The Star Eagle Adventures: EVS3 - Homecoming

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    May 2376



    Xylion was a very different man now, barely recognizable from the young, timid boy he had been seventy years earlier when he had set out on his kahs-wan. He was older and wiser of course, his resolve firmer and his logic sharper than it had ever been. But he had also grown physically into a tall and strong man and not just because of his Starfleet career.

    Many things had changed for the young boy in that desert decades ago. He had found something there he would never have expected. Not courage or the strength to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. He had found, quite literally, another soul. An alien spirit wandering aimlessly through the desert, like Xylion confused and lost and perhaps even scared.

    For many years after this unlikely encounter, Xylion had been unable to account for how this alien presence had arrived in the Forge or how it had subsequently managed to merge with his own consciousness. But that it had, of that there was no doubt.

    After finding the source of the odd energy on that fateful desert night, he had felt it flow into him and after just a few hours, take occupancy in his mind. The intrusion hadn’t been violent or painful and he had not fought it. It had not, as far as he had been able to tell, altered his mind or his own thoughts. Instead he simply found himself sharing his own head with another individual.

    It had saved his life.

    For reasons just as ambiguous as its presence on Vulcan and its origin, was the effect it had on him once they had become one. New and never known strengths seemed to emanate from this merger, his tired and exhausted body seemed like reborn, his logic which he had spent so many hours honing, reasserted itself with crystal clarity and purpose.

    Against all odds, Xylion had reached his destination in the Plain of Blood with time to spare, requiring very little rest, food or water. While most persons would have broken down for days after such a startling metamorphosis, Xylion simply found that it had crystallized his resolve to reach his goal, his new imperative not just to save his own life but to ensure the survival of this parasite as well.

    After his return to civilization, Xylion had not shared this remarkable experience with anyone, not even his parents, and instead spent much of his next few years studying this phenomenon in as much detail as he could. Coming to learn to live with another voice in his head was of course a challenge, especially since Bensu, as he had introduced himself over the years, was nothing like a Vulcan. He possessed emotions, or rather, did not suppress them the way Xylion did. In the early days of this forced cohabitation of minds, the young boy had questioned his own sanity more than once, wondered if he had truly mind melded with an alien being or if that voice in his head was merely a sign of a mental condition he had contracted from his near death experience in the Forge.

    But as was usual for him, even at a young age, he had turned to logic and slowly but surely ruled out the possibility that his mind was failing him. On the contrary, he had displayed such an impressive mental fortitude, that he began to understand and accept that he had become the host to another consciousness.

    And soon Bensu became more than just a voice inside his head. He became a friend and his closest confidant. How could he not be, considering that he had access to his every thought. A human or another emotional race might have been unable to cope with such a situation, with losing total privacy within one’s own head. But Xylion had thrived under these conditions.

    In fact it was thanks to Bensu, and Xylion’s own unquenchable curiosity as to his origins and the way in which he had been able to take residency in his mind like a Vulcan katra, which had driven him to join Starfleet, against his mothers wishes.

    It was the reason why he had once more elected to spend his leave from Eagle visiting his home world. Not to reunite with family or friends but by revisiting the place Bensu and Xylion had first become one. To retrace the same steps he had first made so long ago. To Xylion it was nothing short of a revelation and a chance to find answers to decade-old questions.

    “I positively despise this blasted wasteland.”

    Xylion glanced at his companion who was nearly a head shorter, dressed like he was in all-white Starfleet desert fatigues, his hood hanging into his dark face and the long robe billowing slightly around his boots.

    “A wasteland implies a barren region, devoid of life and activity. The Forge however has a significant population of flora and fauna.”

    He nodded. “Yes, I know. Most of which is trying to eat us.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow. He knew Bensu well enough to understand his tendencies to exaggerate and use colorful language to underscore his arguments. It was of course a common practice among more emotional species. It still confounded him to some degree that after the many years they had spent together, very few of his calmer, reasonable and more logical thoughts seemed to have made much of an impact on Bensu.

    The other man considered Xylion for a moment. “I know what you’re thinking, old friend. Why must I remain so terribly illogical after all this time? Why could I have not become more like you? Ever wonder why you didn’t become more like me?”

    His response remained another raised eyebrow.

    “In fact, one would think that after sharing one brain for so long, you would have had a much easier time off-world, getting along with all those awfully illogical people out there.”

    “I have no compunctions working with non-Vulcans.”

    Bensu uttered a chuckle before he found a large rock and sat down in order to remove one of his boots. “Maybe now you don’t. But we both know it’s not always been like that.”

    Xylion said nothing to that. After all it was hard to argue with a man who knew his head inside out. And the facts seemed to support his point. He had not lasted long in Starfleet after leaving Vulcan, and had quickly decided to return to his home world. He had not left Starfleet but instead taken a transfer to a local and planet bound role instead where he had stayed for decades, mostly working with the Vulcan Science Academy, and partaking in significant and notable research projects, many of which were able to support his more personal and clandestine quest for answers.

    Bensu turned his boot upside down to watch the sand come pouring out of it. “I really don’t know what we are doing back here. It’s unbearably hot and dry, there is nothing to see unless you count sand, and judging by the way this wind is picking up we might be in for a storm of the ages. This place nearly killed us both once before, why are we so desperate to give it another chance?”

    Xylion referred to a standard tricorder he had brought. “According to my calculations a category five sand fire will engulf this region in approximately twenty-eight minutes, which would make it one of the most powerful sand fires ever recorded on this continent.”

    Bensu’s eyes widened with surprise and he jumped back onto his feet, struggling to put his boot back on while hopping after Xylion, clearly not quite having expected for nature to catch up with them so imminently. “Wait a minute, what in the world are we doing down here then? We should get out of this thing’s way as quickly as we can. You full well know that sand fires are nothing to joke about.”

    But Xylion seemed unimpressed. “Indeed. However I believe that we will be able to wait out the sand fire in a nearby cavern system.”

    Bensu just shook his head. “The same cavern which is the home of the meanest, most infamous le-matya this side of the Plain of Blood? I think I’d prefer returning to the shuttle.”

    “That will not be an option.”

    “Why not?”

    “We lost contact with the shuttle twelve minutes ago due to the increasing electromagnetic interference which is being caused by the approaching sand fire.”

    “So let me get this straight, you decided to come to one of the most dangerous places on this entire planet in the middle of sand fire season, putting not just your life in jeopardy but mine as well. What possible reason could you have for such madness?”

    Xylion didn’t immediately respond and instead glanced at the tricorder again, after which he quickly increased his pace.

    Bensu followed suit, dread already spreading across his face. “What now?”

    “Sand fires can be unpredictable this time of year. It appears that this one has picked up speed and intensity. We must expedite our efforts to reach the cavern.”

    Bensu had no arguments to offer safe for one. “If we survive this you’ll owe me one serious explanation.”

    By the time they reached the cave, the wind had picked up quite a bit and both their long desert fatigues were rippling against the strong gusts beginning to build up and howling across the desert. The static electricity in the air was palpable and the first sign of the vicious electromagnetic storm which would soon turn this part of the Forge from an inhospitable wilderness to an outright nightmarish landscape of sand, wind and fire in which little could survive.

    Xylion quickly lead Bensu into the cave entrance, the very same he had entered seventy year earlier as a child. This time he walked confidently but without abandoning caution and a deep respect for the creatures that usually inhabited these places.

    They both switched on their wrist beacons to illuminate the dark cavern as they moved deeper and further inside to get as far away as possible from the entrance. Xylion had produced his tricorder again which softly hummed as it scanned their surroundings.

    “Anybody home?” Bensu asked.

    But Xylion closed his tricorder and returned it into the pocket of his cloak. “As I expected, the storm is interfering with sensors. We will have to rely on our senses.”
    “So what you’re saying is that it’s between being cooked alive outside or ripped to shreds and eaten in here. If I have vote in the matter—”

    But Bensu stopped talking when Xylion gently touched his shoulder and then indicated for him to be quiet after he had caught his attention.

    He indicated towards the deeper, darker end of the cavern and then for Bensu to head right and into branching passage.

    Bensu responded with a frown, clearly not happy about this but when Xylion insisted with a persistent look, he relented and slowly trotted off.

    Xylion for his part turned off his beacon and proceeded deeper into the cave, staying as quiet as possible.



    Bensu couldn’t shake the feeling that he had made a terrible mistake as he made his way slowly through the passage which really didn’t seem any less dark than the one Xylion had chosen. After just a few meters he was certain he could hear someone, or something else in the cave with him. He stopped and shined his light back the way he had come from.

    Finding nothing there.

    With a heavy sigh he continued on, taking just one small step at a time and desperately trying to figure out why Xylion had believed that splitting up had been a good idea.

    It wasn’t long until he heard that first hiss and once again stopped in his tracks. There was no more denying it. He was not alone.

    The light of his beacon caught the yellow and white streak jumping into his direction and he ducked just in time to avoid contact.

    The full grown le-matya was not pleased at all by his intrusions into its layer, this much was clear when he finally managed to steady his light enough to fully capture its angry, hissing face with its razor-sharp teeth.

    “Nice kitty?”

    The wildcat was getting ready to pounce but just before it was going to launch itself from its powerful hind legs to hurtle towards its prey, the massive animal whipped its head to the side.

    A bright orange light filled the otherwise dark cave, striking the le-matya’s side with perfect accuracy. The creature hissed loudly before it collapsed.

    Bensu directed his beacon towards the far end of the cave to illuminate Xylion, calmly standing in the open and securing his weapon.

    “What in the name of Surak was that?”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow. “A female Regarian le-matya. By its body language and behavior I estimate it to be roughly thirty-two years old, however a more detailed analysis would be required to determine its exact age.”

    “I know it’s a bloody le-matya, the razor-sharp teeth and the bad attitude were a dead giveaway. What I want to know is why you didn’t tell me that you were going to use me as bait?”

    Xylion walked over the where the beast’s body was now slumped on the cavern floor and kneeled next to it. The way that mountain of green and yellow fur still rose and fell ever so slightly gave proof that Xylion had merely stunned the wildcat. “The likelihood of your objection to the plan would have caused a significant delay in its implementation, which would have led to us losing the element of surprise which was vital for the plan to succeed,” he said as he stood again once he had been satisfied that the le-matya no longer posed an immediate threat. “I further deduced that had I made you aware of the plan before hand, you would have eventually agreed to it, once you had understood the logic of it as well as the limited danger it posed to your safety. However, as I mentioned, we did not have the time for you to arrive at that conclusion.”

    Bensu fumed. “Better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission, is that it?”

    Xylion sat down on a nearby bolder, as he continued to look at his old friend. “I have also estimated that you will show indignation over my decision for the next six to eight minutes until you decide that it is a wasted effort and that my logic was unassailable. Would you prefer to take that entire time to express your aggravation, or shall we skip that step and agree that I made the correct choice?”

    He had kept his voice so perfectly neutral and without any indication of smugness or arrogance it only helped to infuriate Bensu further. “Are you made of flesh and blood or are you a damn computer? Honestly, sometimes I really cannot tell anymore.”

    Another eyebrow climbed upwards in response. “We have shared one mind for sixty-one point three years and you are still astonished when I am able to predict your responses. Is that not curious?”

    Bensu uttered a heavy sigh and found another rock in the dark cavern to sit down, except that it took him a few attempts until he felt even remotely comfortable on the hard, jagged surface. “I guess I should not be surprised. It just seems like common courtesy to me that you would tell a person before you intend to place them in front of a wild and hungry beast and risking his life and limb.”

    “I shall consider that on the next occasion we have need for such a strategy. Time allowing.”

    Bensu said nothing to that. Instead he had decided to ‘punish’ his friend by not speaking at all for a while. Of course that plan was doomed to fail since Xylion didn’t crave conversation and was perfectly content to remain sitting quietly in the dark for as long as necessary. Bensu was not.

    He only lasted a couple of minutes or so during which time the only sounds he could hear was the muffled hissing from the intensifying sand fire outside.

    Ultimately he had to admit, even if only to himself, that Xylion had been absolutely correct, or at least logical to a fault, as far as his plan had been concerned. He would be damned however before he admitted as much out loud. “Alright so now that we have slain the beast, what’s next? Do we just sit here and wait for that storm to pass?”

    “Correct. From my last readings, the sand fire will reach category six strength within the next two hours. It may last up to four additional hours to subside.”

    “Wait a minute, earlier you said it was going to be category five, one of the most powerful ones ever recorded.”

    “This one will most likely break the previous record.”

    “And with us right in the middle of it.”

    “This cave should provide ample protection.”

    “Should? That doesn’t sound like your usual confident self.”

    Xylion didn’t anything further on the subject and all of a sudden Bensu found himself desperately wishing that he’d be the one to keep talking in order to elaborate his point, using his unassailable logic to reassure him that they were, in fact, perfectly safe.

    But the Vulcan refused to do so.

    Giving up on having his mind put at ease, Bensu got up from the hard rock he had chosen as a temporary seat and headed for what looked like a moss covered patch on the ground. After inspecting the surface carefully, and testing it out with his boot he finally determined that it would make for an adequate place to rest and placed himself on top of it. “Not sure there is anyway to get comfortable in this place. Sometimes I can’t help but wish I were still in that noggin of yours. Didn’t have those kind of worries back then.”
     
    TheLoneRedshirt likes this.
  2. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Yikes. Hiking through the Forge once should be enough in anyone's lifetime.
    I hope things go better in the cave this time around!

    Great character relationship here. This is a real unlikely pair.
    Now let's see where all this is heading...
     
    CeJay likes this.
  3. theonering

    theonering Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2010
    I'm confused, is Bensu a non-corporeal living inside Xylion's head? Or a physical person that could have been attacked?
     
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    9 Years Ago
    2367


    Xylion found his modest home in the outskirts of Sh’calla, the city of his birth, exactly how he had left it when he had departed Vulcan three years earlier.

    The few belongings he owned, including his sparse furniture, remained untouched. Even the four, fern-like plants that decorated his living space and his bed chamber were precisely the same size as when he had last seen them. And even though nobody had lived in this space for seventy Vulcan months, there wasn’t a spec of dust or dirt in sight.

    Of course there was nothing unusual about this, after all Xylion had arranged a caretaking service before he had set out and Vulcans prided themselves in ensuring that anything they looked after appeared exactly the same way on the final day as it had on the very first day they had taken on such a responsibility.

    Therefore Xylion took no time whatsoever to take in his home he hadn’t laid eyes upon in three years, after all everything was the way it had been before. He carried with him a medium-sized shoulder bag but it contained no personal items or clothing. Everything he had needed had been available to him while he had been away and like most Vulcans, he didn’t believe in taking with him personal mementos or trinkets.

    “Welcome, Xylion,” said the monotone computer voice upon having registered the homeowners return. “You have three waiting messages.”

    Xylion didn’t even slow down on his way to his study. “List all messages in order in which they have been received.”

    “Message one: Sender T’Nal.”

    His mother. It was not surprising that she would be in touch as soon as he had returned from his expedition. No doubt the message included an invitation to their home to discuss his future plans and to convince him to take on a permanent position on Vulcan, instead of remaining with Starfleet. It had been a conversation they had repeated often since the day he had left Vulcan as a young man to join Starfleet Academy. The fact that he had returned home after only two years to join the Vulcan Science Academy as one of their many Starfleet liaison officers and an astrophysics specialists had only ever given her more ammunition in this decade long argument.

    “Save message,” Xylion said, determined to review it at a later date. He had more urgent matters to attend to.

    The computer beeped obediently. “Message two: Sender Vice Admiral T’Lara.”

    Xylion knew that Admiral T’Lara was the current head of Starfleet Sciences and was likely getting in touch to discuss further details about Starfleet’s recent decision to award him and the rest of the expeditionary team a special award for breakthrough scientific study. Even though he had been the only member of the Soval to be a member of Starfleet, it had been found that their collective contribution to astrophysical research was significant enough to award the citation to him as well as to the remaining civilians.

    Xylion didn’t spend much time concerning himself with awards, even if he appreciated the recognition for the work he and his fellow colleagues had made during the three-year study jointly sponsored by the Vulcan Science Academy and Starfleet. He also understood that as a member of Starfleet it was probably not wise to keep a flag officer waiting too long for a response. He was, however, currently on leave and his present business simply took precedence. “Save message.”

    Another beep. “Message three. Sender K’tera.”

    Xylion had just placed the bag onto his desk and then stopped suddenly when he heard that last name.

    “Really don’t think you should put her off. Not anymore.”

    Xylion ignored the voice in his head and instead opened the bag on his desk to retrieve a black case from inside it and placed it on his desk. “We have more urgent matters to attend to.”
    “I am not going to argue over the implications of our latest find. Can’t even deny feeling a certain sense of excitement over it but I told you before, she is not going to wait forever.”

    “Nor will she be required to.”

    “Xylion, last time you two spoke you told her you were planning on going through with it once you returned. Now that you are back it’s only fair that you make good on your word.”

    He carefully examined the case, ensuring that no damage had come to it, before reaching for a tricroder he kept neatly placed in a drawer of his desk. “Unforeseen circumstance may require amending our previously considered time table.”

    “Right. Just like the unforeseen circumstances of you suddenly deciding to go off into space for three years? If I didn’t know any better I would say that you have been doing everything you possibly can to avoid marrying her. And it just doesn’t seem very Vulcan to— my, will you look at that?”

    Xylion had opened the case to reveal what looked like a large piece of silver and reddish rock, glowing ever so faintly and visibly emanating a high level of heat.

    “The object is still reading as an alkaline metal, similar to Barium or Radium, but the tricorder is not able to properly designate it.”

    “If the science labs on Soval weren’t able to tell you for certain what this is, neither will your little gadget. But trust me, it is exactly what we need to complete the superconductors and merge them with the biological components of the prototype.”

    He closed the tricorder when it refused to tell him anything he hadn’t already learned after discovering the strange metal on a barren planet over twenty light-years away. “I still do not understand how you can be so certain of this. This appears to be a hereto unknown chemical element.”

    “And neither do I.”

    “It must be connected to your origins.”

    “Maybe.”

    “I am not comfortable having hidden this find from my colleagues,” he said as he continued to consider the pulsing rock. “I would prefer for it to be properly catalogued and presented to the Academy for further study.”

    “So that you can get another award? Sure go ahead. But all they are going to do is probe it and study it for years and you will never get to see it again. Or use it for that matter. If you are serious about the prototype, we have to do it this way.”

    Xylion of course had already made his decision on this and Bensu knew this, considering that he shared a consciousness with the Vulcan scientist. After all Xylion had spent much of the last forty years on this project. In fact one of the reasons he had returned to Vulcan after his short stint serving on a starship after graduating Starfleet Academy had been to pursue this project in the privacy his own lab would afford him. He had claimed that he had not acclimated well working with so many colleagues who displayed their emotions so openly, but that had only ever been one of the reasons, maybe even the lesser one.

    This was his life’s work and thanks to Bensu, who had been an invaluable assistant over the years, he may have now finally found the missing piece to bring it all to fruition.

    Bensu was understandably excited over what this would mean for him personally but even Xylion couldn’t deny a certain amount of enthusiasm of coming so close to the realization of his greatest achievement. Even if he would never show any signs of such feelings openly.

    “Let’s get this thing into the lab already.”

    Xylion offered no objections as he quickly closed the case and returned it into his bag.

    The computer beeped again. “Please advise how to process the most recent message.”

    Uncharacteristically Xylion had all but forgotten about the messages including the one from K’tera. “Save all messages,” he said as he headed back out of his home. Much more important things were going to occupy his mind for the foreseeable future.


    * * *​


    The newly discovered element was incorporated into the prototype with little difficulties, once again relying on Bensu’s inexplicable insight into the technical aspects of their work which had confounded them both over the last two decades during which they had jointly designed, developed, fabricated and refined the prototype.

    Of course their chosen designation was somewhat misleading, after all there were no plans to construct any additional versions, in fact it would have been near impossible to do so considering the amount of time, effort and most importantly resources which had been expended for just one model. And of course it had never been a plan to mass-produce. On the contrary, its uniqueness was by design and very much an essential quality.

    Now that the final, missing piece had been acquired and incorporated, a nearly twenty-year effort had finally reached its conclusion. All that was left now was to bring it to life.

    Where to do this had been obvious. Ever since their first joining at the Forge, Bensu had maintained a connection to the place Xylion had later learned had been named Deep Oasis hundreds of years ago.

    That connection persisted not just because his first conscious memory remained tied to that location, there had been something else and more unquantifiable that linked him to that place.

    Xylion had since determined that it was part of the sensation he had first perceived, both through tactile stimulation as well as through thermal radiation, when he had first awoken there as a child after falling from the cliffs above and which had ultimately drawn him to Bensu’s katra, for a lack of a better term. And it was indeed a form of radiation his sensory equipment had been able to register, even if any kind of classification had eluded him for years.

    It affected Bensu as well and perhaps even more significantly. It was the reasons he was not fond of revisiting this place, even if he could not articulate this anxiety clearly to the one person with whom he was so inextricably connected.

    Xylion had of course insisted on returning to Deep Oasis on numerous occasions after their joining, and particularly once he had reached adulthood and his focus on trying to understand Bensu’s nature and origins intensified.

    Deep Oasis’ remote location left it undisturbed by other Vulcans and yet rarely had any of those visits yielded any kind of significant results.

    This one was to be different.

    Xylion had arranged a shuttle to transport the prototype and then used an antigrav unit to move the casket-like container to the exact position in which he had first ‘met’ Bensu.

    “What if this won’t work?” the voice inside him asked.

    “Then we will analyze the results and try to identify any possible faults preventing us in succeeding,” he said as he prepared the container for what was to come.

    “Of course. But what I mean is, what if something goes wrong? What if …”

    Xylion knew what he meant without it having to be spelt out. After all, to his knowledge, what they were about to attempt had never been done before. Certainly not in this manner. Xylion was no the first Vulcan or even non-Vulcan for that matter, to serve as a vessel of sorts for another consciousness. What his thorough studies on the subject had demonstrated, was that no Vulcan had ever possessed the katra of an unknown alien being before, and more importantly, nobody, in recorded history, had ever attempted to separate such a katra in the way they were about to.

    “Considering the time and resources we have committed to this undertaking, this appears to be a most inopportune juncture to develop indecision on what we are about to endeavor.”

    “My dear, old friend, I may have been part of your immensely and impressive logical mind for sixty years, but I am not, nor will I ever be a Vulcan. It should be obvious that what I’m seeking now is some reassurance before we do what has never been done before.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow even if of course there was nobody within one hundred miles who could have witnessed his facial expression. “In that case, I offer you my reassurances that we will proceed with an abundance of caution as we will bring to bear all the knowledge we have been able to accumulate over the last decades.”

    “It’s times like these I wish I could sigh heavily.”

    “Perhaps soon you will.”

    And with that Xylion went to work, and even Bensu began to focus in earnest, understanding that they would both require their uttermost concentration for the next few hours.

    First Xylion removed the cover of the two-meter long container to reveal a seemingly unconscious body. Male, and not overly tall with the skin the color of deep copper, almond-shaped eyes and a hairless head featuring four prominent, white bony ridges running perpendicular along the scalp. The body looked like no race Xylion had ever encountered or even read or heard of before and yet Bensu had been able to implant a perfectly clear picture of this body in his mind.

    Its outer appearance was not the truly revolutionary aspect of this body. Xylion was well aware and had in part studied android designs, most notably those of famed cyberneticist Doctor Noonien Soong. But the idea of crafting a fully artificial body had not appealed to Bensu, even if it could be argued that this was exactly that.

    Instead they had partly grown a synthetic body which was a hybrid of sorts, mostly biological in nature with only very few mechanical components at all. As far as biosensors were concerned, this body was real flesh and blood. Albeit currently entirely dead.

    It was perhaps one of the greatest achievements of synthetic design known in the Federation and yet nobody was aware of this, thanks to the total secrecy in which Xylion had worked on this prototype. And it was impossible for him to claim much of the credit for either its development or its construction. Most of that expertise had come from Bensu directly, even if he had been unable to explain how he had come to posses this knowledge.

    The most critical step in bringing the prototype to live and making it more than essentially a dead husk of flesh, muscle, bones and blood was also one of the most dangerous. For this part Xylion had to depend on what he had been able to learn about the Vulcan ritual of fal-tor-pan, the transfer of a katra from one body into another.

    He had spent years studying this, spending a great amount of time with Vulcan priests and masters of this discipline to gain a complete understanding, never letting on that what he planned to do was even outside their realm of experience or knowledge. And yet, as far as he knew, it was the only way to ensure Bensu could inhabit a body of his own.

    What Xylion didn’t believe in were the ceremonial aspects of this age-old ritual, nor was he a man of hesitation.

    So he carefully touched his own face, planting his fingers exactly where he would have done if performing a mind meld and mirrored that move on the prototype’s face.

    And then he closed his eyes and began to focus inwards. His mind enveloping what in a sense was Bensu’s essence inside himself. Bensu for his part needed to do much the same, focusing on who or what he was and where he existed inside a body and mind-space not truly his own.

    It was an experience like no other for both of them, and while it felt somewhat reminiscent of their first encounter in this very desert many years ago, it wasn’t exactly comparable either. First and foremost neither Xylion nor Bensu were the same person any longer, thanks to the vast experiences they had shared over that period of time.

    The intensity of those experiences suddenly washing over him, without a filter or restraint, came as a surprise to Xylion, who was unable to remain on his feet and instead fell onto his knees while managing to hold on to the prototype’s face.

    He saw glimpses of another set of experiences, of another life he knew as not his own. The amount of information that washed over him was too much for even his disciplined Vulcan mind to process. And it rushed by him like a starship at high warp, with nothing staying behind as it all streaked past him with mindboggling speed. The only true sense he had of this experience was that it seemed to last for hours, an endless stream of fractured and jumbled memories. He couldn’t be sure if he could even trust his perception of time while in this state as the world outside of his mind had ceased to exist.

    A burning pain shot through his head followed by what felt like a terrible emptiness, like the never-ending vacuum of space itself. The dread this invoked was so beyond anything he had ever known, a terrible scream reached his ears and it took him a long time to realize that it was his own.

    He heard a distant voice somewhere in his head and began to focus his thoughts solely on that in order to avoid the pain he felt. He thought it sounded vaguely like Bensu, except muffled and extremely distant.

    His first fully cognizant thought in his mind was that whatever they had attempted—incredibly foolishly, considering its extraordinary scope— had ended in failure since Bensu’s voice was still there, inside his mind as it had been for decades.

    He opened his eyes to see the stars.

    A few moments passed until he caught up with the reality of his situation. He was lying flat on his back in the sand, staring up at the clear night sky. It had been early morning when they had started out the experiment.

    The voice was still there.

    “Xylion.”

    But it didn’t come from inside his head.

    A shadow fell over him and the prototype stood above him.

    “You look a lot taller in person.”
     
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  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Wow. :eek: An incredibly audacious and ambitious plan comes to fruition! Hard to believe he's managed all this in secrecy, but despite the odds, Xylion pulled it off. That puts him in the pantheon of scientists the likes of Soong and Daystrom.
     
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  6. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Present Day


    The sand fire had lasted well over four hours and when Xylion and Bensu reemerged from their shelter, they found that the storm had left their surroundings significantly changed. As far as Bensu could tell, the ubiquitous sand dunes had shifted dramatically and causing entirely new valleys everywhere he looked, almost as if they had stepped into an entirely different desert.

    It was only thanks to Xylion’s tricorder that they were even able to locate the entrance to the canyon which led back towards Deep Oasis and any sign of the small, meandering stream that had once run along it were gone.

    Bensu feared that the sand fire had altered the landscape so drastically, they would not find their way back to Deep Oasis at all.

    But as it turned out it was still there even if the cliff didn’t appear nearly as high as it had before. The small lake at the bottom of the cliff had practically disappeared.

    They unpacked the mountain climbing equipment they had brought along in their backpacks and then repelled down about fifteen meters.

    Bensu immediately felt a familiar tingling sensation all over his skin the moment he had set foot on the sand again, something in this place had always caused this reaction in him, even when his consciousness had lived inside Xylion’s mind. There was no doubt that he was inexplicably connected to this specific area of the Vulcan’s Forge. How and why however, he didn’t know. His memories simply refused to go back any further than seventy years when he had first joined with a young, lost Vulcan boy.

    But something was different to the last time they had come here.

    While Xylion checked on their equipment, Bensu left it were it was and instead walked away from the cliff as if something was calling out for him. He couldn’t say what it was, only that it existed. Like a tractor beam homing in on him.

    Whatever it was, it seemed to take him to one of the large rocks which surrounded the barely remaining lake.

    He didn’t recognize the oddly, almost cone-shaped rock which seemed unlikely considering that it was far too large and heavy looking to have been placed there recently. As he stepped closer he realized that the rock had indeed always been there, but the sand fire had shifted much of the sand surrounding it, revealing much more of the stone.

    Bensu dropped to his knees in front of it and gingerly touched the rock. It did not feel in any way special but he was certain that something had pointed him to this exact spot.

    Xylion joined him when he noticed his interest. “Have you found something?”

    “I’m not sure. Something’s here. Something that hasn’t been here before. Or at least something we didn’t notice before.”

    Xylion retrieved his tricorder again, flipping it open and pointing the scanning nodes towards the rock. “Curious.”

    “What?”

    He waved the tricorder into other directions briefly to get comparative readings of their surroundings before coming back to the rock which was almost half a head taller than he was. “The background radiation levels appear to be stronger in the immediate vicinity of this boulder.”

    Bensu looked up at him. “But this boulder has always been here, I’m sure. Is it possible that the sand storm somehow intensified the latent radiation to this level.”

    “We do not have enough information to formulate a hypothesis.”

    Bensu expression made it clear that he was not happy with that response.

    “It is … possible.”

    He nodded and looked back towards the stone. From all outward appearances it was just that. And perhaps, he thought, it wasn’t the rock itself that was unusual, perhaps it was some sort of energy which had been released thanks to the intensity of the sand fire which had ravaged the area for hours.

    He suddenly knew exactly what needed to be done. Bensu looked back at Xylion, right into his eyes. “Mind meld with me.”

    The Vulcan simply raised an eyebrow and Bensu knew why. Xylion was not entirely comfortable with this ancient Vulcan ritual and had only very rarely practiced it at all. It was hardly surprising of course that after spending the better years of his life sharing his mind with another person, that he wasn’t exactly eager to do so again, even temporarily. As such Xylion’s and Bensu’s minds had not touched again since their permanent separation and Bensu knew of only a couple of instances over the last ten years in which he had been forced to make direct telepathic contact with another being.

    “I am uncertain what you would hope to achieve by performing a mind meld.”

    “There is something here, and I think it wants to make contact with me. But I don’t have the facilities to do so. I need your mind as a bridge of sorts,” he said and was sure he sounded us uncertain to Xylion as he did to his own ears. There was no scientific evidence to support any of this. It was merely a feeling and even then, he couldn’t be sure if that feeling justified what he had proposed.

    Xylion took a moment to consider the stone and then his surroundings as if he could gleam another explanation for what Bensu was experiencing. “We know that the radiation levels in this immediate area have increased since the sand fire. It would be more prudent to fully investigate these new readings before deciding on a course of action.”

    But Bensu shook his head. “We’ve been looking over these radiation readings for decades, just because they are somewhat higher now doesn’t mean we are going to learn anything else. And what if this spike won’t last? What if this is our only opportunity to take action? We have to take advantage of this now.”

    Xylion remained unconvinced. “That is not a valid scientific argument.”

    He uttered a heavy sigh, pretty much having expected this from the man he knew so intimately. “Fair enough. But come on, Xyl, you are the one who wanted to come back here in the hopes to learn more about me and where I came from. I’m telling you that the way to do that is to perform a meld, not spending another decade pouring over data. Do you want answers, or not?”

    It was an interesting reversal of roles, Bensu had to admit. Even though this had always been about his origins and his history, it had usually been Xylion who had driven any new discovery. It had been Xylion who had chosen Starfleet as a career to find a way to learn more about Bensu, and it had been Xylion who had chosen to dedicate much of his life to that task afterwards. Bensu had only ever really been in the passenger seat for most of this. A willing participant, certainly, but only a participant nevertheless.

    This inexplicable feeling he was experiencing now however was prompting him into action like never before.

    In the end perhaps Xylion came to understand this change as well, realizing that for the first time since he had known him, Bensu was truly insistent on following through with something that could possibly lead to unraveling the greatest mystery of his life.

    “Very well,” he said. “Allow me twenty minutes to prepare. While you wait, try to clear your mind of any thoughts not relating to this effort.”

    He smiled at that. “Sure, I’ll just go ahead and flip the off-switch on my mind. No problem.”

    The empty look he received in return showed that Xylion was not in a joking mood. Nor was he really ever.

    They both knelt quietly in front of that stone with their eyes closed until after exactly twenty minutes Xylion indicated that he was ready. They moved closer to each other and Xylion made contact with his face, just like he had done nine years earlier when he had successfully transferred his katra into an empty shell of a body.

    What followed was both strange and familiar to Bensu. He immediately recognized a mind he had come to know well, one which had been a home to him for over sixty years, and yet it was also new and changed since he had last touched it. Experiencing it this way was very different then it had been before. Thanks to their familiarity they merged easily, and yet it was odd to have an entire body between them.

    But this was by far not the strangest element. He could feel another presence with them and judging by Xylion’s thoughts, he too was aware of this straight away. It wasn’t exactly another mind, or even an intelligence but a force of some sort. And even though he didn’t recognize it, couldn’t name it, he immediately knew that it was part of him. Something that had been left behind in this place when Xylion and Bensu had first merged.

    It was difficult to explain, it was really more a feeling, a sensation and it felt like a whirlpool of energy, a stream of power known and unknown at the same time.

    He resisted it at first, with Xylion providing a convenient buffer, but he could tell that whatever it was, it meant him no harm. He let Xylion know to let it through, to let it touch his mind unfettered.

    And so he did.

    It struck him like lightening.

    He felt an immense force upon him in an instant, tossing him through the air like a ragdoll and with such speed it made him dizzy. The world around him changed as suddenly and so quickly all he could perceive was a blur. The impact was just as sudden and unexpected and it forced all the air out his lungs. Then everything went black.
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Bensu had no idea how long he had been out when he finally came to again but he knew that something was very wrong. Firstly, his own body didn’t seem to respond to his commands, he couldn’t move his arms or his legs and appeared completely paralyzed.

    And if that by itself wasn’t worrisome enough, he also quickly realized that he was no longer where he had started out. Instead of in a desert, he found himself indoors somewhere. A hospital perhaps, which would make sense. Something bad had clearly happened during his mind meld with Xylion and it had brought him here afterwards.

    His vision was too blurry to make out any details of this new place he found himself in, but he was certain he was surrounded by artificial light and no longer outdoors as he couldn’t feel the powerful Vulcan suns warming his skin anymore.

    He perceived movement just in front of him and apparently it was enough to upset his seemingly fragile condition as it immediately caused everything around him to move as well.

    His vision cleared slightly and something struck him immediately. This wasn’t like any place on Vulcan he had ever seen. He was inside a building but its design was not reminiscent of Vulcan architecture. In fact he wasn’t sure if he had ever seen this style employed anywhere within the Federation.

    Doors, windows and even decorations employed a pronounced triangular shape with a strong focus on right angles everywhere he looked. Except, he realized, he wasn’t actually able to move his head at all.

    Bensu knew exactly what was happening, after all he had lived his life in this manner for over sixty years. He had no control over the body he was inhabiting, he was merely along for the ride. But this time he couldn’t sense another mind with him, certainly not Xylion. He was alone.

    But then, who was in control?

    Whoever it was, they moved confidently through the unfamiliar structure, clearly having been there many times before, and heading to their destination without hesitancy and with obvious purpose.

    The more he saw, the more familiar it became to him. He had been here before, he was certain of this.

    And while his surroundings became sharper and more recognizable with each step his host made, sounds mostly remained muffled and unintelligible. He spotted other people, shapes at first, unable to truly make out faces, and he heard distorted voices but was unable to hear what they were saying.

    And then, little by little, pieces were beginning to fall into place and the world around him began to take on clear and familiar forms.

    The Central Authority.

    Quagum City.

    Celerias.

    Those were names he had known once very well and they were coming back to him now.

    He entered a large, triangular shaped room, made to look even larger by the small number of people inside. The assembly hall had been designed to hold a few hundred people and yet less than twelve were currently inside, all of them clustered around the wider, far end of the room.

    Bensu joined them and quickly fell in with the smaller of the two groups which were standing at opposite sides of a large, three-cornered table.

    Jetro was currently addressing the small crowd. He was by far the oldest person in the room, even though possibly only in body. He wore long robes and steadied himself against a simple cane he took wherever he went.

    “It is not conscionable to keep this from the people any longer. They have a right to understand what is about to happened. They have a right to prepare themselves for what is to come in their own way. It is not too late to reverse our earlier decisions. To do what is right in the face of this calamity that has—that will befall us all.”

    Jetro spoke slowly and with great consideration as he had always done, ever since he had first met the elder politician and scientist some ninety rotations prior when his body had still been young. The older man had quickly become a teacher and mentor to him.

    His audience was unmoved however and the leader of the opposing group simply shook his head. “Our decision is final and it has been final ever since we first made it. A panic will serve no one. This matter is closed.”

    “As is, it appears, the matter of dignity and decency,” said Jetro, never shy to get in one last shot.

    “This meeting is now adjourned.”

    Jetro and half the people in attendance shot the speaker confounded looks at the choice of his words. And from the pained expression on his own face, he too realized that his word choice had been poor. Of course no precedence for this had ever existed on Celerias. Nor would this one become one for future generations.

    “May the Soul Father have mercy on us all.”

    With those final words the speaker and the rest began to stream out of the assembly hall.

    Bensu caught up with Jetro outside the Central Authority building.

    “So, what’s next?”

    “That’s an excellent question, my young friend, isn’t it?” Said Jetro as he looked up at the sky above which over the last few weeks had turned an increasingly darker shade of purple. As far as the general population was aware, this was because of an increase of harmless solar radiation outputted by the Celerias sun and flooding the solar system. Jardo and Bensu knew that this was only a very small part of the truth.

    “We have spent the last six hundred rotations thinking about what comes next. We have spent incalculable amounts of time and resources worrying about the continued survival of our species, and what have we come up with? Transference.”

    “Without transference we would have died out as a species a long time ago,” said Bensu.

    Jardo nodded slowly. “We have been so concerned about keeping us going as a people, to maintain our memories, our experiences, our culture, we never once stopped to think about preserving that which we need most to survive.”

    Bensu didn’t respond to this, after all he knew exactly what his mentor spoke off and instead he simply followed his glance.

    Jardo raised his cane, pointing at the sky. “That’s where our future could have been. That’s where we should have focused our efforts on. Not spending all our time wondering what our next body should look or feel like. All this time we were looking inwards when we should have looked outwards. That, my young friend, would have been our salvation.”

    The older man looked back at Bensu and a knowing smile formed on his lips. “It’s too late for us now. But not for you.”

    Bensu shot him a quizzical look.

    “Come now, after all this time, why keep up the pretenses?” he said and uttered a heavy sigh. “It doesn’t much matter to me anymore. I have accepted what will become of us. Before all of this I had always thought that one day I would have a chance to learn more about — the universe. I’m sure you would have been a great teacher, my young friend. Or should I say, old friend?”

    Bensu didn’t get a chance to respond.

    “You take care now,” he said. “And if you choose to honor the last wishes of an old, dying man, make sure you tell them about us. What fools we were. Maybe it will help somebody else avoid our mistakes.” Jardo reached out for Bensu’s head, using a finger to brush along one of his bony white ridges, a gesture of fondness in Celerian culture.

    Then he turned and walked down the street. “Don’t you forget about us.”

    There was not going to be a dawn for Celerias as mere hours later the purple sky turned fiery red and before any of the six billion Celerians could even wonder about this peculiarity, the solar super flare hit with such abrupt intensity that the entire surface of the planet was cooked within seconds, before a subsequent shockwave ripped the planet apart to its core.

    Celerian scientists had speculated that it had taken fifteen billion years for their planet to form and develop life. It took a mere fifteen solar minutes for it all to be annihilated.

    Bensu had little memory of what had happened to him at the moment the super flare had hit. What he did recall was a sudden spike of heat which quickly grew intensely uncomfortable. A powerful force had pushed him onto the floor of his home and after that the world had grown dark.

    He hoped it meant that the end had come as painlessly for the population of Celeria as it had come for him. Except that just as Jedro had prophesized, the solar flare had not meant his own undoing.

    He recalled flashes of space, ongoing and seemingly never ending. Planets and stars, pulsars, nebulae and black holes, none of which he was able to name but he had no doubt he had touched them all in some form or other. He had vague recollections of stellar formations and of a journey through a spatial portal which had changed everything, which had taken him from one corner of the galaxy to another.

    Bensu opened his eyes and found Xylion looking back at him, still exactly where he had been when they had first started the mind meld.

    “Fascinating.”

    Clearly Xylion had seen what he had seen.

    “That was … a hell of a trip.”

    Xylion needed a minute to collect his thoughts which seemed out of character for him. But it was clear that the mind meld had had a profound affect on him as well, having left him momentarily fazed.

    Bensu was in no better shape.

    Still on his knees next to the large rock, he let himself fall back onto the sand, shooting an empty look at Xylion who had been able to hold on to his posture. He began to nod slowly. “Celerias. I remember it now. Like a veil has been lifted off my mind. It was my home a long time ago.”

    “A species which appears to have mastered the technological and biological requirements to transfer their katra, their essence, into synthetic bodies. This explains the knowledge you were able to demonstrate while we developed your current body.”

    “Transference, they called it. In the end Celerians were nothing if not obsessed over the practice, swapping bodies almost on a whim. Jedro was right, if they had spent just a portion of the time they dedicated on developing the perfect synthetic body on exploring the possibilities of space travel and colonizing other worlds, their civilization may have survived.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow with curiosity. “Curious, you refer to the Celerians in the third person. Is there a reason you are not counting yourself among their number?”

    He considered that for a moment. “I’m not sure, I wasn’t even consciously aware that I was doing that.”

    The Vulcan got onto his feet, efficiently dusting off the sand off his robe. “I will have to consider what I have seen through your mind in more detail. But it appears clear that you survived the destruction of Celerias and I further believe that based on the stellar constellations I witnessed, not only was Celerias not in this quadrant, it may have been destroyed multiple centuries ago.”

    Bensu got up himself, standing on shaky legs and he needed to steady himself by holding on to the rock which no longer felt extraordinary in any sense. “But how could I have survived all that? How could I have travelled through space and for such a long period of time?”

    “Those questions remain unanswered for now and I do not recommend that we attempt another meld so soon after what we have both just experienced.”

    He nodded and then uttered a little laugh. “And here we thought we might finally get to find out where I come from.”

    “We have. Or at least we have unlocked part of your history. It is a vital first step but much more work remains. In any case, we now know more than we ever did before.”

    Bensu looked skyward, the wide-open desert and the clear conditions giving him an unobstructed and unpolluted view of the darkening sky above and its millions of visible stars, each and everyone seemingly teasing him with endless possibilities. “The answers to our questions, no doubt, are somewhere out there.”



    The story continues in
    Quantum Divergence
     
  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Caught up through Lif and Louise's adventure on Krellon. Not exactly a vacation for either of them, was it? Nice story and a stark reminder that not everyone in Starfleet hail from worlds/governments that uphold the lofty ideals of the Federation.
     
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  9. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    This was my first solid introduction to Xylion and I've really enjoyed it. His companion Bensu is an intriguing concept as the long lost survivor of a dead culture, but one with an amazing bit of technology.

    I think the elements of Vulcan culture and history were captured well too, which helps to flesh out Xylion's life. It always makes a difference when an author knows their subject matter so well.

    I recommend this series to anyone wanting an introduction to Eagle's crew. It's a great way to learn about each character.
     
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  10. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    When I Was a Child


    May 2376

    A starship like Eagle functioned very much like a self-sufficient entity which had been designed to spend years operating independently in deep space. The Nebula-class was one of a handful of Federation starship designs which were able to truly fulfill Starfleet’s charter and go where no one had gone before by venturing deep into unexplored territory for years on end. And considering the vast distances that made up the Federation, it was a rare occasion that she returned to her homeport around Earth’s orbit.

    Of course Eagle had done little exploring over the last two years. Like the great majority of Starfleet ships, she too had been far too preoccupied taking part in the Dominion War and battling for the freedom of the Alpha Quadrant which had kept her and her crew away from Planet Earth.

    In fact as far as Michael Owens could remember, it had been four years since Eagle had made the trip all the way back to the center of sector zero-zero-one. After that long and often excruciating war with the Dominion, many of the crew had jumped at the chance of taking shore leave while the ship itself was due for a major and overhaul at the McKinley Station orbiting Earth.

    Presently Eagle was quite literally waiting in line for her turn to get her accumulated battle damage and other required maintenance seen to. Repair stations like McKinley in the solar system and other locations throughout the Federation had been working overtime since the end of the war five months earlier to attend to a battle ravaged fleet.

    Owens understood that Eagle had been relatively lucky in that regard. Countless ships hadn’t survived the conflict, casualty numbers were staggering, and many ships which had survived the massive battles against the Jem’Hadar, Cardassian and later Breen forces had been damaged to such a degree that it had been deemed more efficient to scrap those vessels altogether. Eagle had taken her share of damage in numerous conflicts but had been patched up efficiently enough by its crew or nearby outposts to continue her missions. She had however never directly participated in any major fleet actions, such as the devastating Battle of Chin’toka or the Battle of Cardassia.

    It wasn’t as if Eagle had not been kept busy over those two, long years, undertaking various missions which in hindsight appeared to have been crucial in assisting the war effort, but Owens sometimes couldn’t help but feel guilty that they had been left out of those larger conflicts when so many had given their lives for the defense of the quadrant.

    Twenty-four hours after their arrival at Earth, and while the ship still awaited the opening of its assigned berth at McKinley, the interior of his ship felt like a ghost town as her captain walked its nearly empty corridors during the peak of alpha shift. He knew that more than three quarters of the crew had taken the opportunity of extended shore leave, even many of those who did not hail from Earth were either spending time on the planet or had chosen to travel to other destinations within the Federation core and beyond.

    Many members of the senior staff had also left the ship but Michael was surprised to find that at least one person he had expected to take full advantage of being temporarily sidelined on Earth was still on board.

    It took two attempts before DeMara Deen responded to the annunicator and she allowed him to enter her quarters.

    Even though the youthful Tenarian was currently serving as the ship’s chief operations officer, Deen was a scientist by heart and education and as such her inherent curiosity for everything new and unfamiliar was represented in the way she decorated her quarters. She was a collector and yet had managed to keep her quarters tasteful and uncluttered, with only the most artful or impressive objects on display, such as a light reflecting, spiral-shaped Iconian sculpture, a rare bust of an ancient Tkon emperor, a collection of small Hyterian figurines, a pre-Surak surrealist painting with such bold colors that it would have most likely offended most contemporary Vulcans, and a maroon ceramic vase supposedly crafted by the legendary artist Mark Off-Zel.

    Deen herself was sitting on her sofa underneath the large slanted, forward facing window which was so prominently featured in most senior officer’s quarters on this deck. She had her knees up against her chest with her arms wrapped around her legs as she was looking out towards the big blue marble Eagle was currently orbiting.

    “Knock, knock.”

    She turned her head to regard him, a puzzled expression on her face.

    “Who’s there?” he said, trying to prompt her.

    “It’s you.”

    He sighed. DeMara Deen was a remarkable bright and intelligent woman and often demonstrated a level of wisdom one may have expected from somebody twice her age. And yet the blonde-haired, purple-eyed Tenarian had never fully grasped the inherent simplicity of a knock-knock joke. Michael was determined he was going to make her understand it someday, no matter that he had tried unsuccessfully for the last fourteen years and as long as he had known her.

    He held up a padd he had brought. “I’ve noticed that you’re not on the shore leave crew rotation, haven’t even signed up for permission to leave the ship.”

    She offered a small smile. “Well somebody has to stay and mind the store. Isn’t that what you like to say.”
    Michael took a seat on a chair opposite from her. “What is this really about, Dee?” There was little point to even counter her point, after all she knew as well as he did that while in orbit Eagle could practically take care of herself, and even the few crewmen and officers who had not signed up for shore leave were spending most their off-duty hours planet-side.

    She shrugged her shoulders and looked back out of the window.

    “I know Tenaria is a long way from here but I’m more than happy to authorize extended leave for you to go home and visit family if you like. We can handle things without you for a while.”

    “I almost did go.”

    “Oh?”

    She nodded but kept her gaze glued towards the window. “When I went to Risa. It all went a little crazy and Anara convinced me to take her. It didn’t work out in the end. Things came up and we had to postpone our plans.”

    He knew she and her Academy friend Anara Rysil, the Deltan first officer of the Perseus had visited the amusement planet Risa a few months earlier. At the time he had thought it to be an odd shore leave choice for her, considering that she wasn’t really the tourist type, but he hadn’t said much at the time. In fact he had hoped that it would do her some good going to a place where she had to do little more than lay at the beach, enjoy the sun and get her every wish taken care of.

    The war had not been good to DeMara Deen. It hadn’t been for any of them, but for somebody like her, who had never truly known war and who had grown up as a pacifist on her harmonious home world, he had feared that she had encountered such violence and brutality over those two years that it had forever changed her optimistic spirit. And for Deen that was what truly defined her as a person, the ability to always see the good in people, to see light when others could only see darkness.

    “How long has it been since you’ve been home? Since you’ve seen another fellow Tenarian face-to-face?” he said.

    “It’s been a few years,” she said but didn’t make eye contact.

    “Exactly. The Tenarian delegation has travelled over a month to get to Earth and I know for a fact that Yeega has already asked about you. He would love nothing more than to see you again. I remember him from my time on Tenaria, he was always a chatty sort. Just the kind of person to catch-up with about what’s been happening back home.”

    Deen offered a very little smile. “Yes, he was chatty, wasn’t he?”

    “Go down there and meet with him and the rest of the delegation. Be with your own people for a little while. And who knows, maybe you can even book a trip back to Tenaria with them.”

    She shook her head and that smile quickly disappeared again. “I just don’t think…”

    “You don’t think they’ll be happy to see you again? Have you met your own people? I guarantee you there isn’t a race of beings more welcoming or magnanimous this side of the Virgo Supercluster.”

    She shot him an annoyed glance. “Considering that both Earth and Tenaria are within Virgo that would be difficult. And do I even need to point out that most of it remains unexplored. Thereby it is quite possible that there are many, many other races out there which could be much more magnanimous than my people.”

    “Well, sure, we could go out there and try to find them, but I think the ones we’ve got right here may be closer.”

    “Maybe I beam down to go meet Yeega if you go and talk to your father.”

    Michael was taken aback for a moment by the ice tone in her voice which was not like her at all and apparently she had quickly realized how she had sounded herself as she immediately broke eye contact, almost as if she was ashamed of her own words.

    “I will,” he said after a moment. “In fact he has already requested that I come see him. Seeing that he outranks me by a few pips, I can’t exactly say no. I already had to postpone my shore leave arrangements because of that. Imagine Tazla Star’s disappointment,” he said, referring to his plans to introduce his rather skeptical Trill first officer to the wonders of Earth’s coral reefs.

    She nodded but said nothing as she looked back out of the window, avoiding the subject altogether or that the only reason he had invited Star along was because she had surprisingly decided not to accompany him even though she had greatly enjoyed the last few diving expeditions they had undertaken together.

    “Help me understand this, Dee. Your relationship with your people is nothing like what’s been going on between my father and me. In fact it’s the exact opposite. Why are you trying to hide away up here?”

    Deen didn’t respond straight away to this. But when she finally turned her head, Michael could see that her eyes had grown wet. “After everything that has happened over the last few years, everything I’ve seen … and everything I’ve done. I just don’t know if they’ll recognize what I have become.”

    Startled by this revelation he walked over to her and held her in his arms, a gesture she welcomed as she easily sunk into him.

    After the tight embrace, she looked him in the eye. “What if they don’t accept me anymore?”

    He wiped away a tear that was threatening to spill out of her eye. “They are like family, Dee. And I don’t care where you’re from, family sticks together. Yours will too.”

    She nodded very slowly, apparently starting to believe, or perhaps hope, that he could be right.

    She swallowed and then stood from the sofa. “I suppose we’ll find out.”
     
  11. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Owens and DeMara should just admittheir feelings for each other already and kiss!
     
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  12. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Finished through Xylion and Bensu's fascinating tale. That was excellent! Very creative and a very thorough back-story for Xylion. Loved the imagery of Vulcan's desert landscape - nicely done!
     
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  13. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Deen isn't the first person who wanted to skip a family reunion but sometimes people don't realize that there can be good reasons for doing so.

    Sometimes it isn't just living in two different cultures that's the problem, but the experiences you have in each of those worlds and how those experiences change you. There are probably times in which such people don't feel like they're a part of either.

    We'll have to see how it goes with Deen!
    Great start.
     
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  14. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    She was familiar with the human expression of having butterflies in one’s stomach but had never fully understood the meaning of it until today. It was an odd sensation of anxiety and anticipation, bordering on all out fear.

    Preparing herself for the upcoming meeting, she had even changed out of her Starfleet uniform and had chosen to wear a more traditional Tenarian outfit, in this case a white and green wrap-around dress which reached just above her knees. She complimented that outfit with a white sun hat which helped keep her inconspicuous among the many locals and tourists who were out and enjoying a warm and sunny Parisian afternoon.

    Deen was tempted to spend some time to admire the city as she crossed the impressive Place de la Concorde with its mixture of modern and historical structures. The most noticeable of which was the cylindrical, fifteen-story seat of the Federation government and the president, hovering over the Champs Elysées on four large duranium beams.

    But Deen was heading the other way today, passed the two fountains and the Obelisk of Luxor and made a beeline towards the world-renowned Hôtel de Crillon.

    Inside she quickly found the ornate reception desk and asked for the Tenarian delegation. The young man staffing the desk didn’t need to look twice to be able to tell that she belong to that same race, if her bright purple eyes and golden locks did not give her away, her unmistakable aura which surrounded her people and who affected so many other humanoids was a dead giveaway.

    The man smiled at her and felt noticeably uncomfortable when he had to explain that he had to check her identity first, which he managed to do quickly thanks to her status as a Starfleet officer.

    Once the computer had verified her, two burly men in dark suits and wrap-around sunglasses accompanied Deen to the elevators. These men, she realized were part of Federation Security’s diplomatic protection detail. Entirely humorless and completely immune to her charms, they weren’t interested in the least in striking up any conversation after they had verified with compact tricorders and a brief visual inspection that she was unarmed.

    She was escorted to the top floor where they came across another four security officers who looked nearly identical and promptly carried out yet another check. Deen took all this in stride, understanding the need for security when it came to foreign delegations, especially so soon after the end of the war. It also didn’t escape her notice that there were no Tenarians standing guard anywhere. She was not surprised.

    When she was finally led into one of the larger suites, she felt those butterflies acting up again.

    Yeega who had a been a close family friend and who she had always considered as fondly as an uncle, was there to greet her and she quickly realized that he had changed little since she had last seen him half a decade earlier. As was typical for her people, he was tall and statuesque. Yeega was in his mid fifties but thanks the youthful appearance of her species, could have easily passed as ten years younger. His skin was much darker then hers and his golden hair was cut short. His purple eyes sparkled with the same intensity they had when she had been a child and he had read to her from her favorite books about alien races and space travel. In fact it had been Yeega who had awakened in her the desire to travel the stars even before Michael Owens and his Starfleet explorer stumbled over her planet.

    “Dee, it is so good to see you again.” He was all smiles as he hugged her tightly and just like that, all her worries seemed forgotten as she sunk into his comfortable embrace like she had when she had been much younger.

    He introduced her to half a dozen other Tenarians, a couple of them she remembered as people working with her father who had been a senior government official even when she had been a child. They all sat down in the spacious living area of the suite and began to talk about all kinds of things. Deen was surprised how much she found she enjoyed their company and the stories from back home. She avoided speaking about herself too much, tried to avoid talking about the last two years as much as possible and was relieved to learn that Tenaria, thanks to its remote location, had escaped the war entirely untouched by its violence.

    After an hour or so, Deen suggested a tour of the city and Yeega and a few of the delegates agreed. And while she wasn’t exactly a local, she had been to Paris enough times to know of the most popular and even a few not-so-well known attractions.

    The imposing Eifel Tower was of course one of their first stops, followed by a visit to the Louvre, and private showings of such masterpieces as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Nymph and Satyr, Johannes Vermeer’s The Astronomer as well as works from famed abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock on loan from the Museum of Twentieth Century Art in New York, and a number of stunning holo-art spacescapes from Jhothaa Sh'ari on loan from the Royal Conservatory on Andor.

    The famous Notre Dame, the Arc of Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées were of course also on the list of must-see destinations but Deen also made some time to take the delegation to some lesser known places like the downright creepy catacombs filled with a seemingly endless amount of exposed skulls and bones, the unusual Defender of Time mechanized clock in which a man seemed to be stuck in an eternal struggle against a dragon and one of Deen’s favorite locations, the Musée des Arts et Métiers, which was filled with a wide collection of scientific and industrial instruments from Earth’s past.

    In fact, Deen had always considered Paris one of Earth’s most impressive cities, ever since she had first arrived on this alien world to attend Starfleet Academy and had spent many countless hours here. If she’d had the time and opportunity she would have gladly shown Yeega and his delegation most of what she herself had discovered in the city over the years she had been on Earth. In the end they had to make due with only two days which of course hardly even scratched the surface of what City of Light had to offer.

    It wasn’t until the evening of their second day while she was having dinner with him at the glamorous dining room of the Hotel Meurice, overlooking the Tuileries Garden with its considerable collection of sculptures hailing from all over the planet and beyond, that she had felt comfortable enough to broach the subject she had been so concerned about.

    And while no member of the delegation had shown any sign of concern for her whatsoever there had been a few occasions during their tour of the city that she had felt a subtle disconnect between her and her fellow kinsmen.

    “What did you say this is called again?” Yeega said as he had another spoon of his dish.

    She smiled at his enjoyment of the local delicacy. “Soupe à l'oignon or onion soup, very popular in these parts and one of my all-time favorites.”

    He nodded and promptly had another spoonful. “I must say the local cuisine is just as impressive as the art and architecture. In fact, if I lived here, I think I would eat this every day.”

    “So would I, to tell you the truth. Our replicators don’t really do it justice. But I suppose this is hardly surprising, France is considered one of the greatest culinary locations on this planet.”

    He grinned. “I can see why the Federation decided to make it its capital.”

    “I always suspected that the food must have played a role in the selection process.”

    Yeega wiped his lips with a napkins and uttered a little satisfied sigh. “I’m glad I came here, this is a truly fascinating place. We tend to spend so much time reading and studying about these places but far too rarely do we actually visit any of them.” He took a moment to take in the lavish dining room. “The attention takes a little bit of getting used to.”

    DeMara followed his glance and unsurprisingly noticed quite a few patrons who had taken an interest in the alien pair. She had long since grown accustomed to the effect the so-called Tenarian Glow had on many other races, the way it attracted attention and tended to uplift people’s spirit almost automatically. This effect had been even stronger when the entire Tenarian delegation had traveled the city over the last two days, which had caused a number of occasions where people had spontaneously stopped what they had been doing and approached the Tenerians with wide smiles and great curiosity. None of the Tenerians had minded of course and it had led DeMara to once again become convinced that the reputation that Parisians were snobby and standoffish was blatantly untrue

    She looked back at him and nodded. “Humans tend to be a friendly people. As are most of the races that make up the Federation. It’s perhaps harder to tell with Vulcans and Andorians, but in my experience, they just show it in different ways.”

    “I can certainly understand why you have chosen to come here. There seems to be no better place to learn about the great diversity of the galaxy and the richness of all these cultures. And I say this after only having visited one of the many great worlds that make up this Federation.”

    This made her pensive for a moment, as she couldn’t help but think back how close they had all come to losing everything to the Dominion. When she looked back into Yeega’s eyes she immediately understood that he could not possibly fathom such a threat. Tenaria had simply been isolated for too long, experienced harmony for such an extended period of time, it was difficult for any of her people to appreciate what a struggle for survival felt like. It had been difficult for her when she had first left her home. “We paid a heavy price to keep hold of it.”

    Yeega could clearly tell that her thoughts had begun to drift to darker places. He reached out for both her wrists on the table, gripping them softly in a common Tenerian practice of showing support. “We all know of this terrible war you and the rest of the Federation have fought. And believe me, your parents and I offer you our fullest support. The things you must have experienced, it is difficult for me to even find words for it.”

    She nodded very slowly. “It is more than that. I mean yes, I’ve seen things I would never have imagined growing up. But I’ve also … done things.” She uttered a nervous little laugh. “I guess I don’t really know the words myself.”

    Yeega was not deterred in his support. “I will not pretend to believe that I understand any of it, DeMara. I know I cannot. But I want you to know, that whatever you have gone through, whatever it is you had to do in order to ensure the freedom of the people you have sworn your loyalty to, we would never think any less of you. You are and shall always remain a favorite daughter of Teneria.”

    She had to free one of her arms from his touch for no other reason than to wipe away a tear that had begun to streak down her cheek. She hadn’t expected this kind of unconditional support and it felt like an unbelievable weight had being lifted from her shoulders. “I … thank you.”

    Yeega quickly shook his head. “Don’t be silly, there is no need to thank me. Remember what I told you before you decided to set out onto this journey of yours. Your parents and I knew that this would inevitably change you, but we were also convinced that whatever happened, the core of who you are and where you come from will never be shaken. And that you will always have a home with us.”

    She nodded slowly. “You have no idea what this means to me, Yeega. There have been times, not so long ago, when I thought I had lost sight of who I was. When I feared that I didn’t recognize myself any longer and perhaps neither would you.”

    “Perish those thoughts, DeMara, I insist. Instead let us enjoy this time we have together, not to mention this wonderful food you have introduced me to.”

    She offered him a beaming smile even as she reached for her serviette to wipe her eyes.

    Her worst fears had been dispelled. There was no doubt that the violence and intensity of the war had deeply affected her. She had lost people she had cared for greatly but she now also finally understood that no matter how much things had changed, she could remain safe in the knowledge that she was still herself. She had no illusions that this unexpected affirmation would miraculously heal all the trauma she had experienced over the last two years, but it was a step into the right direction. And hopefully a big step at that.

    “Now that we’ve covered all that,” he said as he continued eating his soup. “I would appreciate a little advice on what to expect when meeting those Federation officials for our talks tomorrow.”

    “I’d be more than happy to help anyway I can,” she said with a smile and began to impart to her old family friend everything she knew about Federation politics and policy only to realize fairly quickly that it wasn’t nearly as much as she had believed.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
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  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    A wonderful conclusion to the Xylion/Bensu storyline, and I greatly enjoyed both it and Demara Deen's wonderful re-connecting with her people. You know the war was bad if it could darken the irrepressible radiance of Deen's personality.

    Good advice from Owens to Deen, and now we'll see how frosty Michael's reunion with his father is.
     
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  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    She didn’t get to see much of Yeega over the next few days, mostly because he had a full schedule of high-level meetings with Federation politicians which kept him busy. It hadn’t stopped DeMara to spend as much time as possible, however, with other members of the delegation whenever they were available, making the best of her opportunity to be with her own people after not having come across another Tenarian for years.

    She was pleased to find that they were just as understanding and welcoming as Yeega had been. In fact she wouldn’t have been surprised if Eagle’s resident counselor wouldn’t have considered her reconnecting with her roots as a positive therapeutic step to healing the deep psychological scars she had had undeniably suffered during the war.

    She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this positive about not just the state of her world, but also about herself as well.

    While she hadn’t talked much about it, not even with Michael, the truth of the matter was that her life had drastically changed for her over the last few years. Of course this much was true for most people living in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants fighting the Dominion, but it had caught her so completely by surprise, for a long time she had not known how to deal with it at all.

    The war had begun to fundamentally transform her from the person she had been, the person she liked and she was comfortable with, to something much darker and cynical. Something she could barely recognize when she looked at herself in the mirror each morning.

    It had started, like it had for so many others, with the constant news of yet another lost battle, another world fallen and another piece of territory lost. Then there had been the casualty reports which seemed to grow longer with each passing day until it was almost impossible to go through them without finding somebody she knew.

    It had all begun to paint a very clear picture of an inevitable defeat which would mean losing not just people and territory, but their very freedoms and everything else she held dear.

    That ever-encroaching darkness had made it more and more difficult to try and see any kind of light to cling on to, to find any hope that in the end things would turn out all right. After all, how could things ever be all right again considering what had already been lost?

    She had held out longer than pretty much anyone else on board. She had continued to try to keep that smile on her face, understanding that many counted on her seemingly inexhaustible supply of buoyancy to get them through the worst of times. But even she had to admit that near the end, she could do little more than pretend, and perhaps that was the worst part of it all. That she had become a fake, a dishonest pretender who desperately clung to a lie because she was too scared to admit the truth. Bad enough that she could no longer muster the optimism which had been an integral part of her being, but the war had turned her into a deceiver as well.

    Of course the war had eventually ended and not one day too soon. But just when she had thought that perhaps there was a chance for things to finally get better, did fate deliver perhaps the most devastating blow when a very close friend of hers had died in her arms in an entirely needless and preventable death.

    That shock had caused her to act out in a most unusual and in hindsight shameful way when she had directed much of her simmering anger and pain towards another close friend while vacationing on Risa a couple of months earlier.

    Since meeting with Yeega and overcoming her trepidations about the experience of the last few years having changed her in ways that had made her unrecognizable, she had come to the decision that no matter what she had gone through, no matter how much the events of the war had chipped away at her core being, she was determined to not let it defeat her. She was going to bounce back from the darkest days of her life along with the rest of the Federation.

    For the first time in a long time, hope was once more as integral to her life as was the air she breathed, and spending time with the Tenarian delegation was just what she needed to reaffirm this.

    So she returned back to her quarters after another day in Paris in high spirits and finding a message waiting for her.

    “Who is it from?”

    “The message is from Saada Gwacham,” the computer helpfully advised her.

    She didn’t recognize the name but she still took a seat by her desk and activated the computer terminal. “Put the call through, please.”

    The computer trilled again. “The sender has left no voice message but has requested a call back at your earliest convenience regardless of the time.”

    That was a fairly unusual request, DeMara thought, but it clearly meant that this person wanted to speak to her urgently. “Computer, who is Saada Gwacham and what is the local time at her location?”

    Saada Gwacham serves as the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and is currently located in Marseilles, France. The local time is 2322 hours.”

    It was hardly surprising she didn’t know the name, after all it was uncommon for a high-ranking politician to contact a relatively low-ranking Starfleet officer. It wasn’t difficult to guess what the call was in relation to, she knew that the talks Yeega and his delegation were taking part in where being held in the French port city.“Computer, contact Secretary Gwacham.”

    “Stand by.”

    After only a few seconds, the image of a woman of likely African descent appeared on her terminal. DeMara had a hard time placing her age, but judging by the faintest signs of wrinkles on her otherwise flawless skin and the way her short, dark hair showed just a hint of gray, she assumed that she must have been at least middle-aged and that she had come through to Gwacham directly and not an assistant or intermediary. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot, but from the looks of her business attire she was still working, even at this late hour.

    “Secretary Gwacham.”

    “Thank you very much for coming back to me so promptly, Lieutenant.”

    DeMara nodded. “Of course. How can help?”

    “I’ll get right to the point. I am afraid we’re at a bit of an impasse and would greatly appreciate your assistance. Assistance you would be ideally suited to provide.”

    “This is about the Tenerian delegation, I take it? About Yeega?”

    She nodded. “Yes. Now first of all let me assure you that my staff and I have the uttermost respect for Mister Yeega and his delegation. As you can imagine in my role I speak to a great deal of people from other cultures and societies, and I have rarely if ever encountered anyone quite like your friend. Your people’s reputation of being gracious and unselfish is well deserved. They have easily charmed half of the Palais de la Concorde. Even the President is quite impressed after just a short meeting with the delegation.”

    That caused DeMara to smile. She was glad that her people had made such a positive impression in the Federation’s halls of power. It quickly vanished when she realized that Gwacham had clearly not contacted her because things were going well. “You mentioned an impasse?”

    “I’m afraid so. One of the main reasons we have invited your people to join us here on Earth is to discuss our wider Alpha Quadrant security initiative. Now, I won’t be able to disclose many details as they are classified at this point, but sufficient to say that Tenarian cooperation is quite important to ensure the initiative’s success.”

    DeMara leaned back in her chair, starting to see why Gwacham had encountered difficulties. “Surely you are aware that my people hold strong pacifistic tenants. If your security initiative involves any kind of military commitment you are probably, as humans are fond of saying, barking up the wrong tree.”

    Gwacham quickly shook her head. “We’ve done our research, Lieutenant, we are fully aware of the Tenarian non-violent philosophy. And our proposal does not require a traditional military commitment. It does however require each member to share certain intelligence with everyone else, in this case all we are trying to get the delegation to agree to is that they will allow us to deploy long-range sensor buoys to monitor certain areas in their sector. In fact none of these platforms are even designed or calibrated to monitor Tenarian activity but are only used to detect any possible threats to the Federation as well as to Tenaria.”

    “Are these sensor platforms armed?”

    “No. And our provision even includes that the platforms may be inspected and operated by Tenaria itself in case there are any concerns about their usage. But even those overtures have been rebuffed. The problem for us is that if we are unable to deploy these platforms, a crucial part of the security initiative, which is to provide an early warning system to a number of Federation and non-Federation worlds in relative proximity to Tenaria is simply not going to be achievable because we will not be able to cover the required amount of space. As you can imagine, after the war, security is everyone’s priority.”

    “Except for my people.”

    She nodded. “So it would seem. I cannot fully understand it. Everyone would benefit from this and the advantages seem immediately obvious. I was hoping that you would be able to speak to your delegation on this matter.”

    DeMara didn’t need to think about this very long. Everything that Gwacham had told her made perfect sense and she understood that sometimes her people had difficulties grasping concepts that related to security and defense. She offered a sharp nod. “Leave it with me, Secretary. If you could send me everything you are able to share with me about this proposal I will make sure to speak to Yeega and make him see the advantages to be gained from this.”

    Gwacham offered a little smile, the first one she had cracked since the call had commenced. She tapped a few commands on a nearby terminal. “I have sent you everything I can safely declassify just now. And I’m grateful for your assistance with this. Gwacham out.”

    DeMara transferred the data she had received onto a padd for some bedtime reading, determined to have a good long chat with Yeega the following day.
     
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  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    And what are the odds Starfleet is telling DeMara the whole truth about these sensor platforms? Hmmm.
     
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  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Gwacham had arranged a two-day hiatus to the conference and Deen had taken the opportunity to return to Paris to meet up with Yeega in his suite in the Hôtel de Crillon. As had been the case the other day, Yeega was more than happy to receive her.

    She had not given him any indication what it was he had wanted to discuss with her but he was smart enough to figure out that her visit as well as the pause in the talks were no mere coincidence.

    Deen who knew that Yeega had taken a quick liking to French culinary delights had ordered two café au laits from the room’s replicator as they made themselves comfortable in the lounge area, sitting on lavishly upholstered chairs. The pleasant surprise showing on his face was proof that he was quite pleased with this latest cultural discovery.

    “How has the conferences been so far?” she asked as he watched him sipping on the large cup.

    He nodded. “Very interesting. We’ve had the opportunity to meet a great number of different people from various races, both from within the Federation and without. Before setting out on this journey, DeViscus had asked me to ensure to cultivate new relationships with as many worlds as possible,” he said, referring to her father and member of the Tenarian ruling council. “Without wishing to sound boastful, I believe I have been rather successful in that respect.”

    DeMara smiled at that, happy to know that her people were making a more concerted effort to take part in the intergalactic community. It wasn’t so much that Tenarians were isolationists per se, in fact her people welcomed visitors to their world with open arms, and yet very few had ever endeavored to leave their world for long periods of time. “I’m glad to hear it.”

    “But you feel that I could do more?”

    She gave him a puzzled look.

    “No need to be coy, DeMara,” he said with a good-natured smile. “I may not fully understand humans and all their mannerisms but I am fully cognizant of Secretary Gwacham’s frustration at our decision to abstain from her initiative. That’s why you are here, is it not?”

    There was of course little point in denying it. “Then perhaps you could make me understand your reasoning for this decision.”

    He lowered his cup and looked at her. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you would have difficulties appreciating the rationale considering how long you have spent among these people and away from Tenaria.”

    She frowned. “I thought you weren’t holding this against me?”

    Yeega quickly shook his head. “No, please, I did not mean to imply that at all. What I have said the other day still holds true. And we are all immensely proud of what you have accomplished. Your father and mother both wanted to make sure I conveyed that to you as clearly as I could.”

    Hearing that felt good. “Okay, then remind me why you believe what you’re doing is for the best of our people? How can refusing joining an initiative designed to protect Tenaria and possibly the entire quadrant from unknown threats be the right choice?”

    “I don’t disagree with the notion of trying to protect oneself from a possible threat. But I am concerned at how these long range sensor platforms could be used for other purposes.”
    “Such as?”

    “Once the Federation has the ability to scan deep beyond its borders, it can use that information to make military decisions,” he said.

    “It’s a defensive program,” Deen insisted.

    “It is intended as one, yes. But it might as well be used to, for example, plan an invasion of an alien world.”

    She looked at him blanked-eyed for a moment. The she began to chuckle. The notion had seemed so ridiculous, it was funny to her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh,” she said quickly. “But I think your reservations might derive from the fact that you don’t know the Federation very well. Take it from somebody like me who has served within Starfleet for the last twelve years. We don’t plan invasions. Starfleet is primarily an exploratory and defensive organization. Probably more defensive over the last few years, but that was hardly by choice.”

    If Yeega had been offended by her sudden onset of bemusement he showed no signs of it. “I am aware of this, DeMara. I don’t think any of us, including your parents, would have been very happy to see you join Starfleet if we thought of it otherwise.”

    “I must admit, I’m confused. Aren’t you contradicting yourself?”

    He stood to walk over to the tall French doors which lead to a balcony and from which he had a clear view onto the Palais de la Concorde and the seat of the Federation government. “I have studied the Articles of the Federation and the Starfleet Charter and I agree with most of what they contain. I consider them to be remarkable documents considering that they are the guiding principles of what is arguably the single largest power in the both the Alpha and the Beta Quadrants. I believe that the leaders you follow have the best intentions at heart and that they wish to govern by those principles,” he said and then turned around. “But I also believe, as does the Ruling Council, that too much power is dangerous, no matter who wields, no matter how good their intentions.”

    She shook her head. “You’re over-thinking this, Yeega. You’re equating a simple defensive program designed to safeguard the Federation and her allies to a philosophical question about the corruption of power. I can see your argument and understand your caution, but this is not the point over which to make it, trust me. Starfleet and the Federation may have been a power to be reckoned with, even though I disagree it should have ever been considered as a danger to the people of this galaxy, but even then that was before the war and the horrible losses that we have taken. Our focus now has to be to protect what is left and to ensure something like this will never happen again. This defensive initiative is an important first step into that direction.”

    He offered her a somber nod. “You know that we have all been devastated by the news of the pain and suffering the Dominion has brought onto the Federation and beyond. And let me assure you that I am not on an idealistic quest to preach the dangers of Federation power and influence. You are saying that this is a philosophical question and that is absolutely correct. It is the reason why Tenaria is no likely to ever join the Federation.”

    That she didn’t like hearing. After all she had hoped that her people would one day become part of the intergalactic community that she had sworn her own allegiance to. And not just because it wasn’t always easy to be a member of an organization dedicated to protect a coalition of worlds her own wasn’t part of. She truly thought that Tenaria as well as the Federation would only benefit from such a union. But that was a conversation best left for another day. She shook her head. “Nobody has officially petitioned Tenaria to become a Federation member as far as I know,” she said, knowing full-well however that her friend Michael Owens had certainly put forth such proposals to both the Ruling Council and the Federation government after his years spent as a Federation ambassador on Tenaria.

    Yeega walked back to his chair and sat. “No, you are correct. I am simply trying to make you understand the philosophical differences that would prevent us from joining the Federation or entering any alliance which could lead to a military purpose.”

    DeMara suppressed uttering a sigh. “Fine, I suppose I understand the reasoning for not wishing to become a Federation member, even if I don’t agree with them. But you studied the Federation, you said so yourself. The proposed sensor platforms this defense initiative is looking to deploy have been used in other regions of space for at least a hundred years. And never have they been used for anything other than defensive purposes.”

    “You might be right in saying so. It does not however preclude them to be used in other ways.”

    She was starting to become frustrated with this argument and fought hard to not let it show. “You said that you are devastated by the destruction wrought upon the Federation and the rest of the galaxy by this last war. Would you not wish to do whatever is in your power to help us—the galaxy—from having to go through something like this again? An early detection system proposed by this initiative would be a good way to do that.”

    “Perhaps,” he said as he reached for his cup again. And then looked back at her. “But not at the cost of our own values, DeMara. On those we simply cannot and will not compromise.”
    “Even if it could stop another war?” she said perhaps more sharply than she had wanted to.

    “A hypothetical war?” he said, as he sipped his coffee, the timbre of his voice refusing to match hers.

    DeMara jumped out of her chair, unable to remain sitting quietly. “Your entire argument is based on hypotheticals. The possibility that a defensive detection grid could be used for an offensive reason, the possibility that the Federation will suddenly ignore two-hundred years of peaceful policy and turn into the second coming of the Klingon Empire during its darkest days of expansionism.”

    “I am sorry that this upsets you so much, DeMara, I really am. Perhaps I have underestimated how much the experiences of the last few years have changed your perception of the universe. But you must understand that it is not the way I think of the galaxy, nor your parents or the people on Tenaria.”

    She simply stood there staring at him without being able to form any words in response to this. Only very slowly did the truth begin to sink in. And in a way it frightened her more than anything else she had feared about meeting Yeega after so many years.

    Then she nodded slowly. “I understand and I will explain your decision to Secretary Gwacham. She will no doubt be very disappointed.”

    Yeega stood. “I regret this. Please tell her that as well.”

    “I will.”

    “I also regret that this appears to have angered you.”

    She shook her head quickly, trying to dissuade him from believing that it had. “Don’t. I am not angry with you, Yeega.”

    He took a step closer to her and reached for her wrists, holding them gently. “Remember what I have told you, DeMara. You will always be welcome back home. In fact I know that your parents are very eager for you to visit at your earliest convenience.”

    “Thanks,” she said. “And hopefully I will be able to make time soon but I cannot leave right now,” she added, knowing full well that if not an outright lie, it was most certainly merely a half-truth. “It was good to see you again.”

    They parted ways then and DeMara left the suite and headed back towards the transporter hub to return to Eagle.

    As she stepped out of the hotel and back onto the streets of Paris, she allowed herself one last look up at the Yeega’s room.

    She had been wrong all along. Her fears that her people would no longer recognize her or even accept her after all these years living within the Federation and serving Starfleet, and after being exposed and partaking in battle and violence particularly over the years fighting the Dominion had all been entirely unfounded.

    The truth was much worse.

    It wasn’t that her people didn’t recognize her anymore but that she could no longer recognize them.
     
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  19. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    DeMara may have to redefine herself both as a Starfleet officer and as a unique individual, rather than associating with any one culture. It's a hurdle for people in real life who leave their countrymen behind too, which is why characters like DeMara and Spock will always resinate with us, I think.

    I'm very interested in seeing how DeMara meets this challenge going forward.
    Well done and enjoyable tale. Looking forward to the rest of this project!
     
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  20. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Legacy


    May 2376



    It had only been just over five months since the most devastating attack on Earth since the Xindi Incident of 2153. And even though the Breen assault on Starfleet Headquarters and the San Francisco Bay Area was not even close to comparable to the massive casualties the Xindi had caused two centuries earlier, Earth had become so unaccustomed to being a target of interstellar war, the shockwaves the assault had caused could still be felt even after all the physical scars had healed.

    In fact Michael Owens could find none of the heartbreaking damage he had seen in broadcast footage immediately after the attack as he walked the streets of the city.

    The Starfleet complex on both sides of the bay looked as immaculate as always with its perfectly maintained and manicured gardens and even the historic Golden Gate bridge in-between, which had been torn apart in the attack, had been fully restored to its old glory.

    As far as he understood it, the Federation Council and the United Earth government had made clean up and repair a major priority after the attack and Owens thought he understood why. More than causing damage and casualties, the attack had been intended to demoralize not just the population of Earth but citizens all across the Federation, and at first the Dominion had certainly succeeded with that task.

    Footage of one of the Federation’s most significant cities burning had caused widespread despair as it brought the war which had theretofore been waged mostly outside core Federation worlds, right to its very heart. Suddenly a sense that this war could strike anywhere at anytime had become a scary reality for billions of citizens and even worse, a painful defeat had become a real possibility, one that could no loner be ignored.

    The Federation had therefore not hesitated to repair the damage as quickly as possible to demonstrate to both its own people, as well as to its allies and enemies that a heinous surprise attack would not damage its resolve to win the war.

    Considering the ultimate outcome, perhaps the strategy had in fact paid off.

    And yet while the damage had been seen to months ago, a certain atmosphere of desperation still lingered, if not on Earth in general, then certainly in this Northern California metropolis where over two thousand lives had been lost in that tragic event.

    A pilgrimage to both the Dominion War memorial at the Presidio as well as the monument erected at the center of Golden Gate Park in memory of those lost during the Breen attack on the city had been one of the first stops he had made after arriving on Earth.

    Paying his respects to the dead had not been the only reason he had come to visit the City by the Bay. There had been a number of mandatory meetings of course with a whole range of important Starfleet admirals and other officials who were eager to debrief starship captains personally the first chance they had, now that this long and bloody war had come to an end.

    One of those admirals was his father who had left him a personal message even before Owens had known that he was returning Eagle to Earth himself.

    He wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about seeing Jonathan Owens again. He hadn’t seen him in nearly four years and before that they had gone another few years without coming face-to-face for good reason. Owens’ relationship with his father had never been particularly steady and had only gotten worse first after his mother had passed when he had still been a child and then when his brother Matthew had been killed ten years ago.

    Their last meeting had been unsurprisingly turbulent with a number of accusations being thrown around and in the end he had to admit that he hadn’t helped matters much. There had however been light at the end of the tunnel and perhaps even the first steps to a path towards reconciliation.

    They hadn’t traveled down that road very far yet, which explained why Michael had purposefully delayed this meeting until all others had concluded.

    Once he had finally made his way to the forty-second floor of Starfleet Headquarters where his father’s enigmatic Department of Special Affairs and Investigations had its home, he was told that he was already expected. But instead of being shown to an office, he was given a set of coordinates and pointed to the nearest transporter room.

    He materialized outdoors, in a place that was most certainly not Northern California. The first clue that he had travelled a significant distance was the fact that it had suddenly become night, even though it had been the early morning in San Francisco.

    He found himself at the bottom of what looked like a massive crater. Upon closer inspection though he found that the cavity was clearly man-made considering the many smooth and step-like layers leading all the way to the surface which he guessed had to be at least six hundred meters up.

    The stars in the clear sky gave further proof that he had been transported to the other side of the globe.

    He stood near a large blast door which opened for him and the positively frosty air was more than enough motivation to quickly ducking inside where he found his father emerging from a turbolift.

    “Michael, sorry I only just heard that you had arrived.”

    “Where the hell are we, dad?”

    He pointed through the still open door. “Can’t you tell? This used to be one of the world’s largest diamond mines. Welcome to Udachnaya in the Sakha Republic.”

    “Russia?” he said. “What’s wrong with Starfleet Headquarters?”

    He shook his head as he led him into the turbolift. “Too many prying eyes out there. Sometimes it is better to be outside the spotlight and this place qualifies.”

    “No kidding. Might as well be on another planet.”
    The turbolift closed and after Owens Senior had activated the control panel it set into motion, taking them even deeper into the Earth. “Well that’s just a very snobbish attitude, son and I’m not sure the locals would approve. This planet is more than its large, glitzy cities.”

    “Sure, says the man who has chosen this place for its remote location. I’m fairly certain you’re not about to advertise Far Eastern Russia to Earth’s tourism board.”

    “Far Eastern Russia perhaps,” said the older Owens. “I just might leave out this mine.”

    They didn’t appear to travel very far and the turbolift ride came to an end only shortly after it had set in motion, the doors opening to reveal an indistinct corridor which was similar in design to what Owens was used to on Eagle and was fairly standard within Starfleet facilities.

    Admiral Owens led him out of the lift and down the corridor. On the way to their destination they came across at least a dozen other people who seemed to work in this facility, most of which where Starfleet officers and judging by the color of their uniforms, they were predominantly science personnel. The civilians he spotted also appeared to be scientists; he noticed at least a couple of lab coats.

    This by itself was hardy suspicious of course, had it not been for the last time he had visited a secret science outpost during the Dominion War. That experience ranked as one of the most painful of his life, and it was difficult not to think of the people he had lost there.

    His father stepped up to a set of doors which swished open for him and then pointed at the entrance.

    Just before Michael was about to step inside, he thought he saw a familiar face from the corner of his eye. He turned just in time to see the dark-haired woman wearing a red and black Starfleet uniform turn a corner. “Maya?”

    But she hadn’t stopped and she didn’t remerge after he had called her name.

    Jon Owens shot him a puzzled look, still waiting for him to step into his office.

    “I thought I just saw somebody I know,” he said and then shook his head, after realizing that Amaya Donners would have told him if she too was on Earth. Not to mention that her starship, the Agamemnon had not been in orbit when Eagle had arrived. “Never mind,” he said and then walked into the office.

    It was of decent size, befitting a man of his father’s rank and position and combined an office space complete with a large desk and chairs along with a briefing room, featuring a large oval table with a six chairs surrounding it.

    Otherwise the office seemed sparsely decorated, a few plants, and only a handful of personal items. The most prominent feature was the large screen build into the far wall, opposite the desk, which judging by the crystal clear image of the snow-covered mountain ranges dominating this region, might as well be mistaken for an actual window if not for the fact that they were far underground.

    Jon noticed him looking that way. “I tend to get a bit claustrophobic,” he said with a smirk and then pointed to a sofa along the adjacent wall for him to sit.

    He did as suggested and then watched his father sit down behind his desk.

    This was the first time Michael actually took a moment to consider the elder Owens. It had struck him the last time he had seen him on Eagle how old and exhausted he had appeared. Like a man who was no longer coping well with the stressed life he was trying to lead and certainly nothing like the vital and energized man he had been when Michael had been much younger. Sadly he didn’t look any better now and his good humor notwithstanding, he looked terribly old. Much older than he had any right to look.

    “It is so good to see you again, Michael. I’ve been following Eagle’s missions quite closely over the last few years. You have no idea how relived I am that you came out of that nasty war in one piece.”

    Michael wanted to counter that Eagle had not come out in one piece at all. People had lost their lives. But perhaps considering the high number of average casualties to the fleet, he had to consider himself lucky after all. He certainly didn’t feel it. What he didn’t doubt however was that his father had taken an interest in Eagle. He had suspected on more than one occasion that Jonathan Owens might have had a hand in trying to keep him and his ship away from the frontlines, certainly not something to put past the man, considering that he strongly suspected that his father had somehow orchestrated him getting Eagle in the first place. Something that still angered him a great deal.

    Michael was determined however not to get into another fight with his father, so he simply nodded. “It’s good to see you as well, dad.”

    For a moment his father didn’t respond and instead silence settled over the two men, as if to pretend that years of anger and resentment had never existed.

    “Well it’s been far too long and I’m looking forward to catch up.”

    Michael wanted to laugh but suppressed the urge. Catching-up wasn’t really something they did. “Sure. I suppose it’s not the reason you brought me to your secret base in the middle of nowhere.”

    “I wouldn’t call it secret.”

    Michael considered him suspiciously. “Starfleet knows about all this?”

    “They know enough.”

    He couldn’t quite suppress a sigh.

    His father sat up straighter in his chair, resting his elbows on his desk. “Big things are happening, Michael. Really big things. And we need to be prepared for them. If we are not, what we just went through with the Dominion might feel like a school yard tussle in comparison.”

    “Geez, dad, why not ease me into things here?”

    “I’m afraid we don’t have much time. I’m going to need your help. Desperately.”

    “Okay, so how about you start with the beginning? What is it you’re doing here and what is this big thing that’s got you so rattled?”

    But the admiral shook his head. “Before I can get into any of those details I first need to be sure that you will take this on. That you will help me.”

    Michael stood up in frustration. “I hate this cloak and dagger nonsense, you know that. Just tell me straight, what is it you need my help with?”

    Jonathan stood as well. “I need somebody I trust on my team. Somebody I know can take over the work that I started and can see things through.”

    “What?”

    “I need you to come onboard with SAI,” he said and then removed a padd from a drawer in his desk. “All the paperwork is already prepared. It comes with a promotion as well. All you need to do is say yes.”

    “I don’t even know what I’m saying yes to,” he said. “Besides I have no intention of leaving Eagle to work with you in some secret underground lair here on Earth.”

    Jonathan sighed heavily. “Please son, this is not the time to be difficult about these things, trust me on that. I can’t tell you more about my work until you agree to this. Until you have proper clearance. All I can say for now is that it is imperative that you do. What we are trying to accomplish here is crucial for the Federation’s long-term safety and security. Maybe more so than what we’ve just gone through with the Dominion. You will see that once you join me here.”

    He looked back at his father with a blank expression, trying hard to avoid showing the anger he felt. He wasn’t sure why he should have been surprised that his father would pull something like this, after all these years, he knew he should have known better. He shook his head. “Do you have any idea how crazy this sounds? What kind of impossible position you’re putting me in here? We have barely spoken more than a handful of sentences in years, you have never once told me anything meaningful about what it is you do, and now, out of the blue, you want me to sign on to something without telling me the first thing about it and leave behind everything that I worked for all my life.” He made sure to put extra emphasis on the fact that it was his work that had gotten him into the captain’s chair of Eagle, not whatever it was his father might have done behind the scenes. Sadly he wasn’t so certain if that was actually true. “And you want me to be what? Your successor? These aren’t the middle ages, dad. You can’t just appoint your own heir. What about Starfleet Command?”

    He dismissed this with a shake of his head. “Don’t worry about Command. That’s been taken care of.”

    Michael turned his back to his father, staring instead towards the high-resolution image of the mountain range. He realized then that it was likely a live external feed. His father didn’t just put this up for the esthetics. He wanted to know if anybody approached his base uninvited. “This just isn’t right,” he said still not looking at him. “And to be honest I don’t think I want any part of this. Not unless you tell me something. Give me any indication what all this is about. I can’t see how you can expect me to make a sensible decision otherwise.”

    “I told you, it’s—“

    “Classified, I know,” he completed his sentence. “So it’s a chicken and egg situation then, is that it? You can’t tell me anything because I don’t have the clearance but I cannot get clearance until I sign on and commit myself to something I don’t know anything about.”

    Owens Senior handed him the padd. “You’ll have to trust me on that.”

    Michael glanced over the content of the padd briefly but as expected nothing on it seemed to reveal anything of any substance. Instead it felt more like a ready-made contract to sell his soul.

    There was only one word that he could spot that seemed to even hint at anything substantial. “Operation Myriad?” he read and then looked up.

    “Son, listen—“

    But he was interrupted by the door annunicator. He shot a glower towards the doors, clearly annoyed by the interruption and then quickly took the padd out of Michael’s hand to return it to his desk drawer. “Enter.”

    “I’m sorry if this isn’t a good time,” the man wearing a Starfleet command uniform said as he poked his head inside once the doors had parted.

    Jon Owens’ mood quickly improved after realizing who had interrupted the meeting with his son and he waved the man inside. “That’s quite alright, come in.”

    Michael immediately recognized the tall, dark-skinned officer, even though he hadn’t seen him in a long time. “Jarik?”

    The officer offered a wide smile which to some may have been disconcerting considering his tapered ears which were a clear indication of his Vulcan origins. It didn’t surprise Michael however, knowing full well that Jarik was only half-Vulcan and had long since embraced both aspects of his heritage, and quite successfully so. The two men had known each other since their Academy days, having been room mates for two years during which Michael had learned that Jarik possessed both a splendidly rational mind but at times was perfectly able to display humor and other emotions as well.

    “Michael,” he said, still grinning. “I was told you were here.”

    He approached and they hugged briefly.

    “Really good seeing you again. It has been far too long,” the half-Vulcan said.

    “Occupational hazard, I supposed,” said Michael. “But you’re right. How have you been? You working with my father now?”

    Jarik nodded. “The reward for all my sins, I suppose.”

    Michael noticed his old friend was wearing four pips like him but his were arranged on top of a solid bar, a rank insignia not used very often off-planet and one which usually indicated a high, administrative rank. It didn’t come as much of a surprise since differently to him, Jarik had never shown the same inclinations of becoming an explorer or a starship officer like he had. Instead he had decided to serve Starfleet and the Federation by staying behind and becoming a member of the equally important administrative branch of the fleet.

    “Jarik has been invaluable to me over the years,” Jon Owens said, regarding the other man. “We wouldn’t even be close to what we have achieved without him as part of the team.”

    “Whatever that might be,” said Michael.

    Jarik shot the admiral a mock frown. “I see he’s keeping you in the dark.”

    “That’s putting it mildly.”

    “It won’t be like that for much longer. Not once you agree to help us.”

    “Can’t give it a rest, dad?” Michael said.

    “You know your father, he is nothing if not persistent,” said Jarik with a wide grin, considering both men.

    Michael was surprised that his father was okay with Jarik, his subordinate, speaking about him in such a manner and in front of his own son no less. But clearly the two men had a very good working relationship, clearly a better one than he shared with his father privately. He wasn’t sure if this offended him or if it made him feel oddly jealous.

    “Listen, Michael, Jon,” said Jarik. “I have some business to take care of at headquarters tomorrow. Why don’t the two of us get together for lunch? We can catch up and talk a little bit more about your father’s offer.”

    Michael actually liked the sound of that. Not so much talking about his father, after all his plans for him had been made unmistakably clear, but it had been far too long that he had tried to reconnect with the people of his past after spending years out in deep space.

    “A splendid notion,” Jon said before Michael could respond and then looked at him. “Take some time to digest what I’ve said. Consider what it will do to your career in Starfleet and then talk to Jarik. I’m confident he will be able to alleviate any doubts you might have.”

    “Might have?” Michael said with a little humorless laugh. “So far you haven’t told me anything at all that would make me want to even consider this strange gig of yours.”

    Jarik clasped him on the shoulder. “We’ll talk soon, Michael and we’ll see how you feel about it all then, alright?”

    He found himself nodding. “Alright.”

    “Excellent. Now if you’d both excuse me, it’s a short trip back to California these days but I have still much work to prepare,” he said and looked back at his old friend, giving him a parting smile which Owens reciprocated with one of his own.

    Once he had left, Jon turned back to his son. “Jarik is a good man. You’ll be working quite closely with him once you agree to join us.”

    Michael suppressed a sigh and then changed his mind about the retort he was ready to fire off. “If he’s still the same man when he was when we were young than I don’t doubt that for a second. And you clearly trust him quite a bit. Which begs the question: Why do you need me?”

    His father didn’t respond straight away. Instead he walked back to his desk.

    “Dad?”

    He sat down. “I shouldn’t be telling you this.”

    Michael uttered a laugh. “So far you’ve been telling me next to nothing.”

    “Jarik is suffering from a hereditary medical condition. I respect him too much to go into the details with you, but it’s serious and there is no cure. He’s been doing a admirable job covering up the symptoms but if you work with him on daily basis, it’s hard to hide them completely. Jarik has been invaluable but I need somebody I can rely on fully.”

    “That’s pretty cold.”

    “Please, you’re a starship captain, son. You have hundreds of people under your command, so you know how these things go. You are only as strong as your weakest link. With what we are facing, we cannot afford being sentimental.”

    Hearing his father talk like that made him feel uncomfortable and yet he knew that there was truth to this.

    Jon Owens stood from his chair again to round his desk and approach his son. “Michael, we are family. And sure, I know it may not be fashionable or politically correct to say this, but if we cannot rely on each other in moments of great need, who can we rely on?”

    He shot his father a surprised look. And not just because those words sounded pretty hypocritical coming from the man who had spent a lifetime favoring his work over his family, Michael vividly recalled saying something very similar to DeMara Deen very recently. Family sticks together, he had told her, not expecting those words to come back to haunt him.

    “I need to think about all this,” he said and turned towards the exit.

    “Michael.”

    He stopped short of the doors and turned back.

    “Regardless of how you feel about me and what I do—“

    He shook his head. “Dad, I don’t even know what it is you do.”

    “Fair enough. But regardless of all that, it is truly good to see you again. There were times during the war …”

    He left the rest unspoken.

    But Michael nodded, understanding exactly what he was saying. “Yes, I know.”

    “You’re one of the lucky ones, son.”
    “Yeah.” He wanted to dwell on those thoughts even less than on his father’s surreptitious offer. “Things are going to get better,” he said, not quite certain himself if he even believed that.

    But Jon Owens was quick to nod. “Yes, they will. But not unless we stay vigilant, son. Not unless we take action. And soon. You and me, together.”

    He considered his father for a moment and it seemed obvious he was not talking in general terms. He really believed that what he was doing was essential in keeping the Federation safe. As to keeping it safe from what exactly he couldn’t even guess.

    “It was good seeing you too, dad.”

    He nodded. “I’ll have somebody take you back up to the surface. You can beam out from there.”

    “Thanks,” he said and turned and left the office.
     
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