Chapter 21: The Vectrans Arrive (I Knew We Should've Taken That Left Turn at Albuquerque)
The starship Delphi 4 pulled into orbit around the earth. Long before the starship had come within range of any detection devices on earth, the Vectrans had activated a cloaking device for the ship.
"Cloaking device activated, Commander," said Rayleena. "We're now in orbit about the planet. They'll never know that we're up here, unless something should happen to hit us, and our sensors are too sophisticated for that to happen."
"Very good, Rayleena," Rhiannon replied. "All right. Rayleena, Calista, I want you to follow me to the conference room for the briefing before we actually beam down to earth. You'll meet the other members of our landing party that I've selected to go with us. Let's go."
The three women arrived shortly in the conference room. Several other members of the crew were waiting for them. Rhiannon sat at the head of the table.
"Rayleena, I think you already know everyone here. Calista, I'll introduce you to the other crewmembers that will be going with us.
"Vantha is an old friend of mine. Along with Rayleena and myself, she's the only one left who has actually been on earth. The three of us dealt with the earthlings on the salvage and recovery mission thirty-plus years ago. We'll probably have to do a certain amount of interfacing with the locals, in order to get some of the information we'll need. So anyone who has had some experience with earth languages and customs is an asset.
"Kristal is one of the first crewmembers who volunteered for duty on this mission with us. She's also from Engineering. Their department has developed a tracking mechanism that'll home in on our technology whenever it's activated. They've also come up with an all-purpose tricorder type device, that should help us interface with most of the rest of the earth technology that we encounter."
"We've also come up with one other thing that we'll need," said Kristal. She handed each girl a small plastic coated item. "The earthlings refer to these items as 'credit cards'. All we have to do is hand these to most any merchant, smile and sign our names on a piece of paper. It was surprisingly easy to hack into their computer systems, and create entries for each of us."
"We're going to need to purchase food, supplies, lodgings, and possibly even have to buy information from some of the unsavory types we might meet," said Rhiannon. "With these, as long as we don't go overboard, we can do just about whatever we need."
"Dejah is one of the science officers," Rhiannon continued. "She'll be working primarily with you, Calista. I expect you two to assess and evaluate any of our software and technology that we happen to find on earth; and to tell me just what sort of condition it's in. In short, I want to know just how much the earthlings may have fucked with things, and if they're holding out on us again, when we go to take it back. Dejah has also come up with a way that we can blend in a little more naturally with the locals."
Dejah opened a small case, and handed each girl a small, brightly colored piece of what looked to be costume jewelry.
"We'll be arriving on earth in what should pass for contemporary clothing." Dejah clicked a button and an image appeared on the display screen on one side of the conference room. As the other girls saw what was shown before them, mutterings of disgust and dislike spread throughout the room.
"Believe me, I'm not any more enthused about having to dress in these things, than any of you are," said Dejah. What was shown on the display screen were women in short pants, sandals and sneakers, and loose fitting summer blouses or halter-tops.
"We have to make an effort to fit in with the locals," said Rhiannon. "We are on a secret mission that is unauthorized and unapproved by Fleet Command. We can't afford to advertise our presence."
"The other thing I've come up with that should help us, are the pieces of 'jewelry' that I've given to each of you," said Dejah. "What these actually are, are miniature hologram projectors. Because of our different physiology, we stand out like sore thumbs. We're anywhere from one to two feet taller than the average earth female. One or two of us might be able to pass unnoticed, but six of us would be pushing things too far.
"All we have to do is wear these as a belt buckle, or anywhere else on the exterior of our clothing, and they'll make us appear the same size as most other females; approximately five and a half feet in height.
"We'll still be our full height, so we'll have to be careful around doorways, or anywhere else that there's confined spaces or a lot of people. But we should be able to move around without attracting too much attention.
"And last but not least, the projectors will also function as translators for us. Granted, the languages we've programmed them with are strictly from dictionaries. We probably won't be able to match wits with slang terms or swear words very easily. But we ought to be able to communicate with them."
"Another thing that I want to emphasize," said Rhiannon, "is that we are on a pure seek and recovery mission. I'm going to remind all of you, that with the exception of our physical size, we look almost identical to the earthlings on the surface. That's part of the reason that Vantha, Rayleena and myself were able to interact with them, the first time that we were here.
"When we arrive at the Bahamas, which is considered mainly as a resort or vacation spot, we'll look like six other attractive women. Some of the locals may try and flirt with us, or even attempt something more daring. You are not, repeat not, to encourage any sort of contact or interaction, beyond what's necessary to get this mission successfully accomplished.
"We're here to reclaim what's ours, and create as little fuss and disturbance as possible. Any questions?" The rest of the girls in the conference room shook their heads.
"Okay. Let's head for the transporter room. Calista, you'll give the coordinates of the Bahamas to the technician, Janna there, and she'll beam us down."
Rhiannon and the other five crewmembers took their places on the deck of the transporter machine. Calista had just finished going over the beam-down coordinates with the technician, Janna.
"All right, Janna," said Rhiannon. "We're ready when you are."
"Roger, Commander," replied Janna. "Six to beam down to earth. Destination coordinates: the Bahamas." Janna moved the main power lever that activated the machine, and pressed the required buttons. The forms of Rhiannon and the five other women shimmered brightly for a moment, and then disappeared.
"See you soon, Commander. Hurry back."
Moments later, Rhiannon and the landing party materialized on earth. The first thing that surprised everyone was how cold it was. The next was that the sky was nearly dark, when their instruments indicated that it should've been the middle of the afternoon.
Instead of seeing beaches and an island environment, the landing party was staring at endless fields of white snow to the south and to the west, and huge mountains in the background.
"What the hell..." muttered Rhiannon. Gusts of frigid, arctic winds blew at the landing party from several sides. The chill wind cut through them like a knife.
"Holy shit! It's freezing out here!"
"I thought you said we were headed for an area that was supposed to be nearly tropical?"
"Calista!" yelled Rhiannon. "What the fuck is going on here?"
"I'm trying to get a readout on our present coordinates, and figure out where we are, Commander."
"Cadet, I don't have to be a damned scientist to figure out that we aren't where we're supposed to be! Get the ship on the communicator right now, or else..."
Suddenly, rifle shots could be heard from the east. Bullets dug into the snow to the sides of them. Although too far away to be accurate, it wouldn't be long before they found the range. Several miles from the landing party, the chain link fence could be seen surrounding a series of buildings. Rhiannon had been a soldier in the Vectran Fleet long enough to recognize a military installation when she saw one.
"We're being fired upon! Everyone, get down!" screamed Rhiannon. "Kristal. Dejah. Have we got anything we can defend ourselves with?"
"Give me a minute, and I'll have a f***e field generator up and running, Commander," replied Kristal.
Without warning, Vantha pulled a laser pistol out of her carryall bag. She fired several shots in the direction of their attackers. This sent them scurrying for cover. “Hah! Look at ‘em run!” exclaimed Vantha.
Rhiannon reached over and grabbed Vantha by the shoulder, and yanked her back down. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"But Commander, they attacked us first!"
"Vantha you twit, use your head! Those were soldiers that fired on us! Somehow, we’ve landed on the back door of some type of military base, or secret installation. Now that we've fired upon them, they're going to get more soldiers, and bigger guns. I told you that we can't afford any type of conflict like this!"
"Commander, f***e shield is up and operational," said Kristal. "We'll be shielded from the elements for a while. It'll also act as temporary cover, blending in with the background. But I've only got enough battery power to last about an hour. Plus, any kind of serious search will find us in no time at all."
"All right," replied Rhiannon. "That'll keep us safe for the time being. Dejah, have you reestablished contact with the Delphi 4 yet?"
"I'm working on it, Commander. These weather conditions are playing havoc with the reception though."
"Let me know the instant you can raise anyone. Calista! How the hell did we wind up here, instead of the Bahamas?"
"I've been rechecking the readings, Commander. It's the ass-backwards way that this planet does everything. Their maps are backwards."
"Are you telling me that you can't read a map, Cadet?"
"No, sir! It's just that..."
"Commander! I've got the ship on the communicator!" called Dejah.
"Give me that!" exclaimed Rhiannon. "Delphi 4? This is Commander Rhiannon. Six to beam up immediately!"
"Commander, you only just got there. Is everything all right...?"
"Just do it!" shouted Rhiannon. "Lock onto us, and get us the hell out of here! I'll explain later."
"Yes sir, Commander. Locking onto your coordinates now. We'll have you back aboard in a moment..."
"Kristal, kill the f***e shield, so that they can get a clear signal on us. We should be all right for a few moments."
Moments later, the transporter beam from Delphi 4 locked onto the six women, and they shimmered, and were gone from the frozen landscape. Instants later they rematerialized on the transporter deck of the Delphi 4. All of the women were flushed and shivering from exposure to the elements.
"All right. At least we're back in one piece," muttered Rhiannon. "Everyone be sure and stop by sickbay and have the medics take a look at you. We weren't there that long, but we may have picked up some type of virus or disease."
Grumbling and muttering, the women left the transporter room, and headed for their own quarters. Rhiannon positioned herself between Calista and the door, and stuck her arm out against the wall, barring the way.
"Just a minute, Cadet. I want to have a talk with you." Calista swallowed hard, and tired to maintain her composure. She could obviously tell that Rhiannon was severely pissed off.
"I've been on earth before, Calista. I'm not an expert, but I know damn well that where we were just now, wasn't the Bahamas. I want an explanation!"
"Sir, I tried to explain when we were down there. Earth does certain things backward from us, which I didn't account for. We measure location coordinates longitude first, latitude second. They do it the other way."
"And you expect me to believe that?"
"Calista's telling the truth, sir!" exclaimed Janna. "Take a look at this. I've pulled up listings from one of their on-line atlases from their Internet. It's as she said. They orientate things latitude first, longitude second."
"I'll be damned," muttered Rhiannon, as she looked at Janna's display screen.
"If you take a reading of approximately twenty-four degrees north latitude, and seventy-six degrees west longitude," said Calista, "it puts us right off the East Coast of Florida, in what they call the Bahamas."
"But if you reverse the readings, the way that we've been taught through our geography," said Janna, "it puts you somewhere up here in what they call the Arctic regions. We're lucky that we got you back here in time. I would've made the same type of mistake, if I didn't have any experience with earth geography, sir."
Rhiannon shook her head, and exhaled. "All right. It appears I owe you an apology, Calista. But I want to stress to you the importance of this mission. If we don't have something damned important to show to the Fleet Command for leaving our assigned patrol duty, they're going to put our ass in a sling first, and ask questions later, when they find out about this."
"Yes sir, Commander. I appreciate your giving me another chance. I've been checking the systems on the ship that keep scanning for any sign of our technology being used. We're still getting regular readings that are definitely coming from an island somewhere in the Bahamas."
"Very well," said Rhiannon. "At least we still know where to find them. I want the two of you to double and triple-check those readings, and pinpoint just where they're coming from. Since the two of you seem to work so well together, I want you to do whatever it takes, so that when we beam down tomorrow, I want to be certain that we land in the Bahamas.
"Afterwards Calista, you can get cleaned up, change into a dry uniform, and see the medics. We're going to try this again tomorrow, and this time, there'd better not be any mistakes."
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