The Star Eagle Adventures: QD1 - False Vacuum

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Dec 17, 2017.

  1. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Wow. I'm amazed that so many Starfleet officers sat still for torture, least of all, Michael Owens. I still have parts of this story to get caught up on, but it seems these creatures have our heroes pretty well freaked out. It might be the threat of another invasion coming so closely on the heels of the Dominion War? Glad to see Michael putting a stop to it, though it's obvious that Amaya wasn't buying the BS. His father will probably catch on, too.

    There's a fascinating subtext to all of this, which I've touched on in my own work; that SF---and the Federation---violated its own morals so many times to survive the war, that some things were broken in the process. At this point in time, they're all trying to find their way back from a dark place. I think this scene crystalizes that "survive at any cost" philosophy.

    Michael will need to clutch his moral compass tightly, as Amaya has already tossed her's aside.

    Provocative stuff!
     
    CeJay likes this.
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    3


    Not long after she had piloted the shuttle back to the medical facility after their daring rescue mission in the city, Tazla walked Culsten straight into the small administrative office and locked the doors behind them.

    She could tell that the young Krellonina was exhausted, in all truth, just watching his unconventional, sky-bound rescue from the safety of the shuttle had worn her out, but she had a feeling that time was not on their side. "All right, Mister, I know you're beat, but I need to know what you know. What have you learned from your aunt?"

    He took a chair by one of the empty desks. “I’m not sure how useful any of it will be to you.”

    “Give me the highlights.”

    He nodded. "She's planning something big," he said and then sighed. "First and foremost, you have to understand that Garla truly cares for her people. Not just Krellonians but Outlanders as well. She understands, perhaps better than most, that the atrocities my people have committed against the Outlanders have not just damaged their people but irrevocably corrupted ours as well."

    Tazla suppressed an urge to roll her eyes. "Fine, so she has good intentions. Problem is, a lot of terrible people in history started out that way. The humans have a saying for it."

    “Humans have a saying for everything.”

    “What’s her solution? If she thinks your society as a whole is beyond repair, how is she planning to move forward and avoid that civil war I keep hearing whispers of?”

    He shook his head. “I’m not entirely sure, she hasn’t shared that part of her plan yet. I think she was about to.”

    “Spilled milk.”

    He offered her a puzzled look.

    “Another one of those pesky human sayings,” she said and waived it off. “What is it you do know?”

    “She calls it a stand-alone society. She wants to separate Krellonians and Offworlders. She believes that is the only way to avoid all-out civil unrest and maybe even internal war.”

    “Segregation? That’s her plan?”

    “It just may work.”

    But Tazla was entirely unconvinced. “Admittedly, I’m no great scholar of history, but I can’t think of a single time segregating societies along racial lines has ever been a solution. If anything, it has only ever caused greater problems and inherently unjust societies. It’s not a step forward, Lif. Segregation is a step back.”

    “We already have an inherently unjust society, perhaps taking a few steps back is the only way my people can move forward.”

    The entire notion felt just plain wrong to her. “So Garla’s solution is that instead of trying to face the past of her people and coming to terms with it so that all races within the Star Alliance can move forward together, she wants to pick the easy route and just separate everyone like misbehaving schoolchildren?”

    Culsten nodded but said nothing.

    Tazla realized that this wasn't the time for philosophical questions about social experimentation and moved on. "Even if this were possible, how is she planning on pulling this off? She's not exactly in a position to effect such sweeping social changes by herself? She's an intelligence officer, not a politician."

    “She’s getting help, that much I know. And it’s coming from outside the Alliance. I’m not sure about the details but she has a couple of large, asteroid-based facilities within the system where she is producing some sort of valuable material. I think that’s how she’s paying for whatever assistance she is getting in return.”

    This she immediately recognized as extremely valuable intelligence. It was very possible that this alien help was the reason Eagle had been dispatched to Piqus in the first place. The theory that certain elements within the Krellonian Star Alliance were assisting the subspace aliens to plan an invasion may have been true after all. It seemed too convenient for a coincidence. "What do you know about Garla's foreign partners?"

    He shook his head again. “Nothing at all. She hasn’t spoken about them. All I know is that they appear to be somewhere in the Amargosa Diaspora.”

    “How?”

    It didn't require a counselor to tell that he didn't wish to reveal how he had come to possess this knowledge. "There was an incident with a hijacked freighter which Garla asked me to assist with. Let's just say things didn't go smoothly. Her main priority was to make sure it got to where it needed to go, no matter the price."

    She had a good idea what that cost may have been. “And you know where it went?”

    “I know the direction. Garla had me program a course. It’s not enough to pinpoint its exact destination…”

    She nodded. “But it gives us a possible place to start. Well done, Lif. I know you’ve been through hell over the last few days, but what you’ve learned may make a real difference.”

    “Mind telling me what that might be? Other than having my very skilled and dangerous aunt gunning for my head?”

    “I’m sorry, Lif, I can’t. Go get some rest. You’ll probably need your strength again before long. I also need you to put everything you’ve learned into a report, in case there are any details which may be relevant. I don’t have to tell you that this needs to be treated as eyes only for now.”

    He got the hint, offered a sharp nod and left the room.

    Star only considered the implications of what she had learned for a brief moment. Putting together Culsten’s intel with what she had learned about Garla’s facilities and Jarik’s theories, the picture that was being painted was a scary one indeed. She understood her first priority had to be to warm the captain. He needed to know what they were up against.

    Since this part of space didn’t exactly maintain the most cordial relationship with the Federation and as Eagle was also no longer in the sector, real-time communications were not possible. All Star could do was sent a message via subspace, once again being careful about her word choice, and then hope that it would find its way past local screeners, through the interference-heavy Diaspora and eventually to Eagle.

    She had been unsuccessful as of late sending any subspace messages from Piqus and she had worried that she had not been able to share with Owens her most recent and immensely significant discoveries.

    Thankfully, Chella had been able to pull some strings for her and she finally managed to get a message out even if she didn’t get very far. Halfway through the communiqué the line suddenly terminated. She had a good idea who was responsible for this.

    The doors to the room opened and Nora Laas came rushing in, followed by a clearly agitated chief administrator, who had stayed behind ever since the cure had been found, ostensibly to assist in her daughter’s recovery.

    “We have a problem,” Nora said without preamble.

    Star stood and faced the two women. “I assume it’s related to the comms blackout.”

    Chella nodded. “I’ve just had word that the Eye is mobilizing a number of strike teams. They are heading our way via ground and air.”

    Tazla frowned. “Garla is making a move against us. I thought we had more time.”

    “Time's run out,” Nora said. “They'll be on us in less than twenty minutes and from what I hear, they are sending enough people to have us significantly outmanned.”

    “I may be able to buy you some time,” Chella said. “I can have my security forces attempt to stall Garla but it won't be by much. I cannot risk open conflict with the Eye of Krellon.”

    “I appreciate anything you can do, Chief Administrator.”

    The woman nodded and offered a small smile. “I am in your debt, Commander. I believe all of Piqus is. I’ll do whatever I can,” she said and then quickly left the room, no doubt to organize her mini-rebellion.

    “What do we do?” Nora asked once they were alone.

    Tazla took a moment to look around, taking in the medical facility they had been able to set-up on a world which had mostly treated them with indifference and hostility when they had first arrived. Considering what they had been up against, she could not deny a certain sense of pride at what they had been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. She also knew that this was always going to be nothing more than a temporary installation.

    “I think we have finally outstayed our welcome, Lieutenant. Time to pack things up and get the hell out of Dodge.”

    Nora, albeit not human either, did get this adage and nodded. "Understood," she said as she began to follow the first officer out of the room. "I'm just not sure we have enough time or capacity for a full-scale evacuation."

    That, Tazla thought as she rushed out of the room to spread the news, was, in fact, the rub, just before she realized that she had been spending far too much time with humans and their idioms.
     
    Admiral2 and mthompson1701 like this.
  3. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I can see a lot of planning went into this story because we have at least two intriguing plotlines going: the pending invasion by subspace aliens and a possible civil war brewing for the Star Alliance (and poor Lif by the way). Not to mention a likely collaborator within the Alliance. As an added stocking-stuffer, there's parties trying to push segregation as a cure for racial issues.

    Now Tazla and company might get their tail feathers roasted by advancing strike teams. It's turning into a rough day at the office for all involved. While I've never liked Tazla very much, I have to admit she's grown on me during this adventure and I've reevaluated my opinion. Now I find myself hoping she gets out of this in one piece!

    This is exactly the kind of sophisticated, morally conscious stories that I expect from Star Trek. It's regrettable that all of this has been abandoned in the official versions. Oh well...at least I can still get meat on my plate when I come here.

    Many thanks to CeJay and all the other talented authors who are filling the vacuum!
     
    Gibraltar, CeJay and Admiral2 like this.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    4


    “Doctor Katanga has confirmed a nearly ninety-eight percent success rate in eliminating the virus in stage four and stage five patients which had been our final hurdle in perfecting the vaccine. We have already begun transferring the patients in this facility to various medical installations around Piqus and its medical community has been fully briefed on how to synthesize the vaccine themselves.

    Elijah estimates that at the current pace, the Piqus Plague will be fully eradicated within the next two weeks. While he would prefer to continue to supervise the medical efforts here, it has become obvious that the Krellonians have things well in hand from here on in.”
    Tazla Star paused in her report and Michael could tell from the way her emerald eyes took on a new focus that she considered her next words to have the uttermost importance. In fact, her voice took on a steelier edge which was subtle and perhaps easily missed unless one was familiar with her mannerisms and tone on voice.

    “Regarding our ongoing personnel issue, I had to take the drastic measure of pulling our officer from all previously allocated assignments. The problem isn’t so much with our officer but with the manner in which others have reacted to her assignments. I’m sorry to say that irreparable rifts have been caused which could lead to significant repercussions in the very near future. I highly recommend we take immediate action to resolve this situation before it may escalate beyond our ability to manage.

    Overall, however, I believe our mission here has been successful and not only have we been able to alleviate a planetary health crisis, we have made inroads with certain local leaders and we’ve been able to partake in a valuable cultural exchange with the Star Alliance.”

    Another pause as her eyes briefly left the screen as if to carefully consider her next words.

    “Krellonian/Federation relations may not significantly improve in the short term by our mission here. We’re looking at apotential Ketteract scenario. I am however optimistic that we have laid the groundwork for the beginnings of a long-term improvement of —“

    The screen winked out and Star’s face disappeared, only to be replaced by the Federation seal, indicating that the transmission had ended.

    Michael leaned forward in his chair. “Computer, what happened?”

    “The subspace message has ended.”

    “In mid-sentence?”

    “The signal was terminated at the source.”

    Michael had been afraid of this ever since he had left a team on its own on Piqus. Star had clearly hinted at trouble in her message and now it appeared that trouble had found them quicker then she had anticipated. The good news for now was that Star had seemed calm and composed, and there had been no sign of any imminent disasters. Of course, that in itself didn’t mean that one hadn’t befallen her and her team. But even if it was just a matter of somebody locally jamming comms, this surely meant things were only going to get worse. Cutting his team off from the outside world would be the first step to take more direct action against them. He needed to get back there as soon as possible.

    “Computer, send an immediate and high priority request for a status update on the situation on Piqus to our facility located there, as well as to the local and central Krellonian governments, Starfleet Command and to the Federation Diplomatic Service.”

    “Request sent.”

    It was little more than a formality and he held out little to no hope it would accomplish much. A message back to Piqus and the Krellonian homeworld would take hours to deliver, and Federation officials would not be in a position to take any action any sooner than he would be able to.

    “Owens to Xylion.”

    “This is Lieutenant Commander Xylion.”

    “Commander, set a course for the Piqus system and stand-by to engage at maximum warp.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “What’s our ETA if we leave right away?”

    “Nineteen hours and fifty-four minutes, sir.”

    It felt like an eternity and if Star was in as much trouble has he suspected, it may as well have been. “Thank you, Commander. Stay ready to engage. Owens out.”

    There had been something else about her message that had startled him slightly. Something that had seemed out of place. He was fairly confident that her update on the cure to the virus was entirely genuine with no additional added subtext since it was in line with her previous status reports.

    The officer with the personnel issue was an obvious reference to Lif Culsten’s assignment to learn more about his well-positioned aunt’s designs. Her implications seemed to make it clear that the assignment had ended badly and he had to assume that this was the reason for the latest crisis. From what he had learned, Garla was a powerful enough individual to put the entire away team at significant risk.

    But there had been one more veiled hint in Star’s cryptic message which bothered him. She had used a name which had sounded immediately familiar but which he couldn’t quite place.

    “Computer, show me all references to the name Ketteract.”
    A soft trill acknowledged his request and was immediately followed by a long list displayed on his computer screen of people and places with that name. One of them stood out from the rest.

    “Display data on Doctor Bendes Ketteract.”

    The computer acknowledged again before displaying the file of a twenty-third century Federation scientist. Or at least something that resembled a file. He had been doing this long enough to immediately recognize a heavily redacted record.

    “Computer, declassify file.”

    This time the computer responded with a startling warning sound and instead of displaying more data, the entire screen now showed a large blue Greek letter. The cold shudder running up his spine at seeing the ominous message told him immediately what this meant.

    There were a few things no starship captain ever wanted to face. Encountering the Borg where fairly high on that list, as were the inevitable complications of time travel. This, he felt, rivaled both scenarios.

    “Son of a bitch,” he said and was already out of his chair and heading towards the doors, not even bothering to try and access any more of the file he had requested.

    He crossed onto the bridge and could see Xylion already rising from the command chair but he didn’t slow down on his way to the turbolift. “Commander, advise my father that I need to speak to him immediately. I’m on my way to Transporter Room Two now.”

    “Understood, sir.”

    He had hoped he would never, in his career, have to deal with the Omega Molecule, the incredibly powerful substance able to destroy subspace on a galactic scale. Even worse, however, he strongly suspected that he and Star were not the first ones to learn about its presence in Krellonian space.

    He was furious at the idea that Jarik and his father had kept this from him. For all their assurances of transparency, he realized he should have known better.

    This development could change everything and with his people stuck squarely in the middle of one of the worst nightmares imaginable.
     
  5. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Yikes, now a possible Omega situation? Owens' father will soon be having a very uncomfortable discussion with his son, I suspect. This sector of space is just full of nasty surprises, isn't it?

    Captain Owens had better not spare the horses getting Eagle back to Piqus!

    Looking forward to another great installment.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    5

    “Keep an eye on the hemoglobin levels in stage three and four patients. The rate at which the average Krellonian is able to carry oxygen within their blood is impressive compared to other humanoid races but we have seen early signs of hypoxia brought on by acute immune system failure in a number of patients in the later stages of the disease. You should be able to correct this easily enough if detected early by increasing arterial pO2 levels. Here’s a list of some of our patients with lower than normal blood oxygen content.”

    Tazla had intercepted Elijah Katanga, briefing the Krellonina head physician Urnae Turee just in time to overhear his latest instructions and Katanga handing his colleague a number of data padds. The two men were walking side-by-side and far too leisurely for her liking.

    "All right, let's wrap it up. Eli, you should have been on the last shuttle," she said sternly as she stepped behind them.

    He shot her a dark glare, obviously not appreciating being rushed. On this occasion, she couldn't have cared less and she pointed at one of the last Starfleet shuttles still on the ground. "I want you on that one, double time."

    “I still haven’t finished briefing Doctor Turee here on some of the details about the vaccine administration.”

    But Star was already steering Katanga towards the waiting shuttle, which was already visibly packed with other members of the away team. “I’m sure the good doctor has things in hand from here on in, Eli.”

    Turee nodded quickly. “Indeed, you’ve done the hard work, Doctor, and we are quite appreciative of all your efforts in curing this disease. Even though I have to admit that I am still quite curious how you made the connection to boronite poisoning being the catalyst for the disease.”

    Tazla answered before Katanga had the chance. “Sometimes we just get lucky,” she said and then glanced back towards her friend. “Your carriage awaits, sir,” she said, putting a little more pressure on the hand she was resting on his back and using to guide him into the direction she wanted him to go.

    He huffed in protest. “I’m not a child, Dez, I know the way.”

    “Of course,” she said with a smirk and then considered the Krellonian doctor once more. “I believe your own vessel is ready for take-off as well,” she added and indicated towards a second shuttle, this one larger and slightly sleeker than the Starfleet vessel. It was being boarded by the remaining Krellonian medical personnel, patients and security forces while chief administrator Chella stood by its extended entry ramp, personally ensuring everybody got onboard safely.

    Turee remained rooted to the spot for a moment as if hoping to get a better answer to the miraculous medical breakthrough Katanga and the Starfleet team had achieved.

    “I’m sure none of us would still want to be here once those Eye troops arrive,” she said as she ensured Katanga was boarding the shuttle, keeping her eyes on his Krellonian colleague.

    That was enough to spur him into action, he offered a nod and then quickly headed for his shuttle.

    “What about you?” Katanga said once he had climbed the ramp up the rear entrance of the compact Starfleet ship. “I’m sure they won’t be happy to find you here either.”

    “Don’t worry, we’ll find a way off this planet in plenty of time,” she said, displaying the kind of effortless confidence that people expected from a first officer even if it was almost entirely for show.

    Katanga’s piercing gaze seemed to make it clear that he was seeing through the bluff easily.

    "Besides, it's a bit too tight in there for me," she said, as she considered the jam-packed interior. She rapped hard against the hull with her fist before Katanga had a chance to offer any more protests. "That's it, let's get this thing off the ground and out of here. Head straight for the rendezvous coordinates," she barked at the pilot who was sitting at the controls and was entirely obstructed from view by the many passengers crammed inside the shuttle.

    The message got through, however, and the ramp began to rise in preparation for lift-off.

    “Don’t make me come back for you,” Katanga said just before the hatch sealed-shut and the shuttle began to take-off into the cloudy sky.

    She watched on for a moment and saw the Krellonian shuttle following suit, this one heading back towards the city, instead of following the Starfleet ship which had orders to make best speed out of Star Alliance territory in the wake of those who had already preceded it.

    She was surprised to find that Chella had not boarded the Krellonian shuttle herself.

    The woman noticed Tazla’s puzzled expression. “Don’t be concerned about me. Garla and I may not be on the best of terms, but even a Sentinel would have to answer some difficult questions if she targeted a planetary administrator.

    Star nodded appreciatively at her support, even though she was fairly certain that at this point they needed more than the assistance the chief administrator could offer to get out of this mess in one piece.

    Nora Laas joined them moments later. “That’s it. Last shuttle’s gone. We’ve still got twenty-five people on the ground though.”

    “Any chance we can beam out of here?” she asked.

    Nora shook her head. “Transporter scramblers are already in effect.”

    “Interesting that those showed up the moment we learned Garla is making her move.”

    “I’ve heard of those tactics being employed by the Eye before,” Chella said. “It may indicate that she wants to make sure she captures prisoners.”

    “That, or she doesn’t want us to get out of here alive,” Nora said.

    “Let’s try not to find out which option she’s after,” said Tazla and considered the chief administrator. “How do we look on hitching a ride out of here on one of your ships?”

    Chella didn’t look optimistic. “Providing you with a ship is not the problem. But with transporters not being an option, getting it out here before Garla’s people show up is not very likely.”

    “Which means we’ll have a fight on our hands,” Nora said, lifting her phaser rifle as if to stress her point. “We’ve kept all our combat trained people behind for a reason.”

    Chella quickly shook her head. “That would be suicide. Eye operatives are highly trained and will outnumber your men ten-to-one.”

    "So what do you suggest? That we surrender?" Nora said, making it fairly obvious that she had meant the question to be purely rhetorical and Tazla was sure she knew why. The Bajoran had been a fighter all her life, battling the Cardassians on her homeworld from the day she had been old enough to hold a weapon. Surrender was simply not in her vocabulary.

    The chief administrator could likely see this too and chose to address Tazla instead. "I cannot condone you using violence against my people, Commander. I will assist you any way I can, I believe I owe you that much, both personally as well as on behalf of all the people of Piqus, but if you choose to resort to lethal force against my people, I cannot stand beside you."

    Tazla understood she had to make a decision and it wasn’t going to be an easy one. They had only just made inroads with the Krellonians, a feat even the Federation’s top diplomats hadn’t been able to accomplish over a few centuries. Sure, they had made new enemies as well, but she simply wasn’t yet willing to throw it all away. Not if she could help it. Besides, the only plausible exit strategy she could come up with required Chella’s support. “We’ll try it your way,” she said, nodding at the administrator.

    “Commander, I don’t see how that is going to work,” Nora protested. “You’ve heard what she has said. These are extremely well-trained operatives we’re up against.”

    “Last I checked, Lieutenant, we have our own elite force on hand. And if I had to bet on a side, I’ll choose our people every day of the week. We’ll just have to be smarter and more creative than our opposition.”

    Nora seemed to know when an argument was lost, but that didn't stop her from appearing anything but encouraged by Tazla's plan.



    * * *​
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Using high-powered, sensor-enhanced binoculars, Tazla watched as the cavalcade of armed troop transports came barreling down into the quarry some eight hundred meters out from their temporary medical facility.

    “Right on schedule,” she said as she followed the three heavy vehicles taking the steep, downward incline at high velocity, bouncing gently on their six large rubber tires. From the size of those transports, she guessed that each of them carried at least twenty, possibly thirty troops, far too many to take on in combat, even if she hadn’t already committed to a non-lethal approach.

    “The terrain should slow them down somewhat,” said Nora Laas who stood next to her, watching the same scene with her own binoculars.

    “Not by much, considering their hurry getting to us.”

    “I think their impatience may turn to our advantage.”

    Tazla nodded. “Are they in position yet?”

    It took Nora a moment to find out. “Any second now.”

    She continued to watch the Krellonian transports edge closer to the facility as they were negotiating the tricky approach, keeping up their high speed.

    When they had first chosen this site for the hospital, Tazla hadn’t been convinced that this old stone quarry was a suitable location, with its many winding access roads which required time and patience in order to enter or exit the pit. In the end it had turned out to be a mostly non-issue since they had relied on transporters and shuttles on the few occasions they had been required to leave the facility and in fact now, when they desperately needed to buy time for an evacuation, the remote location and inhospitable topography had become a blessing in disguise.

    “Here we go,” Nora said.

    Tazla quickly focused in on the lead vehicle and the sharp, downward facing bend it was approaching. She thought the vehicle was going too fast even in the best of conditions, not to mention on a gravelly and unsecured road.

    Two figures popped out from nowhere. Using the binoculars she could make out the bald-headed human and the snout-nosed Tellarite, both handling heavy weapons which most certainly were not Starfleet standard-issue.

    She didn’t know if the driver had spotted the two SMT operators hiding within the small ditch at the side of the road but she was fairly sure that even if they had been seen, it was already far too late to do anything about it.

    Just before the first vehicle reached the outer curve of the bend, both operatives opened fire, squarely targeting the lead vehicle’s large forward tires which were instantly shredded under the high-power bombardment.

    The transport dropped onto its bare wheels and lost both speed and the ability to maneuver. This, in turn, caused the vehicle following it closely to barrel nose-first into the back of the lead vehicle and not a moment later the third transport hit the back of the second.

    There was an almost poetic beauty to watching the unfolding smash-up of multiple tons of metal and steel unfold, Tazla thought. Without the ability to steer into the bend, the lead vehicle simply skittered straight ahead and down a good ten-meter drop into the quarry. The second vehicle had wedged itself into the first and had no choice but to follow right along. The third vehicle remained free enough to maneuver but was forced to oversteer to still have any chance to make the turn. The transport was too heavy to corner as sharply as it needed and so instead it tipped over onto two wheels and then toppled over altogether before sliding down into the quarry and after the other two transports, all of which eventually came to a stop at the very bottom of the pit in a heap of mangled steel and blown-up dust.

    “Ah, that’s got to hurt,” Nora said and Tazla could hear the smile in her voice.

    “Casualties?”

    “Bruises and broken bones but all life signs remain stable,” said Lieutenant T’Nerr, one of Nora’s security officers who kept his eyes on a tricorder. The Caitian was almost purring his words.

    “I bet they’re going to be mad as hell,” said Skyler McIntyre, another security specialist who had stayed behind to try and buy the remaining Starfleet team the time they needed to escape.

    “To say the least.” Tazla could see no immediate sign that anyone was trying to exit the crashed troop transports, for now, they were no doubt still licking their wounds. She could also no longer see the SMT operators. Hopefully, they were already high-tailing it towards the rallying point.

    “Two new contacts, ten o’clock, high,” Nora said.

    Tazla turned into the indicated direction to see two Krellonian shuttles emerge from the clouds and descending towards them. Even with the sparse amount of sunlight making its way through the seemingly perpetual overcast skies, the shuttles' chrome hulls glinted noticeably.

    “This trick is not going to work twice,” she said.

    “Wait, there’s a third shuttle,” Nora said.

    Tazla could see it too. But this one looked oddly familiar. It was clearly Krellonian as well but it didn’t quite fit in with the other two and it was certainly not flying in the same formation. Instead, this one had appeared above both of them and seemed to be creeping dangerously close to the other shuttles.

    They tried to move out of the way when the pilots realized that the third vessel was on a collision course but couldn't engage evasive maneuvers in time. The resulting bump was forceful enough to cause one of the shuttles to rapidly lose altitude and navigational control. The pilot attempted to recover but in the end, it did little more than soften the shuttle's crash landing into the quarry floor.

    The second shuttle recovered more easily from the collision and kept to the air.

    “That’s all I can ask them to do, I’m afraid.”

    Tazla turned around to see Chella who stood nearby, still holding a communicator, doubtlessly speaking directly to the pilot of her vessel. She had purposefully kept her final shuttle behind for just this maneuver. “I need to get my people out of here.”

    Tazla gave her a grateful nod. “Understood. Your assistance has been greatly appreciated. Your shuttle did what it needed to do.”

    “And it’s delivered its payload,” Nora said.

    Tazla turned back around to focus on the still approaching Eye shuttle with her binoculars. She just got a glimpse of the figure now riding on the back of it, right on top of its engine compartment. Her bright purple hair tied closely to her head gave her away. But just moments after she had spotted the SMT operator and her death-defying stunt, the woman had already jumped off the shuttle, using her anti-grav boots to sail back gracefully towards the ground.

    Not a moment after she had jumped, the engine compartment of the shuttle began to sputter and then erupt in flames before a number of small explosions ripped it to pieces. The shuttle had enough momentum to correct course and avoid a head-first crash into the ground, but it was clear that it too, had to make an emergency landing nowhere near where it had planned to come down.

    “Too soon to celebrate, I’m afraid. We’ve got another contact, two o’clock high. It’s another shuttle coming in fast.”

    Tazla quickly turned to locate the shuttle and found it exactly where the Bajoran security officer had placed it, breaking through the cloud cover at high speeds and angling right for their location as if it had been held back in reserve for exactly this kind of situation.

    “I’m all out of tricks,” Chella said.

    Tazla was fairly sure that there wasn’t much else they could do to keep that last vessel from touching down.

    “I guess now we’ve got little choice but fighting our way out of this,” Nora said.

    Tazla watched as the shuttle landed just fifty meters or so from their facility, a good two dozen heavily armed operatives quickly emerging from the transport and beginning their approach.

    She lowered her binoculars to glance to her side where Nora along with T’Nerr and McIntyre had brought up their phaser rifles, taking aim at the incoming soldiers. It would have been a pretty one-sided affair. “Hold your fire.”

    “We could take out a few of them,” the Bajoran said. “Even if we just stun them.”

    Tazla glanced towards Chella and it was clear what she was thinking. Federation officers opening fire on Krellonian troops, on a Krellonian colony, wouldn’t exactly endear Starfleet to Krellonian leadership. Sure, they had already fired on their vessels and directly damaged one of their shuttles, not to mention the roof of an Eye building in the city, but so far, any injuries arising from those actions could still be argued away as incidental. Directed fire on Krellonian operatives would be much harder to explain. “How long until our ride gets here?”

    “A few more minutes, at least,” the chief administrator said.

    “We don’t have a few more minutes,” said Nora, still taking aim through the viewfinder of her phaser rifle.

    “Maybe we do.” Tazla found Hopkins, the chief engineer was one of the few Starfleet away team members still waiting to be evacuated.

    Hopkins nodded and brought up a padd she was holding.

    “It’s gotta be now or never,” said Nora.

    Tazla raised her binoculars again to survey the scene they were facing. Those troops had just cleared the large moat-like ditch which separated the facility from the wider quarry and were now moments away from reaching the hospital proper. “Hold it.”

    “Commander?” Nora warned, the urgency in her voice impossible to miss.

    “Not yet.”

    The Bajoran’s little sigh was evidence that she disagreed with waiting any longer. Her discipline stayed her hand.

    Tazla knew she had to time this just right. “Hold it.”

    The facility was now almost entirely surrounded; anybody who remained inside would be unable to escape without trying to get past Garla’s troops.

    She finally nodded. "All right, Louise, light it."

    “Here it goes,” the engineer said and activated her padd.

    Tazla lowered her binoculars and watched on as the entire medical facility which they had built in such record time and which had functioned as their home for the last few days, blew itself to pieces in a series of explosions, causing the surprised troops honing in on it to jump for cover. Some of the operatives had been close enough to be flattened, and perhaps even singed by the sudden explosions and shockwaves but from what she could see—safely positioned on top of a nearby ridge—nobody had been seriously harmed.

    She turned again when she heard the roaring engines behind her and found another Krelloninan shuttle approaching and setting down just a few paces behind them. She held her breath for a moment and until Chella nodded reassuringly. Their getaway vehicle had finally arrived.

    “All right, people, let's double-time it out of here,” she said to the twenty-something remaining members of her away team as she pointed at shuttle's opening hatch.

    Nobody needed to be told twice and within moments everyone had boarded the vessel.

    Symbolically, Tazla had wanted her boots to be the last ones to touch Piqus soil since she was the ranking Starfleet officer, but that wasn't quite meant to be. The moment she had stepped on board, it was Violet, the anti-grav equipped SMT operator who came flying out of the sky and pretty much dropped straight into the shuttle.

    Then, even as the ship was already starting to power-up again, Sensy and Charm came running up the hill, the Tellarite moving surprisingly quickly considering his stoutness and much shorter legs. He was also the first of the two to jump onboard.

    Nora leaned out and stretched her arm as far as it would go for the SMT team leader even after the shuttle had already started to push-off. “Need a lift?”

    He managed to grab her hand in full stride. “Only if you’re going my way.”

    She pulled him inside. “How about anywhere but here?”

    He nodded. “I’ll take it,” he said and boarded the shuttle in mid-departure, his feet already well off the ground before he had managed to get all the way inside.

    Once Tazla was happy that everyone was safely on-board and the hatch was beginning to close again, she made her way to the front of the small ship and towards the open cockpit where Chella was standing behind the pilot and Lif Culsten who had taken the other seat.

    She could see through the canopy that they were already breaking through the thick clouds as they ascended steeply into the skies and towards orbit.

    Culsten who must have had his eyes on sensors began to shake his head. “Definitely not yet in the clear. I'm seeing a number of combat-equipped shuttles being scrambled from the direction of the asteroid field. Looks like they're coming after us.”

    Chella shot him a puzzled look. “Those aren’t mine. Where’d Garla hide those?”

    Culsten shrugged. Of course, Tazla had a very good idea where those shuttles had their base. She didn't see any point in sharing this information now. "Make best speed to the rendezvous point. We'll just have to try and outrun them."

    In truth, she already knew that the chances of getting out of Krellonian space that easy were slim to none. And enviably, slim had already left Piqus well ahead of them.
     
    mthompson1701 likes this.
  8. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Some exciting entries! I really like the thought and detail that went into the whole escape sequence. I was able to "see" much of it happening in my head, like a movie.

    Tazla pulled quite a feat considering she was committed to avoiding casualties, but still got her charges off the surface. (There's those pesky ST ideals again. Take that, "Nu Trek")

    Lifting off of Piqus was only half the miracle, I'm afraid. We can only hope that Eagle will come to the rescue in time. Either that, or Tazla will have to start pulling more rabbits out of her Starfleet issued hat!

    As always, waiting for more.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    6

    News of his arrival had, apparently, traveled slowly and Michael found nobody waiting for him but the transporter operator after he had beamed onto the outpost. Still remembering the way to his father’s office, he refused to wait for a welcome committee and walked straight out of the room, ignoring the young officer behind the console, asking him to wait for somebody to come and collect him. He was long passed waiting for anyone.

    He saw Jarik coming down the corridor shortly after he had left the transporter room, probably to meet him. “Michael?”

    He didn’t stop, didn’t even slow down. “I need to speak to my father, right now.”

    The other man turned to follow, perhaps a bit surprised by Michael’s single-mindedness and then quickly caught up with him. “To be honest, this isn’t a great time. We have quite a bit to prepare now that—“

    “Jarik, let me be frank. I don’t particularly care if this is a convenient time or not. After all the crap you’ve pulled, I believe you owe me big time.”

    He didn’t even try to argue that point. “Can you at least tell me what this is about?”

    Michael kept his pace. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
    Not a few moments later, he reached the doors to which Jarik had led him only recently and where he had been reunited with the last person he had ever expected to see alive again. He walked into the room without so much as announcing his presence. Inside, he found his father sitting behind a desk and Amaya Donners standing nearby, both apparently in the middle of a conversation.

    “Good, we’re all here.”

    “Son, we’re a little busy at the moment,” his father said upon seeing Michael arrive unexpectedly. It wasn’t difficult to tell that he wasn’t exactly pleased by this rude interruption. “I thought you were already on your way back to Piqus to get your people.”

    “Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll be on my way shortly but first there is something I need to know. I promise it won’t take long.”

    Owens Senior nodded. “Very well, son. Go ahead.”

    Of course, at this point, his father's approval was the last thing he was concerned about. He glanced at his expecting face as well as that belong to Maya and Jarik. Three people he had once thought he had known intimately well. Now, he just wasn't quite so sure anymore. Maybe he had never understood his father to begin with, after all the things he had done it wasn't difficult to argue that point. And perhaps he had never truly known Amaya Donners, even back during their Academy years when they had been practically inseparable, maybe even after their relationship had blossomed to something beyond friendship in recent years. Maybe there had always been a different, darker side to her which she had kept well hidden from him. The thought scared him but he knew he wasn't able to rule it out.

    And who could say about Jarik? A man he hadn’t seen or spoken to in decades. As with Maya, they had met when they had both been young men, children, really, and youthful naïveté had made it easy to be ignorant of dishonesty and the sinister side of people. Or perhaps, in his case, it had been something he had acquired much later and long after they had built their early friendship.

    “I need to know why you let me and my crew head into Krellonian space knowing that we would come across the Omega Molecule, without any kind of warning or preparation.” He let those words hang there for a moment as he studied the faces of the three Starfleet officers in the room with him.

    It was Amaya who cracked first. Jarik seemed to be able to draw on his Vulcan side to keep his expression stone-faced and no doubt his father had plenty of experience in that regard after heading one of Starfleet’s most clandestine and enigmatic agency for years. Maya did not have that benefit. She didn’t say anything but the look in her eyes made it clear beyond a doubt that she had known. That they had all known.

    Ultimately even his father realized the futility of trying to keep up the charade. “Son, you have to understand that we’re up against a force of—“

    “Dad, spare me the doom and gloom speech about threats and consequences. I’ve been fully briefed on the threat Omega can pose to an entire quadrant and beyond. What I don’t get is why all this goddamned secrecy? You could have been upfront with me from the beginning, instead of playing these stupid little games,” he said and then glared at Jarik. “I take it that speech you gave me about being more transparent and taking a different tact than my father was all just another level of subterfuge.”

    “It's a little bit more complicated than that,” Jarik said.

    “Sure it is. Turns out my father is alive, and you three are engaged in some sort of conspiracy to get your hands on the Omega Molecule, is that it?”

    Amaya quickly shook her head. “Michael, it’s not a conspiracy. Now, listen to me, this is really important. Where did you locate Omega?”

    “Yes, nothing about this looks like a conspiracy,” he said unable to keep the irony out of his voice as the three of them looked at him expectantly, almost like vultures hungering for their next meal. Or in this case for the information he had in his possession directly relating to one of the most dangerous and most powerful substances in the known galaxy.

    “Just answer the question, son.”

    He glared at his father for a moment. “My first officer appears to have come across it.”

    “On Piqus?” Maya said and then looked back at his father, clearly frustrated. “I told you I should have been the one to go. I'm the only one here with any real-world experience dealing with Omega.”

    But Jon Owens shook his head. “Even so, they would never even have let you get close. It had to be him.”

    “Tell me something, was anything you’ve told me the truth?” Michael said, trying hard to keep his anger in check, even while it was threatening to bubble over. “This subspace portal, the invasion, any of it?”
    “Both things are very real, son.”

    Michael had a hard time believing this. “You know what, it doesn’t even matter anymore. I’m going to get my people back and then I’m leaving you to this entire mess. I’m done being a pawn in your games,” he said and turned around.

    “Son, wait.”

    He didn't. Instead, he stepped out of the room and hit his combadge as soon as the doors had closed behind him. "Owens to Eagle, one person to beam-up.” He didn’t even have the patience to walk all the way back to the transporter room. “Energize when ready.”

    He was back on his ship within heartbeats, bounding off the platform and back out in the corridor, heading for the bridge. "Owens to Xylion, are we ready to get underway?"

    “Yes, sir,” the Vulcan immediately responded. “However, we have just received word from Admiral Owens that he wishes to join us. He has asked permission to come aboard.”

    Hardly surprising. Michael chose to ignore the request. “He can get his own ride. I want to leave orbit now and head to the Star Alliance border at best possible speed,” he said as he strode towards the turbolift.

    “Understood, sir. Before we get underway, I have a suggestion to make.”

    Michael was tempted to ignore it as well, however, something told him not to disregard a recommendation from his science officer out of hand. They tended to have value. “Go ahead.”

    “Am I right in assuming, sir, that our objective is to reach our away team on Piqus VII in the fastest possible manner?”

    Michael stepped into the turbolift and ordered for it to head to the bridge. “That would be correct.”

    “In which case, I would suggest we avail ourselves of all and any devices which could expedite our journey.”

    It took him a moment to realize what Xylion was alluding to. He felt a smile tugging on his lips just as the doors opened and he stepped onto the bridge. Xylion already waiting for him there. “Excellent suggestion, Commander,” he said and then turned his attention towards his on-duty flight officer. “Ensign Srena, break orbit and get us back to where we parked our warp sled. Best speed.”
     
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    7


    “I'm now reading six combat shuttles and one corvette in pursuit. We have comparable engines, it might be possible that they will be unable to catch up to us before we reach the border,” the shuttle pilot said while keeping her eyes on the helm controls.

    “That corvette belongs to Garla,” said Chella who still stood with Star just behind the pilot and Culsten.

    “To be honest, I’d be more worried about what’s in front of us instead,” Culsten said, monitoring sensors. “There are at least eight border patrol vessels converging on our heading. Now those will definitely intercept us before we get out of Star Alliance space.”

    Tazla tried to get a glimpse over his shoulder to read the same data he was seeing but it wasn’t easy to make sense of the unfamiliar console layout and language. She had worked as a clandestine operative in Starfleet Intelligence long enough, however, to make out the basics. They were still heading on the quickest possible course towards Federation space via the Amargosa Diaspora. The rest of their small fleet of shuttles carrying the remainder of the away team was just a few minutes ahead of them. The border patrol ships Culsten had mentioned were going to cut them all off before they could cross the border into safety. Turning around, for obvious reasons, wasn’t an option.

    She considered the chief administrator next to her. “These border ships, will they listen to your orders? Will they let us pass if you ask them to?”

    The woman shook her head. “My jurisdiction ended when we left the Piqus system. And even if they did listen to me, orders coming from a sentinel will have significantly more weight than mine.”

    “I was worried you’d say something like that,” Tazla said. She had, of course, already run into the Krellonian border agency once before, when she and Eagle had attempted to enter Star Alliance space. Considering how much trouble they’ve had coming into their territory, she didn’t expect her chances of escaping Garla this way to be encouraging.

    “We could try to alter course,” Lif said, turning his head to look at her. “Perhaps lay low somewhere and try to slip over the border someplace else.”

    “And have not just Garla and her people chasing us but the border patrol as well.” She shook her head. “Not a promising option.”

    “Do you have another one, sir?”

    In fact, she didn’t.

    Nora joined them in the cockpit area of the shuttle. “These people didn’t even want us in their space. Wouldn’t they be delighted to see us leave it?”

    “After your actions on Piqus, going up directly against Garla, I can’t imagine she would want to let you go so easily,” Chella said.

    “Sir,” Culsten said, standing from his station. “I'm the one who betrayed her. She's coming after me. I'll stay behind to face whatever punishment she deems is necessary as long as she agrees to let you and the rest of the away team leave.”

    Hopkins who was sitting further back in the shuttle had overhead this and quickly walked up to join them. “Wait a minute, you’re a Starfleet officer and we don’t leave people behind.”

    “It’s me or all of you, Lou. We have no choice. Being a Starfleet officer also means sacrificing yourself for the greater good and for the good of your people. It’s like the Vulcans say: The needs of the many—“

    Tazla cut him off. “As you were, Lieutenant. I appreciate a selfless act as much as the next person, but let’s hold off on the self-sacrificing heroics for now. There might be another way out of this.”

    “But sir, there clearly isn’t.”

    “Why are you so eager for this?” Hopkins said, trying and failing to keep her rising anger in check. “We don’t even know if Garla would go for such a deal. As far as she is concerned, she has us dead to rights anyway.”

    Tazla jumped back in before this could turn into an argument. “Quite right, Lieutenant. Now, everyone settle down. That’s an order. And following orders, if you may recall, is another thing Starfleet officers are expected to do.”

    The Krellonian looked chastened but nodded and sat back down.

    Tazla spotted something else on the sensors, something that looked familiar. She pointed at it. “What is that?”

    Culsten only needed a moment to identify it and then smiled. “It’s Eagle. She’s rapidly approaching the border.”

    “I have another contact approaching at high warp,” the pilot said.

    “Let me see.” Chella stepped behind the pilot and leaned in to look at her display. “That’s councilor Yorlo’s vessel. It’s heading straight for us.”

    “Now we’ve got a party,” said Nora.

    “Half of the border vessels have changed course to intercept Eagle, the others are still heading our way,” Lif said.

    This was quickly becoming a dangerously combustive situation, Tazla realized. One false step could set off a major interstellar incident. Wars had broken out over much less serious offenses than what they had managed to entangle themselves in. “All right, advise the rest of our people to hold their position. Let’s catch up to them and come to a full stop.”

    The pilot checked with Chella and when she gave her assent, she executed the order. Chella considered the Trill suspiciously. “What are you planning?”

    “We’ve tried shooting our way out of this and it’s only gotten us so far. I think we need to start trying something different. Perhaps talking will help.”

    “Looks like we’re not the only ones interested in talking. Garla’s ship is hailing us,” Culsten said.

    Tazla nodded. “Put her through.”

    A moment later her image appeared, holographically superimposed on the forward viewport. She still looked outraged. “Chella, I am ordering you to stop your vessel and immediately handover Lif Culsten and his Starfleet conspirators who are wanted for questioning in regards to partaking in terrorist acts against the Star Alliance and interfering with Eye operations.

    “These people were our guest, Sentinel. They came here to assist us with a medical emergency which they have managed to resolve successfully. And now they are returning to Federation space,” she said.

    “Guests?” Garla nearly spat as if she couldn’t believe she had used that word. “Do guests fire on their hosts? Do they destroy Krellonian property? They lost their status as guests the moment they took up arms against us. Now they are enemies of the state. And Lif Culsten is a traitor to his people.”

    “I think we should write this all off as an unfortunate, cultural misunderstanding,” Tazla said, trying the diplomatic route, even if she doubted she'd get very far with that tact. In her experience, it never quite seemed to work. "We've all made mistakes in this first, real cooperation between our people. But in the end, we did what we came here for. We helped you cure a disease. Let's focus on that and part ways as friends instead of enemies."

    Garla looked at her for a moment as if she was considering those words. A small smirk formed on her thin lips. “I am starting to believe that all of this was planned from the start. That you came here under false pretenses to spy on Krellonian affairs. At this point, I am not even ruling out that you have somehow managed to cause this disease in the first place just so that you would have a convenient reason to enter the Star Alliance.”

    “That is ridiculous,” Chella said. “The Piqus Plague broke out many weeks before Starfleet even joined us. Besides, they were invited here by our government.”

    “I suppose a court will have to decide. A Krellonian court. And if you don’t want to join your new friends in the accusation box as a coconspirator, I suggest you hand them over now and with no further delays.”

    Culsten muted the connection and turned around to look at Star. “Sir, I have an idea.”

    She instinctively shook her head. “We’ve been through that.”

    “No, something else. Just hear me out.”

    She did and she had to admit that she liked where he was going. Even if she hadn’t, there weren’t exactly a wealth of options left for them since it was becoming clearer by the second that Garla had no intentions of letting any of them go.

    A few moments later their shuttle joined the rest of the small Starfleet flotilla now seemingly stuck behind enemy lines and not long after they found themselves surrounded by border patrols ships on one side, and Garla’s vessels on the other, all of them taking clearly aggressive stances, ready to open fire at the slightest provocation.

    Eagle in the meantime had approached the border as closely as they were able without violating Krellonian sovereignty or inviting a hostile response from the remaining patrol ships effectively cutting her off from proceeding any further. The overzealous border agents were also jamming any kind of communications between the Starfleet vessel and her shuttles which in cosmic terms where within spitting distance but may as well have been located in a different universe, considering the imaginary line separating them.

    When Garla opened frequencies again, Tazla had arranged, with Chella’s permission, to clear the shuttle’s small cockpit area of everyone save for herself, Culsten and the chief administrator.

    “There is no place for you to go,” the sentinel said, clearly still displeased by having been muted earlier. “This is the end for you. Surrender and I will promise that your people receive a fair trial. Some of your officers may even be repatriated eventually.”

    There was little doubt in Tazla’s mind that this offer didn’t extend to her, as the ranking officer, or Culsten, for whom she was sure she had special plans. “I would like to make you a counteroffer.”

    Garla uttered a humorless laugh. “I believe you seriously misjudged your position. There are no counteroffers to be entertained. My terms are non-negotiable.”

    “Perhaps that will change once you hear what we have to offer.”

    Garla didn’t speak even if her face spoke volumes. This was a waste of her time.

    “Lif here worked with you for a few days and had access to a great deal of information relating to your plans. He also obtained evidence that you have allied yourself with a foreign power in order to achieve your goals,” Star said. “You have accused Lif to be a traitor to his people. But, tell me, a sentinel of the Eye of Krellon, who has sworn an oath to protect and safeguard the Star Alliance, working with foreign interests without the knowledge or consent of the Central Council, does that not sound like the greater betrayal? It does to me.”

    Garla blanched ever so slightly but managed to recover quickly. “You have nothing. You think you can extort me? A sentinel? You’ve already lost.”

    Tazla checked her instruments. “Yorlo’s ship will reach us in less than two minutes. You must have already guessed that our entire presence here was orchestrated by him. Because he was desperate for Lif to expose you and learn what you have been up to. No matter what you claim we did, do you really think he won’t hear our story first? Are you going to take the chance that he may listen to what we have to say and take it back to your government, endangering all those plans you have worked so hard for over the last months, maybe even years?”

    Garla leaned closer until her holographic head loomed before them larger than life. “You are playing a very dangerous game.”

    “I know what you’re thinking,” Star said who, of course, was not at all unfamiliar to these type of games in her previous career. Or threats for that matter. “But then I guess you’ll need to have one hell of a good explanation why you just blew up a Krellonian shuttle along with a planetary chief administrator and two dozen Federation citizens. Admittedly, I am not as familiar with Krellonian ways, but where I come from, such a thing would be career suicide at best, and lead to all-out interstellar war at worst.”

    The sentinel continued to glare at her. Then she focused her entire ire on Culsten who visibly gulped at those eyes burning themselves into his head. Then her face disappeared entirely.

    “That was a hell of a bluff,” Lif said. “I don’t have any kind of evidence to support what you said.”

    Tazla shrugged. “That’s why it’s called a bluff.”

    “What happens if this doesn’t work?” Chella asked.

    She turned to the other woman. “Then, frankly, we are screwed.” She took on a more somber tone before she continued. “But regardless what happens, I want you to know that we are deeply in your debt. We would not have gotten this far without your help and I can only imagine what kind of repercussions you will have to face for helping us the way you did.”

    Chella smiled. “You’re mistaken. I am the one indebted to you. You saved my daughter and my planet. I don’t know why you came here, or even if you had an ulterior motive as Garla claims, but after spending time with your people over the last few days, I am convinced that you had nothing to do with the plague. And I’m not concerned with my career. It is enough knowing that I will see my daughter again.”

    Tazla would have lied to herself if she had claimed that she wasn’t touched by that sentiment. Sometimes it was easy to forget how satisfying it could be to make new friends, especially across other cultures and civilizations. It was the reason she had joined Starfleet, even if that priority had gotten lost somewhere down the road of her long and oftentimes crooked career path.

    As it turned out, Garla was indeed out of moves. She did nothing, didn’t even move a single one of her ships until Yorlo arrived. As far as Tazla could tell she didn’t even attempt to make contact with him and so it was left to her and Lif to brief him on what had transpired, leaving out the parts where they had wrecked an Eye building and caused damage and injury to Krellonian equipment and personnel, instead falling back once again on the convenient excuse of cultural misunderstandings.

    They also left out any of the points Tazla had threatened Garla with, mindful that the resourceful sentinel was likely listening in to the conversation, and while Yorlo wasn’t exactly pleased with the lackluster report Lif had provided him, Chella did remind him that the Starfleet team had been single-handedly responsible for curing the Piqus Plague.

    Yorlo had wanted to hear Garla’s side of the story but the sentinel outright refused to answer any hails after she had spoken to Tazla, her ships simply hovering out there in space, silently watching the situation unfolding, perhaps too proud to depart outright.

    Seeing no other avenue to pursue, Yorlo ordered the border patrol to allow Eagle to once again enter Krellonian space to retrieve her people and shuttles, after which it quickly departed Star Alliance territory to head back towards the Federation.

    As far as Tazla was concerned, that had been the end of their eventful Krellonian mission and their involvement with their affairs. It wouldn't be until much later that she came to realize that any such notion had been not only premature but wishful thinking at best.
     
  11. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Garla got served.
     
    Gibraltar and CeJay like this.
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Part Seven: The Rabbit Hole


    1


    Eagle was making good progress back towards Federation space, once again linked up with the warp sled which allowed the ship to travel at extreme warp speeds, which her own engine core would not be able to produce on its own.

    The away team was back onboard after their harrowing escape from Piqus, along with all the shuttles and the runabout Eagle had left behind. Most of the equipment they had brought along, however, had been lost when the away team had been forced to evacuate the planet in a hurry. The vast majority of it had been destroyed when Louise Hopkins had rigged the facility to self-destruct, thereby also ensuring that very little Federation technology would find its way into Krellonian hands.

    Michael had given the entire away team a couple of days off from their duties in order to recover from their latest mission. Predictably, however, Tazla Star had not taken him up on the offer and after just a quick sonic shower—the only thing she had admitted she couldn’t go without for one more day—and a change of uniform, she was back at his side as they both made their way through Eagle’s corridors and towards the bridge.

    “What kind of diplomatic fallout do you expect from your actions on Piqus?” he asked her after he had read her report which she had managed to produce in just a couple of hours after having returned to the ship.

    “Minimal,” she said quickly. “Chella, Piqus’ local administrator, had nothing but praise for us and the way we have dealt with their medical crisis. Councilor Yorlo, even though he did not achieve his overarching mission of gaining valuable intelligence he could use against Garla, was clearly relieved that the quarantine could be lifted and that there was no further risk of the disease spreading to other worlds within the Star Alliance. I like to believe that, overall, we made a very positive impression on the Krellonians.”

    “Except perhaps on Sentinel Garla.”

    “Let’s just say she won’t have us over for dinner any time soon.”

    Michael frowned. “According to your report, she was dead set on capturing our people and Lieutenant Culsten in particular.”

    But Star shook her head. “From everything I’ve learned and seen, she may have significant latitude operating within their borders, but very little beyond. In fact, the threat that it may become known that she has worked with a foreign power was enough to make her abandon her plans to take us prisoner.”

    They both entered the turbolift and Michael asked for the bridge. Now that they had some privacy, he was more comfortable to broach the mugato in the room. “I need to know everything you can tell me about the Omega Molecule.”

    “There isn’t much,” she said. “It’s clear that they were synthesizing it at one, possibly more locations within the Piqus system. Some sort of accident at one of their facilities and the resulting exposure to boronite caused the Piqus Plague.”

    “Still, surprisingly lucky considering that the last known Omega-related accident caused an entire sector of space to become impassable. What else?”

    “According to Lif, Garla produced the molecules for a foreign power and had it transported to a location somewhere within the Amargosa Diaspora,” she continued.

    “To what end?”

    She shook her head. “Unclear. The only thing we know for sure is that this deal has enabled Garla to bring about her own ambitious and highly questionable sociological experiments. There is also no indication what Garla’s partners are planning to do with Omega.”

    Michael found it difficult to keep that frown off his face. “I don’t even know if I want to know more. As far as I’m concerned, this entire thing is now my father’s problem. They decided to keep this from me, let them figure out how to solve it.”

    Tazla looked puzzled. “Your father?”

    “A long story, Commander.”

    The doors to the lift swished opened and they both stepped out onto the bridge.

    So’Dan Leva, who was presently in command, quickly turned to the approaching senior officers. “Sir, I was just about to call you. We’ve received an urgent message from the Agamemnon.”

    “I’m sure we have.”

    Leva didn’t let his captain’s obvious annoyance distract him. “She is on an intercept course at high warp. At present speed we will rendezvous in less than one hour,” he said and then left the command area of the bridge to return to his usual post at the tactical station.

    Michael and Star sat down in their respective chairs.

    When he hadn’t given any further orders, Star leaned into him slightly. “Are we going to respond?” she asked quietly.

    “Honestly, I’d rather not.” But before she could inquiry any further, he tugged on his uniform jacket. “Mister Leva, put them through please.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    The large, forward viewscreen shifted to show exactly the three people he had expected to find. Maya, Jarik and his father who had apparently now given up all pretenses to continue with the charade of his death, and eliciting a few surprised gasps on Eagle’s bridge.

    His father was the first one to speak. “We need to talk.”

    “Funny, I seem to remember that we spoke just a few hours ago. And I didn’t much care for what you had to say then. What makes you think things will be different now?”

    “Stop being so childish, son. Grave matters are afoot which require all our immediate and total attention.”

    He nodded. “So I understand. But as far as I am concerned, my role in these grave matters of yours has concluded. We’ve dealt with the crisis on Piqus, my people escaped barely alive, and now, I fully expect to return to the mission I had been promised before all this started,” he said and then began to enter commands into the armrest console of his chair to establish a secure uplink to the other ship. “I am more than happy to send you all the data and reports that have been filed on our mission which will mean you will know precisely as much as I do,” he said and then briefly glanced towards the screen again. “Although I still doubt that very much. Do with the information I’m sending you as you wish.”

    Owens Senior unsurprisingly was not pleased with this. “Don’t make me having to give you an order, son.”

    Michael stood. “Dead men can’t give orders.”

    The bridge fell silent while Michael and his father stared at each other across the void of space, for a moment at least it seemed the world around them was all but forgotten. He had lost count of how many times they had been in situations just like this one, father and son, locking horns, neither one of them willing to give an inch.

    He was fully aware that this was hardly the time or place for another family argument but he also couldn’t deny how angry he was with him. Of all the things he had ever pulled, pretending that he had died, and then using that same ruse to put him and his crew into harm’s way without so much as a whisper of what they were really up against, it had to rank near the top.

    Nobody else, on either ship, seemed willing to try and mediate this conflict and for an awkwardly long time, Michael could hear nothing but the gentle operating sounds of his bridge and the mild humming of the warp-sled powered engines while his eyes remained focused on his father like ice-cold daggers.

    It felt like an eternity even if it probably lasted for much less than a minute and until he decided that he needed to be the bigger man. “We’ll rendezvous with Agamemnon in…” he turned back to glance at his armrest again. “Forty-six minutes. I will provide you with a full briefing in person after which I fully expect this ship to return to its previous assignment. Eagle out.”

    And with that, his father and his coconspirators disappeared from the view screen.

    Star stood from her chair and joined him by his side. “I have a feeling I shouldn’t even ask.”

    He shot her a dark look which he quickly tempered, remembering to channel his anger towards the people who deserved it most. “I need you to tell me everything you learned on Piqus no matter how inconsequential you think it was. I want to resolve this entire mess as quickly as possible before we get as far away from this place as this warp-sled can take us.”

    She nodded. “I can do that.”

    “Mister Leva, you have the bridge,” he said and then strode towards his ready room with Star following closely.

    * * *​
     
  13. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Looks like we’re going to have a clash of the Titans here. Or should I say, a clash of the Owenses? My latinum is on the son.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  14. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    There are still mysteries here. And it looks like things are finally coming to a head between Michael and his father. Frankly, I'm rooting for him to tell his old man off. I'd be pissed too, after what Eagle's crew just went through.
    Hope no one lights the Omega fuse before this is all over, but you know...it is the UT universe....
     
    CeJay likes this.
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    It wasn’t long after Jonathan Owens had gotten in touch with Eagle that Michael found himself once more in a room with his previously deceased father, along with Jarik and Amaya Donners. He had decided to bring Tazla Star along, even though, or perhaps despite the fact that Jon Owens had asked to meet with him alone.

    The truth was that he had started to become frustrated with having to go up against the three of them by himself and routinely be made to feel that he was the odd person out when facing what he had started to think of as a cabal of coconspirators. Star didn't exactly level the playing field, but he needed somebody who would see things from his perspective or at least one that differed to that of the cabal. He needed somebody in his corner for change.

    His father had originally wished to meet on Agamemnon, presumably to ensure he could face his son in friendly territory, but Michael had argued that if he needed a face-to-face, it had to be on his terms or not at all. The man had reluctantly agreed.

    “I believe I was quite clear regarding the highly sensitive nature of this meeting,” Jon Owens said when he noticed Eagle’s first officer in the observation lounge along with his son.

    Michael regarded him with a glare, communicating in what he hoped were no uncertain terms that he did not appreciate how his father had decided to start things. This meeting had not been his idea, and if his father wanted his help, the last thing he expected him to do was to begin matters by antagonizing him.

    “Commander Star has been fully read into the mission details. She knows what I know. Besides, not only has she been previously briefed on Omega due to her former position as a starship captain, she is also the only person in this room who can positively attest to its presence in the Piqus System. She’s vital to… whatever the hell this is all really about.”

    And that, he decided, was all he was going to say about that. The implication was clear enough: ‘Deal with it or find your way back to the transporter room and get off my ship.’

    This hadn't been the first time he had found himself in the position to justify his first officer, but then, of course, considering her past and her short, but disgraced tenure as a starship captain, it was hardly surprising that she had more enemies than friends within the fleet. He already knew that Maya wasn't her biggest fan. He could only guess how Jarik or his father felt about her. At the end of the day, he didn't much care. Or rather, if it was a problem for them, he was fine with it. He quite liked the idea of being the one making life difficult for them, instead of vice versa.

    His father and the rest of the cabal said nothing further on the subject as they took their chairs opposite him and Star.

    “Firstly, I believe you deserve an apology, son.”

    That caught him slightly off-guard. It wasn’t every day his father sounded remorseful. He could probably count on one hand the times he had asked for forgiveness over the last few years, even if there had been many occasions when it had been appropriate.

    “What we did to you—what I did to you—it wasn’t right and you certainly didn’t deserve it,” he continued. “Things would have been different if you had accepted my offer back on Earth but the way things turned out, we had to move fast for reasons I don’t wish to get into right now.”

    Michael let his eyes wander over to where Maya was sitting. “Did you know?”

    She shook her head. “Not at first, no.”

    Eagle was never to be part of this mission, you have to believe that,” he said. “Yes, I could have used your help when I asked for it and things would have gone very differently, but these latest developments were unexpected and much more pressing than we had anticipated. I had no intention of involving you or your ship at this stage. That decision was made for us.”

    “By a Krellonian government official who so happened to be my helmsman’s uncle,” he said and his father nodded. “So what’re you saying? That if the Krellonians hadn’t requested Eagle specifically, I would never have found out that you were still alive?”

    He quickly shook his head. “I would have told you eventually.”

    Michael wasn’t so sure about this.

    “I think we need to focus on the issue at hand, instead of rehashing what has already happened, no matter how unfortunate those decisions may have been,” said Jarik and immediately received a rather displeased look from his father in response.

    Then he nodded slowly and focused on Michael again. “He is right. The invasion is real. We know this to be the case because you have uncovered the connection between the Krellonians and the subspace aliens. The Omega molecule is the fuel they require to power the subspace gate that will allow them to enter normal space.”

    “I think if there is one thing your expert torturer has made abundantly clear is that these creatures cannot exist in normal space,” Michael said, shooting Jarik an accusatory glance. "Why would they be interested in invading our realm at all?"

    The half-Vulcan was about to respond, clearly not appreciating the label being bestowed upon him but Owens Senior raised his hand and cut him off. “These people are able to construct a subspace gateway using technology centuries ahead of our own. It stands to reason that they have found a way to overcome that particular hurdle. The creature you were able to take prisoner was clearly not prepared to enter our realm the way it did.”

    Michael didn’t miss the look that Maya was giving him. She had made it clear that she was fully aware of how he had managed to set free that same alien he had previously adducted. Judging how neither his father nor Jarik had mentioned this point yet led him to believe that she had not shared this information with them. He wasn’t quite sure yet what this meant.

    “I’m sorry, I know I’m a little late to this party and perhaps I missed something,” Star said. “But are you suggesting that certain Krellonian elements are working together with these aliens to allow them to invade our space?”

    “Why not?” said Jarik. “We have seen those kinds of alliance play out before. Members of a frustrated Cardassian military took it upon themselves to ally themselves with the Dominion. And we all know how that ended.”

    “It's also entirely possible that the Krellonians don't know what the subspace aliens endgame is,” said Maya.

    Michael wanted to counter that he wasn’t yet entirely sure that they knew what the endgame was. "So let's go back to my question which I posed when all this began. Why not go to Starfleet Command with all this? You seem convinced that you have enough evidence to prove this theory."

    But Jarik shook his head. “It would be pointless.”

    Jon Owens responded to Michael's puzzled expression. “We've already attempted proper channels. Ever since the end of the Dominion War, there has been a decided lack of interest within the upper echelons of Starfleet to take preemptive action. And even if they did, Starfleet would not be able to mobilize out here quickly enough. Which means, for now, we're all that we've got.”

    Michael leaned back in his chair, uttering a little sigh and trying to let all this information sink in. He had come into this meeting determined to untangle himself from this mess which as far as he was concerned had been entirely one of his father’s making. He couldn’t quite ignore the little voice in the back of his head that concerned itself with what could happen if his father was right after all.

    He considered all three of them. “Let’s say that we’re really facing an impending invasion from subspace. What’s our next play? Our only lead is a rogue Krellonian spymaster and we pretty much burned that bridge to the ground.”

    “We might have another one,” said Jarik and pushed a padd across the table and towards him.

    Michael picked it up and reviewed the content. It held little more than what looked like spatial coordinates. “What’s this?”

    “It’s what we’ve learned from our interrogation of the alien prisoner,” Jarik said.

    Michael frowned and passed the padd on to his first officer to have a look at. “Under torture.”

    Jarik was once again cut off by his father which seemed to momentarily frustrate the half-Vulcan. “It’s the best lead we have, given the circumstances.”

    “This isn’t even a full set of coordinates,” Star said after she had looked over the padd. “This could encompass hundreds of parsecs and take us months to search.”

    “Twenty-five thousand six hundred AU,” said Maya. “It would take eighteen weeks for both our ships to cover that area.”

    Michael offered her and the others a baffled look. “You want us to go out there and search for this portal for the next two years?”

    “We’re not searching for a portal, son. We are searching for the Omega molecule. And that stands out like a beacon in a clear night sky.”

    “A very large sky,” said Michael.

    “There might be another way.”

    All eyes turned towards Star.

    “Lif Culsten. He was onboard one of Garla’s freighters, ostensibly transporting the molecule. He must have known where it was heading,” she said.

    Owens Senior visibly perked up at hearing this news. “We need to find out. Can you bring him in?”

    Michael was tempted to turn him down but he could think of no good reason. “Owens to Lieutenant Culsten, please report to the observation room.”

    It didn’t take him long to respond. “On my way, sir.”

    “It goes without saying that the details of this mission remain highly classified and therefore are not to be discussed in his presence,” Jarik said which caused Michael to roll his eyes with some annoyance.

    Culsten had apparently been on the bridge on the deck above since he arrived within just a couple of minutes. The young man was momentarily taken back after seeing what he had walked in on, and the collection of senior officers assembled around the table, all of whom regarded him carefully from the moment he had stepped into the room.

    Star quickly offered him a reassuring smile. “Relax, Lieutenant. There is nothing wrong. But we do need you to attempt to recall certain information you may have learned while you were working with Garla.”

    He nodded. “I’ll do my best, sir.”

    “You mentioned in your report that after you had boarded Garla’s freighter, you helped her plot a course for it towards the Amargosa Diaspora. We need to know the exact course.”

    “Its heading was two-four-eight mark one-seven-eight.”

    Michael and the others aimed baffled looks at the man.

    He allowed himself a little smirk. “I’m a pilot. If there is one thing I remember it’s a course heading.”

    Michael offered him a smile. “Well done, Lieutenant. Thank you. I think that’ll be all for now.”

    Culsten bopped his head slightly and then quickly retreated again, clearly thankful to be excused.

    Star spoke as soon as he had left and after she had entered the new data into the padd. “They are not spatial coordinates so we still can’t pinpoint a location but if we combine that heading with the approximate location of the freighter before it left the Piqus system and then apply the coordinates we already have to the equation we can at least narrow down the search area quite a bit,” she said and then held up the padd with her calculations. “This should cut down the area we need to search to something we can cover in days.”

    Michael beamed proudly, happy that Star had not only just demonstrated her value but also the opportunity of throwing it all back into his father's face. Pettiness wasn't usually his style but then again, it wasn't every day his father came back to life after faking his own death.

    Jon Owens didn’t quite take the bait. “Good work. I suggest we set out immediately. Son, I would like to stay on Eagle while we carry out our search.”

    That sense of triumph he had been feeling quickly dissipated.

    His father could obviously tell. “Don’t worry, I understand that you’re the captain. I have no intention of overruling any of your decisions while I’m on board. Not that I’d be able to. You were quite right earlier. As far as Starfleet is concerned, I’m still dead.”

    His disarming attitude made it difficult to turn down the request and he began to nod.

    “I'll stay here as well,” Jarik said before Michael could even agree to his father. “Unless of course, you have any objections, Captain.”

    He shook his head. “No, objections, as long as we all agree that there is only room for one in the center seat,” he said. In truth, he found this sudden interest by both men remaining close to his side more than a little unnerving. He shot a glance towards his fellow starship captain but if she had any issues with this, or even felt slighted, she didn’t let it on.

    “We can coordinate search patterns as soon as I’m back on Agamemnon,” she said as she stood.

    Michael nodded and he and the others followed suit. An ensign who had escorted their three guests to the observations lounge was left to deal with arranging temporary guest quarters for his father and Jarik and escort Amaya back to the transporter room, leaving just Michael and Star in the observation room.

    “I'm just going to come right out and say it. This entire meeting gave me a really bad vibe.”

    “Good. I was worried I was the only one,” Michael said.

    “What do we do?”

    He uttered a resigned little sigh. “The only thing we can do, Commander. We keep a close eye on everything. And we hope to God that it’s going to be enough.”
     
  16. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Why do I have this feeling that everything in this situation is going to go further down the toilet like chumps of bad Cardassian food? I recommend calling home and letting Starfleet know what’s happening.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  17. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I think Michael handled this very well. Bringing Star in was a stellar idea. My fondness for her is growing.

    Tensions are thick with all this cloak and dagger stuff and not the ideal environment to hunt down Omega, either. I think secrets are still being kept from Michael at this point. And BTW, keeping Omega a secret with two---count 'em---two starships searching is going to be tough. Omega might end up becoming public knowledge in the UT universe before this is done.

    I'm still wondering at this point why the subspace aliens are so interested in our domain, so can't wait to find that out as well. It's like us trying to invade and colonize Venus. Why would you want to? We do know from the STTNG episode that they're interested in our biology for some reason, fascinated actually. Guess we'll just have to see.

    Onward, good sir.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    2


    It had been two days since Eagle had first set-out into the expansive Amargosa Diaspora on a hunt for the Omega molecule which, as the theory went, would point them towards the location of the subspace portal an extra-dimensional race had constructed to invade regular space, and for two days now, they had come up empty.

    Michael, tiring of sitting on the bridge and staring out into the vacuum of space, had finally retreated to his quarters once it became increasingly obvious that they would go through another uneventful night shift.

    Sleep, however, hadn't come. His thoughts had kept him restless and wide awake. Although he had felt quite relieved that his father—as well as Jarik—who had taken up residence on his ship, had so far managed to keep their distance, he feared that it was only going to be a matter of time until old patterns would repeat themselves which had usually culminated into loud and inevitable arguments about one thing or the other.

    His thoughts also drifted towards Amaya. While Agamemnon was currently engaged in executing her own search pattern which kept her at a distance from Eagle, they were certainly close enough to allow for real-time or near real-time communication and yet she had kept silent so far. It was becoming clearer to him with every passing day that she had been quite determined when she had suggested that they placed their budding relationship on hold. She had certainly not given him any signs over the last week that she was considering him as anything other than a colleague. Worse even, an obstacle in her way to carry out her own mission to support his father’s agenda.

    Lying on top of his bed, still fully dressed in his uniform, he tried for the umpteenth time to distract himself by reviewing routine ship reports contained on a data padd. There was the case of Crewman Swearinger continuously reporting late to his shifts, the daily fuel, and energy consumption reports, the small power drain in the secondary EPS relay in cargo bay four and a dozen other, equally mundane reports by various department heads and section leads across the ship, none of which managing to capture his attention for longer than a few seconds.

    He was grateful when Xylion’s call came through.

    “Your presence is required on the bridge, sir.”

    Michael was already on his feet before the science officer had completed his sentence. “On my way. Owens out.”

    The sight that greeted him on the bridge was not what he had expected. He had been half prepared to walk into a room plastered with the ominous Omega symbol on every visible display, or perhaps his father and Jarik having finally decided to take a more active role in this mission, shouting orders at his crew.

    Instead, the atmosphere was as low-key as was to be expected from the middle of the night shift with most stations being manned by relief officers and Commander Xylion in command. What he certainly hadn't expected was to find Bensu standing by the Vulcan's side, awaiting the arrival of the captain.

    Michael’s first instinct was to query why a civilian had been granted access to an area usually restricted to anyone but authorized Starfleet personnel, but since this was hardly his first visit and Bensu had proven on multiple occasions to be much more than he had appeared, he decided to overlook the breach of protocol. “What’s going on?”

    Xylion glanced towards Bensu briefly before considering the captain. “Bensu believes that he may be able to assist us in locating the subspace gateway.”

    Xylion like the rest of the senior crew had been briefed on their search for the subspace portal. Although the cabal—his father, Jarik and Amaya—had wanted to keep this information restricted, after Eagle had already made contact with a subspace rupture previously, sent an away team inside and returned with an alien prisoner, it had become increasingly difficult to hide the true purpose of their mission to the Diaspora. Of course, any reference to the Omega molecule had so far been kept quiet in line with the corresponding directive with Starfleet took nearly as seriously as General Order One.

    Michael had little doubt that Bensu knew more than he had learned from Xylion or other members of the crew. How this was possible remained one of those unexplained mysteries he hoped to get to the bottom of before all this was over. For now, he was not inclined to dismiss any help in finding what they had been looking for. "How?"

    “I suppose it won’t surprise you to hear, Captain, if I were to say that I cannot explain it. Like I haven’t been able to explain much of anything lately,” he said and then carried on before Michael could query him on this further. “Rest assured, it is as frustrating to me as it must be to you. Likely much more so.”

    He was willing to accept this. For now. “All right, so how exactly can you help us find the portal? Do you know the coordinates?”

    He shook his head. “It’s not as simple as that, I’m afraid.”

    “Of course, it’s not.”

    “It’s more of a—for a lack of a better term—a sensation. I feel something nearby. Similar to what we have encountered previously but on a much, much larger scale.”

    Michael turned to look at Xylion who seemed to know what his captain was asking for. “I cannot offer a scientific explanation, sir. However, it is not without precedence that certain beings are able to sense anomalies and disruptions within the space-time continuum.”

    He nodded, acknowledging that fact, and then faced the main view screen which continued to display the globular cluster of the Amargosa Diaspora with its countless bright stars and its blue and red nebulae hanging beyond it all like a massive galactic veil. He could tell that Xylion had already brought Eagle to a stop after Benu’s premonition, or whatever it was.

    The doors to the near turbolift parted to allow Tazla Star to step onto the bridge. She was followed closely by Jon Owens and Jarik. Star shot him a quick, telling look, letting him know that it likely hadn’t been the most pleasant turbolift ride of her life.

    He had summoned Star onto the bridge after Xylion had called for him, he had no idea how the other two had found out.

    “What is happening?” Jarik wanted to know. “Why have we stopped? Have we found something?”

    He sounded a tad too demanding for his liking as if he was barking out orders and Michael didn't immediately respond. "Maybe. We're not sure yet."

    His father looked confused. “What is it?”

    “Mister Bensu here has a feeling,” Michael said. He had meant to be entirely sincere about it, but it had sounded funny even in his head.

    Star was clearly not entirely read-in yet as to the latest revelations regarding the man who until not too long ago had been considered a somewhat enigmatic but otherwise harmless and likable bartender and who had now been elevated to a position important enough that his presence on the bridge was greeted with little concern. "I guess I missed more than I thought."

    “Sufficient to say that Mister Bensu here as proven to be a surprise to all of us,” Michael said, not willing to go into the specific details now.

    It was enough for Star who simply nodded and accepted the news.

    “Can he tell us where it is?” Owens Senior said.

    Michael turned his own quizzical expression towards the bartender instead.

    Bensu took a few steps towards the main screen until he stood right in front of the ceiling-high, holographic display which currently showed nothing but space and stars. The others simply watched him as he seemed to concentrate on the void.

    Then he turned back. “No.”

    Michael forced himself not to let his mouth gape open but some of the others were not as restraint.

    Jarik was the first to say what everyone else was thinking. “Than what is the point of all this? Let’s go back to our search pattern and stop wasting time.”

    “What I mean to say,” Bensu started, “is that I cannot just point the way and tell you to search there. I know it’s close. Very close. I can sense that much. But I can’t tell you which way you need to go.”

    “Let’s stop focusing then on what you cannot do,” Michael said. “What is it you can do to help us find what we’re looking for?”

    Bensu thought for a moment and then turned his head to look to his side, right towards the helm station, currently occupied by Ensign Rachel Milestone. The young gamma shift flight operator had her large eyes glued on the bartender like most everyone else on the bridge. She also looked just as confused as the rest as he glanced her way. “I might be able to take you there.”

    “Wait a minute,” said Jarik. “We are not just going to let you pilot a Starfleet vessel. You are a civilian after all.”
    Michael ignored him and took a step towards Bensu. “Have you ever helmed a starship before? Do you know how to do it?”

    “The answer to your first question is no, Captain. Or if I ever did, I cannot recall it. However, Xylion is quite familiar with how to operate the helm controls which means so am I.”

    “What does that mean?” Jarik asked his confusion still quite evident.

    Michael had not shared with him or his father the exact nature of Bensu yet. Or at least as much as he had learned so far. The answer seemed to satisfy him, however. The man had shared a consciousness with Xylion for decades. It stood to reason that a great deal of knowledge would have rubbed off during that time. He considered his first officer for a moment.

    She nodded. “It’s probably not the craziest thing we’ve done in a while,” she said with a little smirk, apparently not terribly concerned with handing over the reins of a three million ton starship to a civilian bartender with apparently no formal flight training whatsoever. Michael wondered if she didn’t secretly enjoy the idea a little bit. It would have fit right in with her more unorthodox ways of doing things.

    Jarik was not sharing that view. “You cannot be serious.”

    He considered him next. “I think it’s about time we try something new here. Unless you would prefer for us to spend a few more weeks randomly running around the sector on the off-chance we stumble across something noteworthy.”

    Jarik was clearly not convinced but kept further objections to himself, perhaps because Admiral Owens didn’t offer any himself, choosing instead to remain quiet and leaving his son to run his ship as he saw fit. Michael was tempted to offer him a grateful look in response but then changed his mind. His father was the reason for all this in the first place, he had decided. He regarded Milestone instead. “Ensign, please hand the helm over to Mister Bensu.”

    “Uh, yes, sir,” she said, sounding rather puzzled by this development. No doubt she had never, in her wildest dreams, expected to be given such an order. She pushed the conn panel away from her seat to allow her to stand and then left the chair, offering Bensu a baffled look.

    Bensu for his part took the surrendered seat hesitantly, very slowly bringing the console back towards him until he could study it closely. "Rachel," he said after a moment, clearly being on first name basis with the young officer who he likely tended to in the Nest on regular occasions. He looked up at her. "Stay close, if you don't mind."

    Milestone nodded and took up position at his side while he continued to study the console. She leaned in slightly to point out various sections on the panel. “This is attitude control over here. Thrusters are over there and this is—“

    “Impulse control and navigational sensors,” he said nodding. “Yes, I think I understand. Thank you.”

    Michael stepped up next to Xylion. “How certain are you that he can in fact pilot the ship, Commander?”

    The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "He has witnessed me piloting various crafts in the past. Theoretically, he should possess all knowledge required to safely operate flight control."

    “Big difference between theory and practice though,” said Star but kept her comment quiet enough as not to disturb Bensu's concentration. “Hey, at least it's not as if there are any stars nearby we could accidentally fly into.”

    “I assure you, Commander,” Bensu said, showing that he had heard her comments even while he kept his eyes on the console, “I am not planning to take us that far. What we are looking for is much closer than that.” He began to gently tap a number of panels as if to see how they reacted to his touch. His confidence quickly grew.

    “Changing heading to four-two mark one-one-eight,” Milestone said as she watched Bensu’s efforts.

    Star stepped behind Lieutenant Stanmore who was sitting at the operations post opposite from Bensu and who like most of the rest of the bridge crew watched the bartender behind the helm with rapt attention. “Lieutenant, I want all available sensors at maximum. Keep an eye out on anything out of place. If you see a single suspicious particle of space dust I want to know about it.”

    He nodded. “Yes, sir. So far I can't see anything at all out of the ordinary,” he said before shooting a fleeting glance to his right. “Unless you count a bartender steering a starship,” he added sotto voce.

    “I promise I’ll let you all mix your own drinks for a week after this,” Bensu said as he made another adjustment.

    “Increasing speed to one-quarter impulse,” Milestone said.

    Jarik took a few steps towards the conn. “How long exactly is this going to take?”

    Bensu kept his eyes on the controls. “Hard to say. It could be a few minutes, it could be hours. I know we are close but I can’t say if—oh,” he interrupted himself and added a few quick commands.

    “All engines stopped,” said Milestone.

    Bensu looked up at her. “That’s a curious thing you do,” he said. “Calling everything out like that.”
    The young woman looked dumbfounded. “Uh … it’s just something we do,” she said and then shot the captain an unsure look.

    Michael nodded at her. Bensu was not a trained pilot and he appreciated somebody telling him what he was up to.

    Bensu turned around in his chair. "We need to raise shields and configure them to a frequency of sixteen point two kilo-electron volts."

    Before Michael could ask another question Jarik jumped in. “Do it,” he said simply and Michael could tell that the frequency seemed to mean something to him.

    He glanced towards tactical where he found Lieutenant Alendra on duty. “Raise shields and adjust the frequency as requested. Go to yellow alert and advise the Agamemnon of our position.”

    The bridge lighting dimmed slightly and some of the panels lit up in amber to reflect the ship’s raised alert level.

    “Shields up and reconfigured,” the Bolian woman confirmed from the tactical station. “Message to Agamemnon has been sent.”

    Bensu turned back to the conn and continued to enter commands.

    “Thrusters ahead,” Milestone said. “Three hundred kph and accelerating.”

    “I’m detecting something directly ahead,” said Stanmore with sudden urgency. “We are passing through some kind of barrier. It came out of nowhere.”

    Even as he spoke the view screen made the transition unmistakable. Where there had been a busy starscape just a moment before, now all that could be seen was a swarming mass of a pale pinkish color, almost salmon, interspersed with streaks of white. The Amargosa Diaspora was gone. The transition was marked by trembling deck plates which were not severe enough to cause any major disturbance.

    “Damage report,” Michael said.

    “Shields down to eighty-eight percent,” Alendra said. “No damage.”

    “Where are we?” said Star as she stepped closer to the screen to take in those unfamiliar surroundings. “And what is that thing?”

    All eyes were now focused on the object which had become visible within the swirling mass. It was clearly artificial in nature, dark and ominous, it didn't quite seem to belong. It was also massive in size. So large in fact that the viewscreen seemed to be able to capture only a very small portion of it.

    “That,” Admiral Owens said, his voice sounding reverend now, “is what we have been looking for.”
     
  19. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Bartenders flying starships? What’s next? Counselors Commanding away missions? Barbers sitting in the command chair? Just kidding. This is getting good!
     
    CeJay likes this.
  20. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    By the way, when do Admiral Owens and Jarik get thrown overboard?
     
    CeJay likes this.