Pinned toot

Over that time, I rose to the rank of Senior Chief, the Sim/Test Division became the Holotechnologies Department (alongside, but no longer part of, Engineering), and I was transferred to SFHQ to manage all of Starfleet's various EMPHA programs. It was a very interesting time for me, and life was going pretty well. I was even deciding whether I would retire or accept a Warrant Officer commission.

Then disaster struck.

Pinned toot

This was, of course, the true major upgrade. Photons, holomatter, real matter, force fields... All of these things were readily projectable by the existing system. The photons alone allowed us to project the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from simple radio waves up to gamma radiation. Nuclear radiation involves hurling neutrons around, which isn't as easy, but we could adjust the system to allow for it. Sound doesn't operate very well in vacuum, but forcefields handle that.

Pinned toot

OK, so to start with, based on what comments are still here, I have a couple of months of things to catch you all up on before I even reach the point where we were cast off. So here goes.

The simulation system didn't need any further major overhauls after everything was properly decoupled and isolated. We were able to enhance the efficiency and quality of the setup over time, accounting for the differences between holodeck environments and vacuum, and so on. It was a huge success.

Pinned toot

Just like that, the last ten years of my life simply ... never happened. All the achievements, all the heartaches, all the ups and downs, the promotions and transfers... All of that, gone.

Or, well, not gone. It would have to have happened to be gone now. And even though it was all real, none of it happened.

[sighs]

I guess I should back up and explain what I'm even talking about. It'll take awhile to get my thoughts collected, to properly explain where I've been.

Over that time, I rose to the rank of Senior Chief, the Sim/Test Division became the Holotechnologies Department (alongside, but no longer part of, Engineering), and I was transferred to SFHQ to manage all of Starfleet's various EMPHA programs. It was a very interesting time for me, and life was going pretty well. I was even deciding whether I would retire or accept a Warrant Officer commission.

Then disaster struck.

After the warp generators were introduced, many of these buoys were refitted to become emergency distress response facilities, capable of traveling to the source of a distress call at warp, assessing the situation on arrival, and powering up to station mode if there were any survivors to support. It wasn't a perfect system, and the situational assessment programs were altered a number of times over the years, but Federation space became the safest place to travel.

The tech didn't change much after that, other than normal tuning and refinement of the design. EMPHAs were installed on all ships large enough to support them, and the design was adapted to construct a number of "buoy stations". These had very little in the way of actual infrastructure - essentially, they were nothing more than EMPHA-equipped standalone replicators, which when powered up would project a repair and resupply station for ships to dock and crews to rest.

So now the EMPHA had all the normal capabilities of a holodeck, but also extremely powerful sensors, and the ability to generate its own distinct warp fields, with enough finesse to warp spacetime itself with discrete information. Each projector was almost as complex, now, as a shuttlecraft, and a fraction of the size.

Speaking of shuttlecraft, soon even short-range craft were fitted with new miniaturized warp engines, letting any craft in the fleet reach warp.

That's what had the warp field mechanics folks so elated. They finally had a very real reason to focus on miniaturization of their favorite technology, beyond even the learning and experimentation versions they'd used in the past. It was about the same as if I were asked to recreate a mobile holographic emitter, without access to the design Voyager had brought back from the past (that was a weird experience). And somehow, they managed to pull it off.

The techniques for building a functional warp system the size of a navigation console had been around since before the NX program. Most of the warp engineers in the fleet had built at least one before they even applied to Starfleet, and all of them had built at least three, of varying designs, by the time they graduated to the fleet proper.

The trouble we faced was twofold. First, these systems weren't near powerful enough. Second, we needed them to fit a volume of two fists.

Normally that wouldn't be a problem – we'd just tap into the ship's warp field generators and use them to generate the desired effects. In this case, though, the level of fine control needed by the EMPHA was enough to actively interfere with the ship's warp systems, possibly even taking them offline. That's unacceptable risk, so each EMPHA projector would need its own field generator, and the power to run it.

The warp field mechanics folks were practically floating for weeks.

But how could we go about actually disrupting the curvature of spacetime itself, in a way both deliberate and temporary? We didn't want to _break_ the Universe doing this, after all.

Well, I'd be lying if I said I understood the full mechanics of it all, even after working with it directly for over 5 years, but it involves gravity and warp fields interacting in just the right way. So, yeah, the EMPHA upgrade needed access to warp field generators.

This was, of course, the true major upgrade. Photons, holomatter, real matter, force fields... All of these things were readily projectable by the existing system. The photons alone allowed us to project the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from simple radio waves up to gamma radiation. Nuclear radiation involves hurling neutrons around, which isn't as easy, but we could adjust the system to allow for it. Sound doesn't operate very well in vacuum, but forcefields handle that.

We needed to be able to pull in very-high-resolution data on the nature of our environment to properly interpret what was being said. So we upgraded the EMPHA's dedicated volumetric sensor components, so the system could pull in that data itself, rather than retasking other critical ship's systems just to communicate.

But we also needed to be able to respond at the same level of coherence, and that meant warping spacetime as part of our simulations.

Then it was back to business as usual.

Aside from being a fun side story, that mission lead directly to the next major enhancement to the EMPHA tech. After proving that our Gamma Quadrant hosts were, indeed, communicating through spacetime distortions, and that we were missing the majority of the content of their messages because we hadn't noticed, the EMPHA specs got an upgrade.

That trip was mostly a win for the linguists and diplomats, though my parents insisted I was integral in helping both teams succeed. They like giving me credit for things even when I'm literally just doing my job, rather than pushing the limits of what my job includes. You know, true accomplishments.

Anyway. We headed back toward home, docking at DS9 for a few days to properly report our results to the local teams, review the raw data in more detail, and so forth.

Before I knew it, our hosts were moving off, our projection was deactivated, and the pressure was off. I sent my team to take a half hour to relax and recover.

For my own part, I first checked that the entire process had been recorded so we could analyze it in more detail later on, making a backup copy just in case, then headed to the nearest porthole to gaze out at the local expanse before we left it again.

After that is mostly a blur, because my team members started reporting in, and I had to bring them up to speed, and then we actually had to get down to work trying to keep up with everything. The computer did pick up on some patterns it could use to smooth things out a bit, which let us relax a bit about some of the details when that happened. But for the most part, we were rushing to keep pace, and to keep our projection intact and communicating clearly.

This whole time, I was still monitoring the numbers closely, trying to spot a pattern the computer might miss, something we could use to make our job easier. That's the only reason I noticed when they suddenly stopped communicating with each other, turning to face us as we approached. We'd been detected, and our hosts had politely quieted to wait for us to arrive.

I talked to the linguistics team about it later on. Even our crude understanding said they'd been discussing us.

While one of the officers contacted the senior staff to alert them of the new data, and what that might mean for our mission here, I contacted my own team, and asked them to come to my station as soon as they were done with their individual tasks. I needed to update them with this information as well, since they'd be helping me keep track of it all and tune all the systems' components accordingly.

This was going to be an interesting test.

The other answer is that I was using some very powerful and very sensitive sensors to observe things at a resolution nobody had previously had any cause to in the past. The resolution needed for navigation is considerably lower than the one I was working at, and beyond nav and structural integrity, there's not much point, generally, to measuring the exact curvature of spacetime in the first place, much less at the level of detail I needed to keep photons behaving properly.

Some folks are probably asking "Well, how did every other team before yours miss these things, if we've been talking for decades?" And that's a good question. The answer has a couple of parts.

First off, I mis-spoke. It wasn't quite _decades_, yet, at the time. It feels like decades to _me_, because of my additional ten years, but at the time, it was closer to a dozen. After all, we haven't actually been _in_ the Gamma Quadrant long enough to be longer than that, yet.

I quickly contacted some of the other teams on board and alerted them to what I'd seen, and the conclusions I'd drawn, so they could try to prepare as well. The linguistics folks were extremely excited, suddenly. Apparently they'd all been under the impression there was something to our hosts' communication methods that we'd been missing, and this could easily be it. We coordinated with the sensor team to ensure the relevant data would also be routed to them.

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