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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 2: Wayward Sons and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

18 – Waypoints

Runabout Winona
11.2.2400 @ 1400
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“She’s having a panic attack.” Ensign Yoshiyuki, assistant chief medical officer, was working with the science officer, Ensign Menzie.  They’d arrived at the 13th waypoint.  She’d started having trouble breathing, and then her heart rate broke into a gallop on the straightaway.  He’d quickly pulled her away from her console and gently set her on one of the biobeds.  Kondo stood in the arch to the cockpit, his eyes full of concern and worry.  Menzie was their science officer.

“Can you stabilize her?” The chief tactical officer’s concern was being in the middle of Devore space sans a competent science officer on a specific science mission using science tools and sensors.

Menzie groaned and began to hyperventilate, her eyes going wild and wide.  Yoshiyuki glanced back at him, “I will attempt, but it will take time.”

The air felt thick to Natalie as she drummed her fingers on the jump seat in the back.  She’d watched Menzie slowly start to lose her mind and clued the doctor in early on – they’d both been watching the young woman unravel.  Harris had asked her if she was ok and had earned a dismissive wave and a “Shut up; I’m working” reply flung back for her trouble.  Now there was a risk of them being unable to complete their mission.  She glanced at the chrono. 1400.  They had three hours to complete seven checkpoints and find her stupid cousins.  Harris caught Prentice glancing back, worry playing across his face.  Time was running out.  She stood and walked to where Kondo stood.  “I can take over for Ensign Menzie.  Did some training time with the science teams at Harris Transport.”

De La Fontaine looked back at the assistant chief medical officer, who was carefully administering hyposprays as he talked softly to Menzie.  There was plenty at stake, and there was no guarantee that the science officer would be able to hold it together.  “Take the seat, Cadet.  Start the scans.”  He returned to the cockpit.

Natalie tapped her fingers over the console as she familiarized herself with the various factors they were searching for and how they were searching for them.  She realized part of why Menzie felt the way she did.  It was a primarily manual process – whatever readings came back had to be examined, identified, and categorized. The computer was compiling the data as it was assembled from each waypoint to determine if there were trends or similarities that needed a human eye to further delineate.  Looking at the data, there was much follow-up needed with a human eye.  She looked back at a quiet Ensign Menzie and pressed forward.  The sector was obnoxiously busy with various engine signatures. Harris worked to separate those first and then went to work on parsing out the communications channels that were in and out of her sensor readings.  Then it was the ambient readings from the sector.  It took her a moment to get the flow, but she had it done in twenty minutes, “Sending you the results.  Nothing significant.”

Prentice let out a sigh of relief, “On to waypoint 14.  Fifteen minutes to arrival.”  The runabout slipped into warp speed, and the timer above the cockpit reset.  Harris returned to the console, pushing the scans to continue as they traveled.

 Waypoint 14 – 1440

Natalie went to work as the Winona dropped from warp speed.  Her fingers tapped at the console quickly, her eyes searching the data for patterns.  Menzie’s bed had been shifted to be near, and she watched the engineer work.  A moment passed, “Don’t ignore the spikes.  Those could be something.”

Harris glanced at the science officer, “You’re supposed to be resting, Ensign.”  She continued to work.

“You think you know enough.”

The cadet turned to Menzie and scowled, “I’m doing OK.  You need to rest.  Panic attacks are not good the first or second time.”

Alanna Menzie sighed, “I’m trying to help, Cadet Harris.  You don’t know what to look for in all that…mess.”

The engineer closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, “Fine.  What am I looking for?”

If the ensign was offended, she didn’t show it.  “You’re looking for irregular signals.  In the other waypoints, I was able to detect them…faintly, but they were there.  Assembling them was part of what the computer is working on.  Could be a signal, could be a message…or it could be a clue.”

Natalie keyed in the commands to separate any irregular signals.  Her eyebrows went up when green dots began to appear across the board.  “Damn…that’s…a lot.”  She looked over her shoulder at Menzie, “That’s fifteen…no…twenty signals.  That’s more than any other sector where we’ve been.”  She tapped the console, and the computer quickly downloaded the data attached.  Harris wondered aloud, “Are they leaving breadcrumbs?”

Menzie was tired, and her mind was pushing for rest.  She muttered, “Maybe.  We’re the ones picking it up – I don’t know if the Devore did the same.  Best we can do is follow our trail and see what we pick up.”  She faded into sleep, and Harris sent the data to Kondo.

 Waypoint 16 – 1530

“That is one big Devore ship.”  Natalie was staring at the portable science station, her eyes poring over the massive vessel, wondering why it was parked here at this waypoint.

Kondo spoke up from the cockpit, “We’ll keep an eye on the ship.  You do the work.”

Harris got to work as she remembered to search as Ensign Menzie had suggested – look for the irregular signals, look for the warp trails, and then start figuring out what else you need to see to find a trail or clues or something.  She found similar signals from waypoint 14 and then stopped, frozen by what she was seeing.  “Chief Kondo?  I need your eyes.”

De La Fontaine stood over her, searching the screen.  The moment he saw it, he whistled slowly, “Do you think the Devore have found this?”  

She shook her head, “No…otherwise, they would have picked it up or blown it apart.”  She leaned back in her chair, “They’ll pick up our use of transporters.  They will have questions.  Big questions from a big starship.”

Kondo contemplated, “There is a small docking port on this runabout.”  She turned and stared at him, “We pressurize the port, secure you in, and then we just…drift and collect the thing.”

“What are we going to tell the Devore?  That we just needed to test the docking port?”  He stared back at her until she went, “Oh…you want me to invent something going wrong with the docking port, and I have to fix it.”

The tactical chief grinned wide, “Now you’re thinking like a Starfleet engineer.”

 

It took half an hour, but the setup was complete, and Harris had an EVA suit on.  She was standing in the dock as it closed and pressurized.  Her magnetic boots snapped into place as the gravity loss began.  She spoke in the open channel, “Confirming I’ve found the leak.  You’ll need to use the maneuvering thrusters to move us into position to ensure I dispose of the malfunctioning unit.”

In the cockpit, Kondo began the arduous process of adjusting the Winona towards the package they were intending to collect.  Prentice called out the navigational points as the runabout shifted slowly toward the target.  He was practicing his breathing.  The large Devore ship hung menacingly ahead of them.  Slowly the Winona shifted as it inched further and further toward the item.

“The processing unit is bad; I knew it.”  She grumbled for effect as she used her sonic screwdriver to loosen the device and slip it out.  She attached a small explosives charge to the unit and gently slid it towards the open dock door, “The power charge isn’t going down – looks like it’s gonna short out in a few minutes.  I’m sending it out the door.  Close on my mark.”  She slipped into a new unit and locked it in place.  Turning, she lumbered to the blue X Kondo had drawn on the floor.  “Standby; it’s in motion.”

As the device passed out of the dock, something smaller slipped in as the Winona’s inertia pushed the item into the dock area.  She waited until it drifted into reach, and she snagged it.  She spoke to Kondo, “It’s out, close the door!”  The dock door thundered shut, and she gently tapped the button in her other hand.  A small explosion rocked the Winona as the remote charge did its work.

“We’re safe.  Securing the dock.”  The air and gravity rushed in.  She closed the open channel and smiled wide as Kondo entered, “That’s an inert communications badge from Harris Transport.  Things have all the features of Starfleet plus a few other tricks.  Get it powered, and I’ll see what I can dig out.”  She accepted the help of removing the EVA suit.  They returned to the science station, and Natalie hooked the badge up, powering it.  A moment later, she gasped, “This isn’t my cousin’s work. This is Adrianna’s.”  She explained, “Adrianna Morgan…one of the best communication people we have.  She can encrypt like a master.”  She worked for a moment and then pointed at the screen, “This is where they were going.  Everything they were looking for is on here – maps, records, logs, everything.  She must have done a dump of the system without those two knowing what she was up to.”

Kondo examined the map, “That’s a half hour away…near waypoint 19.”  He glanced at the clock, “We’re going to fake our scans at 17 and 18.  I’ll get Prentice moving.  Good work, Cadet Harris.  Get ready for the real work – if they’re there or nearby where she said they’d be…we’re going to have to do it quick and dirty.  I’ll send a coded message to the Mack.  Be ready for anything.”

Comments

  • Over the past couple of posts, you've done an effective job of setting up the stakes and circumstances that allowed the spotlight to shift toward Cadet Harris. The worsening condition of Menzie created a perfect space for Harris to shine, and shine she did. (Not that Menzie took it lying down -- figuratively, if not literally). I appreciated the way you explained the complexity of the science officer's task and the way Harris stood up to the challenge. I had to hold my breath at the entrance of the Devore ship and I enjoyed the crew's clever stage-play to retrieve the communicator. Time will tell if this clue will take them where they need to go!

    November 9, 2022
  • The stakes continue to build for the runabout crew. The race against time is an interesting element to use and in this regard the use of time headers also plays well. Helps to show the counting clock. By letting Natalie take the stage here versus say Kondo as the mission lead, we're getting to see how she handles pressure, or someone looking over her shoulder, giving a good idea of just who this person is, how they react and how it might play out in the future. Nicely done in that capacity. She's gone from just being a new face to someone with a bit more depth in a decent bit of time. Looking forward to seeing more depth and layers to this character.

    November 11, 2022