|10 years ago the Federation was attacked by their most fearsome enemy, the Borg - but how far are they willing to go to protect themselves now?|
Captain Faruqui stepped onto his bridge from the main turbo-life entrance and was cordially announced as he did so.
"My ready-room." He told Commander Brown as he stalked across the command deck towards his private chambers while she dutifully complied with his curt instructions.
The ready-room doors hissed closed behind them, ensuring their privacy from the rest of the bridge officers.
"Sit down!" He told her as he seated himself behind a moulded silver desk that was fixed to the bulkhead wall. His room was decorated with framed holographic images of the dignitaries he had met during his rise to command and a large model of the first ship he served on as Captain sat at the far side beneath a window, a tired old Excelsior class ship.
"Sir?" She asked as she dutifully complied.
"You have good news for me?" He asked but in a tone that was more like a command and his expression that anything less would not be tolerated.
"I believe I do." She ventured, handing him her personal terminal. "We have gleaned some information from the base computers."
"Anything I should care about?" He goaded her, dropping her pad to the desk in disinterest with it, preferring to hear her explanation rather than rummaging through reams of raw data.
"There are several mentions of the Scarab in the comm traffic from the moon." She began, almost excitedly. "They mention planning to run tests aboard the Ibex."
"What sort of tests?" He frowned. "I thought the Scarab was fully operational and in limited production."
"We couldn't tell, the data was highly encoded." She apologised. "Perhaps they are making improvements?"
"What else?" He leant forward, resting his chin on his upturned hands thoughtfully.
"The tubes are mentioned in reference to the Scarab and the tests, they have something to do with this plan." She offered, hoping to pique his interest.
"But no mention of what they are actually for?" He replied with disappointment.
"No." She admitted. "But they are the only operational ones, some kind of prototype. The entire moon base was being set up to mass produce whatever the tubes were for."
"Apparently they are for resurrecting the dead." He shrugged, sitting back in his black leather chair.
"There was no overt mention of their function." She sighed. "But there is more good news."
"There better be!" He told her, dropping his head again to his upturned hands.
"Most of the comm traffic was to the same place, the place where the tests were going to be performed on board the Ibex." She began with a smile.
"Go on…" He told her.
"It appears to be some kind of testing ground, an experimental lab." She told him. "I think we have enough information to extrapolate its position."
"You know where it is?" He sat up excitedly, his eyes beaming with childish glee.
"The computers are working on it and I have a team running simulations in astral cartography." She smiled more widely. "I expect answers within the hour!"
"So!" Blake began, hoisting himself from the seat with obvious effort. "Starfleet is looking for Section 31, who is also Starfleet or at least another face of it?"
"I guess so." Katherine replied dolefully.
"It's no longer the Starfleet you used to know." Compz told him. "I believe that their influence has begun a deep corruption that is eating into the very heart of the Federation and I can back up my beliefs with sound evidence."
"It certainly sounds like it." Blake agreed with an angry nod as he turned to face him.
"There are other signs." Compz began. "Starfleet is now building purpose built battle-ships and engaging in the forced resettlement of races when it suits them to do so!"
"I find all of this hard to believe!" Blake replied with some evident surprise. "Starfleet intelligence is getting away with this?"
"Not Starfleet intelligence!" Katherine corrected him. "Starfleet command has authorised all of this."
"No!" Blake closed his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. "Battle ships?"
"Defiant class, Prometheus class!" Compz nodded sorrowfully. "I know of three other classes that are still listed as Escort vessels but are clearly designed for nothing but combat."
"I know of more!" Katherine added softly. "Quite apart from the vessels that Section 31 covertly employs, Starfleet intelligence has access to attack ships."
"Your father would be ashamed of you!" Blake said angrily at her, forgetting for an instant that she had actually grown up. "This was never his vision, he believed in Starfleet and the Federation mandate."
"No!" She yelled back, jumping to her feet to defend herself. "He agreed with my application to join SF intelligence."
"I sincerely doubt he would have agreed with any of what I've just heard." Blake sneered.
"He knew about the Defiant class, it was originally designed to counter the Borg." She argued, her fists clenched and her temper soaring. "We took a pounding at Wolf 359 from just one Borg ship and we know they have more. Their technology was frighteningly advanced, we had to learn to defend ourselves. Even my father said it was reasonable."
"It always sounds reasonable!" Blake yelled back, his anger surprising even himself. "In world war two the nazis gassed to death thousands of Jewish people. The gas was officially listed as a cleaning chemical so that the delivery agents and ordinary people would have no problem with making it, it all sounded reasonable to them, too at the time!"
"This is not productive!" Compz stood up, hoping to calm them both down.
"Does it have warp drive?" Blake asked, glaring into her eyes with silent menace broiling away inside him.
"What?" She asked, not following his reasoning.
"The Defiant." He explained. "Does it have warp drive?"
"Yes." She shrugged. "Of course it does."
"Why would a defensive vessel have warp drive?" He argued although more calmly as he took control of himself. "Perimeter defence ships are not meant to be fitted with it. If you want to counter an attack you do it with improved defences along a perimeter, you don't build battle ships."
"But…" She began, not knowing what to say.
"There is a reason we never built them before." Blake said evenly, digging his hands deeply into his pockets. "We never needed them."
"Starfleet famously relied on diplomacy and peaceful methods." Compz agreed. "In fact the Borg invasion was finally stopped by a starship accessing the Borg technology when all weapons had long since failed."
"It sounds like you've lost your way." Blake said, turning towards the window.
"We're leaving orbit." Captain Faruqui told his chief medical officer.
"I see." Turaz replied coldly, gazing emotionlessly into his commanding officers eyes.
"I would like to bring at least two more of these tubes up to the ship." He continued. "For study."
"I see no danger in doing so." Turaz agreed. "I would appreciate the chance to study the devices while they still contain a being."
"I thought you might." Faruqui smiled knowingly.
"I have been able to find almost nothing of any note in the tube we have." Turaz explained with a hint of frustration evident through his emotionless Vulcan façade.
"What about this clear liquid?" The Captain asked conversationally "Any luck with that?.
"Nothing." He admitted. "Although I am now able to detect it with scanning devices."
"You can scan it?" He snapped up in optimistic surprise.
"Whatever was in there has broken down now that it is separated from its energy source." Turaz replied.
"What does scanning reveal?" Captain Faruqui pressed.
"It is a simple saline solution with a few trace minerals, nothing I can draw conclusions from and definitely nothing that offers any clues to their function."
Katherine Rogers sat alone in her quarters feeling like a scolded child who had been caught with her hand in a cookie-jar. She sat at her modest computer access terminal reviewing files. Her security clearance was low but allowed her into the files she was looking for. A schematic of the Defiant flashed onto the screen as the menu system scrolled down around the sides offering her the choices of different views and more information on various non-classified areas of the vessel.
She sighed heavily to herself as a large part of her was forced to agree with Blake Girlings dire view of the situation.
The door chimed to warn her that someone was waiting outside and she had no current desire to speak with anyone.
"Come." She called out wearily to the computer hoping it wasn't Captain Faruqui or Turaz coming to help her bad day continue inexorably towards worse. Instantly the door slid open to allow Haldo Compz in.
"Hi!" He smiled as he lumbered into her small windowless quarters.
"Hello." She replied with notable relief, looking back to her files. "I've been thinking about what he said."
"Who? Girling?" Compz asked innocently.
"I've looked up the Defiant." She told him, turning her monitor so that he could see the images.
"Four forward pulse phasers, two quantum tubes with advanced targeting trackers, ablative armour and rotating shield modulation all built around a power source generating so much power that it's constantly trying to tear the ship apart." She explained sadly.
"It would imply that it was built by a people who are losing faith in peace." Compz agreed with her apparently grim assessment.
"I thought that by working in SF intelligence I would be at the cutting edge of protecting the Federation." She explained. "Now I don't even know what I'm protecting it from or even if it deserves protecting."
"You're protecting it from itself." He shrugged, stepping closer and perching uneasily on the end of her desk. "Rather erroneously I might add."
"Meaning?" She asked, already knowing the answer.
"Meaning that something you believe in should hardly be a threat to itself." He explained. "Section 31 would be no threat to anyone if their activities were made public, their power would mostly vanish."
"Why didn't you tell anyone about them then?" She asked, leaning back and crossing her arms across her chest defensively.
"Who would listen to me?" He smiled. "And in any case, I couldn't draw too much attention to myself or they would find me and kill me. I am after all living evidence of their existence."
"What am I going to do?" She sighed, hanging her head sorrowfully and enthusiastically rubbing her forehead.
"About what?" He asked as supportively as he could be inspired to manage.
"I can't just resign my commission, this isn't regular service." She explained. "I can't turn my back on my career either."
"So you've decided that you no longer want this job." He shrugged. "I'm sure I can find a place for you aboard the Wanderer, or at least what's left of her."
"Your ship?" She laughed. "No offence but things aren't that bad just yet."
"What's wrong with my ship?" He snapped defensively. "She's a good little craft."
"It's a mess." She reminded him. "It's crippled and deserted in orbit around a rock in space because a shuttle shot it to pieces."
"And you don't feel it would be an upward step in your career?" Compz asked with a smile.
"I was more thinking along the lines of applying for a position aboard a rescue ship or something in Starfleet medical." She explained. "Follow in my fathers footsteps."
"At least you have options." Compz sighed in sympathy with himself. "I have to carry on my fight against Section 31. I have nothing else and nothing else to look forward to."
"I guess not." She bit her lip as she suggestion that perhaps he should consider joining Starfleet flashed through her mind. "I guess I don't know what to think."
Blake Girling sat at his terminal going through every file he could find about Starfleet intelligence, Section 31 or anything else that might shed some light on his situation. They were painfully scarce and security warnings blocked him at every step of the way.
He stared thoughtfully out of his window for a moment, thinking about what he had heard. His mind was clearer than it had been, the pain in every movement had numbed and had slipped past his notice but he still felt irritable and his temper was short.
A file appeared about his old friend Commander Rogers. His shuttle had been caught in the blast of a warp core breach after he continually ignored warnings to withdraw. He had already shuttled out more than 50 injured people from the crippled vessel and had been officially recorded as a hero.
"Goodbye old friend!" He said softly, sighing at the grinning picture of the stocky, cheerful man he'd respected and known so well.
Suddenly inspiration hit him. He rummaged through the desk draw for equipment before finding a black box that contained thick padding which was loaded with tools and devices. He tutted loudly to himself that the phaser was missing but that hadn't been a total surprise. He smiled as he grabbed up a tricorder and flicked it open.
Mercifully it hadn't really changed, it seemed a little lighter and the colours of the flashing readouts seemed brighter but it was essentially the same piece of kit he had been trained to use. He set it to look for what he knew would be out there and began to wave his arm. He waited while the little device scanned for energy signals that were processing his repetitive movement and then the sensor locked on with a determined chirp.
"Got you!" He grinned stepping over to the far bulkhead wall to the source of the scanner. He ran his eyes over a large featureless black panel on the grey wall. He pressed it and a menu suddenly appeared that offered internal ship communications in the event of failure of the internal comm system.
He ran his fingertips along the surface and dug his nails into a tiny gap, pulling as he did so. With ease the panel simply tore from the wall revealing a flashing and pulsing jumble of circuitry and fibres. A little surprised at the flimsiness of the ship he set the tricorder to detect at a shortened range and quickly found what he was looking for. He pulled a tiny black tube from the panel that contained a security monitoring probe that had been watching him.
His tricorder told him that the device was some kind of optical imaging system that watched and listened to everything happening in the cabin.
"I'll give you something to watch." He grinned, swallowing the small device.
"The coordinates have been set into the computer." Commander Rogers confirmed.
"Are all shuttles and crew accounted for?" Captain Faruqui sat in his middle chair issuing orders around the bridge.
"All shuttles are confirmed and locked down. Crews accounted for and secure." Goruss Clogg replied from his station.
"Engage cloaking device." He instructed.
"Replicators responding." Came the reply from the operations chief. "We are cloaked."
"Is the course set in?" He asked the helmsman.
"Ready, sir." Came the efficient response from the front of the bridge.
"Maximum warp." He ordered as the main viewer blurred the stars around them as the ship gently accelerated beyond the light barrier with a brilliant flash that suddenly lit up the view screen.
"Four point three hours to target." Commander Brown reminded him.
"Keep me posted." He replied, stepping up from his chair. "I want red alert and battle stations in two hours, we don't know what we're going to find when we get where we're going."
"I have programmed all tactical scenarios into the system." Goruss Clogg told him. "All weapons are nominal and inventory is fully loaded. We are as ready as we'll ever be."
"Three more vessels have acknowledged and will join us twelve hours after we arrive." Commander Brown added.
"That will give me the time I need to check things out without other people tripping over my feet." The Captain said as he headed off to the sanctity of his ready room. "I want level one diagnosis run on all sensors including tactical."
"We went to Warp." Commander Morrow said with a shudder.
"I know." Captain Graves replied with curt nod. "Why don't you go and try to find out what's going on?"
"Me?" Morrow gasped. "I don't want to go out there!"
"I'm confined to quarters." Graves reminded him. "Go and find Compz, he'll know."
"He's probably working with them by now." Winston argued in a whiny monotone. "I'm not sure if I trust him any more."
"Compz?" Graves ruffled his brow and shook his head as if the suggestion was ridiculous. "We've known him years."
"I know." Morrow agreed. "All he cares about is getting at Section 31, if it meant working with Starfleet, I think he'd do it."
"He'd hardly be betraying us then, would he?" He smirked. "We just want to get at Section 31 as well."
"I'm not saying he would." Morrow shrugged, raising his voice as he spoke. "We know he went down to the moon again and is working closely with that doctor."
"That's his job." The Captain sat back and crossed his legs, sipping from his ever ready flask of gin. "You don't know what you're saying, do you?"
"No!" Morrow admitted. "I'm scared, alright!"
"Me too." Graves nodded slowly. "I have a bad feeling about all of this."
Girling opened the service panel of the replicator and jabbed the probe into the circuitry.
"Computer." He called out from the side of the machines alcove. "Give me a hand-phaser."
"Unable to comply." It told him in a flatly unemotional female voice.
"How about now?" He said, crossing circuit pathways with more aggression than skill.
The opening flashed instantly to life and the glimmering light faded quickly into a puddle of chicken soup replicated without a bowl. The cold soup dripped to the floor along the front of the machine leaving a trail to the carpet.
"Give me a phaser." He repeated, pulling out the main control board and jamming his probe into the over-ride command module.
"Unable to comply." The computer persisted nonchalantly.
Blake picked his way carefully out of the machines innards and stood back thoughtfully surveying the uncooperative device.
"Computer." He began hopefully. "Replicate a type 7 power module."
"Unable to comply." It mocked him. "The replicator is restricted to supplying food only."
Blake rubbed his chin and perched himself on the edge of a table, thinking of all the parts around him.
"Computer." He began with a renewed sense of purpose as an idea struck. "Is there any problem with the replicator?"
"Affirmative." The computer agreed. "There is damage to the primary command input circuit."
He stepped quickly up to the instrument and jammed the probe into another circuit hard enough to crack the mounting bracket and damage the connections.
"Is there any problem with the replicator?" He repeated.
"There are no reported problems with the replicator." The computer replied.
Blake stood up with the imaging coils in his hand and the shattered remains of the diagnostic sub-processor spilt out on the floor.
He took the part to his desk and pulled the power supply from his maintenance probe and began wiring the parts together while checking the design schematics on the computer database for the instructions of how to build a phaser.
"Computer." He said as he checked that the imaging coil was firmly attached to the power supply. "Monitor this room for any energy spikes and relay all information to my tricorder."
"Drop out of warp." Captain Faruqui instructed. The ship emerged into normal space still cloaked and invisible to the eye of anyone who may be watching.
"I have the location of the base on long-range sensors." The operations chief reported.
"We're a long way inside the neutral zone." Commander Brown noted cautiously. "If we get caught here, we're going to be in a world of trouble."
"Perfect place for a base of operations." The Captain noted. "Nothing is allowed to enter the zone so nobody would think of looking for them here."
"I am detecting a large planet in a binary solar system with a ring of asteroids, that appears to be the location we were given." Commander Brown offered, tapping in numbers at her station.
The main viewer dropped the normal holographic rendering from the front of the ship and showed the planet they were monitoring.
"Show me this asteroid ring." The Captain ordered as the view zoomed in on the exact coordinates.
"The larger asteroids are nearly as big as Earth's moon." Goruss Clogg noted. "They contain a high concentration of metal deposits and could easily hide a base in the same manner as we have previously seen."
"Are we detecting any power signatures?" Faruqui asked, leaning forward to the viewer and squinting for any detail.
"No sir." Goruss confirmed. "But they could simply be cloaking themselves."
"They could indeed." He agreed suspiciously. "Move us in, thrusters only and passive scans. I don't want to do anything that might tip them off."
Ensign Katherine Rogers stepped into cargo bay 3 riddled with doubt and confusion about both Starfleet and herself. She looked up from her own meandering thoughts to see two more of the tubes from the Section 31 base. She stood motionless for a moment, staring with surprise at the tall cylindrical structures that stood like a pair of monoliths at the centre of the cargo bay.
"Come in." Turaz said, standing up from his work with a medical tricorder in his hand.
"Doctor?" She began as she walked petulantly towards him.
"I was instructed to remove more of these tubes for analysis and I require some assistance." He explained simply without noting her surprise.
"You never said that you were intending to bring any more up." She said.
"I am not required to explain my orders to junior officers." Turaz noted impatiently. "Hand me the EM stimulator."
"Yes sir." She looked around the floor where dozens of tools had been carelessly discarded in his frustration with his work. "We did try to scan for any electromagnetic fields and found nothing."
"These tubes are still functioning normally, we have not severed them from a power supply yet." Turaz explained.
Katherine shook her head to herself in dismay as she glanced over to the visual displays.
"Sir!" She began forcefully. "These tubes have reached level 7 now and we don't know what that will mean to the people inside."
"It is our job to find out." He replied flatly, reaching out his hand for the stimulator.
"These machines could be harming the people inside." She explained adamantly as she grudgingly handed him the tool.
"It would be illogical to suppose that." He began with a singularly Vulcan exclamation. "The one man we have extracted from one of these devices was in good health after having been dead for a number of years. There is clearly an end result that these devices are attempting to achieve as they sought to produce more of them."
"More of them?" She gasped. "Why?"
"It is our job to find out." He repeated. "Incidentally, concerning the healthy individual we extracted from the tube, I have several questions."
"Questions?" She asked, waiting nervously for him to continue.
"As you know we extracted a sample of this mans blood." Turaz began. "I have run many simple tests as scanning devices are still ineffective on his tissue."
"What did you find?" She asked, her eyes closing as she screwed up her face in anticipation of impending bad news.
"How old is this man?" Turaz asked, standing up to face her and wiping his hands on a towel as he did so.
"He was thirty five when he died." She said simply, shaking her head as she wondered what was coming but was almost afraid to ask.
"I would estimate his age at no more than twenty eight from the reaction of his cells." Turaz told her. "It appears he has been somehow regenerated to a younger biological template as well as being brought back from the dead."
Turaz picked up an engineering tricorder relay that glinted with pulsating red light as he switched it on before he returned his attention to his job.
"How do we know they intended to produce more of them?" She asked, kneeling down and peering into the workings of the tube where Turaz was again clambering about.
"A partially decoded message." He explained. "The entire base was intended to become a production facility."
"Producing what?" She asked, peering into the dark glass opening to the vaguely human face inside.
"This man is a Human." Turaz explained. "We have failed to identify him so far but the computer is working on it. Girling had lost some weight and facial hair so we are assuming the same will be true of this one. What he is intended to be at the end of the treatment remains a mystery."
"We should get him out of there." She suggested, a chill running up her spine at the thought of what might be happening to him.
"Doing so would tell us little." Turaz countered. "Girling could offer us nothing we didn't already know."
"If we knew who this man was then we'd know more." She said hopefully.
"And if we wait then we could find out much more and would still be able to ask him that question."
"Sir." Commander Brown said as the door to the Captains ready room shut behind her.
"How long to complete full sensor scans?" He asked, his attention fixed on his monitor.
"Another two hours, I'm afraid." She explained. "With only passive scanning it is taking some time."
"Understood." He agreed, looking up. "Have we found anything interesting?"
"Not yet." She admitted. "Five asteroids are large enough to be habitable in the way that their previous base was, we're concentrating our efforts on them now."
"This doesn't make sense." He said thoughtfully. "This is a lab. They're running tests on ships."
"Yes sir." She agreed. "That seems likely."
"What sort of tests can you run in the neutral zone?" He shrugged. "There are detection markers everywhere, anything would be detected and the risks of that happening are just too high."
"I agree." She said, the thought never before occurring to her but making sense.
"What would they be testing here, and how would they be getting away with it?" He asked, not even hoping for an answer.
"I guess we'll know when we find it." She replied hopefully.
"We're close to the Federation in the neutral zone between us and Romulan space." He said rhetorically. "We've found tubes on board that contain a man who died years ago but is now fine, and we know that they want to test something aboard the Ibex…"
"It's not much." She agreed.
"Look at this!" He said, turning his terminal around to show her. "That is Blake Girlings quarters.
"Yes sir." She nodded as she watched the screen.
"He pulled out the security monitoring device and swallowed it." He continued. "And now he's exercising."
"Starfleet crewmen are required to maintain a level of fitness." Commander Brown noted while the small image of the officer moved across the screen.
"I had engineering run a little experiment on him, just for fun." The Captain told her. "We beamed a replacement monitor in there once we'd discovered what he was up to."
"Sir?" She asked quizzically.
"For the last half an hour they have been gradually increasing the gravity in his room." He explained. "Now this man has only just been declared unfit for duty due to extreme fatigue brought on by this procedure."
"I see." She nodded.
"He pulled the comm panel off the wall with his fingernails." Faruqui continued. "And now he's working out at twice the normal G-level and he hasn't even seemed to notice."
"What do you think this means?" She asked, her eyes jumping up to meet his.
"I don't know yet." He shrugged. "But it means something."
Proceed to Chapter 7 of 10
|Last modified: 09 Nov 2020