A Meeting Of The Minds

Posted on Fri Jul 9th, 2021 @ 4:48pm by Ensign Geoff Martinsen & Lieutenant Evaad Hessen & Lieutenant Praxalin Chromis

Mission: Beacon
Location: USS Altai, Science Lab
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1300

"A most heartfelt apology for the clutter," Chromis said as he stalked over to the many holographic display table, and began to move packing boxes of it. "Gamma Command was in such a haste to get my gear and team aboard, it seems they beamed everything everywhere. No doubt I will be hunting for supplies that have been beamed into Jefferies tubes and junction boxes."

Setting the boxes down on the floor, the tall Kenki clacked his beak again. He deftly played his long fingers on the control pad next to the table.

"There, I've set the table to guest mode. You should be able to link the data files we need for the Quimalia system simulation, and the tables already preloaded with a number of software add-on's that should allow for a more detailed simulation," he said. "Would either of you like anything to drink? Tea? I would offer coffee but it is...problematic."

Problematic? Geoff wondered, still trying to figure out this new....person. As much as he wasn't sure how much he wanted to interact with the science chief, he was also thirsty.


Evaad simply shook his head and held up a hand. The chaos of the Kenki science officer’s mind was distracting. The Betazoid was as likely to lose himself focussed on a drink if he took one, or to forget it was there and knock it over.

Chromis walked to the replicator alcove and input the request and two glasses materialised in a shimmer of discarded photons. The avian then returned, holding out the glass of milk in his four-fingered hand to Geoff.

"So, where to begin? Even at this distance, the long-range sensors should at least allow us to set up the stellar cartography correctly," Chromis said. He made a gesture to the table, his fingers curling and opening as the tabletop began to glow. Holographic spheres representing the planets of the system began to appear, sliding around their orbital tracks until they were in the correct position.

“For this to work properly,” Evaad said, focussing his attention on the projection, “we would need to launch the probe on a course such that it gets close to every major planetary body. I wouldn’t risk prioritizing one planet over another. We know nothing of what to expect, so nothing is likelier than anything else. Not all the planets are aligned, unfortunately, which poses a problem for an unguided system. The probe would also need such velocity that it would exit the system only a few hours after launch. Half a day at most.”

"Space is large, and a straight-line course would indeed be quick. But if we are willing to take time, we could use the astronomic state of the system to our advantage," the slender Kenki said. With more elegant gestures to the holo table, lines began to arrow across the starscape. They collided with planets, bending slightly around them. One slingshotted clear around the star and passed through the orbital court of an outer system gas giant.

"By using the local stellar environment we maximise coverage, as well as playing to the odds that anything of worth will be located near a planetary gravity field," Chromis said. He then cocked his head to one side, and looked at Evaad. "Do you require medical attention? You seem distracted, not to mention hypertensive. I have good ears, and the sound of blood pressure in a mammalian body is rather unique."

Geoff looked at the Betazoid Operations Officer. But only briefly. The other man unnerved him enough that Martinsen actively avoided eye contact. He quickly realized that his other option was to look at the strange new science officer. This is my Kobayashi Maru he told himself. Talk about a no win scenario.

“Are you also unwell Ensign? I understand that long duration missions far from home and kin can be stressful, and that stress in mammals can be exhibited in fatigue and an ill mind,” Chromis asked, his crest rising lopsidedly as he spoke. “Perhaps we should postpone work until we are all well. Perhaps instead we could choose to relax for a time, socialise as is the custom of the Federation?”

"Uh..., I..., uh...," Geoff stammered. "What?" More than usual, the young pilot wanted to be anywhere other than where he was.

“A most unusual stress reaction I’ve seen all to often,” Chromis said with a cluck and a all knowing nod. “Would it aid you in knowing my species is nearly entirely vegetarian? I understand that reptoids and reptoid adjacent species are rare in the Federation, and that many Federation member races have histories with large reptilian analogies on their home worlds. Dirosaurs on Earth are the most often cited example.”

Chromis drew his arms to his side, pressing his elbows in as his hand flapped about before him imitating a T-Rex.

“The ones with the stubby arms.”

“He’s fine,” Evaad said to Chromis, not making eye contact with the human in the room. “Mr. Martinsen is a very competent pilot. He’s trusted with making sure the ship doesn’t fly into anything dangerous, and he excels. But he isn’t comfortable near either of us, and while the solution to that is continued exposure with an open mind, he dreads being alone in the room with us.” He then gave the Kenki a wry smile. “As for me, I just find sentient minds distracting.” He tapped his temple. “I can’t turn it off. So apologies ahead of time if I violate your privacy. I don’t mean to, but it’s unavoidable. I’ll be fine once I get back into my quiet place.”

"Kenki have very little in the idea of privacy, we don't live long enough to have secrets. At least not interesting ones," Prax chuckled musically. "And I can only imagine what an alien mind must be like, thoughts and feelings for which there are few analogues in your own psycharna. Would it help if I turned my mind off?"

"I....have to, uh.....go," Geoff said, turning and heading for the doors. He tried not to think of anything so that Hessen couldn't probe his brain. Just thinking about it made him shudder.

“But Ensign, your input as the ships most experienced helmsman would be invaluable, after all it was the Captain who assigned you the task of aiding us was it not?” Prax asked innocently. “Besides I spent too long on Bajor, its nice to have a human around. You’re shockingly robust.”

Geoff stopped just short of the doors. He looked down at the ground for a long moment before turning around. "It was, sir." He slowly walked back over towards the two odd men.

“There we go, now...” Prax gestured to the helmsman. “You know the course, and what this vessel is and is not capable of. We need a minimally visible course that will allow us to surveil the system after picking up the fast moving probes. Hum, actually we don’t even have to pick them up, we can just collect the data and have the probes self destruct.”

“As long as the data transmission is tight,” Evaad added. “If the transmission is detected then this exercise is for nought. We would need to be in a very precise position. Mr. Martinsen is a good pilot, if lacking self-confidence. He’ll question his ability to get it just right but the Captain has faith in him.” And he knew it, too.

"And you have faith in him as well?" Prax asked, a slight tilt to his head. "I alas cannot vouchsafe such a recommendation as I am newly acquainted with Mr Martinsen. But the Captian does not seem the sort to harbour ill judgement."

“That is a fair assessment of her and Commander Talbot,” Evaad confirmed. “And I have seen his skill as well. Now, the real challenge will be if he can do it under minimal power, as I’ll be recommending we run silent during the data retrieval, with impulse and warp engines offline. Perhaps it is overkill but we should avoid unnecessary risks until we know more.”

It was nice to hear himself talked about in a positive light, but Geoff couldn't manage a smile; the others made him uncomfortable even with the compliments. "I'll do the best I can," he stated meekly. He approached a terminal and began entering commands.

"I think these flight paths are the best alternatives," Geoff said motioning to the display screen. "A bit of guesswork since the survey data is several years old now. Local conditions will have changed, but we won't know how, or by how much, until we start getting readings."

“Regrettably we won’t be able to risk sending override signals,” said Evaad. “So if things have changed such that the flight plan is beyond compromised, it should send its data as a burst signal and then destruct. We should be able to program it to modify its plan within limited conditions and to abort if the mission is unsalvageable.”

This did complicate things. "Can we update the logic on the probes?" Geoff asked. "Something that would allow them to recognize the need to change course?"

"Given the nature of their mission, an active sensor suite is out of the question. Passive magnetic flux and optical IR should do for simple navigation correction. The first will gauge the position of the probe in the star systems from the stars magnetic field strength, whilst the other will be able to detect the IR frequencies of the planetary bodies we have catalogued in the system. Together those two systems should allow the probes to navigate with a high degree of fidelity," Chromis put forth. "Of course, if one or two miss and plough into a planet they'll burn up easily enough."

“The IR should also detect most heretofore-undetected bodies,” said Evaad. “It sounds like we have it all worked out then. I figure six hours to modify the probes’ programming and physical payloads, another two for tests and simulations, ready for launch no later than 2200 hours? Later, of course, if there are problems.”

"I don't foresee any problems with that time line," Chromis said. "Most of it will be centred around software updates to the probes. Hardly groundbreaking."

Evaad tapped his commbadge. “Petty Officers Laporte and Grov, meet me in pod probe storage in ten minutes.” He tapped his badge again to close the channel. He smiled at his two companions. “They’re my best computer programmers and have much experience with probes of this class. Both want their Chief stars but haven’t told me that so they’re just trying to excel. Which we can use today.”

Geoff looked at the two senior officers. It was a nice feeling, being treated as an equal on a project team like this. Even if both Hessen and Chromis caused him some measure of fear and anxiety. "What's next?"

"Lieutenant Hessen's crew will work on reprogramming the probes passive sensors for better resolution, whilst you and I work on the most optimal launch vector for our probes. Then it will be a case of getting there, firing the probes off and retrieving the data." Chromis said.

“And that will largely be on you, Mr. Martinsen,” Evaad called back into the lab as he walked toward the door. “See you both on the bridge.” He left the science lab and headed for the Transporter Room to beam to the pod.

Geoff watched the Chief Operations Officer leave the room. He turned to look at the bizarre Science Chief. He wasn't sure if he was free to go or not. "If there's nothing else, sir...."

"Nothing at all, though I would like you to return at some point. I would be fascinated to learn more about my crew mates, and the same goes for your Lieutenant Hessen. I would very much like to see if there is some sort of means by which we can diminish the mental glare effect you suffer from. Or at least provide you with tea," Chromis said. "Which is good."