Falkenberg and al Rashid studied the mysterious object protruding from the Federation navigational beacon. It’s surface was distressed, marked with scratches and small divots, like it had been pelted with cosmic dust for millennia.
As the two Starfleet officers peered at the probe, they did so unaware that they too were being studied. Being a lifeform without form was not without its challenges for the Wanderer. For The Wanderer was eager to connect with these lifeforms so recently discovered, yet it was contained by the physical limits of the metallic form that the Wanderer had attempted to meld with first. Wanderer could not reach out and interact with any other living thing easily. For a being used to eons of freedom, such a situation was greatly disturbing. The first lifeform had been communicative, but only on a simple level. Actually, to the point of rudeness, so Wanderer had decided to waste no more time with it.
The energy patterns of Wanderer at the moment were not new. Wanderer had experienced them when it had traversed the galaxy GN-z12. Some of the beings of GN-z12 Wanderer had met had been agreeable to contact, but many had not, choosing ignorance, one had been particularly hurtful in chasing the Wanderer away. What would these lifeforms be like?
Mike bent down and examined the exterior from side to side. “Well, it has seen some weather.” He studied the tricorder from the shuttle. “We might be able to make a rough estimate of its path by sampling surface detritus and comparing it with our data banks. This tricorder isn’t up to that. I’d need to take it to the metallurgy section for a good analysis. However–” He slapped the tricorder, “Gee, this thing’s a crock. That’s better. Uncertain identity, but it is carrying life forms. Probably anaerobic bacteria it picked up along the way.”
He straightened up with a frown. “Don’t you find it odd that in this huge expanse of space, it slams into a Federation navigation buoy?”
“Small universe, isn’t it?” the exec replied. “Life forms, huh? Do we need to set up a quarantine field?”
“It doesn’t seem absolutely necessary, but I’d hate to find a Triffid growing in the lab tomorrow morning. Better be safe and quarantine until we see what hitched a ride on this thing.”
The exec stepped to an intercom panel, summoning an engineering crew to the shuttlebay. When they arrived, they began setting up forcefield generators like fence posts around the buoy. When the last was in place, one of the techs pressed an activator button on one of them, and a blue field snapped into view between each generator, forming a protective perimeter.
“All right, let’s see what we can see,” al Rashid said, stepping through the two-way barrier.
A few moments later, a pair of laboratory techs rolled in a portable dynoscanner. Falkenberg thanked them and wheeled the device through the forcefield.
“‘Let’s see what we can see,’ indeed.” The science officer waved a scanning wand over the surface of the mysterious probe. His eyes darted back and forth between the probe and the dynoscanner monitor. With a satisfied expression, he returned the wand to a receptacle on the dynoscanner and deactivated the forcefields. “The good news is there’s no contamination risk.” He crossed his arms, resting his chin on his knuckles as he stared intently at the probe. “But the readings I got…if I didn’t know better….” He paused a moment before speaking again. “If I were a first-year med student, I’d say it was neural activity.”
The first officer motioned for the engineering techs to remove the forcefield generators. As they packed the devices up and placed them on an antigrav skid, al Rashid paced around the probe.
“Mike, do you think we can adapt a cable to do a data transfer from the buoy’s memory banks?”
“I don’t see why not? I think these buoys have dataports for manual upgrades and information transfer, so I think a standard power cable should work.”
A few moments later, the engineering techs brought the appropriate cable. Al Rashid was working a service panel off the buoy. He beckoned one of the techs to hand him the cable.
“Sir, we can do that,” the tech said, trying to sound diplomatic. “After all we’re-”
“Nonsense. I’m already down here,” came the first officer’s reply. He took the cable and began plugging it into a socket inside the open service panel.
“Sir, before you do that, you’re gonna want to-”
There was a momentary bright flash, a loud crack, and torrent of curses from al Rashid, who was now dancing on the deck of the shuttlebay, clutching his right hand.
“-deactivate the buoy’s power core first,” finished another tech, who was shaking his head at the sight. “We’d better call medical down here.”
“No. No. I’m all right,” al Rashid insisted. He shook his hand repeatedly, wiggling his fingers as if trying to restore feeling to them. “I can still walk.” He turned to Falkenberg. “Mike, just…carry on. Going to sickbay. Be back soon.”
Falkenberg nodded and pursed his lips slightly forming a small smirk at his comrade’s misfortune. They had tried to warn him, but at least he was fine. He watched briefly as al Rashid began to walk away before returning to focus on the beacon.
Meanwhile the Wanderer found itself in a different place. This one had limits, but it was soft and warm, and filled with a strange energy.