There were already stars in Kohl’s eyes and he had barely crossed the threshold into the runabout’s cockpit. He couldn’t be sure if the blinding spots across his vision had come from the erratic whirl of starlight through the forward viewport or the expulsion of sparks from an overloaded EPS conduit overhead. Kohl braced his elbows against the doorframe to keep from falling as the deck swayed beneath his feet. He silently counted to five until he could see clearly again.
The last time Kohl had checked in on the cockpit, his trusted confidants from Task Force 17 operations had been engaged in a convivial debate about a pickleball game they’d watched on Starbase 38. Now, the overlapping cross-talk between the six officers, seated at consoles around the Arrow-class runabout’s cockpit, had far more to do with keeping the USS Maronti in flight.
“Report,” Kohl said. The word snapped out of him to break through the clamour. “Is it the Devore Imperium?”
From the seat closest to Kohl, Yeoman Aneasa replied, “No, captain.” –She cleared her throat in that way she did when she was about to take liberties with Kohl– “Sir, we’re unlikely to encounter Devore in the Typhon Expanse.”
Kohl stumbled across the cockpit and allowed himself a controlled fall into an empty chair beside Aneasa. He raised his eyebrows at her and offered her an unblinking look.
“You weren’t on board the USS Discovery when High Commissioner Fintt fired the crippling blows in retaliation for our interference with blood dilithium,” Kohl said, plainly haunted by the memory. “We may have unlocked the secret to send blood dilithium back to subspace, but we lost our flagship in the process. If a turbolift so much as groans, I’m probably going to think it’s the Devore for some time.”
The rumbling and wheezing through the runabout’s spaceframe began to lessen. As the Maronti came to a full halt, the pinwheeling stars beyond the cockpit returned to the calming visage of motionless pinpricks of light.
From the pilot’s chair, Lieutenant Emem said, “I’ve regained full flight control. Diagnostics show no damage to the nacelles, but our port nacelle had slipped out of sync with the starboard nacelle.”
“What happened, lieutenant?” Kohl asked.
“Our navigational records indicated we were about to pass through the Zorouse-Beta solar winds,” Emem answered. “What we found instead were the solar winds had whipped up into a magnascopic storm! I’ve diverted us around the storm and I’ve set a new course for Deep Space Seventeen.”
Kohl ordered, “You may engage, lieutenant.”
Only after Emem had input the commands to bring the Maronti back to warp and cruising speed did he look back over his shoulder to share another finding with Captain Kohl.
“It’s not only Zorouse-Beta, captain,” Emem said. “Deep Space Seventeen confirms what we’ve picked up on long-range sensor scans. Nearly all of the stellar phenomena across the Typhon Expanse are highly energised. The starbase has been picking it up since shortly after Stardate 2400.12. The Typhon Expanse is like a whole new territory. Sensors have detected a significant shift in the baselines for radiation emissions and subspace oscillations that Starfleet has on record.”
As the officers around the cockpit returned to their routine, operational chatter, Yeoman Aneasa called for Kohl’s attention and projected a holographic PADD between them.
“That’s going to be a problem.” Aneasa asked, “What are your orders for the task force, captain?”
Kohl blinked at her twice. “Oh, right…” he said vaguely. At a whisper, he admitted, “It’s my call now. I think I’m still in shock about Captain Mek’s transfer orders.”
“You have all our support, captain,” Aneasa said softly, but emphatically. “You learned every lesson Captain Mek had to teach you. Now you’re ready to lead as our task force as its commanding officer.”
Buoyed by her words, Kohl offered his thanks and then he said, “Prepare communications identifying the new navigational hazards we’ve identified. They’ll need to be distributed to all of Task Force Seventeen’s starships, our exploratory partners from the Romulan Free State, and all civilian traffic moving through Deep Space Seventeen.”
“Now that our task force has returned home again,” Kohl added, “it’s the perfect opportunity to explore the mysteries of the Typhon Expanse. Starfleet only understands a fraction of the spatial anomalies and stellar phenomena across the expanse. If they’re highly energised, now is the time to unlock their origins and their workings. Given our agreements with the Romulan Free State, their scientists working in concert with our own may bring the novel perspectives we need to deepen our understanding of the galaxy. This current phenomenon may only be temporary in nature. Let’s pull back some of our task force from the Typhon Frontier and take a closer look in our own backyard.”