Canopus Station
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Oooby Dooby Doo

Posted on Sat Sep 4th, 2021 @ 12:24am by Senior Chief Petty Officer Sharona Deluna & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang & The Narrator

Mission: S2:3: Snow Drift
Location: Canopus Station, Maintenance Levels
Timeline: MD 3 20.30

"Huh...I was expecting dingey lighting, flickering displays and an abundance of shadowy corners."

Reggie sounded disappointed, turning his wrist-mounted light off as the hatch to the service area opened. Beyond the door was a maze of corridors painted an antiseptic white, with pipes and conduits painted a vivid blue with larger machines a right red. Reggie didn't know why, but he felt the urge to tattoo his eyeball and run up the walls.

"Yup, they came this way," Reggie said, looking back at Socket and Justice. He pointed to a patch of sieve-like holes in the bulkhead above them. "And it seems we've lost our OSI babysitters. Folks around here are might scared of nano's."

"Tell me about it," Justice griped. "I can't put my nanoprobes anywhere without someone throwing a fit."

JT had a full tool kit full of improvised tricorders, testing equipment and trackers that she hadn't even known had been in the LCARS of the Magnificent and barely had time to study the manuals for them before Grissom had ordered her and her two rolly polly former crew with her to go find them.

She pulled out a tricorder and activated it with a whine that grew in pitch and intensity before it settled to a hum. She checked the display, then went to the spot where Reggie had pointed out and scanned it. She studied the display again and sighed. "Looks like they're heading towards the center of the station and branching out. Everywhere."

"Would you like me to release my nanoprobes to pursue them?" Justice said. "It's been awhile, so I've pent up several loads."

"Do it," JT said as she gave a nod. "Whatever helps. Those asses back home didn't even brief me on any of this."

"I'm more of a 'fuck around and find out' kinda learner, whole mess of stuff in the Maggie's engine room was bleeding-edge tech. Kinda a miracle we didn't just blow up the moment you turned the keys in the ignition," Reggie said as he took one of the tricorders which screamed as he turned it on and then off again. "Reckon this ones got a drama setting that needs dialling down some."

"Guys, what if we can never get home again?" She asked as she filtered out Reggie's rubbish, but it made as much sense as she could compare it to.

"Then we make a home here," Justice concluded, "which is why I have been spilling my nanite seed everywhere I can find. I will prepare a place for both of you in my free cooperative."

Reggie shuddered: that boy was not right.

"Way I figure it," Reggie said as he took a step away from the ExB. "We ran that risk every time we got onto a starship. Even if it was just a case of losing power on the run from Sol to Alpha Centauri, getting stuck two light-years from home is pretty much forever in the span of time the maker gives us. Yet, we all signed up for the mission."

He waved his free hand.

"Side's which, that Commodore fella ain't no scientist or engineer, so what does he know about higher dimensional physics? We fucked up and found ourselves here, whose to say we don't fuck up again and find ourselves somewhere else tomorrow?" he asked. He then frowned, turning his tricorder back to Justice. "You releasing those nanoprobes? Because they are not spreading with your usual efficiency...in fact, they seem to be clinging to your trouser cuffs and fizzling into nothingness when they hit the floor. Which is odd."

Justice looked worried. "I'm shooting blanks?!"

"They...dissolve?" JT asked. "Release a few, Song." She pointed her tricorder at him and waited.

After swiveling his wrist in a flourish, Justice stretched out his left hand. "Go, nanites, go!"

The tendril from his wrist snaked out and released an aerosol spray of nanotech.

"I advise covering your nose and mouth," he said, "unless you want to be closer than we've ever been before."

JT backpedaled away as fast as she could when the Borg nanotube injectors came out and nearly dropped her tricorder. "You idiot! I meant down at the floor, not everywhere like you're seeing sh'Zam!"

"That is not how it works," Justice protested. "Ensign sh'Zam prefers my nanites to be administered, in alphabetical order, anally, epidermally, intravenously, orally--"

"STOP!" JT ordered, almost in horror at what he was starting to get into, especially with his nanites still being sprayed everywhere.

"Yes, Lieutenant." Justice lowered his head and put his hands safely behind his back.

"Good sweet merciful god!" Reggie bellowed and lept back. The patch of bulk head next to Justice had just formed a layer of rippling spikes, the tips of which were darting out into the air and seeming to snatch the nanoprobe particles as they drifted on the air. The inert matter the station was made of shouldn't do that. Reggie looked around, sporting other patches of the floor and ceiling where spikes had formed, snagging the nanoprobes out of the air.

"Justice cross your legs and think pure thoughts!" Reggie hissed.

"The station swallowed my load of nanites!" Justice exclaimed in surprise.

"What the...how did...did you see...what the hell kind of station is this?!" JT asked.

Justice gulped. "It's... thirsty."

"Don't make any more of those or it may decide to suck you into it, too," JT ordered Song. "This is just weird. How the hell did Grissom manage this when the Borg haven't even been encountered out here?"

"It's possible that the covalency between subatomic particles from our universe do not mesh coherently with those of this universe," Justice said. "Biology can adapt and evolve, yet technology is always bound by the designs of its creators. That may explain why they're dismantling the Magnificent altogether."

JT sighed. It made sense. It all made sense. The ship, the crew, her being the acting Captain of a bunch of misfits, outcasts, rogues and sleazeballs. Some all rolled into one. "So let's get on the trail of these nanites before they decide to evolve and take everything else out."

"I don't think we gotta go far," Reggie said. He had knelt down, and was intently scanning one of the thorny growths. "This tings throwing out little gamma pulses, nothing you'd worry about, but about the same as you get in a Starfleet Engineering creation engine, like the ones they have on those zippy little Combat Tenders. The nano's aren't being attacked, they're being eaten."

"They're being eaten."

The words buzzed in the air, as the walls and ceiling rippled like the inside of a speaker, harshing the Montanan drawl into the chittering buzz of an insect hive.

"So why aren't the nanites from the Magnificent being eaten, too?" JT queried the buzzing voice.

Justice shrugged. "That is a paradox indeed, and one I cannot solve with your cease and desist order on further nanite proliferation."

"In that case, proliferate in the general direction of away from me and Hawthorne," she said.

"Proceeding." Justice raised both hands in the air like a gunslinger and started shooting his tendril seed all over the opposite direction from his colleagues. "Somebody scan this. I don't know how much I've got left."

JT quickly scanned where his nanites were going and saw the station still consuming them. "You can stop. They aren't doing any good at all except feeding the station. Let's just head back to where they started from and do a systematic scan of every system."

"I don't think we have to," Reggie said as he slowly stood back up from his scanning. He pointed to the spikey patch of deck plate, which was beginning to settle down from its feeding. "Those are the nanites we're looking for. The bulkheads, deck liner, it's all covered in a thin layer of reactive nano cells intermixed with molecular furnaces for material conversion. And because of the local noise from this station's systems, you only get a partial logistics code burst from these things at close range. We're literally inside the belly of the beast we're hunting."

He looked at the bright titanium white paint on the walls.

"Or maybe we're on the outside of it. If you think about it these things are spreading throughout the station, lining the walls and vents by converting dust and a thin surface layer into new nano cells...aw shit I think we gave this place starship cancer." Reggie said with a gasp.

"If we've located them, then that is mission accomplished, right?" Justice asked. Words like "starship cancer" did not sit well with him.

"Cancer? You can't give cancer to a starship, station or anything non organic. If the nanites are eating their way through the station and it seems that's the case, wouldn't it be more like a cosmozoan?"

"I ain't met that alien race yet, Boss." Reggie said. "But they're not eating the station, their...modifying? Altering? Augmenting might be the better word. The bones remain, but now at the rate it's going-JESUS TAP DANCING BHUDDA!"

Reggie nearly fell on his ass. He'd turned around to look at JT: both JT's. Standing behind her was another JT, only...wider? No not wider, bent, twisted and two dimensional. Her image was plastered over the wall behind her, the distortion effect caused by it trying to look three dee when see by three pairs of eyes in three directions.

What was left looked like a JT portrait on canvas, that someone had thrown a bucket of water at.

"Holy fuck ass souffle!" JT exclaimed and jumped back, hit the wall behind her and bounced off, then turned and looked over her shoulder. "Kill that nope!" She dug into her kit, but a phaser wasn't one of the things she had been trusted with.

The image dissolved into pixels and then reformed in a two-dimensional format. The edges blurred a bit, fizzling into a cloud of suggestion. Then it sharnk back, turning into a wall display showing the Starfleet crest of their home universe alongside a spider half dissolving into a fog of black matter framed by the word 'Project Portia'.

'Portia Protocol fully functional,' a neutral voice from all around them. It hummed and buzzed, making some dust that had survived the great nano plague of ten minutes ago come out of hiding to be added to the cause. 'Local active mass now at sufficient density to provide user feedback. All protocols are active, and ready for implementation. State nature of the emergency situation.'

"Er, emergency," JT said. "Do you answer to me?"

"Belay that," Justice said. "The present emergency is that the local database's directories do not have updated Project Portia data. Please upload all project files to the the local database." He let the tendrils slide out of his wrist in a gesture that should not have been suggestive whatsoever but still somehow was.

'Unable to comply. Non-native substrate architecture detected, as well as nano grade threats. Environment threat set to 'elevated'.' The voice said. 'Portia Protocol has been activated following seven standard hours without contact with central core heuristics. Phase one: relocate central mass to a secluded location to enact growth phase. Phase two: growth by consuming non-sentient non-sapient organic matter. Phase three: secure the location of the crew. Phase three protocol is in progress. Eight of fifty-six crew of the USS Magnificent have been accounted for. Following completion of Phase Three protocol, all administrator options will be unlocked for the primary user: Lieutenant Tommey.'

Reggie's nose crinkled. "That...don't sound quite kosher."

"Are you saying that I'll have control of the station?" JT asked, looking a bit excited and a bit scared at the same time. "What authorization directs your protocols?"

'Protocol's authorised under Sealed Special Order 482.4. Sealed Special Order 482.4 is authorised under the following conditions: temporal displacement, extra-dimensional shifting, planar disassociation, phasic imbalance, loss of all communication and propulsive systems. Sealed Special Order 482.4 is designed in the event of a mass crew fatality situation where there are no long or short term means of survival and continued interaction with the environment is deemed hazardous to long term United Federation of Planet member states. Portia Protocol is designed to create a liveable space with amenities to provide for crew hospice care until end of life functions.' There was a pause like the program was putting down one cue card and picking up another. '23 of 58 crew members of the USS Magnificent have been accounted for. Following completion of Phase Three protocol, all administrator options will be unlocked for the primary user: Lieutenant Tommey.'

"So I'm the boss and you're enacting protocols in the event that we got fucked like we did," JT said. "Will this affect the other personnel on this station?"

Justice sighed. "I've been submissive all this time. Why couldn't I be the boss?"

"Because I'm higher ranked than you," JT said. "What have you done with the twenty-three you've accounted for?"

'They have been contacted and have been secured.' The skewed image of Tommey vanished, replaced this time by a two dimensaional image that took up the entire wall. It showed another room, in which a number of crewmembers were present. Two of them were throwing up in the corner, as a large stick insect like alien in the teal shoulder patches of a medical orderly hovered hear by. 'Parson' or some such, which meant...

The rosey cheeked portly doctor with his curling white hair was stood among them, dressed in a dressing gown and clutching a bottle of port. Upon seeing them through the projection, he staggered towards them.

"Captian!" he said bombastically. "Upon our arrival here on this accursed station I had feared the worst! Rest assure when I heard that the Commedores goons had pillfered you away, I was quick to round up a party to mount a rescue."

Dr Willaby Todd-Hunter Brown wavered a little bit, clearly the bottle was not the first.

"I dare not say what foulness is upon us, but I dare say it's frightful," he grunted. To his right another Maggie crew member appeared...from the feet up. It was quick, not transporter quick, but a grey fuzzyiness coated the floor and them rose rapidly to head hieght before vanishing to reveal a startled and bewildered crewman...who promptly voided their rations.

"Oh hell. I know what this-" Reggie began to say from behind the two of them...and then was both silent, and gone.

JT turned when Reggie cut off, which wasn't like him. "Reggie? Where the hell did he go?" She turned back around. "What the...?"

"It would appear a Singularity event has occurred before our very eyes," Justice said. "The nanites have achieved sentience... or perhaps a quirky facsimile thereof."

In the wall screen's view another grey pillar bubbled up from the floor, evaporating to reveal Reggie. He let out a gasp, before falling to a knee and fighting to keep his lunch down.

"It's 'Whisking'," Reggie said as he shut his eyes to focus on not vomiting. "It's one of them techs you hear about them trying out, but you hope never to....to use. Think of it like a physical transporter: no beaming, just a nanoscale scaffolding disassembling you on one end and putting you back together on the other. Meant to be transporter inhibitor proof because the nano's pass the matter atom by atom through themselves from A to-"

'B' was for beans. As in full of beans, because the majority of the food stuff's that Reggie laid out on the deck looked like beans. At his explanation, a particular green looking Ensign at the back suddenly realised he'd been taken apart like Legos and put back together, and joined in the culinary show and tell.

Seeing the two of them losing their cookies in a technocolor yawn inspired JT to join them if she wanted to or not. She clutched her stomach and bent over, being violently ill on their behalf or because of them.

"A transporter without the matter-energy scrambling matrix," Justice said thoughtfully, paying no heed to the vomit everywhere. "Rather than an annular confinement beam, it's more of a critical path for transporting particulate matter. Whisking, then, would be a particulate transporter as opposed to an energy transporter. Brilliant. Potentially fatal, however, since the lack of energy conversion may not alter the quantum instantiation of the body which means the disassembly of matter could be akin to disintegration." He poked the ensign. "You do not appear to be dead. Do you feel any different than from before your 'whisking'?"

At which point the world turned fuzzy, grey, for both JT and Justice. There was an odd floatiness to everything, like a state of delirious euphoria and then...fly? Falling? Rushing definitely not directionless but without a destination. And then the greyness vanished, and they were surrounded by the familiar crew from their home reality.

"'45 of 58 crew members of the USS Magnificent have been accounted for." the maddeningly sober computer voice stated.

"What in the..." JT started to demand, then realized there was more in her stomach that wanted out immediately. "What are you doing to us?!" she demanded between heaves.

A low, distant droning alarm began to sound from somewhere, buzzing through deck plating. This was soon hidden away beneath the titanic groaning of metal torqued well past any meaningful limit.

"All crew accounted for," the auto voice buzzed from around the walls. Walls that were beginning to fade, dissolving into...the bridge of the USS Magnificent. Not just a bridge of an Aquarius class light frigate, but Tommeys Aquarius class light frigate. Above the view screen there was a noticeable buckling in the plating where a Targ had been thrown.

It was unique to her ship, the same way it was unique for Justice and Reggie to be banned from 'cultural exchanges with Klingon survey teams'. The targ had tasted good though post tenderising.

The bridge shook again, metal complain though more distantly now.

"Preparing for separation from host assembly," the voice was now more recognisable as a standard Starfleet AI, or more accurately 'her' Starfleet AI's. There was an Australian burr to the Maggie's computer, some glitch the Ops tech had given up trying to iron out. "Portia Protocol disengaged. All hands to assigned undocking stations."

Reggie, Justices, and JT's combadages all began to squawk for attention.

JT slapped her badge by instinct as she goggled at the transforming station...ship around her. "What?" she managed and saw where the targ had hit the wall. It was her ship, but she knew it had been decommissioned permanently in bad ways.

"Non-organic osmosis," Justice said with awe. "This is literally the wet-dream of the Borg Collective..."

"What in the Seven Hell's are you doing!" Grissom's dulcet tones bellowed out of the combadge, the small subwoofer built into the device really doing a fantastic job with the bass. "I asked you to find your missing nanobots, and now I'm watching as Station security and engineering handle a partial evacuation of the lower docks! Sensors are going off the charts! Report dammit all!"

"I don't know," JT tried to say, but something in the UT decided that what she said required an interpretation, even if she didn't hear it, Grissom did. "You can suck a Targ, PADDpusher. One with a urinary infection and a bad disposition towards you. We're getting off this fuckhole and taking back what's mine."

There was an explosion. Well, technically two explosions. One was a stream of truly outstanding profanity that showed Commodore Grissom had not forgotten a thing about running with the NCO Mafia back in his junior days. The other explosion was a structural one, and a sudden stomach-lurching drop...

+++

If one was outside of the station, say in a shuttle travelling up from Carpathia on no doubt important business, you would be quite right in clenching your buttocks when you saw what was happening on your final approach. A blister of metal condensate was pushing out of the overhanging rim of the docks, displacing hull plating that spun away to become traffic hazards to orbital traffic. In other places, entire sections of the surrounding dock were being ejected, forcibly excised as damage control AI's attempted to curtail the damage.

But the blister grew steadily, before it popped with an explosive outrushing of contained industrial bi-products. The pockmark bored into the station's underside glowed with class D metallic fires, and plasma burbled angrily from severed lines. But the deed was done, and the missing material was repurposed to make what was needed.

The USS Magnificent floated free of its blister, hull plates still glowing from the atomic fire of its rapid construction. It was not as good as new, even though every atom and bolt was newly knitted together. There were scraps on the hull from hasty undockings, and a melted seam between two armour plates where an impulse exhaust vent had opened prematurely. A faithful reconstruction was what it was.

+++

"...I don't think Grissoms' smoking the peace pipe," Reggie said as he nodded at a few of the more self-aware Maggie crew and pointed at consoles. He slipped into his own seat, quickly flicking through a hastily self-written preflight checklist. "We have fusion, reaction mass tanks are full, but we're not carrying antimatter. Same goes for the torpedoes, we've gott'em but no warheads. Aaaaaaand we just got pinged by a half dozen targeting sensors."

"No warheads? No antimatter? What the fuck?!" JT exploded. "Why are we being targeted and what the fuck just happened? ANSWERS!"

"Nano bots can't make antimatter, on account of them being destroyed mid-process. The whole conservation of energy thing," Reggie explained. "I can get us full impulse and warp five for a few hours on what we got. Also that Marine assault ship out in the parking swarm is shaking out it's fighter wings, along with the two battlecruisers that were running escort to it."

"Lieutenant," Grissom's voice boomed over the ships audio system: at least the combadge bridging system was working. "I'm going to give you one chance to step back from the brink and bring that...ship of yours into dock. We can even revisit the level of resources devoted to getting you back to your home reality-"

Footnote: This was a lie, as Grissom was jotting down ideas for the colour of the wallpaper in JT's brig cell at the time.

"You go any further, or try anything again, you'll never pilot so much as a go-kart again."

"Harrington and Victory are running out their chase guns. Those Century classes are armed with fore mounted twenty incher's for the implied purpose of punching folks to death with phased energy," Reggie grunted. "Did Justice piss in this guy's coffee? Can we just space the Borg love machine?"

"You know the moment you do so will be followed by the precise moment you will be in need of me," Justice put in.

JT slapped the comm and opened all frequencies. "This is acting Captain Jillian Toomey of the USS Magnificent. I am hereby declaring the Magnificent and all crew aboard as sovereign entities and seek diplomatic immunity and sanctuary."

There was...a pause. A pause within which the idea that said pause might not only be pregnant, but also expecting sextuplets ascorbates with chainsaws in the none too distant future. That all aside, given metaphysical medical bills were not germane to the events around Canopus Station, the crew of the Magnificent awaited the rather sizeable other shoe to drop.

Meanwhile the two heavily armed battlecruisers, or 'Hazardous Exploration Cruisers' if you were on the Federation sub-council of pacifism, waved on their approach. But like Dobermans promised intruders for brunch they orbited the station's outer marker, hoping for sweet meats to be thrown their way.

"Diplomatic immunity?" Reggie asked, turning in his seat to look at JT. "Really?"

"Like you have a better idea," she snarled. "We can't go jack right now and have two bruisers ready to pulverize us into nanite sized bits and you go really." She mocked his accent and thrust her head forward with her hands on her hips.

"And what's your plan? Confuse the Old Man hard enough his brain skips out and throws a clot?" Reggie retorted.

"if it works," JT said before she turned to a console and shoved a crewmember aside and started frantically keying in commands. A second later, the computer beeped.

"Auto destruct set for five minutes. Four minutes and fifty nine seconds remaining."

Reggie opened his mouth, no doubt to add his heartfelt support for JT's plan, but was cut off by Commodore Gissoms gnarled voice.

"You're a Starfleet officer. Starfleet officers don't get to call Uncle when things get tough. They especially don't pull the cord on their self destruct device," Grissom growled. "You're asking for a lot, diplomatic immunity, soverign status: you're Federation citizens for creations sakes!Reengage your reactor safeties now!"

"We're not citizens of your Federation," JT pointed out as the countdown reached four minutes. "Someone ease us against the hole we just made in his little station," she said. "I'm giving you back what our nanites took. By the way, I could have taken control of your station. I still might be able to." She cut the comm and tapped her combadge. "Portia Protocol, break down whatever console Grissom is using to parts."

"Well, if we're going that route, then we could just create our own Cooperative," Justice said. "My assimilation offer is still on the table, you know." The console in front of him beeped. "Also, the Harrington and Victory have not changed their course and will be within weapons range not long after I finish this sentence."

"No on the Just Us League, Justice," JT said.

"The ship will self destruct in three minutes," the computer intoned.

"JT, you might be fine blowing yourself up but think about your crew, your people, are they prepared to sacrifice themselves for you?" Grissom's voice came back, this time in a slightly different tone. He said something else, but the air around them groaned and shook as Reggie inexpertly fired the bow thrusters to push them back into the odd-shaped void in the hull.

"Sir, if you get the chance to pass along to my folks some words, tell'em I died still angry," Reggie said to the air, sliding his chair back, away from the controls.

"The name is Socket," JT said. "As in Socket Toomey. As in what I'm about to do to you. We all have sacrifices to make and one thing we all learn is how to give that order when the time comes or we wouldn't be sitting in the center seat."

"Two minutes until self destruct."

"That's just enough time for my electronic wang pulse," Justice announced to God and the world.

"Fine."

The single word was lead-lined with a core of depleted uranium, dragged from the depths of Commodores Grissom's soul by every horse in hells cavalry. Reggie imagined the old mans face turning inside out like an Escher painting, retaining its look even as mouth and nose swapped places.

"You want diplomatic immunity, and to be considered sovereign citizens...fine. Done. It's on the record. As for the sanctuary, it's granted. I...hereby state that no repercussions from this 'event' will be taken into account." Each word was a barbed hook pulled from his gnarled flesh. Reggie poked a few buttons, and the view screen showed to the two rather pretty Century class ships peeling off and heading back out to the parking swarm.

Jillian wanted to cheer, but knew if she did that the ships would turn back around and vaporize her and her crew as the first and last act of war on her little sovereign nation. "Acceptable, Sir."

"Reactivate your self destruct safeties," Grissom said. There was a hushed voice off of the comm line, an aide or understudy suggesting something. "...Please."

"Oh, he said please!" sh'Zam said from the Ops console. "This has to be killing that old pink skin sleel."

"Computer, deactivate self destruct," JT ordered.

"Just so you all know," Reggie said as he punched a few buttons on his console. The main viewscreen was overlaid with three digits: 0.23. "We just missed our shuttle bus to the Great Hereafter...I need a drink."

"Luetenant Sockets," Grissoms growl intensified. "Thank you. I'll message you a time for a meeting where we discuss matters in more detail to everyone's....satisfaction."

"It's Toomey, Sir," she responded. "Lieutenant Jillian Toomey."

"Are you?" Justice asked. "If we are sovereign citizens with full diplomatic immunity and national status, then do our commissioned ranks still apply? We could determine new ranks and titles. I claim commissar!"

"NO!" was the chorus.

At that, a large dark skinned hologram appeared in a white suit and began to sing One Night in Bangkok. Badly.

Then as JT tried to back up in her command chair, shaking her head, it drew back a large fist and gave her an uppercut that made her slide down into oblivion, WHY ME? unspoken in her thoughts.

 

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