AOH :: GEIGER08.TXT|
"Q and A" 8 of 16
Chris dodged out of the way of the still falling
ceiling and ran down the tunnel. After the rumbling had
finally ceased, he went back just far enough to pick up a
piece of the rubble that exhibited the peculiar phosphorescence,
intending to study it further after his return to the
Enterprise. "That is, if I return," he reminded himself.
Continuing down the passage, Chris observed no
remains of any kind. He found this surprising, until he
realized that Q probably constructed the whole labyrinth.
If Q didn't want it to seem that others had gotten this far,
it was up to him.
Lost in thought, Chris panicked as the floor fell
out from under him. Although surprised, he still managed to
leap onto more solid ground. He rolled and came up facing
the direction he had come, phaser in hand. Where there had
been ground moments before, was just a large hole. Inside,
Gawron could see the phosphorescence glinting off sharp
sticks covered with liquid that tricorder analysis proved to
"Maybe Q isn't as fond of the Enterprise crew as he
says. I don't think I was meant to survive." Resigning
himself to his fate, he ventured on. Soon, the walls became
less craggy and resolved themselves into a series of sharp
outcroppings. Chris's foot came down with a sharper click
than his boots had been making. Suspiciously he looked
around and saw that the walls had begun to come together,
narrowing the passage. He could just make out the forward
edge of the sliding walls. He glanced behind him and saw
that he had not quite come halfway. Deciding quickly, he
ran down the tunnel towards the far end, occasionally checking
his progress. When the passageway, not very wide to begin
with, had shrunk to half its width, Chris put his head down
in an all-out sprint toward the end of the passage.
He emerged from the closing walls, panting, and
turned in time to see them close to eighteen inches and slam
shut. By now, Gawron's uniform shirt was all but destroyed
and his pants hung in tatters below his knees.
Looking ahead, Chris noticed a strange glow, stronger
than the walls' natural phosphorescence, emanating from around
a bend in the cave wall. Approaching warily, he rounded the
bend and saw where the bluish light was coming from: the
"Captain, sensors indicate a source of hard radiation
has just appeared on the planet," reported Data.
"Location in relation to Mister Gawron."
"The radiation is distorting the readings, but he
appears to be standing within it."
"Must be coming from the ceiling," said Riker. "How
long can he be safely exposed to it, Data?"
"Any exposure to radiation is unsafe, Commander, but
there will be no irreparable damage for at least forty-five
minutes. I cannot be more precise."
"Great he has forty-five minutes, and we have two
and a half hours," muttered Riker.
"Engineering to Bridge, LaForge here."
"What is it, Geordi?" asked Picard.
"Captain, we've been in the planet's atmosphere for
thirty-two minutes and the hull temperature has already
reached 200 degrees Centigrade. Without shields, we don't
have as long as we normally would," came the voice from the
"Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Do what you can. Bridge
out," snapped Riker, upset at his inability to do anything
"Take it easy, Number One. We have Q trying to kill
us already. We don't need anyone else's help to do it for
him," said Picard warningly.
"Aye, sir," said Riker, a little too loudly, a little
Taking out his tricorder, Chris aimed it upwards.
After scanning the tunnel roof for a few seconds, he read the
results of the analysis. The ceiling was coated with nearly
pure, energized dilithium. Prolonged exposure would result
in a horrible death from radiation poisoning causing rapid
decay and massive systems disfunctions. As he put the tricorder
away, his rock sample fell from his belt and bounced. The
stone leapt up to shoulder height, where Chris caught it,
startled. He put it back into his belt.
"Reduced gravity. Sure, why should Q make anything
Laying down on his stomach, Chris began a slow,
relaxed crawl through the anti-grav field, careful not to
make any sudden, violent movements which would result in his
being thrown at least partly to the tunnel roof.
After nearly thirty minutes, Ensign Gawron had made
his way under the fifty foot stretch of dilithium. Gratefully,
he stood, his uniform shirt falling in shreds to the ground to
reveal his chest, covered in lacerations, both large and small.
His back was covered with bruises and burns.
Deciding to talk to Captain Picard about combat pay
upon his return to the ship, he proceeded around another bend
and was confronted by a blank wall of rock. He search
exhaustively for the familiar button that would return him to
the junction, but could not find it.
Finally defeated, with no retreat possible, Chris
slumped against the dead end wall -- and fell through it.
He found himself in a large chamber. There, on a stone
pedestal, sat the pile of dilithium crystals. Rising quickly,
footsteps echoing loudly, he grabbed the dilithium crystals.
In a flash, his rocky surroundings were replaced by the
familiar environs of the Enterprise.
Riker was talking to LaForge over the intercom.
"... don't care what you have to do. Get out and push if you
have to. We've been in the atmosphere for nearly an hour."
"Commander, hull temperature is increasing. Fifteen
hundred degrees Celsius and rising. Estimated survival time
of the Enterprise, assuming temperature increase continues
at this rate is one hour, thirty-eight minutes, fourteen point
eight three five six ni--"
"Commander Data," spoke up Chris from the back of the
Bridge, no one having noticed him, "I've got the crystals.
How long will it take to install them and power up the
The channel to Engineering still open, Geordi
answered: "Installation will take about ten minutes. Restart
will take an hour and a half."
"Two minutes too long. What happens if you bypass
the safety checks?" asked Picard, anxiously. While he waited
for the answer he turned to Data and Gawron. "Get down to
Engineering as fast as possible." Data and Chris left the
"Under present circumstances, I was going to bypass
the safety sequence anyway. That gains us about forty-five
minutes," came the answer from the Bridge speaker.
"Do it, Geordi. As quickly as possible," ordered
Picard. "Bridge out."
Picard noticed that he was sweating and turned to
survey the Bridge. Everyone there had a sheen of perspiration
on their faces. The humans were red-faced from the heat.
Picard knew that the environmental controls were suffering
from the heat of the atmospheric friction.
He flicked on the intraship communicator. "This
is your captain speaking. We have entered the atmosphere
of an unknown world. The increased heat is from the
atmospheric friction. Steps are being taken to remove the
Enterprise from danger. In the meantime, all non-duty
personnel and civilians, remain in your quarters and keep
your physical activity to a minimum. Picard out."
The Bridge was silent. Periodically reports came in
from Engineering. There were no major problems and the restart
process was nearly complete when the red-alert sirens blared.
"Warning! Maximum safe temperature exceeded! Total systems
failure imminent!" warned the computer.
"Bridge to Engineering. You better have some good
news!" yelled Riker into the intercom.
"I need more time, Commander," pleaded Geordi. "The
engines will be back on-line in three minutes. You have
"Not good enough, Geordi. This ship can't hold
together for much longer. Bridge out." Riker slapped the
channel shut before Geordi could respond.
Wesley turned quickly, an idea forming in his mind.
"Worf, what's the minimum safe distance for the Enterprise
to survive the detonation of a photon torpedo?"
"Two kilometers. Why?" growled the warrior, his bony
brow wrinkling in confusion.
"Captain, I recommend that we fire a photon torpedo
and set it to detonate two kilometers in front of our predicted
"Ensign Crusher, what purpose would it ser--" Picard's
expression changed as he saw where this was leading. Turning
to Lieutenant Aures at Ops, he said "Transfer all available
power to forward shields." As she moved to raise the shields,
Picard turned to Worf and ordered him to "Fire two photon
torpedos. Set one to detonate two kilometers in front of
us and the other to detonate two seconds after, same position."
All eyes on the Bridge turned to Picard, wondering
what he could be planning. The whoosh of escaping air
could be heard as the torpedos were launched. As the first
one detonated, the blast forced the Enterprise's bow up so
that the lower hull was absorbing the friction of the
"Now, Ensign, transfer all power to lower shields!"
No sooner had her hands stopped moving, than Aures
was thrown from here chair, as were most of the Bridge crew,
by the second explosion. The Enterprise was lifted up and
pushed back, out of the planets atmosphere. It settled into
a high, loose orbit. Seconds later, the warp nacelles lit
up red and blue.
"Warp power is now available, Captain," reported
"Resume course and speed," said Picard, and, tapping
his combadge, "Ensign Gawron to Sickbay, then meet me in my
Ready Room. You have the Bridge, Number One."
Picard left the Bridge through the portside doors
into his Ready Room.
As Chris entered Sickbay, Pulaski rushed over.
"It's about time you got here. Here, sit down," she said,
indicating a diagnostic bed. "What happened to you, have a
disagreement with Worf?"
"No, Q," replied Chris. "I think I won."
"I'm impressed. Now lie down."
Chris lay back slowly, trying not to aggravate his
injuries, especially those on his back. The scanners in the
bed went to work automatically, displaying their results on
the wall panel beside the bed.
"Life signs appear to be normal. Just surface
injuries," diagnosed Pulaski.
"You mean I'll live, Doc," inquired Chris, only half
"I'm afraid so."
Pulaski wheeled over a healing ray: a low power laser
used to graft synthiskin over wounds. She set to work and
after about twenty minutes, Chris looked, if not felt, as good
as new. Except for the burns on his back. For these, and as
a treatment for his cuts, Pulaski bathed him in a different
ray, one that would help to regenerate his skin.
"Unfortunately, this will have the side effect of
making you tired and stiff. I suggest you take it easy for
twenty-four to thirty-six hours. Consider yourself relieved
of duty, Mister ..." she trailed off, not knowing his name.
"Gawron. Ensign Chris Gawron."
"Pleased to meet you, Chris. Anyone who can beat
Q is certainly a good person to know. I'm Doctor Katherine
Pulaski," she said, reaching out to shake Chris' hand,
careful not to reopen any of his injuries.
The door to Picard's Ready Room chimed. He switched
off his desk terminal and said, "Come."
The doors parted and Chris entered.
"Tell me, Ensign, just what happened to you down
Slowly, carefully, not wanting to omit any details,
Chris told Picard about his adventure. When he finished,
Picard went over to the food dispenser in the corner and
ordered "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot." As he returned to his chair,
sipping his tea thoughtfully, he said, "Most impressive.
You exhibit tremendous stamina and resilience."
"I can't really take all the credit for it myself,
sir. I owe part of it to an old friend," Gawron admitted.
"He trained you?"
"No," Chris laughed. "Putting up with him over the
years convinced me I could do anything. He was a little hard
to take for an extended period of time. Had a terrible sense
of humor, too."
"You mean he took everything seriously?" asked Picard.
"Just the opposite. There was nothing that he took
seriously. Nothing except his friends," he said wistfully.
"What happened to him? He sounds like an interesting
personality," said Picard, curiously.
"Had the wrong psych profile for Starfleet. He had
what some people call 'spontaneous genius;' brief, unexplained,
unpredictable flashes of brilliance. Jumped to too many
conclusions, too many times. Even though he was right the
majority of the time, he was considered too much of a risk
for Starfleet Sciences. Wouldn't have lasted long, anyway.
He had no use for authority of any kind," finished Chris.
"I know the type. As much as I'd like to continue
reminiscing with you, we have a mission to complete. You,
however, are confined to the civilian areas of the Enterprise
until Doctor Pulaski or myself tell you otherwise," said
Picard, in a tone heavy with tension, but with relief evident.
"I see no problem with those orders," replied Gawron.
"Glad to hear it. Dismissed."
Chris exited, followed by Picard. As Chris walked
toward the Turbolift, Riker turned and said sternly, "Ensign,
is that uniform regulation?"
Chris stopped and looked down at the sorry state of
what used to be his uniform. His shirt was gone and not much
was left of his pants. His boots were ripped and scorched.
"I think it used to be. I wonder if this look will catch on."
Almost as an after thought, Chris added, "Sorry, sir. I didn't
have time to change."
"That's alright," said Riker, breaking into a wide
grin. "I just hope it doesn't catch on. Carry on, Ensign."
The Turbolift doors closed with a soft his behind
Chris as he sped away from the Bridge.
Picard took over the command chair from Commander
"Status, Number One."
"Still orbiting the planet, Captain. Sensors
register nothing down there. No city, no lifesigns at all,"
"Strange. From what I understand of Ensign Gawron's
story, there was a good-sized village and an extensive series
of tunnels on the planet, as well as at least one species of
large water lizard and a carnivorous plant. I can see Q's
hand in this. I wish he'd stay in the Continuum or do
something useful, rather than continually bothering us."
Riker turned to look at Picard, eyes bright.
"I know you won't believe this, but after being part of the
Q for a few hours, I think I understand him. At least a
little. Being omnipotent there's not much that challenges
him. Humans do because we are stubborn."
"I agree, Captain," said Counselor Troi. "He sees us
as both superior and inferior at the same time. He envies us
our mortality and our ability to love others. Because of the
Q's immortality and their power, they must always be careful.
We have no such responsibility."
"Captain, if I may remind you, we have a mission to
perform," reminded Worf from above.
"Yes, quite right, Lieutenant. Mister Crusher,
compute and execute a new course to the Vexis Corinhi system."
"Aye, Captain," acknowledged the Ensign. "Course
computed and laid in."
"Warp 5, engage."
"Warp 5, sir," replied Wes.
"Mister Data, ETA to the Corinhi system."
"Three hours, barring any further interruptions,"
answered the android.
"Counselor, how are the crew faring?" asked the
"For a time they were nervous, but now that the
Enterprise is no longer in immediate danger, they are again
confident in our ability to succeed," reported the Betazoid.
"I hope so, Deanna. But where Q is involved, we're
always in immediate danger," said Riker somberly.
"I sincerely hope that you're wrong this time,
Number One," said Picard grimly. "I don't care about Q's
assurances. Neither the crew nor the ship can take much
"I agree, Captain. Mister Data, dig up any
information you can on the Vexis Corinhi system. We might
as well know as much as possible about our destination,"
"Accessing, Commander." Data cocked his head slightly
to one side as he searched his internal memory banks for the
"The Vexis Corinhi system contains fourteen planets
orbiting a G class star. The fourth and fifth planets are
marginally class M. The inner three planets revolve around
the sun in very tight orbits and are little more than molten
lava. The sixth through ninth planets are solid, but
inhospitable by human standards. They are home to perpetual
geothermal and electrical disturbances. The remaining planets
are lifeless pieces of rock, barely large enough to be
classified as planets. At this time, the Klingons have
peripherally scanned the system but have not explored it or
established any outposts. In our time period, the fourth
planet is known as --" Data stopped, unsure of whether to
"What is it, Data? What do we call it in our time?"
"In our time period," continued Data, after a
worried glance at Worf, "the fourth planet is known as
Worf looked up, startled. "Khitomer," he said
under his breath, and more loudly, "My family! Captain, we
must warn the Klingon high command of the attack on Khitomer."
"You know we can't, Worf. If we were to change
everything that we think went wrong with history, we may
not continue to exist. I can sympathize with you, though.
With our knowledge we could prevent the destruction of the
original Enterprise and the death of Tasha Yar, but we can't."
Picard turned back to Data, obviously saddened at his
inability to change things for the better. "Where will we
most likely find these creatures?"
"If the creatures we are looking for energy to absorb
as a nutrient, the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth planets
would be the logical choice," answered Data.
"Ensign Crusher, when we enter the Corinhi system,
plot a course for the sixth planet at one-half impulse power."
"Worf, a want a full sensor sweep of the area. Check
for any potential surprises," ordered Picard.
As Wesley started his computations, Worf protested,
"Captain, if Commander Data is correct, we will be unable to
scan the planets because of the prescence of so much energy.
I recommend a shuttlecraft survey of each planet."
"Make it so, Lieutenant. When we enter orbit around
Vexis Corinhi VI, take ten shuttles and perform a routine
search. Once you find something, return to the Enterprise
and we'll take it from there," said Picard.
"Aye, sir. I will select ten shuttle crews and make
the necessary preparations," said the Klingon. As he moved
to the Turbolift his replacement moved to take his place.
"Good luck, Worf."
"Thank you, Commander Riker, but Klingons do not
believe in luck."
The Turbolift doors closed and he was gone.
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