The bridge that came to life on the Atlantis’ own viewscreen was not too dissimilar in general purposes, or even colour tones really. Control stations spread around a bridge, a command chair in the middle, one looked like a unitary station in front, likely helm. The dark beige colours, warm neutral tones and occasional industrial metallic highlights seems like someone had attended the same interior design courses as whoever selected colours for Atlantis.
“I’m Captain Tikva Theodoras of the Federation Starship Atlantis, hope you don’t mind, but we’re here on a bit of a scientific mission and hoping perhaps the planet is big enough for the two of us?” Tikva asked, having gotten to her feet as soon as the viewscreen snapped to. A smile on her face, she let it grow, after all, first impressions and all.
“Captain Torqqi Korlin of the People’s cruiser Va’th, a pleasure to meet you Captain. This isn’t our system to impose our will upon and we have no scientific interest in this system at this time, though the People did have a starship in this system that did. You haven’t seen any starships like ours recently, have you?” the man asked, having gotten to his feet as well. His skin was a very faint purple tinge, with black hair and deep-set golden eyes that betrayed the concern he must have been feeling.
“No, I can’t say we have.” A quick glance to Adelinde at Tactical was rewarded with a negative head shake and walking up beside Rrr another. “Perhaps Captain we could lend assistance in finding your other ship while my scientists undertake their research work?”
“I’m not going to say no to any assistance scouring the system for signs of our research vessel. Perhaps Captain we can discuss matters when your ship reaches orbit?”
Less then an hour later and Atlantis was settling into orbit two hundred kilometers from the Va’th, and fifteen minutes after that Captain Torqqi Korlin was being shown through to Tikva’s ready room by Mac, who had greeted the man and one of his officers in the shuttle bay, having insisted they’d make their own way over.
“Captain and I believe Lieutenant Torwel yes?” Tikva questioned as she offered a hand and directed her visitors to the more informal space in her ready room, looking forward across the ship’s hull. “Sorry I didn’t meet you myself, but our science teams were very keen to get going as well as some of my shuttle pilots to assist in your search.”
“Yes, I counted no less then six shuttles launched while we made our way over and noticed you had four even larger shuttles and two smaller ones in your bay still undergoing preparations for launch,” Korlin said, looking awed actually as he sat down opposite Tikva. He sighed at his off-sider and waved the man down into a seat as well, at which Mac followed suit.
“Yes, our runabouts and very small fighter compliment are not usually kept in a ready launch state, but we should have them out the doors before much longer to assist. Your Commander Teq’ru has assigned us targets within the system to conduct searches, which he says should help cut your search time down from weeks to a matter of days perhaps. Is there anything you can tell me about your missing ship’s mission? Might help us with tracking it down perhaps.”
Torwel, a man whose skin tone was easily more then a few shades darker then Korlin’s agitated at that prospect, but the man was settled by his superior. “The Hu’th was sent to conduct a dig at coincidentally the site your people have headed for planetside.” He raised a hand to quell any comment or protest. “We have no suspicions of your people Captain. We’ve been here for five days and have already checked the site multiple times. There’s no sign the Hu’th ever even made planetfall to conduct their work.”
“But you have some good evidence they made it to this system?” Mac asked.
“Oh yes, Captain Krell and I are good friends. He messaged me just after they arrived in system. Said they had detected some unusual energy signatures in system but were excited to get to the dig and start work. They were following clues from another dig site on one of the People’s largest colonies.”
That got Mac and Tikva’s attention as they both looked to each other and then to Korlin and Torwel. “When did your people discover this dig site?” Mac asked for the two of them.
“Oh, about ten years ago. The People’s University of Trent found it, or more precisely a first-year geography student found it. About two months ago this system was identified as one mentioned in records we’ve recovered. An expedition was dispatched almost immediately, but when the failed to report in, the Va’th was sent to investigate.”
Tikva nodded as Korlin spoke, hearing the concern in his voice for his missing colleagues. “Rest assured Captain, the Atlantis and her people will lend a hand as much as we can to assist. We do have some pressing concerns of our own that might require us to depart in a hurry, but I’m more then happy to leave a couple of our shuttles in such a situation behind to keep helping. In the meantime, could I interest you in a tour?”
Korlin’s grin practically took over his face and threatened to annex is permanently it looked like. “Only if you agree to a tour of the Va’th! He’s not the most modern of ships in the People’s Navy, but I’m very proud of him. And I have to ask, your Commander MacIntyre here made mention of something called a transporter. I just have to see it in operation.”
“I’m sure Captain that arrangements can be made.”
Technically the world had a survey number somewhere and likely the People had a name for it as well, but Lieutenant W’a’le’ki had been the senior officer in the first lot to beam down and at the prompting of an Ensign in her group, she’d christened the world W’a’le’krell’ti. Translated into Federation Standard it would come out as The Walker|Pathway of Forgotten Dreams. It had seemed fitting for an outpost of an ancient empire that had just up and disappeared seemingly overnight, on a galactic history scale that is.
Of course, when Simmons had come down an hour later, he objected, wanting to name it something bland and boring, like New Orkey. The place is cold and damp, but strangely beautiful, he had said. She just didn’t see it that way and it turns out that when he tried to insist on grounds of seniority, a quiet little rebellion had taken place, with everyone sticking with her name. Sometimes poetry wins out over easy names.
That and the claim that her name for this world was simply ‘fun’ to say, but humans and some of the other Federation races did find amusement in the weirdest of things sometimes. After all, humans named their homeworld after dirt. Or dirt after their world? She’d have to look into the etymology later.
Everyone was wearing jackets, a few had opted to even don sturdier pants and boots to fight the cold, much like W’a’le’ki herself had, though her gear was actually powered to provide her the heat her biology so desperately sought out. She’d have happily let Simmons run ground operations if not for the chance to be the first to get at the Tkon ruins and dig up whatever secrets they could.
“We’ll have a sonic perimeter installed and operational within the hour,” Ensign Bellows, one of the Engineers assigned to the dig said as she walked with her towards the recently completed prefab that would serve as the site office. “We’ve not detected any large fauna so far, but it should keep out smaller creatures and let us work marginally undisturbed.”
“Excccelent Ensssign,” she hissed with a smile, restrained of course since Counsellor Hu had pointed out that most mammalian species found rows of pointed teeth to be disturbing. “I trussst accommodationsss are on track asss well?”
“Josh and Sami are finishing final assembly and air tightness checks now, then T’run will set up all the power and get the heaters running. We’ll be good to camp here for six weeks before local noon.”
“Good, good. I’ll let Sssimmonsss know. Thank you.” And with that Bellows gave her a nod and departed just before she reached the door to the office building and let herself in to find Simmons looking over a hollow projection of what they had discovered so far.
More sophisticated scanners had been brought down and set up, penetrating into the dirt and rock, mapping out what they could in a level of detail that starship sensors, while powerful, just couldn’t deliver. Tunnels and spaces had been revealed and the maze below their feet reminded W’a’le’ki of any number of underground facilities and bases she’d seen elsewhere. But on top, just a few meters before their feet looked like foundations and ruins clearly of a settlement reclaimed by nature.
“We’ll be just about done with initial mapping by mid afternoon I think, then we can start thinking about where we want to start digging to get into this facility,” Simmons said after having looked up to confirm who his visitor was. “But there looks to be signs someone beat us here, though not recently.”
He pointed at a couple of anomalies the sensors had picked up, namely what looked like two bodies, but buried under some rubble that from how it was interfering with sensors must have contained elements of magnetite. “They’re buried at the same depth as the top layer of ruins, so I’m guessing someone else did a dig here before.”
“We ssshould ssstart then with those bodiesss. Work out who wasss here before usss.”
“My thoughts as well. We’ll spend the afternoon and evening getting everything ready and planning with the three dig teams to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing, then we’ll get started first light tomorrow.”
“Well then, where ssshould we ssstart? I wasss thinking here,” she said, spinning the hologram around to point out a spot she had noticed earlier, rapidly getting into planning a dig now that her and Simmons knew just how extensive the sight really was.
Ship time and dig site time weren’t synced up by any stretch of the imagination and it was mid afternoon when Tikva stepped out of her ready room onto the bridge with a smile on her face. “Right Mac, ship is yours, I’m going down to the dig. Want to be there when they break ground.” She saw him about to start his protest, then waved him along. “Fine fine, come along. Ch’tkk’va, ship is yours. No blowing anything up.”
With that said, Captain and XO both piled into a turbolift and an order for transporter room two was given. She wasn’t sure why number 2 had become the default, but it was when she took command and so it had remained.
“Regulations really state one of us should stay aboard ship.”
“Yup,” she replied.
“And we should really take a security detail, especially you.”
“Way ahead of you Mac.”
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as the turbolift came to a stop and two security officers met them, carrying a jacket for each of them, themselves ready to go. She smiled like a kid with candy while slipping on the jacket as they finished walking to the transporter room. “Not a scientist myself, but I just love poking my nose around some ruins. Hopefully we’ll find something Command can work with to help with this mystery illness back home.”
“Yah, hopefully. Though, could we be at risk here?”
“As long as we don’t open any containers in a lab full of people without precautions, unlike some others, should be fine,” the answered stepping onto the transporter padd. A few moments later saw the team in the middle of a busy camp site, though camping was a generous use of that word. This was more like a small township now thanks to prefabs and her own orders to make this semi-long term so Atlantis could do anything else that needed doing. “Captain Korlin should be around here somewhere,” she said, popping up on tiptoes to look around, the two security officers joining in, but stopping when Mac pointed out the purple skinned man.
“Gantzmann’s already found him,” he said, then started in that direction, picking a pace so as not to outpace his captain.
Quick introductions, asking how the search for Korlin’s missing ship was going, some more about anticipation for the start of this dig and soon enough the group found themselves attending a quick speech by Lieutenants Simmons and W’a’le’ki and then the start of actually operations.
All in all, things went well for the next hour, with a tour of the camp alongside Korlin, who was an endless font of questions, be it about processes, techniques, tools and technology. His people lacked transporters and replicators, but they had a wealth of survey scanners that perhaps a little technology trading couldn’t go amiss. Or if not trading, then perhaps sharing technical papers to help each other along new paths of discovery.
It was as they were getting back to the first dig trench that things started to go a little sideways. She’d been briefed about the two bodies and the intent to dig them up first just to see if Tkon remains might be present, though exceedingly unlikely, or who might have been here first. She hadn’t expected a call to be made that pulled Adelinde away first, but coming up behind all those around the pit, Tikva merely coughed and people parted ways for her.
There, buried under some rubble was a body, poorly preserved, by whose clothing had survived in decent condition, no doubt thanks to synthetic fibres meant to last. The uniform she recognised from her briefing packets and readings about the Delta Quadrant – Vaadwuur.
Joy oh joy! Space fascists! Just what we need!
Uh, what’s that next to him under the rubble?
She stepped forward just in time for the rubble to be removed and a collective gasp to go out amongst those present at what they saw there, buried under the magnetite and hidden for centuries until they had come along.
A Borg drone, its head caved in, it’s torso crushed, it’s dying action having been to try and assimilate the Vaadwuur who had decided to bury both of them under a collapsed wall.
Tikva was still staring at the drone when Adelinde grabbed her by the arm and gently, though forcefully, walked her back from the pit, giving her a look of ‘Don’t fight me on this’ as she did. Mac didn’t need to be manhandled, following in their wake as they went. “Captain,” Adelinde finally said after ten meters and letting Tikva go to gently rub feeling back into arm, “I’m going to have to ask you to return to the ship until I can guarantee the sight is safe.”
Nodding, Tikva didn’t plan to protest. It was the right call after all. A glance to Mac and the man got the message, giving her a moment of privacy with Adelinde. “Take care sweet and keep them all safe too.”
“It’s what I’m here to do.”
A quick glance to ensure people’s attention was elsewhere, Tikva gave Adelinde a quick peck on the cheek before settling back on her heels. “Keep me up to date, I’ll get Ch’tkk’va to scan for Borg signs as well when we get back up there.” And with that she stepped away to collect her first officer and return to the Atlantis.