Taking a Crack At It
Sojourners of Time
Location: Ema'harai Chamber 1
Timeline: Mission Day 8 at 2200
[Ema'harai Chamber 6]
[The City of Megrethon]
[MD 8: 2200 Hours]
"You piece of...UGH!" Ensign Sheila Mulhern groused with frustration, whacking the equipment housing with her fist in extreme annoyance. "Why won't you work?!" Slumping down to the floor, she huffed outwardly, causing the curly bangs on her head to puff up in the wind. The woman looked defeated as she sat there, knees raised so Sheila could hug them, her thoughts racing. It'd been just over three hours since the teams had been lost and no amount of effort from the Starfleet engineer was bringing them closer to home.
Chief Technologist Mhz looked over from the console she was working at, sympathy in her eyes. "Problems?" she asked lightly, trying not to make the situation worse by overly-prodding the human to talk. On the display before her, lines of cyan-colored code cycled on screen as Mhz's right hand manipulated a scrolling control yoke inset into her panel.
"I've input the temporal coordinates from Chamber 1," Sheila said, releasing her knees and slowly rising back to her feet. "I did it exactly as you showed me, I promise. But when I attempt to engage the system, I keep getting an origination error. The system doesn't seem to have anything to lock onto. Are we sure these are the right coordinates?" the engineer asked, once again eyeing the set of numbers on her own panel and shaking her head in doubt.
"I plucked them from the code myself," Mhz nodded confidently. It'd taken a couple of hours to retrieve and sift through the data from Chamber 1 but, ultimately, the efforts had yielded the exact time, date, and spatial location to which the first group of Starfleeters had been sent. "If the system isn't picking them up, they must have left the immediate area. I was afraid that might happen," she noted.
"Good to know it's not something I'm doing wrong then," Sheila blew up at her bangs again, releasing some of her frustration with her breathy expulsion. "Why would they leave their arrival site, though?"
"They're your people. You tell me," Mhz smirked over at Mulhern. This was, in fact, not entirely true. Az and Ti -- the two Talbeethian guides -- had also accompanied the groups. However, the Sojourner crew definitely encompassed the majority of the people affected and would likely override the two guides when it came to decision making in a crisis.
Sheila gave this some thought and then shrugged. "My best guess?" her tone arced upward questioningly. "They probably decided to kill time until rescue by exploring their environs. Which makes sense...I'd probably do that, too," she nodded. "How do you account for moving away from the arrival coordinates when things aren't all...kablam," Sheila gestured in a way that indicated the current crisis.
"Well," Mhz began, eyes still scanning the scrolling code, "the wristbands our guides wear form a kind of tether with the system. They constantly update the homebase as to where the guide and their participant have traveled. When it's time to come home, the system simply follows the tether back and locks on. But the damage former Chief Technologist Umburu did broke the connection with the wristbands. Meaning..."
"Meaning unless they stayed exactly where they arrived," Sheila interrupted, "we simply can't get a fix on them. Right?" she asked, frustration creeping back into her voice again.
"There might be a way. But I'm not sure your Captain or the First Cherithan would approve the plan," Mhz said hesitantly. Signalling another technologist, she handed off the code scanning so she could move towards Sheila. "As I see it, we have two options. First, we could send them a buoy. It would emit a signal that Az and Ti's wristbands could detect, possibly drawing the teams to the buoys locations. Once the guides signal back via buoy, we could get a lock and bring the teams back."
"That sounds great. Easy, in fact," Sheila said. "But I'm guessing there's a catch?"
"There is," Mhz nodded. "The signal would have to be very powerful and could potentially be detected by the denizens of those time periods. If they were to investigate, there's a possibility they could follow it back through subspace to the source."
Now Sheila understood. "Yeah, if they figure out the signal is not only from the Delta Quadrant but the future," her eyes widened, "then that could cause some problems for sure. What's the second option?"
"It's riskier given the status of the system right now but..." Mhz explained, "we could send someone else back with a wristband. With a new tether, that person could explore the environs and hopefully find our wayward people. When they meet up, they could simply activate the bands and travel back along the tether. No signal, no risk of being detected. But if something goes sideways with the system -- given the state it's in," she noted, "we could be getting more people stuck."
Sheila gave this some thought. While it was true that subjecting others to the same risk of getting stuck was not optimal, it was certainly better than alerting the Orions and whoever else to observers from the future. "This kind of decision is way above my --"
"Found them, Chief," came a voice from the woman who'd taken over for Mhz. "Right here," she nodded, motioning the new Chief Technologist over and pointing at the screen.
"Fantastic," Mhz smiled wide, copying the coordinates down onto her PADD-like device. "I knew the data would be in there somewhere." Looking at Sheila, she nodded. "We've got both sets of coordinates now. And two potential plans. But I agree with you...we aren't the people to make these decisions. Is your Captain still with the First Cherithan?"
"I believe so. He's been sitting in on the questioning of the one who made this mess," Sheila growled slightly, grit in her voice. "C'mon, let's go see if we can track them down."
[10 minutes later]
Captain Kodak and First Cherithan Ru had left Umburu behind in a conference room, held prisoner in her chair with a series of zip tie-like devices that constrained tighter the more one moved. She was guarded by two other Talbeethians, who stood as silent sentinels to ensure the woman did not somehow escape from her chair. Heading into the lobby -- having been contacted by Chief Technologist Mhz and Ensign Mulhern -- the Chameloid and his compatriot found the two in question waiting for them. It did not take long for the options to be presented. Both Kodak and Ru agreed that risking a buoy signal was too problematic. However, the idea of sending more people to potentially get stuck didn't sit well, either.
"At this juncture," the First Cherithan began, "I am averse to risking more lives. Surely there must be another way. What about sending an automated drone with a wristband for each group? The drone could track them down and bring them home, no?"
"We've never phased a drone before," Mhz spoke up in response, partially lost in thought. "I suppose it would be possible to modify a couple of drones to map their phased surroundings and navigate them in search grids. That would take some time, though."
"How much time?" Kodak asked, thoughtfully stroking his beard.
"To modify and test the drones? A couple of days, I think," Mhz said.
"Two days without food or water. Two days of possibly thinking they're stuck forever," Mulhern chimed in. "Sir, ma'am," she nodded to both her Captain and the First Cherithan, "if it's a question of who'd be willing to go back, I would. And I have no doubt we could get someone else from the Sojo to help."
Kodak gave this some thought for a few moments and then turned to Ru. "If we'd be willing to assume the risk, would you send two of my people back with new wristbands? It would, of course, be with the understanding that they might become stuck, too."
"Captain, forgive me but...if it's only a matter of a couple of days, why risk anyone?" The First Cherithan offered the Captain an empathetic look. "I understand wanting them back now but..."
"What if something else goes wrong?" Kodak asked, crossing his arms over his barrel chest. "What if the system goes offline? What if your targeting scanners can't get a fix? Right now, we know we can do this. Can you guarantee that, in two days time, nothing else will have popped up to derail us?"
The First Cherithan held the Captain's gaze for several long moments before she sighed. "I cannot," Ru acquiesced. "If you are sure about this, I will allow the retrieval attempt. How much time do you need?" she asked Mhz and Mulhern.
"We could make the attempt in about half an hour," Mhz confirmed, checking a few things on her computing device.
"We just need a second volunteer," Mulhern said. "My roommate -- Ensign Davies," she explained, "has been itching to get off the ship. Could probably rope him in."
"The bug guy? From the Science lab?" Kodak asked incredulously.
"That would be him, sir. I'm sure he'd be happy to help," Mulhern said.
"Alright, give him a call. Have him meet us in 15 minutes," the Captain ordered before turning to the First Cherithan. "Well, hopefully all goes to plan. Cross your fingers," he said, doing the gesture himself. When Ru looked completely at a loss, he said, "Human custom. It brings good luck."
The First Cherithan did her best to imitate the gesture. "Luck," she nodded back. "We're going to need it."
=/\= A post by... =/\=
Ensign Sheila Mulhern
Chief Technologist Mhz
Captain Björn Kodak
First Cherithan Ru