Jul 05, 2020 6:43 AM
A Starfleet vessel stumbles across an unintentional visitor.
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"I am a human. If you are asking me if I need to eat and drink to maintain my systems, the answer is no. So long as your replicators can produce non-organic material such as metals and polymers then they will suit my needs just fine."

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"Our replicators can produce many but not all possible metals and polymers. You are welcome to speak to my science officer, Commander Toasty, if you need anything particularly rare. As a non-organic life form herself, she is well-versed in configuring more unusual materials in the replicator. Do you need any materials or power urgently? Otherwise, I might like to discus the circumstances of your unexpected arrival."

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"No, I have no pressing needs. As for the elephant in the room, could you describe exactly what you saw on your end?"

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"Of course. Wells?"

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"We observed an unusual section of space which grew from roughly 3 meters in diameter to roughly 15 meters by the time it ceased. The phenomena in this region of space displayed significant broad-spectrum light and radiation, as well tachyon counts twenty-two standard deviations above average in this region of space. The region also produced a spatial distortion reducing the efficiency of nearby warp drives by a detectable but insignificant amount. Irregularities in the diffractive indices of the accumulating particle cloud, as well as the mere presence of tachyons in relevant quantities, suggested a temporal anomaly. Commander Toasty reviewed relevant records and theory, finding the most similar phenomena to be that of a "time meteorite", a term for a hypothetical object which passes from outside the plane of this universe to within it, causing temporal friction by entering at an angle not perpendicular to the flow of local time. If the captain permits it, you may also access our scans and logs regarding the observation."

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"Thank you, based on what you saw though, I might be able to offer an alternative explanation. Approximately 18 hours ago by my clock, my team and I boarded a Consumer deep Intel ship with orders to hack into its mainframe, collect data on their communications and surveillance networks, plant a quantum bomb on their ship, extract, and detonate the bomb to ensure the Consumers remained unaware of both that we had that data, and that we could track their deep Intel ships. The plan went south and while we were still able to complete the primary objective and relay the data back to command, we were cut off from all escape routes and were forced to detonate the quantum bomb before we were overrun.

Now, had that particular aspect of the plan gone off correctly, we would not be having this discussion as I would have been reduced to less than atoms. Instead, I find myself in what appears to be a parallel dimension. The only possible explanation I can think of, is a fringe theory postulated by the Dayton Prime Think-Tank. I'm no scientist, but essentially what he theorized was that if a quantum bomb was mistuned it had a very remote chance of ripping a hole in the quantum foam. Now, he and everyone else who looked at this possibility had no idea what effect this might have, and the odds of it actually happening were so slim as to be impossible so it was mostly put out of everyone's mind, but that is the only thing that both fits the situation I was in and the observed effects that I can think of.

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"Intriguing! 'Parallel universes' of this sort are not entirely unknown to Starfleet, so it may be possible for our scientists to recreate the effect and send you home. I expect it would help if we knew more about this quantum bomb, in particular."

Lt. Commander Wells flashes the captain a dubious look.

"Ah, and my tactical officer would also like you to elaborate on this military engagement. Are you at war?"

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My Apologies Captain, allow me to clarify. This theory that Dayton Prime postulated is one that he spent decades on, and utilized not only a significant amount of his processing capacity, but that of nearly a dozen other Think-Tanks as well. It was put forth as the possible next stage in transportation systems, exploration, and possibly even full ascension. Since that time though, the subject has been relegated to the realm of back burner topics for individuals to research when they have spare time and are interested in working on it. We have been utilizing quantum fusion technology for a bit over a century and this topic has been in research for a bit less than that. In that time, no one has been able to come up with meaningful results. Mathematically it's possible, as evidenced by my presence here. Realistically and measurably though? Unless you have something better than a dozen city district sized sapient computers to work on the problem, then it's not going to happen. Besides which, I'm an air assault ranger, not a scientist. I simply don't possess the information to give you more than a basic overview of how quantum fusion works.

As for your tactical officer's inquiry; the short answer is yes, the United Human Systems are at war. The longer answer is that we are currently in a state of total war against a species known officially as "The Consumers." This species has no actual name for themselves that we know of for the simple reason that they see all other life in the universe as nothing more than food. They have, however, been given many other unofficial names, the most popular of which include Bugs, Locusts, and Tyranids. They cannot be reasoned with, they cannot be bargained with. They would destroy humanity and all other sapient beings in the galaxy if given the opportunity and thus must be stopped at all costs.

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"That's a shame, we have had a few interactions with similar species ourselves. Starfleet never relishes war, but is frequently forced to participate in it. To your other point, though, Nebula-class starships have some of the most powerful computers in the known universe! It may be worth a shot to try the problem from a different angle. I believe the only well-documented parallel universe incident involved a transporter malfunction, and such malfunctions are often reproducible by a clever engineer. If Commander Toasty and Chief Trelway feel it is beyond our capabilities, however, we might still consider submitting it to the Daystrom institute. They will at least appreciate the tip, I'm sure."

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"Captain Lugh, would you happen to have heard of a civilization called the Terran Empire? They were associated with the last recorded transdimensional intrusion. I would also appreciate hearing more about these 'Consumers'. Do you have any information on their biology or psychology? I am quite familiar with the established literature on combat with insectoid races, if you are interested in comparing this knowledge."

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"If your engineering team wants to take a crack at it they are welcome to. They very well might make a lucky breakthrough. I reiterate however that I will only be able to give them a basic overview of the technology. To be honest though Captain, even if you manage to replicate the event and know for sure that it would go back to my own universe, I would likely decline. Going back at this point would cause... complications.

And no, apart from some similar examples in fiction I have never heard of a civilization calling itself The Terran Empire. As for the Consumers, I have a decent amount of combat data loaded that I could share with you Lt. Commander. It would be interesting to get an outside perspective on them."

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Lt. Commander Wells will be happy to take a look at Drake's materials on the bugs whenever their computer systems can be made properly interoperable. If he can send over definitions of the data types he uses, that should be pretty quick.

"Well, I would think you would have heard of the Terran Empire, were you from the same universe. Exciting to learn there are other accessible universes! Theirs was not worth making an attempt at regular contact. In any case, do you have questions about our world? I am sure this is a more disorienting experience for you than for ourselves."

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"That's an understatement" I chuckle. "It's obvious that our histories diverged at some point. It would be interesting to see when and how much. The majority of my questions can wait until network protocols are established and I can connect to your computer system, though I am curious as to what sort of a government your "Federation" is and who is a part of it besides humanity. Also, I am curious if humanity in this universe contains beings like myself. That is to say technological organisms, or Technos as we prefer to call ourselves.

Regarding connecting our networks, if it is agreeable to you and your team I can use the comm frequency we were using before to transmit the neccessary software protocol data to allow our networks to communicate."

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"Feel free to transmit the data. The engineering team can get started. But I, at least, am not aware of any humans meeting your description. Wells?"

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"No, sir. Although there is an android of human design currently serving aboard the USS Trieste. While clearly designed to mimic a human appearance and psychology, I believe the current understanding is that he diverges fairly significantly. Other researchers have worked on similar projects, but Lieutenant Data is as yet the only known sapient humanoid computer."

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As I begin transmitting the necessary data I ponder Wells' words. "Intriguing, I would like to meet this Lieutenant Data at some point if possible. Perhaps we could compare notes. For the moment though, what can you tell me about the Federation? And other neighboring governments for that matter."

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"Of course."

"The United Federation of Planets is structured as a republic. Constituent planets are largely self-governing, but the Federation is ruled by a split system of a Council, President, and Supreme Court. These enforce a few laws, and a much larger set of regulations, trade treaties, and mutual defense pacts. There are strict requirements for entry, including recognition of several natural rights, and a minimum technological level. Planets lacking warp technology are not permitted to join the Federation, but are also subject to several protections designed to prevent cultural contamination. The Federation maintains Starfleet, which acts as a combined humanitarian, research, and military arm for the interests of the Federation as a whole. Several constituent species also maintain their own fleets for similar purposes, though Starfleet has long been the largest and most advanced."

"In this region of the galaxy, the most significant other polities are the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and the Tholian Assembly."

She brings up a map of the quadrant on a viewscreen, highlighting the borders and regions as they come up.

"The Klingon Empire is a bit of a misnomer, as the Klingons have been ruled by a Council and a Chancellor for multiple centuries. However, they are an aggressive and expansionary society, and in our history have frequently fought with the Federation. Sixty-seven years ago the Klingon Empire agreed to a peace treaty, so in the present age we have significant tensions but little open conflict. Klingon citizens appear to have little complaint for their government, and most internal Klingon political divisions appear to relate to the availability of better opportunities for battle. Non-Klingon citizens have more discontent, as reports suggest they are heavily exploited for productive labor in order to free up resources for Klingons to spend their time fighting."

"The Romulan Star Empire is poorly understood, due to their xenophobia and unwillingness to permit cultural exchange. They claim a much smaller volume of space than the Federation, and rule few other species within their borders. As far as we can tell, life for the other species is heavily restricted to the point of oppression or slavery. We have little evidence of quality of life for the Romulans themselves, except that assassination and political purges are common. They are ruled by a Senate and an Empress, but the exact details are unclear. After negotiating a neutral zone between our respective territories, the Romulans have largely avoided all contact with the Federation, and in fact refused to even show their faces during negotiations over that zone."

"The Tholian Assembly is even more unknown, rarely leaving their own borders or acknowledging any communication. They demand exacting respect for their borders, giving any ship that passes them an explicit ultimatum to leave within a a certain amount of time or be destroyed. The Tholians are known to have strange technology based off of different design principles than our own, and appear to be a large insectoid species that requires high environmental temperatures. It is unknown whether any humanoid species live within their territory."

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"Interesting, it seems our two realities are not quite as similar as I thought. First, there are far fewer species where I come from, to the point where humanity didn't even discover another sapient species until decades into our diaspora." I hold my hand open palm up and display a hologram of the known galaxy from my reality, with the territories of each civilization highlighted by a different color. "That being said, due to there being fewer species in total there are more resources available in a given sector and thus, more major players. Generally speaking each of the known civilizations hold territory approximately similar in size to your territories, though several of our allies are currently threatened by the Consumers who are approaching spin-ward from another area of the galaxy. In terms of government the United Human Systems is set up similar to your Federation though we have some differences in policy concerning fledgling species."

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"The last parallel universe had roughly the same species, so far as we know. Perhaps it implies a sort of conceptual distance."

Wells brings up some images of the most common species in the quadrant.

"Are any of these recognizably similar to the species you know? Are your biological humans equivalent to ours? If you have any genetic scans, we could compare to find whether humans are the only point of overlap."

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As I look over the images I'm struck with fascination on how so many species in this reality bear a remarkable resemblance to humanity. "No, I'll have to give it a closer look once I can connect to your computer but just looking at this none of the known races in my reality look like these. All but a couple aren't even humanoid. That being said, I've seen some gene-sliced Standards and Cybers and custom Techno morphs that vaguely resemble some of these. Particularly that cat person race there and those... space elves?" I ask somewhat incredulously while pointing to an image of a race that look like someone took a particularly gruff Tolkien elf and gave it angry eyebrows.

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"The consistency of the humanoid bodyplan as well as the number of humanoid races has resulted in numerous cases where local fiction predicted species similar to those actually found in the broader galaxy, yes. Vulcans, as you point out, are a common example. This has also perhaps lead to a deeper emphasis placed on retaining your original appearance. Humanity prefers to avoid most genetic modification outright, and also avoids most cosmetic surgery that would produce an appearance not recognizably human. Many other species have also chosen to avoid deviating from their original species standard.

The engineering team has also finished processing your communication protocols, if you would like to speak to the commander now."

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"Of course, lead the way."

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The captain waves them off, and Lt. Commander Wells leads Drake back to the turbolift, where they ride to a research lab. Commander Toasty and Chief Trelway are waiting with a variety of computing equipment and cables.

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Commander Toasty continues to be a pile of blue rocks affixed to the surface of a six-foot-long slug. Her voice sounds perfectly human and friendly.

"Welcome to our universe! I have some hardware set up here for you to interface with. No offense, but it seemed safer for you to work directly with an intermediary computer than to access the ship computer directly. We've loaded up some relevant historical and cultural data for you, including our universal translation engine. If you could upload any archives of your own, that would be very helpful."

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"The caution is completely understandable. I personally have a firewall and "sandbox" OS that I use for exactly that reason. I assume the network protocols neccessary for me to safely connect to your computer system wirelessly are stored on there?" I ask as I glance over the various cables arrayed on the table before popping up a hardline jack probe and using my nanite system to form a compatible connection at the tip.

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