"Chrysopelea Megalastridae. Who the hell came up with that name? I get a headache just thinking about pronouncing it."
"Really? I think it's rather poetic."
"Vara my dear, you find a marine teaching a Vulcan how to slow-dance poetic."
"Well, it was never mind, Robert. So what do you think? Is it alive? Did we scare it?"
"I saw that blush, you know. It's the spots. They turn pink. And how am I supposed to know? I'm no zookeeper. But if that big baby is scared of us little fleas it needs counseling."
"Size isn't everything, Robert."
"That myth never dies, does it sacre bleu, look at them big mothers "
The young Trill stopped looking at the recorded image of a great serpent uncoiling and looked over her shoulder to watch Commander Robert Tisdale who was currently stroking his five o'clock shadow with a mixture of puzzlement and all out disdain.
"What is it?"
"Damned if I know. Tisdale to Ops. Can you people put down the donuts for a minute and pipe some images down here that actually make sense? Merci."
"It looks like wings?"
"Thank you for that astute observation Lieutenant."
"Hey, I'm an archaeologist. I don't even know why you wanted me here."
Not that Vara took offense it was simply Robert before his seventh coffee or his second bourbon. Deep down, he was probably bouncing like a kid in a candy store. Very deep down.
She tilted her head at the live feed playing over a large screen hovering before them and gently tapped at a console to focus sensors on the wing-things unfolding like massive sails.
"Archaeologist. Bah. You know how to dig? Help me dig up something useful. Anything in historic records that could give us a hint?"
"You mean aside from the space jellies or that telepathic ship the Enterprise found? Tin man?"
Vara gave up. Two thirds of their department was running in circles because of a star going nova, and the rest was either in sickbay or hoping they would not get eaten by a dragon. Though frankly in a contest between Robert in one of his moods and a big space serpent, the Trill would rather take her chances with the latter.
"You think it's trying to talk to us?" she motioned at the lazily moving tail and then decided the best she could do was get another coffee for the cranky Exobiologist.
"Yea? As in 'heeeere kitty kitty'?"
"You know, it's that attitude that keeps you from being posted on the bridge more often. No, I meant why is it only our telepaths who got migraines? That tin man, it talked to a Betazoid over a lightyear distance. Maybe maybe they just don't understand?"
"Hopeless romantic." But the Commander winked in an indulgent way before another frown crinkled his features "Ops. Hel-loo. Rise and shine, kids."
You'd think they'd at least sorted that problem with the comm by now
The voice that came through the communication system into the room was tinny, and strangely distorted - a synthesized female voice that wasn't the computer, nor was it human. "Please stand by. We are experiencing heavy traffic load-" the voice modulated into the near-unintelligible band of electronic buzzing until finally it popped.
A hologram appeared beside the two science officers, a dark haired woman in a Command uniform that had been spotted here and there throughout the ship - someones' science experiment run amok? Her voice was far more pleasant at this point, though.
"I'm sorry about that, Sir, Ma'am - we've been undergoing a high processing load lately, in preparation for the star's collapse. Is there something I can help you with?"
"If this is someone's idea of a joke I'm not laughing." Huffing with righteous indignation, the Commander glared at the ah, floating, too, like she didn't understand the concept of deck plates hologram. Program. Something.
He ignored Vara's elbow trying to connect with his ribs and stabbed an accusing finger at the admittedly friendly and pretty looking apparition "You geeks have nothing better to do? She's adorable I grant you that but I don't need one of your toys, I need yes, Vara, WHAT?"
"I think that's Savant, Robert."
"A what vant?"
"Semi-autonomous varied algorithm net I think I forgot something there. Sorry about that, Miss. He's not had enough coffee yet." Tugging gently at the grumbling Commander's sleeve, Vara gave the hologram an apologetic smile and finally resorted to kicking Robert's shin when he acted as if trying to swat at her.
"We're trying to give the bridge an analysis stop it, Robert. She's real." The Trill caught the empty coffee mug before Robert could bang it against Savant's head in a scientific experiment that would have him charged with assault before lunch and pointed it at the screen which still showed little more than what the naked eye could see if one were to look out a viewport.
" but it's not going so well. Robert, I mean Commander Tisdale, has submitted a request for recalibrations and suggested a few sensor modifications but it looks like that got lost in "
"Five hours." The Commander in question snorted. "Five. What are you people doing? Dancing the Hula? Everyone's screaming about the fancy space dragon. Well, we got two dragons of our own and one of 'em is breathing down my neck to give her an evaluation of this little beastie."
The hologram had stayed where she was during the show, eyes twinkling in amusement. She seemed unflappable to the Commander's dramatics. "Very pleased to meet both of you. We are doing what we can to accommodate all sensor requests, but do keep in mind that sensor demands are exceedingly high at this stage. I've managed to discern that the exoderm of the biont is a polyadsorbtive, birefracting silicate, which is making it difficult for electromagnetic sensors to provide worthwhile information.
Likewise, it appears to emit a millicochrane field which, combined with the stellar radiation, is throwing up excessive interference to sub-real scanning techniques. I assure you, Commander, we are doing everything we can to give you high-quality renders of the Megalastridae."
Savant waited a few moments for the two of them to digest that dense wall of information before continuing,
"In the meantime, Sir, Ma'am, I would be happy to share with you my own conjectures and projections based on the fragmentary data we have already collected." She smiled wider and clucked her tongue in a mock-chiding tone, "and besides, ought a good scientist be able to infer the unknown?"
Robert's 'I knew that' frown seemed to roll off the hologram like water off lotus leaves but then, what could you expect from a person-thingy that talked to a seasoned officer as if he were a first year Cadet.
"Infer away. Derive, imply, theorize, pull purple rabbits out of your hat. Or your hula skirt. I like my science to be grounded in facts. You know, them thingies you can put an actual name to mon dieu, Vara, could you have found a bigger mug? And why is there a kangaroo painted on never mind. It's coffee. Look, Miss Savvy or whatever you're called "
"Sa-vant." Vara interrupted kindly "Operations. And a few other things from what I hear. Pleased to meet you, too, Ma'am." The latter was directed at the avatar though Vara guessed she might as well have talked to the bulkhead behind which the 'real' Savant was buzzing about. Bit of a confusing concept, but the young Trill was a firm believer in 'if it's nice to you be nice to it' and if you couldn't figure out what creature you were talking to well, as long as you were talking rather than shooting for example, it was a good thing.
"Yea, yea, we're all big glowing balls of delight. Now as I was saying if we just scratch all the broad spectrum scans being tossed at the beastie and narrow our focus a little ." One hand holding the steaming coffee and the other dancing over an auxiliary console, Robert brought up the sensor logs and pod schematics "Here. And here. Will take a tad less power, even. We might only get a few details, like say what exactly is scattering our beams like raindrops off an umbrella but at least the few things we'll learn will have actual value. As in making sense."
He seemed inclined to poke the hologram for emphasis but thought better of it. You never knew with them things.
"Ah! of course Sir, the conventional method. Of course. I apologize for not optimizing the sensors previously - my processing time is limited currently." The sensor image in front of him skewed and warped as the adjustments were made, until finally streams of spectral manifolds and other results came pouring in. "It's difficult to think with all of the processing traffic that's going on recently; I look forward to some quiet time after the event. You'll notice the silica spectra on the spectrography report." She pointed at the dark lines in the rainbow-graphs, their myriad pattern indicating the presence of silicon, along with other elements.
Her smile softened, "I will do what I can to ensure that your lab gets a larger sensor time-share. This is quite important work here. Do you have any conjectures on the nature of the creature based on its known behavior patterns?"
[To be continued ...]