7th November 2020
Saturday night is here, I'm at home and logged into Skype in the living room.
This means it's time for the next mission in Matakishi's Lasers & Feelings campaign.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Log 03: Astrodate 21.2011.07.
Location: Aboard Infinite Badger, Sector 11.
The Infinite Badger had been assigned to survey Sector Eleven. We had barely begun our mission when a red light flashed up on the Doc's console.
It was a mayday, Consortium ships were under attack in the Σ System from Zorgon the Conqueror! It looked like we were the closest ship, so Chuck punched the coordinates into his console and jumped to maximum warp.
Doc searched our database for information about the Σ System: His search flashed up several warning alerts; the Σ System was located close to a black hole! Ships travelling through or close to the system would be likely to experience gravimetric distortions.
The system was also in neutral space, which meant it was out of Consortium jurisdiction but also unclaimed. Records showed that a Consortium scientific research camp had been built on the planetoid Σ Twelve several years ago. It's purpose was to research something the database called a Quantum Tunnel? It did not elaborate upon it any further.
Reaching our destination, we dropped out of warp fairly close to Σ Twelve. A quick scan revealed a small Consortium defence force that indeed was under attack.
They were returning fire whilst being strafed and harried by assailants in a wing of fast-moving red and black small starfighters known rather derisively as Scabs (Because of their colour!).
Little was known about Scab ships, they had been encountered at the edge of Consortium space on occasion without much success. Other than that; nothing.
I opened a wide-band channel to the Scab ships, ordering them to immediately desist from attacking Consortium ships and withdraw.
It appeared to have some effect, the Scab fighters held off and quickly we received a response from what must have been their commander. We were told that we were not in Consortium space and had no right to be here.
In my reply I stated that The Consortium had received no official claim for any part of the Σ System, The Consortium had as much right to be here as anybody and had arrived first.
The commander belligerently stated that it was claimed by Zorgon the Conqueror and that he would soon arrive here. Nevertheless they retreated out of weapon range and hung there, no doubt continually scanning us. Even though The Infinite Badger was no warship, the Scab ships were no match for both it and the defence force.
As with the Scab ships, little was known about the Zorgon the Conqueror since he resided beyond Consortium territory, although his title left little to debate regarding his motives!
We communicated this to Consortium Command and they advised us that they would send support; but it would not arrive in the system for at least 24 hours.
We spoke with the defence force and fortunately they did not report any significant damage or losses.
We inquired about the research project on Σ Twelve, the captain of the defence force explained that the scientists working there tended to keep tight-lipped about it and grew resentful or angry when they were contacted.
Finally we were warned that landing on the planetoid could involve some risk, in it's position it was close to the black hole's event horizon and it was slowly but inextricably being pulled into the black hole. One day this pull would overcome the Σ Star's gravity well and Σ Twelve would begin it's irreversible, endless descent into the cosmic black maw.
The captain informed us that he kept the defence force some way from Σ Twelve.
They had intercepted the Scabs before they had gotten close to the planetoid
Keeping the captain's warning in mind, we decided to investigate the situation on Σ Twelve.
The Doc kept an eye on his sensor readings whilst we approached Σ Twelve. As we closed in on the planetoid, he started picking up distortions in the gravity ahead.
A scan revealed that Σ Twelve was a lifeless rocky mass, zero bio-mass readings and zero breathable atmosphere.
The scan also revealed a series of manmade structures clustered together, within were human life-signs; the research team.
Further away from the research camp was another structure, it was emitting a strange energy signature that disrupted any scan results we tried to acquire from it. It had to be the Quantum Tunnel.
Warily, Chuck maneuvered us into orbit above the camp, he had to heavily compensate for the gravitational shear that The Infinite Badger was experiencing.
From our position, we hailed the research camp. A reply came from someone who identified themselves as Doctor Zebulon, chief scientist for this mission.
The viewscreen showed an individual enclosed in a environmental suit. The domed helmet showed a contorted reflection of the doctor's environment and bristled with autonomous cameras that seemed to constantly adjust their positioning and refocus their lenses.
Behind the mirrored helmet we heard an undeniably irritated voice demanding to know who we were and why we had disturbed them?
We tried to explain that the defence force above had been subjected to an attack and that we, as the only reinforcement close to the system had responded. now we were in the process of assessing Σ Twelve's security.
Doctor Zebulon interrupted us and told us he didn't care and we should just do our jobs!
He then rudely closed the channel.
That was that!
Our scans had revealed nothing dangerous or hostile either on the planetoid or this part of the star system, so we waited.
We didn't have to wait for long.
Only a few minutes later the Doc's console picked by a wide-band distress signal; originating from the research camp. Doctor Zebulon appeared on the viewscreen again, this time the mirrored visor was raised and he was in the habitat. His face filled the screen and the fear on it was easy to read. He was frantically shouting that the camp was under attack! Why weren't we doing anything about it?
Who were they? How was it that they were able to get past our sensors?
We ran another scan of the camp, the sensors were picking up a horde of moving signals surrounding it, they did not register as life-signs and they appeared to be pouring out of the Quantum Tunnel.
We could do nothing from orbit.
Despite the risks, we had to reach the surface.
Chuck took The Infinite Badger down, fighting the black hole's pernicious influence all the way. The gravimetric distortions twisted, flowed and eddied, like the ship was caught in the swirling current of some invisible violent river.
In spite of this, we landed safely within sight of the research camp. A series of linked white bubble tents surrounded by strange naked people?
Beyond that was the Quantum Tunnel. From orbit it was impossible to appreciate the scale of it. An enormous vertical stone ring, seventy metres in diameter and emanating from the centre was an undulating silver-white glow. The humanoids were still streaming out of it, a number of them had noticed The Infinite Badger and were heading our way.
From the surface we could get a clear visual scan of the humanoids. They looked strange, in LISA's opinion they had the appearance of being corpses. It explained their lack of life-signs. They also appeared to have been augmented by cybernetic components of some, this might have explained how they managed to operate in the lack of any atmosphere.
For the lack of a better name; they were cyber-zombies.
We tried communicating with them and connecting with their cybernetics, but it did not yield any success.
By now they had reached The Infinite Badger and were scrambling over the ship, futilely attempting to claw their way in.
We theorised that since they had electronic components, they might be susceptible to a electromagnetic pulse.
While the Doc worked on the pulse, Chuck and I exited the ship and clambered on to the hull.
We fired our phasepistol's at the cyber-zombies, even at the VFD setting, they had no effect.
It was not too hard for the Doc to modulate the ship's emitters to create one, he just had to make sure that it did not target the camp.
He fired it a pulse; it too had no discernible effect.
A number of the cyber-zombies had collapsed and ceased moving, it seemed that they could not survive without an atmosphere indefinitely. LISA had been observing their behaviour and she suspected that the augmentations were designed to compensate for some sort of biological deficiency or limitation.
We had not managed to find a way to defeat the cyber-zombies, it seemed apparent that eventually they would all die, but that would not help the scientists right now..
The only option left was to transport them aboard. The Doc scanned the camp and found seven life-signs. He beamed them into the ship, They were all wearing environmental suits.
Doctor Zebulon stepped forward, removed his helmet and breathed deeply. He turned to the other six and informed them that the air was breathable.
LISA ran a full medical scan on the seven of them. They appeared to be in good health and no signs of abnormality were detected.
The camp's compliment of scientists had consisted of one hundred and twelve scientists. Now only seven remained...
When asked Doctor Zebulon explained that the research team had been going about their normal business when news had reached them from the defence force of an impending attack from space!
Soon after that The Infinite Badger arrived in orbit.
As they then continued working normally, the cyber-zombies had appeared and attacked.
Doctor Zebulon also admitted that this was not a new occurrence. In the past, on occasion other entities or things had come through the tunnel but they had quickly died due to the lack of atmosphere.
We asked him what the Quantum Tunnel was exactly. He told that it was a way to travel through space, time or even other realities or dimensions or any combination of the above. The team had sent a number of probes through the tunnel, but every time data had successfully streamed back, it was always indecipherable and the probes themselves never returned.
The structure was large enough to potentially allow The Infinite Badger to pass through it. It would certainly be an interesting exploration.
The option was discussed, none of the scientists were keen on it. There were too many variables and a return journey might not be viable.
In the end, the idea was shelved.
In his report, Doctor Zebulon had also told us that the cyber-zombies had appeared just after we had scanned the Quantum Tunnel's stone ring. We were curious about this.
The Quantum Tunnel was now dormant again. We scanned it a second time.
The Quantum Tunnel was triggered, the eerie silver-white glow materialised again. Our hypotheses was correct; a direct scan of the ring could somehow activated it.
A few moments later, silhouetted shapes came tumbling out of the light. A scan revealed that they were human.
Immediately we beamed them aboard our ship, but it was already too late, they had already died.
LISA performed a cursory examination They had no signs of dental or other surgery and no technology, their clothing was of indeterminate origin. They were from Earth's past, but it would take some through investigation to find out more.
At this time we received a hail from the defence force above.
Zorgon the Conqueror had entered the system.
The defence force captain informed us that they were no match for Zorgon's ship and would retreat to a safe distance.
The Doc performed a scan; two ships were approaching.
One was some sort of battlecruiser, no doubt Zorgon's ship. The other was vast, it identified as a planetary excavator, a mining ship capable of scooping millions of tonnes of rock and soil from a planet at a time.
Before we have the chance to plan a course of action, we were raked by phaser fire from the cruiser; although the damage was negligible.
I opened a channel and hailed the cruiser and then larger than life, Zorgon the Conqueror himself appeared, filling our viewscreen.
Zorgon the Conqueror was some sort of large, green, tentacled life-form, on his bulbous head sat a protective glass environmental helmet and through it he leered at us with his one gigantic eye.
He blinked and called us puny humans! Zorgon claimed the Quantum Tunnel for himself.
I responded, stating that The Consortium laid equal claim and perhaps we should find a way to share the artefact.
Zorgon paused, seemingly considering the proposition, then he said he might see how it prove beneficial. Had the proposal worked... or was it an act?
Zorgon went on to admit that even if we shared the Quantum Tunnel, he would retain possession of it and use it to conquer all of time and space.
We said we'd get back to him and closed the channel.
LISA stated that the Quantum Tunnel was too dangerous to allow into Zorgon's or anyone's hand. It had to be destroyed. We all agreed.
We discussed matters and quickly came up with a plan.
Then we turned to the surviving scientists and explained that we intended to put the Quantum Tunnel out of everybody's reach and their mission would be at an end.
Most of the surviving scientists were not unduly upset by this, Doctor Ermintrude the botanist, Doctor Margot the biologist and Doctor Douglas Pollux a nutritionist explained that had never had anything to do on the mission for all the years they had been here and were glad to see the back of it!
By now, the excavator was heading for Σ Twelve's surface, there was no time left and we launched The infinite Badger.
Chuck had to fight the black hole's pull to escape the planetoid, but soon were were safely back in orbit and watched as the excavator descended to the Quantum Tunnel and proceeded to gouge a massive chunk land surrounding the Quantum Tunnel out of Σ Twelve.
Once finished with its task, the excavator began its lumbering return journey carrying its prize. The Doc ran a small scan of the ship's hull and found a suitable spot. Doc then remodulated the transporter's beam frequency to mimic a typical telemetry data stream.
Next Lisa went to the transporter pad and the Doc transported her over to the spot in the excavator's hull he had discovered, this would go undetected by any of Zorgon's forces or scans.
Unfortunately, Doc's calculations had not accurately predicted the strength of the black hole's pull and thus he had not fully compensated for this when targeting the transporter beam.
After rematerializing, LISA found herself in an unexpected location on the hull. Luckily it was not an insurmountable problem, LISA cautiously traversed the hull until she found a hatch and entered.
From there it was simple for LISA to hack into the bridge's flight controls. We then waited until the excavator was well away from Σ Twelve.
The plan called for LISA to remotely lock out the bridge, put the excavator on to autopilot and instruct it to fly into the black hole.
As the excavator moved further away from Σ Twelve, it's trajectory took it closer to Zorgon's cruiser. Lisa realised that she could kill two birds with one stone.
LISA waited until the excavator it had put itself into formation with the battlecruiser, then she struck!
Locking the bridge out, LISA remotely took control of the excavator! There was some confusion about the navigational numbers required, but corrections were made and LISA managed to nudged the excavator closer to the cruiser.
The huge mining ship was equipped with an array of mechanical arms and limbs designed to facilitate more efficient mining, LISA used the mechanical limbs to grip the cruiser, then she fired the engines and sent the excavator on it's journey to the black hole - along with cruiser in tow.
Quickly, Doc beamed LISA back to The Infinite Badger.
Even though Zorgon's crew were caught off guard, it took them only a few moments to realise what was happening, that's when we saw the battlecruiser's thrusters fire up and begin pushing against the excavator's own thrust.
Further our from Σ Twelve, the wing of Scab ships had powered up and had begun accelerating towards us.
The cruiser and the excavator were beginning to slow and soon would reverse direction, we couldn't allow this to happen.
Chuck bought The Infinite Badger's shunt drive online and brought us round accelerating towards the pair of ships.
The Doc ran a scan of the battlecruisers power systems and fed the data to my console.
Looking at the readout I managed to identify a critical juncture power layout for their drive. I fired a proton torpedo and we watched as the gleaming missile streaked towards the battlecruiser.
The battlecruiser's crew must have been fully focused on reversing their direction as their shields did not prevent the torpedo from scoring a precise hit.
There was an explosion and the cruiser's engines, flickered, stuttered and died, the pair of ships began picking up speed again as they headed towards the black hole.
A warning pinged on the Doc's console, he was picking up a ship dropping out of warp close by.
It was a Consortium capital ship, shields up and weapons hot; it was ready for a fight!
The ship fired a full array of phaser shots at the Scab ships, quickly finishing them off and a spread of torpedoes at the cruiser.
The capital ship's captain was cheerfully smiling when his bright face appeared on our viewscreen.
"Glad to help," he exclaimed.
Next he asked if the scientists wanted to transfer aboard for a return to Earth?
The scientists seemed very eager to leave The Infinite Badger? They were almost scrambling over each other to reach the transporter pads, they must have very much missed their homes!
With that done, the capital ship warped out of the system and were alone.
Almost alone that is, we watched as the battlecruiser and excavator had entered the black hole's event horizon and began their irreversible, infinite journey into oblivion. Time itself could escape the grasp of a black hole and from our perspective, it would seem as if the two ships would slow down to nothing and take forever to reach the centre of the singularity.
Whilst the Quantum Tunnel had not been destroyed, it was in a place no one could reach.
End of Explorer's Log 03.
Medical Log 3
Pilots log #3
Science Officer's Log 3
Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.