Star Trek Hunter
Episode 4: Run To Earth
Scene 5: A Matter of Mass
A Matter of Mass
Lt. Sarekson Carrera had long been accustomed to working double shifts and sleeping in his office. His staff had also become accustomed to such conditions. Many of them were at least part vulcan and found solving engineering problems as good as any other form of recreation. They had been trying to crack this one - getting the zip drive to work properly - since before the keel had been laid. But it was really up to Dr. Carrera. This was primarily a math problem and the only other math genius on board, Lt. Tauk, was in an artificial coma.
Carrera could tell he was close, though. Replication would be very problematic. It all had to do with mass. And not just gross mass - an increase or decrease of only a few kilograms and the solution had to be scrapped and the math started from scratch. There was no simple way to handle this variable - it affected the entire process from the start of the calculations, requiring the invention of an entirely different series of equations every time the mass changed even a little. Mass could be controlled on drones. But add a live crew and even on a boat this small, mass would change enough throughout every mission to routinely require entirely new equations.
For now, these equations would get them into recursive warp mode - or, as Wesley Crusher had dubbed it - zip drive.
“Hunter,” Carrera called. The boat’s interactive holographic avatar appeared to his right.
“Did you solve it?” the old man asked.
“For now. It all comes down to mass. We knew that, but there is no simple way to recalculate when the boat’s gross mass goes out of tolerance by 3.14 kilograms,” Carrera answered. He tapped a large viewer that was displaying an insanely complicated series of calculations. “Display this series in the engineering conference room. All engineering staff, if you’re awake, please join me in conference room #2.”
Carrera had been awake for far too many hours, but he sprinted with renewed energy to the ladder that led down engineering conference room directly under his office. He straddled the ladder and slid down from deck 1 to the main engineering deck. Four engineers were waiting for him. The remainder of his staff should be asleep. His assistant director, 2nd Lt. Moon Sun Salek was already studying the calculations.
“The entire process changes every time,” Dr. Moon observed. She was as frustrated as her director.
Carrera replied. “The tolerance is 3.14 kilograms. Or more specifically, 3.1415926535897…”
“Pi,” Moon cut him off.
“Pi,” Carrera replied. “It sounds so universally significant. But it’s pi kilograms. It doesn’t make any sense at all. Why kilograms? Why not pi vloms? Or pi tons? Or pi grotofish?”
Carrera wasn’t attempting humor, but his reference to an archaic standard unit of mass used by pre-warp bolians elicited nervous laughter and raised eyebrows.
“Okay - you have your measurements. Take your part of this solution and make your part of the process ready.” Carrera turned to address one of his flight engineers, “Tomos, you are assigned to continuity. Make sure all these pieces fit together. That’s my job, too, you’re my backup.”
Flight Engineer Tomos spoke up: “Dr. Carrera - if mass is such a problematic variable, why don’t we just make it a constant?”
Carrera looked at the vulcan engineer. Then looked at him again.
“Mass changes throughout every mission, Mr. Tomos.”
“But what if we use ballast? If we pick up more mass - such as a passenger, we remove that exact amount from the ballast. It could be done with asteroidal debris or trace gasses. When we lose mass, we beam in more debris.”
Carrera sat down, very slowly, and looked at his junior staff member - then placed his face in his hands, elbows on the clear lacquer conference table.
Tomos was about 100 years old - middle aged for a vulcan, but new to space flight and warp theory. He had previously been a librarian living in seclusion at a distant vulcan sanctuary. He watched his director closely. Carrera worked far too hard for a human. He was brilliant - a legend within the close-knit community of the Daystrom Institute. He was also under the impression he was a vulcan and it wasn’t healthy for him.
Carrera finally looked up, the exhaustion clear on his face. “Hunter.”
The elderly looking hologram appeared next to Tomos. “You need rest, Dr. Carrera…”
“Yes I do,” Carrera responded. “Work with Flight Engineer Tomos and develop a program to automatically stabilize the Hunter’s mass. Mr. Tomos - get Midshipman Brazil involved as well, but I want you to head this up. It’s your idea. If we lose mass while in transit, find a way to beam in more. Safety protocols… Emergency procedures… as soon as ready, bring it online. It looks like I’m going to have to make sure of continuity of the zip drive solution on my own.”
“Understood, sir,” Tomos replied.