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Take it apart, figure it out, put it back together. That's the ongoing mission of the U.S.S. da Vinci, commanded by Captain David Gold and his first officer, Commander Sonya Gomez, late of the Starship Enterprise and one of Starfleet's top engineers. They oversee a crack S.C.E. team composed of specialists in such diverse fields as tactical systems, alien cultures, computers, linguistics, and cryptography. Together they're ready to cope with just about every kind of high-tech challenge imaginable -- and a few that nobody could have imagined.
For centuries, the planet Eerlik has had a thriving civilization, completely run, maintained, and administered by a giant sentient computer. But now that computer is breaking down and the desperate inhabitants are helpless to repair the damage. Only the crew of the U.S.S. da Vinci, accompanied by Geordi La Forge, can hope to fix the massive computer before the Eerlikkan society collapses entirely. Their mission grows more dangerous, however, when they discover evidence of sabotage -- and learn firsthand that hostile forces will do whatever it takes to stop Gold and his crew from saving the imperiled planet!
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From Chapter One
The holo in the center of Ansed's living room showed a comedy program that had stopped production a decade earlier, and for which Ansed owned no recordings. A minute ago, it had been showing archival footage of the landing of the Pevvni ship that had colonized the ninth planet fifty years ago. A minute before that, it had been showing a real-time image of the weather on Hendorf Island.
But, for the life of her, Ansed, First Speaker of Eerlik, could not get the holo to open a simple communications channel.
That was only part of the problem.
Ansed looked around the living room currently illuminated by candles, since the lights no longer worked and out the window at the hailstorm that should've been stopped by the weather control system. She pulled the blanket around her teal shoulders with her short arms necessary, as the house's heating system was no longer functioning properly.
The unthinkable had happened. The great Ganitriul was breaking down. And if someone didn't stop it from doing so, the entire fabric of Eerlikka society would collapse.
Suddenly, the staccato slamming of hail against the outside of Ansed's house ceased. She looked out the window to see that the storm had finally abated.
There was no chance she'd be able to convince the holo to go to communications mode. She'd tried for hours to contact anyone she could, from her fellow speakers and the priests who kept the knowledge of Ganitriul on-planet, to the Pevvni colony, or even the nearest Federation outpost off-planet. Nothing worked. The priority at this point was to consult the clergy. Ansed feared that even they could do nothing after all, the transporters and spacefaring vessels were also operated via Ganitriul, so they probably weren't functioning any better than the weather control system, the heat, the holo, or the lights. Still, they were the experts...
Left with no traditional method of speaking to the priests, Ansed was forced to go outside and walk to the temple. Ansed couldn't remember the last time she'd walked outside, nor the last time she'd gone from place to place in that manner. The necessity annoyed her, and the thought that the situation might continue was frightening.
She almost bruised her forehead on the door, which did not open at her approach as it was supposed to. Sighing, Ansed opened a window. She had closed her living room window for the first time in years today; usually, there was a nice breeze coming in. Now, though, she had to use the window as a door.
Clambering out, she was assaulted by the bitter cold. Since the construction of Ganitriul long before Ansed's great-great-grandparents were born the capital city had had an even climate. She was forced to continue to huddle inside the blanket in order to stay warm, since she did not have proper clothing for this weather, and the clothes-provider wasn't functioning any better than any other device.
For three millennia, the computer on the moon had provided every creature comfort the Eerlikka could want or need. Since Ganitriul's autorepair components had been installed a century ago, there had never even been a hint of a problem. Though tourists did make regular pilgrimages to the public parts of the caverns that housed Ganitriul's terminals, there had been no need for anyone to travel to the moon to effect repairs in a hundred years.
After an exhausting walk of almost fifteen minutes, Ansed arrived at the temple. It was the only structure in the capital city that still retained the hideous Yarnallian architectural style, and Ansed had to admit to finding it painful to look at. But the priests insisted that the temple look as it had when it was first constructed, and Ansed could not blame them for that.
Of course, the temple's greeter wasn't working properly. She wondered how she would be able to gain the attention of those inside.
Then, noticing the ornate handle in the center of the door, she remembered that the temple still had one of those old-fashioned doors that opened manually. She could only hope that it wasn't locked.
First, she tried to slide the door to the side, the way normal doors worked, but it didn't budge. Then she pushed the door at the handle, but still it did not move.
Pulling, however, seemed to work.
Winded after all the walking and the effort of pulling the door open, Ansed took a moment to compose herself before entering the temple.
"Is anyone here?"
Her words echoed throughout the temple, which was almost pitch-dark.
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea, Ansed thought. She considered turning back and going home to try the holo again but she didn't fancy the idea of walking any more, and dammit, she needed to talk to the priests. At least one of them had to be here....
Suddenly, the lights in the temple came on at about twice their usual intensity. Ansed's wide eyes were momentarily rendered useless by the sudden onslaught, and she blinked both her upper and lower eyelids furiously to clear the spots that now danced in front of her face.
When her vision cleared, she screamed. Ansed was the foremost political personage on all of Eerlik, and she'd been a respected scholar and politician for years prior to that. She hadn't screamed since she was in her crèche.
But she screamed now.
Seventeen priests and twenty acolytes served in the temple. In addition to their other spiritual duties, the priests were tasked with guarding all the knowledge that related to Ganitriul. If anyone would be able to solve the current crisis, it would be them.
Right now, Ansed stared at a pile of corpses that seemed to number approximately thirty-seven, all wearing the robes of either priests or acolytes. They looked like they had been placed there in a semiorderly pile. Blue blood was splattered all over the bodies, and pooled on the floor around them.
A shiver passed through Ansed that had nothing to do with the unnatural chill in the air. The numerous malfunctions were bad; this was worse. Ganitriul could, in theory, be fixed. But to have all the clergy dead...
"Help me! Somebody, please, help me!"
The voice seemed to come from amid the corpses. Ansed felt as if her short legs had grown roots. She couldn't move. Someone was obviously still alive in the midst of the carnage, but Ansed couldn't bring herself to investigate further. This was a task for Enforcement, not the First Speaker.
"Help me, please," the voice said, this time much smaller. Ansed saw someone crawling out from under the pile of bodies.
Somehow managing to overcome her fear and revulsion, Ansed made her feet move toward the voice and reached out one short arm to him.
With a grateful expression on his face at least, Ansed assumed the expression was grateful; it was hard to tell under all the blood the young man reached out to grab the offered arm. Now that she got a look at him, Ansed recognized the young man as Undlar, who had only just been ordained a month earlier.
And now it seemed he was the only priest left.
The recognition went both ways, as Undlar stumbled to his feet, gazed upon Ansed and said, "F-First Speaker? Is is that you?" Ansed noticed that the young man had a very large gash all the way down his right arm, and dozens of cuts and abrasions all over his person.
"Yes, Reger Undlar," she said. "I came to speak to the clergy."
With a sardonic tone that impressed Ansed, given Undlar's physical state, he said, "I I'm afraid that w-won't really be possible, First Speaker."
Undlar seemed to deflate. "I I wish I knew. The the power it went out obviously s-something has gone wrong with the Great One and then then we were all assaulted brutally. We we tried to fight back, but our guns wouldn't wouldn't work. They had some some kind of edged weapons."
That edged weapons had been used was obvious, given the types of wounds, but Ansed said nothing.
"We need to get you to a hospital." And hope their equipment is functioning, she did not say aloud. Undlar did not need to be reminded of that. "And then we need to call Enforcement. They probably have their hands full, but this is something that will need to be dealt with right away."
"I I'm sorry, First Speaker. I I failed."
"You did no such thing, Reger. On the contrary, you showed tremendous courage." And you may be the only hope we have, she thought. Saying that aloud was equally inadvisable.
Supporting the young man who started shaking as they began to walk Ansed moved back outside into the cold, hoping that the trip to the hospital wouldn't exhaust her.
For thousands of years, Eerlik had prospered. There had been no reason to doubt that the golden age brought on by the construction of Ganitriul would ever end.
Now, the First Speaker of Eerlik had to wonder if that golden age was over and if it was, whether the Eerlikka could survive its ending.
Copyright © 2000 by Paramount Pictures
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