Part of USS Altai: Here Be Monsters

Time to Grok the Rock

USS Altai, Cargo Bay 2
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The crewman on duty in the cargo bay was unimpressed, “Yup… It’s a rock.” He grumbled as Streth and the Science Officer from the bridge entered through the large double doors.

“Nothing unusual at all?” Streth asked, nonplussed.

“Nothing, nada, not even radioactive. Just a big lump of minerals.”

“I want to take a closer look, crewman. I saw the transmissions. There’s definitely more to this thing.”

“Aye sir,” said the cargo bay supervisor, skeptically.

“Drop the containment field,” Streth ordered, “we’ll use our eyes.”

The forcefield sparkled for a split second as it dropped. Streth, the science officer and the crewman approached, beginning to circle the rock that now sat in the middle of the cargo bay.

The science officer unclipped his tricorder, “Readings look pretty much identical to the ones we pulled off the ship’s sensors.”

Streth paced around for a minute, inspecting the jagged surface. Like the sensor readings, it was of no interest whatsoever. He reached out a hand, touching the surface. Dust coated his fingertips and he brought them up to his eyes for a closer look. Again, nothing special. Streth frowned. There had to be something more. His antennae moved as he stood there in thought. Absent-mindedly he kicked out at the rock, aiming at nowhere in particular.

CLONG.

The Ensign from science poked his head around from behind, “That sounded like…”

“…Duranium.” Streth finished the sentence for him.

“I don’t understand. How is it not coming up on the scans?” The Ensign was visibly confused.

The crewman joined them, “This is weird.” He surmised.

“Whatever this thing is,” said Streth, “it’s not just a rock.” He massaged the back of his neck in contemplation, “I want to find out what’s inside.”

“Phasers?” The crewman suggested.

“No,” Streth quickly rebutted, “if whatever is in there is sent those signals, we need to keep the equipment intact.”

“Hmmm, I’ll get the sub-micron phase cutter.” The crewman, happy for the chance to use some heavy equipment, strolled over to a corner of the cargo bay. He tapped in the unlock code and hoisted the machine from the storage unit. Streth and the Ensign stepped back as the enlisted man set the cutter down in front of the faux chunk of space debris. “I’ll set it to stop cutting as soon as it detects any internal space or a change of material. That should protect any equipment that might be inside.”

“Understood.” Streth watched the crewman input commands with the controls mounted on the tool’s rectangular metallic frame.

“You’ll want to stand clear. Initialising…. Now.”

A precision beam of concentrated phased energy shot from the cutter into the rock’s surface. It rotated in a perfect circle, boring a hole and melting through the surface in seconds. Vapour rose up slowly from where the beam made contact.

The circle fell from the side of the rock with a metallic clang rather than a crunching thud, all but confirming the men’s suspicions. The crewman pulled back the cutter and the Ensign kicked away the circular duranium plate. Streth crouched down and looked through the resulting hole. The size of a dinner plate, it was big enough for him to glimpse the blinking lights and conduits within. A display panel, partially obscured by the fake rocky surface displayed an alien script. Streth could not decipher it, but he recognised the symbols immediately.

“Breen.”

“Always good to know we’re being watched,” the Ensign in a glib tone.

“Take this thing apart,” Streth got to his feet, “let’s get it disassembled. Find out what exactly this thing was sending, and where it was sending to.”

An angry chip sounded from within the Breen device. All three men snapped their heads around to face the source of the noise. It continued, regular, every half second.

Blip.

Blip.

Blip.

“GO!”

They tore towards the cargo bay main doors, “Computer, activate a level ten force field five metres from cargo bay,” Streth yelled as they ran. The wall of energy shimmered into life just as the Breen listening device ripped itself apart in a tornado of fire. Shards of twisted duranium, held back by the glittering buzz, slammed into the deck that was now black from the roaring blaze. Emergency fire suppression systems activated, venting gas all around the cargo bay. A dull tone rang in Streth’s. Body rattled by the shockwave, he pressed himself to the deck.