To Boldly Go...

Chapter 3

"Belt up guys, we're outta here."

Callum carefully secured the thick straps around his chest. With a click they locked in place, and he looked up. The planet loomed in the shuttle's viewscreen as they hurtled towards the surface. It didn't look particularly ominous, being basically a large ball of dirty cream coloured rock. He glanced over at Sillika, who was staring up at the viewscreen.


"Hi," she grinned at him. Callum smiled back and winked.

"Well, we're back in the action again."

"It's only a landing team Callum, we're hardly doing guerrilla warfare."

"Been there, done that."

"Got the scars. Stop looking so worried," she turned back to the viewscreen and, Callum noted, a clear view of the back of Jay's head. He suppressed a grin.

"Hang tight boys and girls, we're goin' down," a male Shee whose name Callum hadn't learnt yet called back. There was a slight jolt and Callum glanced up at the screen again. They were here. He felt a slight shot of surprise, then remembered how a landing shuttle had plummeted out of the Albia sky before, the things simply dove towards the surface.

"Fast, isn't it?" He muttered to Sillika.


Callum rolled his eyes as Sillika tore her gaze away from Jay, and flushed slightly.



Jay strode down the landing steps and looked round, his hand resting on the handle of his gun. He had a bad feeling about this mission, although he couldn't put his finger on why. There was a slight click of footsteps as the others made their way down to the surface. He turned to Mikeal, who was gently tapping away at a small portable scanner.


Mikeal shook his head.

"Clear... Wait a sec," he tapped a few more buttons, "Gottit. There's a fairly large group of lifesigns north of here... That's odd."


"The distress signal's coming from the other direction."

Jay shrugged.

"Probably a better site for sending it. I'll look into it. Vixa, Callum, Sillika, with me. The rest of you check out those life signs. Be careful, we don't know exactly what that cube was. Keep your weapons out."

The group split, Jay's half heading in the direction of the signal, the others in the direction of the mysterious life signs.

They walked in silence, except for when Callum managed to drop his gun. Vixa walked ahead, running her scanner over everything in range.

"Not much to look at this place, is it?" Callum muttered. Jay had to agree he was right, the planet was one of the most... Spartan worlds he'd ever come across. The landscape basically consisted of varying sized outcrops of off-white rock. Their feet kicked up small whirlwinds of fine grey sand as they walked, but it was the silence that got to Jay. There wasn't an animal call anywhere. The only sound came from the wind as it cut through even his Space Corps uniform, whistling in his ears and through the skeletal branches of what looked like long dead trees. To call it desolate was generous.

Callum sneezed.

"This dust gets everywhere."

"Hey! I've found something!" Vixa exclaimed, swinging her scanner in the direction of a large outcrop of spiky rocks about halfway up a nearby cliff.


"Life sign."

"Any ideas what?"

"No," she frowned as the scanner beeped, "Something's screwing with the transmission."

Jay drew his gun and, motioning for the others to follow him, started up the hill. A flash of reflected light caught his eye and he waved for the other to stop.

"I don't like this," he muttered, "Callum, Sillika, stay here. Vixa with me."

Sillika looked about to protest, but he obviously caught the expression on Jay's face, so just nodded. Vixa readied her weapon, and followed Jay. He glanced at the rocks, every muscle tensed, trying to spot the glint again. Nothing. There was a beep next to him as Vixa started scanning the rocks again.

"Damn this interference, I can't get anything now," she hissed, shaking the scanner. Jay started towards the outcrop again. There was something there, he knew it. They reached the first jutting finger of rock without seeing anything. Jay edged round, glancing into the small clear space in the middle of the rocks. Nothing. He frowned; he'd seen something... Vixa ran her scanner around, swearing under her breath.

"This thing is useless! C'mon Jay, there's nothing here." She turned and began to stride back to where Callum and Sillika were waiting. After a final glance round, Jay started after her. He could have sworn...

"Get down!" Sillika's cry cut into him, the slight undertone of panic in her voice sending him instinctively diving to the floor. Something sizzled past his head, a bolt of brilliant green energy hitting Vixa full in the chest. She didn't even scream, just jerked horribly and folded up. Jay swung his gun round to fire at anything he could see, but he was too late. A burst of laser fire shot out from behind him, hitting something hidden in the rocks with a small explosion. Jay pulled himself up and span round, to see Callum standing; gun still pointed at the outcrop. He grinned slightly.

"What d'ya know? I found a piece of technology I can work."

Jay ignored him and ran over to Vixa's prone form. Sillika was already there, checking for a pulse. She looked up at Jay; her sombre expression telling him everything he needed to know.

"She's gone."

Jay knelt down next to Vixa, feeling anger and grief hit him at once. He'd not know the young female very well, but that didn't dull the pain of losing a friend. He swallowed hard.

"Did you get it?"

"I think so," Callum nodded, squinting up at the rocks. Jay tapped his callband.

"This is Feral. We've encountered hostile resistance. One casualty... Damn!" He jerked the band away as a crackle of static pierced his ear. Sillika gently closed Vixa's eyes.

"Uh, guys? I think you need to see this." Callum's voice penetrated Jay's thoughts and he looked up. He was standing by the rocks, waving at them. Jay glanced at Sillika.

"C'mon, lets see what the hell's been shooting at us."

He glanced at Vixa's body, shivered, and strode up to where Callum was standing. The other Shee stood aside, and gestured to the dark figure sprawled on the ground. The thing seemed dead, it certainly wasn't moving anyway. Jay stared at it, a feeling of mild disgust running through him. It looked almost like a Shee, but was mostly covered in a variety of bits of metal. One eye was a gleaming; metallic red surrounded by other bits of grey metal. Its hands were almost totally coated in metal, and one had what looked like some sort of gun built in. It's skin was a pale grey colour, and it gave Jay the creeps. He shivered.

"At least we got it."

"What d'you think it is?"

Jay shrugged.

"Hideous? Seriously, I have no idea."

"Could it be a Borg?" Callum asked quietly, leaning closer to the thing.

"Careful," Sillika warned, "We don't know if it's really dead."

"I'm just looking," Callum grinned slightly, "You know what I'm like with technology."

"Yes, you're practically allergic to it."

"Exactly." Callum gingerly prodded one of the thing's hands. Suddenly a pair of thin wires shot out from its wrist, stabbing deep into Callum's hand.

"Damn!" He pulled his arm away, and jerked the things out. He dropped the wires, and rubbed the twin puncture marks.

"These things are dangerous even when dead," Jay muttered, pushing the others away from the thing. For some reason he didn't trust it to stay dead.

As they emerged from the outcrop, Jay looked around at the barren landscape. Suddenly every rock, every jutting piece of stone could be hiding another of those tin-plated bastards. He glanced at Sillika.

"We're going back to the shuttle, see if we can use any of the equipment there."

"What about the others?"

"If we can't reach their callbands, we'll have to go after them."

"In the shuttle?"

"No," Jay allowed himself a slight smile; "There's a much better way."

Chapter 4