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©07 The Media Desk
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According to Utopia Planetia's projections, the space-frame of a CONSTITUTION class cruiser, barring extreme battle damage or other unusual circumstances, should last on the order of one hundred and fifty years with regular maintenance and upgrades to its primary systems.
The USS JUPITOR NCC-1947 had served significantly beyond that projection.
The ship was the second of the second series of the venerable old line to receive a total refit and re-commissioning with new name and number. The name was a compromise between two of the factions in the Admiralty board. One group wanted the rebuilt ship named for an historic old style low warp explorer, the United Earth Ship JUPITER, the other was looking to honor a long time ambassador, Hychiem Oritor. When the compromise was reached, nobody was happy with it, so it became the name of the ship as each side wanted to spite the other. From then on it was known unofficially as "Jupiter with an 'O'".
As time passed many of her sister ships served first as primary ships of the line, then as they aged and were replaced by larger, more powerful or more versatile or even dedicated special purpose vessels, they were relegated to everything from automated supply runs or even the ignominy of being used as an orbiting hotel or warehouse. Many had gone out in a blaze of glory as live fire test targets for new weapons. Many of her kin, but not the ship with the O in her name.
Fortunately for the good old ship, after the disaster with the Borg and the core of the fleet being either destroyed or seriously damaged in the ruinous pitched battle, the JUPITOR's scheduled transference from 'milk runs' and courier duty between star bases and colonies to begin the gradual process of de-militarization with the end product being an unarmed semi-automated freight ship was canceled.
Instead the JUPITOR spent exactly one week in a space dock for a quick overhaul of her defensive systems and to take on supplies and some crew. Then she was on her way to patrol part of space she had cruised as a brand new starship well over a hundred and sixty years ago.Watching a more or less empty sector in the border area near the Tholians and the nearly incomprehensible Tamarians on their side of a buffer area that had been left otherwise defenseless.
And so the stately old ship began a Fourth Career.
"Now this is more like it." Captain Lector said as the ship sped along a slow arc near the border checking marker beacons and scanning for a large rogue asteroid that wandered in and out of Federation space every couple of years.
It was several years later when Captain Lector finished his career where he had started it in deep space on an active duty front line starship that was even then rather old. He had begun as a 'you wouldn't believe how green' academy graduate when he first boarded the JUPITOR. But at his retirement the JUPITOR was the third oldest active vessel still flying the flag.
He handed over 'his ship' to Captain Far-Shok-lin who served three years before taking over on a rebuilt NEBULA class ship coming into service to replace another vessel that had been pressed back into service after the battle. Now the JUPITOR was serving under Commander Farrel who had been Far-Shok-lin's first officer.
Eventually Farrel was promoted to Captain and left where she was, on the JUPITOR. Since the area between the Federation and the Children of Tamar was fairly quiet and diplomatic duties between the powers was assumed by flashier, and newer, ships, the JUPITOR was left to operate as she had been, on patrol, keeping an occasional eye on the Tholians, doing her job. For several more years, all but unnoticed.
When Captain Farrel moved on, to command yet another new ship just being commissioned in the almost new fleet, nobody thought it odd that her first officer, Commander Sloan, was promoted. He had started out as a temporary academy to active duty transfer when the JUPITOR was given her emergency refit and was returned to the primary fleet. Now, many years later he assumed the center seat and the rank of 'acting Captain' virtually without ceremony.
'Acting Captain' became 'Temporarily Assigned Command Officer'. Which then became the way things were for a long time.
Now the JUPITOR was an absolute legend in some quarters. No, it hadn't grabbed the attention of some of her series-mates, such as the original ENTERPRISE or the EXCALIBUR or some of the others. No, she had served long and well instead of spectacularly. She had earned several battle stars, and wore a patch along her saucer that still looked out of place some fifty years after the ship had been rammed by a desperado trying to escape in a shuttle stolen from a starbase.
As is the way of bureaucracies, some things get forgotten, passed over, misplaced. It is even possible, in a bureaucracy as large and complex as Star Fleet, to loose an entire Starship.
The JUPITOR, still under Captain Sloan was finally notified and was now being transferred from the sector to be replaced by both the NEBULA class ship PROXIMA that was refit to the newer and better 'III' standard and recommissioned after sustaining tremendous damage in a battle with the Dominion, and a smaller MIRANDA class ship for backup and routine courier duty. Captain Sloan immediately began joking that it took two ships to replace them.
And as they rendezvoused with the PROXIMA and waited for the smaller ship to arrive it certainly seemed the joke was true as the Captain of the PROXIMA wouldn't let the JUPITOR leave until the other ship was on station.
Finally the JUPITOR was relieved and on its way out of the sector.
But they didn't have anywhere to go. The orders received told them to stand down from their role as the primary representative of Star Fleet in the sector, but there was nothing beyond that.
Captain Sloan and the other officers reasonably assumed that once the PROXIMA checked in stating the she had relieved them that Star Fleet Command would cut them new orders, probably stating that they should report to a starbase where the crew would be reassigned and the ship decommissioned, again.
They put into a small port for some routine supplies then set off again.
The Captain decided that they could go for a scenic voyage around the area and check out a nebula that had always been just out of their patrol area and maybe take a turn through a star cluster that had always intrigued their science section.
As a courtesy Sloan sent a message to Starfleet Command stating that the ship would be conducting a scientific review until redirected.
Seven months later they were still waiting for that redirection.
They spent a week of shore leave on a planet that billed itself as a Risa-like planet, but without the artificial weather. (It was the only time Sloan had seen thunderstorms as a tourist attraction on the information for the planet.) Everybody had a marvelous time, and even the ship itself seemed rested and refreshed when they left orbit to head back to their 'assignment'.
After nearly a year and a rather prolonged supply stop at Starbase 83, they were back on their way again and nobody higher up seemed concerned about it.
The only indication that anybody gave that maybe the JUPITOR was supposed to be elsewhere was when they requested clearance to leave orbit and the officer in space control asked them their destination. Captain Sloan responded that they were continuing their ongoing scientific study of the interaction between the cluster and the nearby nebula. The officer hesitated, then replied to the affirmative and that was it. In a few minutes the JUPITOR was on its way back to the cluster.
Other starships and science vessels had investigated and researched globular clusters before. And others had spent time looking into various nebula, but as far as anybody knew they were the only ones to spend months on end cruising around the perimeter and then through and between the tightly grouped stars. Mapping and graphing the cluster with gravitational force lines, plasma currents and everything else they could think of.
Sloan wasn't a scientist, in his three years at the academy before volunteering for duty on the JUPITOR when qualified starship officers were in short supply he had barely taken enough science courses to earn advancement with his class. But now, being literally immersed in stellar science all day every day, he was quickly becoming one.
One of the things he found fascinating, and was working with the actual science sections with, was the warping of the very stuff of space and time in some areas between the stars in the cluster. They had charted proto-wormholes and rifts in several locations in the cluster. Some seemed in a constant state of high energy flux and moved as the stars orbited each other in a hot tight dance, other areas of distortion appeared to be more or less fixed and constant with the stars moving irrespective of them, giving rise to the theory that maybe the ship was in the process of discovering a new type of phenomenon.
There was also a series of recurring 'sensor ghosts' that cropped up in and around the various specific types of anomalies in the cluster. It got so they could almost predict the appearance of one of the transient images during their study of the various stars and their interactions with each other.
Captain Sloan drafted himself to learn all there was to learn about the possible false readings and how they might be generated either in the space around the anomalies or their instruments, or what combination of the two was creating them. Ensign Cooper, one of the last of the new crew members to be assigned to the ship, had an idea that maybe she wanted to an astro-theorist so she assisted the captain on his research.
Meanwhile the ship moved to another position just within the boundary of the cluster and began station keeping in relation to the motion of the stars and other objects and began another series of long term observations.
"Sensor anomaly as predicted same location. 310 mark 127 by 23.8. Duration, nineteen seconds." Cooper said as the image faded from view.
"That was a long one." Sloan commented.
"Still within the usual range for the phenomena." Lieutenant Commander Barron said from the science station.
"Where and when are we predicting the next one?" Sloan asked.
"98 mark 204 by 7. Using our theory it should last a little over nine seconds and commence in .... Three minutes. Mark."
The sensors dutifully reported contact with a transient target in the right place and time, but they showed it moving, and it lasted a couple of seconds longer than the prediction.
Captain Sloan noticed and began doing some calculations on the false images trajectory. "It described the same arc as the one about an hour ago. And there may have been others."
"Then it may not be a random manifestation." Barron said. "I'll do a comparison study between them and see how many follow a pattern."
"Good idea." Sloan said. "The next one should be in about twenty minutes."
The analysis of the false returns proved problematic.
The JUPITOR crew had approached the problem with the idea that the sensor returns were false images created by the flux of space and matter and energy in close proximity to both the stars and the rifts and warps they created and were essentially random within a given set of equations. However, the comparison study didn't bear that out. In fact, it began to show something totally different.
"If you extend the trajectory of every fifth one, the ones that match the pattern the Captain noticed, it will take you out of the cluster without coming within about sixty million kilometers of any of the stars in the cluster." Barron said. "The trajectory even varies slightly to take into account the various movements and orbits of the stars."
"And that's not likely to be co-incidence or a natural variation?"
"Not likely." Barron said. "If it were natural, it is unlikely to remain as every fifth manifestation as well."
The others nodded.
"When is the next, what shall we call them for simplicity's sake, the next Fifth? When is it due?"
Cooper checked her datapad. "Just over four hours. There are three others before then."
Sloan nodded. "Let's move to where we can track it and see if anything is actually there."
"If it were something being either expelled from the rift or possibly coming through under its own power, it would be moving at near light velocity. But we should be able to track it from..." Barron made some calculations. "Here." He highlighted a position on their map of the cluster.
The Captain agreed. "We have four hours. Move the ship to that position and prepare everything we have to attempt to verify what, if anything, is happening." He looked at his officers. "This could still be a sensor ghost. A very unusual and specific one, but it is possible."
"Possible. Yes. Likely, no sir." Barron said.
"Let's prove it one way or the other."
The JUPITOR moved slowly to the optimum position and brought all of its sensors online.
Right on time the fissure in space's energy signature changed just slightly, then the sensor ghost appeared in their readings.
But this time, Sloan wasn't going to believe it wasn't something they could track and measure.
"Sir! There is something there. Its moving at eighty percent light speed, I'm reading....." Cooper looked up. "It's gone."
Barron concurred. "There was an object in the stream, it appeared to be out of phase or just outside our dimension. But it was there."
"Re-run the data. Check everything. See what we can get out of it. And bring us to optimum position for the next Fifth."
Cooper was checking her numbers. "Just over nine hours. I've got the coordinates."
"We'll be ready sir." Barron said.
It was a long nine hours.
Most of the crew got a couple of hours of sleep and a good meal, then they got back into the pure science of what they were looking into.
"Five minutes. .... Mark." Cooper said to the bridge.
"All sensors on line. All readings normal."
"Optical telescopes ready for auto tracking. All filters engaged."
Captain Sloan continued to check his ships systems and then he double checked them. He wanted the answer this time instead of waiting seven hours for the next one.
With about a minute and a half to go they began to see the changes as the area of distortion began to fluctuate, then the readings began to change to what was normal for the manifestation of the sensor anomaly.
"There it goes." Cooper said.
Barron got several reports at once. "We're tracking an actual object sir. Several meters long by two or three wide. Reports are inconclusive. Mass, estimated at five thousand kilos."
"There's a definite subspace wake. Something is actually there and moving at warp."
Sloan started to order a tractor beam when Barron announced that it was accelerating.
"It's moving out of range." He said. "It's gone."
"The fissure is returning to normal." Cooper said. "Readings subsiding."
"The object is moving at warp three."
"Let it go. We'll try to catch the next one." Sloan said. "Now, how do we do that?"
"Seven hours and twenty two minutes." Ensign Cooper said.
"Clock's ticking." Sloan said. "Let's get at it."
The crew worked on the problem almost to the exclusion of such necessities as food and sleep and even trips to the restroom.
However it was on one such 'biological necessity' trip that an idea occurred to Lieutenant Saunders from Engineering. As he was relaxing in the bathroom of his quarters he was thinking, as he always did, of the liquid reclamation system on the antiquated freighter his grandfather had worked on and that he had spent many childhood vacations on with his father who worked off and on as an engineering mate. The system used a charged metal mesh netting to break up softer pieces of waste or to trap more solid ones before they reached and possibly damaged the desiccating machinery. The system was prone to clogging and resisted any attempt at upgrading by becoming even more cantankerous. But as he sat there, Saunders thought that maybe the complex system of wires and grills might serve their purpose. And he even had a way of duplicating the energy charge they used on the ancient ship.
"We need to keep it from going into warp." Saunders said. "So we slow it down by using physical drag against the cabling."
The scientists argued about it, and thought it over, and argued some more.
Captain Sloan agreed that actual metal cables might not work by themselves, but in conjunction with tractor and repulser beams channeled along them to disrupt the subspace field, they might just slow the object down enough for the JUPITOR to grab it with... well, that was another argument.
With two hours to spare they had worked up and simulated with a good amount of success a series of probes, shuttlecraft and 'space anchors' on cables and were in the act of deploying them and testing their 'sewer net'.
"Ninety minutes. Repeat. Nine zero minutes." Cooper said to the com link.
"Shuttle D. Kelly acknowledging and ready for launch on your mark." Ensign Wainwright answered.
Barron nodded to the com even though it wasn't a visual link. "Shuttle Kelly stand by."
The JUPITOR was moving slowly to the optimum capture position under low impulse and maneuvering thrusters. They didn't want to do anything that might change any of their equations by even the tiniest amount.
"Shuttle Kelly prepare for low energy launch in fifteen seconds." Barron said carefully, then he paused. "Six. Five. Four. Three. And. Go."
The shuttle slipped slowly from the hanger deck and into space.
"Stand by to launch probe six with cables five, seventeen and twenty three." Cooper said. "One minute. And mark." She said exactly.
"Probe control standing by."
Captain Sloan was staring intently at his displays. "Shuttle Aldrin, you're drifting. Lieutenant Borne correct to starboard bow by twenty clicks."
"Aldrin aye. Moving now. We're taking in the play in the cables." Borne responded.
With about ten minutes to go they energized the various beams and fields they would use to slow and then halt whatever it was that was came through the rift. Then they'd get a good look at it and Captain Sloan would make the decision on whether or not to destroy it or bring it aboard to examine.
Ensign Cooper keyed her com. "One minute."
"We're seeing some distortion waves." Wainwright said from his shuttle. "All systems nominal."
In a few seconds the JUPITOR observed the same phenomena.
Captain Sloan was checking and double checking then adjusting the probes as they rode out the distortion waves. "Everything still within the margins of error. We're go."
Barron nodded. "Event beginning. All personnel stand by."
The rift began to fluctuate and for a few seconds became visible to those watching through shuttlecraft windows. But they never saw anything actually come through it until the object began to interact and react with their cables and force fields.
"DAMN!" Wainwright exclaimed. "Something just gave us a hell of a jolt. It snapped cable six. Cable ten is still playing out. I think we got it. Repulser two is in the red but holding."
Borne was talking at the same time. "Tractor two is at max. Cable twelve broke. Cable three is taut but holding. I'm trying to hold position with thrusters but it's dragging us sideways." She sounded in control and confident, but nonetheless very excited about the whole thing.
Captain Sloan was being swamped with data. "Confirmed. Something is in the net. Barron, see if we can lock onto it."
"We just lost probe two. Cable five may still be engaged with the object."
"Tractor on. We're reading resistance from something." Barron said watching the information on the tractor beam control panel. "But whatever it is, I think we've got it."
Ensign Cooper was on it as well. "Forward progress of the object is slowing. It is not generating a warp field. Slowing. Energy readings dropping." She paused. "We've got it. It's dropping into normal space."
"There it is." Somebody said pointing at the view screen.
And there it was.
A wholly unremarkable slightly orange tinted oblong object totally without surface features or markings. It resembled, for lack of a better comparison, a somewhat oversized Lattorian Fletin sausage. Hopefully, as some lower ranking persons aboard the ship would remark, without the smell usually associated with the sausages, if the captain decided to bring it aboard.
And as they watched the energy readings went to zero.
"Can we tractor it into the shuttle bay?" Sloan asked his bridge crew.
"Possibly." Barron answered. "We're not detecting any radiation or weapons."
Cooper was next. "Sir. Since we stopped it I am reading a total loss of energy. It is becoming inert."
"Good. Less of a danger then." Sloan said. "Recall the shuttles and the probes we can recover. Then bring it into the cargo bay. Full containment and hazard protocol."
The now dark orange thing sat suspended over the deck.
They learned a great deal about it, but everything they learned generated more questions.
One of the things they learned about it was that it was solid. Every scan they could do without actually touching it revealed that the object had no interior voids or features. There was no framework or circuitry they could discern. Also, while the elements it was made up of were common, the isotopes used ranged from the uncommon to the downright unique.
Captain Sloan reviewed every bit of data from end to end, then they discussed it all again. He wanted to make sure the object was absolutely no threat to the ship.
The senior staff double checked. There was nothing biological or biologically reactive that they could detect in the object. No radiation.
"I don't even think it will burn if we set it on fire." The chief engineer said.
Barron almost laughed. "Let's not try that experimentally."
"Agreed. Prepare to lower the containment field gradually. At the first sign of... anything wrong, be prepared to push it back out into space with the landing pad tractor beam."
It was a tense few minutes as the force field around the object was brought down in increments. But the object didn't react at all. As it settled to the deck there was a low 'thud' but no other sound or motion. Something of an anti-climax all things considered.
Later they gathered around an improvised workbench in the cargo bay next to the object.
"It is a wholly alien piece of workmanship. I cannot even tell you for certain if it is technological or biological in origin, or perhaps something in between." Barron said.
Cooper was next. "There is nothing resembling an interior structure inside that we can identify. No chambers or circuitry or anything else. It seems to be solid."
Sloan stared at the thing and cursed it for not being more willing to give up its secrets.
"But we can tell you one thing about it." Barron said. "It is not of this universe."
"Oh?" The captain said.
"No sir. Its atomic structure and other quantum features simply do not match our universe. Or any other known dimension or frame we have identified in normal space, subspace, or anything else."
"That includes its molecular resonance as well sir. It is totally different." One of the others said.
"So the gateway it came through is actually from outside our total reality."
Sloan looked from his staff over at the object. "So then what is it, and all of its friends outside, doing coming here?"
There were simply no answers to be had.
The object they had in the shuttle bay was as uninteresting as a sterile lump of clay and just about as featureless. They even took a physical core sample that reached almost all the way through the object only to find the interior was for all practical purposes identical to the exterior.
Then Ensign Cooper announced that there was another event expected in twenty minutes.
Captain Sloan made an instant decision. "What would it take to get a probe through that rift as soon as it formed?"
They made it with all of a minute to spare.
As soon as the sensors reported that the rift had formed and was stabilizing they launched a class one probe right behind a modified photon torpedo which radiated a high energy field that was as close as they could get to the energy around the rift and the objects that came through it.
Commander Barron and Cooper were both observing and counting down the arrival of their instruments at the barrier.
"The energy output of the rift has reached its emergence threshold."
Probe control was next, "Still getting good telemetry from the probe and the torpedo."
Sloan actually crossed his fingers.
"There they go! They're through!"
"The event horizon was just this side of the rift."
"Good data still coming in." Then a pause. "I've got a visual!"
Sloan nodded toward the screen.
The officer ran her hands over her console and the main screen shifted from the overall view of the rift to what the probe was seeing.
"What the hell?" Sloan asked the bridge in general.
"SIR! The rift just closed. Nothing came through."
"All telemetry lost."
The total time on all transmissions from both the probe and its escort from the other side of the rift was just over nine seconds. Nine seconds of data and tantalizing video images.
They ran the three camera views constantly, both as one view and overlaid on top of each other.
The infrared bands showed multiple intense heat sources as well as several spots of more moderate temperature. The EMF spectrum was just as interesting as it revealed some small sources of dynamic electric fields, one of which overlapped nicely with one of the intense heat sources.
But it was the visual feed that forced the exclamation from the captain.
In strikingly clear images the probe revealed that those that lived on the other side of the rift were equally surprised as the crew of the JUPITOR when the probe arrived in their midst and landed on the floor near them.
As the visual feed cleared from the transit through the rift several odd looking beings that appeared to be some sort of intelligent reptilian bird had been preparing what had to be one of the objects to go through the rift. Except in its own environment the object seemed to be far more interesting with extrusions and features that glowed and even what appeared to be an identification code in angular symbols along one side.
Between the second and third second the creatures noticed that something had come through to their side of the rife and they began to react. Just after the four second mark two of the creatures were moving toward the torpedo holding long poles with glowing ends in slightly clawed hands. A being on the other side of the room could be seen moving toward the rift that was just visible in one corner of the panoramic view.
The fifth second showed one of the poles then the other striking the torpedo with dramatic results in the form of electrical fireworks.
The sixth and seventh seconds showed one of the other creatures advancing on the probe with another pole. The eighth second was divided to the before and the during of what happened to it as the being used the pole on it. The entire ninth second was partially obscured by the arcing and sparking of the pole against the side of the probe. Just as the counter moved toward the tenth second the video went dead as the rift closed.
"The probe and the torpedo both transmitted information about that weapon." Barron said after they watched it for the second time in the briefing room. "It uses a high energy DC burst. Somewhere on the order of three quarters of a million volts for the initial burst."
"DC. Direct Current?" Sloan asked.
"Yes sir. We noticed that too with some of the output of their instrumentation. The energy signatures were all DC."
"This device here..." one of the engineers changed the display and highlighted one of the heat and electromagnetic signatures. "This appears to be some sort of high voltage metal vapor rectifier. Judging from the profile, it must have at least a million volt potential."
"A million volts?" Sloan said looking at the picture.
"Yes sir. And judging from that outline just behind the first unit, we think there are two more behind it."
"That's a lot of juice. Is all of their equipment run off DC?"
"Yes sir. Well, at least we think so."
Barron nodded. "From the information we've analyzed so far it would appear that they only use Direct Current. We saw no evidence of plasma streams or radiological activated devices."
Cooper was a little confused by the aliens use of what she thought was an outdated technology.
"Not at all. Direct Current taken to its logical extreme, such as they appear to have done, has some attractive advantages. In fact, our use of plasma streams and circuits is comparable to DC." The engineer said.
"Exactly. If they have spent the last couple of centuries working on DC they've probably developed applications for it that we've never even considered."
"Like trans-dimensional rift generators." Sloan said. "Impressive."
It wasn't long before Cooper noticed a change in the sequence that had been leading up to the opening of another transfer rift. Things were happening much faster now. She estimated the next rift in less than two hours.
Then the conditions that indicated a rift would open began to manifest not far from the first plotted location.
"It looks like they're going to open a new one about an hour after the other one."
"We spooked them." Sloan said.
Barron nodded. "Which means the probes are probably not purely scientific in nature or they wouldn't vary their schedule."
"I agree." The captain said. "Which means we should shut down the operation on this end."
"But there is nothing from stopping them from reopening a rift here or someplace else." Cooper said.
"Maybe not, but we should at least disrupt their plans long enough for us to get this information back to Starfleet." Sloan said. He looked around the table. "Any discussion?"
There was some mild second guessing of the motives behind the alien incursions through the rift, but in the end, it was generally agreed that whatever they were doing, it most likely wasn't in the best interest of the people of the JUPITOR's universe.
But that brought up the discussion about what they could do about it.
They were still discussing it when the first rift began to show signs of opening.
"Red Alert. Let's try to stop the next one." Sloan ordered. "Full shields. Stand by all weapons."
"Aye sir." Was repeated many times.
The JUPITOR moved to put the bulk of the ship and its best shields in the way of whatever came through.
As soon as the rift began to open several lightning bolt like electrical rays came through the rift. Two struck the ships shields full on.
"Minimal damage sir. Shields firming up."
"Here it comes!" Cooper said.
"Fire phasers and photons. NOW."
The JUPITOR let loose a deadly barrage in the general direction of whatever would be coming through the rift. In that split second another blast of lightning came at them through the rift.
For moment the combination of destructive energies and the explosion from the torpedoes totally overwhelmed the view screen and sensors on the ship.
When the storm calmed they were able to detect fragments of the alien probe.
"We got it!" Cooper exclaimed.
"Sir! The probe is still transmitting. I'm getting partial signals on all sensors, and a still image feed series from the camera. And some telemetry from the modified torpedo." Barron shouted suddenly. "I'm loosing it."
Cooper was working it as well. "The rift is closing. But the second one is starting to open."
Sloan had an idea. "Can we send both of them a self destruct command?"
"Yes sir." Barron said seriously.
"Then get ready to do it. As soon as you get a clear signal from both send the command."
"Yes sir." Barron repeated with equal seriousness and began his pre-programming.
The captain turned to Cooper. "Do a countdown." He faced the view screen. "Keep the ship in the way. Full shields. Weapons stand by for my order. Damage control, stand by."
It was a long couple of minutes.
Then all hell broke loose.
When the rift opened there was a volley of more lightning bolts. One of them hit the ship squarely on the forward main shields.
"I've got contact!" Barron said. "Transmitting both codes."
Nothing happened for a moment. Then the rift seemed to shift sideways just as another lightning bolt shot through it, except this time, the stream of electrical energy stopped very abruptly.
"Something is coming through. I'm getting all kinds of readings. And some of it is shrapnel from the probe!"
The rift buckled in on itself in a blinding flash of light.
"Look at that!" Barron shouted.
"It's part of the next ... thing they were sending through."
But it wasn't a whole object. The back third of it was missing. And this one looked quite different from the inert lump they had down below. This one seemed to be in functional condition except for the part it was missing.
"Is it doing anything?" Sloan asked as the object tumbled through space.
"No sir. No energy readings at all. It's like it's.... It is like it is missing its batteries."
"I bet that is exactly what's wrong." Sloan nodded. "Get a tractor beam on it."
They examined the object carefully. The mass for what they had was nearly identical to what about two-thirds of the inert lump would be however, the overall size of the 'good one' was somewhat larger than the 'lump'.
"You've got circuit boards, storage medium, sensors, even a type of electronic optical camera. This looks like a transmitter that broadcasts in a very short wavelength." One of the xeno-technologists said highlighting various areas on an image of the intact object.
"So itís a probe." Sloan said.
"Not entirely. We believe part of the missing area is a navigational beacon and a possible cloaking device. It has some characteristics similar to devices used by the Romulins for that purpose."
The others asked about various features and objects on the thing. Some were very advanced and some were somewhat rudimentary. But all worked off DC electricity, but the voltages seemed to vary from between microvolts on tiny integrated circuits to thick metallic cables probably capable of handling thousands of volts at very high amperage.
Then they went through the last of the images and sensor data from the probe on the other side just as the propellant of the torpedo detonated. The lab was becoming nearly fully engulfed in the explosion, then the probe's drive and battery system joined the destruction. The images from the contact from the first rift showed more of the beings working feverishly to send the things through, and others operating a large angular weapon that fired the electrical bolts through the rift. They were evidently unaware that the probe was still functioning.
"OK." Captain Sloan said after awhile. "There's been no other sign of a rift in this area. Let's leave a couple of our own probes to alert us if they appear and get this information and the two objects to star fleet. I'm convinced this is a significant threat and am willing to risk them parking the ship to tell them."
There was silence around the table. Then, "Yes sir."
"Set course for Star Fleet Command HQ."
Not only did command not 'park' the JUPITOR, it was refitted as an advanced science vessel, and a somewhat heavily armed one at that as her weapons were upgraded and modified. And still under the command of the only captain in Star Fleet who had not graduated from the academy, and given the special mission of investigating, and stopping if possible, other rifts and similar phenomenon that had been detected in Federation space.
"... and even into the Klingon Empire and other aligned powers as events warrant." Captain Sloan said reading the order out loud to his staff.
"Excellent sir." Barron said. "I think we're up to the task. Now more than ever."
A large part of the crew had stayed on, but some had left either seeking other duties or being promoted.
Ensign Cooper was now Lieutenant Cooper and was working towards advanced degrees in several different fields at once, all related to inter-dimensional travel and detection. She nodded with enthusiasm as the Captain glanced her way.
"Very well." Sloan smiled. "Our first assignment is in the Kapteyn Nebula. There have been reports of transient 'portals' they called them. The readings look like our rifts." He nodded toward his new helm officer. "We're cleared to depart at our leisure. Set course, warp five. Engage when ready."
"Yes sir, Captain." The new crewwoman said somewhat stiffly.
Sloan just smiled after her as they broke up and went to their duty stations, she'd learn eventually.
The old ship leaned into its course and jumped to warp ... leaving once again for the unkown.
Another adventure is with a Spacebox.
For more Star Trek Fan Fiction by the Desk see:
The Station and the Patrol a novel length work
Dear Diary the Borg story
The RAVEN page. The fictional history of a ship.
Legal stuff below.
[NOTE:This Story Is FAN FICTION. This presentation carries the copyright The Media Desk, 2007. Author retains all rights, including the right of approval for publication. STAR TREK, and all images and situations affiliated with STAR TREK are originally owned and copyrighted by PARAMOUNT STUDIOS and other entities. They are used in this story without intent to harm or otherwise defame PARAMOUNT or the estate of Gene Roddenberry. If either of those parties object to it, the story will be pulled immediately. The Media Desk is not in any way affiliated with PARAMOUNT. For information contact Levite. Email- drleftover[~at-]themedia<!- damned spammers -!>desk[~dot-]com (email scrambled to screw with spammer robots). ]