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Part of USS Antares: First Steps

05 — Scientific Plans

USS Antares, Deck 10, Presentation Lab
Stardate 2401.1
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After a day at warp eight, Antares was still more than five light-years and two days of travel away from Omega Termini. At that range, the ship’s own long-range sensors were able to get a better picture of the system than the Daren Array was able to provide, and nothing they were picking up was particularly exciting or encouraging. In fact, once she had confirmed there were no obvious signs of inhabitation, Antares would likely have bypassed the system entirely to leave it for follow-up by a lesser cruiser or surveyor—if they hadn’t been on special orders to perform a survey with the Romulans, that was. Lieutenant Commander Alejandro and Lieutenant Sarcaryn were focusing on the most interesting feature of the system to them as biologists: the sole M-class world.

“Based on its orbital distance and inclination, as well as our spectrographic assessment of its atmosphere, we can predict that Omega Termini III will have surface temperatures approaching 37 degrees over most of its surface, with high humidity,” Alejandro said, recording notes as he circled around a holographic model of the planet hovering above the dais. From the presentation lab on deck 10, he’d been able to see all of their readings in massive detail with a setup mirroring the astrometrics lab on the other side of the ship. “Surface water appears to be roughly 50%, with an expected gravity of 1.79 G.”

“Not exactly a tropical paradise,” Lieutenant Sarcaryn replied from the control console below where Alejandro was.

“Says the Risian. Next to your homeworld, everywhere else is Class-Y,” the commander teased. He realized that Earth had the same weather control system that Risa did, but the Risians seemed to know how to calibrate theirs so much better. “Until we get a clear picture of the geography, it’s hard to predict biome distribution unless you’re seeing something that I’m not.”

“Not presently. I’ve prioritized a survey team rotation schedule that will mix in personnel from operations, medical, and engineering to ensure we’re not spreading ourselves too thinly if we do end up needing to send ten teams down,” Sarcaryn said, tapping a button to display a set of rosters on the large screen behind Alejandro.

For an initial survey, the standard protocol was to gather data from all of the planet’s major biomes to check for sentient life. On an arid class-L world like Mars, that was easy, as there was only one biome. On an M-class world, there could be dozens. Luckily, regulations allowed for a starship captain to cap the number of survey sites to 10 as long as a representative picture of the planet’s surface could be created. Captain Armstrong had made it very clear that he wanted to spend as little time in the Omega Termini system as possible and had pre-authorized a plan to send all ten teams down at the same time once a senior officer away team confirmed a lack of hazards.

“Look at you go,” Alejandro complimented. He liked Sarcaryn a lot, even after just a few weeks of serving with him. He was friendly, efficient, intelligent, and eager to please. “Let’s also make sure that extra water packs are distributed and that someone on each team is either from medical or cross-trained. I’d rather not have Dr. Lai on my case about heat stroke.”

“You’ve got it,” Sarcaryn said, looking down to make a note.

The doors to the lab opened to admit Captain Armstrong, who was reading something off of the holographic PADD he was holding in the palm of his hand. The two science officers stood up straight, but he waved his hand to let them remain at ease.

“I’m just going over your initial survey plan, gentlemen. I’d like to use the Scorpio to survey the two inner planets. They’re extremely unlikely to support life, and we can shave two days off of this mission if we multi-task,” Armstrong announced, referring to the ship’s integrated aeroshuttle runabout. The normal procedure would be for the ship to spend one day on each of the inner planets before two days on the class-M one. Using the aeroshuttle would let them do both at the same time. “Mr. Sarcaryn, are you up for leading that science team?”

“What’s mine is yours, Captain,” the Risian man purred, nearly making Alejandro roll his eyes. The captain didn’t seem to notice—or at least he didn’t seem to mind. “However, I should note that someone from planetary science might be better equipped to handle that task than I am.”

Armstrong chuckled, dismissing his holodisplay and clipping the PADD to his belt. Alejandro saw him looking the lieutenant up and down for a moment, which made him actually roll his eyes. The captain crossed his arms and leaned up against one of the control consoles to face both scientists.

“Probably. But you know enough about geophysics and geochemistry to handle a survey like this if you’re the deputy science officer aboard a Federation starship, mister,” Armstrong said. “I am obviously the most qualified science officer aboard this ship to handle such a task, but I, unfortunately, have to stay on the ship, and Mr. Alejandro gets the dubious pleasure of being one of the first beings to step foot on what is likely to be an entirely unendearing swamp world, so that leaves you to head up the remote team.”

“I do want to point out that there’s the possibility that there are factors we can’t predict at this point that would make this world less unpleasant,” Alejandro chimed in. He couldn’t help but grin at Armstrong’s confidence in his own credentials, but there was no disputing the fact that he’d had a very successful career as a planetologist and had commanded a surveyor before Antares. “But I’d take the shuttle assignment any day. You’re very lucky, lieutenant.”

Sarcaryn chuckled. “I’ll keep that in mind, sir,” he said, glancing up at Alejandro for a moment before looking back at Armstrong. “I’ll adjust our survey rosters to account for the change in plans.”

“Excellent,” Armstrong said. “I’m sending Lieutenant Commander Windsor and Lieutenant Knox-Stanton along with you. They’ll keep you out of trouble and fly the Scorpio.”

“Do those two even fit in the aeroshuttle? I didn’t know they made pilots that tall,” Alejandro quipped. While the three men there were all roughly 1.8 meters tall, at least based on Alejandro’s perception of his own height relative to Sarcaryn and Armstrong, Windsor and Knox-Stanton were both at least ten centimeters taller, and Alejandro felt himself feeling unusually short in their presence. “That leaves space for three more specialists. It might be worth taking along some of the midshipmen? That won’t throw off our other rosters.”

“Good idea. Let Windsor know when you’ve made your choices, Mr. Sarcaryn,” Armstrong said, receiving a nod from the Risian. He glanced up at the holographic image of Omega Termini III. “You know, I usually miss getting to beam down and get my hands dirty with a good old-fashioned survey, but I think I’m fine leaving this one to you and Commander Pierce,” he said, staring at the thick clouds encircling the warm, humid world.

“Rank does have its burdens but also its privileges,” Alejandro replied, chuckling. “I’d rather be down there with a mild risk of heat stroke than up here with the Romulans, though.”

“Touché, commander,” the captain said, sighing audibly. “On that note, I’ll leave you two to continue your plans. Carry on, gentlemen,” he said before heading towards the exit. When the double doors hissed open, he paused and glanced over his shoulder at them. “Oh! While I can’t require you to take part in a recreational activity, Counselor Andrews has arranged a social event this evening, and I’m heavily encouraging you both to attend. 1930 hours on the recreation deck,” he added, letting the doors close behind him without waiting for a reply from the scientists.

“Is it mean to observe that Counselor Andrews doesn’t seem like the type of man to throw a party?” Alejandro asked.

“No, I believe that is a reasonable inference that is value-neutral,” Sarcaryn agreed, chuckling. “But I heard that he got Windsor and Hidalgo to help him plan it, and Lieutenant Burke seems way more fun, so I think there’s a distinct possibility that it could be enjoyable.”

“It has to beat staring at this ball of mud, anyway,” Alejandro said before turning off the display. “Plus… we might get to see what the first officer does at a party.”

“That would be worth the price of admission, for sure.”