14th November 2020
Saturday night, at home, in the living room and logged into Skype.
This means it's time for the next part of Matakishi's Lasers & Feelings campaign.
Space, the ultimate boundary.
Zaber Fluke: Mission specialist - Explorer first class.
Explorer's Log 04: Astrodate 21.2011.14.
Location: Aboard Infinite Badger, Sector 13.
The Infinite Badger had just received orders from Consortium Command: Travel to Sector Thirteen and investigate reported sightings of The Clara Pandy, this was reputed to be the ship of the late space-pirate Red Betty.
We responded to Command and informed them that The Clara Pandy had been destroyed in Sector Seventy Six.
Consortium Command confirmed and repeated the orders.
We set off at maximum warp.
Our orders instructed us to head to the location of the sightings, which was the planet ΑΔΔ in Sector Thirteen.
Our database indicated that ΑΔΔ was a planet in Consortium space that had been colonised. The records also showed that colonisation rights had actually been leased out by The Consortium.
Thus ΑΔΔ had attracted a variety traders, explorers, farmers and businessmen, all looking to make their fortune.
There were also a number of scientists on ΑΔΔ who were investigating what was described as ancient catacombs of unknown alien origin.
Soon enough we dropped out of warp and Chuck put us into orbit. Our scans of ΑΔΔ showed that it was a mostly unpopulated planet. The colony consisted of a spaceport, town and fair number of farms that extended out from the settlement.
After receiving our landing rights we touched down safely, then we were taxied into our parking bay.
This happened to be right next to The Clara Pandy! As clear as day, we could see it was definitely a pirate ship and definitely Red Betty's ship. Somehow it had survived the destruction of the pirate fleet in Sector seventy Six and was now here?
The first thing we did was scan it for Alien Brain Worms, the results came back with zero readings. There was no way into the ship, no doubt it had counter measures against intrusion.
Next, we went and found someone in an official capacity and asked to see whoever was in charge here.
We were directed to the Port Commander in his office. He was a cheerful sort and seemed quite happy to deal with us when we identified ourselves as members of the Consortium (Although the uniforms probably gave it away.)
We explained that were tracking space-pirates and he seemed quite surprised by what we had told him and said that he had seen no pirates.
When we explained that there was a pirate ship in his parking bays, he was genuinely shocked! We couldn't help but notice that it was practically visible from his office window?
He provided us with some more information, the ship had landed three days ago and the entire crew had left. We asked the commander if anybody else had seen something?
It didn't take him long to communicate this out to his staff and one of the ground crew was sent over to us.
He had witnessed The Clara Pandy's crew leaving and described them as a motley, suspicious looking bunch, except for their leader. She was, by his account a stately woman with an eyepatch who strode with purpose.
This had to be Red Betty. He went on to tell us that they had headed for town.
We instructed the commander to impound The Clara Pandy and he was happy to comply.
We had our lead and our next step to follow, it was time to go into the town.
To no one's surprise, the town was a bit rough and seedy looking, with it's equally grimy and gaudy looking shopfronts, trash-filled alleys and moping drunks who eyed us speculatively
It was the kind of place that served the indulgent needs of passing travellers and other spaceport users.
The farmers would avoid the town, being be mostly self-sufficient and only journeying in for vital supplies and even then, not too often.
From here we had to decide where the space pirates had gone?
Again to absolutely no one's surprise: Chuck turned to us and said, "I know a place," with a wink.
It turns out the place he knew was a bar called The Scarlet Star. A noisy liquor joint, dimly lit to hide its shady, smoky cubicles and lack of a proper cleaning schedule.
Bright, garish and oscillating lights swam over scantly clad women in raised cages; they gyrated and danced to the rhythmic noise that passed as music and blared out of a tortured sound system set to max, it pumped out so much bass that we could feel it tickling our internal organs.
Chuck made straight for the bar and we saw that the barman and he exchanged greetings.
"This is Glenn," introduced Chuck, forced to raise his over the repetitive thumping songs.
Glenn told us that Red Betty and her crew had been in The Scarlet Star two days ago. Considering that they were space-pirates well known for their excesses, they were unusually quiet, almost subdued.
Red Betty had been looking for an explorer called Lester and Glenn had told her where to find him. Lester lived in a small farming settlement outside of the town.
Glenn explained that Lester was a known as an acquirer of antiquities or a tomb robber.
Armed with the address that Glenn had provided us, we left the clutter and bustle of the town behind. Above us was the open sky and stretching towards the horizon was the mostly flat green farmlands that fed the colony.
After a little walking we reached Lester's quiet little settlement. We found his home to be empty. Unsurprisingly, his door was locked. The Doc was is no mood to mess around it seemed and broke the lock open.
Inside it was a little messy and disorganised, a large swathe of artefacts were dotted throughout the home. A significant proportion of those were skulls.
No ordinary skulls though, they did not match any race known to us. LISA and the Doc were sure of it.
Searching the apartment revealed some scruffy hand-drawn maps that seemed to mark out several excavations, no doubt targets for Lester's looting.
We noticed that there were no excavating tools or equipment in the apartment. It was easy to put two-and-two together and figure out Lester had gone off somewhere with his gear. The question was: Where and were the pirates with him?
Lastly, using our eptacorders we scanned the unknown skulls, the results showed trace deposits of some sort of unique crystalline substance in all of the skulls. It was completely unknown to us, nothing in our databases resembled it.
We had something to work with now and a plan.
Returning to The Infinite Badger, we fired up our shuttle and took it out.
Chuck took the shuttle up two kilometres, the spaceport and town shrank away to a tiny dot ringed by a sea of green.
To one side the farmlands were bordered by an expansive forest and on the other was a range of barren, rocky mountains.
We reasoned that it seemed more likely that excavations would be found in mountains, so we flew that way.
The shuttle made easy work of the kilometres and soon we were hovering over the mountain range.
Using the shuttle's sensors we scanned the mountains for the unique crystal material we had found in the skulls.
There was a faint signal, we followed it down.
The mountainside showed signs of a recent geological disturbance - a cliff face had collapsed, revealing a cave mouth. According to the shuttle's sensors, the opening had a diameter of ten metres.
It looked like a good place to start, but we decided to continue searching. Further up the mountain slope there had been another geological subsidence, it had exposed another hole. this was a much smaller opening and a vertical shaft that led directly downwards. A visual scan revealed a set of stairs that descended.
The smaller entrance was clearly manmade, but to reach it we would have to land the shuttle in the foothills and trek up the mountain. The large opening was wide enough to fly the shuttle through.
We opted for the large opening.
Carefully Chuck took us in, flicking on the shuttle's external lights, they lit a peculiar looking chamber, partially natural and partially manmade. There was no one in the cave.
After landing and brandishing our eptacorders, we took a look around.
We quickly found a extinguished campfire, people had been here and recently too.
The cave was supported by several ancient looking stone columns. The walls were decorated with illustrations that looked akin to ideograms.
They depicted people of some kind presenting glowing gems to a crystal headed robed figure, the figure looked very large in comparison to the people.
Next we discovered an alcove, on the ground something was dimly reflecting our lights. Clearing away sand, we found something that looked similar to a transporter pad. It could not be activated, there was no apparent power source and no control console, a scan did not reveal anything either.
There were two ways out of this cave. A passageway and a set of manmade steps that wound their way downwards.
Before leaving we scanned for life-signs. The results displayed multiple different life-signs and signals from all around. The readings made no sense, Doc theorised that the cave interfered with results.
The scans had provided us with no help, we had to decide which exit to take. We knew that we were looking for catacombs and they tended to be underground, so we took the stairs down.
The stairs wound their way down to one end of a tunnel. In the glare of our flashlights it was clear that the tunnel was manmade and there was a door at the far end. As we moved on we also noticed that where tunnel walls met the floor, they had eroded in some way?
The door ahead had no handle or lock, neither did the wall it was set in.
Cautiously we approached it, when we got close enough it was apparent that some sort of sensor had been triggered as the door opened with a swish.
We went through.
Beyond the auto-door was another corridor, the floor gleamed curiously in our flashlights. It was flooded and it appeared that the flooding went on for the entire length of the passageway. On closer inspection the water was only a few centimetres deep.
Our flashlights could not penetrate the seemingly dark water and there was no way to tell if the tunnel floor dipped or the water got deeper.
Upon entering the corridor, the door swished shut behind us. We turned back to it and it seemed to be non-responsive for a moment before opening again. There was no telling the age of these doors right now, we wedged it open.
Our eptacorders told us that there were small aquatic lifeforms present in the water. After after activating the motion detectors in our eptacorders we slowly splashed forward along the corridor, tightly gripping our phasepistols as the eptacorders pinged.
Further along the water began to deepen, we also discovered it was uncomfortably cold. It continued to deepen until it reached our knees, still we pressed on and soon the water level began to drop again. By the time we were at the next door it was back to being only a few centimetres deep again.
This door opened into a rectangular room, we could two other ways out, left and right. Shallow flooding was also present in this area.
As we began examining the room, we heard noise.
Instantly we all fell silent: From one of the tunnels we could hear the recognisable sound of splashing footsteps, distorted undecipherable voices were reverberating along the tunnel. People were coming down the passageway!
If it was Red Betty and her crew, it was likely to end in a firefight. Quietly we moved into the corners and extinguished our lights.
The splashing continued in the dark until they reached the room, whoever they were, they were making do without light!
We flicked out flashlights on and were surprised by what we saw.
This was no pirate crew, caught in our lights were three strangely tall individuals.
They stood over two metres in height, their bodies looked artificial and constructed of some sort of plastic compound and something like brass. Strangest of all were their heads; sitting on the shoulders of each one was a skull!
Each skull was different in some way, in size or species or some other manner.
They stood still, silently observing us with their inscrutable gaping black eye sockets.
My Consortium training kicked in and I greeted them with the First Contact Directive.
"We mean you no harm, we come in peace. Please take us to your leaders," I said.
There was no response for a moment, then our omni-translators were forced to earn their keep.
"ARISE, TOIL, REJOICE," boomed their voices, echoing in the dark, flooded room.
I spoke to them again, asking them to elaborate?
They repeated the same phrase again, only louder and two of them began rubbing the walls?
Before we could even begin to fathom what they were doing, a sonorous wail filled the room, coming from somewhere deeper within and so loud that we could almost feel the mountain vibrate. It rose in volume as to almost become painful before it mercifully faded off.
Once the wail had stopped, the three mysterious creatures moved off at a pace down the other corridor. It was an effort for us to keep up with their long loping strides and we nearly lost them when an auto-door slid shut behind them. It took several attempts to trigger the sensor and we were forced to sprint to catch them as they turned down a corridor.
They kept moving and we kept following, they went down various corridors until they encountered and ascended some steps, once again we had trouble with the sensor and it too several attempts to trigger.
The door opened into an unusual chamber.
It was clearly an artificially room that had been constructed in exactly cubic proportions and was forty metres to a side.
At the centre of the room was a massive black cube, also with exactly cubic proportions and twenty metres across each face.
There was something indescribably unsettling about staring at the cube, it was somehow black than black and uniformly lacked features across all of its faces. The light from our flashlights did not reflect off of it at all and was seemingly swallowed by the cube.
Scanning it with our eptacorders was useless, they did not detect the existence of the cube at all!
It was as if that part of space was occupied by nothing.
Our position was closest to one corner and we could see some sort of scaffolding or frame had been constructed around the cube.
From where we were it seemed that steps had been built at all four corners, these led up to a walkway just above the top of the cube that exactly followed the perimeter of the cube's top face.
As we observed the black cube, we heard voices from round the other side of it? We also heard the unmistakable sound of a clinking chisel chipping away at something, possibly rock?
The two creatures had disappeared from sight, no doubt they had gone round one side of the cube.
Instead of going round the cube to confront whoever was there, we decided to climb the frame and see if we could get a more advantageous view point from the high ground.
We climbed the steps at the south-east corner and when we got up to the walkway we could see that something had happened to part of the frame.
The walkway along the northern edge had been entirely removed and repurposed to form a walkway to the centre of the cube's top face from the western walkway
At the end of this walkway, at the centre of the cube's top face was a gigantic skull, protruding from the temples were a pair of curling ram's horns. The skull measured at two metres across!
We had no idea what this represented.
This was not the time to try and solve this mystery though, instead we quietly moved along the walkway to the north-west corner of the cube.
Cautiously we peered over the cube's edge. Red Betty was there, along with thirteen pirates. She was standing around whilst they were digging into the ground, clearly searching for something. Accompanying them was someone who was obviously not a pirate, it was Lester we surmised.
Close by were the three creatures were lying sprawled on the ground unmoving.
The pirates seemed to be moving strangely, it made us suspicious, something was wrong? We scanned them and the results showed that they were all infested with Alien Brain Worms - all except for Lester!
As we continued watching, the black cube began emitting a tremendous howl, so intense that we felt ourselves beginning to vibrate.
Wincing from noise, we were surprised when suddenly, twisting bolts of lightning flickered out from the cube. The pirates dived for cover, but one was too slow, a flailing tendril of electricity struck him squarely and he was atomised.
Then as abruptly as the lightning had began, it ended
Luckily none of us had been hit.
In the moments that the lightning appeared, our eptacorders had unexpectantly began flashing and pinging. Checking them revealed that this lightning seemed to be composed of the same type of energy our eptacorders emitted when performing a scan. Except in the case of the lightning, that energy was massively amplified.
It not take the pirates very long to recover and resume digging. It was decided that whatever they were digging, it would not be a good idea to allow them to acquire it.
Since they were mostly gathered round the north-west corner of the cube, we decided to split up and catch them in a crossfire.
Chuck and LISA went to the south-west corner while the Doc and I went to the north-east corner.
As we were moving towards our spots, Lester spotted Chuck and LISA moving into position.
Chuck raised an index finger to his lips indicating be quiet, but Lester was too shocked by what he saw. In desperation LISA stunned him with her phasepistol and Lester collapsed, incredibly none of the pirates noticed, entirely focussed on their digging!
Once we were in position, we ambushed the pirates!
We were forced to set our phasepistols to the VFD setting as infested victims could shrug off stun shots.
Chuck and LISA shot at the pirates and several went down, the others ducked round the north side of the cube - right into more phaser fire from Doc and I. We managed to hit a few more, but the remaining pirates reached for their own phasepistols!
I saw a pirate levelling his phase pistol in my direction, before he could open fire I desperately hurled myself behind the east side of the cube. losing my footing on some loose gravel as I did....
....Multicoloured patterns of light swam before my eyes, strangely contorting, swirling and merging into unceasingly undulating shapes. a mesmerising luminated dance floating before me.
Time passed and the colours settled into into a trio of blurred columns.
After what seemed like the passing of an aeon that I knew was only actually a moment, the three columns seemed to squirm into focus. LISA, Chuck and the Doc were standing over me, half silhouetted against sunlight shining in from outside the cave mouth, they were staring at me intently?
LISA told me not to move.
I tried moving; when I tried to sit up my muscles ached and my limbs felt numb? I was lying on the ground, something uncomfortable under my back?
LISA explained that I had taken a grazing brush from a phaser shot that had been set to VFD and it had stunned me.
The mission was now over and soon we would be returning to The Infinite Badger. The crew filled me in on what had transpired since I can become senseless
After the first exchange of phaser fire, both the Doc and I had been stunned.
Red Betty, realising it was a trap, had sprinted down an adjoining tunnel.
Chuck dealt with the remaining pirates and LISA chased Red Betty.
LISA relentlessly pursued Red Betty, who not possibly outrun her. LISA quickly caught up with the pirate captain and made good use of her Laser Incision function. She used the medical apparatus to stab Red Betty through the head, penetrating the skull and killing the Alien Brain Worm nested within.
With one stroke, both the Alien Brain Worm and Red Betty were dead.
Chuck in the meantime, was dealing with the remaining Alien Brain Worms, phaser blasts were enough to deal with space pirates, but the parasitic worms needing dealing with separately when they emerged from their victims' bodies.
It was now when the cube emitted yet another painfully loud howl; the time between these howls was decreasing. As before, jagged bolts of lightning flashed out from the cube, one of them struck my unconscious form and I disappeared!
LISA returned just as Chuck finished off the last of the worms by kicking it at the cube, the Alien Brain Worm vanished as it struck the cube?
Once the Doc and Lester were revived, they all moved away from the black cube.
The crew spoke with the tomb robber and he explained that Red Betty had found him at his home and forced him to lead the space pirates here. Lester added that while he was gathering his gear for the journey, the pirate's had become distracted for a moment. He took the opportunity to send out a warning message to Consortium Command.
Lester then went on to explain as much about the catacombs that he had learnt in his studies.
The black cube was some sort of power source for the reactor that powered the ancient city that was located on the surface of ΑΔΔ long ago.
According to Lester, the original inhabitants of ΑΔΔ were mostly described as some sort of nonconformist flower children who had lived close to the sea and settled along the shoreline. It was said that they could wield magic, control dragons and that they were known as The Coastal Wizards.
The Coastal Wizards were said to live lives of ease; the plastic and brass creatures we had earlier encountered were an ancient autonomous slave race who served The Coastal Wizards and were known as The Gaxygyarg.
According to Lester; the wall art we had seen earlier seemed to depict the mysterious crystals we found inside skulls at Lester's home.
When a Coastal Wizards died, their crystalline brains would eventually become precious stones that were donated to and used by the giant figure.
Finally Lester surmised that the massive skull on top of the black cube might have belonged some other inhabitant here? Maybe a Coastal Wizard, or the giant in the wall-art?
When we asked Lester what Red Betty was looking for, he told the crew she was searching for the black cube's the controller. With it, she could control Gaxygyargs, Red Betty would then have the power to conquer ΑΔΔ and even other planets.
As the crew were contemplating their move and what had occurred to me they felt a presence behind them?
Turning around, they saw an individual who was nearly two-and-a-half metres tall and dressed in robes?
He introduced himself as Korm The Adept.
Korm explained to the crew that he was here to regain control of the black cube.
The crew asked him what he knew about the cube and in particular about the lightning discharges? Korm told them that anyone who was hit by the lightning may have been teleported or disintegrated! Korm went on to say that if someone is disintegrated, a fine dusty residue is left behind hanging in the air and slowly floats to the ground. If someone was teleported away, they would vanish with a pop.
The crew realised that I had been teleported somewhere? Korm said that I would have been sent to one of numerous transporter pads location throughout the underground complex.
The crew scanned for my life-signs and found me in the cave that we had first entered the catacombs, close to our shuttle.
The crew asked what else Korm might know about the cube. He became evasive, but did admit to the crew that he served The Master as his apprentice and finally he rather ominously added that his master would be reborn.
The crew and Lester left Korm to it and returned to the cave mouth where they found and revived me. We returned Lester to his home and returned to The Infinite Badger.
Leaving the Clara Pandy in the custody of the port authorities here, we blasted off into space.
The mystery of Red Betty and The Clara Pandy had been solved.
The threat of the Alien Brain Worms had finally been bought to an end.
End of Explorer's Log 04.
Medical Log 4
Pilot's Log #4
Science Officer’s Log 4
Reading, writing, playing and painting are the things that I do.