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
    The mystery deepens! I’m wondering if the team stumbled upon a kind of control nexus? It begs the question of what the hell else this thing does.

    As usual, Edison’s winning personality is a delight to all around him. A crew member dies while performing an act of heroism and Sunshine doesn’t bat an eye.

    Can’t wait to learn more about this mega structure. Keep those fingers flying over that keyboard!
     
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  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    12


    Bensu leaned in closer to study the colorful light shapes in more detail while an entire group of people watched him carefully and with noticeable anticipation.

    The bartender turned unlikely subject matter expert had spent the last ten minutes meticulously taking in every detail of the dimensionally-shifted room, from the shimmering blue energy floor, to the silvery bubble surrounding them on all sides, the dark and indiscernible void beyond, as well as what for all intents and purposes looked like a ring-shaped bank of control stations, constructed of solid hard-light.

    It was Jarik who lost his patience first, stepping up closer to Bensu. “Do you get anything yet? Do you have any thoughts on how to operate these controls and activate the gateway?”

    Bensu stood back up straight and turned to look at the half-Vulcan man, before slowly shaking his head. “I am afraid not. There is no doubt that the technology employed here is similar to what we have seen before, but I cannot seem to deduce how to operate any of this.”

    “This is a waste of time,” Gene Edison bemoaned, all but throwing his hands up in frustration and then turning his back to Bensu and the others.

    Michael was not yet willing to give up, however. “On previous occasions, you seemed to experience something akin to emotional triggers. Some notions you weren’t able to fully describe but which seemed to be entirely correct. Are you getting anything like that now with what you’ve seen here?”

    Bensu took another moment to take in his surroundings but the look on his face did not give much reason for optimism. “I can feel something and it’s not all that different to what I felt before,” he said before he turned to look at Michael again. “But it’s not nearly as strong or as concrete. Nothing, I fear, that could help us.”

    “Perhaps you need to see the real thing,” said Star. “This recreation is fairly accurate to what we’ve found over there but it isn’t perfect. There could be some elements which we are missing and which could help Bensu to get a sense of how this is supposed to work.”

    Bensu nodded. “If you believe it would help, I’d be happy to try it.”

    But Jarik shook his head. “I’m not willing to allow a bartender with no Starfleet training or experience to set foot on what could be an immensely powerful and unknown structure.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow to that. “I believe Bensu has already demonstrated his value to this mission. We would likely not have located this structure without his assistance in the first place.”

    Michael nodded along. “And he’s already visited one of these subspace domains which we wouldn’t have been able to escape without him.”

    But Jarik stuck to his guns. “I am still not sure how I feel about your decision to take him onto such a dangerous mission. What we need is one of those subspace aliens to show us how to operate these controls. Which would be an option still available to us if you had done a better job of securing the prisoner we already had in our possession.”

    Michael was about to shoot back an angry reply, ignoring for the moment that he hadn’t failed at securing their prisoner at all rather than having actively facilitated its escape.

    But before he could do so, his father stepped in. “It is what it is. Assigning blame now is not getting us anywhere to solve the problem at hand..”

    Jarik uttered a frustrated little sigh but then stepped down, acceding to the argument for the moment.

    “Son, you were in the subspace domain as well. According to your report, you interacted with their technology while you were there. Think carefully, does anything here look familiar?”

    Michael had been somewhat afraid of that question. His experience in subspace had not exactly been pleasant and one he’d rather forget. But he also understood that unless they could figure out how to make this technology work for them, they were stuck in a universe not their own and possibly unable to prevent an invasion of their quantum reality.

    He took a moment to study the platform and the consoles himself, joining Bensu while he tried to make sense of what he saw. Except for the fact that it employed some sort of unknown hard-light technology, the ring-shaped console didn’t look all that dissimilar to something one might expect to find on a Starfleet installation. It was certainly arranged in a similar manner, clearly designed to be accessed by individuals with humanoid characteristics, probably from a standing position. He could easily reach out for the shapes with his hands and manipulate them with little effort. The design and patterns of the symbols themselves looked only faintly familiar, however. Most seemed to respond to the movements of his fingertips as he hovered above them, making them even more intuitive than Starfleet-issue touch panel controls but he struggled to make sense of any of them.

    He shook his head as he looked back at the group watching him. “These controls are not arranged in the same manner as the one in the subspace domain. And even if they were, I wouldn’t know where to start. The only interaction I had was of a telepathic nature and it didn’t include an instruction manual.”

    Jon Owens was noticeably disappointed by hearing those words.

    “So nobody here can decipher this control scheme and we don’t have access to one of its operators,” said Tazla Star. “However, we do know of at least one person who has worked with the subspace aliens before and who might have some insight into how they think.”

    “Garla,” Michael said.

    Jarik immediately shook his head. “She’s gone.”

    “Using one of our shuttles,” Michael said. “Which means we should be able to track her. She’s not out of our reach.”

    “She might as well be,” said Edison. “Last we saw of her she was heading into Krellonian space. We can’t get her there.”

    Amaya, who hadn’t spoken much since they had assembled in Eagle’s holodeck, nodded. “I have to agree with Gene on that one. I don’t know what the Star Alliance looks like where you’ve come from but here it’s not an easy place to get into. The Krellonians do not like visitors and their government alternates between indifference and hostility as far as the Federation is concerned.

    “Sounds pretty much the same as what we’ve come across,” said Star. “And we do have some experience with the Krellonians. Not to mention a guide.”

    Jarik crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I don’t believe this is a good idea.”

    “We don’t have much of a choice. She is our best option at the moment. And she would have a vested interest to help us to get back home,” said Michael and glanced first at Jarik and then his father.

    It was Jon Owens who nodded first.

    Michael, of course, didn’t need their permission to proceed. His mind was already made up, but he also understood that things would go smoother if he had Jarik and his father’s buy-in. The last thing they needed now was another confrontation. Jarik remained noticeably skeptical of the plan but at least he wasn’t outright opposing it anymore, which was good enough for him. “The only question remains is how we do this. We’ll need a starship to catch-up to her and Eagle is not exactly in the best shape to do that,” he said, considering his two fellow captains.

    “I still think this is a terrible idea,” Edison said quickly. “And I’m not interested in playing any part in this. I’m not going to be responsible for starting a war between the Federation and the Krellonians.”

    Amaya, on the other hand, nodded slowly. “If you can assemble a team and a shuttle, I can deliver both to the Krellonian border. But I won’t be able to cross it. You’ll be on your own inside Star Alliance territory.”

    “Maya?” Edison said, flashing her a glare.

    “Michael is right, if we are serious in trying to help them get back home, this is our only play right now.”

    “You’re dangerously close to losing you objectivity,” Edison shot back.

    “What is that supposed to mean?” she said sharply, matching his intensity.

    Edison apparently was not willing to put into words what he had already implied and instead just turned away. “Do what you must then. But I refuse to get involved in this madness.”

    Michael decided to strike while the iron was hot. “Commander, take the Nebuchadrezzar along with Nora, Culsten and an SMT team onto Agamemnon and bring Garla back here. Whatever it takes.”

    Star nodded sharply.

    But Edison clearly wasn’t done yet. “You’re giving this mission to her?” he said, sounding incredulous. “You can’t be serious?”

    Star spoke up before Michael had a chance. “How exactly is that a problem?”

    “After what happened over on the gateway, I wouldn’t consider you to be the most reliable person for the job.”

    Michael couldn’t remember the last time his Trill first officer had lost her cool, but the fire now burning in her eyes as she regarded Edison gave ample proof that she was rapidly approaching that point. “After what happened?”

    “We lost a good man over there,” he said.

    “You lost a man over there because you were distracted, Captain. That death is on your shoulders and on yours alone,” she shot back.

    “Don’t you dare put that on me,” he yelled back. “None of that would have happened if not for you and one of your officers.”

    “That has to be the most obtuse thing I’ve ever heard in my life. And that’s counting all five of them.”

    “Watch your tone, Commander.”

    Michael had heard enough and quickly took a step forward and right between the two shouting officers who looked very much like they were just moments away from throwing punches at each other. He couldn’t let that happen. “Everybody, let’s calm down, shall we?” he said sharply, but reserving most of his ire for Star.

    The Trill needed a brief moment to notice his captain’s eyes on her but then quickly nodded and took a few steps back to put some distance between herself and the man who had riled her up so much. “Yes, sir.”

    Michael considered Edison next. “Captain, I appreciate your concern, but as you’ve made very clear just a few moments ago, you are not willing to participate in this mission. And with all due respect, I will choose my away teams as I see fit.”

    Edison’s angry glare lingered on Star for just a heartbeat longer before he acknowledged the other man. He nodded slowly and then tugged down at the bottom of his uniform jacket to recompose himself. “Yes, of course, Captain, I fully understand. And I apologize for losing my temper. That wasn’t very professional.”

    “Think nothing more of it,” Michael said quickly but purely to put Edison at ease. “This is an unusual situation for all of us. And I know how hard it is to lose an officer under your command.”

    Edison nodded very slowly. “It’s your away team, Captain and your decision. All I ask is that you keep Lieutenant Nora here.”

    “What, why?” Star said, apparently unable to help herself.

    Michael raised a hand her way to let her know to back down before considering his counterpart captain once more. “That is a legitimate question, Captain. Nora Laas is my chief of security and an essential part of any away mission.”

    “That is exactly why I want her here,” he said. “We are not going to sit on our hands while your people head out on this dubious mission of recovering somebody who may or may not help us with this gateway. We’ll need to get back over there and considering I’ve just lost my security chief, I want somebody with us who knows what they’re doing. I knew Nora Laas, I trust her.”

    Michael shook her head. “This is not the same Nora Laas.”

    “I understand that. But if she is even half as competent as my Laas, I want her on our team.”

    Michael uttered a little sigh. He didn’t like this at all but then he also understood that he needed to keep working with Gene Edison while they were guests in this universe. He needed to try and find a way to accommodate him. He nodded. “Very well, Nora Laas stays here.”

    “Captain?” Star said, clearly wishing to protest that decision.

    “Not now, Commander,” he said and then considered the rest of the assembled group. “Commander Xylion, please get the Nebuchadrezzar prepped to be transferred to the Agamemnon as soon as possible. Maya?”

    She nodded. “We’ll have plenty of room for her.”

    “All right, let’s get this underway.”

    With that, everybody offered short acknowledgments, some looking less pleased than others, as they all made their way to the exit of the holodeck which appeared in the form of an arch right at the edge of the platform.

    After a moment only Michael and Star remained, the first officer clearly having sensed his unspoken wish for her to stay behind.

    “Sir, I’m sorry about my outburst earlier, that was out of line but—“

    He stopped her with another raised hand. “Yes, it was, Commander. I need us all to keep a cool head here. This entire situation is extremely delicate and we won’t find our way out of it if we lose our tempers.”

    “I know, sir.”

    “What happened over there?”

    Star walked over to the still active holographic representation of what was an alien control panel, retracing her steps from when Lieutenant Josè Carlos had been killed until she stood exactly where Edison had when it had happened. “He was distracted, sir. He was distracted by Nora. I don’t know what happened to her in this universe, but clearly, there must have been a connection. He couldn’t stop looking her way from the moment he first saw her and once we got to this place he stopped even pretending that she wasn’t affecting him. His entire focus was on her instead of on his surroundings and it made him careless.”

    “And it got one of his people killed?”

    “Yes. And as tragic as that is, it could have as easily been one of us,” she said.

    Michael rubbed his forehead.

    “Sir, he’s reckless and impetuous. Gene Edison is not a good captain or a leader of men and that makes him very dangerous.”

    “I have to admit, it’s not exactly easy for me to see him again. Gene was a good friend and I have to believe that this man, as different as he may appear to the one I knew, shares some qualities with that person,” Michael said.

    “You said it yourself when you talked about Nora. They are not the same people.”

    “But they are not entirely different either,” Michael said. “We have all gone through very similar experiences, sometimes even identical ones. A few things obviously worked out differently over here.”

    “I don’t know if it is a good idea to leave Nora behind, sir.”

    “We’ve both seen first hand what the SMTs can do. I’m sure you’ll be fine without her.”

    But Star shook her head. “I’m not worried about my mission.”

    “Just be careful, Commander. And bring Garla back. I’ll make sure to keep my eyes on Edison.”
     
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  3. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    13


    She strode into the shuttle bay to find that the runabout Nebuchadrezzar had already been lifted from the below hangar onto the flight deck, ready for takeoff. The large bay door at the far end of the cavernous hall stood fully open. Since both Eagle and Agamemnon had returned to Cygni-98 to transfer the runabout, the open doors allowed for a splendid view of the colorful Amargosa Diaspora with only an invisible forcefield between the inside of the ship and the cold vacuum of space beyond it.

    The four SMT operatives who were to join her mission had already arrived, standing near the runabout, they were going through what looked like last-minute equipment checks, reviewing their heavy weaponry and several additional cases they were planning to bring along, clearly planning to be prepared for any eventuality.

    Other than the team leader Reynolds Sensabaugh or Sensy as his people liked to call him, the team was made up of Ivory, the tall Vulcan female operative of few words, Grunt, the short but stocky and seemingly permanently ill-tempered Tellarite and the Boslic woman Violet who had seemingly taken her moniker from the bright color of her hair.

    But it was Lif Culsten who approached her pretty much the moment she had stepped foot in the shuttle bay. “Commander, a quick word before we go?”

    She nodded while she kept her course for the runabout. “Let’s make it brief, I want to get underway as soon as possible.”

    Lif fell in step beside her but seemed hesitant to enter the ship. He shot a glance at the SMT operators in earshot before he looked back at her. “Somewhere more private perhaps?”

    It was clear he didn’t want to have this conversation in the open but at the same time, he was determined not to board the Nebuchadrezzar. Tazla decided she didn’t have time for this. She stopped and turned to face him. “What is it, Lif?”

    He uttered a little sigh when it became obvious that she wasn’t willing to take this discussion someplace else. “I just don’t think I should be on this mission.”

    “Oh really? And why not, if I may ask?”

    “Isn’t it obvious? Last time I ran into my aunt, she wanted to kill me for betraying her trust. If we need to bring her back here, the last thing she’s going to do is come with me. You stand a better chance of getting her back if I stayed as far away from her as possible.”

    Tazla looked him straight in the eye, trying to determine the real reason he didn’t wish to go. The fact that Lif had been unhappy about returning to Krellonian space in the first place, that he had been so opposed to the entire notion that he had avoided meeting with his aunt even after both she and the captain had urged him to do so, none of that was much of a secret and she suspected that after escaping Krellonian space the last time, he had hoped not ever having to return there again, regardless in which universe. “We’re heading back into Krellonian space, Lif. Last time I checked you are still the only Krellonian onboard. I think that is good enough of a reason to include you in this mission.”

    “But this isn’t even my home. For all we know this Star Alliance may have nothing in common with the place we visited a few days ago,” he said.

    She shook her head. “Everything we’ve seen of this reality so far indicates that things are very similar to our own quantum-verse. It’s just that the details are all a little different. And even in that case, this would still make you our most logical guide.”

    He broke eye contact for a moment and Tazla was wondering if he was trying to think of another argument to keep him from going. “Things didn’t exactly work out so well last time I went into Krellonian space,” he said when he looked at her again.

    “I remember, I was there,” she said.

    “So maybe it would be for the best if this time—“

    She didn’t let him finish. “Look, Lif, you’re going and that’s all there’s to it. Like it or not, you are our subject matter expert on both the Krellonians and on Garla. In my eyes—and in those of the captain’s—that makes you mission-critical. And I don’t want to waste any more time arguing this.”

    He got the message and nodded slowly. “I’ll go ahead and prep for take-off then.”

    She offered him a wide grin. “That sounds like an excellent idea.”

    He trotted off towards the runabout with his shoulders noticeably slumped.

    Tazla didn’t miss the looks she was getting from some of the SMT operators who had listened in on the conversation. Violet, in particular, seemed to have taken some interest in the exchange, judging from the smirk playing on her lips as she looked up from what looked a lot like some sort of portable missile launcher she was currently inspecting. Tazla silently prayed to any deity that would listen that they wouldn’t need that sort of armament on this mission.

    Before she could address the operators, she heard the heavy doors of the shuttlebay opening and when she looked that way, she spotted Nora Laas come rushing towards her.

    “Commander,” she said before she had even reached her. “I have no idea what happened but for some reason I was not notified of this mission in time. My apologies.”

    “None are necessary, Lieutenant. You are not on this mission.”

    The blank look on her face seemed to speak of genuine confusion. “What, why not?”

    She rubbed her forehead. Now, this was definitely not a conversation she wanted to have in the open. “It’s complicated. Let’s just say that your presence will be required here.”

    It wasn’t enough of an explanation for the Bajoran. “Commander, I am the chief of security. You are about to embark on a mission to extract a high-value target behind enemy lines, more than likely against her will. We already know that Garla is an extremely capable and dangerous individual. You’ll need me.”

    Tazla turned her back slightly to shield herself and this conversation from the operatives. “I am not disputing that.”

    “Then what is the problem? Let me come along and make sure this mission will be successful.”

    She tried a different tact. “Do you think the Niners are not up to that task?”

    Nora briefly glanced over Tazla’s shoulder to consider the SMT members for a moment. “Of course not. They have proven that they’re highly capable. But I didn’t ask for them to be transferred to Eagle to replace my role on away missions.”

    “This isn’t about you, Lieutenant.”

    Nora, however, saw right through that bald-faced lie. “Oh no? It feels like it is since I would have been the first choice to ensure security on such a high-profile mission. What’s happening here, Commander?”

    Tazla uttered a sigh and decided that there was no point in dancing around it any longer, not if she wanted to depart on schedule. “Captain Edison requested for you to remain behind,” she said and watched Nora’s face twist into a mask of growing anger. “To provide ongoing support in securing and investigating the gateway structure.”

    “This has to be some sort of joke,” she said, doing little to hide her frustration.

    Tazla shook her head. “I’m afraid not. It wasn’t my idea and the captain has agreed to Edison’s request since his ongoing cooperation is going to be essential,” she said. “So please, do not take this up with the captain,” she added since she knew that the fiery security chief had a tendency to take her grievances right to the top.

    “Don’t worry, Commander, he’s not the one I am going to have words with,” she said, turned on her heel and rushed out of the shuttlebay just about as quickly as she had arrived.

    Not a moment after the doors had closed behind her again, Tazla could sense that Violet had stepped up next to her. “You should have considered joining the Teams, Commander. No pesky personnel issues here,” she said with a wide grin, clearly enjoying Tazla’s frustrations before she boarded the runabout.

    The other three members of her team followed suit, each one passing her by and giving Tazla a very brief glance as if in silent agreement with Violet, including the tall and reticent Vulcan woman. The Tellarite, as if to stay true to his handle, offered her a simple grunt as he walked by her last and following his team members onto the Nebuchadrezzar.

    Tazla stood there just a moment longer, watching silently as the four operators boarded the runabout and then shook her head. “Things can only get better from here on in,” she said quietly and in doing so perhaps hoping that by saying it out loud, it would make it come true.
     
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  4. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Star has to deal with one officer who wants to stay behind and another who's furious over being made to stay. Exactly the type of melodrama she loathes, hah.

    Hers's hoping this Garla mission goes well. But I have a feeling Star is about run headfirst into the dissimilarities of this new universe.

    Lovin' it.
     
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  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Star was far more patient with Lif than I'd expected. Nora, however, is going to take the proverbial wrecking-ball to alt-Edison. I for one cannot wait to see that confrontation! He lost her, and she lost him, and the ghosts in the room will make for a very crowded conversation.

    Nice work!
     
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  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    14


    In order to facilitate the transfer of the runabout Nebuchadrezzar from Eagle to Agamemnon, both ships had exited in-between space to return to the Amargosa Diaspora and the subsequent trip from one shuttle bay to another had taken less than five minutes.

    Tazla Star glanced out of the viewport of the runabout’s cockpit once they had set down inside Agamemnon just in time to get a glimpse of Eagle moving away again. The ship deployed a signal buoy which they hoped would allow them to keep in contact, even within in-between space before Eagle slipped back into the rabbit hole and disappeared in a way that still left Tazla somewhat startled.

    The shuttlebay door closed shut and she felt the slightest bit of a jolt which indicated that Agamemnon had jumped to warp.

    Captain Donners had promised to take them as close to the border of the Krellonian Star Empire as possible which her ship could do much faster than the runabout would have been able to do under its own power.

    For the duration of their journey, both Tazla and Donners had agreed that her team would remain secluded on the Nebuchadrezzar to avoid unnecessary interactions between individuals from different universes. Donners, Tazla had found, was much more reasonable in that regard than Edison had been.

    It wasn’t a significant imposition since Agamemnon would reach the drop-off point in just a few hours at high warp since apparently the territorial border of the Star Alliance reached far deeper into the Diaspora in this universe than it did in theirs.

    Tazla spent her time being ferried to their destination familiarizing herself with the intelligence briefings on the Krellonian Star Alliance Donners had made available to them. It wasn’t much, she had quickly realized and even less information than the little insight their Starfleet Intelligence had gathered about the Krellonians.

    “Our best chance to enter Krellonian territory undetected is by passing through the Moebius star cluster which spans across much of the Diaspora. The high level of solar radiation in that region of space should help mask our approach,” Tazla said after studying the scant reports. “We should be able to reach the border in just under three hours after we have reached our drop-off point.”

    “Do we have any idea about the location of our target?” said Sensabaugh who occupied the runabout's cockpit alongside Ivory and Culsten.

    “Our last long-range scans showed Garla’s heading to be a direct course for the Piqus system,” Tazla said.

    The SMT operator shot her a skeptical look. “This woman is an experienced intelligence agent. We need to consider that she may have altered her course or otherwise disguised her true destination.”

    “Ordinarily, I would agree,” she said. “But Garla seemed to be unaware, or at least highly skeptical, that we had crossed into a different quantum reality. As far as she is concerned she is back in our universe and if she believes that, there is little reason for her to hide the fact that she is going back to her base of operations since she won’t be excepting us to follow her.”

    Sensabaugh nodded slightly, accepting the logic of her argument. “Then all that’s left for us to do is to find a way to enter the sovereign territory of a highly xenophobic race undetected, approach a likely hostile colony world, locate a single individual among a few million people, convince or more likely force her to come with us and then exfiltrate back into Federation space in once piece. And all that, ideally without starting an interstellar incident in this universe.”

    Tazla offered him a little grin. “That’s about the gist of it.”

    “And here I thought this mission might pose a challenge,” he said and regarded Ivory with a smile of his own. “Sounds like another day at the office.”

    The stoic Vulcan responded with nothing more than raising one of her finely arched eyebrows.

    “Lif, we’ll need some ideas regarding how we can fool Krellonian border security. If they are anywhere near as overzealous as the ones we’ve met in our universe, using the Moebius cluster to facilitate our crossing may not be enough,” she said, looking towards the helmsman who sat in the pilot’s seat even now while there was nothing much there he could do.

    He shook his head ever so slightly. “It’s a fool’s errand, Commander. We’re not going to get far,” he said without making eye contact.

    Sensabaugh bestowed Tazla with a concerned expression. And from what she could tell, it wasn’t so much what he had said but rather how he had said it that didn’t seem to sit right with the veteran operator.

    She knew exactly how he felt since it bothered her as well. And much more significantly than it bothered him, she wagered. Tazla left her chair. “Lieutenant,” she said sternly enough to force him to swivel his seat around to face her. “I think it’s time we’ve had that private chat you’ve asked for earlier.”

    Recognizing the hard look on her face, he nodded, stood and then followed her towards the back of the runabout.

    Tazla found a spare module which would allow them some privacy, a tiny crew compartment not much larger than a broom closet, and indicated for him to step inside first before she followed suit.

    The door slid shut behind her and the Krellonian turned around to face her, the sullen expression on his features a clear indication that he likely knew what was coming.

    “All right, Lieutenant,” she said, wasting no time at all. “You wanted a talk, talk.”

    “It seems rather pointless now that we’re already underway, doesn’t it?” he said.

    “Sir.”

    He shot her a quizzical expression.

    “Doesn’t it, sir,” she said again.

    It took a moment to dawn on him what she had done and he quickly straightened his posture as was befitting an officer speaking to a direct superior. “Yes, sir. Apologies, sir.”

    “Here’s the thing, Lif. You should know me well enough by now to know that I’m not a stickler for rules, never really have been. I like to work in a relaxed and informal manner with the crew when we are not faced with an imminent crisis and I think that arrangement had worked fairly well over the years, wouldn’t you say?”

    He nodded. “Yes, yes it has.”

    She pierced him with another look.

    “Sorry. Yes, sir.”

    “But you see, the only way this approach works is if everybody involved behaves like a professional Starfleet officer, and shows the appropriate respect to their fellow officers and crew, no matter their rank, and conducts themselves in line with what is expected from somebody who wears the uniform. Do you see what I’m getting at here?”

    He nodded slowly.

    “You have been selected for a crucial mission which as it stands at present, could very well determine our ability to ever return home again, and quite frankly, you have been behaving like an impetuous child.”

    “I … “ he didn’t quite have words to offer.

    That suited Tazla just fine for the moment. “I understand that you’ve struggled with reconciling your personal feelings for your people with having to return into Krellonian space. I know that none of it was your idea and that you had hoped never having to return to face your own people and their—well, let’s say complicated societal challenges again. But things don’t always work out the way we hope, especially not in Starfleet.”

    “I understand that, Commander, but—” he stopped himself again. “Permission to speak freely, sir.”

    “Permission granted.”

    “I honestly thought that I had started to overcome my misgivings about this mission. You are right; I wanted absolutely nothing to do with my people again. I was angry at everybody and nobody that I was forced to return there and even more so that you expected me to engage with Garla. But the thing is, Commander, she had a plan to finally make a difference for my people. A solution that would at long last address the terrible sins of our past and allow our society, both Krellonians and Outlanders, to move beyond our atrocious history.”

    “Yes, I remember. Total segregation of the races, was it? Not exactly what I would call an ethical or even realistic solution.”

    “Maybe, maybe not. But it was better than nothing. And while Garla hadn’t shared the details of that plan, she seemed convinced that it would work for everybody. And then it all went horribly wrong.”

    She shook her head. “You don’t know that it has.”

    But he was convinced and shook his head. “Of course it has. Garla feels betrayed enough that she wants me dead and whatever deal she has struck with these subspace aliens has clearly not worked out the way she had intended. But that’s not even the worst of it.”

    Tazla felt it best to let him speak, now that he had amassed some momentum.

    “I came to believe that I could genuinely help Garla help my people. Face the demons—if you allow the poetic turn—and not just those I’ve been dealing with most of my life, but all Krellonians and even more so the Outlanders had to endure. I thought I was part of the solution and instead I’ve ended up killing an Outlander with my bare hands on Piqus and helped kill perhaps dozens more on Garla’s freighter. The blood of all those people are on my hands,” he said and had started to divert his eyes as if he couldn’t stand any longer for her to see his shame. “I think that maybe—in my current mental state—maybe I am just not fit to be on this mission. I may be more of a liability to you and the team than an asset.”

    Tazla stepped up closer to him, which didn’t require much considering the confined space of the cabin. She placed a hand on his shoulder. “Lif, I know it’s been tough on you and I can see why you would blame yourself for the things that have gone wrong. I probably know better than anyone about that miserable feeling deep down in your gut when you realize that you’ve been responsible for somebody’s death. And I know that there is nothing you can do to rid yourself of it. It’ll be part of you for the rest of your life.”

    He turned to look at her with visible anguish etched into his features.

    “Understand, I am not equating what you’ve gone through, what you feel you are responsible for, with my own past. I still believe that you’ve mostly been the victim of unfortunate circumstances. Most of the awful things I’ve done in my life—well, I don’t blame anyone else but myself for them. And for a very long time I kept relieving the worst of those moments in my mind and punishing myself to the degree that I was pretty much useless doing anything else. What I came to realize is that I had a choice. I could spend the rest of my life beating myself up over my mistakes, or I could try to start atoning for them. What choice are you going to make, Lif?”

    He nodded slowly.

    She gave him an encouraging squeeze. “We’ll need your help with this mission, or things will get a lot worse for everyone. So I ask you, do you believe we can count on you? If you tell me, no, if you a certain that you’ll be more hindrance than help, tell me now, and you can stay behind on the Agamemnon.”

    He didn’t need to think it over. “I’ll do whatever I can to help, sir,” he said, sounding a great deal more determined than he had a few minutes earlier.

    “Good, we’ve got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to get it done,” she said and offered him one last heartening look before she headed for the door with him following closely behind.
     
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  7. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    This shows what happens when a society turns to extremists out of desperation. Lif is discouraged about conditions on his home world to the extent he's considering Garla's ideas.

    I can't help but wonder what this AU version of his people will be like, and what, if any lessons he'll take away from the experience.

    Keep doing what you're doing!
     
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  8. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    15


    Michael understood that their best shot at trying to figure out how the Ggteway operated was by hoping that Star and her away team would be able to retrieve Garla and find a way to make her cooperate. But even if assuming that the Krellonian agent was able and willing to contact the subspace aliens which had constructed the structure, there was no guarantee that they would cooperate, certainly not if his father was right and their ultimate goal was nothing less than invasion. Having been responsible for torturing a member of theirr race previously also would not exactly endear them to help Eagle find a way home.

    His father and Jarik had not been nearly as helpful as he had hoped in this either. He had considered them both, if not subject matter experts, at least the closest they had to one. After all, his father had made it clear that the pursuit of the ring structure had been one of his agency’s top priorities over the last few years and it had been his intelligence that had gotten them to where they had ended up in the first place.

    When the two men had first come onto Eagle, just before they had discovered in-between space, Michael had been concerned with the possibility of his father meddling with his command. Instead it had turned out that both men had a frustrating tendency to hide themselves away which would have suited him just fine if not for their current dilemma.

    All this meant that they couldn’t afford not to pursue every single avenue available to them and Michael had given Xylion and his team wide latitude to learn as much as possible about the gateway.

    When he entered Eagle’s main science lab to check on their progress, he found them hard at work. His chief science officer, along with Bensu, Hopkins and Deen where closely studying a holographic projection of the Ring currently being displayed above a console at the center of the lab.

    “Any progress?”

    Xylion turned to look at the captain. “We have arrived at a working theory about the operational nature of the structure.”

    This quickly caught his full attention as he stepped closer to the projection. “Let’s hear it.”
    “We don’t have any concrete evidence to back this up yet,” said Hopkins.

    “But it does seem consistent with what we’ve seen so far,” added Deen.

    “Noted. Don’t keep me in suspense.”

    “Our theory posits that the structure is essentially a massive particle collider,” said Xylion as he manipulated a control console which in turn altered the projection by removing the Ring’s outer hull and revealing a series of large conduits which ran the entire length of the structure. Small light particles traveled these conduits at increasingly higher speeds. “If correct, we believe particles are accelerated to levels of kinetic energy beyond anything we have come across previously.”

    Michael couldn’t deny that this was an intriguing theory.

    “What we cannot account for—among a number of other things—is what kind of particles are being accelerated within the Ring,” said Deen. “But even if we’re talking about your regular old protons here, or some sort of anti-matter—and we’re pretty sure we’re not—the power this collider could be exerting—“

    “Would be damn near incalculable,” said Hopkins, her eyes twinkling with awe as she kept them on the projection.

    “It certainly would be enough energy, we believe, to penetrate branes in subspace and creating gateways to other universes,” said Xylion, as usual doing a much better job at keeping his emotions in check.

    Michael could feel a cold shudder run up his spine. He couldn’t admit that he was an expert on quantum physics but thanks to Starfleet’s obsessive need to classify and compartmentalize information, he knew one thing that his more science-minded people did not. He was fairly certain that the Ring was operating on Omega molecules. Considering that some theories held that Omega had been present just before the Big Bang, possibly as the accelerating agent, this massive collider—if that’s what it truly was—may have been far more powerful than even his science team could guess at.

    He glanced towards the member of the team who hadn’t spoken yet. “What do you make of all this, Bensu?”

    The bartender looked over the projection for a moment, then at his fellow colleagues and then finally considered Michael. “It might be difficult to believe considering my close history with Xylion’s brilliant mind, but much of this science goes over my head. What I know—or rather—what I sense, is that there is an immense power emenating from the Ring.”

    “And we need to find a way to harness that if we have any hopes of getting back home,” Michael said.

    “I’m hesitant to suggest this,” Bensu said. “Mostly because I’m afraid of what I might find over there, but I think it is becoming unavoidable that I visit the Ring myself and see what I can—“ Bensu stopped suddenly, reached for his head and with a loud gasp fell onto his knees.

    “Bensu?” Deen cried and was by his side immediately, grave concern etched onto her features. Hopkins and Xylion were not far behind. “Science lab one to sickbay, medical emergency.”

    “What happened?” Michael said as he too quickly closed in on him.

    Bensu shook his head. “I’m not sure. I felt a powerful force just now. It’s the suddenness of it that caught me off guard. I’ve felt this once before.”

    Michael remembered. It had happened on the bridge just before they had been thrown into this alternate universe. “Owens to bridge.”

    “Leva here, sir.”

    “Commander, what is our status?”

    The tactical officer needed a moment to respond, likely checking the bridge instruments. “Unchanged, sir. All systems are operating as expected.”

    “What about the Ring? Any activity? Any sign of a gateway?”

    “We’re still having trouble getting reliable readings from that structure but no, there are no indications of any anomolies.”

    Michael exchanged a look with Xylion before he spoke again. “Very well, keep an eye on it and let me know the moment you detect anything out of the ordinary. Owens out.”

    Bensu was clenching his teeth. “It’s the same sensation, I’m sure of it. And it is close.”

    “Are you able to describe what you are experiencing?” Xylion asked calmly after having taken a knee next to Bensu.

    “It’s not pain exactly but it is very uncomfortable, as if every single synapse in my brain is firing all at once. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

    The doors to the lab opened to admit Doctor Katanga carrying a medkit over his shoulder which he promptly unslung after seeing Bensu on his knees. “What happened?” he said as he was retrieving a tricorder from the kit.

    “He just collapsed,” said Hopkins. “He says it’s the same as the last time this happened on the bridge.”

    The veteran physician took a knee as well as he began to scan his patient. “I am detecting significantly elevated brain wave activity but I can’t say what is causing this,” he said as he studied his scanning device. “Of course, if you had allowed me to study you in greater detail when I asked, perhaps I’d know what I’d be looking for now.”

    “Hindsight is a funny thing. Maybe you were right,” said Bensu through clenched teeth.

    “I’m a doctor, son, of course I was right.”

    “The good news is it’s already starting to pass,” Bensu added. “Just as it did the last time.”

    “That is not sufficiently acceptable,” said Xylion. “You seem to be sensing something in close proximity.” He glanced right at Michael before continuing. “It might be a danger to the ship and crew.”

    He nodded. “Considering what we’ve been through I tend to agree.”

    Bensu shook his head. “I can’t tell you what it is, I’m afraid.”

    “But perhaps you can help us locate the source,” Xylion said.

    Bensu considered him skeptically. “I don’t see how.”

    “You were able to direct us to in-between space before,” said Michael.

    “That was different. Don’t ask me to explain but this experience is not coming with directions. It’s just a very powerful sensation that, to be quite frank, is overwhelming my mind and my senses.”

    “Then, logically, what you require is another mind to allow you to focus on what is happening to you.”

    Katanga seemed to be the first to realize what Xylion was suggesting and quickly shook his head. “Absolutely not. I will not condone one of those hinky Vulcan mind melds your people seem so fond to administer with wanton disregard. They are highly unreliable and outright dangerous. It’s not happening on my watch.”

    Xylion glanced at the other man. “Doctor, you seem to forget that our minds were already linked—in a manner of speaking—for long periods of time and therefore are quite familiar with each other.” He continued before Katanga could raise another objection. “Furthermore, I am not proposing a full mind meld.”

    “What are you thinking?” Michael asked.

    “Consider it a bridge instead of a meld. Linking our two minds without fusing them and thereby keeping them as two entirely separate entities. It will allow me to support and stabilize Bensu’s thoughts and hopefully allow him to focus on the source of this phenomenon.”

    “Call it what you will, I still don’t like it,” the doctor said.

    Michael looked at Bensu still kneeling on the floor, still in noticeable discomfort. “I can’t order this. The decision is yours.”

    “Seventy years sharing a mind was really more than enough for me,” he said. “But we need to figure this out and I can’t think of any other way of doing that.”

    “I know I’m going to regret going along with this but at the very least we need to take this to sickbay where I can monitor this loony mind bridge procedure in better detail,” Katanga said.

    But Xylion shook his head marginally. “There is no time, Doctor. The longer we delay, the more likely the chance that we will lose the connection Bensu has with whatever is affecting him.”

    Bensu looked right at his long-time friend. “Let’s do it.”

    The Vulcan knelt down directly in front of Bensu and then reached out with one hand, each finger making contact with specific points on Bensu’s face. Michael had seen images of Vulcans performing mind-melds before and this didn’t look all that different.

    “Try to focus your thoughts on the sensation you are currently experiencing. Think of nothing else.”

    “Shouldn’t be too difficult, it’s like somebody is setting off fireworks in my head.”

    Xylion’s face twitched slightly as he seemed to be making contact with something.

    “I can sense you in my mind,” said Bensu. “Again.”

    “Pay no attention to it. Keep your mind focused.”

    For a moment neither of them spoke, or if they did, Michael couldn’t hear it and it was taking place telepathically. But it was obvious from studying their faces that something was happening and that Xylion was dedicating a great amount of effort and focus on what he was trying to accomplish.

    Katanga’s visage in the meantime was scowling harder by the minute, ready to put an end to this the moment he felt it was getting out of control.

    Xylion gasped and then fell backwards, Hopkins and Deen able to steady him in time before he he dropped to the deck.

    “Fascinating.”

    “Are you all right?” Hopkins asked, obvious concern lacing her voice.

    “I am unharmed, Lieutenant.”

    Katanga was running his tricorder over both of them. “I’m going to be the judge of that. How about you, Bensu, how do you feel?”

    He offered a little smirk. “Surprisingly much better. The sensation is gone.”

    “Were you successful. Are you able to tell the source?” Michael asked.

    Bensu shook his head. “I’m afraid not, Captain.”

    Xylion stood with Hopkins’ help. “However, I believe I do.”

    Michael wanted to ask how but then decided against it as he repriortized their next steps. “All right, let’s get an away team together and beam back over onto the Ring. Commander, do you feel well enough to guide us?”

    The Vulcan considered Michael with what appered like curiosity for a brief moment. “I am well enough, Captain. But there is no need for an away team.”

    Deen shot him a confused look. “What do you mean?”

    “The source of the disturbance is onboard Eagle.”
     
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  9. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I'm loving Katanga's sour comebacks regarding the mind bridge thing! He's a doctor in the best tradition of classic Trek, while being realistically professional.

    What worries me here is the disturbance Xylion is sensing. There's an ominous feeling about this last chapter. I think the situation is about to slide completely off the rails. I don't know what Owens Sr. is withholding, but now would be a great time for disclosure!

    Can't wait to see how the Eagle prime crew deals with what comes next.
     
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  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    16


    She ignored the many curious looks and double-takes she received as she determinedly strode down Eagle’s corridors.

    This ship, after all, was extremely familiar to her, even if she had never set foot on it before in her life. But as it turned out, the alternate version of Eagle mirrored her own in almost every detail.

    After learning from Star that it had been Captain Edison who had insisted that she stayed behind, instead of joining the first officer in her perilous mission to retrieve Garla, she had made a bee-line for the transporter room and asked to be beamed over to his ship.

    Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she knew it wasn’t the smartest choice to voluntarily surround herself with people from another universe, including taking the chance of running into her own double. She knew she wasn’t violating direct orders in doing so and Starfleet didn’t exactly have clear regulations about interacting with alternate universe counterparts or if it did, she had never bothered to look them up. But this wasn’t like the Temporal Prime Directive which was mandatory reading material for Starfleet officers since none of her actions would have any direct effect on the timeline of her universe.

    The looks on the faces of the crewmembers she passed by, however, made it very clear that she didn’t belong here and they reminded her to some degree of the astonished expression on Gene Edison’s face when he had first spotted her.

    At the time she hadn’t thought too much about it since his mere presence had completely thrown her for a loop. She had done, she thought, an admirable job to hide it from the rest of the away team, but in truth, seeing the only man she had ever loved and who had practically died in her arms two years earlier, seeing him alive once more, standing just a few meters from her, it had very nearly broken her.

    Her rational mind had played catch-up ever since with the emotional side of her brain having concluded—without a shadow of a doubt—that Captain Gene Edison was not the man she had fallen in love with. He was nothing like him. The beard he wore was the least that distinguished him from her Edison. This man was impulsive, careless and irresponsible, that much he had already proven on the alien structure. Worse, considering how he had made decisions and demands which were never his to make, he was also arrogant and overbearing.

    She was resolved to set him straight.

    The ship’s computer had helpfully advised her that the captain was in his quarters after she had beamed across, and the transporter technician behind the console had done little more than stare at her wide-eyed as she had simply strode off the platform and headed to where she expected the captain’s quarters to be. So far her only true faux pas had been her failure to be given formal permission to come aboard but as far as she was aware, nobody had ever been court-martialed for this kind of offense.

    She located the captain’s quarters in the exact same place they were on her Eagle, except that it was Gene Edison’s name that was printed on the doors instead.

    She practically punched the annunciator panel.

    It didn’t take long for the doors to open and Edison to appear. His uniform jacket hung loose and unzipped and his hair looked slightly ruffled as if he had just woken up. The dark circles around his eyes, however, seemed to make it clear that he had not gotten a lot of sleep lately.

    “Laas?” he said, unable to hide his utter astonishment at seeing her standing outside his quarters.

    Her boiling anger abated upon seeing his face again. Yes, the full beard took some time getting used to, but other than that, it was impossible to ignore that he looked identical to the Gene she had known. The man she had thought she’d never see again. She felt her knees weaken despite herself and momentarily forgetting what it was she had come here to say.

    “What are you doing here?” he said, still sounding as if he was recovering from the shock of seeing her.

    Her rational mind once again won out and she recovered from her state of confusion, her eyes aiming razor-sharp daggers. “You have some nerve, you know that?”

    Edison looked passed her and down both sides of the corridor, either wondering if she had come alone or if anyone else had witnessed her arrival. “Come in, please,” he said.

    Without a second thought, she pushed herself passed him and strode right into his quarters.

    Edison did one last sweep of the corridor before he stepped back to let the door panels slide shut again and then turned around to consider her, taking his time to look her up and down.

    Laas didn’t appreciate the way he studied her meticulously but then again, took the same liberty herself since she had only seen him wearing a full-body environmental suit on their previous encounter.

    It was startling yet again. His general stance, his facial expression, the way his blonde hairline parted slightly over his brow, even that little thing he did with his right eyebrow whenever he had been concerned or confused, she recognized all of it and seeing it again, it suddenly felt very painful, like looking at a reproduction in the holodeck which had faithfully created all physical details with perfect accuracy but had been unable to imbue this facsimile with a soul.

    “I’m so glad you came, Laas,” he said as he took a step closer to her.

    It was only then that she was beginning to wonder if she hadn’t made a terrible mistake coming here. She wasn’t even sure anymore what she had hoped to achieve. This was hardly the first time she had acted entirely out of anger or frustration, but she had worked hard over the years to find ways to control that aspect of herself. She had thought she had only recently made a breakthrough when she had opened her mind for the first time in her life to the Prophets of Bajor after unexpectedly coming across a temple dedicated to the gods of her homeworld in the last place she would have ever excepted to find one.

    She realized that all that hard work was now in real danger of crumbling and come crashing down on top of her.

    “I mean, look at you,” he said, still unwilling to take his eyes off her. “Just look at you,” he said again, a smile now beginning to grow on his bearded face. “You look perfect, Laas. Just perfect.”

    She slowly shook her head. “I am not the Nora Laas you know.”

    “Of course not,” he said, shaking his head slightly now as well. “Of course you are not. I’m sorry, Laas. It’s just so incredible to see you here like this. Just incredible.”

    “This entire thing is strange.”

    “Yes,” he quickly agreed. “Very strange, indeed. But, I forget my manners. Let me get you something,” he said and headed for the replicator to order beverages.

    She took a step to follow him. “That’s all right, I didn’t come here for—“

    “Kava juice?” he said, holding out the replicated drink.

    She took the glass gingerly from his hand, looking at it as if she had never seen anything like it before. Then he looked up at his expecting face. “Thanks.”

    “It’s your favorite,” he said.

    It was quickly becoming clear to her that this wasn’t going well, certainly not at all like she had played it out in her head beforehand. She put the drink down on a table and took a deep breath. “You had me taken off an away mission,” she said sharply. “You had no right doing that.”

    “I thought your expertise would be better suited to help us continue studying the structure. I know how capable you are, Laas. I wanted the best person for the job,” he said, putting down his glass.

    She shook her head. “It wasn’t your call. You are not my commanding officer and you should have no influence over personnel decisions on my ship.”

    “You are right.”

    “You put my captain into a difficult position by making these demands and I resent that a great deal, especially since it compromised a vital mission which is now underway without my assistance,” she said.

    “I am sorry.”

    She just glared at him. She wasn’t sure what she had expected him to say. At the very least some sort of justification, maybe even an argument but certainly not outright capitulation. She didn’t know how to work with that. “You are sorry?”

    He nodded. “Yes. You are absolutely right, Laas. I was out of line. Maybe—I don’t know what I was thinking—but maybe, subconsciously, I just wanted you out of harm’s way.”

    She uttered a little humorless laugh at that. “Out of harm’s way? I’m head of security. Being in harm’s way is my job description. And it’s not as if that alien structure is any safer. We’ve already seen that.”

    He nodded slowly, no doubt thinking about his slain officer.

    “You are right. On all counts,” he said with a heavy sigh. “I have exhibited poor judgment, I know that now. But I can’t undo what I’ve done. I can only apologize and promise you that I will not overstep like that again.”

    She stared back at him blankly, not sure what she was supposed to say to this while at the same time unable to dismiss that he sounded so much like her Edison, it was becoming increasingly difficult to tell him apart.

    He took a few gingerly steps towards her. “I will do whatever is in my power to help you and your crew to find a way back home.”

    “Thanks.”

    “I owe you that much.”

    “The captain will be relieved to hear that.”

    “If your Michael Owens is anything like the one I used to know, he’s a great leader and a good man. I’m still trying to fill his shoes and as you can see, not always that successfully.”

    “I’m sure you are doing a decent job,” she said, mostly because she felt she needed to say that.

    He shook his head. “We both know that’s not true but thank you for saying that. What was my counterpart like?”

    She had dreaded this question. He had apparently already deduced that her Edison was no longer around. “He was a pretty good man as well.”

    “Did you and he—were you together?”

    She turned around to leave, unable to look him in the eyes when speaking about Gene, unable to talk about him with the man who was his double in almost every way.

    He reached out for her arm and pulled her back around gently and Laas surprised herself by offering no resistance, glancing back into his hazel colored eyes.

    He nodded. “There was something there, wasn’t there?” he said. “Something meaningful.”

    She said nothing and she barely even moved when he stepped closer.

    She had no idea how it had come to that, but when his lips pressed themselves onto hers, she could have sworn that it was her Gene kissing her again. For a brief moment, it was like what she thought the Celestial Temple would be like, being surrounded by the Prophets who’d love her without question or condition. For a brief moment, she was back with Gene when things had been as good as they had ever been when she had found the one man she believed she could spend the rest of her days with. Before he had been violently ripped away from her and her world.

    It was, perhaps fittingly, the foreign sensation of his prickly beard against her face that forced her open again. Still pressed against the familiar shape of his body, she spotted a picture frame sitting on a shelf on the far wall. It was her smiling face that looked back at her from the animated photograph.

    She pushed away from Edison and freed herself from his embrace. “What happened to her?”

    He followed her glance towards the shelf and then walked over to the frame. “She died,” he said simply as he stared at her alternate version’s face and her short strawberry blond hair rustling slightly in the breeze. “It was my fault. We were on a mission during the Dominion War. There was a shapeshifter.” It was clear he meant to say more but the words didn’t come over his lips and Laas didn’t prompt him to continue, sensing his pain.

    “She saved my life,” he finally said and then placed the frame face down onto the shelf.

    She struggled to keep tears out of her eyes.

    She knew exactly what mission Edison was talking about. It had been the same mission her Gene had been killed. By that same shapeshifter. Of course, in her version, Gene had saved her and it had been she who had been plagued with survivor’s guilt ever since.

    He glanced back at her. “It went differently for you, didn’t it?”

    She felt a sudden shiver running up her spine as a sense of fear and confusion gripped her. She shook her head and took two steps backward. “This is wrong. This is so terribly wrong.”

    “Laas,” he said.

    “No, I should never have come here,” she said, turned around and rushed towards the doors.

    “Laas, wait,” he called after her.

    She was already out of his quarters heading back towards the transporter room in an ever greater hurry, knowing that she had to get off that ship and away from Gene Edison as quickly as she possibly could.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
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  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    That did not go how I'd expected. Not even close. It makes complete sense, of course, but... wow. :eek:

    And now we get a small glimpse at what might be driving this very different Edison. He's competing against Michael's ghost, trying to fill the former captain's shoes, and he believes he's failing.

    That makes for a troubling psychological profile.
     
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  12. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Just a tad awkward.

    I feel bad that she pushed herself into this confrontation. This clown isn't her Edison but close enough to send her emotions reeling.

    He was right about one thing...these two should'nt interact.

    Now I'm wondering how her counterpart and Michael's came to an end in this universe.
     
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  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    17


    Somewhat surprisingly, it had been Xylion, not Bensu, who was confidently guiding Michael along with Doctor Katanga, DeMara Deen, Bensu and a security officer across the ship, apparently having been able to glean the source of the disturbance which had now twice affected Bensu and which he had been able to interpret more clearly thanks to their shared mind link.

    They ended up on deck eight and Michael immediately made a mental calculation as to what was located on this deck. There were his quarters, of course, those belonging to Tazla Star and other senior officers, the entrance to holodeck one, as well as VIP quarters.

    Xylion came to a stop in front of the latter.

    Michael instantly knew who occupied that cabin. “Is this it?” he said. “Is this the source?”

    Bensu reached for his head as if he had felt another pang of pain. “Most definitely. It’s coming from just inside.”

    Michael wasn’t sure if the extra muscle was required it may have seemed inappropriate considering the rank of the person who occupied those quarters presently, but he felt like taking no chances and indicated to Josè Carlos, the deputy chief of security, who quickly drew his weapon.

    Then he did the civil thing and used the annunciator.

    There was no response.

    “Security override,” he said to Carlos.

    The muscled officer nodded and began to enter the required code into the panel next to the door.

    Michael felt his body tense up just before the two door panels split with a hiss.

    Whatever it had been that Bensu had felt, he was sure he could feel something similar the moment the doors had opened. Something he couldn’t possibly describe was washing over him, a tingling sensation he could sense deep in his core.

    Carlos could feel it too, momentarily taken aback by this unexpected sensation.

    Deen gasped and looked at him. “Are you sensing this?”

    He nodded.

    “What … what is this?” Carlos said, clearly somewhat disoriented by this unexpected sensation.

    Nobody had an answer.

    “It’s here,” Bensu finally said.

    He wasn’t sure what was driving him on, innate curiosity at what could possibly make him feel this way, or perhaps it was concern for his father, but Michael was the first one through the door.

    The lounge was empty and he continued towards the bedroom.

    He stopped in his tracks.

    In the middle of the room stood his father, holding in his hand a small and unremarkable silvery rod. Jarik was by his side and between the two men, an object was floating a few meters in the air. It was glowing in bright green and white colors as if it was made out of pure light. Not much larger than his head, the perfectly geometrically triangular shape was rotating slowly and filling the room with bright light.

    Both Jarik and his father were transfixed on it, and Michael couldn’t help but stare at it as well, sensing the power of the strange object deep within him.

    “This is it,” said Bensu after a moment, nearly whispering. “This is what I’ve been sensing.”

    It was only then that Jon Owens and Jarik took notice of the visitors. Owens dropped the device he had been holding and after a moment the light shape vanished as if it had never even existed, taking its light with it.

    The powerful force that had been penetrating him just a moment ago, disappeared just as quickly, although the sensation continued to linger at the edges of his consciousness.

    When his mind finally cleared again, he glared at both Jarik and his father. “Somebody tell me what the hell you’ve brought onto my ship.”


    * * *​


    “We’re calling it the Prism,” Jonathan Owens said, as he took his seat at the conference table along with Jarik who remained on his feet just behind him.

    Michael had taken his usual chair at the head of the table and Xylion, Bensu, Deen and Hopkins were present as well.

    Michael had also invited Gene Edison to the meeting after briefing him on what they had found in his father’s cabin. Captain Edison had chosen the chair to Michael’s right, the seat usually reserved for Star when she was present. Of course, it didn’t escape Michael that it had originally been Commander Edison’s chair once upon a time, and this version of the man—save perhaps for his full beard and the four pips decorating the collar of his uniform—appeared perfectly at home there.

    A former first officer having come back from the dead, however, was not on the agenda for this meeting, instead, it was a somewhat unassuming, small, silver and rod-shaped device sitting at the center of the conference table which currently held the attention of most of the eyes in the room.

    “Not that, exactly,” said Owens Senior, indicating towards the device. “That is merely a summoning instrument, an exhibitor if you will. It allows us to bring forth the Prism and its awesome power.”

    “Power to what end?” Edison said.

    “It’s difficult to say, precisely,” said the admiral.

    It was clear that nobody in the room was particularly comfortable with that answer and Jarik jumped in. “We have studied the Exhibitor and the Prism for the last six years, ever since we managed to obtain it at a great cost,” he said. “You’ve probably already felt its power yourself,” he added, looking straight at Michael. “ What we know for certain is that it affects the space-time continuum and possesses trans-dimensional properties.”

    “We learned about the Ring structure from studying the Prism,” said Jon Owens and received a noticeably dark scowl from Jarik in response.

    Michael rubbed his forehead as he considered the Exhibitor on the table which even now, as it lay there inert, seemed to be unable to entirely mask the power contained within.

    He looked towards Bensu. “What impressions are you getting from this device?”

    Bensu stared at it intently. “I certainly agree that it is incredibly powerful. I’m also getting the feeling that it may be very old.”

    “I appreciate the input,” said Jarik in a sharp tone, “but we’ve been studying the Prism for years. You’ve seen it for a few seconds. We have a fairly good understanding of what the Prism can do.”

    “In which case, please enlighten us,” said Michael just as sternly. “And you might wish to start by telling us for what purpose you were using it when we found you with it.”

    Jon Owens and Jarik exchanged glances but didn’t speak.

    “You said it has trans-dimensional properties,” said Edison. “It is connected to the Ring, isn’t it?”

    “We don’t know that for sure,” said Jarik.

    It wasn’t good enough for Michael. “You studied this thing for six years and you don’t know for sure? It showed you the Ring. You brought it with you when you went out to search it and you activated this Prism just now.”

    “And not for the first time.”

    All eyes darted to Bensu.

    “That’s right,” said Deen before looking at Michael. “This is the second time Bensu was affected by it. The first time was just before the gateway opened.”

    The pieces fell into place and Michael glared at his father. “You brought us here.”

    He shook his head. “Not on purpose.”

    “You're saying that massive Ring out there can be controlled by this little thing,” said Edison, glancing at the small rod on the table.

    “I don’t believe it can,” said Bensu as he stepped a little closer to the table from where he was standing near the windows. “At least not directly. But the Prism and the Ring are clearly related in some way. It opened a gateway when it was first activated and I suspect that a second attempt to do so failed.”

    Jarik remained stonefaced but Jon Owens nodded slowly.

    “You were trying to take us back home?” said Michael, looking at his father.

    “It didn’t work. We don’t know why.”

    “We simply have to make another attempt,” said Jarik resolutely. “Last time we used it we were far closer to the Ring then we are now. Reducing our distance may be all we require to make it work again.

    But Michael quickly shook his head. “I don’t think so. You don’t know nearly as much about this device as you think you do. And the last time we traveled through a gateway we nearly lost the ship. Not to mention that I still have an away team out there,” he said and then glared at the two men who had harbored this secret. “This is the kind of information you should have volunteered to us from the beginning.”

    But neither his father nor Jarik even made eye contact with him.

    “So what do you suggest we do?” Edison asked and for a brief moment, Michael let himself forget that this wasn’t his friend and former first officer speaking.

    Michael glanced at his science officer. “Commander, I want you to run your own scans on this device.”

    “You don’t think we’ve already scanned it with every sensor known to man?” Jarik said, sounding incredulous.

    “I have no doubt that you did. But we have something you didn’t have access to,” he said and looked straight at Bensu.

    He picked up on Michael’s insinuation straight away. “Sir, I’m not sure how much help I can be with this.”

    “Just like you weren’t sure about where to find the Ring or how you are connected with this Prism in the first place,” Michael said. “I get that you don’t understand what is happening with you and how you know the things you know but as far as I’m concerned, you are the closest thing we have to an expert on all the very odd things happening around here and that means I want you to work on this.”

    He nodded. “I’ll do what I can.”

    Jarik, however, didn’t appear particularly fond of this idea and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “The Prism is the property of Special Affairs and Investigations. I can’t just hand it over to you.”

    Michael offered a smile containing little humor. “Seeing that I have both the former and current head of SAI here, I’m sure we can work something out.”

    When neither his father nor Jarik offered a response he continued. “Gentlemen, let me be clear. This Prism of yours may be our best chance to finding a way back home and I intend to pursue it anyway I can and with all appropriate caution. You are welcome to oversee any of our efforts to investigate it further, but while this device is on my ship, it is my responsibility.”

    Silence fell over the assembled group in the room.

    When there were no further objections, Michael turned to Xylion. “Commander, I think your focus is clear. I expect hourly reports on your progress.”

    The Vulcan nodded and then approached the table to pick up the Exhibitor. He hesitated briefly as if whatever Michael had felt from the device was affecting him also. Then, while Jarik scowled at having to surrender the Exhibitor, Xylion took the device and left the room with Bensu, Deen and Hopkins following closely.

    Michael looked at his father again. “If there is anything else you’ve failed to mention regarding the Prism or the Ring or any other crucial information about us having traveled to another universe, now would be a good time to tell me.”

    Before his father could respond, Jarik spoke up. “You know everything you need to know, Captain,” he said, sounding much more formal than he had previously and then turned to leave the conference room.

    Jon Owens followed a moment later.

    Michael offered a sigh.

    “I don’t envy your position, Captain,” Edison said.

    He nodded to the other man to acknowledge the expression of sympathy.

    “And, Captain, I know I’ve been somewhat hostile towards you since you first arrived here. I suppose I’ve become rather suspicious over the years but regardless of my tendency of not trusting people easily any longer, I do wish to say that it is good to see you again. My Captain Owens was taken from us far too soon.”

    “I feel the same way. And I think, considering all the people we could have run into over here, I’m glad it was you, Gene.”
     
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  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    “You know everything you need to know, Captain.”

    At this point, Jarik is begging for an airlock! :censored: I'm actually shocked that Michael hasn't flipped out on the both of them by now.

    Both Jarik and Admiral Owens continue to dole out mission-critical information in dribs and drabs, usually only after being badgered by Michael or (as in this case) caught red handed with evidence of their duplicity.

    I'm gratified to see that at least Michael and Captain Edison seem to have come to an understanding.

    Hopefully, Xylion and Bensu can find something that SAI missed.
     
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  15. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Yeah, kinda what Gibralter said.

    I do admire Michael's composure, though. He's no hot head, but even he has his limits. You don't want to be at ground zero when a mellow person finally detonates, trust me.

    What if Owens and Jarik had succeeded in activating another portal with no advance warning? Damn, something tells me neither one of these guys has their wits about them.

    This is looking worse all the time. Can't wait for more!
     
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  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    18


    If the borders to the Krellonian Star Alliance had been well protected in their universe, here, in this alternate quantum-reality, it appeared the Krellonians were on a virtual lock-down, judging by the countless sensor buoys and automated watch stations which had been set up all along the outer boundary of Star Alliance territory.

    Tazla vividly remembered how difficult it had been to enter Krellonia space before—how it had very nearly led to a shootout onboard Eagle with an overzealous Krellonian inspection team—it seemed nigh impossible to approach the border in the universe without the people tasked to protect it from finding out.

    Their only chance lay with the Moebius Cluster the runabout was now rapidly approaching, or as rapidly as Culsten could navigate the ship through the challenging area of space which was constantly buffeted by powerful solar winds and radiation from several particularly dense stars which seemed more common in the Amargosa Diaspora than virtually any other corner of the galaxy she’d ever visited.

    It made for a turbulent ride even at low warp speeds.

    Tazla had always prided herself on her ironclad constitution but she had to admit, the way the small runabout was shaking and heaving, she wasn’t quite sure how successful she’d be in keeping her breakfast down.

    “We should consider ourselves lucky that we only have to skim Moebius to get into Star Alliance space. This would be another story altogether if we had to cut right through it,” said Culsten who must have caught a glimpse of her ashen face even while the majority of his focus remained on his navigational controls in order to avoid getting crushed by the gravimetrical eddies all around them.

    “Just keep us in one piece,” she said, trying to deflect from her growing discomfort.

    The small smile on his lips seemed to indicate that—regardless of his reservations previously—the helmsman was actually quite enjoying himself. Tazla wasn’t sure if it was the chance of making her queasy or the challenge of trying to navigate through what was for all intents and purposes, impassable terrain.

    “How confident are we that we will be able to cross the border undetected in this region?” said Sensy who induced Tazla’s envy in no small measure by the way he seemed to effortlessly whether their rough ride. In fact, the Special Missions Team operative had remained standing just behind her and Culsten, with just one hand holding on to the ceiling above to keep him steady. No doubt this wasn’t his first rough insertion into hostile territory. It also made her begin to think that perhaps starship duty had started to make her soft. Back in her days working as an intelligence operative, this wouldn’t have been much more than another day at the office for her too.

    “Back home the Moebius cluster is considered so treacherous, it is practically a natural border wall with hardly any patrols assigned to this area at all,” said Culsten as he entered constant course corrections. “Without trying to sound boastful, a lesser pilot wouldn’t get within a thousand kilometers into this cluster without breaking up their ship like a raw egg.”

    The runabout shook so hard all of a sudden, Ivory who sat in one of the back chairs was slung out of her seat, Sensy very nearly followed suit but managed to steady himself just in time while Tazla’s head only barely missed a very painful encounter with her console.

    “Sorry about that,” Lif said. “This cluster might be somewhat more volatile in this universe.”

    Tazla fired a dark glare his way once she had recovered. “Any chance there might be some other things in this reality you hadn’t considered?”

    He just shrugged and then turned back to his controls.

    Their nausea-inducing journey lasted a painfully-long four hours during which nobody spoke to allow Lif to fully concentrate on piloting the ship and judging from the sweat pearls which had begun to drip down his forehead, he needed his entire focus to traverse the outer edges of the star cluster.

    It was only once their ride finally began to smooth out again that Tazla allowed herself a deep breath which she hadn’t even realized she had avoided for most of their tumultuous journey.

    Culsten offered her a large grin. “That was fun, don’t you think?”

    “I think our definitions of fun are wildly divergent,” she said. “How long until we cross into Krellonian space?”

    The grin stayed on his face. “Technically, we’ve been within Star Alliance territory for the last hour. Thanks to taking this shortcut we’re just a couple more hours out from the Piqus system.”

    She glared at him again. “You could’ve said something sooner.”

    He shrugged. “I’m sorry, I was a little distracted.”

    Her features softened and she offered him a nod before glancing at Sensy behind her. “Get your team ready, Senior Chief,” she said

    He quickly acknowledged and moved into the back along with Ivory to get ready for their upcoming mission and prep his people which included the Boslic woman Violet as well as the Tellarite Charm.

    “I’m activating our sensor camouflage which should make us appear to anyone who’ll casually scan us as nothing more than a standard Krellonian escort,” she said as she activated the right panels. “That is if their ship configurations in this reality match ours.”

    “Uh, Commander, I’m detecting a vessel on sensors.”

    She turned her head to look at him. “A border patrol vessel? Did they get a chance to scan us yet?” she asked, concerned that they may not have been able to activate the camouflage in time.

    But he shook his head. “No, this looks like a freighter. Big one at that. It’s odd.”

    “What is?”

    “Well, there isn’t much in this sector that would warrant a freighter of that size.”

    She considered that for a moment. “The Piqus system used to be home to a large mining operation in our universe. It might still be going strong here.”

    “It’s possible but even if that were the case, this ship is on a course away from Piqus and not on any of the usual trade routes which would take it towards the core worlds. It’s heading the exact opposite way.”

    Tazla agreed that this did seem peculiar. Of course, they knew very little about the Star Alliance in this reality beyond the scant information Captain Donners had been able to provide them with. Her curiosity piqued, she decided to take the risk and scan the freighter. The results surprised her. “It’s not carrying any cargo. It is, however, jammed-packed with people.”

    “What people?”

    Tazla checked again. “None of them are Krellonian.”

    Culsten looked at her. “Outlanders.”

    “It looks as if they have detected us. They are changing course and increasing speed,” she said.

    Culsten looked at his sensor data. “To get away from us.”

    She nodded. “They’re reading us as a Krellonian ship and must be considering us a threat.”

    “I’m opening a channel to let them know we’re not.”

    Tazla quickly shook her head. “Belay that, Lieutenant.”

    “But, Commander.”

    “We’re on a mission to get to Piqus VII and extract Garla and we are inside hostile territory. We cannot give ourselves away at this point and risk mission failure.”

    Culsten seemed to understand this and nodded slowly.

    “Keep your eyes on that ship as long as it is in range, but we are staying on course and radio silent as long as we can.”

    By altering its speed and course, the freighter had apparently drifted within sensor range of other Krellonian vessels and Tazla and Lif watched on quietly on long-range sensors as three patrol vessels were quickly closing in on the large ship. Her worst fears about the nature of the packed Outlander freighter were confirmed when the border vessels began to open fire on it.

    “They are broadcasting a distress signal on all frequencies,” Culsten said.

    Even if they had the firepower to stand up to three border cutters, there was little to no chance that the runabout could reach the freighter in time, judging how determined these Krellonians were to stop that ship.

    After just a few minutes the freighter’s shields collapsed and they both watched on silently as all sensor data from the larger vessel disappeared, leading to only one inescapable conclusion to this drama.

    Culsten brought up the last data they had been able to gain from the freighter. “There were over three hundred people on that ship,” he said and stared at her. Tazla couldn’t quite tell if it was accusatory or just pure anger.

    She sadly shook her head. “There’s nothing we could have done for them, you know that.”

    “Doesn’t make it any better,” he said and stood from his chair to leave the cockpit.

    Tazla uttered a heavy sigh, realizing that this away mission was already off to a terrible start.
     
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  17. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I think I have an idea as to what that outlander ship was all about, but I I'll wait to see if my theory pans out.
    Tazla and her team are already running into divergences in this universe and they haven't even entered the system yet, which doesn't bode well.

    It's good that they have a hardened mission specialist team with them, there's no doubt they'll be needed soon.

    I can't wait to see what happened to Garla. Is she hiding? Or did she make contact and pass herself off for her counterpart? Or did she reveal her indentity to her counterpart and join forces? Or will they be dealing with that other Garla? Or is there even another Garla in this AU? So many questions...

    Great stuff!
     
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  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    That was a harrowing introduction to this universe's Star Alliance. Perhaps young Lif may get a chance to see Garla's vision brought to life in this alternate reality.

    I don't envy Tazla and her team this mission. It'd be near suicidal in the 'Prime' universe, and the odds must be stacked against them even more here.
     
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  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    19


    She hadn’t slept very well that night, or really any night since they had arrived in this alternate universe even though she was not usually prone to insomnia.

    She hadn’t complained and taken pains to avoid allowing her tiredness to show since she knew that people—even sometimes those who knew her—tended to assume that she was delicate, or even worse, fragile and somebody who needed to be sheltered and protected. That she was far too inexperienced, innocent, and vulnerable to be a senior officer on a Starfleet ship of the line.

    Considering her peaceful upbringing and her young appearance mostly due to her people’s inherent genetic profile some may have been forgiven to judge her solely on what they could see.

    But DeMara Deen was more than the proverbial pretty face. She had to be in order to survive in Starfleet during one of the most volatile decades in its existence. And it hadn’t been easy for her to reconcile the life she had come to know on her idyllic homeworld with essentially becoming a soldier fighting in a war to protect her adopted home.

    She had lost a few nights of sleep after Gene Edison had been killed some years earlier, this had been a hard blow for her and shattered some of that innocence she had still clung to, making her realize, perhaps for the first time, that her life had been forever changed.

    Her toughest lesson had come a few months ago when a man she had once known at the Academy—who had been her first real romantic companion—had been senselessly killed only shortly after they had unexpectedly rekindled that passion they had known so many years earlier.

    She had not slept well after that.

    Nor had she found restful sleep after she had returned to Earth to be reunited with a long-time family friend, only to learn that she could no longer truly understand her own people’s isolationism and their total dedication to pacificism even in the face of an undeniably dark and hostile universe set on chaos and destruction.

    And yet, none of those factors were on her mind when she had repeatedly failed to get more than a few hours of slumber over the last couple of nights. It had been one single person who had remained at the forefront of her thoughts ever since she’d encountered her. Somebody she’d never have imagined she’d ever meet in person in this manner.

    Herself.

    But not exactly herself rather than some alternate version of her who looked like her, spoke like her and except for some very minor physical differences seemed to be identical to her in every way. Except for—and this had become very obvious to her only shortly after first meeting her double—she did not think like her at all.

    DeMara had thought that she had done an admirable job to stay entirely professional and not to show any outward signs of her discomfort around her counterpart. She certainly thought she had handled it better than Nora Laas had after encountering Edison’s doppelganger, although properly not nearly as well as Xylion meeting his alternate version. Either way, the encounter had still profoundly affected her.

    So when she stepped into the science lab after another night spent tossing and turning in her bed and she found Captain Edison along with his first officer Xylion and also the other DeMara already in attendance, she decided that she had to confront the matter head-on instead of spending any more long evenings alone with her anxiety.

    The timing seemed right. The two Xylions were quietly talking to each other, no doubt discussing possible theories on the Prism artifact which had been secured underneath a forcefield in the lab. Bensu was standing alongside Louise Hopkins who was instructing a few junior engineering officers on final adjustments to the equipment and the captain, along with his father and Jarik who were all due to attend this meeting hadn’t arrived yet. Captain Edison seemed somewhat preoccupied with his thoughts and staring at the doors, appearing almost disappointed when she had entered.

    Her counterpart was standing by herself, carefully considering the unremarkable Exhibitor under its forcefield dome.

    DeMara stepped up to her and once more was struck by the uncanny resemblance but also how very different she looked with her hair so short, it was very nearly a buzz cut. She had never sported such a look herself, had never even considered ridding herself of her shoulder-long blonde locks, being quite fond of them.

    “Do you have a minute?”

    The other DeMara looked up and offered her a smile which she thought looked somewhat disingenuous. “Certainly. I’ve been looking forward to a chance to speak to you. I didn’t think you were interested.”

    The two women stepped into a corner of the science lab for some added privacy and DeMara gave her a surprised expression. “What makes you say that?”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know. I suppose just the look in your eyes.”

    “You’re telling me you weren’t surprised to see another you?” DeMara said.

    “Of course, I was,” she said and then glanced right into her purple eyes. “I recognized that look. Not that different from the look you have in those eyes right now. It makes sense that I would, since they are my eyes, too.”

    “And what does that look tell you?”

    The other DeMara glanced away for a brief moment as if unsure if she should say what was on her mind.

    “Please, speak freely. After all, we are the same.”

    She shook her head. “That’s just it, I don’t think we are. I suspect we are very different from each other. I mean, yes, we clearly look the same. I can tell in your universe you were cursed by that same aura—the glow, as people like to call it—as I have.”

    “Cursed? I like to think of it as a gift.”

    The other woman uttered a little laugh but it held little bemusement. “Somehow I am not surprised you’d think that way.”

    “Why?”

    “Because everything about you practically screams out virtuous saint. The way you wear that ridiculously impractical long hair, the way you speak, the way others around you seem to perceive you.”

    DeMara did her best to not take offense by those words. It had been a long time since somebody had successfully hurt her feelings but it wasn’t very often you were admonished by your mirror image.

    “I don’t mean to upset you,” her double said when she seemed to sense her thoughts. “You asked me to speak freely.”

    “I guess I didn’t expect you to be quite that free.”

    She shrugged.

    “I don’t see myself as a saint. But there is nothing wrong with using my gift—or curse, if you insist—to make life better for the people I care about.”

    “And tell me, how often has this gift of yours been abused? How often have the people you cared about asked you to use your so-called gift to suit their needs? To mollify an enemy or give them some sort of advantage?”

    DeMara had no immediate response to this. It was true that those kinds of things happened. That Michael would ask her to intercede in certain affairs. Her aura had a calming effect on most people and occasionally such talent came in handy when having to face hostile individuals. But she had never considered it an abuse of her powers before.

    “You’re still a lieutenant,” the other DeMara carried on. “Assuming your universe works like mine, I’m guessing by the department color of your shirt that you work in operations,” she said and continued when she received a nod in affirmation. She briefly glanced towards where the two Xylion’s were talking. “With your talents, you should be further ahead in your career by now and be at least a chief science officer, maybe a chief engineer.”

    “Progressing my career has never been my priority.”

    Her alternate crossed her arms in front of her chest, giving her a little smirk. “So you’re telling me you wouldn’t want to be heading your own science team? Perhaps we are more different than I thought after all.”

    In truth, of course, DeMara had always wanted to work in the sciences. That had been her educational background before joining the Academy and what she had been working towards back on Tenaria. She had specialized in astrophysics at the Academy and her first assignment upon graduation had been as a science specialist. She had only ever switched to operations when Michael had suggested the idea after the position became available on the Columbia, the ship on which they had both served.

    When Columbia had been lost and Michael had been offered Eagle, she had made the case to become his science officer but Starfleet had balked at the idea of giving somebody so young and inexperienced such a high-ranking position on a ship of the line.

    Alternate DeMara was reading her like an open book. “You didn’t insist on it, did you? Why? Because you didn’t feel as if it was your place? Because you didn’t want to upset the order of things? That position was yours to take, but you didn’t fight for things because you are not a fighter.”

    “You’re wrong about that,” DeMara said. “I fought in the Dominion War. I had to kill people and as painful of an experience as that was, I understood it was necessary. That it remains necessary to protect my ship, my crew and the Federation itself.”

    She shook her head. “I’m not talking about picking up a weapon and defending yourself. I’m talking about fighting for what you want and you deserve. I would never have made science officer if I hadn’t taken it.”

    “And how did you do that?”

    She smirked again and briefly glanced towards Edison who seemed oblivious to her at present. “I said it’s a curse but if you know how to use it right, it can open doors for you.”

    DeMara felt disgusted by the implication.

    “Oh don’t give me that self-righteous look. You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger. And you know what I learned then?”

    “I’m dying to find out,” she said, sounding perhaps a bit more sarcastic than she had intended.

    It just made her counterpart grin before her features hardened. “Everybody loves a saint but it’s the sinners who get the last laugh. Let me give you a little bit of free advice I wish I could have learned sooner in my own life. Toughen up and stop trying to be everybody’s best friend. Start looking out for yourself and take what you deserve.”

    DeMara had no idea how to respond to that.

    The doors to the science lab opened to allow Michael to enter, followed by his father and Jarik.

    “Nice chat,” said the other woman and then turned to rejoin her captain.

    DeMara looked after her for a moment, belatedly realizing how wrong she had been about her alternate version. They had absolutely nothing in common.

    What she was less sure about was if this was a good or a bad thing.

    While Michael approached the Exhibitor at the center of the science lab, Louise came over to join her. “I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to this,” she said, keeping her voice low. “I mean, how weird is it to have Gene Edison here? How about two Xylions? How about two of you? It makes me wonder if they have a version of me over on that other Eagle.”

    DeMara was keeping her eyes on her counterpart across the room. “Trust me, you don’t want to find out.”
     
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  20. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I like the subtlety in this AU storyline. DeMara isn't dealing with an evil doppelgänger, she's being confronted with the manefistation of a different choice. Her counterpart is clearly different because she chose a more agressive route towards her goals, deciding that cheating was fair to balance out her disadvantages.

    It creates a complex morale question that will no doubt haunt DeMara Prime for years to come.

    Wonderful storytelling, as always!
     
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