Chapter 17 - They're Here

OLD:

P’Lor covered her surprise rather quickly. Logic dictated that the most likely explanation for the presence of a non-stationary quantum singularity was that it was contained within the hull, and behind the cloak, of an Imperial Romulan Warbird. “It seems were are unalone at this time.”

“Indeed,” Stephanie agreed. “I’ll inform th’ Captain…”

NEW:

She tried, in vain, not to feel too smugly satisfied by the recent turn of events, but it was simply too difficult. The latest Romulan cloaks were silly in that nothing seemed to make it through. Quantum sensors were very new technology and it appeared that there were some unexpected advantages to using them. Hiroshima’s capability in that area was more by accident than design, but that was neither here nor there. The bottom line was that they were able to see the Romulan propulsion plant, regardless of a cloak, and were all but completely certain that their secretive neighbors had a ship in-system.

Evan heard the doors part behind him but didn’t look around – the bridge was busy, and the number of personnel coming and going every hour was not small – and instead concentrated on the topographic analysis of the planet’s surface currently on the main viewer. Little blue dots phased in and out of clarity, signifying the sensors’ best guess at where the away team were, but the static striations interrupting each of them was worrying. Was it something in the atmosphere that was causing the interference? The nanotech Darney had found was inert, but could its activated compatriots be responsible?

A body stopped just short of his command chair, pulling Evan’s thoughts back to his immediate surroundings. “Lieutenant,” he greeted the Acting Chief Engineer. “Have you discovered something about the nanotech?”

Slightly apologetically, she replied, “No, sir.” Hopefully he wouldn’t tug that string too hard, as she hadn’t really done much with it at all to this point. They didn’t believe the origin to be Borg, yet there was always risk in such assessment, as the Borg were a highly adaptive species. “Tho’ we are working on it,” she offered. “But what brings me here, noo, is tha’ we’ve detected signs of a Romulan Warbird.

“A Warbird?” he asked, somewhere between confused and alarmed. They’d suspected that there could be Romulans in the area. Having it confirmed made it a cold reality. “How’d we penetrate their cloak?”

“Aye,” she confirmed, which definitely stood in the face of the pre-mission claim that they weren’t responding, and also made the refusal to allow the Federation to cross their space look suspect, if not sinister. “We were fortunate tha’t crossed the bow. The Quantum Lens received a four-layer fluctuation across th’ grid that also moved. Certainly a quantum singularity – a mobile one.”

The quantum sensors? Was that even possible? Maybe if there’s resonance, he thought. But it’d have to be local. Or maybe … He realised he had missed the first few words of Davies-Muir’s response.

He seemed very distracted by her news, which probably made it a highly important piece of data. The significance of the Romulan presence in the big scheme of things was definitely outside Stephanie’s purview, but she gathered that there were definite ramifications. “I didnae know what ye’d do with the information, but didnae want to keep it a secret.” After all, the Captain needed to be aware of any and everything that might affect the ship, her systems, her personnel, and, perhaps most importantly, her assigned mission.

“Of course not.” Evan scratched his chin, setting the technical elements of what Davies-Muir had just told him to one side. The Hiroshima was already on alert – standard procedure in a situation like this – but this latest discovery raised the question of what to do next. Raising the alarm further would only announce to the Romulans that their cover was blown, and Evan didn’t want to give up that advantage.

“Stand by on shields,” he said, turning to look at Tactical. “The second we detect a ship decloaking, raise them.”

“Yessir,” Hedaris murmured, eyes locked on the screen before him as he adjusted the settings. Accuracy wasn’t the best, but he could at least filter out as much dissonance as possible.

Looking back to Davies-Muir, Evan asked, “I’m assuming there’s a good chance they don’t know they’ve been found out.”

Stephanie shook her head to emphasize her answer: “I wouldnae think so, as the sensor is passive.” Unless they were able to scan with enough fidelity to detect the fluctuations of the quantum slipstream matrix, and then backward-analyse those fluctuations to then determine that they were the cause. That was basically impossible.

“Is there any way of expanding the scan?” he asked, although from the sounds of it, it seemed doubtful.

“I don’t see how it’s possible with the system as it’s installed now. Maybe if we developed and installed some additional lensing in a scattered array, but the quantum lens as installed is designed for the geometric tunneling of the ship.” Lt jg Xarbe shrugged one shoulder slightly. “We can track whatever we turn to detect with it if we use it like a flashlight. But it’s going to be obvious we’re shining it around. What I can do is generate a vector from the brief pass-by that we did detect.”

“Send what data you have through to the helm,” Evan said. “We’ll see if we can determine where they were headed, at least.” Regardless, the away team would have to be informed. To the junior officer at the Ops console, he said, “Send an encrypted narrow-band transmission to Commander Mez. Let her know we have company.”

“Yes Sir.” Xarbe affirmed, turning back to his console to carry out both orders. There was trouble whenever the Romulans showed up wearing their cloaks and hidding their daggers. Xarbe hated feeling almost xenophobic about it, but it never helped that these people liked their subterfuge and intrigue so much.

“Sir,” Stephanie corrected. “We cannae know where they were headed, as it’s merely a bearing and azimuth. There are infinite solutions to their course and speed.” The sensor was a narrow searchlight that could see a very small area of space, as it was more of an accidental feature than a designed capability for the ship. As such, it was sometimes informative, but one couldn’t rely on it overmuch.

Well, nuts to that idea, then. The thought of swinging the ship around like a flash light to try to catch another glimpse of the hidden Warbird – the only other option on the table at the moment – was equally daft. That meant the old tried and tested approach. “We’ll continue with our standard scans of the system,” he said. “We may be able to detect tachyon emissions that way.”

JP by:

LTJG Stephanie Davies-Muir (NPCed by Hanmore)

Lt. Xarbe (NPCed by Elin)

Chief Hedaris (NPCed by al-Khalid)

Capt. Evan Yearling

Commanding Officer

USS Hiroshima-B