Across the Universe - starting over - Ch 2 up

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Across the Universe - starting over - Ch 2 up

Postby Captain Seafort » Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:27 pm

Early last year, I started writing a fanfic, inspired by the others cropping up around here. Unfortunately it sort of petered out. A couple of months ago, Teaos read it, gave a bit of feedback and got me thinking, so I've been going back over it, effectively rewriting from scratch. It's proven a lot harder slog than the original, but part one is finally as ready as I'll get it. See what you think.

*****

“I am afraid the statistics are quite clear Geordi. The improved kill/loss ratio of the Lakota-subtype is quite inadequate to justify the considerable financial and material investment of the refit.”

“I know Data, I know, but look at the ship. She’s a marvel of engineering. You can’t reduce everything to kill/loss ratios and financial investments.” Geordi La Forge lounged back in his chair and shook his head wirily. “Remind me, how did we get from talking about the Triton to the Excelsior-class?”

Data, sitting bolt upright at the table, cocked his head, puzzlement etching a deep frown on his face. “I am uncertain Geordi. However, it might be due to a phenomenon known as the T…”

“Stop it, both of you.” Deanna Troi leaned over their shoulders, gripping the backs of their chairs as she brought her head down to eye level. “This is a party to celebrate Will and Beverly’s promotions. You are here to eat, drink, and be merry, not to talk shop.” She stared hard at each of them in turn, the mock glare softened by a slight smile and the sparks of amusement dancing in her eyes.

Geordi held up his hands in surrender. “Sorry Counsellor, I guess we got a bit carried away.”

“Well don’t let it happen again. This is supposed to be a party, not a technical seminar.” With a last mock scowl at her friends, Deanna straightened and turned away as Geordi fixed a reproachful look of his own on Data, receiving a slight shrug from the android in response.

As Deanna stepped down from the raised upper level of Ten-Forward her eyes swept across the crowded room. The few other Sovereign-class starships in the fleet had a simple observation deck at the prow of the ship, but Jean-Luc Picard had insisted that the room be enlarged and refitted in the style of the famous crew mess of his old Enterprise-D.

Winding her way through the crowd towards one corner of the room she slipped between table and wall to ease herself onto the long bench next to her fiancée. Will Riker glanced down with a lopsided grin as he wrapped an arm around her. “Have they decided whether or not the Triton’s better than the prototype yet?”

Deanna sighed. “I’ve no idea – they’d gone onto talking about the Excelsior refit programme from a few years ago. Why is it that no matter what Geordi and Data start talking about these days, the subject always changes onto something completely different within a few minutes?”

The first officer shrugged. “They enjoy it - I’d let them get on with it. Worf was just telling us that he’s reenlisting in Starfleet.”

Pleasure and puzzlement flitted across Deanna’s face in equal measure as she turned to the Klingon seated across the table from them, clothed in the long robes befitting the United Federation of Planets’ accredited ambassador to the Klingon Empire. She blinked. “You’re leaving Kronos?”

Worf nodded shortly, shifting uncomfortably. “I was not suited for the life of a … diplomat.”

From beside him Beverly Crusher’s voice held a note of wry amusement. “Who'd have guessed?”

Worf grimaced. He kept his voice low. “Chancellor Martok was…disappointed, with my decision, but he understood it. He wished to offer me command of a Defence Force fleet, but I requested permission to return to Starfleet, at least on a temporary basis. I do not wish to embarrass him if my skills are insufficient for that task, and I am more certain of my abilities aboard a Federation ship.”

He paused and shifted slightly. Behind him, Geordi and Data had worked their way between two clusters of quietly talking officers to join the group.

“Do you know where you’ll be posted?”

Worf half turned towards Geordi in response to the question and cleared his throat, a note of caution in his voice. “Starfleet has not yet confirmed the reactivation of my commission, but Admiral Ross has assured me that it is merely an administrative delay. Assuming that he is correct, since Commander Daniels has been promoted and transferred to the Venture as first officer, I have requested Captain Picard’s permission to replace him as the Enterprise’s tactical officer.”

For a moment, dead silence, then a cheer rang round the table. Geordi pounded on the Klingon’s back with a whoop. Beverly leaned across to embrace him. “Worf, that’s wonderful!”

Will leaned across the table, hand extended. “It will be good to have you back Commander. It almost makes me regret taking the Triton.” He flinched as Deanna stuck a disapproving finger into his ribs. “Almost.”

Half-scowling at Geordi and Beverly, Worf reached up to grasp the proffered hand. “Thank you, Captain. Had I known you were to assume your own command, I would have requested the honour of serving as your first officer.”

Easing back onto the padded bench, Will smiled. “The honour would have been mine Mr Worf.” He shrugged. “But my loss is the Captain’s gain. I can think of no better…”

Before he could finish the sentence chirps squawked from his and Data’s comm. badges. Exchanging glances with the android, Riker tapped his badge. “Riker here.”

Jean-Luc Picard’s tone was level but businesslike, and his words were quick. “Please report to the bridge Captain.” The corner of Riker’s mouth twitched as the unconscious grin he still got when being addressed by his new rank warred with concern about the tone of the Captain’s voice and the simple fact of the request. “If Commander Data is with you his presence is also required.”

Riker’s eyes flitted across the gathering. “Understood Captain, on our way.” As he slid out from behind the table the others around the table were already moving, Data in the lead with Geordi right behind him. He caught the engineer by arm as he was about to follow Data out through the door, but before he could speak Geordi cut him off.

“I know what you’re about to say, but you heard the Captain’s voice. Something’s up, and I’d rather be in engineering if we hit trouble than have to run to get there.”

For a heartbeat Riker paused, caught between wanting the Enterprise’s senior staff at their stations and for them to continue the celebration undisturbed. Something in Geordi’s artificial eyes made the decision for him.

“Go.” He released Geordi’s arm and glanced back at Worf, Troi and Crusher. “I’d rather you stayed put, but if you’d rather…” They were already moving, and Riker followed them out of the room.

*****

As the turbolift doors slid open, depositing him, Data, Worf and Troi onto the bridge, Riker heard Lieutenant Branson at the helm.

“Another anomaly, sir. Range two point eight light-days, bearing zero six four mark two seven.”

“Continue evasive Mr Branson, new course three zero seven mark three four one.”

Riker stepped down into the command area as Picard glanced up from navigation calculations on his armrest computer terminal, glanced momentarily at Troi and Worf, then focussed on Riker. “My apologies for interrupting the promotion celebration Number One, but as you can see we have a developing situation.”

Riker acknowledged the apology with a brief nod, swinging his own terminal towards him as he settled into his chair to Picard’s right. Troi was already seated on the Captain’s other side and Data had relieved the duty operations officer. The only one of the four without a post was Worf, loitering towards the back of the bridge, suppressed frustration flickering across his face as his head’s instruction to stay out of the way warred with his heart’s tug towards relieving the young ensign at the tactical station. The first officer frowned at the readings on his display and glanced back up at the captain. “This deep in the Federation?”

“Confirmed” Data, eyes flickering across the readings to absorb information faster than any human, was all business. “They appear to be disturbances in the space-time continuum. Two have already passed astern, another is point five seven light days to starboard.”

Riker’s frown deepened. The Enterprise and her crew were no strangers to such phenomena, but it was unusual to encounter one so deep inside Federation space. Crisscrossed by starships for centuries, very little of its heart remained to be scanned, and warning buoys had been established to mark any potential instability ever since the previous Enterprise had been present at the formation of one of the subspace rifts such instabilities could produce. Civilian transit lanes and starship courses were plotted to avoid those buoys, and encountering three uncharted anomalies within minutes was not only unusual, but concerning.

“Mr Data, which is the closest science vessel?”

The android answered immediately, gathering the information from his instruments in a heartbeat. “The Rhode Island is one point seven light years away – at its maximum cruising speed it would reach us in five hours, thirty one minutes, ten seconds.” His fingers flickered across the console as it sounded an alarm. “Another anomaly detected Captain. Bearing zero one seven mark five two. Range eight point one light days.”

Picard’s eyes narrowed for an instant. “Options?”

Riker thought it over for a few seconds. “We’re the ship on the spot. The Rhode Island is better fitted out for this sort of work than we are, but at the rate these things seem to be multiplying five and a half hours is a long time. Recommend we get close to one of them and see what it’s made of and what sort of damage it can do.”

Picard nodded. “My thoughts mirror yours Number One. Mr Branson, alter course towards the nearest anomaly and reduce speed to warp four. Ensign Williams, signal the Rhode Island. Inform them of our intentions and instruct them to proceed to our location at best economic speed.”

From the tactical console Williams acknowledged and turned to her task. Branson drew in a deep breath. “Aye sir, course and speed laid in. Intersection with the anomaly in four minutes.”

As the energy of the course change hummed through the bridge and the ship settled on her new course, Picard leaned towards Riker, speaking quietly. “I wouldn’t have thought you would have been interested in side trips Number One. This is, strictly speaking, the Rhode Island’s job rather than ours.”

The first officer shrugged slightly, then grinned. “Call it one more ‘strange new world’, or as close as we’re going to get, before we leave the ship.”

Picard smiled in response before glancing down at his armrest console. “Mr Branson, bring us to all stop relative to the anomaly at five hundred thousand kilometres.”

“Helm answering all stop sir, half a million kilometres.”

As the stars shrank from streaks of light to pinpricks on the viewscreen Picard rose, habitually tugging on his uniform jacket as he did so. Ahead of the ship all was still, with no evidence of the anomaly.

“Mr Data, full scan please.”

“Scanning.” The android’s hands danced across the panel, paused, and then continued. At the aft stations crewmembers in the blue of the ship’s science department focused on their own instruments. From his view over Data’s shoulder Picard could see that placid appearance of space on the viewscreen was an illusion. The ship’s sensors showed a boiling mass of energy, almost a perfect sphere of twisted and ruptured space time. The blue-hued display reminded the Captain of a false-colour image of Earth’s sun.

As Data continued his scans Picard began to pace slowly around the bridge revelling in the familiar sensation of a starship exploring the unknown once again. Even four years after the War’s end, the idea of exploring the unknown, far beyond the Federation’s borders or deep within them as they were now, felt as fresh as the first time he’d taken the Enterprise-E out on a deep space probe four months after the surrender of the Dominion forces at Cardassia Prime. For the first four years of her life the great ship, the power of her weapons and shields making her a battlecruiser in all but name, had been assigned to diplomatic missions, border patrols, or direct combat. Thousands of souls had rotated through her without knowing the freedom of exploring the unknown. This was what a Federation starship was for – not the drudgery of turn and turn about along the Neutral Zone, or the silent chaos of an interstellar firefight with Cardassian destroyers or Jem’Hadar fighters, but to advance the boundaries of science, of knowledge.

He’d almost completed a circuit of the bridge when a quiet beeping from the ops station announced the completion of Data’s scan. Out of habit Riker rose as Picard moved unhurriedly to the centre of the forward stations. Data tapped again at his panel, examining the information that flooded across it a thousand faster than the human eye could follow.

“The anomaly does not appear to match any known previous phenomenon, although it does share similarities with several. Many of its characteristics appear to be in a state of flux, making it difficult to establish its precise volume, mass, or energy output. It is, however, emitting both chroniton and verteron particles.”

Picard frowned. Chroniton and verteron particles? “Are you saying that these things could be some sort of temporal wormholes?”

“That is one possibility Captain, although we lack the data to draw any firm conclusions. I believe we might be able to gain further information about the anomaly if we approached closer.”

The Captain’s frown deepened. “How much closer Data? This is only a preliminary investigation of the potential hazard the anomaly poses - we don’t have time to conduct a complete survey ourselves.”

“A distance of fifty thousand kilometres should suffice. The anomaly appears stable, and should not present any threat to the Enterprise.”

Picard eyed the display. The rolling mass of energy looked anything but stable. Still, he’d served with Data for fifteen years, trusted his life to the android’s knowledge and judgement time and again. He nodded. “Take us to fifty thousand kilometres Mr Branson, one quarter impulse.”

The view on the screen shifted slightly as the ship moved ahead, but Data’s readings barely moved. After a couple of minutes Branson tapped the helm and announced they were at the required distance from the anomaly. Data busied himself with his instruments again.

“This is extremely odd Captain. I am detecting abnormalities in the interstellar medium around us.”

Riker spoke for the first time “What sort of abnormalities Data?”

“I am uncertain Captain. One moment.” The android’s eyes flickered across his panel, then the corner of his mouth twisted upwards in a wry grin, the emotion appearing almost unsettling on his artificial face. “Ambassador Worf, I do not believe you will enjoy what I am about to say. The dust and hydrogen atoms around us appear to possess a different quantum signature to our own.”

From near the back of the bridge the Klingon’s eyes closed and his expression became that of one experiencing the first twinges of a headache. He strode towards the ops console.

Picard glanced down at Data. “So the anomaly could be a portal to another reality, such as those experienced by Mr Worf?”

“Possibly a great number of such realities Captain – while the quantum state of the matter emanating from this anomaly appears to be consistent, others are continuing to appear. They may lead to yet other realities.”

“Captain.” Worf had reached Picard’s shoulder and spoke quietly but forcefully. “While I am not yet a member of Starfleet again, I respectfully suggest that we withdraw to a greater distance. When I…encountered a similar anomaly, the presence of starships had an adverse affect on it. Our proximity may reduce its stability.”

Picard nodded slowly as Worf spoke, then looked to Data. “Commander, from your initial survey, is there any evidence that the anomalies pose a risk to navigation beyond their presence? Could they develop into a subspace rift or rifts?”

Data cocked his head to one side again and twitched. “I do not have sufficient data to draw a definitive conclusion Captain. Nor do I believe we could discover significantly more information than we already have without a full survey of the anomaly, which could take several days, or even weeks. The Rhode Island is much better equipped to conduct such a survey.” He paused, eyes flickering from side to side at an impossible speed. “However, on the balance of probabilities I do not believe these anomalies could develop into a rift quickly enough to pose a hazard to local traffic.”

“Very well. Mr Data transmit our discovery and our records to date to the Rhode Island and Starfleet, with a recommendation that…”

“Captain!” Picard spun to face the warning call from the science station on the starboard side of the bridge. The Andorian officer seated there was tapping rapidly at his controls, drawing extra information as he reported. “The anomaly’s energy profile has shifted. It’s also moving towards us.”

Picard swung back towards the viewscreen, his voice rising to an urgent bark. “Yellow alert, shields up! Helm, get us away from that thing, warp six. Data, what’s it doing?”

The android’s eyes and fingers were moving in a blur as he reconfigured his station to display the new information. “Unknown Captain, but all the anomalies are displaying similar changes. I believe I must revise my assessment of the navigational threat posed.” His fingers paused, almost imperceptibly, then resumed. “The anomalies have ceased multiplying, but are now moving at warp speed. I have yet to determine a pattern to their motion.”

At the helm, Branson’s hands were jumping from one panel to the next, his head and eyes swivelling constantly. “Captain, the anomalies’ movements are blocking us. I can’t find a clear path out of here.” An alarm pinged, drawing the Lieutenant’s attention. His eyes widened and he slapped at another control. The bridge leaned as the inertial dampers struggled to keep up with the course change. Picard seized the back of Data’s chair to steady himself until the room righted, then strode back towards the command centre and pivoted into the centre seat.

“Mr Data find a way out of this maze, any heading. Mr Branson, continue evasive manoeuvres. Keep us clear of the anomalies.”

Branson muttered something under his breath, causing Data’s head to twitch, then spoke up. “I’m trying Captain, but we’re running out of room. The anomalies are moving closer together and moving faster. Much more of this and we’ll…” He paused. “Negative on that last Captain. The anomalies are starting to slow, and move further apart again. If we can stay away from them for a few more minutes I might be able to…”

Before Branson could finish his sentence, incandescent light from the viewscreen cast the bridge into harsh relief, painting ink-black shadows on the bulkheads. Arms were thrown across faces to shield eyes. Data alone, unaffected by the blinding flash, continued to enter commands into his console as he reported. “Shields have failed. Main power is off line. Sensors are…” As suddenly as it had appeared, the light was gone. Picard, along with the rest of the bridge crew, slowly lowered his arm, blinking to clear his vision.

Data cocked his head, entered another command on his console, and frowned. “Correction. Main power is fully functional and shields are at one hundred per cent.”

Picard frowned at the viewscreen. The corkscrewing kaleidoscope of stars appeared much the same as a few moments before, as Branson returned his attention to the ship’s frantic dance. “Mr Data, what happened?”

“We came into marginal contact with one of the anomalies. No change to sensor readings. I am continuing to scan.”

Branson was still working his controls. “The anomalies are continuing to slow Captain, I might have a gap soon”

Before the Captain could respond, the comm crackled. “Engineering to bridge. What just happened up there? All my instruments went crazy.”

Picard raised his voice fractionally, and tilted his head towards the comm. system’s voice pickup. “We’re attempting to determine that Mr La Forge. Stand by.” He glanced at Branson. “If you find that gap, take us through immediately, warp nine.”

“I have it now Captain. Engaging.”

Picard felt the familiar surge of power as the Enterprise leapt to higher speed, gripping his armrests for a few nervous seconds. When no new flash lit the screen he turned back towards at the tactical station. “Ensign Williams, contact the Rhode Island. Inform them that with have come into contact with one of the anomalies and may have damage.”

“Aye sir.” The young woman turned her attention to her station.

The Captain turned back towards the helm. “Mr Branson, get us thirty light days away from the nearest anomaly, then bring us out of warp. Ensign, has the Rhode Island acknowledged our signal?”

Williams shook her head in frustration. “I’m sorry sir, I can’t make contact with them and I’m getting a lot of white noise. Communications might be damaged.”

Picard mouth compressed in thought for a few heartbeats, weighing his options. If the transceivers were overloaded then our own warp field might be enough to scramble communications like that.

“Try them again when we come out of warp.”

It was an anxious five minutes as the Enterprise rode away from the cluster of anomalies. Picard gripped his armrests, trying to appear casual. At length, the stars shrank from long streaks to pinpoints and Branson reported.

“We’ve dropped out of warp sir. Holding station relative to the nearest anomaly.” He tapped at his station. “The anomalies seem to be dissipating Captain. At their peak I was trying to avoid dozens of them, but now I can only detect ten…” The console pinged “…correction, nine.”

Picard glanced back at the tactical station mouth set, eyebrows raised, and got a shake of the head in response. “Still lots of white noise sir – far more than normal comm. traffic in this sector would cause. The communications system must be damaged.”

“I do not believe so.” Data had been working his console, and swung his chair around to face the command centre. “Our current astrometric observations do not match those taken while we were examining the anomaly at close range, and scans of our immediate vicinity indicate that the quantum signature of the local interstellar medium no long matches our own. I believe our encounter with the anomaly, tenuous though it was, has transported us to an alternate reality.”
Only two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe: Albert Einstein.

Across the Universe - Chapter 2 now up
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Re: Across the Universe - starting over

Postby Teaos » Sun Dec 09, 2012 1:50 pm

It certainly reads smoother than originally. Everything seems to mesh more than last time. I think the first encounter with the empire will be the telling point in the changing point of view of the story, the balance of power between the two and smoothness of the narative.

Data also seems more in tune with his character in the movies. Socially oblivious but not a smart arse.
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Re: Across the Universe - starting over

Postby Captain Seafort » Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:29 pm

Teaos wrote:It certainly reads smoother than originally. Everything seems to mesh more than last time.

Data also seems more in tune with his character in the movies. Socially oblivious but not a smart arse.


Cheers. Good to know the changes constitute improvement thus far. :) The "character" rather than "plot" aspects of the piece are still the bits I'm finding trickiest to get right.
Only two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe: Albert Einstein.

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Re: Across the Universe - starting over

Postby Teaos » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:17 am

I'm more interested to see your new take on the balance of power between the Feds and Empire and what is considered the norm for a Empire soilder.
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Re: Across the Universe - starting over

Postby Captain Seafort » Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:16 pm

Captain’s Log, Stardate 56738.5. Two hours have passed since the Enterprise was transported to this new reality. Unfortunately the anomaly that transported us here, and all that accompanied it, have disappeared. While Mr La Forge assesses the ship for any damage received during our transition, Commander Data and Lieutenant Shoris are working to establish where exactly we have been transported to.

“Anything Mr Data?”

The android continued working, not even glancing up as he responded. “Nothing yet Captain.”

Picard blew out a breath and resumed pacing in the small space available to him. Two strides from Data’s right shoulder, seated at the middle of the three consoles built into the starboard bulkhead of the Enterprise’s bridge, took him to Ensign Williams, trying to avoid being caught shifting nervously from one foot to the other as she stood at the tactical station. He paused. Pivoted on the heel of his right foot and the ball of his left, eyes sweeping across the too-quiet bridge. Williams straightened self-consciously beside him. Five strides to Lieutenant Shoris, still seated at the main starboard science station, fingers working the controls, body calm and still but antennae twitching erratically. Two strides back to the android’s left shoulder.

“Mr Data…”

This time the android stopped and swung smoothly to face him. “Captain, my scans of the area previously occupied by the anomalies are now sixty one per cent complete. The scans conducted by the probes we deployed in our runs along our original course are forty seven percent complete. My analysis of the data we have collected is twenty five per cent complete. I estimate that it will take three hours fourteen minutes for the scans and analysis to be completed.”

Data’s voice was calm and level, no different from any other status report, but the rebuke from subordinate to superior was as unmistakeable as it was deniable. Picard squared his shoulders and drew a deep breath, trying to let the tension flow out of him. I’m snapping at them. We’ve – I’ve – been in space too long. A week out from Earth and then this happens. I should have pushed through, got clear, not hung around prodding anomalies. A short side trip to unwind and do a bit of exploring and the universe bites back at us.

He nodded, a single short jerk of the head. “Thank you Mr Data.” Not for the information but for making me look at myself. He turned to the Andorian, his voice calmer, flowing. The tightness with which he’d addressed Data was still present, but was no longer the overwhelming feature. “Mr Shoris, have you had any success in establishing our location?”

The Andorian’s antennae had stiffened on being addressed, sticking straight out from his head, then eased back into gentle curves as he recognised the more relaxed tone in his commander’s voice. His voice was cautious nonetheless, especially so given the information he had to impart. “No Captain, and based on my analysis so far I don’t think I will be able to. Astrometric projections cannot identify any of the constellations observable from our current location, nor do they match any projected constellations based on known intra- or extra-galactic bodies. As well as being shifted to an alternate reality we must have been transported at least several tens of millions of light years. My scans also indicate that we are in an unusually densely populated area of space - I believe the ‘white noise’…” he struggled to shape the unfamiliar expression “…Ensign Williams detected is due to the density of subspace signals we’re intercepting. The Universal Translator is attempting to process the languages used, but it has not yet been successful.”

Picard’s nodded slowly, brow creased in thought. We won’t get much useful out of the contents of the messages for a while. Maybe... He turned to Williams, who froze half-balanced in the process of shifting onto her right foot. “Ensign, can you analyse the density of the signals to indentify specific inhabited systems?”

Williams tried not to be obvious as she eased herself back into a proper standing position. “Difficult without knowing their protocols sir, but I can try.” She worked her controls. From near the back of the bridge Worf shifted restlessly, half moved towards the tactical station. Picard caught his eye, gave an imperceptible shake of his head. I know you could do it faster, but let her do her job. At length Williams glanced up. “Based on spikes in subspace radiation in the area sir, I’d estimate that there are over forty likely candidates for inhabited star systems within fifty light years of our current location.”

Picard raised an eyebrow at that. “Indeed. Quite a crowded neighbourhood we’ve been dropped into. How close is the nearest starship?”

“That’s the odd thing Captain – as far as I can tell there’s no interstellar travel in the area. Certainly no warp signatures within sensor range. They might be using some other form of propulsion that our sensors aren’t calibrated to detect.”

The eyebrow climbed higher, something close to shock replacing mere surprise. Warp drive was far from the only means of travelling between stars, but it was by far the most common method. For millennia the advanced races of the galaxy had kept watchful eyes on their industrial neighbours in the certain knowledge that the arrival of a new member of the interstellar club would be heralded by a flash of subspace radiation. Some species never crossed the light barrier, pushing outwards from their systems in primitive relativistic ships, while others harnessed the tachyon eddies that flowed through certain sectors of the Milky Way, but the vast majority took their first tentative flutters beyond the nests of their home systems on subspace wings. The very notion of the technology being utterly absent from such a dense cluster of technologically advanced star systems was unprecedented.

Picard turned towards the viewscreen for long seconds, staring at and through it as though he were trying to look directly upon one of the myriad worlds his ship had been deposited amongst, then glanced back at Williams.

“Ensign, can you determine which of those systems is most likely to be a seat of government in this sector? Where we might find someone with more detailed knowledge of these anomalies?”

Surprise blended with anxiety in Williams’ expression, recognising that Picard was asking her not merely to provide information, but to make an assessment that was likely to guide his next action. Swallowing slightly, she turned to her station, fingers dancing, eyes flickering rapidly in concentrated thought. She paused, tapped another sequence, then glanced up, a slight nervous tremor making her right hand continue inputting commands even after it left the board.

“Not immediately Captain. The variables are very complex – it will take about an hour to analyse the pattern of signals between the local systems.”

Picard nodded, his frustration and tension easing as a plan sketched itself across his mind. “Make it so.” He turned to Data. “All senior officers to the observation lounge at…” an imperceptible pause as he checked the chronometer on the android’s monitor “…sixteen thirty hours Commander.”

As Data acknowledge the order, Picard was already striding across the bridge towards the aft port turbolift. “You have the bridge Number One. Ambassador…” he slowed as he passed Worf, head dipping and tone shifting slightly in acknowledgement of his rank “…there is a matter I wish to discuss with you.”

Worf angled his head in acknowledgement and smoothly turned to follow in the Captain’s footsteps. The turbolift doors slid shut behind them.

*****

“Shut up damnit!”

Major Derek Chell slapped at his insistently beeping chrono, missed, and rolled over with a groan to bring the flat of his other hand down hard across the top of the device. The beeping ceased and Chell rolled onto his back with a sigh. Staring at the ceiling of his quarters he drew a deep breath, letting the cool air sweep away the last cobwebs of drowsiness, then sat up.

Swinging himself out of his low bunk he stretched to his full height, rising up onto his toes before dropping back down onto his heels, and leaning his head from one shoulder to the other. Crossing his small room in a few long strides, he slapped open the hatch and strode into his shower cubical. Waving his hand over the activation sensor, a few brief seconds under the stinging jet were enough to bring him to full wakefulness. Washing and shaving quickly and efficiently, he stepped back into the main compartment to pull on his uniform.

As he sat on his bunk fastening a boot, Chell’s eye fell on a small black disk, swept onto the floor as he’d slapped at the chrono to silence it. Leaving the boot half-fastened, he leant forwards to retrieve it. For a moment he simply held it, his eyes staring at and through it, caught up in old thoughts. Turning the device so that its glinting black lens was uppermost, he touched one of the buttons on the upper surface.

A column of blue light swirled out of the lens, stabilising into an image the length of Chell’s forearm - a young woman, the curl of her blond hair just brushing her shoulders, the hem of her dress pooling slightly around her ankles, cradling an infant in her arms. Chell’s broad, angular features softened into a faint grin that matched the woman’s own expression, as he gazed into eyes that seemed to dance even in the hologram’s soft blue tinge. Drawing in a sharp breath to bring himself back to the present, Chell set the device gently back on the ledge beside his bunk and, after a moment’s hesitation, touched another button. The image shimmered into nothing. Bending once more to finish fastening his boot he stood, straightened his black jacket, pulled on his cap, and strode out of his quarters.

Turning out of the door, he strode down the narrow passageway leading from his quarters towards the wide curve of the starbase’s main corridor, boots clicking rhythmically on the metal floor. By the time he reached the corridor it was already moderately full, more grey-green and black uniformed figures emerging from other side passages as the main day shift began to stir. Senior enough among the inhabitants of the base to return salutes far more often than he was required to offer them, he nodded acknowledgements to the junior officers and the occasional enlisted man stiffening to attention as he passed. A quarter turn around the circular corridor, he turned through a ceiling-high archway into the officers’ mess hall. The room was half-full when he entered, marine corps uniforms like his own matching the strength of navy’s grey, and both easily outnumbering the occasional army officer, and he strode briskly towards the food dispensers.

“Ah, Chell, there you are.” The voice was soft, almost casual, but its owner was anything but; half a head taller than Chell, with cool grey eyes set deep in a hatchet-sharp face, dark, almost black hair flecked through with the first touches of grey. The Major stiffened to attention and saluted his commanding officer.

“Good morning Colonel.”

Lieutenant Colonel Alon Daan returned the salute smoothly, and gestured almost imperceptibly towards the dispensers. “Lets get something to eat shall we; I need to talk to you about a couple of things

Chell frowned slightly as he followed Daan towards the humming food slots. “What’s up sir? I checked over the routine stuff before I turned in, and there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.”

Daan nodded as he removed his tray from the dispenser and turned towards the nearest empty table. “First thing is that I need to make some changes to the patrol roster. Three of Marek’s lads came down with some bug overnight – one from his first flight, two from his third. Nothing serious, but they’ll be off ops for a few days. With them under strength I don’t want them heading off into the outer system chasing comets. They’ll be too exposed if they run into anything, so I want your squadron to swap with Marek until he’s back up to strength.”

Chell nodded in acknowledgement, but a hint of puzzlement shaded his eyes. “Certainly sir, but with respect, why make the change? Nine ships are still enough to run down most smugglers or pirates, and they’ll have the Lance as backup if they hit any serious trouble.”

Daan shook his head as he pushed the tray onto a table and slid onto the bench behind it, mouth tightening slightly. “That the other problem. The Lance has been having engine trouble again. Not as serious this time, and she’ll be able to stay on-station, but her reaction time will be half normal. That’s not good enough to support an understrength squadron half full of kids.”

For an instant, Chell’s eyes fell closed, his face neutral, almost motionless, but a faint tick in his cheek betrayed the apparent peace of the expression. Daan cut off the quiet explosion he saw building.

“I know – the navy needs to get its fucking house in order.” Chell’s eyes snapped open in surprise at his superior’s sudden forcefulness. “But in the meantime I don’t intend to risk dropping a bunch of sprogs just out of the academy in at the deep end when I don’t need to.”

Chell nodded again, almost imperceptibly this time, his eyes focusing beyond Daan’s right shoulder. Major Jin Marek’s Eleven Squadron had been transferred to the Chalkon system to rebuild and retrain after a severe mauling at the hands of a pirate gang. While the quality of the academy’s training was as good as ever, it still couldn’t replicate active service, and even groups of experienced pilots required time to bond into a true squadron.

His eyes began to flicker rapidly as his mind began running over the risks and possibilities the switch offered. The station the wing was based on, Chalkon-Dorn, was on the edge of the inner system, riding its own orbit while guarding the major planets further in. While the space around it wasn’t as crowded as the orbits of those planets, most the standard fighter patrol routes nonetheless required precise, tight formations as they wove through the lanes of incoming and outbound shipping. The exception to the rule was the outer system run. Clear of the travel lanes, it gave the squadron assigned to it to the space the change its formation frequently and aggressively – an ideal opportunity to exercise the fast, fluid changes of a combat pattern.

The downside was that the outer reaches of the system were unusually sparsely populated, and a dozen fighters pushing out alone into deep interplanetary space were vulnerable to running into more trouble than they could handle – a strong pirate gang lurking in wait for a traveller off the beaten track, or getting jumped by a band of insurgents looking to pick off an isolated force. Usually the outer patrol could rely on the big guns of one of the system’s light cruisers but Chalkon’s Lance, the cruiser covering Dorn’s sector, was an old ship in desperate need of a refit – a refit that had long been put off as vessels in more prominent systems had been pushed ahead of her on the list, to the frustration and anger of the men and women of the increasingly isolated fighter wing.

The thoughts flashed through Chell’s mind in barely a second. He nodded slowly, a slow smile tugging and the corners of his mouth. “Understood Colonel. Truth be told the squadron could probably do with a long run out. We need the exercise.”

“Good.” Daan took a bite of his breakfast, swallowed, and cleared his throat. “The other issue is about the roster for the next fortnight.”

The smile disappeared from Chell’s face, and his eyes hardened. “The anniversary?”

Daan nodded, still eating. Chell’s lips compressed. “The bastards tried to pull a fast one on us last year, and got a beating. You think they’ll be stupid enough to try again?”

The Colonel nodded again. “They’ll have learnt their lesson this time. Intelligence suggests they’re still smarting from last year’s pasting, and want to get their own back – they might be planning to throw central command assets in this time, so we need to be even more on the ball. We’ll be reinforced from sector at least, possibly region, but I want us to be able to pull our weight in case they get pulled away.”

As Daan turned his attention back to his food, Chell ran the problem over in his head, eating slowly. Terrorist attacks on Chalkon were rare, but not unheard of, and significant anniversaries tended to raise the threat level. I guess mass murder counts as ‘significant’ enough. The possibility of central command forces being sent in to support the local thugs was a worrying development – such forces tended to be better trained, and generally more military in outlook, and could pose a genuine threat to the system’s guardians. He glanced up at Daan, just clearing his plate. “It’s a tricky one sir. If they come in with serious force I can’t see our standing forces being able to stop them.”

Daan swallowed his last bite. “Work on it – we’ve got some time to sort this out, but I want initial proposals to maximise our force effectiveness on my desk by close of play tomorrow.” He pushed the tray away from him and stood up, Chell rising with him. “I see you in thirty minutes at the flight briefing Major.” Returning Chell’s crisp salute, the Colonel pivoted on his heel and strode away.

Chell slowly lowered his hand from the salute and eased back onto the bench, keeping his eyes on Daan’s retreating back. As if I didn’t have enough to do already. He shrugged to himself. If you can’t take a joke… He turned his attention to his food. Being overworked was part of the job. Being overworked on an empty stomach was downright unprofessional.

*****

Will Riker stood at the observation lounge window, staring out at the pinpicks of the stars. After a lifetime of service to Starfleet, Riker was used to unfamiliar constellations, and one starfield looked much like another, but the one in front of him held a sense of foreboding far beyond its simple unfamiliarity. Never before had he gazed on stars so far distant from Earth that even the location of home was a mystery. He absently reached up to brush the fourth pip on his collar, standing out brightly against the dulled three of a Commander. Fifteen years had passed since he had turned down command of the old Drake in favour of a posting to the Enterprise-D, the then-new flagship of Starfleet, twelve since he’d been offered the Melbourne in the tense early days of the first Borg invasion. Now, finally, he’d summoned the courage to take the leap, to step into the piercing light of the Captain’s chair. And to propose to Deanna. Riker sighed. If it hadn’t been for the effects of the Ba’ku planet rekindling feelings both of them had thought long since faded…

Behind him, the door hissed open. “So there you are.” Troi strolled around the edge of the conference table to stand behind his left shoulder. “Avoiding me?” she teased

With a lopsided grin Will held out an arm to wrap around his fiancée’s waist as she leaned her head on his shoulder. “Why would I ever want to do that?”

“So you could second-guess about accepting the Triton without me picking up on it?” Deanna smiled softly for a moment, then paused as a brief frown flickered across her face. She pulled back slightly to stare hard at him. “Or blame yourself for the fact that we’re here.” Sympathy flooded into her dark eyes, but her hand tightened on his upper arm. “It’s not your fault Will.”

Riker looked down at her, his expression puzzled. “I’m not blaming myself.” Am I?

Troi’s eyebrow arched sceptically. Her voice stayed soft, flowing. “Are you sure about that?”

Am I? Riker’s mind began to drift, running back over the events of the past few hours. I advised him to investigate. I am responsible. Another part of him rebelled against that. The Captain was planning to investigate the anomaly anyway – my answer wouldn’t have changed that. The first voice pressed on. He said he was surprised you said that. He said it was the Rhode Island’s job. He would have stayed away if it wasn’t for you. You’re…

“Will.”

Riker blinked, his train of thought broken. “I guess I was.” He focussed hard on Deanna. “You could tell that from our quarters?”

Troi raised a sceptical eyebrow. “It will take a lot more than a few decks to stop me picking up on your mood. You should know better than that by now Imzadi.”

Riker chuckled. “I should indeed.” He paused, pulling her close. “Thank you Deanna.”

As Riker’s chin drooped to rest on the crown of his fiancée’s head the door behind them hissed open. Quick, light footsteps hesitated as their owner paused in the doorway, unsure whether they were interrupting. Riker’s arm tightened briefly around Troi’s waste in a final gesture of thanks, then the first officer replaced the fiancée and he straightened, turning towards his seat towards the head of the table and glancing towards the doorway. Beverly Crusher’s eyes flicked from Troi’s to his as she stepped cautiously into the room.

Riker nodded quickly to the doctor, and she strode forwards, sliding into her own place further down the table as Troi took her seat next to her, directly across from Riker. The door hissed again, admitting Data and Shoris, their discussion cutting off as the door opened, the android moving smoothly to the place next to the first officer, the Andorian taking a seat at the far end of the table, antennae twitching and eyes glancing nervously about him at the prospect of presenting his findings to the ship’s most senior officers. The door had slid only partially shut before La Forge strode into the room to take his place alongside Data, his expression the tense concentration of a man pulled from his work. Finally, behind him, came Picard, who had waited until his senior staff were assembled before entering and made his way with a quick, measured pace towards the head of the table, instantly the centre of attention. Before he reached his seat, however, that attention was drawn to the other entrance to the conference room, as the door slid open to admit Worf.

The Klingon’s clothing had changed. Instead of the flowing robes and discrete armour of a diplomat he was now dressed in regulation Starfleet uniform, with the red shirt of the command branch and the two and a half pips of a Lieutenant Commander displayed on a long bar on his collar. The only indication of his official status was his baldric, decorated with the emblem of the House of Martok and the interwoven crests of the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Nodding briefly to the others around the table he settled himself between Crusher and Shoris.

At the head of the table, Picard leaned back in his chair, glancing round to give the others time to make themselves comfortable. “Before we begin, in the light of Commander Daniels’ recent departure I’d like to formally thank Commander Worf for agreeing to assume the duties of Chief Tactical Officer for the duration of our excursion into this new reality. I can only express my regret for only being able to offer him acting rank for his services.” Murmurings of approval ran round the table. Picard’s expression hardened. “Unfortunately, it appears that our stay will not be as brief, or as simple, as we may have hoped for. Mr Data.”

The android stood at his cue, moving to the screen at the foot of the table. “Thank you Captain. Since our arrival in this reality, I have analysed both the events that led to us being transported here, and our previous and subsequent scans of the area.” He tapped a control. The familiar blue-hued image of the anomaly appeared on the screen behind him. “This is a multispectral display of the anomaly we initially scanned, before it began its motion. The following sequence displays the activity of this anomaly, as far as we can determine, over the following period.”

The image came to life, patterns swirling across the surface. It shifted. White swirls began to whip across the surface, and blue specks flicked out away from the anomaly in ever increasing streams. They reached a peak, seemed to pause, then began to thin. For an instant the entire screen went blank, then the image returned, its colour shifted from blue to green, the streams continuing to diminish before finally coming to rest, all but its colour indistinguishable from its earlier placid state. Data turned to face the assembly.

“The colours indicate the quantum state of the matter surrounding and being ejected from the anomaly. From my analysis of the area, I believe that each anomaly likely leads to a different quantum reality. Unfortunately, this transference only occurs at a specific point in a cycle, while the anomalies are in motion, the duration of which has yet to be determined. The presence of matter from other realities in close proximity to the anomalies in both our own reality and this one does, however, indicates that the cycle is likely to be on the order of days or weeks, rather than any longer period.”

At Picard’s left, Troi glanced quickly at the Captain, then back to Data, frowning. “Then I don’t understand why there’s a problem. All we have to do is wait for the anomaly to reappear and go through it.”

Data shook his head. “Unfortunately not Counsellor. In addition to some side effects of the transference, which Commander La Forge will explain shortly, the anomaly we require is located close to the centre of the group. We would have to enter the area before the anomalies appeared, identify our target, then enter it. Since we have no evidence that the motion of the anomalies once they become passable follows any pattern, we would run the risk of being caught by the wrong anomaly, as we were when we were transported here, or even being destroyed should we attempt to pass through an anomaly before it was capable of transporting the entire ship. Far more detailed analysis of the phenomena, through multiple cycles, would be required before we could attempt a return.”

Picard had already heard much of Data’s assessment, but his lips nonetheless compressed into a tight line as he heard it repeated. He nodded thanks to Data as the android resumed his place, then glanced across to Geordi. “Mr La Forge, your report please.”

The engineer’s cybernetic eyes glittered as he shifted slightly in his chair. “There are a few burnt out circuits here and there, mainly in the shield grid, but we haven’t suffered any obvious major damage. I’ve got teams out repairing what damage we have suffered and checking elsewhere for anything the diagnostics didn’t pick up.”

His expression hardened. “We do have a serious problem though. We were expecting to refuel at Earth spacedock next week, so our reserves were already running low – antimatter down to nine per cent of capacity and deuterium to fourteen per cent.” He shook his head. “Somehow the transfer drained our fuel supply a lot further – antimatter is at a bit over four per cent and deuterium is below seven per cent of capacity. If we suffer a similar drain on the return trip we’ll lose main power and be thrown out of warp in the middle of that chaos.”

Faces around the table displayed expressions from Worf’s grimly compressed lips to Crusher’s palid shock. The results of losing warp power in such circumstances needed no explanation. Riker frowned. “Is there any way we can restore or stocks to a safe level before we try a return trip?”

La Forge shrugged. “We can extend our matter reserves fairly easily with the collectors, but antimatter will be a problem – we don’t have anything like the sort of deuterium we’d need to feed the generator, so our best course of action would be try and get some from the local civilisation.”

Picard’s frown was as deep as his first officer’s. “Very well Mr La Forge. Do we have any alternatives in the event that our hosts are unable to provide us with such a supply?”

La Forge shrugged. “We might have. I’ve had my people running simulations to see if we can use the collectors to draw material from the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. We might be able to get enough to feed the generator. They’re still in the early stages though, so I can’t promise anything yet. Either way, we’ll need to get to a star system, preferably one close by.”

Picard nodded. “Understood.” He shifted his gaze to the Andorian science officer. “Mr Shoris, I understand that you have been able to make some progress in mapping our new neighbourhood.”

Shoris stood, straightened his uniform self consciously, and moved to the display. “I have Captain.” He tapped a control, and Data’s image of the anomaly was replaced by a standard Starfleet chart, three stars highlighted. “Through a combination of signals analysis and the long range sensors, Ensign Williams and I have been able to refine her initial estimate of forty inhabited systems in the immediate vicinity down to these three. Most of those systems seem to have only a transitory presence – ships, small outposts and similar. These three, however, display signs of more permanent habitation – far more comms traffic, and fairly frequent energy surges that we believe indicate the initiation and deactivation of their main means of propulsion. There are also indications of ion drive activity.” He tapped a control, and the chart zoomed in onto one of the systems. “This is the most active of the three, and also the closest. A pretty normal inhabited system, sir. G-type star, two hot rocks inside the habitable zone, three gas giants outside it, a scattering of oversized comets, and two class M planets.”

Picard glanced across at La Forge, raising an eyebrow. The engineer’s eyes were fixed on the lines of data next to the image, components whirring imperceptibly. He nodded slowly. “Looks good from what we’ve got so far Captain. We’d need to take a closer look at those gas giants, but I think they’re definite candidates to test out for harvesting.” He glanced up at Shoris. “You said it’s the closest major system. How far?”

“Five point two light years sir.”

La Forge glanced back at Picard. “Less than a days’ travel – it will give us plenty of fuel reserve for a Plan C if this doesn’t work out Captain. I recommend we try for the system, see what we find.”

Picard glanced across at Data. “Mr Data, would we be able to gather the data you require to attempt the return journey using the probes we have deployed?”

The android didn’t need to think about his answer. “No Captain, but a series of class nine probes would be sufficient to do so. I can prepare and launch them within fifteen minutes.”

Picard nodded firmly. “Make it so Commander. Mr La Forge, continue to do what you can to reduce our fuel consumption. Number One, as soon as the additional probes are away set course for that system, warp six.”

As the meeting broke up, the officers scattering to their duties, Picard remained seated, rotating to gaze out of the viewport at the stars. Strange new worlds indeed…
Only two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the universe: Albert Einstein.

Across the Universe - Chapter 2 now up
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Re: Across the Universe - starting over - Ch 2 up

Postby Teaos » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:32 am

Picard’s nodded slowing, blow creased in thought


Hiss eyes began to flicker rapidly as his mind began running


Only two mistakes I could find.

The character interaction is definatly more complex this time and Data is much better. Not sarcastic and abrasive just factual.

I'm suprised you didnt throw in some Janeway bashing with Picard saying "Strandard away from home... I wont make the same mistakes that fool Janeway did"

You have down played the military talk which is nice, just the casual mentions that let us know its there with out dominating.

I'm waiting to see how you handle the balance of power this time around between the Feds and Empire. Frankly it seems the lynch pin of any cross over story.
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