Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

Elementary, my dear particles

USS Century
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Lieutenant Grant rushed into the stellar cartography lab, PaDD in hand, her mind buzzing with new ideas after spending a rather sleepless night fiddling away on calculations on her partner’s couch the night before. Her taciturn Klingon companion had been oddly supportive of her eccentric behavior, staying up with her for most of the night as she toiled away to give form to her thoughts. When the two of them did drift off, they had done so on the self-same couch, though Lily wasn’t entirely certain who actually passed out first.

Sliding into one of the chair around the room, the woman called upon the sensor suite devoted to particle density and compositional scans and began to input the various formulas she had devised in her feverish state only a half dozen hours prior. The first set of search parameters took a while to input, given that she had to input different portions of the entire draft she had developed into different sensor arrays that specialized in the types of scans she wanted them to perform. Then entire process took just shy of an hour, and the scans themselves took another ten minutes to complete thanks to how targeted they were.

Somewhere along the process, her resource requests to Operations must have found their way to her department head’s desk, because Lieutenant James had entered the lab shortly after the first scan results had been calculated.

“What’s with all the access requests this morning, Lily? I’ve never seen you try to take over half the sensor arrays on the ship before,” Brian inquired as he made his way over to the station the woman was working from.

“Had an idea last night while talking with Khar,” Lily responded, her tone a rather distracted one.

“Oh?” muttered James with a raised eyebrow, “I thought you two didn’t talk shop in your off hours.”

The woman shrugged, “Not usually, but he was in a bad mood after yesterday’s roadblock, and as we were discussing it, he mentioned something that triggered an idea I hadn’t thought of… so I started jotting it down. Ended up falling asleep on the couch in his arms because of it, but I did manage to come up with something I think will work.”

“Do tell,” Brian said, pulling out a chair from beneath an adjacent console to sit down on.

“Give me a second, I need to make some adjustments for another scan,” Lily murmured, her fingers busily tapping away at the console in front of her as she made small adjustments to her scan parameters.

Lt. James looked at the display, watching the figures change in real-time as the woman worked. Just from what he could see of her idea, he got the impression that it was a new approach to their scanning methods in the hunt for the missing transports, and that it took into account a few variables he himself had missed the day before. Once she’d made the last change and set the sensors to run another scan, Lily turned to her department head.

“Since we didn’t have any samples of Chimerium to work with, I spent half the night digging through archival data from Daystrom and a few other scientific research agencies that have published papers on particle scattering efficiency of various purity indexes. Right now I’m working my way down the purity scale from zero to ninety percent mineral impurity to see when the scans match with historical data. Once we narrow down the actual amount of particle disbursement the cargo they were carrying was capable of producing, we should be able to find a disbursement wake that will lead us to where they were taken… provided whoever did this didn’t account for all of this in the first place,” Grant explained at length.

Brian leaned back in his chair and nodded as he ran the information through his own knowledge of the material in question, “That’s actually a pretty brilliant way to look at it, Lily. I’m honestly surprised I hadn’t come to that same conclusion myself…”

“I think it was because we were attacking the problem from the wrong angle. The transports themselves weren’t… and probably aren’t behaving like a cloaked vessel since the amount of Chimerium they were carrying wasn’t abundant enough or pure enough to actually mask them entirely. Line of sight wouldn’t be affected, just sensor sweeps of the areas they no longer occupy. Once I thought about that, the rest just started to fall into place,” Grant remarked.

“Huh…” James muttered, “Putting it that way, it seems almost obvious. Talk about tunnel vision…”

A sudden chiming from the console in front of Lt. Grant pulled both people’s attention away from their conversation. Lily brought up the results and grinned triumphantly, “Got ’em!”

“Let me see,” James pushed himself out of the chair and leaned over Grant’s shoulder. The display began to render a cavitation in local space, as if something had plowed through fresh snow to leave a barren walkway. The image then shifted to outline a path that led away from the sixth planet toward the fourth, a world that was riding the border of L and M class in terms of habitability, but one that had not yet been colonized. The trail didn’t extend beyond that planet, meaning there was a high likelihood that they had tracked down the final destination of the three craft.

“Great work,” Brian clapped his fellow scientist over the shoulder, “I’ll bring this up to the Captain.”

 


 

Lt. James stepped onto the bridge, finding the space to be occupied by most, but not all, of the senior staff. The two missing members were the very two he was hunting for. Lieutenant Commander Sorreth was, by a quick sweep of the occupants in the space, the senior most individual and the most probable candidate for having the watch at that moment.

“Commander,” the science officer asked as he walked toward the Operations console, “Where are Commander Peters and the Captain?”

The Vulcan turned in his chair to look at the Lieutenant, “They are in the Captain’s Ready Room at the moment. Is there something I can assist you with?”

“Thanks but no, I need to give them this information,” James remarked, heading quickly over to the Ready Room door to ring the chime. The resonant voice of Capt. Gar’rath called out with a firm “Enter” a second or so after he’d hit the call button, and Brian headed inside to find the two command officers sitting across from one another.

“Yes, Lieutenant?” Gar’rath was the first to address him upon his fulling entering the space.

“My team has managed to locate what we believe to be a trail leading to the fourth planet,” James informed him of his reason for disturbing them.

“How did you manage that? I thought we’d hit a dead end with the sensor scans,” Cmdr. Peters asked, looking at the scientist with interest.

“It looks like we had tackled the problem from the wrong angle. Lieutenant Grant came in this morning with a theory that the cargo didn’t fully mask their trail, only scattered it enough that our sensors wouldn’t see it for what it was. We were looking for their trail under the assumption that said trail would be obvious once we got here. It hadn’t occurred to me that once the control signal was cut off that the trail leading from the mining platform to this area would be similarly masked by the displacement effects of Chimerium. Essentially, we had a bit of tunnel vision,” James explained, accentuating the last part of a self-deprecating grin.

“What matters is that we now have a solid lead,” Gar’rath said from his chair, “Please relay my appreciation to Lieutenant Grant for her excellent work. Commander, have the ship assume an orbit around the fourth planet and begin scans of the area as well as the surface.”

“On it,” Abigail said, quickly abandoning the chair she had been occupying and passing by Lt. James, giving him a pat on the arm as she went.

“I’m sorry for bothering you while you were having a meeting, Captain,” Brian began before the Gorn lifted a hand to stop him.

“Not at all, Lieutenant. We were discussing our next course of action when you walked in and provided the very thing we were struggling to formulate. If anything, you have my gratitude for saving us from wasting precious time. If you would, please remain on the bridge to assist in the scans of the fourth planet now that you have a better grasp of what we should be looking for,” Gar’rath remarked.

“Aye sir,” the scientist said firmly before making his way out of the Ready Room. Once he was back on the bridge, Brian smirked to himself and made his way over to the Security officer’s station, even though his own was on the other side of the bridge.

“Mister James,” the Klingon gave the man a brief greeting.

“Mister Khar. I heard you were instrumental in Lily’s flash of inspiration last night,” Brian said in a teasing tone.

Khar frowned a bit at the statement, “I am not certain I understand what you mean.”

“She explained to me that talking to you about yesterday’s lack of results inspired her to look at the problem from a different perspective, and lauded you for your comfortable lap while she worked,” James said with a playful smirk.

“She did not compliment my lap,” the Klingon retorted.

“Maybe not overtly, no. But the way she talked about how it all went down and having known her for a few years now I can read between the lines a bit and figure out what she was saying without actually saying it,” the scientist continued to prod.

“Do you have a point to make with all of this?” Khar growled impatiently.

“I was just trying to pay you a compliment for being such a supportive partner, that’s all,” James said, laughter threatening to bubble to the surface.

“You are an insufferable man sometimes, James…” the Security officer grumbled.

That statement was enough for Brian to actually start laughing. A few officers turned to see what the fuss was, only to find a surly Klingon staring down a chuckling Human. And because this was only one of a hundred times they’d see this particular duo perform this particular show, they quickly lost interest and returned to their own duties.

“Do you not have some sensor sweeps you could be conducting?” Khar grunted at the man.

James turned toward the view screen, taking note that the ship was rapidly approaching the fourth planet of the system, “It looks like… for once… you’re actually right.”