Literary Challenge #40 : Redux
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Join Date: Feb 2013
03-08-2013, 03:57 PM
Captain?s Log, Stardate 443251
The Da Vinci has been re-routed to the Zeta Andromedae Sector to investigate a series of ionic storms congregating at the edge of the Delmar system. The fact that these storms seem to be clustering together is cause enough for concern, but long range sensors have also indicated a high level of elevated neutrinos and verteron particles present at the epicentre of the storms. If Ensign Sann is correct, the presence of these particles suggests the imminent formation of a wormhole in the Delmar System. Our mission is to scan the anomaly to determine if this it is indeed a wormhole-- and whether or not it is forming naturally, or being artificially created?
?Captain,? said Farim Meru, the
Operations officer, ?sensors are picking up a vessel exiting the wormhole.?
The Bajoran?s words caused Arkos to instinctively jolt upright in his command chair as he snapped back to reality. He realized that he had been staring at the Delmar Wormhole for the last minute and a half, entranced by the swirling, cloudy disk that filled the
viewscreen and bathed her bridge in an azure light. Every shade of blue imaginable shimmered in a great whirlpool of ionic energy, verterons, tetryons, and half a million other particles that he was certain Memory Alpha hadn?t come up with names for yet, punctuated by rippling flashes of whites, greys and golds. It reminded him a lot of the screen-captures he had seen of the Bajoran wormhole, and to date, was the most beautiful thing he had witnessed in his career in Starfleet.
It had been there, open and whirling, when the
had arrived in the system. The ship?s science officer, Neiazri Sann, had confirmed that it was an actual, fully developed wormhole instead of the primordial collection of ionic storms that they had been expecting, which meant that this wormhole was developing far faster than most others of its kind that had been observed. As K?Nera had astutely pointed out, however, that in and of itself was suspicious. If the wormhole was developing this rapidly, she had said, then it could very well be an artificial pathway being created by the Borg, or the Undine, or any number of the malevolent species that were on the Federation?s bad list these days.
And now, with a ship coming through, K?Nera?s suspicions had been all but confirmed. As Arkos watched, a tiny, blocky black dot appeared in the middle of the swirling azure disc, the cerulean light casting the relatively tiny shape in shadow.
?Magnify,? Arkos ordered. The screen blinked and switched to a larger resolution, enlarging the tiny shape and bringing it into starker detail.
The sight that greeted Arkos sent an involuntary chill down his spine. The vessel that filled the viewscreen was moving in a lazy, half-drifting fashion, its hull pitted and scorched from a bright silver to a dull grey, and noxious green plasma vapours drifting from one of its stubby nacelles. But it was, unmistakably, a Type 8 shuttlecraft. A Federation vessel.
There were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence before Arkos caught himself gaping.
Snap out of it, and be a Captain, Arkos
he thought to himself, straightening up in his chair. A quick sideways glance, though, reassured him that K?Nera, Sann, and the rest of the bridge crew were reacting the same way, staring at the shuttlecraft in collective awe and befuddlement. Everyone on this bridge, he knew, was thinking the same thing.
Could this have come from the Mirror Universe?
The Federation?s evil doppleganger, the Terran Empire, had been an active threat as of late, crossing the yawning void between realities with disturbing frequency.
?Ensign Farim?? Arkos spoke out expectantly.
The dark-skinned Bajoran woman ran her fingers over the navigational console. ?Sensors are confirming it as a Type 8 shuttlecraft, sir, no known registry,? she replied. ?It has taken significant damage to its outer hull, and it is leaking warp coolant. I?m also detecting a single life sign aboard.?
Farim paused then, and swivelled her seat around to look Arkos, confusion written on her features. ?Sir?it?s a Korda.?
The report sent an even colder chill down Arkos? spine than the appearance of the shuttlecraft had. He became conscious of all of his bridge officers taking sideways glances at him. The Korda were a reclusive, isolationist species native to the half-sunken world of Nar-Etulis. Once a proud and technologically advanced race, the past century had not been kind to them, and they had regressed to the point where they wanted nothing to do with the greater universe. To date, only five Korda had left their submerged homeworld to live in Federation space. One of those five was Arkos Nair.
And now, another Korda was out there, on a damaged shuttlecraft, exiting a yawning chasm in the fabric of space time.
Arkos felt something uncomfortable twist in his gut as his mind raced over the possibilities. Could someone else have left Nar-Etulis to flee the Chastised, with Federation help? Had there been some sort of spatial anomaly, or disaster, on Nar-Etulis that linked to this wormhole? Or was this the product of some parallel universe, a different version of his people and his homeworld? The questions buzzed in his mind like a cluster of angry hornets, pecking at him and raising a host of uncomfortable possibilities.
Sann, to her credit, recovered from her surprise quickly enough to do her own scan of the shuttlecraft. ?The Korda?s life signs are fluctuating, sir,? the Trill reported. ?The shuttlecraft?s engine systems may be leaking gases into the crew compartment.?
There was no time for indecision, then. Arkos tapped his comm badge. ?Bridge to Transporter Room,? he said, ?prepare to beam the shuttle?s passenger directly to Sickbay.? He rose from his command chair and glanced at Sann. ?Ensign Sann, you?re with me,? he said. ?We?re going to go check up on our guest.? He turned and nodded to his first officer. ?K?Nera, you have the Bridge.?
?Aye sir,? K?Nera replied with a smart nod. ?For the record, sir, I think we should still be on our guard. This shuttle could still have come from the Mirror Universe, and it that?s the case, then it might just be the point of the spear.?
?As always, your dislike of the current situation is noted, K?Nera,? Arkos replied with a sly grin. ?But I have a feeling that this won?t be as bad as you suspect.?
?We managed to stabilize him several minutes ago, Captain,? the thin, balding figure of the Mark I EMH said flatly as he stood before Arkos and Sann. Behind him, nurses and orderlies hovered over the sickbed, poring over instruments and doing continuous scans of their patient. ?He was suffering from acute radiation poisoning and a few minor plasma burns, but we have managed to give him adequate epidermal treatment and completely detoxify his system. He needs recovery time, Captain, but he should survive.?
Arkos made no reply to the holograph. His attention was fixed the Korda who lay on the sickbed. He was swathed in the priestly robes of a
telvenar/i] of the Chastised, faded by age and wear and tear from a cream colour to a rustic brown. An intertwining sigil representing the Ionn, the Architect of the Universe, hung from a pendant around his neck. His grey/blue skin was mottled by a few burns and scars on his forehead, cheek and hands, and a few faded bruises were visible on his bald temple. He looked like he had been through hell.
But more importantly, he looked exactly like Arkos.
The EMH cocked a nonexistent eyebrow. ?Captain?? he asked. ?Are you feeling unwell??
?W-what?? Arkos blinked as he turned back to the Doctor. ?I?? He swallowed, blinked a few times. Yes, he thought, he did feel a little nauseous. Perhaps he was going crazy? That sounded logical. It would certainly explain why he was seeing another version of himself on the sickbed. ?Is he?me?? he asked, aware of how weak his voice suddenly sounded.
The Doctor glanced back at the robed Korda on the sickbed. ?DNA scans are?conclusive,? he replied. ?He matches you perfectly Captain, down to the last cytosine molecule. So, yes, he is, in a manner of speaking, you.?
Next to him, Sann stared with abject fascination at the second Arkos. ?It looks like K?Nera was right then, Captain,? she said. ?The Delmar Wormhole does connect to the Mirror Universe. Or at least, one mirror universe. It?s always been hypothesized that there could be several.?
?I?m glad that you find my?duality?so fascinating, Sann,? Arkos mumbled, unable to take his eyes off of his robed double. The Mirror Universe was a widely acknowledged fact and threat in Starfleet records, and it had been all but confirmed that everyone most likely had a counterpart in that universe. But all the same, the fact that Arkos was seeing?
lying there on the sickbed, was jarring to say the least.
A buzzing swarm of unasked questions sprang to life in Arkos? head, all demanding an answer all at once. To what extent was this mirror counterpart like him? Was he a complete polar opposite, like every other Mirror person encountered by Starfleet thus far? Or were he and his?twin?more alike than he suspected? His double was wearing Korda priestly garments instead of any uniform, so it was at least unlikely he was affiliated with the Terran Empire. But beyond that, Arkos knew nothing. His curiosity had been piqued, and as usual, was rapidly turning into an insatiable itch. He needed to know more.
?Is it safe to wake me?I mean, him, Doctor Zimmerman?? he asked, using the adoptive name the crew had given the outdated EMH.
The hologram glanced back at the sickbed. ?I would not advise it, Captain,? he replied. ?Your?alternate self needs at least twenty-four hours of resting time??
As if on cue, however, the mirror version of Arkos suddenly groaned loudly, and shifted on his sickbed. In an instant, orderlies were rushing towards him as a whole host of monitors and readouts began to beep and chime in a mechanical opera.
?He?s waking up, Doctor!? one of the orderlies suddenly cried.
Zimmerman looked like he was about to say something authoritative, when Arkos barrelled right [i[through
him. He ignored the way the Doctor?s form fluctuated as his image re-aligned, and further ignored the annoyed glare the hologram gave him as he made his way to the side of the sickbed. His alternate self was slowly stirring, his head listing from side to side as his eyes began to flicker open. It was an unreal experience, staring down at one?s own face as it moved and acted independently.
Slowly, the mirror Arkos opened his eyes. The robed Korda?s gaze wandered around listlessly before settling on Arkos. At that point, he suddenly became more awake and alert as his expression twisted into abject fear.
?It?s alright,? Arkos said as his double began to shake in the bed?s harnesses. ?We mean you know harm.? More monitors began to beep as the mirror Arkos? heart rate accelerated.
?You?but I?you?re??Slowly, the mirror Arkos began to calm down, his terrified expression giving away to a much more beatific expression. ?So it?s true,? he said, almost in a whisper. ?As Ionn weaves, it is true. There really is a Mirror Universe.?
Arkos swallowed. He was at a complete loss for words. He had never once imagined he would be having a conversation with himself.
?Please stay calm,? he finally said, his mind suddenly adjusting as he went into Captain mode. ?We found you aboard a damaged shuttlecraft. Whatever it was that happened to you, you?re safe now.?
The mirror Arkos shook his head. ?No?no, I?we must have words,? he said, his voice weak and slurred. ?I?I need your help. Nar-Etulis needs your help.?
Roughly two hours later, after the mirror version of Arkos had been sedated and made to rest again, Zimmerman announced that their guest was well enough to talk with the crew. At Arkos? instruction, his mirror counterpart?whom Arkos was already mentally dubbing ?Telvenar Nair,? after his priestly rank?was guided through the ship towards the waiting room for an audience with the Captain and his senior officers. The security detail would later report that the Telvenar had acted confused, tense and wary throughout the entire trip, staring at every monitor and bulkhead as though they were going to leap from the wall and bite him. The report didn?t surprise Arkos, but did disappoint him more than he thought it would. His mirror version was a definitely a Chastised, through and through.
The Telvenar?s initial meeting with the bridge crew had been no less jumpy. Upon walking into the waiting room, his first act had been to shrink back to the door and gaze in helpless terror at K?Nera. Thankfully, it didn?t take much to calm the Telvenar: after Arkos introduced K?Nera as his first officer, the Telvenar?s expression eased, and he sat down after bowing to the Andorian in apology. K?Nera had simply glanced at her fellow officers in confusion. ?Am I really that scary?? she asked.
The ship?s other Andorian officer, Chief Engineer Adim, gave her a joking grin. ?Do you really want us to answer that question?? he responded, earning a withering gaze from the Tactical Officer.
?Children, settle down please,? Arkos cut in, before folding his hands together and turning to face his double. The Telvenar was still sporting a few faint burns on his cheek and knuckles, but thanks to Zimmerman?s treatment, they were now faded and less severe-looking. Simply looking at the Telvenar, though, sitting there swathed in the garments of the Chastised, brought back memories to Arkos. Memories of Nar-Etulis, of Deepwell, of the late nights he spent sea-gazing. Of burnt kald-scales and chanted intonations each morning, when he was younger. And of a whole bunch of other memories he would have sooner forgotten?
As Arkos introduced himself, his crew and his ship, the Telvenar nodded politely, but it was clear that he felt very uncomfortable. The priest looked fidgety and nervous, continuously glancing warily at his surroundings. i]Maybe his only exposure to starships so far has been to Terran Empire vessels,[/i] Arkos thought,
and who knows what they did to him.
Either way, Arkos noticed that this man?s personality was radically different than his own. Arkos liked to think that he was a confident, outgoing man, but whether due to some lingering trauma or due to his religious doctrine, the Telvenar was the exact opposite?quiet, reserved, and, thus far, overbearingly polite.
?We found you on a damaged shuttlecraft,? Arkos told his double. ?According to our sensor readings, you were barely conscious when you flew through the wormhole, and your shuttle had sustained quite a bit of weapons damage.?
The Telvenar gave Arkos a deep bow. ?I am grateful, Captain,? he said. ?If not for you and your crew, I would most certainly have died. I am in your debt, as Ionn weaves.?
The old expression stung Arkos. He realized that it had been five?maybe six years since he had heard someone say that phrase, and maybe nine years since he had said it himself.
As Ionn weaves,
he thought bitterly.
Everything happens because Ionn weaves it.
K?Nera folded her hands. ?If you don?t mind telling us, Cap?Mr. Nair, what were you doing in that shuttlecraft in the first place??
The Telvenar?s gaze turned to K?Nera. Again, Arkos saw consternation cross the man?s eyes as he looked at the Andorian.
Could a mirror version of K?Nera have done something to him?
?I had stolen the shuttle from a Terran ship that I was imprisoned upon, Lieutenant K?Nera,? he replied. ?I was being transported with several others to one of their prison colonies when the ship?s power went out. I confess, I do not know how or why this happened, except perhaps because Ionn weaved it so.?
Arkos thought sarcastically, resisting the urge to say that out loud. ?And in the ensuing jailbreak, you managed to steal a shuttlecraft??
The Telvenar gave a sage nod. ?I regret to say that I was the only one to make it to a shuttlebay,? he said. ?My fellow prisoners were all captured or killed by the ship?s crew. But before the escape, I overheard one of my fellow prisoners say that the ship was creating a?hole, in space?that would lead to a Mirror Universe. A place that was a better, less cruel, reflection of my world. And while I know nothing of how to fly a shuttlecraft, as Ionn weaves, I was able to find this rent in the heavens. ? He glanced at Arkos. ?I consider it a blessing that I not only made it through alive, but that I encountered my own mirror half in the process.?
Arkos had no idea how to react to that sort of compliment. He simply gave the Telvenar a half-smile before glancing sideways at his Chief Engineer. ?Adim, given what we know about the technology of the Terran Empire, do you think it?s possible that they created this wormhole artificially??
The Andorian frowned. ?I?m afraid I can?t base anything off of our knowledge of Imperial technology, Captain,? he replied, ?but it is possible. A stable, but short-lived hole can be created by generating a magneton pulse along a subspace tensor matrix. Maybe the Terran Empire has adapted this technique and perfected it.?
?But if they made the wormhole, why haven?t they used it yet?? K?Nera asked. ?It sounds like they?re trying to create a stable invasion route.?
Sann leaned forward. ?It could be that they?re still testing its stability,? she replied. ?It?s one thing for a single shuttlecraft to go through, but a larger starship?or worse, an entire fleet?would interact with the wormhole differently. There?s always the risk of a hole?s tetryon field reacting negatively with a ship?s shields, never mind the shields of several dozen ships.?
Nodding to the Trill, Arkos turned back to the Telvenar. ?Well, you?ve made it through in one piece,? he said, giving the man a smile. ?My crew and I are willing to help you in any way that they can, and the Federation is ready to grant you asylum if you wish.?
The Telvenar nodded. ?Thank you, Captain. I accept your Federation?s offer, but I come before you with a wish for something more important than my own safety.? He stared Arkos in the eye. ?Tell me, Captain, as we are both the same person, and are both Korda?in this universe, has the Calamity happened??
The question was one that Arkos had sincerely hoped the Telvenar wouldn?t ask, as it would mean that at least one version of Nar-Etulis had been spared.
The common name for the environmental disaster that had afflicted the Korda homeworld almost a century ago. Decades of intense ice-mining in the polar regions, atmospheric modulation and gas-harvesting had taken its toll on Nar-Etulis? environment. This, combined with a sudden spike in harmful radiation emissions from the planet?s sun, had caused the world?s polar ice caps to melt. In an instant, the Korda civilization, one that had rivalled other races for its technological advancement and majesty, was shattered by floods, tsunamis and geological upheaval. The remnants of the Korda race were forced to live in great underwater cities from that point on, a sad reflection of what they once were.
He nodded gravely to the priest. ?It has,? he replied. ?I?m sorry.?
His double?s shoulders sagged in defeat. ?Even in this universe, then, the Korda are undone,? he moaned. ?In my universe, though, the Calamity was but the beginning of our woes. No sooner had our own world consumed us when the Terran Empire came.? A bitter tone came over his voice. ?Those murderous reekfins had always gazed jealously upon us before, but now that we were weakened, they swooped down upon us like carrion.?
The Telvenar?s gaze returned to Arkos. ?Nar-Etulis is no longer our own world, Captain,? he said. ?The Terran Empire?s soldiers walk our cities. They have enslaved our people, and made us toil for their luxury and amusement.? His face twisted into an expression of anger Arkos didn?t even know he was capable of. ?They have outlawed our traditions, and forbade the reverence of Ionn! It is not enough that they have enslaved us, Captain, now they seek to
?What would you ask of us, then??Arkos said. He already has a suspicion of where this conversation was going.
?I ask, Captain, that the Federation save my?our?people!? the Telvenar replied. ?I ask that the Federation send a fleet through the?wormhole, as you call it?and liberate Nar-Etulis!?
For a moment, the table went silent. Arkos pulled his gaze free from that of the Telvenar. He couldn?t imagine Nar-Etulis ground down under the Terran Empire?s heel like that. He didn?t want to. What the Telvenar described stained every single good memory he had of his birth-world. But he knew that if he had seen what his mirror counterpart had seen, he would be just as angry, just as desperate and just as determined. What he had to say next was going to hurt them both, on so many levels.
?I?m sorry,? he said, ?but I?m afraid that isn?t possible.?
The Telvenar looked as though he had been slapped. ?I?m sorry?? he asked. ?What do you mean by ?not possible???
Arkos took a deep breath, and folded his hands together. ?Look,? he said, ?if the situation in our own universe were any different, I would say yes. I would make the petition to Starfleet to secure this wormhole and send a fleet through. I would try my damndest to see Nar-Etulis liberated, and if it weren?t for Starfleet protocols, I would see the Empire bastards hang for every Korda life they?ve taken.?
He leaned forwards a little to lock eyes with his double. ?But right now, the Federation is fighting a war on too many fronts. We?re battling for our survival against the Klingons, the Romulans, the Breen, the Cardassian True Way, and most of all, the Borg. We could not try to liberate your universe?s Nar-Etulis without trying to liberate every other world oppressed by the Empire, and that would be a massive, and risky, undertaking. It would mean fighting the Terran Empire in its own space, against its full strength, through a single wormhole. I?m sorry, but Starfleet does not have the resources at hand for a full invasion of the Terran Empire. We?re barely holding off the Klingons as it is.?
The Telvenar stared in blinking disbelief at Arkos. The look of betrayal on his face stung him deeply. ?But?there is a wormhole out there, right in front of you!? he shouted. ?Your ship could use it to fly through, and get to Nar-Etulis!?
?The wormhole,? Arkos replied, as calmly as possible, ?could very well be unstable. And even if it wasn?t, a single ship flying deep into the Imperial space would be suicide. I am not going to risk the lives of my crew so recklessly.?
?It is your world!? the Telvenar almost screamed this time. ?
people! We have a responsibility towards them!?
Arkos felt the blood in his cheeks run hot. ?I know,? he said, his molars clenching slightly. ?Damn it, I know. But I also have a responsibility to my crew, to my ship, and to the Prime Directive. I am sorry, Telvenar, but I cannot help you.?
The Telvenar made a deep, slow exhalation as he glared furiously at Arkos. A few seconds of cold silence fell over the room. The skin on the back of Arkos? neck prickled. He felt hatred in that silence?real, caustic hatred, flowing out from his double.
Abruptly, the Telvenar stood up from his chair. ?By your inaction, you doom thousands, Captain,? he hissed. ?You are no better than the Empire.?
The words hit Arkos like a hammer-blow. He sprang to his feet as the Telvenar walked towards the doorway, and would have leapt across the table to punch his double in the face if K?Nera hadn?t stood up at the same time, pressing an arm against his chest to block him off ?Captain!? she shouted. Held in place, Arkos could only glare venomously at the Telvenar as he strode out of the room.
Exhaling loudly, Arkos sat back down and took several deep breaths. That man wasn?t him, he decided firmly. That reckless, irrational, Ionn-trembling
wasn?t him at all, even if the two of them looked alike.
He breathed out again, and let his anger flow out along with the breath. ?Alright,? he finally said, turning to Sann and Adim. ?As long as that wormhole remains open, it presents a clear and present danger to the Federation. Our top priority is sealing it, temporarily if not permanently. Sann, could we destabilize it with a photon torpedo??
Sann drummed her fingers. ?We could,? she replied, ?but we?ll have no way of calculating how unstable the implosion would be. The collateral damage could be immense.?
?During the Dominion War, the crew of Deep Space Nine did try to seal the Bajoran Wormhole with a series of phase-conjugate graviton beams,? Adim suggested. ?It failed that time due to sabotage by a Changeling, but unless someone in this room is a shapeshifter, I see no reason why we couldn?t try it ourselves.?
Arkos nodded to his Chief Engineer. ?Good. I want you two to get on that right away. The sooner we can close this wormhole, the better. In the meantime,? he glanced at K?Nera, ?seeing as he?s accepted our offer of asylum, I want quarters to be arranged for our guest. We?ll keep him safe and comfortable before passing him over to the Diplomatic Corps. Dismissed.?
Sann and Adim both got up and left the room, quietly pleased, as usual, to have a project to work on. K?Nera, on the other hand, remained seated, staring impassively at Arkos. Arkos recognized that stare. K?Nera didn?t give it to him that often, but when she did, it meant that there was something that she had to get off of her chest.
?Permission to speak freely, sir?? she asked.
He nodded. ?Granted.?
?Sir, are you alright?? she asked. She seemed genuinely concerned. ?I don?t think I?ve ever seen you react this angrily to someone before.?
Arkos? jawline tightened. ?Well, you did hear him, K?Nera,? he replied. ?That...our guest?practically called me a traitor to my own people. I?m quite sure that if someone accused you of hating your own species, you would do a lot more than simply sit there and be appalled.?
?That?s not what I meant, sir,? K?Nera replied. ?I noticed that ever since he came into the room, something about your alternate self has set you off. You?ve seemed more on edge, more blunt in your way of speaking and acting, and you seemed unusually eager when you discussed closing the wormhole. If I didn?t know better, sir, I?d say that there was something about your mirror version that you
Arkos felt his cheeks burn at the comment. ?Don?t be ridiculous, K?Nera,? he replied. ?He?s a refugee from the Mirror Universe who needs our help. It?s not my place to hate him. I just don?t intend to bow to his impossible demands, either.?
The Andorian seemed nonplussed as she continued to stare at Arkos. ?Sir?my knowledge of the social situation on your homeworld is hazy, but does this have something to do with the conflict on Nar-Etulis that you escaped from??
At that point, Arkos stood up abruptly. ?Lieutenant, I am a Starfleet officer,? he spat angrily. ?I am above whatever petty grudges or local conflicts you may be referring to, because I have been trained to see the bigger picture. I suggest you carry out your orders instead of trying to play psychoanalyst with your commanding officer. Are we clear??
K?Nera?s gaze intensified into one of hurt anger and of defiance. Arkos could see that she would dearly have liked to retort to his comment, but her Starfleet discipline overrode her hot-blooded Andorian temper. ?Yes sir,? she replied stiffly.
Without a furher word, K?Nera stood up and stormed out of the meeting room. The doors hissed closed in her wake, leaving Arkos to brood in silence.
Last edited by ambassadormolari; 03-20-2013 at