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Part of USS Altai: Here Be Monsters

This is different…

Bridge, CO's Ready Room, Main Engineering, Asteroid Base
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[Guest Quarters]

Jones stood there at one side of the door while the crewperson who brought him here was standing on the other side. “I do apologize for the arrangement, sir. As far as I know, the former First Officer has yet to completely pack up his things and leave the ship. I don’t know much more beyond that, except that those quarters are not yet vacant.”

Jones looked to the crewperson. “It will do fine, Petty Officer. I have slept in worse.”

She smiled, “We would of put you in the Second Officer quarters but then what would be the point? You’re the new First Officer and we figured, here, you would be more than ready to move your things over to the First Officer quarters once it’s vacant. But then we realized, it wouldn’t make a difference, and-”

Jones put his hand up. “Relax. I said it will do fine. Besides, I pack light.”

She cleared her throat and then noticed the single large duffel bag. “Oh. Right! Of course. Not sure why I didn’t see that. Well, if it is all right with you sir, as soon as your real quarters are vacant and ready, we can transfer your…bag…to your official quarters.”

Jones gave her a single nod. “That will do just fine. Where is the Captain?” He asked as he picked up his duffel bag and placed it by the door, inside the guest quarters.

She smiled and placed her hand on the touch screen wall, where the computer responded to her touch. She tapped a few commands and then a map appeared to display a blip. “If the computer is right, the Captain should be in his Ready Room. Likely finishing breakfast or reading up on the computer core replacement report.”

Jones blinked as he remembered, looking at her, he noticed that her colors placed her in Operations or maybe Engineering. “Thank you for reminding me, Petty Officer. How is the Primary Computer Core?”

“Good! The Don S. Davis had exactly what we needed. When I read that the Ambassador Class that the Don is currently had been refitted with more cargo space, I had no idea that she carried that much equipment and supplies. But then again, it is a ship specifically fitted for Starfleet Corps of Engineers to do many tasks while out on the frontier.” She blushed when she realized she rambled too much again. “Sorry, sir. It’s been a bit hectic here and I’m still bustling with energy.”

Jones raised a brow. “Hectic?”

She shrugged, “Well besides the mechanical spider that was close to stealing Starfleet secrets or at least our mission secrets…we’ve been assisting the Starfleet Corps of Engineers from the Don in getting the station up and running, as well as running diagnostics and maintenance checks on the new Primary Computer Core, to make sure that it is fitting properly. I mean it’s practically identical but we swapped out the broken one with the new one by transporter and that was done between two ships, not at a Drydock with experts and … well it’s just been hectic.”

Jones nodded his head then sighed. “Well I appreciate the update, Petty Officer. Do try to relax, otherwise if there was another spider like that, it wouldn’t need a Computer Core to steal information.”

Her face went beat red and she took a step back. “I’m really sorry, sir.”

Jones shook his head with a small grin. “Don’t apologize, you did nothing wrong. Just a little joke. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to report in. So you might want to return to your duties.”

“Yes sir!” She smiled and hurried off, which Jones did the same, to the nearest turbolift so he can get to the Captain’s Ready Room.

[Bridge]

The door to the turbolift split open to reveal that someone had come to the Bridge, though it was normal for the Bridge Crew, so almost no one pays attention to who arrives. Jones stepped out onto the Bridge from the lift, taking a good look at where he would most likely be seeing himself at for a good part of his career before noticing the doors that read ‘Captain’s Ready Room’ on it. With one more look around the Bridge, he walked over to those doors and pressed the chime button on the door touch pad.

“Enter,” Streth was reading updates from the initial base upgrades completed over the last 24 hours. Environmental extraction filters had reduced in-air particulate matter by 98%. Food replication systems were now online, and 25 crew quarters had now been made ready for occupancy. Streth looked up to see a dark-haired, gruff looking officer making the short couple of steps across the ready room towards his desk. He recognised the man instantly, and rose from his seat, rounding the desk to stand face to face, “Ah, Mr. Jones.” Streth looked approvingly at his new First Officer, “Thanks for reporting in at such short notice.” He extended a hand.

As he had stepped in, his first look into the room was the Captain, Lieutenant Commander Torden Streth, with the blue skin, white hair and the two antenna’s, which are the exact features of an Andorian. He could say he has worked with Andorians before, but then again, he had worked alone for a major portion of his career. From what he read though, Streth was an Andorian who you could get along with pretty easily. When the man came around the desk and extended his hand, Jones didn’t hesitate to accept it and leave a tight grip on it. “After what I have read, sir, I figured that the best thing to do is report to my new Commanding Officer. Especially since my position was changed on short notice. Although, I don’t know much except for what was available on record. Plus reporting in is standard procedure as well, and there are some procedures you don’t ignore.”

“Couldn’t agree more, Lieutenant.” Streth said, “It’s a shame Lieutenant Van Der Luan was called away. I expect he has more fruitful endeavours awaiting him,” he worked to hide a hint of regret in his voice. “Starfleet Command works in mysterious ways, and now they send me an intelligence officer. Lieutenant Jones, have you seen much of the Breen in your line of work? We could sure use some more intel on them right now.”

Jones nodded his head on the comment of ‘Starfleet Command works in mysterious ways’ as there really was not much explanation as to the roster change, though Jones wouldn’t doubt that his previous Commanding Officer had already explained why Jones was out here instead of back in the field. He blinked back into reality with the question that was asked. “Aside from that the Breen has taken Dominion technology, adapted it, and enhanced their vessels in almost every way? Afraid not. They’re one of the most mysterious races in the Alpha Quadrant, and even when I have done only an operation or two on the Breen, we still don’t know what they look like under that helmet of theirs. What I do know is, they’re not stupid. I would not be surprised if they already knew that we took over one of their old stations, and most likely have a scout ship watching our every move as we speak. But unless their behavior has also changed with their adaptation of Dominion technology to their own, I don’t think we would be encountering them unless we do something provocative. We’re not in their space, at least, there was no mention of them believing that this part of space is still theirs because if they had, I believe you and the Don here would of had an encounter long before my arrival.” Jones paused for a moment to give the Captain time to let that sink in but he was also rather curious about the spider drone that attacked the ship. “Any news from your team about that spider?”

“I suppose we should be thankful Breen territorial ambitions haven’t yet stretched their way out here. But part of me thinks it would make their motives easier to explain if there was just something we could point to that they wanted. Seems they don’t get that ‘mysterious’ reputation for nothing.” Streth held himself back from continuing down that particular rabbit hole, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand, “That… Thing is currently being dissected by Lieutenant Beck and Chief Cooper. Here’s hoping they can shed some light on the thing.” The last sentence was uttered by Streth without much hope in his voice. A lightbulb then pinged on in his head, “Lieutenant Jones, given your previous assignment, am I correct in assuming you have extensive signals intelligence experience?”

Jones nodded his head, “Well I am rather curious about that thing, so I hope they report in soon.” He then smiled a little at the question. “I do, sir. Got a job for me?”

“As you’ll know, Breen communications are notoriously hard to decrypt. Our universal translators can’t even work around their language, and when you add their computer systems to the mix it’s almost impossible to detect any kind of encryption pattern.” He paused, aware that Jones’ intelligence training likely meant the Lieutenant knew even more on the subject, “I want to know if that bot sent or received any communication from the Breen. Is there any way of finding out? You’ll have full access to Beck and Cooper’s analysis when it’s ready.”

Jones stroked his chin before nodding his head. “Aye, Captain. I’ll get right on it.” He said before taking over an empty station on the Bridge and started to work, bringing up sensor and communication logs, multiple displays and various diagnostic tools.

[Main Engineering]

Beck stepped through one of the doors to find Cooper had yet to get the mechanical spider open, but definitely looked like she had been busy trying. His right hand was wrapped up after it had been treated for the third degree burn he got, it would be a day or two of treatment to remove the scar or he could decide to forgo the treatment and keep the scar as a reminder of his reckless, insane ideas. With his now mild accent, “Lass, I thought you would of had that bugger opened by now.”

Cooper raised her head looking at him, slightly confused before she smiled. “Have you been practicing?”

Beck shrugged his shoulders. “The nurses were chewing me out for what I did, that I could of gotten myself killed but the only thing I truly listened was how they talked. And on my way where, I was talking to myself.”

Cooper smiled, “Seem awfully quick.”

Beck chuckled. “Ah, honestly I been holding back. I’ve been practicing since the Academy. I knew my accent can be a pain for others to understand sometimes, but I’m getting better. So what’s the story here?” He asked as he stood before the mobile bench that the mechanical spider was on, aside from the wheels being locked in place to keep it from moving.

She sighed, “Well that insane idea of yours did the trick all right. But it really fried it. How’s the hand?”

Beck smiled with a shrug. “It is fine, just like you said it would be. Although apparently I was not the only one who got an electrical shock. Appears that miss G.I. Jane got one too.”

Cooper smirked, “Why do you call her that? And how did she get hit?”

Beck shrugged again. “Ah, cuz I barely know anyone’s name on board this ship and the fact that her primary job is being purely a soldier. Being part of a Hazard Team is normally a secondary occupation in Starfleet. But for her and her team, it’s their primary. Plus I consider it to be a compliment. She’d be the one on the front lines in case anything goes straight to hell in a hen basket. And if that is her primary occupation, she’ll do just fine, better than me and my engineers, that’s for sure. We may have some phaser training, but not as much as they do.” He shrugged his shoulders. “And I don’t know, lass. Apparently me and her were the most positive people in that room, aside from that mechanical bugger.”

Cooper smiled, “Well that training of theirs certain showed when that spider showed up. And is she going to be okay?”

Beck blew raspberries. “Oh yeah, she’ll be just fine.” He then shrugged his shoulders, “Not their fault. This bugger here was bloody fast, and I mean really bloody fast. Plus I do believe one of them did get a shot on it, but the damn thing got some kind of strong material protecting it. Honestly, I really thought this was something new the Breen had to spy on us and find out why we are here. But now…now I feel like this is something else. Or the Breen found some new material that we don’t have a clue on just yet. Either of those conclusions is scary enough, lass. It means that we either have a new foe to worry about, a dangerous one at that, or the Breen have found some alloy that is quite strong, and neither of those conclusions sound good to me.”

Cooper sighed with a nod, “Yeah. Neither of them do.” She then straightened out her back and stretched as she yawned.

Beck frowned, “How long have you been at this, lass?”

Cooper sighed, “Oh jeez. Since I got your ass to sickbay.”

“You should get some sleep.”

Cooper shook her head and waved her hand at him. “Oh please. I’ve pulled so many all nighters in my life, this is nothing.”

“I could make it an order, Lass.” Beck grinned.

“And I rather you don’t give me one that I’ll most likely defy. Besides, we need to know what this thing is, to find out which one of those conclusions are the ones we need to be worried about and the sooner we inform the Captain, the sooner we can try to prepare ourselves for whatever the hell is out there.” Cooper said as she grabbed a plasma torch.

“Are you just now picking that up?” Beck asked.

Cooper shrugged, “I tried everything to pry this thing open without the risk of burning up what circuits it has left but your idea really fused its casing together. So yeah, I am.”

Beck nodded his head and then grabbed some other tools. “All right then, if that is the case, I say we open it up like we’re dissecting it. Literally.”

Cooper frowned, “We can’t just slice right down the middle and pull apart the casing like it’s skin.”

Beck smiled, “No but we can cut a fair size rectangle to get a look inside.” He set the tools down and grabbed a tricorder, changing modes on it to give him a view of the interior of the spider. “Hmm. Whatever this alloy is, it’s not preventing me from using this mode here.”

Cooper smirked, “I know right. It’s strong but it doesn’t block certain scans. Odd isn’t it?”

“Odd enough to give our internal sensors hell but not enough to keep us from looking inside it? It is indeed. All right, adjust your plasma torch down to the second setting. That should allow you to cut through the casing and still keep you from burning up any circuits that are left inside of it. Here, I’ll guide you.”

With a little effort, part of the metallic exoskeleton was prised away. While the bug now immobile, the insides of the autonomous machine were far from still. Writhing, wriggling and seething under the removed panel were a million glowing tendrils of light. Like an anemone inhabiting one of Earth’s oceans, the tiny filaments withdrew as they became exposed to the outside air. They radiated through the colour spectrum, washing the area around them in hues from violet to ochre, trying unsuccessfully to tuck themselves away from prying eyes and implements.

Both Beck and Cooper stared at the inside of the spider with amazement, seeing the writhing, wriggling and seething tendrils of light that basked in an amazing spectrum of colors, while trying desperately to hide. “Have you ever seen anything like this before, lass?” Beck asked while he stared at it.

Cooper shook her head, she too staring hard into it. “No, sir. I think I would recognize such beauty if I had seen it before.” And of course, they weren’t alone, others in Main Engineering, on the main and top deck were seeing the light and of course, curiosity got the better of them. “Should we alert the Captain?”

Beck, still staring into it. “Well, this would be significant to report. Because this just obliterated my speculations of the Breen being involved right out of the water.”

Cooper blinked then looked up at Beck. “Wasn’t there a report from the Defiant about tendrils, kind of like these, being alive and moving around, getting entangled with all sorts of systems throughout the ship?”

Beck nodded his head, “Standard reading in Starfleet Academy, so that we know what exactly to do to get rid of them in case the ship gets infested with them. No lass, I don’t think this is Dominion technology.”

Cooper frowned, “But what if it is? Just…someone made an advancement of it?”

Beck shook his head, “Nah. This…this looks organic. And it is alive. Or it feels that it is exposed to the air outside of its shell and this reaction it has is just a reaction to being exposed.” He sighed some and then pulled away from it, rubbing his eyes and face. “Good lord, I could stare at that for hours.” Then he withdrew his hands from his face and noticed his engineers were staring as well. “Oy! Get back to work!” He raised his voice just enough to knock them out of their trance and off they went.

“How about we get another pair of eyes and hands on this, see if we can find out more about this…spider…before we give the Captain a full report?” Cooper asked.

Beck nodded his head and tapped his badge. =^=Ensign Kappler. Report to Main Engineering. We got a surprise and a project for you.=^=

-^- “On my way.” -^-

It only took a minute for Kappler to step out of the turbolift and walk into Main Engineering. “Good morning, Chiefs,” he said. His eyes lit up as he noticed the dissected machine in front of them. “Oh, I was hoping to get a look at this thing.”

“Good morning, Ensign.” Cooper smiled before returning her gaze at the innards of the Spider. “Ever seen anything like this before?” She asked Kappler.

Beck chuckled, “I can already tell you, Chief, no one has.”

Cooper shrugged a shoulder. “Was curious.”

Beck nodded and then sighed. “Your opinion, Ensign Kappler. How do you think we should proceed? As soon as we peeled off it’s casing of its under belly, aside from the beautiful light coming from it, these tendrils are more alive than this mechanical bug is and they clearly don’t like being exposed. Should we just stick our hand in there and see what else we find or what?” Beck asked.

Kappler leaned in as close as he dared, fixated on the undulating motion of the tendrils.

Cooper smiled, “Better answer quick, won’t be long till the Captain and First Officer shows up asking where we’re at on this thing.”

“Well, first question first,” Kappler responded. “No, I don’t recognize the technology. It’s definitely not Breen or Kzinti. Second… and I don’t think you’re going to like my answer…” he paused looking over the readings from the few scans that saw through the device’s scattering field. “We shouldn’t do anything more until we determine whether it is alive.”

Cooper sighed when Kappler said that before looking over to Beck. “Guess we’re going to have to report to the Captain and the First Officer now. At least give them a progress report to say the least.”

Beck shook his head, “Nah. Forget it. I’m going to get to the bottom of this thing.” Beck started messing with the settings on his tricorder to try and get through so he can get detailed scans of the spider. Then he shoved his hand into the belly of the beast, feeling around the tendrils until he found something that felt like a data port. “Well, well, well. What do we have here.” He pulled his hand free, grabbed a large data padd, connected a cable to it and then took the other end of the cable and stuck his hand right back into the spider before, painstakingly, plugging the other end right into the data port. He pulled his right out and started downloading anything and everything he can, at least he hopes he didn’t trigger any self termination protocols or anything like that.

The screen of the PADD flashed blue. Garbled text ran across it in streaks of yellow. Breen script mingled with symbols of unknown origin. The chunks of text increased in speed, merging into a neon blur as the PADD absorbed as much as it could from the conduit. Disappearing into the spider’s belly like a cybernetic umbilical, the cable’s optical nodes began to flash rapidly as the PADD worked harder and harder to commit the information stream to memory. The spider’s bottom legs twitched in a barely perceivable spasm. A tiny servo whirred. There was no time to react. The leg reached up, its bifurcated point gripping onto the ODN cable. In a flash it ripped the wire from its body cavity, sending sparks shooting up. The leg fell back, hanging limply from the observation table. Its innards were now impenetrably melted and fused, its storage chips blackened, distorted and erased.

[30 Minutes Later]
[Asteroid Base]

An energy beam started to appear on one of the station’s transporter pads and soon, the reconstruction of a figure was finished. Benjamin Jones took the initiative to visit the station that they are going to be occupying for the time being, and see how far the Starfleet Corps of Engineers are from completing their task. Like some stations, this one had one of its transporter pads on the Command/Operations Level of the station, used for in case of emergency evacuation either from the station or to the station, or other obvious means. It also made it convenient for when you wanted to get from a ship to the Operations of the Station to deliver an important, top secret message. Or to tell an Operations staff to stop what they’re doing. There were a number of reasons for it, most that Jones couldn’t really come up with right now, as his mind was pretty occupied with questions and curiosity of his current assignment.

He could see a lot of yellow shoulders walking around with utility belts, parts in their hands, or at some of the consoles, installing new circuitry. One in particular stood out, where Jones could make out the pips on his shoulder/collar bone, a Lieutenant Commander. Jones immediately deducted that that Officer was Lieutenant Commander Kevin Walker, Commanding Officer of the Don S. Davis and leader of this team of Starfleet Corps of Engineers. Jones stepped off the transporter pad and walked on over to the Commander, holding his hand out to him as soon as he got up close to him. “Commander Walker. Lieutenant Benjamin Jones, the new First Officer of the Altai.”

Walker raised a brow when a random Lieutenant came up to him with his hand out, only now to smile and take his hand to shake it. “Ah, Lieutenant. I had no idea that the Altai was getting a roster change.”

Jones shrugged a shoulder. “Honestly, I had no idea either. I was originally assigned to be the Second Officer but as soon as I arrived into the system, that changed.”

Walker smiled, “Whatever the reasons are for the change, it’s none of my business. Not my ship, not my crew.”

Jones nodded his head, “How is the retrofit and repairs coming along?”

Walker whistled. “Son, the fact that Starfleet got their hands on this station in the first place, is a miracle to me. I barely understand Breen technology myself and there still plenty of it here. Then there’s the automated systems that Starfleet slapped in. Had to replace a lot of their circuits to get them up and running again.”

Jones frowned, “We’re still going to use those?”

Walker nodded his head. “Even if Commander Streth is going to have most of his crew manning this station, it’s best to keep the automated systems as a precaution. You know how it is, we love redundancies. Our ships mostly have two computer cores.” He then winked at that.

Jones shook his head. “I’ve yet to speak to the crazy engineer who came up with that idea.”

Walker chuckled. “Don’t be too hard on him. It was a crazy idea but it worked and he had good reason. Did you read the report on how insanely fast that spider was?”

Jones nodded his head. “I did and they’re opening it up now. So I am rather eager to find out what it is, being that I used to be in Starfleet Intelligence.”

Walker raised a brow. “Used to be?”

Jones shrugged a shoulder. “Long story.” Actually a short one but Jones didn’t want to get into it. “So how much longer do you think it will be?”

Walker sighed and lifted up the large data padd in his hand, skimming over some of the reports that were actually coming in live. “We’re likely to be done in a couple of hours. We’ve repaired a lot of the major systems, life support, reactor control and safety systems, as well as replaced the station’s computer core. I don’t know what kind of Computer Core that Starfleet slapped down in this station but it looked terrible.”

Jones frowned in thought, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but this station was inactive since the end of the Dominion War. Wouldn’t that be the reason why?”

Walker sighed again with a shrug. “I mean, it could be. But most of Starfleet’s equipment should last longer than that. Mostly. It could be because of the integration with Breen technology that’s still on this station. Or it could because Starfleet was in a rush and slapped mediocre equipment down. I don’t really know. All I know is, it’s taking up a lot of supplies from my ship’s stores to get this base up an running at top peak efficiency and I mean top peak. I don’t leave a job half done, and I certainly don’t leave a job mediocre either. We’re in no rush, we’re in no war, so me and my team can take their time in making sure that this station lasts before the next major maintenance is needed, which don’t be surprised if I come back with the Don S. Davis to do such maintenance.”

Jones nodded his head. “So my understanding then is, once your done, this place will look brand spanking new. Correct?”

Walker smiled, “That’s our motto. My team is one of the best. We’ve been doing this kind of work for years and we know what to look for, what needs to be repaired or replaced. So yes, let your Captain know that this station, will be ready to go, spit shine and all.”

Jones smirked, “Well I am sure that he would be happy to hear that. But no problems? No mishaps?”

Walker shook his head, “Nope. We’ve been doing pretty good, accident free.” That is until one of the two crewmembers carrying a heavy crate suddenly slipped out of his hand and his end fell onto his feet. They all turned when they heard him cursing in pain. Walker frowned, “And we jinxed it.”

Jones raised a brow. “Not superstitious are you?”

Walker shook his head, “No but that sure was quite the coincidence.” He then looked back at the two crewmembers. “Hey, get him back to the Don, have the doc check him out. Everyone else be more careful. I don’t want one incident turning into a dozen.” Then he looked back to Jones. “Anything else, Lieutenant? I really got to get back to work here.”

Jones shook his head, “Ah, no sir. Thank you for the update.”

Walker smiled, “You’re welcome. I do appreciate you stopping by. I do enjoy telling my customers how hard we’ve been working.”

Jones smirked before he headed on back to the transporter pad, where he was then transported back to the Altai. His curiosity on that mechanical spider has finally gotten the better of him, and as a former Intelligence Officer, he was extremely curious.