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Winner: Conspiracy Theories


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Conspiracy Theories

~*~*~

“I cannot call to mind a single instance where I have ever been irreverent, except toward the things which were sacred to other people.”

~Mark Twain~

~*~*~

James T. Lyle quivered with anticipation.

From the moment he heard that the San Dimas earthquake had unearthed a sub level in the Chapel Library building he knew he wanted in on the dig. When he found out that Dr. Martin Hanniver was leading it, he was sure he needed to be there. Hanniver was one of the most important Earth artifact archeologists in the Federation – the very mention of his name set entire crowds of studious archeology geeks into stunned silence.

Hanniver was the sort who had a vast reference stash of artifacts, information and Starfleet contacts at his fingertips and yet he didn’t do anything with this treasure trove beyond write stuffy articles for stuffy academic journals. Lyle thought that was quite a shame. There was so much one could do with that information, so much he believed was covered up by the shadows of Starfleet and its oh so secret organizations. In his mind there would always be academics that gathered information and who would need to be led by visionaries who could wield that information like a shining silver sword against the ignorance of the masses.

James T. Lyle believed he was exactly one such visionary.

Sure, everyone else might just see some gangly youth, barely old enough to be a force in the world. He was still young enough that his limbs seemed too long for his body, with sandy hair and a wide smile; he wasn’t a bad looking kid. Most people seemed to like him, or at least gravitate towards his radiant self-confidence. And why wouldn’t he be self confident? The line of Lyle had proudly enlisted into Starfleet for seven generations, but James was different. He was the one who broke the mold – went to college and had the brains to succeed. It was no co-incidence his father named him after the greatest Starfleet captain to have ever lived. Make no mistake, James Lyle was a man set out to do great things. He would be the first of his family to graduate a Starfleet officer and blaze a path of truth across the cosmos.

He was sure of it.

Certainly that was why, out of seventy-three archaeology students, he was the one picked to accompany Hanniver down into the wreckage. Lyle knew he had to make this opportunity count. He spent weeks preparing for it and planning for the best way to impress. And yet in person the man was not what Lyle expected. He was thinking Hanniver was a weedy academic – not the broad shouldered, strapping man who stood before him with long black hair, dark skin and a genial Martian drawl. Still, Lyle knew first impressions were everything and he had to make this one count. Hanniver could be the greatest launching pad of his career, if he could properly impress him. He needed this reference to get a foot into the door of Starfleet.

“All right, as I am sure you are all already aware; we are standing outside the Chapel Medical Library of Starfleet Academy.” Dr. Hanniver opened to the gathered crowd of students and scientists. “This building was constructed 150 years ago, on top of the foundations of the old Starfleet Admiral’s Club after that facility was decommissioned and moved to Luna Capitol. The recent earthquake opened a fissure in the foundation which revealed an extensive sub-basement, used for records and storage. Our job is to carefully catalogue and remove all of the artifacts in this area. T’Pahl and Julani will be leading team one – you will be removing all of the isolinear rods from the storage area. Rodriguez and Ah’Krza will be leading team two – you will be tagging all personal items. Smith and Wesson will be leading team three in carefully checking the armory – if you run into any problems, call a security officer to assist.” He paused and fixed his eyes on the gangly student lingering in the back. “And Mr. Lyle – you are with me. We’re going to see if the sinkhole behind the fissure leads to anything. You will follow my lead, am I clear?”

“Yes, sir!” Lyle called back. He double-checked his harness and gear before shouldering a portable generator and a case of checkpoint lanterns; brimming with excitement at the chance to venture into a place that hadn’t been explored for centuries. As the teams dispersed, Hanniver walked up, offering over a helmet and a pair of goggles.

“They tell me you like a good adventure, Lyle. That you’re aiming for Starfleet Academy. I hope your rappelling skills are up to snuff.” Hanniver grinned, checking his own harness.

Lyle gave an eager nod. “Oh yes, they’re good, sir!” He followed the older man into the crack in the earth, clipping his carabineer onto the safety cable as they eased their way down a steep incline. “What do you think we’re going to find down here?”

Hanniver shrugged as he adjusted his light. The bright midday sun faded as they started traveling under the cracked precipice of the old foundation. “I hope to find some new information on the foundations of the Federation. I try not to expect anything.” He paused, grabbing onto a parallel cable and switching his harness clips. “Be careful, it’s slippery here.

The two men descended down past the rubble left when the original building was destroyed, and past layers of older architectural remnants – brick and stonework from centuries past. The drop was surprisingly short, only a single story. It landed them in an unimpressive poured concrete box that had most of its identifying decoration stripped from the walls long ago.

“Huh.” Lyle murmured. “Pretty bare.” It wasn’t what he thought it would be.

Hanniver chuckled, handing Lyle a laser ruler and pulling out a tricorder. “Standard deconstruction job. This looks like late twenty first style construction – probably a storage area or possibly an underground garage.”

“Why hide a storage area down here?”

“Not so much ‘hide’ back then as it was ‘fit.’ Space was at a premium, the Lunar and Martian colonies were just infant ideas, cities were crowded. They needed to build up and down rather than side to side to make it all fit.” Hanniver replied, face down into his readings. He waved a hand towards his young companion. “This way.”

Lyle gasped as Hanniver pushed a busted door open. The flashlight cut a beam down a long featureless hallway. “I have seen this before…” Lyle murmured.

Hanniver perked a brow. “You have?” He turned towards his companion, watching the kid for several long seconds.

Lyle’s eyes grew wide in anticipation. “I have! I know this book by heart! This is exactly how Colonel Abrahms describes the secret storage facility for Starfleet’s greatest temporal secrets in his book “Into Darkness: A Theory of Federation Development in an Alternative Timeline.”

The older man turned to face his student. “Really?” The tone held less curiosity in it, and more belated disbelief. “That’s a hack pop-science book written by someone who would have been better off writing action-adventure holonovels.”

Jaw dropping, James Lyle did his level best to not look as crestfallen as he felt. “Colonel Abrahms spent his whole life working on his body of work. It’s brilliant, if you take the time to read everything. And there’s plenty of support for his ideas.”

Sighing, Hanniver pinched the bridge of his nose. He hated getting into arguments like this with students. “Lyle… I know it’s a compelling read – but that’s it. Entertainment. There’s no real science behind Abrahms’ theories. He doesn’t respect historical facts. All he does is build off other people’s theories and take them on a drunken romp through the annals of Federation history.”

Lyle grit his teeth as they moved down the hallway. He had been studying this theory his entire life. He knew it better than anyone else, and the proof for this theory might be standing right in front of them. Ever since he was a small child Lyle believed there was a massive temporal cover up in Starfleet and he was going to be the man who would break it wide open and save the course of history. He had to make Hanniver see the truth. “There’s plenty of historical fact in Into Darkness. It builds from the very foundation of Federation records and into the real way history played out. We’re just too blind to see how much the Temporal Affairs Office has been altering our perceptions so we can’t see history correctly!” he argued as they came to a hole in the foundation.

Fanning the flashlight around the dusty cavern of crushed concrete, Hanniver resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Colonel Abrahms was a nutjob conspiracy theorist. Why do you think he was given a dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps?”

“The history books are wrong.” Lyle folded his arms across his chest in muted defiance. “Colonel Abrahms was a visionary who unfolded a time centered plot that had – still has – the potential to unravel the very foundations of our Federation!”

“Oh yes, I read all about it. The Romulan plot to travel back in time and destroy Vulcan.” Hanniver sighed. “Look, I know the destruction of the Hobus star took a lot of people by surprise, even shook them up pretty badly. The colonel was one of them. But it’s been fifty three years, and the non aggression pact with the Romulans has stood for over two decades. You think if they were going to try some insane time travel plot to ‘get revenge’ at the Federation, they would have done it already.”

The student leaned forward, conviction tinting his voice with a passionate edge. “You don’t understand the flow of time travel. This whole cataclysm is just waiting for the right domino to be pushed over. We might be stumbling on the very proof that what the colonel predicted is absolutely true.”

Hanniver paused, letting his shoulders slump as he fixed Lyle with an unimpressed stare. “The Abrahms theory may be the most popular conspiracy theory of the past fifty years.” He paused for effect. “But seriously, if a ship full of Romulans did have the ability to time travel wouldn’t they warn their planet of its impending doom and therefore save the vast majority of their species rather than going off on some ill-conceived revenge mission?”

Lyle stalled in his vehement argument. The gears in his brain turned, remembering the fascinating passages he had spent years reading under his covers and in darkened back rooms of dusty libraries. “They were driven insane by grief.” He asserted.

“Romulans are crazy… but they’re not that crazy.” Hanniver replied, making a light sound of disgust as he continued forward.

Lyle felt his cheeks burn. He followed Hanniver through a busted door and into a cleaned out storage area. Running his finger along the thick layer of dust accumulated on the tops of the steel shelving, he tried to recoup his argument. “There was interference by Admiral Marcus. He was in on the time conspiracy because he wanted to purge all non-human influence from the Federation. The Romulan attack on Vulcan would be a fundamental building block for his xenophobic platform. He steered them towards Vulcan.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Hanniver called back, setting down the portable generator and messing with the controls until it hummed to life. The beacons he had been placing on their way down powered up with a deep amber glow.

“It isn’t. Even in this time stream, historians were able to point out over a dozen pivotal decisions Admiral Marcus made that perfectly set up the time-warp destruction of the Vulcan homeworld. It’s a good thing he was stopped by Khan before he got the chance to implement his plans.”

Hanniver sighed. “Admiral Marcus died at home from rheumatic fever, surrounded by his family at the age of ninety-three. He never fought a genetically engineered superman, he never built a death dealing stealth battleship, and the biggest scandal he was involved in was that Federation News Service story about how he used his Starfleet rank to give him in edge in bartering flower samples after he retired.” He fixed Lyle with a flat look. “Yes, they accused him of having an unfair advantage in a garden show competition.” He punctuated the gravity of this statement with a low ‘oooooh.’

“It’s a Federation cover up. They don’t want you to know how deeply the Temporal Affairs Department in entrenched in every walk of life in the United Federation of Planets. And Starfleet. Especially Starfleet.” Lyle wasn’t about to give up, he knew this story all too well, and he usually won this argument. Most people simply conceded that his knowledge was superior.

“Yep.” Hanniver tossed back. “I have tea with temporal agents every other Wednesday.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“Are you being serious?”

“You don’t seem to understand the gravity of this situation!”

“Look, Mr. Lyle…” Hanniver sighed, changing tactics. “What do you really think you’re going to find down here?”

“I don’t know!” Lyle threw his hands up in the air, his eyes wide. “That’s the brilliant beauty of it all, isn’t it? There could be any number of things that could tear a massive hole into the cover ups that Starfleet heaps on us.” He paused and added with a smile, “I like keeping my mind open to the possibilities.”

“Possibilities?” Hanniver snorted. “Right.” He shook his head, working on unlocking the far door in the room. It gave a whine as the rusty old fashioned hinges creaked and the seal around the door cracked open. A rush of cold air hit them both, and even Hanniver felt his curiosity pique.

It was like a freezer in here.

“Oh my God… I was right…” Lyle breathed as the fog from the coolant cleared. Hanniver picked up a beacon and let the light penetrate the frigid blackness.

Storage containers. Row after row after row of perfectly preserved storage containers.

“We don’t know what’s in them until we open one.” Hanniver replied, keeping his voice calm. He didn’t want to admit this discovery rattled him just a little. He crouched down, trying to find any identification on the container. “It says botanical samples.” He started the unlock code, vaguely surprised how easily the locking mechanism jumped to life.

“Of course they would say plant samples. No one labels horrific bioweapons or cryogenically frozen soldiers as what they really are.”

“I’m not getting any dangerous readings.” Hanniver countered, his tricorder at the ready as the lock sequenced.

“Shielding.” Lyle muttered. “I’m sure it has shielding.”

Hanniver felt a surge of adrenaline as the locking device on the container hummed compliantly and the lights on the control panel turned green. Maybe Lyle’s wild theories were infectious, but he felt a shiver of anticipation run down his spine as he opened the case. The fog of cryogenic cooling agents hissed as they hit the warmth of the outside and rolled across his chest.

“Oh my God…” the words dribbled from his mouth as his jaw dropped.

“I was right, wasn’t I?” Lyle tossed back, his eyes wide as saucers. “This proves the whole theory!”

“No…” Hanniver’s expression was like a tiny child seeing a Christmas tree glittering with lights and tinsel for the very first time. He grabbed a sample tongs and pulled out a small cylindrical case. “This is a Romulan snow orchid…” He gasped, taking out another case, “Romulan three leaf basil… and mountain poppies…” A chuckle of realization bubbled from his chest. “Admiral Marcus was smuggling illegal plant samples from the neutral zone for his garden…”

“Plants.” Lyle’s expression looked like it has been smashed with a wrecking ball. “Just plants?”

“Not just plants.” Hanniver grabbed his tricorder and started to take readings from inside the case. “This is a botanical treasure trove! Over half of these species have been extinct since the Hobus star exploded… and they’re still biologically viable. We could cultivate them!” The excitement in Hanniver’s voice was growing to a fevered pitch. “Think of the diplomatic inroads the Federation could make to the Romulans by offering them seedlings of these plants… this is amazing, Lyle! Simply amazing!”

“Just plants.” The young man repeated, his shock fading to disappointment and anger. “We did all this digging for a bunch of stupid plants?!”

Hanniver stood, letting the excitement of his find bleed away from his expression as he settled his gaze on Lyle. If the kid couldn’t realize the importance of a discovery like this one… “Reality check, kid. I don’t think you’re cut out for Starfleet. In fact, I’m going to recommend that after you finish your degree you should apply for a job at Forsythe Historical Holonovel Productions. They’re always hiring archaeologists and historians. Help them give that realistic ‘edge’ to their programming. Pays well, good benefits, Arconis V is a beautiful planet to work on and you can indulge your sense of pulp fiction fantasy on a daily basis.” He offered Lyle a sympathetic smile. “Heck, I’ll even give you a good reference for the job.”

Lyle’s mouth fell open in disappointment. Entertainment? Holonovels? He thought he would be on the cutting edge of the unknown, not programming trite historical romantic adventures. “Are you serious?”

“Dead serious kid.” Hanniver gathered his tools. “Come on, we need to get a science team down here.”

Lyle lingered back, holding back a disenchanted cry. As Hanniver disappeared into the side room he kicked the floor and turned back at the rows of storage pods.

“Stupid plants.” He cursed again, hanging his head and following the professor.

~*~

Lieutenant JG Sal Taybrim

Science Officer

USS Excalibur-A

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