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