Canopus Station
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Relative Velocities In Space

Posted on Sun May 10th, 2020 @ 3:26pm by The Narrator & Lieutenant Commander Amie Cerys

Mission: S2:2: Best Laid Plans
Location: Beacon Star Inner System, Debris Cloud
Timeline: MD 2 17:15


With each new impact, the Black Bird shook a little. It spoke to the design tolerances of the craft that the impacts with grains of sand moving at interplanetary speeds weren't vaporising them on impact. The constant background wail of a sand storm blasting away on the hull didn't help calm the nerves either.

But, then again, shining a defector beam out in front to ward off dust and debris would be like turning on high beams in a snowstorm: useful but deadly.

"Cold gas thrusters have finished firing, we're now in sync with the Senor Pod," Bree said form his docking port in the back of the cockpit. The cock pit's windows flickered as the outside light changed, the corvette rolling on its long axis. And then the view changed from the red and orange sunset mists of Beacon to the battleship grey of a Starfleet hull. The sensor pod was three or four times larger than the little stealth ship, a triangular profile designed to help streamline the ships warp signature. "Thermals have hot spots throughout the hull, minor radiation alarms. Moving us along to the aft emergency hatches now."

The broken neck that had connected the sensor pod to the Traveller came into view. Sparking EPS lines still somehow holding a charge lit up briefly, illuminating the mangled remains of structural support beams and part of a turbo lift shaft. Fortunately, the safety baffles had slammed shut, cutting off the shaft.

"Flight logs of the Traveller show it took a long-range shot from a Reka Carrier before jumping to warp, something the techs called a plasma lance. Low power beam connects and allows a conductive path to the target for the mother of all thermal shocks. Low firing rate but I'd not want to be on the receiving end," Bree said a little quietly.

Instead of looking at the readings, Amie looked out the window at the sensor pod. "How...that is just..." She shook her head and went back to the readings. "How do we want to do this?"

"Coming up on the aft of the pod...thrusters firing, rotating up," Bree commented.

The far end of the pod came into view and the, showing some plasma scoring from the hit that had served it from its mothership. Ahead of them on that side was one of two secondary maintenance hatches, fitted with a universal hard dock for inspection pods to dock with during transfers or routine dock checks. This one was pristine, even had the plastic seal tags left in place from the previous shipyard dock workers.

And to starboard, on the end of the sensor pods aft section, was the other maintenance hatch. But instead of being pristine and ready for docking, something had slammed into it. Like a seed, the narrow end of the bone-white object had rammed into the hatch. And as lights from the corvette's hull played over it, a spiderweb of white marble-like veins could be seen hemming in the wound around the broken hatch. What was visible of the drive section was smooth, rounded.

"That's not showing up as something on the periodic tables," Bree commented.

Jinn shrugged. "I'm no scientist, but we aren't in our own galaxy anymore so it would stand to reason that we could be discovering new... everything out here."

He locked the Black Bird's course in a synchronized orbit with the hatch. "To boldly go where no robot has gone before, right Bree?"

"Copy that," Bree said and smoothly undocked from his station, and began to walk out of the cockpit. "I'll go grab Bucky the combat drone, the guy plays a mean diagnostic check but I bet he likes long walks on abandoned starships."

Amie stopped what she was doing and looked out again. She was fine with the combat drone going out and didn't question that. But there was something familiar about all of this. At least visually. Looking back out the window, her eyes went wide. "It can't be..."

"Bree to Black Bird, Bucky just crossed over with the tether cable...going for soft dock with the access hatch. Prepare for-" the ship shuddered. "-bump. Seals good on our side. I'd suggest keeping the inner door sealed tight until Bucky and me have cleared the sensor pod. The growths from that craft attached to your starboard might travel. I'll keep things on audio only."

The comm line buzzed, and for the next fifteen or twenty minutes Bree kept them informed of what was going on.

"Found the source of the transmission. Personal data terminal, things set to link up with the local systems to sync, which explains why we could hear it out in the dark. Things just floating around in here," Bree reported. "Port side of the pod is tangled up with white vines, its passable but cramped. No reaction when Bucky tapped his head into it, atmosphere reads as safe. We're clear in here Sir's, you can come aboard."

"I don't trust this. I really don't," Amie finally said. "I don't care what the readings say, this is too familiar. I was on an away mission right when I got to the station, and this looks far too much like something I saw there."

Jinn raised an eyebrow. "Would you care to elaborate? Perhaps before we head over there?"

"No sign of life. Just gonna keep talking to myself because I was not programmed for a fear of the dark," Bree continued to say sounding like his truth index was a solid 34% and falling. "Found a dead Reka in here. Body armour matches the colouration of the band that attacked the Traveller. That and it's partially rematerialised in a bulkhead. Heard the Trav figured out a way to stop the Reka from bouncing through walls at will."

A red light began to blink on the console between Amie and Jinn: Inner Airlock Hatch Open: Exterior Control Override.

"Er, Sir's if you're coming to join me I should point out you're not showing up in my sensors. Though you do read as being on the Black Bird," Bree continued. "I've got Bucky high tailing it back to you now."

Amie listened but then looked to Jinn. "My away mission, prior to this one on Carpathia? That other pod on the other hatch reminds me far too much of Prior tech."

Jinn stood from his chair and quickly made his way to the weapons locker on the bridge. "And now we have an unauthorized hatch opening."

He gave a quick thumbprint scan, opened the locker and grabbed two phasers. He tossed one over to Amie. "Better safe than sorry, especially since you're saying this reminds you of Prior tech. Watch my back?"

Catching the phaser, Amie swore under her a few languages. "Just what we needed. Here I hoped this would be somewhat easy." She nodded to Jinn. "This outta be fun."

And then they were into the Galley...or was it Gallery? Because it sure did look like an art installation of extreme impressionist art. Bree had cleared away the Rocky Pancake Mountian range well before the mission had begun. And it had been clean before they'd dropped out of the slipstream and docked with the Sensor Pod.

But now it was littered with the discarded remains of a half dozen open storage bins mounted to the walls. Packet's of 'Instant Coffee No4' made little mounds atop the torn apart silver wraps proclaiming to hold all the dietary requirements of a carbon-based lifeform. (Now in Banana/Beef Flavour!) Even the carafe of coffee, which Bree doggedly kept filled to its 20 cup maximum, had been emptied.

From the doorway into the suit prep room and the airlock, the tromping metal feet of 'Bucky' the combat drone could be heard. Unlike Bree who could fool a Turing Test with his optic's uncoupled and on a bench in front of him, Bucky was just a phaser with a winning personality. Humanoid, minus the head, with the chest littered with sensor studs and a big sticker on the sternum reading 'WE COME IN PEACE'.

The Starfleet Marine Corp was very proud of its toys.

The sound of more storage spaces being disturbed came from sleeping berths.

"Bucky, investigate the sleeping spaces, non-lethal weapon systems only," Jinn commanded, setting his own phaser to stun. He turned to Amie, "Shoot first, but always make it so you can ask questions second."

Bucky didn't respond, instead it walked with machined perfection into the sleeping berth. The sounds of rummaging ceased...and then there was silence.

"Room. Clear." The totally sinister voice of Bucky said as it stepped back out of the door way.

"Anything higher than stun never crossed my mind," Amie stated as she scanned around her, heading to another door. "Of all the things to be out here, it had to be this." She listened carefully to see if there were any sounds on the other side of the door she was at.

There was the sound of shuffling, cloth moving...and then silence.

"The Reka have site to site transporter weaponry, no?" Jinn asked rhetorically. "Keep an eye on me, Commander. I'm going to try to make contact."

Jinn closed his eyes and reached his mind out, probing for any other consciousness on the ship.

It was like reaching out and touching a void. It was there only as an absence, a lack of tangibility, an oily skein that just refused to be measured in any clear cut way. And then suddenly, all at once, there was a contact of a sort. A mad kaleidoscope of impressions, emotions, and the sort of mental feedback that caused after images or nose bleeds.

At the same instant, a thing came scrabbling out of the crew berth, wrapped head to toe in one of the blankets torn from the bunk. Short, maybe up to Amie's elbow in height, it scrabbled out of the berth, and between Bucky's mechanical leg. The combat drone, for its part, didn't even react to the intrusion. A muttering grumble of high pitched sounds emerged from the blanket as whatever it was made a break for the galley.

Jinn staggered up against the bulkhead, the sheer flood of sensations threatening to steal consciousness from him. He broke off contact almost the instant the other presence made itself known, but the connection, as brief as it had been, was the single most powerful one he'd ever experienced. He brought his hand to his head, the pain barely abating despite closing himself off. He saw the figure dart by them, but was in no shape to do anything about it at present time.

"Commander... Just go... After it," the words forced out through gritting teeth.

A shiver went down Amie's spine for a moment as she jumped when the...whatever it was...ran out. Going over to Jinn for a moment, she put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?" She kept an eye out, and was ready to run in the direction of it. "I don't want to leave you here alone."

"I'll be fine, go," he said, weakly. "Bucky is compromised, it's on you."

Nodding, Amie took off after it, coming to a halt when she found it standing on the table.
The blanket had come free as the figure jumped up onto the galley table, its arms held aloft and holding the maple syrup jug and napkin dispenser in a defensive posture. The first word to enter the mind upon seeing it was 'bug'. The next was 'mammal'. And then the next was a few question marks, exclamation points, and that little A with a circle around it.

Binocular vision.

Long skin legs, an emaciated torso, long multi-jointed arms with four-pronged pincers on the end. Its head was triangular, snout-like, with bright yellow eyes glaring in fear at Amie as she entered. The snout opened along three jawlines, revealing rows of serrated backward canted teeth like those of a moray.

"These are mine!" It screeched in a high and chittering voice. "I found them! They are mine! Gifts! Gifts are mine!!"

"The...syrup and napkins?" Amie asked, weapon trained on it. She knew she was alone with this thing, but maybe she could talk it down or...something?

"Yes! Syrup! And Napkins!" It screeched, holding up the opposite item to showcase it had no idea what it was holding. "These are gifts you give to me yes! You left them out, so must be for me. Who else? No one else but me. Yes? You say yes now?"

Amie let out a soft sigh. "Syrup is sweet and sticky, napkins help clean it up. Syrup normally goes on other food." She took a small step closer, "Why don't you come down and we can figure it out, yeah?"

"You no take?" the alien chittered, before delicately picking its way down to the opposite side of the table, and taking a seat in a calm and unnerving fashion. Which was totally ruined by the shredding of napkins by three sets of serrated teeth and the swallowing of the maple syrup jar in a single gulp. As it sat there, a sort of smile on its face, the sound of snapping, grinding glass could be heard from somewhere descending down from its neck.

With thudding footsteps Bree entered the galley.

"Commander, where did it go?" the combat synth asked, hefting the phaser carbine in its hands. "I saw Jinn got his can rattled by it, did it get past you?"

Nodding to the table, Amie shook her head, "It's there, but I'm not quite sure exactly what it wants. Other than to eat everything is sight. Can we put a force field around it in here?"

"Around what Ma'am?" Bree asked. The insect-like alien had gone stock-still at the entrance of Bree, only seeming to begin to relax once Bree's gaze had passed over it without snagging. It crawled back up on to the table and began to snag silver wear from where they had been magnetically attached to the table. That got Bree's attention, as the forks and spoons began to move and then vanish into the snapping jaws

"I'm not seeing whatever that is," Bree said, the colour of its optical lenses shifting as the machine cylced vision mods. "Nothing on EM, thermal, gravitational. And if you can see it then it's either a mental projection or it's doing something buggy with photons. Black Birds internal's can't see it either, or where the tableware went to."

The insect sat cross-legged on the table and looked at Amie.

"I give you gift in return for your gift,' it said happily as it chewed on the last spork. "Huum...will be gift of thing to come. Of thorn seeking flesh, not to spill blood but to grow in it. Thorn seeking kinship. I have spoken."

"Forgot you couldn't see it, Bree. Just, put a force field around the table." Amie took a step closer to the creature. "Thorn seeking flesh, not to spill blood but to grow in it. A thorn seeking...kinship?"

"Kinship!" the insect thing said, clapping its oddly jointed pincers together happily. "Yes! Yes! It looks so alluring and pretty, so safe and well known that you want to touch it. It wants you to touch it. Only when you do it will cut you, it will nick you. Small cuts, small drops. Tiny little things but all of them ground in which the Thorn can grow. It demands audience, it seeks as many to desire it as possible. And once it is rooted it will spread as a weed, choking out the life of anything else. Thorn. Seeks. Kinship."

Amie swallowed hard. "Choke the life out of...anything else. I don't wish to be cut. I don't wish to see the life choked out of anything. I don't mind kinship but to humandoids, that isn't kinship."

"No one wishes to be cut, is same for self same. But the Thorns are everywhere, they grow freely, and spread to new places. Tipped in seductive poison, people soon want to keep them bound in thorns. If you do not weed them out, you will be doomed," it smiled, or it seemed to try to smile with its toothy maw. "But this one like so many others of self-same do fear the thorns. Thorns are not old ones, and old ones are not here or would become new gardeners. Thorns so do not see us."

"I...don't understand." Amie said as she glanced to Bree and whispered, "Where's that force field?"

"Black Bird can't see it same as me. I can put up a force field, but without knowing its exact location I'm just as likely to chop it in half when the field goes live," Bree said.

"Is simples!" the alien said. "Thorn. Seeks. Kinship! Kinship!! Yes? You understand now yes? Is yes?"

"Fine, I'll deal with it myself," Amie whispered and looked back to the alien. "Yes, that I understand. But for humanoids, we don't think of thorns as kinship." She tightened her grip on her phaser, just in case.

"No one does!" the insect said, spreading its hands wide. "Is point of thorn. Is sharp point. You do not want it, but it makes you want it. It offers you things, trinkets, baubles! Delicate gifts easily broken, but more easily provided! Thorn seeks kinship!"

"Warning. Active sensor trace detected in the system. Multiple point sources detected on convergent heading. Engine signatures match those of Reka carrier craft recorded at the Battle Of Canopus Station." The Blackbirds auto voice stated calmly. It could have been relaying the state of solar weather.

"Oh hell..." Amie stated and without a second thought, fired her phaser at the thing on the table. "We need to get out of here with those engine signatures coming." She may not have been part of the battle what was mentioned, but that didn't mean she still didn't know this meant trouble. "Jinn, where are you at?"

=/\=Already... On my way... To the cockpit, Commander=/\= Jinn's strained voice piped in over comms. =/\=Grabbed... A mild... Stimulant... Wow that stuff is great. Alright, if there are no objections, can you ensure our little guest is comfortable while I haul ass out of here?=/\=


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