If we can get just a bit lower …
Wilde: How much lower?
shuttlecraft dipped and then leveled as they reached a new stable
Keneth tried to hide the momentary sickness he felt at the plunge.
had never been his
Nakada: Not much, not much … aha! There! ::pointing at screen::
Wilde: ::Examining the scans.:: Well? I don't see anything out of the ordinary, the caves look perfect for shelter and water collection.
Nakada: Exactly, too perfect. More like artificial tunnels than caves and caverns. The rest of them were normal, but under this crater …
random rock formations had suddenly transformed into
a system of perfectly
to stretch beyond
their sensor range.
That was a
piece of infrastructure, which again made him question what the real
the mysterious planetoid.
Though he disagreed with scientists on many things, they were
definitely not the boring variety. He’d seen it many times in his
– they would go to
ridiculous lengths to satisfy their
Lengths that had even
He shuddered. If they were here, they had good reason.
Wilde: I see. I wonder what could have made them if they're artificial?
He avoided the urge to speculate. The last thing they needed was rumors and there was a more interesting and possibly alarming discovery to share anyway.
Nakada: There is water inside, at least from this density measurement.
Wilde: At least that's a start. Is it clean? I mean, is it drinkable?
Nakada: I mean, it’s a perfect one gram per milliliter in density, so pure water molecules.
Which was unheard of in natural environments. Even their water filters couldn’t do that. You would need either lab equipment or a replicator to achieve that level of purity. Which raised the question of where a perfectly formed pipe with impossibly clean water came on a desert planet.
Wilde: I'm sure the Captain will be pleased. Okay, let's drop a navigational beacon here so we can triangulate the water source later.
Nakada: ::slightly distracted:: Good idea. I think we should move on, don’t want to attract any attention.
A brief glance at the tactical display showed an increase in radiation in their general direction, possibly from scanning beams. It would not bode well to raise suspicions right now.
The shuttle beamed the beacon to the designated coordinates and they moved on, an uneasy sensation tingling at the back of his skull.
((Timewarp – One Hour Later))
Keneth rocked back and forth on the seat as they slowly drifted back to where they started. The rest of the planet had been uninteresting, nothing to suggest it wasn’t a of meaningless chunk of rock. Which raised more questions than it answered. There was some sort of event being hosted at the base and he was already planning to do some snooping. Speaking of which ...
Wilde: Atlas Base is coming up. I think we better head back to the Arrow.
Nakada: I’ll signal the ship.
Wilde: Well it's been really nice spending some time with you, Keneth. I've enjoyed this little trip.
He frowned, that was a bit formal. Had he been that bad a companion? Well, you haven’t talked a single thing in twenty minutes. He’d been completely preoccupied with the suspicious scans and his seemingly futile attempt to recreate caffeinated hot chocolate. Yet Regan had been very nice to him and it would be remiss to scare him away from ever spending time with him again.
Nakada: Likewise, thank you for bringing me along! I’m sorry I’ve been silent the whole time - finally got to relax for the first time in a while.
Wilde: I'm glad. And my door is always open if you want to talk about anything. I got the impression earlier that you had a lot on your mind.
It was a generous offer. Perhaps … he considered it for a second. Not yet, he decided.
Nakada: Thank you for the offer, I do have a lot on my mind. :: smiling :: I’m fine for now though. Of course the counter offer also stands, I’m an excellent sounding board! Letting it out can be very relieving.
Wilde: Absolutely. Sometimes you just need to bend someone's ear a little.
He grinned, tapping the console impatiently. It lit up as the Arrow cleared them for return. He could make out the outlines of the small vessel in the distance, and those of a number of other ships in various orbits, slowly drifting with bated breath. Nobody had moved, or reacted yet. It was massive tinderbox just waiting for a flame.
They were peacefully waltzing towards the ship, still a good five hundred kilometers away, when the pilots’ console began rapidly beeping.
Wilde: I think we've got a problem.
Nakada: What’s happening?
He fumbled to get his own console active as the incessant noise continued. The cabin lights had turned a dark shade of red as they entered alert status. He tapped a button and the alarm stopped, letting him think again.
Wilde: We've just lost the telemetry from the beacon. ::He checked the sensors.:: It's been destroyed...
Oh for … he scratched his eyebrow as he brought up the information. That was bold move. One ship or twenty, robbing Starfleet was almost unheard of. Of course, he corrected himself, that was in Federation space, not out in the wilderness.
Nakada: No debris, so more like snatched away than destroyed. Maybe a scavenger looking for salvage?
He knew it was dubious even as he said it. It was incredibly unlikely any of the ships that had been silently orbiting for days would have become so aggressive … at least not without something to hide. It spoke volumes about the situation that the best case scenario was pirates. He suddenly felt very cold and trapped in the small vessel.
Nakada: I think we should get back. This is better investigated from the ship.
Serinus: =/\= Serinus to Wilde. =/\=
Keneth jumped as the voice suddenly intruded on their silence. Why was the volume so loud?!
Wilde: =/\= response =/\=
Serinus: =/\= How goes the survey? =/\=
Wilde: =/\= response =/\=
Well that was one way of putting it.
Serinus: =/\= I see. I'd like a brief as soon as you return. We have a new project from the XO, that you, the NCOs, and myself will need to discuss, as well. =/\=
Wilde: =/\= response =/\=
He suddenly felt extremely self-conscious as though he was listening in on a personal conversation. Which he kind of was, but he doubted that he had heard anything of particular interest.
Serinus: =/\= You're correct. I will try to calm down some before you arrive. Serinus out. =/\=
The line blinked out of existence, leaving them with one more reason to get back soon. The uneasy feeling had spread. Keneth was increasingly convinced that someone was watching them and they were most definitely not friends. And that was ignoring the continuing upward creep in the radiation readings – almost like a constant low level scanning beam. He upped the shield strength as the Regan shuttle turned around, their speed much higher this time.
It was possible their opponent had just slipped. Taking the probe had confirmed at the very least that they were onto something, that their suspicions didn’t amount to a mere delusion.
The subdued light of the now illuminated shuttlebay filled his eyes as they set down on the floor with a muffled thud. He reached up and sealed the bay doors. Suddenly the force field didn’t feel so secure. The pilot seemed in a rush, possibly because of his recent summons by Lieutenant Serinus. In some ways, it was fun to report directly to the captain and first officer. No department heads to deal with. On the other hand, So. Much. Paperwork.
Nakada: Hey, you can go ahead. I can finish up here.
He nodded as he walked to the back of the vessel, opening the sensor compartment and removing the three isolinear chips with the log data on them. It would be easier to work with them directly and he was sure there would be something on there that could lead them to an answer. He sighed as he put the cover back on. This mission was just getting started.
Ensign Keneth Nakada
USS Arrow, NCC-69829