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Trek Noir

Idril Mar

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The twin suns beat down on the harsh desert like a redheaded step-child, which was ironic in a way, because I'm a redhead myself. The guy sitting next to me didn't look much better in this sun, being a blonde with a bad sense of humor and a worse attitude at the moment. My name: Idril Mar. His: Danny Wilde.

"Well, it looks like they took the converter matrix." I slid out from under the relay, standing and dusting off the backside of my pants.

"And that is…," said Danny from behind me, where I knew he was admiring my now slightly-less dusty backside.

"That is, Lieutenant, the piece that makes this hunk of scrap work." I replied acidly, kicking the centuries-old piece of junk like a dog that had just relieved itself all over my favorite rug. I was hot, tired, hungry and fed up with his attitude, even if he was easy on the eyes and I was mildly interested in him.

We had been stranded together on this backwater no-water planet for a little over 4 days. The heat in the day was scorching and the nights were as cold as my grandmother's freezer box back home, the kind of cold that made your face think it was awake but tried its best to drain the life out of your backside while you weren't looking.

Thankfully we had stumbled onto a cave system that had apparently been used by some race as a hideout from the scorching outside. It provided a little bit of shelter from the hot and the cold, as well as some water, but the only technology of any use, planted, as luck would have it, about 30 feet out in the suns, was this stupid communications relay,. Believe me, when I say stupid, I don't mean it lightly. I mean stupid like the Pakleds, not that I'm racist or anything. This relay was wired up like somebody's Altarian spaghetti bowl and it had taken me two days just to unwind it and figure out that it was a relay in the first place, then another day to figure out what was wrong with it.

The only thing wrong with it was that it was missing the most important piece and that piece had likely wandered off recently. The 3-toed footprints next to the relay told that story well-enough.

"Hey, look, I wonder if these footprints could lead us anywhere," my sharp-witted companion said, being as he was a security officer with a self-believed knack for investigation.

I just rolled my eyes and tried not to say anything too far over his head technologically speaking.

As we followed them, they led back into the cave complex, but through an entrance that the two of us had not yet gone into. Standing at the opening, I smelled a smell, something that made me want to retch, something that spoke of of our 'collectors' being a race without nostrils.

Danny covered his nose, for all the good I figured that it did him. "Are you sure we need that thing?"

My nose, being more sensitive than his, was looking for a way to crawl off the back side of my head as I nodded tersely to him.

"In we go, then." Danny has this way of pointing out the obvious, like a doctor pointing out the injuries on a red-shirt to the redshirt, though they didn't make it back too often as it was. I ignored it and followed him in.

Unlike our part of the caves, lit by crystals that let in some sunlight, this one was dark, dark like a starless night. It took a few moments to let our eyes adjust before we could see that this cave was really a tunnel, one that went deeper into the rocks than ours. I took the flashlight out of my utility belt, standard issue for any engineer would her salt, which I liked to believe I was, and we walked on, following the footprints like some modern-day Hansel and Gretel, only hopefully there wasn't a witch at the end of the trail bent on eating us.

We'd walked for about five minutes into the inky blackness, the dim illumination from my flashlight the only thing showing the way, when we realized something was down the hall from us, something glowing. I turned off the light and we could see that it was glowing green. It was a sickly green, the color that food gets when you leave it in the replicator for a couple of days without recycling it, the color that makes you think about slime and other things that tend to turn your stomach.

Walking a little bit further, we came up to the edge of a large cavern. As we looked in, the inhabitants saw us too.

I'll spare you all the gorey details, but suffice to say that, despite some sort of energy-dampening field that prevented our use of our phasers, we managed to 'take care of business,' if you know what I mean. A little while later, we were back out in the scorching sun, where I finished plugging the stupid converter matrix back into the relay and soldered the last connection nice and tight. Standing up, my muscles screamed at me; the fight over this piece of machinery had been brutal such that it felt like a pair of prize-fighters were still beating on me. Danny and I were both bruised head to toe and bleeding in a couple places.

"This had better be worth it," I said as I reached for what I thought was the power switch to turn on the relay.

At that very moment, a Federation type-9 shuttle appeared in the sky overhead. A voice crackled out of my comm-badge.

"I hope you two behaved yourselves on your vacation," the voice said, with the grin on the pilot's face as plain through the clear signal as the flickering light running through the hard-won matrix in front of me. Such was the life of an engineer.

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