Barnard's morning was proceeding in a typical fashion. He paged through
his morning mail. Articles from the various archeological reviews he
subscribed to, notes and questions from his students and colleagues. A
sudden "beep" brought him up short.
FROM: STARFLEET COMMAND (identity code required)
What the hell would Starfleet
want with an old man? Dick typed in his code. The screen flashed, and
the face of an admiral he didn't know appeared.
"Admiral Barnard, I am
Admiral Sebastian Phlimore. We have a serious incident that requires
the judgement and expertise of a man such as yourself. This matter is
of such delicacy that I can not reveal it over any means of
transmission. Admiral Barnard, I am asking you to come to Starfleet
headquarters and at least hear us out. If you are willing call my
office, and I'll arrange for transport."
Damn strange. Well, if the
matter was so damn secret and so important he could at least hear them
"Call the embedded code in the current message."
"[Affirmative. Call connected.]"
A good looking young man
appeared in the screen. "Admiral Philmore's office, Commander Bozman
"Yes young man. I am Dr.
Richard Barnard. Your boss left me a message, I am returning the call."
"Yes Sir, one moment Sir."
The screen went to a waiting pattern. Then the aide was back. "Admiral
Philmore will take your call now."
The screen quickly shifted
back to the wait screen and directly to a face of the fashionable kind.
"Admiral Philmore here. Admiral Barnard, it is good to hear from you."
"Knock off the Admiral stuff.
I have been out of the service forty years. What would be so desperate
that you want an old man like me."
"The matter is to delicate to
discuss over an open channel Dr. Barnard. I can tell you however that
you are unequaled in matters of Xenoarcheology, and those skills are
"Like I haven't trained any students."
"Well yes sir you have, and it was one of those students that recommended you."
"You're not really going to tell me more without my coming out are you?"
"No sir, I honestly cannot."
"All right. You send a transport out, I'll talk to you."
"Yes Sir, we can have a shuttle there in an hour."
"Make it two, I just got up. We old men do not move quickly Admiral Philmore."
"Yes sir, two hours."
It took the full two
hours to get himself ready. 105 years was difficult to carry around. He
had just finished when the call for his door rang. A Lieutenant was
standing there and a orbital shuttle was on the front lawn. The
neighbor's children were looking it over.
"You don't come quietly do you?"
"It's half a world from San
Francisco to Provence sir. Admiral Philmore specified speed."
"All right, let's get."
Barnard settled into
the shuttle. The Lieutenant was busy with his craft, talking with Earth
control and confirming his sub orbital path. They had gotten a little
more comfortable since he last flew one. He usually took the tube to
Paris on the rare days he went to the university. Work usually came to
him. It had been a few years since Barnard had broken atmosphere. He
sat back in the comfort of the inertially damped shuttle and enjoyed
the view. The sky slowly faded to deep blue, and then the stars came
out as they raced the sun half way around the world. It suddenly dawned
on Barnard that this Admiral had called in the middle of his night.
That gained the man a point. The matter was indeed important, or this
admiral was man of courtesy. Either was a point in his favor.
The lights of San Francisco
closed with sickening quickness as their approach suddenly slowed and
the shuttle set down.
"That could take some getting used to."
The young man smiled. "Yes
sir. The new micro dampeners make some radical maneuvers possible. I
guess we get used to it. There should be a flitter waiting for you sir."
Barnard pried himself from
the comfortable seat and grabbed for his bag. The Lieutenant beat him
"After you sir."
As promised, the flitter was waiting with yet another eager youngster.
"Doctor Barnard is here to
see Admiral Philmore at once Bob." Said the Lieutenant as he tossed
Barnard's bag on the flitter.
"Roger that sir, I shall see him delivered safe and sound."
As they pulled away it
occurred to Barnard that he had never enquired of the Lieutenant's
name. His command manner had slipped, along with his gut. The Ensign
was a good place to get back into the habit.
"What's your name son?"
"April sir, Ensign Robert April."
"How long have you been in Starfleet?"
"This is my first year Sir."
"Then you have a glorious future ahead of you."
"I hope so sir, I want to see the whole galaxy."
Barnard leaned over in a conspiratorial fashion. "So do I."
"Have you sir?"
"Not as much as I would have liked. Make sure you see more of it."
"Yes sir, I'll do that. We're here sir."
"So we are."
Barnard looked at the
familiar door with mixed emotions. The last time he had seen it he was
walking out in the other direction, retiring from a service he saw as
increasingly political. The Commander from his earlier call was in the
"Working late Commander?"
"No Sir, working early. Go right in Admiral Philmore is waiting,"
The door hissed lightly open,
Philmore was watching the early morning traffic on the bay. He turned
as Barnard entered. The automatic smile wreathed by curls came on as he
turned around. Philmore quickly crossed the room to shake his hand.
"Doctor, it's good of you to come."
"Yea, yea, you baited the hook just right. All right I'm here, spill."
"I don't want to rush into anything."
"You didn't get up in the middle of the night to spew pleasantries."
"Quite right." Philmore touched a stud on his desk. "Commander."
"Secure this room."
"Yes Sir." A moment passed. "Room secure Admiral."
Curtians dropped over the big windows and a viewscreen came down.
Philmore started to pace. "Exeter Log, 337.3."
"[Identity code required.]"
"Philmore, cream cheese, alpha alpha one."
"[Identity confirmed]" A
scene came up on the screen. Natives stood in awe as members of some
landing party moved among them. The scene shifted from the welcome to
various idyllic occupations.
"Five years ago. Epsilon Thirty Cee. This is the crew of the USS Exeter.
First contact with the indigenous population. Everything went according
to the usual protocol. The natives were friendly and accommodating.
The scene shifted, the same
perspective but the scene was one of devastation. Burnt houses, empty
fields. The camera continued to record the disaster. Barnard watched
involuntarily, willing the horror on the screen to end.
His mouth was dry. "What happened? Was this all over?"
"Yes, it was all over. No we
don't know what happened. These images were recorded by the USS Kiev
six months ago on a follow up visit. Natives were detected moving in
the forests, but they would not come out. Remote sensing has shown they
have reverted to a stone age hunter gatherer technology. They were a
late iron age culture. Population has also crashed from an estimated
500 million, to 5 to 6 million. No sign of war, pestilence, or disease."
"That Dr. Barnard, is the
question we want you to answer. You are the accepted master of forensic
"You expect me to look at a few log tapes and come to an conclusion?"
"No, we want you to investigate on site."
Barnard sighed. "I don't know, a star voyage at my age."
"Ships have gotten more comfortable."
"Do you have a theory?"
"Then why all the secrecy?"
Philmore blew out his breath.
"Some more, excitable, personalities have suggested that we might
somehow be responsible, and clamped down on the report. They feel that
the press would crucify Starfleet over such a debacle."
"And well they should, if... If indeed it was the responsibility of the crew."
"That is only a wild theory."
"I will not reject a theory before I see the proofs."
"Doctor you can understand
that Starfleet needs this matter settled before it is discovered by the
public at large."
Barnard studied the younger man for several minutes. "I might say yes."
"I have conditions."
"I'll hear them."
"First, I want my commission reactivated."
"That would make placing you in the command structure easier."
"With full seniority."
Philmore stopped in his
tracks. "Full seniority? That would take the Federation Council."
"You seem to be of the
opinion that my name is the only one that will be accepted in any
report without additional questions."
"You expertise is unequalled
in this matter Doctor. But full seniority, you would out rank me."
"That is correct, I would
outrank everyone. Therefore no one could give me orders to present a
predetermined set of 'facts'. I want total freedom in this matter, and
that is how I will get it."
"I don't have the authority to grant that, and you know it."
"So, if it's that important, go to the Federation Council."
"I don't seen them approving this without a full explanation as to why."
"They are entitled to an explanation as to why Admiral."
"I had rather hoped to have
the matter wrapped up before it was presented to the Council."
"Neatly wrapped, tied and explained under the rug?"
"No, I wouldn't lie to the Council."
"You are treading dangerously
close to that now. How long a step from delaying a report to falsifying
Philmore snapped back. "This is nothing of the sort."
Barnard rose painfully to his
feet. "I see no reason to keep you from your sleep. I'll use your
aide's comm to get transportation home." He had shuffled halfway to the
He stopped. "Yes?"
"Admiral of Starfleet is more authority than the mission requires."
Barnard resumed walking.
"A reactivation of your
commission, and full authority over the mission and all its aspects is
"I will accept and present whatever report you issue."
"I pick my own people."
"Even if you hate their guts."
Philmore sighed. "Yes Sir."
Barnard turned around. "I accept your mission Admiral."
"Good to have you back Admiral Barnard."
Barnard sighed. "Now, where
in this heap can a body get some lunch at four in the morning. After
that I need a nap and I'll restart my morning with the rest of the
people. Is that young fellow April still around?"
Philmore turned to his Intercom. "Commander, is Ensign April still waiting?"
"Good, I want the young fellow. He's eager, I like that in a young man."
"I'll have Commander Bozman see to it at once."
"Now, about that lunch."
"The Captain's Club still does around the clock service."
"Thank you. I'd best get about it."
The club was as he
remembered it. The food was just as good. At this hour it was nearly
empty. One Captain worked quietly at his table. He and the Ensign sat
another. April kept looking for a place to hide.
"Don't you want to come in here on your own son?"
"Well, yes sir."
"Then practice now. I'm sure you'll make it."
He ducked again. "Yes sir."
The Hat and its Stand where
right where he left it over forty years ago. He raised his glass in
silent toast. The Ensign was watching him.
"What is the hat?"
"Son, back in '58 the USS
Ulysses S Grant was declared missing in action. She was seen under
power and moving at high relativistic speed into unknown space. As far
as we know Howard Nelson and his crew are still alive in her."
"After this long Sir."
"The Grant was a Lenin class
ship son, she had hibernation systems, yes, they could still be alive,
even after this time."
"So what is the hat?"
"That hat was left in my
office when I was Chief of Fleet Operations by Captain Howard Nelson. I
put that hat here as a reminder of those Starships that have never come
home. The ships on the Long Patrol. Every ship that sails takes that
risk son, remember that."
"Do you think we should stop sir?"
"No, the unknown will either
come to us, or we will go to it. I prefer the latter. Have you been in
"Cadet cruise sir."
"Well you are getting a deep
space mission this time. I want you assigned as my aide. I am going
back into space, and so are you."
"Thank you sir."
"Don't thank me until you
collect your pension. Now, you can get me to my quarters and get some
rest before 0800. Pick me up at 0900."
Barnard woke creaky
from his nap. Then again this was the usual condition. A uniform was
waiting for him. It had enough egg salad to feed a crew. Well, he asked
for it. Once he had crawled inside it he made a call. He hoped the
number was still good. After a moment a face appeared in the screen,
the shock on said face told him he had the right number.
"Good morning Mrs Berry."
"Barnard, you old coot! A
uniform? What now, I though you left Starfleet in your dust."
"On occasion, depends on how bad the mud smells."
"This patch might have a strong odor."
"What's the deal?"
"It means another trip into space."
"OK, Richard, what is
important enough to get you out of Provence, into a uniform, and back
"I can't say over a public
comm. However consider, if it can get me to do that, can it get you
back into your reporter suit?"
"I never took it off."
"Well, I want the public eye, and you're the reporter that likes me the least."
"Is that required for impartiality?"
"It doesn't hurt."
"Where can we talk it over."
"Starfleet headquarters. I
can't tell you a lot, but I can tell you where we are going and for
approximately how long."
"All right, when?"
"You aren't going to sweep me out of my apartment suddenly are you?"
Barnard smiled. "Not ever again if I can help it. I'm too old for rescue missions."
You have a date, Tomorrow noon, Starfleet Headquarters."
"I'll have a Ensign waiting at the door for you."
Just as he hung up his call sounded.
"Come in. Ah, Ensign April, right on time."
"Well we need to be off to see the boss."
Barnard from across his desk like a venomous serpent. "What else will
"Well a good ship is a given.
Something younger and faster than myself would be preferred."
Philmore keyed his terminal. "The 'Mandalay', Horizon class finishes shake down in a week, no assignment as of yet."
"That's a fairly new class isn't it? This would be a good milk run for a new crew."
Philmore hrumped. "I don't
believe in 'milk runs'. You are either in space, or you are not."
Barnard smiled. "Philmore,
keep this up and you'll get on my good side. Can I have the Mandalay?"
"Yes, it does sounds like a
good breaking in mission. Captain Brittian in command. You'll like her,
senior captain, old school."
"'Broadsides and blasters Brittian'?
That old fool never saw a problem he couldn't 'fix' with enough applied energy."
"Admiral Barnard, 'Broadsides' retired 30 years ago, this is his granddaughter."
"Oh, well, that would be different."
"Thought so. Anything else?"
"I have a few private
citizens that may be joining the expedition. I haven't talked to all of
Philmore winced. "Are they necessary?"
"My discretion, remember? If I think they are necessary, they go."
"Philmore rolled his eye. "Yes Sir. How many if I may know?"
"Four to eight at most, some
of my former and current graduate students, and two old working
comrades from the war days, if they'll come."
"So it's a mystery?"
"As best I can describe it
Robin. I am called on to do some forensic archeology on not terribly
old ruins to try and determine the cause of them becoming ruins."
"Barnard, you must think something fishy is going on or you wouldn't call me."
"Fishy? Not yet. However I
think that your presence could well keep the expedition from acquiring
"So you expect something fishy?"
"It is that sort of environment where fishyness could occur, yes."
"So am I an inoculation against fishyness?"
"In effect yes. I trust that nothing 'fishy' will get passed you."
"So is it a story without a scandal?"
"That is a good question, I
will not say yes to get you to come. We could find that there is
nothing to find. We could be shocked. I honestly do not know. And I am
keeping an open mind until I have facts in hand."
"Aggressively open I think."
"Yes, I want no preconceptions."
"Is there any problem with Martin coming?"
"Not at all. His cameras are
more than welcome. He can give my kids a few pointers. As long as he
doesn't mind doing some of the dull archeological work. I can afford
Robin stirred her coffee. "I can talk him into it."
"I'll take that as a yes your are coming."
"Yes. How long?"
"Two years on the outside."
"Are you going to make it?"
"Of that Robin, we cannot be certain. So we are moving as quickly as possible."
"Your Ensign will get me the details?"
"Good. I'll have that talk with Martin and I'll see your then."
slowly into the musty room. Ceiling high shelves filled all but the
very center of the space. A few tables cluttered with the debris of the
ages occupied that area. Hooded lamps cast circles of light amid the
relative darkness. Alone in this area a dark man worked, intent on the
old pot that rested in the gentle grip of the antigrav plate. The man
started, suddenly aware that he was not alone.
"Jaume Aldama y Caso, good to see you."
The younger man moved around
the table to apply a warm handshake. "Professor, I hardly expected, and
"All in good time Jaume. How are things with you?"
His face fell. "Not so well.
With the restoration of the Valley of Kings complete, there is little
new work at the moment. I am back here cataloging last century's finds.
Archeology of the archeology department."
Barnard lowered himself to a
chair. "Then you would not be adverse to an outside expedition."
"Delighted, but what kind of funding?"
"Starfleet is funding, and providing the transportation."
"I am intrigued."
"New site, new world and a mystery they want explained."
"Yes, too old for a criminal investigation, so they called us."
"This could then be serious?"
"Yes, still want to go?"
"It cannot be worse than cataloging old Hittite pots."
"Never challenge worse Jaume."
"None the less, I will come."
Jhaneen was off planet. That meant it was only the three he could get.
Well you can't have everything your way. He looked back at Philmore and
Brittian mainly at Brittian. Philmore continued his fuming.
"Robin Berry is about the
most difficult critic that Starfleet has ever had, and you want her
along on this mission, of all missions?"
"Remember that full discretion? This is part of it."
"Yes, Berry. Captain Brittian, how do you feel about it?"
Brittian shrugged. "As long as she behaves herself on ship, I have no problem.
Barnard crowed. "There, no
higher authority can exist than the Captain's word. She was no problem
at all when she last sailed with me."
Philmore still looked fit to
chew nails. "Since New Limerick she has been an utter nuisance to
"Philmore, I thought you
would be wise enough to realize the value of a nuisance. In any case, I
am exercising that authority you grudgingly promised, and I am seeing
that I was right to demand it. Robin Berry, and any other inconvenient
person I decide I need, goes. Captain, when can you be ready to sail?"
"At your discretion Admiral."
"Good, we leave in a week."
The end total was
five. Robin and Martin Berry, Jaume Aldama y Caso, Greg Farmer, and
Liza Derry, two of his graduate students filled out the list of
experts. The crew of the Mandalay would serve any of the grunt
labor needed. It was shoestring archaeology, but it would have to do.
He had worked with less in the past.
Barnard looked about
the quarters approvingly. Much nicer than the equivalent cabin on the
Daedalus, and at the time he considered that to be pure luxury. His
door buzzed at him.
Robin came in. "Well they are
getting better. Now they are a good as a third class hotel."
Barnard smiled. "I remember
when you were lucky to get a bunk to yourself. The only reason you got
a bunk to yourself is that it was your hibernation tube too. This is
"I suppose shipboard life is never going to be as roomy as planet side."
"I think that is a safe bet Robin, but we are aiming for first class hotel."
"I think we have a ways to go."
"Yes, be glad we have this much."
"So, when do we learn of our oh so secret mission?"
"As soon as Captain Brittian moves to warp we will hold a full briefing."
Admiral Barnard and his team as well as Lt. Gillian and Eng. Verskaro sat in the Mandalay's generous briefing room. The logs from the Exeter
played on the central monitor cluster. Robin Berry looked out the
single window, expecting the moment. The stars outside the window
suddenly blurred and streaked in a rainbow of color. She turned back to
the log record on the screen.
"Dick, it looks like any one
of a dozen first contacts with primitive worlds Starfleet has made."
Barnard addressed the room at
large. "Yes, I know. However, something different happened here. Our
task it to find out what happened between the visit of the Exeter, and the visit of the Kiev."
Jaume said: "So, why did they
not ask the natives? I understand from the report that there are still
Barnard said: "That's the rub. Not only didn't the Exeter
stay long enough to build a language database, only the simplest of
terms were exchanged, but none of the natives would approach or allow
themselves to be approached during the visit of the Kiev. We are the people sent out to find the answers if any exist."
Jaume shrugged. "At least we get a third class cruise in the process."
"Jaume, Jaume, at the very least it's new science on a new world."
Greg drawled. "Another one of
them new worlds, no women, no bars, and no pool halls. Nothing to do
but throw rocks at tin cans and we have to bring our own tin cans."
"Greg your fondness for
Forbidden Planet is noted. Your assessment is somewhat correct, there
is no established civilization... anymore. Our job is to learn why from
the ruins of that civilization, if we can."
Jaume said. "We know nothing but what is on the log tapes."
"That is correct. The 360
hours of log tapes are the best and only record we have of this
civilization intact. However, consider that is more than was had by the
discoverers of the Myan civilization. They never saw the civilization
in working order at all. We at least have the tapes. Take good
advantage of it. What would Howard Carter or Lynn Surial have given for
a film of the Egyptian civilization at it's height?
Liza chuckled. "Yea, I
recently saw the tomb of Tenesnet III, it makes Tut look like the piker
he was, and it was late in the New Kingdom era. Who would have thought
the Valley of Kings had any surprises left for the 21st century."
Jaume shook his head. "Had is
the operative term. Once we had sensors, we found all of it. 20
undiscovered tombs deep in the back of the valley. 18 of them
untouched. It took 5000 years but they finally got it right."
Barnard continued. "Yes.
Place the tomb at the foot of a cliff, and bury it with an artificial
rock slide. Several of them required backhoes to get at. That said,
back to our little problem.
Unless someone has a better
idea I am calling the natives 'Ceetians' after our name for the star.
The Exeter did not establish what they called themselves.
Hopefully we can do at least that for them. I am starting the
investigation at the town Exeter visited, and Kiev
visited as well. That is the place where we have the best, indeed only
records. Everyone study the tapes. Robin, Martin, that means you as
Robin said. "We're not archeologists."
"You are reporters. Your eyes
might catch things we might miss. I am also having the Mandalay's science officer and crew have a look at it."
Lt. Gillian said. "At least we have a science crew. All 10 of us."
"That is more that we used to
have. Again, don't look expecting anything. The more we open our eyes,
the more we can see."
Eng. Verskaro said. "Do you
plan to use the sensors available, or is this Human style brush and
"Yes to both. We will use all
the tools at our disposal. I realize you physical science types are
fond of sensors, I am too. If necessary, yes, we will dig the old
fashion Earth way.
Weeks into the voyage Robin spotted Liza Derry by one of the ship's small view ports.
Liza looked back from the port. "You can't see any stars. At least not directly."
"I know, I've done this
before. Daedalus had even fewer ports, and smaller at that. Is this
your first trip into space?"
"So, why did your come?"
"He asks and you follow?"
Derry brushed the hair back
from her face. "Something like that. Looking for a story?"
"I'm a reporter, being nosy
is my profession. I've been trying to figure Barnard out since he
dragged me into space back in '59."
"What's to figure out, he's a professor of archeology."
"During the war he was Chief
of Fleet Operations and later Admiral of Starfleet. He sent a lot of
men out, including his best friend. A lot never came back, including
his best friend."
"A lot of men did things
during the war they would rather forget. My Grandfather was one of
them. Soldier wasn't his profession, but a soldier he became."
"I didn't believe the war
until I saw New Limerick. I was looking over the Captain's shoulder
when we had the first meaningful message from a Romulan. All my
"My Grandfather wouldn't speak of the war."
"Many would not. I saw little enough, and my job was to speak out."
"So why did you come?"
"Barnard. He knows exactly how to jerk my chain, and I fall for it every time."
"Do you regret it?"
"Yes, and no. New Limerick
wasn't something I wanted to see, but it was something I, and the rest
of Earth, needed to see. I thought I was the reporter?"
"I'm a reporter too, I just report on old news."
"Any ideas on what we will find?"
"Exactly what you have seen, only a little older. No preconceptions remember?"
"What does that mean in any case?"
"It means I don't form
theories until I have some facts. It's one of the Professor's teaching
"I always think of him as an Admiral, a soldier and commander of men."
"I never known him like that. Professor Barnard is the least military man I know."
"Thinking about it he wasn't
very military even in the war. Starfleet he definitely is, but not
Starfleet the warriors, Starfleet the explorers."
"Is that not what we all
strive to be, explorers? Archeologists explore the past, reporters
explore the present, and we all explore the future, one day at a time."
"Can I quote that?
Liza smiled. "Sure, I wouldn't mind my 15 minutes."
Continued in -- Part Two
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Copyright © 2004, Garry Stahl
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