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Mercury Falling III: The Search for Plot

Posted on Tue Aug 21st, 2018 @ 1:23pm by Commander Jonathan Mantell & Lieutenant Commander Nolan Marc

Mission: A Misguiding Hand
Location: Shuttle Rubicon
Timeline: MD01 the town where I was born lived a man who sailed to sea, and he told us of his life in the land of submarines...

The tawny haired surfer boy swayed in time to the rhythm, bopping along as he slid from one side of the shuttlecraft to the next. He was wearing Heelys, shoes with an in-line roller skate built into the heel. He worked for a few moments on the starboard instruments panel, orchestrating the parameters for the onboard sensor palette, then rolled over to the port side in order to begin uploading the preliminary data from the Vesta's scans.

The mass of unkempt hair was bouncing in every which way, occasionally kicked to one side as the hair fell in front of his eyes. Then, pushing away from the console, the boy rocked back on his heels and spun around in the center of the shuttle.

...we all live in a yellow submarine... yellow submarine... yellow submarine...

Nolan mouthed the words as the sound of 1966's psychedelic British rock reverberated from within the shuttlecraft. He was just waiting for the engineer to join him, so that the shuttle could perform a survey of the object that was lingering in the shadow of the moon.

Hopefully one of them knew how to fly. Or, rather, were actually good at it. Nolan knew how to fly. It was the practical application that he sucked at. The physics? Those he understood quite well. Particularly the part about the ground rushing up at whatever he was piloting.

"The Beatles? Really?"

The question jumped from Jack's mouth the moment he entered the shuttlecraft. It was loud enough to be heard from halfway across the hangar bay, so he had to shout it to be heard above the din. The blond kid shook his head, and unlike the other occupant his gelled spikes stayed in place. He preferred his hair short and kempt, out of the way. It shed less as a result, and that meant fewer mishaps with equipment shorting out due to some fallen hair. The one time he worked with a Caitian in Engineering was a hairrowing experience.

Raising his voice again, the engineer asked, "You couldn't find one a bit more modern?" He had already settled down into the pilot's chair, and began tapping at the console to bring up the status for the shuttle flight systems.

Shuffling his feet, the young Okinawa boy performed a series of choreographed gestures with his arms that could have come from any of the infinite Super Sentai serials that had come to be known as the Power Rangers in Western media. When he had finished, the newly minted Sciences Teal Ranger said, "Computer, change music selection to something by Vulcan Emotional Underground."

The moral of this lesson? Be careful what you wish for.

As the new music resonated through the tiny craft, Jack found himself bobbing along to the cadence, tapping his fingers on the console to the rhythm of the beats. At a rather predictable interlude, the boy spun his chair around to face the other panel. Style points! "Yeah!" he shouted over the music, "This is more like it. Some of the Vulcans on the Seleya used to take over the enlisted lounge on gamma shift and play this stuff. I used to go down there and hang out with them, at least until Captain Surrel put a stop to the whole thing during his reign of terror."

Swiveling back to the front panel, the blond haired engineer tapped a few more buttons as he ran through the pre-flight checklist. He wasn't the most avid pilot, but he could handle a shuttle or runabout with no problems. Having that skill in his back pocket kept him on the list for away teams on most of the ships he had served on, and it had done him well to keep it current. There was another tap before he announced, "I'm going to try to run us on auxiliary batteries and thrusters only for the trip, hopefully we won't look like anything but really expensive space debris to the alien ship."

So... Jack liked Vulcan deep house? The Okinawa surfer boy tilted his head to one side as he found his preconceptions about this engineer challenged. He was still somewhat skeptical about this kid, though. The fact that he had commander in his title meant that Jack was part of the overarching adult tyranny that was The Man. That made Jack suspect at best.

Plopping into a chair at the back of the cockpit, the tow-headed scientist asked, "Do... do you want, like, passive sensors only?"

If Jack was running them in a low-power configuration with no impulse, it would seem to suggest that they were going for stealth.

Stealth and data collection didn't usually mix all that great. Nolan could still gather a good bit with just ambient measurements, but nothing as detailed as if he could light up the object with a sensor palette.

"Captain said we're not supposed to alert the aliens to our presence yet, I guess. And a lot of other First Contact mumbo-jumbo," Jack mimed a mouth talking with his hand, and rolled his eyes. "If we had more time, maybe I could have come up with a way to do active scans without alerting them. Sorry."

With a few more adjustments to the settings, and one more to mute the music, Jack hunched forward into a determined posture. A tap closed the rear hatch, and several more started the engines humming their sweet etude. The boy engineer listened to it for a moment, and with a quick nod to himself, pushed the craft into a hover and forward out the opening of the shuttle bay into the vacuum of space. Throttling the engines back to a quiet purr as they cleared the Vesta's sprawling frame, he nudged them into a trajectory that would bring them in for a close pass to the planet's smaller moon and the alien ship that was tethered to it.

Leaning back, the blond engineer let out a contented sigh, and folded his hands behind his head, elbows thrust out like a pair of wings. Spinning his chair around to look at Nolan in the back of the shuttle, Jack threw out a question. "What do you think they're doing here, anyway? The space aliens, I mean."

"Probably the same thing we're doing," Nolan answered. Working at his station, the boy adjusted the sensor palettes so that they were operating on a broad-band detection only mode. He might have a better answer for Jack once he had more of an idea of just how the alien ship was utilizing the electromagnetic spectrum, assuming he was able to discriminate any signals from the alien ship to the planet below from against the background radiation.

Swiveling his chair, the young surfer did a complete rotation before he finally stopped and looked back at Jack. "If they were hostile, they wouldn't be passively observing the planet as they appear to be."

At least, he didn't think so. They were obviously an extra-galactic species of some kind, judging by the technology level suggested by the ship. With that kind of technological advantage, they could easily impose their will on the planet below.

"Maybe. I dunno, maybe they're intergalactic zoo keepers looking for a new exhibit," Jack mused as he watched the other boy adjusting his controls. Reaching into the pack he'd brought onboard, the engineer withdrew a package and tore it open, pulling out a long, multi-colored piece of candy. He set one end in his mouth and chewed on it, biting to separate it from the rest. With his other hand, he offered the package to Nolan, "Gummi gagh?"

Accepting the pack of gummi worms, the surfer boy pulled one out and then passed the package back to Jack. Dangling the worm over his head, the Okinawa kid slurped the gummi as his chair spun around. Shuffling around, standing on his knees and leaning over the back of the chair, the shaggy haired science officer finally said, "If they were looking for a new exhibit, then they'd be collecting specimens." That is, if they knew coming here that they had been looking for an exhibit, then specimen collection would have formed part of the analysis. To judge species response to captivity if nothing else.

"If they can do that from behind a moon, those are some advanced transporter mechanics," Nolan added. Which was not to say that it was impossible. Dominion transporters, for example, were certainly capable of making the calculations involved. Federation could, too, but it would take someone with some serious sensor-jujitsu skills to make it work.

"My guess is, they're just creepers," Nolan opined finally. Then pausing after another half-second, added, "Kinda like us."

Harsh truths were harsh. But also true. The Federation were totally creepers now. At least James Kirk had been blatant with his contamination of alien cultures. Ever since the Khitomer Treaty, the Prime Directive had been used to justify scientists making anthropologist notations on the mating habits of fully sapient species who just weren't warp capable.

If that wasn't totally creeper, then Nolan didn't know what was.


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