Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

Part of USS Polaris: A Place Removed from Space

A Gambit with Questions Unanswered

Bridge, USS Polaris
June 2400, Mission Day 13 - 1330 Hours
0 likes 381 views

“This is Fleet Admiral Allison Reyes of the Federation starship USS Polari…”

“In our space, you transgressed, and now, on our time, you intrude,” interrupted a deep voice in a near-lifeless tone devoid of vocal intonation.

“Ma’am, we are registering a fluctuation in subspace,” reported Tactical.

“We come in peace,” insisted the Admiral, sensing the lack of welcome in the voice of their watchers. “We mean you no harm. We are simple explorers searching for two fellow ships…”

“Here, outsider, you are not welcome.”

The audio link abruptly terminated. Admiral Reyes sighed. That had not gone as she’d hoped. She needed an opportunity to explain the situation, or at least to finish a sentence. Otherwise, this gambit would fail. Had they just poked the bear, as Commander Lewis had cautioned?

“I am detecting some sort of stellar…” the officer at Tactical tried to report before cutting off mid-sentence. All of a sudden, five objects materialized directly in front of them, so dark and featureless they were only discernible through the stars they occluded.

“Are those what I think they are?” asked Admiral Reyes.

“Affirmative. Registering quantum gravimetric distortions consistent with the objects we’ve been tracking,” confirmed the Tactical Officer as her hands flew across the controls. “And the objects at the edge of the system are no longer there. It would be fair to surmise that these are them.”

“What are they doing now?” Reyes asked, struggling to make out anything visually.

“Just sitting there motionless,” replied the Tactical officer. “Although, in full disclosure, they could be charging weapons, and I wouldn’t have a clue. Can’t make heads or tails of what’s on sensors.”

“Operations, can we do any better with the image quality?” asked Captain Devreux.

The viewscreen began to change its luminance as the Operations Officer modulated through electromagnetic wavelengths. Reyes knew the outcome before the viewscreen even finished passing through the infrared spectrum. Ultraviolet, infrared, and beyond would all see nothing, because the nature of their invisibility was not EM in nature. Instead, from the emissions they’d collected, it was almost certainly borne of distortions in spacetime itself.

“Sorry sir, nothing on any spectral band.”

“Commander Lockwood,” Reyes summoned over her combadge. “I need your eyes on what’s going on up here. You and the team, get us anything you can on what we’re looking at. And see if you can analyze what we just witnessed. That was clearly an FTL jump so let’s try to reverse engineer it.” If this species wouldn’t help, but the Polaris managed to escape intact, this might lead to a way home. She just hoped ASTRA’s Head of Astrophysics and Exotic Sciences could pull it together. As reality had set in for him, and the analogues to his previous stranding, he’d been overwhelmed by PTSD that had caused a severe unraveling of his mental state.

“On it Admiral,” replied the head of Astrophysics and Exotic Sciences over the link with an energetic intrigue absent the last few days. “The fluctuations in spacetime are curious…”

“Unless it will help us shoot them or talk our way out of this, not now doc. Just get started on the analysis. We have a pressing situation to resolve first,” Reyes interrupted and then closed the call. She didn’t mean to be short with Dr. Lockwood, but he could not have reached a viable conclusion to their tactical situation that fast, and his academic musings could wait for later.

Captain Devreux, standing on the Admiral’s right, leaned over. “I hate to side with Lewis on this one, but it might be time for Red Alert,” he encouraged. Space had a way of distorting size, and the ships before them weren’t even directly visible, but the nullspace they created was enough to give the impression they dwarfed even the massive Odyssey class USS Polaris.

“Given the unnavigability of their space, it is unlikely they have encountered many, as they call them, outsiders. It is natural for them to be wary,” counseled Lieutenant Balan. While not a common sight on the bridge, in first contact scenarios, ASTRA’s Cultural Affairs Officer found herself directly adjacent to the CO and XO on the Command Island, and she knew the Fleet Admiral valued her opinion. “I cannot say whether they will engage us regardless, but raising shields and energizing weapons would almost certainly tip the scales in that direction.”

As much as she respected the opinion of her longtime Executive Officer, Admiral Reyes preferred the perspective of the young Lieutenant in this case. She debated her words for a moment and then reopened the channel: “This is the USS Polaris. If you scan our vessel, you will see our shields are down and our weapons are unpowered.”

The Admiral paused and waited. Silence from the other side.

“They may not have a way of ascertaining the truth of that statement,” offered Captain Devreux.

“I concur,” added Lieutenant Balan. “This is a species with technology so different from ours that they may understand as little of our technology as we understand of theirs.”

“We are sending you a series of records pertaining to our civilization’s history and culture,” Admiral Reyes offered over the channel. She nodded at the Vulcan officer at comms, who dutifully began uploading the standard Federation file for first contact exchanges of information with warp-capable civilizations.

“As well as specifications about our technology so you can confirm what I am saying is true,” Admiral Reyes added, to which the Vulcan officer at comms paused. He looked up to confirm what he had just heard. It was illogical. As opposed to the history and culture file, technical specifications did not fit within standard first contact protocol. Instead, it could expose a weakness if the situation turned tactical, which logic would dictate it absolutely could. Captain Devreux also looked thrown off, and if Commander Lewis had been up here, he would have lost it at the idea.

“If our technology is so foreign to them that we ask them to have faith in our claims,” explained Reyes to her doubtful staff. “Then we will need to have a little faith in them too. But just a little… send them the article from Starships Explained about the Odyssey class.” She referenced a popular science article that went deep enough into phasers and regenerative shields to allow a reasonably scientific reader to understand them, while omitting any really juicy material not intended for the public. As Reyes recalled, its narrative also leaned in heavily on the diplomacy, science and exploration aspects that inspired the class’ purpose, something that could help soften their counterpart’s suspicions of their intentions given that the USS Polaris was no small ship.

“Sent.”

And then they waited, but this time, the comm link stayed open.

The voice on the other side of the link finally cut in: “Fleet Admiral Allison Reyes, as you are called, explain to us how you came to exist in our space.”

Reyes let a breath out, only then realizing she’d been holding her breath that whole time. “A ship from our civilization, the USS Casimir, ventured out on a mission of exploration into space unknown to us, but it vanished without a trace in this area. Another ship, the USS Casimir, was sent to find it. It also vanished. We are here in search of our colleagues.”

“Why explore where you know not?”

It was a strange question, but not necessarily unsurprising for a civilization sealed off from the rest of the galaxy due to the incongruity of subspace present here. “Because we take pride in discovering all that the galaxy holds,” Reyes explained, a twinkle in her eye as the explorer thought of all they had come to know in their time amongst the stars. “The peoples, the places, the great mysteries out there, we find great pleasure in discovery.”

“In those unknown places, what if you are not welcome?”

The voice was flat and lifeless, just as before, but the questions gave Admiral Reyes hope. It indicated interest over hostility. “The United Federation of Planets respects the sovereignty of all sentient species,” she assured, assuming from their curt interaction that this was likely her opposite’s greatest concern. “We come in peace, and we go only where we are welcome. If we are not, we leave in peace, though where possible we look to establish relationships with those we encounter. It is my sincerest hope that…”

“The Romulans, are they of your Federation?” the voice cut in with its first hint of any actual vocal intonation.

Reyes quirked her brow at the question. This civilization was not totally unaware of the galaxy around them. “No, the Romulan Republic and the Romulan Free State are not part of the Federation,” explained Reyes, constraining her words to ensure she did not step on a minefield as few had good interactions with the war-like civilization over its nearly two millennia of existence. She found it interesting that these natives of the Talvath Sector knew of the Romulans when Lewis had found nothing in the Romulan archives that mentioned them. “Why do you ask?”

“To this place, the Romulans came two millennia ago, in ships not all that unlike yours. But unlike you, they spoke not of exploration, only conquest. We knew not what to think until our cities burned. So we bent our space, and their engines no longer worked. Then we waited among the stars, our sanctuary from their disruptors and torpedoes. In time, their rations depleted, their ships decayed, and their crews died. Over the centuries, we have watched many, but you are the first we have spoken to in a thousand years.”

Admiral Reyes had so many questions, but right now, there was one question more important than the rest: “You watch many, you say? Have you seen our sister ships? The ones we have come to find?”

“We watch them, yes. With time, they will fade. Just like you. And just like the others who came before.”

That was a fairly dark take on things. The Admiral doubted that they would suffer the same fate as the Romulans, unless these strange ships directly engaged them in combat, but she wasn’t going to point that out. The Casimir was a small science vessel with limited supplies, so it might struggle to limp back to Federation territory, but neither the Casimir nor the Arleigh Burke had likely marooned much deeper into this territory than the Polaris. It would be possible to limp back at impulse. Starfleet vessels of today were far better supplied, and its crews far better trained, than those that would have featured in a Romulan assault of the pre-Imperial era.

“But what if we gave you our assurances we would not return to your space unless we were invited?” asked the Admiral, leaning into what seemed to be the central thesis of her counterpart’s motivations. She didn’t like this outcome. First contact was usually an opportunity to build new bridges. Here though, there was a more pressing matter to address. She needed to see to the survival of her ship and her crew, and the ships and crews of her two fellow vessels. “Would you help us and our sister ships leave your space?”

“You would not be invited back.”

“As is your right, and we would respect that.” The Admiral was fairly certain that now they knew this race existed only a few of parsecs beyond Romulan space, the Diplomatic Corps would have interest in renewing contact, and Starfleet Intelligence would want to know more about this unknown power. But that was an issue for another day when they were safely back in Federation space.

There was a pause on the line.

“Assurances… what assurances would we have?”

“You have documents of our history and culture to confirm what I am saying,” Reyes offered. “The Charter of the Federation affirms the fundamental right to self determination for all sentient beings.” The Admiral spoke her words with a deep conviction, although she had no idea if her counterpart’s understanding of their linguistic articulations would identify it.

“But of many wars, your history also tells.”

“Wars of defense from those who did not respect those same rights we hold so dear. Such as the Romulans, who we had to repel from our territory on several instances. In fact, it was partly in defense against Romulan aggression through which our Federation was born.”

“Your answer is… satisfactory. We will return you from whence you came, fellow sufferer of Romulans.” Admiral Reyes smiled at that last bit. It reminded her of the old Earth proverb that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Amazing how they could encounter a civilization completely divorced from their own in practically everything, and yet that simple adage could still hold true.

“And our sister ships?”

“Them too.”

Reyes let out a sigh of relief. The gambit had paid off. They did not have to depend on the mental state of a troubled genius struggling with PTSD to devise their escape.

“Our warp bubble, as you call it, we will extend around your ship to deliver you back where you belong. But only on the condition you disable your sensors and save nothing about what you witness.”

“You have my word,” Reyes confirmed with deep sincerity.

“Then from whence you came you shall go.” The voice paused, before adding one more condition. “And the boundaries of the space you shall not again transgress, we shall send to you.”

“We understand and will respect your borders. If you don’t mind, what can we call you?”

“Nothing. Our existence is not of substance to you.”

The link cut abruptly, but this time, the conversation had been had. The dark objects before them began to encircle them. As they neared, even featureless and blacker than black, it became clear how much larger they were than the Odyssey-class Polaris. The starscape almost vanished in the nullspace they cast. Reyes wondered to herself if they’d taken their entire population aboard these ships millennia ago as the Romulans burned their cities, but she’d never know for certain.

“Cut all active sensors,” the Admiral ordered. “But capture everything you can through passive monitors. Anything you can get that won’t be detected.”

Lieutenant Balan gave her a questioning stare.

“I lied. Sue me,” chuckled the Admiral. “Establish trust and do what you must to maintain it, but don’t give an ounce more. At minimum, however they distorted spacetime, and however they transit it, that could be a boon for us. And don’t for a minute think we may not find them opposite us again someday. If that time does once again come, I intend to have more answers than we have today.”

The Admiral’s gaze drew dark, that of an old warrior who would never truly heal from the scars of past wounds.  In many ways, the two shared the same explorer spirit, but in others, Allison Reyes was a very different person from the optimistic young woman. The cultural affairs officer frowned at the pessimistic perspective. Emilia Balan hoped she never fell to that same depressing cynicism.

In the background, the flight control and operations personnel shouted out status reports as a strange subspace distortion, similar albeit divergent from the mechanics of their own warp field, surrounded the vessel. And then the ship was pulled forward at superluminal speeds back in the direction from whence it had come. Down in the ASTRA lab, Dr. Lockwood was having a field day.

“But until then,” commented the Admiral as a smile crossed her face again, “the Watchers of Talvath shall be one of the universe’s many wonderful mysteries.”

  • Allison Reyes

    Squadron Commander
    ASTRA Director

  • Gérard Devreux

    Squadron Deputy Commander (Mobile Element)
    USS Polaris Commanding Officer

  • Emilia Balan

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Cultural Affairs
    Diplomatic and Cultural Affairs Officer