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Suited, in the ‘bug, rolling across the reddish dust of the Martian plain. “Are you sure no one is going to notice we took this?” José asks with a nervous tone.
“Meh, no one’s watching that closely. As long as we show up for our shifts and earn our air no one will really notice that one out of twenty of these is gone for a while.” Such a cynical note, notes José.
“Hear me now. Every faction of the base has broken down in their own special way. The science section is going to do some strange things. Try not to be freaked out and follow my lead.”
“You could have mentioned this before?”
“Yeah, you’re nervous enough as it is. Why make you lose sleep about it? Screw my student loans, I wouldn’t mind finding a way back to Earth.”
“Why are we in the ‘bug anyway when we could have walked through the tunnels?”
“You hadn’t noticed? The tunnels aren’t always… safe.”
“I suppose I was trying to ignore that.” Presently they slowly roll up to a cluster of nondescript domes, much like all the others at Bradbury Base. This cluster has more than average number of communication towers and dishes. Some of which appear to be newly constructed, but not of new material – instead as if odd bits and pieces from a forlorn lego set. Pointed towards the sky.
Standing before the airlock, Beth turns to José. “Remember what I told you. Keep quiet and follow my lead. Try not to act surprised. Go with the flow.” She hits the comms. “Hailing Starbase 42. Visitors from engineering section. Request permission to come aboard.” José shoots Beth a look, she raises her finger to her helmet in the universal sign for ssshhhhhh.
“Visitors from engineering section: state your business.”
“We wish an audience with The Spock, and we bring a gift.” A few long moments pass.
“Visit approved. Please wait for escort.” Eventually the outer airlock door opens beckoning them inside. Pressurization process complete, the inner door slides open revealing the standard colony airlock ready room. Standing on either side of the doorway is a man, both dressed in somewhat ill-fitting red shirts and somewhat foul expressions. They have some kind of device in holsters in their belts. A weapon?, wonders José. Helmets off, they are very curtly told, “You may hang your suits here. We will escort you to decontamination.”
The taller one takes the lead, the stocky one stations himself firmly behind Beth and José. The tall one presses the button to open the exit door, and as it moves he makes an audible “swisshhh” sound with his mouth. Without saying a word the group steps through the door, down the corridor and stops before a door labelled “SICK BAY”. The tall one presses the open button, again making the “swisshhh” noise as the door silently opens, the four step through and he makes the “swisshhh” noise again as the door closes.
Inside is what looks mostly like the standard medical compartment, only with odd devices with blinking lights neither Beth or José can immediately identify. On one of the beds seems to be an anatomical dummy, partially disassembled. Bending over the dummy are a man and a woman, both in worn blue shirts, the woman in a black skirt that seems curiously impractical for Bradbury Base. The man looks up with a start.
“Damn you interrupting us! Can’t you see we’re doing medical science?!”
In a bored voice the tall one responds, “Regulations state that all visitors go through decontamination screening, you know that.”
The man throws his scalpel at his feet. “Can’t you see we’re busy?”
“You are The McCoy this week, right?”
With a sign of resignation, “Ok, fine. Step over here.” He picks something off a stainless steel medical tray. It appears to be a very thick short bolt. “Now stand still.” He holds the bolt in his fingers, and runs it in front of first José and then Beth making “bl-bl-bl-bleep-bleep” noises with his mouth. He stares at it intently. “Ok, they’re clean. Now get them out of here!” and turns away.
The tall guy opens the door again, making the “swisshhh” and beckons them through. José shoots Beth the “WTF?” look, she gives him a quick shake of the head. They follow the lead red guy down the corridors. Some seem newly equipped with non-standard cabling along the floor and ceiling. They pass more people in poorly fitted, often ragged blue shirts and the occasional red. The science section staff appears deeply engaged in their activities and barely look up for a glance at the strangers. The tall one stops at a doorway, opens it with a “swisshhh” to reveal what looks like a large closet that’s been emptied of everything with a single light in the ceiling.
“Ok, now we have to take the turbolift.” gestures towards the entrance. The stocky one rolls his eyes.
More eye rolling. “Ok, lieutenant. After you.” Pensively Beth and José step inside. Once all four are squeezed in, tight fit, closes the door “swisshhh” and places his hand on the wall. He starts making “whoosh…. whoosh… whoosh…” noises with his mouth.
Now José is gritting his teeth. What have I gotten myself into?
Tall guy stops with the “whoosh” and opens the door with a “swisshhh”. The four step back out into the corridor they just vacated. Tall guy turns left and silently marches down a few more doors and with yet another “swisshhh” opens a door with a sense of finality.
DAY 15 – The Bridge
They step into a larger room that clearly started out as the standard-issue colony command module, now modified. In the center is a large chair on a short platform, with two desks covered in lights and switches occupied with men in the familiar blue shirts, all facing a large screen showing a star field. Around the periphery are more desks with screens and people in blue busy typing away, scribbling on computer tablets and muttering to each other. All the women seem to be wearing the short-short skirts.
“Commander, visitors from engineering section as requested, sir.”
A man on the far side of the room swivels to face the visitors with a sharp glance. He’s got a bowl haircut of his sandy hair and the nicest blue shirt they’ve seen so far. It even seems to have some kind of golden insignia on his upper right chest.
José whispers to Beth, “Is he wearing fake pointy ears?”
“Greetings visitors. Who am I speaking with and what brings you to Starbase 42?”
Beth steps forward. “We come with a request. And we’ve brought a gift. I am Beth Smith, Engineer Third Class, and this is José Alvarez, recently arrived from Earth.”
He rubs his hands together, eyes dancing with clear delight. “Presents! How logical. I am The Spock. Follow me to my Ready Room. Yeoman Rand, please join us.” In addition to that skirt, Yeoman Rand appears to be wearing some kind of gigantic beehive wig which may have started it’s life as some kind of mop. On their way out Beth sees one blue shirt nudge his neighbor and overhears a whisper: “Check out the coefficient of drag on her!“
The Ready Room
Three more “swishhh” doors later and the four enter a larger room with tables occupied by a smattering of blue and red shirts eating off trays.
“This looks more like the cafeteria.” observes José. Spock indicates they should sit, pulls a chair up himself and answers. “Here on Starbase 42 our resources are constrained by our circumstances. It is also my Ready Room.” He leans forward putting his fingertips together. “You mentioned a present?”
Beth removes a small white device with a screen from the front pocket of her overalls and hands it carefully to The Spock. He takes it gently, clearly recognizing it immediately. “Ah! Perfect! Our science team is in constant need of equipment for our mission.” He places the device gently on the table. “Now tell me what we can do for you?”
Beth leans forward. “We want to reconnect communication with Earth.”
Spock chuckles, “Surak’s balls! Haven’t we tried! We’ve given up and changed our mission.” He taps the table with one finger. “Earth is a dead end.” He stares at them intently. “It is true that we are a pre-warp culture, but our goal is to generate a warp signature and signal the Vulcans.” José chokes for a moment, Beth kicks him under the table.
Rand pipes in. “Why settle for the Earth when we can have the stars? Think of the possibilities…”
One of the red shirts a table over breaks in, “Hey boss, when do I get to be The Spock?”
Over his shoulder Spock gruffly replies, “Belay that chin-music crewman! You know where to find the position rotation schedule.”
José can’t help himself. “Where’s The Kirk? Can we meet with him?”
“We tried having a Kirk. The position proved… contentious.” In a sing-songy voice, “Everybody wants to be The Kirk and sit in The Big Chair.” He rolls his eyes. “Too many emotions in too many Fleet officers. Logic dictated that we leave the position vacant.”
Beth: “But surely you must have made some progress contacting Earth?”
“No good. We’re still in contact with the orbital communications network, but we can’t get our signal farther than Phobos Base.”
“What’s wrong with Phobos Base?”
“Short of putting boots on the moon and taking a look we’re not sure. That’s the central hub.”
Beth steals a glance at José. “What if… what if I told you we may have a way to put qualified personnel on Phobos?”
Eyebrows arched with curiosity. “If you can get a working iPad, perhaps you can put a man on Phobos.” Spock rubs his chin. He raises his voice, loud enough for everyone in the cafeteria to hear. “Phobos would be the logical place to launch our warp signature and signal the Vulcans.” He rubs his chin. “Tell you what, if you can put a man on Phobos, we’ll help you reconnect with Earth and you’ll be helping us contact the Vulcans.”
José is staring at the table and mutters quietly, “Sabes que estás todos locos, ¿verdad?“
“Mr. Alvarez allow me to let you in on a secret.” Spock shoots a look at Yeoman Rand and leans across the table. Softly, “This is how we stay sane.“