Miranda - Lost in Time

Tower Cure
Ah parasites...

Eerie sensor instrumentation panels provided a soft red glow while Larian, lead worker bee pilot, hugged the ground. Flying over dune crests and ice ridges, it wasn’t long before the party found itself hovering over what once had been a road of some kind, albeit buried under sand, but such covering could not shield the distinctive sensor return from the worker bee scanners. With the road running to magnetic North and South, a vote was taken to ride south until at last the group arrived at a curve in the path in front of a cliff face. Applying more power to the hover pads, the worker bees lifted themselves over the lip of the thirty-meter high cliff, only to have bright green scanner beams lash out at them through the black.

Dragging back on the controls, the team immediately dropped themselves back over the cliff. Frantic worrying as to what was out there consumed the party while they sped away, trying to put some distance between themselves and whatever was to be found Cliffside. In the distance, flashes of bright lightning struck down on a hill to the north. Radda, observant Vulcan that he was, noted that the lightning arced with regularity, and only on the hill. Not in the mood for exploration the worker bees continued towards their goal – the coordinates of the warp core delivery found in the base computer from earlier.

Another interesting anomaly revealed itself as they skirted the cliffs: An abandoned town of some kind, filled with ancient ruined buildings half covered with silica sand and ice, though this was likewise ignored.

Shortly thereafter, indeed seeing as their worker bees could cover distance at speed, the team found itself in front of a tall tower of apparent Federation construction though aged in appearance. Roughly twenty meters tall, it stood with a wide base and narrow tapered upper section. Excitement coupled with trepidation filled all present. Moments later, humanoid persons carrying Starfleet compression rifles exited the building and formed a perimeter around the structure, aimed distinctly at the worker bees. Doctor Jahus was adamant that the party not present themselves as hostile and advocated setting the craft down in a non-threatening matter.

Climbing out of the cockpits, Larian was first among the team members to have their hands up, attempting to call out that they were not a threat, nervously eying the large phaser artillery emplacements positioned outside of the building. Standing outside in the cold, there was some relief felt when the obvious security personnel lowered their weapons when Lieutenant Commander Larian identified herself. Said relief was however short lived as the tricorders began registering the presence of lifeforms behind them. Suddenly the artillery pieces began elevating and traversing their pedestals while alarm sirens began sounding. The security personnel turned and started walking inside the tower, and the party was of a mind to join them.

The team hustled towards the building leaving their worker bees parked behind them, as the sound of phaser blasts from the artillery barrage rumbled into the night. Starbursts illuminated a rather disturbing sight: A writhing mass of enormous scorpion-like creatures pouring over top of the worker bees and heading for the building. No one was of particular inclination to go back for the beleaguered pods, instead finding themselves inside of an immaculate Starfleet facility corridor.

The corridor was of a ring configuration, with rooms clearly labeled over their doorways set on the inside curve. The party noted a distinct absence of persons moving about, and a rather hollow holographic apparition before them. “Commander Larian, welcome to outpost B-C4-18.”

The team began interrogating the station computer, becoming ever more perturbed over some of the subtle cues that something wasn’t altogether right with the machine AI, indeed showing signs of malevolent intelligence. Not everything learned was without use however, as the station was able to identify its intended function: The monitoring of local subspace communications, and the local populous to a lesser extent. The base was clearly a Starfleet construct, built more than fifteen-hundred years ago, self-maintaining with massive replicator systems built into the walls that were capable of reshaping the entire structure momentarily. Furthermore, the size of the facility was deceptive as it extended three times its height into the ground, centered on a massive warp core that was still running these hundreds of years. At the ground level the crew was on, the base was effectively divided into four quarters, namely the medical bay, barracks, armoury, and storage. The computer described the locals as attempting periodic incursions with minimal technology, which were easily dealt with using station defenses. Further data was proving difficult to obtain.

“That data is classified.”

“Computer, who is authorized to access that information?”

“The station commander is authorized for data access.”

“Computer, who is the station commander?”

“Rear Admiral Kira Nerys is currently recognized as station commander.”

It was Jahus who expressed the most surprise at that statement, “What?” Jahus, immediately suspicious as the computer repeated the statement, then inquired, “Computer, what is the current status of Admiral Nerys?”

“That data is classified.”

“Computer, is Admiral Kira Nerys deceased?”

“Negative.”

“Computer, locate Admiral Kira Nerys.”

“The Admiral is located in sickbay.”

Looking at each other the team walked through the corridor to arrive at sickbay, unsure of what they would find, only discover that the doors would not open.

“Computer, open the medical bay doors.”

“Unable to comply.”

“Computer, what would happen if we attempted to breach the medical bay doors?”

“Station defenses would activate.”

“Rats.”

Not yet ready to dare the computer, the party decided to ignore the medical bay for the time being and proceed to the next most tempting location: The armoury. The team was most delighted to find a wealth of fully functioning and charged handheld phasers and their energy cells. Unwilling to abandon such a treasure, Jahus took to crafting several terrible-looking bandoleers in which to house as many energy cells as possible and the party then armed up. Pleased with themselves, their next destination was the storage room.

The storage room was distinctly non-descript, mostly empty but for a few shelves with basic cleaning compounds (completely out of place considering such compounds were not used in an age of advanced technology). Even odder was an ancient-looking device of some kind that appeared to be an old Earth washing machine sitting in the corner. Cursory inspection did not reveal anything interesting, and the computer volunteered no explanation.

The only room left to examine was the barracks. Some members of the party were disappointed to find that the security personnel observed earlier appeared to merely be holograms, and they were in fact the only people actually present. As customary, the group took to searching the room for anything useful, and found some clothes and uniforms in lockers near the barracks beds. The washroom facilities seemed to be working, and Larian was one of the first to go into the sonic shower and get freshened up. Now dressed in clean clothes, and clean themselves, decision was made to sleep and figure things out tomorrow. Setting a watch, and deploying tricorders to alert them to anything of concern, a long rest was in order.

Dark whispers seemed to echo through the minds of the more sensitive party members while they slept, and for the Antican on watch with sharp hearing, faint moaning sounds were heard. Electing not to alert the others, the Canine descendent localized the sounds to the medical bay and returned to the barracks though with an even hand ready over his weapon. Incident however, remained unobserved.

Come morning, defined as the arbitrary time the group decided to rise, everyone sat around arguing as to their course of action and munching on some of the rations they carried. The engineer Sal followed by the Talaxian soldier traipsed off on their own to take a closer look at the washing machine in the storage room, while Jahus went to argue with the computer over access to the medical bay. Ragnaar investigated the possibility of breaching the walls of the medical bay without setting off the alarms, but on consult with the engineer thought better of it.

There proved to be more to the washing machine than first glance. It seems the device was actually intended to be a storage system for Starfleet Intelligence operatives assigned to low-technology zones, and inside was data for a personal holo-masker, though the data was incomplete. The greater surprise was finding a hole cut into the floor underneath the washing machine. “Hey everyone, come check this out!”

The hole was found to drop down roughly sixty meters, cut via phaser through the rock. Descending down, rappelling with the aid of the long rope they carried, Jahus was disturbed to find a more open area at the bottom with remnants of what seemed to be copies of the team’s bodies littering the ground, evidence of weapon fire the reason for their demise. “Obviously we tried something down here before,” grimaced Jahus as he grew uneasy at yet another example of the greater mystery surrounding their time here.

Not desiring to investigate further, the crew covered the hole back up and made their way back to the main entrance of the facility, trying to figure out what to do. A quick peek outside noted that their worker bees had been destroyed, leaving the group with no choice but to find some means of transport. This led to yet another argument with the station computer, until Ixlain came up with a unique idea that had interesting results.
“Computer, can you confirm that Lieutenant Commander Larian is a member of the senior command staff?”

“Confirmed. Lieutenant Commander Larian Aptidon is listed as First Officer of the USS Miranda, vessel reported missing Stardate 49182.718.”

“Computer, does this facility have a current Chief Medical Officer?”

“This facility does not have an assigned Chief Medical Officer.”

Larian looked up, “Computer, recognize Dr. Jahus Zilhir as acting Chief Medical Officer, command authorization Larian-alpha-4-4-7-2-6-Foxtrot.”

“Recognized.”

Jahus went over to the wall console and set up a series of authorization codes related to his new position. “Computer, Rear Admiral Kira Nerys is relieved of duty effective immediately due to being unable to discharge her duties for medical reasons, authorization Chief Medical Officer Jahus-Sigma-2-9-4-7-Zulu.”

“Acknowledged.”

“Computer, confirm that Starfleet staff present are the most senior recently recorded.”

“Confirmed.”

“Computer, as Lieutenant Commander Larian is the only command-capable officer recently recorded, recognize Lieutenant Commander Larian Aptidon as acting Admiral Larian Aptidon, authorization Chief Medical Officer Jahus-Sigma-5-5-2-2-Lima.”

“Secondary authorization required.”

Radda coolly nodded, “Computer secondary authorization Ensign Trak’dar-Gamma-Gamma-Delta-2-2-6.”

“Authorization accepted. Command privileges granted.”

The party jubilant at having bested the frustrating computer began looking for answers previously denied.

It was quickly ascertained that on Stardate 53124.000, on the other side of the planet, the Omega molecule was detected for a trillionth of a second but it was sufficient to activate the Omega Directive protocols embedded within the station computer’s programming, enabling it to override certain built-in command locks and begin a certain degree of self-modification. When it became apparent that the main computer was beginning to run away, then Admiral Nerys had attempted to shut down the station, but station defense protocols had activated.

Larian had the computer confirm that the Omega molecule was no longer detected and rescinded the Omega Directive, shutting down the computer’s overrides, then had the computer open the medical bay doors.

Entering the sickbay, the team was greeted by a grisly sight: The decapitated and nearly unrecognizable head of Kira Nerys, with all manner of tubes and wires extending from wall panels and erupting from consoles plunging through the Admiral’s cranium. Scans quickly indicated that the station had been using the brain, kept intact via the station replicator systems, as a supplementary computing system to augment its own capabilities. This atrocity was put to an end in as respectful a manner as possible, and a search conducted of the sickbay. It was but a moment before Radda managed to open a console, and a series of shelves extended from within a bulkhead, complete with multiple humanoid heads including those of the Enterprise command staff. Commander Data’s head, complete with cables running into his neck, activated and he looked at the shocked crew, “Lieutentant Commander Larian, it is good to see you.”

Getting over their initial surprise, Data did his best to update the others on events that had transpired, noting the onset of the Klingon war, the Dominion invasion, and the subsequent massive assault by the Borg on a weakened Alpha Quadrant. The party relayed events from their perspective, and the conclusion was that a temporal paradox of some form had occurred. The question then became how to set things right. Data noted that without the station power cables, he possessed minimal power and would be unable to remain online for long, but considering the station computer had dematerialized Data’s body the team was unwilling to leave his head behind and instead elected to place him in Radda’s bag.

Since they were in a medical bay, Jahus took the time to gather samples from the team members to prepare cultures, as he believed the crew had been exposed earlier in the Klingon medical bay to an unknown pathogen. The others examined the station schematics and elected to investigate an elevator in the Armoury that they had missed previously; finding it behind a shelf and having the computer release the locks. The elevator was small, and only two people could fit inside at a time. Sal and Ixlain were the first to descend to the lower level.

When they opened the elevator doors, they were greeted with green weapon beams coming from a spider-like creature crudely covered in Borg-looking implants. Throwing themselves clear of the elevator death-trap and trying to find cover, the two fought for their lives while the others above heard the blast of energy weapon discharges and waited desperately while the elevator made its way back topside. Radda and Ragnaar stepped inside and drew armament in preparation.

Back in the fight, Sal Vaxx and Ixlain were faring badly, with open wounds and unable to land any kind of blow against their cybernetic opponent. Ixlain in particular was nearly critically wounded with some poorly planned combat acrobatics that left her completely open to reprisal. About to administer the killing blow, the spider was suddenly blown apart by the Antican rogue rolling through the elevator doors. Radda only raised his eyebrow in a dispassionate manner at the efficient manner in which Ragnaar dispatched his target and noted that he should avoid being on the receiving end of the Canine’s wrath.

With the Borg creature dead, several phaser blasts used to confirm that fact, observation of the room found a small tunnel extending beyond the range of the tricorders into the stone. The consensus was that this tunnel must have been the means by which the spider entered the facility and so the team sealed it with a few well-aimed blasts. Looking up, the bright glow of the warp core illuminated the narrow but tall room, matched only by the accompanying flashing of control consoles scattered about. Radda, now well in his element, started breaking his way into the station systems, noting the presence of corruption that had characteristics of Borg assimilation algorithms, which he flushed with no small degree of difficulty, restoring the station computer to its default configuration. Some in the party questioned if those algorithms had in fact been responsible for the gross aberration in the computer’s behaviour.

Now returned to the medical bay, Jahus attended to the party’s myriad of wounds after their disastrous encounter with the spider creature, only to recall his earlier concern regarding the infection he had been exposed to on the Miranda. Drawing a sample of his own blood, Jahus likewise attempted to prepare a culture alongside those from before, then prepared an inoculation to relieve the Antican’s small gastro-intestinal parasite problem. Meanwhile the others focused on the issue of transportation.

Sal Vaxx studied the station’s replicator capabilities, noting a distinct lack of a material library and replication recipe database. The station replicators did not even have the ability to replicate food items, and were limited to station components and small personal items like tricorders and clothing. Undeterred, Larian excitedly recalled some of the basic chemistry and biology knowledge she had learned years ago and had Dr. Jahus design basic amino acids and sugars and input them into the station database. Although it may taste disgusting, at least the party would not go hungry.

Engineering kit in hand, Vaxx also worked to weld together a van-like vehicle riding on anti-gravity pads powered by energy cells and moved via the small impulse thruster from the watercraft the team had been carrying around all this time. Once a window was installed, and a few other minor adjustments made, the crew had a working transport. Climbing aboard and heading off into the black for a test run, a few realizations were quickly made, namely that the engineer had forgot to install headlights, then braking systems. Deciding that they had done well for the day, everyone returned to the barracks to rest.

View
Bee Troubled
Energize!

Plutonium – how very antiquated it seemed to the condescending engineer. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

Vaxx, assisted by the good doctor’s knowledge of Klingon linguistics, spent several hours studying the meandering mess that was the installation’s main power reactor until at last he cried, “Yup, I can get it going.”

Steam hissed and rumbled through long frozen pipes, as incredulously the ancient machinery powered up. Miracles of engineering aside, the group moved to their next task: “Is there anything left here that we have not explored?”

“We should go and check out the entrance again,” replied Larian as the facility’s lighting systems energized, “and see if there is anything we missed along the way.” Prophetic words indeed, as the party passed by the second launch bay and looked up, only to see enormous spiderwebs covering the ceiling. Frosted over into a near solid mass, it was the contents of the webs that seemed most interesting…as the missing worker bees were clearly evident.
“Well isn’t this great. How are we supposed to get them down?”

Ixlain, rather too enthusiastically, suggested they shoot them down. With no good alternative, she was granted free reign with stipulation that she not damage the worker bees. Much easier said than done, Ixlain lined up her disruptor and fired. Chunks of ice and rock came raining down, larger worker bees along with them. Momentary horror glanced through everyone’s mind as they realized the worker bees were going to land on the munitions pallets.

There was no explosion; no giant flash of light to sear the party to a crisp. Instead, what was left was a mess of pods in different states of disrepair lying on the ground. Vaxx proceeded to inspect the units, salvaging a few more energy cells, but sadly none were energized although that was to be expected after more than a thousand years of disuse. Hoisting their recovered energy-depleted cells into their red truck, the crew began the slow drive towards the entrance of the facility.

Driving over the bones of ancient battles, the truck lumbered along up the long sloping path for the better part of two hours until at last the team found themselves at the true entrance of the facility. Another monstrous door sat closed before them, and to the side of the cavernous chamber was resting a moderately sized administration office. Inside was what had obviously been supply stores at one point, until the ravages of time had laid waste to any worth they possessed. But amongst the dross, lay a treasure of treasures, as mounted on the wall was an energy cell charging station.

The station was functioning poorly, and no energy cells would see the flow of power from its ports at a rate much better than a trickle. Vaxx began looking if anything could be salvaged or if repairs were possible. In a manner that boggled the scientific minds of Jahus or Larian, Vaxx fashioned a bypass with little more than a few scraps in his toolbox. Red lights flickered when the first energy cell socketed in and rapidly accepted charge. The party was elated.

Dragging the first charged cell behind them, the team hoofed it back to the first-encountered worker bee unit and waited with bated breath as Larian, the only person who had any experience operating those machines, worked her way through the start-up sequence. Moments passed before the antigravity systems engaged and the pod lifted from the ground.

The next series of events transpired swiftly. Using the grapple arms of the now-operational worker bee, Larian carried several of the less damaged pods up through the facility to the main entrance, which was to become the team’s new staging ground. The engineer there patched and hawed as he readied the small vehicles for use. Around that time, while the other pods were energized and activated, it was discovered that controlling the worker bees was a lot harder than Larian made it look: Jahus drove into the wall… Eventually however, eight little worker bee pods sat lined up beside the red truck at the entrance to the facility.

It was time to figure things out. The worker pods in theory were capable of lifting into orbit, but with poor visibility and sensors offering little in the way of resolution, sticking closer to the ground seemed the more advisable choice. Debates as usual raged on, with Larian a proponent of careful and systematic exploration while Ixlain and Ragnaar fans of a more aggressive investigation at speed. Some thought was given to finding their original crash site to see if anything could be salvaged from, but this idea didn’t appear to have much support. In the end, the first action taken with the team’s newfound mobility was a basic grid search of the area. It would be nice to know where the facility was.

Exploration was halted when on opening the giant facility entrance door, everyone was greeted by a green-gold aurora in the black and dark sky. The team gazed in wonder until they saw great bolts of lightning touch down in the distance. “Um, what is the atmospheric concentration of methane?”

A bright flash was spotted in the darkness, and a wall of flame rocketed outward from the ignition point. It was with fear that the crew watched the great doors slowly creep back closed just in time for their flame-averse personages to avoid getting seared. The ground shook as if by earthquake, and tricorders indicated a massive rise in atmospheric temperature outside, noting that outside a firestorm was raging. “Let’s keep an eye on those methane levels shall we?”

Things settled, and Larian ventured outside piloting a worker bee. Her survey indicated that temperatures were again dropping to their usual levels, while methane levels began rising again, likely due to melting ice. Flying a grid, it wasn’t long before she found the escape pod they had so narrowly managed to escape from, followed shortly by an encounter with one of the warp nacelles from the Miranda, melted into an almost unrecognized mass. The worst however was yet to come.

The Enterprise saucer section was found crashed into the icy desert, pitched vertically like a tombstone into the sky. Larian, with her obsession for all things Picard, was shattered. The hull was broken, with numerous gaping holes. After consulting her colleagues via pod communicators, she attempted to investigate the crash, only to find that nearly all of worth inside that ship had long been stripped and removed. Climbing into what was once a nursery, Larian was able to see into the area intended to house the main computer core – evidence aplenty that entire sections of the ship’s interior had been cut out by forces unknown.

Consensus was reached that nothing of worth would be found in the Enterprise and Larian returned to the base despondent. Jahus pointed out the report retrieved from the Federation computer indicated an expected warp core delivery in the far desert, and that it may be worthwhile to head that way, but first other members of the party should be trained to operate the worker bees lest further unintended impacts with walls occur. Several hours of practice later, the entire party, in three worker bee pods, lifted off and hovered their way into the night.

View
Trucks and Holograms
"Crunch!"

It was with grim forbearance that the team, led by Commander Larian marched back to the launch and assembly cavern containing the large red truck-like machine. With weapons drawn and levelled, the party made their way back inside the cabin while the engineer Sal descended into the engine compartment intent on restarting the ancient (relatively speaking) piece of heavy equipment. As the team made itself comfortable, Sal tinkered with the old technology, until at last he worked out the mechanics of the plutonium-powered and steam-driven power plant. One great heave was all it took to turn the wheel that withdrew the control rods from the reactor, and careful management of the heat output slowly thawed the coolant lines running throughout the vehicle. Within a couple of hours they had power…and heat.

Warmth began radiating into the cabin, such glorious warmth! The ultimate test however, was if the party could get the metal hulk moving again, and indeed they did. With the vehicle somewhere around 18 meters wide, it required an operator on each side, and the crew was somewhat less than impressed to find the vehicle’s top speed to be a blazing one kilometer per hour. It was literally much faster to walk.

Not being in any hurry, it wasn’t long before the truck found its way into the wide corridor outside of the launch bay and began rumbling down the path only to once again come to the military drone that had rendered Larian and company to fine debris not long past. It was here some trepidation was expressed, but the giant wheels of the transport simply rolled right overtop without incident, leaving only crushed metal in their trail. It was the good doctor Jahus who perked up upon hearing a loud “POP!” come from down below.

“Wait. What was that? I just heard something.”

Ixlain volunteered to check out the noise, weapon readied, only to see a small crater emerge from behind the vehicle. “Guys, I think we drove over a mine.” With tires taller than most humanoids, no damage to them or to the remainder of the vehicle was evident.

Without further event, the team made its way into the second launch bay, shining lights about in dismay as they realized the vessel standing upright before them was little more than structural beams and bulkhead plating, obviously under heavy construction when the base’s intended occupants were more active. To their horror however, in stacks on the ground surrounding them were pallets of munitions marked as tricobalt devices. The room contained enough destructive power to annihilate a solar system, let alone a planet.

With this less-than-comforting discovery behind them, Ragnaar led the way into the last launch chamber, again seeing little more than a massive shell intended to become a spacefaring vessel one day. Redeeming this failure however was a worker bee pod resting on its tripod landing gear to the side of the room. Sal Vaxx, the engineer, brimmed with excitement. “Let’s go take a look!”

On approach, it quickly became evident that the worker bee had a previous occupant: A poor individual who had sustained some form of violent death. Macabre scene relieved of its centerpiece, Sal set to work assessing the vehicle while Ragnaar unceremoniously disposed of the long-mummified corpse.

“Bad news. The charge pack of the pod is completely dead. We’d need to find a way to restore power before we can see about getting this thing to work.”

After some debate as to course of action, it was Ixlain who spoke up and asked, “This is construction facility right? So it doesn’t really make sense that there would only be one worker bee. Where are the others?”

“Good point. We didn’t see anything on the way in.”

Before letting the team lapse into another hypothetical discussion, Larian spoke up, “Alright. We’ve seen most of what there is to see here, except for the supply room with the military drone inside of it. We should see if we can get inside there, then see about getting power up and running in this place.”

Not all agreed on the course of action, but Larian prevailed and the crew returned to the supply room to attempt entry despite knowing what was waiting for them on the other side. For twenty minutes debate raged as to how they could achieve room entry without getting blown to bits by the drone, but for all their fear, the drone did not activate when they finally managed to get one of the party inside.

The team was careful not to disturb the drone as they began searching the room. Construction components, circuitry, and conduits lay racked on shelves, covered in dust and waiting for engineers to give them purpose once again but sadly that day was not yet in sight. Sal was very sad to find no evidence of warp core parts in the room, concluding that the core must be brought in from outside on the back of the giant truck. Ragnaar was the one who noticed the lack of dust on one wall.

“Check this out,” the Anticaan growled, ”This wall doesn’t look like the others.”

A scan with a tricorder revealed nothing, but once noticed it was clear that something was off with the wall. Ragnaar placed his hand on the wall, only to pass right through it. “It’s a hologram!”

Leaving one member of the team outside of the hologram in case a forcefield rose of some kind, the party examined what was evidently a Federation listening station. With a console system that still had a small amount of power, the technically skilled Vulcan set to work recovering what data he could from the system, while the others probed a PADD found in the desk drawer.

Video evidence was recovered: Footage from a satellite long since removed from orbit, clearly demonstrating an enormous explosion blowing out the side of a planet such that the planet core was momentarily exposed right before the video ended. Such a blast should have been sufficient to have removed the planet from orbit and sent it off into space, but without further information little could be said. It was the reports that were most interesting.

While the base belonged to the Klingons, it seems the Federation had maintained a presence, suggesting that they had worked together at some point, presumably after their conflict, but nowhere in the base had human bodies been found that did not belong to the team. The reports indicated multiple items of interest, namely that what appeared to be a Borg sphere had entered the planet’s atmosphere shortly before an accident happened at the Jach’Eng facility on the other side of this world. This filled the team with dread, but dread turned to hope as the reports also provided a region map, and noted an expected warp core delivery to take place in the desert. “Well, now we know where we need to go look.”

“Yes, but first let’s get some power going.”

“To the power room!”

View
Shredded
The stings and arrows...

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.

“What happened?”

“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.”

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Temporal What - Part 2
We are the Borg...

As the crew struggled for answers, Jahus managed to confirm that the bodies hadn’t died more than twelve hours ago, preserved by the cold. Aside from identical cold suits, any goods or items they had been carrying were gone. Another tense discussion broke out, as people tried to decide if they should keep going. Eventually, it was decided that the only way out of the situation was forward.

Shortly thereafter, the ground levelled out and the crew found themselves in a monstrous cave. Shining with the flashlights revealed little, while scans indicated the tunnel proceeded for considerable distance to the right, gently pitching up as it went. To the left was a massive metal alloy reading, so that seemed the better destination. Their journey towards the reading was uneventful, right until they found yet another collection of bodies. Torn apart by what appeared to be flechette rounds, and with a destroyed autonomous Klingon battle drone resting nearby, Jahus and Larian were unsurprised to find that the bodies were again mirror images of the crew. Where were all of these bodies coming from? An inquiring scan with the tricorder indicated the presence of chroniton particles. Someone muttered, “Temporal shenanigans.”

Continuing, the party quickly noted that the metal reading was a huge duranium door, measuring some fifty metres tall by one hundred metres wide, and a solid third of a metre thick. They were not going to be cutting through that. Heading off to the side, the crew found what appeared to be some kind of security shack with two skeletal Klingon bodies inside. Again long since decomposed, and with bones registering as more than a millennium and a half old, Jahus noted similar scratches on their rib cages, and Klingon daggers at their sides. “Did they commit suicide?”

Nearby the bodies however was a giant metal wheel jutting out from the wall. As a team effort, the party cranked on the wheel, hearing a hiss and rumble sound emanate from the wall. As they continued to turn the aged and frozen wheel, the sound grew louder and a great creaking and clanging noise started coming from the huge door. Exiting the security post and making for the centre of the door, they watched as shards of ice and frost rained down from the metal plating. A great hiss and boom punctuated the dark cold as the two halves of the door separated, revealing a mass of bones strewn about on the other side. Disruptors and Klingon battle implements lay scattered throughout, and Jahus recoiled with horror as he realized some of the bones had what looked like Borg implants attached to them, though any useful parts appeared to have been stripped. From what the crew could tell, there had been a battle here at some point roughly 1600 years ago, if the tricorder was to be believed.

Gingerly picking their way through, their lights shone on a map of the facility as the entrance bifurcated into left and right sides. Identifying what seemed to be the facility power room, the party decided to go left. As they trekked into the dark, the ground beneath them was no longer silica sand, but appeared to be paved and solid, though the walls were still cut from rock. The tunnel narrowed from the entrance until it measured roughly twenty by twenty metres, with smooth vertical walls covered with an inch of ice. Periodically finding more remains, the party walked carefully to avoid potential traps, stopping when they saw a row of icicles hanging roughly at waist height in mid-air.

Suspecting a trip wire of some kind, everyone took turns throwing ice at the row for some time, until a direct hit was scored. A flash of light broke the darkness and at the distance the crew was at, more steel ball bearings started falling on their heads, though at the end of their trajectory and without the capacity to inflict harm. The team pressed on.

Finding themselves in front of a series of glass doors frosted over, the crew pushed their way into the power room, only for Sal Vaxx, ever the engineer, to choke at what had to be the most poorly designed and constructed power room he had ever seen. There were no consoles and power readouts, no E.P.S. conduits in clean lines, no labels or markers, or even a power generator. Instead what Sal saw was a crazy spider’s web of what seemed like steam conduits and pipes badly welded together and coming from the walls to converge on one misshapen mess at the centre of the room.

Contorting around the pipes, the crew quickly found the epicentre of the engineering nightmare – a rectangular reactor set into the floor, using what appeared to be plutonium fuel rods and operated by levers, wheels, dials, and pulleys snaking around various pipes, all well frosted in ice. Disgusted, Sal and the others elected to leave for the time being and see what else they could find.

As the team continued through the large corridor, they found themselves at an intersection. From the map they knew the left path would lead to one of the Jach’Eng launch bays. On the chance they may find a working ship, the crew decided to take that direction and entered a monstrous chamber that measured higher than a skyscraper according to the tricorder. At the centre of the chamber, the flashlight reflected off of a towering array of scaffolding and support columns to reveal a large ship standing vertical in the midst of them.

It was a Jach’Eng – superweapon capable of annihilating an entire solar system via subspace shockwave. As the crew approached, they could shine their lights up the rear of the craft and see into the open and exposed engineering compartment. Sal and Larian could make out where the warp core was supposed to be, and it appeared to be missing. It seemed that this vessel was at one time under active construction. Deciding to take a closer look, the crew began the laborious climb up the ladders and scaffolds to reach the Klingon ship’s midsection, where a gangway allowed entrance to the ship. It struck everyone as they climbed that they were venturing inside the belly of a suicide ship…

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Temporal What - Part 1
So that's my body there, and there?

It was time to go. Sal Vaxx set to work cutting away a section of the ceiling with the plasma torch. Just to be safe, the party conducted another quick scan with their tricorders, this time picking up a metal alloy signature roughly 200 metres beyond them on the surface and decided this should be investigated, but in the mean time they made provision.

Unfortunately for Sal, he neglected to step out of the way when he finished cutting away the ceiling bulkhead and the plate dropped onto his head. Aside from a headache however, he remained undamaged. All that remained between the party and the cold outside was the two feet of bright blue ice that would instantly vaporize on contact with the plasma torch beam.

Before breaking their seal, Sal then set to work on the escape pod’s life support systems, preparing a clumsy interface with the energy cells of the dermal regenerator and the auto-suture. Several minutes later, smoke began curling from the life support system as expected. The charging procedure had shorted the energy supply out. The pod’s systems died.

With the crew carrying all they could hold easily, including the dismantled still they had crafted from bulkhead panels and wires, they held flashlights while the doctor, Jahus, began to carefully extract the shard of glass from Lt. Cmdr Larian’s chest cavity. Moments later he turned the dermal regenerator off as the last of the wound was sealed, and the, dehydrated from blood loss, commander rose to her feet.

The air was already getting stuffy as the ice was cleared from their escape hole, but all gasped as the low atmospheric pressure seemed to suck the air from their lungs. Breathing itself would be work. Just as the air thinned in the pod, the tremendous cold moved in. Despite their cold suits, in the space of a few seconds the party already felt the chill starting to set in. They would not last long so exposed to the elements.

They began climbing out of the pod and onto the ice above, lifting and pulling each other to make the distance. Already they were panting with effort. Ragnaar, standing topside, turned his head for some time, as if to listen to something with his keen ears. When asked however, he dismissed the concerns of the others with a gruff, “It’s nothing.”

Looking about, the party found themselves standing at the bottom of a long hole punched into the ice by the crashing pod. The sky was pitch black, and the sound of howling wind from high up provided background noise. Scanning noted that the ice only went up half way, but frozen silica sand layered another several metres on top of that. It would be a hard climb up the side of the hole. As the party shone flashlights around the hole and discussed how to get out, Ragnaar briefly caught a glimpse of a man in black holding a clipboard looking down on them.

Excited at the prospect of a vertical climb the party was not. Thinking of alternatives, Ixlain drew her disruptor and began using it to cut a diagonal path up through the ice, and then using the combat knives crawled up the steep angled slope, dropping a cord down for the others to follow once at the surface.

Once on the surface the party noted grimly that the air was relatively calm, but not ten metres over their head into the black, wind speeds surged at over sixty kilometres an hour. The wind chill would cut through their cold suits’ insulation, already struggling to contain the party’s body heat. Sal Vaxx growled as the engineering tricorder died in Radda’s hands. As per their plan, they set out towards the detected metal alloy with feet plodding on fine silica sand.

Some minutes later found the party shining a flashlight over what appeared to be an engineered door, long since iced over with a thin layer of frost. Through the frost Jahus could make out the Klingon language stamped in the metal – the mark of the Klingon Empire. As Jahus read the words, Larian’s breath caught, “…Jach’Eng Launch Facility.” They were standing in front of a doorway that led to altogether long banned Klingon weapons of mass destruction.

Shivering in the cold chill, Sal began cutting through the heavy door plating to make a hole large enough for a person to squeeze through. On the other side what met them was what appeared to be an internal airlock door. A dead console panel hung on the wall to the side, but without power it served little purpose. Using their knives as crowbars, the party wedged the airlock door open and stepped through, even as the frozen pneumatics protested.

What greeted them was a dark and cold frosted corridor sloping down at a fairly pitched angle, with walls and ceiling obviously cut by disruptor fire into rock, and a silica sand floor. All was silent, and thankfully the wind did not seem to sound in the shaft. On the ground lay bones of decidedly Klingon nature, along with several daggers. From the scratches in the rib bones, Jahus concluded they must have sustained stabbing injuries to the chest. Curiously, dating with the tricorder indicated the bones were at around 1600 years old. Unsure of what they would find, the crew began making their way down the tunnel.

A half hour later, with the party walking abreast of each other, Ragnaar took the lead out in front some distance away as he attempted to see into the dark ahead of the bright flashlights. Moments later, Ragnaar’s sensitive hearing heard a ‘click’ as someone’s foot came down. Knowing what was about to come, Ragnaar did not attempt to call out a warning, but instead threw himself forward in self-preservation. As Jahus’ foot came up for his next step, an old bouncing Betty type landmine sprung from the ground into his chest.

The explosion was relatively small, as while Jahus was thrown back with shrapnel embedded in his chest, the heavy cold suit took most of the damage and prevented him from losing limbs. Even so, the doctor lost consciousness from the shock impact. The blast echoed up and down through the corridor, thankfully muffled enough from the cold suit to not break eardrums, but precious small mercy.

Radda crawled over to weakly ascertain the status of Jahus – doctors were supposed to patch up other people, not be patched! Despite Radda’s best efforts, it was 10 minutes before the wounded MD came round to find his coat shredded. Another 10 minutes while the doctor tried to seal the bleeding holes and remove the largest shrapnel. Ragnaar, having escape the blast, stepped to the side to look around, heard another familiar ‘click’ under his own foot.

Quietly, so as not to elicit panic, Ragnaar alerted the crew to his predicament. Carefully so as not to step on any more landmines, the party picked themselves up and backed away up the shaft to get out of the blast radius. Crouching into the Antican sprinting posture, Ragnaar then roared and launched himself towards the party, catching only part of the blast and taking negligible injury.

A terse discussion ensued, as the party strove to ascertain their next move. They were in no condition to explore the surface with impunity and had insufficient supplies to last for long. They elected to continue, keeping a sharp eye open for traps, and throwing ahead of them chunks of ice and icicles condensed on the ceiling as a hopeful means of reducing their risk. Not five minutes later one such throw resulted in a low ‘boom’ sounding out about thirty metres down the shaft. A sound of rain was heard as small steel ball bearings started bouncing around. Jahus picked one of them up to examine it, “Claymore.”

Several minutes later, the shaft still going down, the party came across a number of bodies. Unlike those discovered earlier at the mouth of the tunnel, these appeared to be fresh, though frozen. The flesh of the bodies was torn apart from the back, as the doctor identified the wounds to have been sustained from military-grade flechette rounds. There was some quiet horror and wonder as the bodies were turned over only to find that the faces of the dead matched their own. The bodies were mirror copies of the crew.

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Heavy Water - Part 2
What is that smell?

The first words out of Lieutenant Commander Larian’s mouth were, “What have you done to my ship!” The next several words were some combination of “Let me go,” and “I’ll throw you in the brig.” As Jahus and Sal attempted to hold down the yelling commander, who was obviously experiencing vascular shock from the massive blood loss and was in significant pain, Ixlain and Ragnaar tried to calm her down. Ragnaar, usually striving for dominance whenever possible was thoroughly cowed as the injured officer turned his attempt at intimidation back on him and threatened to lock him up for the rest of his natural life. Not seeing any end to the struggle with the agitated Larian and knowing that he was beginning to tire, Jahus instructed Ixlain to administer a sedative.

The administration was a success. Larian began to calm down and return to some degree of sanity. With the risk of his patient moving the embedded shard of console glass now reduced, Jahus turned his efforts to wrap and bandage the glass shard using classic gauze strips from one of the many basic first aid packets lying on the floor (remnants of Ixlain’s search of the escape pod). While Larian was still at considerable risk of causing further chest trauma, she was no longer critical. The bleeding had been more or less stabilized and while corrective surgery was still needed, Jahus could take a break.

As the party began to relax and take stock of the situation, Jahus took to cleaning off his clothing using several of the gauze pads. As a matter of principle, Jahus found it completely unacceptable to have blood and vomit all over his clothes, but for the time being he had no other alternative. The rest of the group did likewise as Larian, from her spot on the floor began to ask for a situation report. Once everyone was somewhat clean, or as clean as possible given the circumstances, and dressed in the heavier cold weather suits they turned to examine their surroundings.

While different individuals took turns performing first aid on each other, patching the myriad of small injuries sustained during their traumatic escape and landing, Ixlain began to shine her light towards what was once the back of the escape pod. Eying the blue-green ice wall dispassionately, she contemplated how the pod came to land, if the entire back of the craft was imprisoned in ice. Jahus found himself talking with Sal Vaxx and Larian concerning how to go about the much needed surgery on Larian’s chest without a working autosuture. Taking the offending surgical tool in charge, Sal concluded that the problem was lack of power and turned towards the still-working pod life support system, which bravely struggled to freshen the atmosphere in the cramped space and keep its occupants from freezing to death. As Sal toyed with the procedure required to transfer power to the little tool, he finally conceded that while he could do it, it would likely result in failure and overload of the life support system.

Somewhat unwilling to burn out the one thing keeping the party alive until they were sure of their next step, Jahus decided it would be best to wait somewhat before committing to the plan. Radda, a fair hand at computers, took to seeing if he could get any information from the badly damaged pod helm computer while Sal started scanning with the tricorder to ascertain the character of the environment the pod found itself in. What both of them found left a bad taste in the party’s mouths.

Several gross miscalculations and complete disgraces of the principles of physical chemistry later, the team was nonplussed to find their pod buried and surrounded on all sides by ice – water laden with significant quantity of heavy metals and organic compounds including methane. The thinnest ice was directly overhead at two feet thick, suggesting the pod had landed hard and the melted water had flowed in on the red-hot escape pod before refreezing. The atmospheric concentration beyond that was thin, and would leave the team gasping for air if they didn’t freeze first as atmospheric temperature was over minus sixty degrees. As if a gross insult was warranted, the air was also rich in methane to the point of possible saturation and combustion! It would not be advisable to breath the organic molecules in for very long.

Radda returned from his exploration of the computer systems to report that they had landed in the middle of a frozen desert of some kind, with a large amount of silica sand comprising the majority of the local.

“Alright. If we are going to go out there, we’ll need some why of reducing the amount of methane we’ll be breathing. It’s not the best idea, but Methane is a somewhat bigger molecule, so if we can create a filter to breathe through, we should be ok,” volunteered Jahus. The team discussed ideas back and forth for a while, until they decided to try an old soldier’s trick: Urinating on a cloth and holding it over the face…

There were a number of technical issues to address, namely how to prevent the urine-soaked gauze they planned to use from freezing, eventually working out a layered series of wet and dry gauze with sandwiched Mylar infrared reflecting fabric to retain heat. The party had yet to actually make the filters, but the theory seemed relatively sound. As preparation for this plan, the party took to urinating in one of their many water bottles to make sure they had enough. Ragnaar, canine instincts creeping up, filled his own bottle, and then poured a portion of it into the bottle the rest of the group had filled to ensure his scent was strongest. No one had observed this little display of superiority, but the question was if they would say something if they had.

Sal Vaxx conducted an assessment of the power reserves within the life support system. Since the system was keeping the party warm and breathing, they would delay breaching the ice until they had to, using the time to prepare as much as possible until then. There was a little trouble with setting the proper differential equation, but eventually the team figured out they had power for roughly two hours. With that in mind, the team turned its attention to rations.

With plenty of food rations available, water was the only other nutrition concern for the moment. Despite the fact that the pod was surrounded in ice, and indeed the back wall was nothing but ice, it was full of composite minerals, heavy metals, and impregnated with hydrocarbons – undrinkable. Making use of their physical science knowledge, the party decided to try distilling by evaporation the abundant ice at their disposal. Sal designed a still to be made using metal plating, cable sheathing, and the wonders of a plasma torch and set to work.

While Sal worked away, Jahus relaxed and mentally prepared himself for the planned surgery. Ixlain tried to sort out items scattered on the floor, deciding what she wanted to carry, while the Antican and Vulcan discussed camouflage techniques. An hour later, the still was complete, and interested persons watched as the first piece of ice was placed inside and subsequently vaporized into plasma with the plasma torch. Obviously not a success, Sal then crafted a makeshift heating element using the flickering emergency light and a plasma cell from one of the party’s flashlights. While it would not last for very long, it would be sufficient for some water production at least.

A short while later, the team had four litres of purified, drinkable water bottled and ready. The flashlight power cell was half depleted, and scans indicated the life support system had roughly a half-hour worth of energy remaining. It was time to go to work.

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Heavy Water - Part 1
What is that smell?

Stirring from a black dream, Radda swallowed as he tasted the foul aftertaste of vomit in his mouth and forced himself past his revulsion. Looking around the dark escape pod, he noted the slant of the floor that had him almost falling out of his seat if not for the restraining belt holding him. The heavier restraint bars had been disengaged, which meant that someone had been able to hit the release button.

The pod was very dark, illuminated by the occasional flash of light from arcing electricity, the flickering of a single working red emergency light offered little comfort. Radda turned to the escape pod’s helm to see no sign of the pilot in the dim glow of the shattered console. Sound began to register in the Vulcan’s ears, as he noted the stressed creak of cooling metal, the drip, drip, drip of water, static emanating from the broken helm consoles, and faint breathing from the shadows around him.

Freeing himself from the safety belt, Radda slipped to the floor and immediately began to rouse the individual who was in the seat next to his: The Orion doctor Jahus. Unable to wake Jahus (still clad in his medical isolation suit), for some strange reason Radda’s usually logical mind elected to open the doctor’s helmat, thereby breaking the seal on whatever Jahus had hoped to contain. Radda then forgot the principles of proper first aid.

Resorting to slapping the good doctor awake, Radda finally managed to wake Jahus, who was less than pleased at finding his helmat open, “You realize you are probably infected with whatever was inside of my suit and now you are going to die right?” Radda stopped for a moment, shivering in the cool air, “Eh, I didn’t think of that.”

No longer concerning himself with his isolation suit, Jahus got out of his seat, only to find the feet of his suit sloshy with a quantity of vomit. Jahus shed himself of the rank suit, and immediately set to work ascertaining the condition of his surroundings. It took but a minute to find the body of Lt. Commander Larian on the pod floor, and a flashlight near her hand. Unfortunately, while he was feeling around in the dark, Jahus accidentally sunk his hand into the gaping wound on Larian’s leg. The unconscious El-Aurian did not respond.

Jahus instructed Radda to try and wake the others, while he began an assessment of his patient. Lacking a medical tricorder, he had to resort to traditional medicine and raw observation. It didn’t take long for him to determine the most serious concern facing the downed commander: A punctured lung with a shard of console glass sticking out of it, and the heavily bleeding leg wound Jahus had accidentally placed his hand into. Larian was pale, her breathing shallow and rapid. Jahus needed his medical equipment, and there was not much time. Quickly checking the escape pod’s side compartments, he located an emergency medical kit with the precious medical scanning implement, only to find the expiry date on the case fifty-six years long overdue. The medical tricorder would not turn on…

Radda meanwhile set to work trying to wake the others in the reflected glow from the doctor’s flashlight. Recognizing the technical nature of the doctor’s problem, Radda elected to rouse the Bolian engineer first – hopefully he would be able to help fix the tricorder. It took some effort, but slowly the injured engineer came around, coughing weakly as the vile smell of vomit rose from his damp clothing.

None of the medical equipment was working aside from the two hyposprays and a neural stimulator. Jahus quickly applied the stimulator to the commander’s cranium and set to work preparing needle and thread – the leg required corrective surgery, and none of the usual technological tools were going to work in time. Holding the flashlight with one hand, needle with the other, Jahus managed to sew together the ends of the main bleeding arteriole – a feat that would be lauded by medical experts anywhere if any of them had observed the delicate procedure. He looked up as Radda informed him that Sal Vaxx, ship engineer, was waking up.

For all his discomfort, Sal started looking around the dimly-lit escape pod for tools. What good engineer could work without tools? Grabbing the small engineering kit from its compartment Sal got to work, flipping open the engineering tricorder to find that it too was not functional. Knowing a dead power cell when he saw one, Sal swapped out the drained unit with one found in the engineering kit stores, and the tricorder came to life.

Using the engineering tricorder to scan the unresponsive medical unit, Sal knew what he needed to fix the problem. Banging the tricorder against the floor a few times, in an expert engineering fashion, Sal successfully coerced the aged technology to turn on and then handed the repaired scanner to the doctor. Just as Jahus attempted to use the fixed tricorder, it died in his hand…

Radda concentrated on waking the Talaxian soldier Ixlain, as the Antican rogue looked a tad too aggressive for him – Anticans were known to be dangerous when confused or threatened. He managed to rouse the hardened soldier from slumber, and stepped back, right into a live electrical cable. After shaking uncontrollably for several moments, Radda collapsed to the cold floor. Jahus rolled his eyes, “Just leave him; he’s less of a danger to himself this way.”

Ixlain calmly took in the situation before releasing herself from the escape pod seat and assessing her injuries. It wasn’t every day you landed intact in an escape pod, and she counted herself lucky to be alive. Choosing to leave the Antican asleep and stepping over the body of the Vulcan ship officer at her feet, Ixlain quickly discussed the scenario with Jahus and Sal and began searching the escape pod for what materials she could locate. Not all was intact, and several compartments had melted or burned to a crisp. Nonetheless, emergency blankets, rope, food rations, flashlights, cold weather suits, tents, and Starfleet Marine combat-issue knives made their way into a pile on the floor. Ixlain quietly slipped one of the deadly blades into her jacket, alongside the disruptor pistol tucked against her side.

With medical tricorder again fixed by the engineer, Jahus grimly noted that the glass shard in Commander Larian’s chest was helping her as much as it was hurting her. While the shard cut off oxygen to the right side of her lung, it also stopped the pool of blood filling that organ from spilling over into the other lung and suffocating the unconscious officer. Larian would need surgery, and Jahus did not have the tools at hand to perform that procedure. His autosuture and dermal regenerator were not functional; also he was lacking a laser scalpel though one of the combat knives on the floor would be able to replace that. Dialling in some of his stabilizing medications, Jahus injected the officer. If he couldn’t fix her, at least he could keep her alive.

Ixlain set herself to the task of waking the Antican as Radda began to rouse from his unintended nap. Ixlain ignored the Vulcan as a possible concern, as right when Radda woke and stood to his feet, he stood up right back into the same electrical cable that had discharged through his body earlier. Radda dropped like a stone for a second time. “Oh for crying out loud,” came the unbelieving remark.

Ixlain drew upon the soldier’s knowledge of battlefield medicine, and compressed several dermal nerves that instantly drew the Antican awake and alert. Confused and groggy, the Antican snapped out, gripping the soldier around the neck and squeezing, while he growled in reflexive anger.

Attempting to pry away the iron grip of the Antican, or at least defend herself, Ixlain found herself struggling to even get a breath. Sal Vaxx and Jahus mobilized to address the situation, but until Jahus yelled for Ragnaar to yield (finally breaking through to the Antican’s canine instincts), he continued to assault the Talaxian soldier who had awoken him. Moments later, Ixlain sat on the floor rubbing her throat as the Antican apologized for his startle reaction. Then the neural stimulator on Larian’s head began to chirp – the El-Aurian was waking up…

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The Beginning - Part 4
At last it roared.

The pod does not eject. With the pod melting and welding itself to the hull plating, the extraction system is not functioning correctly. Screaming in frustration, Larian starts hammering the ejection button, overriding the standard protocols and engaging the thrusters inside the launch tube. With a tremendous blast, the escape pod smashes its way through the side of the stricken Miranda, only to immediately start turning to the side as a huge piece of molten and slagged hull plating comes with it. Trying to correct for the increased unequal drag, Larian steers the escape pod towards the outside edge of the star. It takes every ounce of thrust the ship can produce to make any headway against the star’s gravity. Making a series of rapid and highly complicated calculations in her head, Larian deftly steers the pod into a partial slingshot manoeuvre to try to pick up some additional speed.

Radiation penetrates the thinner hull of the escape pod, even as the hull plating glows white from heat. The internal temperature starts rising, quickly reaching forty-five degrees centigrade and leaving the pod’s occupants struggling for a breath while they remain fixed in their seats, braced by locked chest supports. Smoke starts billowing from some of the side compartments. Alarms ring out from the cockpit while Larian works frantically to keep the small craft from torqueing into the star centre of gravity. An explosion rocks the ship, throwing it sideways as the main port thruster blows apart. The stench of burning insulation fills everyone’s nostrils. A lone crewmember is heard crying out, “I don’t want to die!” Meanwhile, skin continues to blister as the heavy radiation blankets the fleeing crew.

The port side steerage array melts away, and internal temperature reaches a scorching seventy degrees, and respiration systems begin to cook from the unrelenting heat. Breathing itself becomes agony. Jahus however exposed to his pathogen, is suffering relatively few effects from the heat, given his suit’s breathing system is self-contained. Through the windows of the pod, Jahus can see the molten piece of hull plating the escape pod fused to start bending backwards against the dense flow of matter the pod is pushing through. A moment later, the pod clears the Star and picks up momentum as the immense gravity eases. Larian has a startled moment, as she realizes that by rights, the gravity of the star should have crushed the Miranda to the size of a baseball in seconds, yet somehow both it and the escape pod managed to remain intact long enough to escape. It defies all her knowledge, but she focuses her attention on steering the crippled pod.

Assessing the situation, Larian notes almost complete loss of steering capability, no ability to halt the pod as thrusters are gone, and sensors melted off a long time ago. Just as she tries to come up with a solution, low sound starts coming from the view screen. The pod is flying right into an asteroid field, and is being pelted by micrometeorites.

The sound of rain grows louder, as larger and larger debris starts pelting the craft as it quickly loses momentum. Just then, a horrific bang resonates throughout the pod as it instantly spins sideways and keeps rotating, having just slammed into a large asteroid. Several individuals inside the escape at once begin to vomit, and at least one urinates in his pants – the free spin of the pod throwing and smearing vomit everywhere.

Another tremendous blow hits the pod and the side wall punches in, the result of a side-on impact with an asteroid. A chuck of the wall smashes inwards, crushing its way through the back of one of the fixed seats, breaking a crewman’s spine and herniating his heart between his ribs. He’s dead almost instantly as blood sprays from his throat and mists the cabin.

BANG! A chunk of the pods heatshield and hull plate rips away, and shards of ice start ripping through the unprotected side wall. Two crewmen at the back are shredded with flying ice, and several others take flesh wounds. Larian calls out, “I’m reading an external atmosphere, we are entering planetary gravity!” Most are in too much misery to care.

A loud crash is heard, as a sharp asteroid smashes through the front cockpit, narrowly missing Larian before sailing straight through the back cabin. Ragnaar turns his head to avoid the flying missile, avoiding the mother of all bloody noses. Having passed through the cabin without injury, the asteroid hits the back wall, which ultimately proves too much for the strained structural welds and the entire back wall rips off into blackness. The atmosphere is sucked out almost instantly, leaving the pod’s occupants with empty lungs. The life support system howls to barely keep a trace amount of air in the cabin and avoid a vacuum effect.

Lightening begins to strike the escape pod as it descends through the planetary atmosphere. Several surges pass through the unprotected cabin interior, but luckily no one’s heart stops despite the massive shocks. Electrical systems do not fare quite so well however…

The remaining chunk of Miranda’s hull plating that remains stubbornly fixed to the side of the escape pod begins to act as a wind vane, pitching the escape pod into an entry angle that has it coming in on a side window instead of on the heat shield. Slowly the increasing atmospheric friction begins to heat the side of the craft, and oxidative flames being licking the escape pods wounds. Through the broken view screen in the front of the craft, a tail of flame extends past Larian’s head and reaches through the back cabin. Beads of molten glass from the windows begin to break off and hit several unlucky souls, cauterizing injuries caused.

Around the completely open back of the escape pod, flame from outside the craft begins to curl inside, taking mere moments to render a screaming crewman to char and licking towards several other crewmembers. Jahus has to start patting out his suit as small flames sprout from its outer layers.

All at once, one last blow exacts a price from the consciousness of those who survived atmospheric entry, and all goes black. Larian is the first to recover, to find everything black but for a few flickering consoles. A few moments later she gasps in pain and looks down to see a large shard of console glass thrust through her right lung and she begins to cough blood. Grasping for a light, Larian unbuckles herself from her seat and attempts to stand, only to find her leg unable to support her weight. Feeling her numb flank, she grimaces as she notes the deep muscle cut in her left leg and what is likely a bleeding artery. With all of her will, she crawls into the back cabin and hits the button releasing the cabin seat restraints before collapsing into darkness.

For a time, all is silent but for electrical crackles, sounds of sizzling water, and creaking metal. Radda, the fresh-from-the-academy ensign is the first to wake.

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The Beginning - Part 3
A low rumble...

A fight began to break out in the mess hall. Several Klingons and a Nausicaan bodyguard began insulting each other, before escalating to insulting each other’s mothers. Restless, Ixlain had to stifle the urge to intervene due to her Ferengi employers quietly making suggestions to “see how this turns out.”

Sal Vaxx, ever the engineer, arrived at her intended destination and began to study the problem: Why are the turbolift doors not functioning correctly? Opening up his tool kit, Vaxx pulled out an engineering tricorder and began to study the problem at hand. It didn’t take long for him to ascertain the cause for the fault – sabotage! Vaxx, unable to call security via the communicators, which were non-functional for some strange reason, became to make for the nearby security station.

In the mess hall, a fight began to break out in earnest. Ixlain, urged on by Jahus the doctor, joined the fray attempting to put a stop to things before they became serious right up to the point that she had to defend herself against not just one, but two opponents. Jahus inquired as to if he call security, but significant protest from the Ferengi, who were insisting that things should be left to play out of their own accord, convinced him otherwise. Ever the doctor though, Jahus elected to leave to prepare for the expected medical injuries.

Captain Thaddeus supervised the boarding of the new crewmembers and passengers, handing off the Ferengi to members of their delegation who had come to meet them, and elected to escort the crew to see the various duty stations on board the Miranda. With Ensign Radda in tow, his first stop was Main Engineering, where he introduced Radda to the staff there as Radda was to begin his first shift rotations in that department. Lieutenant Victor noted to the Captain that there were several concerning and ongoing computer glitches taking place, and during discussion with the Captain had Radda proceed to see if he couldn’t diagnose the problem in the ship’s computer.

Meanwhile on the bridge, Larian noted a report from the science officer Amon Kol that there were some unusual cascading computer errors coming up, at the same time as he noted the Ferengi vessel warping in earlier was now located on the opposite side of the system sun and that he was picking up an increase in coronal sunspot activity. Seeing the reports coming in, Larian had a disturbing sense that she had seen this before somehow. “Hail them,” was the command given. The Ferengi ship gave no response.

In the mess hall, while the brawl was underway, Ragnaar observed passively as the hall’s doors opened and closed, but with no sign of anyone actually coming through. With his keen sense of hearing however, he distinctly heard the sounds of soft footsteps getting louder and moving into the far dark corner of the room. Getting up from his position, Ragnaar likewise moved into a dark corner and attempted to blend in. He had a strong sense of something unusual taking place. Straining into the dark, Ragnaar noted that he could faintly see a dark-skinned man in black holding a clipboard watching the room. Strangely enough, under the man’s clothes, there were what appeared to be armour plates or padding. The odd man turned to observe Ragnaar and widened his eyes when he realized Ragnaar was aware of his presence.

The man in black began to stride back towards the mess hall doors, and as he moved out of the dark corner, Ragnaar lost sight of the man’s visage, though the footsteps could still be heard. Following a hunch, Ragnaar departed his own darkened corner and made to follow the ghost man, only to find when he entered the corridor both man and footstep sounds were gone. In their place, Ragnaar looked down as he smelled burning insulation coming from behind a bulkhead and warily stepped back.

In the sickbay, Jahus conversed with the ship’s doctor regarding the expected incoming casualties about to come from the mess hall until the sickbay doors opened and several crewmembers walked into the room with open red blistering lesions on their arms and faces. Both doctors set to work, trying to figure out what was going on, as the crewmen reported being hit by some kind of invisible wave that staggered them before they broke out into lesions. They noted that they attempted to call the bridge, but the communicators were not working.

While the doctors were examining their consoles, the sickbay doors opened again to admit another Orion. Jahus narrowed his eyes – he was quite adept at telling who was involved with the Syndicate. A short verbal exchanged occurred, during which the Orion hinted that Jahus might want to make himself scarce before turning and exiting the room. As the Orion left, a smooth small metal cylinder dropped out of his pocket and rolled on the floor. Long used to Syndicate tactics, Jahus leaped at the ship’s doctor and dragged him over and behind the heavy office desk, fearful that the cylinder was a grenade, but no blast came.

Down in main engineering, Radda worked diligently at his console to ascertain the cause of the computer faults. He furrowed his brow mere minutes later as he correlated his data from the systems analysis and realized that several unauthorized access attempts were made against the system protocols before someone successfully managed to penetrate the system. Reaching up to tap his communicator, he like so many others, came to the conclusion that the communicators were offline. Alerting Lieutenant Victor, a runner was dispatched to the bridge.

In the mess hall, Ixlain, having taken several hard hits, gave up on attempting to stop the fight and backed out as the Nausicaans and Klingons tore into each other while the mess Chef observed passively and did not call security. Ixlain became quite suspicious as she observed the previously nervous Ferengi delegation get up to leave, and began to follow them. They knew something, and that something could be dangerous.

On the bridge, science officer Kol reported to Larian that a coronal mass ejection was occurring, and the ejection was expected to intersect the path of the Miranda. “Helm, get us out of the way.” Larian was not pleased to hear in that moment the report that came next, “Ma’am, we’ve lost engines! I’m getting a massive cascading systems failure!”
“Shields up. Do we have any means of propulsion?”
“Only the warp drive.”
“Fantastic…”

Ixlain just stepped into the corridor to see the Ferengi running away. As she began to run after them, the last Ferengi in the delegation turned, saw her coming, panicked and drew a secretly hidden disruptor from his robe and started to line up his shot. Ixlain didn’t wait, she threw herself at the Ferengi and knocked the weapon out of his hand before staggering the squealing scumbag to the ground and leaping to seize the illicit weapon. All at once seeing that he was outmatched, the panicking Ferengi began yelling, “Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! I’m only following orders! I was paid to do it!” Ixlain grabbed the pleading Ferengi by the ear, and started dragging him to the nearest available room – the Klingon ambassador’s unoccupied quarters.

Sal Vaxx came to a sudden halt at the site of the carnage in front of him: The remains of what had once been a security officer and security station. What she could observe now was what appeared to be an officer’s body minus a head. Most disturbing to say the least and communications were still down!

Recovering from their leap behind the doctor’s desk, the two physicians looked up to hear a beep coming from the nearby console. Jahus paled as he noted the cause for the crewmembers’ lesions and the flashing indicators of an engineered biomechanical pathogen. Turning to face his counterpart, Jahus grimly stated, “We had better get suited up and start isolation.” Just as the ship’s doctor was about to reply, the yellow alert klaxons began to sound. The ship had raised shields.

Ragnaar sniffed as he stood in the corridor, noting the increasingly strong smell of burning insulation. He did not waste further time. Dropping down on all fours, he began sprinting for the nearest security station. Someone had to be alerted. Ragnaar came skidding to a halt at the security desk, only to see and smell the remains of what had once been two security officers, and the distinct odour of Ferengi having just arrived and left. Growling, he set out in pursuit of the Ferengi’s scent trail.

The ship rocked as the shields were hit by the coronal wave just as Captain Thaddeus walked through the door, “Report!” Larian hurriedly noted the preceding events right before the science officer called out again, “We have another wave incoming!” The First Officer chilled inside as she felt an uncomfortable sensation, “This is what we did last time. All non-essential staff to evacuation stations!” The Captain snarled, “Warp us out of here.”

Ixlain dragged the Ferengi through the ambassador’s doors, fully intending to interrogate the whining idiot, only to see another Ferengi rooting through the ambassador’s belongings. She raised her disruptor and levelled it at the new interloper, just as the call to evacuation stations rang out over the intercom. Gritting her teeth in frustration, she motioned for the would-be thief or spy to make for the room exit. If she couldn’t interrogate them now, at least she would see them off of the ship to pick up later. A moment of fear struck her not a half-minute later as she realized the escape pods along the side of the ship were non-functional. That meant only the escape pods in the shuttlebay were left.

Rolling around on the floor, desperately trying to get his completely self-contained isolation suit on, Jahus just finished activating the breathing apparatus when the evacuation alert sounded, “Oh isn’t this just great!”

The noise on the bridge grew louder as more and more frantic reports started coming in. “We have a cascading systems failure. I’ve lost life support. Shields are down!”
“I’ve lost helm control, and we are going into warp unguided!”
The Captain quickly ordered, “Drop us out of warp, dump the core and warp plasma if you have to.”
“No good, I can’t get access to those systems. We are vectoring into the star’s gravitational well. Slingshot trajectory in progress! The warp field is folding in on itself!”
“We are breaching the warp 9 asymptotic curve!”
“Captain, the ship it tearing itself apart! Hull breaches are occurring throughout the ship!”

Just as the Captain was about to respond, power breaches erupted through the EPS conduits, blowing out consoles across the ship and showering the bridge in sparks. The Captain gasped out, “Abandon ship! All hands, abandon ship!”

A terrible tearing feeling began to affect those on board as the viewscreen turned bright white. A sensation of being in all places, in all points of history, in all possible universes rendered everything still for a split moment. Memories of things that never happened, that did happen, or could possibly happen flashed before everyone’s eyes, yet just as quickly as they came, those images vanished, and for a moment all was still.

“Report!” There was a moment of silence, as a great roaring sound and fierce vibration began to penetrate the awareness of all present, “I said report!”
A hesitant voice rang out, “Sir, we are inside the star. Prophets help us, we are inside the star! We are inside the star, and we cannot move!”

Shepherding his isolation-suited charges to the shuttlebay for the evacuation order, Jahus sensed the prickly feeling in his skin and the burning sensation in his face and eerily recognized the fact that he was being dosed with high levels of radiation. He had to get out of here!

“Sensors indicate the hull is melting, 30,000 degrees and rising! Escape pods are unresponsive!”
“Get everyone to the shuttlebays. The pods there should still be intact.”

Throughout the ship, throngs of people streamed from rooms and into corridors and gravity-less turbolift shafts, all heading to the shuttlebay. Once in the shuttlebay, it became frightfully obvious that not everyone was going to be able to fit inside the few escape pods and shuttles available. Ragnaar was one of the first to arrive, having followed the trail of the Ferengi from the security station above and realized that the Ferengi responsible for the murder of the security officer had filled one of the only available escape pods. Enraged at the thought that these scum might make it off the ship alive, Ragnaar roared and went berserk, punching, slugging, and throwing the errant Ferengi off of the escape pod, even as panicked mobs of people tried to claim spaces aboard the escape craft. Several moments later, with the last Ferengi off of the escape pod, Ragnaar looked out to see people milling around panicked as for several of the other escape pods force fields had come up as they were full and no others were able to board. Ferengi were screaming offers of latinum for a free seat, not realizing that whoever they paid would die anyway and would never get to use their gain.

A moment later, Ragnaar had an odd realization, that despite the fact that no force fields were up for his escape pod and the door was wide open, no one was trying to board his pod. A split second later, this was rectified as first Radda, then a suited Jahus, a scowling Ixlain, a somewhat panicked Sal Vaxx, and a determined Lt. Cmdr Larian boarded the craft, followed shortly by several other crewmembers who took the rear positions of the escape vehicle. As Larian boarded, Ragnaar puzzled as he heard her say, “Ah, last remaining shuttle. Made it.” As Ragnaar looked out the window, he could see all of the other escape craft still in their berths with people clamouring around them, yet it was as if none of them could see the pod he was sitting in; as if the craft did not exist. Just as Larian took the controls and powered up the pod, sealing the door, Ragnaar suddenly spotted the man in black standing outside calmly holding his clipboard, and nodding to himself before turning and walking away, disappearing as he went. Confused, Ragnaar braced himself as Larian yelled out, “Brace yourself,” and slammed the ejection button.

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