The Star Eagle Adventures: QD2 - State of Entanglement

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

  1. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Well, at least everyone’s talking now. Let’s hope this AU population isn’t harboring some dark secret or hidden agenda. But even still, it could’ve been worse...our heros might have ended up in the Mirror Universe, so there’s that.

    As usual, Owens is keeping his wits about him. This is a dude you can depend on to always be the voice of reason. If I had to choose a UT captain to serve under, he’d be the one.

    BTW, I’ve decided Edison is an ass. Would someone please escort him to the nearest airlock, sans docking arm?
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    6


    He had made his way to sickbay as soon as he had heard that she had regained consciousness.

    They may have had their differences recently and their blossoming relationship had cooled somewhat after their fateful shore leave to his homeworld a few weeks earlier, but he still cared deeply for her and had been worried when she had been among the crewmembers who had not immediately regained consciousness following Eagle’s unexpected trip into what some of the crew had begun to refer to as the Rabbit Hole.

    Lif hadn’t exactly fared particularly well himself. He had been on his way to the bridge when the ship had been sucked into the anomaly and then in a stroke of misfortunate had found himself in a turbolift speeding through the ship when the artificial gravity had failed suddenly and slammed him so hard into the ceiling and then the floor that he had suffered a concussion.

    However, he had been released just a couple of hours after he had been admitted to sickbay since the understaffed medical personnel found itself somewhat overwhelmed with the high number of unconscious patients, nearly a quarter of the crew, to give him anything more than the most urgent medical care.

    Since so many crewmembers were either still insensate or recovering, many of the patients had been transferred into secondary wards and it was there where he found Louise Hopkins sitting up on a bed and arguing with Doctor Barry Nelson.

    “You are not yet cleared, Lieutenant. I must ask you to stay put until we had the chance to have a proper look at you,” the young doctor said.

    “From what I hear, we’re in pretty bad shape. The warp core and most of the primary systems are down. The sooner I can get back to engineering, the sooner I can make sure we do something about that.”

    But Nelson shook his head. “I can’t worry about that. My priority has to be your well-being.”

    A noticeably exhausted nurse was standing not two meters away, trying to get Nelson’s attention who was clearly required elsewhere. “Doctor, we still need to complete the diagnosis for the patients in ward C and E. We’re already behind schedule.”

    Hopkins picked up on this quickly. “I bet that’s not easy to do without having access to the main computer.”

    Nelson regarded her with a pointed stare but then visibly gave up on his argument with a heavy sigh. “Very well, you win,” he said and produced a small device from a nearby tray, attaching it to her temple. “But you’re wearing a cortical monitor until further notice and until we can confirm that there are no other side-effects. At the first sign of any dizziness or lack of focus, you come straight back here or I’ll have security corral you.”

    She offered him a wide smile. “Deal.”

    The nurse finally managed to drag Nelson away but not before he gave Hopkins one parting look. “And get the computer up and running again. That’ll be all the thanks I need.”

    “You bet, Doc,” she said and stood from the bed.

    “I had no idea you could be so persuasive. Ever consider moving onto the command track? You’d make a great captain,” said Lif as he approached her.

    She smirked. “No, thanks, engineering suits me just fine. Besides, I’m lucky Katanga isn’t around. No chance I could’ve talked him into letting me out of here.”

    “I’m really glad you’re all right and back on your feet,” he said and followed her out of the patient ward.

    “Glad you made it in one piece as well. But there’s no time to waste, apparently whatever we’ve come across did a real number not just on the crew but our systems as well. Half the ship seems to be down.”

    He nodded. “And that isn’t even the oddest thing.”

    “I’m a bit behind the curve. What else happened?”

    “Well, the prevailing theory is that we have landed in an alternate universe. Either that or the anomaly we found has induced some sort of mass hallucination,” he said as they stepped onto the corridor and headed towards the nearest turbolift.

    “You’re kidding?” she said without slowing her pace.

    He shook his head.

    “Is this the one where we all have evil doppelgangers?”

    “I’m not sure. But there is another Eagle. In fact, she’s right here. And Gene Edison is in command.”

    That caused her to stop well short of the turbolift. “No.”

    He nodded.

    “Does Laas now?”

    Lif understood the significance of her question straight away and was surprised that he hadn’t thought of it earlier. Nora Laas had been in a short-lived but intense relationship with their version of Gene Edison until he had died. Killed in action while saving her life. He had no idea how the infamously hot-tempered Bajoran security chief would take the news. “I don’t think she’s awake yet.”

    “I hate to say it, but I kind of hope she sleeps through the entire thing,” she said as she continued towards the lift and they both stepped into a waiting car. “Main engineering.”

    The lift set in motion and for a moment the two of them simply stood there, side-by-side, in silence.

    “Computer, stop lift,” Louise said, bringing the car to a halt. “Are we going to talk about it?”

    “About Edison?” he said, shooting her a perplexed look.

    She rolled her eyes. “About Piqus and about what happened after we left.”

    Lif shrugged. “I did what I thought was right to get us out of a tough spot.”

    “By suggesting that you surrender to Garla on the outside chance she’ll let the rest of us go?” she said, unable to hide her disbelieve.

    He didn’t really want to have this conversation now, but he knew they had put it off for too long already. They had barely spoken more than two words since their escape from Krellonian territory a few days earlier.

    “I have the feeling that perhaps you bought into her delusional fantasy about magically solving all of Krellon's problems by separating your people from the Outlanders somehow.”

    “It’s not delusional,” he said defensively.

    “So you do believe it. That separation is the way forward? Putting aside for a moment that segregation has never been the answer to a society’s problems, how would that even work? From everything I’ve seen, the Outlanders have become an integral part of Krellonian society. And how about those who don’t want to be segregated? Is she just going to remove those by force? Is she going to build walls to keep everyone in their own little ghettos?”

    The truth was that he didn’t know the answer to any of those questions since Garla had never revealed the details of her plan that she claimed would not only prevent the Krellonian Star Alliance from heading towards inevitable civil war, she’d make it so that the ‘Great Shame’, the systematic enslavement by his people of various alien races who were now collectively known as the Outlanders, would no longer be a factor causing friction between the two separate groups. She had made it sound as if she was looking to rewrite history itself. “I don’t know, Lou, we didn’t get that far before she tried to kill me. But for all her frustration over my betrayal and all her other faults, at least she is the only person in a position of power I’ve ever seen trying to make an actual difference. That has to count for something.”

    But Louise was not convinced. “It counts for nothing if her plan ends up in genocide. I’m sure people like Colonel Green, Khan Noonien Singh, and Governor Kodos started out with good intentions as well.”

    Lif wanted to counter that it was entirely unfair to compare his aunt with such villainous examples in history but he didn’t get the chance when he heard the first officer’s voice over the intercom

    “Star to Lif Culsten, please report to the main shuttlebay on the double.”

    The two left it at glaring at each other instead of continuing the argument.

    “You better get going and I’m already way overdue in engineering,” she said.

    He nodded.

    “Computer, resume lift to main engineering and to main shuttlebay.”

    The computer trilled in acknowledgment and set the car back in motion towards deck twenty-four and main engineering since that had been its first destination requested. Lif and Louise rode the rest of the way in silence, exchanging brief glances once the doors opened again to allow Louise to exit.

    Lif uttered a heavy sigh he hadn’t realized he had held back after she had left and the lift headed back upwards and toward the shuttlebay on deck five.

    These arguments between him and Louise had become far too frequent as of late for his liking and he was beginning to wonder if their relationship had been a mistake after all.

    He refocused his concentration on the task at hand when the turbolift deposited him on deck five, wondering what Star needed him for in the shuttlebay. Since he was among the most experienced pilots on the ship, he might have been required for an impromptu shuttle mission, and he did not miss the three small vessels already arranged on the deck as he stepped into the large and extensive bay. He could, however, not see Star anywhere.

    “Commander?”

    The only response was the sound of his echo reverberating off the high bulkheads.

    He approached the three shuttles.

    “I’m afraid your first officer couldn’t make it.”

    He whipped around upon hearing the familiar voice and immediately froze.

    His aunt was standing right behind him with a pointed at his chest. “Garla?”

    “Surprised to see me again, Liftu?” she said as she closed in on him, forcing Lif to step back to try and keep his distance.

    “What’re you doing here?”

    “What do you think I’m doing here?” she said as she continued to advance.

    Lif ran out of room when his back hit the parked shuttle behind him. “You’ve come to finish me off, is that it? To take your revenge.”

    “And why shouldn’t I?” she said and indicated towards his chest with her weapon.

    Lif understood what she wanted and he removed his combadge and dropped it onto the deck.

    “You betrayed me, Lif. You betrayed your entire people. It wasn’t enough that you turned your backs on us the first time, you had to come back and twist that dagger, didn’t you?”

    “You know, the funny thing is, you’re right.”

    That admission gave her pause and she stopped.

    “Yes, I did turn my back on my people. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get out of the Star Alliance and I jumped at the first opportunity I got to leave that place. I knew even then how truly broken our society was and realizing that there was nothing I could do to change it, I chose to run away from it all instead. But I was willing to believe that you had found a way to fix all that. I was starting to believe in your passion and that maybe you had a solution to turn our people from the abyss.”

    “Until you threw that away when you chose to side with your new friends instead of standing with your people. With your family,” she said, doing little to hide the venom in her voice.

    He had no defense to offer. He knew he’d more than likely make that same choice all over again if he was placed in that position once more. Naturally, he couldn’t share this with her if he wanted any chance at getting out of this confrontation alive. “So you hid away on Eagle for days just to satisfy your urge for satisfaction, is that it? All your grand plans to save the Star Alliance from itself have suddenly taken a backseat to you settling a personal grudge. Call me a traitor to my people, if you must, but I don’t see your priorities being any less selfish.”

    She paused for a moment but the hesitation passed quickly. “Of course, you wouldn’t,” she said and took two more steps closer to him. “I’m taking you back, Lif.”

    “You may find that won’t be that easy.”

    “I’ve evaded your supposedly ingenious Starfleet crew and technology for days now. I know exactly how to get out of here.”

    He nodded. “I’m sure you do. But unless you have a plan on how to get back to our universe, we’re not going anywhere.”

    The puzzled expression on her face gave ample evidence that she hadn’t yet realized the predicament they all now found themselves in. “What are you talking about?”

    “Honestly, I’m surprised you didn’t already know. We tracked down the portal your allies have built. But instead of taking us into subspace, it dropped us into an alternate universe.”

    She quickly shook her head. “That’s nonsense.”

    “Then how do you explain what happened to us and the ship? Half the crew is still unconscious and most of our systems are offline. No doubt you must have experienced the transition as well.”

    That too gave her pause as she began to consider what he had said and likely her own experiences after Eagle had been pulled into the anomaly. She was momentarily distracted by her own thoughts, her weapon no longer pointing at him. Lif considered making a move against her but then, remembering her lightning-fast reflexes she had already demonstrated once before, he decided that he didn’t care for his chances and stayed put.

    “We’re a long way from home, Garla.”

    The heavy doors at the far end of the shuttle bay opened and Lif felt a sense of relief when he spotted Tazla Star and DeMara leading a small team of heavily armed security personnel inside.

    It was short-lived. Garla saw them as well and within just a second she had grabbed him and positioned him like a shield in front of her with her phaser pushing into the side of his head.

    “Lif, are you all right?” Deen asked as soon as she spotted him and while she and the team approached carefully.

    “Other than that phaser pointed at my head, I’m fine.”

    “That’s close enough,” Garla said when Star and the others had come within ten meters.

    The first officer did stop and indicated for her team to do the same, however, neither Star nor the security team lowered their weapons which were all leveled at the two Krellonians. “It’s over, Garla.”

    She shook her head. “No, not quite yet.”

    “You have my professional respect for being able to stay undetected as long as you did and that little diversion you’ve sent us on was particularly clever. It may even have worked if you hadn’t been up against somebody trained in counter-intelligence,” Star said as she raised her phaser to line up her shot.

    “I’ll keep that in mind for next time we meet,” Garla said.

    “There won’t be a next time. There is no way out of here. Surrender,” she said. “Or don’t,” she added with a shrug. “We can just stun you both and sort it out later.”

    “I wouldn’t try that if I were you,” said the Krellonian Sentinel. “I have a very itchy trigger finger which could go off by the slightest movement. If you don’t want to pick up Lif’s brains from the deck, I suggest you withdraw.”

    The two women exchanged silent stares as they were measuring each other up, one intelligence officer against another. Who would call the other one’s bluff first?

    It turned out to be Star. “I don’t think so. You’ve been on this ship for nearly three days. If you had planned to kill Lif you would have had plenty of opportunities to do so. I think you want him alive.”

    “Are you willing to bet his life on that?”

    Star made eye contact with her hostage. “What do you think?”

    “I think you both make good points. I’d just rather not be the man in the middle in this bet,” he said.

    “This isn’t over,” Garla said and then shoved Lif hard into the direction of the Starfleet team.

    He landed painfully on the deck and by the time he looked back around he could just see her shimmer out of existence. “What gives?”

    But apparently, the Trill had already expected something like this. “She’s wearing some sort of personal cloaking device. That’s how she’s been able to evade us. Stay down,” she said and then quickly adjusted her phaser. She leveled it towards her last position again and then fired a single wide-beam pattern which covered a significant area in front of her

    It paid off. Garla was hit and her cloak fizzled out again as she stumbled down onto the deck.

    Star and the security team closed in. “Ready to surrender yet?”

    Garla looked up. She had lost her weapon when she was struck by Star’s phaser and seemed out of options. And yet that little smile playing on her lips didn’t seem to support her predicament. “Well played, Commander. Let’s see if you thought of everything, shall we?” she said and then tapped the top of her right boot.

    Star fired again but this time she connected with nothing but the empty deck after Garla had already dematerialized.

    Star uttered a Trill curse under her breath.

    “That was a Starfleet transporter signature,” Deen said who had recognized the familiar blue light patterns into which Garla had disappeared.

    Star nodded. “She must have configured one of the transporters while she had the chance.”

    “This means she could be anywhere,” said DeMara.

    “Bridge to Commander Star.”

    “Go ahead, Lieutenant,” Star said when she heard Alendra’s voice.

    “Sir, we just detected a shuttle materializing just off our starboard bow. It’s one of ours.”

    Lif had to admit he was somewhat impressed. “She beamed one of our shuttles right out of the hangar bay and into space.”

    “And something tells me her right along with it,” added DeMara.

    “Lieutenant, can you get a lock on the shuttle or whoever is inside and beam them back on board?”

    “I’m afraid not, Commander. Targeting sensors are down.”

    “What about a tractor—“

    Star never got a chance to complete her sentence. “Sir,” Alendra said, interrupting the first officer. “The shuttle has just gone to warp.”

    Lif looked at the clearly unhappy first officer. “And with engines down, we can’t follow.”
     
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Oh Garla, you scamp! :lol: You think you've escaped, but you've only jumped headlong into the fire. Kudos to her for her tenacity and ingenuity, though. I'll say this for her, she knows how to hold a grudge.
     
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  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    7


    “How do we even know that this portal of yours exists in our universe?” said Edison, doing nothing to hide his skepticism which had not abated from the moment the meeting had commenced. “Even if I believe your story and you did come across this thing in your universe, there is nothing to say it’ll also be here.”

    “It is,” said Bensu. “I can sense it nearby. I believe we will find it exactly where we found it before.”

    Gene Edison shot the bartender a suspicious look. “You can sense it? How?”

    Michael took the question before Bensu could respond. “We have already learned that he has a natural sensitivity to the events that have been unfolding lately. How this is possible remains a mystery to us.”

    “As it is to me, I’m afraid to say.”

    Edison didn’t look particularly convinced. Michael wondered what had happened to this version of him that had made him so distrusting of others. There was plenty to be suspicious about, considering their unique circumstances and he couldn’t blame this Edison for being careful but it seemed obvious that mistrust and skepticism were how the captain of this universe’s Eagle operated by default.

    “Bridge to Captain. We’ve just detected Eagle—that is to the say, the other Eagle—beaming a shuttle with an occupant into space,” a disembodied voice Michael didn’t recognize announced.

    Edison was unsurprisingly the first to react, even before Michael could digest this unexpected development. The man shot up onto his feet and glared at him. “What is this?”

    Michael shook his head. “I have no idea,” he said truthfully.

    “I knew you were up to something. I knew it the moment I saw that ship appear out of nowhere,” he fumed and then glanced at Amaya who seemed to take the news much more in stride.

    She stood from her chair and within moments everybody else still sitting followed along. “Bridge, go to yellow alert. We’re on our way.”

    Edison was already on his way to the doors with Michael and Amaya close behind.

    The bridge on Agamemnon was located on the same deck as the observation lounge and Michael recognized the familiar Starfleet design as almost unchanged to the one he had seen in his universe’s counterpart.

    “Report,” Amaya called out the moment she had crossed the threshold.

    A tall, amber-furred avian officer with a set of impressively tall wings arching up behind his back promptly turned her way. “It just happened, sir. According to sensors, the shuttle was beamed about fifty kilometers off the other Eagle’s bow. Sensors confirm one life-sign onboard.”

    “On screen.”

    On her order, the main viewscreen shifted to show what Michael immediately recognized as the Valkyrie, one of Eagle’s medium-sized shuttles. The small craft’s warp nacelles lit up with a bright blue light and the next moment Valkyrie was gone as it had jumped to warp.

    “What the hell is going on here?” Edison said, his eyes focused on Michael.

    “I have no idea. I certainly didn’t authorize this,” he said.

    “We are being hailed by the Eagle,” the avian officer said from his tactical station.

    “Put it on,” said Amaya.

    The viewscreen shifted once more to show the face of a somewhat exasperated Tazla Star walking down the ramp towards the command area of the bridge as if she had only moments ago emerged from the aft turbolift.

    “Report, Commander,” Michael said. “What happened?”

    “It’s Garla, sir. We discovered that she was the source of our energy drain issues. She must have beamed over before we left Krellonian space and has been hiding away ever since. She tried to make a move on Lif but we cornered her.”

    “How did she get a shuttle?”

    Star looked noticeably contrite. “We’re still looking into that but I believe she made some creative modifications to our systems while she was on board. Nothing that could be detected easily but enough to execute an exit strategy.”

    “Who is this Garla person?” Edison asked.

    “She is a Krellonian operative we ran into on a recent mission. She is Lif Culsten’s aunt,” Michael said.

    Edison offered him a blank look in response. “You say that name as if it’s supposed to mean something to me.”

    “He Eagle’s helmsman,” Michael said. “I suppose not here.”

    Amaya considered her tactical officer again. “Lure, can you tell us where she is headed?”

    The avian checked his board. “According to its heading, the shuttle is on a beeline for Krellonian space.”

    “Sir, I think we need to go after her,” said Star from the other bridge. Michael couldn’t be sure but he thought she felt personally offended by the fact that Garla had apparently outwitted her. No doubt spies didn’t like to be bested by other spies. He knew her well enough by now to understand that it couldn’t be her only motivation. “She doesn’t belong in this universe and who knows how much damage she could be doing here if we let her go.”

    Michael nodded. “We’ll take it under advisement, Commander. I want you to continue to focus on getting my ship fully operational again.”

    “Understood, sir.”

    Michael glanced over to Amaya. It was her ship after all and it was only prudent to give her the final word. Agamemnon’s captain pointed at Lure who then promptly closed the channel.

    “My first officer is right,” Michael said once Star was gone. “We can’t leave her here.”

    But Edison was, once again, quick to disagree. “I have no intention of chasing after a Krellonian from another universe. Besides, we are not exactly on the best of terms with the Star Alliance. They like to be left alone and I am not going to be responsible for starting another war.”

    “This changes nothing as far as I’m concerned,” said Jarik. “Our mission remains to return to the gateway and identify a way to operate it so that we can take control of it.”

    Michael considered the half-Vulcan for a moment. He sounded more self-assured and authoritative than he had been before, or perhaps he had simply not noticed this side of him until now. The man didn’t even consider his father when he spoke, which considering that up until recently he had been his direct superior felt somewhat concerning, the fact that Admiral Owens was still officially listed as deceased, notwithstanding.

    He looked towards his father for an opinion. He wasn’t exactly eager to hear his views but considering the unfamiliar territory they all found themselves in, he thought it best to consider all options.

    “I think it’s the right—“ A sudden coughing fit interrupted him mid-sentence. He raised a hand to indicate it would pass soon but it didn’t.

    “Admiral, are you all right?” Amaya asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

    “I’m fine,” he said between coughs. “The transition into this universe has been … hard on all of us,” he said and still couldn’t quite get his cough under control.

    “I think we better get you down to sickbay,” Amaya said.

    He shook his head quickly as his cough began to finally abate. “Not necessary but I think I better return to the ship,” he said.

    Amaya nodded and indicated for one of her officers to escort Owens Senior back to the transporter room.

    Michael watched his father leave but couldn’t quite bring himself to feel particularly sympathetic for the plight of a man who had been happy enough to make his own son believe he was dead.

    With Jon Owens gone, Jarik easily retook the initiative. “We’ve lost enough time already. Let’s find the threshold to the gateway and make sure we all go back to where we belong.”
     
  5. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Going after Garla is a big risk. No one knows for sure how stable this gateway is. The longer they wait, the more they risk getting stranded.

    And speaking of Garla, what a great cat and mouse she played. No wonder Star's pissed.

    And what's up with Owens senior? I hope he's not Ill or that some other terminal outcome awaits him in this story. Michael would then have to relive his death, only this time for real.

    Great job all around!
     
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  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yeah, Garla's in for a rude surprise when she discovers Lif was being straight with her. :rommie:

    She's probably the least of their worries at the moment, however. Hell, the Krellonian situation would probably be better if Garla were stranded in an alternate reality.

    Something tells me this version of Edison has suffered a significant loss of some kind. He's a harder, angrier, and more suspicious person than the 'Prime' version to be sure.
     
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  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    8


    Star had briefed him on the latest developments as soon as he had returned from Agamemnon, including on how she believed Garla had managed to beam onboard undetected using a personal cloaking device after Eagle arrived at the Krellon border a few days earlier to retrieve her and the away team following their escape from Piqus.

    Star naturally blamed herself for allowing this to happen even if Michael was fairly certain that it would have been near impossible to detect her coming onboard.

    Star pointed to the fact that Garla had been surprisingly disengaged at the time, apparently already planning her scheme to follow her and Culsten onto Eagle instead of making a play for them while they were still in Krellonian territory.

    The news about the status of the ship and crew were more encouraging. Almost the entire crew had been successfully resuscitated or had awoken from their coma on their own and most where still recovering in sickbay. Since Louise Hopkins had returned to duty, she had managed to restore several primary systems, including sensors, impulse engines, and the main computer. The warp drive and defensive systems were next on her list.

    Back on the bridge, Michael found Jarik who quickly assured him that his father was doing well and recovering in his quarters and Michael was more than happy to take him at his word for now.

    “We cannot wait for him,” Jarik said. “We need to get underway as soon as possible. We obviously do not belong in this place and the longer we stay here, the greater the chance that we cause permanent damage.”

    Star considered the half-Vulcan. “I thought you didn’t prescribe to the theory that this is an alternate universe.”

    “I don’t know what this is,” he said, sounding almost defensively. “But we do have a mission to fulfill and we can’t do that without establishing control of the gateway.”

    Michael nodded. It didn’t matter if this truly was an alternate universe or not, although all evidence he had seen so far seemed to strongly support that claim, they needed to find a way back home, of that there was no doubt. And currently, the only way they knew how to do that was to make use of the very same device that appeared to have brought them here in the first place.

    He glanced towards Lif Culsten who sat at the helm. “Lieutenant, according to Mister Bensu, we should find the threshold to in-between space at the same coordinates we first encountered it. How close are we to those?”

    The Krellonian quickly checked his board. “We’re practically already there. Less than two million kilometers.”

    Michael glanced towards Leva next who had only just returned to duty and was already manning his usual post at tactical. “Commander, we’ll need shields to cross the threshold. Are they available yet.”

    He dipped his head slowly. “We should have enough to get us through based on previous sensor data. However, I would strongly suggest avoiding going into battle until they are back to full power.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” Michael said. “Raise shields and configure them to the same frequency we used last time we approached the threshold. Then share that information with the other two ships.”

    Leva acknowledged and went to work.

    Michael took his chair at the center of the bridge and Star and Jarik sat down in the seats flanking him.

    “Last time we did this we had a very unpleasant journey,” said Star. “I’d rather avoid doing that again if we can.”

    “Couldn’t agree more,” he said and found Xylion at his science station. “Commander, any thoughts?”

    “We do not have sufficient information on the structure to establish its working parameters at this juncture. For example, we do not know if the vortex we encountered was an automated event or if it was triggered by our presence. However, it did not appear to form until we approached the structure. I would, therefore, suggest we maintain our distance to the structure until we can learn more about how it operates.”

    Michael exchanged a quick look with his first officer. “Sounds like a sensible approach.”

    “Agreed.”

    “Sir,” Leva said. “Both Agamemnon and … uh … the other Eagle are confirming that they have raised shields and configured them to the required frequency.” He shook his head. “I’m not going to get used to this.”

    Star smirked. “Let’s hope we won’t be here long enough that we have to.”

    “Yes, I think one version of us is plenty,” Michael said.

    “I don’t know, I wouldn’t have minded meeting my doppelganger and finding out what he’s been up to in this reality. Who knows, he may be a starship captain here,” said Culsten as he swiveled his chair around.

    “Sorry to disappoint you,” said Michael. “But Edison had never even heard of you before.”

    “That’s a shame,” he said but then a grin began to spread over his face. “Doesn’t stop me to imagine that, wherever he may be, he’s a really important man.”

    Deen shook her head. “You mean like you are here?”

    The Krellonian shot the woman at his side a scowl. “Tell me you’re not curious to meet this universe’s version of yourself,” he said and then glanced back towards the command area. “Imagine two DeMara Deens.”

    “I rather not,” she said without making eye contact.

    Michael found himself agreeing with her. “I think it would be for the best if we did everything we can to avoid any of our alternate versions while we are here.”

    “That shouldn’t be all that difficult for you,” said Jarik.

    Michael looked at the Vulcan by his side, wishing he had not mentioned this since it had invited several curious glances being directed his way.

    “I have the feeling I shouldn’t ask,” said Star.

    Michael tugged down on his uniform jacket, eager to move on. “Let’s get going, people. Mister Culsten, take us towards the coordinates. Nice and easy, one-quarter impulse and then thrusters only for the transition.”

    The helmsman understood it was all business again and turned back to his station. “Aye, aye. One-quarter impulse.”

    “Mister Leva, tell the others to follow us in. But advise them to keep a healthy distance to us and each other. We don’t know what happens when multiple ships traverse the threshold at once.”

    “Advising now.”

    Michael kept his eyes focused on the viewscreen in front but at this slow speed, it was practically impossible to even notice that they were moving at all or for that matter to see what it was they were hopefully heading towards.

    “We’ll be reaching the target destination in thirty seconds,” said Deen monitoring her console and then continued to provide a countdown. “Twenty seconds. Ten seconds. Contact.”

    Michael hadn’t consciously realized that he had gripped the armrests of his chair hard enough to turn his knuckles white until the stars had once again disappeared from the viewscreen to be replaced by the swirling and undefined salmon-colored mass which made up in-between space. He let out a little sigh of relief once he realized that the threshold had indeed followed them into this universe, or perhaps it had never left. More importantly was the fact that their way home was, if not assured, at least still viable.

    And just like the last time they once more found themselves in this layer of subspace, the massive structure was still dominating the area as it had done before, a humongous artificial ring which would have dwarfed planets and even stars had there been any nearby.

    “Both Agamemnon and Eagle have followed us across the threshold,” said Leva from tactical.

    Michael stood from his chair. “All stop. Remember, let’s keep our distance this time.”

    “Aye, sir. All engines stop,” said Culsten.

    “Both ships are hailing us,” said Leva.

    Star couldn’t suppress a small grin. “Yeah, I’d think they would.”

    “Put them both on screen.”

    The image promptly changed to show Amaya on the left and Gene Edison on the right, both still focused on what their viewscreens and sensor data were telling them.

    “Quite a sight, isn’t it?” Michael said as he studied their surprised faces.

    “My God, it’s massive,” said Amaya. “Who built it and how?”

    “We believe a subspace dwelling race is responsible for constructing the structure with at least some form of assistance from the Krellonians. We don’t have all the details on how it was assembled but we do know that they possess technology far superior to our own,” said Jarik.

    “That much seems obvious,” she said.

    “Our sensors are unable to penetrate its hull,” said Edison. “How do we operate this gateway to send you back to where you belong?”

    Michael shook his head. “We’re not sure yet. It’s what we’ll need to figure out. Last time we encountered the structure it activated on its own, possibly triggered by our proximity. I’d rather avoid another such incident and learn more about the device before we try that again.”

    Amaya seemed to agree. “Considering the damage you took, that seems like a wise precaution. According to our initial scans, while we cannot penetrate the hull, we may be able to beam unmanned probes inside. I suggest we start our investigation that way.”

    Michael turned to find his science officer to get an opinion.

    “That should be feasible,” he said. “However, I would suggest we limit our initial attempts to a small number of probes. Since we have no way to determine the interior space of the structure, we may inadvertently cause significant damage should a transporter cycle be successful.”

    “We could attempt to beam in a couple of micro-probes to try and get the lay of the land first,” Star said.

    Michael nodded. “Let’s get started with that but we’ll do it from here. I do not want to risk approaching the gateway any further.”

    “That should be possible as we are within theoretical transporter range of the structure,” Xylion said while Star was joining him at the science station at the back of the bridge to get the ball rolling on their plan.

    Michael glanced back towards the screen and his two fellow starship captains. “I suggest we keep our efforts tightly concentrated for now considering what we already know this structure is capable of.”

    Amaya seemed to agree. “Makes sense to me.”

    “Just make sure you share any data with us as soon as you have results,” Edison added, clearly still less willing to cooperate than his colleague.

    “Of course,” Michael said. “Owens out.”

    Once the channel had closed Michael joined Star and Xylion at the aft science station. “What do we have?”

    Star pointed at a heavily magnified section of the ring structure displayed on the monitor. “We’ve identified this area as a possible entry point. We are ready to start deploying probes.”

    Michael couldn’t see anything special about the section she had pointed at. “Why that area?”

    “The hull pattern in that particular section contains an approximately point five percent variation to hull patterns compared to the surrounding area,” Xylion said.

    “In other words, you’re guessing.”

    Star offered a sheepish look. “Essentially, yes.”

    Michael glanced towards Jarik who had also joined them at the science station before he considered Xylion again. “Commander, hypothetically speaking, if this structure contained a powerful and possibly unstable molecule of some sort, what kind of damage could we be doing by blindly beaming probes inside of it.”

    Jarik’s expression made it clear that he didn’t like the question since it was bordering closely on violating the Omega Directive, which not only stated that Starfleet was obligated to eradicate any attempts at stabilizing the enormously powerful molecule but also restrict any knowledge of the particles. Michael decided that the question needed to be asked regardless.

    Xylion clearly found the query interesting enough to turn from his station to look directly at his captain for a moment as if prompting him to elaborate. “If such a molecule were to exist within the structure it would be highly dangerous to attempt beaming in the blind since we may accidentally breach any containment facility within the structure and destabilize any particles in the process.”

    He had expected something like that.

    But Jarik shook his head. “We have no other choice.”

    Michael and Star exchanged glances, clearly neither of them entirely comfortable with the idea of potentially poking a sleeping bear. Everything they had learned so far seemed to indicate that the Omega particle had been delivered to this location, ostensibly for the gateway structure, but there was no way of telling if it was contained within and if so in what kind of quantities. Considering its size, the structure could have easily contained immeasurable amounts.

    Ultimately Michael understood that this was most likely their only way back home, not to mention attempting to stop a potential invasion. He gave Xylion the nod to proceed.

    The Vulcan hesitated for only a moment but then turned back to the science station. “Initiating first attempt.”

    Michael held his breath.

    As it turned out, the ring structure did not rip itself apart in a fiery explosion, taking Eagle and the other two ships with it.

    Ship’s sensors lost contact with the probes the moment they had been beamed off the ship—as had been expected—and when Xylion attempted to lock in on those exact coordinates again to beam the probes back on board, all four probes returned damaged beyond recovery.

    It took three more attempts, each one just as harrowing as the first for Michael until some of the probes finally yielded results.

    “Sensor data from the latest probes indicates internal spaces sufficient in size to accommodate humanoids. Also reading the presence of gravity at a force of point eight gees as well as an atmosphere equivalent to a class K world,” said Xylion.

    “Meaning we should be all right in environmental suits,” said Star, looking at Michael.

    He nodded. “Very well, assemble an away team and let’s have a look inside.”

    Star tapped Xylion on the shoulder and then pointed at Deen sitting at the operations station at the front of the bridge. Both understood and rose to their feet to follow her to the turbolift.

    “I should go as well,” said Jarik.

    Star stopped and glanced back at the half-Vulcan. “I don’t believe that is a good idea.”

    “Quite honestly, Commander, I don’t care what you believe is or isn’t a good idea. I am the ranking officer here.”

    Jarik’s outburst had been so sudden that most eyes on the bridge had turned his way. It also reminded Michael that his old Academy friend was more human than Vulcan.

    Realizing that perhaps he had spoken out of turn, he addressed Michael in a much more contrite tone of voice. “I should go along.”

    “Commander Star is right,” he said as he carefully studied Jarik’s expression. “We have hardly any idea what to find over there. We’ll keep the away team as small as possible for now. Once we have a better idea of what we can expect, we might send more people.”

    There was no doubt to him that Jarik did not agree with that call but apparently he was not quite willing to challenge him on this and Michael was getting the feeling that the last word on this matter had not yet been spoken.

    For now, he exchanged a quick glance with Star, reaffirming his decision and she left the bridge with Xylion and Deen following close behind.

    Michael walked back towards the command area. “Mister Leva, please share our data with the other two ships and advise them that we’ll dispatch an away team.”

    It didn’t take long for both captains to respond, Edison clearly not happy with the development. “I have been willing to give you plenty of latitude in dealing with this but I am not prepared to sit by quietly while your people are investigating this structure by themselves. I’ll be sending my own away team.”

    “It might be advisable to keep away teams as small as possible,” Michael said. “At least for now and once we have a better idea of what we are dealing with,” he added when he could read from Edison’s face that he was not on the same page.

    “A few more additional bodies won’t make a difference for a structure of this size. I am not compromising on this point. I’m sending my own team,” Edison said, clearly with his mind already made up.

    A brief look at Amaya revealed that she was not going to interject on this occasion and Michael already knew that differently to Jarik’s earlier objection, this was not an argument he was going to win.
     
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  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Oh, methinks things are about to get even more complicated. Being as this Edison is clearly not a trusting soul, he and his people may end up working at cross-purposes to the Eagle Prime crew.
     
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  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    9


    Arriving in the transporter room, already decked out in a full environmental suit and carrying the helmet under her arm, Tazla was somewhat surprised to find Nora Laas waiting for them there along with Louise Hopkins, both equipped with the same style hard-suits she wore.

    “Lieutenant, good to see your back on your feet,” said Tazla. “And don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re back with us but I understand you’ve only just woken up. Joining an away mission may be a bit premature.”

    Clearly, the Bajoran was not having any of that. “I’ve been through much worse than a little, day-long coma. You don’t know what to expect over there, you’ll need all the help you can get.”

    Tazla seized her up for a moment but could spot no obvious signs that the security chief would not be up for the challenge. It had been half a lifetime ago since she had been a physician and she was sure that Elijah may not have agreed with her surface prognosis, but she decided to give Nora a clean bill of health for now. In truth, the value of having an experienced security officer at her side when possibly having to face off against a hostile alien species could not be understated.

    “Very well. Everyone ready?” she said and glanced at her four-man strong away team comprised of Xylion, Deen, Nora and Hopkins, each one wearing the red and white environmental suit and equipped with type-2 hand phasers and tricorders. Nora had opted for just her weapon, preferring to leave the data collection and analysis to more capable members of the team.

    She received quick nods from all four of them before everyone fitted their helmets on top of their suits and fastened them securely with another away team member double-checking that the seals were safely in place.

    Once that had been done, Tazla and her four officers took their places on the transporter platform.

    “Star to Owens. We’re ready to go down here.”

    “Excellent. If we should lose the ability to communicate once you are over there, I want you back at the exact same beam-in coordinates within five minutes and we’ll bring you back.”

    “Understood.”

    “Oh, and it looks like you’ll have company. Keep an eye out for an away team from the other Eagle. Their captain insisted on sending one of his own.”

    “We’ll be on our best behavior.”

    “I know you will. Be careful over there. Owens out.”

    Tazla glanced at Chief Chow standing behind the transporter controls, regarding the team with his usual beaming grin. “Energize, Chief.”

    He nodded and activated the controls.

    Thanks to her long Starfleet career, not to mention the vast experiences culminated over previous lifetimes courtesy of her symbiont, Tazla didn’t usually have trepidations before a transporter cycle and as her body was about to be disassembled atom by atom. But then again, she usually didn’t beam into vast superstructures impenetrable to sensors and which had previously only been visited by automated probes.

    She wasn’t quite sure if it was merely her imagination, but the cycle did feel longer than usual as she felt herself dematerialize on the pad on Eagle and for a brief moment she wondered what would happen to her and her long-lived Star symbiont if they both never rematerialized at all, lost for all eternity to drift aimlessly in the aether as microscopic molecules.

    That fear, irrational or otherwise, didn’t have enough time to fully manifest itself before she once again felt solid ground underneath her magnetic boots.

    She found herself, along with the away team, in what looked like a massive tunnel with the walls and ceiling high and wide enough to allow a starship the size of Eagle to pass through it, perhaps even two of them. And glancing in both directions, the tunnel seemed to continue on far beyond what was visible with the eye, but since the lighting was relatively dim and her suit beacon’s not nearly powerful enough, she couldn’t tell for sure. The internal dimensions, although massive, seemed to imply that she could see a small portion of the actual proportions of the ring-shaped structure.

    “Anyone else just get a shudder from the sheer size of this place?” said Hopkins through the comm unit of her helmet.

    “Agoraphobia is not uncommon among humans when encountering large and unknown spaces for the first time,” said Xylion.

    But the chief engineer shook her head slightly inside her helmet. “This isn’t just a large space. This is humongous as if it was created for giants.”

    Tazla increased the power to her suit beacons and the others quickly followed suit. The illumination inside the tunnel was just about adequate to get a feel for the massive scale of the interior but revealed very little detail beyond that. “We believe the builders were the same subspace aliens we encountered previously. From everything I’ve seen, they are of similar size to us.”

    “That is correct,” said Xylion who was the only member of the away team who had actually come face to face with those creatures. “It, therefore, stands to reason that the size of this structure is not related to the size of its builders.”

    “Unless they didn’t build it,” said Nora as she began to slowly move away from the group to establish a perimeter, her phaser already un-holstered.

    “Whoever did, I’d sure love to have a chat with them about it,” said Hopkins as she consulted her tricorder. “And we thought the Jenolan Dyson Sphere was big.”

    Tazla activated her communicator by pressing the corresponding panel on her suit’s wrist controls. “Away team to Eagle, do you read?”

    The response was not immediate but came with a short delay. “This is Owens, we’re receiving your signal, Commander,” the captain’s voice responded, sounding slightly distorted as if he were submerged underwater.

    “I'm hearing you as well. The signal is weak but you are coming through clear enough. I am instructing Commander Xylion to activate an uplink to his tricorder,” she said and indicated towards the Vulcan science officer.

    Xylion gave her a brief nod to acknowledge and then entered the necessary commands into the device. Once he was done, he glanced back at her with another nod.

    “We are receiving the telemetry now,” said Owens. “Including coordinates of your combadge signals and life-signs. That should be sufficient to beam you back on board when required. What’s it look like?”

    Tazla turned back around to take in the sheer size of the dim tunnel they stood in. “Massive. And we’re likely not even seeing a tiny portion of this thing. So far there are no signs of any threats but we’ll keep an eye out. I expect that we’ll need some serious assistance to investigate this structure.”

    “I think our best option might be using automated probes,” said Hopkins on the same channel as Tazla and Owens. “I’m just not sure if we can replicate enough to cover the entirety of this thing.”

    “We’ll start looking into that on our end.”

    Tazla nodded, mostly just for the benefit of the away team. “For now I suggest we continue to have a look around and see what we can determine at our present location.”

    “Agreed, Commander.”

    Tazla heard the sound of the transporter before she spotted the five columns of blue light appear a few meters away. The transporter effect was immediately familiar and practically indistinguishable from how Eagle’s transporter operated.

    “Looks like we’re about to have company,” she said. “I believe the other away team is joining us.”

    “Understood. I appreciate that could become awkward. Just try to do your best to work with them as much as you can. Owens out.”

    The five figures that ultimately gave way to the swirling energy patterns were each clad in environmental suits that looked just like the ones she and her team were wearing.

    She found herself holding her breath while she watched the other away team take on shape before her eyes. She had dreaded this moment ever since Owens had mentioned that Captain Edison had insisted on sending his own people to the structure to join them. She couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to meeting her opposite from another universe, like looking in the mirror and finding the person staring back at her to be an entirely different version of herself. And considering her poor life choices, she had to believe that her doppelganger had to be a far better version of Tazla Star.

    It was easy to spot the faces of the member of the other away team, illuminated by their helmets behind clear visors. She was a little surprised to find the team being led, not as she had feared by another version of Tazla Star, but by that Eagle’s captain himself, Gene Edison.

    Tazla had never met Edison since he had died before she had joined the crew but she had seen images of him and this version of him certainly looked similar around the eyes and upper face but also sporting a thick beard which apparently had not been something their universe’s Edison had been prone to do.

    Next to the captain stood pretty much the spitting image of Xylion, and at first glance, she could not tell him apart from the Vulcan she was familiar with. Edison had also brought his DeMara Deen who wore her blonde hair noticeably cut very short and spiked which gave her a much more serious demeanor.

    She recognized the fourth member looking very much like José Carlos, Nora’s burly deputy and at his side was a dark-skinned Vulcan woman who possessed the body frame and serious look of somebody working in security.

    The two away teams simply stared at each other for a moment, nobody speaking a word. Star could see that Edison’s eyes were locked on Nora Laas and she understood why.

    It was she who ultimately made the first move and approached the others. “I’m Commander Tazla Star, first officer of my version of Eagle. Captain Edison, I presume?”

    The man didn’t immediately react, his blank stare still focused on the Bajoran security officer behind her. Tazla moved closer, stepping into his line of sight and forcing his eyes on her.

    He finally looked at her with a slightly puzzled expression.

    “You are Captain Edison?”

    He nodded. “That’s right.”

    “I appreciate that this is a bit of an unusual situation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that you’re here. This structure is immense and we’ll need all the help we can get to try and figure it out. But I’m thinking that perhaps it would be in the best interest of everyone involved if we tried to work separately for now.”

    “And why is that?”

    She very briefly glanced at his officers. “We have two Xylions and two DeMara’s here. I don’t know about you but I think coming across your doppelganger could be a huge distraction and one we don’t need when trying to investigate a powerful superstructure build by a hostile alien race.”

    “My people are professionals, Commander. I trust them implicitly.”

    “As do I trust mine. But why take the chance?”

    Edison seemed to consider that for a moment. “Very well. What do you suggest?”

    Tazla had some reservations asking her next question but decided that it had to be done. “Do you have a version of me on your ship?”

    He looked at her closely for a moment before shaking his head. “I’m pretty sure we don’t. Commander Xylion is my first officer. Has been ever since I took command.”

    There was some noticeable pain in his voice when he spoke, Tazla noticed, leading her to believe that it hadn’t been a smooth command transition. Considering the absence of Michael Owens on his ship, she had a good inkling why that might be.

    “Have you perhaps met a version of me before?”

    “I think I would have remembered you, Commander.”

    “Never heard of me?”

    Edison was getting visibly annoyed by the questioning. “No, I have not. You seem surprised that I don’t know you. Are you considered an important person where you come from?”

    She quickly shook her head. “No, not at all. Quite the contrary, actually. Let’s just say that I’m glad my reputation hasn’t followed me across universes,” she said with a little smile to try and alleviate the tension. Edison’s stone-faced visage gave proof that it hadn’t worked. “My point is that since we both don’t know of each other, or rather of our counterparts, it may make sense that any interaction between our respective teams goes through the two of us.”

    “Fine,” he said with little enthusiasm.

    “This entire structure if far too large to investigate with the manpower we have available and since we cannot use external sensors, we are considering using automated probes. But I think our first task should be to investigate our immediate surroundings. Unless you have another suggestion, I say we do this the old fashioned way,” she said and pointed behind him. “You take that part, we take this one. We’ll keep an open comm link and regroup in one hour.”

    Edison hesitated for a moment and Tazla had the impression that he didn’t much care for being told what to do, especially not by an officer of lower rank and one not even native to his universe. Owens had warned her that Edison had been both skeptical and obtrusive ever since they had made first contact.

    “We’ll regroup in forty-five minutes,” he said.

    She nodded. “Sure.”

    He stepped around her to get another brief look at her team before he turned his back on them and indicated for his people to follow him.

    Tazla took a deep breath before she faced her own away team again. She still felt somewhat relieved that having to face her own doppelganger had become unlikely and yet she couldn’t help wonder what was worse, infamy or irrelevance.

    “What did he say?” Hopkins asked when she regrouped with the others, not having been able to overhear their conversation.

    “We’ll work together but to keep things uncomplicated, I’m going to be the one liaising with Edison,” she said.

    “Uncomplicated?” Nora said, shooting her an exasperated look. “That is Gene Edison over there. And Xylion and Dee. How is any of this uncomplicated?”

    “We have a job to do here, Lieutenant,” she said sternly. “Our mission is to find a way back to our universe and the only way to do that is by trying to figure out how this portal works.” She considered all four of them. “You are all Starfleet officers and we all know that weird is part of the job description. So let’s just focus on what we need to do here so that we can all go home again.” She let those words sink in for a moment before she singled out the security chief. “If you don’t think you’ll be able to do that, Laas, I understand and nobody will think any less of you if you were to decide to beam back to the ship.”

    Nora’s expression was one of total astonishment. Then her glare turned venomous. “That’s one hell of a thing for you to say to me, Commander. After your little speech about duty and dedication. I can handle this just fine. This man over there,” she said, indicating towards the other away team slowly moving away from them, “is not the man I used to know. This is just another mission, nothing else,” she said and then turned on her heel and walked off.

    Tazla looked at Hopkins next.

    The chief engineer offered a little nod. “I’ll talk to her,” she said and followed Nora.

    Tazla sighed and considered the remaining two officers. “Anyone have anything else to add?”

    Deen just shrugged in her suit. “I’m fine, Commander.”

    “Interrogating my counterpart could yield fascinating insights into the field of advanced quantum cosmology,” said Xylion but continued when Tazla gave him an annoyed look in response. “However, I understand and agree with our current priorities.”

    She nodded. “Good, then let’s go. This mystery is not going to solve itself.”
     
  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    That actually went better than I'd anticipated, all things considered. I loved your line, 'and yet she couldn’t help wonder what was worse, infamy or irrelevance.'

    Here's hoping they can work in the spirit of cooperation. Fighting the subspace aliens is hard enough, doing so while at odds with you alt-reality Starfleet peers would make a dangerous situation infinitely worse.

    Great stuff, CeJay! :bolian:
     
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  11. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I'm not only enjoying the plot but also the pacing. This story is coming together with methodical deliberation yet none of it drags.

    This mega-structure is really compelling. And now it's been suggested the sub space aliens might not be the architects after all? Wow.

    It's gonna be great seeing how these mirror reflection away teams deal with whatever awaits them. Things are already uncomfortable to say the least!
     
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  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    10


    “How are we doing?” Michael asked as he walked up the aft ramp of the bridge to join a group of science and engineering personnel that had assembled at the stations lining the back bulkhead, tasked with supporting the away team on the alien structure and led by Commander Leva.

    The tactical officer turned towards him as he saw him approach. “We have been monitoring the tricorder telemetry closely but it still doesn’t give us an accurate picture of the full extent and composition of the internal structure.”

    Michael nodded. “Taking into account its size it was perhaps overly optimistic to expect that we would be able to make much progress after sending just a few people over. What about using automated probes to assist with cataloging the interior?”

    Lieutenant Alendra sitting at the mission ops station took that one. “We’ll need a whole lot of probes to cover the entire structure. If we utilize all four industrial replicators we have on board, we can produce about thirty-five drones per hour, adding to the twenty drones we already have available in storage. I’ve taken the liberty to check in with Agamemnon and the other Eagle and they would be able to increase our output to about one hundred drones per hour.”

    Michael nodded. “That sounds like a decent number, good job, Lieutenant.”

    But the Bolian didn’t seem quite as enthused. “There is a bit of a problem.”

    Leva continued for her. “Our initial tests have shown that we lose contact and control with any drone we deploy after they have traveled just five-hundred meters within the structure. We’re not entirely sure why but it could be related to a yet to be identified background radiation we’ve detected. It does not seem to affect biological systems but it is playing havoc with drone sensors.”

    “If we could find a way to isolate and identify the nature of the radiation we might be able to find a way to compensate for it,” said Alendra.

    Michael’s first thought was that perhaps the issue was related to the Omega molecule that they suspected was somehow being used to power the trans-dimensional gateway. Since the Omega Directive was very specific about sharing information about the existence of the ultra-powerful particle, he was not exactly at liberty to speak about it in front of his crew. But he knew enough about Omega to know that its energy source was unique enough to be easily detectable by sensors, usually causing immediate warnings to a ship’s crew and captain. So far there had been no signs of this.

    “It might be helpful,” said Leva, “if we had any more information about this structure and how it was constructed.”

    He could tell his tactical officer was implying something but he wasn’t entirely sure where he was going with this. “What exactly are you suggesting, Commander?”

    Leva and Alendra exchanged brief glances. “We’ve been talking, sir,” said the Bolian. “Perhaps there are certain people on board this ship who know more about this structure than they are letting on.”

    “I can ask Bensu to come up here and try to help you. He has proven to be resourceful before,” he said.

    “That might help,” said Leva somewhat awkwardly. “But we were thinking about Mister Jarik and more to the point, your father.”

    Michael shot him a quizzical look. “How do you figure?”

    Alendra spoke again. “They both seemed to know of this portal’s existence before we ever arrived. Mister Jarik even knew the right shield frequency to allow us to cross into in-between space without taking damage. I—we just feel there might be more they are not telling us.”

    Michael could immediately see where they were coming from and he had to admit he felt a little embarrassed that he had not considered that sooner. After all, he knew better than most about his father’s proclivity to keep secrets and compartmentalizing information. He had to admit that after recent events and his miraculous return from the dead, he had done everything he could to avoid his father, including making a concerted effort not to think about him at all. Perhaps that had blinded him from questioning their true knowledge about quite possibly the only thing that was able to take them back to their home universe.

    He also found it somewhat strange that considering how important it had been for both men to find this gateway and prevent an impending invasion, neither of them was currently present to monitor their efforts.

    “I will have a chat with my father. In the meantime, continue to find ways to work around the problem with the drones,” he said. After both officers offered quick nods in acknowledgment, Michael tugged at the bottom of his uniform jacket and headed for the turbolift, leaving Leva in charge of the bridge.

    He had decided to head straight for his father’s quarters. He knew he had put off speaking to him for too long already, especially since his surprising departure from their previous meeting.

    However, once he got to the doors leading to the VIP cabin, he received no response to his repeated attempts to gain entry.

    Concerned about his father’s condition after he had shown signs of poor health the last time they had spoken, Michael used his authority to override the door lock.

    He heard the loud voices coming from within even before he stepped inside.

    “That is entirely unacceptable, and you know it.”

    “The decision is mine, Jarik.”

    “We have invested too much time and effort—“ Jarik stopped himself when he spotted Michael’s unexpected arrival.

    The two men were standing near the windows of the cabin, facing each other and clearly in the middle of an argument, heated enough that they must have missed the sound of the annunciator.

    “Apologies for the intrusion,” Michael said quickly. “But there was no answer. I was concerned.”

    “That’s fine, Michael, we’re done here anyway, aren’t we?” said his father, shooting Jarik a dark glare.

    “Yes, I suppose we are,” the other man said and then turned away, walking past Michael without slowing down and left the cabin.

    “Mind telling me what that was all about?” Michael said after the doors had closed behind Jarik.

    But his father just shook his head as he headed for the replicator. “Just a difference of opinion,” he said and uttered a little cough before asking the replicator for a glass of water.

    “Must have been quite a difference.”

    Jon Owens took the glass of water that had materialized and had a sip. “Nothing to be concerned about. I’ve just given Jarik a great deal of latitude to deal with matters while I was unavailable—“

    “Unavailable? Is that what you call faking your own death?”

    His only response was an exasperated look as if to say that he was done discussing this particular matter with him. But as far as Michael was concerned, he had still not been given a satisfactory reason for why he had gone to such an extreme measure in the first place.

    Jon Owens began to nod slowly. “I wish I could have told you why it was necessary,” he said and took a seat in one of the chairs in the lounge.

    “Well, you can start now,” Michael said and followed suit.

    “It’s not that easy.”

    Michael uttered a sigh. “Of course not. With you, it never is.”

    Jon looked him straight in the eye. “Listen, son, I have a great many regrets in my life and if I could do things over again, trust me, I would make very different decisions. I would make sure that your brother didn’t end up resenting me the way he did. I would find a way to keep Matthew from running away from home the moment he was old enough to do so. I would spend more time with him, with you and with your mother. I would make sure that we were a real family and not one in name only. Family is one of the most precious things in the universe and it took me some time to come to fully realize that.”

    Michael was stunned. He had spent half a lifetime accusing him of having been a poor father, of prioritizing Starfleet over his family and driving his brother away, and—perhaps somewhat unfairly—laying the blame for his ultimate death at his feet. If only he had been less insistent that Matt had to follow his father’s footsteps and join Starfleet, perhaps if he had only treated him more like a son, instead of a means to ensure his legacy, perhaps then his brother would still be alive, he had argued.

    In hindsight, he understood that it hadn’t been quite so black and white. While his father certainly hadn’t played the role of a caring parent to either him or his brother, and while his persistent expectations had played a role in alienating his brother from the rest of his family, it wasn’t entirely fair to blame him for his death which had come at the hands of Matt’s own colleague and friend.

    “I’m not sure if I’ve ever said this to you,” Jon Owens went on. “But Matthew’s death was very hard on me. I know it was hard on all of us. I know you suffered a great deal. But losing a son,” he said, shaking his head. “For a very long time, it practically debilitated me. I was a useless wreck for a long time and it took even longer for me to understand that you never come back from something like this. Not really. ”

    Michael could not remember his father ever opening up to him like this before and revealing his shortcomings and vulnerabilities. He had long ago given up hope that he’d ever admitted to his mistakes and his true feelings.

    “We only have each other, Michael. We are the only family we have left and I want you to know that I will do whatever it takes to make sure that what happened between Matt and me will not happen between the two of us. I don’t want to regret having lost another son, especially not while he is alive.”

    It took Michael a moment to speak and even when he finally found his voice again he couldn’t think of the right words “Dad, I don’t know what to say.”

    “Just promise me that we’ll make the effort.”

    “An effort for what?”

    “To close the gap that we’ve allowed to grow between us over the years. That we find a way to be father and son again. Even if it is for the first time.”

    He had often hoped—prayed even—that there was a chance to reconcile with his dad before it was too late. After he had learned of his sudden death, he had felt physically sick to his stomach when he realized that he’d never get that chance. And now here it was, offered unsolicited and unconditionally. It had caught him so entirely by surprise, he wasn’t sure how to handle it.

    He finally nodded. “I’ve always wanted that, Dad.”

    “We can make it work. I know we can.” He had another coughing fit then which he only managed to get back under control after taking another sip of water.

    “I want you to get checked out in sickbay.”

    He shook his head. “I need some rest. The dimensional jump has exhausted me far more than I thought. Half the crew was in a coma for hours. Turns out, jumping universes like that,” he said with a little grin, “is a young man’s game.”

    “I didn’t even realize until it was too late that you’ve been as stubborn about looking after your health as you’ve been with most everything else in your life,” he said, having learned only after his father had faked his death that he had suffered from a heart condition on which his faked death had been blamed on. “I thought it was what had killed you. Don’t let it be your undoing now, please.”

    “Very well. But I have no desire to go down to sickbay and be prodded by your doctors for all to see. I believe I have earned my dignity and sense of privacy. Send me a nurse with some sleeping aids so that I can get a good night’s rest.”

    Michael nodded, accepting the compromise for now and then stood. “Fine. But we’ll need your help with the structure. We’ve started exploring it but any intelligence you can share about it would help us immensely.”

    “I’m afraid there isn’t much I can tell you besides what you’ve already learned.”

    Michael wasn’t so sure how much he believed that.

    “Have a word with Jarik, he knows as much as I do about the subspace aliens and their plans. I promise to join you once I’ve recovered my strength.”

    There was little point in pushing his father since it was obvious he needed to rest. “I’ll make sure to get a nurse to come see you. And in the spirit of our conversation, quit being cavalier about your health. This fresh start you want us to work on will be for naught if you’re not around for it.”

    Jon Owens offered him a crooked little smile. “Don’t worry, son. I meant what I said. I want to see this through as much as you do. I won’t be going anywhere.”

    “I’ll hold you to that,” he said before he left the quarters, feeling surprisingly good about his relationship with his father for the first time in a long time and musing with some dark humor that all it had taken for him and his father to finally make up after a lifetime of confrontations and disappointments had been for him to die.
     
  13. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    There are obviously still secrets here yet to be revealed. What is Owens Sr. holding close to his vest? And is he terminally ill? If so, maybe his faked death was more than a cloak and dagger ruse---maybe it was an attempt to end his affairs on his own terms.

    Whatever happens, I'm glad he reconciled with Michael. This family has been carrying too much baggage and everyone concerned deserves a lighter load. Especially poor Michael.

    Keep those free refills coming, my good sir!
     
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  14. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I’d sic your CMO on Owens Senior.
     
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  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Damn it, I really want to take Admiral Owens' emotional catharsis at face value, but the man's track record is so bad that I can't quite believe he's being genuine. Especially when it's clear he and Jarik are still hiding crucial information from Michael and his crew.

    It's also probable that he's downplaying whatever is going on with his health. Call me paranoid, but I just don't want to see Michael dragged over the coals again after all that he's suffered recently.

    More, please, and quickly!
     
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  16. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I'd tie Jarik down and have Xylion do a mind meld on him. Those two love their secrets so much that they don't know when to tell the truth or be honest with anyone.
     
    CeJay likes this.
  17. SLWatson

    SLWatson Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    I have so many expanded universe tales to catch up on. But I'm thrilled you're still at it, so I definitely will be working on coming up to speed. <3
     
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  18. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    11


    The enormous size of the superstructure remained the number one challenge in trying to discern its function. Simply put, even with three large starships, there wasn’t nearly enough manpower available to investigate an installation that at least as far as its diameter was concerned, rivaled that of a small solar system.

    Commander Xylion had already postulated that even using all resources Starfleet could realistically assign to such an undertaking, it would require at least three years to fully map the structure, and even then, more than likely, many more questions would still remain.

    Using automated probes had made a significant impact. Science and engineering teams working on all three ships had not been able to solve the issue that the probes would stop operating correctly after a relatively short distance. The workaround first proposed by Lieutenant Alendra was simple enough: Deploy a relay of drones that could communicate with each other and thereby creating a sensor network within the superstructure that would steadily grow with each additional probe being added.

    Volume remained an issue. The three ships simply couldn’t produce enough probes to span the entirety of the structure and continuously replicating drones had its limitations, chiefly the amount of power this operation required.

    Consequently, after five hours of Eagle’s away team having stepped onto the alien ring, a mere point zero five percent of the interior volume of the structure had been mapped, and at the rate things were going, a quick end to the mission was not in sight.

    The probes had, however, already identified a few areas within the structure warranting closer scrutiny and both away teams from the two different ships had been dispatched to investigate in hopes to find clues to how the structure could be operated to send Eagle back to her universe.

    Tazla and her team materialized in another section of the gateway, the fourth different area they had explored since they had first arrived and to her it looked no different than any other section they had seen so far, just another part of the immense tunnel which all evidence seemed to suggest spanned the entirety of the ring. She could spot one of their drones a few hundred meters away, hovering above the floor, its regularly flashing beacon illuminating the area only marginally.

    Xylion, Hopkins, and Deen had their tricorders out again while Nora surveyed the area with her phaser, still not entirely comfortable that any part of this structure was truly safe. Considering that it had been constructed by subspace aliens as a means to facilitate an invasion, Tazla understood and endorsed her sense of caution.

    “The radiation variance in this section is point three-four percent below what we have previously recorded in other parts of the structure,” said Xylion as he slowly approached the far wall of the tunnel.

    “That’s hardly enough of an anomaly to be noteworthy,” said Hopkins, clearly not particularly excited about these findings.

    “Then again it could be incredibly significant,” said Deen. “Problem remains that we don’t have any frame of reference or fully understand the nature of the radiation.”

    Tazla joined the small science and engineering team. “Any chance the increased radiation levels could be dangerous to us?”

    Xylion glanced up at her. “We have no evidence at present that the radiation could prove damaging to biological tissue. However, considering its unknown nature, I would recommend that we continue to limit our exposure to the radiation until we know more.”

    “Our suits should provide us with enough insulation for now,” said Hopkins.

    Tazla nodded. “Anything at all here that could tell us more?”

    “I find this pattern interesting,” said the chief engineer, as she focused on the small display of her tricorder. “I’ve noticed it before but the anomalous readings in this section are making it even more noticeable.”

    Xylion seemed to agree. “The wavelength pattern seems to suggest a consistent particle flow.”

    Deen had seen the same thing. “And it is more heavily concentrated in this general area,” she said and stepped up close to the wall before carefully touching the smooth surface with a gloved hand. “There’s definitely something here. I can feel it.”

    This prompted all three officers to touch the wall and exchanging glances as they seemed to come to an unspoken agreement.

    Tazla couldn’t lay claim to an extensive science or engineering background. Her Starfleet career had been mostly spent in navigation, communication, and intelligence. As for Star, its previous hosts had been students of law, diplomacy, and medicine. Doren, Star’s first host, had been a mathematician as well as a philosopher, but she was getting the clear sense that he would have been just as much out of his depth here as she was. “Anyone want to clue me in as to what this means?” she said as she stared at the three officers with their hands pressed against the wall as if they were in silent and telepathic communion with whatever secrets lay beyond.

    Xylion removed his hand and turned to glance at her. “We do not have sufficient evidence to form a plausible hypothesis.”

    “Let’s be implausible then.”

    He raised an eyebrow, making it clear that speculating implausibilities were not within his wheelhouse.

    “Humor me.”

    “There is a mechanism at work. I think it might be just beyond this bulkhead and I think it is powerful. Really powerful,” said Hopkins, the awe in her voice not easily missed.

    “It would make sense,” added Deen. “Considering that the interior space we have seen so far, as vast as it may seem, only accounts for a small portion of the total width of the structure.”

    Nora moved closer to the wall. “So there’s a lot more we’re not seeing,” she said and offered Tazla a glance. “Another tunnel perhaps?”

    “It’s too early to be sure, of course, but I would venture that it contains the very mechanism that allows the structure to create the gateway we have traveled through,” said Hopkins.

    “Utilizing a power source entirely alien to us,” said Xylion.

    Tazla may not have been a scientist, but she thought she knew better in this particular case. If this structure used Omega as its energy source as both she and the captain suspected, it wasn’t nearly as alien to Starfleet as the Vulcan seemed to believe.

    “Do you have any notion of what this could be, Commander?” Deen said.

    Tazla shot the other woman a surprised look, not having expected such a direct question. She quickly cursed herself when she realized that she had let slip her usually so carefully maintained facial features for perhaps a moment or so. Deen had clearly picked up on it. Tazla didn’t want to lie to her people outright but she couldn’t exactly reveal what she knew either. The circumstances were anything but normal, of course, but the Omega Directive was very clear and left nearly no room at all for interpretation.

    “Captain Edison to Commander Star.”

    She was almost grateful for the interruption as she heard the voice being filtered through her helmet comm on a dedicated line. She raised a hand towards the others. “Hang on,” she said and then turned her back and took a few steps away from her team. “This is Star, go ahead, Captain.”

    “We found something here that I think you should have a look at?” Edison said.

    “Where are you now?”

    “About twenty-eight kilometers ahead of your position.”

    She turned to look down the tunnel and into that direction but at this distance, she knew it was hopeless to make any visual contact, considering the poorly lit surroundings. “What have you found?”

    We are not entirely sure ourselves. Commander Xylion seems to believe that there is a chance it might give us a better idea of what we are dealing with here.”

    Tazla naturally glanced towards her own Xylion, her mind needing a nanosecond to remember that he was talking about his XO and not her science officer. She was still hesitant to bring the two teams together. “Could you send us your findings? We could try and see what we can determine from here or the ship if necessary.”

    Edison hesitated for a moment. “To be frank, Commander, I don’t have the patience for that. Your people want to go home as soon as possible and I am quite eager for that to be sooner rather than later. So if what we’ve found here will let you do that, I’d rather we get it done now.”

    Not for the first time Tazla had to wonder if this version of Edison was anything like the one in her universe. From all she had heard and read about Eagle’s previous first officer, he had been an even-tempered, rational and likable person and capable officer. Captain Edison felt very much like the polar opposite. She uttered a little sigh. “I’ll contact the ship to have us beamed to your location.”

    “Good. Edison out.”

    After quickly explaining the situation to her team, she did as she had promised and got in touch with Eagle. Moments later they beamed into another section of the structure which once more looked exactly like the place they had just left. Except, of course, that Captain Edison and his people were there, all standing close to the center of the wide tunnel.

    Tazla walked towards the other group and the others followed. It didn’t escape her notice, however, that Nora, usually the first to take point in almost every away mission assignment, quietly slipped towards the rear as they approached Edison’s team.

    “What have you found, Captain?”

    “I’ll let Commander Xylion explain,” he said and gestured to his first officer.

    The other Vulcan stepped forward and Tazla once again couldn’t immediately get over the fact how similar he looked to the Xylion she knew. He may as well have been a clone of her science officer. But the man himself seemed unperturbed by addressing a team that contained his double. “We have detected a localized quantum variance which does not appear to match the quantum signature of the surrounding area.”

    Tazla glanced at her Xylion, hoping he would be able to translate this in terms she would more readily understand.

    “Curious,” he said. “Quantum signatures do not vary by location. Theoretically, everything contained in this dimension should possess the exact same signature.”

    “We still don’t fully understand in-between space,” said Tazla’s Deen. “For all we know things might behave differently here. Also, since none of us are native to this dimension, perhaps we are the source of the variance.”

    “We have accounted for that,” said the other Deen, gracing her own doppelganger only the briefest of glances.

    The other Xylion continued. “That is correct. We have ruled out any quantum anomalies that may be caused by our presence. What remains is not related to our own biological signatures or equipment.”

    “I would like to review your findings,” said the other Vulcan which for her sanity, Tazla had decided to think of Xylion Prime for the time being.

    “Naturally,” said his counterpart and passed him his tricorder.

    Xylion Prime studied the device which appeared identical to their tricorders intently. “Fascinating. The phenomenon seems to be restricted to a very clearly defined local area.”

    “Where?” asked Tazla.

    Edison and his team turned around to face an empty space just behind them. “It’s right in front of us,” Edison said. “Covering an area of about sixty-five square meters.”

    Tazla took a few careful steps closer until she stood right next to Edison. Peering into the poorly lit and immense tunnel, she could see nothing of consequence but empty space, even after she increased the light beacons of her own suit. “I don’t see anything.”

    “It stands to reason,” said Xylion Prime, “that the effect is not observable with the naked eye. However, I concur with Commander Xylion that the anomaly is present at that location.”

    “Any ideas what it might be?” said Tazla.

    “One way to find out,” said Edison.

    Tazla watched with concern as the captain stepped ever closer to the invisible phenomenon. His two security officers carefully shadowing him, visibly tensing at his insistence of putting himself at risk. Judging by the way the rest of his team didn’t comment on his actions, she assumed that it wasn’t unusual for Edison to expose himself to danger. Although Tazla was no stranger to leading from the front, she couldn’t help but think of it as reckless in this instance.

    “Captain, you are standing directly in front of the outer boundary now,” the other Xylion remarked.

    Edison carefully reached out with one hand only to watch it disappear.

    Tazla, as well as his two security officers, quickly rushed towards him but Edison seemed unfazed by losing his hand and half his forearm. Instead, he simply looked at the now-vanished appendage with curiosity. Then he pulled back and his arm reappeared, apparently entirely unharmed.

    He turned to the others. “Well, I say there’s definitely something here.”

    Tazla nodded. “I suggest we deploy a drone.”

    “Or we could just see for ourselves,” Edison said and before anyone else could respond, he took a step forward and vanished.

    Tazla couldn’t believe it and turned to look at the rest of his team.

    The other Deen simply shrugged. “Yeah, he does stuff like this all the time. You get used to it.”

    Carlos and the Vulcan security guard were the first ones to follow their captain. Then Xylion and Deen disappeared as well until only Tazla and her people remained.

    “I’m not sure that was wise,” said Hopkins.

    She agreed with the chief engineer but at the same time, she felt compelled to follow the others. “Star to Eagle. We have found what appears to be some sort of dimensionally-shifted space at our present location. The team from the other Eagle has already entered this space. We’re set to follow.”

    So’Dan Leva responded. “Understood, Commander. Proceed with caution.”

    “We will. Star out,” she said and then took a deep breath. “All right, here goes,” she said and then followed Edison’s footsteps but not before holding her breath.
     
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    The effect was instantaneous. She had crossed a barrier and found herself, it seemed, somewhere else entirely. Where? She couldn’t possibly tell.

    She stood on the outer edge of what looked like a circular platform constructed out of pure and bright blue light, twenty, perhaps thirty meters in diameter and surrounded entirely by some sort of transparent, silvery bubble. Beyond that thin layer, all she could see was a dark void.

    Edison’s team was there, curiously taking in their surroundings as she did, marveling at the way the layer surrounding them seemed to be malleable to the touch and reflective in nature. The other Deen had reached out for the bubble at the far side of the platform, and when she had pulled her gloved hand back, the bubble pulled back as well as if stuck to her glove and until it snapped back like a rubber band, causing the entire thing to ripple slightly.

    Xylion Prime and the rest of her team joined her just a moment after, seemingly emerging out of the bubble layer until they had taken on their familiar forms and the elastic barrier snapped back into place behind them and sending waves of ripples all across the half sphere.

    “Whoa,” was the only thing Louise Hopkins managed to say after she had stepped onto the platform and she took in her surroundings, otherwise rendered speechless for a moment.

    Deen nodded beside her. “What she said.”

    “Fascinating,” said Xylion but reached for his tricorder instead of joining his colleagues at gaping at this unexpected find.

    “First the invisible boundary taking us into in-between space and now yet another hidden pocket of subspace. I’m starting to feel as we’ve landed inside the largest matryoshka doll ever put together,” said Hopkins after she’d had a moment to take in this unexpectedly new and odd environment.

    Tazla had to admit that she wasn’t entirely certain what the chief engineer was referring to, and judging by the faces of the rest of her non-human away team, she wasn’t alone in her ignorance. However, back when she had been at the Academy on Earth, she did recall having come across a peculiar, globe-shaped children’s toy filled with water and white particles to give the impression of falling snow. Glancing around her, she felt very much like they had been transported into a massive replica of one of those toy spheres. Albeit, and thankfully, without the water or the snow.

    Edison turned around to face the new arrivals with a little smirk. “Sometimes it pays off taking a leap of faith.”

    Tazla still wasn’t sure she fully agreed with him on that but kept it to herself.

    “Where are we, Commander?” he asked his science officer.

    The other Xylion was already studying his tricorder. “Unclear. Sensors are not able to determine the nature of our surroundings. I hypothesize that our equipment is not correctly calibrated for this environment.”

    “Seems to be some sort of extra-dimensional subspace pocket,” said Deen as she slowly explored the space of the platform and then turned to look at Xylion Prime. “Maybe similar to the subspace realm you and the captain entered?”

    The Vulcan offered a brief nod as he looked up from his tricorder. “That is a valid theory, Lieutenant. Certain elements appear to be consistent with that subspace dimension.”

    Edison’s interested was piqued. “You’ve been here before?”

    Xylion Prime glanced at Star to determine if she was willing to let him explain. She offered a nod and he continued. “We were able to open a portal into the subspace realm which is home to the aliens we believe are responsible for constructing the gateway structure.”

    “Fascinating,” said the other Xylion.

    “So we are in subspace then?” said the other Deen.

    “We are not in the same realm we entered previously,” said Xylion Prime. “It is more probable that this is a different layer of subspace.”

    “How many layers are there?” said Tazla who was beginning to lose count of the many pockets of space they had encountered, none of which she had ever even suspected existed at all.

    “The study of subspace is mostly theoretical, however, Bran Theory posits that there are an infinite number of subspace layers known as brans which divide subspace,” said Xylion Prime.

    “I have a feeling that field of science is going to become a lot less theoretical,” said Nora as she was slowly making her way rounding the outer edge of the platform.

    Tazla noticed that Edison’s eyes were following her closely, not even making much of an effort to be inconspicuous about it.

    “All right, so what do we think this place is for?” she said, hoping to refocus the captain’s attention.

    “It may have something to do with this,” said Hopkins who had moved closer to the center of the platform where a ring-shaped wall about a meter and a half in height surrounded the dead center of the platform. Constructed out of the same blue hard light as the floor, it had four narrow gaps which allowed access to the otherwise unremarkable center. Peculiar looking lights were dancing on top of the wall with no immediately apparent purpose. They seemed to be nothing more than little sparks or dots of varying colors and unknown origin. The engineer carefully reached out for them.

    The lights shimmered slightly only to be replaced not a moment later by more substantial shapes.

    “Whoa,” she said again and quickly stepped back upon seeing the shapes appear out of nowhere. She turned to the others with a grin. “This is pretty neat.”

    Tazla and the others joined her at the center of the platform and quickly found more dancing lights which all turned into the same manner of shapes upon making contact. There were cubes, cylinders, cones, and other basic shapes, in various different colors and combinations. After a few moments, they had successfully managed to materialize an entire array of shapes on top of the complete width and length of the console-like wall.

    “This could be some sort of control panel,” said Edison as he studying the ring-shaped console with its many shapes.

    Tazla nodded in agreement. “Question is, how do we operate it,” she said and shot the captain a sharp look. “I don’t suggest we just start pressing buttons without knowing what they do.”

    Edison responded with a glower, not appreciating the insinuation that he was somehow impetuous. He addressed his own people next. “Mister Xylion, DeMara, why don’t the two of you work with the others to try and find a way to make this thing go. The rest of you spread out and keep a close eye on our surroundings. If this place can be accessed from any other location, I don’t want to be surprised.”

    All four of his away team members acknowledged the new orders and the two science-minded officers headed for the holographic controls while the two security guards fanned out.

    Tazla watched with some dread as Xylion and Deen joined their counterparts and Hopkins at the center of the platform. The two Vulcans, however, didn’t seem the slightest bit perturbed by working together. Deen Prime, on the other hand, gave her counterpart a wide and noticeable berth.

    The five specialists commenced to meticulously examine the shimmering ring-shaped console from all angles, determining quickly that the holographic shapes seemed as solid as the console and the floor itself and sensitive to the touch, indicating that they could indeed be manipulated, possibly for a very specific purpose.

    Nobody, however, could offer a clear explanation of what any of this was meant to do or how it could be used to control the gateway that had transported Eagle to another universe.

    With little else to do, Tazla gingerly made the trip back through the bubble, taking great care to exactly retrace her earlier steps. She passed through the thin layer effortlessly and the brief fear that she may simply fall off the platform and pummel into an endless dark void abated the moment she felt solid ground under her boots and found herself back on the megastructure.

    She didn’t stay gone long, just long enough to give Eagle and Owens who had since returned to the bridge a brief report about what they had found and that they were continuing to investigate.

    When she returned she discovered the team still hard at work.

    “I’m curious, Commander,” she heard Xylion Prime say quietly to his counterpart. “When we were on the Agamemnon, your Captain Edison seemed entirely unfamiliar with Bensu, leading me to believe that he has not been transferred into a physical body. If you allow this question, does he still occupy your katra?”

    The other Xylion regarded his counterpart with a raised eyebrow. “I do not understand your inquiry. No being other than myself occupies my mind.”

    “Fascinating. Tell me, Commander, did you encounter any unexpected life forms during your kahs-wan when you were young?”

    “No,” his counterpart said. “I was unable to complete my journey through the Forge on my original attempt. I succeeded only on my second venture. I encountered no anomalous life forms during either excursion.”

    Xylion Prime seemed surprised to hear about this but then discontinued that line of inquiry when he spotted Tazla approaching. The captain had since briefed her on Bensu’s extraordinary story and how he had apparently existed inside Xylion’s mind for seventy years before they had managed to transfer his consciousness into a synthetic body that seemed to defy even the Federation’s most advanced cybernetic technologies. As a Trill, with the knowledge and experiences of five different individuals residing within her, having two minds occupying one body wasn’t all that astonishing. Xylion’s ability to secretly construct an advanced synthetic body, however, was something she was sure would have to be looked into in more detail once this mission had concluded. She wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that Xylion’s counterpart had not encountered Bensu in his life.

    “Have you made any progress, Commander?” she asked Xylion Prime but quickly realized that it had caused both Vulcans to turn and look her way.

    “It is proving difficult to discern the functionality of this design without obtaining more knowledge about the people who have designed this interface,” said Xylion Prime.

    Hopkins and the two Deens’ joined the others. “It’s like trying to read without knowing the alphabet,” said Louise Hopkins. “Without a Rosetta stone, we could start making some guesses but considering what we’re dealing with here—“

    “That would be a very bad idea,” concluded DeMara Deen. Tazla needed a second to realize that it hadn’t been hers.

    She glanced back at Xylion Prime. “You’ve been here before. Or a place like this. You’ve encountered this type of alien technology. Isn’t there something you can determine from that experience?”

    “Unfortunately the technology here is markedly different to what we discovered in the subspace domain and we had insufficient time for an in-depth analysis,” he said.

    “So this is a dead-end,” said Deen Prime.

    “Not necessarily,” Xylion Prime said and considered Tazla again. “The captain had the most significant interaction with the subspace alien’s technology. He may have been able to retain relevant knowledge in that encounter.”

    Tazla nodded. “Record everything here. We’ll take it back to the ship and see what we can decipher there,” she said and then turned to look for Edison. She found him a few meters away, almost casually leaning against the light wall and speaking to Nora Laas.

    Tazla began to make her way over to them.

    “I never thought I see you again, Laas,” she heard him say.

    “In a way, you haven’t,” she responded without making eye contact.

    “I understand that. But you are just so much like her. So much.”

    Tazla could tell that the Bajoran was struggling with this conversation and when she looked up and saw her walk towards her and Edison, she tried to slip away.

    “Laas, wait,” he said and tried to reach out for her hand. He missed and instead made contact with the console and the holographic shapes on top of it.

    They responded to his touch and began to change, both in color and shape.

    The platform began to tremble beneath their feet almost immediately.

    Edison took a step away from the controls.

    “What have you done?” Tazla said as she stepped closer.

    He considered her with a glare. “It was an accident, Commander. Spare me the self-righteous lecture.”

    She wanted to shoot back that she had seen exactly how this accident had occurred. That he had been distracted with Nora Laas instead of paying attention to his surroundings but the rumbling was getting worse.

    Edison’s two security officers were moving to flank him and raised their weapons in anticipation of a possible attack.

    “I think we should leave,” said Nora Laas.

    “Agreed,” said Tazla.

    And then it stopped as quickly as it had begun.

    Edison smirked. “We’re fine.”

    She looked around carefully but could see nothing out of the ordinary. Everything seemed back to normal. “Still, there is nothing else we can do—“

    “Sir, watch out,” Josè Carlos shouted.

    Tazla saw it too late to react. Right above, the bubble surrounding them was rapidly changing from silver to a greenish color as something was pushing against it from the other side, bulging out the surface. A sudden bolt of energy penetrated the layer and shot out right towards them.

    Carlos was the first to react and pushed his captain aside but in doing so, the energy lance struck him across his chest instead. The force of the impact lifted the security officer high into the air and backward and right towards the bubble where he disappeared.

    Tazla looked back towards where the strike had originated from but other than the slight ripples caused by Carlos penetrating the layer, everything seemed normal again. She decided not to be fooled a second time. “Let’s get out of here, now.”

    This time nobody hesitated and both teams rushed towards the edge of the platform where the security officer had been catapulted through.

    Within moments they were back on the ring structure.

    “Over there,” said Hopkins and rushed towards where she had spotted the prone form of Carlos.

    The rest of the team quickly surrounded him.

    Hopkins took a knee next to him and carefully flipped him onto his back.

    The security man’s faceplate was shattered from the impact and his face was blank and drained of color. His eyes were open but unmoving.

    Xylion Prime was reviewing his tricorder. “He has suffered numerous broken bones including his spine. He is bleeding internally and his heartbeat is erratic. There is no brain activity.”

    “We need to get him to sickbay right now,” Deen Prime said.

    But her counterpart shook her head and took a knee next to the dying man. “It’s too late. He’s gone,” she said as she looked down at him with surprising detachment as if she was considering an inanimate object instead of a fellow crewmember. She reached for his eyes through the smashed visor and using the palm of her glove, she closed them.

    “There is still a chance,” Deen said.

    “He’s brain dead and his body is not far behind,” the other woman said, still on her knees, still looking at Carlos without a trace of emotion in her tone.

    Deen Prime looked at Tazla. “Commander?”

    She nodded and looked at Edison in turn. “We can bring him onto our ship but he’s your man, Captain.”

    Xylion Prime closed his tricorder, shaking his head ever so slightly. “His vital signs have ceased.”

    Edison regarded his security officer. “He died in the line of duty, protecting his captain,” he said and looked back up. “We’ll bring him back to Eagle and I’ll make sure he receives the highest honors for his brave and selfless actions.”

    Cold comfort, Tazla thought, and found it difficult not to blame his demise on the actions of his own captain. Although she felt angry at what she considered a needless loss of life, she also understood that this was neither the time nor the place to voice her feelings.

    She toggled her communicator instead. “Away team to Eagle,” she said, sparing one last glance at the fallen man. “We’re ready to come back.”
     
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  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    I'm behind, but I've read the first seven chapters, and this is quite a tale CeJay. The Garla twist was nice. I liked how you explained how she evaded being discovered on the ship for so long. And her taking off into this alternative universe is another nice wrinkle.

    Also, really enjoyed the action-packed beginning with Susan Bano. I like how you've added to the whole shard mythos, and I'm curious to see how the Object will be tied into what's happening with the Eagle crew.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
    SolarisOne and CeJay like this.