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Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,571
# 32
03-29-2013, 07:05 PM
Literary Challenge #14 : Facility 4028

Raison d'etre


2329:
Commander Rebecca Ravillious strode purposefully along the corridor, barely lifting her gaze from the PADD in her hands, and the chronometer in the corner of the screen, displaying a countdown to when she had to be back in the lab. If she didn't make it back in time, the experiment could destroy half the ship. Avoiding assorted crewmen, Rebecca's unerring sense of direction brought her to the USS Eden's forward lounge, and she smoothed the front of her dress uniform before entering the crowded room.

"Are you ready?" enquired her closest friend, Lieutenant Commander Naomi Chandler.

"As I'll ever be," Rebecca replied, taking one last glance at the chronometer before handing her the PADD:

19:45...19:44...19:43...

By the forward viewports, she saw Captain Ahmed Nasir, his hands folded serenely in front of him, clasping an old, leather-bound book, and to his left, dressed not in a Starfleet uniform, but a civilian tuxedo, stood Paul Kane, the dark-haired engineer who had won her heart.

At a nod from Nasir, someone in the congregation activated an audio file, and the room filled with the sound of church organs, and Rebecca began to walk sedately towards the front of the lounge.

"I was beginning to think you weren't coming," Paul muttered with a wry grin as Rebecca stood before him.

"Just left something running in the lab," she replied lightly.

"Anything I should know about, Number One?" Nasir enquired, leaning his head forwards.

"As long as we're done in fifteen minutes, Sir, nothing to worry about," Rebecca assured the captain, who shrugged, then looked up to address the room.

"Ladies, gentlemen, and otherly gendered species, it brings me the greatest pleasure to perform a duty today seldom required of me in my role as a Captain, as we come together to witness the joining of this man, and this woman, in the state of matrimony. As I understand time is a factor, I shall be as brief as ceremony allows.

"Marriage is a solemn undertaking, not one to be entered into lightly, for a moment's uncertainty, can lead to a lifetime of regret. If anyone knows of any lawful reason why these two people should not be wed, let them speak now, or forever hold their peace...

Paul's eyes flickered around the room of assembled officers, then back to Rebecca, who's bow-like lips quirked into a smile.

"Paul William Kane, do you take this woman, to be your lawfully wedded wife? To cherish and honor, to protect and provide for, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do,"

"Rebecca Louise Ravillious, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? To cherish and honor, to guide and nurture, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do,"

"Then by the power vested in me by Starfleet Command and the United Federation of Planets, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife. Mister Kane, you may kiss your bride, and may Allah have mercy on your soul."

As the assembled officers applauded and laughed, Paul and Rebecca leaned forwards, to share their first kiss as a married couple.


2334:
Captain Ahmed Nasir gazed sightlessly at the forward viewscreen and the rolling vista of Adigeon Prime, and leaned on the arm of his command chair.

"Say again, Mister Hendricks," he requested. "There is considerable interference on the channel."

"Commander Kane is attempting to stabilize the thalaron generator now, Captain," stated the voice of Lieutenant Thomas Hendricks. The security chief's normally relaxed voice taut with stress. "Containment is fluctuating, and the generator is at risk of going critical."

Nasir closed his eyes.
"Oh Allah, have mercy, they know not what they do..." he whispered. The idea of a thalaron generator was bad enough, but for it to have been constructed on an inhabited planet was lunacy.

"Please repeat, Captain," requested Hendricks' voice.

"Never mind, Mister Hendricks, I was just thinking aloud. Nasir to Kane, what can you tell me, Commander?"


Rebecca Kane's fingers flew over the touchscreen of her PADD as it ran an integration subroutine to interface with the generator's systems, when she heard the Captain's voice addressing her over Hendricks' communicator.

"The system is crashing, Captain, but I'm attempting to interface with the generator's systems to bring it to a controlled shutdown." She explained, brushing a long bang of hair out of her face with her wrist. "Containment momentarily dipped by point zero zero one per cent but is stabilized. As long as I can shut it down, it will be okay."

"And if you can't? Should we begin evacuation procedures of facility 4028?"

"No, Sir. If I can't shut this thing down and it goes critical, the radiation cascade will kill every living thing on the planet in under an hour. Calling an evacuation at this point would only cause panic to the population, in this instance, I would suggest that ignorance will be bliss."

"Understood, Commander, standing by."

Looking at the PADD, Rebecca looked over the EPS flow, and began to reduce the feed to the thalaron intermix matrix, while maintaining the power to the containment grid. Gradually, the cyclic humming of the generator slowed, reducing in pitch and intensity, before dropping below the range of Human hearing.

"Kane to Eden. Crisis averted," she reported with a sigh. Reaching up, she moved to lift the PADD away from the control surface, when a sudden surge fed back through the device, shocking Rebecca and dropping her to the floor, where she lay unconscious.

At once, Hendricks was at her side, along with two Adigeon researchers, who raised tricorders to scan the area.

"No residual thalaron radiation detected, Lieutenant," reported the avian scientist. "But your commander should be taken to an infirmary immediately, her heart beats are incredibly erratic. One is strong, the other two are much weaker."

"Those aren't her heart beats, doctor," replied Hendricks. "The commander is eight weeks pregnant with twins."

The bird-like scientist squarked something which the universal translator was unable to comprehend, before rapidly trilling and chittering into his communicator.

***

Rebecca opened her eyes, and saw the face of a female Adigeon looking down at her, accompanied by the Eden's chief medical officer, Doctor Callum MacLeod.

"What happened?" she demanded, lifting herself up on her elbows.

MacLeod grimaced.

"There was a feedback surge in the generator as it shut down, and there was another fluctuation in the containment grid, releasing a barely detectable amount of thalaron radiation. I've stabilized your condition, but there's -- a complication with one of the embryos."

Rebecca's slate grey eyes flew open and she automatically put a hand to her still-flat stomach. My boys!!! she thought, as an icy hand clutched at her heart.

"What kind of complication, Cal? Tell me!" she demanded, struggling to keep her panic under control.

"One of the embryos has suffered genetic damage to the Y chromosome," MacLeod explained. "You've got a big decision to make, but you have to make it now. If we don't act immediately, and I do mean immediately, you will lose the child."

An unnatural calm descended on Rebecca as her training took over.

"Options?"

"Adigeon physicians are highly skilled genetic engineers. They are proposing to replace the damaged Y chromosome with a copy of the X chromosome to stabilize the genetic sequence and save the child."

Rebecca's eyebrows drew closer together. A double X chromosome could only mean one thing.

"But that will change the sex of the baby..."

The Adigeon nodded her head.

"The embryo will continue to develop as a female."

"But they're monozygotic twins," Rebecca pointed out. "Can't you copy the undamaged Y chromosome from the healthy embryo to repair the damage?"

"Even monozygotic twins always have a different phenotype," MacLeod replied. "Even at this stage of development, there are already hundreds of genetic differences, and the two codes would be incompatible. The differences would lead to errors in genetic replication as severe as if the damaged chromosome were to be untreated.

"The only option is to replace the damaged Y chromosome with a copy of the undamaged X chromosome from that embryo, it is the only way the genetic code will properly stabilize."

Rebecca shook her head, tears beginning to roll down her cheeks.

"But I'm having two boys, Cal! Paul and I are naming them after our fathers, Alexander and Marcus!"

"You're still going to have two children, Becca," MacLeod assured her. "I promise you that the genetic re-sequencing of the embryo will stabilize the genetic code perfectly. It will create a gender reassignment so complete that there will be no male genetic coding whatsoever, the embryo will develop as fully female as you or your mother. She will be able to have children of her own and lead a perfectly normal life, but we must begin the procedure immediately, or you will miscarry within hours."

"Alright," Rebecca sighed with a nod, before fixing the Adigeon woman with a narrow-eyed glare. "But nothing else! I know the kind of genetic work you people do here, and I won't have my child turned into some kind of Augment freak!"

The Adigeon nodded, and raised her claw-like hands in a supplicating gesture.

"You have my word, Commander," she assured her. "No unnecessary alterations or enhancements. We would never tamper with such genetic coding unnecessarily or without request."

"And don't you dare do anything to the other child!" she snarled. "Do you hear me? Not a single thing!"

"I'll be observing the entire procedure, Becca," MacLeod promised. "I guarantee that nothing will be done to the other embryo, and he'll be absolutely fine. We gave him a complete genetic analysis to make sure there was no chromosomal damage, and his coding is -- absolutely fine. I assure you, he's going to live a very long and healthy life."

"Alright, Cal. You can begin," Rebecca consented. "I don't know how I'm going to explain this to Paul..."


2345:
Marcus Kane felt the shift in the mattress, and looking over his shoulder, saw Alix pull the duvet over her shoulder. Facing away from him, her wavy hair fanned across the pillow as she settled. Even with the king-sized mattress, whenever she snuck into the bed, she always woke him. For a moment, he lay on his right side, gazing out of the window, before bringing his right arm up to his face, and tweaking the sides of the rubberized black bracelet with his left hand. A pale azure watch face appeared within the seamless bracelet: A five-spoke coronet formed the 12 marker, with linear rectangular markers at each of the other hour positions. The digitized hands clearly indicated the time 2:24.

Putting his head back on the pillow, Marcus closed his eyes, seeking to return to sleep, but over the ever-present rain, he was sure he could hear voices. One was his father, Paul, the other, was unfamiliar. He couldn't make out the words, but the conversation seemed strained. Sitting up, Marcus slid out of the bed and pulled a robe over his pajama top. At the foot of the bed, his loyal rotweiller, Zack, raised his massive black head, tilting it quizzically as he regarded Marcus.

"Can you hear Dad?" Marcus whispered.

Awwwrrr... Zack rumbled, propping himself up on his front legs, ready to follow his master.

Making his way silently though the hallway and down the stairs, Marcus moved like a wraith through the castle, Zack at his side, until they approached his father's study. He was close enough now to make out the second voice properly: Male, speaking English, with what almost sounded like a hint of a Louisiana drawl in an otherwise British accent like Mama's, and from the bluish-white light spilling into the hallway, a subspace comm link. Kneeling down, Marcus poked his head round the open door frame.

"-- but you know what these Cardassians're like, Paul, it's not the kind of situation I want to send an operative into without some kind of backup." said the man on the viewscreen. He wore a Starfleet uniform, and Marcus' eyes focused on the rank insignia on the white shoulder strap. Not a Captain or Commander's strip , but a four-pointed star-- An admiral...

"I here ya, Wes, I've got some ideas on the drawing board," replied Paul, flipping through some files on his PADD. "But don't forget, we relocate to Vulcan next week, so my project time's going to be restricted."

On the screen, the man nodded, his attention drifting, as if he was looking at something just off-camera in his office, maybe a junior officer handing him a report.

"I'll speak to you in a few days to touch base, but you really need to upgrade your security, Paul, you've got a couple of operatives on your six as we speak," he paused, his gaze locked firmly on Marcus, and he winked. "Cooper out."

As Cooper's face was replaced with the Starfleet emblem, Paul turned in his chair.

"Hey, pal, can't sleep?" he asked as Marcus and Zack entered the study.

Marcus shrugged as he absently stroked Zack's side.

"Ali woke me," he said, stifling a yawn.

Paul sighed. So much for last week's talk on staying in her own bed...

"She only does it because she loves you, pal," he replied. "You're her big brother. She looks up to you."

By all of ten minutes... Marcus thought, slumping down on the low couch. Zack immediately took up sentinel duty at his feet.

"I know," he admitted. "Did Auntie Karen ever do the same to you?"

Paul sighed again. How to explain the genetic restructuring, which Alix's obsessive connection to her twin and social difficulties were a result of...

"Ali doesn't see things the same way as we do, pal," he began. "She doesn't realize that she sometimes says or does things which others don't always understand. Remember that patience is a virtue, and remember that she loves you, and would never do anything to hurt you. Did I ever tell you about the time your aunt bonded a PADD to my hand while I was asleep?"

Marcus grinned and nodded.

"Yeah, I remember, Dad. I guess Ali's never done anything like that to me," he admitted.

"Well, it's going to be getting light soon, and you ought to try and get more sleep if you're going sailing with Mama later."

Marcus nodded and boosted himself up off the couch.

"Okay, Dad," he said, making his way out of the study, before slapping his hand twice against his thigh. At once, Zack was on his feet, ambling after Marcus.

***

What had begun as a pleasant weekend activity, had rapidly turned into a nightmare. Rebecca Kane clung to the partially capsized pontoon of the trimaran, struggling to push Marcus' insensate body up out of the water. She couldn't tell the extent of the cut across his scalp from the falling boom, but blood slowly oozed from beneath his hairline onto his face, partially diluted and washed away by the torrential rain.

"Wake up, baby, wake up!" she shouted, climbing onto the pontoon and checking her son's airways. He was breathing clearly, and Rebecca said a silent prayer of thanks. She raised her arm to check the miniaturized tricorder she habitually wore in a black synthleather strap, but the interface was smashed beyond use, probably in the collision with the coral reefs which had torn the Eden to pieces. Eventually, Marcus coughed and stirred.

"Mama, where are we?" he asked, his slate grey eyes wandering as he struggled to focus on the horizon, but the storm was so severe, that sky and sea were indistinguishable.

"We've lost our comms gear and we're being blown south east, away from the reefs," Rebecca explained.

"Towards Serena's Necklace?"

"I hope so," replied Rebecca. "If nothing else happens to divert us, the wingboat factories on the northern island should pick up our beacon."

"I feel dizzy, my head hurts," Marcus said, trying to raise a hand to his forehead, but only succeeding in sliding further down the pontoon.

"You have to stay still, baby," Rebecca ordered. "You've been hit in the head and probably have a concussion. Try and stay awake. Can you do that for me?"

"I'll try, Mama," Marcus promised. "It won't be like this on Vulcan, will it."

"No baby, you know Vulcan is a desert planet, it only has shallow equatorial seas. Won't it be nice to be dry though, not to be wet all the time?"

"I don't want to go," Marcus admitted. "I'll miss Matt and Andrew, and Miss Carter."

"You'll make new friends, and have new teachers to learn from," Rebecca assured him. "You'll see, everything will turn out okay. Just have fai--"

Rebecca's voice died on her lips as her eyes picked out shadows in the water, drifting around and beyond the periphery of her vision.

"Mama, what's wrong?" demanded Marcus, but before Rebecca could reply, he saw them. "Oh no, no no..." The delta-shaped fins protruding above the waterline, gliding leisurely closer. Raptor Sharks. The evolutionary apex of oceanic predators, they made the Terran Great White look like a placid koi carp, and Marcus was seized by a terror he had never before felt.

"Mama..."

Before he could say anything else, Rebecca turned to him, unstrapping her tricorder and securing it around his wrist.

"Now Marcus, I need you to be brave, and I need you to listen to me," she said, using the same calming tones she had used with junior officers a decade previously. "My tricorder is broken, which means it is automatically emitting a distress beacon. No matter what happens, someone will find you. You have to stay awake, and out of the water. Do you understand?"

Marcus nodded, his brow furrowing with confusion.

"Yes, Mama, I'll try, but what about you?"

"The raptors have caught the scent of your blood. Until they feed, nothing will divert them from that purpose. Now I need you to be brave, and I want you to look after Ali. You're her big brother, and it's your job to look out for her."

Reaching out, Rebecca brushed Marcus' fringe out of his eyes.

"My handsome son, always remember how much I love you," she implored.

"I will, Mama, I promise, but I still don't understand!"

Without another word, Rebecca turned from Marcus and dove into the churning ocean, striking out towards the shadows of the raptors, powerful kicks taking her further from the wreckage of the trimaran.

"Mama!" Marcus shouted. "Come back! Mama, please come back! Mama, Mama, MAMA!!!"

***

Paul Kane strode resolutely down the hospital corridor, Alix clutching his hand.

"How is he?" he demanded, as they approached the nurse's station.

"Better than when he was found," the young doctor replied. "We've stopped the sub-cranial bleeding and repaired the skull fracture, as well as performing surgery to repair the damage to his vocal chords."

Paul frowned.

"I don't understand," he admitted. "I was told he'd been hit in the head by a piece of the boat when it broke up on the reefs."

Doctor Reynolds nodded.

"He was, and had a severe concussion, but by the time the rescue craft found him, he'd been screaming for his mother for hours."

Paul nodded silently. As they entered the private room, Alix broke away from her father, sprinting across the room to launch herself at her brother, flinging her arms round his neck.

Marcus looked up at his father, his eyes wild.

"Did they find Mama?" he demanded, his voice still hoarse.

Paul's eyes closed involuntarily, flashing back to the mortuary. The sheet drawn back from the ruined body on the table so he could formally identify the remains: a mere legality, given the DNA identification, but it had to be done. It could have been anything, or anyone, but then Paul's eyes fell upon the tattoo on the inside of the right forearm: The Huguenot Cross, and he knew it was his beloved Rebecca. How could he explain what he had seen to his son? How could he explain the result of his mother's sacrifice? Would knowing the truth bring him closure, or would it plague him with nightmares and drive him mad? Paul knew only that he had never lied to his son, and had no intention of starting now. He nodded.

"I'm sorry, pal," was all he could say.

For a moment, Marcus' lower lip trembled, then he began to scream.

Alix backed away from the bed, her eyes squeezed shut and her hands pressing against her ears, anything to block out her brother's tormented howl .

"Marcus, stop it," Paul snapped. "I said stop it! Marcus! You're upsetting your sister!"

That realization registered, and Marcus fell silent as if slapped across the face.

"Sorry Ali," he murmured, before rolling onto his side and curling into a fetal position, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

Paul turned to Reynolds.

"Is there anything I can do? We're supposed to be relocating to Vulcan in less than thirty six hours."

The doctor nodded.

"I can put you in contact with a Vulcan tutor who specializes in emotional instabilities and traumas," he said. "If anyone will be able to help Marcus, it will be Master Sovak."

Last edited by marcusdkane; 03-30-2013 at 04:25 PM. Reason: Final polish...