Part of USS Challenger: You Can’t Go Home Again and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Let’s Get To Work

U.S.S. Challenger NCC-71099
Stardate 77025.7
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The Challenger’s senior officers gathered in the observation lounge for the second time in 14 hours, but this time they would receive some solid answers instead of the vague two minute briefing that Forrester had given them last time. Floating in the air above the surface of the conference table was a holographic representation of Cotar IV, with the subspace rift visible above it.

“I’ve confirmed my initial findings; Coltar is experiencing time at a rate of one point five hours for every minute the rest of us experience.” Commander Bennett told the assembled group. “Since contact was lost, the people on the planet have lived through almost sixty four days.” She tapped at her PADD and a bracket appeared around the rift. “The temporal differential is a result of this subspace rift, which is flooding the planet’s atmosphere with tachyons.”

“Can we close the rift?” Commander Kailir asked.

Sitting across from the XO, Bennett’s eyes flicked from the hologram to Kailir.. “I have a team working on answering that question right now, but we may not want to close it right away.”

“Why the hell not?” Forrester’s nostrils flared and his hazel eyes hardened, fixing his chief science officer with an intense glare.

Bennett understood the captain’s reaction and indeed expected it so she was able to school her features when others around the table looked taken aback.  Calmly she told him, “We may need the extra time the differential provides to deploy what Commander Jackson’s come up with to protect the planet from the ion storm.”

“What’ve you come up with?” Forrester turned his attention to the chief engineer.

Jackson sat forward, placing his right elbow on the conference table, and met the captain’s gaze. “We plan to install a weather control system on the planet.”

“That’s it?” Forrester asked. His brow knitted together and his eyes narrowed as he looked from Jackson to Bennett and back again. “You’re telling me that if Coronal had a weather control system that it would’ve survived that ion storm?”

Bennett shook her head. “No, sir. The two situations aren’t comparable.” She tapped her PADD again, changing the hologram to show a comparison of both planets. “The concentration of dust and gas around Coltar is much lower, because of its position on the edge of the Paulson Nebula. It won’t be rendered uninhabitable but we believe it will be subject to freak weather events.

“How bad?” Forrester asked, his earlier intensity no longer present. His eyes had softened and Bennett could see the fear buried deep within them.

It would’ve been easy to lie to him, to tell him it wouldn’t be bad and that he didn’t have anything to worry about, but Bennett’s job wasn’t to tell the captain what he wanted to hear. That wouldn’t do either of them any good. She would be straightforward and honest with the captain. “It’ll be bad.” She told him. “Our current projections suggest a death toll in the thousands, possibly tens of thousands.”

“Shit.” The captain muttered under his breath as he let his head drop forward momentarily. When he raised it again, he found all eyes on him. Clearing his throat, Forrester adjusted himself in his chair, straightening his posture. “A weather control system isn’t going to work.”

Bennett glanced around at the others, pleased to see them as confused as she was. “Why not?”

“The Governor of Coltar will never allow a weather control system to be installed on the planet.” Forrester told them. “It goes against everything the colony and its people stand for. They see any attempt to control the weather as playing god.” Forrester looked to his chief engineer again. “Do you have an alternative plan?”

Jackson and Bennett shared a look. “We tossed around the idea of installing shield generators around the population centres to protect them from the weather. It would take longer and we’d have to simultaneously reinforce the planetary power grid to handle the additional power requirements.”

“How long?” Forrester asked.

The chief engineer let out a sigh. “We think it can be done in a month and a half.”

“Gives us plenty of time to get the rift closed before that ion storm reaches us. The question is, can we travel to the planet and integrate into their rate of time safely?” He turned to Miller. “Doctor?”

Doctor Miller was sitting on the opposite side of the table and one seat right of Bennett. “I’ve discussed it with Commanders Bennett and Jackson.” He told his fellow senior officers. “We think we can use the phase discriminator on the transporter to integrate people into the planet’s rate of time before rematerialisation. The transporter chief and I have completed several successful transports using test cylinders but we won’t know if it works properly until…” Everyone knew how that sentence ended.

“Until you have a live test subject.” Forrester finished for him, causing Miller and Jackson to nod in agreement. “Any potential side effects?”

The CMO nodded. “Headache, nausea and dizziness. Temporal narcosis could be a more severe side effect.”

“Will we be able to communicate with whoever’s on the ground?” Kailir asked, looking to the chief engineer for the answer.

Jackson’s eyes met Kailir’s. “Live two way communication won’t be possible but we’ll be able to send data bursts via non-subspace frequencies and the computer will be able to compensate for the temporal differential.”

“Good.” Forrester said. “I’ll beam down and discuss the situation with Governor Wells. Once she agrees to our plan, I’ll send a data burst back instructing Commander Jackson and his team to begin beaming down.”

Kailir’s head snapped round. “You can’t.”

“Why not?” Forrester asked, confusion visible on his features.

The XO’s tone suggested that the answer to that question was obvious. “You’re the Captain. We have no idea what will happen when you beam down. It could kill you. We should test it on-”

“Who?” Forrester quickly cut across his first officer. “Someone less important? I can’t ask an officer under my command to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself. I’ll beam down and send a data burst to let you know I’ve beamed down and what, if any, side effects I experience.”

Not that she would admit it, but Bennett was glad she wasn’t going to be beaming down to the surface. She’d prefer to remain on the Challenger, monitor the ion storm and figure out a way to close the rift. 

“Commander Jackson,” the captain began, “assemble your team and gather whatever equipment you’ll need.” His eyes moved from the chief engineer to the CMO. “Doctor Miller, I want a few medical officers to beam down so they can monitor our people. Make sure anyone who beams down knows that they’ll be down there for a month and a half.” He looked to his left, where the XO was seated. “Commander, the Challenger is yours.” 

He pushed himself to his feet and looked around them once more. “Alright, let’s get to work.”