, then sprinted for her quarters, her hands already grasping for the door handle a dozen meters away... then with a flash of light and an electronic pulse, she felt a blast of heat in her left hip, and an instant later she lost all feeling in her leg. She staggered and fell, crashing to her shoulder within a few meters of her own door, knowing but not understanding that someone had just shot her in the leg with a phaser on stun.

    "I'm sorry, but you have to be conscious!" she heard Miri shout from one of the upper level walkways, and traced the voice to where the Crewman was squatting down, partially concealed, fiddling with the settings on a phaser rifle. "It won't take you if you're passed out."

    "Then stun me so it'll leave me alone!"

    "That won't work. It can't be killed while it's still liquid like this. It's too strong." As if to prove her point, the warped and barely-holding pressure door began to churn and melt, collapsing in on itself as something on the other side of it began to dissolve its structure, molecule by molecule. "When it takes your form, it'll be vulnerable for a few seconds. Once it knows it's been discovered, it'll transform itself into something stronger. That's the trick. You have to kill it before it can change forms again."

    Ayala fought back tears. Not that she needed to be told, but it was worth the point to ask, "Then what happens to me?"

    "It likes you for some reason."

    "Miri, please!"

    "I'm sorry, Ensign, but you grups brought this on yourselves."

    The pressure door collapsed into a pile of disjointed chemicals. The writhing mass of limbs and mandibles clambered through, ridiculously flailed around the courtyard for a moment until it finally located its preferred quarry. And noticing nothing else, it closed the distance to Ayala almost before she could think to crawl away from it. It caught her by the back of the neck almost without slowing down, hoisted her almost ten feet into the air, then grabed her struggling form with as many limbs as it could bring to the task and immediately ripped her in half like a cotton ball. Then into quarters and into eighths, separating legs from pelvis and arms from shoulders, arms from elbows, even hands from wrists. Then after neatly dismembering her into bits of manageable size, a dozen sets of jaws opened at once and swallowed the parts almost in a single action.

    For a second or two, the creature seemed dormant, satiated, even delighted. Then its surface began to writhe and churn, the dead scorched parts of its body dropped away as it salvaged what little it needed to complete its transformation. In less time than it took to claim its last victim, it arranged the thickest part of itself into humanoid form, and a part of its shaggy skin took on a dark red color and became a uniform tunic. The spitting image of the late Ensign Ayala stood up slowly in the midst of a pile of dead flesh.

    She seemed confused for a moment, regarded her surroundings in puzzlement. She patted her left leg to find it was not--as she remembered--paralyzed, and looked around for any sign of the creature that she vividly remembered was about to eat her alive. Then she remembered Miri, and the Onlies laying in ambush around the courtyard. Confusion turned to anger and frustration laced with anxiety, "Miri, what happened? Where did it go?"

    Miri shouted at the top of her lungs, "Set!"

    Twenty four children shouted back, "Set!"

    And Miri gave the order, "Fire!"
  20. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

    Apr 12, 2006
    Your Mom
    Well now!

    Pretty sizeable update for today. We're fast approaching the climax of this little tale, so expect the pace to increase dramatically. After the last chapter is posted here I plan to archive a copy at Ad Astra, and I'll have time enough for one last round of revisions before then.

    Stay tuned, there's still more to come!