“Hard to believe that Starfleet has been able to keep this a secret for over 100 years,” said Vej after Maya had briefed her senior staff on exactly what they were up against.
It had not been an easy decision to make and in truth she hated the idea that her first significant command decision after receiving her captaincy had been to violate her orders.
She blamed her counselor. After all it had been after one of her regular session with Vej and following his advice to study Commodore’s Wesley’s classified logs of his own encounter with the Omega Molecule, that she had started to believe that she had no choice but to bring in the rest of her senior staff.
Maya aimed a pointed look at the Ulian who sat to her immediate left in Agamemnon
’s spacious observation lounge, after he had been the first to speak up. Vej’s inclusion in this meeting could have been seen as an especially grievous disregard of the Omega Directive considering that he wasn’t even a Starfleet officer. As far as she was concerned, she valued his opinion the most.
He understood the look for what it was. “A secret which naturally shall remain absolutely safe with me,” he continued.
She nodded and turned to the rest of her crew, most of which were still focusing on the wall-mounted screen which showed as much information about Omega as Amaya had been comfortable sharing with her crew and she hadn’t held back much. After all if she needed her crews help in dealing with this, there was little point in keeping them ignorant of what Omega was or what it could do.
Judging by their faces, they were all astonished of learning of this immeasurably powerful particle’s existence.
Chen, who Maya noted had chosen a seat next to their Xenarth guest, seemed especially interested in learning about this new power source which was hardly a surprise considering his profession. “The practical applications of a stabilized Omega molecules must be close to infinite,” he said as he mandibles clicking excitingly. “It could revolutionize the way we power our starship, our planets and open up possibilities we’ve never even thought off before.”
“Its power is unquestionable,” said Queen Ket. “My people used it to travel many thousands of light-years in a mere instant.”
Most eyes in the room focused on the Xenarth with amazement.
“How is that possible?” asked Doctor Sessar-Rass
“We call it the Heaven’s Portal,” she said. “Forgive me for I cannot provide you with a technical explanation as to its operation but the device, along with this power source were the means with which we came to be on New Xenarth.”
“Astonishing,” said Allenby. “I’ve heard of the Iconian gateways but I suppose this puts even that technology to shame.”
If Lure Mer’iab’s was as excited by these revelations as the rest of the senior staff, he did a good job at hiding it behind his stern, avian visage. “What about military applications? Weaponizing this molecule could make any power in the quadrant unstoppable.”
“Until your enemies get their hands on it,” said Sh’Fane who sat at the opposite side of the room, no doubt on purpose. “Then what you get is a war of attrition with collateral damage in epic proportions.”
The security chief nodded his head without gracing the marine with a look. “Not necessarily. With two or more nations in possession of weapons of this magnitude, it could result in a balance of power in which the mere presence of such weapons creates a mutual deterrent for war.”
“Right,” she said sarcastically. “And that’s a good thing because?”
The avian noticeably ruffled his feathers in a sign of annoyance before glancing her way. “I did not say that this was a preferable outcome but simply a possibility,” he said and then focused on the captain. “My tactical assessment is that the mere existence of such a weapon would pose a great threat to galactic security and stability.”
All eyes turned towards Wayne Daystrom but the sudden attention did not seem to bother the young and barrel-chested science officer. “And I think it is a mistake to allow ourselves to merely think of the dangers of a new discovery and let that determine our entire approach to it. There is no doubt the Omega molecule can be dangerous but at the same time it can be so incredibly valuable that we cannot allow our fears to blind us to its incredible potential. Starfleet has kept this a secret for a hundred years but no matter how hard you try to keep something hidden, we all know it will come to light eventually. Why not reveal this now? In a controlled manner and on our terms. As Commander Chen has pointed out, the potential of what this could mean to the Federation, the entire galaxy even, is staggering.”
Maya had worried about precisely this. Daystrom, by now, had had plenty of time to give the matter further thought, and considering his history with Omega and his own reservations which he had raised when she had first approached him, it came as little surprise that he would try again, this time with an audience. Of course there was no doubt in her mind that his carefully rehearsed speech had been addressed at her while trying to pick up supporters in the senior staff.
“Lieutenant, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss Federation policy,” said Texx. “Even if we wanted to, we are not in a position to influence Starfleet’s strategy on this Omega molecule.”
Maya was about to jump in to fully agree with her first officer when Daystrom beat her to it. “Why not? How else do you change something that is so blatantly wrong? You have to start somewhere and it might as well be here,” he said, his voice beginning to reflect the passion he felt for this issue. “And surely Starfleet listens to their captains,” he said and then focused in on Donners at the head of the conference table. “If you were to tell them –“
She interrupted him. “Let me stop you there, Wayne,” she said with a little smile. “I’m flattered that you think I have such influence but the truth is that you have a rather exaggerated view of my importance within the hall of powers. May I remind you that I’ve been a starship captain for less than two weeks.” She shook her head. “I’m afraid I haven’t earned my right to tell Starfleet what to do and rightly so. And quite honestly I doubt even the most accomplished Starfleet officer in the fleet would be able to change the way Command feels about this.”
Daystrom was clearly not satisfied with his response. “We can at least try,” he said. “If we all just give up before even attempting to change the wrongs of the galaxy then nothing will ever change.”
The captain stood from her chair and she felt every set of eyes in the room follow her as she walked over to the screen which continued to display the details on this controversial particle. Next she glanced out of the sloped forward-facing viewports, staring out into space for a moment and towards their destination.
Then she faced her assembled senior crew. “Let’s be clear about this,” she said. “I am not entirely certain that this Omega Directive is the wrong way to deal with something so enormously powerful.”
“Destroying what we do not understand?” the science officer said. “How does that not go against everything we’ve been led to believe Starfleet stands for?”
She nodded slowly to accede to that point. “Starfleet is also responsible for the well-being of billions of life-forms all across the known galaxy and sometimes that means to make difficult and uncomfortable decisions,” she said and immediately held up a hand as Daystrom was looking to butt in again. “The dangers of Omega are well-documented and plain to see to anyone who has studied it. They simply outweigh the potential benefits and that is the reason this decision has been made. Am I perfectly comfortable with withholding information and aggressively destroying Omega wherever we may encounter it? Of course not. But I understand how it is not a decision for any of us to make. And I’m thankful for that.”
She let her gaze wander across the room until it fell on Vej who looked at her with a somewhat troubled expression. Maya immediately understood why. Her speech notwithstanding, he understood better than anyone else in the room that she was incredibly torn on this issue herself and that as a result she had not been as convincing in her argument as she should have been. She had allowed her own doubts to shine through and allowed this conversation to go on for much longer than may have been wise. Perhaps a more veteran starship captain would have ended this entire debate much sooner and much more resolutely.
“If I may speak?” asked Queen Ket.
Maya was thankful for the distraction and graced the insectoid with a warm smile. “You do not need permission. Please go ahead.”
The Xenarth considered Daystrom first but then addressed all the people at the table. “I cannot hide my amazement over your open dialogue which this matter has invited. It would be something unthinkable among my own people, specifically after the Aggregate has made a decision on how to proceed. I find this refreshing. However, I would be remiss if I did not allow you to see my own perspective on what my people call the Xendaru particle. Our scholars have studied it in great detail for many generations, much longer I presume than your own. And ever since the days we have first discovered it, we have attempted to utilize its awesome potential. I am not a scholar but I can tell you that the sacrifices, both in lives and resources that we have had to pay have been near incalculable. And when we were finally at a stage were we thought it could be safely utilized we found ourselves at the brink of collapse following an invasion by an alien force more powerful than anything we had ever encountered before. We were left with no choice but to use Xendaru to try an escape from their single-minded aim to secure it for themselves. Millions of my people perished defending our word and millions more when the Heaven’s Portal transplanted the Colony to New Xenarth.”
It took a moment to let Ket’s abridged Xenarth history sink in with the officers around the table.
It was Mer’iab who spoke first. “This alien race that attacked you? Do you know who they were?”
Texx stepped in. “I think we should remain focused on the core message of the Xenarth’s experience with Omega.”
Maya sat back in her chair. “Agreed,” she said and focused on the insectoid. “It’s disturbing to hear that after everything your people have been through they would attempt to risk everything yet again by synthesizing this molecule a second time.”
Ket jerked her head sideways in a sign of her agreement. “It is the reason I have sought you out, Captain. I’m hoping that together we can avoid repeating the same mistakes.”
She nodded but then her facial expressions hardened. “We have something called the Prime Directive,” she explained. “It means that we are not allowed to interfere with other races internal matters and developments. This Omega Directive overrides this but you have to understand that the Prime Directive is one of our most important rules and has been drilled into us since the very first day we attended the Academy. We have all sworn an oath to uphold it. It will not be easy for any of us to try and stop your people while finding a way of least interference.”
“Nor has it been easy for me to seek you out, Captain, and ask your help to turn against my own kin.”
Maya immediately felt somewhat ashamed of not having considered Ket’s own sacrifice before. She was risking everything by coming here and asking for Starfleet’s help.
“I can only imagine how hard this is for you, Ket,” said Chen as he focused on the fellow insectoid and beating the captain to stress her support. “I am certain that Captain Donners and this crew will do whatever we can to prove that your trust in us has not been misplaced.”
“I wholeheartedly agree,” Maya said.
The Artisan Queen appeared grateful for the sentiment.
“The question then, ladies and gentlemen,” said the captain, “is how do we help Queen Ket and the Xenarth to avoid potentially destroying themselves and half the quadrant along with it?”
Daystrom as expected looked pained by that question and Maya immediately noticed. “Lieutenant,” she said, addressing him directly. “As difficult as this may be for your, we will rely on your expertise with Omega to try and neutralize it.”
To his credit he didn’t delay his response. “Of course, sir, you will have it.”
She didn’t miss his sudden stiffness or the neutral tone in his voice but decided that it had to be good enough for now.
Texx regarded the Artisan Queen. “What can you tell us about the location of the Omega facility?”
“Supreme Klestra is not as careless as our leadership had been when we first meddled with this power. She made the wise precaution to move the facilities charged with synthesizing the particles onto our moons. To my knowledge there are two expansive facilities, one on each of our smallest satellites.”
“Considering the unstable nature of the Omega particle and the destructive force it may unleash in an accident I recommend a ground assault,” said Beatiar Sh’Fane.
Maya turned to look at the security chief, fully expecting a harsh rebuke from the avian.
“I agree that it is our best option.”
Maya and Arden Texx exchanged surprised looks at finding the marine and the security chief in agreement for once.
“And considering the scope of the operation we would probably require a combined force of security personnel and marines,” he continued.
The captain suppressed the urge of cracking a wide smile at Mer’iab’s statement. She found that the Andorian wasn’t quite able to and she noticed the tiniest of smirks on her lips. Perhaps the first she had ever seen on the serious woman’s face. It was gone in a flash.
“I’d be happy to produce a full assault plan,” she said after the brief moment of amusement had passed.
Mer’iab’s head jerked into her direction, clearly not please by her initiative.
Maya spoke up before the little détente between the two officers could be undone by another confrontation. “I need you two to work together on an assault strategy as soon as we have a better idea what we are up against and we have a plan on how to neutralize Omega. To be clear, this is a contingency plan only at this point. I have no intentions of carrying out a full assault unless there is no other way to persuade the Xenarth Aggregate to discontinue Omega-related research. I’d much rather find a peaceful –“
The shrill alert klaxon warbling through the speakers cut her short.
“Red alert. Captain, please report to the bridge,” the voice of Bobby DeSoto called out over the blaring sound of the alarm.
Maya was up and out of her chair in less than a second and already heading towards the exit. The rest of her officers were close behind.
* * *