The Artifact
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Table Of Contents


Mission 25 : THE ARTIFACT

 

The contents of the Ship Logs are considered to be a "compilation" under the provisions of Title 17, U.S. Code (known as the Copyright Act): that is, "A work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that is selected, coordinated or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship." As such, it is the property of the ship’s Captain; however, automatic transfer of ownership to STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET is effected upon publication of this mission by the ship’s Captain ipso facto.

As outlined in Circular 1 (Copyrighted Basics, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USGPO 1989-262-309/12), "copyrighted in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from the copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution."

This mission may not be reproduced in any form without the express, written authorization of STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET.

Prologue

USS PHOENIX NCC-2315

Captain's Log

Stardate 2324.3.III, 2017 hours Zulu

PHOENIX is currently on a course to the Meru system. Starfleet has ordered that we rendezvous there with the science vessel USS ARETIUS. The Constellation-class ship has experienced a series of malfunctions in her warp and impulse systems. PHOENIX is to lend any assistance necessary to effect repairs. The ARETIUS is in the Meru system researching an extinct civilization that spanned several planets there.

"Professor Meranxx from the Federation Science Council made his initial discovery of the ruins several years ago when the USS ERASMUS explored Meru III," explained ADM Daniel Evans over subspace.

CAPT T.E. Lawrence smiled appreciatively. "I read about his findings. The Srintilla culture is thought to have suddenly ceased to exist about 2000 years ago, just as the Maya-Toltec culture on Terra did in the 14th century."

"That's why Meranxx went back to Meru III," Evans explained. "He's trying to piece together the final stage of the culture. Captain Wang of the Aretius indicated that she’s made some exciting discoveries, including some artifacts bearing glyphs."

"Well, it'll be interesting to see what he's found out," T.E. said straightening in her desk chair. "I'll communicate with you when we're in orbit of Meru III and let you know the current status of the Aretius' mission."

"Evans out," the admiral indicated as the screen reverted to the UFP logo on Lawrence's monitor. She tapped the pad and it went black.

Lawrence rose from her desk and stretched. It had been a long duty shift during which she had held separate meetings with Engineering, Science and Medical to prepare them for any possible needs that would arise when they rendezvoused with the ARETIUS. She picked up a PADD from her desk -- onto which she had downloaded all of Starfleet's up-to-date data on the Srintillan culture -- and headed for the hatch to her office. This would make good bedtime reading, she mused.

As Lawrence crossed the bridge towards the turbolift, she nodded at the First Officer. "Commander Stryker, I'm going to get some rack-time."

"Very good, captain," CDR Stryker smiled in reponse. "Would you like to be notified when we come out of warp in the Meru system?"

Lawrence paused. "That's in five hours?" She thought a moment. "Only if something comes up." She left the bridge.


After partaking of a salad and glass of chardonnay in The Nest, CAPT Lawrence proceeded to her quarters. By 2337 hours, her eyelids felt exceedingly heavy, even though she was trying to finish a chapter on the PADD about the decline of the Srintillan culture around the Terran date of 210 CE. What interested her was how it coincided with the period of decline of a great Terran empire, that of ancient Rome. She finally surrendered and ordered the computer to dim the lights to minimum, falling into a deep sleep almost immediately.

At about 0530 hours, Lawrence awoke with a start. She sat bolt upright in bed. She ran her hand through her raven hair, brushing it away from her face. I knew I shouldn't read so late, she thought. That damn PADD was all I dreamt about. She swung her legs out of her bed. As she stood up, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. There in the deep shadows of her quarters, she could discern the faint outlines of a figure, highlighted around the contours by the starlight coming in through the viewports.

"Who the h…..?" she exclaimed. Thinking it was the first officer - no matter how unlikely that would be - she said, "Is that you, commander?"

As the figure emerged from the shadows into the faint cabin light, Lawrence's hand was about to slam down on the comm. link to announce an intruder alert, but her senses immediately lowered from red alert when she realized that the figure was transparent, and did not seem particularly aware of her. She instantly grabbed a tricorder from her desk and did a scan of the cabin.

Lawrence, however, did not take her eyes off the figure to see the results of the scan. It seemed to be an older male of indeterminate species, with long white hair and beard, in a long robe, carrying a staff topped with glyph-type carving. An odd hood/veil covered his head. He stopped moving midway through the cabin. Was it a holograph? Some other sort of projection?

She did not have much time to analyze it as the figure spoke in a hollow voice that was haltingly translated by PHOENIX's universal translator. "The exarchs of the Srintilla desire that you leave their sector of space. Please consider this a warning: if you do not depart Srintilla space, your forces will be destroyed."

After the warning, the figure began to shimmer, and slowly faded from the deck up. Lawrence could swear that as the last bit of the male figure dissipated, his eyes locked on hers. Bemused, she shook her head, at first thinking she had merely seen an afterimage of the reading she had done before she slept. However, she looked at the tricorder in her hand and set her jaw. I'll drop this off at LCDR McConnell's console and have her analyze what I "saw," she asserted to herself.

Just then the comm. signal startled her. It was CDR Stryker. "Captain! We've dropped out of warp and are within 63 million kilometers from Meru III."

T.E. pressed the comm. link. "Fine, commander, I'll be there shortly."


Within twenty minutes, CAPT Lawrence was standing before her command chair on the bridge, conversing with CAPT Liu Wang of the ARETIUS.

"We should be in orbit of Meru III close to your coordinates in about six minutes, captain," T.E. said pleasantly.

"Great to see you," CAPT Wang said with a weary smile.

"What exactly is the problem?" Lawrence inquired.

"Well, we've lost power to our plasma injectors, and our impulse reactor is off-line," Wang clarified. As she spoke, the lights on ARESTIUS flickered as if to punctuate her statement. "We're also having fluctuations in the environmental control systems." She sighed

"I'm sure my engineers will be able to help you," Lawrence reassured her.

"That's what I told Doctor Meranxx, but he insisted on taking a shuttle over to Phoenix," Wang said, laughing slightly. "He claims that the unstable environmental settings might damage his artifacts." She glanced at the monitor on the arm of her chair. "The Denarius should be hailing you any moment."

Lawrence smiled. "Acknowledged," she said. "We'll take care of your scientist until your systems are back up. We'll start assembling our engineering teams and contact you when they're ready to beam over."

"Acknowledged, Aretius out," Wang said severing the comm.. link.

Lawrence turned and took one step towards the ops station. "Mister McConnell, please have Lieutenant Commander QaS get ready to deploy his crews to Transporter Room 1," she directed.

"Yes, captain," Alice complied.

Lawrence started for the turbolift and paused as she got closer to Alice. "About that tricorder scan I did in my quarters?"

McConnell shrugged. "I got down to a quantum level analysis, captain. There was nothing in the scan record."

T.E. stopped and looked blankly at Alice, her mind racing back to the filmy figure she had seen in her quarters in the wee hours. Just then, LT Walker from the comm. station turned to face the captain. "Captain, the Denarius is requesting permission to dock in the main shuttle bay."

"Permission granted, lieutenant," Lawrence said distractedly, "and see if Lieutenant Hayworth is on duty to meet him in the shuttle bay."

"Aye, sir."

T.E. heard an insistent beeping coming from the ops console. Out of the corner of her eye she saw LCDR McConnell busily working her controls. "Captain!" she exclaimed. "Sensors are reading an energy spike from the Aretius' warp system!"

"Wha---?" Lawrence sputtered. "They were having some malfunctions, but it didn't sound…."

"A core breach is imminent!" McConnell exclaimed.

"Walker, get Captain Wang back on the comm.," Lawrence snapped, heading to her command chair.

"Aretius, this is Phoenix," Lawrence heard Walker saying. "Come in Aretius."

She looked at the captain as she repeated the hail automatically. "There's some sort of subspace sta----"

Walker’s sentence was not finished. A brilliant blue-white matter/anti-matter explosion filled the PHOENIX main view screen as the Aretius succumbed to anti-matter containment failure. The bridge crew shielded their eyes.

"Shields!!" Lawrence screamed as the red alert klaxon activated.

Just in time the PHOENIX shields activated as the shock wave from the doomed Starfleet vessel hit the ship. PHOENIX rocked gently as Lawrence and the other bridge officers looked on helplessly as flaming wreckage from the ARETIUS spun out into space.