Check Engine Light
On the Horizon
Location: USS Yorktown, Main Engineering
As the turbolift descended to its destination, it came to a sudden stop well short of where it was intended. On walked an all-too-familiar face to Elizabeth. "Hello doctor," the captain smirked as Doctor Khorasani stepped slowly onto the turbolift. "Where to?"
"Rounds," Jasna replied lightly, an impish smile on her face. "You never know when someone is going to need a sacred Talvric artifact extracted with no questions asked. You, Captain?" There was a touch of extra inflection in the word, as if Jasna was reminding herself of it at the last moment.
"Engineering. I want to check in on Marian and make sure he hasn't dismantled the slipstream drive yet out of frustration," she explained.
"Apparently impatience is one of those things you just can't breed out of men. Leave them alone with a wrench long enough, and the next thing you know..." Jasna kept a straight face, but her eyes were alight with suppressed laughter.
The turbolift continued its descent into the belly of the Yorktown, eventually letting them off at their destination. The two women made small talk as they rounded the corner and through the large, open double doors of Main Engineering. "Commander Downe. How did the slipstream drive hold up?" she asked as she saw Marian working away at the 'pool table' in the center of engineering, directly in front of the warp core.
"And by 'hold up,' she means a more than one-word performance review, because if it hadn't held up at all we wouldn't be standing here having this conversation," the doctor added with indecent cheer. "Though at least then we'd all have fewer reports to file."
"At this point, the slipstream drive seems to be functioning normally," he began, gesturing for the two officers to come closer to his console. His hands darted across the LCARS console, and after inputting a series of commands he brought up schematics of the ship centered on the slipstream drive which current read offline in bold letters. "There simply isn't enough data with which we can compare a slipstream voyage of this caliber. With the exception of plenty of theoretical models, we are the first." Marian paused for a moment, grinning openly. He wasn't normally a boastful man, but he knew when it was appropriate to be proud.
"So are you saying there isn't anything potentially wrong?" Ashcroft asked.
Marian shook his head. "Negative. In fact," Marian tapped a few console commands, and the ship schematics shifted to include a second piece of interactive data showing energy readings. "We combed through the ship's internal sensor data and picked up some odd energy distribution readings. We're not sure yet, but it almost appears as if extended slipstream travel may require a new understanding of how we calculate and maintain the ship's phase variance and quantum field."
"You say 'new understanding,' I hear 'increased chances of my patients having their molecules folded, spindled and mutilated.'" Jasna muttered, leaning forward over the console and pulling out the energy readings into a separate mini-display. "Exciting new frontiers, new ways to destroy the average sentient's anatomy."
"Perhaps," Marian agreed, nodding slowly. "Preliminary analysis of the energy fluctuations could indicate potential and unwarranted molecular or submolecular change." Tapping a few other commands, he introduced another schematic, this time providing an abstract illustration of a quantum field emanating from the main deflector of the ship. "These anomalous readings could also have implications for ships functions, as well. Initial findings suggest we would need to adjust energy distribution ship-wide in order to maintain a stable quantum field for extended travel."
"Oh, wonderful. So we might need to tweak -unsupervised, I might add - the carefully calibrated power system that keeps us all breathing, heated and not otherwise dead so that we can run the slipstream drive which may turn us all into soup at the molecular and atomic level. I feel better already," Jasna clipped off, shaking her head while she flipped her display off again. "The wonders of progress."
"As I said, doctor, it's too early to jump to conclusions," Marian responded. "Though now that I think of it, your expertise analyzing the data from a medical perspective would be invaluable."
Jasna narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh, I'll be analyzing it. Possibly starting with requesting genetic sampling from your whole engine crew."
"So what does this mean for the drive itself, Commander? Do you recommend we keep slipstream offline indefinitely?"
Marian paused for a moment, his eyes locked on the schematics on the console. "I don't have enough data yet, captain. However, I recommend that the quantum drive should remain offline indefinitely for the safety of the crew and ship."
"I'd rather be safe, than sorry. It's still a rather new technology for the Federation. I wouldn't want it turning all of our crew into lizards, or something," Elizabeth responded with a somewhat disgusted look on her face at the idea. "What about the regular warp drive? I assume that's in good shape?"
"Indeed," Marian confirmed, "But I have it shut down currently in order to facilitate a complete diagnostic and repair. I want it in top shape for us out here in the Delta."
"Lucky for us, since none of us fancy becoming permanent residents...."
Before the captain could answer, the comm blared through engineering: "Science lab 3 to Captain Ashcroft."
Elizabeth sighed slightly, expecting the bickering that had been taking place between the science departments since Dr Winters left on the away team. She tapped her comm badge, "Captain Ashcroft here."
"Captain, we have a problem. Are you near a monitor?" the voice echoed with worry.
Elizabeth activated the monitor on the pool table in front of her at the center of engineering, "I'm at engineering station 2-4-alpha."
"Sending you what we're working on now. If you look closely, one of the sensor arrays just picked it up a few minutes ago."
"What are we looking at?" Elizabeth asked as her, Commander Downe, and Dr Khorasani saw the display which showed the solar system they were currently exploring.
"It's an asteroid. About 14 km wide, and its headed directly for the M-class planet our away teams are on. It'll hit the planet in about 30 hours, causing an extinction-level impact," the science officer explained.
Jasna's jaw tightened, even as her voice stayed light, and her eyes were no longer on the the displays. "Which will certainly ruin their whole day."
Marian jumped in, "Why didn't we detect it before?"
The voice explained, "It has a very low albedo. It barely reflects any light. To top it off, it appears to have an orbit that is perpendicular to the plane of the solar system. So not only is it hard to find, its also not anywhere we would look for it."
"Sneaky bastard," Jasna hissed between her teeth.
"Thank you," the captain responded as she turned to Marian, "Are comms down? We have to warn the away teams."