The Century Storm was a phenomenon that struck the Paulson Nebula in January of 2400. Technically the manifestation of multiple ion storms of a similar nature, the phenomenon impacted communication and travel in the region, damaged ships and stations, and inflicted massive adverse weather effects on colonies. The high risk to the hundreds of thousands of individuals living and working in the nebula prompted Starfleet to mobilise a mass evacuation of endangered regions.
The storm was first detected on January 1, 2400, by the Starfleet runabout Prospero, when an ion storm threatened the research station designated Gamma-7. The crew of the Prospero realised the storm had manifested and achieved a high level of intensity within an unusually fast time-frame, and reported the phenomenon to Starbase Bravo. Within a matter of days, other identical storms were identified, appearing as if from nowhere and very quickly becoming highly dangerous to ships and disruptive to travel and communication. The colony world of Mortan, in the path of one storm, reported that its proximity affected their atmosphere and precipitated a series of dangerous surface storms.
Initial investigations were hampered by the natural difficulties of navigating and scanning the Paulson Nebula, which were only exacerbated by the storms. They soon reported a new oddity at every confirmed site of manifestation: subspace rifts. Starfleet Research quickly theorised that the tachyon radiation emitting from these rifts was responsible for agitating nebula particles and thus triggering these sudden and fierce storms.
A week later, a storm manifested in proximity to the colony world of Coronal. These consequences were considerably more serious as the storm agitated particles of the nebula and prompted them to bond with the planet’s atmosphere, rendering it toxic over a matter of days. Word of this disaster reached the Federation News Network, who raised awareness and gave the Century Storm its name in recognition of its appearance at the start of the 25th century.
Communication with Coronal was lost soon after. Starfleet immediately declared a state of emergency in the Mellstoxx sector and initiated the Stormbreaker Campaign to mobilise a response.
The ion storms of the Century Storm appeared seemingly at random across the Paulson Nebula. Their strength, speed, and rate of intensification all varied, making no one storm quite the same.
The nature of the Paulson Nebula already makes travel, communication, and use of sensors occasionally difficult or outright impossible; this was only exacerbated where the Century Storm appeared. Ships caught within the ion storms were at high risk of losing sensors and communications, of disruption to their warp fields, and sustaining damage from the storm itself.
Inhabited worlds of the Paulson Nebula reported mixed effects. The proximity of a storm was most likely to cause disruptions to a planet’s weather, with electromagnetic storms the most common. These could vary from minor disruptions to massive natural disasters.
Coronal was an example of the worst the storm could offer, triggering the nebula particles to bond with the planet’s atmosphere and render it toxic within a matter of days. Without immediate evacuation, the whole population of thirty-seven thousand people were at risk.
Once Starfleet had gathered some data on the storm, recommendations were issued to all ships travelling in the Paulson Nebula. These included modifications to shields, engines, communication systems, and sensors so they might remain operational, but the best advice remained to avoid the storms. With their unpredictable manifestations and intensities, no measure guaranteed success.
After Coronal, Starfleet declared a state of emergency in the Mellstoxx Sector. The Stormbreaker Campaign, the operation managing the crisis, had three major protocols: Respond, Resettle, and Resolve.
The Respond protocol refers to Stormbreaker’s emergency first response. This consisted of all humanitarian endeavours within the Paulson Nebula and the storm itself: answering distress calls, rescuing ships, evacuating planets and facilities, building shielding measures, and protecting all such missions.
This was where the bulk of resources were directed. Civilian ships and crews were enlisted to join evacuation convoys, escorted by Starfleet ships. Auxiliary craft conducted patrols, searching for new distress calls under the regional disruptions, and acting as early warning systems for newly-manifested storms.
Non-evacuation responses included providing humanitarian aid for planets and stations ravaged by the storms, or aiding them in protecting against future manifestations. Modifications to stations’ shields could theoretically save them against a storm, as could the construction of planetary shields around colonies. Some worlds at less-risk had weather control matrices installed to protect them from the electromagnetic storms.
The Resettle protocol was the first step in the mid-to-long term reaction to the storm. While some inhabitants of the Paulson Nebula were only temporarily relocated with the expectation of returning once the danger has passed, the homes and livelihoods of others were irrevocably damaged. Starfleet sought homes for all such people, temporary and permanent. The activities of the Resettle protocol stretched beyond the Paulson Nebula itself: first support for refugees at facilities such as Starbase Bravo, the construction and resettlement of refugees on safe worlds and territories, and negotiation with planets across the Federation to provide more permanent homes.
With the Federation reeling from the discovery that the Attack on Mars, which precipitated the abandonment of the evacuation of Romulus, was caused by the Tal Shiar, the political climate around the settlement of refugees is tense. Even though the refugees from the Paulson Nebula are Federation citizens, many worlds remain apprehensive about taking on the additional burden. There is a general distrust that any allegedly temporary resettlements will remain so, or if the Federation Council will make good on promises to support worlds that take on refugees.
The Resolve protocol covered assignments seeking to end the storm, as a freak occurrence not-entirely understood by Starfleet. Subspace rifts opened across the Paulson Nebula, seemingly at random, and emanating tachyon radiation agitated the nebula particles to cause this storm. The activities of the Resolve protocol sought the following: to gather scientific data on the storm, to learn more of the subspace rifts seemingly causing it, and to close the rifts.
Initial investigations reported a myriad of odd experiences as the rifts exerted pressure on the fabric of space-time. These were usually limited to minor time dilation, but more extreme anomalous experiences have occurred.
While multiple means of closing the rifts was theorised and attempted, with varying degrees of success, Starfleet Research established one method as the most reliable. Modifications to a starship’s main navigational deflector allowed it to emit a dekyon beam to manipulate and, theoretically, close the subspace rifts. No attempted method had guaranteed success.
High-level officers theorised that the appearance of the rifts was a side-effect of the Omega Crisis of 2399, either as a by-product of the unprecedented levels of Omega molecules, or the Tkon technology which caused and, ultimately, reversed it. No Omega particles were detected anywhere in the Paulson Nebula during the crisis, and this link remains a mere hypothesis.
- The Century Storm is the trigger of the Stormbreaker Campaign, the first Intelligence Office Campaign of 2022.
- Due to the unpredictable nature of the storms and rifts, it massively varies how badly any given area of the nebula is struck, how difficult it is to navigate, how badly communication is disrupted. In short, the effects of the storm can suit your story.
- Likewise, the effectiveness of any response measures cannot be guaranteed. What works to shield against one storm or close one rift might not work against another. The measures listed in the article above, including how to close a rift, are there to establish a benchmark and provide suggestions.