Max Duncan felt his body fly through the air and land with a thud. His eyes flickered open, but for a moment he stayed completely still where his crumpled body laid. He heard screaming, then the crackle of a fire in the near distance.
Rolling onto his right side, the pain suddenly kicked in. Blinking another time, he saw the body that passed out next to him. Tremt. Attempting to push himself up, the first officer failed to find any energy. Reaching out to his friend, the chief engineer, with his right hand, Max’s arm was filled with agony and his vision cleared up enough for him to see the amount of blood and burnt flesh that now existed on him.
The agony overwhelmed him. Taking one more breath, he tapped his combadge and called for assistance from the Odyssey before he succumbed to darkness. His head hit back on the floor, he took one more glance and saw the outline of the large figure in the distance. They lost the outpost and the only thing that ran through his mind was that their mission had failed.
One Hour Before
The planet that had resided in the centre of the Belt of the Tkon Outreach had been identified as Class L, with a breathable atmosphere. However there wasn’t much that lived there. It was close to barren. It wasn’t the most welcoming of places.
Odyssey had arrived ahead of schedule just as the team in cetacean ops had estimated and their investigation of what had been forcing them to make course directions had come true too. By-passing the last barriers in the Belt had gone without any serious damage to the ship. There had been no-one else moving through them either. The ship was completely alone.
After arriving in orbit of the planet and conducting detailed scans they had determined the location of the Tkon outpost and underneath the vast valley was the beacon. It was damaged and was no longer connected to the rest of the network.
After beaming down with Hazard Teams Alpha and Beta, the site had been secure and once the engineers had arrived afterwards, Commander Duncan had begun preparing to lead the team into the underground cavern to repair the beacon.
But then a great booming voice echoed throughout the deserted land, causing the large team to react at the appearance of a Tkon Guardian. Appearing in an almost human form, the Guardian had identified itself as Portal 117 and demanded to know what they were doing on his outpost. A relatively tall individual, the Portal appeared haggard and old in his appearance.
Approaching the Tkon guardian, Duncan had read the numerous reports about the first time Starfleet had encountered another Tkon portal in the Alpha Quadrant, as a result he was upfront and honest with him.
“You do not belong here, stranger.” The guardian had mentioned with a strong conviction in between heavy breathing.
Holding his hands up as a sign of his intention of not showing any harm to them, Duncan approached him and began explaining why they were here. “We have travelled a great distance, overcome many barriers to reach this planet and help make repairs to the beacon that connects it to the rest of the Vanishing Point network.”
“This Outpost has been operational way before your species was alive, why would we need your primitive help?” Portal 117 questioned, more heavy breathing followed. It was almost like he was finding it difficult to catch his breath. Did he not breathe the same gases as they did? There were too many questions to ask and so limited time to get on with their work.
“We understand that, but the damage to the network has caused havoc across the galaxy. Surely the Tkon Empire does not want their technology to bring suffering to others?” Duncan had questioned.
Wincing at Duncan with looks that could have killed, Portal 117 was eyeing the commander up. “You are not worthy to view our technology, let alone attempt to repair it. The beacon will correct itself…eventually.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, we don’t want to fight you but we can’t wait for the beacon to eventually repair itself. Leaving it can cause more damage and that’s not fair on anyone. Surely this is not the legacy the Tkon would have wanted to leave?” Duncan question.
“But stranger you come here with words providing help while being surrounded with others who appear to be armed.” Portal 117 mentioned, he then raised his hands and everyone’s weapons were removed from them and they flew across the air towards the guardian. With a single movement from his hand they all turned to dust. “Why bring so many weapons, barbarian?”
“We are not here to fight you, our weapons are purely for defence. Nothing more.” The commander replied.
Glaring at Duncan, the Portal took in several big breaths and then stopped looking at Duncan. “You speak the truth Commander Duncan.”
Telepathy. Duncan remembered the report of what the Tkon Portals could be like and the type of powers they had.
“Nevertheless, you plan to complete your mission whatever I say or do.” The Portal remarked. “Your conviction is strong, your crew’s determination to reach this outpost is impressive too.”
“Thank you.” Duncan said, but he didn’t sound entirely convinced to show any sign of gratitude at the compliment. “Can you help us?”
“I said, you are not worthy of receiving the gifts of the Tkon Empire.” Portal 117 answered.
“We do not seek to copy your technology or remove it, we just want to repair it.” Duncan assured him.
“Yet you carry the obelisk of a race we once were the caretakers for.” Portal 117 stated. “How can I believe you will not repeat your crimes here?”
“That artefact was removed for us to find this place, we did not intend on causing any disrespect. For that I apologise and I am certain we can return it” Duncan said.
Looking around at the others, the Portal assessed each one of them. “Your people are diverse, just like the Empire.”
“My people belong to a large galactic political entity known. Over one hundred and fifty worlds work together in unison. Our aim is peace exploration and functioning cooperatively for the greater good. As I said, our mission here is exactly that. We need to repair the beacon to avoid any more hurt to the people of this galaxy.” Duncan reinforced their mission, hoping the Portal would be more lenient.
Closing his eyes and then opening them again, Portal 117 looked back at Duncan after another heavy sigh. “Peaceful exploration, but your ship is heavily armed.”
“Again, we only use our weapons for defence.” Duncan reiterated.
“Your captain recently used weapons against others to stop the mighty source of power.” Portal 117 said. “You lied.”
“My captain has secured stability in this region to avoid others from being hurt by matters they are not accustomed to.” Duncan placed his best poker face on. He knew it would fail eventually.
Portal 117 never challenged him on that comment regarding the captain. He remained silent. “Portal, if we are not worthy of viewing Tkon technology then why were we pulled here?” Duncan now asked.
“The barriers surrounding this planet, none of them are naturally formed and as we crossed them we had to alter our headings several times. Those changes led us here a lot sooner than originally planned. You brought us here.” Duncan shared. “Why bring us here if you don’t want us?”
Closing his eyes one more time, the Portal tilted his head back and then back to his normal spot. “You followed my…breadcrumbs? Hansel and Gretel?” He questioned Duncan.
Duncan smirked, he had compared what cetacean ops had created to the famous children’s tale of Hansel and Gretel but in reverse. Instead of dropping the breadcrumbs they had been following them. “Indeed.”
“Perhaps your people may be worthy.”
“We’d like to show you that we are.” Duncan offered.
Portal then collapsed onto the floor, instantly Duncan jumped to his feet to catch him.
“What’s wrong?” The commander asked, almost instantly the Hazard Team medic was beside him with Hunsen as well.
“Time, that is what is wrong.” Portal remarked, waving off the concerns and pushing himself up to his feet. “Time is against us…against me.”
“Someone once said that time is the fire in which we burn, but I don’t believe it. Stay with us, help us repair the beacon.” Duncan pleaded.
Now in a weakened state, the Portal nodded and pointed towards the ground. An opening was formed and a set of steps, all made from rock, appeared. “Go, repair.” He encouraged.
It didn’t take time for Hazard Team Alpha to head down the spiral set of natural stairs and secure the small area where the beacon was located, as a result Duncan and the rest of the teams soon followed.
The Beacon itself looked exactly like the obelisk they had encountered on the ocean floor of Outré, but a lot bigger. Immediately Hunsen had noticed why the beacon had stopped working.
“It’s been disconnected from its power source.” He shared with Duncan.
“Can you reconnect it?” Duncan asked.
“Perhaps, but I need more help with this. I need Karyn, Lukiz and a few others down here.” Hunsen replied.
A quick call and almost five minutes later the others were transported down with the equipment that Hunsen had asked for. Slyvexs had come down too along with Flemen to see if they could assist Portal 117. Flemen had also brought Professor Shu’varn to assist in understanding the Tkon technology.
Lying on his back on the rocks, Portal 117’s condition appeared to have drastically changed within a blink of an eye. Scanning him, Slyvexs had started to try and find out what was wrong with him, but she didn’t need to look any further. Turning to Duncan, she grimly smiled. “Max, he’s dying.”
Surprised that such a powerful being that had existed for eons, Duncan couldn’t quite believe it. “How? He just turned our weapons to dust? He pointed to the ground and it opened for us to see the beacon. He planted the changes in the Belt for us to follow.”
“I can’t explain it but my tricorder reads his dying.” Slyvexs said.
“Time defeats me.” Portal 117 said, “I can no longer guard this outpost.”
“What can we do?” Duncan asked the dying guardian.
Portal then vanished into nothing. Everyone stared at each other with blank expressions.
“What do we do now?” Flemen asked,but no-one knew the answer.
Time passed before Hunsen called Duncan and the others down to where he was.
“What is it Tremt?” Duncan inquired. “Please tell me you can get the beacon working?”
Nodding, Hunsen explained what happened. “When Portal…died or vanished, the power source came back.”
“We think he was using it to keep him alive.” Smyth suggested. “But we have a second problem, the interface that controls this beacon requires biological input, it seems like an advanced version of our bio-neural circuitry. Portal may have been that.”
“How do we find a replacement?” Duncan asked.
“You need a volunteer.” Sha’varn stated from where he stood behind the Starfleet officers.
“We do, but I don’t think anyone could survive long enough. Perhaps long enough to bring the beacon online but it could seriously hurt them.” Hunsen reported.
Before anyone could say anything, Sha’varn stepped forward, passed them all and entered the interface. He was shouted at by the others, but ignored their calls, instead he placed the headgear on and pulled the leavers either side activating the device. His activation caused a massive shockwave, throwing everyone backwards.
Max Duncan felt his body fly through the air and land with a thud. His eyes flickered…
The Beacon then came online among the chaos and the injured.