Apologies for the delay in updating. I just couldn't get into it for some reason. It doesn't help that this post is mainly exposition.
UES Enterprise. En route to the Rexus system. Warp 3.84
21st April 2151.
"Are you sure you want him here?" Hernandez asked quietly. A little too quietly. Archer apparently did not hear over the hubbub.
She tapped his arm to get his attention, then asked again, gesturing towards Mayweather.
Despite the press of people in the briefing room, the Ensign was being given a wide berth. Even his fellow UEMA's seemed a little put out by his presence.
Archer glanced his way for a moment, then nodded to Hernandez. "He's the best helmsman we've got, and the only one with any combat experience. I don't anticipate trouble, but if it crops up, I'll need him in the loop."
He looked Hernandez straight in the eyes. "Commander, I'm making Travis your personal responsibility. As long as he is on this ship you keep him in line. Understood?"
"Yes Sir." she replied emphatically, meeting his gaze, letting him know she would be taking this seriously. It's what I should have been doing from the start,
she thought. Dropped the ball there, and been playing catch up ever since.
Archer checked his watch. "All right, let's get this started."
Hernandez nodded and made for her seat. With so many people crammed into the room the normal chairs and tables had been taken out, replaced with several rows of benches. As XO Hernandez had a front row place, next to Lt. Sato.
As Hernandez sat the hatch swung open and Professor Partridge entered. "Room for one more?"
"Polly, over here!" said Sato, gesturing to the bench between herself and Hernandez.
Instead of her usual one piece outfit Partridge was wearing a tight red dress, daringly short, made of what looked like the same synthetic material as the rest of her wardrobe.
Knee high boots and a miniskirt,
thought Hernandez. Who in their right mind would consider that suitable for a starship?
Partridge half sat, then stood rapidly, head darting from side to side like a meerkat. "Where's Trip?"
"Commander Tucker is on the bridge. Keeping things running. He's already been briefed." Hernandez explained.
Partridge sat. As she did so she brushed against Sato's shoulder, making her wince.
"Are you all right?"
Sato nodded. "I was practising my kata down in the gym. Some of the Marines were down there, practising hand to hand combat techniques. They invited me to join in. I think they meant it as a joke, expecting me to back down"
She smiled. "I don't back down."
Hernandez leaned round Partridge. "So what happened?"
Sato rubbed her shoulder. "Well, after the usual preliminaries, they put me up against...Tipper, Tipping, whatever his name is. Strong and fast, but he tends to over extend. Leaves him wide open. So, after I'd assisted him to the floor, without him touching me once, they all went into a huddle.
"I think there was a bit of pride at stake. They got that short girl..."
"Corporal James?" asked Partridge.
"That's the one. I tell you, she's got some moves. I've not seen the system she uses before, but it seems effective. I got the impression she was holding back. There were a couple of times she started a move, and stopped it instantly. Like her reflexes were kicking in and she was having to control it."
"Not surprising." said Hernandez, nodding. "From what I've heard, Reed's people train in a military style. It's meant for fighting battles, not sport. If she'd not controlled herself, she could have seriously injured you."
"I can believe that." Sato said, flexing her shoulder. " In fact, I thought about..."
She was interrupted as Captain Archer called for order. "All right every one. Settle down now, settle down."
As the chatter died down, he gestured to Lt. Moshiri, who sat at the controls for the main view screen. She dialled the lights down.
"There' s more information in the ship's data banks, but I wanted to make sure we all had some basic knowledge of the situation." said Archer.
A star map appeared on the screen. Earth, signified by a bright blue icon, was positioned bottom left. A few nearby blue lights indicated Earth colony worlds and outposts. The bright green icon for Vulcan was top right, surrounded by over a dozen green lights.
One of the crewmen raised his hand. "Sir, what do the yellow icons mean?"
"Those are independent systems. Denobula is over here, Axanar there, and so on. Haleh, this is your subject. Would you care to take over?"
"Thank you sir." Moshiri stood, holding a remote control. "The Rexus system is located approximately midway between Earth and Vulcan. As you can see, it is a Vulcan system, at the edge of their territory."
She pointed the control, and the display zoomed in towards the system. "One star, F-class. There are no habitable planets. The Vulcans built a deep space outpost in the system a little over two centuries ago."
"For what purpose?" Hernandez asked.
"Two main reasons. The first was scientific. The Rexus system contains a surprising number of planets, seventeen. Six of them are gas giants, the rest solid."
The display zoomed in even further, now showing the multiple tracks of orbiting objects.
"There are also over two dozen planetesimals, numerous moons, asteroids and comets. Furthermore..."
The image twisted, giving a side view of the system.
"...unlike most star systems, where the majority of objects exist in one orbital plane, approximately one third of the bodies here travel at an angle, ranging from a few degrees to, in rare cases, almost perpendicular. The whole area is of great interest to astronomers."
"Fascinating...." Partridge breathed. From the top of her boot she fetched a small pouch. This contained a pair of wire rimmed spectacles, which she perched on the bridge of her nose whilst leaning forward for a better look.
Hernandez stroked her chin. "That must present some navigation problems."
Moshiri nodded. "It sure does. I'll come to that in a moment. The other reason the Vulcans built the outpost was trade. There are several warp capable civilisations nearby. For many decades it served as common ground for all sorts of merchant activity. Turned a tidy profit, with the Vulcans getting a cut of all business transactions taking place in the system. About three decades ago, a race called the Tellarites set up their own trading post in an otherwise uninhabited system about two and a half light years away. Charged about the same as the Vulcans, but there were fewer navigational problems. Most of the business went to them.
"There's still some business activity at Rexus, though it's rather rare nowadays. If you want to sell to or buy from the Vulcans, it's either here or a twenty eight light year trip to their next trading post. Also, they can be counted on to be impartial advisers or witnesses. Useful in many inter species transactions."
Archer stood back up. "There's another reason the Vulcans maintain a presence in this system. Vast quantities of valuable minerals are present. Now, given the distance to the Vulcan home world, it's not yet practical to begin mining on a major scale. So, until it does become practical, the Vulcans keep an outpost there to ensure no other race stakes a claim."
He looked round the room. "In fact, one of the things the President and the Premier are due to discuss is the possibility of a joint mining venture. Potentially of great benefit to both our civilizations. Carry on Haleh."
"Thank you sir. Now, those navigational problems we talked about. They are actually of some benefit to us in these circumstances. They provide security.
"Unless you have very accurate, up to date details of the positions of the planets, asteroids and so on in the system, you simply can't warp in. It's too dangerous. The sheer mass of solid matter floating round would defeat even the most powerful deflector array."
She touched a control, and a representation of Enterprise appeared at the systems edge.
"The only way in is to stop just outside the system, run a full scan, and plot a new course. That'd take ten, twenty minutes, and would involve active sensors. You'd be detected inside the system easily. Then you'd have to go in on impulse. That'd take several hours."
Mayweather raised a hand. "Excuse me, Lieutenant. Once you have the navigational data, wouldn't it be possible to go in at warp?"
"Possible. But unlikely. Chances are, at any one time there are between two and six relatively clear pathways through which a ship can travel at warp speed. But they are very narrow, and spread out. It's hugely improbable that there'll be an entrance anywhere near you."
Mayweather nodded. "Ah. I see. Thank you Lieutenant.".
And now he's being nice again
, Hernandez thought. Strange
Out loud, she said "So let's get this straight. A ship trying to get into the system has to stop on the outskirts, run a full scan to locate anything that might get in it's way, giving away it's own position in the process. Unless it's lucky enough to arrive near to one of these pathways, which is unlikely, it'll have to go in at impulse speed, taking several hours. Is that right?"
Hernandez held up two fingers. "OK, two points. First of all, won't ships already in the system have just as much trouble getting out?"
Moshiri used the remote to place the Enterprise image deep in the system. "No Ma'am. Once inside the system we can run scans and plot all possible exit courses. Remember, an intruder vessel will be trying to get to a specific point inside the system. If we decide to bug out, we just have to get away.
"As long as we keep our navigational charts current, we can run. And as long as we know where the potential attackers are coming from, we can choose a direction that puts as much distance and as much of the Rexus system between us and them as possible."
Someone, Hernandez didn't recognise the voice, snorted from the direction of the UEMA's. "Running. You can tell she works for UESPA."
There were a few chuckles.
Hernandez shot that corner of the room an angry glare. "You'd prefer to fight? With the President
The chuckles subsided.
She turned back, saw Archer give her a respectful nod. She took a deep breath, and smoothed her uniform.
"You mentioned keeping the charts current. That brings me to my second point. Surely it would be possible to predict where these warp safe pathways would be in advance? After all, if we know the location, orbital path, and velocity of all the planets and other stuff, we can calculate where they'll be in the future?"
Even as she spoke she could see Moshiri shaking her head slightly.
"It's a chaotic system." Partridge said.
The scientist stood and stepped nearer to the display, examining it critically. She turned, whipping her spectacles off and and using them to point to the display.
"All those bodies. They all have mass. Gravitation. Every second every single one is affecting all the others. Pulling them ever so slightly from their path. Making them travel faster or slower. Small differences, but over time even the smallest differences can add up.
"At a rough guess..." she tilted her head to one side, and muttered under her breath for a few seconds. "....I'd say that most navigational data would become totally redundant after about four days. Though things would be getting risky after two."
Moshiri cleared her throat. "Vulcan safety protocols do advise against warping into the system with anything more than fifty hour old data."
Looking pleased with herself, Partridge sat down.
"So." Hernandez continued. "Unless some one has accurate data, less than two days old, they are not getting anywhere near the outpost in a hurry."
"That's right, Ma'am. And with their being so little traffic to Rexus nowadays, there's not much chance of anyone having that data."
"That does seem to make the system secure. What military assets will be present?"
Moshiri looked to Archer, who stood.
"This is a diplomatic mission. Given the Vulcan's pacifist principles, in system protection will be provided by ourselves, and the T'dara Len, the ship that's bringing the Premier." he said.
"Hmm. Seems a little...light, for protecting two heads of state."
Archer nodded. "That is, however, what the diplomats agreed on. If it makes you feel any better, there is a Vulcan fleet on standby at their nearest colony. If we are attacked, we can signal them, and they can be with us before the attackers have got through the system." He pulled a face. "At least, that's the plan."
Partridges arm shot up. "Excuse me, how could we signal them? My own researches suggest that sub space transmissions are possible in principle, but the practical problems have so far been insurmountable. If the Vulcans have such technology, that represents a major breakthrough."
Archer shook his head. "Nothing so advanced. As I understand it, they use some form of phased tachyon pulse. It's too big and power hungry to put on ships, so they use it to link their stations together. Rather like the telegraph system in the old west."
"Oooh, I'd like to get a look at that."
"I'm sure a tour of the outpost can be arranged, Professor. Any way, I hope that puts your mind at ease Commander."
She nodded. "It helps Sir."
Switching to Spanish she muttered "As long as we can trust the Vulcans."
"I'm sure we can." Sato murmured in the same language, with a wry smile.