Mission Day 97
“I just don’t see how we can do it ma’am,” Lieutenant Sam Jarro said from their spot around the meeting table in Astrophysics. “It’s a repeating nova white dwarf, it last went off a hundred years ago. It’s still ages away from building up critical mass for a nova, let alone a supernova.”
“I gotta back up Sam here Gabs,” another officer, Lieutenant Gerald Wilbur-Northcote, spoke. “Blowing up stars isn’t as easy as firing off a torpedo, even those monstrous gravitational beasties we’ve apparently got on board. I…we’ve thought of everything and I just don’t think we’ve got enough power aboard Atlantis to do what the Captain wants.”
“Not only that, but we’ll have only five minutes to pull off the plan before the Borg show up,” Sam added.
“Seven minutes now,” Gabrielle said as she picked up another padd on the table and had a quick skim of the details on it. “Velan is apparently practising dark arts in Engineering and has clawed some extra time.”
“Oh, well, two extra minutes will make all the difference,” Gerald said as he tossed the padd in his hand onto the table, watched it spin and slide before being taken up by a young Ensign opposite him.
“Glad to hear it,” Gabrielle said as she leaned forward, then looked down the assembled folk at Ensign Goresh Krek, a particular difficult Tellarite who wasn’t as academic an astrophysicist as she herself was, but certainly an equal in the practical sense. “Goresh, you forgot to account for the subspace flexure in this simulation.”
“I didn’t forget,” he retorted. “I omitted it from the report because it didn’t impact the outcome.” Goresh sipped at their cup of…the Tellarite equivalent to coffee, which smelt and tasted even more dirt like then normal coffee did to her taste buds, then set it and the padd they’d been reading down. “I devised my solution around ignoring the flexure because the sensor reads for the flexure are clearly fake.”
That got the attention of the entire room, people looking up from reports, half-baked and full-baked ideas, scientific papers and all focusing on Goresh momentarily, then back to Gabrielle to see what her expression. Seeing confusion, all eyes turned back to the tellarite, who just glared back at them all. “All of you didn’t notice the sensor readings are clearly being faked?”
“Care to elaborate a bit Ensign?” Sam asked.
“Right, for the less intelligent assembled,” which Gabrielle read as ‘those not in my field of study, and even then’, “there are plenty of good sensor reads from the last ten years on subspace flexures across the Federation and associated scientific partners. Turns out the sensor reads we’re being fed are exactly the same as the McCorksy Phenomenon.”
“What?” blurted out Jarro while a much more thoughtful Gerald pulled up the latest sensor read and archived recordings of the McCorksy Phenomenon, displaying both sets on the holoemitter built into he meeting table. “No shit…” Jarro muttered as everyone studied the numbers.
“Exactly the same,” Goresh said as they returned to reading from their own padd. “Immaterial to the question of blowing up a star mind you, but clearly the subspace flexure is fake.”
Gabrielle studied the hologram for a few moments more, confirming numbers where the same. The only differences between both number sets were the stars themselves, which wouldn’t make sense as the flexure would be impacted by the stars. Then she looked back to Goresh’s proposal and flicked it up to the hologram for everyone to see what the Tellarite ensign had proposed.
“Right, we’re all going to attack this proposal, because Goresh might be on to something,” she said, dismissing the flexure holograms in order to try and focus the group. The defiance on Goresh’s face was proof she needed for their confidence and preparation to defend their idea.
“You want to put how much power through the main deflector?” Velan asked as he looked at the two scientists before him, wondering if they had both lost their minds.
Engineering wasn’t the quietest work space at the moment with the sound of the warp core humming away at full tilt as well as all the extra personnel he’d called in to help harness and tame the immense power. Any minor problem with the warp engines at the moment would result in engineers piling on top of it and resolving it as quickly as possible. A blown secondary coupling would get resolved straight away, primaries were being cycled to secondary loads to let components cool down, or engineers to run quick in-flight diagnostics before bringing them back online.
Preventative maintenance was the mantra at the moment, especially since he’d been told the plan would involve Atlantis dropping out of warp to do something, yet to be decided, then need to at least get to warp 1 to escape something, again yet to be decided.
“Everything we can without burning it out,” Goresh blurted out. Hadn’t that been made clear in their first statement to the Efrosian?
“Pretty much,” Gabrielle said with an apologetic look on her face for her underling’s blunt response. “Best plan we’ve got has a ninety percent chance of success, everything else doesn’t work. But we need the deflector to ramp up to max power in a truly impressive anti-graviton beam. Basically, a repulsor writ large.”
“You want to make the main deflector into a tractor/repulsor unit?” Velan asked stroking her facial hair.
“Nope, just a repulsor,” Gabrielle clarified.
“Huh…give me the specs. Only got a day to get it done right? No rush, just the fate of the Federation to worry about.”
Reassuring the Chief Engineer and providing plans, Gabrielle led Goresh out of Engineering before they could say anything else to antagonise everyone present. “You know Goresh, if this works, it’ll go down in the history books.”
“It shouldn’t,” the Tellarite responded. “Should bury the idea as best as possible. Really want to give people ideas on how to make supernovas?”
“Hey, only works for white dwarves. Jarro confirmed it with a series of simulations. And besides, a supernova is something we’d spot and have years to counter on any nearby worlds. It’s not a terribly practical weapon.”
The Tellarite nodded in understanding as they walked down the corridor to a nearby turbolift, their next destination the bridge to inform the Captain of their plan and Engineering’s buy-in.
“Why didn’t you tell the Chief that the sensor readings are fake? Shouldn’t we all be concerned the Captain is faking sensor readings?” Goresh asked as they waited.
“Chief Velan doesn’t need to know about that, he just needs plans to build to. As for the sensors, you can ask the Captain herself in a moment if you want.”
“And let her know that we know the readings are fake? Doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.”
“Lieutenant, Ensign, please, sit,” Tikva said to the two science officers that had just entered her ready room. She’d been in the middle of a discussion with the ECH, behind a locked door, but the programming she’d set had worked, with the ECH instantly fading from view as soon as the call button had been hit. She could continue the discussion later. “What have you got for me?”
“Ensign Krek here as our best plan for success and by best, the only plan with a more then thirty percent chance of success, according to our limited simulation work.”
“Ninety two percent,” the Tellarite clarified, glaring daggers at Tikva.
For her part, Tikva had noticed that, but choose to ignore it. Tellarites were hard to read, but she was getting…suspicion? Determination and pride as always, likely in their plan and that it would work, but suspicion, aimed at her? Something to ask Gabrielle about later.
“Well, I like the sound of that. So, Ensign, how are we going to blow up a star, destroy a Borg vessel and close a subspace flexure all at the same time?” More importantly, what is the plan for dealing with what sensors had confirmed were now nine Omega particles.
“We need four gravimetric torpedoes of the yield specified and Atlantis’ main deflector producing the largest anti-graviton pulse it can muster.” Goresh then set a small device on her desk, a small holo emitter good for presentations. The sprung to life displaying a white dwarf with five little red dots around it, all labelled one through five. Four of the dots were on one side of the white dwarf in a cross formation, with the last dot opposite the middle of the cross on the other hemisphere.
“Careful timing will be required for this. We have time to arrive in system, launch the torpedoes and for them to arrive in position. Detonating all of the torpedoes at once will induce a pressure wave in the white dwarf. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, it would be a run of the mill star-quake, but just as the P-waves are arriving here,” the animation highlighted a spot directly under the number five red dot at Goresh’s command, “we’ll fire as powerful an anti-graviton beam as we can muster straight into the star. The combination of waves will hopefully be enough to induce a local collapse past electron-degeneracy pressure. That will then ripple through the white dwarf, dragging the star past the Chandrasekhar limit.”
The animation showed a beam hitting the white dwarf, then a rapid series of events with a timer displaying milliseconds running along the bottom. The star’s radius shrinking, then a sliver of the star disappeared to show internal processes as a shockwave starts to develop in the core, pushing outwards and tearing the star apart. One point five seconds from the anti-graviton beam hitting the star to carbon detonation in the core, another second later and they had a type 1a supernova expanding at six percent the speed of light.
“Boom,” Tikva said as the animation finished. Nothing was left, no neutron star, no black hole, just a white dwarf unbinding in a truly massive explosion. “Man, this is going to screw with pre-warp astronomers, isn’t it? A white dwarf below the Chandrasekhar limit detonating in a 1a supernova. It’s not going to be a standard candle, is it?”
“Far from it,” Gabrielle responded. “I mean, we’re not directly interfering in some far future distant species development, so Prime Directive doesn’t apply, does it?”
“Well, this won’t be seen on Earth for some sixty thousand years.”
“Sixty-two thousand,” Goresh corrected. “It will only just be off of the standard candle light curves as well. Details in my report. If it works that is.”
“I’ve got faith in the plan Ensign Krek.” Tikva looked back and once more found those glaring eyes, like she’d done something wrong to offend them personally. “Something the matter Ensign?”
“No ma’am,” they responded.
“Very good. Right, well if you two want to clean up the presentation, you can present it to the senior staff in the morning then perhaps so everyone knows what we’re doing? And see if you can refine the plan a bit more, get that success number a bit higher.”
Mission Day 98
“Thank you for that Ensign,” Tikva said as the presentation was finished. She was proud of Gabrielle actually letting her junior staffer handle the entire process of briefing the entire senior staff. Showed she had trust in people but also pushing them to take the lead on their own ideas. “Any questions?”
“Oh, plenty,” Mac quipped. “How close does the timing need to be?”
“Within the nanosecond,” Goresh quipped as they sat down at the far end of the table next to their department head. “The entire process will need to be computer controlled. I’ve already taken the liberty of working with Ensign Wilde in Tactical and Lieutenant Flydeson in Engineering to write the control program for torpedo detonation and deflector activation.”
“We’ll need to be at warp very quickly after firing the anti-graviton beam. Please consult with Lieutenant T’Val for tying in with Helm.”
“Yes sir,” Goresh responded to Mac’s comment.
“How long from our arrival in system will it take to set all of this up?” Mac followed up, fulfilling his statement about plenty of questions, though he had been nodding happily when Goresh answered his first, probably indicating a few others had been answered, which Tikva got a satisfied feeling from the man.
“Three minutes for the torpedoes to launch and assume their positions,” Gabrielle responded instead of Goresh, which drew a look from the Tellarite who for their part dropped it a mere moment later. “Main deflector capacitors will need that long to charge up so we can dump then and a hefty amount of power from Engineering into the deflector for the pulse.”
“If the main deflector burns out,” Adelinde started, “we won’t be able to go to warp. What are the burn out chances?”
Ra-tesh’mi Velan smiled at a technical question and leaned forward, resting his arms on the conference table. “Actually, that’s not entirely true. We can go to warp, we just won’t be protected by a navigational deflector field. We can however raise the shields and move away at say, warp one, maybe two if local particle density is low, until we get far enough away that we can make repairs without a shockwave hitting us. Fastest supernova shockwave ever recorded, every minute at warp one gives me just over a quarter hour to affect repairs.”
“So, we can remain at warp till shields get low, then make repairs before we vacate the area. I like it,” Tikva commented. “We’re looking at potential Borg interference, but ideally we’ll be underway before they arrive. How are our anti-Borg preparations going Lieutenants?” she asked turning on Adelinde and Ch’tkk’va.
“I’m confident we’ll be able to deal with localised and contained Borg boarding parties, but anything beyond three or four sites, five drones each, will be dangerous,” Adelinde said. “I would like to have all hands at battlestations and prepared to repeal boarders if you’ll agree ma’am.”
Ch’tkk’va nodded in assent with the statement for their part.
“Make it so. Right, we’ve only got a few actions points from this briefing it seems. Everyone know what they’ve got to get up to?” Tikva waited for a series of nodding heads, then smiled. “Right, be about it then folks. Tomorrow we get blow up a star. Seriously, how many crews get to say that?”
Mission Day 98
For some reason tonight was a very quiet night in Four Forward. Barely two handfuls of people were present at this hour, though shiftwork on a starship mean there really was no night or day flow, just a continual progression of waves of people free or not. So it was that Adelinde had invited Tikva to dinner here. She knew Tikva’s quarters would be out of bounds for the foreseeable future, until whatever was going on was resolved. Her own quarters were in a bit of a state sense she had decided to reorganise and move things around a bit, so Four Forward was the place to be.
Dinner had been lovely, as always and they had moved from a table to one of the couches by the windows looking outward, next to each other with her arm draped along the couch back behind Tikva. She’d checked and noticed the group of officers present were on the far side of the room, gathered around a single table and engaged in some sort of activity that was drawing their undivided attention, so felt comfortable enough with this limited display of affection.
And of course, they couldn’t see Tikva’s hand on Adelinde’s thigh, tapping out some beat internal to Tikva’s own thoughts.
“Really think blowing up a star is going to work?” she finally asked, a faint whisper in Tikva’s ear.
The tapping fingers stopped, then gentle squeezed her thigh as Tikva smiled and turned to face her slightly. “Honestly, I’m feeling good about this plan.”
“Will it work with whatever the real mission is?”
Tikva’s smile seemed to fade a little, a pensive expression taking over her face as she turned to look out the window at the on-rushing streak of stars. “Well, if it doesn’t, we’ll all know, then we’ll go to plan b.”
“Uh…classified?” the smaller woman said, though her tone of voice turned it into a question.
“You’ll make it up as you go,” she confirmed, being rewarded with that smile she so liked to see. And those mischievous eyes.
They sat there in comfortable silence for a few more minutes, her arm dropping down to rest along Tikva’s shoulders and pulling her a little closer, the couch obscuring them from the others present. “You know,” she said, breaking that silence, “I have seen those same eight people here multiple times now and I can honestly say I have no idea what they’re doing.”
“They could be plotting a mutiny,” Tikva said. “Isn’t it your job to protect my command and stop such things?”
“You honestly believe Ensigns Williams, Chu and Trel could be mutineers?” she countered, rattling off the actual officers in the group, the others being non-coms from across multiple departments.
“Gods no!” Tikva responded, her exclamation just above a whisper, which after their conversation since dinner felt like a shout. “Besides, it’s a harmless game. You should just ask them about it, they’re more then keen to explain it. Like overly keen.”
“A game?” She turned her head to look in the group’s direction and studied them for a few moments. “I don’t see any holograms or game pieces.”
Tikva gave her thigh another squeeze, then moved in closer for a cuddle. “I’ll explain it later. Not my sort of thing, but I can see how some people like it. I do hate to ruin a good thing though, but I’m exhausted from the last few days love and tomorrow is going to be….”
“Explosive?” she offered.
“Hopefully. See me to my quarters?”
“While I couldn’t host dinner, you could stay the night if you wanted. Massage to help you sleep?”
She could just about hear the cogs in Tikva’s head ticking away, mulling the offer over. She felt the slight muscle movements as she shook side to side slowly in a thinking action that she’d seen plenty of times before settling on a decision. “Fine, twist my arm why don’t you.”
Adelinde smiled at that, then stopped Tikva from standing up immediately so she could whisper one last thing in her ear before they left. “Only if you ask me to.”