SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Eleven
Major Rachel Daley surveyed her forces. She had all thirty-four members of her 4th platoon on the surface, plus an additional half a dozen Starfleet security officers. Her platoon were organised into an outer ring, while the security personnel were kept close to the investigation team that was going through the ruins. There was a third bigger ring of Echlan Totality military personnel forming a large exclusion zone around the capital building. It was unlikely that anyone would reach the Marines but you could never be too secure.
The Starfleet personnel were helping with the search and rescue efforts in the remains of the capitol building. Truth be told, they had passed that stage. Federation technology had quickly been able to find the life signs of any buried person. This meant they knew the number and just how badly injured they were. No digging was required; transporters effortlessly removed the injured from the rubble and deposited them directly to medical care.
To that effort the runabout USS Darling was on the surface. It was equipped with a medical module, which was manned by several of the ship’s medical crew. The Darling beamed the worst injured out first and they were initially seen to by the Swiftfire’s medical staff, who were also assisted by Echlan military doctors given that they had limited medical knowledge on the Echlans. They had stabilised the most serious and they were then taken to Echlan hospitals. Some of the lesser injured Echlans were beamed onto stretchers and immediately taken away. There was no doubt that their involvement had saved several lives, though if they had been allowed to become involved sooner they would have saved more.
With the recovery of survivors done it was bodies (and body parts) retrieval. Both Echlan and Starfleet teams combed the site. At the same time a team from the Swiftfire also conducted a forensic investigation. The head of that team was the very capable Lieutenant Letac.
Daley had not had much to do with the young Bajoran lieutenant. They operated in different circles on the ship and she was fairly certain they had not exchanged more than a few words. She had heard nothing but good things about the lieutenant and given she was in a relationship with Lieutenant Wessling, who she had spent more time with, she was sure that she had to be a decent person.
She glanced over to Letac who was standing on top of some rubble. She had a concerned look on her face as she played with her tricorder. Daley decided to go and check if it was something she should be aware of. She cautiously walked over the rubble to get to Letac. Once she did she asked Letac how her task was progressing.
“I’ve finished a preliminary survey,” she explained.
“What did you find?”
“Nothing to dismiss the Echlan’s initial findings. The damage pattern does match the explosions coming from roughly where the public galleries were,” she said pointing to two points above them.
“Explosions? So there was more than one?”
“Yes, there were two points of origin with devices that had similar destructive potential. The only thing I disagree with them on is the size of the devices.” Daley gave her a look to continue. “They were a lot smaller then the Echlan authorities believe.”
“How do you figure that?”
“I based it on the type of explosive used,” she clarified, showing Daley her tricorder’s readings.
Daley let out a whistle. “Ultritium. You definitely don’t need a lot to cause a lot of damage.”
“Exactly. The Echlans expected a device that was three or four times the size, which is not surprising as I doubt they know what ultritium is.”
Daley gave her a confused look. “You’ve lost me, lieutenant.”
“I’ve checked our planetary scans and we can’t find any ultritium ore on this planet.”
That did explain how they would not have heard of it. That also raised another more important question, which she asked, “How do a bunch of terrorists get their hands on an explosive that doesn’t exist on this planet?”
Letac fidgeted with her tricorder. “As far as I’m aware there is only one source that is nearby,” she said with a quick glance to the sky.
“The Swiftfire,” she said with a sigh.
She now understood why the lieutenant looked so worried and nervous. The captain was not going to like this.
Masters viewed the investigation report. It was shocking to say the least. Lieutenant Letac had sent up her initial findings on the incident, which included the belief of the use of foreign explosives and a note that a source of these explosives was nearby: his ship. He had immediately classified the reports and ordered the lieutenant to only report to him and make sure any other personnel on the planet kept tight lipped about the findings. That included not telling the Echlans, at least not until they had checked out all the alternatives.
Masters had reviewed the transporter logs and they showed that no one had beamed to the surface other than his party before the attacks. The only activity to the ship was the party’s return and the retrieval of the Whitechapels from the space station. He checked the ship’s personnel logs and they showed no unusual absence or presence on the ship. He had the computer check their stocks of ultritium and then ordered a manual inspection of the quantities they carried. Again nothing was missing. So far all the evidence pointed to his ship being innocent of any involvement, which was pleasing but also left the question open as to where ultritium was used in the attack came from.
The door chime beeped and he signalled the computer to open the door. He was not surprised to see Ambassador Whitechapel step into his ready room.
“Any news, captain?” asked the ambassador
Masters paused as he considered whether he should tell the ambassador about the findings, but given that he had verbally abused the ambassador about concealing information from him he would be a hypocrite not to.
He handed over a padd to the ambassador. “This is the preliminary report from the forensic team.”
The ambassador started to read it and quickly found the critical note. “Are they sure?”
He nodded. “Yes. The lieutenant checked it three times; they have no doubts about the type of explosive used.”
Ambassador Whitechapel let out a sigh. “What have you told the Totality?”
“Nothing yet. I’ve ordered them only to reveal that we concur with most of their findings but are investigating further into what type of devices were used.”
He nodded solemnly in response. “That’s for the best,” he said placing the PADD down on Masters’ desk. “Have you heard anything from the Totality about continuing our negotiations?”
“Do you think they’ll be interested in continuing with them given this horrific event?”
The ambassador raised his eyebrow sceptically. “Of course, more so now than before.”
“Sorry?” he asked confused.
“The Totality will be more inclined to work with us now to get our aid and support. They have been struck a serious blow and when appropriate we’ll reveal their enemy has a terrible new weapon.”
“So you think this was the work of the Coalition? I thought that they had decided that the Acolytes of Zadic were responsible.”
“Of course the Acolytes are the ones that planted and set off the bombs but it is hard to believe they could have done so without assistance. And who else could it be but the Coalition? I know that ultritium isn’t native to Echla but there are many ways small amounts could have come into the Coalition’s hands. They could have extracted it from an asteroid impact or collected it from other bodies in the system. So they would have only a small amount that our sensors would find close to impossible to detect.”
“That’s a bit of a reach, ambassador,” he said bluntly.
“The reports say they used only a small amount and we don’t have any evidence of it been used in any other attack. I assume you’ve also found no evidence that the source was this vessel.” Masters nodded and noted the well hidden relief from his confirmation that briefly flashed on the ambassador’s face. “Anyway, it gives us a superior bargaining position.”
Masters scoffed. “That is an odd upside to think about.”
The ambassador shrugged and stroked his beard. “I have to. It’s my job to work out deals that are in the Federation’s best interest and to get the best possible outcomes of any situation. Sometimes that means I have to take a callous view of the other party’s local problems.”
“A very callous view,” he added quietly, though not enough so it would not be heard.
The ambassador clearly took offense to that and his relaxed posture changed into a more aggressive one. “If you were about to attack an enemy vessel and it suffered some sort of mechanical problem and people died, would you not take advantage of this to defeat the enemy? Or would you stand back and let them sort it out so the fight was fair?”
“That’s different, it’s life and death. Plus the enemy are military combatants.”
The ambassador was not going to give up on his point easily. “What if say a flood took down the defence grid of an enemy planet and killed hundreds of civilians? Would you not strike as soon as possible, even if by doing so you take away the enemies ability to rescue its citizens since it has to fight you?” He paused for Masters to admit he would but Masters was not in the mood to give him anything. “While what I do doesn’t immediately result in the loss of life, it can be a very real consequence of what I do. Don’t armies only get involved when the diplomats fail? Do not dismiss what I do just because I’m not issued with a phaser to do my fighting, captain.”
The two men stared intently at each other, neither willing to look away. Masters knew that he had taken a low shot at the ambassador and the ambassador was right to chastise him for it. Given the situation with the ambassador concealing information from him their relationship had soured rather quickly. However, he was aware of some of the ambassador’s past achievements. He was a fine diplomat and had served the Federation admirably for several decades. No matter what he thought of the ambassador’s recent actions the man had done enough to earn the respect of any Starfleet officer, particularly one that was only just in his second year of command. Masters yielded the contest and broke eye contact.
Masters rubbed the bridge of his nose as he spoke, “It has been a...tiring day, ambassador. When the next report is made I will make it available to you.”
Whitechapel smiled civilly; there was no sign of their argument left on his face. “It has indeed, captain. I’ll be in my quarters if you need to contact me.” With that he stood and left Masters’ ready room.
He spun his chair around and looked out the windows of his ready room. The ship’s position was so that he was not facing the planet. Instead he looked out into the Helaspont nebula. In the distance he saw the rhythmic pulsing of Pulsar AS-04R8, or as the Echlans called it Xall-ic, which apparently meant Herald of the Gods according to Ilata. The pulses were fast and it did not fill him with a sense of peace, rather it seemed frantic and as if it was building to something. It filled him with the disconcerting feeling that this was just beginning and that the worst we still to come.
Celcho had spent that last four days trying to figure out why the Echlan warp ship had suffered its power failure but could still not explain it. From what he could tell there was nothing wrong with the warp ship.
While the ship was of an alien construction its overall design was very familiar to Celcho. He had spent years working on vessels of this size and on vintage craft with old warp drives. The Echlan design was a very good design and he had found it easy to get to know the workings of the ship. Despite all this he still could not figure out why the ship had lost power.
“Lieutenant commander, may I have a moment of your time?”
He looked up at Karak who was standing nearby. Celcho did not even hear him approach.
“Of course, what can I help you with?”
Celcho took it and started to read through the files. It was nothing major and he started to sign off on them.
“Have you had any success with the Echlan warp vessel?” asked Karak.
“No,” he admitted as he continued to read the files. “I’ve checked the warp and power system at least three times and as far as I can tell all the components are fine and they should work. The design is pretty much a stock standard first warp drive system so I haven’t had any difficulties in inspecting or understanding it.”
“It could be a computer error.”
“If you have cancelled out the possibility of hardware failure then it either has to be from what controls the hardware, either the pilot or the computer system.”
Celcho looked at Karak as if he was a mad man. “A computer error?”
“You assume that given it is their first warp vessel that the problem would be in the warp core, a reasonable assumption given that it lost power during flight. However, given that you have cancelled out the possibility that the problem is the source or distribution of the power then the problem has to be something it diverting or stopping that power from reaching where it needs to reach. If we assume that the pilot is not lying about the problems his vessel suffered...”
“A pretty safe bet given that if it was just the commander pretending the vessel should be operational. When we try powering it up it does come online and then the system crashes. Ilata can’t be the cause of the power failure.”
“That is the logical conclusion. The only other likely suspect would then have to be the vessel’s computer.”
Celcho stared at the warp ship for a few seconds. “So you think something like a virus or corrupted program could be responsible?”
Karak nodded. “It is not beyond the range of possibilities.”
“That’s what I need, a fresh pair of eyes on this problem,” he commented. “Karak, can you spare a bit of time to help me out?”
“I am able to spare a few minutes. I do have some experience in engineering. Prior to my career in Starfleet I trained and worked on maintaining Vulcan’s power grid.”
“Excellent,” he said. Celcho finished with authorising the documents and handed the padd back to Karak. He hopped down from the ship and moved to a console that they had connected to the ship to help them run tests on the vessel and started to power up the craft. “Look, the warp core does initialise but watch what happens when I start upping its workload by bringing more systems online. See, power fluctuations. It isn’t like we’re stressing the core; it should be able to power all these system for decades. It’s getting worse...now it’s crashing and the ship’s once again dead in the water.”
“What do the ship’s diagnostics tell you?”
“Not much. It doesn’t pinpoint a specific error or problem. All I know is that for some reason power fluctuates before dropping and all the ship’s systems go offline due to a lack of power.”
“Most of the systems do.”
“You said all the system when the correct description would be most of the systems go offline.”
“What doesn’t go offline?” he asked.
“The ship’s communication system remained powered and steady during the fluctuations.”
Celcho frowned. He had not noticed that so he powered up the ship again and paid attention to the communication system. Karak’s observation proved correct. The communication system was the only system that appeared unaffected.
“Maybe it’s due to a safety protocol,” he suggested.
“If someone was to place a safety protocol on a system to make sure it remained powered life support would seem to be a more logical candidate.”
Celcho had to agree with that. Life support had been one of the very first systems to start failing. It seemed odd that only the communication system remained unaffected.
“I never even thought about taking the ship’s comms apart to have a look at,” he mumbled. “Wonder why it isn’t affected?”
“I must apologise, lieutenant commander. I am required to attend to my duties.”
“Of course, Karak. Thanks for your help.”
Karak bowed slightly before he headed off to his duties.
Celcho looked up the ship’s schematics to find how to access the communication system. Celcho opened up the ship and hunted out the communication system. It was easy enough to find and he started analysing its design. It was what he expected, it was a sturdy radio, not a bad design but limited by not been able to send signals faster than light. He could only imagine the panic that would have set in Ilata as he sat in his vessel waiting the long minutes it took for his signal to reach Echla and than waiting for a reply. It was a device that would not require much power so it not losing power was not surprising; however Karak had been right, the ability to breathe topped the ability to call home so it really should have been shedding power to other systems. He pulled out the unit, which was bigger than he expected, though it was probably just made to be sturdy rather than slim and pretty. It was totally encased but that proved to be only a problem for a second as he cracked it open.
When he did he was surprised by what he saw. Inside the radio’s case was a small, in comparison, rectangular object. Celcho recognised it immediately; he had seen many of them over the years. The problem was that there was no way it should be inside the Echlan warp ship. He went to tap his combadge; the captain definitely was not going to like this.
“Celcho to Masters, I’ve found something.”