Elizabeth Lisley threw her hands up and let out a loud sigh of despair. She’d been staring intently at the monitor screen for hours now and her research of the events that surrounded the final days of the Third World War had yielded several results that she had flagged for a following up. However, the search for a viable location for the survivors to relocate too was proving less successful.
“How’s it going?” asked Sheridan who just entered the room in time to witness Lisley’s outburst of frustration.
“Not too well,” replied Lisley. “I’ve identified several places we could relocate to that are uninhabited, but the effects of the fall out from the strike are either too high or they’re uninhabited simply because they’re uninhabitable.”
“You mean they don’t enjoy an inordinately large number of hours of sunshine,” said Sheridan with a smile as she placed the large storage box she was carrying on top of a pile of similarly size ones with a thud.
“Actually most of them are just of the coast of Antarctica,” responded Lisley, a look of mockery on her face. “I hear you get inordinate amounts of sunshine for half the year there.”
Sheridan frowned and walked over to Lisley, stopping so she could look over her left shoulder. “I think there’s a good reason that they’re uninhabited, Sir,” she replied.
Lisley looked over her shoulder at Sheridan and her face cracked into a smile, “So do I, Commander. Rest assured that the few candidates I do have are all in the mid-Pacific and all enjoy an inordinately large amount of sunshine all year round.”
“Glad to hear it,” replied Sheridan returning Lisley’s smile.
“Commander, could you come take a look at this?”
Lisley and Sheridan both looked around to where James Dulmis was sitting.
“What is it?” she asked as she moved over to his station.
“I’m detecting a large amount of comm. traffic directed at a location about sixty kilometres north of here,” he said, “but a location search resolves to a fairly minor military base that doesn’t warrant anywhere near that volume of traffic.”
“Hmm,” said Lisley thoughtfully before turning back to her console and bringing up some information on it. “I thought so.” She turned back to Dulmis, “During my research I noticed several oddities in the historical records and marked them for follow up later. Your military base is one of them.”
“Why did you flag it?” asked Sheridan.
“There’s an order for a large troop movement to the base just hours before the Optimum launched their nuclear strike on the ECON. It seems it was in response to some sort of ECON incursion there but there is no evidence of such a plan in the surviving ECON records. In fact there’s no evidence that they ever planned any attack so deep inside Optimum held territory.”
Sheridan leaned closer to the screen as if there was a hidden message too small to see at her previous distance. “So what’s so special about this base?” she asked.
“Let’s have a look,” said Lisley as she brought another set of records that were connected to the base. The first of these was a supply requisition form. “Deuterium, Titanium, Computer Components, Rocket Fuel,” listed Lisley.
“It looks like it was some sort of launch facility,” said Dulmis.
“Hang on,” said Sheridan, “did you just say Deuterium?”
“Yes,” responded Lisley, “Why?”
“Isn’t that a little advanced for this time period?”
Lisley shook her head. “Deuterium was first discovered in the early 20th century and was used in nuclear weapons and power generation up to the end of world war 3.”
“So it’s a nuclear launch site?”
“The size of the base and the types of supplies would seem to suggest that it is yes,” said Lisley as she brought up another list. “It’s not on the list of known Third World War launch facilities though.”
“Are we sure that list is complete?” asked Dulmis
“In so far as it lists all the sites from which missiles were launched during the Third World War. For example, the missile complex in Montana that Cochrane launched the Phoenix from isn’t included because the missile at that facility was never launched,” said Lisley. “From the evidence it would seem that this facility never launched one either or its function isn’t what it first appears to be.”
“Either way it’s a high security facility and we’ve crash landed less than a hundred kilometres from,” said Sheridan. “They can’t have failed to have noticed us.”
“Hence the increased comm. traffic,” said Dulmis.
Sheridan nodded and started downloading her own work to a nearby padd. When the download had completed she rose from her seat and handed the device to Dulmis, “James, I need you to give the list of what we’ve managed to salvage to the Captain.” She turned Lisley, “I think we’d better check it out further.”
“Agreed,” said Lisley to Sheridan. She then addressed Dulmis, “Tell the Captain we’ll be along shortly.”
“Aye, Sir,” he responded and then disappeared out of the shelter.
From the safe distance of the command post Jonozia Lex stared at the battered hull of the Defender lying stranded the floor of the quarry. The ship had entered the quarry from its sloped open side and continued down into it until the quary face had brought it to a sudden halt and partly buried the nose in the high wall. The impact had caused a small cascade of rock from the face which rested on the front of the ship and he could now clearly see the extensive damage from the ship’s emergency landing. It reinforced what he already knew; she would never fly again and a feeling of sorrow suffused him.
The call broke Lex from his revere of the fallen starship and he looked over to see James Dulmis approach.
“Report, Lieutenant.” he ordered as Dulmis neared.
“Crewman Grey reports that our communicators are now working,” he said reaching into the bag slung at his side and handing Lex a replacement combadge.
Lex removed his non-functional current one and replaced it with the new one, handing the old one to Dulmis, who started to explain the limitations of the modifications. “Their range is greatly reduced as a result of boosting the signal to cut through the radiation,” he said. “Similarly our tricorders and phasers are now working, but the tricorders’ range is reduced and our phasers’ power packs will last for fewer shots.”
“Understood,” said Lex.
“Commander Sheridan also handed me this,” he said, passing Lex the padd.
The Captain thumbed through the inventory of the salvaged items and nodded in satisfaction. “Good. The last of the equipment and the remaining survivors have been evacuated from the ship.”
“Commander Lisley also asked me to inform you that she and Commander Sheridan are currently working on a possible temporal concern.”
“Do you know how serious a concern?”
“She didn’t say, but she said she would report to you shortly.”
“Thank you, James,” Lex finished. He turned back to the ship, “It’s disturbing to see a starship like this, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” replied Dulmis, “it looks... wrong.”
Lex glanced at Dulmis with a crooked smile that showed just how apt he though Dulmis’ description had been before turning back and tapping his commbadge, “Lex to Johnson…”
“…How’s it coming Lieutenant?”
On the Defender’s darkened bridge William Johnson looked over to the engineering console he’d been watching Crewman Rhodes work.
“Rick, what’s our status?” he asked Rhodes.
“We’ve got power to the aft landing struts, anti-gravity generators and thrusters”
“Good,” Johnson replied. “Johnson to shuttles; report status.”
“Shuttle White ready,” responded Arkin.
“Shuttlepod One ready,” reported Maxwell.
“Shuttlepod Three ready,” said McGregor.
Johnson straightened up. “Johnson to Lex,” he said, “All systems show green and Ensigns Arkin, Maxwell and McGregor are in position and are preparing to pilot the shuttles out of the bay as soon as the way is clear. Crewman Rhodes and Ensign Conrad are with me and we’ll monitor the operation from here. We’re ready to begin, Captain.”
“Proceed, Lieutenant,” responded Lex.
“Aye, Captain,” he said. He moved away from Rhodes and settled into the Captain’s chair. “Johnson to shuttlecraft, prepare for stage one.”
“Acknowledged,” responded the three distinct voices of the pilots.
“Rick, activate the anti-gravity generators.”
“Anti-gravity generators on-line and functioning within parameters,” Rhodes said
“Deploy the aft landing struts and activate the aft/lateral thrusters at 1/8th power,” Johnson ordered next.
“Aye, sir,” Rhodes replied as he initiated the requested systems.
As the rear of the Defender slowly began to rise, Johnson felt the deck beneath him begin to tremble slightly and a low rumble filled the bridge. This was shortly followed by several large bangs as some of the rock from the quarry wall began to fall away from the quarry side. : The manoeuvre had been expected to cause a certain amount of instability in the rock face. Yet the continuous and increasing drumming of debris pummelling the hull as the Defender continued its precarious rise caused Johnson increasing anxiety. He became more and more concerned that the rock face might collapse and bury the ship, trapping or killing the six crewmen remaining inside .
“James, how’s the rock face holding up?” he heard Lex ask Dulmis over the open comm. It seemed that the Captain was becoming similarly concerned about the quarry face’s stability.
There was a slight pause as he heard the sound of a Tricorder opening and running a scan, then Dulmis replied. “Not too well,” he reported, “it’s fracturing more than anticipated and I don’t think it can take much more movement.”
“Did you get that Lieutenant?” Lex asked Johnson.
“Yes, Captain. It only needs to hold a little longer as we’re nearly done here.” He turned to Conrad who was sitting beside Rhodes, “Hans, what’s the status of the hull’s structural integrity.”
“Structural integrity is at 20%,” the German reported. “We should be ok down to about 10%.”
“Let me know if it drops below 15%.”
Silence descended on the shattered bridge of the Defender as everyone waited warily for the ship to complete its ascent. Johnson stood almost ridged behind his two fellow engineers, his eyes constantly flicking between the status readouts on the screens. Eventually they heard a loud “thunk” and the vibrations in the floor stopped.
“Landing struts are fully extended,” reported Rhodes.
“Structural Integrity at 12%,” said Conrad.
“Johnson to Shuttlecraft,” he said. “You have a go.”
With the small Type-10 shuttlecraft shaking around her, Arkin Jora had been waiting nervously for the order to deploy, so when the shaking stopped and the order came she was ready and immediately activated the shuttle’s thrusters. She felt the shuttle lift off the deck and settle into a hover a meter above it.
“Shuttlecraft White here, acknowledged,” she said. “Opening shuttlebay doors.”
Arkin activated the external video feed from beneath the shuttle and watched as deck below began to part. As the doors opened all she saw was black, so she activated the shuttle’s lights and illuminated scared and burnt earth underneath the ship.
“Confirming bay doors open. Deploying Shuttlecraft,” said Arkin.
“Acknowledged,” Johnson replied.
Arkin gradually cut the power to the thrusters and the shuttle slowly lowered through the open doors. As the small ship dropped through the hull she saw the light filled gap between the ship and the ground. At the entrance the light was almost blinding compared to the darkness under the ship, but it didn’t stop her from seeing something large falling off the top of the end the ship.
Time to get out of here, she though and pushed the shuttle’s throttle forward.
“Captain,” alerted Dulmis, “the quarry face!”
Lex looked up at the wall of rock to see a large chunk that was almost its entire height falling away. He slammed his commbadge, “Lieutenant Johnson, get out of there! The quarry wall is collapsing!”
“Computer, execute evacuation program Johnson 1,” shouted Johnson over the comm. as an avalanche of rock engulfed the ship.
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