USS Traveller
Previous Next

The Heart Of The Matter

Posted on Mon Jun 27th, 2022 @ 1:00am by The Narrator & Lieutenant Commander Shadi Zatra & Lieutenant Mar Megara MD & Innocent Bystander & Commander Onofron Zuir

2,474 words; about a 12 minute read

Mission: S2:2: Something Missing Something New
Location: Clock Maker Sphere
Timeline: Feburary 2390

The passage through the twisting labyrinth of tunnels within the Clock Maker sphere seemed endless. Through the brass panes that made up the walls of the capsule, the vast spaces they were travelling through could have been going up and out of the enclosed star, or curving around the shell. The Lord of Adversaries had returned to the podium or control lecturn, and had begun to ignore anyone near him.

CLee'san on the other hand backed away, skittering on short stubby legs back to the Starfleet crew who had brought her here.

"You know," the co-pilot of the shuttle said. "There's a lot of us and one of him. And I don't see any weapons on him."

Meg shot the pilot a dark look. “Absolutely not,” she said sternly. “Never attack an unknown adversary; you don’t know his weaknesses and, more importantly, he may not be the adversary in question at all.”

"Case in point," Ono said authoritatively, "our current guide is the self-acclaimed Lord of Adversaries."

“But he may not be our adversary,” Meg pointed out. “If he is the adversary of our adversaries, that would make him our friend. Or at least an ally.”

TAG Ono (if anything)

Centuries of waiting brought forth child-like impatience in the ancient being currently calling himself Innocent Bystander. He stood on the podium to the Lord's right and watched this new world shift from interesting to just more of the same, and, finally, when there was no commentary or shift in the external view or interior action IB asked the inevitable question that beleagured those on both sides of this sort of situation.

"Are we nearly there yet?"

"Are we where?" Shadi asked, looking around. "We seem to be nowhere while going nowhere. Are we going in circlesss until we die? I am honor bound not to die wandering."

"We are transiting through the Clock Maker sphere," Clee'san said as she rolled to a stop beside them. "These tunnels are worm-like throughout the shell, leading back to the interior and out into the system beyond as well as leading to various sundry machines of Clock Maker design. The Lord of Adversaries is taking us by the most direct route afforded him. We are beneath the detection threshold for the Clock Makers to interfere with us. The Junta awaits, and the Lord of Adversaries will make his case to them in regards to our fates."

"It's a road trip," Noted IB with mixed emotions. "With a surprise ending." It was fun to play with their language, so many new words to enjoy that the mention of 'fates' being decided bothered him not even a little at least for the moment. He had been immobile, held in stasis waiting and watching for so long, the mere act of motion was exciting.

Time passed, slow or fast it was hard to tell. The near featureless tunnel walls beyond the brass compartment could have been within inches or light-seconds away. The Lord of Adversaries remained aloof, even going so far as to ignore any spoken question given to him. Even Clee'san seemed less than her usual forthcoming self.

But then without warning, things changed. There was colour, rich verdant greens and deep blues. Suddenly they were not flying through a mind-bending puzzle, but flying over a forest of thick pines. Behind them, a sloping tunnel maw could be seen receding into the distance and beyond it the curving upper sprawl of land rising upwards in all directions, broken here and there by the splash of watery blues.

The Clock Maker Sphere's inner surface was a world, a thousand Earth's worth of land and water unspoilt by city or industry save for the occasional obsidian tower rising impossibly out of the woods.

"Behold. The bounty of the Clock Makers. Devourers of whole galaxies, but the creators of their private edens," the Lord of Adversaries said.

"Looks like a mammalian paradissse," Shadi said with disgust.

Ono frowned at Shadi, but he shared her surprise. "One must wonder what use these Clock Makers have for pristine ecology that is obviously synthetic."

"It is devoid of mammalian intervention," IB noted in response to them both, his tone neither implying that this was better or worse than the alternative. "And as such devoid of all the destruction, complication and pollution such lifeforms provide. It is only as synthetic as we all are, consisting of particles constructed into sentience without our permission." He paused, contemplating this impressive masterpiece with a temporarily neutral eye. "What purpose do the towers serve?" He asked of their local guide.

"Towers structurally serve only one purpose," Ono said. "Elevation. Whether it's elevating for vantage or to boost signal gain or to intimidate through higher ground, those towers are connected to the powers behind this place."

Shadi was still hissing from what Innocent Bystander had said, grasping at her flesh as evidence that it was there. "But I'm not ssssynthetic!" She looked around at the others in the group with genuine concern. "Are any you sssynthetics?"

“No, Shadi and that is the point,” Meg told her. “As synthetic the rest of you. None of us are synthetic. So none of that is synthetic, either.”

"But how do we knoooowww?!" Shadi persisted, unconvinced by Meg's answer.

“I am a doctor, Shadi,” replied Meg. “Trust me, there is nothing synthetic about any of them. Except maybe Zuir’s personality,” she added dryly.

"Pardon me while I make a note to file a formal reprimand in your personal file when we get back to the ship," Ono said as he fished for a PADD or anything to write with. Failing to find one, he brushed his hands together. "No matter. I am sure I will be reminded in due time."

"Maybe I should regurgitate my family ssspear," Shadi suggested, ignoring Ono entirely, "just to make sure. I fought a ssspace ghost before and it wasssn't pretty."

“That is probably not necessary,” replied Meg nervously; she didn’t like the idea of someone puking up a weapon and suspected it would be even more gruesome than typical vomit.

As they spoke they crossed over what looked like a settlement. Domed structures radiating out from a central point. The land around them was neatly maintained, but apart from that, there was no sign of life. A few minutes later they passed over another domed settlement, but this was encrusted with clearly foreign objects. Whereas the domes were smooth white affairs, the modular design and bright orange colouration was set up on stilts that used the domes as foundations. Tattered flags or markers hung from their sides.

"Improvements," IB suggested as he surveyed this shift in dynamic perspective. "Or symbiotic lifeforms utilising the basic framework for their own aesthetic?"

After a while, they came to a larger settlement by far than the ones they already passed over. Domes and spires of alabaster rose and grew from the lush soil, and were in their way encamped by more of the brightly coloured enclosures on their stilt supports. It looked for all the world like a forest of bleached trees infected with a fungal rot.

"This...cannot be," the Lord of Adversaries said. He walked from the control pedestal and surveyed the abandoned cityscape. "These are emergency dwellings, temporary constructures. They were ageing poorly when I was exiled for their shame."

IB followed him, silently, and looked past the Lord of Adversaries to the landscape beyond.

Ono stopped in his tracks. "I beg your pardon!" He tone was anything but prayerful or pardoning. "If you know something you have not told us, I demand you reveal it immediately! What are these structures? Who lived here?"

“He literally just said they are emergency dwellings,” Meg told Ono with a roll of her eyes. This guy really was useless, wasn’t he? “But if they are emergency dwellings, and if they were already in disrepair upon your exile, why do you seem so surprised that they are abandoned?” she asked the Lord. “Should that not be a matter of course?”

IB tilted his head to the side quizzically and allowed all his myriad senses to perceive the outer environment closely. No longer emergency dwellings it seemed, but homes of some kind.

"Yes, but I wish to know the nature of the emergency and to whom the emergencies were posed," Ono said with the tired tone of addressing a stubborn child. "Go scan for lifeforms if you wish to be helpful. The people in charge are speaking."

"And yet you prattle," the Lord of Adversaries grumbled. The capsule had now come to rest against the side of the orange buildings. The wall began to pucker, before dissolving into dust revealing the brass strands that formed a wire-like mesh underneath. This mesh then unfolded as Morningstar technology tended to do, revealing a golden interior of the building. Stepping from the capsule to the building, with Clee'san at his heels, the Lord of Adversaries boots clanked off of the metal floor.

As much as she hated to admit it, Zion was right; she really should be scanning for life forms. However, when she actually set out to do it, the buildings revealed absolutely nothing. And not just no life forms, but literally nothing. “No anything detected,” she reported cheekily. “No life forms, no buildings, nothing.”

"Nothing your scanner can detect," IB corrected, quietly. His own gaze studied this new world actively, seeking information between the obvious, outside the normal range of humanoid means.

TAG any

Meg switched to the opening through which the Lord and Clee’san had stepped. She glanced several times between her tricorder and the opening, frown deepening. “Uno momento, por favor,” she muttered, concentrating on the readings. It didn’t make sense. She switched back to the buildings and the deadness returned. Then back to the opening again and- there it was. “It is reflecting my scans,” she reported finally. “I think… I think they are sensor jamming buildings. Perhaps it is something to do with the coating.”

"Magic," said Innocent Bystander with a very humanly impish smile. "Or significantly advanced technology?"

"Perhapsss," Shadi mused aloud, "they are alive. But not. Sssome kind of unlife maybe."

"Really?" Ono asked, his brow lurching upward in an angle so incredulous as to match the look in his eye. "Unlife? This is what you come up with?"

“I do not hear you coming up with a better idea,” Meg pointed out.

"My people spent many centuries fighting the Clock Makers, we developed many technologies with which to combat them," Clee'san said. The spherical drone body she was infused within rolled to a stop before sprouting six hinged legs that began to skitter along the mesh floor. "My own existence is thanks to that research so that the most gifted and valued of our culture could be saved from terminal information decay."

Death. She meant death. Probably.

"Many of my most gifted warriors were Iron Born like you," the Lord of Adversaries said to Cleen'san, placing a gauntleted hand on her upper surface. "My own children gave me counsel on the sands of the Sadeem Worlds, a lone warrior guarded by a circle of War Forms who sang of tragedy and tactics. I miss their counsel, but I do lament that which cannot be changed. Further through here, we will find that which we seek. I smell the rot of it from here."

Through two more chambers they ventured, pressing closer to the centre of the building that clung to the side of the dome grown within the Clock Maker's paradise. What was different about this room was that it directly abutted the dome, one wall showing the smooth arc of snow-white stone that made up the dome. From that wall brass cables had been driven into it, appearing to sink into the marble-like stone. These cables fed back into the centre of the chamber, where a large metal monolith bigger than a man hovered in the air, the cables hanging from its base like the roots of a mangrove tree.

On the flat face of the monolith was the stylised outline of a Morningstar citizen, two legs, two sets of arms, and a head. As the monolith rotated in the air, revealing its other faces, similar designs were also inscribed there.

"This isss a sacred place," Shadi hissed with awe. "Can you feel it? The blood of the fallen hasss hallowed thisss ground."

IB had researched 'sacred' enough to understand what it represented on several of its levels. To him, that expected sense of awe and wonder was lacking and the various colours of this space were shouting another story. His perspective was not the sole one present, however, and experiencing these others was a fascination that entertained him each time they discovered something new. "Are all assembly lines sacred?" He asked, taking simple words and gifting no tone to his question that suggested any particular emotion or implication.

"A great battle happened here," Shadi said with awe. "The blood remembersss..."

The Lord of Adversaries reached out with a gauntletted hand, the armoured metal flowing back to the wrist to reveal the pale blue-grey flesh beneath. The moment his fingers touched the brass cube the entire structure groaned, the brass cabling twitching and writhing as though running with electrical energy. The savaging rattling sent Clee'san off her little feet, the brass sphere of her body rolling towards one of the walls-

Which cracked under the impact, the red material breaking like clay, leaving behind a large open void through which Clee'san sailed.

"Aw shit," the co-pilot snapped as he raced to the edge of the hole, watching as the brass sphere gently rolled with ever-increasing speed down the side of the dome towards the trees ringing the base.

Meg took two steps to follow, but then quickly turned and began watching in the other direction. It would do no good to be distracted lest an ambush arrived.

The entire structure shook, a sound like wires snapping under tension ringing in the away team's ears. Then the hole Clee'san's impact created began to widen, soon becoming a leering grin that stretched out to all sides of the chamber. The floor lurched, dropping a few feet as whatever supporting holding it up gave way for a moment.

Then it fell away, like the bottom of a sandwich in a comedy holo drama, carrying the away team with it. Keeping the comedy stylings it impacted the side of the dome, bouncing a little before beginning a screeching slide down the gentle slope, carrying them like Starfleet's entry to the Darwin Olympic Games. And with each bounce and meter covered, it gained speed, as the walls of the dark forest rose to meet them.


Previous Next

RSS Feed RSS Feed