The Hansen Diaries

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The Hansen Diaries

Postby Tiberius » Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:49 pm

Those of you who have seen DarkOmen's wonderful deckplans for the Raven will know that I'm writing a story about the Hansen's journey to study the Borg. it's still a work in progress, so it will be a while between installments. However, I'd love to get some feedback on what has been written so far. Here's the prologue and the first chapter....

THE HANSEN DIARIES

Prologue


Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One.

No longer.

The voice of the Collective, the constant murmuring of the other drones, was gone.

Snatched out of her perfect existence by a group of interfering Humans who knew no better.

They had thought that their actions would help her. But in fact they had done the opposite. They had removed her from perfection. They had exposed her to a life she never had, a life that she should not be living now.

And now they had changed her. Removed those things that had been her life. They had made her as weak and as helpless as the rest of them.

And they had done it all under the misguided notion that they were helping her.

The door to the brig opened with the sound of working machinery. Her sensitive ears could hear footsteps as someone approached. The doors closed and Seven of Nine slowly turned to face her visitor. As she had expected, it was Captain Janeway.

"So this is Human freedom." Seven of Nine spoke in an icy tone.

Janeway ignored the coldness of the drone's voice. "I've decided to keep you in the brig until I'm certain you won't try to harm us again," she said. "If necessary, the Doctor can treat you in here." She gave Seven of Nine a disappointed look. "I honestly believed you were going to help us."

"You were not deceived, Captain Janeway," Seven of Nine said. "It was my intention to help you."

"What happened?" Janeway asked simply.

"There was a chance to contact the Collective," Seven of Nine said. "We took advantage of it." She moved towards the force field. "Your attempts to assimilate this drone will fail. You can alter our physiology, but you cannot change our nature. We will betray you. We are Borg."

"I've met Borg who were freed from the Collective," Janeway told her. "It wasn't easy for them to accept their individuality, but in time, they did. You're no different."

Seven of Nine turned away from the force field. This Human standing before her didn't understand what she was talking about, and Seven of Nine wanted nothing more to do with her.

"Granted," Janeway continued, "you were assimilated at a very young age, and your transition may be more difficult, but...it will happen."

Seven of Nine was silent for a moment, thinking. "If it does happen," she said, almost thoughtfully, "we will become fully Human?"

"Yes, I hope so," said Janeway.

"We will be autonomous?" asked Seven of Nine. "Independent?"

Janeway almost smiled. "That's what individuality is all about."

Seven of Nine turned back to face Janeway, defiantly this time. "If, at that time, we choose to return to the Collective, will you permit it?"

"I don't think you'll want to do that," said Janeway.

Seven of Nine approached Janeway. "You would deny us the choice, as you deny us now?" she said accusingly. "You have imprisoned us in the name of Humanity, yet you will not grant us your most cherished Human right? To choose our own fate? You are hypocritical. Manipulative. We do not want to be what you are. Return us to the Collective!"

"You lost the capacity to make a reasonable choice the moment you were assimilated," Janeway said assertively. "They took that from you. And until I'm convinced that you've gotten it back, I'm making the choice for you. You're staying here."

"Then you are no different than the Borg," hissed Seven of Nine. She turned and walked away from the forcefield.

Janeway, sensing that she wouldn't get through to the drone now, left. Perhaps in time, the drone would be more cooperative, but for the moment, it would be useless to talk to her.

For Seven of Nine, the hours passed slowly. The only other person in the brig was the guard, a male named Ayala, and unlike the Collective, he was silent. The difference between the Collective and this quiet place was too great for her, and the stress building up inside her broke free. She threw herself wildly at the force field, screaming.

Ayala looked up from the console. "Ensign Ayala to the bridge."

Janeway's voice came over the communication system. "Go ahead, Ensign."

"You'd better get down to the brig, ma'am."

Seven of Nine noticed his hand moving towards his phaser.

It was only a few minutes before Janeway arrived, but by that time, Seven of Nine had given up her attack on the force field and was pacing in the back of the small cell. She did not look up as Janeway entered.

"One," Seven of Nine said. "My designation is Seven of Nine, but the others are gone. Designations are no longer relevant. I am...one..."

Janeway spoke quietly, barely above a whisper. "Yes, you are."

"But I cannot function this way!" said Seven of Nine. "Alone..."

"You're not alone," said Janeway. "I'm willing to help you."

Seven of Nine turned to her. "If that's true, you won't do this to me," she said. She was distressed, and could feel fear rising up from within her. "Take me back to my own kind."

"You are with your own kind," said Janeway. "Humans."

"I don't remember being Human," said Seven of Nine. "I don't know what it is to be Human." The fear she felt growing inside her began to emerge, and she could feel her body shaking as she tried to hold back tears.

Janeway picked up a padd from the console and approached the force field. She tapped the controls at the side of the entry to the cell.

"What are you doing?" said Seven of Nine.

"I'm coming in," Janeway said matter of factly.

"I'll kill you."

Janeway looked up. "I don't think you will," she said.

The force field flicked off. Ayala stepped forward, his hand going to his phaser, ready to defend his captain if the drone tried to carry out her threat. Janeway held up a hand to stop him. She stepped into the cell and held the padd out to Seven of Nine. On the padd's screen was a picture of a little girl, smiling at the holo-imager. Blonde hair framed the bright eyes that highlighted a mischievous young face.

Seven of Nine felt something inside her stirring, grief at a life lost to something dark. A half-lost memory of seeing that same face in the mirror...

"Do you remember her?" asked Janeway. "Her name was Annika Hansen. She was born on Stardate 25479 at the Tendara Colony. There's still a lot we don't know about her. Did she have any siblings? Who were her friends? Where did she go to school? What was her favourite colour?"

Seven of Nine lashed out, her hand smacking against the padd, flinging it out of Janeway's hand. It spun across the cell and clattered against the wall before falling to the floor. "Irrelevant! Take me back to the Borg!"

"I can't do that," Janeway said calmly.

Seven of Nine doubled over in a frustration that was approaching a terrible agony. The silence in her head was mercilessly eating away at her from the inside out, like a foul disease that was rotting her organs and turning her insides to thick slimy mucus. "Quiet... One voice..." She staggered away from Janeway towards the corner of the cell, her legs unstable, as if her bones were dissolving.

"One voice can be stronger than a thousand voices." Janeway said firmly. "Your mind is independent now, with it's own unique identity."

"You are forcing that identity upon me!" Seven of Nine spat at the Captain. "It's not mine!"

"Oh, yes it is," Janeway said, moving towards the drone. "I'm just giving you back what was stolen from you. The existence you were denied. The child who never had a chance. That life is yours now."

"I don't want that life!"

"It's what you are!" Janeway insisted. "Don't resist it!"

Seven of Nine hurled herself at Janeway. "No!" she screamed, but she was weak and her attack failed. She stumbled and fell, and Janeway reached out and grabbed her, staggering back to the bed. They both collapsed onto the bunk, and in the silence, Janeway could hear the drone sobbing.
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby Tiberius » Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:55 pm

Part One: First Contact

Encounter


Tentak IV was Class-M, but only barely. It was at the inner edge of the narrow band around the system's star in which planets could support life, and the entire world was desert. There were no oceans or seas, and the life that had evolved was sparse, small, and tough.

The Ju'Day class transport vessel kicked up a curtain of yellow dust as it sped low over the hot desert of the small planet. It weaved through the canyons and ravines and banked around the tall imposing rock formations that burned dusty yellow in the harsh light of the sun.

Inside the cramped cockpit, three people sat hunched over the control panels, shielding their eyes from the glare reflecting off the hot sand. They looked out over the desolate landscape, searching for the precious crystals that were the reason for their presence.

Dilithium was vital to the heart of the Federation fleet, giving life to the incredible power of the warp core. Without dilithium, starships would be little more than drifting hulks. The mining station used the rich dilithium deposits of the planet to resupply passing ships, mostly freighters, with the valuable crystal. Having exhausted the supply of the crystal near the base, they were now venturing further out into the wilds of the planet.

Captain Belle knew that the dilithium's value made this planet a target for pirates, though very rarely would small time crooks make the attempt at stealing dilithium from the Federation.

The main cause for concern was the Orion Syndicate . They were in possession of powerful ships and sophisticated technology. To that end, Starfleet had sent a team of tactical officers, trained in what was widely held to be the best tactical training program in the known galaxy. The only argument was from the Klingons, but now that they were gradually becoming friends with the Federation and there was the beginning of Klingon traffic through Federation space, the Empire was beginning to acknowledge the efficiency of the Federation training.

The squad of highly trained security officers went a long way towards making William Belle feel safe. The heavy armament mounted on his station went even further. A dozen type-9 phaser banks mounted around his base and anchored deep into the rock covered every corner of the sky, and their range, because they were designed as stationary weapons and therefore had no need to be light enough for use on starships, was impressive. Most enemies were well into the station's range before the station was in theirs. This gave the Orion Syndicate reason to stop and think twice before mounting an attack against Belle's command.

The third thing that made Captain Belle feel safe at night was the squadron of three Ju'Day class ships: the Gauvreau, Brennan, and Paige. Granted, they were small ships, and not heavily armed, but their speed and maneuverability made them a force to be reckoned with. They class vessels could duck and weave around enemy fire, scoring hit after hit while evading the weapons fire from nearly any adversary. The Ju'Day class ships, after a decade of service, were not the newest ships in the Federation fleet, but with a large cargo area and efficient engines, they had become the ideal vessels for small colonies and remote outposts.

"We're closing now, Captain," said Parker, the dark-haired science officer in the navigator's seat. "Within five kilometers."

The transport banked to the right under the expert hand of Jora Arkin. She lifted the ship gently over a sand dune and set them down on a flat area covered with gravel. Captain William Belle and Lieutenant Sarah Parker rose from their seats and went back to the cargo area. Parker tapped a control panel mounted on the wall, and the floor folded down to form a landing ramp.

Dry, hot air rushed into the ship, and the two Starfleet officers recoiled as if physically struck. Then, braving the heat, they stepped forward and advanced out into the barren terrain.

This was not where he wanted to be stationed, but Captain Belle had accepted the assignment nonetheless. It was a necessary posting, especially out here in one of the more sparsely populated regions of Federation space near the Romulan Neutral Zone. He looked over the seared, desiccated land. He preferred the cool, moist rainforests of his New Zealand home to this place. The gravel crunched lightly underfoot as he stepped out across the parched desert floor.

"It's just over here," called his science officer. She had advanced a few meters further ahead, out of the shadow of the transport vessel. Her features were already being lost in the glare.

Belle smiled at the young brunette. It had amused him when he had taken command of the outpost that he would have a science officer. After all, it was merely a mining station, but Starfleet had insisted on a science officer. Standard procedure and all, apparently.

Belle followed the woman to the small rise she was looking over. Below him, stretching out into the distance, the sand shimmered in the sun, and the dark lines of chasms and gullies snaked their way towards the distant horizon.

"Looks like you were right," he said, sweeping his tricorder across the panorama and scanning the rock strata. "This place is crawling with dilithium, and it's at the surface too. That'll make the mining a lot easier. I'll send a subspace message to Starfleet when we get back to the station." He turned to the scientist and noted, not for the first time, that she was rather striking to look at. "They should be pleased with this. Good work, lieutenant."

Parker smiled back at him, then turned and headed back to the transport vessel.

*

That evening, the crew gathered in the mess hall to celebrate the day's discovery. Large transparent aluminium windows looked out over the desert sands that sparkled in the sunset light. The sun that shone low over the land flooded the mess hall with a warm glow. Parker sat at the table with the majority of the ops officers, and she was looking somewhat apprehensive. She was not the type of person who avoided social situations, but being the guest of honour had made her the center of attention, and that made her distinctly uncomfortable. As it was, she was trying to make the most of the situation. It had proven difficult, with the crew of the Tentak IV base buying her drink after drink and toasting her health and happiness.

"How did you do it, Parker?" Charlie Porter asked, for what was probably the third time in as many minutes. He lifted his glass and took another sip of his synthehol.

He drinks far too much of that stuff, thought Parker, but she didn't say anything about it. He may have liked the drink, but it never affected his work performance.

"It was quite easy," she said. "I used the studies of the planet taken by the initial survey team and compared the rock strata here with those found at the sites of other dilithium deposits. Then, I determined the location of the most likely sites here based on that information, and came up with the optimal sites based on accessibility to the location and crystal depth."

Porter nodded, although Parker was under the distinct impression that he had imbibed a little too much to fully comprehend what she had said.

"Still," said Jora Arkin, "this new deposit is five hundred kilometers away. It's a long way to go."

"The ships can handle it, Jora," Kate Davies said to the Bolian. "Starfleet builds them tough enough."

Jora glanced at Davies, but the irritation that the look conveyed was mostly superficial. Jora was known around the base to have a somewhat heavy hand when it came to flying, and it was a common joke that unless a ship was tough, it wouldn't survive more than a few flights with Jora Arkin at the helm.

"Captain Belle has already spoken with Starfleet," Parker said. "They're sending equipment, but they can't spare any personnel due to the conflict with the Tholians."

"Things can't be that serious, can they?" asked Arkin. "They can't spare anyone?"

"The Tholians attacked Starbase 311 last week," said Parker, and those at the table fell quiet. Starbase 311 was one of the most heavily trafficked bases in its sector, and a common destination for newly graduated ensigns waiting for their first assignment.

"Did any one survive?" asked Davies.

"So far, the only survivor found is a civilian advisor," said Parker. "Kyle Riker."

"What's Starfleet doing about it?" asked Davies.

"They've sent the Stargazer to patrol the Tholian border," said Parker. "From what I've heard of the Stargazer's captain, the Tholians won't be so quick to strike again."

At that moment, the comline opened. "Red alert, all hands to battle stations!"

And the sirens began.

*

"Fire phasers!"

The order came crisp and clear over the cry of the red alert klaxon. The station rocked as another barrage of Orion phaser fire punched against the shields. Captain William Belle trusted his station, and he knew the shields would hold for quiet a while longer, but the Orions were tenacious. They would fight until they either succeeded or were destroyed.

At Belle's word, a powerful blast of phased energy leapt from the heavy phaser batteries mounted around the station. The beam of energy lanced quickly up into orbit, buckling the shields of one of the attacking ships. The blast sliced through the unprotected hull of the ship, and the vessel went dark as the engine core was destroyed. It began sinking toward the planet, unable to pull out of the gravity well. The other three quickly took evasive maneuvers to avoid the same fate.

One of the remaining battleships changed its tactic, going after the one of the small fighters that were buzzing around it. It fired a rapid burst from its forward disrupter banks, and the tiny fighter swung wildly away to avoid the fire.

"Arkin to base!" shouted the Bolian woman at the conn of the Gauvreau. "I've got a warship on my tail, and I'm under heavy attack!"

The Ju'Day class ship, while highly maneuvrable, was still vulnerable to the Orion warships, which had some of the most sophisticated targeting systems in the known galaxy. While the small Federation ship could duck and weave, the Orions would be able to maintain a weapons lock. Arkin knew that she would need to fly her best. She swung the Gauvreau into a hard starboard turn, and a blast of crackling blue energy screamed past her port wing. The small ship shuddered at the near miss, but she hadn't lost the Orions yet.

Covering fire came up from the base on the planet below, buckling the Orion's aft shields. The Orions moved to hide the damaged area, and Jora Arkin made her move.

She banked the Gauvreau gently to starboard, and then slewed sharply off to the left. The Orions, thrown by this maneuver, followed the Gauvreau's abortive course to the right, and the Ju'Day class ship wheeled around, coming in under the rear of the Orion vessel, the warship's one blind spot. Davies, seated next to her, fired a burst from the phasers and launched a torpedo. The phaser blast obliterated the remains of the Orion's shields, and the torpedo smashed into the hull and detonated.

"Well done, Kate," said Arkin as they watched the warship's broken hull crumple.

The Gauvreau turned to concentrate its fire on one of the remaining warships, but the Orions let loose a barrage of disrupter fire, catching them before they could take evasive maneuvers. In the cockpit, the stations exploded into sparks.

"We've been hit!" called out Davies, shielding her face from the brightness. The panels spluttered then faded into darkness.

Jora opened the comline. "Tentak, this is Gauvreau. We have lost main power. We are headed back to base and we need covering fire. We have an Orion warship on our tail. Please respond."

"Gauvreau, this is Tentak," came Belle's voice through the static. "Your message has been received. Approach the pad, you have been cleared for landing."

"The impulse reactors are offline," reported Davies, struggling to reroute the secondaries. "Weapons are gone, and the engine core is fried. Thrusters are all I can give you, Jora."

Jora muttered a Bolian curse under her breath. "Okay, I'm taking us down."

The Gauvreau turned and spiralled towards the planet, the desperate evasive maneuvers denying the Orions any further chances to attack the tiny ship.

"Estimating landing in three point nine minutes," reported Arkin. The phaser fire from the station below them sliced passed the ship, connecting solidly with the warship on their tail. The Orion ship let loose a wild fury of disrupter fire, and a single shot hit the rear of the Gauvreau. The ship screamed with the impact.

"Aft thrusters hit!" called Davies, struggling to keep the engines from burning out. "Systems fluctuating. I'm not sure I can stabilize them!"

At that moment, the flickering engineering station went dark.

"Kate! Get those aft thrusters back online!" cried Arkin. "I can't land the ship without them."

*

"We just lost communications with the Gauvreau," reported Porter, looking up from the ops station. "I have them on sensors, and they will be landing in approximately three minutes."

"Prepare the hanger," ordered Belle. "Emergency medical teams, stand by. Continue covering fire for the Brennan and the Paige."


The Gauvreau hurtled down through the atmosphere of Tentak IV, the forward thrusters struggling to keep the ship in the air. Through the viewports, Jora could see the orange glow of atmospheric friction as the ship burned a path down towards the planet.

"Davies, I need those shields online or we're toast!" cried Jora.

"I'm trying!" came Davies' reply. "The primary systems are destroyed. Switching to secondaries."

An alarm began to scream, calling attention to itself through the sounds of the battered ship.

"Kate, hurry! The hull is beginning to fracture!"

"I know!"

"I need those shields!"

"I know!"

And then the panel exploded and Davies flew back, and then she hit the wall and lost consciousness.

*

When Kate Davies awoke, she was laying on a biobed in the base's infirmary. She tried to lift herself up onto her elbows to look around, but a sharp pain that lanced through her skull convinced her otherwise, and she immediately lowered herself back down to the bed. She moaned and raised a hand to her forehead, but that only made the pain worse.

"You're awake," said the doctor, a human woman by the name of Diane Deviay, and she called the Captain.

"What happened?" Kate asked.

"You've been asleep for nearly a day, so take it easy."

"What about the Orions?"

"Well, I'm not sure of the exact details, so I'll leave that to the Captain," Deviay said. "But I think it's safe to say that if it weren't for Jora and Porter, you wouldn't be here now."

At that moment, the captain entered the room. He walked over to Davies and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You did good out there," he said.

"Thank you, Captain," Davies said. "How is Jora?"

"Lieutenant Arkin wasn't severely hurt in the crash," said Deviay. "I sent her to her quarters to rest."

The door hissed open, and the Bolian woman ran through. "Kate!" she exclaimed, and she ran up to the biobed. "I'm so glad you're awake." She gave her friend a hug, squeezing her tightly.

"How did you get the ship down in one piece?" Davies asked, laying back on the bed. She gently rested her head against the pillow.

"It was Porter," Arkin told her. "He managed to lock a tractor beam onto us to slow our descent."

"I'll have to thank him," said Davies with a smile. "What about the Gauvreau?"

"Porter's got an engineering team repairing it now," said Belle. "He says it will be ready to fly in another day or two."

"Just like you, Kate," said Deviay. "Another day or two. I'll release you from the infirmary, but I want you to take it easy for the next twenty four hours."

"Got it, Doc," Kate smiled.

Captain Belle left the infirmary, and Davies gently swung her legs off the bed. She groaned as she lowered her feet to the floor, and Jora put a supportive arm around her shoulders.

"Thanks, Jora," Davies said, and the Bolian woman helped her walk out.

*

According to the engineer's report, the repairs to the station were going well. A week after the Orion attack, life was getting back to normal. Kate Davies was back on her feet, the Gauvreau was fully spaceworthy again, and people were beginning to relax. If the Orions had wanted to attack the base again, they would have returned by this time. They normally waited only a few days before returning, coming back before their target had been able to repair the damage from the initial attack. He had smiled to himself numerous times in the last few days. Obviously they had made such an impression on the Orions that they were unwilling to return. They had destroyed three ships, and the fourth vessel had run off damaged, with its proverbial tale between its legs. So much for the stories of fighting to the death.

But still, Belle was annoyed. He disliked having his station at less than optimum efficiency. According to Porter, the power generators had been damaged by the strain imposed on them during the attack, and now they overheated when they were brought to more than eighty percent of maximum.

The cooling systems had also been damaged. They refused to operate whenever the power core temperature rose to over five thousand Kelvins , and as a result, the power core was being operated at only fifty percent of maximum. Sixty percent was available in an emergency, but it could be sustained for less than fifteen minutes.

So, the base was being run at reduced power mode. Non-essential systems were offline (including replicators), and everyone had been eating field rations for the last week.

"Captain," Charlie Porter called from across ops.

Captain Belle looked up from the engineering report. He rubbed his sore eyes. "What is it, Lieutenant?" he asked. He sounded rather annoyed, but in the two and a half years since he had taken command of the mining station on Tentak IV, Porter had learned that the captain was usually in such a frame of mind.

Probably, thought Charlie, he's glad for the interruption. Those padds can hurt your eyes after a while.

"Sensors are detecting an unusual energy signature on the far side of the system," Porter reported. "There was a tachyon burst, but now I'm picking up tri-quantum waves."

"What could be causing it?" Belle asked, as he put the padd on the table beside him.

Porter looked up. "I don't know," he said simply. "It might be a ship."

"Could it be the Orions again?"

"I don't know, sir," said Porter. "There's too much interference to get a positive identification."

"Localize the readings and send them to the hanger," ordered Belle. "We'll send the Gauvreau out to have a look. Have they responded to hails?"

"Not yet," said Porter. "But I am reading immense power signatures. It's possible that they have armed their weapons."

Belle looked thoughtful for a moment. "All hands to battle stations," he said. "Incoming Threat vessels."

*

"Ready!" called Arkin as she settled into the pilot's seat of the Gauvreau.

At the tactical station in the small ship, Kate Davies turned to her. "Weapons systems check out, and engines are set for atmospheric lift-off," she stated. "We are go for launch."

Jora Arkin increased power to the twin engines and the ship rose above the rough landing pad scrawled onto the gravel that formed the ground. Banking sharply, the ship climbed into the sky.

"Sensor readings are getting clearer now," said Davies as the ship left Tentak IV far behind. "I'm reading an object at bearing three five one by two seven three, distance, three million kilometers."

"What is it?" asked Arkin. "The Orions again?"

"I don't think so," said Davies. "Readings are still jumbled, but whatever it is, it's huge!"

"I'm taking us closer," said Arkin.

Davies looked out of the window. She saw sunlight reflect off a shape in the distance. It was obviously artificial judging from the harsh straight lines of the object. "I can see it," she said.

"I'm scanning it," Arkin said. She tapped the controls and sent a sensor beam towards the alien vessel. "Definitely not the Orions."

Kate Davies looked out the window at it as they approached. "I've never seen that configuration before," she said as the Gauvreau grew closer to the massive vessel. She turned to Arkin. "Who'd make a spaceship shaped like a cube?"

*

"Captain, we just lost contact with the Gauvreau," Porter reported.

Belle looked up at him. "What happened?" he asked. "Were they destroyed?" He stood from his chair and approached the ops station.

"Unknown, sir," said Porter. "They approached the vessel, their signals appeared to merge, and now I can't find them."

"Is it possible that they are inside the vessel?" asked Belle.

Porter looked at him for a moment. "Possible, sir," she said. "Or they could have been destroyed."

"Status on the vessel," Belle ordered.

"They have altered their course, now headed for us," said Porter.

"I'm reading increased power generation from the threat vessel," said Parker at the science station. "They may be charging their weapons systems."

"Raise shields," said Belle. "Charge our weapons. I thought you said they'd already charged their weapons."

"The power readings are so high, I thought they had," said Porter.

"Vessel entering visual range," Parker reported.

"On screen," ordered Belle, and he turned to the viewscreen.

On the viewer before him was a massive vessel; harsh cubical lines outlining a dark intelligence.

"My God," gasped Charlie Porter. He looked down at the readouts on his console. "Each side of it is over three kilometers!"

Parker looked up at him. "It must take incredible power to move a ship of that mass," she said.

"Keep focused," Belle said. "How long before they're in weapons range?"

"Assuming their weapons have a range similar to ours, less than two minutes at the speed they are travelling at," said Porter.

"Hail them."

Porter tapped his panel and sent an enquiry to the Cube. "No response," he said.

The first impact came suddenly, knocking them to the floor. The shields buckled completely under the strength of the attack, and the power generators screamed in protest at the strain being placed on them. The consoles that circled Ops exploded in brilliant white sparks, creating harsh shadows that were crisp and sharp on the walls.

"Report!" shouted Belle.

"Shields are offline," Porter said, struggling to be heard over the sound of explosions in the distance. "I'm trying to get them back on line, but I don't think they'll make any difference."

"Divert all power to weapons and return fire!" shouted Belle.

Porter brought the heavy phaser banks to bear on the enemy vessel and opened fire, sending a beam of powerful energy leaping upward towards the Cube. The phaser beam crashed against the side of the Cube, but the vessel ignored it, sending another missile down towards the planet surface.

"No effect!" said Porter as Ops exploded into sparks around him. "Power generators are failing, weapons are offline."

"Send a distress signal," Belle ordered.

"Communications antennas have been destroyed," Porter said.

Belle let himself fall back into his command chair. "All hands to emergency evacuation stations," he said, and looked up at Porter. "Lieutenant," he said, "prepare the message beacon and set it to repeat a distress call."

"Aye sir," he said.

"This is Captain William Belle of the Federation mining base on Tentak IV," he said, his voice hollow. "We are under attack and our systems are failing. We require assistance. To any vessel intercepting this transmission, please help us." He turned to Porter. "Launch it," he said.

The beacon exploded out of its launch tube and quickly arced its way into orbit. It raced past the Cube and headed out for empty space.
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby MetalHead » Mon Jan 28, 2008 1:42 pm

need. more. this is epic.
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Postby Sionnach Glic » Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:05 pm

Cool. I look forward to reading more. :)
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Postby Captain Seafort » Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:17 pm

Good stuff - I look forward to finding out how far back these Borg attacks go.
Only two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe: Albert Einstein.

Across the Universe - Chapter 2 now up
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Postby Tiberius » Mon Jan 28, 2008 10:42 pm

Here's the next part guys. I'm glad you like it, but I'd love some constructive criticism. Which parts really work for you? And which parts do you think can be improved?

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Captain Berkelly settled back into the comfortable command chair of the USS Kyushu. The last few months had been very productive, studying the star systems of the Reydovan Sector. In the Reydovan system alone, they had charted seven planets previously unexplored, and discovered almost five thousand new forms of life, including insects, birds, mammals, and several species of primate.

And all in all, his crew had performed above all his expectations. One hundred and ninety crewmembers on board, and they had coped with the stress of being away from the core worlds of the Federation, away from family and away from home very well. Still, Berkelly had spent many nights laying in his quarters thinking of the family he had left behind. He sighed and wished again that Starfleet had given him a newer ship.

Starfleet was beginning to recognize the importance of keeping familial ties intact among the crew and their families, and as a result, the more modern starships were being constructed with families in mind, most notably the new Galaxy class starships. The larger quarters and more recreational facilities sounded like paradise compared to the Kyushu. Already, Starfleet had begun construction of the first three of the Galaxy class ships: the Galaxy, the Yamato, and the Enterprise.

Berkelly felt a brief tinge of jealousy at the crews that would be serving on board those ships. Sometimes he hated the fact that his ship was getting on in years, but he wouldn't dare let his crew know that he thought that way about his own command. The Kyushu was a cramped ship, and at times, very uncomfortable. The New Orleans class vessels had not been designed for comfort, they had been designed for performance. The only class of ship currently in service that could compare to the New Orleans class when it came to performance was the Ambassador class. However, the loss of the Enterprise-C under Captain Garrett only a few years before had made the Federation realise that a new class of ship was needed in order to maintain a standard of performance that could keep the Federation safe from Threat forces.

And that had been the motivation that led to the Galaxy class. A ship that could do almost anything, perform any mission. Top of the range sensor systems, the most powerful warp core of any class of vessel and unprecedented ship mounted weapons systems combined with the extensive facilities on board the ship such as the labs, crew lounges and holodecks to create one of the most sought after commands in the fleet. Starfleet had not spared any expense when it came to the new ships.

And even before the first Galaxy class ship had been launched, the captains for these mighty vessels had been chosen. The position of captain on the USS Galaxy was slated to go to Captain April Roberts and the Yamato was going to Donald Varley, but the name of the officer who would be assigned captaincy of the Enterprise was still a secret. Rumours were everywhere however. Some thought that Captain Antilles would get it, with his extensive knowledge of diplomacy. Others had their money on Captain Pressman, but Berkelly thought he seemed more interested in doing strictly scientific work. At the moment, Pressman was in command of the Pegasus, a ship dedicated to testing experimental equipment. Some speculated that the work he was doing on the Pegasus was directly related to the Galaxy class project, testing the new systems in the field before they were to be installed in the Galaxy class vessels, but of course, it was top secret, so Berkelly knew he would never find out .

In rare moments of conceit, Berkelly imagined himself being given command of the prestigious Enterprise. Captain Steven Berkelly, USS Enterprise, flagship of the Federation. He liked the sound of that.

"Captain?"

Berkelly turned to the voice. "Yes, Lieutenant Carstares?"

"I'm picking up a distress call."

"Put it on speakers," he ordered.

The sound that emerged from the speakers was only vaguely like a human voice. Occasional words could be made out from behind the static that clouded the sound, but the message itself was indecipherable, flooded with white noise from the local stars.

"Can you clear it up, Lieutenant?" Berkelly asked, rising from the command chair and walking across the bridge to Carstares' station.

"Just a moment," said the young man.

Suddenly, the voice broke through the static clearly. " William Belle of the Federation mining base on Tentak IV. We are under attack and our systems are failing. We require assistance. To any vessel intercepting this transmission, please help us. This is Captain William Belle of the Federation mining base "

Berkelly spun around to face the conn. "Lay in a course for Tentak IV," he ordered. "Warp nine!"

The Kyushu turned and rushed forward into warp space.

*

"Approaching Tentak IV," said Michelle Summers at the conn. "There are no vessels in orbit."

"Slow to impulse," Berkelly ordered as he headed to the Operations station. "Lieutenant, hail Captain Belle."

"There is no response from the planet," said Carstares.

"Keep trying," Berkelly said. "Science, scan the base. See how much damage has been done."

"Captain," said Harrison at the science station, "I can't find the base."

"It's been destroyed?" said Berkelly, looking up from the operations readout and approaching the science station.

"I don't know sir," Harrison said uneasily.

Berkelly stopped in mid stride and gave Harrison a confused look. "What do you mean, you don't know?" he asked.

"The base is just gone, sir," he said checking his panel. "I can find no indication that the base has been destroyed. There's none of the usual residual energy signatures indicating an attack."

"Could it be a malfunction in the sensors?" asked Berkelly.

"Just a moment, sir," said Harrison. He ran a diagnostic of the sensors. "They're working fine, sir. I'm getting the same readings as before. The base is gone. I can't find any trace of it and no clues as to what happened."

"How can it be just gone?" said Berkelly.

"It just is, sir," said Harrison. "Just gone. It's as though something just picked it up off the surface."

Captain Berkelly was silent for a shocked moment. "Let's see it," he said. "Put it on screen."

The image of the planet surface appeared on the viewscreen, but where the base had once been, there was now only a great empty pit that yawned up at them from the sand and gravel of the desert.

"Dear God," someone muttered from one of the aft stations.

"Commander Bentley," Berkelly ordered. "Prepare an away team. I want to know exactly what happened here."

"I'm reading metallic debris in a high orbit," said Carstares. "Bearing 072 mark 301. Distance four thousand kilometers."

"Lock onto it and beam it into cargo bay two," said Berkelly. "Bridge to Engineering."

"Denverson here," came a female voice from engineering.

"Lieutenant, report to cargo bay two. We're beaming aboard some debris, I want you to examine it."

"Aye sir," came the reply over the comline.

" Mr Bentley?"

The first officer turned back to the captain from the turbolift. "Yes, Captain?"

"I'm giving you a half hour down there," said Berkelly. "No more. Whoever did this might still be in the area."

"Aye sir," said Bentley, and he stepped into the turbolift.

*

Berkelly sat in his ready room, staring at the screen before him. He had been reviewing the logs for the Tentak IV base that had been included in the message beacon, and he found it hard to believe that the base could have been destroyed. Federation dilithium mines were heavily protected, equipped with the most powerful weaponry the Federation had, and it still had not been enough to protect the base. Berkelly had been tempted to proceed under the assumption that this was the work of the Orion Syndicate. They were known to operate in this sector - the logs indicated that the Syndicate had attacked just a week before - and the dilithium mines would have made this planet a tempting target, but there were several things that didn't add up for Berkelly.

The first thing that had Berkelly confused was the fact that the Orions didn't have any ships capable of this level of destruction. Any attack by the Orions would have left some form of wreckage behind, some clue as to what exactly had happened, but here there was nothing. Not even the remains of the base.

The second thing was that scans of the area had revealed that only Federation engine signatures had been left in the area over the last few days. Either the ships that attacked were Federation (a theory not supported by the level of destruction), or the ships had no engines as recognized by Federation science, thus eliminating the possibility that this was an attack by the Orion Syndicate.

The third thing, and this was what had Berkelly the most confused, was that whoever had attacked the base had not touched the dilithium. Mining was usually carried out by teams with phaser drills. It was the most effective way to free the dilithium ore from the surrounding rock. Scans of the rock could determine the energy signature of the phasers used, and this energy signature could be matched up with known signatures to determine the type of phaser used, thus identifying who had been mining. But in this case, there was only the distinctive Federation phaser signature. And it was impossible for the attackers to have stolen dilithium using Federation technology. According to the scans, the last mining that had been done on the planet was nearly two days ago. Berkelly had noted the time of the distress call-it had been recorded only five hours previously. So it seemed that the base had not been destroyed for the dilithium. This in itself was confusing. Berkelly had expected the attackers to take some of the valuable crystal, but they had not. Perhaps, Berkelly thought, whoever attacked the base had no need for dilithium. Certainly, they could have taken the dilithium if they had wanted it, judging by the way they removed the base. But then, if they had not attacked the base for the dilithium, why had they attacked?

It just didn't add up.

Three pieces of evidence. Not enough to place the blame yet, but it certainly raised some interesting questions. The evidence seemed to support one possible explanation.

The attackers were unknown to the Federation.

That thought gave Berkelly a cold chill. Unknown attackers that could cause this level of destruction could be the worst threat the Federation had ever faced.

He tapped the controls of the desktop terminal that sat patiently on his desk and sent a message to Starfleet Command informing them of the situation.

*

"Admiral Jameson, we've just received a message from the USS Kyushu."

Mark Jameson leaned forward and tapped the intercom on his desk. "Put it through, Alyssa," he said.

"Aye, sir," she said. "The Kyushu is currently near the Romulan Neutral Zone. There's a two hour time delay from transmission."

"Understood," said Jameson. He tapped the control. The screen of his desktop terminal activated, and after briefly flashing the UFP insignia, the face of a captain appeared. His face was creased with concern.

"Starfleet Command," the captain said, "This is Captain Steven Berkelly of the USS Kyushu, currently in Sector 37859, near the Romulan Neutral Zone. Approximately five hours ago, this ship monitored a distress signal from the Federation base on Tentak IV. All attempts to hail the base failed. When we arrived at Tentak, we found the base had completely vanished. Sensor scans were unable to find any indication of what happened to it. The sensor scans are included in this report."

As Captain Berkelly spoke, Admiral Jameson looked over the sensor logs from the Kyushu, and the blood slowly drained from his face. He leaned forward and tapped the intercom. "Alyssa," he said, "get me the Federation President. Also, please inform my wife that I won't be home this evening."

*

"Captain?"

Captain Berkelly went to the other side of the cargo bay. He had been in here for the last half hour, working among the teams of engineers who were studying the wreckage, but so far, very little headway had been made.

"What is it, Denverson?" he asked.

Maria Denverson, the Kyushu's chief engineer, stood up and folded her tricorder. "The wreckage is definitely from two different vessels," she said. "This here," she said, indicating the blackened metal at her feet, "is made up of duranium and titanium alloys. It is undoubtedly Federation. Probably one of the Ju'Day class vessels assigned to the base."

"Have you been able to figure out what happened to it?" Berkelly asked. He leant over and picked up a fragment. It crumpled to dust in his hand. He looked up at Denverson. "What the hell did this to it?" he asked.
"We aren't exactly sure," Denverson said. "We ran the fragments through the subspace interferometer, and the results indicated that it was subjected to a highly focused magnetic field as well as an incredibly powerful graviton beam. The severe subspace stresses have weakened the molecular structure of the metal, that's why it is so weak ."

"A graviton beam? You mean a tractor beam?" asked Berkelly.

"We aren't quite sure, Captain," Denverson said. "The readings aren't like any tractor beam I've ever seen. If it was a tractor beam, it's the most powerful one I've ever heard of." She paused a beat, leading the captain away from the workers scurrying around the cargo bay. "Captain," she said quietly, "I believe that if this was done by a tractor beam, then it is possible that it was also used to remove the base from the planet."

Berkelly stared at her, unable to fully grasp the enormity of what she had said. "You've got to be joking," he said quietly. "You're telling me that there is something out there that can literally tear the surface off a planet, and less than ten hours ago it was here?"

"I'm afraid so," said Denverson.

"Berkelly to bridge," the Captain said.

"Yes Captain?"

"Go to red alert," Berkelly said. "Signal all vessels and outposts within twenty light years and advise them to do the same. Also, have them inform us of any anomalous sensor readings or vessels travelling without a flight plan. Then inform Starfleet of our status."

"Aye sir."

Berkelly turned back to Denverson. "What have you learnt about the other vessel, lieutenant?"

"We've got the wreckage over here," said Denverson, leading the Captain to the other side of the cargo bay. The wreckage had been kept separate so that the engineers working on it would be out of the way of the other team. We don't have much information about this technology."

"I can use anything, Maria," Berkelly said.

"Most of the pieces we picked up in orbit of the planet are hull fragments, or at least we think they are," she said. "They display evidence of being subjected to solar radiation, hence our deduction that they were part of the hull. As well as this, we found phased nadion particles consistent with those produced by a type nine phaser bank. Presumably, that was from the battle against the base. And from the amount of nadion radiation, it looks like our guys put up one hell of a fight."

Berkelly picked up a piece of the material and turned it over in his hands. It was completely different to the wreckage of the Federation ship on the other side of the cargo bay. That had been almost torn apart, whereas this felt solid in his hands. "It's very light," Berkelly said. He held it up to the light. "Visually, it looks like duranium, but the mass is way off."

"You're right, Captain," said Denverson. "The average density of this is less than half that of duranium, yet it's more than twice as strong."

"I bet that the folks at Starfleet Research and Development would love to get their hands on this stuff," said Berkelly. "Have you been able to figure out what sort of material this is?"

"As near as we can tell," said Denverson, "it's a type of polytrinic alloy."

Berkelly looked up at her. "Really?"

"Yes sir," she said.

"That would explain how it could withstand the phaser fire," Berkelly said.

"We aren't sure that it did, Captain."

"What do you mean?" asked Berkelly.

Denverson picked up another piece of wreckage and held it out. "This material shows signs of having been repaired, Captain."

"Repaired?"

"Or even reconstructed."

"During the battle?" said Berkelly.

"Yes sir," said Denverson. "You can see the carbon scoring suddenly stops at this point." She indicated the dark line across the fragment where the carbon scoring gave way to shininess. Berkelly ran his hand over the line, and the carbon came away on his hand.

"The damaged layer on this piece is less than a micron thick," said Denverson. "As you can see, it is easily removed."

"Is it possible that's what happened to this undamaged portion?" asked Berkelly. "That the damaged layer has been removed?"

"No, sir," said Denverson. "There is a great deal less nadion radiation in the repaired area than in the damaged section. There is no doubt in my mind that this piece of material was damaged in the battle, then subsequently repaired before it was blasted off the attacking vessel."

"Then they are definitely far in advance of Federation technology," Berkelly said quietly. "Polytrinic alloys, metallic regeneration "

"At least three hundred years ahead of us, sir," said Denverson. "And that's merely judging from what we've got here."

"Chief!" The surprised call came from a young blonde engineer who was holding her tricorder to the debris nearby.

Denverson and Berkelly looked up at her.

"What is it, Schobel?" asked Denverson as she and the captain approached her.

"We've found something interesting," said Schobel. She lifted up a small sphere, about twenty centimeters in diameter. "This piece of the wreckage seems to have no damage whatsoever."

Berkelly took the sphere from her and rolled it over in his hands. "Lighter than I expected," he said.

The sphere emitted a sudden, high-pitched whir, and Berkelly dropped it in shock. It hit the floor with a loud crack, and the noise stopped.

"Is it broken?" asked Schobel as she cautiously stepped forward.

"Stay back, everyone," said Berkelly.

Four legs unfolded from the sphere like tiny stilts and lifted it into an upright position. The engineers around it moved back.

"Keep back, everyone," said Berkelly. "Don't interfere with it."

"Of course I'm not going to interfere!" said Denverson rather superfluously.

"Security, report to Cargo Bay Two on the double!" Berkelly called into the comline. "Denverson, what the hell is it?"

"I have no idea, Captain!" she said. She opened her tricorder and aimed its sensors at the sphere. "It doesn't look like a weapon," she said.

Berkelly looked at the readouts. "Those look like energy emitters of some kind," he said.

"True," said Denverson, "but I don't think it's dangerous. The alignment of the emitter crystal suggests a wide beam emission, which would be impractical for a weapon."

The heavy doors of the cargo bay opened and admitted the security team, headed by the chief of security. They had their phasers drawn and the engineers around them moved out of the way to let them past.

"Captain!" said the Chief, a burly Livanian by the name of Ridel. "Are you alright?"

"For the moment, we are," said Berkelly. He indicated the sphere, which had lifted a hatch to reveal a sensor when the security team came in, as though it was an eye that had opened to see who had come through the door. "I want that thing, whatever it is, kept behind a level ten forcefield until further notice. Any change in its status, and I want to be informed immediately."

"Aye sir," said Ridel.

The sphere folded up its legs, lowered itself onto the floor, and didn't move again.

Denverson held her tricorder at it. "It appears to have shut down, Captain," she said. "Power readings are minimal." She turned to Ridel. "It should be safe to handle."

"Aye, Chief," Ridel said. "Transporter room one, lock onto the sphere and beam it to the brig."

"Aye sir," came the voice of the transporter operator, and the sphere disappeared in a haze of blue.

"Lieutenant Ridel," said Berkelly, "I want that thing under armed guard at all times. The cargo bay as well. No one at all is to enter this room or the brig without my direct permission."

Ridel nodded. "Aye sir," he said.

*

"The base is gone," said Bentley.

The senior staff members were seated around the table in the briefing room. Through the window, they could see the planet below them, slowly rotating as they orbited it. A topographic map of the surface of Tentak IV was displayed on the wall monitor, clearly showing the gaping hole where the Federation base had once been.

"No wreckage of any kind?" asked Carstares.

"None," confirmed Bentley. "We conducted extensive scans of the surrounding area in the hope we could discover some more information. We found magnetic resonance traces in the surrounding soil. We've been trying to match it up with any known technology, but we haven't had any luck so far."

"That's similar to what my engineering team discovered," said Denverson. The dark haired woman stood and brought up a display of the wreckage of the Ju'Day class vessel. "We've identified this piece of debris as being from a Federation ship. USS Gauvreau, one of the three Ju'Day class ships assigned to the base. It shows indications of being subjected to that same magnetic energy."

"It seems that we have a new player on the field," said Berkelly. "One that has the potential to be a grave threat to our security. Unfortunately, we have no information about its current location, so we can't make contact with it. It seems that the crew of the base attempted to do so, but there was no response to their hails. It then removed the base from the surface of the planet. The status of the base is currently unknown." He paused for a breath. "I would say it is a safe bet that this species is hostile."

"Captain." The voice came in over the com system.

"Yes?" said Berkelly.

"We have received a response to the message you sent."

"Put it through in here," the captain ordered.

The screen on the wall went dark and the Starfleet emblem was displayed. The face of an admiral appeared, silver haired yet intense. The time index displayed at the bottom of the screen showed that the message had been recorded two hours previously. Berkelly wished that there was no transmission delay. He would certainly appreciate the opportunity to speak with the admiral. "Captain Berkelly, I am Admiral Mark Jameson. I'm hereby ordering you to return to Earth with the wreckage. Keep it under guard and remain under communications blackout until you arrive at Earth orbit. I will meet you there. Jameson out."

The screen went blank. "Return to Earth?" said Denverson.

"Why aren't they sending a secure freighter?" asked Carstares. "We could rendezvous with the Lalo. They're only a few hours away, and they're headed back to Earth anyway." After returning from the surface of Tentak IV, he had checked all vessels in the sector, inquiring as to whether they had any information that could help them. Unfortunately, the information hadn't been of any use.

"Starfleet must be very worried about security if they want us to transport it back to Earth," said Bentley.

"Apparently so," said Berkelly. "But in any case, we have our orders. Mr. Bentley, set a course for Earth, maximum warp."

*

The trip back to Earth was long, and it was over a week at maximum warp before the Kyushu entered Sector 001.

"Captain," said Carstares as the Kyushu approached Earth orbit, "we're being hailed by Admiral Jameson. Should I break communications silence?"

Berkelly thought for a brief moment. "Yes," he said. "Put him on screen."

The image of Admiral Mark Jameson appeared on the viewscreen. "Captain Berkelly," he said, "lower your shields. I'll be beaming aboard to supervise the transfer of the wreckage to Starfleet Headquarters. Do not allow any of your crew to have contact with the wreckage. Make preparations to receive myself and a colleague."

"Aye sir," said Berkelly. "Conn, slow to impulse. Transporter room, prepare for transport. I'll go and meet our guests. Mr. Bentley, the bridge is yours."

Captain Berkelly walked down the corridor towards the transporter room. The admiral's instructions made him more than a little nervous. The contents of the cargo bay had been kept secret, and only the senior staff and the engineering and security teams knew about it. In addition, of the people who knew about the wreckage, only the senior staff and the small engineering team knew the details.

The doors of the transporter room hissed open as Berkelly approached.

"The Admiral is signalling ready to transport two," said the ensign behind the console.

"Thank you," Berkelly said to her. "Energize."

The pad glowed and two figures began to take shape in swirls of blue light. Gradually, the glow died away. Admiral Jameson stepped forward.

"Good morning," said Jameson. "Captain Berkelly, allow me to introduce my associate, Mr Sloan. He is here representing Internal Affairs in this matter." He gestured to the man who had beamed aboard with him, a young man, perhaps in his early or mid twenties.

"Mr Sloan," said Berkelly, holding out his hand.

"Captain," said Sloan with a smile that was just a little too congenial.

As Sloan shook his hand, Berkelly got a feeling in his gut that told him to be careful. There was something about Sloan that he didn't trust. Sure enough, he was softly spoken and he had a pleasantness about him, but his mannerisms seemed too pleasant considering the circumstances.

"Admiral," said Berkelly as they walked down the corridor towards the cargo bay, "what is all this secrecy about?"

"I'm sorry, Captain," said Jameson, "but this operation is top secret. All you have to do is follow my orders. If you need to know anything, you'll be told. When you need to know, and not before."

"Captain," said Bentley over the comline, "we're entering Earth orbit."

"Thank you Mr. Bentley," Berkelly said.

"Captain," said Jameson, "I'm sure you understand the sensitive nature of the contents of your cargo bay."

"I have some idea," said Berkelly dryly.

"I hope you'll understand that I want to have my own men in charge of the transfer," Jameson said. "To reduce the danger of a security breach. You understand, don't you?"

Berkelly felt uneasy about this, but there was nothing he could do. "Aye sir," he said.

"I'd like to see the wreckage as soon as possible," said Jameson.

"Of course sir," said Berkelly. "I'll take you to cargo bay two."

"I'd also like a secure channel to Starfleet Headquarters in fifteen minutes," said Jameson.

"I'll have the signal directed to my ready room," said Berkelly.

"Thank you, Captain," said Jameson.

"How many people have had access to the cargo bay since the wreckage was beamed aboard?" asked Sloan.

"Just myself, the engineering team and a small security team," said Berkelly. "But the security team weren't given any information. Only the engineering team and the senior staff know any details about what's in here."

Sloan looked at Jameson. "I want interviews with every person who has entered this room since the debris was beamed aboard," he said. "Until the interviews are complete, no one is to come aboard or leave the ship. And I want round the clock security on all decks."

"Admiral," began Berkelly, but Jameson cut him off.

"Captain," he said firmly, "this is top secret. You are not to talk of this with anyone. Please do as Mr Sloan has asked. The interviews will begin as soon as possible."

Berkelly looked at Jameson. He didn't like this, being kept out of the loop. In all the years he had commanded the Kyushu, he had always known what happened on his ship. But now he felt helpless, and he didn't like that feeling. "Yes sir," he said dryly, and he left Admiral Jameson and Sloan in the cargo bay as they began to coordinate the transfer operation.
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby Tiberius » Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:58 pm

Come on guys, feedback!
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby MetalHead » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:54 am

its good, but events seem to snap into place almost instantly without any flow, so try adding some kind of transition into an event, the whole secrecy thing is creating such a huge ironic effect that its making my skin crawl, lets see some action! :-P

This is very well written, and i look forward to seeing more from you :-)
"Beware what you intend to say, those words will always make you pay." - Soilwork

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Postby Tiberius » Fri Feb 01, 2008 9:48 am

Snap into place? How do you mean? Can you give an example?

If you like the secrecy, wait til you see what's coming. I hope you noticed a very young certain someone who deals in secrecy a great deal!
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby Tiberius » Fri Feb 01, 2008 10:23 am

Here's the next chapter.

I did a minor rewrite to this the other day. I've never been really happy with it, as I have a fair bit of character stuff to establish, the relationships between the Hansen family: Magnus and Erin, Magnus and Annika, Erin and Annika. I don't think it works as well as it could, so for this I really want a fair bit of constructive criticism. There's a lot of room for improvement in this chapter.

Anyway, here it is.

Hansens

Field notes, Terbalus IV, Stardate 30167.5. The Sutherland has arrived at Terbalus IV, the planet that will be our home for the next solar year. In that time we plan to catalogue the life forms and environments of this relatively unexplored planet. It is our hope that our research here will lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of injuries and illnesses.


From orbit, the clouds that blanketed the surface of Terbalus IV had looked grey and green, and from the surface of the world they were little better. Magnus Hansen stepped out of the modular shelter and looked around at the clearing would serve as his family's home for the next year. It was wide, and sunny by local standards. By Earth standards, however, it was positively gloomy. The system's sun was little more than a feeble glow that struggled to pierce the layer of low clouds. Around the edge of the clearing, bleak grey trees stood, their trunks covered in moss and algae, and some type of bird could be heard, mournfully calling from the darkness of the forest.

Around him, the engineering crew of the Sutherland was finishing the construction of the shelter. He turned to face them and saw his daughter running up towards him.

"Daddy?" she called. Annika was four, a few months shy of her fifth birthday, and she viewed the world with a sense of childlike wonder. However, from the moment she had arrived on Terbalus IV, she had been obviously less than thrilled. Magnus could understand her feelings; the place seemed to have a way of draining the life out of you. He hoped it would pass.

"Yes, muffin?" Magnus said, kneeling down and opening his arms wide to hug her.

Annika looked up at him, her big blue eyes pleading with him. "I don't wanna be here," she said. "Can't we go back to Vulcan?" Vulcan had been their previous assignment, studying recently unearthed ruins near the city of Vulcana Regar. It had been dry, dusty, and hot, but at least the Vulcans were polite and they had the comforts of civilisation.

"Sorry, honey," Magnus told her. "We're going to be staying here for the next year, but it won't be so bad. We've got a whole new world to explore, with strange new life that nobody's ever seen."

"But there's no people," whinged Annika, and she stomped back towards the shelter, her arms crossed and a scowl upon her face.

Magnus stood and went over to his wife. "Annika isn't thrilled to be here," he told her. "Although, I can't really say I blame her."

Erin looked at him. "She'll get used to it," she said. "I'd like to start cataloguing the insect species tonight. I've detected a few unusual species already, and I'd like to investigate further."

Magnus nodded. "We'll get the equipment set up as soon as the Sutherland leaves," he said.

He headed back to the engineers around the shelter. "How's it going?" he asked the lieutenant in charge.

"We're just about finished," he said. "Just a bit more gamma welding to complete in order to make the shelter weather proof and we'll be done. The equipment has been beamed down and you have a fully fuelled type six shuttle."

Magnus nodded. "Good work," he said.

"Thank you sir," said the lieutenant.

*

The sun had set slowly, the sky turning deep shades of pink, orange, and finally red before darkness settled over the woods. The clouds still lay over the land like blankets, and the sky was starless, the air cold. Lights shone from within the shelter, and insects flung themselves at the radiance, pinging and banging their bodies against the clear metal of the windows.

Magnus and Erin stood outside the shelter, working in the glow of the exterior lamp, swatting the insects away from their faces. Spotlights had been erected on poles, aimed into the forest, but they were yet to be lit. Magnus and Erin were erecting a forcefield emitter in front of the lights.

Annika peeked out from the door, reluctant to come out into the swarm of insects. "What's that for?" she asked.

Magnus turned to her as Erin continued to work. "It's to catch the insects," he said. "They fly towards the light, but they hit the forcefield and are stunned. Then they fall into the collector we have underneath so we can have a look at them and see how they work."

Annika made a noise that appeared to mean that she understood, but she didn't leave the shelter.

Erin looked up from the collector. "I'm ready, Magnus," she said. "We can activate it any time."

"Alright then," said Magnus. "I'm bringing the stunner fields online." He tapped a control and a small blue flicker flashed between the emitters. The equipment hummed softly. "Activate the lights."

The lights flashed on, the brightness stabbing through the forest and cutting apart the darkness. Magnus and Erin sat, tricorders in hand, waiting for the first insects to appear.

The insects flying near the exterior lamp of the shelter immediately surrounded the bright spotlights, forming clouds of bodies that circulated around the lights and fell stunned into the collectors. Bare seconds later, swarms of insects emerged from the forest, coming in from every direction, whining and buzzing, smothering the lamps and dropping dead in their frenzy to batter themselves against the blazing lights. The collectors were clogged with chitinous bodies in seconds.

Erin looked at Magnus, stunned at the success of their first research venture. "Wow," she said, unfolding her tricorder. "I'm reading over three hundred different species."

Something dark swooped over Magnus's head and he ducked. "What was that?" he said.

"It looks like some sort of reptilian bird," Erin said, and a sudden screeching filled the air. "More of them are coming!" she called over the noise. "They appear to use some sort of echolocation to find their food!"

Great throngs of the creatures emerged from the forest, wheeling and circling and screaming amidst the brightness of the lights, feeding on the clouds of insects.

The noises of the forest rose even louder, disorienting the birds, which started to attack the lights, hurling their leathery bodies against the burning elements and killing themselves instantly. They became even more aroused, attacking anything they could find, trees, the field projectors, and the two scientists.

"Annika, get inside and close the door!" shouted Magnus, barely audible of the screeching. He and Erin ran for the cover of the entrance of the shelter, away from the lights and stunning field.

A roar cut through the night, deafening above the screeching of birds and insects. Magnus and Erin shared a shocked look, and then, barely fifteen meters from where they stood, a monstrous creature emerged from the forest. Its skin was shockingly pale, a great long body swayed above the ground. A multitude of long, spider-like legs converged from the middle of its body, and on what appeared to be the front end was a ring of bright red eyes, and a number of what appeared to be tentacles, each as long as Magnus' arm. From the midst of these came a long tubelike mouth that snaked over the ground, sucking up insects and the other animals attracted by the noise. It moved quickly towards the collectors, toppling the lights, which shattered on the ground.

Suddenly plunged into darkness, Magnus fought the urge to panic. He couldn't see, and he fumbled for the palm beacon at his side. Flicking it on, he could see Erin stumbling towards him, and the monster behind her, oblivious to her, still ripping apart the collector. Magnus grabbed her and pulled her away, towards the shelter and safety where the exterior lamp still glowed.

They ran inside, locking the door closed behind them. From the window, they could see nothing. The exterior lamp showed nothing of the scene; its beam shone away from the site of their overly successful experiment. They could hear the creature roaring and snarling hungrily, as well as the sound of their equipment being torn apart. Eventually the sound died away and silence reigned once more in the night forest.

*

The weeks continued, and as they went through spring, the weather became warmer. It was still cool compared to a San Francisco summer, but at least they didn't need to wear their field jackets when they went out. As summer came, the clouds began to fall away and they revealed a blue sky.

It was a few weeks after the incident with the giant spider that Magnus and Annika took the shuttle to one of more tropical regions of the planet. Tropical, however, was merely a reference to the latitude; the climate there was still cool and there was regular snowfall in the winter months. However, during summer, the climate was mild and life flourished in the deciduous forests. It was a pleasant change to the chilly woods that they had lived in for the last month.

It was not the first time that Magnus had been here with his daughter. She had been so grumpy about being stuck in the clearing that he had promised to take her with him the first time he'd gone. She had been overjoyed to get out into a place where it was not so cold, and they both enjoyed the excursion so much that it had become a weekly outing. They had discovered several new species, including a group of Gunji Jackdaws , and a type of feline predator that shared a lot of its genetic make up with canines.

Sunlight filtered through the trees, creating small diamonds of light on the forest floor. Annika reached up her hand to move aside a branch, her small, intensely curious face peering forward at the group of birds feeding by the stream before her. The jackdaws were large flightless birds, twice as tall as Annika, and their wings were nothing more than rudimentary stumps. There were five adult birds in the flock and three chicks that ran about their legs hunting insects amongst the leaf litter. Occasionally, one of the adult birds lowered its head, picking up pieces of the fruit that had fallen from the trees that rose above them. The birds seemed nervous, and there were always at least three of the adults keeping a watch, their heads turning, searching the forest.

The birds had been by the softly babbling stream for the better part of an hour, eating the fruit and drinking the running water. The sandy bank was covered with three toed footprints. The jackdaws crossed the stream, all the while feeding. One of them picked up a fruit from the bank of the stream and swallowed it. Annika laughed as the large bulge went down the bird's throat.

She leaned forward for a better look at the birds and the branch she was leaning on bent under her weight. Instantly, all the adults looked up, peering in her direction, and the chicks stopped playing and scuttled back to the safety of the adults.

"Careful, Annika," said Magnus beside her. "Don't make any noise."

"I won't, papa," Annika said, looking up at her father. She moved back and gently let the branch go.

The gunji jackdaws became alarmed at the rustling sound of the branch being moved, and Magnus pulled his daughter back into the cover of the foliage. After a moment, the jackdaws lowered their heads and continued feeding. In the half-light, their ruffled feathers hid the outline of their bodies.

"See, Annika?" said Magnus. "It looks like they're covered in fur, but really, it's feathers."

"Messy birds!" giggled Annika, and some of the birds lifted their heads again.

Magnus smiled. "Very messy," he agreed. "But it helps them when they are in the forest."

Annika turned away from the flock. "How?" she asked.

"Well, it breaks up their outlines," Magnus explained.

Annika's face lit up. "Hard to see the shape!" she exclaimed.

The flock looked up towards their position at Annika's cry. Deciding that it was too risky to stay by the river, they started moving towards the forest.

"Keep quiet, Annika," said Magnus.

A movement in the foliage caught Magnus's eye. A Terbalen wildcat was hunting the flock, moving under the cover of the foliage. It had a solidly built but light body covered in a short coat of ochre fur. Across its back, a mottled pattern of dark strips broke up the outline of the animal. Magnus could see the heavily muscled hind legs moving the creature, and the claws on the arm-like front legs flexed with anticipation of the inevitable attack. The head mounted on a neck the length of Magnus's forearm was fearsome mix of wolf and mountain lion.

"Look, Annika," Magnus whispered. "In the bushes over there, do you see?"

Annika peered through the plants, then caught sight of the wildcat. "Is it going to attack the birds?" she asked quietly.

"Maybe," said Magnus. "Let's watch." He held up his tricorder to record the coming attack. He recognized this male; he and his mate had claimed this area of the forest. He wondered where the female wildcat was.

The wildcat moved softly behind the trees, and the ears mounted high on its head swivelled. The large pads on its hind legs masked any sound it made on the forest floor. It watched the flock of jackdaws carefully, moving towards a position where it would be able to attack the young birds, all the while watching its prey. An adult jackdaw would be a formidable opponent for a wildcat, and Magnus knew at once that it was going for a chick. The wildcats normally preyed on other animals, but a jackdaw chick was too enticing a meal for them to pass up. An easy snack.

Magnus turned to Annika, who was watching the scene unfold with wide eyes. "See how he's going for the babies?" he said quietly.

Annika nodded. "Uh huh," she said, all the while staring out into the clearing.

One of the jackdaws suddenly saw the wildcat and raised its head, letting out a warbling alarm call. The response was immediate. The other birds gathered around the infants, forming a protective barrier between them and the wildcat. Now that it had been spotted, the wildcat moved out into the open, pacing the length of the flock, baring its teeth, and hissing ferociously. The jackdaws hooted at the wildcat angrily, reaching out with their long necks to bite at the predator. The birds had sharp beaks, normally used to snip fruit from branches, but they also made good weapons. Magnus had seen a wildcat attacked in this way, and the wound across its face had become infected. The wildcat had later died from its injury.

"It's going to be harder for him to get dinner now," Magnus said, smiling.

With a sudden snarl, the female wildcat exploded from the bushes behind the jackdaws, attacking them from the rear. The jackdaws wheeled around to face the new threat, and in the confusion, the infants were vulnerable. The female lunged forward, ducking underneath the kicking legs and snapping at the adults. The male ran forward and grabbed one of the chicks, shaking it about to break its back. The chick squealed in alarm, tiny legs thrashing wildly in pain before hanging limp.

As the two predators moved away with their kill, the jackdaws began to settle down. The adults made soft cooing sounds to calm down the two surviving chicks, and they headed back into the forest where their plumage provided camouflage. The wildcats snarled over their kill on the bank opposite to the Hansens. When the male raised his head, Magnus could see his face was red.

"Come on, Annika," Magnus said. He wasn't worried that the sight of the baby jackdaw being torn apart would disturb his daughter. She had seen this side of nature before. But with the jackdaws in the thick foliage, they wouldn't be able to follow the flock. "Let's head home."

*

Magnus and Annika made the trip home in a leisurely hour, and by the time they had landed the shuttle in the clearing surrounding the shelter, the sun was sinking behind the low ridge of hills to the west. Erin was outside the shelter checking the insect traps that hung in the nearby trees. She and Magnus had decided that this was a better way to investigate the insects than the light traps they had used on their first night on the planet.

"Mummy!" called Annika, running towards her.

Erin picked her up. "Hi, sweetie!" she said happily. "My God, you are filthy!" She turned to Magnus. "Have a good day?"

"Yeah!" enthused Annika.

"We saw that same behaviour again," Magnus said. "Down by the stream."

"Oh, they weren't attacked again, were they?" sighed Erin. She closed the trap and hung it back on the tree.

"I'm afraid so," said Magnus as they went inside.

"How many is that now?" asked Erin.

"Mummy, I'm thirsty," said Annika. Erin put Annika on the floor and she went to the replicator and got a glass of orange juice.

"Ten attacks," said Magnus. "They've lost seven chicks from the nine born this season."

"If this keeps up, this year's hatchlings will be lost completely," said Erin.

"Can't they have more babies?" Annika asked, recycling her empty glass.

Erin smiled. Her daughter was very intelligent. "No, Annika. They only breed once a year. And not all of the eggs hatch."

"Why not?" asked Annika.

"Well, not all the eggs are laid in the nest, so they aren't all incubated," said Erin. "It's like the rhea on Earth."

Annika gave her mother a confused look. "That's silly!" she said.

"Yes it is," said Magnus. "But it's the way they do it."

*

The next day, Magnus and Erin decided to have a close look at one of the more predominant plants in the wooded areas of the planet. They had called it a knobby tree, for its huge white roots and trunk were covered in twisted growths, not to mention a great assortment of lichen and mosses. The outer layers of the plants had calcified after centuries of growth towards the sun and abuse by the parasites that sucked the life from the plants. The cavernous chambers underneath the roots were dark grottos filled with life, from tiny arachnids to centipedes and other creatures that had never before been encountered. They were curious to find out how the trees could find enough nutrition in the swamp to support their growth, for they routinely reached over three hundred meters high and their trunks were large enough to hold a shuttle.

Annika had grumbled about being made to go. She hated going anywhere on the planet except for the weekly trips she took with her father to study the jackdaws, but Erin would not have her stay at the shelter by herself. Thus, the three of them loaded the shuttle with supplies for a day and headed to a large grove of the knobby trees some fifteen kilometers from their camp.

They arrived at the grove midmorning, and the shuttle landed amongst the trees gently under Erin's practiced hand.

They stepped out into the forest with their tricorders drawn. Annika smelled her forearm where the insect repellent had been sprayed, the tricorder she had asked to use sitting uselessly in her pocket. Around them, the great stand of massive white knobby trees stood, reaching up towards the sky, surrounding them like a natural cathedral. The leathery reptilian birds flew, flitting amongst the trees in search of insects, offering the occasional screech of indignation at the Humans intruding into their world.

Erin and went to one of the trees, pressing her hand against the knobbly bark. "Magnus, look at this," she said. "The bark is much colder than I would have expected."

Magnus came over, holding out his tricorder. "The bark is the same as the other trees we found," he said. "Partially calcified. It closely resembles an inorganic material, and its molecular density is higher than I'd expect for an organic substance."

"Any idea what could be causing it?" asked Erin, looking at him thoughtfully.

"I'm reading a strange sort of insect under the bark," said Magnus. "The calcification seems to be most concentrated around them. They might be consuming the organic materials from the bark and replacing them with an inorganic compound."

From one of the other trees, Annika let out a sudden scream. Erin and Magnus ran over, and when they got to her, Annika's hand was covered in blood.

"What happened, Annika?" Magnus asked as Erin ran her tricorder over her hand.

Annika cried and Magnus hugged her close to him. "Shhh," he said. "You're going to be fine."

Erin looked up at him. "It's not too bad," she said. "The cut isn't very deep. I'll get the dermal regenerator from the shuttle."

As Erin headed for the shuttle, Magnus dried Annika's eyes. "What happened, muffin?" he asked.

Annika raised her uninjured hand and pointed towards the darkness between the roots of the knobby tree. "I reached in there and something hurt me," she said between sobs.

"It's okay now," Magnus said, holding her close again.

Erin returned with the dermal regenerator. "Annika, hold out your hand," she said. She ran the instrument over Annika's hand and gradually the bleeding stopped.

Magnus took out his tricorder and held it out towards the roots of the knobby tree. "Erin, look at this," he said.

"What is it?"

"There's something like a spider web spun between these roots," Magnus said.

"Did a spider bite me?" Annika asked.

Erin reached out towards the web slowly. "I can't see any spiders," she said, then suddenly withdrew her hand. The tip of her finger was bleeding. "Damn that's sharp," she said. "That's no spider web."

"You're right, Erin," said Magnus, looking at his tricorder. "It's some sort of micro-fine wire, and it's extremely strong."

"What could it be for though?" asked Erin. "This would have no chance of catching an animal."

Magnus looked thoughtful for a moment. "Maybe that's the point," he said. "If a creature blunders into this web, it could be killed. Whatever spins this web could get its food like that."

Annika started moaning. "I wanna go back," she said, and she crossed her arms grumpily.

Magnus looked down at her. "Sorry, honey, but we've got a lot of work to do."

"You can stay in the shuttle if you want to," said Erin.

Annika sighed. "Oh, alright," she said as if it was the most unreasonable thing in the world to have to stay in the shuttle.

Magnus picked her up and headed to the shuttle, but at that moment, a huge white creature, the same as they had seen on their first night, strode into the clearing, directly between them and the shuttle.

Annika screamed and jumped down from her father, running back towards Erin. The monstrous creature began uprooting the saplings that grew scattered throughout the clearing, and then turned its attention to the shuttle. It swiped out with one of its huge legs, the shuttle sliding over the ground, digging a furrow in the soil. The spider snarled at the shuttle's stubbornness.

Magnus quickly drew his phaser and fired at the creature. The beam hit it at its midpoint, and the creature turned to him and advanced. Magnus quickly readjusted his phaser and fired again. The beam blasted off a section of its body, and the spider slumped to the ground dead. A thick liquid flowed forth from the remains of its body.

"Magnus!" called Erin. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," he called back. "Is Annika okay?"

"Just shaken up," Erin said. "We should get her back home."

Magnus nodded. "Alright," he said, "but I'd like to see if we can take this thing back with us. We've never had the chance to study one this close before."

Erin looked at him. "Any suggestions on how we can do it?" she asked. "That thing must way over a ton."

"What about the grapples on the underside of the shuttle?" Magnus asked. "A type six shuttle should be able to handle it. We have some hypersteel cables on board. They should be able to support the creature's weight."

Erin thought for a moment. "Agreed," she said. "Let's get to it."

*

They had brought the creature back to the modular shelter, suspended underneath their shuttle. Erin had taken Annika to have a sonic shower, and after she was clean, they had sat down to dinner. After dinner, Annika had gone to bed, and Magnus and Erin went outside to the corpse of the creature to continue their research.

"I'm getting signs that its skin has begun calcification," said Erin, holding her tricorder to the remains of the giant creature's body.

"Those same insects?" asked Magnus, looking up from his investigation of the legs and mouthparts on the underside of the creature.

"It looks like it," said Erin. "But why would they be feeding on this the same way they were feeding on the trees?"

"I'm not sure," said Magnus. "I'd like to dissect it, have a look at its internal arrangement. Can you bring me a phaser?"

Erin reached over and handed her husband a phaser. Magnus adjusted the settings, stepped back a few meters, aimed, and fired. The bright orange beam cut through the body of the creature, slicing the back of the abdomen away from the rest of the corpse. It came away with a gush of thick yellow liquid that spread out over the ground and gave off an offensive smell, distinctly like rotting vomit. There were small tubules in the liquid that moved spasmodically, like rather large maggots. Erin stepped forward, fighting the nausea, and held out her tricorder. She looked at the readings and her face twisted in confusion.

"What is it?" asked Magnus.

"Look at this," said Erin. "This DNA scan is completely wrong."

Magnus looked at her tricorder. "You think it might be a problem with your tricorder?" he asked.

"Might be," said Erin. "Try yours."

Magnus unclipped the tricorder from his hip and opened it. "I'm getting the same readings." He looked up at Erin. "The creatures have the same DNA as the knobby trees."

Erin looked at him. "Could it be possible?"

Magnus looked up at her. "I suppose. They may be able to mix the best about plant and animal life together. Setting root, but also being able to move about and catch prey like an animal. After all, the soil is very low in nutrients. It would be very hard for an adult knobby tree to provide the creatures with enough food to last them until they found a suitable location to put down roots."

"No pun intended?" asked Erin with a smile.

Magnus returned the smile. "No, of course not," he said. "But the spiders may be able to take an active part in providing sustenance for themselves while they grow. And, the larger they get, the more easily they will be able to reach adulthood."

Erin nodded. "They'd be able to establish a foothold and get a head start at growth."

"That could be what this one was doing," said Magnus.

"What do you mean?" asked Erin.

"Do you remember what it was doing when it came out into the clearing?" asked Magnus.

"It attacked the shuttle," said Erin.

"Before that," said Magnus. "It was pulling up other trees."

"Removing the competition," said Erin, realising.

Magnus smiled. "Exactly," he said. "It seems to be a very successful strategy for these trees, and it explains how they can be so prolific in this ecosystem."

*

A week later, on a day that dawned bright and clear, and after a light breakfast, Magnus and Annika took the shuttle and set out after the jackdaws. They landed near where they had on their previous excursion to the Jackdaw's territory. As the rear wall of the shuttle folded down, Magnus held up his tricorder, scanning for the tracking implants he had placed on the wing of the male bird. He held the tricorder so Annika could see the display.

"See this, Annika?" he said. "It means that the male bird is back near the stream."

"Where they were last week?" asked Annika.

"Near there," Magnus said, "but a little way downstream from there."

The way to the stream was more difficult than the previous week's journey. Magnus had to help Annika over a large rocky outcropping, and several times they slid on the moist leaves that carpeted the forest floor. As they approached the stream, the understorey of the forest thinned out, providing them with easier travelling. They waited by the stream patiently for the jackdaws to appear. Magnus's tricorder indicated the birds were in the area, and that they were headed towards them. He was anxious though; the two wildcats were also nearby, and chances were they were hoping to take another chick.

The foliage across the river from them rustled, and Annika looked up from the twig she was absently playing with. The flock of jackdaws came out from the trees. The bank of the stream here was not as wide as it was upstream where they had been the last time they had seen them, and there were numerous rocks in the river. The pair of infants ran into the water and started splashing, but they were careful to remain close to the adults.

Magnus pointed out one of the adult birds to Annika. "See that one with the darker feathers on his head, Annika?"

Annika followed her father's finger. "Uh huh "

"Well, he's the only adult male," said Magnus. "He mates with all the adult females in the flock, and he is also the only one who incubates the eggs."

Annika looked away from the birds and gave him a confused look. "I thought the girls did that."

"Actually," said Magnus, "in most bird species, both sexes share that responsibility, but in birds like the jackdaws, such as the ostrich and the eel-bird, the males do the incubation of the eggs."

Annika looked confused. "What's an eel-bird?" she asked.

"A bird that lives on Regulus V," said Magnus. "They're called that because they have a very long neck that looks like an eel, and every eleven years, they have to go back to the caves they hatched in. But the weird thing is, in most of the birds that look like the jackdaws, it is the male who incubates the eggs."

There was a movement in the bushes on the other side of the stream. Annika spotted it immediately. "Daddy, look! A wildcat!"

Magnus picked up his tricorder and pointed it at the wildcat. "That's the female," he said. "And the male is here as well. It looks like they're trying the same trick we saw last time."

"Are the jackdaws going to be tricked again, daddy?" Annika asked.

"I'm not sure, Annika," Magnus said. "I hope not."

"Me too," said Annika. She stood up, peering through the dense foliage.

Magnus put a hand on her shoulder. "Annika, keep down."

One of the adult jackdaws suddenly let out the warbling alarm call. The response from the other adults was immediate. They formed a protective barrier, but in the intervening week, they had refined their technique. Instead of a simple wall between the chicks and the predators, they formed a ring around the chicks, protecting them from any angle an attack might come from.

Confused at this, and unable to see a way to make a successful attack, the two wildcats emerged from the bushes. They circled the flock, snarling and gnashing their teeth ferociously, but the jackdaws stood their ground. They hooted angrily at the wildcats, and occasionally kicked out with their sharp claws. One of the wildcats got a little too close, and a jackdaw lashed out with its sharp beak, catching it across the face. The wildcat shrieked in pain and quickly backed away, blood pouring from its eye. With a final, indignified roar, the two wildcats turned and bounded off into the forest.

"They did it!" Annika cheered.

"Annika, keep your voice down," Magnus said.

The jackdaws looked up towards Magnus and Annika. Already uneasy from the attack, they began to head towards the forest. They disappeared into the thick undergrowth, moving away from the Hansens and the wildcats.

"Remember to keep your voice down, Annika," Magnus said.

"Sorry, papa," Annika said. "Are we going to follow them?"

"The forest is too dense," Magnus said. "We'd lose them in no time."

Magnus's combadge chirped, and he tapped it. "Yes, Erin?" he asked.

"You'd better get back home." Her voice sounded tinny over the comline.

"Why?" asked Magnus. "What is it?"

"We have a visitor."

"Okay, Erin, we're headed back," Magnus said. He stood and started heading back to the shuttle. Annika fell in beside him. "Who is it?"

"The Melbourne has arrived in orbit, and an Admiral Jameson has beamed down," said Erin.

"Is that Admiral Mark Jameson, from Mordan IV ?" asked Magnus.

"That's right, Magnus," said Erin. "You'd better hurry. Erin out."

Annika looked up at her father. "What's going on, papa?" she asked.

Magnus looked back down at her. "I don't know," he said.

*

"Dr. Magnus Hansen? I'm Admiral Mark Jameson."

Admiral Jameson rose to greet Magnus as he and Annika entered the hut. Jameson was in his early seventies, hair turned grey by age, but he still had a trim body. Jameson was a man who was proud of his good health .

"Pleased to meet you, sir," Magnus said. "This is our daughter Annika."

Jameson looked down at the little girl and smiled. "Pleased to meet you, Annika," he said.

Annika looked nervous.

"What's this about, Admiral?" Erin asked.

"The Council doesn't want to stop our research, do they?" Magnus looked worried.

"The Federation Council on Exobiology is very impressed with your work," said Jameson. "But they've ordered you to return to Earth. They have another assignment for you."

"What?!" Erin was incredulous.

"What about the work we're doing here?" said Magnus.

"The Council and Starfleet are in agreement on this," said Jameson. "You are to return to Earth."

"We can't leave now!" said Magnus. "We're just beginning to make rapid progress. What we find here could have all sorts of benefits to the Federation."

"I'm sorry about this, doctors," said Jameson, "but something very important has occurred, and we feel that your skills are needed for our particular problem."

"And exactly what is this particular problem?" asked Erin.

Jameson sighed. "I'm afraid I can't talk about it just yet. However, the Council needs exobiologists, the best possible. And that's you."

"I'm sorry, Admiral," Erin said. "We're very busy here. The research we are doing here is too important to just give it up. We have already found plants that may provide medicines to cure the worst diseases that afflict us. And we are confident that we are going to find more in the next few weeks."

"Admiral," said Magnus, "we're on the verge of one of the greatest discoveries of our time. If we leave now, more than a month of research will be lost."

Jameson sighed again. "I'm very sorry, really," he said. "But the Council has ordered that both of you return to Earth."

Erin was incredulous. "Admiral, we can't!"

"Sir," began Magnus, "our research here-"

"Your research here is over," Jameson told them. "The decision has been made. You've got until tomorrow to get ready to leave. We'll beam you aboard the Melbourne at midday tomorrow, local time."

*

Admiral Jameson was waiting for them in the transporter room when the Hansens beamed up to the Melbourne the next day. The equipment from the shelter on the planet had been beamed aboard earlier that morning, and their personal belongings had been transported to the quarters assigned to them for the week-long voyage back to Earth.

"Welcome aboard the Melbourne," Jameson said, stepping up towards the transporter platform after the cycle had completed. "I'll show you to your quarters."

"When will we be briefed on our new assignment?" asked Magnus as they headed out into the corridor.

"The situation will be fully explained to you when we arrive at Earth," Jameson told them.

"Can't you tell us anything now?" Erin asked as they stepped into a turbolift.

"Deck four," said Jameson. "Due to the sensitive nature of the information, the briefing will be conducted at a secure location."

A rehearsed answer if ever I heard one, thought Magnus.

"We're on a starship!" exclaimed Erin. "How much more secure can we be?"

"I'm sorry," repeated Jameson. "We'll be leaving orbit soon." The turbolift hummed to a stop and the doors hissed open. "I'm going to have to ask you not to talk of your assignment to anyone until we get to Earth."

"How can we talk?" Erin said disdainfully. "We don't even know what it is we're not supposed to be talking about."

"I know it must be confusing," said Jameson, holding up his hands as though to calm her, "but please bear with me."

The computer chirped and a voice came over the comline. "Admiral Jameson," said the voice of what sounded like a young officer, "you have a message coming in from Starfleet Headquarters."

"I'll take it in my quarters in a few minutes, thank you, Mr. Sloan," said Jameson.

"Aye sir."

Jameson turned back to the Hansens. "We should arrive at Earth in eight days. You'll be fully briefed when we arrive at Starfleet Headquarters."

"Can't you tell us anything before then?" asked Magnus.

Jameson gave him a determined look. "No," he said simply, and walked off down the corridor.
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby Tiberius » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:10 am

metalhead, did you see my previous post?

And guys, call me a needy writer, but I'm serious about feedback! :p
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby MetalHead » Sun Feb 03, 2008 10:42 pm

Tiberius wrote:metalhead, did you see my previous post?

And guys, call me a needy writer, but I'm serious about feedback! :p


Yeah I did, I just work alot bud so its a bit hard, sorry.

Anyway, this is developing nicely, however, what i meant was you need to smoothen the transitions from event to event, as it seems abrupt.

IE - when the cube attacked the base, that led up to it perfectly, what with the sensor readings, the confusion, then the apprehension, then the panic, then gone. that flowed nicely. However, the attack by the Orions seemed almost random, try to have something that leads up into it, even if its brief. Otherwise, good writing dude! Would appreciate if u read "Infinity" that i just posted (call me a needy writer 2, haha)
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Postby Tiberius » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:43 pm

The bit with the orions was there to establish the characters, as well as the situation of the base. Also, to establish how heavily armed the base is.

I'll have a look when I get the chance. :)

Keep the feedback coming, guys!
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
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Postby Mikey » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:27 pm

I know you said you were looking for feedback on the character development in this installment, but it's difficult to discuss without seeing how the Hansens evolve further along in the story. I will say this: from what I remember, Magnus seemd to be considerably shorter with Annika while Erin was more the archetypal mother figure. However, the events beginning in this chapter may very well be the inception of that behavior. As I said, it's tough to say that you are going to do something, or won't do something, before we actually see what you will do.

All in all, though, I'm impressed.
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Postby Tiberius » Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:03 pm

Here's the next bit....

Briefing

It was past midnight ship time as the Melbourne approached Earth, but despite the late hour, the crew seemed to possess an unusual energy. It was rare these days for a starship to return to Earth while on assignment, and it was always accompanied by a great deal of attention. Magnus, Erin, and Annika had been invited to witness the Melbourne's arrival at Earth from the bridge by Captain Ross, and it was an offer that they had quickly accepted. Seeing one's home planet from the bridge of a starship was a rare event for most people, and it was an opportunity that had been worth the late night. When they had arrived on the bridge, they had been met by a man who had introduced himself as Luther Sloan, an associate of Admiral Jameson who worked with Internal Affairs. He had apologized for the admiral's absence, saying that he was busy with work for Starfleet.

When the great blue marble globe of Earth had appeared on the viewscreen that stretched across the front of the bridge, the entire bridge crew had stared in wonder. Even Annika, who had been yawning and rubbing her eyes, had woken up, spellbound by the sight of her home planet.

The Melbourne was graceful as it approached the massive Spacedock orbital complex. Sunlight glinted off the hull of the structure, highlighting the intricate detail of pipes and conduits that snaked their way across the outer surface.

"Approach Control, this is Melbourne," said the communications officer. "Ready for docking maneuvers."

"Melbourne is cleared for docking," came the response.

"Lock on," said Ross.

A split appeared in the side of the upper section as the massive spacedoors parted to admit the Excelsior class vessel into the inner hanger.

"Systems locked," reported the conn.

"Spacedock, you have control," said Ross.

"Affirmative, Melbourne," reported traffic control. "We have you."

"Melbourne acknowledges," said Ross.

Tractor beams reached out from the outer rim of Spacedock's upper disk, taking hold of the Melbourne and guiding the starship towards the main space doors.

Sloan turned to the Hansens and smiled, winking at Annika. She smiled shyly and hid behind her mother, embarrassed.

The Melbourne slipped easily between the massive doors, and the tractor beams mounted on the berthing station reached out to take over from the main emitters. Gently, the starship was guided towards the dock. Floodlights illuminated the hull as the Melbourne maneuvered towards her assigned berth.

"Approaching bay four," said the conn officer. "Mooring beams are active."

The Melbourne continued past a plethora of other ships already docked in nearby berths. Many were here for repairs, and others were scheduled for routine maintenance. Magnus looked at those in the nearby docking bays.

The Excelsior class Al-Batani was being refitted for a science mission to the Arias Sector, near Klingon space. It was to participate in a scientific program with a Klingon ship in an effort to help bridge the few remaining gaps between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Magnus had heard a lot about this mission, set to be commanded by Captain Paris. Peace talks with the Klingons were entering their final stages, and they were the cause of quite a bit of excitement .

The Nebula class Phoenix had been the second Nebula class vessel built. The Nebula class vessels had not only been an important testbed for key components of the new Galaxy class spaceframe, but had also proven themselves to be an extremely adaptable vessel. Their modular design made mission specialization very simple, and also made the ship easy to maintain. Very rarely were Nebula class ships in dock for more than a week, and on those rare occasions that they were, it generally meant that a major system was being overhauled. Looking at the ship, Magnus wondered how long it would be sitting in the dock.

The Ambassador class Excalibur was also docked nearby. Now that the territorial dispute between the Gorn and the Federation had been resolved, the two powers were working together. The Excalibur had just returned from a tour of duty near Gorn space, where a colony had been constructed on the planet Cestus III .

Magnus could also see numerous smaller vessels, including a Sydney class transport vessel, an Oberth class vessel (he briefly wondered if it was the Hawking) and nearby, an Armstrong class vessel. As the Melbourne went past the small ship, he saw the registry on the side: NAR-32450, but he didn't recognize the registry and couldn't make out the name.

"Stand by umbilical and gravitational support systems," said Ross as the docking bay filled the screen.

"Aye, sir," said the conn officer. "All systems standing by. Mooring systems have been activated."

Beneath them, the ship seemed to shudder ever so slightly, and Magnus felt the soft clunk as the docking bridges extended to connect with the Melbourne's hull.

"Umbilicals read green," said the conn. "Docking systems at one hundred percent."

Captain Ross looked around at the bridge crew. "Welcome home, people," he said.

*

After the Melbourne had docked, Magnus and Erin returned to their quarters for the night. They were woken at 0600 hours ship time by Mister Sloan asking them to report to the main shuttlebay on Spacedock. They woke Annika, who grumbled profusely about the early morning, and after a quick breakfast, they left their quarters.

"I don't suppose Sloan has told you anything, Magnus?" asked Erin as they walked down the hallway of the Melbourne, headed for airlock three to cross the gangplank to Spacedock. Magnus thought it somewhat amusing that even after all these centuries, people still referred to them as gangplanks, even though they bore only the most superficial resemblance to their ancient counterparts.

"I'm afraid not," Magnus said, as they stepped into a turbolift.

"Daddy, carry me," said Annika tiredly, yawning and rubbing her eyes. "I'm tired."

"You can sleep on the shuttle, muffin," Magnus said. "Airlock three."

"Hold turbolift!"

"Hold," Erin said quickly, and Sloan came running up.

"Thank you very much," Sloan said, stepping into the lift.

"You're welcome," Erin said. "Airlock three as well, Mister Sloan?"

"Yes, thank you," said Sloan. "And please, call me Luther. Mister Sloan sounds so formal. Admiral Jameson has just informed me that he has to beam straight down to Earth to meet with the Federation President, but he expects to be ready to meet you when you arrive on Earth." Annika yawned and Sloan looked down at her. "Hello, Annika," he said.

"Hi," Annika said tiredly.

"How old are you, Annika?"

"Four."

Sloan smiled. "Oh, a big girl."

"She'll be five in June," said Magnus.

"So not long to go before your birthday?" said Sloan.

"No," said Annika, failing to stifle a yawn.

The doors opened and they stepped out into a hallway that looked identical to the one where they had caught the turbolift. Magnus found it hard to understand how the crews of these ships could ever find their way around. One part of a ship looked much like all the other parts.

"Do you have any children, Luther?" asked Erin as the four of them entered the short gangplank that connected the Melbourne to Spacedock.

"I do, actually," said Sloan. "My wife and I had a baby boy just a few months ago."

"That's wonderful," said Erin.

Sloan smiled. "Yeah, I love spending time with the little tyke." He lowered his voice in a playful attempt at being secretive. "Actually, my wife was hoping for a daughter. She's always wanted a little girl named Lily."

Magnus smiled. "Lily Sloan?"

"Yes," said Sloan with a laugh. "Ever since she started working at the Advanced Starship Design Bureau, Jessie's become a big fan of Doctor Cochrane's ." They left the gangplank and stepped into the Spacedock turbolift. "Shuttlebay," said Sloan. "Section Alpha two four."

Magnus looked at Sloan, an expression of mild surprise. "You're coming to Earth as well?" he asked as the lift began moving.

"Yes," said Sloan. "Admiral Jameson asked me to accompany you. Besides, I have some business on Earth." He looked down at Annika. "Is Annika going to be with the day care facilities at Starfleet Headquarters?"

"She'll be staying with a relative," said Erin. "Her Aunt Irene."

"Oh, your sister?"

"Mine," said Magnus. "She's in Australia."

"Ah," said Sloan.

"Do you have any relatives here on Earth, Luther?" asked Erin.

"Me?" said Sloan. "My wife and son are on Earth. In Seattle."

"Are you going to be visiting them while you're here?" asked Erin.

"I hope so," said Sloan. "I'll be rather busy helping Admiral Jameson, but I'll try to get away for a day or two."

The Spacedock turbolift slowed to a stop and the doors hissed open. Erin, who was expecting to see another corridor, gasped and stepped back when she saw the massive shuttlebay stretching away from her. Along the side of the cavernous chamber, a row of massive doors rose to the ceiling that stretched away above them.

"My God!" she exclaimed. "I've never seen anything like this!"

"One of the biggest shuttlebays in the Federation," said Sloan. "When it was built in 2277, it made the Guinness Book of Galactic Records. Largest shuttlebay in the known universe back then."

"How big is it?" asked Erin.

"It runs nearly fifteen kilometers all the way around the outer edge of the main Spacedock hanger," said Sloan.

"Unbelievable," Erin said quietly. She shook her head. "We're going to have a hell of a walk to our shuttle."

"Actually, I've arranged it so we have less than thirty meters to walk," said Sloan. "Although the placement of the turbolifts is designed so that the furthest you'd have to walk is less than seventy meters."

"Oh, thank God for that," said Erin.

Sloan gestured towards a type seven shuttle. "This way, Doctors," he said, leading them towards it.

They climbed up the embarkation ramp and entered the shuttle. Magnus noticed a pair of Starfleet officers in gold uniforms talking quietly in the back of the shuttle. He thought they might have been engineers, but then he noticed the phasers at their hips. They were security. As the Hansens entered the shuttle, the guards looked up and went silent.

Annika ignored them and went straight to the nearest seat and sat down. She was asleep within seconds.

"Good afternoon," said the pilot, turning back and smiling at them as they stepped in. "If you'll please take your seats, we'll be on our way."

"Afternoon?" said Magnus. "I thought it was early morning."

Sloan leaned forward and whispered into Magnus's ear. "We're on San Francisco time here, not Melbourne time."

"Ah," said Magnus as he sat down.

As Erin sat down beside him, he leaned to her. "Erin," he said quietly.

"Yes, Magnus?" she said.

"The guards at the back," he said.

"What about them?"

"The way they reacted when we came aboard. They were speaking, but as soon as we arrived, they stopped. They're here because of us, no doubt."

"Why don't you ask Sloan about it?" Erin suggested.

Magnus turned back to speak to Sloan who was sitting in the chair behind him. "Excuse me, Luther?"

Sloan looked up from the padd he was reading. "Yes, Doctor Hansen?"

"I was wondering why we need guards on a shuttle flight when we're only going to Earth," said Magnus. "It's a ten minute flight."

"Security," said Sloan.

So they are here because of us, thought Magnus, but he didn't say those words. Instead, he asked, "If security is a problem, why aren't we just beaming down?"

"Security," Sloan repeated, and he turned his attention back to the padd in his hands.

Magnus thought, trying to figure out what could be so important that Starfleet felt that it would be too dangerous to travel by transporter. It had been years since anyone had died in a transporter accident. The only risk that Magnus could think of was if someone used a rematerialization detonator, but there'd have to be a very good reason for someone to do that.

*

The shuttle banked gracefully downwards as it left the main shuttlebay of Spacedock, angling towards the Earth. Before long, the viewport at the front of the shuttle glowed orange as they entered Earth's atmosphere. Just as quickly as it began, the glow dissipated and they were descending over the continent of North America, heading northwards to San Francisco.

Magnus looked over at Annika, who was sleeping soundly in the seat across the aisle from him. He was tempted to wake her so she could see the city from the air, but he decided not to. Sleeping, she looked too beautiful to wake. Magnus looked out the window, gazing over at the great orange span of the Golden Gate Bridge, the pylons glowing brightly in the afternoon sun. Then they turned, cutting across the bay and flying over the Cetacean Institute in Sausalito .

Magnus looked down and saw the fleet of research vehicles docked at the wharf. For a moment, Magnus wondered why they were flying in this great circle, then he realised that as this was a commercial flight from Spacedock, it would not have the priority to land immediately at the shuttle pads.

Then he wondered why they would be taking a commercial flight, before realising that if they travelled on an official flight, then their names would be listed in computer records, whereas on a commercial flight their names would not be required. It seemed that Starfleet was going to great trouble to make sure that their names would not be listed in computer records.

They banked and flew over the grounds shared by Starfleet Headquarters and the Academy on the southern side of the Golden Gate, and far below him, Magnus could see cadets moving like little black dots highlighted by red.

"Ladies and gentlemen," came a voice over the shuttle's internal communications system, "we will shortly be arriving at Fisherman's Wharf. Please prepare to disembark from the shuttle."

"Erin," said Magnus.

Erin looked up from the padd she was reading. "Yes, Magnus?"

"We're about to land, honey," he said.

"Oh, alright," she said. She looked over at her daughter. "It's a shame to wake Annika."

"We could leave her in the shuttle," said Magnus, "but I don't think they'd let us." He leaned over towards Annika. "Annika, muffin, time to wake up."

Annika stirred, then opened her eyes. "What is it, papa?" she asked tiredly.

"We're there, Annika," Magnus said.

Annika sat up and looked out the window at the wharves below her as the shuttle turned. "Wow," she whispered.

Up in the cockpit, Magnus saw the pilot activate the communication system. "Fisherman's Wharf control, this is ST-321, requesting permission to land."

"ST-321," came the reply, "permission granted. You have been cleared for bay five."

The shuttle landed smoothly on the pad. The door opened, and as Sloan rose from his seat, he commented on the skill of the pilot. "The landings can be a little rough sometimes, coming in over the bay. Glad to see we got a good pilot."

Sloan led the Hansens out onto the wharf, and behind them, the two security officers got off as well. Magnus noticed this out of the corner of his eye, but he didn't react to it. He was getting rather suspicious about this whole affair, but he knew that if he asked Sloan about it he would get just another excuse.

They went to the transporter stations, a row of a dozen or so two person platforms built against a wall inside the terminal. Alongside each one a technician stood beside a console. There were people using some of the pads, but others stood empty. The Hansens went up to one of the clear pads.

Sloan stepped forward. "Are you transporting Annika alone?" he asked quietly. "I can have one of the guards go with her if you'd like."

"It's fine, thank you, Mister Sloan," said Magnus. "We're beaming her straight to my sister's house."

"Ah," said Sloan.

Erin gave the coordinates to the operator and asked for a channel to the destination.

"Channel open," said the operator and Irene's face appeared on the small screen built into the console.

"Hello, Irene," said Erin.

"Erin! Magnus!" said Irene. "It's good to see the two of you."

"It's good to see you too, Irene," said Magnus. "Are you ready for Annika?"

"Of course," said Irene. "I've got the guest room all ready for her."

"Great," said Erin. "We're about to beam her over now. Magnus and I will come over as well if we get the chance."

"I'd love that," said Irene. "The Mountains are beautiful this time of year."

"I'm sure they are," said Erin. "We'll beam Annika now. Speak to you soon."

"I look forward to it," said Irene. "It was good to see the two of you again."

"Bye, Irene," said Erin.

"Take care, Sis," said Magnus.

The screen went dark as the channel was closed.

"Ready Annika?" asked Magnus, bending down to give her a hug.

"Yes papa," she said.

"Be a good girl, Annika," said Erin. "We'll speak to you everyday."

Annika picked up her bag and stepped up to the platform. She looked nervous; it was only the second time in her life that she had travelled by transporter, and she still felt uneasy about it.

"Ready, honey?" Magnus asked.

Annika nodded nervously.

"Energize," said Magnus.

Behind him, Magnus heard the operator tap the controls, and then he saw Annika disappear in a haze of blue.

Magnus looked up at the departure board, scanning it for the air tram they'd be travelling on to Starfleet Headquarters. "We've got ten minutes before our tram leaves," he said. "Not enough time to look around the city."

"I suppose we could wait on the tram," said Erin.

"It's more comfortable in the departure lounge, doctors," said Sloan.

Erin looked at Magnus, a confused look on her face, and he understood how she felt. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why Sloan didn't want them to wait on the tram.

*

They followed Sloan to the departure lounge, and Magnus noticed the two guards following them yet again. As before, they maintained a discreet distance, but their presence was noticeable nonetheless.

Magnus and Erin sat on the benches that ran the length of the air tram platform, while Sloan excused himself to make a call to Starfleet. The security guards were standing about ten meters away. Erin watched them carefully, and she was somewhat surprised when one of them lifted up a tricorder and surreptitiously scanned the tram.

Erin turned to Magnus and spoke quietly. "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That security officer," said Erin. "That one who's been with us since we left Spacedock. He just scanned the tram we'll be travelling on."

"Scanned?" said Magnus. "Are you sure?"

"Magnus, I know what a tricorder scan looks like."

"Why would he do that?" said Magnus. "Do you think we should ask Sloan?"

"Why bother?" said Erin. "He'd just say it's for security."

Magnus shrugged. "Maybe we'll find out at Starfleet," he said.

But Erin knew now why Sloan hadn't wanted them to wait on the tram. It seemed that Starfleet was going to extraordinary lengths to assure their safety.

They stepped onto the tram with a few other people, but the tram itself was relatively empty. Magnus wondered if Sloan had arranged this. Granted, he wouldn't have been able to make sure that the tram was empty, but it would be relatively easy to find out when the trams were in less demand and schedule their trip for that time.
The tram left the terminal only a few minutes after they had gotten on and they headed out over the Bay. They passed the island of Alcatraz, once a prison and now a park for children , and then banked sharply to the right, sweeping low over the waters of San Francisco Bay.
Magnus looked out the window, gazing up at the mirror blue building of Starfleet Headquarters that towered above them before the view was lost as the tram swept inside the terminal built under Telegraph Hill. It settled to a stop alongside the platform and the doors opened with a soft hiss. The passengers inside stood and made their way towards the exit at the front of the tram.

Magnus, Erin and Sloan were among the last to leave, save for the guards who remained nearby as always. They stepped out into the high domed interior of the terminal, Sloan leading them up the escalators and out through the great glass doors into the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters.

Erin, who had never been in the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters, gazed in astonishment. Paths meandered through neatly manicured lawns, lazily drifting around garden beds resplendent with spectra of flowers. Trees reached towards the sky, branches grasping like fingers at the invisible worlds that circled above. Ahead of them was the Starfleet Headquarters Administration Complex, the glass shining in the afternoon sun.

Sloan indicated a group of buildings about half a kilometer away across the grounds. "That's the Academy," he said. "We might see the Academy marathon team training. At the moment, they're practicing for the run on Danula II. They're giving good odds on a freshman by the name of Riker who has a chance at winning this year. Personally, I don't think he has a chance."

They continued walking through the grounds, following the path as it meandered around the gardens, and as always, the guards followed at a respectful distance. They passed cadets and officers carrying padds and various pieces of equipment between buildings. They could see the occasional cadet running towards the Academy buildings.

"Must be late for class," said Magnus.

"Must be," said Erin.

One of the late cadets cut across a garden bed nearby, leaving a trail of flowers lying on the dirt, leaves torn and petals crushed in her rush. The gardener working nearby, a weathered man who was getting on in years, stood and shook his fist at the unruly cadet.

They continued along the path up to the entry of the administration building, and as they walked up the steps the big glass doors slid open to admit them. Inside, the environmental systems kept a constant temperature that was a relief compared to the spring heat outside.

They walked through a large foyer. In the middle was an indoor garden with tall palms that reached up towards the large glass skylight many floors above them. Ferns and flowers carpeted the floor of the garden, and a ring of benches extended around the grove. Erin looked up. Elevators ran up the sides of the lobby, their glass walls giving excellent views of the foyer.

At the far end of the foyer was the main desk, and on the wall behind it was a large map of the Earth. They approached the desk, and their footsteps echoed on the marble floor.

The ensign who staffed the desk looked up as they approached her. "Good afternoon, Mister Sloan," she said. "Admiral Jameson has already arrived and is waiting for you downstairs. Should I tell him that you have arrived?"

"Yes please," said Sloan. "Tell him we are on our way down."

"Yes sir," said the ensign. As they walked away from the desk, they could hear the ensign speaking softly into the companel.

Sloan led the Hansens to a turbolift on the wall to the side of the desk. They stepped inside, and Erin was surprised to notice that the guards remained outside.

Apparently we don't need them any more, she thought.

"Sub level six," Sloan said as the doors closed behind them.

"Identify for retinal scan," said the computer.

Erin looked at Magnus in surprise.

Sloan leaned forward, placing his left eye in front of a red square on the wall. The square glowed, and for a moment, Sloan's face was lit red. "Sloan, Luther," he said. "Internal Affairs."

"State clearance code."

"Sloan five alpha tango four," he said. He placed his hand on a panel on the wall of the lift. The panel flashed, and Erin realised it was a DNA scan.

The turbolift started moving downwards, and Sloan turned to the Hansens. "After the briefing, you'll be getting access codes of your own."

When the lift stopped, they were in a coldly lit corridor that smelled of recycled air and disinfectants. They stepped out, following Sloan down the harsh white corridor. They passed windows, and through them, they could see people working in labs, wearing white clean suits and studying pieces of strange debris.

"You'll be working here after the briefing," said Sloan.

Some way down the corridor, Sloan stopped them in front of a wide door. He tapped the intercom panel beside it and spoke. "Admiral Jameson, may we come in?"

"Of course, Mister Sloan," came the response, and the doors hissed open.

The room behind the doors was quite bare, with nothing to give it a personality of its own. There were no personal mementos, no pictures hanging on the walls, not even a potted plant in the corner. The only light came from cold fixtures mounted in the ceiling, casting a harsh illumination over the room. In the middle of the room was a long conference table, again, very bare. Admiral Jameson was sitting at the head of the table, a small pile of padds sitting in front of him. He looked up when they entered and smiled when he saw the Hansens.

"Ah, Magnus, Erin, it's good to see you again," he said, rising and walking over to them to shake their hands. "I apologize for my absence while we were on the Melbourne, but it couldn't be helped. Now, I must remind you that what I am about to say is classified material, and top secret. Very few people are aware of what has happened, and they have all been sworn to secrecy."

Magnus and Erin shared a brief glance. "We understand," Magnus said.

"Good," said Jameson. "Please, sit down."

Magnus and Erin sat down on one side of the table, Sloan sitting on the other side. Jameson handed a padd to each of them, then activated the large monitor on the wall. It displayed a star system that neither Magnus nor Erin was familiar with.

"Approximately eight weeks ago, an event occurred in the Tentak system which has placed the entire Federation on alert," he said. "All Starfleet vessels and outposts have been placed on increased alert status, the entire Tentak system has been declared off limits, and the Federation President herself has spoken to our allies informing them of our situation."

"And what exactly is our situation?" asked Magnus.

"I'll put it bluntly," Jameson said. "Eight weeks ago, the Federation mining station on Tentak IV was destroyed. All three hundred and fifty nine people stationed on the planet are presumed to have been killed in the attack."

"Oh, dear God," Erin whispered.

Jameson brought up a display of Tentak IV on the wall monitor. "This is the scan taken by the Kyushu, the first ship to arrive at the planet after the distress call was received. It was taken approximately five hours after the attack. You can see the level of destruction is absolute."

"Absolute?" said Magnus. "How can it be absolute? Even the most thorough attack leaves some wreckage, some form of debris. Even energy residue or weapons signatures."

Jameson sighed. "Doctor, the entire base was removed. The captain of the Kyushu described it as if there had been a great hand that scooped the base of the face of the planet."

"There was no wreckage at all?" Magnus asked quietly.

"Not from the base, no," said Jameson. "But the Kyushu did pick up a number of pieces that were in orbit. The engineering teams identified them as coming from two space vessels. A Ju'Day class ship and what we presume is the attacking vessel. The wreckage is currently being analysed in the labs you passed on the way in. Your assignment is to study it."

Magnus leaned forward. "I'm sorry, Admiral," he said, "but we don't usually do this sort of thing. We're exobiologists, but this is the sort of thing that is better off being done by a team of engineers."

"We've already got a team of engineers looking at the wreckage," said Jameson.

"So what do you want us for?" asked Erin.

"The engineers can't tell us what we need to know, Doctor," said Jameson. "They can tell us what and how, but not why. We need to know about the attackers. And that's what we want you to do. Examine the wreckage and put together a report on them. Vulnerabilities, sociological structure, that sort of thing. Anything and everything you can find out. You have experience with anthropology as well as exobiology. The Federation President feels that you are the best possible people for this sort of work."

Erin shared a look with Magnus and sighed.

"Okay," said Magnus. "Will we have the opportunity to make any field observations?"

"No," said Jameson quickly.

"Why not?" asked Erin. "There are things that we can only learn from firsthand observations."

"Unfortunately," said Jameson, "we have no information on the current location of the attackers. It is most likely that they have left Federation space."

"The Tentak system is near the border with Romulan space," Magnus said, looking at the starmap on the screen. "There's only fifty light years between them. Could this be their work?"

"We doubt it," said Jameson. "It doesn't fit in with what we know of Romulan strategies. They aren't the sort to make the first move, especially with an attack of this magnitude."

"And besides," said Sloan, "we have had no verifiable contact with the Romulans in over thirty years."

"What about the Enterprise?" asked Magnus .

Sloan leaned forward with a dangerous look on his face. "The reports that the Enterprise was destroyed by Romulans are just rumours," he said in a low voice. "There is absolutely no evidence to support them. None at all."

Erin decided to change the subject. "Will we have access to the reports written by the Kyushu's crew?" she asked.

"Captain Berkelly's report is on your padd," said Sloan. "If you have need of any further information, come and speak to either myself or Admiral Jameson. You will be granted supervised access to our computer libraries."

"You can start your work on the wreckage tomorrow morning," said Jameson. "You'll be expected at oh nine hundred. If you meet Mister Sloan at the administration desk, he'll give you the access codes you'll be using and take you to the labs so you can begin work."

"Alright," said Magnus. "Is there anything else we should know?"

"Yes," said Sloan. "You will be under constant surveillance by Starfleet security."

"What?" exclaimed Erin. "You'll be spying on us?"

Jameson held up his hands. "Of course not," he said. "It's merely a security measure. I'm sure you understand the sensitivity of this assignment. If word got out about the event in the Tentak system, there would certainly be people who would have a vested interest in preventing the Federation learning about the attackers. And if we can't find out about them, then we can't develop any defences against them."

"Do you think we would try to sabotage the research being carried out here?" asked Magnus.

"No, not at all," said Jameson. "It's to protect you from forces who might want to prevent your research." Jameson did seem shocked at the idea that he would be spying on the Hansens, though Erin suspected that part of the reason for the constant guard was to keep an eye on them.

"Who in the world would want to do that?" asked Erin. "And why would that require an armed guard? We're on Earth for crying out loud."

"There could be any number of potential threats," said Sloan. "Including the Klingons. Ever since we allied with them, Federation security has identified numerous Klingon agents known to be against the treaty. I'm sure you are familiar with the events surrounding the Khitomer Conferences sixty years ago . There are still elements in the Klingon government that are opposed to the peace accords. They would be very pleased if we weren't able to get information about potential threat forces."

Magnus nodded. "Fair enough," he said. It was a lie, of course. It wasn't fair, but what else could he say?

Jameson and Sloan stood. "Very well," said Jameson. "We'll see you tomorrow morning at oh nine hundred."

"We'll be here," said Magnus.

"If you'll follow Mister Sloan, he'll show you back to the air tram terminal," said Jameson. "I understand you have a house in the city."

"Yes," said Erin. "In the Mission District."

"A beautiful area," said Jameson. "Good afternoon, Doctors."

Sloan led them out the door and back to the lift, leaving their side only when they arrived at the air tram terminal. They didn't have long to wait, and they were glad when they were free of Sloan. Even though he was pleasant and softly spoken, there was something about his manner that Erin found suspicious. She couldn't put her finger on it, but she found it irksome. As they were sped towards the tram station in the Mission District, she turned to Magnus.

"Did you believe what Sloan said?" she asked quietly. "About our protection? It sounds a little far fetched if you ask me." She looked around, but she couldn't see any security personnel. She realised that they were there, they just weren't in uniform.

"Not for a moment," said Magnus. "They're watching us, no doubt."

They were quiet for the rest of the trip.
Go and read my fan fic "The Hansen Diaries"! And leave comments!
Tiberius
Lieutenant jg
Lieutenant jg
 
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Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:45 am

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