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2 - A Less than Warm Welcome

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  • 2 - A Less than Warm Welcome


    Reliquary - Cargo Bay

    Beta Praxis System - Gamma Quadrant

    Year 1 - Day 3



    “We’ve salvaged everything we can from the Ride. A few mobile power supplies, a replicator or two and some basic material to use for it. We downloaded the EMH’s program, and we salvaged as much of the sensor data as we could about the local area before they failed. I think between everyone that came over, we salvaged a handful of phasers, and a whole bunch of regular and medical tricorders.”

    Lieutenant-Commander Amanda Greystone nodded at the ensign making the report, noting everything down in her PADD and trying to make sense of everything. While on a routine patrol, a Borg Cube had dragged her ship, the USS Ride, into a transwarp hub. She’d had to jettison the warp core to prevent the ship from exploding, and the cascade wave had shunted them out of the transwarp tunnel violently. There had been a high number of casualties.

    They found themselves evacuated to what looked like an ancient and run-down alien space station, orbiting the accretion disk of a black hole. The station was orders of magnitude bigger than anything in the Alpha Quadrant, and the crew had spent the last 3 days just trying to make sure the life support and lights would stay on reliably while they tried to come to grips with their new situation.

    The interior of the station harkened back to the era of First Federation technology, and it boggled Amanda a bit that what seemed to be such a massive and advanced station would be using something as mundane as old-fashioned, push-button keyboards on their consoles. There was basic holography, in that the displays were projected up from the top of the keyboard, with the data streaming across it, but everything else seemed almost archaic in comparison.

    She looked up from the console she’d been working from at the Cardassian ensign in yellow who’d delivered the report.

    “Gukal, right? From Operations?”

    “Yes ma’am,” he replied. “Database technician and linguistic specialist.”

    She nodded, and beckoned him over to her side of the console. The man chuckled at the setup for a moment before leaning in and reading the data stream.

    “There’s a program. A base program running in the background behind everything else. I’ve narrowed down internal sensors, door commands, life support. I can’t figure out what the other one is, and either my universal translator is broken, or it can only parse about a third of what I’m seeing,” Amanda said, her voice barely above a whisper.

    “If you’re not used to seeing it, you’d be hard pressed to figure it out,” Gukal replied, dancing his fingers across the keyboard. “It’s a base protocol. A routine that is meant to be there to operate at all times. Looks to be thematically similar to an LCARS database. Strange though.”

    “Strange how?” Amanda quipped.

    “Well, this particular system has full override authority on all systems it runs behind. I’ve never seen anything like it, even on the most...eh, paranoid computer systems, let’s say,” Gukal continued, with a wobble of his hand. “If I had to take an educated guess, I would say this station has a low level AI that monitors and controls the station’s functions should no one else be aboard to do it.”

    Amanda nodded, and said, “Okay. That makes sense. Gukal, I would like you to very quietly assemble an away team of sorts. I think, if my understanding of the schemata I’ve been able to pull up is correct, that I might have found a chamber we can use to ‘talk to the station’ as it were. If what you said proves correct, we could potentially talk to the station in a literal sense.”

    Gukal nodded, and replied, “I’ll grab some able bodies and minds, ma’am. White seems to be needing something to do, and Cadet Smithson is a xenolinguistics major with a minor in theoretical physics.”

    “Perfect,” Amanda smiled, clasping him on the shoulder. “Let’s see what secrets this place is holding onto.”
    ~*~

    With one final heavy shove and a loud grunt, Lieutenant White, one of the lone survivors from Security, shoved the door the remaining two meters left to make a hole big enough to fit through. She stepped back once she was certain it would hold, and breathed heavily for a few moments.

    “Nicely done,” Amanda said, moving past her into the corridor beyond.

    “Yes, however that door is now locked halfway open,” the voice of Ensign T’Veil sounded through Amanda’s commbadge. They’d asked one of the ship’s sensor officers to watch them from the cargo bay. “I will attempt to find an override to ensure that it can be closed if necessary. Lieutenant Commander Greystone...”

    “The door lock mechanism protocol is subroutine seven, T’Veil,” Amanda replied in an exasperated tone

    “Noted. As I was saying, the corridor ahead of you dead ends into a large spheroid chamber. I cannot determine the nature of the chamber, but I have been able to disable the door lock. You should be able to open it locally.”

    “Man, she is taking all the fun right out of this,” Smithson complained softly.

    “Thank you Ensign. I believe we can take it from here. Greystone out,” she said, taking off her commbadge and placing it into her uniform pocket. The rest of her group followed suit among heavy snickering.

    The corridor past the stuck door was short compared to the rest of the spaces that they had explored. They’d found a few rudimentary turbolifts and elevators that had taken them several decks above the cargo bay, but without an accurate internal diagram of the station, they couldn’t be sure where they were. They had started labeling the decks as their tricorders downloaded data into Amanda’s PADD.

    “Well...that’s a door if I’ve ever seen one,” Amanda deadpanned.

    “Your powers of perception are astounding, ma’am,” quipped Gukal. “The question is what we’ll find behind it.”

    “Seems to be the question of the moment, yes Gukal,” Amanda said a little more harshly than she’d intended. “Let’s take a look at these markings and see if it gives us any insight.”

    Gukal took a knee and inspected the markings with his tricorder. The toggles for the bulkhead doors were no more than a meter off the ground in most places, leading the team to come up with many ideas about exactly how diminutive the race who built this place were.

    “Astrometrical Laboratory, Stellar Cartography, and Systems Power Relay Interface Chamber. Holo-emissions capable room, please remain clear of rafters.”

    “It says all of that?” Amanda asked.

    “It says quite a bit more actually. The builders of this place were apparently as long winded as they were short,” Gukal replied with a wink.

    Stifling a giggle, Amanda said, “Alright, let’s not start poking fun at the people who built the station that just saved our collective asses. There’s probably a logical reason for the eccentricities of the layout. Like the rest of you, I’m imagining a race of little gnomes running around here, and rambling incessantly, but we need to keep open minds,” she said.

    “If they were short enough that these door toggles would be about standard height to depress, why are the doors four meters tall?” White asked.

    “Maybe they had compensation issues. Some races are known to overcompensate for their shortcomings. Take a close look at Cardassian ship design sometime,” Gukal quipped cheerfully.

    He depressed the door toggle. The thump of a disengaging lock sounded, and the doors opened with a loud hiss before recessing into their slots with another thunk. The lighting in the room rose from sheer darkness to soft ambience in a matter of seconds.

    The entire chamber was spheroid, with a latticework grid embedded throughout the entire sphere. A wide gangplank extended into the chamber, with a diamond shaped platform at the end of it. There were no visible supports for the walkway, but despite that it looked solid, and well-trod. There were deep grooves in the metal, as if someone had dragged something heavy across it consistently. A console on the platform flashed on, with a yellow button on the right side of the main display screen pulsing softly.

    “Neat,” Gukal said, and began walking across the platform towards the console. He turned and motioned the rest of the group forward, saying “Once I press this button, the walkway will retract, according to the instructions.”

    Amanda fished her commbadge out of her pocket, tapped it, and said “Greystone to T’Veil. We may go out of communication once we activate this room. The doors look particularly heavy, and the design implicates a necessity for privacy.”

    “Understood Lieutenant Commander. I will await your further instructions. T’Veil out.”

    Returning the commbadge to her pocket, Amanda followed the other two members of her group across the walkway, and took a knee on the platform. Not wasting any time, Gukal took a deep breath, and depressed the pulsing yellow button. The lights throughout the chamber dimmed, and the walkway retracted into the far wall, leaving a seemingly floating platform in the middle of a vast dark chamber, lit softly by the indigo lattice pattern along the walls.

    A small white light formed at the center of the chamber, slowly emanating outwards until it coalesced into a stellar map of the Milky Way Galaxy, or at least as it existed in the minds of the Builders.

    A soft set of crystalline tones sounded, and a calm masculine voice said “Reliquary Stellar Cartography Lab Online. Please input command.”

    “That’s new,” Gukal said. “I wonder if this room is the Reliquary, or if it’s the name of the station.”

    “Me too,” Amanda finished. “You know, from the low level tech and everything else else we’ve seen I didn’t think they had voice activation technology. Maybe they saved it for the bigger projects like mapping an entire galaxy.”

    “What language was that to you?” Gukal asked, turning to face the group.

    “Sounded almost like Latin,” Amanda said, her brow furrowed. “That’s odd. Translator malfunction?”

    “No, that’s what it sounded like to me too,” Gukal said. “Just making sure I wasn’t the only person who recognized the root language structure. That’ll likely warrant some looking into.”

    “Most definitely,” Amanda agreed. “Alright Gukal, lets see what information we can get out of this star chart.”

    Gukal nodded. Turning back to face the central chamber, he raised his voice and commanded, “Alter focal point to current galactic location and enlarge.”

    “Calculating...” the voice returned. The map swirled to change focus to an arm on the far side of the chamber. The chart zoomed in, halfway from the core of the galaxy along one arm, and increased magnitude until a small system was displayed. At the center of the system was a swirl of black energy, representing the black hole. Two small and one large accretion discs were displayed, with the station being displayed on the outer edge of the third and largest accretion disc.

    “Well, that all checks out at least,” Gukal said. “The database is somewhat self aware if it’s able to display the current location as it exists presently. I highly doubt that this black hole always was one. It was likely a star when this station was built.”

    “Affirmative,” the soft male voice of the computer stated. “The Builders’ star went supernova approximately seven thousand time periods prior to present, annihilating all life within seventeen galactic units. Reliquary systems database ordered station-keeping thrusters to adjust trajectory and course to maintain stable orbit around third accretion disc of local black hole.”

    “Well that answers that,” Smithson said stoically. “Can we get any other information out of this chamber other than stellar cartography data, Gukal? Or is this a one function room? I know some of the astrometrics chambers on the larger ships have multi-function stellar cartography rooms.”

    “Yes, but that’s a relatively recent addition to the galactic arsenal, as I understand it,” he replied. “It’s not uncommon for any type of holoprojection room to have multi-use function, but with the rest of the tech level aboard this station, it’ll be a shot in the dark.”

    “It’s worth a try,” Amanda said. She pulled her PADD out, and began making notes, sitting down on the platform. “Try asking something else, Gukal.”

    Gukal nodded, and looked down at his own PADD. He’d had the foresight to make a list of questions that were burning in his mind. If this chamber could answer them, the entire crew would have a much better insight about where they were.

    “End current function. New query. To what end is Reliquary computer database system self-aware?”

    A few more crystalline tones sounded. The map rotated back out to a view of the galaxy, and the soft male voice stated “Situational: When fully online, Reliquary Intelligence is completely self-aware.”

    “Is the Reliquary Intelligence fully online at present?”

    “Negative,” it responded. “Multiple synapse failures in junctions one, three, five, and nine are preventing full intelligence activation. Synapses necessitate replacement before Reliquary intelligence is fully activated.”

    “I hate it when that happens,” Smithson quipped.

    Gukal turned his head slowly, his eyes wide, and made a chopping motion across his neck at the cadet. He turned towards the central chamber again, making notes into his PADD.

    “Is this chamber able to theorize and postulate based on small sets of factual givens cross-referenced with internal and external sensor data?” Gukal asked.

    “Affirmative,” the response came immediately. “Warning: without fully functional Reliquary Intelligence protocol, extrapolation and postulation will be limited.”

    “New command function,” Gukal said, making notes into his PADD the entire time. “Internal sensor data will indicate foreign entities are currently present aboard The Reliquary. Have said entities performed any hostile actions other than boarding of the Reliquary?”

    The room was silent for a few moments, before the computer responded, “Negative. All actions other than intrusion upon Reliquary grounds have been passive. Intrusion upon Reliquary grounds has been deemed a necessity due to loss of craft and majority of life aboard foreign vessel. Reliquary security functions have been overridden due to stated givens and emergent nature of craft loss.”

    “There’s internal security systems?” Smithson asked, under his breath?

    “We walked past like 15 gun turrets on our way to this room, Cadet,” Amanda replied

    “Confirm: Reliquary internal security functions were overridden due to unique nature of foreign vessel’s arrival on Reliquary grounds, and Reliquary intelligence has determined foreign entities to be non-threatening due to unique situation forcing intrusion into The Reliquary,” Gukal demanded.

    “Unconfirmed. Further observation of foreign entities is required before non-threat status can be affirmed. Entry onto Reliquary grounds was deemed necessary. Further exploration of Reliquary grounds was deemed acceptable due to nature of vessel and foreign entities. Lack of observational data and givens precludes the possibility of foreign entities being or becoming a threat to Reliquary and to Builder Cultural Database.”

    “So, it can’t tell whether or not we’re a threat because it’s only seen a limited amount of what we do and what we’re capable of doing?” Amanda asked.

    “Looks like it,” Gukal sighed. “I was hoping it would take us on faith, but computers rarely do so. No matter though. As long as we don’t take any hostile actions, I don’t think we’ll have an issue.”

    Amanda nodded, and said “Alright, well I doubt we’ll get much more information out of the station until we’re able to figure out how to bring it’s AI fully online. Right now, I think I’d like to wait on that, to give it more time to collect observational givens about our nature as a crew. Let’s meet up with the rest of the crew and see what we’ve learned.”

    “Yes ma’am,” Gukal said. He directed his attention back to the console and said “End all queries and resume standby mode.”

    “Confirmed. Reliquary Database System returning to standby.”

    The lights slowly elevated back to their normal levels, and after a few moments, the doors to the chamber opened. Gukal stood with the rest of his group, and exited.
    “I suppose it was just a pipe dream that we’d be immediately welcomed,” Smithson said, dejectedly. “Still, it would’ve been nice.”

    “We have been immediately welcomed,” Gukal said, giving him an affirmative and friendly nudge. “It just doesn’t know if it can trust us, and as a Cardassian...I can appreciate that.”


    to be continued...

    [center:38lurw1w][/center:38lurw1w]
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