Chapter Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAPTAIN’S LOG; STARDATE 72285.4: With a growing concern over Lieutenant Meyer’s premonitions, I have called forth Captains Talbot and Brantley to discuss the possible threat to their respective starships. 

Meanwhile, I have instructed Commander Tompkins and Lieutenant Johnson to continue their analyses of the alien vessel.  Despite the dangers, I believe it is necessary we gain as much first-hand information as possible while the opportunity is presented.

 

 

 

Despite the fact they had been stationed in the same spot for nearly four months, Captain Christopher had never met Captain Brantley or Talbot, let alone speak with them.  Not that he hadn’t made time to do so, just that those times never presented themselves.

 

Countless hindrances, such as the Breen incursion and the incubus infection had quashed Christopher’s earlier opportunities to meet with his comrades, and by his own admission, Christopher was in no hurry to meet with them to discuss the lack of progress that had been made on the Elorg front.

 

But now, a totally unrelated event had finally brought Christopher together with at least two of those countless Captains.  An event, which, despite its irrelevance to the Elorg situation, could quite possibly create its own havoc.

 

Captain Angela Brantley was very lean and, though not towering, was fair in height.  Her brown hair was neatly pulled back with an elegant clasp, and laid neatly upon her back.  She exuded a distinct beauty and sense of authority all at once.

 

Standing quietly beside Brantley was Captain Jeremy Talbot.  Much like Brantley, he was quite tall, and while Christopher didn’t consider him to be as beautiful, he did have an heir of authority to him. 

 

Given their apparent affection of authority, Christopher decided it would be in his best interests to address them formally, instead of the usual informal manor in which he was accustomed.  The last thing he wanted to do was get off on the wrong foot.

 

“Captains,” he said warmly, locking gazes with both of them for a brief moment before taking a seat across from them near the center of the table. 

 

Following his example, Brantley and Talbot sat down beside each other across from Christopher. 

 

“Good to finally meet you, Captain Christopher,” said Brantley in her stern, yet warm voice.

 

“Likewise,” he lied.  “It is unfortunate that we have been stricken with so much chaos.  The Breen, for example.”

 

Brantley nodded her acknowledgment.  “Perhaps some good will come out of the chaos,” she suggested.  “I read a report from Starfleet Intelligence the other day stating the Breen have withdrawn their claims to several Federation Systems, possibly as a result of the destruction of their cloning facilities.”

 

“That would be good news,” agreed Christopher.  He had seen the report, but had not been allowed the time to read it in full detail.  But if Starfleet Intelligence was right, the mission to Sineron was more of a success than Christopher’s wildest dreams had hoped. 

 

They sat in a brief silence before Christopher realized they were ready to begin.  He wasn’t.  “I’ve invited Lieutenant Meyer to join us,” he explained.  “It was her premonitions that led me to invite you here in the first place.”

 

They nodded.  “Very well.  We shall wait,” said Brantley.

 

Talbot, who had been silent for most of the duration, finally ended his survey of the room and spoke.  “Fine ship, Captain,” he said.  “I’ve never been on an Akira before.  Almost makes me want to trade in the Alexander for one—almost.”

 

Christopher grinned.  “It’s a potent little ship,” he admitted.  “No offense,” he quickly added as he realized the Starlight dwarfed both Steamrunners sitting alongside.

 

They took the statement with a grain of salt, and then turned their attention to the parting doors.  Christopher did likewise, and saw Rachael Meyer hastily walking in.  She smiled at Christopher before taking the seat directly to his left.

 

“Sorry,” she said quietly.  “I was in sick bay having my mind probed for what seemed like eons.  You know how Doctors are—always one more test…”

 

“You’ve got that right,” said Brantley.

 

Christopher turned to Meyer.  “Rachael, this is Captain Brantley of the Oregon,” he said. 

 

Meyer nodded politely at Brantley before turning her gaze over to Talbot.  Even as she did so, Christopher saw Captain Talbot sparked a definite reaction.  She immediately tensed up and all the color in her face disappeared.

 

“It’s him,” she said quickly.  “You’re the one I saw in my vision.”

 

Talbot gasped.  “Me?  What did you see?”

 

Meyer sighed.  “If I recall correctly, you were quite dead.”

 

“Dead?” he repeated skeptically.

 

“Quite,” Meyer assured him.

 

“Do you know how?”

 

Meyer nodded negatively.  “Not exactly.  But it was you.  I have no doubt about it.”

 

The group silently brooded over the revelation for several moments before Brantley produced a padd from the belt of her uniform.  She placed it squarely in front of her on the sleek table surface and locked eyes with Christopher.  “My crew has done a little digging on this alien vessel, too,” she said.  “We looked through the Federation’s entire database for other encounters with the ship.

 

“While this is the Federation’s first contact, it’s apparently been seen on three other occasions over the past century.  Though the reports are unconfirmed, the scientists on Romulus, Aschelon 5 and Vega have all reported seeing vessels similar in design to the one we’ve got here.”

 

“And there isn’t a thing they have in common,” muttered Christopher.  He rubbed his face wearily and let out a long sigh.  A total of four sightings, three of which were unconfirmed, in a total of one hundred years was not very encouraging news.

 

But to his surprise, Brantley looked far more enthusiastic than he.  “But they do have something in common,” she said cryptically.  “In every sighting, the ship was seen with a different alien species manning it.  And on each occasion, the ship and its entire crew disappeared without a trace…”

 

“Just like our Tamarian friends,” muttered Christopher.  “Which brings up that lingering question: Where the heck did they go?”

 

The ensuing blank faces across the board came as no surprise to Christopher.  It seemed that this question was one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle, but each time they came closer to solving it, countless new questions got in the way, this time, ones proposed by Captain Talbot.

 

“So what does all this have to do with me and my ship?” he inquired.

 

“I don’t know,” admitted Christopher.  “But I intend to find out…”

 

 

 

“I hear Erin is free this evening…”

 

Kendall Johnson’s delicate realignment of the alien EPS manifold suddenly came to a screeching halt.  Several of the pathways became fused as his microlathe passed overhead on its way to the floor.  “That’s nice,” muttered Johnson.

 

He shuddered at the fact that Tompkins’ mere mention of Keller’s name brought his neural functions to a complete and total stop.  It made him vulnerable.  It made him less productive.  But most importantly, and perhaps most unnerving, it made him an airhead.  His heart palpitated just thinking about her.

 

“Tonight’s your chance, Kendall,” said Tompkins calmly, attempting to heighten Johnson’s mood to something more than shock.  “Tell Erin how you feel.”

 

Kendall fiddled with the fallen microlathe for several moments as he contemplated a response.  “It’s a good idea,” he muttered.  “But it won’t work.  You know how I am around her…”

 

The chief engineer nodded.  “Do I ever.”  He grabbed the microlathe and continued the work that Johnson had ceased.  “But I’m running out of things to tell you.  And you’re running out of time…”

 

Johnson frowned.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

Only moments after he had resumed realigning the EPS manifold, Tompkins terminated the microlathe and set it back on the floor.  “It means that Erin isn’t going to sit in a vacuum and wait for you.  By the time you deem it necessary to tell her, she’ll probably be in her grave.”

 

Johnson shrugged.  “So I like taking it slow.”

 

Tompkins smiled in disbelief.  “Kendall, I’ve seen Alverian cave sloths move faster than you.  I mean, we’re not getting any younger—and neither is Erin.  If you want to have a chance with her, it’s best to go for it before she’s got one foot in the grave.”  He grinned deviously before adding, “Though you may want to wait for her eyesight to go…”

 

Johnson sighed wearily and playfully punched Tompkins in the shoulder.  He did have a valid point, one that Johnson had not taken into serious account prior to that moment.  Even so, it didn’t make things any easier for him.  If anything, it added the burdensome deadline, because once Erin was dead, there was virtually no chance of starting a relation with her…  Or a two-sided one, at least.

 

Though the scenario Lucas had depicted for him was rather extreme, Johnson realized he was going to have to make his move, and in a reasonable time frame.

 

But before Johnson could plot his future with Commander Keller any further, an eerie silence fell upon them, followed indirectly by a hushed whisper that exuded the strangest noise from his tricorder.

 

“What is it?” Tompkins inquired.

 

Kendall glanced down at his bleeping device and attempted to analyze the cacophony of readings surging onto the screen.  “Whatever it is, it’s going to overload the tricorder.  But I think it’s some sort of life form!”

 

Tompkins frowned as he touched his comm badge.  “Tompkins to Starlight.”

 

Commander Keller’s warm voice promptly crackled over the comm channel, “Hey, Lucas.  What can I do for you?”

 

“We’re getting some strange readings over here, that we can’t quite make sense of.  Maybe if your ran a magnaton scan of the alien ship, we could get a better idea of what’s going on.”

 

“Gotcha.  Hold on a few seconds…”

 

The two waited in dead silence for several moments as Commander Keller performed the designated task from the Starlight.  During the first few moments, Kendall was relieved to see that nothing was happening, and rationalized that his tricorder’s earlier reports were nothing more than errant readings.

 

But then, a muffled sucking sound pervaded the corridor, and the lights flickered for a moment, a result of the scan.  Or so Johnson thought.  As he peered down the corridor, a large distortion field rippled toward them, slowly taking on a more solid form.

 

It was large, nearly twice the size of most humanoid species.  The three-legged wraith lumbered down the corridor, growing ever more ominous.  It’s long branch-like arms swayed rampantly.  Its thick, slimy exoskeleton shimmered in the poor lighting, and its large, malevolent glare seemed to drill straight through Kendall’s head.

 

He immediately froze as he recognized the beast.  But he couldn’t move.  He couldn’t think.  All he could do was be petrified.

 

“Species 8472,” Tompkins choked out in a clipped, hasty manor.

 

As he heard Tompkins utter the beast’s dreaded designation, Johnson couldn’t help but recall the file footage he had seen from the USS Voyager’s encounters with the species.  And he couldn’t help but feel utterly doomed.

 

The alien shrieked as it drew closer, arching its back and displaying its fierce claws.  It paused for a moment before shifting its weight to its hind-leg in preparation to lunge foreword.  But as it did so, the dreaded alien vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

 

Johnson relaxed, only slightly and turned his terribly petrified gaze to Commander Tompkins.  His wide eyes were filled with trepidation, a feeling that was undoubtedly shared between the two of them.  “I don’t know about you,” said Tompkins quietly, “but I think it’s time to go…”

 

Johnson grabbed his tools and carelessly jammed them into the kit with a total disregard for their proper resting-places.  “No complaints here.”

 

 

 

Even after spending several hours watching the sleek, shimmering vessel on the view screen, Commander Harrison was still utterly perplexed by its design and nature.  It was almost hypnotic to look at it for so long, as, even in its damaged state, it gently crawled through space alongside the three Federation starships.

 

But suddenly, Harrison’s eye caught the slightest aberration in the vessel’s serene movements.  It seemed to be changing course.  But before he could inquire any further, a sensor alert cut him off.

 

“The alien ship is coming about,” Bator announced moments later.

 

Harrison furrowed his brow.  “How?  It doesn’t have a crew!”

 

“Unknown,” replied Bator.

 

“Auto-pilot?” suggested Keller.

 

“Maybe,” Harrison allowed, but he wasn’t convinced there was still a greater force at work here.  “Beam back the away teams and go to yellow alert.”

 

As the lights stepped down a few notches of illumination, an indicator of the alert status, Captain Christopher emerged from the conference room, followed closely by Captains Brantley and Talbot, and finally, Rachael Meyer.

 

“What’s going on?” Christopher demanded.

 

“The alien ship is moving,” said Harrison.  “Heading one-four-eight, mark seven.”

 

While the others hung back, and observed the situation at the mission ops station, Christopher quickly made his way to the command chair, but he did not sit. “On screen,” he ordered.

 

Moments later, the alien vessel blinked back onto the view screen, only now it was drifting aimlessly through the cosmos, seemingly without a reason for the sudden change in course.

 

“What is going on?” Brantely mused.

 

But her contemplation was quickly interrupted by the chirp of Christopher’s communicator.  “Sanders to Christopher.”

 

The Captain frowned, wondering why the transporter chief had summoned him.  Realizing there was only one way to find out, he touched his badge.  “Go ahead, Ensign.”

 

“We’ve got a small problem down here,” she said slowly, only piquing Christopher’s curiosity.

 

 

 

And Sanders patiently waited for a response from the Captain, she stared curiously at the entities that had materialized on the transporter platform when she beamed back Tompkins and Johnson.  Clearly, it was not them…

 

Instead, Sanders founder herself face to face with two very dazed and confused Cardassians…

 

 

 

Proceed to Chapter Three

1