Across the Universe v1

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Across the Universe v1

Postby Captain Seafort » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:12 pm

EDIT: this is the old version of this story. For the revised and (hopefully) improved version, see here.

So I decided to write something. See what you think.
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Captain’s Log Stardate 56804.5. The Enterprise is returning to Earth to celebrate the wedding of Captain Will Riker and Deanna Troi before their posting to the USS Triton. It is with mixed emotions that I contemplate the final voyage of this ship with her current senior staff, as Doctor Crusher will also be leaving to take up her new post as head of Starfleet Medical.

“I am afraid the statistics are quite clear Captain. 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 just statistics.” Will Riker shook his head wirily. “Remind me, how did we get from talking about the Triton to the Excelsior-class?”

Data cocked his head, puzzlement on his face. “Of that I am unsure. However, it might be due to a phenomenon known as the T…”

“Captain.” The conversation cut off abruptly and heads swivelled towards Worf at the starboard tactical station “I am picking up an unusual energy reading. Bearing two-eight-nine mark five-six.”

“Confirmed” Data was all business. “It appears to be a disturbance in the space-time continuum. Range point four-seven light years.”

Picard glanced quickly to either side. Riker leaned forward, elbow on his display, and tugged slightly on his beard. He raised an eyebrow to his fiancé, sitting across from him in the third chair of the Enterprise’s command area. Deanna Troi shrugged slightly. “We’re a day ahead of schedule, why not take a look? We are meant to be explorers.”

The first officer’s eyes twinkled. “We are indeed.”

Picard smiled. “Says the commander of Starfleet’s newest Prometheus-class warship. Mr Branson, alter course to two eight nine mark five six and increase to warp eight.”

“Two eight nine mark five six, warp factor eight, aye sir. ETA one hour.”

The Enterprise angled to port and her engines flashed as she accelerated.

* * * * * * *

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

“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. On the viewscreen, space was placid, empty save for the thousand pinpricks of the stars. From his view over Data’s shoulder Picard could see that the reality was far from placid. 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.

Standing and instinctively straightening his uniform jacket, 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, 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 this could be some sort of temporal wormhole?”

“That is one possibility Captain, although we lack the data to draw any firm conclusions.” The android’s head canted. “Although I do not believe that any incarnation of myself would be able to do so.” Picard frowned, while Riker rapidly raised a hand to scratch his nose and hide a smile.

Data returned to his instrument. “Captain, I believe we might be able to gain further information about the anomaly if we approached closer.”

Picard’s frown deepened. “How much closer Data? Remember this is only a side trip, we don’t have time to conduct a complete survey ourselves.”

“I believe fifty thousand kilometres would suffice. The anomaly appears stable, and would 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 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.

“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 squinted at his panel, then the corner of his mouth twisted upwards wirily. “Commander Worf, I do not believe you will enjoy what I am about to say. The dust and hydrogen atoms around us appear to possess different quantum signatures to our own.”

The Klingon’s eyes closed and his expression rapidly became that of one experiencing the first twinges of a headache. The faint sound of grinding teeth left no doubt what he thought of the new development.

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

“Not a single reality Captain, but a multitude – I have detected over ten thousand different quantum states since we approached to out present distance, and that number continues to rise.”

“Captain!” Worf had had enough. “Respectfully suggest that we withdraw to a greater distance.”

Picard looked to Data. “Commander, how long do you expect an initial examination of the anomaly to take?”

Data cocked his head to one side again and twitched. “I do not believe we could discover any more information than we already have without a full survey of the anomaly, which could take several days, or even weeks. Far longer than the twenty two point three seven four hours we are ahead of schedule.”

“Very well, Mr Data transmit our discovery and our records to date to Starfleet, with a recommendation that a survey vessel be dispatched to investigate further. Mr Branson resume course for Earth.” Picard smiled as he turned back towards his command chair. “We have a wed…”

“Captain!” Worf’s bark was urgent this time, not protesting. “The anomaly’s energy output has risen sharply!”

Data’s report blended over the security chief’s last word. “Confirmed. Verteron and Chroniton emissions have also risen by five hundred per cent in the last three point four seconds.”

Long paces took Picard to his chair and he swung himself into it, barking orders as he went. “Shields up! Branson get us away from that thing warp…” Incandescent light from the viewscreen cast the bridge into harsh relief, painting ink-black shadows on the aft bulkhead. Arms were thrown across faces to shield eyes, Data alone continuing to enter commands into his console as he did so. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the light was gone.

Picard frowned at the viewscreen, indistinguishable from a few moments before. “All stations, report”

“Shields holding, no damage”
“Helm answering sir, impulse engines at standby”

“Main normal sir, warp drive undamaged”

“Life support normal, no casualty reports”

After a pause, Picard glanced across to one of the flank stations. “Communications, report status please.”

The young ensign manning the station shook his head in frustration. “I’m sorry sir, I can’t make sense of these readings. Communications might be disrupted.”

“I do not believe so.” Data swung his chair around to face the command centre. “Our current astrometric observations do not match those of fifty five point two seconds ago. We are no longer where we were.”
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: [As yet] Unnamed Trek fic

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:30 pm

I think Worf's headache just increased to a full-fledged migraine. ;)

Very good start, here. Nice, detailed. Hope you continue.
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Re: [As yet] Unnamed Trek fic

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:35 pm

Cheers - I'm planning to, and I've got a very rough idea of where I want to go. The key aspect I think I'm going to struggle with is characterisation, and any feedback on that side of things would be most welcome.
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Re: [As yet] Unnamed Trek fic

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:36 pm

Sure. Just ask and I'll help as I can.
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Re: [As yet] Unnamed Trek fic

Postby shran » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:47 pm

I'll be fine with almost any characterisation, as long as they will be competent. If they would end up more competent than they would have been in canon, then add extra dificulties on the antagonist side of the story.
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Re: [As yet] Unnamed Trek fic

Postby Captain Seafort » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:11 pm

shran wrote:If they would end up more competent than they would have been in canon, then add extra dificulties on the antagonist side of the story.


Look at when it's set - I'd have a hard time making them less competent than canon. :lol:

And I think I can safely say that the antagonists will be presenting....difficulties. 8)
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Re: [As yet] Unnamed Trek fic

Postby Captain Seafort » Tue May 03, 2011 9:41 pm

“Shut up damnit!”

Major Derek Chell slapped his insistently beeping chrono, and rolled out of his bunk, shaking his head to clear the fast-fading vestiges of sleep. Staggering into his shower cubical, he slapped on the water and turned his face up into the stinging jet for a few brief seconds. Now fully awake, he towelled down, shaved quickly and efficiently, and stepped back into the main compartment to pull on his uniform. Heading out of the door and turning down the corridor towards the mess hall he nodded acknowledgements to the naval crewmen stiffening to attention as he passed. The room was half-full when he entered, army and fighter corps uniforms like his own easily outnumbering the grey of the navy, and he strode briskly towards the food dispensers.

“Ah, Chell, there you are.” Chell stiffened to attention himself and saluted his wing's second-in command.

“Good morning Colonel Daan.”

Lieutenant Colonel Alon Daan returned the salute casually, and gestured towards the dispensers. “Lets get something to eat shall we; I need to talk to you about the patrol format.”

Chell frowned slightly. “What’s changed 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. “Two of Marek’s lads have come down with some bug – one apiece from his second and third flights. 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”

Chell nodded in acknowledgement. “Certainly sir, but with respect, why make the change? Ten ships are still enough to run down any smugglers, and they’ll have the Lance as backup if they hit any serious trouble.”

Daan shook his head. “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 newbies.”

Chell’s head bobbed in understanding. 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 precisely replicate active service, and even groups of experienced pilots required time to bond into a true squadron.

“Understood Colonel. Truth be told the squadron could probably do with a long run out.” That much was true. The outer system was exposed if it came to a fight, but it also offered a degree of freedom from the relatively close confines of the system’s main traffic lanes.

“Good. I’ll see you in half an hour at the briefing.” Swallowing a last bite of his breakfast, Daan stood and headed for the exit.

*****

“Anything Mr Data?”

Data didn’t move, nor did his fingers cease their staccato dance across the controls as he replied. “Nothing Captain, and may I note that this is now the third time you have asked that question in the last twenty minutes. I consider it unlikely that you truly believe my investigation would have uncovered anything new within that time period.”

Picard scowled, continuing to pace the bridge from bulkhead to bulkhead behind the forward stations. “Mr Data, we have been here for three hours. We have tried going forwards, backwards, orbited the anomaly, and sat stationary. We have achieved nothing. Now, do you believe it is likely that the anomaly will return us to our rightful universe or not?”

Data cocked his head, continuing to work. “I am aware of our actions since we discovered our current predicament Captain. Unfortunately I have seen no evidence that the anomaly will repeat its earlier behaviour.”

Picard’s scowl deepened, but he finally stopped pacing, and turned to the tactical station. “Mr Worf, have you completed your investigations of our current location?”

“I have Captain. Unfortunately they indicate that we have not only been transported to a different…quantum reality…” the Klingon paused as his lip twisted with disgust “but to a completely different galaxy. Astrometric projections cannot identify any of the constellations observable from our current location, nor do they match any projected constellations based on known stellar bodies. My scans also indicate that we are in an unusually densely populated area of space - I believe Ensign McKenzie’s anomalous communications readings are due to the density of subspace signals we are intercepting. The Universal Translator is attempting to process the languages used, but it has not yet been successful.”

Riker, who had been watching and listening intently, spoke up. “Not surprising if we’re in a different galaxy – it would have no existing data to work with.”

Worf nodded. “Indeed, Captain.” He looked back at Picard. “I have identified the nearest significant concentration of signals as a star system two point eight light years from our current position. Long-range scans indicate significant vessel traffic.”

Picard looked around at his bridge crew, his expression inviting comments. Riker was the first to speak.

“That seems the best place to start. We’re getting nowhere here, and the locals might be familiar enough with the anomaly to give us some pointers about getting back home.”

“I agree sir. I do not believe further scans would add to our knowledge of the anomaly, and the computer can continue to analyse the data en route.”

The Captain nodded. “Very well Captain, Mr Data. Mr Branson, set course for that star system, warp factor six.”

“Warp six, aye sir. ETA ten hours.”

As the viewscreen flared with the jump to warp, Picard turned back towards the bridge. “All senior officers to the observation lounge in three hours. I want a full report on the ship’s status, and what our options are.” With that, he strode off the bridge towards his ready room.

*****

An hour after his discussion with Daan, suited and briefed, Chell was easing himself into the tight cockpit of his fighter. Two of his own flight were already aboard their ships, lined up astern of his own, and the last man was clambering up onto the hull of the last fighter in line. Off to his right, the other two flights were similarly boarding their craft. Ahead of him, the hanger doors were already open, space held back by the blue glint of a forcefield, the stars untwinkling pinpricks. Sealing the hatch, he hit the main power activator and shifted slightly to find a comfortable position in his acceleration couch before setting about strapping himself in, as the servicing crew set about detaching the various support cables.

“Chalkon nine-one, ground, confirm comms.”

Chell responded to the crew chief as he began flipping switches to bring the craft to life. “Confirm comms five-by-five, begin launch check”

“Five-by-five also, nine-one. Engines?”

Two green lights and all readings normal. “Check.”

“Life support?”

Cool fresh oxygen filled his lungs with each breath. He checked the seals of his flight suit – unnecessarily, for he’d done it a dozen times already, but when it was the only thing between you and a painful death you needed little excuse to check and re-check. “Check.”

“Weapons?”

More green lights, and a full charge. “Check.”

“Shields? Oh, wait…”

Chell scowled. Another comedian techie. “Shields check.” For what they’re worth...

“You’re good to go nine-one. Out”

Chell switched to his flight channel. “Chalkon nine, one flight report readiness.”

“Nine-two, all systems check.”

“Nine-three, all systems check.”

“Nine-four, all systems check.”

“Chalkon nine-five, Chalkon nine-nine, report readiness

“Chalkon nine-five, two flight all systems check.”

“Chalkon nine-nine, three flight all systems check.”

As nine’s voice died, Daan’s voice came clear through the squadron command channel. “Group Three, report readiness.”

“Nine squadron all systems check.”

“All squadrons, launch.”

Chell keyed his own comm. “Nine squadron, Launch by flights.” He eased the throttle open, and felt himself pushed gently backwards as the ship’s systems smoothed out the fantastic acceleration. Behind him, the station shrank rapidly to a pinprick, and within a minute even the vast gas giant it orbited had been reduced from a dominant presence to a thumb-sized disk. Only the scatter of dots on his HUD allowed him to locate the rest of his squadron, while two larger blips represented the remaining two squadrons of the patrol as they moved rapidly away from the station as they settled onto their own patrol routes.

Chell glanced at his HUD again to check his bearings. “Nine squadron our course is zero-one-zero by seven-three. Open cluster formation.” Accepting the acknowledging clicks of comm. units from the other pilots, Chell leaned back, sure in the expectation of a long, boring, eight hour routine patrol of his sector of the system.

*****

Will Riker stood at the observation lounge window, staring out at the stars streaking past as the Enterprise cruised through the vacuum. He absently reached up to touch 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 then-new flagship, eleven since he had been offered the Melbourne in the frantic days of the first Borg invasion. Now, finally, he’d summoned the confidence to take the leap, to step into the piercing light on the centre seat. And to propose to Deanna. Riker sighed. If it hadn’t been for the Briar Patch rekindling feelings both of them had thought long since faded…

“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 wry grin Riker 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?” Troi smiled softly. “You’ll do fine Will. And 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, holding her close. “Thank you Deanna.”

They stood together, watching the stars flash by.

*****

Picard settled back into his chair at the head of the conference table as his senior staff took their places in front of him.

“Mr Data, your report please. Have you discovered anything further about the anomaly that brought us here?”

“I believe so Captain, although I am no closer to determining a method to return us to Federation space.” Data stood and advanced to the screen behind Picard’s chair. Activating it, an image of the anomaly appeared. “From my analysis of the anomaly’s activity during the period we were in close proximity to it, I believe it to be following a cycle, peaking with the transportation of all matter within an as-yet undetermined radius between quantum realities. Based on my observations, I believe that the cycle will next peak approximately seven hours from now. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the next jump will return us to our own quantum reality. I have detected evidence of seventeen thousand five hundred sixty-two different quantum states in the area immediately surrounding the anomaly.”

Dead silence around the table. Troi voiced what everyone was thinking. “Data, if it’s going to cycle through all those realities before it sends us home, we’re going to be waiting a long time.”

“Indeed Counsellor. If the anomaly’s cycle is regular, then it will be twenty six years, sixteen days, six hours before an event occurs that will return us to our own quantum reality.”

Colour drained from everyone’s faces. Over a quarter of a century…

“Fortunately, I do not believe the cycle is regular. I have analysed the range of the quantum states in the interstellar medium around the anomaly, and have discovered that six states are significantly more prevalent than the rest. Our own is one of them.”

Sighs of relief rapidly turned into angry glares directed at the android. Data shifted uncomfortably. “However, I have yet to determine a pattern to the shifts, and given the presence of less frequent states, I consider it unlikely that a six-jump cycle will return us to our own universe.”

Picard’s frown had been deepening by the moment as Data spoke. “Mr Data, would returning to the anomaly aid your attempts to determine the anomaly’s cycle?”

The android shook his head. “I do not believe so Captain. The computer is continuing to analyse the data we have already collected, and the probes we deployed during our initial survey will continue to transmit information to us during the next surge. Until that event occurs, I do expect further progress on our understanding of the anomaly.”

Picard nodded in return, his lips compressed into a tight line. “Work on it.” He glanced further down the table. “Doctor, your report please. Did we suffer any injuries as a result of our passage?”

Crusher shook her head. “A few people complaining of dizziness, but no serious injuries.”

“Mr La Forge?”

La Forge’s cybernetic eyes glittered as he shifted slightly in his chair. “We haven’t suffered any damage, but we do have a problem. We were expecting to refuel at Earth spacedock next week, so our reserves are running dangerously low – antimatter is down to nine per cent and deuterium’s at fourteen per cent.” He shook his head. “We can extend our matter reserves fairly easily – I’ve got the collectors running at full capacity right now, but antimatter will become a problem very soon unless we can either get some off the locals or at find a big enough supply of deuterium to feed the generator.”

Picard’s frown was deepening. “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. Data and I are running simulations to see if we can use the collectors to draw material from the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. They’re still in the early stages though, so I can’t promise anything yet.”

Picard nodded slowly. An uncertain way home at best and short of fuel. He turned to the tactical officer.

“Mr Worf, has the universal translator managed to interpret the local language?”

The Klingon’s expression remained locked into the semi-scowl he’d kept since the Enterprise had first been thrown into their new galaxy.

“It is beginning to make some progress Captain, but we still have very limited information about our current location. Signal density analysis has confirmed that the system we are travelling towards is the most heavily populated in the immediate vicinity.”

“Very well Commander.” Picard looked around the table. “Mr La Forge, Mr Data, continue your investigations into the anomaly. For the moment that takes precedence over out fuel supply issue. Dismissed, everyone.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Read and review please gents. :)
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: Unnamed Trek fic - part two up

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Wed May 04, 2011 1:30 am

Well, very interesting. A possibly quick way to return home, but not guaranteed. Nice scenes with this Chell fellow, too. I have... no idea what this is being crossed with, though.

Excellently written, can't wait for more!
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Re: Unnamed Trek fic - part two up

Postby Vic » Wed May 04, 2011 6:48 am

Just roll with it JK, I am riveted Captain.
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Re: Unnamed Trek fic - part two up

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed May 18, 2011 6:36 pm

Part three up, and a title. Comments gratefully received. :)

* * * * * * * * * *

“Bridge to Captain Picard.”

Picard blinked as Riker’s voice cut through the haze of semi-sleep surrounding him. With hours to pass before the Enterprise reached the system, he’d retreated to his ready room, intending to go over the flood of reports from department and division heads as the ship’s operations were adjusted to conserve power. Exhaustion, however, had overcome him, and he’d retreated to his sofa to rest. Better to leave reports unread than to make first contact with a new universe while tired.

He shook his head, trying to clear the fog.

“Go ahead Number One.”

“We’re approaching the system’s Kuiper belt. You asked to be informed.”

“Thank you Number One. I’ll be there shortly.”

He rolled off the bunk, paused briefly to regain his balance, then stood and moved slowly towards the ready room’s small head. Splashing water into his face, he blinked rapidly and stared into his reflection. Stress, and the last vestiges of sleep, etched harsh lines at the corners of his mouth and eyes, eyes that reflected haunted questions. Are we trapped here? Will Data be able to find our way home or have I stranded the Enterprise here permanently?

He shook his head hard. Even if the Enterprise was trapped, it would do neither her nor her crew any good to have a Captain second-guessing himself over matters over which he no longer had any control. Picard straightened, drew in a long breath and let it out slowly. Squaring his shoulders, he tugged down on his uniform jacket to straighten it, turned, and strode towards the bridge.

“Report.”

Data’s eyes flashed across his console. “We are one minute forty-two seconds from the orbit of the system’s outermost gas giant. Communications analysis indicates extensive starship activity, mostly concentrated around two planets in the habitable zone.”

Picard nodded. “Helm, bring us out of warp above the system’s ecliptic, five AU outside the gas giant’s orbit. Let’s not risk alarming local traffic control.”

As Kell Perim’s fingers danced across her controls, Picard eased himself back into the command chair. All they could do had been done, and the next move lay with whomever they first encountered within the system.

*****

Three hours fourteen minutes gone, four hours forty six minutes to go. Chell shifted slightly in his fighter’s acceleration couch. Although they were designed to be as comfortable as possible, there were limits to what could be done to make endless boring hours sat in the same position a pleasant experience. He adjusted a control, reclining the frame another couple of degrees. Changing the settings every so often to make the long hours seem slightly less interminable was an old trick, but none the less effective for that. He rolled his neck inside his sealed flight suit, and then twisted to allow himself to scratch his nose against the inside of the helmet. While the suits had their downsides – such as the difficulty of scratching one’s nose while wearing them – he’d rather take them and the security they offered than risk his blood boiling at the slightest crack in the hull. How anyone could even think of flying into combat in such a small and fragile thing as a starfighter without such a suit he had no idea.

Three hours fifteen minutes gone. Chell reached out to adjust the controls on his flight yoke. Another old trick to reduce boredom was to run regular sensor sweeps manually, rather than rely on the fighter’s onboard computer alerting you to contacts. Not only did it keep you alert, but relying entirely on computers to warn you of potential trouble was never a good idea.

Ping.

Chell stared at the point of light that had appeared in his HUD, then ran the sweep again.

Ping.

His comm crackled. “Nine-one, nine-three. I have a contact on mid-range scan, bearing zero-eight-three by one-one from current course. Estimate range point one five AU.”

Chell keyed his comm. “I have it three.” He switched to the wing command frequency. “Control, Chalkon nine has a bogie in grid four-two. Altering course to investigate.”

“Acknowledged Chalkon nine. Do you require cruiser support?”

Chell frowned in concentration as he eyed his sensor returns. Not much info at this range. Length is definitely sub-click, mass below ten million tons, but no power output... No transport that size even close to legal specs would be a match for a single flight, let alone a full squadron, but some of the more tricked out smugglers would be a different matter. If it was a warship it would have him and his squadron for breakfast. He remembered Daan’s comments in the mess. The Lance has been having engine trouble again…her reaction time will be half normal.

“Not as yet control, but request that Chalkon’s Lance be advanced to support our fallback position. Will update status after our first pass.”

“Roger nine, maintain contact.”

“Chalkon nine, wilco.” He switched back to the squadron frequency. “Chalkon nine, alter course zero-eight-three by one-one. Two flight throttle back and hold in reserve position, three flight you’re the sweeper. Orbit target at two point five million clicks. One flight, we’re going in for a closer look. Full standard power and charge weapons.”

Maybe this run won’t be so boring after all.

*****

The Enterprise hung, motionless, ten billion kilometres from the nearest major body in the system, her nacelles glowing as they shed the last of the energy from her jump into the system.

“Full scan please Mr Data, let’s see what’s out there.”

“Scanning Captain.”

Picard eyed the viewscreen. This was always the tricky part of a first contact, especially one with an evidently established and extensive civilisation and no information about their culture or technology. Some contactees would welcome their unexpected guests with open arms, others would shoot first and ask questions later, if at all. Over a century and a half after the event, Starfleet Academy still held up the Federation’s formal first contact with the Klingon Empire after their emergence from half a century of isolation as the crowning example of what not to do.

Back in those days, standard procedure for entering a system had been to arc in above the main orbital plane and drop in within a dozen planetary diameters of the ship’s destination. That was what the Daedalus-class USS Vespucci had done when attempting to extend Federation overtures to the Klingon colony in the Draconian system. Her commander barely had time to identify his vessel and the Federation before concentrated disruptor fire from the startled Klingons’ orbital defences reduced the Vespucci and her crew to an expanding cloud of gas. Ever since the details of the incident had become clear, standard practice had always been to drop out of warp in the outer reaches of the system and advance cautiously inwards.

“Captain, sensors are detecting over five thousand ships within the system. The smallest appear to be single-person shuttlepods, while the largest are several kilometres long.”

Picard stared at the android. “Kilometres, Mr Data?”

“Aye sir. The majority of the ships present also appear to be constrained to ten corridors, both between the two planets in the habitable zone and too and from apparent designated points for entering and leaving the system. Sensors indicate ships leaving and entering these points at a rate of several dozen per second.”

The Captain frowned, propping his elbow on the armrest of his chair and resting his chin on his fist. “Mr Data, if the traffic into and out off the system is so dense, we should have detected these entry and exist points before now. Why didn’t we?”

Data worked his controls again. “Unknown Captain. Even now, I am unable to track ships either approaching or leaving the system. They simply appear and disappear from our sensors. Nor can I detect any evidence of warp signatures. I am unsure of the mechanism of their faster-than-light propulsion system, but its characteristics bear no resemblance to any I am familiar with.”

“Captain!” Worf’s voice cut urgently through Picard and Data’s conversation. “I am detecting a number of small craft approaching at high speed. Bearing two eight one mark three zero five.”

“Confirmed.” Data had reconfigured his own controls to short-range faster than any human eye could follow. “Twelve single-person craft, mass approximately ten tons, power output is extreme high for vessels of their size.”

“The craft are changing formation.” Worf broke in again. “Three groups, one is slowing, another is manouvering around our starboard flank, the last is continuing to approach at high speed. Energy readings indicate they have armed weapons.”

“Shields up.” Riker was on his feet, moving towards the secondary tactical station.

“No phasers Mr Worf.” Picard ordered, an instant before Riker could order them charged. “They’re obviously patrol craft of some kind. I don’t want to start a firefight based on a single misunderstanding. Range?”

Worf examined his controls. “Four million kilometres. The first group is holding position, the others are continuing to close.”

*****

As his fighter screamed in towards the still-unidentified target vessel, Chell flicked an experienced eye over his scanners, then did a double-take. He stared in disbelief at one of the readings. What in the nine hells is that? “Three, one, take a look at what that thing’s putting out.”

“One, three, I see it but I don’t understand it. I’ve never seen an emissions profile like that before. Something that heavily modded has got to be smugglers.”

Chell shook his head, even though the other man couldn’t see him. “I’m not so sure. The computer still hasn’t got a class ID, and its transponder is broadcasting gibberish. What sane smuggler would draw attention to themselves like that?”

“Dunno Boss, but I’m not that bothered about finding out. Let’s just either impound the thing or blast it out of space.”

The Major scowled. “No blasting. I want to know what this thing is before we start shooting at it, if only because we might need to wait for the Lance to come up in support before we pick a fight.”

“Understood, but we’ll need to do something about it pronto or control will start asking awkward questions.”

“Alright, we’ll do a visual flyby to have a look see what’s baffled the computer. You do a pass over her engines, I’ll swing around the bow to see if I can spot any ident markings.”

With the barest twitch of his control yoke, Chell altered his course a fraction to port, his wingman matching his move precisely, and lined up on the left-hand point of the gleaming star they were accelerating towards. At fifty thousand kilometres he twisted one of the yoke’s controls, and felt himself sway forwards as the fighter decelerated hard from high cruising speed to something that would allow him to have a look at the ship as he flashed past. What he saw baffled him.

“Three, did you see that thing?”

“Yeah. It’s got me stumped – the engines on that thing are massive, but their output is pathetic. I’ve seen better from freighters half that size. She’s got company flashes down her flanks – the ‘United Federation of Planets’. You heard of them?”

“Never. I’ve never seen a ship design anything like that either. This definitely needs a closer look, and with better kit than we’ve got.” Chell switched his frequencies. “Control, Chalkon nine. We have performed a visual flyby of unidentified bogie in grid four-two, and remain unable to identify it. Suspect possible smugglers, but no confirmation. Will perform second visual flyby, then intercept. Request cruiser support in case of resistance, priority-three.”

“Nine-one, Control, Rodger, Chalkon’s Lance is inbound to your location, ETA twenty minutes.”

Chell frowned. The Lance’s engine trouble again. “Control, Chalkon nine, Rodger.” He instinctively leaned into the turn as he angled his fighter hard to starboard, bringing it about.

“Nine-three, nine-one. Let’s swing around for another look – you take the bow this time, I’ll cross the stern.”

*****

“The craft are reversing course. They intend to replicate their previous manoeuvre.”

“Thank you Data. Mr Worf, any response to our hails?”

“None Captain. They are either unable to receive our transmissions or are ignoring us.”

Picard’s frown deepened. Another group of the small shuttlepod-like ships had broken off and were maintaining their distance from the Enterprise, but the final four had swept past at incredible speed only a few hundred metres away, and now apparently intended to do so again. Their actions and their silence were as puzzling as they were confusing.

“Perform a full-spectrum analysis of all EM and subspace frequencies. They must at least be communicating with each other. Ensign, ahead one-quarter impulse. Let’s get some manoeuvring room before they return.”

“Aye sir”

“Aye sir”

As Worf and Perrim acknowledged Picard’s commands, Riker stepped down from the upper bridge to lean over his left shoulder and speak quietly.

“Suggest we arm phasers. They’re aggressive and unresponsive – we need to be prepared to protect the ship.”

The Captain kept his own voice low. “Aggressive, but not overtly hostile Number One.” He paused, thinking. “But make sure the reserves are fully charged. If they do turn hostile we’ll need to react quickly.”

Riker nodded, and stepped back up to his assumed station.

“Captain, I believe I have something. There is sporadic activity in an unusual segment of the subspace band, but it is somewhat scattered. It may be a frequency-hopping communications channel.”

Picard nodded. “Very well, open a broad-spectrum channel in that section of the subspace band.”

“Channel open.”

“This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise, addressing the pilots of the unidentified craft in close proximity to my ship. To whom am I speaking?”

A long pause. Picard glanced back at Worf. “Channel is still open Cap…”

Enterprise, this is Chalkon system customs patrol.” The voice was distorted, obviously processed through some kind of electronic device. “You are in restricted space and failing to display proper identification. Come to course zero-eight-seven by three-five-one and prepare to receive inspection teams.”

Picard turned to Riker, eyebrows raised. The first officer shrugged. “Not ones for small talk, are they?”

“Ah, Chalkon patrol, we were unaware that this space was restricted. As I was saying…”

“Then we can add failure to maintain proper awareness of local space traffic regulations. Now, alter course to zero-eight-seven by three-five-one and lower your shields to receive inspection teams.”

Picard made a slashing gesture across his throat in Worf’s direction. “Channel closed.”

The Captain glanced around the bridge. “Options?”

Riker was the first to speak. “I advise against dropping the shields, or allowing borders. It’s too risky after the aggression these pilots have shown.”

“Agreed Number One, but we can hardly ignore them – this is, after all, their system. Ensign Perrim, alter course to the heading provided. Do it slowly, we need to buy a bit of time.”

Troi, who had been sitting quietly, frowning in concentration, spoke up. “Captain, that pilot has a very disciplined mind, more so than I’ve encountered before from a simple customs official. However, I can sense curiosity and uncertainty. He’s not as sure of himself in dealing with us as he might sound.”

Picard nodded, thoughtfully. “So, his reactions might be a bit off. Possibly something we could use if the worst came of this.”

*****

Chell glared at the ship – the Enterprise – as it finally began to come round onto the course he had ordered – directly towards the Lance. He eased his fighter in behind it, then dropped back into an escort position.

The more he learnt the less sense it made. Their claims were wild. Who in the galaxy didn’t recognise a customs patrol when they saw one? Who didn’t find out about a system’s restricted zones before jumping in? And yet, they seemed genuine.

Chell thought himself a pretty good judge of character – some sixth sense told him when people were being honest and when they were lying, and it told him that this Picard was actually telling the truth. He really didn’t recognise Chell’s patrol, or know that he was in a restricted area.

His eyes glittered as they scanned the ship. She’s a beauty. No matter where she’s come from she’s been put together right. What I’d give to have a look at her engines…

He frowned. Still, orders were orders, and the damn thing still hadn’t lowered its shields. He flicked back over to the intership channel. “Enterprise, this is your last warning. Lower your shields immediately.”

No response.

Well, you asked for it. His fingers tightened on the firing lever.

*****

Picard gripped his armrest as the Enterprise shuddered. “Report.”

“Shields holding, no damage.” Worf scowled. “Permission to return…”

“Denied. Nonetheless, our trigger-happy friend’s response makes accepting any boarding party out of the question.”

Data turned from his console. “Captain, I have analysed the course we have been provided. It is taking us towards what appears to be a mid-sized starship that has been approaching us for the last several minutes.”

Picard’s eyes hardened at the news, and he stood, straightening his jacket as he did so. “Onscreen.”

The view changed from one of the stars to an indistinct grey object. “Magnify.” The object grew into a shape clearly recognisable as a ship. Blocky and businesslike, it bristled with sensor dishes, and protrusions clearly recognisable as weapons.”

“Analysis Mr Data.”

“The vessel is approximately three hundred fifty metres long. It masses over ten million tons. It is heavily armed – sensors detect over two dozen emplacements, of various sizes. Its power output…” The android swivelled back to face the Captain. “I am unable to gather precise readings for its power, but even my lowest estimates indicate that it outguns the Enterprise several times over. It would be most unwise for us to attempt to engage the vessel.”

Picard drew in a deep breath and released it. “I believe we’ve outstayed our welcome. Helm, stand by warp drive and prepare to engage on my command. Mr Worf, where are those other ships?”

The Klingon merely glanced at his control to confirm what he already knew. “The group that made the close pass and fired on us are trailing us at fifteen kilometres. The remaining groups have moved to flank us at long range. Any course we take would require us to engage at least a pair of them, and would likely provoke the trailing group to pursue us.”

Picard nodded. “Very well. Helm, set course zero eight seven mark four one, and prepare to engage at full impulse. Mr Worf, load aft torpedo bays, and on the same command fire a display spread one thousand metres in front of the trailing ships. As soon as they’re away, arm all phaser banks and prepare to fire on my command.”

“Aye sir.”

Worf worked for a second. “Torpedoes ready.”

“Engage.”
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 - part three up

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Wed May 18, 2011 6:57 pm

Ah, now it picks up. Both sides... heh. Valid claims on both, there. To Chell, looks like smugglers or trespassers. To the Enterprise... well, they're not hostile, but it's kinda hard to explain that bit at the moment. Great post!
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Re: Across the Universe - part three up

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed May 18, 2011 7:03 pm

[Rolf]Can you tell what it is yet?[/Rolf]
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 - part three up

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Wed May 18, 2011 7:16 pm

I'm gonna guess Farscape?
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Re: Across the Universe - part three up

Postby alexmann » Fri Jul 22, 2011 4:03 pm

Star destroyer?
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Re: Across the Universe - part three up

Postby Captain Seafort » Fri Jul 22, 2011 5:03 pm

alexmann wrote:Star destroyer?


No. Read it again - it's nothing like a Star Destroyer.
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