“Touchy Feely”
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Setting: Moon of PI ALPHA III, Inside the Underground Ruins
Stardate: 30148.1905    

The redheaded engineer’s eyes bounced from the fallen ILO to the standing Native American Captain and back again following Shar’El’s announcement as to the machine’s unique needs.  No one understood why any device, alien or otherwise, would need not one but six individuals to open a dimensional rift, but after having dealt with everything that they had thus far, none within the away team had been ready to question the validity of the statement.

“You do not understand what this machine does and what it is capable of,” Eeru stated to the standing man who had soon after been joined by the imposing FCO.  Either by design or by chance, the two men had created a visual barrier between the Akitashiinu and the rest of the away team, allowing for some privacy between Eve, Shar’El and Sonja.

“What is that machine and what is it doing to Ensign Mizore?” The Counselor asked in a whispered tone, wishing that they knew more as to the specific operations of the alien device.

“Its original purpose was to gather information, to collect knowledge through whatever means it could,” Shar’El explained having obtained a unique understanding of the machine through her looking into its own memories.

“A lot like the VOYAGER probes,” the Human Engineer pointed out, “one of which eventually returned to EARTH as V-GER and tried to wipe out all life on the planet.”

“There are some similarities here,” the ILO quietly explained further, “but this one was not programmed to return home with its findings.  It was given very simple instructions: to record all that could be recorded and most important to learn all that could be learned.  Somewhere in that knowledge soup it learned about other dimensions and how to use carbon-based life forms as the means to reach those other dimensions.”

“How is that possible?” the Cardassian born woman asked with wide opened eyes.  “How could a inanimate object meant to gather information use carbon-based life forms to reach other dimensions?.”

“The flexibility of the humanoid mind is what it is after Counselor.  What the machine requires is the so-called illogical *element*,” Sonja ever so quietly chuckled. “To the pure logical and linear mind of a computer, the concept of other dimensions and establishing bridges between them is something that is impossible to compute.  Since the first Human space flight, there has always been a need for the Humanoid *element*, the Humanoid *instinct*, the Humanoid ability to look beyond what can be seen, recorded and learned.”

“So the machine learned about new dimensions and in turn taught the Akitashiinu about these,” the Counselor nodded having only partially understood.  “So where does the need for carbon-based life forms originated?”

“Having been constructed by carbon-based entities millennia ago, it is possible that it can only interface with such beings,” Shar’El shrugged.  “As great as this machine’s ability to learn may be, it is limited to its core elements.  That is why it was exiled by the Yxidii and the other races which came together to cast it into a dimension where it would be incapable to use that specific ability.”

“A dimension completely deprived of any sort of carbon-based life,” Counselor Dalziel quietly grinned.  “So then, what is it doing with Ensign Mizore now?”

“It is using her mind as an external biological sub-processor to extrapolate the formulas and concepts on inert-dimensional travel, something that it could never actually learn or implement by itself,” Shar’El sighed.

“So it’s using her, not learning from her?” Dalziel questioned tried to better understand what was happening to the ANUBIS’ ACMO.

“Not entirely,” Shar’El tried to explain.  “The machine learns through any and all contacts that it makes, but in this particular case the machine as likely put a higher priority in using the Ensign over learning from her.  From what I was able to gather from what I saw, the learning process does not harm those linked with the machine, but when used as an external biological sub-processor, the body and mind are put through quite a shock.  The need for six is likely only a safety guideline to insure that the calculations are verified before being implemented.”

“Well peachy keen! Without any back-ups and a mind trained on Vulcan far too many years as far as I am concerned to confirm these fancy calculations,” Sonja said in a half growl, “an attempt to get this place into another dimension could see us land anywhere or worst not arrive in any specific location at all.”

“That is why we need to stop it here and now,” Eve said with a heavy swallow.  “In the wrong hands, this machine could become an ultimate weapon and turn the purest of saints into a blood-thirsty conquering beast.”

“Don’t know about y’all but I am not into that kind of funky ride, so you two stay here,” Sonja whispered, having already begun to move away while making sure that Eeru had been too busy to notice the Engineer’s intended target.  “I’m going to have a closer look at that thing and see if I can stall it and see if at the same time I can try to turn the tables on it so that we learn something instead of the other way around.”

Before either the Counselor or the ILO could say anything, the redheaded engineer had already reached the far edge of the machine, only a few meters away from the alcove where the ACMO had been in.  In order to keep her presence hidden from the Akitashiinu, the CEO quickly moved to the side where she would be able to gain access to the machine’s inner components without drawing any attention from their guest.

As Sonja touched one of the panels, she felt a very faint energy field present, nothing harmful to the touch although it did cause her crimson hair to react to the electrical charge.  The engineer ran her hand on the side and found an indentation that enabled her to pry the panel off reveal the inside components.  To her surprise, although the elements had been truly alien, their configuration appeared almost familiar, at least to an engineering mind.

Pushing her fears back, Sonja ever so cautiously reached in feeling the energy field of the machine dancing across her arm.  Touching one of the components inside the machine, the engineer could feel a sensation resembling a quiet hum at her touch; the faint vibration gave the redhead the impression that the machine had been far more than a simple collection of parts.  What truly bothered the woman had been that she could sense the vibration had not been as it should have been, and that for one reason or another, the mechanical entity had actually been “hurting”.

“Talk to me,” Sonja whispered to the machine in the only way she knew how as she closed her eyes.  “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Since before her Academy days, the red head had possessed a unique gift, one that permitted her to sense what a machine needed to be fixed.  Although none of the professors truly believed in this gift, the results of her work had proven time and time again that Sonja Paquette had been a unique type of person, one that had been nicknamed the “engine whisperer” by some of her fellow classmates.

Lorraine Paquette

Lieutenant JG Sonja Paquette
Chief Engineering Officer