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The Meaning Of Life

Posted on Mon May 15th, 2017 @ 5:39am by Captain Claudia Ainscow & Lieutenant Commander Martha Cusack & Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant Commander Gareth Tau & Ensign Jessie Hall

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: Nova Mercia
Timeline: Mission Day 83; 13:00

With the Mersey safely back on board Claudia now turned her attention to the entity which was holding her ship hostage. It appeared its intentions hadn't changed - with most people now evacuated to the stern of the ship to avoid the radiation - Claudia felt she had to do something about it sooner rather than later. Deciding there was only one thing for it Claudia walked down to the transporter room and armed with nothing but a tricorder she stood in the transporter room and decided to summon Akiva to tell him of her plan.

=/\="Ainscow to ben-Avram. Please come and meet me in transporter room 1"=/\=

Akiva was already on his way to the Bridge, so the detour toward transporter room 1 was an easy one.

"On my way."

When he passed through the doors, he expected to see a group--another away team, somebody who just beamed aboard, anything except Claudia standing alone on the transporter pad.

"Captain? What's going on?"

Claudia smiled. "Good. I'm going down to the surface to communicate with this life form to try and release the ship - I'm hoping my El-Aurian listener heritage can help me so until I get back you're in command - and I'm going to need you to keep a lock on me just in case. The USS Derbyshire is due to arrive soon after being delayed - so I'll need you to tell them to hold fire if they arrive while I'm gone"

"Wait, what?" Akiva balked at his captain's orders. "You can't be serious. The radiation will prevent us from maintaining a transporter lock, which is if it doesn't scatter your particles across the atmosphere in the first place." He threw a hand in the general direction of the shuttlebay. "You should see the toll it took on the Mersey, for HaShem's sake!"

Claudia tilted her head to one side slightly and gave Akiva a look to assert that her decision wasn't going to be changed. It was a risk that she had to take for the safety of her ship and those on board - otherwise the radiation would overcome the modifications made to the Vindex's shields and render everyone on board unconscious within half an hour.

"My orders stand Commander. If I don't go down there then everyone on this ship will be dead or dying within half an hour - it is my duty as the commanding officer of this starship to protect everyone on board. I've formulated a morse code type of communication which I believe the entity will be able to understand" Claudia replied.

"But Captain..." Akiva trailed off as pieces began to fall together. The undulating waveforms of the radiation, the targeted bursts, the ecological response from the planet... when considered as a whole, everything could possibly be viewed as communicative expressions from a monolithic entity.

But to think to communicate with such a being which expresses itself through tidal forces? The captain was bold indeed.

"Very well." Akiva moved around to the transporter console. "I'll beam you in between bursts, but I won't be able to maintain a lock. We'll turn over every stone to find a way to get out of here in case your plan doesn't work." He paused his calculations on the console to correct himself while giving Claudia a smoldering fixed stare. "All of us."

In another moment, he had the coordinates locked in.

"On your word, Captain."

Claudia stood on the pad and gave Akiva the nod. Within seconds Claudia had disappeared from the Vindex

At first there was a twilight darkness all around, though after a moment's acclimation high canyon walls reflected the dim light of the sun which was not directly overhead.

The dull granite-type stone beneath the clifftop soil gave way to glimmering agate in sharply sloping tiers of strata that descended to the deep gouge perhaps a mile deep wherein Claudia stood.

Following the slope downward, the agate layers turned to quartz and other shining stones until they reached a core at the lowest depths of the quarry. Shadows shifted as light was absorbed and then reflected in a soft electrical glow from what one moment was a pond of diamonds, then a sheet of ice, then a pond again. The sight of the core depth's alternating state of matter was beyond disorienting, particularly due to the absorption and reflection of light alternating along with it.

When the light was reflected, one could see various crystalline forms interwoven through the solid form in earth tones of green, blue, and umber, but when it seemed to liquify into darkness, it turned to shadow beyond the range of human sight.

As a whole, it seemed like the cycle of day and night, and freezing and melting, in the space of a heartbeat. The wonder of it all was arresting and humbling.

Claudia looked around the quarry - carefully moving around whilst scanning around her for any potential ambushes. She stopped for a moment to look for her next path and wondered how something like this could be so beautiful. The planet itself was - but this entity had her ship in a tight grip and Claudia wasn't going to judge what appeared to be a rather unfriendly entity by its beautiful outside.

"How can something so dangerous be so beautiful?" Claudia whispered.

Rumbling filled the deep natural quarry. Displaced detritus skittered along the tall sides and filled the air with prismatic dust and particulate matter. An electrified feeling of warning and foreboding arose from the nucleus' ebb and flow.

Claudia looked at the entity and started to type in Morse code on her tricorder. It was something she'd actually paid attention to in school - and Claudia was glad for that now. After checking her message she sent it in the direction of the entity.

"I come in peace" the message said.

The rumbling increased, then sharply cut off. A charged burst of shimmering particles filled the air and surrounded her tricorder. It superheated, and in a moment was too hot to control. Where it fell to the ground became crystalized in what could have been a natural formation to the untrained eye.

Claudia sighed and looked up at the entity whilst pondering her next move. Now her tricorder was gone there wasn't any other way of communicating with the entity - apart from verbally of course. There was every chance the entity couldn't understand her and Claudia could have walked into a trap - but she knew she'd at least tried to do her duty to save her ship.

The undulating pond of not-liquid below rose up like a steaming geyser, then surrounded Claudia in a quickly hardening cocoon that felt flaccid and gelatinous despite its rigid crystal appearance.

Blinding white light enveloped Claudia for a moment until it faded to a dull beige.

"You are not like the Others."

The voice seemed to come from everywhere.

"I am of El-Aurian listener heritage. Whatever you want to tell me my friend - if I can call you that - you can tell me. I will sit here and listen" Claudia replied.

A ten foot eye opened up in the open space in front of Claudia. It blinked as it regarded her with unfathomable consideration. In a flash, the endless white expanse shifted into the likeness of the Vindex's Ready Room.

Claudia, however, found herself seated in front of the desk across from the likeness of none other than Zefram Cochrane, the initiator of first contact between humans and Vulcans. He was adorned with the uniform, pips, and insignia of a fleet admiral.

"We know not of 'El-Aurian.'" Though the face was human, the speech was stilted and unnatural. "We know of none as you are, save the Others who affront us with their Song. Your Song is similar. Why have you come to us?"

"I wouldn't imagine you have. I come from a place called the Alpha Quadrant - my ship and I are here to explore this part of the Gamma Quadrant and we found this planet. We like it very much - but we left when we got the impression you weren't very happy with us being here. My name is Claudia - what is your name?" Claudia asked.

"Name?" The Zefram face twisted in confusion. "We have no designation. We are... alone. Our Song reaches out to the darkness and finds only silence. Little ones such as yourselves intrude upon our Song and must be added to the silence."

The environment flashed again, this time becoming Claudia's childhood home in London. Zephram Cochrane was replaced with an image of her mother Elizabeth.

"You are many. We are one." The entity's speech was become more fluid and intelligible. "Your Song arises from many pieces which replicate after their kind and spread through synthetic machinations from world to world. The Others wished to add our Song to their own. Is that what you seek as well?"

Claudia looked around at the image slowly - it was the family home where her mother was preparing an evening meal whilst her father Richard was setting the table. The younger version of herself was sat at the table ready whilst her younger sister Heidi was running around after the family cat. She remembered that very well - it resulted in Heidi tripping over the cat and straight into Claudia - knocking her older sister onto the floor with a loud crash.

"I'm here because I want to rescue my ship which you have a hold of. My ship is here on a mission of exploration - we did not know you were here until you manifested yourself with the radiation directed at my ship. You should know that we don't wish to harm you - in fact all we want to do is look after this planet for you and keep you safe - if you want us to" Claudia replied.

"Help." The phantasmic Elizabeth repeated the word as though tasting its flavor. "Your Song reaches farther than our own. You may add your Song to ours without bringing us to silence. Would that be 'help'?"

Claudia smiled. "We don't want to silence you. We just want to look after this planet and keep you safe - but first you need to let my ship go and stop giving off that radiation which is harming those on board and anyone on the surface. Help is where you provide assistance to someone who is in need - the people on my ship are in need right now and I'm here to help them. If you don't let them go then we can't help you because we won't survive"

The scene returned to the white endless expanse. Rather than emanate from everywhere, the voice came solely from the direction of the single eye which had sprouted arms and legs in a crude imitation of humanoid form.

"You are small. Your Song reached out to us, and we matched it with our own. If our Song brings harm to you, then we will decrease it in exchange for your own Song. Match our resonance, for otherwise you bring us suffering and we will silence you as we did the Others."

Claudia tittered and nodded. This was one of the more unusual experiences of her life so far - but the Vindex and everyone aboard it depended on her being successful in communicating with this entity. It appeared however the source of the entity's suffering lay with the Vindex's shields - the one thing protecting the crew from certain death.

"I will gladly tell the Vindex to lower its shields - but you have to reduce the radiation first. Everyone on board will die if we lower the shields before you do that - or we could do that at the same time. Would you like us to do it together at the same time?" Claudia replied.

"It is agreed."

On board the Vindex's bridge, Akiva was having an open briefing from the bridge officers.

"Say that again." He stood incredulous in the face of Gareth's latest report.

"The unknown mineral composition denotes a monolithic crystalline entity," Gareth repeated. "The sensors indicate a complex oligosaccharide chains whose aminos translate directly into monosaccharides instead of proteins. Not only is it alive, it's inorganic and it's the size of a Class D planetoid... a subterranean planetoid wedged deep within the large mountain chain, possibly an extraterrestrial impact from millions of years ago..."

"As fascinating as this history lesson is, I need to know how to neutralize it," Akiva said. "When you say 'saccharide,' do you mean sugar?"

Gareth sighed in frustration. "The unknown mineral could possibly be compared to sugar like halite is to table salt, but the kinoplasm is far more--"

"Just call it dulcite or something. It's very long winded and borderline boring when you keep saying 'the unknown mineral' - that's like my parents deciding to call me 'our daughter' instead of giving me a name" Martha commented.

"That's a terribly inaccurate name," Gareth protested, "but I suppose that's irrelevant given we're about to fire upon it."

"We can't do anything until we beam the captain up," Akiva said. "Even though we can't get a transporter lock, sensors still indicate her life signs are active."

Martha shook her head and looked over at Gareth.

"I am not firing on that unless Captain Ainscow orders me to" Martha said.

Akiva hated it when Claudia left the ship to him, and now he was faced with choosing between her and the rest of the crew. Firing upon a macro-organism was a poor round of first contact, but she wasn't going to leave him much choice.

"Captain, the radiation has decreased to a safe ambient level," Gareth reported. "Sensors, however, show an object heading straight for us."

Martha quickly scanned the object with the tactical sensors and nodded to confirm there was indeed an object heading right for the Vindex.

Martha nodded. "Confirmed - it's...a biosignature. I'm trying to determine whose it is right now"

"Wait!" Ensign Hall called out from the Ops console. "The biosignature--it's the captain's!"

Akiva collapsed into the command chair with his hand on his forehead. "Did... did that thing just eject her into space?!"

"Affirmative, sir," Ensign Hall confirmed, "but she is alive."

"Beam her directly onto the Bridge," Akiva ordered. "Put Sickbay on notice."

Ensign Hall nodded and did as instructed.

A cocoon of shimmering rock materialized in front of the main viewscreen. Before the swirling energies fully dissipated, it began decomposing--melting, even--in gelatinous mounds on the floor. Claudia's face appeared first, followed by her torso and extremities.

"Captain!" Akiva jumped out of the chair and ran to pull her free. "Captain, can you hear me?"

Martha ran around with a tricorder and began to scan Claudia to see whether it was actually her or a replica sent to trick them into doing something which would give the entity a tactical advantage.

Claudia smiled and nodded - feeling liberated she could now move after being freed from the cocoon the entity had kept her in. Looking around everyone on the bridge and then back at Akiva she spoke.

"I can hear you loud and clear Commander and I'm absolutely fine" Claudia said.

Allowing Martha to continue for a few moments before gently letting her down Claudia decided to get Martha to stop scanning her.

Claudia smiled. "Please...put that scanner down Miss Cusack. I am very much real - if you don't believe me we'll go down to sickbay and get Doctor Maddison to check me over"

"My scans have already determined that - I was checking to see if you were alright" Martha replied.

Claudia rested a hand on Martha's shoulder and watched as the young woman retracted her tricorder and placed it back in her trouser pocket. Once Martha had moved away Claudia walked up to her command chair and sat back down in it.

"Report Commander" Claudia said.

"With all due respect, Captain, you tell me." Akiva was positively dumbfounded. "We were gathering data and discussing our options when the radiation levels dissipated and you came rocketing toward us from the surface."

Claudia looked at Akiva with raised eyebrows and a telling look. There wasn't that much to say really - how could she explain the experience that she had without taking all day?

"Well...that thing melted my tricorder after I sent it a message and we started to communicate verbally. After that we managed to reach an agreement and here I am - it was a rather...odd...experience but it's one I won't forget. Anyway - we're safe to go back down there tomorrow and start the colonisation process" Claudia replied.

"You... talked to it?" Now it was Gareth's turn to be dumbfounded. "What did it say? How... could you even understand one another? We must be as insects to it... smaller even. Amoebas!"

Akiva waved a hand at Gareth to silence him. "The captain will tell us everything we need to know after she's had time to recover and brief Commodore Hutchinson. In fact, I'm going to meet with him right now while Captain Ainscow takes as much time as she needs. Commander Cusack, the bridge is yours."

Claudia stood up and decided to retire to her ready room and relax with some music. Making her way across the bridge Claudia called over her shoulder.

"As you wish Commander" Claudia said.

Martha walked around from her station - relieved by Ensign Rose - and sat in the command chair. She liked the view it offered and felt more confident in the position of responsibility it put her in - but Martha wasn't going to get used to it any time soon.

"Please give the Commodore my best Commander" Martha said.


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