Part of USS Atlantis: Mission 10 : A Blast from the Past

A Blast from the Past – 7

USS Aitu, USS Atlantis
September 3, 2400
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“So, this is it?” Mac asked as he stepped into the main cargo bay of the USS Aitu. No longer a quiet mausoleum but a hive of activity as engineers and scientists worked around the artefact that Maxwell had dubbed the Paperweight.

Which Mac had to give points to – anything put under this artefact wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It weighed as much as a small starship and he knew the slight tugging sensation he was feeling was purely psychosomatic, or so the physics would indicate at least. This thing, just from knowing its actual mass was imbued with a purely psychological mass.

Science division personnel were pouring over the device with every sensor they had at their disposal, from the handheld to high-powered portable units that did require some field assembly. Engineers helped where they could but were mostly focused on clearing debris and working to secure elements of the hull for removing a chunk of the starship’s flank to allow access for shuttles or even Atlantis herself to tractor the Paperweight out.

“This is it,” Gabrielle said as she walked over upon seeing him enter. “Surprised you got to come planetside. Did you wait for Gantzmann to go to sleep or something?” she joked.

“Nah, just told her that since the Breen are still a day out and the Tholians haven’t done anything, I was going to come down while things were calm to see this thing before we yanked it out.” He stepped closer to the artefact and just stared at it for a moment.

The surface of it was a bland, near-featureless plane with an almost mirror-like sheen to it. The wall of neutrons didn’t absorb much in the way of photons hitting it, nor did they have traps to bounce said photos off in weird directions, or electrons that would take the hit and then reemit it at a different frequency. What struck him was more that it looked wet.

“…and Doctor Pisani reports she’s finished her sweep of the wreckage for the crew,” Gabrielle said, stopping as she stepped up beside him. “We’ve found it best not to look directly at it for long.” She herself was half turned to face him, not the Paperweight. “Sir?”

“Sorry, it’s just…wet?” he asked, looking away from the artefact.

“Purely a property of its crystalline structure and being well, manufactured neutronium,” the young woman said as she offered a padd to him with a more detailed breakdown of their findings. “As I was saying, Engineering thinks we’ll have the hull peeled back for extraction this time tomorrow and Doctor Pisani has found the,” she stopped when he raised a hand.

“I got that last bit.” He smiled at her through his visor and looked up. “I know we want to do this right, preserve as much of the wreck as we can, but if the Breen or Tholians make a run on Atlantis, we’re likely going to end up phasing the hull away to get at this,” he waved the padd absently towards the Paperweight.

“Makes sense,” she agreed with him. “Doubt we’d even scratch the surface of this thing honestly without concerted effort so we’re likely all good in that regard.”

“Define concerted effort?” he asked without even thinking about it.

“Let Guns fire a salvo of quantum torpedoes at it?” Gabrielle stopped, staring into the middle distance for a moment. “The vacuum detonations tear at the fundamentals of nature, so there is a chance it just might overcome whatever strong nuclear bond is holding this all together.”

“What about a tri-cobalt device?”

“If you want to obliterate a good portion of the planet, sure.” Gabrielle looked at him seriously suddenly. “And decides, you can’t. We don’t have any aboard ship remember?”

“Skipper said we didn’t need to blow up small moons,” he said. “And I agree. Was just wondering anyway.” He stepped back, then a few steps to his left to look around the corner of the Paperweight, then back to Gabrielle. “Any idea on what it does?”

“It’s a particle generator,” she said. “I think,” she qualified. “And one more advanced than anything we have. And older too. And scarier.”

“Scarier?” he asked, then followed as she led him away from the ominous wet-looking mass to a portable terminal with its large semi-transparent screen. With only a few strokes she had brought up an orthographic of the device and he could see the fuzzy innards of the machine, the scans not precise but educated guesses, refinement eluding them for now.

“This is the raw feed,” she announced before another key command, “and this is the computer estimation.” This image was much sharper but was after all a guess by the Atlantis’ computers. “With some of the odd returns we’ve gotten and internal radiation readings, Maxwell and I are thinking this was an anti-proton beam generator. And not a small one either.”

“What, a few microns, maybe up to a millimetre in size?” he asked.

“More like a metre and a half.” She brought up the scan of one end of the device where the neutron shell was, to the humanoid eye, perfect, but was in reality segmented to iris open. “We’re talking massive destructive capabilities on demand here.”

“Why does all of this sound so bloody familiar?” Mac asked, of himself, Gabrielle and the universe at large.

“That’s been my thinking as well for the last few hours,” she confirmed.

“Right, keep on it. I’m going to go check in on Doctor Pisani.”

“Wondering when you’d find a way to sneak down here,” Blake stated roughly fifteen minutes later when he announced himself to her and her medical team. Four of them in total were at work documenting all of the dead they’d found and he’d followed their trail through the wreckage to the ship’s battered bridge.

There was no way anyone had survived planetfall, or the elements even moments after, what with the massive chunk of the bridge simply missing. Methane snow had buried consoles and bodies alike and this was the first time in a century some of those bodies had been in sight of the stars.

“I made a reasoned argument with Gantzmann. She’s a better tactical commander than I am and I have some experience in project work and recovery operations,” he explained.

“You pulled rank,” Blake countered as she stood up from the body that she’d been crouched beside, snapping her tricorder shut with practised ease.

“Damn right I did.”

She laughed at him and gave a small punch to his upper arm as she walked past. “We’ve only accounted for thirty-seven of the crew. Aitu had way more. Can only assume buried under the ship, crushed with it when it hit the planet, or lost in space to multiple hull breaches.”

“Hell of a way to go.” He followed her as she walked what was left of the bridge’s outer periphery, stopping by the non-defunct turbolift shaft, which was decidedly not the way he came. And it didn’t take any prompting at all for his eyes to settle on the ship’s dedication plaque. “Oh geez.”

“Closest thing a ship has to dogtags sailor,” Blake stated. “Do we?”

“Take it you mean?” He didn’t need an answer. Hers would be the same as his. “It’s part of the old girl, feels wrong to take it, but at the same time, it’s all we’d be taking back of her to Starfleet. Bringing closure to a mystery.”

He stood there, looking at it a moment more in the artificial light of suit lamps, then at Blake, who was looking at the plaque herself and not him. No support there.

A command decision needed to be made. And fate had left him to make it.

A step forward, hands gently lifted the plague, then pulled it away from the wall and its mounting pins. “USS Aitu is an Obena-class in Seventh Fleet,” he said while staring at the plaque in his hands. “We’ll make sure this gets to her namesake.”

“Might take a while though,” Blake said.

“Then we’ll just have to keep it safe.”

“Store it with the quartermaster once back aboard ship?” she asked.

“No no, Captain’s Mess. On display. Should be seen, not hidden.”

“Ladies, gentlemen and all those I have missed,” he found himself saying not but a few hours later in the Captain’s Mess before a collection of the Atlantis’ senior officers. “To the Aitu and her crew.” He raised his glass in a toast, turning to the plaque that now hung on one of the end walls, heard the clinking of a lot of glass and then the response he was hoping for.

“To the Aitu!”