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Part of USS Sutherland: In at the deep end and Bravo Fleet: Phase 1: Omega

An unwanted complication

Main bridge, U.S.S. Sutherland, Beta quadrant
Mid-2399
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The bridge of the U.S.S. Sutherland had a quiet and orderly ambiance as Captain Struan MacLeod adjusted his position in the captain’s chair for the third time in as many minutes.

“Is there something wrong with your chair, Captain?” The question came from Commander Oseto Zh’tora, a wide grin stretched across her cerulean face indicating that it was not a serious inquiry.

“It’s just not broken in yet,” Struan commented, shifting position yet again.

“I’d be happy to help with that,” Oseto said, half-jokingly. She was ambitious and had been clear about her desire to have her own command when accepting the XO position.

“Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities,” Struan promised. Her antennae twitched at that statement, but he didn’t know her well enough to interpret that particular piece of body language.

The chair was perfect of course. Too perfect. It was new and it was firm but his backside ached from sitting in it too long. It was a bit of a metaphor for the ship too. A major refit and a new crew meant that they were all unfamiliar with each other, and with the ship, so everything needed a bit of breaking in. So far, there had been no issues. They had departed the Devron Fleet Yards the day before and were traveling through the area of space that used to be the Romulan Neutral Zone, but was now Federation territory. Their course would take them on a patrol along the border of space claimed by the Romulan factions, to reassure the colonies in the area and discourage piracy.

The familiar chime of an incoming communication sounded, prompting Lieutenant Redik Ejori to bring up the communications controls on her Ops console.

“Captain, It’s Captain Dex for you,” she reported.

“On Screen,” Struan ordered.

“It’s for your eyes only, Sir.” She turned to face him, the furrows in her brow mirroring the ridges on the bridge of her nose.

“Put it through to my ready room,” Struan instructed as he got up and moved towards the ready room door. “Commander, you can break in the Captain’s chair for me now.”

She was already in the chair before he made it to the ready room. She looked satisfied and he made a mental note of the motion of her antennae for future reference. He had not worked closely with an Andorian before and was quite fascinated by how expressive their antennae were. Would they give away an emotion when her face did not?

As the door closed behind him, he reflected that he should have told her that she had the bridge, but it wasn’t crunch time yet and he was hoping a little informality would encourage bonds to form between the crew more quickly.

The ready room was spartan and so very standard. He had spent virtually no time in it so far, preferring to be around the crew whenever possible to get a feel for their personalities and abilities. There’d be time to personalize it later. He hadn’t quite made it into the chair before Captain Dex’s face appeared on his screen. The security on the call was ominous, but the look on her face told him that this was going to be bad.

“Captain Dex,” he opened. “What’s the crisis, Sir?”

“Omega, Captain.” She let the word hang there until she saw the realization dawn on Captain MacLeod’s face that she meant that Omega.

“The Omega molecule?” he seemed almost startled. “Here?”

“I’m afraid so Captain. Not just here – several places – and that’s only the appearances we know of.”  She raised a hand as he took a breath, indicating that he should hold his next question. “Before you ask, we don’t know why it has appeared where it has or why it has appeared now. You can be assured that we are working on that.”

“What do you need me to do?” He decided that it was best to get to the point. It seemed that she had a lot of these calls to make and he knew that protocol prevented her from delegating that task.

“I’m keeping you on mission, but I’m changing the parameters. Even if we hadn’t just fitted the Sutherland out with state-of-the-art sensors, her pod makes her the most advanced mobile sensor platform we have at the moment. I want you to continue along the border but I want extensive and thorough scans into Romulan space. The Tal Shiar haven’t gone away and I dread to think of what they may attempt if they got their hands on any of it.” Clearly, that thought troubled her perhaps more than the Omega itself.

“And if we find any of it in Romulan space?” He knew what the answer was going to be, but he felt like he needed to hear it from his commanding officer.

“You know the answer to that Captain. It must be destroyed by whatever means necessary.” She fixed him with a stern glare. “If it’s in our territory, secure the area and call for the specialist disposal team. If it’s in Romulan space, you may not have the luxury of waiting for them so be prepared for that eventuality.”

Struan took a deep breath as the enormity of what he may face sank in.

“I’m sorry to put this on you, Captain, so soon into your new command, but the confidentiality of the directive still stands. You cannot discuss this matter with any of your crew, not even your XO.” She tapped a few buttons on her console. “I’m sending you the details of some modifications that you need to make to the Sutherland as soon as possible. The directive has been invoked fleet-wide so with any luck, your patrol will be uneventful. But be ready.

“Yes, Sir.” He noted the encrypted files arriving on his system as he spoke.

“Any questions?” She enquired.

“No, Sir. I’ll be ready, as will the Sutherland.” He summoned a look of determination that he hoped would instill some confidence in him.

“Good. Safe travels, Captain.” She nodded in acknowledgment. “Dex out.”

As the link terminated, Struan pinched the bridge of his nose as though that would be enough to stave off a headache. This was going to be bad. The crew didn’t know him yet and at the very least, he was going to have to ask them to make changes without allowing any questions or giving any reasons. Worst case, he’d have to order them to violate long-standing directives without divulging the superseding directive. He hoped that they would comply, or to be more accurate, comply willingly.

The specifications sent by Captain Dex would mostly have to be implemented by Engineering and Tactical. Multiphasic shielding around the warp core, hull reinforcements for small craft and modifying torpedoes to carry gravimetric charges. He decided that he’d visit Engineering in person and order the changes himself. At least then he would be able to judge first-hand his new Chief Engineer’s reaction and instill some confidence if required. Perhaps he’d regret choosing a Tellarite for that position but they did make excellent engineers. Tactical would be an easier job, Lieutenant K’terr wasn’t argumentative and loyalty was one of his traits.

The first thing to do was to have a discussion with his XO. He may not be able to give her any details, but he could at least give her a heads-up about how unconventional things were about to get.

He tapped his comm badge. “Commander Zh’tora, please join me in my ready room.”