Here we go again... (Part I of II)
Location: Portal Complex (Site B), Pangaea
Timeline: MD02 1000
The surface perimeter of the cave complex referred to as Site B was surrounded by a domed forcefield that rose to 200 meters, covering the isolated outcrop of rock the caves were housed in. Every hundred meters of so, the perimeter was marked by fifty meter projection pylons.
Inside the main gate through the field was a series of tents that housed the marines guarding the site. Outside the perimeter, a landing field was marked out with portable lights, the flashes dimmed by the bright daylight.
As the shuttle craft approached, Calaban was putting up a running commentary for Alanna's benefit. "They have people walking the perimeter all day, round and round. The fence probably doesn't cover the whole the site, but we had a good scout round, and scans say there's no other way in other than the main entrance, so we figured that just covering the inselberg would be good enough. Given that its only about a hundred seventy odd meters high, I'm not a hundred percent sure its entirely natural. But I didn't really get long look around when I was here."
"How do they know this is the only way inside?" Alanna asked. "And what sort of sensory data are they using to monitor the area besides the Marines?" She was mostly curious, but she was also a little concerned that they may be overlooking something. But, as she hadn't been down there before, she needed information before she could really understand what was going on down here and how it related--or didn't relate--to what she was used to.
Calaban leaned forward over the controls, surveying the area, "So far we have the sensor data, and the marines have been scouting the outside for a month. But knowing how hinky the inside is, I'm not going to guarantee that there isn't. There's probably hundreds of way in, given how many portals are down there."
Alanna nodded. "When I was doing fieldwork, we'd have to set up multiple protections. Sometimes we'd have a curious local who wanted samples of what we were finding, others wanted to stop our work. They always managed to find some way in. Sounds like this is no different."
"Except our other ways in could be on any one of a million worlds, over a million years." Calaban looked back at Alanna. "Cool or what?"
Alanna grinned. "Definitely cool." She wanted to learn as much as she could about the planet and its secrets, but she recognized that her desire was not only impractical, it was most likely impossible.
"Its not quite so cool when you jump through and and find yourself in the middle of warzone," Leonora Dell muttered from the pilot's seat, bringing the shuttlecraft in to land as a group of marines ran over from the gate to meet their shuttle."
"No, but when it comes to exploring, sometimes you have to take what you can get," Alanna said. She wasn't as blasé as she sounded, but she had been on several planets where there had been problems with opposing factions.
The shuttle doors opened and Dell retrieved her phaser and tricorder from a storage locker. "Well here we are. I just hope I can get you back to it."
Outside three marines stood waiting. One stepped forward. "Lieutenant Wells, I'm Seargent Zhao. We're to be you're escort into the Portal Complex. Have you been briefed?"
Alanna glanced at Calaban, then back at the Marine. "No, I haven't."
the man thought of the piles of padds containing various reports brought up from the surface. the strange energy fluctuations around Pangaea meant a lot of information got scrambled if it was sent via subspace. He gave a guilty cringe of his shoulders. "Its probably on my desk?"
Zhao did not look impressed, he redirected his very military attention, upright and correct, back to Alanna. "We've had some success with scouting the cave site. Uncovered a partial pattern in the cave transitions."
Calaban perked up. "Its not random?"
Zhao nodded, "No, sir. Not entirely."
"Can I see what you've discovered?" Alanna asked, her interest growing more acute.
Zhao indicated that they should follow him inside the perimeter. "We've been making some cautious trips into the complex. We've found that some transitions are stable, they go to the same place every time. Others are totally random. An we think a small number respond to intention."
"Intention? Really? That could be fascinating for science." And dangerous. Very dangerous. "How many have you verified so far?"
"We've confirmed eight, and are at least certain on another four." Zhao stopped for a moment as the force field came down. "We've colour coded the transitions points. Green is stable to the next cave geographically, blue is stable to a non-contiguous cave. Yellow is intention driven, red is totally random, orange seems to respond to intention some of the time, others random. We have a map in the CnC. This way.
He led them to the largest tent in the cluster. Marines could be seen scattered everywhere, mostly in pairs on guard or patrol, others were doing all the sorts of things a small forward base.
The map in question was up on a large screen, showing both a top down and cross sectional view of the cave system. Most of it was blank, but there were several areas, filled in. One near the entrance at the top, another about a third in and the same down. These had a couple of green lines, and a blue each, with a line running between them, with the rest being a mix or red, orange, yellow. The rest seemed to be single caves, scattered about, including a very small one at the farthest reach. Each one of the single caves had red line crossing all entrances.
Calaban looked at it. "Whoa. Dude!"
"Indeed." Alanna grinned at Calaban's reaction. "A very good reason to keep this place quarantined." She carefully examined the map. "Too much blank space to determine if there are any patterns." She turned to Zhao. "How do you determine where to look?"
"Honestly Ma'am, we don't. We're still trying to track the transitions from the first cave. Its been trial and error."
Alanna nodded. Archaeology was sometimes trial and error, too. Scanners and micro transporters were still surpasses, on occasion, by digging in the dirt. "Understood. As a scientist, is there anything I can do to help with the process?"
"You'd have to ask the Lieutenant. She handles things like that." Zhao pointed to an Andorian woman in marine uniform who was talking at a terminal with a young ktarian.
At the sound of her rank, she looked round, antennae twitching, "Dr Wells?" The Andorian came over and shook hands. "Sergeant Zhao will be taking you in," She kept walking out of the tent and towards the ivory coloured cliff face, with its single large over hang, and the dark cave inside. "Don't worry too much about getting lost. We can always risk a beam if we pick you up with five hundred meters of the entrance. The atmosphere's been stable for the last twenty four hours, so there's shouldn't be any problems."
"Apart from looking around, is there anything I can do to help you here?" Alanna asked. "Have you had atmosphere problems before?"
"Get the commander up there to sign off on more bodies on the ground, so we can run more patrols and more scouting. The cardassians are trying to sniff round." The lieutenant led them under the overhang, ready to enter the cave system. "The atmosphere is always a problem. But it has better days and worse days. This is a better one."
"I've spent a lot of time working as an archaeologist," Alanna said. "We occasionally had to protect the sites from vandals or antiquities hunters. I could set up a grid similar to what we use to help warn us if anyone tries to sneak in. It's not foolproof, but it will definitely add a layer of surveillance and security to what you have here." She gave the lieutenant a sympathetic smile. "And I'll see if I can get you more boots on the ground."
The lieutenant looked at her, somewhat impressed. "Thank you doctor. It's appreciated." She walked them into the first cave, which was wide and roomy, and well lit with floodlights. The back funnelled down to the single cleft leading further in. She stopped in front of the red line that had been sprayed across the entrance. "This is is random. But so far we've sent out eight expeditions, and each time we've landed somewhere that responds to intention. So far."
Alanna nodded. "Two isn't enough to determine a pattern. I find it fascinating that these caves work the way they do. Do we know what their purpose was?"
Calaban shook his head. "The fae didn't exactly give us any warning. One moment it was screwy gravimetrics, the next, boom, planet, sun, asteroids." He looked down at the red painted line. "Ladies first?"
She looked down at the red line and grinned at Calaban, then stepped inside.
To Be Continued...
Ensign Calaban Bel Asher
Assistant Chief Science Officer
Deep Space Five
Lieutenant (JG) Leonora Dell
Deep Space Five
Lieutenant Alanna Wells
Chief Science Officer
Deep Space Five