[Sathea IV Science Station, Sathea System, Alpha Quadrant]
In the black body of heaven’s keep, in the space that is the beauty of the universe, among the stars that shine so bright, Sathea IV sat many kilometres from her five siblings. On the edge of the Paulson nebula, with its swirling dust clouds, large rocks, and clumpy space matter which presented a navigational hazard for starships a plenty, the planet unknowingly found itself in the path of the increasingly violent Century Storm. Already, the planet was feeling the effects of the spatial phenomenon. As if it were starlight pulsing through the graphite sky, lightning came in great networking forks, striking randomly at first before being drawn to the shielding system of the science station located in the planet’s southern hemisphere. The wind was like nothing anyone had ever heard, savage and unyielding, raw power beyond any wind storm. And if the scaremongers from Starfleet were to be believed, this was only the beginning.
Standing over one of his lead researchers, Administrator Dayo Ekaan’s handlebar moustache twitched, almost betraying the tension in the elderly man’s muscles as he looked over their readings. According to their sensors, once the epicenter of the storm engulfed their facility they would feel a force so strong it could only be compared to the sort of intense gravimetric distortion that could pose a danger to spacecraft by trapping them and exposing them to high levels of gravimetric shear – only on a planet instead.
A bead of sweat trickled down his wrinkled face as he gently patted the researcher’s shoulder in appreciation. They had all agreed to stay and study the phenomenon from within, putting their lives at risk for the pursuit of science, but even the Administrator was starting to question the logic of his decision. Was a scientific study of a once in a generation phenomenon really worth the lives of him and his team?
He would have to answer that question much sooner than he would like, because at that very moment, the science lab was engulfed in blue light and a low droning sound as several transporter beams appeared out of nowhere and several figures emerged from the swirling particles of matter.
Looking around their new environment, Commander sh’Elas, Lieutenant Commander Travis, Lieutenant Noli and the security team took a moment to steady themselves. From the get go, Tharia’s antennae drooped, a surefire way of letting everyone around her know she was concerned. She had every right to be, not that the away team or their ‘guests’ knew it just yet.
Once her eyes settled on the Administrator, Commander sh’Elas stepped forward and addressed the man directly. “Administrator Ekaan… My name is Commander Tharia sh’Elas, executive officer of the starship Santa Fe,” the Andorian introduced herself formally before moving on to the purpose of her visit. “By order of Starfleet Command, you and your team are instructed to abandon all projects, transport all findings to the Santa Fe and, hopefully, continue your research from the safety of the ship,” she instructed the man, holding out a data PADD whilst she spoke, a written confirmation of the orders presented to her.
“Don’t let them do this, Dayo…”
“You can’t be serious?!”
“Not a chance are we leaving now.”
Just some of the phrases heard in the room as the researchers and scientists erupted in uproar at the prospect of having their research halted. Among the crowd, the Administrator tried his best to calm his people, arms flailing as he tried to quiet the din and regain a sense of order. Once he had enjoyed a modicum of success and the noise died down, the elderly man took ownership of the data PADD and, without even looking at its contents, he disregarded it. He tossed it to the side and, in an act of bravado, puffed out his chest as he ‘stood up’ to the trespassers.
“Commander,” he began, “you can tell your Captain ‘thanks, but no thanks’. We’ve got all manner of science related endeavours on the go here, things that have been in the works for decades, things that are crucial to this environment. And now we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to study the largest concentration of ion storms ever recorded,” he spoke with gravitas and solemnity, taking the smallest step forward and gazing straight into the Andorian’s eyes, “you can’t expect a group of scientists to give up on such an endeavour.”
For what it was worth, Commander sh’Elas could understand their desire to remain behind and see their life’s work through to completion. And just when it seemed like the Administrator may have won her over, the Andorian’s antennae drooped, as did her polite smile. “Ten, maybe even twenty years ago, you would have had me, but my job now is simple. I’m here to safeguard the lives of everyone on this station,” she frowned, taking her own step towards the elder man, “please don’t make me unleash the yellow coats. They won’t be nearly as delicate with your belongings and I’d hate to see any of your work ruined because of some brain dead beefcake,” her words, although laced with sarcasm, were from the heart. She really didn’t want to see any of their projects ruined, but she was clear of her orders, and was determined to get the scientists off the planet’s surface as soon as practicable.
Dayo let out a sigh of resignation and held up his hands in defeat. “Alright, alright. You win, Commander. Give me a moment with my people and we’ll make the necessary arrangements,” the man shook his head as he turned away slowly and started to converse with his scientists.
Thankfully, sense seemed to have prevailed on this occasion, and with a smile of relief, Tharia nodded. She stepped back and joined her team, waiting for the man to complete his conversation.
[USS Santa Fe, Sathea System, Alpha Quadrant]
Sitting in the command chair at the heart of the Santa Fe bridge, Captain Farrell was leaning to the right, his chin resting on his right hand, which was propped up on the arm rest beneath. His gaze trained on the main viewer and the image of the planet they now orbited, the Captain’s silence was worrying his crew. Everyone, from waste disposal to the bridge itself, knew that if Farrell was in deep, quiet contemplation as he was now, then that usually spelled trouble for something… or someone.
“I’m sure everything is fine,” Counsellor Chiera chipped in, leaning forward from her seated position in the executive officers chair in an effort to draw the Captain’s gaze from the viewer. “An evacuation on the scale we are looking at will take time to coordinate, even with the best people on hand,” she smiled at him reassuringly.
Letting out a sigh, Seb slouched back into his command chair, furrowed brows and a grimace more than enough of a sign to show his anxiousness. “You might be right, Counsellor, but time is not on our side,” he warned her. “Lieutenant Rawlings, time until the worst of the oncoming storm hits the planet?” he questioned, stopping the ever positive Counsellor in her tracks.
At the forward Flight Operations station, Lieutenant Dante Rawlings sat forward and tapped on the console to get the answer Farrell requested. He, too, had been slouched, anxiously watching and waiting for news of success from the away team. The Captain’s question gave him a focus, albeit temporary, and a reason to be there on the bridge. “Sensors confirm that the main thrust of the storm will hit the planet in less than three hours, but the planet will start to feel the initial effects in less than two,” the African-American confirmed, looking back at the Captain for a brief moment.
Standing from his command chair, the Captain nodded slowly. “I’ll be in my ready room if anyone needs me. Dante, the bridge is yours,” Farrell confirmed with a gentle slap on the Flight Operations chief’s shoulder as he walked past, headed to his ready room. Before he could cross the threshold, however, an incoming hail on the ship’s internal comm stopped him in his tracks. “Farrell here. Go ahead?” he called out, turning to face the centre of the bridge, hoping it was news they needed to hear.
“This is transporter room one sir. We’ve lost our lock on the away team and we can’t re-establish,” a concerned voice from the depths of the ship called out.
Sebastian took several steps towards the forward Operations station, looking at his senior officer’s for some form of explanation. It came from the Cardassian in gold who was tapping away furiously at the LCARS panel before her.
“Sensors are detecting an energy field around the station which is disrupting our transporter lock. Communications are down too,” the Cardassian frowned, “I’m working on a way around it, now.”
Pacing back and forth behind the Conn and Ops, the Captain folded his arms across his chest. They were in the middle of a humanitarian mission, and now he had apparently lost contact with his people, as well as the planet. Counsellor Chiera pushed herself up and out of the XO’s seat, stepping forward beside her captain, hoping to be the supportive influence he often called upon.
“Judging by the fact this field is located around the station and, seemingly nowhere else, would I be correct in thinking it is not a natural occurrence?” Sebastian supposed, stopping between the seats and glaring down at the Cardassian.
Nodding, Prida confirmed his worst fears. “The field is being generated from within the station sir,” the Cardassian reported. “Someone down there doesn’t want us making contact with our team…”
[Sathea IV Science Station, Sathea System, Alpha Quadrant]
With one eye on the civilians and another on her team, sh’Elas was starting to feel uncomfortable. “This is taking too long…” she thought. “Javorian, we need to work out exactly what they are doing here, and see how we can support them to continue their efforts on the ship. Noli, you and your men contact the ship and begin transport preparations,” the XO ordered quietly, before holding a hand up to halt the team in their tracks. Looking back at the science officers, the Andorian felt somewhat confused. Something was off.
Whatever the Andorian XO was feeling, it was clear her Bajoran colleague was feeling it to. “Something doesn’t feel right here,” Noli said after a few seconds, watching the faces and movements of the people around them. She gestured to her team to be alert for… something. Her comments brought the concerned gaze of Commander Travis back into focus on the science team they were visiting. Tapping her commbadge, the Bajoran tried speaking to their ship. “Noli to Santa Fe,” she called out.
Watching her friend, the Andorian XO grew more concerned when Noli shook her head, indicating she had not had any joy in raising the Santa Fe. Whatever was going on, she was going to get to the bottom of it. Right frakkin’ now. “Administrator,” the Andorian called out, a single step forward putting her between her team and the scientists. “Is everything ok, sir?” she asked as politely as she could, tilting her head and regarding the lead scientist with more than a hint of concern.
Dayo Ekaan slowly turned around and looked at the blue-skinned woman. With eyes welling up and a tremble she had not noticed before, the aging man stepped forward. “I’m sorry Commander, really I am. You should never have come here. We didn’t want Starfleet involved…”
Holding her hands up, almost in mock surrender, the Andorian stepped forward calmly. “Whatever you’ve done, it’s not too late to back down,” she smiled, trying to reassure the man. Inside, she was seething. Her anger was, apparently, misplaced, as a voice from behind her changed everything.
“bI’IQtaHvIS, SoHvaD ‘oH, ‘e’ yIchaw’!”
Tharia’s antennae suddenly stood on end as she joined her team in spinning on their heels. With a deep sigh of resignation, she lowered her head and shook it slowly.
Emerging from a darkened corner of the lab, three hulking figures strolled forward, holding the away team hostage at disrupter point. Klingons. Heavily armed Klingons at that. Heavily armed, angry-looking Klingons.
Exchanging glances between the three of them, the senior Starfleet officers slowly and collectively raised their hands in silent surrender.