Needle In A Haystack

Posted on May 09, 2018 @ 3:23am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on May 09, 2018 @ 3:24am

Mission: The Trouble With Triticale

= Needle In A Haystack =

(cont’d from “Meanwhile, Back On The Homestead”)


SCENE: Science Labs, Deck 8
STARDATE: [2.18] 0508.1623

Malin-Argo had something of a reputation for being a forceful personality. He would never admit it, but it was in many ways a deliberately cultivated one; being naturally driven, intelligent, and ambitious left little room in the Grazerite for patience, and if other officers found his brusque personality intimidating, Malin-Argo found it at least was an efficient way of getting them to fall in line and follow his orders. Even when outranked, Malin-Argo had a way of browbeating his superiors into doing what he suggested; for officers at a lower rank, it was usually no contest.

The Grazerite Engineer was finding, however, that his unique charm appeared to be completely lost on Lieutenant Karrington Crow. The PHOENIX’s chief science officer seemed infinitely patient and almost totally oblivious to Malin-Argo’s growing irritation. In spite of the fact that the Captain had ordered *her* to support *him*, Lt. Crow had insisted they meet in the Science labs, and by the time Malin-Argo had arrived there, she had already started the first of a series of simulations for modifying the PHOENIX’s sensor suite.

Crow had looked up at him, her face brightening into a smile as Malin-Argo stepped into the lab. Malin-Argo did his best to wither that smile with a stern expression and a single, curt nod of acknowledgement as he approached, but Crow hadn’t seemed to notice.

“Lieutenant,” Malin-Argo said, his eyes flicking to the holo display in front of Crow’s workstation. “What is this?”

“I hope you don’t mind,” Crow said, turning to look at the simulation running in the holo display with an unmistakable expression of pride. “I sometimes like to come on shift a little early, and I thought I could get started.”

“If I am not mistaken, this task was assigned to *me*,” Malin-Argo said, turning to look at Crow again.

“Oh, but I’m sure you were busy with things in Main Engineering,” Crow said, once again failing to pick up on Malin-Argo’s displeasure. “Really, it’s no trouble. And anyway, it’s still just in the simulation phase. We need to know we’ve defined reliable search parameters before you start making any necessary mechanical adjustments.”

“We need to know the mechanical adjustments are even *possible*,” Malin-Argo said. “Even if the sensor algorithm you’ve devised can theoretically isolate traces of holographic technology on the planet’s surface, it’s of no use to us if we’re not able to make the necessary sensor modifications. Which is why I would have preferred to have this meeting in Main Engineering.”

“You’re all so busy down there,” Crow said, waving this off. “I’d hate for your crewmen to have to keep stepping around me while they’re attending to their duties. Really, Commander, it’s no trouble at all to do it here.”

“I do not doubt it’s no trouble, for *you*,” Malin-Argo said. “However, I am the ranking officer here, and furthermore, I was assigned to head up this particular project--”

“Damn!” Crow said, once again looking at the holodisplay and, seemingly, not paying any attention to Malin-Argo. “We’re getting too many false positives from the planet’s natural metallic and chemical content. I’m going to have to refine the search parameters to narrow the results.”

Malin-Argo bristled. “*We*. *We* are going to have to refine--”

“Of course I would welcome any input you can offer, Commander,” Crow said, smiling at him briefly before returning her attention to her workstation.

Malin-Argo opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again. Finally, he started: “Lieutenant--”

“Doctor, please,” Crow said, giving him another polite smile. “If you don’t mind, sir.”

Malin-Argo blinked. “Of course I don’t mind, but I--”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Crow smiled. “It’s just a bit of professional vanity.”

“I wasn’t--,” Malin-Argo started, then trailed off. In spite of his best efforts, it seemed that Dr. Karrington Crow would not be overawed. “Nevermind. If you would be so kind to send your simulation data to the secondary workstation, I can begin trying to isolate the sensor traces we’ll be looking for.”

Dr. Crow complied, and Malin-Argo stepped up to the secondary console to look over her work. He had to admit he was impressed; some of the modifications to the sensor array she had proposed would be time-consuming, but none of it was impossible. Malin-Argo had come to expect unfeasible recommendations from academics like Crow; they were too used to laboratory conditions, working with theories and simulations, and usually had a flimsy grasp of what the hardware could actually *do*. Malin-Argo, who had served as a Chief Engineer for 20 years aboard various ships in the fleet, had a solid appreciation for what was mechanically possible, and little patience for pie-in-the-sky magical thinking from science officers who expected the engineering department to achieve the impossible.

But to her credit, Crow seemed to share Malin-Argo’s appreciation for what could be done, even if she didn’t have the firmest grasp on the most efficient ways to do it. That was what he was here for, Malin-Argo supposed… and a moment later, he wondered how Dr. Crow had managed to position him as *her* support, instead of the other way around.

Now, after about two hours and a dozen simulations, it seemed they were closing in on the solution. Malin-Argo, to his surprise, found he rather liked working with Dr. Crow - they had established a good rhythm, anticipating each other and pushing ahead with a sort of rugged efficiency. Crow talked a lot, but never anything frivolous; instead, it was almost like she was running a constant internal monologue, proposing ideas and either moving ahead with them or shooting them down a moment later, often before Malin-Argo had a chance to say anything. She had a way of pushing ahead without seeking his input, which the Grazerite found vaguely irritating, but when she came to the limits of her knowledge or experience, she was always quick to defer to Malin-Argo’s judgement, and in spite of himself, Malin-Argo found a growing sense of respect, even admiration, for the woman… though his personal pride would never let such things show on the surface.

“If the proposed modifications to the sensor array meet with your approval, Commander, I’m prepared to begin the simulation,” Dr. Crow said.

Malin-Argo glanced down at his console. He made a few small changes to some of the suggested recalibrations and bounced the data back over to Crow. “Nearly there, doctor,” he said, looking up at her. “With the changes I’ve made, the scan should run at optimal efficiency and still give us the desired results.”

“Wonderful,” Crow smiled. “I have a good feeling about this one.”

“As do I,” Malin-Argo said, and surprised himself when he found he was returning the doctor’s smile.

“You can do the honors, if you like,” Crow said. Malin-Argo nodded, and began the simulation.

The two officers stood in silence, their eyes fixed on the holo display as it went through its paces. Each defined parameter lit up green in its turn, and a moment later, the computer informed them that the simulation was complete.

Malin-Argo gave a satisfied nod. “Success.”

“And well-earned, too,” Crow said. “Shall I forward these schematics to your station in Main Engineering?”

“If you please, doctor,” Malin-Argo nodded again. “I’ll have my teams get started on the necessary modifications. We should be ready to begin the sweep within the hour.”

“It’s been my pleasure, Commander,” said Dr. Crow.

“Yes,” Malin-Argo said, feeling uncharacteristically flustered. “Quite… satisfactory.”


SCENE: Main Engineering
TIME INDEX: One hour later

Jake Crichton entered Main Engineering, feeling as always like he’d never left. The gentle hum of the warp core, the background droning of a dozen conversations, the winking displays from a dozen different workstations… it felt to Jake like coming home. He half-expected to see Chaucer, trundling along to his next assignment… and then, with a flash a grief, he remembered why Chaucer was not there anymore.

Instead, Jake saw the familiar face of John Maynell, standing next to Malin-Argo at the Master Systems Display. Malin-Argo had reported to the bridge that they were ready to begin the sensor sweep, and Jake had decided he’d stop by to witness the results first hand. Maynell smiled as Jake approached, though Malin-Argo seemed intent on ignoring him.

“Commander,” Jake said, getting only a slight nod of recognition from the Grazerite. Then he turned to Maynell. “John. How’ve you been?”

“Ensign Maynell has been assisting me with the modifications to the sensor array,” Malin-Argo said, without taking his eyes off the Master Systems Display. “His help has been indispensable.”

“I’m sure it has,” Jake said. Then to Maynell: “John?”

“I’m great, sir,” Maynell nodded. “The search algorithm the Commander and Dr. Crow came up with is very impressive. If there’s any kind of holoprojection technology down on the surface, we should get hit. Run the scan long enough, and we should even be able to isolate its location within to at least within a few kilometers.”

“That is of course assuming whoever is running the projection does not become aware of what we are doing,” Malin-Argo said, finally turning to look at Jake. “I’d like to remind you, Commander, that should they disable or destroy their projector before we can isolate their location, we may not be able to find them.”

“We’ll do what we can,” Jake said. “Even if they get wise to us, knowing that someone is running a holoprojector down there should at least narrow the list of suspects.”

“Yes,” Malin-Argo said. “Beginning the sweep now.”

Jake had briefly glanced over the schematics that Malin-Argo had forwarded to the bridge, but he hadn’t had time to look them at them in detail. As his eyes moved to the holographic image of Sherman’s Planet projected above the Master Systems Display, he stepped forward to stand between Maynell and Malin-Argo.

“Talk me through it,” Jake said.

“As I’m sure you’re aware,” Malin-Argo began, “holographic projection relies of the use of OHD clusters to project the holographic image itself, as well as the shaped forcefields that give the projection something like physical substance.”

“Omni-direction holo diodes,” Jake nodded, not sure why he felt the need to demonstrate his knowledge of holographic tech in front of Malin-Argo. For his part, the Grazerite barely noticed.

“And as I’m sure you’re also aware, OHD emitters are composed primarily of keiyurium and silicon-animide,” Malin-Argo continued. “We’ve fine-tuned the sensor array to isolate concentrations of those elements on the planet’s surface. If there’s holo projection technology down there, this sweep will confirm it, though it will take time to scan the whole planet to isolate its location.”

Jake had to admit he was impressed. “Good work, Commander.”

“Dr. Crow was instrumental in developing these search parameters,” Malin-Argo said, giving Jake a sidelong look.

“I’ll be sure to congratulate her as well.”

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”

Maynell could feel the tension between his former and current department head, and cleared his throat in an attempt to change the subject. “Results are coming in now, sir.”

Malin-Argo tapped a few controls on his console, then looked up. “We have confirmation, traces of keiyurium in conjunction with silicon-animide, far more than what should be necessary for the planet’s general level of technology. Someone’s got a holoprojector down there. Based on these numbers, there may even be more than one.”

“Any ideas on location?” Jake asked.

“Not yet,” Malin-Argo shook his head. “We will keep the scan running and inform the bridge when we have isolated the signal.”

“Sir, look at this,” Maynell said. Jake turned to look over Maynell’s shoulder, at the display on his workstation. He frowned.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

Now Malin-Argo stepped over to Maynell’s station. “What is it?”

“These readings don’t match up with most holographic technology I’ve ever seen,” Maynell said, giving the Grazerite an apologetic shrug. “Are we sure we’re detecting a holoprojector?”

“We defined the search parameters with great care, Ensign,” Malin-Argo bristled. “Perhaps you’re simply misreading the results.”

“He’s not,” Jake shook his head. “It’s holographic tech, all right, but crude by modern standards. Whatever tech they have down there, it’s old.”

“How old, sir?” Maynell asked.

Jake looked back up that holo display of Sherman’s planet and frowned again. “I’d say about 50 years old, if not more.”

“You’re suggesting it may be Klingon technology,” Malin-Argo said.

“We can’t rule it out,” said Jake. “Even if you got it second-hand, you’d be hard-pressed to find a holoprojector that doesn’t use improved OHD clusters. It gives the projection more stability and better haptic feedback. Nobody’s made a holoprojector like this since before I was born. Finding one this old would be hard, let alone finding one that’s in working condition.”

“Unless they already had it,” Malin-Argo suggested.

“Right,” Jake nodded. “And I’m starting to think Is’toQ’s presence here may not just be a coincidence.”

“So what do we do?” Maynell asked.

“I have to tell Captain Kane about this,” Jake said. “Keep that scan running. I want to pinpoint the location of that projector as precisely as possible.”


NRPG: Special thanks to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual for the technobabble about holographic projection!

Shawn Putnam


Jake Crichton

Executive Officer