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Cipher Session

Posted on Wed May 10th, 2017 @ 3:05am by Commander Tyro Adina & Lieutenant Commander Alekelia illm A'olha & Lieutenant Amata Zan & Lieutenant Ritona Frialis & Lieutenant Kaybok & Ensign Lenore Fitzpatrick Ph.D.

Mission: Winter Shoreleave
Location: Betazed
Timeline: Final

:: ON ::

The best starship assignments were, even to any cynic and cadet, about exploration. They put an officer at the pivots of history, on the frontier, or got them into the most exclusive meetings. A golden era of Starfleet exeptionality had dissolved after the Dominion conflict, and that was only to continue. Many officers found it unacceptable, and put their effort into claiming their pre-war status once again. Others availed themselves of whatever came up, to earn back what..."

"-Sssh," said Tyro, putting a finger up to the corner of her mouth. The panel had already begun, and she was loitering in uniform on the landing just outside the auditorium doors. It was certainly exclusive, a showcase for scientists and chosen members of the press. You had to have a clearance pass from high-ranking officers in Starfleet, and the embargo on information would be tightly controlled until after the Convention.

Tyro was doing an active headcount of her senior officers, some of whom were late. Others were already in their assigned seats, but the Commander was staying outside to ensure everyone was showing up. Naturally, attendance for all senior officers aboard the USS Tranquility was mandatory -so it wasn't the happy kind of exclusive for them, and their commander would know personally if they didn't arrive before the first half-hour.

Lenore arrived later than she would've liked, but still in plenty of time. There was some confusion as to where she would sit and whether the designated area was considered hover chair friendly, but to her great relief, all the concern had been unnecessary, as there was a space set aside for her in a perfect spot that would allow her to observe the proceedings without obstructing anyone else's view.

Kaybok ran into the auditorium, one of the later arrivals just shy of being on time, with his uniform disheveled and his hair unkempt. Various officers in the auditorium stared at him as he reached the seats where Tranquility's staff had been reserved. This was not a shining moment for the Klingon.

"Tranquility crew are in Section D, you're looking like seat 22 or 23," said Tyros softly, putting her hand on the new arrival's arm.

Kaybok whispered to Commander Tyro.

"I apologize for the lateness and my appearance, Commander," Kaybok said. "I... have been distracted today with many things on my mind." As he went around his crewmates and reached his seat, he tried to straighten his uniform and slick down his hair.

Watching the science officer find is seat, Amata sighed as it turned out to be D-23, right next to him. In contrast to the Klingon, both his face and hair were freely shaved and his uniform pressed, and all at least the other man had a purpose here, Kaybok would actually understand the minutiae of what was being discussed. On the other hand, the Bajoran was simply a decoration ordered to be in attendance for the sake of appearances. Even if, as some of his subordinates had tried to pry from him, the ship's next deployment was to be discussed, Amata would have to study the relevant data modules.

Alekelia had been to her assigned seat well before the required time. Being punctual was something that on Akkadia was expected and all students in a House learned very quickly to the pain of rapped knuckles. She observed and tried to focus her attention on the proceedings but a small commotion with the science officer. She refocused back on the proceedings once that was done.

Being early, Ritona had sat sipping a coffee and reading through the pre briefing material on a PADD. She had noticed the increasingly anxious look on the Commander's face as she stood in the entrance looking for the missing officers. Most of the time Ritona envied the commanding officer of a ship, for that was her ultimate career goal. But today was not one of those moments. She watched Kaybok arrive with a little amusement and then turned back to the PADD while she waited for the presentation to start.

As Kaybok got situated in his seat, he started to feel self-conscious about his appearance. He felt his unkempt braid and noticed the wrinkles in his uniform…

“It would have been better to be a few more minutes late and be presentable as a Star Fleet officer,” Kaybok thought. “I have embarrassed the commander.” While the other officers were making small talk among themselves, or working on their PADDs, Kaybok pulled down his uniform shirt, undid his braid so as to make a pony tail. The one thing he did remember to bring with him was his PADD. After he adjusted his appearance as much as possible, he looked over some research notes.

The stage was set up with chairs, nothing theatrical. The white wall behind served as a board for projecting images onto. The moderator of the panel was from starfleet, starting everyone off with a set of scripted pleasantries directed at members of the audience. The introductions of the panel followed, and scrolled slowly on, with each seated scientist giving a little more information about their careers than necessary. The head researcher in the group was a rigellian man named Ikenga, for whom the star was named after.

"Well, I suppose to begin, the signal was recorded one year ago, but we didn't know at the time that it was anything significant. It took several months for researchers to examine the solar event in any amount of detail, which is when I became involved as well. Ahm, I discovered that the star was exhibiting a repeating behaviour of activity, and it was I who then led the team to collect more samples of it. Hence, the designation as Ikenga's Star," he said proudly.

The moderator interrupted. He was seated as a desk with a microphone. "This is an open forum, I remind you. You raise your hand if you have any question about the discovery."

"What we discovered..." continued the scientist. " that the star's behaviour is not random. Quite the opposite. The anomaly is, with certainty, an intelligent message from an unidentified source. Encrypted in the very emissions we were detecting was a signal, written in radiation, that at the time we were unable to decipher. After a month of observation, the pulsing elapsed entirely. Now, calls in the dark are nothing... extraordinary. First Contact being a Starfleet issue however, we contacted the nearest starbase. With their assistance, we found something... altogether more puzzling."

"The encryption key is Starfleet's own emergency subspace frequency. The message we decoded using this key is a set of instructions that exactly match the specifications of Federation vessels."

Alekelia listened for a moment thinking and then raised her hand. When someone recognized her hand up she stood and said, "Alekelia illm A'olha, USS Tranquility. You mentioned the star was pulsing and that was a signal. I have a question. As we know, the brightness of a star depends on its temperature and its radius. In fact the luminosity varies as the square of the radius and the fourth power of the surface temperature. This means that there are two effects that contribute to making a star's brightness change, both determined by the dynamics of a star's internal structure. If you change the radius of the star by 10 percent, the luminosity of the star will increase by 1.1x1.1 - 1.2 or 20 percent. If you increase the star's temperature by 10 percent, the luminosity will increase by 1.10 x 1.10 x 1.10 x 1.10 = 1.46 = 46 percent. Physically, we know it is common for stars to vary in both of these ways so that as the outer layers of the star expand, they also cool, which means that a 10 percent increase in radius and to, say, a 10 percent decrease in temperature and an overall 80 percent reduction in brightness. When the star contracts, the layers may heat up, and you would get for this hypothetical example, an 18 percent increase in brightness. Thus my question is this what caused the change in luminosity?

I could imagine that a change in internal energy which then changed the balance of gravity and thus causing the outer layers to overshoot the stable point. The outer layers expand and then fall back again past the stable point until internal pressure stops them. The helium of a star is not ionized, the radiation produced in the core can pass freely. One could think that changing the ionization of the helium would be possible but again I am not an expert in the subject."

"An excellent observation!" marveled the scientist. He pulled on his facial protrusions, and gave an approving look toward the moderator. "Indeed, we discovered an anomaly with relation to the mass of the star. We have no explanation for the sudden change in reactive pressures below the surface, or how a star of this type can fail to conform to even the most basic of our predictions. It is a relatively old, cool star, producing emissions it should not be able to. What's more, it oscillates..."

One of the members of the press stood up, and an aid beside her mirrored the action, although she looked awkward and nervous as her colleague spoke. "You mean to say, a moment please - there's something inside it?"

Alekelia smiled and then stood again, "Not necessarily unless there has been evidence to the contrary. Oscillation of a star if I remember my stellar physics class can be due to various magnetic fields and the overabundance of certain elements such as europium and strontium. I could see how manipulation of these fields though could cause both the observations presented." She turned to face the speaker. "Has there been any evidence of something else?"

Kaybok was amazed at the knowledge of Alekelia, not in a derogatory way, but in that she is the chief medical officer… he had to make sure he was not caught staring at the CMO, as he was slightly embarrassed. While he listened to the questions and answers, he continued to take notes on his PADD for later reference.

Kaelin had been quiet through the discussion so far. Though she had studied astrophysics at the academy, she'd neglected to stay abreast of current developments in the field, and in truth she'd never been one for scientific discourse. Most of her career had been spent preparing for a starship command position. Though she didn't want to get into the details, that didn't mean she wouldn't have anything to bring to the discussion.

"Are there any planets in this system? How have they fared orbiting this... most irregular star?" Kaelin asked.

Kaybok thought for a moment about his Star Fleet history. As the dialogue between the speaker, Kaelin and others continued, he accessed his PADD’s historical database. Before he did so, he muted the audio and chose text option.

PADD text: please choose search parameters

*Kaybok’s entry: 23rd century, USS Enterprise, sphere builders

PADD text: There are no sphere builders in the 23rd century. Sphere builders were in the 22nd century, defeated by Captain Jonathon Archer of the Enterprise NX-01.

Kaybok thinks a moment then snaps his fingers, followed by others around him that said, “SHHH!”

Kaybok’s entry: USS Enterprise-D, finding a hollow sphere.

PADD text: Inquiry accepted. On stardate 46125.3, the USS Enterprise-D intercepted a distress call from the USS Jenolan, a transport vessel that had been missing for seventy-five years. It had crashed on a Dyson Sphere. The sphere was eventually destroyed to save the USS Enterprse-D. A Dyson Sphere is a sphere built around a star, the interior of the sphere would absorb the entire energy output of that star, allowing for lifeforms to live on the interior surface almost indefinitely. One of these spheres encased a G-type star and had a diameter of two hundred million kilometers, giving it an internal surface area of approximately 250 million M-class planets. The exterior shell was composed of carbon-neutronium, and the interior was much like a habitable planet with various types of terrain and an atmosphere. Such a structure was theorized by the 20th century physicist, Freeman Dyson.

Kaybok’s entry: End inquiry.

Kaybok raised his hand, and he was chosen to ask his question.

“Lieutenant Kaybok of the House of Antaak, USS Tranquility. Is it possible…,” Kaybok asked carefully. “Is it possible the star in question is a Dyson Sphere? The last report of a Dyson Sphere was logged by Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D on stardate 46125.3, where it was unfortunately destroyed. Are we looking at that type of device?”

The speaker had his padd too, to keep track of the questions being directed to him and his team. He attempted his best to answer them one at a time, a little flustered by the rush of interest.

"Yes yes yes. Evidence? We have only speculation for the moment. In fact... well, one moment. As for your other questions, the star is in the final stage of its life. That is to say, it is at the largest radius it will ever be and will remain so for billions of years until it has nothing left to burn. This particular star will not Nova, at least we think. The anomaly may yet have more to say on the matter, but this type of star does not normally die in that fashion. Though we would expect planets to have accumulated in orbit of the star because of its size, instead what we are seeing is a severe disk of debris. We are not yet sure how such rings were captured, since the star is so old, but it could theoretically be the result of extensive mining. If that were the case, the material around the star could be all that remains of any planets, and more than enough material could theoretically have been taken in order to build... some kind of enormous structure."

The moderator included himself, standing and walking to the edge of the stage so he could indicate the audience. In particular, he held his hand out to the section who seemed to be participating the most in the discussion. "By now it's obvious there's only one way we can learn more. What we are announcing here in this room is the mission to answer these questions, by sending a ship to investigate. If this should turn out to be the work of an intelligence... then perhaps a qualified First Contact might be initiated. Welcome please, the crew of the USS Tranquility. They will be responsible for this undertaking."

Ritona Blinked. Until now she had only paid a passing interest in the scientific side of the conference. The mention of the tranquility had perked her interest and she sat forward and raised a hand.

She stood, "Leftenant Ritona Frialis, Chief Engineering Officer of the Tranquility" she said in her curt accent that seemed to contrast most of the previous speakers. "While I welcome the opportunity to investigate such a mysterious phenomenon Mr Speaker. I must ask, purely from an engineering point of view, is there any further information about spacial conditions around the star asside these 'Rings'?" she paused, moving her eyes from left to right quickly as if thinking, "I mean radiation, thermal, gravometric concerns that may damage, interfere or indeed pose a hazard to the ship? I'd like to be able to prepare the Tranquility as best I can before we head in,"

While Frialis was speaking, Kaybok could only speculate about what the speaker said and how he said it. Kaybok thought, "he looked flustered with the rush of interest... they only have speculation about it being in its largest raidius and will remain so for billions of years? They don't... think it will nova? I'm going to keep my mouth shut for the time being, but I don't think he knows what he's talking about... this speaker seems to be either inexperienced, underhanded or both. Is he hiding something? I wonder if the others think the same thing."

Alekelia poundered the information. She stood again but figured that everyone knew who she was now. "A debris field, a distress signal utilizing the stars luminosity and in the final stages of its main sequence life. It strikes me that perhaps it was at the stage ejecting the outer layers, the nebula formation that most main sequence stars will go through. Perhaps and of course please this is just speculation but what if someone, or thing, utilized the materials at hand to control the nebula formation. It would possibly then result it the data that has been found. I must say though that such a thing is beyound the current known technology of the Federation."

"Indeed," said Mister Ikenga, though he was looking to Ritona. "We had special interest in the possibility of communication, so not all of the data has been analysed with regard to the system. Aside from the stresses of the star itself, there should be no objects in the system with strong magnetic fields or causing any large gravitation anomalies. Indeed, we found no evidence of habitation at all in the system, aside from the unusual signal."

"I'd like a copy of all data related to the system analysed or not, if possible Mister speaker. No disrespect intended, but I'd rather know what is there than what 'should' not be" Ritona replied, slightly shaking her head in restrained disbelief.

"Ah-of course!" said the man nervously, and there was a pause in the conversation. Tyro spoke up at last, addressing the scientists on stage, but also her crew by association.

"Our scientific department is small, but taking over this investigation ourselves isn't more than we can handle. We have the resources you lack. We're professionals."

"All the same..." squeaked the scientist. "If there is some danger in particular you think places you at risk... we could, ah, delay the mission further at your convenience, Captain."

Kaybok poured over as much information as possible on his PADD as he listened to the discussions between the scientist, the Tranquility staff and Commander Adina. To Kaybok, he noticed the nervousness of the speaker and that he was reluctant to share information.

"Could there be something more at stake here than just a star?" Kaybok thought. Though he wanted to speak, he knew it was best to keep things to himself until he could discuss the matter with the senior staff.

The cynical part of Lenore knew there was always more than a little potential for danger in any mission. Admittedly, she might not of been able to follow much of the scientific discussion too carefully, but she was aware of the fact there were few and downs in this situation, which presented its own challenges as much as it was an honor to have the opportunity to make potential first contact.

Kaelin was eager for the task, but didn't have much to contribute. There had been many mission briefings during her career where her contributions were limited almost literally to a 'hey, I just fly the ship.' This might shape up to be one of them. It sounded dangerous, though. That aspect didn't interest her in and of itself, but the promise that the danger would be on her shoulders did--fancy flying, to get the ship in close enough for the scientists to get the scans they wanted. What Starfleet officer didn't want their time in the spotlight? But naturally, the risk was on her shoulders as well. She would be the first to blame if the Tranquility's shiny hull plating got scuffed.

The tangible payout for such a successful venture would be low, true, as Tyro and the scientists would take all the credit, but at least Kaelin would have one more instance of being able to say I went here... I did that. All part of the climb to the top.

The moderator pushed toward the microphone, stealing attention away from the crew. "This is a press briefing only, held on the virtue of transparency. We want to make the possibility of an alien contact available to the media, but I remind everyone that the operational details are left to Starfleet. Some of them..." he looked at the Tranquility crew. "...needn't be on public display. These are the relevant details we have at this time, alright?"

Alekelia had the distinct feeling that not all the data had been shared. Things just seemed to suddenly wrap up. There was more to this then just a bit of press.

Tyro tensed in her seat, keeping still with her hands folded in her lap, resisting the urge to touch her chin and reveal any anxiety about the mission they were undertaking. Her people had questions, that was for sure. It worried her, to think she expected too much, or too soon. The presentation continued for a little longer, but many of the points were repeated. This wasn't an operation they seemed to be talking about, just a story, a concept. Wasn't that enough for now? She wasn't sure she understood, but it didn't escape notice that many of her people expected the worst from the barest information.

Ritona sat down after being cut off by the moderator. She sighed loudly. The information that they had been given was barely anything. If there were dangers to the ship, it made sense for her, of all people after the Commander, to know about them in order to prepare. Making a mental note to bring her objections to Adina after this farcical "Briefing", she chewed the nails on her right hand anxiously and eye balled the moderator.

:: OFF ::

Tyro Adina
Commanding Officer
Commander, USS Tranquility

Alekelia illm A'olha
Chief Medical Officer
USS Tranquility

Ritona Frialis
Chief Engineering Officer
Lieutenant, USS Tranquility

Kaelin Vex
Chief Flight Control Officer
Lieutenant, USS Tranquility

Amata Zan
Chief of Security
Lietenant, USS Tranquility

Acting Chief Science Officer
Lieutenant, USS Tranquility

Lenore Fitzpatrick
Ship's Counselor, PHD
Ensign, USS Tranquility


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