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Lieutenant Commander Melora Pazlar reached across the light-years and cupped the rapidly spinning neutron star in her outstretched palm. She held it gently, carefully rotating the bright, oblate body’s south pole until the energetic prominence that originated there pointed almost directly toward her face, while its northern counterpart pointed almost directly away. The vast, star-flecked cloud of gas and dust that a supernova explosion had left in its wake millennia ago—nestled deep inside the Gum Nebula, an even more expansive cloud of gas and dust generated by a still more ancient supernova—mirrored the change in the pulsar’s orientation, turning obediently on the gravitational tethers that subtly linked every particle of matter in the universe.
Known in the Federation’s astronomical catalogs as the Vela Pulsar, the intensely bright object that lay in Pazlar’s open hand was now positioned so that the nearest of its polar jets had become the electromagnetic equivalent of a fire hose; the pulsar’s immense gravity had so accelerated its outer shell of infalling matter that its poles emitted powerful streams of energy that encompassed every wavelength from gamma rays and X-rays to visible light to radio waves to the subspace bands. She flinched involuntarily, releasing the pulsar as the stream of false-color brilliance geysered into her face. She knew that the resulting light show was entirely harmless, a holographic representation of the real thing, even though she noted with a turn of her head that it extended through and past the space she occupied; it formed a long tail beyond her head, as though she wasn’t even there. And yet she had flinched, her reaction fueled by some primal instinct she was incapable of taming. Her senses found the illusion all too convincing, despite her certain knowledge of its unreality. If the holographic object before her possessed any of the Vela Pulsar’s characteristics other than its fierce appearance, she would have been utterly fried long before she had come anywhere near the object’s seething photosphere.
As she drifted like a dust mote in the expansive variable-gravity imaging chamber that comprised the bulk of the stellar cartography lab’s volume, she silently upbraided herself. Melora, you’d think by now the fact that you routinely soar through interstellar space wearing nothing but an ordinary duty uniform would keep you from forgetting that you’re safe, toiling in your cozy personal workspace.
A familiar Efrosian lilt rose from the combadge attached to Pazlar’s uniform tunic, interrupting her reverie. “Are you busy at the moment, Melora?”
She gave the combadge a desultory tap. “You might say that, Xin,” she told Titan’s chief engineer. “I’m about to start a long-range analysis of our next destination. The captain wants to know as much as possible about the Vela Pulsar before we arrive and start the actual survey mission.”
“Do you think you might put that task aside for a few minutes?” Commander Xin Ra-Havreii said. “I could use your assistance here in engineering.”
Pazlar listened carefully for any sign of flirtation or double entendre, but found neither. Although she knew that Xin took his job as seriously as she did her own, she had learned very early in their still-evolving relationship that he wasn’t past suggesting a midday tryst occasionally.
“Why?” she said, unable to keep a slight edge out of her tone.
“It’s almost time for Captain Riker’s conference with Admiral de la Fuego, and he’s expecting to tie it in to the shipwide holoimaging system. The system has developed a few glitches that I can resolve more quickly with your help.”
She frowned. “Troubleshooting holoimagers sounds a lot more like your department than mine, Xin.”
“Running the stellar cartography lab the past couple of years has made you more of a holography expert than you realize, Melora,” he said. “Besides, you’re easily the shipwide holosystem’s heaviest user.”
His words struck her with the force of a mild slap, reminding her that she had once allowed herself to become entirely too dependent upon Titan’s integrated network of internal holoemitters for her own good. How could it have been otherwise? The system allowed her to visit essentially any section of the ship without risking bone breakage via exposure to the crushing artificial gravity levels that prevailed nearly everywhere aboard Titan. It obviated any need for either a bulky contragravity suit or an antigrav exoskeleton, not to mention the necessity of leaving the safety of either the stellar cartography lab or her quarters, both of which faithfully recreated the microgravity environment of her homeworld.
But over the course of the past year Pazlar had gone out of her way to avoid using the shipwide holosystem. On the advice of Counselor Huilan Sen’kara and others—advice that she had rejected at first—Pazlar had come to recognize that she was overusing telepresence technology, and had turned it into an unhealthy form of self-imposed social isolation.
She scowled and pushed the Vela Pulsar hologram away, allowing it to recede several virtual light-years into the simulated distance. If Xin really is looking for a nooner, she thought, then he’s doing a damned poor job of pouring on the charm.
“What exactly are you saying, Xin?”
Pazlar knew that her ability to concentrate on matters astronomical would depend upon what Xin Ra-Havreii said next.
“I’m saying you’ve had more experience fixing the system on the fly than anybody else aboard Titan, with the possible exception of myself. The captain needs the holosystem running glitch-free—now—and I don’t want to disappoint him. A second pair of trained eyes could go a long way toward making sure I won’t have to. Please come down to engineering, Melora. I won’t need you for very long.”
Adrift in microgravity like a piece of cosmic flotsam, she considered his request. At length, she said, “All right, Xin. Give me a minute.”
She could visualize the satisfied grin behind his reply, and imagined his snow-white mustachios going gently aloft like the delicate underlimbs of a telepathic Gemworld Lipul. “Thank you, Melora. Ra-Havreii out.”
Pazlar activated one of the several small compressed-air maneuvering thrusters she had incorporated into her uniform tunic. In obeisance to basic Newtonian physics, her body began moving in the direction opposite the gentle thrust, toward the lab’s central consoles and the network of catwalks and railings that surrounded them.
Once she reached “ground level,” she headed for the locker where she kept her contragravity suit. Thinking better of it while en route, she turned in mid-motion, used her thrusters to arrest her momentum, and then launched herself at the nearest console capable of accessing the holosystem.
Just in case he really did have a hidden agenda that he couldn’t carry out unless she came to him in the flesh.
Captain Will Riker noted that he’d reached his destination nearly two minutes early, and decided to take that as a good omen.
Standing alone in the dimly illuminated main observation lounge, he paused to gaze out the panoramic window and take in the breathtaking vista it displayed. He looked outward across Titan’s broad bow into the mysterious, tantalizingly luminescent depths of the Gum Nebula that lay in the starship’s path.
What are we accomplishing out here, really? he thought. Lately his dreams had been plagued by images gathered from a dozen or more worlds—Federation members and allies—that had been hit hardest during the Last Borg Invasion. Deneva, Vulcan, Andor, Tellar, Qo’noS, none of these planets were done picking up the pieces yet. Could they ever recover fully, considering how much wholesale death the Borg Collective had dealt?
Riker turned and glanced around the observation lounge’s interior. He had ordered that the room be made available exclusively to him at fifteen hundred hours, the scheduled time of his conference with Admiral de la Fuego. He would have preferred to have Deanna at his side, considering one of the topics to be discussed. However, this was a command-level affair, for the captain’s eyes and ears only. Some of the ground to be covered would be sensitive, which was why he wanted the meeting conducted in full three-dimensional holography. If Admiral de la Fuego expected to ram an unpalatable policy down his throat, she’d damned well better be prepared to look him straight in the eye when she did it.
At the broad, round conference table that dominated the room’s center, Riker sat with his back to the observation windows. He sighed, then said, “Computer, open secure holographic subspace channel Starfleet Seventeen-Tau-Alpha-Epsilon. Authorization: Riker-Beta-One-Zero-Two. Increase lighting to point-seven-five of standard.”
The illumination level rose instantaneously. Within the space of a few heartbeats, a hologram began to coalesce in a chair across the table from Riker. The image shimmered, gradually gaining solidity before it began to fade away behind a curtain of static. It was almost as though the admiral were being beamed aboard Titan with a faulty transporter, which was losing her pattern.
The captain scowled and whispered a pungent curse. Just as he was reaching for his combadge, the holographic image in the chair suddenly acquired clarity, depth, and resolution. It was as though the admiral were sitting in the room with him rather than watching him from across a gulf of thousands of light-years.
Riker had chosen to conduct his end of the briefing in a room that would prominently display Beta Quadrant space behind him, thereby quietly emphasizing Titan’s unique position and the special weight and gravitas that her CO deserved.
Admiral Alita de la Fuego, her graying black hair pulled back into a severe bun, the light-brown skin on her forehead striated by new worry lines, was the first to speak.
“Captain Riker. I regret I’ve had to let so much time pass since the last time we spoke. What’s it been? Nine weeks?”
“Ten and a half, Admiral,” he said, offering what he hoped was an ingratiating smile. “Not that I’m keeping score. I know how full your plate has been lately.”
The admiral nodded curtly, then said, “I’ve just reviewed the report you filed after the Hranrar affair. I see that Commander Tuvok was injured rather severely at that time.”
Riker understood her motivation. When he’d been assembling Titan’s crew, he’d become aware that his tactical officer had mentored de la Fuego, and remained one of her oldest friends.
“Tuvok sustained a serious neural trauma when he tried to establish a telepathic link with the artificial intelligence we discovered aboard the ecosculptor.” In response to her blank look, he appended, “The Brahma-Shiva device.” The now-defunct terraforming machine, which Titan’s science specialists had dubbed Brahma-Shiva, had been constructed by a long-vanished alien species. It would have wiped out the biosphere of the planet Hranrar—including that world’s high-order civilization—had the crew of Titan not intervened.
The admiral leaned forward, her anxiousness apparent as she spread her virtual but solid-looking hands across the conference table. “How’s he doing now?”
“Better than anybody expected,” Riker said, delighted to have some upbeat news to report. “We did a Suus Mahna workout together before breakfast this morning. He’s been working a full duty schedule for the past six weeks.”
“I didn’t realize you were such a stern taskmaster, Captain.”
He raised both hands in a placating gesture. “Putting Tuvok back on the active duty roster wasn’t my idea. It was against Doctor Ree’s recommendation, too. But you’re probably familiar with how… determined the commander can be.”
She flashed a small grin. “The adjective I would have chosen is ‘stubborn,’ Captain.”
“I tend to agree,” he said, matching her smile. “But he’s performing his job brilliantly. Ree reports he can’t find any significant lingering aftereffects.” At least, Riker thought, not so far.
“Glad to hear it,” she said. “But there’s one particular ‘lingering aftereffect’ that Starfleet Command is interested in more than any other.”
“I don’t follow you, Admiral.”
Her smile imploded. “The terraforming machine you discovered at Hranrar, Captain. And then blew up.”
The admiral’s last words sounded to Riker like an ugly accusation. “Brahma-Shiva,” he said evenly.
“Brahma-Shiva, exactly. The source of the AI your crew discovered, according to your report. Our science divisions and the Corps of Engineers have been champing at the bit to get even a glimpse into that thing’s inner workings. The mind-meld that Commander Tuvok performed with the Brahma-Shiva AI might represent our only opportunity to discover what made it tick. Now that Tuvok has made a full recovery, has he succeeded in recalling any of the particulars about that meld?”
Riker felt his throat tighten involuntarily. He willed himself to relax. Wherever de la Fuego might stand on his decision to destroy Brahma-Shiva, the captain knew that he had done the right thing. The terraforming technology stored within the artifact might have alleviated a great deal of the Federation’s suffering—not to mention enhancing its position vis-à-vis the Typhon Pact—but blowing up Brahma-Shiva had been the only way to avert the extinction of an entire civilization.
“Unfortunately, no,” he said. “So far, Tuvok hasn’t been able to recall any of the details.”
Looking thoughtful, the admiral twirled an errant lock of hair. “You don’t suppose he might be withholding anything, do you, Captain?”
Riker heard that tone of accusation again; it was subtle, but definitely present. There was only one answer he could give, and he tried to keep his tone even as he supplied it. “I trust my senior staff implicitly, Admiral. Tuvok was lucky to survive that encounter. Another member of my crew tried to link with the Brahma-Shiva AI, but he wasn’t quite as fortunate as Tuvok was.”
The admiral frowned for a moment, her confusion evident. Then a look of understanding smoothed some of the lines from her face. “Ah. You’re referring to the artificial life-form you brought aboard some months ago, according to your reports. Blue-White.”
“SecondGen White-Blue,” Riker said, gently correcting her.
“Of course, Captain.”
Riker was willing to admit that his long friendship with the late Lieutenant Commander Data might have heightened his sensitivities regarding inorganic colleagues. But since there was no point in belaboring the issue, he set the matter aside and continued with his report.
“We were hoping that White-Blue’s linkup with the Brahma-Shiva AI would have yielded teraquads of information to guide us in duplicating Brahma-Shiva’s terraforming capabilities. Ensign Torvig Bu-kar-nguv has been working nearly nonstop over the past two months to reactivate him, or at least to extract any readable files. But I’m afraid he’s had no success so far. The damage was evidently too extensive.”
“You’re not giving up, Captain,” she said, once again employing an accusatory tone. Or was he simply imagining it, projecting his own doubts onto her?
“No, Admiral,” he said, once again feeling a surge of doubt about Starfleet’s wisdom in dedicating two of its most advanced ships of the line—Titan and her Luna-class sister vessel the Ganymede—to pure exploration in the face of everything that was going on in the Federation. Perhaps the Luna-class ships might be better used in watching the Federation’s back in case of aggression on the part of the Gorn Hegemony or one of the other Typhon Pact powers that laid claim to large swaths of deep Beta Quadrant space. The upheaval created by Andor’s recent secession from the United Federation of Planets—not to mention that world’s internal struggles—wasn’t making life in the Federation any easier.
As Riker pushed aside these nagging issues, he wondered if the Federation Council would even stop to consider the ramifications of using the Brahma-Shiva artifact. Perhaps it was for the best that the ecosculptor technology was, for all intents and purposes, lost.
The captain noticed that the admiral seemed to be looking through him. He realized a moment later that she was staring deeply into the reaches of the Gum Nebula framed in the observation window behind him. She leaned forward and fixed him with an expectant stare that made him believe she envied him his mission.
“Tell me about Titan’s next destination, Captain,” she said.
“The Vela Pulsar,” Riker said as he finished keying a command into the padd that lay atop the table. A false-color image of a flattened star that emitted twin jets of golden fire from both top and bottom through an orange halo of radiation materialized in the air between them. Though the image appeared static, Riker knew better; according to Dr. Cethente, not only was the incredibly dense, Manhattan Island–sized object spinning so quickly that the human eye couldn’t detect the motion, the extremities of the pulsar’s energy streamers were oscillating madly, twin runaway whipcords of hard radiation that lashed back and forth at better than half the speed of light.
“Spectacular,” de la Fuego said. “Looks pretty violent.”
“It is. It’s an eighty-nine-millisecond-period pulsar, the remnant of a supernova explosion that happened here several thousand years ago. It’s the brightest object of its kind in the entire Gum Nebula, and one of the most potent sources of X-rays, gamma rays, and graviton waves in the entire Beta Quadrant. Our astrophysics department thinks it could give us some fundamental insights into how matter and energy interchange, down to the quark level or maybe even further.”
“Outstanding, Captain. The science divisions have been ecstatic over the astrometric data Titan has supplied so far from the Beta Quadrant’s rimward side.”
Riker grinned. “I think they might be about to get giddy. If we can get close enough to take precise measurements, that is.”
“How close can Titan get to the pulsar and maintain a margin of safety?”
“Astrophysics is still putting together a detailed gravitational map. We’ll know a lot more once we get closer to it. I’m expecting Titan to enter a conservative standard parking orbit in less than a day. Close enough to make the pulsar accessible to our sensor arrays, but far enough out so that our shields will still be able to protect us from the object’s output of hard radiation. During the survey, we’ll be giving priority to our long-term maintenance and repair objectives.”
The Gorn affair two months ago had significantly lengthened Titan’s repair-and-maintenance list. Riker was grateful that the next eight weeks would afford Titan an opportunity to catch up.
“Then you should be pleased to hear that Starfleet Command is in a position to help Titan expedite her repair schedule,” de la Fuego said with a broad smile. “One of our new Vesta-class starships is already en route to your present position: the Capitoline, with her slipstream drive, should rendezvous with Titan in three days.”
Riker found this news unexpected, and wondered if diverting the Capitoline was entirely necessary. He knew that Titan wasn’t in dire need, although the ship was short on certain nonreplicable components. Complicating his misgivings were his proprietary feelings toward his ship, sentiments that he knew he had in common with his engineering staff—most notably Xin Ra-Havreii. The last thing either Riker or his chief engineer needed was a new team of specialists. “What will the Capitoline be assisting us with?”
“Mostly, she’ll be hauling components,” de la Fuego continued. “The parts you’ll need to build replacements for the four shuttlecraft that have been destroyed since Titan’s initial deployment. The Capitoline will be outfitted to take care of everything on Titan’s wish list. You should be receiving a detailed manifest within the hour. The Capitoline will also provide some necessary crew rotations.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Riker said, almost at a loss for words. It all sounded almost too good to be true.
There has to be something wrong with this.
She leaned forward over the table, her gaze gaining intensity as she studied him. “You seem troubled, Captain. What’s on your mind?”
After pausing to chide himself silently for failing to bring his bluffing skills to bear, he said, “‘Troubled’ might be a bit of an overstatement, Admiral. I’m simply wondering why you’ve given this meeting a ‘captain only’ classification. So far we haven’t covered anything that exceeds the security clearances of any member of my senior staff.”
“This briefing isn’t finished, Captain,” said the admiral, withdrawing behind a stony façade. “We haven’t discussed the Andor situation yet.”
Riker gave her a somber nod. “I can hardly believe it. One of the five founding worlds of the Federation leaving.”
“I feel exactly the same way. I never thought anything like this would happen during my lifetime.”
“Maybe the damage isn’t permanent. The Andorians have always had a reputation for shooting from the hip before thinking things through. Is it possible they might reconsider after they’ve cooled down a little?”
“Ever since Andor announced its secession, the diplomatic corps has been holding out at least some hope for that possibility—not to mention any number of olive branches.” She paused, shaking her head sadly. “But they’ve had no luck. In fact, Andor has remained so intransigent that the Federation Council officially stepped down its diplomatic efforts as of yesterday evening.”
“What about Andor’s Repatriation Act?” Riker asked. The Andorian government had issued what it had termed a “formal request” that all Andorian nationals residing anywhere in Federation space be returned immediately to their homeworld. Riker interpreted it as less a formal request than a nonnegotiable demand.
“The Council will make an announcement later today that it intends to honor Andor’s wishes—but only up to a certain point.”
Riker could feel his forehead crumpling involuntarily into a frown. “Admiral, they’ve ‘requested’ that every reproductive-age Andorian national be returned immediately to Andor. By force if necessary.”
“And that is the line the Council will not cross, Captain.”
“I’m relieved to hear that, Admiral,” Riker said.
“In light of that stipulation, the Council has authorized a measure that will furnish ‘assistance and transportation’ for all ‘willing, reproductive-age Andorians.’”
Riker nodded. Though he was unhappy with the entire situation, he had to admit that the Council’s decision was a measured one and even made a certain amount of sense. Nobody was being forced to leave Federation space, nor was anyone being coerced into staying. If a sovereign planet could change its Federation membership status unilaterally, it followed that individuals could do so as well.
“Because of security considerations, however,” de la Fuego continued, “Starfleet has more leeway to act than the civilian government does.”
Realizing that this particular point had to be the reason de la Fuego had wanted to confer with him alone, Riker said, “I’m not sure I like the sound of that, Admiral.”
“I’m not sure I do, either.” Her tone had become stiff and bracing, discouraging dissent. “But whatever either of us might like or dislike is neither here nor there. The simple fact is that during the months since Typhon Pact–allied Breen agents made off with Federation slipstream technology, Starfleet Command has been more concerned about internal security than at any time since the parasite infestation eighteen years ago. Ever since Andor’s government announced its secession, Command has been scrambling to shut down and extract every Starfleet facility in the Procyon system, from our repair base at Laibok to the Starfleet Academy annex at Laikan. Command has become wary of Starfleet’s Andorian personnel.”
Riker’s stomach had begun to tie itself into a knot of disgust. “Admiral, I hope you’re not saying that Starfleet Command intends to push its Andorian officers into accepting… forced repatriation.”
She shook her head slowly. “No, Captain. I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t greatly simplify my job if every Andorian in the service were to accept repatriation tomorrow. But I’m not going to assume guilt by association and insist on it. However…” A look of thoughtful sadness crossed her face as her voice trailed off, as though she were weighing her next words with the utmost care before delivering them. “But Starfleet Command has decided it would be best for everyone concerned if all nonrepatriated Andorian personnel were to accept redeployment to alternate postings, at least temporarily.”
Riker felt his frown deepen; he knew how easy it was for temporary measures to ossify into permanent fixtures.
“How soon?” he asked.
“In Titan’s case? As soon as the Capitoline arrives to begin crew rotations.”
He could scarcely have been more stunned had the admiral’s holographic image suddenly brandished a phaser and shot him with it. “Admiral, I have seven Andorian crewmembers serving under me at the moment.”
“I am aware of that fact, Captain. It’s the reason we’re having this briefing. I’m not proposing that any of your Andorian personnel be cashiered or discharged. Unless your Andorian crewmembers wish to accede to the Andorian government’s repatriation request, Starfleet Command will transfer them to less sensitive positions.”
“How do you define ‘sensitive’ when it comes to Titan?”
The admiral leaned further forward, favoring him with a hard glower as she steepled her fingers before her. “Captain, you have to admit that there are few places more sensitive than the cutting edge of the Federation’s deep Beta Quadrant exploration efforts.”
“I trust each and every one of my Andorian officers implicitly, Admiral. All of them, without exception, have always upheld their oaths as Starfleet officers.”
“I understand that only too well, Captain. And that’s why I regret having to do what circumstances have forced me to do. All of your Andorian personnel will have to accept passage aboard the Capitoline, and reassignment.”
Riker seethed in silence for a long, unmeasured interval, during which he never broke contact with the admiral’s dark, resolute gaze. At length, he said, “I’ll… ask them how they feel about this.”
She leaned back, softening her steely intensity only a little. “This is not a request.”
Riker considered the situation. Deanna had already told him that Lieutenant Pava and the other half-dozen unbonded Andorians who now served aboard Titan—each of them young enough to satisfy Andor’s “reproductive age” criterion—were already extremely unhappy at the prospect of being forced out of their current posts for purely political reasons.
The captain knew he was in a far better position than any of them were to challenge Starfleet’s hierarchy—or perhaps even to shame it into doing the right thing.
“Permission to speak freely, Admiral?”
Admiral de la Fuego’s face took on a long-suffering aspect. “Granted, Captain.”
He leaned forward, hoping to demonstrate that he wasn’t in any way intimidated by the admiral’s rank or authority. “In my opinion,” he said, “this new Andorian policy is a mistake—especially when we’re talking about a crew as diverse as Titan’s. This ship runs on mutual trust and respect, and Command is about to destroy that. I can’t believe that Starfleet would seriously consider sacrificing good, reliable officers on the altar of politics.”
After Riker finished, de la Fuego sat still and regarded him in protracted silence.
“I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said, Will,” she said at length, her tone gentler. “And there was a time, before I started flying this desk, when I might have made the same kind of statement.”
The admiral paused, straightened up, and added, “The Capitoline will be picking up the Andorians serving on Titan. Whether they accept repatriation or reassignment will be up to each of them individually.”
Riker leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. “Suppose some of them reject either choice. What happens then?”
The admiral’s eyes narrowed, her entire visage growing hard and flinty. “Captain, you are to make it crystal clear to them that that isn’t an option. Is that underst—”
The hologram abruptly winked out of existence.
What the hell? Riker thought as he got to his feet. He slapped the combadge on his chest. “Riker to engineering.”
“My holographic subspace channel to Starbase 185 just collapsed. Any idea why?”
“My apologies, Captain. I’ve been having trouble with the system all morning. I suspect it may have something to do with that pulsar we’re approaching. Regardless, I’ll do everything I can to get the channel back up and running as quickly as possible.”
“Thanks, Xin.” He paused to tap his combadge again. “Riker to stellar cartography.”
“Pazlar here. What can I do for you, Captain?”
“I need to pick your brain, Melora. I just lost contact with Admiral de la Fuego. How much is the Vela Pulsar interfering with our subspace channels?”
“Well, the pulsar’s energy releases did begin to intensify significantly at roughly the same time Titan entered the sector.”
“Coincidence?” Riker asked.
“I think we’ve got to call it that. At least until I can find some physical mechanism that would allow Titan’s presence to affect the output of a pulsar across more than two parsecs of interstellar space.”
“Could our warp field be interacting with the pulsar somehow?”
“I suppose it’s possible. But those sorts of effects generally only manifest themselves at much closer range. A thing like that shouldn’t be scrambling our subspace traffic yet, even on the high-bandwidth channels.”
“Keep a close eye on it. I’ll send Commander Vale down to help troubleshoot it. Riker out.”
He looked down at the table, where the holographic image of the enigmatic Vela Pulsar still hovered. Riker studied the swiftly rotating image in silence, paying special attention to the ominously glowing object’s twin cattails of angry, twisted magnetic force lines and braided jets of unimaginably intense charged-particle showers.
As impressive as these forces of nature were, he doubted they’d prove as dangerous as the fallout that Starfleet’s new Andorian policy was sure to generate.