“This thing is a hell of a lot nicer now that it doesn’t vaporize everything,” said Lucas Tompkins to Bator as they stood before the sleek, black Phobian escape pod that had delivered Bator to the Federation several decades ago. Tompkins was referring to the fact that whenever he had gone to deactivate the pod, its security protocols had prompted it to vaporize his tools, which was quite annoying from his point of view.
Nevertheless, Bator shared his opinion. “I, too, like it better dormant,” he said. “But it is still unsettling,” he added a moment later. “The fact that this thing has the power, and the will, to transmit potentially life-threatening signals has actually helped me decide what to do with it.”
“Trash it?” Tompkins suggested.
Bator nodded. “Yes. Who knows what kind of advanced mind control features it has? Quite frankly, I don’t care to find out. Phobian technology is obviously too advanced for the Federation to handle at the moment.”
“You’re right,” Tompkins agreed reluctantly. Had he not had such a bad experience with it, he might have argued otherwise, but since it took such bold steps to prevent its violation, he was certain the Federation wasn’t ready to learn its secrets. “Starfleet won’t be happy about this, you know.”
“They’ve had plenty of time to study it,” Bator reminded him. “I’m sure they’ve already reached the same conclusion. And if not—it’s my escape pod. Commander Harrison and Captain Talbot said it was mine to do with as I please. If I choose to destroy it, that’s my prerogative.”
“You’re right, of course,” Tompkins admitted. “I just hope Starfleet Command sees it that way.” Tompkins knew how Command was about acquiring new technologies. They loved to tear them apart piece-by-piece, and put them back together, hopefully with a better understanding of how it worked and how to reproduce it.
But rarely did they have the opportunity to study such an advanced piece of technology that wasn’t buried under hundreds of meters of rock, or so old and decrepit that scanning it would break down its chemical structure. Because of that, the data they are able to glean from the wrecks was often little more than a clue or a hint to point them in the right direction.
This was far more dangerous. And far more advanced. Given the growing hostilities in the Kilka Sector, Lucas knew they would snatch up this find in an instant—and probably vaporize every tricorder in the building trying to open the hatch. For the time, it was best to just leave it alone…
“I’ll tell Commander Harrison we’ll need to use a real torpedo to destroy this thing,” said Tompkins.
Bator nodded. “The pod is composed of a silicon-copper-yttrium polymer, so the torpedo shouldn’t require any special detonation reprogramming,” he said a moment later.
“All right,” Tompkins said. “With any luck, in a few hours your pod will be nothing but a few stray atoms.”
It was fifteen hundred hours. On any other day, this would mean very little to Matthew Harrison. If it did, it was probably nothing earth shattering. But this day was different. Exactly seven days ago, at fifteen hundred hours, Captain Christopher and Erin Keller set out to search for their rogue class-nine probe.
According to both Christopher and Harrison’s flight plans, the trip should have taken five days. When day six arrived, Harrison didn’t panic. He knew the Captain liked to adventure. Perhaps he and Erin had gone on one. He assured himself that the probe traveled deeper into the inversion nebula.
That was day six. Now it was day seven. And now he was worried. As he looked around, Harrison noticed he wasn’t alone in his feelings. None of the crew seemed to be at their usual ease. It was time to take action. “Mr. Johnson,” Harrison said abruptly. “I am beginning to wonder whatever happened to our dear, beloved Captain. Is there any sign of the Dark Star on long range sensors?”
“No,” he said instantly. Apparently, Johnson had been conducting his own search prior to Harrison’s order. But the first officer didn’t say anything. He simply took the news to his seat and sat on it. “But there are severe ion storms in the region. They have greatly decreased long range sensor efficiency.”
“Where did they go?” Harrison asked out loud. It wasn’t exactly a rhetoric question, but no one answered it.