Chapter 5 - Distress Signal

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PADD in one hand, half-finished cup of tea in the other, Evan read the closing paragraph again. “So, not static,” Evan mused, recalling the field fluctuations that Engineering had first reported in the daily status update. “And Lieutenant Davies-Muir believes she can adapt the navigational sensors to scan for these stellar phenomena?”

“It is off-label use of the system…” She dipped her head to the side, slightly bemused. “But considering all of the systems are in place, and the research we need to establish itis well documented, it would be a matter of testing the settings and refining the attunement. The granularity of the results will come down to computer processing, which we will further attune once we have enough data for the computer to run through algorithmic comparisons and make out the dominant patterns. At least that’s what the specialists are telling me.”

Evan was fairly up to date on the quantum physics involved in the slipstream drive, or at least he liked to think he was – he’d had precious little opportunity to work on the drive directly, for example, but he’d versed himself in its systems extensively – but the planar array schematics that Davies-Muir’s approach was based on were stretching his limits to an uncomfortable degree. Briar’s report, and her thorough synopsis, shone some light on the idea, but …

Had it finally arrived, the point at which his experience as a Chief Engineer had finally been outpaced by advancements and time away from the field?

He lowered the PADD and looked across the desk at Briar. His Chief of Operations had well and truly thrown herself into her role. It was hardly surprising. As First Officer, she’d been more than an able co-ordinator of people and resources. Operations was more nitty-gritty than that, obviously, but her skills had transitioned seamlessly, it seemed.

“How soon does the Lieutenant think she can have it up and running?” he asked. “And what resources will she need?”

“We could begin immediately and I’d anticipate crude results in a matter of hours,” she replied. “It’s the initial computer processing and the power cycling for the array that would be resource heavy and require time to adjust and refine. After it’s been perfected, it would just be another scanning setting available to employ. But I couldn’t say how long that research and development might take until we start getting results.”

A lot of scanning bandwidth was about to be taken up. Science wouldn’t be happy, what little Science there currently was aboard the Hiroshima. No wonder that Lt. Cmdr. Mez had decided to double job in the department. She reminded him of Jean-Pierre LaSalle in that way, albeit in reverse.

Before he could say anything else, a channel opened from the bridge. “Captain, we’re receiving a priority 1 message from Starfleet.”

Briar straightened up. Even though she was well out of the frame of the comm link view, a priority one message was enough to snap anyone into attention. She looked at Evan as if to say “what now?” They’d just been making some interesting discoveries and developments and something was going to call them away from it.

Reminding the alarm bells in his head that, no, they wouldn’t be contacting him first if this was it for him, Evan said, “Put it through.” He tapped the symbol to raise the screen from his desk, but instead of the Federation symbol, it displayed the logo of Deep Space 17. Once extended, the screen switched to show a Tellarite with a commodore’s pip.

“Captain Yearling. I’m Commodore Yorch, sector command.”

“Commodore,” Evan returned the greeting. Wasn’t DS17 located on the other side of the Federation?

“I’ll get straight to it. An hour ago, one of our listening posts received a distress signal from the USS Lorrenz. It was on a deep space survey in the Beta Quadrant. According to an update we received a week ago, it had encountered ruins on a deserted planet and advanced molecular biotech.”

Evan tensed reflexively. “How deep into the Beta Quadrant were they?”

“Sector 37890,” Yorch replied. “All the way out beyond Romulan space. It took twelve days just for their signal to reach us.”

Twelve days? And Starfleet wasn’t calling on a closer slipstream-capable vessel? Evan shared a look with Briar. “We can be at its location in sixteen hours.”

“Make that eighteen.” Yorch didn’t give Evan the time to ask why. “The direct path to the Lorrenz’s position would take you through a spur of Romulan space, and they’re politely stalling our request for permission to send the Hiroshima across. You’ll have to go around.”

Stalling? Hadn’t the Romulan Free State and the Federation … Ah. “Which Romulans?”

Yorch grimaced. “We’re unsure which political entity is in control of the spur right now. More than one political faction is claiming it.” Potentially reading Evan’s thoughts, he added, “It took the Lorrenz’s distress signal twelve days to reach us, Captain. Whichever Romulans are running the show out there now would’ve heard it in two. They probably dispatched a ship a week ago.”

“Understood,” Evan replied. Permission refused because the opportunity was too good. “We’ll make for the Lorrenz’s position immediately.”

“We’re forwarding a data packet with the Lorrenz’s mission reports,” Yorch said. “Deep Space 17 out.”

Evan tapped his commbadge. “Helm, set course for sector 37890 but skirt us around Romulan territory,” he said. “Best possible speed.”

“Ancient Ruins. And molecular biotech.” Briar could put those together in a number of none to pleasant outcomes. And there were so many other unknown elements… “I’ll pull up the mission report on the Lorrenz and her manifest and recent subspace communiques prior to the distress call.” They would have eighteen hours to pull together as much context as possible. “With any luck we can beat the Romulans to the scene.”

OFF: This kicks off our new mission, Nanophoria – thanks to Mitch for the name – and I’ll put out a senior officers’ briefing JP later today.



JP by:


Lt Cmdr Briar Elin, Chief of Operations


Capt. Evan Yearling

Commanding Officer

USS Hiroshima-B