The Tyche Incident - Command Review
Posted on Fri Apr 1st, 2022 @ 12:49am by Captain Nimeeh Vixil & Commander Nikolas Barakos & Lieutenant Gil Walker
Edited on on Fri Apr 1st, 2022 @ 12:50am
Federation News Network Coverage
Location: Starbase 11 - Observation Lounge
Starbase 11 - Observation Lounge
Niamh had spent so long pacing in the Observation Lounge that her assistant, Lieutenant Rynn Nala, suspected she would soon start wearing a path in the carpet. Every now and then the Chief of Fleet Operations paused in front of the large window bays, watching the ships moving beyond before she resumed pacing again.
The other occupants in the room seemed equally terse since their arrival aboard the Starbase. Vice Admiral D'era Virtam and Captain Alex Powell, Director of Fleet Resources and Head of Starfleet Engineering respectively, occupied one side of the large table each while Fleet Admiral Emily Quinn occupied the seat furthest from Niamh, a sea of PaDD's between them, each PaDD full of data, information, numbers, schematics, basically anything and everything that may have been relevant to the situation at hand.
One wall had a large display depicting the schematics of the Graviton Catapult that was the topic of the unfortunate conversation that had to be had.
"There were five hundred people on that ship," Niamh said softly, turning back to face the table, leaning back against the bulkhead. "What the hell happened?"
“Unfortunately, Admiral, this has been the question my people have been trying to go over since it happened.” Powell said, “Simply put, the specifics will take longer to get to, but the system miscalculated. Now if it’s user error or system error, that’s going to be the long part.”
The tall lanky man with hair that was slowly losing the battle from going black to grey looked over at his own array of PaDDs in front of him, his normally easy going features fixed in a pensive frown.
“This has been a risk of the bloody thing for some time. Safeguards were in place, but if someone bypassed any to get it to work, that’s more Starfleet Security’s side of things than mine.” Powell concluded. His tone was analytical, but he was never one to get all shouty, contrary to impressions some may have assumed from his Irish accent.
Niamh nodded slightly before turning to Rynn. “We have had reviews of security data from both the Graviton Catapult and Starbase 11. There is nothing outwardly obvious that indicates there was a security bypass to access the Catapult. The launch was scheduled.” She paused for a moment. “Is there any chance this was an attack from an enemy force?” Though she asked the question, she wasn’t sure she wanted an honest answer. Despite stability in the greater regions, there was enough underlying angst that meant they couldn’t entirely rule out that this was an outside attack.
“Nothing from intelligence would seem to indicate as such,” Virtam said, speaking up for the first time since the meeting started. He wasn’t usually one to speculate, but what he’d said so far was true. None of the reports from Starfleet intelligence, nor the preliminary analyses had revealed any indication of sabotage (external or otherwise). Yet, it was clear how heavy the shadow of Mars lay upon all of them.
At the same time, Virtam found himself struggling with these events for another reason. He’d long been wary of the catapult project. Yes, he had recognized the potential, watched it open new avenues for deep space exploration (not unlike the Bajoran Wormhole). But he had also seen the dangers, and not just an incident like this. Imagine if the device had misfired toward an inhabited planet. The destruction alone, to say nothing of the political fallout, would be far more than the Federation could likely bear.
“Like Alex said,” Virtam continued, bringing his thoughts back to the present, “we knew there was always a chance that something like this could happen, more so than almost any other technology Voyager brought back to us. The question is…what do we do now?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply willful or harmful sabotage. Rather, being an engineer myself, I know how often one wants to improve efficiency and make things just that little bit better.” Alex interjected, “The spirit of engineers like Tucker or Scott, if you will.”
“But. From a strictly engineering standpoint - this is a bloody disaster. We made assurances, public ones, that this wouldn’t happen, couldn’t happen. I seem to recall there were concerns we would start lobbing ships into planets deliberately as a new weapon.” The engineer continued, “To be perfectly blunt, either the Diplomatic Corps is going to have to make a lot more promises or we’re going to be forced to reduce or outright cease operations.”
“I have a team standing by to contact five hundred families and tell them their loved ones are gone,” Niamh said calmly. “We promised this wouldn’t happen, now it’s happened. We need damage control and we need assurances that this won’t happen again. 500 lives is 500 too many already.”
There was a pause as Niamh accepted a hot cup of coffee from her assistant who was doing the rounds. “And we need to know what to tell these families. If the catapult is classified, they’re going to want to know how their loved ones died. They deserve something of an explanation.”
“And they should get one,” Admiral Quinn stated from the far end of the room. Until now she was content to let her staff work the problem while she observed silently with steepled fingers. She finally felt that it was worth speaking up and putting a stop to the back and forth. “We’ve never made it a secret that the mission these ships are undertaking are dangerous. Still, their families need to know that their loved ones were lost in the line of duty. At the risk of sounding callous, what we tell the families is the least of my concerns.”
“Unfortunately, I concur. We can deal with that part easy enough. It comes with the uniform.” Alex let out a sigh, “Technically speaking, this kind of failure was going to happen. There’s not a piece of technology out there today that works 100% of the time. The reality is that we suffered one failure against all the tests and launches. Statistically, this thing is still safe.”
“But, that’s the problem, isn’t it? No one is going to look at it that way.” Alex picked up another PADD, “I can recommend suspension of operations pending an investigation, that would likely take three months. But honestly, I suspect that the Federation Council is going to pressure us to pull the plug. If that’s the case, I need to be blunt here about what our alternative looks like.”
Waving his hand over the PADD to the central projector, everyone could now see it was data relating to Starfleet’s Quantum Slipstream Drive projects.
“Fleetwide adoption is impossible, the materials have proven impossible to replicate. Moreover, there was data that Voyager could not have been able to account for that SCE has. It appears to require specific design conditions to be met. And there’s no way we’ll hit large numbers for any of the ships that can do it. It’s a handful at best.” Alex explained, “I’m not in favor of scrapping the Catapult for one failure. 500 lives lost is tragic, yes, but expecting a 0% failure rate was, to be honest, seriously optimistic and unrealistic.”
The Fleet Admiral at the end of the table tapped her index fingers together as she thought. “Captain Powell, can you tell me what kind of research was conducted on the military applications for the graviton catapult? Was it ever tested as a weapon?”
“That sort of thing was purely theoretical and only done as a case study.” Alex said, “Could you launch a mass at a planetary body? Yes. Would it have catastrophic effects on that body? Absolutely. Is that at all what we want? Well, I should hope not. Not only is it impractical, but it’s ridiculous we should even consider such a thing.”
“But in theory it could be used as a weapon,” Niamh surmised. “Either by us, or, given the right circumstances, against us?”
“And that’s exactly what some members of the Klingon High Council seem to think. And members of the Detapa Council. And the Ritorian Blessed Council. And probably the Tholian Assembly as well if we had any real diplomatic relations with them.” Admiral Quinn relaxed her hands and placed them palm down on the table. She used the table for leverage to sit up straighter in her chair, as if to really emphasize her next point. “We might not have ever intended for it to be used as a weapon. But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t. And now that the Tyche is God knows where, our neighbors are starting to get a little anxious. What if they had hit Qo’noS? Or Cardassia? Or Ritor? Or Tholia? Or even Benzar? Or Archa? Or Earth? How can we be sure that an accident like this could never happen again? How can we be sure that we’ve quelled the fears of our neighbors that we would never point this at them?”
Niamh stopped pacing again and leaned back against the bulkhead again. Her response was simple and succinct. “We can’t.”
“We can’t,” Emily echoed softly.
Virtam listened as the conversation passed back-and-forth among his colleagues. While they continued to discuss whether or not to terminate the catapult project completely, his thoughts turned toward the other issue at hand (one they had not yet started to address). The ships of the exploratory group supported by the catapult were now cut off. Sooner or later, they would need to be resupplied. And, ultimately, a way would need to be found to bring them home.
“Regardless of our long-term plans for the project,” he said, leaning forward, “we have to do something about our people out there. I can think of at least two ways we might reach them without the catapult. One would be to attempt to use the remains of the transwarp network. Personally, that would not be my first choice, as we’ve not been able to map very much of it and we don’t know of a direct route that would get us where we need to go.”
Quinn shook her head. “I’m not a fan of using the transwarp network either. We don’t know for sure where it goes, and the Voyager was not in there long enough to fully map it.”
“Not to mention the last time we did it on our own, it was a bust.” Powell added.
TAG - anyone
“The second,” Virtam continued, “would be quantum slipstream. We assign an explorer, most likely a Vesta class, along with a small convoy of Spirit class ships to make the journey. If my calculations are correct, it would take them about a month-and-a-half to reach Iota from Cestus III.”
“That’s a good short term solution, but I don’t know if it’s the best long term solution. We can't dedicate our most advanced ships to simple convoy duty.” Quinn considered the idea for a moment. “Regardless, we’ll need to resupply those ships sooner or later. It’s worth assembling a fleet. Any other ideas for the long term?”
There was a pause as silence settled across the room. Finally, Niamh spoke quietly. Just one single word. “Pathstone.”
“Which is?” Powell asked, “Or is this the part where I need to suddenly step out for an important call?”
Quinn shook her head in response to Powell's second question. "Pathstone is a megastructure of Dalacari design, built to allow exploration and transit across the vast gulf of the galaxy. But if we want to talk about how it does that, I'm afraid you'll need to take that call."
The fleet admiral directed her attention back to Devane. "Is Pathstone viable? I didn't think it was a done deal that we'd have permission to use it."
"We don't, at least, not yet." She paused, sliding into the seat that was vacant for her at the table. "I have one Commanding Officer with ties to the Dalacari, who has actually already travelled through the Pathstone system. Her ties to the Dalacari and the existing goodwill she has established with the Ts'usugi could go a long way toward helping us get a deal in place."
"Then let's try to get that done. I don't like leaving our people stranded out there any more than you do." Quinn turned back to Admiral Virtam. "In the meantime, assemble your convoy. The Vesta has been itching to get out there. Escorting a convoy might be a waste of her potential, but we don't have many other options at the moment."
“I think we can muster four Spirit class ships for this on short notice. If we had longer, I could offer up an Intrepid or Dauntless but the timetable I have says at least six months.” Alex added since he had the data in front of him, “And that’s lofty to be honest. Realistic would be closer to a year. Quantum Slipstream has proven quite…fiddly.”
Niamh gave a short nod and made a note on a PaDD, handing it to her assistant. "Captain Laurens is going to need a new ship. The Akira-class vessel she commanded was destroyed due to mass systems failures resulting in a warp core breach." She paused and looked toward Alex. "What do we have available that we can reassign her crew to?"
That got him to glance over to his boss this time. He took a breath, tilting his head before calling up another diagram. It was a ship launch schedule, and he selected one of them.
“I’m going to start off at the perhaps crazier of ideas so we can work down to a workable solution rather than going up and cutting ourselves off and the knees.” Alex said, “We have an Odyssey-class coming off the lines. To be honest, if we have such an uncertain future in the Delta Quadrant, then we need a ship that we know will get there and back. It’s big, it’s sturdy, and we crammed the thing with so much new kit that if we need to refit the thing in less than 50 years, I will first eat both my shoes and then we can call the last 150 years of Starfleet development a waste of time.”
One would have followed the comment with a sign of levity, but there was none from Alex, as if he was that certain of what he just said that he would indeed consume his footwear if proven wrong.
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that, Captain," Quinn replied. "I'd like to think that my time in starship development wasn't wasted. Niamh, let’s see about getting Laurens a new ship so she can continue those negotiations. I'm still partial to the Vesta-class, but I suppose the Odyssey is an alright ship too.”
Niamh suppressed a smirk. “I’m sure, Admiral, that Captain Laurens will learn to deal with the disappointment of the Odyssey class,” she responded.
"I'm sure she will." Quinn turned to the other admiral. “D'era, I don't think we can afford to wait six months or longer to refit more ships. Gather as many Spirit-class ships as you can and have them rendezvous at Cestus III to take on supplies. And have Captain Drell meet them there. The Vesta is a good ship. They'll make sure our Delta fleet is resupplied."
Virtam nodded to show that he understood. Of the two objectives, getting the Vesta to return to Cestus III was likely to be the easier task. A simple directive, restricted to captain’s eyes only, would probably be enough. Finding the Spirit class vessels they needed to make the trip was going to be more difficult. Thankfully, Powell already had a lead on four. If they could get at least one or two more, though, he’d feel a lot better about their chances of success.
“Then I guess there’s one question left,” Niamh said softly. “What do we tell the general public? There’s going to be thousands of people wanting answers. We need to give them something. Families, loved ones, hell, the press will have a field day with this if the truth gets out.”
“If we try to keep a lid on this, the instant this hits the diplomatic level and the Federation Council, it’s a foregone conclusion that this will be amplified.” Alex said, pressing his fingertips together, “And we’ll be out of a position to do damage control. We don’t need to get into specifics - this is an experiment to facilitate exploration of the Delta Quadrant. It was done with the knowledge and consent of other Quadrant powers. This was an accident that is undergoing investigation.”
“In short - I am saying we own it now before the press gets this and runs off with it and suddenly what happened was that the Dominion hired Synths and the Borg who are in cahoots with the Tal Shiar.” He concluded.
“You forgot to include that it was sanctioned by Section 31 and funded by the Orion Syndicate,” Niamh shot back dryly. “The presence and use of the Graviton Catapult has been semi classified. To talk about it now may cause a lot more questions as to why we kept the technology hidden.”
“Right, those two as well. Forgive me.” Alex replied, “But semi classified is still potentially over-sensationalized. So. That’s just how I see it.”
"Is there any reason why we can't do what Captain Powell suggests and rule the ship lost as a result of an accident?" Quinn asked. "We don't need to go into the specifics, though I have no doubt that it would be a political quagmire no matter what we do. There was a similar issue in the late 23rd Century where an experiment gone wrong resulted in the destruction of three Federation ships and a Klingon ship. That program was classified too, but it didn't keep the Klingons from wanting blood. I think we nip this in the bud now and make it clear that the program is shutting down before it gets any worse."
“I agree,” Virtam said, leaning forward in his seat, “Our statement regarding this needs to be clear and concise. No matter how much we might want to, we cannot realistically account for all possible ways it could be misconstrued or misrepresented. We make our statement…and then we follow through.”
“The more honest we are now, the less we have to backpedal on later if something gets leaked. Not to say we unload everything at once, but if someone whips out a detail we chose to omit, that’s easier to do damage control on over an outright lie.” Alex added, “Plus it’s less work to figure out a story to cook up and pass out.”
Niamh contemplated for a moment before giving a nod. “Then I guess it’s time we talk to the masses,” she said quietly. “I’ll make the arrangements.”
Quinn nodded in response. "Then let's get to it. Dismissed."
Fleet Admiral Emily Quinn
Vice Admiral Niamh Devane
Chief of Fleet Operations
Vice Admiral D'era Virtam
Director of Fleet Resources
Captain Alex Powell
Chief of Starfleet Engineering