|10 years ago the Federation was attacked by their most fearsome enemy, the Borg - but how far are they willing to go to protect themselves now?|
"We're receiving a comm signal from the moon." The officer called out. "Audio only."
"On screen." Captain Faruqui called out angrily.
"Sir." The officer began sheepishly. "It's audio only."
"Speakers…" He hissed through gritted teeth.
The channel opened accompanied by a wail of static as the signal was coming from deep within the moon and relayed off of several probes to get to the ship.
"This is Ensign Katherine Rogers, we have beamed the device into space where it was able to detonate safely."
"Repair crews have sealed the hull breaches." Commander Brown reported absently as she paced the bridge with her reports.
"We have discovered some unusual equipment in here that contains biological matter." She continued. "We know they frequently employ such things in their technology and I am going to attempt to ascertain what the purpose of this equipment and indeed this installation is. Rogers out!"
"Equip a technical away team." Captain Faruqui turned more calmly to his first officer. "I want their computers interfaced and sucked dry. I want every piece of pertinent data on my terminal in one hour."
"I will send down a full team." She acknowledged, grabbing up her pad and selecting a team. "I take it we're filtering for details of the Scarab?"
"If there is any." He nodded. "And I want to know what's going on down there. See if you can arrange any assistance for that medic."
Ensign Rogers and Haldo Compz stood just inside the open doorway to a vast stone chamber, a hole scooped out by engineers and sealed with metal at various intervals. The weaving, interconnecting tunnels had been turned into a base with the simple application of doors, airlocks and power generators.
"What the hell is this?" She gasped, staring at the devices in the cavern.
"I have no idea…" Compz admitted, scratching his head curiously.
She stepped forward to the machinery in front of her. Thirteen huge tubes set into the floor. Steely grey cylinders clawing to the ceiling at a shallow angle leaning back. Each tube had a deep base with equipment throbbing away at either side, a small glowing fusion generator at the rear fed each with power and a jumbled mass of tubes and hoses vanishing into the dark shadows of the high ceiling.
"I'm getting readings from the generators and the computers." She shrugged, staring fixedly at her tricorder readings. "I'm not detecting anything inside except a biological signature but that could just be residue from the air."
"That's impossible." Compz peered over her shoulder at the small device as lights and numbers danced across the screen. "You must be detecting something, life signs or molecular density."
"Nothing." She confirmed. "It's like the scan is just being dissipated or swallowed up."
"There is one way to find out what's inside." Compz shuddered at his own suggestion as his eyes locked onto the frosted black screen at the front of the tube.
"I've never seen you getting nervous." She sniggered, finding the sight of his dented enthusiasm deeply unsettling.
"I have a bad, bad feeling about this." He grumbled. "Best not share that with Mr. Morrow as he has little left to throw up except his organs."
"Please…" She groaned at his humour that seemed to amplify itself when least called for.
"Sorry." He replied. "My race tends to resort to tastelessness when we get nervous."
"Really." She raised her eyebrows, glad for the distraction from the growing uneasiness she was feeling.
"How the hell would I know." He shrugged grimly staring at the tubes. "They're all dead."
She turned to look at him, wondering if he was joking or making some point about what he feared would be inside the tubes.
"I suppose we better do this before another Runabout full of engineers comes and does it for us."
"Indeed." He agreed, swallowing hard and stepping forward with laboured breath.
They stepped up to a narrow platform at the base of the first tube. At its front was a large hatchway that wrapped half way around and it had a plate of dark transparent material set in the top. Condensation had accumulated on the panel and moisture ran freely down the cold metal from the glass.
"You or me?" She asked quietly.
"I'm just an observer." He reminded her with a knowing smile and an outstretched palm gesturing towards the machine.
She took a deep breath and folded the door of her tricorder closed, setting it back at her hip. Keeping the phaser in her right hand she pulled the sleeve of her left arm down to cover her hand.
"I guess I'll just peer right in." She sighed.
"I'll just stand right back then." He shuddered.
"Right." She breathed heavily. "I'm wiping it then…"
"Any news on my people?" Captain John Graves asked above the furious activity going on around him on the Violator bridge. Normally he was a man who relished in his own boundless arrogance, enjoying the misfortune of others from his elevated position as Captain although the rank was a largely honorary one befitting him only in so far as his money had liberated the ship from the scrap yards . Now, aboard a Starfleet intelligence ship he was thrown into a whole different world. The Wanderers crew, sensors and engineering was laughable compared to the level of sophistication and efficiency that was buzzing on all around him.
"They're fine." Commander Brown said without giving the impression she had cared enough to actually check.
"They're not soldiers, they're just people." He began to explain his fears and to be involved in the activity to any degree.
"If anything had happened we would have been apprised." Chief of security, Goruss Clogg leant forward from his station and spoke softly through his mouth tentacles. "On this ship no news is good news."
"Thanks." Graves sighed. "I guess I'm just feeling like a third nacelle."
"We're in contact with the moon." Clogg explained, taking some apparent sympathy for the merchant Captains position. "We're setting up pattern enhancers in the caverns now so we can beam directly down."
"What do you hope will be down there?" He asked conversationally.
"As head of security I hope they find nothing at all." Clogg quipped with a wry smile that was hidden by a mound of flapping fleshy appendages sprouting from most of his face.
"As the Captain responsible for my crew I hope they find discarded crates of Latinum." He quipped back.
"Stranger things have happened." Clogg nodded. "Section 31 has a great deal of acquired wealth, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find a portion of it down there."
"I see." Graves replied thoughtfully.
"It's in our interest to keep it out of the hands of Section 31." Clogg continued. "I'm sure that Captain Faruqui would not have a problem with letting you have it."
"Really?" He said in some surprise.
"Really." Clogg nodded, losing interest in the conversation as sensor data was relayed to his console.
"Captain!" Graves called out, setting his course across the bridge while watched scornfully by his assigned guard.
"This better be good." Faruqui assured him coldly.
"I was just wondering if there is any way to get news of my people." He began respectfully, hoping to gain some favour. "They're not soldiers and must be quite out of their depth down there, I know you will do you best to protect them after we've all made such a huge sacrifice for you."
"I'll see what I can find out." He replied, waving his hand in a gesture meant to convey the message that he should leave.
"May I ask what you're hoping to find down there?" Graves pressed on.
"No." Came the firm reply.
"I heard some mention of a Scarab?" Captain Graves unwisely continued.
Captain Faruqui suddenly lost interest in his reports and glared menacingly into the slightly startled eyes of the other Captain.
"I might have misheard." Graves blustered. "Slabs maybe? Perhaps you were talking about Arabs?"
"Security." Faruqui said with quiet menace. "Escort this man to his quarters where I'm sure he will prefer to remain for the time being!"
Her chest exploded with adrenaline and her natural reflexes pushed her back from the tube.
"It's a person!" She gasped, her breathing laboured.
"A real person or an intelligence type?" Compz quipped to hide his own nervousness.
"Cut it out." She growled under her breath. "It's a man, a Human."
Compz sighed in regret, he had feared the tubes contained something sentient but had hoped against reason he was wrong.
"Perhaps there's some way we can find out more about him from the readouts on the cylinder." He suggested dryly, pre-empting her agreement and beginning to tap away at the controls.
"Ok." She agreed with a nod as she composed herself.
"He's alive." Compz began with a note of surprised relief. "He's at level 4 whatever that is."
"Level 4?" She repeated. "What are they doing to this poor man?"
"He may have volunteered." Compz suggested. "And as for your question I'm afraid I can find out little more without security clearance.
"Perhaps I can take some scans of him back at the ship and figure this out." She said, thinking out loud as she gingerly picked her way through the disorderly equipment.
"Perhaps." He agreed. "But we still are unable to scan the inside of the tube and yet I have readings through it, perhaps scanning this person is not going to be possible."
"There's a person in this one too." She called out from the second tube. "Another man."
"I imagine there is in all of them." Compz replied grimly.
"Oh God!" She cried out suddenly, recoiling in horrified surprise from the tube, her hands clamped to her mouth and her phaser skipping unnoticed across the bare rock floor.
"What?" Compz cried out, hefting his large and ungainly frame up on his feet. "Is he moving?"
"No…" She whispered, shaking visibly. "I need to get back to the ship."
Captain Faruqui stalked menacingly along the spartan corridors of his heavily armed vessel towards his meeting. Menacingly was his preferred method of stalking, his rank was enough to make his subordinates clear a path for him but his attitude ensured he would not be bothered with meaningless pleasantries by anyone who valued their rank.
"The technicians are all in place." Commander Brown reported efficiently as she strode as fast as she could to keep pace with her Captain.
"Any problems?" He sneered, knowing there would be something he could bite her head off for if he dug hard enough.
"They are having some problems interfacing with the computers." She admitted, hating having to do so. "The information is also encrypted so everything we get is having to be processed by the computer, it may take several hours before we access much data."
"Keep at it." He instructed. "Try being inventive. Look for secret access codes, anything that mentions the Scarab."
"Were doing the best we can." She assured him. "Our pattern enhancers were declared fully operational a few minutes ago so we should be able to beam things directly up. When we can bring the computer storage crystals aboard things should go a lot more smoothly."
"Keep me apprised." He grunted, stopping short suddenly without warning so that his first officer kept walking before she realised she shouldn't have.
"I'm on top of it." She said without confidence.
"I have a meeting, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes and then I'll meet you on the bridge." He explained gesturing to the medical bay doors. "When I'm done in here bring me a live phaser so I can vaporise Captain Graves."
"Sir?" She gasped, her eyes widening suddenly.
"Don't worry." He sniffed. "Just a happy thought to keep me going."
"Sir." She nodded that she both understood and agreed before briskly proceeding with her business.
The medical bay doors slid open as the Captain walked through.
"Turaz." He called out. "What's going on?"
"Sir." Turaz nodded in greeting as he appeared from behind his opaque office screens.
"You called a meeting." Faruqui shrugged in quiet exasperation.
"Actually it was me sir." Ensign Rogers stepped out of the office, clearly still highly agitated as she wiped a mop of her unruly hair from her face.
"What is it?" Captain Faruqui narrowed his eyes to defensive slits and fixed his attention on the impertinent young officer.
"We found something down there!" She began awkwardly. "I've checked my findings and I think you need to see them to decide how to proceed."
"I'm listening." He said, folding his arms tightly across his chest signifying that her words would fall on stony ground and would need to contain miraculous revelations if he were to remain cordial.
"We found tubes containing Human beings who are alive and undergoing some kind of procedure." She explained, unable to hold his gaze for very long.
"What kind of procedure?" The Captain pressed on.
"I don't know that sir." She shook her head and swallowed hard. "That isn't what I need to tell you."
"Then what?" He asked, uncrossing his arms as he began to grow genuinely curious.
"The second tube contained a man." She stammered as if the words were coming only with considerable effort.
"Yes?" He said to encourage her.
"I knew him…" She explained sadly.
"Who was he?" Captain Faruqui asked, stepping forward slightly, coaxing the explanation out of her.
"His name was Blake Girling. He died over ten years
ago at the battle of Wolf 359." Her voice began to crack as she barely
managed to finish speaking.
"Wolf 359?" He asked, as if the suggestion was preposterous. "When the Federation made its first stand against the Borg?"
"And now he's alive in one of those tubes."
"Ten years ago you were just a child." Captain Faruqui persisted as sympathetically as he could be bothered to. "You must have been mistaken.
"No sir." She shouted, glaring at him with angry eyes. "Sir, I know what I saw."
"It is unlikely this man is who she claims him to be." Turaz added coldly.
"It's him." She said softly.
"We're leaving in three hours." Captain Faruqui said thoughtfully, rubbing his chin and pacing slowly away from her. "I can't leave you behind. Section 31 already knows we've been there and will soon find out that they failed to destroy the base. When they do they'll probably send ships to destroy the complex ."
"We can't leave him there." She argued, wiping a tear from her eye and silently rebuking herself for not keeping a tighter reign on her emotions.
"So what choice do we have?" He asked bluntly, turning suddenly to face her.
"Beam him up." She suggested with a ray of hope lightening her mood slightly.
"I don't want to lose what might prove to be a useful piece of information." He said thoughtfully, chewing things over vocally as he began pacing again. "But then I don't want to take any risks."
"I can go down and scan for any possible contaminants." She jumped up excitedly. "I'm sure Haldo Compz would be happy to help, he knows a lot about Section 31 technology."
"You would have less than three hours." Faruqui goaded her gently.
"I can do it." She assured him.
Winston Morrow sat in the darkness of Captain Graves temporary quarters staring out of the transparency at the myriad twinkling stars in the distance. His mind was unfocused, racing through thoughts that he couldn't or wouldn't commit himself to.
"Here." Graves passed him a hot cup of coffee and sat down beside him.
"Thanks." He muttered, taking the coffee and wrapping his hands around it.
"Did you really think it would be that simple?" Graves smiled supportively, sympathising with his old friends deflated mood. "The first Section 31 base we ever set foot on would have your sister all neatly there waiting for you?"
"I didn't expect to see her there." He grumbled. "I didn't expect to throw up either."
"We all get scared." He huffed. "It's been a hell of a time. Shot to pieces, arrested, pressed into duty aboard this flying prison, threatened with doomsday bombs and faced with who-knows-what!"
"Did you hear what they found?" Morrow asked, sucking in air through his teeth. "What Compz and the doctor found?"
"I heard." He nodded sadly. "People."
"My sister could be down there." He shuddered. "She could be locked inside a tube like that somewhere."
"Or she could be locking people into tubes somewhere." He sighed. "If you're going to do this you know what we have to do…"
"I know." Morrow groaned wearily. "We have to look for answers, not what we want to find. We have to find the path that's real, not make our own that will eventually lead us nowhere."
"Glad you remember." He grinned.
"But what now?" Morrow snapped, angry with himself but tired and disorientated enough to want to lash out.
"Meaning?" He shrugged his reply.
"We've lost control." Morrow sneered. "They're going to drop us off with no probes, no ship and no answers and we're going to have to start all over again."
"One day at a time…" Captain Graves nodded slowly as he reached into his pocket for his flask of brutally strong gin to pep up his coffee.
"Thanks for coming." Ensign Rogers said as the light from the transporter beam faded away.
"I won't say "any time"." Compz replied grimly, taking in the cold metal tubes in front of them.
"I know." She shuddered. "This place creeps me out too."
Haldo Compz flicked open a tricorder and began his scans, waving the instrument about with disinterest.
"This is a waste of time." He raised his eyebrows and turned to face her. "There's no danger in beaming this apparatus up for proper analysis."
"I know." She smiled. "I just have to go through the motions to get these things taken up."
He nodded approvingly and his lips raised slightly.
"So who is this guy?" He asked conversationally as he stepped up to the observation platform.
"Blake Girling." She replied. "He died at Wolf 359 over a decade ago."
"How did he die?" Compz peered into the tube at the man inside.
"He died a hero." She explained, staring raptly at the screen. "His ship was attacked and he rigged the phasers to fire manually to protect them. He defended the ship until the fleet could arrive but was killed when the hull ruptured."
"The Borg?" Compz shook his head sadly.
"No." She replied with a shrug. "They were on a mercy fleet of hospital ships looking for survivors, the Borg had carried on to sector 01 by then."
"I see." He nodded. "Who was he to you?"
"His father and mine served together for years until his father was killed. My father sponsored his entry into Starfleet academy." She began sadly. "We met a few times, the last time he took me with him when he was delivered to my fathers ship so I could see my dad, that was the day he died."
"Nice to hear that Starfleet has some nice stories left." Compz said disparagingly.
"He was a good man." She wrinkled her brow, struggling to remember. "I was just a kid and he looked different but I know its him."
"Different?" Compz asked, intrigued. "Older?
"No, he doesn't really look any older." She shrugged. "He had more hair and was stockier perhaps."
"Humans do tend to lose their hair as they age." Compz noted running his hand over his smooth, oily head. "They tend to increase in mass though, rarely decrease."
"I don't know." She sighed. "But I'll find out."
"I might as well be poking this container with a sharp stick." He grunted waving the useless tricorder around. "I'm not getting anything from inside."
"Me neither." She admitted. "It would be a breach of protocol if I beamed him up now."
"Why?" Compz grinned. "We're not detecting any danger."
"I'm not detecting enough to declare it safe either." She grinned back. "But I am only a junior officer, I am expected to make a few mistakes."
"We better decide quickly." Compz added pointing towards the control panel. "He's just gone up to level 5!"
Turaz stormed calmly onto the deck of cargo bay 3, his footsteps ringing noisily around the otherwise empty storage facility.
"You beamed up a tube?" He shouted accusingly to the young medical officer as his cold logic began to crack.
"Yes sir." She replied, standing to attention.
"Here it comes." Compz muttered to her under his breath to himself.
"We ascertained that there was no danger to the ship and little danger to the occupant of disconnecting the machinery." She continued, gesturing to the tube.
"What are you basing that assumption on?" He asked with a quizzically raised left eyebrow. "You have yet to ascertain the purpose of the device and still you declare it safe to act arbitrarily on your own volition."
"The man is alive and the machine is not intended to provide life support." Compz added lazily as if the chief medics opinions were boring him.
"Then what?" He asked.
"I suggest we revive the man and ask him." Compz replied evenly. "He will doubtlessly have something that our investigation is currently lacking. A sense of humour perhaps?"
"It is a simple matter to be flippant in your position." The Vulcan turned to the large Moronian with the Vulcan equivalent of annoyance which was exactly like the Vulcan equivalent of joy only with more eyebrow raising. "I am responsible for the physical wellbeing of this crew."
"I have met enough of them to believe they deserve you." Compz quipped, shaking his head and returning his attention to the tube.
"Sir, we need to revive him." Ensign Rogers stepped forwards. "We're leaving soon and I'd like to be able to hear what he has to say before we abandon the other 12 tubes."
Captain Faruqui darkened the mood instantly as he stepped from the turbolift onto the bridge.
"Report!" He called out over the sound of a junior officer announcing his presence.
"We have three computer cores on board from the station." Commander Brown stepped forwards with her trusted pad in hand. "As well as 17 storage crystals that we're scanning for data."
"Anything on the Scarab yet?" He smiled, enjoying the feel of the tide finally turning in his favour after too many years chasing hopeless leads.
"We have found instances of the word and are working to translate the context of the sentences." She nodded with a measured expression of cautious optimism.
"We also have one of those tubes aboard!" She continued, hoping the small dose of good news would sweeten the bad slightly.
"On whose authority?" He snapped grumpily, more because he enjoyed being grumpy than because he felt that having the device on board was in any way negative.
"The medical staff found no contaminants and declared it safe." She explained. "It was also transported with maximum filtration."
"Damn that Ensign!" He spat his words out like holding them in was burning his mouth. "She should have asked before authorising a transport."
"They need permission to revive him." Commander Brown added, returning her eyes to her pad.
"Over my dead body." He grunted, happy that he could deny her that at least.
"Sir, I should inform you." She huffed, regretting having to continue. "We found several mentions of the Scarab in the data bank attached to the computers in the room the tubes were found in."
"They could be involved?" He asked in surprise. "How?"
"I don't know sir." She shrugged. "Reviving him does appear to be the only way to find out."
Proceed to Chapter 5 of 10
|Last modified: 25 May 2021