“Right Shven,” Mac said as he leaned in between the two flight control seats of the shuttle Grey, “take us in over the beacon for a first pass. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got before we get the other shuttles to start shipping the parts down.
“Yes sir,” the Andorian said as he brought the shuttle down closer to the surface at the coordinates given to him during his briefing.
Looking past the Lieutenant and his Ensign co-pilot, Mac spotted the shield indicator, highlighting the shuttle’s shields under stress, but not unduly. Radiation warnings outside the shield bubble were of the ‘short life span’ variety, not including the direct solar exposure threatening to kill everyone present as well.
“Toasty out there Velan. Those portable emitters going to cut it?” he asked over his shoulder to the Engineer and his assembled minions. Everyone on the shuttle, on all the shuttles actually, were kitted out in EV suits, ready to seal up at a moments notice for that extra little layer of protection.
“Should hold for a few hours each. Get this job down and then that crazy program will give me back my ship. I have no intention of cooking alive down here. Besides, going to get to look inside Tkon technology, I’ve a duty to the Federation to survive and report what I see.”
“Ah, selfless self-preservation I see.”
“You know it.”
Shaking his head with a smile, Mac went back to looking out the forward windows as the shuttle closed on the specified site, moving in at a prodigious speed before the pilots began to back the speed off to a mere few thousand kilometers an hour, then slower still. Something was there on the horizon, but the radiation environment wasn’t helping the shuttle’s sensors, a number of them reporting errors or having closed protective covers.
“You good to keep going Shven?” he asked, a hand indicating the sensor console and the numerous sensors not responding.
“Yah, I’ve got enough to fly with and those are hardened against stuff like this. We might have a bumpy landing, but we should be good. Coming up on the beacon now.”
His attention drawn back to the windows, a human instinct that seeing was believing, Mac squinted slightly as the beacon sight grew larger, then sighed as he spotted more damage than the Architect had assumed.
“Velan, you might want to get a look at this.”
Walking into holodeck three alongside Maxwell, Tikva approached the Architect who was busy studying a recreation of the beacon on the planet, recreated from scans of the teams on the ground already. There was nothing to read, or feel from a hologram and she started to realise how much she’d been relying on that emotional radar to guide her. “So, now we need to replicate and fabricate more components?” she asked as she came to a stop.
“Yes,” the hologram spoke. “I was expecting normal servicing for the beacon, but environmental damages necessitate rebuilding. I have already started the process.”
“About that,” Maxwell spoke up. “You’re running some of our reserves awfully dry and we need those for our own maintenance and repairs after all of this.”
“Your concerns are insignificant compared to galactic safety.”
Before Maxwell could respond, Tikva stopped him with a gesture. “We’re already mobilising the assembled components planet side. How long till these new components are assembled?”
“Fourteen hours. Once beacon repairs have been completed and the beacon is active once more, this Architect will shut down and await a future emergency.”
With a nod of her head, Tikva led Maxwell out of the holodeck. “I know Maxwell, we need some of those ingredients for repairs, but I’m giving the order to make available whatever it needs, nevermind it’ll just beam it out of storage when it wants to anyway.”
“Ma’am, you’re asking me to potentially compromise the ability to repair the ship.”
“I…yes, yes I am Maxwell,” she replied, with an edge that she didn’t want initially. “I’ve got my orders and you’ve now got yours. We’ll sort this all out later.”
“Ma’am, I’m going to need those orders in writing.”
“By the time you get to Engineering they’ll be in your inbox and in the official record. Dismissed Lieutenant.”
Watching Maxwell depart, Tikva turned around and straight into Adelinde. “Geez! How do you get so sneaky?”
“Practise, skill, dedication.”
“The XO and SO are both off the ship, leaving me as your second at the moment. I’m advising you that you need some lunch.”
Tikva sighed, then offered a grudging smile. “Fine, fine, lead the way.”
When she didn’t move, Tikva looked up at Adelinde, who was staring at her gently. “He was just doing what he sees as right by asking for written orders.”
“I know, heck, in his position I’d be doing the same. I have done the same!”
“Good, then you understand, so stop beating yourself up about it. As you’ve said, you have orders. The official records will sort themselves out.”
A quick glance either way down the corridor and Tikva then popped up on the balls of her feet and kissed Adelinde on the cheek. It was as much of a display of affection she’d allow herself right now, but she wanted to do it. “That helps, thanks. Now, to lunch.”
“Grey to Rangitata, can you spot us while we lower this piece?”
“You’ve got five meters Rangitata. Three. Two. Cut tractors.”
Velan watched as the final piece was released from the tractor beams under the shuttle Grey and allowed to settle on its own anti-gravs, hovering just high enough off the ground to allow it to clear the local terrain. Around him, for a few hundred meters in all directions, work was progressing according to the revised plan. Pieces were being cut off the beacon, tractored away and simply dumped on the planet’s scorched surface. Others had already been lifted into place and fitted, more were waiting their turns, like the newly arrived piece.
The sky above was tinged faintly blue as the shield bubble above their heads constantly flickered and spasmed in the high radiation environment of a planet orbiting so close to its parent star. A rather prominent flicker spelt the end for another emitter and the kicking in of the next in the chain.
“MacIntrye to Velan. Number three just burned out. Chak’ti thinks he can salvage parts and get number six back online, failing that we’ve only got four left. That going to be enough time?”
Turning to look in the direction of where the site shield generators were, and MacIntrye and Chak’ti, a wave from the XO’s arm when he spotted Velan, he gave the man a thumbs up across the airless surface. “Should be. Still don’t quiet understand what this thing does, but I’ll happily follow the instructions. Another couple of hours and we should be done.”
With another thumbs up, Velan pointed the hand-tractor he had at the newest component, about twice his height in length, half that in width and with substantial mass. His only hope for moving it was the anti-gravs mounted to it and the hand tractor. A flick of a switch and the blue cone of force grabbed onto the artifact. “Right, let’s get you to the construction team oh end cap and get you installed. I want out of this suit and into a shower.
“Well, what?” Gabrielle asked of Lieutenant Gantzmann, who was looming over her shoulder.
“Is it doing anything?” the larger woman asked to better clarify her original statement, or so Gabrielle assumed.
“The ground team only just signalled they’ve turned it on. I’m scanning, but nothing is showing up on sensors.” And that alone was today’s annoyance for Gabrielle. She’d been expecting something flashy, a light show, some sort of impressive sensor image. Even just a subspace spectrum would have done it. But instead, she got flat out nothing. No unusual or unknown EM signatures. No subspace harmonics that she could detect. Gravitational anomalies were absent. Space-time wasn’t threatening to unravel, or ravel, itself. There was a power signature on the planet’s surface, but that was it. A single, lousy, expected power source that wasn’t all that special in the grand scheme of things.
“Nothing at all?” Gantzmann asked, her tone hinting and incredulity.
“If there was something, I’d let everyone know.”
Before she could be further interrogated, she was rescued by the captain returning to the bridge. “T’Val, set course for the People’s planet of Trent and prepare to get underway. Once all shuttles and personnel are accounted, we’ll get going. Helm control and engines should be restored in the next few minutes. Camargo, drop whatever probes you want behind, but make sure they’re programmed for self-immolation. Might as well scan what we can while we can. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in Sickbay congratulating some slightly irradiated and exhausted engineers.”
And with that, Captain Theodoras departed.
“Still nothing on scans,” Gabrielle said after a few moments to break the silence.