Captain’s Log, Stardate 76686.3
First contact with the Thalruatanians was a success, and we have resumed course at warp eight. As we are several weeks away from the next star system, I have allowed the senior staff to take a lighter schedule for the next several days to recuperate from the rigors of our very first first contact mission on the advice of First Officer Rakan. This is also giving our junior bridge crews a chance to gain valuable first-hand experience. Long-range spectrography confirms the presence of at least four M-class planets in the next system, so I want the entire crew to be ready for whatever we may discover there.
A starship captain was never truly off-duty, as they could be called to the bridge at any moment to deal with a crisis. Still, a day alone with Dr. Sheppard in one of the ship’s dozens of holosuites was the closest Captain Lancaster had come to shore leave since assuming command of the Arcturus three months ago. After holding the line against the Breen and the Hunters of D’Ghor for most of that time, the ship had finally resumed its exploratory mission in the Delta Quadrant, and Lancaster had conducted his debut first contact mission with the cosmopolitan Thalruatanians. They were a fascinating race of quadrupedal humanoids that were the evolutionary result of plant DNA finding its way back into their genetic makeup hundreds of thousands of years ago, rendering them photosynthetic and nearly self-sustaining other than a need for water and nutrients.
Admiral Hayden had left the majority of the diplomacy to Lancaster where protocol would allow her to do so, in a clear attempt to send a signal to the crew that he was the captain, not just the first officer, but when it came to the science, the former botanist had practically taken over one of the biology labs pouring over their physiological data and that of lesser animal species from their world. What they’d learned about the Thalruatanians would give xenobiologists fodder for decades. For their part, the Thalruatanians were impressed that Starfleet would send such a “small” ship such a long way. Their society was highly centralized, and over tens of thousands of years, they’d spread from one sub-continent to occupying every square centimeter of land on the planet, building up layers over layers until they’d created a true ecumenopolis, so the idea of “just” 2,500 beings all on their own was very confusing to them.
A peaceful race with ideals quite similar to the Federation, the Thalruatanians had mastered space travel almost a hundred years prior, and they had exceptionally large ships with crews of over 10,000. However, they were technologically inferior to Starfleet vessels in every respect other than structural engineering. Captain Okusanya had theorized that the demands of building arcologies and skyscrapers to house their population of nearly twenty billion had given them a leg up in that department.
Sheppard had selected a villa on some unnamed Greek isle for their getaway. They’d swum together in the sea before lying out on the beach of impossibly fine and smooth pebbles to soak up the sunlight. Both of them had grown up on the coast—Lancaster was more accustomed to the cool mists of the Pacific Northwest, while Sheppard had grown up in Italy under constant Mediterranean sunshine—so being near the water was one of the things they both missed most about life on a starship.
Lunch was out on the patio, with the combination of an ocean breeze and the sun high in the air providing a perfect complement to the assortment of Greek dishes before them.
“I do feel a little bad tying up a holosuite for an entire day,” Lancaster noted as he contemplated his glass of white wine. With replicator functions integrated into the holosuite, you could have any meal in any setting imaginable, which made him slightly pensive about why he and Sheppard always picked Earth when they could have Risa or Betazed.
Sheppard chuckled. “It’s a big ship. There are plenty to go around. Plus, you’re the captain, and that has its perks,” he replied, setting his fork and knife down. “There are too many computer terminals in our quarters. You’d be too tempted to work there.”
“You do know me very well. But not this time, I don’t think. That last mission took a lot of energy. It’s nice to relax,” Lancaster noted. “Not being in a war zone also helps.”
Before Sheppard could respond, the computer interrupted. Lancaster could also feel the ship slowing to a stop once the holosuite’s additional inertial dampening was disabled, along with the lowering in pitch of the ship’s power generation systems.
“Program paused. Contingency Protocol Omega has been declared. Captain to the Bridge,” the computer ordered. That was the last thing Lancaster ever thought he would hear since being briefed by Hayden herself upon assuming command.
Lancaster stood up immediately and went into the villa to grab his uniform, pulling it on over his swimsuit as Sheppard raced after him.
“What happened to no work? Let someone else handle this, Michael,” Sheppard protested, looking hurt when it seemed like Lancaster was willing to drop their excursion on the very first opportunity.
“That’s not possible,” Lancaster replied, sitting down to put his boots on. “I’m sorry, but trust me when I say that this is something so far above either of us that I really have no choice.”
“What is Contingency Protocol Omega?” Sheppard asked, sitting down next to him, his look of hurt changing to confusion and concern.
“I can’t tell you that. I also need you not to discuss it with anyone,” Lancaster replied, standing back up when he was fully dressed. He kissed him on the forehead. “This is going to take a while. I’ll make it up to you,” he added. “Exit!”
Moments later, the arch appeared, and Lancaster left the holodeck. When he got to the bridge, all of the holographic displays had been turned off entirely, with the physical consoles displaying the symbol omega and nothing else. Lieutenant Windsor was trying in vain to use his command codes at the operations station while the Ensign manning it looked on.
“As you were,” Lancaster ordered, stepping up to the console and tapping in a special override sequence that restored command of the ship to the bridge. The omega disappeared, and the holographic consoles came back to life.
“Captain! I was just about to call the first officer. I’m sorry whatever this was disturbed you,” Windsor exclaimed, but Lancaster ignored it.
“Lieutenant, hold this position until further notice. No one on the bridge is to discuss this with the rest of the crew. I will be in my ready room, and I am not to be disturbed by anyone, understood?” Lancaster asked.
“Aye, Captain,” Windsor replied, though he was clearly bursting with questions before Lancaster left him dumbfounded in the middle of the bridge.
Lancaster exited to the starboard, Yeoman Kaplan scrambling to his feet when he entered the turbolift vestibule between the bridge and the ready room. From the looks of it, he was also in the middle of his lunch when the captain swept by.
“No visitors until I say otherwise,” Lancaster ordered, not waiting for an acknowledgment before he entered the ready room. “Computer, seal the doors to this room. No entry without my authorization.”
“Doors are sealed,” the computer replied.
Lancaster sat at his desk, putting his head in his hand for a moment before he steeled himself and sat back in his seat. The one display still showing an omega on the ship was his own desk terminal, where it stood staring at him.
“Display secure data file Omega One.”
“Voiceprint confirmed. State clearance code.”
“Clearance Code Lancaster Blue Seven One Zero, clearance level 10.”
“The Omega Phenomenon has been detected within 2.8 light-years from this vessel. Implement the Omega Directive immediately. All other priorities have been rescinded,” the computer reported.
Lancaster sighed. “Display sensor data,” he ordered. The display switched to a view centered on the ship. A faint particle-wave had been detected, and the computer had been able to use classified analysis methods to determine its point of origin: Thalruatania.