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A New Dawn II

Posted on Thu Dec 20th, 2018 @ 6:54pm by Captain Elizabeth Ashcroft & Commander Jasna Khorasani & Lieutenant Commander Vit Aran & Lieutenant Commander Marian Downe & Lieutenant Tasme Anan & Lieutenant Nathaniel Winters PhD & Lieutenant Li Ling Meifeng
Edited on on Thu Dec 20th, 2018 @ 6:55pm

Mission: On the Horizon
Location: USS Yorktown, Briefing Room

Fifteen minutes before the scheduled briefing, Marian entered the Briefing Room first. It had been that way since he had arrived aboard, except when he was deep in the Jefferies Tubes or the ship had taken damage. Fifteen minutes early, every meeting, like clockwork. He didn’t notice the door shutting behind him as he was engrossed in a PADD, one of five which rested in his long, slender hands. Numerous junior officers had intercepted him on the turbolift ride and managed to pass along reports or research data that they had labored over. It was a favourable outcome for Marian, as he preferred reading to pre-meeting interactions. Marian settled into his chair and focused on the writing before him, purposely oblivious to the imminent arrivals.

“Are you a tea drinker, or do you not feel a need for ingested stimulants?” Jasna Khorasani walked in a few steps after Meifeng, tugging her lap-coat absently while she made for the replicator. “Tea ceremonies got more mention than daily consumption in my cultural research about Lagash.”

“Dragonbreath. I added it to the replicator database when I arrived,” Meifeng said as she took her seat. “In my family, tea ceremonies were regular enough that if you didn’t develop a taste for the common blends, you’d go mad.”

“Dragonsbreath tea, ninety-three centigrade, Lagashi serving set,” Jasna told the replicator. “Persian tea, Khorasani three-alpha, and a plate of twenty ghotab.” She fielded the two small trays - a porcelain kettle with a long wooden handle on a neat black wooden tray, honey sweetener and a few garnishes to the side and two neat cups on the one hand; a silver tea tray with an engraved silver kettle and a plate of small, soft, spherical cookies to go with the clear glass mug on the other - and carried the back to the table, setting one in front of Meifeng and the other further up the table in front of her usual seat. The plate of cookies, she moved to the center of the table before she took one. “It’s just not the same if you ask the computer to replicate it in the cup, no matter how Marian tunes it. Good morning, Marian. I see your PADDs are breeding again?”

Marian looked up, grinned, and shrugged before returning to his reading.

The ribbing was very gentle, familiar. Jasna had been lightly socially engaging the chief engineer before meetings practically since launch, but she never kept it up long enough to make him really uncomfortable. She just like to gauge how he was doing - of the crew shipboard who were notably outside their species’ standard psych distribution, Marian was both one of her most functional and the one she felt the need for the most regular check-ins with. A little tap before meetings usually spared her having to call him to the office.

“I expect the new drive is certainly giving you plenty to read and write about. Just as long as it’s not spindling your genes while it’s at it...”

Aran strode into the conference room, a cup of some type of warm liquid in one hand, a PADD tucked neatly into his armpit. He offered the assembled officers a pleasant smile, and took a seat on the left side of the table.

“Everything about where we left it before we started this expedition, Vit?” Jasna asked him while she poured her tea, adding a neat teaspoon of sugar and warm milk. “I presume if something had fallen off our astonishing new engines on the trip, we would all have heard about it by now.”

“You’d have to ask the boys from below decks, as it were,” Aran chuckled. “But as near as I can tell, and bear in mind, I am tacitly not going on a full inspection of this ship from stem to stern, we seem to be in pretty good shape.”

The doctor tipped her head back and laughed warmly, enjoying the moment a little longer than was strictly proper protocol. “An executive officer with the good sense not to ask questions he doesn’t want the answers to? Nevermind the slipstream drive, that is a genuine miracle for Starfleet to take credit for.”

Yorktown’s in good shape,” Marian added matter-of-factly, interjecting into the conversation late. “But you’re all welcome below decks any time, inspection or otherwise.”

He paused from his reading and looked up with a wary expression. “But I’ll admit, even having been a part of the Slipstream project, it’s something I will never quite get used to.”

“Don’t knock the slipstream drive too badly,” Aran replied with a soft smile. “Have you travelled under slipstream before? There’s something… almost magic about it. The lights remind me of the Celestial Temple. It’s really breathtaking…” he realized he’d trailed off. Shaking his head briefly, he continued, “But yes. I know better than to, what’s the expression? Stick my neck out where it doesn’t belong? I think that’s it.”

“Your nose in. Though I imagine that’d be almost as painful for a Bajoran as sticking your neck out if it went badly, given the number of nerve endings involved,” Jasna mused. “Thank you for the offer, Marian. This is my first time for slipstream. The first time for almost everyone, really, except you and a few others. I may have suddenly become old-fashioned, but I miss watching the stars go by.”

Aran chuckled, and gave a noncommittal shrug, before saying, “Like anything, I’m sure you’ll get used to it. Slipstream presents such a boon to the Federation. I’m excited to see where it takes us!”

“I prefer to know where the ship I'm flying is, with no more than the usual quantum uncertainty,” Meifeng said. “But doing something entirely new is its own sort of exhilarating.” Her tea done steeping, she took a long sip of it. “On the other hand, Starfleet luxury does extend to replicators. This tastes nearly like it was grown.”

It was hard to make a discreet entrance when doors automatically slid open with a sound, but Winters attempted it, as if moving sideways through would narrow his profile. He was still fiddling with his collar, not quite buttoned all the way up to his neck, but the moment he noted the Captain wasn’t in sight, he sagged and sauntered in more normally.

“Good morning.” His greeting came in a casual sing-song, easy to interpret as either cheerful or dismissive as he made for the replicator. “Are we all ready to report that the ship is effectively the same as it was last time we met like this?”

“Apart from a mildly amusing ‘training accident’ this morning on the Holodeck,” Tas replied after entering the room, wearing a Saurian smile that often unsettled mammalians. “Things appear to be in order on the Security front.” With that, she walked to the replicator, looked thoughtful for a moment, and then placed her order with the machine. “Orange cream soda, chilled, level two caffeine additive, please.” She collected her bright orange drink and took a seat across from the Chief Engineer.

“Commander, I’d like to discuss some modifications to Holodeck security protocols and access levels with you soon. Some enterprising members of the crew have found… creative means of bypassing some of the permissions in place. I’m sure the CMO will endorse this audit, as it has led to a number of “training accidents” amongst the crew.”

“Oh, but what will I do without the steady stream of bruises and abrasions to keep my hands busy?” Jasna put a hand to her chest and blatantly faked concern. “My sickbay would go empty. We can't have that. Bored surgeons are nothing but trouble.”

“Quite so, Doctor,” Tas replied after a sip of delicious orange goodness. “I shall spread the word that this behavior is acceptable then, and encourage the use of more energetic simulations. I’m told the Alamo is a particularly memorable engagement.”

Jasna put a finger to her lips, feigning deep thought, then shook her head. “But a bit depressing. We don’t want to make more work for the counseling staff. It might impact morale. No, I think you have the right idea. But now that we actually have some work to do, people should be inclined to take fewer risks to get in their excitement.”

Captain Ashcroft walked into the briefing room with a steaming cup of sweet, brown coffee in hand. The senior staff had already assembled themselves, prompt as usual. Elizabeth took her seat at the head of the table and smiled, “Thank you all for coming. I know it’s been restless for our journey out here, and laborious trying to offload personnel and supplies to Starbase 38. I’ll try to keep this brief.” Elizabeth quickly glanced around the room. Everyone was familiar to her - some very familiar - as most transitioned into her command of the Yorktown.

Pressing a few commands into the input pad on the corner of the table in front of her, the captain activated the holoprojectors in the room. The center of the table lit up with a holographic solar system. Elizabeth took a sip of her coffee to clear her throat before explaining, “This is System DS-Delta-47. It was scanned and cataloged eighty years ago by a deep space probe launched two hundred years ago. Our first assignment is to fully catalog the system. We don’t know much beyond what the probe sent us which is mostly telemetry data, but back then no complex civilizations were detected.”

She paused momentarily to collect her thoughts before continuing, “It’ll be the first time since the Yorktown launched that she’ll be fully flexing her scientific muscles. Needless to say, Starfleet wasn’t content with having a top of the line explorer patrolling the Romulan Neutral Zone anymore. We’ll be using shuttles, away teams, the whole Yorktown will be in on exploring this star system.”

Doctor Khorasani’s small, wry half-smile said something was amusing her. Elizabeth? The assignment? No way to tell. Whatever it was, she sipped her tea and kept it to herself.

“Any questions?” the captain asked as she was sipping her coffee again, this time mostly out of a nervous habit.

“Despite not having any complex civilizations show up, do you think there’s some credence in scanning ahead? I know we’re a long way from Federation space, but we owe it to our neighbors to adhere to the Prime Directive,” Aran said, nervously stroking his earring.

“There’s probably some merit in at least making our initial approach a little more quietly than barreling in at full slipstream,” Jasna suggested after another sip of her tea. “An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure, that sort of thing.”

“Two hundred years makes technological advancement such as someone might detect us unlikely,” Winters said. He was leaning back in his chair, gaze intent as he had listened. “But anything is possible. Long range sensors would only show us the most obvious development - satellites, major urban build-up - which I don’t think we’re expecting. If we get closer on a more discreet approach I can run some more robust scans.”

“I’d like to go over the data we have on any activity in neighboring sectors, particularly anything involving criminal or militant agencies or forces,” Tas says. “DS-Delta-47 may not be technologically advanced, but if they have any unscrupulous or aggressive neighbors without a guiding Prime Directive, I’d like to be prepared for any… disagreements we might encounter, should we meet them in our travels.”

“I can bring us out of slipstream a light year away. Any EM radiation they could sense will dissipate entirely at that distance, and if I understand the Prime Directive properly… simple statement, that, but a lot of implications… their ability to detect quantum eddies or a subspace slip would render it moot regardless. Keep us at mid-warp to point-five light year, scan the system… if there's trouble we'd see it and be back in slipstream and untouchable before it intercepted us.”

The Prime Directive had slipped Elizabeth’s mind, somehow. But Dr. Winters was right, the chances of a civilization growing that fast was nearly impossible. Luckily for her, the crew that served under her - specifically the senior staff - were able to catch her mistakes. She finally broke through the conversation, “We should be able to drop out of warp at the edge of the system and perform a scan of the habitable zone. If we detect nothing, we move in.” The captain turned her attention to more specific details, “Marian, I’d like you to use the engine downtime to review the slipstream drive and make sure it didn’t take any damage from our long journey out here. Dr Winters, work with Commander Vit to assemble away teams and assignments for the crew. We should probably have security escorts for any landing teams, as well, just in case.”

Aran nodded at the Captain, and began making notes in his PADD.

Marian took a PADD from his own small pile and slid it across the table to Ashcroft. The captain gazed at the contents and nodded approvingly.

“Initial diagnostics indicate that all slipstream systems are in the green. However with your permission -” Marian paused, gesturing back to the report Ashcroft held, “We need to take slipstream offline for eight hours to conduct a more thorough analysis. I understand this isn't ideal, captain, so we have developed a program which can resume slipstream functions in a matter of minutes if needed.”

“Good work, Marian. See it done. Any questions?” Ashcroft asked, addressing the room.

“When we start putting teams planetside, can we persuade Lieutenant Winters to approve sending down a bit of security and one of my first responders with each team this time? We wouldn't want to sideline any of his scientists if they managed to find a sinkhole with their feet, start a rockslide or get on the wrong side of some non-sentient’s teeth.” Jasna sipped her tea and smiled her most serene, buddha-like smile while she looked across the table at Nate. “Again.”

Winters’s smile in response was humourlessly sarcastic. “I’d venture first that any of my science teams should learn how to look after themselves and if they incapacitate themselves through their own ineptitude then the average calibre of the average scientist on the crew is improved. But if Security think they need babysitting and your medical staff find themselves in need of reminding us all they’re here, I’ll invite them to stay out from underfoot.” He sipped his coffee, and frowned thoughtfully. “Much like the edge of that cliff stayed out from under Ensign Cayce’s feet.”

“It’s so nice for the crew to have a sympathetic Chief Science Officer.” Does anyone know where we could find one? Jansa’s expression suggested.

Elizabeth chuckled, “We should arrive in the system tomorrow morning. Get your assignments from Commander Vit. Dismissed.”

 

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