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Solving The Puzzle

Posted on Dec 01, 2018 @ 6:16pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Uncertainty Principle


(Continued from "Saving Lives")


Captain's log, supplemental - I am growing more and more frustrated about being kept in sickbay by Doctor Bartlett. I cannot exercise command and control of the situation while I am on my back on some biobed. For that reason, I have asked for a briefing from Commander Malin-Argo and Doctor Eden as soon as their time permits...


Location: USS Phoenix, adrift in space
Stardate: [2.18]1201.0915
Scene: Sickbay - deck 12, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane lifted his head up as he heard the heavy footfalls of his Chief Engineer crossing the floor of sickbay. Over the past couple of hours, the rate of walking wounded reporting for treatment had slowed drastically, so much so that Dr. Bartlett was able to send out several medical teams to various departments of the ship. One by one, the six dead crewmembers had been brought to sickbay, there to lie in state in the small mortuary behind Bartlett's office. Their identities had not yet been released to the crew-at-large, but Kane knew that they were all members of Engineering, and made a mental note not to let the dead go unmourned.

The ship was getting back on its feet, but rumours were swirling. Apparently, several members of the crew were experiencing visions of the future and the outlines of several odd humanoid shapes, all blurred and insubstantial, had appeared on several decks. Three-dimensional yet hazy, around a dozen of these figures had appeared around the ship in the past hour, scaring the hell of whoever was nearby. The shapes had not actually done anything - just appeared and disappeared a few seconds later - but their presence added a mysterious new element to the trauma that the crew was experiencing.

Kane used the biobed's controls to raised his upper body upward into something approaching a seated position. Malin-Argo was accompanied by Lorraine Eden, and neither of them - bull-like Grazerite or thin Human woman - looked particularly pleased with one another. Kane had heard whisperings of their mutual dislike, and it seemed to be true. As the pair reached him, Dr. Bartlett appeared from his office and moved to join them.

"Captain Kane," rumbled Malin-Argo. "I trust you are feeling better."

"I'm feeling fine," said Kane pointedly, casting an irritated glance at Bartlett. "I expect to be released from sickbay very soon."

Bartlett seemed unimpressed. "The Captain is concussed and is remaining here under observation," he said firmly. "It is my understanding that the ship is not under any immediate danger - therefore, I am exercising my purview as chief medical officer to give him the best possible care."

Kane sighed. He *felt* fine, but Bartlett had explained that the effects of a concussion could be asymptomatic, and that undue stress or mental pressure could trigger a fainting episode or worse. He wasn't sure he bought it completely, but the facts remained that yes, the ship was in no immediate danger, and yes, Jake Crichton was (hopefully) more than capable of assuming command. For now, Kane saw no option but to acquiesce to the doctor's recommendation.

Malin-Argo shrugged his enormous shoulders. "Doctor Eden and I have come to make our report to you, as ordered," he grated.

Kane looked at Lorraine Eden. The woman was getting on in years, her face wrinkled and aged, but the fire in her eyes was undimmed, and her spirit was made of iron. She still stood up straight and tall, a prideful slant to her stare, hands locked behind her back in a subliminal expression of open defiance. Kane knew that she expected to be questioned regarding the experiment that had gone wrong, but her body language indicated that she was not prepared to be walked on.

"Thank you both for coming," he said, as Bartlett looked on. "First, outline to me what, in your individual opinion, occurred during the propulsion experiment. Second, bring me up to speed on the current status of the ship's systems."

Malin-Argo exchanged a withering glance with Dr. Eden. He was only two inches taller than her, but his bulk gave him an intimidating edge over her slight build. "Very well, Captain. We have identified, through elimination of the possibilities, that something unexpected occurred during the experiment. It was some ten seconds after the generation of the transwarp conduit, just as the Phoenix was about to enter the conduit." He seemed about to say more, but checked himself, and paused to think. When he resumed speaking, he spoke slower, more deliberately. "I must emphasise that we have not conclusively identified the actual cause of the collision that the ship experienced. It will take us many hours, if not days, to analyse the computer data that was accumulated in the run-up to the conduit being generated, and we have been concentrating on restoring power to the ship's systems in the meantime."

Kane's eyes flitted to Dr. Eden. She nodded. "Yes, well - Captain Kane, I should point out that Commander Malin-Argo is being somewhat generous with his summary. He is correct in stating that we have not yet conclusively identified the cause of this strange collision, but - and I do not make this declaration lightly, I assure you - it seems obvious that the experiment is connected to it in some way." She exhaled tightly before continuing. "In any event, and in answer to your first question, we do not know what happened. All I can assert is that I observed no odd readings in the moments prior to the collision. The extra power that I requested from Engineering was not, strictly speaking, a planned occurrence, but it was well within the *scope* of my plans."

Kane held up a hand. "I see. While it would be nice to know what happened, you're both telling me that you don't know, and that anyway, we have bigger problems. Good. What is the status of the ship's systems?"

Malin-Argo put his hands behind his back and stood up straight. Kane noted to himself that both the Malin-Argo and Dr. Eden had adopted the same stance - a little thing, but an indication that they were both on the same wavelength. "Internal communications are restored. Life support is being steadily restored across the primary decks of the ship. We expect to have full turbolift control in less than two hours. When last I checked - eighteen minutes ago - the main computer was sixty-eight per cent online and improving quickly. I should also emphasise that, even though the ship appears to be adrift in a cloud of chronotons, we can detect no obvious external problem. Our main concern is still the uncontrolled spooling up of our warp engines, but that will not become a major threat for several hours yet."

"Good," said Kane. The appearance of the chronotons was another element of the puzzle. "What about the humanoid shapes?"

"We don't know about them either," said Dr. Eden, with an air of exasperation. "It might have been easy to write one or two off as the products of over-active imaginations, but they seem to be genuine. We cannot explain it."

"There are some consistencies in the future-visions that are giving our theoreticians a collective headache," said Malin-Argo. "As an example, I have been *ordered* to dispatch an engineer to shut down the main deflector dish as a result of one of these visions."

Dr. Eden nodded in agreement. "Your Lieutenant Byte theorises that, when a vision is experienced, the subject's consciousness is thrown forward in time to a possible future. The chronotons are likely linked, but we cannot fathom the appearance of these humanoid shapes aboard the ship."

Kane thought about it for a moment. Bringing all these threads together was the key to solving this mystery and getting the Phoenix back on course. Since nobody else seemed like they wanted to say it, he decided to take a step forward. "Let's lay our cards on the table. Is it possible that we have collided with an alien starship in some bizarre mishap involving Time, perhaps generated when the transwarp conduit was formed? An alien starship that we cannot detect through normal means, because it occupies some kind of possible future dimension that we cannot fully understand?"

Both Malin-Argo and Dr. Eden remained silent. Kane glanced at Dr. Bartlett - the man wore a bemused expression on his face, like Kane was telling some kind of fairy tale. For a moment, Kane felt his anger rising, but then remembered that nobody actually *knew* what was happening. Time theory was at all points theoretical, and he preferred to leave it all the hell alone, but that wasn't possible right now. Seeing their reluctance to speak, he prompted them again. "Is is possible?"

Malin-Argo snorted, rolling his bovine head on his shoulders. "I dislike the question, Captain. A hypothetical possibility is not a fact. It is not even a theory."

Kane narrowed his eyes. "And you, Doctor Eden? What do you say?"

The older woman was looking at the floor. The tension stretched out to several seconds before she finally forced herself to look at him. "Yes," she said. "It's outlandish, but it's possible."

"Next question," said Kane. "Do either of you have any other theories that fit the circumstances we've been discussing that are less outlandish than the one I have proposed?"

Malin-Argo shook his head slowly. Dr. Eden looked at the floor in distaste. Neither of them said anything.

Kane nodded. "Good. Commander Malin-Argo, you will proceed as if the theory we discussed is true. Liaise with the bridge and come up with a way to make contact with, or analyse, or identify, the alien vessel that may be nearby. Doctor Eden, your experiment is at an end. You will now begin work assisting our senior officers in solving this mystery. Do both of you understand my orders?"

His professional tone got their attention. Dr. Eden nodded curtly, while Malin-Argo gave him a crisp "aye aye, Captain."

Malin-Argo and Dr. Eden turned away, leaving Kane alone with Dr. Bartlett. The older man raised his eyebrows and folded his arms. "Aliens from out of our time stream? Well, this is a fine start to my career aboard the ship," he deadpanned. "I trust all future missions will be a little less science fiction than this one?"

Kane raised an eyebrow. "No promises."

Dr. Bartlett chuckled and went back to his office.


Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section
Time Index: An hour later

Jake Crichton couldn't figure out what he was feeling. On the one hand, everyone was working with a theory, but on the other hand, it was a theory that couldn't be easily proven and sounded downright bizarre. Nevertheless, the team who had assembled on the bridge to hash out the next step - Malin-Argo, Lorraine Eden, Jasmine Yu, Byte, Lynette Ryan, and Sotaar - were working diligently together to come up with something.

Lynette Ryan counted the clues off on her fingers. "Then, if the humanoid shapes we've seen appearing around the Phoenix are these aliens, and the ship in the visions is their ship, and the chronoton cloud is somehow facilitating all this Time weirdness - are we occupying the same point in space as them?"

{{That would seem to follow if our theory is sound,}} said Byte.

"But if we're getting visions of possible futures, it might indicate that we're not occupying the same point in Time," said Jasmine.

"Let's not get caught up in definitions right now," suggested Lorraine Eden. "The Phoenix has somehow become entangled with an alien starship that exists outside of normal space and time - let's leave it at that."

"I agree with you, Doctor," said Jasmine wryly.

Malin-Argo nodded his head. "But it seems likely that this 'entanglement' is responsible for the continuous spooling up of our warp engines. As I indicated to Captain Kane earlier, we are facing an eventual warp core breach."

"How long have we got?" said Jake.

Malin-Argo looked him in the eye. "Between three-and-a-half and four hours, Commander Crichton."

"Then the next step is disentanglement," said Jake. "Theories."

It was Dr. Eden who spoke first. "Try changing the ship's warp frequency and then engage the impulse engines. We might be able to simply move away under our own power."

Jake frowned. He knew what Dr. Eden was getting at. The warp field generated by a starship powered all the ship's systems, being stored in rechargeable batteries in the event of an engine failure. All other ship's systems ran off this power - life support, thrusters, comms, weapons, everything. The warp field that allowed the Phoenix to propel itself at FTL speed was generated by the controlled annihilation of matter and anti-matter in the warp core's intermix chamber. The whole process was regulated by dilithium crystals - when exposed to high EM pressure and temperature, dilithium slowly became porous, allowing the anti-matter to seep through it gently. This reaction was detectable - in propulsion, it was referred to as the piezo-electric field - and meant that a starship's sensors could detect the warp frequency (or signature) of another starship.

The warp signature of a starship could, therefore, be changed, by altering the flow of anti-matter through the dilithium. A little more or a little less would affect what kind of warp field was generated, but also affect the warp signature. That was what Dr. Eden was proposing - if the Phoenix really was entangled with some kind of phased alien starship at the same point in space, then changing the Phoenix's warp signature frequency might allow the ship to simply drift away.

Jake realised that it was a good thing that all of the other officers present knew those facts too, having learned them in school or in Starfleet Academy. If he was some guy in another reality who was just writing all this down, perhaps having to do some research prior to writing, say, two paragraphs of exposition that a reader might skim over, it might make his own head hurt.

Good thing this is the real world, and not sci-fi, he thought to himself.

"Alright, let's make that happen," he nodded. "Stations, everyone. Report when ready to proceed."

Malin-Argo and Dr. Eden moved toward the turbolift, and everyone else took their positions at their stations. Jake sat down in the centre seat and drummed his fingers on the armrest.


NRPG: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's.... Captain Exposition!

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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