Sleeping at Warp

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Triskelion, Apr 30, 2008.

  1. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    10 The Inquiry Bell: Against the Grain


    TIME INDEX: 18:03:09
    WITNESS: Paris, Thomas Eugene, CMDR, XO, USS Perseus NCV-901
    EXAMINER: Toloruk, Rima, UFP Justice OLC


    Kathryn Janeway watched Commander Tom Paris take the stand – taking his place among the accused, in front of his father the Admiral, his captain, and two former captains – in a narrative of accusation it seemed he was destined to replay. But when Janeway saw them look at each other, the Commander and the Admiral, the father and the son, she saw no judgment in his father’s eyes; and no anger in Tom’s. There was only the circumstance – they were here as officers. For once, family didn’t seem to be in question. She wished B’Elanna was here to witness it. She would no doubt be proud of them both.

    What Janeway couldn’t understand was Tom’s insistence on throwing himself in with the accused. It was his prerogative to exercise – but the Board of Inquiry had been satisfied with his statement, and requested his presence as a technical advisor alone. Of course, Kathryn knew Tuvok no doubt would have shouldered the very same responsibility – and self-sacrifice – but had obviously, mysteriously, declined to do so. She could only surmise that Tom had successfully averted Tuvok’s accountability of captaincy, and gesture of fealty to his crew. It was, after all, Tom’s wife standing for the accusations. An emotional reaction that Tuvok, perhaps illogically, but in an almost human wisdom, respected from his first officer.

    She made a mental note of the limitations of the holographic record – and would never again see such reenactments as complete.

    “Commander Paris. You were once a Maquis, before they drummed you out. Rear Admiral Valxaen here, we all know, is a hero of the Dominion War – a Fleet Commander of a Federation Task Force in Bajor Sector during that time; with only the humm, unfortunate loss of a few starships, he adequately defended the DMZ against many Jem’Hadar attacks – despite being undermined by diversion of military resources against the unpredictable Maquis threat. I myself had many live fire confrontations with the Maquis as an advisor on a Federation ship in the DMZ, when we were forced to protect Cardassian outposts from Maquis vigilantism. I think for some of us, however such things are long past.”

    “No hard feelings?” Tom shifted his gaze from the Counselor to the inscrutable Rear Admiral, glanced away and shut up.

    “So I want you to know that I don’t believe you had anything to do with any plot. The questions I have to ask you, then, aren’t designed to implicate you. I just wanted you to know that. And we are sensitive to your concern for your wife’s and daughter’s health at this time. We hope we can keep your involvement to a minimum to give you a chance to be with them as soon as possible.”

    “Thank you?”

    “Do you have anything to add to any of the testimony you have heard here today vis-à-vis the events or crew actions leading up to the incident?”

    “Nothing, only to say that officers Vexa and Grifahni acted with commendable resourcefulness and courage in the face of certain destruction. I’m proud to have served with them – and to have seen them in action.”

    “Commander Paris. You are married to the accused Commander B’Elanna Torres. She also serves under you on the Perseus. Correct?”

    “Yes. We’ve served together many years, and I can tell -”

    “She, among others brought together by Voyager’s unfortunate first mission that stranded you in the Delta Quadrant, had prior to that been a devoted and very active member of the Maquis. Correct?”

    “In the past, -”

    “Yes or no, please, Commander.”

    “Prior to Captain – sorry, Admiral Janeway’s synthesizing us all into one crew -”

    Yes or no.”

    Tom quieted. “Yes.”

    “In fact, on more than one occasion hadn’t Commander Torres, then Lieutenant, reprogrammed a Cardassian weapon of mass destruction called - ” he checked his padd – “Dreadnought? She was something of an expert on tinkering with highly sophisticated Cardassian military technology, was she not?”

    “You read the report. She also happened to save a planet and two million lives from certain destruction from that weapon – and risked her own life doing so.”

    “Yes, quite heroic, I’m sure. Considering it was she that had stolen the Dreadnought away from Cardassian hands, and reprogrammed its targeting to put another planet in harm's way in the first place. We only have one question for you. What, in your experience, was Commander Torres’ personal position on quantum slipstream technology, the Perseus, and, if any, its implications for – the Maquis?”

    Commander Paris’s words caught in his throat, and he entreated the Board. “I thought – I thought I would be questioned as her commander. Not as her husband.”

    Toloruk pressed: “If you're unwilling to divulge information that will aid in the determinations of this Board of Inquiry, Commander....”

    “It doesn’t make sense. B’Elanna was on the vessel. With our daughter.”

    “A question was put before you, Commander. I suggest you answer it.”

    Commander Paris deflated. “If it’s not too late – I think I’d better talk to legal counsel before I say anything more.”

    “It is a right you have already waived,” insisted Rima Toloruk. “And I doubt anyone here would be willing to advise you at this stage. I’m sure the Judge Advocate from Bolarus might be more than willing to reassure you for your testimony; however in her capacity as Legal Advisor to the Board, she is ethically prevented from doing so. Despite I’m sure, her own frustrations with the Cardassian threats on her homeworld. Cardassians, I’m told, wear coats made of Bolian leather. Quite unpleasant.” He ignored the cold, flaming gaze of the silent, well-conditioned JAG officer – and the flicker of disgust that crossed Admiral Valxaen’s hardened mien. “Perhaps Commander you are worried about implicating your wife? But Commander Paris, surely you must realize that if she is innocent, any evidence you give will only support that plea. If she is guilty, it will have been her own doing. You don’t deserve to be punished as well.”

    Tom smiled. “It’s not about me, Counselor Toloruk,” he replied. “And I’m certain that B’Elanna – if she were here right now – would tell you anything you wanted to know about her opinion, to anyone shortsighted enough to ask for it. But if anything I said somehow contributed to her arrest – what would happen to her medical treatment then? Can you assure me it would continue? Can anyone?”

    “I can.” Everyone turned to the Vulcan Emissary Kel’Akann, who stood and walked around the table to face the bench. “By your leave, Admirals, Captain. If the Commander so affirms, I would offer my services as Advocate at this time.”

    The room erupted with murmuring.

    The bell sounded.

    “And I can assure Commander Paris that regardless of the outcome of this inquiry, I will personally see to it, in my capacity as advisor to the President of the United Federation of Planets, that the medical treatment of his wife and daughter will continue unabated in any capacity whatsoever.”

    “This is highly irregular!” The Zakdorn Counselor shook his hands in the air and walked away. “The Emissary is a member of the Board! And not always the most -”

    “A nonvoting member, I remind you,” Kel’Akann continued, “and one which is here unofficially, at the personal behest of the President. My presence here is entirely voluntary, I assure you. And you may now address me as ‘Advocate’.” Advocate Kel’Akann turned to Tom, and Janeway took a good look at his long narrow face, and drawn cheeks. His thick white hair was clipped short and drawn forward – against the grain, and perfectly controlled. Though his manner was slow and deliberate, in a mindful and constant state of concentration, there was something about Advocate Kel’Akann she couldn’t quite put her finger on. If she didn’t know better, she would say it was something almost…childlike. If she didn’t know better.

    “Commander Paris, you may answer any of the questions the Inquiry puts to you. Or you may remain silent. The choice – not the burden of proof - is entirely yours. To paraphrase Surak, we shall 'let the chips fall where they may'.”

    Tom Paris looked at Kel’Akann with a bemused lack of understanding. “Yes sir, no problem. And – thank you, Sir.”

    “Logic requires no thanks. But all the same, you are welcome.” The entire assembly waited as Advocate Kel’Akann strode across the floor and took a new seat – provided for him at the table for the Accused.

    Sublieutenant Vexa closed her mouth.

    “Counselor? We’re waiting,” said the Admiral Janeway hologram.

    “Hm? Yes. Yes. Commander Paris, to repeat the question,” he checked his padd, “What, in your experience, was Commander Torres’ personal position on quantum slipstream technology, the Perseus, and, if any, its implications for the Maquis?”

    “She said that quantum drive could be bad for the Maquis, because it would eventually reduce the importance of the Bajoran Wormhole. That would lead to an even further reduced Federation presence in that sector and especially the Demilitarized Zone. She believed the Cardassian Union would hardly sit idly by in an economic morass while Federation-Bajoran ships run through the sector with quantum slipstream drives. Cardassia would watch that technology filter through the sector, and then reassert a stranglehold over its holdings in the DMZ until it had that technology for itself. It would create an opportunity that neither the besieged Cardassian Union, nor the Maquis could ignore. It would likely lead to – war.”

    The assembly broke into a din of unrest.

    The bell rang – to little avail.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  2. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    11 The Inquiry Bell: Tip of the Spear



    TIME INDEX: 19:42:04
    EXAMINER: Toloruk, Rima, UFP Justice OLC
    SUMMATION



    Thoughtfully rubbing his cheek pouches – a vestige of the heavy-gee Zakdorn homeworld – the stocky, intransigent, conspiracy-minded legal strategist Counselor Rima Toloruk of the Federation Justice Office of Legal Counsel addressed the Assembly.

    “The Maquis fear the Federation’s development of quantum slipstream drive technology. It would in one fell swoop reduce the vitality of the Bajoran sector. As such, they used an inside agent to plant a Cardassian bomb to destroy the USS Perseus, in the hopes of either deterring Federation development of the technology, or in making it the tip of a spear in a new interstellar conflict; between the Maquis, the Cardassian Union, the Bajoran sector, and – the Federation.

    “The Maquis no longer fight for freedom and independence from totalitarian oppression. They no longer act with righteousness. They are not the freedom fighters of yesterday. Now, they have become a bunch of self-serving, power-grabbing terrorists.

    “But why B’Elanna Torres? The answer is very simple: she has strong ties throughout the Bajoran sector and the DMZ – after all, she is a former Maquis; her hatred of Cardassians is well-documented. If the Federation develops quantum drive technology, sectorwide support for Bajor, Deep Space Nine, and the Bajoran Wormhole diminish, as well as its status as a vital port between quadrants. With such loss of interest, it would only be a matter of time for Cardassia to start throwing their weight around the Demilitarized Zone – and how much longer for them to turn their eyes to Bajor? Or so may think the hate-filled former victim society, and sympathizers like Commander Torres and Chief Grifahni.

    “Perhaps this is not entirely my own assessment, or yours, or the distinguished members of the Board’s - but it is a natural extension of Commander B’Elanna Torres’ view – Starfleet officer, former Maquis, and Cardassian Military Technology expert, currently suffering the ill-effects of exposure to trellium radiation.”

    “For someone like her, the mere possibility of a return of Cardassian aggression is absolutely unacceptable – particularly if the Maquis were neutered as a force by the new Reaffirmation Charter with Bajor. With the Charter vote coming up, the Maquis would be under a time constraint to take dramatic action as quickly as possible – in the form of generating incidents between the Federation and the Cardassian Union. This would solidify their most compelling argument for autonomy – the belligerence of Cardassia. The Maquis would take action while they still could, and before the Cardassians even knew they were still at war. The Maquis would start a war they could win this time, in the cause of preventing a war they couldn’t win. This tactic, learned by Zakdorn schoolchildren, is known as ‘Shelling the Tents and Arming the Dead’.

    “If the bomb device were truly Cardassian, it would not have been of Cardassian manufacture – for the chance of discovery would be too great. If it were truly Cardassian, the fusion actuator would have been of Bajoran design! Or perhaps even a Maquis device. Cardassians aren’t exactly known for their ability to strategize, as they’ve proven time and time again; but even they are not so stupid as to implicate themselves in a random, treaty-violating terror attack in the heart of the Federation, and trust in Federation investigative capabilities. Cardassians do not trust, even in their own judgment. As for motive? We have nothing.

    “But take a look at what we do have:

    “Commander B’Elanna Torres – a “former” Maquis, whose sympathy apparently never left the terrorist group, who had the means, motive and opportunity to plant the terror device – and the resultant effects of radiation exposure to establish her personal contact with the technology.

    “Commander Tom Paris – a former Maquis, but a failed one, unfortunately involved only through loyalty to his wife. Yet another of his questionable decisions in a long line of them.

    “Petty Officer Grifahni Jace – Whose father, the cryptic Grifahni Gage, despite the Board’s willful blindness, was a Maquis commando from the upper echelons of the Bajoran Resistance – and on Admiral Valxaen's most wanted list, if memory serves – and it does. In fact that Grifahni managed to ire the Bajoran Provisional Government with some revolutionary acts of his own, that fortunately failed. His son – an exemplary Starfleet security officer, according to his academy instructors and commanding officer Captain Hanara – turned down several postings on Starfleet tactical cruisers, to waste what could be an almost respectable career by working security at a shipyard? Does that make sense? Today – I'm afraid it does.

    “And then there's Sublieutenant Vexa – A young high-flyer, even for a Vulcan, with no visible ties to the Maquis. However, there can be no denying that it was she who instigated the security lockdown which prevented command access that would make short work of that actuator problem. Yes, and she also saved the ship and the lives of hundreds of people, not to mention the surrounding vessels, and prevented radiation fallout that would have devastated Mars’ ecology. That is, if she didn’t already know how to disarm the device. Is she the hero she appears to be? Or is she an agent of an invidious conspiracy? We will be conducting a thorough investigation into her heretofore unblemished career; as well as a background investigation of this brilliant young woman – and her family and known associates present and past.

    “It is the Maquis who stand to gain by the discovery of the Cardassian signature on the terror device – regardless of who actually set the bomb. The answer to a hesitant United Federation of Planets that doesn’t want to upset relations with a struggling Cardassia; to a preserved Bajoran power, the Alpha-Delta Wormhole – the Maquis come out as the clear leaders of the sector. If the Perseus were destroyed, the Maquis mission to preserve the vitality of the Bajoran Sector would be accomplished. If the ship were saved, the Cardassians would take the blame, thus rationalizing more Maquis preemptive aggression against the specter of Cardassian expansionism. Either way, the Maquis would cement their position as a political and military force with increasing influence – before peace neuters them completely.

    “By implicating Cardassia, the Maquis could hope to shore up Federation presence in Bajoran space and the DMZ; to help the sector rebuild, by diverting its limited resources away from defense and onto domestic reconstruction - as the nullified Dominion threat has reduced Starfleet presence there. They would no doubt become the political saviors of the sector. They would also have a handy excuse to do what they do best: kill Cardassians.

    “The Maquis as a sector power have diminished; bereft of their once-righteous force; and as history has taught, they who have tasted power do not surrender it in times of peace.

    “With the growing tensions of the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter controversy at home, perhaps their motives are ultimately political; with designs on the DMZ, the Cardassian Union, Bajor, and perhaps even the United Federation of Planets itself. Now there’s a pleasant thought. For now? At the very least fear and the loss of military assets; and at most, the wholesale deaths of innocent people suffices to serve their interests.

    “I strongly urge this Board of Inquiry to vote for the immediate General Courts Martial of these four officers as merely the beginning of a serious investigation into - a conspiracy for war.”
     
  3. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    12 The Inquiry Bell: Firestorm






    TIME INDEX: 20:02:29
    ADMIRALTY BOARD CONFERENCE:
    Picard, Jean-Luc, CAPT USS Enterprise NCC-1701 E
    Valxaen, Leth Korett, RADM, FEDSEC, Starfleet Command, FCMDR 3rd Fleet SEC-001
    PRESIDING: Janeway, Kathryn, VADM Starfleet Command, SF Earth SEC-001
    BOI Protocol 11T-4 MAJ VOTE/VOICE J-742
    Ruling: SUSP/SUST CRM MISB/CONSP





    From the far end of Admiralty Board table, Vice Admiral Janeway sipped her coffee and watched herself lower her voice to confer with the ranking officers during the short recess:

    “Does the Board wish to call an extended recess to confer?”

    Rear Admiral Valxaen shook his head and his antennae stood at attention: “I have already made a warranted decision.”

    “Judge Advocate Pel, could we have your perspective?”

    Trelliq Pel put aside her padd, its first downtime since the inquiry began, and stood at parade rest: “Admirals, Captain, I have already made something of a small investigation of my own on several fronts. Would you like the long answer Admiral? Or the short one?”

    Janeway held up her palm in acquiescence: “The short one. For the moment.”

    Trelliq Pel handed the Vice Admiral the padd. Janeway scanned the bullets. “Courts martial all around would prevent a lot of problems,” Pel said. “There is too much at stake, strong evidence, and frankly enough questions where any of these heretofore exemplary officers are concerned. Not doing so would only invite doom on us all at the hands of the Celestial Authority of the Office of Legal Counsel. Ma’am.”

    “Bite your tongue, Judge Advocate Pel.” The Janeway hologram turned in her chair. “Captain Picard?”

    Captain Picard took a breath to speak, and hesitated; he glanced around at Commander Troi, who nodded at him imperceptibly. Then he impassively turned to the Assembly and sat in severe concentration. “Let us proceed at your leisure, Admiral.”

    “Very well.” Vice Admiral Janeway struck the inquiry bell three times.


    After calling the accused by name and bidding them to stand and face the ruling of the Board of Inquiry, Vice Admiral Janeway began: “The Board of Inquiry will now take its vote. The majority vote will determine whether formal charges shall be Suspended, or Sustained for each of the Accused; if a Sustained vote is called, that officer will face immediate restriction pending a general court martial; and an Admiralty Board recommendation will be submitted for a formal criminal investigation of the accused. Captain Picard, what say you?”

    The piercing gaze of the captain of the starship Enterprise fell on the Accused. “In light of their proven records, as well as the longtime assessments of these officers by their commanders and crewmates...I vote for Suspension of all charges and an end to their participation as the accused in this inquiry.”

    “Is that based on a feeling, Captain Picard?” demanded Counselor Toloruk, eyeing Commander Troi.

    “No it is not!” Picard bit. “It is based, Counselor, on the facts that the evidence is circumstantial, the threat too serious for wild goose chases, and the simple fact that these Starfleet officers are not terrorists.”

    Janeway took back control: “Thank you gentlemen. The vote is a matter of record. Rear Admiral Valxaen, what say you?”

    “Vexa, Sublieutenant. Grifahni Jace, Chief Master-At-Arms Petty Officer First Class. Paris, Thomas Eugene, Commander. Torres, B’Elanna, Commander. My vote stands for all parties of the Accused.” The Rear Admiral faced the standing officers. “Sustain formal charges in general courts martial.”

    The Assembly broke into unrest.

    Captain Picard surveyed the tenor of the assembly, and spoke to Janeway. “The casting vote, it would seem, is yours, Admiral.”



    Never mind quantum slipstream - the Perseus hasn’t even left spacedock and has already created a firestorm across two quadrants, thought Kathryn Janeway.

    Was there a terrorist plot, and a mole aboard the Perseus? If so, who? If it really was B'Elanna or Tom, it may as well have been any of the crew. But no matter her personal feelings in the matter, Starfleet Vice Admiral Janeway had a professional duty and an incalculable responsibility to the security of several sectors – as well as to Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets in its entirety. The conflict between personal feelings and duty had not only a constant career presence; it's weight, and toll on personal relationships, only increased with rank. Kathryn knew she would have to either trust her former crew, or she’d have to distrust everyone. It was a hell of a thing.

    Starfleet Command would demand heads – but her leadership as President over this Board of Inquiry would not rule for the sake of head-rolling; not as long as she sat in the big chair. Kathryn asked herself: What exactly was the nature of this threat? Did it have a name? Was it an enemy power? Or worse – a friendly one?

    The question not only regarded the possible courts martial of her former loyal crew; but whether to proceed with quantum slipstream technology at all, given the political volatility of the situation. Yet it drew to the heart of why she had entered Starfleet in the first place. Progress and exploration. Peace and security in the galaxy. Humanity among the stars – and more importantly, in the vast cold spaces between them.

    As the agitated host of attendees hung on her next words, Starfleet Command Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway looked at her former helmsman, and surveyed the Assembly. “This Board will recess until eight hundred tomorrow morning.”

    The bell rang thricely.



    TIME INDEX: 20:33:18
    END OF SELECTED INDEX RECORD




    Starfleet Command Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway tapped Judge Advocate Pel’s padd against her hand thoughtfully, then tossed it to the table. As the assembly broke, she watched Tom Paris politely excuse himself from Advocate Kel'Akann in order to discuss something with the EMH. She wondered if the Counselor to the Court registered it; but Toloruk was busy seeing off his aide. He had done something that caught her attention. “Computer, freeze program.” She rose and made her way over to the Counselor’s table. He had written something on a padd, and handed it off to his aide. “Computer, reverse playback ten seconds. Now advance three seconds. Freeze program.”

    She bent down to see the note he had just tapped out on the padd. It read: Fed involvement? And then, a single word: Janeway.

    She tapped her communicator. “Janeway to Captain Picard.”

    Have you made your decision, Admiral?

    “I have.” She regarded the Counselor’s face, frozen in satisfaction – and looking directly at her. “And you’re not going to like it.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  4. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    13 The Interstellar Coffee Delivery Service






    USS Perseus First Officer's log, stardate 55867.92. Commander Thomas E. Paris, reporting.


    Continue recording.

    Astrometrics. Reporting ready.

    Security. Still running level three diagnostics on EHS rapid-response situational feedback system decks seven through nine. All operations systems ready. Ship security sweeps on schedule, no conditions or codes.


    Sickbay. Inventory of weekly exo-immunology antiviral upgrades delayed due to HQ departmental delay. Scheduled upgrade at 03:44 tomorrow morning. EMH evaluated, functional, and actually pleasant. Just in case.


    Main Engineering: Acting Chief Engineer reports all systems ready. Ship's systems all reporting ready. Weapons, shields, impulse, gravity plating, life support, auxiliary and backup systems ready. Warp drive ready. Quantum drive ready. Chronophasic emitters standing by. TPS at 99.4 percent efficiency.


    Transporter room four: Transtator assembly replacement complete, all systems ready. All transporter rooms reporting systems green.


    “Salazar to Commander Paris. Sir, the emergency isofield containment lattices in cargo bay three were misaligned a few centimeters.”

    “Is there currently any cargo in the bay, Ensign?”

    “Negative, sir.”

    “Schedule repair and report back to your duty station.”

    “Aye sir. Salazar out.”


    Tricore systems all green.

    MVAM structural readings within parameters.

    Secondary and Tertiary cruiser systems locked down.

    Computer core fully operational.


    The sound of applause. Christening ceremony must be starting.


    “Ensign Rhinn to Commander Paris.”

    “Go ahead, Christine.”

    “I need your authorization for a power transfer to the secondary cruiser emergency grid theta-six for a maintenance sweep.”

    “Granted. Run a level-three diagnostic on the auxiliary bypass system while you're at it. Confirm it with Lieutenant Meklan. Save him a trip down there.”

    “Aye sir, Rhinn out.”


    Admiral Janeway hadn't much cared for the way he stormed her office. But what else was he supposed to do? He walked a very fine line of insubordination – she hadn't ordered his court martial but he nearly gave her another reason to toss him into the brig.


    Mess.

    Rec.

    Holodeck.

    All green.

    All stations manned. Damage control teams standing by. Emergency protocols standing by.


    More applause, vociferous this time. Must be the champagne bottle breaking.


    Armory.

    Quartermaster stores.

    Crew Quarters.

    Ensign Hardison's laceration repaired, reported for duty.


    A few scorched and melted bulkheads, exposed ballistic fragmentation. Structure sound as a pound, as they say. All damaged systems and conduits repaired. ODN circuits and relays green. Bioneural systems green. Backup inventory at maximum and double-checked.


    Sublieutenant Vexa and Chief Grifahni had been exonerated as well. He personally invited the Chief aboard to witness the Perseus Trial firsthand. Grif had earned an observation from the bridge.


    “Transporter room three to Commander Paris.”

    “Go ahead.”

    “Requesting permission to bring aboard detail ten, sir. ”

    “Authorized. Is that the last of the work details Mendez?”

    “Yes sir, they're beaming aboard now. Five crewmen, sir. That's the last of them. All crew accounted for and on board.”

    “Good work, Lieutenant. Your double shift is officially over. Why don't you go join the party in the observatory.”

    “Aye sir, thank you. When is your double shift over Sir?”

    “Just in a couple more shifts, Lieutenant. Have one on me.”

    “That I will, sir. And Tom? Congratulations.”

    “Congratulations to you, too, Helena.”

    “I'm sure they'll be back aboard before you know it.”

    “Let's hope so.”


    He had watched the last shuttle departing for Earth over the lunar cityscape, through the clear domed wall of Vice Admiral Janeway's temporary chambers in the Lunar Justice Complex. He had missed his transport window and was due back on duty in six hours. He'd thought he could do B'Elanna more good from this office, than at her bedside. Yet for all his appeals and efforts, he had accomplished nothing. B'Elanna would face a court martial – when she got back on her feet. The evidence against her was just too compelling for Janeway to be able to dismiss. The admiral's support was little consolation. And her ire had barely gotten through to him. He'd left just short of forfeiting his command. That would have done neither B'Elanna nor Miral any good either.


    Shuttlebay secure. Star Flyer and shuttles inspected and authorized.


    ESH systems green. Holoemitter grid at 100% effectiveness in both interior and exterior placements.


    Docking reporting ready. All crews accounted for, moorings retracted, pod and shuttle traffic clear.


    Nobody wandering around with samurai swords. No Borg nanoprobes. No Cardassian timebombs.


    End log.



    The turbolift door opened to the bridge and Commander Paris stepped through. “All decks and departments report ready, Captain.”


    Captain Tuvok turned to his first officer, the bridge staff stood, and – applauded him. Even on the split screen – with Admiral Janeway, Captain Chakotay, and the bridge crew of Voyager on the left side, and on the right, Admiral Valxaen, Captain Picard, and Admiral Owen Paris, his beaming father, in front of the crowd at Space Station Janus; the Perseus crew crowding the space-efficient bridge: Lieutenant Commander Shuzor Bessek, Lieutenant Commander Yurel Tiroj, Doctor Corbin Salvatore, Lieutenant Nikhila Munich, Sublieutenant Vexa, Ensign Ujio Shir, Chief Grifahni Jace, and others – all applauding Tom Paris as he made his nonplussed way to the front of the bridge.


    “Commander Thomas Eugene Paris,” Tuvok became serious. “Attention.”

    Tom stood at attention.

    “For acts of remarkable leadership, meritorious conduct and personal bravery, by order of Starfleet Command, it is my privilege to award you the Starfleet Christopher Pike Medal of Valor.”

    A wave of emotions filled Tom, speechless. Captain Tuvok held up the bright medal by its ribbon and placed it over his head.

    “We all owe you and your team a debt of gratitude for saving not only the lives of the crew, but also ship and surroundings. Your quick action has not only protected the lives of your crew and numerous other personnel, but has contributed immeasurably to the future of Starfleet and preserved the possibility for the future of quantum slipstream galactic travel. Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets owe you a deepest debt of gratitude.”

    Tom looked around at the group surrounding him with admiration and honor. “Thank you, Sir.”

    Tuvok continued. “Not only are you ranked with those few pioneers of warp travel, having earned your title of 'fastest man alive' – you are also now recognized for your heroism under duress with one of the highest commendations of Starfleet. If I were human, I would without a doubt envy you this honor. You may now stand at ease, Commander.”

    Tom turned to the crew. “The congratulations go to the crew of the Perseus. I share this honor with each and every one of you. In particular I share it with Sublieutenant Vexa and Chief Master-At-Arms Grifahni Jace, without whom, some of us wouldn't be standing here today. Thank you. Thank you all. I...I'll try to live up to your honor. Thank you Admirals. Captain. Look at this, Dad!”

    “I'm proud of you, son!” Admiral Paris' eyes glistened.

    “And now, Commander Paris,” Tuvok continued, “to show my personal appreciation – would you do the honors of giving the command sequence to get us underway to Alpha Centauri.”

    Tom wondered if he heard right. “- It'd be my pleasure, Captain Tuvok.”

    “Just a minute, son.” Admiral Paris motioned to an aid. “I have something for you to deliver. Admiral Janeway, you take your coffee black, do you not?”

    “Yes, Admiral.”

    Admiral Paris set a Starfleet thermos on the podium. Suddenly it was beamed to a stand on the Perseus bridge.

    “Ethiopian gebena-brewed Yirgacheffe. The galaxy's first interstellar coffee delivery service. Get it to her hot, young man.”

    “Will do, Sir.” Tom turned to the crew. “Stations.” Captain Tuvok sat in the command chair, and Tom stood by his right side.

    “Quantum vectors, Mr Shir.”


    Ensign Ujio Shir activates the helm. “Impulse and warp engines are standing by, Sirs.


    He reviews the bridge crew. Everything's running smoothly.


    “Ahead full impulse. Activate chronophasic field emitters.”


    He orders Starfleet's first quantum-drive equipped starship to set a course for slipstream velocity, and helps to usher in a new era for human and Federation space travel. A quantum leap in humanity's power over the stars.


    “Confirm phase sequences.”


    He'll go really fast this time, bearing one of Starfleet's highest honors.


    “Full power to quantum drive.”


    Just one quick jump to Alpha Centauri, four light years away, take some readings, one quick jump back, and he would have a few days' leave while the crew checked out the ship. To be, at long last, by her side.



    “Quantum slipstream opening, sir. Matrix is stable. Deflector at maximum.”


    An immense bluish-purple rent in space opens before them, a vortex of stunningly beautiful violence.


    Sublieutenant Vexa speaks:
    “Readings coming in from Alpha Centauri, Sir. Quantum slipstream exit point is localized and stabilized.” She turns to her commander. “It's exactly where it's supposed to be, Sir!”


    The bridge crew applauds. Tom's heart is pounding.


    Tom gets the nod from Captain Tuvok. He's as calm, collected, and in control as if in meditation.



    “Quantum velocity, Mr Shir.”


    Tom steps forward and looks to the horizon. “Let's see what this baby can do, Ujio.”


    “Aye aye, sir!”
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2009
  5. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization





    14 The Wonky Vibe





    The quantum boom shuddered through the USS Perseus, and shook the bones of the Chief Master-At-Arms.

    While the crew stared rapt at the screen, Grif shifted his attention from the dazzling spectacle on the main viewer to the tactical station. Lieutenant Commander Bessek, the Ktarian Second Officer, had moved to the Ops station to check a reading with the Boslic Lieutenant Commander Tiroj. Grif took the moment to check out the Tac station on the right of the Master Systems Display.

    As he expected, all systems were green and operating at optimal efficiency. He wondered if Perseus had had all her arms loaded in time for the trial run. He brought up the manifest; a moment later, when he still had access to the station, he somewhat casually brought up other lists of security and ship reports.

    Scanning the scrolling files, one report caught his eye. He opened it.

    He sent the data to the engineering station to the left of the MSD. Sublieutenant Vexa glanced at him over her shoulder. He closed his files.


    “Sublieutenant, I have a small question.” Grif joined her side.

    Vexa continued her scan of the chronotons returning quantum matrix data through the sensors, now automatically feeding navigational inputs into the helm. This system, developed by Dr. Brahms' team under the auspices of the Theoretical Propulsion Group, eliminated the phase variance problem that had plagued Voyager's previous trials of quantum slipstream, effectively bypassing the fourth dimension of time altogether. By pulsing the slipstream with chronotons it was possible to generate the real time phase corrections necessary to maintain a stable quantum matrix. This theoretical breakthrough, and the application of chronophasic emission technology, would redefine starship travel in ways that were anybody's guess.

    Vexa punched up his diagnostic graphic on her main screen. “If you are referring to the misalignment of the cargo isofields, Chief, you should know it's a routine maintenance problem. Field emitters occasionally require recalibration with continued use.”

    “Ok, I understand that. But the maintenance report has them being calibrated a few days ago. What could have caused them to misalign like that in a short period?”

    “Many things. A kinetic wave analysis should provide more information.” She brought up the program and ran the data. A rotating three-dimensional wave schematic appeared on her display. “The patterns fluctuate from the inchoate to the incoherent. Intriguing. This isn't an intolerance. It appears as if a secondary waveform interference has altered the field.” She tapped a few commands, and a new waveform lay embedded within the first.

    “What could do that?”

    “An energy pocket. Ionized nebular matter. An inverted inertial dampening spike. Iogenic magnetic flux, anionic or bioelectric field -”

    “That's not logical.”

    She raised her brow to him.

    “I mean it doesn't make much sense. There aren't any “energy pockets” on the ship's manifest. Could it be anything else? Maybe something happened during the lockdown?”

    She looked at him. “Holograms.” She resumed her analysis. “A magnetic containment field could be conceivably configured in such a way as to generate these differential wave patterns. It may take some time to reverse-engineer a form that would create this result.”

    “Are there any records of security holograms that were around this system in the past few days?”

    “Perhaps you are better suited to answering that question than I. Logically, if we were to pursue this matter, I should search for any other isofield system anomalies and cross-check them with the ship's lading manifest to find any commonalities.”


    Grif scanned the bridge crew. The Tac officer was still engaged at Ops. The others were absorbed in the performance of the chronoton phase emitters and the integrity of the quantum matrix. As was Vexa, before he'd interrupted her with this minor curiosity. “I'm going to go check it out. Forget I said anything, you've got more important things to take care of. Thanks, Sublieutenant.” He headed for the turbolift.

    “Puzzling.” She watched him depart and returned to her multiple readouts.


    Grif made his way down to the cargo bay; nobody was around so he went right to work and activated the workstation. Using his dock security codes, he checked and double-checked the lading transport and containment records; but it wasn't difficult to ascertain that there had been no record of transport between the cargo bay's last scheduled calibration and its record of misalignment, entered today by one Ensign Nuno Salazar.

    “Computer, run a security diagnostic on this station, authorization Grifahni DM gamma-seven-three. Have any transport records on this workstation been altered?”

    The computer signaled a failed process. “Negative. All records conform to original input parameters.”

    “Check backup systems.”

    “That process was checked with the original diagnostic.”

    “Well check them again.”

    “Working. Negative. All records of backup systems conform to the original input parameters of primary systems.”

    “What about the pattern buffers? Just do it, computer.”

    “Pattern buffers conform to the original input parameters of primary systems.”

    Grif ran his calloused fingers through his tangled prickly brush of hair. He wasn't about to give up yet. There were other ways they did things in Fleet Yard Security that weren't exactly known in ship operations. “Computer. Security authorization Hanara Viper nought gamma twelve. Link with Mars Joint Security at Utopia Planitia. I want a level one comparative analysis of this workstation with running alpha security systems record of mobile platform Sphinx Moth Thirteen, series one through eight. Display any disparities or anomalies.”

    “Working. That analysis will take approximately eighty-three minutes to complete.”

    “Disregard anomalies from known cosmic interferences and communications chatter.”

    “Working. Two unregistered transports have been found.”

    “Display.”

    Grif's heart beat and his tension level shot up three notches when he read the records of the transports. One, a container of standard plasma coupling replacement parts – in a container big enough, he noted, for a fusion generator.

    The other transport was bigger. Big enough for standalone equipment – or even a person.

    He deactivated the workstation.


    Chief Master-At-Arms Grifahni Jace shouldered his way through the celebrating work crew and found the junction to the cargo storage area he was searching for. He entered the maze of containers and scanned the ID plates for his matches.

    His stress level shot up another notch. They aren't here.

    He went to main engineering, to the nearest available workstation. Seven of Nine occupied the buzzing attention of the engineering crew with her meticulous standards of station-keeping. Grif settled into the chair. “Computer, show me the holoemitter grid. Authorization Grifahni DM gamma-seven-three. Run a level one security diagnostic on the entire grid.” This is how I'd get a fusion generator on board, he thought. Transport it directly into a holofield of whatever it's supposed to look like – such as plasma coupling replacements. Then erase the record altogether so nobody comes looking for those parts. He sent the cargo schematics and copies of the two erased transports to Vexa's engineering workstation on the bridge, with the annotation: Wonder if entering the shapes in tandem would match the waveform analysis -

    His engineering workstation com channel chirps.

    He punches a key, and Sublieutenant Vexa appears on his readout display. Behind her, on the main viewer, he sees the blue quantum field collapsing. They are in Alpha Centauri Sector. Voyager awaits in orbit of a Federation space station, and Admiral Janeway appears onscreen to congratulate the valiant crew of the U.S.S. Perseus. Everyone is celebrating and overjoyed. Engineering erupts in cheers.

    A red indicator light flashes on his diagnostic panel, beside Vexa's face.
    “Chief Grifahni. I have a small question.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2009
  6. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization







    15 Ghost in the Machine



    "Can you trace the command?” Grif asked her over the com, while Sublieutenant Vexa monitored his determined pace through the corridors on her bridge station visual display.

    “I am attempting to do so now. So far I am unable to determine from which station the command originated – or even which ship.” Vexa continued her command pathway analysis of the Perseus auxiliary transporter systems, which had automatically synchronized with Voyager's, shortly after Perseus arrived at Alpha Centauri C. It was one of several minor system glitches possibly resulting from residual chronoton activity, which the Perseus Trial was designed to expose; perhaps merely the transporter recognition protocols of Perseus' automated systems; but in light of the previous incident, Vexa refused to leave such matters unchecked.

    “Well something had to sync both ships' auxiliary transporters. I've never heard of any protocol for it.” Grif ignored the crewmen passing him while he concentrated on recalibrating a tricorder.

    “As I suspected. However it never hurts to ask.”

    “I guess that's kinda your specialty, huh.” Grif came to a junction and turned right. “Commands and switches.”

    “Chief, you have made an incorrect turn.”

    “Negative, Vexa. I've got something to pick up first.” He looked up at the nearest visual pickup and eyed Vexa from her screen. “You can call me Grif you know.”

    “As I shall, if I am not on duty.”

    “Oh, I see. And you don't go off duty, do you.”

    Such an obvious statement of error indicated the possibility of that curious human linguistic habit, irony. How humans managed to ascertain whether statements were intended or deliberately misleading was still something of a mystery for her. She tried an equal measure of inexactitude: “It is a statistical improbability. However, not entirely impossible. Curious. I can find no discernible command pathway or workstation. The command seems to be coming from the computer network itself.” Vexa scanned the bridge, but everybody was busy with their own analyses and ship systems checks. From her monitor, Grif opened a hatch and retrieved – a phaser rifle. He resumed his determined pace towards his own answers. He had picked up holoemitter activity on deck four, amidships, in the deuterium fuel pod storage bay. In all likelihood they were both chasing minor malfunctions, or “glitches” as the humans liked to call them; for Vexa, logic simply stated a need for rational confirmation. For the Chief, it was something called a “wonky vibe”. Whatever that was.

    She regarded the Chief, exiting a turbolift on deck four. His outburst at the inquiry was most...illogical. The security of Starfleet by far outweighed the consequences to the career of any one officer, particularly a neophyte. Emotions – so primitive, so illogical, so unpredictable, and so – dangerous.

    The Chief glanced at her, armed his phaser rifle, and entered the bay.


    The visual link switched to an overview of the deuterium pod storage bay. Great tanks occupied nearly every square meter of the darkened, vapory bay; the forced-matrix cortanium-stainless steel cryostasis pods each maintained at least sixty-two thousand, five hundred cubic meters of deuterium slush at 13.8 degrees Kelvin. A heavy phaser blast would almost certainly result in the instant fatal dissolution of any biological matter that happened to be standing in the flow. Grif inched forward on high alert, scanning the darkness with his rifle's beacon.

    “Reading a magnetic-resonance ten meters ahead.” Grif disappeared in a fog of cryo-vapor. “I...see something. The resonance has a slight fluctuation at six hundred nanometers of the radiometric spectrum. I think it's cryostatic interference. Whoa!”

    Vexa watched her monitor intently but couldn't make him out. She increased the environmental filtering of the storage bay; but only a small amount of the vapor cleared. She made out his form, reaching out to a deuterium tank. “Vexa, do these tanks have some kind of insulation that interferes with scans?”

    “Negative. The pods are insulated with alternating parallel and biased layers of foamed vac-whisker silicon-copper-duranite. Your tricorder should be able to penetrate them.”

    “That's the problem. Think I've found it, whatever it is. Aggh! It's cold.”

    “Chief, I advise -”

    “Standby, Vexa. I see a hazy shape... What, is that??”

    She watched the Chief through the vapory fog; he reached out to the tank again.

    “It's a...no! It's impossible!”

    “Chief Grifahni, report.”

    The Chief's next report - was a scream.

    “Chief! Chief!” Vexa's shout shocked the bridge crew. Commander Paris ran to her station.

    “I'm turning...to...ice!” Chief Grifahni shouted.

    Through the haze of the cryo-vapor she watched Grif stare in horror at his arm, now lodged inside the cryostatic tank wall.


    “Grif! Shoot the holo-emitter!” Vexa shouted. “Chief! The emitter!”

    “I...can't...move!” he cried.

    The tank flickered. For an instant, Vexa thought she saw a glowing figure - sitting inside the tank. “Grif you have to decompile the hologram!”

    With a wrack of pain Grif drew up his rifle with one hand and fired at the holographic emitter.

    The deuterium tank before him flickered, and vanished.

    The glowing figure appeared to be female. She was perched cross-legged in what appeared to be sitting meditation.

    “That's impossible! You're not real!” Grif shrieked, immobile. “Vexa! I'm...turning...to...!” He fell, silent, and hard.

    The figure twitched her head. Power fell throughout the ship.

    Vexa slammed down the intruder alert indicator.


    “Vexa, report!” Commander Paris demanded of Vexa.

    “Grif is down! An intruder, Sir! She appears to be – communing with ship systems!”


    The figure glowed whitely and twitched her head again. Multiple alerts sounded on stations around the bridge. “Sir, systems are fluctuating all over the ship!”

    Captain Tuvok activated his chair's panel. “Lieutenant Tiroj, internal scans.”

    The Boslic lieutenant at Ops tried several commands. She raised her hands in helplessness. “I can't make sense of these malfunctions, Sir.”

    “What is that?” Ensign Shir pointed his fingers - and antennae - to the main viewer.

    The starship Voyager appeared to distort in places, and erupt in bright plasmic light.

    “Some kind of subspace field is forming around the Voyager, sir. Or at least...part of it?”

    Captain Tuvok scanned the bridge. “Lieutenant Munich. Open a channel to Voyager.”

    The human com officer shook her head. “It's no good, Sir. I can't get through. I don't exactly know why, Sir.”

    Vexa turned to her monitor. Grif was still frozen. She tied her console into his tricorder. The tricorder began to scan.

    On screen, the intruder cocked her face – to Vexa. Then disappeared in a dazzling momentary shimmer.


    - And materialized in Tuvok's command chair. Suddenly the entire bridge crew dematerialized in the bluish glow of the ship's transporter fields.


    Vexa rematerialized on the transporter pad of Voyager's cargo bay, with the other bridge crew. Captain Tuvok scuttled to the controls. Commander Paris opened the emergency hatches and retrieved four phasers, meting them out to the Captain, and Lieutenant Commanders Bessek and Tiroj.

    Silently, they all stepped back onto the pad. The Captain activated the controls and jumped on the pad with them.

    Sublieutenant Vexa found herself back on Perseus, on the secondary bridge. Her first impulse was to run to the visual comlink – but Captain Tuvok commanded their attention:

    “I am unfamiliar with the species of the intruder. Have any of you a familiarity?” Nobody answered. “Whatever the motives of the intruder, whether to destroy the Perseus, or perhaps steal it – we must first determine how many there are, and capture them as quickly as possible. The security of the entire Federation could be at stake. Sublieutenant Vexa.”

    “Sir?”

    “Any information you could provide would be most helpful.”

    “Sir. The intruder came aboard and concealed herself in the deuterium pod storage bay utilizing holographic subterfuge. There have been two illicit transports aboard in the past several days; one for the intruder, and the other for, presumably, the fusion generator. It is likely the intruder is alone aboard ship. Further speculation is unsubstantiated.”

    Lieutenant Commander Bessek took Vexa's arm. “How do you know all this?”

    “Chief Grifahni had access to the tactical station for approximately forty seconds during the slipstream trial.”

    The Ktarian Lieutenant Commander scowled. “I don't believe it. It's impossible. I scoured every security system and report myself!”

    Vexa turned to Captain Tuvok. “I didn't believe him either. Yet here we are.”


    She didn't anticipate being alone. She hurried through the flashing corridors of a power crisis. On her way to the transporter room, Sublieutenant Vexa turned a corner and stopped short. Several crew stood frozen in the corridor. A male Haliian Ensign stared catatonic, his face a frieze of wonder. She reached up and touched his face. He was warm, alive – and utterly unresponsive. She hurried on.


    “Vexa to Chief Grifahni. Grif!” She entered the transporter room and activated the station. Site-to-site transport was engaging and disengaging like a heart constantly moving blood. Vexa felt the thrum of transports like a current in her own heart, despite her intellectual focus. She had been trying to reach Grif since she left the secondary bridge. “Grif!” She activated the visual pickup and scanned the deuterium pod bay. She saw Grif on the floor. He was moving.

    “Grif! Chief Grifahni Jace! On your feet, soldier!”

    “Unnh. What. Hap-pened.”

    “I am currently unable to come to you. You must come to me. I'm in transporter room two, two decks below you. Are you able to move?”

    “I don't know what happened, but – yeah, I think so.”

    “Time is of the essence, Chief. The Captain and First Officer are on their way back to secure the bridge from the intruder. I am currently attempting to regain control of transporters. Curious. The synchronization with Voyager's transporters is active. Crew are being transferred from Perseus to Voyager. I believe she wants this ship for herself.”

    “Well she can't have it.”

    “That is not all.” She enhanced her scans of the area around the ships. “Voyager is shrouded in subspace fluctuation and unknown energy particle activity. I cannot get a clear reading.”

    “What is wrong with the crew??” he asked.

    “Unknown. The crew is being incrementally beamed off ship.” The site-to-site transport cycled up. “ You must hurry. I do not know how long we have before we are incapacitated and beamed away.”


    The transporter room door whooshed open. “Are you you?”

    Vexa turned. “What a puzzling question. Were your mental faculties damaged?” she asked, in genuine concern.

    “You're you, alright.” Chief Grifahni stood beside Vexa and checked her scans. She resisted the urge to touch him. She interrupted herself: “I have bypassed sensor lockouts utilizing transporter molecular imaging. Systems are malfunctioning and locking down out all over the ship. Crew are being transported to Voyager.”

    “Not good.”

    “Perhaps you will recognize this.” She enlarged the molecular scan she had been analyzing.

    “Is that - ?” He looked at her.

    Her eyes indicated agreement. “Trellium fusion.”


    “Where is it?” Grif adjusted the settings on his phaser rifle.

    “Uncertain. It is concealed within a dispersal of some kind of TPS interference, which I have never seen before. However I have localized the source somewhere forward between decks six and eight.”


    “Can you access a visual link to the bridge?”

    “Negative. Those systems failed in the initial attack.” Vexa tapped a few keys. “However I can now display a graphical representation of the molecular imaging scan of bridge surface area.” She activated the system.

    The image of the bridge appeared, somewhat mediated in brighter colors; or was that the iridescence of the intruder? For now she could not be certain.

    Grif poked the image. “She's operating systems without even moving! What is that, some kind of telekinesis?”

    “Unknown.”

    “I saw myself turn to ice. I felt it. I was as good as dead.”

    She paused, to regard the Bajoran security chief. “It was...requiting to see you alive.”

    He looked at her and chuckled. “I don't know what that means.”

    Suddenly the workstation shut down. Vexa slapped the interface. The transporter hummed with more site-to-site transports. There would be little point in disabling it; the system had dozens all over the ship. She headed for the corridor. “Not this time.”

    Grif called to her from the door. “Well what can we do? She's overriding systems all over the ship!”

    “Not the ones she doesn't know about yet.”


    On their way through the flickering corridors they passed more crew in various states of unconsciousness – standing motionless, laying where they fell, down on their stations, their faces frozen like half-buried statues from Vulcan's archaeological record – trapped instants of emotions, seemingly random, from surprise to curiosity, confusion to wild-eyed terror. Careful not to disturb them, Vexa and Grif navigated the decks alert for the ever-present trace of the transporter hum. Vexa dispassionately cataloged their emotions while her own heart pounded out its heightened rhythm, her senses alerting her in the extreme to every insignificant sound and movement.

    Suddenly, with that sound that made her heart jump, the crew around them started disappearing in transporter fields.

    “Run!” Grif called. She did not need to be told. While she was certain she could control her outward behavioral responses to the emotional impulses welling up inside – she rounded every corner, headlong into specters of her irrational imagination. Racing forward, despite her survival instinct - and desire to scream.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
  7. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization







    16 Bad Dog





    Vexa led Chief Grifahni onto the holodeck; fortunately it was vacant. “Computer,” Vexa spoke, calming herself, while Grif watched her questioningly, “Run Prometheus-class bridge simulator file Vexa QST-twenty.”

    The computer buzzed. “Specified simulation is not on record.”

    Grif read the files on the arch display. “Holosystems must not have been linked with Janus yet. Try another one.”

    Vexa didn't hesitate: “Computer. Run cadet field training program starship scenario. Situation: Prometheus-class bridge simulator. Overlay Perseus schematic modifications. Tie in Perseus command access with main computer, authorization Vexa gamma twelve. Filter through personal cryptographic lockout protocol obelisk thirteen thirteen omega.”

    Grif interrupted: “Computer, activate isolated computer core backup units and shunt recursive process routing through these and all shuttle computers at random intervals, authorization Paris Twenty Enable.” When Vexa looked at him curiously, he said, “I hear things.”

    The Perseus bridge hologram compiled into existence before them. They entered.

    She activated the master interface. “I shall endeavor to keep that in mind.”


    Keeping a side scan on the fluctuating molecular image of Voyager, while simultaneously working on a previously unconceived subspace field algorithm, Vexa made her deductions: “There must be some kind of subspace interference with the computer network, given what's happening to Voyager – interference which is possibly even having a neurochemical effect on the crew.”

    Grif looked up from the ops station. “How do you know it's neurochemical?”

    “I do not. However when you exposed the intruder, you described an altered sense perception. It is logical to infer it was possibly some kind of defense mechanism the intruder employed. It would also explain the intruder's lack of physical interface with the computer system. However a subspace analysis would confirm or deny this effect. Unfortunately I still have no access to sensors.”

    “Subspace telepathic computing? Is that even possible?”

    “It is – untheorized.” She exhaled, erased her entire algorithm, and, with a little too much force, reset the interface. “Therefore countermeasures must also defy established physical probabilities.” She pulled up the security communications interface.

    “You mean a shot in the dark. Doesn't sound very logical?”

    She accessed the emergency command parameters. “The definition of an undisciplined mind, that cannot perceive the problem in terms of statistical probability.”

    “Oh I can perceive it. I just call it what it is.”


    “Computer, begin specified communications countermeasure utilizing emergency power shunted from propulsion systems.”

    “System online. Interferometric frequencies enabled.”

    Vexa said, “I'm enacting countermeasures based on an assumption of subspace computational routing. Communications frequency jamming might disrupt the intruder's influence on the ship's computing systems.”

    Grif looked up. “You mean our brains.”

    “Yes, those too.”


    After a minute, Grif pounded his station. “No, it's not working. I still can't access security commands. So much for your theory.”

    “So much for the hypothesis. The theory, however, may still be sound.” Vexa had a new idea; she pulled up the index of the quantum drive diagnostic systems.

    Grif found the visual uplink of the bridge. “There she is.” Vexa's progressive molecular imaging scans of the bridge cast the intruder in a crisp image. The intruder remained cross-legged, spine erect in the command chair, “communing”, as Vexa had put it, with various bridge interfaces, which for the moment appeared to be in some kind of hyper-speed mode. He zeroed in on the intruder. She appeared to be a humanoid female. Her entire body, she now saw, reflected a rough, pearlescent texture that reminded Vexa of Earth coral, or shells. Her whitish hue did not glow continuously, but seemed to pulse softly at random intervals. Her hair – which was not hair – swept back over her cranium and hung in articulated fronds to her neck, again, like small interlocking white seashells. Her irises rippled the color spectrum. Her hands and feet were bare and turned upward. Vexa could not say for certain whether the intruder wore her articulated coverings, or if they were somehow part of her.

    But she respirated. Subspace or not, she was at least in part, a creature of atmosphere. Which meant, like her victims, she was also vulnerable.

    The computer signaled ready. Vexa assessed her new system configuration. “Chief. Prepare yourself for a slight temporal dilation.”

    The chief turned. “I don't know what that means.”

    Vexa activated the signal jamming transmissions, this time on a triaxillating band modulated with chronoton phase emissions, aimed back onto the ship itself.

    Suddenly everything began to interlace in time, from milliseconds before to milliseconds after the event. Grif studied his hand, trailing back and forth. Sound seemed to rise and fall in echo. Vexa found the effect most...hypnotic.

    An indicator revealed the transporter link breaking. Ship systems started coming back online. The transporters powered down.

    On the visual uplink to the bridge, the intruder shot up out of her seat to physically inspect the Ops station. When various commands failed to respond, she turned, and cocked her head, mystified, directly at Vexa.

    “She didn't plan on you,” Grif said.


    “Paris to Vexa. Report.”

    “We are currently experiencing the time dilation effect of chronophasic emission interlaced with subspace interferometric frequencies. For now they seem to have blocked the intruder's access to ship systems, Sir.”

    “I don't know what you did, but people are starting to wake up. Ship status?”

    “Sixty-eight percent of the crew have been transported to Voyager, Sir. Sir, I'm picking up another trellium fusion source.”

    “Another actuator?”

    “I do not believe this to be the case. Logically, had it been so it would have done its damage by now; but I have ensured that that particular ploy would not succeed twice. It is more likely the generator is being used to power a portable transporter unit. This would explain how the intruder was able to beam herself to the bridge while crew were being displaced to Voyager.”

    “Vexa, Seven of Nine is no longer on board. We're depending on you. Can you give us an emergency site to site transport to the main bridge?”

    “Affirmative, Sir.”

    “When you're ready. Four to beam.”

    Chief Grifahni grabbed his phaser rifle. “Us too.”


    Sublieutenant Vexa and Chief Grifahni materialized beside her bridge station; the others beamed in interspersed around the upper ring of the main bridge, surrounding the intruder. Lieutenants Bessek and Tiroj fired their phasers. The beams ricocheted off of the intruder, engulfing them and the computer panels behind them. They fell instantly. The intruder paused, and twitched her head.

    The next phaser beam hit her from behind. Commander Paris ducked aside as he shot, but his beam seemed to get instantly absorbed by the intruder. She then raised a small device that rippled the atmosphere in a concentrated beam and hit the Commander in the shoulder, sending him reeling into the wall, then forward over the rail and into the pit. He didn't get up.


    Lieutenant Munich activated her combadge. “Doctor to bridge immediately! Bring your medkit! And a phaser!” She ran from the body of Lieutenant Commander Tiroj, to Commander Paris.


    Grif looked at his rifle, and threw it down. “Find that trellium source, Vexa,” he said, and launched himself over the rail, into the pit. Vexa increased her scans, checking over her shoulder at what was happening. The intruder lithely avoided Grif's flurrying hand strikes and somehow sent him flying across the bridge mercilessly into the far wall.

    Vexa's panel pinged.

    “Captain, I've located the energy source,” she said. “It's located in the forward torpedo room. A portable transporter!”


    Tuvok activated a command from the tactical station, phaser in hand, and turned. A security containment field erupted around the intruder. The intruder stilled, and resumed sitting.


    “Can you isolate its programming?”

    “Negative, Sir. I'm not even sure it utilizes programming.”

    “You've got to block it, Vexa!” Grif strained.

    She paused to think. “I am remotely accessing a torpedo matter-antimatter power generator. I believe I can force it to generate an ionic disruption field.” Since the experience with the Cardassian actuator, Vexa had determined twenty-seven alternative methods for neutralizing transporter beams. And now, twenty-eight.

    Grif shouted, “Is that safe??”

    Vexa continued her work. “Negative. But it will prevent further transport.” She shook her head. “One way or another.”


    The containment field began to flicker and spark. The intruder appeared to be glowing.


    “Torpedo ionic disruption in progress. Field dispersal geometry optimized. The alien transporter is neutralized, Captain.”

    “An adequate countermeasure, Sublieutenant.”

    “Yes sir.”

    “Nice job, Vexa.” Grif painfully put his hand on her shoulder. “Now help me get this containment field stabilized.”


    Just as he spoke, the containment field fell. The intruder spun and righted herself like an acrobat.


    Grif launched himself at her. This time he managed to avoid her counterattack and landed an elbow to her head. She rotated down and right back up again, reversing his attack back onto himself. Vexa gasped when she sent Grif to the wall for a second time.


    Suddenly the intruder glowed in the shimmering distortion of her transporter field. Tuvok jumped in with her. They disappeared together in an instant.


    Grif complained from the floor. “How did she do that?”

    Vexa checked her transporter ionic disruption field. It was still working. “Unknown.”

    “Commander Paris,” Munich said. “He's awake.”


    Vexa checked her sensor scans. “Sir! The intruder's transport is localizing on Voyager's bridge. She has another transporter unit hidden on Voyager!”

    “Put 'em on main viewer!” the commander strained.


    The viewer displayed the intruder materializing on the Voyager bridge. She instantly turned – right into Tuvok's mind melding clutch.


    Vexa clawed her station. Alarms buzzed on so many interfaces it was impossible to keep them all straight. On her scans, Voyager lay obscured behind indiscernible, dizzying subspace energy reactions. The transporter link started sending crew from Voyager back to the Perseus. Even the intruder's transporter was sending them back – faster than all the transporters of both ships put together.

    Commander Paris painfully hauled himself into the Captain's chair. Vexa disabled the chronophasic emitters, and local spacetime rectified. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief – including her. She studied the chaotic systems interface.


    On the main viewer, Tuvok locked the intruder in a violent mental embrace.


    Suddenly the bridge lights flickered, and the Perseus went to red alert. The computer sounded: “One minute to auto-destruct.”

    “Computer, abort auto destruct! Computer! Abort! Damn.” Commander Paris scanned what remained of his bridge crew. “Bridge to Seven of Nine! Seven! Damn!” Commander Paris clutched his bleeding shoulder from his slouching position. “I'm the only senior officer left. Vexa, see if you can shut off the self-destruct!”

    Munich studied her panel. “How did she do that?”

    Vexa exhaled. “Unknown.”


    The intruder's eyes rippled. Captain Tuvok's expression changed. He began to falter.


    “Twenty seconds to auto-destruct.”

    Commander Paris punched codes into his chair interface, to no avail. “Can you deactivate the auto-destruct Vexa?”

    “I...not without the codes, sir!”

    The commander's combadge interrupted: Seven of Nine to bridge. My team have been beamed back aboard Perseus.

    “Nice timing, Seven! We need to authorize the self-destruct abort sequence! Computer! Abort auto-destruct!”

    The computer signaled. “Seven of Nine, do you concur?”

    I concur. Abort auto-destruct.

    “Auto-destruct canceled.”

    Grif stood by her side. “How much time did we have?”

    “One thousand forty-nine milliseconds.”

    “That much? Walk in the park.” He looked up and whispered something.


    On screen, Tuvok shook. The intruder began to overpower his mind. She broke his hold and he fell to his knees, wild-eyed, vacant and unmoving. The visual link broke and the screen switched to the external view of Voyager, now completely obscured in blinding subspace eruptions.


    The turbolift opened. Ensign Shir and Dr. Salvatore ran into the bridge and rushed to the wounded. The doctor went first to Lieutenant Commander Bessek, then Tiroj. Lieutenant Munich shook her head. “I just received word from the Voyager EMH, Commander,” Salvatore said, studying Tiroj's fatal injuries. “He received a communique from Starfleet five minutes ago.”


    “What?” Tom got to his feet. “What!”

    “At fourteen hundred seventeen Miral suffered a relapse.” He looked up at Tom. “Eleven minutes later, B'Elanna - I'm sorry, Tom. They're both critically comatose.”


    Commander Paris stumbled back; Vexa watched the horror cross his face, and did not envy humans.


    “Sir!” Ensign Shir shouted. “I'm detecting a slipstream opening up bearing three four three mark twenty-one!”

    “What? On main viewer.”

    They all turned to the main viewscreen. A quantum vortex erupted off their port bow. Voyager slowly emerged from the subsiding subspace distortion. Vexa returned to her flickering sensor analysis. “Sir, the ship – the ship is equipped with quantum drive modifications.” She faced the viewscreen. “She didn't want Perseus. She wanted Voyager.”

    The starship Voyager vectored its nacelles and turned into the slipstream with a blinding flash.


    “Systems coming back online.” Vexa's voice shook. “74% of Perseus crew accounted for, sir. Emergency Crew Holograms coming online.”


    The remaining bridge crew surrounded Commander Paris intently. Vexa watched the Commander, emotionally floored, weighing their situation. Munich aided some crewmen with the retrieval of the bodies; Dr. Salvatore attended the Commander's shoulder wound.

    Commander Paris spoke quietly: “Helm, establish orbit around Alpha Proxima Station 3. We need to...assess...report....”

    Unmoving, Vexa silently watched Munich and Shir face their commander in defiance. Grif leaned over the railing; “Sir, this is the only ship in the fleet capable of laying in a pursuit, and you know it!”

    Commander Paris waved off the doctor and righted his posture. He scanned the faces around him.

    Vexa found herself at a complete loss. She thought to herself, The security of Starfleet by far outweighs the consequences to the individual lives aboard that ship and this one. The Commander's purview ends here. Yet she could not seem to convince herself, nor apparently, hide the telling trace of emotion from her face.

    His wife and daughter's lives hanging in the balance; along with Starfleet orders, Federation security, and Logic - against the lives of the Voyager crew. Vexa found she could not calculate such a probability. Then suddenly she saw an entirely new emotion flash across the Commander's face.

    Commander Paris turned fiercely from his crew to the stars.

    “Quantum vectors, Mr. Shir.”
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2009
  8. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    17 The Stitcher





    The thread approached the eye of the needle – slowly, carefully - and missed.

    Again.



    Elim Garak concentrated in his darkened tailor shop. The day had been an unfortunately quiet one, so he decided to close early and catch up on some meticulous custom work. It may have been a comparatively low-traffic period; but Garak knew that like anything else, it would not last forever. He moistened the tip of the thread between his lips, and tried again.

    Someone entered the shop behind him. “Can I help you?” he asked, in mid-operation. The stranger, cast in shadow, examined some of the custom haberdashery on display. “Nice handiwork.” He picked up an elegant handtooled boot from a pedestal. “But then, that's what everyone always said about you. Garak.”

    “My father always said your work will speak for itself.” Garak turned around and faced the large Cardassian soldier. Although he attempted to mask his reaction, Garak was certain he had failed. “I heard a rumor about a Galor ship in the sector.” He paused, and had a realization: “Or was it a fleet?”

    The stranger put down the boot. “It hardly matters. You never know what you'll run across out there. In the Badlands.”

    “I see. Just passing through?”

    “Something like that. Interesting that you would hear such a rumor; even moreso that you would believe it.”

    “Well, one overhears all manner of things on a busy station like this one. As for believing the rumors, I usually don't. Nor do I believe ghost stories. That is – not until this moment.”

    The visitor remained obscured by shadow. Garak smiled amiably while secretly regretting leaving his phaser out of arm's reach.

    “Ghosts.” The figure took another step closer. “Yes, I suppose that is what some of us have become.” He leaned in, and Garak could just make out the gaping hole where an eye should have been. “But there are ghosts, and then there are ghosts. Don't worry, Garak. I think you won't become a ghost just yet.” He fell back into the shadow. “I just wished to stand where I could make that determination for us both. I waited a long time. You understand, I'm sure.”

    “Certainly. Still, it is big of you.”

    “I even tried to forget. About what you did to me. And to them. And to her.”

    “I imagine that would be...rather difficult.”

    “As I'm sure you well know. The universe won't let you forget.”

    “Especially in the deafening quiet of the aftermath,” Garak finished. “Still...times have changed. Cardassia is changing too. The Sector has a whole new set of conflicts. A whole new set of players. And some familiar problems. Lack of resources. Corruption. Organized piracy – though I imagine the latter will soon cease to be a problem of any significance.”

    “You always did have a grasp on tomorrow's news, Garak.”

    “As you always had a grasp on the things no one ever, ever hears about. But the worlds are changing. Cardassia is being reborn. Or at least, creatively destroyed.”

    The stranger stepped closer. “Do you believe anything changes, Garak?“

    Garak took a calming breath, and indicated the tailoring on his table. “New fashions are my stock-in-trade, now. Would you like me to fit you for a new suit? I have some unusually rich fabrics from the Gamma Quadrant. Something perhaps more...loose-fitting? Suitable for retiring in quiet luxury? I'm sure you've earned it.”

    “Thank you, Garak. Perhaps another time.”

    “As you wish. And...for what it's worth....”

    The stranger hesitated at the door.

    “I was never fully convinced you were guilty.”

    “I was guilty. Guilty of being a loyal soldier. As we all were.”



    The stranger left. Garak locked his doors and poured himself a stiff drink. Then he opened a comlink.



    The Ferengi barkeep answered. “Mr Garak. An unusual pleasure.”

    Garak rubbed a finger on his eyelid. “I just had a rather... unexpected visitor.”

    “You don't mean...? No. No! He's dead!”

    “I suppose it's true what the Bajorans say. Death – is only a beginning.”

    Garak cut the link and left, his needle and thread forgotten.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2009
  9. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization








    18 Perseus Unbound: A Hologram's Introspective





    Static.

    Spectral scan one hundred to seven hundred fifty nanometers of the electromagnetic spectrum. Blinding irregularity, burning shapes. Narrowing band from four hundred to seven hundred nanometers. Adjusting optical focal and aural input processing. Fluctuating hum of a power conduit. Erratic electronic feedback pulses. Rectifying visual processing. A shape: a hand phaser. A medical tricorder. A vocoder. A mobile emitter. An arm. My arm. My body. My head. Oh, my head! I'm a Doctor, not a conga drum.

    “Computer, what happened?”

    Antonio Salieri was born August eighteen, 1750 in Legnago, Venice.

    “You don't say.”

    The EMH sat up and tapped his communicator. “Doctor to bridge. Doctor to engineering. Doctor to Perseus. Doctor to Alpha Proxima Station. Doctor to whoever? Hello? Can anyone hear me?”

    He sighed and took up the vocoder. “Perseus Unbound: A Hologram's Introspective; Voyager Emergency Medical Hologram, installment nineteen. I had intended this record to be a running commentary of the historic Perseus Trial from a hologram's perspective; another of my humble contributions to medical posterity. However there seems to have been...a slight hitch. I'm alone, trapped in a Jefferies tube, out of communicator contact with the ship and station; I venture forth, once again, apparently, to ascertain the condition of the Voyager and her crew. Unlike my last solo venture involving quantum slipstream, I have no other crew, humanoid, hologram or otherwise, to render me assistance. The main computer is unresponsive. Power seems to be fluctuating. I remember...”

    The Doctor struggled, opening the hatch to a flickering junction and a ladder descending into darkness. “I remember being trapped. The Perseus had successfully arrived at Alpha Centauri C. I had just received an automated update from Starfleet, containing a communique from Doctor Retych at Starfleet Medical. There was an intruder alert. The next thing I knew, the sickbay computer started locking down; I had barely just enough time to activate my mobile emitter and slip into a Jefferies tube before the entire deck experienced a power surge, which seemed to reset my sensory parameters. Other than that I would appear to be in stable condition. As for the ship and crew – so far it is yet to be determined. I am receiving no responses.”

    The EMH took a hesitant breath and descended into the darkness.



    The hatch opened into flickering darkness, and an unsteady nose of a hand phaser protruded. The EMH emerged in Astrometrics, which he found, with great relief, unoccupied. The viewing wall appeared to be cycling through vast amounts of stellar data files at a rate impossible to apprehend. He tried the station interface. Again, unresponsive.

    “After obtaining entry to Astrometrics, I am unfortunately still unable to access ship systems or figure out who – if anyone – is in control of Voyager,” he told his vocoder. “However at the very least I will continue this voice record in the hopes that it will lead to evidence that may eventually exonerate Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Torres – and clear her name...or service record.” He paused. “That is, if anyone in Starfleet ever finds this narrative.”

    The EMH watched the screen blurring through encyclopedias of sensor readouts, star systems, and space sectors. He activated his tricorder and made some adjustments. After a time, he closed it. “My medical tricorder is ill-equipped to process the astrometric visual data in any useful manner. I need some kind of processor that can analyze visual data. The LCARS system might but as near as I can tell, it is currently undergoing some kind of... computational flux. My holoimager could at least capture the images, but it would take months to go through so much data. Besides, Lieutenant Commander Kim still has not seen fit to return it to me after borrowing it. I'm beginning to think he has no intention of doing so.” He paced while he pontificated. “What I need is something that can both capture visual information and translate it into analyzable data. Then I might be able to ascertain any patterns that could provide me a clue about what is happening to the ship. Hopefully without revealing my presence to any hostiles aboard ship. Unfortunately the only tools I can operate around here are my own two eyes.”

    He studied the viewscreen. Then he studied his mobile emitter.

    “I am attempting to optimize my optical matrix,” he narrated, as he accessed the mobile emitter controls. “I should be able to attenuate it to use my own eyes to capture the streaming data on the screen; then it's just a matter of using my own sensory-cognition matrix subroutines to filter the data and look for any patterns. That...should...do it.”

    He blinked. Suddenly the interface panel on the Astrometrics station appeared to flicker in slow motion. He brought his attention to the viewscreen and could now see every image, every sensor report, every star, planetoid and nebula, focus into absolute clarity and detail. His holomatrix filled with teraquads of information, neatly organizing itself into millions of mathematical facets.

    “Oh...no.”




    The EMH turned away from the screen. “The data would appear to have no discernible pattern. Rather, it seems to be a cycling through all information from the Astrometrics data banks – including much that was mapped during Voyager's journey through the Delta Quadrant, data from the Perseus slipstream trial, and – new readings being taken from our...current trajectory. Which presents a small problem. Either Voyager is traveling at slipstream velocity, or I've been unconscious for twenty years. A case of Rip Van Hologram.” He rubbed his eyes, took a deep breath, and took a closer look. “Neither proposition is particularly comforting. But that's not even the worst news.” The EMH began to fiddle with his mobile emitter's controls in order to restore his optical matrix. “According to readings, the Voyager crew still appears to be aboard ship. However, none of them is moving from their present locations. Which means the entire crew is either incapacitated, or...dead.”

    He finished his command sequence. “There we are.” He reached for his phaser and tricorder. And missed.

    “I seem to have slightly misaligned my visual acuity parameters.” He tried again, and knocked the equipment off the console. “A small adjustment should do the trick.” He reached for his mobile emitter - and hit air instead. When his fingers found purchase, he tapped a few switches. Suddenly his eyesight skewed and burned with brightness. “Ow!” He stumbled towards the door. It opened for him, emitting a searing light. He blindly turned away. “No problem,” he told his vocoder. “Just a slight visual misalignment.” Then the EMH straightened his posture, squinted, and promptly walked into the wall. “How embarrassing.” The Doctor then felt his way out of Astrometrics and into the passageway.




    Sitting in the corridor, the EMH furiously fumbled with his mobile emitter. Suddenly his eyesight went blank. “Oh no! I can't see! I can't see! I can't - ah well, at least that's better.” He rose. “Although temporarily disabling one's eyesight might be an insurmountable obstacle for some, I'm fully confident I can proceed with greater alacrity than if I were being distracted by conflicting visual information.” He felt his way along the wall. “Besides, a little temporary blindness might help me to refine my sensitivity towards visually-impaired patients. Not that I'm not already fully equipped with the requisite understanding. Still, it never hurts to improve.”

    He barked his shin on an open panel.

    “It doesn't...hurt...at...all.” He limped. “What a time to have activated Lieutenant Vorik's new tactile feedback subroutines. Ow.”



    Feeling his way down the corridor, his hands found something warm and soft. It was a person. The EMH drew back. “Hello? Crewman?” He tenuously reached out and felt for a pulse on the neck. What he grabbed instead was, upon inspection, a breast. “Sorry. I was ah, feeling for your pulse. Sorry. Ensign Gillian.”




    Discovery of a few other crew affirmed the Doctor's assessment. The crew were still alive, but being suspended in some kind of catatonia. Without use of his tricorder or the computer, he found himself surprisingly at a loss for any diagnosis more specific than that – considering he had no idea of the event which rendered the crew in this state. His internal processing of the Astrometrics imagery, however, continued to reveal new information piecemeal. “Nothing in the Astrometrics data seems to explain this phenomena,” he told his vocoder. “Nor how Voyager, now at warp and possibly in a quantum slipstream – is not only equipped with that capability, but is, I'm disturbed to say, now on a direct course –” he slumped into a corner “- for the heart of the Delta Quadrant.”

    What the Doctor couldn't understand, and neglected to record, was why there seemed to be a sensor echo – of the slipstream reading originating from Alpha Centauri C.

    “I'm stumbling through the dark, quite literally,” he said. “Why Voyager is being stolen remains a mystery. How it was stolen, I have no idea. Who stole it – remains to be seen. In fact everything remains to be seen by me at this point.

    “One image keeps turning up - a single red sun, alone in darkness.

    “The crew's mental state – is it somehow related to the effect interfering with the ship's bioneural network? That might explain why my mobile emitter, and portable equipment like tricorders are still able to function. It's only speculation at this point. I need to get back to sickbay and analyze a member of the crew. If I can even do that without the use of sight. Whatever is happening here...” he opened a Jefferies tube hatch and climbed inside, “the intruder or intruders require a ship. But not just a ship. This ship.”

    The Doctor froze. He heard breathing. Heavy breathing.

    “Wildfire.”

    The Doctor spun. Someone clawed his uniform and knocked him to the bulkhead. Pinning him with inhuman strength, they grabbed his head with both hands. They were breathing frenetically and doused in sweat.

    It was the vicing grip of - a mindmeld.

    Wildfire.”
     
  10. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
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    19 Thieves' Errand





    Two officers lost.

    Tom stood staring out the ready room viewport, at the brilliant streaming eddies of the massive gravitational wake of the slipstream. The deckplates thrummed with the deep muted power of the quantum drive. He thought he could feel his being stretching between each gravitational pole, his soul dispersing over thousands of light years like an unlocked transporter pattern. His shoulder burned with the dull ache of tissue regeneration, but that was nothing compared to the searing pain of being shot with the alien device.

    Voyager had disappeared from long range sensors almost immediately. With her head start, on a direct course, she could travel indefinitely and Perseus would not be able to mark her. The real challenge of piloting the Perseus lay not in speed or distance; but in navigation – and what to do once you got where you were going.

    The quantum trail had proven easy enough to follow for several hours, as it had immediately made it's long-range destination clear:

    A long course for the Delta Quadrant.




    The door chimed. “Come in,” Tom answered.

    “Sir. Ship's systems operating at peak efficiency. Long range sensors have still not picked up Voyager.” Seven of Nine entered and handed him a padd. “It was last seen on a direct course; however its quantum trail has slowly been diminishing.” Tom motioned for her to sit. Seven hesitated, and obliged. She noticed the empty chair across from her, and indicated for Tom to sit. He obliged.

    “Nothing but taillights. I don't suppose you know what she's got under the hood, do you?”

    “The...hood, sir?”

    “An old Earth street racing term. Do you have any theories, Seven?”

    Seven of Nine tapped another padd and handed it to him. She wore a ridged gunmetal form-fitting suit cut at oblong angles, bearing the three pips of a Commander. He had thought better than to require her to wear the gold uniform of a Chief Engineer. She had been given a field rank of Commander by Captain Chakotay when she had first taken over for B'Elanna – at first a formality, and when the Trial approached, a necessity. Seven had not indicated whether she would prefer to retain her commission – or if she was even happy in the role. Things had been too busy for personal feelings – as he well knew.

    “I surmise this might be the result of the intruder's schematic alterations,” she said. “She has somehow found a way to mask the ship's quantum particle wake. If she is able to do that, we suspect she may work to apply the same strategy to both warp travel and impulse. Perhaps even thrusters.”

    “We?”

    “Yes; myself, and – Sublieutenant Vexa. If - sir – we don't find Voyager soon, we will lose the trail entirely.”

    “What's this?” He studied the padd filled with mathematical notations.

    “This is our best determination. It's theoretical, but it may give us a chance to locate Voyager. Sublieutenant Vexa believes she can localize a ship traveling at high warp by a mathematical analysis of neutrino emissions, which could not be suppressed using the same techniques that mask plasma exhaust.”

    “Neutrino emissions? Over these distances?”

    “Indeed. Part of her strategy employs a particle resonance acceleration matrix, which is essentially a field of generated quantum particles held in a measurable state, as they interact with targeted regions of space and subspace. Distance is irrelevant. Using Barclayan intragalactic communication techniques we can theoretically localize a subspace quantum resonance locator beam in virtually any sector of galactic space. Sympathetic resonances between the locator beam and the PRAM would allow for the particle density measurements necessary for mathematical analysis.”

    “A particle resonance...acceleration matrix? Never heard of one.”

    “Because we've only just conceived it. You can think of it as a kind of quantum compass. Neutrinos shouldn't be affected as they pass through Voyager's plasma wake, or whatever masking technique the alien is using; or other interstellar trace gases or particles. Measuring the quantum gravitational effects on neutrinos is a simple matter for ship's sensors. With some modification, the quantum resonance beam can be configured to localize an electron neutrino transitioning into a muon or tauon as it travels. Perseus is well-equipped to measure any discrepancy of flavor oscillations against the fixed ratio density of expected relic neutrinos in cosmic microwave background radiation.”

    “Well – if you say so, Seven.”

    “Normally such a calculation would be extremely subtle. Even the Borg were unable to track such minute measurements, which is one reason they could not always successfully locate cloaked ships. However Sublieutenant Vexa has created an algorithm for analyzing relic particle densities over vast distances, which, I must admit, presents an intriguing new approach. I would like to try it, if for no other reason than to see it in application.”

    “Sounds like a real breakthrough in astrometrics – if it works. But what if Voyager drops down to warp, or impulse?”

    “Voyager's electroplasma warp drive generates electrons, muons and tauons which are measurable against the gravitational effect of a warp field on cosmic radiation. Sublight impulse fusion reactors have no gravitational effect; but they also emit antineutrino flux in the beta decay of plasma exhaust. There should be a marked difference between predicted neutrino flavors in cosmic background radiation and those emitted by Voyager's impulse reactors. These too should be detectable over long distances.”

    “And if Voyager's stopped, laying in ambush somewhere?”

    “We are reinventing deep space telemetry and fleet tracking capabilities. We can only solve one impossibility at a time. Sir.”

    “One miracle at a time. Got it. I'm glad to see you two getting along. Tell me something, Seven. What's your assessment of our Sublieutenant?”

    Seven considered the question. “Unpredictable. Sublieutenant Vexa has devised an algorithm that may predict neutrino masses based on computational stellar data over vast quantities of space. This is also based on her understanding of quantum slipstream science and the effects of chronophasic interference, which has been proven to affect neutrino configurations. Adding the exponential drift of temporal flux makes particle prediction a proposition of such complexity it has eluded the Borg for centuries.

    “The alien intruder, clearly of an advanced race, has somehow managed to not only commandeer a Federation starship from heavily-guarded space, but can somehow manipulate matter and subspace, as well as hundreds of minds of two crews, with no detectable technology or external assistance. The alien has managed to subdue Voyager's navigational wake while in flight, again, without any apparent external aid – and in a matter of hours. In response, Vexa has managed to conceive a sensor that can span the galaxy, take an active role in its applied prototype development, as well as create a particle mapping technique across many sectors of open space, and against a vast chaotic region of background radiation and interstellar phenomena; effectively countering the superior alien threat - as she has already done in numerous ways.”

    Seven of Nine stood. “As a former Borg, my best assessment of Sublieutenant Vexa is simply this: unpredictable.”

    “Proceed with the system modifications, Seven. Use whomever you need. Uh, dismissed.”

    Seven of Nine heeded and moved to leave. It was an impersonal gesture, yet somehow affirmed Tom's authority.

    “And Seven? The Academy's loss is obviously our gain.”

    She pondered his statement, acknowledged it with a brow raised in soft appreciation, and left.

    Tom toyed with the padd, not trying to understand the equations it contained. He had hoped for a more...human perspective of Vexa. He had another question he needed help with. Seven may have been able to detect a misplaced electron half a quadrant away, but when it came to people, she was still, in many ways, that little girl lost to the Borg.




    He returned to the viewport.

    Why Voyager?

    Why the Delta Quadrant?

    What could possibly motivate a being of such incredible power?
    He had ordered Lieutenant Munich to go through Starfleet records of the Delta Quadrant, to see if she could find anything relating to this intruder. Somehow it seemed like a pointless task, but procedure was procedure.

    Did I just say that?

    He thought of his former shipmates, and his Captain, and tried to ignore the dread in the pit of his stomach. What am I doing? They're gonna love me back at the New Zealand Penal Colony.

    Starfleet would at least listen to reason. They might not agree with his decision to risk an additional ship and crew in this thieves' errand. As things stood now, Starfleet would really have no idea of what occurred. An alien like that? Nowhere in the strategy books. There's no telling what fate Starfleet would be cooking for him now. But Starfleet's response to his pursuit of Voyager was the least of his concerns at present. After all, it was only his head, and you can only lose that sort of thing once.

    But with the increasing tensions of Bajor Sector, there would be no telling how the sudden mysterious loss of these two ships would ripple out from the center of the sector's attention. If anything it would raise doubts and suspicions and only contribute to the growing mistrust between the various factions. If Maquis started drawing lines in the sand – the Voyager crew might not have a home to come back to. If he failed to deliver them home – not only would the crews of two starships pay for his inadequacy, but there would be nothing to ease the tensions mounting around Bajor. Speculations would abound, and give enough people enough fuel for what could be a very large fire.

    God, was B'Elanna even safe? Kel'Akann would see to her medical needs. But would he be able to keep her and Miral secure? That's all the Maquis would need – another martyr for the cause. Or two.

    If...

    No. Don't even think it.

    He had to bring them home. His wife and daughter's lives could depend upon it. The Federation needed to know about this alien threat, as well. He hadn't even considered the fact that there could be more of these aliens lying in wait around the Federation. And no one there to warn them. Damn. He'd acted too quickly. Let that young hothead get the best of him.

    Somewhere out there, was a superior being with the key to his wife's exoneration and peace in the quadrant. And Tom had to find a way to defeat an alien so strangely powerful she had defied everything two starship crews could throw at her – and had single-handedly stolen a starship from the very core of Federation security. This was the kind of threat no amount of history could prepare anyone for.

    Even somehow retaking Voyager and bringing the alien into custody might not be enough to stem the tides of war. Advocate Kel'Akann, under some unfathomable Vulcan logic, decided to plunge himself in the middle of the Perseus case; just associating with it could be damaging to the presidency. It could undermine perceptions of Federation stability – a state its enemies would relish and exploit in any way possible.

    Two officers lost.

    And then there were the rest of the Perseus crew. Working together for the first time, shaking out the rattles. They would face this mission before their time. Tom hadn't even time to know Bessek and Tiroj. He didn't know them. Who was back home, awaiting their safe return? And now, he would have to somehow alchemize the mixed body into a starship crew. Or it could be the death of them all.

    Sublieutenant Vexa – exonerated from a court martial after her first day of duty, only to go from the frying pan into a cosmic fire. Chief Grifahni – a real hothead. While Tom could understand the security chief's motives, he could no longer afford to invoke personal choices or morality in this office of command.

    Did I just say that?

    Tom thought back on how those ready room meetings with Captain Janeway had always left a dread in the pit of his gut – but every one of them, he now realized, was a lesson from a master. Now, he knew he represented something bigger than himself – and was charged with the protection of not only a ship's crew – but two ships' crew, his own extended family on both ships – and a restless region of space, not a few alpha quadrant civilizations; and two quietly dying souls millions of millions of millions of miles away, and getting light years further by the hour.

    He caught an escaping tear.

    His communicator interrupted: Doctor to Paris.

    Tom straightened his posture and narrowed his mien. What now, he thought.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2009
  11. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    20 Our Beautiful Redemptions





    “Doctor Salvatore.” Tom managed an amiable nod. Or at least tried to, while the doctor greeted him with a sweep of a medical tricorder wand.

    “Mm hm. Evening, sir. Come on in. You can call me CT, by the way. Corbin Tibalt. Please, make yourself comfortable.” The doctor gestured for Tom to enter. “How's the shoulder? Would you care for something to drink?”

    “No thanks. Shoulder's – tell you the truth I guess I got used to it. Must be on the mend. You said something about a matter of the crew, CT?”

    The quarters stood nearly empty but for the furniture. An open suitcase rested on the main dining room table. It contained a half-built model ship nestled in foam; Tom recognized it as an ancient sailing vessel, a four-masted wooden Cutter. Of all the things one might bring on a starship test flight - a fragile, complicated project hardly seemed like a sound idea. What did that say about this doctor? Tom really had no idea. Which is why he was a pilot and not a ship's counselor. Or a diplomat.

    “Two scotch glasses,” the doctor told the replicator. “With ice.” He took the rock glasses and produced a bottle of barrel-aged scotch from a rucksack. “Sir, how well do you know the crew?”

    Tom declined the offer of a drink, and seated himself at the sofa, resting his posture more informally. “It's your quarters. Call me Tom. The crew? It depends. With regards to what, exactly?”

    The doctor sat in the chair opposite. A fiftyish man of Greek ancestry, he spoke with the open flatness of his New England upbringing. A native Bostonian, he was well-traveled across the Federation as an itinerant Starfleet physician. Raised in a mission academy for orphans, Salvatore had joined Fleet Medical to spend most of his time in transit practicing exomedicine and participating in various Starfleet medical exchanges. While not nearly as far, or as fast as Tom had gone, Salvatore had been around the worlds, and then some. The doctor had even served in the Dominion War. Doctor Salvatore's service record had struck Tom as someone he would have liked to work under as a medic. When it came to dealing with humanoid crews, someone slightly less...digital. “Did you have something to report, CT?”

    “In terms of physical health, there aren't any problems to report.”

    “I see. But in terms of mental health?”

    “I have some concerns.” The doctor leaned back into his chair, sipped his scotch and watched Tom.

    “Is this a psychological evaluation, Doctor?”

    “Not at all. This is what we in the medical profession call having a drink. Go ahead. Computer, Miles Davis. Fifty decibels.”

    The computer sounded and muted trumpet jazz began to filter softly through the room.

    “Thanks, no. Was there anything else?”

    “The crew's mental health. I thought you should know. They're ready. They are chomping at the bit to rescue Voyager. Not that you need to hear it from me, but - you made the right call. We're all behind you – in command, and in spirit.”

    Tom sighed. “Actually – that's what I would call a pretty good diagnosis. To be honest, it's exactly what I needed to hear. I just didn't know it yet.”

    “Well this physician didn't just fall off the turnip wagon,” CT smiled, and raised a toast.

    Tom looked around the quarters. “Not exactly Starfleet medical, is it.”

    “The cost of being a ship's officer. I don't mind. I pack light. A life on the move, that's for me.”

    “Speaking of which – what do you call that?” Tom indicated the ship model in the suitcase.

    “A hobby of mine. Model sailing ships. Starships in bottles. Classic aeronautical vessels. That kind of thing.”

    “I did the same thing. When I was a kid.”

    “A good ship is an idea. Same idea, big or small. But no two are quite alike.”

    “Kind of a funny kit for a ship's officer, isn't it?”

    “Takes my mind off my work,” the doctor shrugged. “You should see some of the looks I've gotten at customs checks.”

    “Well for a traveling fleet doctor who builds ships in his spare time, you sure don't seem to accumulate much.”

    The doctor smiled and sipped. Tom decided not to pry.

    “Served on a planet in every sector in the Federation, ten planets in Beta quadrant, seven starships, thirty-seven hospitals and an interstellar generational biosphere. I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon.”

    “Looks like pretty soon you'll be adding a new quadrant to that list.”

    Great,” he smiled. “I'll be the only doctor in Starfleet with a thousand light-year house call.”

    Tom thought of B'Elanna, and Miral. Lying there in coma, while he shared small talk with a crewmate.

    The doctor must have registered his mood. “Sometimes – there's just nothing you can do, Tom. Nothing except feel for them. You can do that just as easily from here. They know that.”

    He considered this doctor. According to his service record, Salvatore had been married once. “If you don't mind my saying, Doctor, you seem pretty comfortable with fleet duty.”

    “Yeah. But it wasn't always the case.” The doctor looked out the window at the streaming vortex, worlds fleeting past like so much warp trail dust. “Mala – that was my wife – she had a whole plan for us to settle down. On Earth.” He reminisced in momentary silence. “Even talked me into it.”

    Tom sat silently while the doctor recalled his past. “She was a nurse, you know. We met in the aftermath of Wolf 359. On an emergency medical shuttle in high warp out of Regulus. Best damned nurse I'd ever seen in action. Taught me a thing or two about surviving days and nights of triage, with a smile for her patients that never left her face no matter how much blood she endured.” He refilled his glass. “Love, and duty – I just don't know if I have that in me again.”

    The doctor watched Tom, lost in thoughts of his own.

    “Life is transient,” the doctor continued. “A million things can go wrong. Most of it you can't control. But what you can control? You fight tooth and nail for.”

    Tom roused from his sad reverie. “You lost her, didn't you.”

    The doctor looked away and Tom had the impression he was only scratching the surface. “Shuttle accident on her way to a relief mission in the DMZ. I was already there, planet hopping and giving aid anywhere and everywhere I could – and making no friends on any side. She wanted to catch up with me there, though I insisted she stay at DS9. For all the good it did me.”

    The doctor swigged his drink. “A Jem'Hadar attack wing just blew her shuttle out of the sky. No reason, no warning. No retribution. A humanitarian mission.” He darkened. After a silent moment, he said, “Killing a Jem'Hadar is like turning off a machine. There's no revenge in it. No gratification. No greater good. There's nothing, but emptiness.” He looked at Tom. “I've made my peace with that emptiness.”

    “I'm...sorry,” said Tom.

    “But Mala – she had empathy. She cared. Other nurses would just desensitize, but she never did. She empathized with each and every person under her care. It was a Herculean effort that made me feel like an amateur next to her. She was the best part of me. You probably know what I mean.”

    Tom replied, ”In my case “empathy” isn't quite the word I'd use. More like, “outrage”. So tell me CT, do you ever think about, you know, doing it again? Starting a family?”

    Salvatore swirled his ice lost in thought. “I didn't think so, but.... I'll face a Jem'Hadar shock troop with nothing but a well-charged phaser rifle. But kids? Scare the hell out of me.” The doctor reached for the bottle. “Mala's ova are still in cryo-storage though. Back in Boston. If I ever wanted a kid...that'd be...who I want. But I couldn't ask someone to carry it; and I sure don't want to hire someone. So I guess that's that.”

    The doctor offered the bottle, but Tom declined again. Salvatore poured two glasses anyway. “A toast,” he said, putting the glass before Tom. “To our beautiful redemptions.”

    Tom drank, and took a deep breath. He rose.

    Doctor Salvatore followed suit. “As of now you are officially off duty. Regulations, Tom. Have a good night's sleep.” The doctor saw him to the door. “Captain.”

    Tom hesitated, then nodded and left.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
  12. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization








    21 The Limiting Factor




    “One book of poetry.”

    Vexa ran her fingers along the cracked spine of the antique book, and flipped through the browned pages. Something fell out. She picked it up; it was a dried red rose. She turned it in the light, and pondered the logic of placing a flower between the leaves of a book.

    She remembered her task. After collecting Lieutenant Commander Tiroj's personal effects, she was to occupy her new quarters, as the ship's new resident Chief Operations Officer, with an unexpected field promotion to Lieutenant, Provisional Junior Grade. Captain Paris had presented her the pips himself in a quiet, dignified ceremony as befitting the occasion – accompanied by the five other officers he had upgraded, and the four others given full rank field promotions.

    Vexa placed the book into the suitcase of Tiroj's personal effects. “Computer, resume recording.”

    “Three bars of gold-pressed latinum.”

    “One locket.”

    “One...” She opened the small case, and saw reservoirs of colored compounds and applications. “One cosmetics case.” She touched crimson, and studied the red stain on her finger, and regarded her colorless reflection in the mirror. She could never hope to enhance her appearance with the refined skill she had witnessed in the feral elegance of Commander Tiroj's Boslic facial morphology.

    “One set of mechanical pencils.”

    “One drawing tablet.”

    The tablet revealed many half-formed sketches of fanciful unfinished buildings and abstract architecture, modern, ancient, and alien. According to her service record, besides being the Operations officer, Yurel Tiroj was a practiced architect and inventor – two hobbies she had entertained in her off duty hours. Her drawings varied widely; but the emergency shelters she had helped to create on war-torn Soltok IV had given hundreds of displaced colonists an immediate refuge – perhaps the beginning of what might have been a distinguished humanitarian side career.

    “One picture frame.” Yurel Tiroj and Doctor Salvatore walked on a long strand of calcite silicate particles in a class M temperate marine zone.

    “One copy of Taechlen's Unexpurgated Field Equations.”

    “One cultural relic, a drawing on dried animal skin. It would appear to be quite old.”

    “One wooden flute.”

    “One...Vulcan meditation stone.”



    She thought of her mother. It had been six years since she had stayed at home for more than a week at a time.
    With her promotion had come an upgrade to bridge officer quarters. A living room with two viewports, a bedroom with two viewports, a dining area, and full bath. Vexa had never rated such personal space before. She doubted she could occupy it quite fully.



    She finished her task:

    “One officer's manual.”

    “One communicator.”

    “One tricorder.”

    “One phaser.”

    “One pair standard issue boots. Well worn.”



    She had taken one last look at the empty quarters, suitcase in hand, and deactivated the lights.

    Tomorrow she would be moving into those officer's quarters. She would be placing her own personal effects and artifacts about the room, wondering who would be removing them. But for tonight, Lieutenant Commander Yurel Adlena Tiroj's quarters would stand empty, silent, and dark.



    The Vulcan meditation stone lay concealed in her pocket; Doctor Salvatore had received the effects, intending to hand deliver them to her family; he had revealed to Vexa that he had been close with the lieutenant; and that Vexa was the only other one in the universe who knew. The doctor appeared to be a man of little disclosure to most people; yet Vexa had already felt an immediate bond between them. It was the bond of shared loss, which was a kind of logic she had never encountered before. When he saw the stone, he had studied it, and had placed it into Vexa's hand with a sad smile. “She would have liked for you to have this,” he'd said.

    Walking through the corridors at the late hour, the crew still bustled with purpose and focused energy. But they seemed to veer a little too far from her; to notice her but pretend not to; to whisper after passing. She continued forward with an unfathomable lack of expression, such that none would ever know how close she had come, just minutes earlier, to defying her lifetime of purpose with the shedding of a tear.



    Vexa entered the mess hall. The noisy relaxation of the crew filtered through the atmosphere. She could see faces watching her furtively, of crew she had yet to meet despite her months of working on the project. She really hadn't gone through the normal orientation procedures, and now her isolation, logically, felt pronounced.

    She took her soup to a table of three female officers. As there were no available tables, Vexa interrupted them. “Would you mind sharing the table?”

    The Human female looked at her friends. “Go ahead.” When Vexa sat, they arose. “We were just leaving anyway.” She watched them go with incomplete logical understanding and a sudden vacancy that seemed to enhance her public isolation. What was it that had offended the crew? Was it her mistake? Her first day of duty, putting them all in danger?

    Admiral Janeway had told her, in a quiet moment on the evening before the inquiry, that Vexa had redeemed any mistakes she may have made. The Admiral, in fact, had indulged in a moment of nostalgia when she recounted her own first day of duty. She had nearly set off an interplanetary incident when she had openly contradicted a Hralik dignitary from an orthodox religious sect about the age of his planet; further exacerbated by her inadvertently crossing his shadow, a breach of cultural protocol, and nearly invalidating the Federation as a mediary between two war-weary planets and plunging them further into conflict. The Admiral had stated that it took her a week to leave her quarters at night. But had been glad she did, for the crew sympathized, as they also had all made their own mistakes.

    But this struck Vexa as different, somehow. Perhaps it compounded with her unanticipated field commission to Lieutenant Junior Grade and subsequent posting as ship's Operations Officer. It would not have been the first time her excellence generated the resentments of those around her. What they refused to comprehend was the amount of work she had put into her career in order to excel – one theorem at a time. They could not know the extent of sacrifice of all other life considerations and typical rites of passage, indeed, even the deeper disciplined study and meditation of Logic. In light of her inexperience with leadership, however, she was to attend command exercises under the tutelage of Doctor Salvatore, when he was available, and to “fraternize”, as the Captain had suggested, once weekly with the First Officer – the newly-minted Provisional Commander Seven of Nine.

    “This seat taken?” Grif threw his leg over the chair and put down his tray. Vexa suppressed any visible reaction to the various dishes he had acquired, all orbiting a seared slab of bovine muscular tissue. “Just got back from Commander Bessek's quarters. Did you know he collected antique noire movies and crime novels? And he has a whole gigaquad of Victorian era detective stories. I know I shouldn't do this, but,” he leaned in conspiratorially, “I made backup copies of it all. I don't know. I just thought it might help me get to know the guy whose quarters I'm about to take.”

    “I am certain the Commander would not have objected,” Vexa replied. “I don't know that I will ever understand Commander Tiroj,” she added. “Nor the significance of her unexpected and futile demise.”

    They sat in silence for a moment. Then, Grif said, “Are you sure? They died doing their duties. They died being exactly what they were meant to be, in a righteous cause. That's how I want to go.”

    Vexa said, “They may have been prepared; but my parents regard ship duty as a kind of death penalty. This will only affirm their positions. They described my motivation for ship duty as an emotional reaction. They fail to see my life's pursuit of logic in this matter. They think I have succumbed to emotion but, in this case, they are erroneous.”

    “You should have heard my father when I told him I wanted to join Starfleet. I thought the walls would fall. Talk about emotional reactions.” Grif laughed in his cup.

    “I do not understand why one chooses to cope with the free expression of emotion,” she pondered.

    “I couldn't live without them. They tell me who I am. Emotions are the reason I didn't take ship duty. After my father died – I just had to, you know, stick around close to home. My mother's health wasn't good. She needed me. And with the War, the Cardassians – someone had to be around to pick up where the old man left off.

    “Then she died of complications. I was left alone. Don't get me wrong – plenty of family friends who offered me support and condolences. My father had won the loyalty of many. But by then all the good billets had passed me by. Never thought I'd get another chance like this. I plan on making the most of it. Might be my only chance to, you know, get out here.”

    “Then perhaps we do understand something of each other.”

    Grif regarded her. “I could never learn to live...without the free expression of emotion...the way you do. No feeling. No anger. No love. For me, that would always be a limiting factor. For a Bajoran, that's a kind of death penalty.”

    Of the various conceptual responses occurring to her, as well as her subdued, naturally-occurring emotive and behavioral responses, Vexa failed to find a suitable reply. She couldn't argue; she found it too time-consuming to educate him enough to understand her component logic, let alone emergent logic. And she was tired. The subject vastly outweighed the constraints of a fleeting late night commiseration. And she found she had no motive – to offend Jace. She replied, simply, “For a Vulcan, love is the most destructive emotion there is.”



    Sharp tones emitted from a nearby table, distracting their attention. Four junior officers sat in a shared criticism of something. Then one of them looked at Grif, and returned to the increasingly intrusive discussion.

    Grif noticed the two Bajorans, a Bolian and a Human, whom Vexa recognized as having come from Hakton VII; a Federation colony in the DMZ under the constant watchful gaze of Cardassia Prime.

    “And there it is,” Grif muttered.

    It was the Human male who had started speaking loudly enough for their benefit: “Grifahni Gage advocated for dismantling of the Bajor provisional government, and to take a more aggressive stance in the DMZ. People like Gage gave the Maquis a bad name – committing aggressions, secret assassinations and other illegal means, any means at all, to secure Bajoran Maquis interests. The Maquis benefited from a lot of the terror techniques developed by the Bajoran Resistance over the years. But antique zealots like Gage would only undermine the Maquis cause as a frontier power and make the Maquis no better in the public's eye than the Cardassians.”

    A muscular Bajoran Ensign stared at Grif smugly. “Well the Occupation was over. The demilitarization of the disputed colony worlds was just a formal technicality easily worked around, since the Cardies continued feeding arms and military support through third-party intermediaries like the Xepolites. Still plenty of action to be had for the bloodthirsty. And plenty of soldiers still craving blood with nowhere else to channel it.”

    “But that didn't afford the mercenaries any suitable longterm strategy,” the Bolian countered. “Grifahni Gage and his terrorism singlehandedly undermined everything the Maquis had accomplished up to that point. It's because of people like him the Maquis will have to surrender to Bajoran bureaucracy now. With the Cardassian Union straining under joint fatigue, and exhibiting much less military cohesion through the sector, which could easily - ”

    The Bajoran Ensign interrupted: “Grifahni Gage was a mercenary and a loose cannon. He was incapable of taking any longterm view. He wouldn't care if his actions and the actions of rogues like him destroyed all chance of Maquis security, in his quest for personal salvation.” He turned to Grif directly. “And I think I'm looking at another loose cannon right now. Our new Lieutenant Tactical Officer. Am I wrong? What are you? Sir.”

    Vexa watched Grif still himself in considered silence; then he got up, removed his two Lieutenant's pips and combadge, and set them on the group's table.

    He stood that way for a minute. Nobody moved.

    “My father didn't fight for salvation,” Grif said. “He fought for survival. But not his own. For your survival. The survival of your families and your homes. You're just too obtuse to realize it. Oh I know you. I know each and every one of you. I know your assignment, I know what you studied at the Academy, and I know each and every posting you've served and what route you took to Mars and the favorite lunch of the shuttle pilot. Ensign Fetho. Ensign Lohr. Ensign Batilla. Ensign Cheraon. I know where you're from. My father flew missions in each of your colonies. And if you didn't know that, it's because the mission succeeded. You're in that chair right now because of him. You're here to debate the longterm greater good because of him, and people like him, who gave their lives to keep you alive, so you could live to fight the righteous fight another day. So go ahead and spit in his name and his cause. Because you were his cause.

    “You think I'm like him?” Grif leaned into the Bajoran Ensign's face. “You're wrong,” he spoke lowly. “While you sit around hatching your political theories, when the Cardies come to burn your homes and families – I won't be there taking fire for the likes of people who would rather vilify their champions and hold themselves above the cost of their own survival.” Grif straightened, and replaced the combadge and pips to his uniform. “I'm a Starfleet Officer. I answer to Starfleet Command. As do you, now. So the only question left to ask, Ensigns, is - what are you?

    The group remained silent. The entire mess hall watched in stillness.

    “My old man isn't around anymore. But someone else here is. Sitting right over there, listening to you blowing steam like a first week cadet. I haven't seen one of you people thank her or congratulate her for saving your hide. You can't even talk to her.

    “Now let me tell you what I see. I see four untested uniforms. But I'm not going to expect you to prove yourselves. I'm not going to give you any absolution. I'm not judging you by your service records, or your commanders' evaluations. The only thing I see are your actions. I want to know if you're worthy of the lives of those two officers that died defending this ship; worthy of the lives of this crew; worthy of the lives of my father, and all the Maquis who died for your chance to be a Starfleet officer on the Federation's only starship in the outer quadrants. So it's time to ask yourselves the question. What are you?”

    The Bajoran Ensign stood at attention. “Sir.” He nodded, and went to Vexa's table, and offered his hand. She met it.
    One by one, the other officers followed suit, rising, excusing themselves with a “Sir”, and shaking Vexa's hand before leaving.

    Grif returned to his seat and started eating.

    Vexa said, “I will never understand you.” Nor could she understand, after just suppressing the paralysis of cautionary dread, why, looking at him, her entire being began filling with strength, and radiant warmth. She was certain she could not hide it in her eyes – if anyone but looked.

    “What's to understand,” Grif said unnoticingly, and bit into his steak.



    Vexa spent the next hour shaking the hands of every crewmember who stopped by her table on their way out.



    In her final night in cramped Ensign quarters, she lay awake another hour processing the day's illogical extremes. Asking herself questions his mere existence had unwittingly provoked.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
  13. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization








    22 Dark Nebula





    Acting Captain Thomas Eugene Paris of the USS Perseus read over his padd of report updates on his way to the bridge. He didn't know what happened, but he'd had the first full sleep in ages, thanks in large part to the catharsis provided by Doctor Salvatore – as well as the confidence instilled in him by the efficient professionalism of the crew; as well as their moral support. In turn, he, like Captains Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok, would try to offer his crew strength where they needed it, understanding when they needed it, and personal sacrifice, when duty and good conscience demanded.

    According to the scrolling data on the padd, the Voyager trail had varied through the night. The ship had managed to not only erase its quantum wake, but also to alter course erratically. Fortunately, Seven and Vexa had successfully gotten the PRAM Sensor modifications online; the technology proved itself, and Voyager's unmistakable neutrino output had lit up like a Christmas tree on the PRAM display - resulting in an ebullient night shift for the crew. He doubted the alien intruder would be aware of the technique; so far, all of Voyager's course corrections had occurred independently of any PRAM Sensor tests.

    Tom couldn't say why, but this morning, the crew seemed tighter, somehow. As if the night had affected them. They took to their duties expediently and in good cheer, considering. As acting captain he would have to make his peace with sometimes being out of the loop when it came to staff morale. But that was alright; because Tom trusted this crew. He trusted in their abilities and professionalism and even passion. He'd served over seven years with a good many of them; and had personally gotten to know each and every member prior to their deployment to Perseus.

    The turbolift opened to the bridge.

    Seven of Nine announced him. “Captain on the bridge!” She stood by the command chair, and the entire bridge crew stood at attention by their stations, awaiting inspection. Their show of respect emboldened Tom and filled him with a sense of pride – duty – and loyalty to each one of them in turn.

    He stood in the center of the bridge and noted each officer: Commander Seven of Nine, First Officer and Chief Engineer. Lieutenant Commander Nikhila Munich, Second Officer and Chief Communications Officer. Ensign Ujio Shir, Helmsman. Lieutenant Grifahni Jace, Chief Tactical Officer. Lieutenant Vexa, Chief Operations Officer, now bearing a gold mantle - on a Starfleet uniform.

    Tom hit the shipwide com indicator on his chair's panel. The boatswain's call sounded throughout the ship. “All hands,” he began. “This is the acting Captain. I'm pleased to report the installation of the new PRAM Sensor modifications have been successfully completed. Perseus is on a direct course for the Starship Voyager. Congratulations to you all. Starfleet couldn't ask for a better crew in all the fleet than the crew it is my honor and privilege to command, the crew of the USS Perseus. Voyager's only hope rests in your hands. Because of each and every one of you, the odds just shifted in her favor. Let's bring her home.” He killed the switch and sat in the command chair. “Stations – and let's stow the protocol.”




    Tom evaluated the chart of the two ships' courses on the main screen. “She's on the run and hell bent for leather. Seven, report.”

    “Sir. Given the headings set by Voyager through the night, Lieutenant Vexa and I have extrapolated Voyager's course corrections in order to localize any likely destination points along a range of median vectors.”

    “What did you find?”

    “The set diminishes with increased distance attained,” Vexa said, indicating a string of various trajectories across her panel's display of the Delta Quadrant; as Perseus blazed through the sectors, the fan-shaped vector range narrowed, parsec by parsec. “However many variables remain. The range covers many inhabited systems indicated by the Borg stellar data that Voyager acquired in its final voyage back to Earth.”

    “What's this vector here?” Tom indicated a bold line traversing the range. “Wait a minute, I know that vector. That was Voyager's original course for Earth. Almost didn't recognize it upside down like that.”

    “Affirmative, Sir. As you can see the range of possible vectors is entirely intersected by that course.”

    “Speculation?”

    “Unknown.”

    Seven interrupted. “If the alien intruder originated from the Delta Quadrant she may have learned of Voyager in that time period. With her powers she could have easily taken any number of Federation ships with superior capabilities; yet she has obviously gone through great pains to acquire Voyager in particular. It would suggest a prior familiarity. Especially in light of our current course.”

    “Or Voyager might have been her backup plan, if she failed to acquire Perseus,” Tom replied. “All we really know for sure is that her plan required a ship with quantum slipstream drive, obviously. She may have been able to fashion a quantum drive out of whatever matter replication techniques she employed – but it was Starfleet design. My guess is that no matter how advanced she is, she hadn't had access to a quantum drive until we gave it to her. Who knows what she wants to use it for.”

    “Nevertheless, the vector patterns clearly fall into place around Voyager's original heading for Earth. Speculation suggests a correlation. Perhaps something Voyager did while in the Delta Quadrant affected the alien's interest somehow, which is why she would have taken the trouble to locate Voyager, out of all the ships in all the galaxy.”

    Commander Munich looked up from her constant scanning of Voyager's records. “Well if there was ever any indication of the species of this alien, I can't find it. None of Voyager's records contain any mention of this race whatsoever.”

    Tom wasn't convinced. “Still, it's not as if people steal starships to go take care of business tens of thousands of light years away from home. She must have at least some familiarity with the Delta Quadrant. Of course, if that's true, it raises a pointed question.”

    Tom looked at Vexa. She paused from her scans to consider it.

    “How did the alien traverse the quadrant in the first place to arrive in Sector 001 of the Alpha Quadrant?” she answered. “And if in a ship – where is its current location?”

    He and Seven exchanged consternated glances.

    “So, is there anything at all worth noting along these paths Vexa?”

    Vexa zoomed in and graphical callouts indicated several key regions in the range. “If the course median holds to the extrapolation, Voyager could pass within a vicinity of approximately five hundred seventy-three star systems, most of them uncharted and statistically uninhabited. Five pulsars and nova-type stars, a stellar nursery, a void expanse, various known spatial and subspace phenomena, a cosmic string fragment and an imploding star cluster.

    “The Borg data indicates several regions of major inhabited stellar civilizations as well as cold buffer zones not unlike the Alpha-Beta Neutral Zone. Lesser civilizations and colonized worlds are likely as well. The course also skirts various fractionated radiative regions, chaotic spatial disturbances, and posited dark matter formations. Of course, this represents what can be known or inferred. No doubt this region contains any number of uncharted phenomena. There is also a likelihood the destination falls outside this range entirely; however this likelihood, like the vector range, diminishes with time.”

    “And nothing to indicate her purpose,” Tom said.

    Neither Vexa nor Seven had a reply.

    “There is another factor,” Seven countered. Vexa raised her brow in question. “The maximum range Voyager can maintain current speed before engine failure.”

    “It is illogical to assume the alien will push Voyager to engine failure,” Vexa replied. “She can drop out of slipstream at any time, and reestablish any course available to her.”

    “It is your logic which is in error,” Seven countered. “If her intention was to traverse a distance beyond the capacity of the quantum drive, she would not push the engines to their maximum limit prior to arriving at her destination, requiring a prolonged shutdown of those systems. She would have used a less energy-intensive speed for greater distance of travel. Therefore, logically, her destination must be within this vector range. I have already done the calculations. Would you care to run them, Lieutenant? For the sake of the Captain.”

    Vexa considered silently in logical acquiescence and ran a new set of variable parameters. The computer flashed with vector corrections and other notations. The subset Voyager icons flashed in their respective positions across the sectors. “Varying speed over this course would result in an earlier arrival time than traveling at maximum speed and stopping for the necessary down-maintenance periods. The further Voyager travels the more this holds true. Captain, the Commander's hypothesis is correct. Velocity analysis indicates a greater likelihood that at current speed Voyager will reach her destination as early as possible, rather than take a more measured course for a longer or more circuitous route. She will have factored in her total distance accordingly.”

    “She didn't reduce speed earlier. She won't stop completely down the line and arrive even later,” Tom said. “No, this is a one-legged long jump before burning out the drive. Good work to both of you.”

    Vexa added the new data and requisite formulae to her analysis. The vector range shortened and narrowed considerably. “This increases the likelihood of her arriving at one of these charted regions. Captain, I apologize for overlooking such... an obvious key factor. My logic was in -”

    “I've seen course corrections like this before,” Tom replied. “Like I said. On the run and hell bent for leather.”

    Vexa exchanged looks with Seven. “Yes, sir, but – we have proved -”

    Seven interrupted her. “The Captain's – logic – was correct, Lieutenant.”

    “Yes, Commander.” They gave Tom the eye and returned to their readouts.



    Grif took a look at their vector analysis on his Tactical station. “She doesn't know if she's being followed,” he said. “But she's not taking any chances. Gonna be tough taking her by surprise. So what are we gonna do when we catch her?”

    Tom straightened from the readout. “Briefing room. Five minutes. Pencils sharpened.”



    The briefing hadn't been as productive as he'd hoped. The extrapolated courses placed Voyager's destination somewhere in the central region of Delta Quadrant – an area Voyager had not even traveled before it had been absorbed by the Borg sphere in its final mission in the quadrant. So much for past run-ins.


    “Captain. Reading massive fluctuations of discrete clouds and cloud complexes. Superradiant emissions, IR sources, hydroxyl emissions, ionized gas, carbon family molecules, silicon oxide, isotopometers and deuterated molecules.”

    Voyager had disappeared from all sensors. Where she had gone, however, was no mystery.

    “Sounds like a garden variety stellar nursery to me?” He hoped.

    Vexa continued. “Readings indicate spectral line emissions in the microwave band of the EM spectrum. Most likely due to naturally occurring astrophysical masers.”

    “Nothing Perseus can't handle, Lieutenant.” Tom leaned forward and assured himself he was right.

    Despite their brainstorming during the briefing, little was forthcoming. The problem lay not in the crew's resourcefulness – but in the x variable that undermined all strategy: the alien motive.

    “No sign of Voyager,” Ujio added. “The dense molecular cores of the filaments and clump formations provide too much interference. Some nasty weather ahead. Supersonic magnetic turbulences infusing and dissipating randomly, sir.”

    “Shields up and steady as she goes, Ensign.”

    Grif had suggested a covert boarding, given the opportunity, rather than a full assault. Seven contributed an inspired idea of a Borg-enhanced interpolating security field in which to snare the alien, utilizing Vexa's subspace-jamming technique to prevent the alien from reprogramming the technology telekinetically – or however she managed to do it. But it would take time to create.

    Time the alien had not given them.


    Perseus approached the stellar nursery, a Giant Molecular Cloud sixty-four point seven parsecs across in diameter. Somewhere in that violent storm-tossed dark nebula, the starship Voyager bided silently, deep in a dense molecular core, shrouded in ammonia traces and alien intent.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2009
  14. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    “Captain,” Ujio said, “Reading a large gravitational mass dead ahead. Cobalt collisional excitations and stimulated emissions. It's a forming star,” he said in wonder.

    “On screen.” In silent awe, the crew watched the brilliant stellar formation amid the kaleidoscopic ignition of particulate matter, shimmering in a dazzling spectral display.

    “Captain” Vexa broke in, “Reading increase in maser activity and gravitational effects of molecular clumps and vortices being drawn to the forming star. Carbon molecules, nitrogen, helium, neon, argon. Reading unknown induced emissions of several exotic particle types. Some exhibit excessive mass indications with minor charge-to-mass ratios. Strangelets.” She regarded the scene on the main viewer. “It is a prestellar quark core, Captain. The first one ever seen in existence.”

    “Particle density of accretion molecules increasing to seven point five nine grams per cubic centimeter. Stellar currents exceeding mach five. She's getting rough, sir,” Shir said. He turned to Tom. “Plenty of EM interference, could provide suitable cover while we wait for Voyager to emerge.”

    “Agreed. Drop anchor and batten down the hatches, Mister Shir.”

    “Sir?”

    “Full stop, Ensign.” Andoria. Ice planet, Tom told himself.

    “What do you think Voyager's doing here, sir?” asked Lieutenant Munich.

    “Hard to say, Nikhila. Maybe she's waiting for someone. Or something. Or she could be -”

    Suddenly a massive energy beam ripped through the cloud and struck the Perseus shields, tossing the ship over like so much flotsam.

    “What the hell was that!” Grif shouted over the red alert klaxon, while power fluctuated through the ship.

    Tom pulled himself off the floor. “One of Vexa's spectral line emissions.”

    Vexa returned to her station and sorted through the various alarms. The ship's power came back online. “Sir, an electromagnetic wave stimulated the exotic strangelet particle radiation. Since astrophysical masers lack mode purity or coherence, the result was - “

    “Spectacularly not good!” Grif concluded from the floor.

    “The stimulated emission of the exotic strangelet particles created these...shall we call them Exotic Strangelet Masers, sir.”

    “Kind of a mouthful, Lieutenant. How about something simpler, like...EXS masers?” he replied.

    “Yes sir. The beam eruption followed the path of maximum particle emission from the prestellar core.”

    Grif hauled himself up. “In other words, random bursts of shield-penetrating death radiation.”

    Vexa turned. “Essentially, he is correct, Captain. The EXS masers are highly-polarized and could overload the shield emitters; if the EM wave transitions should strike the warp core tetryon particles -”

    “I get the picture, Vexa,” Tom finished. “Can you rig something to give us some warning if it happens again?”

    “I will activate an X-magnetic spectrometric scan that should give us a warning. But sir – there is no guarantee we can outmaneuver the fluctuating radiation in time -”

    “Perseus can do it,” said Shir.

    While the crew waited and watched in tense silence, Perseus rocked in the high-velocity magnetic turbulence of the prestellar core formation. On the viewscreen, long tendrils of EXS particle beams disgorged from the quark star emissions, circling, lashing and blasting around the fluctuating cloud complexes, shuddering through ship and crew.



    An alarm pinged. “Sir, reading a molecular vortex coming our way,” said Ensign Shir. “Heading towards the star. Stellar winds are rising.” More alarms started sounding.

    “On screen.”

    A dark vortex loomed and pushed its way towards them through the charged molecular currents. The clouds roiled from the approaching energy mass.

    Voyager emerged from the clouds, firing phasers on Perseus.




    The ship shook violently and plunged into chaos. Voyager fired all batteries against Perseus on an overhead pass. The supercharged particle currents erupted in a blinding lattice of EXS masers that enshrouded both ships in violent cosmic energy.



    Tom roused in the darkness of auxiliary lighting, that flickered on scorched bulkheads, his shoulder burning in pain. “Report,” he strained. There was no reply.

    He dragged himself upright and scanned the bridge. The crew began rousing from unconsciousness. He helped Munich right herself; the confused Com officer indicated she would be alright.

    “Engineering! Report!” There was no reply.

    “Sir,” said Ensign Shir. “Voyager is gone. I can't get impulse. Shields down to eight percent. Sir! We're adrift in the particle wake! We're falling towards the stellar core!”

    Warning. Shields failing. Fatal radiation exposure in two minutes, came the automated announcement.

    “Thrusters! Full reverse!”

    “Aye sir!”

    “Captain, we've lost phasers. I don't know how she did it. Reports coming in from the ship,” Grif added. “Casualties, no fatalities. Yet.”

    Vexa added, “Sir, I'm reading a quantum wake exiting the region. Dissipating fast. Recommend we exit the nebula and activate the PRAM Sensor as soon as possible. Voyager's course is evasive.”

    “Engineering to Bridge.”

    “Go ahead, Seven.”

    “Impulse engines have been damaged extensively; they are offline and will be unrepaired for at least twelve hours. Holographic crew are offline. Auxiliary systems are offline. Thrusters losing power. They may not clear us of the gravitational pull of the formation.”

    “Status of the automated systems?”

    “Structural readings are intact. However controls have been fused throughout the assemblies. We'll have to send teams to replace them manually. MVAM mode is unavailable.”

    Warning. Shields failing. Fatal radiation exposure in one minute thirty seconds.

    Tom leaned in his seat and checked his panel readouts. As the stellar quark core raged ahead, He factored in a new equation. “Seven, prepare for warp speed.”

    The bridge crew all turned to him in surprise.

    Seven replied, “Captain, there is no way to know what kind of effect a warp field will have on the particle masers. We don't know if the field will stabilize; or whether the deflector will be able to function in such a dense environment. You are taking a gamble. We must work on repairs in order to emerge from the nebula on thrusters and impulse.”

    “How long will Voyager's vector trail last, Vexa?”

    She shook her head. “It will have dissipated completely, long before then, sir. By that time the PRAM Sensor will be useless at pinpointing an accurate source. However the EXS masers will have certainly overpowered our shields by then. If we can even escape the gravitation of the stellar formation.”

    “Seven, staying too long in the nebula with eight percent shields is a gamble we can't win,” he replied. “Them's all the cards we've got. Warp speed. Now.”

    After a millisecond of silence, Seven replied, “Aye Captain. I will require one minute.”

    Tom cut the com. “Any longer, and she's fired,” he assured Ujio.



    A massive EXS maser lattice drew around the ship, just as Perseus jumped to warp and punched a new hole in the flashing nebula -

    - and emerged from a quantum vortex firing a volley of photon torpedoes at Voyager.

    Voyager's engines narrowly avoided the hits as the ship maneuvered through its orbit of a red star with a massive gravity: a Stellar Rogue lost in the vast darkness between two galactic spiral arms knifing the sky.

    Alarms rang throughout the bridge. “Sir!” Vexa shouted. “EM readings are off the scale! Hard X rays, gamma rays, radio waves – the stellar matter is coalescing into an impulsive stage eruption!”

    Shir shouted, “She's a Red Flare Star!”



    “Captain!” Grif shouted. “Voyager's opening a slipstream directly in the path of the flare! And she's going in!”

    The quantum vortex pulled the starship Voyager into the slipstream, faster than light.

    “I can't control it Captain!” Shir yelled. “We're being pulled in!”

    As a massive stellar loop flared out of the red star, the USS Perseus tumbled towards the vortex.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2009
  15. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    23 Marble Sirens





    The Supplicant Scribe climbed through the vine-enshrouded statuary in the cold gray Ashallan autumn. Winter air penetrated her plain hooded cloak, while leaves swept the uphill landscaped paths and undermined footing on the ancient stone stairways. Ahead, she watched the Vulcan Emissary pause to regard the ancient grand entrance arcade of the Bajor Council of Ministers, remove his hood, and enter in solemnity.

    She passed through the gauntlet of dozens of classical statues looming overhead, some weathered gray by millennia, others cut from fresh white marble since the Bajoran liberation. Sirens of the Prophets, from classical Bajoran mythology; she studied them in passing: Truth. Knowledge. Filial Piety. Suffering. Legacy. She read the inscription on the base of a wide, broken marble column: Their music calls the heart to the mountain, where the cliffs are sheer and the holds are slight.

    Entering the grand arcade to the sanctuary of the Ministry, the Supplicant Scribe sipped from the chalice of Prophet's Tears. A chamberlain received her entry authorization and regarded her shaded visage. “Supplicant Scribe, Adjutant on behalf of the Dakhur Committee for Refuge. Enter with the Prophets.”

    She found a marble bench in the upper gallery overlooking the circular table arrangements of the council floor, and watched the council meeting already in process.



    “The dispute has arisen regarding access to these reparations,” spoke the delegate from the Petitioner's dais, in a voice soft and civil, at once sensitive, penitent, sincere, and – keen in inflection. It was difficult to believe the voice, like the plain supplicant's robe, was bore by – a Cardassian.

    “Gul Trask, the Council has reviewed the petition of the Maquis Colony Coalition. The impetus for this issue is at question. The reparations would hardly make a difference in their current economic circumstances.”

    “And to that point I'm certain they would agree, Minister Jenod.” He had a powerful, if soft presence, thought the Supplicant Scribe from her vantage above. In a way he represented an entirely new face for Cardassia. The face of a diplomat. Trask continued: “The reparation issue represents a problem which lies not so much in the economic arena as the political. It cuts to the heart of the formal relations which Bajor is currently attempting to strengthen with these member worlds. Each administration of the colony worlds enjoys a differentiated, discreet relationship with Cardassia. As such they wish to petition Cardassia directly for access to reparations for the Occupation, without going through Bajoran process or authority.”

    “The Bajoran process ensures the fair deportment of those resources among all who suffered under the Occupation,” spoke another Minister.

    “Be that as it may, Minister, by affording reparations to the Bajoran government, these Coalition colonies can claim that Cardassia denies reparation to some of those Bajorans who were forcibly displaced during the - Cardassian Occupation of their homeworld. A most unfortunate accusation that undermines Cardassian sympathies and disrupts our own social reforms at home. I am here to petition the Council for a formal writ that establishes the Bajoran government to be the only legal channel through which these reparations may flow, in attendance with the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter, in order to strengthen both Bajoran and Cardassian respective positions on this matter. As you say, in order to ensure the proper and fair deportment to all those deserving of the small measure of justice and Cardassian atonement these reparations signify.”

    “This is already the case, Gul Trask,” replied Minister Asuan, an elegant, severe older man with a D'ja pagh earring bearing a brilliant Stone of Council Permanence. “What exactly is it you wish to procure from the Council?”

    Distinguished Ministers,” Gul Trask emphasized, eyeing Minister Asuan, “The problem of intercolony unrest has spread to sector interstellar traffic, namely for third party shipping interests, which are now being harassed and detained for inspection and other thin rationales, preventing trade and expedited access to these worlds. This problem has only worsened in recent weeks. However, with the permission of the Council, I offer a solution that can be to all of our mutual satisfactions. On behalf of the Cardassian Delegation, this proposal will be presented by someone far more qualified than I. With your indulgence, Ministers.”

    Gul Trask looked to the entryway, where another hooded supplicant sipped from the chalice and entered.

    “Proceed,” said the disfigured Minister Jenod.



    The Petitioner stood in the center of the dais and removed his hood. “Eminent Ministry, hear my supplication.”



    A minister stood. Across the room, another stood. Then more stood around the room, defiantly, as disbelieving unrest filtered through the chamber.

    The new Supplicant waited silently and scanned the chamber with his only eye. The large Cardassian soldier towered from the dais like a pillar of raw power, exuding a lifetime of hardened battle experience, and allowed the room to absorb his presence.

    Rifle-wielding Bajoran security guards calmly penetrated the aisles in a show of controlled force. The Council Vocutor bid them to stand at rest – for the moment.

    Murderer, someone said.

    War Criminal, said another.

    The enemy, others said.

    How is it he still lives?
    another demanded.

    How dare he address the Council of Bajor!

    “Yes,” said the figure. “I am known to you. I am one known to all of Bajor. I am - Jagul D'Vral.”

    The Razor of Hesdreth
    , whispered the Supplicant Scribe from above.





    “The Council will not hear the words of a mass murderer,” commanded Vocutor Ral the Elder.

    “Honored Council, I am here for a single purpose. I am here to prevent – war.” He turned his piercing eye across each Minister, and settled, with great satisfaction, on Asuan. “A war which could lead to the annihilation of every civilization in this sector.

    “I am here on the official behalf of Cardassia Prime, with the full authorization of the Detapa Council and Cardassian Central Command. The Cardassian government wishes to offer Bajor its services,” he surveyed the Ministry, “as neutral Arbiter between Bajor, and the independent worlds of the Maquis Colony Coalition.”

    The Council of Ministers erupted in unbridled anger, and pandemonious shouts of violence.



    From her perch, the Supplicant Scribe considered this delegate from Cardassia, this haunted voice of Bajor's blood-soaked past. The Razor of Hesdreth – overseer of the ill-fated Hesdreth Dilithium Facility, who had ruled with an iron fist, had mercilessly quashed terrorism with supremely capable military prowess and ruthless indiscriminance, and, upon the forced Cardassian Withdrawal from Bajor, had left in his stead the total ruin of the Bajoran mining camp. Hesdreth had fallen to utter and merciless destruction under a barrage of Galor torpedoes and phaser fire, the descent of burning death from orbit. He was a war criminal put to death by his own government – or so the worlds had been told. His very existence called historical reality itself into question – with the thousandfold screams of the murdered innocent.


    “Our proposal would not only resolve Bajor's current internal crisis, which I admit to having no desire to become involved in,” D'Vral persisted, “but it would secure ship traffic through the sector. It would also represent a new style of relationship between all of our civilizations. A stronger peace, in the interest of mutual cooperation and survival.”

    “Your interest lies with loyalism to the old Cardassian Regime!” someone criticized.

    “If my desire to see a strong homeworld brands me a Loyalist to Cardassia's former glory,” he replied, “so be it. It is a value no doubt Bajor shares, as it is shared by most of the governments and peoples represented here today. Such a step could lead us all to a new balance of mutual respect, and dissociation from our most unfortunate historical missteps, which ultimately served none of our civilizations.

    “Our mutual needs for destruction and enmity have been carried away by a swollen river of sorrows, carrying our lives with them. Will we too be carried away? Why should we succumb to historical folly, when we could assure security of all our peoples, the sector, normalized relations, and a stronger future together - which neither Bajor, Cardassia, nor the independent worlds can do with conflicted purposes.

    “Yes, I may serve Cardassian interests; I may be motivated to secure trade, and even resources – even to establish other access to Bajor's natural resources, which Cardassia still has a pronounced need for, and of which Bajor would benefit from fair exchange. No more than this I seek, but renewed, reinvigorated relations of our planets; not through force, but through the full pursuit of legal channels freely agreed upon by all our parties. This would benefit all our worlds immeasurably, and mark a beginning of a new era of equal yet interdependent states, between and among the sector of all our births.”

    “You expect us to listen to these lies?” a dignitary demanded. “This murderer is no better than Skrain Dukat!”

    “Dukat was a sympathetic fool,” Jagul D'Vral countered. “As Gul of the Hesdreth Dilithium Facility, I was a willing participant of the Bajoran Occupation. Unlike Dukat, I never attempted to delude myself or others about the nature of our crime. It was an immoral, criminal act of war, pure and simple. A violent injustice against the Bajoran people, with grave consequences for all participants. Unlike some of my more erudite and outspoken compatriots, I have never harbored misconceptions about our Cardassian Occupation. So why, it should follow, would any rational being endorse such a crime against morality?”

    He stepped off the dais and walked before each attendee to look them in the eye.

    “I did it because Bajoran planetary resources were vital to Cardassian survival. And I did it - because the Bajorans allowed me to.”

    The host broke into an agitated disruption.

    “I refuse to pity those who did nothing to help themselves. Yesterday, the victim was Bajor. Tomorrow, perhaps it will be Cardassia. Or perhaps another world. I am, and have always been, a pragmatist. As I rotted in a deep, dark cell in all these years after the Occupation, I consoled myself with pragmatism.

    “Hear me! Or do you fear contradiction in the weakness of your own position?” His powerful voice was soon drowned out.

    Vocutor Ral the Elder brought the chambers to a relative quiet. “The Supplication was granted. Speak your peace, Petitioner. While you may.”

    Passion arose in the pulsing presence of the aged warrior, and Jagul D'Vral drew up a power of intelligence and conviction that had apparently only strengthened in the years of his incarceration. “Bajor enjoyed millennia of free, unhindered development; yet still she chose a pacifistic governance influenced by metaphorical ideals. Bajoran occupation resulted from Bajoran irresponsibility to prepare and defend itself for war. If Cardassia hadn't occupied her, another would have – the Breen, the Klingon Empire, the Dominion, the Jem'Hadar, the Federation. Tyranny, domination and cultural contamination take many forms - hard and soft - none for which Bajor had prepared itself!

    “To the Bajoran, Cardassia is the face of the enemy – but that face is only a mask - for the enemy within. Blame of Cardassia is the rejection – of Bajoran right to self-determination, and the gains or consequences of its own free choices. It is the refusal to recognize one's own role in history and destiny. It is the willful embrace of victimhood and all the self-serving entitlements that affords. Bajoran Prophecy has become - a cult of narcissism and self-oppression.”

    He faced the body of Ministers. “When Bajor matures sufficiently to accept the costs of her choices, and is strengthened by facing her own weaknesses, she will come to recognize Cardassia not as an enemy; but as the forging fire of full self-realization. On that day, Bajoran and Cardassian alike will celebrate together. As brothers and sisters, under the suns and Prophets.”

    The chamber of ministers lost all decorum.

    After a few moments, the disfigured Minister Jenod stood and quieted the room, and gravely regarded the Council. “Fellow Ministers of the Prophets, I implore you. As the Prophets have taught us, let us not allow a righteous cry deafen us to a truer whisper. While we may denounce its source, the Petition itself bears a certain whisper of truth. A neutral arbiter to mediate the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter, as well as attendant issues such as that of Cardassian reparations, and other pressing issues, could be exactly the balancing force needed in these troubled times. I propose arbitration – by a Federation mediator.”

    Vocutor Ral spoke: “Would the United Federation Emissary please rise to answer the Council.”


    The Vulcan Emissary Kel'Akann stood and approached the dais.

    “What say you to the idea of the proposal, Emissary Kel'Akann?”



    Kel'Akann reviewed the body of Ministers, and the Cardassian Petitioner. “Until all parties register formal agreement, the Federation Charter prohibits involvement in domestic political disputes with nonmember worlds. Until the Federation could be assured of the Maquis Coalition's willingness to endorse the Federation as arbiter, the United Federation cannot accept this role. As the Maquis Coalition have expressed a deep desire for independence, it is doubtful they would endorse mediation by their counterparty's superordinate government.

    “In the interest of normalization of sectorwide interplanetary relations, however, there is a strengthening force yet to be exploited by the Bajoran government. Provided they adhered to the strictures of the mediation, carefully drawn and agreed to by all involved parties, it is my most considered judgment that the sector's best hope for peace, lies in – the Petition presented by the Cardassian delegation.”

    The Vulcan watched the tumult with logical dispassion, and waited for the room to settle before speaking again:

    “The Federation is restricted in this matter by its own noninterference charter. Cardassia, however, has no such restriction. It is as objective and informed a third party as you are likely to find. The countervailing utilization of Cardassian diplomacy could become a stabilizing influence in the sector – as well as provide their planet with diplomatic channels that could also stabilize the Cardassian Union, in time.

    “With final regards to negotiations, a duly-appointed UFP representative may provide pertinent Federation historical treaty documentation, merely as a guideline for all parties' edification. But the Federation delegation would be unable to offer assistance in interpretation or implementation of any agreements. Voluntary, mutually arrived-at interdependence – is the best assurance of Bajor Sector and the Cardassian Union's interplanetary stability.”



    As the Supplicant Petition ended, the Razor of Hesdreth bowed his head to the Vulcan Emissary. Kel'Akann responded in kind.



    The Supplicant Scribe descended the marble steps into the bracing cold of the coming Bajoran winter. The Council vote would be anonymous - and final. Like the rest of the peoples of Bajor Sector, she would wait until the morning to learn the Council's ruling, and the fate of the sector.



    Her Supplicant's cloak folded on a marble bench under the Siren of Hope, Starfleet Judge Advocate Trelliq Pel tapped her communicator and requested a beamout.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010
  16. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    24 Rogue Star 1




    Perseus keened out of control in the violent gravimetric forces of the quantum slipstream.

    “Captain!” Vexa shouted over the sonic strains of the power systems and overloading consoles. “Coronal plasma from the prominence has entered the slipstream! Temperature differentials surpassing ten million Kelvins and increasing!” She held to her station as the ship convulsed. “Reading supervelocity accelerations of protons, electrons and heavy ions. The star's coronal mass ejection is continuing to feed into the slipstream! The prominence is not abating! It's spreading!”

    Warning! Radiation levels at critical. Fatal exposure is imminent.

    Tom hammered his malfunctioning console. “Grif! Divert maximum power to shields and thrusters! Mr. Shir stabilize our vector!”

    “I'm trying sir! It's not enough! We're out of control!”

    The ship heaved against the current differentials of the quantum vortex, tossing the crew and overloading the stations.

    The helmsman clung to his station. “Speeds passing safety limits! Gravimetric forces are destabilizing the quantum matrix! Perseus is being thrown from the stream!”

    “Sir!” said Vexa. “The high energy particle storm of the coronal mass ejection is rupturing subspace! It's cascading into a chain-reaction!”

    Tom righted himself in his chair and rode the quakes. “On screen!”

    The red star's coronal mass ejection flooded into the gravity well of the quantum vortex, and exploded in a blinding gravimetric wave of superheated radiation.

    Suddenly the viewer shifted to the quantum vortex wall giving away to a warping blackness as the ship careened out of the slipstream. Then the blackness erupted with an approaching wall of roiling electromagnetic fire.

    “Sir! Proton storm plasma wave approaching! Three seconds to impact!

    “Mr Shir! Maximum warp!”

    “Aye aye!”

    The Perseus swerved into a forward vector and stretched into a warp speed escape.




    On the darkened bridge, Ensign Shir hammered his helm panel. “We did it!”

    “Report!” Tom ordered.

    “We've cleared the event radius, sir,” Ensign Shir replied, checking his readings. “Long range scans ahead are...vast and desolate, sir.”

    “Ship's reports coming in now,” Grif added. “Several crew injuries, no fatalities. Reading system malfunctions across the board, sir. Shields and weapons are shot, propulsion systems all offline, hull breach on deck fourteen, repair crews dispatched. Voyager...nowhere to be found, sir.” He faced his commander. “She's gone, Captain.”

    Tom absorbed the information as he stepped to the viewscreen for answers, his burning soul reaching out through the empty space, grasping nothing.

    “All stop.”





    “Lieutenant Vexa;” Tom checked her station readings. “Did that system have any planets?”

    “Affirmative sir. Three nickel-iron core planetoids, two class L's and a class M; three gas giants, two gas plutoids and numerous atmospheric and nonatmospheric moons throughout the entire system. Prior readings didn't indicate any signs of life. Now EM radiation is overloading sensors across the entire spectrum. Communications, sensors, warp fields...even life potentials – have been effectively destroyed in this solar system for the duration of its solar life.”

    From the birth of a star to the death of a star system, Commander Munich said quietly. What are we, but a fleeting vanity?

    In the dark of the bridge, they silently watched the subspace gravimetric rupture burn with coronal mass ions across the ecliptic of the entire system. The planets boiled in flames of total atmospheric implosion. The Stellar Rogue raged in the ignition point of that burning disc of fire, a misshapen, bleeding wound in space.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  17. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    25 Matchhead





    “An historical event such as the Perseus Trial provides many potential challenges for a physician. Apart from the usual pressing medical duties aboard a starship, one must prepare for any number of contingencies and emergency situations. Trauma resulting from systems failure events, effects of extended quantum radiation exposure from slipstream travel on any number of interspecies physiologies, statistical probability increase of distress calls emanating from untold sectors of traveled space – and my own personal sense of responsibility for putting the Perseus Trial into the historical record – places me in an unusual position as a doctor, and indeed, a member of the Voyager Crew. However, I dare say this is one physician who is up to the task.”

    The Emergency Medical Hologram killed the playback of the vocoder with a groan, and let it drop to the floor. He sat on the floor against the wall in sickbay, abject in darkness, and hid his face.

    The Voyager sickbay sat in shambles after the attack. At least, it had felt like an attack. Though the explosions had sounded like nothing a starship had ever produced, and had shaken the ship with incredible force. He sat here for days, afraid to work on his mobile emitter, afraid to venture out into the decks, afraid to be caught, and afraid of doing nothing.

    The aural indicators of the biobed continued their low cadences. Captain Tuvok's biosigns sounded with an increasing stability compared to those of the past few days, when the Vulcan had wracked in violent pain and required force field restraint. The Doctor had no doubt but that he could have easily alleviated days of extreme suffering for the stoic Vulcan Captain, with a simple hypodermic treatment. If the hypodermic capsules had not fallen off the table under the attacks in the nebula, scattering. It had been his first lesson in living with a disability – seeing how utterly for granted he had taken sight, something he now realized he had depended on for his entire vocation, and indeed, his whole photonic gestalt.

    The mixed hypo cartridges lay on the table uselessly. Of course, if the replicator somehow came back online, he could replicate the medicine he needed, but for one minor detail: should his patient react to the medication, the EMH could not respond, or indeed, even ascertain a diagnosis. Choosing the wrong medicine, or missing even a slight diagnostic cue, he might end up giving his patient anything from a mild histamine reaction to, oh, say, an intra-alveolar hemorrhage across the interstitial respiratory tissues, massive systemic air embolism, lung collapse and instant suffocation. Or worse. No, the Doctor's best medicine lay in the Hippocratic corpus: First, do no harm. Instead, he had endured his patient's violent bouts of suffering – with a personal toll that would haunt him forever. A feeling he was getting used to lately.

    Listening to the aural signals of the biobed, the Doctor guessed that Captain Tuvok had lain unconscious for the better part of the day - or night. Upon waking, however, the patient might still exhibit signs of manic hallucination and extreme agitation; symptoms reminiscent of limbic excitation and cognito-emotive neuroinhibitory breakdowns more associated with a protovulcan biochemistry. Pon Farr, sans amour. Which worried him even more.

    The computer simply refused to assist. Tuvok's recent decrease in violent episodes could have indicated a homeostatic recuperation of the Doctor's only available prescription: time. Time for the Vulcan mind to heal itself in the only way it could. Logically.

    Or, he mused darkly, it could indicate any number of other pathophysiologic causes: psychogenic fugue, neurotoxic reduction of locomotor response, amyloidic angiopathy, mindmeld-induced hypnogogia, degenerative neurological infection of alien prions, or – coma. To name but a few from his extensive, highly-imaginative exophysiological database.

    Only a kernel of sense of duty compelled him to pick up his vocoder, and open his eyes against the oblivion.

    “Emergency Medical Hologram's log, supplemental. By the sound of the deckplating Voyager is still in quantum slipstream, but on course to where, I cannot say. I can only hope that the computer's report of the destruction of a rogue red dwarf system was somehow, a glitch. After all, the computer systems are full of them at the moment.

    “The intruder, as near as I can tell, has not attempted movement through the ship. For all I know it hasn't left the bridge for the past few days. Which would make it either extremely disciplined in the yogic arts, or getting nourishment and rest through...other alien means. Actually I have come to feel undisturbed in sickbay. The alien seems to have no need to leave the bridge. Which allows Captain Tuvok to recuperate in peace – despite my regrettable inability and ineptitude at treating him. If he were any other patient I could at least offer him the comfort of emotional support.” He cut the recording. I'm not a doctor, I'm a voyeur. And not even a proper one.



    Doc-tor,” the voice strained.

    The EMH jumped to his feet. “I'm here, Tuvok. How - how do you feel?”

    “The ship -”

    “I'm more concerned with your nervous system, and whether -”

    “The ship, Doctor.”

    The EMH sighed. “As near as I can tell the ship is in flight somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. But to where, I have no idea. The alien has taken full control, and the crew remains entirely incapacitated. And...I wish the news were as good for the Perseus. She may have been - lost, Captain.”

    Tuvok redoubled his concentration in a herculean force of logic. “What...has...happened -”

    “After your mindmeld failed on me, you suffered an extreme agitated episode and passed out. I brought you here, to sickbay. You've been here the past several days. I'm sorry but I'm unable to treat you. I'm completely visually-impaired.”

    “A regrettable...condition...no doubt. However... No treatment can supplement...the need of logic for my condition. Doctor...thank...you.”

    “For what?”

    “For allowing me privilege to...your log entries. They have allowed...logic to return me...to a more lucid state.”

    Tuvok strained to get up. The EMH felt around the panel interface. “I can at least remove your restraints - that is if you feel back in control of your kinetic responses.”

    “That would be...appreciated, Doctor.” The field fell, and Tuvok sat up. “I am still experiencing...disorientation. However...I believe I will be able...to function adequately.”

    “That's the first good news we've had in a while.”

    “Unfortunately...that assessment will...be short-lived.”

    “During your episodes, you kept repeating something. About 'Wildfire'.”

    Tuvok stood and made his halting way to the computer panel. The keys responded to his touch with numerous failed responses.

    “If it's computer access you want, I don't know how helpful that will be with all these malfunctions. However you could try interfacing my mobile emitter with the computer; I might be able to better ascertain our situation.”

    “Negative, Doctor. The alien has no intention...of releasing control of computing systems. Furthermore, it is imperative...we do not reveal ourselves prematurely. Billions...of lives...may depend on us.”

    The EMH felt his way to the workstation. “Billions of lives? What do you mean?” He reached for Tuvok but felt only air.

    “You must remain in sickbay,” Tuvok said from the next room.

    “You – you know this? From the mindmeld with the alien? Did you learn anything else?”

    A compartment opened in the office. It sounded like - the phaser hatch. “Affirmative,” replied Tuvok, followed by the sound of the sickbay doors.

    The EMH fumbled against a work cart. “Wait! I need you!”

    There was no reply.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2010
  18. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization








    26 Mercury






    There is no crew member by that name aboard the Perseus.

    “Check again, computer.”

    Working. Search failure confirmed. Commander Reginald Barclay is not assigned to the Perseus, and is not aboard ship.


    Lieutenant Commander Nikhila Munich left her post at the malfunctioning bridge communications console and entered the darkened turbolift.

    The earpiece of her Neural Encoder sounded: “Barclay to Commander Munich. Are you coming?”

    “Be right there, Commander.”

    The turbolift door closed.



    The large holodeck doors whirred open and Nikhila took a moment to absorb the environment. It appeared as a large room of Federation design, with smooth, brightly-lit walls and bank of unoccupied conference tables along each side. The center of the carpet bore a large UFP seal emblazoned with a planetary symbol: Bajor.

    Hope I don't regret this, she told herself, and entered.

    “Ah, Commander, welcome, welcome, glad you could make it; glad I could make it.” Commander Reginald Barclay descended from a communications mezzanine and straightened his yellow engineering coveralls. “That is, um, won't you? Care for, uh... something to drink?”

    Nikhila smiled. “Thank you, no. Commander?”

    “Barclay. Reginald? Barclay. I'm just...I hope you can just feel at ease,” he told her. “I'm here to deliver a message. Well. And maybe a bit more.”

    “You're a hologram?” she asked.

    “Yes! That's just it, you see. Oh, I knew you were always smart, but – well, I mean, that's why I chose to make contact with you, Commander Munich; not that I, I mean you, you're, I mean -”

    “Computer, run a diagnostic of the holodeck safety protocols.” She regarded the Barclay hologram. “You understand.”

    “Not at all, I mean – yes of course, please, do as you wish.” He opened his arms. “Computer, scan Barclay hologram for any glitches or signs of potential danger.”

    Working. Holomatrix personality algorithms have degraded twenty-three percent from original parameters. Numerous cascading indexing errors have disrupted original matrix. Personality similitude falling below accuracy tolerance by fifty-three point two percent. Holodeck safety protocols maximized.

    “You see? There's nothing – What? Fifty three percent! Computer, what happened to the missing data?”

    Unknown.

    “What are you?” Nikhila persisted.

    “I'm Commander Barclay of Jupiter Station Holographic Design Lab. That is, I'm a message from him, the real Commander Barclay, who should be back in the Alpha Quadrant now, at least, I hope he is, though – there was that communique that -”

    “The point, Mr Barclay?”

    He sat at the conference table and invited her to do the same. “Commander Barclay compiled me as an interactive program. He loaded me as an emergency measure to observe and make contact should Perseus encounter any trouble beyond conventional communications distances. He programmed me to activate if I didn't receive his update after an established time frame. When activated I'm to work to establish communications with Jupiter Station, covertly if necessary. Just as a failsafe should the ship fall out of Starfleet control when beyond warp range.”

    “A holographic dead man's switch. He's either a genius, or a crazy person. I knew I always liked him.”

    “You...you know me? I mean him? I'm...well I'm honored. Right, uh, well, he designed me to be a backup in case of any Voyager-type long range scenarios, to observe, assess tactical conditions and report back, and if necessary – to interact with the crew.”

    “I see. Sounds...like your average everyday breach in protocol. So my next question is - why now, exactly?”

    “I've been biding my time in the system and evaluating the tactical situation, waiting for a communication update before revealing myself. But last night I received a security-encoded data burst from Commander Barclay. He had commandeered the Project Voyager laboratory long range communications array with an urgent message. However my further attempts to establish communications with Jupiter station have all failed. He's just not sending the transmission beam.”

    You were that two percent variance in signal output! I spent half my shift tracking that down!”

    “I apologize, Commander, it's just that – I – I've brought myself up to date with all of the sensor records and ship status. I know what Commander – sorry, Captain Paris is hoping to achieve.”

    “Sounds like the Barclay I've heard about. Brilliant, and borderline illegal.” For the moment, Nikhila relaxed from uttering the code word that would alert security and decompile the holodeck. “So why not reveal yourself to the Captain?”

    “Oh, I will! I just...I just wanted to make first contact, as it were, with...with...well, to be honest, I, that is, Commander Barclay, has always wanted to meet you.”

    “What?”

    “Well, you're Commander Nikhila Munich. Ensign Chief Communications Officer of the USS Centaur; promoted to CCO Lieutenant JG aboard the Akira class Banshee; promoted to CCO Full Lieutenant aboard the Excelsior USS Tecumseh, where you served with distinction in the Federation-Klingon war and the Dominion war. Chief Protocol Officer with official Federation envoy to Romulus and the Dominion. Currently CCO and Second Officer of Starfleet's newest NCV Quantum Class starship USS Perseus. Starfleet's current record holder of Second Contact missions, at six hundred twelve. Protocol expert, holding degrees in Exo-Psychology, Diplomatic Relations, Applied Sociological and Anthropological Sciences. Third Dan in Tiramisu Aikido, and all around alien expert.”

    Takemusu Aikido. Though I do enjoy a good italian confection,” she replied. “You recite my service record better than I do.”

    The Barclay hologram smiled. “Tell me, is it really true you can speak eleven hundred languages?”

    She tapped her earpiece. “Eleven hundred seventy-one and counting. It's true, give or take a few pidgin dialects. All with a little help from my Neural Encoder. If I can use this little baby in the initial stages, I can retain any language encoded for universal translation.”

    “Ah, I've always wanted to see your...device. An enhanced universal translator that splits neurolingustic signal processing into the brain's language centers and hippocampal longterm memory storage. Right?”

    “You've done your homework,” she answered, handing it to him.

    He eagerly poured over it's design. “It utilizes neuroelectric impulse feeds?”

    “That's right. Based on engrammatic encoding that embeds LCARS pattern recognition algorithms directly into the brain's semantic network. Actually, it can also store other types of data patterns. But I don't want to be a cyborg, I just use it for living language synsets, not soulless data.”

    “Amazing. Absolutely – I'm sorry, amazing. I appreciate you showing it to me.”

    “Well I ordinarily wouldn't, but – for Reginald Barclay? You know, I've always wanted to pick his brain, too. I'm kind of a fan.”

    “What?”

    She leaned in. “Come on. He found Voyager. Project Pathfinder? Project Voyager? Rescuer of the USS Yosemite crew? First Contact with Cytheria? Assisted rebuilding Zephram Cochrane's Phoenix? The man is partly responsible for the Federation and the destruction of the Borg. And his holoprograms are cult classics! He's always been a hero of mine.” She replaced the neural encoder, ignoring his mute surprise. “This is just technology. The real challenge lay in the cultural and physio-kinetic interpretation of intended and inferential meaning behind the messages. Wouldn't you agree?”

    “I, um, that is, yes, of course, I think -”

    “Not to mention spotting lies. Now that's a challenge. But I've gotten pretty good at it.” She gazed at him sidelong. “So tell me, Mr Barclay's hologram, why have you asked me here? This is the Federation embassy to Bajor, is it not?”

    “You do your homework too, Commander.” He rose. “Please. There's something you should see.”

    She stood. “After you.”

    The Barclay hologram tapped his communicator. “Computer, two to transport.” He noticed something in her hand. “What's that?”

    “Oh this? Just a little phase decompiler,” she said innocently, as they disappeared in a transporter beam.
     
  19. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization
    They “rematerialized” in a holographic representation of a hillside outside Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Earth, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge on a summer afternoon. Immediately Nikhila noticed the crowd below, chanting agitatedly at the behest of the speaker on a makeshift podium.

    She looked at Barclay. “Is this some kind of holonovel?”

    “Would that it were, Commander. This is a visual record of – yesterday.”

    Outside Starfleet Command, officers stood at parade rest in regular intervals. Although she had studied the protocol for public protest, Nikhila had never actually witnessed one, at least on Earth. While the officer contingent remained unarmed, in dress uniform, affirming an official ceremonial presence, she couldn't help but feel a disquieted sense of responsibility by the demonstration of discord in her own hometown. “What happened?”

    Barclay handed her a pair of binoculars. “Look closer.”

    She took them. “There are a lot of arguments down there.”

    “That's right. People protesting for the same reason but for cross purposes. The first group is agitating for a stronger Starfleet presence in Bajor Sector to counter the rising threats against peace, be it Cardassian, Maquis or – anyone, really. Others are demonstrating on behalf of the Maquis and other residents of the former DMZ. They say the Federation presence there is what caused the conflict in the first place, and is only adding to the unrest created by Bajor's new Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter. The announcement by the Bajoran Ministry naming the Cardassians as neutral arbiters between Bajor and the Maquis Colony Coalition only added to rising tempers, and it all went to hell two days ago. And it's only getting worse.”

    Nikhila increased her magnification and scanned the crowd more closely. She couldn't tell who was arguing for which side.

    “I thought the Maquis issues were dead and buried.”

    Barclay watched consternatedly. “That's exactly the problem.”

    “I still don't see what would have compelled them into action like this.”

    “We're – getting to that,” he replied. “Computer, two to transport.”


    Toronto.

    London.

    Paris.

    Sydney.


    Protests and demonstrations flared in every city they visited. Then Barclay took them on a holographic tour of the Maquis Colony Coalition and other planets around the DMZ:


    Valo II.

    Juhraya.

    Bolarus IX.

    Delga Colony.

    Buphan City-On-Steppe.


    Each site, more heated than the last.

    Bajor – Council Seat of Dhakur Province – a street in flames, a crowd in chaos.


    Nikhila took Barclay's arm. “I've seen enough.”

    He regarded her sadly. “No, you haven't.”



    They transported to the bridge of a Federation ship – the expansive, regal command center of a Sovereign class starship. In the command chair, Rear Admiral Leth Valxaen sat erect in a gold-piped duty uniform. The bridge bustled under his watchful command. Tensions were elevated.

    The crew watched the viewer intently. Nikhila glanced at the communications station. She instantly recognized the intensely active visual pattern of task indicators - of nearly a fleet of Federation starships.

    “There she is,” said the helmsman.

    “Magnify,” ordered Admiral Valxaen, Andorian antennae at the alert.

    On screen, a Maquis Peregrine fighter dropped out of warp and angled towards a Cardassian freighter. The Peregrine launched a trio of photon torpedoes.

    “Ensign Krusek!”

    “Sir, the torpedoes do not appear to be targeted for impact with the freighter.” The tall Bolian woman sat in command at the Admiral's right hand. “It's a warning volley across the bow, Admiral.”

    “Open a channel to the Maquis,” ordered the Admiral.

    “They're not responding, sir,” said the com officer.

    “I don't give a damn. Open their channels for them Lieutenant.”

    The com officer responded, sending a powerful subspace burst, and Nikhila noted the com controls with professional approval. The Admiral continued: “Maquis vessel! Withdraw from your pursuit immediately. This region now falls under the protection of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet. If you make any further aggressive moves against that ship, in warning or otherwise, you will be fired upon.”

    “We're arriving now, sir,” said the helmsman.

    “Attack pattern beta three one.”



    The starship Resolute dropped out of warp and rolled towards the Peregrine.

    The Maquis ship arced for another pass at the freighter; the Admiral gave a silent command to his tac officer, who armed the ship's weapons systems.

    “Attention crew of the Maquis vessel,” Admiral Valxaen intoned, his voice graveling and firm, “The Resolute is targeting your engines and engineering deck. I suggest you reinforce your shields and evacuate those areas immediately. After which we will be happy to provide tractor assistance. That is, if there's anything remaining of your ship. Good luck. Tactical officer, fire torpedoes.”

    The tactical officer interrupted “Maquis ship is moving off, sir.”

    The admiral watched the viewer. “I gave you an order, Lieutenant.”

    “Sir? Yes sir.” The tactical officer fired.

    The bridge crew watched in tense silence as a pulsing volley of photon torpedoes approached the Maquis ship. The ship increased speed and changed vectors, but the torpedoes compensated and continued their pursuit. The Maquis fighter pitched drastically and the torpedoes homed in on its drive section.

    Admiral Valxaen watched intently to the final seconds.

    He waved them off. “Abort arming sequence.”

    As the torpedoes winked out against the Peregrine's shields, the Maquis ship warped away. The Bolian officer regarded the Admiral. “That was a dangerous ploy, Admiral.”

    “Ploy, was it. Just a little singed hull plating, Commander Pel.” He rose. “Helm, bring the Resolute back to the fleet. I'll be in my ready room.”

    The com officer interrupted. “Admiral? The captain of the Cardassian ship wishes to thank you directly.”

    The Admiral didn't hesitate. “Handle it, Pel,” he said as the door closed behind him.



    Nikhila turned to Barclay. “Are you sure this isn't a holonovel?”

    Barclay shook his head. “Are you ready for the next bit?”

    “There's more?”

    He sighed with a nod and tapped his communicator.



    They rematerialized on a stately balcony overlooking a crowd of people in the frigid air of winter. Beside them, several Bajoran ministers discussed something fervently while one prepared to address the restless crowd below.

    “This is how it all began,” Barclay said.

    “Where are we?”

    “Ashalla, Bajor. The Tellarite Trade Commission building - and temporary office of - the Federation Embassy to Bajor.” He looked to the far side of the square. “And being broadcast across the Federation.”

    “Weren't we just...?” she followed his gaze, and gasped. Across the square, Nikhila saw a devasted ruin where the Federation Embassy once stood.


    While the Bajoran ministers made their speeches, Barclay motioned to a side table. “The bomb went off after the kidnapping of a Federation delegate. Nobody really knows who was responsible, but there's no shortage of speculation on the matter,” he said dejectedly.

    “Who was kidnapped?”

    “The Strategic Advisor to the Federation Office of Legal Counsel. Rima Toloruk. He was here working with the Interstellar Justiciary of the Bajoran High Magistrate, investigating the attempted Perseus bombing, and making inroads against the Maquis. But if it was the Maquis who kidnapped him and set the bomb, they're saying nothing. No one has come forward or is making any demands yet.”

    The crowd responded to the speeches with furious chanting and constant interruption. The Ministers' voices strained against the din.

    Shouts of support mixed with almost violent disdain from the crowd, in the address from a firebrand Bajoran Starfleet Captain. When she presented the burnt casing of the bomb, recovered from the site of the explosion, it only exacerbated the crowd's emotional upheaval.

    “The Maquis feel like the Federation is allying with Bajor and Cardassia against them. Trying to politically dominate the sector, in order to open their planets for exploitation of natural resources, and possible colonization.”

    “That's paranoid!”

    “What, them? Or me? Maybe we're all getting paranoid lately. Since the Bajor Council passed both the Reaffirmation Charter and the Arbitration Treaty with Cardassia Prime – and something about Cardassian reparations for the Occupation - the Maquis feel pressed on every side. They've started to mobilize. Since this bombing, acts of terror have occurred on Bajor, Cardassia, in the DMZ, and – Earth. Problem is, it could be any one of us, or even all of us.”

    Nikhila shouted to Barclay. “What about this first bomb? Was anyone killed?”

    Barclay continued. “No one was killed, because a warning had come in shortly after the kidnapping. It was intended as a political statement, not an act of murder.”

    Nikhila shook her head. “That's no political statement, that's a psychological cry for help. Or worse, a political stunt.”

    “Guess what kind of energy signature the bomb had.”

    “I'm afraid to.”

    He covered his hands in the holographic cold. “Trellium fusion. Same as the Perseus attempted bombing.”

    “That doesn't necessarily mean the incidents were related.”

    “No. It actually complicates things.” The Barclay hologram shivered, blew into his hands and continued. “Between the attempted bombing of Perseus, and its disappearance with Voyager, tensions against the Maquis and Cardassia are rising everywhere. They're responding in kind. Starfleet is amassing a fleet to move into emergency control of Bajor Sector. As you can see, half the Sector, and indeed half the Federation is calling it an imperialistic aggression. The Cardassian attempts at negotiating Bajor's Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter with the Maquis only made things worse. Everyone is blaming everyone else for this bombing, and there's a lot of ship movement. And that's not all.”

    “There's more?”

    “Uh huh,” he nodded. “Romulans.”

    “Naturally.”

    “Long range security scans indicate Romulan fleet and supply movements. They've even communicated with Starfleet Command about offering assistance in the interest of 'trial joint humanitarian operations'. Romulan ships are positioning themselves for what they say is defense across the entire range of the Neutral Zone. They smell blood.”

    “Jackals.” Nikhila quieted, and looked at the body of Ministers, each having spoken her and his peace. The crowd, however, did not look like it would disperse any time soon. “What do you think, Mr Barclay?”

    “M – m – m – me? Why would it matter what I thought?”

    “It matters. To me. And to Starfleet.”

    He scanned the crowd. “This terror attack could instigate a war between Bajor, the Maquis, Cardassia, and the Federation. It's already generating civic protests across the whole Federation, with the Romulans ready to take advantage of the situation. Most of the public suspects the Maquis for this attack, as a resistance to the Reaffirmation Charter and all the rest of the external pressures. The Maquis of course, accuse Cardassia, and resent Bajor and the Federation, and are arming in self-protection. They will do what they do best. Fight for survival.”

    After a moment of silence, he said: “B'Elanna Torres.”

    “What?” she replied.

    “She could set all this to right. She's in the middle of it all. Because she can prove who set that first bomb on the Perseus, and also, if the Maquis are telling the truth by denying it. With Toloruk's kidnapping Starfleet is starting to put real pressure on the Maquis. We all need her to prove it. She's the lynchpin of this whole situation! And she's...near death. That's why Commander Barclay sent this message. He didn't believe Perseus was under Maquis influence. If it had been it wouldn't have pursued Voyager. And that's the other flashpoint. Voyager. Considering Voyager's crew makeup of Maquis, a lot of people are accusing members of the Voyager crew. So Barclay told me to tell you.”

    “Tell me what?”

    “We need you. We need Perseus.”



    As the speeches wound down, the crowd continued their fevered pitch. The Ministers broke and left the balcony. “Oh good, let's go inside,” Barclay said. “I could use a cocoa.”

    “Just a minute, Reg. Computer, reinitialize Ashalla program from the beginning and playback in fast advance mode, visual only.”

    The environment reset. The holograms began to advance rapidly through their paces.

    “What...what are you doing?” Barclay asked her.

    Nikhila faced the body of Ministers. The playback scanned through their speeches at increased speed. She studied an elder Minister wearing a bejeweled earring of Council Permanence. She watched his face intently through the entire playback.

    When the playback stopped, she said, “He's lying.”

    “About what?”

    “Look at his eyes.”

    Barclay leaned into the Minister's face. “I don't see anything.”

    “That's exactly it, Commander. During the speech every delegate here glanced at the bomb device at least five times. This Minister? Not once.”

    “What does that mean?”

    Nikhila thoughtfully tapped her phase decompiler against her palm. “He's seen it before.”

    “My dear Commander,” the Barclay hologram smiled, “you have just earned a cocoa.”

    She smiled and waved her phase decompiler. “Lead the way, Reginald.”
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2010
  20. Triskelion

    Triskelion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2008
    Location:
    Rekindling the light of civilization








    27 Riding the Blade





    Ensign Ujio Shir tapped the indicator. That was the final vector analysis input into navigational control. Now there was nothing left to do but check his work. He began to cycle through the dozen or so possible courses he'd lain into the helm configurations.

    The conn shifted through graphics of various sectors – stars, planets, nebulae, radiation, supernova events - the ever-changing gravitational phenomena of the quadrant. That's every possible course the captain might ask for, he told himself. Perseus drifted quietly in the vast desolation between galactic spiral arms. The vectors flashed on his screen and stretched through charted and uncharted space – to where they'd been and where they might be bound. They even included ports along Voyager's old heading.

    All he could do was evaluate the possibilities. That is, second-guess the Captain, sequestered away in his ready room, strategizing against the impossible. He cycled through the interface, ferreting out stellar drift corrections and gravitational fluctuations; all constantly reconfiguring in the ebb and flow of a restless cosmos. Mapping out the vast distances of quantum slipstream, and dealing with its implications – its revolution - of helm duty. Coordinating helm control calibration with engine and power system repairs. Toying with the interface, the way he used to toy with a survival blade before a tactical drill operation, in his teenage years in the Akkorat Military Preparatory Academy.

    In fact, he didn't know why he should have that feeling now. Maybe it was getting the ship back to fighting weight. Maybe it was “antennae anxiety”, or just a pheromone the humans were currently giving off. It felt like the quiet before the avalanche - the one thing in this universe he genuinely feared. The disorder. The dyscontrol. Standing against the sheer chaos – and falling. But stand he would.

    For the past few days the crew had busied themselves with repairs, in a kind of hurried purpose. One by one, ship systems came back online; red indicators transitioning to blue and beige, fewer random telltales and now, bridge stations humming in quiet unison. Just the plinking of his shifting interface punctuating the thrum of the bridge.

    Commander Munich had informed the Captain of, and indeed Tom had met, a holographic Commander Barclay, with bad news from Alpha Quadrant. The captain had put the visitor to work on shift in engineering, assisting with the quantum entanglements of the PRAM Sensor. Busywork, sure, but – someone had to do it, and the ship needed its crew.

    Ujio glanced at the main viewscreen. Two distant galactic spiral arms cut across open space. Somewhere out there, Voyager headed for its ultimate destination; carrying a crew of incapacitated Starfleet officers, and the hopes of the United Federation of Planets.

    Could Perseus track her? Or would they warp home to the Alpha Quadrant in defeat? And if so, how could they even try to rectify the mess back there? Everything was uncertain; yet Ujio knew, in the end Captain Paris would not make his peace with that System Killer roaming free in the galaxy. And when that time came, even if no one else would, Ujio would fight by the Captain's side. He shared an unspoken bond with Captain Paris. Both were pilots, both seat-of-the-pants kind of guys, and both loyal to their ideals. But unlike Paris' service record, Ujio preferred a clear chain of command. It made things...simpler. Maybe it was the comradeship. The due increase of rank status. Maybe it was the ability for a crew to take swift and powerful action; afforded by a clear differentiation of rank, unhindered by the arguments and power plays of civilian crews. Whatever it was, civilians just didn't get it.

    And this crew. They would not give up. Not if there were the slightest chance of finding Voyager.

    Yet – there it was. Voyager was gone. Gone. There was no chance of finding her. The alien had managed to stay one step ahead of them at all times. And now, she had won her prize. No way she would give up Voyager's location again.

    So now the Captain would face what was truly a command decision. And with respect to Captain Tuvok, Ujio knew that on this mission Captain Paris was the next best person Starfleet could hope to have in the command seat of Perseus.

    As for the rest of the bridge crew, in the hours and days after the Rogue Star incident, Lieutenant Vexa had spent her spare time working with her vector analysis of Voyager; but by now so much time has passed, Voyager could be literally anywhere in the galaxy.

    Voyager had come a long way since it could be stopped by a few light years, Ujio thought.

    Lieutenant Commander Munich had been listening to subspace communications chatter across the quadrant. She seemed to take to the task with almost a voyeuristic passion. When she happened on a new language, her station would light up with a kaleidoscope of library computer activity. He would watch her work with amazement and not a little jealousy for her command of her interface – a command not even Lieutenant Vexa displayed. Maybe she's part android by now, he thought.

    Lieutenant Grifahni – Ujio couldn't say exactly what the Lieutenant worked on. And that probably suited them both. He didn't doubt the Lieutenant's ability. He just didn't share his casual manner, and frankly unorthodox tactics. Nor did Ujio particularly relish the thought of losing a future tactical argument to the Lieutenant's rank. But that, too, was all part of the chain of command. The Captain had needed both a tac officer and an able pilot. It would not be the first time Ujio's finely honed skills had cost him an opportunity for advancement – or subordination to a less-experienced officer. Still, he knew – the Andorian Ensign Ujio Shir that cooperated would far better serve this ship and crew than an Ujio Shir that didn't. He smirked, and resisted the empty captain's chair. For now.




    Commander Munich removed her earpiece and powered down her relays. “Nothing. Voyager is either out of range, or -”

    “Or her crew is otherwise unable to communicate,” Lieutenant Grifahni finished. “How about sensors, Vexa?”

    “Negative. It would be easier to locate a neon-21 isotope in a silicon carbide stardust grain using an electrostatic electron spectrometer.”

    Commander Munich rubbed her eyes. “Now I know I'm tired. The one person on the bridge who still has a sense of humor is Vulcan.”

    “She's out there,” Ujio studied the viewer. “And we'll find her.”

    “Before she destroys another star system?” Munich asked.



    Grifahni called up a graphic of the original red dwarf system. “Vexa, would you say the red star had a typical arrangement of planets?”

    “Affirmative - if by typical you mean statistical probability of a uniform scatter of planetary types throughout the galaxy. However the range of planetary bodies in this system was uniquely variant, especially in light of the star's constant flaring. In fact, prior to this I had not known of any star system containing such a wide continuum of constituent orbiting bodies, with atmospheres surviving the continual flare activity. No doubt a longterm study of the Rogue Star system would have yielded a great quantity of geophysical data for Federation science.”

    “Exactly,” Grif replied. “Perfect conditions for a range of planetary factors. This was a test. She wanted to see the results of the event on a scale of planetary atmospheres and orbits, to generalize it more effectively.”

    “For what?” Munich asked.

    “For a weapon,” said Ujio.

    “The question is, for what purpose,” Vexa added.

    Ujio shrugged. “Take your pick. To fight a war. To auction off to the highest bidder. To take over a star system, or build an empire.” He shared a glance with Grifahni. “Or maybe just to wipe out a race from existence.”

    Grifahni considered the alternatives. “If she intended to sell the weapon or auction it off, she could have done that on theory alone. She would not have risked her own life for a demonstration. No – the red star was a test because she intends to use it.”

    “Which is why we have to stop her,” Ujio countered. “I hope your infiltration plan is ready, Lieutenant,” he suggested. “Because when we find her we'll have to move quickly.”

    Lieutenant Grifahni was not amused. “You just get us in weapons range, Ensign. I'll take care of the rest.”

    “Lieutenant,” Vexa said. “Allowing for the extreme improbability of ever locating the ship again, would you intend for us to engage Voyager in battle with heavy weapons?”

    “Well, Vexa _”

    “Starfleet ships do not destroy other Starfleet ships,” Ujio urged. “I'm sure the Lieutenant would only use that as a final measure, Lieutenant Vexa -”

    Grif cut him off: “At this point I'm not ruling out any tactic. The alien has already demonstrated her ability to throw us to the wolves. She won't get that chance again, if I have anything to say about it.”

    “Right,” added Munich; “After we rescue the crew.” She returned to her scans. “I just hope Commander Seven of Nine can convince the Captain to take that chance.”

    “Your concerns are noted, Commander Munich.” Commander Seven of Nine stepped out of the turbolift.

    Ujio's antennae straightened, and he turned back to his station.

    Seven of Nine sat in the command chair and engaged the interface. “However, as Admiral Janeway would tell you, the “weapon” came from Starfleet. Therefore it remains our duty to not only recover the weapon, but to stop the alien at any cost; failing that we may have to place our lives between Voyager and its intended target. I am certain Admiral Janeway would rather we destroyed Voyager, and ourselves if necessary, than allow the alien to use it as a weapon on a living planetary system. Furthermore, while the technology may be new, the threat is not; the Starfleet Charter clearly delineates our available responses in this matter. Having witnessed the destruction we are directly responsible for, we are required to intervene. However I'm sure Lieutenant Vexa can report the probability of our locating Voyager again.”

    Vexa didn't bother looking up: “Probability zero as X approaches infinity.”

    Seven added, “The Captain already knows this. All stations report.”

    “But Commander -”

    Report.”

    Lieutenant Vexa turned to the First Officer. “All engineering systems check ready, Commander.”

    “All weapons systems and departments ready,” Grifahni confirmed.

    “Helm?”

    “Quantum speed at your command, sir.”

    “Seven of Nine to the Captain. Report to the bridge.” She hesitated. “Please.”




    Captain Paris seated himself in the command chair and surveyed the crew. He moved to speak, then hesitated. “All hands. Prepare for quantum travel.” He deactivated the com in frustration. ”Mr Shir. Set a course for the Alpha -”

    “Sir, I've got something,” Lieutenant Munich interrupted.

    “What is it, Commander?”

    “Sir, I've been running Ensign Shir's vector analyses through the com, and listening to local subspace traffic along those headings.”

    “Did you find her, Commander?”

    “No sir. But you've got to hear this.”


    The signal broke through on the overhead com:

    External scans - through the entire system! On every planet! Killing everybody! I can't outrun them! The entire wing – destroyed! Turn back! Turn back! Those ships – or whatever they are - cutting through the entire fleet! They'll destroy us all! Evacuate the system! Evacuate the -

    “Vexa, long range scans!” the Captain ordered.

    “Detecting several fleets of ships in movement around an inhabited system seven point one light years from here, sir. Massive weapons discharges. Large amounts of radiation and debris scattering long range scans.” She studied another analysis readout. “Captain. I estimate a civilization of thirty-one point six billion people inhabiting several planets, colonies and orbital stations in the solar system. The planets seem to be under attack.”

    Grif punched at his controls. “Numerous vessels, Captain! Ship engine signatures match at least four different warp energy configurations. I've...never seen anything like them, Captain! But it looks like an interstellar war!”


    The subspace transceiver crackled:

    Cities...bombarded! What...happening to...crew! The technology...somehow merging...them! They're turning...machines...are thousands of them...weapons failure! Infiltrating the bridge! Emergency! Help! Oh my God! Help us! Please! He -....

    Hissing static filled the bridge.



    Antennae twisted, Ujio turned to Captain Paris, who exchanged a knowing look with the First Officer. It wasn't the first time Ujio appreciated chain of command, with a more experienced officer in the big chair. What would the Captain do? What kind of commander – what kind of man was he? Ujio had a feeling they were about to find out.

    “Orders, Captain?”

    “Bring the quantum drive online. Auxiliary power to main systems. Helm – prepare for quantum speed. Light 'em up, Ujio.”

    “Course, sir?” Ujio asked.

    Captain Paris hit the shipwide com. “All hands. Battle stations.”


    Ensign Shir laid in a new vector.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2010

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