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.