Bob Wesley possessed the kind of steely, focused gaze that had led some on Lexington
to believe that he was somehow able to pierce right through the dark void of space on the view screen and determine what lay ahead for him and his crew long before the ship’s sensors were able to pick up on it. The more rational minded officers on the bridge attributed this seemingly uncanny ability to his long experience as a starship commander instead of on any kind of supernatural senses.
And it was exactly that kind of gaze with which he appraised the viewer at the moment. Leaning slightly forward in his high-backed captain’s chair, his elbow resting on the armrest and his hand holding his chin with his eyes seemingly in total focus.
“Ms. Bathory, lower our speed to warp factor four,” he said with no apparent impetus other than perhaps a captain’s intuition.
The young ensign at the helm reacted quickly. “Slowing down to warp factor four,” she said and manipulated her board to decelerate the six hundred thousand metric ton Constitution
-class starship. Not a moment later the deck plates began to hum slightly as the ship slowed.
Ketteract uttered a not so subtle moan at Wesley’s decision to put on the brakes. As far as he was concerned it was yet another unnecessary delay to getting him closer to perhaps one of the most significant scientific discovery of the decade.
Kuznetsov, who had more than earned himself the nickname the Bear over his Starfleet career shot the impatient scientist a stern look, letting him know that his input was neither required nor appreciated. Then he turned towards the science console. “Commander, what do we know about this sector of space?”
Having expected this line of inquiry ever since they had started out on their present course, the Andorian science officer was well prepared. “Beyond Starbase 10, the Gamma Hydra sector is very sparsely populated. There are a limited number of class-M planets in the region and the vicinity to the Romulan Neutral Zone is not exactly a driver for colonization. It is also the home of GRS 2127-341, a former star system containing one of the largest known black holes in the quadrant,” she said and pressed a number of buttons, activating one of her overheard screens to display an angry mass of pitch blackness, perfectly spherical it absorbed every ray of light that came in contact with it. The effect was so complete, it appeared as if somebody had ripped a piece right out of the cosmos. “The Iota Crucis system, our destination, is less than one light year from GRS 2127-341 which means we may soon be exposed to its gravitational effects.”
The Bear looked at the dark mass on the screen with a concerned look. “What kind of effects are we talking about here exactly?”
“Our ride might become a little bumpy but otherwise we should be fine,” she said.
“Deflectors to full,” Wesley ordered.
“Aye, deflectors to full,” Lawford said. “I am now reading disturbances in subspace directly within our flight path.”
The science officer checked her sensors and her face quickly turned into a frown before she began to shake her head. “Something isn’t right, this doesn’t look like –“
And then Lexington
hit a sandbank.
Or at least that was what it felt like for the crew as the bridge suddenly pitched forward without warning. It wasn’t quite as bad as the shockwave hours earlier but it was enough to nearly throw the unprepared Ketteract over the railing and force everyone else to hold on for dear life.
“Bozhe moi!” the first officer swore after the deck had righted itself once more and then shot the science officer a dark look. “A little more bumpy? Are you serious?”
“Somebody … somebody needs to install seatbelts on the bridge,” Ketteract moaned as he picked himself up from the floor, his face looked pale as if he was about to get sick again.
Zha’Thara was back at her station in a flash. “This is not gravitational disturbance caused by the black hole,” she said. “This is …” she didn’t appear to have immediate words for it.
Wesley focused in on his helmswoman and navigator who needed a second longer to get back into their seats. “Status?”
“Whatever we just hit,” said Bathory. “It threw us clean out of warp. If we had hit this thing at full speed and without deflectors ...”
“They’d scrub us off the bulkheads,” finished Lawford for her and gave her a knowing look before he turned to face the commodore, wordlessly thanking him for his foresight.
Wesley toggled the armrest imbedded communicator. “Bridge to engineering. Damage report.”
“What in the name of all the harlots in Orion’s Belt are you people doing up there? If you are so determined to destroy my engines, why don’t you come down here and shred them to pieces with a phaser. It would get ya the same results.”
“I assure you Commander, we’re not trying to destroy your engines on purpose. Now take a deep breath and tell me how things look down there,” said Wesley, having long since gotten used to the unique Tellarite temperament, he had expected this kind of outburst and took it in stride.
The momentarily silence over the channel gave proof that Wesley’s words had been taken to heart. “We got some blown conduits and a minor coolant leak down here from the sudden stress you put on my engines. If you had a complete imbecile as a chief engineer you’d probably look at a warp core breach within the next few minutes. Fortunately for you I know what I’m doing. Jury still out on the rest of my people though,”
he said and then followed this up with a few choice shouts directed at an unlucky engineer who apparently wasn’t moving as fast as he would have liked.
“Sounds to me like you’ve got a handle on your people just fine. When can I get engines back?”
“If you stop wasting my time with pointless chitchat, I’d say within forty-five minutes.”
“Consider our chitchat stopped. Wesley out,” he said and closed the channel.
“Sir, even once we get engines back, I don’t think we can risk going any faster than warp factor three. Maybe three point four but any faster and we might see a repeat of what just happened,” the navigator explained.
The commodore nodded. “And I certainly don’t need G’arv to yell at me twice in one day. We’ll take it slow,” he said and swiveled around towards Zha’Thara. “So if this wasn’t gravitational disturbances from the black hole, what exactly did we hit?”
The Andorian took a step towards the railing. “The best I can tell is that the entire area of subspace around us has been severely damaged. The energy readings I’m getting are similar to what we registered when we were hit by that shockwave.”
“You say the shockwave did this?” the Bear asked.
“I can’t tell for certain but we have to assume it is connected.”
This piqued Ketteract’s interest who quickly attended the science station to help himself to the sensor read-outs uninvited. “This is amazing,” he said, mostly to himself as he peered through the sensor hood. “This is truly amazing. The energy levels required to cause such a corruption to subspace would be nearly immeasurable.”
Wesley ignored the scientist and focused on the Andorian instead who appeared at least mildly peeved at the man hijacking her instruments. “Commander, do we still believe that the shockwave originated from the Iota Crucis system?”
“Without doubt, sir. And from what I can tell the subspace damage practically surrounds that system. Whatever caused it, it came from there.”