Upon the return of Lisley’s recon team, Captain Jonozia Lex had called an immediate meeting of the Defender’s senior officers and they quickly assembled around the salvaged holographic map table setup inside on of the base camp’s shelters. Lex stood at the head with Lisley and Johnson to his right and Sheridan and Dulmis to his left. Once everyone was settled Lex turned to Lisley and invited her to begin.
“What have you discovered Commander?”
“The Optimum are definitely working on something highly secretive,” said Lisley. “The majority of the base is subterranean and a sizable part of its population seems to consist of scientists and engineers.”
“Can you tell what the nature of the project is?” asked Kate Sheridan.
“Only vaguely,” replied Lisley. “The best indicator was one of the officers talking about cryo-stasis chambers, although this is far from conclusive.”
“Maybe it’s some sort of nuclear survival ark,” said Dulmis, jumping the gun. “They’re planning to wait out the nuclear fallout.”
“No,” said Lisley, shaking her head. “That was my initial theory too, but it isn’t supported by the evidence. The engineer accompanying the officer assured him that the problems they were experiencing with the chambers wouldn’t affect the project’s completion.”
“So what is it then?” asked Sheridan, clearly confused by the dead end caused by the new information.
“We don’t know,” Lisley replied. “Even the flyover scan was inconclusive.”
She pressed a command on the table’s control and the results of flyover were displayed. It was a maze of interconnecting tunnels and rooms surrounding a large circular area. At its centre was an odd shaped structure that immediately caught Lex’s attention. He recognised what it was straight away and he’d been both dreading and hoping for it at the same time since they’d discovered when they were. His wish to solve one of the 21st century’s biggest mysteries was about to come true and yet everything had suddenly become that much more complicated because of it.
“It could still be a nuclear fallout bunker,” suggested Dulmis. “Several top-secret cryogenic bunkers were built in the early 1990’s, when the Eugenics Wars last brought the world to the edge of nuclear conflict. It’s just that the Optimum are planning to use it for a shorter term than it was originally...”
“It’s the launch facility for a sleeper ship,” said Lex, cutting Dulmis off mid sentence.
The unexpected statement caught everyone off guard and they all looked at the Captain in surprise. Silence descended over the room for a few moments before Lisley’s spoke up. “A sleeper ship?” she said. “While some of the evidence could suggest that, it’s a bit of a leap.”
“I have to agree with Commander Lisley, Captain,” said Sheridan. “I can’t see any definitive evidence for that and that scan is fairly inconclusive.”
Lex issued several commands to the computer and the image zoomed into the area at the centre that had originally drawn his attention. Slowly it sharpened until something vaguely resembling the bow of a submarine was visible. Lex then had a question of his own. “Commander Lisley,” he asked. “Was anything mentioned about what was the project’s aim?”
“Not directly,” she replied. “The closest thing to an aim that officer did mention was something about it being key to ‘the conquest of the deserter colonies’
“That could mean anything,” said Johnson.
“In 2018 Earth established its first Extra Terrestrial base, Luna One, on the Moon and over the next thirty five years established further settlements at Christopher’s Landing on Titan, Utopia on Mars as well as the O’Neal asteroid habitats,” explained Lex. “Fuelled by private enterprise and the need to escape the atrocities happening on Earth, these early colonies thrived during the mid-21st century and eventually played a major role in the planet’s recovery.
“The populations of the colonies represented the best and the brightest that the planet had to offer at the time and the Optimum viewed their populations as having deserted earth in its greatest time of need. There was a theory that after the war they planned an invasion using a ship from the DY-class family and it was supported by the discovery of a single entry in the International Space Registry for a DY-300 class ship with a B.R.S. prefix. Standing for British Republican Spaceship, this was a registration that would only exist while the Optimum ruled the country as a Republic. No further evidence has ever been found though – including the ship itself.”
Lex understood his officers’ disbelief. Saren had had a similar reaction when she had come across the evidence a century ago and she too had dismissed it. If either side had had access to such a ship then they would certainly have used it to spread their philosophy to the worlds that Earth had begun to colonise. Luna One, Utopia, the O’Neal colonies, they would all have come under the control of the destructive forces that brought humanity to the brink of extinction.
Now though, the evidence of such a ship’s existence was getting harder to ignore. The large amounts of rocket and impulse reactor fuel were a strong indicator of something space bound and the presence of a cryo-stasis system something long term. The only theory that accounted for both was the presence of a sleeper ship. It also allowed for the large number of soldiers stationed at the relatively small base, if the optimum planned to launch an attack on the colonies as soon as the war was won, then they would want them near. Finally, the shuttlepod’s scan of the facility in which he, at least, could clearly see the bow of the sleeper ship pointing skywards simply confirmed things.
All this left Lex with a problem; Saren concluded that the events of the 21st century were so precariously balanced that any divergence would likely plunge Earth into a new dark age and prevent the Federation from ever existing. It was a conclusion he still believed in. At the same time he also wanted to adhere to the Prime Directive as it applied to temporal travel; Starfleet officers should avoid alteration of past events at all costs, including the loss of their own lives. Normally these wouldn’t conflict; the best way to avoid upsetting the 21st century’s delicate balance would simply be to get out of history’s way. The presence of a sleeper ship that had dropped through the pages of the history books complicated matters though and Lex would have to take steps to ensure their inaction wouldn’t upset that delicate balance instead of maintaining it.
Make your decision and stick to it, he warned himself. Don’t second guess yourself and do what you feel is right. If this is predestined then your decisions will be the right ones. If it’s not, they’ll still be the right ones.
Lex tugged down on his uniform jacket, smoothing it out and straightening his posture at the same time. It was a manoeuvre that Katanna had seen Jean-Luc do many times over the years when he had had similarly difficult choices to make. He felt his resolve strengthen, but could still feel the uncertainty eating away.
“However unlikely it may seem, the evidence indicates that the sleeper ship not only exists, but that it is being prepared for launch at this base,” he said with authority. “We know it’s not there four days from now or it would have been mentioned in the San Francisco Armistice, so we need to establish what happened to it between now and then.
“Is there any way the Optimum or ECON could have launched that ship and if they did, what happened to it?”
“It’s not that abnormal for early Earth spacecraft to go missing,” said Sheridan. “In the planet’s first hundred years of spaceflight alone there were several missions that disappeared; The Botany Bay, Aries IV and Charybdis all disappeared within a few decades of each other and they weren’t the only ones.”
“I’m still not convinced that the ECON even knew about the base, let alone about the ship, and even if they had, with a conscious crew it’s unlikely that it would have become lost in a similar way to the Botany Bay,” said Lisley. “We also know the Optimum didn’t use it; If you subtract the reinforcements we know arrive just prior to the launch of the strikes from the number of troops documented as be stationed at the base immediately following the war’s end, then they match the numbers stationed there now.
“Besides us taking it ourselves, that really doesn’t leave any other options.”
Lex simply nodded and let Lisley’s last statement hang in the air for a moment.
“You’re not serious?” questioned Johnson.
“Deadly,” responded Lex
“You’re talking about stealing a space ship form under the Optimum’s noses,” responded Johnson, “without them even recording that we took it.”
“Actually there is a record that we took it and Commander Lisley and I have been arguing over for two days; the ECON raid,” countered Sheridan. “Besides leaving it where it is will provide all the proof of its existence anyone will ever need. History will be changed completely.”
“If we take it we might also prevent the real third party from taking it,” said Johnson. “That would alter history just as irreversibly.”
Lex realised that Johnson was right. The mere presence of the ship didn’t prove it was their’s to take. He needed more proof that they had a part to play in its disappearance, but there seemed to be nothing in any of the historic records. Then something occurred to him; the historic records might not be the only source of information he had on the ship’s fate. He turned to Dulmis, “James, what was the last communiqué we received from Deep Space 6 on the Argus’ status.”
Dulmis accessed the communications logs from a nearby terminal and read the last communication. “According to the last update from DS6, the Argus was sent to investigate a mysterious radio signal emanating from the Ganoris system,” the operations officer reported. “Apparently Lieutenant Parker discovered a six year old signal specifically targeted to reach the Argus’ position in the days leading up to our arrival at DS6.”
“That can’t be a coincidence,” said Sheridan.
“I agree,” replied Lex, secure in the knowledge that he’d found what he was looking for.
“You think this ship is the source of the signal that the Argus picked up just over three centuries from now?” asked Johnson in disbelief.
“Yes,” said Lex emphatically. “In order for history to be preserved this ship has to be in the Ganoris system at least 6 years before the Argus arrives at DS6.”
“Captain, the Ganoris System is over 150 light years from Earth,” explained Johnson. “To cover that distance in under 315 years the ship would have to reach point 5 of light speed. I’d be surprised if its primitive engines could even made it to a quarter of that. The DY-300 was only rated for half impulse.”
“We could use the warp core from the White to generate a warp field,” suggested Dulmis, accepting that Lex appeared to be right. “It wouldn’t be powerful enough to get the ship to warp, but it should lower the ship’s mass by enough to get it to .5c and protect us from any time dilation effects that might be experienced at that speed.”
“Good,” said Lex. “Does anyone have any further comments or questions?” Nobody did, having accepted the mounting pile of evidence that Lex’s theory was the right. Lex continued, giving orders as to how he wanted to proceed, “Lieutenant Johnson, I’m assigning Lieutenant Dulmis to work with you on planning the modifications that need to be made to the ship. You’ll also need to get the cryo-stasis units working as well as an automated security system to protect us from scavengers and a communications system to send the signal for the Argus to pickup.”
“Aye Sir,” Johnson and Dulmis replied together.
“Commander Lisley, Commander Sheridan,” he continued, “I want you to devise a plan for capturing and holding the base until we’ve modified the ship and can launch it.”
“Understood Captain,” said Lisley
“Yes Sir,” said Sheridan.
“Then let’s get to it.”
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