Sitting in his ready room, Struan’s thoughts drifted back to his initial briefing on Omega when he took command of the Helsinki. He’d been inundated with reports and briefings and was making slow progress through them in his old ready room when the communique came through on a secured channel from Starfleet Science. He’d been startled to see that the call was coming from a flag officer and quickly corrected his posture to appear respectful and attentive. The Admiral’s mouth curved up at the corners indicating that it hadn’t gone unnoticed, but the Admiral said nothing of it and congratulated him on his new command instead.
Orders tended to come from such senior officers, but not informative briefings. There was little time to wonder about why this one was different, before the detail made it apparent.
Images of a devastated starbase appeared on the left-hand side of the screen. It was an old design, and one commonly used for research. He was surprised to learn that the base hadn’t been attacked, all the damage had been caused by one of their own experiments.
The Admiral elaborated on the experiment. The “Omega” molecule had been the project of one of the Federation’s leading scientists – a physicist called Ketteract – and carried the promise of revolutionizing power generation. Just one was equivalent to a warp core and so a small number working together could provide enough power for a civilization. Success had been brief, the molecule destabilized and devastated the facility and the space in the surrounding sector. Lantaru. It sounded familiar and took him a few moments to tie the name to the navigation hazard that it was known for. The pieces had started to fall into place as to why he was unfamiliar with Ketteract and why there had been such secrecy over something that had been a legitimate, honest experiment.
He recalled the smile on the Admiral’s face on seeing that he understood the magnitude of the topic under discussion. They’d effectively destroyed the Lantaru sector and have had the capability to synthesize the molecule responsible for well over a century. The power generation promise was tantalizing but the weapon potential was horrific. He wondered if they were to be losing a war against a race like the Klingons, what it would take before someone resorted to transporting some Omega to the Qu’no’S system and allowing it to destabilize there. The subspace damage alone would have cut the homeworld off from the rest of the Empire permanently. Logistics would be shattered, but the effect would be lasting and the suffering of the population would be immeasurable. The secrecy was a defense of obscurity. No one would attempt to create this substance if they did not know it was possible or what it could do. He found himself agreeing with the choices Command had made even though the tenets and values he held close to his heart favored honesty and openness.
The Admiral had finished the briefing by informing him about what would happen if his ship detected any Omega. It would lock the crew out of its systems and wait for him to acknowledge the event and his resulting orders with his command codes. Typically he would have to inform Starfleet Command immediately and secure the area without discussing it with his crew. Command would send a specialist team to dispose of it.
He hadn’t been too concerned at the time. His first command was a Parliament-class ship and those tended to operate well within Federation territory – the last place he’d expect to discover some Omega. Still he found the briefing strangely gripping. The secret that had been there all along and he’d never realized anything untoward had happened. It felt like a fiction about clandestine superweapon research, although it was no fiction and that had never been the intention.
His current situation was somewhat different though. Starfleet Command had invoked the directive but he hadn’t come across any Omega. He always thought that he’d never know if another ship encountered some. It wasn’t going at all like he imagined it might. The Lantaru incident was explainable but this dangerous stuff was appearing in places and for reasons that no-one could explain. He felt like that explained the deep anxiety he had started to feel since talking with Captain Dex. He felt strangely isolated by it. Only he had knowledge of it on the entire ship and he could not seek suggestions or recommendations from any of his crew without telling them what they’d be looking for.
The door chime sounded and broke his train of thought.
Of course, the Commander, he’d asked her to come. He closed the files that remained open on his display and admitted her in.