ST: Intrepid / Preemptive Maneuvers

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Galen4, Jun 22, 2017.

  1. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Historical Note: This adventure takes place in 2374 immediately after the events of "The Double Edge" and shortly after the fall of Betazed.


    Chapter 1

    ------Part 1------​

    The city is a ruined, broken wasteland. The skeletal remains of Earth’s 20th century skyscrapers stand like latticework against a red sky. Rubble and mountains of decomposing bodies choke what had once been frenzied arteries of traffic and commerce.

    As for current life, what remains of it on this world is strictly non sentient. The creatures that roam this decaying planet are scavenges---rodents, cockroaches and the occasional wild dog. They all scurry through the landscape in a vain attempt to keep starvation at bay. Around them, a cocktail of deadly pathogens swirl in the air. Radiation poisons all else. Even the ground beneath their feet radiates death.

    What’s left alive won’t be for much longer. Soon, any creature with less than six legs will suffer an agonizing demise.

    Eventually, the noxious atmosphere will make a causality of the entire ecosystem. Not even vegetation will remain. Earth is set to become an enigma for alien archeologists who will one day quibble endlessly about what type of culture had occupied this once lush wilderness.

    One thing that can’t be argued is that Earth has no future. Whatever potential had once existed has been snuffed out by events that can only be speculated about by future historians.

    Impossibly, across this forlorn graveyard, a man walks. He stumbles over the charred ruins; shambling forward, step after step as though driven on by an unseen taskmaster. He pants and coughs, struggling with air that is still heavy with smoke from the vast firestorms that had consumed the globe. He retches at the smell of a million corpses.

    At some point, he hears metal clinking on metal. He looks up to see a gray, tattered cloth flapping against a pole. The fastening on the tether is tapping the pole with each gust of wind. He figures it was a flag of some sort but he can no longer tell what it represented.

    He moves off, compelled to continue a journey that has no destination. Behind him, the flagpole continues to clatter for attention as if hoping to summon the vanished people it once represented.

    The man moves on and nearly trips over the prone legs of yet another corpse. Looking down, he sees this one is a shriveled mummy sitting with its back against a wall. The thing used to be a woman. Her long read hair is intact and gathered behind her head like a pillow, but her face is shrink-wrapped around her skull. The flesh is a mosaic of black and purple, the result of weather and decay. Her head is thrown back to stare at the sky through black sockets.

    Her mouth is what disturbs him the most. The jaws are stretched wide as though frozen in an eternal death-scream.

    His attention travels downward to find that her withered arms are cradling a bundle of cloth that holds a collection of thin bones. Only then, does he become aware of the overturned baby stroller by her side.

    The wind picks up, producing a shrill, warbling cry as it snakes through the rubble. The cadaver’s hair flutters up in response like a redbird spreading its wings. Staring at the gaping mouth, he feels uncomfortably that it is her cry of anguish that he is now hearing, not the elements.

    Somewhere, in the backwaters of his unconscious, a phantom memory stirs. Faintly, he can hear the high-pitched crooning of young girls, chanting with scorn:

    First comes love, then come marriage, then here comes Rhonda with a BA-by carriage! Their mocking laughter dies away until it joins the wind.

    His eyes slide back to the broken stroller and he shivers violently.

    Ragnarok, he thinks to himself before moving on.

    At length his wanderings bring him to the remains of a communal structure characteristic of this period in history. This building, this “apartment building” strikes him as familiar.

    It’s little wonder. After all, he had lived here as a kid, with his father.

    In fact, he can see his childhood self now, sitting on a bench in the building's courtyard with his skateboard, eating his favorite candy: “Hot Tamales”, if memory serves. The kid doesn’t look so good. The box of candy he’s devouring will likely be his last.

    "Hi," he says to his boyhood self.

    The boy looks up at him with disdain. Then he goes back to sticking his fingers in the box of Hot Tamales, scooping out several of the red treasures and popping them in his mouth. "I don't wanna talk." The boy says around his mouthful of candy.

    The man looks around at the crumbling building. "You shouldn’t live here anymore. It’s not safe. You should come with me. I have a starship."

    "It’s too late." the boy counters bitterly. “There won’t be any starships, now. There won’t be nuthin’.”

    "Well, don't you want to grow up?"

    The kid is jaded, more than he should be for someone of his years. “What'd you do this for, anyway?" He slurs through his candy. "You wrecked everything."

    What an odd charge to make, the man thinks. After all, it was the boy who had caused this disaster, not he. "You’re mistaken," the man objects. "I didn’t do this."

    The boy throws his box of candy across the courtyard, apparently disgusted by the response. He then leaps off the bench, slapping his skateboard down on the cracked and buckled pavement, preparing to role away. But the man catches his arm and spins him around.

    Up close, it’s very apparent just how sick the kid is. Malignant tumors riddle his forearm, making him look like he had been splattered with mud or hot tar. Bald spots pepper his scalp from radiation poisoning, creating gaps in his mop of dark blond hair.

    Now the boy has started to weep. But these aren’t tears of sorrow or even fear.

    It’s rage that drives this child.

    "You should have left me!" he sobs angrily. His blue eyes bore up at the man, accusing and trenchant.

    "I don't think you---"

    "I was happy the WAY I WAS!" The boy yells.

    The man searches for a way to comfort the boy but he’s too confused to offer a response. It’s a shame, because he would like nothing better than to fix this whole mess.

    Abruptly, the kid stops crying and of all things, begins to whistle. It’s a jarring, persistent whistle, and it’s not very musical or pleasant. Two notes, one high, one low. The kid keeps whistling the same two notes over and over again.

    And why the hell does it sound so familiar?

    ____

    The boson’s whistle piped once again over the speakers, trailed by an apologetic voice. "Captain, are you there?"

    Jason Aubrey struggled up from his bed with the effort of one climbing from a bog of quicksand. "Captain, here. Go ahead." He croaked.

    "I'm sorry to wake you, sir. But you wanted to be notified when we reached Gorn space. We're approaching the border now. ETA 45 minutes."

    "Have Lt. Commander Adol report to the bridge.” He ordered thickly. “I'll be there shortly."

    "Aye sir. Bridge out."

    Aubrey eased out of his bunk on aching limbs and stumbled into the lavatory. Minutes later he ordered a cup of extra strong Risian coffee from the replicator. Sitting at his desk, his mind running on four hours of sleep and a bizarre dream, he went on autopilot. Without thinking, he turned on his terminal screen to check the daily tactical updates from Starfleet Command concerning the war effort. With no regard for his wishes, reality slapped him hard across the face.

    The last communiqué was still on the screen. He had forgot to clear it before going to bed. It blinked back to life, the message glaring at him accusingly, much as the child had in his dream. It read:


    To:
    Aubrey, Captain Jason Daniel / Commanding Officer / USS Intrepid NCC-38957

    From: Composite Warfare Commander / Task Force Tango

    Stardate: 51724.5

    Message Classification: Priority One - Scramble

    Regarding: Detachment for Cause

    Body:

    By order of Vice-Admiral Edward Jellico, Composite Warfare Commander, Task Force Tango and in accordance with Starfleet Command regulations you are hereby relieved of any and all command responsibilities for the Federation Starship Intrepid, NCC-38957, effective stardate 51724.5.

    You are ordered to immediately relinquish full command and control of above mentioned vessel to your first officer, or the next ranking senior officer/crewmember as necessitated by availability or circumstance, at which time you will surrender yourself into that officer/crewmember’s custody.

    You are further notified that a compulsory investigation will be conducted at a date to be determined, but not greater than 30 days from receipt of this transmission, due to the severity of charges brought forth by Vice-Admiral Edward Jellico, CWC / TF-Tango on Stardate 51721.3.

    Said charges brought against you relate to violations of Starfleet General Order 115, Section B, Articles 11 and 12 as they pertain to insubordination, refusal to follow tactical directives during wartime operations and Starfleet Regulation A, section 1b; conduct unbecoming, resulting in an overall lack of confidence regarding execution of your command billet.

    In accordance with Starfleet Command Judicial processes, if above charges and/ or the subsequent finding by the Special Review Board warrant a Special or General court-martial, or any form of legal action that requires due process under Starfleet proceedings, you have the right to select counsel from within the Starfleet Legal network or you may option an appropriately vetted private attorney of your choice.

    Said orders for Detachment of Cause stated herein are considered official and conclusive upon receipt of this transmission by your vessel's subspace array.

    End transmission


    He deleted the message, knowing it wasn't really gone, but automatically archived in the ship's memory core upon arrival. All priority one messages from Command were.

    He stared at the vacant screen for several minutes, feeling nothing.

    Eventually, Aubrey got up and moved quickly enough to make time for a sonic shower, before shaving and getting dressed. After coffee, he settled for his breakfast of choice since the war began; a blended drink made from raw fruits and plants. When time allowed, he used real produce from the ship’s hydroponics garden on deck nineteen---what the crew had dubbed “Sherwood Forest”---for his power meals. But lately he’d been settling for the replicated approximate.

    For dessert, he swallowed two pain pills to quell his body’s aches. The Inth had roughed him up pretty well when that giant claw took hold of his waist. Along with the large bruises, he’d also managed to wrench his back during the ensuing struggle to break free.

    Or maybe I’m just not bouncing back like I used to, he thought. He had to admit, the years were starting to get away from him and the war had kept him out of the gym lately…

    Before leaving, he dared another look in the mirror. His oval face and dark blonde hair were being upstaged at the moment by two rings of puffy, bloodshot eyes and a pasty complexion. Fatigued and tense, he seemed more a man pushing sixty, rather than forty.

    The dream was still clinging to him. He supposed the apocalyptic themes weren’t out of place, considering the Federation was facing double jeopardy at the moment. With the fall of Betazed, the Allies were looking at an inexorable slide towards defeat. Now, the Inth had returned and might very well destroy all advanced life in the galaxy, the Dominion included.

    And he had lost command of his ship. Let’s not forget that. Even if Civilization was saved from the Inth and even if the war was won, there would be that loss.

    If that’s the only price, then it was a bargain. He told himself firmly.

    But in the meantime, who could blame him if his thoughts had spiraled into darkness? These were dark times, after all.

    He’d get no argument from a psychologist. Yet, he couldn’t rid himself of the chill that was plaguing his mind. His sensible analysis not withstanding, something was arguing that the dream had nothing whatsoever to do with the war or the Inth.

    Aubrey had almost made it out the door when something from his peripheral vision drew him back. Turning, he was stunned to find a new picture on his cabin wall. He knew it had to be nothing more than a trick of the shadows, so he approached it with deliberate steps, expecting the image to evaporate on closer inspection.

    It didn’t. If anything, the picture became more distinct as he drew near.

    The illustration showcased a man running towards the foreground, his image blurred slightly to symbolize great speed. Action scenes of people fighting one another in hand to hand combat populated the background, including someone that looked like a tall ape. It seemed a throw back to centuries-old movie posters, advertisements for a two-dimensional kind of spectator entertainment.

    The title read "The Six Million Dollar Man".

    What did that mean?

    He closed his eyes, and then opened them.

    To his great relief, a blank wall greeted him.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2017
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    A dark but outstanding opening here seems to set the tone for the rest of the story. A glimpse at Aubrey's mysterious past and what appear to be the terrifying skeletons buried deep in his closet.

    Following the dream sequence we seem to pick up right where we left off last time, with a stark reminder of Aubrey's official status within the fleet.

    It will be interesting to see how this crew will handle taking orders from a man who has already been formally relieved of command.

    And nothing like a bit of what appears like a total non-sequitor to ramp up the WTF factor of a story. Mysteries won't be in short supply in this story, I feel, and the the first one is already making me wonder what else might be going on here.

    Great start and looking forward to see what crazy places you plan to take us to in this, latest tale.
     
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  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    A fantastic beginning! Aubrey's chickens come home to roost, and now he's faced with the wrath of the vengeful Admiral Jellico. Meanwhile, something below the surface appears to lurk, which looks to bode ill for Jason, as if he needed more trouble.
     
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  4. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Chapter 1
    ------Part 2------​



    The doors of Holodeck One parted with a grinding hiss and Dr. Kella Lisern shuffled through the entrance with such ponderous steps, she could have been dragging a ball and chain behind her.

    The simulated environment around her was a wooded forest with immense trees that seemed to stab up through the clouds and into space. It was a storybook setting that married the prehistoric world of Earth to a fantasy realm of wizards and dragons.

    There were only three holodecks on the aging Excelsior-class Intrepid, all of which had been added before her first decommissioning, more than five years ago. Their systems were no longer up to date, but they still worked well enough for basic programs or the latest holonovel. Normally, there was a waiting list to use them, but with the ship now in a constant state of calamity, they stood empty.

    The Bajoran was in her early fifties but exhaustion was pulling her dark skin into unflattering directions lately; enough that someone guessing her age might be tempted to round up on their figures.

    She stopped and looked around irritably, sweeping the great forest with her eyes until finally seeing Lt. Commander Adol wave at her from behind a large boulder. She made her way to him, muttering all manner of things unkind as dry pine needles crunched under her shoes. Kella found the Andorian waiting on a mossy log, looking as rigid as the wood he sat upon.

    “You could have come to my office." She groused. “We’re overloaded with casualties right now. I don’t have time to roam the ship.”

    "This seemed the safest place to talk without being overheard."

    Her eyebrows rose in confusion. "My office is pretty private."

    Adol gently shook his head. "We'd be seen."

    Kella eased down beside him, noting that the fresh uniform she had put on since being returned to the ship was already stained. Splashes of blood had found their way beneath her smock once again. She made a weak attempt at levity, hoping to put her mind elsewhere. “Are we having an affair?”

    Adol seemed to take her flippant remark seriously. "In a manner of speaking, we may be."

    Kella's humor fled quickly. If the ship's security chief and now acting first officer wanted a clandestine meeting, it meant Adol would be selling nothing she wanted to buy.

    Happily, his first question was expected. “Is Commander Shantok still in a coma?”

    "Not anymore.” She reported with pleasure. “Her coma broke a short time ago. Now she’s in a deep hypnotic state that Vulcans use to heal themselves, effectively pooling their body's resources towards repairing damaged tissues. In this case it’s synaptic pathways that are being regenerated. But it’ll still be hours before she’s responsive again."

    “Remarkable. She can do all this while suffering from brain damage?”

    “I suspect her Betazoid genes have allowed her to start the process on an autonomous level. It’s too soon to tell if there’ll be lasting damage. But you’re right. It is remarkable, even for a Vulcan.”

    “How are Doug and the rest of the crew fairing?

    Kella made a point of treading carefully into this next subject. Lt. Douglas Pal and Adol were close friends going back to the Academy. They had been first to get captured by the Inth, leaving Pal with the unwanted distinction of also being first to suffer invasive mental probing by their captors. “I’m afraid there’s been no change in Doug’s condition, or anyone else who was mentally attacked. But the good news is I can’t find any permanent damage, either. That means that given time, they might all make a full recovery.”

    She had chased that down with a bit of wishful thinking, but so be it.

    Adol’s antennas slackened in relief. “I’m happy to hear that. I’ll inform the captain.”

    Pushed to her physical and emotional limits by recent events, the chief medical officer had no energy to even pretend coyness. “Now, what’s the real reason you asked me here?” she blurted out.

    So he told her.

    Adol’s request caused Kella’s eyelids to droop with the weight of another item she couldn’t possibly fit on her crowded plate. She rubbed her hands over her face, emoting pure fatigue. “Adol, I agree it’s prudent, but we’re still in triage mode right now. Almost every spare room on the ship has been converted into a medical ward, including the mess halls and briefing rooms. We even have crewmembers on gurneys in the corridors. Between the injuries from our last two engagements and those critically wounded by the Inth, we’re just about running with a skeleton crew.”

    “I know that, Doctor. And on the staffing front I’m afraid I have more bad news. There are crewmembers who’ve removed themselves from duty because of the captain’s defiance of orders.” His face soured. “’Conscientious objectors.’”

    Her mind stumbled over this new bit of information. “What? Really?”

    “Really. We’ve lost eight so far. And from what the department heads are telling me, we should expect more.”

    Another milestone for this ship, Kella mused grimly. “My point is that I don’t have the time or resources to perform the type of comprehensive neurological scan on Jason that you’re suggesting.”

    “The captain will have to take priority.”

    Kella straightened angrily. “Respectfully, Commander…but as CMO I decide which patients take priority. I’m not bumping a critical for this. From what I’ve seen, the captain appears normal and in reasonably good health. So he waits.”

    “That’s an opinion, not a diagnosis.”

    “And my call to make, not yours.” She snapped. “If there’s nothing else, I have patients.” She hopped off the log and made a beeline for the exit.

    “Doctor, wait!” Adol did a mental two-step, painfully aware at the moment that his usual combative style was not serving him well in the role of XO. He forced himself to remain sitting, hoping it might soften his image.

    Kella turned back, hands on her hips. “Commander, every second I’m not helping my staff puts lives at risk. One extra pair of hands can make the difference between life and death right now.”

    “All I wanted to say is that I’m not trying to manage your sickbay. I’m asking you to examine the captain under regulations.” He paused. “Specifically, Order 104 section C.”

    She glared down at him incredulously. “Is that what this is all about? You want me to declare Jason unfit and relieve him? I don’t understand you, Adol. You have legal authority to remove him right now, with or without a mental competency exam. You don’t need me.”

    He eyed her defiantly, letting the silence convey what he couldn’t.

    “You’re not sure what to do, are you? You think the captain might be right. But you want me to find out if he’s in control of his actions.”

    "Well of course I do! Doctor, only the captain has had direct communication with the Inth and not been destroyed in the process. This story about helping them evolve so they won’t annihilate the galaxy might be true or they could be pulling his strings.”

    Her shoulders slumped and she sat back down again. “Okay.” She sighed. “I’ll make it happen somehow.” She studied the pine needles at her feet. “But you’re not going to find what you’re looking for, you know.”

    “And what would that be?”

    “A conclusive test that will tell you what course of action to take. I’ve studied cases of alien possession by non-corporal life. Usually, medical exams were useless in making determinations.”

    “You underestimate yourself.”

    “And you’re not making much sense. If the Inth were capable of that type of control, don’t you think they would have used it on all of us by now? That way we couldn’t interfere.”

    Adol's voice darkened. “I think our speculations are irrelevant. I need to take every possible step to find the truth. There’s too much at stake.”

    Kella turned to him, her previous irritation giving up the floor to the empathy that was more typical of her. “Adol, I’d like you to consider something; you’re used to tactical situations with clear choices. This dilemma doesn’t offer that and I think it’s unsettling for you. But at some point you’ll have to commit. Either decide to trust the captain or don’t.”

    “Captain Aubrey I trust. The Inth I don’t.”

    She smiled thinly at his stubbornness. "Well, I'll order a complete work up on him as soon as I can free up the resources. It could take at least an hour. That’s the best I can do.”

    They both stood and drifted towards the exit. “It’s just as well.” Adol allowed. “We’re heading into Gorn space so the captain will be needed on the bridge for a while anyway.”

    Her steps faltered and Kella came to a stop, blinking at him stupidly. “Gorn space? Why are we going there?”

    “It’s the shortest route to Archer IV.”

    “But…I thought the Gorn sealed their borders when the war began? And from what I’ve heard, their government isn’t all that stable at the moment.”

    “The captain says he can negotiate passage through their space. He claims to be friendly with one of their heads of state.”

    “Yes, he was.” Kella chewed her lip worriedly. “But that was a long time ago…”
     
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  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    A most intriguing beginning, from Aubrey's dystopian dream to Jellico's order relieving him of command, and now a wounded and fractured crew. Adol's loyalty is laudible but he puts his own career and possibly other crew members lives in jeapordy with his request of the CMO. Now comes a risky trek through off-limits Gorn space.
    Seems the crew of the Intrepid can't catch a break.
     
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  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    It's not often that we see trusted officers second guessing their captain and going as far as involving the medical officer with their concerns. Of course, Adol would not do his due diligence if he didn't at least check on his captain's fitness to command after what this entire crew has just been through.

    The question is, what will happen if Kella's scans turn out nothing? Or maybe even worse, what if they do show a possible Inth influence and Aubrey won't admit to it. Oh boy, this is going to be a challenge no matter what.

    What a splendidly tricky situation Adol and this crew find themselves in.
     
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  7. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek

    Chapter 2
    ------ Part 1 ------​


    USS Sentry


    Captain’s log, supplemental.

    Admiral Jellico’s orders that we pursue and monitor the Intrepid have thus far been successful. As the admiral predicted, our superior sensor platform has allowed us to follow Aubrey for the last two days while remaining unobserved.

    But our latest returns indicate Intrepid is about to cross through the Re’Satta system, which belongs to the Gorn Hegemony, no doubt I assume, as a shortcut to Archer IV. It’s difficult to see the Gorn permitting him entry as they have signed a non-aggression pact with the Dominion and I doubt they will jeopardize that by allowing a Federation presence in their system. And with the Inth weapon aboard his ship, this situation has the potential of becoming tragic.

    If we continue our pursuit of Aubrey, we would have to follow him through Gorn space, which would only exacerbate the problem. It would also mean revealing ourselves to him.

    My orders state that I should disengage when I can go no further. However, since we’re now out of communication range of Starfleet, I have a difficult choice before me…

    Captain Caroline Hiroko ended the recording only to find that she was staring apprehensively at her ready room doors, wondering if there was time to call a meeting with the junior officers that represented her senior staff on this new command.

    It was unlike her to procrastinate; yet she had to admit that’s exactly what she was doing. What she desperately wanted was counsel but there was no one seasoned enough to provide it on this ship.

    A short time ago she’d commanded the Galaxy-class Legacy before it was destroyed during the Battle of Betazed. Her first officer, Lt. Commander Wo’Hal had sacrificed his life by shielding her from an exploding conduit on the bridge. She never missed the Efrosian more than she did now, for his gentle wisdom would have been nothing less than a balm.

    Even more, she missed the counsel of Sonya Kantrovitch, her former security chief and the woman she had planned to marry after the war. She had died while trying to complete a dubious mission to destroy the Kokala Nebula with a Genesis device. The idea had been to take out the Dominion fleet in the process and stop the impending attack on Betazed.

    It was a plan that Jason Aubrey had hatched and talked Jellico into.

    It hadn’t worked. And if Aubrey could be believed, the Genesis explosion only succeeded in rousing the Inth from evolutionary slumber to menace a Federation already under siege by a ruthless enemy.

    For an instant, tears threatened to flood her eyes, surprising her with the force of her pent-up anguish. She gritted her teeth and wrestled the monster away.

    Shame on her for giving her emotions free reign! She had no business dishonoring Kantrovitch’s memory, who, were she here, would no doubt tell Hiroko to get off her ass and tend to business.

    She wrapped her long ebony hair back into a bun and then checked her eyes for wayward moisture. Satisfied she was all buttoned up again, she launched out of her seat and headed for the exit, cursing Aubrey with every footfall.

    “Captain on the bridge!” Lt. (j.g) Joanne Manta, acting first officer, called out as Hiroko arrived.

    The captain’s mood grew worse after taking in her less than ship-shape control room for the third time in one day. “Lt. Manta, the next time I set foot on this bridge, I expect it to look clean and proper.”

    “Yes ma’am.” Manta glanced over the dirty floor and scorched walls self-consciously. While she had managed to get the larger pieces of debris removed, a fine blanket of fragments still remained on the deck and burn marks lingered on the walls and terminals, the ghostly remnants of a fire-fight by the former command officers, all of whom had perished while repelling a Jem’Hadar boarding party.

    “Report.” Hiroko ordered while dropping into the command chair. She was glad to see that at least the bloodstain had been removed from the center seat.

    Lt. Manta hovered near the OPS board, confirming what the inexperienced crewman had just told her. “Captain, Intrepid has just crossed the Re’Satta border into Gorn space. We show one of their vessels on an intercept.”

    “Ma’am, I don’t get it,” said Ensign Frandsen from his tactical post. “I thought the Gorn Hegemony was on the other side of the Federation.”

    Hiroko tried to swallow her exasperation. Because of the war, there were personnel shortages across the fleet. But in their haste to fill stopgap requirements, the Academy was evidently sacrificing certain academics…say, interstellar history for example. “As you should already know Ensign, the Cestus Accords of 2270 gave territorial concessions to the Gorn after we accidentally colonized sections of their space. So they own a few systems within our borders, Re’Satta being one of them. You can look up the rest of the details on your time, not mine.”

    “Yes ma’am.” Frandsen agreed sheepishly. His Scandinavian heritage made his blush all the more intense.

    Turning forward in her chair, Hiroko moved ahead on a decision that she fully expected to regret. “CON, increase speed so that we’re in hailing range of Intrepid.”

    It took a few minutes to close the gap, but once done, Sentry’s hails were rewarded with a fiery-eyed Captain Aubrey on the main screen. “Caroline Hiroko.” He greeted irritably. “This isn’t the best time for a chat.”

    “It’s the perfect time. I’m asking that you come about and leave Gorn space before you create another incident. The Federation doesn’t need more trouble right now.”

    From the other side of the screen, Aubrey appraised her bemusedly. “Jellico put you up to this, didn’t he? No doubt you have orders to turn us around.”

    “Actually, I was ordered to shadow you and report on your movements. Once you entered Dominion territory, I was supposed to withdraw.”

    But you decided to make contact, instead.” Aubrey nodded appreciatively. “I’d have done the same thing. So let me assure you, this isn’t a reckless maneuver, it’s calculated. I have a contact in the Hegemony that should get us through without ruffling any…scales, as it were.”

    “Then why is a Gorn battleship closing on your position?” She challenged.

    Aubrey’s lips bent into a disarming half-smile. “It’s not a threat, it’s a welcoming party. You see, I already made contact and they’ve agreed to speak with me.” His English accent was smooth as silk.

    “Then…they haven’t granted passage yet?”

    Not yet,” Aubrey replied sagely, “But they will. Trust me. This is just how the Gorn do things.

    My God but he’s insufferable, Hiroko thought. “Aubrey, listen to me. That’s a Chaffak-Class warship out there, armed to the teeth. And we have a second one on long-range, moving in fast. The Gorn may not have talking in mind.”

    I appreciate your concern, but it’s unwarranted. Our conflict is with the Dominion. We enjoy good relations with the Gorn.”

    “But they don’t have the best relations with you.”

    His self-satisfied grin slipped a notch. “What’s that supposed to mean?

    “Oh come on, Aubrey! You know damn well what it means. I’ve seen your service record, of course. Eleven years ago while serving on the Baghdad, you became embroiled in an incident on their home world that directly led to a military coup.” Hiroko was blurting out details of his record in public, but didn’t care. She had thrown out subtly along with her last bloodied uniform.

    Which led to General Vos’va becoming Imperator. And he oversaw the stable government that followed.

    “Only after a two year civil war that cost millions of lives.” Hiroko retorted, not missing a beat. “If your contact is Vos’va, you should know that the Imperator hasn’t been seen in public for quite some---“

    Just a moment.” He interrupted.

    She stopped as Aubrey spoke to his tactical officer, who stood next to him. Hiroko recognized the Andorian as one of his crewmembers who, like Sonya Kantrovitch, had tried to take down the Kokala Nebula. The difference was that apparently Aubrey’s people had survived the mission, while hers had not.

    Her hands slowly curled into fists.

    Sorry, we’ll have to continue this debate another time.” Aubrey said dismissively. “My party guests have just arrived.” Before tapping his armrest, he gave her a somber look. “Go home, Caroline.”

    His image blinked out, leaving Hiroko to glare savagely at en empty star field.
     
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  8. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    This situation isn't going to end up well for everyone when they get home. Hiroko seems to be a good captain.
     
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  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    You make it really quite difficult not to sympathize with Hiroko or to see Aubrey as anything other than an arrogant jerk. Which considering we are seeing this from her perspective here makes total sense. Also, I suppose Aubrey has been known to be a bit of dick at times.

    The Gorn backstory is fascinating and is sure to have garnered Aubrey both friends and foes amongst the Gorn. It will be fun to find out which one he's about to encounter. The way this story has been going, I cannot imagine crossing through Gorn space will be easy.

    And Hiroko, who is not exactly following orders by the book, is a wild card in all this as well. Her involvement with Intrepid and Aubrey are likely not ending here.
     
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  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    I hope Aubrey's as confident as he sounds, as the Gorn are nobody to trifle with.

    I'm appreciating all the grim little details of how awful the war has been for all involved, most especially those 'lucky' survivors.
     
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  11. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Chapter 2
    ----- Part 2 -----​


    USS Intrepid



    Lt. Commander Adol insisted on manning tactical---his usual post---for the encounter with the Gorn. Aubrey had reluctantly agreed, but advised him it was a one-time exception. The captain was quick to remind the Andorian that his duties as acting XO were large enough without adding the laser-like vigilance required of a tactical officer and both functions could suffer as a result.

    At the moment, Adol was looking down from the tactical podium, gawking at Aubrey as though seeing him for the first time. “Captain…were you really involved in the Gorn Civil War?”

    The captain shrugged casually. “It’s a long story…suffice to say that tales of my influence have been greatly exaggerated.”

    “Holding position as instructed.” Lt. Fidel reported from the CON. “Gorn battleship inbound, now coming into visual range.”

    “Let’s see it.”

    It was a breathtaking sight. On the main screen, an enormous boomerang-shaped vessel swooped into view, its hull a patchwork of gray and black amour. Shark-like fins adorned the dorsal and ventral areas of the ship, although whether the projections had a purpose or were just to showcase the Gorn’s predatory aesthetics was anyone’s guess. Little guesswork was needed in regards to her offensive abilities, however. The boomerang’s outer curvature was rowed with so many weapons ports they seemed to overlap.

    Aubrey greeted the visage with a welcoming grin. “Right on time.” He swiveled his chair back to Adol. “Just for the sake of conversation, what’s their tactical status look like?”

    “Not good for us.” Glancing over the specs, Adol wasn’t completely successful in keeping the admiration out of his voice. “She’s a beast. Four times our mass and at least three and a half times our firepower, and that’s on our best day. I’m reading high-yield plasma torpedoes, over thirty phaser cannons, next generation ablative armor---“

    “I get the idea.”

    “I suggest we avoid any disagreements.”

    “Sound tactical advice if ever I heard it. Hail them, please.”

    Adol elicited a soft jingle from his board. An expectant silence followed, during which his expression gradually sank into a frown. “No response.”

    “Are they receiving us?”

    “Yes sir, they should be.”

    On the viewer, the warship glided to a halt; close enough that it filled the entire screen.

    The captain opened a channel. “This is the starship Intrepid, Captain Jason Aubrey commanding. We are repeating our request to traverse your territory.” He paused before dropping his other shoe. “I am a friend of Imperator Vos’va.”

    “They’re responding, audio only.”

    “I thought they might,” Aubrey intoned smugly.

    Awwwwww---breeeeeee…”

    The captain cocked his head at the rasping grumble. “Yes, this is Captain Aubrey. Have you considered our---“

    Awwwwww-breeeeee.” The voice repeated. “You are he that helped bring Vos’va to power?”

    He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Well, I played a hand in that, yes. But regardless, we’ve been friends ever since.”

    Vos’va was a traitor who had the blood of millions on his hands.” The voice snarled. “We executed him as enemy of the state.”

    Aubrey muted the channel and turned accusingly to Adol. “Why am I just now hearing about this?”

    “I’m as surprised as you are. “ Adol answered. “Our last Intel spoke of recent political turmoil in the Hegemony, but nothing about disposing of their Imperator.” He waived a hand resignedly in the air. “I suppose that with their borders sealed, and everyone else at war, they were able to keep the information contained.”

    Shaking his head with irritation, Aubrey turned back and tapped his armrest to reopen the channel. “My apologies. I wasn’t made aware of your government’s change in leadership. Regardless, my request is the same. It’s critical that we reach Archer IV within thirty-six hours. If we don’t, billions of people with die. So I ask again that we be allowed to proceed. I give you my personal word that we’ll steer well clear of all Gorn colonies, installations and ships.”

    Awwww---breee. You have much to answer for. Prepare to surrender your vessel.”

    He wrinkled his noise with annoyance. “I beg your pardon, but our two peoples are not at war.”

    We don’t recognize you, Aww—breee. You don’t stand with your government. Your carry no flag. You have spilled our blood. We call you criminal!”

    My outlaw status is already preceding me, The captain thought dejectedly. “If your government has a complaint about me, it will still have to go through proper channels. But be advised, I won’t allow my ship or crew to be molested.”

    Then you will all die.”

    “Hold on! Wait a moment,” Aubrey objected, rising to his feet. “I have a proposal. I’ll surrender myself to you once we’re on the other side of your territory---but only if you allow my ship to continue on to Archer IV. My crew can complete this mission without me, if necessary.” He shot a meaningful look to Adol, but the Andorian’s face was stony.

    Suddenly, he felt his skin tingle just as the OPS crewman said: “They’re trying to get a transporter lock on the captain!”

    “I’m raising shields and going to red alert.” Adol announced as the shrill klaxon came to life.

    Aubrey was amazed to find that he was still present. He spun around, doing a quick head count. “Did they get any of our people?”

    Adol checked his board. “Negative, looks like they were just after you. Luckily, the transport inhibitor was on line.”

    The captain breathed a silent thank you to yet another unconventional system that had been installed during Intrepid’s “guinea pig” days.

    “They’re charging weapons!” Ensign Sinclair nearly shouted from OPS.

    “Captain, I suggest we withdraw.” Adol ventured.

    “You know that’s not an option, Commander. We’re going through whether they like it or not. Helm, take us by them at full impulse, evasive pattern Foxtrot-One. Engage now!”

    Intrepid twisted on her lateral axis and dove under the Gorn cruiser. As she hurtled past, the Gorn raked her with a volley of phaser pulses from her ventral cannons, hammering Intrepid at close range.

    “Shields at seventy-three percent!” Adol shouted, ducking as smoking bits of the ceiling clattered over his tactical podium. “Hull damage, dorsal-aft!”

    The next round struck again, violent enough that the crew was nearly shaken out of their seats.

    “Now at fifty-one percent on the shields! Hull breaches on decks eight and six. Emergency force fields in place, no casualties.”

    Several large booms resonated through the air as the Gorn launched a succession of new attacks.

    “Shield grid is destabilizing! Switching to auxiliary power and rerouting pathways!” Sinclair projected through the thundering noise.

    Behind Adol, the master systems display, which depicted a large outline of the ship, exploded into flames. Fire suppression systems sputtered to life and just barely managed to extinguish the flames.

    “They’re trying to cripple us. Otherwise we would have been cut in half on the first attack.” Adol observed while using his hand to sweep smoldering debris off his panel.

    From his command chair Aubrey was coughing, but still giving orders with calm deliberation. “Helm, switch to evasive pattern Foxtrot-Two, best possible speed. Try to get us out of range of their guns.”

    “Foxtrot-Two confirmed.” Fidel established diligently. “Captain, may I suggest we go to warp?”

    “Afraid not. There are strike groups up ahead. We’d be intercepted at warp and destroyed. At least this way, we have the edge with maneuverability.”

    Suddenly, Sinclair began to eye his OPS panel with wild, darting looks. “Captain, I’m picking up a massive bioelectric distortion wave building in main engineering.”

    “Sir! I’ve just lost helm control. Impulse engines are shutting down!” Fidel exclaimed.

    Wide-eyed, Aubrey tapped his armrest. “Gorn vessel, you need to stop your attack immediately. I have an alien weapon aboard that I’m not in control of. It’s powerful enough to destroy you.”

    Adol examined his interface desperately. Looking up, he shook his head.

    Sinclair was becoming more bewildered by the second. “Sir, engineering is reporting that the Inth cocoon has become illuminated again. Lt. Benjamin is sounding an evacuation of the main compartment…” He looked over his shoulder at Aubrey. “And the ship is now radiating a variable-distortion field, just as it did last time.”

    Aubrey turned to his personal interface. What he saw there made him slam the console with his fist. “Bloody hell, it’s happening again! Adol, find the visual records of the Cardassian ships destroyed at Kokala and transmit them to the Gorn. Maybe that will deter them.”

    The Andorian was fevered with determination as he punched in commands. “Transmitted. But I don’t know if I penetrated the distortion field. Communications have already gone down.”

    The crew watched helplessly as the Gorn battleship came within less than a kilometer of their position. Once there, it fired a dozen phaser cannons at once, no longer opting for restraint.

    Fidel threw an arm across her face, flinching with the expected impact. But this time, the weapons fire passed through the Intrepid like she was a mirage. A salvo of plasma torpedoes was launched next, and although the crew saw them expand forward and engulf the main screen, there wasn’t a single vibration to indicate contact.

    The Starfleet ship had become a phantasm with one foot in our universe and the other someplace else; all at once neither really here nor there.

    The Inth had once again seized control of the hapless vessel.

    A jiggling tendril of energy shot out of Intrepid’s secondary hull directly at the Gorn cruiser. Instead of impacting, the end of the bolt expanded into a globe that instantly encapsulated the warship. The Gorn began blasting it from inside, in a furious attempt to break the prison, but it held fast.

    The green energy blister began to contract, crumpling the battleship’s wings as though it were caught in a cosmic vise. The hull fragmented, for a moment looking like a child’s snow globe as the interior filled with a cloud of spinning fragments. A series of explosions erupted from the remains of the primary hull, before consolidating into a single burst of light, which vaporized all matter within the sphere. The bubble continued to shrink until finally it vanished from the known universe.

    Still suspended in a state of temporal and spatial flux, Intrepid cut off the thrashing energy bolt and waited patiently for its next victim.


    USS Sentry



    What was the crew compliment on that ship?” Hiroko breathed, her mouth a thin line of fury.

    “Approximately two-thousand officers and soldiers, captain.”

    Hiroko uttered a plethora of Japanese curses. Aubrey’s body count was growing. With this new and terrible impetus, she made a silent vow to personally see to his arrest. “Position of the second warship?”

    “They’re seven minutes out, ma’am.” Her OPS crewman returned somberly. “Approaching at high impulse on an attack vector.”

    “And Intrepid?”

    “Holding position. Their hull is in a state of flux, just like it was at Kokala. It’s like they’re just…waiting for the Gorn to arrive.”

    Waiting to pounce like a trapdoor spider. Hiroko shuddered. She pushed herself up straighter in her chair and took a determined breath. “All hands, stand to battlestations.” The bridge lights turned dull red. “Helm, lay in an intercept of the Gorn warship and prepare to engage at full impulse.”

    “Aye, ma’am.” The junior officer’s response was timid and resolved all at the same time.

    Lt. Manta caught her eye and Hiroko was pleased to see nothing but solidarity reflected back at her.

    “Engage.”

    Sentry careened over the border and into Gorn space.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
    CeJay likes this.
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, that didn't work out as planned.

    This entire episode won't reflect well on Aww-breee (loving that). Maybe he couldn't have known that his erstwhile ally and friend has been deposed and that it would turn any goodwill he had with the Gorn into a liability, but now it appears that he will be indirectly responsible for a high number of Gorn casualties since he cannot control the Inth on his own ship.

    Maybe Hiroko will turn out to be the hero of this tale, even if I can't really see what she can possibly accomplish by crossing the border and giving the Inth and the Gorn another target.

    Tell you what though, I'm really eager to find out what's going to happen next.
     
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  13. Count Zero

    Count Zero Make our planet great again! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    European Union
    I just got caught up on this. Really enjoying it so far. Although I do feel for the crew that seems to get into more trouble. I hope you'll continue this soon. This is quite the cliffhanger!
     
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  14. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Nice to hear from you again, Count!
    Thanks for your interest. I should have more next month.
    I've been out for a bit working on some original non-Trek material.
    But I'll be back in action soon. Have a good one!
     
  15. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek

    Chapter 3

    Part 1​



    USS Intrepid



    Sick with dread, Aubrey and his crew watched Sentry flash through space on the static-filled viewer.

    “We’ve lost sensors, captain.” The update was practically a superfluous one, as the viewer filled completely with snow the instant the operations officer uttered it.

    “What the hell does she think she’s doing?” Aubrey demanded, rising to his feet.

    “You know what she’s doing.” Adol said, stepping away from his garbled tactical panel.

    The captain looked back at him with guarded interest. “I do?”

    Adol nodded. “Of course. Because it’s exactly what you would do in her place.”

    After a moment of grave consideration, Aubrey took his seat again. “She’ll never pull it off.”



    USS Sentry


    I don’t think I’m going to pull this off, thought Captain Hiroko. “Manta, is engineering ready?”

    “Aye, Ma’am. Chief Hodwell has set up an oscillating subspace field around the core as you ordered.”

    “Good. That should be convincing enough if they manage to scan through our shields.”

    “Ma’am, the Gorn ship just established a weapons lock.” Manta reported as she hunched over the tactical officer’s shoulder.

    “All right. Helm, all stop. The rest of you, on your feet.”

    Looks of puzzlement circulated through the small bridge. Lt. Manta pushed through her surprise and repeated the order. Moments later, everyone around her was standing at attention before there posts, looking more like a cadet review than ever, given their tender young ages.

    Nodding with approval, Hiroko was last to stand. “Now, everyone adjust your body language as I am.” She stood straight, folded her arms and then planted both her feet wide apart.

    As the crew complied again, Manta asked, “Ma’am, shields in place but are you sure you don’t want weapons online?”

    “I’m sure. Now, I want all of you to sneer, preferably showing off as much teeth as possible.” She glanced around to confirm her odd game of “Simon Says” was still going smoothly. “Okay, hail the Gorn ship. But tell them we’ll only tolerate visual communication.”

    “They are responding with visual.” Manta confirmed with wonder.

    ”On screen.”

    It was hard for the primates in them not to flinch. The face before them could easily have passed for a Tyrannosaurs Rex. The creature’s eyes were black, lifeless pools. Oily green scales shimmered in the light, highlighted by a reflective gold collar that encircled his neck. The collar was adorned by symbols that probably indicated rank. Teeth that must have been razor sharp crowded out of the Gorn’s mouth; a zipper lock patchwork of deadly blades…

    As always, the Gorn were succinct. “You have committed an act of war. Both of your ships will surrender now, or you will be destroyed.”

    “The destruction of your battlecruiser was not intentional.” Hiroko said forcefully. “We’re transporting alien weapons so that we can dispose of them safely. They’re not fully within our control and activate when a threat is perceived.”

    You brought this threat to us. You will answer for it. You have one minute to surrender.”

    Keeping her arms folded over her chest, Hiroko extended her sneer and jerked her head at the Gorn defiantly. “I have the same weapon aboard my ship that Captain Aubrey does. You’ve probably picked up its signature even through our shields. Attack us, and you will be annihilated instantly and without mercy. The same will happen to your strike groups near the border. If your life and those of your countrymen matter nothing to you, then proceed. I have no patience for your threats.”

    The Gorn commander didn’t respond.

    “Or…you can let our ships pass through your space. As Aubrey said, we will avoid all Gorn installations and vessels. The safe disposal of these weapons is in everyone’s best interest.”

    And where will you dispose of them?” The Gorn hissed out in a surprising change of subject.

    “Someplace far beyond your borders. That’s all that should matter.”

    The ship’s commander seemed to be weighing options, because nearly a minute crawled by before he finally responded. “I have a counter-offer. Give these weapons to us and we shall see to their disposal. In exchange, you may both withdraw peacefully. The charges against Aww-Bree will be rescinded as well.”

    How gracious, she thought derisively. “I appreciate your proposal but this isn’t a negotiation. Allow us passage or between our two ships we’ll destroy your entire fleet. This is your only warning. Sentry out.”

    The viewer flipped back to the enormous boomerang-shaped warship.

    Lt. Manta eyed the weapons board anxiously. “Captain, request permission---“

    “At ease, Lieutenant.” Hiroko carefully sank back into her chair. “Bridge crew, assume your stations again.” The breath she had been holding slid out of her in a quiet gust. She relayed her next commands in a calm, even tone aimed at soothing the nerves of her novice personnel. “CON, come about and lay in a parallel course to Intrepid, no closer than a hundred thousand kilometers and engage at one quarter impulse. Keep your maneuvers unhurried and leisurely. Is that understood?”

    The CON officer repeated the order and tapped out the commands.

    With deliberate impertinence, the Nebula-class vessel turned her back on the large predator and moved off deeper into Gorn territory.

    An update came at once from OPS. “Gorn warship is in pursuit but they’re keeping their distance.”

    “They’re also keeping a weapons lock on us.” Manta added somberly.

    Hiroko’s hands tightened over her armrests. “Status of Intrepid?”

    “They’ve phased back into normal space, ma’am. It looks like they’re getting underway again.”

    “Captain Aubrey is hailing on an encoded channel.”

    A few moments later, Aubrey was looking out over Sentry’s bridge again. “Well played, captain. Now, I might suggest---”

    I’m not here to support your mission, captain.” She interrupted coldly. “I’m just trying to save lives.”

    “Fair enough.” Aubrey agreed, taking note of his frigid reception.

    We’ll escort you out of Gorn space but not into occupied Dominion territory. Are we clear?”

    “Very clear.” He said blandly.

    I’m delighted.” This time it was Hiroko who closed the channel abruptly.
     
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  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Go Hiroko!

    Seriously that was a ballsy bluff. Maybe right up there with the Corbomite Maneuver.

    It worked, that's all that matters. And now that the Gorn are dealt with, at least for the time being, there just remains the little matter of the ancient, near-omnipotent alien force, possibly bent on the destruction of al life as we know it, currently hitching a ride on Intrepid.
     
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  17. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Chapter 3
    Part 2​


    USS Intrepid



    Aubrey’s attention stayed on the forward screen while he was lost in thought. Hiroko had just metaphorically slammed the door in his face. It was another grim reminder of just how few people were truly in his corner at this point. In fact, those left could be counted with the fingers of one hand.

    The ship had been returned to normal once again. But before asking for a damage report, he took another moment to absorb the deathly silence around him. His crew was obviously stricken by the Gorn’s destruction---and Hiroko’s disapproval wasn’t lost on them, either. It was all a harbinger of worse trouble to come.

    We’ll make it though this, just as we always have. He told himself. His hand drifted over to one of two command terminals that bracketed his chair, intending to check on warp status, but he never completed the action.

    Suddenly, the bridge dissolved around him.

    Aubrey fell backwards into a vast chasm. He yelled hoarsely as he plummeted, his arms and legs flailing in panic. As he fell, the years lifted away from him, substituting fear for an emerging sense of peace. His adult life and experiences continued to evaporate; a sensation that should have been terrifying but was instead oddly pleasant. He was thirty again. Then twenty, then an adolescent, and finally---



    ***


    The strange vision thinned away like fog pushed off by a windstorm.

    Jason shook his head lightly in the afternoon sun, strangely disoriented. What a freaky daydream to get lost in! He remembered it had something to do with spaceships and dinosaur people but damned if he could remember it all now. It should have been cool given the subject matter. But for some weird reason, the whole thing had freaked him out. Maybe because it was much more vivid than his usual mental holidays.

    He turned his mind back to happier subjects, like the cute Rhonda Date who stood before him in pink sneakers and white shorts. Like Charlie Brown, Ten year-old Jason had a crush on a little redheaded girl. He had lucked out that, even on summer vacation, he had managed to bump into her. He’d been trudging home from the playground and boom! There she was, crossing the street. They met at the corner like he’d planned it. Even better, she had agreed to let him walk her home.

    He looked down at the can of Coke in his hand and thought: It’s still 1975 and I have my whole life ahead of me. How cool is that? It didn’t occur to him how unusual the idea was for someone his age.

    Rhonda did her standard greeting by waiving a circle in the air and crying out “Hey there, hi there, ho there! Anyone home, Jason?”

    He smiled. “Yeah. Jelled out there for a sec. What were you saying?”

    She raised an eyebrow at his t-shirt, which had the “Six Million Dollar Man” plastered on the front. “I said why do you like that TV show, anyway?”

    He hesitated. The question was practically rhetorical to his way of thinking. “I don’t know. He’s bionic. It’s cool. He can run sixty miles an hour, you know.”

    “What happens if he trips?”

    He pinched his mouth at the nutty idea. “Bionic feet can’t trip. Everyone knows that.”

    “Why not?”

    “Cuz they’re bionic.” He said in growing exasperation. She was cute, but dang, chicks could be so ditzy sometimes.

    Their debate was interrupted by a trio of heckling girls who were passing down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. The trio was infamous at school for condemning anyone who didn’t measure up to their high standards. “Jason and Rhonda sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes LOVE then comes MARRIAGE, then here comes Rhonda with a BA-BY carriage!”

    Jason saw it as an opportunity to defend Rhonda’s honor. “You all suck the big wiggy!” He hurtled at them.

    “You ARE a big wiggy!” One of the three retorted.

    As it turned out, Rhonda was no shrinking violet herself. “Why don’t you three witches kiss my freckled ass!” She punctuated the invitation by bending over.

    Jason spewed out the Coke he had just taken in, delighted by her tenacity. “Yeah, kiss mine, too!” He also bent over.

    Rhonda straightened up and slapped a hand to her chest in mock horror. “Jason Daniel Aubrey! It’s not nice to make fun of poor retards! They might start crying and pee their pants!”

    The girls said some other things but their would-be victims were laughing too hard to hear it. One of them stuck out her middle finger before trotting off with her colleagues.

    Jason and Rhonda squealed all the harder, unable to turn off their giggle switches. The cackling and guffawing went on for another five minutes because each time one of them snorted it set off new waves of hilarity.

    Beneath all the noise, they were feeling those first, delicious tickles of puppy love. At this point, their affection was a pure and honest thing, born in the innocence of childhood. It came from the land of bubblegum and stick-on tattoos; places where “cross my heart and hope to die” and “scout’s honor” were the only oaths that mattered.

    As with all human beings, their innocence was a temporary privilege. The wheels of biology were already in motion within their young bodies. In a few short years, testosterone would pervert their attraction into lust and the desire for conquest; the first of many vices that would culminate in adulthood.

    Once the two had themselves under control and were moving forward again, Jason decided to push his luck just a bit further. “Hey, Rhonda…tomorrow do you wanna come over?“

    She looked back, wide-eyed. “Well, yeah. I guess I could. I’ll just need to ask my mom.“

    Jason paled. “Oh. Cool.” He fell into a nervous silence, unsure of how to proceed.

    “I can ask her when we get to my house.” She prompted helpfully.

    “Cool.”

    “What are we gonna do at your place?”

    “Uhh…” Jason hadn’t thought that far ahead, having been unprepared for success. “We could ride our bikes or something?”

    She shrugged. “Yeah. Or there’s this one place, where---“

    They were interrupted yet again, this time by loud music that drowned out the rest of her sentence. On the street behind them, a pickup truck drove by, its stereo blasting out Barry McGuire’s guttural lyrics:

    If the button is pushed, there’s no running away, there’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave---“

    Jason turned to watch the pickup roll down the street, the music fading with distance.

    And you tell me…over and over and over again my friend…ah you don’t believe…we’re on the eve of destruction…”

    The vehicle turned a corner taking the music with it. Jason stared after it for a moment. The smile he’d been wearing from his laugh melted into a frown.

    “Hey, did you jell out again?”

    He looked back at her, trying to fathom the strange knot of despair that had wormed its way into his stomach. “What were you saying, Rhonda?”

    “I said I know a cool place where we could go.”

    Walk it off. That’s what Jason’s dad would have said. A warm breeze blew around him, like the ethereal caress of a ghost. Rhonda’s red hair fluttered in the breeze and for a moment he was reminded of---

    ---of a redbird spreading its wings.

    A cloud darkened the sun as it drifted overhead. But the shadows around him continued to deepen far more than they should have. Blackness began seeping across the boundaries of his peripheral vision, dissolving the sidewalks and houses as it oozed in his direction.

    “Ragnarok,” Jason whispered. He dropped his can of soda on the sidewalk where it made a metallic splat before rolling off the curb, sputtering out its contents as it went.

    “What’s a raga-rock?” Rhonda cocked her head in a way that Jason had always thought was outrageously cute. She didn’t seem to notice his dropped coke.

    This wasn’t real.

    God help him, the future wasn’t the dream, it was the past. He knew this day well. It was the day before both his summer vacation and his childhood would be ripped away.

    Unless he fixed it so that he could stay here.

    He just had to reach Rhonda, grab her hand. That was the thing. Once he did that she would become real; and this little girl whom he once had a crush on---this child who had lived and died four hundred years ago---would anchor him. She would ground him to this time and place and none of the moments that were to come after this would ever transpire.

    He could do it over again.

    But he was paralyzed. His legs wouldn’t move. “Rhonda, come here!” He barked. Incredibly, it was grown man’s voice that belted out of him---and with an English accent of all things!

    “What? I can’t hear you.” She was shaking her head and pointing to her ear.

    He yelled at her again to come over but it was too late. She had become an old, yellowed photograph, crumpling up while it dropped away from him. Rhonda continued to shake her head at him even as her image fell into a dark well.

    Her words became a dying echo. “Can’t hear you, Jason---can’t hear you---can’t hear you---“

    “Wait! Come back!” He blubbered desperately. It wasn’t her he wanted so much as everything she represented. It was of course, unattainable. He was already rising upwards again, where guilt and responsibilities awaited him…


    ***


    Aubrey jolted back to the present, feeling sick with disorientation. Dizziness assaulted him. He held fast to his command chair, as though it might fly out from under him at any moment.

    What the hell is wrong with me? He wondered miserably.

    His surroundings came back to him slowly. As the dizziness passed, he took in the bridge, grateful that no one had noticed his difficulties. Apparently, his anguish had been silent and had lasted only seconds.

    There was another surprise. He brought a trembling hand to his cheek and found it to be wet. He had been weeping. He brushed away the tears quickly; checking from the corner of his eyes, hoping none of his crew were the wiser. Again, he was grateful his people were too immersed in their duties to notice.

    When Dr. Kella’s voice chirped out of his combadge, he jumped in his seat, and that did draw a curious glance or two. Cursing his weakness, he tapped it. “Go ahead, Doctor.”

    Her tone was surprisingly formal. “Captain, I’d like you to report to sickbay. We never had a chance to examine you after the nebula.” The timing of her call was so perfect that for a moment he thought maybe she had somehow instantly become aware of his episode.

    He cleared his throat. Walk it off, Aubrey. “This isn’t the best time. Besides we’re overwhelmed with casualties right now. I’d prefer you focus on them.”

    I’ve made room for you. It won’t take long.”

    “I promise I’ll report as soon as the situation is under control.”

    Captain, I’m afraid I have to insist. This is a medical order.”

    Understanding caused a lopsided grin to sprout over his features. Shaking his head, he turned to see---not surprisingly---that Adol had appeared at his side. The Andorian’s mouth was set in a hard line.

    “I see.”

    “I’ll keep your chair warm captain.”

    Aubrey relinquished the center seat to him. “Check with Benjamin. I want maximum warp to Archer IV whether the engines are ready or not.” He observed Adol pointedly. “I’ll be back soon.”

    “Yes sir. I’ll see to it.”

    Adol watched him exit through the starboard turbolift door, feeling his antennae droop under more unwanted burdens.

    Looking down, he faced the vacant captain’s chair as though it were a giant Ice Serpent that he would now have to wrestle into submission.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
    CeJay likes this.
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Oh, more creepiness, mixed in with some good old-fashioned nostalgia. Time frame doesn't quite match up, but this feels a bit like Stranger Things in Space. And yeah, I do acknowledge that your time displaced story arc predates the Netflix phenomenon.

    Great song choice, too, so very appropriate.

    Also liked Aubrey's knowing smirk. He knew instantly what Kella and Adol were up to. I wonder if he's already planned for this eventuality.

    Goes without saying that I'm on pins and needles here for the next chapter.
     
    Galen4 likes this.