Predicting the unpredictable
Posted on Wednesday January 20th, 2021 @ 10:10pm by Captain Nilani Azulas & Captain Shelby Adams & Lieutenant Commander Deila Fargold & Lieutenant Ziq Chura & Lieutenant Caspar Matero 'CJ' & Lieutenant Anjohl Gaden & Lieutenant JG Dadora Jecia & Ensign Ekal Dreisor & Ensign Helin Lahm
Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Location: Observation/Conference Lounge
Timeline: Day 9 at 0730
It was only natural that Lieutenant T'Pasek was first in the conference room. The Captain had tasked her with conducting this briefing, after all. T'Pasek was familiar with all the relevant material, both actual (somewhat limited) and theoretical (perhaps too expansive).
This had led to the distinctly unique briefing she was about to give the senior staff of the Nogura. T'Pasek might not be one of the Federation's leading experts on the region of space known as the Maelstrom, but she was the Nogura's leading expert. That would have to suffice.
So the Vulcan Chief Science Officer sat motionless at the head of the Conference room, waiting for the rest of the senior staff to arrive.
Doctor Anjohl was the next to arrive. Unlike his Vulcan counterpart, he knew next to nothing about the region they were going towards. He'd been quite happy in his previous assignment and hadn't requested a transfer or a promotion. Yet he'd received both(his rank hadn't changed but being Chief was).
He hadn't been told much at the time and now that he had a higher security clearance he hadn't had much time to read the new briefings he was now privy to. He planned to use those to supplement what he learned today.
He arrived in a freshly replicated uniform nursing a cup of mint tea as he stepped into the room.
"Good afternoon," he greeted.
"Doctor," T'Pasek responded with a nod. "I believe at some point I will be required to schedule an appointment with you."
"That is a sound and logical conclusion," Gaden replied. Would you like to do so now?"
"Perhaps after the briefing," T'Pasek answered.
Ekal sat quickly once she entered, holding a PADD. She laid the PADD face down before herself.
"Hello, again, doctor. Hello Lieutenant." She hummed softly as she smiled at the Lieutenant. She didn't smile at Dr. Anjohl, but she did look him in the eye.
CJ entered quietly shortly after, seemingly engrossed in his PADD. Taking a seat, he smiled genially at Ekal, before nodding with a shy smile at Doctor Anjohl. "Doctor, CJ Matero, Chief Engineer. Delighted to finally meet you." He offered a nod at T'Pasek. "Lieutenant," he said formally, as he would to Takir, his Vulcan friend and former Academy roommate. "I am sure that this will be an informative presentation." Interaction done, he looked down silently at his PADD.
“Good Morning Lieutenant CJ.” Ekal went to touch her hair in a self- soothing gesture, but it was too short for what she would usually do. She lamented cutting it for the third time that day.
The counselor, a familiar face to some present but not yet all, stepped in gave a friendly smile and "Hello, everyone." Helin found a seat without much additional fanfare; he was looking forward to getting a first glimpse into the senior staff and how they might all work together.
Chura walked into the conference room. His broad shoulders gave him a heavy presence in the room. He stayed silent just gave a respectful nod to those already sorted before he moved to the other end of the table and took a seat.
Lieutenant Jecia strolled through the doors. She could see that most of the senior staff had already arrived. She made her way to a vacant seat, uttering greetings to those nearby and casting brief nods across the table. She hadn't yet crossed paths with everyone, but that was something she was looking to remedy soon.
Striding into the conference room mere seconds after Lieutenant Jecia, Lieutenant Commander Deila hastily nodded to everyone already seated in the room and walked over to her seat, situated somewhere in the middle of the table. She was still trying to get used to the Nogura's time schedule, and so nearly overslept.
Last to arrive were the Captain and her First Officer, both deep in conversation as they entered the conference lounge for the first task of the day. It had been just over a week since Nilani had taken command, and the ship had an entirely different feel about it. Engineer's were putting the finishing touches on things today, and the increased crew count had really started to make the ship feel alive again. It helped that they had a mission to look forward to, and that brought them to this meeting.
"Good morning everyone," the Captain smiled, but the smile soon vanished when she saw the Science Officer sat in her chair at the head of the table. She exchanged a look with Shelby, a look that implied that the XO should talk with the Vulcan about protocol after the meeting. No one, not even the Captain's own beloved parents, would sit in her chair.
Gaden noticed the visual exchange between the Captain and the XO. He wasn't a Betazoid and couldn't read minds, but he was pretty adept at reading body language, he had lots of years of experience and he could sense the tension in the room. He kept silent though, waiting to see what would happen.
Ekal inspected the captain for a moment, and completely ignored Adams. The Vulcan was in the captain’s seat, then. It would be interesting to see how the captain handled that. On some of Ekal’s old ships that was a slight only really repayable by career suicide. Loss of honor, loss of status. Might as well have seen those officers killed. She leaned forward and lifted her PADD, but her lean was off center, slightly toward the one person here she was comfortable with, CJ. Gaden was neutral at best and Adams was... not someone Ekal needed to spend any excess time with.
Helin did not miss the exchange of glances between the captain and the first officer either. Though he tried not to smile or look amused at T'Pasek's innocent faux pas, he almost couldn't help himself. He folded his hands in his lap and looked down to avoid having to witness the pure awkwardness of the moment.
Chura couldn't help but smirk at the situation. He wondered if he'd be called upon to remove the officer from the traditional chair of the Captain.
After the slightest of pauses to center herself, the elegant Trill meandered her way down the starboard side of the room, behind several chairs, before taking the chair that was customarily for the XO, leaving Adams to fill the vacant seat that was, presumably, where T'Pasek should have been sat. "Are we all ready, Lieutenant?"
Unaware of her breach of protocol (the Vulcan had been steeped in academia for almost half a decade), T'Pasek paused before launching into her explanation. The Chief Science Officer remembered giving what she mistakenly thought was a rudimentary explanation to the Captain and the First Officer. She would have to make the material more accessible.
T'Pasek entered a command into the LCARS interface before her. Immediately a three dimensional rendition of the Maelstrom appeared above the conference table.
"The Maelstrom," T'Pasek began "Is a region of space that, quite literally, defies definition. There are currently eighty-three theories, many mutually conflicting, that have been put forward in an attempt to establish causative laws for the region. Note that the number of theories are those that have received support from at least one respected peer reviewed scientific journal. As to date, no theory has received a consensus of support from the Federation's scientific community, as no theory has yet been able to comprehensively predict significant stellar events within the Maelstrom.
"The theory that has gained the most support,"T'Pasek continued, "is the Donner/T'Lask Supposition, which utilizes a quite elegant multi-spatial matrical twistor-like superparticle model that possesses a generalized superconformal symmetry."
The blank, clueless faces looking back at T'Pasek reminded her of her one and only disastrous foray into the world of teaching freshman level physics.
"I am assuming that everyone here is familiar with the encounter Enterprise-D had thirty years ago with a quantum fissure?" T'Pasek hurriedly asked.
CJ nodded, the incident was relevant to warp field theory. He looked quickly at the CO, suspecting that she too was aware of the incident.
Indeed she did, with the event pretty much required reading in the Academy these days.
T'Pasek nodded. "In the case of the Enterprise-D, there was a single quantum fissure, in which the number of quantum realities that were detected could be described as a number approaching infinity. The Donner/T'Lask Supposition holds that an undetermined number of quantum fissures exist in the Maelstrom, with each fissure providing access to a finite number of quantum realities, the number of which differs from fissure to fissure. The existing imbalance is what causes the extreme phenomena that occurs in the Maelstrom."
"The problem with the Donner/T'Lask Supposition is that, to date, none of the predicted quantum fissures have been detected, and the Supposition does not adequately predict or provide for certain events, such as increased stellar radiation surrounding certain objects in the Maelstrom."
"So, in light of the lack of a causative theory that adequately predicts significant stellar events in the Maelstrom," T'Pasek concluded, "The logical choice is to develop a model that accurately predicts and describes events in the Maelstrom that the Nogura might encounter, without concern for trying to establish a unifying causative explanation." T'Pasek paused before asking, "Any questions so far?"
CJ hesitantly half raised a hand. "I do have a question, Lieutenant," he said rather formally. "I understand the need to model on what could happen, rather than why it has happened. It is the 'extreme phenomena' that I am," he paused, thinking for the right word, "focussed upon. Is there any consensus in the existing research on the interplay between an artificially generated warp field - Nogura's, for example, and that phenomena?"
"None at this time, Lieutenant," the Vulcan answered. "Even after the quantum fissure was detected by Enterprise-D, once it was sealed and thus made 'inert,' for lack of a better word, we know very little about phenomenon. In addition, it has not been established if the theorized Donner/T'Lask 'finite' quantum fissures exist. If they do exist, they will have certain properties that, unlike the quantum fissure encountered by Enterprise-D, will make them easily detectable and thus avoidable. I will send those properties to your PADD now."
T'Pasek made an entry into her PADD, sending the data in question to the PADDs of all the senior staff present. The data had been tailored to deal with specific difficulties each department would be required to handle, whether they were medical, tactical, or any other department.
Chura glanced at his PADD as it lit up. He wasn't a scientist, there was no need for him to have the information but didn't bother wasting oxygen to object.
"There are other phenomena that exist in the Maelstrom that do not appear to have the same causal relationship that exists outside the Maelstrom," T'Pasek continued. "I assume that everyone present is aware of a phenomena known as a subspace compression anomaly?"
CJ nodded again, there had been discussion at the Daystrom Institute of their manipulation for communication and propulsion, although Starfleet had never really moved beyond theoretical examination of them.
"At least one such anomaly has possibly appeared near the surface of an inhabited planet within the Maelstrom, with no ill effects to the planetary ecosystem. This has been thought impossible in the past, and there are some question as to the reliability of the report," T'Pasek stated as she made an entry into the LCARS interface in front of her.
The three dimensional depiction of the Maelstrom disappeared, replaced for a holo-advertisement for "Mudd's Magnificent Miniaturized Minxes." Below the banner was a sultry Orion woman wearing very little, stretched out on an open humanoid hand.
Ekal hummed appreciatively at the image, leaning forward onto the table. "I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the term 'Minx', Lieutenant."
"The word minx in the advertisement is defined as ' a promiscuous, impudent, or flirtatious young woman who causes trouble,'" the Vulcan observed dryly, "rather than a misspelling of the name of a weasel-like carnivore native to Earth known for its lustrous fur. An investigation into the advertisement eventually found that the entrepreneur Mudd was not selling humanoid women exposed to a subspace compression anomaly, but rather cheaply made synthetic lifeforms that deteriorated soon after their purchase. So there is some doubt whether a subspace compression anomaly has indeed appeared inside a planetary atmosphere."
CJ nodded again. "The effect upon planetary gravitational fields, and," he raised an eyebrow, "magnetic ones would be unpredictable." He was now concerned that having briefed about one space occurrence that had produced hundreds of alternate realities, T'Pasek had just briefed another that had reduced a Danube Class Runabout to the size of an insect.
"There are several anecdotal incidents I could give in describing the various phenomenon associated with the Maelstrom," T'Pasek continued, "However, in the interest of brevity, I have taken a liberty of assembling my briefing in a form downloadable to your PADD." T'Pasek made an entry into her PADD, with said briefing appearing in the PADD of the senior staff assembled. "You will find that I have personalized the downloaded briefing with emphasis on those phenomenon that will concern each specific department, with cross references available. This will include such things as observed frequency and general location of phenomenon, effects on biological lifeforms, ship subsystems and so forth."
Up until this point, the counselor had been actively listening, following the lecture and responses from the crew with his gaze and nodding where appropriate. Now he picked up his PADD from the table and scrolled through the potential effects psychological and emotional on the crew. He wasn't sure if the list were actually abridged at all, but he had a feeling it wasn't. He cleared his throat. "The departmental-specific list is appreciated," he offered. "Perhaps you could share an example or two of the most likely phenomena we could encounter?"
"Polywater has been found on planets where the primary star is not in its final stage of existence," T'Pasek replied, referring to the polymerized form of standard water. "Fortunately, it is a substance easily detected and counteracted."
CJ had always admired Vulcan 'phlegm'; T'Pasek's precise delivery was a masterful display of logical understatement. He always admired the Vulcan ability to 'park' the emotional, a skill he himself had some success with. He looked at Doctor Anjohl, wondering whether he had 'enjoyed' any exposure to polywater intoxication while he contained his dark fears about his polywater intoxicated engineers running around Main Engineering.
"I think," he began slowly, "that with a combination of quantum fissures, subspace compression anomalies and polywater that this 'maelstrom' is aptly named."
Dreisor scratched at the back of her neck. "With no way to map the hazards and the possibility of compromised staff, we have to be sure all of my flight team is ready to turn this ship on a pea. I'll add a few more training sims to our schedules."
"That is not quite an accurate depiction of the situation," T'Pasek advised the Cardassian, "Though additional training would not be amiss. You will see in the data I sent to your PADD, Ensign, that I have sent the probability of various...'navigational hazards' appearing in different sectors of the Maelstrom. For the moment, we can predict the where and when, if not the why. For the moment.
Turning her attention to the Captain, the Vulcan added, "I am not what humans would call a 'betting woman,' but if I were, I suspect the deeper our incursions are into the Maelstrom, the more likely were are to deviate from our predictive algorithms. On the peripheral regions of the Maelstrom, our predictive theories should abide us a certain degree of security."
"Question," the Bajoran doctor interjected, "How severe do you expect the deviations to become, and what can we expect these deviations to do our systems and our personnel?"
"By deviations, Doctor," the Chief Science Officer replied, "I mean deviations from the predictive algorithms, and not necessarily what the ship or its personnel will encounter. For example..." the Vulcan made an entry into her LCATS interface. The advertisement for Mudd's Magnificent Miniaturized Minxes disappeared, and was replaced by a trinary star system, consisting of a pair of yellow dwarves and an outlying red dwarves. "In this instance, there is a roughly seventy-three percent that, in the Maelstrom, this configuration will produce a significant quantity of exaggerated Birkeland currents...quantum filaments. Sensors can be adjusted to detect this phenomenon at a greater range than would be possible in normal space. However, this is accompanied by a more demanding maintenance schedule than would normally be necessary. Therefore, it would be prudent to refrain from adjusting the sensors unless absolutely necessary."
"The further we enter the Maelstrom," T'Pasek continued, "The less dependable the probability becomes. Which leaves us with a conundrum. Do we adjust the sensors, perhaps unnecessarily and at a greater long term material and structural cost? Or do we presume that deviation has dropped the probability of encountering a quantum filament sharply downward, only to be proven wrong in a catastrophic fashion? So we should be able to accurately predict what we will encounter on the outer sectors of the maelstrom. As we progress further into the Maelstrom, events will become less predictable."
"May I suggest that extra power be shunted to the shields and inertial dampeners? Sounds like we're going to be in for a rough ride." The Bolian said, most of what the chief chief said went over the Bolian's head, but it sounded bad. Very bad.
"I would not claim to possess Lieutenant Matero's engineering prowess," T'Pasek responded, "But it would seem that prolonged diversion of power to any ship's system will lead to increased 'wear and tear' on said system, and thus represents its own set of problems." The Vulcan made direct eye contact with the Chief Engineer as she made the last statement.
Matero met her gaze, and thought long and hard. He looked at his new Captain, knowing that she would 'get' this, the perpetual conundrum of the Chief Engineer. "As you are more than aware, Captain, the Sovereign Class was designed to be a more robust platform than the Galaxy and Nebula classes," he said by way of brief introduction. "This challenge seems to be one of knowing what modifications are physical," he looked at T'Pasek, "largely sensors, and propulsion, replacing parts early, isolating redundant equipment and so on, and what requires a power boost or resequencing. So, much of the systems can be boosted without a 'trade off'. That's the good news. The bad news, as CSO has rightly said, is the degradation upon processes operating beyond tolerances for prolonged periods. Shields and impulse systems will degrade first, I assess, from what Lieutenant T'Pasek has told us." He nodded, almost to himself.
"If I might summarize," the Chief Science Officer began. "We have predictive mathematical models in place that should assist us in determining what hazards we are likely to face in different environs, and thus can make customized preparations for each environ. The exact predictions, including departmental specific responses, are there on your PADD. The deeper we enter the Maelstrom, the less accurate our mathematical models will become. Of course, we will be receiving new data, and I will be adjusting the predictive models accordingly. However, while doing so, I will be admittedly 'playing catch up.'"
"With this in mind," T'Pasek concluded, "Are there any further questions?"
"I have one, Lieutenant," Dadora said as she skimmed through her PADD. "What are the risks of relying upon a smaller craft to take point, and relay its telemetry back to Nogura? Would that give us time to map the area so that the Nogura could avoid most of these larger anomalies, assuming we found a way to bolster the craft's shielding and structural integrity prior to entering the Maelstrom?"
"That would be one effective stratagem," T'Pasek allowed, "And a useful one in certain circumstances. In others, it would only be placing personnel and resources at risk with no discernible benefit. Rather than establishing your tactic as a standard operating procedure while in the Maelstrom," T'Pasek advised the Operations Officer, "It might be best to...play it by ear, is the maxim that comes to mind." T'Pasek touched the point of one of her own ears as if to emphasize the point, before nodding to her Captain to finish the briefing.
"Nogura may be twenty years old now, but we must remember she is a Sovereign-class starship," the Captain finally chimed in, sitting forward in her temporary seat at the side of the table. "She has some of the best shielding and scientific systems in the fleet at her disposal and, despite her supposed designation as a battlecruiser, this ship is more than capable of traversing the maelstrom, or Starfleet would not be sending us in their." At that point, the Trill rose to her feet and gestured to the window, and the space beyond. "Whatever is out there, we will face, together, and this ship will get us through it. Heed the warnings from Lieutenant T'Pasek, and approach our impending visit with the curiosity of our ancestors many moons ago. We leave Deep Space 5 as Starfleet officers, but we enter the Maelstrom as explorers," she grinned, lowering her hand and placing it on the headrest of the chair she had occupied.
"Let's just hope we leave the Maelstrom as explorers too," Commander Adams smirked, shaking her head at the childlike enthusiasm of her superior.
Deila had been silent for the entirety of the briefing, since scientific and technical analyzes weren't anywhere near her set of skills, but had listened with growing interest anyway. This would be a dangerous, trying, and perilous journey, but she had faith the crew and the captain were up to the task.
"Where silence has its greatest lease," she began to speak, almost whispering these words, "and light has gone astray. Where lines of war are drawn and fought, we boldly go our way. And in the night, we see the truth, and in our hearts say: 'Onward friends, homeward bound, to reach the break of day.'" She seemed to have been lost in a reverie while she was speaking, but when she was done, Deila realized she'd spoken a few lines of a poem she'd written in front of the entire senior staff. She clasped her hands in her lap and looked at the table, too embarrassed to look at anyone.
"There's no plenty of life left in the ship." The burly Bolian commented. "As the Captain said, her shields are the finest in the fleet. We will be safe."
Watching her senior staff converse, the Captain let out a heartfelt smile and, for the first time with her new crew, she felt them come together as a team. And she was proud to represent them as their Captain.