And here we are! I feel this section should be dedicated to Terilynn, saviour of this series! Thank you
For a place that had not felt the touch of life in 25000 years, the control centre – and indeed the rest of the city – was almost completely intact. Not unlike the bridge of a starship, Nathan thought as he walked around the circular perimeter. The room was perhaps 15 metres across, the white stone walls lined with strangely shaped control consoles and displays, with a central, slightly lowered ‘arena’ in the centre containing a ring-shaped table, several chairs and an interesting-looking pedestal inside it.
“Can we get any power in here?” the captain called to no-one in particular. In the three hours since the first team had beamed down, they and the other arrivals had only been able to secure the stone building in the centre of the city, and even then with some difficulty with spreading resources too thin. The Beltane’s five shuttles and captain’s yacht had flown down laden with supplies shortly after the control centre was secured, using any of the dozens of empty landing platforms underneath the roof of the building. The Beltane herself was maintaining an orbit above their position, her captain unwilling to let the ship land before the city had been properly checked out.
As if in answer to her question, three microfusion generators materialised in the central arena. Each generator was cylindrical, about 15cm tall and 10cm in diameter. The much smaller microfusion chambers – to be inserted into the generators – beamed down a few seconds later.
“Okay, let’s get these generators online and interfaced to the power systems in this room! Dr Carson, what computer experts do you have down here?”
The doctor didn’t look up from what he was doing. “Well ordinarily I’d recommend me, but since I’m busy trying to figure out exactly what does what around here...” he stopped at a severe look from the captain, “... then I’ll just stop what I’m doing and do that instead,” he muttered, the irritation seeping back into his voice.
“Thank you,” Temaga rolled her eyes slightly and tapped the commbadge on her chest,
“Temaga to T’Sor. What’s your status down there?” a moment, then a soft, slightly monotonous female voice replied, “This is T’Sor. We have secured what appears to be a chamber that distributes power to the rest of the building. No alien contact as of yet, Captain.
Temaga nodded to herself. “Very well professor. We’ll get someone down there with the generators and confirm it’s the right place to set them up. I trust you have someone down there qualified to initialise and interface three Mark Seven microfusion power generation units?”
“Indeed, Captain. I will await their arrival, T’Sor out.
Smiling to herself slightly, Temaga turned to see Dr Carson kneeling by an open panel on the central computer pedestal. She descended the three steps into the arena-like structure and took a seat on the table behind him. “Any progress?”
Nathan continued his work for a moment before answering, not looking up from the system. “Yes and no... I’ve identified this as the central portal through which all computer circuits enter and exit this room and have managed to connect most of them back to their consoles, but,” he rose and indicated the main interface atop the pedestal. Hexagonal, several centimetres tall and surrounded by six conduits, two red, two yellow and two green opposite other; the interface, encased in a circular trench on the pedestal offered no helpful hints on how to use it. “This is a whole different story. I can’t make heads or tails of it – scans won’t reveal anything about its internal structure or functions. The most I can surmise is that these,” he picked up a small, square, blue glassy object crossed with opaque lines from next to the interface, and indicated its origin on the side “form some sort of command or processing structure similar to our bio-neural packs or IOCs. We’ll need to dismantle this thing and reverse-engineer it piece by piece if we’re to get it working any time soon.”
Temaga considered for a moment. Were her skills needed more elsewhere? She decided they weren’t and called across the room, “Ensign! I’d like you and two others to take these generators down to T’Sora. She’s in a room near the base of the building. Use your tricorders to follow the power conduits if you can’t find her.” After a “Yes, ma’am,” from the ensign, the Captain turned back to Dr Carson.
“Right then Doctor... let’s get to work on this.” And sizing up the computer interface for a moment, she removed a small, thin tool from Carson’s engineering kit and gently prised out a yellow, rhomboidal crystal from the top.
“Report, lieutenant.” Commander Cad’En was beginning to lose patience.
“Same as before sir,” the lieutenant at the science station answered, “a small contact within the planets rings, unidentifiable at this range. I can’t tell you any more, sir; we’ll need to get much closer.”
Cad’En looked over the reports on the monitors. There it was alright, a low-level EM reading, inconsistent with the components of the rings, orbiting the planet with them. “Ensign,” he spoke addressing the helm “what sort of distance is there between the pieces of debris in the planets rings?” the ensign scanned for a moment before replying. “The largest pieces are between 300 metres and two kilometres away from each other; other, smaller components are every 50 centimetres to 100 metres apart. Mostly small enough to clear with both deflectors in concert if you’re thinking of flying in there.”
This one had good ears, Cad’En thought, smiling to himself.
“Very well ensign, plot a course at your discretion towards the source of that EM reading. Beltane to Temaga,” he pressed a control on the arm of the command chair, “we’re tracking an unidentified reading within the ring system; we think it may be a small vessel of some kind. Request permission to investigate?”
“Acknowledged commander, report to me when you have more conclusive readings.
“Yes ma’am. Beltane out.” He looked at the viewscreen, towards the lustrous beauty of the glittering, silvery planetary rings. The gas giant his ice world orbited had something similar – their beauty enhanced of course by the presence of swirling blue cloud, but these had a splendour all of their own.
“Ensign, is your course ready?” The helmsman turned and nodded. “Very well... take us in.”
The image on the screen shifted; the planet disappeared off the right edge and a mass of silver suddenly dominated. As they drew closer, Cad’En could make out larger particles of debris, some of them larger than the entire ship. And that one...
“Lieutenant, detailed scans. Do some of those fragments look a little... unnatural to you?”
She pressed a few controls, and the images on her displays focused and tightened. “Yes sir; I’m picking up large traces of refined metals and space-resistant materials in the debris.” She stared at the main viewer, watching as the rings ceased to be a single entity and allow the ship inside them. She pointed out a large, angular fragment in the centre of the screen.
“There; that’s definitely artificial. I’m reading structures akin to power conduits and information distribution networks, among others. Looking at the rest of the field... I’d guess that these rings are composed of the debris of hundreds of large satellites from the time the planet was inhabited.”
“Okay... ensign, tractor a few small samples into the cargo bay, but maintain course toward the EM emission.”
Soaring majestically through the silver-grey asteroid field, the cargo doors atop the Beltane’s secondary hull opened and three thin blue beams latched onto several pieces of debris, drawing them into the ship.
Cad’En stood behind the helm console as the view switched from aft to forward. They were coming into range of the mysterious EM reading, and every now and then some of the fragments would drift just a little too close.
“Try and fly a bit closer, ensign,” he smiled slightly and moved back to the command chair.
“We’re in range, sir,” the lieutenant at science informed him. “Very well. Take us to within 700 metres and hold position. Let’s see it on screen.”
This certainly stood out against the silver debris of the rings. Black, and covered in thick, heavy looking armour plating, the source of the emission was clearly a small ship.
An alarm suddenly sounded at tactical to Cad’En’s right; he rose quickly out of the chair and turned to face the tactical officer. Behind him, the vessel on the screen was powering up, heading straight for them.
“What the hell is happening?”
“Remove the nano-cluster elements... bypass the subspace coils... and that should about do it.” Temaga muttered to herself, glancing across the pedestal at Nathan to see how he was progressing. They had taken to dismantling half of the main interface each. By no means an easy procedure, disconnecting the frames and removing the crystals had taken them the better part of an hour. She put her microfilament cluster behind her on the table and waited expectantly.
Dr Carson could feel her piercing gaze on his forehead.”Yeh, yeh, I’m almost done.” He removed the last triangular green crystal from the base and slotted it into the Federation-style interface he and Temaga had quickly put together. A beep from the large display they had set up confirmed its presence and activation – the building’s computer system could now be accessed and controlled.
“Good work doctor. Now all we have to do is tie in a few translators to the input devices so we can see what they’re actually saying...”
T’Sora was not pleased. Naturally as a Vulcan, she was never pleased, or displeased. But something about the situation made her seem displeased nonetheless. Perhaps she should increase her meditation tonight.
“Very well. Attempt another power-up. Doctor, kindly monitor power output from the generators. Ensign, please adjust the interface accordingly. Crewman, contact the command centre and inform them we are having difficulty integrating the generators with the alien power systems.”
Crewman Rhiohr nodded, stood by the doorframe and tapped his commbadge.
Temaga scrutinised the display, looking for some kind of pattern. The computers were up and running on the limited power they had managed to install in the command centre, and the interfaces were functioning correctly. However, she was now working alone trying to decipher the information they had so far accessed.
“I just about reach my limit when it comes to alien languages. I tried learning German once for a few years – actually it was a requirement, but anyway I was pretty bad so, as you seem to be the foremost expert on... well, everything that I’m not, I’ll leave you to it,” had been Dr Carson’s departure speech, given as soon as Temaga had expressed the need for assistance with the information. She couldn’t help but admire the man, really, but he was just... well, annoying sometimes. Especially now.
“Okay... well, this... now this could mean “friend”. Friend... un-friend? No, that’s “enemy”. So, enemy... what? “Bad”... speaks for itself... Inc... Radi... “home” and “leave”. Erm...” Starting at the most recent file entry, Temaga appeared to have uncovered a final log entry by the people of the city. However, it left no clue as to why they left, and why they left their city intact in the face of such a “bad” enemy.
“Rhiohr to Captain Temaga,
” a male voice sounded as her commbadge activated. “Yes crewman?”
“T’Sora would like me to inform you that she is having... difficulty connecting the generators to the power grid. She doesn’t seem too happy.
Temaga laughed, “Now now crewman, you know as well as I do that she can’t be “happy” or otherwise. But I know what you mean; I’ll send someone else down there to take a look.”
“Thank you ma’am, Rhiohr out.
” She resumed her work, wondering how long she would be able to keep it up before the power went out.
“Doctor Carson?” she called as he was walking past.”
“Look, I’ve already said, I’m no good with languages, hell I struggle with this one sometimes –”
“It’s alright Nathan. I need you to get down to the power room, see if you can sort out the problem they’re having down there.”
“Oh, I see. Well it’s just that I was... you know what, sure, why not?”
Here we go,
Temaga thought. “Well, you’re not too busy up here, are you?” He started to reply but was cut off by another signal from her commbadge.
“Captain Temaga, please respond!
” She looked puzzled at the note of urgency but pressed the badge again.
“Yes commander, what is it?”
was on fire, her bridge not least of all. Two aft consoles and the MSD had exploded seconds into the engagement, and a damaged EPS conduit in the wall was spitting lethal showers of sparks every few seconds.
“We’re under attack!” Cad’En struggled to keep his balance as the ship rocked again and again. “The contact in the rings – it was a vessel. It powered up and opened fire the minute we got close. I had to take us out of the debris field and into open space but it’s still following!”
“Take her back to the rings commander; myself and others will be beaming back. Use the debris to evade them as long as you can while your shields are lowered.
“Yes ma’am! You heard her order – get us back there! Transporter room, stand by to lock onto the captain and her group.”
In space, the Beltane swept a 180 degree turn and headed back to the planet, firing several ineffectual phaser shots at the attacker as they passed. Deadly green bolts of energy were sent back in return, impacting on the starboard warp nacelle. The outer hull vaporised instantly, followed by an explosive shock as the energy reacted with the subspace field coils, crippling several of them and sending some of them shooting out into space, still fritzing with uncontained energy.
“The warp drive is down! We will enter the rings in thirty seconds, but the hostile will join us only eight seconds later. I don’t know how long I can evade them in there.”
Cad’En’s face was determined, his blue skin darkened with soot and smoke. “Just take her in ensign. That should be plenty of time.”
swooped majestically between the silver and grey chunks of rock and metal of the rings. Power to the deflectors had been reduced to a minimum, so several fragments made it to within metres of the hull before being swept aside.
“Okay, I think I’ve bought us about a minute, better signal the captain to prepare for transport.”
“Acknowledged. Cad’En to Temaga; are you ready?”
“Standing by Beltane – Lieutenant Gates and I are ready to beam to the ship.
“Lowering shields for transport,” the tactical officer reported. The next few seconds were crucial. The transporter needed six seconds to fully complete its cycle – they just needed to avoid detection until then...
“We have them sir! Raising shields,” not a moment too soon, as with a thunderous crash the fragment they were hiding behind was obliterated into hundreds of pieces and impacted against the shields.
“Commander, you’re in my chair! What’s the status?” the turbolift doors opened and Captain Temaga strode onto the bridge.
Can’En stood up to relinquish the command chair and reported, “The warp drive is offline. Shields are at 47 percent, but I don’t know how long they’ll hold and our weapons seem to be ineffective.”
She stared, “That ship is how big?” she said incredulously.
“Approximately six metres long, ma’am,” came the voice from the science station.
Cad’En leaned forward towards her, “Captain, I know it’s not Beltane
’s forte, but I think we should risk taking her into the atmosphere. It –”
“No!” Temaga cut him off forcefully. “Whoever they are, they’re obviously powerful and not from this system. We cannot risk them finding out about the city and its technology! Ensign, take us deeper into the system – towards the star itself.” She settled in her chair in the momentary lapse of fire and prepared for the onslaught.
“Captain, I must protest –”
“You WILL stand down commander, or I will have you relieved!” Temaga exploded, her hair casting a firey halo through the blackening air. “I am taking the course of action I deem best for this ship and her crew, and you will NOT question my orders again! Ensign, plot a course to skim the surface of the star within 50 kilometres and engage.”
Her eyes still burning holes in Cad’En’s face, she readjusted her position and turned to face the screen.
The ship shook violently again, but everyone could tell it had not been from weapons fire. The strain was beginning to show on Temaga’s face; she’d never come close to losing a ship before.
Nathan sat anxiously in front of the computer pedestal, watching, as everyone else was, the sensor display of the engagement between the Beltane and the unknown ship, and things were not going too well for them. The hostile appeared to have locked a tractor beam on the Beltane, and was dragging her away from the sun where no doubt Temaga had a brilliant plan for the enemy’s destruction.
“What do you think they’re doing?” crewman Rhiohr asked quietly. No one answered, or could answer.
An alarm sounded – another one – and the display changed. What went unnoticed was the initialisation of the systems in the command centre without any manual input – until yet another alarm sounded at one of the consoles. Still keeping an eye on the display, which now showed an unusual subspace disruption forming and expanding, Nathan and Rhiohr raced towards the console generating the sound. A screen displaying similar data was present above the small control panel, with three purple lines surrounding the enemy ship. A blue triangular button in the centre was flashing in time with the lines.
“If this were a starship,” Nathan mused “then this would be...”
“A targeting display?” Rhiohr confirmed.
He nodded. “So that would probably make this the fire button, right?” Rhiohr grinned, “After you, sir.”
Nathan smiled and, with slightly trembling fingers, depressed the blue triangle.
“Lieutenant, now would be a good time for getting us out of this!” Temaga yelled over the noise of her ship falling apart around her.
“Yes ma’am! I thought if we overload the aft phasers on the secondary hull the energy will be directed down the tractor beam and into the other ship. If they’re built anything like a conventional spacecraft, it should disrupt or destroy their entire power grid,” the tactical officer behind her shouted back.
Temaga considered it. What did she have to lose now? Her bridge was almost destroyed, her ship and crew little better off.
“Agreed! Do it quickly, lieutenant!”
“Initialising overload... now!”
“Ma’am, I’m reading a massive subspace disruption forming behind the ship! If we don’t get out now it’ll tear us apart!”
As if the day couldn’t get any worse – “Captain, I’m reading three new contacts heading towards us, fast!” The ship was beginning to shake from the force of the subspace anomaly behind them.
A faint sound was heard above them – the launch of three torpedoes, or at least their equivalents.
The torpedoes shot away from the city, leaving thin vapour trails behind. Exiting the planet’s atmosphere, they streaked through space and impacted the hostile ship. For a moment nothing happened, but suddenly the vessel was consumed in fire, internal explosions blasting it apart into tiny pieces.
“I... I did it! It’s been destroyed!” Nathan’s expression was jubilant, but quickly faltered again when he looked at the display ahead of him.
“Engines to full! Get us away from that anomaly, now!” the sound of the ship straining to obey her commands filled here ears, but it was no use.
“Sorry captain! She can’t keep this up. I’m showing a partial stability to the anomaly – it’ll be better to ride it out there than destroying ourselves trying to escape,” the helmsman turned to face her. Temaga almost gave the order to continue – but her first duty was to safeguard the lives of her people. She nodded, and the ensign turned and executed a command into his console.
Slowly, the Beltane turned to face the anomaly and let gravity take its course. The glowing green mess of energy and unstable matter filled the screen, and Temaga – along with all her crew – gritted her teeth as they crossed the event horizon. There was no going back now, she thought to herself. The bridge began to stretch around her, its contours and its people oddly distorted. It was almost enjoyable...
All want black.
“They got... pulled in,” despair was etched on Nathan’s face as he watched the blip that was Beltane disappear into the disruption. “The systems seem to have come online... anyone found a deep space sensor?”
Someone on the other side of the room called to him and he hurried over. “I think this is it; that’s this solar system in the middle, there. There are no vessels within 40... well, what I assume are light-years.”
“So they’re just... gone?”
“Looks that way, sir.” The man at the station bowed his head slightly.
Nathan walked slowly down into the arena and sat on the table, facing the large, now empty, display.
Pain! She had not felt such pain in years; she had almost forgotten how to deal with it. But gradually, she forced herself to move her body and open her eyes. She found herself staring at a grey, metallic ceiling, and lying on grey, metallic grate.
She tried to force herself to sit up, looking around for her crewmates, but before she could do so she was seized around the wrist by a warm, grey, mottled hand. It pulled her up...
To face the creature that had inhabited her nightmares as long as she could remember. It raised its other hand in a fist and held it near her neck. It had no expression on its face, not even malevolence or hatred.
The triangular slots on its fingers opened. A scanning device emerged from the metal plate on the left side of its face, a thin green beam washing over her.
She could not allow this to happen to her. She struggled, but a distant memory replayed itself in her mind, and she gave up.
“Resistance is futile...
TO BE CONTINUED...
Well there it is - Lost and Found, part I! Hope you enjoyed it, Act 3 ended up a fair bit longer than I indended
Anyways, the usual - comments, suggestions etc are welcome!
Hope it's worth the wait, Ter