Table of ContentsGallitep, Bajor, Cardassian Occupation Authority
Universe Designate ST-3
10 December 2153 AST
The whine of Cardassian phaser rifle fire competed with the hum and cracks of particle rifle and railgun fire when Bravo Company began it's ascent up the Gallitep Ridge, overlooking the famed gulag from the northwestern corner. Nathan Mackensen kept his head down, motioning to his men to move forward as he led Platoon B to a small ledge from which they gained cover from the intense Cardassian fire.
Over the radio, he could hear the calls of the rest of the 24th Recon as the battalion assaulted Gallitep to prevent it's commandant from murdering the Bajoran prisoners as the Cardassians had attempted in virtually every other labor and prison camp liberated by Allied Nations forces during the advance on Bajor. The Cardassians were using the ridge as a firing position, and without it taking the camp would be impossible.
Nate saw movement to his right. The strong feminine figure, tan-skinned from recent Mexican heritage, stormed up beside him, MP-10 in her arms and a Captain's bars on her uniform. Captain Danielle Sutherland gave him an angry look and said, in her demanding soprano tone, "Lieutenant, why aren't you advancing?!"
"Cardie fire is too heavy, Sir! They're chewing us up!" Above them and further up, an explosion was accompanied by several cries. Three Marines rolled passed them and back down, one unconscious, two dead, and one of the dead bore the rank insignia and name of Platoon C's Gunnery Sergeant, Roger Fuller.
Sutherland's face twisted into exasperation and anger. "I don't care if they're dropping tac-nukes over our heads, I want that ridge now! C'mon, Marines, to Hell with the Cardies and to Hell with fire support, you're not gonna live forever anyway!"
And like that, Sutherland advanced up the ridge, literally dragging Platoon C with her as the Marines followed their officer into the thick of Cardie fire. Nate looked to the sergeant commanding his MG squad, Richard Montoya, and said, "We need suppression fire from MG squad! The rest of you, you heard the Captain! To the top!"
The Marines began a steady assent, aided by fire from the 30mm cannons on the APCs at the ridge's northwestern base. The Cardassians were heavier-armed than had been expected, and an anti-vehicle phaser was brought up and used on the APCs, destroying one once the Cardies had dialed it's power up to get through the armor plate. Suppression fire up-hill was hard, and very easy for those on the high ground, and with no air support forthcoming yet due to pressing needs on other fronts the only way Bravo Company could do it's work was to take the losses and keep going.
Nate was dashing up to higher cover when a blast from a Cardassian rifle hit him in the shoulder. It was dialed high enough to vaporize a portion of armor and punch through to the flesh and bone of his left shoulder, making him cry out and fall. He dragged himself to cover, where he found himself face-to-face with the grimacing visage of his platoon's Gunnery Sergeant, Toby Michaelson. The older Marine was favoring his hip. "They got you Gunny?!"
"I'll be alright, Sir!" was the reply. "Keep going, I'll give you what cover I can!" The Gunny rested his MP-10 on the rock in front of them and began to fire upward, at the Cardassian positions on the incline of the ridge.
With a nod at Gunny MIchaelson, Nate went to continue his way upward. He hadn't even gotten to the next bit of cover when an object flew overheard and landed beside Michaelson.
It was a Cardassian plasma grenade, and before anyone had a chance to react it exploded. The plasma energies of the explosion burned through the Gunny's body armor, scorching his body to the extent that he was literally flash-fried to death.
The blast wave of the explosion blew off chunks of rock, heating them to the point that they were white-hot when they struck Nate from behind. He screamed from the pain of some of the shards being sharp enough and of the right velocity to punch into his body armor, which was meant more for deflecting high-energy shots and bullets than stopping extremely fast moving but relatively weak shards of rock. He was unable to feel his legs when he fell, the pain in his spine so severe that the world began to spin and dissolve into pure, unrelenting agony, until finally he lost all consciousness.Quantico, Earth, United States of America
Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate SE-1
19 June 2173 AST
Nate sat up from the bed, sweating lightly and feeling agitated. The nightmare had brought it all back; Captain Sutherland's determined face, Gunny Michaelson's grimace, and the white-hot agony of a shard of rock embedded in his spine from the grenade that killed Gunny Michaelson.
Twenty years had passed since the fateful battle at Gallitep. Captain Sutherland was dead, killed that night as her Marines got to the top, but Bravo Company had succeeded in taking the ridge. Today it was called Sutherland's Ridge by the Bajorans in honor of her charge, and a monument had been erected on the ridge top in commemoration of the Marines who had died to seize it.
Outside the sun was up. The closed curtains of his hotel room kept it dark save for the borders of the windows, through which the bright sun was shining. Nate forced himself out of bed and walked into the bathroom, where he showered and washed until he was fully awake and the dream had faded. He left the bathroom and finished drying off. The next stop was to the hotel room's built-in replicator and some scrambled eggs and toast, which Nate ate while grumbling to himself at how MREs tasted better. Finally it came time to get into uniform, and in minutes Nate was in his crisp dress blues, the rank of Colonel having replaced the Lieutenant's bar he had worn that fateful day at Gallitep, and a host of ribbons and medals on his chest.
He called a taxi cab and went out to the hotel parking lot to wait for it. When it pulled up, he gave a nod to the dark-skinned man in the driver's seat, dressed in casual taxidriver garb, and slipped into the back seat. "Marine Academy," he said, and the taxi headed out.
For most of the trip, neither said anything, but then Nate noticed a Silver Cross was hanging from the rearview mirror and a multi-service Bajoran Liberation Veteran patch on the dashboard alongside a Purple Heart. "You served?"
The driver grinned. "Gunnery Sergeant Lewis Sampson, US Marine Corps, '41 to '64. Went to Bajor with the 3rd Marine Regiment, took a hit to the knee at Torvel. You?"
Nate nodded at the response, and answered, "Colonel Nate Mackensen, AN Marine Corps. I was a Lieutenant in the 24th Recon on Bajor."
Lewis whistled. "Gallitep. Damn, you must've seen some sights. Cardie bastards...."
"Oh, I did..." There was a pause. "So, where'd you get the Silver Cross?"
The driver lowered his head a tad, though his eyes kept on the road. "Not mine. It was my son Jerome's. He enlisted in the Corps during the War, decided to stay after it was over. He went in with the 22nd Assault when they landed on Betazed. Held off an entire company of the Betazoid Commies' militia with a machine gun."
Nate nodded. "The War", to him, meant what it did to most others; the "Interuniversal War", when the Alliance had fought both the Dominion and New Plymouth plus their respective allies, including Round Two with Cardassia. "What happened to him?"
"He was on one of the transports that got shot down when they evaced Betazed," Lewis answered. "Didn't even give me anything to bury."
An old pain twisted in Nate's heart again, paralyzing him. "I'm sorry," was all he could say.
"Yeah, he wanted to be like the old man," Lewis continued on. "Did a hell of a lot more than I did when I was in the Corps. Still, would've been nice to have some grandkids..."
Nate couldn't bring himself to speak again until they got to the Academy. "That'll be five bucks," Lewis said as Nate opened the door.
Knowing the amount didn't sound right, Nate looked to the ticker on the dashboard and saw that it displayed $14.59. "That's not what your fare ticker says."
Lewis smiled widely. "It's my personal discount for the Corps. Don't worry, I cover the rest."
Nate reached into his wallet and pulled out a teal-tinted $20 ADN note, one of the new ones with the face portrait of the late Nicolas Mamatmas on it with the Capitol of Washington HE-1 on the reverse side. He handed it to Lewis. "The rest is for your son, Gunny," Nate said as he slipped out of the taxi.
As he slipped out and stood next to driver's side window for a moment, he felt Lewis' hand reach into his trouser pocket. He reached in and took out a violet-tinted $10 ADN note, slightly crumpled, that hadn't been there before. "Semper Fi
," was what Lewis said back, a smile on his face as he drove off before Nate could give the money back.
Nate looked down at the $10 note, this one absent of any faces but instead faced with Big Ben and with the entire British Parliament Building on the reverse side. Grinning to himself for a moment, Nate whispered, "Semper Fi
," and put the bill back into his pocket. Looking away from the street, Nate walked into the Officer's Academy.
Newly-built specifically for the Alliance Marine Corps, the Marine Officers' Academy was a large facility that replaced the smaller US Marine Corps facility that had since been moved to a more favorable spot near Tampico in the State of Tamaulipas. It was the main officer academy for the Marine Corps, also containing the campus for the officer schools that junior officers took to get a chance to attain higher rank and responsibility.
Walking through the facility, Nate wound up at the football field that was used by the Academy's NCAA Division 1 team, where he joined the crowd that was attending the graduation of the Class of 2173.
He was walking through the crowd when a familiar voice made the high-toned cry, "Gampa!" The toddler-slurred "Grandpa" turned his attention to the small three year old girl that bounded up to him, wearing a pink bow in her pony-tail and a cute dress and shirt that had teddy bears placed everywhere. Nate reached down and lifted the toddler into his arms even as an older voice, that of a boy, called out "Grandpa!", after which a six year old clasped onto his leg.
Some eyes turned his way, the interest being in the fact that unlike Nate, the children had prominent Bajoran ridges upon their noses. The same was upon the nose bridges of their father and mother was the sandy-haired man walked up to Nate, a brown-haired young woman in a formal dress beside him. He paid no heed to his daughter in Nate's arms when he put his arms around Nate and said, "Dad, good to see you."
Nate exchanged the hug with his adopted son Lorva Mackensen as strong as he dare with his granddaughter Kevys in his arm. His grandson, named Nathan as well, smiled up at him while Lorva's wife Samia gave Nate a small hug. "Doctor Mackensen," Nate said to his son. "Has a nice ring to it."
"Ah ah ah, Dad, I still have to defend my thesis," Lorva replied happily.
"You'll win, Mackensens always win," Nate chuckled in reply. "Where is your brother?"
"Furel called, said he couldn't make it." Lorva frowned. "Probably doing the usual shit."
"Ooooh, Daddy said a bad word!" Nathan giggled. "Momma's gonna smack him!"
And, indeed, Samia gave Lorva a quick smack to the shoulder, drawing a "Yow!" from him and a laugh from Nate. From beyond, a voice called out, "Still letting your girl beat you around, Lorva?"
Heads turned and Furel walked up, dressed more informally than the assembled and looking very much the college student in his dirty jacket, navy blue T-shirt, and faded blue jeans. He reached into his pocket and took out American greenbacks, two fives, and handed them to his neice and nephew. "Here, kids, Uncle Furel's 'I've missed you' gift. Go buy some toys."
Lorva chuckled and Nate, again, laughed, before he embraced his younger adopted son. The twenty year old hugged him tightly. "Hey Dad," he said.
"Doing good in college?"
"Oh yeah, straight Bs." Furel smirked and then finally, under the mockingly-scolding look of his father, corrected himself. "Okay, a C.... but mostly As. I have the lack of sleep to prove how hard I've been studying. We can't all be Mister 'Fall asleep in Science class and still get an A'."
"That's my boy," Nate cackled while Lorva shook his head, in amusement, at his younger brother's teasing. "Now, let's all go get some seats."
As they headed up to the bleachers, Kevys was the one to ask, "Where Gam'ma?"
"Grandma and Step-Granddad are going to be late," Furel replied to his neice, not noticing Nate's slight frown. "They were doing something."
Lorva elbowed his younger brother in the ribs, prompting an upset look, while Nate endured the reminder of his ex-wife's newfound happiness in silence. Together they found some seats midway up the bleachers and waited for the ceremony to begin.
A band struck up a tune, and Nate joined the other active duty Marines by standing up and saluting the arrival of Harold West, Commandant of the Allied Nations Marine Corps. West saluted back from the podium and the assembled Marines in the stands and among the cadets stood or sat at ease. From there he gave a short speech, extolling the virtues of the Corps and talking about it's future represented by the Academy graduates in front of him, and then relinquished the podium to Lt. General Tamika Hudson, the Commandant of the Academy. Her ebony skin shined in the Virginian sun as she gave her own short speech - in a town even gruffer than that of the Corps Commandant - and began to call the class up in order of it's score.
They were in the latter half of the group when "Ivliya Mackensen" was called, and a lovely young blonde girl in dress blues emerged from the crowd of cadets and strode up to the podium. General Hudson placed the Lieutenant's bar on Ivliya's uniform and presented her with her degree, pronouncing her 28th in the class of '73. From the bleachers, Nate and his family stood up, Nate politely clapping with Lorva and Samia while Furel hooted and cried out, "Way to go Sis!"
It was only near the end of the ceremony that Nate noticed his ex-wife Sarah come up with her husband Jim, a school guidance counselor. Sarah didn't give him more than a look, but she did hug and kiss Lorva's kids. It fell on Furel to let her know that Ivliya had come 28th in the class, at which Sarah merely nodded.
After the ceremony, the family headed down to the reception area where Ivliya finally emerged. "Dad!" She went straight to Nate first and, without a beat, gave him a salute, which he returned cheerfully before hugging her. "Dad, I'm so happy you made it."
"I wouldn't miss this for the world, Ivvie."
"Mom, good to see you too," Ivliya said, moving to hug her mother - her stepfather was left out of the hugs and only given a slight embrace. Sarah clearly didn't take to it, but she had never been a supporter of Ivliya's decision to follow Nate into the Corps. "Are you all staying, or...?"
"I'm sorry, dear, but Jim has to get back by tomorrow," Sarah replied. "Work is heavy, as you know. And I know Furel needs to get back to school."
"Mom, I can take a day of absence to hang with my Sis," Furel replied.
"Not when we're paying for your tuition, young man," was Sarah's scornful reply, backed up by a glare from her new husband.
Furel went to argue, but Ivliya stepped up and gave her younger brother a hug. "Oh, Furel, don't worry about it. Just get your degree, I'm just happy you managed to get here."
Lorva gave her a hug as well, as did Samia. "We can stay until tomorrow," Samia told her sister-in-law. "Lorva's just waiting for the doctoral board anyway."
"That is true," Lorva said. "And the kids have been dying for a chance to see you again."
"Like I haven't! Since going into the Academy I've barely seen Nathan and only managed to hold Kevys twice!" Ivliya looked to Nate. "And you, Dad?"
"Still got a while before my next assignment." Nate smiled at his daughter. "In fact, do you want to have dinner tonight?"
"It'll have to be an early one, my roommate and some of the others invited me to a graduation party."
"An early dinner it is, then."
The family conversation went on for a bit longer before they all parted ways, except for Nate and Sarah. "You used to get mad at me being late," Nate said.
"You were always late for everything," Sarah replied. "I never was."
"Unless it was for something you never approved of," Nate retorted. "You didn't even come when she finished boot."
"Jim needed me at home, work was getting hard for him and he was suffering through a cold."
"Oh, don't give me that," scoffed Nate, and clearly Sarah saw her lie wasn't going to work. "You were mad at Ivvie because she wanted to join the Corps."
"She's a bright young girl, she could have a future anywhere, a better one than going off to become a soldier and get shot at."
"It's what she wants to do."
"No, it's what she thinks you want her to do." Sarah glared at him. "She grew up worshipping you, more than any of the others. She wants to be a Marine because you were, that's it. It's not what she wants. You're the one who pushed her into it!"
"I did no such thing! I was perfectly happy with the path Lorva took, Hell, I was ecstatic
when he got the scholarship to Ikila. And Furel? I've always encouraged him to go to college. Ivvie wants to be a Marine and you just can't handle that! Ever since George..."
Sarah slapped Nate hard across the cheek. The sting was painful while the imprint of her hand remained on his cheek for a short while. "Don't you dare mention him again, not like that," Sarah said, tears in her eyes.
Nate rubbed his cheek. "You've never stopped blaming me or the Corps."
"And you've never let go," Sarah retorted. "Even Lorva, Ivvie, and Furel, even they couldn't bring you to let go of George."
"He is, was, our son, Sarah. I can't forget..."
"Neither can I, but I let go! Jim made me let go! But you, you keep running off into the service, using it to get away from what happened." Sarah put a hand to her mouth. "I just.... just.... leave me alone, Nathan. Leave me the Hell alone."
And with that, she walked off, leaving Nate alone.
The dinner with Ivliya had been nice, and all on Nate's account by his insistance. Ivliya was already angling for a Recon school slot, to come after she finished her customary first tour with a normal line unit. She insisted that within two years she would be a Recon Marine as he had been, and Nate had done the only thing he could do; voice encouragement.
After their dinner and some quiet talking, Ivliya had left to join her friends. Nate retired to the Officer's Club at the Marine Academy, where he was shortly sitting alone with a half-finished glass of Scotch in his hand.
Movement beside caused him to turn in his seat. Another officer was seated there, this one a General; Brigadier General Miles Willington. His red hair had only slight traces of gray to them, though his beard was far grayer. Willington had a stocky frame that Nate suspected barely passed muster in the fitness exams, but he still kept the barrel chest of a solid infantryman and had the same careful look in his brown eyes. When he spoke, it was with a slight baritone. "Colonel Mackensen, fancy seeing you here. Not out with the family?"
"My ex and her new husband wanted to treat the grandkids before they leave. I didn't want to cause a problem."
"Ah, divorce. Tricky thing." Willington motioned to the bartender to pour him a small glass of tequila. He sipped at it before looking back to Nate. "I hear you're tiring of your post at New Appalachia."
Nate shrugged. "Recon School's been good, but I haven't been in the field since we got dragged into the Feddies' little civil war. I was hoping for a change of pace after six years of instruction and desks."
Willington nodded. "Well, that's why I'm here."
"Thought it was an unofficial rule that there was no post pitching in the Officer's Club?" Nate chuckled.
"General's perogative," was Willington's reply. He sipped at the tequila again, giving Nate a moment to motion for a second Scotch. "Might want to stay a bit sober when I make this pitch, it's a once in a lifetime thing. Your name's come up for a new posting. We need someone with experience, someone good at the kinds of things you Recon Marines do."
"I'm listening," Nate replied.
"It's called the Daffodil Project," Willington said before chuckling. "Some damned Brit must've thought that one up. That's the official name, but I hear the Texans call it the Hula-Hoop, so there is worse."
"Yes. Your posting will be on Bowie, in the Planetary Defense Command Bunker System outside of Brownville. Beyond that, I can't say more. If you accept, you'll be fully briefed upon arrival."
Nate sipped at the Scotch again while Willington took a longer drink. "When would I leave?"
"You'd come by the office tomorrow and sign the paperwork, give your oath of silence, and so on. We'd expect to have your clearance granted within the week, and you'd be on your way to Bowie before you got to the flight back to New Appalachia."
Nate looked up again. "How much would I be out of contact?"
"Well, I can't say for sure, that's going too far. But communications with your kids would still be possible, and even leave I'm sure."
That drew a nod, and then a look at the bar for a moment followed by a last gulp of Scotch. "Fine. Give me the office number and I'll be there."
"That was fast," Willington remarked.
"Well, what the hell else am I gonna do? I'm tired of teaching Recon, I don't want to retire yet, and I damned sure am tired of sitting at a desk. So, yeah, I'll sign on with this.... Dandelion thing."
"Daffodil," Willington replied with a chuckle. "I damned sure hope they have a better name for it at Brownville."
Nate looked at him. "General, are you saying that even you don't know what this project is?"
Willington gave him a look and a snort. "Oh, Hell no, my clearance is just high enough to know it exists and what they want for it." He gave Nate a clap on the shoulder. "Well, Colonel, good luck." Standing, Willington walked away. "See you in the office tomorrow."
Nate looked back to his glass and decided to have another Scotch before heading back to the hotel.Brownville, Bowie, Texan Republic
Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate FHI-8
28 June 2173
Nate met the military bus to the Bowie PDC Bunker at Reynolds AFB just after his flight had come in, being among the first to board it as the green sun of the solar system slowly crept over the horizon to the east. He found a seat midway down, noticing that most aboard were in Texan uniform save for a couple Aerospace Force officers and one Stellar Navy Petty Officer in a technician suit.
The flight had been bothersome, and Nate found sleep tugging at his eyes, so he kept closing them to get a little sleep and only opened them when a new arrival came. But only the last arrivals brought his undivided attention.
The first on the bus was big. Not just a man, but clearly not Human either; it took only a moment for Nate to recognize him as a Klingon, big and burly, with a duffel bag pulled over his shoulder and a modified uniform on that resembled, but clearly was not, that of pre-Civil War Starfleet. Behind him was a woman in a similar uniform, fair-skinned but with the spot line of a Trill running from her forehead down her hairline to her neck. Rich black hair flowed down her back, kept into a long ponytail just a bit longer than the Klingon man's, while bright blue eyes surveyed the bus. An amused smirk came to her lips as she settled beside the Klingon, putting an arm around him in such a way that Nate was certain they were intimate.
The bus finally began to move, and Nate dozed off again. He awoke to find the bus already out of Brownville and moving along a solitary mountain road. Remaining awake now, he watched silently as the road continued on and on until they arrived to a gate. The driver showed his ID and the guards let him move on.
Ahead was the entrance to the bunker, built into the face of the mountain, but even here they did not stop, but rather continued onward into the tunnel until they reached a vehicle bay.
When they arrived, the driver called for them to disembark and they all did. A group of stern-faced MPs was waiting for them, as well as a man in a Texan Army uniform with the rank insignia of a Major. He directed all of the junior officers and enlistees on the bus to follow him, leaving Nate alone with the Klingon man and Trill woman. They looked to him as well, and it was Nate who finally decided to break the impasse by saying, "Daffodil?"
The Trill woman smirked. The Klingon frowned, and then spoke in a low grumble. "I do not understand why a top secret project would be given such a.... strange name."
"Well, it's less obvious than 'Planet-Buster'," the Trill woman said in jest. She looked to Nate and extended a hand. "Commander Jadzia Dax, Federated Worlds Starfleet. This is my husband, Commander Worf, of the House of Martok."
"Colonel Nathan Mackensen, Alliance Marine Corps," Nate replied, accepting the hand and remembering that even post-Civil War, the victorious pro-Colonial forces had maintained Starfleet under their newly constituted Federation of Worlds, even if it was now called the Stellar Navy officially. Moreso, most Starfleet officers tended to be more lax, without official salutes and only standing at attention, and only in more formal situations at that. "So, again, Daffodil?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," Dax replied. "What's your specialty? Engineering? Physics?"
Nate smirked at that. "I'm Marine Recon. The only physics we care about are the ones that keep us alive and get the other guys dead."
"....Oh. Well, I wonder... I mean, I thought they wanted Worf for security, I kind of insisted that he be allowed to join the project with me..."
"I'm certain we'll find out more when we get briefed."
A few moments later, a Sergeant stomped up to them with a group of enlisted men in tow. "Colonel Mackensen, Commanders Dax and Worf. General Thompson is ready for you. My men will get your things and bring them do to your quarters."
"Well then, carry on."
"Corporal, get their things packed. Please, Sirs, follow me." With that said the Sergeant led them to one of the lifts in the vehicle bay. The Sergeant put his hand on the security ID and the system confirmed his identity, causing the lift to move into the deepest tunnels of the complex.
From the lift they went through low-ceiling corridors, past sets of blast doors, and a number of doors toward living quarters and the like. They were brought to a briefing room adorned with the flags of Texas and the Allied Nations, where an officer in a Texan Air Force uniform greeted them. Nate saluted, recognizing the two star insignia immediately, and Dax and Worf stood at attention. "Colonel Mackensen reporting, Sir."
"Colonel, Commanders, at ease," was the reply in a smooth, sophisticated drawl. The General was a man of medium height, with a head of graying, balding hair and a stocky frame; he'd been behind a desk for quite a while, Nate was sure. "I'm General Arthur Thompson, in command of the 'Hula-Hoop', as we're told to call it officially."
"Why does it have such a strange name?"
"Commander.... Worf, is it?"
"Because the higher ups don't want something more obvious," Thompson replied. "So, are you ready for your briefing?"
"Yes, Sir," Nate replied. "I've been wondering what this whole project was since I got here."
"Well, Colonel, I believe that sometimes it's best to show, not tell." Thompson motioned to a door. "Please, this way."
Thompson led them to the armored door and let them step through first. Nate found himself standing in some kind of control room with technicians at various stations and light everywhere. Ahead of them, through transsteel windows, was a larger chamber. Nate was the first to walk up to it, while Worf and Dax merely looked on in surprise. "Just what is that supposed...."
"Well, it's clearly not a daffodil or a hula-hoop," Thompson replied sarcastically. "In fact, we think it's supposed to be called a 'Stargate'."
Nate looked back to the giant metal ring in the chamber beyond the control room. It was large, looking to be around eighteen to twenty feet in diameter, with an inner ring that had a few dozen strange symbols on it, as well as seven visible chevron-shaped things along the circumference of the ring; the way they were arranged, there could likely have been more hidden by the metal walkway that led up to the ring.
From inside the control room, a Mexican-accented woman in a Texan uniform called out, "'Zynski particle charge complete. Ready to begin dialing sequence."
Another man tapped keys at his station and the inner ring laden with symbols began to move. It turned for a few moments and then stopped. One of the chevron things suddenly shifted, covering the symbol for a brief moment while it suddenly glowed red, until it retracted once more, though still lit up with red. "Chevron 1 locked."
As the ring began shifting again, Dax said, "Stargate? What is this thing?"
"They found it eighty years ago on an abandoned world, surrounded by what looked to be a sight right out of Ancient Egypt," Thompson replied. "There was a list of symbols near it, not too big a list, but they were all symbols on the Stargate itself, so the guess was that they were some kind of location things. Doctor Michaels will be along to explain later."
"Chevron 2 locked."
Thompson motioned to a vacant station. "You can log in on that, Commander Dax, if you want a look at the sensor readings when this thing activates."
As Dax settled into the seat and typed in the username and password she'd been given, the man at the main station called out, "Chevron 3 locked."
Nate watched as the dialing sequence continued.... whatever the hell it was supposed to be for. He was mostly concerned with the mention of Straczynski particles, the exotic particles that IU jump gates and jump point generators used to open jump points into other universes.
The chevron on the top shifted and glowed, and a voice said, "Chevron 7 locked."
Suddenly there was a flare of bright energy in the ring that solidified. A gush of water-like energy shot out of the ring like a geyser erupting, traveling about six feet before it suddenly "whooshed" and seemed to be sucked back into the ring. A flickering water-like pool of light and energy had appeared in the middle of the ring, as if the surface of fluid, and the bright light flickered green and gold amongst the light blue color. It was all so bright that the lights flickered even in the control room, bathing everything in green, gold, and white-blue color.
Nate's jaw lowered. "It's just like a...."
"I've never seen anything like it!" Dax's eyes were focused on the screen Thompson had directed her toward. "These readouts.... it's just like an interuniversal jump point. But, it should be impossible for something that size to project a wormhole like an IU point generator..."
"So Doctor Michaels has said before, but it does." Thompson nodded at the Stargate again, and eyes turned toward it. As they did, six uniformed and well-equipped people stepped through, one of them towing a big device of some sort. They stepped beyond the threshold of the pool and created impressions in it as they went through.
Eyes turned to a monitor that was on the wall, a camera that showed another Stargate in what looked to be a temperate climate. It too was active, and the same team that had gone through on their end was coming through on the video, their device with them. "We're tracking their IU radio signal now, sir," one of the technicians said.
"So, uh, where is that?" asked Nate. "Because I've never heard of those things being found before."
"They're in Universe Designate SRC-19."
Nate blinked. "Never heard of it."
"That's not surprising, since it's on the IUCEC Blacklist."
Dax looked up at the General. "It's on the Blacklist?"
"Yes," Thompson said. "And they found that thing, eighty years ago, in SRC-19 before it was abandoned and before it was on the Blacklist. From what we've discovered, there are thousands, maybe millions, of those things in SRC-19's Milky Way. That's one of the reasons this whole thing is top secret."
A look came over Dax's face, the kind of look that told Worf, at the very least, that her mind was racing due to the possibilities she was considering. "Can you show me where in the SRC-19 Milky Way they ended up?"
Thompson motioned to a holographic board and a technician pressed a key, an indicator showing what part of the galaxy it was by lighting up the individual star in such a way as to make it visible against the backdrop. Dax's jaw literally dropped. "They're in the Delta Quadrant?!"
"Yes. We've found systems from the rim of the Gamma Quadrant to Earth's literal backyard," Thompson answered. "In fact, this planet was chosen to hold the Gate when the project was started because it was on this world in SRC-19 that they found the Gate."
"In other words, you're using the 'Zynski particles to saturate whatever internal mechanism the Stargate uses to communicate with the other Stargates in the network. Tricking it into thinking it's back home and not in another universe and allowing for the connecting wormhole to pierce the universal barrier at the right frequency to transit to SRC-19." Dax stared intently at the Stargate for a moment, watching as the wormhole dissipated. "That... that shouldn't work."
"No, it really shouldn't. Doctor Michaels was astonished when the first test run did work. Which led him to a theory, given how similar the wormholes are to our IU jump points and how easily the Gates are converted in use...."
Dax's eyes widened. "....which could mean the technology is compatible because they have the same common base. This is... this is amazing! This Stargate could be the single greatest scientific discovery since the IU gate technology! I mean, it's been our goal, really our dream since finding the Bajoran wormhole, that we could find a way to create stable interspatial wormholes at will... and we have one right here
. And it's also compatible with Interuniversal gate technology! If we found out how these things worked, maybe we could convert the existing Jump Gate Assemblies and
build new ones to allow for instantaneous travel between star systems thousands of light years away, much like we use the Gate Assemblies now for interuniversal travel!"
Nate whistled. "Wow." He looked to Worf. "Is she like this all the time or...?"
"Jadzia is...." A pause from the bulky Klingon. "...passionate about such things."
"Uh, yeah, but it occurs to me that it's going to take a lot more work to find out how that, um, 'Stargate' thing works," Nate pointed out, looking to Thompson. "So, you brought the techie here to go ga-ga over the mysterious piece of technology, so what am I here for? I have trouble understanding the Gates we already have."
"Well, that brings me to the reason you're all here." Thompson pointed to the Stargate. "The one thing we haven't done so far, something that could help us learn more of how these things work, is to actually make a transit through the Stargates in the other universe, from one point to another. That's why we wanted you."
"Me?" Nate pointed to his chest. "You wanted me for that?"
"Oh, we want all of you," Thompson replied, gesturing to Jadzia and Worf. "You'll be paired with a team and sent through the Gate to one destination. Once on the other side, we'll run the translation program we set up for each Gate's symbols to find another destination we already have a record of, and when you get the new set of symbols you'll dial it from your side and go through."
"Wow, fifty thousand light years in a single step." Nate made a short, sardonic laugh.
"Why me?" Jadzia asked. "I mean, I'm honored to get a chance to do this, but... why do you need me along?"
"Oh, you were requested." Thompson motioned to a woman standing in the Stargate chamber wearing a camo uniform and waiting with another team. She had rather luscious-looking red-hair, and when she looked up with bright green eyes, she also showed very clear Trill spots. "Doctor Zaharia Herzela will be joinin' you. She's an engineer, has already done a little studyin' of the dial devices on the other end, but she wanted someone with a stronger science background to join her and give a new perspective on the dialers on the other side and on the Stargate itself."
The technician spoke up. "'Zynski particle charge complete. Ready for dialing."
Again the Stargate started up. Dax walked up to the window and looked down at the waiting team. When Dr. Herzela looked up again, she smiled and waved. "Well, I'll do it," Dax said. "How long do we have to prepare?"
"I'm introducin' you to your team tomorrow," Thompson said. "You'll have team trainin' in our holosim chambers, then in about a week, you go in."
"Ah, well, that works for me," Nate replied, taking a second look at the Trill redhead as she prepared to go through the Gate with her team. The second chevron on the Stargate locked and Nate watched it continue dialing. "I've gone from training Marines for Recon to babysitting eggheads playing with new toys we don't understand. I guess the grass really is greener on the other side..."