Chapter 3 added on 11 July 2000
Disclaimers are in part 1.
With the last booster switched on with a twist, softly illuminating the chamber, the tunnels could now be explored. The scouts reported that the main tunnel descended eighty-five meters more underground to a much larger cavern. The walk wasnít difficult and a lighting system seemed to be in place.
With a few trial and errors, the lighting system was activated from the now functioning panels. Seven and Torres had been deciphering the panels to gain a full sense of their use. The team finally made their way down the eighty-five meters with relative ease. The outer doors to the main cavern had been outfitted with a few lock-outs, but short circuiting a few connections bypassed that. Light from the tunnels cut through the dark room as the team slow slid the doors open. The doors creaked with effort. Torres stepped in, tricorder raised, while the pebbles and sand crackled underneath her feet.
-Cough, cough- She waved her hand to fan the dust which had been stirred by the flooding of new air. The tricorder, buzzing with activity, indicated no life signs, only some faint reading of deuterium and other compounds not specified under the current parameters. The rest of the away team made their way into the cavern and spread out to scan for any danger or discoveries.
Torres reached the main computer station on the far side of the cavern, which was fairly extensive, stretching across the wall at about 30 feet. The view screens, operative panels, and desk terminals all seemed intact and undamaged. ĎEverything seems secure. Open for us to access. Then why does the hair on the back of my neck stand?í contemplated Torres.
"Lieutenant Torres, should we start accessing the computer, and find the location of the deuterium?," asked Seven.
"Yes, find the diagnostics systems first. Meli, take out the energy packs and start looking for possible adaptors. Watch out for other lock-outs or traps."
"This looks like the diagnostics, lieutenant," Suzuki pointed out. Seven walked over to confirm.
"He is correct. These panels indicate diagnostics as well as maintanence."
"Mitchell, help Ensign Johan set up the energy packs to the diagnostics, that over station over there which controls communications, and this mainframe here. Seven, take a look at this," commanded Torres.
Seven walked over to the mainframe. After a few moments analyzing the panels, she looked up.
"This station monitors the computer functions of all the operations in this part of the underground structure. We should be able to find the records of what had occurred prior to the abandonment of this colony."
"Good, try to gain access to those files, I want to know what happened, and any information on the condition of the deuterium sources here."
It had been a while since they had worked so closely together on a project, probably since the doctorís brilliant daydreaming fiasco. Now standing side by side together, Torres wondered how long they could remain civil to each other in front of the rest of the away team. Nevertheless, Seven proved informative on this mission so far, Torres had to admit to herself. The computer was operational in no time once the energy packs were outfitted. The away team busied themselves, each to their own tasks. Torres and Seven began to decipher the last few weeks of the colonyís history, while Mitchell and Suzuki scanned for the location of the deuterium through diagnostics and maintenance. Ensign Johan maintained the communications to Voyager and monitor the status of the transporter beams, the only reassurance that they were still connected to the outside world.
This was the fifth time Seven hand had brushed against hers. Both of them had been working intensely to pull up the files on mining operations, command communications, and staff logs. Torres had begun sweating several minutes, not knowing whether it was because of the temperature of cavern or because of something else. The something else addressed her.
"Lt., I have retrieved the logs for the last few days of this station from the records. I should finish my readings shortly. Perhaps, I can continue my analysis while you... "take a break," suggested Seven.
"Iím fine. We still have hours of work to do," dismisses Torres. Her ridged forehead beaded with sweat, but she wasnít about to look feeble in front of the artic princess.
"Your body temperature has risen 2.3 degrees, you are diaphoresing, and you have not consumed enough fluids to compensate. I believe you need rest. You have been monitoring everyoneís productivity and made several trips back to our tranport location to check on our transporter boosters."
"Seven, youíve just described my typical daily activity level in the engineering," stated Torres, rolling her eyes in the process. "Besides, Iím not tired. Just finish the logs, and Iíll go check on the others."
Seven raised her eyebrow and sighed as she looked after the departing Torres. The lieutenant was stubborn. She merely suggested that Torres regenerate after having performed more than efficiently, if that were possible, for over several hours.
"How are the diagnostics going? Have you found any inklings as to the location of the deuterium?" Torres inquired.
"It looks like weíve been given the run around, Lt.," replied Mitchell. "We keep trying to run a few diagnostics and access the maintenance records to find the deuterium stores, but so far there is no indication that the deuterium is here except for our own scans."
"Shit...., Itís got to be here. Look for any records of any reconstruction or reinforcement of any storage facility or tank in this station. Seven should be able to corroborate this info with the officerís log."
"Mr. Kim, any luck with the sensors?," inquired the captain, walking over to ops. The bridge complement was a bit larger today as various crew members worked to sustain links to the away team and monitor equipment. The miriad of blue, red, and gold blended in a flurry of activity. The captain watched as her youngest bridge officerís hands glided over the panels.
"No maíam. Iím able to maintain transporter lock and use the relays on the boosters to monitor basic life signs of our away team. But I havenít been able to pinpoint the deuteriumís location either, even after adapting the deflector dish. Our sensors just canít seem to penetrate beyond the superficial layers. The sediment seems to contain a variety of heavy metals, many crystalized with high refractive indices," replied Kim, as they both look over the ops screen.
"I know youíre doing your best. Keep at it, and if you need a hand, recruit a few crew members. Chakotay, you have the bridge." Janeway turned and asked Commander Tuvok to join her in her ready room.
"Have a seat Tuvok. Coffee? It looks like the away teamís having trouble locating the deuterium. Iím inclined to sit on this for another hour before I suggest you join them. A security system seems to be in place, which they havenít been able to circumvent. Itís more than just an engineering problem now," noted Janeway as she replicated two cups of black coffee.
"Thank you. I agree. I was about to make a similar suggestion myself. Although I am not familiar with this speciesí technology, I may be able to provide some tactical insight, though I do not wish to supersede Lt. Torresí command of this mission."
"Well, Iím sure Beílanna wouldnít mind a new perspective on the matter. The data she sent on the computer system indicates the Direelians were quite stickler to protocol. They might have a few fail-safes for intruders like us."
Janewayís expression changed almost imperceptible with the last statement now that her concern had been openly voiced. Only her long-time friend would have been able to notice such a subtle gesture; a down-turned corner of the mouth and a small indurated furrowing of the brow. Though he could not empathize, he understood the implications and offered his Vulcan response.
"Logically, it would be a prudent course of action considering the amount of deuterium alluded to by our scans, thus far. It would be wise to presume that several of these protective measures will be hostile in nature. I will analyze the Lt. Torresí data again and beam down to the surface without further delay."
To be continued....