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Part of USS Odyssey: Volleyed and Thundered and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Volleyed and Thundered – 16

USS Odyssey (NCC-80000), Divinum System, Deneb Sector, Alpha Quadrant
Stardate: 78194.3
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Stepping into the Holographic Research Lab, Fleet Captain McCallister was impressed with the hub of busyness that was taking place. A smile crept across his face as he walked across the room towards the centre, where his chief engineer, chief operations officer and chief security and tactical officers stood. What was about to happen made him feel a level of nostalgia that he hadn’t sensed since he was the chief operations officer on board the USS Audacious (his first posting). A combined group of efforts across several departments were all working in tandem to put together an idea that their department leads had been experimenting with over the last few months. So when he asked for the best step forward to investigate the Federation colony, he was impressed with the response he got.

“Report,” McCallister asked as he stepped onto the raised platform where they were all standing, working on various holographic interfaces. 

Lieutenant Commander Jen stepped forward as the most senior officer on the project and the lead idea guy. His boyish excitement over what they were about to do was overfilling. McCallister was pleased for the joined Trill. Recently he (and others) had noticed how much Jen was more confident than usual. Horin had remarked to the captain privately she believed it was down to the romantic relationship that Jen was now in with the Triton’s first officer. If anyone deserved a bit of romance or happiness in their life right now, it was undoubtedly Lukiz Jen. The Trill man had gone through a lot, and finding someone to enjoy his life was a welcome reward. 

“We think we’re ready, sir,” Jen stated.

“Holographic interfaces are ready, and the photonic field generator is ready for transport, captain,” Tierra announced.

McCallister knew his Deltan chief engineer was itching just as much to test her new toy as much as Jen was. The two had been working double shifts to get the technical side of the project up and running. They had run many tests, and now this would be their first field test. He looked at Keli, “Lieutenant, where do we stand with securing the site?”

“A micro shield generator is attached to the photonic field generator, and Ensigns Indiago Everest, Caspain Noir, and Jazzlyn Velodrome are ready to beam down to the site too,” Keli said, indicating to the three Exocomps who were hovering near the field generator. “I think they’re more excited than Tierra and Lukiz.”

McCallister chuckled at that. Each day, Keli impressed him as she became more confident in her role as Chief Security & Tactical Officer. Since her mentor, Cline Lenjir, had departed the ship to take over similar duties on the Themis, she had initially wondered if she was suitable for the job. Now that was all behind her, and she led her department well. Without a doubt, McCallister was considering putting her forward to undertake the Advanced Tactical Training course. She would certainly benefit from it as much as they would. 

The captain looked at the Exocomps. “Are we sure they’re ready for this?” He was all for the use of synthetic sentiment lifeforms on the Odyssey. Several Exocomps had joined them last year at the start of their mission in the Delta Quadrant. Every single one of them was a valued member of his crew who contributed so productively. 

Keli nodded. “Jisaraa and I have put them through their training; they’re ready and have all of the latest Hazard Team protocols uploaded to their neural nets,” She paused as she turned to look at all three of them. “They’re more than ready to impress you, captain.”

Lieutenant (JG) Jisaraa walked over. She was wearing her standard Hazard Team gear but, over the top, wore an additional outfit. “What do you think of our new attire, captain?”

“Very fetching, lieutenant,” McCallister said with a smirk. As a holography and cybernetics student, he had been happy to endorse and encourage the project they had all been working on. Using Alpha Hazard Team as the guinea pigs for this trial was Jisaraa’s idea. The Orion woman was keen to develop her teams further, and this was undoubtedly taking their work to a whole new level. So I take it everyone in Alpha Team is ready to try the new holographic interface suits?”

The young lieutenant nodded. “We are. I hope this doesn’t end the team’s usage, though, sir?”

McCallister chuckled. “Hopefully not, but if this new technology works for us, then I am sure Starfleet may be interested in deploying it fleet-wide.”

At that point, Doctor Slyvexs walked in. “I take it I’ve not missed anything yet?”

Tierra gave the doctor a warm welcome smile, “We’re just about to start, doctor.”

Slyvexs stepped up to the platform and stood beside the captain. “I am pleased you agreed to try out this system, sir. There was something about those sensor scans that didn’t add up.” She whispered to McCallister and referred to the colony below. After conducting deep-level scans of the planet’s surface to determine if it was safe to beam down, there was something that neither Banfield nor Slyvexs could put their finger on that made them think there was something either wrong with the ecosystem or the atmosphere. A few anomalies appeared in their scans that needed a more delicate approach to their investigation. 

“I agree, Slyvexs,” McCallister said. “If the HAT system prevents us from placing any of our biological crew members in danger, then I am happy to deploy it now.”

“HAT system?” Slyvexs echoed.

“Holographic Away Team system,” Jen piped up to explain to the doctor. “We needed an acronym for the project.”

Slyvexs chuckled. “Makes sense,” She looked over at the readouts on the Hazard Team. They were all now standing in alcoves, each wearing their Holographic Interface Suits. “Life signs all appear stable,” Slyvexs confirmed. 

“Then let’s begin,” Tierra announced as she pressed the button activating the transporter that beamed down the generator, the three Exocomps and other equipment. “Transport complete, they’re on the surface. All systems report in the green.”

“Ensign Everest to Odyssey; the site is secure. We are not detecting other nearby lifeforms,” the Exocomp leader reported with his chirpy tones. Everest worked in the science division, Noir was in engineering, and Velodrome was assigned to sickbay. 

“Activating photonic field generator,” Jen announced. “Interface suits are linking to it now. Holographic avatars of Alpha Hazard Team are coming online…now!”

McCallister turned to look at the Hazard Team in their alcoves. A beam of white light slipped over them like a scanning beam. All of them were wearing virtual sensor display headsets while their interface suits came to life. “What’s it like, lieutenant?” He asked Jisaraa.

“It’s remarkable; it’s like we’re there.” She said with a confident smile. 

McCallister and Slyvexs congratulated the others for a good start. Slyvexs shook her head. “It’s incredible that we can combine such a wide range of technology to create something practical. This will certainly revolutionise away team safety in places that are deemed too hazardous for any biological matter. I love that a holographic avatar is created of them as if they’re really there.”

Tierra agreed with a nod. “Its application is unlimited as long as the field generator can operate in the environment and has a constant power source. Furthermore, Lukiz and I are looking at how we can create a holographic hazard away team. The principles will use similar programming in programs like the EMH and ECH, but more long-term.”

“Holographic and cybernetics has certainly come a long way, especially now the synth ban has been lifted,” Jen added. “However, don’t worry; we’re not expecting the Daystrom Prize for Holography. Yet.”

“Well, let’s not put Jisaraa and her team out of a job just yet,” McCallister remarked with a smirk.

“Oh, I totally agree,” Jen responded. “The experience of seasoned officers won’t compare to a brand holographic matrix; it will take time for them ever to be on par with Hazard Teams.”

“Captain, I think we’ve found something,” Jisaraa said from her alcove. She stood in the central one.

“Can we see what she’s seeing?” Slyvexs asked.

Jen nodded as he cloned the feed to her headset and showed it onto a holographic display. The screen blinked into existence, and the image of New Portsmouth, the colony’s capital city, appeared before them. The whole place was peaceful and quiet, calm and tranquil; there wasn’t a soul around. It certainly gave off ghost-town vibes. Jisaraa was looking down at what looked like a tree branch on the gravel. Her holographic avatar picked it up, and her tricorder started scanning it. The end appeared to have gone mouldy where the branch had broken off the tree. It was like an infection had begun to spread across the plant but had stopped when it fell off the tree. 

“Well, that’s not something I expected to see,” Slyvexs remarked.

“My scans aren’t detecting any infection,” Jisaraa reported.

Baffled by that, Slyvexs (and everyone else) could see that there should be something there. So the doctor took over and called on her Exocomp colleague. “Jazzlyn, conduct a deep tissue skin on that branch that Lieutenant Jissara is holding.”

“Standby, ma’am,” Velodrome chirped. 

A few seconds later, the scan results appeared beside the visual feed. Slyvexs read them, checked them once, then twice and then took a step back. Her expression was a mixture of dread, shock and amazement, all mixed.

“What is it, doctor?” McCallister asked her. No one else in the room had any mastery level of understanding of biology as she did. “What caused that?”

“I think I know what happened to the colonists,” She replied after a sudden gulp as she turned to look at her captain. “It’s a metagenic weapon.”

“Metagenics?” McCallister repeated and was confused by that statement. “How?”

“It can’t be a metagenic weapon; they’re designed to destroy all DNA within an ecosystem,” Jen remarked as he recalled his past hosts and their experiences. McCallister had wondered if it was Norvo Jen, the former Starfleet captain who had been a doctor before switching to the command track. 

Pushing the holographic display around, Slyvexs explained her findings. “It’s metagenics, Lukiz,” She pointed to one area. “Part of the branch’s DNA has been destroyed; that’s not mould on it; it’s the aftermath of a sophisticated metagenic weapon. But here,” She pointed to another part of the scan, “Shows that an antidote was released into the ecosystem.”

“Oh shit,” Jen said as he looked over the scans and concurred with the doctor. “We’ll have to run further tests, but this looks like the metagenic weapon has been designed to target specific humanoid chromosomes that make them different from other organic matter.”

“However, it can still target other non-humanoid DNA,” Slyvexs added. She turned to the captain. “Sir, if the Dominion fleet has access to such a weapon, then no Federation world is safe.”

McCallister sighed and crossed his arms against his chest. “As Lukiz said, oh shit,” He rubbed his face as he reflected on what that meant for them now and the fact that over a billion people had died because of a weapon of mass destruction. He knew the Dominion were ruthless; he had never experienced their brutality against a large civilian population, even during the war. However, this was a new level, or was it? “Why, though, release an antidote into the ecosystem afterwards?”

“Maybe our earlier theory of the Dominion wanting the planet for specific resources that are organically based might be correct?” Tierra offered. “Perhaps they wanted to remove the population but keep other lifeforms, like plants and bugs.”

“Furthermore, once released on an entire world, a metagenic weapon takes ages to finish its work and then be safe for anyone to visit afterwards,” Slyvexs explained. “If the Dominion wanted to return sooner, they couldn’t risk losing troops from something they released. A quick antidote released in the ecosystem helps them.”

McCallister considered what they needed to do next. “Slyvexs, if we were to set up a quarantine on the Telemachus and use the new holographic systems, could you conduct further tests on that branch to determine how to make the antidote yourself?”

Slyvexs nodded. “I believe so, sir, but we would need to consider a delivery system as well.”

“If we want it to be quick once released on a world, how about in our torpedoes?” Keli suggested. 

Slyvexs agreed with that idea. “It would be a rapid method of deployment.”

“Keli, get started on it,” McCallister ordered. 

“The torpedo launchers may have to be modified; I can deal with that,” Tierra added.

McCallister agreed with that idea, too, just as the intercom went off. 

“Duncan to McCallister,” spoke Commander Duncan.

McCallister replied by tapping his combadge. “Go ahead, Number One.”

“Sir, Captain Cambil is insisting on seeing you at once. She has something to share with us from our Cardassian guests,” Duncan announced.

“Tell her it will need to wait as I need to speak to Starfleet at once,” McCallister stated. He didn’t want to sideline his deputy commander, but he needed to brief the admiralty on their latest revelation. 

“Umm, sir, you’ll need to speak to her first. She has just told me that Gul Jacet has revealed some critical intelligence about those who attacked the colony and the belief they have access to a weapon of incredible power,” Duncan stated.

That caused McCallister to stop. He was now intrigued to hear what the Cardassians knew and how. The same reaction was plastered across everyone else’s face after hearing that. Finally, the captain relented and told Duncan to bring the captain aboard at once and was to meet with him immediately in his ready room.

“She’s not the only one who wants to meet with you, sir. Captain Canção and your brother want to share what they’ve found,” Duncan said. “Sir, I think they have some pieces to this puzzle which may help us see the entire picture of what has happened here.”

Placing his hands on his hips, McCallister told Duncan to scrap everything he had just said and to organise a massive meeting between the captains and the rest of the Odyssey’s senior staff that weren’t with him in the lab right now. “We’ve got to act fast here, Max.”

“Understood, sir. I’ll get the troops assembled at once. Duncan out.” 

McCallister turned to the others. “I’ll update you on what the others have shared; in the meantime, get going with your work.” 

All of the senior officers presented acknowledged their orders and moved off to get on with the task at hand. 

McCallister took one more step at the sensor scan. Metagenics, he thoughts to himself. How was he meant to fire an enemy that could kill millions in the space of a few seconds? 

For the first time in a manner of days, he was pleased they had no civilians on board the Odyssey or elsewhere in the squadron. They were far away from this danger that he knew he and the others would have to stop, whatever the cost.

Comments

  • As someone who guessed totally wrong, it was so fulfilling to get an answer to the question that’s been on our minds ever since the discovery that everyone was just gone. And the answer was both great (very believable) and terrifying (oooof biological warfare). The Dominion has now revealed just how little it cares about the sanctity of life, how far it will go to take this sector. The ramifications of what they have discovered should be terrifying to every ship and crew that hears of this. It is pure savagery.

    June 3, 2023
  • Wow, I wasn't expecting that outcome, if that is the case no one is safe. I hope they get to the bottom of this, find out who has that weapon, and destroy it before they decimate more worlds. I agree with Reyes that the ramifications of such a thing should be terrifying to everyone. Great Job on this puzzle piece to your story and I can't wait to read what happens next!

    June 3, 2023
  • James Preston McCallister

    Squadron Commander

  • Max Duncan-Court

    Commanding Officer

  • Slyvexs

    Captain of Medicine

  • Tierra

    Chief Engineer

  • Keli

    Chief Security & Tactical Officer

  • Lukiz Jen

    USS Triton
    First Officer
    Former Chief Operations Officer

  • Jisaraa

    USS Triton
    Chief Security & Tactical Officer
    Former Senior Assistant Chief Security & Tactical Officer
    Hazard Team α Leader