The Obelisk of the Gods

While waiting for his new command, Captain Forrester is tasked with locating and repairing a Tkon beacon.

Pack Your Bag, We Have A Mission

Baltimore, Earth
October 2399

“Pack your bag, we have a mission.” Captain Forrester ordered as he ducked into the Mitchell family kitchen to find his friend sitting at the breakfast bar. The two men had been staying with Alexander’s parents in Baltimore. When the Trafalgar docked to begin her year-long refit, Tom had expected his next command to be waiting for him. Instead he was told that he would receive his new orders ‘soon’. That was two weeks ago.

AJ looked up from the PADD he was reading, his eyes bright with excitement. “Starfleet finally gave you a new command?”

“Kinda, yeah.” The Captain nodded hesitantly. “I’ve been given command of the U.S.S. Buckinghamshire and I need you at the helm. We don’t have much time so pack a bag and let’s go.” Forrester called over his shoulder as he left the kitchen and made his way upstairs.

Mitchell tossed the PADD aside as he followed his friend upstairs. “I’ve never heard of the Buckinghamshire.  What class is she?” The Captain didn’t reply as he entered the guest room and grabbed a bag. Not giving up on getting an answer to his question, AJ followed his friend to the guest room and stood in the doorway as Forrester began to stuff pieces of clothing into the bag. “Tom, I said what class is the Buckinghamshire?”

“Danube-class.” Forrester replied with a sigh as he turned to face his friend. “I’ve been given command of a Danube-class runabout.”

AJ folded his arms and leaned against the doorframe. The ghost of a smirk played across his lips. “Wow.  Captain of an Akira-class starship to Captain of a Danube-class runabout. You really pissed someone off, didn’t you?”

“That’s funny.” Thomas turned back and resumed packing. “Starfleet Command has given me a high priority mission and since I’m a Captain without a starship, they’ve given me the Buckinghamshire and a small crew to get it done.”

AJ nodded. “And you want the best pilot in the fleet. I can understand that.” His smirk widened. “What’s the mission?”

“Classified, for now.” Forrester replied as he finished packing and closed his bag. When he turned back to face his friend, the smirk was gone and AJ’s features had darkened. “I can’t tell you anything until we’re underway. For now, you’ll just have to trust me.”

Mitchell pushed himself off the door frame and slowly nodded. He and Tom had been roommates at the Academy. They’d become best friends, brothers, and they trusted each other completely. “Okay.” He agreed with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. “It beats sitting around here on my hands until Starfleet finally pulls it’s thumb out of it’s bureaucratic ass and finds you a real command. Besidies, I’ve spent so much time sitting on the couch that my ass indentation is beginning to become a permanent part of it.”

Forrester laughed as he grabbed his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “C’mon, we need to be in San Francisco in twenty minutes.” He stepped towards the door and stopped at AJ’s shoulder. “Get packing. Chop chop.” Breezing past AJ, Tom headed back downstairs to wait while Mitchell packed.


At warp 5, the Buckinghamshire was two days away from it’s destination; Grian IV. Starfleet had determined that one of the TKon beacons was located on the surface. The problem was that Grian IV was inhabited by a pre-warp civilisation and it was believed that the beacon was located in the heart of the largest population centre. Forrester’s mission was to gain access to the beacon, determine the problem and make repairs. In addition to Forrester and Mitchell, Starfleet had assigned an engineer, Lieutenant Commander Oliver Calloway, a science officer, Lieutenant Commander Gabrielle Bennett and a medical officer, Commander Joshua Miller.

“I was pissed when they pulled me off the refit without telling me why,” Calloway announced from one of the bunks in the runabout’s aft section, “but now that I know, I’m actually pretty excited. The chance to work with T’Kon technology is too good to pass up because we still know so little about it. I may not be able to write the book on it, but if I can contribute to it then it’ll be a career high.” 

A smile pulled at the edge of Doctor Miller’s lips. “I was relieved when they said they had a job for me.” He said as he plucked the newly materialised glass of orange juice from the replicator and brought it to his lips. “I got ordered to report to Starfleet Command for reassignment only to find out that some asshat in the Bureau of Personnel messed up and there was no new assignment for me so I was cooling my heels while they scrambled to find me a new home.”  

Miller took a seat at the table in the middle of the room where Lieutenant Commander Bennett was working at a desktop terminal computer. With one ear, Bennett had been listening to the conversation. “I was quite happy working at Starfleet Science.” The English scientist chimed in, looking through the holographic display at her teammates. “But like Calloway, the chance to see T’Kon tech up close is too good to pass up. My husband wasn’t thrilled about me going away, but that’s all part of the job.”

A chuckle emanated from Calloway’s bunk. “I’m sure he’ll survive without you for a few days.”

“For our last anniversary, he decided that he’d surprise me with dinner.” Bennett replied, unable to mask her mixture of exasperation and amusement. “He used the replicator and still managed to burn it somehow. I had to make him promise me he’d either eat out or order in because I don’t want to get back to Earth to find he’s burned the house down trying to replicate a sandwich.”

That drew a hearty laugh from Doctor Miller, who was returning to his own research on the Grians. “My little sister’s a little like that.  She’s deadly with a replicator. Thankfully her husband’s a chef who doesn’t believe in using them and who insists on doing all the cooking.” A grin pulled at his lips.  

Silence descended with the ambient sounds of the runabout, the only sound filling the room was the constant thrum of the warp engines as the three officers became engrossed in their research. Three hours elapsed before the silence was finally broken as Doctor Miller dismissed his screen with a swipe of his hand. “If I look at that screen any longer, I’m gonna start going blind.” He rubbed his closed eyes. “Two days on a runabout.  I hope someone brought some playing cards or something.”


The first day of the journey had primarily been spent researching the data Starfleet had provided them, with the evening spent playing a game of poker after Calloway pointed out that the replicator could provide them with the necessary playing cards.  Bennett wiped the floor with them. Despite having had no say in the composition of his team, with the exception of Mitchell, Captain Forrester found them to be extremely capable and mostly personable.  Lieutenant Commander Calloway was the exception to the latter; not unfriendly per se but not quite as social as the others.

After breakfast on the second morning, with seven hours until they arrived in orbit, the team gathered around the table in the aft section. “Alright,” Forrester began, “let’s go around the room. Commander Bennett, why don’t you kick us off?”

“Yes, sir.” The Commander, who was sitting to Forrester’s left, acknowledged. “As you already know, the Grians are a pre-warp civilization. The last anthropology team to study them placed their technological development at roughly equivalent to Earth’s 14th Century. That was twenty years ago.” She glanced down at her PADD and tapped a control. “We don’t anticipate things to have moved on significantly since then.”

When Bennett entered another command into her PADD, the lights in the cabin dimmed and a holographic topographical map appeared a few centimetres over the table. “There are five major population centres on the planet.”  Dots appeared on the map pointing out each of the cities. “Each city is a sovereign state.  While there were tensions between them, the situation was peaceful.”

“Let’s hope that’s still the case.”  Doctor Miller added, eliciting a few nods from the rest of the team.

The science officer input another command on her PADD and the map zoomed into the largest city-state. “The largest city is Talam. We believe the beacon is located there, inside the largest temple on the planet.” The map dissolved and was replaced by a holographic representation of the temple. It bore a passing resemblance to St Paul’s Cathedral in London or Florence Cathedral with a large dome dominating the structure. “The Grian religion is based around ‘the Obelisk of the Gods’.  It’s described as a tall, smooth, obsidian obelisk.”

“Sounds like it could be our beacon.” Calloway chimed in. “Did the team get a look at this Obelisk?  Any mention of if it was active or not?”

Commander Bennett shook her head. “The science team didn’t get eyes on the obelisk. It’s locked away from public view. Only the High Priest is allowed to gaze upon it.” She went silent for a moment as he consulted her notes. “Their report does mention that when it was discovered five centuries ago, it ‘came to life’ and that ‘the writing of the gods appeared from thin air’ when it was touched.”

Mitchell, who had been quiet until now, chose that moment to break his silence. “Definitely sounds like our beacon.”

“Agreed.” Forrester nodded. “Bennett, Calloway and I will go undercover down there, scout out the temple and come up with a plan for accessing the beacon.”

The Captain’s plan gained nods of agreement from three of the four officers. Lieutenant Commander Mitchell didn’t react, he just stared at the surface of the table. Thomas knew that look, it meant that whatever AJ was about to say, he wasn’t going to like it. “You have something to say, Commander Mitchell?”

Mitchell’s eyes darted up to meet the Captain’s gaze before he glanced around at the other faces looking at him, waiting expectantly. “I just,” he hesitated for a moment, “I wonder if an undercover mission is really necessary.”

“From what Starfleet learned on Abnia VI, we won’t be able to just beam into the chamber where the beacon is.” The Captain replied. “We’ll need to go undercover to scout out the site and figure out how to gain access to this thing.” Judging from the look on AJ’s face, Forrester guessed that this discussion wasn’t over yet.

Sure enough, Mitchell spoke again. “That wasn’t what I meant. During the briefing you gave us, you said that the Omega Directive supersedes all General Orders. ‘Starfleet considers the Prime Directive null and void’ were your exact words.” Mitchell shrugged. “Going undercover will be a time consuming operation but we could be in and out so much quicker if we used a more direct approach without worrying about cultural contamination.”

“You’re right.  We may be able to get this done a lot quicker if we forget about the Prime Directive.” Forrester admitted. “And we would face no penalty from Starfleet Command for any contamination of Grian culture.” He leaned forward, lacing his fingers together. “But I won’t interfere in the development of these people for the sake of expediency.” The Captain took a deep breath to tamp down the annoyance and anger he felt toward his best friend at that moment. “Just because we can do a thing, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we should.”

Captain Forrester sighed. “The time may come where I have to choose between upholding the Prime Directive and mission success and if it comes to that, I will violate the Prime Directive. But I won’t do so lightly and I will do it in such a way that minimises cultural contamination.” AJ nodded in understanding, looking appropriately chastised.

“Alright, let’s move on.” He turned to his right, where Doctor Miller sat.  “Doc, what can you tell us about the Grians from a physiological standpoint?”

The Will of the Gods

Grian IV
October 2399

“So much for keeping a low profile.” Forrester remarked sourly as the away team made its way through the bustling city of Talam. “We stick out like a sore thumb.” Turns out when your fashions are twenty years out of date, people notice you.

As they walked along the street, the team was greeted by inquiring faces, several of them smiling and a few people bid them ‘welcome to Talam’.

“Thankfully everyone seems to think that we’re travellers from somewhere else and not extraterrestrials here to get eyes on, and repair, their sacred obelisk.” Forrester mumbled. Thanks to the subcutaneous transmitters Doctor Miller had implanted, everyone was able to hear him.

So they don’t think you’re a threat, just rural hicks in the big city.” Mitchell commented, his voice filling their auditory canals. If Forrester closed his eyes, he’d be able to see the smirk that he was certain Mitchell had plastered on his face. His anger at his oldest friend had long since subsided, but the disappointment still lingered.

Before the Captain could respond, Bennett said, “We would hardly be rural if we were from one of the other cities.”

How do they know where you’re from?” Mitchell asked.  “You could be from one of the other cities, or you could be rural farm boys and girl.” He paused for a second before asking, “Isn’t that right Captain?

Forrester was sure if the rest of the team could hear the teasing tone in Mitchell’s voice, but he could. He turned his head to the left and told Bennett, “Remind me to court martial him when we get home.” The instruction drew a confused look but the Captain didn’t bother to explain himself.

I heard that.” Mitchell shot back.

Any retort from the Captain died in his throat as the team emerged into the large square to find a large crowd standing in front of an elevated platform. The team joined the back of the crowd, drawing a few looks from those already gathered, but within seconds their attention had returned to the platform.

A hush descended on the crowd when an older man dressed in ornate robes ascended the stairs.  He was followed by a slight man dressed in rags and a large, muscular man. One of his hands had a firm grip around the slight man’s arm while in the other he carried an axe. A woman walked up the steps next with two young children holding her hands, they looked to be no older than five or six.

“I have a bad feeling about this.” Forrester murmured, his heart beginning to beat a little faster.

That bad feeling was borne out when the man in the ornate robes began to speak. “You all know the punishment for defying the will of the gods.” He announced loudly, his voice just about reaching the ears of the away team. “Qayvin refused to pay his tribute. The gods have sat in judgement and declared him guilty. His life is forfeit.”

“But my family.” The slight man they now knew was called Qayvin cried. “I only had enough money to feed them. Surely the gods would have mercy on a poor man.”

Instead of speaking directly to Qayvin, the ornately dressed man addressed the crowd. “The gods are indeed merciful. They have found your family innocent. They will not share your fate.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Forrester said, a little louder than he’d intended. “He’s being executed for not paying a tribute?”

The woman in front of him turned and looked Forrester up and down with a look of thinly veiled disgust and said, “The gods will must be done. If they have declared Qayvin guilty, the High Priest must carry out the sentence.”

“So the man’s supposed to let his family starve in order to pay his tribute?” Forrester asked hotly.

She looked at Forrester like he’d sprouted a second head. “Who are we to question the will of the gods?” With that she turned back to face the platform.

“Sir,” Calloway hissed. “We can’t let this happen.”

Forrester wanted to do something. To save a man whose only crime was being poor but any kind of interference was out of the question. “As you were.” Forrester muttered under his breath.

Calloway wasn’t done and was more insistent the second time. “We can’t -”

“I said as you were.” Forrester insisted through gritted teeth.

“May the gods forgive you, Qayvin.” The High Priest announced before nodding to the axeman. Qayvin’s family screamed and begged them to let him go.

The away team watched in horror as he drew the axe up over his head and brought it down with one mighty swing. Forrester’s stomach lurched and he was sure he was going to be sick but somehow managed to keep it at bay.

Calloway turned and walked away from the crowd with Bennett following after him. Forrester caught the look of disgust on his face. It was a feeling the Captain shared.

Forrester remained with the crowd and watched as the High Priest quietly gave an instruction to the axeman before he made his way off the platform and returned to the temple. Two men in plain black robes moved onto the platform and began to remove Qayvin’s body. As that was happening, the axeman moved toward Qayvin’s family and dragged them off the platform.

“What’ll happen to them?” Forrester asked the woman in front of him.

She didn’t turn around when she answered. “They’ll be exiled to live outside the city walls.”

“Doesn’t sound particularly merciful.” The Captain muttered, loud enough so she could hear, before turning and walking towards the rest of his team, who were standing twenty metres away. “Alright,” Forrester began as he approached his officers, “let’s get inside the temple and see if we can access the beacon.” Judging by the look on Calloway’s face, the engineer had something he wanted to say but was biting his tongue. For the second time in a matter of hours the Captain found himself asking, “You have something to say?”

“I’m just wondering if Mitchell may have had a point.” Calloway announced.

Forrester let out a frustrated sigh. They needed to focus on the mission, not be trying to change the nature of this civilization. “You think we should violate the Prime Directive and interfere with this society because you don’t like how they do things?”

“In this case, yes sir.” Calloway replied firmly.

The Captain turned to Bennett. “You agree?”

“No sir.” The science officer replied quickly. “It’s not for us to interfere with the natural development of a culture, no matter how distasteful we find them.”

That was a relief for Captain Forrester. “I’m glad someone hasn’t jettisoned their principles.” He met Calloway’s eyes. “A book.  A single book caused the contamination of the culture on Sigma Iota II. They ended up modeling themselves after the depiction of 1920s Chicago. The planet was run by mobsters. Or maybe you’d prefer the Mintakan model of interference? They ended up worshiping Captain Picard as a god. Is that what you want? You want to be a god, Calloway?”

The engineer shook his head slowly. “No sir.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Forrester could understand Calloway’s desire to put a stop to the kind of summary execution they’d just witnessed, but it wasn’t for them to judge this society. Earth had been through similar periods. He just had to hope that things would get better for this planet. “By interfering in the development of this world, we could end up doing more damage than good. Violating the Prime Directive is a measure of last resort. Understood?”

Both officers nodded, though Calloway’s nod was a little more reluctant than Forrester would have liked. “Good. Now, back to the task at hand.”


Once inside the temple, locating the beacon, or rather the door that led to it, was a piece of cake. There were no benches or pews inside, just cushions laid out in rows almost all the way up to the altar. About three dozen people knelt on the cushions with their heads bowed in prayer. Beyond the altar was a large wooden door with a guard standing watch.

“We need to get past that guard.” Forrester muttered. To the casual observer it would look like he was kneeling and praying. “Ideas?”

You could stun him.” Commander Mitchell pitched in from the runabout.

Forrester rolled his eyes at that very typical Alexander Mitchell suggestion. He’d always been a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ kinda guy. He was glad that Mitchell was a pilot and not a security officer. “I’d rather not start shooting people if I don’t have to.”

“We could cause a distraction.” Commander Bennett suggested. “Draw him away from the door and incapacite him.”

That had been the Captain’s first thought too. He could think of half a dozen ways off the top of his head that he could knock the guard out using just his hands. “Good idea.”

You could knock him out with a hypo loaded with anesthazine.” Doctor Miller added. “5ccs should be enough to put him to sleep for a few hours.

Forrester nodded. “That would certainly be easier than what I had in mind.”

“We should wait until nightfall.” Calloway suggested. “It should be quiet in here and the fewer people around, the better.”

Forrester agreed with the engineer’s suggestion. It would mean a wait of a few hours but it would be worth it if it bought them more time before anyone was altered to the fact that anyone had made it past the door. “How long until nightfall?

“About three hours.” Bennett replied.

If Forrester knelt on the cushion for the next three hours, he would be struggling to walk for weeks. “Alright, let’s head back outside to get some air and something to eat. We’ll come back just before nightfall and put our plan in motion.”

The away team stood and made their way back out into the daylight. The crowd that had gathered for the execution had dispersed and the body cleared off the platform. It was like nothing had happened. But Forrester would struggle to erase those images from his mind. They would plague his dreams for weeks to come. He was sure it would be the same for Calloway and Bennett.

“Do we find something local to eat?” Calloway asked as they moved around the square. There seemed to be a few stalls around the edge selling various kinds of food.

Forrester shook his head and pointed at Commander Bennett. “Bennett packed a few field rations.”

“But the food smells so good.” Calloway complained, sounding more like a petulant teenager than the senior engineer that he was.

It was hard for the Captain to disagree with that statement. “It certainly does but I can’t afford for their food to disagree with us and knock us out in commission.” He began looking around, scanning for somewhere out of the way. “Let’s find somewhere quiet to eat.”

Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?

Grian IV
October 2399

Getting through the door had proved relatively easy. With a performance worthy of acting awards aplenty, Commanders Bennett and Calloway managed to distract the guard so the Captain could press the hypospray against his neck and administer a dose of anesthezine big enough to knock him out for a few hours. 

Getting out, on the other hand, would be more difficult. The guard would be found soon enough and once that happened, more guards would be following them into the old Tkon passageways that lay beyond that large wooden door. But that was a problem for later. Their focus had to be on repairing the beacon.

The three Starfleet officers stood silently in front of the beacon. The only sound in the room was the shrill chirping of the tricorders that they were studying in their hands. The beacon itself was imposing but didn’t look like the technological marvel that it was, just a tall slab of black metal. Despite each of them touching the surface of the device, no holographic control panel appeared. Now Bennett and Calloway studied their tricorders, which were pointed at the beacon.

Forrester allowed the pair to study their tricorders in silence for as long as his patience would allow, probably somewhere between five and ten minutes though he could be certain without consulting a clock. “Well?” He asked finally, his patience at an end.

Neither officer said anything immediately until Calloway lowered his tricorder and turned face the Captain. “The beacon seems to be caught in a loop.” When Forrester said nothing, the engineer continued. “It seems that the beacon spends most of its time in standby, a kind of lower power mode. Periodically it will come to full power and communicate with the rest of the network, upload and download updates before going back to sleep. Instead it keeps trying to wake up, failing and going back to sleep.”

“How periodically?” Forrester asked as Bennett lowered her tricorder and joined her colleagues.

“We can’t be certain.” She replied. “Probably every few centuries but could be longer, could be shorter. I won’t be able to say for sure unless we can wake it.”

Forrester hummed in understanding as he slowly nodded his head. “Do we know why it’s failing to wake the way it ought to?”

A noise from the passageway that led them there distracted them for a moment. “Voices.” Forrester muttered. “Looks like they’re through the door. We have about five minutes until they’re on top of us.” He glanced from Calloway to Bennett and back. “Can you fix this?”

“I have an idea, but Commander Calloway doesn’t think it’ll work.” Bennett replied.

With the guards breathing down their collective necks, there wasn’t much time for a discussion. “Do you have another idea?” He asked Calloway. When the engineer shook his head silently, the Captain said, “Well, we’re out of options so let’s go with Bennett’s idea.”

The two officers nodded and Bennett lifted her tricorder, tapping furiously at the control surface as the voices grew ever closer. “Done.” She finally announced when the sound of voices and footsteps was almost on top of them. 

Within seconds the beacon came to life, the holographic interface materialising from thin air. Bennett immediately reached out and began working the console. “The beacon is online and communicating with the rest of the network. The reset worked.”

“Reset.” Forrester repeated. “You mean you turned it off and on again?”

Bennett smirked and dipped his head. “It was a little more involved than that but-“

“But basically, you turned it off and on again.” Forrester cut in.

The science officer nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Captain Forrester turned to Calloway. “I don’t understand, how is it that no matter how advanced the technology, more often than not it can be fixed by turning it off and on?”

“That’s a wild oversimplification but-“

There was no time for Calloway to finish his sentence because the high priest stormed into the room at that moment dressed in the most ornate nightclothes that Forrester had ever seen. His face with red and his body shaking with fury. “You dare to gaze upon the Obelisk of the Gods!?” The high priest screamed hysterically. “You are not worthy and will be punished for your insolence!” 

After the scene they’d witness in the square earlier, it didn’t take a genius to figure out what that punishment would be. Forrester watched as suddenly the high priest dropped to his knees, his eyes wide at the sight of the beacons control interface. “The gods speak.”

“That’s right.” Forrester agreed, quickly formulating a plan to get this team out of this before. “And they’re not happy. See, they sent us here to communicate their displeasure at the treatment of your people. Forcing the people to pay you a tribute. Lining your own pockets while there are people out there starving.”

The high priest stood and sneered at the Captain’s words. “The tribute is demanded by the gods. 

“Oh but it’s not. You and I both know it.” Forrester shot back. “It’s demanded by your greed and your love of ornate clothing.” He motioned at the high priest’s nightwear.

“You are no messenger of the gods.” The high priest decided, studying the Captain closely. “You would not have needed to disable the guard if you were.”

‘He’s got me there.’ Forrester thought sourly. ‘Time for plan B.’ He pulled a Type-II phaser from one of his pockets, made sure it was set to light stun and fired at the high priest. The blast sent the old man crumbling to the floor, his eyes wide in shock.

Calloway and Bennett pulled their own phasers and the three quickly incapacitated the guards. “Not exactly how I saw this going down.” Forrester announced. “You’re sure the beacon is operational?”

“Yes, sir.” Bennett replied with a nod. “It’s working exactly as it should again. Once it’s finished updating with the rest of the beacon network, it’ll go back to sleep.”

Forrester nodded, relieved that their mission had been a success. “Alright, let’s get out of here and go home.”


“What happened to not violating the Prime Directive?” Mitchell asked a few hours later with the Buckinghamshire on it’s way back to Earth. The rest of the away team had decided to turn in and get some sleep, leaving the Captain and his friend alone.

Forrester let out a sigh. “I was flying by the seat of my pants and thought I could talk my way out of there.”

“A messenger of the gods.” Mitchell repeated the claim that the Captain had made. “Ballsy move. Can’t wait to see how you talk about it in your report.”

A grin tugged at Forrester’s lips. “I may leave that detail out of my official report.