The Star Eagle Adventures: QD2 - State of Entanglement

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    [​IMG]

    The Star Eagle Adventures
    Quantum Divergence - Book II
    State of Entanglement


    Previously in Quantum Divergence Book I: False Vacuum

    The year is 2376. After a brutal war with the Dominion and a long overdue and comprehensive overhaul on Earth, the Starship Eagle and her crew are all set to embark on their first long-term exploratory mission in years.

    That mission is put on hold when a medical emergency on Piqus, a Kellonian colony world, has led the isolated and highly xenophobic Krellonian Star Alliance to request Federation help, asking specifically for Eagle.

    But before Captain Michael Owens and Eagle cross the magnificent and star-packed Amargosa Diaspora to be one of the very few Federation starships to ever be allowed to enter Krellonian space, he is briefed by Starfleet’s Department of Special Affairs and Investigations, the very same secretive agency which his recently departed father used to run for decades.

    Jarik, Michael’s old Academy roommate now runs Special Affairs and Michael is surprised to find that Amaya Donners, the captain of the Agamemnon and the woman with whom he shares a romantic relationship with, is also working with Jarik. Together, they warn him of an impending invasion by subspace aliens and their theory that they are working with elements within the Star Alliance. Michael is disturbed to learn that his father left him a message, recorded shortly before he died and delivered to him by Donners, telling him not to trust anyone.

    After their arrival on Piqus it is revealed that Eagle has only been requested for this mission because of Lif Culsten, one of the few Krellonians in Starfleet, and who serves on the ship. A high-ranking member of the Star Alliance government and his uncle appears to be involved in a political stand-off with Lif’s aunt Garla who is a sentinel, an influential and powerful spymaster, operating on Piqus.

    Culsten who had left his home due to his disillusionment on how his people treat the Outlanders, a group of alien races the Krellonians once enslaved after conquering their worlds, is reluctant to help his uncle learn more about Garla’s secretive dealings on Piqus but is ultimately persuaded, partly by Owens and first officer Tazla Star who suspect that Garla might be involved with the aliens planning to invade the Federation.

    Under the leadership of its veteran physician Elijah Katanga, Eagle sets up a field hospital on Piqus but the ship is called away before it can be completed after receiving an urgent distress call from Amaya Donners’ Agamemnon, leaving a team led by Star and Katanga on the planet to deal with the deadly disease affecting the local population.

    After rendezvousing with Agamemnon, Michael finds out that an increasingly distant Donners has called him out into the Amargosa Diaspora in order to secure his help to gain access into subspace and learn more about the aliens’ plans to invade their space.

    When Donners’ designs fail, Bensu, Eagle’s enigmatic bartender and close personal friend to science officer Xylion, surprises everyone when he successfully creates a fissure into subspace right on Eagle even if he’s unable to explain how he has gained this knowledge.

    Owens decides to lead an away team into subspace himself where he has a powerful vision of a subspace portal. The away team is able to secure a prisoner and returns the creature onto Eagle but not before Bensu is killed in the getaway.

    In the meantime on Piqus, Culsten begins to work with Garla and learns of her plans to reshape Krellonian society and to steer it away from certain civil war with the Outlanders while Tazla Star and Elijah Katanga learn that the disease ravaging the population has been created by an industrial accident while attempting to synthesize the extremely powerful and dangerous Omega Molecule in a nearby asteroid belt.

    On Eagle, it turns out that Bensu is still alive and what is more, that he and Xylion have kept his true and synthetic nature from Owens and the crew. When Owens refuses to torture the subspace alien for information on Jarik’s orders, he is stunned to find that his father is also still alive, having faked his death weeks earlier. Owens ultimately facilitates the creatures escape when Jarik and his father continue to torture it.

    On Piqus things come to a head when Garla finds out that Culsten has betrayed her. He is rescued from her wrath in the nick of time by Tazla Star, security chief Nora Laas and a team of Starfleet special forces which have recently joined Eagle's crew. And while Katanga has been able to create a cure for the disease, the away team is forced to escape the planet while being chased by Garla’s forces.

    The away team is reunited with Eagle after a tense stand-off at the Krellonian border. After learning that Garla was involved with the subspace aliens, supplying them with the Omega Molecule, Owens, along with his father and Jarik who have joined him on Eagle, locate a massive ring-shaped superstructure in a hidden pocket of subspace thanks once more to Bensu’s unexpected involvement.

    A gateway opens suddenly, pulling Eagle inside and after a disturbing vision, Michael Owens is stunned to encounter another Starship Eagle, this one commanded by his former friend and first officer Eugene Edison who was killed in the Dominion War.




    Prologue: Catch Me If You Can


    May 2370

    Now



    The sky was raining fire.

    That was Susan Bano’s first thought as consciousness was slowly beginning to assert itself once more.

    Her vision was blurry, her ears were ringing and she felt something very hard and uncomfortable underneath her. It took her a moment to realize that it was the wet, durasteel ground.

    Her body felt broken and her mind was still playing catch-up on how exactly she had ended up like this. She had a vague memory of chasing something or someone. But who that could have been or why she had no idea.

    ‘You will find that there comes a time in your life when no matter how hard you have tried, no matter how well you prepared, no matter how strong you thought you were—there will inevitably come a moment when you fall down and everything will appear to be lost.

    And that, Susan, will be the exact time when you will have to decide if you get back up and try again or if you lay down, give up and die.’

    It was her mother’s voice she heard in her head. The autocratic Bolian woman had always possessed a penchant for the melodramatic, and certainly, that specific life lesson she had imparted on her at the tender young age of nine had seemed a little high-handed at the time.

    It had never rung truer than in that particular moment, however.

    “Yes, mother,” she whispered even if she couldn’t hear her own words coming out of her mouth due to the persistent ringing sound in her ears.

    Trying to move and feeling a sharp pain shooting up her side, she was fairly certain that she had broken her left arm, or at the very least dislocated it from her shoulder.

    She still wasn’t sure why she was here, but she knew her mother had been right. She had to get back up and finish what she had started. Whatever the hells that had been.

    It took tremendous effort and pain so excruciating, it forced tears into her eyes, but somehow she managed to get back onto her knees.

    The rain was pelting down with a vengeance and it wasn’t just water; there were little droplets of fire pouring down from the sky alongside it.

    It was nighttime on whatever planet she was on, but it might as well have been daylight considering the bright fires all around her.

    She felt a sudden burning sensation on her back and then, realizing that she too was on fire, she quickly shrugged out of her leather jacket.

    She considered the discarded garment lying on the ground for a moment and seemed to remember that she had used to like it quite a bit. It was ruined beyond repair now.

    Susan forced herself to her feet and looked around

    She stood on the landing platform of a spaceport. Or at least it had been one once, it was difficult to tell now with all those fires which even the torrential downpour didn’t seem to be able to douse.

    One of the things on fire were the remains of what looked like had been a transport ship once.

    She took a few steps towards it, not entirely sure where else to go and immediately stumbled over her own feet.

    It took her a moment to try again.

    There were three bodies near the ship, all clad in black. One of them still looked alive, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth and his piercing dark eyes staring up at her as she looked down at him.

    She recognized those eyes.

    She had been chasing him. He had the Object.

    Things were slowly coming back to her.

    She knelt down next to him and grabbed him by his black jacket with her good arm, pulling him off the ground slightly. “I’m a goddamned science officer, you bastard. I don’t do this kind of stuff. High-speed chases, phaser fights, and explosions and all this holo-novel crap. That’s not my thing, do you read me? I've had it up to here with this place and this nightmare ends now. We're finished, you and me, we're done. It's over.” She had no idea where this sudden rant had come from but by the end of it, she realized that she was more right than she had guessed. After all, she was holding on to a dead man. "Good riddance," she said and allowed the now lifeless body to slip out of her grasp.

    She lowered herself to her knees next to him and started to pat him down until she found what she had been looking for, what she had been after for so long. It was such a tiny and unremarkable little thing considering what she had been through to try and get her hands on it.

    She couldn't help but stare at it for a moment. It still had the same effect on her it did when she had first seen it. There was still some inexplicable power to this small device which she could somehow feel vibrating against her entire being.

    She quickly slipped it inside her boot and then, still barely managing to endure the pain she was in, she got back on her feet.

    She reached for her right lobe, hoping that her in-ear communicator was still working. “This is Bano. I have the Object. Could use an extraction.”

    There was no response.

    “Does anybody read me?” she said. “Is anyone still alive?” she added much more quietly, fearing the worst.

    Uttering a heavy sigh she considering the flaming wreck of the transport ship. “Not getting off this damned planet in that.”

    Something made her look the other way and into the darkness of the night. The lights of the city twinkled in the distance and she knew her best bet was to try and find another spaceport somewhere within it.

    But it wasn’t the city that held her gaze.

    It was something else.

    The bright flames which engulfed what remained of a large fuel tank revealed the shadows first.

    Five shapes of black-clad men were emerging from the darkness and slowly moving to approach her. They looked almost identical to the man she had just liberated the Object from.

    All five of them held weapons, all of them trained on her.

    She was surrounded on all other sides by fire.

    She was trapped.

    “I guess I was wrong after all,” she said, addressing nobody. “This isn’t over yet.”


    4 Hours Earlier

    There was something to be said about working covertly, not the least of which was the freedom to ditch the restrictive Starfleet regulation uniform for something much more comfortable and to her style, such as the chic, sepia-colored, imitation leather jacket she’d chosen, along with a lightweight vest and matching tan pants. She certainly wouldn’t have gotten away with wearing those tall, white boots while on regular duty. The boots were currently resting on top of a conference table, inside a compact meeting room of a civilian freighter.

    Just beyond the tips of her white boots, the man who was her de facto superior was considering her from half a quadrant away via a computer screen.

    “I am pleased to find you this relaxed so close to your imminent mission, “ the half-Vulcan said as he peered at her.

    She just shrugged. “I just have a good feeling about this.”

    “Eteron is not a place to be taken lightly, Susan. There is no Federation presence on the planet, and its close proximity to both the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Neutral Zone makes it a hot zone of smuggling operations and other criminal activities. The Orion Syndicate is reportedly the only true authority on that world.”

    “That’s why I’ve got Lieutenant Sorenson and his team of elite security operators along for the ride. Those guys know how to handle themselves,” she said and then removed her boots from the top of the table to lean in closer towards the monitor. “This is the closest we’ve been to obtain the Object in four months. This is the culmination of years of studying those blasted boxes and the shards contained within them and I just know that we’ll find what we’ve been looking for on Eteron.”

    But Jarik looked doubtful. “In the hands of a group of Pakled traders?”

    She shook her head. “They don’t even realize what they’ve found. I still believe it was a complete coincidence that they managed to obtain it at all. But I’m convinced that it fell into their lap on Gordian XI and they’ll be more than happy to part with it considering what we can offer them in exchange. Nobody’s ever accused a Pakled of being particularly bright.”

    “Just promise me you’ll be careful down there. The Pakled may not be smart, but they can be dangerous. And we have no additional assets in the area to support you if things go bad. You’re on your own out there.”

    She offered him a smirk. “I’m a science officer by trade, Jarik. I'm no gung-ho, damn-the-torpedoes-type starship captain of yesteryear. I understand risk and I know how to manage it."

    “I’ll hold you to that, Commander Bano.”

    “Have you made any progress on determining who our competition might be? I still think we’re not the only ones after the Object. Somebody very nearly got to those Pakled after Gordian XI, I’m sure of it.”

    Jarik shook his head marginally. “Not yet but I am working on it. Whoever they are, it is absolutely critical that we obtain the Object first.”

    Bano nodded. “I know, I’ve seen the same data you have. Whatever these Pandora Boxes truly are—“

    She stopped herself when she spotted his noticeable frown, remembering that he didn’t appreciate that term for the mysterious artifacts which had provided them with clues to the location of a possibly even more powerful device which for now they had simply designated as the Object.

    It had been her friend and colleague Terrence Glover, who had coined the term Pandora’s Box after they had come across the small, shard-like artifact secured inside a translucent and ornately crafted box during a mission in the Pandorian system.

    That had been thirteen years ago while she and Glover had both served on the Kitty Hawk. The discovery of the enigmatic and clearly immensely powerful artifact had changed her entire career path, since only a short while later she had started—in between other gigs—to work for the Department of Special Affairs and Investigations, the secretive Starfleet agency which had long since taken a significant interest in objects and artifacts which seemed to defy easy explanations.

    She had worked with Jarik ever since she had joined the organization which was led with an almost singular vision by the Old Man.

    It hadn't been until a second box had been found, a discovery once again involving Terrence Glover who seemed to be attracting these kinds of things like a magnet, that they had started to gain an understanding of the true power of those artifacts which were seemingly able to communicate with certain individuals. The boxes had revealed a number of secrets, including the location of Iconian gateways but also, perhaps most disturbingly, the possible whereabouts of an artifact even more powerful. It had been that latest revelation which had brought her to the farthest most reaches of Federation space.

    “I know the Old Man prefers to call them shard artifacts,” she said to Jarik who seemed much more pleased with that term. “But I can’t help but feel that the Object the shard artifacts have revealed to us was hidden for a very good reason and that perhaps it was never meant to be found.”

    “It seems a bit late for that conversation now. Besides, if we do not get to it first, somebody else will and I fear that if that were to come to pass, we might find ourselves facing a crisis the likes of which we’ve never encountered before.”

    “Right,” she said with a dark grin. “End of the galaxy kind of stuff. And all of that because of our damned curiosity.”

    “You should take this matter more seriously.”

    “Don’t worry, I do. And I’ll get that Object—whatever it turns out to be—and bring it back for the good guys. Besides, as a science officer, I have to believe that a good dose of healthy curiosity is the first step towards real progress,” she said and stood from her chair to get her mission underway. “Unless, of course, you’re a cat.”

    The half-Vulcan’s blank look seemed proof that he either didn’t care for her joke or simply didn’t get it.



    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
    SolarisOne, DarKush, Galen4 and 2 others like this.
  2. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    It seems things didn't go exactly as planned for Commander Bano and her mission in general. Or maybe the Pakled aren't that dumb, after all. Bano is already paying a steep price in trying to complete this mission and that's just with one failed attempt. We can only hope that The Object is worth the loss life that's being tallied to obtain it.

    This looks like the beginning of another epic story that includes references to the mysterious Pandora's Boxes from UT's Dark Territory. How will it all fit into QD2? Don't know but it's going to be blast!
     
    DarKush and CeJay like this.
  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Really gripping beginning CeJay! Very nice use of Bano as well as adding to the lore of the Pandora Boxes.
     
    CeJay and Gibraltar like this.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Susan had never understood how any sentient being in the galaxy could possibly consider what the Klingons called opera as a form of musical entertainment.

    To her ears, the wailing sounds coming out of the mouths of the three overweight Klingon performers on the stage were nothing more than loud, ear-splitting noise, hurled at each other in some sort of competition to find out who could most successfully drown out the other two singers.

    Unfortunately for her, they had tracked down the four Pakled traders who she was convinced were unwittingly in the possession of what might very well be the most powerful artifact in the galaxy to a large music hall whose main attraction was a marathon performance of Keedera’s collected—and very loud—works.

    Despite the thunderous performance taking place on the stage, music halls on Eteron, Susan quickly realized, didn’t seem particularly focused on the music itself. Instead, they functioned more like a meeting place for business, a bar as well as an eating establishment where the live music functioned only as an additional—albeit, in this case, she felt, a headache-inducing—side attraction.

    Very few patrons seemed to pay much attention to the Klingons on stage and perhaps surprisingly considering the roaring act, the tumultuous guests were going about their various businesses, somehow able to make themselves heard over the ubiquitous music, mostly by gesturing wildly, shouting or—if that failed—beating each other senseless.

    “I don’t like this at all,” said Nels Sorenson, who like the rest of the team was wearing civilian clothes in order to fit in. Susan thought that regardless of his outfit, it was difficult not to peg the blonde-haired, tall and muscular man of Scandinavian ancestry as anything other than a solider. “We’re exposed here.”

    “Still better than meeting outside. We seemed to have arrived in the middle of the local monsoon season.” She continued when this didn’t seem to make him feel any better. “It’s a public place,” she said. “Less likely to run into trouble here.”

    “Or more likely.”

    Susan spotted the group of Pakled sitting at a table at the far end of the hall and nowhere near the stage. Not that it would have a significant effect on the level of ambient noise. “Look, there they are. Let’s just get what we came for and get out.”

    “The sooner the better,” he said and then instructed the rest of his people to fan out and keep their eyes open.

    Before approaching the table, Susan pulled up the sleeve of her jacket slightly to reveal her wristband computer. It contained a useful device which would keep anyone from getting a transporter lock on her or anything in her immediate surroundings. She activated the portable inhibitor, after all, they had gotten this far and she'd be damned if somebody just beamed the Object away right in front of her eyes.

    There were four Pakled, all of them mostly preoccupied with consuming—or rather destroying—a meal which Susan couldn’t even guess at. Table manners, it appeared, were not high on the Pakled’s list of priorities.

    “Grubnog,” she said loudly. It was the name of the only Pakled she had spoken to previously and it may have been racially inappropriate, but she couldn’t tell any of them apart, all of them stocky with round fleshy faces and vertically aligned, bushy eyebrows. All wearing practically identical thick gray jackets secured with a multitude of fasteners.

    “She’s blue,” one of the Pakled said to the others who quickly nodded while he continued to tear into his meaty meal right off the bone.

    Susan thought that she had that coming, considering her own insensitive thoughts and just smiled. “Bolian. On my mother’s side,” she said. “We spoke earlier. About making a sale.”

    “We make sales,” said the first Pakled.

    “Yes. You have something that we want to buy. We brought a lot of latinum for it.”

    “We like latinum,” said the second Pakled.

    Susan indicated towards Sorenson who quickly produced a large backpack which Susan took off him, opened up and then threw onto the table, right on top of the Pakled’s dinner. It contained enough gold-plated currency to buy five music halls on Eteron.

    Grubnog—or at least she thought it was Grubnog—pushed the bag open further to reveal the latinum which glittered invitingly under the light.

    “Let’s keep a low profile on what’s in that bag, shall we?” Susan said quickly, shooting a couple of cautious glances across the establishment, not doubting for a moment that what was in the bag was enough money to incite a mob.

    “We look for things,” said the other Pakled.

    “You’ll be able to buy a lot of things with that,” said Susan. “Now, about the thing that you’ve found on Gordian XI.”

    A third Pakled reached into his jacket to produce what looked like a tiny silver rod, which may as well have been a child’s toy, the way it appeared in his large and thickly gloved hand.

    There was no way to tell for certain, but somehow Susan knew that it was what they were looking for. She could feel it. And this wasn't mere instinct either.

    The tiny device was radiating pure, unfettered power. She couldn't quite suppress a little gasp coming over her lips. “How exactly did you manage to obtain this,” she said as she stared at it wide-eyed.

    “We look for things,” said Grubnog.

    “You did mention that,” Sorensen said who apparently was also momentarily mesmerized by the Object.

    “Things that can help us,” said another.

    “Well, this is certainly going to do just that. It helped make you rich,” Susan said.

    The four Pakled seemed to like the sound of that as they looked at each other with large smiles plastered on their faces.

    “Now, would you mind passing it to me,” she said, reaching out for it.

    “You are pretty,” said another Pakled.

    She shot him a very brief smile. “Thanks,” she said and focused back on the device.

    “We like pretty things,” said possible-Grubnog.

    “Don’t we all. Now, the Object, please,” she said, sounding more insistent.

    The Pakled nearest to her took hold of her jacket, pulling her down slightly towards the table and until she could smell his rather foul breath. She had the feeling that he was paying too much attention to her cleavage which made her want to shudder. “We look for pretty things.”

    “I think they like you, Commander,” said Sorenson as he stepped closer, his hand darting under his jacket to reach for his weapon.

    “A little too much,” Susan said but waved him off, determined to deal with this without causing a commotion. She managed to free herself from the Pakled’s grasp. “Look, I’m flattered but I don’t come with the deal. If it’s company you seek, you’ve got more than enough latinum in there to secure the services of every wench in town.”

    Two of the Pakled looked at the bag of money with renewed interest as if they could find said courtesans inside that very case.

    “We look for pretty things to make us go,” said the third Pakled.

    Susan pinched the bifurcating ridge running between her eyes which she was wont to when she got frustrated. “That’s far too much information. You have your money. Now give me the—“

    “Commander, we have a problem,” Sorenson said.

    “Tell me about it.”

    He shook his head as he was talking to another member of his team who seemed to be listening in on something with his in-ear communicator. Judging by the concerned expression on the young man’s face, he wasn’t getting good news.

    Susan quickly reached for her ear to activate her own device and listened in.

    “… not sure where they came from but they are right on top of us,” said the voice belonging to one of the team members they had left behind on their ship. “I think we’ve been made.”

    “Stand by to extract us along with the Object and then initiate immediate evasive actions,” barked Sorenson.

    “They’re opening fire!”

    Susan recognized the sounds of battle and from everything she could tell, this was bad. The attackers had caught her ship entirely unaware.

    “Shields are gone, hull breach, hull breach. Critical damage to all systems. Abandon ship, abandon—“ There was a lot of shouting and desperation coming over the line just before the voices were drowned out by static and then cut out entirely.

    “Mueller, come in. Mueller, can you hear me?” Sorenson was pressing his hand hard against his ear but it made no difference, the line was dead. Susan was fearing that the same was true for the crew and her ship. He looked her straight in the eye. “We have to assume the worst.”

    She nodded, trying hard not to think of the people they had likely just lost. There’d be time to mourn later. “What’s the play?” she said. She outranked Sorenson in both grade and seniority but as a science officer, she was more than willing to let the security expert take the lead in a situation such as this.

    “We are likely to get company any second now. We need to get out—“

    The explosion came so suddenly it threw her and most of the people around her to the ground. She heard cries and shouts of pain and anger all around her and the distinct smell of things being on fire.

    “We have to move right now,” she heard Sorenson’s voice yell from somewhere close.

    It took her a moment to find her bearings again. The explosion had originated from the other side of the music hall, near the stage, and must have killed and injured at least a dozen or so people there. The entire far wall was in flames, as were parts of the stage.

    What had been a chaotic scene just moments before was now erupting in all-out pandemonium as those who still could, scrambled to their feet, shouting and wailing and trying to get to an exit. The Klingon performers, who were used to rowdy crowds seemed to draw a line when it came to explosions and were amongst the first to flee. Clearly, these Klingons were not of the honorable warrior type who’d eagerly throw themselves into battle.

    One of Sorenson’s men helped her back onto her feet and he was shouting something at her but he couldn’t make it out through the insistent ringing sound in her ears. She looked straight at the young man to try and perhaps read his lips only to watch as his head jerked back violently in a mist of red blood.

    “Sniper, we’ve got a sniper,” Sorenson shouted behind her just as her hearing was coming back and she watched the dead man collapse to the floor.

    “We need to move now before we get picked off or trampled to death," said Sorenson. "T’Vel, do you have eyes on the sniper?”

    “Affirmative. However, I do not have a shot.”

    “Do what you can to cover us,” he said and then grabbed Susan by the arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

    “Not without the Object,” she said, trying to find the Pakled but the growing chaos all around her made that difficult as people were now running passed her from seemingly all directions, most in such a hurry, they didn’t care who or what they were running over in the process.

    “No time, we have to —“

    Sorenson went down with another sniper blast to the back of his neck. His eyes opening wide in surprise for just a brief moment before they went totally dead and he fell where he had stood.

    “Find cover, now,” T’Vel’s calm voice said into her ear.

    Susan dove for an upturned table which she hoped would be sufficient to keep her out of harm’s way.

    Breathing hard and leaning against the hard surface behind her, she found where the Pakled had sat, their table thrown upside down, two of them desperately trying to stuff the latinum which had spilled out of the bag back inside, the other two having already fled. She was fairly certain that the one who had produced the Object earlier was now on all fours, frantically collecting the money.

    “I have eyes on the Object, I think,” she said. “I can get to it.”

    “Negative, Commander. Hold your position.”

    Another sniper blast rung out and struck the other Pakled in the side of his head, killing him instantly. His friend didn’t even seem to notice as he continued to collect the latinum.

    “Commander, I need you to draw out the sniper,” T’Vel said.

    “What? How the hell do you expect me to do that?”

    “The shooter is at your three o’clock. Approximately eighteen meters. I do not have a clear shot. You will have to attempt to fire at him from your position.”

    “I didn't sign up for this kind of crap,” she said, beginning to realize that she was most likely in shock. It took her another moment to understand that considering the people she had already lost on this mission, and with an increasing chance of losing the Object as well, she had no other choice but to take action. "Goddamnit,” she said and reached for her phaser hidden inside a holster under her jacket.

    With her weapon in hand, she peeked up over the upturned table.

    She saw a blast and immediately ducked back down.

    The entire side of the table disintegrated upon impact.

    She stared at the missing part of the table with disbelieve, realizing that her head had been there just a moment earlier.

    Another shot rang out, this one, she thought, coming from T’Vel to try and suppress the sniper.

    “I need you to fire now, Commander.”

    “Yeah, piece of cake. No problem,” she said, took a deep breath and then tried again.

    She found the sniper exactly where T’Vel had placed him. It wasn’t going to be an easy shot—she was decent enough with a phaser but that was usually on a shooting range, not while stuck in a burning building which was quickly filling with smoke, with dozens of screaming and shouting and running patrons all around her and while taking fire from a sharpshooter who had already killed two members of her team.

    She tried to remember her training.

    ‘Empty your mind of everything but the target. Take a breath, hold it, squeeze the trigger.’ That’s what her firearms instructor had used to say at the Academy. That seemed like a very long time ago now.

    Her shot went wide.

    “Crap.”

    And the sniper had her back in his crosshairs, ready to finish her off.

    He didn’t get a chance as he was struck by another beam coming from somewhere up above and behind her.

    “Target eliminated. I have another hostile, moving quickly across the floor and towards the remaining Pakled. I will not be able to neutralize him from my position.”

    “The Object,” Susan realized and quickly scrambled to her feet to dart towards the still unaware Pakled. Then she spotted the man clad entirely in black sprinting in the opposite direction to everybody else.

    He had a few steps on her and was moving far too quickly for her to get a beat on him. A compact dagger appeared in his hand seemingly out of nowhere and he buried it deep into the back of the Pakled’s skull with vicious precision and speed.

    By the time Susan had reached the dead body, the man in black had already found and removed the Object and darted off again and towards the nearest exit.

    “Damn, he’s fast,” she said as she followed him. She tried to line up a shot yet again but it was useless, he had already slipped passed several other patrons and merged with a mass of bodies.

    “T’Vel, he’s got the object and is heading straight for the exit. Any chance you can cut him off?” she said as she rushed towards the doors.

    There was no response.

    “T’Vel, do you copy? Anybody?”

    She didn’t know if they were too busy to answer or if they were all dead. The way things were going, she feared the latter seemed most plausible. She was on her own which meant it all depended on her now.

    “No pressure,” she mumbled as she kept after him, knowing that her portable transporter inhibitor only had a limited range, and the moment he was more than twenty-five meters ahead of her, there would be nothing stopping him from simply beaming away.

    Her first challenge was to get out of the burning building along with what felt like a horde of panicked and terrorized patrons, all rushing the same, small exit. She had to push and squeeze herself past a number of men and women, many of which were much larger than her, which made it easier to slip in-between them, but in the process, she may also have trampled over some smaller individuals in her mad rush, too.

    Getting out of the music hall had felt like being squashed through a wringer and for a moment she thought she’d suffocate from the number of bodies pushed so tightly together. It was pure adrenaline which kept driving her and eventually allowed her to somehow come through on the other end mostly unharmed.
     
    mthompson1701 and SolarisOne like this.
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Outside she was greeted by a torrential downpour which soaked her to the bone in mere seconds.

    She desperately wiped the dripping rain from her face to try and peer into the surrounding city scene. It was nighttime but thankfully the area immediately outside the music hall was well lit by streetlights to reveal a city as decrepit as much of the rest of the planet.

    The man she was chasing had made the mistake of wearing all black which would have seemed sensible at night and in the rain, had it not been for the fact that the current fashion trend on Eteron—if one could call it that—certainly for the kind of people frequenting late-night music halls, was a more colorful ensemble which made him stand out from the rest of the crowd.

    She spotted him quickly and from her vantage point, it looked as if he was trying to use a communicator, more than likely attempting to arrange a beam-out which of course wouldn’t work while she was nearby.

    She set out to follow him across the street, dodging both pedestrian and other traffic, most of which didn’t seem to care much about running over a Bolian woman who had been crazy enough to run right into the street.

    The man in black saw her following him when he turned his head and with lightning-fast reflexes he produced a phaser, firing it at her with no delay.

    She had to jump to avoid the blast, landing right in a large dirty puddle of rainwater. She ignored her bruises and fired back, but only hitting the building he was running towards.

    He was making a beeline towards a group of Valerians who had parked a couple of hoverbikes underneath the building's large canopy to wait out the rain.

    He blasted his weapon again and without even slowing down, striking the unprepared Valerian closest to one of the bikes, the force pushing the man backward and over his vehicle where he crumbled to the ground, presumably dead in an instant.

    Susan scrambled back onto her feet but was too late to keep him from jumping on one of the hoverbikes and peeling out onto the street.

    She reached the canopy just a few moments later, pointing her phaser at the three remaining Valerians who quickly backed up, not eager to share their friend’s fate. “Really sorry, but I’ll have to borrow your ride. I’ll try to keep it in one piece.”

    She heard no protests as she climbed on the other remaining bike. “Hope I remember how to do this,” she mumbled to herself as she slipped the phaser back into its holster and then hit what she hoped was the ignition switch.

    The bike came to live underneath her, rumbling and sputtering for a moment as it lifted slightly off the ground. This wasn’t exactly a top of the line model, more like a rocket with a seat, seemingly assembled out of spare parts and held together by tape and goodwill.

    She had no time to consider how street legal or even safe the contraption was as she pressed down hard on what looked like the accelerator.

    The rocket took off, nearly throwing her clear out of the saddle.

    With a yelp of surprise at the sudden burst of speed, she drove the hoverbike right through a rickety stand selling refreshments, smashing it in the process and forcing several people to jump out of her way at the very last second.

    “Sorry,” she shouted but was already racing away from the scene at breakneck speed as she managed to rain in the bike, albeit somewhat unsteadily, as she swerved down the street. “Hold on to your potatoes,” she said as she sped-up again.

    Barreling down a small alley into which the man in black had disappeared, it didn’t take her long to catch back up with him and his bike, finding that he’d had similar issues controlling the over-powered vehicle, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

    The alleyways were narrow, thankfully covered by awnings overhead to keep the rain away but they were filled with people and stands even at this later hour.

    “Come on folks, you've never seen a high-speed chase through the city before? Get the frack out of the way,” she shouted as loudly as she could as some of the pedestrians were simply moving far too slowly for her liking. She made the best possible effort to try and keep mowing down people and property, though the same could not be said for the man she was pursuing.

    After a harrowing few minutes through packed alleyways the pursuit finally took them to wider streets with far fewer people but they also lost their protective coverings overhead which now meant that besides traffic, she also had to manage the relentless rain which made it difficult to keep upright on the bike, not to mention trying to see where she was going.

    The man in black was not doing much better and she managed to stay with him as they hurled through the city at speeds exceeding two hundred kilometers an hour, making Susan mindful that even gracing one of those other vehicles they shared the road with would likely cause her to break her neck instantly.

    It didn’t stop her from reaching back into her jacket to retrieve her phaser, keeping just one hand on the steering handle and pulling the weapon free to try and get a shot at the other bike.

    On a stretch of mostly straight road and with less traffic, she took her chance, lined up her shot and fired.

    Instead of hitting her target, the phaser blasted a hole right in-between the eyes of a larger than life Vulcan woman, looking down from a huge billboard with a wide smile on her face, seemingly put there by whatever it was she was selling. The already shaky billboard crumpled after impact and rained down on the pedestrians underneath.

    “Sorry, sorry,” she cried, hoping nobody had been injured by the collapsing structure.

    Determined not to allow the man in black to get away, she increased her speed, dodged something akin to a taxi cab by about a hair’s width and then, undaunted by its insistent beeping, pushed right into the rear of the bike she was chasing.

    The rider turned his head and she got her first proper look at the man. He was human, dark-haired, with steely brown eyes which considered her with little emotion for just a heartbeat or so.

    “Stop that goddamned bike,” she shouted at him.

    He just turned back around and pressed down harder on his accelerator, pushing away from her.

    She lined up another shot, but this time, instead of trying to hit the man, or the bike, she tried to aim in front of him, hoping to get him to slow down.

    The phaser blast lit up the road and caused him to swerve sharply to the left and right into a heavy cargo vehicle traveling in the same direction.

    He careened off the side of the truck and Susan could tell from the smoke coming out of his engine that the bike had taken serious damage.

    He was rapidly losing speed, allowing her to once more catch up with him. “I got you now,” she cried out jubilantly.

    Awash in the glow of victory, she missed the sharp turn he made as he slowed down suddenly, leaving her to barrel right towards a high fence instead.

    “Oh, crap.”

    It was all she had time to say as she desperately tried to turn and slow the machine between her legs. To no avail. She crashed through the fence and found a sharp slope just beyond it.

    The bike went airborne, far higher than it was designed for. Gravity quickly took hold and Susan braced herself for what she expected to be a painful impact.

    The bike slammed into the ground hard and she was thrown clear of the saddle as if she had been riding a particularly wild animal at a rodeo show.

    She had the presence of mind to roll as she landed right in a small rill.

    It probably saved her life as she splashed down, as did the fact that the runnel was filled with overflow rainwater mixed with some dark, gooey sludge which smelled nasty enough to make her want to vomit. She desperately tried to avoid thinking about what it may have contained.

    The impact still hurt like hell as her momentum rolled her right out of the muck and onto an adjacent field.

    When she finally came to a stop, she felt the overwhelming urge to just stay where she was, remain on the ground and perhaps drift into a long and restful sleep.

    She knew she couldn’t afford it.

    Her bruised body objecting with shooting pain, she nevertheless pushed herself back onto her hands and knees, fairly certain that she had survived the fall without breaking any bones.

    “Gotta be thankful for the little things,” she mumbled as she pulled herself back up and looked around. “I’ll be damned.”

    She had feared that she'd lost the man in black and the Object after her detour through the fence and the grimy stream. Instead, she found his bike lying on its site just a few dozen meters away, the engine compartment smoking heavily, he had clearly abandoned it.

    She spotted him not too far from the disabled machine, running across a wide-open space of what she suddenly realized was a spaceport. It wasn’t well-frequented and the expansive landing platform she stood just at the edge of was almost empty save for what looked like a medium-sized Corvellan transport ship, getting ready for take-off.

    The man in black who had now been joined by two similarly dressed men was running right towards the transport’s extended landing ramp.

    There was no way that she’d be able to catch up with them, not in her bruised and battered condition, not to mention that she was noticeably outnumbered and considering that they likely had even more friends waiting onboard that ship.

    But there was something else that caught her eye. A thick umbilical conduit was connected to the hull of the transport ship which in turn was attached to a large, dome-shaped tank of sorts. The ship was still refueling.

    “You bastards aren’t going anywhere,” she said as she pulled her phaser free once more, thankful it had survived her fall. She took a knee and then carefully aimed at her target, using both hands to steady her weapon. “Deep breath, hold it and squeeze,” she quietly repeated to herself. “Got to be able to hit one blasted thing tonight.”

    The beam ripped across the wide landing platform and struck the large fuel tank.

    Nothing happened.

    “Figures,” she said, bemoaning that things were simply refusing to go her way on this night.

    If nothing else, the phaser beam had given away her position and all three men stopped in their tracks to turn to look at her. All three pulled out their weapons.

    “Oh, great.”

    She was fairly certain that they were much better shots than she was.

    A loud, low rumbling sound kept them from opening fire straight away as they turned to find the source of the growing commotion.

    It was coming from the fuel tank.

    It ripped itself to pieces so suddenly and with such a bright explosion, it lit up almost the entire spaceport and Susan had to raise a hand over her eyes to shield herself from it.

    It didn’t quite stop there.

    Still connected to the transport via an umbilical which had been pumping highly combustive thruster fuel into the ship, with just a second or so of a delay, the explosion ripped into the transport as well and blew it apart in what Susan could only describe as the most satisfying fireball she had ever witnessed.

    The force of the eruption may have rivaled a warp core breach and the shockwave flattened the three men in an instant, likely killing them all.

    “Yes, yes, yes,” Susan shouted, her built-up adrenaline getting the better of her.

    There as just one problem. The chain of explosions didn’t end there.

    What she had failed to realize through the gloomy and wet night, was the fact that the fuel tank she had targeted was itself connected by another conduit which ran alongside the edge of the landing platform. Whatever emergency fail-safe may have been been in place had malfunctioned, and the fuel pipeline erupted like a very long and very deadly fuse.

    Her eyes darted ahead of the chain reaction of explosions to find that the conduit was not only running in her direction, it terminated at two massive fuel drums which towered just a few meters to her right.

    “No, no, no.”

    Understanding what was about to happen, she forced her bruised body to start running as fast as it could take her.

    The explosion behind her was deafening but it was the shockwave which she was certain was going to end her.

    It lifted her clean off the ground and catapulted her forward and high into the air.

    There was a moment of almost serene quiet and elation as she felt herself becoming weightless while she sailed through the night sky.

    That moment ended quickly.
     
    mthompson1701, Galen4 and SolarisOne like this.
  6. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Wow, what a fun sequence! A seedy establishment, explosions, fire fights and a high-speed chase through the city. (One of my favorite parts.) Bano's was nearly killed like, five times! I don't think she knew what she was getting herself into with this mission. You can tell she's in over head, since her skillset has just barely allowed her to survive thus far.

    These "men in black" are pretty damn ruthless. Given their disregard for life, I hope Bano keeps The Object out of their hands. But she's gonna need to partner with someone who can hold their own against these merciless bastards, if she hopes to succeed and not die in the process.

    You keep writing and we'll keep reading.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Now


    “No, I think I was right the first time,” said Susan, standing on the burning landing platform of the wrecked spaceport as she considered the dark-clad men approaching her with their weapons drawn. “Seems very much like this is the end of the road for me. Looks as if this might be it.”

    After all, where else could she go? Her team was dead. The ship most likely destroyed. Running wasn’t really an option, considering that she wouldn’t make it five meters in her condition without being shot in the back. Fighting would be suicide as well. She had lost her weapon after she had been nearly incinerated by the latest explosion and whom was she kidding? She wasn’t a fighter.

    “Now Terrence on the other hand. He’d love this kind of crap,” she said out loud, suddenly wishing for nothing more than for her friend and one-time lover to be at her side. Even if it was for nothing more than not having to die alone.

    There were no illusions as to what these men were going to do with her. They had shown no interest in taking prisoners. The only reason she wasn’t dead yet was because they wanted to make sure that they secured the Object first.

    Susan took a few steps backward, trying to delay the inevitable. Room was scarce, the burning hulk of the transport ship behind her cutting off any escape.

    She considered for a moment to just leap into the flames and taking the Object with her and thereby denying it to her enemies. She was convinced that it was enormously powerful. Jarik had said it himself. The worst-case scenario was for anyone else getting their hands on it. She could only guess what kind of nefarious purposes these black-clad men had, what kind of terrible things they’d be able to accomplish with something as powerful as the Object.

    She remembered her mother’s words then. She almost laughed at them now.

    “Tell me, mother. What would you suggest I do now? Do you have any worn-out

    tropes befitting this situation?”

    The persistent ringing sound in her ears which had never really gone away since the music hall—only gotten worse, if anything—was all she heard in response.

    “I didn’t think so.”

    She felt something vibrating against her left arm now hanging uselessly off her side and looked down to notice her armband computer. Using her right hand she lifted the limp arm to look at the device which miraculously was still operational.

    The computer was informing her that her transporter inhibitor was moments away from losing power. “Yeah, of course, you are. Bad news never comes alone.”

    It took her a second to realize that keeping the inhibitor active while about to be executed in cold blood was probably the wrong way to go. She found the right controls and turned the device off.

    Bano grinned to herself and she looked skyward, letting the rain pelt her gray-blue face. “I know this is a long-shot but if somebody’s up there. I would sell my mother for a beam—“

    Her body began to dissolve.

    Shocked she looked towards the black-clad men, thinking that she had just been shot. But this wasn’t that kind of disintegration.

    By the time they realized what was happening and opened fire on her, they struck nothing but empty air.

    Bano grabbed her body, padding herself down as soon as she was back in one piece, halfway expecting to have been pierced by various phaser blasts. Luck was on her side one more time.

    “Hello, Susan. You’ve looked better.”

    She stood in a small transporter room on a ship—not the same one she had taken to get to Eteron—with Jarik standing just a few meters in front of her.

    “What—“ it was the only word she managed to get over her lips before she felt her knees buckle underneath her.

    Jarik leaped over to her and managed to steady her before she could collapse. He then carefully guided her to a small bench along the far wall of the room where she gingerly sat down. “I am relieved that you finally deactivated that inhibitor of yours. We had a lock on you for the last two minutes but couldn’t beam you out. You didn’t respond to comms, I am assuming your communicator was damaged.”

    Susan reached into her ear, plugged the small device out of the canal and then almost spitefully threw it on the floor.

    “How do you feel?”

    She glared at him. “Like I’ve been shot at, blown-up multiple times, set on fire and repeatedly driven into the ground.”

    “I understand this to mean that there were some complications.”

    She couldn’t help but utter a laugh which sounded like it belonged to a madwoman. “Yeah, you could say there were some fraking complications.”

    “But you survived.”

    “Barely. Did anyone else make it out?”

    He shook his head.

    “They were good people.”

    “Yes, they were."

    She reached into her boot and retrieved the Object. “At least I made sure they didn’t die in vain.”

    Jarik glanced at it for a moment as if taken aback by the small and unassuming device.

    Susan nodded. "I know. I felt it, too. Packs a hell of a punch, doesn't it?"

    “Whatever it is,” he said as he never took his eyes off the device in Bano’s hand. “I believe my Vulcan side is even more susceptible to its effects.” He carefully took it off her.

    “Now, you want to tell me where the hell you've come from? When last we spoke you gave no indication you were anywhere nearby. I figured you were still on Earth."

    “I could not be sure who else may have been listening in. Even secure subspace channels can be intercepted,” he said, still studying the Object.

    “Well, turns out you were right. Somebody else very nearly beat us to this. Who were those guys, anyway?”

    Jarik shot her a very brief glance.

    “Wait a minute. Was that the shadow group the Old Man has been so worried about? That Section—“

    He held up a hand to stop her. “He does not care for that name to be mentioned and I suggest you avoid it as well unless you wish to draw his ire. But yes, it appears they were much closer than we anticipated.”

    “What do you think it does?” she said, focusing on the Object again.

    “You are the science officer. You tell me.”

    She shrugged. “According to the Pandora Boxes—the Shard Artifacts—this Object is powerful enough to penetrate time and space. Probably even realities themselves. We'll need to study it in greater detail but something tells me the possibilities of all that power are near-infinite.”

    “And all that from such a small little thing,” said Jarik, still studying the silvery rod. He manipulated it slightly in his hand and both he and Susan were suddenly taken aback by the appearance of a construct—having seemingly come out of thin air—hovering in-between them a few meters off the ground. It was a three-dimensional shape, pulsing with green light and obvious power, slowly rotating on its axis.

    “What did you do?” Susan asked wide-eyed.

    “I am uncertain.”

    “It looks like a prism.”

    The shape vanished as quickly as it had appeared and Jarik uttered a surprised gasp as the rod dropped to the floor.

    “What happened?” Susan asked.

    “I do not know,” he said and then took a knee next to the Object lying on the floor, very carefully attempting to pick it up again. He seemed to be able to do so without difficulty. “It felt incredibly heavy and hot all of a sudden and I was unable to hold on to it. Whatever it was, it seems to have reverted to its previous state now.”

    “Fascinating—as your people are fond of saying.”

    “We’ll have to study the Object as soon as possible,” he said as he stood again.

    Susan felt very tired all of a sudden, the punishment her body had absorbed over the last few hours beginning to catch up with her as the adrenaline began to subside.

    Jarik seemed to notice as she slumped down further on the bench. “But first you will need medical attention in sickbay.”

    She nodded slowly, unable to disagree with his assessment and then laid down flat on the bench. “You’ll have to carry me because I think I’m going to pass out right about now.

    It’s been one of those days.”
     
    SolarisOne and Galen4 like this.
  8. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Susan actually pulled it off! Damn, talk about close calls.

    The question is, she has The Object, but what to do with it? Are any hands safe hands at this point? And what is it's connection to the mysterious Pandora Boxes?

    Can't wait to see all this plays out in the greater QD story arc. In the meantime, I hope Susan doesn't get into more dickens. I have the feeling her superiors don't understand what they're screwing with.
    Let's keep those chapters rolling my way!
     
    CeJay likes this.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Part 1: Splintered


    1


    The man on the screen was dead.

    He had died two years earlier on an insignificant world somewhere at the edge of the known galaxy, killed by a shapeshifter who had targeted Nora Laas but had found Gene Edison instead when he had pushed her aside in the nick of time, saving her life and dooming himself in the process.

    He didn’t look exactly like the same Edison who had given his life for a fellow officer years ago. He wore a full beard now, looked older than he had any rights to be, his dark blonde hair now showing signs of white and his hazel eyes much more tired than he had ever remembered them.

    “I want to know who the bloody hell you are and where the blazes you’ve come from.”

    Michael Owens struggled with that question, with much of everything his senses were currently telling him.

    Never mind the dead man talking to him from a ship that looked very much like his own. It felt as if his mind was failing desperately at playing catch-up like he had left it behind somewhere else entirely and he was still waiting for it to finally arrive and make him whole again. Make him understand what was happening.

    Eagle had been someplace else, that he knew. It had traveled through some sort of anomaly, a rip in the space-time continuum and it had delivered them here. Wherever here was.

    “This is some sort of Dominion trick and I will not fall for it,” Edison said. “I’ll end this before it ever gets started. I’ll blow you right out of the stars.”

    “Wait a minute, just hold on,” Michael said as he stumbled back to his feet. While he still couldn’t tell what was happening, he knew that his ship and crew were in bad shape and not in any position to survive a fight. “This is not a trick. I don’t know what has happened or where we are and I am just as stunned to see you as you appear to be finding me here.”

    It wasn’t difficult to tell that Edison wasn’t buying any of this. “I don’t have the patience for games. You are an imposter brought here for who knows what reason and I will not allow it. I will not let you disgrace his memory by—“

    Without warning another face appeared on Eagle’s viewer, splitting the image of the enraged Edison. This one Michael recognized as well, in fact, it was much more familiar to him. It belonged to Amaya Donners and differently to Edison, she looked more confused than angry. “Maya.”

    “What is this? This can’t be,” she said.

    “It’s pretty clear what’s going on here,” Edison continued. “This is some form of elaborate deception designed to lower our guard.”

    “Listen, Maya, you know me. It’s me, Michael. I appreciate that tempers are flying high. Let’s all just take a breath and talk about what is going on here. Why don’t you and Gene join us here on Eagle and—“

    Eagle?” Edison said shaking his head with apparent disgust. “Your ships is not Eagle.

    “I think we should hear him out,” Amaya said.

    Michael offered her a grateful nod.

    “This is a mistake,” Edison said quickly. “And there is no way I’m setting foot on that pretender’s ship. If we are having a meeting, it’ll take place on the real Eagle. On my ship.”

    But Michael didn’t like the idea at all, not considering Edison’s attitude. Something told him that if he agreed to beam over to his ship, he would find himself behind a force field or worse in short order.

    Amaya could apparently see his hesitation. Agamemnon then. Will that be acceptable to everyone?”

    Edison grunted in response, clearly not enthused by the idea but willing to tolerate it.

    Michael nodded. “Very well. Give us a few minutes to collect ourselves over here and we’ll beam over to your ship.”

    Edison glared at him. “I won’t tolerate delay tactics so that you can come up with further deceptions.”

    “We’ve just been through somewhat of an ordeal,” Michael said, keeping his voice stern in the face of the suspicious Gene Edison. “We have taken damage and have wounded over here. Let me see to that first and then we can have our meeting and try to make sense of all this.”

    Edison hesitated for just a moment. “Thirty minutes. That’s all the time I’m willing to give you. Take care of your injured and then I expect to see you on Agamemnon. Not a minute later. Eagle out.” And with that, the face of the bearded Edison disappeared from the screen.

    Amaya gave him a nod even if she had apparently not quite gotten over her own confusion yet. Michael could appreciate how she felt. Then she disappeared as well and the screen went back to show their respective two ships again.

    DeMara Deen turned to look at Michael from the operations console. She had a few bloody scratches on her face and her usually perfect blonde locks were in disarray. She had not fared well during their trip through the anomaly. None of them had. “Was that Gene? How is that possible?”

    Michael sat back down in his chair. “I was hoping you could tell me.”

    Only very slowly the bridge crew was coming back around and for Michael memories which had been a haze just moments ago seemed to begin to take shape again in his mind. He remembered the portal they had discovered in a pocked of in-between space. A portal built by a race of subspace aliens and designed to allow them to transition into normal space and facilitate and all-out invasion.

    It had brought them here and face-to-face with another version of Agamemnon and Eagle, captained by a man who had died two years earlier.

    He needed answers and he needed them quickly.

    Michael got back onto his feet even though he still felt feeble after what they had been through. Tazla Star, his first officer was there to steady him, even though one look at the tall Trill redhead made it clear that she wasn’t in much better shape. “Get me a full damage report within the next ten minutes. Then get everyone to the observation lounge. I think it is time we had a chat.”
     
    SolarisOne likes this.
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    2


    Ten minutes had not been nearly enough time to recover from whatever they had just been through and Michael still found it difficult to focus on his thoughts while his mind remained flooded with a thousand mental images which had seemingly assaulted him all at once and for a period which had felt like half an eternity. In truth, he still could not tell how much time had elapsed since they had made first contact with the gateway and the ship’s internal chronometers were of little help since they refused to work correctly.

    He forced himself to focus his thoughts on the task ahead, no matter how much of a struggle, as he regarded his senior officers assembled in the observation lounge, all of who appeared just as exhausted as he felt. The only exception perhaps was Bensu, the man he had known as Eagle’s civilian bartender but who had turned out to be a lot more than that. Of course, so far nobody had been able to explain to him how it was that Bensu knew so much about their circumstances or had been able to weather the latest events far more successfully than the rest of the crew, least of which Bensu himself.

    Jarik, the half-Vulcan interim director of Starfleet’s Department of Special Affairs and Investigations and his one-time Academy roommate and close friend, as well as the person chiefly responsible for having them chase this subspace portal in the first place, looked just as bad as the rest of them. Perhaps even worse as he was attempting to control a coughing fit which had overcome him.

    Michael knew that Jarik was suffering from a rare and incurable genetic disease which he had taken pains to hide from the people he worked with. He wondered how their journey through the portal may have affected his already weakened physiology.

    Jarik had taken over as interim director of SAI after Michael’s father sudden passing and yet Jonathan Owens was sitting right next to his successor after only recently revealing that he had faked his own death for reasons which he had still not revealed to him fully. His relationship with his father had never been particularly good for several reasons but as far as Michael was concerned, making him believe that he had died, had only widened the rift between them to a point where he had a difficult time imagining any kind of reconciliation in the near future.

    He tore himself away from those personal thoughts as he regarded Tazla Star sitting to his right at the conference table. “All right, first things first. What’s our status?”

    Regardless of what they had only just been through, Star was the very epitome of professionalism. Her fire-red hair was back in its regulation bun with just a couple of loose strands hanging in her face and she had her report ready to go. “Overall, not good. Let’s start with the good news. We have no reported fatalities so far. Initial diagnostics confirm that the ship is structurally sound and all essential systems are running on auxiliary power including life support, artificial gravity, and secondary systems.”

    Michael nodded. “I’m getting the feeling I’d wish the good news report was longer.”

    She uttered a little sigh. “You and me both. Half the crew is either injured or still unconscious. The main computer is down ditto for the warp core and the impulse engines. We don’t have external sensors or subspace communications. Shields and weapons are currently not operational. At this point I couldn’t even tell you what time it is, not to mention our spatial coordinates.”

    Michael glanced towards the large windows which allowed an unobstructed view of the area directly aft of Eagle. The sight he found there was familiar, a dense and colorful starscape virtually identical to the one they had been surrounded by before Eagle had stumbled across the in-between space and the gateway. “We still appear to be in the Amargosa Diaspora.”

    Xylion offered a minuscule nod to this. “According to the visible stellar constellations, our current location is the star system Cygni-98 and approximately identical to our location in regular space before we entered the threshold into in-between space with a margin of error of point two one percent.”

    Michael realized that whatever had happened to them had clearly not had an adverse effect on his Vulcan science officer’s razor-sharp intellect. However, he had not quite missed the uncharacteristically hesitation in his voice.

    He nodded at Xylion. “So we think we know where we are except that spatial coordinators don’t seem to be telling us the full story since we have at least one starship sitting off our starboard bow which is a spitting image of our own, captained by a man who by all accounts should be dead and who is convinced that we are imposters.”

    “The most likely explanation, Captain, is that we have somehow entered an alternate quantum reality,” Xylion said.

    Michael rubbed his forehead. He had heard of this kind of thing before, of course, had even started to suspect something along those lines himself but in truth had hoped it wasn’t true. Time travel was one thing, haunting the nightmares of most starship captains, but the idea that they had not just moved back or forward in time but had left behind their own space-time continuum altogether was a daunting proposition and one he’d rather not consider if given the choice.

    “For those of us not as versed in advanced quantum mechanics, Commander, would you mind elaborating on that theory,” said Tazla Star.

    “Certainly,” said Xylion. “Naturally, due to our current situation and without access to sensors and the main computer, I am unable to form a full hypothesis of our current circumstances. However, the theory of alternate quantum realities has been previously confirmed by several Starfleet and Federation encounters with other quantum realities where different choices have led to the creation of universes which may resemble our own but contain either minute or significant differences.”

    “I hope this is not the part where you start talking about felines trapped inside boxes,” said Deen, already looking exasperated by his explanation. “I always felt bad for that cat at the Academy.”

    Xylion merely raised an eyebrow to that.

    “Let’s leave household pets out of this for now,” said Michael and considered Xylion again. “Our best theory then is that the portal has deposited us in an alternate reality instead of taking us into subspace.”

    “I think we are getting ahead of ourselves,” said Jarik. “We have no real evidence to base this on. What we do know is that the portal was built by the subspace aliens and that they intend to invade normal space.”

    “And yet we find ourselves here,” said Star.

    “We don’t even know where here is,” Jarik insisted. “For all we know this could all be just an elaborate simulation or some other form of subspace effect. We are clearly dealing with a highly advanced enemy, one which has been able to construct a massive portal structure which far exceeds anything we could have created.”

    “None of this precludes the possibility that we find ourselves in an alternate quantum reality,” Xylion said.

    “For now that’s merely a theory. Our primary focus must be to return to the gateway and attempt to understand how it works so that we may stop it from being used to invade our space,” said Jarik and then shot a brief glance towards Admiral Owens at his side.

    “Agreed,” the other man said.

    Michael found their interplay somewhat peculiar. It almost felt as if his father was taking his cues from Jarik. Then again he wasn’t entirely sure anymore about the chain of command since his father no longer had an official status in Starfleet.

    “We should head back towards the same exact coordinates we used when we first made contact with this in-between space and the portal to see if that will take us back there,” Jarik continued and looked straight at Michael.

    “That’s all well and good,” said Star. “But we do have a more immediate problem. As in the two starships sitting off our bow and expecting an explanation regarding our presence here in less than twenty minutes.”

    “An explanation we can’t really provide,” said Michael.

    “I am satisfied that we offer them the same alternate reality theory proposed by your science officer for now. But we mustn't reveal the full details about the subspace gateway,” Jarik said.

    Michael didn’t like the sound of that. Keeping secrets hadn’t worked out so well for anybody involved so far and had a tendency to backfire spectacularly. He did agree, however, that there was a need to be careful around these possibly alternate versions of the people he thought he knew. After all, it was more than likely that in reality, he knew next to nothing about them.

    “We’ll play things close to our vest for now. Mister Xylion, you and Bensu will accompany me over to the Agamemnon,” he said and considered his science officer and the bartender.

    The two men offered brief nods to acknowledge.

    “Commander, see what can be done to get my ship back into shape quickly. At the moment we are a sitting duck in an unfamiliar and possibly hostile environment. Not to mention that we won’t be able to answer any of our many questions without a working starship.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Jarik and I will come along as well,” said Jonathan Owens.

    Michael quickly shook his head. “That’s not a good idea. If this is some sort of parallel universe, the fewer people we expose to the locals, the better.”

    “I’m afraid I’ll have to insist on this one, son,” he said sternly.

    Michael stared him down for a moment but his father answered his gaze without flinching and Michael stood down. He had a feeling that the two of them were going to butt heads sooner or later but he decided that this was not going to be the battle worth fighting over. “Fine. As long as it is understood that I am the only person to speak for this ship.”

    “Of course,” Owens Senior said quickly.

    Perhaps a little too quickly, Michael thought.

    Any further considerations on this point were cut short by an incoming call.

    “Alendra to Captain Owens.”

    Michael glanced towards the ceiling upon hearing the voice coming over the intercom. “What’s matter, Lieutenant?”

    “Sir, I apologize for the interruption but I’ve detected what appears to be an abnormal energy reading.”

    “Are you able to localize it?”

    She hesitated for only a moment. “Not with any accuracy. However, I believe it originates from within the ship.”

    Michael glanced over at his first officer but Star looked just as clueless. Considering the events of the last few hours, he quickly decided that they couldn’t afford to overlook the small things and pushed his chair back to get onto his feet. “We’re on our way, Owens out.”



    * * *​



    Stepping back onto the bridge, he tried hard to ignore the disturbing image of the other Eagle still on the main screen and instead focused his attention on Alendra, the Bolian woman currently serving as the duty officer. “What have you got, Lieutenant?”

    She shook her bald blue head. “Nothing concrete, I’m afraid,” she said while standing at the tactical station. “It’s an energy reading but I cannot identify its source or its location. It is not significant but I thought best to bring it to your attention right away.”

    Michael nodded. Alendra had been a fairly recent addition to the crew and had been brought onboard by Commander Leva following his short stint as a first officer on a different vessel which had ended in disaster. He had highly recommended the efficient young Bolian officer and so far Michael had to admit that having a versatile officer and generalist around who could easily jump into any required role was a real asset to the ship. Officially she held the position of deputy tactical officer but in reality, she was a true jack-of-all-trades. “The right call, Lieutenant,” he said as he headed towards his chair in the command area and watched Deen take her seat at ops to provide more details.

    It took her only a moment to query the data she was looking for. “Internal sensors are still down so I cannot get a fix on the reading but the signature looks familiar. It is similar to the energy drain we’ve experienced over the last few days.”

    Michael seemed to vaguely remember reading something to that effect in the daily status updates but it may as well have been a report he had reviewed a year ago as far as the details of it were concerned.

    Fortunately, Xylion’s memory was as precise as it had always been. “Sensors first detected a two point four kilojoule energy disparity originating from cargo bay three approximately two days ago. A level four diagnostic revealed no malfunctioning equipment at the time and due to the low energy level no additional diagnostics were scheduled,” he said as he took his seat at the science station. “I agree with Lieutenant Deen’s assessment that this energy signature appears consistent with the energy drain we have detected previously.”

    “And I don’t think it is localized to the cargo bay any longer,” said Deen.

    “What’s our ETA on getting sensors and the main computer back up and running?” said Michael, looking at Star for an answer.

    “Louise is still unconscious and her team is severely understaffed at the moment. Repairs are underway but I don’t expect that we have functionality restored for another four to five hours.”

    He quickly shook his head. “I’m not willing to wait that long to investigate this,” he said and turned to find his science officer. “What other options do we have to find the source of these readings?”

    The Vulcan didn’t need long to offer alternatives. “Since we know the energy signature we are looking for, it should be possible to initiate a manual search utilizing hand-held tricorders. The logical place to commence any such search would be cargo bay three.”

    “Good old-fashioned follow the bread crumbs,” said Star.

    Michael nodded. “Looks like it. But we can't keep Donners and … Edison waiting much longer. Commander, get a search team organized and find the source of that energy reading.”

    She acknowledged with a quick bob of her head.

    “Mister Xylion, Bensu, you’re with me,” he said and then briefly made eye contact with Jarik and his father who had also returned to the bridge and who were already making moves to join him as well, no matter how much he would have preferred for them to stay behind.
     
    Galen4 and SolarisOne like this.
  11. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    This AU version of Edison doesn't suffer fools lightly, does he? Can't wait to see what ST reality he represents. Love how Captain Owens is playing it cool. There are COs out there who would have handled this badly.

    Sorry my comment is late, but my computer died. But this is worth keeping up with.
    Feel free to post more chapters anytime. Like now, would be good! :)
     
    CeJay likes this.
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    3


    He had to admit that he felt a certain anxiety about transporting over to this unfamiliar Agamemnon and not necessarily because he was worried about his or the away team’s safety. His concerns were much more of a personal nature, considering that he was beaming onto the ship of the woman who in some other reality had been much more to him than just a fellow starship captain. At least that had been the case until she had unexpectedly put their relationship on hold just a few days earlier.

    Now he was about to come face to face with a different version of Amaya Donners altogether. He wasn’t sure how many more variations he could stomach. After she had appeared to have gone through a transformation so suddenly, Michael had been inclined to believe that she had been replaced by an alternate version of herself.

    Before beaming across to the other ship, Star had made the strong case to take an armed escort with him but Michael had quickly dismissed the idea since it had already become apparent that these people inherently mistrusted their mere presence here, the last thing they needed was to aggravate the situation by showing an unwillingness to trust them. It was the same reason why had also decided against beaming to the Agamemnon armed. Jarik had protested that decision as well but as far as Michael was concerned, if Donners and Edison wanted to harm them while they were guests on the Agamemnon, there was little a few phasers could do to stop them.

    Nora Laas, had she been awake, would likely have insisted that she be allowed to accompany him. But since the security chief was among those still unconscious following their harrowing trip, the away team remained limited to just him, Xylion, Bensu, his father and Jarik.

    They materialized in Agamemnon’s transporter room were he found Amaya Donners, Arden Texx and Gene Edison waiting for them.

    Amaya looked not too dissimilar to his own version except that her naturally curled black hair was straighten and down to her shoulders with a partial bang over the right side of her face. He didn’t know Texx nearly as well but the Bolian first officer looked almost identical to his opposite. The most startling person in the room was Edison, of course. His presence was still quite disconcerting even after people he had thought to be dead had made it their habit to show up alive again as of late.

    Edison’s eyes were undeniably the same as the ones belonging to the man who had been his first officer and friend for nearly three years, even if his beard which obscured much of his lower face felt unfamiliar. All three officers, as well as the transporter technician, wore the same uniforms as Michael and Xylion did.

    An awkward silence had fallen over the room the moment he and his away team had materialized as the two parties seemed to appraise each other for a moment. Edison was the easiest to read since he made no effort to hide his hostility while Amaya’s expression was near impossible to decipher as her dark eyes regarded him and the others.

    Surprisingly, it was Jarik who made the first move as the silence was threatening to drag on. He stepped off the transporter platform and addressed Amaya. “My name is Jarik. With me are Captain Michael Owens, his science officer Commander Xylion, as well as Bensu and Admiral Jonathan Owens.”

    Amaya nodded. “I know. I mean I know some of you,” she said and then offered Jarik a smirk. “The two of us went to the Academy together. As far as I know, you’re on Earth working as an administrator within Starfleet Command.”

    “Looks as if my career aspirations have remained somewhat consistent,” he said with all the humor of a full-blooded Vulcan.

    She looked passed him and considered Michael and the others before her eyes came to rest on Bensu. “I don’t believe I recognize you, however,” she said and then looked to Edison for help.

    He shook his head. “This is all just absurd.”

    “I’m the bartender,” Bensu said with a smile.

    This prompted a quizzical look from Agamemnon’s captain.

    “Trust me, if he were just the bartender, I wouldn’t have brought him,” said Michael which quickly invited Amaya to refocus on him with a stare so intense it made him feel slightly uncomfortable in his own skin.

    “Not that this isn’t all very fascinating,” said Jon Owens. “But perhaps there is a better-suited place for us to have this conversation.”

    Amaya quickly nodded as if only now realizing the awkwardness of this meeting. “Of course. Ard, do you mind escorting our guests as well as Gene to the briefing room?”

    “You got it, Cap,” he said and pointed towards the doors.

    But before Michael could follow he felt Amaya pin him with another look. “Would you mind staying behind for just a spell?”

    Edison didn’t seem to like the sound of that. “Maya?”

    “Just … humor me, please,” she said.

    Michael exchanged a quick look with Jarik also not quite sure what to make of this request. The other man just shrugged and then followed Texx out of the transporter room along with everyone else and with Edison leaving last and only hesitantly as if uncomfortable with leaving Donners and Owens alone.

    Once the doors had closed behind them, Amaya turned towards the transporter tech behind the console. “Ensign, please give us the room.”

    The young man nodded and instantly left his post as requested.

    “What’s going on?” Michael asked once they were alone.

    Amaya turned back around to face him and with three quick steps, she was right inside his personal space. Before he could even try to back away from her, she had grabbed hold of him and pressed her lips hard against his.

    Michael’s first instinct had been to fight back after all this was not the woman he knew, but he quickly realized that it didn’t feel like that at all. On the contrary, it felt perfectly right and after just a moment he went along with it, embracing Amaya and kissing her back just as passionately. For a brief moment, all his recent worries and head-spinning revelations simply melted away into nothingness as he lost himself in that kiss. He would have lied to himself if he didn’t admit that this was exactly what he had wanted from her, from his Amaya, for months but which she had refused to give him.

    When it was over and she finally took a step back again, Michael felt it had ended too soon.

    She looked at him with wide eyes. “It really is you, isn’t it? I can’t believe it.”

    “I take it we are on good terms here.”

    “We were,” she said and then turned away.

    “That sounds familiar. Don’t tell me, I was the one who broke things off. I can’t imagine being that stupid.”

    “No, Michael, you didn’t end it. Not on purpose at least,” she said, refusing to look back his way.

    He was starting to get a bad feeling about where things were going.

    She finally turned to face him again. “You died. Two years ago,” she said and couldn’t quite stop her eyes from getting wet. “A month after our wedding.”
     
    Galen4 and SolarisOne like this.
  13. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Donners and Owens... married?! Holy-moley! This story is getting exciting.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  14. SolarisOne

    SolarisOne Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2016
    Holy shit.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  15. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I suppose it's going to get more difficult if Donners introduces him to any potential children of theirs.
     
    CeJay and Galen4 like this.
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    4


    The rate at which the crew was regaining consciousness following their unexpected journey through the spatial anomaly made Eli, who had himself only awoken a few hours earlier, optimistic that the entire crew would be back on their feet within the next six hours.

    For the moment, however, this left Eagle severely short-staffed and Tazla wasn’t able to assemble an entire task force to chase down the errant energy readings they had detected as she would have done if personnel had been available.

    Instead, she had gone on the hunt herself, for now only accompanied by DeMara Deen and with support from Alendra on the bridge.

    “I’m definitely registering a trace energy signature within the cargo bay,” said Deen while she used her tricorder and after the two of them had entered the large, cavernous room filled with crates and containers, most of which still littering the deck following ship-wide system failures.

    “Can you pinpoint it?”

    She tapped a couple of controls on the compact device and then began to move deeper into the room with Tazla following closely.

    She studied the younger woman for a moment while she remained intently focused on her tricorder. “I don’t believe I’ve heard your take yet on the prevailing theory that we have found ourselves in an alternate universe.”

    She glanced up only briefly. “My take?”

    “You’re not usually shy about offering theories,” said Tazla. “You didn’t have much to say at the staff meeting earlier.”

    Deen shrugged her shoulders. “There isn’t much to say until sensors and the main computer have been restored.”

    “I understand that. But you must have thoughts on the matter. Some sort of professional insight.”

    “It’s possible, I suppose. We do know that other quantum realities exist.”

    Tazla nodded as she continued to follow Deen across the cargo bay. For a moment neither of them spoke and Tazla couldn’t help but start to feel somewhat awkward. She and Deen had never been particularly close, of course, nowhere as much as Deen and the captain but the Tenarian had always been more than eager to strike up a conversation and had treated her with the same enthusiastic spirit she seemed to afforded all people in her life. She hadn’t missed the fact that she had been much less like her buoyant self for some time now, ever since the end of the war. And while she had expected her spirits to lift as they had done for most of the rest of the crew, particularly after their extended R&R period on Earth, shore leave had done absolutely nothing for her. If anything it had only dampened her mood further.

    Of course, it had also not escaped her notice that her changed attitude had also led to Owens confiding into her much more willingly then he had done previously. She had to believe that if Deen had been more like herself over the last few weeks, the captain would never have brought her into his confidence as he had done recently.

    Tazla couldn’t deny that she liked this development, convinced that it was only right for a starship captain to be able to have absolute trust in his first officer and right-hand woman, but she wasn’t so jaded that she didn’t care about how she had been elevated into his circle of confidence.

    “I know that you and the captain haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye as of late.”

    Deen stopped what she was doing and looked up at her with a puzzled expression on her face. “What gave you that idea?”

    “Come on, Dee, it’s obvious to see for anybody who knows how close the two of you have been.”

    “Forgive me for saying so, Commander, but I don’t see how this would be any of your concern.”

    Tazla was taken aback a little bit by her cold tone which was not something she had expected from her usually radiantly warm personality.

    Apparently, Deen had noticed it too. “It has nothing to do with Michael.”

    She nodded even if she wasn’t entirely convinced of this. “I just want you to know, that whatever it is, you can always talk to me. I care for you, Dee, for anyone under my command. If there is anything I can do, you just need to ask. My door is always open.”

    She simply stared back at her and for a moment and Tazla wondered if she was seriously considering the offer.

    “We’ve all suffered over the last few years,” Tazla continued. “There is no shame in admitting that it has affected all of us in some form or another.”

    A warning tone from her tricorder interrupted the moment and Deen quickly glanced back down at its small display. “I think I’ve got something,” she said and headed straight for one of the bulkheads. “It appears to be originating from an EPS junction.”

    Tazla followed her to the bulkhead and when Deen pointed at an access panel, she didn’t hesitate to remove it. Behind it, they found a standard EPS manifold tap which linked into Eagle’s vast electro-plasma network which delivered power from the warp core to all parts of the ship.

    The signaling tone from the tricorder had noticeably increased. “The energy reading is coming from this tap.”

    Star looked over the small, circular-shaped access port but could see nothing out of the ordinary with the naked eye. “Do you register anything else that appears out of place?”

    She shook her head.

    “Star to Alendra.”

    “Alendra here,” the Bolian quickly responded.

    “Lieutenant, we’ve traced the rouge energy signature to an EPS manifold in the cargo bay. Tap number four nine six eight baker nine. Anything you can tell from your end?”

    “Internal sensors in that part of the ship are still down,” she said from the bridge. “But I may be able to learn more if I look at the EPS distribution levels for that specific manifold.”

    Star nodded even if she couldn’t see it. “Good idea, Lieutenant.”

    It didn’t take her long to bring up the data she had searched for. “I’ve got something. The energy drain originated from that exact location. And sir, looking at the full distribution pattern for the EPS network that manifold serves, I am detecting another energy drain.”

    “Can you localize it?” Star asked.

    “Unfortunately not. But I can give you an estimated location. Same deck, section thirty-two lima.”

    “Just like following bread crumbs. Thanks, Lieutenant, Star out,” she said and then pointed the way towards the main doors of the cargo bay.

    Deen understood the invitation and set out.

    “Dee.”

    She stopped and turned back around.

    “Regarding what I’ve said.”

    She quickly shook her head. “There really is nothing to worry about, Commander. However, I do appreciate the offer.”

    Tazla nodded and then followed her out of the cargo bay.

    It wasn’t a very long walk to the section Alendra had identified and Deen was able to pick up something on her tricorder as soon as they had entered the location. Apparently, this energy signature was originating somewhere within the deck thirteen mess hall.

    They both stepped inside and found the room relatively quiet with just a small handful of crewmembers occupying the half dozen or so tables. The mess hall on this deck was nowhere as large as the Nest, the main ship lounge located three decks above and spread out over two levels. But with a standard complement of nearly nine-hundred, Eagle required much more space to feed and entertain its crew than just that one single lounge and so several other, similar facilities were located throughout the ship and close to crew quarters.

    Eagle had not been close to its full crew capacity for years now, and this along with the fact that it was currently the middle of beta shift, and a large portion of personnel were still unconscious or recovering from their recent ordeal, all accounted for the low number of people currently occupying the mess.

    Deen, following the signals her tricorder gave her, steered Tazla towards another bulkhead where they found yet another access hatch.

    She hesitated for a moment before opening the hatch, taking a few seconds to take in her surroundings to look for anything that didn’t belong. The few crewmembers at the tables had turned curious looks towards the two senior officers who had entered the room but now quickly returned to their meals or conversations. Unlike the Nest, this crew lounge didn’t feature a staffed bar but instead had a row of four replicators along the far wall to allow for self-service. Two windows offered a view out of Eagle’s starboard side. For now, Tazla could see nothing out there but the sight of the Amargosa Diaspora which looked pretty much exactly the same as the one they had seemingly left behind before entering the anomaly.

    Once she was satisfied that there was nothing else to find here, she opened the hatch to reveal another manifold tab just like the one in cargo bay three. “Star to Alendra. We’ve traced the reading to the deck thirteen mess. Tap number four four one seven baker nine.”

    “Understood, Commander. Just one minute.”

    “What do these two locations have in common?” Tazla asked Deen while they were waiting.

    She shrugged her shoulders. “Other than being on the same deck I don’t see a connection.”

    “Neither do I.”

    “Commander, I’ve located another energy drain with that particular signature. This one is on deck twenty-five.”

    Tazla and Deen exchanged surprised looks. Twelve full decks below them.

    “We’ll better check it out. Star out.”

    A short walk and a turbolift ride later they both stepped onto deck twenty-five and not long after Deen had once again picked up a trace which took them right into transporter room four which was being manned by an on-duty transporter tech. He quickly confirmed that he was not aware of anything out of the ordinary having transpired and checking his log didn’t reveal anything odd either.

    They did locate an access hatch for an EPS tap.

    “Got another one. This is definitely coming from the main shuttle bay,” said Alendra once Tazla had given her the latest tap number.

    “That’s deck five,” said Deen.

    So they got back in the turbolift, this time to take them all the way up through the ship again. It took a little longer to locate the source this time since the main shuttle bay was large enough to take up almost the entirety of deck five all by itself. After a search lasting a few minutes, Deen located the energy tap in question.

    “Don’t tell me,” said Tazla. “You’ve got another reading pointing us somewhere else.”

    “I’m afraid so,” said Alendra. “Deck twelve. Possibly sickbay or somewhere else within the medical section.”

    Tazla nodded. “Of course.”

    Deen was already making her way out of the shuttle bay but stopped when she noticed that Tazla wasn’t following her. “Commander?”

    “I know what this is,” she said with a little amused chuckle, realizing that she recognized the pattern. Recognized it because she had done something very similar on a few occasions before she had become Eagle’s first officer.

    Deen just offered a puzzled look in response.

    “This is what they like to call a snipe hunt.”

    “What does it mean?”

    “It means that somebody is trying very hard to keep us distracted.”

    “Distracted from what?”

    Star smiled as she couldn’t entirely deny the feeling of being in her element. “Now that is the real question here.”
     
  17. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    By Grabthar's Hammer, oh what a dilemma! AU Donners and Michael were married? Yikes. Cant wait to see how our Michael deals with that bombshel!
    And I told you that strange energy reading was not a good sign. If you ever find yourself in the ST universe, run like hell when an anomalas energy signature appears! But in this case it's some type of diversion, which is even more troublesome.

    Keep cranking out those chapters.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yeah, that puts a whole new wrinkle into an already seriously complicated situation.

    With Michael's supposed-to-be-dead father on hand and all the emotional baggage he's had trotted out this past few weeks, having a grief-stricken Amaya added to the mix is only going to mess with Michael's mind when he desperately needs to keep a clear head.

    And, it appears the crew of Eagle is pursuing an untamed orthithoid without cause.

    Wonderful work, and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment. :bolian:
     
    CeJay likes this.
  19. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Where's the ship's counselor when you need them? Vacationing on Risa?
     
    CeJay and Galen4 like this.
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    5


    “All available evidence suggests that our universe is merely one of an infinite amount of quantum realities, each one differing to various degrees to the other realities and representing decisions or circumstances which may have resulted in an alternate outcome in that reality. The prevailing theory states that these quantum realities are separated by boundaries referred to as branes.”

    Michael had been listening to Xylion’s explanation of their situation but he had a difficult time focusing his thoughts considering what Amaya had told him just moments ago. That in this universe, not only had the two of them been married but that shortly after they had tied the knot, he had perished.

    None of it should have mattered of course. This Amaya was not the same woman he knew and more importantly, this version of Michael Owens wasn’t him. And yet it all felt so familiar. Sure, there were some major differences, including the bearded Gene Edison sitting at the very same conference table along with him and the others. But Amaya had seemed just like the one he had known since their Academy days, and the notion that they could have ended up married to each other wasn’t entirely far fetched. Now, contemplating his own death, on the other hand, wasn’t a far more difficult proposition.

    “You look like the Commander Xylion I know and you sure as hell sound like Xylion. That doesn’t mean I buy any of this,” Edison said from his chair at the far end of the conference table.

    Amaya tore herself away from staring back at Michael for a moment. “We know about alternate universes. So-called crossover events are mandatory reading for every Starfleet cadet. And it's hard to argue its legitimacy when it stares you right in the face,” she said and glanced towards Michael again.

    “Right,” said Edison. “So far the only evidence I’ve seen is a few individuals with an uncanny familiarity to people we know. It doesn’t require an alternate universe to accomplish that.”

    “You believe we are some sort of imposters?” Bensu said. “For what purpose?”

    “For all we know you could be Founders, attempting to infiltrate the Federation again. Or some other hostile species looking to destroy us from within. It would hardly be the first time,” said Edison and pinned Bensu with a stare. “And who exactly are you supposed to be? The other people from your ship seem familiar but you? You are a complete mystery. I’ve never seen you or anyone looking remotely like you before.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow. “You are saying that there is no person matching Bensu’s description on your version of Eagle? Curious.”

    “There are bound to be significant differences between universes,” said Michael and then focused on Edison. “We are more than happy to try and lead you back to the transitional space where we discovered the device we think is responsible for bringing us here. If the threshold is located in the same location in this universe, perhaps you can help us trying to get back to where we came from.”

    Edison quickly shook his head. “You’re not going anywhere but back to Starbase 123 where we will report all this to Starfleet Command. I am certain they’ll have plenty of questions.”

    “We don’t have time for this,” said Jarik bluntly. “We obviously do not belong in this place and need to find a way to return as quickly as possible. Regardless of our circumstances we all still belong to Starfleet and I am the highest-ranking officer on site.”

    “Technically, wouldn’t that be Admiral Owens,” said Amaya and glanced towards Michael’s father.

    “She’s right,” Jon Owens said.

    But Jarik didn’t seem to agree. “I am the ranking active officer.”

    “This entire conversation is moot,” said Edison. “I do not recognize either of your authorities. Even if you truly are from another universe, and I still have my doubts about this, I’m fairly certain that rank doesn’t translate to dimensions.”

    “Maybe not,” said Amaya as her eyes found Michael’s again. “But I am the senior captain in this universe and I say we investigate this device further.”

    “Maya, this is a mistake.”

    “Think about it, Gene. If there really is a device that allows people and ships to cross universes, that would amount to a far more significant threat than somebody pretending they are from another reality.”

    Edison glared but said nothing, begrudgingly deferring to Amaya’s seniority for now but Michael had a feeling that his compliance was shaky at best. He had no idea about the relationship between these two captains and how far Edison would toe the line.

    “We’ve already established that this universe is markedly different from our own. Based on what you’ve seen from us, what are the key differences?” said Jon Owens glancing back and forth between Edison and Amaya. “I know my son isn’t in command of Eagle anymore. Tell me, why is that?”

    Neither of the two starship captains seemed particularly interested in offering an explanation out loud and Michael too diverted his eyes, not exactly eager to share what he had learned about his counterpart’s fate.

    “I see,” said Owens Senior, understanding the unsaid implications. “How about Matthew, my other son? What happened to him?”

    Michael thought this had gone far enough. “This isn’t a fact-finding mission, dad. I don’t see any point in trying to learn about this universe and what may have become of people we’ve known in ours. Let’s just return to the gateway and find a way back to where we belong.”

    “Agreed,” said Jarik, briefly pinning Admiral Owens with a stern look. “The quicker we are on our way, the sooner we can focus on the mission we left behind and which remains our priority.”

    Apparently realizing that he had stepped out of line, Jon Owens nodded quietly.

    Maya turned back to look at Michael. “So then where is this gateway of yours?”
     
    SolarisOne, Galen4 and Gibraltar like this.