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Archie Phoenix

"Soaring Through Aether"

From climbing endlessly through a barely stitched together tin sail boat to having his body hurtled painlessly at impulse speeds through tubes of light energy, Archie certainly felt as if he’d crossed from one extreme of the technological spectrum right over to the other.


In no way did this belittle his experience at New Atlantis; sailing the Cloud of Pacifica was a thrill in its own charming rustic way, enhanced by both the great danger of that mission and the mystery of the maintenance droids. But the primitive level of the particle sailboat technology afforded Archie a mastery that did little to challenge his Starfleet skillset. Granted there was some initial confusion as to the layout and configuration of the boat’s controls, and there was that unfortunate run-in with the security weapon, but those were symptoms of the scarce amount of time Archie was given to study the ship. Once he got used to the controls, he could operate them without a hitch, and once the presence of the security weapon was revealed to him, he was able to deactivate it with ease. A few scars (made barely noticeable by Doctor Swan) and a bit of derision from Commander Alces were just small signs of his initial struggles.


Aether was an entirely different matter. The technology here, he estimated, was centuries ahead of Federation capabilities. The applications were actually not that far off from Federation standards -- inertial dampening, energy-matter conversion, solar energy collection, and neural interfaces were all utilized by Starfleet. But on Aether, the degree and scope of these applications were almost frightening. This technology was well above Archie’s head, and that posed a challenge and a learning potential that he had not enjoyed since his early years at Starfleet Academy.


As Archie understood it, -everything- on Aether was converted directly from the particles of its binary suns. Well, everything except the people. Life replication was probably out of the Aetherian sphere of mastery; in that regard, at least, the Renazians were their superiors. But everything else was fair game. The homes the people lived in, the light tubes that carried them around the planet, the food they ate, the energy that powered their appliances, the light shows that provided entertainment, and the inertial forces which kept them rooted anywhere they wished were all converted from the solar energy being siphoned directly from the binary stars.


By comparison, a Starfleet replicator struggled with any complex molecular configurations. To build a starship, for instance, Starfleet engineers could only use industrial replicators to produce the raw materials which still needed to be assembled and modified for compatibility. One could not simply construct a giant-sized replicator powered by M/AM reactors, and use it to endlessly pump out complete starships with structurally sound hulls, miles of utility conduits, working warp cores and other such devices, not to mention the smooth vinyl carpeting. Starfleet’s ability to manipulate energy patterns was simply not that refined. The best they could accomplish was tracing the energy pattern of an existing object and only then converting that object to energy and back into matter. This was the idea behind transporters, and even Starfleet’s ability to use those was both restrictive and demanding of the utmost caution.


But the Aetherians, Archie imagined, could draw on one of their solar particle streams and mold the raw energy directly into a starship. Further, he could see the Aetherians using the solar energy to propel said starship at any FTL speed they wished, much like the Bajorans and their particle sail ships, only at far greater speeds and with more precise control. With enough modification, the starship could carry a solar energy power pack which could serve any of the crew’s needs, from simulating gravity, to powering equipment, to mending wounds -- all capabilities of Starfleet technology, only far more customizable and without the need for hundreds of specialized devices that could leave a crew crippled if they ever failed. With his knowledge of biotechnology, Archie likened the Aetherian solar particle to a stem cell -- once cultivated, they could mold it to any purpose they required.


Perhaps even more remarkable was the neural interface technology powering the chair that was carrying Archie, Torre, and Doctor Swan at said impulse speeds. No need for any control panels which were not certain to be designed for a particular user’s ease of operation. Whatever you wanted the device to do, you simply needed to think it, and the device would do it. Starfleet had taken small steps in this direction with their bioneural gelpacks and positronic matrices, but if Starfleet could produce a technology capable of translating thoughts to a machine (and possibly even vice versa), it would already be integrated into their starships.


Of course, the interface, it appeared, was not without its limits. Archie was noticing that the chair kept lurching around in confused circles, taking a left at this light tube junction, then shooting upward, then back downward, then a right and another left, before ending up right back where it took the first left. Archie looked over at his two companions, both wearing their neural caps, and wondered if the chair wasn’t having trouble sorting out three distinct sets of thoughts. Perhaps only one of them should have worn their cap -- a designated thinker. Or perhaps the fact that system was designed for the Aetherian brain was working against it. In a universe of disparate technologies, compatibility was always a universal concern. Could an Aetherian neural scanner make much sense of a Renazian, Cardassian, or a Human brain, let alone all three at the same time?


Archie was trying his best to concentrate on the ‘energy distribution station in corridor TT15.’ But had Torre and Doctor Swan also overheard Captain Lo’Ami’s comm? Were they even sure what these chairs were about and what they were supposed to be doing? Some planning, Archie now realized, might have served this venture well. Was his own mind even doing much good to drive the chair? Perhaps the Aetherians were better than other species at focusing their thoughts well enough for the neural interface to pick up; otherwise why integrate the devices into their society? Try as he might to concentrate, thoughts of Tom Servo and Daena and, consequently, Samantha were still lingering in Archie’s mind.


What if the chair brought the trio somewhere very far away from corridor TT15? Well, wouldn’t that be quite a thrill and quite a challenge to overcome? If Archie’s mind was confusing the neural tram chair, the small part of it that was hoping they did not end up in corridor TT15 might just overload the thing.

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