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Another Vantage Point

Posted on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 @ 4:24pm by Ensign Nandi Chakma & Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Batchelder & Ensign Geoff Martinsen
Edited on on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 @ 5:34pm

Mission: Light is Dark
Location: USS Patapsco
Timeline: MD 05 | 1030

Geoff had been ordered to prepare an auxiliary craft. It seemed he was going on a mission with the Chief Engineer, who hadn't had much interaction with, and some folks from Science. Why he had to be the one to assigned to this he didn't know. But here he sat, at the helm of a runabout, the USS Patapsco, running all the usual pre-flight checks.

The idea of taking a runabout out into the pulsar made Jon uneasy, but he couldn't fault the logic in going for a deeper inspection. Pulling his bag tighter around his chest, he stepped aboard the runabout, making his way through the wardroom toward the cockpit. Sitting down at one of the stations, he announced, "Don't let me interrupt your pre-flight, Ensign. Just doing a few instrumentation diagnostics to make sure we can do what we need to."

Martinsen nodded. He hadn't worked with Batchelder directly yet. There was something intimidating about the engineer, but Geoff couldn't quite place it. "Of course, sir. Let me know if I'm in your way or if you need a hand."

Jon chuckled, and replied, "I don't think we'll be worrying about the same systems, Ensign, but likewise for what it's worth."

As Nandi practically crept aboard the runabout, she paused a moment to steel herself from the haunting premonition that they were heading straight into danger. Crossing the threshold felt tantamount to stepping over her grave.

"Ah!"

Nandi found her ominous foreboding interrupted by the pushy aide she had elected to bring along at the last moment. His completely inhuman social graces somehow put her at ease. Perhaps because if he noted a mistake or lapse in concentration, he wouldn't immediately judge her personally for it. Culture gaps often provided such cushioning. Chief Ixsåμ, a tall and spindly humanoid oddly reminiscent of an ostrich, clicked an apology that ended in a short whistle.

"No, forgive me," Nandi said to her avian companion who towered half a meter over her with his pencil neck. "I was taken by the moment."

A long, undulating whistle punctuated by a staccato of clicks was her only reply.

"I don't know how long we'll be, Ixsåμ." Nandi grasped the straps of her field bag even more tightly. "Brief, I hope. No doubt they're expecting us."

The two of them made their way to the cockpit,
Ixsåμ stooping slightly to clear the low-hanging bulkhead.

"Ensign Chakma reporting," she said.

Next to her, Ixsåμ chittered a presumably similar self-introduction.

Jon looked up at the two, and nodded, before replying "Welcome aboard, Ensign, Chief. Stow your gear, I'll likely need a hand re-calibrating the sensors. I'd like to see if we can...effectively ignore as much of the data from the pulsar as we can, and focus only on potential cloaked ships." He turned to Martinsen and continued, "Ensign, how do you feel about skirting the pulsar enough to be harrowing but not going far enough in to be too dangerous?"

Nandi gave a demure nod while Ixsåμ made a singular cluck as they both set themselves toward their tasks.

What in the name of...., Geoff thought when he saw the bird-like arrival, his eyes opening wide. He knew that joining Starfleet would expose him to many different species, but he didn't know so many were reminiscent of Earth animals he'd read about as a child. The now-former ursine security chief and now this.... Emu? he wondered. At least this one isn't as likely to go predatory and eat us. Unlike the bear-man.

"Uh, sorry Commander," he finally replied, once the initial shock cleared. "I'm not going to lie and say I'm the best pilot in Starfleet. But I'm pretty good. I'll make it as smooth a ride as possibly, sir." He turned back to his console and completed the preparations. It only took another minute or so. "I'm ready whenever you give the word, Commander."

"Chief Ixsåμ will alternate every minute between performing metaphasic sweeps and Tetryonic scans for concentrations of tetryon particles," Nandi offered to the senior officers. "If there's a cloaked vessel hiding out there, he should be able to locate it."

Ixsåμ made an excitable squawk of agreement. He then turned to Nandi with one eye facing and whistled low and long.

"You just leave that pulsar to me," Nandi retorted. "That is why we are even here, after all."

"Cloaked vessel?" Geoff stuttered, looking at Batchelder. He'd been told this was just a little jaunt around the pulsar to get some additional scans.

“Hmm?” Jon intoned. “Oh! Yeah so the probes we were using to scan the pulsar aren’t working. We think it might be a cloaked ship interfering. Nominally, we’re out here to get a better look at the pulsar. With, you know, what passes for sensors on a runabout. But we will be doing some sweeps too, to see if it is a cloaked ship causing the interference, or if this particular pulsar is just impervious to sensors. Should be fun.”

Fun? Martinsen thought incredulously. What's fun about running into a cloaked ship?

"You have a strange idea of fun, Commander. I wouldn't put hunting a hidden, hostile ship anywhere in my definition."

"Ditto," Nandi said.

A chirp came from Ixsåμ, though its meaning was unclear.

Jon tossed a look at the Chief, and replied "For what it's worth, I don't think there's a cloaked ship out here, I think something in the pulsar is interfering with the probes. But you know...due diligence. Anyway, I've got everything I need set up. Provided that Ixsåμ and Chakma are ready, let's go."

It was reassuring to Geoff that Batchelder didn't anticipate finding a hidden enemy. The Chief Engineer looked like he'd been around for a while, so he'd likely seen a lot in his career. If he thought this would be a routine mission, Martinsen was more than willing to go with that. Although he was less vocal about it than Ensign Chakma, he was also concerned about the realities of some cloaked vessel laying in wait. For now, the young pilot looks over his shoulder to see if the science team was ready.

"I hope you're right, Commander." Though his words didn't fully dismiss her lingering premonition, Nandi found herself taking a modicum of comfort in the older man's casual confidence. "Ready to commence scans on your order."

Jon nodded, and ordered, "Alright Ensign, take us in. Not gonna be too picky about the distance, just head in as far as you can before it becomes unsafe to continue. We'll start scanning in earnest once we're on station."

Martinsen fired up the runabout's engines and maneuvered the Patapsco out of the shuttlebay and into space. Smoothly, he transitioned the initial thruster burst into a decent impulse clip, the small vessel moving towards the pulsar. Geoff touched a control, bringing his intended path up on Batchelder's display. "How's this, Commander?"

Jon leaned in, and looked at the projected trajectory with a discerning eye, and replied, "Looks fine to me. Just keep an eye out for any stray...whatevers. I'd rather not get blasted with a dose of radiation that I'm not inoculated for, if the shields decide they don't want to play nice with the pulsar."

"Radiation levels may be playing havoc with our sensors, but our shields should hold just fine," Nandi said without looking up from her readout. "Now, should the pulsar emit a random gravimetric anomaly on the other hand..." She trailed off as her worst case scenario sparked an epiphany in her mind. "Commander, could you reconfigure the warp core to discharge directly into the deflector relay and tractor beam? If so, then Chief Ixsåμ and I may be to calibrate them to send out a resonance pulse in multiple directions. Should it be successful, then it would depolarize the radiation, along with anything else nearby, giving us a clear snapshot of the local area."

“Huh. That’s a damn good idea, Ensign,” Jon replied. “Yeah, give me about five minutes and I can manage that. I’m gonna head into the crawl space, it’ll be easier to affect locally. Keep your eye on the sensors and let me know if you see anything worth mentioning.”

"I'll see about those recalibrations," Nandi said. "Ixsåμ, keep watch on those scanners and speak up if you see anything."

Ixsåμ squalled in compliance, then slapped his feathered digits across the screen to jump between sensor readouts.

After a moment's time, Nandi called down the crawl space after Jon. "Calibrations are complete. Deflectors and tractor emitters are ready to deploy the resonance pulse on your mark, Commander. Just give the word when the discharge is ready!"

Jon smiled to himself. If these were the types of junior officers he was going to expect to work with on a regular basis, this would be an easy tour, despite it's locale. He finished up his work, and crawled backwards out of the crawlspace back into the main cabin area of the runabout. Returning to the craft's cockpit, he finally replied, "You can safely deploy the pulse...I'd say 6 times. More than that, and we run the risk of blowing out the deflector array. Make them count, Ensign Chakma. They're ready when you are."

"In that case, I suggest deploying them simultaneously in every Euclidean direction," Nandi said. "It will give us the clearest picture of everything around us for thousands of cubic kilometers, perhaps more. Once the depolarizing effect wears off, we should be able to use its resonance pulse's quantum echo to form contrast. Then it would be a simple matter of comparing notes, before and after." Nandi let her hand waver over the ignition command as she spoke. At length she said, "Deploying now."

Other than a brief surge from the warp core that slightly rattled the surrounding instrumentation, there was no other noticeable effect. "The deflector array remains online and undamaged," Nandi reported as she went down the diagnostic list. "Main tractor emitter is rebooting, but appears otherwise undamaged. The auxiliary emitter is offline." She looked up at Jon with a nervous smile. "Could've been worse, right?"

Jon smiled back, genuinely, and said “Could have been a lot worse. Excellent work, Ensign.”

"Ixsåμ, what do you see?" Nandi asked her avian colleague. His reply was as incomprehensible as every other point of communication. "Well, just give it time," Nandi said. "The sensors are restructuring the entire grid as the radiation fields become polarized again. It may take a moment to compile the whole picture, but sensors have propagated enough for a baseline visual. Ensign Martinsen, would you like to put it onscreen?"

Geoff stretched out a finger to comply with Ensign Chakma's request. "There you go."

Black space filled the screen with a brightly lit pulsar dominating one half of it. Each instant allowed the sensor data to punctuate the expanse with another star dotting into place, ultimately revealing a split-screen of opposing panoramic perspectives--one featuring the pulsar and the other everything else in the other direction.

Nandi couldn't help but look at the open expanse roughly opposite from the pulsar. That's where the Altai was, several degrees astern. What she wouldn't do to go back there, safe and snug inside the stellar cartography lab with an entire ship between her and...

Ixsåμ squawked. A racist person would indubitably liken it to an angry chicken.

"What?" Nandi gasped in horror. "Where?!"

The big bird man pecked the sensor readout with his beak.

"No, Chief! Onscreen!" Nandi turned about and slid next to him at his station. A few presses of her fingers and she was able to isolate the readings. "Enhancing to maximum magnification," she sing-songed as she worked, punctuating her last stroke with an exaggerated thump, "and voila!"

The static image from the resonance pulse, magnified to the nth, revealed the black silhouette of a darked-out vessel nestled deeply within the pulsar's tapered edge than she would ever consider safe. "See that? Oh my stars, do you see that?!" Nandi jumped up and down as she pointed. "I knew it... I just knew it!"

"Well...shit," Jon deadpanned. "Give me as much sensor data as you can on it, but keep our distance for the time being. I'd rather not get into a shooting match while we're in a runabout and we don't know what the hell they are. Martinsen, keep your finger on the throttle. Once we have some idea of what the ship is let's...you know, do what we're supposed to in this situation, and try to hail them."

"It's cloaked, sir," Nandi said. "Sensors still detect nothing. The resonance pulse is the only reason we got a temporary reading on it at all." Her face was perturbed. "They could have reactivated their cloak. They could have moved. They could be... anywhere."

.........fuck, Geoff thought. As long as there had been a chance that the Altai was alone out here, the helmsman had clung to that. But now....now there was, in fact, an alien ship lurking about. And that rarely led to anything good. From what little he'd been able to make out, the other ship was smallish and bulky. Maybe just a freighter of some type? he wished.

"Sir, we should go back," Nandi said before descending into pleading. "Can we please go back?!"

Looking towards Batchelder, Geoff awaited orders. So far, the hidden ship hadn't done anything hostile, but that could change at any moment. Or not. I'm glad I'm not in charge, he thought.

"Alright," Jon said, calmly, not yet bothering to look up from his console. "The first thing we're all going to do is take a deep breath and calm the hell down. We don't know where or what that ship is, that's fine. That's the purpose of a cloaking device. I have to imagine that if they wanted to do something to us, they would've by now. They've had ample opportunity."

Looking up, he continued, "Chakma, Ixsåμ, start collating the sensor data so that we can provide some kind of intelligible data to the science team once we're back aboard Altai. Martinsen, take us back, nice and easy-like. I'm no diplomat, and this smells like a first-contact scenario. Let's have someone better equipped for that deal with it, shall we?"

Geoff didn't need to be told twice. He didn't even take time to chart a course, opting to fly the runabout manually instead; he just fired up the engines and began moving the Patapsco back towards the Altai. Following Batchelder's orders, the young pilot was light on the speed; no need to spook the crew on the newly-detected ship.

 

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