T’Loran, or ‘Lauren’ as the rest of the crew called her, stood over her station in Engineering and studied the read-out calmly. Behind her, she could hear the Chief Engineer, Lt. B’Elanna Torres, berating herself and growing more and more frustrated at the cold, hard facts that were staring them all in the face. Anger, though, would change nothing. Unless they managed to find a source of deuterium soon, they were going to have to look for even more systems to shut down to save resources for propulsion and scanners.
“What in the name of Kahless am I supposed to do to keep us moving?” she growled. The rest of the crewmen and ensigns gave Torres a wide berth. T’Loran decided to tackle the targ, as it were, and give the woman the answers she seemed to be demanding.
“I would suggest diverting all power from crew and officers quarters to the cargo bays and common areas, shutting down replicators and the holodecks, and setting the lights in the ship’s corridors to their lowest setting until we manage to find the components we need. We can recommend that comms, xenosciences, and other non-essential personnel be reassigned to ship’s functions or assigned to scanning for what we need.”
“Shut down life support in the living areas, Ensign? Are you insane?” Torres spat.
“It makes sense,” Vorik said from across the room. “It would greatly conserve our power reserves.”
“And everyone would die in their sleep.”
“Not if they slept in one of the cargo bays or common areas as Ensign T’Loran is suggesting.”
“Oh,” the half-Klingon said, blushing slightly. “I still don’t think that will go over well.”
“All due respect, lieutenant, but unless our scans detect a large source of deuterium nearby within the next 72 hours, it will not matter how ‘well’ it will ‘go over,’” T’Loran said calmly. “There will be little alternative but to implement those policies. However, if they were implemented immediately, we would conserve an estimated four weeks’ worth of fuel.”
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to having all of you as my room-mates,” Torres muttered. “I’ll take your suggestions to the rest of the senior officers, Lauren. The rest of you, get back to work!”
T’Loran winced but bit her tongue. It would do her little good to correct the lieutenant. Her name was unusual enough on her home planet. It was a “gift” from her brother based on the story their grandfather had related of how she came to be part of their family. Off-worlders frequently mistook it to be the common Terran name “Lauren” so she was accustomed to answering to that name. It amused Yuris greatly to receive notices addressed to her by that name. Even worse were the few times she had received notices under her childhood nickname — Teresh-ka. Mitrani, her sister-in-law, had helped her correct those problems when they threatened to impede her entry into Starfleet. “It is 17:00 hours. Alpha shift is relieved,” came the announcement throughout Engineering, pulling her out of her thoughts. She quickly finished up inputting the last few equations to try to wring a bit more efficiency out of the engines, gathered her PADDs, and then left Engineering. She nodded politely to crewman Lon Suder as she passed him in the corridor and made her way to the Mess Hall where Mr. Neelix had prepared food for the ship’s personnel. She stopped by the quarters she shared with another Ensign and a crewman to pick up a workpad and pen before making her way to the large eating area. She set her things on one of the unoccupied tables in the far corner of the room before going over to the galley where Mr. Neelix was dishing out dinner and discourse with his usual exuberance.
“Good evening, Ensign,” the Talaxian said with a bright smile. “I hope you’re hungry because tonight we’ve got pot roast with all the trimmings!” He piled a plate with the fare he was serving the rest of the crew and she accepted it calmly. “Why the frown, Ensign? Even Mr. Paris said it was good,” he asked.
“It is not your culinary skills that are in question,” she replied. “I do not eat meat.”
“You don’t?” he replied, sounding confused.
“That is correct.”
“Because it requires the death of another when there are other logical alternatives,” she said.
“You sound like Mr. Vulcan over there,” the Talaxian muttered, cutting his eyes towards Lieutenant Tuvok. “How about a salad then?”
“A salad would be acceptable.”
“I’ll bring it out to you when I get a moment, Ensign.”
T’Loran nodded and returned to her table with only a glass of water. She tapped one of the PADDs and scrolled through the information it displayed until she got to the section she sought. She picked up her pen and began jotting down notes and equations in her workpad. She could feel the curious eyes from the others in the mess hall on her — writing on paper was archaic — but she ignored them and continued with her work. There was something very soothing about physically writing things down. The numbers and equations practically solved themselves as she resolved them, taking the theories and speculations, distilling them through the logical framework of observed fact and law, making annotations, scrolling for more information, and repeating the process. She paused to mentally work through a particularly tricky bit of subspace mechanics and shield dynamics, considering the different frequencies and going through each one logically. Her dark, onyx-irised eyes were unfocused and the ship blurred in her vision, falling away to be replaced by the formulae and mathematical models as well as the mental images of Voyager itself and the shape of the subspace corridor that she was imagining. The sounds of conversation from her shipmates vanished as well as T’Loran continued to focus her mental energy. She could feel her wrist and arm moving, writing out the information by rote.
When Mr. Neelix came with her salad and an apology for the delay, she set aside her work and ate quickly so that she could return to it. “Are you writing on paper?” he asked when he returned to check on her and refill her glass with water. He sounded vaguely scandalized. “Surely our energy supplies are not that low yet, Ensign.”
“I find it helps me focus my thoughts.”
“What are you writing? Is it a story? A diary like you humans like to keep?”
“It is a private project, Mr. Neelix.”
“Oh, I won’t tell anyone,” he said. “I’ll bet you’re quite creative, Miss Lauren. You can let me read it when you’re done if you’d like.”
“It is not a story, Mr. Neelix.”
“Then what is it?”
“I am attempting to determine a method for traveling at a speed greater than warp ten or a method of constructing an artificial wormhole.”
“I see… Well then, I’ll leave you to it, Miss Lauren.”
“To travel at warp ten would mean that one would exist in all places at once. We would be traveling at infinite velocity. An intriguing idea,” Ensign Vorik said. “May I?” he asked politely. She nodded and he sat across from her, scanning over her notes. “How did you come to be interested in such a theoretical endeavor?”
“Lieutenant Paris mentioned it to me when he asked if it were possible to do with current technology. It is a project I pursue in my spare time.”
“Have you reached any conclusions, Ensign?”
“I believe it may be possible.”
“I will be writing a preliminary report for Lieutenants Paris and Torres to review within the next few weeks. They, along with Ensign Kim, are both most well-informed and competent concerning such matters. Perhaps I could send you a copy as well, Ensign?”
“I would find that acceptable. You write in Vulcan?”
“Interesting. For what reason?”
“It is my native language. I was raised on Vulcan.” Vorik quirked an eyebrow at her. “The circumstances were unusual,” she explained, switching to Vulcan.
“They must have been. Unless… were your parents ambassadors?” he asked, switching to Vulcan as well.
“They were not. My parents lived in Raal. My brother and his wife live there still.”
“It is unusual for humans to live on Vulcan.”
“As I said, the circumstances around my arrival were unusual.”
“I see,” he said, switching back to Standard. “Forgive my intrusion into your affairs.”
“No offense is taken, Ensign. It is refreshing to have someone call me by my name,” she said softly with the dry humor common to Vulcans. “There are times when I question if it would be considered illogical for me to program the consoles in Engineering to deliver a mild shock whenever someone calls me ‘Lauren.’”
“It would be an effective means of conditioning them against doing that,” he agreed in the same dry tone. “I look forward to reading your findings soon,” he added, glancing again at her writing pad. “Good night, Ensign.”
“Good night,” she replied, returning to her work.
T’Loran bit back a sigh of frustration when her comm badge chirped at just after 0200 hours. She knew very few people would bother her without good reason at this hour. She tapped it and responded quickly. Lieutenant Torres was not one who liked being kept waiting even when it was a logical expectation.
“Yes, Lieutenant?” she asked.
“I need you to report to Engineering. Suder contacted me. Darwin went for his meal break and has not returned. I’ve been unable to raise him.”
“Aye, sir,” she said. She rose from her bed, dressed quickly, and hurried to Engineering where the sole Betazoid on the ship, Mr. Lon Suder, sat calmly at his station. “Good morning, Mr. Suder,” she said politely.
“Good morning, Ensign.”
“Is there anything of note to report?” she asked as she took a seat at one of the monitoring stations.
“She’s running smoothly. No power spikes, no incidents other than Darwin deciding to dodge the rest of his shift.”
“Very well. I will take over for you so that you may take a break, Mr. Suder.”
“Thank you, Miss Lauren.”
T’Loran ground her teeth as a momentary flash of annoyance surged through her. “It’s T’Loran,” she thought to herself. “It is hardly the most difficult name to pronounce.” She glanced up when she heard him pause. He was looking at her strangely. He said nothing, merely continued looking at her for a few seconds more before leaving. The logs of fuel consumption, energy efficiency, warp field variables, and more came across her station. She noticed a break in one of the EPS conduits and began running a diagnostic, sending it to the background while she focused on her pet project — increasing sensor range and resolution. If they could find more sources of fuel and have more precision on the location, they might be able to forgo the replicator rations entirely. Idly, she thought about something Ensign Kim had mentioned and added it to her growing wish list of engineering projects. If Voyager were in Federation space, many of these projects would be nothing more than a simple refit at the nearest starbase or shipyard.
“Engineering to the Bridge,” she said, tapping her console’s comm system.
“This is the Bridge,” Ensign Kim’s voice answered.
“Recommend a minor adjustment to our heading. There is a distortion that is causing a bit of drag on our starboard section. Fuel consumption is increasing and efficiency is dropping.”
“Thank you for the report, Engineering. We will proceed as advised. Bridge out.”
T’Loran watched as the heading changes were made and sent a notification to the Ops station that the drag was gone so that they would know it was no longer a concern. Night shift often consisted of the most boring tasks and minor adjustments like that. Had it happened during one of the day shifts, one of the commanding officers might have wanted to investigate it. She heard Suder return a short time later and pondered going to the Mess Hall herself to get some tea. She had a double-shift again tomorrow and with covering the entirety of Darwin’s second shift, she was going to be pulling a triple shift on less than six hours’ sleep and only one hour of meditation. She brightened when the long-range scanners indicated that there was an asteroid field rich in dilithum and deuterium — enough that they would be able to refuel and lay in enough to keep going for several more years. It would take them a few weeks off their projected course so she sent the report to Lieutenant Torres and the rest of the senior officers before returning to her regular duties.
“Were you running a diagnostic on the EPS conduits?” he asked.
“Yes. There seems to be a problem in conduit one four one,” she replied as the report came to the foreground of her console.
“One four one?” he asked. T’Loran blinked. His tone sounded calm but… “Ensign?”
“I’ll look into it, Mr. Suder. It may be nothing.”
“I’ll go,” he offered. She stared at him. She could sense a kind of malice emanating from him. It was almost as if she could hear his thoughts. “You…” he growled as her eyes widened in shock. “You’re one of us!”
“What do you mean?” T’Loran asked. She had no time to react as Suder grabbed her throat, his fingers closing around it. With his other hand, he tore her personal comm badge off and placed it in his pocket. She could feel her windpipe being crushed. Shoving down panic, she reacted with logic and dug her fingers into his wrist, pinching the tendons and nerves there and forcing his hand to open. She shoved him away and tried to put more distance between them while she considered the next move. However, the overwhelming sense of menace, panic, fear, and anger she felt coming from him — the sheer violence — was confusing. How was she able to sense these things? Humans did not possess any telepathic or empathic abilities. That was one of the things that had held her back among her fellow students on Vulcan. And yet…
“You look so innocent but you’re just the same as the rest of them,” he snarled as he advanced on her. T’Loran continued to back away, looking for an exit or a comm terminal. Failing that, some kind of weapon would suffice. However, Suder had her cornered. He pulled a two kilo coil spanner from his work belt and ran to her. She tried to block his blows with her hands but the first swing shattered one of the bones in her right arm. He wrenched her left arm behind her, turning her so that her back was to him, and then everything went black.