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Rhapsody in Red

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Personal Journal, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, Stardate 2386.8

I have been temporarily detached from active shipboard duty and assigned to a secret project on Vulcan. Admiral Picard has told me I would learn more about the assignment when I reached Vulcan. In the meantime, I am curious to learn more about this special assignment.

I am onboard the USS Sedulosity en route to Vulcan. Fortuitously, I have been reunited with Commander Data, who appears also to have been assigned to this secret project. Commander Data doesn't seem to know more than I do, but he was told the project's code name: Project Jonah. I've never been able to make sense of Starfleet's code names, which I think is the point.

It is good to see Commander Data again. He doesn't appear to have changed, of course, but... after all the two of us have been through, he couldn't possibly be the same android I first met more than twenty years ago. His... jokes, I suppose you could call them... seem to come more often these days. And they feel less tentative. Once or twice he's even made me laugh.

We've discussed our best guesses about the project- twenty years ago, getting Data to guess about something was a nightmare. Now, he mostly understands the idea. Typically, if Starfleet assigns research to the Vulcan Academy of Science, it's something related to particle physics. They have the most scientists with expertise in that area, and something about the Vulcan mind makes them better able to grasp the complexities of understanding new particles.

Data speculated that the reason the two of us were assigned must have something to do with our unique visual abilities. There aren't many officers in Starfleet with both my technical know-how and my ability to see parts of the spectrum that are otherwise invisible to humans. Some spectral properties of whatever is being studied must be interesting- and inconvenient to study only with sensors.

I'm afraid I had a bit more to drink than I should have- I'm enjoying the leisure of star travel without duty. It's time for a rest cycle. By the time I wake up, it will be time to prepare to disembark on Vulcan.

Personal Journal, Stardate 2386.9

Arrived at Vulcan several days ago and have settled in to my work. As Data and I suspected, the work involves a newly discovered particle, tentatively called an Epsilon Pulsinator by its discoverers. I don't like the name very much.

The particle was discovered by a team of mostly Vulcan scientists, led by Dr. Stenak, the famous physicist. It has some truly fascinating properties. The most significant seems to be the way it reacts to a change in the gravitational field. It seems to be able to store a delta g, like a spring, as gravitational potential energy to be released later. Dr. Stenak thinks it will revolutionize the way we think about gravity.

And as Data and I also guessed, my enhanced optical abilities are the reason I was brought here to help study it. The particle absorbs electromagnetic energy at all wavelengths except for one, very specific wavelength in the visible spectrum. 652 nanometers. The scientists are conducting experiments to see if they can determine why that wavelength is reflected. My ability to view the reflections is proving extremely helpful in studying this red matter.

Hmm... Red matter. That's definitely a better name than Epsilon Pulsinator. I will have to remember to suggest it to Dr. Stenak.

Personal Journal, Stardate Screw it, stardates never make sense anyway

Research progresses steadily. Dr. Stenak and her partner Dr. Ninx have developed a solid theoretical model for understanding the particles' unusual gravitic behavior over the last month and a half. The math is entirely beyond me, but the computer models seem to check out.

I've been experiencing periodic headaches. The intensity of that pure mono-frequency light has had an effect on me that it doesn't seem to on those with more natural vision. I've made some adjustments to my optics to help, but thus far haven't hit the sweet spot.

Most of my time has been spent developing a mobile containment system for the red matter. We've been able to learn a lot on Vulcan, but there are a lot of gravitational experiments that can't be done in an area with so many residents. My vessel takes advantage of the latest in shielding and propulsion technologies. It will be able to operate practically on the event horizon of black holes.

I call it the Jelly Fish. It's a pretty sweet set of wheels, if I do say so myself.

Personal Journal, Stardate 3.1415926

The Jelly Fish is nearly completed and ready for her shakedown cruise. I just need to finish a few tests on her engine control systems and fix the seal on its airlock.

Dr. Stenak and Dr. Ninx haven't been available the past couple of days. They got pulled into secret meetings with Ambassador Spock and a number of senior Starfleet officers. High level stuff, apparently, if I'm not being briefed on it.

Oh well. Data and I will just keep working on our containment ship with our engineering team. The engineers are never brought into the tactical picture. Just keep the engines running and stay out of the way. That's always the way it is.

My headaches are gone. I guess I finally got the adjustments right. But there has been a weird side effect. When I dream, I sometimes dream elaborate visions of a world entirely colored red. I try to shrug it off, just stray brain pathways firing at random, but that vision in red has me a little uneasy.

Personal Journal, Stardate 8675309

Ensign Sa'nela, a young Vulcan technician who's been doing a lot of good work for us, had just done the sign-offs on the final computer tests when I got the call from Dr. Stenak to join her in one of the Academy's conference rooms.

As soon as I entered, I could feel the tension. Ambassador Spock and an Admiral I didn't recognize were focused intensely on the viewscreen, but everyone else was glancing nervously at each other.

Dr. Stenak introduced the newcomers. "Geordi La Forge, Data, this is Admiral Karen Angeli, Commander Conn Mikelson, and Dr. M'loy M'loya. I believe you know Ambassador Spock and Admiral Picard." I saluted the senior officers in turn and waited for an explanation.

After the pause threatened to become impossibly awkward, Dr. Stenak took control of the viewscreen and began her presentation.

"I'll be starting from the beginning to bring our newcomers into the loop. Three weeks ago, a survey team on the USS Enterprise studying a supermassive giant star near Romulan space detected an anomalous radiation fluctuation. They brought in a team of experts led by Dr. M'loy M'loya, the senior astrophysics expert at the Ferengi Space Institute. D. M'loya determined that the giant star is likely to go supernova in the next three months. Her best estimate is that there a probability of approximately 73% of supernova in that time span. This would of course threaten the planet Romulus, but the scale and location of this supernova is such that it could threaten the whole sector.

"Ambassador Spock has offered the Romulan Empire any assistance that Starfleet can provide, but with Federation-Romulan relations where they are, negotiations are proving tricky. Dr. M'loy, Dr. Ninx, and I have been asked to figure out if there is anything we can do to reverse the supernova's progress using our new eps... red matter."

I grinned silently at hearing Dr. Stenak's reluctance to use my new name. The name had swept the lab like a virus, to the point where she could no longer resist it. But you could still see the barely suppressed grimace of dislike. Dr. Stenak knows that popular names had a tendency to catch on far easier than technical names, but that doesn't mean she has to like it. As far as she's concerned, it's a blot on her reputation that she'll be described as the discoverer of Red Matter.

"Red Matter?" she asked when I first brought it up. "What does that mean? It does not sound like a real thing. It has the sound of the kind of name your human writers would use in their old science fiction." But now, even she has to accept that it's the name that it will be called. Score another point for Geordi La Forge.

Then I refocus my attention on the briefing. Dr. Stenak has been going through her mathematical analysis of the effects of the Red Matter on that supernova. The computations suggest, I think, that a properly timed release of Red Matter could absorb enough of the energy to protect Romulus. But it's a very finely tuned operation. Miss the target by a few minutes and it could go to waste- or even have catastrophic side effects. It could possibly create a singularity too close for the deploying vessel to escape from.

It is my turn to answer questions from Admiral Napoli. Yes, the Jelly Fish is fully operational and capable of delivering the Red Matter to the target. Yes, final inspections just completed. Yes, I think the Jelly Fish will be able to escape from the abnormally high gravitational pull of the dwarf. I pause for a moment, do a back of the envelope calculation, then look up and nod again. Yes, it will work.

She nods in satisfaction, then looks grimly at Admiral Picard. "Okay, then. The mission is approved. Ambassador Spock has volunteered to deliver the payload to its target. Mr. La Forge, he will be able to operate the vessel?"

I have an answer ready. "Yes, Admiral. My Jelly Fish was designed to Vulcan specifications in the expectation that Dr. Stenak would be operating it. He should find the control schemes comfortable."

"Good. Dismissed."

I salute and head back to Engineering to make sure the Jelly Fish is ready for deployment. I oversee her fueling and head off to begin a nervous, restless sleep. I always hate to see my babies leave the nest, especially on such a dangerous mission. Ambassador Spock has the kind of courage and intelligence that should make for a successful mission. I wish him good luck as I finally drift off, dreaming a rhapsody in red.