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Going Fishing

Posted on Tue Jan 29th, 2013 @ 1:58pm by Lieutenant Commander David Burkeson

Mission: Part of the Team
Location: Pourolis System, Near the Romulan Border
Timeline: 2.7 hours after "On Station"

ON

[Bridge, USS Steadfast]

=^= Bridge from Engineerin'. =^=

Tapping a control, Burkeson answered, "What'cha got, Scanner?" He felt his pulse quicken slightly as his hunter's instincts twitched. The accent was unmistakeable and it's owner rarely called the bridge unless it was to report...

"Some interesting sensor readings comin' off the number seven whisker, boss." Burkeson immediately tapped the controls on his personal console, calling up the relevant feed. Judd "Scanner" Sandage had shown a natural flair for both reading and tuning advanced sensor arrays since his first days at the Academy. Odd, that, since he came from a totally rural background on a backwater colony that was still using steam to power it's prime movers. Still the talent was unmistakable and his nickname thus virtually inevitable.

"Looking at it, Scanner." he said, "Amuse me."

=^= Well Sir, if ya'll take a look at the readings I highlighted in green, you'll see a fairly sedate, steady energy pattern tucked away in the debris belt of that of that gas giant that whisker's a twitchin' at. Could be nothin' course, just volcanism from that one middlin' sized moon transitin' that section of the belt. But then take a look at these other energy readin's over here, that I've highlighted in yeller. =^=

"Those look even more like volcanism, Scanner." Burkeson said, "Active volcanism, with those up and down spike and the little fluctuations in between."

=^= Onna face of it, yes Sir, I agree. But it's on a different frequency than the other set. So even if one of 'em is volcanism, the other can't be. Not that close together. =^=

"An intriguing hypothesis..." Burkeson said.

=^= Well Sir, if'n ya'll find that intruigin', prepare to be amazed. =^=

Burkeson waited...for a long time. A very long time for the chronically impatient and somewhat hyperactive Sandage. Then finally, he said, "Scanner?"

=^= 'Jest hang on ta yer horses there, Boss Man. Keep watchin' the feed. =^=

Burkeson watched, fully convinced he'd see something worthwhile, but he couldn't resist adding, "Scanner...this isn't one of your little tricks is it? Keep the old man occupied while you plunder his liquor cabinet? I warned you last time..."

=^= Now Sir, you know ah wouldn't do that ta ya. I like ya too much an' I know how much more it hurts you than me ta punish yer favorite son. =^=

"That's only because you haven't ticked me off enough...yet." Burkeson growled playfully. "Push too hard and you'll find out how easily we can flip that ratio."

=^= Now see there, Boss...y'all was paying too much attention ta yer suspicious nature an' not enough to yer screen and ye don gone 'an missed, haven't ya! =^=

Burkeson had been glued to the screen, but then he didn't have Scanner's eye either. "Guess so, Petty Officer Sandage. What did I miss?"

=^= Y'all don't worry a bit about it, Boss. Y'gots ta fall 'afore you can get up stronger. We'll try it again with the trainin' wheels. =^=

Burkeson rolled his eyes but waited as the Petty Officer scrolled back the recording a few seconds, then enlarged it.

=^= Now watch closely, Sir. =^= Burkeson did so and saw several closely-spaced red highlights appear on the screen. He scanned the accompanying data feed.

"Particle bursts?" he asked.

=^= Yup. With significant traces 'o deuterium, which means...=^=

It clicked.

"Stationkeeping thrusters!" Burkeson cried, jumping up out of his seat in his enthusiasm.

=^= Pin a medal on me...anywhere, jus' anywhere...=^=

"I'll mention you in dispatches. Again." Burkeson said. Thinking, he began to pace. Then, snapping his fingers, he pointed at a console and said, "Vrook...man the Science station and keep an eye on that signal. Any change of status, let me know."

"What?" the Tellarite engineer said, then proved he had heard just fine by adding, "I'm no Science geek!"

"And I don't want you to discover a new planet either." Burkeson said, "Just do a little sensor job any second year cadet could do easily. Unfortunately, Steadfast is a bit short on second year cadets right now. Fortunately, for me anyway, we have you. Get on it."

"Like I don't have enough to do..." the Tellarite grumbled, his voice trailing off as he crossed the bridge to the Science station.

"Now then, Scanner..." Burkeson continued, "Get with Pat and calculate me me some courses. I want a minimum exposure approach around the far side of the planet to a position where we can see him if he moves, but he can't see us even if he does. Then I need a flight plan for the whiskers that will make them look like they are doing a remote system check. About three quarters of the way through the sequence I want one of them to bounce off something in the debris belt, hard enough to make it convincing but not hard enough to disable it for real, then play dead and go passive on the sensors in a position where we'll be able to query it with a tight beam neutrio communications link. You follow me?"

=^= I like you, Skipper. You're sneaky. Engineering out. =^=

"What's the point of all this dancing around?" Vrook complained, eyes glued on the sensors, "If you think there's smuggler there, just grab him. There's no good reason for him to be hiding like that."

"I know that..." Burkeson said, "And you know that, but the fact is he doesn't need one. In Federation space, unless he's got warrants out or is obviously violating the law we can't touch him. He could come up with a dozen reasons for hanging out almost anywhere and we couldn't do a damned thing even if he cuddled right up to the zone except warn him not to cross. Then he builds up a heavy charge in his shield capacitors, jumps fast to high warp and he's over. At which point we can't pursue him, can't shoot at him...nothing but record and log his specs & signals. Except he comes back with a Romulan trade permit that specifically authorizes him to cross there instead of at a border station or maybe even sells his ship and gets a new one, if his cargo's rich enough."

"What's all that got to do with pretending to crash a probe?"

Burkeson's predatory smile returned.

"The whiskers are modified Type 8 probes. Very high tech, lots of restricted and classified components. Very valuable in Romulan space." he said, "We're setting it up to look like these probes were just operating on their own. Your bigger ship will do that, cover a region quickly and drop probe clusters at strategic locations to sniff around on their own, then analyze the data to determine priorities for further attention and pick up all the probes later. If whatever's hiding in there really is about to jump the border into Romulan space, I'm betting he won't be able to resist taking that little collectable with him. And stealing Starfleet property is a crime."

"What about salvage rights?"

Burkeson sighed.

"I see someone didn't pay attention during Interstellar Relations at the Academy, Vrook." he said, "The Tolosek Accords of 2261 specifically exempt military technology and vessels less than a century old from salvage rights. Legally, all anyone can do is mark the location and report it to the proper authorities."

Burkeson gazed hungrily at the main viewer.

"He so much as touches that probe...we own him."

OFF

 

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