Hesitantly looking around the vertical vessel, the party found itself treading carefully through the side access maintenance hatches. As they squeeze through the tight quarters, Sal whistles as he realizes the ship is fully armed with rows upon rows of what appear fully functional tricobalt payloads – the heart of the Jach’Eng’s destructive power. A chill ran through the minds of those present, and Ragnaar looked up to catch a glimpse of the man in black holding his clipboard high among the rows above them.
Weary from the day’s activities thus far, the party elected to rest for a spell in their adaptive tents, deploying them on the gangway outside the ship proper, setting watches, and falling asleep in turn. Once roused and rested, the party sought to come up with a plan.
“This is a fully functional ship it looks like,” said one, “We should see if we can get it working.”
“It’s missing a warp core, a pretty big warp core.”
“Ok, this is the first of the launch bays we looked at. We have no idea as to what’s in the other bays. We should check them out.”
“On the facility map, there was a medical bay, and some other rooms. We need to see if we can sort out some supplies.”
“We have to take it easy; I’m still hurting pretty bad. Doctor, can you patch me up some?”
The good doctor Jahus spent the better part of an hour carefully plying his trade, sweating despite the fierce cold. Eventually he finished all that he could, but at the price of fatigue.
“I’m out of it. We should split the party. I’ll stay here and rest, you can go and explore.”
Dissent rose up in the group, “That’s a bad idea. What if something comes after you, or what if we need our doctor? We need to stick together!”
“I’m no good to you as a doctor if I’m too tired to think straight. I’m more liable to do harm than good!"
Discussion sounded for some time, until at last the party decided to head down the ladders and gangways to the ground. Once below, they elected to deploy a tent and have the doctor rest, while Ragnaar stood guard. The remainder of the group traversed out of the launch bay down the hall, to first examine the status of the other launch bays. Such explorations were soon halted however as in the huge main corridor, darkened as it was, Larian and the others came upon a depowered Klingon battle drone sitting in the midst of the path. “Now what,” came the exasperated remark. Scanning the drone revealed nothing, as its systems were hardened to detection.
In a hushed consensus, someone got the brilliant idea to throw ice at the drone to see if it was still active. The first several strikes missed, though at last they landed an imperfect blow. To the group’s momentary surprise, the drone powered up, elevated its Gatling platform, and spooled up as the party looked but found nowhere to run. Military flechette rounds sprayed through the dark, shredding flesh and bone. Screams and the burr of weapon-fire echoed through the frozen black, into the launch bay where Jahus and Ragnaar resided.
“Did you hear that,” said Jahus. “I hope the others are alright.”
Just as Ragnaar was about to reply, footsteps were heard outside the tent, and a moment later the world felt like it was coming to an end.
There was a moment of nothingness then Jahus rose to consciousness, at the same time as the rest of the party. They were whole. Jahus could not remember how he came to be standing there, and as he looked around, he found himself at the shaft entrance that the party had used to gain access to the Jach’Eng launch facility.
“The last thing I remember, was us getting inside this place, but things feel foggy, like I’ve seen this before.”
The party stood around in confusion, trying to make sense of their surroundings. They knew where they were, and distinctly remembered cutting their way inside the old facility, but it also felt like they had gone further than where they were standing. As they continued to try to identify what was going on, Jahus came to the realization that half the clothing the party was wearing was shredded and torn, when moments ago it had been fully intact. Even stranger, their bodies, once having borne injury, were likewise whole. “What in the world?”
With her sense of time telling her that something was not right, Larian slowly came to the understanding, “We have been here before. We have seen this before.”
Ragnaar turned to listen on the wind outside, as he heard voices, voices that he had heard before. The others noticed his listening and asked “Is everything ok?” Ragnaar motioned for them to be silent, as he began repeating what he was hearing from outside.
“Looks like it. How long you figure they last.”
“Kind of an interesting spot. Twenty credits says they freeze in twelve hours.”
“Nah, they’ll get blown away long before then.”
“So what’s that make this one?”
“Number four-oh-four by my count.”
“How many permutations till the loop breaks?”
“You’ll have to ask the old man.”
“Remember the last one, with the doc killing everyone?”
“Pretty funny that. Too bad we blinked the kid though.”
“Kinda sucks. Anyways, they’ll be making for the surface soon if their usual pattern is any indication.”
“What the… They were just here! Where did they go?”
The sounds fading on the wind, Larian and the others looked apprehensively towards the outside, unsure of what it all meant. Open wonderings became the course, as they tried to figure out if they were in some kind of time loop, and if Jahus was going to kill the rest of the party. Eventually the decision was reached that they should continue as before, though Ragnaar paid close attention to the beleaguered physician.
Picking themselves up, the party inventoried their supplies, and cautiously and confusedly continued down the corridor as they had done before, all the while their memories began coming back to them. They came to the spot where they had encountered the landmines before, and found the craters on the frozen sand, but found no land mines. Discussion was frantic and rife with supposition. Moments later, their full memories came back to them, and they recalled the facility, the launch bay, the Jach’Eng, and the horrific death some of them had suffered.
Jahus came to swift determination, “There are definitely temporal shenanigans going on here. Those copies of us we found before were not clones, those were us! We are caught in some kind of time loop, and by all appearances, some four hundred loops. I think something has changed though, our equipment inventories are less than what we had before we first entered the facility. We can’t die too many more times, as each time we do it will cost us…”
Sober in mind and stature, the team picked its way back across the path they had taken before, mindful of possible explosives or traps. The medical bay was their destination. Upon reaching said medical bay, the party found the room damaged, equipment non-operative, but inside some cabinets were found fully intact hypospray charges of various medications. The doctor was elated, gathering all he found to replenish his medical supplies.
Invigorated at their victory the team decided that next they should examine the barracks and commanders’ offices, hoping to find something to aid them in their understanding of the place in which they found themselves. Just as they were to proceed, Jahus tripped and fell in the medical bay. When he landed, a faint cloud of dust rose up, and several members of the crew began to lightly cough, “This does not bode well.”
The barracks doorway was broken, long dead remnants of corpses scattered about. Along the way there, the team had passed by where they had previously taken grievous injury at cause of the battle drone, finding their blood on the ground, and their bodies, but no equipment and no drone.
Inside the dark barracks the crew search about, until at last they arrive at the base commander’s office. On a chair inside lies a frozen Klingon skeleton, sitting in front of a desk on which an old leather-bound book like out of quaint history rested open. Gingerly picking through the cold-preserved pages, Jahus identified the tome as the commander’s diary. Picking it up, one of the party began to read the aged last notes.
“We are lost.
“Just as we drove the Federation back to the oceans they crawled from, and smashed their bases to ruins, THEY came.
“The Borg came with hundreds of cubes. Picard and the surviving Starfleet vessels surrendered to us in exchange for our help against the swarm, but it was too late…
“In desperation, the high command has ordered the fleet fight a delaying action to buy some time for our efforts, but what’s a fleet against the swarm. Their sacrifice of blood and honour will be sung of in the halls of Sto’Vo’Kor.
“Te’Pau’Brekt Facility has two of their Jach’Eng’s ready to launch. They are installing the warp core on the last now. The fools had better be careful. We have no more time for ‘accidents.’
“If we can manage to hide from the Borg long enough, I think we shall have our first weapon ready within two days. Not even a cube can withstand our shockwaves!
“Kahless drinks to our honour!”
All stood in quiet contemplation. “Let’s go check out the supply room. We might find something we can use in there.” Voicing their assent, the group walked past the barracks beds, and exited the room. Once at the supply room, the group spent considerable effort opening the door to the room, halting instantly when they saw a drone sitting on the ground on the other side. A wary Jahus turned to the others, “I think we shall leave that one for now…”
“Then what shall we do,” asked Sal the Bolian. Larian spoke up, “Let’s see if we can get that huge truck machine in the launch bay operating.”