Silence had engulfed the bridge of the Santa Fe once the command staff had been summoned to the control center of the ship, with everyone arriving a matter of minutes after the call had gone out. That had been some twenty minutes ago now, and the senior staff, especially those without duties on the bridge, were getting restless.
Commander Zinn sat on the chair at the aft medical station and, instead of monitoring the ship for life threatening illnesses, he stared at the roof of the bridge and spun on the seats axis like a child waiting to be told off. Lieutenant Chiera had tried shooting him ‘the evil’ on more than one occasion, but the Deltan was seemingly oblivious to her silent scolding.
Dante had taken over the command chair, and even he was looking somewhat anxious. The tapping of the feet was more than enough of a give away. Thankfully, they had to wait no longer.
Emerging from her ready room with the presumptive XO in tow, Captain sh’Elas took a few steps onto the bridge and came to a halt, her antennae betraying her feelings.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” Zinn remarked as he stepped forward and leant on the tactical rail.
“We’ve got a situation developing,” the Captain remarked, “and Starfleet wants us to investigate.”
Zinn frowned as he folded his arms across his chest in defiance. “I’ve got a VERY bad feeling about this…”
[Main Engineering, Four Hours Later…]
An incident had happened aboard the Starship Thesis, and the Santa Fe was to investigate.
Lieutenant Commander Kayla Desai-Scott stood in the middle of the ship’s engine room, shifting from foot to foot as she read through the newly released, classified report regarding the MARS system that was apparently the cause of the situation with the Thesis. Together with the crew of the Santa Fe, the new XO had been taking the time to read about the tests taking place aboard the Inquiry-class starship. The Thesis’ chief engineer had apparently figured out how to adapt the new defensive system to the Inquiry-class space frame, drawing much of its energy from the ship’s new warp core. There was, however, a small glitch that left it detectable, albeit, when they got close to another ship.
All in all, the defensive system should have been just as impressive as it seemed. Developed by scientists and engineers at the Sathea IV Science Station, the Multi Adaptive Refractive Shielding system (or MARS system for short) was a combination of technologies and research obtained from the logs of the starship Voyager upon its return from the Delta Quadrant in the late 2370’s.
Multi-adaptive shielding was a deflector shield stealth technology developed by Erin and Magnus Hansen in 2353, for use in keeping their vessel, the USS Raven, virtually invisible to Borg sensors during their field study of the Collective. In 2375, the crew of the USS Voyager incorporated multi-adaptive shielding into the systems of the Delta Flyer, to facilitate a rescue mission for the Hansens’ daughter, now known as Seven of Nine, who was being held captive by the Borg Queen in the Unicomplex. Although the shielding was initially successful in concealing the Flyer’s presence, a work around was established by the Borg which, until now, had rendered the technology a risky development. Further research obtained from Voyager related to refractive shielding, a deflector shield stealth technology used by the Devore Imperium of the Delta Quadrant, which allowed a vessel to remain invisible to conventional sensors unless they were specifically adapted to detect such a technology.
The MARS system was the brainchild of Professor Rikia Mariwat, a Bolian scientist, and her counterpart from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, Dayo Ekaan. Initially proposed as far back as the early 2380’s, the system was put on the back burner due to R&D efforts elsewhere. Following the failed evacuation of Romulan space, and the change in focus for Starfleet, the team on Sathea IV were given permission to move forward with their proposal in the mid-2390’s as Starfleet looked at new ways of defending itself. Crucially, as an adaptation of two known shielding systems, Starfleet ruled that the technology would not constitute a cloaking device and would instead fall under the realms of other stealth technologies, thus not breaking the centuries old Treaty of Algernon.
For close to a year, the team conducted trial after trial on the holodecks of their labs. They tested every conceivable variable in their search for problems with their design. With each modification they made, reliability in the simulations increased. In the final simulation prior to field testing, the MARS technology would prove to be effective a whopping 89% of the time, which flukes such as spatial phenomenon, nebula gases and the like resulting in some form of detection for the system. With permission for field tests granted, Starfleet assigned the Inquiry-class USS Thesis to be the testbed. One of the most powerful ships in the fleet, the new class was supposed to be the best platform to test the technology on. Initial tests had proved promising, but issues quickly started to put paid to the live tests. Then, of course, there had been the debacle at Sathea during the Century Storm. Something had gone wrong, so wrong that the Santa Fe’s somewhat antiquated sensor suite had been able to detect the Thesis, and so too, presumably, did the Klingon aggressors.
Now, several weeks later and with further tests under her belt, something else had gone wrong, and it was up to the Santa Fe to come to her rescue. Again.
“A very impressive system, if you can get it to work. But I’ve reviewed some of these calculations and run my own simulations with the data provided. The system should be working,” Lieutenant Udal frowned as he tossed his data PADD onto the pool table in the center of the gathering, folding his green skinned arms across his chest.
“The systems have worked to an extent,” the Cardassian Ops officer sighed, rubbing her temple, “Something on that ship is playing havoc with the systems. Something we don’t have access to.”
”We all have a simple mission here,” Lieutenant Noli Auru spoke up as she noticed the more technically gifted among them getting somewhat frustrated. She took a few steps away from them and placed her hands on the railing around the ship’s warp core and main defensive console displays. Then, with her arms folded, she turned and looked at the motley crew. “We need to figure out the issue that made the Thesis detectable to the Santa Fe sensors, right? Why don’t we try installing this system on the Santa Fe and try troubleshooting it that way?”
Kayla shook her head slowly, “Our ship is considerably older in design and construction. Her systems would never…”
“On paper it should work,” Lieutenant Rawlings butted in, his hands placed on the table top and looking across at the Bajoran tactician, “Although both have different hull configurations and power consumption systems, I’ve not read anything in the reports that suggests we couldn’t, with some tweaks, try and get the system working here. Actually working with the system first hand would be better than trying to theorise and speculate,” the Flight Controller told, looking at the XO hopefully.
“Before we go to such drastic measures, is there any chance it could it be a coding problem within the software?” Desai-Scott asked.
”I actually think the issue is somewhere in the defensive grid,” Lieutenant Prida frowned as she tapped on the display between them all.
Udal started tapping his PADD and began running some correlation algorithms on a theory, an epiphany, he had suddenly had and synced the data analysis he had with the pool table.
Commander Desai-Scott looked over the shoulder of her colleague with great interest. “What’ya doing there, Lieutenant?” she queried, drawing the attention of the more senior members of the group.
”Forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn.” He said, mostly to the XO, who was the most senior officer in the group. “I was running some correlation algorithms. If the multi-adaptive shielding is fluctuating while the rest of the defensive grid is functioning, depending on the power draw the systems require, specific areas of the ship may become unprotected and exposed. It was very random, but if something else was activated that uses a fair amount of power draw on a single system, let’s say a replicator, that little area of the ship may be over taxed for the moments it is active and then after it is done, restores enough power to allow invisibility again. Just a hypothesis at the moment.” Udal said, feeling his green skin become somewhat flushed and darker. “I might be wrong. I just started the calculations.”
”May I?” Lieutenant Prida asked as she held out her hand, but in a tone that suggested it was meant as nothing more than a helping hand.
Udal handed over his PADD. “It’s a thought. Might explain why I could not get a pattern for when we would be able to detect a signal and why it was usually a different source each time.”
Noli had continued to listen to the others, and as she clasped her hands behind her back and rocked on the heels of her boots, she pondered her own response. “If the root cause is possible power fluctuations in the defensive grid, what about a power flow restrictor that meters the power into the unit. Constant power supply at a constant rate. We’ve used it to stabilize weaponry before.”
”That’s possible. We would also need to install some protocols for the computer to regulate the the power priority so power levels do not drop below a specific threshold and disables systems that will draw it below. We may have to guess a little on what the exact threshold is,” Udal replied, trying to think of other solutions.
All eyes around the table turned and glared at the Flight Controller.
“You’re all suggesting something that blue alert does automatically,” he shrugged. Seeing a confused expression on some faces, he reached out and began tapping on the pool table. “On all starships with atmospheric landing capability, such as the Intrepid, blue alert is called to signal the ships preparation for landing. In doing so, all unnecessary systems are taken offline, power consumption is diverted to the required systems and the safe landing of the ship becomes the sole focus of everyone aboard,” he informed them.
“So, if we adapted a similar alert mode that controlled the power consumption of key systems automatically, it might cut out the issues with the power regulation…” Desai-Scott seemed to be following the Lieutenant’s line of thought.
“…and stop any other systems from even functioning enough to draw any power to them.” Prida nodded slowly.
“Respectfully,” finally, the Chief Science Officer spoke up, her grey, mottled skin sweating as she felt the pressure of speaking out in such a gathering, “I don’t think this is the only problem we face. We’ve got to balance several key systems to get this system to work, and power flow is but one issue; we need the multi-adaptive shielding constantly linked to sensors, whilst also ensuring that the refractive shielding, which requires constant re-modulations, are tied in to the main deflector. It’s a massive job!” Kedam exclaimed.
Prida thought for a moment. “Could we hardwire a parallel data line from the deflector and sensors to the auxiliary computer core, and lace each with a number of the new bio-neural gel packs?”
There was a soft chime. “Preliminary calculations are done,” Udal said sheepishly. “This could definitely solve some of the problem, but I think the only way to know for certain is to install the system here, or locate the Thesis and try out the fix there,” he smiled as he looked down at his data PADD.
Kayla noticed the expression on the Orion’s face. “What are the results, Chief?”
”There was an 85% correlation to the random moments of visibility to these specific high powered systems. The replicator was one of those systems and they were over taxed momentarily. Good news is that is the bulk of it. The bad news is there is still 15% of the loss of cloak that was not accounted for and we are already going to be taxing the power systems,” Udal said as he looked up said and scratched his head.
Kayla smirked and shook her head slowly. “It’s a stealth mode, but we’ve still got people replicating coffee and breakfast!”
”I am NOT telling people they can’t replicate their coffee,” Noli responded quickly, holding her hands up in front of her. “I already annoy people with drills and security checks. I’m not telling them they can’t have their morning beverage.”
Udal looked around at the collars in the room. It was a suicide mission for sure, but as he was the second lowest ranking officer of the group and one of the proposers, he felt an obligation. “Looks like it will be my head on the platter. I’ll break the hearts of many and tell everyone it’s rations of instant coffee during stealth mode,” Udal felt his own brain stab him for that comment.
”Good luck telling the Captain…” Dante jibed with a playful grin.
“In all seriousness, Commander, what do you think?” Chief Engineer Udal looked at the XO. “Think it is something worth exploring? Worth suggesting to the Captain?”
“Powering down all nonessential systems may be the only answer along with the other ideas we’ve discussed. Perhaps having our cake, or in this case coffee, and drinking it. It’s definitely worth a try,” Kayla replied. ”Why don’t we split into teams then and get this sorted?” she suggested. “Noli, Dante. I’ll work with you both to create this new stealth mode we need, whilst the rest of you work on installing the necessary systems.”
”Sounds like a plan to me,” Dante replied cheerfully.
Kayla nodded slowly. “Now all I’ve got to do is convince the Captain that we are right…”