In Record Time
Episode 4: Infiltration
Location: USS Eagle, Deck 4, Astrometrics
1752 words - 3.5 OF Standard Post Measure
With the exception of a limited amount of illumination that came from nearby active consoles, the only source of light in the Astrometrics lab was the three-dimensional holographic map in the middle of the room.
Faint golden specs filtered past his blood-red skin as Ethan walked through a portion of the glowing map, observing the solar system from within. He planted his right leg at an angle, tilting his body a bit in tangent with his head, which almost went sideways as he pursed his lips in concentration. He'd been observing the map for a few minutes, already, when he suddenly heard a light shuffle behind him following the sound of the doors swooshing open.
"Etzel!" He breathed as he turned around, exasperated to discover she was already on his heel, "How in the blazes do you move so fast?"
The Andorian gave him her best Vulcan impression with a raised eyebrow and a bemused frown, "I use my legs."
Ethan looked down to see the already-prepared PADD his Assistant Chief had brought him. He swallowed and took a calming breath, remembering she'd told him she was coming, earlier. "Oh, right, the report."
"Yes, the report, which you forgot to write," She said with some amount of self-indulgent pride at doing his job for him. Her antennae pointed inward as she changed mental gears, observing the holographic map that they were both standing in. "Hip deep in yet another science project for our esteemed Captain, I see."
"Yeah..." He said, looking around at the map, again.
"You should change your title to Chief Science Officer at this rate," She said with more than a little sarcasm.
"Oh, please," Ethan chided her, "you know you enjoy running the ship and getting into everyone's business. The more I get to do, the more you get to take credit for."
She nodded, pulling out yet another PADD and writing something down before replying, "True, enough." She looked around, raising her brow, again, "Didn't the Captain give you a partner for this job?"
He pursed his lips, again, looking to the side as if he'd forgotten, "Oh! Right!" He exclaimed, grinning, "The new CEO! I should get him in here, shouldn't I?"
"Remember to share your toys and play nice," Etzel began towards the door, waving her hand in a casual goodbye, "and be home by midnight."
The Astrometrics doors closed behind her before the Chief of Operations exhaled, straightening his uniform. "Okay, now, what was his name? Oh, right, ehem," He cleared his throat, tapping the comm badge on his chest, "Ethan to Mr. Cross. Would you please join me in Astrometrics?"
"I'll be right there." Mark responded, finishing the last sip of coffee before returning the empty mug to the replicator. It would become his best friend in his quarters, he figured. His first job for the shift was to get in touch with Lieutenant Brash anyway and begin working on the problem of the Borg infiltration, so the timing was perfect.
He tested his knowledge of the deck layout, seeing just how well he'd studied it, or not. Striding with purpose across Deck 4, he took a sharp left through a door that slid open leaving him standing in...Astrometrics. Perfect.
"Catch!" A voice called out as a small ball of light soared towards him.
Mark's hand shot out in the direction, almost reactionary, and caught it with relative ease. He wasn't sure if it was the combat, sport, or dogfighting simulations he liked to run in the holodeck that helped on this particular occasion, but even on short notice he was able to make it work.
Once it came in contact with his hand, the holographic ball morphed over his fingers. It conformed into the shape of a semi-transparent glove, with seven glowing anchor points, one for each finger, one in the palm, and one on the back of his hand. The entire solar system that was projected into the center of the room, and took up most of the lab, moved on multiple axes with even the slightest twitch of the glove. There was granular control and multiple reactions based on gestures.
"Now I wish I'd stuck out my left hand..." Mark thought aloud since the glove had now made itself quite comfortable on his non-dominant hand. As impressive as it was, the last thing he was going to try with something that he had heard rumors of, but never actually seen in the flesh, was to start messing around with it unnecessarily. He'd just have to make it work.
"Master Chief Hannis has been working on the hologlove interface with me for a while, now," A devilish, toothy grin spread across the Chief of Operations' face. "What do you think?"
"Now this..." the new Chief Engineer decided to instead stop complaining for a second, and test out the new toy. With careful, controlled movements of his hand, the map moved and contorted with ease. As he flicked it around at the wrist, the pattern of stars and planets cascaded into each other at such speed that it could probably give even a space-faring Starfleet officer motion sickness in quick order. He quickly stopped messing around, putting his sensible hat back on. "...is one impressive piece of kit. Imagine, this could well be how starships are piloted eventually."
Ethan waved the notion away in an attempt to look humble, though the smirk that remained on his lips told another story, "Stop it, Lieutenant, you're making me blush!" He walked and stopped just in front of Mark, his glibness quickly fading into a frown. With a conspiratory look to the side, he muttered, "Etzel has a big enough head as it is. Not about to make it any bigger."
Ethan reached for Mark, grabbing hold of the anchor on the back of his hand. The anchor point glowed as it was taken and, in one swift motion, the hologlove's outer layer peeled back in segments like a mechanical gauntlet. Once free of the previous user's hand, the device reverted to its' inert glowing ball shape.
With a flourish of movement, the Chief of Operations reactivated the glove on his own hand, taking full control of the solar system map in front of them. "So, anyway, we've got a bogey man to find..." A double-tap and downward wave reverted the map to its' previous state, showing several live scans of the twelve-planet system in question. "Any idea where we should start?"
Mark was glad to find the hologlove in the hand of someone who knew how to drive it properly. Even on his left hand, he still didn't have a clue what he was doing. "Let's start with transwarp signatures, see if we can track their movements...might give us an idea of whether this is a small outreach team or a full-scale invasion. Might show us where to start poking next for clues too"
"I'm not sure I want to know what kind of services a Borg outreach would provide..." Ethan muttered as he controlled the live scans.
An overlay of the system showed several small green dots along the outer edge. The scattering of small trace signals spread over nearly a thirty-degree angle. "I have a hard time believing that the Borg would spread themselves thin across millions of kilometers on approach to the system. They just don't seem the type to overthink an invasion strategy. And it didn't even work, considering that we can already trace their approach vectors..." He paused, zooming into that section of the map. "But... why do their trace signals vanish once they're in-system? Do they have cloaking technology?"
"I guess part of the problem is we don't exactly know what they've got...and from whom..." a lot of the information on the Borg came from previous encounters, a real jigsaw puzzle that meant piecing together the results they were seeing, and try and put fingers on where that technology, or that tactic may have been assimilated from. The trouble was, while they have their own flaws, if they were dealing with Borg joined to the Collective, they were dealing with a constantly evolving enemy. "Maybe we can start by looking at the cloaking technology we do have knowledge of, see if there's any patterns there that can help us cut through the noise."
The map zoomed in as Ethan saw something peculiar. With a small gesture, he switched to timeline manipulation and began moving the scan progress back and forth around the reconstructed assessment of what had happened when the borg entered the solar system. Scrubbing linearly through the progression of events seemed to reveal something. It was small, but each time Ethan adjusted the time progression to a smaller increment, he would notice it in greater detail. "Do you see that?" He asked, pointing towards the edge of the system and the first outer planet.
Mark moved a little closer, his eyes squinting as he saw the flash of the same signature. The fact was, no matter how much technology moved on, most every action involved some kind of transfer of energy...and energy...usually left some kind of trace. No matter how minuscule.
"I think it's some sort of variation on Transwarp that allows them to make jumps without leaving a trail between points in transwarp space. The jumps are so small in energy that I almost didn't notice."
"Smart thinking. Coming after us with the same old bag of tricks as last time was probably only going to produce the same result." Mark tapped away on the PADD he'd brought with him, making his own notes.
"I think we have our theory on how the Borg are avoiding scans and defenses!" He almost burst into a victory pose, only to suddenly slump. "Wait, this is bad." He sighed, "Bah, humbug! At least, we figured out what they're doing. With this in-system jumping thing figured out, we should be able to get the Captain the data she needs."
"Exactly. Whether it be an early-warning system, or a wide-scale net, we can definitely make a start now we know what we're looking for." Mark checked over his PADD again to make sure he had everything he needed to go ahead and start working the problem from his end. "Feels like we've solved this in record time."
"I hope we don't need a new record time for finding the Borg any time soon..." Ethan frowned, going back to work with renewed focus.