Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

The hunt for robo-haulers

USS Century
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Midway through the duty day, the USS Century slipped out of warped space and coasted silently through an cosmic debris field occupying the outer most reaches of the gravitational field of a nearby star. Dozens of mining platforms clung the the surfaces of the largest objects in the area, each of them drilling away at the rocks they held onto in search of the rare metals and minerals encased within. 

Captain Gar’rath stared at the forward view screen, watching the stellar fragments tumble in all the many directions possible in the vacuum of space as the Century slowly approached the platform that they had been sent to investigate. With the expectation of conflict low, the crew had not been put on any heightened alert status, though the ship’s Security officer was busily conducting scans of the vicinity around the vessel on the off chance that an ambush had been set in anticipation of someone coming to look in on the missing cargo vessels.

“We are approaching our target,” Lieutenant Commander Sorreth announced after several minutes.

The screen shifted to display, in great detail, one of the autonomous mining platforms, the designation AM-22161 stenciled along a part of the structure as a means to identify it. The installation looked entirely intact, and several of the automated cargo haulers that serviced it were buzzing about collecting harvested material from various loading bays dotting the structure. The scene unfolding gave those present on the Bridge no indication of what might have happened to cause the incident that had brought them to the area.

“Are you able to access the station’s computer systems remotely, Mr. Sorreth?” Commander Peters asked from her place on the Bridge.

A brief pause ensued after the question was asked, followed by the response, “Negative, Commander. It would appear that the station is not accepting unencrypted system inquiries.”

“Could we board the facility and access records from there?” Gar’rath asked.

“It is logical to assume that directly accessing the mainframe from within the installation would be a viable option. Sensors indicate that the facility does not have life support systems active. Any boarding attempt would need to be made with the aid of EV suits.”

The Gorn turned to his XO, “That rules my participation out.”

Abigail couldn’t help but snicker at the Captain’s comment, more so now that they had finally reached a place of mutual understanding after their ‘intervention’ hosted by the ship’s Medical officer. Several eyebrows around the room found themselves drifting upward, not just on the Vulcan in the room, at the change in demeanor by the XO.

“For now,” the Commander said after managing to stifle her laughter, “Mister Sorreth, Mister Khar, please join me in Transporter Room One after getting outfitted for an EVA.”

Lt. Khar left his console first, disappearing into the turbolift not far from his station. Lt. Cmdr. Sorreth departed his own station, coming up behind Cmdr. Peters as she made her way to the rear of the bridge herself. Capt. Gar’rath turned to the Ensign manning the communications console after the trio had all departed.

“Contact the outpost in the area and request the details of the missing shipments. I want everything they have so we can look it over,” the Gorn ordered.

“Aye sir,” came the response from the Ensign, who set about raising the outpost further within the star system.

While the Bridge carried out their piece of the investigation, Cmdr. Peters stepped into Transporter Room One, outfitted in an EV suit, followed closely behind by the Operations officer and the Security Officer. The transporter operator on duty gave them a puzzled look as they filed in and mounted the transporter pad.

“Beam us to the mining station, outside of the main computer hub,” Lt. Cmdr. Sorreth remarked, snapping the Ensign out of his frozen state.

 


 

Pale blue and green indicator lights were the only illumination inside the mining platform, no other lighting was required for the station to go about its task of hollowing out the asteroid it had been affixed to. The sudden blinding white-blue light that shimmered into existence for a scant second banished the shadows within the installation, only for the darkness to reclaim the space once the three invaders had fully materialized onto the station. Each of the officers poked at their wrist displays to activate the lights on their helmets before looking around the room they’d been sent to in an attempt to gain their bearings. 

Lt. Cmdr. Sorreth retrieved the tricorder he’d brought and began to scan the area, nodding within his suit once he was sure where it was they had ended up. The station’s artificial gravity was engaged, allowing him to move through the area without having to rely on his own boot’s magnetic properties or his suit’s micro thrusters. Cmdr. Peters and Lt. Khar fell in behind the Ops officer, glancing around the station as they did so in case there were signs of tampering as they went.

The away team passed through several large areas, all of them cluttered with machinery ranging from rock tumblers to sorting bins, all of them humming away oblivious to the presence of the three new occupants to the station. After a few twists and turns, the group finally managed to locate the manual interface terminal that was generally used by maintenance teams to conduct on sight repairs when the automated systems weren’t enough. Sorreth stowed his tricorder and activated the dormant monitors, each of them displaying different parts of the station’s operations in graphic form.

“It may take some time for me to locate the files we are looking for,” the Vulcan transmitted through the suit’s communications network.

“Understood. We’ll keep a lookout while you work,” Peters responded, turning her attention toward the side of the room they had not entered from.

“According to the station’s internal sensors, we are the only occupants currently aboard,” Sorreth remarked as he continued to scan through the data logs.

“It never hurts to be vigilant,” Abigail shrugged the statement off.

The trio stood silently for several long moments before Lt. Khar finally turned toward the XO, “You seem a lot more… cheerful… all of a sudden.”

“Hmm?” Peters murmured, then turned toward the Klingon with a puzzled look on her face, “What do you mean?”

“I mean…” Khar retorted, “For the last few days, you’ve gone out of your way to avoid the Captain, and now suddenly you are laughing at statements he makes without even thinking about it. I have never seen a Human change moods so dramatically.”

“I thought you were dating a Human, Lieutenant,” Abigail countered, avoiding his accusation.

The Klingon shifted his weight slightly, “I am. But she does not behave so erratically. When she is angry with me, we generally have a confrontation before her mood changes for the better.”

“Not everyone has to fight to reconcile,” Peters pointed out.

“Indeed,” Sorreth cut in, “However, taking into account the history of interactions between yourself and the Captain, this is the first instance in which your emotional stance has gone from negative to positive in such a dramatic fashion.”

“Exactly!” Khar agreed enthusiastically.

Abigail folded her arms across the breastplate of her EV suit, “And what of it? Is it a bad thing that we’ve come to an understanding and are able to work harmoniously as a command team?”

“I do not believe that was the intended meaning,” the Vulcan remarked flatly, “It is the timeline that is of concern, not the result. I do not find your ability to work with the Captain effectively a negative outcome, but I am curious as to what mechanism drove this conclusion that would have otherwise resulted in a protracted period of dissonance.”

“What he said…” Khar muttered, unable to come up with a suitable follow-up.

Abby rolled her eyes at her two companions, “If you must know, Reli put me in a spot where I couldn’t just avoid the issue like I have in the past…”

“Ah…” Sorreth exhaled upon hearing who had driven the change, “I am disappointed that I did not arrive at that conclusion for myself.”

With how often he’d seen the XO and Medical officer socializing off duty, it seemed obvious that the doctor would have been the vehicle for such a rapid change, given her own personality. Lt. Khar, meanwhile, didn’t seem completely satisfied with the explanation and pressed further.

“And why would Dr. Odaim be involved in the two of you coming to an understanding?”

Peters looked over at the Klingon, “Because Reli and I have been friends since the Academy and she’s always played peacemaker when I’ve had… misunderstandings with people in the past. I’m grateful for her doing it, but I wish she wasn’t be as pushy as she is sometimes…”

“And what ‘misunderstanding’ did you have with the Captain?” Khar inquired.

Sorreth interrupted before the XO could respond, “I have found logs pertaining to the cargo haulers that have gone missing.”

“What do they say?” Abigail asked, moving over to stand next to the Ops officer.

The Vulcan brought up the projected flight plan the station had sent to the haulers, which also contained information on their cargo, “It would appear that the transports broke off contact with the control unit just after passing through the orbit of the sixth planet in the system. Prior to this, there were no indications of any malfunctions nor did the sensor telemetry from the haulers indicate any vessels in the immediate area.”

“And it looks like…” Peters paused as she glanced over the records, “they were hauling mostly basic building materials… except for…” reaching out, Abby tapped on a mineral name she didn’t recognize, “something called Chimerium…”

“The quantities of that material were less than twenty kilograms between the three transports,” Sorreth noted.

“But what is it used for? I’ve never heard of it,” the XO remarked.

“Unsurprising,” Sorreth stated blandly, “It is incredibly rare and difficult to harvest in any way but manually. It scatters sensor signals in its unprocessed form and has been historically used as a catalyst in cloaking technologies for that reason. It could be classified as contraband within the Federation when used in such applications.”

“Could that be why the transports went missing?” Abby asked, leaning against the console.

“It would be illogical to assume that the material in that quantity spread over three separate vessels would hinder the station’s ability to track them. At best, the material would hinder a vessel’s ability to transport the cargo out of the transports, as it would cause a great deal of quantum errors within the transport matrix,” the Vulcan relayed.

“How much of this Chimerium has this station managed to produce?” Peters inquired.

Sorreth brought up the harvesting logs and pinpointed the data on the mineral, “Sixty seven kilograms total, the last of which left on the three transports that are now missing.”

“So someone could have caught wind that this asteroid was producing this stuff and decided to take it before it ran dry,” the XO surmised from the information provided.

“That is a logical assumption,” the Vulcan agreed.

“The question remains,” Lt. Khar spoke up, “Who could have intercepted the shipment without detection, and to what end?”

“Let’s get back to the ship and share this with the Captain,” Peters announced, pushing herself away from the console.