The briefing room was uncomfortably quiet when he first entered it. Were this any other starship he had been on, Captain Shin al-Imir would have felt the steady hum of the warp core in his boots, a sign of life and energy for the crew. Even his own ship, the U.S.S. Artemis, he could feel her pulse as he walked her halls. Even if the engineers who built her praised the buffered floor plating as “silent even in a stampede”, Shin knew it was there. Now, however, he only felt the stillness as he waited for the staff meeting to begin.
Thankfully, they were not far behind him, arriving one and two at a time. Eight people, each representing at least fifty more. Concerns were plenty, but they were professionals, so it would not show up front.
“Thank you all for coming, I know these have been busy days with the tasks at hand. But before we get too mired in the mud, it’s time to get bearings. Lieutenant Varoe, what have you learned about our warp drive issues?”
Shaking his sandy hair, the most junior officer of the group activated the display in the center of the table to explain. “Sadly, sir, we’ve learned a lot, and none of it good. From all the tests, simulations and what my guys are seeing by getting on their hands and knees in the Jefferies tubes, the issue isn’t our warp drive. It’s where we are.”
At the captain’s right hand, the Andorian first officer furrowed her brow in thought, “So it’s the Varwac system that’s interfering with us? How? The Empire wouldn’t have built a research station here unless they could resupply it, and that means FTL travel.”
Laroe nodded, “Yes ma’am, it would. But it means hyperspace travel, not warp drive. Kenny, er Commander Paige and I put some notes together on it last night.”
With a nod, the Chief Science Officer leaned in and changed the image before them to show the entire system of six planets. “This is the system as we entered it, at the same approach we used.”
A glowing green line directed their attention to where the Artemis was supposed to arrive, behind the shadow of Vawarc’s moon.
“And here’s where our warp field collapsed.” A point in space marked by a red sphere.
Paige tapped the table’s console, and a light-blue cloud overwhelmed the map in every direction like all the planets had just been dropped in a pond. “And this…this whole area, is collapsed subspace. Just like in the Lantaru sector of the Federation.”
“An Omega molecule explosion,” al-Imir concluded the thought. “You aren’t saying that the Imperial Navy is messing with the very fabric of the universe, are you?”
“Oh, no sir.” The scientist waved his hands to cease the thought, “this damage is old, at least a millennia. Whatever is down there didn’t do this.”
The Captain studied the image worriedly. The quickest way out of the system was the same way they came in, which given the moon’s orbit, would leave them exposed for far too long. “Then on that subject, it’s time we discuss what it is that’s down there. Lieutenant Commander Semil, your analysis?”
The Vulcan at his left nodded and stood, the projected image replaced by a structure. “From what our sensors have recorded, this appears to be the latest in the Imperial Golan-class defensive platform. At four kilometers long, by three kilometers at its center, by three kilometers wide, it is larger than the current platforms used by the Imperial service. I suspect the additional room is to make way for this.”
Within the platform, two sections of forked tubing illuminated, connected by a spine that ran through the heart of the bastion. “These two points are the focal arms for what appears to be a subspace disruptor. Powered by an independent matter-antimattter reactor, I believe that this system would target an area of subspace, likely within a few light years, and create artificial distortions beyond what current warp technology can compensate for. Once a vessel has been forced from warp, it would give a planetary defense force ample time to respond.”
“So Starfleet was right, it is an anti-warp weapon,” noted the Andorian. “How do we destroy it?”
“That, I do not yet know. Most of this is an assessment based off intercepted transmissions and early deep-level scans. Much of the station and its surrounding construction is shielded.”
“What if we got closer, overpowered the shielding with more intensive scanning?” Pagie proposed to the group.
Shin furrowed his brow at that, he knew where his junior officer was going. In another first for Starfleet, the Artemis had launched with three Valkyrie Mk.1 fighter craft that had been specifically modified for reconnaissance, dubbed the Mk. 1-R. Each ship, in addition to highly sensitive and intelligent sensor suites, came with its own version of SHIMMER to keep them hidden among the stars. But not in an atmosphere or against terrain… “Perhaps. Flight Chief?”
At the far end of the group, fiery red hair shook in dismissal of the thought. “Easier said than done, cap. Whatever horse-ass certified these needs to have an intimate relationship with a shillelagh.”
The table was silent for a moment, Semil raising an eyebrow, “An…interesting perspective, Lieutenant.”
“Indeed. Care to clarify that?” the Captain punctuated, which caused Lt. Chloe O’Shea to flex her fist. “Well, thanks to the sudden stop we got comin’ here, plus the subspace collapse we mentioned, has been working like gremlins on my ships. Number one has a damaged central computer, so it can’t even start up right. Number two clears preflight, but some prat back at the yard forgot the insulated coating on the weapons arrays and nacelles, so it will either snoop, shoot or run, but not two at the same time. The energy bleedover trips up the onboard nav and targeting arrays.”
She threw up an arm in frustration, “Number three is the worst of the bunch. Her main reactor simply won’t engage, like it’s been drained. All and all, I can slap ‘em together and probably get you two working, or one in mint.”
Shin nodded, turning to his First Officer, “I believe that, before we risk sending the Mk.1-Rs down, we should gather as much data as we can from here. Risk?”
Suvan was quick to reply, “Only slightly increased, I believe. If that station didn’t see our arrival in-system thanks to SHIMMER, then it shouldn’t see us holding a lower orbit. Recommend we keep at an offset so they can’t just look up and see us.”
“Agreed. Move us into low orbit, ventral arrays set as primary. Let’s gather as much data as we can and re-conviene in…six hours. Flight Chief, get me a working Valkyrie. The rest of you, I want seamless rotations and crew turnovers. No piece of data is too small, whether it’s intel, or a revised way out of here. Dismissed.”
A little companion piece to an evolving storyline. Being a spy is a dangerous job, as it often places you alone at the heart of the enemy. You just better hope you have an escape plan after the deed is done.
I hope you all enjoy.