Multi-Adaptive Refractive Shielding (M.A.R.S.) System
In 2390, Starfleet Science, in conjunction with the Corps of Engineers and Starfleet Tactical, was tasked with developing a workaround for a treaty that had bound their hands for many years and deprived Starfleet of a defensive measure that others so brazenly used. The Treaty of Algeron prohibited the Federation from developing their own cloaking device, a stealth technology used so successfully by a number of species, including the Klingons and Romulans. With no intention to break the treaty, the idea was to create a form of stealth technology that would assist Starfleet vessels in defending themselves against the ever-growing number of threats to the Federation.
Starfleet Science reached out to a number of experts across the fleet, seeking advice and suggestions for designs. Ultimately, it was the suggestion of Lieutenant Commander Cordelia Millarini and Commodore Nilani Azulas (two noted engineers with a variety of experiences) that was chosen for further research and development.
The idea they came up with was to combine two technologies that the USS Voyager had encountered and used successfully during its travels through the Delta Quadrant.
The first, a system called Multi-Adaptive Shielding was a deflector shield stealth technology that was actually developed by Erin and Magnus Hansen in 2353, for use in keeping their vessel, the USS Raven, virtually invisible to Borg sensors during their field study of the Collective. After tracking a Borg cube at close range for nearly three years, the Hansen’s encountered a subspace particle storm which caused their shielding to go offline for 13.2 seconds, during which time the Borg were able to detect them. Considering the Raven a threat, they pursued the ship and ultimately assimilated the family.
In 2375, the crew of the USS Voyager incorporated multi-adaptive shielding into the systems of the Delta Flyer, to facilitate a rescue mission for the Hansens’ daughter, now known as Seven of Nine, who was being held captive by the Borg Queen in the Unicomplex. Although the shielding was initially successful in concealing the Flyer’s presence, the Queen, who was able to use the Collective’s knowledge of the technology due to the assimilation of the Hansens’ research, was able to adapt and penetrate the shielding. Tom Paris, piloting the Flyer, managed to remodulate the shields to avoid further detection, prompting the Queen to lay down a blind firing pattern. The Borg were eventually able to lock on to the Flyer’s shield modulators, continually adapting to the changing modulations. Boarding the Unicomplex, Captain Janeway managed to rescue Seven and escape on board the Flyer.
The second technology, identified as Refractive Shielding, was a deflector shield stealth technology used by the Devore Imperium of the Delta Quadrant, which allowed a vessel to remain invisible to conventional sensors unless specifically compensated for.
In 2375, Devore inspector Kashyk showed the crew of the USS Voyager how to penetrate their refractive shielding, in an apparent attempt to defect from the Imperium and assist a group of Brenari refugees in escaping from Devore territory. It was eventually discovered by Captain Janeway, however, that Kashyk’s defection was simply a ruse to locate a wormhole being used by the refugees to escape. During Kashyk’s attempt to destroy the wormhole, he found that he had been misled as to the wormhole’s true location, while the refugees escaped in two of Voyager’s shuttlecraft, which had been equipped with refractive shielding in order to escape detection of the Devore warships.
The risks of using these systems, especially the multi-adaptive shielding that had been experienced by the Borg, was outweighed by the fact that Commander Millarini (who had now been appointed lead engineer on the project, and her engineers believed they could combine the technologies in such a way that it would be a new system that even the Borg would not know about until they had encountered it. The design team set to work on combining the shield and deflector systems, working around several integration issues until they were able to perform over a hundred successful simulations.
Simulations conducted included tests of the system at a variety of speeds and in a variety of situations, such as in combat and inside a series of different nebula clouds. Whilst the simulations were successful, they did point out several flaws to the design. The first was that the system was most efficient at shielding vessels that were less than twenty-decks tall. The smaller the vessel, the better, but the size issue had to be balanced alongside the need for sufficient power resources and both deflector and shield capacities. Vessels such as the Intrepid and Luna classes proved the most successful in simulations, with zero detections. The other concern was that the system worked best at impulse speeds, with the chances of detection rising significantly from warp five onwards.
Nevertheless, these were concerns that were abated during the first successful live trial of the system aboard a test bed ship, the USS Solaria (Prometheus-class). Solaria was ordered to the Altair sector and two days later, a Task Group of five starships arrived in the system to locate the Solaria in an epic game of cat and mouse. When the ship stayed below warp 5 and at impulse speeds, she remained entirely undetectable. In seven of twelve tests where Solaria exceeded warp 5, the ship was detected within seconds of crossing the warp 5 threshold.
Cat and mouse became cloak and dagger in the second series of tests as the ability to use offensive systems whilst using the stealth technology was tested. The use of weapons was found to cause an overload in several systems during the deployment of the stealth technology, not to mention leaving behind a residual energy signature.
Some at Starfleet Command argued that because of the inability to use weapons and travel at high warp, the technology was too risk to proceed with. Others, however, countered with the fact that they had only ever come across one form of cloak where a vessel could fire without issue, and that had been destroyed on the Reman Warbird Scimitar several years before. Neither the Klingon’s or Romulan’s had developed a workaround for their cloaks, which made it worth proceeding with. There was also belief that a workaround could be achieved for higher warp speeds given five of twelve tests were actually successful up to warp 8.
In 2392, during the final stages of construction on the USS Ulysses, a Luna-class starship, Commander Millarini and her team arrived at the Ha’dara Fleetyards to outfit the vessel with the new Multi-Adaptive Refractive Shielding (or M.A.R.S.) system. Ulysses would be tasked with trialling the system at the earliest convenience, alongside the tests being conducted on both the Solaria and also the USS Thesis, an Intrepid-class starship. Millarini would remain on the Ulysses during the ships initial testing of the M.A.R.S. system.
In 2394, upon the completion of the new Polaris-class starship Ulysses, the M.A.R.S. system was functioning perfectly, but it proved to be a significant drain on resources so the commanding officer issued standing orders that the system be used sparingly, and in emergency situations only.