To the Desk main page

Back to the Station Index Page

©05 The Media Desk
See Below for More Info


The Patrol part 10

back to The Patrol Part 9

From last time
      "A what?" The Colonel said to the screen.
      "They are called the Horta. They are intelligent, but they chose to not participate in anything the Federation does except help in various mines. And they were working in this one until recently."
      "Why do you need us."
      "We were hoping your special talents, and your equipment could handle the local conditions better than our stuff. Our scanners are useless in the mine."
      The Colonel nodded slowly. "OK, standard mission rates apply though."
      "Standard rates." Admiral Rickett said with a slight grin.
end previous entry


      Wan sat in the control box of the hard rock miner. He grumbled and spat constantly.
      "I know, you pilot, not miner. And a damned fine pilot you are too." Kavel said monitoring their progress.
      "Nothing." The Colonel said from the other side of the machine.
      "This is a dead hole." Kavel said. "What do you think? Three more meters?"
      "Two." The Colonel said nodding to Wan.
      "Two." The Andorian replied.
      The giant machine roared for another couple of minutes, then it stopped. "Two." Wan repeated.
      "Danged if it ain't. Right on the money."
      They scanned the area again. "Nothing." They said to each other. Wan backed the machine out of the tunnel.
      "So where did they all go?" Marot asked the Colonel.
      "Do I look like an expert on Hortas" He looked at her. "Maybe it's their breeding cycle again or something, maybe they decided they don't like it here."
      Mr. Cloole shook his head. They can't leave without us. And up to last week, everything was the way it'd been for a hundred years. We brought these here about two years ago, and things were going like gangbusters."
      "Until two weeks ago."
      "Something like that. They just vanished. We can't even figure out where they went."
      "If you wanted to hide a hundred and fifty Horta, where would you go?" Rontel asked. "No, wrong question, if you were a hundred and fifty Horta and you wanted to hide..." She trailed off.
      "Down." The Colonel said. "We've been looking in the wrong place."
      "We've covered the lowest levels." Mr. Cloole said. "That was the first place we looked. They like it down there, that's where they go when they're not tunneling for us. We don't work down there much, the ore is richest on this level, and the two levels just below us."
      "That's where you use the machines." The Colonel said. "So what do the Horta do for you?"
      "They scout, outline the ore deposits, run side passages, all kinds of things. We can't scan through this rock, they find the ore for us, saves us a lot of time." He patted the side of the tunnel. "Too much electracite."
      "So we've noticed. Fortunately, we can scan a little further through it, but not much."
      "What's on the bottom level?" Rontel asked him.
      "About the same as here."
      "No. Not the same. You said there's no ore down there."
      "Very little. A couple of volcanic seams, we ran into thorite, uranium, not much of anything worthwhile. Here." He handed the Colonel a profile of the mine, with the lowest level, nearly two thousand meters below the surface, highlighted.
      "Doesn't mean anything to me, but..." He touched his communicator, now rigged to work in the electronically hostile environment. It took a minute for Kavel to answer. "Upload this stuff and see what you can come up with that a Horta would find to its liking." He aimed his tricorder at the datapad.
      Kavel responded in a second. "Got it, give me a minute."
      "Meanwhile, let's get out of this hole." Marot said.
      The Colonel nodded, they went back to the surface.
      The mine's living complex was only slightly more agreeable than the mine shaft itself.
      They got something hot to drink and discussed the miner's strange partners.
      Kavel's voice interrupted a tall tale. "I got your answer, and you will not like it."
      "Try me." The Colonel said.
      "If this readout is accurate, and the Horta's metabolism is the same as reported by the 'Enterprise' and your profiles..."
      "Just get to it."
      "They're all stoned. No pun intended."
      "They are what?" Rontel asked for them in the stunned silence.
      "Uranium, electracite salts, high carbon volcanic ash, in their silicon based bloodstream, the way their brains are wired, it's a narcotic. Wherever they are, if they're eating that rock, especially if the electracite has high concentrations of copper or silver in it. They're gassed up and dancing to music you'll never hear."
      "Drug addict aliens eating rocks to get their dose." Marot said with a slight smile.
      The Colonel nodded, he thanked Kavel then looked at the others. "OK, let's do this logically. He said they'd want copper or silver, is there any of that on the lower level?"
      Mr. Cloole looked at the big map on the wall, then he pushed some buttons and spoke to the computer. "On the east end of the lower fifth shaft, a copper vein runs almost straight down the boundary of a volcanic stack."
      "Perfect, let's get ready to go." He touched his communicator. "Kavel, is there an antidote to their drug?"
      "Working on it, but we know next to nothing about how they are going to react."
      "I'll worry about their reaction."
      "Sodium chloride, lots of it, direct ingestion or injection."
      "It'll bind to the electracite in their, errr, blood-stuff."
      The Colonel shrugged. "OK, and?"
      "And I'm working on it."
      "We only have the salt that's in our mess hall, there is no way it'll work on all of them." Mr. Cloole said.
      "And we need a delivery system. I'm not going let them eat out of my hand." Aashth said.
      "Got that too. Five minutes." Kavel answered. "They'll be at your beam down coordinates."
      The Colonel and the others finished their break and walked to the landing site where they had first beamed into the mine. The Colonel reached into his pocket and put on his thin black leather gloves.
      "What. Is. That?" Marot asked as Aashth picked up a long metal contraption.
      "If I'm not mistaken, that's a gun." The Colonel said picking one up.
      "A shotgun, double barreled. I trained with one of these one time."
      Kavel was listening in. "They are loaded with rock salt. Direct delivery from a safe distance."
      "They are not going to like getting shot." Marot said.
      "No they won't. That's why you've got the canisters. They'll explode and scatter several centimeters of salt in every direction."
      "How do we keep them away from it long term?"
      "The only way I can think of is to mine the copper. It's the catalyst. Without it, they won't get nearly as high."
      Mr. Cloole sighed. "What am I going to do with tons of copper?"
      The Colonel laughed "You mine it, somebody will want it."
      "There's no profit in it. I won't even be able to recoup my expenses."
      "How much profit are you making now?" Rontel asked him.
      "You got a point. OK. We don't even know if they're down there. How do I use this thing?" He picked up a shotgun.
      After a few practice rounds everybody could use their salt weapon well enough to get the job done. They got in the lift and began the descent that would take about fifteen minutes.

      At the fifth level they got off and got into a mine car. This level had been all but deserted for a long time, the ventilation system was noisier down here, the walls closer, the place was simply, oppressive.
      "Remind me of home." Wan said. The others looked at him. "Grandfather lived in tunnels. Like this." He looked at the walls. "Not like house."
      The news that Wan's grandfather lived in tunnels didn't do a thing to make it less oppressive as the tunnel ran down even further into the planet.
      The lights ran out. The vehicular accessible passage ended. Wan and Aashth scouted ahead while the others got their supplies together.
      "Kavel?" The Colonel said to his communicator.
      It took a long minute for the answer to come through, it was weak with static almost as loud as his voice. "I'm working on it."
      "Working on what?"
      "I don't have a lock on you, I can't find you on the sensors, and the audio relay is breaking down. You go any further, I'll loose you."
      "Think a personal relay might work?" Aashth said.
      "Wouldn't hurt." The Colonel looked at Marot and Rontel. "Which of you wants to stay?"
      "She will." Marot said nodding at Rontel.
      "That's it then." The Colonel said to her. "If you loose us, figure out a way to get us some help."
      "Colonel." Aashth said. "We got one."
      They turned one of the mine car's spotlights toward the voices. Aashth and Wan were standing on either side of a small Horta. It was 'sitting' in the middle of the passage rocking back and forth slowly, then it would spin end for end, and rock some more.
      "Can you identify them as individuals?" The Colonel said to Mr. Cloole.
      "Sometimes, that one doesn't look familiar though."
      "Should we give it some salt?" Marot asked.
      "No, leave it be. Let's find the rest of them."
      "At least we know they are still alive." Mr. Cloole said looking at the rocking creature.
      It didn't even seem to notice them as they walked passed it into a small narrow passage that wound into the rock, always going down.
      The passage opened into a large natural chamber.
      Dozens of Horta's were in the room. Some sitting still, others were 'dancing', others were doing things that would only make sense to another of their kind.
      "There it is." Aashth said all but ignoring the creatures scanning the walls and floors. "Almost pure copper."
      Mr. Cloole looked at his readout. "We're four thousand kilometers down. I can't mine this."
      "The reports said these things are intelligent. Maybe we can reason with them." The Colonel looked at Marot.
      "I am detecting intelligence. But they are confused, irrational. Drugged."
      "Then we need to sober them up. Which one is the leader?"
      Marot concentrated. "She's not here." She looked around. "That way."

      They walked through a side passage into another chamber. Wan and Aashth stayed in the chamber to guarantee their escape route.
      "The Matriach." Marot said, "She's high as well."
      "We call her Fastra." Mr. Cloole said.
      "How do you get her to eat the salt?" Marot said.
      "We don't." The Colonel said. He pointed his shotgun at the Horta. But the thing was reacting to him. It vibrated in place, then it moved to one side.
      The rock where it had been sitting was steaming.
      "Peaceful." The Colonel read off the rock.
      "That's how they communicate. This one's grandmother learned our language and now they all do it."
      "Set off one of the salt grenades." The Colonel said. "Over there." He pointed to an empty place away from the few Horta in the room.
      They walked into the tunnel. The explosion was quick and sharp. But not overly violent. When they went back into the room, the Horta in the room were all covered with a fine white powder. The smaller ones hurried away, the largest stayed put, shivering and rattling.
      "They're absorbing it into their skin, but it's very slow." Marot said. "Maybe too slow."
      Fastra seemed no worse for the wear even though she had more of the powder on her than the others.
      "Can we talk to her?" The Colonel asked Mr. Cloole.
      "Kinda. If it's not too complicated. They reply by burning it into the rock."
      "It's complicated." He took a deep breath and approached the Horta with his hands out. She reacted a little, but permitted him to touch her. The Colonel focused his thoughts and screwed up his face. He crouched next to Fastra for a several minutes without moving, then he startled and blinked several times. "I can't get through to her. Just some odd impressions."
      Fastra moved a little, she made some odd rattling noises, then moved again.
      "Understand Colonel." Marot read off the rock. "Seems she got more from you than you did from her." She looked at the creature and seemed transfixed by her.
      Fastra moved again. "Shiny rock not good. Salt them." The Colonel read off the rock. The Horta's letters were blocky and child like printing, but very legible.
      "Salt what? Salt the rocks, salt the other Horta?" Mr. Cloole said looking at the words.
      "I don't know. Marot, see if you can get through... Marot?"
      "I am in contact with her. She knows about the guns and the bombs. If we are sure they will not kill her children, we should get started." Marot took a deep breath. "She will keep them away from the drug-rocks."
      Marot's eyes were glassy, she was panting and sweating.
      The Colonel walked up to her and put his arms around her. He could feel the mind of the Horta in her.
      "Marot. Marot. Come back." He said several times. She did not respond.
      He turned to Fastra, "Let her go." He ordered the creature.
      The Horta shuddered and rattled. Then Marot slumped in his arms.
      "Go. Salt." The squat creature burned into the rock.
      "I'm OK." Marot said through watery eyes. "She is marvelous." She smiled at him, "Go on. They don't eat when they have consumed the drug-rocks, she's worried some of them may die."
      The Colonel helped her to a nearby boulder then he nodded to Mr. Cloole. "Let's get started."
      The three Horta that had left the room after the explosion were back.
      Marot took a deep breath. "They will guide you to the others." She said with a sigh.
      The Colonel nodded, one of the Horta whirled and went out the far tunnel. The other two went back into the larger chamber.
      "I'll go that way." The Colonel said as the first one waited for him. He nodded to it and it led on. "Marot, stay with Fastra." He called as he docked to go into the tunnel.

      Mr. Cloole followed the two guides into the large chamber. "We'll do these, then go get the others." He aimed his gun and fired at the closest Horta. It didn't even seem to feel it even though it moved a little at the noise. But in a second it stopped moving and sat there. It turned from side to side like it was confused. Then it trilled and rattled, finally, it moved rather awkwardly toward the chamber where the older Horta was.
      "It needs comfort and direction." Marot said as it vanished down the tunnel. "Keep going." She nodded at them.
      Wan nodded and began firing at the Horta, then as they cleared out that chamber they followed their guides down other passages. Aashth didn't want a guide, he picked a passage and stalked off.
      In a crowded chamber with copper sheets gleaming in the walls Wan set off two of the grenades, showering the entire room with a thick coating of salt, the dozen or so Horta in the room began rattling and vibrating ominously. He followed the guide down a narrow passage to another chamber.

      "Well, Hello there." The Colonel said staring at a large Horta that seemed to know what he was going to do. It made a grinding noise. He could feel hostility in it.
      The thing actually roared as it reared up exposing its multiple legs and moving mouth part like things under it. Acidic gel dripped from several parts of it.
      He backed up and hit his communicator. Nothing.
      His guide Horta was off to one side, rattling and rocking, but it was clear the larger one was not impressed.
      The Colonel held the shotgun and one hand and drew his phaser with the other. "I know these things can hurt you, I read the old file, and this is a better phaser than they had back then. Wanna see it work?"
      It lowered itself to the ground slowly. Then it backed up a meter or two.
      The thing was quick. It turned in its place slightly, then to an incredible rumbling noise, it vanished into the floor leaving a cloud of noxious steam and mist behind.
      "Aahhh, that one got away." He said. The small Horta guide crept to the edge of the new shaft and 'looked' down, the Colonel gestured to it. "Let's keep going for others."
      The guide Horta rattled and turned around, it led him down another passage.

      Wan had gotten himself into a game of hide and seek with several small Horta. But once he got a good shot at one of them, they'd shudder for a minute, then go looking for the Matriarch.
      Mr. Cloole ended up in the main chamber, dealing with Horta that were still drugged, but running from the other two. Soon they too were vibrating noisily then looking for their leader.
      Rontel stepped through the chamber door. "I've heard a lot of shooting, is it working?" She asked Mr. Cloole, then she got out of the way as a couple of small Horta wandered into the room making a bee line for the Matriarch's chamber.
      "They've been coming out of every side passage and tunnel there is down here like that." Mr. Cloole said to her.
      Wan walked clanking into the chamber in a second. "Out of ammo." He said. Rontel gave him most of hers and he went back to work.
      In a few minutes all of the Horta flattened themselves on the floor and emitted a high pitched grating sound that was almost deafening.
      Marot watched as the Matriarch shook off several of the smaller creatures that had been clinging to her, then Fastra expanded to about twice her normal size and made a massive noise that shook the cavern violently. Loose rocks and dust sifted down from the ceiling and walls. Fastra moved quickly back to the main chamber, then skittered off down a side passage.
      Concerned, Marot and the others followed her.
      They could barely keep her in sight as Fastra roared through the tunnels.
      The passage made several sharp turns, then they emerged in a large chamber lit by a pool of sputtering magma. The room was oppressively hot and reeking with sulfur fumes.
      The Colonel charged out of another passage right behind his guide. "What happened?"
      Aashth was off to one side slouched against a boulder. His clothing and skin burned by acid, his shotgun bent and partially dissolved on the ground in front of him surrounded by spent cartridges. He was still holding his plasma blaster. It too was damaged by acid.
      "That." Aashth said gesturing across the boulder-strewn chamber. Fastra was hunkered over what was left of another large Horta.
      "That's the one that threatened me earlier." The Colonel said.
      Marot stood by the Matriach. "She knows."
      "I walked in here expecting more of them, it was the only one here. It attacked me as soon as it saw me. I emptied the salt into it, and it kept coming." He held up the blaster. "It took every shot this had in it to stop it."
      The dying Horta was still moving, it rattled weakly and shivered.
      "It wants more of the drug rock." Marot said.
      Fastra began her death wail.
      "He's dead, Colonel." Marot said quietly.
      The Colonel looked at the blown apart body, "Tell her how sorry I am."
      "She knows." Marot looked at him. "She blames the drug, he was the first to discover it." She wiped her eyes.
      It took some doing, but they got Aashth back to the ship where Marot and Kavel worked on him.

      Later back at the main mine level, Fastra assured Mr. Cloole that her 'children' will not ingest anymore of the drug rocks.
      "How can she guarantee that?" The miner asked the Colonel.
      "They only have one penalty for disobedience." He stroked the surface of the creature. "Death." He stood up and nodded at Mr. Cloole. "Beam us up." He said loosening one of his gloves.

Continued in: The Patrol Part 11

Back to the Index Page

      Legal stuff below.

[NOTE:This Story Is FAN FICTION. This presentation carries the copyright The Media Desk, 2005. 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-]themediadesk[~dot-]com (email scrambled to screw with spammer robots), or surface mail to: The Media Desk, PO Box 1276, Dover, DE 19903 ]