Part of the Continuing Earl Grey Fiction Mini-Series
by Phillip Gilfus, with contributions from Daniel Proulx and Darren Moser
Ensign Thovin walked the corridors of deck nine, full of determination. It was nice having his quarters on the same deck as his new duty station, the ship’s astrometrics lab.
It’s going to be a change going from Starfleet Academy instructor to junior science officer on a starship, thought Thovin. I’m used to giving the orders, not taking them.
He arrived at the entry to the lab and paused. Thovin’s antenna stood up straight as he took a moment to clear his head and attempted to look imposing. He took a step forward, the doors opened, and, as he looked around his surroundings, he instantly tried not to look disappointed.
Thovin had imagined that the Federation’s flagship astrometrics lab would be more impressive. The lab, which was poorly lit, looked to be no more than 10 by 30 meters, with only six computer access consoles and chairs. At first it looked to be empty, but then he noticed another science officer hunched over a far console, his back to Thovin.
Thovin cleared his throat, as only an Andorian could, and said, “Excuse me.”
The only response Thovin received was that the officer began to mumble to himself. Thovin’s antennae caught the phrases, “I think I need to carry the five and use the Throcian Energy Assumption Theory…” and “Twenty cochranes just to ensure a proper course vector…”
“I said, excuse me,” repeated Thovin, with an impatient tone.
The officer’s face did not move away from the screen. He merely waved his left hand and said, “I’ll be with you later. If you’re here to fix the microntelescope…”
Thovin interrupted him. “No, I’m not here to fix anything. In fact, I’m reporting for duty for the first time, if you care to pay attention.”
The officer quickly turned around. He was a human lieutenant, who looked to be in his early 30s. His expression went from pensive to friendly, and he reached out his hand to greet Thovin.
“Oh yeah, yeah, you’re Ensign…um….Ensign…” the lieutenant’s face went blank, and he started to fumble with a pile of PADDs that were next to his console.
Thovin thought, This is my new commanding officer? I see me taking over this place by next week.
“Thovin. The name is Thovin.”
“Oh, yes, Ensign Thovin. Of course. Yes, wonderful, great. I’m Colin. Colin Jones. It’s good to meet you,” responded Jones, blushing slightly with embarrassment.
The two shook hands. Lt. Jones immediately returned to his console and began pressing buttons on his console. Colin’s eyes did not leave the screen as he spoke to Thovin.
“Sorry I was distracted; I’ve been working on this problem,” said Jones, “but I’m so glad you finally arrived, I’ve been waiting for someone to be assigned here for awhile. You don’t know how much work I’ve had to deal with alone in the two years I’ve been here. And now with the mapping mission we’re starting in the Arteline Sector, I don’t know how it’s expected for me to process that data by myself.”
Thovin arched his left eyebrow in answer; however, Jones still had his back to him and continued speaking.
“Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but working by yourself for a long time can really get to someone. Which, I do have a question for you, and please be honest.”
“I will,” said Thovin, expecting a scientific inquiry or a question about his credentials.
Jones turned his chair and looked directly at the Andorian. “You’re not just here to move on to stellar cartography are you? Those guys over there think they run this deck.”
“I’m here right now to get as much experience as I can in this duty position,” answered Thovin, who began questioning whether he had entered someone’s Holodeck program.
Jones smiled, let out a breath he had been holding, and turned back to his console. “Good, I’m glad. Man, stellar cartography. They do great work, don’t get me wrong. But they really think they are … oh, wait! Now that I have you here, you can help me with my special project.”
Jones motioned for Thovin to examine his console. Thovin had no idea what to think about what this absent-minded lieutenant’s idea of a “special project” was, but he stepped closer in curiosity.
“A lot of people studying the Borg want to know how to improve our shielding and weapons, but they are missing the most important element,” said Jones, pausing a moment. “Their propulsion! How did they get here from the Delta Quadrant? Look at this, I’ve been calculating the position of the Borg cube encountered by the Enterprise in System J-25 on stardate 42761.9 and comparing it to the position of the cube encountered on stardate 43993.5. Nobody is asking how they got there. I think it’s fascinating. Would you be interested in helping?”
Thovin’s antennae began to slowly twirl in slow concentric circles. “I think your premise is flawed,” said the ensign. “You are assuming that it was the same Borg vessel encountered at both times. The Borg may be located closer than the Delta Quadrant. We do not have enough information at this time.”
“Hmm, maybe,” said Jones, disappointment visible on his face. “Well, I suppose we should get to work. You should be able to access the long-range sensors. I’ll save you the grand tour of the lab, since I know it’s not your first time in one. See if you can do any long-range scans of the Baselad system in the Arteline Sector. It’s the first system on our mapping mission itinerary.”
Thovin walked to a console on the other side of the lab, sat down, and began accessing the appropriate science sensor systems. The scanners soon informed him that the Baselad sector contained five planetary bodies, with an asteroid belt separating the third and fourth planets. The only habitable planets appeared to be Baselad II and Baselad III, Class M and H respectively. However, no life forms had ever been detected on either planet. Thovin was surprised to see an unknown radiation signature in the vicinity of Baselad II. He readjusted the long-range sensors to focus on the radioactive anomaly near the Class M planet.
Thovin moved his face closer to the console and studied the readings. The ship’s computer was unable to properly classify the composition and nature of the radiation, however it was perfectly capable to showing him that twelve ships were near the planet, all with Romulan-type ship signatures.
Thovin opened his mouth to report to Jones, and then, thinking that his commanding officer did not seem quite capable, stopped himself, and instead he activated his comm badge.
“Ensign Thovin to…Lieutenant Commander Data,” said Thovin. The ship’s second officer seemed the logical person to contact. The Andorian knew of the android’s reputation as a scientist, engineer, and decorated senior officer.
“Data here,” came the emotionless reply.
“Sir, I know you don’t know me. I just transferred aboard. But I found some readings in preparation for our mapping mission that I think you should be aware of.”
“What are the precise nature of those readings?”
“I don’t know if I should describe them openly on the channel but-“
Thovin looked up to see Colin leaning over the Andorian’s console. The lieutenant accessed a few additional ship scanners. “Mr. Data, this is Lt. Jones. We have twelve Romulan signals coming from the Baselad system that we are approaching.”
“Thank you, lieutenant. I will confirm those findings here on the bridge and act appropriately.”
The lieutenant looked down at Thovin. He looked uncomfortable and shifted his weight from one foot to another. “Look, ensign, I know you’re new here. But you report all findings to me first before anyone else, is that understood?”
Thovin wanted to point out that Lt. Jones’ attention span didn’t seem to be the most encouraging for reporting a ship emergency. But instead the ensign answered, “Yes, sir.”
The red alert klaxons and lights began to sound on the ship.
Jones looked again at the console. “Good sensor work, though. From what I can tell, there are three scout ships, seven transports, and two freighters. What are Romulans doing in Federation space?”