A/N: I'm back. A big thank you to all the new alerts and reviews. I was in a bit of a funk as far as writing is concerned and you've pulled me out of it. :D
I also blame Rizzoli & Isles (the awesome show) and the amazing fanfic writers on this site. The writing constantly blows me away on this site and I've been a complete glutton for that fandom for the last 2 months. I've also gotten involved in Twitter (hickeydevon if anyone cares ;)) and have been doing my best to make Jeri Ryan laugh and pester the Jane Rizzoli twitter persona. It's been fun. Jeri Ryan is incredibly active on Twitter and she responds to tons of tweets. (I've succeeded in my goal to make her laugh as well)
Anyway, enough sillyness, yes? This chapter is chalk full of techno-babble and medical-babble that I make ZERO claims to the legitimacy thereof. My limited Engineering background has given me some ideas to play with but that's as far as it goes. Star Trek has always essentially been "Space Magic" that uses many, many "miracle exemptions" that are often simply created by the writers to solve a story problem. (ie see: Tachyon beams/particles/etc)
Great sci-fi (like Mass Effect- pre-final 10 minutes of the trilogy...) really just use as few "miracle exemptions" as possible to 'ground' the sci-fi.
Thankfully, the very nature of Star Trek allows us to pass off the techno-babble as something we all wink and nod about with a grin.
Chapter 23- The Lab
"So... what am I looking at here?" Lieutenant Sara Myles had her arms crossed and was leaning against the console that Seven and B'Elanna were working at while looking at the images being produced on the holographic dais in front of the three women.
"They are the base model for the pico-bot technology." Seven said looking up at the holographic representation of picoscopic needle-like technology. B'Elanna thought they looked a bit more like elongated grains of rice. Myles was in agreement. Potentially angry grains of rice, or friendly grains of rice if they were good enough to harness their potential.
B'Elanna had insisted that their first shift in the R&D lab be dedicated to figuring out the pico-bot tech as she argued that its application to everything else they were doing would be beneficial.
"Are these similar to Borg nanobot... er, probes? I've never seen what they look like." Myles wasn't sure what exactly these things were supposed to do, but she figured her lack of knowledge would encourage B'Elanna and Seven to not only explain things to her but give them an 'outside the intelligent people' view of things to consider as well.
"Here, have a look for yourself." B'Elanna brought up a side-by-side of the Borg nanoprobes and the pico-bots. The differences were obvious. The nanoprobes were clearly like small spiders with a square body and three 'legs' on each side. So not really spiders, but Myles didn't really have any other description for them... maybe Delrailian gnip snatchers? The pico-bots still looked like elongated grains of rice. She knew that although the images were of a similar size that the pico-bots were a thousand times smaller than the nanoprobes.
"Ok, so are you two going to just roll your eyes and throw me out if I continue to play the part of the dumb third wheel? Cause I've got a ton of questions."
"Play the part?" B'Elanna drawled with a smirk at the redhead. At Sara's playfully narrowed eyes she laughed and continued, "That's what you're here for, to bring an outside opinion on things that aren't your speciality and to reel us in when we go too far sideways in dealing with things that are your speciality."
"Yes, please continue to ask questions. While I am... not normally accustomed to working with those who ask many questions, my time tutoring Icheb, watching B'Elanna work and with my new responsibilities running the Science Department on Voyager, I have begun to see the benefits of 'thinking things out loud'."
B'Elanna nudged Seven slightly with her elbow and playfully growled at the taller woman. "Was that a shot at my work methods?"
"I believe I said 'benefits', B'Elanna. Of course, there are drawbacks to your-" At B'Elanna's raised brow and matching scowl, Seven could no longer hold her straight face and just smiled her small smile and playfully bumped her hip against B'Elanna while turning back to her work.
Having watched the interactions between the two women for the past hour, Myles couldn't help but feel a bit smug about the whole situation. These two were clearly in love and if the grapevine, aka Tom Paris and Harry Kim, was correct, not afraid of letting others know it. She was kind of upset she missed the kiss to be honest, she was as red-blooded as any other human after all.
Ignoring the many, many things she could say to tease Torres (so she could do it when Seven was out of enhanced earshot) Myles figured she'd continue just asking questions to try and make herself useful.
"So what are the benefits to the pico-bot design and what are the drawbacks? How come they look so different?"
"The answer to your second question also partially covers the second part of your first question, Lieutenant. At the nanoscopic scale, the only reason why nanoprobes are able to properly function is due to the unique nature of their construction and an atomic lubricant created by the Borg." Seven was cut off by B'Elanna's snort.
"Maybe I just have a gutter mind-" B'Elanna started.
"You do." Both Seven and Myles chimed in before B'Elanna could get on a roll, but she studiously ignored the both of them while adopting a thoughtful look. She was just having too much fun with the idea.
"-but an atomic lubricant created by the Borg could have a much more commercial application. I'm thinking Ferengi holosuites would be a good place to start a sales pitch..." She tapped her index finger on her chin to complete the image.
"Indeed. Perhaps when we arrive back in the Alpha Quadrant, you can open your own business selling Borg-related sexual aids. I have a number of items stored within my cortical node that-"
"Okay, okay! I give!" B'Elanna burst out laughing. Seven and her dry humour were not to be taken lightly. "-aaand now I've got inappropriate images of the Borg Queen and several Borg drones..." she scrunched up her nose in disgust and defeat.
"NOW you do? Sheesh, I'm going to be having nightmares about the Borg for weeks and not the good they're-about-to-assimilate-me kind either, ungh. Sooo Seven, back to the pico-bots?" Myles tried desperately to shake the disturbing images in her head without success.
"Yes, the pico-bots…" ice-blue eyes darted to brown with a clear message of 'do not interrupt' before continuing. "at the picosopic level, the atomic lubricant used by the Borg cannot be used and the frictional forces at that scale would make moving parts an impossibility, hence the design. However, due to the scale and the design of the pico-bots themselves, they cannot accept complex programming."
"Which leads us to our first problem," B'Elanna got back into the conversation, her playful instinct brought to the fore by her proximity to Seven having been satiated for the moment. "while a simple bio-electrical signal can be used to give the pico-bots instructions they can only accept simple commands. However, something like Seven's cortical node could properly co-ordinate them, but if we're going to be using them in conjunction with hard-suit technology, they'll have to be in our blood stream. I'm not crazy about having to tell the Captain that the technology is viable if we all get cortical nodes implanted. It will work for Seven, but I think we need to come up with something else for the rest of us."
"I agree. Also, I would rather not have to rely on my cortical node for controlling them in my own system, there may be conflicts with the hard-coded programming." Seven was unsure whether or not her cortical node would even be able to interpret the programming protocols for the pico-bots and keep them out of conflict with her nanoprobes.
Myles was still a bit perplexed by the whole discussion but was determined to plough ahead regardless. "So what then are the benefits? We're still talking about putting something akin to Borg nanoprobes into our systems. I'm not sure too many people will be crazy about the idea." B'Elanna's eyes sparkled as she had already begun to type commands into her console.
"Because, check this out. What we are seeing here is the Borg assimilation process within a typical human body. As the nanoprobes execute their programming, they gather resources from any useable particles in the body to create the implants. The first being a 'cerebral suppressor'-" she looked briefly to Seven for confirmation and got a small nod in return, "that subverts higher brain function so that the assimilation process can move forward without interruption." It was really kind of a scary thing watching nano probes move through a body and assimilate it. All three women watched the holographic representation showing blood streams carrying the nanoprobes, muscle and bone tissue being altered and implants being created and attached to vital parts of the anatomy.
"Now, if this same human were to have a compliment of pico-bots and a way to properly deliver instructions…" B'Elanna tapped a few more keys and tiny slivers purposely highlighted appeared in the scene playing out before them. B'Elanna zoomed in on one section in particular and it showed several thousand of the tiny slivers actually coming together and forming larger constructs. These 'hand-like' constructs began to swarm over the nano probes and literally tear them apart, harvesting them for energy and replicating more pico-bots which darted to more nanoprobes and so on until all of the invading nano probes were destroyed and the implants also removed and destroyed.
Next, using the energy from the destroyed Borg technology, the pico-bots began repairing the biological damage to the body. After a few short minutes, the assimilation process had been effectively stopped and the damage done completely reversed. B'Elanna was satisfied, Seven had a thoughtful look on her face and Myles was damn impressed.
"Wow. So, I guess if it is all our tech, it may not be as insidious as one would think, and if it could do that to the Borg assimilation process… yeah, that'd be handy to have if we run into the Borg again. How did you get them to group up like that? I thought they couldn't touch?" The implications of it all were still admittedly above Myles' head.
B'Elanna just nodded to Seven. "It was her brilliant idea." As Seven began punching more commands into her console, she explained. "Gravity. The pico-bots do not actually touch, but at that scale, they are able to accept commands that cause them to spin on their length-wise axis. By manipulating the speed of the spin, you can manipulate the gravitational effects thereby allowing them to act together without touching. It is the delivery process for the programming that will be the issue. In this simulation, we are using the computer to act as the processor for the pico-bots, but the working system will need to be completely contained and secured against co-option. Each pico-bot can be given simple commands, but giving simple commands to millions of pico-bots and co-ordinating them all is the challenge. We can use the computer to simulate how they would work together given a proper control mechanism, but to do it practically is the challenge."
"Ahhh, so its like you can't just tell the hand what to do, you have to tell the finger tips, the knuckles, the muscles, etc to perform simple actions that add up to the making of a fist, for example." Myles tapped her fingers along her forearm as she spoke.
"A simplification perhaps, but a correct one." Seven looked back at the holographic projection as she searched her brilliant mind for ideas. B'Elanna nodded and placed her hand on the small of Seven's back, idly rubbing her thumb up and down. Somehow, she could tell that Seven was in some small part thinking of the Borg baby in stasis in Sick Bay.
"Maybe this is one of those times where you could bring the Doctor in. I think I've done all the inspiring I can and suspect he'd be much more of an asset here than I would at the moment. Maybe call me back when you get to the ass-kicking stuff that's a bit more my speed…" Myles had the feeling that even though she might help them think things through out loud, she wasn't going to be a terrible amount of help in solving the current problem.
Even Seven could tell that although willing, this part of their time in the R&D lab would be rather dry for the tall redheaded acting Chief of Security. Since B'Elanna knew that she was really only staying at the moment because it was their first day, she didn't want to keep her and her suggestion of bringing the Doc in was a good idea, even if B'Elanna might end up strangling his holographic neck in frustration on principle.
"Yeah, go get something to eat Myles- you know, I bet the Captain probably hasn't eaten yet, workhorse that she is and knowing her, she's probably still in her ready room…" If B'Elanna was going to have to suffer from constant teasing at the hands of Lieutenant Sara Myles, she was certainly going to do a bit of her own. Fair was fair and all.
'What is that old Klingon proverb? Teasing is an experience best shared? Ha- teasing, death- both work, right? If need be, I'll claim it as my own…'
Green eyes narrowed. So the game was afoot. 'Nice move Torres…' Oh, there was now going to be a box of dishes delivered to Engineering with a nice frilly bow tied around it and a holographic Klingon audiogram attached sometime during the busiest part of the day when both Seven and B'Elanna would be there. "Actually, I was thinking of heading to Holodeck Two for a bit of a work out…" The idea of brining the Captain some food held more appeal, but she wasn't about to give Torres the satisfaction quite so easily. Her competitive nature just wouldn't allow it.
To B'Elanna's surprise, Seven spoke up before she did. "I would recommend then, Lieutenant Myles, that you be sure to clear the holodeck pattern buffers before entering." At the quizzical looks she received from her Engineer and Myles, the lithe blonde gave her version of a shrug- microscopic as it was being something she was consciously attempting to do- and continued. "After shutting down a simulation in Holodeck 2 today regarding a test of the power grid efficiency, a program 'stuck' in the pattern buffers from someone I can only assume is a member of Gamma Shift, username NERD91, resumed…" Seven paused for what she learned from the Doctor during Social Lesson #75- "Buckle Up", was called, 'dramatic effect'.
Myles just smirked having a feeling where this was going and B'Elanna was completely wrapped up in everything 'Seven' anyway, but now with a look of Gossip? Yes please! plastered on her face.
Seven inhaled, preparing to speak.
"And?" B'Elanna couldn't hold her curiosity as her eyes grew wide with excitement and she was internally shaking with delight at the prospect of Seven doing a bit of gossiping. It was refreshing, like going to work in the morning and finding out that Gamma shift had actually finished cleaning the plasma injectors around the warp core overnight.
Knowing she had her, Seven quirked her metallic brow and smirked her slyest Borg smirk. "And… I believe the program was called, 'The Prophetess Does Bajor'… I debated keeping it on for educational purposes-" B'Elanna's dark brows shot up her forehead as her hackles made themselves known. "-however, I had more important tasks to attend to."
B'Elanna's smile was long gone as she crossed her arms and snorted indignantly. "Bunch of perverts on this boat I swear…" she mumbled. Seven tilted her head slightly in amused confusion. Wasn't it B'Elanna, who only moments earlier, was attempting to find a use for nanoprobe lubricant in the Ferengi sex trade?
Myles didn't need to be a mind reader to know what was going on in Seven's head. The whole situation was quite funny and while she'd love to stay and poke the sabre bear known as B'Elanna Torres a bit more, she did think she might prefer to go pester the Captain a bit. "Good to know, Seven, thank you… Well, I *am* feeling hungry. Perhaps the Captain could use a bite to eat and report on your start here in the lab. Lieutenants." With that, Myles left B'Elanna- who was trying to maintain the façade of grumpiness- and Seven who just seemed amused, to their work.
It was an hour and a half later when they made a breakthrough. B'Elanna had called the Doctor shortly after Myles had left. He had been more than eager to 'join the club' as he felt their work would be important and to be a part of that was something that made the Doctor feel just that much more special. Besides, he could use that time to not only query his two favourite patients on how they were doing but also get their thoughts on his rendition of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" from his planned production of "Oklahoma!". He of course, would be Curly McLain and he was still looking for a Laurey Williams- to which Seven politely, but firmly declined and B'Elanna just shot him 'a look'. Fortunately for the Doc, he recognized that look from the Holodeck when Lieutenant Myles told him not to aggravate the hybrid Chief Engineer and he let it go at that.
The Doctor was fascinated with the pico-bot technology and after they discussed the technical benefits and drawbacks, the three brilliant minds got to work on solving the problem.
"By McCoy, I've got it!" The Doctor began working furiously at his console as he was struck with an inspiration.
"Wh-what was that?" B'Elanna barely got out between the spurts of laughter that started at the Doctor's odd exclamation. Seven was also confused at the outburst from her holographic friend, but she remained ever stoic, preferring to use her eyebrows to communicate when the nuances of social interactions eluded her. If she had been startled by the Doctor's odd exclamation, she didn't show it, her questioning eyebrow being her only response.
The Doctor paused in mid thought. "What? Oh, well I've been experimenting with expressions and colloquialisms. All the great minds in history seemed to have an exclamation, catch phrase or expression and I-" B'Elanna held up her hand to stop what she knew would be a five-minute pat on the Doctor's own back.
"Doc- what have you got?" The Doctor smiled with satisfaction as 'the attention' was once again on him. Oh, but he existed for 'the attention'. He even stood a little straighter, as if it were a natural result of increased pride as opposed to a minor adjustment in his projection.
The Doctor punched some commands into his console and brought up a new holographic projection on the dais in front of them. "You may be interested to know Lieutenant Torres- and Seven in particular- that we may owe the solution to this problem to Species 8472."
End Chapter 23
A/N: When I was a kid, my Mom's (she's a teacher) high school put on AMAZING musical productions and she took us to see them all. "Bells are Ringing", "Oklahoma!", "West Side Story", "Brigadoon", etc were all productions that I got to see. Alas, my Mom got it into her head that waking us up with the first few bars of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" was a great idea and so now whenever I wake up to a blue sky, I instinctively sing the first few bars. Thanks Mom.