Stepping into the Ready Room, Adelinde took notice that both Captains had ditched cold weather gear, opting to drape coats over the back of chairs and were quiet happily lounging on the couches, drinking something that smelt like coffee and seemingly in an animated conversation. Catching the slight pause when Tikva took notice of her stepping in, the subtle pull of her lips as her natural smile accentuated, she offered a slight smirk in response before deadpanning her expression for Captain Korlin when he turned to face her as well.
“Ma’am, Sir,” she said. “No further sign of Borg on the planet so far. The drone is centuries dead and completely inert. Commanders Velan and Terax have both assessed it for possible threats and deemed it safe for now. Aside from that, there doesn’t seem to be any further threat currently at the dig site.”
“Oh, now that’s a relief Lieutenant,” Korlin said, his smile seemingly as natural as Tikva’s, perhaps why they seemed so relaxed in each other’s company. “Your Captain explained the Borg to me. Thankfully the People have never run into such…monsters, but I understand they’re right on our door step apparently. I guess I’ll need to properly convey your Federation’s fears and concerns to High Command.”
“Oh, we can help with that Captain,” Tikva spoke up. “We’ve far more than enough information on the Borg we can share with you to take home. We could even go along with you if you want after our work here is done.”
“Ma’am,” she spoke up, drawing attention back to herself. “Permission to resume my duties?”
“Oh, sorry, yes. Can you also arrange to have some more Security personnel sent to the dig, just to provide any assistance should say any more Borg get found?” The way Tikva’s head was turned allowed her to offer a wink without Korlin seeing it. “I don’t want to take any chances we don’t have to.”
“Certainly Captain,” she replied and waiting for a dismissal, was soon enough back on the bridge and facing the XO. More precisely he was sitting in the captain’s chair and looking straight at her, then inclined his head to indicate she should take a seat beside him momentarily.
“Ditch the jacket Gantzmann, before you overheat.”
“Thank you, Sir.” And she did as he suggested, shucking the jacket off and laying it across her lap when she did sit down.
“Mysterious Tkon ruins needing immediate investigation. Strike you as a bit odd Lieutenant?” he asked, turning the chair just enough to make himself more comfortable for this conversation. She had to admit he was a good-looking man, a bit rugged perhaps, with a carefully cultivated amount of stubble that wasn’t to her liking. And his tone of voice, having worked with him for years, had changed in the last few months. No longer exasperated at a stalled career but seemingly reinvigorated.
The benefit of a young, fresh Captain brining in a new dynamic it would seem.
“I do find it odd Sir, but Command does work in mysterious ways, or so Captain Orwell would say before his retirement.” She hadn’t known the Captain long, but knew MacIntryre had served under him for a few years. Coveted his command chair even.
“Yah…that they do. First this Omega business, now this. And documents coming in from Commodore Bennett confirming the Captain is acting under proper orders. It’s just damn peculiar,” he stroked his chin in though, stopping after a few moments, finger pointed straight upwards. “If you hear anything, anything at all from the Captain that could hint at a threat to the ship or crew, you let me know, alright?”
“I won’t betray the Captain’s trust,” she responded, but raised a hand as he started to voice a protest, “but I won’t endanger the ship either with an omission Commander.”
“Well, I guess I can work with that then. Alright, as you were Lieutenant.”
“You know Terax,” Ra-tesh’mi Velan said looking up from the corpse, or what was left of the corpse at anyway, “I think we might be looking at a very, very early generation of Borg drone here.”
“Of course we are, it’s nearly a thousand years old. Come, look at this.” The taller Edosian stepped away from his microscope to let Velan look down the viewers and waited for the Engineers approval, which he voiced in an annoyingly human fashion by whistling.
“These nanoprobes are massive. Likely incredibly primitive in function as well. They don’t even resemble the currently generation of nanoprobes.”
“Likely different origination species,” he pointed out to the engineer, bringing up his scan with the latest nanoprobe design on record side by side as a comparison, where the different design aesthetic could be seen. More detailed scans were finally coming in from the scanner and technical details started to be shown, showing the radical capability differences as well.
“I’d love to know who designed what the Borg are working with now. I want to know why they made such a pernicious little bastard.”
“Pure speculation but I would wager likely in response to these,” he pointed to the probes recovered only an hour ago. “But we’ll never know unless we ask the Collective. Perhaps you could ask the Captain if that could be arranged?” he asked dryly.
“Oh, I think I can wait to get assimilated thank you. Still, this chap is a bit of an engineering marvel. Gives us a decent enough comparison to early designs compared to what the Ent D ran into, then Voyager. Folks back home will likely want to look him over too.”
“Which is why I need your assistance. I’d like you personally to check the morgue drawers, ensure the stasis generators are ready and the security seals. When I put this away, I don’t want it accidentally powering up some unknown subsystem or some fool taking a look either.” Terax pointed at the drone on the bio bed. “That is still a biological hazard until I’m happy it’s truly dead and that doesn’t happen until you let me beam it straight into the heart of the warp core for tidy anti-matter annihilation.”
Velan laughed at that, the absurdity of using the warp core for garbage disposal, then stroked at his beard, giving it a moment’s thought before shaking it away, “Alright, alright. One Chief Engineer examination coming up, then we get Si here into a drawer.”
“Si?” Terax asked.
“Si, as in Simon, but also Si as in cyborg. Say it out loud in Federation standard.”
And so Terax did before groaning at the bad pun and banishing the troublesome engineer from his fiefdom.
“I’ve got to say Lieutenant Simmons, your people have some magnificent tools for this sort of work,” the short, squat woman, Lieutenant Garoom of the People said as she examined some of the tools and equipment that had been set up in the tunnel complex beneath the ruins.
He’d ordered the some of the gear brought down to allow for work to be done on site versus dragged all the way to the surface first. Auto-cleansers for, holo-scanners for catalogue work, detailed molecular scanners that would scan artifacts one layer at a time. These could all be set up in corridors and allowed to just process artifacts before being packed away and then taken topside.
“But,” she continued before he could respond, “your ground penetrating scanners aren’t as good as ours.”
“No, I will concede that,” he replied, looking away from his display with a forced smile, “but they are significantly more compact than what the People have.”
“Oh yes! Much more compact! A single person can carry a decent sized scanner. Ours, well, it’s a good thing we’ve built the counter-gravs directly into them,” she said, looking over at the large device that was sitting with all other equipment but whose design aesthetic clearly indicated it’s alternative lineage. “Still, I think we’re going to have a decent synergy when the rest of my team come planet side. Let everyone else look for the Hu’th, we’ve got a tomb to explore!”
As it turned out, the Va’th had a considerable number of people it could lend to assist in the Atlantis’ expedition, just as Atlantis had lent staff and equipment to assist in Va’th’s mission, which is how Lieutenants Talook and Jilth found themselves pared with the Federation Ensign McGregor.
“The Federation seem so…diverse,” Talook said quietly to her friend, as they both walked behind McGregor, all of them equipped with lights in the dark corridor.
“I noticed too. Some have blue skin like the People, but then some green skin, some with antennae on their heads. Others with pointed ears. Very interesting. Their native biome must be very intriguing.”
“You know,” McGregor said from in front of them, but not looking in their direction, “I can hear you.”
“Oh! And excellent hearing too!” Talook closed the distance to walk beside the Federation and examined her. The red hair, the spots on her face, the pale skintone, compared to some of the other pinkish Federation she’d seen before they came down into these tunnels. “Your people are incredible. Such bio-diversity as to boggle the mind.”
“Well, we’re not all the same species. I’m a human, but it sounds like you’ve met a bolian, orion, andorian and a vulcan, though I think we’ve got a few other species aboard ship with pointed ears,” McGregor said as she stopped, looked at the scanning device in her hand, then proceeded forward again.
“So, the Federation is a multi-species union?” Jilth asked, staying behind her friend and the now classified human, using her own scanner to get a bio-read of this specimen. “That would explain the bio-diversity question.”
“Technically we’re a federal republic, but yes, composed of over a hundred fifty species, though I think it’s closer to two hundred personally. Huh, either of you getting a weird reading about twenty meters that way?” McGregor asked, pointing a hand straight at a wall.
“Not on my scanner,” Jilth replied, stepping up to the wall and running their scanner in the indicated direction. “Though this piece of wall isn’t solid. There is a separation here. In fact…” She stopped, examined her scanner, rescanned a piece of wall and then reached out rap her knuckles across a piece of wall with enough force to actually hurt.
But such effort was rewarded with segment of the wall receding inwards, no bigger than her open palm. Then a solid ‘clunk’ could be heard and a segment of wall the size of the doorways seen so far receded inwards a few centimeters and stopped.
Looking to the other two, she saw Talook and McGregor both had grins on their faces at the unexpected find. “Now this is why I joined Starfleet,” McGregor said, pulling out the fluorescent marker she’d been using to date and drew a series of arrows around the panel switch, another few to indicate the doorway and wrote a note on the wall. The ink, designed to fluoresce bring pink in the presence of their lamps, made the hallway look more and more like her younger sister’s room thought Jilth, but it served its purpose rather well to help them find it again in the future, or for anyone to find them should things lock up behind them.
“Shall we?” McGregor asked and the response was Talook and the human putting their shoulders into moving the door back, with some effort it seemed, to open up the hidden passageway.
Only a few moments later they found themselves in a small room, this one not as dark and devoid of anything as those throughout the complex. Two dead Vaadwuur lay slumped against walls face each other, their skeletons kept mostly in place by their uniforms, their arms draped in such that dying with weapons in hand was most likely what happened to these two individuals.
Dim lighting lit the chamber, powered by some source somewhere and all three explorers were scanning the room with their equipment, getting whatever they could before focusing on the two prominent pieces present that would consume their attention. In the middle of the room upon a dais was a spherical crystal about the size of everyone skull, alive or dead. It was mostly clear but something about it was just off enough and Jilth noted the human’s immediate interest in it, her tricorder beeping insistently at her, requiring adjustment and manipulation of the device.
Talook on the other hand seemed more interested in the dead console on the back wall of the room, scanning it in detail. She shook her head at the engineer, whose attention of course had been stolen by a new technology, versus the clear artifact held in reverence, or study, in the middle of the room. “So Ensign, is this perhaps what your Federation are looking for?”
“I think so. I’m detecting etching throughout the crystal, like someone’s used it memory storage. Explains why it isn’t perfectly clear though. There’s definitely a pattern here, if only we had a Rosette Stone to decipher the atomic layering.”
“Rosette stone? Sorry, that didn’t translate very well,” Jilth asked, indicating her own translator.
“Oh, sorry, idiom from home. A translation guide. What does a particular arrangement of atoms in this structure mean so on and so forth. Then we’d have to translate the Tkon language as well, which I think we’ve got half a dozen suspected languages on record in the Federation.” McGregor never looked up, continuing to query her scanner. “Well, the crystal isn’t fixed here, so we could take it with us.”
“Huh,” was the only warning they got from Talook before she reached out to the supposedly dead console and tapped at it with a finger. A few flickers of light, the whine of electronics coming back to life and the panel sprang back into action. Then the other panels and the main screen flicked to life as well.
“Intruders detected!” a harsh masculine voice announced. “Intruders detected! Countermeasures offline. Alien vessels detected in orbit. Priority alert dispatched! All personnel to combat positions!”
The viewscreen snapped to a sensor screen where it clearly showed the Atlantis and Va’th sitting in orbit, the couple of shuttles returning to their respective motherships for new crews or assignments. It highlighted the destroyed surface emplacements across the planet as well.
“Elements Talook!” Jilth hissed at her friend. “What were we told before we came down here?”
“I forgot, okay?”
“Facility has been overrun! Self-destruct is offline! Priority alert dispatched!” the automated voice continued.
“Can you stop it?” asked McGregor as she stepped up beside Talook and started looking over the console, then her scanner to help her read the display’s writing.
“I think so…give me a moment.” The engineer studied her scanner a moment longer, then reached out and with a handful of commands the voice had stopped, but the console was still lit up. “I can’t turn it off, but I can mute it.”
“We should return to camp and report out findings,” Jilth stated. “And take that with us,” she indicated the crystal and to the human’s credit, didn’t need telling twice as she picked it up and all three of them made their way out of there at haste.
“What’s going on?” Tikva asked, shadowed by Captain Korlin as they came out onto the bridge from the conference room, followed by this XO and Mac, where they’d been discussing the search mission. Yellow alert however had a pretty good tendency of summon command officers to the bridge in a hurry, especially when just next door.
“Subspace communications from the planet ma’am,” Ch’tkk’va said as they stood directly in front of the command chair, not utilising it as per their tendency, then surrendering the spot as Tikva neared. “Not from our camp either.”
“Let’s hear it,” she ordered and the ops officer on duty brought up the audio in quick order.
“Research facility Four-six-seven is under attack by hostile forces. Two unknown vessels are in orbit and intruders are in the facility. Facility self-destruct is offline. Planetary defences are offline. No response to previous priority alert logged. Diversion of assault forces required immediately.” The automated voice was harsh, precise and certainly carried a militaristic air to them.
“Well,” Korlin spoke up, “I don’t think we need to be too worried do we? This place is a thousand years dead. The Vaadwurr can’t be around any longer to respond.”
“They aren’t as dead as you’d like to think Captain, nor as distant either. Mac,” she turned to her XO. “Recall all the shuttles, prep them all for ready launch when they return just in case. Ch’tkk’va, double the security presence at the dig site and take transport inhibitors with you, as well as sensor scramblers.” Both nodded in acceptance of their orders.
“Are these Vaadwuur truly that frightening Captain?” Korlin asked.
“Only if you aren’t prepared for them. And they certainly had issues with Starfleet last time. I suggest Captain you return to your ship and make preparations as well. Hopefully nothing comes of this, but best to be prepared.”
“Research facility Four-six-seven is under attack by hostile forces. Two unknown vessels are in orbit and intruders are in the facility. Facility self-destruct is offline. Planetary defences are offline. No response to previous priority alert logged. Diversion of assault forces required immediately.”
“Where is that?” asked the older Vaadwuur male as he turned to face the navigational officer.
“Tunnel eight-seven-nine exits in that star system. No survey attempts have been made however to date so tunnel integrity is unknown.”
“Foolish Turei have let to much go to waste. What was at the facility?” the commander demanded of another officer.
“The only records we have are artifacts of an unknown ancient power. The facility was attacked by the Borg months before the rebellion as well. No forces ever investigated.”
“And now someone is desecrating a Vaadwuur facility,” the older man said aloud, stroking his chin in thought. “Inform the rest of the attack wing, we’re going to investigate. Perhaps we might something worthwhile, or at least instil proper respect in grave robbers.”