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current_story:the_sword_of_ophiuchus_part_3

The Sword of Ophiuchus, Part 3


ON

Location: Somewhere in the Gamma Quadrant
Timeframe: Present Day

While initial estimates were that the Republic nee Asgard would be ready to get underway in a day, the ersatz team of intelligence officers decided that they would take extra time to prepare their ship by scouring the derelict base for any useful items prior to embarking on their dangerous journey to the Delta Quadrant. In truth, the additional respite was needed, especially considering that a confounding factor was the need to stabilize Gamma Serpentis station so they could point the verteron array in the correct direction for generating the Geodesic pulse. With the main computer filled with nothing more than useless sacks of chemical goo instead of operational bio-neural gel packs – compliments of the Geodesic radiation three years prior – it took an extra two days just to install a functioning network of interlinked isolinear sub-processors on the thirty-six different ion-drive control thruster emplacements around the base's exterior. By day four, they had restored attitude control, and adjusted the mammoth station's orbit for intercept with the optimum Geodesic pulse trajectory to the red giant, which would allow a twenty-two minute window to generate the pulse approximately seventy-six hours following orbital insertion, leaving them a full three days to finish other preparations.

Most of the supplies and equipment they recovered from the base's cold storage repositories were utilitarian in nature. Anything composed of organic material was completely worthless due to the first Geodesic fold, which included items such as three year old food rations, biomedical stocks, and protein cartridges. Fortunately, warehouses full of construction supplies, raw materials, and durable equipment such as fusion power cells and solar converters were readily available, as were numerous engineering spares for the warp systems, impulse drive, transporters, food replicators, and at least a dozen other life support and environmental control sub-systems. The team also found over a dozen small atmospheric hoppers that were still operational in the tactical equipment armory, and chose to bring them onboard in case a need arose for transporting personnel or cargo within ionized atmospheres that could inhibit transporter functions. Arguments broke out about how many surplus small electronics gear they should keep in reserve, but due to the ample cargo space on the Galaxy-class vessel, decisions were reached to retain a wide range of supplementary items; extras of everything from tricorders and PADDS to engineering toolkits and spare EVA suit jetpacks were eventually stowed onboard. Ultimately, the ship's cargo bays became filled with enough material to build a small colony somewhere in the Delta Quadrant should they became stranded, with emphasis placed on maintaining a technological edge while also ensuring a large margin for their basic survival needs. Even the ship itself received renewed vigor, as the deuterium tanks were topped off after re-routing battery power to the long-dormant docking bay refueling manifold, and the antimatter bottles being replenished via the ship's magnetic loading skiff using residual anti-hydrogen found in the station's reactor maintenance facility.

Due to McCain's deadman triggers, which destroyed most of the main artifact warehouses throughout the base, there were scant offerings of Gamma Quadrant relics they could salvage from the illegal stockpiles maintained by the station's previous occupants. Nevertheless, Saal Yezbeck sifted through what was left, and catalogued them before tucking them away in stasis lockers in the ship's archeology lab aboard the Galaxy class vessel. Most were already scanned and analyzed, with their purposes and use cases recorded on PADDS tucked away in their original storage crates. However, a few items had still yet to be studied and analyzed. This kept Saal busy for most of the stopover at Gamma Serpentis, as he had taken up the role of the expanded team's science officer in addition to his MD role, the latter being somewhat superfluous with Crewman Baker being the primary medic for minor field injuries. As the doctor sorted through crates in Science Lab Five, he was in contact with Theo “Doug Forrest” Carter over an open audio channel.

“I can't believe how we got along without Emergency Medical Holograms,” remarked Saal to his colleague. “If it weren't for all the extra space, the sickbay here almost makes me feel like I'm a medical officer on a Constellation Class.”

“Will you be able to replenish the pharmacy stock once we're clear of the Geodesic fold?” asked Theo.

“Medical replicators are in fine shape,” the doctor replied. “So is the medical transporter. I'll be able to dial us up a batch of new pharmaceuticals once we're in the Delta Quadrant, and distribute them quickly around the ship to their respective trauma kits and cargo locks.”

“Speaking of transporters… I know St. John's team survived one for three years, but I still don't like the idea of being locked into a transporter loop on a ship this old while we go through the Geodesic fold. Isn't there some kind of hydronaline inoculation you can give us instead?”

“Have you any experience with Geodesic radiation?” Saal asked rhetorically with a slight edge to his voice. “Some researchers call Geodesic pulses 'death rays', and that's being conservative. The radiation literally liquefies the human body. Bones and all.”

“If it's so deadly, why hasn't someone found a way to weaponize it?

“Fortunately for the galaxy, Geodesic radiation can only be generated within the magnetic field of a red giant, and then only if you have a verteron beam strong enough. Besides, due to the toxicity, it's not something that's gotten a great deal of research over the years.”

“Is this why you've been hiding out in science labs and not helping with the grunt work?” chided Theo.

“Actually, yes,” Saal confirmed. “I decided to set up a little experiment in sickbay to test out a hypothesis I came up with. I'll tell you how it comes out when we're on the other side of the fold.”

“Fine,” remarked Theo. “Just don't release some super-virus or anything. We got enough problems as it is.”

“Not to worry. I won't. Yezbeck out.”

Saal tapped the communicator on his flowery tropical shirt to close the channel, still finding it awkward to have a combadge again, as he hadn't needed one since his retirement from the fleet three years ago. It was doubly awkward in that the Republic nee Asgard was so old, that the replicators only produced the older-style combadges from the early 2360s, which utilized a gold-laded oval background instead of the slotted trapezoidal “ears” on either side of the Starfleet delta symbol used on the current-issue combadges.

As he sorted through the room full of smooth burnished crates and containment boxes, Saal happened upon one unmarked case about a cubic meter in size. As he unlatched the metallic interlocks, he flipped open the hinged lid and spied an unusual device composed of a white translucent sphere about a foot and a half in diameter, with opposing ten-inch black cylindrical interface stanchions on either side. Noting the miniature Romulan inscriptions etched alongside the optical interface nodes beneath the interface cylinders, an expression of recognition splayed across his face as he nodded his head and tapped his combadge.

“Yezbeck to Lieutenant Anderson.”

“Go ahead, doctor.”

“Do you think Blimpy could make use of an old-style Romulan cloaking device?”


The man formerly known as Doug Forrest laid back in the cradled seat of the workbee, smoothly making course adjustments with the control levers on either side of his chair as the magnetic drive units hummed along in perfect synchronicity. The grabber-sled attachment in front held aloft a cylindrical gray metallic package roughly a meter in diameter with rounded spherical ends and about two and a half meters long. Due to the cylinder's size, the pilot of the craft could not see outside the flat angled windshield of the cramped pod-like sled, and so, Theo “Doug Forrest” Carter was flying by instruments only via a small screen affixed to the floor in front by his feet. A heavy clunk jarred the workbee as he magnetically docked the cylinder to an enormous gusset plate joining two massive structural beams just inside the outer hull of the titanic 2000-deck station. Pressing a button on the joysticks of his pilot controls, the grabber sled released the cylindrical package, and as he pulled away, the forward lighting panel of the workbee illuminated the warning label prominently printed on the package's surface in cautionary yellow script: “DANGER - ANTIMATTER” it read. Outside, the darkened interstitial superstructure was lit only by the diminutive repair pod as it paused in a hover while Theo dialed a few commands on his flip-down laptop control console. After a few beeps and warbles, several lights winked to life outside on the antimatter pod, emanating from a breadbox-sized electronic device affixed to it's surface.

“Workbee Two to Workbee One,” Theo beckoned over the communications headset strapped over his ears. “Package twenty-six is in place. That should be the last of them.”

“Roger copy,” Blake St. John's voice returned over the static-laced audio feed.

For his part, Commander St. John occupied is own workbee outside the massive seahorse-shaped station, operating it at the upper few decks near the crown, and working to affix to the external hull his own electronics package, which was composed of a meter-wide transceiver dish salvaged from the wrecked cargo tug in the docking bays below. Like Theo, he too dialed a sequence into his flip-down console that brought the communications suite to life. With a positive warble, the digital board blinked “NETWORK LINK ESTABLISHED” on the readout screen.

“Antimatter detonators are primed,” he announced into his own headset. “We'll arm them before we drop the cloaking field.”

“Got it,” returned Theo over the scratchy comlink. “I'll work my way back through the turboshafts. I'll be ell-oh-ess for about twenty mics. See you back at the ship.”

“Copy that.”

While Theo and St. John could normally have beamed the salvaged bottles of antimatter to any location they wanted, they learned early on that regular site-to-site beaming within Gamma Serpentis was not possible due to the dense superstructure of the base, which invoked a scattering effect on transporter beams. While obviously designed into the base's architecture to protect against unauthorized covert operations, this armor was just as effective with subspace communications as well, blocking signals as one ventured deeper into the construct, and resulting in loss-of-signal, or LOS as Theo colloquially announced using an ancient spacefaring dialect. Regardless, it was another stroke of luck that the derelict starships strewn about in the first eleven docking bays of the base didn't also tear open their antimatter bottles while simultaneously tearing the rest of their hulls apart when the station went through the first Geodesic fold three years ago. Apparently, before their bio-neural gel pack computers melted away into lifeless sludge from the radiation, they had the sense to eject their volatile antimatter containment flasks, thus protecting the base from blowing itself apart from the inside out. Yet now, three years later, the crew of ad hoc intelligence officers were planning to do exactly that. After discovering the bottles drifting around their docking bays like barrels of dynamite bobbing in a swimming pool, recovery and strategic placement of the labile starship fuel along with a linked network of fused blasting charges with booster signals would finish the job once and for all.

Confident in his placement of the communications array that would allow remote triggering of the antimatter bottles all at once, St. John maneuvered his tiny maintenance sled around, flying it down the front neck and chest of the station, sliding effortlessly over the darkened, finely honed architectural landscape. With the black, star-speckled expanse of space above him, the commander flew past row after row of dormant and unlit viewports before eventually gliding across the chasm that was the massive golden dish of the verteron array, splayed out before him like a gigantic lunar crater. Spanning over a hundred decks, the massive circular dish would be their single, one-way ticket to the Delta Quadrant before they finally disposed of the posthumous remnants of McCain's rouge operations base.

The head of Kostya's Gamma Quadrant serpent would be sliced clean off.

Soon, after reaching the far end of the array, the spectacular vista of the shimmering dish was behind him, and St. John made his way further down the outside belly of the station. With his magnetic drive units maintaining a soft mechanical purr, he slipped past the first eleven sets of starship docking bay doors along the hull, each one robbed of power and long ago sealed shut from automated lockdown orders issued three years prior. Their docking lights and navigational strobes no longer received power from the station's main computer, these final resting places of long dead starships would soon perish in a spectacular display of unbridled energy from colliding anti-protons. By the time St. John's workbee reached the twelfth and final docking bay door, the remains of blasted metal piled up out in front of his windshield revealed the edges of cooled molten slag that once sealed the bay from the outside elements. Adjusting his sled's trajectory upward to climb over the heap, St. John then angled the workbee downward and slid into a gaping hole in the docking bay door that the team had cut open three days prior using the ship's phaser array, slicing a gigantic doorway that would enable them to depart the station at their leisure. Unlike the rest of the darkened and quiescent outpost, Republic nee Asgard was fully awake in her cradle; the ship's running lights were on, and the luminescent cobalt blue streaks along her warp nacelles shone brightly alongside the glowing ruby-red Bussard collectors. Lit windows and viewports signified renewed life within, and her skeleton crew of nine anxiously awaited the next stage of their mission.

“Workbee One to Republic,” St. John called out to his mothership. “I'm on final approach to shuttlebay three. Hard dock in thirty seconds.”

Welcome back, Blake,“ Lieutenant Anderson's voice greeted him. “Blimpy is working on a project with the upgraded multi-phasic shield generators. I'll fill you in when you're aboard. Otherwise, all systems are go for departure.”

“Time to optimal verteron array alignment?”

“One hour, nine minutes,” she announced. “Jensen's standing by in the station's control room. The reactor power feed is live and waiting for us to transfer it away from the cloaking field to the array.”

“And his escape pod?”

“Primed and ready,” Anderson acknowledged. “Once he flips the transfer switch, he'll eject, and we'll transport him aboard as soon as he's clear. The verteron beam will keep going on it's own power until the reactor core is depleted.”

“Very good,” St. John said approvingly. “Forrest is on his way back. We'll pull the ship out of the nest when he's docked.”


Timeframe: Approximately one hour later

The cloaking field of Gamma Serpentis Base extended to a sphere almost six kilometers in radius around the colossal station. It had been operating non-stop for the life of the station, which began shortly before the Dominion war, prior to the decision of Captain Sikso of Deep Space Nine to mine the Bajoran wormhole that guarded against a buildup of Dominion forces on Cardassia. Since then, Gamma Serpentis was cutoff from material support from the Alpha Quadrant, and was left to its own devices. Literally. While the cloaking field remained in place, the paltry antimatter generator was barely enough to maintain station operations, and so, then-Captain McCain chose to refurbish the base using the only assets he had left: a handful of starships with which to plunder the Gamma Quadrant of its cultural riches.

Technology and artifacts were bountiful throughout the quadrant, and by using a series of snatch-and-grab missions following observational analysis by cloaked science probes, collected hundreds of unique and powerful devices that allowed them to survive. The station itself grew in stages from an old 500-deck Alamo-class defense outpost to the 2000-deck monstrosity is was today over the span of only five years. Despite its forbidden existence via the Polaric Test Ban Treaty of 2268, a polaric ion reactor of Romulan design breathed new life into the complex. Using subspace mediation crystals of Dominion origin to mediate the petawatt-level power signatures, the enormous energy output was balanced with the dampening effect of the cloaking field to maintain concealment from any passing space probes or system-wide sensor scans. Left to operate continuously without the need for human intervention, the cloaking field's control was autonomous and independent, decoupled from the station's main computer core, and provided a means to ensure that Kostya's surreptitious facility would remain hidden for years to come. However, it's polaric ion power source was not infinite, and the crew of the USS Republic nee Asgard weighed the prospect of pulling the plug on the cloaking field to power the enormous verteron array one last time.

“Isn't there any way to keep the cloaking field up?” Deuce asked while maintaining watch from the apex of the tactical arch on the Galaxy-class bridge. “Every subspace buoy within twenty five light years will pick us up as soon as the field drops.”

“Take your pick,” Sheila Anderson explained from her seat at the helm station. “It's either a twenty minute blast from the verteron array, or another five years of maintaining a cloaking field around the base. That's all the energy we have left in the reactor core. We can't do both and still get to the Delta Quadrant.”

Commander St. John surveyed the faces of everyone on the bridge as the ship took a parking orbit just inside the station's cloaking perimeter.

“Last chance to abort,” he announced looking from face to face of the people around him. “Is everyone still okay with this?”

Theo/Forrest remained silent in the first officer's chair to St. John's right, as did Lieutenant Anderson, Deuce, and Petty Officer Louise Clayborne at the ops station. While Saal and Brian Burke were still in sickbay with Blimpy, overseeing his modification of the medical transporter for the unconventional diagnostic loop to protect them from the Geodesic radiation, Ensign Carson Jensen was listening in on the open com channel from the verteron control station back on Gamma Serpentis Base.

“Standing by for power transfer,” he announced. “Cloaking field will drop at your command.”

In the darkened control room, Jensen waited nervously in his EVA suit, gripping tightly to the railing overlooking the expansive viewport above the verteron array. The only sources of light were the array's control console, his illuminated helmet visor, and the incoming light from the red giant outside. A more muted glow came from the aquamarine overhead lighting in the nearby single-person lifeboat bay; it's segmented hatch rolled open, awaiting the ensign's embarkment. He didn't like the idea of having to rely on the escape pod, but due to the purposely-designed scattering effect of the station's hull, beaming out was not possible.

“We're good here, CJ,” came the order over the subspace radio. “Let's get this show going.”

At the sounding of the order, Jensen pulled down on a trapezoidal handle that actuated a hydraulically-primed master switch. While the jury-rigged power transfer conduit would have made a resonating 'boom' as the reactor's primary energy feed switched from the cloaking field to the array, the vacuum of space prevented the perpetuation of sound in the control suite.

“Power transfer complete,” he announced as a soft amber glow formed at the tips of the thousands of different verteron emitters within the array's dish. As the emitters came to life, their energy swelled into elongated globes of brilliant orange light that swirled into a vortex of verteron plasma. Coalescing within the concavity of the dish, the countless beams spun faster and faster as each tiny emitter combined their energy into a gigantic swirling particle fountain that spanned the entire half-kilometer diameter of the array's circular profile. The enormous verteron beam erupted from the surface of Gamma Serpentis like high-velocity lava spewing skyward from an erupting volcano, and within seconds, a massive glowing ray reached out from its cradle into space at superluminal speeds with a direct linear trajectory towards the distant red giant star.

“The verteron beam is holding steady at two hundred-and-three petawatts,” announced Jensen as the dazzling golden light danced in reflection from his suit helmet. “Variance is plus or minus one-point-twenty-one gigawatts. Full reactor core dissipation will occur in nineteen minutes and thirty-two seconds… mark.”

“Antimatter charges are now armed,” St. John warned him. “Time to get out of there, Carson.”

“Roger copy.”

In the zero-gravity environment of the station, the ensign pushed away from the railing, doing a slow somersault in mid-air as he floated towards the escape pod door. Nearly missing his target, he softly bounced off a nearby wall before grabbing a hold of a vertical conduit that allowed him to translate hand-over-hand to the open hatchway. The last view before the segmented hatch slid shut was his dangling EVA boots pulling themselves through the doorway.


Location: Bridge, Deck 1, Sovereign-Class USS Chancellor, NCC-80013

It had been dull week aboard the Chancellor since tracking the anomalous chroniton “flare” from the Iconian gateway. While no further information could be gleaned from the strange sensor readings, the denizens of Project Apollo took no chances. The Iconian gate dialing sequences were painstakingly reviewed by the ship's scientific compliment, and after failing to find the problem, were relegated to leaving the gate's programming untouched after the usual admonishment from Captain Halberg. Regardless, the ship and her fleet of seven other starships remained in their tight circular formation just above the blue bright giant star where the gate hovered in direct contact with the star's super-heated convective zone.

About the only other notable activity during the week was the several outgoing gate events that occurred each day, autonomously dialed in from the Alpha Quadrant where the Star Lance satellites were dispatching unknown enemies seventy-thousand light years away. Although it was noted that the number of remote activations had markedly increased over the past few days, their business was not to know the “what” or “why” behind any of them. Their job was to simply maintain the the tractor beams holding the indestructible gate in place within the white-hot stellar plasma below, guarding it against any perpetrators set on disrupting Project Apollo.

Little did they know that things were about to get more interesting.

“Captain,” the bald operations ensign at the sensor console called out to his skipper in the command chair. “I'm picking up a Starfleet transponder signal coming from the Ophiuchus sector.”

“Ophiuchus?” barked the gray-haired captain, more annoyed at being disturbed from reading his PADD than at the confusion of the signal. “That's on the very edge of our maps. How can we be picking up Starfleet signals out that far?”

“Confirm your instruments,” the red-headed commander in Intel black asked from the first-officer's chair. “Is the sensor out of alignment?”

“Negative sir,” the ensign reported. “Science station Theta Twelve reports it too. It's a starship. The transponder reads as… the USS Republic…”

“The REPUBLIC?” blurted out the captain in consternation.

“Aye sir,” the ensign explained. “The transponder registry is transmitting as NCC-76241…”

“Impossible!” he looked towards the first officer with shock and disbelief. “That's the Galaxy Class Republic's registry! It was destroyed three years ago back on Earth! EVERYBODY knows that!”

“The signal's confirmed, sir. It's definitely the Republic. And she's flying headlong towards Ophiuchus Forty-Two, an unexplored red giant.”

“INTO the star?”

“Aye sir. That's what it looks like. I estimate twelve minutes until they enter the photosphere.”

“Try hailing them,” ordered Captain Halberg.

Following the two-tone trill that attempted to establish a two-way subspace communications link, the ensign shook his head. “No response.”

“Subspace telemetry reads new sensor contact in the star system,” called out the lieutenant in sciences blue at the analysis station.

“Identify!”

“I…” stammered the young black-haired science lieutenant, not sure if his instruments were telling him the truth. “It's… HUGE!”

“WHAT'S huge?” demanded the captain, standing up from his chair and turning his body to face the science officer. “Report lieutenant!”

“The subspace buoys are picking an enormous polaric ion source!” he explained. “It's coming from what looks to be a… well… a space station of some sort. About three times the size that Spacedock was.”

“A SPACE station?” the captain asked in disbelief. “Where did it come from? Why didn't we pick it up before?”

“Unknown, sir,” the science officer admitted. “Judging from the tachyon levels, it may have had a cloaking field of some kind, and just now dropped it.”

“Lieutenant,” hissed the captain through gritted teeth, his disdain for the officer bleeding through. “If I hear the words 'some sort' or 'some kind' from you one more time, you're going to be wearing only one rank pip on your collar for the rest of your cruise! Now do your damned JOB and start telling me what's going on!”

The lieutenant was about to answer when the operations ensign spoke up first.

“I'm reading a build-up of verteron particles from the object,” he reported a change in his readings. “It's forming a verteron beam that's aimed directly at the red giant!”

“Confirmed captain,” the science offer acknowledged after reviewing the readout from the subspace buoy network. “It looks like the unknown space station is trying to form a Geodesic pulse using a verteron projector the size of a small city.”

“Explain,” ordered the captain. “What's a Geodesic pulse?”

As the science officer explained the intricacies of how verteron-derived particle beams can be used to form a Geodesic fold between two distant red giant stars in the galaxy, the black-uniformed first officer from the Intelligence division appeared increasingly disturbed and disquieted with each passing event as they unfolded. First, a ghost ship from the president's past had suddenly resurfaced, followed by the de-cloaking of an illegal battle platform that the renegade Commodore McCain had commanded prior to his death aboard the USS Coeus. Now, said platform was attempting to produce an intra-galactic gateway to an unknown destination when it had previously been confirmed missing and presumed destroyed three years ago by Section Thirty-One operatives.

What had happened? Was McCain still alive? Could Gamma Serpentis still exist and be operational? While numerous clandestine probe surveys of Ophiuchus 42 turned up nothing after President Kostya's team lost contact, it was assumed that the base had been destroyed performing the exact same Geodesic pulse maneuver that appeared to be happening now instead of three years ago.

While the captain and science officer engrossed themselves in a war of words between each other, the clean-cut red-haired commander moved with purpose to the closed-circuit communications console at the rear of the bridge, urgently opening a subspace video channel back to the Alpha Quadrant.

“Get me the Intelligence liaison to the Office of the President…”


The Geodesic pulse itself began as the verteron beam from the now distant Gamma Serpentis Base impacted the topmost region of the red giant's invisible magnetosphere, which extended just above the roiling plasmatic convective zone in the photosphere. Excited ions glowed a deep orange, spreading out laterally away from the beam, forming a thin luminescent shell above the star that rolled out along convex lines that followed the star's magnetic field. As the beam penetrated further, successive magnetic zones below the first received the same surge of excited ions, each spreading out laterally like the first, presenting a visible multilayered shell appearance. Soon, the beam intersected the star's surface proper, and gravimetric forces coalesced around the impact area, forming a slowly-growing concavity in the surface that swirled counter-clockwise around the beam. Within moments, a dark region established itself between the verteron beam and the parting stellar plasma, signifying that the immense gravity forces of the star had succeeded in penetrating the fabric of space, linking up with the distant star tens of thousands of light years away in the Delta Quadrant. The Geodesic fold had been established.

Moving at ninety-five percent of lightspeed, Republic nee Asgard smoothly followed the linear verteron beam towards the red giant star known as Ophiuchus 42 on the Starfleet Gamma Quadrant charts. It was a short twelve-minute flight where the nine crew members of the Galaxy Class starship made final preparations for their journey to the Delta Quadrant. Doctor Yezbeck and Crewman Baker had already beamed themselves into the modified buffer of the closed-circuit medical transporter in sickbay, set into the same repeating diagnostic loop that allowed Blake St. John and his team to survive three years after Gamma Serpentis was exposed to lethal levels of Geodesic radiation. Now, with minutes to spare before the Republic was subjected to a similar predicament, St. John had handed control of the ship over to their dutiful exocomp named Blimpy while the rest of his team made their way to transporter room five on deck fourteen.

“Nervous?” Blake asked Theo, as Jensen, Anderson, and Deuce silently followed them through the corridor while the red alert tracer lights pulsated along the walls.

“Not at all,” the man formerly known as Doug Forrest remarked with a touch of sarcasm. “This is the fourth time in the past week I've flown directly into a star. At least this time I won't have to be watching out the window while it happens…” The sarcasm went unchallenged as the quintet of officers rounded a corner and went through an open doorway.

“Viewer on,” beckoned St. John as the five officers briskly entered transporter room five. Louise Clayborne was already present after having confirmed that the modifications to the transporter were complete. She complied with St. John's order by tuning the medium-sized wall-mounted display to show the photosphere of the red giant where the Geodesic fold was stable and awaiting their passage.

“Time until we make contact with the fold?”

“One minute, thirty-eight seconds,” Clayborne looked at the sensor information on the transporter console. “Radiation levels are already starting to rise.”

“Tactical display,” St. John ordered hurriedly. “Show me the whole picture from the subspace relay network.”

As the image switched to a digital computer map of the star system, the highly-elliptical orbit of Gamma Serpentis Base around the red giant came into view on a grid-patterned visual. The verteron beam that was creating the Geodesic pulse was portrayed with a pulsating yellow line that ran straight and tangential from the base's current orbital location directly to the star. A numeric readout in the lower right corner depicted the time to intercept of Republic with the Geodesic fold.

“Destruct trigger on my mark,” he raised a finger while watching the time tick down to contact with the fold. Louise's hand hovered over a blinking red button on the transporter console as the timer approached the one-minute mark, causing St. John to verbally count down the seconds. “Three… two… one… mark!”

Louise Clayborne immediately pressed the button, causing the carefully-prepared antimatter charges back on Gamma Serpentis to detonate in a cascade reaction of several metric tons of protons and anti-protons colliding together in an unrestrained, apocalyptic manner. As the digital display showed the base locator icon wink out, an enormous shockwave with the combined power of twelve starships-worth of antimatter fuel swelled forth and exploded outward in a spherical fashion from the last known location of the doomed space station. Riding the wave front of the shockwave was the far end of the verteron beam, it's termination point accelerating towards the Geodesic fold, hot on the heels of the Republic nee Asgard, lending haste to the vessel's retreat into the stellar-induced trans-galactic portal.

“Viewer off,” St. John ordered, quickly turning around and making his way to the transporter pad followed by the rest of the gathered officers. Louise was the last to follow, engaging the five-second transporter activation sequence before joining her comrades. With an ephemeral swelling of light, the last six members of the Republic's biological crew disappeared into the feedback loop of the transporter, safely locked into the diagnostic loop, their atoms and molecules saved in the buffer as energy-only.

Meanwhile, on the bridge, the control center was bathed in red light while alarms and warnings sounded. Blimpy frantically went from workstation to workstation, adjusting settings and responding to computer alerts while the turbulence outside increased exponentially.

“Warning,” the female computer voice annunciated throughout the bridge as it jostled about. “Lethal radiation limits exceeded. Evacuate all personnel immediately.”

Unlike a humanoid standing on the floor of the bridge, Blimpy's magnetic drive units kept him stable as he levitated around the bridge while it shuddered about in the tempestuous magnetic eddies. If anything, it was the jarring, random movements of the operating consoles that made accessing the controls difficult for him. As the Republic maintained course into the Geodesic fold, the orange light of the star emanating from the monitor in front escalated to blinding levels. The searing stellar energy enveloped the entire ship as it flew into the abyss just as the verteron beam's termination point reached the location, followed shortly thereafter by the powerful shockwave from the exploding space station. By the time it had arrived, Republic nee Asgard was gone.


Location: Bridge, Deck 1, Sovereign-Class USS Chancellor, NCC-80013

“YES it's a damned emergency!” barked the red-haired Intelligence commander/first officer to the Vulcan operations lieutenant on the other side of the open subspace channel. “I don't care WHAT conference he's in!” From his position at the rear communications station, the commander's conversation went completely ignored due to the increasing activity around the bridge.

“Scramble the Aegis, the Kyoto, and the Vokau!” shouted Captain Halberg from the command chair. “Tell them to set course for Ophiuchus Forty-Two! Maximum warp!”

On the main front monitor, a tactical display of the Ophiuchus 42 system showed the telemetry downlink from the Gamma Quadrant subspace buoy network. As with the previous visual on Republic's transporter room viewer, the same elliptical orbital of Gamma Serpentis around the red giant star showed the digital rendition of the pulsating yellow verteron beam overlaid on a grid-patterned background. Accentuated by an offset text box, the words “USS REPUBLIC” showed the location of the distant Galaxy class starship as it loomed ever closer to the Class-K star. Starfleet personnel sprinted to different stations as the ship was brought to red alert, and the helm station prepared to break orbit.

Suddenly, the computerized dot that represented the gigantic attack platform in the system vanished, immediately followed by an expanding red ring representing a class-ten shockwave. It followed the termination point of the yellow verteron beam all the way to Ophiuchus 42, reaching the star moments after the Republic disappeared. As the wavefront surpassed the star, it eventually made it's way to the nearest subspace monitoring buoy, causing the entire screen to flicker into fits of static before going black.

”… What just happened?“ stared the captain, gawking at the blank screen as the rest of the crew stood speechless. For his part, the red-haired first officer also took notice of the event, standing up to gape at the unexpected loss of signal.

“If telemetry reads correct,” started the bald ensign at the sensor station. “The space station was destroyed in a massive antimatter explosion. It overwhelmed the monitoring buoy and we lost all data feeds in the system.”

”… and Republic?“ stammered the captain.

“Gone sir,” the ensign concluded. “It entered the Geodesic fold and disappeared. She could be halfway across the galaxy by now.”

“Where?” a rising temper flared within the captain. “WHERE did she go??” He stood up and leveled his fuming rage towards the science station behind him. “Lieutenant!” he gritted his teeth. “Your next few sentences had better include a set of destination coordinates…”

“Based on my rough estimates of the straight-line direction of the Geodesic fold, along with the intensity of the verteron beam, my best guess is that the target star was somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. Possibly the Messier 53 globular cluster. That's about a hundred and thirty-five thousand light years away.”

“COORDINATES LIEUTENANT!” bellowed the captain, causing the rest of the crew to flinch in surprise at the outburst.

“There's over half a million stars in that globular cluster, sir,” the black-haired science lieutenant shook his head as his face went ashen. “It would take years or even decades to analyze the data and extrapolate where they might have emerged.”

Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself, the captain lowered his voice in an effort to sound reasonable.

“Are you telling me that you're incapable of finding me the answer?”

“I'll get my team together, sir,” offered the science lieutenant, visibly nervous and increasingly unsure of himself. It was clear he was attempting to placate his commanding officer in the face of impossible odds. “We'll figure out what happened. I promise.”

“You brown-nose with the best of them, lieutenant,” the captain commented with a toxic smile, acting as if he accepted his subordinate's course of action. “Planning on making commander someday?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well you won't… ensign…” the captain remarked coldly, withdrawing his smile in exchange for an icy glance of admonishment while simultaneously demoting the officer. “I'll make DAMNED sure of that. Now get OFF my bridge…”

(to be continued)

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current_story/the_sword_of_ophiuchus_part_3.txt · Last modified: 2021/04/25 01:13 by cromwell