Psi Phi's Star Trek Books Database
String Theory #2: Fusion
Written by Kirsten Beyer
B'Elanna and Seven turned to face the captain simultaneously as she entered the astrometrics lab, and Janeway couldn't help but think that at this particular moment these two eminently capable women resembled nothing so much as errant children who had been caught with their hands in one of her mother's antique cookie jars.
"Well...?" Janeway demanded.
"I've been scanning the singularity, Captain," B'Elanna began. "So far the gravimetric interference has made it difficult to get any clear readings, but in the last hour or so, I've managed to clean up enough of the signal to see this."
Janeway spent a few moments studying the readings, but quickly turned her attention to the large display screen beyond the workstations that bordered the room. Walking calmly up to the staging area just in front of the display, she allowed her mind to integrate both the visual image and the numeric data scrolling beside the image at the same time.
Finally she spoke, almost reverently. "It's a space station, orbiting a black hole."
"Not just orbiting, Captain," Seven chimed in.
"No," Janeway continued, examining the readings more closely, "you're right. It's powered by the singularity. Amazing, isn't it?"
"Captain," B'Elanna said quietly, "it's a little soon to say definitively, but even from this distance, the power signatures appear to be similar to those we saw when we encountered the alien relay stations that had been co-opted by the Hirogen."
Janeway turned abruptly. "Have we detected any Hirogen vessels?"
"No, Captain," she answered, "but with the interference, we might not detect them until we were right on top of them."
Janeway considered for a moment before resolving, "I'm confident that the understanding we reached with the Hirogen after our last encounter will hold for the time being. And even if they have somehow discovered this, I don't see how or why they would want to make use of it. The relay stations allowed them to stalk prey over much wider areas of space while maintaining communications. Unless this station is filled with beings the Hirogen would find challenging to hunt, I doubt we'll get any trouble from them," Janeway said as she turned back to the display. Finally she asked, "Can we date this technology?"
Seven quickly ran the data through a dozen different algorithms before replying, "The station is at least eighty thousand years old."
Janeway shook her head, awed. "So we have another mystery to add to those we've already encountered in the Monorhan system. It's possible that whatever ancient race managed to safely harness the energy of miscroscopic singularities and build the communications arrays we discovered several months ago didn't stop there."
"You're saying the next step was a stabilizing a singularity large enough to power a space station?" B'Elanna asked clearly ready to rethink her earlier supposition in light of this intriguing hypothesis.
"The relay stations were at least a hundred thousand years old. And the similarity in the power signatures is more than the complex mechanics of harnessing the energy of a singularity. I don't think it's a huge leap to suggest that both the arrays and this station were built by similar, if not, the same hands. The size of it, though," Janeway continued, her eyes glued to the viewscreen image, "it's so much larger than any space station the Federation would ever consider building. It's more like..."
"A city," Seven finished.
All three women stared silently at the image of the massive circular construct that orbited slowly around a singularity large enough, by all rights, to have sucked it into oblivion ages ago. Though none of them posed the question aloud, Janeway knew that both Seven and B'Elanna were as curious as she to know exactly what kind of stabilization field would be necessary to keep a piece of engineering that size intact around the densest and one of the most powerful gravitational forces known to the universe.
Finally Janeway broke the silence with a simple order. "I want continuous scans running on every sensor array we have until we reach this. Reroute internal sensors if you have to. We need to know everything we possibly can about it before we get there."
"I wonder if anybody's home, and how they'll feel about our stopping by?" B'Elanna mused aloud.
"We're about to find out," Janeway sighed, resigned. "Because Tuvok's headed right for it."
* * *
The Doctor was, once again, seriously considering taking a name. In four years of almost continual operation, he had toyed with and for a short time adopted more than one--Salk... Schweitzer... Shmullus... Mozart--but these were other men. Great men, to be sure. Their individual accomplishments had lent glory to their names in the eyes of their respective worlds, or those who loved them. But they just weren't... him. And so, they had been abandoned.
This was hardly the first time he had wrestled with the Who Am I? question. Each time the subroutines that ordered his cognitive processes worked through the equations involved in answering such a question, the results were either black and white or nonexistent. The "black and white" option was, Emergency Medical Hologram Mark One, AK1 Diagnostic and Surgical Subroutine Omega 323, operating aboard the Federation Starship Voyager. The non-existent option was a bit more disturbing, if a hologram could even be "disturbed." He was programmed to display lifelike human emotions in conjunction with his practice of medicine. But neither he nor anyone else could say definitively whether or not in displaying those emotions he was actually feeling them.
The fact was, however, that what lay beyond the official designation for his program, a definition of self he had long ago determined was insufficient, was an emptiness that sometimes created an unsettling processing loop. It left him wondering whether or not, without such a definition, he could even be said to actually exist. Often as not, the selection of a name seemed the first and most important step in filling that emptiness. But he didn't want somebody else's name, however lauded. He wanted his own.
It had never really occurred to him that none of Voyager's crew had ever faced his dilemma. Most humanoid species did not allow their offspring to choose their own names. Their names were given to them by those who spawned them. Early on he had realized that as long as Voyager was in the Delta Quadrant, he was going to have to think of himself as more than a supplemental program, but as the ship's chief medical officer. At Kes's urging, he had asked the captain for a name. There were many subsequent days when he seriously wished that she had taken him up on that request, rather than leaving him to make the determination on his own.
Maybe Jim. It was short and simple, shouldn't be too hard for the crew to remember. But Jim was short for James, and there were few Starfleet officers as highly regarded as James Tiberius Kirk.
Adam? It had a nice ring to it. Long ago, certain sects of humans on Earth had believed that Adam was the first man created. As the first continuously functioning and self-aware EMH Mark One, he found a synchronicity in the choice that appealed to him.
But if he was going for simple, why not Matt, or David, or Paul? Having been made in the image of his human creator, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, he hesitated to move too far beyond the realm of human names. Some of the Klingon and Romulan names contained in his databases also had a certain appeal, though they often sounded as if they were missing a few vowels when they rolled off his simulated tongue.
He had been processing the question for seventy-nine uninterrupted minutes when his aural subroutine alerted him to a faint high-pitched hum emanating from one of the storage cabinets in sickbay.
Crossing to the row of cabinets, he pinpointed the sound. It came from storage unit alpha one. The medium-sized drawer contained the first artifact he had ever catalogued and stored, the sporocystian remains of an entity known as the Caretaker.
Though most of the crew thought of the Caretaker as the less than caring alien being who had stranded them in the Delta Quadrant, this was not, strictly speaking, true. The Caretaker had used coherent tetryon technology to transport Voyager a distance of seventy thousand light-years from the Alpha Quadrant to the Delta Quadrant, but it was Captain Janeway who had made the decision that left them there. She had intentionally sacrificed Voyager's way home to save the lives of an entire race. Knowing Janeway as well as he did now, the Doctor realized that faced with the alternatives, he could never have expected her to make another choice. The convenience of 146 Starfleet officers and Maquis crewman did not tip the scales in their favor when weighed against tens of thousands of innocent Ocampa. Though the challenges posed in attempting to cross the seventy thousand light-years that separated them from their homes in the Alpha Quadrant had been arduous, it was to this exact set of circumstances that the Doctor owed what he considered "his life." He, for one, didn't blame the captain. Deep inside his matrix rested a simple subroutine he had labeled "gratitude," which he recalled whenever he considered Voyager's unique circumstances and the opportunities those circumstances had given him.
Nonetheless, he was more than a little "disturbed" by the vibrating sound that was growing louder every second in storage cabinet alpha one. The last time the Caretaker's remains had done anything other than sit there like the inert, irregularly shaped formation of bioremnants that it was had been Stardate 49164.8. He recalled the day vividly.
Voyager had encountered the only other "Caretaker" they had known of, the original's mate, who called herself Suspiria. She was tending to her own flock of Ocampa, on an array several thousand light year's from that of the original Caretaker. When the ship had come within a certain proximity to her presence, the Caretaker's remains had begun to vibrate, much as they were doing now, and Liutenant Torres had used readings of those vibrations to accurately pinpoint Suspiria's location.
If the benign and somewhat befuddled creature described in Voyager's logs as the Caretaker was one extreme of his race's temperament, Suspiria was the other. Hostile and deranged, she had almost succeeded in destroying the ship in her rage to revenge herself on those she believed had killed her mate. Although the captain had managed to thwart Suspiria's murderous rampage, Janeway was never certain whether or not she had convinced Suspiria that no one aboard Voyager could be held accountable for the Caretaker's death. He had died of whatever passed for natural causes among his people, the Nacene.
Suspiria had ultimately left the ship and returned to the subspace layer she inhabited when she did not exist in normal space. When Kes had described the dark and bloody range of emotions she had experienced when in brief communication with Suspiria, the Doctor had silently recorded his hope that Voyager never cross her path again.
So it was with no small amount of trepidation that the Doctor slowly opened the cabinet labeled alpha one, and removed the spherical transparent container that now shook with the strange vibrations emanating from the Caretaker's remains.
He was about to activate the shipwide Emergency Medical Hologram override channel to alert the captain to this frightening development when the irregularly shaped rock began to glow with a faint pinkish light. In the space of a few seconds, the light burned furiously bright. He didn't even have a chance to set the container on his desk and activate an emergency forcefield before the Caretaker's remains exploded violently, ripping through the storage container and covering the Doctor's photonic body with sporocystian dust.
Click image for
a larger version
|Powered by Copyright © 1999-2008 Psi Phi