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  1. [21:26] * Burke trains for a while in the holodeck, practicing with a quarterstaff he replicated.
  2. [21:33] * Samara    sits in her ready room, listening to a recording of the extra-galatic symphony as she tries to do some paperwork.
  3. [21:56] * Gryph makes cookies. How did I get on this space ship?
  4. [21:57] * Burke noms cookies.
  5. [22:17] =-= VE is now known as Damian
  6. [22:37] <Gryph> Chief Engineer's Log, Stardate 2351 point 92. After weeks of overtime maintaining a tractor beam under warp drive, my department finally has a chance to rest: the Petrov has been met on its return journey by the USS Ikazuchi Maru, which will take over towing the Romulan vessel. This means that Centurion Tr'Jan will be leaving us as well. Up to now, he has been keeping quiet about whether...
  7. [22:37] <Gryph> ...he means to return to Romulus or seek to live permanently in the Federation. The Wulcan Science Academy has officially taken the lead on investigating what has already become known throughout the Federation as the Andromeda Symphony, trying to infer as much as they can about its mysterious origin. We are back at the fringe of Federation territory, but now that we are free of the t'Sem,...
  8. [22:37] <Gryph> ...I doubt we will be staying in any one place for long....
  9. [22:37] <Gryph> ---
  10. [22:37] <Gryph> Tovalus Tr'Jan stands in the transporter room, facing you for the last time aboard the Petrov. Your duty cycle begins in a few minutes; Tr'Jan has arranged to depart at a time when you can attend.
  11. [22:38] <Gryph> "I will do what I can to answer the questions of your historians," he says. "And I would be proud to live among you: I knew during the War that your people were our equals in battle, but now I know that you are a good and valorous culture as well. But I am Romulan, and the Empire is and always will be my home. I want to see Romulus again... I have been away a very long, long time, but my...
  12. [22:38] <Gryph> ...species lives a long time. I would like to meet my grandchildren. I would like to meet /their/ grandchildren."
  13. [22:39] <Samara>    "Of course, Tr'Jan. You have been away a long, long time."
  14. [22:40] <Burke> "Be well, Tr'Jan. Jolan'tru."
  15. [22:41] * Damian    nods, "Good luck."
  16. [22:46] <Gryph> "I owe all of you my life. You have my gratitude."
  17. [22:46] <Gryph> He steps up onto the transporter pad and makes the romulan solute, fist over his heart. "Energize."
  18. [22:46] <Gryph> Fizzlefizzlefilzzlezing!
  19. [22:47] <Gryph> Later, as the last of the warp signiture of the departing Ikazuchi Maru fades into the cosmic background radiation of the universe, you have taken your posts on the bridge.
  20. [22:48] <Gryph> The first hour passes smoothly, coordinating maintenance and diagnostics to restore the Petrov to full effectiveness again. But after a few more minutes, there is a flash from the communications console -
  21. [22:48] <Gryph> Chirubip! Mi-young: "Priority message incoming from Starfleet Command. It's - I'm sorry, captain. I... don't have the clearance to hear it. Command crew and department heads only. Shall I pass it to the conference room?"
  22. [22:49] <Gryph> (The door to that room is at the back of the bridge.)
  23. [22:49] * Damian    tucks away his PADD.
  24. [22:51] <Samara>    "Yes, please, Miss Williams." She stands and, nodding, heads to the conference room. "Number One, Mister Burke, if you please?"
  25. [22:52] * Burke nods, and makes his way to the conference room.
  26. [22:52] * Damian    stands and heads for the conferance room.
  27. [22:56] <Gryph> The door fwooshes closed behind you, leaving you in the small, well lit space tween the bridge and the captain's quarters. One wall has windows that look backwards over the saucer; the other has a big viewscreen. A few moments after entering, the screen panel comes to life with the Federation symbol, which blinks out to show the face of Commodore Wu.
  28. [22:57] * Damian    nods, "Commodore."
  29. [22:59] <Burke> "Sir."
  30. [23:00] * Samara    stands at attention.
  31. [23:00] <Gryph> "Captain. Commander. Lieutenant. The following is need-to-know only until the conclusion of your mission."
  32. [23:02] <Burke> "My lips are sealed."
  33. [23:02] <Gryph> "The Cardassians are suing for peace talks. They're also building up a secret fleet in what they think is a blind spot to our long range sensors, to make a surprise push as soon as the peace talks fall through."
  34. [23:03] * Damian    tenses, continuing to listen.
  35. [23:06] <Gryph> "We are preparing to counter-attack as soon as they are over-committed in Federation space. And our secret fleet is better hidden than theirs. We are going to force them to the bargaining table once and for all and secure a lasting peace."
  36. [23:06] <Gryph> "But there is one very major complication."
  37. [23:08] <Gryph> "This morning at 0420 hours, we lost all contact with our fleet. Thirty seven ships and a mobile stardock, vanished in the blink of an eye."
  38. [23:08] * Samara    tilts her head.
  39. [23:08] <Burke> "Perhaps they built up this fleet in this location because you believe they believe it is hidden, and expect that when we notice their fleet there we will deploy ours near there to protect ourselves, and their real plan is several smaller attacks around our borders at other locations that we'll be helpless against because our fleet is mustered at that location."
  40. [23:09] <Gryph> Wu nods. "We have prepared for that eventuality. Assuming we have those /ships/."
  41. [23:09] <Samara>    "Where was the fleet stationed?"
  42. [23:12] <Gryph> "The Shelthreth Cloud, just outside the fringe of Federation territory. The Stanislav Petrov is three hours away at maximum warp. You will find out what happened to our space ships, Captain Samarah Fakih. And you and your crew will do whatever it takes to get them back."
  43. [23:13] * Damian    nods briskly, "Understood."
  44. [23:13] <Samara>    "Yes, sir. I won't let you down."
  45. [23:14] <Gryph> STAR TREK
  46. [23:14] <Gryph> Without a Trace
  47. [23:15] <Gryph> Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Stanislav Petrov. Her continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!
  48. [23:17] <Gryph> ---
  49. [23:19] * Burke mans his console.
  50. [23:21] * Damian    brings up any pertinent data on the Shelthreth Cloud.
  51. [23:21] <Gryph> The Shelthreth Cloud was discovered by an Andorian exploration vessel in 2299. A relatively tiny region of space, roughly 0.2 light years in diameter, it is nonetheless completely unexplored and uncharted. No ship has ever passed all the way through it - and no ship captain would be foolish enough to try, unless driven by the most terrible of necessity.
  52. [23:22] <Gryph> It's name is a morbid joke: Shelthreth is the Andorian word for a marriage. Once you're in it, you're in it for life.
  53. [23:22] <Gryph> *its
  54. [23:22] * Samara    heads back into her chair and takes a seat. "Mister Julius, set us a course for the Shelthreth Cloud."
  55. [23:23] * Damian    attempts to look for records indicating the specifics of why the region is so dangerous.
  56. [23:24] <Gryph> The Cloud is impervious to sensors, and even subspace waves blank out at the surface. The space itself is clouded with thick dust, suspended by an unusually perfect balance of mundane electromagnetic and gravitic forces.
  57. [23:25] <Burke> "Don't tell me we're actually going inside the cloud, Captain."
  58. [23:25] <Gryph> It is also full of unusually dense protoplanetary debris.
  59. [23:26] <Gryph> Navigation is conducted visually, using much the same techniques - and proceeding at the same relative velocities - as a preindustrial sailing ship attempting to navigate a dangerous reef, at night, in a thick fog.
  60. [23:27] <Burke> "Such a course of action would be highly illogical, not to mention quite dangerous."
  61. [23:27] <Gryph> But starships are extremely durable, compared to those ancient vessels, and can react much more quickly and effectively to danger. Tractor beams can sweep clear kilometers of dust and debris. So long as one does not penetrate too deeply, it is safe enough.
  62. [23:27] * Samara    smiles wryly. "I am aware of the illogicalities of the situation, Mister Burke."
  63. [23:28] <Gryph> The Federation fleet was stationed a mere three kilometers inside the Shelthreth Cloud - less than a second's acceleration at full impulse.
  64. [23:29] <Gryph> They had towed behind them several subspace transmitter probes - small, cold, and encased in rock of the same type as makes up the planetary debris. Undetectable, but necessary to communicate with the outside world.
  65. [23:29] <Gryph> They should have been hidden, invisible, but safe.
  66. [23:30] <Gryph> But the real danger of the cloud has always been the unknown... whatever is hidden deeper inside, from whence no ship nor probe has ever returned.
  67. [23:31] <Gryph> If the ship has disappeared, it is likely that the cause is inside.
  68. [23:31] * Damian    taps at the keys of his console, "Ignoring the uncertainties of the Cloud itself, this maneuver was tactically sound. It appears whatever the threat was, it emerged from deep within the cloud."
  69. [23:35] <Gryph> The two hours seem to somehow both drag by and be over too soon....
  70. [23:35] <Gryph> Benedicto Julius: "Exiting Warp Drive in three... two..."
  71. [23:35] <Gryph> Toummm!
  72. [23:35] * Burke keeps his eyes glued to the tactical display, waiting for something to make itself known.
  73. [23:36] <Gryph> The Stanislav Petrov flashes into existence outside the dark expanse, a few dozen kilometers away from the last known location of the Federation fleet.
  74. [23:43] <Gryph> Ben: "Well. We're... here."
  75. [23:43] <Samara>    "I don't suppose our scanners will penetrate that cloud, Number One?"
  76. [23:43] <Damian>    "No Captain, not any significant distance."
  77. [23:43] <Samara>    "I thought not."
  78. [23:44] <Damian>    "Ensign Williams, any background readings that stand out?"
  79. [23:46] <Gryph> Mi-young catches Damian's eye and shakes her head. "No, sir. The scope thinks there's nothing but empty space from here to the end of the universe."
  80. [23:47] * Samara    sighs. "Take us in, Mister Julius. Gently now. Three kilometers in, roughly these coordinates." She sends the ensign the coordinates of the subspace transmitter probes the fleet towed with them.
  81. [23:47] <Gryph> "A few rocks and fragments floating outside the cloud. Once the cloud begins, everything cuts out but the electromagnetic, which just sees a flat wall of -"
  82. [23:48] <Gryph> "...in?" she whispers.
  83. [23:49] <Gryph> Ben's eyes widen for a moment, then he gets a faint, confident smile on his face. "Yes ma'am. In we go, nice and easy."
  84. [23:50] * Damian    turns to the Captain, lowering his voice. "Captain, with luck, the covert transmitter probes the fleet used are still floating at the edge of the Cloud. If we retrieve them, it may tell us something about the fleet prior to its disapperance."
  85. [23:52] <Gryph> The cloud draws slowly closer, looming up to engulf the space ship.
  86. [23:54] * Burke powers up the shields.
  87. [23:54] <Samara>    "Take it slow."
  88. [00:03] <Gryph> ...and in. The ship's lights light an area around you in grey mist.
  89. [00:09] * Burke redirects some meteors and other debris skillfully with the tractor beam, sending them on trajectories away from the Petrov.
  90. [00:09] <Gryph> Between Julius' piloting and Burke's tractor beams, the ship arrives at the intended location without incident.
  91. [00:10] <Gryph> Mi-young: "Reading pressure from outside... 0.9 atmospheres. It's the dust."
  92. [00:10] * Damian    taps into the Petrov's external visuals.
  93. [00:11] <Gryph> After a second, her eyes narrow and she looks down at her controls.
  94. [00:12] <Gryph> Simultaneously, Ben points a spot on the viewscreen, where a glimmering light has appeared in the misty turbulence of the cloud. "What in god's name..?"
  95. [00:15] * Burke peers at it intently. "Indeed, what is it?"
  96. [00:16] <Gryph> Mi-young: "Magnifying."
  97. [00:16] <Gryph> The screen blinks to a closer view - then another still closer. Tumbling slowly past you, beaming light from its many windows, is one of the last things you ever expected to see in deep space: an ancient, steam-driven riverboat, enclosed in a faintly glimmering nimbus of violet light.
  98. [00:17] <Samara>    "Take us to yellow alert, Mister Burke."
  99. [00:18] <Gryph> Vwoop! Vwoop! The yellow alert light flashes.
  100. [00:18] * Burke pushes the yellow alert buttons.
  101. [00:18] <Gryph> Through the riverboat's glass windows, you can see people in antiquated clothing moving about, sometimes pausing to peer out the window. They seem, improbably, to be under gravity.
  102. [00:19] * Burke looks for a name painted on the riverboat.
  103. [00:19] * Samara    blinks, confused.
  104. [00:19] <Damian>    "What..."
  105. [00:21] <Gryph> As the riverboat draws closer, her slow tumble brings one side of her into view, and her name appears: "Iron Mountain."
  106. [00:21] <Gryph> She is 55 meters long and 11 meters wide.
  107. [00:23] <Burke> "Captain, what are your orders?"
  108. [00:24] <Samara>    "I..."
  109. [00:24] <Damian>    "A hologram? Have our ship visuals been compromised?"
  110. [00:25] <Gryph> Mi-young: "I... don't - think so, sir."
  111. [00:25] * Samara    blinks again and shakes her head. "Can we get any kind of scan on it? Where did it come from? What /is/ it? And do not tell me it is a riverboat."
  112. [00:25] <Burke> "It's a steam boat, ma'am."
  113. [00:26] <Damian>    "This is not a time to be cavalier."
  114. [00:27] <Gryph> Mi-young: "Whatever is creating that purple glow must be keeping her atmosphere inside and providing gravity, if she's really there..."
  115. [00:28] <Gryph> "If you could take us closer - and extend the shields around her to keep the dust out - I could make a full scan."
  116. [00:29] <Samara>    "Make it so, Mister Julius, if you please."
  117. [00:29] <Burke> "I must recommend against bringing an unknown such as that inside our shields, Captain."
  118. [00:31] * Samara    arches an eyebrow. "As you so eloquently put it, Mister Burke, it is a steamboat. I do not believe it to be armed."
  119. [00:32] <Gryph> Julius pilots the vessel up to within a few hundred meters of the Iron Mountain. You can see people inside gathering at the windows, pointing excitedly outside at your ship.
  120. [00:34] <Burke> "Of course."
  121. [00:35] * Burke reconfigures the shields to extend around the Iron Mountain.
  122. [00:35] <Burke> "All yours, Ensign."
  123. [00:35] <Gryph> The shields are momentarily visible as a glowing bubble as they slip out to encompass the smaller vessel.
  124. [00:36] <Gryph> Mi-young's console beep boop chirrup whirrs as she hunches over it for several seconds, fingers dancing over the controls.
  125. [00:39] <Gryph> "To begin with, it's definitely real, and it's definitely a steamboat. 55 life signs onboard. Technology and construction marks her as mid 19th century American, from Earth."
  126. [00:41] <Gryph> "That field is emitting unusually high levels of chronotron radiation, as though she has recently passed through some form of temporal distortion."
  127. [00:41] <Burke> "You are suggesting that they have traveled into the future, a conclusion I find to be likely as well."
  128. [00:41] * Samara    barks a short, nervous laugh. "Temporal distortion. Well, that alleviates my worries that some history buffs came out here and re-created an authentic scale replica of a 19th century Earth American steamboat."
  129. [00:44] <Gryph> "I... yes, lieutenant. That does seem to be the best explanation."
  130. [00:45] <Burke> "Can the effects of this chronotron radiation be reversed?"
  131. [00:46] <Gryph> Mi-young: "I don't know. That purple field... I've never seen anything quite like it. I don't know how it works, or what it's going to do... Is this what we were looking for, Captain?"
  132. [00:47] <Damian>    "That still leaves the question of the location of our fleet."
  133. [00:48] <Burke> "I hope it is not on nineteenth-centure Earth."
  134. [00:48] <Damian>    "It is possible that whatever distortion the steamboat emerged from, our fleet entered."
  135. [00:48] <Gryph> Julius: "We /lost/ a /fleet/?"
  136. [00:49] * Samara    glances at Damien with a sigh.
  137. [00:49] <Samara>    "This information does not leave this room; understood?"
  138. [00:50] <Gryph> Julius: "Aye-aye, skipper."
  139. [00:50] <Gryph> Williams: "Ma'am."
  140. [00:51] <Damian>    "Apologies Captain."
  141. [00:51] <Gryph> Mi-young rests her chin in her hands and looks thoughtfully at the viewscreen.
  142. [00:51] <Samara>    "Strictly on a need-to-know basis. I'm sorry. Believe me, I'd like to tell you more; more minds on the task wouldn't hurt." She glances back at Damian. "We'll talk later, Number One. Right now, we have a job to do."
  143. [00:52] <Burke> "Should we bring them aboard?"
  144. [00:53] <Gryph> "They might be able to help us," she says. "If they saw what happened to the... fleet we lost."
  145. [00:55] <Burke> "I wonder if the tractor beam would disrupt their chronoton field. Perhaps the best course of action would be to beam aboard and ask our questions."
  146. [00:58] <Burke> "I just hope the Cardassian crewmembers didn't overhear this conversation." Burke winks at Williams.
  147. [00:58] <Samara>    "That will be all, Mister Burke."
  148. [00:59] <Gryph> "Sir - if we destroy the field giving them gravity and pressure, they'll die."
  149. [00:59] <Burke> "Yes ma'am."
  150. [00:59] <Gryph> Ben: "Huh. Skipper, an idea-?"
  151. [01:00] <Samara>    "Would the chronoton radiation interfere with our transporter arrays in any way?" She nods to Benedicto. "Go ahead, Mister Julius."
  152. [01:01] <Gryph> "Computer, access historical records for 19th century United States."
  153. [01:02] * Samara    sees where he's going. "Good thinking, Mister Julius!"
  154. [01:03] <Gryph> Julius: "Did anything unusual happen to a primitive steam powered river boat named /Iron Mountain/ during that century?"
  155. [01:05] <Gryph> Computer: "The Iron Mountain disappeared with all hands in June 1872. The remains of the Iron Mountain were ever found."
  156. [01:06] <Burke> "They were found today."
  157. [01:08] <Gryph> Mi-young: "Chronotron radiation is not a significant transporter hazard. I can compute a correction algorithm to ensure safe transport."
  158. [01:11] <Samara>    "Number One, Mister Burke. Let's go and pay the Iron Mountain a visit, shall we?" She stands and shakes her head, chuckling. "Though I do not think we are dressed appropriately for the occasion."
  159. [01:13] <Damian>    "Understood Captain. A word of caution, I doubt the crew of the Iron Mountain will accept intruders on their ship without alarm, at least at first.
  160. [01:14] * Burke stands from his station. "I doubt little our attire matters. According to records, the Iron Mountain was never found. They're doomed to drift in Shelthreth Cloud until they run out of supplies."
  161. [01:14] <Gryph> Williams: "But we're going to rescue them, yes?"
  162. [01:15] <Burke> "Or until they are rescued, yes."
  163. [01:16] <Burke> "Captain, if rescuing them is our course of action, why can we not just open up a cargo hold and fly the ship around them?"
  164. [01:18] * Burke utilizes the chronoton radiation and travels back in time a couple seconds, slapping Burke in the back of the head just before he would have said that.
  165. [01:18] <Gryph> A temporal anomalie consumes Burke's last statement.
  166. [01:18] <Gryph> The second law of thermodynamics cries itself to sleep in a corner.
  167. [01:18] <Gryph> Life goes on.
  168. [01:19] <Samara>    "Yes, we are going to rescue them." She grimaces. "I do not like the implications of this, however."
  169. [01:19] <Samara>    "Consider."
  170. [01:20] <Samara>    "A shi-" she glances at Burke. "A /steamboat/ from 19th century Earth appears here. Our fleet disappears. There is temporal anomalies involved."
  171. [01:20] <Samara>    "It is possible whatever sent the Iron Mountain forward could have sent our fleet backward."
  172. [01:21] <Damian>    "Hopefully, our fleet will have taken precautions to limit the amount of temporal complications that might come out of this."
  173. [01:21] <Burke> "Clearly we must find the temporal disturbance and guide the fleet back to our time."
  174. [01:21] <Gryph> Julius: "I don't mean to be flippant, skipper, but I think folks would have noticed a fleet of giant space ships splashing down in the Mississippi River."
  175. [01:23] * Samara    shrugs. "I don't presume to know how time travel works, Mister Julius. They could have gone somewhere else."
  176. [01:23] <Burke> "The chronoton field seems to contain the environment from which the steamboat came from. Could not a similar field be surrounding our fleet?"
  177. [01:23] <Samara>    "If you'd told me a few moments ago I would be staring at a 19th century American steamboat floating through space, I'd have had you checked into the infirmary."
  178. [01:24] <Gryph> Williams: "Maybe people did notice... they might have created a parallel universe on arrival, to avoid a grandfather paradox effect. Doctor Beauchamp might know more...."
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