The doors to the briefing room swished open and loud voices interrupted the meeting.
Mtolo quickly jumped out of his seat and brought up his phaser, apparently expecting the worse.
“Sir, you can’t go in there,” one of the security officers insisted.
“Let me go, you red-shirted dimwit,” Ketteract complained loudly. “You couldn’t possibly fathom the seriousness of this situation. The entire galaxy is about to go up in flames and I may be the only person who can stop it.”
Surprisingly the comparatively frail scientist managed to sidestep the much bigger security guard and slip passed him and into the briefing room. He froze when he noticed Mtolo’s phaser pointed at him. Then he saw the Xenarth, now also standing with her feelers fully raised in alarm, before he managed to tear his wide-open eyes away to focus on a clearly annoyed Wesley.
“What is the meaning of this?” Kuznetsov barked.
Not a moment later Zha’Thara appeared by the open doors. She looked flustered and out of breath as if she had run all the way from the bridge. “I’m sorry, sir. I tried to stop him but he’s faster than he looks,” she said.
“Doctor, I’m waiting for an explanation before I have Nealo here shoot you were you stand and then dragged to the brig from where you may enjoy the rest of this mission,” the Bear said, clearly fuming over this entirely inappropriate display by the scientist.
But Ketteract ignored the Russian and the phaser pointed at his chest and instead took a step towards the commodore. “My findings leave no doubt. This Omega Molecule will kill us all if we don’t take immediate action.”
This seemed to pique Queen Selphi’s interest. “And you believe you can help us avoid a disaster?”
Ketteract looked at the Xenarth for a moment, now carefully considering his response. “Yes. I think so.”
“Doctor Ketteract, after this meeting you and I will have a serious conversation about expected decorum on a starship,” said Wesley sternly. “Until then, sit down and tell us what you’ve found. You too, Commander.”
Ketteract and Zha’Thara took a seat and after a moment the security chief secured his weapon again and joined them.
“I apologize for this rather unexpected interruption, Queen Quelphi,” said Wesley once he and the Xenarth were in their seat again as well. “As you may have deduced, Doctor Ketteract is not a regular member of my crew and still has to learn about the behavior I find acceptable on my ship,” he said and shot the scientist a stern look even though he didn’t appear to notice.
“Doctor Ketteract is the main reason we are here. He is the one who first discovered the energy readings from your Xendaru particle and pinpointed them to the planet you currently inhabit. Commander Zha’Thara is my science officer.”
Quelphi looked at them both but seemed slightly more interested in the Andorian, studying her closely. “A pleasure to meet you both. And if I may say, I am rather fond of your antennae, Commander.”
The science officer smirked at the unexpected compliment. “Yours are not that bad either, your … majesty.”
The title was properly incorrect but Quelphi didn’t seem to mind and she moved her head from side to side which appeared to be a sign of appreciation.
“If I may ask, are all the leaders of your world female?” asked Vincent.
“Only a female can become a queen,” she said. “It has been this way for a great many generations and as long as anyone can remember.”
Vincent nodded, now seemingly understanding why she seemed to take so well to Zha’Thara.
“Doctor, you were about to tell us about this … Omega Molecule, was it?” Wesley said.
“Yes,” he said excitedly. “A fitting name for the substance which is going to bring an end to the universe as we know it.”
If nothing else Ketteract was a master of hyperbole with a flair for the dramatic and he seemed to enjoy the reactions he had forced from his audience as he waited patiently for his words to sink in.
Wesley had not use for this. “Doctor, by all means, don’t leave us all in suspense here and elaborate on your theory.”
He nodded quickly. “From what I can tell, further to my detailed analysis of the substance I have located on Iota Crucis’ surface, this molecule is even more powerful than I previously anticipated. I now believe that the shockwave we experienced earlier was nothing more than a tiny taste of what kind of forces would be unleashed if it became unstable.”
“The shockwave you speak of was the result of an accident in our research facility which killed over six hundred of our workers and scholars. Sadly it has become a common occurrence,” explained the Artisan Queen.
“I think they tried to synthesize maybe a handful of molecules when this accident must have taken place. But from my scans the Xenarth have the ability to generate thousands of molecules. And another accident could easily trigger them all in a chain-reaction of unimaginable proportions.”
“Let’s try and be a little less vague, Doctor. Let’s assume something like that would happen. What kind of damage would it do?” Wesley asked.
The scientist didn’t even have to think about that. “Total.”
Wesley uttered a heavy sigh and then looked towards his science officer.
Zha’Thara cleared her throat. “Subspace damage on a quadrant-wide scale is not out of the question. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around this Omega Molecule and its potential. But I am certain that subspace is particularly vulnerable to it.”
“Subspace in this region is already damaged,” said Kutznetsov. “We attributed this to the black hole at first but do you think it may be linked to this molecule?”
Ketteract jumped back in. “Yes, I do. Now imagine the same kind of damage not just across the sector but the entire quadrant and on a much more severe scale. Forget warp drive and subspace communications. This is a ticking time bomb we’re dealing with here and once it goes off it’ll throw the Federation back into the Stone Age.”
Wesley looked at his science officer for confirmation and he got it when she nodded along slowly. “And you can prevent this?” he asked Ketteract.
“I have a theory on how it could be safely stabilized, yes. If I’m right and I think I am, the potential applications for this kind of power source would be endless. It would completely replace anti-matter engines on starships. Hell it may even replace starships all together. You could build portals so powerful, they’ll beam you across the quadrant instantaneously.”
At that Queen Selphi peaked up a little more. “The Star Portal.”
Wesley and the others gave her puzzled expressions.
“The name of the device we have used to bring us here and powered by the Xendaru … your Omega Molecule,” she explained.
“Don’t get me wrong, this all sounds quite horrific to an old country doctor like myself, but do we really want to take the chance to mess around with powers so clearly beyond our understanding?” asked Vincent.
Except for Ketteract nobody in the room appeared to be perfectly comfortable with the idea.
It was Quelphi who spoke up first. “I don’t see how we have much of a choice in the matter. The future of my people is at stake and from what you have said perhaps the future of yours as well. If you are willing to assist us, I will gladly recommend your services to the Supreme.”
“Of course. In fact I can come with you right now,” said Ketteract, clearly excited about the opportunity to finally see with his own eyes that which he had only imagined previously.
Vincent shot the commodore a concerned look, one he understood perfectly. “Queen Quelphi, further to what we’ve learned today I agree with you that we stand much to lose if we don’t take swift action. And yet I am not entirely confident in making any rushed decisions on this subject. Perhaps it would be best if you relay to your leaders what has been discussed here and we will communicate further afterwards.”
Selphi stood from her chair and everyone else quickly followed. “Commodore Wesley, I share your trepidations in this matter. I will do as you ask so that we can reach a solution which will be beneficial for the both of our people,” she said and then looked at the other humans and the Andorian. “It was my pleasure to make the acquainted of such fascinating creatures.”
“The pleasure was ours,” said Wesley. “I’m certain we will meet again soon. Lieutenant Mtolo, please escort our guest back to the transporter room.”
The security chief nodded and led the Xenarth out of the room.
“Doctor, why don’t you get back to the bridge and look over your readings again. I want to be absolutely certain that we know what we’re dealing with here before we make any firm pledges of assistance,” said Wesley.
Ketteract seemed offended by the suggestion that he could have made a mistake. “I’m confident in my assertions.”
“I don’t think that was a request, Doctor,” said Kuztnesov sternly.
Ketteract huffed but ultimately left the briefing room.
“We could just let him go down there and see if he can talk them out of this whole Omega Molecule business,” said Vincent. “Ten minutes around that man and they’ll do whatever he asks as long as we promise to take him back.”
Even the Bear had to smirk at that.
“On a serious note,” said Wesley. “I don’t like where this is going. Putting the Prime Directive implications to one side for a moment, we’re potentially talking about not only the complete annihilation of a race but a threat to the entire Federation.”
“Are you suggestion that we don’t give Ketteract a chance on stabilizing these molecules?” asked Zha’Thara.
“We can’t just ignore this, that much is certain. But I need you to look into an alternative to Doctor Ketteract’s plan. I don’t think we can talk the Xenarth out of experimenting on this molecule.”
“Which means we help them to stabilize it, avert a catastrophe on a galactic scale and watch them beam themselves hundreds of light-years away,” said the first officer.
Vincent looked doubtful. “And if they cannot be stabilized?”
The commodore looked straight at his Andorian science officer. “Then we have to find a way to destroy it. If the Xenarth like it or not.”