Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Frozen Mountaintop, Unknown Location
Timeline: Following “A Lukewarm Welcome”
The cry pierced the darkness, followed by a small series of thuds, leaving imprints in the thick snow. Over the ridge of one of the small craters, Claire Lafayette raised her head, urgently brushing snow off her face. She hadn’t the faintest idea how she’d gotten hear. A second ago, she’d been assisting the science station on the bridge. Now, she found herself on some ice coated mountain, apparently in the dead of night.
She was wearing her survival suit, it’s light blue striping visible against the dark blue on the rest of it. How exactly it had replaced her blue uniform dress, she couldn’t be sure. But she wasn’t upset about it.
Once she’d cleared the frozen particles from her face, she let out an uncertain call. “I-i-is anyone there?”
From off to the side came a disgruntled curse. "Snow. Of course it had to be bloody snow" Kenna Wolff came over a slight rise, her own survival suit dusted in the offending substance. "Ensign Lafayette" She greeted and held out a hand to help the Ensign to her feet.
Claire grunted as she was pulled to her feat. “Thank you, Commander. Do you know how we got here?” She brushed herself off before noticing something she wouldn’t have expected. A tricorder, strapped to her belt. And a phaser to Kenna’s as well. “Oh...it would appear you’re also armed.”
"Not that it will do much good against such a being." Kenna mused. "We got placed here by that... being on the bridge. We are in his idea of a game. I'd like to be able to show him what I think of his game. But first we need to find anyone else around here."
Colby laid on the snow covered ground, unconscious. A phaser rifle laid next to him.
Claire walked over to the third, unconscious form on the ground. "It's Pierce. But I think he's out cold," she said, back toward Kenna before giving shaking the unconscious security officer. "Ensign Pierce, wake up. We gotta get moving."
Kenna assessedthe situation and said "Ensign if he does not wake, we leave him. We can not carry his weight in an unknown situation. We need to find shelter and supplies, and frankly the two of us are not able to do that and carry a dead weight." It was a cold way of speaking but Kenna knew that for Claire and her to survive, sacrifices would have to be made if Pearce didn't come around. She was not a doctor nor a nurse nightingale.
Colby started to move, the bolted upright, looked around and saw Kenna and Claire. He was confused at first, but quickly regained his senses. "Where are we?" He stood up, and picked up the rifle. "How did we get here?"
“We’re...” Claire looked around. She didn’t exactly have the answer herself. They were high up on some bluff on a mountain. Snow and ice coated it in every visible direction. And denser storm seemed to be rolling in. They were nowhere good. “We’re somewhere. Doesn’t really matter where at the moment, if we don’t get out of this cold. As for how we got here, that Typhon individual seems to have sent us here.”
Kenna took a breath. She looked around. "Cliffs that way, snow plains the other. Cliffs it is." She pulled her jacket hood up. "Stick together and watch your steps."
Claire pulled out her tricorder, and aimed it in the direction of the cliffs. "I'm picking up some gaps in the rock ahead. Could be caves potentially? Or overhangs at least. I think either would help provide some shelter."
Colby raised his rifle and inspected it, then he targeted a rock 100 meters distance, and fired.
Kenna turned and grabbed the rifle from Pearce. "ENSIGN ARE YOU FUCKING CRAZY?" She wanted to hit him. "ARE YOU TRYING TO CAUSE AN AVALANCHE? " this was delivered in a low hissing tone, but you could definitely hear that the words were spoken in capital letters. "OF ALL THE IDIOTIC THINGS I HAVE EVER SEEN...!" anger strangled the rest of her words. She turned and dropped the rifle on the ground and looked towards the cliffs, looking for signs that doom was forthcoming.
"Commander, I had to see if the rifle was operational. This could be a dream, for all we know." He bend over and picked up the rifle. He thought to himself, ~if I'm going to stranded here with her, I might put the rifle to my head and end it.~
Claire could see the conflict brewing between the two already and she wasn't about to freeze to death as they fought. "Ok, looks like the mountain isn't going to come down on us, luckily. Pierce, I think there had to be a better way to handle it next time. Checking the charge on the battery or firing downhill or something. But regardless, I'd like to get out of this freezing wind and maybe find somewhere that doesn't suck."
Kenna didn't say a word. But deep down she wanted to shoot the stupid security Ensign. She did not, it should be noted, have weird dreams as a rule and she surely would not be dreaming about some meatheaded ensign from security if she did. She set out towards their location, half hoping Peirce would go the other way.
Pierce looked at Claire. "If this is a dream, or an illusion, then checking the charge wouldn't necessarily be accurate. Firing, at a target 100 meters away, was the best option...and one that is in the security manual. So I was following procedure, Ensign." At this point, he was starting not to care what the commander did or didn't do.
Claire took a deep breath. She half wondered if the grouping was an intentional choice by Typhon, one that would have them at each other's throats. Rank be damned, she wasn't about to freeze on a mountain top because people couldn't play nice. "Alright, let's all calm down. I understand that procedure dictates you should check your weapon. But a lot of security procedures were written without checking with the Science department. We're on top of a very cold, very snow covered mountain. Those tend to be prone to avalanches. And discharging a phaser beam up here can present a few dangers. It can melt snow, leading to a change in the consistency of the ice underneath. It can scatter rocks, which could start a cascade effect. The concussion wave can cause a fracture and send half the mountain downhill. Every step we take is dangerous up here, and god forbid the two of you get in a fist fight, you could dislodge the ice from half the mountain. We're lucky our arrival here didn't do so. So how about everyone holster your weapons and your fists and let's get to some stable ground, ok?"
Colby nodded. "Acknowledged." Colby look at the mountain side. "This part is too steep for us to try to climb without the proper equipment. I suggest we try moving along the path, in hope of finding better conditions, commander."
Claire ran her tricorder in front of them before nodding. "I'd have to agree. The snow is too lose in most other directions. I think we make our way toward the caves on level with us. We at least can try and get a fire going in cover."
"I concur." Colby added. "I'll take point, and when we reach the caves, I'll go first and scout the interior of the cave."
Kenna narrowed her gaze and weighed the options. "Fine but if you cause a cave in, I am not digging you out."
The trio slowly trudged their way along the path, carefully avoiding slip falls. It was slow, arduous, cold travel, but eventually they made their way to the mouth of a series of caves.
Claire pulled out the tricorder, her shivering hand nearly dropping it as the metal slid on the slick icy coating on her glove. "M...ma'am. The cave system seems to go a good distance into the mountainside. T...t...temperature is warmer in there...Warmer than it should be."
Again Colby ignored the remark made by the commander. "If I cause a cave in, commander, it's probably because I was attacked by something...and anyway, you wouldn't have to dig me out...I'd probably be dead." Colby shines the light from his rifle into the cave. "I'll go about 25 yards, that should be enough to see any indications of animal life inside." He entered the cave, and disappeared from view of the others.
Much to the Ensign’s surprise, the cave seemed to just keep going. A full 30 meters in, the cave felt almost as if it had just started. The air at this point was noticeably warmer, and more importantly, not stagnant. It was almost as if a warm breeze was winding its way through cave.
There was no evidence of any animal life inside the cave, which surprised him, considering the weather outside some animals would logically stay here in the cave.
By 50 meters, Pierce had seen enough, and he started back towards the entrance and the others.
Back outside, Lafayette suddenly stood straight up. “Umm...Commander! I just detected something large and metal. Located just a few hundred meters past the cave. I can’t tell what if is, but it’s easily 30 meters long.”
Kenna nodded. "Lets go have a look once Pierce gets back."
A moment or two later, Claire heard Colby’s footsteps approaching. She’d been trying to amplify the signal for the last several minutes. “What the hell is that thing?” she muttered, wondering what kind of huge metal object they’d find on the other side of the cliff. She turned to Colby. “What’s down there?”
Colby paused because he didn't know what she meant at first. "Only thing I saw were rocks, some stalacites and stalagmites. Saw no evidence of any animal life, and found some moss, but no indications of plant life."
Claire's brow furrowed. "Moss? That doesn't make a ton of sense..." She pointed the tricorder down the cave. It seemed to stretch a good distance, each step of the way, it seemed to warm up a bit. It was actually relatively temperate a few hundred meters in. "Ok. Let's check out my weird metal object and then I think we should head back here. That cave seems to get warmer the farther in you go. And it doesn't seem to be volcanic heat. No sulfur coming up. I could be crazy, but I think this cave might open up somewhere a bit warmer and farther down the mountain."
"A metal object? I didn't see anything like that on my search." Colby asked.
Claire made a dismissive wave of her hand as she continued to consult the tricorder. "Not in the cave. It's out here, around the next bend in the mountainside."
The trio carefully circled the mountain, ultimately making their way around a precariously narrow pass. But on the other side, they were greeted by an object none of them would have expected.
"What the hell?" Claire let out quietly, just barely audible above the whistling of the wind.
In front of them, a 40 meter long metal cylinder sat atop a pair of narrow, parallel metal beams, which seemed to stretch off, away from the mountainside and toward the massive stone fortress far on the distant horizon. A rail transportation system of some sort. And a relatively advanced one, though clearly aged.
"A transportation device of some kind." Colby looked at what seemed to be the control panel. "Do we risk it, commander?"
"If it works" Kenna replied "Otherwise we can at least follow the tracks. They may lead us to where we need to be."
The three walked over toward the train. It was thoroughly iced over. As if it had been here a very long time. The rails were now little more than a suspended set of beams. Any cross tracks having crumbled. It looked as if the train could still run, but walking it would be like walking a tight rope...for miles.
Claire scanned back and forth over the front car. “I’m not detecting any sign of a power source in there. But the train itself looks intact. If we could restore its power, it might be able to get us over there. But we don’t have any of the equipment with us we’d need for that kind of thing. And at the rate the temperature is dropping, we’d probably freeze to death first.”
"True. but being inside it would be best." Kenna mused. She looked at them and took in the assembled items. Then she looked back down the slope. Then she turned back to it. "A tight beam from the phaser may melt the ice if held at a constant stream. But it could melt the metal totally."
Claire nodded. "As long as you keep it moving, it should melt the ice but not last long enough to melt the metal underneath."
Colby looked at the metal. "A wide beam on a lower setting would do the job, commander." Colby reset his rifle, then aimed at the car, pulled the trigger and the rifle came to life. The beam slowly melted the ice, while leaving the metal unharmed.
The ice melted away, leaving the door latch accessible. Claire hopped up to pull on it, but it didn't budge. "Latch should be working, but it might need a bit more strength than I can manage."
"Excuse me, ensign." Colby walked up, grabbed the latch, put his foot on the panel and pulled....tried again when the first attempt didn't work...and yanked as hard as he could.....then the door opened. "There you go."
"Why thank you." Claire climbed into the car with an assist from Colby. The car was frigid, though without the cutting wind that surrounded them outside. The science officer retrieved a hand torch from her belt and aimed the light down the narrow hallway. "I think the control room is just down this way."
Colby looked in the direction she indicated. "I'll take point." He raised his rifle and swept the way with his flashlight.
Kenna didn't argue. She could not be bothered.
The three worked their way down the dark aisle of the train until they came across a closed compartment door. With a quick adjustment or two, the door opened to reveal the control room. Claire walked over to the panel, swiping her tricorder across it. "Systems all seem intact. We just don't have a power source. If we could replace it, I could get us back in business." She paused, looking over a bit more of the room. "Well...I could get us turned down. But based on the panels I'm seeing, I think that was the control system."
She pointed toward a section of the panel. It was a bit darker than the rest and it took a moment for it to become clear why. It was charred, with a small hole blown in the middle of it. Some sort of energy weapon fired at the panel a long time ago.
Colby flashed his rifle's light beam into the hole to get a good look. "I'm no engineer, but it looks like either the power cell that drove this thing either exploded, or someone blasted a hole in it and removed it." He looked at Claire, "If we were able to bypass the control panel, could we get this thing running?"
Claire knelt next to the panel, looking at it under the light. "Possibly. I think it'd depend on if power to the train was supplied from somewhere on the craft or if the rails were the power source. If we had a portable power supply, I could probably get a good idea of what was going. But unless one of you happens to have a backup generator, we're going to need to find an alternative. Your caves lead somewhere warm right? Maybe there's some thing that way we can salvage parts from."
She looked around for a moment, before her eyes settled upon his rifle. "Or...I might be able to briefly power the computer systems. I don't think you're going to like where I want to draw the power from though."
He saw that she was eying his rifle. "To tell you the truth, Ensign, I had the same idea."
Claire turned to their superior. “Commander? We’d potentially be down to just your pistol.”
Colby looked at Claire, "Too bad I didn't have any extra power cells on me." He turned to face the commander.
Kenna nodded at Claire. "Lets do it."
Claire got to work, removing the power cell from Colby’s rifle and hooking it up to the power relays. She hoped she’d be able to preserve some of the charge, but without a way to test if the wires were intact, there was no way to ensure efficiency. After a few minutes, she had finally rigged it. “Alright, her goes nothing.”
Powering it on, the panel briefly lit up...before a shower of sparks and a series of surges sent it into a spin. But after a moment, it stabilized. The screen to their left lit up, displaying a digital map.
Claire assessed the situation. “Ok. Looks like this train is tied into a power grid. It seems to run throughout a lot of this place. Problem is, the main generator that’s supposed to run these trains seems to be offline. I’ve found what looks like a control panel about 2 kilometers away...and on the other side of this mountain we’re on. Any chance your caves went that way?”
Colby checked the map, and his memory. "I didn't go that deep into the caves, but at my furthest point, before turning around, I did feel a breeze coming from further inside the cave, so there might be a way to this control panel. Anyway, we have nothing to lose trying."
Kenna stood in silence for a moment and then nodded. "Lets go have a look."
With a quick sizzling pop, Claire disconnected the power cell from the panel and the ship went dark again. She examined it for a moment before handing it back to the tactical officer. "Well...it at least has some charge left. I wouldn't set it to rapid fire mode, but you should be able to use it still."
Colby took the power cell from her and inserted it into his rifle. "Maybe have one quarter charge......so far we haven't seen anything threatening, so maybe we'll be lucky."
Claire nodded. "I think that's about all we're going to find here of use though. At least until that power relay is on. Commander, shall we head out?"
"Pierce take point, Ensign Lafayette, in the middle. I will take rear guard." Kenna said softly. "Move out carefully. No unnecessary risks."
Pierce nodded at the commander and took point. He started walking, keeping an eye out on front of them, and also checking the others from time to time.