Echoes and Effigies
Location: Computer Core Control Room
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1215
[Computer Control Room]
[Deck Five; USS Sojourner]
[Day 1; 1215 hours
"Computer," Noah Balsam, looking freshly rested, looked vaguely up at the blue-tinted panels surrounding the Computer Kernel Tower. He wore a heavy navy-colored jacket and gloves, fingers exposed. His fingers drummed the back of his chest-cradled schematics PADD. "Upload Domain Patch 601.71.96v to Lateral Sensor Array Subprocessor Adjunct." He blinked, "Authorization Balsam Iota 71 Iota Charlie Delta 6 Ampersand." The computer chirped positive. "Access Kappa and Iota Recursives and slave to Kappa and Iota Primary adjunct nodes of the lateral sensor array."
Again the computer chirped while Noah began to shoulder off his thermal wear. "Run Level Five Duh-Diagnostic on the lateral sensor array subprocessor and all affiliated systems." Back to bare arms on his SOJO t-shirt, Noah clipped his badge to his chest with a tap. He turned and swept with his lanky stride back to his station. He tapped keys to bring it out of hibernation and checked on the data packets going from the lateral array, through the subprocessor, into the kernel, and then out to the science station.
With a pleased lip bite, Noah slapped the edge of his station and bobbed his head. "H-hell yeah. 99.2% packet response." He grinned and muttered to himself. Noah's stick bug body hooked his coat onto the ready peg near his station, being done with work inside the kernel core for now. He stooped again and hyperextended his elbows in his lean-to his work station. He tapped off the patch upload, realignment, and diagnostics and checked on his next job: ventral secondary hull phaser coupling targeting matrix.
Noah's mood and stress had greatly improved over the last couple of days when Chief Basheer had threatened to take Noah's grunt work assignments straight to Captain Kodak, planning to present it as a "hostile work environment" and "underusing a valuable resource" and insisted the cadet be returned to his normal rotation in the computer core. Basheer had quietly told Noah that he'd run interference between him and the Acting Chief when he could- though that still left Noah on his own in his quarters.
Much of Noah's stress had shifted back to where it belonged- finishing up coursework and that meant a self-defense class later today, and multiple piloting sessions with Lieutenant Timmoz. The latter was more stressful than the former. It was hard to concentrate on flying a shuttlecraft when you had, what felt like, a mystery semi in your uniform pants. Orions had, Noah had learned, a different view of personal space and a different way of speaking. It was like being around a raw sexual wire, not necessarily aimed directly at oneself, but still... emanating an aura of it.
"Computer. Cheese sticks," Noah said, tucking his beaky nose toward his elbow while dark eyes glanced at the replicator. He'd skipped breakfast again, save for a protein bar. And his stomach was rumbling. With a delightful waft of savory cheese, Noah watched the swirl of light drop fried ambrosia into the cubicle. He picked it up and smiled to himself.
For a moment it seemed as though the replicator was malfunctioning. The swirl of light appeared a second time and the second set of cheese sticks appeared within the cubicle. There were no footsteps, but a dark curly-haired figure, a perfect match to Noah's own stick-bug mannerisms playing out on the frame of the interloper, reached across and snagged the basket. With an appreciative expression, full lips pulled back into a broad smile as the cadet's aquiline nose hovered over the basket taking a long sniff. The new arrival looked up then, dark near-Betazoid eyes meeting Noah's own as if he were looking in a mirror.
The second Noah's smile held and the figure lifted a cheese stick to his mouth, raising it in an odd sort of toast, and then placing the end between his teeth, grin broadening. Shoulders moved toward ears in a self-conscious shrug and then as if Noah wasn't sitting right before him, he turned and made his way toward the door.
The whir of the replicator a second time flexed at Noah's brow. And at first, he'd thought it was a replicator glitch. Lips parted to tell the computer to run a diagnostic. Then to see... himself? Taking the basket? Noah hung and watched the strange doppelganger until it began to toast him. "Computer, is the holo-grid active on Deck Five, Cuh-computer Control Room?"
"There is no active holographic program on Deck Five, Computer Control." The computer said while Noah stood. His lips parted to stop himself.
"Wait," he stated, uncertain at what he was seeing lilting his voice into the realm of a question. Noah staggered a walk forward to rush the door.
If alternative-Noah heard his original he didn't acknowledge it. His steady stride carried him and the replicated cheese sticks through the door before the cadet could stop him, the whoosh of the doors opening and closing sounding just as Noah reached them.
Noah slapped his commbadge with his stiffened fingers and headed out the door. "Cadet Balsam to Security we-we have an intruder on deck five, Computer Control Room." He stepped outside of the doors to track his double.
With the speed at which Noah had managed to exit the Computer Control Room not-Noah should have still been within sight, but the corridor itself was strangely empty, though a lingering smell of cheese sticks remained. One of the ensigns assigned to engineering rounded the far corner, looking up at Noah and giving the cadet a nod as he approached as if this were the first time he was seeing the midshipman.
Noah barely acknowledged the Ensign. Noah followed the scent around the first bend until his nose no longer detected the scent. Then he froze.
"This is Officer Kotri," came a voice over his badge. "Please repeat Cadet."
Noah frowned as he walked backward and jogged back to the control room. "I-I just saw an intruder on Deck Five. They took food from the re-replicators in Computer Control and then headed toward turbolift two. But they've disappeared. They're gone."
"Can you provide a description of the intruder?" Kotri asked.
Noah blinked. "Uh. Exactly like me."
There was a long pause as if Kotri needed a moment to consider a response. "Do you mean, also a midshipman?" the voice asked with only a touch of confusion.
Noah half-shook his head as if Kotri was going to see it. He frowned, walking back into Computer Control. "No. Like a duplicate of me, almost exactly. Well sort of exactly but not. It's hard to-to explain." He moved for the replicator and stabbed buttons with the ends of his bony digits. "Computer display recent synthesis log." Noah stared at the log. He added, "I only ordered one set of uh, cheese sticks for Lunch. The computer made two. The logs show two replications."
The line was quiet for another long moment. "Could that have been a replicator malfunction?" Kotri was clearly still having a hard time putting two and two together.
The cadet slow-blinked with consideration. "I-it could be... but if it is, it's two weird things as once." Noah frowned and went for his console. "C-computer display visual log of Computer Control Room, timestamp 1215 hours, today. On my screen." He flicked his skinny fingers at the controls. "I-I m sending you our visual feed now, Security."
Another silence. This one, pregnant with waiting for the security officer to watch the footage. "What the..." Came over the open line as Kotri got to the part where Doppel-Noah turned and could be clearly visually matched with the cadet.
"I'm not sure what I just saw, midshipman, but I'm sending someone down to take a look while I check the corridors. Kotri out."
Noah had been watching as well. Seeing it play out from an overhead perspective was more medical and detached than the actual experience. But it nonetheless still elicited the same spine-shiver. Noah dropped into his chair lankily, limbs out. His nose was wrinkled in confusion. He harshly cleared his throat. "Computer, locate Noah Balsam." He attempted a hunch.
"Noah Balsam is on Deck Five, Section Ten. Computer Control." The computer stated.
Noah picked up a cheese stick and wound it between agile fingers before he finally took a bite of one, dry. His thoughts returned to the Ensign who he'd encountered in the corridor. If they'd seen duplicates of the same person in quick succession, they would have looked different. Surely? Noah's eyes narrowed as he turned a new cheese stick end over end between deft fingers.
Noah swiveled with a push of his feet to his controls. "Computer display deck five, section ten corridor. Timestamp 1215. Play." Noah stooped toward the footage of himself and a full basket of fried cheese bolting out of the Control Room. In the vague umbra, he saw himself in pursuit before the doors closed. This time Noah focused on the corridor. Ten meters down the run of the corridor, his alternate disappeared in a strange phase. Only a second later the turbolift opened and the Ensign proceeded out and encountered true-Noah.
Noah tugged his lip. "Computer play sensor feed, Computer Control Room, Deck Five. Timestamp 1213 hours." Now Noah watched himself fist-pump the air at the success of the data packet transmission reception. Noah's eyes narrowed as he ordered his cheese sticks on the screen. But they opened- wide- as a second Noah materialized in the room and proceeded to stride for the replicator.
"Oookayyy..." Noah managed to get out. He blinked, darting at the visuals to take in any details he could. "Repeat footage." Noah watched it twice more until a narrow hunch percolated in his mind. "Computer." He drew a circle around the false-him. "Identify this person."
"Cadet Noah Balsam, Starfleet Corps of Engineering, Service Number-"
Noah rictused a grin and a chuckle. "Good enough th-thank you. I know my service number. Computer. Switch feed to thermo-imaging." The screen faded the visual spectrum to blobs of heat- and a marked difference in the shade patterns- the diffusion of heat- but not the form of the two humanoids. Noah squinted. "Computer, open a file incident report to Main Engineering. And-and send a copy to the Main Bridge."
A Post By:
Midshipman Noah Balsam
Midshipman Noah Balsam (played by Beth)
Cheesestick Stealing Doppelganger
Kotri Tesren (played by Beth/Kyle)