“What happened?” asked a concerned Lex, turning to lieutenant Parsons, now at the tactical station.
“Checking,” he replied. “Captain, some sort of energy field has enveloped the ruins. No subspace signals can get in or out.”
“Source?” asked Lex.
“Unknown. The field is also hampering our sensors.” Parsons started to work his console, looking for a better reading on what was happening. “I’ve managed to punch through some of the interference. I still can’t contact the away team, but I’m getting clearer readings on the power source. I’m reading a massive power build up caused by instability in the subspace pocket.”
“Cause?” asked Lex.
“This could be a side effect of the science teams attempt to collapse the pocket and destroy the power source,” suggested Parsons.
“And the energy field is a fail safe,” completed Lex.
The security officer continued, “I’m getting a clearer reading on the power source now that…”
Parsons’ tactical screen suddenly went blank, quickly followed by every other across the bridge. A blue “Omega” symbol appeared.
Oh crap, not now, thought Lex. “Will the field stop a shuttle craft?”
“I don’t believe it would,” said Parsons, looking at his console in confusion. “The field is more focused on projecting subspace. It even extents through the planet.”
“Arkin, take a shuttle, one of the type elevens, and retrieve the teams from the surface,” said Lex as he turned towards the helm. “The shuttle’s transporters won’t be able to reach the science team so you’ll need to contact them as soon as you reach the inside of the barrier and get them to come to the surface.
“Don’t attempt to gather any further information on the power source under any circumstances.”
“Aye sir,” replied the Bajoran, leaving her seat and disappearing into the turbolift.
“Captain, what does this symbol mean?” asked Parsons as Lex moved behind the console on the opposite side of the bridge. Lex ignored him. He entered a code into the console, returning the screens to normal.
“Mr. Parsons, transfer all sensor data to my ready room and discontinue any further scans of the surface.”
“Captain, it’s unlikely that the science team will reach the shuttle before the power source goes critical.”
“I know,” said Lex, disappearing into the ready room and the doors closing behind him, “I know…”
The ride through the planets atmosphere was pretty rough, but nothing that Arkin’s piloting skills couldn’t handle.
Soon after Arkin had entered Starfleet Academy, she had quickly discovered a natural skill at the helm. This had been carefully cultivated by her instructors. She now ranked up there with the best pilots in the fleet, along with Tom Paris, Laura McKnight and Vaerth Parihn, who had been decorated for bravery along with Arkin while still at the Academy.
Arkin could now see the edge of the barrier. She altered the angle of her decent to orient the shuttle perpendicular to the barrier’s surface and slowed her speed to one where she hoped that the small vessel’s passage wouldn’t register as an attack, instead passing harmlessly through. The shuttle reached the barrier, jolting as it passed through. With the barrier passed her, Arkin let out a breath that she hadn’t realised she was holding. She levelled the ship out and began to scan for the tactical team.
Arkin saw the team before the sensors pinpointed their location, bursts of phaser fire that could be seen erupting from the base of the ruined temple pinpointed their location. These were quickly returned by disruptor fire from a short distance away. There didn’t seem to be any let up from either side - both forces were well entrenched and the stalemate didn’t look like it was going to end any time soon.
Arkin banked the shuttle towards the fighting and opened a comm channel, “Arkin to Sheridan. Need some help?”
“Am I glad to hear you, Ensign,” replied a relived Sheridan, who it seemed had now spotted the approaching shuttlecraft. “See if you can take out the Jem’hadar positions before you land near ours.”
“Aye sir,” responded Arkin.
“See you shortly, Sheridan out.”
Arkin banked the shuttle towards the source of the disruptor fire, some of which had now shifted in her direction and she dodged it as best she could. After a moment, she was pleased to see it diminish a bit. The distraction caused by her approach allowed the tactical team to be slightly bolder than before, picking off some of the attacking force. Unsure of which threat to now counter, the Jem’hadar began to fall into disarray as Arkin strafed their position with the shuttle’s phasers. As the tactical team cleaned up the rest, she then moved the craft into position for landing setting it down with a slight bump and securing the controls before heading into the rear section to open the hatch.
The hatchway a the rear of the shuttlecraft hummed as it opened up and revealed the beaming face of Arkin Jora standing inside the rear of the shuttlecraft. Sheridan found the young Bajoran’s smile immediately infectious and smiled back at her. “Welcome to the surface, Ensign. It’s good to see you.”
“Thank you, sir,” she replied.
Sheridan turned to the assembled members of the tactical team, “Mendez, Roma, keep an eye out for any Jem’hadar who might have survived. The rest of you, start loading up this lot.”
The team members nodded their acknowledgment and started to carry the equipment into the shuttle while the two Sheridan had singled out stood guard. Sheridan turned back to Arkin, who was now doing her best to keep out of the security personnel’s way.
“So what happened?” asked Sheridan. “One moment I’m talking to the Captain and next thing I know you’ve been sent down in a shuttle.”
“The power source beneath the temple has started to overload and some sort of automated safety field has been erected over the area, “explained Arkin. “It’s blocking our communications and transporters. When we finally got a clear scan of the power source, the ship’s computers went crazy.
“The Captain sent me down here to evacuate the teams,” she continued, “but I heard nothing from the engineer and science teams since I cleared the field and I'm not sure they can even reach the surface in time.”
“We haven’t heard from them, either,” offered Sheridan, “but I should think that they’re more aware of the situation than the rest of us.”
The first indication to Sara Parker that something was wrong was the muttered exclamation of, “What the hell,” that came from James Dulmis.
“Is everything ok, Lieutenant?”
Dulmis turned his head from his screen to look at her, “I’m not sure,” he replied. “I’m getting some strange readings from the power source; the power levels are fluctuating wildly.”
As he said that, an alarm sounded and red strips began to pulsate down the sides of the main viewscreen. The screen itself filled with a message in the Preserver’s language.
“What happened?” asked Thomas Patel as he and Simok came over.
“We’re unsure,” reported Parker. “The power source began to fluctuate shortly before the alarm sounded.”
“My program to collapse the subspace field has activated,” said Dulmis in surprise.
“I have not yet given the order to active it,” said Simok, his tone cautionary.
“I didn’t activate it,” said Dulmis defensively, “the system somehow sought it out and activated it on its own. It was like it was expecting it.”
“Something is resisting the field’s collapse and it’s causing the fluctuations in the power source,” continued Parker. “If this continues it will overload in the next thirty minutes.”
Patel tapped his commbadge, “Patel to Argus.” The device gave an error chirp.
“The system has set-up a subspace field that is encompassing everything within a 50 kilometre radius, us included,” reported Parker, looking at her tricorder. “No signals can get in or out, including our commbadges or the transporter.”
“The Captain will likely send a shuttle in that case.”
“Unfortunately a shuttlecraft’s transporters are not powerful enough to reach our position,” said Simok, “and we are unlikely to make it to the surface in that time, especially with all this equipment.”
“What about the portal?” said Dulmis. “It has a range of half a light year.”
“It’s affected by the subspace field too,” replied Parker.
“But we only need it to get to the surface to catch that shuttle.”
“Nice thinking, Lieutenant,” complemented Patel. “Can we use it with the power source fluctuating like this?”
“We might have some problems with the stability,” said Parker, “but it should be possible to control that manually.”
“Can you maintain it?”
“I think so.”
“Good, but we’re not going to be able to carry all this equipment,” said Patel. “Everyone download as much as you can and load up as much as you can. We’re getting out of here.”
Immediately the team members got to work attempting to save as much of their data as possible. Several of the larger pieces of equipment were going to have to be left behind. They salvaged as much from them as possible. Meanwhile Parker started to work on the transport portal’s controls, attempting to get it stable enough to get everyone through. After several intense minutes she had it as stable as the fluctuations would allow.
“Commander, this is as good as it’s going to get,” she called out to Patel. “It’s now or never.”
“Ok people, lets move out,” ordered Patel. Team members began to stream towards the portal, disappearing to the surface one by one, until just Patel and Parker were left.
“Go, Commander,” said Parker.
“You’re coming too, Lieutenant.”
“Aye sir,” she said, “but I need to maintain this until the last second. If I leave before you, you won’t make it.”
Patel nodded his understanding. “See you at the surface,” he said before disappearing into the gateway.
Parker made a few final adjustments and ran for the portal.
The sudden appearance from nowhere of the science and engineering team members unsurprisingly took the tactical team completely off guard. The first arrivals found themselves looking down the barrels of Mendez’ and Roma’s phaser rifles. Sheridan quickly indicated for them to lower their weapons and approached the group as Simok and Dulmis came to the front.
“Are we glad to see you,” she said.
“As are we,” said Simok.
“We’ve almost finished loading up,” she continued, “so we’d better start loading people on to the shuttle.”
“Agreed,” said Simok. He started to usher people towards the small craft.
Sheridan saw Patel appear at the back of the group and stopped to look behind him, waiting for the next person to arrive. She worked her way past the other team members to him. As she reached him, Parker appeared.
“Glad to see you, Commander,” said Sheridan. “Is that everyone?”
Patel nodded as they headed for the shuttle. “We haven’t much time before the power source goes critical.”
“Arkin is already warming up engines. She’ll take off as soon as we’re aboard.”
Reaching the shuttle the three of them quickly ascended the ramp. Sheridan hit the control to close the rear hatch and the ship jerked as it started to lift off.
“Computer, seal doors, entry on my authorisation only,” ordered Lex as the doors to his ready room closed behind him.
“Doors are now sealed,” replied the computer.
Lex took his seat behind the desk and activated the screen. It rose from it’s housing in the desk. “Access secured data file Omega 1.”
“Voice print confirmed,” responded the Computer. “Please state security code.”
“Lex-4-7-blue. Clearance level 10.”
“Security code accepted,” said the computer, the screen switching to a display pinpointing the source of the Omega particles on the surface, “Sensors have detected the Omega phenomenon within twenty thousand kilometres of this vessel. Implement the Omega Directive immediately. All other orders are rescinded.”
Lex rubbed the bridge of his nose. Great, this is exactly what I need right now. “Show sensor data.” The screen changed to the scan of the power source on the surface and the last pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
The most burning question for Lex since the mysteries of this planet had first been presented was how all that technology was still functioning after all this time. While most Preserver sites still had intact technology, they were usually powered by a renewable source such as geothermal energy, ensuring that the technology would be powered as long as the planet was habitable. However the other known preserver sites normally contained far less power hungry technology than they had found here. Omega was just the right solution for such a power demand and here it had been employed perfectly. A stable Omega partial biased power source. The implications were incredible, but they were also terrifying. Lex’s thoughts turned to his last encounter with the Omega particle - a highly classified mission with a high cost that had made an enemy Lex now carried over from the previous host, Katanna, to the current host, Jonozia. Lex shivered at the thought of how close their targets had come to building an Omega bomb. That system was dead now, shrouded in a veil of subspace instability, but the precedent was there – if you could control Omega, you could control when it became unstable and exploded. You could cripple an entire civilisation. It was the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
Shaking himself out of his memory, Lex returned to the data on screen. The presence of Omega also explained the sudden instability in the power source once the engineering and science teams had started to explore the system. Omega’s high instability would require a very precise calibration to the technology. It was amazing that it hadn’t simply exploded when the teams started to investigate the system. It made sense, though. A system designed to contain such a volatile particle as Omega would also have a backup to minimise the damage that it could do. Lex pulled up the information on the energy field that now surrounded the temple ruins.
The energy field, like the rest of the technology, was remarkable. It seemed to be designed to block high-energy partials, such as Omega, but it was far more than that. The field also extended deep into subspace, acting as a barrier to the damage that Omega would normally cause to subspace for light years, concentrating it in a very small area. As far as the cosmic scale was concerned, it would create just another subspace anomaly. Essentially the threat was already contained.
“Bridge to Captain Lex,” came Parsons’ voice over the comm.
“Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“Sir, the Archimedes has just docked,” responded the Tactical officer.
“Computer, how long before the power source goes critical.”
“Seven minutes, twenty two seconds.”
“Deactivate screen and unseal ready room doors,” he ordered.
“Door unsealed,” responded the Computer. As the screen retracted into the desk, Lex exited the room onto the bridge.
“Ensign, take us to a safe distance, say to the edge of the system,” ordered Lex. “Lieutenant Parsons, tell Lieutenant Bower to meet me at shuttle bay one with a security team. No-one is to leave there until I get there.”
“Aye sir,” said the young man at the helm.
Parsons looked a little confused at the order but responded, “Aye sir,” anyway before he tapped a control on his console.
“Security team to shuttle bay 1,” he said as the turbo lift doors closed behind Lex.
Lex reached shuttle bay one to find Bower waiting there with a security detail to greet him.
“What’s this all about, Captain?”
“I’ll inform you when we get inside,” replied Lex. “Open the doors.”
Bower touched the door control and the huge orange double doors to the shuttle bay parted.
“Captain,” said Patel, “what’s happening?”
Lex turned to Bower, “Lieutenant, gather up all of the research and equipment and lock it in cargo bay 2 under a level 5 quarantine.”
“Jono, what are you doing?” exclaimed Parker.
Lex ignored his wife and continued to issue orders. “Please escort these people to their quarters and confine them there until they can be debriefed.”
“Captain, what the hell is going on!” said Patel.
“I’m sorry, Commander, but I really can’t tell you,” said Lex. “Please go to your quarters and wait to be debriefed.”
“McDonald to Lex.”
What now. “Lex here, go ahead, Doctor.”
“Captain, I think you should get down to the brig,” she said, “The Vorta’s dead.”
Beneath the surface of Tyra III something stirred. Finally after millennia of waiting it could feel its prison weakening. It began to test the cell for the weakest points, for a means of escape. At the same time it could sense the presence of the poison that had trapped it here for all this time, powering its prison for century upon century, millennia upon millennia – the poison’s destruction concentrated here as the final defence against its return to the universe. This defence would fail. It felt the poison’s destruction reaching its peak and the attempts to escape became more frantic. It pushed harder against its prison and felt it begin to give way, to crack. It concentrated all its efforts on the weak point and found it opened further. It could feel that the poison was beginning to release its deadly energies and it pushed harder, pushing through the opening and out of the prison. The chain reaction ripped through the poison and the deadly energy consumed everything inside the bubble. From outside, it watched. And then it turned and headed off into the void, looking for those who had stood beside it before.
<-- Chapter 9 | Cover Page | Epilogue -->