Literary Challenge #15 : Temporal Soundings
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Join Date: Dec 2007
The Trouble with Tachyons
03-31-2012, 01:17 AM
The start of the Delta shift saw few people in the halls. The creamy scent of hot rooibos tea hung in the hallway. Following it I found myself standing in front of the door to astrometrics entranced by the aroma. I stepped too close to the doors and they drifted apart with a sigh to reveal a science officer holding a frosted glass mug and humming. Long black hair covered her face but her lithe frame looked poured into the close fitting uniform. She looked up at the sound of the doors, her deep brown eyes catching my gaze and froze for a moment before setting her drink down and standing at attention. She looked furtively at me while I looked around the room, each of us apparently sizing one another up in our own ways. My eyes moved back to her, "At ease, lieutenant...?"
"de Groot, sir. Juliet de Groot," she said as she relaxed and resumed drinking her tea. After a slow sip she looked at me for a moment before asking, "What brings you to astrometrics sir?"
I smiled and motioned towards her mug. "I smelled the tea. Hard to find anyone who can appreciate it at this hour - usually coffee and herbal sodas at this time of night."
She looked down at her drink and then motioned towards the kettle on the counter near the door. "Feel free." I walked to the replicator, made a tea cup, and then poured myself a generous helping. "Nothing brings back the memories like rooibos."
She looked up at me at the mention of rooibos. "Most people call it red tea."
I picked up the steaming mug of amber tinted water and sipped slowly. As the tea cup left my lips I smiled. "My mother called it rooibos and I grew up with it always called that or bush tea. I didn't know there was another name for it until I entered the academy."
I looked at her and for a moment saw her staring off into the distance with a slight smile crossing her lips. She caught my gaze and her expression melted back to neutral interest. I couldn't help but nudge her reservation. "Such a nice smile shouldn't have to hide. What's on your mind?"
She flushed for a moment as the smile found its way back to her lips. "I was remembering my dad would always take rooibos before he went to bed. We had one of those kettles that whistle when the water boiled; dad didn't trust replicated hot water. My brother and I knew it was time to get ready for bed when we heard a whistle from the kitchen. Ever since then, I would have some tea at night to remind me of them."
I looked at the kettle. "You don't trust replicators either?"
"Oh no," she said, "I grew up around them. I brew because I enjoy it and it helps me think."
The PADD on her desk chimed. She picked it up and looked over towards holographic display. "Excuse me captain. I need to check on these sample sites."
"By all means." I headed towards the door and as it opened, I turned to look at her. "Mind if I stop by later for a refill? Maybe we can pick up our conversation where we left off."
"I look forward to it."
I rubbed my eyes. The main view screen projected an empty starfield and the only company on the bridge was an ensign busy with some navigation algorithms, or at least trying to look busy while his captain was in the room. A turbolift door opened and Juliet was standing there with a kettle in hand and a couple of mugs. I saw her, smiled, and motioned with a glance towards the empty chair next to mine. As she walked in, I looked at the ensign. "There's nothing going on out there. Ensign, take the night off early."
He stood up, looked relieved, and left with a jaunt in his step.
"I think he wanted to leave." Juliet said as the turbolift door closed behind him.
"All the more reason to let him." I smiled as she sat down and poured two cups of tea. "What brings you to the bridge?" I asked.
"You never came back for that second cup. I thought you might be busy and I wasn't, so here I am." She handed me one of the steaming mugs.
"Perfect timing Juliet." I breathed in the thick aroma and savored a long sip.
"If you don't mind, captain, only my service record calls me Juliet. Feel free to call me Jules."
I outstretched my hand and reached for hers. We shook like two people getting to know each other for the first time. "Jack."
Sitting there, with our tea and stars flitting by on the main screen we reminisced. "de Groot, is that Dutch?" I asked.
"Sort of. Dutch stock by way of South Africa."
I sat upright at the sound of home. "I'm from Wellington, an hour from Cape Town."
"I'm from Betty's Bay!"
"What are the odds that two people a couple hours apart on Earth would find themselves so much closer so far from home?"
We smiled and talked about the perfect weather, the beaches, the music we grew up with, family, and the food we missed. I asked, "What do you miss the most?"
She sipped her tea and ruminated in nostalgia, that shy smile creeping back to her face. "My mom would make us melktert every Sunday and my brother and I couldn't wait to get through dinner so we could enjoy them. She died when I was little so I never knew the recipe and the replicator can't cook."
I nodded, "Yeah the replicator can't make a lot of nice things. There was this nature preserve near our house and my father and I would go backpacking through it. He would make up droewors and granola and we would walk for hours munching on his culinary concoctions. I miss those trips."
The mood shattered as a console started beeping anxiously. I sighed and looked at her, "Let me shut that off." I walked over to the science console and saw the alert. Tachyon levels were rising in the shuttlebay at an exponential rate. I called out, "Jules, come take a look at this."
She walked over and saw the screen. "What do you make of this?" I asked without looking away from the monitor.
"It's a tachyon cascade. I recognize the signature of the growth pattern. But it shouldn't be able to be formed in three dimensions, much less inside a ship. This requires a singularity and -"
BOOM! The ship rocked hard to the side, the computer tripping the red alert klaxons. The bridge became bathed in red light as crew began to stumble in a moment later. I looked at the first uniform to find their action station and yelled, "All stop. Report!"
The ensign looked down and read aloud as the information came in: "We have lost power to decks 2 and 4. Most of deck 3 and the shuttlebay are gone."
That last bit of information didn't register for a moment. "Did it explode?"
He looked up sheepishly and said, "It just isn't there."
"Ensign, define gone."
"Sir, there are no fragments or remnants. It just disappeared."
I looked at Juliet who had a look of confused horror about her. "Jules, talk to me. What do you know about that tachyon cascade?"
She hid her personal expression again and looked at me. "At the academy I had a physics professor who experimented with temporal loops. In order to start one, he had to initialize a tachyon cascade inside a quantum singularity with pulsed zero point radiation to stabilize the quanta. He thought that it, along with the mechanics of the Pathfinder theorem, could build a sustained bridge for pan-galactic transmission. But without a warp core or singularity, it isn't possible to generate a cascade."
I walked to the ensign's station, looked at the screen that confirmed the shuttle bay was gone, and looked back at Juliet. "Something caused one because a piece of the ship just vanished. Jules, let's go." I headed for the turbolift and swatted at my comm badge: "Security, meet me on deck 3."
When we arrived the emergency force fields were flickering wildly as the empty vacuum of space filled most where there would have been a hallway. I looked over at Juliet and said, "Okay, let's assume this is a cascade: where does the other end come out?"
Her brow furrowed as she replied, "Without knowing where it was targeted, all I can tell you is that it will come out tomorrow."
I shook my head in disbelief. "Tomorrow?! There has to be a way to fix this. Tell me there is some kind of good news."
"Well, the good news is that we can send large pieces of matter 50,000 light years." She said sheepishly.
"Is there anyway to stop the transmission?"
"I'm not sure."
My comm badge chimed, "Sir, we are detecting an anomalous build up of tachyon particles."
"I'm on my way to the bridge." I looked at Juliet, "Go find out everything you can about the Pathfinder Project and let me know how we can find our shuttlebay."
As soon as the turbolift doors opened I gave the order, "Ensign, set a course for whatever and get us out of here. Far from here. This whole area has some kind of tachyon flux and we need to leave."
Refuge came from the Oort cloud of a nearby star. As we dropped out of warp, I ordered a full ship diagnostic. The report that came back was less than pleasing. "Sir, we have only auxiliary power. Cloak is offline, phasers are offline, shields are offline, and the plasma from the warp core attracted tachyon particles which forces us to scrub down the cooling tubes so we will need to take the warp core offline. We need to find a starbase for repairs."
I sighed and put my head in my hands. This problem was beyond what sheer force of will could overcome. "Ensign, put out a call for help for the nearest ship in the sector. Tell them we are in desperate need of assistance and that we have suffered critical system failures."
Relief came minutes later with a subspace call. "This is captain Dylan Houston of the USS
. We have received your distress call. What is your location and condition?"
"Captain Houston, this is captain Jack Slade of the USS
. We have suffered severe damage as the result of a tachyon particle build up and require assistance. I am sending you our coordinates."
"Thank you Captain Slade; we estimate to be at your location inside a half an hour."
As I was finishing the subspace call, Juliet walked out of the turbolift and onto the bridge. "Captain, I have some information you will want to see."
I looked to her awaiting the details but she hesitated before adding, "In private."