During his sixteen year Starfleet career Arden Texx had come across a great many fellow officers who had cared little for his relaxed outlook on life and duty. In fact many had doubted that his attitude would serve him well and that he would ever achieve much of anything in his career, that he would even make it past lieutenant someday.
What these people failed to realize however was that regardless of his seemingly laid back attitude, Texx took his duty very seriously. What they didn’t know was that while he was out having fun during the day, joking around and seemingly letting nothing bother him on the outside, he worked twice as hard during the night, studying for tests and reading up on much more than the required texts.
It was a work ethic he had inherited from a large Bolian family in which very little was disallowed or off limits as long as you studied hard and brought home good grades.
He had put his doubters in their place when he had made Lieutenant Commander and was assigned as Agememnon’s
first officer at just 34, knowing full well that the brass at Starfleet Command tended to look at an officer’s record and accomplishments and care a lot less about their personality.
“So let me get this straight,” said Texx, casually leaning against a bridge aft-station as he watched First Lieutenant Beatiar sh’Fane working at tactical. “In order to get one over on our prickly chief of security you have pulled strings behind his back to switch gamma shift with the duty officer so you can brush up on your tactical operations skills.”
The Andorian shot the man a displeased look. “I am not attempting to ‘get-one-over’ on anybody,” she said sharply. “It is part of my mission on this ship to familiarize myself with all tactical and security systems in case my team or I are required to assist during an emergency.”
“Right,” he said and then stepped up to the tactical station and next to her. “It just so happens that Lure isn’t aware that you are playing at his station tonight.”
She took a deep breath. “Marines don’t play, sir.”
“They just take over somebody else’s station without permission.”
Sh’Fane took a step back from the console and stood at attention. “I wasn’t aware I required permission, sir. If you wish me to cease my efforts I will do so at once.”
“Whoa, easy there, Beat. Didn’t mean to stop your efforts.”
“Beg your pardon?”
She gave him a sidelong glance. “I would prefer if you addressed me as Lieutenant. Or First Lieutenant if you wish to be precise.”
“I kinda like Be-a-tiar
, it’s a really pretty name,” he said with a smirk.
She kept those intense emerald-colored eyes zeroed in him but didn’t move a muscle.
Texx raised his arms in surrender. “Lieutenant it is then. Please,” he said and pointed at the tactical station. “Don’t let me stop you.”
She promptly stepped back up to the console and continued to work on it.
“And I can assume that you know what you’re doing there, right?”
The Marine responded without looking up. “I had rudimentary training in starship tactical operations at Marines Command Academy on Andor. However if you have concerns about my abilities, Ensign Goodfeather is available to take over at a moment’s notice.”
Texx looked around to notice the young tactical officer standing close by. Otherwise there were only two other officers on the bridge, manning operations and the helm respectively. Not at all unusual during the graveyard shift.
“I see. And I take it that the fact that you decided to come up here and dabble in Mister Mer’iab’s domain has little to do with your ongoing feud with our security chief.”
At that she did look up. “Marines do not feud, sir.”
“Right. Other than in combat, perhaps?”
“We engage in combat in order to achieve an overall objective as outlined by our commanding officers. It has nothing to do with feuding,” she said before returning her attention to the tactical station in an attempt to discourage further conversation on the subject or any other for that matter.
It was a hopeless effort. “I stand corrected,” he said. “Marines do everything on purpose, properly and without fail. Semper Fi and all that.”
“That is correct, sir.”
He smirked at that. “I find that fascinating.”
Sh’Fane suppressed a sigh but wasn’t quite able to keep a frown off her face.
Texx pretended not to notice. “I’d love to learn more about Marines. I’ve always found the whole concept interesting. Perhaps we could discuss it further at some point. Like, I don’t know, perhaps over dinner?”
“Marines do not –“
“Have dinner? I find that hard to believe,” he interrupted. “You have to eat sometime.”
She looked up at him. “Sir, am I right in assuming that you are attempting to fraternize with me, possibly suggesting some sort of romantic episode?”
Texx grin widened. “I usually start with dinner and then see where it leads.”
“With all due respect, sir, I find this highly inappropriate behavior.”
“No, that comes later.”
The look on the Marine’s face was cold as stone, her eyes practically drilling themselves through the Bolian first officer. Texx had no doubt that this death stare was meant to intimidate those poor souls under her command who had failed to perform to her expectations. It didn’t quite work on him though.
“Cross a line?” he asked innocently.
She nodded in response.
“I apologize, Lieutenant,” Texx said, sounding surprisingly formal this time.
“I’m willing to overlook it, sir, if you do not bring it up again,” she said and went back to her station.
If she had been holding out hope that Texx would finally drop the entire conversation and move on, she was to be disappointed once more.
“I have to say though,” he said, not looking at anyone as he spoke. “You are a little bit stiff, aren’t you? Even for a Marine, I mean,” he added and the turned to look at her again. “I say this because my sister is in the Marines and she can be a real riot if she wants to be. Cuts loose like the best of them.”
Sh’Fane rolled her eyes. “Your sisters’ behavior is her concern.”
“I’m just saying that –“
The tactical board peeped urgently, startling both sh’Fane and Texx.
“What is it?” the first officer asked.
The Andorian looked puzzled herself as she worked the station with little success. “I am not certain, sir. Something just happened and it locked me out of the system. Then this symbol popped up.”
He looked over her shoulder to see the blue character on the tactical board which resembled a broken up O with sharp edges turned outwards. “That’s an old Earth letter, I believe.”
“It’s not just the tactical station, either.”
Texx looked up and realized she was right. The symbol was now showing on a number of stations all over the bridge.
The gamma shift helmsman had turned from his station with puzzlement and looked at the first officer. “Sir, we’ve dropped out of warp. I cannot explain why.”
“What’s happening here?” Sh’Fane asked but not addressing anyone in particular.
“I take it this wasn’t covered at Marines Command School?”
Sh’Fane shook hear head.
“It didn’t come up at the Academy either,” he said. “Unless I was sick that day,” he added and then tried to enter a few commands into the tactical station himself with little success. “ If I had to guess, I’d say the ship is trying to tell us something.”
“Tell us what, sir?”
Texx shrugged. “Helm, can you override?”
The crewmember turned back to his station. “I have access to basic ship systems but not much more. Warp drive and impulse is locked down.”
“Bridge to engineering,” said Texx.
“This is Ensign Saarik, please go ahead bridge,”
the voice of a female Vulcan officer responded promptly.
“This is Texx speaking. Ah, we’ve got a little bit of a problem up here with our instruments. Anything out of the ordinary down there with you guys?”
“All systems are operating within required parameters, sir. We have registered an unscheduled warp shut down command from the bridge approximately twenty-two seconds ago.”
Texx aimed a quick look at the helmsman who immediately shook his head, making it clear that he had entered no such command.
“How about your screens?” he asked.
There was a momentary delay in the young woman’s response and Texx had a good idea why.
“Sir, could you be more specific?”
“You seen any out of place lettering of any kind? Odd shapes perhaps?”
“The computer screens appear to be operating normally, sir. If you wish I can carry out a visual inspection of every monitor within main engineering. However a level four diagnostic should be more efficient,”
she said, doing a decent job of keeping any irritation out of her carefully modulated voice.
“Go ahead and run that diagnostic, Ensign. Bridge out.”
“Just us then,” said sh’Fane.
He nodded. “It would appear that way.”
The turbolift doors opened to allow Amaya Donners to enter. She clearly had gotten out of bed in a hurry, wearing her uniform pants with only a gray tank top. Her long dark and curly hair had only received the most cursory treatment and her eyes still looked tired.
“Captain on the bridge,” sh’Fane barked and standing at immediate attention, causing both Donners and Texx to flinch noticeably.
Donners immediately shot the Marine an annoyed look. “Way too early for that,” she said. “And let me be clear right out of the gate, Lieutenant. Please, just don’t do that ever again.”
She nodded sharply and relaxed her posture.
Texx turned to Donners with a smirk on his face. “Morning, Cap. As you can see, we’ve got a bit of a mystery here. Didn’t mean to call you up just yet. How did you hear?”
“Computer woke me,” she said and then looked around the bridge, taking note of the same symbols she had seen in her quarters after being urgently woken by an automated message.
“Any idea what this is?” he asked.
“Last letter of the Greek alphabet,” she said. “Omega.”
“Some sort of design flaw?” asked sh’Fane.
She shook her head. “No, something else,” she said and stepped up to the tactical station and entered her command code. The computer immediately released the console again and unlocked all the other bridge stations as well. The Omega symbols disappeared to be replaced once more by the default screen output.
“Well that’s a neat trick,” Texx said. “What’s this about?”
“I honestly haven’t got a clue,” she said just before the tactical board beeped again, this time with the telltale sound of an incoming message.
Sh’Fane quickly attended to it. “Ma’am, we’re being hailed by Deep Space Five on a high priority and secure channel. Admiral Glover. For your eyes only.”
“Looks like you’re about to get some answers,” said Texx.
Donners nodded. “Pipe it through to my ready room.”
Moments latter Agamemnon’s
newly appointed captain sat behind her desk, looking at the surprisingly grim visage of her former commanding officer of four years.
Perhaps his mood wasn’t entirely surprising considering that he looked about as tired as she did and Maya was certain that he had been roused as unceremoniously as she had a few minutes earlier.
“Admiral,” she said.
“Maya, I’m sorry to have to kick you out of bed like this but we have a situation that requires your immediate attention,”
he said with little preamble.
“I’m going out on a limb here and assume this is related to the Omega symbols popping up all over my bridge,” she said with a little smirk.
It helped lighten the mood and Glover’s serious visage cracked slightly. “Excellent guess, Captain,”
he said and then uttered a heavy sigh. “This is not something I would have hoped to happen to you on your first week on the job but sadly we don’t always get to choose our assignments.”
“Comes with the territory.”
He nodded. “Agamemnon’s sensors have detected the Omega Molecule in close proximity to your vessel, automatically initiating the Omega Directive which now supersedes all other orders.”
The blank look on Donners’ face showed that she had little idea what the admiral was talking about.
“I know, I know,”
he said. “There hasn’t been enough time yet to fully brief you on this so let me give you the rundown. I’m also transmitting to you everything you need to know about Omega for you to review afterwards. In a nutshell, the Omega Molecule is one of Starfleet’s dirty little secrets that we don’t want anybody else to know about because, quite frankly, the powers that be are too scared of what could happen if its existence would become public knowledge.”
Maya frowned. “We are suppressing scientific knowledge?” she asked. “Does the Council know about this?”
“Every last member? I sincerely doubt that. But the directive itself has been signed off at the highest levels of the administration and Starfleet Command. Maya, I’m not going to discuss with you the social or political implications of this directive because trust me, I have had this conversation more times than I would care for and it usually goes nowhere. Starfleet has zero tolerance when it comes to Omega. They’ll tell you to follow the orders and shut up or kiss your Starfleet career goodbye,”
he said. “I’m paraphrasing.”
She took a deep breath, not quite having expected something like this so soon in her captaincy. Maya had never had any illusions that there weren’t a great number of things she had never been privy to before joining the exclusive club of starship command but this sounded radical even to her ears.
“OK, fair enough. I’m going to be a good captain and not challenge the status quo,” she said. “Now, mind telling me what Omega is and what this directive is all about?”
“In short, the Omega Molecule is the most powerful substance known to exist. I’m not going to bore you with the details, you can read up on it in your own time. Sufficient to say that it is also extremely unstable and in all likelihood will trigger a catastrophe of galactic proportions if not immediately contained,”
he said grimly.
“The end of the universe as we know it?” she said with a smirk.
Glover was not amused and she quickly wiped that grin off her face.
“That bad, huh?”
he said. “The Omega Molecule could wipe-out subspace over the entire quadrant and beyond and do untold damage to regular space just as a side-effect. Every attempt to synthesize the molecule and contain it have failed. Needless to say, if anyone is trying to do so again, we need to shut them down now.”
Amaya didn’t look entirely convinced even as she still tried to grasp the awesome destructive power of this molecule which hitherto she had never even heard of before.
“I appreciate that this is a lot for you to take in but as you may have realized, time is not something we have in great abundance. Starfleet Command has already been made aware of this situation and the
Volta, – a specialist vessel crewed with a team trained to handle an Omega Molecule detection – is being sent out as we speak to deal with this,” he said and looked at a padd which he kept next to his computer. “But judging from Agamemnon’s sensor reports, you are the closest ship to the source of these readings. I’ve already diverted
Cuffe to assist you but Terrence won’t get there for another forty-eight hours or so. I need you to set course to the Iota Crucis system at maximum warp and contain the situation to the best of your abilities until reinforcements arrive.”
“And what exactly does contain the situation mean?”
“It means that you are authorized to use whatever means necessary to locate and destroy anything that resembles the Omega Molecule or could be used to synthesize it. Let me be absolutely clear on this, Maya. During the course of this mission, the Omega Directive supersedes every other directive in the book. Without exception.”
“Jesus Christ, Sam.”
He nodded, letting her verbal faux pas slide. “As I said, Starfleet is not kidding around with this. And again, I’m sorry it had to be you.”
Maya took another deep breath, trying to process everything she had learned so far. “Alright,” she finally said. “I take it the information you’re sending me contains everything my crew and I need to know on how to destroy these molecules.”
he said. “But you cannot share any of this with anyone else including members of your crew. This is strictly captains-only. No one below your position is authorized to be briefed on Omega.”
“You cannot be serious,” she said. “How do you expect me to handle this if I cannot bring my crew on board?”
Samson Glover’s facial expression was clearly pained. “I know this isn’t going to be easy but all I can tell you is that the Omega Directive is very clear on this. Whatever you do, you cannot talk to your crew about any of this. I’m sorry. You will have to find a way to handle this by yourself and have your people support you without knowing the why or the what. I’d be lying if I said that this was going to be easy, especially with a crew you haven’t even had a chance to get to know properly as of yet but there isn’t any other choice.”
She was speechless.
“Just do what you can until Terrence gets there. Then you can team up and tackle this together. Please be careful and good luck. Glover out.”
And with that his face disappeared from the screen, leaving Amaya Donners to stare at a blank computer monitor.
She let her glance wander around the still mostly empty and undecorated ready room, realizing that she had never felt this alone in her entire life.