Part of USS Centaur: Episode Two Phase Three: Enlightment and Bravo Fleet: Phase 3: Vanishing Point

Chapter Twelve

Planet Oro
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Ruby shook his jacket with a small groan as he walked by Mizu’s side. They had just returned to the Centaur when they were notified of a new assignment for them. Mizu smirked, “If you hadn’t played that prank on me, you wouldn’t have a soiled jacket. Besides, it’s just shaving cream, right?”

Ruby rolled his eyes, “Told you, the prank was for K’Roll, not you.” He threw his jacket on and shivered a little. “Maybe so, but it feels weird, apparently it has not completely dried yet.”

“Still your fault.” Mizu grinned at him.

Ruby shrugged his shoulders, “Don’t think this is over, Mizu.”

Now it was her turn to roll her eyes as they stepped into the crew quarters where they were bunked with several other ensigns, including K’Roll and Elibia. In the center, they saw the Second Officer, Lieutenant Ryker. Mizu was the first to stand at attention before him to acknowledge her presence. “Ensign Mizu reporting, sir.” Then she moved into an ‘at ease’ pose.

Ruby was slow to do the same as he was shifting about in his jacket before deciding to peel it off with a sigh. “Ensign Ruben Ortiz reporting, sir.” He moved to an ‘at ease’ pose as well without standing at attention first.

Ryker raised a brow, “Something wrong with your uniform, Ensign?”

Ruby cleared his throat of the slight embarrassment. “Wrong size, sir.”

Ryker raised both brows now. “Find that hard to believe unless you somehow grabbed someone else’s jacket.”

“Yes, sir. That’s exactly it, sir.”

Ryker held his hand out, “Let me see.”

The color on Ruby’s face grew bright red when he slowly handed the jacket over to Ryker, where Ryker will find Ruby’s initials on the tag inside. Ryker will also find some odd residue on the inside of the jacket, where Mizu was doing her best to hold back her laugh.

Ryker wasn’t sure what to make of it and didn’t really care at this point. He sighed and handed the jacket back, “Doesn’t matter. You two are going on a little trip to a small town down below on the surface.” Ryker then passed two data padds over to both Ruby and Mizu. “Read up on your mission statement and get dressed. We expect a report back from your observation in four hours.” Ryker then took a step back before making his way out of the crew quarters.

Ruby and Mizu looked at each other before reading what was on the padd, it was only when Mizu’s squeal of excitement got others’ attention, including Ruby’s. “The heck woman.”

“I cannot believe that this culture is not just in the steam age but the steampunk age!” Mizu hurried on out, making Ruby run after her.

“The heck is steampunk?” Ruby asked her.

“Are you kidding?” She tilted her head, being astonished and slightly hurt. “Anubis Gate by Tim Powers?” Ruby shook his head. “Infernal Devices by K.W Jeter?” Again he shook his head. Mizu stopped in her tracks, “The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson?” Once more Ruby shook his head and she groaned loudly in disappointment. “Unbelievable.” She walked into the one room where they could get custom gear.

“Steampunk is like, literally your Earth’s science fiction but is now real! It’s about an age where a culture develops retrofuturistic technology and aesthetics. And it’s not just about the technology revolving around steam, it’s also style.” She inputted the generated codes for clothing they needed and the replicator created the clothes right before their very eyes. Mizu then grabbed the jacket and held it out for Ruby to see.

“Whoa…that looks so cool.” Ruby went to feel it, his fingertips brushing over the leather of the jacket.

Mizu then lifted up her data padd and started pulling up a search before presenting it to Ruby. “Author G. D. Falksen here, is wearing a steampunk style arm prosthesis, created by Thomas Willeford. I am so hoping we get to see prostheses like these when we get down there.” She immediately started to disrobe to get dressed into her new attire for the mission.

“Whoa woman, slow down!” Ruby took the jacket and held it up over his face.

Mizu tilted her head. “The hell are you? Primitive much? I thought you humans outgrew such immature tendencies.” She said as she got dressed.

“Well…yeah but…you’re my friend, Mizu. I’m just showing respect, that’s all.” Ruby said before he felt his forehead being poked through the jacket. He lowered it and saw her already buttoning up her own jacket.

“I appreciate it, but it was absolutely unnecessary, Ruby. Come on. Strip.” Mizu commanded.

Ruby’s eyes went wide. “Here? But everyone would-”

—-

“-see.” Sivol pointed at the screen.

Ryker and Vakai both raised their brows. “They have airships,” said Ryker.

Carter chuckled some, “We had airships of our own, Lieutenant.”

Ryker nodded his head, “Yeah…just surprising to see them, that’s all. I mean, especially this culture.”

“It’s not at all surprising to me.” Gomez told him, “But what I would like to see is the design of the airship. And not all airships are of the same design either.” She swiped to the next image and they could see a much different and odd looking one, then she swiped again and yet again, another strange looking airship, smaller though.

Carter shook his head, smiling. “This will definitely be an interesting report for Command. I’m not sure how many vessels out there have met a culture in this kind of technological age, but I’m sure it’ll be added on some list somewhere. How are we doing with the second away team?”

Ryker took a look at the time real quick. “They should be heading to the transporter room right now.”

Carter nodded, “Then I guess you four better go change and get ready to head over to that pyramid.” He then looked at Vakai, “I will keep you up to date with anything from the second team.”

“Much appreciated, Captain. Come on guys, let’s gear up.” Vakai told them and the four of them left the Bridge.

—-

After they were transported down into an empty alleyway, they stepped out of the alley and walked right onto the sidewalk to witness a steam powered automobile going down the street. Mizu did her best to contain her excitement, not wanting to freak out the natives. “My oh my! I literally cannot believe we got this assignment.” They had gone to sickbay before beaming down to get minor cosmetic changes, to hide her spots and add a couple prominent ridges to their noses.

Ruby smiled as he looked around, not as excited as she is but he was amazed by all that he was seeing. Only then he patted her arm and pointed up at the sky where they saw a large airship slowly moving by a few propellers, while having what looked like six larger propellers that were helping keep the airship up in the skys, aside from the massive balloon that was almost twice as big as the hull itself. “That is amazing. And the design of it, as well as the design of these automobiles.”

Mizu smiled while staring at the airship before looking down and gasped. She covered her mouth and grabbed Ruby’s arm to turn them away, mainly to hide her face so as to not appear rude. Well, it was rude to stare and probably would be seen rude if she pointed but she had just seen a gentleman with a prosthetic leg. After she regained her composure, she turned them back around to keep walking in the direction they were heading and Ruby got to see what exactly she was freaking out about.

After they walked past the man, Ruby looked at her with raised eyebrows. “That’s amazing.”

“I know, right?! Oh oh oh, I wonder if they have pistols!” Mizu giggled and started to walk faster with a little ‘oomph’ to her step.

Ruby quickly caught up to her and matched her speed. “Pistols? The heck would you be thinking about weapons on a mission like this? Besides, they probably haven’t even invented energy weapons, let alone a stun setting.”

Mizu smiled and shook her head, “I don’t want one to use, I just want to collect, that’s all. And besides, they might have invented some sort of energy based hand weapons. In this culture, anything is possible. Do you know Nichola Tesla?”

Ruby tilted his head, “Who?”

Mizu stopped in her tracks and frowned at him. “Seriously, Ruby. Do you not read your own culture’s history??”

Ruby shrugged his shoulders.

Mizu groaned in disappointment. “My lord, I swear…” She started walking again, looking around for shops. “He was one of the most brilliant people in his time, at least that is what they say in your Earth’s history books. These people could have had someone just like that, who wasn’t turned away or accused of nonsense or had his work ridiculed.”

Ruby was back to catching up with her. “Okay?”

Mizu looked over her shoulder at him before resuming her search. “The inventions and technology he could have introduced to your world if he had not been shut down the way they had done so, would have or could have changed history.”

“Huh.”

Mizu smiled, “I know, it’s great.”

Ruby shook his head and just did his best to keep up with her, until suddenly he felt an arm around his neck and ‘erked’ loudly when he was yanked by the neck into an alley, which made Mizu turn around and follow him.

Moment she turned around the corner into the alley, Ruby was shoved into her and then they found themselves at gunpoint. Unable to reach for their phaser pistols to defend themselves, they raised their hands up in the air. Of course, Mizu was all giddy about it. “Oh my gosh! I cannot believe we’re getting robbed! And look at that pistol.”

“Mizu!” Ruby hissed at her.

“Shut up! Both of you, just shut up!” The guy then pulled out a device. “Get your identifications out. Now!”

Mizu’s smile then faded. “Oh dear. I think we have a problem.”

“You think? We don’t have-”

—-

“-a good story for how we arrived?” Gomez asked as she followed beside Sivol, Vakai and Ryker right in front of them, all wearing ‘expedition’ clothing that this culture wears, as well as having some cosmetics done before having arrived.

“We can just say we parked our cars back there.” Ryker pointed behind them as they walked alongside the pyramid, heading towards the main expedition camp. They transported on the other side of the pyramid as it appeared to have been the only location that no members of the expedition team had been at.

“You know darn well they will go over there to verify our answer and see that there is no ‘car’ back there.” Gomez frowned.

“We certainly cannot say that we traveled here by foot. There’s no other civilization close by, and they too would find that suspicious.” Sivol explained.

“Then we tell them that we were dropped off by a low level air vessel, whatever you call them. And it left after we paid our fare.” Vakai told them.

“Hovercraft.” Gomez corrected him.

Vakai threw up his arms. “Do they have hovercrafts?”

“We’ve caught a glimpse of one or two and it does appear to be the best mode of transportation to get here, especially with all this sand. And it’s probably the cheapest mode of transportation, at least I would think so. But this expedition team got here by airship, so who knows.” Gomez explained.

“Nevertheless, we have our best answer in case they do ask. We came here by service of a hovercraft. We paid our fare and we would like to join the expedition team on this pyramid. We will simply improvise as we go along.” Ryker said with a smile. “Boy I cannot wait! So exciting!!”

Gomez frowned. “Wait a minute. I thought you didn’t know anything about this culture. Were you lying?”

Ryker laughed, “Maybe I was. Besides, it was a simple tease. I’ve read books about a steampunk civilization such as this, and boy it’s like living in a dream. Quite exciting!”

“You’re unbelievable sometimes.” Gomez shook her head before grinning at him.

“I agree completely. We’re almost at the camp, so put on your best faces.” Vakai told them before fixing his hat and putting the rounded framed sunglasses, everyone else doing the same.

It was a long trek, considering how large the pyramid was, but they made it all the way to the camp with some looks of confusion from others who were on the side of the pyramid that they were walking on, having stopped their work to look and stare at the group. Not only were the group wearing what they found to be a worthy desert expedition outfit for this steampunk culture, but they also carried backpacks with rations and other supplies that they would need just in case things were to go south.

A man out of the group stood up from his table when he noticed the four individuals showing up at his campsite from looking out of the large wide opening of his tent where the large pieces of cloth had been tied off to allow breeze to come through, if there was one. Frowning as he was confused by their sudden presence, as he definitely did not recognize them. He put a device down and his writing utensil before stepping out of the tent, quickly approaching the group. “Excuse me. Excuse me!”

The group noticed the man approaching them rather quickly, Vakai immediately assumed that this man was in charge of the expedition, so he stopped in his tracks and everyone else did the same. “Are you the one in charge here, sir?”

The man stopped before Vakai, “Indeed I am. The name is Gilbert Elijah Styles, and mind if I ask who you four might be?”

Vakai was puzzled on how to answer that, they didn’t quite discuss what their names would be. But then Ryker stepped forward, with his hand extended out. “It is a pleasure to meet you, sir Styles! My name is James Lee Ryker, this fine lass here is Ashley Lee Gomez, and this lass here is Ethel Eudora Sivol and this gentleman here is Simon Norval Vakai. I must say, sir, it is absolutely incredible to finally meet you in person. I’ve heard a lot of good things about your work and I must say, when me and my friends heard that you arranged an expedition for this structure here, we just had to come.”

Styles stammered a bit before shaking Ryker’s hand. “I’m surprised anyone even knows about me at all. Have you read my published work?”

“Have I?” Ryker raised his voice in excitement. “My good man! Of course I have! It’s absolutely incredible.”

Styles laughed, “Well I’ll be. I don’t really know what to say. But why weren’t you and your comrades at the port when I announced the expedition?”

Ryker smacked his lips and hissed, “Oh boy, oh boy. We were so cooped up with our own work, deadlines and time tables…it wasn’t until after we finished our projects that we realized that you had opened an expedition. By then it was too late.”

Styles nodded his head. “I see, I see. Well, how did you and your comrades arrive?”

“We paid a hovercraft service to get us here.” Ryker told him.

Styles hissed and shook his head. “My lad! That had to have been quite expensive!”

Ryker nodded his head, smacking his lips. “Yeah…yeah it was, it was. But it was the quickest transportation that we could find and we absolutely had to get here. We are absolutely eager to help out with this project.”

Styles smiled, “Well that is fantastic to hear. I see from the look of those large packs on your back that you’ve come prepared?”

Ryker smiled and nodded, “Yes indeed, we have good sir.”

Styles smiled even more, “Wonderful! The last thing I would need is your identification packets.”

Ryker’s face went pale white. “Oh um…sorry?”

Styles tilted his head and chuckled, “I need to enter you folks onto the list of my expedition team. It’s the only way that you four can assist me legally. If I don’t put either of you on my team, neither of you can be here to assist me with this project, or you could face fifteen years of community service.”

Ryker gulped and then smiled nervously. “Oh yes yes yes! Of course! Silly me. I don’t know why I…haha, oh man I must be so silly to you right now. We…I…were just so in the moment of finally meeting you that I completely forgot about our identification packets!”

Styles smile faded. “You don’t have them?”

Ryker raised his hands and shook his head with a smile. “Oh no no no, of course we do! I just need to find them, that’s all.” He said as he knelt down while taking his backpack off and opened up the top. “I just need to dig in here, it’s possible I may have been in a bit of a hurry and buried our identification packets at the bottom, haha!” Luckily their badges were hidden in one of their jacket pockets and they were on an open comm link with the Centaur, so they heard everything. Unfortunately, they’re still waiting to hear from the second away team….

Styles suddenly pulled out a pistol from it’s holster that was hidden inside of his jacket and aimed it at them. “I’m sorry, everyone. But if you don’t have your identification packets, I will have to call the authorities and have you arrested.”

Ryker gulped, “No no! Seriously! We do have them! Haha. I just need to dig…deeper.” He really made it look like he was frantically looking for them, even pulling some clothing out and throwing it over his shoulder. “Oh god, please be in here…” he whispered to himself and to the Centaur.