ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
After a long hiatus, I am trying to get back into some fan fiction writing. I have three projects on the go, of which this is the newest. For those who have read my Restoration and Star Wars fics, yes I will be getting back to those as well.
This is probably the most out there of the three. Set in a far future of the Star Trek universe where the Federation has spread throughout the Milky Way galaxy and discovered how to build artificial wormholes that have gotten them to a new galaxy.
Arriving in this new galaxy and allying themselves with the spiritual Kalindan race, the Federation found itself caught up in a war between two groups of ascended beings. Towards the end of the war, one Starfleet officer agreed to launch a devastating biological attack on the enemy's capital world. In return, he and his crew were disavowed by the Federation and his ship was exiled to the far side of the galaxy.
I hope you enjoy. Please don't hesitate to comment and let me know what you think and if anyone would like to be kept informed as new chapters are posted, I will PM you.
Without further ado, here are the adventures of the USS Phoenix, their ongoing mission to find a way home...
“Something must be sacrificed if we are to have peace.”
In a tiny pocket of multiversal space, created by a supreme quantum act of will, the enheightened of the Kalindan Expanse gathered. The aim of their discussions were the end of hostilities with the Panthion, a rival group of ascended beings who were the protectors of the nearby Ilonan Cluster. Although in some form of reality the gathering was an accumulation of subatomic particles and seven-dimensional constructs, for the comfort of all those involved a mental framework, a dreamscape, had been developed. It appeared as if, for all intents and purposes, these supremely divine beings shared a table in the den of an expansive rustic lodge.
Sat on the left hand side of the table, the being who - when ascending to the godesshood - had chosen the name of Lydia tried very hard not to grit her multi-dimensional teeth. Although Zeran’s words had been innocuous on the surface, none of them doubted what they meant... nor who they were destined for.
“I assume you have spoken with our... compatriots.” Lydia glanced at Aghos, the Lyridans' head of security and defacto God of War. “Would they be amenable to such a compromise?”
Lydia swallowed a snort. Of course they would be amenable. Her fellow gods and she - assisted by the mortals who worshipped them and, more recently, their allies within the expansive United Federation of Systems - had been, to put not too fine a point on it, kicking the Panthion's collective arse ever since the war began ten years earlier. This latest attack on the Ilonan capital world had only served to emphasize that - though perhaps in a more brutal fashion than had been expected.
Which means that any sacrifice that may be required will be coming from our allies.
From the glance Zeran cast in her direction, he felt the same way. "I have conferred with the Panthion hivemind. They are willing to discuss a cessation of hostilities."
“About time,” muttered Hadran. His 'scape form was the most extravagant - heavily muscled, his red skin seemed to shift and slide with the reflected light of invisible flames. Add the five horns that rose like the tips of a crown from his skull, and he looked like the demon he pretended to be. “After ten years you would think that they’d be sick of fighting this crazy war. They started it.”
Lydia felt that was a bit unfair. Although the Hive attack on the joint Kalindan-Federation colony at Growlash had been the catalyst that set off the war, every single man, woman and ascended being in that 'room' knew that the whole thing had been precipitated by someone sitting around that table.
And whoever that person was, they're indirectly responsible for what is about to happen, Lydia thought sourly.
“In return for the ceasefire, however, the Panthion hivemind require a show of good faith on our behalf.”
Here it comes, Lydia thought. She set tendrils of her own matter stream flexing in preparation for the coming battle. She wasn't going to go down without a fight.
“What kind of show?” Heran, the second most powerful being present, asked. She leaned forward, pressing her ample bosom against his arm. Lydia saw Zeran glance down at the marvels on offer, momentarily going cross-eyed. For fuck’s sake, she thought. Thousands of years of evolution, ascendancy, godhood, and Zeran is still thinking with his dick.
It took the lord of the gods a moment to realise that he had actually been asked a question. When he did, he cleared his throat gruffly, moving away from Heran, and readjusted his robes.
“They have requested a gesture be made to prove our good faith and to atone for the atrocity that was inflicted upon their people.”
More than one set of eyes rolled towards her at the mention of the “atrocity”. She rolled her eyes. A week ago, they had all agreed with her plan to bring an end to the war by forcing the Panthion to come to the bargaining table. The use of the biological weapons against the Ilonan homeworld had been applauded by every single one of them. Apparently, that fact had been quickly forgotten.
She had had quite enough of this shit, she decided. Putting her hands flat on the table, she spoke for the first time.
“So what do they want?”
Zeran turned his snowy old head to face her. He might look like an old man, but his eyes still blazed with the same strength and vigour they had possessed all those centuries ago, when he had been a scientist developing the quantum folding device that propelled them all to godhood. Despite herself, Lydia felt her face burning slightly at the intensity of that gaze.
She fought down the urge to hide under the table like a little girl being scolded by her father and held his gaze.
“What. Do. They. Want? The Panthion. You’ve told us all that they want something. What is it?”
If she had been expecting him to beat around the bush a little longer before answering, she was disappointed.
Lydia held back a sigh. Of course. After her fellow gods approved her plan, she had set the destruction of Ilona Prime in action. As the patron goddess of the planet Thycia – home to the terminus of the artificial wormhole that connected the Federation’s home galaxy with their own - she had the closest relationship with their extra-galactic allies. As such, she could call upon the support of their mighty fleet. A fleet led by the Federation’s flagship and captained by its finest captain. The USS Phoenix and Andrew Lee.
The Panthion were asking her to hand over the Federation’s most lauded officer. It might end the alliance.
She shook her head. “Out of the question. I’m not going to let those insects devour Andrew Lee and his crew and project it into the minds of every man, woman and child in my domain. I’ll have a religious rebellion within days and…”
Although she had a whole speech prepared, Lydia trailed off when she saw Zeran shaking his head.
“They don’t want us to hand them over,” he said. “There will not be any devouring.”
“The Panthion have asked us – have asked you, my dear Lydia – to exile them. The Phoenix and her crew will be sent away, to live out the rest of their days travelling the space ways. An Ilonan minddweller will be birthed in each of their minds, transmitting the thoughts of every single member of the crew back to the Cluster so that the hivemind can share in their despair.”
Lydia blanched. Of everything she had expected... Exile? She couldn’t decide whether it was worse than a summary execution or not.
“How exactly do the Panthion expect to force the Phoenix crew to stay exiled?”
Lydia straightened in her chair as Hadran asked the question. “Exactly! What is to stop them returning? Or even settling somewhere?”
Zeran was shaking his head. “The exile will be permanent. The Panthion have a… a weapon, something they call a Trenchant Wave. Some kind of quantum construct based in multidensional space, equipped with a wavelength identifier that can trace the movements of the Phoenix. Any time they come within a few hundred lightyears of the Kalindan colonies, the Trenchant Wave will throw them back to the Expanse.”
Silence fell over the gathered gods like a steel blanket. “The Expanse?”
Zeran’s expression tightened. Fear. She steeled her own features, fighting back the sudden flutter in her belly.
“They choose the location of the exile. The Borderlands.”
The Darkland Expanse. “Do they know?”
Zeran shook his head. “I do not believe so. They simply chose the most remote location they could find.”
Before any of them could raise any more objections, Zeran pressed on. “As to the crew of the Phoenix settling on a planet in the Expanse, the Panthion have thought of that as well.”
Light flared in the centre of the room, fading to reveal a strange insectile creature – five separate sections, chitinous armour, nine eyes and numerous tendrils extending from a beak-like maw. Lydia wrinkled her nose. Rising, but the Panthion’s creatures made her skin crawl.
“This is a darkeling. A space faring swarm creature evolved on one of the Ilonan colony worlds. The Panthion will direct a group of these creatures to shadow the Phoenix. If they spend more than four solar days in one place, the darkelings will move in.”
Lydia felt sick. The Panthion seemed to have thought of everything in order to keep the Phoenix on the run. She would be sentencing her people to a life of constant pressure and unending danger. They would be hounded from one place to the next, and when the people of the Darkland Expanse learned what they were, they would turn on them. The Phoenix would become a cursed ship, rejected by all and assisted by none.
She realised that her fellow gods were all looking at her. She forced her eyes to focus on Zeran, ignoring all the others.
“Do I have a choice?”
He looked at her with what might almost have been described as pity. “There is always a choice, Lydia. But those choices have consequences. If you refuse, we may be forced to offer them something else. Or we may have to start the whole war up again. You designed the burrowing disease to bring this whole stupid mess to a close, and it worked. What is one ship when compared to the lives of billions?”
What indeed? One ship in exchange for peace. One man in return for billions. She shook her head. There was no way she could say no.
“You need to let me tell them,” she said finally. “And you all need to understand that I will not abandon them completely. If I can find a way to bring them home, I will.”
One by one, her fellow gods nodded. She could see the relief in some of their eyes and realised for the first time that if she had decided to be difficult, this might have sparked off a whole different war. She entertained the notion for a moment, but rejected it almost immediately. She was nowhere near powerful enough to fight against her fellow gods. Not yet, at any rate.
“Of course,” Zeran said for the rest of them. “We totally understand. We are in agreement, though?”
Taking a deep breath, she nodded. Meeting his eyes, she tried to convey that though she was accepting this, she had no intention of doing so indefinitely. One day, she promised. One day I’ll find a way to bring them home. Before that thing we buried in the Darkland Expanse can find them and use them against us.
Zeran smiled at her, the benevolent father once again. “Thank you, Lydia. I will convey this to the Panthion.”
“When will it happen?”
His smile remained fixed on his face and Lydia felt a shiver of forboding run down her spine. “I’m sorry, my dear, I thought you had understood. It already has.”
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
The Phoenix was a cursed ship.
And yet, Danterian Ko thought as he sat in Main Engineering with his friend Wicka Bay, it was possible to call it home.
The two friends were ensconsed in a small chamber at the top of the engine room. In front of them, a part of the wall had been replaced by a glastile panel, allowing them to look out at the bleak emptiness of the Darkland Expanse. Sharing a lunch pale that Dan had brought up from his kitchens, they were both staring at the approaching station. A huge metal sphere hanging in space, constructed of a lattice work of interconnected branches, Bastion Shadow was one of a handful of such stations spread across this area of space. So far, the Phoenix had only visited one of them, but that had been more than enough for the entire crew to gage just how powerful the mysterious Watchers were.
Behind them, the ship’s massive engines groaned and roared, escaping steam and super-heated plasma spewing into the air. The smell of scorched metal stung Dan’s nostrils, almost completely masking the smell of the stew he had prepared for Wicka to enjoy.
He glanced at her, tearing his eyes away from the ever larger station. Dressed in a dark grey jumpsuit with a slash of yellow across the chest, she looked the very picture of an engineer. And yet, to Dan, she was also completely different. It wasn’t just that she was a girl. As far as he was concerned, she was the girl. The dream girl. Her long red hair seemed to spark in the engine room light, let free momentarily from the green beret she usually wore to keep it away from her face. Sensing his gaze, she turned to look at him, her mouth full of stew, the spoon still stuck between her lips.
Dan shook his head, turning away to stare out at Bastion Shadow again. Now that they were closer, he could just about make out the massive holes in the spherical surface, moon-sized portals into the station’s interior. A handful of other ships, most of them completely foreign to Dan’s eyes, flickered around the holes – other ships coming in to dock or departing on new adventures.
“Nothing,” he replied, tracking one of those ships – a blade of pure silver surmounted by three engine nacelles – as it darted out of the topmost hold, narrowly avoiding a collision with a larger bulk freighter. “How’s the stew?”
“Hm-mm,” Wicka said, chewing and swallowing another mouthful. “As good as always, Dan. Thanks for bringing it down.”
“I know how busy you are whenever we pull in to station. I doubted you’d have the time to come up.”
“You’ve got that right. Things have been even more hectic since… Well, you know.”
He nodded. A week ago, the Phoenix had been summoned to the Morphac Nebula, fifteen lightyears away. Summoned by a “god”, no less. The so-called King of Dreams. No one was really sure why, nor what the King and Captain Lee had discussed. Whatever it had been, it had drawn the Phoenix back to Bastion Shadow only three months after their last visit. And the rumours were that this might be it. After ten years. A way home.
“Do you think it's true, what they've been saying? That the captain has found a way to get us home?"
Wicka stopped licking the bottom of the bowl long enough to afford Dan a pitying look. "I wouldn't believe everything you hear, Pots. You know as well as I do that our allies’ verdict was final. We've been banished. Forever."
Dan found himself nodding. "But that's just it. The Kalindan “gods” passed judgement on us. And they say that the King of Dreams is just as powerful in these parts. If anyone can get us home-"
"Getting home isn't the problem, Pots." She twisted her body so that she was looking at him directly. The sounds of the engine room – the constant throb of the warp drive, the suck and whush of rushing plasma and cooling liquid through the pipes - rose from behind them. "Listen, you were just a kid when we got thrown out here. The rest of us..." She trailed off. "We know."
He thought that her characterisation of him was a little unfair - there were only a few years between them. And he had been fifteen when they were exiled. Hardly a kid.
She didn't seem to notice his reaction, though. "The Kalindans made it very clear and Starfleet Command backed them up. Even if we manage to find another being powerful enough to send us home, we wouldn't be able to stay."
He nodded. "Because of the Trenchant Wave." The powerful quantum disturbance field had thrown the Phoenix into the Darkland Expanse. And every time Captain Lee had tried to lead his people home, it had swept out of whichever dimension it had been born in, sending them further and further into the border regions.
"Not just the Wave. If that was all there was, we could just ditch the Phoenix." She shook her head again. “No, the real danger is the darkelings. Wherever we stop, they’ll follow us. And they’ll destroy everything in their passage until they get us.”
Dan felt a cold shiver run down his spine. The darkelings. They were like some kind of dark myth or legend rising out of their collective past, a bogey man. He could still remember the first time they had attacked. It had been just before his mother passed – he was sixteen. A group of crewmembers had managed to convince Captain Lee to land on a planet and try and start a new life there. The Ilonan furor could only follow them so far and for so long, they had said. Maybe now they could make a home.
By the time the darkelings had finished, the planet had been stripped bare and Phoenix had almost been destroyed. What had once been a crew of three hundred men and women had been decimated, leaving less than a hundred alive. Ever since, the Phoenix had never stopped for more than a few days in any place. Any longer and they would bring the darkelings down on them once again.
And yet… Dan could not get the murmurs he had heard out of his head. If there was a way home and Captain Lee had been able to negotiate for their safe passage back to the Federation colonies…
He hardly remembered them. His mother had shown him pictures – the spires on New Vulcan, the domes of the Growlash colony, the massive wormhole generators orbiting Thycia… The Phoenix and the Borderlands around the Darkland Expanse seemed to be all he had ever known.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Pots,” Wicka chided him. “You’ll only end up getting hurt.”
Dan nodded glumly. He supposed she was right. It wasn’t the first time that the Phoenix had found or been offered a way home. In the ten years they had spent in the Expanse, they had encountered more than their fair share of races, creatures and excelled beings who had the power or the know how to seemingly defeat the Panthion’s decrees. So far, though, none of them had worked.
He supposed that in a few years he would probably be just as cynical about their chances as Wicka. What does that mean, though? he wondered. Did it mean finally accepting that the Phoenix would never get home? That they truly were cursed to spend the rest of their days wandering these sparse territories until the last of them used his or her last breath to pilot the ship into a sun?
“Well,” Wicka said, dragging herself to her feet, “we’re about ready to dock. I’d better get down there.”
He looked up at her, trying not to stare. In his twenty-five years, he had never seen anyone more beautiful than Wicka Bay. Not even the silver modules implanted in her forehead, skull and left temple could marr her beauty. Nor the purple shaded optitronic prosthetic eye. No, as far as Dan was concerned, those signs of her calling as a mecha-borg priest just added to her allure.
Not that she didn’t intimidate him. After all, as she had said, she was older than him. And she was the Bishop, spiritual leader of the mecha-borg priests who ran Phoenix’ engines.
Still, she was his friend.
“Cards later?” he asked.
She nodded. “You’re on. Have a good one, Pots.”
He watched as she wrapped one leg around the pole that descended to the engine room floor, sliding slowly down until her feet hit the decking. She winked at him and then vanished into the chaos of her domain, her voice already raised as she shouted orders at the other mecha-borg priests. Dan stared at the place where she had been for a long moment before turning back to the outer view.
The ship was holding station above one of the upper landing bays, due galactic north of Bastion Shadow’s centre. From his vantage point, Dan could see a dozen other ships descending towards holding plots within. In a few minutes, it would be their turn.
Still thinking about what Wicka had said, Dan leaned back against the softly throbbing wall and thought about home.
Andrew Lee would never get used to seeing a sun inside a world.
Standing beneath the harsh glare, he raised a hand to shield his eyes. The small singularity that provided heat, warmth and energy to Bastion Shadow was stronger than any sun he had ever encountered in his travels. And the desert, spread across the inner plane of the spherical station, didn’t help matters.
Behind him, Commanders Esala Gray and Kave, his first officer and security chief, shuffled in the sand. They had been standing outside the tent for a good few minutes, waiting for the mysterious Watchers to answer their summons. He had rung the bell, just as F’ryr had instructed him to, but nothing had happened. He was starting to wonder whether he should try again, and F’ryr’s warning be damned.
He turned. Esala Gray’s auburn hair flashed in the sun, a few blond strands looking like burnished gold amongst the copper. Although her face was starting to line, she had a soft beauty he knew belied the core of hard steel in her heart. Her delicate ears ending in graceful points and eyes a true shade of emerald only served to highlight both her attractiveness and how long it had been since he had taken a woman to his bed.
Don’t think that way, he reminded himself, trying to drag Penni’s face from his memory. It was becoming more and more difficult, despite the holocaptures of her he had in his quarters back onboard Phoenix. It had been so long.
“Captain?” Esala asked again. He shook his head, vanishing the blurred picture of his wife.
“Shouldn’t something have happened by now?”
He shrugged. “You know as much as I do. This is the first time I’ve come to negotiate with the Watchers’ direct. We don’t have any experience. None of us do.”
Andrew glanced at his security officer. Kave, as usual, got straight to the point. F’ryr had, somehow, met the Watchers before. When that had been, and how it had come about, was as much a mystery as why he wasn’t here to talk to them himself. Still, the Vulcan science and intelligence officer was nothing if not mysterious.
Kave hated mysteries. A massive Klingon, broad-shouldered and muscular, he was Andrew’s oldest friend, after Esala, and security chief of the Phoenix. A panopoly of weapons hung from his uniform’s belt, and Andrew knew that even more of them were hidden within the folds of his long coat.
Andrew opened his mouth to answer, but was distracted by the rustling sound of the tent flap being pulled aside. He spun to find a bald man, dressed in sack cloth, peering out at them. Andrew felt nauseous at the sight of the man’s two eyes, bulbous and over sized, the pupil a single point of red almost lost amongst the white.
The man picked Andrew out and bowed his head.
“My lord. Please. They are expecting you.”
Pulling the flap aside, the bald man motioned for Andrew to follow him. Esala and Kave went to follow, but the bald man shook his head.
“Only the one who rang the bell may enter.”
They had been expecting this from F’ryr’s descriptions. Still, Andrew glanced back to make sure that neither of his officers would cause any problems. To his surprise, Esala seemed the more reluctant. He met her gaze and shook his head. After a moment, she stepped back, but she didn’t look happy about it.
None of us are happy about this situation. Turning back to the bald man, he followed him into the depths of the tent.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
It had not been his idea to go to the King of Dreams.
When the summons had come, Andrew had been about ready to give up. Ten years of fighting had gotten them nowhere. He was tired and he was getting old. So when F’ryr had come to him and said that a priest of the Morphac cult had approached him during their last layover on Calana Prime, Andrew had been reluctant to say the least.
Still, his old teacher had convinced him to take the chance. He had taken Phoenix to the Morphac Nebula, had used the herbs F’ryr had prepared for him and allowed himself to fall into the dream state required to commune with the ascended being.
The King of Dreams had met him on the shores of Jolinda Province, where he used to bring Penni and Jazon during the summer. One moment Andrew had been alone, staring out at the distant shores of the Kimbal peninsula, and the next a fat man in a dirty grey coat had been stood beside him.
“I hear you’re looking for a way home,” the King had said without preamble.
Andrew had nodded.
“I may be able to help you with that. I have a… a key that might open the lock that is keeping you here.”
“What kind of key?”
The King of Dreams shook his head. “First we talk payment.”
Andrew sighed. He was sick of dealing with cupid deities, constantly negotiating and trying to get one over on him.
“What do you want?” he asked through gritted teeth.
Instead of answering directly, the King of Dreams shuffled his body around on the sand until he was facing Andrew. Pulling open the ties that held his coat closed, he spread it, revealing a flabby bulging belly covered in fine white hairs. Andrew’s eyes, though, were drawn to his chest. A hole had been cut in the flesh and where the King’s heart should have been was an empty hole, oozing a dark green liquid.
“I want you to recover my heart.”
The story behind his request had turned out to be quite simple. The King of Dreams had become enamored of a fellow deity, a spider goddess who called herself the Crimson Queen. The two had spent two long aeons as lovers in her realm before the King grew tired of her. When he tried to leave, though, the Queen captured his heart, tearing it still beating from his chest.
“It is still out there, lost in the quantum eddies of her realm,” he said. Suddenly, Andrew could hear a steady throbbing beat carried on the sea air. The King stared, his eyes lost on some distant shore. “I can hear it. Sometimes, I can feel it.” He patted his chest once, twice, three times. “I want it back.”
Andrew had had no choice but to accept. And so now, here he was, about to enter the Watchers’ tent to make a bargain.
He found himself in the last place he had expected to be. It took him a moment to make sense of what he was seeing and even longer to believe it.
He was in his own bedroom, back home on Thycia. Sunlight filtered through ochre veils, casting a warm fiery glow on an antique four poster bed.
Everything was perfect, exactly as he remembered it. As if he had just stepped out for a moment. Walking over to the balcony, he stared through the veils at the dark green forest below, javatrees sweeping down a soft rise to the crystaline waters. The air felt heavy with the scents of summer, a thousand spices tinged with the heady smell of the sea.
And below it all, a very familiar perfume.
He turned as if against his will, eyes returning to the bed. A figure was spread out beneath the sheets. How didn’t I see her? Andrew moved without conscious thought, three short steps carrying him to the bedside. He fell to his knees, hands reaching out for her. Penni. His wife.
The figure rolled over and Andrew’s heart fell. It wasn’t her.
Instead, a dark haired beauty stared back at him. Her face was perfect, except for a small scar at the corner of her mouth.
“Hello lover,” she purred.
He jolted backward, falling on his arse. “You.”
Gliding out of bed as if she were made of liquid, the woman revealed herself in all her naked glory, breasts the size of apples, flat stomach taut and trembling. Andrew couldn’t help it – he felt an erection stretching the crotch of his trousers.
“What do you want?” he asked in a tremulous voice.
She stopped stalking towards him, pouting. “Aren’t you pleased to see me lover?”
“I am not your lover, Lydia,” he told the “goddess”. “That was a long time ago.”
Lydia, Goddess of Passion, patron of his beloved Thycia, moved like water. One moment she was five steps away, the next her hand was on his lower abdomen. She put her lips to his ear and purred. Andrew jumped backwards, stumbling on a table. He put his hand out to catch himself and felt the cold steel of a hunting knife. Gripping it, he pushed it out between them.
Her eyes widened. “Do you really think that will work against me?”
Andrew allowed himself a grim smile as he turned the blade around, pressing the tip to his own gut. “Maybe not, but I can end your fun.”
Lydia stared at him for a moment and then sniffed dismissively, turning away. “As you want it.”
Andrew suppressed a sigh of relief. He could feel the tension in his arms and knew that if he allowed himself to relax, he might collapse.
“What do you want?”
“I came to warn you.”
She nodded. “We know what you’re doing, lover, and my brothers aren’t happy. They’re worried you’re going to break the treaty with the insects.”
Andrew felt hope spring up in his heart, but he suppressed it before it could show. They were worried? That meant they thought the King of Dreams could actually do what he said he could. Could this fool bargain actually be a way home?
He forced his expression to remain neutral. “Why should I care? As long as I am working for him, I’m under his protection.”
“I know,” she said with a scowl. “They’re not happy about that either. To tell you the truth, neither am I. It’s unnatural.”
“Well, you used to worship me.”
Andrew did not bother to correct her. Half-human, half-Kalindan, one of a generation of Federation citizens born and raised in the new galaxy, he had been raised by his mother to respect the beings her people believed to be gods. As a Starfleet officer, though, he had come to see them for what they truly were – mortal beings who had found a way through science and quantum manipulation to gain a sort of godhood, an ascension to a higher state of being. Lydia had never understood that.
“I don’t worship the King of Dreams,” Andrew retorted instead. He relaxed his fists. “And I don’t worship you, either.”
She sighed, waving a hand. “Yes, yes, we all know you’re an aetheist now. The gods are evil, the gods are cruel. Blah, blah, blah. So tiresome.”
“You said you had a warning for me, Lydia. What is it?”
“This task isn’t what it appears, lover. What he’s offering you is not what you think it is.”
“Will it get me home?”
He saw a flicker of something in her eyes, as if she was trying to decide whether to lie to him. She shook her head. “Yes.”
He felt relief flood through him. It’s going to work. This time, it’s going to work.
“Then I don’t care.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You should really listen to me unless you—“
“I don’t think so, lover. This all seems much too convenient. I find a way home and suddenly you’re here to save me. It’s too late for that. Maybe if you had been there ten years ago when your brothers decided to get rid of me…” He shook his head. “Now. Put me back where you took me from. I have a job to do.”
For an instant, he thought he had gone too far. Lydia’s face had grown darker and darker, flesh flooding with blood. Just when he thought she might snap and kill him – and the curse be damned – she lifted her arms and pushed him. He fell back…
It was as if he had just taken a stumbling step. He lurched through the tent flap. When he straightened, he found himself in a long dark corridor, carved out of rock and lit by flickering candles. He looked back, expecting to see the tent flap and the desert, but there was only a large wooden door.
For a moment, he thought that Lydia had played another trick on him but when he looked up, he found the same old man looking at him. He didn’t seem confused, so Andrew guessed that Lydia had paused time while they had their little chat. While she took him home. He might not be sure of much else, but he was sure of that. She had taken him home. If he had left that room, would he have found Penni in the study? Would his little Jazon have been asleep in his bed?
He sighed. Painful thoughts.
“Is there a problem my lord?
Andrew shook his head. “No. Let’s go.”
Bowing, the old man turned, leading Andrew down the rock tunnel, into the depths.
The Watchers held court in a circular chamber deep within the rock. In the centre of it stood a small rock slab, surmounted by five thrones seemingly carved out of bone. Sat on them were five figures, draped in long robes, each one died a different shade of purple.
“Welcome, Andrew Lee,” they intoned as the bald man led him in, their voices speaking as one.
Coming closer, Andrew caught a glimpse beneath those cloaks. Decaying flesh and blood red lips. Yellowed and broken teeth. He shuddered. F’ryr had told him that the Watchers were immortal, gaining eternal life in decaying bodies as the price for protecting the galaxy. From what, no one seemed to know. Once again he wondered where his intelligence officer got his information.
A raspy sound came from the thrones – he realised that the five men were laughing.
“How low the mighty have fallen,” the one and many voice said.
Andrew gritted his teeth. F’ryr had warned him they might taunt him. He pushed through his anger. “I come to seek your aide.”
“Our aide? And how could we be of help to one of the mighty warriors of the Star Fleet, powerful allies of the Kalindan gods?”
From what F’ryr had told him, the Watchers and the gods of the Kalindan colonies had had dealings in the past, despite the vast distances that separated the Darkland Expanse from his home. That explained the anger in their voices, though perhaps not why it seemed to be personally directed at him.
He ignored the tone, concentrating on their words. “I need two things.”
“Two?” Eagerness, desire even, lifted their words.
“Yes. First, I need the quark resonation pattern of the Crimson Queen’s dimension.”
“A mighty gift,” they rasped. “And second?”
“I understand that you have a temporal drifter in your custody. I wish to bargain for his freedom.”
They hissed. F’ryr had warned him that this would be the most difficult thing to get from them. A temporal drifter was a mighty prize, even for beings as powerful as the Watchers.
“And what will you be willing to pay for these… items?”
Andrew took a deep breath. Before he had encountered Lydia, he had a very specific set of bargaining chips he was willing to throw into the ring. Now… F’ryr was not going to be happy.
The five Watchers fell silent. Even they seemed surprised at what he had offered. Making a deal with the Watchers was dangerous business. To offer them anything in return for their assistance was tantamount to selling your soul.
“We… We must think on this. We will provide you with your items and will call upon you when we have decided upon our price. Do you accept?”
A creaking sound from the bone thrones – the sound of skeletons dancing on a grave – told him that they were leaning forward, eagerly waiting for his answer. He had been afraid this would be their answer. He would be left in their debt, at their mercy. They could call upon whenever they wished. A dozen voices screamed in his head, telling him to refuse, to walk out of the room and find another way. Lydia’s voice, though, echoed stronger.
Will it get me home?
He forced himself to nod and was greeted by a chorus of hisses. In their realm, on their turf, that nod was as binding as a signature in blood.
And somewhere, in the dark, he swore he could hear a woman laughing.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
This feels like what Voyager would have been like if crossed with a whacky, offbeat reimagining of Homer's Odyssey. OK, so I've only read the prologue so far but it made me want to read more.
This won't me quite like your run of the mill Trek fan fic, I imagine.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Thanks for the comment. Yes, there are definite similarities to Voyager in terms of the situation, though I think you'll quickly see that both the characters and the universe they inhabit is vastly different! :p
Glad the prologue grabbed your attention, did you get a chance to read any more?
No, probably not very run of the mill, in fact probably my most out there fan fic.
Thanks again for the comment.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Dan was serving one of the mecha-borg engineers reheated nutrient paste when the drifter walked in.
After the captain had returned to the ship, the rumours had run fast. By the time the ship departed Bastion Shadow, he had already learned that Captain Lee had freed a temporal drifter who had been imprisoned onboard the station. Theories as to why the Phoenix suddenly needed a drifter were running rampant, but they all circulated around the same basic idea – the captain had found a way home.
Dan had never seen a drifter before, though he had heard a lot about them. Cast adrift from the normal space-time continuum by some past disaster, temporal drifters winked in and out of phase, jumping between the past, the present and the future at the whim of some unknown agency. Though few of them were able to control their movements, they generally managed to harness their abilities enough to gain a certain gift when it came to manipulating dimensional physics. Most hired themselves out as quantum mercenaries.
His clothes were a disparate collection from every period of time, and included a sleek high topped hat, a bright yellow three buttoned shirt, red soft shoes and a long flowing white skirt. All of it covered by a coating of dust. His hair was long, tumbling down over his shoulders, thick with grease and grime. He moved with quick, jerky movements, and his eyes darted from one side of the room to the other.
Kave held one of his arms while F’ryr, the ship’s science and intelligence officer with straight long black hair and pointed ears, held the other. Both of them appeared to be taking their jobs as the drifter’s guards seriously, although how they hoped to stop him if he began to slide out of their space-time continuum was beyond Dan.
Kave caught Dan’s eye and nodded to a table in the corner. Feeling a surge of hope, Dan nodded back. He had been trying to get Kave to accept him as a supplementary security officer for three years now, but the hulking warrior had always turned him down. Maybe, if he did a good job here, he might be able to convince him.
Dan piled three plates of piping hot jambalaya, a jug of replicated sythehol with three glasses, and a couple of loaves of fresh bread onto a tray. Balancing it carefully – it couldn’t hurt his chances to show Kave that he had a good sense of equilibrium – he carried it over to the table where Kave, F’ryr and the drifter had taken seats.
“Good evening Danterian Ko,” F’ryr said genialy as Dan began to set down the plates.
“Good evening, sir. Here you go,” he said to the drifter, putting a plate down in front of him. “It’s jambalaya,” he explained as the drifter stared at the steaming plate as if it were a pile of snakes.
“Thank you,” the drifter replied. Dan noticed that Kave’s left hand had never left the drifter’s arm – that would explain why he was so tense.
“Danterian, this is Lorns Gi Badel.” F’ryr introduced the two men. “He is the drifter we hired in Bastion Shadow. Lorns, this is Danterian Ko, our ship’s cook.”
“Nice to meet you, sir,” Dan said, nodding to the drifter and assaying a smile. “I hope you like it here.”
“Lorns won’t be staying,” Kave growled, his first addition to the conversation. His eyes had never left the drifter. “He’s just here to do a job.”
“Well,” Dan said into the awkward silence, “I hope the rooms you’ve been given are—“
“Fucking stars and stripes,” the drifter barked, jerking away from the table suddenly and sending one
of the plates of stew crashing to the floor. Kave was out of his chair almost as quickly, his hand already pulling his stazer pistol from its holster. Dan looked around wildly, trying to work out what had startled the man. When he saw the three men stood in the doorway, he understood.
“It’s alright,” he said, waving a calming hand in Kave’s direction. “He was just surprised by the Wise Men.”
Kave followed Dan’s other hand to the doorway. When he saw the Wise Men, he growled and rolled his eyes. Putting one hand on the drifter’s shoulder, he pushed him back down in his chair.
“Do that again and I’ll blow your chronologically impaired little brains out, you hear me?”
Lorns only had eyes for the Wise Men, though. As everyone else went back to their meals, the buzz of conversation slowly filling the room again, Lorns followed them with his eyes, watching carefully as they walked over to the hole in the wall where one of Dan’s assistants had taken his place at the pot. Dan looked them over as well.
He could well understand why the drifter had had such a reaction. The three Wise Men – no one knew their real names – were as strange a sight as any Dan had ever seen. All three of them were totally hairless, their bald skulls glistening in the artificial light. Stranger still, neither of them had any eyes. Instead, a black strip of charred flesh covered the top of their faces.
From what his mother had said, the three of them shared a mechanical eye, a quantum device that allowed them to see beyond the usual vista of human perception. It was what made them such prized members of the Phoenix crew, as their navigators. Not even the ship’s bioficial intelligence could chart a more precise course through slipstream space.
Dan turned to Lorns, who was still shaking slightly. “I wouldn’t worry,” he offered. “They’re totally harmless. Would you like me to ask them to come over?”
“No!” Both Lorns and Kave almost shouted the word, though Lorns sounded more terrified than angry. Kave glared at Dan.
“This is not a social call, boy. This drifter is not our guest. He’s working for us, and that’s it. He’s not to be trusted.”
He turned his glare on Lorns, but the drifter was staring at the three Wise Men with barely restrained terror. Dan had never seen anyone have such a reaction to the three old men. He glanced over at them to see that they had taken a table, apparently impervious to the ruckus they had caused.
Turning back to the table, he saw Kave roll his eyes and turn to F’ryr. “I think this was a mistake. We shouldn’t have brought him here.”
“And what would you suggest? Locking him in the brig?”
Although he knew that Vulcan’s did not express emotion, Dan could not help but detect a hint of sarcasm in the older man’s voice.
“That’s exactly what I would suggest. Did suggest. But Commander Grey doesn’t like the idea. Still, having him in such close proximity to them,” he nodded to the Wise Men, “is obviously not a good idea. We should get him out of here.”
F’ryr studied the poor drifter’s trembling hands dispassionately. He nodded. “I believe you are right.” Easing himself to his feet, he nodded to Dan. “Thank you for what I’m sure would have been a wonderful meal, Danterian.”
“You’re welcome,” Dan said dumbly as the three men stood. With Kave and F’ryr on either side of the drifter, they almost looked like a strange version of the Wise Men. “Come back any time.”
Kave snorted, F’ryr nodded and the drifter continued to shake. “Come on then,” Kave growled, grabbing one of Lorns’ arms and guiding him towards the door. They had almost reached the corridor when Dan remembered what he had wanted to ask the master-at-arms.
“Commander Kave, wait,” he called out before he could stop himself.
Kave paused in the doorway, looking back at Dan. “What is it, boy?”
“I…” Suddenly, Dan realised that this was a horrendously bad idea. Still, as his mother had always said, in for a mile, in for a lightyear. “I wanted to ask you something.”
Kave heaved a sigh, rolling his eyes. He let Lorns go and nodded to F’ryr. “Get him out of here. I’ll catch up.”
Once they were gone, Kave walked over to Dan. Or rather stalked over. This is such a bad idea, Dan thought. Too late now.
“What do you want, boy?”
“I… Well, the thing is that… You may remember how… The fact of the matter is… Umm…”
“Oh by Kahless’ balls, boy, spit it out!”
Dan jumped slightly. “Of course. You’re right. What I wanted to ask you is, well, whetheryouhadgivenanythoughttowhatiaskedyoulasttim e,” he splurted it out all in one breath, his voice trailing off at the end. Kave frowned and edged his head forward slightly.
Dan closed his eyes and took a breath. “I wanted to know whether you had given any more thought to what I asked you a few days ago. About training me as a security officer.”
Kave ran his eyes up and down Dan’s body, as if weighing him up against some invisible balance. When Dan saw the smile crease the security chief’s face, he felt this heart sink.
“Maybe next time, Pots.”
Without another word, he turned and stalked out, leaving Dan in the messhall, his dreams collapsing around him
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
“Your arse is mine, Ko,” Wicka snarled, slapping her hand down on the table.
Dan glanced down at the seven circular cards that she had just put down and groaned. The laughing faces of two gods stared up at him from between a goddess, a demigod and a hydra. A Full Spirit. He didn’t even bother checking his own cards before admitting defeat.
Wicka grinned impishly and gathered in the twenty chits stacked in the middle of the table. Dan hid a smile behind his hand – he liked to see her this way, so happy. It was a pleasant change after the last few days aboard ship.
After they departed Bastion Shadow, the Phoenix had slid in and out of subspace a couple of times to throw off any darkelings that might have picked up their trail. Guided by the temporal drifter, Lorns, they had then charted a course to an area of space Wicka had called the Sperious Veils. From what she had explained to him, the whole league of space had a much deeper chronotone concentration than any other she had ever seen. Lorns claimed that he could use a machine he had designed to cut a doorway to the realm where the Captain wanted to go.
The realm of the Crimson Queen.
It was all much too complicated for Dan. Talk of stolen hearts and spurned goddesses. He had taken to spending more and more time in the kitchens, especially after Kave’s reaction to his latest request for training. The only person onboard ship he had any contact with outside of the regular mess times was Wicka.
Who was, as she had promised, owning his behind.
“Another hand?” he offered as she finished counting the chits. To his disappointment, she shook her head.
“We’ll be attempting the first crossing in an hour. I need to be with the engines when it happens.”
“Alright,” he said. His voice sounded pathetic even to him.
She looked up, a lopsided smile on her face. “What’s wrong, Pots? You want me to kick your arse some more?”
“Can’t get enough of it,” he replied in kind. He was always astonished at the side of him she brought out.
“Well, don’t worry.” She finished emptying the chits into one of the overlarge pockets on her long leather coat and stood up. “Your arse will still be around to be kicked once we’re done.” She stepped past him and ruffled his hair as she passed. He turned slightly in his chair and watched her go. “See you around, Pots.”
He waved, and then realised how stupid he must look and dropped his hand into his lap. Breathing a heavy sigh, he let his head drop to the table. He wished he could get up the nerve to tell her how he felt. He got the feeling that maybe, just maybe, she might like him too. But if he never got up the nerve to ask…
Banging his head against the table a second time, he tried to stop thinking about her.
An hour later, he was dragged from pleasant sweaty dreams involving Wicka Bay, engine oil and lots of flesh by the shrill screech of the comm. panel over by the messhall door. He looked around for a moment in confusion, trying to make sense of the sound, of where he was, of what had happened… When he realised where he was he stumbled up out of the chair, over to the panel and pressed his hand to it.
Almost immediately, he heard Esala Gray’s voice, sounding tired and drawn out.
“Messhall? Messhall? Can you hear me?”
“Messhall here, Commander.”
“We need some kaf up here, Pots. It looks like it’s going to be a long night.”
Dan shook his head to try and make sense of the request. It took him a moment to remember what Wicka had said – the crew were preparing to use the drifter’s machinery. He felt a thrill of excitement run down his spine. To get a chance to take a look at what they were doing, to be on the bridge, in the middle of everything…
“Of course, sir. I’ll bring it straight up.”
“Good man, Pots.”
With a chime, the comm. cut off, leaving Dan in the dimness.
He stood there for a moment, collecting his thoughts, before rushing into the kitchen. He set a pot of water to boil and then darted into his storeroom. Pulling down one of the paper packages the quartermasters had purchased on Bastion Shadow, he rushed back to the heater in time to pull the pot off the hob before the water boiled over.
He had a number of kaf pots he had inherited from his mother when she passed. He chose the two largest, solid copper he kept to a burnished sheen. Dropping the thin white grains of kaf in the bottom, he carefully poured the boiling water until the kitchen filled with the thick sweet aroma.
Five minutes later, he was making his way through the corridors with a large tray carrying the two pots and a dozen small cups. Better to have too many than not enough.
He was alone in the turbolift on the way up. Unease filled him as it always did when he had to walk through the ship. There were so few crew members now that it seemed half a ghost ship. He could remember when he used to have to squeeze into a turbolift there were so many people aboard the Phoenix. Of course his mother had still been alive back then…
Arriving on the same deck as the bridge, he hurried his steps. If Kave was there, maybe he could prove that he was serious about wanting to be a security officer…
Just as he reached the doors, it whooshed open. Dan felt his heart rise into his throat as he tried desperately to quick-step past the man barrelling off the bridge. He felt the metal tray strike a shoulder and saw one of the pots begin to tip…
A calloused hand reached out and grabbed the handle, stalling the fall. Dan looked past the pot to see Kave looking down at him, a frown on his face.
“Watch yourself, Pots. You could hurt someone.”
Dan nodded, but Kave had already released the top of the kaf pot. Before he could say anything else, Kave was gone, vanishing down the ladder. Dan suppressed a heavy sigh. So much for impressing the security chief.
Squaring his shoulders, he walked through the door and onto the bridge.
A tubular chamber, the Phoenix’ bridge could hold up to ten people, though there were rarely more than three or four. Holographic consoles sprouted from the metal deck plating at will, sparkling with photonic energy. A large throbbing column rose from one corner, connected through biopacks and neurotransmitter entanglements to the bioficial intelligence buried deep within the ship’s core. A large holographic screen afforded the crew a clear view of the starfield beyond, currently a tortured starscape of crimson ribbons and dark brown stars.
Most of the holographic consoles had been deactivated, leaving the bridge almost empty. Captain Lee, Commander Gray, Lieutenant-Commander F’ryr, Lorns the drifter – who was keeping a safe distance from the three Wise Men – and Dalilah, the ship’s biomimetic herder were all gathered around a single spot on the bridge floor.
Dan knew Dalilah the least – as the ship’s main link to the bioficial intelligence, the willowy dark-haired woman spent most of her time communing with it. He studied her quickly, once again taken in by her over-large eyes and the blade-like ridges than ran down her cheeks and neck. She had no official rank aboard the ship, like every other herder. From what Dan had gathered from his talks with Wicka, the herders had only been assigned to Starfleet vessels since they had adopted the Kalindan bioficial technology to replace the outdated bioneural gel packs that had been phased out in the last century.
Commander Gray caught his eyes and waved him over. As he got closer Dan saw that they were all staring at a strange metallic device, constructed of cogs and other clockwork pieces. Lorns was busy connecting a series of wires to the nearest power shunt relay.
“… And thanks to a chronotone manipulator connected to this garble accelerator,” Lorns was saying, “the device will be able to pierce local space-time in such a way as to open a rift, one that if correctly harmonised to the quark resonation pattern provided to us by the Watchers, should get us where we want to go.”
Dan’s head had started to ache when Lorns mentioned garbel accelerators, so by the time he got to quark resonation he was completely lost. He was pleased to see that the Captain and Commander Gray looked equally confused.
“Will it work?” the captain growled after a moment.
Lorns looked away from his manipulation of the device long enough to give all three of them a long-suffering glance. “Of course it will work.”
Setting down his tray, Dan began to pour the kaf. Commander Gray took a long inhalation, letting out a soft moan. “Veriilu, that’s about the greatest thing I’ve ever smelled.”
Dan smiled at her, then turned his attention back to the device. He had never seen anything like it. A small glowing blue box at the centre seemed connected to the rest of the device by a series of cogs, each one carefully cut out of some kind of crystal. The more Dan looked at it, though, the more the device seemed to grow, more and more cogs appearing and then disappearing. It was like looking at a starry night sky – the more you looked, the more you saw, but every time you looked away the dimmer stars seemed to disappear.
“The slicer exists in nine dimensions,” Lorns said. Dan looked up and saw that the drifter was studying him. “That’s why it seems to phase in and out like that. Kind of like me, in fact.”
Dan nodded, embarrassed to have been caught out studying the device so closely. He poured another cup of kaf and handed it up to the captain.
“Would you like some?” he asked Lorns.
“Hmmm? Oh, yes, thank you. One moment, though, because…”
Turning one last cog until it clicked into place, the drifter studied the slicer and nodded.
“That should just about do it,” he said. He looked up at the captain with a big smile. “Whenever you’re ready, Captain Lee.”
The captain studied the device and the drifter for a moment, then glanced at Commander Gray. “Are we ready?”
“Should be. Dalilah?”
They all turned to look at her. Her usual blank expression became a little more animated as she reached out to anchor herself to the column. Dan knew that she was accessing the mental link she shared with the coralmind, one that had been created when she was a baby and had been sold to the Kalindan temples. After a moment, she smiled.
“Phoenix says she is ready, captain.”
“Good.” Waving his hand, he called a console into being and pressed his hand to one of the glowing screens. “Engineering? How are we doing down there?”
“We’re fine, though that device seems to be drawing a lot of energy.”
“That is perfectly normal,” Lorns replied. “It will probably draw a little more as it becomes active.”
“Is that going to be a problem, Bishop?”
“No, captain, I don’t think so.”
“Alright.” The captain took another breath and then nodded. “Alright. Let’s go.”
Lorns reached forward and pressed his palm against the lit cube. There was a flare of light that left an impression on Dan’s retina despite his closed eyes, and which faded very slowly. When he opened his eyes again, the device had activated. Cogs turned, slowly at first, and then beginning to whir faster and faster. A clicking sound filled the air, and sparks of pale purple and gold rose from the machine.
“It’s working,” the drifter whispered. “I knew it.”
The captain looked at him, frowning at his choice of words, but Lorns had already turned to Dan.
“I think I’ll have that cup of kaf now, kitchen man.”
Dan couldn’t hold back a grin, caught up by the man’s enthusiasm. Pouring the rich white liquid from the pot, he lifted the cup and handed it to the drifter… Just as a sharp tremor shook the ship.
His fingers slipped from around the handle and the cup tumbled to the floor. Kaf splattered the deck, a large splash striking the slicer device. Dan felt his eyes widen as smoke rose from the metal cogs.
“Oh no,” Lorns whispered.
Before anyone else could react, the device went haywire. More and more sparks began to fly from the places where the cog teeth met. Smoke rose in ever increasing billows as those same cogs began to spin faster, and then faster still. Dan could only squeeze his eyes shut as tremors ran through the deck beneath his feet.
“What did you do?” the captain barked. Dan looked up at him to see a furious glaze in his eyes.
He was still looking up when the bolt of pure silver lightning struck the captain’s chest. Eyes snapped wide, so wide that the whites formed a perfect circle around his pupils. Mouth gaped, spittle collecting on the captain’s lips. A horrible rattling moan escaped, as crackling energy began to run all over his body. Licking tongues of pure electricity burned at his clothes, setting fire to his arms. Dan could not look away as the light enfolded his captain and then with a flash, he was gone.
“By the Seven Hells,” Commander Gray whispered. Dan could only nod.
“We have to get out of here,” Lorns moaned.
They didn’t get a chance. More bolts of lightning burst from the device. One of them struck the column in an explosion of acrid smoke and hot shards. Dan felt them rip through his cheek, as hard as crystal. He screamed, turning away, his eyes burning from the smoke.
Chaos erupted on the bridge. Another bolt of lightning struck a panel on the nearby wall. One of the Wise Men was pierced by a larger piece of coral, blood pouring from the wound in his shoulder. Commander Gray was shouting orders, trying to bring everyone back to some semblance of order.
Dan started to stumble over towards the Wise Man who had been hit, thinking he might be able to help. He had only taken a couple of steps, though, when he felt a stabbing pain in his chest.
Looking down, he saw the crackle of electricity surrounding him. The pain increased all of a sudden, like having his skin peeled from his bones. He couldn’t take a breath, his lungs were burning. He couldn’t even scream. His body felt detached, as if he was floating away. Light surrounded him, obscuring the world outside. Before he had time to really understand what was happening to him, that light blinded him and he felt himself slip away into the dark.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
I'm convinced you dreamt this entire concept some night and then went ahead and made a story out of it.
I'm still waiting for one of the characters to awake and realize that this has all been a dream.
It's a testament of your incredible imagination the way you have fused the supernatural with the Star Trek universe. It's not a bad fit at all.
But have we just reached the abrupt end of this lost crew and their Captain who dared to make a deal with the devil?
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Thanks for the comment. Means a lot! And no, I don't have any plans to do a Dallas ending on this one! :lol: Glad that the fusion of the two types of worlds works for you.
No, not the end at all. I'll have a new chapter up tomorrow some time.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Dan shrieked as he jolted awake.
Something was wrapped around him, cutting off his breathing. In his panic, he began to fight, tearing at it as if it were a second skin. Ripping it off his body, he flung it away, a flash of red catching his eye. Breathing in and out so fast his lungs were aching with the effort, he looked around, wiping sweat out of his eyes.
He was in a room. How did I get here? The last thing he could remember was dropping the kaf on the drifter’s device and the sparks beginning to fly. Bolts of lightning had struck the walls and then… One of them had hit him. He looked down, dreading what he might find.
His skin was unblemished. He rubbed one palm over the place where the scar should have been. There was no sign anything had happened.
Looking down, Dan realised that he was dressed only in his white under shorts and that he was sat in a bed. Around him rose four posts, reaching up to a canopy. A small table sat by the bed with a lamp on it, whose light flickered on and off every few seconds.
How did I get here? Again, he rememorized the events on the bridge. Had the Phoenix brought him to some planet for treatment? Had they returned to Bastion Shadow?
“Hello?” he called out tentatively, waiting to see whether a nurse or a doctor might show.
Jumping off the bed, Dan walked over to the window. Pushing his nose up against the pane, he stared out and gasped.
He definitely wasn’t in Bastion Shadow. He was in a room at the top of a high tower, a massive fortress spread out beneath him, all thick grey walls and battlements.
Beyond the castle edges spread a rolling plain of fine purple sand, broken every so often by outcroppings of stone. A glorious red sun hung in a hazy pinkish sky, unbroken by the slightest hint of cloud.
Terror gripping his soul, Dan stumbled back away from the window. A moan tore from his lips. “Where am I?”
“Welcome to my domain.”
Dan swung round to face the woman who had spoken. He felt his cheeks burn when he saw her. Dressed in a form fitting red pant suit that highlighted her lush curves, she was probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, Wicka Bay included – as much as he hated to admit it. She seemed to exude a predatory sensuality even standing perfectly still. Long black hair fell down to her shoulders, like a wave over ivory shores. Her eyes, though, glowed white as ice.
“Hu-Who are you?” he managed to choke out.
Instead of answering, the woman prowled along the far wall, her eyes never leaving his as she trailed her hand over the wall. She had the grace of a born dancer, merged with the poised danger of a hunting cat. Dan backed away, until she had him cornered against the wall. Her hands came up on either side of him, blocking off any chance of escape. Leaning close, she whispered in his ear.
“My name is Graciella. I am the Crimson Queen.”
Dan moaned. The goddess whose realm they were trying to invade. The deity they had come to steal from. And he was in her grasp.
The Queen pulled back, staring into his eyes. Dan couldn’t break the gaze, no matter how much he wanted to. He tried to picture Wicka in his mind, hoping that thoughts of her might help him break free. But the Queen held him with those cold, ice green eyes. She smiled.
“What do you want?”
Her laugh took him by surprise. “I’m so glad you asked. So few men do, you know? Want to know what a woman wants. No. Your kind take and take and take, but never give anything in return. It has been so long,” she moaned, drawing out the words, “since I had a man, my sweet little thing. The last one… It did not end well.”
She held up a cloth bag from which exuded a calming blue glow. Dan could hear a soft thumping coming from inside.
“I was forced to take his heart, you see? It was the only thing he left me.”
Reaching out, she grasped his chin, lifting his head until his eyes were locked with hers again.
“You wouldn’t do that, would you my little butterfly?” Her whisper sent shivers down Dan’s spine. “You wouldn’t hurt me like he did?”
Her hand was stroking the back of his neck. She leaned in, her lips pressing ever so lightly against his neck. Like being kissed by a butterfly. Then, one of her fingers took on a harder, sharper edge. She continued kissing her way up to his ear.
“You’ll stay with me, won’t you? Forever? And ever? And ever?”
Searing pain lanced down his spine as the finger pierced his skin and tapped on his bones. For a second time in as many days, Dan felt his body spasm. Every muscle suddenly became rigid. His back arched, pain throbbing.
Just as quickly, though, the pain turned to pleasure. It washed over him like a wave, relaxing his body. He felt himself fall forwards into the Queen’s embrace. She turned him until he was lying in her lap, looking up at her through a veil of tears. She looked both beautiful and deadly, a coy smile playing on her lips. Almost as if there was a halo around her face, framing her black hair.
Suddenly, her voice echoed in his mind. Her lips didn’t move, but he could hear regardless.
“Oh, you are a pleasant surprise. There’s strength here, little butterfly. More than I thought. A fine gift indeed. We’re going to have so much fun.”
Dan knew she was right. A sense of well being infused his body, and then the darkness closed in and he slept.
The first thing Andrew noticed as he came to was the smell.
It was a musty smell, that of too many bodies pressed into too small a space, accompanied by the acrid stench of shit and piss warming beneath a harsh sun. He could feel the heat washing over him in waves, forcing sweat out on his skin.
Fighting against the nausea he felt and the urge to just roll over and let the darkness take him, Andrew tried to remember what had happened. The last thing he remembered was being on the bridge. That drifter had been working on his machinery, sparks had started to fly, and then that idiot kitchen rat had tripped on a wire, the kaf had gone flying and…
His eyes snapped open. To find himself staring into the muzzle of a very large, furry creature. He scrambled away, reaching for his weapons and kicking out at the creature who roared in surprise. Andrew only stopped when he found his back against what felt like bars. As his eyes darted around he realised that he was surrounded on all sides by bars.
A cage. I’m in a cage.
“Wh- Where am I?” he asked, his breath coming in short bursts. “What is this place?”
To his surprise, the furry creature seemed to have recovered from his own fright much more quickly than Andrew. He had dropped back on his haunches on the other side of the cage and was studying him with beady black eyes. Andrew wondered whether he even understood him when the creature spoke.
“The Crimson Queen’s domain.” The creature’s voice rumbled like two stones rubbing against one another. “Her dungeons, to be precise.”
“How did I get here?”
The creature shook his head. “I do not know. Perhaps you were trapped in one of her dimensional webs?”
Andrew shook his head, memories flooding back. “No. No, I was trying to get here. I… I was on a ship, trying to open a door, but something went wrong.”
“I would say so. Few of us come here by choice, for obvious reasons. Still, all of us end up here, in her dungeons.”
Andrew followed the creature’s expansive gestures and realised that his cage was trapped between others, one on each side. Within each of those cages one or two prisoners sat or slept. His eyes widened as he took in the variety of races represented – although one or two appeared to be bipedal sapients like himself, most of them were much stranger than the furry creature he shared a cell with. Some had more limbs, others had no limbs at all, while still others appeared to be on the same evolutionary chain as the Ilonan and their insectile brethren.
“What are they all doing here?”
“She keeps us here until she is ready for us.”
“Ready for you to do what?”
“To fight. To die. To be dinner.” The creature lifted his shoulders in an approximation of a shrug. “Whatever she wants. Most of us she throws into her arena.”
Before Andrew could ask more, he heard a skittering sound come from the bars above him. He glanced up in time to see an eight-limbed arachnid swinging above, held by a thread the colour of worked steel. Eight multi-faceted eyes peered down at the prisoners, while red tinged mucous dripped from sharp fangs.
“She is hungry,” his companion said simply.
The roof on one of the cages a few feet away suddenly snapped open. Screams filled the air as the occupants realised what was about to happen. Andrew could hear the sound of a struggle going on, and through the forest of bars and beings he could just about make out two bipedal creatures with horns and ridged backs fighting to get out of their cage. As he tried to get a better view, though, his eyes fell on a cage two or three feet away, and the small figure lying on her side.
Dalilah! His herder had been pulled here as well.
He tried to get a better view of her, to see whether she was alright, but his attention was dragged back to the other cage as a shrill scream filled the air. He looked up in time to see the spider from earlier rising back towards the ceiling of the chamber, one of the ridged creatures struggling in his grasp. As predator and prey neared the top, the spider seemed to tire of the fight. Two fangs descended in a flash of movement and the ridged alien went still.
Moments later, the roof opened and closed, leaving a silence pregnant with dread in its wake.
Andrew had already turned away. Pulling on the bars, he called out Dalilah’s name. The creature in the next cage over, a furry beast with four legs and a serrated jawline, hissed at him, but he ignored it.
“What is it?” he heard his cage companion ask.
“That woman over there? She’s a member of my crew. I need to know if she is alright.”
Suddenly, his companion was at his side. Before Andrew could ask him what he was doing, he called out a name. Andrew saw the creature sat in the cage next to Dalilah’s, some kind of amphibian biped, turn towards them
“Zrtgh, can you tell whether the sapient is alive?”
Zrtgh – which Andrew heard as Zire-tig – produced a long tongue which he used to prod at Dalilah. Andrew saw her stir, though she didn’t wake up. Still, it was a relief to see that she was alive. Turning away from her, Andrew allowed himself to fall back into a sitting position.
“Thank you,” he said, as his companion settled to his haunches beside him.
Shaking his head, Andrew extended a hand. “Andrew Lee,” he said.
Instead of taking his hand, his companion nodded. “Oath,” he replied. “Of the Chaol. And I know who you are, captain.”
“What?” Suddenly all of Andrew’s suspicions came flooding back. “How did you know I was a captain?”
“I know a lot more than that. I have dreamed you.”
Oath nodded. “Amongst my people, the Dream is All and each of us share in it. It guides us, tells us what we should do and where we should be. The Dream guided me to one of the Queen’s webs. And two days ago, it told me you would come.”
Andrew relaxed a little. Another damned believer. The words might be different, but the meaning was the same. Giving up control to some higher being, some higher purpose. Andrew had had enough of people like that. Then why did you get involved with another god? he asked himself bitterly.
“Sounds like your Dream just serves to get you into trouble.”
“Not at all. The Dream showed me who you were, but it also showed me who you will be.”
“And who will I be?”
For the first time, Oath looked at him.
“The man who saves the universe.”
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
So it appears the reports of Captain Lee's demise have been greatly exaggerated and instead they find themselves in the web of the evil Spider Queen. Not to be confused, I take it, with Captain Proton's pulp version.
Your imagery is vivid and the story remains compelling as I wonder how exactly Dan, Lee and the other band of mortal interlopers will pull off the impossible and steal the King's Heart from a god-like creature.
And save the universe while they're at it. Hey, no pressure, right?
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Thank you for your kind words, I hope the story will hold together as we see just exactly how Dan, Lee and the others escape.
And yeah, no pressure at all! :guffaw:
Thanks again for the comment, more coming soon!
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
As Esala Gray regained consciousness, the first thing she noticed was the smell of burnt coffee.
Opening her eyes, she found herself staring at a small copper pot, down on its side with the handle up in the air. Beyond it she could just make out the twisted form of a nearby bulkhead, smoke rising from a hole in its side.
“Report,” she demanded, struggling to her hands and knees, coughing. Smoke filled the bridge, acrid and eye-watering.
No answer. Hacking up a glob of dark spittle, she spat on the floor, shaking her head to clear it of the ringing in her ears. Her eyes streamed as she surveyed the bridge.
Everyone seemed to have been knocked unconscious by the explosion. She could see legs jutting out from behind flickering holo-consoles. The Wise Men. The remains of the drifter’s machine lay off to one side, great clouds of smog rising from its shattered innards.
Son of a bitch, she thought, forcing herself up to her feet. She stood there for a moment, her limbs shaking slightly with the effort. Clear memories of what had happened were starting to filter in, the last of which was seeing Andrew struck by one of those lightning bolts.
“Captain?” she shouted hoarsely, scanning the bridge for any sign of him. “Andrew?”
She stumbled through the smoke to the last place she had seen him. Nothing. He seemed to have vanished completely.
A groan caught her attention. She stumbled over to the source of the sound and found the drifter just coming to. A flash of anger raced through her. This was all his fault. Reaching down, she grabbed him by the front of his shirt, heaving him to his feet.
He stared up at her bleary eyed. “What… What happened?”
“I’ll tell you what happened, you son of a bitch. Your machine went haywire. And now I can’t find my captain.” Her voice dropped to a menacing growl. “And if he doesn’t come back straight away, it’s coming out of your face.”
“No,” the drifter moaned, struggling weakly against her grasp. “It… I don’t know what happened. This shouldn’t have happened. I don’t—“
“Where is he?” Esala shrieked, dragging his face inches from her own. “What. Have. You. Done. With. Him?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I-“
She reared her hand back, ready to slap some sense out of him, when a voice interrupted her.
She turned to see F’ryr leaning up against the wall, one arm cradled in the other. The Vulcan’s forehead was slightly creased, the only visible sign of the pain he must be in. The ship’s science office and CMO – all of them were forced to serve in more than one capacity – looked much calmer than Esala felt and not for the first time, she wondered whether she should have followed her brother’s advice and availed herself of their brethren’s mental training.
Dropping the drifter, Esala went to her old friend, putting her arm around him and helping him down to a sitting position.
“Are you alright?” she asked, carefully running her hand up and down his arm.
“I fell. What happened?”
“So’s Dalilah.” Kave’s comforting growl sounded from beside them.
He appeared out of the smoke, phaser held in one hand. He glared over at the drifter. “I saw her vanish just as that thing started spewing electricity. Hit by one of the lightning bolts.”
“So was Andrew.”
“And Danterian,” F’ryr managed. “I saw him hit as well.”
“Gods Above,” Esala swore. “Are they… Did that thing kill them?”
F’ryr shook his head. “I don’t think so. From what I understand of the device, I would surmise that it transferred them somewhere. Maybe even to the very place we were hoping to reach.”
“Wonderful news,” Kave growled. Esala could only agree with him. “So instead of being dead, the captain is stuck in the domain of some crazed witch goddess who ripped the beating heart out of a fellow god? And his allies are a child and a cook?”
“Unfortunately, he may be in the better situation,” F’ryr replied.
“Think about it,” Esala interrupted. “We’re without our herder. Pretty soon, the bioficial intelligence is going to realise. And without Dalilah to talk to it, to calm it down…”
“That about sums it up.”
“It would seem our situation is about to become very difficult.”
They stood – and in F’ryr’s case sat – there for a long moment, all three of them lost in thought. Finally, Kave spoke.
“So. What now?”
Esala took a deep breath. “Now, we find a way to get the captain back.”
Turning away from the two men, she looked down at the drifter. He had remained on the deck, lying down and listening to them talk. He looked up at her, eyes full of fear. She smiled.
“Come on, drifter. We’re going to have a nice long chat. And you’re going to tell me how the hell I get my captain back.”
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Well, that's an unexpected comeback, CaptainSarine. I didn't even remember this story but it sounds intriguing. I'll get to reading it in the next couple of days, I hope.
Re: ST Phoenix - Vol 1 - The Dream King's Heart
Count Zero - Thanks, hope you catch up and let me know what you think! :)
Allowing the doors to slide shut behind her, Esala slammed a fist into the nearest bulkhead, cursing Lorns gi Badel and his damned machine.
Two days, she thought. Two days of questioning, of keeping him off balance, without food and with minimal water, and she had nothing to show for it. The damnable drifter didn’t seem to know or care how Andrew, Dalilah and Danterian Ko had vanished off the ship, nor where they had gone. She couldn’t work out whether he really had no way of knowing, or whether he just thought that if he held out long enough he would slide right out of phase and out of their lives.
Not if I have anything to do with it.
During those two days, the Phoenix had been slowly falling apart. Without their herder to keep the bioficial intelligence focused, they had lost all ability to communicate with the central core and they were having trouble keeping the ship functioning. Esala knew that in a couple of days, the intelligence would begin to fail. And then Phoenix would die.
The sound of voices caught her attention. She looked up in time to see Kave and F’ryr walking down the corridor towards her, deep in conversation. She studied them as they walked towards her. Such a lesson in opposites. F’ryr: tall and thin, his dark hair hanging down like curtains on either side of his face, his ears ending in slim pulcan points. Kave: short and squat, powerful muscles rippling, his face and ridged forehead a patchwork of scars acquired in service to his captain, most added since they were exiled to this forsaken part of space. Despite all their differences, they were friends, no matter how much they argued.
They seemed to be in the middle of an argument now. As they drew nearer, she could hear their words clearly.
“… is just insane. If you’re wrong, you could finish what that drifter started.”
“We do not know for certain that Lorns gi Badel did anything,” F’ryr retorted. “The kaf that Danterian dropped seems much more likely to be responsible for the captain’s disappearance.”
“That doesn’t mean you will have any more luck using the damned thing than he did. You tell him, Tessi.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Tell him what.”
“F’ryr thinks he can get the slicer device working.”
“I may be able to, with the help of Ishulak, Bertuun and Parana,” he replied, naming the three Wise Men. “It should be simple mechanics to repair it, and I certainly understand the theory behind it. With our three navigators to help me make sense of the quantum resonance fields that the device uses to open a door, I believe I can take Phoenix through to the Crimson Queen’s dominion and recover the captain, Danterian and Dalilah.”
“Before the ship starts to fall apart around us?”
F’ryr hesitated. “I believe so.”
Esala closed her eyes, rubbing at her temples. “That’s a lot of ifs and maybes F’ryr. By all means, try your best. But I think breaking Lorns is still our best bet.”
“Come on,” she said, indicating that they should follow her. “I need some kaf. I’ll explain on the way.”
All three of them headed down the corridor towards the turbolift.
“He’s still holding out. I’ve tried everything, including more… physical means of questioning, but either he can’t help us or he is stronger than he looks. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t playing the time game.”
“Waiting until his own flux state throws him into another dimension?”
“Exactly. If we weren’t so pressed for time, I would take us back to Bastion Shadow and try to negotiate the use of their suppression equipment to make sure he is stuck here. But…” She shrugged. “I don’t think we can afford to do that.”
They reached the turbolift and the doors slid open. Esala went in first, waiting for F’ryr and Kave to join her before instructing it to take them to Deck 4 and the nearest junction to the messhall.
When they arrived, they found the place almost empty. A couple of Mecha-borg technicians and three of Kave’s security officers sat around the tables, talking in low voices. All of them looked up when the three officers walked in, and their conversation dropped off for a moment while Esala, Kave and F’ryr took their seats.
Moments later, Wicka Bay came barrelling out of the kitchen, a tray in one hand piled with three plates of some kind of steaming vegetables. Not that they would have been recognisable as such by the smell emanating from them. Esala felt her heart sink. When Wicka had offered to replace Danterian in the kitchens, she had looked on it as being one less thing to worry about. She realised now that in fact it might turn into an even bigger problem, if Wicka ended up poisoning the whole crew.
From the looks on the faces of the three security officers, they seemed to be thinking along the same lines. She could swear that one of them actually turned a shade of green when Wicka put down the plates.
“What will you have?” Wicka asked, coming over to them.
“Uhm, I don’t think I’m hungry,” Kave replied, eyeing the stains on Wicka’s hands.
“I believe I feel the same,” F’ryr added.
“We’ll take three coffees, please, Wicka.”
“Coming right up.”
Glaring at the two men, the mechaborg Bishop turned and headed back into the kitchen.
“If she’s in here, who’s in the engine room?” Kave asked.
“Wicka has it covered. She’s doing this in her free time, not when she should be working on the engines.”
“Mighty friendly of her.”
Esala nodded, watching Wicka moving through the kitchen with the same determination she showed when trying to beat one of their recalcitrant engines into shape. “She feels guilty.”
“Guilty? About what?”
“Now why should she… Oh.”
Esala turned her eyes on Kave. “Don’t get any ideas about saying anything to her, you got it?”
He held up his hands. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Esala smirked, turning back to watch Wicka. She really does care for him, she thought. Who would have thought? Old Gerta’s boy and Wicka Bay.
“So, you were telling us about the drifter.”
“Yes. I don’t think he’s going to break. I’m not giving up, but the more time I spend with him, the more convinced I become that he actually has no idea what happened and why the captain, Pots and Dalilah vanished. And I think he’s too scared to try using the machine again.”
“Which leaves us with..?”
“With me trying to get something out of him while F’ryr concentrates on cracking the slicer.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.”
“Do you doubt my abilities?” F’ryr asked mildly.
“Only your sanity. Still, if anyone is going to get that thing figured out, it’ll be you.”
“I applaud your faith in my abilities.”
Wicka came bustling out of the kitchen, three cups and a pot of kaf balancing precariously on a tray. All three of them stopped talking as she set everything down and served them. Once she had finished and returned to the kitchen, Esala lifted the cup, cradling it in her palms.
“We need to hurry things along, though, F’ryr. We can’t afford to wait. I want you working on this as your priority, the three Wise Men too.”
Kave took a sip of the kaf, his face scrunching up as he smacked his lips. “And not just for Phoenix. If we don’t get that boy back soon, I’m not sure how long we can survive on Wicka’s cooking.”
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