Charlton Ortega piloted his light scout ship “Lily Sloane” into the nebulous Murasaki 312 quasar-like formation at half impulse power not knowing if he and his three crew mates would make it back out again.
“Shields are nominal. Continuing sensor sweep. Still nothing.” Helen Olssen was both the ship’s systems expert and Ortega’s lover, and they were nothing alike. While he was impulsive, adventurous, and as dark as his Inca ancestors, the Swede from Uppsala was fair-skinned, blond to the point of having almost white hair, conservative, reserved, and studious. If Retenox Five hadn’t been invented, she would have been a natural for a pair of horned rim glasses.
“This whole area for a diameter of twelve light years is completely infused in a shell of hard radiation. If our shields drop even for a few seconds, we’ll sizzle like bacon on a griddle.” The navigator’s east Texas accent was what Ortega called “thick enough to cut with a knife.” Bethany “Red” Harrington checked her navcom against the readings of the old shuttlecraft that had visited the unknown planet more than a century ago. They’d been uploaded to the Enterprise’s ancient duotronic-based information system seconds before the Galileo Seven had burned up in the atmosphere, and hopefully they’d be enough to guide the Sloane on its mission. “You sure you can fly this thing under these conditions, Charlie?”
“Oh don’t call him Charlie, Red. He’s named after his favorite hero, although I don’t know how he can stand to watch those pathetic 20th century cinemas.” Tabitha Dorsey was the fourth member of the Sloane’s crew and the only one not at an active ship’s station, although she was a competent pilot. Most people would have thought the archaeologist and bio-molecular paleontologist signed on to the mission for glory, but she had known Ortega since they were kids, and she would have come along for friendship’s sake alone, or so Charlton believed.
“They’re called films or movies, Tabbycat, and I thought you’d grasped why Heston is my favorite the first time we saw ‘Planet of the Apes’ together.” Charlton winked at Red who chuckled while Helen ignored the transaction, continuing to monitor the ship’s sensors. “And for your information, I have plenty of piloting experience, so you needn’t worry about irradiating your supple form.” Ortega continued to laugh, but his stomach turned as he realized Helen probably wouldn’t appreciate his flirting with ‘Tabby.” She knew all too well, that he and the scientist had lost their virginity together on his fourteenth birthday. That flame had long since died, but jealousy was one of the emotions his current lover possessed in abundance, though she wouldn’t allow it to distract her, not while they were in space, anyway.
“Got it.” Helen was all too human as Charlton could attest, but she put as much emotion into her declaration as a Vulcan monk reciting his morning prayers. “Bearing 192 Mark 4, distance, 9.5 billion kilometers.”
“Adjusting heading now.” Red deftly made the course adjustment while Charlton manipulated the Impulse Engine controls.
“Increasing to full impulse. Time to arrival?”
“A little over three hours, Charlie,” the navigator shot back.
“Shields still at maximum. Radiation readings are off the charts.”
“They’ll drop once we’re in the vicinity of the planet.” Ortega nodded at Helen. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.”
“If you say so…Charlie.” The unanticipated joke from the normally stoic Olssen made everyone laugh.
“Red, you’ve been a bad influence on Helen. I’m going to have to spank both of you when we get back to Rigel.”
“I’ve got a phaser here that says otherwise, you sexist, Neanderthal throwback.” The Texan patted the weapon attached to her right hip.
“I wish we didn’t have to land, but the neurogenic particles in the upper atmosphere make transport too risky.” Helen was scanning the area with her tricorder as the other three kept watch. “I’m picking up a group of indigenous beings, I’d say ten or twelve, five kilometers to the southwest.” I don’t think they saw our ship land as they’re heading away from our position.”
“That’s a good thing because from what the Enterprise logs say about them, they’re not the kind of life forms I’d like to meet.”
“I thought being a paleontologist, those critters would be your best friends.” Red nudged Tabitha lightly in the ribs while shaking her head, tousling her flaming crimson mane.
“That’s not the kind of discovery I’m here to make, Texas.” At 1.78 meters, the African-American San Francisco native was the tallest of the four except for Ortega who was only four centimeters taller. “We’re here to find the bodies, remember?”
“Boma, Gaetano, and Latimer. They’re our targets, and they should have been buried together right around…” Ortega swept his arm in the general vicinity in front of him.
“I think I’ve got something. Ten meters straight ahead, at a depth of approximately 1.8 meters.” Helen pointed toward a group of rocks just visible through the low mist that clung to their ankles. “There’s something else. I didn’t pick it up before. Must be some heavy ore deposits…” Helen didn’t have a chance to finish her sentence as a series of trapdoors made of large, flat stones sprang up, revealing five hairy aboriginals, each one easily three meters or more in height, leaping to the planet’s surface.
“Phasers,” Ortega commanded.
“Oh, you think?” was Red’s retort as she aimed her particle weapon at the nearest creature and fired at the maximum stun setting. It felled the massive being, making him drop his spear and shield back down the hole he came from. Helen and Charlton dropped another two, one collapsing back down into his hidden well, but Tabitha’s phaser beam bounced off the shield of one of the creatures. Too close to use his spear, he hit Dorsey with the same shield, knocking her to the ground.
Red fired again hitting the fifth adversary in the face, causing him to roar and fall backwards, while Ortega shot at the ape-like monster standing over the now unconscious Tabitha. A great paw swatted Charlton’s phaser out of his hand and then the monster tried to hit his head with the spear shaft. The pilot ducked as Helen swung around to the creature’s back and fired her phaser.
With all five natives now unconscious, Ortega gently shook Dorsey by the shoulders. “Come on. Wake up. We can’t stay here.”
“Oh, Charlie. You say the sweetest things,” she murmured.
“Tart. Get up.”
“Chauvinist. I’ll get up when I’m ready.”
“Get ready,” Helen commanded. “Tricorder says these creatures will only be unconscious for a few minutes. They’ve got the metabolism of an Altairian Wombat.”
“I’m ready.” Tabitha jumped to her feet. “The thing only stunned me.” Then she looked down at her attacker who was lying at her feet. “Wow, you’re right. They’re like the natives on Hanson’s world, only much larger. Too bad they’ve already been cataloged.”
“Remember why we’re here Tabbycat.”
“Right. To work.”
“Helen, Red, watch them. Give them another blast if you have to.”
“Not to worry. I came prepared. Helen secured the tricorder to her left hip and opened the medikit she kept just below. Removing a hypo, she slipped in a cartridge and proceeded to inject each creature while Red kept a close eye on them.
Charlton and Tabitha reached the low pile of rocks, the final resting place of three USS Enterprise crewmen who had died on this planetoid more than a hundred years earlier.
“Too bad no one at Star Fleet ever thought to retrieve their bodies.” Charlton’s usual joviality was replaced by a tone of somber respect.
“Good thing for us, though,” Tabitha stated while examining the burial site with her tricorder. “It’s confirmed. The strange ores here have done their work, just as I predicted.”
“Only you would have run the Enterprise’s first officer, what was his name again?”
“Right. The ambassador. I’d almost forgotten. Only you would have run Spock’s tricorder readings through a mutating algorithm and come up with this predication.”
“It’s not a prediction anymore. It’s a fact. The unique low-level radiation emitted by the ores under us are a natural source of what Marcus discovered when she created the Genesis Effect.”
“But Genesis was a failure. After the Mutara Nebula disaster, all further experimentation was abandoned.”
“It wasn’t a failure. Marcus meant to introduce Genesis to a lifeless planet orbiting in its star’s Goldilocks Zone. Instead, Kahn Noonien Singh detonated it in the middle of a nebula. It worked brilliantly, reigniting Mutara’s star and forming a planet out of the nebula’s debris. Only the scale was way off and the planet became unstable and exploded. The star had insufficient mass to go nova again, and instead rapidly aged becoming a white dwarf.”
“Genesis regenerated that Vulcan. Are you saying…?”
“Spock, and yes I’m saying. The three bodies are in some form of stasis. I seriously doubt they’ll ever reanimate. Too much deterioration to the neural tissue, but on a very basic level, their cells are alive. You know what this means?”
“If your research is correct, we’ll have discovered immortality, or as close to it as anyone will ever get.”
“Right. We’ve got to get them aboard the Sloane.”
“The preservation chambers are all set. I’ll activate the transporters by remote. We’ll beam them out of their graves and into the pods. I’ll get a couple of tons of ore while I’m at it and deposit it in the shielded storage compartment. Then we can write our own ticket. They’ll name planets after us.” Ortega manipulated a set of controls on his wrist band. “I’ve got a solid lock on all three plus the ore. Energizing.”
“Are they onboard?” Tabitha put her tricorder on her hip and eyed Charlton anxiously.
“Yep. Got everything. All safe and sound.”
“Good.” Dorsey took several steps away from her oldest friend and casually glanced back at Red and Helen who were still standing over the drugged aboriginals. They didn’t suspect a thing.
Then she raised her right arm and pressed a button on her own wrist control band. Instantly, the phasers worn by Ortega, Olssen, and Harrington emitted a stun pulse, rendering the three of them unconscious. She squatted down and ran her fingers through Charlton’s dark, thick hair. “No, lover. They’ll only name planets after me.”
She stood and walked with determination back toward the ship. Helen regained consciousness just in time to see the Lily Sloane rise past 300 meters overhead and disappear above the clouds. The fog had burned off and she could see the creature nearest Red begin to stir. Helen grabbed her phaser only to see that its power pack had been burned out. She stood and tried to rouse the navigator. She hoped they’d all be on their feet when they met death, while at the same moment wondering if she had time to say “I told you so” to Charlton.
I wrote this for yesterday’s Wordle hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Normally, the idea is to use at least ten among a list of twelve words to craft a poem, short story, or some other creative work. This week’s wordle only had eleven words (“form” was duplicated), so I used ten of the eleven, omitting “puzzle.”
The list is:
Nebulous (adj.)) cloudy or foggy: vague or obscure: indefinite)
I mined a ton of stuff from Star Trek, principally from the 1967 episode The Galileo Seven as well as from the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. I don’t know what made me go in this direction. There was something about the Wordle words that drew me into the Murasaki 312 formation. Oh, Lily Sloane was originally supposed to be Zephrem Cochrane’s co-pilot aboard the warp ship “Phoenix” in the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact.