The Star Eagle Adventures: QD3 - Uncertainty Principle

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Sep 12, 2021.

  1. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Quite the fun trio and salient solution. Really nice blend of atmosphere, character study, ethics, action and humor in a single scene. Kudos!

    Thanks! rbs
     
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  2. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    I think Hutch just met his match.

    There's some good work here as the trio discusses the morality of manipulating another person, even if it's all for a higher cause. The one thing I keep thinking about is who, exactly are the powers-that-be in this universe that Hutch is so terrified of? The Dominion is the easy answer, but I have the feeling things may not be as they appear.

    Looking forward to seeing more of this hair-raising hell of an AU!
     
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  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Part II: Family of Strangers

    1


    With Eagle holding position in orbit around Arkaria and Tazla Star and an away team having beamed onto Hutchport to find a way to convince its proprietor to assist them with crucial repairs, Michael had decided to take advantage of the rare break in the seemingly ceaseless chain of events they had been entangled in recently to have a long-overdue chat with his father.

    He wasn’t entirely certain where he stood with the man with whom he had shared a mostly combative relationship for most of his life. It had only worsened after the death of his brother Matthew ten years ago. And it had recently moved into entirely uncharted territory when the enigmatic Starfleet admiral had led most in Starfleet, including himself, to believe that he had died, only to reveal that his death had merely been a ruse.

    A short-lived moment of relief that his father was alive had quickly given way to a rush of anger and resentment. Michael had not been entirely prepared for an uncharacteristic heart-to-heart they had shared after this mad universe hopping adventure had begun in which Jon Owens had not only admitted—for the first time in his life, Michael was sure—all the mistakes he had made that had allowed their relationship to wither the way it had, but also show genuine remorse. Michael had been stunned to learn that his father was looking to make things right between them after all these years, that he had committed himself to heal their troubled relationship once and for all. And Michael had believed him.

    But a lot had happened since this unexpected father-son moment. His health had continued to deteriorate, he had been abducted from Eagle and entire universes had died.

    And yet one thing had refused to leave the back corners of his mind over the last few and turbulent days. It had been something Jarik had said shortly before the alternate Michael Owens had incinerated the man on the spot. His former Academy roommate and friend turned adversary had in no certain terms alluded to an alliance between his father and Altee, a scrupulous intelligence operative from a now-dead universe who had sought to take control of the Ring and its ability to unlock access to the limitless potential of the quantum-verse.

    Admittedly, the half-Vulcan had surrendered this information while being tortured by the man DeMara Deen had taken to refer to as Dark Michael, meaning that nothing he had said at that time could be considered reliable intelligence. Even if some of it had turned out to be accurate.

    The nagging thought that perhaps his father had been working against them all this time in the same manner as Jarik troubled him and he was determined to get answers to those questions once and for all.

    Although perhaps not as quickly as he would have liked, since he received no response after triggering the annunciator of the VIP quarters assigned to his father on deck eight.

    After two more unsuccessful attempts, he became concerned, picturing his frail body lying unconscious somewhere within his quarters, having finally succumbed to his worsening condition.

    He used his authorization code to override the lock and the doors hissed open obediently, allowing him to step inside.

    “Dad? It’s Michael. Are you all right?”

    The lounge area was empty with no sign of his father so he moved on to the adjacent bedroom. “Dad, are you okay?”

    But he wasn’t there either and the washroom was empty as well.

    Walking back into the lounge he spotted what looked like a hypospray on the table and picked it up. It was empty. “Computer, locate the whereabouts of Admiral Owens,” he said but spotted what appeared to be his combadge on a chair even before he had finished speaking, giving him a good idea how his inquiry would be answered.

    “Admiral Jonathan Owens is in VIP quarters zero-bravo on deck eight, section four.”

    “Computer,” Michael tried again. “Disregard Admiral Owens’ combadge signal and locate his bio-signs.”

    “Admiral Jonathan Owens’ bio-signs have not been detected onboard Eagle.”

    Michael felt a sudden pang of panicked déjà vu. It hadn’t been too long ago that his father had been abducted from the ship and now he feared that it had happened all over again. They had taken numerous precautions protecting the Prism from being taken again but now it seemed they had not taken enough precautions to safeguard the crew.

    “Owens to bridge.”

    “This is Lieutenant Commander Xylion,” the science officer responded with little delay.

    “Commander, I’m in my father’s quarters and the computer just informed me that it is unable to locate his bio-signs on the ship,” he said as he walked over to the arrowhead-shaped communicator and picked it up. “I’ve found his combadge.”

    “Following the recent damage we have sustained, sensors are not operating at peak efficiency. Accessing the internal sensor logs directly might help determine the Admiral’s location. Please stand by,” he said while he presumably made his way to the science station at the aft section of the bridge to interface with the ship’s computer. “As I suspected, internal sensors have been affected by system damage to the main deflector and I’m unable to access ship-wide logs. It may be possible to query localized sensors and perimeter detectors to retrace his most recent movements.”

    Michael usually appreciated the Vulcan meticulous attention to detail in everything he did, but at present, he found it difficult to concentrate on his technical explanations. He just needed to know where his father was. “The sooner the better, Commander.”

    “Excluding your entry into the VIP quarters two minutes ago, the cabin doors were last triggered eighteen minutes and twelve seconds ago.”

    Michael nodded and stepped back into the corridor, leaving the channel to Xylion open. “So he left his quarters but we can’t be certain if it was voluntary or not. Where did he go next?”

    “Considering all activity in that section at the time, Admiral Owens most likely entered turbolift four shortly after leaving his quarters.”

    Michael was already heading in that direction. Xylion spoke again before he had reached the doors leading into the lift.

    “The turbolifts’ only stop in that time period was on deck six, section nine.”

    Michael ordered the lift to take him there once he was inside, his mind already cycling through possible locations on that deck. His suspicion that he had been heading for one of the two transporter rooms located on deck six was contradicted by his science officer the moment the lift arrived at its destination.

    “The main doors to shuttlebay three were triggered forty-two seconds after the turbolift arrived on deck six.”

    Michael made a beeline for the shuttlebay. He knew that any unauthorized shuttle launches would have alerted the bridge, even with internal sensors operating at a limited capacity. “Commander, check our inventory. Are we missing any shuttles?”

    The science officer needed just a moment to query the necessary databases. “All shuttles and support craft are accounted for.”

    The heavy shuttlebay door panels slid aside as Michael approached to reveal the cavernous flight deck. Not nearly as expansive as the Eagle’s main shuttlebay a deck above but still easily among the single largest spaces on the ship.

    A compact shuttle pod and a medium-sized type-6 were currently parked on the deck but neither craft looked like it was prepped for imminent take-off. The larger shuttle, the Emerson, had its rear access ramp lowered.

    Michael quickly made his way over to the Emerson and walked up the ramp.

    The shuttle was empty.

    “He’s not here,” he said.

    “I have no further data on additional movements,” Xylion said. “It appears this was your father’s final destination.”

    Michael considered that for a moment. His father had clearly come here but not, it seemed, to abscond with a shuttle. And yet it seemed unlikely that he would have made the shuttlebay his destination for a leisurely stroll.

    He took a seat behind the controls and activated the ship’s log but found that it had no recent activity listed outside of routine maintenance, either because it had not seen any use in a while or because the log had been erased.

    He swiveled his chair around to think. “What have you been up to, dad?”

    Xylion seemed to understand that the question had not been directed at him and did not respond.

    Then it struck him and he quickly swiveled back toward the controls to check the shuttle’s subsystems and just as he had suspected, they had indeed been activated. “Son of a bitch.”

    He made a note of what the instruments were showing him and then got out of the chair again, leaving the shuttle and heading for the exit with urgent strides. “Owens to security.”

    “This is Lieutenant Carlos,” the deputy chief responded promptly.

    “Lieutenant, meet me with a team in transporter room 2.”

    “On our way, sir. Carlos out.”

    Transporter room two was only a short distance away from the shuttlebay but Michael understood why his father had opted for the latter. Although the shuttle transporter was not as powerful it had been more than enough to get him to where he had been looking to go and by avoiding using the transporter room, he had smartly prevented triggering any alarms or having to confront an operator.

    “Sir, am I right in assuming that you have established your father has used the shuttle’s transporter to beam off the ship,” Xylion said, clearly having put the pieces together as well.

    “He beamed to Arkaria,” Michael said, trying hard to keep his rising anger in check. “And judging by the shuttle’s energy usage, he was alone.” Which, as far as he was concerned, meant that he had left the ship purposefully and out of his own volition. This time, nobody had forced him to go anywhere and Michael had no idea what could have possibly compelled his father to believe this was a good time to go on a solo excursion into an unknown and hostile universe. Whatever his reasons, he was certain that they were unacceptable considering their current circumstances.

    “Can I further assume that you intend on following your father?”

    Michael stepped into the transporter room and found a young Vulcan ensign whose name escaped him at that moment, manning the transporter console. Her surprise at seeing the captain enter the room flashed on her face for less than a second before she squared her shoulders and clasped her hands behind her back while awaiting her orders.

    Michael had none to give her and instead stepped up to the console himself as the ensign got out of his way. “I’ve got the coordinates from the shuttle computer,” he said as he punched them into the console. “And yes, I know what you’re going to say next but I need you to stay on the bridge while Star is still on that station. Besides, this won’t take long. We’ll beam down, get my father and bring him back. I don’t care if we have to phaser stun him to do so.”

    “Ordinarily I would suggest that we isolate his biosignature on the surface and beam him back on board instead of sending a retrieval team, however, the damage to our sensor arrays prevents us from carrying out that approach.”

    Michael nodded, having already suspected this much.

    “Sensors can confirm, however, that your father transported to an area of low population density outside a small conurbation on the easternmost continent of Arkaria. Sensors confirm a limited number of bio-signs in the area.”

    “Good, that means it won’t take long to find him.”

    The doors to the transporter room opened and Lieutenant Josè Carlos stepped inside followed by the slender-framed Petty Officer Skyler McIntyre and dark-haired and dark-eyed Betazoid Andrus Stadi. All three were equipped with standard-issue phasers at their hips. Carlos also had a tricorder.

    Michael retrieved a phaser and holster for himself, tugged it to his uniform, and then stepped onto the transporter platform. “We’re going after my father who has inexplicably beamed off the ship to a sparsely populated area on the planet a short while ago.”

    Carlos nodded firmly, giving no signs that he was concerned about suddenly being thrust into a position of having to safeguard the most precious cargo on board while on an away mission into unknown territory. Instead, he and his equally stone-faced security guards arranged himself around their commanding officer on the transporter platform.

    “I’ll remind you that my father is not an active-duty Starfleet admiral at this time and wields no authority whatsoever. We will bring him back here if he wishes to or not,” he said and took a moment to look each of the three members of his away team in the eye to ensure that there were no misunderstandings.

    “Understood, sir,” Carlos said sharply.

    Michael glanced at the transporter operator next. “Ensign, beam us to the coordinates I’ve provided. Energize when ready.”

    The efficient Vulcan did so without delay and within moments they had exchanged their starship surroundings for those of a rural area on Arkaria, materializing close to an arrangement of three old-fashioned warehouses that looked like they may have been used to house farming equipment or produce at some point in the past but had been converted into something with a less agricultural function.

    The climate reminded Michael of a cool autumn night in his native Wisconsin on Earth. Just a tad too cold to be comfortable with the steam from their breaths visible in the air.

    There were signs of a larger settlement a few kilometers to the west and hills that eventually gave way to mountain ranges in the other directions. The nearest building had large windows on the ground floor, revealing a well-lit interior but Michael couldn’t see anyone inside from where he stood.

    “I’m detecting three life signs, all humans, within the nearest structure,” said Carlos who had flipped open his tricorder.

    Michael nodded in acknowledgment and headed out for what looked like a set of doors leading inside.

    The door turned out to be a manual slide gate and Carlos quickly helped him push it open enough to allow them to enter.

    Beyond it, they found what looked very much like some sort of workshop with assorted machinery, technical diagrams, and various gadgets and devices in different stages of assembly.

    Michael was drawn to a set of large whiteboards that contained detailed sketches and plans for concepts he was only barely familiar with.

    There were intricate diagrams for polaron-based weapons and shields and another for what looked like a quantum-based warp engine that took up two boards and which as far as Michael understood was something still in the conceptual phase at Starfleet R&D.

    His eyes were drawn to another sketch that felt eerily familiar to him for some reason although he couldn’t quite place it. It had something to do with dark-matter energy. But it was the sight of a severed and partially deconstructed head of a male Borg drone that captured his immediate attention as well as that of the away team.

    “Is that thing real?” McIntrye asked as she carefully approached the head where it had been propped up on a stand in the workshop.

    “If it is, it’s long dead,” said Stadi who as a Betazoid was able to detect telepathic energies from most living beings. Undaunted by the disturbing sight of the severed head, he walked up next to it to get a closer look at it.

    Michael couldn’t help but be equally intrigued by it. The head was almost cleanly cut open along its right side as if somebody had taken a laser scalpel to it and it revealed heavily assimilated brain tissue with visible mechanical parts fused directly to the organic matter.

    Perhaps most interesting in a disturbing sort of way was the cubical device implanted deep within its right eye socket. “That must be its myoneural cortical array,” Michael said, remembering his mandatory Borg briefings that had swept across Starfleet after their repeated attempts to assimilate the Federation.

    A set of loud voices coming from somewhere nearby quickly refocused his attention.

    Carlos indicated toward a door leading deeper into the building as the most likely source of those voices.

    Michael gestured for the away team to ready their weapons as he did the same and then prepared to open the door.

    He checked his people were ready before he pushed the door open and then was the first one through it, with the security team right at his heels.

    His father stood in the middle of the room with his back to him, speaking to another person Michael couldn’t see.

    “Dad,” he hissed angrily. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?”

    His father turned around and stepped aside, allowing him to see the person he had been addressing.

    The sight rooted Michael to the spot instantly and he could literally feel his jaw drop while his heart had seemingly stopped beating.

    “Matt?”
     
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  4. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Yeah... Matt is doomed... He's always doomed... But what an interesting twist. And what a breathtakingly inconvenient moment to go AWOL on an away mission in a (probably doomed) alternate universe. Dibs that there is an alt-Jarik running about nearby...

    Thanks!! rbs
     
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  5. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Here’s some great detail again. On a Starfleet ship pretty much all machine activity is recorded. This is something canon writers often forget. So the deductive work done by Xylion in determining Owen’s whereabouts was awesome and made sense.

    Now Michael has a ghost to deal with! This dude is gonna need a lot of therapy when this is over.
     
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  6. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    2


    He had witnessed a great many wondrous things in his long Starfleet career and yet seeing his brother again, alive and well, in the very same room he now stood, was difficult to fully grasp.

    Even if this wasn’t the first time Matthew Owens had returned from the dead since he had died ten years earlier, killed by his own colleague Westren Frobisher in a pointless act of madness during a failed experiment.

    Five years earlier Michael had been given the unexpected chance to save his brother from his fate thanks to Frobisher’s crazed meddling with the timeline. Back then he had been unable to prevent his death a second time when he was faced with the decision to stop Frobisher and prevent the deaths of potentially thousands of lives or protect his brother.

    It had taken him a while to get over reliving Matthew’s death and he had made peace with the fact that he would never get another chance at seeing him alive.

    But, of course, that was not how the universe works, he mused wordlessly as he considered the man he intellectually understood wasn’t his flesh and blood, at least not really, and whom he had never truly met before that moment.

    And yet he looked almost exactly how he remembered him. A little older but not so much that he couldn’t still pass for being around his own age—Matthew had been his older brother by four years—he wore his chestnut hair a little longer but he had the same kind eyes he had always admired so much in him and that had rarely failed to remind him of their departed mother and that same chiseled chin that made him noticeably related to him and his father.

    At the present moment, he seemed furious, however, dividing his apparent scorn between Jon Owens and the armed contingent that had burst through the doors. “What is this? Who are you?”

    Even filled with anger, his voice was unmistakably Matthew’s and it took Michael back for a moment.

    “I want you out of my house. All of you.”

    Michael holstered his weapon and indicated for the rest of the away team to follow suit. “Matt,” he said as no other words immediately came to mind. He had since accepted the possibility that there was a chance he’d encounter versions of the people he knew in his universe and after encountering a much more conflicted version of his friend and former first officer Gene Edison, two separate versions of very different Amayas, not to mention a Michael Owens who may as well have walked right out of his nightmares, he had considered himself prepared for whatever other crazy twist the multi-verse had in store for him.

    He realized now that he had been sorely mistaken.

    “Damn it, Michael, why did you have to come down here like this,” Jon Owens said, his voice doing little to mask his anger. However, it quickly vanished when he turned back to consider his other son. Or at least the man who looked like him. “I’m sorry, Matthew. I didn’t want it to be like this. I understand that this is a lot to take in at once. But I am your father, you have to believe that.”

    “My father died years ago,” Matthew said, still agitated, taking a few steps away from Jon Owens. “I don’t know who you are but you are not my father.” He looked past Jon and at Michael. “And you.”

    Michael took a careful step toward Matt. “You’re my brother.”

    Matthew shook his head emphatically. “No, I’m not.”

    “This will be difficult to absorb fully,” Jon Owens said. “But we are from another universe. A universe where I—where your father lived.”

    “It’s true, Matt,” Michael said.

    “And what? You came here to see me?” Matthew said, clearly still unable to fully understand what was happening. “Why would you do that? Why would you cross universes to find me? I haven’t seen either one of you in decades and I never truly had a relationship with my father,” he said while glaring at Jon. “As for you,” he continued, glancing toward Michael and then shaking his head. “The less said about that, the better.”

    Michael was tempted to ask what he meant but understood that nothing good could come from knowing too much about his fate in this universe. And he wasn’t surprised to hear that Matthew had not gotten along with his father in this reality either. There appeared to be a few constants that didn’t change no matter where they ended up.

    “But don’t you see,” Jon said. “In a strange and twisted way, we’re all connected. We are part of you and you are part of us. What we have here,” he said and Michael didn’t miss the rare sight of a large smile plastered on his father’s face, “is a unique opportunity of a perfect family reunion without all the pain and hurt that usually comes with these things. A chance to start over. What we have been given here is a true, cosmic gift.”

    It was only now that Michael noticed how reinvigorated his father sounded, his growing fragility of recent days, perhaps even months, suddenly cast aside, enlivened by an encounter that should not have been possible.

    “This is all wrong,” Matthew said, refusing to be infected by whatever zest Owens Senior had caught. “We are not a family. I don’t know you people. I didn’t even truly know my real family when they were still around.” He walked away from Jon and toward the far corner of the room, looking for physical distance as he was visibly grappling with these unexpected events that had befallen him so suddenly. “I need you all to get out of my home. Now.”

    All the commotion and raised voices had not gone entirely unnoticed but Michael was still too distracted by the presence of his brother to realize that somebody else had entered the room.

    It was Carlos who pointed out the new arrival. “Sir,” he said urgently, his phaser back in his hand in an instant and indicating toward the far side of the room.

    Michael cursed himself for his inattentiveness and forgetting that sensors had indicated the presence of a third person within the building.

    He recognized the man instantly and just as quickly as he had his own brother. Little wonder, since this was the man who had been responsible for his death. Twice.

    There was no mistaking him at all, his tall and wiry frame, his unruly black hair that seemingly had seen no comb or brush in a decade, and his sharp, almost avian facial features.

    That face was burned in his mind and made common appearances in his more disturbing nightmares. The last time he had seen it had been when he had plummeted to his death, falling off a cliff after he had tried his best to take Michael with him to his grave. It had been at the conclusion of a days-long quest to locate the man who Starfleet had long since declared dead and that had taken Michael across both time and space.

    “Frobisher,” Michael seethed and jumped into action, his rational brain momentarily taking a back seat to pure, unadulterated emotion.

    His target wasn’t quite prepared for the sudden assault and Michael drove him easily into the wall at speed and forcing Frobisher to gasp as the air was forcefully expelled from his lungs.

    He pressed his forearm hard against the other man’s neck, applying more pressure than was necessary to keep him pinned there.

    “Wes,” Matthew shouted and rushed to where Michael was holding him.

    Frobisher for his part just considered his attacker curiously and managed a few words even while struggling for air. “Michael Owens?”

    Carlos and McIntyre arrived a moment later, both with their weapons at the ready although clearly not entirely certain of the true threat. Their training told them to protect their captain and so their weapons covered Frobisher and Matt Owens.

    “Are you insane?” Matthew shouted but was prevented from coming to Frobisher’s help by the phaser-wielding security team having taken position between him and Michael and Frobisher. “Let go of him.”

    The logical side of his brain slowly reasserted itself again, although too slowly, Michael would later begrudgingly admit to himself and he freed Frobisher from his choke-like hold.

    The other man sagged to the floor, holding his bruised neck while Michael and the security team stepped away to give him room and allow a clearly concerned Matthew to kneel next to Frobisher. “Wes, are you alright?”

    He nodded slowly but hadn’t quite found his voice yet.

    Jon Owens directed his anger at Michael. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? That was not necessary.”

    “It’s Frobisher,” Michael said quietly through clenched teeth, already fully cognizant that it was no excuse at all.

    “Not the one you know.”

    Michael said nothing to that. He understood that, of course. And yet it didn’t stop the fact that his heart was still racing and he could feel a dark ball of anguish and rage deep in the pit of his gut, desperate to burst free. He was angry at Frobisher for having killed his brother all those years ago, he was angry at his father for having brought them to this twisted place but most of all he was angry at himself for his inability to control his own emotions and letting them dictate his actions.

    Vulcans, he suddenly realized, might have had it right all along, perfectly suppressing their emotions in all circumstances. Oh, how he envied Vulcans at that moment.

    Matthew looked up from where he knelt next to the still-recovering Frobisher and his wrath-filled eyes found Michael’s. “I want you out of here now, do you understand? All of you. Get out of my home and don’t ever come back.”

    “Matthew, please,“ Jon Owens pleaded but was cut off.

    “Just get out,” he said in a low, seething tone that packed the simmering intensity of a volcano ready to erupt.

    Michael nodded slowly but when his father didn’t make any moves to leave, he reached out for his arm. “Dad, let’s go.”

    It took Owens Senior a moment longer to tear himself away but Matthew was no longer paying him or the others any attention, his entire focus on the injured Frobisher.

    Jon Owens allowed Michael to pull him out of the room but it was Michael who was the last one to leave, glancing back one final time at the man who was so much like his brother, and he couldn’t deny the pain he felt as he left him behind yet again.
     
  7. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Matt 3.0 might have gotten lucky. If Michael sticks around, it's pretty much a death sentence...

    Emphasis on might...

    Thanks!! rbs
     
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  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    3


    “We’ve managed to secure thirty tons of selenite, fifteen tons of terminium, twelve tons of exatanium, and five tons of nitrium alloy,” said Tazla Star as she ran down a list of materials they had obtained from Hutchport.

    “Good job, Commander. Once we’ve got the time, I’d be curious to find out how you accomplished this,” Michael said and then glanced over to where his chief engineer was sitting at the conference table. “Does that give you everything you need to complete repairs?”

    “The terminium should be enough to restore our weapon’s systems and we can use the nitrium alloy to get close to one-hundred percent efficiency on sensors. I wish we could have gotten our hands on some neosorium and duranium composite but we may be able to make do with the exatanium to patch things up. It won’t be pretty, and it won’t be to Starfleet code, but it’ll do in a pinch.”

    “Good enough for me,” said Michael.

    “Do we have any concerns that these materials may not play nice with our systems,” said Leva, who was also in attendance, along with Deen, Xylion, Culsten, Garla, and Admiral Owens. “After all, we are in a different universe.”

    “That is a valid concern,” the Vulcan science officer said. “I have been able to analyze all the materials we have obtained and found that they possess all characteristics we would expect from those in our own universe. The only abnormality appears to be the quantum signatures.”

    “Quantum signatures?” Michael asked.

    Xylion offered a brief nod. “All matter in the universe resonates at a unique subatomic signature. However, these signatures vary between universes. Therefore, any matter, biological or inorganic, which is native to this universe will have a different quantum signature to any object from our universe, including our systems. I have calculated a one in fifty-five thousand chance of catastrophic systems failure when combing materials with different quantum signatures in the manner that would be required to carry out repairs to Eagle.”

    “Sounds like an acceptable level of risk to me,” said Star. “I suggest we get on with repairs as soon as possible. Mister Hutchinson was particularly eager for us not to linger around these parts for too long.”

    “Not to mention that we’re on the clock to get back to the Ring,” said Michael and gave Hopkins a brief nod, letting her know to get on with things.

    The chief engineer acknowledged and then got out of her chair and quickly headed for the exit to return to main engineering and oversee the urgent repairs required.

    “Our first priority should be to get back to Arkaria and convince your brother that it’s in his best interest to work with us. If we can explain to him the stakes we are up against, and that his entire universe is at risk, he might see reason,” Jon Owens said.

    The only response to this was empty stares from the rest of the attendees and Michael too wasn’t entirely sure what he was to make of his suggestion. He was still very much furious that his father had decided to leave the ship without permission. And then there was another pressing question that needed to be answered as far as he was concerned. “Perhaps you could shed light on something I can’t quite figure out,” Michael said, his eyes aimed at his father with stern intensity. “How exactly did you know that Matthew was on Arkaria in the first place?”

    But Owens Senior shook his head. “We need to stay focused on what’s important,” he insisted. “What matters is that we found him and we need all the allies we can get, particularly in a universe so unfamiliar to us.”

    Michael glanced over to Star and it wasn’t difficult to see what she was thinking. She harbored the exact same doubts playing out in his mind, except that she was too polite to mention them, or perhaps she figured that it wasn’t her place to criticize a man who until recently had held the official rank of vice admiral.

    Michael had no such compunctions. Yes, he would have preferred to handle this matter in private but he also felt that he had to put this matter to bed as quickly as possible. “That Matthew Owens we met on the surface is not my brother and he is not your son. And unless he has a way to get us past an entire Dominion fleet, there is very little help he could offer us at this time.”

    “You can’t tell me that you weren’t just as exhilarated seeing Matthew again as I was. I saw your face down there,” he said just before he tried to control a coughing fit.

    He shook his head. “Do you even hear yourself? We are facing the death of entire universes and you seem obsessed with trying to pull off a twisted, multi-universe family reunion. Even if the situation were different, Matthew—the one in this universe—wants nothing to do with us and we have far bigger problems to worry about.”

    Jon was fighting a battle with his cough that refused to subside.

    But Michael’s anger had gotten the better of him now and he ignored his father’s malaise. “Your actions of sneaking off this ship, considering what we are up against, were irresponsible and quite frankly put this entire ship and crew at risk. It cannot happen again. You either get fully behind what we must do or I’ll have you confined to quarters and placed under guard until this mission is concluded.”

    Jon Owens’ face was turning red from the persistent coughing fit.

    DeMara shot Michael a frown, clearly disagreeing with his tone and attitude, and then quickly jumped to her feet to seek to help Owens Senior. “Admiral, are you alright?”

    Michael watched on quietly as his father tried to wave her off unsuccessfully. “You need to go to sickbay,” she said as she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

    He resolutely shook his head. “No,” he managed to rasp between coughs. “My quarters. I’ve got something there to help me with that.”

    Michael recalled the hypospray he had found there earlier.

    “Just … if you’d help me back to my quarters, dear,” he managed to say, his coughing finally getting back under control.

    She looked dubious, clearly more comfortable with taking him to sickbay.

    “Please, I just need to get back to my quarters and rest for a minute,” he said and then glared at Michael. “It seems I have outstayed my welcome here.”

    Michael rolled his eyes at his father’s histrionics but held his tongue, suddenly quite conscious that perhaps he had taken things a little too far in this rather public setting and was now more than eager for his father to leave and put this entire episode behind him.

    Deen helped Jon out of his chair and then guided him to the exit, the rest of the people present left their seats as well out of respect to the man’s rank. All except for Owens and Garla.

    Once the doors had closed behind them, Michael took a moment to recompose himself before he considered the remaining people in the room, most of which were taking their chairs again. “All right, we need a plan how to get back to the Ring undetected. We’re on a clock until this supercollider is likely to start up again,” he said and directed his attention toward the science officer. “How much time do we have exactly, Commander?”

    “According to my calculations, the supercollider is expected to reactive in thirteen hours and forty-eight seconds.”

    “Repairs are not going to be complete for another two to three hours at best,” said Star.

    “And getting back there the way we came, through the Moebis cluster, is going to take at least another six to seven hours,” added Culsten.

    Michael nodded. “Okay, so time is not on our side. We know that.”

    “I still believe our best chance is to make contact with the Krellonians who are patrolling the area. They clearly control the territory and if we can convince them to give us free passage, we save ourselves a great deal of time and pain,” said Garla.

    But Star was not that fond of the idea. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last two times we made contact with the Star Alliance things worked out pretty badly for everyone involved. Didn’t your doppelgangers try to kill you and Lif in both universes we’ve been to?”

    “They did,” Culsten said, which garnered him a glare from his aunt.

    “The point is,” she said. “In both universes, both our alternates were important figures in the Star Alliance power structure. And we managed to pass ourselves off as our doppelgangers each time.”

    “To varying degrees of success,” Star said, still dubious of this plan.

    “We are not exactly blessed with an abundance of options here, Commander. If you have a better plan, feel free to share it with the group,” the Krellonian agent said sharply, her tone noticeably confrontational.

    Michael raised his hand before his Trill first officer could respond. There had been enough sniping for one meeting, he decided. “I’m not so sure how comfortable I am with the idea of entrusting the safety of an entire universe to an unknown quantity such as the local Krellonian Star Alliance. Besides, we have to assume that the Dominion presence in this sector will have a role to play in how the Krellonians will respond to us. For now, our best course of action, I believe, is to wait until we have access to our long-range sensors again and get a proper lay of the land. In the meantime, I want suggestions on my desk on how to proceed based on various circumstances. That’s all folks,” he said and then got out of his chair before anyone else could start an argument.

    However, his thoughts were already on another matter altogether, something that he hadn’t been able to entirely shake out of his mind for days now. He was determined to get to the bottom of it for once and for all.
     
  9. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Michael's engineers need to be careful what they do with those local materials. When this universe bites it, doesn't all that alt-selenite, terminium, exatanium, and nitrium alloy go up in smoke along with it?

    Better not use any of that stuff to patch up the warp core...

    Thanks!! rbs
     
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  10. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Jesus. What is Owens sr. up to this time? Yeah, and how did he know that AU Matt was on the planet? And what is he injecting to keep his symptoms under control?
    There may be more to his reunion with Matt than meets the eye. There’s a lot of moving parts here. Can’t wait to see the answers!
     
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  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    4


    This time, when Michael pressed the annunciator to the VIP quarters, there was no need to have the computer enact a door override since Jon Owens beckoned him to enter after just a couple of seconds.

    He found him sitting in a well-padded chair in the lounge. He was leaning back slightly as if trying to rest but he did look far better than earlier in the observation lounge.

    “How are you?” Michael said perhaps more sharply than he had planned.

    “Better.”

    “Good,” he said and took the chair opposite his.

    “The way you spoke to me before was out of line,” Jon Owens said without really looking at his son.

    He nodded slowly. “I’m sorry, I got a little carried away. You’ve caused me some serious headaches over the last few weeks.”

    Jon Owens uttered a little laugh and even Michael couldn’t keep a tiny smile off his face as both men acknowledged the strange events that had led them to this point.

    “I want you to come down to sickbay with me. Doctor Katanga is standing by to do a full check-up on you.”

    But Jon Owens shook his head. “That won’t be necessary. I’m feeling much better again.”

    Michael didn’t press the issue. Instead, his eyes found the large and sloped forward-facing windows of his quarters and the curvature of the turquoise planet visible from orbit beyond. “You know, I can’t stop thinking about how I reacted down there.”

    “He’s your brother, Michael. I know you loved him. Of course, you had a strong emotional response upon seeing him again. Especially considering what you’ve been through.”

    But he shook his head. “Not to Matthew. Frobisher.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “That sudden rush of irrational anger that washed over me as soon as I spotted his face. Intellectually, I fully understood that he wasn’t the same man who had killed my brother but in that brief moment it didn’t even seem to matter. I would have liked to think that I’d be better than that.”

    “I’m sure a good counselor would have plenty to say about the way you reacted but I don’t think you have anything to worry about. At the end of the day, we are all just human, with all the flaws that come with the species. You responded as any human would have.”

    “But not you.”

    “What are you getting at?”

    Michael leaned forward in his chair. “While I was quite literally seeing red and was ready to use his face as a punching bag, you showed practically no emotions whatsoever at seeing the man responsible for the death of your son.”

    “I obviously didn’t care for seeing him either. But I also understood that he wasn’t the same man. Besides, I was still in awe of seeing Matthew again.”

    Michael considered his father for a moment. His head was inclined backward, his eyes directed toward the ceiling if they had been open. “You know, the last time I saw Frobisher, eight years ago, when we had evidence that he was still alive, you refused to support me trying to bring him to justice. You were far more concerned about your conference on Tiaita than hunting down my brother’s killer. I was pretty upset with you back then.”

    “It was a difficult time.”

    “Yes, it was,” Michael said, his eyes now practically burning themselves into his father. “But that wasn’t eight years ago. It was four.”

    He opened his eyes to look at him. “Of course, yes. I remember.”

    “And do you remember your conference as well?”

    Jon Owens massaged his forehead. “Michael, what is the point of all this? I’m getting too old to play these kinds of games with you.”

    “What planet was that conference on, dad?”

    He uttered a heavy sigh. “I’m getting tired, son. If you’ve just come to reminisce, I’d much rather you left me to rest and regain my strength.”

    Michael stood. “That conference was on Farga, not Tiaita. Four years ago, not eight.”

    “Four years, eight years, son, when you get to be my age you start forgetting the little details. Planet names and conferences, there have been so many of them in my life, you can’t expect me to remember them all.”

    But Michael was not willing to extend any slack whatsoever. “That last message you sent me before you faked your own death,” he said. “Do you remember that? It was just a few weeks ago.”

    Jon Owens said nothing.

    “It was driving me crazy for the longest time. ‘Don’t trust anyone’, is what you told me. As cryptic as anything you’ve ever said to me and maybe just as useless. I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep for the next few days after I heard that message. I had no idea who you were talking about. Was it Admiral Throl or Starfleet Command in general? Were you referring to Jarik, the man who was running things in your absence, or could it be that you didn’t think Amaya could be trusted? Hell, for a while there I wasn’t even sure if there were people in my own ranks I needed to be mindful of.”

    “Son—“

    “But I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore, does it? Because you never really died. You are right here in the flesh, able to shed light on all the things that were driving me up the wall. So, tell me, who was it you were talking about? Who couldn’t I trust?”

    Jon Owens just stared back at him.

    “You want to hear my theory?”

    “Actually, I’d prefer you left me in peace.”

    “My theory is that my father was warning me of himself.”

    Admiral Owens sat up straighter in his chair. “Don’t be ridiculous. I am your father.”

    “I think you are as much my father as Matthew down there is my brother,” he said, pointing toward the windows. “Which begs the question: Who are you really and what do you want?”

    Owens Senior got out of his chair and turned toward the bedroom. “You have taken leave of your senses and I don’t see any point in continuing this conversation while you’re acting like this.”

    But Michael just followed him. “Jarik told me. Just before my sadistic counterpart atomized him in front of me.”

    Jon turned to face him.

    Michael nodded. “He told me that you had been working with Altee. That’s when I first started to have my doubts.”

    “Listen, son, things are more complicated than—“

    “Who are you really and what do you want?” Michael repeated, his voice taking on volume and intensity.

    “I am your father, goddamnit,” he shouted back.

    Michael pinned him hard with his eyes for a moment and then looked toward the ceiling. “Owens to Commander Xylion.”

    “This is Lieutenant Commander Xylion,” came the prompt response.

    “What are you doing?” Jon wanted to know.

    “Commander, I want you to come to my father’s quarters, please. Make sure you bring a tricorder.”

    “Understood, sir. I am on my way.”

    Michael closed the connection.

    “What is this? What are you trying to do?” Jon Owens said.

    “You heard yourself,” Michael said. “All matter has a specific quantum signature that remains constant within the universe. Matter that originates in other universes, however, has a different quantum signature. So, if you are right, and you really are my father then you will share the exact same quantum signature as everything and everyone else on this ship.”

    “This is nonsense,” he said and continued into the bedchamber. “I’ll play no part in stoking your paranoid fantasies.”

    He regarded him with a quizzical look as he followed him. “But you’ve got nothing to worry about. According to you, you’re my father and the scans will confirm this, won’t they?”

    Jon Owens kept his back to Michael. “You’re getting yourself worked up for nothing. Nothing at all.”

    “It’s just a harmless little scan.”

    The door chime announced a visitor.

    “Come in,” said Michael, and not a moment later he heard the doors swish open. “We are in here, Commander.”

    Xylion appeared by the entrance of the bedroom. “Sir?”

    Michael regarded the science officer. “Commander, I need you to carry out a scan of my father and confirm his—“

    “All right, all right. Just stop this.”

    Michael turned back to face his father who was letting himself drop into a chair next to his bed, clearly defeated and discouraged.

    “I think that’ll be all for now, Commander,” Michael said.

    Xylion raised an eyebrow but decided against prying any further into whatever was transpiring between father and son and instead promptly left the quarters again.

    Michael moved further into the room and sat down on the bed, facing Jon Owens. “Start talking.”

    “Before I say anything else, I need you to know that I believe that I am your father. I believe that Matthew down there is my son. Even if it may not be true in the strictest sense. I also need you to know that whatever I did, I did it because I love you and that I would never wish to hurt you or Matthew.”

    “What happened to my father? My real father?” Michael said, not really paying much attention to the words that had come out of his mouth, now that it was beyond a doubt that this man was not who he had claimed to be.

    “He died. As far as I understand it not long after you went to see him on Earth a few weeks ago.”

    He had suspected something like this but it still hurt hearing it. He wasn’t sure how many more times he could handle this kind of thing. His father dying, then miraculously coming back to life only to find out that he had been dead all along after all. He was certain it was more than anyone should have been asked to bear.

    Jon Owens continued when Michael hadn’t found the strength to ask his next question. “The truth is that your real father was a far better man than I ever was. I know that may be difficult to believe, considering all the pain he put you through over the years, but my alter ego understood the enormous threat created by the Ring far better than I ever did.”

    Michael needed a moment to reorder his thoughts. “You knew him?”

    He nodded. “For a while now. It all started with your father. He came across certain artifacts that were capable of piercing the veil of time and space and allowing him to see beyond his universe and learn of the dangers posed by the subspace aliens and their supercollider. Although I don’t think he knew exactly what it was at first, nor was he likely aware of how powerful it could be. That it could lay waste to entire universes.”

    “He thought it was an invasion,” Michael said, remembering his initial briefings with Jarik.

    He nodded. “He did realize that he needed allies to fight such a threat and the Prism allowed him to find others who were willing to help. It’s how he found me and Altee.”

    “You all worked together?”

    “At first, yes. But Altee had other motives than trying to save the universe from a threat none of us could see. It took me a while to realize it but he wanted the power to gain access to other universes for himself. To fix what was wrong with his reality and likely become its ruler in the process. He understood that your father was in the best position amongst all of us. He had access to the most resources, not to mention the Prism itself which we suspected to be unique in the quantum-verse. I made the biggest mistake of my life when I agreed to work with Altee against your father but the bastard knew how to play me. He knew that I’d do anything to get my sons back after I lost them both in my reality.”

    “You killed my father and replaced him?” Michael said, struggling to keep his anger under control.

    But Jon Owens shook his head and stood. “No, I had nothing to do with his death, you have to believe that. And I don’t think that Altee meant to make me replace him from the start. He was quite happy to have his man Jarik run things in your universe.”

    Michael began to understand. “Jarik was from Altee’s universe.”

    “Altee had access to an inter-dimensional transporter based on dark anti-matter technology and designed by your brother from that universe. At some time over the last couple of years, Altee had his Jarik replace his counterpart in your universe to keep a closer eye on your father and manipulate him. I think eventually Jarik killed your father to give Altee control over his resources. The only problem with the plan was that the transporter doesn’t work perfectly. It alters the molecular structure of everyone who uses it which leads to cellular degradation and ultimately death.”

    “Darnay's disease, he called it.”

    Jon Owens shook his head. “He was masking the symptoms of increased cellular degradation brought on by his use of the transporter and his continued presence in a foreign universe.”

    “Wait a minute,” Michael said when he realized what he was saying. “You’ve been having the same symptoms. You also used the transporter.”

    He nodded slowly. “As I said, Altee hadn’t planned to replace your father but after the actions you took when you refused to cooperate with Jarik, Altee convinced me to take his place. I knew what I was getting myself into but I thought I’d have more time.”

    “You’re dying,” Michael said, sounding almost clinical about the thing.

    “I had access to a small cache of cellular stabilizers that Jarik relied on to manage his symptoms while he was in your universe. But I’ve run out and I’m clearly not as resilient to the cellular damage as Jarik’s half-Vulcan physiology.”

    “I don’t understand,” Michael said. “What did you hope to gain from all this? If you knew that the transporter would eventually kill you, why did you agree to replace my father?”

    Jon uttered a small and humorless laugh. “I said earlier that we are all but humans with our own frailties and weaknesses. Well, as for me, I was willing to forfeit my life for a chance to get the two most important people in my life back together. To reunite with my sons one last time and gives them a chance at a life together.”

    Michael wasn’t sure what to say. He was conflicted over whether he should have been angry at this man who had pretended to be his father all this time or if he merely deserved his pity. Or perhaps it was neither. After all, the entire notion was absurd. This man’s sons had died. And neither he nor Matthew Owens on Arkaria were truly his flesh and blood. What this Jon Owens was attempting to do was impossible and more importantly, it was utterly and undeniably trivial compared to the deaths of entire universes.

    “Star to Captain Owens.”

    It took Michael a second to even register his first officer’s voice coming over the intercom.

    “This is Owens. Go ahead, Commander.”

    “Uh, sir, we’ve received a message from the surface,” she said, sounding uncharacteristically uncertain of herself.

    Michael frowned. “A message? From whom?”

    “He said he’s your brother, sir. And that it is imperative that you come and see him as soon as possible.”
     
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  12. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    I had suspected for several chapters that it was alt-Jarik all along - but alt-Jon... Should have seen it coming. Didn't. Totally sweet reveal! Thanks!! rbs
     
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  13. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Whoa... You just blew my mind away, CeJay. Cleanup crews, report to put Humpty Dumpty back together...
     
  14. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Well, I'm the only one who didn't suspect an Alt-anyone! So, all of it caught me by surprise.
    I guess I should have seen it coming, given the subject matter. Still, wow.

    Now, Michael gets to grieve all over again. Poor guy. Someone needs a hug.

    Who knows what else his AU father has in store?

    Waiting to find out!
     
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  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    5


    Tazla Star had made a good argument for him to stay on the ship, rather than follow the unexpected invitation to return to the surface, had even quoted back to him some of the exact same words he had used on her earlier about avoiding any mistakes that could lead to their failure of stopping the Ring from once more destroying an entire reality.

    She hadn’t been able to entirely mask her irritation over the fact that he had already beamed down onto the planet once before to chase down his father while she had been trying to convince Calvin Hutchinson to help them.

    Perhaps, surprisingly, it was the man who until very recently Michael had believed to be his father, who had ultimately swayed him toward having to return to the surface to find out why Matthew Owens had summoned them after the way their last visit had ended.

    Jon Owens had argued that they knew next to nothing about this universe and that they needed an ally, or at least somebody who could give them the lay of the land, and if that could be somebody who at least had some form of connection with them, all the better.

    It wasn’t the strongest argument, Michael understood that, in fact, it was heavily biased since it was coming from the man who had apparently made it his life’s mission to find a way to reconnect with his sons whom he had lost in his universe. But it didn’t take a counselor to know that Michael desperately wanted one last chance to see his brother again, even if he was only superficially that same man, deep down he also knew that if he didn’t take this chance, he’d likely never get another one again.

    In the end, a compromise was reached. It hadn’t relieved Star of all her concerns but it had given her at least some reassurance. He’d be accompanied to the surface by Nora and a security team and the away mission would be kept as brief as possible, at the very least, Michael committed to being back on Eagle as soon as the repairs to the long-range sensors and weapons systems were complete, to continue their mission back toward the Ring, with Matthew’s support or without it.

    The team led by Michael and consisting of Jon Owens, Nora Laas, and security officers Stadi and McIntyre materialized at the exact same spot they had last time. Since the sun had come up since their previous visit, the away team arrived during a pleasant early afternoon.

    He also got a slightly better view of their surroundings this time. The buildings which were apparently part home and part workshop to Matthew and Wes Frobisher were larger than he had remembered them, one of them looked big enough to be a hangar. It wouldn’t fit something as significant as Eagle, but it looked as if it could accommodate at least a couple of runabouts.

    “Lovely spot,” said Nora Laas who had not been to Arkaria before. “Nicely secluded as well. Do we know what it is your brother does for a living?”

    Michael shook his head but Jon answered. “He’s a scientist, just like he was in my universe. Except here they work for themselves. Mostly on starship enhancements and other tech that they can sell to whoever can afford it.”

    They set out toward the building containing the workshop. “You seem to know quite a bit about this Matthew Owens,” Michael said, unable to hide his suspicions.

    “I had a chance to speak to him before you arrived last time.”

    But Michael didn’t fully buy it. “You knew he was on Arkaria. You knew even before we arrived here. That’s why you were so insistent that we set course for this system.”

    Jon said nothing as they closed in on the building.

    Michael grabbed him by the arm to stop him and the other Owens turned to face Michael. “How did you know?”

    He seemed pained to have to answer this question.

    “You said you made a deal with Altee. Did that include the means to locate other versions of your sons across the quantum-verse?”

    “There were some candidates I considered to be more receptive to the idea of reuniting as a family,” he said.

    “Like me? You thought I was going to be receptive to this insanity?” he said, almost spitting the words.

    “You had just lost your father.”

    “Because of you,” he said, the anger he had tried so desperately to quench beginning to build up again. “Because of you and Altee.”

    But Jon shook his head. “If you believe nothing else I’ve ever told you, you must believe that I had nothing to do with your father’s death. I didn’t even know about it until Altee made me replace him.”

    Michael uttered a humorless laugh at the notion that this man had been forced into the role of his father. As far as he was concerned, there should have been nothing to stop him from turning down the Deltan. But apparently, the draw of seeing his sons again had been too strong. Michael darkly mused how that made him inherently different from his real father since he could not recall a single time when that man had ever put his family first.

    “If you knew all along that a suitable Matthew Owens was here, on this planet, in this specific universe, what are the chances that we just so happened to arrive in this reality?” Nora said who had been paying close attention to their exchange even if she was probably still playing catch-up.

    Michael considered her for a moment. “If Xylion were here he’d likely tell us. And it would probably be infinitesimally small considering the immeasurable nature of quantum reality,” he said and then turned back toward Jon with anger glaring in his eyes. “Which means you brought us here on purpose. Makes sense, now that I think about it. You were the one in control of the Prism.”

    “Control is too strong a word.”

    “But you could have tried to take us home. Instead, you brought us here because you thought that you could convince Matthew to do what? Join us? But clearly, you didn’t understand him nearly as well as you thought, seeing how he responded to us.”

    “We could stand here and discuss all the foolish things I’ve ever done and we’d still be here next week,” he said with far more defiance than remorse. “Or we can deal with the situation we are in now and try to make the best of it. Besides, it seems that I may have gotten through to him after all.”

    Michael wanted to shoot back that they wouldn’t even have been in this situation if it hadn’t been for him but he also understood the futility of that kind of reasoning. Time was not on their side.

    He walked past Jon Owens. “I’m not entirely sure why I even brought you along but just to be clear, I’m going to do the talking,” he said just before he entered the workshop.

    He found it in much the same state as the last time he had been here. The same diagrams and technical drawings on the walls and the whiteboards and the same disturbingly creepy severed and partially dissected Borg head with its prominent cortical array stuck in its eye socket on display. The head made Nora do a double-take but otherwise, she seemed less distracted by the sight than the away team had been last time.

    There was no sign of Matthew anywhere.

    “Perhaps he’s in the living quarters,” Jon said.

    “We don’t have time to go and look for him,” Michael said. “Matthew,” he shouted, much to the consternation of his security chief who clearly didn’t favor such conspicuous methods within unfamiliar territory.

    A side door opened. “Good, you came. Thank you for being so prompt.”

    But it wasn’t his brother.

    It was Frobisher.

    Nora had her phaser out in a flash and aimed. Michael remembered that she had been part of his unsanctioned mission four years earlier trying to hunt down the Westren Frobisher of their universe and had actually come close to apprehending him before he had escaped into the past.

    Michael forced himself to ignore his powerful apathy for that man upon seeing him once more. He was only partially successful. “Where is Matthew?” he said sharply.

    Frobisher took a few small steps forward, his hands in the air and his eyes carefully observing the weapon pointed at him. “There is no need for that.”

    “I’ll be the judge of that,” Michael shot back. “Now, I ask again. Where’s Matthew?”

    “He’s not here.”

    Michael was losing his patience rapidly. “What have you done to him?”

    Frobisher looked surprised. “Nothing. It’s Tuesday. He’s gone to town to barter for supplies. He won’t be back for a few hours.”

    Michael wasn’t sure he understood.

    “Matthew didn’t call us, did he?” said Jon. “You did.”

    Frobisher nodded and indicated toward his still raised hands. “May I?”

    Michael gestured for Nora to lower her weapon. She did but she stopped short of holstering it altogether.

    “I apologize for the ruse but I was certain you wouldn’t return if I had asked. And Matthew does not want you here,” Frobisher said as he began to relax slightly.

    “So you pretended to be him just to bring us back down here. Why?” Michael said, feeling extremely conflicted about this situation but also, he had to admit, somewhat curious.

    “Because I know why you are here.”

    “What?” Michael had no idea how to respond to that.

    “Maybe this will help to explain,” he said as he walked over to one of the many whiteboards set up in the workshop. This one seemed to contain a technical drawing of what looked very much like the dark anti-matter transporter system his brother and Frobisher had developed in his universe. But Frobisher flipped the board around to reveal the backside of the board.

    Michael’s jaw dropped upon seeing what had been drawn there. It was unmistakably a sight he had seen before. One which had haunted his nightmares as of late.

    “You may have another name for it but I call it the Massive Omega Collider. I know it brought you here and I know that it is the single largest threat the universe—all of quantum reality—has ever faced. And if we do not stop it, all life, and all things in existence will come to a permanent end.”
     
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  16. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    So this is the Fro from Captain Janeway's boat... I suspected as much - he was due for an appearance. Maybe we're going to get the dirt on this super-duper-universe-collider... Looking forward to that... Thanks!! rbs
     
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  17. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    6


    He had found it exceedingly difficult to be in the same room with Westren Frobisher while he talked at length about the end of the universe and pay no attention to the fact that this man—a version of him, at least—had caused him such pain and suffering.

    It had been Jon Owens who had talked Michael into letting the man explain himself and his theories. It led him to believe that Frobisher may not have been responsible for the death of his oldest son in his home reality. Or, and Michael found that the less likely scenario, this Jon Owens was far better at compartmentalizing his emotions than he was.

    Apparently, still recalling their rather heated first encounter, Frobisher had declined the offer of beaming onto Eagle to lay out his knowledge and theories of the superstructure he referred to as the Massive Omega Collider. So instead, Michael had asked Xylion, Hopkins, and Garla to join them in the workshop on the surface, the latter because Frobisher had confirmed that the Krellonian Outlanders were in control of the area of space where Cygni-98 was located and the sentinel was still their subject matter expert on everything related to the Star Alliance.

    It had also not escaped Michael’s notice that the woman had gotten increasingly frustrated as of late and he couldn’t entirely blame her, considering how all her long-held plans had seemingly evaporated after they had turned out to be based on the lies she had been fed by her erstwhile allies, the subspace aliens.

    “Wait, so you’re telling me Outlanders are running the Star Alliance here?” Garla said with noticeable disbelieve after Frobisher had briefly outlined the geopolitical landscape of the sector. “How is that even possible?”

    “I have to be honest, I am no scholar of Krellonian history, but I believe that the Outlander Alliance at one point turned on their former masters and conquered their homeworld,” said Frobisher. “That would have happened at least a century ago.”

    “Sounds only fair to me,” said Lif Culsten who these days seemed to be permanently attached to Garla’s hip, mostly since Star had insisted that he kept a close eye on the highly-skilled intelligence officer at all times. He glanced at his still stunned aunt. “The Outlanders always outnumbered us throughout much of history. The only reason they were kept in servitude for as long as they have is because they seemed to be more eager to fight each other than us. If they had allied themselves, as they did here, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

    “We were decades ahead of them in every technological measure,” Garla said, apparently finding it difficult to comprehend that her people were in a subservient role in this reality.

    “I suppose that proves that it’s not about how many ships and weapons you have. Some things are stronger, like the desire for freedom. Human history—the history of a great many races actually—is ripe with similar examples. Take the Bajorans for instance,” Culsten said. “I say, good for them.”

    But Garla just shook her head.

    “What about the Federation,” said Hopkins who was particularly mesmerized by a technical diagram outlining a quantum-based propulsion system, but still managed to tear herself away for a moment to ask the question. “You said it never existed in this reality?”

    “No,” said Frobisher. “Humans did reach for the stars after Cochrane gave us the warp engine but we didn’t get very far until we ran into other spacefaring civilizations. Our leaders spurned offers of assistance from other, more advanced races, and we realized too late that we were entirely unprepared for what awaited us. We pushed too far too quickly and what we found nearly wiped us out a few times. Earth and its handful of colonies were no match for those powers that sought to exploit us. Today, we are not much better off than the Krellonians. There aren’t many of us left and most are scattered across the Alpha and Beta quadrants. As for Earth, the less said about its fate, the better.”

    That cast a sorrowful quiet over the small group, particularly the humans. Just like Garla had found it difficult to contemplate a galaxy in which her people had achieved great things, Michael too realized that he had always carried with him a tinge of pride at how far humanity had come over the centuries and found it a bitter pill to swallow indeed that there were universes where his people had never reached the heights he had always taken for granted.

    “Fascinating,” Xylion said with a raised eyebrow. “It would be interesting to study the effect on human development and the galactic geopolitical landscape if there had not been a first contact with Vulcan on Earth.”

    “I remember reading stories of xenophobic human groups such as Terra Prime in the early days of Starfleet who were furiously against any involvement with non-human races and determined that humanity should go at it alone,” said Louise Hopkins. “I suppose this reality shows what a terrible idea that would have been.”

    Michael nodded in agreement and couldn’t help think of all those people he had read about in those early days who had been so bitter about the perceived notions that the Vulcans had held Earth back in developing faster and better warp engines to reach deeper into space after they had taken a prominent position in advising Earth’s nascent interstellar polices. Volumes had been filled by those critical of Vulcan interference in human affairs, including such noteworthy early Starfleet pioneers as Jonathan Archer, who had eventually embraced Vulcan ideals as a principal architect of the Federation.

    “Indeed,” said Xylion. “However, it is also worth noting that without human influence, the chances of the successful creation of the Federation appear to have been far smaller, based on the development of this quantum-universe.”

    Michael offered his science officer a small smile. Coming from a Vulcan that seemed to be high praise for humanity and it helped make him feel marginally better about his own people. That was until he remembered that contemplating the history of this reality wasn’t why they had come here. “Let’s focus on the issue at hand,” he said and found Frobisher again. “Why don’t you start by telling us how you’ve come to learn about the Ring. The supercollider.”

    The scientist nodded and walked over to another whiteboard, this one showing designs of a device Michael was marginally familiar with, although for all the wrong reasons. “Some years ago, Matthew and I started to look into a new type of technology that we believed could revolutionize space travel.”

    “The dark anti-matter transporter,” Michael said, doing his level best not to recall how it had been exactly that technology that had led the Frobisher of his universe to kill his brother.

    Frobisher nodded. “We eventually agreed to abandoned developing it as it turned out to be far too dangerous and unpredictable, however, during the course of our work we discovered some unintended side effects.”

    “Such as allowing somebody to travel into other realities,” said Jon Owens who Michael realized had first-hand experience with this as well.

    “I am not too proud to admit that I continued to explore this new avenue of research mostly without Matthew’s knowledge, but, differently from him, I was always fascinated by quantum mechanics and the many-world interpretation theorized by people like Hugh Everett and Bryce DeWitt.”

    Michael couldn’t quite get a read on Frobisher and if he was truly remorseful about working behind Matthew’s back or if he was far more focused on the outputs of his research. Since he had known what his Westren Frobisher had been capable of, he tended to lean toward the latter.

    “About six years ago I had my first breakthrough, using our dark anti-matter tech I was able to definitively confirm the presence of the quantum-verse, and not long after I made my first ventures into other universes,” he said, sounding noticeably excited about this accomplishment.

    “And all this without Matthew’s knowledge?” Michael didn’t hide his skepticism.

    “Matt knew that I had my own work I indulged in occasionally. We’ve always had our pet projects.”

    “One hell of a pet project,” Jon Owens said.

    “Anyway,” he continued. “Soon after I began to realize that this sector of space seemed to be some sort of focus point of quantum events. It was almost as if countless universes were weaved together here. At first, I thought that it may have been due to the strong gravimetric attributes of the Amargosa Diaspora but I quickly learned that there was a very different reason for this.”

    “The supercollider,” Michael said.

    Frobisher quickly erased one of his many whiteboards and began to frantically draw on it, starting with a central ring shape and then drawing numerous lines all directed at its center. “I realized that this structure acted like a magnet, a focal point of quantum reality with energies exceeding anything that could be measured by conventional means.” He started to rub out some of those lines. “And that it was using that power to wipe out universes.”

    “You are suggesting that the supercollider has been responsible for annihilating quantum universes for years?” Xylion said.

    Frobisher nodded eagerly. “Maybe even decades,” he said and then scribbled a long mathematical formula underneath his drawing which quite frankly went way above Michael’s head.”

    Hopkins, however, seemed to understand and her eyes opened wide. “You cannot be serious.”

    “Interesting,” said Xylion. “And quite alarming.”

    Michael shot the three scientists an annoyed glare. “Perhaps you could explain this to those in the room who don’t have a degree in quantum mechanics.”

    Hopkins stepped closer to the board. “According to this,” she said. “The rate at which quantum-reality is destabilizing is far quicker than we previously assumed.”

    “I don’t understand,” said Jon Owens. “I thought we had established that the Ring activates every forty-seven hours.”

    “May I?” Xylion asked Frobisher, gesturing for the pen he still held in his hand. He passed it to the Vulcan who began to write his own formula onto the board, this one even longer and to Michael, impossibly more complicated. “My estimates were based on observing two universe-ending events.”

    “I’ve seen twelve of those,” Frobisher said.

    Xylion regarded him with a raised eyebrow. “Fascinating,” he said and then quickly rubbed out part of his formula and amended it with the new information. “Based on all available data, the rate at which the supercollider is annihilating universes is not exponential as I had first postulated.”

    “Wait, isn’t that good?” said Nora who, just like Michael, was hopelessly out of her element.

    Hopkins found another pen, this one was red and quickly began to draw a chart with two axes containing a sharply upward moving curve. “This is exponential growth and we assumed to be somewhere here,” she said and drew a little marker halfway along the curve and well before its more dramatic upward trend. She drew another curve, this one spiked up just after the marker and reached far beyond the scale. “According to these new calculations, this is what we’re actually dealing with. Tetrational growth.”

    Michael didn’t need a mathematics degree to understand that what they were suggesting was that the Ring was about to wipe out universes at a head-spinning pace.

    “But isn’t the quantum-verse infinite?” said Jon Owens. “I thought the theory is that it continues to grow constantly and at a massive pace?”

    Frobisher indicated toward where the curve had moved beyond the axis scale. “Once we get to this point, growth will reach a stage beyond our ability to measure. Wiping out universes far faster than new ones are created which will lead to a quantum cascade and eventually a total collapse.”

    His head had already been spinning before but now Michael felt the need to sit down.

    “I still don’t see what the subspace aliens have to gain from all this?” said Garla. “They exist in subspace which forms the layers between universes. Once all universes are gone, wouldn’t the layers also disappear?”

    “Brane theory, which concerns itself with subspace functioning as borders separating the quantum-verse, is not fully understood,” said Xylion. “It is hypothetically possible that eliminating the quantum-verse could lead to a singular subspace state. A single, infinite brane.”

    “What you’re saying is that all this could be just about territory?” said Culsten, who differently to Michael had given in to his urge to sit down to digest the proposed hypothesis of the end of all reality.

    Michael couldn’t help but think about his dark vision of Bensu. “Or perhaps, the subspace aliens aren’t really the ones driving all this.”

    Everyone in the room turned his attention toward the starship captain.

    “We’ve seen these subspace aliens up close,” he continued when those questioning looks didn’t produce any actual inquires. “They didn’t exactly strike me as the kind of masterminds plotting the destruction of every universe ever.”

    “We should remain careful not to prescribe specific behaviors and motivations to a race as alien to us as the subspace creatures based merely on our initial observations,” Xylion said as he clasped his hands behind his back.

    Under normal circumstances, Michael would have been quick to agree to such a statement. He was a firm believer in keeping an open mind. But it was difficult to ignore what he had seen and felt as they had transitioned through the gateway.

    “What the hell is going on here?”

    The sudden voice came from the other side of the room and caused practically everyone to jump and turn into that direction, even Nora and her security team who prided themselves in always remaining vigilant had been so mesmerized by what had been discussed here that the appearance of the new arrival had caught them entirely by surprise as well.
     
  18. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    [​IMG]

    So I'm assuming Matt just came back... Thanks!! rbs
     
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  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    7

    “Matt, you’re back early,” Frobisher said.

    “What is this?” he said again, his voice bordering on the hysterical as his eyes found Frobisher and then Michael and Jon Owens. “I told you to leave and never come back. Why are you here?”

    “Please, Matt, calm down,” Jon Owens said as he took a few careful steps closer to the agitated man who looked so much like his son. “We can explain.”

    “You come here and nearly kill Wes, and now you come back with more people and more weapons.” His voice and level of anxiety showed no signs of abating.

    “Matt, I invited them,” Frobisher said.

    “What?”

    “Please, just calm down and we can explain everything,” Jon Owens said, continuing to close in on Matthew.

    “Things are happening here that you may not be aware of but which will affect us all,” said Michael and he too took a step closer to his brother—this version of him, he reminded himself. Mostly though, he wanted to get to Jon Owens before he reached Matthew. There was something in that man’s eyes he didn’t like at all. Something he had seen in his own brother just once or twice before in his life. He had seen it when he had held his dying body in his arms. It scared him.

    “You all need to get out of here now, do you understand?” he said, very nearly screaming the words with enough intensity it caused Nora and her people to unholster their weapons as a precaution.

    Michael tried to gesture to her to stand down but it was already too late. Responding to the drawn phasers, Matthew grabbed Jon Owens who had stepped into his reach and with his free hand, he had retrieved a narrow-looking tool from a nearby workstation.

    It took Michael a moment to realize that it was a laser cutter and when Matthew activated the beam, it hovered dangerously close to Jon Owens’ exposed throat.

    “Matt, for the love of God, calm down,” Frobisher fumed, no longer trying to placate the other man. “There is no need for that.”

    “They need to get out of here now. Make them leave. All of them,” he said while he kept Jon close in front of him.

    “Son, please, we are not here to harm you,” Owens Senior said, very mindful of the razor-sharp energy beam that could easily slice open his throat.

    “I am not your son.”

    Michael took another very small step closer, showing Matthew his empty palms. “Whatever it is you are worried about. We can talk about this. Please, just let him go,” he said. He fully understood that this Jon Owens was not really his father, nor was this Matthew Owens his brother, and yet the idea of either of them getting hurt because of their presence here made him feel physically ill.

    “Matt, listen to them,” Frobisher said, his voice showing more anger than empathy.

    “You don’t understand,” Matthew fumed. “They need to get out of here or everyone’s going to die.”

    Michael nodded, eager to deescalate this as quickly as possible. He glanced at Nora and the security team, as well as Xylion and Hopkins. He couldn’t spot Garla and Culsten anywhere. “Get back to the ship, now.”
    “Sir,” Nora protested, naturally not willing to leave her captain under these circumstances.

    “Do it now.”

    Xylion followed the order promptly, contacting Eagle, and within seconds all five of them were gone, leaving just Michael and Jon Owens who was still being held by Matthew.

    “You as well,” Matthew said. “You need to get out as well.”

    Michael nodded. “I will but first you have to let him go. I can’t risk him getting hurt.”

    Before Matthew could respond, Tazla Star got in touch. “Eagle to Captain Owens.”

    “This is a bad time, Commander,” Michael said after hearing her voice coming through his combadge and while keeping his eyes on Matthew.

    “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but things are about to get a whole lot worse.”

    “What’s happening?” he said, refusing to take his eyes off the laser cutter-wielding man in front of him.

    “We just got sensors back and as if on cue, we picked up a Dominion fleet rapidly approaching the system. I think Hutchinson may have sold us out after all. They’ll be here any second.”

    Michael marveled how crises never seemed to come alone as of late. He understood he had to make a split-second decision. He didn’t like his options but as a starship captain, he had gotten quite used to picking from a selection of bad ones. Some would have argued that it came with the job. “Commander, get Eagle out of here now. Protect the ship no matter what. We’ll find a way to get back to you but the mission must come first.”

    To her credit, she didn’t hesitate at all. “Understood, Star out.”

    “Oh God,” Matthew said upon overhearing the conversation and his attention seemed to slip for a moment.

    Michael was tempted to make a move but he didn’t like his chances since that laser cutter was still far too close to Jon Owens’ neck.

    Somebody else, however, did take full advantage of the situation.

    Garla appeared out of seemingly nowhere and behind Matthew. She struck him hard into his side with a blow so well positioned, Matthew gasped in pain and let go of both the older Owens and the slicer, the latter tumbling harmlessly to the floor.

    The Krellonian operative wasn’t quite done yet and with another well-placed hit, she twisted him around easily, and then in one quick blur of motion, she had him in the air, flipping him up above her and forcing him to land hard on his back on the floor.

    Garla’s fighting skills were impressive and Michael thought that they might even rival those of Nora Laas who had to be at least ten years or so her junior. They may have been a little bit too impressive considering how much Matthew was groaning in pain, clearly having hurt his back from the mid-air flip and the subsequent landing.

    And the sentinel wasn’t quite done yet. She had that laser cutter in her hand within a flash and with one knee pressing down hard on Matthew’s chest, she was bringing up that tool-turned weapon as if to finish the job.

    Michael rushed in along with Frobisher. “All right, that’s enough. Stand down,” he said as he reached out for her shoulder to keep her from bringing the cutter down on Matthew.

    Garla glared at him angrily and for a moment he faced the unenviable possibility of having to try and stop the formidable woman himself.

    “You don’t give me orders,” she said but then stood and dropped the slicer.

    “What is wrong with you?” Frobisher hissed at her as he quickly tended to Matthew still laying on the floor, breathless.

    She just shrugged. “You’re welcome.”

    Michael made sure that Jon Owens was fine but although he too was out of breath, he signaled that he was uninjured.

    “It’s all right, Matt. It’s over now,” Frobisher said to Matthew as he knelt next to him, trying to get him off the floor.

    But Matthew just shook his head. “No, it’s not. You don’t understand.”

    “Uh, sir.”

    Michael looked up to see Lif Culsten who had apparently snuck away along with Garla earlier but had now reemerged after she had handled Matthew. He was indicating toward the windows of the workshop.

    Michael followed his gaze just in time to discover eight columns of bright blue light give way to the shapes of eight armed soldiers materializing just outside of the building.

    “Jem’Hadar,” he said as soon as he recognized the hard, pebbled, and horned faces of the Dominion shock troops, he had hoped never to encounter again after the war had concluded.

    “It’s too late,” Matthew said, his eyes closed and not even bothering to try and get off the floor anymore. “We’re all going to die.”
     
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  20. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Well, the crap has hit the proverbial fan. Set phasers on shake and bake and let's save the Universe!
     
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