The humid, cloying air sapped Captain Struan MacLeod’s patience as he cut his way through the dense vegetation that blocked his way to the location where the ruins were reportedly located. Lieutenant Commander Emony Vor seemed to be positively enjoying the activity.
“Isn’t this great?” she exclaimed as she hacked at a thick clump of vines. “It reminds me of the time my second host, Tural, went searching for some artefacts from the Iconian civilization.”
The two Romulans accompanying them looked less than happy, although they were trying to reveal nothing about their thoughts, feelings or observations. Perhaps Struan was projecting his own feelings onto them, but he could swear he caught a glimpse of a frown.
The planet they were on was known to the Romulans, or at least the Romulan Republic, as Mol’Ecurai. It was the location of the relatively new colony that the freighter rescued by the Sutherland was headed to. In his absence, Commander Zh’tora headed up the rescue effort and as a token of gratitude the freighter captain had gifted her a curious, but aesthetically pleasing, relic that had been given to her on the colony world in exchange for supplies she had provided. It had sat in the Executive Officer’s office for a week until Lt. Cmdr. Vor spotted it during a meeting about staffing the Science department. She wasn’t sure, but thought it looked like a remnant of the Tkon civilization.
Less than a day later, new orders had come through from Command to seek out any information on the Tkon as a matter of urgency. Struan had informed his senior staff of the change in orders, although not the reason for the change. Commander Zh’tora’s artefact went from curious ornament to promising lead and was whisked away to the science lab whilst she was tasked with tracking down where it had come from.
The freighter was still at Mol’Ecurai, attempting to source a new core for their propulsion system whilst her crew enjoyed some shore leave. Her captain confirmed that the artefact came from the colony and was happy to negotiate access for them, in return for getting her freighter fully repaired.
The Sutherland herself had not been permitted to return. The governor appreciated the assistance but did not want to draw attention by allowing visitations by large Federation starships to become commonplace. Part of him wondered if the real reason was to separate him from his ship in case he found something valuable or powerful, so that it could not be taken by force. He had a feeling that it was probably both. As part of the agreement reached, he could return with one other officer in a small craft. They would be accompanied on Mol’Ecurai by two of the colony’s security officers in order to ensure their ‘safety’.
He’d taken the Carron again, the still reinforced hull might prove to be useful if there were any dissenting opinions to his presence there. The runabout had enough capacity to carry the components and supplies promised to the freighter captain, but would have to tow the new core behind her. Only one officer was permitted to accompany him and so Lt. Cmdr Vor was the natural choice, being his Science officer and the one who identified the artefact in the first place.
A further half hour of trudging and hacking through the jungle had yielded no results. Scans revealed nothing of interest either, although he noted that his tricorder could only read the makeup of the first two metres of ground under his feet. Struan was about to comment on that fact when it gave way under his feet. He frantically grabbed at vines as he fell, but they only slowed his descent as they uprooted and slid into the cavity along with him.
Struan lay on a pile of soil and plant matter looking up at the sky and the faces of the others about 6 metres above him, peering down.
“Are you injured, Captain?” Emony asked.
Struan took a moment to flex his fingers and toes. Everything seemed to work and there weren’t any sharp pains. “I’m fine,” he called back.
He activated his flashlight and examined his surroundings. He’d fallen into some sort of chamber where corridors intersected. The ceiling had become weak over time and he had happened to set foot on the spot that had been dead center, farthest from the support of the walls. His tricorder had slid off the mound and was laying against one of the walls.
Once he retrieved it, he tried to scan again, but it couldn’t penetrate the stone that made up the walls, ceiling or floor.
Three cables dropped into the chamber and the others descended far more gracefully than he had done. Emony went straight to the wall and examined it for markings, finding some script next to where a corridor left the chamber.
“Captain!” The excitement was clear in her voice. “I think it’s Tkon!”
Struan eyed the corridors leading away from the chamber. “I think we should pair up to explore the complex faster.”
“That’s not happening,” one of the Romulans interjected. “You’ll both stay where we can both see you.”
“Fine.” There was a hint of irritation in the tone of Struan’s voice. He hadn’t paid much attention to the Romulans so far but he noticed they were keeping their distance as they observed. Trust here was thin if any existed at all.
A further consult of the tricorder revealed a faint sign of an energy source down the corridor to the left and so Struan chose that as the first to explore. The corridor felt like it was descending deeper underground until they reached a small chamber at the end of it. Emony scanned the equipment there for several minutes. It didn’t look high tech – there seemed to be no computer systems – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t advanced.
“I think it generates power for the complex,” Emony theorised. “Geothermal. The alloys here conduct heat very effectively and appear to be bringing it up from deeper in the ground. I can’t tell how far down they go.”
The next corridor led to a chamber with a great deal more varied content. The layout gave Struan the feel of an operations centre, but he’d seen none like this before. Metals and minerals were embedded into stone in deliberate arrangements and there were luminescent glyphs incorporated into the pattern. Struan looked over to Emony, who shrugged in response.
“Image everything,” Struan instructed. “Whatever this is can be figured out later. Don’t move anything though, we have no idea what we might activate.”
The Romulans seemed to relax when they heard his look-but-don’t-touch approach. He imagined that they were afraid he’d find some kind of weapon and use it to overpower them. In truth, he was afraid that something may produce an omega molecule in the vicinity. Starfleet clearly thought there was a connection between the Tkon and the mysterious omega appearances and he’d read myths about what they were capable of. Perhaps they’d moved this planet here and this was the control room for the process or it could just as easily be a concealed research station to study whatever it was on the planet that interested them at the time.
It took two hours to scan, image and log all of the objects and markings in the room at maximum resolution. He wanted to be sure that nothing was missed as he had a feeling the Romulans may not grant a return visit, at least not until they were sure what the place was.
The next two chambers were assumed to be living quarters and storage. Still, they were thoroughly scanned in case they provided any insight into the facility or the Tkon themselves.
With a lot of data, and no answers, the quartet returned to the point they had entered and ascended the cables out of the hole. One of the Romulans left an encoded marker beacon next to the hole. Struan knew that it had always been a risk that he could lead the Romulans to something powerful as opposed to something that was just interesting in archaeological terms. The need for the knowledge was too great to do anything else.
When they returned to the colony administration building, the governor greeted them warmly. Struan provided her with a copy of the data that they had collected, but was surprised when she insisted that the discovery be classified.
“We don’t want to draw unwanted attention to our world, Captain,” she explained. “If the Tal Shiar thought that there was something here that would give them more power, they would take this world from us. That’s why I couldn’t let you bring your ship here. They’d notice and they’d be watching more closely than normal.”
Struan nodded. “I’m sure Starfleet Command will honor your request. Lieutenant Commander Vor and I will keep the location secret.”
“Thank you, Captain” the governor smiled. “Now if you wouldn’t mind leaving quietly, we would appreciate that.”
“Of course,” Struan smiled back. “Thank you again for the access.”