Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

Day ends, pursuit stalls…

USS Century
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For the second time, the Observation Lounge of the USS Century was occupied by the senior officers, minus the Medical officer who had been excused from attending given the nature of the discussion. The rest of the gathered officers sat around the conference table as they listened to the report from the away team that had just recently returned. The information that had been gathered indicated that the thieves, who still remained a mystery, might have been after something that had only by sheer chance been present in the cargo holds of the cargo haulers that had gone missing. Lieutenant Commander Sorreth had just finished summarizing the utility of the mineral in question and the gathered officers were beginning to throw around ideas.

“It would make sense to conduct a survey of the area that the transports went missing in, see if there’s any debris we missed simply because we didn’t know we needed to look there,” Lt. Cmdr. Brak said from his seat at the table.

Sorreth nodded at the Tellarite’s suggestion, “That is a logical first step.”

“Scans of the sixth planet indicate that it’s an L-Class with a barely breathable atmosphere and no real life to speak of. Plans were initially made to terraform it, but they’ve since been abandoned,” Lieutenant James remarked, “So if we do need to send an away team down, it could be done without an EV suit, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone stay down there for more than a few hours, tops.”

“Something to consider, should the transports have been forced to the surface for some reason,” Lt. Khar said contemplatively.

“Then our next course of action is clear, we will need to investigate the area around the sixth planet and see what we find. Let us get to it,” Captain Gar’rath said, bringing an end to the meeting. The gathered officers all rose from their respective seats and filed out onto the Bridge, assuming their usual positions.

“Helm, take us to this system’s sixth planet, full impulse once we’ve cleared the asteroid field,” Commander Peters ordered from her chair.

“Aye,” the junior grade Lieutenant said from her station. The view screen began to shift, the mining platform leaving the center of the display swiftly as the Century turned about and began the painstakingly slow journey back out of the clusters of rock and stellar leftovers that dominated the region. Once the ship had left the last group of objects firmly behind them, the ship sped up to full impulse speed. The intervening quarter hour between their departure from the edge of the solar system and the sixth planet was spent on initial long range scans of the area of interest, as well as sweeps of the planet surface. 

Even after their arrival into orbit, there didn’t appear to be any obvious signs of the missing transports. Scans for hull debris came up negative, and there didn’t seem to be any wreckage on the planet surface. The longer the crew looked, the less they seemed to come up with. Whatever fate had befallen the haulers it was not a violent one, at least in the immediate area around where they vanished. 

As the duty day drew to a close, the Century’s crew had found little in the way of evidence to show what might have taken place in the area, which meant that the night watch would be handed the project in hopes that they might come up with something in the interim. Once their respective reliefs arrived, the various members of the senior staff departed the bridge to spend their off-duty hours in their own ways.

 


 

Lt. Khar stepped out into the corridor on deck six, just a few hundred meters from his quarters. The end of his shift had brought about a feeling of frustration over how little that he had been able to find after his sojourn to the mining platform. The list of potential culprits had only grown after finding out what had been on the cargo haulers, and their inability to find any trace of the craft after following their one solid lead was vexing. As he arrived in front of his door, Khar punched at the door release with his knuckle, the frustration rolling around inside him bubbling to the surface.

The door parted, allowing the Klingon to enter only to find that his relationship partner was already inside. The woman in question looked up from a PaDD she was holding and noticed the sour look on Khar’s face, causing her own features to stiffen a bit.

“Bad day?”

Khar sneered at the question as he moved inside the room and started removing his uniform top, “It was an aggravating one, Lily.”

Lily pulled her legs out from underneath herself and stood up, walking over to give her partner a firm hug, “I’m sorry to hear that, Khar. We didn’t have any less an aggravating day down in the science labs either, so I sympathize.”

Lily, or more formally Lieutenant Lillian Grant, was a member of the Century’s science department, so it made perfect sense to the Klingon that she might share in his frustrations over how fruitless the day had been. He returned the hug she’d given him with a firm squeeze of his own before wandering over to the replicator.

“Have you eaten?” Khar asked, looking over his shoulder.

Lily shook her head to indicate that she had not, prompting Khar to punch up a menu and replicate some dinner for the pair. The two had been together long enough that he could gauge with a decent degree of success what she might want, and brought the freshly materialized sustenance to the table. Khar flopped dramatically into his chair while Lily slid into her own rather silently.

“I heard you boarded the mining platform today,” Lily mentioned in between bites, “How was that?”

Khar grunted at the question while he chewed on his food. He put his fork down a moment later and leaned back as he reflected on what had happened there. “It was… empty…” he muttered the observation in a low tone, “I did not expect it to be so large and yet have so little actually working inside of it. It seemed wasteful…”

“Older mining stations like that one tend to be needlessly big. I can only imagine that the designers envisioned them being filled to the brim with usable material, only to find out that a good portion of the asteroids they get put on are nothing but trash rock and only a small percentage of them are actually worthwhile minerals,” Lily said with a shrug.

“Such greed reminds me of the Ferengi…” Khar frowned.

For her part, Lily wasn’t nearly as put off, “I think it was less about greed and more about unreasonable expectations. You see a handful of asteroids out there that are almost entirely composed of viable metals or some such and you get it in your head that they all ought to be that way. Speaking of which, we got told that some of those transports may have had Chimerium in the holds. Is that true?”

“It is,” the Klingon nodded in response.

Lily let out an annoyed sigh and slumped over to one side, her head cradled in her hand, “That would explain why we’re not having a whole lot of luck finding traces then.”

Khar cocked his head to the side just slightly, “How so?”

“Well…” Lily took a second to gather her thoughts, “Chimerium has a nasty habit of scattering sensor signals, as I’m sure you know. But that also means that as any significant amount of it passes through an area, it scatters certain particles about as well, like ion trails and things like that. A few milligrams of the stuff isn’t really a problem, but in a large enough quantity, it could disperse energy patterns well enough to mask their trail after they were forced off their control network.”

“Which means the ones who hit the convoy wouldn’t have had to cover their trail very hard because the cargo would do it for them,” Khar postulated.

“In theory,” Lily agreed, “If we’re talking tonnes of the material, I’d say our chances of finding the trail are zero…”

“And if there were only 20 or so kilograms?”

“It isn’t impossible to find a trail that was influenced by that amount of Chimerium… except that we don’t know how pure it was. If it was exceptionally pure, 20 kilos would be more than enough to make it a needle in a haystack kind of endeavor… and if it were less than ten percent per gram…” Lily began to mutter to herself before leaving the table to grab her PaDD.

“Think of something?” the Klingon asked, leaving the table to stand behind the woman.

“Maybe…” Lily mused, leaning back against Khar as she continued to fiddle with the variables on the display. Taking it as a sign that she wanted him to hold her while she worked, Khar wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head on her shoulder, watching but not fully understanding what she was doing.

“Maybe we should sit down,” the Klingon suggested after the pair had stood in the same spot for nearly twenty minutes.

“Hmm?” the woman muttered distractedly, “Sure…” When Lily didn’t make any effort to move on her own, Khar let out an amused chuckle and lifted the woman off her feet, carrying her over to the couch and slumping down on it, bringing her down into his lap as he did so. He felt the woman shift a little to find a comfortable position, then watched as she busily plucked away at the information scrolling about on the PaDD.