Chapter 23: Finding the Window
“Interference has deepened,” Xarbe said, surprised. “I’m barely getting anything from the away team’s location now. The Security team won’t be able to beam down.”
Damn. “Divert them to the shuttlebay,” Evan said. “They’ll go in with the evacuation shuttle.” Instead of seconds, now it would take minutes for help to reach Mez and the others. Could they hold out for that long?
There was a time when Evan would’ve liked nothing more than to be back in Main Engineering for a crisis, doing what he could to keep the ship at peak efficiency, providing the tools – and sometimes implausible solutions – that others needed to achieve success. Not just because that’s what his ship and crew needed, but because he’d always felt his skill set best suited that role. A builder, fixer, miracle worker.
Approaching the secondary Ops station where a lieutenant tested multiple approaches to overcoming the interference field, he felt that old urge again. This had been his bread and butter, once upon a time.
But he had concerns other than just technical conundrums now – in orbit over a planet with a crashed, presumably scuttled, starship, its crew missing, a cloaked Romulan Warbird in the neighbourhood and now an away team under attack from unknown assailants – and wider responsibilities. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t focus on the most pressing problem at hand.
“Mr. Xarbe,” he said, announcing himself as he arrived. “Have you made any progress with the interference field?”
Xarbe drew in a breath so as not to give a sharp, self-defeating response, and try to find some way to indicate that he had in fact been working very hard on a solution. “It depends, Sir. What counts as progress?” Xarbe said diplomatically, after a slow exhale, still fully absorbed in the task at his console.
Someone might’ve been forgiven for thinking that meant Xarbe and his compatriots had hit one too many hurdles in their work, but checking the data from over the lieutenant’s shoulder, Evan could see that, through a process of elimination, they’d already narrowed down the field’s cause, albeit not its source. “No trace of antigravitons or hyperonic particles, and no fluctuating energy fields,” he mused. At least, none that the Hiroshima’s sensors had been able to pick up.
The field did, however, display characteristics of something else. “Lieutenant, does that deeper layer of interference look like trinimbic interference to you?”
“It is! Or at least that’s what the readings are telling us. What’s strange is the cloud cover isn’t ionicly charged enough to produce significant levels. It would have to be some other highly energetic radiative source.”
Xarbe had hit the nail on the head. Few, if any, of the particle emissions and atmospheric patterns you’d expect to find with naturally occurring trinimbic interference were evident here, but given the current situation on the planet, Evan didn’t think there was anything natural behind the Hiroshima’s transport difficulties. “There aren’t too many ways to penetrate trinimbic interference,” he said, almost to himself.
“I’m trying some theoretical models, Captain. It’s just going to take several cycles through the array before we know if any will work in practice.”
“See if focusing on a beta wave variance has results,” Evan suggested. Even as he did, another possibility occurred to him, but before he could give voice to them, the officer at Tactical spoke.
“Captain, we’ve received word from the surface,” the officer said. “They’ve encountered a Romulan party.”
Well, there’s confirmation, as if we needed it. “Inform the away team that reinforcements are almost with them,” Evan said. “They just need to hold off the Romulans a little longer.”
But the officer shook his head. “The Romulans aren’t the ones attacking, sir. Commander Merin reports that they’re trying to assist the away team.”
“Assist them?” But the Tactical officer’s responding nod told Evan he hadn’t misheard. Why would the Romulans be helping the away team? And if the Romulans weren’t behind this, then who were they helping the away team against?
Those were questions for later. though. “Make sure Lieutenant Hanmore’s shuttle is aware of that,” he said. “We don’t want any misunderstandings.”
Still puzzling over the surprising turn in events, Evan turned back to Xarbe. The idea that had occurred to him before the Tactical officer’s report was less interesting in the face of those developments, but it might still be worth pursuing. “Lieutenant, it’s a relatively safe bet at this point that the interference isn’t naturally occurring,” he said. “Do you think you can locate its source?”
“An artificial source would be where I put my money, if I were a betting man.” Xarbe agreed as he was working on the model. “And I am a betting man when I have the credit chips to spare. I’d put a lot of chips on that square, actually.”
“If we were to saturate the local atmosphere with anionic particles, would we be able to reduce the effect of the interference in that area?”
“It’s possible it would have a cancelling effect,” Xarbe said slowly as he considered. “But the charge wouldn’t hold. It would be temporary if it works.”
“We won’t need much time,” Evan said. “Begin prepping the saturation, Lieutenant”. They would only need a slim window to beam their people off the planet. He just hoped they could hold out a little while longer.
Lt. Xarbe (NPCed by Elin)
Capt. Evan Yearling