The Star Eagle Adventures V: Shadows in the Haze

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by CeJay, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - V -

    Tela had lead Xylion into the colony’s most central building, which was made up of the bulk of the transport ship which had remained after it had crashed on this world over two decades earlier. And just like she had said, every single resident had assembled in the large cargo bay turned meeting hall, with Volik, Tela’s father and town elder standing at the very front on a slightly raised platform.

    The room was poorly lit in Xylion’s opinion. With no windows or other openings, the sole source of light was provided by a number of torches set up at the corner of the room, allowing long shadows to dissect the assembly hall.

    Volik spoke almost as soon as Xylion had entered. “Most of you have already met Mister Xylion who has graciously accepted our offer to join our settlement on this world and who has shown great interest in helping us find ways in which to grow the colony and ensure it remains healthy and stable.”

    The crowd barely reacted to this, other than to turn and look towards their newest member. Those standing closest to him took a step backwards to allow him more room.

    “Xylion,” Volik continued, speaking directly to the science officer, “on the behalf of the colony, please accept my gratitude for your decision to join us. I am convinced that with your help, we will ensure that we will continue to prosper on this world which has become a home to us all.”

    Xylion wanted to point out that his decision to join them had been in part achieved by rather dubious and un-Vulcan manners. That it hadn’t been his choice initially to stay behind. He didn’t regret that choice but he also couldn’t deny that it simply hadn’t been his to make. Nor could he forget that this was yet another symptom of what ailed this colony and what he hoped he could cure by his presence and his teachings.

    “Perhaps now would be a good time for you to address the colony, Xylion, in order to clarify the role which you will assume here. Please, join me,” said the elder.

    Xylion moved towards the dais without hesitation, the crowd easily parting for him as he went. He stepped up next to Volik and faced the dozens of Vulcans assembled here. “There are many reason why I have come to be here amongst you today,” he said and found Tela looking up at him from the crowd. He couldn’t be certain but she looked almost guilty. Xylion of course didn’t believe in the human custom of mincing words. But on this occasion he believed in diplomacy and he thought it to be in poor taste to accuse his now fellow colonists of blackmail on his first day. “As to my role as part of this settlement, I have identified three critical points. One: Assist in making the colony more productive in the ways in which we apply agriculture, construction and infrastructure in order to ensure continued growth and stability. Two: Re-introduce the Kir'Shara and Surak’s teachings and commence lectures which each member of the settlement may attend and finally third: Commence an investigation into the attack on Ensign Srena, locate the guilty parties and bring them to justice.”

    There was a murmur going through the crowd and Xylion couldn’t immediately determine which of his three points had caused this unexpected reaction. He glanced to his side to find Volik who was quick to assist.

    The elder Vulcan raised both his arms. “Please, people, settle down,” he said and the crowd reacted immediately as they stopped whispering to each other and focused on Volik instead. “All of Xylion’s proposals have great merit and are undoubtedly crucial long-term goals for our continued prosperity.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow to this. He didn’t consider any of his proposals as merely long-term goals. In fact he wished to commence putting each into practice with immediate effect.

    “For now, of course,” Volik continued, “we have much more pressing concerns we need to discuss,” he said and found his daughter in the crowd. “Tela, please join us.”

    The woman offered a quick nod and then stepped up on the stage and next to Xylion who was still not certain what matters where more pressing at this moment in time.

    “It is with the great joy of a father as well as the leader of our settlement to be able to administer the first joining between two of our own in a great many years. We all wish them a prosperous and fruitful future. Their consummation will ensure the offspring which will guarantee the continued existence of our colony.”

    The crowd nodded with agreement.

    “Volik, this is most irregular,” said Xylion, having been blindsided by this sudden development.

    “It mustn’t be,” he said. “After all you are fond of my daughter, are you not? You find her pleasing?”

    “That is not the issue.”

    “It is for the good of the settlement.”

    Xylion considered the older Vulcan for a moment. It wasn’t difficult to tell that he was set on this marriage to go ahead. He looked towards the crowd which seemed just as keen to see him accept Tela as his wife. And the young Vulcan woman was perhaps the most eager, judging by her almost brimming eyes.

    “If you will excuse me,” he finally said.

    “Where are you going?” Tela said.

    “I shall retreat to my room to mediate,” he said simply and headed for the exit, this time the crowd much less willing to part before him.
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VI -​

    “Damage report,” Star barked as she picked herself up from the floor. There was no immediate response on the darkened bridge and it took her a moment to realize why that was. Nobody was at their station. The Risian pilot was still sprawled out on the deck, dead or unconscious, Star wasn’t sure. Stanmore sat slumped over the operations console but at least he was stirring slightly, meaning that he was still alive. She couldn’t see Trinik. Her first thought was for the captain however and she felt immense relieve when she spotted him, just a few feet from his chair, attempting to stand.

    She nearly jumped to his side to help him up. “Captain, are you alright?”

    “I’m fine,” he said but was cut off by a coughing fit, no doubt brought on by the smoke and fumes of burned-out plastics now filling the air. Star helped him sit in his chair and he quickly waved her off. “Check on the others and then give me a damage report.”

    She nodded and attended to Aliris first. She found a steady pulse but she was bleeding from her forehead and unconscious. “Bridge to sickbay, medical emergency. Get somebody up here on the double,” she said and didn’t wait for a response as she moved on to operations.

    “This is sickbay. A team is already en-route.”

    Star carefully pulled Stanmore off the console and back into his chair. “Lieutenant?”

    He nodded slowly. “I’m okay, I think. Just got the wind knocked out of me,” he said, attempting to sound nonchalant.

    When she turned to look towards tactical she could see that Trinik was back at his board. There was green blood trickling down his mouth and nose but it didn’t seem to slow him down. “We have suffered a direct hit to deck eight. With additional damage reported to deck twelve, fifteen and sixteen. I am reading multiple hull breaches. Emergency force fields have engaged. Sickbay is reporting multiple casualties on all decks. No fatalities have been reported however three crewmembers are currently unaccounted for.”

    “Do we have … do we have the runabout?” Owens said.

    Stanmore responded. “We have it, sir.”

    The ship jolted once more.

    “Status of shields?” Star said.

    “Thirty-two percent,” the Vulcan said.

    Star looked towards the captain and immediately knew what he was thinking. Was it enough to get them out of the nebula in once piece?

    He pointed at the helm. “Commander, get us out of here, full impulse.”

    Star didn’t hesitate and took the chair behind the CONN. It had been a while since she had steered a starship but it came back to her as quickly as riding a bicycle. The ship was facing the wrong direction after they had turned it to align with the incoming runabout. It took only a moment to fire the thruster and have the bow facing the quickest route out of the nebula again. But when she fired up the impulse engine she realized that it wasn’t giving her nearly enough power. She shook her head in frustration. “Impulse engines are operating at forty percent efficiency only.”

    “Owens to engineering, we need more power to the engines.”

    Hopkins was on the line momentarily. “I see what I can do but we’ve taken a lot of damage, sir. We have multiple overloaded or damaged EPS conduits and we were still affecting repairs from the damage we’ve taken a few days ago. Most of our systems are running on emergency power at the moment.”

    “Prioritize impulse engines and shields. We need to try and get out of the nebula. All other repairs can wait until we’re clear.”

    “Understood, sir. Hopkins out.”

    The forward turbolift doors opened to allow DeMara Deen to step onto the bridge along with a medical team which quickly tended to the fallen Aliris and the other injured.

    “Dee,” Owens said and stood on shaky legs. “Are you alright?”

    “Felt better but I think I’ll pull through,” she said with a smirk.

    “What happened?”

    “Long story. Srena took the worst of it. She’s in sickbay,” she said and didn’t miss that Lance Stanmore turned to look at her at the mention of the Andorian pilot, deep worry lines crossing his brow and she quickly recalled what she had said about the young operations officer and how they had only recently started seeing each other. “I think she’ll be alright.”

    He gave her an appreciative nod even though his concern was clearly not completely alleviated. He turned back to his station to distract himself with his work.

    “What about the others?” Owens said.

    “Leva has a broken arm. He should be back on his feet soon.”


    She didn’t respond to that straight away. “He’s still on the planet.”

    Star stood from the helm after handing it off to another crewman. “What planet?”

    “As I said, it’s a long story,” she said and then nearly lost her balance when the ship was struck yet again.

    “Shields down to twenty-six percent,” Trinik said.

    “Doesn’t look like we have time for stories,” said Deen. “Where do you want me?”

    “Ideally sickbay,” said Owens. “But we could use an extra hand at science if you’re up to it.”

    She offered a sharp nod and then headed for the aft station.

    Meanwhile Star had handed over helm duties to Petty Officer Waldorf. The middle-aged NCO was usually in charge of piloting the ship during the night shift and it didn’t escape her that with Culsten restricted to quarters, as to her own orders, and both Srena and Aliris incapacitated, they were growing thin at that position. She made a mental note to get some backup to the bridge as soon as possible. “How long until we clear the nebula, Mister?”

    “Impulse engine is not yet fully restored. At current speed we won’t clear it for at least another hour.”

    Star glanced at Trinik next and she didn’t have to put her question into words.

    “At the present rate of attack, shields will last another sixteen minutes and twelve seconds before total collapse,” he said. “I will attempt to divert additional power but it is unlikely that we will be able to keep the grid energized until we are free of the nebula.”

    “And we’re not even sure yet if the attack is in fact linked to Aphrodite. For all we know it might be something else entirely which will keep attacking us until the ship is destroyed,” said the captain. “We need to find out what we’re up against.”

    Star noticed that Deen was hard at work at the science station. “Lieutenant, any thoughts?”

    “Maybe,” she said. “How long has the ship been under attack?”

    Owens took that one. “It’s been nearly five hours now. On and off. It seemed to lessen when we were headed towards the boundary of the nebula and it picked up again when we headed deeper into it.”

    “And we had multiple instances of crewmembers acting erratically over the last few days, purposefully attempting to damage the ship. Lieutenant Gedar was killed,” said Star but then regretted mentioned the engineer’s death when she spotted Deen’s shocked reaction, forgetting for a moment that she must have known him quite well as they had been in the play together.

    Owens had left his chair to head towards Deen and then placed a hand on her shoulder. She knew what he was doing. They needed her focused on the problem at hand and not distracted with the death of a fellow officer.

    Deen looked up at the captain.

    “You mentioned you had some ideas?” he said.

    It took her a moment to recover. “Actually it’s something Srena said. She’s been spending some time studying the nebula and she may have found something,” Deen said and then turned back to the science station. Star noticed that she was setting up an interface with the runabout computer. The small vessel was in a worse shape than her mother ship but fortunately the computer core was still active and it didn’t take Deen long to get access to its main memory circuits. “At first I thought what she said was that she was glad that she was still alive but now I think she meant to say that the nebula itself is alive.”

    “You think the nebula is a life form?” said Owens.

    “It wouldn’t be the strangest thing we’ve seen,” she said as she went through the runabout’s computer to try and find the research Srena had been working on.

    Star had a sudden thought and turned to tactical. “Trinik, give me the visual sensor readouts just before the latest attack. Directly aft, from where the attack originated.”

    The Vulcan had the requested data up in an instance and transferred it onto the main view screen to show what the sensors had picked up just a few minutes earlier. A large ball of crimson energy, the size of a shuttlecraft was pulsing with what appeared to be massive amounts of pure energy just a few short kilometers from the ship. It accelerated suddenly towards Eagle where it hit the shields with such force the visual pickup blinked out.

    “Go back and freeze the image on the object,” said Star.

    The screen turned back on to show the pulsing mass of light.

    “That looks familiar,” said Owens.

    Star nodded. “Because we’ve seen it before. In fact we’ve seen it everywhere we’ve looked. Lieutenant, maximum magnification on the outer edge of the object.”

    The screen zoomed in to reveal dozens of smaller specks of light racing towards the larger one to create the phenomenon which had attacked the ship.

    “I think those are our life forms,” said Deen and then turned back towards the science station. “That’s what Srena was talking about. She believed those specks of light we’ve seen in the nebula are sentient.”

    “But why are they attacking us?” asked Stanmore from the operations console.

    “They must see us as a threat,” said Deen. “After all we’ve invaded their home.”

    “And they may have already tried to communicate with us,” said the first officer. “Perhaps to warn us.”

    Owens turned to look at the Trill. “Explain?”

    “It’s just a theory of course, but consider the evidence. They made contact with you first. Logically really, seeing that you are the captain. When this failed they became more and more desperate, eventually leading to attempts to destroy the ship, first from within and now from without.”

    Deen seemed in agreement as she nodded along. “I think the commander is right. These are all signs of an intelligence at work. A life form quite possibly trying to defend itself.”

    Eagle trembled hard as it was hit yet again. All three officers were forced to hang on in order as not to lose their balance.

    “Shields now down to eighteen percent,” Trinik said.

    “Alright,” said Owens, “so we’re dealing with some sort of incorporeal life form currently dead set on seeing us destroyed. And they want us out of the nebula. But we’re already on our way and yet they’re still attacking us.”

    “They’ve become desperate,” said Deen.

    Star nodded. “We need to find a way to communicate with them, to let them know that we are no threat and that we are happy to leave the nebula.”

    The turbolift doors opened, this time to deposit Katanga on the bridge. The doctor was still wearing his surgical gear. He spotted the three senior officers assembled around the science station and headed their way.

    “Doctor, how’s the crew?” said Owens. “What’s Ensign Srena’s condition?”

    “No fatalities, thank the Maker. The ensign is going to pull through as well. In fact she’s the reason I’m up here. When she came to for a short while she made me promise I come up here and tell you about her theory that the nebula is home of …” he stopped himself when he noticed the readouts on the science station. “Ah, I can see you already figured it out.”

    “Thanks to Srena’s analysis,” said Deen. “We need to find a way to communicate with them.”

    “I take it just opening a hailing frequency is not going to do it,” said Katanga.

    Deen shook her head. “They are, by all indications, free floating, incorporeal life forms. They are likely to have just a little facilities to pick up subspace radio signals as we would without any equipment.”

    “But they are able to temporarily inhabit a corporeal body and use it for their purposes,” said Star. “We may be able to communicate with them in that manner.”

    “I’m not sure I like that idea very much,” said Katanga.

    Another hard jolt nearly caused Katanga to the floor had it not been for Star catching him in time. “I don’t think we have much of a choice at this point,” she said.

    “You want to allow an alien life form we practically know nothing about access to one of our bodies to do with them who knows what? We don’t even know what kind of long-term effects this could have on the host body,” said the doctor, clearly not willing to sign off on this plan even given the deteriorating circumstances.

    “Doctor, you have thoroughly examined everyone we believe to have been taken over by these life forms, including myself, and found no ill-affects, isn’t that right?” said Owens.

    “Yes but we don’t know about long-term—“

    But Star cut him off. “We’re explorers, right?” she said and looked at Owens. “This is the core of what we are all about. Making contact with new forms of life is why we’re out here in the first place. Not only do we have an opportunity to do so now, our own lives may very much depend on us doing so successfully. I volunteer.”

    “I still think this is a terrible idea,” he said and then continued before Star could interrupt again. “But fair enough, I can see why our options might be limited right now. But you’re not a good choice, Dez,” he said, using the name of her previous host. “From what we’ve seen, these life forms prefer a body with low serotonin levels. That’s not you. Our best bet is to go with somebody we know has already been taken over. Their levels should still be fairly low and I could lower them a little further temporarily to make them even more appealing. But it would have to be a short session. And I would have to monitor that person throughout the process.”

    “Than I’ll do it,” said Owens.

    Star immediately shook her head. “Sir, that’s too dangerous.”

    “Besides,” said Katanga. “Your possession, if you will, took place ten days ago which means your serotonin levels back to a reduced levels are nearly back to normal. It would be easier if we picked somebody with a more recent experience.”

    Owens nodded reluctantly. “Alright, who do you suggest? It can’t be Hopkins, we’ll need her in engineering.”

    The first officer tapped her combadge. “Star to Lieutenant Culsten,” she said and then looked at Owens who offered a nod of agreement, letting her know to go ahead.

    “Culsten here, sir.”

    “Lieutenant, I believe I still owe you an apology. In return would you mind terribly in helping us save the ship and everybody on board?”

    He hesitated for only an instant. “Tell me what you need.”
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2014
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VII -

    Xylion had been assigned a small hut in the settlement which wasn’t much more than a single room with a cot, a chest as well as a table and a couple of chairs. It was of course more than sufficient for him. It wasn’t the spartanly furnished accommodations that concerned him but the odd behavior of the settlers.

    At first he had attributed Tela’s interest in him as nothing more than some sort of physical attraction exasperated by her youth and her lack of Vulcan mental discipline. But the fact that Vorik, her father and a Vulcan elder seemed to be as insistent that he not only marry his daughter but also procreate as soon as possible was unlikely and unexpected. Regardless how living in isolation had affected many of the younger Vulcans over the years, Volik was clearly a man who had spent a great amount of time following pragmatic Vulcan ways and so his illogical behavior was much more difficult to reconcile.

    And then of course there were the many other oddities about the settlement he had come across. He had of course noticed the lack of children which seemed strange considering Volik’s resolve on preserving the future of the settlement. The most likely explanation could have been some sort of sterility which had affected the male Vulcans but initial scans did not support that theory.

    A knock on the door of his hut interrupted his considerations.


    The door opened and Tela slowly entered. “Xylion, may I enter?”


    She gingerly stepped inside, almost as if she wasn’t sure if she were welcome here. “I have come to apologize for my father’s behavior.”


    “It was not right of him to announce our marriage in such a way without consulting the matter with you first,” she said.

    “Agreed,” said Xylion and stood.

    “Especially since you had already indicated previously that you had no intentions of taking me as your wife.”

    “It had been a premature decision considering that we had only just met at the time.”

    She nodded. “But now you have joined our settlement.”

    “Is your father pressuring you to bond with me?”

    She quickly shook her head and stepped closer. “Not at all. This is my decision. I wish to become your wife.”

    “Even though you have known me for only a very short period of time?”

    “I understand that marriages on Vulcan are usually prearranged during childhood. We do not have that same option here.”

    He offered a minuscule nod to accede to that point. “True. But regardless, you must understand that what you are proposing is highly uncommon in most societies. It is much more customary to allow some time for two people to get to know each other before proposing marriage. This in turn will ensure maximum compatibility between the betrothed parties.”

    “But is it not proper to be wed before procreation?” she said.

    His eyebrow climbed towards the ceiling. “You wish to procreate?”

    “For the good of the settlement.”

    “The future of the settlement does not depend on our procreation at this time.”

    She didn’t seem to have an answer to that. Instead she took another step closer. When Xylion didn’t seem to react to this gesture, she placed the palm of her hand onto his chest and looked up at him. “How long has it been since you have been with a woman?”

    “I do not understand the relevance of that question.”

    She pushed herself even closer. “You find me attractive, do you not? Do you not wish to have my body?”

    Xylion reached out for her and she closed her eyes when he touched her shoulder and his hand moved towards her neck. Then they opened wide suddenly when she felt a sudden pinch.

    Tela went slack and Xylion grabbed her before she could fall. “I apologize for having to take this action, however your behavior is leading me to believe that you are not being entirely honest with me,” he said as he carefully placed her onto the floor and sat her up against the bed. He considered her peaceful features for a moment. “I must also apologize for what I must do next. I believe that neither you nor the other settlers have provided me with satisfactory answers and I am convinced that you are keeping information which may be vital to our survival,” he said and reached out for her face. He spread his fingers and then carefully touched her in various places near her nose, temple and cheekbone to initiate a mind meld.

    This was not something he did lightly. But the evidence had been mounting that something was very wrong with the settlement and the Vulcans who lived here and Tela’s latest, illogical behavior had given him enough reason to attempt such drastic action.

    It had been a long time since he had attempted a meld and the first time he had done so without the other person’s permission. It was of course an intrusive procedure, an assault on another being’s mind and privacy. Xylion saw no other option.

    He closed his eyes as he concentrated on making contact with her mind. Not knowing what he would find there, he probed very slowly, intending to be as non-intrusive as possible. In the unlikely even that Tela had spoken the truth he didn’t want to hurt her or invade her privacy too deeply.

    He met resistance almost immediately and it surprised him. A mind like Tela’s with no learned Vulcan disciplines should have opened up to him like a book, especially considering her current state of unconsciousness. Instead he found something very much aware and ready to defend itself. And more than that, something immensely powerful.

    His curiosity getting the better of him, he decided to dig deeper and push harder and past those initial defenses to see what lurked beneath the surface.

    It took a great deal of effort, sweat pearls began dripping into his eyes and he could feel his own concentration slipping. And yet he pushed on.

    He found recent memories of hers most of which were clearly focused on him. The most prominent memory which stood out was also the most disturbing.

    Xylion could see as if through her eyes, as she travelled from the settlement to the canyon in which the runabout had been stranded. But this was not a memory of one of the visits he had been aware of. This one had taken place during the night. And she had not come to seek him out. Instead her only interest had been the runabout itself. And like an experienced engineer, she knew exactly what she was doing. She had gone directly to the access panel which had housed the thruster module and removed it like an expert. Once complete, she could have easily returned to the settlement. Instead she stayed and lured an unsuspecting Ensign Srena outside. She surprised the other woman and just when the Andorian had let down her guard, Tela struck with unrelenting violence. She was too fast for her unprepared victim and unleashed blow after blow until Srena no longer moved.

    Deeply disturbed by these images, Xylion penetrated deeper still and past the outer layers of her mind which contained her recent memories. What he found was a flood of thoughts. And not those of a twenty-three year old Vulcan woman but an endless amount of information belonging to a being many times older. It was far too much for him to handle without having prepared for this.

    His eyes shot open to see her dark eyes staring back at him.

    You should not have done that.

    The voice blasted through his mind with such ferocity he flinched noticeably.

    Then he felt something else. It reached out for him and he realized too late that this was not in his mind. No, this was something very much physical and it struck him in the chest with such force he went flying backward through the room, crashing into a couple of chairs which splintered under the impact.

    Slightly dazed, he still managed to get back onto his feet. Tela remained sitting by the bed, her eyes closed again and she looked for all the world like nothing more than a young Vulcan woman, sleeping peacefully.

    Xylion now understood that this was not the case at all. She was not Vulcan and neither were any of the settlers on this world. They had not crashed on this planet two decades earlier and they were not interested in growing their colony. They were interested only in him and what a merger between them could mean for these beings. He wasn’t entirely certain what that would be, only that he could not allow it.

    He found a phaser and an emergency subspace beacon, both of which he had brought from the runabout before it had left, and quickly departed his hut.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - VIII -

    “Is it too late to change my mind about this?”

    Culsten was sitting in the seat to the left of the centrally positioned captain’s chair on the bridge. Katanga had just finished placing a number of medical devices on his forehead and neck in order to monitor his vitals as well as being able to lower and raise serotonin levels within his body remotely.

    Nora Laas was applying restraints to his wrists to tie them down tightly to the armrests and to ensure that he was unable to move. She stopped and looked up at the partially restrained helmsman. “I thought you volunteered for this.”

    “That was before I knew that I was going to get tied down to a chair.”

    “It’s a necessary precaution,” said Star who surrounded the helmsman along with the captain, Doctor Katanga and DeMara Deen. “The last few times these life forms made contact with us it resulted in near catastrophic damage to the ship.”

    Katanga stepped closer. “Son, if you have any concerns about this, if you don’t feel comfortable offering up your body to an alien and quite possibly hostile incorporeal life form, tell us now. You do not have to do this.”

    The first officer glared at the doctor, not appreciating his discouraging tone.

    “You’re really selling me on this, Doc,” he said but then noticed Tazla Star’s hard look as well as the captain’s obvious concern. The ship rocked once more, reminding everybody on board that they were still in grave danger. He found his resolve then and nodded confidently. “No, I said I was going to do it and I will. This is why we joined Starfleet after all, isn’t it?”

    The Trill gave him and encouraging nod.

    “Sure, we’re out here to offer our bodies to whatever crazy life form would want to take over control,” Katanga mumbled.

    Star rolled her eyes. “Just keep an eye on him, Eli. If there are any signs that he is in danger, get it to leave his body again.”

    “That’s if it wants to leave,” he said before glancing at his tricorder.

    “What does that mean?” Culsten said.

    Star quickly moved on. “Now the next question is how do we make sure this life form takes the bait in the first place?”

    “Great, now I’m bait. You guys really know how to make me feel confident about all this,” the helmsman said under his breath.

    Deen offered a sympathetic smile before she turned towards Star and the captain. “We will have to lower the shields around the bridge for this to work.”

    “What about the radiation from the nebula?” said Owens. “We’ll be exposed.”

    Katanga gestured to Adams, his nurse, who already had a hypospray at the ready and immediately began to administer it to the bridge crew. “This arithrazine compound should inoculate us for a short time. But I strongly suggest that we wrap up this meeting in under half an hour. Any longer and we will start to experience moderate to severe radiation sickness.”

    “Alright,” said Owens. “Let’s clear the bridge of all but the most essential personnel and have them move to auxiliary control in case we take severe damage to the bridge while the shields are down.”

    This was meant for Stanmore, Waldorf, Trinik and a couple of crewmen working at the aft consoles, all of which quickly secured their stations and then headed for the turbolift to get to a secondary control room. Adams, the nurse, was also excused.

    “Sir,” said Star, “you should head to auxiliary as well.”

    But the captain shook his head. “We’re about to make first contact, hopefully, with a new life form. I’ll stay,” he added and in order to brook no further discussion on the topic he indicated towards tactical. “Commander, take that station and keep an eye on sensors and shields. If this doesn’t work we may need to raise them again in a hurry.”

    The first officer looked as if she wanted to protest and stand her ground on the issue of the captain’s safety which after all was her responsibility. But when the ship took yet another hit, she reconsidered, realizing that they were losing valuable time and instead followed his order.

    “Alright, people, let’s do this,” said Owens. “Commander, lower the shields around the bridge only.”

    Star took a deep breath before entering the command, fully aware that this had been her suggestion but perhaps also suddenly realizing how vulnerable it would make them. A quick glance at the current shield status showed that they didn’t have much of choice either way. At the current rate of attack, Eagle’s defensive systems would fail in a matter of minutes anyway. “Shields are down.”

    “Doctor?” Owens said.

    “The lieutenant’s serotonin levels are as low as I can safely bring them without causing any kind of neurological damage.”

    Almost instinctively everyone took a step backwards from Lif Culsten who began to look around nervously. “Does anyone have any idea what I can expect?”

    “Most reports from people having been taken over by energy-based life forms reported that they were aware of the possession while it took place but that they were unable to interact with the world around them. Almost as if they were looking through somebody else’s eyes,” said Deen, obviously making an attempt to instill confidence into the young helmsman.

    “Sounds lovely.”

    “Of course that’s just speculation. We have no idea what this encounter may feel like to you. All we know for certain is that you are unlikely to retain any memory of it,” she added.

    “Yeah, I remember the last time. Or rather, I don’t.”

    The bridge became very quiet after that, as if everybody was holding their breath, waiting for either Lif Culsten’s body being taken over by an alien life form, or the bridge exploding around them. Instead however, nothing happened.

    “It’s been five minutes,” said the captain after checking the chronometer.

    “Perhaps these being are not interested in talking to us anymore,” the doctor offered.

    “No, something is happening,” said Star

    The others considered her with questioning glances.

    “There hasn’t been a single attack since we lowered the shields around the bridge,” she said. “They’ve taken notice.”

    Owens nodded. “The question is are they planning to make contact or something else.”

    “I think we’re about to find out,” said Culsten as he looked straight ahead.

    The others followed his gaze.

    A single, spherical speck of light, the size of a watermelon and shimmering in alternating colors of crimson, azure and yellow had appeared just by the view screen as if it had passed right through solid matter and was now hovering in place.

    The four officers around Culsten stepped back, forming a path from the screen towards the restrained helmsman. Nobody spoke.

    The ball of light did not move.

    “Maybe somebody should tell them that we’re on a schedule,” said Katanga.

    The light shot forward and quickly approached the doctor, moving in so close it nearly blinded Katanga. To his credit, the doctor flinched once but then held his ground, trying to maintain eye contact even though the proximity of the bright light emanating from the entity did not make it easy for him.

    Nora reached for her phaser.

    Owens waved her off. “As you were, Lieutenant. Let’s allow it to have a good look at us.”

    The light moved away from Katanga and moved to the captain next, illuminating his face as it had done to the doctor. Owens remained perfectly still as it hovered mere inches in front of him.

    “Sir, I don’t like this one bit,” said the security chief, her hand still on her sidearm.

    The light ball buzzed through the air again, this time to take a closer look at the Bajoran who clearly struggled, uncomfortable at having that thing right in her face.

    “It’s curious,” said Deen. “It’s to be expected.”

    “You’d think with all the time it spend taking over our crewmembers it would know us fairly well by now,” the first officer said.

    This in turn prompted the entity to move in front of the Trill.

    “Perhaps this is the first chance this life form had to study us in greater detail. Remember, we had shields raised before so it stands to reason it may have required much more energy or effort when it came aboard on previous occasions,” said Deen and was immediately rewarded with the entity’s full attention. “This is truly amazing,” she said as she studied the multi-colored light hovering in front of her. “I think it may be attracted to our voices,” she added and then looked towards the sitting helmsman who hadn’t spoken since the entity had appeared. “Lif, say something. Attract its attention.”

    Culsten’s features turned quizzical. “What do I say?”

    “I don’t think it matters. Just keep talking to attract it. Hopefully it will sense your lowered serotonin levels and understand what to do.”

    “Right,” he said and then focused on the hovering ball of energy. “Hey, you, ball of pretty lights. How about you come over here and have a look at me?”

    Deen turned her head to shoot the helmsman an incredulous look as if to say: Are you being serious?

    He simply shrugged.

    But the entity did do just that.

    “Yeah, hi there. My name is Lif Culsten and uh … welcome on board Eagle. I know you’ve been here before but we were really kind of hoping we could talk to you this time. You know about this whole attacking us thing. See we’re not here to hurt you or anything. We’re really just explorers. Well, perhaps at the moment we are also soldiers fighting a war,” he noticed the piercing look in the captain’s eyes which clearly communicated his displeasure as to where he was going with this.

    Culsten quickly changed tracks. “Not with you of course. Somebody else, somebody different. Never mind I said anything,” he said quickly and shot the captain a quick, apologetic look. “Anyway, we’d love to know more about you and we know that you’ve been inside my head before so, if you don’t mind perhaps you could just come back in. We’ve lowered my serotonin levels because we know that you prefer that. So, come on in, make yourself at home. Just, I’d appreciate it if you left everything the way you found it.”

    The entity continued to hover but otherwise nothing else was happening.

    Out of ideas, Culsten glanced back to Deen who simply gestured for him to continue talking.

    “We believe … uh … that there may have been some sort of misunderstanding between us and we’d just love to clear that up and—“

    The globe began to change color more rapidly.

    “I think something is happening. Something is definitely—“

    The entity moved forward and right towards the Krellonian.

    “Here it goes,” he said just before it made contact and then seemingly effortlessly merged into his body, moving right through his chest.

    Culsten looked back up, his eyes empty.

    Katanga immediately had his tricorder out.

    “Lif, are you still there?” Deen asked, taking a careful step towards him.

    He looked at her but did not speak.

    Owens turned to the physician. “Doctor?”

    Katanga studied the readouts of his tricorder. “I’m detecting an extremely faint brain pattern wave which is definitely not Culsten’s,” he said and looked at the helmsman. “In my professional opinion, the entity is now in control of the lieutenant’s body.”

    Every set of eyes on the bridge focused on the sitting and now apparently possessed Krellonian.

    The man in the chair considered the many faces around him curiously. When he tried to move he looked down at his wrists to notice the restraints, pulling at them slightly.

    This caused Nora to place a hand on her phaser once more. Katanga noticed. “Remember, Lieutenant, you are more likely to harm Culsten than you are the life form if you use that thing.”

    Message apparently received, the Bajoran let go of the weapon, but she didn’t relax her tense muscles, clearly remaining ready to jump into action if the occasion called for it. She grew impossibly more tense when she saw the captain slowly approach Culsten and then go down on his haunches a couple of feet in front of him to be on eye level.

    “I am Captain Michael Owens, representing the United Federation of Planets. I am hoping we can open a dialogue between our people. We believe you may have attempted to communicate with us before. At the time we did not know of your existence or that you had attempted to make contact with us.”

    Culsten’s eyes appraised Owens not unlike a child seeing another person for the first time. He did however not speak.

    “We now believe that we may have intruded into your space, this nebula, possibly against your wishes and that this may have prompted the hostile actions against us. I wish to personally assure you that this was not our intention and that if you so wish, we will leave this place at once.”

    When this still promoted no reaction, Owens looked up, first at Star and then at Deen and Katanga. But nobody seemed to have an answer as how to proceed.

    The captain glanced back Culsten. “Of course we’d much rather become friends. We are explorers and meeting new life forms is our primary mission. I’m certain we could learn much from you and perhaps you can learn from us as well.”

    Culsten tested his bonds again but was clearly unable to free himself. The captain turned to his security chief. “Lieutenant, remove the restraints, please.”

    “Captain, I really don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said.

    “I don’t think it’s a significant risk,” offered Star from the tactical station right behind the sitting Culsten. “It does not appear it has access to any more strength beyond of what the lieutenant could naturally muster. If we had to, we could probably subdue it easily.”

    Nora nodded, probably surprising the others by not offering any additional objections or even attempting to argue with the one officer she had been at odds with since she had come aboard. She carefully moved to Culsten’s seat to undo the restraints. She stepped back once she was done but stayed noticeably closer to the possessed man now.

    Culsten slowly rose from his chair and Owens quickly followed suit. He took a few exploratory steps around the bridge and the others were giving him plenty of space.

    “We really believe it could be greatly beneficial for both of our people if we were to open a dialogue,” said Owens, trying again. Culsten turned to face him when he spoke but other than considering him with his wide-open eyes, he offered no response.

    “Is it possible that he cannot understand us?” Owens said but kept looking at Culsten.

    “I find that unlikely,” said Star. “They have already demonstrated that they were able to operate our technology when inhabiting a humanoid body. That would indicate that they understand our language at the very least.”

    “Perhaps they just cannot talk like we can,” said Katanga and then elaborated when Owens shot him a quizzical look. “Most humanoid speech centers are very elaborate systems. It takes time to learn how to master them. Most newly born are able to use their motor functions much sooner than they are able to utilize speech.”

    Deen, clearly having had an idea, quickly found a data padd, typed something into it and then carefully held it out for Culsten’s body.

    It considered the device for a moment.

    “Take it,” she said. “Perhaps we can communicate this way.”

    He took the padd gingerly and studied it. Then it began to enter a few commands and revealed the display. The Light.

    Everyone on the bridge grinned. Communication had been established.

    “The Light,” Owens said. “Is that what you call yourself? The name of your people perhaps?”

    He typed again: The Light we are.

    Owens nodded. “Alright. We’ll call you the Light,” he said. “We hail from different species all working together towards one goal. I am human,” he said and then pointed at Star. She is a Trill,” he continued and then pointed at the others. “Tenarian, Bajoran, another human, and he is a Krellonian.”

    He used the padd again, showing them the display. Corporeal.

    “Yes, we are corporeal life forms,” he said.

    “It understands,” said Deen with a smile.

    “We apologize if we have intruded into your territory. We were not aware that you lived here,” the captain said.

    Energy deep within. Hurt.

    Owens glanced at Deen.

    She considered that for a moment. “Something hurts them. Something we are doing,” she said.

    “The warp core,” said Katanga. “The matter/anti-matter radiation it emits may be harmful to certain energy based life forms. I should have thought of that sooner.”

    “Owens to Hopkins.”

    “Hopkins, here sir.”

    “Lieutenant, I need you to immediately shut down the warp engine. Run all systems on auxiliary if you have to,” said the captain.

    “Yes, sir. However we will be running out of power in short order. We are already far below recommend levels,” the chief engineer responded promptly.

    “How much time do we have?”

    “Well, now that the attacks have stopped, I can keep us running with shields for about an hour or so. But without warp power that’s the best I can do.”

    Owens nodded as he considered the entity within Culsten in front of him. “I think we’re making inroads here. Hopefully the attacks are over. Shut down the core and keep us running as long as you can. Owens out,” he said and then spoke to the entity again. “We are shutting down our warp core. Its radiation will no longer cause you any harm.”

    The hurt passed.

    “We did not realize that our engines would cause you damage. However without them we will not be able to stay in this nebula much longer. The radiation in here hurts us without our shields,” he said. “But perhaps you would allow us to return once we have repaired our vessel. We could continue our dialogue and learn more about each other.”

    The Light learns.

    “I’ll take that as a yes,” Deen said with a large grin.

    Nora took a step forward but this time she was clearly more relaxed than she had been before. “Sir, may I ask the entity a question?”

    Owens glanced at his security chief. “We do have some time. Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

    Nora seemed unsure of herself for a moment, either having second thoughts or perhaps not quite comfortable addressing an alien life form within the body of one of her fellow officers. “We believe … you may have been responsible for some incidents aboard our ship,” she said carefully.

    The energy deep within.

    Nora nodded her understanding. “You tried to stop it somehow after you were unable to communicate with us. But on our first night in this nebula, one of our crewmembers was killed. Do you know how this happened?”

    The Light learned. Corporeal fragile.

    “Where you responsible for his death?” she said.

    The Light within corporeal. But another. Interference. The Light did not understand. Aggression.

    “It must have possessed somebody else that night in engineering,” said Star. “Gedar tried to stop that person and he was killed.”

    Corporeal fragile. The Light learned.

    “You didn’t mean to kill him,” Nora said and then looked towards Owens. “It was an accident.”

    The captain nodded in agreement.

    “The crewmember you possessed,” the Bajoran asked. “Who was he?”

    Features like this. Different. Then it touched both of Culsten’s cheeks.

    “Kolrami,” Nora and Star said in unison, recognizing that he was referring to the fleshy protrusions common to the Zakdorn.

    “That makes sense,” said the security chief, mostly to herself. “He would have been on duty with Gedar that night and most likely returned to engineering at some point. And afterwards he would have had no memory of what took place while he was possessed.”

    Deen took a small step forward. “I have a question,” she said.

    Owens gestured for her to continue.

    She focused on Culsten. “We discovered a rogue planet in the nebula with a colony of stranded Vulcans.”

    “Vulcans?” Owens said, clearly hearing this for the first time.

    She nodded. “I’ll explain it later,” she said before she looked back at the possessed Krellonian. “Do you know of them?”

    There was some hesitation on the Light’s part before he began to use the padd again. The Dark.

    “That doesn’t sound good,” Katanga said.

    “Why would you refer to a group of Vulcans as the Dark?” said Star, as confused as the others.

    The Dark. Not corporeal. Not like you. Like the Light once. Now the Dark.

    This made Deen think. “So they are not Vulcan. They used to be like you but not anymore. What does that mean? Have they somehow evolved? Or rather, devolved?”


    That piqued Owens’ interest. “Banished why?”

    Destroyers. Corrupted. Malevolent.

    “Like criminals?” said Owens but looked towards Deen instead.

    “We need to get Xylion out of there,” she said.

    Tazla Star leaned forward and over the tactical station. “Lieutenant, why don’t you tell us what happened on this planet.”

    “We came across significant gravimetric readings early on in our survey which led us to a rouge planet surrounded by intense electromagnetic interference. We were struck by it and forced to crash land on the surface where we found a fully independent eco system along with a group of Vulcans who said that they had crashed there themselves over twenty years ago. Long story short, some of the Vulcans eventually attacked Srena and Xylion worked out a deal in which they would help us with our repairs in turn for him agreeing to stay behind.”

    “That does not sound like very typical Vulcan behavior,” Katanga said.

    “We thought the same thing. Xylion believed that elements of their settlement were slipping back into a pre-Surak style society. He thought he could help them if he stayed behind.”

    Owens glanced at the entity. “But they are not Vulcans, are they?”

    The Dark.

    Deen shook her head. “They were very eager for him to stay. In fact, from the moment we arrived they clearly wanted us to become part of their settlement,” she said. “If they are not Vulcans, what did they want with any of us?”

    All eyes focused back on the Light.

    His own focus now rapidly moved from one face to the next, perhaps as if considering that very same question. Then it stopped suddenly and worked the padd again. The Dark. Banished. Merge with corporeal. Banishment. No More.

    “They’re trying to escape,” said Deen.

    Culsten was typing again but suddenly with much more urgency, almost furiously. The Dark. Must be banished. Destroyers. Corrupted. Malevolent. The Dark must stop. The Light become Destroyers.

    “What are you saying?” said Nora, trying to pick up on the ambivalent message. “That the Dark will somehow corrupt you if they escape? Turn you into destroyers?”

    The Light become Destroyers. The Dark. Stop. The Dark. Must be banished.

    “I think it’s saying that the Light, his people, will stop the Dark before they’ll allow it to escape,” said Star.

    “Stop them how?” the captain asked.

    “I think we’ve already seen exactly how the Light uses its power,” she said. “And it is likely more than enough to destroy a settlement of faux Vulcans.”

    “With our real Vulcan right in the middle of things,” said Deen.

    Owens turned towards the entity. “Before you do anything allow us to retrieve our crewmember from the planet. That will remove the one element which you believe posses a danger to you.”

    Judging by Culsten’s now rapid eye movements, the entity was now more agitated than ever before. Risk great. Opportunity now. The Dark. Destroy.

    “Give us a chance to resolve this peacefully—“

    The padd slipped out of Culsten’s hand and before it had even landed on the carpet, the Light entity had left its host body and the Krellonian collapsed. Nora jumped forward just in time to catch him before he could crumple to the floor.

    “I think we have our answer, Captain,” said Katanga as he watched the entity, now back in its non-corporeal form darting across the bridge until it slipped right through the bulkhead and disappeared.

    Deen took a step towards the captain. “We need to get Xylion out of there before—“

    But Owens had already jumped into action. “Commander, red alert. Raise shields around the bridge and get everyone back to their posts,” he said as he headed for his chair and took his seat.

    The red alert klaxons and the flashing crimson lights prepared the ship for battle stations. Just a few moments later, the remaining bridge crew returned to the deck to take their stations.

    Katanga was tending to Culsten who Nora had deposited back into the chair next to the captain’s and he appeared to slowly coming back around.

    Deen took her usual post at ops. “Something is definitely happening out there,” she said.

    Star handed tactical back to Trinik and headed down the ramp and towards the command area. “On screen.”

    A very similar light phenomenon as the one which had caused such significant damage to Eagle just a little while earlier was beginning to form not too far off the starboard bow. Except that this one was much larger, already half the size of the ship itself, it was still growing by incorporating various other specks of light which seemed to be attracted to the formation as if it were a massive magnet.

    “They’re not wasting any time,” said Star.

    Deen checked her readouts. “It’s on the move. Heading directly towards the rogue planetoid. At their present speed I estimate they will reach it within forty-six minutes.”

    Star turned towards the captain. “Permission to assemble a rescue team.”

    Owens nodded. “What do you suggest?”

    “We can’t risk Eagle, especially since we’re running on backup power. But I could take a shuttle. With any luck we can overtake the entity, reach the planet, grab Xylion and then haul ass out of there before the attack commences.”

    Deen turned from her station. “Only problem is we don’t have a vessel. Nebuchadrezzar is totaled and the main shuttlebay out of commission after that landing. The secondary shuttle bay has been reprioritized for the sensor array construction so that’s out as well.”

    “Take the yacht,” Culsten said, referring to the small ship docked to the underside of []iEagle’s[/i] saucer section and usually reserved for the captain or diplomatic functions. The support vessel was rarely used as the runabout was more efficient in most ways.

    All eyes turned to the Krellonian still sitting to the captain’s right.

    “And you’re going to need your best pilot. That’s me.”

    “Son, do I have to remind you that you were just playing host to an energy-based life form which was in total control of your body? You’re in no shape to return to duty,” said the doctor who was still hovering over the young man.

    “Funny thing about that, Doc,” he said with an easy smile. “I don’t remember a thing about any of that,” he added and then turned to look at the captain next to him. “I’m ready to go, sir. And you’ll need me.”

    But the captain referred to the medical professional instead.

    Katanga uttered a heavy sigh. “Alright, fine,” he said and gave the Krellonian a hypospray. “This really goes against my better judgment but this should keep you on your feet for a couple of hours. I want you back in sickbay the moment you come back.”

    “Cross my heart. Isn’t that what they say?”

    Owens looked towards operations. “Is the yacht ready to be deployed?”

    “We’ve taken some damage to the bottom of the saucer section on deck sixteen. The yacht itself is undamaged but one of the docking clamps is frozen in place,” she said and looked back up. “Hopkins and an engineering team should be able to have that fixed in a few minutes.”

    Owens nodded. “Bridge to engineering.”

    But this time there was no response.

    “Owens to Hopkins.”

    Still nothing.

    The captain turned to Trinik at tactical.

    “There is no response from anybody in main engineering and—“ a warning sound from his tactical board redirected his attention. “Sir, there is a security alert originating in main engineering.”

    “What?” Nora Laas barked.

    “Clancy to Nora. We’ve got a situation in main engineering,” said the assistant counselor over the com. “It’s Decaux.”

    Owens pointed at Nora. “Get down there and resolve this. And do it quickly, we’re out of time.”

    Nora nodded and headed for the turbolift. “Security to main engineering.”

    Star looked towards Deen and then Culsten. “You two, head to deck sixteen and see what you can do in the meantime. Try and get the yacht ready for take-off,” she said but then instead of following them she jogged to catch up with Nora Laas heading for main engineering.
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - IX -

    When Nora and Star arrived in main engineering, Clancy as well as an armed, four-man security team headed by Jose Carlos had already arrived.

    It didn’t take Nora long to find what had prompted the response.

    Sierra Decaux stood just a few feet from the warp core, holding a flustered and clearly scared Sirna Kolrami in front of her with a matchbox sized phaser digging deep into his neck.

    Everyone in the room was focused on the developing hostage situation, including chief engineer Louise Hopkins who stood closest, desperately trying to appeal to the enraged crewman with the weapon.

    Clancy turned to the two women as soon as they had arrived. “She showed up here a couple of minutes ago looking for Kolrami and then threatening him with a phaser. She is totally convinced that he is responsible for Gedar’s death.”

    Nora and Star exchanged knowing looks.

    “You killed him!” An obviously unhinged Decaux yelled as she forced the cone of that phaser even deeper into him. “You hated Jin. You always have. You were jealous, you knew he was a better engineer and you hated him for it. Tell them, tell everyone how you hated him.”

    “I … please … just don’t—“

    “Tell them!”

    Clancy looked on with obvious concern. “This is not going to end well. Decaux is clearly unstable. She was when she came to see me in my quarters last night,” he whispered. “It’s her mental disorder. If it has gone untreated, she could be subject to all kinds of severe symptoms, including hallucinations.”

    Nora nodded but kept her eyes on Decaux by the warp core. “You mean like believing that alien life forms have taken over the crew and killed Gedar?”

    He looked at her, obviously noticing the tone in her voice which seemed to imply that there was much more going on that he was aware of.

    “It’s not such a crazy theory anymore,” said Nora.

    But Star shook her head. “It doesn’t matter what she believes. We do not have the time for this. We need to neutralize her quickly so that we can get the rescue mission under way. Any further delay does not just risk Xylion’s life but the life of the entire crew as well,” she said and reached for her weapon.

    “Agreed,” Nora said. “But that type-I phaser she’s got pinned to Kolrami’s neck is deadly at point blank range. Besides, you don’t want to risk hitting the warp core with a stray shot.”

    “You have a better idea?”

    “Let me try to talk to her.”

    Even Clancy looked unconvinced. “You? No offense but I don’t think she may be particularly responsive to you at the moment.”

    But the Bajoran glanced at Star instead.

    The first officer gave her a nod. “Give it a try.”

    Clancy looked rather befuddled at the sudden trust between these two women who just a couple of days earlier had been pretty much at each other’s throats.

    In the meantime Hopkins was doing her best to try and defuse the situation, concerned of course for her own officer as well as all the security personnel with phasers pointed into the one direction which could easily invite a catastrophe. “Please, we can talk about this? Just let him go and lower your weapon.”

    But Decaux’s eyes just grew wider when she saw the chief engineer. “You, you had something to do with this as well,” she said. “Why couldn’t you just stay away from him? You knew he was with me. You knew he was mine.”

    Hopkins swallowed, apparently not sure how to reply to this and fully aware that Decaux was at least halfway right. She had been involved with Gedar and it had been a tragic mistake.

    Before she could think of any kind of response which could somehow release the quickly building tension in the room, she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Nora Laas having stepped up behind her.

    Hopkins nodded thankfully when she gave her a look to let her know that she was going to deal with Decaux. Hopkins stepped back while Nora took a careful step closer to the hostage taker.

    “You’ve come to finish what you started, Lieutenant?” Sierra Decaux barked. “You’ve come to finally kill me.”

    The security chief raised her arms, showing her empty palms. “I’m not armed.”

    Decaux laughed at that. “We all know you don’t need weapons to kill.”

    “You’re probably right but I have no intentions of harming you, Sierra. I just want to ensure that you won’t either.”

    “You’ve given me no choice. You think I killed Gedar. You all do,” she said, raising her voice. “But it was him. I saw it with my own two eyes. He killed Gedar and he needs to pay for it,” she said and moved the phaser to the side of his head, pressing it against him with such force, it was beginning to draw blood.

    “I didn’t … I really didn’t. Please … stop this.”

    “Shut up,” she barked. “I know what I saw. You attacked him and threw him down the pit,” she said and when she turned slightly to look behind her where the alleged crime had taken place, one of the security guards shifted position to get a better shot. But Decaux noticed when she turned back. “Get back!” she shouted. And then to Nora. “Tell them to stay back or I will kill him. I’ll make him pay for what he did, I swear.”

    The Bajoran nodded and turned around to address her people. “You heard her, get back and do not open fire. That’s an order,” she said and then faced Decaux again. “Satisfied? None of my man will fire. You have nothing to fear from us, alright?”

    “No,” she said, vehemently shaking her head. “Nothing is alright. Nothing. You think I killed him.”

    “Not anymore, I don’t,” she said. “You were right all along. Right about what you saw, you were even right about what you told Clancy when you went to see him. You’re theory about alien life forms on the ship. You were right about that, too. They are here. In the nebula. And they were responsible for what happened to Gedar. Not you, not Kolrami.”

    The agitated woman considered Nora carefully and for a moment the security chief thought she had gotten through to her.

    “No,” she said and took a step back, closer to the warp core, pushing Kolrami with her. “You’re telling me what I want to hear. That’s all. I’m not stupid. I know I’m suffering from a condition. I know that it messes with my mind sometimes. There are no life forms. It was Kolrami, I saw him do it.”

    Nora suddenly wondered what the hell she was doing, standing there just a few feet from a crazed woman ready to kill her hostage because she was convinced he had killed the man she had loved. She wasn’t a detective and she sure as hell wasn’t a negotiator. This was Clancy’s area of expertise. She was a warrior. A fighter. Given the chance she’d be able to easily disarm and neutralize this mostly untrained woman. That was what she was good at, not talking somebody down. Problem was, the chance simply wasn’t there. Decaux would be able to depress that trigger long before she could even make it halfway towards her.

    “I believe you. I really do. In fact I know you are right. I know Lieutenant Kolrami threw Gedar over that railing and to his death,” she said, running out of ideas and hoping to be able to distract her to get closer.

    “What?” Kolrami said. “You’re as insane as she is. I didn’t—“

    “Shut up,” Nora and Decaux said in unison.

    “You’re … you’re just saying what I want to hear.”

    Nora shook her head and took a very small, very careful step closer. “Not at all. Let’s go through the events of that night together, shall we?” she said and then continued before she could object. “You were angry at Gedar for being unfaithful to you. You wanted to teach him a lesson and confront and embarrass him in public. And you found that Kolrami and Yunta were more than willing to go along with this and help out, both of them holding their own grudges. You three made a plan to come here and confront him. Alone initially and then with an audience. Correct?”

    She nodded along slowly.

    “Kolrami was to make sure he was alone in engineering at first. Then you were going to confront him and after that Yunta would walk in as well. And then when he was on the defensive Kolrami was going to bring in a crowd. Maybe even Hopkins as well, to reveal him as the fraud he was.”

    Tears were beginning to stream into her eyes. “He was a fraud. But he didn’t deserve to die.”

    “Of course not.”

    “When I came in, Kolrami was there. He shouldn’t have been but he was there and he was fighting with Gedar,” she said, as she recalled the events of that night.

    The engineer in the death grip was beginning to shake his head. “No, I wasn’t … I wasn’t there.”

    “Yes, you were,” Nora said sharply. “But you don’t remember, do you? In fact you don’t remember what happened at all that night. You have inexplicably lost all memory of what took place.”

    “I …” but Kolrami got stuck on his own words.

    “You threw him over,” said Decaux. “I saw you do it.”

    “No,” he said but sounded a lot less convinced of this than just a moment ago.

    “But can you be certain, Lieutenant?” Nora said. “Can you be absolutely certain, without a hint of doubt, that you didn’t do it?”

    “I … I didn’t do it. I would never kill a fellow crewman,” he said, sounding less and less assured of himself.

    Nora focused back on the hostage taker. “There have been a number of odd incidents aboard this ship lately. A lot of unexplained things have happened which didn’t appear to make any sense initially. People acting strangely and out of character. Now we know why. The nebula is home to a non-corporeal life form and our presence here has damaged them. They’ve tried to communicate with us but when it didn’t work they become more desperate. Taking over certain crewmembers and making them do things. Like they took over Kolrami here. Gedar tried to interfere and was killed. The life form didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident.”

    The engineer’s eyes opened wider.

    “That’s ... that’s not possible,” mumbled Decaux.

    At that Nora smirked. “You haven’t been out in space very long, have you? We’ve seen much crazier things than that. Trust me.”

    Decaux made eye contact with the Bajoran security officer who had managed to take another step towards her now, seemingly trying to judge if the tough security chief could be telling her the truth.

    “Point is; you didn’t kill Gedar. Kolrami didn’t kill him. Nobody on this ship did.”

    Nora noticed that the pressure on the phaser digging into the engineer’s skull lessened. Kolrami noticed this too and still fearing for his life, took action.

    “No, wait,” Nora shouted but it was already too late.

    Kolrami drove his elbow hard into Decaux’s midsection. The woman lost her grip on the phaser and on the engineer who didn’t hesitate to push himself off Decaux and jump away from her.

    Decaux doubled over in pain but was also pushed backwards and towards the warp core with enough momentum to easily go over the protective railing around the pit.

    Nora reacted instantly. But she had no clear path to Decaux as Kolrami was coming flying her way in a desperate attempt to escape. The security chief spun around him to avoid Kolrami, for now not so much concerned about him but rather about Decaux’s uncontrolled tumble towards the warp core pit.

    Once she had completed the spin and the engineer was behind her, Decaux was still out of reach. Nora watched in horror as the woman hit the red safety railing backwards with such force, she flipped right over it, falling head over heals into the space between the deck and warp core chamber to plummet to her death in pretty much the exact same manner as Jinlu Gedar had days earlier.

    Decaux’s eyes were wide open in shock and with the terrible realization that she would die just like the man she had loved, perhaps even considering the tragic irony of getting killed in the exact same fashion at the hands of very much the same man.

    Nora Laas jumped forward in a last ditch effort to try and prevent exactly that from taking place. She flew through the air, towards Decaux and the warp core pit, determined not to allow another such incident on her ship but also unable to convince herself that she wasn’t already too late.

    She hit the deck painfully, landing on her chest and her own momentum allowed her slip across the smooth flooring. But by that time Decaux had already fallen out of her line of sight, disappearing into the pit.

    She arrived at the edge of the deck less than a split-second later immediately reaching down, hoping against hope to be able to grab something but already aware that it would likely be nothing but air.

    Her right hand made contact with fabric and without even thinking about it she brought in her other hand to take hold of whatever she had snatched.

    A sudden, powerful pull, made her grunt, as she nearly dislocated her shoulders. She somehow managed to keep her balance and avoid going over and into the pit herself and only once she was reasonably sure she was wasn’t going to go head first to her own death, she allowed herself to look down and see Sierra Decaux dangling in the air where she was holding on to her arm.

  6. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - X -​

    Xylion had left his hut armed with a phaser and a sling-over bag in a hurry.

    What he had gleamed from the short mind meld was far worse than he had already suspected. The clues of course had all been there earlier on. The settlers odd behavior, ranging from hunting and consuming animal meat, their unwillingness to assist with repairs to the runabout, the lack of children in the settlement, their unprovoked attack on Ensign Srena, and Tela and her father’s insistence on not just an immediate marriage but one seemingly focused on copulation.

    Xylion understood that he wasn’t entirely blameless. After all Deen had ostensibly suspected something much sooner and he was willing to entertain the notion that he had disregarded earlier clues partially because of his desire to study this intriguing Vulcan settlements so isolated from the rest of their kind. Perhaps he had even felt a certain attraction to Tela and an urge to assist her and her people rediscover their Vulcan roots. And in retrospect he understood that these elements had made him agree to their proposal to stay behind far too easily.

    Their goal seemed to be clear to him now. The motives were not.

    When the away team had declined their offer to stay and become part of the settlement Tela had attacked Srena. She had purposefully not killed the ensign but caused enough damage to force their hand, allow for her scheme of blackmail which would see Xylion remain on this world while the rest of the team returned to Eagle by conveniently providing a necessary module to repair the runabout.

    Tela and her people had wanted Xylion from the start. Why precisely he didn’t know but considering that there were no Vulcans on this world but him, he had his suspicions.

    And he knew whatever their agenda, he could not allow it.

    It was already dark outside when he had left the hut and he hoped to be able to use this to his advantage in order to slip out of the settlement undetected.

    These creatures, whatever they were, were immensely powerful, that much he had learned from his brief encounter with Tela’s mind. He knew his chances were slim and yet he had to try to escape or at the very least attempt to send a distress signal and stay in hiding for as long as it took to avoid them.

    His plan for now was to head back towards the canyon where the runabout had crashed, climb to the very top and make every effort to send a signal with the emergency beacon he had placed into his bag. Then he would continue north, find another peak and try again, always staying on the move.

    He had no illusions and understood that the creatures would begin an extensive search as soon as they realized he was gone which was likely as quickly as Tela regained consciousness.

    It took at least an hour to reach the canyon from the settlement but Xylion knew something was very wrong after less than half that time.

    Thanks to his eidetic memory he knew exactly what the path was supposed to look like and it was nothing like he remembered. Instead the terrain was rocky and steep as if he was already climbing a mountain instead of traversing the tundra like desert he had come to expect.

    The environment had changed.

    He stopped, trying to get his bearings again but nothing appeared to be where he expected it to be. He turned to head east instead. It wasn’t the direction he had wanted to go but it would still take him away from the settlement.

    After less than a five hundred meters he realized he was once again heading up a mountain just like he had before. And he knew which one. The very same Tela had taken him to on the day he had first arrived.

    The creatures were not only leading him where they wanted him to go, they had the power to alter his surroundings. He understood then that this world was nothing but an illusion created for the specific purpose to make him feel at home. The hot climate and dry air were after all close approximations of what Vulcan felt like.

    He saw no other choice for now but do continue to climb the mountain. There was no other place to go.

    It didn’t take him long to reach the plateau overlooking the settlement below as well as much of the surrounding desert which he was now convinced wasn’t what it appeared. Nothing here was.

    Very much aware that he didn’t have much time, he took a knee and then removed the emergency beacon from the bag he had brought. Xylion understood that the chances for a rescue were minimal but he needed to attempt it for no other reason than to warn Eagle of the situation on the ground.


    He stood upon hearing his name. Vulcan hearing was sensitive enough that he was sure he would have heard anyone approach. But when he stood and turned he found that the entire settlement, seemingly every last man and woman, stood on the plateau with him, Tela at the front just a few meters away. They had not simply climbed up here. They had appeared.

    “Xylion, what are you doing?” she asked.

    “I am attempting to contact my ship to advise them of the situation I have encountered here.”

    She looked at him curiously. “Situation?”

    He studied her face and then those of the others behind her, including her father. They almost looked concerned. “There is no need to maintain your deception. I have already learned that you are not Vulcan.”

    Tela took a small step forward and Xylion realized that his back was fairly close to the precipice. If indeed it was real. “We took a form we thought you’d be most comfortable with.”

    “And what was the purpose of your deception?”

    “To make you feel welcome, of course,” she said. “We only ever wanted you to be comfortable.”

    Xylion took another step backwards but space was running out. “Your intentions were quite clearly to procreate. With me.”

    She nodded gingerly. “Is this not how humanoid cultures consume their feelings?”

    “I doubt very much that that is your motive.”

    “Then consider it an experiment,” she said. “That was your initial interest in us, was it not? To study us. You are a scientist after all.”

    “I believe you fundamentally misunderstand the scientific method,” he said with a raised eyebrow.

    Tela’s eyes grew brighter. “We need you Xylion. We need you to survive. You were willing to help us before when you knew us to be like you. We were simply concerned that you would change your mind if you learned the truth. Please, Xylion,” she said and took a step closer to him. “We still need your help. Nothing has changed.”

    “If that is truly the case I am willing to discuss whatever problems you are experiencing. But first you must explain your true nature. You are not humanoid?”

    She shook her head. “We are bound to this planet by a powerful force. You possess what we require to escape. Your DNA holds the answer.”

    “What is the nature of the force that binds you here?”

    “That is not relevant.”

    Xylion was just a few feet from the precipice now and he could feel the wind, fake or real, he wasn’t sure, blowing up the mountain and against his back. Tela was still approaching. “All information is relevant if you require my assistance.”

    “The only assistance we require is your compliance. If you will not provide it willingly, we can extract your DNA by force. It is a painful process you are not likely to survive. Spare yourself that fate.”

    Xylion looked her right in the eye. “Considering your threat it would be logical for me to assume that you have ill-intentions and that you might pose a danger once you overcome your current limitations.”

    “We just want to be free,” she shot back with rising anger suddenly filling her voice. “We have been imprisoned here for far too long.”

    “Imprisoned implies that you are considered criminal or dangerous.”

    “Xylion,” she said, sounding softer now, and nearly within reach of him. “There is no place for you to go. This will happen. Give us what we want freely and you will not be harmed. There is no other option.”

    He looked passed her and into the sky. Then he looked right back into the eyes of the alien creature which he had known to be a young Vulcan woman until very recently. For the first time he could see something just beyond them. A force or energy of some kind, brewing and restless and ready to leash out at whoever stood in their way. “There is always another option,” he said and took another step back and over the precipice.

    “No!” Tela screamed and then dove after him.

    * * *​

    Once the hostage crisis in engineering had been resolved, it had been only a matter of minutes for Hopkins and a small team of her people to rectify the damage to the docking clamps which had kept the captain’s yacht securely pinned to the underside of the saucer section. Deen and Culsten had already primed the vessel for immediate liftoff and as soon as all the clamps had been released, the small, oval shaped vessel, christened Golden Eagle, disengaged from its mother ship and headed for a course towards the rouge planet.

    “I’ve been wanting to take her out for a spin ever since she was refitted with a warp engine,” said Lif Culsten while he sat at the helm. “She should make as much as warp three now.”

    “Not likely you’re going to get the chance,” said Deen by his side. “Not while we are inside the nebula.”

    He smirked at that. “No, not theoretically speaking. In practice we actually have no idea what would happen if we did.”

    “Let’s hope we don’t have to find out,” said Star, sitting at a console behind them. “How long until we reach the planet?”

    “We’re pushing full impulse,” he said and then just to stress his point, the ship was hit by strong spatial turbulence rattling the occupants. “Not a recommended speed in this soup but I think she can take it. If we can keep it up we should get there within fifteen minutes.”

    A computer station behind them exploded in a shower of sparks. Star was on her feet in an instant with a fire extinguisher to deal with the damage.

    “Overload to the starboard EPS manifold,” said Deen while her fingers danced over her panel. “I’ve rerouted power to the port manifold. Not sure how long this will hold.”

    “Seeing how rarely we’ve used her there shouldn’t be any wear and tear,” said Culsten. “Probably just couldn’t take the sudden acceleration.”

    “Let’s keep an eye on power levels,” said Star once she had taken care of the flames. “I do not want to be stranded out here.”

    “Right there with you, Commander,” said Deen. “I know only so many songs to use for distress signals.”

    “Is it just me,” said the Krellonian and leaned forward and closer to the viewport, “or does the nebula look different?”

    “No, you’re right,” said Deen. “I can hardly see any of those little particles which used to swirl all around this place any more.”

    “The Light,” said Star, referring to them by the name the lifeform had given them.

    “I think I know why,” said Culsten. “Look at that.”

    The two women turned to see what he was pointing at. Not too far ahead a massive, pulsating entity had appeared. Similar in composition to what they had witnessed earlier when Eagle had come under attack, except that this phenomenon was at least five times larger. It now rivaled in size a small moon and it was heading into the same direction as the Golden Eagle.

    Deen shook her head as she looked down at her sensor data. “It’s pure, concentrated energy made up of thousands of individual power signatures. The Light has transformed itself into a single and massively powerful entity.”

    “If they can bring to bear as much relative power as they used against Eagle,” Star said but then looked towards Deen.

    “It’s probably more than enough to wipe out an entire planet.”

    The first officer turned to look at the pilot. “Give me every last drop of speed you can out of those engines, Mister. We need to overtake that thing and get to this planet before they can.”

    He nodded sharply. “Better hold on to your seats. This is going to get rough.”

    It wasn’t an understatement. In order to muster the power required to win this race, Culsten had to divert energy from other systems including the inertial dampers which were designed to keep the ship from tearing itself apart in the hostile environment. All three officers were forcefully pushed back into their seats as the yacht accelerated way beyond any recommended velocities.

    “ETA eight minutes, twelve seconds,” said Culsten.

    “What can we expect to find once we get there?” Star asked Deen, the only person in the away team who had actually been to that world.

    “A small and relatively primitive colony of Vulcans on the southern continent within a dry desert environment. But considering what we know now, that they are somehow related to these Light life forms made up of pure energy, it’s not unreasonable to think that they may be able to alter their appearance and perhaps even their environment.”

    “All we need is to locate Xylion and get him out of there,” said Star.

    “The planet is surrounded by massive energy discharges which caused us to crash in the first instance. We get zapped by one of those and this will turn out to be a really short rescue mission,” the Tenarian said.

    “How do we get around those?”

    “I might be able to depolarize the hull and reinforce our systems to withstand an electromagnetic strike,” said Deen and was already at work. “That way we may be able to slip by it.”

    The yacht passed the Light formation quickly thereafter and with little incident. But Star and the others could see that while it moved at a somewhat slower pace than their ship, there were still smaller particles joining the whole even as it continued towards the planet. It was still growing. The Light it appeared was not willing to take any chances. Whatever they feared about the Dark, whatever history existed between them, it had decided to bring to bear all the force it could muster to stop it from leaving the rogue planet.

    “Visual range,” said Culsten.

    Before them Aphrodite cleared up like a veil which had been pulled aside to reveal the lonely, grayish planet divorced from its star a long time ago. As Deen had warned, powerful lighting bolt like discharges were completely encircling that world as if to warn anyone to stay away. Of course this was not an option for the away team.

    “I wonder if this is some sort of security mechanism,” said Deen as she watched those energy discharges whip around the planet. “Perhaps that is what keeps the Dark on that planet.”

    “It’s possible,” said Star. “Or it could be designed to keep us off it. Lieutenant, make sure you keep your distance to these things, I do not want to put our modifications to the test unless we absolutely have to.”

    “You got it, sir,” said the helmsman. “I’ll keep us well clear,” he added and then focused on his controls to dive and bank the small vessel away from the discharges while still heading towards the planet.

    One of the lightning bolts shot by the Golden Eagle so closely, both Deen and Star ducked reflexively.

    “Well clear?” Deen said and shot him displeased look.

    “Clear enough at any rate,” he said without taking his eyes off the controls. “This bucket isn’t exactly built to dodge lightning.”

    “Just get us down there in one piece,” Star said as she held on tightly to her station while Culsten had the vessel perform sharp maneuvers into every which direction to keep them in one piece.

    “Almost there,” he said after he had put the ship upside down with the planet now suddenly hovering far above their heads.

    “Are you quite sure you’re going the right way?” Deen said.

    “Hope you haven’t had dinner yet,” he said with a little smirk and then put the ship into such a hard dive, it felt as if the skin was being pulled off their teeth.

    The move paid off, none of the discharges connected with the yacht and moments later they found themselves in the atmosphere making a rapid descend.

    “That was fun,” said Culsten and looked at a blanched Deen at his side.

    “Let’s just … not do that again,” she said, clearly trying to compose herself. “Ever.”

    Now that the harrowing maneuvers were behind them, Star felt safe enough to step up behind Culsten and Deen. “Lieutenant,” she said to the Tenarian. “Can you get us to that that colony?”

    “It should be coming up right below us. About 500 kilometers.”

    “Push her hard,” she told Culsten, “if we figured out about these life forms I can’t believe Xylion is far behind.”

    Deen spotted the peak first and pointed towards it. “Over there.”

    Culsten banked the ship to the right to head towards the large mountain range Deen had identified.

    “Lifesigns?” Star asked.

    Deen nodded. “Vulcans. A lot of Vulcans.”

    “But which is the real one?”

    They were still too far away to make out anything taking place on the ground so Deen studied her sensor readouts instead. “I think they are all assembled together,” she said.”

    Star shook her head. “No, not assembled. They’ve got somebody surrounded.”

    “That has to be Xylion.”

    “Uh, somebody just went over that cliff,” Culsten said when they were coming into visual range.

    “Lock on to that life sign and beam it up,” Star said.

    Deen’s fingers were racing over her controls, frustration etched into her features. “I can’t get a lock while he’s in free fall.”

    “Forget the lock. Get everything within a five meter radius from that life sign and beam it on board,” she said and then turned towards the back of the cockpit which had its own dedicated transporter pad.

    “Got it. Energizing.”

    What Star saw slowly materializing was not apparently humanoid and her heart sank. That was until she realized that the reason the shape seemed so odd was that it wasn’t one person they had beamed on board. Xylion materialized along with what appeared to be a young Vulcan woman clinging on to him.

    She took a step towards them. “Commander?”

    The Vulcan science officer freed himself from the woman who seemed momentarily startled to find herself on the yacht. Xylion showed no such hesitation, immediately aware where he was, he stood quickly and strode directly to the nearest weapons locker.

    Tela jumped back onto her feat even before he had reached it.

    Star turned towards Deen. “Beam her back to—“ she didn’t get a chance to finish that sentence when Tela jumped forward and drove her hard into the bulkhead.

    Xylion fired the phaser he had retrieved but the creature masquerading itself as a Vulcan woman shrug off the stun setting with no apparent difficulty at all.

    Realizing the more immediate danger of being whisked away again, it turned towards the front of the yacht and darted directly for Deen to stop her from using the transporter.

    Culsten, leaving the ship on autopilot, jumped out of his seat to intercept her. It was a fruitless effort as Tela, using surprising strength, simply shoved the Krellonian out of the way. Then holding on to Deen by her shoulders, she easily dragged her out of the chair and sent her flying towards the back of the cockpit.

    Xylion in the meantime had readjusted his phaser to a higher setting and took careful aim. Tela spotted him just in time and then, not unlike a ghost, became ethereal, causing the beam to phase right through her and burn into the bulkhead instead. She then practically glided across the cockpit in an instant, taking on a solid shape again only once she was directly in front of Xylion and then reached out with both her hands to squeeze his throat. He fought back and they tumbled to the floor together with the Tela creature kneeling on top of him, bringing her face close to his. “This could have been a pleasurable experience for you Xylion, if you had only chosen to do as I had asked of you. Now I will consume your essence and nothing of you will remain but an empty and dead husk,” she said and moved closer to his head even while she continued to restrict his airflow. “My people will be free,” she said before her mouth opened wide, far wider than should have been possible for her anatomy until most of her face was a dark, gaping hole, seemingly intend on swallowing up Xylion’s head whole.

    Deen watched in horror from where she had landed against the back bulkhead as the young Vulcan woman had transformed into a vampire like creature attempting to suck the life right out of Xylion. She couldn’t stand and the pain in her leg felt as if bones had broken. Out of the forward viewport she could see that the yacht was heading back towards orbit but without anybody at the controls, the ship was traveling at an almost leisurely pace.

    She spotted Star coming back around. She had landed closer to the controls than anyone else. “Commander,” she cried out. “Take us up.”

    The Trill saw Xylion and the creature sitting on top of him and then Deen pointing at the forward viewports. There the nebula was slowly becoming visible as they penetrated the gray cloud cover surrounding the planet.

    Star understood and jumped to the controls, pitching the yacht sharply upwards and engaging the impulse engine for additional speed. She hung on for dear life while everyone else tumbled towards the back including Xylion and Tela.

    The yacht shot clear of the clouds and back into orbit.

    The creature saw that they were about to leave the planet behind and abandoned Xylion for the moment to head towards Star. “No, we are not ready yet.”

    “Too bad,” said Star. “Because, ready or not, we’re getting out of here.”

    But the creature had other intentions. It turned ethereal once more and suddenly gravity no longer seemed to be a hindrance as it easily glided towards the front.

    Star, looking over her shoulder, saw her approach. When she looked forward again she realized that they were headed straight for the lightning storm. “Lieutenant, I really hope those modifications you’ve made to the hull will work.”

    Deen understood what she was saying. “Only one way to find out.”

    The creature reached out for the Trill but Star dodged underneath her and rolled away just in time.

    The Dark looked up and out of the viewport to see a massive energy discharge heading straight for the ship. “No!”

    The discharge hit and seemed to penetrate the outer hull like it was made out of tissue paper. The yacht trembled but otherwise remained in tact while the energy bolt ripped right into the Dark causing it to scream and screech as it seemed to experience unbearable pain. It turned ethereal again but only for a moment. Then it seemed to spontaneously erupt into flames and burn from the inside out. Seconds later it had vanished, leaving behind only dust.

    Star got back onto her feet and shot Deen a look. “I think you’re theory about those discharges may have been correct,” she said and helped Culsten who appeared a little dazed but otherwise unharmed back onto his feet. “Lieutenant, take the helm, let’s not take any more chances and avoid us getting hit again. Then get us back to Eagle as fast as you can.”

    He nodded and made his way back to the helm controls.

    “Commander, are you alright?” Star asked Xylion as he was slowly sitting up against the bulkhead, holding on to his neck.

    “I have sustained bruising and lacerations to my esophagus. However, my injuries are relatively minor,” he said, even if his voice remained noticeably strained from the attack.

    “Good,” she said and pulled him back to his feet. “We may still need you to get us out of this nebula. Your new friends down on that planet have enemies up here and last we checked they were very much set on their destruction. I’d rather not be around when that happens.”

    “The threat has passed,” said Deen who had managed to pull herself into a chair. “Whatever they tried to do with Xylion, they’ve failed and they remain bound to that world they’ve been banished to.”

    “Yeah, I don’t think the Light got the memo,” said Culsten.

    All eyes turned towards the forward viewport were the Krellonian was staring at a massive entity of light approaching the planet. It was now easily the size of a natural moon and pulsating with barely contained fury, ready to be unleashed onto a target with devastating effect. The lightning all around the planet ceased all at once as the Light entity moved into orbit. Not a moment later an energy beam the width of a starship shot out from the phenomenon and struck the planet dead on.

    Xylion had taken the seat next to Culsten while Star returned to her own chair. The Vulcan was first in providing an update. “I am reading energy signatures beyond our capabilities to measure. At this rate the planet will lose molecular cohesion in approximately thirty-four seconds.”

    “Losing molecular cohesion doesn’t sound too bad,” said Star.

    Xylion clarified. “The resulting shockwave will destroy this vessel.”

    “Always with the bad news,” she said and looked at Culsten. “Can we outrun it on impulse?”

    He shook his head. “No chance.”

    “Alright, you wanted to test her new warp drive. Let’s do it now.”

    But Xylion shot Star a concerned looked. “Commander, using warp drive within the nebula may cause unexpected complications which we may not survive.”

    “Sorry, I must have missed the part where you were offering an alternative.”

    Xylion said nothing.

    The planet was now glowing and beginning to pulsate, absorbing immense amounts of energy no spatial body would have been able to handle. Ripples of immensely bright lights were beginning to spread like a cancer across the entire surface, quickly dissecting the rogue planetoid.

    Star looked at the pilot. “Do it, do it now.”

    He nodded sharply. “Here goes nothing.”

    The yacht deployed two short warp nacelles which lit up briefly when the warp core came online. But the ship didn’t go anywhere.

    “What just happened?” Star asked.

    Culsten shook his head in frustration as he tried to make sense of the readings his panel was offering him. “I don’t understand, the warp core did power up and according to this we should be traveling at warp two.”

    Xylion raised an eyebrow. “As I attempted to explain before, the composition of this nebula makes any attempt of creating a stable warp bubble extremely unpredictable and unlikely.”

    “The planet is breaking up,” said Deen from an aft station.

    “Wormhole, dead ahead, ” said Xylion.

    A swirling black mass had appeared right in front of the yacht, looking to suck anything and everything into uncertainty.

    “And we’re going in,” Culsten added.

    Star held on to her station as tightly as she could, fully cognizant that it was likely not going to be nearly enough to survive that encounter. “Brace for impact.”
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Day Eleven: Exit Music

    - I -​

    There was a battle taking place inside the nebula and Michael Owens couldn’t help and feel as if he was fighting his own. With the events of the last twenty-four hours he hadn’t gotten much rest and hardly any sleep at all. And of course it didn’t help that he had lost a whole night to what now seemed to have been a failed attempt by the entities known as the Light trying to contact him. The following night was cut short by the discovery of Gedar’s dead body, not a willful murder as they had initially assumed but instead an accident caused by a crewmember possessed by the Light and attempting to shut down Eagle’s warp core which was causing them such harm.

    Michael couldn’t help wonder how the young man’s life could have been saved and a lot of damage caused over the last week could have been avoided if he had only been able to establish some way to communicate with those beings.

    He quickly understood the futility of that line of reasoning and gave up on it. There were much more pressing issues to worry about now than what could have been or morn the sleep he had lost over the last few days.

    The entire ship and crew were on the line now and that was more than enough to shake off the growing fatigue which had led him to be a captain in absentia for most of crises gripping his ship since they had arrived in the nebula. He was determined to give the latest and greatest danger to the ship his full and undivided attention.

    On the view screen the nebula which had been such a source of marvel and
    inspiration to many since they arrived appeared to be on fire. Bright, strobing lights in the distance gave proof to a battle between life forms of pure energy. Their history and transgressions against each other unknown to them, all they knew was that the Light feared those they called the Dark so much that they had made the decision to try and destroy them for once and for all. The resulting fall out would mean disaster for Eagle if she remained anywhere close to this inferno in the making.

    “We’re clearing the nebula in five minutes, twelve seconds,” said Lance Stanmore from ops.

    “Any sign of the yacht?” Owens said. He was not prepared to leave half his senior crew behind in Aphrodite when this place turned from a place of marvel into a death trap.

    So’Dan Leva had returned to the bridge after receiving treatment for his injuries sustained after the runabout had crashed into the shuttle bay. He shook his head. “They are not on sensors and they are unable to penetrate into the nebula deep enough to make out their current position.”

    Michael headed for the tactical board to join his half-Romulan officer. “How much time do we have?”

    “Difficult to say. But I am reading energy spikes off the chart. Whatever these creatures are doing to the planet, I’d venture it’s very close to its climax.”

    A sudden bright light blinded everyone on the bridge before the automatic dimmer could reduce the glare. Michael feared the worst.

    “Sir, I’m reading a massive shockwave originating from the general coordinates of the rogue planet,” Stanmore said and turned to look at the captain. “Forty-five seconds to impact.”

    Owens glanced first at his tactical officer than down at the instruments himself to get an answer to his question. “The yacht?”

    Leva shook his head.

    Michael forced himself to reprioritize. If the yacht and his people were truly lost, he had to ensure that Eagle would not befall the same fate. “Mister Waldorf, can we outrun the shockwave?”

    The Petty Officer manning helm consulted his instruments. “We need to channel all available power to the impulse engines. And even then it’ll be tight.”

    “Bridge to engineering.”

    “Hopkins here, sir.”

    “Lieutenant, I need everything you have for the impulse engines. I don’t care if it blows out after, right now we need to get out of here. And leave something for aft shields. Everything else needs to be in the engines, including life support.”

    “You got it. Hopkins out.”

    He toggled the ship-wide next. “Attention all hands, this is the captain speaking. Brace for impact from shockwave in thirty seconds,” he said and then headed back towards his seat to follow his own advice. “Mister Leva, whatever remaining power you can scrounge up goes into inertial dampers. Mister Waldorf, keep us vertical and in front of that shockwave as long as you can. We may be able to ride it out.”

    The two men followed their instructions immediately.

    And then he saw the wall of energy heading for his ship, looking for all purposes like a mercilessly powerful tsunami ready to blow away anything and everything unlucky enough to be caught in its path.

    Michael could feel the ship protesting as it shook and trembled, experiencing far too much resistance from the nebula at this speed.

    “Fifteen second to impact,” said Stanmore, his voice strained.

    “At least thirty seconds to nebula periphery.

    “Engage all aft thrusters, give us as much forward momentum as we can give her,” he said. He knew it wouldn’t make any significant impact on their speed but if a few more kph would mean the difference between wounded or dead, he’d take anything he could get.

    That shockwave was upon them now.

    “Impact in ten,” Stanmore said.

    “All hands, brace, brace, brace.” Owens held on to his chair as if his life depended on it.

    And then he got a swift kick to his back. At least that’s what it felt like as Eagle was rear-ended by the massive shockwave. He grunted in pain as his arms tried to dislocate themselves from his shoulders but he somehow and miraculously managed to stay in his seat. His vision was turning blurry as he felt forces pulling on his body far greater than what could have been considered medically safe.

    The lights on the bridge dimmed and then gave out completely and various computer stations failed within seconds, leaving the bridge dark safe for the bright light shining through the ceiling dome and the view screen.

    On the viewer the shockwave was now a mass of swirling and furious energy but instead of crushing the ship, as he had feared, it remained steady, pushing Eagle along with it. They were riding it at the very top like a wind surfer taking on a far too large wave but having somehow found, by pure luck and circumstance, the perfect sweet spot to not be violently swallowed up by it.

    “We’re … we’re clearing … the nebula,” Stanmore said with great difficulty, his words sounding forced and heavily distorted by the pressure pushing him into his seat.

    And then just as quickly as it had grabbed them, it let go, the pressure slacked suddenly and Michael could feel the organs in his body re-arrange themselves. On the screen the shockwave had fizzled out and the nebula came back into view but it appeared like a shadow of its former self. The bright crimson color which had given it its unique and enchanting beauty appeared nearly drained. The cloud looked somehow smaller and darker now, as if it had burned itself out after Eagle had been spat out like the unwelcomed visitors they had been.

    “Impulse engines and thrusters are offline. We are drifting,” Waldorf said. “Trying to reestablish attitude control.”

    The ship was tumbling uncontrollably away from the nebula but that wasn’t Michael’s greatest concern for now. He stood carefully and turned to find all of his bridge officers, relieved that nobody seemed to have been seriously injured in their crazy ride. “Damage report?”

    Leva needed only a few seconds to collect the requested data. “We have ship-wide system failures. Warp drive and impulse are down. So are shields and defensive systems. Life support is running on emergency power. Reports of injuries are coming in across the ship. No significant casualties have been reported at this time.”

    Michael nodded, silently thanking their lucky stars and realizing that this could have ended far worse for his ship and crew. “Stabilizing life support is our priority.”

    The Romulan nodded and went to work to communicate those orders.

    “Sir, I have a contact … I think.”

    Michael turned towards ops. “What do you mean, you think?”

    He shook his head in frustration. “Sensors are not reliable but whatever it is, it’s in visual range.”

    The man didn’t have to be told to put what he found on the screen. When Owens looked up again he saw a black swirling something at what he estimated to be just a few short kilometers from his ship. “What is that?”

    “Not sure,” said Stanmore. “Could be a spatial—“

    “Something’s emerging,” said Leva.

    Indeed a small starship came shooting out of the phenomenon not unlike the way Eagle had been ejected out of the nebula moments before.

    Michael smiled when he recognized the familiar design.

    “It’s the yacht,” Waldorf said but by then nobody had to be told anymore.

    The black mass from which it had emerged vanished moments later, leaving only the small vessel which seemed to be tumbling with no control and again not unlike her mother ship.

    “Hail them,” Owens said.

    “Communications are down,” the tactical officer responded.

    “Transporters?” he said and looked at the Romulan.

    He shook his head.

    Michael glanced back towards the screen where the small support vessel was still approaching. “Any ideas how we bring them on board then?”

    Nobody on the bridge seemed to have one. Both shuttle bays were still unavailable and with no attitude control it was impossible for them to maneuver in order to dock with the yacht.

    For a moment everybody simply watched the small, oval shaped ship tumbling towards them. “Somebody tell me, are we on a collision course?” Owens said.

    Waldord nodded. “Uh, yes, sir. Impact in sixty seconds.”

    The relief of finding his away team hopefully alive inside the craft was quickly replaced by his fear of crushing the smaller ship in mere moments. “And we can’t get out of the way?”

    “No, sir,” said the veteran helmsman. “At our present speed and orientation the yacht will impact against the saucer section on deck four, section nine through eight.”

    Owens whipped around to find his tactical officer. “Evacuate those areas,” he said and turned back towards the impending space collision. “Tractor beam?”

    Stanmore shook his head. “Unavailable, sir.”

    “Hopkins, I know you’re busy down there but I could really use some thrusters right about now.”

    The chief engineer came on the line a moment later. “I wish I could, sir. It’ll take me hours to get them back online.”

    “How about just one? And we don’t need much, just enough to arrest our momentum a little bit,” Owens said.

    “I’ll see what I can do.”

    “Make it quick please.”

    And with that Owens and the rest of the bridge crew were left to watch quietly as the yacht moved closer and closer, clearly just as unable to navigate on its own power as Eagle and avoid what seemed to be an impending space collision.

    “Ten seconds to impact,” Waldorf said.

    Owens glanced towards tactical.

    “All relevant sections have been cleared.”

    “I have one forward thruster firing,” said Waldorf but then quickly shook his head. “It stopped. It wasn’t enough, we’ll still hit the yacht. Twenty-two seconds.”

    Hopkins had come through. As little as it had been, at least it would lessen the force of the impact.

    Something else occurred to Michael then. Their sudden movement had altered their altitude somewhat. “She’s heading straight for us.”

    Stanmore checked his board. “Confirmed. The yacht is now on a collision course with deck one,” he said and then turned to face the captain behind him. “Straight for the bridge module.”

    “Clear the room,” Owens said.

    Stanmore and Waldorf jumped out of their seats and headed for the nearest turbolift while Owens stepped closer to the screen which was now completely dominated by the captain’s yacht tumbling uncontrollably towards them.

    Leva stepped up next to him. “Sir, bridge is clear. We need to go.”

    But Michael didn’t move. Instead he watched with a mixture of dread and fascination as the yacht hit Eagle’s saucer somewhere just below them at around deck three, he guessed. He felt the impact through the rattling deck plates and then looked on as the small craft continued upwards along the hull, peeling off paint and blowing up sparks as it went along.

    He took an instinctive step backwards when it became unmistakably clear that it was heading straight for the bridge.

    He didn’t need to have bothered. The yacht came to screeching standstill mere meters from the raised module right on the very top of the saucer section.

    In fact it was so close, he could see into the cockpit’s viewport where he could see the faces of Xylion, Culsten, Deen and Star.

    The first officer, clearly none the worse to wear, offered a salute and a large smirk decorated her features.

    The captain frowned. “Somebody’s going to pay for that paint job.”
  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - II -

    “I expect warp drive and impulse to be back online within the next two hours. Shields should be at full strength again in about three. We suffered structural damage to a number of areas on the main saucer. I can have a temporary fix in place within four hours. It won’t be much but enough to get us back to the nearest starbase,” said Louise Hopkins as she summed up their damage report in the observation lounge where the entire senior staff had assembled.

    Owens gave her a nod and looked at Doctor Katanga next.

    “We were lucky,” he said. “Very lucky. Sickbay is still filled with injured crewmen but I’ve got nobody left in critical condition and we had no fatalities. Ensign Srena is on the mend also and I think I should be able to release her tomorrow or the day after. She’ll be ready to return to duty early next week after some bed rest.”

    “Very good,” the captain said. “The young woman did an outstanding job and commendations are in order.”

    Tazla Star nodded to this. It was no secret that she had taken an interest in the Andorian’s career and had acted a little bit like a mentor to her. “I’ll ensure her record will reflect her efforts in identifying the alien life forms.”

    “Speaking of which,” said Owens, “have we been able to reestablish communications with them?”

    Commander Xylion took that one. “No. We have been unable to communicate or detect any of the nebula entities since the rogue planetoid was destroyed. We are also unable to reenter Aphrodite as the thermionic radiation has increased by one hundred twenty six percent likely as an unexpected consequence of the planet’s obliteration. It will prevent any kind of excursion into the nebula even with the use of transphasic shielding.”

    “What about the life forms you’ve encountered on that planet?” said Katanga. “What did they call it? The Dark? Do we think they were destroyed?”

    “It is possible,” said Deen, “but we have no way of knowing for sure at this point. We don’t even know if the Light survived.”

    The doctor shook his head sadly. “What a complete waste. Two sentient life forms possibly annihilated and for what? Because they mistrusted each other? You know none of this would have happened if we had just stayed the hell away.”

    The room fell silent for a moment.

    “Sooner or later we would have come here anyway,” Owens concluded. “Yes, we came here for military reasons and to give us a better chance in fighting and winning a war. But let’s not forget that we are explorers first. We would have come here eventually to learn more about Aphrodite and the results would likely have been much the same. Maybe even worse. In the end it is the price we pay for our own curiosity.”

    “Perhaps the cost is too high,” said Katanga.

    “We cannot be held responsible for the actions of other races, Eli,” said Star and then quickly continued when he was beginning to object. “We didn’t come here with the intention of starting a war. That conflict between the Light and the Dark clearly had been ongoing for a long time before we ever got here. And it certainly wasn’t our idea to blow up an entire planet. If the Light had shown some more patience we may have been able to come up with an alternative and more peaceful solution.”

    But Katanga wasn’t entirely satisfied with that response. “Maybe, maybe not. But my point still stands. Had it not bee for our interference, one or maybe even two sentient races may yet exist.”

    “We don’t know for certain that they are truly gone,” said DeMara Deen, as usual being the most optimistic voice on the crew.

    Owens nodded. “That’s right. And it looks like it’ll take a long time for us to find out.”

    Xylion spoke up next. “Regardless of the level of influence our actions have had on the events taking place inside the nebula, we must address my personal decisions and the consequences they have had on this crew.”

    Deen smirked at this. “You mean you deciding to stay on a planet with malicious alien life forms masquerading as Vulcans so they could sap your DNA when I had told you not to?”

    He merely raised an eyebrow as a response.

    “As far as I’m concerned, Commander,” said Owens, “you did what you had to in order to ensure the away team could safely return to the ship and a fatally injured crewmember would receive the care she desperately needed.”

    “Sir, I was deceived by these creatures and my actions put this ship and crew into additional jeopardy when you attempted a rescue mission.”

    “Dear God, man,” said Katanga, “be able to take a no-harm, no foul and move on.”

    Xylion regarded the other man. “It is only logical, Doctor that I’d be reprimanded for-“

    “Glutton for punishment, eh?” he said, cutting of the science officer. “I remember Bones warning me about Vulcan science officers. He wasn’t wrong.”

    Owens inserted himself before the conversation could escalate any further. “There will be no need for punishment as far as I’m concerned,” he said and then continued when he realized that the science officer didn’t appear satisfied with that outcome. “However, I’ll make sure your file will contain a full breakdown of events which transpired on that planet including the decisions you made. Will that satisfy logic, Commander?”

    “It will. Thank you, Captain.”

    There were smiles and smirks all around the table.

    “Bridge to the observation lounge.”

    Owens looked up and towards the ceiling from which Lieutenant Stanmore’s voice had come over the speakers. “This is Owens, go ahead.”

    “Sir, we have a contact emerging from the nebula.”

    “Red alert, raise shields,” Star said immediately which was followed not a moment later by the flashing crimson lights and hailing klaxons.

    “I don’t believe that will be necessary,” said Nora and pointed out of the windows which were facing the now much murkier and less marvelous Aphrodite nebula. Something had just come tumbling out of the thick fog and it became quickly apparent to everyone in the room that it posed little threat to the ship.

    “Cancel red alert,” said Star when she realized what it was.

    What remained of the sensor array was spinning end over end into open space. Most of its scanning platforms had been ripped off, most likely on impact with the shockwave, leaving it almost like an empty skeleton. The entire thing looked rather sad as it shed components with each rotation.

    “The professor will not be happy,” said Owens.

    “I’m actually more concerned with Colcord. She doesn’t take bad news very well,” said the chief engineer still watching the demolished sensor array tumbling away as the only proof of the hard work she and her team had been involved in over the better part of the week.

    “I supposed we have to go and catch it,” said Leva.

    “That’s not our priority right now,” said the captain and then looked towards Star. “There are still a few other loose ends to tie up regarding murder investigations and sabotage.”

    Nora, who had said little to this point, spoke up. “There wasn’t a murder. We now know that it was an accident caused by that life form taking over Lieutenant Kolrami’s body.”

    He nodded, acceding that point. “What about Crewman Decaux and her taking engineering hostage?”

    “She was an eyewitness to the event. She actually saw Kolrami shove Gedar down the warp core pit. To her credit, she even speculated at one point that alien beings may have been responsible long before we had any inkling.”

    “And she didn’t come forward?” Owens said and frowned.

    “Miss Decaux is unfortunately suffering from a rather severe personality disorder which they must have missed during routines psychological evaluations,” said Doctor Katanga. “Since the war they’ve clearly been cutting left, right and center on the work ups they do on new recruits in favor of expediency and increasing troop numbers. It’s unconscionable.”

    “You’re saying she shouldn’t be wearing the uniform?” asked Star.

    He quickly shook his head. “Not at all. There is absolutely no reason she couldn’t be an effective member of the crew. There are treatment methods and medication available which I would like to discuss with her and her counselor at the earliest convenience.”

    “She still needs to be held responsible for the actions she took,” said Owens. “She could have killed Kolrami in engineering, not to mention that she put this ship and crew at great risk.”

    But Star clearly didn’t agree. “I think that she was driven to that point because we failed her. I don’t mean to say us in particular but Starfleet in general. I don’t think she should be punished for that.”

    “I agree.”

    There room fell dead silent and all eyes turned to the most unlikely person to have uttered those words.

    “What?” Nora Laas said. “The commander is right. Decaux needs our help and our empathy, not our scorn. She’s a young woman who wasn’t ready for the pain she experienced and considering her condition, she wasn’t mentally prepared for what she went through.”

    “Okay,” said Leva with a smirk after looking first at Nora and then at Star and the rest of the senior staff. “I clearly missed a lot more happening on this ship than I thought.”

    But the Bajoran security chief simply crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair, seemingly not interested on discussing this matter further after she had made her views known.

    Eventually Owens nodded in agreement. “Very well, I’ll consider leniency given the circumstances. That leaves us with just one other issue. Do I still have to worry about a spy on Eagle?”

    There was no immediate response to this and Owens didn’t miss that Star seemed suddenly reluctant to talk. The same was true for Nora Laas, Lif Culsten and surprisingly even Louise Hopkins, all trying to avoid eye contact with the captain.

    “I understand that the odd behavior of some of the crew was solely due to the possessions by the nebula entities,” he continued when nobody else appeared willing to speak up. “I have no intention of holding anyone accountable for those events but there was other evidence which seemed to hint at a possible spy,” he said and then looked straight at the first officer. “Commander?”

    She nodded slowly. “My investigation is ongoing but at this point I don’t think we have enough evidence. My preliminary report shows that there is nobody on this ship currently involved in any form of espionage.”

    Owens looked towards his security chief.

    “That is my conclusions as well.”

    Silence again.

    Leva and Deen exchanged a look, wordlessly wondering since when Star and Nora agreed on anything. Not to mention twice in the same meeting.

    The captain nodded. “I still expect a full report. But if there is no further or credible evidence to support this theory I’m happy to put this matter to bed. I don’t believe in witch hunts.”

    “You’ll have my full report within the next couple of days,” Star said.

    “Alright folks, that’s it, I guess. Let’s get those repairs completed. We still have to go catch a sensor array running wild before it can crash into a planet,” he said and stood, signaling the end of the meeting and causing his officers to leave their chairs and head for the exits.
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - III -

    Alex Clancy found her in the lower level of the Nest, standing close to the large forward floor-to-ceiling windows and staring at that pulsing cloud which had once captured the fascinated attention of most of the crew. The marvel had long gone and not just because of the revelation that Aphrodite contained life forms which had possessed a number of Eagle’s crewmembers. The unique nebula had also almost become a death trap for the ship and once it had been spat out, it had lost much of its stunning bright and beautiful colors and turned into an almost gray and unappealing mass, not unlike a thick cloud of smog or dust.

    “How did it go?” he said as he joined her.

    “About as expected,” Nora said without otherwise acknowledging his presence. “The captain has formally closed the investigation.”

    “How does that make you feel?”

    She turned her head to glower at him.

    Clancy quickly raised his hands. “Sorry, old habits,” he said. “But I can tell you that I feel somewhat unsatisfied by the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that we don’t have a bloodthirsty killer on board but after all the work we put into the investigation, it would have been nice to have some sort of pay off.”

    She nodded and looked back out of the window.

    “Of course it’s not as if we didn’t uncover plenty of other untoward behavior. There’s Gedar’s seemingly out of control love life and the many people who wouldn’t have minded teaching him a lesson, then of course the fact that Charlie Colcord stole her fancy shield modifications from him back at the Academy and whatever was going on between him, Culsten and Hopkins.”

    That gathered him another look. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

    He held that look for a moment and then nodded slowly. “I have my own theories about that,” he said but then quickly continued when he noticed her less than pleased look. “However I think I’m just going to keep all those to myself.”

    “See that you do.”

    For a moment they simply stood there, side-by-side, staring at what remained of Aphrodite together.

    “For what it is worth, Lieutenant,” he said, “it was a pleasure working with you on this case. I thought we actually made a pretty good team.”

    “Yeah, we did, didn’t we?”

    He couldn’t help but smile at that. “Well, I shall leave you to it then. And I suppose it would be inappropriate for me to wish that we will work together again considering that it would mean another murder or the like,” he said and turned away to head towards the exit.


    He stopped and looked back.

    Nora took a couple of steps towards him and they faced each other. “I might enjoy that, too. Without the murder of course,” she said, her voice sounding somewhat flat.

    “What do you say I buy you a drink?”

    She smirked. “What is it with humans and that idiom? There are no drinks to be bought on this ship.”

    He shrugged. “I suppose it just has a ring to it.”

    But her face turned serious again.

    “Laas, sometimes it just helps to talk.”

    She looked at him suspiciously. “To a counselor?”

    “How about to a friend?” he said and held out his hand.

    Nora looked at it for a moment as if she had never seen an outstretched hand in her life. Then she nodded and shook it.

    Together they walked over to a nearby table, ordered drinks and started talking for a long time.
  10. theonering

    theonering Lieutenant Red Shirt

    Oct 1, 2010
    Great story as always CeJay! I really enjoyed the addition of Lt. Clancy and the interplay between him and Nora in this "episode" as well. I hope you end up keeping him in the ensemble and he's not just a one off character.
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    - IV -

    “Commander Star, please report to sickbay.”

    Tazla had been dreading this moment. Ever since Katanga had confronted her in the turbolift a few days earlier after having found out about her substance abuse she had known that she wouldn’t be able to avoid it. He had given her some leeway to try and deal with this situation herself but now that their latest crisis was concluded, he had decided that he had waited long enough.

    She wasn’t exactly sure how she was going to play it. There hadn’t really been much time to think about the issue with everything that had been going on. Perhaps subconsciously she had hoped that her old friend would simply let the matter slide, continue the status quo unchallenged. It had been nothing more than a fantasy.

    So in the end all she could do was take a deep breath and head for sickbay, hoping she could find a way to talk Katanga out of reporting her condition. She had only just made inroads both with the captain and, surprisingly, Nora Laas, and for the first time since coming aboard the ship she was beginning to feel like she really was the first officer. For the first time in a long time she felt as if she belonged and she liked feeling that way. Katanga could take all that away in a heartbeat.

    She entered sickbay and found the room still busy with patients from the beating they had taken inside the nebula. Ensign Serena was among the patients and Star smiled when she saw her awake and seemingly well, chatting excitingly with another officer. When she noticed that it was Lieutenant Lance Stanmore that smile dropped from her face and she stepped closer.

    “Commander,” Srena said and quickly sat up straighter on the bio bed.

    Stanmore stood from where he had been sitting. “Sir.”

    She considered the two young officers for a moment before she focused on the Andorian. “How are you feeling, Ensign?”

    “Pretty well considering the circumstances,” she said. “Doc says I should be able to return to my quarters tomorrow.” When she noticed that the first officer was considering her visitor she quickly continued. “Uh, the lieutenant just stopped by to fill me in on what happened while I was out.”

    “Sure he did,” she said.

    “Perhaps I’ll better catch you up later,” said Stanmore. “Commander,” he added and then left sickbay in a hurry.

    Star stepped up next to the bed instead. “You did good work, Ensign. I can’t wait to read your report.”

    “Thanks, Commander. Just wish I hadn’t been caught off guard by those Vulcans or whatever they were.”

    “From what I’ve heard they were pretty powerful aliens. You might not have been able to fight them off even if you had been prepared.”

    But the Andorian refused to have that change her mind.

    Star put a hand on her shoulder. “You did excellent work on your analysis. Commander Xylion has already asked for you to spend some extra time in the lab with him to hone those skills further.”

    “Really?” she said and smirked. “I’d love that.”

    “Stow that enthusiasm until you realize what the extra work load will mean. You won’t have much time left for extracurricular activities,” she said and shot a brief glance towards the doors which Stanmore had used moments before.

    Srena nodded. “I understand. No distractions.”

    The Trill looked the young woman over for a moment. “Perhaps just a tiny bit of distractions,” she said with a smirk, holding her finger and thumb an inch apart.

    The Andorian returned the smile.

    She patted her shoulder again. “Now get some rest. I expect to have that report as soon as they let you get out of here.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    Star turned and headed for the CMO’s office at the far end of sickbay, bracing herself for a much more difficult and painful conversation. She froze when she reached the doorstep, immediately realizing that this was going to be far worse than she had anticipated.

    “Ah, Commander,” said Captain Michael Owens who stood on the opposite side of Katanga’s desk and had turned towards her when she had appeared. “There you are.”

    “Captain,” she said carefully and then glanced at Katanga behind his desk, trying hard to keep her face free from showing her feelings of hurt and betrayal which had gripped her suddenly. She had expected to having to face him regarding her drug problem, but she hadn’t thought that he’d go to the captain with it.

    “We were just talking about you,” Owens said.

    Star nodded but said nothing, trying to come up with a defense for her actions on the spot. One which would not end up with her spending the rest of her career in the stockade. She had been there once and sworn never to return. Now she wasn’t so sure if she could keep her own promise.

    “The good doctor just regaled me with some interesting stories of your former host Dezwin. I can see now where you get your drive from,” said the captain.

    “Actually we probably have to thank Lersus, my third host for that,” she said after a moment. “The man was nothing but an adrenaline junkie. Compared to him I’m a meek little Tarkalean sheep.”

    “Meek, right,” said Katanga. “Just the word I’d think of when we’re talking about you.”

    Owens smirked at that. “Don’t sell yourself short, Commander. I know we’ve had our problems but you’ve done a hell of a job to prove to me once and for all that we didn’t make a mistake in keeping you here. That you belong in that uniform and on this ship.”

    “Is that what you do with all your new officers, Captain?” said Katanga, sounding like his feisty self. “Make them jump through various hoops until you are satisfied that they can jump high enough? Makes me wonder what you have in store for me exactly.”

    Owens frowned at the other man. It didn’t last. “Whatever it takes to ensure you wear the complete uniform, Doctor,” he said, noticing that the man was still stubbornly refusing to wear the gray and black jacket.

    “Let’s make a deal,” said Katanga. “I’ll make sure I look like a prim and proper little soldier when I’m up on that bridge sitting in that chair right next to yours. But when I’m down here you let me wear whatever the hell I please.”

    “I suppose I can live with that.”

    Katanga smirked and looked at Star who still stood near the door. “See and you said he was difficult.”

    Owens regarded his first officer. “Did you now?”

    She shook her head ever so slightly. “I don’t believe those were my exact words, sir.”

    He stepped up to her and offered a smile. “Relax, Commander. You look like a first year cadet in the commandant’s office.”

    “Can we assume that is a situation you are fairly familiar with, Captain?” said Katanga, leaning back in his chair with a wide grin decorating his dark face.

    Owens glanced back at the man. “Keep an eye on that ice your treading on, Doctor, it may thin quicker than you thought,” he said but his playful tone gave proof he wasn’t being entirely serious.

    “You’re looking at a man who has made a career out of walking on thin ice.”

    “Sir, you wanted to see me,” said Star, unwilling to delay the inevitable any longer.

    Owens regarded her again and then threw a thumb over his shoulder. “That was the doctor. I was just in the neighborhood and I thought I’d tell you what a good job you’ve been doing.”

    She cringed slightly when he realized that those had been almost the exact same words she had offered to Srena minutes before. What went around.

    “How about we have breakfast tomorrow morning in my quarters and we can have a chat about your future role on this ship?” he said and then looked back at Katanga. “You are also invited, of course.”

    “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said.

    “I’ll be there, sir.”

    “Excellent, then. Carry on,” he said and then left the room, leaving Star and Katanga behind.

    The first officer visibly relaxed her shoulders the moment he had disappeared and then looked at the man sitting at the desk. “You didn’t tell him?”

    He shook his head. “Tazla Dezwin Sigus Star,” he said in an admonishing tone. “What kind of monster do you think I am?”

    She smirked a little. “You know just Taz will do,” she said and then sat in the empty chair facing his desk. “And I’m sorry I couldn’t help but fear the worst when I saw him in here and after that little chat we had the other day.”

    “There is something called doctor-patient confidentiality which I happen to take very seriously,” he said. “I won’t tell a soul about you condition.”

    She exhaled. “Thank you, I really mean it.”

    “Under one condition.”

    Her features hardened. “You are blackmailing me?”

    Katanga stood and walked over to her side of the desk, shaking his head slightly. “I’m worried, Taz. You are showing all the symptoms of yridium tricantizine addiction. Besides the fact that this drug is causing significant damage to your mind and body, you will simply not be able to keep it a secret for much longer. And when it comes out, your career will be over.”

    “I know that.”

    “Then we have to do something about it.”

    She shook her head. “I already tried. There is no cure. I tried hyperzine for a while but it didn’t work.”

    “Here’s what’s going to happen,” he said and looked straight into her eyes. “You are going to tell me everything that has happened that led you to this point and this addiction. You’ll tell me everything you’ve ever taken, the dosages, the drugs, what times and what the effects were exactly. We’re going to go through this step by step if we have to and then we are going to start thinking about beating this thing. I’d be lying to you if I said it’d be easy, quick or painless but it is possible. But I will need your full commitment to this. Nothing else will do.”

    “And you think we can do it without anyone else finding out?”

    “We sure are going to try.”

    She took a deep breath, considering for a moment what was at stake. Her assignment on Eagle, her career, her life, really. After all besides Starfleet she had nothing. Never taken the time to build a life away from it. And it had taken her a long time to get to a point where she actually cared for herself and those people around her again. Where she wanted to keep what she had fought so hard to achieve. She understood something then and there. Sometimes you had to fight with tooth and nail to hang on to what you had. And sometimes fighting for the one thing that really mattered meant much more than picking up a phaser and battle a terrifying enemy. She smirked at that while she arrived at a seemingly obvious conclusion. Her worst enemy had always been herself for as long as she could remember.

    Tazla Star looked up at her old friend. “When do we start?”
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    This concludes The Star Eagle Adventures V: Shadows in the Haze. Thanks for reading.

    Shadows in the Haze is now also available in a slightly revised version as an ebook (epub/mobi/PDF) at

    Thank you very much for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed the novel. Writing a murder mystery was a lot of fun to try my hand at and I hope it kept readers guessing. As for Clancy, he's part of the crew so it is very possible that he may appear again. Most likely in the vicinity of a certain Bajoran security chief. However, don't expect another Star Eagle novel for a while as I recharge my batteries and the series goes on hiatus.