USS Triton
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Tick Tock Merrily Sings The Explosive Protomatter Device [MISSION END]

Posted on Thu May 7th, 2020 @ 1:53am by Commander Soraya Rezvani & Lieutenant Commander Vriaral Dariars & Ensign Zyrra Thelin & Senior Chief Petty Officer Jaylen Elam

Mission: Tick-Tock
Location: Sensor Pod - A Level, Primary Sensor Array
Timeline: MD09: 1700 hours



With a mix of strain and annoyance on her face, Soraya ducked and twisted around some mechanism of one of the probe launch tubes to enter the room containing the primary sensor array. Although she realized immediately that calling it a "room" was being generous - nothing about the sensor pod seemed standard or ordinary. There were no walls where one might have expected them. Doors were more like pass-throughs or openings. The gravity plating that constituted the deck was uncarpeted, exposed, and seemed slightly less robust than its main decks equivalent. EPS conduits ran everywhere in bewildering configurations and a majority of the ODN wiring was visible running in bundles along walls and conduit alike. To her, it looked like half-finished construction, though she knew it was complete.

"I must admit," began Soraya, speaking to no one in particular, "that I didn't expect it to be quite so exposed. The specifications of the ship do make note that the sensor pod is generally unmanned, but I would have thought they'd make some accommodations for comfort for when it is manned."

"I believe the designers' purpose was that this section of the ship would not require significant crew operation to function," Zyrra responded, unsure whether the Commander was joking or being serious. "Many of these systems are remotely operated from the Astrometrics lab anyway." She looked around, fascinated by the myriad conduits snaking around above her head. Perhaps this was another section that the drydock engineers hadn't quite finished working on as yet.

Jaylen trailed behind the group of Senior Officers as they toured the Triton’s sensor primary sensor array. The sensor pod recalibration had gone well and without incident or delays, much to his delight since he was the one responsible for overseeing the upgrade. With all the station technicians and personnel coming and going the ship had been a hub of activity and challenging to secure.

Though it didn’t look it, by all the exposed conduit and uncarpeted gravitational plating, this area of the ship was nearly finished, as it was meant to be unmanned most of the time.

“Saves time” Jaylen added. “Since this area of the ship is meant to be unmanned there is no need for any unnecessary comforts. And if we must get in here and make any repairs or adjustments, we don’t have to waste time removing any access paneling. This isn’t an area of the ship that should see a lot of traffic.”

Vriaral was the last to weave and twist through to the room and frowned a little at the room taking it all in. “I like to think it will have very little traffic after a refit.” The Trill said bouncing on the balls of his feet as he felt the flooring underneath himself shift just enough for the man who looked out for anything like that noticed. He would pull it up later when it was just him to check how secure it was but for now it would suffice as it must be sturdy with four fully grown adults on. He always hated this area of the ship, it left crew vulnerable.

"I understand there was some combat in this area of the ship during the Breen boarding action in the Rolor nebula. Considering that and excluding aesthetic considerations, I suppose they've done quite a good job with restoring it," Soraya said.

She moved to take up a position at one the control panels for the primary sensor array and gestured for Zyrra and the others to join her. This was supposed to be a simple tour of the area - a sort of christening after the final calibrations had been completed - but she was a little too hands-on to just show up, look around, nod, and move on.

"We've received word that our next assignment is studying the trinary stars in the Gemulon system. What say we give the new systems a preliminary shakedown and see what we can glean about the Gemulon system from here?"

Jaylen had never been to the Gemulon system, it sounded like a good shakedown cruise for the new crew of the ship to get acquainted with each other. A nice easy mission out of space dock with a new crew was always a good idea. As the officers manned the other stations Jaylen stepped up to one of the axillary panels and began preparing to bring the sensor array online, with the ship being docked and linked to Starbase 50 still, she was operating under the station’s power as well as her own. Any attempts to bring the sensors online, or for that matter any of the Triton’s systems were monitored closely by not only the bridge crew but the station personnel as well.

“I’ll notify the bridge and station that we’re bringing the sensor array online” Jaylen spoke as he worked the console. “We don’t want anyone to think that someone is trying to hijack the ship…though it would give us a chance to see how good station security is” he finished with a smile.

Of course, doing so would show a complete disregard for protocol, Zyrra thought to herself. Commander Rezvani didn't seem to object, though. Following the Commander's lead, she stood to one side, watching and waiting. "I would very much appreciate the chance to perform a full planetary survey of the Gemulon system," she agreed.

"Lieutenant Darriars, would you mind monitoring the power flow? We'll be approaching safety limits, so I'd like to keep an eye on things," Soraya added. With a hint of mischief, she added, "And see how much we can stress test the systems."

"Not at all, Ma'am." It would be nice to get back to something a little more basic than what he had been dealing with recently with being Chief Engineer on first a Starbase then two ships that should have been confined to the scrap yards. Vriaral was starting to like this Commanding Officer more and more other than her giving him a change thanks to the hint of mischief.

"All right, let's start with a standard sweep of the system and then queue up a spectral analysis of each of the stars individually," Soraya said. She stepped back a bit and gestured to the controls, indicating that Zyrra should take the reins. She remained capable, though her stellar cartography days were more than a bit behind her, but it seemed more appropriate to let the junior officer take the lead on her first assignment. "If we utilize the scanning and computational power of the entire sensor palette, then it should give us an indication of the upper limits of strain we can place upon the sensor array."

I know that already, Zyrra thought to herself silently. She wasn't some first yet cadet any more. But she wouldn't undermine her new commanding officer at all. "I'm bringing the lateral arrays online now. Relays seem nominal for the moment." She tapped a few controls. "Some fluctuations in the secondary power flows. Someone may have done a poor job at replacing the older plasma relay, it looks like it might be out of alignment." She glanced up. "We should replace it ourselves to make sure that we don't suffer an overload."

"Easy enough to fix and highly likely due to a poor job and having not been stressed test fully. I will add a ticket to the on going end of refit repairs." Vriaral assured Zyrra already adding it to his mental list to create a ticket for it when he was a little less distracted by a ticking noise that just sounded out of place, to say the least. The Trill had been on many ships, in many different eras at the noise just did not fit at all.

"Is that one of the electromagnetic waveguides?" Soraya asked. She pinched her brow, tilted her head, and turned to look in the same direction as Vriaral. She turned to the chief of the boat, who she'd assigned as the primary liaison between the ship and starbase staff, "Chief Elam, do you recall the engineers even touching those systems?"

“There were technicians all over this area Captain” Jaylen replied noticing that something else had already captured her attention. “There were no problems or nothing out of the ordinary reported.”

The commander didn't even hear his response, as she'd already crossed the space to the control panel nearest the offending noise. She motioned to the chief engineer and then directed him closer to the source. "Lieutenant Commander, can you monitor the area? Let's see if we can detect any changes in the waveguides or related systems."

"Of course Ma'am." Vriaral moved closer to the requested area and stood there pondering where the odd sound was coming from. It did not sound at all natural in the grand scheme of a federation starship.

"Zyrra, can you conduct a simultaneous spectral analysis of the three stars in the Gemulon system?" Soraya asked. She was too engrossed in the control panel to turn around but raised her voice sufficiently to be heard. "That's likely to strain the power flow sufficiently for us to detect any changes."

"That's not really protocol. We might cause more damage to the relays," Zyrra observed, more to herself than to anyone else. It very much was not standard procedure to be straining power flows through an already questionable set of conduits. She frowned a little as once again nobody appeared to contradict the Commander. "I will increase the flow within the registered safety guidelines," she finally remarked, probably too quiet for most people to hear.

"Anything?" Soraya said, turning to Vriaral. She adjusted her hijab to expose an ear better and seemed to strain to hear.

Vriaral glanced at the woman but noticed the hijab adjusted and looked slightly over her shoulder. "It's not changed. It's like a... It sounds almost like ticking of a clock. And for the life of me, I do not know why that sound is in a sensor pod." He admitted turning away to start tracing the sound down. It would only bother him if he could not find it.

"Let's... Shut down the analysis, get most of the primary sensor systems off line," Soraya said over her shoulder.

Without the advantage of Trill hearing and lifetimes of experience, she had to focus a little harder than Vriaral but eventually she heard it, too. There was precise repetition to it, but it wasn't a sound that she was familiar with, not even one of the many noises on a starship that over the lifetime of service starts to fade into the background as white noise. This was distinct. And foreign.

"What's behind this panel?" Soraya asked almost rhetorically as she searched for a seam. But it was a fairly seamless portion of bulkhead, the sort that were generally attached directly to the superstructure of the ship. Whatever ran behind it was likely just conduit, carrying something from one node to another. There shouldn't be anything of importance behind it, and there certainly shouldn't have been something making noise. She moved to the nearest edge of the panel and then looked around. "Engineering kit? Tricorder?"

The noise was quite distinctive, Jaylen could hear it himself now as he moved to the utility cabinet and removed a tricorder, handing it to the Captain while he shut down the analysis as she had instructed. The sound could be heard louder now, emanating from behind the bulkhead panel.

With the analysis now shutting down, Jaylen reached back into the utility cabinet, pulling out the engineering kit and grabbing the Isolinear Spanner.

“The only thing behind that panel is conduit” Jaylen informed them. “Mostly for systems related to the sensor pod itself.”

"As I thought, which makes it all the more peculiar, doesn't it?" Soraya said. "Chief, Commander Dariars, would you mind removing the paneling? Let's take a look and see if we can't determine the source."

The Chief Engineering Officer quietly set about moving the panelling aside. The noise was starting to bother him and remind him why he did not have an old-style chronometer and kept to the computer keeping him abreast of the time.

Once the paneling had been removed, they were faced with a pretty unremarkable scene. Given the demanding nature of the equipment in the sensor pod, there was an above average amount of cabling infrastructure to handle all the information flowing back and forth from the main computer and the sensor palettes. Two EPS conduits extended the length of the panel and beyond, and at least two sub-processor nodes. Beyond that, everything looked perfectly normal.

She wasn't sure what she'd been expecting to see, but Soraya had hoped it might be obvious - sparking wires, smoking conduit, some flashy device. Instead, she had to lean in closer to the exposed portion of the ship and listen closely. She heard it faintly down the line; crouching down, she did an odd sort of crab walk along until she finally located the source. The sound was coming from a small device about the size of a tricorder. In fact, her first instinct was to mistake it for a tricorder. But closer inspection revealed it had circuitry running along two exposed sides and an unfamiliar visual display interface on the front. There were two thin wires - one red, one green - running from behind the device to a shunt directly inserted in one of the EPS conduits.

With a furrowed brow, Soraya turned back from the device to the crew. "Thoughts?"

"Uh, Ma'am..." Vriaral was pretty sure the commanding officer sneaking passed him to slid along the panelling and superstructure of the ship. He was pretty sure there was a directive advising against it but the woman had already moved past him as he moved the panelling to the side. The Trill followed and leaned around the woman to look at the device. "Uh... you do not want to know my thoughts." He admitted quickly. "I would highly advise that we move quickly back out."

"That's not regulation modification," Zyrra stated, not hearing the suggestion. A tricorder appeared in her hand a bare few seconds later. "This can't be correct, Commander. I'm detecting a distinct protomatter signature from the junction. Protomatter devices are strictly forbidden under Starfleet mandate, due to their highly volatile nature." She glanced at the senior engineer in the room. "Backing out would not be the safest course of action; these readings are incredibly unstable. A paroxysm is inevitable at this point."

It wasn't very becoming of a commanding officer, but Soraya had to admit some feeling of panic to herself. They hadn't even departed on their first mission and her ship was already a liability to the starbase and the sector. Without a tricorder at hand, she couldn't calculate the yield, but even a small amount of protomatter would irreparably damage subspace. Was the noise a timer? Some internal mechanism central to its operation? The panic passed quickly as she stood up and moved away from the device. She was the captain of the ship, but she wasn't too proud to delegate when and where it was necessary. Explosive devices were far outside her wheelhouse, but she could competently control the flow of action.

"We don't know its triggers, but we have to assume it has at least one. Removing it from the EPS conduit, beaming it off the ship, rendering it inert with a compound, jumping to warp... All seem just as likely to detonate it as to neutralize it. Lieutenant Dariars, let's see if we can gather any additional information about the device with the aim of neutralizing it. Ensign Thelin and Chief Elam can assist while I begin the evacuation of the ship."

Vriaral let out a relieved breath as the woman moved at least away from the device enough that he could at least get a proper look at it in the small space. "Can someone pass me a tricorder?" He requested finding his voice quite calm and composed despite the adrenaline suddenly going through him.

Zyrra closed hers and placed it in the Engineer's hand without speaking. Her antennae flicked around, uncomfortably sensing the growing anxiety in the room. She stared hard at the wide open junction in front of them as Vriaral went to work, wondering to herself how they might solve the problem. Scientifically speaking she knew that protomatter was highly unstable, but the key was its interaction with the other elements around it; some caused it to destabilise and ignite. Others were capable of containing it. Perhaps...that might be the key.

"Commander," she said, stepping forward to join the Engineer. "I have a theory. We do not have time to neutralise the protomatter, but we may be able to neutralise the other elements of the explosive device. If we can isolate the trilithium resin used in the casing and invert its cellular dimensions we may be able to eliminate it as a catalyst," she explained. Hopefully the senior officer understood his chemistry or this would be much more difficult.

Normally if someone offered a theory he would have turned and given his fall attention but he did not want to take his eyes off the explosive device for a second. He was hoping the old saying a watched pot never boils. "It is a good theory." And likely quicker than his theory on what they could do. "And quicker than what I was coming up with." He had no shame in admitting that in the slightest. He did not have an ego that allowed him to do that.

At a nearby console, Soraya contacted Starbase 50. asked them to begin an emergency beam out of all non-essential personnel, and surrendered helm control to them so that the ship could begin moving away from the starbase (for all the good it would do if the device actually detonated). The personnel in the command center were remarkably calm and asked few questions, though in all fairness she hadn't relayed the full gravity of the situation to them. That she'd save for the station's commander, who'd no doubt be contacting her very shortly. Once that was as handled as it could be, she tapped her combadge.

"Rezvani to Seong. We've discovered some manner of explosive device of unknown provenance planted in the sensor pod. We're attempting to disable it, but we've yet to determine it's trigger. We're moving the ship away from the starbase as we speak, and their CnC is handling the evacuation of our non-essential personnel. While we work to defuse the device, could you please coordinate with the security department to conduct a thorough sweep of the ship to see if anything else has been planted here? I'm sending the data on the device to you now..."

"Yes, ma'am."

After the acknowledgment, Soraya turned her attention back to Vriaral and Zyrra. "Any progress?"

"Some Ma'am," Vriaral called over his shoulder. "We have a theory of a plan thanks to Ensign Thelin." The Engineer was sure between himself and the Science Officer officer it stood a good chance.

"So I heard," the commander said as she pulled away from the console to approach the device. It was so small and innocuous looking that it was hard to believe it could wipe out so much in an instant. Though many questions came to mind - what precisely was it, who'd placed it on the ship, and why the Triton - her primary objective was to neutralize the threat. Ensign Thelin's plan was a sound and innovative one, precisely in keeping with the sort of thought she'd admired her for.

Soraya produced a tricorder she'd retrieved from a nearby workstation and began scanning the device. Naturally, it revealed little through the ordinary scans. "Trilithium should show up in the theta-band, so we should be able to detect it by narrowing the bands and boosting the gain on the tricorder. But neutralizing it... We don't have time to get the transkinetic chamber from engineering, so we'll have to improvise with building a radiometric converter. We can direct the conversion field to envelope the device, which... Theoretically, that will neutralize the trilithium resin in the same manner as it neutralizes the trilithium in our antimatter waste through cellular dimensional inversion."

"You science folks," Vriaral said with a goofy grin for a moment before turning serious again trying to think on how to create a radiometric converter as she was right none of them had the time to get to Engineering. He knew he did not know the way 100% yet and that would just waste time. "Commander I need you to do some wanton destruction to your new ship." If she was not going to leave she might as well help. "Behind there in one of the sensor palettes, there is a primary analysis chamber that we are going to need. It's a crude fix but I think we can do it." He quickly held up a PADD to show her what it would look like just encase.

Soraya stood up and disappeared behind a dividing partition, though they could hear her at work. She popped open one of the sensor palettes and searched through it, looking for the right component. It was a mess of chambers, conduits, and hardware, and she hadn't seen most of them since her graduate school days. Thankfully, things hadn't changed that much. With a small prayer for forgiveness from the starbase engineers who had worked so hard to calibrate the device, she ripped out the primary analysis chamber of the variable frequency EM flux sensor and moved back to the others. It was a rough fix, but she knew they had the expertise among them to reconfigure the chamber into a makeshift radiometric converter.

Zyrra studied the components and saw what her Commanding Officer intended to do. It was wildly outside of regular protocols, extremely risky, and might well make things far worse than they were. But she didn't protest. Instead she picked-up the module ripped from the flux sensor and began stripping the outer assembly components. "We'll need to realign the frequency harmonics to the correct wavelengths. Protomatter is extremely volatile and constantly shifting." She paused, pensively considering her next words. "I realise this may not be strictly orthodox, but...in close proximity my antennae can detect the shift of electrical fields around the device. I would need to be within just a few feet of it, however I could ensure that the frequency harmonics are more stable during the process."

"Very well," Soraya said.

She'd hesitated before responding - long enough for concern but not long enough to be interpreted as indecision. They could have used the tricorder to do the same thing, but it would have involved a good deal of programming and interfacing the tricorder with the makeshift radiometric converter. The ensign's antennae were likely reliable enough, she'd volunteered, and, frankly, anything they did at this point was just as likely to kill them as rescue them.

Together, Soraya worked with the ensign to finish removing the outer assembly components and reprogram the device to generate a conversion field for neutralizing trilithium. It required some components from a tricorder and a few tools from the work kit, but she was largely satisfied with their effort when she finished. All that was left was to affix it to the device and allow the ensign to "listen" in order to make adjustments to the conversion field. Though it didn't matter much, the captain took a step back to join Vriaral and Jaylen a comfortable distance away so as not to crowd the Andorian while she worked.

Zyrra took a deep breath, watching the more senior officers take a few steps back. She'd volunteered for this task. It might end up with a hole torn in subspace and the complete destruction of the Triton. But she was confident in her own capabilities.

She closed her eyes, letting the two antennae on her head twitch as they sensed the variations of electrical fields coming from the device, while her hands felt the pulsing vibration from the device itself. Her fingers traced the hastily-assembled conversion field generator, making adjustments on the fly. She began to sweat, either from the stress of the situation or the growing heat inside the room. But it didn't break her concentration.

Thirty seconds passed. Forty. Fifty. One minute just began to creep over when the low ticking sound stopped. It was followed by a shrill whine. Her heart almost stopped, but she held on for those seconds, holding her breath until the sound suddenly ceased. All was silent. She opened her eyes and looked at the device in her hands.

"C-Commander..." she swallowed. "I believe our attempt to neutralize the trilithium components was successful."

Soraya didn't even realize she'd been holding her breath until she had to exhale to speak. "Commendable job, ensign." She rocked a bit on her heels then pressed her palms against her trousers, finding after doing so that they'd been sweating. "Now then, I suppose we need to isolate the device in a stasis field pending investigation by the security department. Chief Elam can see to that. The rest of this... I suppose we should leave, shouldn't we?" She thought a moment, reaching for the procedures from the last time she'd had a crime scene aboard her command. There was a brief pang of nostalgia for her old security chief, Tumaini Calumn, before she spoke again. "Right, preserve the scene. I'll ask Centurion t'Seroht to contact you within the hour for a formal statement. And might I suggest afterward a stiff drink on base?"

Vriaral moved towards the Ensign and slowly pulled her back. "Job done Ensign. I know who I am going to call for future explosive incidents. Let me finish up." He said gently, before setting about checking that it was truly over with. He came back out to allow Elam to do her job of putting the area in a stasis field. "I will buy." Vriaral offered slowly rolling his neck to release the tension he was suddenly finding there.



Commander Soraya Rezvani
Commanding Officer
USS Triton, NCC-62389

Lieutenant Commander Vriaral Dariars
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Triton, NCC-62389

Ensign Zyrra Thelin
Science Officer
USS Triton, NCC-62389

Senior Chief Petty Officer Jaylen Elam
Chief of the Boat
USS Triton, NCC-62389

 

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