AOH :: GEIGER09.TXT|
"Q and A" 9 of 16
Chris entered the gym looking for something to do.
Looking around, he saw a volleyball game in progress. In
other areas, people were lifting weights, jogging, and doing
exercizes, but most of the people there were gathered near
the volleyball court. Many because they were unfamiliar with
the game, not being native to Earth. Others because their
friends were playing. Still others stood there because they
had nothing better to do. Among the crowd, Chris recognized
many familiar faces.
As he entered, they elbowed their way out of the
crowd to surround him. They all began talking at once,
asking him what had happened.
Chris chose not to answer until they had all quieted
down. J'ff, a Tellarite male, bellowed happily, "I'm glad
you're back, you rotten space scum." Insults were the way
Tellarites expressed friendship.
"I'm glad, too, J'ff, you mangy hairball," Chris
tried feebly. He didn't sound it.
"You should be happy. Chris, you're a hero!" said
someone from the back of the crowd.
"No, I'm not. I just did what anyone else would have
done in the same situation," he protested.
"Sure, anyone else would have done it, but you're the
one who actually DID it. You saved the ship and everyone
owes you a debt of gratitude," J'ff said, trying to convince
"Captain Picard already thanked me and Doctor Pulaski
says she respects me for outwitting Q. That's way more than I
needed or expected."
"Well, we're proud of you, if it means anything,"
snorted J'ff, de facto spokesman for the group.
"That's all I wanted to hear. See, I'm happy now."
True, Chris' mood had brightened alot since he first entered
the Rec deck.
Together, they walked over to the volleyball court.
The game had broken up by now, but several people were
playfully hitting the ball back and forth over the net.
Chris and J'ff joined in, the others preferring to watch.
Soon, ten people were on the court. A game was soon
organized. Chris' team consisted of himself, J'ff, Sonya
Gomez from Engineering, the Andorian Theltok, and Mark
Bentley, a Rec deck attendent. Their opponents were Bill
and Ted Kelso, the twin maintenance cadets, Ray Smith, a
civilian student, and Steve Bennett and Larry Howard,
computer technicians. Despite a valiant effort, one which
left Chris in serious doubt about his decision to play, his
team lost 19 - 17. The teams shook hands and left the court
to let others use it. Chris headed off for 10-Forward for
"Mister Data, what is our current ETA?" asked Picard.
"1.75 hours, sir."
"Mister Worf, status."
Worf had returned from making the preparations for
his shuttle mission. "All ship's systems are functioning at
normal levels. Sensors detect no ships in our vicinity,"
replied the Klingon.
"I have serious doubts about my perception of normalcy,
Mister Worf. Keep me informed of any changes," ordered Picard.
On the screen, three ships shimmered into existence
and solidified. Their green hulls and stylized markings were
"Captain, three Klingon battlecruisers have just
decloaked and are powering up their disruptors and photon
torpedoes! Point blank range," shouted Worf.
"I think we can all see that, Worf," snapped Picard.
"Red alert. Shields up, Data. Worf, ready phasers and load
torpedo bays. Wait for my order to fire."
"Shields up, Captain."
On the screen, a sparkling ball of red fire erupted
from the nose of each battlecruiser and sped toward the
Enterprise. The ship rocked with each hit.
"Shields holding at 54% efficiency. Minor hull
damage. Shields rebuilding," reported Data.
"Worf, fire phasers at their engine pods. Disable
them," ordered Picard..
Worf hesitated for a moment, then stepped back from
his station. He stood looking straight ahead. "I cannot,
"Lieutenant, I gave you a direct order," said Picard
"Captain, these are my people. I will not fire on
them," Worf said defiantly.
On the screen, sizzling disruptor beams lanced out
at the Enterprise. Again the ship shook. "Shields down to
14%," reported Data.
"Mister Worf, fire those phasers or get off my Bridge!"
"I am sorry, sir. But I will not fire."
"Mister Worf, you are relieved from duty. Report
to the brig. I'm sure you know the way."
"Yes, Captain," said Worf sullenly as he left the
Bridge. Riker jumped over the railing part way up the aft
ramp and took Worf's position at Tactical. He immediately
fired tight beam blasts at their attackers. The Klingons'
engine pods burst open amid the flash of vaporized metal,
leaving behind the sparking arcs of fused electrical circuits.
"The Klingons have been disabled, sir. I read their
power levels at 11% nominal. They have only life support
and limited subspace communications range," reported Data.
"Thank you, Mister Data," said Picard. "Damage
"Minimal damage to forward saucer decks. Shields at
38% and holding. Engineering crews are at work trying to
increase power to the shields," stated Riker, reading the
information off of Worf's console.
"Open hailing fre--" Picard was cut off as the
ship rocked as a blinding light emanated from the viewscreen.
The Enterprise pitched back and forth under the force of the
colliding debris left from the exploding Klingon ships.
"They must have done that deliberately. In order to
prevent us from capturing them," thought Riker out loud.
"Perhaps they hoped to destroy us in the process,"
hypothesized Data. "They did succeed in rendering us
defenseless. Our shields are down."
"You are both correct. I sensed great fear and
hatred from those three ships. They were afraid of us and
of what we might do to them should they be captured," spoke
"The Klingons used anti-Federation propaganda to
make their people fear and loathe humans. The Federation
was made out to be a group of bloodthirsty monsters set on
galactic domination. In addition, they were trained to kill
themselves, rather than be taken alive," informed Data.
"That's all very well, Data, but we still have a
mission to perform. I have a feeling that the Federation's
time is running out, if the information you gave me was
correct, Number One," said Picard.
"It was as correct as anything concerning Q can be,
sir. But the fact that Q can travel through time makes me
nervous. He could pop up at any time," worried Riker.
"It's something we'll have to live with, Number One.
Mister Crusher, resume course and speed to Vexis Corihni VI,"
ordered Picard wearily, tired of having to repeat himself,
tired of the interruptions, and, most of all, tired of Q.
"Aye, sir. Warp 5 to Vexis Corihni VI," answered
After an hour and forty-five minutes had passed,
Wes reported, "Slowing to one-half impulse power."
"Full range sensor sweep initiated," said Ensign
Ferrar from Tactical. "No sign of anything out of the
"Commander Data, launch a Class-1 probe to Vexis
Corihni VI. Full instrumentation. I want as much information
as is humanly possible to get," said Picard.
"But, Captain, regrettably, I am not hu--" One look
at Picard silenced the android before he could finish his
lament: "human." "Probe launched, sir," he reported instead.
"Ensign Ferrar, anything registering on your scans?"
"Nothing, sir. As far as I can tell, everything is
as it should be," replied the tall Andorian in the sibilant
whisper peculiar to his race.
"Mister Crusher, assume a standard orbit. Commander
Riker, get a survey team together and use a shuttlecraft to
search the planet for these creatures," said Picard. "Just
locate them, nothing else."
"Aye, sir. Data, come with me." Tapping his combadge,
Riker said, "Lieutenants LaForge, Rubino, and Aures, report
to Shuttlebay 1 for a reconnaisance mission. Riker out."
Riker and Data left the Bridge together, planning the
mission. As they left, Ensign Harris arrived on the Bridge
and slid into Data's chair, swinging the control panel into
position in front of her. After a few seconds, she reported
to Picard. "Information from the probe, sir: Surface
temperature sixty degrees Centigrade, wind speed ninety
kilometers per hour, visibility five feet. The planet is
just like Earth in it's early history. Numerous volcanic
eruptions, seas of boiling mud, no lifesigns, emmense
"Thank you, Ensign," acknowledged Picard. "Maybe
Commander Riker can find some of these non-existent creatures,"
he said to himself thoughtfully.
In Shuttle Bay 1, Riker's survey team was gathering.
Data, of course, had come with Riker. Lieutenant LaForge was
waiting for them when they arrived, followed soon by Rubino
"I assume you all know what you're here for," stated
Riker. When no one said anything, he said, "Good, let's get
As the five officers approached shuttlecraft 3, DaVinci,
Lieutenant Phyllis Rubino, her black hair brushing the shoulders
of her science uniform, asked, "Commander, if the sensor readings
are correct, won't the electrical storms interfere with
Riker looked at Data, signalling him to reply. "Yes,
Lieutenant, you are partially correct. We will not be able to
contact the Enterprise, but they will be able to contact us.
The ship's communications equipment is much more powerful than
any of our shuttlecrafts'."
"In addition, we'll have to watch out for those volcanoes.
Molten rock is shot nearly to the outer edge of the atmosphere
and then falls back, superheating in the process," added Jill
Aures. The geophysicist was short by human standards. She had
a full head of jet black hair and a slim figure.
"How dangerous are they to the shuttlecraft?" asked
"On the way up, they could blast a hole through the
hull. On the way down, they're hot enough to melt through
the exterior plates of the Enterprise like a laser through
butter. The small ones will only shake us up a bit. I don't
even want to think about what the large one's could do!"
answered Geordi worriedly.
"See that we don't find out, Geordi," said Riker.
"You'll be our pilot, as well as using your VISOR to analyze
the planet's atmosphere. Data will assist you. Rubino,
you're our xenobiologist. You'll be in charge of getting as
much information as possible about these creatures, as well
as trying to classify them. Aures, this is our big chance
to study a planet in its infancy. See that we don't miss
With that they boarded the DaVinci, Riker in the lead,
and completed the pre-flight checks. Riker signaled the Bridge,
"Shuttle 3 ready for departure."
Picard's voice came back "Acknowledged. Bon voyage,
"Thank you, sir. DaVinci out. Okay, Geordi, let's
"Aye, Commander." LaForge's hands moved over the
control panel with grace and precision. The shuttle slowly
slid forward, picking up speed as the doors to Shuttle Bay 3
parted and the warning signal sounded. The DaVinci flew out
of the neck of the Enterprise, between its hulking warp
nacelles. As the DaVinci passed, their blue light briefly
illuminated the cockpit, glinting off Geordi's VISOR as they
dipped down toward the planet's surface.
"Hang on, folks. Things get bumpy from here on in,"
warned Geordi. It proved to be something of an understatement,
as the shuttlecraft lurched violently from side to side.
"I'll try to find a more moderate climate," shouted Geordi
through clenched teeth.
All around them rocks leapt and fell. Sending off
sparks and trailing by streaks of flame, the were almost as
bright as the lightning that burst everywhere, arcing across
the dark sky.
To Geordi, it appeared beautiful. He could see the
magnetic fields and thermal radiation of everything
surrounding the shuttle. It took all his effort to take in
the sights around him while fighting to keep the shuttle airborn.
Finally, after many tense minutes, the buffeting died down to a
"Good work, Lieutenant. Everyone alright back here?"
Riker turned to look at Rubino and Aures. Both were nearly as
pale as Data, but nodded to indicate that they felt up to the
task at hand.
Geordi pilotted the shuttle as Data, Rubino, and Aures
went about their tasks. After awhile, Riker took over the
controls from LaForge, so that he could join in the analysis.
Suddenly, Rubino looked up. "Commander, I think I've
got something. Come around to course 103 mark 330."
The shuttle turned as it made the 30 degree dive below
the horizontal. A flash of lightning pierced the roiling clouds
around them, allowing them to see the creature for the first time.
"It resembles as Earth sea creature known as a jellyfish.
Its tentacles absorb energy and channel it to the sac on top
where it is converted into some form of nutrients," reported
"I don't know if you can see this, but there's more
to that thing than just tentacles and a body/bag," cautioned
"What do you see, Geordi?" asked Data.
"It looks like...I don't know exactly what it looks
like. It keeps changing shape and shifting up and down
through the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Everything except
The creature drifted towards the DaVinci, as if
curious about the strange intruder into its world. A
tentacle snaked out in the direction of the shuttle. As it
made contact with the DaVinci's outer skin, a brilliant flare
of lightning struck the port engine nacelle. A blinding
flash lit up the inside of the shuttle, and the creature
recoiled and fled in pain. Inside alarms sounded and consoles
sparked and sputtered. Everyone except Geordi and Data had
their hands tightly clasped over their eyes, moaning in pain.
"Can anyone see?" Riker managed to gasp, voice weak
"I can, Commander," answered Geordi. "My VISOR
protected me from the flare."
"What about you, Data?"
"Regrettably, my optic sensors were damaged in much
the same way as yours. My vision will return eventually, due
to my self-repair functions, sir."
"Geordi, can you get us back to the ship?"
"I'll try, Commander. The port nacelle took quite
a hit. No guarantees," answered the Chief Engineer, with
unaccostomed pessimism. The old saying about the blind
leading the blind crossed his mind, but he didn't speak it.
Slowly, ponderously, the shuttle spun on its
horizontal axis. It limped in the general direction of space,
struggling to gain altitude and at the same time avoid the
omnipresent showers and fountains of molten rock. Just as
it seemed they were safe, a rock the size of a man's fist
rocketed upwards, through the port nacelle, sending the
shuttle into a violent end over end tumble. As Geordi's
hands moved rapidly over his control board, trying to
reestablish control of the shuttle, Aures screamed in alarm
as her station exploded in a shower of sparks and plastic
shrapnel. Rubino and Riker felt their way over to her.
Aures was unconcious and Rubino's hands encountered a warm,
sticky wetness wherever she touched Aures. Still unable to
see, Riker felt his way down Aures' arm until he found her
wrist. He desperately felt for a pulse. It was there, though
barely perceptible. Her breathing was so shallow as to be
"LaForge!" Riker shouted through the acrid smoke that
was rapidly filling the cabin. "Get us back to the ship now!
Aures is dying!"
"I'm trying, sir, but we only have one functioning
engine and everything that's not destroyed is barely
"Are the shields still up?" asked Data.
"Shields 1, 2, and 4 are at 53%, 2 and 5 are down.
Shield 6, in the rear, is at 89%. Why?" A look of puzzlement
settled onto Geordi's face.
"At what distance would an 89% effective deflector
screen absorb and reflect the force of a small matter/anti-
matter explosion?" inquired the android.
"That depends on the size of the explosion. If we
detonate one of our engines..." A look of understanding lit
up LaForge's face. "Yes, Data! Of course! If we jettison
our port nacelle and drop it's containment field, we can bounce
the force of the explosion off our aft deflector and launch
ourselves out of here. Brilliant!"
Geordi set to work on the necessary calculations and
then told Data, "If we channel all power to the aft deflector,
we can survive the nacelle's explosion at a range of 3.738
kilometers. If it hits us squarely, that is."
"What happens if we're too close or it doesn't hit
us squarely?" Rubino asked anxiously.
"You remember the story of Icarus?"
"Yes, he flew too close to the sun and his wings of
wax melted. He --" she broke off dejectedly, face paling.
"He fell to Earth. That's us if this doesn't work,"
finished Geordi. "I've programmed the computer to drop the
nacelle's containment field at .4 kilometers just in case.
Before we get started, anyone who doesn't want to do this, I
suggest you get off now." No one moved or spoke. "Here
goes. Ejecting port-side engine nacelle." The shuttlecraft's
tumble shifted slightly as its weight became uneven. Geordi
channeled all power except minimal life support to the aft
shield. Aures was strapped into a chair by Riker and Rubino
before they belted themselves in. Geordi made sure both he
and Data were buckled in as he read off the nacelle's distance
from the drifting shuttle. "100 meters, 200 meters, 300
meters, 350 meters, 390 meters, brace yourselves! Four hun--"
His words were knocked out of him by the force of the
explosion. Everyone was pressed back into their seats as they
accelerated. The last thing Geordi remembered seeing before
he passed out was the Enterprise shining in the sky. Then
darkness closed in.
"Captain!" shouted Maggie Harris. "Sensors detect
something approaching at Warp 1.2. It's Commander Riker's
shuttle and its heading straight for the lower surface of
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