Star Trek: Pathfinder #3 - The Revenant Star

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by jerriecan, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011

    Chaa't'ka fled, and the Dragon chased him.

    He knew he could never escape the flames - the Dragon was eternal, unyielding, and he was but a simple acolyte. But the treasure he carried was too precious to leave to the fire. The edges of the heavy box dug into his flesh, drawing blood that fell on the baked ground and sizzled. Waves of heat shimmer transformed the grove into a nightmare of wavering ghosts, twisted husks that had once been beautiful trees heavy with fruit. Now the branches were bare, scorched blacker by each pass of the Dragon.

    Chaa't'ka's one good eye searched desperately for safety - much longer exposed and he would end up just like the trees. He frantically searched the base of the ridge, pushing against the stone, raising and breaking blisters on his hands until one of the stones tipped aside, revealing a dark passage.

    He pushed through the narrow opening and pulled the stone back into place, thankful to be shielded from the Dragon's sight. The heat was relentless, even protected by rock, and the air was thick with sulfur. He turned to the others, the ones who had found this shelter - and froze in horror.

    Lying around the spring in the center o the chamber were a dozen still forms. The spring hissed and spluttered with steam, filling the chamber with toxic fumes, and Chaa't'ka knew that they were already dead. Numb, he let the treasure slip from his grasp - it was useless now, worse than useless.

    He was the last of his kind.

    Chaa't'ka slowly got to his feet and approached the opening, pressing his hands to the stone and pushing with all the strength he had left. The stone tipped, slowly at first until gravity took over and sent it crashing to the searing ground. He looked up, his single good eye looking up at the sky and its terrible heat.

    He would die facing the Dragon.


    Part One

    USS Pathfinder
    Sector 19, en route to Ravala II
    May 27, 2163

    Lt. Tegan Webb drummed her fingers on the helm console and did her best not to yawn.

    The Pathfinder was a magnificent machine, even after her recent battle, but all too often that meant things worked too smoothly. Webb barely had to monitor her station at all as the ship cruised along at a healthy Warp 4 - a cursory check every now and then was enough to ensure everything was functioning normally. To her, that wasn't piloting - it was babysitting. "Hell, at least give me a rogue planetoid or something," she muttered. "Maybe a healthy ion storm."

    "If you're bored, I'm sure Commander Amara could use a spare set of hands," came Beaumont's voice from right behind her. "Maybe scrubbing the plasma vents?"

    How the hell does she do that? Webb thought, not for the first time. Beaumont had a talent for overhearing her various offhand remarks, some more colorful than others. Nothing worthy of disciplinary action, but the fact that the first officer could so easily sneak up on her was starting to get on her nerves. "No, sir," she replied carefully. "Not bored at all."

    "Good," Beaumont replied, the ghost of a smile curling the corners of her lips as she sat in the command chair and checked a PADD.

    At the Navigation console, Lt. Marakis chuckled. "Ever get the feeling she's keeping an eye on you?"

    "Only every day," Webb replied.

    A soft beeping came from Marakis' console. 'Commander, we are approaching the Revala system."

    "Prepare to drop to impulse," Beaumont said, putting aside the PADD. Quiet warnings sounded from the ship's internal speakers, alerting the crew to be ready for deceleration. "Disengage warp drive."

    "Aye, sir," Marakis said. On the main viewer the star-streaks of warp speed resolved into the pinpricks of individual stars. Pathfinder trembled as the warp field dissipated, leaving the ship to make its way into the star system at a relative crawl under impulse power.

    "Set course for Revala II, full impulse," Beaumont said.

    Webb looked out at the Revala system on the main viewer. At this range, the only visible feature of the star system itself was its star, a larger pinprick among the thousands of smaller ones. But hanging ominously just beyond was the Veil, a massive cloud of thick black dust that stretched almost half a light year in every direction, blotting out half the stars that should have been visible.

    At the science console, Lt. Cmdr. Kassin was already crouched over the scanner hood. "Nothing unexpected at first glance," he said. "Local space is quiet except for us."

    "Hardly surprising," Webb said. "Only thing out here worth looking at is the Veil, and once you go inside it all looks the same - pitch black. Even the Tellarites never did more than a fly-by."

    Kassin spared her an annoyed glance, despite the fact that she was partly correct. The Revala system was less than unremarkable - it was almost insignificant. No gas giants, no asteroid fields, and of the four rocky planets that orbited the star, three had long ago lost whatever atmosphere they might have had and were now scoured black. Only the second planet in the system had anything of interest - a viable Earthlike atmosphere.

    The turbolift door slid aside and Captain Teague emerged, followed closely by Chief Medical Officer Ranik. The Tellarite waved a PADD in Teague's face, saying, "...Starfleet Regulation Sixty-One, subsection A, clearly states that all crew disembarking to a planetary surface receive a full set of up-to-date inoculations." He shoved his portly frame in front of Teague. "Speaking of regulations, a third of the crew has yet to report to Sickbay for their initial physical examination - which we were forced to delay due to the abrupt nature of our launch." Ranik folded his arms across his chest. "This situation is unacceptable, Captain. I will not permit any personnel to disembark until I am satisfied they are fit for duty - including yourself."

    Teague held up his hands in mock surrender - no doubt Ranik was thoroughly enjoying his arguments, but Teague was in no mood for the verbal sparring Tellarites were famous for. "Very well then, Doctor. Set up a schedule as you see fit."

    "Including yourself?"

    Teague opened his mouth to argue but stopped himself - I already stopped by for my physical, he was going to say, until he realized that was just the old lie he'd used time and again in the past. Behind him, Amara hid a smile beneath his hand.

    After a long moment Teague nodded. "I'll report to Sickbay at your convenience."

    Ranik eyed him warily. "Very well, Captain. I'll expect you tomorrow, 0800 sharp." With a curt nod Ranik returned to the turbolift and was whisked away.

    Teague turned to Amara. "Something funny, Commander?"

    'Nothing - sir," Amara replied, no longer trying to hide his amusement. "Just admiring your performance. Very smooth."

    "Could have been worse. For a second there I thought he might just haul me down to Sickbay right now." Teague turned to Beaumont. "Ship's status?"

    "All systems normal, sir. Our ETA at Revala II is - "

    Without missing a beat, Marakis said, "Four hours, twenty minutes, sir."

    At least he quit with that 'Captain on the bridge' nonsense, Teague thought as Beaumont vacated the command chair and he settled in. "Very good. Open a channel to the science team."

    Several moments passed before Sarria finally replied, "Aye, sir."

    Teague turned to the Andorian ensign. "Is there a problem?"

    "No, sir," Sarria replied, shooting a glance at Webb as she bit back a yawn. "I have the outpost on speaker."

    "Revala Outpost, this is Captain Teague of the USS Pathfinder. We are inbound and should make orbit in just over four hours."

    "Oh, that's excellent news!" an excited voice replied. "We'll require a full sensor sweep of the planet at maximum resolution, as well as spectrographic analysis of the local star. And then - "

    "I'm sorry, Doctor - ?" Teague said, confused. Their task at Revala II was a simple supply drop and check-up on the science team. Detailed scans were not part of the plan.

    "Jahnavi, Professor Avila Jahnavi," she replied. "And we'll need a scientific team on the surface, gathering samples and running serial grid searches."

    "Doctor - Professor - I'm afraid we haven't been briefed on your current situation," Teague said. "We understood this to be a standard supply drop. I take it that's changed."

    "You could say that, Captain," the voice replied. "Our situation is that there's life here, life on this long-dead world."

    To Be Continued...
  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Awesome work, Jerriecan. I love how you mix Enterprise with the Original Series here. You do a great job with it. Keep at it, please, sir. :bolian:
  3. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Dec 11, 2008
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    More Pathfinder. Yay!

    An exciting 'pre-credit sequence', followed by an apparent milk run turning into a mystery. An intriguing start, and I look forward to more.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Good, mysterious beginnings make for great stories.

    Now we and seemingly Pathfinder have a nice little secret to unwrap.

    Looking forward to see what we find.
  5. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Two

    The briefing room was filled with muted conversation as Beaumont made her way to the chair to the captain's right. Their mission had been very simple - check in with the science team on Revala II, drop off supplies to last them another six months, and continue into Sector Nineteen. Providing detailed scientific support had not been part of the plan. Not that she was annoyed - scientific exploration was central to Starfleet's mandate - but they would need far more detailed information to be of any real help to the science team.

    Teague sat at the head of the conference table and tapped a button. "Professor Jahnavi, can you hear me?"

    "Loud and clear, Captain," came her voice. "We should have the video feed up in just a moment." After a few seconds the wallscreen lit up, displaying the interior of a prefabricated living module. A dark-skinned woman in desert gear was centered on the screen. "How's the image?"

    "Just fine," Teague replied. "Professor, maybe you should brief us on your mission here before we get to the matter at hand."

    "Of course. Ravala II is on the short list for being terraformed. It's lorana-class - dry and hot, but with an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Equatorial temperatures can reach fifty-six degrees Celsius; temperate zones are about ten degrees cooler." Jahnavi paused and wiped the mix of sweat and dust from her forehead with a rag. "Almost makes Vulcan look like a vacation spot."

    Commander T'Vril arched an eyebrow as Jahnavi continued. "The planet was surveyed by the Andorians a century ago - too hot for them to even try an colonize, so they ceded control to the Colonial Authority. Initial surveys revealed minimal life - algae, simple flora and fauna - but nothing more. We've been here six months collecting data for our final report to Starfleet. Until six days ago, that report would have been an unqualified approval for terraforming."

    "What changed?" asked Beaumont.

    Jahnavi opened a crate and pulled out a ceramic container. "One of our survey teams found this in a crevasse. Scans show it's almost seven thousand years old, and isotopic ratios prove it was produced locally." She placed the container back in the crate. "That leaves us at an impasse, Captain. We now have proof of an intelligent civilization existing here thousands of years ago... and virtually no trace of who they were, or what might have become of them. Under these conditions, it's hard to believe any sentient life could evolve."

    "Orbital shift, maybe," Kassin said. "If the planet is in a very slightly elliptical orbit, it could take centuries to notice any significant change."

    "That's just one reason we need your help," Jahnavi said. "We only have two shuttlepods, and our transport isn't built for scientific work. We need a detailed planetary survey to get some idea of what happened here."

    Teague looked at his senior staff. "Ensign Sarria, please contact Starfleet Command to apprise them of the situation. Pass along our apologies, but our next stop will be delayed."

    "Aye, sir."

    Teague turned back to the wallscreen. "My first officer and science officer will coordinate with you. We'll begin scanning as soon as we reach orbit."

    "Thank you, captain," Jahnavi said. "I'm looking forward to working with you."

    The screen blinked off, and Teague turned to his staff. "Commander Kassin, you're in charge of the planetary scans. Identify likely sites for the ground teams to search and pass that information to Commander Beaumont - she'll be coordinating on the surface." He paused. "I also want you to keep an eye out for anything... out of the ordinary. We don't know what happened here."

    He stood, a sign that the briefing was over. "I'd rather whatever happened to this planet not happen to us as well. Dismissed."

    To Be Continued...
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    It's been a minute since you posted this so I had to re-read some of it to catch up on this.

    It made me remember why I liked this, a good old-fashioned Trek mystery complete with ancient civilizations and unexplained disappearances. Really interested where you'll take this.
  7. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Three

    As the shuttlepod hatches swung open, the dry, thin air of Revala II rushed into the pod like a blast furnace, carrying with it dust that instantly coated everything in a fine gray layer. Beaumont's eyes instantly began to water, and she quickly pulled down the dark goggles to protect her vision. It was hardly a historic moment. Nevertheless, this was the first world besides Earth that Beaumont had set foot upon in almost four years, and the sensation of alien ground beneath her soles felt good.

    Huge, skeletal rock formations jutted up from the ground, worn smooth by time and the unceasing combination of wind and dust. Nestled in the lea of one outcropping were the half-dozen huts that were the home of the science team, domed modular structures that could be assembled in minutes once they were on the ground. Easily shipped and just as easily abandoned, if need be. Even after only a few months, the grey polymer shells were already pitted and scored by erosion, turned a dusky brown by the thick layer of grime that clung to them. Atop the nearest hut, a pair of scientists were scooping handfuls of dust out of the air cycler vent.

    At one of the huts further down the line, the hatch opened and an arm gestured for the group to come inside. By the time they complied, a fresh layer had been deposited over the interior, puffing back into motion with every step the landing team took. "I see you've already been greeted by the welcoming committee," Professor Jahnavi said, passing out well-used but clean rags for the landing team. "The dust is everywhere, can't keep it out. Most of our gear wasn't designed for this."

    "At least it's a dry heat," quipped Beaumont.

    "On the surface. There are deep underground aquifers, saturated with sulfur, but that can be filtered," Jahnavi said. "And the Oort cloud has enough cometary bodies to provide at least some surface water - not as much as we'd like, but enough to create temperate zones after a few decades. It'll be like living in the Mojave." She looked at the half-dozen new arrivals. "Welcome to Revala II."

    "Thanks," said Beaumont. "Hard to believe this place is suitable for colonization.”

    “Beggars can’t be choosers,” Jahnavi said, prompting T’Vril to raise an eyebrow at the unfamiliar phrase. “With the demand for habitable space, even marginal worlds like this one are of tremendous value. Even if it takes generations to terraform, Revala can eventually become a garden world.”

    “Which begs the question as to why it is not one at present,” T’Vril said.

    “Exactly,” Jahnavi nodded and brought up a series of scans on the desk terminal. “We’ve found signs of cyclical heating and cooling in geological core samples, turning the planet from jungle to desert and back again. Whatever is happening here, there’s definitely a pattern. We just need to find it.”

    “The Pathfinder has already started scanning the planet,” Beaumont said. "They should be finished within the day. In the meantime, we can get started looking for candidate sites using the data you already have. Hopefully we can find some answers.”

    “Very good, Commander,” Jahnavi said. “We’ve made some progress at translating some of the writing we’ve found on the fragments. It’s reminiscent of the pictographs used by ancient Egypt and the Talok-vas of Andoria.” She opened a crate and showed them a crumbling ceramic pot, inscribed with symbols. “Most of the fragments we’ve found were painted and glazed. Not much left of their coatings. This one was different – much thicker material, and the symbols were deeply inscribed. The ceramic itself is also of different composition, heat and erosion resistant.”

    “A time capsule?” Beaumont said.

    Jahnavi nodded. “That’s our best guess. Some kind of record of what happened to the people who made it - if we manage to translate it. So far it’s the only intact example and there’s precious little else to compare it to.”

    “We’ll send your scans up to the ship, run them through the linguistics databanks,” Beaumont said. “Our communications officer might be able to help.”

    “Good. We’re hardly experts on linguistics or xeno-archaeology,” Jahnavi said. “We’re geologists and meteorologists, mostly. We’re pretty far out of our depth – nobody was expecting to find remnants of civilization here.”

    “Good thing we dropped in, then,” Beaumont said. She looked closely at the pot. “Was it hollow when you found it?”

    “It was filled with sand,” Jahnavi replied. “We took samples as we emptied it. If the pot held anything of relevance it’s long gone. Why do you ask?”

    Beaumont pointed to the rim, where the remnants of a dark substance clung stubbornly. “I think that’s pitch. Whoever made the jar intended for it to hold something, sealed away from the outside.”

    “Whatever it was, it’s long since been scoured away,” Jahnavi said.

    “You said you had managed to translate some of the symbols,” T’Vril said.

    “Yes,” Jahnavi said. She brought up a series of images on the terminal. “We’ve identified symbols representing ‘drought’, ‘fire’, ‘water’, and ‘death’, among others. But this one seems to be the most prevalent.” She focused in on a circle with lines radiating from it, a dark spot in the center. “In context, this symbol represents fire from the sky, or a devouring beast that leaves nothing but ash in its wake. The closest translation is ‘dragon’.”

    “Fitting,” Beaumont said.

    “Fictional,” T’Vril added, frowning.

    “Either way, an enigma,” Jahnavi said. “One that needs to be solved. The Colonial Authority would never allow development of a potentially unstable planet. Eighteen months of work would all be for nothing.”

    Beaumont nodded and stood. “We’ll find your Dragon.”

    To Be Continued...
  8. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Four

    Ship’s Log, USS Pathfinder – May 30, 2163.

    The Pathfinder has been in the Revala system for three days now. We have scanned every inch of the planet, the star and every planetoid of measurable size. So far, nothing has led us any closer to finding out what happened to the civilization hat once existed on Revala II. We are considering our next action.

    “Nothing,” said Kassin, disgusted.

    “Can you clarify?” Teague asked.

    The senior staff – minus Beaumont and T’Vril, still on the planet’s surface – were assembled in the Conference room, where Lt. Cmdr Kassin was sharing his findings.

    “All scans indicate no orbital shift – the planet is stable as they come,” Kassin said. He pulled up the results of his scans on the large wall display. “We’ve scanned every inch of Revala II and identified several promising sites for excavation, sites that may once have been settlements. But there’s no indication the planet itself has anything to do with the climate shift.”

    “What about the star?” said Amara.

    “Same story – Revala is a G5 sequence star, slightly smaller and cooler than Sol,” Kassin said. “Somewhere in the middle of its lifespan. Nowhere near the point it would lose stability. And there are no gravitic anomalies, no subspace disturbances. Nothing to explain what happened here.”

    Teague stood and went to the windows. The Veil hung there ominously, like a black cloud waiting to engulf them all.

    Engulf… or conceal.

    “Tell me the composition of the Veil,” he said.

    Kassin looked up, confused. “Sir?”

    “The Veil. What’s it made of?”

    “Fairly typical for an interstellar cloud,” Kassin said. “Mostly chondrites of various sizes, from dust to planetoid size. Silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, some heavy metals, some radioactives, all spread out very thin – not enough to bother trying to extract. Based on the size of the Veil it’s probably the remnants of a planetary system that failed to become coherent and ultimately disintegrated.”

    “Could it conceal something?”

    “Easily, Captain,” Kassin said, realizing where Teague was going and almost ashamed he had not considered it himself. “Most starship sensors would be effectively blinded once inside, due to the density of the Veil. It would be like flying through pea soup.”

    Teague nodded and looked at his helmsman. “Lieutenant Webb, are you up for a challenge?”

    “It’d be nice if I could see where we’re going,” she shrugged.

    “Commander Kassin, do whatever you can to enhance our sensors,” Teague said. “Rik, make sure we’re sealed tight. Have damage control on standby, just in case.”

    “Right,” Amara said.

    “Ensign, inform the surface teams of our plans,” Teague said. “Drop a subspace repeater here, just in case. At least we can stay in touch.”

    “Aye, sir,” Sarria replied.

    “Very good. Dismissed,” Teague said, heading toward the door.


    I hate sand, Beaumont thought for the umpteenth time that day.

    Between her training and her years in active service, she had set foot on dozens of worlds. Few were truly earthlike – there was always some element that made alien worlds… alien. The gravity was too low or too high; the air had an unusual taint that made it taste odd; the sky was green or pink or some other color than familiar blue. But Revala II was proving the least hospitable of them all.

    Grains of sand permeated everything, somehow getting through most every filter and seal and into the delicate inner workings of every piece of equipment the away team had brought with them. After their first day one of the shuttles had been grounded; by noon on the second day, all three were down for repairs. Which led to Beaumont lying on her back, half buried in the guts of the engines while fresh sand threatened to cover her as well. She pulled the clogged filter free, crawled out, then tapped the filter against the hull, releasing a thick cloud that swirled around her head and made her cough.

    “Do you require assistance?” a familiar voice said, and Beaumont looked up to see Lt. Cmdr T’Vril standing there, hands clasped behind her back.

    “No, I’m fine,” Beaumont replied. “Just enjoying the reminder why away missions aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.” She looked up at the Vulcan tactical officer. “How about you? This place remind you of home?”

    “Not as much as you might think,” T’Vril replied, then knelt down, holding out a sealed case. “Replacement filters for the intakes.”

    “How’d you guess?”

    “There was no need for guesswork,” T’Vril replied. “All shuttlepod malfunctions have thus far been related to the intake filters becoming clogged with dust. Logic dictates that would be the most likely cause of this malfunction as well.”

    “Got to love logic,” Beaumont grunted, and immediately regretted the words.

    If T’Vril took offense, she didn’t show it. “We can complete the replacements faster if we work together.” Without another word she sat on the ground and crawled into the open access panel.

    At least she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, Beaumont thought, and crawled in after her.

    The space was cramped, just barely enough to allow both women to work. As they pulled the clogged filters from their brackets and replaced them with new ones, Beaumont gradually became aware of a scent – flowery, like hyacinth. Is she wearing perfume? Beaumont thought. Thought that wouldn’t be logical.

    Her thoughts were interrupted by a chirp from her communicator. She reached down, barely able to maneuver her arm between their bodies, and managed to lift the device close to her face. "Beaumont here," she said.

    "Commander, this is Pathfinder," came Sarria's voice. "The ship will be leaving orbit shortly. Captain Teague plans to search the Veil for..." Sarria searched for the word. "Anomalies," she settled on.

    "Understood. We will continue working our search grids. Don't be a stranger."

    "No, sir. Pathfinder out."

    Beaumont snapped the communicator closed. “Looks like we’re on our own for now.”

    T’Vril snapped the last filter in place and slithered out of the access panel, then offered a hand to Beaumont. “I have plotted a course to the next grid location.”

    Beaumont reached up, grasping the Vulcan’s strong hand and pulling herself to her feet. “By all means,” she said, brushing sand out of her hair.

    Again she thought, I hate sand.

    To Be Continued...
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    The mystery deepens. And now Pathfinder is going to dive head first into an unknown dust cloud while leaving the away team on its own? I hope whatever either team finds won't be too much for them to handle on their own. Otherwise there's going to be all kinds of trouble.
  10. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Five

    “You’re not superstitious, are you?” said Marakis.

    The Pathfinder was cruising at a leisurely half impulse, making its way toward the edge of the Veil. It had taken most of a day to approach – warp drive could have gotten the ship there in minutes, but they were within the gravitational boundary of the Revala system, far too close to the star to safely use the warp engines. So far, the trip had been uneventful… except for the ominous black cloud that stretched out in front of them, concealing everything beyond.

    And within.

    Webb looked at him with a hint of derision. “I’m a Boomer – superstition is in my blood.”

    “So tell us, what do the legends say?” Marakis said, tilting his head toward the main viewscreen. His voice took on a low, somber tone. “What hides behind the Veil? What lurks in the shroud of dust and darkness?”

    “Less melodrama than what’s on the bridge right now, I’m sure,” Webb replied

    Marakis chuckled. “Fine, so what stories do Boomers tell each other around the proverbial campfire?”

    “You name it,” Webb said. “Lots of time for tall tales when you’re moving at Warp 2.5. Uncle Rhys used to tell me about a planet he saw once, tidally locked in orbit – one side baked dry, the other frozen because it had never seen the sun. The only habitable area was along the terminator – no day, no night, just eternal twilight.”

    “Sakhaji,” said Teague from the command seat, where he was perusing a PADD. “Saw it once when I was a lieutenant aboard the Houston. Nice people, but had funny ideas about time.” He looked up when Webb remained silent. “Please, lieutenant, continue.”

    “Anyway,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “then there’s the Great Bird of the Galaxy. Legend has it a world becomes rich and prosperous if one chooses to settle there.”

    “Hopefully it won’t get hungry,” Marakis said.

    On the other side of the bridge, Sarria looked up from her studies of the pot. “I remember when we spent the night out in the ice caves, away from the city,” she said. “Somebody always told the story of Vakkir. The gods cast her out and she carved the Great Caves with her tears. The pools left behind eventually gave birth to all life on Andoria.”

    Teague set down his PADD. “And what about more pertinent legends? Have you made any progress with translating the symbols on the pot?”

    “A little, sir,” Sarria said. “I’ve run all the symbols the ground team collected through the linguistics databanks. There are certain similarities to several ancient languages, but no direct correlation. The computer is working a brute-force cross-match algorithm right now but I’m not holding out much luck – too many variables to get a coherent result.”

    She brought up an inset image of a section of text and displayed it on the main viewscreen. “But this segment is fairly clear. It’s like whoever inscribed it deliberately chose to make the meaning as clear as possible.”

    “What does it mean?” said Webb.

    “Beware the fire hiding within the dark,” Sarria said. “Beware the waking dragon.”

    Teague looked back toward the main viewscreen. “Sounds like we’re heading in the right direction.”

    “Or the wrong one,” Webb said, her hand automatically reaching into her pocket to grasp the lucky twenty-one dulac coin she always kept there. Just in case.

    An alert sounded and Marakis checked his console. “We’re approaching the outer boundary of the Veil.”

    “Helm, drop speed to one-quarter impulse,” Teague said. “Charge hull plating to repel debris. Keep a close eye on resistance – I don’t want any more scratches on Starfleet’s fancy new ship.”

    A moment later, the lift doors opened and Lt. Cmdr Kassin stepped onto the bridge. “Glad you could join us, Commander,” Teague said.

    “I was fine-tuning the main sensors,” he said, sitting down. “They keep losing alignment. We might have warped the spaceframe during our little battle.”

    Teague said. “Is it serious?”

    “Annoying, more like,” said Kassin. “I’ll have to realign them every two weeks or so.”

    “I’ll have Commander Amara put together a work crew,” Teague said, tapping on his PADD.

    “No need, sir,” Kassin said. “I’d rather do it myself. The necessary adjustments are minute, anyway. What would be more use is repairing the spaceframe.”

    “As soon as we reach Septimus Six,” Teague said. “I’ll add it to the repair schedule.”

    Kassin brought up his display and looked at the fresh scan readings. “Scans coming through now. Composition is just as expected – chondrites, trace heavy metals.” His brow furrowed. “Significantly more dense than typical dust clouds. I recommend we proceed slowly, with hull plating at half charge.”

    “Tactical, you heard the commander. Half charge on the hull plating.”

    He leaned forward, gazing into the featureless darkness. “Helm,” he said slowly, “take us in.”

    To Be Continued...
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    And in we go.

    The ominous vibe on the bridge seems to promise interesting discoveries. And interesting in Starfleet is usually a synonym for highly perilous.
  12. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Thanks - glad you're enjoying it. :)
  13. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Six

    “We have arrived at Grid 97-B, Commander.”

    Beaumont looked up from her PADD, where she had been reviewing the data they had already collected from a dozen search sites. So far, none of them had yielded anything more noteworthy than sand and scorched rock. These were the times she longed to be a mere science officer again, eyes locked to the sensor hood of a starship. So much more capability than hand scanners and bare eyes.

    She set aside the PADD and stood, moving toward the front of the shuttlepod. “You know the drill,” Beaumont said, settling in the copilot seat and focusing on the screens.

    “Yes, Commander,” said T’Vril, gently banking the shuttle to port and flying in a wide circle. They would circle the site first, scanning the area, then land to investigate whatever appeared most likely to be signs of life. Thus far, all they had found were a couple of granite blocks that might have been fashioned by tools several thousand years ago.

    Beaumont studied the screens carefully as they circled. Below them was a wide ridge, near-vertical on one side and gently sloped on the other. “Nothing out of the ordinary,” she said after several minutes. “Several fissures on the cliff face, probably natural – “

    An alarm chimed on the console and Beaumont leaned in. On the screen, a red crosshair was flashing near the base of the cliff, a few meters inside the rock face. “Radiation source,” she said. “Looks like… low yield, maybe a power cell of some kind?”

    “Unlikely, given the primitive technology the civilization appears to have possessed,” T’Vril replied. “Perhaps a natural source?”

    “No, it’s too concentrated.” Beaumont focused the view. “Not picking up any gamma particles. Set us down.”

    T’Vril nodded and steered toward the ground, setting the shuttlepod down on the nearest flat patch of sand, three hundred meters distant. Beaumont headed toward the rear of the pod, retrieved two small packs which contained various tools, and handed one to T’Vril. “Hopefully we won’t have to dig too far down.”

    As soon as she stepped out of the pod, Beaumont knew her hopes were in vain. The fine sand gave way, letting her foot sink up to her ankle. Each step was going to be a chore. She checked her hand scanner to be sure of her bearings, then trudged off, T’Vril close behind her and seemingly none the worse for wear.

    By the time they reached the cliff face Beaumont was breathing heavily. The heat was oppressive, even as they entered the shadow of the cliff; waves of heat radiated from the baked stone. As they approached, Beaumont’s spirits sank. The sand had drifted against the base of the cliff, leaving them with several meters of sand to try and dig through. And every time the fine sand was disturbed it slid to fill the void that had been created. Beaumont looked at the small collapsible shovel in her toolkit. “I don’t think this is the tool for the job,” she said.

    T’Vril slung her kit and pulled her phase pistol from its holster. “Perhaps this will be more efficient,” she said, adjusting the weapon’s settings. She aimed downward toward their goal, then squeezed the firing stud.

    A cone of bright blue-tinged energy lanced out and struck the sand, disintegrating the particles within and heating those along the perimeter into smooth glass, forming a meter-wide tunnel through the sand. T’Vril adjusted the beam spread, narrowing the cone the further the tunnel went, until a void appeared at the bottom. She snapped off the pistol and returned it to its holster. “After you, Commander,” she said.

    Beaumont gingerly touched the newly-formed glass, then tapped her knuckles against it. Seems solid enough, she thought. Then she knelt down, pulled a lamp from her kit, and carefully made her way inside. The glass was smooth but not slippery; the couple of times she lost her grip, the tunnel was narrow enough for Beaumont to reach out and jam her hands against the walls. Two meters behind her T’Vril followed, her breathing calm and steady.

    Beaumont reached the bottom and pushed aside the half-melted chunks of sand and glass, then shone her light into the void. “It’s a cave,” she said, looking at the walls several meters away. She broke apart the remains of half-formed glass and crawled out of the tunnel, shining her light around.

    T’Vril looked at the walls. “These appear to have been smoothed by tools,” she said.

    “A shelter?” Beaumont mused. “Maybe even a home?” She looked at the dark chamber. “Doesn’t seem very welcoming.”

    “Things may have been different several thousand years ago,” T’Vril replied. “Where is the radiation source?”

    Beaumont checked her hand scanner. “Close. We’re practically on top of it.” She looked around, checked the scanner again, then pointed at the floor. “Right there.”

    T’Vril assembled her shovel and knelt down, rapidly clearing away the sand until the shovel blade struck something solid. She carefully cleared away the sand by hand, revealing a heavy metal box. She pulled it out of the hole and set it between them, running a finger across the top. “This would seem to be lead,” she said.

    Beaumont nodded, looking at the screen of her scanner. “Confirmed.” She looked at the locking clamps, crusted with millennia of sand but still intact. “And those are titanium alloy.” She looked up at T’Vril, shaking her head. “There’s no way whoever made that pot made this – it’s a thousand years more advanced than what this civilization left behind.”

    T’Vril raised an eyebrow and asked the obvious question: “So how did it come to be here?”

    To Be Continued...
  14. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    More questions without any obvious answers. This expedition is getting more intriguing by the minute.
  15. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Seven

    Ship's Log, May 31, 2163

    The Pathfinder has been inside the Veil for almost eighteen hours. No contact has been made with anything larger than a fist-sized rock. At the present rate, Commander Kassin informs me it will take us roughly seven years to map the Veil in its entirety.

    Good thing we packed a lunch.

    Webb stared at the blank main viewscreen and drummed her fingers on the helm console. "And to think I was complaining about being bored at Warp Four," she grumbled. "At least there were stars to look at then."

    Sarria looked up from her analysis of the symbols which covered the urn. "You're easily bored, you know. Have you considered a hobby? Something... relaxing?"

    "Flying is relaxing," Webb replied. "This isn't flying, this is..." Webb trailed off as Sarria looked at her expectantly. "Well, it's not flying," she finished.

    "I see." Sarria turned back to her console. "I could teach you ice carving. I'm sure the chef could set aside a small section of freezer space."

    "No thanks, I'd rather stew," Webb said, folding her arms over her chest. She had never been much of a morning person, and the near-deathly quiet of the bridge was the exact opposite of the environment she thrived in. The first shift officers had little else to do other than stare at their nearly-blank readings. She was tempted to pull a few evasive maneuvers, call it a practice drill, and deal with the fallout later. But even though they had not encountered anything in the cloud as yet did not mean there was nothing out there to encounter. Hell, maybe ice carving's not so bad, she thought.

    As soon as she opened her mouth a piercing alarm sounded and the bridge lights went red. "What the hell?" she said, checking her console.

    At the science station, Kassin's eyes widened as he stared into his scanner hood.

    A side hatch slid open and Teague stepped onto the bridge. "Report!" he barked.

    "Massive surge of ionizing radiation, port-side forward," Kassin said. "Alpha, beta, and gamma particles."

    "Hull plating to full charge. Helm, full stop." Teague sat in the command chair and stared at the darkness on the main viewscreen. "Can you pinpoint the source?"

    "Working on it, Captain, I just - wait, it's gone." At the same moment, the radiation alarm went silent, leaving the bridge eerily silent.

    "Radiation doesn't just disappear, Commander," Teague said, standing up and moving over to look over Kassin's shoulder. He peered at the readouts, but could find nothing but dust and darkness. "This doesn't make any sense."

    "Agreed, sir." Kassin began a deep scan of the direction the radiation had come from. "There's nothing out there, not a damn thing."

    Teague returned to the captain's chair and looked back at the main viewscreen. "Are we in any danger?"

    "Our hull plating will protect us in the short term," Kassin said. "But only if it stays intact. Still, I wouldn't want to spend much time bathed in that kind of radiation - minutes rather than hours, if we have a choice."

    "I'm not planning on staying," Teague said. He slapped the comm switch on the arm of his chair. "Bridge to Engineering."

    "Amara here. Was that what I think it was?" the chief engineer's voice said.

    "We encountered a pocket of ionizing radiation, source unknown. What's the ship's status?"

    "All internal systems are a hundred percent. We're showing minor degradation of the hull plating - it wasn't designed to handle constant use in dense dust clouds. The whole system is operating well outside tolerances." He paused. "Recommend we don't push it much further. Sir."

    The warning tone in Amara's voice was unmistakeable. "Understood, Commander," Teague replied. "We'll step lightly. Bridge out. Ensign Sarria, advise the away team of our situation. Looks like everyone's having a problem with dust today." He looked at Webb. "Helm, make your course 035 by 330, speed one-quarter impulse. If the radiation alarm trips again, go to full stop."

    "Aye, sir," Webb said, her fingers flying across the controls. That's what I get for complaining, she thought.

    The Pathfinder crept further into the Veil, leaving no trace of its passage.

    To Be Continued...
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Could this muster radiation be an omen for what is still to come, for the real dangers hidden inside this interstellar dust cloud?
  17. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Dec 11, 2008
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    I've just got caught up with this (I've not been on the BBS recently, feeling guilty about my lack of progress on my own fanfic). An intriguing story, excellently written.
  18. Count Zero

    Count Zero Make our planet great again! Moderator

    Mar 19, 2005
    European Union
    I just caught up with it as well. So far, it's quite an intriguing story. Love the mystery and that it's an exploration story. Hopefully, there'll be more soon. :)
  19. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Jun 7, 2011
    Part Eight

    "I would advise against that," said T'Vril.

    Beaumont looked over her shoulder at T'Vril. They had returned to the grid search after informing the science team of their discovery, trying to finish their area before retiring for the night. The wind had picked up severely, rocking the shuttlepod as it flew through billowing clouds of dust that threatened to become a full-fledged sandstorm. But Beaumont's thoughts kept turning to the lead box, an anomaly if she had ever seen one. "Against what?"

    "Opening the case," T'Vril answered.

    "I'm not planning on it," Beaumont said, hoping she at least sounded certain.

    "The case is an enigma, To a rational, curious mind such as yours, an enigma demands explanation. It is logical that you would want to open the case to examine its contents while there is opportunity." T'Vril set the controls on autopilot and turned to face Beaumont. "To do so without as much information as possible, however, would put both of us at undue risk."

    "You're right, of course," Beaumont sighed, staring at her hand scanner. The portable device had been unable to give clear readings of the contents of the case, blocked by the thick lead. "And I do want to open it, very much so. How the hell did something so advanced end up buried in a cave made by a race barely out of the stone age? It makes no sense."

    "Perhaps it was salvaged from a vessel which crashed here long ago," T'Vril said. "The indigenous civilization would not have possessed the engineering or scientific knowledge to understand what they had found. It could have been an object of worship, an icon."

    "Perhaps," Beaumont said. She looked at the exterior of the case; symbols adorned it at regular intervals, similar to the pictograms on the urn but too faded to make out, even with her hand scanner. They would be able to make a much more thorough examination back at the base camp. Reluctantly she set the case inside a padded crate and sealed the lid. "How long until we reach the next - "

    A harsh buzzing alarm filled the cabin. T'Vril turned and examined the controls, seeing a line of crimson telltales lit up. "Strap in, Commander."

    Beaumont was already pulling the harness over her shoulders. "What's the problem?"

    "Primary and secondary intakes are clogged," T'Vril said. "The engine intercoolers are overheating." She gripped the manual controls. "We will have to make an emergency landing."

    "Better than falling out of the sky." Beaumont brought the scanners online, looking for a flat piece of terrain among the rocks. After several eternal seconds she fund something. "There's a flat stretch a hundred meters long, twenty degrees to starboard, six kilometers away."

    T'Vril adjusted her course without a word. Already the shuttlepod was becoming difficult to control - the main engines were stuttering, cutting out at random for a moment before firing again. Combined with the howling wind outside, the ride was bumpy to say the least.

    Beaumont brought up the comm system. "Revala Base, this is Pathfinder shuttlepod one. We have imminent drive failure and are making an emergency landing, coordinates..." She checked the screen and read off a string of numbers. "Repeat, Revala Base, this is Pathfinder shuttlepod one, declaring an emergency." She paused for a response.

    All she got was static.

    "I hope they heard us," Beaumont said, setting the message to repeat and activating a distress beacon. "Damn sandstorm is kicking up all kinds of electrical interference."

    T'Vril angled the front of the shuttlepod upward, lining them up to land on the pod's belly instead of nose-first. The engines cut out, fired, cut out again - and this time stayed dead. "Brace for impact," T'Vril said.

    Inertia briefly carried the shuttlepod on course until gravity overcame it, pulling the pod toward the ground. The pod struck a dune and slid, carving a deep furrow in the sand as its velocity was quickly turned to heat by the friction. Plumes of sand formed a solid wake that was quickly picked up by the wind and carried along with the storm.

    The pod struck an outcrop of stone, tilting sideways. For one heartstopping moment Beaumont was sure they were going to flip over; the processor in her brain supplied her all the relevant calculations of mass and center of gravity and momentum she could ever need.

    Then the pod slammed back down onto its belly, still at last.

    To Be Continued...
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    For a Vulcan, T'Vril can read humans with surprising ease. Or perhaps it's just Beaumont. She is of course absolutely right. Do not open the mystery case no matter how much you'd want to. Especially not in an uncontrolled environment.

    For now the duo is going to have a bigger problem. A shuttle crash in the a middle of a sand storm and without communications? This could turn real ugly, real quick.