Scanning of the Region
Mission 1: Unscheduled Madness
Location: Stellar Cartography
T: Going with the Cap'n's suggestion that we scan the region for things?
Frustration grew inside T'Sai as she sat in front of the large map of the region. The most recent scans had been updated a thirty seconds ago. As per expectations, nothing out of the ordinary was found. While finding it odd that she was having such an emotional response to something so insignificant was playing with her mind a bit, however her years of Vulan emotional suppression kept her emotions well below the surface.
She turned to Tiberius and Vriha and asked, "Are either of you picking up anything on scanners?"
Vriha readjusted settings and re-initiated her last scan. She lacked both Vulcan training and the maturity that provided older Romulans with their control, but she had been well-schooled in maintaining a mask, especially among strangers. Still, it was at the edge of cracking from frustration. She had run every scan these Starfleet-designed scanners could handle, seeking evidence of a cloaked ship or drone - anything that might be responsible for the messages she had received, the evidence of covert observation both she and Eilaea had detected, and/or the reason for the sudden malfunction in the ship's engines (IF it rally was a malfunction and not part of some plot by hostile agents imbedded among the crew...).
"Not as yet," she replied, jaw tight.
Tiber punched a few commands into his station before standing and leaning over console, arching his back as he did.
"Nothing ma'am. Not a stray electron."
He found himself checking the same readings twice or thrice before confirming them. His concentration had been poor for a day or so now, He hadn't been sleeping well either and the effects were beginning to show. He had been distracted, lacking his normal focus, almost sloppy. That in turn was causing frustration and at some point anger. He was beginning to wonder if the events of several nights prior had effected him more than he had appreciated.
After entering another sequence of commands into the computer to initiate another scan he got up from his slouch and walked slowly over to a near by replicator.
The low hum of the computer began to resequence proteins and molecules into his chosen poison. It was good enough for Admiral Janeway Tiber though, why not him?
"Anything for you?" He offered innocently to his two counterparts?
~ As if I would take a drink from an unknown hand...~ Vriha thought. "No. Thank you," she replied stiffly. "I do not require refreshment."
Keeping her usual focus was a bit tougher than usual, T'Sai accidentally ignored the drink requests. She tapped out a few more commands, to close out her current scans. "There is no explanation for our current situation," the Vulcan explained as the next scanning section popped up. She had already been over this zone three times with no result.
Vriha bridled inwardly at that, and wondered if the the scan had been cut here because there was something there - something the Vulcan wanted to remain hidden. However, she knew better than to challenge a superior officer. Better to play along, and perhaps hack into astrometrics late tonight and scan the region without interference.
"Aye, Lieutenant," she replied evenly. "Is there any other approach you wish to pursue?"
Tiber took a sip of his coffee as he walked back toward his station, welcoming the opportunity to stretch his legs. "Agreed. We are obviously missing somthing. Have we considered that our sensors themselves arn't functioning properly, perhaps a diagnostic would help us to verify our findings?" Taking another sip of coffee he looked back over his latest sensor readings and muttered under his breath "or lack therof."
Swallowing her Vulcan pride a bit was difficult. However, this was something that needed to be solved. She turned to the Romulans, “I am... open to suggestions.”
"Diagnostics have shown no malfunction," Vriha reported, though she kept unvoiced the thought that a good saboteur would have also reset the diagnostics to miss their interference. Another thing she would check independently when not under the scrutiny of Starfleet intel officers. However, she decided there might be merit in offering a suggestion, if only because it would provide cover for modifications she wished to make to the sensor array to look for variants on cloaking technology. "We have a saying: in the absence of evidence, examine the absences. It may be that something that should be here is missing, or some previously unknown factor has been missed because it is not part of sensor search protocols."
The Romulan made a point, T'Sai thought. From her own console, her access would allow her to monitor everything almost down to the command tap of any console. While it was a good idea, the Tal Shiar had agents everywhere in Romulan space and these two had a perfect cover. "You are suggesting a cloaked ship, or altered sensors?"
Vriha schooled her face to as close to a Vulcan mask as she could manage and lifted an eyebrow. "I have suggested nothing," she replied coolly - this intel chief would not draw her out so easily! Did she think she was unaware that she was being watched? That she didn't know any superior officer would be able to monitor the input of those under her command? "As I am sure you are aware, I have already searched for cloaked ships. If there are such here, they use cloaking technology unknown to me. The cause may also be an unknown quality in this region of space - one which your sensors are insufficient to the task of finding because you rely too heavily on active searches and assume those account for all parameters."
She lifted her chin and looked at T'Sai levelly. Vulcans claimed they could not lie, but that had always been in doubt and Vriha was sure this one must be pretending ignorance in order to entrap her. Nevertheless she must play along. She would give this one no excuse to accuse or disgrace her. "In either case, the effective course is to eliminate from the standard search protocol all that has been found and noted. Then search again and investigate any anomalies." Unable to resist a subtle dig at the transparency of T'Sai's act, she added. "Was it not the earth philosopher, Holmes, who said "Eliminate all other factors and what remains must be the solution"?"
"Agreed," T'Sai nodded. Sticking with Earth philosophers while getting a grip on her growing paranoia, she quoted, "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best. That was stated by William of Ockham." Tapping on her console, she replied, "I have requested that the computer eliminate all known results. It will take a few moments to leave the anomalies."
As the known factors from standard sensor readings peeled away, Vriha was caught between hope and fear of seeing a blank space - a spot too empty to not be the 'shadow' of a cloak - or potentially worse, the thin line of outline where artificially generated 'noise' designed to mask that shadow produced the ghost of an interference pattern with the actual background noise of galactic radiation and subspace fields... What if the outline matched a warbird?
The idea gave her chills, though it was one she had already considered several times. If this ship was not meant to reach its rendevous, then placing expendable officers like herself and Eilaea aboard was the perfect move to provide 'plausible deniability'. And if the attack could be made to seem the work of some new and unknown enemy, that would provide cause for a greater and perhaps less lopsided alliance with the Federation. Should that be the case her duty as loyal daughter of the Empire was clear: to say nothing; indeed, to prevent any other from noting or saving any record...
Of course, a cloaked ship could just as easily belong to the Federation, specifically it's (supposedly) rogue intel section, though their potential motives were more difficult to determine. They might have reason to want to disrupt the timeline of the meeting with Loval, or draw the Tal Shiar chief into a trap if came to investigate or assist. For all she knew, Captain Barrett had political enemies who saw this as the perfect opportunity to eliminate him. Which didn't preclude creating the appearance that Romulans had attacked the Orion in order to provide an excuse to turn on the Empire while it was still weak...
...then again, a number of other galactic powers might pursue the same plan in order to end the alliance and mire both RSE and Federation in a costly war (weak it might be, but the Empire would nevertheless make aggression costly). Or it might be a large arms merchant, such as those aligned with the Syndicate, testing a new weapon in a way that might have the side benefit of starting a profitable conflict...
Tearing her increasingly aggitated thoughts from paranoid speculation, Vriha studied her screen, sorting and assembling factors - fractional field fluctuations, minor but unexpected irregularities in subspace displacements, sparse but unusual isotopes - trying to focus on the immediate problem of finding the reason the engines had failed. Whether engineered or natural, there must be something, some previously masked signal or cause. They had examined every known cause: subspace rifts or disruptions, energy dampening or dissipating phenomena... or weapon. She recalled with a suppressed shudder the hushed but urgent conversations among adults about the Breen disabling entire warbirds...
A Breen warship suddenly appeared on the screen - brazenly showing themselves to mock the helpless Orion!
"Fvadt!" Vriha gasped, then quickly bit back any further curses. Her head snapped around to the others. Why wasn't the Vulcan reacting, or the human? Why was no one calling the bridge or giving an order to raise shields or fire?? "Don't you see -" she gestured at the view screen and the words died on her lips. It was blank. Not even the minor eddy of an impulse trail.
Tiber turned to face the Lieutenent when she cursed. Catching sight of nothing but a blank sensor Analysis.
"See what Lieutenent?" He asked innocently taking another sip of his coffee.
"The Breen ship! It... they must have remodulated their cloak, but for a moment it was exposed." Vriha stared at him. He was either an excellent actor or truly had seen nothing. But how could he possibly have not seen it? Did whatever the Breen were testing affected perception... it might explain some other odd incidents if the humans' minds turned from noticing it... She looked to T'Sai. "Surely you saw it. It was right there, on the screen."
Being a Vulcan, T'Sai quickly double checked the sensor log and audited the visual record of the last few moments. Finally speaking, she said, "There is no record of any other entity revealing itself. It is only logical to explain the Breen ship as a symptom of what has been affecting the crew."
Was it her perception that had been altered? And if so, by whom? Vriha's brows drew down in a V. She looked suspiciously from T'Sai to Augusta. It was difficult to read the Vulcan but the human was entirely too relaxed, too calm given the situation. Were they responsible? Possibly not standard intel but agents of Sec31 testing some mind control or insanity inducing device...
...Or was being stuck here a ruse put on by on the whole crew to test such a weapon on Romulan subjects? The engine malfunction faked ...a few crewmembers claiming hallucinations to make it seem that others were affected... and all the while they were testing the limits of some psi weapon...
Vriha straightened. She must discuss this with Eilaea. "Perhaps I have become ...overly fatigued. I was seeking a solution so stridently that I ...dreamt... I saw the source of a weapon known to cause similar engine failure. I request to be relieved."
"Request granted," T'Sai replied. She too had been the victim of seeing ghosts recently and had been talked into remaining on duty. "Do you require assistance?"
"I do not," Vriha replied curtly, and with a precisely measured incline of her head turned and walked to the exit.
Turning to Tiberius, T'Sai stated, "Perhaps we should take our own break. Run a level three diagnostic on the sensors." The diagnostic would offer about an hour to let things settle and to ensure that these ghosts were not real.
Nodding Politely to his superior Tiber returned his mug to the replicatior.
"Computer, Run a level three diagnostic of the sensor array......And recycle my mug."
Chief Intelligence Officer, USS Orion
Ensign Tiberius Augusta
Intelligence Officer, USS Orion
Sublieutenant Vriha t'Ehhelih
Science Officer, USS Orion