“… Official reports from the newly formed Romulan Free State continue their patriotic tone today as Ambassador Rala Nerak announced 6 more outlying outposts had thrown off the shackles of the dying Empire and are now waving the flag of the fledgling galactic power. A spokesman for the Romulan Republic has continued to decry these claims of free association citing the continued influence of the Tal Shiar in the politics of the Free State whilst a representative for Starfleet has indicated that whilst there is nothing to suggest political coercion in these colonies they remain vigilant. The Klingon Empire has refused to comment at this time. In other news…”
A quick press of the panel silenced the ephemeral voice of current affairs.
“I think that's quite enough of that don't you Theo?” David sighed, throwing a glance across the room the empty desk across the room. His lab mate had been absent for almost a week and still David found himself talking to him habitually, not that Theo had answered much when he had been present but it was surprising how quickly David had grown accustomed to his presence. The last few months aboard Bravo had been a difficult adjustment period and he had struggled to make new friends, 5 years amongst Vulcans temper your social skills, and whilst Theo hadn't been the proverbial chatty cathy they had created a familiarity that had made David feel less alone. His sudden absence a result of instructions from Starfleet Operations had come as a surprise to Theo as much as they had to David. Seconded to an off-base mission at the Romulan border with immediate effect Theo had only enough time to explain his current experiment to his lab mate (an interesting review of changes to stellar drift following the Hobus incident) and was off to pack a bag. David didn't envy him in the slightest, the thought of going anywhere near the Romulan border in the current climate sounded like an excellent way to pick up one of those scars the security boys were always so proud of showing off. Why anyone would want a lowly astrophysics scientist when Starfleet had a plethora of heroic captains, desperate for the next adventure was beyond him anyway.
A small chirp emitted from the console across the room.
“Ah, that time again is it Theo?” David smiled, grabbing his coffee as he quietly groaned with effort up from his seat. Theo's research involved compiling new sensor scans of particular regions every 24 hours, the computer would track changes in stellar arrangement and present the information for review, the chirp meant that the recent set of scans were up.
Crossing to the opposite desk he mindlessly entered a quick set of commands to compile and present relevant transitions, then without thinking he began to enter a command to archive the date for Theo to review on his return. Till in the corner of his eye he noticed a small blinking green light, not normally present on the console's stellar map, quiet and unobtrusive but unusual.
His hand hovered over the shortcut, “it's probably nothing” he thought to himself, “a rogue body passing through a system unexpectedly.” But the blinking called to something in the back of David's mind. The same something that had driven him into this career, curiosity. “At least i'm not a cat." he muttered to himself as he pressed a different command and transferred the data to the holo table in the centre of the room.
A small red sun erupted from the centre of the table and began to be circled by 2 planetoids, each with a satellite moon, at the outer edge of the system a small cluster of asteroid debris, no doubt the sad remnants of a failed outer planetoid. Nothing particularly interesting to see here.
“Computer, please identify this system.”
“System R-97882, Valorum Sector, local designation Di'Van. Disputed territory previously controlled by the Romulan Star Empire.” The familiar voice said.
“And please explain why this system is of interest.”
“Records indicate this system contains 3 orbiting planetoids.”
“Probably an old record.” David muttered to himself. Accurate star charts of Romulan space were hard to come by even before the area had become a chaotic mess of factions, claiming, and renaming systems as their political allegiance changed. Making a mental note to tell Theo to update Starfleet Cartography he made a motion to dismiss the research until a nagging feeling caught his hand above the panel. Curiosity. Theo had been scanning these systems consistently for weeks, why now had the computer noticed the missing planetoid now?
“Computer please show side by side comparison of last report with the third planetoid with this current scan. Include date stamps.” His hand still hovered over the console, it was probably nothing but his inner cat was eager to know the truth. Within seconds the table had shifted to present the two scans, and there on the left was indeed the third planetoid, a lonely rock at the edge of the system; barely atmospheric and devoid of worth outside of its mineral value. It wasn't the planetary analysis that made David take a sharp intake of breath. It was the time stamp, only 24 hours previous. Overnight an entire planet had ceased to be. To the right, an almost identical image, only where there had been a planet, a group of asteroids floated.
“Computer, compare composition of the asteroid cluster to that of the 3rd planetoid. Include mineral composition, relative mass and density information.”
“Processing” A single calm word began what felt like an eternity of waiting, as line after line of data began scrawling across the screen. Lists of elements began stacking up until it began to become clear that the cluster of rocks was originally the small, lonely planetoid. “Data indicates a 92% similarity.” The calm voice noted, completely unaware of the gravity of the statement.
“Computer, display electromagnetic scan.” David asked, something had shattered a planet into a hundred pieces, it had to leave a trace. His curiosity continued to push him to discovery.
The screen filled with a plethora of colours. Microwave and ultraviolet radiation arced around the system, the red sun's distinct signature; radio and infrared signals pulsed through the planets, beginning their million year journey into the darkest reaches of space and there, surrounding the remains of Di'Van 3 was something unexpected. Something so unusual that David placed his coffee down on the desk; a large black void surrounding the remains of the planetoid, several thousand kilometres across it was focused at the heart of the cluster.
With a whisper “Computer, please identify the anomaly.”
“Anomaly is consistent with a subspace tear. Surrounding energy signature indicates the presence of an isolytic explosion.”
David's coffee had barely hit the floor by the time the doors to the lab swished open with their familiar ease, as they closed they masked the furious foot falls of the Ensign as he ran down the corridor.
Silence fell upon the lab as the console lit up. One little green light, then two, then three little green lights, each one a warning to an absent watcher.