Canopus Station
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Catch A Comet By Its Tail

Posted on Wed Feb 3rd, 2021 @ 2:09am by Captain Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang & Senior Chief Petty Officer Sharona Deluna & Lu'kat

Mission: S2:3: Snow Drift
Location: Canopus Station, Admin Block, Conference Room A
Timeline: MD1: 13.00

"So in review, we've known about these... let's call them vessels, for the six months or so since we arrived here and only now just found out they are starships of a sort?"

Ingram looked at Deluna as he handed the padd he'd been reading back to her, and looked at the assembled senior staff.

"I'm not sure if I should be intimidated by the level of technical sophistication needed to hide such vast engines as these, or manically depressed that they've come so close before being actively noticed," he said icily.

“I’m impressed,” put in Mara. “In fact, I’d like to get my hands on that technology. You know. For study.”

Meilin suppressed a frown. "If nothing else, it speaks to how distracted we have been due to other developments and the need for greater vigilance in the future."

Lu'kat's usual frown eyed the scene in front of him. "To be fair, we have indeed been distracted by more immediate concerns of late that directly threatened our very survival. But I do concur, Messier 4 has no mercy for those who are not vigilant enough."


With a tap of one finger against the inlaid control panel, the holographic display volume above the table lit up with a map of the two outermost gas giants of the Carpathia system. Calamity and Catastrophe, two dwarf ice giant planets orbiting around each other. If they'd been bigger they might have merged into a single planet, or a sun, but instead they had formed to far away to achieve anything but a navigation hazard. Both were a murky swampy blue, run through with deep angry swaths of oranges and reds near the equators.

Dull little comet catchers sweeping the outer system, with no moons save a few asteroids on long eccentric orbits. But nestled between them, in the exact gravimetric eye of their orbit, were the three Comet Ships. They'd ended their burn, shedding all of their momenta and falling into the Lagrange point with a clearly designed intent.

One of the ships had broken apart, shedding thousands of tons of its self until it looked like a bone flayed of all meat and gristle. The discarded flecks had then moved under their own power and dived into the two gas giants, and in the hours since their arrival had begun a furious program of diving in and out of the gas giants atmosphere. Gamma-ray bursts had been detected, hundreds of them, rising up and out of the icy depths of the clouds. Short-lived blasts of high energy that the computer's records had matched to simple atomic warhead detonations.

"It is arguably not our shining moment of glory," Ingram muttered as he nodded at the display. "Let's try to do better now that we know they are here."

"They appear to be searching for something," Meilin observed. "Possibly resources, but possibly something else. The remnant artifacts and monoliths of the species known as the Priors drew Gastarox to this system. Perhaps the 'comet ships' come with a similar purpose."

"How long until our probe gets there?", Lu'kat enquired, assuming that had been one of the first things the ever so capable and data-craving Starfleet officers would have done.

"They are arriving as we speak. A host of fast-moving probes already performed a flyby of the gas giants," Ingram. On the hologram, one of the ships came into focus. Its dull blackened hull began to fill with false colour highlights, all of them dark and forbidding, except near the massive engine clusters where metal was still cooling. "Whoever they are they like it cold, we're not getting much heat from either of the two whole ships or the carrier. Same for the smaller craft, though given some of them are larger than the construction ships we have building the Pollax Shipyards I feel that's oxymoronic."

The view then snapped back to the two planets, now surrounded in red bands that looped and knotted through their complicated gravity interplay.

"The probes also detected multiple debris belts. Those were not there before, so we can assume they were left behind by our new neighbours. It could be accidental, just space trash, but as you can see the belts have been meticulously placed into naturally forming paths that speak of an intelligence at work."

He held up a hand.

"And before you ask, we've hailing them with the standard First Contact protocol: language primer, number theory, the far nothing except this," he pressed a button on the table. A warbling wash of sound began to play across the conference rooms speakers. Then a second began to play, but just slightly out of key with the first. "The magnetic fields of the two gas giants are altering. Slightly, but since the arrival of those ships and their frenzied activity, it cannot be denied."

Meilin raised her hand. "But what if their communications systems would not detect our protocols? Magnetic modulations, incompatibility of technology, superlative dissimilarity of perception... there could be any number of reasons our transmissions would be ineffective." Pausing for effect, Meilin went on. "Perhaps we should send a team."

"On that we agree. The Resolute is fueled and ready, and being under-gunned it can fulfil its designed function as a diplomatic cruiser. So far every first contact we've made to date has been...less than satisfactory. The Concordance, the Myriad, the carniborg's of the Sleepers Bazaar...I think we've only met two friendly faces here, and one of them is distinctly human," Ingram muttered. "Let's see if we can't go for the third being the lucky charm?"

He turned his head to look at Deluna.

"As I recall from your personnel jacket, you attended the STS Academy on Mars? Communications track if memory serves. Fancying trying to bridge the communications barrier for our new alien neighbours?" Ingram asked.

"Yes, sir, I was there and did specialize in communications, but for computer systems," Sharona said, a bit surprised at being asked to do something so major. "However, I'll give it a try."

"In the event the lifeforms we encounter are not humanoid, I could use assistance fine-tuning the Universal Translator's syntactic matrix," Meilin said, looking at Sharona. "Many hands will make light work."

Lu'kat listened to the plan being hashed out between the Starfleet Officers. Personal circumstances aside, he saw the value in Cardassia's part in the Long Jump Project. However, he now came to realise there was a very significant aspect of the current arrangement of things: all first contacts went through Starfleet. This was of course logical for the kind of deal that was struck, revolving mostly around trade and revenue to improve Cardassia's standing at home. In the short term, Cardassia's investment would be returned to them many times over. But what about the long term? What was to stop the natives of Messier 4 to believe Cardassia to be just another member-planet of the Federation? Now there's a thought..... What would that do for Cardassia's reputation and its interests in this part of the galaxy in the long run?

Lu'kat began to wonder if the higher ups in Cardassia's government had thought this venture all the way through in terms of a long term Grand Strategy. He also wondered if he should try and do something about it. Won't you ever learn! Lu'kat's mind screamed back at him. No one cares about you, why would you care about them?

Still, he was and would remain a Cardassian, and even though his superiors might have chosen for the short term gains and ignored the long term implications, didn't mean Lu'kat was powerless to try and reduce such implications as best as he could.

"Those vessels are operating awfully close to some of the areas reserved for Cardassian mining activities. If you're going out there I should join you."

"Then it's agreed, we're all going," Benjamin Ingram said hautily. "For better or worse."


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