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Part of USS Altai (Archive): M3: The Edge of Yesterday

We are a long way from home

Romero's Bridge
January 2401
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Cooper was the last one to exit the turbolift and stepped onto the bridge. Everyone had been called up by Captain Hayes, apparently, an explanation was about to be given, which in Cooper’s thoughts, it better be a good one. With the issue with the warp core, she had to scan the device on the other side, as close as she could get to the access panel behind the wall and glass that separated the operations of main engineering and the warp core chamber. And the results of her scans had her troubled.

With life support restored throughout the ship, Hayes had given everyone the option to remove their EV suits. Starfleet has improved on them being less bulky over the years but it was still a layer of gear that could get exhausting for some and cause perspiration for others.

Hayes looked at Jaso. “Good to have you with us, Lieutenant.” Was what he chose to start the conversation. “Admiral James Hatfield. He was my third-year instructor at the academy. During my second year, I learned quite a bit about piloting a starship, how propulsion systems worked, warp drive, all the calculations, and the risks,” Hayes gestured to Jackson. “You know what I’m talking about.”

“Yes I do.” Replied Jackson. “The Admiral had gone missing by the time I was at the Academy, but his legacy still lived on.”

Hayes continued, “During my third year, I decided to learn much more about these engines, see how they ticked much more closely. Get down and dirty with the rest of them.” Hayes smirked at Cooper and Jaso before he took in a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. “With the concerns of a war breaking out with the Dominion, it became rather crucial to finding ways to breach through the lines. Hit vital targets, shipyards, supply depots, anything and everything to cripple the enemy and end the war before it even began.”

Hayes cleared his throat and got to the point. “Admiral Hatfield and I worked together on creating a new type of propulsion system. Of course, we had other project team members but we had come up with the main workings of the device. We called it the Skip Drive. The idea behind it was to use the very edge of a system’s star gravity well, which depending on the star, can be quite vast like the Sol System, smaller or larger. It was to use the gravity well, combine the energy behind the starship and propel it to another star system, where the same device would use the arriving star system’s gravity well to stop the ship, like a fishing net. See, we knew that there were some star systems that had a straight path to another system, some spanning many light years and this drive was able to traverse that distance in a matter of seconds where it would take hours or days with warp drive.”

Jaso was left reeling from the calculations that required. “There are stories of some captains, notably Kirk, using the slingshot effect for time travel. The theory seems sound enough.” He frowned, “But basing a whole propulsion system on it? That’s simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.”

Joran let out a low whistle, “Damn, that would change things, a functional FTL jump drive.”

Cooper chimed in. “Sounds like something too good to be true, sir. Clearly, it didn’t work otherwise we would have had an entire fleet appear in Cardassian space, able to strike and destroy vital resources of the Dominion and end the war, as you said.”

Hayes nodded his head with a heavy sigh. “It failed, yes. This ship was the ship to initially test the drive. But it was a wild, wild theoretical idea. We were grasping for hope and luck that it would work but there were a few people who had been on starships longer than most of the team, all said that the math didn’t add up and it was doomed for failure. When the test began, the drive failed to use the star system’s gravity well as we had intended and just shorted out. So Starfleet did what Starfleet did best to any projects that failed miserably. They buried it.”

Fleming chuckled where it could be heard as she gestured to the ship “Clearly it didn’t fail because we’re standing on the bridge of one now.” Astrid was a creature of saying what was on her head and in this case the obvious was way too apparent.

Hayes shook his head as he stared down at the console behind the captain’s chair. “No. Not at all. After I graduated from the academy, I hadn’t had much contact with Admiral Hatfield. The war had begun and you all know the details. Many lives were lost, and many ships were destroyed. Complete bloodbath. Many of us thought we would lose the war but somehow we pulled through.” Hayes tapped in some commands on the console and shook his head. “I don’t know what that spider did but the device will not power back up.”

Cooper chimed in once more. “I don’t think we should. At least, not until we have a better understanding of how it works.”

Hayes looked at her. “Fact is, it wasn’t supposed to work. And it certainly did not work as intended to its design.”

“The navigation logs seem to be valid. We know that time travel works. Kirk did it, and Sisko did it. No reason we shouldn’t be able to it as well.” replied Jackson.

Cooper opened her tricorder and handed it over to Hayes. “Maybe because of the fact that your professor added proto-matter to the matrix.”

Joran had returned to scrolling through the navigational records but stopped when Cooper mentioned proto-matter. “Isn’t that stuff highly controlled and dangerous? As in Genesis project and exploding planets dangerous? I’m no engineer but putting that in an engine matrix would either give you a huge amount of power or make a spectacular explosion.”

“Sometimes both Chief,” Jaso replied. He gave it another thought, “Actually, all the time. Like I said, fascinating and terrifying.”

“So…” Vogler started, not fully understanding the exchange.  “Do we have a choice not to? And where exactly are we?”

Alton started pressing on the controls. “I’m having the ship’s computer locate any nearby star that it recognizes, to give us a point of reference.”

Hayes stared at the tricorder with the reading of pro-matter in the results of the scan and shook his head. “We had theorized the use of proto-matter but as Mr. Tel said dangerous stuff. Plus Command wouldn’t authorize it.” Hayes closed the tricorder. “This means, Admiral Hatfield took this ship out without approval and the test of the drive with proto-matter was unauthorized and done out of sheer desperation.” Hayes looked at Alton. “The drive should have been connected to the navigation systems. That mech spider brought us somewhere, so there should be coordinates in the logs.”

Alton’s console beeped. “Captain. The ship’s computer has detected a star cluster that is in the memory banks.” He reviewed the findings. “This can’t be right.” He turned to look at the captain. “Sir. According to the computer, we are no longer in our galaxy, we’re over a million lightyears from the nearest Federation outpost.”

“Wait,” Doctor Randall announced, “Out of our galaxy? Is that drive even capable of doing that?”

“I’m sorry, did you say a million lightyears?” Jaso said, turning away from the Engineering station. “It shouldn’t be,” he said to Randall, “yet here we are. Wherever, ‘here’ is. This ship is just a box of surprises.”

Cooper shook her head. “Definitely shouldn’t be. Proto-matter certainly caused some unique reaction to the drive to make it do this.”

“We’re definitely going to need some proto-matter now,” Vogler added a frown on her face. “Or we best just get comfortable here in this galaxy… No offense I’m not sure I want to help populate a colony with you people,” she said in a weak joke.

Alton looked over at Vogler. “Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to get home.”, trying to calm her down.

Hayes looked at Alton. “Luckily with the navigational logs, we should be able to return to our previous location by inputting the coordinates into the system and engage the drive. Unfortunately, the device is out of proto-matter, correct?” Hayes looked at Cooper.

Cooper nodded her head with a sigh. “It looked like the containment in the drive unit was capable of holding enough proto-matter for a few jumps. This was the last of the few jumps. Lucky us. But we might be able to locate nebulae with proto-matter or an asteroid…something.”

Hayes nodded his head and looked at Alton and Tel. “Investigate local star systems in the range of our sensors.” Then he looked at Cooper and Jaso. “Looks like I’m going to need you two to bring the warp core online. We’re going to need to travel by conventional means to get what we need.” Hayes looked at everyone else. “Those who don’t have assignments, find something to do. I got personal logs to read.”

“Sounds good, Captain,” Jaso replied. He turned to Vogler, “I’m going to need to borrow Anderson for a little while longer. He’s a pretty solid set of hands.” He turned to address the bridge, “If anyone wants to learn the finer points of cold starting a 20 year old warp core.” Jaso smirked, ”And some great Bajoran curse words, I could use some help in Engineering.”

Vogler nodded, “He’s all yours.”

Joran looked over at Alton after he slipped into the seat at the navigation console, “Divide and conquer Lieutenant?” As he spoke he began to bring up the previous navigation logs and sensor reads to highlight priority targets, “I figure Proto-matter should be a top priority in the search right?”

“Yes, and I’ve already started a long-range search pattern looking for any indications of Proto-matter that might be nearby.” 

Joran nodded, “Works for me, I have the computer running a scan through the sensor and navigation logs to see if there are any indications of it there. Should find something soon.”

Hayes looked at everyone and then nodded his head. “All right then. Fleming, you’re with me.”

Cooper followed Jaso and Anderson. “Better make sure the auxiliary generators don’t burn out with all this running equipment.” She smirked.