The Omicron Incident was one of the most significant events in the Tholian Territory Conflict between the Federation and the Romulan Empire.
This is a complicated story that cannot be fully understood unless both IC and OOC events are explained. This version of the story is being told by Falkenberg, who was at the time CinC of StarFleet and senior Fed Admin under Director Andy. He recognizes that some will view this account, and the account of the Tholian Territory Conflict that accompanies it, as biased. It probably is. Others may yet tell their own version of this story, although what Romulan accounts have been presented thus far appear very incomplete, with key details either omitted or placed well outside their chronological order. (This is stuff that happened 7 years ago, so that's not really anybody's fault.)
Table of contents
As is told elsewhere, in early 1998, the Tholians closed as an empire, and in what was intended to be a Muse-wide RP event, they announced that their territory was now open to all other empires, and that they had left behind knowledge and resources for the benefit of all. Following swiftly on this announcement, the Romulans immediately "occupied" Tholian territory and declared it to be theirs. The Federation refused to recognize this, and the Klingons were too inactive to care.
The Romulans were led at this time by Director Athaorh, who was also the Space Director. Ath had a reputation for being biased in favor of his own empire when it came to space policy, and he had never liked the Federation's opposition to Romulan occupation of Tholian space. He believed, as he told Falkenberg on more than one occasion, that if the Federation were behaving ICly, it would not be terribly disturbed by this event and certainly would not react with hostility. He also believed that as soon as the Romulans said Tholian space was theirs, it had to be treated as theirs, and that if any Federation ship were planning to enter Tholian space, Athaorh would have to be notified 72 hours in advance so he could be sure the Romulans were prepared to respond. This was the same consideration he demanded with respect to crossing the traditional border of the Romulan Empire.
Athaorh also made it clear that he did not believe it was IC for the Federation to violate Romulan borders, including their claim to Tholian space, without having first been directly attacked by the Romulans. He told Andy this, and he repeatedly told (one might say 'yelled') this argument to Falkenberg, who was responsible for the movements and policies of StarFleet.
The Romulans had publicly proclaimed a region of space surrounding the three Tholian planets they had found plus the Starbase Resonance as their territory. No mention was made of a Tholian outpost, the Omicron.
Several months after Romulan occupation of Tholian space, things had settled down to a kind of dull simmer. But the USS Ulysses, during a run into Tholian territory, came across the Outpost Omicron. Its shields were up. Its docking bay doors were closed. There were no life signs aboard. It appeared that if the Romulans knew it existed, they had been ignoring it for some time, in contrast to the starbases Resonance and Crystion, which were re-named from THSB Resonance (Tholian Hegemony StarBase Resonance) and THSB Crystion to ChR Resonance and ChR Crystion. Omicron had not been "re-flagged" as Romulan. It also appeared according to Scott Hall of the Ulysses, to be outside the "bubble" of space that defined the Romulan claim. Hall reported this to his immediate superior, Rear Admiral Gavelin Brody.
Brody brought the matter to Falkenberg's attention.
Falkenberg brought the matter to Andy's attention.
Andy's exact words were, "I was wondering when you guys would notice that place!"
Falkenberg asked if he had permission to send StarFleet to occupy Omicron. Andy said yes.
Falkenberg called Brody into his office, and told him to take as many ships as he needed, and occupy and hold the Omicron. Brody took a very large force of four ships. The Ulysses, USS Republic, USS Excalibur, and the USS Federation.
Brody's flotilla arrived at Omicron without incident. Since the outpost's shields were up, they had to open fire on it to bring them down in order to board. (It should be noted that when the Tholians departed, all of their bases had their shields up and docking bays closed. The Romulans, in occupying Resonance and Crystion, had to break through their shields as well.) After disabling the shields, a team beamed aboard and secured the base, and the battle group docked.
Onboard the base, they found no evidence of there ever having been a Romulan presence there. There were no Romulan ships on the friendly docking list. The docking bay doors had been closed and the shields raised with no one onboard and no ships in dock. This was the exact condition that it was believed the Romulans had found the two Tholian starbases they occupied in. It seemed apparent that the Federation had gotten there first.
Now, since the shields had to be damaged in order to gain access to the base, they needed to be repaired. At the time, the ONLY way to repair a starbase's systems that had been destroyed was to have the space director do it for you. No other director had access to do this. So Athaorh was the only person who could repair the base's shields.
Falkenberg sent Ath a +mail asking that he do just that. He never responded. It is likely that this +mail was how he discovered that the Federation had occupied Omicron. Falkenberg sent several more +mails to the space director. Athaorh ignored them all.
The Romulans, at this time, were not very active in space. That's not to say they were inactive as an empire, but most of their RP seemed to center around political infighting and intrigue surrounding the various Romulan houses. The Romulans did not venture out into space all that often. This is in contrast to the Federation, in which the dominant faction at the time was StarFleet, which was very large and active and did nothing but go into space. So it's not surprising that it took the Romulans a while to realize the Federation had occupied a Tholian base.
Brody and his task force stayed at Omicron for two weeks. Apparently, during this time, Athaorh STRONGLY suggested that a Romulan force head out in a particular direction in Tholian space. Eventually, the ChR Llaudh stumbled upon Omicron, with its shields disabled and four Federation Starships in dock. It was widely believed in the Federation that this was the first time the Romulans had ever seen Omicron, although the Romulans claimed otherwise.
Attack and Retreat
The Llaudh remained cloaked in transporter range of Omicron. What transpired next was seen by many in the Federation as highly suspicious.
A group of StarFleet players boarded a turbolift onboard Omicron. Now, at the time, the turbolift parent in use by the entire Muse had been coded by... Athaorh. It was not entirely uncommon for the TL consoles to get a little screwy and stop working. But the timing here seemed a little odd. Four Starfleet officers board a turbolift. Its doors close, and it stops working. They were trapped inside with no way out. At first this was not a huge problem, as it had happened to many people before when the TLs broke. Usually, an admin could fix the problem in a few minutes.
But they didn't have a few minutes. Just as they were trapped in a broken TL, which was controlled by code written by the Romulan director, the Llaudh struck. It began beaming the StarFleet players out of the turbolift and to the Llaudh. Four Starfleet officers were captured in this way.
Apparently, at this point a degree of pandemonium broke out on the Omicron. The remaining Starfleet personnel knew there were only two ways to be secure from a cloaked ship using a transporter attack. They could keep moving from room to room so the Romulans couldn't lock on to them, or they could raise shields.
The Omicron had no shields, because Athaorh had never responded to requests to fix them.
Brody realized his ships were his only defense. He ordered all StarFleet personnel to report to their ships, and ordered the ships to commence undocking and get their shields up. He himself went aboard USS Federation to unlock its consoles and get it ready for departure, as the Fed at this time did not have a full-time crew assigned to it. But he was down four people. There were not enough crew remaining to man all the ships effectively. One had to be left behind, at least for the moment. In the end, Brody decided that one would be USS Federation. If the rest of the fleet could evacuate and confront the Romulan forces in space, the Federation could be returned for later.
But the Llaudh remained cloaked. It was too dangerous to go back aboard the base and risk more players being captured. Brody ordered the fleet to withdraw to Federation territory, believing the lives of his people were more important than the ship he was temporarily leaving behind.
He made one tactical error, though. He had forgotten to re-engage the command lockout of the Federation's consoles.
And he realized this after it was too late.
The OOC Shit Hits the OOC Fan
Now, Athaorh broke his silence. The Federation, he said, had broken a cardinal rule of TOS, and occupied a "Romulan" base by exploiting the fact that there were no Romulan defenders online at the time. It had violated "Romulan" territory without giving the proper 72 hours' notice. It had acted aggressively, which was against the character of the Federation. Apparently, he and Andy had been having it out for a while, but now that the IC situation was resolving itself in the Romulans' favor, Ath let Falkenberg have it.
"Romulan players follow the rules," Athaorh said. "It would be nice, Falk, if just once you could make sure that your players did, too."
Falkenberg turned to Andy. Andy basically said that Ath was a jerk but he was right, and it was wrong for Falkenberg to have authorized the seizing of Omicron without talking to Andy first, so that any question of permission and rules and whatnot could be cleared up through director channels.
Falkenberg nearly went through a roof. He reminded Andy that he had done that. That Andy had given permission. That Andy had said he was surprised it had taken StarFleet so long to find the Omicron.
Andy said he did not remember that conversation, or it had been misunderstood. He did not know, he claimed, that StarFleet had taken the base. He was angry about the situation, and did not want a war with the Romulans. This escalation had to stop.
Falkenberg now had to deal with the aftermath.
Lynx's Finest Hour
Brody's fleet returned to Starbase One, and reported to Admiral Falkenberg. Falkenberg had two priorities: recover the Federation before it fell into Romulan hands, and assess the possibilities of rescuing the hostages.
Brody was exhausted, as were most of the people with him. They were not prepared to immediately depart for the long flight to Omicron again so soon after returning. They had been at it for hours, and they felt defeated and exhausted. People started logging off.
Falkenberg was desperate to find someone to go back out and recover Federation. He needed the speed of a scout. Captain Hall of the Ulysses had to log off. Falkenberg looked around for an experienced comand officer willing to risk battle with the Romulans to recover the battleship.
He found StarFleet Academy Commandant Thomas Lynx.
The Federation had been in use as an academy training ship until Brody detached it for duty with the Omicron fleet. Lynx said he was willing to take the fastest ship available and try to retrieve her. Falkenberg cleared him to take temporary command of the Ulysses. Lynx rounded up enough crew, and set out at high warp.
When he arrived at Omicron, he saw a distressing sight. A Romulan cruiser, the ChR Valoth, was on the scene. Romulans were aboard the base. And the USS Federation was undocked and getting under way.
With two Romulan life signs aboard.
What followed was perhaps the greatest display of combat skill and tenaciousness ever demonstrated by a Federation officer. Lynx, in a scout, engaged a Romulan cruiser and regained control of the Federation by use of her prefix code. He'd turn the Fed around under prefix control only to have the Valoth's guns drive him out of range. He'd swoop in again, take control of the Fed's guns, and deal a blow to the Valoth. He followed the Romulans deep into their home space, buzzing around at high speed, slowing down USS Federation, turning her weapons against her captors. Eventually, the Valoth took damage and had to retreat, but a Romulan destroyer arrived to relieve her.
No longer as badly outgunned, Lynx got more aggressive. He kept the Ulysses in range and turned both ships for the nearest Federation safe port, Port Alamo, which was over an hour away at the Fed's top speed. He fought off the Romulan destroyer and guided the recovered ship from the very gates of the Romulan home starbase to Port Alamo. At last, the Romulans retreated, beaming off the two Romulans who had been trying to steal the ship as they fled.
For his heroism, Falkenberg heaped every combat medal he could think of on Lynx and his crew.
The Romulans now let the Federation know that they had four hostages from the Omicron, and offered to negotiate for their release.
There was strong sentiment in StarFleet for a military operation to recover them. There was, in fact, very strong sentiment for an outright declaration of war.
But under the TOS Rules of War that were in force at the time, only Andy could declare war. And Andy refused. In fact, he agreed with Athaorh that the Federation had been behaving too aggressively, and he told his two top Fed Admins, Falkenberg and Jacien, to avoid further provocation and seek a peaceful solution. He made it clear there was to be no further escalation.
The Romulans, however, made a bit of an error, and brought the hostages into Paradise City on Nimbus III. Falkenberg pointed out that, under the Nimbus treaty, the Romulans could not use violence against them while they were on the planet. He insisted that the hostages be set free before any negotiations began. Ultimately, the Romulans agreed.
The Federation was essentially defeated in the Tholian Territory Conflict with the conclusion of the Omicron Incident, not because of an actual tactical or military defeat that was unrecoverable, but because the event had caused enough OOC problems that Andy had demanded an end to all hostilities. Without support from the Federation director for further opposition to the Romulan occupation, the treaty delegation looked to salvage something from the situation.
It had been widely believed that the Tholians had left various hidden treasures behind to be found and exploited by the races who remained. Whether this is true or not only the Romulans know. But it was believed that they had left a number of very real items behind, as well as some useful information. Jacien, in particular, believed they had left some means of enhancing psionic powers behind, and this was probably still hidden on a Tholian world.
So in negotiating the treaty that became the Rihannsu-Federation Border Pact, the Federation recognized the Romulan claim to Tholian space. In exchange, they got an agreement for joint exploration of Tholian territory, under certain terms and conditions, and got the Romulans to agree to share all discoveries in Tholian space with the Federation. Failure by the Romulans to do so would lead to an immediate restoration of the status quo prior to the treaty, and the Federation would view Tholian space as neutral and free to be explored.
It was shortly after this that Brody, being disgusted by the whole Omicron incident and what he saw as a pattern of abusive and restrictive behavior by the admins on TOS, went to Tholia on his own, against orders, and was captured by the Romulans. His release was negotiated by Jacien, but the event ended his career in StarFleet, and more or less signalled his departure from TOS. This led to the Great Defection.