Star Trek Hunter
Episode 4: Run To Earth
Scene 1: The Crusher/Crumar/Carrera Effect

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The Crusher/Crumar/Carrera Effect

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Justice Irons was surprised at how quickly she had grown accustomed to speaking with Investigator Lynhart Shran. The old investigator sat in her office along with Lt. T'Lok Smith. Even though he wasn't a member of Star Fleet (the two investigators were civilians contracted to Star Fleet), with Lt. Tauk and Ensign T'Lon unable to report for duty, Shran was now the senior member in Director Smith's department. Their current flight from Ocean, where the crew had been scheduled for much needed shore leave, was entirely on Shran's recommendation. Irons was surprised at how quickly and thoroughly the old investigator had gained her trust.

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"So why Earth, Mr. Shran?"

"We're not going fast enough," Shran replied. "I can tell - we're only going warp five."

Irons had no doubt he could tell. Experienced space travelers knew how warp five felt in the deckplates and what it looked like in the apparent movement of the stars that could be seen through the window behind her. "I can't help that at the moment. I'm certain you are aware of the Federation's warp five limit to preserve the integrity of local spacetime."

Shran's expression was very direct: "Maybe it's time to try out that Crusher/Crumar/Carrera effect your engineers are always whispering about."

Irons' expression was deadpan. Her voice was a bit frosty. "I am certain I do not know what you are talking about."

Shran was genuinely insulted. "Oh come on boss, give an old gumshoe some credit. I don't have any formal education, but I've spent the last 50 years figuring out stuff other people don't want me to know. How useful would I be if you could keep a secret like that under my nose?"

T'Lok looked at Irons and raised an eyebrow - for once looking like a vulcan as much from her behavior as from her facial features.

Irons sighed, then allowed herself a slight chuckle. "Actually, Investigator, Dr. Carrera is making the final preparations to engage the so-called zip drive. This boat is the first one designed with that capability, but until now the only successful tests have been with drones. The engineers have only managed to run successful simulations at scale recently. Warp field improvements are notoriously difficult to scale, but the math involved in this project is ferocious. I have requested permission to engage the drive once it is ready. But that is no guarantee it will work. And very unpleasant things happen if it fails."

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Shran took a long, deep breath - let it out with a puff. "Two reasons," he started. It took Irons a few heartbeats to realize the old investigator was addressing her original question. "First: distance. I have never known a betazoid not to have a distance limit to their ability. Assuming our killer is on Bajor, we need to get as far from there as fast as possible so she can't track us. Second: clutter. Once we get to Earth, this crew needs to spread out. That way, if our telepath hops a transport and comes to Earth, she will have a hard time finding us. There were less than 6,000 people at Star Base Eleven and Ocean - we were easy to find. But Earth is the most populated region of space we know of - 14 billion on Earth itself and another 3-4 billion scattered throughout the Earth's solar system in various star bases, colonies, ships coming and going, the Utopia Planitia shipyards… In all about 18 billion minds and probably the highest concentration of powerful telepaths as well - that's a much bigger haystack to try to find us in."

Irons mulled this information over. "Do you have a plan beyond that?" she asked.

"Yes," Shran replied. "There's a third reason to go to Earth - resources. I would prefer not to explain further until we get a little more space between us and our mind reader. I'm trying very hard not to think about it myself. Secrecy is everything."

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T'Lok interjected, "Crusher/Crumar/Carrera?"

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Irons looked to her right and called for the Hunter's interactive holographic avatar: "Hunter, display the design team for this vessel's warp configuration and the zip drive."

The boat's holographic emitters projected an image of three people in white lab coats - two men and a boy smiling and waving. The image loop lasted two seconds and repeated, but was seamless so that it was impossible to tell at which point the image ended and restarted. The boy was dark-skinned with a bowl haircut and although clearly no more than 12 years old, seemed oddly familiar. The Hunter's elderly, gray-bearded interactive avatar was clearly recognizable as one of the two men. The other man was much younger, a bit taller and wider with soulful brown eyes, long, unruly brown hair and a thick brown beard that covered much of his chest.

"You recognize Professor Jose Crumar of the Daystrom Institute, the man behind nearly every significant improvement in warp field engineering for the past half-century. Our boat's avatar was patterned after him - right down to his quirky sense of humor. The other man is Wesley Crusher, who resigned his commission with Star Fleet and vanished with some alien known as the 'Traveler.' He simply appeared at the Daystrom Institute about 12 years ago with the basic theory for a warp drive system that would not only not degrade the fabric of spacetime, but would actually repair the damage done by centuries of warp travel. He vanished again about 5 months later. But by then Dr. Crumar and his top student had most of the math worked out."

T'Lok Smith and Lynhart Shran were riveted by the image. "And the boy?" T'Lok asked.

Irons smiled. "This image was recorded about 12 years ago. That boy was Professor Crumar's top student and the lead designer of this vessel - Dr. Sarekson Carrera."

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