Chapter 12: The Dead Planet
The ride down was uneventful in Merin’s mind. She helmed the shuttle rather than having a pilot join the team. While she was nowhere near as good as Hanmore, she was good in a few areas. None of which truly mattered at this point in time.
Entering the atmosphere and closing in on the city, the first thing her eye caught was the mountains a good distance away. They towered in the horizon as if daring any to try and cross. And the ruins of the ship that had come plummeting through the atmosphere lay as a testimony that even the sky belonged to them.
The ruins of the city that the ship had crashed into late far away from the mountains. According to her calculations the encounter with the mountain had forced the ship to gain altitude before continuing its plummet. “It’s interesting that such an advanced civilization still made use of marble and stone,” she commented.
“Do not underestimate what can be done with stone,” said Tanock, a Tellurite security officer. “Properly made stone structures stand the test of time better than almost any other material.”
Briar was quiet, unsure what to make of it from so far above and afraid to speculate.
“Any decent landing spots?” Merin asked. Her eyes told her of several but maybe the sensors showed something else that she could not see.
Briar highlighted part of the emerging map that scans were constructing. “There’s one that looks like it might have once been a spaceport, intended for landing…”
“Sounds good,” Merin said as she moved the shuttle to the designated place. “Hard to believe that this culture has so much rock and marble compared to more advanced material.”
“Maybe they gained advanced methods for carving into the rock, or constructing with it.” Briar suggested. “The angles and forms don’t seem as archaic as the material.”
Merin nodded. Architecture was not one of her strong suits. “If they surveyed the planet before their accident, there may be some clue as to what befell them. Let’s split into two teams and search. Survivors, memory core, local information in that order of priority.”
Tanock nodded. “Keep your phasers handy, we do not know what sort of threats this planet possesses. I have brought signal boosters for the combadges,” he handed out small power unit that clipped onto the uniform, “in case there is something here that can disrupt our broadcasts.”
Whispering a quiet “thank you,” Briar collected one for herself as the handful of them got passed around, and fixed hers appropriately, ensuring it was properly engaged.
Gavin watched the screen in front of him, tuning out the conversation about stone and marble. Phasers could vaporize rock, that’s all he needed to know. He had one interest in all of this… what would make a Starfleet Captain scuttle a perfectly good ship…? What a waste. Whatever it was had to be bad. And that’s where he came in. Baddies cringed at the name of Gavin McWest. It’s true, he’d watched them do it. He locked eyes with his fellow Security Officer and tightened his grip on his phaser rifle as they began their descent.
The Shuttle set down easily enough and everyone began unlatching their restraints and gathering their appropriate gear, heading to the ramp to disembark. Briar had a weighty sense of dread but moved to pick up her own kit and threaded her head through the strap. She checked her sidearm to be sure it was secure, but it was her tricorder she kept at hand as she moved outside with the shuttle team and came shoulder to shoulder with Mez.
Nurse Felicity Kim wasn’t as focused on the Starfleet equipment. If they found injured, she was confident in her abilities. But the ship held no interest for her. Rather she enjoyed the thrill of being on an away mission and the ruins. She had a poor understanding of anthropology which was probably the reason why she’d gotten this plumb assignment over more senior officers. Compared to Federation worlds, this one’s starport was very open air. The walls still held stone statues and faded murals could still be seen. It was obvious that they put a lot of emphasis on bright colors and grand figures.
Her gaze was interrupted by a sight and she blurted out, “Careful commander.” Her warning was on time, but still Commander Mez struggled with the loose ground. Felicity had to give her some credit that she was graceful in her recovery. But the woman’s face looked frustrated at her scanner.
Exiting the shuttle was a relief for Gavin. Recirculated cabin air is always stuffy. Had a lot of officers in that little shuttle anyway. He loved breathing alien air. Every planet he’d been on had had its own special scent. This one was no different. It was musty. Smelled like there was dust in the air, even though his tricorder said it was minimal. His spidey senses tingled. There was something else going on here, but his tricorder wasn’t helping much.
They walked on for a few minutes and Briar found her readings being less and less helpful. Frustrated, she snapped the tricorder shut and holstered it. “Readings aren’t much good here.”
“Yes, the interference is heavier the closer we get to the downed ship,” Merin replied.
“I’m sorry, I can’t even make out what the disruptions are from!” Briar said, apologetically. “It’s as if they’re being refracted and fractalized, and then suffering from a feedback signal. It might be an artificial mathematical algorithm, but it’s just as possible that there’s a component in all this rock that triggers the sensor fragmentation and data loss.”
“It’s not natural and it’s not from the ship proper. We’ll have to rely on our eyes,” she concluded. “Let’s pick up the pace, it’s about two hundred meters past that wall.”
Tanock set his tricorder to scan for energy signatures and clipped it to his belt. He moved to the far end of the line, keeping alert for dangers or survivors.
A few hundred metres behind them, a figure shifted among the rubble. A man in loose-fitting gear, grey and green and utilitarian, crouched in the dust and rocks and tracked their journey through the starport’s remains.
When he was sure they hadn’t seen him, he raised a commlink to his mouth. “Base,” he said. “Company, and they’re heading your way.”
Unknown watched (NPCed by Yearling)
Tanock (NPCed by Cielj)
Gavin McWest (NPCed by Darney)
Lt Cmdr Briar Elin, Chief of Operations
Lt. Cmdr. Merin Mez (and Nurse Felicity Kim)