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04/10 – “Preserving the Future is a Full Time Job.”

Michael Owens walked into the meeting room followed by fellow starship captains Donald Sandhurst and Jason Aubrey. Vice Admiral Krystine Leone was already seated at the head of the table with a middle-aged, bald headed Deltan man sitting at her side who did not look pleased at seeing Michael Owens entering the room.

Owens took little notice as he found a chair at the opposite end of the table along with the two other men who had accompanied him

“Gentlemen, thank you for joining us,” said Leone, even though of course there had been little choice in the matter. “For those of you who are not aware, this is Deputy Director Altee from Starfleet Intelligence. He will brief you on a mission you will undertake immediately after the conclusion of this meeting. This mission has been deemed both of the highest importance as well as time critical by Starfleet Command.” She looked at the Deltan. “Director?”

He offered her a short nod and then stood to walk the short distance to the far wall and the large screen imbedded within. “Two days ago we have received confirmed intelligence that the Guardians are in the final stages of completing a prototype device designated Big Betty. We have known about the general scope of this project for at least a couple of years but have only been recently able to positively determine that Big Betty is in fact a prototype dark matter generator which will enable the Guardians to produce what they have coined Alpha Weapons,” he said and then activated the screen which promptly displayed the schematics of something akin to a photon torpedo.

“I’ve never heard of an Alpha Weapons before? How is this different to what they have in their arsenal at the moment?” said Sandhurst as he studied the screen. “That looks like a run-of-the-mill torpedo to me.”

“In this case, appearance are deceiving,” said Altee. “While an alpha torpedo maintains the same overall dimensions and characteristics of a regular photon torp, the anti-matter payload has been replaced by anti-dark matter, increasing its explosive yield by nearly 300 percent,” he said and typed a command into the wall panel. The image on the screen changed to show a Nebula-class starship enter orbit around an Earth-like planet and then fire three torpedoes directly onto the surface. The image zoomed in close as it followed the torpedoes’ trajectory but then remained steady at just a few hundred meters above the surface and the major metropolis which was the target.

The three torpedoes slammed into the city and quickly evaporated its center as well as most of the outskirts including much of the rural area surrounding it.

“This is a computer simulation of the estimated damage caused by three photon torpedoes with a standard yield,” he said and changed the parameters.

The new display showed an identical ship approaching an identical planet but this time only firing a single torpedo which looked very similar to the ones in the previous simulation.

However when this projectile found its target, the detonation was so powerful, it practically whitened-out the screen for a moment. Once the flash had dissipated, the image zoomed back out onto a continental scale only to reveal nothing but a massive dust cloud which continued to spread across the entire continent.

The image pulled back further to allow a view of the planet which now showed a massive bright blotch on its Northern hemisphere. Within a few moments, enormous cracks appeared, spreading out from ground zero like a web covering the planet, the fissures growing as they went until the planet simply broke up into massive fragments.

“The Alpha Weapon,” the Deltan said, “is a planet-killer. And even worse, the weapon otherwise behaves just like a standard torpedo, meaning that it is easy to store, easy to fire, can travel at warp speed and can be used against moving targets with relative high chance of success. You have seen what it does to a planet. We have a number of simulations of its effects against starships and orbital installation but I will leave it to your imagination what the results are.”

With that he deactivated the screen and returned back to his seat.

Leone took over from there. “As you can see, we can not allow the Guardians to develop such a weapon, it would fundamentally change the balance of power and could lead to multiple mass casualty events.”

Leone’s words were followed by a period of silence as the three captains digested what they had just seen.

Jason Aubrey was the first to speak. “I believe the Guardians are fundamentally wrong about a lot of things and I think they are capable of much to get their way but I find it difficult to believe that they would retort to weapons of mass destruction to force an end to this conflict.”

“We don’t know with certainty that they are intent on using such a weapon against any Federation world,” said Leone. “But that doesn’t mean that they might not deploy Alpha Weapons against our ships or, more likely, against Nyberrite targets.”
Altee jumped back in. “We don’t believe the Nyberrites know about this yet but it is only a matter of time until they find out. Their intelligence apparatus is very efficient. And just the possibility of the Guardians possessing a weapon of this nature will in very high likelihood lead to all out war. And the Nyberrites won’t make the same distinction we do, as far as they are concerned, we are all part of the same problem.”

Leone frowned at this, clearly not entirely of the same opinion and Owens understood why. Just like the rest of the Federation Council, Leone believed the best way forward for them, was to maintain good relations with the foremost power in the quadrant even if it often appeared that at best, the Nyberrites simply tolerated what was left of the splintered Federation.

“Then what’s the plan?” said Sandhurst. “We go in and blow it all up before they can turn it into a weapon?”

“If possible you will try to obtain the prototype,” said Altee.

Owens, who hadn’t spoken yet, shook his head. “So that our scientists can meddle around with a super weapon? I thought the point of this exercise was to ensure nobody had something this powerful.”

Leone quickly stepped in again. “Correct. Therefore your primary mission is to destroy the prototype along with all the research that goes with it. However, if you are able to obtain it, our scientists would like to have a look at it. Perhaps there are other applications for the prototype we have yet to discover.”

Sandhurst and Aubrey exchanged suspicious glances. “I think I would be more comfortable if we just get rid of the blasted thing altogether,“ said Sandhurst, getting a quick nod of approval from Aubrey.

“Well, it won’t be up to you,” said Altee. “Operational command for this mission will fall to Captain Tazla Star onboard the Sacajawea.”

That did not sit well with the assembled starship captains, most notably Sandhurst. “I’ve heard of Star, and nothing good. She’s known to be ruthless and unreliable. Not the person I would want to entrust with much more than a cargo haul, not to mention a mission which could spell war for the quadrant if it fails.”

Altee hid his anger behind a wide grin which was likely meant to charm others but seemed to have little effect on his present audience. “Star has the operational knowledge which quite frankly the three of you lack. She has been monitoring progress on this prototype for a few months now and is close to its location even now. She is, without doubt, the right person for this.”

Aubrey’s and Sandhurst’s insisting glances towards the admiral were ignored by Leone. “And that brings us to our next difficulty. The location,” she said looking back at the intelligence director.

“Right,” he said and tapped a control on the table to reactivate the wall screen to show a small reddish moon in orbit of a massive gas giant. “The research facility is located underneath the largest city on Panea in the Bolarus system.”

Aubrey uttered a heavy sigh. “Heavily populated of course.”

Altee continued as if the captain hadn’t spoken. “We know of at least five starships which have been guarding the system and Panea in particular. This mission will require surgical precision.”

“And what will that look like?” asked Sandhurst.

“You will head for a rendezvous with Sacajawea as soon as this meeting is concluded and Captain Star will brief you on the operational details.”

Again, neither Sandhurst nor Aubrey looked impressed with this plan, or the lack of any details being revealed. Owens remained stone-faced, as he had for most of the meeting.

“What else do we know about the facility and the personnel staffing it?” said Sandhurst.

Altee hesitated for only a moment before tapping the controls again, displaying the faces of three men on the screen behind him. Two humans and an apparent Vulcan. “The research team is small, made up mostly by these three men, Project Big Betty is pretty much their conception. Security at the facility is not significant, they are not expecting anyone to breach it.”

Aubrey took a double take on at least one of the faces displayed on the screen, before looking to his side to consider Owens. “Am I the only one here seeing a certain resemblance?”
“No,” said Owens.

“Alright, what is it you aren’t telling us?” Aubrey said, throwing Leone a piercing glare.

She uttered a little sigh as if she had wanted to avoid this point. “The lead researchers on this project are Doctor Westren Frobisher and Doctor Matthew Owens.”

“My brother.”

The other two captains exchanged baffled looks with each other before Audrey turned first towards the Owens sitting next to him and then at the two senior officers at the other end of the table. “And this is a good idea, why?”

“Captain Owens knows his brother better than anyone else in Starfleet. He is the logical choice to be on this mission,” said Leone but seemed to lack conviction.

“Yes, or it could be a complete disaster,” said Aubrey. “You said it yourself, this mission could be critical for the continued survival of the Federation, and you are endangering it by introducing a personal element. This is like planning the perfect mission and then doing the exact opposite.”

Altee’s façade seemed to slip for only a brief moment as he shot Leone a very fleeting look, almost as if he found himself agreeing with Aubrey. Leone however was not be swayed. “Captain Owens’ inclusion has already been approved and will go ahead as planned,” she said, this time showing no hesitation or indecision.

Aubrey uttered a little laugh which caused surprised glances from everyone in the room, including Owens. “Please, we all know exactly what is going on here. Admiral Owens was such a big deal when he was alive, he exerts his pull even after he’s gone.”

“That is uncalled for and not what is going on here at all,” said Owens angrily. “Yes, Matthew is my brother. The truth is, I haven’t spoken to the man in years and even then we didn’t exactly part on the best of terms. So your concern that I may endanger this mission because I hold a favorable bias towards him are entirely unfounded. My primary concern is, as it has always been, is the safety and security of the Federation. If my personal connection with my brother will give us any kind of edge in achieving our mission, I’m determined to exploit it.”

Sandhurst and Aubrey remained unconvinced, judging by the dubious looks on their faces.

“How about an unfavorable bias?” said Aubrey.

“Excuse me?”

But Leone had heard enough. “This will be all, gentlemen. You have your orders. Director Altee has prepared a full intelligence package which has been sent to your respective ships. Make sure you review it in detail on your way to Bolarus. And good luck. Dismissed.”

Aubrey was the first to get out of his chair. “From the sounds of it, we’re going to need it,” he said under his breath and shooting Owens a fleeting, clearly disapproving glance.

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