Chapter 2: Ad Hoc Quantum Planar Array

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<System H-Alpha-V>

In the depths of the cosmic chaos of System H-Alpha-V, which Steffi and her clan had come to call Shaveev, partly for brevity and partly for style, things were slowly settling out for the department. To be sure, they still had the odd repair from the ever-present “To Do” list, but much of the heavy lifting was complete, and the repair teams were able to focus more on niceties. If she felt a bit of pride at how they’d pulled things together, LTJG Davis-Muir was keeping that blissfully to herself.

Moseying past the Primary Systems Display, she gave a cursory glance to verify that all was well with the ship’s warp reactor. On paper, the stellar nursery would have no effect on the ship’s power systems, yet she knew better than to take predictions at face value. In this particular instance, however, the smarter minds that designed Starfleet ships for a living had it right: the readouts were indistinguishable from those in open space, and the reactor plant was happily producing energy from the cancellation effect of matter and antimatter.

Stephanie slid to the replicator to materialize a breakfast tea, with cream, before idly scanning the space. Picking up her cup and saucer, she wrinkled her nose at the sight of energy perturbations on the subspace lens, which they’d brought up for diagnostic and modeling purposes. “More o’ th’ chatter?” she asked, referring to the clicking sound that the ship’s computer made when the perturbations appeared.

Ensign P’Lor found the phrase irritating, and needed to concentrate for a moment to keep her emotions in proper check. “Yes, Lieutenant,” she droned. “The lens continues to experience quantum fluctuations, as previously detected and documented.”

“Which is wot I said,” Steffi corrected, a bit softly. There was little point in becoming irate at the Vulcan lass, for she was simply being, well, Vulcan. “Think of it as a bit of a wee conversational opening,” she clarified. “With th’ point of pullin’ the string t’ determine th’ cause.”

Sensing a discussion, the ever-intrusive and energetic Ensign David Wilks made his way over. “I charted the deflections,” he stated, as his fatal flaw was that he was prone to inject himself into any and everything, sometimes stepping on the toes of his compatriots. In this case, however, he was innocent of meddling, as nobody had been looking at the phenomenon in anything that might be considered earnest.

Stephanie had been working with Wilks, so she reminded him, “Information is better than facts.” What she meant was that she wanted analysis, rather than a vague statement that he’d looked at something, even if that analysis was the he was unable to make any conclusions.

Wilks nodded, for he was about to get to that. He liked to wind up and attract interest before spilling the beans, even though the approach was less than desirable, according to their boss pro tempore. “I know, I know,” he muttered. “I was about to show you.” Activating one of their many ‘scribble boards,’ screens that allowed the display of images, along with data and written notes, David opened a running file of the fluctuations over time. “I noted a regular pattern,” he expounded. “The Main Computer attributed it to the ship’s fusion reactors…”

“An assessment that is incorrect,” P’Lor stated. For all his bluster, Ensign Wilks would be far more useful if he’d taken the time and effort to embrace logic, as that would dictate that the many would be better served by his silence than by anything else.

“How so?” Whatever had stood out to her Vulcan mastermind was not obvious to Stephanie, or, it seemed, to Ensign Wilks.

“Lieutenant,” P’Lor asked. “Need I remind you that the period for Starfleet fusion reactor systems is twelve milliseconds, with a six percent tolerance?” Apparently, she did need to remind the woman of precisely that.

“You did,” Stephanie agreed, “as I hadn’t made the connection.” She might have, given time, but the temporal spacing of quantum ‘ticks’ from a ship’s fusion reactor was not normally discussed, as it wasn’t all that useful to maintaining and operating the equipment. “Which, as I’ve pointed out multiple times, is how we collaborate.” She didn’t care a whit about who knew more, or who solved the mystery; she simply wanted the mystery solved, and would draw on each and every talent at her disposal to make it happen.

For instance, for all of P’Lor’s instant recall of fact, and unmatched mastery of advanced concepts, she hadn’t bothered to put those skills to use. Ensign Wilks, bull in a china shop that he was, had seen something, and started an analysis, however shallow, that had pulled P’Lor into the mix. That, to Stephanie, was the magic of how she wanted to operate; not as a solo know-it-all, who used blunt force trauma on herself to get to the answer in isolation, all for the elusive kudo of being thought brilliant. Instead, she wanted a collaborative team, who could work together and achieve far more than any individual might.

Ensign Jung-Mo “Joe” Park saw the trio in discussion, and made his way over, as that had become the departmental expectation. “David’s chart?” he queried, although he was pretty sure it was what Wilks had pulled up, a few hours before. If so, it looked like Miss Davies-Muir wanted to dig a little deeper into the phenomenon they’d branded The Chatter.

“Aye,” Steffi confirmed. “Goin’ theory is tha’ it’s nae caused by ship systems.”

“Hardly a theory, Lieutenant,” P’Lor assured her. “It is a logical deduction and a rejection of results inconsistent with the design and operation of said ship systems.” Fortunately, kohlinar had prepared her for many things, inuring her from frustrations that should be felt by one, who was working for someone of such limited capacity.

Park, like most of his fellow engineers, had learned to ignore the incessant jabs and reminders of P’Lor’s superiority in basically all things. “Have we looked at an energy analysis?” They were quantum events, to be sure, but he didn’t think they’d definitely identified the nature, or source, of those events.

“Yup,” Wilks piped up. He knew he was better than they gave him credit, and would eventually figure that out. “See?”

“Stellar phenomenon,” Stephanie assessed, for it appeared to be precisely that.

“Obviously,” P’Lor added, which might have been a tad disingenuous, for she hadn’t yet made the connection, yet was certain that she soon would have.

“Yeah?” It was actually a rhetorical question, as it was reminiscent of something Ensign Park had seen before. “It’s kind of familiar, though I’m not sure why…” He squinted, trying to force his brain to recall the missing puzzle piece.

“Y’all have,” Stephanie assured him. “Or something similar,” she noted. “I’m nearly certain o’ tha’.”

“It would be logical to expound,” P’Lor corrected, again focusing her efforts to suppress natural, though unwelcome, emotional responses. Often accused of strong dislike of their redhead resident engineer, she continually tried, unsuccessfully, to dispel the rumor.

While she’d hoped another would make the same connection, she also realized that different members of the team didn’t always think alike. “Aye,” she agreed. “It’s similar to th’ Copernicus Array,” a one-of-a-kind quantum planar array, which scientists were only just learning to use. “From scans o’ Sol and E’isn, in particular,” which were the most publicized images from that array.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Wilks injected. “You’re saying we have a frigging quantum planar array? That is so cool!” Nobody had one of those, except for Starfleet science.

“Indeed,” P’Lor concluded, knowing that she’d been the first to that obvious conclusion. “Clearly, the performance monitoring systems are able to interpret fluctuations of the Quantum Lens, thereby enabling its use as a quantum planar array.”

“Clearly, huh?” Wilks muttered, yet left it at that.

“It does appear to be th’ case,” Stephanie agreed. It meant that they needed to share the information, though. “Commander Elin needs to know aboot this.”

“Indeed,” P’Lor added. “Commander Elin, report to-“

“Nae! Senior officers are invited,” Steffi commanded. “Davis-Muir to Commander Elin. Your presence is requested in Main Engineering at your earliest convenience.” She was not going to have a department that forgot its manners, after all!