Iota Crucis IV, 2267
The explosion had been powerful enough to knock Robert Wesley onto the floor of the room he had been assigned by the Xenarth for the duration of his stay, along with everything else that was not bolted down.
His first instinct had been that his worst nightmare had come true. Not only had Ketteract failed to stabilize the Omega molecule, he and his overeager Xenarth counterparts had triggered it somehow, bringing along a feared apocalypse which would be felt across the entire quadrant.
But once he realized that such an outcome would most likely not have resulted in just bruises and aching bones, he dismissed the notion that the galaxy as he knew it had come to an end. It didn’t mean that they were safe. For all he knew, the explosion had only been the first strike in a series of devastating blasts caused by this unstable Omega particle.
Still fearing, not only for the safety of his ship and crew but much of the known galaxy, he picked himself up from the floor and headed towards the balcony of his twelfth floor room. All the while mentally berating himself for having allowed matters to progress this far. His gut-instinct had told him to put a stop to these seemingly uncontrollable experiments the moment he had learned about them. The Xenarth and the Prime Directive be damned.
Now three days had passed since they had arrived on this world and Ketteract had made God-knew what kind of progress to either hand the Xenarth one of the most powerful forces known to man or bringing them all one step closer to total annihilation.
Once outside he immediately directed his gaze towards the nearby mountain within which he knew Ketteract and the Xenarth scientists had been effortlessly working on synthesizing the molecules. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found no apparent signs of damage and catastrophe. The small dome on top of the mountain also appeared undisturbed.
He found the source of the explosion much closer. Back smoke was rising within one of the nearby habitats and he could see an entire block of buildings crumbling and on fire. A number of Xenarth were swarming around the damage, to escape it or try to put out the flames, at the distance he wasn’t able to tell.
The doors to his room opened and he turned to see Kutznetsov and Mtolo rushing inside. Both seemingly greatly concerned.
“Commodore, are you alright?” the Zulu security officer asked.
“Banged up a little but otherwise uninjured, thanks Nealo. How’s the rest of the away team?”
The security officer had his phaser drawn and carefully looked Wesley over until seemingly convinced that he had not been seriously injured. Only then did he replace his weapon and relaxed.
“Vincent and Zha’Thara are on their way back here as we speak. Ketteract is fine too, apparently. From what Talana said over the comm., he refused to leave the lab,” said the Bear.
“Of course he did. Any idea what happened?”
The Russian joined Wesley on the balcony to get a better look at the damage in the other habitat. “Some sort of attack. Tensions between Ergia and Warrior Queen have been worsening over the last couple of days. It appears it finally reached the breaking point.”
The commodore nodded and then looked towards Mtolo. “Lieutenant, see if you can find Selphi. I want to know as much as possible about what has happened.”
The man gave his captain a short nod and then departed, leaving Kutznetsov and Wesley alone on the balcony. For a moment neither of the men spoke as they both silently watched the fires in other dome, now clearly spreading to nearby buildings, threatening to destroy the entire habitat. The Xenarth first responders appeared to struggle to contain the blaze.
“What the hell are we doing here, Alexei?” Wesley finally said.
The burly Russian aimed a perplexed sidelong look at the older man. “We’re trying to keep the Xenarth from accidently blowing up the universe. Sir.”
He nodded slowly. “Sure. But in the process we have inserted ourselves as a variable in their own civil war. We are actively helping one side to get what they want over the obvious wishes of another faction. This will be coming to blows soon at which time we’ll be forced to decide whose side we support,” he said and looked straight at Kutznetsov. “That’s not a decision a Starfleet officer should ever make.”
The first officer considered this for a moment, apparently quite cognizant of the dilemma they were facing. “The Xenarth posses a power much too dangerous not just for them but for our galaxy. I fear the thought of what the Klingons or the Romulans would ever do if they had access to this kind of technology. By helping them now to bring their portal back online, to take them to wherever they wish to go, we maybe neutralizing a serious threat to our quadrant of space.”
“And allow them to threaten another one instead?” said Wesley. “And what about those Xenarth?” he added and pointed at the raging fires in the not so far distance. “What about the ones who have no interest in trying to reach this fabled Xendaru and want to make this planet their home instead? Are we to make this decision for them as well?”
“It occurs to me that we have already involved ourselves in the Xenarth affairs,” said Kutznetsov. “Whatever we do next will have a significant negative impact on one side or the other.”
Further deliberations on the subject were cut short when Charles Vincent and Talana Zha’Thara entered Wesley’s room. The two men on the balcony stepped back inside to greet them.
The commodore went straight to business. “We have one day left until the Supreme’s deadline expires. What’s the progress with the molecules?”
The Andorian had a pained expression on her face.
Vincent found an upturned chair, set it back onto his feet and took a seat. The middle-aged doctor was slightly out of breath.
“Not a good time to play coy,” said Kutznetsov sternly, shooting both of them impatient looks.
The doctor and the science officer exchanged quick glances before Zha’Thara faced her superior officers again. “We are concerned. About Ketteract.”
The first officer uttered a dismissive hiss. “Da. But what else is new?”
Vincent shook his head. “It’s worse. The man has become practically obsessed over this Omega molecule of his. He has worked in that lab for three days straight. If he’s eaten of slept in that time, I haven’t seen it. The man is teetering at the brink of madness, if you ask me, and has no business playing around with something as powerful as these molecules are supposed to be.”
“Doctor, is it you professional, medical opinion that Bendes Ketteract is mentally unsound to carry out research on the Omega molecule?” Wesley wanted to know.
“Psychology is not my field, Commodore and even if it were, I probably would need to do much more work before being able to give you a full diagnosis. If you want to know about my initial impression, as well as my time-honored gut feeling then yes, the man is showing clear warning signs of the onset of a full blown psychosis and shouldn’t be nowhere near anything more powerful than a toaster.”
“The problems is,” said the science officer, “that the Xenarth have come to almost revere the man. They are convinced that with his help they are close to a breakthrough to have the molecules stabilized and their Star Portal up and running within a few days.”
“And what do you think?” Kutznetsov said.
“I have spent the last three days looking over Ketteract and Queen Chelra’s shoulders and I still don’t fully understand how Omega works but they are not wrong about their progress. I’m sure they have their first molecules fully synthesized either today or before the end of the day tomorrow. Or at least made the attempt.”
The first officer gave the commodore a concerned look.
A second explosion gripped the room, causing the floor under their feet to tremble. Wesley, Kutznetsov and Zha’Thara had to struggle to keep their balance while Vincent slipped out of his chair and fell onto the floor.
“Not again,” the doctor moaned, rubbing his bruised backside.
The tremble subsided and the first officer helped Vincent back onto his feet.
“Commodore,” Zha’Thara was pointing into the distance and Wesley turned to see that another habitat had taken damage in a separate attack. Once again flames and smoke quickly filled the dome.
Not a moment later Mtolo returned, bringing the Artisan Queen with him. The insectoid appeared agitated, judging by her twitching mandibles and her feelers which refused to stay still. “Commodore, I am relieved to find you unharmed,” she said quickly. “The Warrior Queen is making her move against Ergia and I am concerned that her followers are too numerous for the Supreme to be able to hold them off.”
“The timing couldn’t be more lousy,” grumbled the first officer. “With the Omega molecule at a critical state, the last thing we need is a full out war to break out.”
Selphi was in agreement. “I do not believe this to be a coincidence. The Warrior Queen has many spies within Ergia’s ranks. She undoubtedly is fully aware of the progress your scientist has made.”
Wesley looked back out towards the most recent attack. The shockwave had been less severe as the habitat was farther away but the damage appeared worse. The dome itself had been cracked and he wondered if it would eventually crumble completely. Apparently the Warrior Queen had little scruples in tearing down what the Xenarth had built here, even if her ultimate aim was to remain on this world. But she would not stop at anything to get what she wanted, even if it meant to raze the settlements to the ground and rebuild it from scratch, probably killing countless Xenarth in the process.
Commodore Robert Wesley made his decision then and there. “This situation is getting out of control. We have to take action and do it now,” he said and faced the Artisan Queen. “We have to get back to the lab. Take us to Ketteract.”