Star Trek: Lower Decks - CF070 - "One Person's Junk" (Challenge Entry - May/Jun 2024)


Lieutenant Commander
Red Shirt
Originally posted on - Link.

One Person's Junk

“Ugh, I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” Mariner groaned rubbing her temples. “Did we get caught in a temporal disturbance or something? ‘Cause it feels like time has come to a complete and utter halt.”

“That’s exactly what we’re hoping for,” Tendi smiled wearing a pair of coveralls over her uniform and lying on her stomach. “The combination of bitumen-laced sediments and volcanic ash in this area have created near-ideal conditions for artifact preservation.”

“Yeah. This is a great opportunity for making profound discoveries,” Boimler added lying on the ground next to Tendi while wielding a small, delicate brush. “Besides, I thought you liked getting your hands dirty.”

“Yeah, but not like this,” Mariner said indicating their surroundings. She and her friends were located in one of several sectioned-off squares composing a large, marked grid overlaying an extensive archeological site in various stages of excavation. Small groups of civilian scientists were spread across nearby grid sectors working to extract, examine and analyze other partially exposed artifacts. “When I heard we’d been assigned to provide backup support for an archeological team on a planet that was once part of the T’Kon Empire I thought we’d be exploring ancient ruins or descending into unknown caverns or facing off against stupidly powerful portal guardians, not spend hours cleaning and cataloging piles of fragmented artifacts.”

“Ooo, that would’ve been neat,” Tendi chirped as she carefully removed a compacted layer of dirt and sediment with a trowel. “But this kind of exacting hands-on work is fun too. Archeology requires passion, dedication, endurance and lots and lots of patience.”

“Yeah, archeology isn’t all about finding lost cities, ancient palaces, forgotten temples and hidden tombs,” Boimler pointed out. “It’s about the thrills and joys of engaging in profound exploration and discovery of the past.”

“Hey, I’m all for exploration and discovery and stuff,” Mariner said covering a yawn. “I just wish the pace of exploration and discovery wasn’t so darn slow. Why are we even bothering to use drills to excavate all the various artifacts anyway? Why don’t we simply beam them out of the ground via transporter?”

“Because all the surrounding starithium and kelbonite deposits prevent us from establishing transporter locks,” Rutherford explained cleaning and calibrating a low frequency sonic drill. “And they also interfere with our ability to conduct accurate sensor scans, so there’s no choice but to carefully extract any artifacts by hand.”

“Oh joy. Poking around in the dirt and extracting bits of junk while armed with nothing but a zabathu-hair brush and a hand pick,” Mariner mock clapped. “I spent four years at the Academy for this?”

“This isn’t junk,” Boimler bristled defensively. “These are ancient artifacts which once belonged to an incredibly advanced and sophisticated civilization.”

“Boims, they’re junk,” Mariner gave him a look. “Literal junk. The leader of the archeological team Professor Lesco himself said that all studies indicate the T’Kon used this area as one giant garbage dump.”

“Yeah, he and the other archeologists really lucked out,” Tendi remarked. “There’s no better way to learn about ancient cultures and societies than by going through their trash. Trash is an amazing treasure trove of knowledge!”

“Na, it’s just trash,” Mariner stated. “Everyday trash consisting of everyday items. Sure, some of it may be really old and really advanced, but in the end it’s still all trash. It’s not like we’re gonna find any real lost treasures like elegant sculptures, intact bas-reliefs, rare jewelry, preserved bottles of alcoholic beverages and their equivalents…”

“Well, time eventually turns all trash into treasure,” Boimler noted philosophically. “At least the stuff that makes it through intact. Plus, all the time and effort put in to extracting such fragile artifacts really make the job worthwhile. Personally, I find gently scraping away eons of accumulated sediments and deposits quite soothing and greatly assists in putting my mind at ease.”

“Not to mention digging stuff up the old-fashioned way helps you forget all the problems you have dealing with high tech stuff in your daily life,” Mariner gave Boimler a knowing look. “Like the recent one involving a certain sentient artificial intelligence?”

“Don’t remind me,” Boimler groaned. “Those last few rounds of Dr. Migleemo’s couples counselling were tough!”

“Really?” Tendi raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I thought you didn’t mind attending therapy sessions with him.”

“I don’t. Usually,” Boimler said. “It’s having had to attend couples counselling with a sentient starship who’s infatuated with me and whom I have no romantic interest in whatsoever that was the problem.”

“Ah, I see,” Tendi nodded. “That would make for a slightly awkward and uncomfortable situation.”

“You have no idea,” Boimler groaned. “I’m just glad Migleemo and I were finally able to talk Erosillu through her borderline unhealthy obsession with me and persuaded her to visit the Daystrom Institute for further cultural and diplomatic exchanges.”

“Yeah, I bet she’ll have a great time there,” Mariner said. “Who knows, she may even meet some other nice starship to fall hull over nacelles for. I hear there are a few upcoming ship classes with stunning computer cores and sweet geometric lines, if you get my drift.”

“Really?” Rutherford’s ear perked up. “Tell me more!”

“Please do it later,” Boimler sighed. “Right now I just want to lose myself in the simple task of extracting ancient artifacts. This is the first opportunity we’ve had to relax and enjoy a bit of quiet work in weeks. No dealing with ship-wide disasters, no unexpected alien encounters, no having to deal with random madness, chaos or insanity…”


“Ahhh!” Tendi yelped as a series of disruptor shots suddenly filled the air. “What the heck?”

“You were saying?” Mariner shot Boimler a look as she and Rutherford quickly scrambled for cover.

“Oh no! Not again!” Boimler groaned hugging the ground. “Me and my big mouth!”

“Huh? What’s going on? Look out! Gahhh!” Archeologists shouted and froze in shock as a squad of armed Corvallens swiftly swarmed the excavation site.

“‘Leave your phasers on the ship,’ Ransom said,” Mariner grumbled crouching inside a shallow excavation square. “‘You won’t need them,’ he said. ‘It’s just a peaceful archeological site,’ he said. ‘What could go wrong?’ he said…”

“Oh man,” Rutherford gulped huddling next to her. “Of all the times for the Cerritos to be delivering archeological supplies to archeological teams working on the two other planets in this system.”

“Freeze! Do not move!” The Corvallen leader barked at the group of cowered archeologists and unarmed Starfleet officers. “Tell me where the artifact is. I know it is here!”

“What are you talking about?” Professor Lesco, an elder sturdy-looking Tiburonian stood up in rage and indignation. “Who are you people? This is a Federation archeological site! You can’t just barge in here!”

“Silence, you!” The Corvallen leader snapped leveling his weapon at him. “Unless you’d rather join the former occupants of this planet for eternity!”

“Captain Murkoc! I found it!” One of the other Covallens said scanning one of the cleaned artifacts on a nearby work table. “This artifact’s appearance and terikon profile are an exact match for the information you provided.”

“Excellent,” The Covallen leader crowed. “Bring it to me!”

“Hey, I recognize that thing,” Rutherford whispered peering at the handheld-sized artifact. It looked like an exotic cross between a kligat, a spiral cactus and an interphasic scanner. “That’s the weird artifact Boimler discovered yesterday by tripping over it and landing face-first in the dirt.”

“I didn’t trip over it,” A blushing Boimler murmured in protest. “I simply made sudden, unintended contact by striking it with my boot.”

“Oh, like that’s any better,” Mariner rolled her eyes.

“Ah, at last!” The Covallen captain Murkoc smiled as the artifact was handed to him. “Finally, my long search is at an end!”

“Uh, excuse me?” Tendi tentatively piped up. “What exactly is that artifact?”

“Don’t you know?” One of the Corvallens looked at her in surprise.

“No. We haven’t finished examining and cataloging it yet,” Tendi said. “That’s why I asked.”

“Ha! Typical Starfleet,” Murkoc sneered in contempt. “Too busy lost in the explorative process to even realize what they’ve found.”

“Oh, and I suppose you know what that old knickknack is?” Mariner shot back.

“Of course I do,” Murkoc gloated proudly holding up the artifact. “This is the legendary Scourge of the T’Kon, one of the most terrible weapons ever created!”

“O-kay,” Mariner paused for a moment. “That explains nothing. What is it really?”

“It is an entropy and probability manipulator,” Murkoc elaborated. “Capable of altering the very laws of reality and space-time in its user’s favor. Myth and folklore tell of the Scourge causing untold levels of destruction, death and misfortune. According to legend, whoever wields the Scourge is said to be invincible!”

“Wow,” Tendi blinked. “That’s amazing.”

“So it’s like an exponentially more powerful version of a handheld gambling device?” Rutherford asked.

“More or less,” Murkoc shrugged gazing at the artifact in delight. “I’ve spent the past thirty-seven years searching for this, following every rumor, piecing together every clue, studying every scrap of ancient text I could find, buy or steal. My quest has led me down dozens of false leads and dead ends, always scrambling to stay one step ahead of my competitors, but today all my hard work has finally paid off!”

“Great, good for you. You’re a regular thieving workaholic,” Mariner quipped. “So, what are you going to do with that funky-looking paperweight now? Go out and try to conquer the galaxy?”

“Of course not,” Murkoc scoffed. “I’m going to sell it to someone who’d like to try to conquer the galaxy. There are plenty of interstellar governments and wealthy, ambitious individuals who’d pay anything for this…”

“Uh oh,” Boimler gulped at the implications. “This really isn’t good.”

“No, ya think?” Mariner gave him a look.

“Thanks for all your assistance, Starfleet,” Murkoc smirked slipping the artifact into a satchel. “I thought we’d have to spend weeks digging through this forgotten junk heap for the Scourge, but instead you already went and did all the hard work for us…”


“Yipe!” Rutherford yelped as the air was suddenly filed with a barrage of phaser fire.

“Oh great,” Mariner grumbled ducking down. “What now?”

“Murkoc!” A band of Letheans burst onto the scene. “You duplicitous slime! The Scourge will never be yours!”

“Agrom!” Murkoc hissed as he and his fellow Corvallens took cover and fired back. “I thought I’d seen the last of you on Sarthong V!”

“Not for lack of trying!” The Lethean leader snapped. “The Sarthongians nearly cut out my telepathic and occipital lobes because of you!”

“If only they had cut out your tongue!” Murkoc shot back. “Since your brain is even emptier than a Tabran monk’s contact list!”

“Let me guess, a competitor of yours?” Mariner asked over the sounds of weapons fire.

“No, former business partner,” Murkoc snarled snapping off a series of disruptor shots. “Whose my association with ended when she stole my collection of stolen research notes and tried to kill me!”

“Gee, image that,” Mariner drawled.

“Give it up, Murkoc!” A squad of armed Farians suddenly appeared among the site. “The famed, long lost Scourge of the T’Kon will belong to us!”

“No, it’s ours!” A Klaestron strike team stormed in and quickly joined the fray. “We’ve been searching for the weapon far longer than you!”

“Not as long as we have!” A party of Reegrunions declared roaring into action. “Hand over the artifact or else we’ll leave your duplicitous, crack-lined corpse here to rot!”

“What? Never!” Murkoc howled gesturing to his companions. “Kill them all! Every one of them!”


“Hey, watch where you’re shooting those things!” Mariner snapped at the five-way free for all. “Geeze, what is this? A grave robber and mercenary convention?”

“Yaaahhhhhh!” The archeological team yelped while desperately attempting to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

“Help! Somebody stop them!” Professor Lesco yelled as several areas of the dig site were vaporized by stray weapons fire. “They’re destroying the artifacts!”

“We’re a little unarmed here at the moment!” Mariner pointed out. “Thank our short-sighted superior officers for that!”

“But you’re Starfleet!” Lesco shouted. “Surely there’s something you can do!”

“Yes, we can get you and the other archeologists to safety,” Tendi pointed out a covered gap in the maze of excavations. “That way! Hurry!”

“Thank you!” The archeologists nodded and quickly crawled for their lives.

“Good work, T,” Mariner nodded at Tendi’s actions. “Now we just have to deal with these bozos.”

“Easier said than done,” Rutherford gulped.


“Man, this is nuts!” Bomiler yelled as more weapons fire filled the air. “And I thought being dragged into random bar fights was bad. Is anyone else going to show up?”

“Surrender, foul omnivores!” A band of armed Kzinti suddenly appeared on the scene. “The secrets of the T’Kon will be delivered to the great Highest of Kzin!”

“You had to say that, didn’t you?” Mariner gave him a look.

“Oops,” Boimler gulped. “My bad. Sorry!”

“That’s it! Enough of this!” Murkoc declared taking out the lost artifact from his satchel and pointing it at his opponents. “You all want the Scourge of the T’Kon so bad? Then take this!”

“YEEEOOOWWW!” All the Corvallens abruptly yelped in pain.

“Huh?” Tendi blinked at them in confusion. “What the heck was that?”

“It looks like the Corvallens’ disruptors suddenly gave them all a series of electric shocks,” Rutherford said in surprise.

“O-kay,” Mariner did a take. “That’s definitely unexpected.”

“Aggghhh, what the blazes?!” Murkoc cursed before aiming the artifact again. “I must have pressed the wrong button or something. This is what I really meant to do!”


“AAAIIIEEEEEEEEE!” The Corvallens screamed as every one of their weapons inexplicably flew into the air before exploding.

“Huh, interesting choice,” Mariner quipped at the sight. “I certainly never heard of that particular tactic at the Academy.

“Ha! You arrogant fool!” Agrom laughed swiftly running over and ripping the artifact from a frazzled Murkoc’s hands. “You were never nearly as smart as you thought you were!” She wielded the artifact in triumph. “Let a real expert show you how it’s done!”




“Wow,” Tendi blinked as Agrom and her band of Letheans suddenly disappeared from sight. “I didn’t know there were any sinkholes around here.”

“Neither did I,” Rutherford stared in surprise as Murkoc and the Corvallens likewise vanished from view. “Then again, the surrounding starithium and kelbonite deposits do interfere with sensor scans.”

“I think even a sensor-compromised tricorder wouldn’t miss the presence of a sinkhole twenty meters deep,” Boimler noted carefully peering over the sinkhole’s edge at the cluster of unconscious aliens. “Oooh, that’s going to leave a mark.”

“Ha! At last!” The Farian leader crowed scooping up the fallen artifact from where it had landed after being improbably flung from Agrom’s hand before she had plunged into the sinkhole. “The Scourge of the T’Kon is ours!” He quickly motioned to his men. “Let’s get out of here!”



“What the…YAAAHHHHHH!” The Farians yelled as several towering excavated section walls and piles of artifacts suddenly toppled and fell on them as they attempted to withdraw. “GAAAHHHHHH! LOOK OUT! HELP, I’M STUCK! OW, MY FOOT! NO!”




“Ouch,” Mariner winced at the sight of the unconscious and buried Farians. “Talk about a hard loss.”

“I know,” Tendi sighed sympathetically. “Those sections hadn’t been fully scanned, studied and catalogued yet.”

“Finally! Good things come to those who wait!” The team of Klaestrons quickly moved in to where the artifact had rolled to a stop having somehow miraculously avoided being crushed. The team leader swiftly spoke into a communicator. “The artifact has been secured. Request immediate extraction!”

“Huh?” Boimler looked up as a small Klaestron strike craft flew overhead before landing next to the dig site. “Wow, those guys sure came prepared.”

“Finally! Let’s go!” The Klaestrons grabbed the artifact and quickly piled aboard their waiting strike craft. “So long, losers! The dawn of Klaestron invincibility begins now!”

“Oh boy,” Rutherford gulped as the strike craft rose into the air. “This can’t be good.”

“Neither can that,” Mariner pointed as the Klaestron strike craft suddenly paused in midair with smoke pouring out from its nacelles. The entire ship shook for a moment before suddenly plummeting to the ground. “Hit the dirt!”


“Yikes!” Boimler winced as the fallen strike craft scoured along the surface wiping out a good potion of the dig site. “Whoever’s flying that thing is almost a scarier pilot then Tendi.”

“What are you talking about?” Tendi asked looking at him in confusion. “I’m a great pilot.”

“Depends on your definition of the word ‘great’,” Mariner shuddered. “And the word ‘pilot’.”

“At least I’ve never crashed a shuttle into a planet before,” Tendi pointed out. “Well, not outside of a holodeck anyway…”


“You know, I’m starting to see a pattern here,” Rutherford blinked as part of the Klaestron strike craft blew up. Fortunately, the explosion was not too big and the majority of the craft remained intact. “Bad things seem to happen to whoever wields the artifact.”

“No, really?” Mariner gave him a look. “I never would have guessed.”

“Quick! Now’s our chance! Move in!” The party of Reegrunions shouted rushing toward the downed strike craft. “We must find the Scourge of the T’Kon before…”


“Ouch,” Boimler flinched as the missing artifact flew through the air and thwacked into the lead Reegrunion’s head, immediately knocking him out. The artifact had apparently been blown free from the strike craft during the last explosion. “Now that’s just plain sad.”

“Not as sad as that,” Mariner noted as the artifact proceeded to ricochet off every one of the Reegrunions’ skulls, thus rendering them all unconscious. “Man, that old doohickey has mad dom-jot skills.”

“Aha! At last!” The squad of Kzinti howled picking up the artifact. “The Scourge of the T’Kon is ours! All ours!” Their leader pointed the artifact at the four unarmed ensigns while grinning wickedly. “So long, cursed Humans. The Kzinti will finally have our revenge…YEEEOOOWWWWWW!” The Kzinti leader suddenly shrieked and began hopping around in pain.

“You were saying?” Mariner quipped.

“YAAAHHHHHH! IT BURNS! IT BURNS! OWIE! OWIE! OWIE!” The Kzinti leader screamed and flailed about with the suddenly glowing-hot artifact.

“Quick! Drop the Scourge!” One of the other Kzinti shouted.


“Right!” The other Kzinti carefully took aim.



“Wow, look at that,” Tendi marveled at the sight. “I’ve never seen phaser beams actually twist and bend in mid-shot before.”

“Gee, I wonder why?” Mariner drawled as the Kzinti’s every attempt to shoot the artifact ended up striking their wailing leader instead.


“YEEEAAAUUUGGGHHHHHH!” The party of Kzinti howled as every one of them suddenly burst into flames.

“Yikes!” Boimler blanched. “Okay, this is getting way too violent and graphic!”

“Eh, I’ve seen worse,” Mariner shrugged.

“Quick! Stop, drop and roll!” Tendi urged.


“Or that works too,” Mariner noted at the suddenly flash-frozen Kzinti.

“Well, that’s certainly one way to put out a fire,” Rutherford blinked at the collection of ice-covered forms. “Looks like the artifact is capable of causing spontaneous exothermic reactions as well as endothermic ones. I’m impressed.”

“What’s really impressive is how that artifact still has enough energy to function after being buried for over half a million years,” Boimler noted.

“Well, it is a probability and entropy manipulator,” Tendi thought for a moment. “Theoretically, such a device could alter surrounding matter in such a way that its internal power source is not depleted or affected by the normal Laws of Thermodynamics.”

“That’s nice,” Mariner commented grabbing a stray set of packing straps and began disarming the frozen band of Kzinti. “Now let’s tie these guys and the rest of the doomed mercs and looters up so they can be affected by the full weight of Federation Law.”

“Right,” Tendi nodded moving to assist her. “Tricorder readings show all the other formerly hostile parties were rendered unconscious instead of killed. Then again, it’s hard to be certain with all the continuous interference…”

“We can render medical treatment as needed,” Boimler said as the four ensigns worked to secure the various interlopers. “Boy, I can’t wait to write up and present this mission report to Commander Ransom. He and Captain Freeman will be so impressed!”

“Don’t count on it, Boims,” Mariner warned. “I’m sure some bumbling senior officer like Stevens will end up taking all the credit.”

“And if you think about it we really didn’t do that much,” Tendi remarked. “We basically just stood by and took cover while everyone else tried to steal the artifact. If none of us had been here, the artifact would have simply taken them all out anyway.”

“You have a point,” Rutherford commented. “Our presence really didn’t add anything that affected the overall situation.”

“Eh, that’s just part of the job for us overlooked members of Starfleet’s Lower Decks,” Mariner shrugged. “All the flashy adventures and important info tend to involve and be carried out by other higher profile individuals. Remember, these mercenaries and tomb raiders have probably been chasing after that old artifact for years. We just happened to be around to catch the tail end of it.”

“And we did manage to save the archeological team and get them out of harms way,” Boimler pointed out. “Not to mention help prevent a dangerous artifact from falling into the wrong hands.”

“And it only required destroying ninety percent of the existing artifacts and excavated sections of the archeological site to do it,” Mariner quipped right as the few remaining exposed section walls shook and fell down. “Make that ninety-five…”

“Don’t remind me,” Boimler groaned. “Ugh, I’m surprised that ancient artifact didn’t come with a curse or two. Whoever heard of a device that causes nothing but bad luck, destruction and disaster to whoever wields or is associated with it?”

“Eh, it just proves all the old legends and tales surrounding that crazy T’Kon trinket were right,” Mariner said glancing at the artifact. “It certainly is a terrible weapon.”

“And that’s after six hundred thousand years of internal power source depletion,” Rutherford noted. “Just imagine what the artifact was capable of doing at full power.”

“That would explain all the tales describing untold levels of destruction, death and misfortune,” Tendi commented. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the T’Kon had deliberately abandoned and buried the artifact out of fear of what they had created.”

“More like embarrassment,” Mariner drawled. “I bet they chucked the artifact into this literal garbage dump and then piled a butt-load of random junk on top of it in hopes it would never be used or found again.”

“I guess that makes a certain amount of sense,” Boimler speculated. “Especially if prior attempts to destroy the artifact ended up harming the user and associated would-be destroyers. Just like the attempt we witnessed earlier.”

“It would be nice if we had some first-hand accounts or documents detailing more about the artifact,” Rutherford sighed wistfully. “I’ve love to study some technical diagrams of it.”

“Who knows? Maybe there are,” Tendi suggested cheerfully. “Maybe they are ancient texts and preserved manuscripts buried around just waiting to be discovered. Hey, do you think future archeologists will ever uncover and analyze stories and documents describing our daily lives?”

“Are you kidding? That’s crazy,” Mariner scoffed confidently. “What kind of brain-dead weirdos would ever be interested in writing or reading about us?”

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Back in my DM days I would occasionally throw a Wand of Wonder into the mix just for the sheer chaos... This story seems seriously inspired by the good old WoW... Couldn't be a better artifact for STLD... Thanks!!! rbs