Neelar Drayge stood quietly behind the master control station in the astrometrics lab, intently pecking away at the interface. What had started as a routine, five-minute check of the sensor data had somehow blossomed into a three-hour study of one of the greatest mysteries in the cosmos… And that was only the beginning.
It had started simply enough. After the less-than-exciting morning staff meeting, Drayge wandered to the bridge and seated himself at the conn, intent on a quiet, relaxing day free of death and destruction. But as he poured over his station’s myriad controls, Drayge summarily noted that his sensors were slightly out of sync with those in astrometrics.
Eager for a change of pace, he asked for, and was subsequently given permission to visit astrometrics to make the necessary repairs. Much as he had expected, it took little more than a few minutes to make the repairs, and he was well on the road to completion when the master control station chirped.
The young Bolian slowly craned his neck to see if anyone was present to check the calling station—but he soon realized that he had been alone in astrometrics the entire time.
Slowly, he rose to his feet and made his way to the workstation at the top of the platform where the sensor alert was making itself known. It appeared to be little more than a few anomalous readings in a distant, unnamed nebula—certainly not something to warrant concern. Hence, Drayge added the blip to the sensor log and started for the bridge—when something caught his eye: the nebula he had been staring at was unnamed for a good reason—when he last gleaned the sensors yesterday, there was no such nebula known to exist…
Quickly, Drayge’s interest in returning to the bridge deteriorated, and his deft fingers hastily crawled over the myriad controls to further study this newfound nebula. He quickly determined the massive red cloud to be composed of two things. The first was hydrogen; it was nothing out of the ordinary, and had that been it, Drayge would have dropped his investigation right there. But then there was the second component…
“Dark matter,” he whispered under his breath.
It was believed that more than ninety percent of the universe existed as dark matter—a mysterious substance that emitted no light on any wavelength, making it virtually undetectable. Had it not been for the hydrogen, the nebula would have most likely gone completely without notice.
What had caused this incredible concentration of dark matter to suddenly appear? Three hours after prompting the question, Neelar Drayge was no closer to an answer than when he had started—and so he finally relented. “Drayge to Tompkins,” said the Bolian after touching his communicator.
“This is Tompkins.”
“If you’re not busy, could you please report to the astrometrics lab, Commander? I have something I want you to look at.”
“I’m on my way,” replied the chief engineer a moment later.
Lieutenant Bator’s voice had caught Alan Christopher off guard; he had been wandering aimlessly amidst his thoughts for the past several minutes waiting for the Starlight to rendezvous with the Athena to meet with Admiral Grayson on the status of the fleet—but despite his wandering, Christopher was certain that they had not yet reached the Athena.
Slowly, Christopher abandoned the warmth of his command chair and rose to his feet, quickly coming about to face his tactical officer. “Yes, Bator? Have our friends, the sensors, found something?”
The Phobian nodded to affirm the statement. “Indeed,” he said flatly. “I am detecting a vessel heading one-nine-eight mark six.”
That was most likely not something to get excited about. Still, Christopher had faith that his tactical officer would not bring up such a point without good reason. Making certain to keep interest in his face, Christopher folded his arms and waited patiently as Bator gazed at the sensors.
The Phobian’s eyes widened slightly. “It is of unknown origin,” he added a moment later, his voice brimming with curiosity.
Immediately, Christopher’s gaze shifted from Bator to meet Commander Harrison’s blank look. “The vessel is traveling at warp 9.3, and is headed straight for Federation territory. Weapons, however, do not appear to be armed.”
The unidentified starship was practically calling Christopher’s name. But then again, so was Admiral Grayson, and the Captain had a good hunch that if push came to shove, the Admiral would win out in this instance. “What’s the nearest starship?” he inquired.
“The Reliant,” said Erin Keller a moment later. “They’ve already set an intercept course.”
Slightly crestfallen, Christopher shrugged, his sullen gaze briefly locking with Talyere’s before returning to the command chair. He moved to seat himself, but before he had the chance, Talyere cleared his throat. “Captain,” he said softly.
Christopher froze, his gaze slowly retracing its steps to the mission ops station where Talyere was situation. “Yes?”
“I recognize that vessel,” he said. “It is Burmecian in origin.”
“What do you know about them?” asked Harrison before Christopher had the chance.
“Admittedly, very little,” said Talyere. “At the height of the Elorg Bloc 200,000 years ago, the Burmecians were just beginning to assert themselves as a galactic power. At the time of the fateful Battle of Sorrows, the Burmecians were negotiating an alliance with the Bloc. However, the Iconians banished us into subspace before the alliance was finalized, and that was the last we heard of them.”
“And now they are back,” said Harrison.
Christopher turned to him with an eyebrow raised. “One small ship isn’t going to do them much good, I’m afraid.” He paused, and then turned to Talyere. “Is it?”
Unfortunately, the Elorg provided little in the way of answers. “Two hundred thousand years is a fair amount of time, Captain. In the interim, they have undoubtedly advanced considerably…”
Christopher understood completely. “Then we need to know how far they’ve advanced… and who’s side they’re on…”