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Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Posted on Wed Jul 3rd, 2024 @ 8:11pm by Lieutenant JG William Verhoeven & Ensign Aaron Soong & Petty Officer 3rd Class Brix Saad & Fleet Captain Maxwell Culver & Commander Lorut Vila & Commander Rylen Lyo & Commander Clay McEntyre III & Lieutenant Commander Frasier Greene & Lieutenant Dovenice Nyx & Lieutenant S'Tera & Lieutenant Kevin Bianchi Ph.D. & Lieutenant JG Aurora House of Kor & Xavier X-1

4,747 words; about a 24 minute read

Mission: Silver Rain
Location: USS Intrepid: Observation Lounge
Timeline: MD1: 0900 Hours

Max entered the Observation Lounge carrying just three PADDs. In truth, this was going to be Xavier’s show, really. It was the Android’s former homeworld, despite him being unable to return for gods knew how long.

“Coffee, black, Captain,” Brix said, trying to sound peppy. Inside she felt a roiling mass of emotions caused by the disaster on Kaitos - New El-Auria - whatever the Hell they were calling it these days.

“Do you have an appointment scheduled with counseling yet?” Max asked gently. “We’ve had a new Counselor arrive with his Aide. If you haven’t, I’d suggest an appointment. I mean, it was a tragic and traumatic event.”

“I just keep thinking about that Lady Q and why she did what I asked,” Brix admitted.

“The Q don’t just take a liking to anybody. Maybe it bodes well on your way to a Command of your own,” Max suggested, he tried to convey how serious he was about this sentiment.

Max was about to say more, but the doors opened, announcing the arrival of the first of a sprawl of people who were yet to arrive. He was glad he had changed the venue from the briefing room, where it had become a standing room only location - even without the new additions to the crew.

Vila was next through the door, a pile of PADDs and a cup of Raktajino in her hands. She placed the PADDs on the table, but not the drink. She settled in at Max's left side. "Hello," she said, pleasantly. "We have some new PADDs that HQ sent in the last supply drop," she said. "Everyone will need a new one." She'd meant to get them out before shore leave, but she hadn't. Now was as good of a time as any, though. "Department Chiefs will need to issue them throughout their departments via myself, on a check-out basis," she explained. She wasn't going to be responsible for them!

“As for the PADDs, I’ve got enough follow up to put through since shore leave ended. Can’t say we take time off very well…”

"Yeah, that was my fault. They got here when they came to collect Jones for his top-secret whatever," she said, waving her hand. "It was literally the day we started, and I didn't want to interrupt the crew's time away." Or her own. She'd needed the break. "I'll make sure the Department Heads read up on it.

“Now, why are we waiting for the android for this?" She hated it when Culver didn't CC her in on things. She sipped her coffee some more.

“Here’s me thinking we’re waiting on everyone who can contribute to the meeting in a meaningful way,” Max responded. He was, truth be told, curious about the nature of her question.

She shot the man a LOOK. "I meant, why is he taking the LEAD on this?" She spoke. She wasn't one to take orders from just anyone, particularly an android.

“Ah!” Max exclaimed; the simple word android cleared up the confusion. “Because, despite it being out of date, he has the most recent information about the planet we’ve been tasked with exploring.”

Vila let out a long-suffering sigh. "Of course he does," she said. "What planet is it? I am sure Astrometrics has some information, too," she said.

“Beats me,” Max responded to her annoyance with some joviality. “At this point, I’m calling it Xavier’s planet, unless you have something better than F25-P or something like that. I’ll get you the coordinates, but the Lovelace is going to be doing some forward studying since their slipstream drive will get them there in a few hours.”

Vila nodded. "Get Nyx on that," she said. How she wished. Ben had helped with the failed prototype of the Slipstream drive back in the day. Now it was the real thing, and how nice would it be to be somewhere in a few hours instead of a few days?!

“I think I’ll ask her and S’tera, but this is farther than Starfleet or even the Star Empire have ever ventured into the Beta Quadrant. I don’t think we’ll have any forward information until the Lovelace gets there,” Max mused more to himself than Vila.

S'tera entered. "Cafe Mocha, medium hot, large. New PADDs huh? Ah well, guess we have to use them? The old ones worked fine for all my people, but okay." She took a seat.

Vila nodded. "Some kind of new technology that coordinates with subdermal transponders," she said. She had no idea about that kind of thing -that was a different kind of science. "Your people will need one each, or at least two total for the whole department to share," she said. "Tell me how many you need, and I'll have them sent downstairs," she said.

While the two discussed the new equipment Doctor Greene arrived behind and was surprised to see so few faces already present. Having been convinced he would be late, again, he stepped around Vila and S'Tera and took a seat at the table while the other whipped up something from the replicator.

Vila smiled briefly at Fraiser, and then turned her attention back to the others.

Aurora dusted herself off, then walked into the meeting.

"Good morning all, a hot Frismarta and a Bisknetta please, Computer," Aurora chirped. She was in need of a home pick-me-up but wasn't about to show it. The computer gave her the order.

"Spsp! Ththat's just wrong!" Aurora sputtered, spitting out the synthetic excuse of Bisknetta. "Ssorry, Captain," Aurora dropped her head, embarrassed.

Turning his head at the sound, Greene half rose in case Aurora was choking on her beverage; however, it quickly became clear that she was in no immediate danger.

Aurora took a sip of the Frismarta to try and get the taste out...with the same result! "I'll just have some hot chocolate and a chocolate scone, please," Aurora mumbled sadly.

"That bad Aurora?" S'tera asked.

"Eyup. If you only knew what a Frismarta and a Bisknetta truly tasted like, you'd KNOW how bad that tasted," Aurora's shoulders drooped even more.

"[Don't cry! Don't cry! Don't cry!]" Aurora told herself, biting her tongue.

Max nodded. He genuinely felt badly for the young woman with a VERY different genetic makeup to anyone else in the crew, which he was hoping to use to his benefit. “Gods know that the replicator is capable of making some odd stuff at times. It’s probably a coding problem from our last transmission to include Acadian food on the menu. We’ll have to reload it once we get back near the Alpha Quadrant.” He hoped it was enough of an answer for her troubles.

"Thank you, Captain," The corner of Aurora's mouth quirked up a little as she bit into the scone...but hot chocolate and a scone were pale substitutes for her favorite drink and snack.

Vila had long given up on trying to intercept Aurora's bs, but they had come to understand each other-she hoped. "Hello, Lieutenant. Replicator giving you trouble, I see. Mine was, too. Perhaps left over stuff from Krios or (uhhhh, what was the name of the shore leave planet?)? I tried to get some Jumja tea this morning and it gave me Jumja STICKS." Vila shivered in disgust. The sweet candies were too much for her. She had left them in the Officer's break room and they had been gone an hour later.

"I can see why that wouldn't be a pleasant experience, Ma'am," Aurora smiled at that. She'd taken one of the sweets herself and knew why Vila did not liked them. Aurora made a mental note to try and do something nice for Vila later as a thank you.

“Unless Lieutenant Nyx wants her team to look into the code directly,” Max added, seeing the petite Trill enter the room. He knew instantly that she was caught off guard by his sudden mention of her name.

"Code?" Nyx asked with confusion.

“Oh,” Max exclaimed as he noticed the Trill by her voice first. “Yes, the last upload from Starfleet sent an Acadian food upgrade for the replicators, but it’s obviously wrong if Lieutenant Aurora’s reaction is any indication. I would think we can reload it once we get back closer to Federation space, unless your engineers want something to do.

“I would guess that you’ll probably want to focus on the upcoming mission, though, since one of our problems will be tech based. Hopefully anything we learned from the Synth uprising will help with this mission.

“We’re going to be sending some forward scouts and probes well ahead of our arrival, especially since everything we know about the planet is woefully inadequate,” Max explained to Nyx.

“Even the Romulans have given it a wide berth for over twenty years.” Max looked at Nyx. “I know you’re a bundle questions Nyx and now seems to be the time to ask them.” He gave her a wry smile.

Nyx took a breath to speak, but she heard Vila’s voice instead. That was not a surprise. She would suppress her questions for later, deferring to the executive officer’s observations for the moment.

"Prophets!" Vila exclaimed quietly. That was not good news, particularly if the Romulans were staying away. "Maybe we can send the Cardassians," she muttered.

Kevin was feeling somewhat both apprehensive and anticipatory towards his first mission briefing with the rest of the senior staff. He had yet to see them all in a room together and experience their relationship dynamics at work first hand, which would give him a lot of insight into how the crew as a whole functioned. On the other hand, he'd been thrown into the deep end of the pool and his head was already swimming with information as he tried to catch up on the mission, the crew, and the eye-wateringly-complex situations they managed to find themselves in.

“Counselor,” Max welcomed their new Chief in the position. “Good morning, glad you could join us. Max saw Kevin’s consummate shadow lingering just behind. “Miss Pager,” he simply added with a smile.

With Rosalind following close behind, they entered the Observation Lounge and Kevin picked an open spot near the end of the table that was out of the way so he could sit, listen, and observe. He pulled up a chair for Rosalind to sit behind him near the window where she would be taking notes for later. As he sat down, he noticed a PADD lying in front of him that had a slightly updated look about it. He made a mental note to ask about it later, but for the time being he returned his attention to what was happening around him.

Rylen Lyo had not expected to be one of the last to arrive; since being forcibly removed from his home, he had felt as if he was out of his element one hundred percent of the time. He was constantly exhausted, although he felt a little better every hour…almost as if his body was regenerating. Seeing a few unfamiliar faces, the Ops Chief greeted them with a slight nod. He replicated a Grebnaxian Spiced Tea and took a seat near the head of the table.

"Commander," Vila said, pleasantly. "This is Lieutenant Kevin Bianchi, and Lieutenant JG Rosalind Paget. Our newest Counseling staff," she said, indicating each person. "And this is Commander Rylen Lyo," she said. "Our Second officer, with a scintillating reason as to his tardiness, I am sure," she said.

“Other than my metabolism and biology undergoing a seismic shift,” said Lyo dryly, “I’m afraid I must disappoint our esteemed XO. I assure you I will make up the time.”

Vila just nodded.

Aurora regarded the duo curiously.

(Hm, this ought to be interesting,) Aurora thought.

Similarly, Doctor Greene nodded to the two new arrivals wondering why this was the first time he'd heard of the change in senior staff. He was a little put out that he had no say on the new officers but pushed that aside quickly when Rylen arrived next. Though, he'd not been fully briefed on what happened with the Commander when the Intrepid left Krios it was apparent the events had taken a physical toll on him.

Max reached out and squeezed Rylen’s knee. ’You look tired. Maybe you should take some time for yourself, my Lord. Gods know you didn’t get any rest during the shore leave. Max kept the conversation contained between the two of them.

’My work keeps me going, Raalo,’ replied Lyo, using an old Kriosian term of endearment that simultaneously meant both beginning and end.

The last thing Intrepid needed was dating distractions about their command crew at the moment. This mission would require one hundred percent of the crew’s energy, attention and training.

On that note, Max turned to Xavier. “What we know from Mister Xavier is that the next model, the X-2s now have control of the planet and we’re still not sure any of the biological beings were able to escape.”

Though Xavier could ill afford it, he had taken some time to explore, to reconnoiter. He'd found something potentially interesting and useful.

"I think I found where the X2s might be being manufactured. It won't be easy to get to, but I can guide us. It's the place we used to retreat to, well my people retreated there. They are tunnels deep within that mountain there.”

“Realistically, how long has it been since you left your planet, and do you honestly think that there are still biological beings that we can rescue?

Xavier ran an instant time check. “According to my understanding of your time versus, well, my time, I would have to estimate twenty four years. I expect biological life still exists, whether that is humanoid - meaning the people I served - I cannot estimate their survival. There are far too many factors to measure that to a calculable degree.”

“Can you point us directly to that construction facility? Security will be first to infiltrate the facility and destroy it, if that’s even possible.

“Commander MacEntyre, I’ll need plans for this before we arrive, so I expect you’ll work directly with Mister Xavier on this over the next few days. Xavier is our most recent source of information.”

Vila shook her head, but murmured. "Indeed," she said. "Do we have any idea what is happening in the facility?" She deigned to ask.

“The construction of additional X-2 models at top speed,” Xavier noted, a tear welling up in his eye.

“Understood, I’ll get with Mr. Xavier as soon as the meeting is let out. I can pull something from the old Family Playbook. MACO tactics is something that hasn’t been seen in a bit, so it, generally, will throw enemies for a loop,” Clay replied professionally, nodding as he spoke.

“They will be able to initiate a response to any tactics quickly. No doubt, immediately,” Xavier replied quietly. “I hope your family playbook contains many secret tactics.”

"So how does science department fit into this?" S'tera asked.

“You’re going to be collaborating on the most important mission we’ve been involved with since we entered the Beta Quadrant! Artificial Intelligence has been embodied, essentially with free will and the ability to destroy biological life without too much concern or effort.

Let’s start with spending our time deploying forward probes so that we know what to expect when we hit orbit. Actually, the USS Lovelace has the most advanced sensors available for this mission, Lieutenant S’tera.

“I suggest you round up your best people, maybe include Commander Lorut and you can approach Ensign Soong if you need more help with the logistics of working with their science teams.”

"Aye captain. I'll put our best and brightest on it."

Vila raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. I'll help you," she said. If there was one thing she knew, it was this sort of subterfuge. Of course, hers was in relation to blowing the Cardassians apart with IEDs, but here they were. Besides, she had once helped out with putting down some AI at a Khitomer conference gone terribly wrong. About ten years ago... She snapped back to present.

"I suggest getting in touch with the science officer on the Lovelace," she said. "Lieutenant Peterson," she said. She'd remembered from the mission briefing. "If you'd like, we can call him together after we're done here. Captain, unless you have a specific job for Lieutenant Aurora, I have an idea. Bait."

Aurora's head jerked up sharply.

"Bbait, Ma'am?" Aurora asked nervously.

"Bait? wait a minute! I object to using Aurora as bait!"

Doctor Greene's attention quickly snapped into focus. "Commander?" he asked the XO disliking the thought of putting an officer in unnecessary danger.

"It's simply an idea at this point," she said. "But AI tends to be attracted to the younger folks, in my experience, for various reasons. AND given the Lieutenant's unique genetic makeup, and small stature, she's the best choice. Don't worry, I'll go with her, or we will assign our best security officer. I am not asking her to go ALONE," she said. She wasn't a monster. "Let's do a bit more digging, but my idea is that we use their CetOps room to infiltrate. They have to have one; if it's that kind of facility, it will undoubtedly have at least one water source leading directly into the facility," she said. "As I said, we need more information, but it's just the beginnings of an idea," she said.

[EXCUSE ME!? Did she just politely call me SHORT!? I am NOT short!] Aurora fumed, somehow able to hold her tongue...but not her nails as a small "SCREATCH!" was heard.

“Lieutenant Aurora against a hoard of X-2 androids that have possibly killed the entire biological, humanoid population in favor of themselves. NO, we will not be using Lieutenant Aurora as bait."

"She wouldn't be alone. Doctor Greene, please check the captain’s hearing. I am certain I said I would be there," she said. She could handle it. Androids were easy peasy compared to killing Cardassians at age twelve by hand. "But fine. If this turns into another avoidable incident like the Tower, don't say I didn't warn you," she said, confident that he was making the wrong choice.

Greene bit back a sigh at the XO's comments and remained seated.

[The Tower? What tower?] Aurora was confused, but again kept her thoughts to herself.

“Actually, she and her cetaceans will also be providing some form of intelligence information since they will be transported into the ocean. As far as we know, the X-2s have not attacked the oceans. I expect that’s still the case,” Max shut down all arguments about using anyone as bait.

"Ok, that's good. She should be safe."

Vila shrugged. "I wouldn't," she said. "Captain, with respect, you haven't faced battle in eons. It's been my whole life. Why wouldn't they have attacked the water by now? When the Cardassians invaded Bajor, for example, there was no place they didn't hit eventually. We were able to hold the mountains...but only for a while," she said. Of course, they couldn't know one way or another until they had eyes on the situation, but she was operating on logic here.

Aurora didn't have anything she could say at the moment that wouldn't lead her to snapping at Commander Vila, so she merely waited to see what happened. She was more than willing to go, anything to prove she was useful, but yeah, facing an army of so much.

"You have a good point, Commander. It doesn't make sense. We're missing something, clearly,' S'tera said. "I don't like sending Aurora down there until we know what is going on."

Vila nodded. "Right. We need more information before ANY decision is made," Vila said. "Does anyone remember what year the Synth ban ended?" She asked. Some other idea was making its way into her head, but she didn't have enough bandwidth at the moment to think of the plan AND what was at hand. She needed some sleep.

“2387,” Max answered. “They were limited and burned themselves out in the attack on Mars, burning with the rest of the planet. But, you are all right. We are missing too much information. We’ll have to wait until the Lovelace is in place and can offer us more information.”

Vila nodded, dropping the other idea for the time being. "Anyone else have anything to add?" She asked. "I'll coordinate with the Lovelace; their XO was helpful during the attack on the capital at New El-Auria," she said. "They're nearby. Watch your PADDs for your counterparts' info there if you don't already know it," she said. "I'll have that to you all after I pass down daily information," she said. She had literally come directly from the bridge. Though there wasn't much of note to report, she still needed to do it.

"Okay, if you pass it on, science will analyze it and see what we can find." S'tera said.

"I guess my only question at the moment is whom is my counterpart on the Lovelace?" Aurora was still trying to wrap her head around the craziness she'd been plopped into, so she couldn't really process all of the information quite yet.

"What do we know about these X-2 models and the situation on the surface?" Greene asked, rewinding the meeting for a moment feeling he'd missed something important when daydreaming. "I understand the Romulan's haven't been in the area for a few decades and the Starfleet have never ventured out here. Where's the intel coming from? Can we be certain of its accuracy?"

Max looked to Xavier, clearly looking to the android for answers.

“The X-2 models behaved similarly to the X-1 models, serving as both home assistance and protection when its family slept, or were not home. They served as low as the lowest income families to as high as the Throne.

“It wasn’t until they had sufficient numbers that they revolted. An underlying issue may have allowed them to bypass their inability to take a living person’s life. Once they reached a significant number and were installed in the Royal Palace, that is when their defect became apparent.

“As a loyal X-1 model, I assisted in the evacuation of the Royal family to a facility set deep into the northern mountains. From there, I remember things in a jumble. There was great fighting and blood. I’m not even sure how I was shut down or made it off the planet.

“I am rather upset about my circumstances after that,” Xavier stopped, hoping he would not have to embarrass himself before the entire crew.

Max spread his hands. “I don’t doubt that these X-2 models are as Xavier describes them. What we have to answer is what happened to them afterward? Did they continue operating without their humanoid engineers? Are there any humanoid people left?

“I think we can assume that Xavier was made in the image of his creator, so I expect the humanoid population would look much like many among the crew…with obvious potential for other traits. Either way, the Intrepid has been tasked with a deep space mission and this is as far out as we’re going this time. She’ll also be dropping some subspace buoys along the way. To keep in touch with Starfleet Command…in theory.

“Other questions?”

Kevin had been listening intently, absorbing the complex situation and observing the crew dynamics. As the captain opened the floor for questions, he decided to speak up.

"Captain... I have a question about our approach if we do encounter survivors," Kevin began, leaning forward slightly. "Given the likely prolonged isolation and potential trauma these individuals may have experienced, how do we plan to handle first contact and possible evacuation?"

He glanced around the table, making eye contact with Dr. Greene and Commander MacEntyre before continuing. "If we need a more tailored protocol, I'd be happy to work with medical and security to develop guidelines for interactions with the survivors. We might be dealing with severe psychological issues, not to mention potential physical adaptations to their environment over the years. It could be a delicate situation."

Kevin sat back, his expression thoughtful but engaged, ready to hear the responses from the captain and other senior staff.

“I can’t deny your concerns. I would like to know more about the situation before we consider evacuating the planet. The people there might not want to leave their home planet.

“I think, again, that we need more information before we begin to prepare a response that may neither be needed nor wanted. The Lovelace will be able to provide better context for that situation, but be prepared to have those talks soon,” Max explained. It was true they had very little information on which to base any plans.

Vila shook her head, fighting an urge to make a nasty comment about how the Fleet should've kept the Synth ban in place precisely because of things like this-and the rest of their failings. "Doctor Greene, you've been quiet. Anything?" she asked.

The Doctor squirmed in his seat uncomfortable being in the spotlight: "Is there another way we can resolve this situation without violence?" he asked. "A means to disable the X-2s in a controlled manner?"

“They will have had plenty of time, against adversaries as capable as this crew,” Xavier responded unassumingly. “They may have also repelled the Romulans,” Xavier warned. “Why else would the Empire, with all its might, have avoided this one planet? They have twenty years on everything we knew about them.”

Greene nodded in mute reply mulling over the response feeling they were heading into the mission ill prepared for what brutality they may face if the X-2s were aggressively hostile to biological visitors.

Max looked at Xavier, wondering if he wasn’t right about the Romulan Star Empire. It made sense as to why the Romulans would have backed away from the planet.

Max noted a moment of silence then. “Lieutenant Nyx, you’re generally vocal with questions. Do you have anything that someone else might be interested in the answers to?”

Nyx took another breath in preparation to answer the question put to her. She waited for a moment to see if Vila would speak for her and was surprised to hear the silence in the room. She looked at her notes, “It sounds like our mission is to head to an unnamed planet in the Beta Quadrant for exploration purposes. We don’t know what form of life exists there – whether there are humanoids or synthetic life – though Xavier expects he knows where a manufacturing facility is located for making new Synthetics. It’s presumed that the planet is populated with Synthetic life as that was its last known status quo. But, at this point, we’re waiting for scans to come back from the Lovelace in order to make further plans. Oh, and we’ll get the replicators working more predicably on our way there. Did I miss anything?”

Max smiled wryly. “Sounds about right. A lot of immediate unknowns, but I believe it was Captain Kirk who said, “Risk is part of the job”. He also said something like, “There is no unknown - only the temporarily hidden”. We’ll find our answers, Lieutenant Nyx.

“Now, does anyone have any questions?” Max asked, opening the briefing to the general gathering.

The room remained quiet for a short time, no more than a minute, until Max broke the silence. “Alright then, let’s get to work everyone. Dismissed.”

As the room started to clear, Max, Vila and Rylen were left to wait as the junior officers filed out first. “Commanders Lorut and Lyo, I’d like you to stay behind. We need to have a short discussion.”


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