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Outpost Phoenix Science Labs. Stardate 201712.28 **>>
The laboratory buildings were generally deserted at this late hour. This suited Kaveh Arzie just fine. During the day, he was generally inundated with the daily administrivia that came with commanding a Starfleet outpost. Night was about the only time he could have to himself to work on his theories and projects, and this past week he had had a 'eureka' moment in his Galactic Barrier work.
The Galactic Barrier, an energy field surrounding the rim of the Milky Way Galaxy, has yet to be successfully and safely breached by a manned vessel, though several attempts had been made up until the 23rd Century. No known form of transmission was capable of penetrating the Barrier. Shields could not block all of the radiation from the Barrier, and hull temperatures would reach over 2,000 degrees. Along with Dimensional Science, the problem of traversing the Galactic Barrier has been one that tantilized Arzie since the days of his Apprenticeship.
Standing over the Plasma Forge as he smelted a composite sample, Arzie sipped a frothy, minty-smelling drink from a steaming mug. He was thoroughly enjoying having a Winter season. It made him feel all warm and cozy, even if he was being warm and cozy in front of an Plasma Forge in a lab deep inside the Science Building.
Arzie’s warm and cozy composite forging was interrupted as a sharp squeal of rubber against tile and a demanding voice pierced the evening quiet.
‘Hey, you can’t eat in there. That’s a laboratory!’ A young, Romulan Ensign in a gold-turtleneck exclaimed, nearly shouting at him.
For his part, Arzie looked both left and right over the rim of his mug, nearly spilling it over his Hawaiian shirt. ‘Eh?’ He half-exclaimed, half-queried, trying to catch every stray droplet as he also tried to understand the source of this late-night interruption. ‘I’m sorry, come again?’
The Ensign waggled a slender index finger at Arzie, ‘Don’t you “Come again?” me!’ She warned, glaring at him with piercing gray eyes.. ‘No food or drink is to be consumed in an active lab. Think of the safety risks that come from possible cross-contamination or ingestion of hazardous materials! Honestly, some of you people think rules don’t apply to you.’
Arzie was still somewhat stunned by the forthright, no-nonsense admonishment by this small junior officer, no doubt fresh out of the Academy. He peered. ‘Us people?’
‘Yeah, “You people”’ The Ensign nodded emphatically. ‘You Gonzo Scientists who go around flouting basic lab practices and good basic scientific methods feeling you’re all above that.’ She added with a scowl.
Dumbstruck, Arzie’s jaw moved for a few minutes before words came out. When they did, he was clearly affronted. ‘What?! How dare you! I’ve been Sciencing for. . . well, for longer than you’ve been able to walk, likely enough, young lady.’
‘Yet in all that time you couldn’t learn not to drink in a lab environment?’ The Ensign shot back, letting out a disapproving ‘Pfft.’ to punctuate her thought.
‘If all you’re going to do here, Ensign, is criticize whether or not I have a tasty beverage while I work, then I’ll thank you to take your criticisms elsewhere, thank you very much.’ Arzie said with a hint of cold indifference and a touch of no small irritation.
Shaking her head, the Ensign refused flatly. ‘No way.’ She said, crossing her arms. ‘Someone has got to make sure your shenanigans are stopped while you’re working in here. You have all the proper authorizations to be working in here, I assume?’
‘Of course I do. Just who do you think you’re--’ Arzie began, but was cut off before the Plasma Forge let out a perky little chime. ‘Hold that thought.’ He continued as he put on a pair of goggles and donned heavy, fire retardant mitts and moved over to the Forge. He lifted the lid and the room was full of smoke and the smell of refined deuterium.
‘Phew! What is that stench?’ The Ensign asked, rubbing her stinging eyes as both smoke and aroma drifted lazily into the laboratory’s air recyclers.
Hefting the crucible out of the Forge with a pair of tongs, Arzie let out a grunt as he moved towards a mold he’d laid out on a work table. ‘I don’t quite know yet. I’m hoping it’ll be a success.’ He said airily as the yellow-hot sludge pour from the crucible, purple and green flames licking the rim of the mold.
‘What do you mean, “I don’t know?!” The Ensign barked loudly at him, glaring at him with wide-eyed incredulousness. ‘That’s it, I’m calling Security to have you removed. You’re a menace!’
Peering up over the boiling, highly viscous material oozing out of his crucible, the Catullan frowned. ‘I may be many things, but a menace isn’t one I’ve been called; at least not for quite some time.’ He answered with a retort. ‘What I /mean/ is, that it doesn’t have a name. . . yet. It’s a composite of my own devising that is intended to block negative energy from passing through. . . or at least slow the penetration of that exotic force. As I said before, I’m /hoping/ it will be successful.’
Distracted by the response, the Ensign quirked her head. ‘Negative energy, but why? No one goes near pockets of negative energy who doesn’t have to, and there are rarely any significant regions of the stuff. Except for. . . ‘
‘. . . The Galactic Barrier. ‘ Arzie said, finishing her thought. ‘Yes that’s what I’m shooting for. Almost literally, you might say. If this works, it’ll be the casing for a probe I’m developing.’
‘But why?’ The Ensign asked. ‘We still have something like fifty-billion cubic light-years left in /this/ galaxy left to explore, let alone worrying about intergalactic space.’
‘I dunno, I always thought it’d be pretty gnarly to probe the Galactic Rim and take a dip into the vast, starless reaches beyond. On the other hand, I don’t want to wind up with massive brain damage and going quite mad before I die a horrible death in the process. Kind of a downer, y’know?’
‘I would imagine so.’ The Ensign said, furrowing her brow. ‘I don’t think there’s anyone who made it through the Barrier in one piece. Well, no one aside from the Kelvans almost a hundred-and-fifty years ago, and that didn’t quite go the way they’d expected.
‘Indeed, but /they/ didn’t get suffer the same effects domestic races have suffered, which makes me think that it’s not solely an engineering problem. Nonetheless, I’m sure with the proper combinations of hull and properly-attenuated shields, and transit through the Barrier should be something feasible in the next decade. Well, assuming I have all the variables correct, my kanis crossed, and my uuaers dotted, that is.’
The Ensign sat down in a chair, lowering her guard. ‘But how do you intend to counteract the effects of the negative energy found in the Barrier?’ She asked, leaning forward. ‘I mean, our hulls our generally can survive an encounter with it, but it’s the people inside that suffer, as you said. I know you mentioned this was just for a probe casing, but if you intend to personally pass through the Barrier, you’re going to be in for a rough return.’
‘Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point of this particular composite. It’s. . . insulation, so to speak. The idea is that we’ll insulate the hull of a ship with this composite material and it will absorb the negative energies.’ Arzie shook his head. ‘I never liked that term. “Negative energies.” It sounds like it was developed by some over-zealous Terran with no foundation in proper scientific techniques.’
‘Yeah, they did come up with plenty of descriptive nonsense words when they started moving out into the space.’ She said with a chuckle. ‘So what’s it made of? What’s the theory behind how it’s supposed to prevent the energies from effecting humanoid nervous systems?’
Arzie grinned. ‘Good to see some Academy graduates have questioning minds. Well, most of it is theoretical and a little proprietary, but I’d be happy to discuss it after your duty shift is over and you’ve stopped lollygagging around the labs. Ensign. . .?
‘Uh, Ishae. Er, Ensign t’Lheollah .’
‘Well, Ensign tr’Lheollah,’ The Catullan said, avoiding the obvious joke of repeating her name twice. ‘I’ll treat you to a coffee at Stimulance and prove to you that Professor Kaveh Arzie is not merely a hackneyed mad scientist, but a hackneyed mad scientist of the utmost quality.’ He continued with a slight smile.
Ishae’s eyes went wide ‘Oh cripes!’ She exclaimed as she jumped from her chair. ‘I’m so sorry, sir! I had no idea it was you!’
Waving it off, Arzie chuckled. ‘No worries, Ensign. Just doing your job.’ He looked up at the clock in the lab. ‘Looks like another three hours before First Watch takes over. I should be done and cleaned up here by then. I’ll meet you over there and show you my notes.’
Relaxing a little, Ishae breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Aye sir, I’d appreciate that.’
‘Good! Sounds like a plan. Now scat! I’ll catch you over there.’ Arzie said, donning a pair of goggles and returning to his work.