The tactical display in Starbase 86 Ops now showed a holographic rendering of the Azure Nebula in all its swirling, aeriform beauty. An even sprinkling of arrowhead insignia formed a rough hemisphere, hugging the edge of the nebula that fell closest to Federation space. The opposite side was similarly covered in Klingon trefoil emblems. The net of starships had fully enclosed the gaseous birthplace of not only stars, but something far smaller, and far deadlier.
A Lieutenant in red announced to the room, “USS Majestic reports confirmation from Colonel K’lovos. All ships in position.”
Captain Mek and Captain Shilo looked on, watching the display intently alongside Captains Haughey and Mclaughlin. Commodore Tharc gripped the rail running around the edge of the raised holo-table with both of her hairy, Tellarite hands.
“Instruct the task group to begin the sweep,” Tharc said. Before long, the grid of ships forming a cross section of the nebula began to inch its way through the cloud.
From behind Mek came the voice of another Lieutenant who had entered from Briefing Room A, “Commodore Tharc, Captain Mek,” he called out, “incoming communique from Fourth Fleet Command.”
“Let’s go,” Tharc looked towards Mek in a flash before making for the briefing room door.
Mek stopped only for a few parting words to his Executive Officer, “Captain Shilo, you have operational control.”
All Francesca could do was nod. It was the first time in a while she was stressed from the whole situation, but it didn’t matter because she would step up to the plate as she always had. She stepped closer to the screens, analyzing the data that was coming through it and showed the ships converging on the nebula. The worst part was the ominous Omega symbol that clouded the screen. This whole situation was not something she had ever expected to come to pass, but here it was.
She looked closely at the Lieutenant near her “Status Report!” She said in a bold and authoritative voice.
The Lieutenant blinked and looked at the screen “The ships just entered the Nebula and began the sweep.”
Francesca nodded and began pacing the room looking at the different panels with multiple different reports streaming through them. She couldn’t do much until the scan was completed.
“The Tkon…” Mek massaged his forehead with thumb and forefinger as he grappled with the implications of what the Admiral had just said.
“They treated the galaxy like their plaything,” Tharc sat back as she spoke, staring at her reflection in the blank viewer, “guess we shouldn’t be surprised they’ve got something to do with all this omega.”
“After all this, I don’t think anything’s surprising me ever again.”
Tharc exhaled, a muted grunt funneled through her upturned nose, “We need to scour the archives. Everything we’ve got access to. Get the Klingons involved too, they must have plenty of relics lying around in their space.”
“I’m sure the Klingons will have dug up plenty if there was even a sniff of weaponising them,” Mek added.
“Ugh,” groaned Tharc, “the thought of them running around with that kind of power. It’s enough to make your stomach churn.”
“Do we reveal what we know about the Tkon? The Horizon System?”
She paused, “You heard our orders, Mek. All information on the Tkon. Klingon or otherwise. Now’s not the time for keeping secrets from our allies.”
“Agreed,” Mek said, still turning it over in his head, “although I’m not so sure my stomach would say the same.”
Tharc punched the intercom controls, “Tharc to Ambassador Grecht and General Metraq. We request the pleasure of your company in Ops Briefing Room A.”
Despite moving at multiple times the speed of light, the task group that now combed the Azure Nebula had made barely perceptible progress. All eyes in Starbase 86 Ops were glued to the holo display. A sense of grim realisation began to make itself felt throughout the room, and it became increasingly clear that there would be no quick respite from the mounting pressure.
Captain Haughey paced up and down a space of deck not far from the central island. A screen mounted on a bulkhead to his left indicated the bulk of Raeyan Sector forces now standing by, ready to be deployed on his command.
“So this is it?” Haughey grumbled, “We just hang around here while more of that stuff keeps appearing all over the quadrant?”
Francesca shrugged “Unfortunately Captain our hands are tied here, but it is our job to do what we do. I know not being in the action is frustrating, but someone has to stay back and help protect those on the front.”
She saw the Captain sigh and nod “You are correct I will continue to do my duty, but I still hate that we can’t do anything.”
Haughey rapped his fingers on the railing in front of him. “That’s just it,” he expression remained stony, “so much waiting. Keeping everyone in the dark. All this cloak and dagger stuff drives me nuts. Look at those guys, they’d never bother with all the secrecy. Makes me kinda jealous.” He glanced over towards the two large Klingons who now made their way across the deck towards Briefing Room A.
Their heavy booted footsteps thudded as they moved to the end of the table. Seating themselves opposite Mek and Tharc, they leaned back in their chairs.
“Captain, Commodore,” Ambassador Grecht began, “We felt it was only a matter of time before we were summoned in this time of crisis. The Klingon Empire stands by to assist in any way it can.”
General Metraq continued, “The Sixth Imperial Fleet stands ready.”
“Thank you, gentlemen,” Tharc lowered her gaze, “the Federation’s omega containment procedures are stretched but functional. We appreciate your offer of assistance, nonetheless.”
Grecht flashed his teeth for a second, “With respect, Commodore, you’re wasting time.” He spoke with warning in his voice, “We have reports that your ships are tiptoeing around inhabited areas where these molecules have appeared. Every second you delay, the more likely it is that a molecule destabilises in your space. As your allies we can help you with this. Now is not the time to worry about your Prime Directive, or any…” He paused, “Ethics of the situation at hand.”
Metraq sensed Grecht was weighing up the ramifications of his last sentence. Not wanting to lose momentum, he took over, “A simple torpedo strike with gravimetric modifications. It’s all that’s needed to obliterate these things. Collateral damage will happen, yes, but how can we as great powers seek glory if we allow a simple molecule to rob us of our ability to travel the stars? The Vulcans have it right here, Commodore, ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’. You will find the Klingon Empire’s omega containment policy is robust. Just say the word and we can dispatch the fleet and clean up all the omega from here to Acamar.”
Mek sat bolt upright, “That’s barely a containment policy, that’s-”
“Unacceptable.” Tharc finished with a wave of her hand, “We’ll have to differ there, General Metraq. Your ships will not be involved in omega containment within Federation space.”
The two Klingons no longer presented themselves in such an amicable manner, merely grunting in acceptance of Commodore Tharc’s dismissal of the matter. “Now,” Tharc continued, “we turn to the actual reason for this meeting. What does the Klingon Empire know of the Tkon?”
Metraq and Grecht exchanged an uncomfortable glance. Grecht was the first to offer a reluctant response, “The Empire is aware of their artefacts within our borders.”
“Is that it, Ambassador?” Mek waited for Grecht to elaborate before chiming in, “Starfleet has reason to believe the ancient Tkon Empire is somehow related to this outbreak of omega, and we need to know as much as we can.”
Grecht’s tone was flat, “That information is not something the High Council is willing to divulge. This is an extremely sensitive matter, not to mention irrelevant here. The Klingon Empire has the omega crisis under control within its borders. Now if you’d simply allow us to do the same-”
“We’ve said no.” Mek snapped, his patience wearing thin. “You seem extremely eager to jump in and offer assistance outside of your borders. Clearly something’s caught your attention there. I’d like to remind you that those are Starfleet ships in that nebula, the most we’ve ever sent. Meanwhile the KDF are sitting back there on guard duty. The Azure’s already volatile, we don’t even know how a destabilised omega molecule would react with it. I think Starfleet has a right to know if there’s something you’re not telling us.”
The grey lining of General Metraq’s Klingon Defence Force uniform creased as he shifted in his seat. “There are some things the military does have the authority to share,” he said as if still weighing it up in his mind. “We are aware of several Tkon sites outside of Klingon space. One of these is in the Azure Nebula, yes.”
Grecht studied Metraq intently as he spoke; the most conspicuously silent of the room’s occupants. Metraq rumbled on, “In 2392 the IKS Nah’vesh was caught in the gravity well of planetoid 683-lambda located within the Azure Nebula. The ship crash landed on the surface with no survivors. Our recovery teams discovered structures on the surface similar to others we know are of Tkon origin.”
It was Tharc’s turn to lean in closer, jabbing down on the table with her forefinger as she spoke, “So was the KDF aware of the link between the Tkon and omega or not?”
Metraq inhaled, “Yes. You know as well as I do, Commodore, that the Tkon were beings of immense power. It would be a strategic error to make our knowledge of their artefacts any more public than necessary.”
“Nonetheless, you were quite happy to send Task Force 86 into harm’s way. Where’s the honour in that, General?”
“This is a precarious time, Commodore. Where would the honour be in revealing this information to an ally concerned more with the rights of minor pre-warp species,” contempt rose in his voice, “than containing and putting an end to an existential threat?”
Ambassador Grecht’s hands rose above the table, “Peace between our houses,” he stated in what was, for a Klingon, a soothing tone. “We have revealed to each other what we know. That much is true.”
Tharc used the moment to calm the anger that had flared up in her belly, “With the General’s permission. Starfleet would like access to all data collected by the Klingon Defence Force regarding the Tkon Empire.”
Tharc immediately cut through Metraq’s protestations, “If this is unacceptable to our honourable allies, then perhaps a more limited sharing arrangement could be agreed over information coming from the Klingon archaeological site in the Azure Nebula.”
Metraq scratched idly at his temple in consideration, then slowly began to rise from his chair, “I will contact the High Command at once. I am confident there will be no objections to sharing information from the Azure site.”
The room stood, “You have our thanks, General Metraq,” Tharc said through somewhat gritted teeth.
Metraq’s long, black hair flicked out behind him as he turned to leave the room. Ambassador Grecht’s taller frame stopped before following the General out, “The Empire stands by our alliance with honour.”
“As does Starfleet, Ambassador,” Mek smiled, appreciating the attempt at damage control.
As the doors closed behind the Klingons, Tharc and Mek visibly relaxed. Tharc walked over to the bulkhead behind the head of the table, replicating herself a mug of jestral tea.
“A little evasive for them, don’t you think?” Mek said, sitting back down and swivelling his chair to face Tharc.
“Like pulling teeth…” Tharc rolled her eyes, soothed by the steaming tea. She inhaled the warm, fragrant vapour that rose from its surface. A spiced tinge unfolded and coiled within her sinuses, “Better get ready to transfer that data to Starfleet Command as soon as it reaches us.”
Mek took a minute to unpack the meeting in his mind. He rested an elbow on the table next to him, propping up his head. His other hand fiddled with his red collar, “You think Grecht knew about it?”
“The crash site?” She allowed herself a small chuckle, “Not my problem.” She shrugged, looking down into the cup.
“Klingon High Command works in mysterious ways.”
“At least their hand knows what the head is doing.” Tharc offered, “Better than trying to work something out with the Romulans.”
“Don’t.” Mek glared.