Stardate 72239.4; March 29, 2395
Edited by Shaun Hayes
Written by Chris Adamek
This is the newly revised (and generally much better) 2007 edition of “Strange Counterpoints.”
If you wish to read the original 1999 version of the episode, it is available in the commentary.
CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 72239.4: Commander Keller and I are en route to Sector 4258 after several reports of a gravimetric distortion forming in the vicinity. While there is no evidence that it’s related to the Elorg rift, it is strikingly similar to the distortion in the Alteran Expanse.
Alan Christopher wasn’t too terribly fond of the class-three shuttlecraft. While they were designed to traverse reasonably vast distances, their speed was limited, they were poorly armed, and their amenities were severely lacking. They were also really small, especially when compared to the Dark Star. As such, Christopher liked to take the Dark Star whenever conditions required him to make use of a shuttlecraft.
When news of the new gravimetric distortion in Sector 4258 reached the Starlight, Christopher fully intended to deal with the situation aboard the Dark Star. Unfortunately, the Dark Star had apparently dealt with a few too many situations in recent months, for he quickly learned his favorite craft was in dire need of a baryon sweep. His heart immediately sank.
Baryon sweeps usually took several hours to perform, and given the amount of baryon particles the Dark Star had collected during its short tenure, the process would most likely take double the usual amount of time.
He attempted to stall his departure with Commander Keller until the sweep was concluded, but Starfleet deemed the situation in Sector 4258 too important to be delayed. Thus, he and Commander Erin Keller were relegated to the lowly class-three shuttlecraft Hawking for their little excursion.
Now, two days later, the Dark Star sat in pristine condition in the Starlight’s shuttlebay—and Christopher manned the horrendously lumpy seat at the conn aboard the horrendously claustrophobic Hawking.
The entire trip might have been less horrendous had there been something—anything—of interest to do on the way to Sector 4258. But the Hawking felt like a tomb. Commander Keller had remained, for the most part, silent for the duration of the trip. On occasion, she would announce their course and heading, but aside from that… silence. This was not the Erin Keller that Christopher had expected, as she seemed more than a little chatty aboard the Starlight.
But in retrospect, it suddenly occurred to Christopher that none of Keller’s chatty behavior seemed to apply to him. She spoke to him when necessary and that was about it. The first few hours after this shocking revelation, Christopher was content to live with it. But as the deafening silence stretched into an eternity, it was starting to eat at him… He was forming some pretty decent relationships with everyone else aboard the Starlight. Why not Erin Keller?
He pondered the situation for a while longer before a strident sensor alert suddenly shattered the silent gloom. While he could have very easily tended to the situation himself, he noted that Keller was already doing just that.
“We’re in sensor range,” she said, tapping a few commands into her console. “I’m reading a small gravimetric distortion bearing zero-nine-four, mark six.”
Christopher nodded, relieved that he hadn’t endured all that silence for nothing. “Is the distortion showing any signs of verteron radiation?”
Keller quickly glanced at the data. “No. It’s completely devoid of Elorg activity.”
They weren’t out of the woods yet, but Christopher allowed himself to breathe a faint sigh of relief. Given everything he had been through recently, he was almost expecting a fleet of Elorg warships to be waiting on the other side of the distortion. It was a good omen, and hopefully, a sign of things to come.
And since it was apparently safe to approach the fledgling distortion, Christopher decided to do just that. “New course heading zero-nine-four, mark six,” he announced, quickly keying the requisite commands into the helm. “Maximum warp.”
It wasn’t really necessary to say the course and heading out loud when he was the one actually plotting the course, but he considered it not only a courtesy to Commander Keller, but a necessary cessation in the morbid silence that had been his constant companion the past few days. Without all of these not-quite-exciting reports and analyses, Christopher was fairly certain the silence would have driven him to insanity. Prior to this trip, he did not believe it was possible to go so long without any substantial conversation. Commander Keller had proven him wrong.
And as the Hawking jumped to warp, Christopher suddenly realized he had just condemned himself to another three hours of silence. At least they would be the final three hours of silence… until the long, arduous voyage back to the Starlight. But it was Christopher’s hope the return trip wouldn’t have to be that way.
With the Hawking was happily cruising along at warp seven, he turned his attention away from his duties at the helm. “I’m going to reconfigure the deflector to emit a resonant anti-graviton beam,” he said. It wasn’t much of a conversation, but it was (hopefully) a start.
Keller sat motionless for several moments; Christopher wasn’t entirely certain that his words even reached her ears… but then Keller gracefully glanced up from her console and nodded her approval. Then she went back to work.
Christopher did the same. He tapped a few commands into his console, brought up the deflector control protocols, thought back to the myriad engineering courses he took at the academy (remembered that he wasn’t much of an engineer)… And then shoved himself away from the helm. He was through with the silent treatment.
“Talk to me,” he said flatly.
As she looked up from her work, a single lock of auburn hair fell down into Keller’s eyes. She stared at it for several moments before gently tucking it back behind her ear. “About what?” she asked.
“I… uh… I don’t know!” Christopher hadn’t exactly thought that far ahead. “Anything, I guess!”
Keller shot him a forlorn glare, but chose not to back up the curious gaze with an explanation. She was apparently content to sit in dreadful silence for the duration of the trip.
Christopher wasn’t. “I know you like to talk,” he grumbled. “I see you do it all the time. And you do it oh-so-well.”
Keller frowned. “Are you stalking me?”
Christopher was unable to tell if she was joking or not. So enigmatic was her tone that Christopher dared not crack a joke in response. Instead, he spoke the truth. “No. I just happen to see you chatting with Lucas and Kendall on occasion. Then I observe you not chatting with me… Now I know you guys value me so much that you place me on a pedestal and treasure my every word, but really, you can talk to me.”
Keller scratched her forehead. “I think you should talk with a counselor about that ego of yours,” she said flatly.
Christopher could take a hint, especially when they were as unsubtle as that. “Okay, so you don’t want to talk,” he surmised. He could have pressed the issue, but had the potential to make the voyage home even more awkward. He tried a different tactic: “Do you want to get something to eat instead?”
Keller shook her head. “No. Thanks,” she said. “I’m not hungry.”
Christopher found that hard to believe since she hadn’t eaten a thing since yesterday afternoon—but he wasn’t going to force that particular issue, either. If she wanted to be a moody little wench, it was certainly her prerogative. For a moment, Christopher considered dropping the shuttle down to a lower warp to make the trip longer… as a sort of revenge. But then he realized it would be punishment for him, too.
And so, Christopher’s attention returned to the deflector controls, and the resonant anti-graviton beam needed to seal that pesky little distortion in Sector 4258. At least his mind could focus on the task at hand. Nary a distraction in sight…
He sighed. It was going to be a very, very long trip…