Styles stared at all four of them, having sat down in a deep divot in the wall of the Pyramid when they told him who they were. “I’m sorry but, you’re what now?”
“We are with the United Federation of Planets. We serve on board a Starfleet vessel called the USS Centaur. We travel across space with interstellar technology known as the warp drive.” Gomez explained more slowly to him.
“We are here because an ancient and vast, powerful race created these beacons that communicate with one singular facility. But for some reason the beacons stopped communicating and are creating a lot of havoc in the galaxy.” Said Sivol.
“So we are here to repair this beacon…it’s…as far as we know, a galactic crisis if we don’t repair this. It is very important.” Said Ryker.
Styles stood up and shook his head, “But why tell me? Why come forward with this?”
Sivol, who still had his journal, opened it up to the page where the warp engine was drawn and showed it to him. “This is a matter-antimatter warp engine. It takes matter and antimatter, harnesses the powerful energy they give, and channels that energy not just to power systems but also creates a warp field or bubble around the vessel and propels it across space at speeds faster than light. This engine brings interstellar travel to any civilization that discovers it.”
Styles stared at it, “Why would an empire so vast want to give this to my people?”
“To help them understand that other beings were on this world before them through the use of interstellar travel. We know there are other means of traveling among the stars, but warp travel is the most common and known throughout all species that we’ve encountered. It was the best one to explain to his people, on how the Tkon came to be.” Sivol explained.
“Question is, the Tkons existed only six hundred thousand years ago. How did they know these people existed at all?” Gomez asked.
Sivol opened up her tricorder and started reviewing her scans. “Fascinating.”
“What does that mean?” Styles asked.
“I did not consider this until now, but all the text that was put into your language, is actually more fresh than the room itself. The ruins you found, how did your language appear?” Sivol asked.
Styles shrugged his shoulders, “They seemed old, like our ancient language, like thousands of years ago.”
Vakai frowned, “What are you thinking, Sivol?”
Sivol looked at Vakai, “Before we came down here, I did some reading about the Enterprise that chased a Ferengi vessel to a planet that happened to have been a Tkon Outpost. Apparently there was a portal of sorts there and it released a guardian. The guardian was the one who protected and guarded the outpost, although slept for most of the time whenever the planet was left alone. I believe this beacon too had a guardian, someone who should have come out of stasis and maintained the beacon, to ensure no malfunction occurred.”
“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go find this guardian.” Ryker said and began to lead the way onto the platform of the Beacon.
“Hold on, James.” Gomez called out and looked at everyone else. “If this beacon has a guardian, then why haven’t they repaired it themselves?”
“Maybe something went wrong. I don’t know for certain but why else would these people’s own written language appear on their own structures, hundreds of thousands of years later?” Sivol asked.
Vakai sighed and patted her shoulder. “Then we best get in there and figure this out. Coming, Professor Styles?”
Styles did a bit of a tilted head nod. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” He said with a smile and followed them, walking on the platform towards the center of the Beacon, where they would eventually find what appeared to be the operations center.
As they were searching around the operations center, looking for a way to turn the terminals on, Gomez stood there beside Ryker and sighed. “Starting to think that maybe we didn’t need to come repair this facility at all.”
Ryker frowned, “How so?”
Gomez shrugged. “Just the fact that Styles was already studying some ancient ruins of what used to be a research colony and they led him here, to this pyramid where the beacon is. Then he found the answer needed to open the door. All of it was re-written into his people’s language. It is as if the Tkon had prepared for this.”
Ryker gave up on trying to turn on the terminal he was at and faced her. “You think that the Tkon wanted this beacon to be found?”
“It’s like Sivol said, something happened. We don’t know what, but this is no coincidence. They wanted this beacon to be found, and he was the one who did it, the one who figured it all out, not his team, him.”
Ryker stroked his chin, “So you’re saying…this was a challenge? A test?”
Gomez shrugged her shoulders. “Possibly. Maybe we shouldn’t do anything. Maybe we should let Styles do all the work. Maybe it is his destiny.”
Ryker chuckled, “Sounds a bit familiar. But you may be right.”
Styles had been staring at something for a while before opening his journal and flipped through the pages. He then stopped at a page and started comparing his drawing to what he was staring at. “Hey guys. Come look at this.” The four of them came over to Styles to see the drawing and what he was pointing at. “I think this is supposed to be something. The texts I found at the research colony suggested that this is some portal. But something is missing.”
Sivol looked more closely at the drawing and then at what was before them. “It is a portal. But smaller, and it appears to be damaged.”
“A pillar is missing.” Gomez pointed out. “How do we fix something like this?”
Styles flipped some pages and then pointed, “There should be a room on the lower level here that has some sort of device that will recrystallize anything. Or restore anything. I don’t know, that word was a bit odd.”
“No. You are correct. The Tkon used crystalline structures, at least that is what the Enterprise away team encountered.” Sivol explained, “and the pillar appears to be made of that material.”
Suddenly a creature appeared out of nowhere, grabbing hold of the remaining pillar and screeching at them, causing them to jump quite a bit, Gomez, Ryker and Styles crying out a little in surprise. The creature was bipedal, two legs, two arms, four digit claws, three being fingers and one a thumb, the feet were much like the hands as well. It had bat-like wings, a creepy face with two beady eyes, a tiny nose, a huge mouth, and pointy ears. Completely hairless all over its body. “What the hell is that?!” Said Styles.
“No idea!” Said Ryker, and then they just watched it take a large bite out of the pillar, its teeth sinking through like it was made of cheese and it chewed on the mouthful that it had. “And apparently it eats crystalline. Fantastic.”
Gomez pulled out her phaser pistol. “We can’t let it keep eating that! We need it to restore functionality to this beacon!”
Vakai didn’t want to start what could be a fight that they might not win, but Gomez was right. If they don’t get this beacon online, they could be the only ones preventing the chaos in the galaxy from ending. “Make sure it’s on stun!” He told her, who nodded her head to confirm that it was and fired at dead center, a direct hit to its chest. But nothing happened, except it squealed so loudly that everyone had to cover their ears before it took off flying. Suddenly they began to hear more squealing…dozens more.
“Ohhhh that’s not good.” Said Ryker as he pulled out his pistol, everyone else doing the same, including Styles.
Vakai looked at him, “No! You get the device and get this thing repaired! Quickly!” Vakai then switched his weapon to maximum stun. “Everyone else, max stun setting. Fan out and don’t let them touch you!” Vakai looked back at Styles, “You’re with me. We must get that device!”
Styles cranked a dial on his pistol before nodding and led the way to stairs. But as they began to descend, they heard the creatures getting closer, the flapping of their wings filling their ears as it grew louder and louder until finally, a few of them came into sight and the team opened fire on them. As the three in the ops center held them off, Vakai and Styles took a few down while they hurried to the floor below.
“Vakai, Captain Carter here. What is the status of your mission?” Carter’s voice came through the badge in his pocket.
“Not a good time right now, Captain. Can I call you back?” Vakai said as he shot another creature out of the air while they reached the floor and hurried to the room, Styles shooting one down directly in front of him, both of them jumping over it now. They weren’t crazy big or anything, just about the size of a monkey…flying monkey anyway. More screeching was heard as Vakai shot at a few that landed on the platform behind them.
“The hell is that noise?” Carter asked.
“Oh, just some pests that we came across. Sorry, Cap. But gotta go!” Vakai reached into his pocket and tapped the badge, closing the transmission.
“Who was that?” Styles asked as they reached the room and he frantically began searching for the device as Vakai held off the creatures at the doorway.
“My Captain of the ship we told you about. Fine ship too, old but she is still very much kicking. Starfleet tries to build things to last but not all ship classes do.” Said Vakai.
“Ah, kind of like our airships. We have a few that have been around for over fifty years. But there are some that were built ten years ago that have been grounded and scrapped.” Styles explained as he rummaged through the containers.
“Found it yet?!” Vakai asked as he shot two more down.
“You know, for a very large and powerful empire that you say the Tkon once were, you think they would have a decent organization system here.” Said Styles.
“Could you two kindly hurry up please? We’re getting a bit overwhelmed here!” Gomez’s voice came over Vakai’s badge.
Styles suddenly held up an object and cheered, “Ah ha!! Found it!”
“Good, then let’s go!” Vakai told him.
“No wait. Wait. It’s missing a power source of some kind.” Styles said as he rummaged through the containers.
“Are you kidding?” Vakai asked, shooting two more down.
Styles then held up some sort of cylinder, “Wish I was but I believe I have found it.” He inserted it into the slot behind the device and it came to life. “Eureka!”
“About time, let’s go!” Vakai ordered and led the way back up to the ops center, both him and Styles fighting there way back, shooting at any creature that got close, some almost too close.
“Is that it?” Ryker asked as he shot one down.
“I believe it is.” Said Styles as he went over to what remained of the portal.
“You believe?!” Gomez asked with wide, glaring eyes before paying attention to a creature that almost got her face with its claws, until Ryker shot it down.
“Yes, yes. It is, I am certain!”
“Then if you would please, hurry!” Said Sivol.
While the team fought off a horde of these creatures, Styles activated the device and both crystalline pillars were repaired in a matter of seconds. “Well, how about that! Very use-” Styles was suddenly pulled towards the portal and just disappeared.
“Oh what the hell?!” Shouted Gomez.
“I think we should get out of here, Commander!” Said Ryker.
“No! It took him for a reason! We have to keep them off of the pillars, or he will be gone forever!” Said Sivol.
“Did it take him and the device?” Ryker asked.
Vakai looked after he shot a creature and grumbled. “It did. Do your best to keep those creatures off of you but the pillars are top priority!” As Vakai said that, one landed on one of the pillars and he shot it down. The battle raged for what felt like an hour but was merely ten minutes when suddenly, all the terminals came to life and they could hear power humming around them, feeling the deck under their feet just vibrating with life.
“I think he did it!” Said Gomez as she shot another creature.
Then suddenly, as over a dozen of these creatures came into the ops center all at once, completely overwhelming them, they then vanished right before their eyes. The team looked at each other, confused, that is until a familiar figure appeared between them and the portal.
“Professor Styles!” Said Ryker, but then he took another look. “What are you wearing?”
Styles smiled. “Just call me Gilbert, James. I apologize for taking so long, but the knowledge of a vast…incredible empire was just difficult to process all at once. It took longer than I liked, so I hope none of you would hold it against me.”
Gomez smirked as she holstered her pistol, everyone else doing the same. “We might. But what did you do with those creatures?”
Gilbert shrugged, “I sent them away. To some other underground cavern, deep within the planet’s surface, far far away from here where they can enjoy all the crystals they want.”
“Incredible.” Said Sivol.
Gilbert shrugged again. “I don’t know about incredible really, it was just a simple command of relocating them to a new home.”
“So, how did this happen?” Gomez asked.
“Child. You have to be more specific.” Gilbert smiled.
Sivol smiled at Gomez, letting her know that she would take it from there. “What she meant was, how did those creatures get here in the first place?”
“Isn’t that what I said?” She whispered to Ryker who just shrugged his shoulders.
Gilbert smiled, “When the Tkon created this vast empty space inside the pyramid and below the surface, they had apparently connected the underground cavern with some sort of tunnel network. The Tkon did not detect anything unusual nor did they detect any of these creatures at all. They were a bit baffled by the tunnel network but their priority was placing the beacon and establishing a guardian for it. Over the hundreds of thousands of years, these creatures suddenly existed. I believe they used to be some sort of crystal eating slug…and over time, they evolved into that of which you have dealt with. Then they must have developed some sort of ability to locate edible crystals and thus it led them to here, this beacon. The original guardian did what he could, he destroyed the entrances of the tunnels that led to this cavern, but not before half a dozen got through. All it took for them was to devour some of the crystalline down below to start reproducing and when the guardian realized what was happening, he then took matters into his own hands by modifying the Tkon written language at the research colony and in the large room, making it possible for someone like me to discover it, solve the puzzle, open the door and restore this beacon to its original state.”
“What happened to him, the guardian?” Sivol asked.
Gilbert smiled with a sigh. “He unfortunately perished. Before he could return to the portal, the creatures found him and apparently they had a taste for flesh as well.”
Gomez shivered, “He was devoured.”
Gilbert nodded. “Indeed. But after he was able to put his plan in motion. He knew how important it was to keep his beacon active. I too know why as well.”
Vakai looked at everyone before looking at Gilbert. “Could you tell us?”
Gilbert chuckled. “I am afraid I cannot. Your Captain, and Starfleet Command have very good reasons to keep it a secret. You, some day Vakai, will be informed of what it is. But I am afraid that your friends will have to wait longer before they too are informed.”
Ryker groaned, “Seriously? You are going to keep the information from us? Are we that untrustworthy?”
Gilbert shook his head, yet still smiling. “It is not about trust, my son. It is about ensuring that the information does not fall to the wrong hands. It could be very devastating. All I can say is that with this beacon restored, and all the others restored by your comrades in Starfleet, this…galactic crisis…will soon come to an end.”
“What about your people?” Vakai asked.
Gilbert tilted his head, “Meaning?”
“You discovered the formula that the other guardian left behind to create a functioning, stable warp engine that will propel your civilization into a new era. Is that knowledge going to be shared or are you the only one who knows about it?” Sivol asked.
Gilbert chuckled softly. “I am the only one who knows, and remembers. After I saw it and wrote it down in my journal, it disappeared from the documents I found at the ruins of the research colony. It was the basics I needed to learn and understand everything the Tkon gave me, in preparation to become the new guardian.”
Gomez frowned, “Basic? Are you saying the Tkon had other forms of interstellar travel?”
Sivol placed a hand on her shoulder. “Information we had on the Tkon, did say that they were able to move systems.”
Gilbert chuckled, “Quite right. Warp technology is the basic building block I needed to simply understand everything the Tkon taught me in order to repair and operate this beacon.”
Intrigued, Gomez had to ask. “Like what?”
Gilbert chuckled some more. “Oh child. So curious. Sorry, but much like your Prime Directive, I cannot reveal what other forms of travel are without your kind discovering it and creating it first. The risk of self annihilation is too great.”
Gomez frowned, “You really believe that we would annihilate ourselves? We’re far too sophisticated to do that.”
Gilbert shrugged his shoulders, the smile having never left his face. “True. You are. But I have laws of my own to follow. Just how this…employment works.”
Vakai stepped forward, “So this beacon is repaired and online?”
Gilbert nodded his head. “Very much so. It was quite simple really. As soon as I was sucked into the portal and after I recovered from all the information that was crammed into my head, I was able to activate the self repair system and it took almost no time at all to get this beacon operational again.”
Vakai nodded his head. “What about your expedition team?”
“Ah yes, them. My team. I sent them back home with no memory of the expedition. The door is sealed and no one can open it like I did. I changed the lock. Forty-Two seemed too easy.” Gilbert chuckled.
“What did you change it too?” Gomez asked.
Gilbert chuckled, “Oh dear child. Wouldn’t be much of a password if I told you what it was, now would it?”
Ryker patted her shoulder before looking at Gilbert. “So, how are we going to get back to our ship?”
“Are you four ready to return to your ship?” Gilbert asked.
They looked at each other before looking back at Gilbert, all four nodding their heads. Except Vakai held up a finger. “One more question. What happens if you need a replacement?”
Gilbert shrugged, “Then I will probably do the same as the previous guardian did. Hope someone figures it all out and give them the reigns. But I don’t expect that happening for another…ohhhh…several hundred thousand years. Toodles!” He waved goodbye and vanished before them. Then suddenly, they found themselves on the bridge.
Carter, among the other bridge crew, staring at them, blinking a little in surprise. “I take it you four repaired the beacon?” Carter asked.
The four of them looked around, realizing what happened before looking at Carter. “Yes, sir. Well. Sort of.” Said Ryker.
Carter raised a brow, “Sort of?”
“One of the citizens. He figured it all out on his own, repaired the portal…became the new guardian…and repaired the beacon.” Said Gomez.
Sivol nodded her head, “Apparently the former guardian had suffered a terrible fate but before he passed, he laid clues in hopes one man would find them and discover the beacon himself. Though, not sure if the clues were necessary, sounded like it was too easy. For him anyway.”
“So we’re good here?” Carter asked.
Vakai nodded his head, “Yes, sir. Prime Directive was held and the Beacon is restored with a new guardian who will make sure it stays that way for…many…many years.”
Carter sighed heavily in relief. “Good. I don’t know about everyone here, but I think it is about time we return to the Devron Fleet Yards for repairs and much needed leave. Chief says, with everything working as they should be, we can only achieve Warp Five. It’s just a patch job to the nacelle, it is going to need more work once we get back to Devron.”
“Understood, sir. I think we can handle a long journey back.” Vakai smiled.
Ryker shrugged, “Shouldn’t be too long. Maybe a week or so.”
Gomez sighed, “I will head to engineering, see if I can help the Chief coax more speed out of her. First…I need to change.”
“Me too.” Said Sivol.
“I will do that as well.” Vakai grinned.
“Oh come on. Am I the only one here who enjoys the steampunk stuff?” Ryker asked as he followed the three of them into the turbolift.
Carter shook his head before handing out orders, “Helm get us out of this system and then lay in a course for Devron. Warp Five. Comms, inform Command that we have completed our repairs on our beacon and are heading home for repairs. So please don’t send us more work our way, if they don’t mind.” He got both acknowledgments from them before he sat down in his chair. “I hope nothing like this pops its ugly head up again…”