Without War to Guide Me [ 40k / Star Trek ]
Summary: In the grim darkness of the future there is only war. But what happpens to a Space Marine when he is stranded in a place where his unique set of talents are neither needed, desired, or valued by humanity? What is a weapons purpose without a war to fight in?
The Pillar had been in storage at the Vulcan Archeological Archive for as long as anyone cared to remember. It was an alien artifact of dubious providence recovered from the wreckage of the Antiean civilization near the demilitarized zone between Federation and Romulan territory.
The Antieans themselves had been a race of ill repute, gifted with a talent for destruction far outstripping their own common sense or talent or long term planning. Constant experimentation with transwarp energies and other weapons of mass destruction banned throughout the civilized parts of the galaxy had ultimately caused both the extinction of the Antiean people and the utter destruction of their holdings, many thousands of years prior to even the first manned flights beyond the atmosphere of Vulcan.
Their destruction hand not missed the watchful eyes of Vulcan astronomers. Not long after the Vulcan discovery of warp travel a mission was mounted to the ruins of Antiea and the pillar was recovered from the wreckage. They tried and failed to unravel its mysteries, but not before several researchers died from tripping its internal defenses.
Neither willing to part with such a potentially valuable source of knowledge nor bold enough to risk activating a device of unknown purpose by trying to crack it open it with anything invasive, the pod stood in the bowels of the great Vulcan library. The four meter tall monolith of jet black stone sat, covered in writings hitherto undeciphered by living beings, humming with the dull rumble of an invisible energy barrier. A rumor of the undiscovered past, more than enough of an adventure to whet the appetite of even the most stoic of Vulcan minds.
It leered at them for generations, judging them, laughing at them, taunting them with the icon of a defiantly raised onyx gauntlet in the center it's dully pulsing yellow panel. In an odd way, not understanding its purpose became part of Vulcan heritage. The pillar of Antiea was the Vulcan byword for the unknowable with such phrases as “searching for meaning in the pillar of Antiea” and “answering the pillars” working their way into Vulcan common parlance for doing the impossible.
For an archeology buff like Picard, the opportunity was simply too delicious too miss. With the Enterprise in dry dock on Vulcan for a week and a backlog of long ignored shore-leave, it was foregone conclusion that he would visit to one of the great undiscovered mysteries of the universe. With his upcoming discussion of the Tagus III ruins before the Federation council, it seemed the perfect sort out outing to whet his intellectual appetite.
So it was that the Captain of the Enterprise found himself sitting in the antechamber of the Vulcan archives, waiting for the chief archeologist tasked with examining the artifact. It would be perfect if not for the actively unpleasant librarian who oversaw the waiting area. She stared down her beak-like protuberance of a nose at Picard, seemingly daring him to disturb her neatly organized literary kingdom.
Picard felt the woman's eyes burning holes in the back of his neck as he hummed happily to himself, eagerly anticipating the treat to come in spite of her unpleasantness. It had not been easy to arrange, even for a Starfleet Captain, but his credentials and his well known love of history had endeared him to the lead archeologist, Kasha Sakran.
Picards traveling companion did not share his excitement for the subject, but then the Android compensated in endless curiosity for what he lacked in emotion, “I do not understand, Captain. We will only be allowed to enter the chamber for an hour, and not permitted to engage in use of scanning devices. What do you hope to achieve in such a narrow time frame?”
“Data, I don't expect anything. This is a rare artifact that I haven't seen in person and as a member of the Archeological community I would be remiss in not taking the opportunity to observe it,” Picard sighed. Data knew so much and understood so little, in a very real way he was like a child. A brilliant child but still a child.
The Android cocked his head to the side in imitation of pensive thought, an exaggerated gesture born of imitation rather than reflex, “But Captain, have you not observed the pillar in the holodeck?”
“Yes Data,” Jean-Luc sighed. “Of course I have. But it is in human nature to desire to experience these things in person, for ourselves. We need to touch things, to feel them, to smell them before they become real to us.”
“The Pillar is behind a forcefield that no one has been able to penetrate for millennia Captain,” Data replied confusedly, “One can neither touch nor taste the pillar. Though what you hope to achieve by tasting the artifact eludes me.”
“Data that's not exactly what I –” Picard trailed off mid explanation as a stout man in the robes of an official of the Vulcan Archives strode purposefully in their direction. Jean-Luc stood up and raised his hand in the traditional greeting of the Vulcan people, spreading his fingers wide. “Live long and prosper, Professor SakranI presume.”
“Live long and prosper indeed Captain Picard,” The Vulcan bowed in reply. “Welcome to the Vulcan Archeological Archive. It is good to meet face to face. If you and your companion would care to follow me, we will be able to head directly to the artifact.”
“Yes,” Jean-Luc replied eagerly. “I would like that very much.” He waved for Data to follow as they walked across the room. The librarian stared daggers at the trio as they sidled over to a recessed section of the wall, a stationary teleportation platform used for rapid transit within the facility.
Oblivious to the Librarian's hateful stare, the archeologist pressed his hand to a panel, punching in a six digit code before Picard felt the rippling sensation of being instantly transmitted from one place to another. Supposedly one was teleported prior to the possibility of sensory input detecting the atomization and reconstruction of one's body, but Jean-Luc always felt a slight prickling tinge to let him know he'd been somewhere else not a second ago. Not something he enjoyed contemplating but perhaps it was a necessary reminder.
Picard's eyes adjusted to the near blinding light of the hermetically sealed teleportation room. He blinked stars from his retina as a flash of UV light flash fried any bacteria or contaminants he might have been covered in, blinding him for a second time.
Data, unburdened by the limits of flesh, wandered over to the wall and removed a personal shielding unit and strapped it to his waist in imitation of the Vulcan, passing a second one to his commanding officer. It was an excessive precaution perhaps, but the Vulcans were prone to prudence in the examination of the unknown.
“Thank you Mr. Data,” Picard said as he flipped the activator switch on the device, channeling a faint green film of protective energies around his body. He tentatively grabbed for the guard rail on the teleportation platform, reaffirming that he'd set the shield to a reactive rather than a hard-light setting so as not to prevent him from touching things around him before attaching the machine to his belt, taking care to note the shield frequency of his unit.
The Vulcan archeologist, never one to leave something to chance, explained to the rules of the facility to them as they waited for the chamber to pressurize. “The pillar is not to be photographed or scanned in any way. It is not to be sent electronic transmissions of any kind without first submitting a proposal to do so to the Vulcan Archeological Council for approval. And while touching is not prohibited, the side effects of doing so have historically been unpleasant.”
“Unpleasant how?” Queried Data interestedly.
“It is not a conventional forcefield as we use them,” The Archeologist waved his fingers along Data's arm, causing the two shields to sputter and repel each other. “We create a layer or layers of energetic distortion to cause a high rate of gravitons to be projected in a specific area. When I try to penetrate the energy screen I am repelled by the force of the barrier. The pillar operates on a different principal. It does not repel anything, just the opposite, it tears anything trying to pierce the barrier apart on a subatomic level and disperses it – ” The Vulcan's lip curled in distaste, “– organic material included.”
Picard cringed at the idea of having his fingers shredded at as subatomic level while he was conscious, “That is probably for the best.”
“Can I safely assume that tasting is not an option either?” Data queried, oblivious to the scandalized look on Sakran's face at the idea of it.
“I think I can resist the urge if you can Mr. Data.” Jean-Luc chortled good naturally as the airlock's forcefield shimmered and dissipated, allowing the trio entry into the chamber. Sakran, probably writing it off as pointless off-world humor, didn't comment on the exchange.
The room was relatively empty beyond a few tables for researchers to work on, and the artifact itself. Archeological instruments of every type Picard knew of, as well as a number he couldn't even begin to place were spread out on the tables lining the wall with the sort of meticulous precision generally reserved for surgical procedures. It was only by the care-worn hand marks on the oldest of the manual devices that one could even tell that they'd ever been used at all.
“How often are people in here to observe the pillar?” Data asked as he ran his fingers over an ancient manual measuring device, in an apparently futile attempt to divine special meaning via tactile interaction.
“Last week perhaps? There are a limited number of us qualified to examine it. And since we decided re-allocate resources towards trying to track the providence of recovered Bajoran artifacts from the Cardassain worlds, even fewer,” Sakran sighed. “The Federation is understandably eager to return as many of those as are possible to please the Bajorans now that they are in possession of a stable wormhole. Most of the graduate students who might have been assisting me have been borrowed by my colleagues. I expect it might be weeks or months before they come back to my research.”
“You're taking it in stride I see,” Picard remarked as he walked around the artefact, counting paces in his head. One, two, three – ten? Ten paces round. “Most researchers would be livid about that sort of setback.”
“I'm a Vulcan Captain,” Replied the archeologist as though no further explanation ought to have been required. “Man power is a finite resource and the needs of my people extend beyond my own intellectual curiosities. The pillar has been a mystery for thousands of years, a few months more is hardly worthy of note. I believe the human phrase would be 'it will still be there later.”
“Indeed Sakran,” Picard agreed, pointing to the elaborate gold etchings on the side of the pillar. An a large group of armored men stood resolute “Could enlighten me on the meaning of these images?”
“Very little I fear, beyond the obvious.” Sakran waved towards the lowest level of etchings. “We believe that these are whatever race created the pillar interacting with their god or gods, though other researchers have suggested that it might be an allegorical depiction of warfare. The images are universally bellicose, focused around these armored men as they fight various enemies.”
“The Antieans?” Data cocked his head in curiosity. “I was under the impression no existing visusal records of them remained.”
“It's one theory,” admitted the archeologist, resting his hands on his hips. “But the pillar matches none of the esthetic standards of the Antiean society or the norms of Antiean technology we've been able to recover so far.”
Jean-Luc whistled softly in amazement. There was something wonderful about an alien artifact that was, well, alien. Every year the galaxy seemed to get narrower and more explained, with mystery seeming to hide at the fringes of known space and experimental sciences. But to have a mystery, an honest to god mystery this close at hand was thrilling.
“Captain,” Data barked in a firm tone of command as he pointed to the top of the pillar. “I believe you should stop immediately.”
“Mr. Data?” Jean-Luc followed Data's line of sight to one of the ornamental skulls atop the pillar and gasped in astonishment. The ivory skull had snaked forward out of it's stone housing on a mechanical tendril, it's red glass eyes flashing with purposeful study of the trio. “Sakran... is this a regularly occurring event?”
“To my knowledge it is unprecedented.” The Vulcan slowly moved back towards the wall mounted control panel. “I would not make any sudden moves Captain. The last person to activate the pillar lost their head to the barrier.”
Picard tried to look as non-treating as possible to the the skull twisting from side to side like a cobra, hissing in a vaguely serpentine fashion as it observed him. With a howl of exaltation from the skull a wide beam of visible red light extended from the skulls eyes, scanning every inch of the Captain's body before the ornamental brain-case slammed back into it's housing with a guttural bellow of nameless language.
With a slight gasp of shock Sakran activated a shield between the pillar and the rest of the chamber as the purplish barrier of energy from the pillar itself dissipated with a hollow sucking burst of shifting air pressure. Jean-Luc's ears popped painfully as he watched history unfold before him in reverent astonishment.
The previously seamless surface of the pillar had glowing motes of energy seeping out from between them, yellowish bursts of balefire sputtering and coughing as the artifact's internal machinery grumbled with exhausted lack of maintenance. The front of the pillar wilted back like the pedals of a flowering bud, stone protrusions curving back into segmented sections.
“This – this is not a dream?” Sakran queried, apparently in genuine need of affirmation.
“No.” Jean-Luc replied. “No I believe it is not.”
“I do not dream,” Data interjected disappointedly. “Though I suppose one of you might potentially dream of me. Though my own self awareness would tend to – ”
“He was being metaphorical Mr. Data,” Picard hissed in astonishment as he got his first glimpse into the pillar. “Sakran tell me you're recording this.”
“Since we entered the room,” Sakran replied in a monotone whisper of astonishment as he too looked at the absolute last thing either of them had expected to see that day. “It's standard procedure for anyone in one of these areas. In case of the unexpected.”
"The unexpected has definitely come to pass." Picard whistled in amazement as the wildest of his fantasies played out in real-time. He had of course heard a rumor that there was a man sleeping in the pillar, it was the sort of apocryphal legend that invariably built up around this sort of artefact. Impractical, irrational, wishful and unreasonable as the legend had been the sleeper in the pillar was real.
There was a man inside the pillar. At least it might have been a man, it was hard to tell with all that armor. Whoever it was – whatever it was, it was alive. It was alive and massive.
It was alive, massive and it was in an alarming amount of pain.
And angry, it was very angry.
The creature screamed in agony with every movement of it's body, shaking away the permafrost of long -term stasis from it's yellow armor. It grasped at its helmet drunkenly, falling down to it's knees and ripping the frosted over armor from it's head.
Jean-Luc winced at the painful squelching sound of frostbitten flesh ripping as the man cast aside his helmet, tearing the great hunks of ice from his bare flesh. Ragged bloody hunks of skin ripped away from the man's face as he pawed away the frozen matter, including a disturbingly large chunk of the man's left eyelid, as he coughed up a bellyful of disturbingly red frozen matter.
Gasping for breath the bloody-faced giant stared out of it's bleary and bleeding eyes to Picard, blood seeping from frostbitten lips as it tired to speak. A bloody mess of syllables slid out, falling flat on uncomprehending ears.
" I'm sorry, " Picard replied, holding his hands palms forward in a gesture of empathy. " I'm so sorry but I don't understand."
The man screeched again, demanding answers Jean-Luc could not give for questions he could not comprehend. The armoured man stumbled forward, shaky fingers finding the thin barrier of energy between them. He pounded his armoured gauntlet against the barrier, spitting bloody vitriol and arrogance defiance at his perceived internment.
"Captain, this man requires immediate medical attention. He is suffering from at least stage three stasis sickness and clear internal injuries," Data said, android fingers rapidly manipulating a tricorder. " The armor is making a complete scan impossible but his biology seems to be roughly humanoid. He is badly wounded.”
"First contact procedures dictate that a clearly hostile sentient cannot be allowed out of isolation and that medical services cannot be rendered without informed consent," Sakran replied dejectedly as the agonized man unsheathed a blade and struggled to hold it above his head. "Hostility has been affirmed."
"I do not intent to allow a living piece of history to die in front of me because of a misunderstanding. We can't let this man die!" Picard barked in irritation, flinching as the giant's blade collided with the barrier in a coruscating conflagration of overwhelmed shields.
The blade, powered by its own disruptive energy fields, hummed with ominous intent as it gouged a deep tear in the stone floor, tossing molten stone into the air to sizzle on Jean-Luc's shields.
He batted the molten puddles away fear they might cool enough to pass the barrier as he scuttled backwards to avoid the huge man's lashing blade. Data's mechanically enhanced superhuman reflexes sped into overdrive as he leapt forward, pushing the armored man's wrist, overbalancing him mid swing and receiving a backhand to the face that would have killed a normal man.
The armored man blinked in astonishment as Data bounced back from his collison, apparently unaffected by the fatal blow. The Vulcan archeologist was not so fortunate, with a flick of his blade the armoured giant separated the man's left arm at the wrist. Green blood spurted out across the floor, spinning the man into a dimension of hatred hitherto unimagined by Picard.
As the man lifted a massive boot to pulp the Vulcan's head Picard tapped his communicator, screaming “Picard to Engineering, three for immediate beam-up to med bay! Shield interference at standard Vulcan frequency 3. Now!"
The shifting tingle washed over him, secreting him away from the armored giant and back to the safety of his ship. The bloody and hateful gaze of the giant seared itself into his retina even as he was fretted over by medical of officers and hyposprays. Ignoring their ministrations he activated his communicator, “Picard to bridge, get me the senior staff ! Get down to Med-bay. Shore leave just ended.”
William Riker had a hangover that could have gutted a bear. In an effort to woo the affections of a particularly attractive Deltan dignitary, Abrexa Kos Nek Tor priestess of the Fifth Order of Tak'pek, he'd agreed to take part in a night of Deltan revelry. "Revelry" in this case consisted of imbibing a truly nightmarish quantity of supposedly ceremonial alcoholic substances, and a truly astonishing display of advanced sexual pheromones. Rumors of their prowess had, of course, reached his ears. Every man in Starfleet had, at one point or another, blushingly discussed the prowess of Deltan women that was denied them by the vow of celibacy taken by all Deltans who entered into active service within Starfleet.
A night with a Deltan woman was the crown jewel of all carnal pleasure. The adolescent dream of a million men across the galaxy, it had been just within his grasp.
To say that he was angry about being recalled to the Enterprise on a priority one alert, abruptly teleporting him away from what promised to me a most memorable weekend without warning, would have been a gross understatement. William glowered at the crewmen he passed, shouldering his heavy duffel bag and trying not to think too hard about the smooth skinned Delta beauties lounging on the artificial beaches of the Vulcan moon base.
"Today of all days," Riker grumbled. "Of all the luck."
He rubbed at the fabric of his uniform, smoothing it out where it creased from having been shoved into the bottom of his duffel bag, and tapped his neck to check that his rank pins were still firmly fixed in place as he walked into the turbo lift. A dark-skinned hand shot out, catching the closing turbo-lift doors as the man it was attached to squeezed into the lift with a heavy box balanced on his shoulder.
Will smiled and stared into the golden visor on the man's face, "Need a hand Geordie?"
"Thanks commander," The Chief Engineer nodded, shifting the silver container to a more stable position between both hand. "But I've got it."
Will peeked into the box, starting at the curious device inside. A mess of odd blinking lights and crystals flashed within, twittering with an odd whine of shifting parts. "What is that?"
"Just a project of mine, I was working on it when I got the call." The Lt. Commander pointed at the largest crystal in the center. "It's a Vulcan puzzle, the crystals have to be properly arranged before the bottom of the box can be opened and you can collect the prize."
"What's the prize?" Will tapped the side of it with a finger, eliciting a hollow echo.
Geordie shrugged, "You're not supposed to know till you open it up, but they're all supposed to be meaningful to you personally. You take the item out and replace it with something that matters to you along with an explanation why it matters."
"How Vulcan of them," William snorted.
"They're just giving them away in the Vulcan conservatory," Geordie nodded. "I'm sure I could get ahold of one for you if you're interested."
"I've got enough mystery in my life for now," Riker shook his head. "Any idea what the recall is about?"
"You know as much as I do Commander," Geordie rubbed at the back of his head. "Just that the Captain wants us ASAP."
The lift's dull whirr of movement stopped with a gentle clicking of magnetic breaks, belying the speed at which they'd sped along the ship. Will nodded, waving for the Chief of Engineering to walk ahead of him, "Let's not keep him waiting then."
The Bridge Crew was hard at work as they crossed the bridge, the assembled crewmen only pausing briefly in their duties to acknowledge the presence of their superior officers. William returned their greetings as he pressed the chime to Captain Picard's study, entering the room at the Captain's harsh reply of "Enter."
Picard's ready-room was like the Captain himself, neat, ordered, and without excess. Beyond a small stack of Data-pads and a glass case holding golden replicas of famous ships in starfleet the only furniture in the room was a wide table and a few squat chairs that had a clear view of a large and particularly ill tempered Lion-fish by the name of Livingston. The Lion-fish swam about in his plexiglass bubble as the Captain presided over meetings, staring down the Captain's officers with regal disinterest.
Livingston's fishy gaze was today spread between the entirely of the Enterprise command staff. Riker took his seat at the table, exchanging a curious look with Deanna Troi. What on Earth was this about?
Seemingly reading his mind Picard spoke, "Now that Commander Riker, is here this emergency meeting can be called to order. My trip to the Vulcan Archeological Institute has resulted in an unfortunate complication that must now be dealt with. A complication that nearly cost me my life. "
"At the Archeological institute?" Worf replied in dry disbelief. "You found near fatal danger at a library?"
"Yes," The android Data interjected with his standard, matter of fact, dispassion. "A man with a sword attempted to cut the Captain in half."
"A man with a sword tried to murder you in the Vulcan archives?" Riker repeated the words slowly, testing them against his tongue in a probatory effort to make sense of them. It was Vulcan for God's sake. People didn't litter on Vulcan, let alone attempt to murder each other with broadswords in places of learning.
"Near enough," Beverly Crusher shook her head. "It is a miracle that I was able to save Doctor Sakran from bleeding to death. I've never seen a wound quite like it, except perhaps in the fallout of people suffering severe disruptor wounds. The arm was not simply cut. Six centimeters of cells from where the blade made contact were damaged on a sub-atlomic level, rendering them wholly impossible to heal. Whoever made that weapon designed it to confound every single machine in my surgery. He's been sent to the Vulcan medical research center on Mae'nar City. Hopefully they'll be able to do something."
"Where the hell did he come from?" Riker exclaimed. Disruptor weaponry was illegal within the federation, and with good reason. Wounds inflicted by disruptor weapons consigned someone to a slow and excruciatingly painful death.
"Are you perhaps familiar with the Pillar of Antiea?" The Captain stood, motioning for commander data to activate a view screen mounted next to Livingston's tank. It flickered to life, displaying a still image of a four meter monolith of jet black stone.
"No," Riker turned to Troi for confirmation. "I've never heard of it."
The councilor pursed her lips in thought, "It's an old proverb isn't it? For what cannot be understood? Finding meaning in the pillar?"
"Figuratively yes," Data replied. "But it is in fact a physical pillar, predating any known living civilization in known space. Theorizing that it was some form of archive of knowledge the Vulcans transported it back to their home world for more To date, no previous archeologists or scientist has every been able to access the pillar's internal systems."
"No previous archeologist?" William queried. "I assume that is no longer the case?"
"Yes," Captain Picard chuckled dryly. "The secret of the Pillar has… presented himself. It would seem that the Pillar was some sort of life support system for some unknown form of humanoid, a warrior if ever I've seen one."
"Your attacker came from the Pillar?" Deanna gasped. "He's alive? But, that proverb - the pillar - they're thousands upon thousands of years old."
"Older," Data nodded. "But it's impossible to say precisely, the Antiean sector essentially a giant trans-warp minefield of unstable space - the Antiean's destroyed themselves with temporal side effects of their trans-warp energy manipulation. Any attempts to age artifacts from the ruins of Antiea are purely speculative. I could be thousands, millions or billions of years older than we can measure."
"Is it even from this time?" Geordie queried. "Heck is it even from this reality? Trans-warp devices are wildly unpredictable."
"It's impossible to know, the side effects from temporal or inter-dimensional travel are virtually indistinguishable from each other even in the immediate aftereffects thereof." Data shook his head. "It has been far too long to determine that."
"The question isn't where he came from, it's what to do with him now that he's here." Jean-Luc sighed. "We have heavily armed, angry, confused and probably frightened man in the Vulcan archives. He is trapped in a room only accessible via teleporter and is doubtless under the impression that he is our prisoner."
"Is he?" Worf grunted.
"Is he what Worf?" Deanna asked in confusion.
"Is he our prisoner?" The Klingon tapped the display screen, shifting the image to a summary of the Vulcan archeologist's wounds along with a security camera's footage of the giant's rampage. "This man crippled one man in an attempt to kill three. He is by your own admission violent and dangerous. Do we not have an obligation to enforce the laws of the federation?"
"This is a first contact situation," Troi replied, scandalized by the idea. "There is always an inherent danger in that."
"He does not seem particularly interested in making contact," Worf pointed to the screen as the Giant tried to cleave the Captain in half, slicing through thin air and leaving a meter long gouge in the stone floor.
"We will not be arresting anyone Lieutenant Worf." Jean-Luc sighed. "We are not arresting someone for laws they have no reason to understand or obey."
"But what do we do with him precisely?" Doctor Crusher sighed. "You have to admit that he's not especially friendly Jean-Luc."
"I suspect that some of the confusion stemmed from his injures and waking up in a new setting," The Captain replied. "He was evidently quite injured."
"Only apparently so," Data shook his head as he passed the doctor a data pad. "My initial estimate of his injures was based upon a flawed scan of his physiology. His armor is designed to disrupt handheld scans of any type. I needed to make use of the Enterprise's main scanners to get an accurate profile of his physiology."
Beverly stared at Data's assessment, "Redundant organs, fused ceramic skeletal structure, cybernetic brain implants, mechanical superstructure to hard-wire his nerves to his armor… this reads like a list of theoretical procedures from a meeting of the Starfleet Medical Conference."
"Indeed. I theorize that the man's biology was engineered rather than a product of natural evolution." Data nodded. "The bellicose nature of the pillar's artwork and the apparent similarity of the pictographs with the armored individual would tend to suggest that he is a soldier of some sort."
"A difficult opponent indeed." Worf grunted. "A society that strong would be a formidable enemy."
"I would estimate that it was not a common procedure in the general population." Data replied. "Or even in their regular armies."
"What makes you say that?" Asked Troi.
"Because he's been chemically gelded by all the implants pumping super-steroids into his blood stream," Beverly replied in disgust. "Most sentients tend to value the ability to pass on their genes."
"They did this to their people?" Riker blinked, "To themselves? Willingly?"
It implied nothing good about the race in question. Genetic modification never quite seemed to work out, a race would exaggerate certain traits to the detriment of others based upon cultural presumptions then the supposedly superior race would almost invariably turn upon their creators. The ban on genetic modification following the Eugenics Wars had saved the human race from further lunacy and the indignity of another "super-race" of humans.
"We are getting into the realm of baseless speculation." Jean-Luc interjected. "What we know is that he is here, now, and that something must be done."
"Have the Vulcan's attempted any contact with him telepathically?" Deanna suggested speculatively. "They are capable of communicating mentally."
"Entering the mind of an unknown species was deemed to be illogical." The Captain replied. "And given our apparent similarities with the being, as well as our own experiences with conducting first contact operations, it was decided that we were best suited for communicating with him."
"I it is reasonable to assume that the reason the Pillar has not opened till now is due to the absence of a sufficiently similar genetic profile to that of Humans." Data speculated. "On examination of the Archive's records, he is the first human to approach the pillar. Having anyone but a human conduct this procedure seems, on balance, to be unwise."
"Can we teleport him on to the ship? Put him somewhere where we can try to talk?" Deanna mused. "We need to have him somewhere that he feels comfortable, so that he understands that we are not his enemy."
"We can not allow him on this ship with those weapons Captain." Worf interjected. "He has already demonstrated a willingness to use them to inflict fatal harm."
"I could probably isolate his weapons with the teleporter." Geordie whistled as he looked over the scan of the man's armor. "But the armor is staying on. He's got that hard wired to his nervous system. I'd be nervous to even try taking it off him with his permission - let alone yanking it off him. It could paralyze him for all I know."
"That would greatly simplify the process." Worf sternly appraised.
"Worf!" Deanna yelped, scandalized at the casual suggestion of brutality.
"I only meant to imply --" The Klingon began.
"Yes Worf we understand you meant well." Jean-Luc rubbed the back of his head speculatively. "The trouble is that I fear that should we disarm this man, this soldier, without first gaining some measure of his trust, then we are his adversaries. He will perhaps be a compliant prisoner but he will no less be a prisoner. No, that will not do."
"You can not mean to bring an unknown armed man onto this ship Jean-Luc." Doctor Crusher replied incredulously. "One amputation is enough for today."
"Beverly this man is a living piece of history, a virtual treasure trove of culture and learning that can be appreciated by generations to come. We must at least try to make peaceable contact with him. We simply must." Jean-Luc sighed. "We just need to figure out a way to approach him without him feeling threatened. We need him to feel like he's in control. If only there was a way for me to be safely in the same room as he is."
"Actually -" Geordie strung out the word speculatively, "I might have just the thing for this. It's a bit of a long shot… but it would allow you to accomplish what you want without exposing yourself to an excessive level of danger."
"What are you suggesting Lt. Commander LaForge?" The Captain steepled his fingers, observing the Engineer speculatively.
"Well, we want him to feel at ease, which means we can't just teleport him out of there without his permission. Which means we'll need to send someone in person to speak with him, which we can't do in person till he's agreed to disarm himself. So we need to be in the room with him, without ever actually entering the room, if you get my drift." He held up his right hand, "So what what we do is teleport him onto a holo-deck simulation that perfectly mimics the room the pillar was being researched inside of -" he held up his other hand, "And broadcast images of ourselves in a mirrored simulation from another holo-deck room. I'll up the integral fields of the room so that even the disruptor blade can't cause too much harm."
"I cannot stress enough that I would prefer we disarm him, Captain," Worf reiterated. "But if he must be armed, I want to prevent him from escaping into the rest of the ship. As your Chief of Security I must insist that we place additional guards near the exit of the holo-decks to prevent any unfortunate incidents."
"I'm with Worf on this one Captain," Riker agreed emphatically. "This is going to end badly if we're not prepared."
"Very well Commander, make it so." Picard nodded.
"Well then Geordie." Riker clapped his hands together, grinning from ear to ear despite his hangover. "Let's get ready for our new guest. I suppose that new toy of yours will keep for later."
"Commander, something tells me that the prize in my box is going to be something of a let down by comparison." The Lt. Commander joked.
Livingston said nothing, just watching in fishy disapproval as the two men stood and left, preparing the ship for the Giant of Antiea.
Deanna Troi was cautiously excited about meeting the Giant as she weaved her way through the mass of people. She felt twinges of frustration and the hints of gossip in their minds as they passed her, unable to avoid physical contact in the narrow passage. Their irritation was understandable, crewmen had to reserve personal use of a holodeck weeks or even months in advance.
She had to bite her lip to stifle a giggle at the absurd swashbuckling get-up the Andorian crewman sashayed by her in, a near blinding mess of pinks and green. He was a pleasant enough man for an Andorian, but actually laughing at him would antagonize him more than was necessary. He was clearly. very disappointed that he would not be able to play Ensign Davner's pirate game. She felt the vague impression of the Andorian laboring over their holodeck programs for weeks, making sure everything was perfectly in place for whatever adventure they had in mind.
It was a shame really, but Worf had insisted that the holodecks area be crewed only by those who were absolutely necessary their goal of communicating with the Giant. His heart was in the right place even if his methods were a bit excessive. The Klingon officer didn't want to risk exposing the crew to unnecessary danger, and putting an additional deck's worth of forcefields and bulkheads between the crew and a perceived threat was precisely what he felt was necessary.
The Captain had agreed to Worf's suggestion, re-iterating that there was no need to over-stimulate the Giant with unfamiliar species and possible agitating factors. A sentiment Deanna agreed with wholeheartedly. She could only imagine how terrifying and lonely it would be to wake in some museum billions of years away from anything you knew, surrounded by strange beings. But they would reach him through patience and understanding, she knew it.
Walking past the security checkpoint at the outskirts of Worf's containment area, Troi tapped her communicator, "I'm through Worf. You can start whenever you're ready."
The shimmering containment field snapped in place be hinder her, a flash of sheer white dissipating into clarity as though there were no barrier at all. Klingons, Worf may have been less paranoid than his kinsmen but she suspected that he'd be most at hope with ship's security resembling some sort of police state. It was an uncharitable thought, racist even, but she owned it.
The Betazoid of Betazed were not like other species who had the luxury of concealing their darkest thoughts. They were Telepaths. Though Deanna was only half Betazoid she had been aware of the darkest and least pleasant thoughts of her fellow sentients since her own telepathic gifts at a young age. She felt their anger, their rage, their pettiness, their lust, and any number of feelings that thinking beings wasted most of their lives rejecting and concealing, and she learned from them.
The population of Betazed knew each other's secrets, each other's dark thoughts. One had no "secret" urges in a society of telepaths. People saw their weaknesses, displayed them, owned them and learned from them so that they might better themselves. Outsiders saw the Betazed as impulsive or capricious but the truth was that the Betazed simply had no interest in whatever shames most other species cared to hide behind.
It was part of what made her a good councilor, she'd already seen and felt the crewmen's problems as though they were her own.
Brushing the front of her more formal dress down she pressed the glowing consul next to holosuite five, tapping the button twice before saying, "Data, are you in there?"
The doors opened with a sight schwoop of mag-leve pistons, exposing a replica of the subterranean laboratory of the Vulcan Archive. Deanna yelped in surprise as she came face to face with a set of piercing blue eyes seated in a prominent brow. Her heart thundered for a moment before the man's face flickered, only a hologram.
"Come on Councilor," Data greeted her cheerily from around the holographic giant's oversized pauldrons. "I was just finishing my initial observations."
Deanna skirted around the holographic Giant, examining his yellow armor as she passed. It was an imperfect replica of the Giant, a hazy collection of sensor readings taken through kilometers of ferrous stone, but she could see that ornate sculpture and golden filagree had been worked into the obsidian ornamentation along the bright yellow ceramic plates of the Giant's powered armor. She reached out with her fingers, caressing the mans heraldic ornamentation, feeling the scorched and riveted surface of it's obsidian icon.
"He's beautiful," Deanna observed. "Vicious, but beautiful. Someone put real love into this armor, they had to have spent years making it."
"Centuries I suspect," Data nodded. "The materials of his armor seem to vary greatly in age. I hypothesize that this armor is antique, repaired and improved between generations."
The Giant paced the sheer walls of the holosuite, searching the surface with his fingers. He rubbed at the rounded walls from top to bottom, leaving nothing untouched. He was searching for something, "What is he looking for?"
"Probably a way out." Data replied, pointing to a section of wall near the teleporter alcove. It sparked and lit where the Giant had smashed through it with his blade. "I suspect he did not anticipate that he was trapping himself in the room when he tried to keep everyone else out."
"Has he been at it long?" Deanna examined the man's intent expression, a chiseled and icy look of contempt in every feature.
"Two days so far," Data crossed his arms, not quite managing to mimmic human relaxation. "He starts at the pad, touches every inch of the room then starts over."
"Any luck with his language?" Deanna asked.
"Not yet," Data admitted. "He's been repeating words non-stop, but I have no context within which to place them."
"Are we still going to teleport him into holosuite four?" Deanna asked.
"It seems like our only viable option," Data nodded. "Our holographic doubles will be able to interact with the Giant, giving us the freedom to get some sort of a baseline for communication with him. Your empathic abilities should provide emotional context to the tonal combinations."
"I look forward to meeting him," Deanna chuckled, flashing her teeth as she checked to make sure she was presentable. She'd chosen to wear something less official than she would normally wear for Star Fleet business, a formal dress that bridged the balance between her role as councilor and peace-maker. She was here to make a friend, non-threatening was the word of the day.
Data tapped his badge, "Data to Riker. We're prepared for our visitor. Permission to begin?"
"Riker to Data," The first officer replied, his tone colored with mirth. "Try not to climb too far up the beanstalk. It's a long way down."
"Beanstalk sir?" Data queried as Deanna snorted.
"It's a children's story Data," Riker replied. "I'll explain later. Just be careful, I want you and Deanna coming out of this in one piece."
"The danger is minimal sir," Data replied. "Our failsafes are more than adequate."
"Why does that not overburden me with confidence," Jibed Riker in response, "Permission granted."
"Very well sir," Data tapped the activator on his Padd. "Initiating the procedure."
The holographic projection of the man shifted, becoming less transparent as he materialized in the parallel holodeck. He blinked in surprise at the sudden appearance of their holographic duplicates, bellowing in fury. "Für der Imperatore! Morietur xenos!"
She flinched as the holographic giant swung at her face with his gauntleted fist, more out of instinct than any real danger. The holographic fist touched her, a warm pressure against her skin blocked from doing any harm by the safety protocols programmed by Data. The Giant blinked, nonplussed as it punched again, bellowing in it's alien tongue, "Vas set tento malefactum! Čarodějnice!"
She spoke in soothing tones to the Giant, holding her hands out, palm up, in a gesture of submission, "We are not your enemy."
"Ich té töten dormientes! Ich verde digitus jako spoilum!" The Giant leapt across the room, grabbing his blade from the wreckage of the teleporter before propelling himself into the air. Spinning in a glittering ark of the energized blade's power he stabbed downward, aiming for Data's heart. The Android, faster than any mortal man alive, sidestepped the blow, grabbing the man at the wrist and disarming him with a lazy haymaker.
The Astonished Giant upturned over Data's shoulder, landing hard upon the ground as Data teleported the blade away, turning to Deanna apologetically. "I really should not have teleported the weapon as well, but it was difficult to differentiate between the armor and the weapon at this distance. I didn't want to risk accidentally materializing him without an arm."
"I understand," Deanna replied, watching as the man flipped back to his knees, propelling himself towards Data's hologram with a scream of, "Ich will convivium super dien Grab wie ich dico fabulas svéno gloriosa victoria."
Data grabbed the man's arm, twisting up and tossing him across the room. Deanna blinked in surprise, "How are you doing that?"
"I modified one of Worf's combat programs, he had designed it to allow the gravity and basic physics of the simulation to work against him as he trained. I replicated those effects so that the Giant is unable to do any sort of harm to our duplicates." Data ducked, pivoting in an impossible fashion on his heel as the Giant grabbed for him. "The harder he tries to do us harm, the more impossible it becomes."
"Data stop," Deanna sighed. "This is not helping."
"If you insist Councilor," Data froze mid grapple, his body pausing in a seemingly impossible shape, pinning the Giant in an uncomfortable position with his holodeck-ehanced strength. The artificial man's passive expression was in stark contrast to the Giant's apoplectic fury. Spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed what could only be obscenities, the cracked and scarred skin of his face struggling to keep up with the frenzied shouts threatening the pair of them.
There had to be a way that she could show him that she meant him no harm, that she meant no ill-will towards he and his. She reached out with her hand and touched his breast plate, running her fingers over the winged fist at it's center, lingering on the hammer as she looked up into his piercing blue eyes, willing her mind towards the adjacent holosuite. She was, of course, only looking at a holographic duplicate but he did not know that. Eye contact would cement a connection in his mind between Deanna and the feelings she was projecting.
She bundled up all the positive feelings she could think of, family meals, happy children, the fresh scent of her morning coffee, and sent them to the Giant. She could not properly articulate her thoughts and feelings in the way that a full blooded Betazoid would have been able to, but she was more than capable of forming an empathic link. The man froze as the feelings hit him, her calming sense of camaraderie touching his mind. He was a being of sharp angles and chiseled logic, she could feel the driven purpose in his every movement as she touched the outskirts of his mind, probing forward with a sense of peace.
Deanna did not enter, tempting though it might have been, it would have been a violation of the man's privacy. She just stroked at his outer thoughts with her own, willing him to feel her own desire to befriend him. It was the slightest of caress, a simple greeting for most telepathic species.
She was entirely unprepared for what followed.
The man stared through her with the icy blue pits of his eyes, those frozen portals to hell, pulling back the barriers of his mind and dragging her into a deep chasm of thought. It was not telepathy. No, it was something altogether different. The man could shape the patterns of his own mind, guiding and shaping his own thoughts like an artist with clay.
She found herself transported elsewhere, to a place far, far away. It was a battlefield, a nightmare. Thick soot clogged the air with ashen debris, pollution born from the burning corpse pits below. The valley had once been beautiful in the days before the battle, before the enemy had come. She watched a legion of men in yellow armor striding over the charred corpses of a race of sentient beings, slaughtering men, women and children without remorse.
She watched hands, the Giant's hands, as though they were her own. The massive gauntlets grabbed tiny girl, no larger than an infant, and chuck the still screaming babe atop a funeral pire. She felt his satisfaction for having purged the galaxy of another impure one, another alien, another xenos. The faces of the sentients warped, shifting to her own face, her own eyes, her own hair. The men in yellow armor slaughtered her replicas, purging the "Deanna" with fire and blades.
There was no forgiveness, no peace, and no compromise. These creatures posed no threat to the men other than the insult they presented to simply for existing in the wrong place at the wrong time. She felt the piercing eyes boring deeper into her mind as the overwhelming alien presence thundered within her, "Xenos."
She was repelled from the man's thoughts, falling to her knees and sobbing. So much hatred, so much cruelty. The Giant had loved it, he had needed it. How could one being be so molded by contempt?
She looked up at the beings eyes once more, "I forgive you."
The man spat in her face, "Gehen aud Infernum, xenos malificar."
"End program condition beta," Data interjected, letting go of the vanishing Giant and walking over to Deanna. "Are you alright councilor? Do you require medical assistance? "
"I'm fine Data," Deanna shivered, hugging the Android's chest hard. "At least, I - I think I will be."
Deanna tried to articulate what she'd seen into words, struggling to shape the thoughts as she wanted them. Any time she tried to focus on the memory it was a battle not to simply break down into tears. "There is too much pain in the universe Data. There is sometimes just too much pain."
"I do not know Councilor," Data interjected disappointedly. "I've never felt it."
"There are times when you are the lucky one," Deanna sniffed, rubbing at her eye with her sleeve. Her head throbbed from the failed psychic exchange, "I think I will head Dr. Crusher after all."
"Very well Councilor," Data nodded, tapping his pads and re-activating the translucent spy-hologram of the Giant. "I will continue to observe our guest in the meanwhile."
Deanna walked out of the holosuite. Shivering as she could feel the "not-giant's" crystal blue eyes following her out of the room, she tried to suppress the overwhelming emotions being projected by the man who wished to eviscerate her corpse and dance upon her burning grave.
Geordie swore, sticking his index finger in his mouth reflexively as the energy arced across the inner working of the great pillar. He popped his head out to face the Vulcan technician, "I said to wait! We don't know what these systems do."
"I did nothing. " the austere woman replied from across the room. "Its circuitry seems to have degraded greatly over time. I must repeat that not wearing a personal shield while in close quarters to the device is unwise. "
"These systems are finicky to the slightest touch, the last thing I need to do is accidentally run a current through a weapons system, " Geordie replied, keenly aware that the disapproving stares if a dozen frustrated Vulcans were boring into the back of his skull.
Behind their thin veneer of indifference Geordie knew they were dying to see and touch the pillar. But it had been decided that the only logical course of action was to allow a human team of researchers to beach the pillar. Human DNA was apparently similar enough to that of the giant not to trigger the pillars defensive measures... or so they hoped.
So it was that a human away team of Federation Engineers labored on the greatest wonder of the Vulcan world while it's long time guardians could only watch their tricorders, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It hadn't taken Geordie and his team long to find the weapons arrays, sponson mounted particle cannons hidden behind bellicose artwork. They were so old that the wires connecting them simply crumbled when they were exposed to the open air, a small mercy that had likely saved the captain's life. Early scans indicated a a yield that could have bored a hole in duranium alloy.
Ensign Peters whooped with glee from the other side of the pillar, "Sir, I think I found something. "
"What is it?" Geordie bushed the front of his uniform as he stood up, walking round the mouth of the pillars entrance and into the cavernous space of the stasis pod's entrance.
Peters stood beneath a winding mess of cables and wires, his tricorder attached to the Giants discarded helmet with a thin glowing filament. A cruel looking spike pierced the helmet at the space where the Giants head would have met its neck, humming dully as orange pulses of heat and light ran it's ribbed length. Garbled words and phrases echoed out from the helm, a growling chant as spiteful as it was joyous.
"I've linked into the pillars primary computer. There is a lot of data here but I think I found their first contact protocols." He smiled, "We upload this to the Enterprise and we should have a working language profile in a couple days."
"How much data is there?" Geordie whistled, looking at the readout over Peters' shoulder. "Woah… is that number right?"
"I - I'm not sure," Peters swallowed. "Do we have enough memory in the ship's computer?"
"If I get Data to deactivate a couple of the redundant navigation systems - uh - maybe? No, we couldn't do that without disabling our warp core." Geordie chewed his lip, "But I have a better idea- " He tapped his coms twice, waving to the Vulcans " I assume you're listening in?"
"Yes," The Vulcan technician yelled across the room, "And I think we have a computer of sufficient capacity in the Vulcan science institute."
"Will they let us use it?" Peters asked.
There was a brief pause before the Vulcan snorted in… laughter? "I assure you Mr. Laforge, the biggest issue we will have is not getting them onboard to analyze the data, it will be ever getting them to study anything else."
"Sounds good to me," Geordie tapped his visor, shifting through the spectrum of visible light. "We should get started. I'm picking up a lot of excess radiation in here. "
"Enough that we need to leave? " Peters looked up from his tricorder. "I was sure we stabilized the power plant."
"No we should be fine." Geordie replied, running his fingers through the dust on the floor of the pillar. "But this thing's stasis systems must have been powered with fission reactors. A lot of them."
"Sort of low tech for something that lasted this long," Peters replied as he twisted a know on his tricorder, starting the transmission, "Haven't these systems been running for thousands of not millions of years? "
"At this point it's too early to say anything concrete but my guess is that they only provided enough energy to start the process of shunting energy from somewhere else to power them, " Geordie stared at the pulsating black mass of ambient energy where all the reactors led at the pillars core, "I think it tears open a hole in reality to some place that can provide the energy these reactors can't. "
"But that's insane." Peters shook his head, "Even if it could be done, why would any advanced society do it? You're as likely to end up with a tesseract weapon as a generator."
"This thing is clearly an escape pod to protect the data core" Geordie ran his finger across a deep rivet on the inside of the pillars interior where the giant had clawed at it in his furious attempts to escape, "Some sort of a last resort. If the pillar hadn't worked to protect him, I imagine it would have gone a long way towards making whoever attacked his ship regret it."
"We are - uh- safe now right?" Peters swallowed, looking up at the leering skulls lining the computer core. "It's not going to blow up on us?"
"I'd assume so." Geordie replied, switching his tricorder to trace for biological elements. "I'd see it before we got to -- Uh oh!"
"Oh oh! What uh oh? There should be no 'uh oh!" Peters jumped, banging his head on an obsidian slab.
"Watch it!" Geordie replied, distracted by the pulsing shapes on his tricorder. There were faint life signs, too faint to be seen from space. They were barely noticeable even at a close range but there they were, echoing around the pillar. "Move it for a second, would you."
Peters, still rubbing at the top of his head, moved out of Geordie's way as the head of Engineering pulled a tool from his belt, gently coaxing one of the skulls from it's plinth. He coaxed the device from its cradle, examining the ornament with his enhanced vision. Spectrum upon spectrum of visible light flashed by his eyes, confirming his horrible suspicions. "This is bone."
"What?" Peters replied. "That's impossible, one of those things ate the teeth off a deuterium saw."
"I'm pretty sure that it's still ali- ," Geordie groaned, his fingers accidentally depressing a switch. The skull's eye flared into life, red optic whipping up to glare at him as tiny repulsor-lift jets carried it into the air. Tiny tendrils of wire and pincers protruded from the skull's mouth as it chittered animatedly at him, examining him from head to toe.
"I think we should - " Geordie started, but too late. The skulls lining the pillar's central core and outer walls came to life, forcing themselves from their places and flying out in a gruesome flock. They spun in circles around the interior forcefield blocking the pillar from where the Vulcans observed, protecting them from the buzzing horde of skulls. Geordie flinched in fear as a skull approached his injured index finger, grabbed it in it's vice-like pincer and, astonishingly, proceeded to apply a calming salve with a brush-like appendage.
In fact, other than looking scary, the skulls seemed entirely placid as they busied themselves with repairing the superficial damage to the Pillar's hull.
"Are you alive Lt. Commander?
"Yes," Geordie let out a sigh of relief, "I think they're some sort of automated repair system. They don't seem to care about us at all."
One of the skulls prodded at his visor tentatively, deciding if something needed to be repaired as Geordie batted it away, "If anything they're a bit too well intentioned."
"We still believe that it is in your best interest to leave the pillar," The Vulcan woman replied in a voice of only passing conviction. "It is illogical to continue."
"We're fine," Geordie scanned the skulls with his Tricorder. "They're covered in diagnostic equipment and fine tools. Other than the odd scalpel or a blowtorch they're unarmed. As long as it's just humans I'm not worried, but if anything changes use the beacons."
"Very well commander." The Vulcan replied, "In the interim you have an incoming transmission from a Dr. Beverly Crusher. Shall I patch her through."
"Of course," Geordie replied, activating a wide band scan to examine the internal components. He tapped his comm badge twice to switch channels before saying, "What do you need doctor?"
"The Giant attacked Deanna." Dr. Crusher replied in a voice of unusual gravity.
Geordie stopped what he was doing, unintentionally looking up towards the ceiling as though to look at the Enterprise, "Is she alright?"
"She's fine." Beverly's voice softened. "Or she will be. But what she encountered raised some serious doubts about the Giant's mental state, so I ran a scan - "
"You wouldn't happen to have found extensive cybernetic implants in his brain would you?" Geordie interjected.
"Yes," Beverly replied. "How do you know."
Geordie examined the cross section of a flying skull on his tricorder, "Call it a hunch."
"Yes," Beverly sighed, "Before I sedated her Deanna was insistent that it wasn't the Giant's fault. His thoughts seemed jumbled to her, terrifying. She insisted that there was something deeply wrong with him to make him feel that angry, more than simply repelling her from his mind."
"So you went to medical issues right away," Geordie nodded. "Which led you to the cybernetics."
"Yes," The Doctor sighed. "The Giant's modifications go even more than I'd even considered possible. His brain has been sectioned off into cybernetically and chemically controlled segments. My guess is that it was for the regulation of sleep. A soldier who could either stay awake for days or even months at a time without sleeping or who could induce a coma to survive without food or water till rescue could come along."
"Sounds useful," Geordie replied. "So what went wrong?"
"The problem is that the hardware powering the cybernetic implants is powered by microscopic amounts of some sort of element I can't identify. There are redundant implants in case those fail, but they're so old that they've ceased to function as well. I don't understand the back-ups well enough to replace them without doing seriously invasive brain surgery but I think I can inject a new power source with a hypospray." Beverly replied. "Until then his brain is just firing randomly, connecting memories, wishes, nightmares, desires and dreams all at once. He's functionally a psychotic."
"Wait - does he have any remnants of the power source in his implants?" Geordie turned his tricorder back into the pillar, a sinking sensation falling to the pit of his stomach. "Any at all?"
"None that I've seen," Dr. Crusher clicked her tongue against her teeth. "Which is strange. You'd think there would be some left over, even after all this time."
"No it isn't," Geordie ran his finger across the pile of red dust at the base of the pillar, "Not when I'm the one responsible for it not being there."
"Doctor, when we transported him to the ship the pattern buffer filtered out any dangerous or unknown elements. It's part of the decontamination protocols to prevent disease transmission. The radiation profile of the implant's power source is probably the same as the ships reactor, neither of which our transporters are configured to replicate," Geordie let the dust run through his fingers. "Beverly - We did this to him. We drove him crazy."
Beverly swore in irritation, "Can you identify the element used to power it?"
"I can try," Geordie replied. "I'll try to have serviceable substitute to you in the next hour or so but if the element is unknown rather than just uncommon, then I may not be able to get you one at all."
"Just do what you can Geordie," Beverly replied, "That's all anyone can - " Her voice cut off as warning klaxons blared in the background. There was a medical emergency on the Enterprise. " - Oh dear god. Geordie, he's escaped the holodeck. I don't know how, but he did it. "
"Why haven't they transported him to the brig?" Geordie barked in horror, waving for the Vulcan's listening in to get off their butts and do something.
"I don't know Geordie," The Doctor's reply was frenzied as she ran down the corridor, her panting breaths echoing over the comms. "I'll tell you when I know, Beverly out - "
As the comms switched back to the Vulcan channel Geordie shouted at them, "Tell me you were listening to that!"
"It would be illegal to listen in on -" The Vulcan technician replied before Geordie cut him off with a glare.
"If I don't find out what this sand is soon, the Enterprise is going to have no choice but to kill the Giant of Antiea. Which is more logical, obscuring the truth to save face or helping me find a way to save the only known member of an ancient race?"
"Yes Lt. Commander we were listening," The Vulcan replied. "The Vulcan science council is already scanning the material and analyzing to see if we can replicate the material."
"Good," Geordie, tapped his comm-badge. "Enterprise, what the heck is going on up there?
Very well written. Lots of fun, More is welcome. :so_happy:
Excellent job, as always. More pleeeeease!
Reginald Barclay knew that he shouldn't be this close to the holo-decks, the temptation to go back and lose himself in one of his little worlds was still greater than it ought to have been. And he really did intend to keep from loosing himself in fantasy again – honest – but Data asked him to consult on the holo-program holding the Giant of Antiea. Reginald didn't often praise his own work, but he was very good at constructing holographic programs.
Reginald was a lonely man. Nobody called him “Broccoli” any more, well not to his face anyway, but he still never quite felt like he fit in. Geordie did his best to make him part of the group but the truth was that he wasn't quite part of things. He stuttered and slurred his words. He grew quiet when women spoke with him. Lanky and awkward, he never quite seemed to fit into his own skin.
Reginald tried to fit in. He went to meetings with Deanna Troi, he told her how he felt, but there was always that damn barrier that he couldn't get past – separating him from forging lasting relationships. How was someone like him supposed to be on even footing with someone like Commander Riker? The man oozed sexual charisma from every pore. Or Worf? The Klingon had no respect for anyone who was not up to his code of honor – something Reginald could not hope to be. Geordie was probably his best friend – if Reginald even had such a thing – and no matter how hard he tried he knew that Geordies relationship with Data would be stronger than anything he could manage.
And Data wasn't even capable of emotion. How was he less charismatic than someone incapable of comprehending charisma? But there it was, all the same, Data had managed to woo more women than he.
No – If he was honest, Reginald knew what they had. They had respect – respect for doing important things. How could someone not love Data? The man had saved the lives of the crew a hundred times over. He'd sacrifice himself for them without blinking an eye simply because 'that was the most logical course of action.'
“More Vulcan than most Vulcans,” He muttered to himself, nodding to the security guards as he passed the first check-point. Security was abnormally high. Shields separating the holo-decks from the rest of the ship were guarded by teams of three security officers. They were only armed with their phasers, but any obvious armament on the Enterprise was uncommon.
He smiled at the security officer and was rewarded with an irritated grunt from the guard for his effort. The man didn't even bother to glare at him, dismissively waving him along as though he hardly merited notice. Reginald was used to it.
But that was about to change. This was finally his big break, a chance to do something that for which his fellow crewmen would respect him. If he could find some way of breaking though to the Giant, his name would be in the history books. People would want talk to him – maybe even women – maybe even Troi.
He bit his lip, thinking about Troi as security rifled through his bag – checking it's contents, two padds and some tools. Deanna had been especially kind to him. She was a beautiful, caring woman. He had developed feelings for her - strong feelings. The sort of feelings you really don't want to be having about a telepath. She never looked down on him. She never made him feel small.
He really liked her. And maybe, just maybe, if he did something important enough she would see him as a man. Maybe he would do something big enough for him to seem as wonderful as Riker.
He could dream.
As he passed the third barrier Reginald had a horrible thought. What if he couldn't help? What if they blamed him for the failure of the project? That would be a convenient way of dealing it, bring in a patsy who could take the fall. His heart beat a mile a minute as he imagined a court martial for his ineptitude.
“No,” He reminded himself. “Data wouldn't do that to me – neither would Geordie.”
He knew it was true, but his palms still sweat all the same. Damn it, why couldn't he just ignore stupid thoughts like that? Other people did.
“Other people weren't Reginald 'Broccoli' Barclay though, are they?” He muttered to himself as he fed the cables from his padd to the holo-deck door, checking the current readings.
“Not bad, Data,” He muttered to himself. “But not quite perfect either.”
Data had been very precise in his re-creation of the Vulcan Archive's subterranean chamber. The temperature, lighting, physical items, and even the smells of the archive were being mimicked with a 4% margin of error. Not a mean feat for something he'd put together in a couple of hours.
Reginald could get that up to a 2% margin of error. He smiled, highly pleased with himself. Data was highly efficient but as an android he lacked certain qualities necessary in writing the proper holo-program. He couldn't quite get the ambient noises and sensations of a place correct – he couldn't feel out the space.
It would only take a matter of - Reginald paused, examining the radiation readings within the program. “That's not supposed to happen.”
Reginald checked the rad-scrubbers to make sure that nothing was malfunctioning but be damned, there it was again. There was a concentrated source of radiation coming from within the chamber – some sort of a fission emission coming from within the chamber. A rapid reaction of concentrated microwave fission, but that could only mean – Reginald dropped his Padd and ran towards the security officers screaming, “It's a bomb!”
He hardly had time to slap his hands over his ears before a concussive wave of holo-deck door fragments and melted bulkhead burst forth, thick smoke poring down the corridor. Shrill klaxons howled, warning that main power to the section had been cut. Dull red emergency lights automatically switched on as the primary illumination died, bathing the smoke-filled passageway in hellish light.
Barclay coughed, squinting through the smog as he dropped the the floor to be closer to fresh air. He crawled along the ground, edging towards the turbo-lift. He felt the floor shake as a massive yellow greave collided with the floor next to him, the foot of a titan. The Giant ignored him, running through the thick smoke as though it were not there. He charged towards the nearest trio of guards, disabling them with laughable ease.
Barclay winced in sympathetic agony as he watched the Giant twist Bolian man's arm the wrong direction, crushing the bone and pulping the arm. He tore the Bolian man's phaser from him and fired it at the other two security officers, rendering a Vulcan and an Andorian inert.
The Giant stared at him with wild, crazy eyes the phaser held in his massive fingers like a child's plaything. Reginald was too terrifed to run as the Giant picked him up, lifting him by the shirt collar and lifting him so high that his feet dangled in the air. Barclay whimpered as the Giant sniffed him twice, tilting it's head in confusion. “Du bist nec aliena – nec xenos.”
“Oh god,” Barclay felt hot tears in his eyes. “Please don't kill me. Please don't hurt me. I just wanted to help.”
The creature sighed in apparent exasperation, dropping him to the floor. “Ich werde nec vyksta morte.”
It was not till the giant strode off into the thick smoke that Barclay reconciled himself to the fact that he was not going to die. For once in his miserable life, Barclay was thrilled to be unremarkable. Barclay tapped his comm-badge, “Barclay to – well anyone – can anyone hear me?”
“Status reportLt. Commander Barclay,” The worried voice of Commander Riker replied nearly instantly.
“Sir,” Barclay wandered though the smoke. He was following the Giant, though God alone knew why. “The Giant has escaped. He incapacitated the guards – they need a doctor, fast. Three to beam directly to sick bay.”
“Are you alright Lt. Commander?” Riker riker asked.
“Yes sir,” Barclay stuttered. “But I couldn't stop the Giant – he's heading towards sector 3. You have to beam him to the brig.”
Riker swore, “Barclay, I need you to listen to me. Our sensor readings for the sector are going wild because of whatever it was that he did. We can't get a lock on him. Worf is leading a team to you, but they're going to take time. I need you to stand near the wounded so we can get a lock on them. ”
“Sir I don't think he's going to wait,” Reginald shuddered as he moved closer, looking at the still sobbing Bolian with pity. He was very pleased to see pale blue light enveloping the three men.
“Is Data with you?” Riker's voice colored with concern. “Is her harmed?”
“I don't know sir,” Reginald coughed as he fiddled with an emergency wall panel behind which would be breathing masks and survival gear. “Power is out to the deck. Has he contacted you?”
“Communications are misbehaving due to power fluctuations, you are the only one on that deck we've managed to hail so far.” The Commander grew deadly serious. “Lt. Commander – what direction did you say the Giant was heading in?”
“He was heading starboard towards the – oh no, he was heading towards the school!” Reginald wrapped the mask around his face, grabbing the emergency cutting torch from the wall as he went. It was an engineering tool intended to break open doors in a crisis but he suspected it would work on the Giant's armor just as well.
“No, no, no, no,” Barclay muttered to himself. “What are you doing Reg? What are you thinking? That guy is the size of a house.”
It was stupid – monumentally so – to believe that he could do anything to harm the Giant if it came down to it. But if he could delay it for even a couple of seconds that might be enough for the power to come back on and for someone to trap him with shields – time for Worf to come.
Cowardice be damned, he wouldn't let the Giant harm children.
The Giant had simply run roughshod through the ship's security personnel. Broken, bleeding and stunned men lined the corridors heading towards the school. Stunned – it seemed that the Giant did not know how to switch his stolen weapon's settings. Small mercies were still a blessing.
His eyes still stinging from the smoke, Reginald ran towards the massive yellow figure as it pried open the school room doors.
He could hear the children's confused and frightened voices as well as the soothing voice of Miss Kyle shouting, “It will be alight children – just file into the back room – over the din.”
The Giant grunted in frustration as his fingers slipped, slamming his arm between the pressurized doors. He struggled against the pneumatics, trying to get leverage with a single free hand.
Reginald activated the cutting torch, waving it around to get the Giant's attention. “Hey! Hey you! Over here. Look over here.”
The Giant's eyes focused on the flame, his free hand batting at Reginald in frustration as the federation officer jabbed blue flames towards the behemoth. The flames sparked and scorched the man's armor-doing little visible damage but irritating him immensely.
“Th-that's right y-you bully,” Reginald's stutter accompanied the wave of terror he felt as the Giant yanked his arm from the door and strode towards him with deliberated menace. “Follow me!”
Dropping the still lit torch, Reginald cut and ran in the opposite direction. His heard beat a million miles a minute as he heard the Giant's lightning fast footfalls behind him – quicker than he could hope to outrun.
Luckily he wasn't going far. Reginald knew the ships internals inside and out, giving him a unique perspective of the Terrain that the Giant couldn't hope to match.
Ducking down a jefferies tube as the Giant grabbed for him, shoving his hand through the wall in fury. Sparks showered down from shattered circuitry as the man tore his gauntleted fist from the wall and reached down the tube, struggling to reach him.
“No-not so b-big now are you!” Reginald yelled as the scooted down the tube. “Catch me now – oh no!”
Reginald flinched as a gauntleted hand holding a stolen phaser poked down the tube, firing energy beams blindly into the passage. He tucked to the right, hiding behind a support strut as the phaser beams cut down the tube, the bright red hue of them a clear indication that the Giant had discovered alternate power settings.
He flinched as a beam bored a hole in the strut he was hiding behind, missing his big toe by centimeters. Feverishly tapping his comm-badge, Barclay stuttered into communicator, “Th-this is B-Barclay. I'm at the p-primary school. I n-need help.”
“Acknowledged Lt. Commander,” Replied the precise tones of the Android Data. “I will be there imminently.”
Reginald did not even have time to thank him before the sound of tripolymer alloy colliding with ancient armor clanged it's way down the tube. There was the sound of struggle as Data's unconcerned retort of, “Two to beam up, contingency plan Data 3 Echo Charlie 9 commence,” preceded the flashing blue light of a transporter.
Curious about the sudden silence Reginald hesitantly poked his head from the tube, looking to where the two men had been only moments ago. There, still frozen in the throes of battle, was the massive suit of yellow armor – noticeably bereft of an occupant. It's legs moved forwards once, some mental command still being processed by the armor's internal computers before it fell to the ground – dead.
Reginald tapped it nervously with his toe before calling up to the bridge. “Barclay to Riker – can you hear me.”
“This is Commander Riker,” The furious voice of the first officer replied. “Reginald just what the hell is going on down there?”
“Data transported the Giant away – I don't know where,” Reginald flinched as the armor's fingers pulsed. “It's safe to send repair crews when you can.”
“Oh you've got to be kidding me.” Riker sighed in exasperation. “Data why?”
“You found him?” Reginald asked, worried for the Lt. Commander.
“Oh I found them both alright,” Riker whistled, “Ten kilometers off the port nacelle.”
This is the first thing ive Read in the original works section. I was a bit dissapointed when it ended. Please continue this!
Are you still writing this on your commute with a cell phone? I remember you mentioning on one of your other threads that you post on several sites... would you mind mentioning them?
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