Posted on January 5th, 2011 by Rodney Quinn
Rodney Quinn had always figured that the distribution of excitement on a Starfleet deployment was a pretty straightforward matter, if nevertheless an unequal one. A fact of life, even in the glorious Federation. Simply put, the good stuff (Because Klingons on the warpath SO did not count!) usually happened on away missions, and McKnight’s professionally mandated paranoia was about the only real counterbalance to the near universal tendency for senior staff to get disproportionately represented when away teams were getting picked. And hell, even that wasn’t likely to make much difference unless you happened to be a marine. So…there you had it. A little annoying for the majority who spent most of their time cooped up below decks, but it was what it was, and there was no sense belly aching about it…not that knowing that actually stopped anyone from indulging in a bit of theraputic grouching now and again in Ten Forward.
Anyway, that’s how Quinn USED to figure it worked. Then he started paying a little more attention, and thus was the running tally of improbable adventures born in his head. There was, for instance, that one mission which indisputably called for a high concentration of senior staff, the diplomatic mission to the sprawling ecumenopolis whose name was never memorable enough to stick with him. Seemingly almost as soon as all those people had boarded the shuttle…bang presto, boring elbow rubbing mission becomes a run and gun battle through the planet’s thug infested lower reaches. Obviously, Quinn himself suspected he had a lot more fun on the mission to bail them out than they had getting hunted down, and yet, he’d begun to wonder over time what it would be like to ACTUALLY wake up in the morning with no idea what the universe might have in store for you. The accidental discovery of a time machine on the fritz, getting accosted by shape shifting aliens on a mission to investigate a planet’s friggin pollution…getting mauled by a Chimera while using the damn HOLODECK?
The ludicrous, wonderful impossibility of it all had eventually weighed on the engineer’s mind so much that in time, it actually became a subject of some professional curiosity. Having heard the same tales as everyone in Starfleet about the predilection of some ships for getting into wonderfully impossible crap, ships named Enterprise being obviously the most famous, he’d begun contacting friends of his on other ships, then friends of friends. Objective? Build up data in hopes that some day, someone would be able to see a pattern. Possibly even devise some sort of formula that could be used to predict the likelihood that such a nexus of “Oh, come ON!” was in close proximity. Whether one so armed with this gift of mathematics should then choose to seek out the adventure or get the fuck away, Quinn would not presume to judge. Besides, it looked to be academic for the near future anyway, because in light of a sudden curve ball, he was beginning to wonder if expertise in warp field geometry was near qualification enough for the job.
At first, the survey of the M Class moon apparently known as Gencodia seemed to fit his learned expectations perfectly. Landing party full of department heads, check. Sprinkling of marines called in because the landing party is full of department heads, check. Then, the bend in probability as, even once the mission had finally been expanded to include a more representative sampling of the ship’s crew, it was of course the head of security and engineering’s own lovely Chief Busard who stumbled onto the find of a dozen lifetimes. Like, almost literally stumbled. A place in the history books by accident, yet again. And then, just as he felt the resigned and knowing head shake coming on, he was left dumbfounded as the next big thing came…his way.
He certainly wasn’t looking for adventure. He was happy enough to be presented with a bit of a puzzle, in this case a literal locked door. In the new light of how unbelievably old this facility was, the standing order to explore the ruins with minimal possible disruption had taken on a new urgency, so the next time the survey parties had found their path blocked, an interest had developed in some means of removing the obstacle that did not involve the application of brute force. Aside from having to directly access the door’s mechanism and force feed it some power from a mobile generator to circumvent what seemed to be a fairly basic code lock, he and Lieutenant Junior Grade Sarah Gant were soon exchanging mutual pats on the back for a job well done. Having discovered a storage bay containing some half dozen austere looking cigar shaped pods obviously intended somehow for personal transport despite containing no obviously viable onboard means of propulsion, they figured that alone was more than good for bragging rights when they got back to camp. Then, they discovered a maintence ladder leading down to the lower levels…
“Damn, don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.” was the first verbal comment either of them managed to offer once they’d taken their first look around. After a moment, Gant however amended her statement a bit. “At least, not outside of the Coney Island program.”
Quinn had to admit, he could see pretty easily what she was getting at. The ladder had deposited them on a wide walkway which seemed to run alongside the length of a long track that sloped steadily downward, well past the point at which human eyesight could penetrate the subterranean gloom. And there at the top of it to their right was yet another of the sleek silvery pods, clamped in place and just awaiting someone in need of a ride, as it had apparently been waiting for quite some time. Overall, between the dark, the silence and the oppressive weight of millennia, the effect seemed to Quinn’s tastes to fall a little on the creepy side for a theme park, but even so, he believed it was high time that someone rewarded the faithful alien roller coaster’s patience.
Of course, he figured it might not hurt to look into whether this particular model contained any features not immediately visible to the naked eye, engineer and all. To that end, he brought his left forearm up to his face, and began tapping a few keys on what looked vaguely like a small metallic bracer. Immediately, the device hummed to life, and a hovering holographic scale model of the vehicle quickly revealed that while it had no onboard motor of any kind, it was sporting something a bit more basic, in the form of a powerful magnet at the rear, positively charged just its larger cousin positioned behind it at the very top of the track.
“I’m guessing you were never a Cub Scout, Gant, because as I think on it, I believe I HAVE seen something like this before, albeit on a smaller scale. But I’m pretty sure the Gencodians would have gotten disqualified pretty damn quick from the Pinewood Derby.”
“Funny you should mention it. I was just thinking you’d scrounge around for any excuse to play with that new toy you cobbled together.”
“What do you want to hear? I always hated tricorders. Sweet to look at, right up until you start to go blind squinting at those stupid little displays. Look, this thing has to go somewhere. I’ll take a look around up here; you head on down and see if we need to use our new skeleton key again.”
“Aren’t you always whining about how we never get to REALLY stretch our legs shipboard?”
“Comm if you see a ghost.”
“Die in a ditch.”
And on that happy note, both engineers went to work on their given projects. Feeling a slight pang of guilt, Quinn hoped he’d assigned Gant something more than a pointless hike, because he himself was soon having a fine old time, becoming properly impressed with the simple elegance of the conveyor’s design. It wasn’t so much the car itself as it was the track. While this civilization obviously had a very solid handle on mag lev technology, he was almost certain that this particular design didn’t actually utilize it, at least not in the first leg; all along the length of the track, he was able to identify a series of tiny little generators positioned a little over a foot beneath, currently inactive and fueled by no observable power source, save perhaps in the form of the conduits leading back up to the track itself. His best guess? Friction between track and car, supplying power in the form of heat, a theory lent some credibility as he moved down and at intervals discovered something that would actually require a power source when he finally DID spot dormant electromagnetic coils ringing the shaft. Obviously, this setup lent itself to wear and tear more than some of the other gadgetry on hand, but enticingly enough, it all looked to be in pretty good shape. By the time Gant returned, looking not inconsiderably perplexed, Quinn had had considerable time to consider the implications of that.
“So…the shaft continues on just so a ways. Call it half a mile, give or take. At that point, there’s a door, sure enough.”
“The last door didn’t give you this much pause. Is is damaged or something? Can’t get at the innards?”
“No, nothing like that. I DID run a scan, and was interested to find it utilizes the same scan absorbing construction we encountered topside, but as far as opening it, that shouldn’t be the work of more than five minutes. It’s what’s PAST that I’m not sure about.”
“Well…yeah. That would be why one OPENS a door.”
“No, you ass. I mean I know what’s on the other side.”
“Unlike some people, I have a sense of direction. That gave me a hunch, so I checked our position against our available maps. Remember that sheer cliff Kuari found? This thing’s aimed to shoot us right out the face of it 900 feet above sea level.”
“That’s, uh…that’s not a very well designed ride.”
“Ya think? So unless these people were big into executions with some flair, I’d say we’ve got a bit of a mystery to report. I’m sure Commander Harper can do that thing she does where she glances at some scratchings on a wall for a few seconds, and suddenly gives you a textbook’s worth from it.”
Nodding silently, Quinn considered the wisdom of his colleague’s suggestion. He had little doubt that her assessment of Harper’s linguistic abilities was dead on. And they’d been at this awhile, having long since exceeded the parameters of their original assignment. By the book, they really should pass this discovery on. From there, those higher up the chain could determine who was best suited to take on the challenge…and the mystery…and the fun…
“Sure, we could do that. But you know, we ARE already here. And I was just thinking there are one or two things we could look into. For the sake of a complete report, I mean.”
“Oh, I’m just going to love this, aren’t I?”