Image of The Invisible

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Laura Cynthia Chambers, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Captain's Log, Stardate X: After acquiring supplies and personnel from Station B-90, the Enterprise has been assigned to investigate an unexplained burst of energy originating in the Halus system. As it has been unoccupied and quarantined for the past thirteen years, the cause remains unknown. There is only so much that can be determined from a distance; however, we've been advised to use extreme caution.

    Kirk squeezed the armrest of his chair before standing. "How far out are we, Mr. Sulu?"

    "About 20 minutes, Captain. We should be getting initial readings in any moment." Sulu glanced down at his console, pressing a couple of buttons. "There'll be no shortage of parking spots. Nothing left to orbit anymore since their star went nova and cleared the place out."

    Spock looked into the screen, his body bent over his station. "No sign of the unusual readings, sir. I am detecting nothing outside of normal parameters for this star system." He glanced over his shoulder.

    Kirk frowned. "Strange. We know that there was definitely something here. Speculations, Mr. Spock?"

    Spock tilted his head slightly to the side in thought. "Perhaps a spike was caused by emissions from a passing ship's propulsion."

    "Somebody with a healthy disrespect of Federation mandates, you mean." His expression changed from pensive to worried. "Mr. Sulu, are you detecting any signs of debris?"

    "No sir. Nothing new. And any leftovers from the explosion would've long since drifted away." Sulu swiveled to face Kirk. "You could hardly tell there'd ever been worlds here." His face drooped solemnly.

    "It's always tragic to lose a system, Lieutenant." Kirk bowed his head.

    "Especially when the wealth of its knowledge was yet untapped. Halus VI had a civilization similar in development to that of 17th century Earth." Spock lifted his head to find McCoy's eyes trained on him. "I sense you are about to interject, Doctor."

    McCoy glanced down at his clipboard. "I didn't say anything."

    "Maybe not vocally, but your eyes spoke volumes." Spock raised an eyebrow.

    McCoy paused. "That's pretty cold, isn't it? Measuring the worth of people by what they know instead of who they are?" He crossed his arms. "There was a time when even you couldn't add two plus two."

    "Yet the potential to expand my mental abilities as I matured was already there." He paused to give McCoy sufficient time to roll his eyes and throw his head back as if to say 'here we go again'. "Furthermore, Vulcans had already attained a higher level of thought collectively by that point."

    Kirk stepped in between the two men, putting a hand on each one's shoulder. "Now, now. You two can butt heads later. We have more important things to do."

    Spock nodded. "I agree, Captain. We can discuss this another time." He looked up as a black haired man in a blue uniform stepped onto the bridge, carrying a handful of memory tapes.

    McCoy huffed. "You just want to stop because you know I'm right, and for once you can't argue otherwise." He smiled smugly.

    The man approached from behind Lieutenant Uhura's station and waved the tapes in front of her face. She turned to look at him and smiled, accepting the tapes from his hand. He leaned in and nodded at her, before straightening up and heading up the steps.

    Spock glanced his way and caught McCoy's eye."If you are still in a philosophical mood, Doctor, perhaps you could continue this discussion with Lieutenant Moss."

    Kirk cocked his head to one side. "That's a good idea. I think you'd like Zachary, Bones."

    McCoy pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. "Well, we'll have plenty of time to get acquainted over a routine physical. I haven't seen any of those transfers since we picked them up. He's a sociologist, right?"

    "Yes. His thesis on the Eskabi Gamma riots was very well received." Spock clasped his hands behind his back. "He had a most extraordinary theory as to their root cause, and his predictions about the fallout prove true to this day."

    "Beyond that?" McCoy muttered drily.

    "I regret that I cannot tell you how he likes his eggs, Doctor, nor his preferred sleeping position. If you are curious beyond that, I suggest you save your questions for him." With that, Spock returned to his station. McCoy just shook his head and said nothing.

    Kirk smiled and closed his eyes. Somehow, though completely in monotone, Spock's form of humor always gave him a chuckle.

    McCoy sighed. "Insufferable…Jim, I am this close to locking myself in sickbay and putting up a 'no logic allowed' sign." He pinched his fingers together within an inch of each other to show just how just how close.

    Kirk shrugged. "Don't blame him. You walked right into it, Bones." He walked up the steps towards the exit, stopping and turning midway up. "Inform me when we've arrived."

    Chekov started at his console readings. "Keptin, I am picking up something very faint on the monitors. It wasn't there a moment ago."

    Kirk lingered, frowning. "Well, now we're getting somewhere. Where is it coming from?"

    Chekov paused a moment, trying to be sure of what he was seeing. "It appears…to be emanating from a point in space just in front of us."

    Kirk walked back toward his chair. "Is it having any effect on us?"

    Sulu looked around his console to check the readouts. "No change in ship's functions, but as for the crew, I can't be sure."

    Kirk turned to look at Bones, who shrugged. "It's just a ball of energy, but completely unknown to us. I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't wait around here unprotected while there's the possibility."

    "Noted." Kirk sat down. "Mr. Sulu, raise shields."

    Sulu pressed a few buttons. "Shields raised, sir."

    "Lt. Uhura, are we picking up any other activity in the area? Perhaps on long range sub-space channels? It could be a reflection, possibly a trap." He leaned forward, chin resting on one hand.

    Uhura held the earpiece to her head and listened. "No, nothing that sounds unusual. Normal chatter between ships passing in neighboring systems, but other than that, we're alone."

    "Fluctuating at a rate of 710 pulses per second. High concentrations of hydrogen, helium and anthospadrium." Spock looked up, brow furrowed. "Highly reactive, sir. Likely a byproduct of the supernova that decimated the system." He checked the screen again. "I would concur with Dr. McCoy. A closer examination, while warranted, would be best done in a heavily shielded shuttlecraft. "

    "Right. Sulu, pull us back." Kirk pressed a button on his chairside comm. "Mr. Scott?"

    "Scott here sir."

    "Prepare a shuttlecraft. Heavy shielding."

    "I'll have it ready in half an hour, sir."

    "Don't sweat it, Scotty. The anomaly's going anywhere. Kirk out." Kirk ended the call. "Spock, put together a science team."

    "Already on my way, sir." Spock disappeared into the turbolift.

    "Sir?" Kirk looked up from his hands at Chekov. "Getting wisuals now."

    "Onscreen." Chekov leaned forward and pressed a button, and the screen filled with golden swirling light, loosely collected into a lopsided sphere. Clouds of gas surrounded the pulsing, glowing orb."Eet is quite…mesmerizing, is it not, Keptin?"

    Kirk's face shone golden from the reflected glow of the image. "Yes…yes it is."

    The orb pulsed and twisted in place, twinkling as the crew watched it.
     
  2. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Zachary Moss entered the mess hall, muttering under his breath to himself, a green memory tape cradled in his hand. His head down, he collided with a yeoman in a red uniform, causing her to drop her clipboard. "Sorry," he blurted, looking up into the face of the petite Asian woman as he bent to retrieve the device and handed it to her. "Wasn't looking where I was going."

    "That's all right." She tucked it under her arm and extended a small delicate hand. "Shao-Jin Ming. Are you new?"

    Zachary took it and shook it gently. "Lt. Zach Moss, and, uh, yes. Recently of Calunis Proxima. I got my transfer orders 3 weeks ago."

    "Welcome to the Enterprise, Lt. Moss." She brushed a stray lock of dark hair off her forehead. "If you need somebody to show you around, I could-" She frowned as Moss looked past her, over her shoulder. "Is something wrong?"

    He started and blushed a deep red. "Oh, no…no nothing. I just kinda get lost in my head sometimes." Moss scratched the side of his head.

    Shao-Jin smiled. "That happens to me too, sometimes. I guess we all need a place where we can escape to." She pointed over her shoulder at an empty table. "I just finished lunch, but I've got a few minutes left before I have to get back to work. Care to have coffee together?"

    Zach gazed at her for a few seconds, then down at the tape in his hand. "Uh, that sounds nice – really – but I think I'd be a poor companion." He rocked sideways, looking behind her to the food dispenser. "I'm not going to be here very long myself. Just going to grab a sandwich so I don't pass out."

    She followed his gaze. "Rain check then?"

    "Sure. Maybe sometime, Yeoman." He moved past her and approached the food dispenser. Shao-Jin watched him for a few seconds, disappointment covering her pretty face. Sighing, she turned and headed for the door. Lt. Uhura was seated at a small table nearby, stirring a steaming bowlful of thick creamy soup, stopping occasionally to blow on it.

    Ming slipped into the chair across from her, laying her clipboard down with a thunk as Uhura took a spoonful of soup and lifted it to her mouth. She paused when she saw Ming's sad eyes. Putting down the spoon, she touched the yeoman's elbow. Ming looked up at her. "What a long face. Man trouble?"

    Ming reached for a napkin, twisting it in her hands, nodding. "You could say that. Apparently, I rank just below a memory tape." She sighed deeply, shrugging. "What can I say? I'm a sucker for hazel eyes."

    Uhura leaned forward. "Don't be too hard on him. I heard he's kind of a dreamer. Real absent-minded professor type. It's hard to penetrate the fog they live in."

    Ming smiled. "So it's not me then?"

    Uhura looked over her shoulder. "See for yourself. He hasn't taken a bite of that salad since he picked it up." It was true ; Moss sat at his table, staring off at a point on the wall, his lunch tray idle as his hands fiddled with the memory tape.

    "What do you suppose he's thinking about?" Ming wondered aloud.

    "Probably research. He came to me this morning and asked me to translate some Resmoran sonnets for him. Something about a special project." Uhura took a sip of water from her glass. "When I'm done, you want to give them to him?"

    Ming tapped her lip. "Are you thinking-"

    "Hey, one tape is your out; maybe another'll be your in." Uhura raised her glass and nodded.

    Ming grinned, glancing once more at Moss. He'd finally woken up from his daze and seemed focused on the door. Pushing up from his chair, he abandoned his lunch and headed out of the room. Ming looked over in the direction he was going and saw Mr. Spock standing in the hallway, discussing something with a silver haired security officer. The man nodded and left Spock's side. He turned and headed down the hallway in the opposite direction, Moss in pursuit.

    Ming closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. "Maybe not."
     
  3. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Spock was almost to the turbolift when Lt. Moss caught up to him. He held the door for the panting crewman, who dashed inside and leaned against the wall to catch his breath. "Glad…glad I caught you. I've been meaning to talk to you ever since we left B-90." He drew in a deep breath.

    Spock regarded him with interest. "Shuttlebay. I'm sorry, Lieutenant. I shall be leaving shortly on a scientific excursion. Perhaps we can discuss this later. What did you wish to speak of?"

    Moss glanced at the tape before continuing. "I, uh, actually wanted your opinion on something." He raised the tape to eye level. "I've been working on a little side project lately. I thought you might be interested in possibly proofreading it for me."

    The doors opened and they exited the lift together. "I realize that you're busy and this isn't the best time, but I really wanted your opinion. In a way, I guess I've really been writing it for years." He tugged on the collar of his blue uniform shirt, dogging Spock's steps. "Please, sir. I've heard your reputation for being able to look at things in an unbiased and dispassionate manner." They turned a corner and continued down the corridor. "As a scientist, I respect your work. I really think if you'd just read-" Spock came to a stop just outside the shuttlebay door, causing Moss to bump into his back.

    He turned and faced the lieutenant. "Lt. Moss, there is no need to butter me up. It will have no effect whatsoever on my desire to read your work."

    Moss fisted his hands at his sides before raising one finger in the air. "Exactly. I can trust you to be fair and objective. That's why I came to you, sir."

    Spock looked over his shoulder at the shuttlebay door before returning his gaze to Moss. "Are you coming, Lieutenant?"

    Moss looked confused. "Coming?"

    "Since you went to the trouble of following me all the way here, I surmise you currently have no other more pressing duties. While I realize that sociologists do not study stellar anomalies, you may accompany us if you desire."

    Moss thought for a moment.

    "Should the readings be nothing extraordinary, we may find ourselves in need of a diversion," Spock continued, motioning towards the tape.

    A grin split Moss's face. "Thank you, sir." They headed into the shuttlebay together, where a group of officers clustered near the door of the craft. They moved back as Scotty exited carrying a small toolbox. He wiped his forehead, looking up at Spock. "She's all ready, sir. I double-checked the shielding." He rapped on the side of the craft. "Ye couldna pierce the hull with a cannonball."

    "Nevertheless, I shall make every attempt to avoid all projectiles of that nature, Mr. Scott." Spock watched as the officers boarded the shuttle before heading inside himself.

    Scotty frowned. "Are ye having me on, Mr. Spock?" He exchanged an amused glance with Moss. "Vulcan humor. Dinna try to understand it, lad. It'll give ye a headache the size of Jupiter."

    Moss laughed aloud. "I'll remember that, sir." He ducked under the doorway of the shuttle, shaking his head.

    The door of the shuttlecraft shut behind him as he stepped inside. The pilot was starting up the systems, his ash blond head bent over the controls. A plump Indian yeoman was chatting with the redheaded technician beside her, who looked up from his monitor every so often to answer her monosyllabically. Spock stood in the middle of the shuttle, overseeing everything with a face devoid of expression.

    Moss found an empty seat and lowered himself down onto it. He turned on the monitor in front of him and a heat energy display appeared. He looked up at Spock. "Just making myself useful, sir. Don't want to be dead weight."

    Spock nodded. "Mr. Tracy, are we ready to proceed?"

    "Whenever you're ready, sir. All systems online."

    "Excellent."

    Tracy flicked on the comm. "Shuttlecraft to shuttlebay. We are ready for launch. Open the doors."

    As the massive shuttlebay doors slid open, the shuttle lifted off from the floor, hovering for a minute before shooting out the door.
     
  4. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Sulu peered down at the screen."Shuttlecraft launched, sir. We should be receiving data from them any minute now." Chekov spared a glance at his screen before returning his attention to his own. A blue light blinked. "Here it comes."

    Kirk turned to the left. "Lieutenant, do we have comms?"

    Uhura listened for a few seconds before shaking her head. "It's going to be difficult, sir. I'm hearing the same static on all frequencies." She passed her earpiece to Kirk, who held it near his head and listened for a few seconds while she checked a monitor. "Occurring at the same rate of the energy anomaly's pulses."

    "Capt…Spock here….ans…"

    Kirk hurried over to his chair and sat, turning on the comm. "Go ahead, Spock."

    "Anom…fering with…tions…"

    "Yes, we know. Are any other systems affected?"

    "…aga….re…"

    "I repeat, is anything else being affected by the anomaly?" Kirk crossed his arms and waited. "Spock?"

    "…read…levels of anth…than we th…." The communications cut dead.

    "They're too close now, Keptin." Chekov frowned. "Ve probably von't hear from them unteel they return." He pressed a switch and studied the screen. "But I think he vas referring to the anthospadrium reactivity. The last reading they transmeeted vas seegnificantly higher than ours. See for yourself." He moved out of the way so Kirk could look at the readouts.

    Kirk stroked his chin. "Hmm."

    "Can I look?" He shifted to his left as Scotty sidled next to him. Scotty's face pinched in worry. "I compensated for higher levels than we had, but not this. Are you sure that's right?"

    "Both readeengs are correct, Mr. Scott. I double-checked them."Chekov's face was pale.

    "If it's increasing at that rate, Captain…" Scotty's voice trailed off.

    Kirk placed his hand on Scotty's shoulder. "I know. Lieutenant –try again to raise them. Tell them to come back. Keep repeating until they confirm."

    Uhura checked her monitors. "Still not receiving or transmitting anything."

    "Try anyway." He rubbed his face with one hand. "Can we tell anything about their status?"

    "I have visuals, sir," Sulu replied.

    "Let's see it."

    Sulu turned on the viewscreen and the anomaly appeared. A small black dot was visible against the golden orb. "It's measuring significantly larger than it was before, but denser too. The shuttle's really in close, almost inside."

    "No response sir." Uhura sighed.

    Chekov's hands frantically skittered over the buttons. "Ve're getting another reading…time-delayed, sir. And from vhat I can tell…" He let out a whoosh of air and collapsed backwards in his seat. "Pulsation was then at 2900 pulses per second and eencreasing."

    "Can we engage the tractor beam?" Kirk asked, turning to Scotty.

    Scotty thought for a moment. "I'll say one thing; we'd better be able to." He scurried to a nearby station and began pressing buttons.

    Kirk turned to his chair and switched his comm channel. "Sickbay, come in."

    "McCoy here."

    "Prepare for the return of the shuttle crew. We may be looking at radiation poisoning, burns…" Kirk swallowed hard. "Just be ready when we bring them back."

    A few seconds of silence. Then…"On standby, Jim. McCoy out."

    Kirk stood by his chair, staring out at the anomaly, its golden glint now taunting him. The small black dot was barely visible.
     
  5. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    The shuttle rattled violently. "Pulses now at 3400 per second, sir. Still continuing to increase!" the blue shirted technician shouted ahead to Spock, who was seated next to Tracy at the controls.

    Spock furrowed his brow. "Mr. Tracy, pull us out of here."

    "Primary controls are useless!" Tracy attacked the steering controls, trying to get them to work."Secondary is offline too. I can't get anything to work."

    Moss gripped the sides of his chair, trying not to fall out. "Temperature readings-ugh! -rising as well!" He turned to the yeoman, whose face looked green. "In and out…through your nose. Breathing," he clarified as she looked at him with confusion. She nodded slowly and began to take his advice, inhaling shakily.

    "I might be able to regain control by bypassing the intake-" Tracy stood up from his chair and stumbled towards the back of the shuttle while Spock took his place.

    The technician gasped. "Pulses 5700 and rising! Hurry!"

    A bright blue splotch appeared in the center of the anomaly's heat map, spreading rapidly throughout. Moss's head snapped up."It's collapsing-"

    VOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

    The shuttle rocked backwards, flipping nose over rockets, rotating violently. Spock was thrown against the back of his chair before sliding out upside down. The technician and the yeoman rolled out of their seats, frantically grasping onto a metal bar hanging from the wall. Her grip loosened and she yelped, dropping to the doors below. A sickening crack and she lay there, silent. Moss wrapped his arms around his chair, squeezing his eyes shut.

    It seemed to take forever, but the shuttle finally stopped flipping, bobbing back and forth slowly instead, the nose tipped upwards. Moss slipped down the floor on his stomach, coming to a stop near the prone pilot, who lay next to a burning open panel on the wall. Something sticky covered his hand and he lifted it. Blood. He scrambled around to Tracy's side and saw a large gash under his ribs. Sucking in a breath, he slipped his hands under the man's armpits, pulling him towards the cockpit. "Here," he gasped as Spock took the man from him. "I'm going back for Chatterjee."

    Crawling along the floor, he coughed as electrical smoke filled his lungs. The technician answered with a cough of his own, wrapping his arms more securely around the bar. Chatterjee lay face down on the door panel, her brown face now ashen. Her left leg was twisted in an unnatural position, and a knot was beginning to form on the side of her head.

    Moss finally reached her side. He pressed two fingers to her neck. "She's still alive. Help me." The technician let go of the bar and dropped next to Moss and Chatterjee. "I don't think her neck's broken. Just be careful." They each grabbed an arm and began to pull her slowly along the floor. A soft moan came from her lips as they progressed towards the cockpit."It's okay. You're doing great."

    They were nearly there when Moss got his foot tangled in a loose cable. "Uhh!"He slammed down on his knees and let go of the injured yeoman. The technician looked down at him, but he waved him off. "Don't worry about me…just take care of her." The man nodded and continued to ascend slowly.

    Moss reached down for his foot and worked at the cable with both hands, trying to release it. "Come on."He pulled hard at a knot in the cord, stripping some of the rubber insulation off. Pausing to catch his breath, he leaned one hand against the wall, but quickly pulled it away as the heat from a burning panel singed his palm. "Aahh!"Shaking his hand back and forth, he blew on it, wincing as he saw the burnt flesh. Gritting his teeth, he reached down for the cable once more, touching the exposed portion .

    CRACK! ZAP! An explosion of light sent him flying against the opposite wall. The last thing he remembered was the sharp burst of pain that filled his entire body.
     
  6. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    The tractor beam pulled the badly damaged shuttlecraft towards the Enterprise as bright golden waves of energy dissipated.

    Scotty leaned forward over the console, wiping sweat off his brow. "We've got 'em, sir," he croaked wearily. "But just barely."

    Kirk dropped into his chair limply. He closed his eyes.

    The comm crackled to life. "…do you read us? Come in, Enterprise…"

    Kirk's eyes popped open. "Kirk to shuttlecraft. We read you, loud and clear. What's your status?"

    "Spock here. All crew members are alive but injured, one critically. Requesting immediate medical assistance in shuttlebay."

    "Understood. They'll be waiting. Just hang tight."

    "Energy waves are conteenuing to disperse, Keptin." Chekov paused, his hand poised over his console.

    "Good. Don't take us out of here until it's calm again." Kirk crossed his arms over his chest. "Mr. Scott, place a containment field around the shuttle when it returns. We know little about anthospadrium; I don't want to take any chances."

    "Aye, sir." Scotty eased up from his chair and headed for the turbolift. The doors shut behind him.

    Kirk switched channels. "Same goes for sickbay, Bones. Full decontamination."

    "So advised. "

    Kirk turned off the comms and exited the bridge.

    ___________________________________
    Kirk met Spock at the entrance of sickbay. His first officer had exchanged his blue uniform for a sleeveless patient top. He sported a bright green bruise all the way down the right side of his face; one arm was pinned against his chest in a sling and brace. He studied the injuries, concerned.

    "Do not be alarmed for me, sir. The pain is minimal." He beckoned Kirk into the room. The technician rested on his back, eyes closed, his left arm bound. "Mr. Horst sustained a dislocated shoulder, a mild concussion and bruised ribs. Tracy is recovering well from the gash in his side." The pilot sipped from a small cup that a tall nurse offered him.

    Kirk's gaze flicked to the yeoman, who pressed her lips together in pain, breathing softly. "Chatterjee has been stabilized. She is on pain medication awaiting surgical intervention for a badly shattered femur." He coughed for a few seconds before continuing. "I apologize. Smoke inhalation. Thankfully, we managed to avoid most of the radiation." His eyes darkened.

    Kirk looked to the right, past Spock's somber form. "Where's Doctor McCoy?"

    Spock fiddled with something small in his good hand. A green memory tape. "He and Nurse Chapel are currently attending to Mr. Moss. The lieutenant suffered several burns as well as…e-electrocution." His voice quavered slightly. "I shall be recommending him for a commendation. He saved Tracy and Chatterjee at great personal risk to himself."

    Kirk looked at Spock with sympathy. "Is that his?" he asked, indicating the tape.

    Spock looked down at his hand, then back at Kirk. "Yes. He asked me to review it." His shoulders slumped with fatigue.

    "You get some rest. I don't think he'll mind."

    Spock shifted his body to the side. "He is in no condition to express his approval or lack of it, sir." But he obediently headed for an empty biobed and settled himself down beneath the covers.
    _________________________
    Zachary Moss lay unconscious, his chest rising and falling evenly. A silver burn protection glove covered his injured hand. His face was covered in soot, and slightly flushed.

    Chapel studied the monitor above Lt. Moss's bed. "Heart rhythm is stabilized, Doctor. 02 sat approaching normal." She placed an empty hypospray on a metal tray nearby.

    "Mmm."McCoy studied a neurological scan on a nearby computer screen. He looked over his shoulder, tsking. "It's been almost two hours. According to you and these tests, he should be wide awake by now, or at least groggy." He tapped another button, and a series of EEG readings played across the screen. "He's doing something in there. Darned if I know what."

    Chapel picked up a clipboard and handed it to McCoy, who made some notes on it. "A few cc's of mnemnesine perhaps?"

    McCoy paused. "Possibly. Let's give it some time. We've still got Chatterjee and the others to take care of. I know Priya's in more pain than she lets on. Which reminds me," he continued. "Try to convince that green-blooded masochist to take some pain meds already. Maybe you can get through to him." He set the clipboard down and headed for the surgical room.

    Chapel took one last look at Moss's readings before slipping out of his suite.
    _____________________
    Captain's Log, Stardate (X): Our initial investigation of the unstable anthospadriumanomaly has left several crewmen injured, one seriously so. Lt. Moss remains unconscious. His prognosis? Uncertain.

    The shockwaves left behind in the anomaly's wake have finally subsided. We are currently awaiting orders from Starfleet Command before proceeding any further.

    "Computer, locate all information in our database on antho-" Chirp-chirp. The door chimed, interrupting Kirk's query. "Enter." He turned off the computer and took a drink of coffee from the red mug on his desk.

    A haggard McCoy walked in. Kirk indicated the chair across from his, and he slumped down into it. "Here," Kirk said, pushing his coffee cup across the surface. "You look like you need this more than I do." Expecting Leonard to launch into some diatribe about germs, he was surprised when McCoy took the mug and drained it in one gulp.

    He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "You got another? Hot, this time." Kirk went to the food dispenser and filled the mug again before bringing it back. McCoy accepted it eagerly. He pressed a hand to the small of his back, wincing."Long, long day."

    Kirk didn't ask, "How are they?" because he knew McCoy would never leave sickbay unless everyone was stable and resting. So he waited, allowing McCoy to continue on his own.

    After another large gulp, McCoy set the mug down. "Moss still hasn't regained consciousness. We gave him some mnemnisine. Nothing." He spread his hands apart."Just more of the same. Loads of brain activity going nowhere. No floating cups or strange glowing eyes, anyway." He shook his head, chuckling humorlessly. "I bet he's having a lulu of a dream right now."

    "I'm sure you did everything you could. Most of medicine is waiting, allowing the body to heal itself, right?" He folded his hands on the desktop.

    McCoy smiled slightly. "Imagine you, lecturing me on good medicine…I haven't given up hope yet, Jim. In particular, I'm hoping our new orders take us past Alpha Florius VII. I'd like to get Fronty's opinion on this case."

    Kirk quirked his eyebrows."'Fronty'?"

    "Charles Frontenac. He was a year ahead of me in school. Neurologist. I ate at his mother's house a couple of times." McCoy licked his lips. "She made something called 'die happy tourtiere'. An old family recipe." He sighed contentedly, eyes closed. Then yawned.

    "Don't you think you oughta get some rest, Leonard?" Kirk asked.

    The doctor massaged the back of his neck. "Ask me in another few hours. After I've had something a little stronger." A soft pop! sound. McCoy groaned. "Make that a few seconds. Got any of that Agapean breesin left?"

    Kirk turned in his chair to open a storage cupboard behind him when his comm chirped."Just a second." He turned back around, setting the bottle on his desktop and pressed the button. "Go ahead."

    "Captain." Sulu's voice came over the speaker. "You're needed…on the bridge." His voice sounded distracted. Almost breathless.

    "What's the matter?" Kirk chuckled. "Our new orders can't be that amazing, Mr. Sulu."

    Sulu swallowed."No, sir. We…we haven't received them yet. But something's just come up on our scanners…out of nowhere." He paused. "You'd better see this for yourself, sir."

    Kirk shared a look with McCoy. "I'll be there. Kirk out." He switched off the comm and reached for the cup just as McCoy did. Coffee sloshed over the side. They pulled their hands back and blew on them.

    McCoy sucked on his index finger. "Go ahead." He reached for the bottle of breesa. "I'll just have some of this." He unscrewed the lid and took a swig without putting his lips to the bottle. "In an hour, I'll wish I hadn't. In two hours, I'll take it back." He set the bottle down and followed Kirk out of his office.
     
  7. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    The first thing Kirk noticed as he stepped on the bridge was the distracted gaze of the yeoman who held out a clipboard to him. He waved a hand in front of her face. "Yeoman? That's for me, right?"

    She blinked a couple of times.-"Oh, yes, of course, Captain," - and shoved the device into his hands before returning her attention to the view screen. Kirk skimmed the document, signed it with a flourish and handed it back to her, scanning the bridge for McCoy. He stood near Spock's station, his hand resting on the console, silent, eyes squinted in disbelief.

    "Bones." Kirk shook his shoulder gently. McCoy glanced at him still confused, and raised a finger towards the screen. Kirk looked up.

    A massive green planet filled the screen. Swirling white clouds were spread across the surface like a gauzy veil. Kirk could pick out two large continents and several clusters of small islands dotting the green water. He leaned over the console and turned his head to the right. "Mr. Sulu, I thought my orders were very clear; remain in the Halus system until we receive new orders from Starfleet."

    "We are still in the Halus system, sir. Haven't moved an inch." Sulu turned in his chair.

    Kirk lifted one hand. "But…that's impossible. The Halus system is completely devoid of planetary bodies. You said so yourself."

    Sulu nodded. "I guess I was wrong."

    Kirk rubbed his face with his hand. "Could it have been here all this time?"

    McCoy frowned. "Without some sort of shielding? I doubt it. None of the people who inhabited this system would be capable of such a thing." He crossed his arms over his chest."Though the radiation might explain why our scanners didn't pick it up."

    "The only way to know for sure is to send a landing party." Both heads turned to see Spock bent over his console, his arm still bound. "Oxygen levels similar to Earth's, a mild temperate climate comparable to that of British Columbia, Canada." He paused. "Oddly enough, negative for high levels of radiation."

    McCoy frowned. "Spock, I thought I told you to take it easy."

    Spock looked up, eyebrow raised. "Yes, Doctor, I can confirm that is precisely what you said."

    McCoy blinked, sighing.

    Spock glanced at his console screen again."Analysis seems to suggest this planet has existed for 15 million years. It appears to be drawing its solar heat and light from a single star to our right." The viewscreen panned right to reveal a large glowing yellow star in the background."Also, two lunar bodies in orbit around the planet. Both cold and barren." A large round blue moon and a smaller, misshapen black one floated nearby.

    "Do we have any record of such a planet or star in this system?" Kirk asked.

    Spock straightened, turning away from his console. "We are currently on the outer reaches of Halus, sir. As no starship has ever ventured this far into the system, I believe it is safe to say there may not be such a record. I shall, of course, search long-range scan reports dating back prior to the nova."

    "Thank you, Spock. Put together a science team-" Spock began to move past the captain, but Kirk stopped him in his tracks, grabbing his first officer by the arms. "-which you will not be leading." Spock's head tipped to one side. "Please, Spock. For your health and Leonard's blood pressure."

    Spock looked over his shoulder at McCoy, who glanced away, rubbing his eyes. He returned his gaze to Kirk. "Yes, sir." He continued towards the exit at a more sedate pace, passing a security officer who nodded at him.

    McCoy shook his head. "You've got to tell me how you do that."

    Kirk smiled, leaning forward on the console. "It's an old family secret."
    ________________________________
    A long, sweeping branch dotted with tiny red berries parted with the touch of a hand. A single cluster dropped to the ground as Kirk stepped into a place where the dirt trail he'd been following widened slightly. The bush to his right rustled, and he turned. A bird similar to the one he'd seen earlier exited, crossing his path, its head bobbing back and forth. He waited for it to enter the opposite bush and continued slowly.

    He jerked his head up, jumping to the side as something sailed by him with a loud whistle, missing his face by mere inches. Kirk caught his breath and looked for the object. A crude arrow fletched with blue feathers had embedded itself in the trunk of nearby tree. He pulled it out with a tug, dropping it as the trees rustled.

    Before he could reach for his phaser, he felt a sharp point digging into his lower back. "Halt, stranger."The voice was gruff, but unusually high pitched.

    Kirk chanced a look over his shoulder. A slight figure stood behind him, bow and arrow took a step forward and the arrowhead jabbed him again. "I said halt."

    "Yeban?" The figure jumped and turned his head in the direction of the trees, the bow and arrow clasped in his tanned hand. Kirk used his distraction to take another look. His "attacker" was in reality a small boy. Short coarse white hair tipped with silvery blue covered his head. He wore a pale green tunic with short sleeves and a brown belt. A leather sack slung over his left shoulder held about half a dozen arrows similar to the one he had almost shot Kirk with.

    "Yeban, where are you?" Kirk heard a note of concern in the other person's voice.

    "Essa! Come. I found something,"Yeban's boyish voice answered, all pretense gone. He turned back to Kirk, frowning. "Don't go anywhere."

    "I won't," Kirk promised, hands in the air. "Don't shoot me."

    The boy pursed his lips, as though he were still considering he could raise the bow again, a taller figure appeared out of the long hair matched the boy's in color, but she wore it twisted into a long braid that forked halfway down her back, tied at the end by two leather M-shaped eyebrows sat above deep green eyes, a small strong nose and a generous mouth. She was dressed similarly to the boy, except her tunic was fringed. A bright yellow crystal hung around her neck on a woven cord. Her bow, larger and more ornate, hung over her shoulder; she carried a sack of arrows by her side.

    She looked down at the boy, watching Kirk out of the corner of her eye. "Yeban, are you well?"

    "Yes, Essa. I found a stranger in the forest." He pointed to Kirk, who swallowed. "Almost got him, too."The boy smiled, proud of himself.

    Essa met Kirk's eyes, tilting her head to one side. Kirk nodded slowly. She glanced back at the boy disapprovingly. "Yeban, we don't use people for target practice," she scolded. "Apologize."

    Yeban's grin disappeared. "Sorry," he muttered, dropping his bow on the forest floor. He shuffled his feet in the dirt.

    Kirk bit back a smile. "It's alright, son." He lowered his hands. "That was a pretty good shot." He bent down and picked up the arrow. "Did you make this yourself?"

    A tentative smile crossed Yeban's face, revealing two missing teeth. " showed me how. She's going to make me a real hunter's bow for my next three time."

    Essa put her hand on the boy's shoulder, squeezing it affectionately."Until then, you must practice, little brother." She smiled up at Kirk. "He is only seven and a half circuits yet."

    "'Three time'?" Kirk asked.

    "Every three circuits is an important marker in the life of a Rave'el child." Essasmiled. "You are not from here."

    Kirk shook his head. "Captain James T. Kirk, of the Federation starship Enterprise. I come from another planet, Earth, in peace."

    Essa frowned. "Earth…ship?"

    "Yes."

    She thought for a moment, confusion playing across her strong features. "It…sounds familiar. I think. But I do not know where I heard it."

    "Do you know Chazar?" Yeban piped up. Kirk and Essa both turned to see the boy standing next to them, his bow in his hand.

    "Who's Chazar?" Kirk asked Essa.

    "He brings the storms and makes the julti fly." Yeban continued. "He saved me when I fell out of a tree, too. And he had a big arrow on his chest, just like yours." He pointed to the Starfleet insignia on Kirk's sweater.

    Kirk looked down, then back up at Essa, before squatting eye-level with Yeban. "What does thisChazar look like?"

    Yeban bit his lip. "I don't know; I never saw his face. He wears this big white hooded cape; it covers everything." He spread his arms out wide. "He doesn't come out all the time, just when there's trouble."

    Essatook Kirk by the hand. "Come back to our village and dine with us, Captain. I promise we won't bite. Or shoot," she grinned, exchanging a glance with Yeban, who returned the smile. "Are you alone here?"

    "No, which reminds me…" Kirk reached for his comm. "Chekov, come in."

    "Spock here, Captain." The first officer stood underneath the tent, his bruise not as visible. His arm was now free of its sling. He stretched and flexed the sore limb slowly.

    Kirk held his comm closer to his ear. "Spock? What happened to Mr. Chekov?"

    "I contacted him a few minutes ago and he did not respond. When I beamed to the surface, I found him to be in a…most uncomfortable position."

    "Is he alright now?"

    "You may ask him yourself." Spock nodded to a blushing Chekov.

    "Da, Keptin, I just got a leetle tangled in the sheeteeng." Chekov glanced at Spock briefly. "All timsreporting zafe and zound."

    "That's good. Call them in and rendezvous with me at the coordinates I'll be sending you. Spock?"

    Chekov walked away, switching the channel on his comm. "Alpha and beta tim, come een…"

    Spock returned his attention to the comm. "Yes, Captain?"

    "Rather insubordinate of you to come down here yourself, wasn't it?"

    Spock nodded. "Perhaps. Dr. McCoy told me as much, sir. Yet your orders were not to lead the science party. You said nothing about coming to the aid of a crewmember in distress."

    Kirk pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes closed. "That I didn't. Anyone ever suggest you pursue the study of law, Mr. Spock? You seem to have an uncanny knack for finding loopholes."

    "One only rivaled by yours, sir. Spock out."

    Kirk squeezed the comm in his hand. He turned to Essa and Yeban, who watched him with a mixture of confusion and amusement. "Coming," he called, closing the comm and replacing it.

    He fell into step alongside the woman, who he now saw came about up to his chin. Up ahead, Yebanscanned the trees around them, bow drawn in protection of his older sister. "Do you have any other family, Essa?"

    Her expression darkened. "Our parents died 6 circuits ago, when I had seen four three times. Yeban is all I have left. I raised him with the help of my friend Awel's mother. She was like a mother to me, too."She stopped, plucking a white flower from the branch above their heads. "Before the muddy rains came. We never found her."

    Kirk touched her shoulder. "I'm sorry. What were they like, your parents?"

    Essa frowned. "I don't remember. Only that I had them. Once. Forever ago. Chazar didn't come then." She plucked the petals off the flower one by one, scattering them on the ground. "But he must have sent the fire that burned them up. He makes all happen." She walked up the incline and rested her arms on a large branch, peering into the woods. "Why this?"

    Kirk still appeared puzzled. "You were twelve and you have no memory of them at all?"

    She sighed deeply. "No. I wish I did. For Yeban, so I could tell him stories. But then I think it might hurt him. I am the only mother he has."Essa pushed off from the branch and faced Kirk, her eyes filled with sadness and affection. "I love him more than anything."

    "Essa!"Yeban appeared in front of them, holding a dead bird by the feet in one hand and a bloody arrow in the other. "I got one! A big fat julti, right in the side." He ran up to them and proudly handed his sister the plump carcass.

    She raised it to eye level, nodding with approval before showing it to Kirk, all traces of sorrow gone. He whistled. "Well done, Yeban.A fine catch for any hunter."

    Yeban grinned back at Kirk. The arrowhead fell off his arrow with a soft plop. "I guess I should've stuck it on better," he muttered, squatting down to retrieve it. He wiped the metal object off on a leaf before popping up again. "Here," he said, extending his open hand to Kirk. "You can have this one."

    "Don't you need it?"

    Yeban shook his head. "I can make more." He dropped it into Kirk's hand and darted through the trees, brandishing the empty shaft like a staff. Kirk smiled, then put the arrowhead into his pocket and followed Essa through the forest.
     
  8. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Sulu stood in the doorway of the dimly lit chapel, scanning the room. It was empty, except for a shadowy figure sitting in the front row, head bowed. He entered and headed towards the altar, his footsteps silent.

    He sat down next to the person and set down the pot he'd been carrying. "I thought I'd find you here."

    Yeoman Ming stared up at him, eyes red-rimmed from crying. "I-I've been pr-praying ever since I heard." She wiped away a tear with one hand. "How are they?"

    Sulu touched her arm. "Healing nicely, or at least stable." He reached for the pot and set it in front of her. "Levoloniradia calunae, just like you requested."

    Ming lifted the pot up to her face, closing her eyes and breathing in the soothing, spicy scent that the pink and orange blossoms gave off. She smiled sadly. "Thank you, Hikaru."

    He crossed one leg over the other. "Mind telling me what you want it for?"

    Ming looked away and blushed. "Lieutenant Moss." Hikaru raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. "His last posting was Calunis Proxima. I-I thought maybe if he smelled the Calunis starburst blossoms, he might wake up."

    Sulu nodded. "It's a good idea. Want me to walk you to sickbay?"

    Ming shook her head. "It's all right. You go back to whatever you were doing." She headed for the doorway.

    He caught up with her. "Actually, my shift is over. Mr. Scott's got the chair right now. Besides," he continued, smiling, "Li-Xian would never forgive me if I left you like this."

    Shao-Jin smiled back. "Afraid of my sister, are you?"

    Sulu blushed this time. "A little bit. She's the only woman I ever lost a match to."

    "Twice." Ming corrected.

    "That time didn't count. There was a red alert." They headed down the hall together, bantering good-naturedly, though the worried expression never quite left Ming's face.
    ________________________________
    Essa, Yeban and Kirk came to the bank of a creek running across their path. Several large rocks stood above the surface, worn smooth by the running water. Yeban laid down his julti, held his arms out to the sides and stepped onto the first stone, balancing perfectly.

    "Be careful,"Essa called out to him. He turned his head and stuck his tongue out at her. Kirk chuckled as she returned the gesture. She looked as he imagined she might have as a young girl. Which, in many ways, she still was.

    Yeban continued slowly until he made it to the last stone. Hopping down, he removed his quiver and bow, sat at the edge of the water and dangled his feet in it. "Your turn, Captain!"

    Kirk glanced at Essa, who was kneeling by the clear water, cupping her hands for a drink. With a mischievous grin, he bent over and removed his boots, then his socks, stuffing the latter into the former and leaving them on the ground. Slowly, he followed Yeban'slead, gripping the cold stones with his toes. He almost lost his balance on the second last stepping stone, but managed to recover after rotating his arms a little, much to Yeban's disappointment.

    The boy's lower lip jutted out. "You made it." He crossed his legs and drew small circles in the dirt with the broken arrow.

    Kirk laughed. "Would you have been happier if I'd fallen in?" He tousled Yeban's hair.

    The child looked up at Kirk, surprised. He poked him in the ribs with his stick. "Maybe."

    Kirk flinched before lunging forward, tickling the little boy. With a shriek, Yeban pulled away, giggling, the broken arrow falling from his hands, forgotten. Kirk stole a glance at Essa. She was sitting on her haunches, covering her mouth and trying not to laugh. But something beyond amusement filled her eyes, too. Something…sad.

    Gathering her bow from the ground, she strode over to Kirk's boots. As she bent down to pick them up, her quiver spilled arrows all over the ground. Laying the boots next to her, she squatted low, the tails of her braid meeting the dust.

    Yeban scrambled up into the branches of a small tree, peering down at Kirk from his perch, his dirty legs swinging back and forth. Kirk stood up, fully intending to climb up after him. But before he could make the ascent, Yeban's face turned from fun to fear. The boy swallowed, opening his mouth, but no sound came out. Like lightning, he slid down out of the tree and dashed for his abandoned weapons.

    Kirk followed his gaze across the river to where Essa stooped, retrieving the last of her arrows, which had landed in a patch of grass. Just behind her, a large beast loomed, baring its sharp teeth. The creature resembled a grizzly bear, only it was at least twice as big; sharp, reptilian spines ran down its back in a row; equally sharp claws protruded from each toe.

    "Essa!" Kirk yelled. She raised her head as Yeban drew his bow and shot an arrow at the creature. It bounced off its tough hide. "Look out!"Yeban's eyes widened and he buried his face in Kirk's leg. Kirk protectively put his arm around the shuddering boy. A flash of white flickered in the trees, but just as quickly disappeared. Ignoring it, he watched as Essa leapt up from the ground, her eyes trained on the monster. She gasped and staggered backwards.

    It raised a large front paw and swung at her, roaring loudly. Losing her balance, she fell into the creek with a loud splash! As she crawled backwards away from it, the stegobear lowered its head and lunged at her. Essa screamed.

    Quickly shoving Yeban behind him, Kirk whipped out his phaser and fired a sustained burst of energy at the creature. It roared again before collapsing in a heap.

    Without hesitation, Kirk left Yeban and dashed across the creek, forgoing the stepping stones. He dropped to Essa's side. She stared blankly at the hulking beast, breathing heavily, trying to grasp what had just happened.

    Kirk took her in his arms gently. "Are you all right?"

    She nodded, raising one hand to her head. Fear widened her pupils. "What did you do to it? Is it dead?"

    Kirk shook his head. "Unconscious." She was shaking all over. As she lowered her hand slowly, a streak of red marred her forehead. "You're bleeding." He took her hands in his and examined them. Cuts and scratches covered her palms; small bits of gravel were embedded in some of them.

    She dipped her hands in the cool water, wincing as they stung. "Always…been afraid of aba'aluse."

    "I can see why." He offered his hand to her, tucking it under her arm and hoisting her out of the water. She clung to him there, suddenly looking very small and vulnerable, not the proud huntress he had met earlier. Her wet lashes fluttered against her cheeks. Slowly, he lowered his head towards her.

    Their lips met, and Kirk forgot all about the anomaly, the Enterprise, his crew, Yeban…everything. He was lost in the sweetness and strength of her kiss. She responded to his affection as one who was wise beyond her years.

    A loud rustling sound came from Yeban's direction, and the boy jumped. A young man dressed similarly to Yeban ran past him towards the creek. His short mop of hair was fringed with green, and he carried a sack strapped to his back."Essa," he gasped, putting his hands on his knees. "I heard screaming. Are you-"He raised his eyes, frowning when he saw them embracing each other.

    Essa's eyes widened, and she pushed away from Kirk. "Awel," she whispered.

    In two seconds, he was by her side, Yeban not far behind. Awel drew her close gazing tenderly at her."Did this man do something to you or Yeban?" he asked, shooting another glare at Kirk.

    Yeban retrieved his bird from the ground. "That's the captain, Awel. He saved Essa from the aba'aluse. Shot him with fire from a stick and made him go to sleep." He tugged on Awel's shirt. "Don't be mad at him. I thought he was bad, too, but he's not. We're all going have dinner together, us and his friends."

    Awel glanced down at the boy, briefly at the unconscious creature, then back up at Essa and Kirk."Is this true?" he asked, raising her chin. Essa nodded, wiping away a tear with one finger. Awel embraced her again, then let her go and approached Kirk. He bowed his head."I honor you. Essa is irreplaceable."

    "Yes, I know. She is very special." Kirk put his hand on Yeban's shoulder. "They both are."

    Awel turned, looking somewhere through the trees. "Our village isn't far from here. I will take you the rest of the way." He motioned to Essa, who moved next to him. She looked over her shoulder at Kirk as they passed between two conifers together. Yeban ran after them, his bird hoisted in the air like a trophy.

    Kirk sat down on a nearby fallen log and pulled on his socks. Something sweet, yet fragrant like cinnamon teased at his nostrils. He looked over at the bush to his left, tiny orange and pink flowers budded there. He closed his eyes, inhaling their fragrance. When he opened them again, he did a double take; the flowers were gone.

    Kirk frowned, scratching his head. Shrugging, he put on his boots, stood and followed the path the three Rave'el had taken.
     
  9. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Spock listened as his captain filled him in on everything that had happened that night. They sat around a large communal fire in the center of the mud hut village, surrounded by Rave'el villagers and science team members. Several small children were running around the common, throwing around a small round sac filled with tiny shells. A few of the landing party members had joined in the game, while others watched the flames flicker, at ease. Chekov was busy gnawing on a poultry bone, trying to get the last bits of flesh off it. A quiet girl in a short dress who looked to be no older than four Earth years was watching his progress with wide eyes, as if she had never seen a man eat before. He looked up, and she twisted her hands behind her back. Smiling, he picked up a small pebble from the ground and pretended to pull it out of her ear. Her mouth formed an o and she took the stone from him, running away on unsteady legs. Chekov threw his head back and laughed.

    The woman named Essa drank from a cup as she sat between two others, discussing something which they seemed to find mutually amusing. Awel's gaze flickered between her and Kirk, a pensive look on his face. Spock frowned. Kirk was watching Essa too, smiling as her eyes met his for the briefest of moments.

    "Captain." Kirk blinked and turned back to his first officer. "Is there something you are not telling me?"

    Kirk waved his hand dismissively. "No, I'm pretty sure that covers it," he said, popping a round blue fruit in his mouth. He picked up a cluster and offered it to Spock. "Berry?"

    Spock took the fruit but did not eat it. "You are enamored with her. But you are not the only one."

    Kirk choked on the berry, coughing. He lifted a cup with shaky hands and drank from it, dragging his sleeve across his mouth. "Boy, for somebody with no emotions, you sure don't miss other people's."

    Spock folded his arms over his chest. "Indeed. I must caution you, Captain. We know little of these people; one wrong move and the consequences could be devastating."

    "I don't know; they seem friendly enough to me." Spock raised an eyebrow and looked over Kirk's shoulder at Awel. Kirk followed his gaze. "All right, so maybe he's a little jealous. What's he going to do? These people live in the forest, hunt with bows and arrows. Unless you think one of them can shoot the Enterprise from here," he laughed, mimicking releasing a bow string.

    Spock said nothing.

    "Well, anyway," Kirk continued, "at least now we won't have to sneak around hiding from them. Chekov told me that one of their scouts offered to show the science team around the forest." He nodded towards Yoshida. A woman and a man were pointing at his shirt and speaking rapidly, their faces a mask of joy."I suppose we ought to thank Chazar for that. Being identified with him goes a long way down here."

    Spock stroked his chin. "Yes…about that. Combined with what you told me, how Essa seemed to remember hearing of Earth…it raises a lot of questions." His comm chirped. "Excuse me, captain." He headed off into the privacy of the bushes for a moment.

    "Captain! Captain!"The ball sailed towards Kirk's head. He reached out and caught it, then dropped it and kicked it to Yeban, who smiled and continued playing with his friends. The crewmen now stood around the sidelines, watching. Kirk observed the mass of childhood tumbling and chasing after the projectile with fondness.

    He turned as Spock reappeared, closing his comm. "That was Doctor McCoy. Still no change in Lieutenant Moss' condition."

    Kirk yawned, covering his mouth. He stood, stretching. "Phew. I think it's time to call it a night. Gather the men. I'll give my regards to our hosts." He walked over to an older man and woman, bowing his head before them, thanking them for their hospitality. They nodded.

    Spock caught Chekov's eye and beckoned to him. Nodding, he stood up and assembled the other members of the landing party. They trooped through the trees single file, Spock bringing up the rear. He watched as Essa threw her arms around Kirk's neck. Kirk smiled and whispered something to her before pulling away. As he moved towards Spock, he turned and waved at Yeban, who stopped playing long enough to wave back.

    As they positioned themselves for transport, Spock whispered so only the captain could hear. "Perhaps it is not I who should remain behind on the ship tomorrow, sir."

    Kirk sighed, but said nothing, pulling out his comm. "Kirk to Enterprise. Landing party ready for beam out."

    "Confirmed. Stand by."

    They disappeared in beams of swirling light.
    ________________________
    Early the next morning, McCoy stood in Priya Chatterjee's hospital room, running a medical scanner over her leg. "Bone regrowth continues to progress well this morning, Yeoman." He put the scanner down and made a note on her chart. "A little milk wouldn't hurt you any, though. As for your other injury, the swelling's not completely down, but none of the usual signs of a concussion."

    Chatterjee smiled, wincing slightly. "What can I say? I've got a hard head. Probably did more damage to the shuttle than it did to me."

    "Mmm. Just the same, I'd like to keep you here until we get you back on your feet again." He set the chart down. "Get some rest."

    She stretched and yawned, covering her mouth. "All I do in here is rest. Give me the chart next time. At least I can stay in form while I'm laid up."

    "I'll see what I can do." McCoy put his hands on his hips. Someone rapped on the door, and he headed towards it, retrieving his scanner.

    The door opened and Nurse Chapel stood there with a clipboard in her hand. She regarded him guardedly. "Still unconscious, Doctor."

    McCoy frowned. "And the longer he remains that way…" He noticed the clipboard. "That his chart?"

    Chapel shook her head. "No, sir. Mr. Spock's. He's waiting for you over there." She indicated a bed in the main room where Spock sat, gazing at his hands.

    McCoy's eyes widened in surprise. "Wonder what finally convinced him to follow up?"

    Chapel furrowed her brow as she observed him. "He didn't say, Doctor, but he seemed upset."

    McCoy took the chart from her. "Upset, huh?" He moved in Spock's direction, coming to a stop behind the brooding Vulcan. "Spock. What's the matter? Is your arm bothering you again?"He sighed deeply, shaking his head from side to side. "I told you not to unbind it but, no, you had to-"

    Spock said nothing for several seconds, finally turning his head to look at McCoy. Faint circles of darkness shadowed his eyes. "Poached, Doctor."

    Of all the things McCoy had been expecting Spock to say, this wasn't one of them. He crossed his arms over his chest. "'Poached', Spock? What on Earth are you on about?"

    "Mr. Moss's eggs, Doctor. How he liked them." Spock fiddled his fingers together.

    McCoy blinked. "Oh, come on, Spock. You talk as though the man was dead already."

    Spock glared up at him. "That is the eventuality he is progressing towards, is it not, Doctor?"

    McCoy ignored him. He turned on the scanner and ran it over Spock's arm."Muscle strain-"

    "Doctor, you did not answer my question. If his condition remains the same for a prolonged period of time, will he not die?"

    McCoy stopped scanning. "It looks that way, yes." He frowned. "Don't tell me you blame yourself for his injuries."

    "I invited him to accompany us on a mission where he served no purpose whatsoever."

    "Well, it's a good thing you did. Man's a hero. I'd shake his hand if I thought he'd-" McCoy cleared his throat and swallowed. "Sorry."

    Spock bowed his head. "It is quite alright, Doctor. Thank you. I did not see the logic of his actions until this moment."He paused, inhaling. "Nor the illogic of wishing to change my own."

    "Anytime," McCoy nodded. He made some notes on Spock's chart.

    Spock looked down at the object in his hands. A green memory tape. "If you are finished, Doctor, I have an obligation to meet."

    McCoy glanced up. "Rendezvous with the science team?" He set the clipboard down on a table.

    "No. Something I promised Mr. Moss I would read." He slid off the bed and stretched his arm, wincing slightly.

    McCoy caught it. He picked up a hypospray from the table and injected Spock's good arm with the contents. He turned to put it down, but paused. "Maybe there is something more you could do for him after all. Medical scans can do many things, but they can't read minds."

    "Are you asking me to meld with him?" Spock asked, slipping the tape into his pocket.

    "Yes. We've tried everything else. I don't want to risk any more mnemnisine unless it's absolutely necessary." McCoy handed the empty hypo to a nurse who was pushing a cart filled with dirty sheets. He walked towards Moss' room, Spock following.
    ________________________
    The science officers crowded around a small table near the back of the shade tent, discussing their work for the day with the captain. Awel and another Rave'el scout clad in dark green tunics waited by the entrance of the tent, standing stoically, tall spears in their hands.

    Kirk tried to concentrate on what his crewmen were saying, but it was difficult. He could feel Awel's eyes boring holes in his back. Several times he glanced over his shoulder, but he never caught him staring. Kirk shook his head and leaned in.

    "Are these the areas you cleared yesterday?" he asked, pointing to two spots on the grid map.

    "Yes, sir," Petersham nodded. She blew a stray lock of brown hair out of the way. "We double and triple checked the readings. Nowhere near the levels of radiation you'd expect," she explained, shaking her head.

    Schulitz passed the captain a report. "No appreciable mutations in the flora either, Captain."

    Kirk studied the report. "Hmm…I'd like to get Dr. McCoy down here to check out the villagers, too, but I suspect I already know what he'll find; more of the same." He passed it back to Schulitz. "Keep an eye out for radiation anyway." He turned to Chekov. "I think we can pack up the base camp now that the villagers allow our presence here." He put a hand on his shoulder, smiling. "Try to stay out of trouble this time."

    Chekov puckered his brow. "That tent vas defineetly not made in Russia." He walked away, grabbing a bottle of water and taking a drink from it.

    Kirk looked up as Essa appeared at the edge of the clearing. She carried a sack in her fist. Waving at Kirk, she headed towards Awel, who seemed surprised to see her. She passed the bag to him, and he opened it, drawing out a small baked flat bread. He smiled at her and took a bite of the bread. Essa nodded and waved before heading back through the looked longingly after her, dropping the food in his hand limply into the sack before swinging it over his shoulder.

    Kirk approached him slowly, passing the other scout, a short, muscular man who seemed more interested in the clouds above than the science team. Awel turned as the captain's shadow covered him.

    "You love her, don't you." It wasn't a question. He looked the younger man in the eye. "How long?"

    Awel appeared confused. "I…cannot recall." He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "Since always, I believe. She has never been a sister to me, though I have been brother, father, and friend to her." He gripped the shaft of his spear tightly.

    "Does she know how you feel?" Kirk probed.

    Awel frowned. "No. I have not told her." He shut his eyes again, breathing deeply. "I am not supposed to fear, but I do. I fear for her and Yeban. That something will happen to them." He planted the spear in the ground before him, leaning forward slightly. "Most of all, I fear that if I say what is in my heart, I will lose even that which I have. Do you understand?"

    Kirk nodded. "Yes…yes, I think I do."
     
  10. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Moss lay still in bed, the only movement his breathing. The monitors registered his vital signs, fluctuating up and down the colored approached his bedside while McCoy stood still, watching the readings for a few seconds.

    "May I proceed?" Spock asked.

    McCoy nodded silently.

    Spock leaned forward, placing his hands on the sides of Lt. Moss' head. He closed his eyes, breathing softly for several moments. His features tensed. "Darkness….fire, a burning …" He flinched, but settled himself played across his features, quickly replaced by pain. "Darkness…ugh!" He gritted his teeth together. "I-I cannot press through…"His eyes scrunched closed, and he began to breathe rapidly.

    Awel bowed his head, as the wind began to pick up, rustling the trees above them. "Your people respect our world. You ask for our help and guidance, even though you possess objects we cannot begin to understand." He indicated Kirk's phaser and the science officer's equipment, then reached his hand toward Kirk. "I am…surprised."

    Kirk accepted his hand."You may lack knowledge, but not wisdom. Too often, it's a deficiency of that which proves to be man's downfall."They both ducked out of the way as a tree branch nearly smacked Kirk in the head. "Is there a storm front coming in or-"The wind took the words right out of his mouth, violently assaulting them front on. Kirk and Awel strained against the wind, pushing their way towards the campsite.

    The science team members were huddled low on the ground by a pricker bush, arms over their heads. Petersham's hair had come fully loose of its pins, whipping around with each gust. The other Rave'el scout stood defiantly against the wind as it battered him with bits of twigs and leaves, daring it to harm him. Chekov was crouching underneath the table in the shade tent, which was being buffeted, rolling up and down rapidly like waves. One pole pulled out of the dirt, then another, until finally the sheeting collapsed on top of the table, the edges still twitching.

    Chekov flipped up a corner and crawled out from under the tarpon his hands and knees. He covered his face, gasping for air."Keptin!" he shouted. "Eet just came out of nowhere."

    "I know," Kirk yelled back over the wind. "Stay down."He dropped to his knees, trying to reach the bushes, but as he did, he caught a flash of white out of the corner of his eye. He looked behind him, then ahead. Both Awel and the other scout had noticed it too. They were struggling to stand as they squinted into the distance, whispering something aloud. "Chazar…"

    A tall figure stood in front of them, wearing a long white garment, which indeed bore something similar to Starfleet insignia. He appeared completely unaffected by the sudden downburst. Only his eyes were visible through his hood, and they flashed fire. He raised his hand high in the air and disappeared, taking the storm with him.

    The trees and grass settled down slowly as members of the science team straightened up stiffly. They scanned the clearing with their tricorders. Kirk and Chekov took a few seconds to catch their breath, before standing to their full height. Awel and the other scout spoke rapidly in hushed tones, occasionally looking at the spot Chazar had occupied previously.

    Chekov took in the ruined campsite, shaking his head. "Vhat vas that?"

    Kirk frowned. "I'm not sure."

    Moss' vital signs spiked. McCoy's eyes widened, and he reached for Spock, jumping back when a jolt of static electricity zinged him. "Ow!" He shook his hand in the air.

    Spock released Moss, staggering back into McCoy's arms. The doctor caught him. Sweat beaded across Spock's face. McCoy exhaled, glancing up atMoss's monitor. The numbers were returning to relatively normal again.

    McCoy turned Spock around to face him, a concerned look in his eyes. "What just happened?"

    "Do not fear for me, Doctor."Spock frowned, clasping his hands behind his back."I may have underestimated Lieutenant Moss. He is extraordinarily strong-willed. I had barely begun to probe his mind when he locked me though he had erected a firewall around it."

    McCoy cupped his right elbow in his left hand and rested his chin on his right fist. "Well, maybe he's just a very private person."

    "Not merely private; conflicted. At the same time that he was attempting to deter me from entry, one image I did see seemed to stand out in particular." Spock reached into his pocket and pulled something out.

    "The memory tape." McCoy stroked his chin.

    "Yes, Doctor. The memory tape." Spock held it up. "The answers we are seeking may lie here."
    ___________________________
    Scotty was at the controls when Kirk and Chekov materialized in the transporter room a few minutes later. Their clothes were wrinkled and muddied, and their hair was windblown. The sack holding the pieces of the tent was slung over Chekov's shoulder. Kirk reached up to straighten his hair as they stepped down off the pad.

    Scotty's mouth dropped open. "Goodness gracious, what happened to the two of ye? Ye look like ye took a shortcut through a wind tunnel."

    Chekov shrugged.

    Kirk laughed ruefully. "I guess we do." He shook his head, frowning. "I still can't explain it myself."

    Taking the sack off his back and holding it in front of him by the strap, Chekov caught Kirk's eye. "I'll just put this avay and head back to the bridge, Keptin."Kirk nodded and he exited the room.

    Scotty bent over and adjusted something on the transporter console. Kirk pressed the button on the comm unit nearby. "Captain Kirk to the bridge."

    "Bridge here, sir,"Uhura answered.

    Kirk leaned in. "Lieutenant, any update on our new orders?"

    "Nothing, sir."She adjusted her position in her seat. "I was just about to call you. Scanners detected a massive energy surge coming from the surface of the planet, near your prior location. We'd already accounted for everyone but you and Mr. Chekov."

    "So there was something there…" Kirk whispered to himself. "We're both all right, Lieutenant," he replied in a louder voice, sharing a look with Scotty. "Just a little wind storm, that's all."

    There was a pause. "Captain? I'm getting another call for you from sickbay. Shall I patch you through?"

    "Go ahead." Kirk drummed his fingers on the console while Scotty busied himself with a display readout on the wall.

    "Jim."

    "What is it, Bones?" Kirk asked.

    "Can you come down here? There's been a development."

    "Moss?"

    "Yes." McCoy paused. "Spock has uncovered something…well, I don't know what to make of it." He paused. "To think that the human mind…you'd better come and see for yourself."

    "I'll be there. Kirk out." He turned off the comm and headed out the door, passing Kyle who was on his way in. They watched Kirk leave before Kyle made his way to the transporter console and handed Scotty an energy bar. "Thanks, Mr. Kyle. That's the first bite I'll have had all day."
     
  11. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Kirk entered sickbay and nodded at Nurse Chapel as she stood by a cabinet, stocking a was going towards Moss's room when she turned and stopped him. "Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock are waiting for you in his office, sir."

    "Thanks." Kirk continued in that direction, stopping in the doorway.

    "Close the door behind you, Jim," McCoy called. He sat at his desk, rubbing the back of his neck. Spock stood next to him, hands behind his back. Both of their eyes were filled with a mixture of incredulity and weariness.

    Kirk moved inside, shutting the door. "What's this all about? You both look positively drained."

    "Sit down, Captain." Spock gestured to the chair in front of McCoy's desk.

    Kirk lowered himself slowly. "What's his condition, Bones?"

    McCoy sighed. " we can wake him up, he's going to dream himself to death."

    Kirk frowned. "What are you talking about?"

    Spock tapped something on the desk. "Lieutenant Moss is expending an alarming amount of mental energy at a rate which he cannot possibly sustain."

    "Expending it on what?"

    Spock paused. "After much searching, I have discovered that there are indeed references to the Rave'el people in our records."

    Kirk leaned forward."Spock, you didn't answer my question."

    "In due time, sir." Spock turned a display screen towards Kirk. "Ten years ago, as a student at Starfleet Academy, Mr. Moss completed a finalprojectfor his sociology course. His subject was the Rave'el."

    Kirk studied the screen. "And that's the only reference?"

    " this project left quite an impression on him." Spock slowly paced back and forthacross the floor. "So much so that he had been working on a novel about these people ever what little I have read, he shows great promise as an author." Spock frowned. "It would be a shame to lose him while his opus is yet uncompleted."

    Kirk looked up from the display, confused. "You're not making sense. Why is there no other reference to these people in our records?"

    "Here it comes," McCoy muttered.

    "Because," Spock continued, looking down at Kirk, "the nature of the project was as follows; create a civilization and describe aspects of its culture, religion, environment, and etcetera."

    Kirk held up his hands. "'Create'?"

    "Create, sir. Until recently, the Rave'el and their planet did not exist outside ofLt. Moss' imagination."

    Kirk dropped backwards in his chair, holding his hands sideways in front of him. "You mean…somehow, he's created a living, breathing, image of a fantasy?"He stood up slowly, putting one hand on his hip, the other palm against his forehead. "No. No, that's impossible."

    "You want more proof? Read the book," McCoy suggested.

    Kirk whipped his head around. "Why? What's in it?"

    "Someone you've becomeveryfamiliar with." Spock inserted the tape into McCoy's computer and the screen changed."See for yourself."

    The captain leaned forward, eyes trained on the screen. "'Essa concealed herself in the bushes, tracking the cemur's movements with her eyes-'Essa!" He brought his hand to his mouth, glancing between McCoy and Spock with a lost look in his eyes. "But how could he possibly-"

    "The protagonist in his novel, sir. A fictional character. As are Yeban, Awel, and the others we have met." Spock bowed his head, thinking. "Curiously enough, while there were several references to various guardian spirits, there was no mention whatsoever of a superior being named Chazar anywhere in his project or manuscript. Perhaps something he was considering but hadn't included yet."

    Kirk made rapid circuits of the room, biting the knuckle of his index finger. He stopped, shaking the finger at Spock. "No. No. It's real. I can prove it. Yeban gave me one of his arrowheads." He thrust his hand into his pocket, pulled it out and opened it to reveal nothing. Turning the pocket inside out, he repeated the process with the other one. "I must've dropped it. Yes…"

    Spock shook his head. "I am sorry, sir."

    Kirk staggered towards the door. "But our scanners…"

    "Were fooled. I checked Moss' numbers myself, Jim. He's got a very high Bernhardt creativity quotient. And now that his conscious mind's out of the way, well…his imagination's free to create anything he wants. It's a very sophisticated hologram, but a hologram nonetheless." McCoy folded his arms on the desk top, raising his eyebrows. "One for the medical journals."

    "It would also explain why Essa and Awel cannot recall their own history, yet she seemed familiar with Earth; the former because it has not been written yet, while the latter was drawn from the lieutenant's own memories."Spock moved closer to Kirk, looking him in the eye. "It is the only logical conclusion."

    Kirk blinked. "Logical?" He looked at McCoy and wagged his finger. "Do me a favor, Bones; you go ahead and put up that sign." He turned and ran out the door.

    "Jim, wait!" McCoy called, extending a hand towards his fleeing back. He crossed his arms and looked over at Spock. "He's going to see for himself, isn't he?"

    Spock watched the empty doorway. "Indeed."

    McCoy shook his head. "Leave it to Jim to fall in love with a woman who doesn't exist."
    __________________________
    Kirk materialized near the abandoned campsite. He dashed through the trees, pushing branches out of his way and ducking under others. "Essa!" he shouted. He turned his head from side to side, listening for her voice. Nothing. The trail forked and he took the left pathway, his feet kicking up clods of earth in his wake."ES-oof!" He stumbled to the ground, falling on his knees.

    Standing slowly, he began to run again. "ESSA!" He pushed through thick yellow vines and pricker bushes, ripping the legs of his pants and scratching his hands in the process. Gasping for air, he stopped and leaned against a thick twisted tree to catch his breath.

    A light rustling sound came from his left. He turned. Yeban poked his head out from behind a sapling, pushing a low hanging vine out of the way with one hand." Captain." He approached him, cocking his head to one side quizzically. "You look funny."

    Kirk reached in his pocket and drew out the arrowhead. He smiled, and dropped to his knees gently. "Come here." The boy smiled and walked into his embrace, slinging an arm around his neck.

    Kirk hugged him tightly, closing his eyes for a second, then held him at arm's length. "Yeban, where's your sister?"

    The boy thought for a moment. "Practicin'." He pointed over Kirk's shoulder. "She's got a target set up in the glade."

    Kirk let out a deep breath. "Thank you, Yeban." He stood up and hurried in the direction Yeban had indicated. The boy watched him go, scratching his head.

    In no time at all, he reached the edge of the glade. A soft twang and a low thunk sounded. He peered through the tall grass. There she stood, gracefully drawing an arrow from her quiver. A triangular straw target hung from the limb of a tree,50 feet away. Two arrows had already pierced it, close to the center. Essa raised the bow to eye level and set the arrow to it, pulling the string back slowly. Kirk held his breath, stepping back slightly. A branch snapped beneath his foot with a loud crack!

    Essa jumped, releasing the arrow. It missed the target and shot past the tree into the woods. She frowned, lowering her bow, and started towards the woods to retrieve it. Kirk pushed through the grass and called out to her. "Essa!"

    She hesitated, turning to face Kirk. Her lips parted. "Captain."

    He erased the distance between them, taking her into his arms and burying his face in her hair. She stiffened, but then relaxed in his embrace, dropping her bow on the ground. "Of course you're real." He kissed her head, then lifted her face and brought his lips down to meet hers. "You're warm…and real…and here."

    She returned his kiss, laughing softly. "What- what makes you think I'm not?"

    He held her at arm's length. "They told me you were a dream…a fairy tale." He reached up and stroked the side of her face with the back of his hand. "But I didn't believe them. Moss…he must've known somehow."

    Recognition briefly lit her features. "Yes. He does," she whispered.

    Kirk froze. "What?"

    Essa looked down at her feet. "It's n-nothing."

    Kirk shook her gently. "Essa, what is it? Look at me." He tipped her chin up with one finger and she squeezed her eyes tightly closed. A single tear fell down her face. "Look at me." She turned her head to the side."Essa. Is it true?"

    Essa drew in a shaky breath. "Yes." She covered her face with both hands and turned her back on him, shoulders shaking. Kirk said nothing, watching her collect herself. She glanced over her shoulder at him briefly before staring down at her hands. "Is it so wrong to want to live, James? To be more than a name on a page?" She sniffed, wiping her eyes with one hand. "Chazar opened the door for me, for us. I can choose my own way now…live as I wish…love." At this word, she turned and regarded him tenderly, swallowing. "Freedom." Her eyes sparkled with awe. "I never had that before."

    Kirk looked at her with sympathy as an ominous dark shadow moved over the treetops.
     
  12. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Rafferty knelt on one knee, scanning the silver-tipped broadleaf fern with his tricorder. "Remarkably similar to specimens found on Vulcan. What do you suppose it's doing all the way out here?"

    "Parallel development?" Schulitz suggested, scratching his head.

    Rafferty shook his head. "A little too parallel, if you ask me." He rose to his feet and waved an arm around the hillside. "Everything we've seen so far seems familiar."

    Floyd rested one hand on his hip and glanced at the Rave'el scout, then back at the botanists. A large craggy rock face loomed behind them a few hundred feet away.

    A drop of water hit his head and he looked up at the sky. Dark clouds swirled overhead. A low rumble of thunder echoed. "Hey, look." They turned in his direction and he pointed up. "Storm's coming. We'd better head back."

    The botanists climbed the slight incline and followed Floyd towards the forest. The scout stepped in their path. "There is no time," he rasped. "We can take shelter in the cavern." He pointed to the rocks. A small opening in the side of the cliff was now visible.

    The crewmen hesitated.

    BZZZZZZZT! They jumped backwards as a lightning bolt shot down from the sky, zapping a nearby tree. Sparks flew and a large limb snapped off with a loud CRACK!A tremendousBOOOOOOOOOM split the sky open wide, shaking the ground beneath their feet. "Let's go!" Schulitz shouted. The three men ran across the open ground towards the safety of the cave, arms covering their heads; the scout followed behind them.

    As they crossed the distance, the heavens opened above their heads and rain came pouring down in sheets. BOOOOOOOM! Violentg usts of wind shook the trees and blew leaves and dirt everywhere."Hurry!"

    A minute later, they reached the mouth of the cavern. By now the darkness had descended, making it appear as though night had fallen. Schulitz glanced up in surprise as Petersham, Yoshida and Franklin slid down the embankment to their right. "What are you doing here?" he shouted over the wind.

    Franklin leaned one hand against the side of the cliff, breathing heavily. He pointed over his shoulder. "We were taking samples of spavonite deposits up on the ridge when the storm blew in. Our scout led us here."Awel stood just up the trail behind them, his damp hair hanging limply from his head.

    BOOOOOOOOOM! Another bolt of lightning raced across the sky. The crew members headed inside the dark cave single file. A few feet inside, they stopped and leaned against the damp walls, watching the storm. Shallow puddles covered the ground beneath their feet.

    Petersham wrung her dripping wet hair out, squeezing her eyes shut. "Don't suppose we'll be able to contact the ship for a while." She turned towards the mouth of the cavern. "How long do these things usually last?"

    Just outside, the scouts stood like sentries, their faces a mask of determination. Yoshida chuckled quietly. "Why are you still standing in the rain? Come inside with us." He touched the cave wall with one hand, pulling it away quickly as green glowing goo covered his palm. "Sure, it's a little damp and icky, but at least it's safe." He looked up just as a bright white light filled the cave.

    The crewmen cried out in pain and shielded their eyes. Thunder rolled overhead and the light dimmed, centralizing around a human figure. The scouts fell to their knees." Chazar…why do you show yourself to us?" Awel asked, breathless.

    "Guard them," Chazar intoned, his voice firm and unyielding. The scouts stood and faced the crewmen, barring the doorway with crossed spears.

    Floyd pushed off from the wall, removing his phaser from his belt. "Hey, what's the big i-" Chazar raised his hand. A bolt of lightning shot from his fingertips and struck Floyd in the chest. "AHH!" He fell backwards, dropping the gun and striking his head on the ground. Rafferty and Petersham rushed to his side, Franklin following. Yoshida and Schulitz backed away into the shadows.

    "Seize their weapons." The scouts nodded and entered the cave. Awel bent over and retrieved Floyd's phaser, while the other scout pointed his spear at Petersham's head. She surrendered her phaser to him. He repeated the gesture with Franklin, who hesitated, glaring up at the scout. Then his gaze flicked towards Chazar, who began to raise his hand again. Flinching, he gave the phaserh andle-first to the man.

    The scouts carried all the seized weapons to the front of the cavern and piled them in front of Chazar, bowing and walking around him to take their positions outside again. He extended his hand towards the ground. The weapons glowed white-hot before melting into a puddle of molten metal.

    Chazar nodded with approval.

    He closed his eyes and turned towards the storm.

    As he did so, the wind blew the hood of his robe off his head, gently ruffling his short dark hair before settling down. The dark clouds parted, and the sky became bright again.

    The last raindrops fell on the defiant, upturned face of Zachary Moss.
    ___________________________
    Kirk held Essa close as the thunderstorm vanished before their eyes. She shivered in his arms, and he stroked her hair. Blinking, she pushed away and wiped her eyes with the back of one hand, sniffling."Chazar willed it. I don't know why I'm so frightened."

    "I imagine it takes a lot to scare you," Kirk smiled.

    She smiled back. Then her face went pale. "Yeban," she whispered.

    Kirk opened his mouth to say something, but then his comm chirped. He took it and flipped it open."Kirk here. Go ahead."

    Spock stood on the bridge between the captain's chair and the helm. "Captain, we have been unable to reach the science you heard from them lately?"

    "Negative, 't seen them since this morning." Kirk walked over to the clearing, parting the foliage. "They may have taken shelter from the storm that just passed overhead. What was their last known location?"

    Spock studied a sensor map. "A large geological formation about, two miles away," he replied.

    "Mr. Spock," Chekov paused, looking down at thedisplay on his console, "I am detecting a surge of energy coming from that according to earlier readings…" he tapped a button. "It peaked about 8 meenutes ago."

    "The storm...Chazar." Kirkturned and headed back into the trees. "Send me those out." He put the comm away and grabbed Essa's arms. "Essa. Listen to me. Go. Find Yeban. I have to do something." She nodded. "Good." He left her side, running frantically down the trail.

    The cliff face extended as high as the eye could stood on a small rise about twenty feet away behind a boulder.A small crevice in the rocks was being guarded by the two Rave'el scouts who had accompanied the science teams that morning. Between them, a man in a white robestood, his face like flint.

    Kirk ran down the decline and snuck around behind the trees rimming the he reached the cave entrance, Chazar turned."Kirk."

    "Rafferty!" Kirk yelled towards the cave. "Floyd!"

    "He's got us trapped in here, sir!" a voice called from the inside.

    Kirk faced "Chazar", frowning. "You let my crewmen go."

    Chazarfisted his hands at his sides. "What right do you have to give me orders here, Captain? This is my world."

    Kirk took a step forward. "Maybe so. But these officers are under my are you, Chazar." He laughed bitterly. "Or should I say, Lieutenant Moss."

    Chazar's face softened for a moment, before hardening again. "Only part of him, I assure you."

    "What do you plan to do with them, anyway?"Kirk snapped. "Add them to your cast of characters?" He shook his head. "You know,what little Ido know of your alter ego tells me that he's a heroic man who put other's lives ahead of his wouldn't sacrifice them on an altar to himself. That is what you're doing here, isn't it?" He threw up his hands in frustration. "Creating your own little world, filling it with people who grovel at your feet, and then handing them just enough freedom to do everything you tell them to. That's not free will, 's slavery."

    Chazar threw back his head and laughed harshly. A scowl marred his features. "This from a man who would rather commit genocide?Do you know what will happen if your doctor succeedsin rousingLt. Moss from his comatose state?" He opened both hands simultaneously."Poof. All of Rave'el…the people…Essa…gone." He smiled sardonically at Kirk. "Don't lie to me; you wanted her to be real as badly as I did. Would you relegate her to mere literature now that she has tasted life?"

    Kirk put his hands on his hips and leaned forwards."By your own hand, …display of power, is the very thing that will put a knife to her 't you see?" He stabbed the air in front of him with his finger."You are dying!With every burst of energy you pour into this creation of yours, you come a little bit closer to the edge!" He crossed his arms over his chest. "So tell me, Chazar; who will write the stories then?"

    Chazar shook his head. "You can't possibly are my people.My people!"He placed his hand on his chest. "I will not stand by and allow you to terminate them!"

    Kirk pointed at the cave. "And those are my people," he growled, pointing at his chest with his thumb"Release them.Now."

    Chazar smirked. "Why? So you canbeam away and leave the Rave'el here to wait for the end of their existence?"

    Kirk sighed. "Let them go…and you can have me."

    Chazar raised his eyebrows, thinking for a moment."How very noble of you." He summoned the guards. "Let the crewmen go." They nodded and headed into the cave. Chazar turned back to Kirk."You realize that if what you say is true, you may have just signed your own death warrant. Crews have been known to disobey even the most direct of orders."

    Kirk swallowed and nodded. "I'm willing to risk it."

    The guards returned, leading the soggy members of the science team out of the cavern. Floyd, his hand pressed to a gash on the back of his head, was being supported by Franklin and Schulitz.

    "Is everyone alright?" Kirk asked. They nodded limply. Kirk turned to Petersham. "Wait until I'm inside the cave, then request beam out." He glanced back at Chazar. "TellDoctor McCoy I said to prepare Lt. Moss for transport to the surface. Once that's done,I want you to leave immediately, and don't come back." She began to shake her head. "That's an order, Ensign. Do I make myself clear?"

    "Yes, sir."Petersham reached for her comm, but Kirk pushed his comm and weapon into her hands."I will." She joined the others by the boulder, glancing at him once on the way.

    Kirk placed his hands on his head and headed for the cavern, Awel and the other scout escorting him, Chazar bringing up the rear. They disappeared into the darkness together.
     
  13. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Uhura swiveled her chair around to face Spock. "It's the landing party, sir. Ensign Petersham on the comm."

    Two officers moved out of the way as the bridge doors swished open. Dr. McCoy entered and began to pace up and down the back end of the bridge, occasionally glancing at a readout.

    Spock pressed a button on the chairside comm. "Go ahead, Ensign."

    "Requesting immediate beam out, sir."

    Spock tented his fingers together. "Are all members of the science team accounted for?"

    "Yes, sir. One minor injury to report, a head wound." She coughed. "Captain Kirk asked me to tell the doctor to ready Lt. Moss for transport planetside." McCoy snapped his head up, eyebrows raised, and strode to the front of the bridge, stopping next to Spock. "Then he said to leave without him."

    Spock stroked his chin. "Stand by for beam out, science team. Spock out." He switched channels. "Transporter room."

    "Scott here, sir."

    "Prepare to beam up the landing party from the surface."

    "Yes, sir."Scotty ended the call.

    Spock turned to McCoy. "Doctor-"

    McCoy stuck his finger in the air. "Don't say it. Don't you dare give me that order. I'm not going to have a black mark on my record for refusing to comply."

    Spock shook his head. "It is of no consequence, Doctor. Captain Kirk gave the order, not I."

    McCoy crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side in disbelief. "Were you or were you not in my office an hour ago when he ran away like a madman, bound and determined to prove the existence of a mirage?" He shook his head. "Lt. Moss' condition is deteriorating and you honestly want me to remove him from the very machines and medicines that are the only things giving him a fighting chance? How is that logical?"

    Spock leaned forward. "As I recall, it was only after you administered the mnemnisine that this 'mirage' materialized. Had you withheld it, we might not have found ourselves in this predicament in the first place."

    McCoy's face flushed. He stabbed the air in front of Spock's face. "Don't even-" He let out a loud sigh, deflating like a balloon, and closed his eyes, one hand on his forehead, laughing humorlessly. "I'm sorry. First Jim tries to lecture me on medicine, now you. I'm beginning to think nobody trusts me to do my job anymore."

    "On the contrary, Doctor; I have always found you to be most competent and qualified." Spock pressed the comm button. "Transporter room."

    Scotty watched the science team exit. "Landing party's back, safe and sound." He looked down at the objects on his console. "The captain sends his regards in the form of his comm and phaser." Scotty chuckled humorlessly.

    "Is there any way to locate the captain's whereabouts, Mr. Scott?" Spock asked.

    Scotty scratched his head. "I already swept the planet's surface. Cannae find a trace of him. And I think I know why."

    Spock listened, nodding.

    "Lt. Rafferty mentioned that when they were captured by the Rave'el, they were herded into a cave. He couldna tell me how deep underground it went, but if the captain's being held there…" He paused. "Transporters wouldna be able to penetrate it."

    "Thank you, Mr. Scott." Spock turned off the comm. "Mr. Sulu." Sulu turned and McCoy leaned forward. "Maintain standard orbit. For now." He stood up and looked at the viewscreen.

    "Aye, aye, sir," Sulu replied.

    McCoy joined him. "What now?"

    Spock glanced at him, and then returned his eyes to the screen. "I am not going to reassert the captain's orders to you, Doctor. As I understand it, he wished us to leave immediately after you fulfilled them. He did not specify a timeline for your actions."

    McCoy nodded. "Thank you, Spock."

    "Given what we know about the nature of the planet's existence, it is imperative that Lieutenant Moss remain alive until we can rescue the captain. If he should cease to 'dream' of Rave'el for any reason…" Spock left the sentence hanging. "Two lives hang in the balance, Doctor; remember that."

    McCoy gulped. "I'll remember." He headed off the bridge into the turbolift, Yeoman Ming's concerned eyes following him.

    When the doors shut, she clasped her hands together in her lap, closing her eyes. "Father in heaven…" she whispered softly. Her lips continued to move but she made no sound. Everybody else stood in one place, eyes fixed on the acting captain.

    Chekov broke the silence. "How do you plan to find him, sir?" he asked, his gaze uncertain. "The shuttlecraft is too badly damaged for another flight. Besides, you heard what that Chazar is capable of. It's too dangerous."

    Spock folded his arms behind his back and stood silently for a moment. "We wait until all options have been exhausted." Worry drew his brows together.
    ____________________________________
    It seemed as though they had been traveling for hours, yet Kirk knew it was only a matter of minutes. He breathed in the damp air, coughing as the musty smell hit his lungs. Except for a circle of light illuminating Chazar, and the slight glow of the occasional patch of bioluminescent slime on the walls, the cavern was pitch black. Awel and the other scout followed behind, spears held out in front of them. "How much further?" he asked, doubling over in another coughing fit.

    Chazar placed a hand on the wall. "Tired, Captain? You don't know the meaning of the word." He ushered Kirk into a low-ceilinged alcove covered in stalactites, stooping as he did so. Shoving Kirk to the ground, Chazar turned to the scouts. "Bind him, hand and foot." He waved his hand, and long coils of strong rope appeared on the ground. The scouts bent over and each picked up a length of rope and began to secure Kirk with it.

    Kirk shifted to the side to get more comfortable. He gasped as they pulled the rope into tight, complicated knots around his wrists, ankles, and torso. He looked up at Awel. "Awel. Awel, listen to me; Chazar gave you free will. You don't have to do this."

    Awel refused to meet his gaze. "I obey only Chazar." He let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes. "Forgive me, Captain. I have nothing against you. I do this for Chazar. And for Essa."Awel pulled the last knot tight and stood to his feet, yanking Kirk upwards. The scouts secured Kirk's arms and legs by threading the ends of the ropes into brass rings that were fused to the wall and knotting them tightly. Their work finished, they backed away towards the entrance to the alcove.

    Chazar approached Kirk, lowering his face to eye level. "It was your free will that placed you here, Captain. Not Awel's. Not mine. Your gamble. Do you trust your crew to follow your orders? Or will they follow their hearts instead?" He shoved Kirk against the rocks and jabbed a finger in his face. "You had better hope they listen to you. If anything happens to Moss…Rave'el shall be no more. And when Rave'el is no more, all that shall be left is the frozen, black void of space…and you. Not that you'll have enough time to process it, of course." He backed away, chuckling. "Let your last thought be this, then; there is nothing I will not do for my people."

    "Except…" Kirk inhaled deeply, coughing. "Except…die for them."

    Chazar's face darkened, and he shrank back. For an instant, his angry, determined look was replaced by one of sorrow; the white robe temporarily replaced by a blue Starfleet uniform. Zachary Moss moved one step forward, as if to release him from the ropes. Then, just as quickly, he became Chazar again. Rage hardened his features. "AAAAARGH!" He thrust his hand towards Kirk, and a bolt of energy enveloped him, striking him dead center in the chest.

    Kirk gasped, his face a mask of pain. He gritted his teeth as waves of electricity shuddered through his body. Chazar lowered his hand and Kirk went limp, unconscious. Turning around, he headed out of the alcove and caught the attention of the scouts. "Make sure he doesn't escape. Do not let anybody else in either."

    They nodded and took their positions by the sides of the alcove. Chazar moved down the cavern tunnel and disappeared at the entrance.
     
  14. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Sweat beaded on McCoy's forehead as he stood by Moss' bedside. The lieutenant was weak and feverish, his pulse rapid, respiration quick and labored. He moved his head from side to side on the pillow, moaning quietly. The doctor ran the scanner of the medical tricorder over his body, a grim look on his face.

    He stepped back and dropped the scanner, covering his face with one hand." His entire nervous system's inflamed." McCoy shook his head. "I don't know how much longer he can keep this up." He hit the bedside table with his fist, and shook it at the sky. "Jim, what were you thinking?"

    Nurse Chapel administered a hypospray to Moss. His breathing eased slightly and he stopped thrashing. She set down the hypo and wiped his forehead with a cool cloth. She walked around the bed to stand next to McCoy. "What he always does, Leonard; put the lives of the crew first. There was nothing he could do for Zachary, but those science and security officers are safe because of him." She reached over and touched McCoy's arm. "If we only lose one…or two," she added as McCoy raised an eyebrow, "that's a victory."

    McCoy closed his eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply. "You're right," he muttered. "I just wish it didn't come at such a high price." He rubbed his temples. "Keep me apprised of his condition." Turning, he headed out of the room, handing the nurse Moss's chart as he did so. She stepped back over to the man's bedside and stood vigil over him, touching one of the Calunis starburst blossom flowers with a finger.
    _________________________________________
    Kirk shifted, blinking. "Ugghhh…" he moaned as his body strained against the ropes. He lifted his head slowly until he was facing the ceiling, his neck and head shuddering. He held this position for two seconds before giving in with a gasp and letting them drop to his chest. Coughing weakly, he passed out again, stars filling his vision. "No…not now…space…" He sucked in a deep breath. "It's…not…not as cold as I thought it would be…or wet…wet?" Water trickled down the stalactites and dripped onto his head. He shook it slowly from side to side.

    A hand pushed his face up while another pressed up against his mouth. Cool water splashed onto his lips and ran into his mouth. He choked on it, and the hands moved away, patting him gently on the back until he stopped. "It's all right," a soft voice whispered. He blinked several times. A figure knelt before him on the ground, fumbling around in a pouch on their belt before drawing out a small blade. Kirk flinched away as the figure leaned forward, reached for one of the many lengths of rope securing him to the wall, and began to draw the blade back and forth over it.

    After a few seconds, the rope frayed and severed. The person repeated their actions until all the ropes had been cut through. Hands pulled them off from around his body and cast them aside. He rubbed his arms and legs, trying to make the numbness go away, wincing as the feeling returned to his limbs.

    Smiling weakly, he put his hand to his forehead. "Spock…I thought I gave you orders to-" He stopped as the figure took his hand and looked up at him, her beautiful face filled with worry. "Essa."

    He touched her cheek gently with the back of his hand. "What are you doing here?" He paled, and his knees buckled under him.

    She caught him in her arms and held him there for a few seconds. Then she took him by the hand. "Hurry. We must go. Now." She led him out of the alcove as fast as he could stumble, supporting his weight until they exited.

    They made their way through the cavern, stepping over stalagmites and splashing through puddles. Kirk regained some of his strength as he watched her gracefully dodge various obstacles; he found himself struggling to keep up, but she always stopped and waited for him. At one juncture, he stopped and leaned against the wall to catch his breath. "Wait. Wh-what about the guards?"

    She turned to face him, her eyes bright with urgency. "They are sleeping." She looked down. "For now." Essa turned and continued towards the main passage, Kirk following behind her.

    At the entrance to the cave, the scouts were lying up against the wall, unconscious. A spilled cup of green drink lay next to each one's outstretched hand. He stepped around them and met up with Essa in the middle of the plain.

    For a moment, he allowed himself to take her in. Light from the two moons overhead spilled onto her long white hair, making the silvery blue ends shimmer. He brushed a stray lock from her face, staring at her in wide-eyed wonder.

    She grasped his hands tightly. "You must go, Captain. Call your people." She reached into her pouch and removed a Starfleet communicator, handing it to him.

    He stared at it in disbelief, squeezing it in his hand. "How did you-"

    Essa shook her head. "It does not matter." She leaned closer to him.

    "But Chazar-" He slipped the comm into his pocket.

    Tears filled her eyes. "I serve him yet, even if he knows it not." She reached for the cord around her neck and removed it, placing it around Kirk's neck instead. "Take this with you. It will help him awaken."

    Kirk looked down at the yellow crystal. "I can't."

    "Yes, you can. And you will. Crush it and give it to him. Promise me?" She took his hands in hers again.

    A tear ran down Kirk's cheek. "Essa…if he wakes up…"

    Essa nodded. "I know. We shall disappear." She looked up at the moons. "A high price to pay. But I am willing. For him."She swallowed. "Please, promise me."

    "I-I promise, Essa." He embraced her. "I wish I could save you."

    Essa leaned her head on his shoulder. "I was not meant to be, James. None of us were. Not really."She pulled back and kissed him sweetly, stroking his face. "Only in a story. Farewell, Captain." Taking one last look at him, she turned towards the forest.

    "Essa! Wait." She paused. "Awel loves you." He caught her by the hand and turned her around, bringing it to his chest. "If-if somehow you get the chance, let him. He's a good man."

    She pressed her other hand to her eyes. "I know he is."

    Kirk kissed her hand and released it. "Say goodbye to Yeban for me." He pulled the arrowhead from his pocket and pressed it into her hand.

    Essa nodded. "I will." She ran away under the light of the moon, her long hair swishing and bouncing with her steps.

    Kirk stood there for a couple of minutes, watching until she disappeared. He stared vacantly at his hands before pulling out his comm and flipping it open. "Kirk to Enterprise."

    Uhura turned in her chair, a look of surprise on her face as she pulled out the earpiece. "Mr. Spock, it's the captain."

    Spock pressed the button on the chairside comm. "Captain." His voice had a note of surprise and relief in it. "What is your status?"

    Kirk looked up at the moons for a second. "Stiff, sore, damp and cold." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Requesting beam up. Meet me in the transporter room. Tell Dr. McCoy to come, too. And Spock," he added, walking until he stood directly in the moonlight, "thank you for not following my orders."

    Spock paused. "You are welcome, sir," he replied. "Though I did not cancel them; I merely delayed enforcing them until we had exhausted every possibility."

    "Even so, thank you. Standing by." He closed the communicator.

    Spock stood from the chair and exited the bridge swiftly.
     
  15. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Spock met Dr. McCoy in the hallway just prior to the transporter room. They shared a relieved look and headed inside. Scotty stood by the transporter controls, yawning. He covered his mouth and smiled. "I've been waiting for the heads-up all night."

    "You're not the only one." McCoy yawned, placing one hand on his medical tricorder.

    "Lock on the captain's position and energize," Spock said. Scotty nodded and activated the transporter. A beam of light glowed on the pad, and Captain Kirk appeared. He was covered in mud and green slime, and his clothes were badly torn. McCoy and Spock approached the transporter as he stumbled off the pad.

    "Captain, welcome back." Spock stood with his hands behind his back.

    "We'd almost given up hope," McCoy added, turning on his tricorder and beginning to scan Kirk with it. His gaze flicked over Essa's necklace. "What's that? A souvenir?"

    Kirk pushed the scanning device away. He reached for the crystal and tugged on it, breaking the cord, and pressed it into McCoy's hands. "Crush this and give it to Lt. Moss. Now, Bones."

    McCoy stared down at it. He looked at Jim with concern. "Excuse me?"

    Kirk grabbed McCoy's shoulders, looking him in the eye. "Trust me on this, Leonard." He broke away from the group and headed out the door, Spock following.

    McCoy stayed behind, still gazing at the crystal, turning it this way and that in the light. Scotty looked over his shoulder at it. "It's verra pretty, but how could it possibly help the lieutenant?"

    McCoy scanned the crystal with his tricorder."My word." He scanned it again. "Take a look at this." He showed Scotty the readings.

    Scotty scratched his head. "I'll be…pure anthospadrite…yet no radioactive readings whatsoever." He picked up the crystal in one hand, staring at it as though it contained all the mysteries of the universe. "But that's supposed to be impossible."

    McCoy nodded. "If there's one thing I've learned in my years of service, it's how fluid that word can be." He snatched the crystal from Scotty's hand and headed for the door. "One chance in a quadrillion may be low, but it's a lot better than none."
    ______________________________
    Captain's Log, Stardate (X): Since the administration of the anthospadrite solution, Lt. Moss's condition has improved rapidly, to the point where he is now conscious and able to speak and sit up. Dr. McCoy believes he will make a full recovery.

    Zachary Moss sat up in his sickbay bed, his burned arm propped on a nearby pillow, typing on a computer with his good hand. The orange and pink flowers still sat in their place by his bedside. Nurse Chapel stood next to his bed, casually glancing up at his monitor, nodding and making notes on a clipboard, clearly pleased by his progress.

    Given the circumstances, I will not be pursuing disciplinary action, though he has been relieved of duty indefinitely, pending a full medical and psychiatric evaluation at the next starbase. When I filled the lieutenant in on the events of the past few days, he expressed deep regret for his actions as 'Chazar'.However, he is completely understanding of my decision. As a matter of fact, he seemed almost pleased for the extra time it would afford him to pursue his writing-

    Moss looked up from his typing as the door opened. Yeoman Ming entered the room, smiling, a plate full of oatmeal raisin cookies in one hand and a watering can in the other.

    -as well as other diversions.

    He smiled back at her, pushing the computer out of the way as she slid into in the chair by his bedside. Nurse Chapel excused herself to give them some privacy. Ming set the plate on his tray and watered the flowers, before setting the can down on the table. They each took a cookie and bit into them, talking.
    ________________
    Kirk stood in front of his mirror, pulling on his yellow uniform shirt. Dark circles still shadowed his eyes, and his muscles were stiff from being in the cold, damp cave all night. He rubbed his eyes, thinking of Essa.

    His door chirped. "Enter," he called, adjusting the shirt. McCoy walked into the room, frowning. Kirk turned around and smiled slightly. "Bones. What brings you here?"

    McCoy looked at Kirk's face, then his shirt, before glancing up again. "Oh, nothing. I just had a feeling that one of my patients was planning on playing reverse hooky today. And from the looks of things, I'd say I'm right."

    Kirk tried to step around him, but McCoy moved with him. "Bones." He looked McCoy in the eye. "The stiffness will go away. I just need to move around a little. I'm not even coughing anymore." McCoy raised an eyebrow. Kirk backed up and sat down on his bed. "Really. I'm fine."

    "I wasn't just referring to your physical condition, Jim. Though heaven knows that would be bad enough by itself." McCoy watched Kirk's reflection. "You're suffering from a condition known as emotional whiplash. This isn't your typical "she loves me, she loves me not" scenario. We're talking her very existence here. You'd barely gotten to know her before having that bomb dropped on you." He walked over to Kirk's drink cabinet, shaking his head. "I'll say one thing for her though; she made one heck of a sacrifice. Her entire planet for you. I can't imagine trying to live up to that." He unlocked the door and removed a bottle and two glasses, locking it back up again.

    "Not for me, Bones. She said it was for Chazar's sake. Zachary would have died and ended their world anyway." He accepted a glass from the doctor, and shifted over to the right as McCoy sat down next to him, opening the bottle.

    "I still can't figure out how you managed to bring that crystal back." Kirk held out his glass, and McCoy poured the deep burgundy colored drink for him before filling his own glass. "Or how Essa, let alone Moss, knew it would heal him in the first place, for that matter." He set the bottle down on the bed table. They clinked their glasses together and drank. He counted on his fingers. "A stable anthospadrite crystal, that by all known laws of science shouldn't even exist. The very thing he needed; where he needed it, and when." McCoy shook his head, taking another sip. "You try to calculate those odds."

    Kirk laughed, staring into his glass. "I think that would even give Spock a headache."

    McCoy raised his eyebrows. "Oh, he'd try anyway." He reached for the bottle again. "Refill?"

    Kirk extended his glass. "Pour away." McCoy tipped the bottle and did.
    ____________________________
    The bridge was humming with activity. A rested-looking Kirk sat in his chair, reading over the clipboard a yeoman handed to him. He read it briefly and signed the bottom of the document with a stylus and handed it back to her, standing. "Mr. Sulu, set course for the Lygarta system."

    Sulu pressed several buttons on his console at the helm. "Course laid in, sir." He leaned back in his chair. "Awaiting your command."

    Kirk frowned, looking at the viewscreen. Nothing but stars and empty space. "Final readings of the system, Mr. Spock?"

    Spock looked down at the readouts at his station. "No sign of the anomaly, sir." He paused, turning to look at the captain. "No planetary bodies or stellar phenomena detected, either."

    Kirk swallowed. "Yes. Just as I expected it to be." He turned back to Sulu. "Ahead, Mr. Sulu, full impulse."

    Sulu nodded. "Aye, aye, sir." He engaged the impulse drive.

    Kirk stepped down from his position and passed Lt. Uhura. Before he could move past Spock, the first officer turned from his station and put a hand on his shoulder. "I am sorry for your loss, Captain. Whatever Essa was, she was very real to you."

    Kirk closed his eyes, looking down. "Thank you, Spock." He met Spock's gaze. "I suspect she always will be; as long as there are stories to be told, and men to write them."

    Spock bowed his head, thinking. "Indeed. A form of immortality that both the mortal and the ethereal can enjoy." He turned back to his station.

    "Yes." Kirk agreed quietly. He stood there for a few seconds, then headed back up the steps and sat down in his chair again, resting his chin on his hand.

    The Enterprise moved silently through the abandoned Halus system.
     
  16. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    What inspired you to write this story?

    As a writer myself, the idea of "author as God" as related towards the world in a story intrigues me. Whenever something unbelievable or amazing happens, it's because the author wrote it that way. The Bible says that we are created in the image of God; our love of creating stems from that.

    I also wanted to write a story that was more science based, hence the anomaly and Moss's mind power. But I think it was ultimately more about free will, our power over what we create, and a psychological exploration of two halves of the writer's mind; the protective side, looking out for their characters at all costs, and the rational side that knows that real people come first. I also made sure to include a Kirk romance because I wanted to try my hand at giving him a one-episode love interest. And quite frankly, I couldn't imagine anyone else getting so caught up.

    In your last story, some of the names and made-up words had significance. How about here?

    Well, for starters, the Halus system sounds like "hallucinate". Rave'el is an anagram + apostrophe of "reveal". And Essa? Her name sounds like "essence", and it's also pretty. Yeban and Awel – I liked the sound of their names. Mnemnisine- made it up because it has a prefix that has to do with memory, or minds. Anthospadrium and spavonite, etc – I don't know much about science and made up minerals with fun sounding names just because. Author's prerogative, especially in sci-fi/Trek realms!

    Why were your Christian references so subtle? In The Best Robe, you used the parable of the prodigal son to frame the story, but said nothing about the Agapeans' religious beliefs. Here, the Rave'el and Yeoman Ming are the only ones who display religious beliefs; the former, in several gods as well as Moss briefly as the one who makes everything happen, and the latter in a quiet subdued way. Why did you do that?

    I understand the main view towards religion on the part of Star Trek's creators hold it to be something rational man would move beyond. I respectfully disagree. (I dunno how Revelation and end times prophecy would fit into the Trek timeline, but lots of sci-fi authors create u/dystopias and ignore that for the story's sake- somehow, it hasn't come yet, that's all.) Hence Yeoman Ming, a Starfleet officer who still believes in God and prays faithfully. Not everybody who's Christian goes around trying to convert all their coworkers 24/7. We are called to bring light to the world, but we should live it out, not just talk about it. Incidentally, if you're worried about Ming being interested in a guy who's not necessarily Christian – nobody's perfect. And it happens all the time.)

    I also know that in several episodes, Kirk debunks the people's religion by revealing it to be based on lies. These "guardian spirits" the Rave'el believe in are false, too, and Chazar (Zachary anagram without the 'y') is a representation of Moss, a flawed human. Kirk may be a bit anti-God here, too ("Creating your own little world, filling it with people who grovel at your feet, and then handing them just enough freedom to do everything you tell them to. That's not free will, 's slavery.") But God did give us free will; the ability to choose whether or not to worship Him, or, for that matter, do any of the things we choose to do. While Essa exerts her free will several times, Awel just follows blindly. It's not that she knows better than God, but better than Zachary/Chazar, who as I said before is just a man.

    Aside from having the characters wonder at miraculous unlikely turns of events (and despite the fact that they may attribute it eventually to entities like Q), which I know they would do, I also didn't want to unrealistically have them convert just because I wish they'd believe (like some stories I've seen.) I wanted this to be a story that could easily fit somewhere into TOS. So any characters who display religious ideals, albeit divorced from Christianity itself, or unknowingly utter truth – like telling "Chazar" that, yes, he'd be willing to do anything for his people except die himself for them – and Kirk giving his life for his crew, as he has done on several occasions already.

    Spock and McCoy have some good scenes together – not just fighting all the time. And we also have a nice Spock guilt scene, as well as one where he does something illogical (and ultimately for the greater good) by letting Moss come along on the shuttle with the scientists. He even understands Kirk's love for Essa.

    Yes, I wanted to do that. He's not all logic, you know, especially when lives and quality of life are involved. (Think "The Menagerie").I also like to show them agreeing eventually, and working together. They're both scientists. He also seems to have the captain's number a couple of times!

    Where did the title come from?

    You know when you have one of those awesome moments where the perfect title clicks with you? This was one. (And it came about because I remembered reading the phrase in the Bible before!) It's from Colossians 1:15 and it fits for three reasons (love it when that happens!).

    1) Chazar is the image of Zachary Moss (or at least part of him) to the Rave'el, who he created. They can't perceive or see him any other way.

    2) The whole creation of Rave'el as a real (holographic) place is giving an image of the invisible world Moss created in his novel in progress, allowing everyone to see it, not merely imagine it.

    3) God shows up in a big way, allowing mostly-out-of-character actions and help from unlikely sources, as well as the staggering coincidence of Essa's crystal even existing, much less being where it was needed. These occurrences are images that show an invisible God working in a world where He's been often forgotten.

    Poor Chekov. Why did you include that tent scene?

    It was something for him to do, but I agree, ultimately useless. A little humor to break up the drama of lives in the balance and romance. I made up for the exclusion of Chekov in the previous story by including him here. I also redeemed him later when he showed the little girl an illusion. When you think about it, it's a nice little moment and a metaphor for the whole thing being a fantasy.

    All the redshirts made it. Was that deliberate?

    Yes. I like creating characters and giving them a bigger role, including interesting dialogue. Little details like Petersham's hair blowing in the wind, Yoshida getting glowing goo on his hands – it makes things interesting. I kind of want to make up for all the expendables. (You'll notice I made sure Kirk sent them out in teams of three this time – no wandering off alone! Yes, they still got in a pickle, but all accounted for, Captain!)

    Every senior staff member in this story had at least one scene where they featured prominently. Was this deliberate?

    Yes. It's good practice and fair to all of them. Sulu gets to show kindness with a plant, Uhura gives advice to a woman who's trying to get a guy to notice her- this way I'm giving everybody a chance to participate in the narrative beyond doing their jobs.

    Have you come up with your next story?

    Not yet. Stay tuned!
     
  17. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
  18. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    "I suspect she always will be; as long as there are stories to be told, and men to write them."

    Oh, I do so love my last Kirk line - so Kirk-y.
     
  19. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2016
    Location:
    Mississauga
    Just thought I'd bump this in case anyone who hasn't read it wants to.
     
  20. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Good story.