The Beta Quadrant
Three Years Later
It had been just a little over a year since he had taken the reigns of the USS Lexington
and yet both the ship and crew under his command had already become as familiar as his favorite leather jacket. Not just familiar, they felt right. And more importantly, he felt right. About the ship, about the people who crewed it, about their abilities and their potential. It was as if it was all meant to be.
Robert Wesley had never believed in something as intangible as fate or destiny and yet for some time now he had not been able to shake the feeling that he belonged in that chair on that ship with those exact people around him.
And with that sense it mattered little to him if he was out there exploring a never before seen star system, defending the Federation from belligerent Klingons or carrying out a milk run between far flung outposts and starbases. As long as he was on his ship surrounded by his crew, the universe could throw at him whatever it felt like.
And yet Doctor Bendes Archibald Ketteract had somehow managed to seriously test the limits of this theory, not to mention his patience.
“I’m telling you we have to get closer. A lot closer. We’re not going to find anything but space dust out here,” Ketteract said, repeating a conversation which had played out multiple times over the last three days on the Lexington
“If we get any closer to where you have us go we’ll be right in the Romulans’ backyard. We might as well wave a flag and say here we are, come and take a shot at us,” responded Terrence Lawford in a crisp English accent.
The middle-aged molecular scientist glared at the navigator. “If that’s where my readings take us than that’s where we have to go,” he shot back. “Romulans or no Romulans.”
“Doctor, we all appreciate the importance of your work –“
“I am seriously beginning to question that you do.”
Cutting off the burly Russian first officer had not been a wise decision. “Doctor, I would prefer if you do not interrupt me when I’m speaking,” he shot back.
The scientist visibly flinched at the tone in the Russian’s voice.
The bridge itself fell dead silent except for the soft, almost melodic beeps and blips of the instruments surrounding the crew.
After a moment the chastised Ketteract turned to look towards Wesley, wordlessly imploring him to do or say something after the all so obvious mistreatment he had received at the hands of the people under his command.
Wesley rubbed his temple then looked towards the view screen as if considering where they were and where he had asked them to go. Then he swiveled in his chair to come face to face with the scientist. “I full well know of the importance of your work, Doctor, but I cannot order this ship within close proximity of the Neutral Zone and risk a war with the Romulans in order to satisfy your scientific curiosity.”
Not what he had wanted to hear. He stepped closer. “But Commodore, all the readings we’ve recorded over the last week, all the work we have poured into this project since we’ve been out here have pointed us firmly into one direction. The answers we are looking for are out there,” he said with rising passion quite evident in the tone of his voice as he pointed towards the star field on the viewer.
When it became obvious that he was going to be unable to sway Wesley he turned away in frustration and stepped back up to the elevated platform surrounding the sunken command well. He paced there fore a moment before addressing the commodore again. “Consider for a moment what we have been doing out here all this time. Trying to localize strange and unfamiliar energy readings which have seemingly appeared out of nowhere. An energy signature so significant that Starfleet has deemed it necessary to use the full resources of one of its flagships to investigate them. Are you really willing to go back to Starfleet and tell them that you were unable to find the source of these readings because you were too sacred of where it would lead you?” he said and focused intently on Wesley.
“If it averts intergalactic war,” responded Kuznetsov instead. “You bet.”
Ketteract glared at the Russian but didn’t get a chance to respond as just then the alert beacon in between the navigation and helm station began flashing in an urgent red.
“Report,” barked Kuznetsov.
“Sensors have detected a massive shockwave at two-four-one mark six-eight. It’s coming right towards us,” said Lawford as he manipulated the buttons and dials on his console.
Wesley swivel his chair towards one of the aft stations to find his science officer. “Talana.”
The graceful Andorian woman, dressed in an azure miniskirt uniform which tended to clash with her already naturally blue skin, had already turned towards her sensor hood to get a better reading on what Lawford had discovered. “Not sure what it is yet but it’s coming at us fast. It’ll hit it in less than fifteen seconds.”
“Where the hell did it come from?” the first officer wanted to know.
Wesley punched the ship-wide on his armrest which immediately triggered a whistle to catch the crew’s attention. “All hands prepare for imminent impact with a shockwave.”
On the bridge the order was followed instantly and everyone firmly planted their feet and found something to hold on to in order to avoid being flung across the room.
Ketteract remained rooted in place as if uncertain what exactly he should be doing.
Kuznetsov rolled his eyes and then prompted him to cling tightly to the railing around the command well before doing the same.
“Deflector shields to full. Aliz, try to steer the bow into the wave.”
Ensign Bathory, the young helmswoman, nodded sharply and then attempted to change Lexington
’s orientation before the unknown energy wave would hit the ship.
On the screen the stars disappeared only to be replaced by a wall of angry blue energy which had come out of nowhere and looked as if it would have little trouble to sweep the comparatively tiny ship out of its path.
Then the shockwave hit and as much as they tried, nobody managed to hold on. For just a moment gravity appeared to have reversed itself and every single officer on the bridge was ripped away from their position and flung towards the back of the bridge.
At the same time consoles left and right shorted out or exploded in a shower of hot sparks which rained down onto the unprotected bridge crew, singeing skin and clothes in the process.
Wesley had the wherewithal to catch Aliz Bathory before she went flying past him. She gave him a thankful look as they hung suspended in the air for a moment and he responded with a kind smile.
Then the ship began to right itself again but not nearly fast enough for Wesley’s tastes. He pulled the helmswoman back towards her station until she was able to grab hold of her chair and attend to the flight controls.
She immediately fired the dorsal thrusters allowing the Lexington
to normalize on her flight axis again and within moments the stabilizers and inertia dampeners had compensated as well. Of course by then the shockwave had long passed.
“I think I just threw up in my mouth,” said Ketteract, holding a hand in front of his mouth and the other against his forehead were he had bruised himself.
“Don’t worry, Doctor, you’ll get your space legs yet,” said Kuznetsov before he helped communications officer Cillia Oudekirk back into her chair. “Get medical and damage control teams up here. Then warn any other ships within range.”
The Dutch woman nodded before she tugged down to straighten her uniform dress and then reinserted her earpiece to make the required calls.
In the meantime Wesley was rounding the bridge and helping fallen crewmembers back to their station until he reached Zha’Thara who was already checking her sensors. “What was that thing, Commander?”
“I’m not entirely sure, I’ve never seen anything quite like it but preliminary readings suggest that it carried a similar energy reading as the residual traces we’ve been chasing for the last few days.”
This immediately caught Ketteract’s full attention. His bruises and queasiness forgotten, he practically pushed the Andorian away from her own station. “My God, she’s right. This is it. This is it,” he said with rising euphoria, his eyes completely focused on the sensor readings.
Zha’Thara and Wesley exchanged a telling look before the commodore focused on the scientist again. “Would you mind being more specific, Doctor. This is what, exactly?”
It took him a moment to find the right words to answer him. “It’s what we’ve been looking for. I can’t tell you exactly what we’re dealing with yet. Not with complete certainty. But whatever it is, it is much more powerful than we’ve ever imagined.”
“It’s powerful alright,” said Kuznetsov. “It knocked out our warp engines and G’arv is screaming and yelling up and down engineering. From the sounds of it, it’ll be a couple of hours until we’re back on the move.”
Wesley nodded. “But on the move to where?” he asked and then headed back towards his chair. “Terrence, can you pinpoint where that shockwave originated from?”
Lawford peeked through the sensor hood at his station. He did a double take before turning back to his captain. “You’re not going to like this, sir.”
“Out with it, man,” the first officer said.
“As far as I can tell the shockwave originated 2.3 light years from our present position and inside the Iota Crucis system close to the Romulan Neutral Zone.”
The bridge fell silent again.
A moment later a handful of medics, nurses and damage control officers entered the bridge and began to tend to he injured crew members and damaged systems.
Ketteract clearly couldn’t take it any longer and turned to Wesley. “Commodore, we have to –“
But the veteran Starfleet officer shut the man up with nothing more than a raised hand.
He looked at his first officer and from the Russian’s facial expression he seemed to already suspect what was coming. “Commander, get down to engineering and light whatever fires you have to in order to get our engines up and running again. It looks like we’re heading towards the Romulan border and I’d rather have the ship up to the task for it.”
* * *