“The Odyssey, part I”
Stardate 74989.5; December 28, 2397
Written by Chris Adamek
Cape Canaveral, Florida
August 20, 1977
Wispy cirrus clouds streaked across the deep azure sky, scattering rays of golden sunshine across the lush Florida coastline. A gentle breeze floated through the morning air, barely strong enough to disturb the thick foliage hugging the sandy shore—but enough of a presence to occasionally disturb the otherwise placid inlet. It was a perfectly peaceful day.
Chaos—and a piece of history—loomed on the distant horizon. Beyond the mess of ferns and palm trees on the distant shore, a massive plume of roiling white smoke suddenly billowed over the treetops and high into the cerulean sky. As the rampant cloud continued to tear through the surrounding forest, its thunderous shockwave promptly followed, shattering the restful calm that had pervaded the day thus far.
Suddenly, a fiery beacon of blazing light ascended from within the hellish midst of the billowing clouds. It surged skyward, quickly rising above its murky beginnings, creating it’s own towering maelstrom of thick black smoke as it hurtled upward in a manic blaze. It flashed red as it broke the sound barrier—a sonorous BOOM soon followed—and then gradually faded into the azure skies.
The thunderous cacophony gradually faded; within minutes, the sound of tiny waves lapping ashore could be heard above an array of exotic birdcalls. The gentle breeze swiftly dispersed the ominous dark cloud on the horizon, and an hour later, the peaceful status quo was restored.
But thousands of kilometers away, a tiny probe hovered over the brilliant blue-green sphere that was planet Earth, slowly toiling its way through the cosmos in the name of scientific research. Voyager 2 had ascended to the heavens. Its odyssey had begun…
For years, it drifted through the solar system, guided by unseen gravimetric forces between the planets. One minor push in this vast ocean of nothingness was enough to guide Voyager for millions of kilometers. And after a series of pushes over a multitude of years, a gigantic ringed sphere loomed ahead: Jupiter.
It was a planet vast beyond comprehension, a massive liquid sphere of rusty beige and creamy white, roiling with crimson storms that were easily larger than Earth. Voyager quietly ambled past Jupiter, gathering information on the giant world and its myriad moons before moving on to another ringed world on the distant horizon.
Now billions of kilometers from home, Voyager 2 turned its sights upon the majestic rings of Saturn. The thin disk of dust and ice shimmered in the pale sunlight as the massive golden world made its way around the sun. The probe took note of proceedings, and forged ahead.
After observing both Uranus and Neptune, Voyager 2’s mission officially drew to a close. But the craft continued to drift through the remainder of the solar system, and unofficially, the mission continued. Headed towards the outer boundary of the solar system in search of the heliopause—the beginning of interstellar space—Voyager 2 was destined to walk the Milky Way for all of eternity…
Sol System: Sector 001
USS Odyssey, NX-14
May 1, 2167
Subcommander Vasar’s icy-cool voice had caught John Sheridan off guard. For the past several hours, his eyes had been fixed on the sleek computer screen before him, pouring over the wealth of data pertaining to their present mission. All the while, Sheridan thought he had been only mildly immersed in the data—he had long ago memorized the vast majority of it, and this review of the information was more nostalgia than necessity—but apparently, his interest was rooted deeper than he thought, for Sheridan had not realized his first officer stood before him until her monotone voice shattered the silence.
Sheridan immediately glanced up at the Vulcan and smiled. “Yes, Vasar? What can I do for you?”
Without any preamble, Vasar immediately delved into her reasons for the intrusion, frequently referring to the padd clutched in her left hand. “According to the Vulcan High Command, another Vulcan transport has disappeared near the edge of the Sol System.”
Vasar carefully placed the padd on Sheridan’s desk for him to review, but the Captain trusted his first officer’s ability to relay the data, and left the padd to sit. Besides, he was already quite familiar with this particular bit of information, though attaining that sense of familiarity was far less joyful than his review of their present mission. Over the past few months, Vasar had recounted several instances of starships allegedly disappearing near the Sol System, all of them spontaneously gone without a trace.
“The Laraq is the third vessel to disappear this month,” Vasar continued, her tone shifting to something bordering stern. “The Andorians have also reported two similar instances.”
Sheridan flashed a reassuring smile. “It’s probably nothing,” he said evenly. He tapped a few commands into his computer, and then turned the monitor for Vasar to inspect. “Our sensors have detected some odd interspatial fluctuations around the Kupier Belt,” he said, pointing to the diagram on the screen. “I’m sure it’ll die down in a few weeks.”
Vasar was not impressed. “I am familiar with the sensor readings,” she tersely stated. “And I do not share your optimism; neither does the Vulcan High Command. The anomalies have persisted for several weeks, and show no sign of dissipation.”
Sheridan shrugged. He didn’t know what to tell her, and quite frankly he didn’t care. His job description did not include pleasing the Vulcan High Command. “Tell them to take it up with the Federation Council,” he finally suggested, sincerely hoping it was the last he would hear of the topic—and thankfully, it was.
“Captain Sheridan,” came Commander Sinclair’s voice over the intercom. “We’re approaching our final destination.”
Sheridan rose from his seat. “I’m on my way,” he crisply replied, already making his way for the exit.
Vasar remained at the Captain’s desk for a long moment, her eyes still lingering upon the padd she had placed there moments earlier. If she had so much as a shred of interest in their present mission, she was easily able to bury it under a mound of Vulcan logic. Still, she must have realized that pursuing her agenda would ultimately prove fruitless, for she hastily plucked the padd from Sheridan’s stark gray desk, and followed him onto the bridge.
“Report,” Sheridan demanded as he strode toward his seat in the center of the bridge.
“We’ve just entered visual range,” Sinclair replied almost immediately.
Excitement pulsed through Sheridan’s body as he settled into the command chair. “On screen,” he ordered, his eyes already locked on the viewer.
Moments later, a small probe blinked onto the viewscreen. When compared to modern probes, the ghastly three-armed probe on the viewscreen certainly qualified as a proverbial dinosaur—but in its day, Voyager 2 was the apex of scientific technology. And now, hundreds of years and billions of kilometers from home, its mission was finally coming to an end.
Sheridan couldn’t help but smile. “It’s hard to believe that thing’s still going strong after all these years,” he mused to nobody in particular.
“Nuclear-powered devices often have life spans in excess of two-hundred years,” Vasar unnecessarily reminded. She sat at her nearby science station, still holding the padd in her hands—no doubt hoping to continue discussing the padd’s contents once Voyager 2 was safely in the Odyssey’s cargo bay.
Sheridan expelled a weary sigh, and tried to dismiss Vasar’s sentiments without acknowledging them, but the thought of the long conversation looming on the horizon prevented him from remaining silent. “Leave it to a Vulcan to drain all the excitement from the room,” he chuckled, knowing quite well that the statement would only open the door for Vasar to share even more of her sentiments.
At first, Sheridan was uncertain if he liked Vasar or not. She was a bit of a cold fish, after all—even for a Vulcan. And though she had mellowed over the past few years, she was still very much a stick in the mud—but one that Sheridan had come to admire. And while they would often get into heated discussions, the Captain was ultimately left with a lingering impression that the admiration he felt for Vasar was not unrequited.
She slowly arched a curious brow and said, “I was simply stating a fact.”
“Well in the future, keep those facts to yourself,” Sheridan quipped, effectively finishing the conversation.
Vasar looked as if she might say something else—her lips seemed to quiver for a moment, as if words were on the verge of being spoken—but ultimately, she remained silent, and instead turned her attention to the science station before her.
And Sheridan summarily turned his attention to Commander Sinclair. “Are we ready?” he asked.
Sinclair briefly conferred with the computer before affirming the Captain’s statement with a brief nod of his head. “Grapplers are standing by,” he stated.
The prospect of bringing a piece of history aboard the Odyssey gave rise to a new wave of excitement. Sheridan was virtually on the edge of his seat waiting for the probe’s arrival, when the ship suddenly shuddered. At first, Sheridan assumed the grapplers had ejected from the hull—but when nothing approached the probe on the viewscreen, he turned to Sinclair for an explanation. “What happened?”
Confusion immediately befell the Commander’s face. “I’m not sure,” he said, moments before the science station was inundated with sensor alerts.
Sheridan immediately came about to face Vasar. “Subcommander?”
She was hunched over her workstation, apparently well into her study of the newfound sensor alerts. “There is some sort of interspatial fissure is opening beneath the ship,” she reported after a moment. “It is similar to the anomalies that are allegedly dissipating in the Kupier Belt.” For a Vulcan, the sarcasm in her voice was unprecedented—but not unwarranted.
The ship rumbled again, jostling Sheridan about his chair in the process. He carefully wrapped his hands around the arms of his chair, and then looked to the helm. “Lieutenant Franklin,” he called, making certain his voice sounded calm and collected, “see if you can break us free…”
“Aye, sir!” Franklin had been furiously pecking at the helm controls even before Sheridan’s order—but now that the Captain had officially ordered action, the helmsman’s hands almost flew over the keypad.
The maneuvering thrusters roared as Franklin commanded them to drive the Odyssey forward, but beyond the sonorous theatrics, nothing happened. “The gravimetric forces are too strong,” Franklin announced seconds later. “We can’t break free!”
Sheridan wasn’t about to give up so easily. “Go to full impulse,” he snapped.
Franklin moved to comply, but before he could take any action, the ship jolted again, this time more violently than before. The lights fluttered wildly, and the deck seemed to veer in odd directions before stabilizing—and when it finally did, Voyager 2 was no longer on the viewscreen.
“The fissure has widened to five hundred meters,” Vasar announced.
“The probe?” Sheridan inquired.
Sinclair didn’t even need to access sensors to determine Voyager’s fate. “It’s gone,” he stated.
Sheridan would have cursed, but as he glanced at the viewscreen, he quickly realized that the probe was the least of his concerns. The gaping maw of a colossal violet maelstrom loomed ahead, and the Odyssey lingered at the edge of its swirling threshold—gradually creeping closer to its doom. “Oh hell,” he muttered.
Wisps of violet light gradually pinwheeled around the massive fissure, quietly summoning the Odyssey into its murky domain. The tiny ship valiantly struggled, making every effort to break free of the distortion, but to no avail. The bands of energy feeding the distortion closed around the Odyssey like a noose, and in the blink of an eye, it vanished.
The rift was gone.
The probe was gone.
The Odyssey was gone…