“Computer begin recording.” A second later there was a chime from the console, indicating Ori could start to speak.
“Personal Log, Lieutenant Junior Grade Orila Karai. Expedition Charlie Gamma Four Nine day 3, July 20th 2399. The camp and base of operations have been established. Although the operations area was able to be located on the alpha deployment site, due to concerns about the stability of the site, the camp was deployed at the bravo deployment site. Yesterday we were able to excavate the entrance to the ruins and today the aim is to finally enter the interior. The geophysical survey of the area indicates that there is a vast subterranean complex, which I believe was at one time a colony for the advanced civilisation that once called M-113 their home. It is my hope that due to the location being underground, it has been spared the atmospheric ravaging that we have seen at other sites.”
Ori let out a deep sigh as she pulled her tunic over her head. Her eyes felt heavy, despite the fact she had just woken up. It had been another late night excavating one of the more recently discovered set of ruins on planet M-113. With another sigh, she ran her fingers through her chestnut brown hair, grabbing the back and twisting it around into a bun. She checked herself over once more, before walking towards the door.
“Another day, here we come.”
The door to the prefab slid aside as she approached and she felt the warm air on her face. The hotter, more arid weather had taken some adjusting to, but after 6 months on the surface, she was becoming acclimatised to the weather.
Ori made her way past the collection of prefabricated buildings that acted as their temporary home. As much as the sand grated on her, Ori was at least thankful that she didn’t have to wear an EV suit to work. During her time at the academy, she had found the bulky suits hampered her ability to work effectively.
The archaeological dig site was situated around 500 metres from the camp, and as Ori approached the area, she noted several of her colleagues already at work. She offered a brief greeting as she walked past, before passing the operations prefab. Much like the prefabs that made up the camp, it was a dull off-white building – or at least it would have been if the dust storms hadn’t stained them, giving them a rust coloured hue – supported by several metallic struts, with a lack of windows and a set of stairs leading up to a single door.
A few metres beyond the prefab was the ramp leading down to the excavation site. Despite clearing the entrance yesterday, the dust storms during the night had begun to surround the entrance with sand again. Ori retrieved her flashlight from her belt and flicked it on as she stepped through the doorway and into the tunnel. The beam from the flashlight illuminated her path along the non-descript tunnel. She had been disappointed initially that the entrance had not lead to some grand chamber, but it was only the first day, and she remained hopeful that the site would yield valuable insights into the planet’s former inhabitants.
After several metres, Ori could hear voices up ahead, and upon reaching the end of the tunnel was met with two of her colleagues, Dr Elizabeth Hemming, the lead archaeologist for the site, and Captain Johsua Riano, the senior Starfleet Science representative for the region and her superior officer. Ori was surprised to see that the tunnel opened up into a large circular chamber and then just dropped away, with a large hole around 150 metres across occupying the centre. She couldn’t quite explain it, but something about the room sent a tingle up her spine.
“It’s rather curious, initial scans didn’t indicate such a vast hole.” The bearded man turned to face Ori as she approached “Ah, Lieutenant Karai, I’m pleased you were able to join us. Thank you for your efforts last night by the way”.
“Quite” the greying haired woman added. “We likely would still be trying to find a way in now.”
Ori pressed her lips together into a faint smile. “Thank you.”
“What are your initial thoughts Lieutenant?” Riano said.
“The structure is certainly artificial, the tunnel at least hasn’t been carved into the rock. Either it was always subterranean, or the surface has risen around it.” She glanced around, noting some peculiarities of the chamber. “Although it is difficult with the light, this chamber is more colourfully decorated than the tunnel.”
“Very good. Very good. Dr Elizabeth Hemming and I have to provide an update to the Archaeological Center, would you care to continue your explorations?” A thin smile appeared on the man’s lips. During her brief time on M-113, she had grown fond of the man, seeing him as a kind of mentor.
“Certainly, it would be a pleasure, sir.” With that they bid Ori farewell, leaving her with nothing but the sounds of their departing footsteps. She moved towards the edge of the hole and held her flashlight over, shining the light down. Nothing, not even a glimpse of the bottom.
“I guess there must be some way down there or at least something at the bottom” she muttered to herself.
Ori stepped away and cast her eyes around, and came to a realisation. Evidence of the original inhabitants of the planet had suggested that they stood around 1.5 metres tall; however, the ceiling in the tunnel and the chamber was at least 6 metres.
“That is a lot of headroom, I wonder what for?” Ori mused as she continued examining her surroundings. It felt to Ori as if she was standing in a room made for giants. Finding nothing further of interest in the room, Ori made her way along another corridor at the opposite side of the room.
After several metres, there was a series of doorways, and upon further examination, it looked to be some kind of living quarters, with 8 rooms located off a shared facility, likely a kitchen and gathering area. Most of the rooms were empty, apart from the occasional piece of dust-covered furniture – nothing that hadn’t been seen at similar sites before.
Ori had been exploring the complex for a few hours, and judging by the cooler temperature, was moving deeper underground. Along the way she had tagged a few areas of interest for further study, including one space that had a variety of machinery that she had not seen before and could only guess as to their use. What had been curious about that particular room, was that despite the dust the machinery and equipment had shown no sign of deterioration. It was even possible that it still functioned, which would be a milestone and may even go some way to further understanding the original inhabitants.
Another curiosity had been, that despite the area she had covered so far, she had not come across a single body or any type of remains – it was as if the entire complex had been abandoned before the advanced civilisation had died out.
Her tricorder began picking up heat signatures, several large heat signatures in fact. She continued deeper into the complex, following the readings. Up ahead she could see a blue glow on the walls.
“Something is still active down here”. With her heart beating in her chest, Ori carried along the corridor, her footsteps echoing around her. She stepped through the doorway and her heart stopped. In front of her were several display units, still feeding out data in a language she recognised as belonging to the advanced civilisation, although she had no idea what it said.
Ori was about to provide a status report when something caught her eye. In the corner of the room, partially obscured by some boxes was a device. She moved towards it and shifted the boxes out of the way. On closer inspection, it wasn’t a device, but some kind of containment housing, covered with a series of markings, and she could feel the heat radiating off it. Inside there was a pulsating blue ball of energy, the likes of which Ori had never seen before. She passed her tricorder over it, but the only material it was able to determine was boronite.
Ori reached up and tapped her commbadge, her voice a mixture of excitement and trepidation. “Lieutenant Karai to Ops. I’ve found something in the lower levels, sending you the tricorder readings now. Recommend you get a team down here.”
“Roger Lieutenant, we’ll arrange…”
The voice cut out abruptly and was replaced by the deep voice of Captain Riano. “Lieutenant, I am going to have to ask you to vacate the complex immediately and report straight to me”
Ori’s eyes narrowed as her brow creased with confusion “But Captain this could be one of the most important..”
Once again the voice of the Captain cut in “Lieutenant, that is an order. Report to me immediately. Riano out.”
The room fell silent and Ori was left feeling confused. In the six months that she had none the Captain he had not once spoken in such a manner, to anybody. Something had him rattled, Ori thought to herself. Ori cast another glance at the glowing box. Her mind drifted to the ancient tale of Pandora’s Box.
“Just what is this thing?” her voice echoing in the empty room.