In the darkness of space, dozens of lightyears from anything or anyone, one could be forgiven for believing that storm clouds had gathered. The black heavens of space, magnificent on any given day, were made all the more enchanting by the plasma storms irradiating the nebula clouds and particle pockets that made up the outer layer of the Paulson Nebula phenomenon. Beyond the lightning, the thunderous claps and the solar winds were stars that emitted triple the amount of radiation as elsewhere in the galaxy, subspace rifts that threatened to rip space apart at the seams, and quantum destabilizations that could tear the timeline to pieces. On the periphery of the swirling mixture of quantum fissures, gravimetric shockwaves, spatial distortions and twister-like currents of phased plasma energy, the aging New Orleans class starship had come to a stand still, silently observing the massive scientific conundrum before it. Once inside, communication with those beyond the boundaries of the phenomenon would likely cease, meaning the crew of the Santa Fe would be on their own until the storm passed.
On the bridge, Captain Farrell sat, balancing on the edge of his command chair, rocking gently back and forth with his hands clasped to the chair arms as he stared at the viewscreen and the sight before them. The sight was magnificent, and if it wasn’t for the developing situation they found themselves in, he might have taken the time to order a much thorough analysis of the field before them, but not today.
Dante Rawlings, eyes sharp and ahead as he flew, was one of the first to see it all. He could feel his skin crawling with anticipation. This was what it was about, then? This was why the people of the Federation abandoned the comfort and safety of their homes to ‘seek out new life and civilizations’? Not for conquering, not for defence, but to know and to see. This was a mission he could get behind. He finally closed his mouth, then glanced to make sure no one had seen his awe.
Vittoria sat beside the captain, arms folded across her chest, and eyes wider than they’d been in a long time. This… this truly was something else. There weren’t any words to describe how dangerously beautiful the maelstrom ahead of them was. She leaned closer to the captain, her voice just above a whisper.
”Really something, isn’t it? Something so fascinating and yet could possibly damage every one of our systems.”
Sebastian’s eyes were filled with wonder as he exchanged glances with the Counsellor, a child-like grin on his face at the thought of exploring the phenomena. “I know we’ve got missing people down there, on the planet, but this is why we come out here, isn’t it?” he asked of his advisor, “This has got to be what we do moving forward. No more battles, no more conflicts. Just exploration of our galaxy. The old way,” he spoke wistfully.
“The Starfleet way,” Chiera nodded.
Prida looked up from her station at the sight before her. Somehow, words such as incredible didn’t seem to do the sight before them all justice. She allowed the sensors to continue passive scans of the region as she took a moment to simply watch and listen to the wonderment of the sight being shared by the rest of the crew.
Although the Maelstrom looked pleasing to the eye for some, Doctor Zinn didn’t like it. It was plagued with danger. He kept his eyes on the seconded console he had claimed for medical purposes and constantly kept watch on his scanners. Should anything happen, he wanted to be ready.
A massive flash of light from the cloud of gas threatened to blind the bridge crew for a moment, and pulled the Captain from his amazed stupor. “All stations, report in,” he called loudly, spinning on her heels and taking the few short steps to return to the safety of her command chair.
Dante blinked and checked the Nav Sensors, “One thousand kilometers off our port bow and closing fast.”
Farrell silently nodded in acknowledgement, opting to wait for the status reports to come in before he gave his next set of orders.
Prida’s eyes clinched at the bright illumination of the screen. Yet, as soon as she was able to, she opened her eyes and turned her attention to the screens before her. Science would surely have a field day with those readings. However, the Cardassian was certain that she didn’t care to be on the receiving end of one of those flashes again.
”It doesn’t appear any of our major systems were affected, Captain,” she stated. “Confirming with diagnostics now while the rest of the ship reports in.”
”Tactical systems are working as they should, although there was an energy spike at the exact moment of the flash of light but everything seems to be in working order,” the relief Tactical officer reported.
”Sensors are going haywire,” Ensign Kedam grinned, tapping away furiously at the science station, “we’re collecting so much data already.”
”=/\=Captain, Engineering here. I concur with Ops and down here impulse, structural integrity and internal systems are green across the board again,” Lieutenant Udal said calmly, “but, I believe that we may be starting to see the effects of the phenomena. It is a minor point, but the off-axis field controllers in the nacelles have required calibration, twice,” he quickly checked his display, nodding to himself. “All within design tolerances, Captain, but it could indicate instability in subspace.”
”=/\=Keep an eye on it and let me know if it poses a threat to the ship,” the Captain requested before terminating the communications channel.
Having gone around the decks and stations, and the reports indicating that, for now, the ships systems were relatively unaffected, Captain Farrell was satisfied that it was fine to proceed. “Counsellor, keep in touch with the Thesis and let me know if we need to assist with anything,” the Captain instructed with a nod to the woman next to him. “Shields up,” he instructed tactical, before adding, “impulse speed.”
”Indeed Captain,” Dante responded without looking up, then announced, “Minimizing bumps.”
Jumping to full impulse, Santa Fe tried to ride out the initial wave of the storm with her high velocity impulse propulsion system just long enough to travel for a few moments until the craft was rapidly, and violently, pulled out of warp by the leading shockwave of the many spatial phenomenon. The violent shaking of the ship and the impact from the aforementioned phenomena caused the red alert klaxons to call out across the ship once more, the red strobe lighting to kick in and officers on every deck clung to their chairs and consoles for safety until the ship was stable again.
Dante smiled- or maybe he was just baring his teeth- and held where his stomach had hit the console, “Bump minimization failed. Propulsion back online.”
Watching with great concern as his starship inched forward, the man considered holding his breath until they reached their destination, but he didn’t fancy dying of hypoxia. No, for now he would simply watch, and wait.
Suddenly, as if in the grip of a cosmic being, the mighty starship was hurled into speeds many believed impossible. Once again, warning klaxons rang out across the Santa Fe as deck plating shook with terrifying ferocity and sent crewmates hurtling across rooms and into bulkheads.
Things quickly went from not-so-smooth sailing to having this region truly live out its name as a maelstrom. Prida found herself tossed from her station and rolling on the floor, only stopping after colliding with the bulkhead. She pushed herself to her knees, feeling the ship give another violent toss before she managed to crawl back towards her station. “Gyromagnetic stabilizers are offline… attempting to reinitialize,” the Cardassian called out as she worked at her station. “Structural integrity holding… waiting for reports from all…”
Prida’s report was cut short by the sudden, and surprising, cessation of all movement, forward or back. The red lights across the ship faded and normal lighting resumed, causing the crew to look about rather confused. A wave of relief washed over all present as they resumed their stations and the reports began to flood in from across the ship.
Joining Ensign’s Caplan and Kedam at the science station, Lieutenant Rawlings reviewed the data that the sensors were spewing out. “It would appear that we’re through the worst of it, sir…” he reported, “the initial shockwave seems to have brought the brunt of the storm. We’re likely to experience minor turbulence until the tail end of the storm in approximately three hours.”
“How the frak did we get this so wrong?!” Farrell fumed, slamming his fist on the command rail around his seat, gesturing for the Lieutenant to step his way. “Ensigns; find out what the hell changed. In the meantime, we need to divert our attention back to the issue at hand,” he reminded his people, glaring at the viewscreen and the Klingon vessel that was limping away from the storm. “Vittoria; contact the Hotspur and ascertain their situation. Inform them we are sending a landing party to retrieve our people,” he instructed. “Dante; take a team to the surface and bring them home.”
Nodding to the Captain, Dante Rawlings made his way to the turbo lift, tapping his commbadge and summoning an armed security team and medical personnel to meet him in the shuttlebay. Farrell watched as the flight operations chief left the bridge, and listened to the counsellor talking away in the background. A short while ago, all seemed lost. But some smart thinking from his senior staff had enabled the Santa Fe to live to fight another day, to find and retrieve their people.
Nothing could prepare any of them for what was to come…