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Mercury Falling, Part 1

Posted on Wed May 23rd, 2018 @ 2:25am by Lieutenant Commander Nolan Marc & Commander Jonathan Mantell & Ensign Rufus Marocain
Edited on on Wed May 23rd, 2018 @ 2:27am

Mission: A Misguiding Hand
Location: Bridge
Timeline: MD01

Duty aboard a starship should have been familiar to him.

Out of the Academy, in the midst of the Dominion War, the Okinawa boy had served on a starship for a total of five years. That had been fifteen years ago, yet the experience of serving aboard the Vesta was both distinct and different from the life among the stars he had known before. With multiple, dedicated and specialized science labs, service on the Vesta felt more akin to when he’d served aboard a space station.

The expansive bridge was certainly more reminiscent of station ops than the small, circular bridge of a Nova-class starship. On the Nova, he had known everyone on the crew. Serving on the bridge, they had always been tripping over one another, working shoulder-to-shoulder with hardly enough space in which to turn around.

On the Vesta, the bridge seemed enormous. Walls of monitors wrapped around the back half of the vaulted, graduated chamber, amid which free-standing stations were interspersed.

Nolan was at the Science I station, which was a free-standing console facing out toward the center of the bridge, with the Science II station tucked into the corner behind him.

Raising his head, the tow-headed Okinawan found he knew only one other person currently on duty. The engineer, Jack.

Well, he wasn’t the engineer at the moment. He was the bridge officer on duty. What was that like, anyway? Didn’t the extra watches take him away from engineering?

Brown eyes flickered over toward the helm, where the helmsman seemed a little shaggy-er than was normal.

To be honest, Nolan wasn’t certain just what species the helmsman was even supposed to be.

Sitting in a chair was an odd circumstance for Jack. Oh, sure, he sat from time to time, and he wasn't against relaxing in one. It was being seated for hours at a time that the Miran boy felt was odd, most of his day consisted of standing, or kneeling or crawling or walking, so sitting as a part of his job was the unfamiliar part. Jack had pulled bridge duty by request, something he had decided after the week ordeal following their impromptu timejump of three years, something to give him a break from the engine room on occasion.

Not to mention that it would give him a better chance to get to know more people outside of engineering. He had barely found the time to spend with Jai, formerly his only other Miran colleague on the Vesta, and now Jai was off on a new assignment. And apart from meetings, or the work they had done to get the Delta Flyer ready on the last mission, Jack had barely gotten to know the Kainan sitting at the helm. Nor his new fellow Miran, Nolan, sitting at the Science station, as Jack had spent most of shore leave pouring over the computer code to ensure all traces of the sabotage were eradicated and adding extra precautions.

If someone had told the boy in that moment that he needed to get a life, he might have agreed.

Jack felt the familiar itch in his body, straining against the decorum he was supposed to observe as the bridge duty officer. His dangling feet kicked idly despite himself, sounding lightly on the padded bottom of the seat cushion. His hands fidgeted with the armchair consoles, adjusting the screen angle to the extremes positions its hinge would allow, hearing the resounding click when it latched into various positions. His eyes wandered, taking in the expansive display of flying stars on the viewscreen ahead, the aggressive curves of the bridge design, the number of rivets holding together the consoles at the executive and guest chairs in front of him.

Realizing that wasn't going to occupy him, Jack sprang to his feet and used the two slim consoles by the two chairs in front of him to vault down to the lower bridge level, and down towards the starboard side forward console where Rufus sat. He leaned against the side of the helm console, waiting for the full-sized pooch to focus on him. When he did, the boy asked, "We still on course? Any changes or navigational anomalies in our path?"

Rufus suppressed a chuckle. He'd a bet with himself as to how long the pup would be able to sit still. Jack might be many times his chronological age, but he'd heard enough to know that appearances weren't entirely deceiving. Although Dr. Jai had been pretty mature, which made Rufus wonder about the new Miran one over by the science station. And wonder why Vesta seemed to attract Mirans like lice on an ape... Not that he objected. Jack was good company, even if he couldn't sit still. "Still on course, sir," he replied and threw a small grin. "I'm afraid we haven't flushed anything worth a chase so far."

There were plenty of things in their path. Space dust. Positrons. Hydrogen. A lot of hydrogen actually. About seventy-five percent of the ambient interstellar medium was hydrogen gas of some density. None of those things required course changes however. "This route to Bajor is pretty well charted," Nolan remarked from the science station, glancing up as he looked over toward Shaggy and Jack.

Glancing back down, the boy called up the long range sensors and examined the current astrogation chart. Stellar cartography had recommended a slight adjustment of point-three degrees, but that waypoint wasn't for at least another day. "We shouldn't need to make any course adjustments for another..."

The boy trailed off, pausing a moment as he shifted through the track. The computer had identified what appeared to be a deviant electromagnetic reading, taking the young science officer down a proverbial rabbit hole as he tried to diagnose what the deviation was.

Glancing back up, a lock of dirty blond hair fell in front of the child's face. Kicking his head back, Nolan flipped the hair out of his eyes as he said, "Can I get additional power to the lateral sensor array?"

"Sure!" Jack squeaked as he pitched forward from his position by the helm console. Finally, his body seemed to say to him, something to do. He took the step up to the starboard side of the bridge with a leap, landing squarely in front of the engineering station tucked into the corner, where he sat down in an uncharacteristically calm motion. Shaking his wrists for dramatic effect that probably only amused himself, the boy tackled the console, swiftly bringing up the power distribution display and narrowing it down to the sensor arrays. When he had made the adjustment, he spun in the chair to face Nolan across the bridge, giving him a grin and an outstretched thumb.

As their resident scientist worked, Jack took the time to cross the bridge to stand in front of the railing that partitioned the center section from the port side. He laid his arms flat across the railing and each other, but even on tiptoes he couldn't get his chin to fit on top of the pile. With a deflating sigh, the boy pulled his arms back until only his hands were gripping the railing, and he let himself dangle from their support, giving him a full view now of Nolan's workstation. He watched idly as the console displayed something sciencey, charts and graphs that were of little interest to him, flexing his weight between his splayed feet and his hands as he waited. When he could no longer do so in silence, Jack blurted out, "Sooo, what'cha got?"

Rufus cocked an ear to the side, listening. His eyes were still on their course but his hand was ready to tap in a course change if there was something to check out ...or avoid. After seeing that space squid tear a ship apart he was willing to give some new life forms a wide berth.

The Okinawan continued working silently for a moment, attenuating the sensor matrix and then angling the lateral array to account for the additional power and bandwidth. "Not sure yet," Nolan remarked candidly, head down as he continued working. "There is an anomaly in the electromagnetic spectrum. The computer believes it's indications of omicron radiation, except there's no previous record of omicron emissions from that sector."

"Omicron radiation?" Jack asked, his face twisting into a grimace. Omicron radiation was toxic to many races, including Humans, and as such it was banned from Federation technology. "What, did someone build a warp reactor in their basement or something?" He began to swing gently from his position as he considered the implications. A grin crossed his face as the boy suggested brightly, "Or maybe there was an epic space battle and a bunch of explosions. That could be it. But who out here would use omicron stuff?"

"Or maybe a bunch of idiots are copying the Malon and dumping their waste out in the middle of nowhere," Rufus suggested,shaking his head with a chuckle at the idea of someone building a warp reactor in their basement. But knowing full well they were bound to wind up going to find out, he added. "If we're going investigate, someone should let the Doctor know so he can have some hypos ready."

The smaller of the two Onlies gave a shake of his head, the tousled mass of dirty blond hair bouncing sideways with the motion. "It's definitely not a strong enough reading to be anti-matter dumping," Nolan offered, as he continued working at his console. After another moment, he continued, "I'm going to rule out a warp core breach as well. The surrounding energy wavelengths are too normalized."

The boy continued working for a moment, accessing a shared database with the helm in order to look at their current flight path. The data confirmed what he already suspected. The Vesta was at the closest point of approach. Every second going forward would take the ship away from the strange readings.

Which meant...

"At this range, I can't determine an exact point of origin," Nolan remarked, hair falling in front of his brown eyes as he looked up. Another jerk of his head flipped the hair back out of his eyes, the motion accompanied by a hand gesture to sweep away the hanging bangs. "There's a system in the vicinity that was last charted as being resident to a pre-warp civilization. It's possible the readings are coming from that system... but we'd have to change course in order to get close enough to discriminate the focal point for the omicron particles."

Jack stopped swinging, hanging in the air for a moment as his mind worked. He hadn't been faced with a choice like this for a while, not since T'Prev had entrusted him to be Second Officer on the Seleya. The resulting fallout after her departure had found him seek the comfort of the engine room for a long time. He had expected his emergence would force him into grey areas, times when he may have to make a decision for the whole ship. He just wasn't expecting it to occur so soon.

Planting his feet on the floor, the boy stood erect, dropping his hands to his side. His eyes watched a point past Nolan as he gave the situation some thought. They were bound for Deep Space 9 and Bajor as a stopover on their way to the Cardassian border region, but not with any particular urgency. And though their mission once there was unlikely to be focused much on exploration, that was still one of their primary mandates as a Starfleet ship. Surely the captain would not mind a small detour to further that cause.

Turning towards the front of the bridge, Jack took a few steps forward. "Helm," he called, feeling official now, "Alter course toward the source of that omicron radiation. Let's find out what it really is before it's too late."

"Aye, sir," Rufus replied crisply, though his fingers had started laying in the course adjustment the moment Jack had said 'Helm'. He wasn't the least surprised, and once the science kid had ruled out anti-matter dumping, he'd been ready to suggest it if the order didn't come. Omicron radiation showing up near a pre-warp society bore investigating. It might be a 'welcome to the galactic neighborhood' First Contact opportunity. Or it might be less scrupulous neighbors causing trouble. Either way, it was closer to what he'd signed on for than entertaining a bunch of Cardassians. "Let's go sniff out that omicron source."

The Okinawa boy shifted his weight back and forth, swaying side to side. Eyes darted between the kid at the center of the bridge and the shaggy helmsman. Finally, the boy asked, "Should we inform the captain?" Nolan inquired, being that they were now traveling in a non-Bajor direction. And would need to hold this course for a bit in order to get better long range sensor fidelity. "Sh-mebbe?"

Jack had to resist the urge to utter a 'Good boy' to Rufus at the helm. It was hard to remember that the Kainan was not simply an overlarge Earth canine sometimes. Nodding curtly to himself, the boy stalked back to the center chair, and sat down in a deliberate motion. He certainly wasn't very fidgety anymore. Pulling up the small console on the chair's arm, he tapped open the communications panel and selected his target. "Bridge to Captain Minawara," he called out, waiting a moment for the acknowledgment. When it came, the boy continued, "We're picking up some unusual radiation in a system on long-range sensors, and I've altered our course to investigate."

 

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