Kimathi’s voice was soft, but it was still enough to jerk Airex awake. He sat up on the small cot in the corner of the beacon chamber, ostensibly set up as a place to rest and wait and yet what had become almost all of his living space these past days. His throat was dry, and he had to swig from the flask of tepid water before he could speak, blinking away the gumminess in his eyes. ‘Report.’
‘I wish I could give you better than “something’s happening.” But something’s happening.’
She sat before the sprawling display of the beacon of Abnia VI, cross-legged and taking her turn to monitor the network interface. They did not have enough understanding of the Vanishing Point’s technology or systems to yet set up any kind of automated alert. Readings were changing all the time, but understanding them was an arduous case of comparing them to past records and otherwise trusting their guts. So they stood watch instead.
Commander Templeton had helped them for a time, only to be politely banished by Airex when he’d raised the alarm at what turned out to be a naturally-fluctuating subspace filament. Kimathi was more level-headed, more astute, and Airex had found her combination of curiosity and precision refreshing.
He rolled to his feet with a sigh, sipping more water as he padded over. ‘Walk me through it.’
She stood, gesturing across the racing figures and data feeds that lit the tiny chamber housing the most advanced technology either of them had ever contended with. ‘These subspace harmonic readings have started to go down. They were rising quickly when we arrived, and slowed shortly after we received the first confirmation of the restoration of a beacon’s power source, with the Atlantia out in the Gradin Belt.’
Airex’s eyes dragged across the flow of information. By now he felt both as if he knew it like the back of his hand, and as if it would take all of his lifetimes to comprehend it. They had fluctuated seemingly at random, but as reports poured in of Starfleet ships enacting their repairs, they had begun to map the impact of reactivated beacons. This, however, was the most significant change.
‘Did another beacon get repaired?’ he asked, searching the vast, galaxy-spanning map of the beacon network.
‘I’m looking,’ said Kimathi with a sigh. ‘It’s a big galaxy. But when those harmonic readings were rising, it would make sense for that to be a symptom of the Galactic Barrier’s destabilisation, right? If they’re going down -’
‘One step at a time, Lieutenant,’ Airex warned. Then his eyes settled on the light of one beacon, nestled in the distant Delta Quadrant amid a swirling knot of stellar phenomena, a blackened fist of the network. He tapped the light. ‘Here. The Odyssey’s destination.’
Kimathi slid over. ‘It wasn’t operating at full power before, but that’s just changed. Its geospatial feed has updated,’ she confirmed quickly. She glanced up at him. ‘Critical mass, or was this maybe a key branch of the network?’
‘I’m not sure we’re capable of finding out,’ Airex mused. ‘Let’s keep monitoring this. I’ll notify the Caliburn and have Commander Lockhart update us from astrometrics; let’s see if something is changing.’ While he fought to keep his voice level, he couldn’t deny the bubble of excitement in his chest. This was different. This was a change.
How long had it been since something had excited him like this, given him the giddy sense of reaching out and finding all the galaxy’s secrets at his fingertips? He’d lived for that feeling, once, as a scientist, only for curiosity and intellectual pursuits for their own sake to be dimmed by duties, stress, guilt. Now the fluttering anticipation teased at him again, a welcome old friend.
‘Sir, I have an idea,’ said Kimathi, turning to him, her eyes bright.
‘We should keep monitoring this from down here. And you should get Commander Templeton to bring us fresh coffee.’
Airex laughed, daring to let relief loosen the tension that had taken root in his heart the moment he’d heard of the activation of the Omega Directive. ‘An excellent idea, Lieutenant.’
It ended many times, for many different people in many different ways.
It ended when enough beacons were reconnected to the Vanishing Point’s network and the facility started to correct its calibrations. It ended when the Galactic Barrier was fully reasserted, not only stopping the flooding of Omega molecules but sending a ripple through subspace harmonics at a frequency to dissolve the last lingering pockets. It ended when Starfleet, satisfied by these findings, stopped the institution of the Omega Directive that had justified so many extreme measures in so many places.
But for many, it didn’t end at all. Pockets of subspace ravaged by Omega remained rifts in the galaxy, inaccessible by warp travel. Worlds once shrouded by the Prime Directive were changed forever after interventions and cultural contaminations deemed necessary. Captains and officers who had made extreme choices in the face of armageddon still shouldered the burdens of their decisions, and the consequences of their actions.
Yet there were, at least, beginnings. One such found Alexander Beckett sat before the desk of Fleet Admiral Ramar, idly adjusting the new, gleaming pip at the right breast of his uniform as he waited for Ramar to retrieve a PADD from a shelf and sit down.
Ramar’s gaze flickered from the PADD to Beckett. An eyebrow raised a millimetre before he said, ‘I should give you congratulations in person, Vice Admiral, shouldn’t I.’
Beckett’s hand dropped. ‘Oh, sir, that’s hardly necessary,’ he said with a twist of a smile, as if he’d not been fishing in the first place.
‘Then I won’t,’ Ramar grunted, stopping Beckett in his tracks, and didn’t wait before expanding the PADD’s holo-display before them. ‘Your research team reports that several of the pockets of Omega we hadn’t yet reached have gone away on their own.’
‘Commander Airex believes the Vanishing Point’s restoration of the Galactic Barrier hasn’t only stopped their manifestations, but undone what caused it,’ said Beckett, a little more frosty now. ‘Which is just as well. While it seems most of the Omega was in our region of the galaxy, who knows what pockets were beyond our reach.’
‘That is fortunate,’ Ramar agreed, then pressed on. ‘I saw your recommendation for classifying our findings on the Tkon.’
‘Access to the information for select personnel on the topic of the beacons, a higher rating for details on the Vanishing Point.’ Beckett shrugged. ‘I’d rather seal the whole thing, but enough crews had their fingers on Tkon relics and secrets that it’s hardly realistic. I want people reading those reports to have been vetted, at least, civilian and Starfleet both. Not hold an open day at the Daystrom Institute.’
‘Starfleet Research disagrees.’
‘Starfleet Research would have us dig up every Tkon site and roll around in their technology, regardless of incidents like on the Atlantis. One simple scan let a Tkon system take over the ship; the whole crew could have perished. We couldn’t afford to be cautious under the Omega Directive. I would rather have an extensive review of all findings before we launch a new phase in Federation archaeological understanding.’ Beckett sighed, frustrated. ‘And it would be an unnecessary distraction for Starfleet.’
Ramar tapped the PADD against the desk with a frown. ‘Alright,’ he said at length. ‘We do have bigger concerns. The Federation has burnt a lot of goodwill these past weeks, at home and abroad.’
‘Goodwill the Fourth Fleet is reliant on if we’re to keep pushing further Starfleet intervention and exploration,’ Beckett agreed. ‘Civilians forcibly relocated with no explanation forthcoming, treaties violated – even if the Romulans and Klingons know about Omega, know why it happened, they won’t hesitate to exploit any transgressions.’
Ramar lifted a hand with a flicker of irritation, and Beckett subsided. It had not, for once, been his intention to demonstrate his knowledge. The challenge ahead had stirred him to inadvertently over-explain.
‘Strained relations with the Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons,’ Ramar mused. ‘Damage to our public face with the people of the Federation. Exploration missions turned to Prime Directive breaches.’ He shook his head. ‘We can’t turn that clock back just because the crisis is over.’
Beckett drew a slow breath to not make a further fool of himself. ‘We have to get out ahead of these issues.’
‘I know,’ said Ramar. ‘And I have orders for the Fourth Fleet to that end.’ He slid the PADD across the desk.
Beckett read with a tight jaw. ‘Second contacts, joint missions with our allies, expansion of humanitarian relief…’ He blew his cheeks out. ‘It feels like one step forward, two steps back. Now we’re once again fighting to justify Starfleet being out here.’
‘Perhaps,’ mused Ramar, leaning back in his chair. ‘But nothing justifies doing good so much as… getting to work doing it.’
In this Story:
- Enough Tkon beacons are reactivated to restore the Vanishing Point’s network. The Galactic Barrier reasserts itself, ending the manifestations of Omega.
- Starfleet lifts the Omega Directive, though the damage to subspace, stricken worlds, and political tensions remain.
- Fleet Admiral Ramar issues new orders for the Fourth Fleet, focusing on repairing the damage done by the Omega Crisis – both literal and to Starfleet’s image.