“I’m not willing to go down that route just yet.”
Maya had temporarily retreated to a quiet corner of the Omega generator room, not far from where they had set up their triage area, to touch base with Glover on Cuffe
“I have about twenty very smart people up here, watching and analyzing every single move the Xenarth on the ground are making and every one of them agrees that we have to start pressing them harder or your teams will not last long enough to complete the mission.”
Not to far from where she stood, she found Chief Holly appraising her through his intense eyes, a concerned frown on his face made it clear to her that he was of similar conviction. In fact it had been the Chief who had made the suggestion to switch to a more aggressive tactic first.
She looked back at the padd which provided her the exact same data and troop movements that Glover and his officers were seeing from orbit. There where far too many red dots compared to their blue ones. “Meldin’s people have successfully reinforced the other two teams and holding the main Xenarth force at bay for now,” she said. “Some of the drones of the initial assault have survived and we’re getting them to outflank the Xenarth.”
“It’s not enough Maya, and you know it. In fact the way things are going, I’m not even sure if enacting lethal force at this point is going to give us enough time.”
“Then why are we having this discussion?” she said angrily. “What’s the difference?”
His voice responded with similar steel. “The difference is losing a handful of people or dozens.”
She had no immediate response to that and decided to change track. “How much time do I have until Hugh makes planetfall?”
“We just lost him on sensors so he’ll have to be close,”
he said. Glover continued in a softer tone. “Listen to me, Maya, Hugh wasn’t exactly a happy Borg the last time we ran into him and I don’t know how many friends he’s bringing to the party. We have to assume his main goal is to secure Omega for himself.”
“I’m not going to let that happen,” she said.
“My point is, the stun setting may work on the Xenarth but it won’t do you much good against shielded Borg drones. Even if they’re no longer part of the collective.”
“Give the goddamn order or I will.”
“It’s my mission and my call,” she shot back. “I’m the one down here putting my life on the line.”
“It’s not just your life, Maya.”
“Keep me updated on any changes,” she said coolly. “Donners out,” she added and tapped her combadge to close the channel.
Not a moment after she had finished up with Terrence, Holly approached her. “That did not look like a pleasant conversation.”
A look was all Maya needed to confirm that theory.
“So I take it we continue as is for now?”
She considered the veteran Starfleet NCO for a moment. He hadn’t questioned her orders, had actively supported them in front of the men even after he had suggested they abandon their non-lethal tactics making it obvious that he was firmly in Glover’s camp on this. But it was clear to her that he was too loyal to his captain to even entertain the thought of siding against her on this issue.
“I’m just not ready to give the order to kill these people, Chief,” she said. “No matter how we want to justify it, we’re the invaders here. We’re the ones who came here looking for a fight. The Xenarth are just defending what is theirs.”
“What is theirs could end up destroying half the galaxy,” he said.
“Perhaps,” she said. “But do you think the grunts know that?” she added and shook her head. “There is something very wrong about this picture and I’m not going to be the one punishing Xenarth rank and file for the mistakes of their government.”
“One could argue that that’s exactly the definition of war.”
“Exactly. And we’re not at war.”
Holly nodded even though he couldn’t entirely hide the doubt in his eyes. “I have a suggestion to make which may buy us some extra time.”
“I’m all ears.”
“We’ve got more than enough tri-cobalt to obliterate half a dozen Omega generators,” he said, referring to the explosives they had brought to scuttle the generators once they had successfully destroyed the volatile molecules within. He gently asked for the padd Donners was still holding and she quickly handed it over. He manipulated the device so it displayed a schematic of their current surroundings and then pointed at the main corridor which led into the generator room and from which most of the Xenarth attack had originated from. “We could set up some of the explosives in this passageway, which I would imagine would slow down any Xenarth force trying to reach us significantly.”
Maya smiled. “Best idea I’ve heard all day,” she said. “Get on that, Chief, will you?”
He gave her a firm nod and headed out.
Donners’ next stop was the reason they were here in the first place, the massive, snow-globe like Omega generator at which Daystrom and a couple of technicians were currently working on. The sooner they managed to shut the device down and neutralize the molecules, the sooner they could pull back out.
She found her science chief deeply involved in a comm. channel conversation. “Sounds to me like you’ve go the right frequency, what’s the molecular integrity look like now?”
“I’d say around sixty-seven, sixty-eight percent.”
“Good, good,” he said. “That should give you enough time. Now, remember the power drain has to remain constant but should not exceed point zero zero two megahertz to allow the molecule to naturally destabilize. And keep an eye on the phase variance.”
“Okay, I think we’re good. Integrity is now at a negative rate, point two percent per minute.”
“We need to find a way to get that up.”
Overhearing their conversation, Maya was pleased to find that Elborough was now well underway to have her reactor shut down. With the news that Sh’Fane and Altoss had already neutralized the third device, she felt renewed hope that they were back on schedule to complete the mission.
Just before she was about to turn around and leave her science officer to do his job she froze, suddenly realizing a painful truth. While Daystrom was talking the younger officer through the process step-by-step, he was not actually tending to the generator in this room, instead keeping his eyes focused on a data padd and taping away as he spoke to Elborough.
The generator in the background was pulsating with barely contained power just as intensely as it had the moment they had arrived.
“Lieutenant,” she said as she stepped closer.
The young officer looked up.
“Progress report,” she said.
“Uh, yes, sir,” he said, clearly slightly taken aback by her sharp tone. “Team 3 has successfully shut down their generator. I expect the second generator to be shut down within the next twenty minutes at this rate.”
She gave him a short nod. “How about this one?” she said, looking at the throbbing device behind him.
He turned and then stared at it as if he had seen it there for the first time.
“Wayne, what’s going on?”
asked a clearly concerned Elborough.
Donners stepped next to the man. “Ensign, this is the captain. It sounds to me you’ve got things in hand. I need you to close the channel and proceed on your own.”
“Yes … yes, sir,”
she said. “Elborough out.”
“She needs my help,” he said without really taking his eyes of the generator he was supposed to be tending to.
“Never mind, Elborough, what’s happening to this one. How close are we to shutting it down?” she said, keeping her eyes peeled on the science officer.
“I’m not sure … I can, sir.”
Maya massaged her temples. She didn’t need this. Not now. She had been so busy focusing on the assault and their quickly diminishing chances of mission success that she had entirely neglected on checking on Daystrom’s progress. Considering his early and vocal protests in regard to this mission, she mentally berated herself now for this grave oversight. “What do you mean?”
He looked at her gingerly. “Molecular integrity is already well passed eight-eight percent and they are beginning to bond at an ever accelerating rate,” he said. “Captain, it’s amazing and a far more controlled synthesis than we ever expected. When I first ran my simulations back at the Academy I never anticipated such a smooth bonding process even in my most optimistic predictions. It’s almost as if they want to come together naturally. A billion pieces, desperate to form a whole.”
“Captain, listen,” he said, sounding almost euphoric now. “This isn’t at all what we thought it be. Omega is supposed to be an artificial construct, never before observed in nature. But what I’m seeing here, it’s almost as if its … well, intelligent.”
She shot the pulsating mass a suspicious look. “You’re telling me these particles are alive?”
He shook his head quickly. “No, not in the traditional sense. But they behave in such a perfect pattern, it’s as if they are coming together naturally and not artificially. It’s as if the Xenarth inadvertently discovered a missing link in the fabric of the universe.”
“This all sounds very interesting but I don’t see how—“
“It’s a natural phenomenon, Captain. We might very well be looking at not just a missing link but the
missing link. This could be the force that created our galaxy. Strike that, the universe. This could be the intelligence behind everything we know.”
Maya’s head was beginning to spin, not having expected the sudden introduction of metaphysics and existential philosophy while in the middle of an intricate assault mission. Then she remembered the hundreds of lives she had placed into harm’s way and which would depend on the decisions she’d make over the next few minutes. “How long to shut it all down, Lieutenant.”
He aimed an incredulous look at her. “Captain, I don’t think you understand—“
“Maybe I don’t, but what I do understand is that we’ve come here to destroy Omega before it has a chance to destroy us. And if we can’t do that within the next few minutes, we’re all going to die on this rock,” she said and her hand actually moved towards her phaser. “Don’t lose focus on the mission now, Wayne. I beg you.”
His eyes grew wider when he realized the veiled threat in her tone and movements. Cleary he didn’t expect her to become aggressive, in the short time he had known her she had never given him the reason that she’d be capable of it. But her entire body language had changed now. He actual took a step backwards and towards the generator, almost as if trying to protect it from her growing fury. “If … if you discovered a new form of life … would you simply kill it? Would you not have a moral responsibility to preserve it no matter what?”
“You just told me that this is not a life-form,” she nearly barked.
A few security officers and Marines nearby now turned their way and closed in, Chief Holly first among them, now that the captain was clearly becoming agitated by the science officer's growing defiance.
He shook his head. “It isn’t. Not really. It’s … it’s more like the beginning of all life.”
Maya took a deep breath, for the first time realizing that her frustration had gotten he better of her. “The beginning or the end, Wayne?”
She took a quick look around the room and all the faces now focused on the confrontation between her and Daystrom. Between science and command. Then she turned back to look the man square in the eye. “I’m no scientist, Wayne, but tell me this, if Omega was truly behind the Big Bang, how can we possibly know that it won’t do so again? We’re looking at a massively powerful force here which is inherently unstable and according to you may have had the power to start all life. By that definition, does it not have the power to end all life? Ask yourself a simple question, Wayne. Do you want to be responsible for that? For starting another Big Bang?”
Daystrom looked momentarily mystified as if he hadn’t considered that possibility at all. No doubt thoughts of his great-grandfather’s fanatical obsession which had driven him near insane now crossed his mind. “Captain, I don’t—“
Maya whipped around, her phaser in hand before she had completed the turn, expecting a horde of Xenarth soldiers to come flooding into the chamber. Instead she saw something far worse.