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assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 351 Notice: Use of undefined constant type - assumed 'type' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 352 Notice: Use of undefined constant series - assumed 'series' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 353 Notice: Use of undefined constant length - assumed 'length' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 354 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 355 Notice: Undefined variable: noimg in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 270 Notice: Undefined variable: noimg in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 287 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 361 Notice: Use of undefined constant ppin - assumed 'ppin' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 394 Notice: Use of undefined constant pragma - assumed 'pragma' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 394 Psi Phi: Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 400 #46: Spin [Star Trek Books Database]

Psi Phi's Star Trek Books Database



Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/psiphi.org/cgi/upc-db.php on line 444 #46: Spin


Previous: #45: The Art of the Deal
Next: #47: Creative Couplings, Book One
Star Trek: S.C.E.
eBook / December, 2004
XSCE000046

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Written by J. Steven York and Christina F. York

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Excerpt:

Gomez grunted as Pattie cinched the environmental suit tighter. "We're putting the da Vinci where?"

"Hold still," said Pattie, tugging at the closure on the rigid torso section until she was satisfied.

A few feet away, Transporter Chief Poynter and Stevens--who was already suited up--watched with amusement.

"As for the da Vinci, I think the human phrase is 'threading the needle.' We're going to take up station inside the ring. It minimizes the transporter range, and the hull is thinnest on the inside of the ring. It will simplify transporter lock and make our sensors more effective as well."

Gomez sighed. "I'm trusting you on this one, Pattie."

"Unless you'd rather we beamed you onto the hull inside the ring and let you try to phaser your way in, it seems to be the only way. The only hatches we've been able to identify are on the outside of the ring, don't seem to have airlocks, and open inward, which is just an insane way to design such a ship."

"Unless," said Gomez, "you never intended to be outside it, except in a gravity well. Most ancient spinning designs include a hub, with an airlock or docking point, at the center. These builders didn't want to experience null gravity. Pass that idea on to Elizabeth, would you?"

"Certainly," said Pattie. She made one last inspection of Fabian's suit.

The suits were an awkward looking affair, cobbled together using a type 4M extravehicular work garment already designed for heavy gravity missions, though nothing like what they were expecting today. The type 4M incorporated linear motors that enhanced and supported the joints, normally allowing work in up to two standard gravities. To this, hung externally to the backpack, had been added a fusion power source, a polarized gravity source, and a miniature inertial dampening field (IDF) generator. Tubular field-wave guides snaked across the exterior of the suit and down the arms and legs like veins. They were in constant communication with Pattie, as their controller.

Gomez raised the control panel on her left forearm to the visor of her suit, and activated the IDF system. Her head swam as the field engulfed her, but the feeling quickly passed. "Okay, how do we test these?"

"Tev didn't have time to come up with a formal diagnostic," said Pattie. "I suggest you throw yourself against a wall."

Gomez stared at her.

"I'm serious," said Pattie. "Throw your shoulder against a bulkhead, the harder the better. And be careful, your sense of balance will be thrown off by rapid movements."

Gomez took a few quick steps and staggered, tripping over her own boots. After the first step her inner-ear told her she wasn't moving. Her impact with the bulkhead was accidental, and completely unavoidable. Her arm hit the wall, cushioned by the thick suit, but there was no sense of deceleration. The sensation made her stomach turn over.

Pattie looked at her. "You did take your motion sickness pills, didn't you? Human regurgitation is unpleasant enough under the best of circumstances, but in a pressure suit--"

"We took our pills," said Gomez. And we're going to need them.

"I'm going to go join the rest of the 'Greek chorus' in the engineering lab. Elizabeth, Bart, Carol, and I will be monitoring your communications and helmet cameras at all times."

"Talk to you over there." Pattie dropped from her bipedal form and scuttled out of the transporter room on all eight legs.

They stepped onto the transporter platform. Turning to Poynter, Gomez said, "Energize."

They were briefly enveloped in the blue shimmer of the transporter effect, and then darkness.

Should have expected that. She stood motionless for a moment to make sure the IDF system in her suit was functioning, then turned on her suit lights. Fabian did likewise.

"We're fine over here. Tell Tev the IDF system is working. Radiation is high, but within suit limits." She slowly turned, taking in their surroundings. The ship looked more like some kind of nest than a technological artifact, as Pattie had suggested. There were no straight lines or right angles, nor even strongly contrasting areas of color. Just light, and lots of shadow.

The interior surfaces were a slightly translucent reddish brown. The surfaces looked polished, like marble or wax. What was really interesting was the variety of textures. Every surface was veined, webbed, rippled, spiked or textured in some way, floor to ceiling.

"Da Vinci," she said, "are the cameras working?"

"We've had to boost the receiver gain to maximum," said Bart, "but we're getting decent picture now. Ah, Pattie just joined us."

"Pattie," said Gomez, "does any of this make more sense to you than it does to me?"

Gomez turned slowly, trying to take in the larger space this time, and give Pattie a good look. The interior of the tunnel was about thirty meters wide and seven meters tall at the center of the curved ceiling. It was one continuous space as far as she could see, without bulkheads, doors, or rooms. It curved up into the darkness in either direction with no indication that what lay beyond was any different.

Breaking up the space were large irregular shapes. They might be consoles, or machinery, or who-knew-what. They were all the same shade of rusty brown.

"Could somebody take readings using one of the medical tricorders I provided," Lense asked, "and relay them back to the ship?"

Gomez hefted the tricorder, one of two hanging from her suit. Outside the volume of the suit, it wasn't subject to the inertial damping field. The normally lightweight piece of equipment felt like it was made of lead, and took two hands to lift comfortably. She grunted as she lifted it. As she scanned the area, she said, "Elizabeth, remember how much of a pain it was to be in EVA suits for all that time on the Shmoam-ag ship? Right now, I wish I was that comfortable."

However, Lense seemed to be more interested in the scan. "This is amazing. Sonya, can you turn about ninety degrees to your left?"

Gomez turned slowly, taking small steps, until she faced the outside wall of the ring. About three meters ahead of her was a large reddish lump, about the size of a shuttlepod. It differed from its surroundings because some of its surfaces were curved panels, relatively smooth and unmarked compared to most of the rest of the ship.

She stepped toward it. Her extended foot seemed to twist to the right, pulling her off-balance. She nearly stumbled, and Fabian reached out to steady her.

"Thanks," she said. "The IDF doesn't entirely compensate for the corolis effect. We need to be careful moving at right angles to the direction of spin. Take baby steps."

Heeding her own advice, she shuffled towards the object, but she still felt dizzy.

"These suits still need a little work, Tev," she muttered, reaching out and leaning against the object of Lense's interest. A large, tree-trunk like projection emerged from the object, made a right angle turn, and met up with the floor. It made a convenient seat.

Fabian watched her with concern, but didn't rush to help, lest he have his own problems. Through the suit's speakers, she heard him ask, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Just dizzy. I don't know if you've ever been sailing, but this is going to be like getting your sea legs, only worse. Okay Elizabeth, what's so interesting?"

"The crew never left. There are bodies on the ship. I'm picking up twenty-three, and there may be more around the ring out of tricorder range. Their construction is silicon based, but the metabolism isn't entirely chemically based. I'm still figuring it out."

Gomez looked around. She didn't see anything that looked like a sentient being. "Are any of these bodies close to us?"

"I think," said the doctor, "that you're sitting on one."

* * *

Gold watched the ambassador's face on the screen, looking for any sign of deception. "Alfredo, are you sure the Lokra are being entirely truthful about this derelict?"

"What do you mean? How would they even know anything about it? It's an alien ship from outside their system."

"That's right, and we have a fair guess as to what planet it came from. The gravity and atmospheric pressure of a giant planet in a nearby system are consistent with the derelict. The Norman Scott scanned the planet. It's overrun with self replicating mining machines, and those machines seem to have originated with the Lokra."

Goveia pursed his narrow lips, and waved a long-fingered hand in dismissal. "Those mining machines were launched well before the Breen occupation. They were part of a long-term plan to establish a reliable metal supply. Once they've mined enough materials and duplicated themselves, they'll build cargo ships and send the metal back to the Lokra. It will take decades for the first metal to arrive, but once the flow starts, it won't stop."

"Don't you find that suspicious?"

"Did the Norman Scott find the civilization that sent the ship?"

"No, nor any ruins either. We're not entirely sure what we're looking for. The derelict was built by exotic silicon based life forms of some sort."

"Who may have originated somewhere else. Maybe they were only exploring your giant planet, and moved on to this system, experiencing some mishap on the way."

Gold considered Goveia's argument. He was certain it was wrong, but he didn't want to provoke a confrontation. Not until he knew more. "That's possible I suppose, but I have to rule out all the possibilities. Ambassador, are you sure the Lokra don't have any space-based weapons? Perhaps something left by the Breen?"

Goveia laughed, a harsh, brittle sound. "Captain, you already have the answer. The S.C.E. swept out all Breen weapons and military technology immediately after the Breen withdrew. All that's left is an orbiting subspace communications relay that we handed over to the Lokra. It has no weapons capability, and I assure you the Lokra have no weapons of their own. Whatever happened to that ship, they had nothing to do with it."

Goveia smiled with his mouth, but not his eyes. They had last encountered each other on Vulcan when Gold was captain of the U.S.S. Progress, and back then he had come across to Gold as a man who was confident of his assessments, and who disliked anyone who questioned his authority. The look on his face showed that that several-year-old assessment still held true.

Gold nodded reluctantly. "I'll take your word for that at the moment, Ambassador, but our investigation of the derelict is ongoing. My crew is making progress on powering up the impulse drive. We hope to divert it to a safe course shortly."

The ambassador frowned. "I certainly hope so. The First Prime is impatient with my assurances, and I don't blame him after what's happened so far. Don't let scientific curiosity lead to the death of millions, Captain. Goveia out."

* * *

Gomez found the spinship a much more agreeable place to work once they installed work lights. They were set every few meters along a seventy-meter section of tube they thought to be the control room, and along another forty-meter section they guessed corresponded to engineering.

When he saw the first images of the illuminated control room, Captain Gold described it as looking like "an exhibition of abstract art staged in the Holland Tunnel."

The tunnel analogy was somewhat lost on her, though she gathered it was a New York reference. Certainly the interior did look like a tunnel, razor straight and curving upwards out of sight in either direction; and there was a gallery-like feel to the objects scattered there.

They were all massive. Some of them were control interfaces, consoles of sorts. Others were display devices. Lense assured them that one five-meter-wide, dome-shaped object was a food dispenser. Many more were mysteries, and would remain so unless they proved to be necessary in maneuvering the spinship.

Even the alien corpses, too large and massive to move, had a sculptural quality to them. Their surfaces were dry and rock-hard, seemingly unaffected by decay or mummification. Gomez had no idea what one of the living creatures looked like normally, but it was possible they had not deteriorated at all.

Their headless beetle bodies were belly-down on the floor, each set of eight massive, trunk-like, legs arrayed at ready. They looked to Gomez as though they might at any moment stand up and scurry away. Their deaths were as mysterious as what happened to their ship.

Despite Gold's colorful metaphor, to those actually working there it was more like some sort of giant fun house, one of those "vortex spots" that sprung up as tourist attractions on every backwater planet, where sloping land, optical illusions, and ingeniously distorted architecture made people believe the laws of physics had somehow gone haywire.

The whole team was there now, except Pattie who, much to her frustration, was stuck on da Vinci, and Tev. Despite having a functional suit, he had been ordered to remain on the ship to coordinate the data, and to act as their backup in case of an emergency.

They adapted quickly to working in their peculiar environment. Tiny, shuffling steps and long detours avoided the full force of the coriolis effect. If there had been time to watch, the effect would have been comical.

Even moderate sized objects required heavy mechanical assistance to move. They'd brought along a variety of carts, jacks, and electric lifts to assist in their work, all crude but effective.

Gomez shuffled over to one of the consoles, a wedge-shaped structure four meters long and taller than her head, where Fabian and Bart were carrying on a heated three-way conversation with Pattie back on the ship. "How's it going? Any luck with the controls?"

Stevens frowned through his faceplate. "That's the problem. We've identified the key systems, but we can't access them in any but the crudest way. Near as Soloman can determine, there are no computers of any real sophistication on the ship, nor are there controls in the typical sense. We're manually shorting circuits to activate things."

She pointed at the console. "Then what's this?"

"Think of it as an interface port," said Soloman. She turned to see him and Lense a few meters away, in front of the nearest alien corpse. "To understand the ship, we have to understand the crew. They don't just look like part of their ship's technology, they are part of it. The most important part."

Gomez shook her head in puzzlement. Alien biology wasn't her strong suit. "Explain."

Lense pointed at the front of the corpse. There was no head, but there was a flat area on the front of the body that seemed to be a face of sorts. There were three sets of eyes, stacked vertically, interspersed with pairs of translucent organs and small limbs that might have been external feeding organs, except the mouth was far below, almost on the bottom of the body.

"We've learned quite a lot about these guys. The bodies are made of silicon molecules, but it isn't a conventional silicon life form, if that isn't an oxymoron. The metabolism is complex, and has chemical, electrical, and nuclear-thermal components. They don't breathe, but they need some atmospheric pressure for health, and helium is circulated through the body to provide cooling. Notice the horizontal banding all through the body? I'm calling the species 'Strata,' like rock strata. The bodies are built up in layers, like sedimentary rock, or for that matter, like isolinear chips."

"The ship," interjected Soloman, "doesn't have complex computers because the Strata are complex electro-chemical computers, though of natural origin. Each Strata is easily the equal of some of your early duotronic computers."

Lense pointed at the creature's black, lidless, eyes, then the nearby console. "These lower two sets of eyes correspond to the four windows in the front of the console unit. They're visual input ports of some kind. These six patches on the console correspond to these feeler organs above the eyes." Lense ran her fingers over the translucent projections between the sets of eyes. "These 'feelers' are densely connected to the nervous system. They may have evolved to allow separate Strata to interface their brains, a kind of electronic mind-meld. But in this case, they allow the Strata's nervous system to connect directly to the ship's systems."

Gomez looked at the creature's face, then the console. Now that she knew what she was looking at, the connection was obvious. "Crud. So what you're saying is that to fly the ship, we're going to have to build an artificial Strata?"

"It's possible," said Soloman, gesturing at the computer implant grafted into the side of his bald head, "that we could design an interface that would allow me to control the ship through my own access port. It would be a complex task though, and might entail some risk on my part. I'm willing to attempt it."

Gomez frowned. "I'm not so sure I am. Let's look for alternatives first." She turned to Lense. "Elizabeth, would it help if we tried beaming one of these corpses back to the ship for an autopsy?"

Lense glanced at Soloman and licked her lips. "I'm sure I could learn a lot, but I'm reluctant to do so."

"Why?"

"We--that is, Soloman and I--" She faltered. "It's about what happened to them. We believe there may have been an electromagnetic pulse. It would instantly disrupt their electronic systems, the way an otherwise non-fatal electric shock can stop the human heart. They just stopped, you see--"

"Their memory," said Soloman, "is very computer-like as well, non-volatile computer memory."

Gomez had an idea where this was going, and she wasn't sure she liked it. "You're saying their memories are intact, that we might be able to read their minds?"

"Yes," said Lense, "I suppose that's so, but what we really mean is that--"

"Every memory, every component of their personality, the very last thought they had before their 'death,' is in there, and presumably intact." Soloman completed her sentence. "There are no decay organisms here to degrade the bodies, and their unique metabolism doesn't cause the kind of breakdown you see in most organic species. They're absolutely, perfectly preserved. They're not dead so much as just--shut down."

Gomez looked at Soloman. "Go ahead. Say it."

And the little computer expert did. "They've crashed, and we think we can reboot them."

Copyright © 2005 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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