Bane swung around his desk and sat down in his chair, his back to the large window that looked out starboard of the ship from the Main Bridge, his front facing the doorway which he had just entered through.
Before he opened up his computer, he looked down to make sure his uniform looked decent, then ran his fingers through his hair, combing it a bit. Opening the computer terminal, he tapped the few commands that would put him in touch with Starfleet Command. Seeing as they were on the relative backside of Cardassian space, from the Cygnus’s point of reference, the channel would have to be routed from their current position to Deep Space 9, then to a communications array in the Argus Sector, through another communications array in the Antioch binary star system, and finally to Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco on Earth.
For several long minutes he waited until a familiar face appeared on screen. It was his old friend and former Executive Officer on the USS Yangtze Kiang, the ship he had served on during his cadet cruise. “Well bless the Prophets! If it isn’t Alicia Doubleday, as large as life itself! And now a Vice Admiral! Congratulations, Admiral,” he exclaimed, truly happy to see her. He had not seen nor heard from her since his days on that Sabre-class starship, not that he expected to. He was, after all, just a cadet at the time. One of probably hundreds she had to deal with during her time as Executive Officer. Bane noted with pleasure that she had barely changed. Her hairstyle was different than he remembered it, and there were a few more lines in her face, but she still had that sharp spark in her eyes, and she was as lovely as he remembered her.
“Captain Bane, congratulations on Captain, though it is several years late. Better late than never, right? To what do I owe this pleasure?”
Right to business. That was a bit different than he remembered, too. It used to be, if you got her talking, you couldn’t get her to shut up. He adjusted in his seat a little, then spoke. “Admiral, as you are aware, I am sure, the Cygnus was tasked with making first contact with a group of interstellar people called ”The Commonwealth. Admiral, we have arrived, but nobody is home.”
The Vice Admiral furrowed her brow a bit. “What do you mean, ”Nobody is home”, Captain? They aren’t responding to First Contact hails?”
Bane shook his head. “No, Admiral, I mean it literally. Nobody is home. Initially, long range scans showed the planet we are currently at had several hundred major cities, and a thousand more mid-sized cities with orbital satellites and communications arrays, so we headed here. We attempted to let them know we were on our way, but got no response. My Chief Science Officer was able to deduce on short range scans, once we got into range, that all biological matter was missing from the planet. When we got into orbit, I sent an Away Team to the planet to conduct a full investigation. According to my Executive Officer, who led the Away Team, it is confirmed that nearly all organic life has been extinguished from the planet.”
Vice Admiral Doubleday leaned forward towards the screen. “What was the condition of the cities and infrastructure? Did it appear to happen several years ago, decades ago, or centuries ago? And, I thought you said all organic matter? You just said nearly all. Which is it?”
“Excellent questions. The condition of the cities based on the report from the Away Team is that they were vacated shortly ago. Days at most, a single day at least, so whatever happened here was sudden. And correct. Our initial scans, both long and short range, showed no organic material left on the planet. However, the Away Team found the following,” he said, minimizing the face of the Admiral and pulling up the report from the Away Team that Lieutenant Commander Larsen, Lieutenant Gore, Dr. Elodin and Ensign Spangler were kind enough to upload to the main computer. “Cerium, gadolinium, europium neodymium and lanthanide series elements, the latter being in extraordinarily high concentration.”
“Captain, you know my background is starship piloting, not science,” she said with a slight smirk on her face. “What does all that gobbledigook mean?”
And there it was, the question Bane had been waiting for. “Admiral, these are all of the markings and telltale signs from the events that happened at Omicron Theta III back in 2338, and on Melona IV and the Freighter Kallisko in 2368. Admiral, we believe there is a Crystalline Entity in the vicinity.”
Admiral Doubleday blinked for a moment, the weight of the situation coming down on her. “You are certain of this?”
Bane sat back in his chair. “As certain as we can be. I have the entire resources of this ship checking and double checking the readings and researching the events that happened here, and the events that happened last time Starfleet encountered the Crystalline Entity. I also have my Chief Tactical Officer scanning every micron within range of our sensors to see when it was here, and where it went, if it was indeed the Crystalline Entity. As it stands right now, we are extremely confident this is the case.”
The Admiral nodded. “Alright. I will inform the Admiralty of your findings, Captain. Good work. If you do sniff out the Crystalline Entity, do your very best to steer clear of it. Your shields should be enough to keep you and your crew safe. You should probably maintain yellow alert until the situation passes, though.”
“Yes Admiral, we are already there. Should Starfleet inform the Cardassian Union of the potential of the Crystalline Entity so close to their space,” Bane asked.
The Admiral shifted her eyes for a moment, a sign that she was seriously considering the question. “No, I don’t think so, not just yet. We aren’t 100% sure it is the Crystalline Entity, though I admit the evidence is compelling. We want to be absolutely sure before we raise the alarm. They are still a wounded animal, and could lash out at the possible danger. With any luck, it isn’t the Crystalline Entity at all, but something that is natural that results in the same signatures. If it does turn out to be the Crystalline Entity, maybe we will get lucky and it will head away from Cardassian and Federation space. We do not want to destabilize the Cardassians, their military or their government.”
Plase looked at her with an unbelieving look on his face, but she was his superior officer. It could be she knew something more concerning the Cardassians than he did, so he let it pass, for now. “As you wish, Admiral. While you are talking to the Admiralty, I will inform Deep Space 9 since we are close to them. Don’t worry,” he said, when it was apparent she was about to protest, “I will do it over a secure channel and will let the commander know it is currently sensitive information. I just don’t want them getting caught with their proverbial pants down around their ankles if it shows up there.”
“Very well Captain. Again, good work on this. I will inform the Admiralty and will be in touch. Keep surveying those star systems as the original orders stated, and try to keep clear if the Crystalline Entity comes back.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
“It was good to see you again, Plase. Doubleday, out.”
The screen went from her face to the Federation Crest , the Starfleet Delta ghosted overtop of it. Bane thought for several moments about the conversation, processing it and getting the full scope of it wrapped up in his brain. He then opened a secure channel to Deep Space 9. With any luck, he could convince the Captain there to allow the U.S.S. Defiant to patrol for it and keep tabs on it. While this would not be the spirit of the orders he had received from Admiral Doubleday, it certainly followed the orders to the letter.
Bane Plase, Captain
USS Cygnus, Commanding