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 Post subject: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-25 12:18pm
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Notes: This began life a couple years ago as a Halloween story, only I never quite managed to finish it by Halloween. It does take place in the same milieu as the story fragments "Fair as Death" and "Jandarma" that I've posted here before, except it takes place during a more sophisticated and genteel time. I may continue to post more of it here, if there's any interest in it.

~~~

He was greeted by a vast expanse of inky blackness. Skeletal metal frames extended up toward distant, bleak gray, ceilings.

"How do you feel, Akemi?" He called out into the darkness.

"Light," a woman's voice whispered in his ear.

He nodded, gripping the crimson safety rails tighter. "I understand that," he said. "It does make you fast, though; to be light."

"I'm still not happy about it," the woman's voice replied. "Now that I think about it, naked might be a better word to use ... yes, I feel naked; and it doesn't make me happy."

"Well," the man said with a smile. "This won't be a bad deployment, even by Imperial standards. And you still have Mansoor aboard, right?"

"Do not remind me," the woman's voice said. "You know I'm still disappointed."

The man nodded. "I know, Akemi, I know."

He turned, hearing the fall of footsteps behind him.

"Sir," an olive-skinned man, resplendent in the white uniform of the Imperial Starfleet, said. "Your syn-brain was not responding. I've been instructed to inform you that we are preparing to leave trans-light."

He nodded. "Thank you, Ensign. I think Akemi can handle the transit over the wall just fine without her Captain's micro-management. I'll come up to CIC after we're over, to have a look at the planet we've come all this way to see."

"Aye sir," the other officer replied, offering a crisp salute. The Captain responded in kind, holding it as the junior officer stalked away.

"Akemi?"

"Yes," the woman's voice returned to his ear.

"You didn't tell me we were about to make final transit."

Silence.

"I'm sorry," the woman's voice said. "I just really enjoy these talks we have."

"Don't be sorry," the man replied, a smile spreading his lips. "I enjoy these talks too."

~~~

The planet, he reflected, looked as though it'd been painted in broad strokes drawn from a burned palette. It was a world of lunar grays and crumbled, rusty browns, splashed with dark basalts. Distant sunlight cast razor-edged shadows across walls of innumerable craters, tall mountains, and the serpentine sensuousness of ancient shorelines. There was a ring too, that swaddled the planet in charcoal black, which glittered darkly in the sunlight.

"This world disturbs me," the woman's voice said in his ear.

"I'm not sure what to make of it myself, Akemi," the man replied, thinking the worlds. It was a world that once had an atmosphere as thick as old Earth's, but the sharpness of its features, and the shadows that slashed across them, belied its near-airlessness. In a word, it felt unnatural.

"Yeah," Akemi agreed. "Definitely unnatural."

That his ship's Intelligence thought that made Captain Sean Taggart even more uneasy. He looked across the floating, translucent, display; finding the eyes of his senior staff. Every man and woman looked thoughtful, as they studied the planet hovering before them.

"Akemi," a dark-skinned man with short, tightly-curled hair, said into the air. "What do we know about this world?"

"Little more than what the Kingdom has shared with us," a curvy middle-aged woman of Japanese descent replied. Like the planet, she was faintly translucent. This was Akemi, the avatar of BCP-48 Akemi, a Battle Control Platform of the Ascendant Empire of Pan-Humanity.

"They say the planet was once inhabitable, before it was destroyed in an ancient war," Akemi continued. The holographic planet expanded. Criss-crossing the desolate landscape were long-dry riverbeds. Something else too, snaked across the landscape. Something much straighter, drawn in dark shades of asphalt.

"Roads," someone gasped.

"Yes," the Captain said. "Inhabitable, and inhabited. Akemi, how long ago did our friends say this planet was inhabited."

Akemi pursed her lips, adjusting thick-framed glasses. "The reports are all evasive on that point, but other sources of intelligence suggest somewhere between forty-five to seventy thousand years ago."

"The size of the fleet required to do what I am seeing is ... unthinkable," the dark-skinned man said. "Who would think the death of a whole world was important enough to expend such effort on its end?"

"That," the Captain replied with a thin-lipped smile, "is the question the Kingdom's xenoarchaeologists have been trying to answer." Mentally, he smiled at having gotten out the long word without stumbling. Akemi's avatar momentarily smiled in turn. "However," he said, clearing his throat. "That's a question that, by decree of the exalted ones on the Security Council, is one we shouldn't think too much about. Our role in this is to be simple couriers. As we speak, the team of scientists we've hauled all this way from Sol, is getting ready to be dropped off. Just as soon as the Kingdom decides to tell us where." The Captain's smile broadened. "Given Akemi's unmistakable stature, I'm rather surprised they haven't talked to us yet."

"To be frank, Skipper," a man with sandy hair said, regarding the Captain with green eyes, "we're delivering the scientists in a Battle Control Platform. Those counterculturists might be trying to figure out whether to scream at us for scaring them out of their wits, or to start shooting at us for jumping their claim."

"I don't think the Kingdom has to worry about the Empire trying to snatch up a murdered planet on the opposite end of their territory," the Captain replied, gently. There was an officer who would soon find that his days in the Imperial Starfleet were numbered. Counterculturists? Really?

~~~

"An Imperial dreadnought?" A gray-haired man snarled, glaring at Captain Taggart with flinty blue eyes. "You Imperials always throwing your weight around! You are really quite fortunate that we didn't open fire on you."

Captain Taggart smiled a thin-lipped smile. "Sir, I can't help but notice that your ship appears to be of an equivalent class."

"Of course it is! This is important work that my people are doing! Work that requires protection."

"Begging your pardon, sir, but from what? We haven't seen anything on the trip out."

"Well, look at the planet. Our people need protection from whatever would kill a whole planet. And, more to the point; and don't take this the wrong way, they need protection from you Imperials."

Captain Taggart spread out his hands. "Sir, the Empire holds the treaty of friendship that binds us absolutely sacrosanct. A war between us isn't in our best interests. Furthermore, to get to this system, we had to pass through all of your territory. Finally, your Kingdom's own Crown did invite our scientists to take part in the dig you're protecting."

The gray-haired man harrumphed. He flickered, became entirely transparent, and then resumed his translucency. "You make compelling points, Imperial. But, still, a dreadnought? My entire fire control section went apoplectic when you popped into the system!"

Captain Taggart smiled and shook his head. "The dispatches suggested a certain urgency, sir," he replied. "Akemi is the fastest ship we've got right now." And only because we have none of our parasite compliment, he thought.

"Very well," the gray-haired man said, snapping out the words. "You may join us in polar orbit around the planet . . . but, we will be keeping an eye on you. Maintain an orbital separation from us of 800 kilometers at all times." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Would you accept an officer exchange? It would be for the duration of your stay here. I do believe that the treaty of friendship permits . . . truce parties, does it not?"

Taggart's smile froze on his face.

It's okay, Akemi's voice whispered in his ear. If it comes to a fight, I think I can cripple him with minimal loss of life. I'm not sure he realizes how outmatched he is.

Taggart exhaled. "If you believe it's necessary, then I'll have the lots drawn immediately."

"I do," the gray-haired man replied. "Our mission here is protection, after all. Believe me, Imperial, what I do, I do for the safety and well-being of His Majesty's scientists and their work here."

"Alright then, sir," Taggart said. "I assume you'll want the transfer to be done when we make orbit?"

"Yes," the man replied. "Remember, standard-sized truce party." Suddenly, he looked away, down at something that Taggart couldn't see. When he looked back up, he scowled. "I don't understand why, but our scientists are extending an invitation to you, and a number of your officers, to accompany your scientists down to the dig site."

"Is that so?"

"Yes, yes," the gray-haired man replied. "I suppose they think they're trying to be diplomatic. Isn't that what they train you Imperial Captains to be nowadays?"

"You've got me there," Taggart said. "I would be pleased to accept their invitation," he added, seeing the man's face tense up. There was something about how strained the gray-haired man's voice sounded. It was making him feel uneasy.

Yeah, I agree, Akemi said. She had access to his syn-brain, though their relationship was such that she didn't really need it. Go on, take the trip down to the planet. It will give me an excuse to get Mansoor out of here too.




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-25 02:18pm
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Please continue this, I'm curious what's on the planet.



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-25 08:59pm
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The surface of the world looked much worse the closer one got to it, Taggart thought. Jagged mountains rose up to meet the bejeweled black of space. Strings of fresh impact craters littered the landscape, shockingly bright against the browns, grays, and ochres. As his shuttle fell toward the planet, he could see into deep valleys, and what he saw shocked him. Black objects, looking much like the trunks of trees, littered their floors.

"Trees," he echoed.

"Perhaps," the dead voice of his Battlespace Intelligence, Mansoor Victorious, by the Will of God, replied. "The composition does look to be carbon. What is more interesting is what lies near the string of craters we are approaching."

Taggart's eyes snapped up. He saw the craters near the base of what had been hilly terrain. There! There were more ancient roads cut into the landscape there, half-obliterated by the craters. But ... with a thought, his mind's eye presented him with a view from the shuttle's telescopes. Among the hills were massively deformed, skeletal, shapes rising up into the perpetual night. Buildings!

"You see them." It was a statement. "Those who were once here burned before the end."

"Who would kill a world?" Taggart whispered, awestruck. In that moment, he thought of Akemi, but she wouldn't be here to give him comfort against the cruel reality he was seeing. The ship had descended below the northern horizon, not to be seen again for an hour and a half.

"Those it would benefit," Mansoor replied. Taggart frowned. Mansoor was far more obtuse than his predecessor, Tajana Keeper of Secrets. Akemi shared a close relationship with Tajana, and never really warmed to Mansoor. Taggart had his suspicions as to why that would be, but he never allowed himself the luxury of dwelling on them.

"And who would benefit from the death of a whole world?" He snapped back.

"Those who would benefit from depriving its use to someone else."

"That's absurd," Taggart replied, forcing some levelness into his voice. "That just makes it unusable for everybody."

"If success is only measured by victories, then a Pyrrhic victory can still be counted."

"That's a terrible metric for success," Taggart said.

"Not terrible. Only desperate."

Taggart scowled, falling silent while watching the ruined city slide from view. Destroying a whole world wasn't an act of desperation. Not from his point of view. He exhaled sharply. This was a topic of discussion he'd rather be having with Akemi ... What was the saying from Starfleet's old days? That a Captain was a knight of the Empire, his ship was his shield, and his Battlespace Intelligence was his striking arm.

Mansoor was a sword, so he thought like one. Though why a weapon of war would feel the death of an entire planet was an act of desperation, Taggart didn't know.

"Okay, I give," he said. "Why is it an act of desperation ... to kill an entire world?"

"Certain truths become self-evident when retreat is no longer possible. When all fields are those from which an opponent may launch an attack."

Huh. Taggart, again, fell into thoughtful silence. The curious strings of impact craters petered out as the world rose up to meet him. Featureless plains and hills raced beneath him. Boulder-strewn glacial valleys gaped like open wounds, long ago stripped of their ice. And then the valleys were gone, and Taggart saw the first sign of life on the whole planet. harsh blue-white floodlights blazed out over the landscape, and flashing strobes marked the Kingdom's dig site.

"Now there's a sight for sore eyes," he said. Mansoor had no reply.

~~~

The Kingdom of the Star Commonwealth sure loved their banners, Taggart thought. Four of them hung in the vaulted chamber of smoothed rock. Navy blue with a brilliant blue-white star, from which a single vine climbed the center of the banner. A vine that had stars for leaves. Several men emerged from an arched doorway at the far end of the chamber, approaching Taggart with purposeful strides. The man at the head bore a short, white, beard; and his grip was firm when he shook Taggart's hand.

"Captain Sean Taggart, of the Imperial Starfleet, I presume?"

"Yes," Taggart replied. "Though I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."

The bearded man smiled. "Of course. I am Doctor Calvin Guillarmod, Professor of Antiquities for His Majesty's Royal Science Academy. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Likewise," Taggart replied. "This is an impressive setup you have here."

"It's the product of five years of hard work. Our excavations stretch for nearly eleven kilometers, and we've barely scratched the surface of this installation."

"Installation?"

"Yes," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "We call this the Orrery."

Taggart's syn-brain helpfully supplied him with the definition, and he frowned.

"An orrery is a kind of device used for modeling celestial motions, right?"

"Very good," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "You may be wondering why we refer to the installation as such, and I assure, all will be made clear as we give you the tour."

Taggart nodded, tight-lipped.

"I look forward to it. How are our people settling in?"

"Our Imperial colleagues are settling in just fine. We already have them down at the most active areas of the dig site, getting familiarized with the work here ... and there is a lot of work going on. We are getting ready for what is, perhaps, the most momentous part of the excavation."

"And that is?"

"We will be breaching the installation itself for the very first time."

Taggart frowned. "Five years, and you're only now getting ready to enter the thing you've been digging up?"

Doctor Guillarmod harrumphed. "Archaeology is a patient man's science, Captain Taggart. This dig site has been the source of no fewer than twenty papers published on artifacts discovered just in our surface excavations."

Taggart smiled, spreading his hands. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."

"No," Doctor Guillarmod replied with a shake of his head. "Don't be. We don't get many non-scientists down here. Our minders in orbit generally leave us to do our work, and we leave them to theirs; which, I suppose, has you wondering why you have been invited down here."

Taggart nodded. "The thought has been on my mind."

"Well, I suppose Brigadier Sir Renton would say that we're being 'diplomatic.' In a way, he's right. We feel it's important that the Empire understands what we're doing here. Who better to explain it to them than someone your Security Council has vetted to be entrusted with the power that a man of your rank wields."

"You seem remarkably well-versed in the workings of Starfleet."

Doctor Guillarmod nodded. "I came upon my knowledge through my previous profession. I have been an officer in His Majesty's Royal Navy under three monarchs. I was a midshipman when His Majesty King Alfred II was on the throne. Much of my career was spent under the reign of His Majesty, King Aasim VIII. I retired from the Navy just as Her Majesty, King Surah, ascended to the throne. You could call this my ... second career."

"Interesting ... so what brings a career military man to a field like archeology?"

Doctor Guillarmod frowned. "Isn't it obvious?"

There was a moment of silence, before he cleared his throat.

"No, I suppose it wouldn't be. Not to an Earthborn like you. If there is anything that you must understand of the people under His Majesty's rule; it's that they are obsessed with their ancestors. A mere ten centuries ago, before the arrival of Earthborn and their science and technology, my mother's ancestors were yeoman farmers, facing the dawn of an age of industry driven by steam and fueled by coal. Yet, six-hundred centuries ago, when your ancestors were scratching out figures of wild beasts in dark caves, ours had writing and technology that far surpasses anything that even your Empire has produced.

"This is a story that is repeated time, and time again, in all the Kingdom's capitals. The ancients were unimaginably powerful ... servitors of those they saw as gods. Only their gods turned on them in the end and took it all away. Ancient writings and artifacts litter our worlds, and have shaped every religion and mythology our worlds possess.

"I've seen many of them, as I crossed the worlds in service of my monarch. Eventually, their calling became such that I knew what I had to do, when the time came for the Royal Navy and I to part ways."

Taggart's expression become one of tight-lipped thoughtfulness.

"Your people certainly have a colorful history, Doctor."

"If there is a color to describe the history of our ancestors, it would be the lurid red of spilled blood," Doctor Guillarmod's eyes narrowed to slits as he regarded Captain Taggart. "Which reminds me; we have a presentation prepared this evening. One that you may find to be particularly enlightening."




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-26 10:02am
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So humanity once had super technology and was in service to another race they saw as gods, who for some reason cast down humans back to a stone age? :)

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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-26 01:01pm
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Tandrax218 wrote:
So humanity once had super technology and was in service to another race they saw as gods, who for some reason cast down humans back to a stone age? :)

The very short answer: "Yes."
The slightly longer answer: About the time of the Toba eruption, some humans were transplanted from Earth onto seed colonies, uplifted, and sent off to fight a desperate proxy war against an implacably xenophobic race. They were one set of proxies among many. The strategy of using proxies works, allowing the uplifters to get the upper hand over the xenophobes ... but they end up wiping out the xenophobes in the process. So, regretting the outcome of the war, the uplifters decide that the best way to atone would be to restore the galaxy to a more 'natural' state ... which meant getting rid of all the upliftees, whose civilizations were all created with the express purpose of waging war. For reasons I won't go into here, they lost the location of Earth. So, keen to avoid another xenocide, they instead resort to sending the uplifted humans "back to a stone age."

And here seems like a good point to pick up the next part of the story:


~~~

The dim light of dancing flames flickered off the rough-hewn basalt. Taggart, and a number of the Imperial scientists, were seated on benches that ringed the small amphitheatre. At the very back of the stage, he saw Doctor Guillarmod, dressed in dark blue robes. He held a bell in one hand, and a stick in the other.

Pong!

The note reverberated in the enclosed space. From doorways cut into either side of the stage, men began to emerge. On the left, they bore hideous costumes of animal hides, bones, and teeth. On the right, men were dressed in identical dark robes, marching onto the stage with military precision. They carried torches in their left hands. Their right hands rested on the pommels of long curved wooden sticks.

Pong!

The processions stopped, the men on either side standing still, facing each other with grim expressions. Doctor Guillarmod cleared his throat, looking across the stage toward Taggart and his men.

"Captain Taggart, and esteemed members of the Imperial Archaeological Society, what you are about to witness is an incredibly ancient Korridani tradition; the telling of the Surahs. These are the verbal legends of the ancestors, a legacy passed down to us over the course of tens of thousands of years. The languages of the telling have changed, but as each passing generation reflected upon the ruins of our mighty ancestors, the message of the telling has remained the same. The other capitals have their own unique ways of remembering the ancestors. We have simply chosen the one closest to many of our own hearts."

Doctor Guillarmod cleared his throat, staring out at his audience. He closed his eyes, lifting his bell once more.

Pong!

"This is the Surah of War. Foremost of the Surahs. Reflect well upon its message, and heed the words of the hallowed ancestors."

Silently, the men began marching toward the center of the stage, each robed man pairing off with a monster, and each pair following the next in a silent procession.

Pong!

"In the days of legend, men were with the gods in the heavens above."

Clack!

The robed men shook their torches.

"Men and gods, together, walked the great river of stars."

Clack!

With each shake, a multitude of glowing embers emanated from the torches, drifting lazily to the floor.

"United in a violent time, for men had heeded the call of the gods, to war."

As the procession reached the right side of the stage, figures wrapped head-to-toe in white linen bandages emerged. They were swaddled in translucent tissue paper that made each one look like a ghostly octopus. They carried more curved wooden sticks, advancing on the precession in silence.

Pong!

"Men went upon the great river of stars in boats of shining metal, wielding lances of fire."

A great cry went up from the stage. Taggart's breath caught in his throat as the robed men drew their curved wooden sticks as one, charging at the ghostly white figures.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

The sharp sound of wood meeting wood rung in Taggart's ears, as robes and tentacles flew and whirled.

Fwoosh!

One of the pale white octopi was suddenly engulfed in flames.

Crack!

His wooden stick ... more of a sword ... was stripped from his hand. There was a sharp, wet sound as another wood sword impacted him square in the gut and he doubled over.

Taggart was already starting to lunge to his feet, when a sharp, silent, gesture from Doctor Guillarmod stopped him. The paper tentacles burned swiftly, leaving the prone figure wreathed in black.

Fwoosh! Foom!

Several other white figures exploded into human torches. One drove the point of his sword directly into the groin of one of the robed men, while his compatriots hit him mercilessly over the head and shoulders. Taggart gripped the edge of his bench in growing horror, as the fight played out, and more men were knocked to the unyielding stone floors. In the background, the "gods" watched ... impassive and silent.

Pong!

The few white-bandaged figures still standing turned away from the remaining robed men, fleeing swiftly for the exit on the left.

"The great river of stars was red with the blood of men, but redder still with the blood of the eternal foe. But, what reward did the gods have planned for their noble warriors?"

The "gods" advanced toward the robed men, drawing their own wooden swords. The robed men stood, still as statues.

Pong!

"The gods betrayed men, and cast them down from the heavens!"

Crack!

The stage exploded in showers of embers as the "gods" knocked the torches from the hands of the robed men. Several of the Imperial scientists cried out as the shattered torches landed among them. Taggart winced, throwing himself to the side as a torch landed next to him, showering him in hot ashes.

Thud!

Thump!

Long, curved, wooden swords rose and fell, and the explosive sound of hard objects impacting padded flesh was the only sound to be heard. The robed men didn't cry out, even as they were beaten down by the "gods."

Pong!

"They cut them down in their multitudes, and the men were made powerless to resist."

Wooden swords were stomped out of clutched hands, and kicked away. The "gods" then lined up on the right side of the stage, sheathing their swords.

Pong!

"And in the end, men were left with nothing but bitter ashes."

Doctor Guillarmod solemnly rang the bell once more, and the robed men crawled toward the left exit. Some in visible pain. Some didn't move at all, their robes darkened with blood.

"Heed well, the words of the hallowed ancestors," he said, setting down his bell, and bowing deeply.

"Doctor Guillarmod!" Captain Taggart exclaimed, leaping from his seat.

"Yes?"

Taggart looked around, the other Imperials seemed just as stunned as he was. He looked back toward the still men remaining on the stage, his heart racing.

"If you're wondering about the men on stage, they've all availed themselves of the best techniques of modern medicine. They'll be up and about before long. Nobody was ... seriously harmed."

"I ... never thought I'd be allowed the privilege of witnessing a genuine Korridani telling of the Surahs," a voice behind Taggart said, with a mixture of lingering shock and something else.

"Indeed, Professor Van Hoeck. Believe me, I feel most privileged in narrating them, so far from home."

Taggart's mind reeled. "You mean, this is how you pass down stories of your ancestors?"

"That is correct, Captain Taggart," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "This way, nobody ever becomes tempted to forget. Certainly, your reaction mirrors that of nearly every Earthborn that has come before you. Let me tell you all something. In the centuries prior to the arrival of the Earthborn, there were times when the Surah of War was told with live steel in grand forums. Condemned men would take part, to restore their honor, and seek redemption in death where none awaited them in life."

Taggart took several deep breaths.

"Are you all right," a woman's voice said in his ear. It seemed tinny and distorted, but Taggart felt himself start to relax. Akemi was over the horizon at last.

"I ... I'll be fine," he replied. "I think I've just witnessed something right out of the prehistoric dark ages."

"Are you all right, Captain Taggart," Doctor Guillarmod said, eyeing him.

"I ... I'm just shocked, that's all," he replied. He heard faint static in his ear. Akemi was listening, and he found it comforting. "I'm sorry, it's just a bit much to take in at once."

"That's good to know," Doctor Guillarmod replied, his expression unreadable. "It will prepare you for tomorrow morning."

~~~

"That's, pretty much, what happened to me today," Taggart said. He was seated in a featureless gray room, across a featureless steel table, from a curvy woman with close-cut brown hair. Her thick-framed glasses glinted a faint green as she looked at him with thoughtful brown eyes.

"I don't know what to tell you," Akemi replied, waving her hands helplessly. "I knew about the Korridani Surahs, and how they're passed down, but I didn't think the Kingdom's scientists would perform one for you. If I did, I would've warned you." She closed her eyes. "I'm sorry."

Taggart lightly touched Akemi's hands. "It's okay," he replied. "I'm just glad you turned up when you did. It's not every day you witness something like that."

Akemi placed a hand atop Taggart's. "You could come back. You've escorted the scientists to the planet. I've got the relay constellation deployed now, so it will be easier to keep track of what's going on from here."

Taggart smiled. "I think I can survive one more day down here. I was just shaken by what I saw, that's all."

"Are you sure you'll be okay?"

Taggart nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure of it. I don't think it'd be 'diplomatic' of me to leave just yet anyway. Doctor Guillarmod wants me to tour the main excavation site with him in the morning. After this evening, I don't think it can get any more shocking down here."

Akemi's replying smile was tiny and uncertain. "If you say so," she said. "I still think you should come back up here as soon as possible. I don't feel any better about this planet, and this assignment, than I did before."

Taggart looked down at their hands, and then up into Akemi's eyes. "Me neither ... but ... one more day, and I think I'll have done my duty to Starfleet and the Empire."

Akemi nodded. "Please, stay safe, Sean. I ... I would miss our conversations, if something happened to you."

"Always, Akemi," Taggart replied.




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-26 02:26pm
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Cool tnx for the answer :)

one more questin :
So they were all reduced to stone age tech (the colony''s), so when did they start to rebuild?? How many colonies are there still alive? You mentioned that the Earth forces came to them when they were in their 19/20. st era tech level but whats the standard Earth time in the story ??

Keep it up :)

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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-26 07:50pm
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WOW... That's a seriously nasty way to teach history.



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-26 08:19pm
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LadyTevar wrote:
WOW... That's a seriously nasty way to teach history.


But I daresay...quite difficult to forget. I think that's the point. :)



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-28 01:19pm
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Tandrax218 wrote:
Cool tnx for the answer :)

one more questin :
So they were all reduced to stone age tech (the colony''s), so when did they start to rebuild?? How many colonies are there still alive? You mentioned that the Earth forces came to them when they were in their 19/20. st era tech level but whats the standard Earth time in the story ??

Keep it up :)

There are thirteen colonies remaining, all of varying technological levels of achievement. The colonies, having a small subset of Earth life, were especially sensitive to natural disasters without their advanced technology. A lot of them struggled with the fact that there weren't a lot of mineral resources readily available to them (given that all the easy stuff was already extracted and processed when they first turned up.) Some made it to space, and then were smacked back down again, because their "gods" left them a parting gift to ensure they didn't get back out too soon. So they ran the gamut from early city-states, to some of them having small star empires of their own. The standard Earth time in this story is several thousand years (many more, in fact, than my signature would suggest) into the future ... long enough for Earth to extensively industrialize the Solar System, found quite a few colonies of its own (an Earth expedition discovered one of the galactic war-era colonies, and gradually recovered the others,) undergo the long process of forcibly uniting the Earth-originated colonies into the Solar Empire, realize the united galactic war colonies (unified into the Kingdom of the Star Commonwealth) weren't worth the trouble, declare complete peace had been achieved, and change their name to the Ascendant Empire of pan-Humanity.

And now, for more story.


~~~

Biting cold.

That was the first thing Taggart felt as the doors were cast aside. Deep-biting cold that cut through his uniform jacket, seemingly right to his very core. He resisted the urge to hug himself, feeling his heat escaping into that massive cavern.

"Impressive, isn't it?" Doctor Guillarmod said, looking out over the man-made cavern.

"That's ... one word to describe it," Taggart replied.

"Certainly," Doctor Guillarmod said. "Many millions of tons of rock were removed to make this possible."

"Why, though? Wouldn't it make more sense to simply dig straight down to the artifact?" Taggart asked, his eyes sweeping back and forth over the cavern. Bright blue fireflies marked where diggers were working at the rock face. The din of steel hand tools ringing against cold rock reverberated in the dark space.

"Not at all," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "The Orrey is a very large construct. It is also located in the center of an enormous quantity of disturbed rock. You should know that none of the rock we're standing on is original to this part of the planet. It's all significantly older than the rest of the rock making up the polar volcanic shield. We're not yet sure why the ancients chose to do this."

"And you're hoping that if you dig enough, you might find out why?"

Doctor Guillarmod smiled. "Very good, Captain Taggart. Additionally, we've been carving out laboratory spaces. We're hoping to do most of our artifact analysis in-situ. As you are, no doubt, well-aware, we are a long way away from anything inhabited."

Taggart pressed his lips together. "Makes sense." He paused, turning his head toward Doctor Guillarmod. "Where are we going? I don't think you told me at breakfast."

"We've arrived," Doctor Guillarmod arrived.

The cavern exploded in light.

Taggart blinked furiously, his world glowing in shades of gold. The glow resolved itself into an enormous, translucent, golden structure ... a sphere with, what appeared to be long, slender, horns inserted into it, painted in shimmering golden waterfalls. The sphere rested upon a shield of cascading gold, which flowed off the edge into nothingness just in front of him.

"That is the Orrery," Doctor Guillarmod said.

"I, uh, I can see the resemblance," Taggart replied, transfixed. He started to look up, away from the glittering sphere. "It looks like the horns all end at the same level."

"Indeed. They all terminate at the surface," Doctor Guillarmod replied, pausing. "However, before you ask, no we cannot use them to probe into the central sphere. They become occluded by structures roughly a few meters from the inner surface of the sphere."

Taggart nodded, frowning. "What sort of structures?"

"That's the curious part," Doctor Guillarmod replied, running his hand through his beard. "The structures are all metallic in nature and have a distinctly fractal geometry to them."

"Antennae?"

"It's possible. The tunnel walls are, likewise, covered in metallic structures, and have proven to be exceptionally efficient absorbers of radar and light energies."

"So these are telescopes, then?" Taggart asked, walking the periphery of the hologram. "Any idea what they might be looking at?"

Doctor Guillarmod frowned. "I'm afraid I'm not the right person to answer that question. I'm mainly an ethnographer and linguist. In the Navy, I was in PR ... quite an essential post, I assure you, given the diverse makeup of Her Majesty's subjects."

Taggart smiled a thin-lipped smile. "Understood," he replied. "My own Starfleet's placed much more emphasis on public relations and diplomacy over the last couple of centuries."

"So I've heard," Doctor Guillarmod said, looking like he wanted to say more. He quickly shook his head, turning back to the holograph. "Is there anything else you notice about the Orrey?"

"Yeah. What's below the sphere?"

"Not known," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "The shield-shaped structure you see below the sphere represents a seismic discontinuity. We've drilled beneath it, and the rocks pulled up appear to be virgin material from the volcanic shield. So we suspect that's where the ancients stopped digging."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Well ... no. If the tubes connected to the central sphere are, as some suspect, RF antennae; then the Orrery was almost certainly a powered installation. But, it was clearly laid down after The Fall; so it wasn't grid-powered. Our seismic surveys don't indicate any structures that might be consistent with water storage tanks, so nuclear power is out. However, the planet, geologically-speaking, is not entirely dead. If there is anything below the Orrery, some of my people suspect that it would have to have been a geothermal tap."

Taggart watched the flowing gold, digesting what he'd heard.

"Yesterday, you told me you were getting ready to actually enter the Orrery for the first time? How long before that happens?"

Doctor Guillarmod's face lit up.

"I'm so glad you've asked me that, Captain Taggart; for you see, we are preparing to breach the Orrery today."

"Today," Taggart echoed, taking a step back. "Today's the day you're going to do it?"

A nod. "Indeed."

"We ... uh ... we must've come at a convenient time then," Taggart said, struggling for words.

"Not really," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "You see, we've been waiting for the Empire to send observers. We've actually been ready to do the final cut for nearly a Terrestrial month," he said, eyeing Taggart. "His Ascendant Majesty Shahryar has been quite reticent about taking part until very recently."

Taggart nodded, finally, something he could say. "Well, on behalf of the Security Council, I apologize for any delay we may have caused."

The older man nodded. "I believe I mentioned, when we first met, that archaeology is a patient man's science. All too often, politics drive the pace of research nearly as much as the meticulousness of the work. What matters now is that you and your people are here."

"Alright, then," Taggart replied. The older man motioned with his hand.

"If you'll follow me, I will show you to the control room."




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-29 06:20pm
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Taggart soon found himself inside a crowded room. Video monitors lined one wall, and there were men and women hunched around computer terminals, typing, tapping, talking, and gesturing at their mechanical charges. He looked at the largest display, which depicted what looked like a giant blocky rectilinear worm; festooned with floodlights, inside a tunnel of smooth basalt.

"I've seen those before," he said to Doctor Guillarmod. "That looks like a hab-construction tunnel borer."

"Which is precisely what it is," the older man replied. "Precise, and inexpensive. It, and five others like it, were responsible for carving out every tunnel and chamber you've seen here.

Taggart nodded, plainly impressed. He and Akemi occasionally delivered such devices, as gifts of diplomacy to developing systems, but he'd never seen one in action.

"The borer is less than three meters from breaching what we believe is the inner wall of the construct," Guillarmod continued speaking. "It spent much of the last Terrestrial month enlarging parts of the tunnel, so that we could be ready to set up camp the moment it was through."

Taggart smiled with thin lips. "Time well-spent, then. Tell me, Doctor, how much do you know about what's inside?"

"Very little," Doctor Guillarmod replied, spreading his hands. "The Orrery itself appears to have been constructed with the aim of absolute radiation shielding in mind. The main structure is also encased in what looks to be a web of access tunnels."

"How do you know that?"

"They're laid perfectly level with respect to the gravitational datum, and their size is consistent with spaces designed for Human habitation. Our borer is approaching one of the larger chambers that we've identified from seismic data."

Taggart nodded, digesting what he'd been told. His syn-brain was silent ... they were too deep for Akemi's relays to reach him, and that bothered him. Something else was bothering him too, and he cleared his throat.

"Yes, Captain?"

"I've been curious about something ever since I arrived," Taggart replied. "How do you know this 'Orrery' was built by Humans and not the 'gods' of your legends?"

Doctor Guillarmod pressed his lips together.

"You know ... that's an excellent question," he replied. "Our evidence is strong, but circumstantial. In excavations across the Kingdom's capitols, we've uncovered fragments of original Ancient writings. The same sort of writing appears in artifacts we've recovered around the Orrey." For several moments, the older man fell silent. "It is our current belief that the Ancients developed a distinct system of writing from those of their alien masters."

"And how do you know that? Have you recovered any examples?"

"No," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "Two things, though. The script seems to have been designed for use in Human hands; to be read by Human eyes. As an example, the one alien species we know of: the Savoie of Rigel Kent, would be anatomically incapable of making effective use of script designed for Humans."

Taggart had a sudden mental image of a two meter wide creature resembling a Terrestrial sea-urchin. That was all he really knew about them ... they, and a population of self-avowed Human Dissidents, lived inside the tightly-controlled boundaries of the Imperial Natural Preserve and Reservation of Rigel Kentaurus.

"The second thing ... our worlds once had computer networks rivaling those of Old Earth," Guillarmod said. "When the Ancients were cast from the stars, one of the final 'gifts' bestowed upon them by their masters was, apparently, a plague of 'grey goo' that destroyed anything computerized. The bulk of our writing examples post-date those events."

Taggart winced with the alarming feeling that nobody seventy millennia ago did anything that wasn't taken to ridiculous excess.

"Fair enough," he managed to say, fighting the sensation of his skin crawling. "So," he struggled to find something else to say. "How long will it take the borer to go those last three meters?"

Guillarmod smiled. "There is pilot shaft being drilled ahead of the borer, Captain. Now that we're ready to make the final push, the pilot head shouldn't take more than an hour. I, personally, am very excited ... after all these years ... to finally be able to see inside the construct."

"I can imagine," Captain Taggart replied. Doctor Guillarmod chuckled, and then shook his head.

"I doubt you truly can, Captain," he said. "You Earthborn never really had to wonder about questions of 'Why are we here?' The answer is plainly written in the rocks of Old Earth. You're here because that's where the cold forces of evolution put you. To you, the whims of gods were nothing more than fairy tales spun by simple farmers who knew no better. To those of us, whose ancestors fought their wars for them, the gods are certainly real. 'Why am I here?' ... that's a question that those of us who aren't Earthborn must always struggle with."

Taggart smiled, thin-lipped. "I guess not ... but there was a time in the history of Old Earth, where we did have to struggle with those questions."

"Yes, yes. I'm impressed at your grasp of history, Captain. Before the Interregnum, before reason and rationality took hold on your world. what you say is very much true. But, you also found the answers you were looking for ... even before the Interregnum took hold on Old Earth. We, on the other hand, are still searching." Doctor Gullarmod cleared his throat, looking away for a moment.

"My apologies, Captain. I didn't mean to turn this into a philosophical debate."

Taggart shook his head. "No, no, it's all right. I enjoy these sorts of discussions. I frequently have them with my ship's Intelligence."

Doctor Guillarmod pursed his lips. "Is that so?"

Taggart paused, with the vague feeling he'd said something that bothered Guillarmod.

"That must be an interesting perspective," Guillarmod went on. He shook his head. "Well, there are a few things I have left to do to prepare for the breeching. If you'll come this way, I'll introduce you to Elon Hargrave, the man in charge of the borer. He'll tell you about some of the more technical aspects of this project."

~~~

"As you might be aware, this particular model of borer can achieve better than fifty meters of rough-finished tunnel per standard day," a swarthy, heavyset, man said to Taggart, as he gestured to a holographic display. "For the breaching work, we've dialed it back to about a tenth of that."

"I see," Taggart replied. He didn't really see, but he inspected the hologram anyway. "Doctor Guillarmod mentioned that you're drilling a pilot shaft; and I didn't think that feature came standard on habitat borers."

"This isn't a hab borer," the man, Elon Hargrave, replied. "It's a mining borer. In asteroid mining, remote sensing will only get you so far, see? The pilot drill normally allows operators to determine whether whatever discontinuity they spotted in seismic data is an ore body, or just a dense portion of rock."

Taggart nodded, feeling like his head was starting to spin. Hargrave was, clearly, passionate about the machine he was in charge of.

"What drew you to this project?" He asked, in a bid to change the subject.

"Frankly? The money," Hargrave replied. "Sure, it isn't as well-paying as tapping a Momma Rock, but it pays better than delivering containers of plain nickel-iron to foundries." He leaned in closer to Taggart. "And because this is Crown work, it's long-term, steady pay."

"It's quite a ways out, though."

"Yeah, true," Hargrave replied. "But I prefer the company of men anyway ... and just between you and me, more than a few of these science-types fantasize about rough-and-readies like me."

"Interesting," Taggart said, nodding once. "Speaking of which, Doctor Guillarmod also told me the pilot is less than an hour away from breaching the wall. Um, what are you expecting to find?"

"Don't know," Hargrave replied with a shrug. "It's all locked down tighter than ... well, you know. All I've got to go on is seismic data, and all those walls reflect sound so well that I couldn't tell you if there were atmosphere, or hard vacuum on the other side. It's why the borer's got its skirt on today."

"Skirt?"

"Yeah, atmosphere control diaphram," Hargrave replied. "We may not know what's on the other side of that pilot, but we do know that the business end of the borer is sitting in vacuum."

"Makes sense," Taggart said, nodding slowly.

"Yes indeed," Hargrave replied. He waved at the hologram and it changed, showing a rough-cut tunnel in black basalt, lit by harsh floodlights. A massive, worm-like, machine occupied most of the tunnel's interior.

"We're now looking at a live feed," he said, motioning Taggart closer. "I just got a message that the pilot bit is within the last fifty centimeters. It'll only be a matter of minutes before it breaks through, so it's gonna get pretty crowded in here."

"I can understand that," Taggart said. The scientists at the facility had been waiting a long time for this day. His attention drifted away from the display, and the smaller ones that appeared around it. Instead, he watched the men and women filtering into the room, overheard the excited murmur of their combined conversations, and felt the air grow still and warm.

"Twenty centimeters to go," someone eventually called out. The room fell into tense silence.

"Back it off," Hargrave replied. "Five centimeters per minute at max RPM. Head temperature looks normal. Do you agree?"

"Yes sir, coolant temperatures are also nominal."

Taggart glanced up at a display indicating how much farther they thought they had to drill. Fifteen centimeters now. The progress bar was perceptibly shrinking, and he forced himself to breathe.

WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP!

"Alarm Thirteen!"

"How the fuck are we getting an alarm thirteen," Hargrave growled over the sudden cacophony. The gathered scientists were all looking around, the color draining from their faces. "Double-check that sonofabitch, there must be some mistake."

"Stand by!"

Taggart pushed his way to Hargrave's side, glancing down at his displays.

"I beg your pardon, but what's an 'Alarm Thirteen'?"

"Hold on, Imperial," Hargrave replied, brushing him off. "Goddamn it, do you have a diagnosis or not?"

"Yes sir, it's definitely an alarm thirteen."

"Shit, we're venting atmosphere. All of you stay here, I'm ordering a lockdown on the airtight doors in this sector. Goddamn it, how did the skirt get breached?"

"The skirt's telltales are all green," another man called out. "If my readings are right, the other side is developing an atmosphere."

"Then the telltales are wrong," Hargrave replied. "We're the only source of atmosphere here ... and someone turn that fucking siren off!"

Doctor Guillarmod had come to stand next to Taggart.

"Are you sure about that, Elon?"

"Yeah, I'm sure," Hargrave replied. "An alarm thirteen is only triggered by the environmental sensors. It ain't gonna fire unless they detect man-breathable air."

"But what if the air is coming from the other side of the wall?"

"You know how unlikely that is," Hargrave started to say, before frowning. "Fuck it. Let me check."

As Hargrave hurried off, Taggart turned to Doctor Guillarmod.

"Do you really think you've broken through?"

Doctor Guillarmod shrugged and smiled. "Perhaps, Captain. The tunnels we mapped via seismic data all look to be the appropriate size for Human habitation. If the Orrery was built after the calamity that befell this world, as we think it was, then it is very likely to be pressurized and sealed. A facility this size would easily have enough atmosphere to maintain something breathable ... even on these timescales."

"I'm not sure I share your optimism, Doctor," Taggart replied.

"We'll find out soon enough, I suspect," Doctor Guillarmod replied with a faint smile.

At that moment, Hargrave reappeared. He was breathing heavily, and his brow carried a sheen of sweat.

"Goddamn it, you're right, Doc. We over-estimated how much we had to drill," he said. "We're through ... I just ran down to the borer's local control room to double-check. And it was the environmental sensors embedded in the pilot head that sounded the alarm."

"You mean?"

"Yeah, there's breathable air on the other side."





Last edited by GrandMasterTerwynn on 2014-06-30 06:01pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-30 05:11am
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ooooh. I'm enjoying this.



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-30 05:31pm
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Breathable Air. Now, this is interesting indeed. I want More



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-06-30 08:20pm
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I'm waiting with nervous anticipation - and horrified dread, simultaneously, at what's in there...

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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-01 04:19pm
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Taggart watched a ghostly little robot, looking much like a spider, appear from behind the borer's massive face. There were many, just like it, keeping the borer company now. As he understood it, they were gathering samples from the corridor on the other side of the pilot shaft. Those samples were already the cause of much excitement among the scientists.

"Can you believe it? Our suspicions were confirmed. We've dug into a finished corridor," Doctor Guillarmod said, walking up behind Taggart. "The data we've gathered just from the remotes will likely put to shame everything else we've done up to this point."

Taggart smiled faintly. "And I can only imagine the anticipation you must be feeling to actually go inside for yourselves."

Doctor Guillarmod tilted his head forward. "Indeed, Captain," he said. "We have been working for a very long time to get to this point."

Taggart nodded, pursing his lips. "How soon do you think you'll be able to enter the corridor yourselves?"

"Well, according to the samples we've gathered, the air is quite breathable. All the fast assays have failed to turn up any trace of toxic chemicals, or any of the common, identifiable, pathogens."

"What about the uncommon ones? Or the ones you can't identify? After all, the facility is many tens of thousands of years old."

Doctor Guillarmod smiled a thin-lipped smile. "We are awaiting the results of the slow assays. We've not completely abandoned our sense of caution, Captain."

Taggart spread out his hands.

"I wasn't suggesting that you were, Doctor," he said. "It's just that I haven't ever experienced anything like this."

"Neither have any of us," Doctor Guillarmod replied. "This is, truly, a find of a lifetime. In my profession, we’ve spent years looking at ruins. Either defaced by malicious intent, or degraded by the ravages of time. This is the first intact Ancient facility that anyone, that I know, of has found.”

Taggart pressed his lips together.

"The first one? Why is this one intact, where everything else you've found was not?"

Doctor Guillarmod smiled. "That, I suspect, is almost certainly the question of the year. One that we very much look forward to finding out the answer to. And you are certainly welcome to be there, when we enter the facility for the first time.”

Taggart unconsciously looked upward. Still, he was too deep underground for Akemi’s relays to reach him. Neither of them were especially comfortable with the entire system; but at the same time, he couldn’t really see the harm in it. After all, what could possibly be working after 70,000 years?

“I would be glad to join you, Doctor.”

~~~

The first thing that struck Taggart was how warm it was. He, like everyone in the chamber, wore airtight skinsuits and breathers. Yet, it felt like short-sleeve conditions, which he could distinctly feel through his uniform jacket.

“Is it normally this warm near the borer,” he said, turning to Hargrave.

“Hell no,” Hargrave replied. “The borer’s cooling system is better than 99.4% effective at pulling heat away from the cutting face. The warm air is coming from over there,” he said, motioning to the open vents set into the vast expanse of black skirt.

“From the facility?” Taggart said, after a moment of thought.

“Not much for planets, are you?”

“I don’t follow,” Taggart said, shrugging helplessly.

“This planet’s only modestly less active than Old Earth,” Hargrave replied. “This facility they’re digging up … it extends deep enough that it will stay warm through geothermal heating.” He suddenly looked Taggart in the eye. “If anything, the question you should be asking is why isn’t it warmer?”

“You mean there’s something removing the extra heat?”

“That’s right,” Hargrave replied. “And if the egg-heads are right about how long it’s been here … that works out to be a shitload of heat.”

“There you are,” Doctor Guillarmod said, slipping in-between Taggart and Hargrave. “You must come with me. I’ve just been told that the slow assays have come back clean. We’re cleared to step through the airlock.”

Taggart nodded, falling in behind Doctor Guillarmod. The airlock and vents were filtering the air they were standing in, but there was understandable reluctance in allowing anyone to venture into the ancient corridors without canned air. He could hear the excited chatter of the other scientists, and as he made his way over to them, he could see why. They were all clustered around a holographic display, gesturing at a ghostly rendering of the corridor beyond.

“Can you believe this? We must’ve been incredibly fortunate, to cut into the facility so close to a door inside.”

“I’ve been waiting my entire career for something like this.”

“Look at that. It looks so clean, almost like it was built yesterday.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Doctor Guillarmod said, clearing his throat. “I will guess that we’re all ready to step through the airlock?”

There were nods all around. Taggart, to his surprise, found himself nodding as well.

“Elon, if you would do the honors?”

“Right, Doc,” Hargrave replied, pushing his way past the collected scientists. “Al! How are the tell-tales on the far-end airlock reading?”

“Green-green, sir. Local atmosphere is isolated from facility atmosphere.”

“All right. Here goes.”

Pshhhhhhhhhh!

Taggart felt warm air pushing against him as the airlock irised open. Beyond the doorway were piles of basalt rubble, disappearing into inky darkness.

“It’s gonna be a bit of a dirty scramble,” Hargrave said, shrugging. “The ‘bots pushed off as much as they could … good thing it’s a big corridor.”

“I assure you, mysophobia is not a condition archeologists are likely to suffer,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. “Although,” he added, the spot of his flashlight quickly playing over the rubble. “It would be wise to watch your step.”

Before anyone could react, he disappeared through the opening, vanishing into the darkness. Taggart stared at that opening, wondering what would happen next.

“What are you all waiting for? Come in here!”

Taggart watched two of the gathered scientists disappear through the doorway. He could hear the skittering of boots digging into loose rock. He could see the flashlight beams disappear. He then decided it was his turn.

He had to duck down to fit through the airlock. Immediately, the light behind him was swallowed up, leaving only shattered black-gray basalt at his feet. He scrambled up, mindful of the huge, dimly gleaming, edges of steel that loomed off to his side.

And then, he was over, and he could see the flashlight spots belonging to Doctor Guillarmod, and the others who were with him.

“Ah, Captain Taggart,” Doctor Guillarmod said, the brilliant point of his flashlight playing across Taggart’s vision. “Over here! Quickly!”

He blinked furiously, sliding down the backside of the rubble. As he came to Doctor Guillarmod’s side, he found himself staring at an off-white plastic-lined wall. He closed his eyes for a few moments, allowing his vision to adjust to the dark. His eyes opened as he took a deep breath, looking around.

He could hear the excited whispers, but he found that he was, strangely, disappointed. As his flashlight danced around the corridor, it slowly revealed itself to be a white corridor with a high, arched, ceiling, and polished floors. It wouldn’t have looked at all out of place aboard Akemi, or any Imperial installation he would’ve cared to name.

“Truly a remarkable state of preservation,” someone remarked.

“Feel this … these panels are still flexible. It’s like … they could’ve been installed yesterday.”

Taggart realized that there were now a lot of people with him. He quickly shook his head, taking a few steps down the corridor. Now that he had a chance to take a closer look at the walls, he realized that the plastic siding looked very fresh indeed. As he peered at a corner, he could just make out a very tiny inscription in a script that looked like the samples of Ancient writing he’d been shown.

“Whoa,” he said, taking a step back. He frowned, and then looked at the panel again. He could’ve sworn that it was starting to glow. He pursed his lips, and then turned off his flashlight.

“Now this is interesting,” he said, his voice soft. In the darkness, he could barely make out a faint blue glow from the panel he was looking at … and all of its neighbors.

“Doctor Guillarmod,” someone shouted. “Look at the walls!”

Taggart turned around, looking at the gathered scientists. They were all looking around the corridor.

“Everyone, lights-off,” Doctor Guillarmod said, making a chopping motion with his hand.

And then, the corridor was plunged into darkness … but not for very long. The faint glow was soon a noticeable one. All the wall panels were starting to glow a pale blue, filling the corridor with muted light.

“What a relaxing color,” someone said. “Blast it, sorry!”

“No … no,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. “Don’t be … this is a very soothing color … surely proof that this was a place … designed by and for the Ancients.”

Taggart frowned. It was an appealing hue … but not a mesmerizing one. As his eyes flitted from the face of one scientist to the next, he saw open-mouthed expressions of rapt attention. He furrowed his brow, starting to make his way back toward the gathered scientists.

“I wonder if the door works,” someone said.

“I beg your pardon,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. Taggart froze in his tracks, glancing over his shoulder.

“The … door the ‘bots found,” the other man said, sounding like he’d, somehow, just woke up. “Clearly, there’s some sort of automatic control system at work here. Maybe … just maybe it will open the door for us?”

“Of course, the door,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. Taggart wasn’t liking how long it took for him to reply.

“Wait,” Taggart said, raising his hand. “If there’s a working central environmental control, then there may be a working central security system. I don’t think it’d be a good idea to go charging through strange doors until you’ve figured out what’s in control, and who’s on its whitelist.”

He suddenly found himself greeted by a wall of blank stares.

“I-I beg your pardon?” A woman asked, touching the side of her helmet.

“I’m … sure there’s no harm in it,” someone else said.

“What do you know, Imperial,” another man said. The blank, confused, stares started to give way to narrow-eyed suspicion.

“Now let’s not be hasty,” Doctor Guillarmod said, shaking his head vigorously. “Captain Taggart … has a valid point. W-we should, possibly, approach this with … caution.”

“Are you siding with the Imperial,” the man replied, unwilling to be placated.

“I’m siding with common caution, Doctor Weissman,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. “Perhaps we should take a step back and … “

Hiss!

Taggart turned with a start. Down the corridor, he could now see a bright blue-white glow. A glow that emanated from the now-open door. Further down the corridor, he could hear more hissing, echoing off the walls.

“That changes things a bit, I think,” Doctor Guillarmod was the first to speak.

“Hmph, I think that should answer the Imperial’s concerns,” Doctor Weissman, said.

Taggart, if anything, now felt even more unnerved. He found himself glancing upward … wondering what Akemi would make of all this.

“Concerns that I must admit to sharing,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. Still, he gazed past Taggart, down the corridor; his gaze becoming unfocused. He blinked and turned around. “We’ve worked for years on this. We can afford to be patient for just a little while longer.”

To Taggart’s relief, the others nodded, and made noises of agreement. Even Doctor Weissman nodded, though his expression was sour.

“We will have the ‘bots do the initial surveys,” Doctor Guillarmod said. “Although I must admit that … I cannot help but to be curious … curious what it would feel like to breathe the same air the Ancients once did.”

“Well, every test the technical staff have conducted did suggest that it would be safe to do so,” a man said, putting his hands on his hips.

“I agree,” Doctor Weissman said. “If anything, the air on this side of the divide must be cleaner than the air we’ve been breathing.”

“Hm,” Doctor Guillarmod grunted. “Well, the long assays did come back clean. And, to my knowledge, they are the most exquisitely sensitive tests available to our science.”

“But what was your protocol for something like this?” Taggart said.

“To be frank,” Doctor Guillarmod replied, holding up his hand, “we never believed, not in our wildest dreams, that we would find anything operational inside the Orrery. Let alone the environmental plant. So … we’re operating well outside protocol right now.”

“But surely, you must have something in place to deal with contaminating anything you might find?”

“Imperial,” Doctor Weissman said. “I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to run your starship. What business do you have telling us how to do our jobs?”

“That’s enough, Leopold,” Doctor Guillarmod said. “Captain Taggart is our guest, and should be treated like one. To answer your question, Captain, our protocols are all conservation-centric. We assumed all artifacts found would’ve been exposed to deep space conditions. Adjustments, of course, will be made, but,” he trailed off, gazing down the corridor, “I think it would be safe to remove our helmets.”

“But what if there’s something that your long assays aren’t detecting?

“Our genetics are far more diverse than yours, Imperial,” Doctor Weissman said. “There are pathogens that we know of that are alien to your sciences.”

“Leopold makes a valid point, Captain Taggart,” Doctor Guillarmod said, momentarily clenching his jaw. “If our tests tell us that it’s safe … then I shall be willing to trust them.”

There was a sudden, sharp, hiss. Doctor Guillarmod had his helmet off faster than Taggart would’ve thought possible. The older man looked around, and then breathed deeply.

“This … this fragrance,” he said. “What is this fragrance?”

Two more scientists unsealed their helmets, as Taggart looked on with a growing sense of horror.

“Such a clean smell.”

“A pleasant change from what we’ve been breathing.”

With that, Taggart was surrounded by the snaps and hisses of helmets being removed.

“Nothing to worry about,” Doctor Weissman said. “I think it’s safe for you to take yours off too, Imperial.”

“I’m not sure,” Taggart replied.

“Captain Taggart,” Doctor Guillarmod said, reaching out to take hold of Taggart’s arm. “Diplomacy.”

Diplomacy?

Taggart found that all eyes were on him. Watching. Waiting. Seeing what he would do. Would he stick with his gut, keep his helmet on, and deeply offend his hosts? Or was now the time, as Doctor Guillarmod was suggesting, to be diplomatic; and show that he was willing to trust Commonwealth science.

He took a breath, nodding once.

Hiss!

He pulled the helmet off his head, quickly tucking it under his arm. He even made a point of breathing deeply.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Very good smelling air, wouldn’t you agree?”

Taggart shook his head at the first question, and nodded with the second. All the while, the wheels in his mind were turning. What were they talking about? What smell? What fragrance? If there was something there … Taggart could not smell it, and he wondered what that meant.




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-01 04:26pm
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OH. Oh dear. A trap for the children of the Ancients.



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-01 04:59pm
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I think I'm beginning to see why someone took the trouble to level the entire planet...

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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-02 12:48pm
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Today's posting ... a short piece dealing with the fallout of Taggart's decision to remove his helmet. The next posting will feature more of the children of the Ancients. I've been working on writing this story, but I'll admit that I am a couple of postings away from having put out everything I've written so far.

~~~

“I’m just … I’m very disappointed,” Akemi said, shaking her head. Her glasses glinted in the light as she tilted her head toward Taggart.

“I’m sorry, Akemi,” Taggart replied. “It’s like I said, though, they played the ‘diplomacy’ card on me. I didn’t have much choice.”

“Well,” Akemi said, crossing her arms over her chest. “If diplomacy means taking leave of your senses, then I understand why the Empire doesn’t practice it that often. There wasn’t much they could’ve done if you’d refused.”

“They could’ve ordered us to leave,” Taggart replied.

“That wouldn’t be a bad thing,” Akemi said. “We’re only here to play courier, and you know that this place makes me uncomfortable. Fact of the matter is, I’m worried, Sean.”

Taggart pursed his lips together, clasping his hands together atop the steel desk they were seated at.

“What worries you, Akemi?”

“I keep trying to wrap my mind around this,” she replied. “It was disturbing before, but the latest developments are alarming. I think it’s too convenient.”

“How so?”

“Well, I know they said that this … installation was put in after the destruction of the planetary system, but to what end? And why would they make it so robust that vital systems are still working after tens of thousands of years?”

“Hmm,” Taggart said, gazing into Akemi’s eyes. “If I go by what Doctor Guillarmod shared with me on my first night here, then maybe they built this as an archive of some sort. If they knew that their ‘Gods’ were betraying them, then maybe they put it in as an ‘insurance policy’ against the destruction of their civilization.”

Akemi shook her head.

“By what accounts I know of, the nanotech plague was unbelievably effective. Those people were only end-users of their most critical technologies. Frankly, I would’ve expected the plague to have followed them out here.”

“That is a good point,” Taggart replied. “Then again, I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the sheer scale of what happened 70,000 years ago. I know that history teaches us that wars are messy. Even,” he reached out to touch Akemi’s hands, “small scale operations.”

Akemi nodded quietly. She’d participated in the only battle where someone actually succeeded in killing an Imperial BCP. Her last Battlespace Intelligence sacrificed herself to allow Akemi to repay the aggressors in full.

“I guess it’s possible,” she finally replied. After a moment, she exhaled sharply. “I really don’t like it here. How much longer are you going to stay down there?”

Taggart squeezed Akemi’s hands.

“I don’t think we’ll have to be here much longer. Now that they’ve opened the Orrery, I bet they’ll find enough in there to keep them occupied for the next century. A century I’m willing to leave in the hands of the scientists.”

~~~

“It’s going to be at least two weeks, Captain,” Commander Mehemet al-Khalid, Akemi’s Chief Surgeon said. His translucent figure flickered in the semi-darkness.

“I’m sorry, but … what?” Taggart replied, his jaw going slack.

“You’re in quarantine, effective immediately,” Doctor al-Khalid replied. “You, and every Starfleet officer or Imperial citizen down there with you. Nobody thought to send me the sample data until after you’d breached the facility. It’s going to take me time run all the protocols I need to reassure me that you haven’t picked anything up. Until then, you’re in quarantine.”

Taggart stared at his Chief Surgeon.

“But the Commonwealth’s assays all came back clean.”

Doctor al-Khalid scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I know what they say,” he said. “But they’re still at leasta half-century behind the Empire, and that’s a professional fact. Also, you’re an officer of the Imperial Starfleet.”

Taggart nodded, tight-lipped.

“Fair enough,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. He knew a losing battle when he saw one. “Can you give me some estimate on how long it’ll take you to run your protocols?”

“Not a clue,” Doctor al-Khalid replied. “This situation is well outside of all the Starfleet protocols I know of. I’m going to have to invent one that’ll pass muster back home. Until I have a better idea of what I’m dealing with … a couple of weeks is the best I can do.”

“So, Doctor,” Taggart said. “What am I going to do down here, while in quarantine?”

Doctor al-Khalid shrugged. “Try not to get sick. Starfleet’ll recall Akemi and leave you here if you do. Apart from that … I really couldn’t tell you.”

~~~

Taggart laid in bed and stared up at the single light fixture in the ceiling. It was the third day, since Doctor al-Khalid pronounced his sentence. It hadn’t been as bad as it could’ve been. Taggart just kept to the routine he’d kept to aboard Akemi: Early to rise, strenuous calisthenics, whatever his day had in store for him, and finally a prompt lights-out.

Only, while in quarantine, he had nothing to do. Yes, there was the routine paperwork of the Imperial Starfleet to handle, but without the other duties of a Starfleet Captain to discharge, he took care of paperwork very quickly.

Akemi, strangely, didn’t have much to say either. Taggart pursed his lips … was she upset with him? If that was the case, then what did that mean? Akemi wasn’t like Mansoor. A Battlespace Intelligence was a human mind made digital. Akemi was roughly sketched out by Imperial scientists, and then wholly fleshed out from digital cloth. No Imperial scientist really understood how an emergent synthetic intelligence like Akemi’s even worked.

He closed his eyes, and could visualize her curvy, Japanese, avatar. Behind that friendly face, and those warm compassionate eyes, lay an intelligence far more alien than even the Savoie.

Maybe that was why Doctor Guillarmod seemed so disturbed when Taggart told him of the philosophical conversations he and Akemi had.

Still, Sean Taggart and his ship’s Intelligence, over the years, had developed something akin to, at least, friendship. Which was why her silence bothered him so much.

“Akemi,” he said, into the air. There was the faint static of an open communication channel, so the relay constellation was operating.

“Akemi? I’m sorry.”

”Why are you sorry, Sean?”

“Well, I’d like to apologize for getting trapped in quarantine, for one,” Taggart replied. “I’ve gotten the feeling you might be upset with me for that.”

”Sean,” Akemi’s voice whispered in his ear. ”I didn’t mean for you to get that. I’m sorry … I’ve just been really worried lately.”

Taggart pursed his lips.

“You mean, about how everything seems to be too convenient?”

”Yes. Everything I can simulate suggests that what’s going on right now shouldn’t be possible. So I’m convinced there’s a trap here, but I know I’m missing the piece that would tell me why.”

Taggart crossed his hands behind his head, staring hard at the ceiling.

“That may be true,” he replied, after a few moments. “And I don’t know if anyone here has more than theories about what this installation was really used for. I’m sure knowing that would help pin down what’s going on here.”

”I agree.”

He exhaled and sat up, swinging over the edge of his bed. Physically, he felt fine. If Doctor al-Khalid had problems with how he chose to spend his time in quarantine, he could take it up with him later. Taggart was going to see if he could make himself useful.

“I think,” he said. “I might be able to do something to get you the information you need, Akemi.”

”What are you thinking of doing, Sean?”

“I think I might be able to get more out of Doctor Guillarmod. And, if not him, some of our scientists might be having some of the same thoughts that you’ve had, and might have something to say.”

”I’m … conflicted,” Akemi replied, after a few moments of silence. ”I definitely appreciate what you’re willing to do to help me. On the other hand …”

“I know,” Taggart said. “But, I am a Starfleet officer, and … I’ve got a duty to the people we brought here.”

”All right,” Akemi replied. ”Let me know what you find, and … I’m sorry that I let you think I was upset with you.”




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-02 12:59pm
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Keep referring to Akemi as a curvy Japanese woman, I'll have to start demanding some illustrations. ;-)



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-03 01:21pm
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“Captain Taggart,” Doctor Guillarmod said, sniffling. Taggart eyed the older man, taken aback at what he saw. His eyes seemed puffy and red, and he was suffering from what sounded like a runny nose.

“Doctor,” he managed. “Are you feeling alright?”

Doctor Guillarmod tilted his head.

“Of course I am,” he replied. “Never better, in fact,” he added, scowling faintly. A moment later, his expression brightened. “I’ve never had more energy. Our surveys of the Orrery have been progressing well-ahead of schedule.”

“That’s good to hear,” Taggart said, nodding slowly. Doctor Guillarmod sniffled and looked at him with rheumy eyes.

“Are you feeling alright? I’d been informed that your ship’s surgeon placed you all into quarantine. Very unfortunate, that … and I’m sorry I can’t do more to help you.”

“I’m feeling fine,” Taggart replied. “I was just in a thoughtful mood. And … well, what can I say? It’s given me an opportunity to actually see how science works.”

Doctor Guillarmod chuckled. The chuckle turned into a phlegmy cough.

“Sorry, sorry,” Doctor Guillarmod said, clearing his throat. “Seem to have gotten something caught there. An opportunity, I take it, that Imperial Starfleet captains are not often given?”

“Unfortunately not,” Taggart replied. “So, Doctor, what have your surveys turned up so far?”

“Ah yes,” Doctor Guillarmod said, a bright smile flashing over his face. “There’s been … something for everyone here. The labs, I suspect, will be working overtime on the materials our surveys have brought back, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

“Materials?” Taggart replied, pursing his lips.

“Yes,” Doctor Guillarmod said. “We’ve carefully disassembled some of the materials used to construct the installation. I’m told we can learn a lot about the ancients’ engineering practices after the Fall. And, you might’ve noticed, there is a lot of writing on the wall panels and other fixtures. We’re hoping that can give us a better window into their daily lives.”

Taggart nodded, exhaling slowly. Everything Doctor Guillarmod said was making sense, and that was far more reassuring than the collective … befuddlement … he witnessed before.

“Imperial,” a voice growled. Taggart turned around, seeing Doctor Weissman approaching them. Immediately, he frowned, for the scientist seemed to have the same bleary red-eyed look as Doctor Guillarmod.

“Leopold,” Doctor Guillarmod said. “Captain Taggart is a guest of the Crown.”

Doctor Weissman sniffled and scowled.

“The Imperial has discharged his duty, and delivered his government’s observers. Why is he still here, Calvin?”

“The Imperials have imposed a quarantine on the facility,” Doctor Guillarmod replied. “Their people must remain here until their ship’s surgeon gives the all-clear.”

“Now that’s a likely story,” Doctor Weissman said, crossing his arms over his chest. “I think the Imperials want to muscle in here … and push us out.”

Taggart felt his worry grow. Weissman didn’t like him … that was a fact he made clear. But did his thinking really extend to paranoia? If Starfleet were insane enough to seize a planet on the far end of Commonwealth territory, Taggart would’ve just dropped Mansoor on the planet, and let his Battlespace Intelligence roll it up for him.

“Leopold!” Doctor Guillarmod said, grabbing Doctor Weissman’s arm. “That’s quite enough! We have Brigadier Sir Renton and the Audacious here, if the Empire had any sort of design on this place. I rather doubt they do, given how hard it was just to get them to send observers in the first place!”

“And what if that was simply their way of dragging things out until they had one of their dreadnoughts free?” Doctor Weissman replied. He erupted into a brief fit of coughing, and then cleared his throat. “You’re keeping dangerous company, Calvin. Don’t let the Imperial get to you.”

With that, the other Commonwealth scientist turned and stormed off.

“I … must apologize,” Doctor Guillarmod said, touching Taggart’s shoulder. Taggart found himself involuntarily tensing. “Leopold is normally not so … combative.”

“If I may be frank,” Taggart replied, “he struck me as being paranoid. Has he ever done anything like this before?”

Doctor Guillarmod flashed Taggart a look. His eyes were narrowed, and there was something about the brief flash of expression that made Taggart want to shiver..

“Oh no,” he replied, smiling pleasantly. “Paranoia is a strong word to use. Leopold Weissman is many things … principled, opinionated, and even quarrelsome at times. But never, ever, paranoid.”

Taggart nodded, tight-lipped. “My apologies, Doctor Guillarmod. I … uh, I guess my quarantine has left me feeling a bit restless.”

“That’s understandable,” Doctor Guillarmod said. A few moments later, he smiled. “Ah, yes … we will be having a conference this evening to discuss the progress made so far. You are certainly welcome to attend. Hopefully that shall alleviate some of your restlessness?”

Taggart smiled, though the expression was forced. “I think it would, yes.”

~~~

It wasn’t silence that he heard in the auditorium. Yes, the gathered scientists were listening to each presentation with rapt attention, but many of them seemed to have the sniffles, and Taggart found that thoroughly unnerving. He looked to his left, at one of the Imperial scientists he’d brought with him … Van Hoeck, was the name he remembered. The man watched, as rapt as anyone else, but he wasn’t sniffling.

A quick spot-check of the other Imperial personnel in the room confirmed it … nobody from Old Earth, or its holdings, appeared to be anything but fine. Taggart leaned back, forcing himself to relax.

“As a final note,” the man on the stage said, “we don’t need everyone crowding into the areas that have been cleared for exploration. I know … I know, the Ancient corridors have become the most relaxing place in this installation. However, we all have jobs to do … and they don’t all involve being on the site itself.”

“But the lighting … “

“The fragrance … “

“It’s so peaceful down there.”

The man on the stage spread his hands. “We’re aware of all this! And I’m sure that, as we open more of the facility to exploration, there’ll be plenty of room for everyone to work. For now, I have to urge you all to be patient!”

Taggart stared with growing horror. He understood that this installation was the best link to their past that any of these men and women had seen. However, they were professionals … he didn’t understand their fascination with the lighting and the air inside the installation. He glanced up at the ceiling, towards where he knew Akemi would be orbiting.

Soon … soon I’ll be able to get out of here, Akemi.

“Thank you, Gennadiy,” Doctor Guillarmod said, coming to stand next to the other man. “I will reiterate what Doctor Kaczkurkin just said. Right now, we have more people on-site than we need. We don’t want to accidentally damage what we’ve devoted our lives to studying, do we?”

There was a rustle of dissatisfied whispered in the auditorium, but nobody wanted to argue with Doctor Guillarmod. The older man nodded, his eyes narrowing.

“Very good,” he said. He cleared his throat. “Our final order of business for tonight. We are making progress with the remotes, in mapping out corridors that might lead us into the Orrery itself. One of our advance teams will be probing the most likely prospect tomorrow afternoon.”




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-06 10:09pm
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Hello highly specific diease triggered by only certain genetics markers implanted millenia ago. Included are pyscho-somatic triggers to trace chemical scents and light frequencies. However, there is always the Outlier who is miswired enough to have a Bad Result.

I am seriously enjoying where this is going :twisted:



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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-07 12:54pm
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LadyTevar wrote:
Hello highly specific diease triggered by only certain genetics markers implanted millenia ago. Included are pyscho-somatic triggers to trace chemical scents and light frequencies. However, there is always the Outlier who is miswired enough to have a Bad Result.

I am seriously enjoying where this is going :twisted:
Yes, yes indeed. And now, today's segment ... it's almost like you knew what was going to be in it:

~~~

“We might have a problem,” Doctor al-Khalid said, seated across a plain steel table from Taggart.

“Is that why you insisted on a secure virtual meeting?”

His Chief Surgeon nodded.

“Yes,” he replied. “I’ll start by saying the air itself is clean and breathable. A little lower oxygen content than might be found on Earth, but well within the acceptable range. No heavy metals, and no volatiles worth mentioning. I also haven’t found any microbial life that exhibits any pathological behavior in culture.”

Taggart nodded, looking across at his swarthy ship’s doctor.

“But, there’s a problem,” he said, leaning forward a little.

“Yes,” Doctor al-Khalid replied. “All the samples I have access to contain measurable quantities of particulates.”

“Particulates?” Taggart echoed, frowning.

“Yes,” Doctor al-Khalid replied. “They look like large pollen grains, each one about 100 micrometers in diameter.”

“Pollen grains,” Taggart said, thinking for a moment. “Like a plant?”

Doctor al-Khalid nodded. “What they’d be doing down there, in the quantities I’ve seen, I don’t know.”

“Maybe this installation is a giant nursery,” Taggart said, rubbing his chin. His mind immediately recoiled from the thought. A nursery, running unattended for 70,000 years?

“Wouldn’t rule it out,” Doctor al-Khalid replied.

“Hmm,” Taggart said. “If my memory’s right, then pollens aren’t pathogens. So, how is this a problem?”

“Well,” Doctor al-Khalid replied. “Has anyone down there exhibited any unusual respiratory symptoms? Like coughing, or sneezing? Or excess mucus production?”

Taggart pressed his lips together, frowning.

“Yes, actually,” he replied. “A number of the Commonwealth workers and scientists all have symptoms like that. And the strangest thing about it is they all deny they have it.”

“Well,” Doctor al-Khalid said, scowling. “They’re not about to admit to a Starfleet Captain that their assays might’ve missed something, are they?” He eyed Taggart for a few moments, before continuing. “Clearly, these pollen grains have some protein on them that’s irritating their mucous membranes.”

“Doctor, everyone we brought here from the Empire is fine,” Taggart said, leaning further forward. “Every last one.”

“And that’s what I’m worried about,” Doctor al-Khalid replied, shaking his head. “The vast majority of the Human population of the Star Commonwealth carries genes that nobody presently alive on Earth has.”

“From being out of contact for seventy-thousand years?”

Doctor al-Khalid looked at Taggart for several moments, and then nodded, thin-lipped.

“Indeed,” he replied, though the slowness with which al-Khalid said the word tickled Taggart’s sense of wariness. “I can’t say, for sure, what other effects these particles might have on them. I need to conduct an in-depth study on them, and I can’t do that remotely. I’m going to need to send down waldoes.”

Taggart frowned. That wasn’t going to sit well with his hosts. And while Akemi had space aboard that could be transformed into a medical lab … after all, a Battle Control Platform found itself doing diplomatic or humanitarian work far more often than it found itself annihilating enemy fleets anymore, it probably wasn’t something al-Khalid wanted to do.

“Also, Captain,” the surgeon said, causing Taggart’s mind to snap back into focus. “I’d like you to start thinking about sending the dispatch boat to the closest Imperial consulate.”

The dispatch boat? Taggart could see it clearly in his mind, a small dumbbell-shaped ship that was an engine wrapped around a computer core and a token crew space. It was Akemi’s only means of FTL communication when she wasn’t near a relay station.

“The dispatch? Do you think this is going to be that big a problem?”

“I … can’t say for sure, yet,” Doctor al-Khalid replied. “I would feel better with Starfleet’s input on this, though.”

Taggart shook his head. “The closest Imperial Consulate is two weeks away by dispatch boat, and they would have to send a dispatch boat back to the local capital of Rehmnetz. We’d be looking at a month and a half before we heard back from Starfleet.” He leaned back and exhaled slowly. “Somehow, I get the feeling, one way or the other, that this situation will be resolved before then.”

~~~

“So here is a mass spectrometry plot for one of the samples we’ve been provided,” Doctor Raphael Van Hoeck said, gesturing at a graph with a series of spikes along the bottom. Taggart nodded slowly, glancing from one display to the other. He was familiar with the basics of spectrometry; at least from how to use it to identify distant, potentially hostile, spaceships.

“Sample?” He said. “What samples are you working with?”

“We’ve been given pieces of the self-illuminating wall panels that seem to line every corridor in the installation,” Doctor Van Hoeck replied. “And it’s interesting comparing the construction techniques used by these ‘ancients,’ and their alien benefactors, to those of the Empire.”

“How?” Taggart said, rubbing his chin. “It’s plastic, right?”

Doctor Van Hoeck nodded. “Yes, but look at these points on the plot,” he said, gesturing at his display. “The signature matches one of a number of synthetic nucleic acids that we’ve explored for use in nanotech.”

Taggart scowled. “Are you saying the panels are using nanotech?”

“Most likely,” Doctor Van Hoeck replied. “The panels are self-healing, and self-lighting. They may have other functions as well … you can encode a lot of information onto a nucleic acid.”

“Interesting,” Taggart replied, suddenly remembering what Akemi told him about the nanotech plague that was visited on the Ancients. However, he had another question on his mind. “How are these panels being controlled?”

“I don’t know,” Doctor Van Hoeck replied. “They’ve only supplied us with samples, and not whole, intact, sections. I’d be able to give you a better answer once we get the Slicer set up.”

“The Slicer?”

“Yes,” Doctor Van Hoeck replied. “It’s a specialized microscope … scans the surface of a target one molecular layer at a time. Very slow, but very thorough.”

Taggart frowned, as an old memory came to the surface. Once upon a time, Battlespace Intelligences would frequently recruit new progeny from their fallen enemies. And they did so by scanning in their brains … in just the way Doctor Van Hoeck described.

“Interesting,” he said.

Doctor Van Hoeck nodded with a grunt. For a couple moments, both men stared at the displays in silence.

“Was there anything else you wanted to know, Captain?”

Taggart nodded.

“Yeah, there is one thing,” he replied. “Have you noticed anything strange about the Commonwealth people working here?”

“You’ve noticed it too,” Doctor Van Hoeck replied. “There seems to be something going around, which is strange, because everyone seemed fine when we first got here. Now, it’s like they’ve all got some kind of cold or something,” he looked around, and then leaned toward Taggart. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but some of them are also a lot more irritable. Some of my guys got yelled at when they took possession of the panel samples. For no real good reason either.”

Taggart nodded, recalling his encounter with Doctor Weissman.

“Is it a problem?”

Doctor Van Hoeck shook his head.

“Oh no, not at all! In fact, I kinda regret mentioning it.”

Taggart shook his head and smiled. “No need, Doctor,” he said. “It was just something I was curious about, that’s all.”




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-07 01:48pm
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Questin time !!

What is Akemi ? A ship, a station, ??
And Akemi the girls is the personification of that ship??

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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-07 02:52pm
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Tandrax218 wrote:
Questin time !!

What is Akemi ? A ship, a station, ??

Battle-Control Platform #48 (BCP-48) Akemi is a starship in the Starfleet of the Ascendant Empire of Pan-Humanity.

The ship is called a "Battle-Control Platform" because the way it usually fights is to deploy a fleet of frigates to carry out the bits of fighting that need a mobile fleet of ships (not that it's safe to be within a few million kilometers of one, since the BCP carries high-powered x-ray lasers.) And when it comes time to control territory, the BCP deploys what is known as a Battlespace Intelligence, which has its own assault and landing craft, ground vehicles, and robotic shock troops.

So Akemi is a ship ... like an aircraft carrier, but an aircraft carrier that launches navies.

Quote:
And Akemi the girls is the personification of that ship??

Yes. Akemi uses an extremely sophisticated artificial intelligence to manage all her systems. This AI presents an avatar (the woman named Akemi) to her Captain and her crew. Akemi's design allows her to express emotions on a level a human would understand (i.e. she can emulate human thought processes) ... a convenience for her human crew, and a convention that Starfleet hoped would foster the development of a close working relationship between the ship's Captain and the Intelligence that actually ran his ship for him.

tl;dr - Yes she is. Think "Rommie" from Andromeda, or the avatars of various ship AIs from Schlock Mercenary.




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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-07 05:12pm
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so how big is this thing anyway ?
in km ?
Crew?

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 Post subject: Re: The Orrery (original) PostPosted: 2014-07-07 07:43pm
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Tandrax218 wrote:
so how big is this thing anyway ?
in km ?
Crew?

It is a giant saucer that's 4000 meters in diameter, which is capable of carrying up to 144 frigates, each 300 meters long (it's mostly empty space.) The crew complement of the frigates alone is 11,520 (80 crew per frigate.) Additionally, a BCP can carry up to 60,000 Imperial Jandarma, who are used in peacekeeping and diplomatic duties. The ship itself carries some 89,000 dedicated crew. A number that is only possible due to the extensive automation found aboard the ship.




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