Episode 6: War Crimes
Location: Deck 6
Timeline: MD135, 1845 Hours
Deck 6 was abuzz with activity. The fires were already out by the time Master Chief Petty Officer Andrea Carter arrived on the scene, and steps were already being taken to remove the ruptured manifold and anything else damaged by the explosion. Just outside the Jefferies access were a number of small containers, each containing components that required study and analysis, and underneath was a tarp to catch tiny components and other trace materials that might get caught on the workers' uniforms.
Andy Carter was crouched next to one of these crates examining the fragmented remains of the manifold. It just didn't make any sense! This was a brand new manifold on a brand new ship, these things did not just rupture without a cause, but by all accounts that's exactly how it appeared, a rupture without any signs of material fatigue or stress damage. The ex-Borg ran her fingers over the plasma residue to get a feel for it, then brought her fingers to her nose to give it a curious sniff. It may have seemed strange, but there was quite a bit that could be learned from explosive residue before breaking out a tricorder or the lab equipment for tests, and disappointingly, all she could smell was scorched plasma. To get a better feel for the residue, she smeared a bit of it into the palm of her hand where it was free of the living-metal exoskeleton that held her hand together; sensation through her metal-tipped fingers was different than over the more sensitive bare skin, and as she rubbed the residue into her palm, she closed her eyes to help her focus on the feel of the smooth texture; if there had been some other contaminant, it would have had a grittier texture, so either there was no chemical explosive to contribute to the rupture, or all traces of it 'magically' burned off in the massive plasma explosion. With a snort, Andy dismissed the latter notion as she grabbed a rag to wipe off her hand; no one was ever THAT lucky...
Of course, the fiery-haired Engineer already knew that the work crews hadn't found any traces of a chemical ignition point, they had reported as much to her when she arrived on the scene, but there was something to be said about discovering this for one's self, not to mention the need to double check everything, which she opted to do by taking some scraping and putting them into an evidence container.
"Run this down to the Science Lab, I want a full analysis of this ASAP," Carter said to a nearby worker in an orange jumpsuit, sealing the container to protect the chain of evidence and handing it off to the crewman to make the delivery. About this time, another crewman was crawling out of the Jefferies tube with another tub of components, this one containing more of the manifold. "Hey, bring that one here," Andy said as she moved the pieces of the manifold she already had to a clear spot on the tarp so she could try to reconstruct it to find out exactly where the rupture started. Soon they would be moving this all down to one of the labs to try to virtually reconstruct the explosion in more detail, but Andy wanted to stay close to the source for now, especially while the work crews were still pulling out debris.
From down the corridor, Lieutenant Commander Millarini, looking somewhat stressed and more than a little dishevelled, approached the site where Carter was working with the other engineers. Beside her, she had a colleague from engineering. "Master Chief," the blonde smiled sheepishly as they came to a halt near the woman who had been put in charge of engineering by the Captain. "We're all done with the propulsion systems. There's nothing to note right now and we have set regular diagnostics to run until further notice," she reported.
"Excellent," Andy replied as she removed pieces of the manifold and started to lay it out on the tarp. "I'm getting a look at the manifold to try to figure out how and why it ruptured, no trace of chemical explosives yet but I did just send a sample down to the lab for confirmation. Jump in and see what you can find," Andy invited Millarini. "If you've got a tricorder on you, I could use a second opinion about this tear in the metal here; there's something not right about it..." she mused aloud as she fitted two pieces of manifold together; they didn't fit together precisely because the metal had been distorted by the heat and force of the explosion, but it was still recognizable as having come from the same side of the manifest. "This tear is too straight, like it happened along a cut line," she said, but that didn't make any sense either, as even with the explosive damage they should see evidence of a cutting tool on the surface!
Millarini just so happened to have an engineering tricorder on her belt and withdrew it to scan the pieces of the manifold. She ran the device over the manifold pieces several times until she eventually frowned. "That can't be..." she whispered before tapping on the device to seek further clarification of what she had spotted. She then held it over a specific area in order to intensify the scan somewhat until she let out a smile and looked at the Master Chief. "Well, I've got a pretty good idea of why you can't figure out the cause," the Commander told, turning the device to the senior enlisted officer. "Tachyon particles. Not many, and only a small amount, but they are there."
"Hello, what is this?" Andy said as she looked at the tricorder. "They're on the inside, not the outside of the manifold, but how?" Andy returned the tridorder and picked up the piece of the manifold to examine it closer with her, focusing her eyepiece on detecting the tachyons now that she knew about them. "Ingenious!" she said as she watched the inside of the tear light up with the minute traces of tachyons, but then her attention was diverted to something else illuminating on the surface of another piece of the manifold. She set down the piece in her hand and picked up the other, running her fingers over the top; she could see something through her eyepiece, yet through her organic eye it appeared that nothing was there, but as she ran her finger over the surface it felt like something was there melted onto the surface of the manifold. "What are your thoughts on this?" she asked Millarini, tracing this invisible something with her finger.
Cordelia considered the tricorder device as she looked over the manifold. "I think we have a possible cause," the Commander told as she looked at the Master Chief with a grin. "A cloaked explosive device."
"Exactly..." Andy mused aloud as she continued to study this substance melted onto the surface of the manifold. "I think the cloak effect was permanently etched onto this material during the explosion; this kind of effect is rare but not unheard of, I've even heard of it happening to people, but this just makes our job much harder, because if we're going to reconstruct the explosive, we have to look for invisible pieces," she explained in a grim tone. "Now that we know these devices may be cloaked, we need to scour every inch of this ship for more devices. Hope you didn't have any plans for tonight," the ex-Borg remarked, then found a new container and allocated it for invisible components, setting the piece of manifold in her hand into the bin, then she started looking around for more pieces; this was going to give her one hell of a headache!
The blonde was about to walk away when she stopped dead in her tracks and looked back at the Master Chief. "Hang on... we know what we are looking for, right? Tachyon particles. If a tricorder could detect just trace amounts left over AFTER an explosion, reconfigured internal sensors should be able to detect a build up of tachyon particles big enough to cloak an explosive device now we know what to search for." She hoped the Master Chief would agree, especially as it would save them masses of time.
"The only hitch with that is if these things are doing what I suspect they're doing, they're somehow generating the tachyons inside the ship components to emulate material fatigue, so the device itself is likely to be free of detectable tachyons. Not to say that searching for tachyons isn't the way to go, it should narrow down the search area, but finding these devices may still be a bit of blind luck," Andy countered, then sighed. "These devices seem to be able to tell our sensor diagnostics that everything is normal right up until the moment things start exploding, so the tachyon signature may not be detectable either, but we won't know until we try. If we just knew how the Lieutenant found this one, it might help us find more... Anyway, you do what works for you, and if you find any more of these devices then disable whatever they're attached to; I'm going to focus on trying to piece this one back together so we can figure out how to disable them without setting them off."
"I'll be in engineering," the Commander nodded, turning around and setting off for the heart of the mighty Sovereign-class ship. She hoped she would find the clues they needed, but the Master Chief had made a valid point.
"Righto," Andy replied as she scoured the debris for more of this invisible device; she was going to have such a headache tomorrow...