Maya Donners slipped into the main science lab almost entirely unnoticed. Mostly because the team inside was hard at work and focused entirely on the task at hand.
“Where are we with that positive identification?” asked Wayne Daystrom as he worked at the master control station set up at the center of the lab.
“Still having difficulties with the interference from the nebula,” responded one of the crewmembers at the opposite end of the room. “Energy transfer to EM flux sensor array only increased resolution point six percent.”
“That’s below the required threshold to compensate for radiation distortion,” said A.J. Elborough, an attractive, dark-haired ensign, as she walked from one station to the next, making seemingly minute changes to each as she went along.
“Should we bring thermal imaging online?” asked a Trill petty officer, looking up from a padd. Maya couldn’t remember his name.
Daystrom shook his head. “Not going to help on a class nine dichromatic nebula with this level of gravimetric distortions,” he said. “Come on people, the bridge needs to know who is using it as a hiding place. We need ideas,” he added without ever looking up.
“Still looks like a Cardassian Galor
-class to me,” said the Elborough.
“In that soup? It would have lost structural integrity within minutes,” responded the Trill.
“It could be using metaphasic shielding,” the ensign shot back.
Daystrom looked up. “Can we get some more hard evidence before we jump to conclusions, please? How do we stand with the gamma ray telescope?”
Artoss, an Efrosian ensign, manning one of the wall station took this one. “No joy with the current power allocation.”
“Ask ops to prioritize the telescope. In the meantime we have to find another toy to get what we need,” said Daystrom and attended to the master control station again. “Narrow-angle EM?”
“That could work,” the Trill said quickly and then began to frantically input commands into his padd. “Can we get the ship to adjust our orientation by twelve degrees.”
Daystrom quickly put in the request to the helm station on the bridge.
“Got it,” said Artoss. “Narrow-angle has a lock on our bogey.”
Daystrom nodded along. “Re-route all power we’ve got allocated to the long range sensors package to the narrow-angle EM scanner. I want it at 110 percent.”
Elborough stepped up to another station and then smiled. “We now have 113 percent on the narrow-angle.”
“Analysis going through the computer now,” said the Trill petty officer with clear anticipation in his voice.
All the science personnel in the room turned to look at their respective monitors, eager to learn what their efforts had yielded. The comely ensign was the first to share. “Definitely Cardassian,” she said with palpable excitement. “Heavy cruiser, Keldon
-class,” she continued. “Employing rotating, paratrinic shielding.”
“Confirmed,” said the petty officer. “Computer has it at 98 percent certainty.”
Artoss shook his head. “That’s pretty advanced stuff for a Cardassian ship, no wonder we didn’t get a positive ID sooner.”
“Attention all hands, stand down from red alert. I say again, stand down from red alert,”
the voice of Senior Chief Shane Holladay echoed from the overhead speakers. “This concludes this exercise. Response times to follow: Damage control team one: two minutes, twelve seconds. Damage control team two: two minutes, eighteen seconds. Damage control team three …”
The science team listened carefully until he announced their response time at two minutes and forty-eight seconds.
Ensign Elborough proudly smiled at that. “We shaved off twelve seconds from the last drill,” she said proudly.
Daystrom was clearly less excited. “We can do better next time,” he said to the room. “Just because a Cardassian ship with paratrinic shielding is unlikely, doesn’t mean we should count it out. We have to expect the unexpected every time.”
The science crew slowly nodded along in assent.
“I for one am very impressed,” Maya said and stepped away from the bulkhead were she had observed the science team from. “That was a good job, people. Good lateral thinking by everyone.”
“Captain?” Daystrom said and quickly stiffened, not having realized until now that she had been in the room.
The rest of the twelve-man team in the lab also turned towards her and stood at attention.
Maya smirked at that inwardly. This behavior was to be expected from a fresh and inexperienced crew which for the most part had only just passed the Academy or basic training a few weeks ago. “At ease, folks,” she said quickly. “Why don’t you go and catch a break after a job well done?” she said and then looked at Daystrom. “If that is alright with you of course, Lieutenant.”
The young officer seemed momentarily dumbfounded by the captain deferring to him but then quickly nodded when he realized that everyone was awaiting his decision. “Yes, of course. By all means. We’ll have a review session at … eh … 1400 hours.”
Most of the crewmembers presumably not on shift duty cleared out the lab.
“The rest of you,” said Maya, “would you mind giving the Lieutenant and me the room?”
It was phrased as a question only for decorum’s sake and the remaining crewmembers understood this and promptly cleared the lab.
Once they were alone Maya focused on the broad-shouldered science officer. “I wasn’t just trying to be nice earlier,” she said. “I really did think you did a good job and it reflects on your leadership skills that you have been able to get this kind of performance out of your department.”
“Thank you, sir. And I still think that we can do even better.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” she said and then glanced towards the ceiling. “Computer, seal this room. Re-establish access only on my authorization code.”
The computer chirped promptly in acknowledgment. “Science lab one is now sealed.”
The junior lieutenant shot Donners a perplexed look. “Captain?”
“I debated for a long time with myself if I should let you in on this or not, Wayne and just to be clear, I’m probably in violation of a handful of Starfleet regulations by doing this, but I decided that the stakes are too high as not to clue in the one person on this ship who may be able to assist me with what we’ll have to do.”
Daystrom’s expression turned even more puzzled.
“What I’m about to show you is for your eyes only and you are not to discuss this with any member of this crew, or in fact any other person period. Is that clear?”
He nodded sharply. “Absolutely, sir.”
She raised a padd she had brought with her and quickly established a secure interface with the science lab computer. Within moments the main display showed a computer simulation of a bright blue microscopic molecule blown up a hundred-fold and consisting of thousands of even smaller particles all working in perfect symmetry to make up the whole.
Daystrom rose from his chair upon seeing this. “The Silentium Particle? That’s impossible.”
It was Maya’s turned to aim a perplexed look at the man. “The what
But the young scientist seemed too engrossed in studying the computer simulation to pay much attention to the captain.
“Silentium,” he repeated without being able to tear away his gaze from the screen. “It’s what I called this.”
Maya considered this for a moment. “That’s Latin for what? Silence?”
He nodded absent-mindedly. “Among other things. In a religious sense it can also mean perfection which in a way this is exactly what it is. Perfection. Endlessly powerful and endlessly flawless.”
“Wait a minute,” she said. “You’re telling me you are familiar with this molecule already?”
He turned to face her for the first time since having been shown the simulation, his facial expressions once more as quizzical as before. “Of course. Isn’t that the reason you’re showing me this?”
“Lieutenant, I’m showing you this because our mission is to locate this molecule and because I will require your help with that task. I have been told that nobody in the Federation is aware of its existence other than Starfleet officers of captain’s grade and above, as well as a few high-ranking officials. Why don’t you start telling me how you’ve learned of it?”
“I practically discovered it,” he said. “Or at least I thought I did.”
“Go on,” she said and taking a seat when she felt a story coming on.
She was not to be disappointed. He took a deep breath before starting and it was obvious to her that this was not an easy thing for him to share. Whatever his history with the Omega Molecule had been, it seemed already apparent that it had been a painful one for him. “I came across the theory by pure accident really. I spent most of my early days at the Academy theorizing on a new power source for starship engines like many science and engineering cadets are wont to. I suppose my edge was that I had thousands of pages of notes from my great-grandfather to study. Mostly unpublished work and much of it either entirely outside my understanding or quite possibly nonsensical ramblings of a man slowly losing his grip on reality.
Either way I did find documents speculating on the existence of a super-particle of sorts which not only could yield nearly infinite power but may also have been a possible linchpin to the creation of the universe itself. He called this silentium on the account of its religious implications.
I simply took his notes and findings to its logical conclusion and by my third year at the Academy I was ready to unveil these incredible findings as part of my thesis. I really thought I had re-invented the wheel in those days and I was close to dedicated my entire professional life to the pursuit of this new particle.”
She sensed what was coming next. “I take it the Academy staff didn’t take to well to your research.”
His facial expressions twisted into an ugly frown, giving proof that he still harbored quite a bit of anger on the subject. “That’s putting it mildly. I was completely shutdown. Nobody wanted to even look at what I had done. I was called in front of the Academy commandant who threatened me with expulsion and criminal charges if I didn’t discontinue my research immediately. The following day my work had been erased from every computer station on campus. Worse, even my personal computer had been wiped clean. I tried to appeal to various civilian and Starfleet authorities but it was made clear to me in no uncertain terms that I would lose on grounds of national security.
I was outraged, Captain. This could have been my life’s work; my legacy and they simply pretended it didn’t even exist. It took me a long time to get over that. Ultimately my fear of ending up like my great-grandfather convinced me to stop obsessing over it and to try finding a new calling,” he said and then looked back at the screen. “But I was never able to completely forget about silentium.”
Donners uttered a sigh as she considered the young scientist as he was once more enthralled by the particle on the screen. She had hated the notion of Starfleet trying to suppress the existence of this molecule from the moment she had learned of this practice. Now her worst fears had come true. How many more enterprising scientists had been intimidated and forced to abandon their work because the Federation had been too afraid of its results? Considering the unique manner in which Daystrom had been able to discover it, she truly hoped that it hadn’t been many. But wasn’t one too many already?
“They call it the Omega Molecule,” she said and Daystrom immediately whipped around to face her. “Starfleet has been aware of its existence for over a century. And you were right,” she said. “It is currently considered to be the most powerful force in existence.”
The science officer stood, seemingly unsure how to digest this new information. “You are telling me that Starfleet knew about this all along and they just decided to destroy my own work? Why?”
She tried to make eye contact with him, not able to miss the anger that was beginning to build up there. “The simple answer, Wayne, is that they are afraid of what could happen if its power is unleashed. Omega is extremely difficult to synthesize and even harder to contain. If only one –“
“This is outrageous,” he barked, momentarily forgetting whom he was speaking to. “It’s censorship of the most ignorant kind. One stemming from fear and narrow-mindedness. It’s not what the Federation stands for and it cannot be allowed.”
“Lieutenant, I appreciate that this is not easy for you to hear and I’m truly sorry about your experiences at the Academy but we are Starfleet officers and sometimes that means that we have to follow orders for the greater good even if we do not like them.”
“This,” he said and pointed at the screen with the Omega Molecule, “is the greater good. And Starfleet suppresses its knowledge because they are afraid of changing the status quo? Those are medieval tactics designed to stem progress. This could usher in a new era for the entire galaxy.”
“I’m not going to sit here and argue Federation policy with you, Wayne. I have my own objections to the way this has been handled but for now we do not have a choice in this matter but follow our orders and locate and destroy the Omega Molecule.”
“Destroy it?” he said, now nearly being driven to tears. “You cannot be serious.”
Maya rubbed her forehead for a moment and then looked him back in the eye. “Consider this,” she said. “What if we were talking not about a molecule of immense power but say a biological research facility, designed to genetically engineer a new kind of superior species designed to replace the human race. That too is scientific research and those who dabble in it would argue that it would usher in a new era as well. Would you make the decision to leave this facility alone and let those scientists get on with their work or would you take action?”
Daystrom visibly calmed himself, but not by much. Just enough to sit back down in his chair. “Why does it always have to be the Eugenics War analogy?”
“Because it is the best example we have of certain sciences having to be monitored and controlled for the greater good,” she shot back. “Because humanity once paid a heavy price for letting science and progress go unchecked.”
“But who makes that determination, Captain?”
She stood and stepped closer to him. “Neither you or I, Wayne, that’s all I can say about that. For now, I need to know if I can rely on you to help me with this mission. We are heading towards an area of space were we have discovered the presence of the Omega Molecule and my orders are to destroy it at any cost. I don’t like those orders but I understand why I must follow them. And now that I know about your unique history with this molecule, I’m convinced I’ll need your help more than ever to be able to do that.”
She paused and looked him over even as he refused to make eye contact with her.
“I cannot and will not order you to assist me,” she said. “In fact, I can relieve you of duty for the duration of this mission citing personal reasons if you so wish. I’ll even ensure that it will not negatively affect your record. But I need to know now if you will help me or if you won’t.”
He looked up at her very slowly and the expression in his eyes was a pained one. Maya sympathized. Here was a man with an almost impossibly large legacy to follow up on. He’d had been given a chance to distinguish himself from his famous forbearer but had been shut down for no fault of his own and now he had been asked to help destroy what he had once hoped would become his own legacy.
“I am my own man with my own path,” he finally said.
Maya’s expression turned quizzical.
He managed a small and humorless smile. “That’s what you told me, isn’t it? And you were right. My path is to be the chief science officer of the starship Agamemnon
. Consequently I will do whatever is within my power to help you achieve our mission.”