Welcome to Shadows in the Haze
, the fifth Star Eagle Adventures
feature novel which picks up four months after the conclusion of the previous novel All The Sinners, Saints
This story is mostly self-contained and you should be able to comfortably follow it even if you have little or no previous experience with the series. Naturally, the more familiar you are with the characters, the more enjoyable the read.
Please don't hesitate to let me know what you think. I'm venturing into new territory here myself and not everything may work the way I'd like.
Hope you enjoy.
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Day One: Farewell, My Lovely
- I -
It was a storm of unnatural intensity and it raged over the Mediterranean Sea with the force of a vengeful deity, torrents of rain and angry, unrelenting lightning ripping through the dark skies as if Poseidon himself had decreed the end of man for once and for all.
The roars of thunder were so deafening, they struck fear into even the bravest and most courageous of sailor’s hearts. Waves the size of church towers and winds, driving at the speed of falcons, ravished the waters.
Caught in this fateful storm was a small ship, fighting against all odds to survive this hellish weather. The wooden planks creaked and bent, the large main mast weaved and the white sails had long torn away, only leaving a few shredded pieces.
The captain of the ship, a man of middle age who had spent the better parts of his life at sea, held on tight to the robes. His eyes were wide open with fear. Never before had he encountered a storm this villainous, this determined to bring an end to his life and his ship.
“Boatswain!” he shouted from the top of his lungs.
A younger man fought his way across the deck just as another colossal wave hit the ship’s exposed port side and flooded the quarterdeck. The man was almost washed into the sea before he was able to desperately hold on to the railing.
“Here, master. What cheer?” he cried.
“Good,” said the captain. “Speak to the mariners. Fall to’t, yarely, or we run ourselves aground. Bestir! Bestir!”
The boatswain knew what to do. He nodded and headed back to where his frightened men where waiting for orders. He began barking and shouting, doing his best to keep up their morale and imploring them to save the ship.
The sailors went to work but only hesitantly. For many of them had no more courage left in them. They had seen the abyss and it was coming for them.
A number of men, dressed in fine clothes and utterly out of place on a ship in distress made their way from below to deck. With less concern for their own safety they noticed the boatswain busily at work, fastening the ropes.
“Good boatswain,” one of them shouted across the deck and approached the sailor. He was an elderly nobleman with little knowledge of the seas and the dangers inherent to them. His demeanor and his stance were that of one who thought himself above the elements. Like a king. “Where’s the master? Play the men.”
“Do you not hear him?” the sailor shot back, unable to keep the annoyance out of his tone. “You mar our labor. Keep your cabins. You do assist the storm.”
“Nay, good, be patient,” said another nobleman who joined in the defense of his king. He hung on to a robe with one hand while trying desperately to keep his hat from blowing away with his other.
The boatswain gave up on hiding his anger behind a mask of decorum. If he had to die in this storm he was determined that it wouldn’t be because of the arrogance of his passengers. “When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers of the name of the king? To cabin: Silence! Trouble us not.”
The old man could scarcely believe the sailor’s defiance. “Remember whom thou hast aboard!”
“None that I more love than myself!” the boatswain spat back. “If you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more. If you cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, and make yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of the hour. Cheerly, good hearts! Out of our way, I say,” he shouted to make himself heard over the thunderous noise and then pushed past the stunned passengers.
Michael Owens watched with captivated fascination as the storm finally overwhelmed the small vessel, losing its futile struggle against the elements it was crushed by the waves and ripped to shreds. Only a small number of survivors were washed onto the shores of a nearby island.
Soon afterwards the man who had been responsible for the disastrous weather was revealed. He was an old man, wronged and betrayed by his closest confidant a long time ago and then exiled to a seemingly abandon island in the middle of nowhere. But instead of withering away as his betrayer would have hoped, he only grew more powerful and now commanded the forces of magic. With only his beautiful young daughter for company, he had vowed to use his dark arts to have his revenge on his enemies.
Owens and the rest of the audience were dazzled by the actors who brought these vivid characters to life on the stage of a faithful recreation of the 17th century Globe Theatre in London. The stage had been enhanced with holographic technology to transform it into the actual setting of the play.
They sat and watched, sometimes laughing, sometimes applauding but for many parts in silent fascination as the plot thickened. They watched the prince, played by a ruggedly handsome young man, fall for the equally beautiful Miranda only for their passion to be foiled by her protective father.
Owens’ eyes opened wider and a large smile came over his lips when he recognized a familiar face. The stunningly attractive young woman was portraying a spirit, and quite fittingly so. Her long white and green dress, shimmered in the bright light, her golden hair was flowing freely down her shoulders. She sang in a voice fit for an angel.
“Come unto these yellow sands, and then take hands;
Curtsied when you have and kissed the wild waves whist,
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burden bear.”
She quite easily seduced the young prince to follow her even though he could only hear her marvelous voice. She was like a siren and her effect was felt on the stage and beyond.
The play drew to an end. Prospero, the old mage had finally given his blessing to his daughter and the prince. He had given up his plans of vengeance and instead had decided to forgive the king for the wrongs he had done to him. As a reward his exile was to come to an end and he would be ready once more to join civilization and be restored to his rightful place. He freed the spirit he’d enslaved and asked for forgiveness for himself.
“Now my charms are all overthrown, and what strength I have's mine own, which is most faint. Now, 'tis true, I must be here confined by you. Let me not dwell in this bare island by your spell; But release me from my bands with the help of your good hands. As you from crimes would pardon'd be, let your indulgence set me free.”
The audience raged with applause, more than willing to give the old man the freedom he so desired.
Owens stood and others soon followed suit until every last audience member was on his or her feet, applauding and shouting bravo
. The play had been a phenomenal success and the applause lasted even long after Prospero had gratefully left the stage. He returned with the other players and together they bowed to the applause many more times. They were forced to return to the stage again and again until the audience finally grew tired and the applause died down.
A few minutes later the audience and the actors mingled amongst each other in the Nest, Eagle
’s spacious crew lounge. Even though the galaxy was gripped by a devastating war, for now the mood was festive. For now the Dominion and their Jem’Hadar solider were light-years away. In fact Eagle
’s new mission had given its crew a welcome break from fighting the enemy and Michael Owens had found the idea of having a play a great way of boosting morale. There had also been a second and slightly less conspicuous occasion as well.
The captain stood amongst his officers, patiently waiting for a chance to speak with the actors. Most of which were being questioned and congratulated by the rest of his crew. He did not wish to pull rank and butt in, after all this play had been for them.
Instead he turned to his science officer. “Mister Xylion, you haven’t said much. How did you enjoy the play?”
“The performance was adequate, sir.”
Tazla Star, Eagle
’s Trill first officer aimed a sidelong look at the Vulcan. “That’s all you’ve got to say? Adequate?”
Owens was not surprised. “He is not an admirer of the writer.”
“Still,” she said. “It was a magnificent play.”
“I do not disagree with you, Commander,” the Vulcan said. “The aesthetics were pleasing indeed.”
Star sighed and gave up. Her face lightened up when she spotted DeMara Deen approach the group. She had changed out of her costume and into civilian attire but the young Tenarian remained as stunning as ever.
“Here comes the big star,” the first officer said and raised her glass towards her.
Deen wasn’t a woman who blushed easily and she didn’t now. “Hardly,” she said. “My part was rather small.”
“It is not the size of the part, my dear Dee,” said Owens. “It’s what you make of it. Here is to a splendid performance.” He joined Star in raising his own glass.
“Thank you, all,” she said. “But it was not just me in this play. They all did a fantastic job.”
Ashley Jane Wenera joined the group. The raven-haired doctor had nothing but praise herself. “Indeed. But when you started singing, I swear I heard a few hearts flutter.”
“How fortunate then that you were in attendance, Doctor,” said Deen with a little smirk.
“What I want to know is,” the doctor continued, “who was that handsome prince?”
“Lieutenant Jin Gedar,” said chief engineer Louise Hopkins, who had quietly joined her colleagues. “He’s Krellonian, like Lif,” she said, referring to the ship’s chief helmsman. “He’s also one of my best engineers. A real gifted young man.”
Michael and the others threw the usually shy Hopkins surprised looks. It wasn’t like her to sound so assertive when outside of engineering. Hopkins blushed noticeably.
“Well I say this much for the man,” said the doctor. “If his engineering career doesn’t work out, he’s got a splendid future as an actor ahead of him.”
Everyone seemed quick to agree with the sentiment. All but Hopkins who unbeknownst to her colleagues had turned surprisingly dour for reasons not immediately apparent.
“Here he is now,” said Tazla Star as Gedar had finally managed to tear himself away from his many adoring fans.
“Sir, I apologize I was held up, I should have come to see you first,” the dark-skinned Krellonian said as he reached the captain. Just like Lif Culsten, Gedar possessed silvery long hair which he wore in a style to distract from his earless head.
“Nonsense,” the captain said quickly. “I just wanted a chance to shake your hand. I believe the crew is in agreement that you are a most gifted young man.”
“You are too kind, sir,” the man responded even if he couldn’t quite hide that proud smile beginning to form on his lips. The man took the captain’s hand and shook it.
“You understand of course that with a gift like yours also comes a great responsibility,” Michael continued. “I expect many more performance of this caliber in the future.”
The engineer was grinning openly now. “I’d be happy to oblige, sir.”
Gedar went on down the row of senior officers to shake their hands. Nobody noticed that the exchange between him and the chief engineer was awkwardly short.
They met the rest of the performers including a middle aged Chief Petty Officer who was nearly unrecognizable as the old Prospero without the heavy makeup.
“Very well done, Crewman,” said Michael as he shook the hand of Sierra Decaux, a lithe but pretty, blonde-haired young woman who had played the part of Miranda.
The girl seemed distracted. “Thank you, sir, thank you very much,” she said and then turned her head as if she was trying to find somebody else in the crowd. She seemed to have found who she was looking for when her eyes came to rest on Jin Gedar. “If you would … if you would excuse me for a moment, sir?” she said and then turned to leave, forgoing congratulations from the rest of the senior staff.
Star shot the captain an incredulous look. “Should I feel snubbed?”
Michael just smirked. “Let’s give her a break, Commander. I’m sure some of them are just glad it’s over. I remember the torture I had to go through when my mother dragged me to rehearsals for school plays.”
“Now there is a story I’d love to hear,” said Deen.
“Not on your life,” he shot back.
With the obligatory handshakes and congratulations over with, Michael watched as actors and spectators began to mingle and relax again. It had been quite some time since his crew had been given a chance to do so. The ongoing war effort had not allowed for much R&R and Michael couldn’t help but grow concerned about the accumulative strain of fighting a war with a physically and mentally exhausted crew. And things were not faring well for Starfleet even now that the Romulans had joined the war effort.
Michael glanced across the room to find Lieutenant Commander So’Dan Leva, his half-Romulan tactical officer engaging in conversation with security chief Nora Laas. He remembered that it had been partially thanks to his efforts that the Romulans had joined the fray against the Dominion, even if Leva liked to point out that the real reasons had little to do with his diplomatic mission to Romulus a few months ago but much more with a surprisingly well-timed assassination of a Romulan senator by the Dominion.
The tide had started turning slightly into their favor after the Romulans had come aboard but it had soon become apparent that it hadn’t turned nearly enough and not nearly quickly enough. At this rate, Michael suspected that this war, already over a year old, could drag on another five or ten years. It was a cold and terrifying thought and he barely suppressed a shudder.
He turned, thankful for the distraction, to find Ashley Wenera having stepped up to him. Regardless of the dark times they lived in, the woman had possessed a radiant glow these last few weeks which almost rivaled DeMara’s.
“Doctor,” he said and offered a smile.
She responded in kind. “I just wanted to thank you, Captain. I can’t … I don’t really have the words. Thank you for everything.”
He put a hand on her shoulder. “Doctor, no thanks are necessary. Now I want you to go and spend some time with the crew. That’s an order.”
She nodded gratefully before she did just as he had suggested.
Deen stepped closer after Wenera had left and aimed a suspicious look at the captain. She had clearly overheard some of the conversation but had been unable to make sense of it.
Michael Owens was not willing to explain himself just yet, leaving her to her own thoughts.
* * *