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Wherefore Art Thou

While testing a new experimental communication device, the Constitution suffers a computer malfunction that affects the ship’s systems and jeopardises the entire crew.

Wherefore Art Thou – 1

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440

Swimming in the ship’s pool felt like a great escape for Captain McCallister. Being alone in the water with his own thoughts and not having to think about what others needed or not having to read a status report was what he needed. McCallister had loved swimming, not only as a child but also during his time at Starfleet Academy. Over the past month, since the Constitution had been stranded in this deep region of the Delta Quadrant, an area his crew had nicknamed the Fabula Stretch, McCallister had found himself picking up some old interests of his, from swimming daily and playing soccer against holograms to performing the piano in the ship’s crew lounge on an almost nightly basis. McCallister was trying to get by.

Captain McCallister was enjoying the solitary swim in the ship’s pool more so today. He seemed lost in thought as he swam back and forth, the water sparkling around him. It was clear that he was finding some peace and relaxation in the activity as he moved smoothly through the water with purposeful strokes. Despite the weight of his responsibilities as the captain of the USS Constitution, McCallister appeared to be at ease in the water, almost as if it were his natural habitat. Having an indoor swimming pool in his parents’ hotel on Earth, McCallister would often swim in it after coming home from school, or he would end up having a water fight with his brothers and other guests. Something that his parents were not always pleased that they did. Not having James, his second oldest brother, close by (especially with that humongous ship of his, the Odyssey) had been hard for the young captain. He had to make decisions without anyone else around to confirm what he was doing was right or wrong. 

Along with all of the physical activity and musical attempts, McCallister had found himself reading the various logs from Voyager during its lonesome seven-year trip through the Delta Quadrant. Besides that, the biographies and memoirs of some of Voyager’s senior staff had helped him sleep at night. Knowing what he thought and felt was normal brought some comfort. 

Coming to the end of another length in the pool, McCallister stopped as he looked up and saw his first officer standing by the side waiting for him. Slowing down and pulling himself up, McCallister smiled at Thaustin as he grabbed a nearby towel and wrapped it around his waist. His entire body was dripping wet. If anything else, the amount of swimming and exercise he had endured in these last four weeks, McCallister hadn’t felt this fit since his academy days. In addition, he couldn’t help but marvel at his reacquired toned and muscular physique when he inadvertently caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He had stood there, amazed as he took in the sight of his well-defined biceps, triceps, and abs, which had become more prominent and sculpted than ever before, thanks to his consistent workout routine. It had been years since he had been this fit. After stepping out of the sonic shower he had taken earlier that morning, which had left him feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead, had he noticed the change. 

Damn, he had thought.

McCallister strolled over to Thaustin, his first officer, with a glint in his eye. “Care to join me for a refreshing swim?” he teased, a sly grin spreading across his face. Grabbing a towel from the nearby pile, McCallister wiped the droplets of sweat from his forehead and ran it through his damp hair. 

The tall Xindi-Primate man looked up at his captain with a broad smile, clearly tempted by the invitation, but shook his head. Thaustin stood there with his hands clasped behind his back. In the last few weeks, McCallister had noticed that his first officer’s curly blonde locks had gotten brighter in colour. He was sure Thaustin had dyed highlights in them but didn’t know why. This change had made Thaustin’s deep blue eyes even more blue than before.

“Thanks for the offer, sir, but I’m still aching from our tennis match,” Thaustin replied before passing a PADD to the captain. “Some good news: we’ve just approached the pulsar.” 

McCallister quickly made his way towards a nearby lounger and gestured towards Thaustin to join him. Despite his first officer being in uniform, McCallister didn’t want their conversation to be too formal, especially since he was only clad in his swimming trunks. Settling down comfortably onto the lounger, he took hold of the device and prepared to engage in a relaxed and comfortable chat with his first officer. “This could be a game changer for us, Thaustin.”

“Indeed, and I am certain the crew will welcome the change in pace and knowing they could be talking to loved ones soon.” Thaustin agreed.

McCallister knew that Thaustin was hinting at disagreeing with his decision for the Constitution to remain at warp during the past month. Rarely did they stop to engage with anyone else. That said, there hadn’t been many races appearing on their sensor sweeps. For those that did, McCallister wasn’t keen on interacting with them. He had taken the stance they needed to get back. After discovering a cyclic pulsar that could help them amplify their communication efforts with the Odyssey Squadron, the Constitution had sped across this stretch of the Delta Quadrant. “Is T’Penni ready with her new invention?”

Thaustin winced slightly. “She is, but I am still unsure about it, sir.”

McCallister nodded in agreement as he placed the towel around his neck. “I agree, and normally I wouldn’t allow it, but I think it’s worth a shot. If we can link up with the Odyssey, I think it’s worth a shot. If not, then we can at least send datastreams.”

 “Very well,” Thaustin said as he stood up, “If you don’t mind, sir, I’ve got another appointment on Holodeck One to keep.”

Hearing that made McCallister chuckle aloud. “Oh, Thaustin, please don’t tell me that Kamra hasn’t convinced you to be in her play?”

Wincing and nodding, Thaustin confirmed his captain’s question. “I blame Rubon for this one,” He responded. “He told me he and I had no excuse not to engage in something that may cheer a few people up, especially as Belire is volunteering too.”

 McCallister laughed more. “Oh damn, Thaustin, I’m sorry, but Rubon can certainly be convincing when he has his mind set on something.” He giggled a bit more. “What play is it again?”

“Romeo and Juliet,” Thaustin replied.

The captain burst out into more laughter. “Well, I cannot wait to see it! Good luck!”

Thaustin thanked the captain before he left the ship’s swimming pool.

Now alone again, McCallister wondered if he should be involved in the play before quickly dismissing that idea. Captain’s prerogative and all that. Instead, he dropped his towels and dived back into the pool, happier to be in the water once more.

Wherefore Art Thou – 2

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440.3

Standing tall on the secondary hull of the Constitution, Lieutenant T’Penni worked diligently in her EVA suit, overseeing the construction of the interplexing beacon. The beacon was installed atop the ship’s deflector dish, a crucial task requiring the utmost care and precision. As she worked, T’Penni could feel the hum of the ship’s engines reverberating through her suit, a constant reminder of the vastness of space and the dangers it brought.

If she hadn’t been a Vulcan, then T’Penni would have admired the work they were undertaking. In less than a month, using alien technology retrieved from the scrapyards the Sikarians had on Fabula and accessing data on Borg communication, T’Penni had designed a brand new form of communication. One she hoped would ensure their message to the Odyssey reached them instantly. Based on what the Borg attempted to build on top of the USS Enterprise-E by the Borg when they tried to assimilate humanity in the past, the interplexing beacon used hyper-subspace technology to link the Constitution to the Odyssey. However, being a Vulcan woman trained in the art of logic and reason, she would not boast or take too much pride in her work. Every projection and simulation they ran on the project showed it would work. 

Now, it was time to test the real thing.

As she finished the final connections she was installing, T’Penni had called out to the others to ensure they were extra careful. If anything broke, they could not replace it. Hearing acknowledgements from Ethav, Lonar and Oron over the intercom gave her a sense of calmness. Similar to what she would experience while meditating. 

She appreciated her colleagues’ support. Though the captain had given her full permission to use whoever in this project, the consistent enthusiasm from both Lieutenants Ethav and Lonar ensured the project’s success to this point in time. T’Penni was grateful that Counsellor Naef-Oron had agreed to help them carry their gear out. Being a Brikar certainly had its advantages for the counsellor, and most recently, T’Penni had witnessed Oron becoming interested in engineering matters. When they had shared a meal in the ship’s crew lounge, he had asked many questions and had gone out of his way to read research notes or papers about whatever topic had been discussed. T’Penni found it unusual for someone of Oron’s calibre to be interested in such matters. Still, it was impressive that he was intrigued with such subjects. 

Stepping back to evaluate her work, T’Penni took a breath in. The beacon glowed soft blue light, casting a peaceful aura over the deflector dish. Not wanting to disturb the high amount of anti-protons that the deflector was full of, she knew that being delicate here was vital. 

T’Penni may have been a Vulcan, but as she stood there among the vast expanse of space, she felt a sense of awe and wonder that transcended all logical thought.

“All done here, lieutenant,” Lonar announced over the EVA intercom.

“Same here,” Oron added.

“Make that three!” Ethav said. T’Penni didn’t need to look at him to know his expression was planted with a huge grin. The young Andorian man’s demeanour was constantly a positive one. 

“Very good,” T’Penni praised them. Her voice echoed in their suits’ intercom. “Beacon team to the bridge, our work is complete.”

“Well done, everyone,” replied Commander Kazlaf. 

Kazlaf was on the bridge, monitoring their work from her station at science, and was running the last set of scans to ensure that once they activated the beacon, it would be directed at the right point on the pulsar they were now near. T’Penni had gone through the calculations with her superior many times. Every part of this project had to be planned to the precise point. Nothing could be wrong. 

“Are we on track to be able to use the pulsar as we had calculated, commander?” T’Penni asked. 

“Keep calm,” Kazlaf stated cooly. “We’re on track, lieutenant.”

“That is most excellent,” T’Penni said. She was pleased to know that everything she had been working on since they had left Fabula had not been unproductive. “Once we return to the ship, I will oversee the final diagnostics before we send the first test signal.”

An hour later, returning to engineering, T’Penni was with Ethav as they completed their last lot of work on the beacon. 

“I know I’ve said it before, T’Penni, but I will say it again. What you’ve created is ingenious,” Ethav said, remaining giddy in his tone as he worked on the console beside T’Penni. “Can you imagine what Starfleet is going to say?”

Raising her eyebrow at her Andorian colleague, T’Penni wasn’t sure what he was implying. “I do not imagine they would complain that we have further advanced communication technology.”

“They’ll probably nominate you for the Cochrane Medal of Honour!” Ethav stated, looking at her. He was certainly proud of her work. “Just make sure you remember us little people in your acceptance speech.”

“As well as the Sikarians and other Delta Quadrant races we took from?” T’Penni inquired.

Chuckling at her, Ethav nodded. “Just don’t start your speech with, ‘I’d like to thank the Borg Collective’. I’m not sure there will be many who will be happy to hear them mentioned.”

“I will remember your advice, lieutenant,” T’Penni said with a bow of her head. “However, to prevent the Collective from protesting, I may need to refer to them in a footnote.”

Ethav laughed even harder at her. “T’Penni, I think your humour is getting back the more and more we spend time together!”

“Perhaps we should go to red alert now and declare a medical emergency,” T’Penni responded, remaining calm in her tone.

Not expecting Ethav to laugh more at her remark, T’Penni raised her eyebrow again at him. 

“T’Penni, you crack me up!” Ethav wiped a tear from his face before returning to his work. “The final diagnostic has returned with no issues. The power levels for the beacon are within the expected parameters. It is now fully integrated into the ship’s computer systems.”

T’Penni diligently worked on the last few components of her task, ensuring that everything was in order before turning her attention to Ethav, who was patiently waiting for her. “We should head to the bridge and begin the first test.”

Every senior staff member was present on the bridge to witness the first test. T’Penni remained calm and cool as she transferred her controls from engineering to the bridge engineering stations. 

“T’Penni, we must activate the beacon in the next forty-seven seconds before the cycle runs out for today,” Kazlaf stated from the science station.

“With the captain’s permission,” T’Penni said, turning around on her chair and looking at McCallister. He gave her a nod, and she turned back and pressed the button to activate the beacon, “Beacon online.”

“How do we know if we have been successful?” Doctor Uknare asked aloud from where she stood just behind the captain’s chair at one of the aft mission ops consoles. Her arms were crossed against her chest. 

“We are directing our first signal towards the probe we sent back through the spatial trajector a month ago,” T’Penni answered. “If the signal reaches it, then it will-” T’Penni’s train of thought stopped as a reading appeared on her console. The same one appeared on Kazlaf’s station.

“I’m picking up interference within the tachyon pulse. The pulsar is blocking the amplification!” Kazlaf announced.

“I am trying to compensate,” T’Penni said as she attempted to find a way around the issue in a hurried state. She could not determine what was causing the pulsar to almost absorb their beam from the beacon. Nothing should be letting it do that, but it was. Everything she was reading from her sensors was illogical.

“I’m detecting an overload in the beacon,” Ethav declared. 

T’Penni could feel the eyes of Captain McCallister and Commander Thaustin fall behind her. She could sense their concern automatically. 

“T’Penni, can you bypass the problem?” McCallister asked. 

Trying one more attempt, T’Penni felt she was close, but the beam didn’t comply with her instructions and new calculations. She shook her head. “I am unable to determine what is happening.”

Without warning, the ship violently rocked back and forth, throwing crew members off balance. A burst of sparks erupted from the console, illuminating the bridge in a shower of light. The blaring of the red alert klaxon filled the air, warning all on board of imminent danger. As the bridge lights dimmed, the crew braced themselves for whatever may happen.

“Report!” Thaustin asked above the commotion.

“A photonic feedback from the pulsar has hit the ship,” Kazlaf announced. “I’m not sure how, but it used our beam to travel back to us. I suggest we shut down the beacon.”

“Do it!” McCallister ordered in a loud tone. 

With a quick and decisive movement, T’Penni pressed the button to initiate the shutdown sequence. As she watched the power levels of the beacon drop significantly, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of apprehension. Her shoulders were tense and raised as if bracing for impact. Once the beacon was finally offline, T’Penni sighed deeply and felt her shoulders dropping back to their normal position. She couldn’t quite figure out why they tensed up in the first place, but the failure of her project was weighing heavily on her mind.

“What happened, T’Penni?” McCallister asked.

“I cannot give you a clear answer right now, sir,” T’Penni said as she spun her chair around to face him. “I will need to run further diagnostics and review our data before repairs occur.”

As the red alert was called off, T’Penni received McCallister’s nod of approval, indicating that she could proceed with her work. She quickly got to work, analysing the data from the pulsar scans. Still, the information was not making any sense to her. The data seemed to lack any logical pattern, and T’Penni struggled to find clues.

McCallister’s voice sounded distant to her, and she could hardly hear his orders to Kazlaf to run further scans to ensure they hadn’t missed anything. T’Penni knew that she needed to focus on the problem in solitude, away from the distractions on the bridge. She got up and left the bridge, heading back to her office.

As she walked towards the turbolift, she overheard Doctor Uknare discussing her plans to take some of the bridge crew to the holodeck to review a performance of an Earth play. T’Penni was too preoccupied with the problem at hand to pay much attention to the conversation. The lift doors closed suddenly, cutting off the conversation, and T’Penni was left alone with her thoughts.

Maybe she wouldn’t be thanking the Borg anytime soon, she thought as the cart took her to engineering. 

Without noticing it, T’Penni was oblivious to the small pure white electric charges behind her on the turbo-lift’s main console. They sparkled, then danced across the surface before submersing themselves within the computer controls, making the display flicker a few times. They were alive.

Wherefore Art Thou – 3

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440.43

“Are you really sure this is going to be quick? I’m starving,” Thaustin complained slightly as he and Jarata entered the turbolift.

Calling for the lift to take them to holodeck one on deck seven, Jarata gave Thaustin a mixed look of amusement and confusion. “I’m sure the doctor will keep it brief. We only need to show our faces, and then I was thinking we can keep to the back of this crowd she’s pulling together and then slip out when she’s not looking.”

Thaustin was bemused by Jarata’s hopeful plan. “You really don’t know Kamra,” Crossing his arms against his chest, Thaustin explained how much Uknare would regularly do this type of thing in the Triton. “One time, she did a whole one-woman show. It was some monologue about-”

The intercom went off, interrupting the commander’s recount. “Ethav to Commander Thaustin,” spoke the Andorian operations officer. “I’m sorry to call you, but we’ve detected a few random spikes across the power grid. It’s affecting some low-level systems; for example, the humidity in Cargo Bay Two has risen by twenty-six per cent.” 

“Should we be worried?” Thaustin replied.

“Not yet, and most of the affected systems shouldn’t affect ship operations; however, I want permission to deploy repair teams, DOTs and our holographic engineering team to get things under control.”

“A wise precaution, have you not referred this to Lieutenant T’Penni?” Thaustin asked as the turbolift stopped and deposited him and Jarata at their intended destination.

“She’s busy reviewing the logs to what happened to the interplexing beacon, sir,” Ethav mentioned. 

“Very well, go ahead and get things back to how they were, Thaustin out,” He tapped his combadge, rubbing his head. “That’s all we need; secondary systems are breaking down in the middle of nowhere.”

“It’s probably feedback from the pulse not working earlier,” Jarata suggested. “So, we agree that we keep to the back, but not too far that she doesn’t see us there showing our support, but far enough we can make a quiet exit?”

Thaustin shook his head, “There’s no way that’s going to work, Rubon, and I promise you, whatever happens, my stomach will growl loud right as we try to escape.”

Jarata sighed loudly as they approached the holodeck; the doors were already open. “This is not to be comfortable.”

Thaustin couldn’t agree any more, “Yeah, just hold your breath and think for the good of Starfleet!”

 Entering the holodeck, the active program showed what appeared to be a city, but not one that Thaustin recognised. It was warm, and the sun was shining hard. Guessing they were on Earth, Thaustin was sure they were in the past for this performance based on what Uknare had shared on the bridge only an hour or so ago. The narrow streets were bustling with activity, and as he looked around, he could see grand palaces and places of worship along the city skyline.  As the two of them wandered further through the streets, they could hear the sound of performers, musicians, and poets entertaining the crowds. The city was alive with culture, and the theatre community was thriving. Thaustin was starting to wonder if this was indeed the start of this play or if Uknare was trying to set the scene for them. 

“Hey, excuse me, what city is this?” Jarata asked a passing market stall holder.

“Verona!” replied the merchant in a strong Italian accent. 

Jarata turned to Thaustin for more clarity. He had none. As they walked further, they entered what looked like a market square with a fountain in the centre. Sitting and standing by its edge were other members of the crew. Doctor Uknare was in the middle.

“Ah, our next set of performers have arrived!” She declared.

There and then, Thaustin realised that his and Jarata’s plan to escape would not be happening. He gave Jarata a look to show what he was thinking, which prompted a similar shared look of concern from the Risian pilot. As they approached the crowd, Thaustin was impressed to see Counsellor Oron standing close to Uknare while Lieutenant Lonar was on the group’s periphery. There was no sign of the captain or Commander Kazlaf. He wasn’t impressed, but on the other hand, he was. They were smart enough to get out of this. 

“Now, my performers, come closer so I can tell you of the woe that beckons us.  Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life…”

Thaustin looked at Jarata, and both of them caught each other rolling their eyes as Uknare started; it caused them both to giggle and get stern looks from Uknare and others. Controlling themselves, they apologised as the doctor continued with her monologue. 

On the other side of the market square, away from the crowd of Starfleet officers, a set of two bright purple lights appeared hovering above the ground. Then suddenly, a sparkle of a pair of flares floated out of each one. Beings then emerged and adjusted their appearance to blend in with the other holographic characters before looking at one another.

The group leader, who had adjusted to look like a female character from the Shakespearean play, turned to the others. “We have explored this container, and though it does not appear to operate like any of our containers, I do believe we may have found an environment we can survive in.”

Another being, who looked like a teenage boy, agreed with that assessment. “It certainly feels accommodating and worthy of our study.”

“From our brief investigation, I believe this container has ways for us to move around in our natural forms, but we may be limited in our distance,” the leader-being advised. 

“Then until we know more,” The boy-being started, “I suggest we remain in this environment and learn as much as we can.” He pointed towards the Constitution’s group. “Those beings are not like us. From my investigation, those that control this container are bio-chemical. I sense they are bio-chemical.”

“You are right. While we appear more like the other photonic beings in this setting, we should use this time to observe these beings and their social interactions. We may learn about their customs, for example, that one speaking may be their leader-being. The others appear to be engaged in what they are saying.” The leader-being said. She indicated for her companions to walk over with her. 

They kept their distance and listened to what Uknare was saying. The boy-being turned to the leader-being, “The central being appears to be retelling to the others of an event that has taken place in this settlement; it sounds like a great conflict between two groups that they know of.”

“Undoubtedly, this place is unsafe. If such tension exists, we may need to leave.” The leader-being said in a concerned tone. “However, I am intrigued by the two in the back of the group. They appear to be engaged in only what I can assume is low-level interaction. Perhaps a mating ritual?”

“That is a possibility,” The boy-being said. “We do not know enough about these bio-chemicals to understand how they procreate. We know from others that solid social interaction is essential. It is conceivable that they are similar.”

“Leader, I have noticed something interesting,” spoke one of their other companions. That being appeared like a middle-aged man. “These bio-chemical lifeforms are different in appearance. Look at their faces. Some have ridges, indentations and crevices above their vision organs. In contrast, others have different skin complexion and shades of colour in their hair.”

“Maybe those differences indicate a social structure,” The leader-being assumed. She paused as she listened further to Uknare. “I believe the central-being is discussing those two beings in the back. I believe they are retelling how they became mates as they keep focussing on their behaviour while sharing how they became connected.”

“This is a very complex social interaction. However, I am intrigued to know more.” The boy-being said.

 Nodding her head, the leader-being agreed with that assumption. “And I believe the central being just referred to them by their designations.”

“Oh, and they are?” The boy-being asked.

“Romeo and Juliet.”




The beings continued to watch the Starfleet crew from a distance as Uknare began taking them on a tour of Verona.

Wherefore Art Thou – 4

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440.7

As Jarata stepped into The Establishment, the well-lit crew lounge with a cosy atmosphere welcomed him. It was starting to get late, but the place was still crowded, with various off-duty crewmembers sipping their drinks and engaged in hushed conversations. Jarata couldn’t help but smile as he recalled his recent trip to the holodeck with Commander Thaustin. The experience was a mix of excitement and awkwardness, and the two men had found it hard to stifle their laughter. They had attended Doctor Uknare’s directing debut of Romeo and Juliet, which turned out to be an absurd and cringe-worthy spectacle. Despite the disappointment, Jarata and Thaustin had made the most of it and left with a funny memory to share.

“I’m still baffled that the doctor convinced so many people to audition,” Jarata said as he pulled up a stool before indicating to the holographic bartender he wanted two synthales. “Connor,” He called to the photonic barkeep, who appeared almost as real as most of the crew. “Can you get us two usuals and make them strong!”

“Yes, sir,” Connor curtly and formally replied. 

 Jarata was surprised by that response. Typically, Connor was quite friendly and laid-back. His tone and responses were always calm, friendly and informal. Deciding to ignore it and put it down to some subroutine issue, Jarata was keen to relax now. The Risian pilot wasn’t planning on staying up any later, especially as he was eager to call it a night. Though hungry, he knew his companion had been complaining about it since they had visited the holodeck. Jarata had to admit it to himself, though. He was enjoying Thaustin’s company a lot lately. He didn’t mind grabbing a drink and eating a quick bite before returning to his quarters.

Thaustin took the sit beside him and took his drink once it arrived. “I’m sure by tomorrow afternoon, we will know what roles the doctor has in mind for us. I hope she gets how uncomfortable I find performing in front of others.”

“Did you not find your earlier interaction comfortable, sir?” Connor asked him out of the blue.

Jarata was bewildered by the hologram’s question to Thaustin. What caused him to ask such a thing and in such a strange way? He turned to his friend. “Is it me, or does Connor sound out of character?”

Thaustin nodded in agreement before turning to the holographic bartender. “Connor, when did you last run a self-diagnostic?”

“This morning at ten hundred hours. Why, commander?” Connor quizzed him.

“You seem off,” Jarata explained. 

“I am certainly on, commander,” Connor replied with a blank expression. “

“It may be one of those glitches that Ethav reported earlier,” Thaustin told Jarata before turning to Connor and thanking him for their drinks. He gestured towards Jarata for them to move away from the faulty hologram.

Agreeing to Thaustin’s idea, Jarata picked up his drink and looked for a spare table for them to sit at. His eyes then lay on a semi-open booth. “What about that one?” He suggested. 

“Are you sure you want to disturb her?” Thaustin asked. “She seems pretty engrossed in her work.”

“Then we can give her a break from it,” Jarata replied before heading towards the small round booth with a circular table. He walked straight over and called down to Lieutenant T’Penni. “Lieutenant, do you mind if the command and I join you, please? There are no other free tables for us to sit at.”

T’Penni, the Vulcan chief engineer, looked up from the PADD she was working on. An almost empty bowl of plomeek soup sat by her. Noticing that she had no real choice in the matter, Jarata felt a bit awful for pressing on, but she responded graciously. “Please, make yourselves comfortable.”

Appreciating her gesture, both men sat down opposite her. Noticing she didn’t want to be disturbed, Jarata bit his lip before blurting out his question. “I take it that’s to do the interplexing beacon?”

“Indeed it is,” T’Penni replied curtly. Her focus remained on the data before her. 

Jarata exchanged a look with Thaustin, sharing his realisation that his companion was correct and perhaps they shouldn’t have disturbed her. Before he could ask her another question, T’Penni spoke up.

“And before you ask, no, I still do not know what happened earlier.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Thaustin replied in a diplomatic tone.

“Shall we order some food?” Jarata suggested to Thaustin, feeling the need to move on before T’Penni gave them a Vulcan death glare. 

“Absolutely, I’m famished,” Thaustin agreed to the idea and was about to call one of the holographic servers when the lights in the room started to flicker on and off. Then, the sound of the power in the room going off was heard. Emergency lights came on just as the holographic barkeeps all disappeared. 

“What’s going on?” Jarata questioned as he, Thaustin and T’Penni rose to their feet. 

“This is peculiar,” T’Penni stated as she tapped her combadge to call engineering. No one replied.

Thaustin tried his badge to get the bridge, and no one replied.

Regretting not getting food sooner, Jarata knew where this was going. He listened carefully as Thaustin ordered everyone to report to their stations before he turned to him. 

“Jarata, I want you to head to the bridge while T’Penni and I head to engineering to find out what’s happening.”

The pilot nodded. “Shall I try and see if I can get the captain on my way?”

“If you can,” Thaustin said before they parted. 

Jarata went for the nearest turbolift, and as he entered the corridor, the same situation that had happened in the crew lounge was taking place. Power was fluctuating, and the computer wasn’t responding to commands. He ordered every officer he came across to their stations, just like Thaustin had; they were now in an emergency crisis and needed to stabilise whatever was happening. Swiftly, he found the nearest access hatch and entered a Jefferies tube. 

The long climb to the bridge started. 

Wherefore Art Thou – 5

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440.77

Had T’Penni not been a Vulcan, the constant system malfunctions that the Constitution was experiencing would have likely caused her to feel greatly annoyed and frustrated. However, given her natural disposition, she was able to remain calm and collected despite the technical issues at hand, for now. 

After arriving in engineering with Commander Thaustin, the chief engineer had been greeted by a swarm of her engineers working tirelessly to determine what systems were affected and attempting to find solutions to their problems. As chief engineer, T’Penni was aware she needed to see the bigger picture, or Commander Thaustin would lose faith in her ability to discharge the duties of the office she was holding. 

T’Penni approached the central operations table to review what was being reported. With a quick glance at the large wall-mounted display, too, she automatically started to see a pattern. Calling over her deputy, she orders for further diagnostics to be undertaken on the primary computer processor. 

“Do you have any ideas on what’s causing issues?” Thaustin asked her. He had been courteous in giving her the space she needed to work, but now he wanted answers. T’Penni knew that was evident in the tone of his voice. 

T’Penni looked back at him as she started to circulate around engineering. “I believe we are looking at a series of bio-neural circuitry gel packs that have malfunctioned.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” Thaustin commented.

“Indeed,” T’Penni replied with a slightly raised eyebrow. Though the commander’s statement was almost accurate, it was not helpful nor necessary for her to be productive in her work. “We must isolate and determine which ones require repairs.”

Spending a bit more time, focusing on the issue, and cross-referencing what she had found compared to her deputy (and everyone else), T’Penni eventually believed she had located the problem. “Here,” she pointed at the ship’s display. These six gel packs connect with the computer processor and are all offline.”

“I’m no engineer, but it looks like they’ve burnt out,” Thaustin stated from her side.

T’Penni agreed with his analysis. “Indeed,” She said with an approving nod. “Some unknown charge has caused significant damage.”

“Those sensor readings indicate they’ve been fried alive, lieutenant,” Thaustin added. “I take it they will need to be replaced.”

Nodding her twice, T’Penni walked over to the nearest storage locker, pulled out a repair kit and packed replacement gel packs. “I will endeavour to get the work completed.”

“Let me join you,” Thaustin insisted, “I’ve wanted to stretch my hands and do more engineering work since we left port.”

“Very well,” T’Penni agreed before gesturing towards her superior, the nearest access hatch for them to use to access the primary computer processor. 


After climbing exactly twenty-one Jeffery Tubes, T’Penni found herself crawling along the final section of the access tunnel and approaching their destination. Commander Thaustin hadn’t said much since they had started their trek through the ship’s bowels. Besides an update from engineering to say that internal communications were up and running and an update request from the captain, not much was exchanged between them. T’Penni had preferred it that way.

“So, lieutenant, do you think our troubles are connected to your interplexing beacon?” Thaustin said as they reached the hatch they needed to uncover. 

“It is logical to assume that, especially as our malfunctions started shortly after we attempted to use the beacon,” T’Penni answered as she tapped in her clearance code and waited for the small door before her to release its lock. 

“I hear a ‘but’ there,” Thaustin challenged as he pulled his legs around to sit in the tunnel beside her. 

“The beacon was working efficiently, and nothing should have gone wrong,” T’Penni answered. She was now sure of it. Her adapted technology to enhance their communication device should have worked perfectly. The simulations and diagnosis had shown that. Nothing was wrong with it. Returning her focus back to her work, T’Penni pulled the hatch off in front of her and gently placed it on the deck plating before her. 

“Fascinating,” She stated with a further stretched raised eyebrow at the sight before her.

“I know I’ve said this already today; I’m no engineer, but aren’t burnt-out gel packs meant to be black and not pulsating blue?” Thaustin asked.

Taking her tricorder out, T’Penni was intrigued by this enigma before them. Scanning all of the gel packs that were meant to have been inoperable, she could not determine what had happened from a visual inspection. Then her tricorder beeped at her. “I have discovered the charge that has affected them. It is a photonic-based one.” She looked at the first officer.

“As in holographic photonic charge?” Thaustin asked, perplexed by T’Penni’s remarks.

“Precisely,” She confirmed before returning her attention to the gel packs. “Whatever registered these gel packs as inoperable when we were engineering has now moved on.”

“Where to?” Thaustin inquired; his hand was itching to tap his combadge.

Using her tricorder one more time, T’Penni scanned the gel packs and their circuitry to find the answer. “It has moved into the holographic systems.”

“That may be the reason why Connor was behaving strangely earlier,” Thaustin stated.

“Maybe,” T’Penni confirmed. She wasn’t prepared to give an indefinite answer to that issue, but she was intrigued by what was happening here. “We should return to engineering to trace the charge further.”

“Let’s get going,” Thaustin said as he got back on his hands and knees to make their way out. 

Returning to engineering, T’Penni returned to the central console as she tried to figure out where the charge had gone. It had undoubtedly travelled around the entire ship via the holographic projectors. The charge appeared to drop in levels in some locations while being quite prominent in other areas. 

“Commander, I am concerned at how in some places the photonic charge appears to be erratic in its movement, while in other areas it remains,” T’Pennis shared. 

“Suggestions?” Thaustin asked.

T’Penni considered her response but came to the only logical course of action. “To ensure the ship’s safety, I recommend we shut down all holographic systems.” 

All holographic systems?” Thaustin checked.

“All holographic systems, including our holographic LCARS displays,” T’Penni said, knowing what the commander was confirming with her. “Once they are shut down, I may find a way to localise the charge and purge it from our systems.”

Thaustin tapped his combadge and hailed the bridge. McCallister responded instantly, and after being told of what they had investigated and the suggested plan, he gave his authorisation for T’Penni’s shutdown idea. 

“Accessing shipwide holographic controls,” She said as she tapped away at the console before her. After bringing up the system preferences, she inputted her command codes to confirm the deactivation of every holographic projector on the ship; T’Penni pressed the confirmation button.

Nothing happened.

“Problem?” Thaustin asked, seeing that she was being denied computer access.

“Indeed,” She replied, looking at the computer error message before her. “I am locked out of the holographic controls.”

Thaustin attempted his command codes, but he received the same response. Once McCallister had tried it from the bridge, T’Penni was perplexed by what she could do next. She was about to suggest overloading the holographic emitter network by accessing the optical processor control and using it to charge the secondary power relays when Commander Kazlaf interrupted her.

“I think I know what’s happening,” The chief science officer said over the intercom. “Can you all make your way to astrometrics?”

Intrigued by the commander’s findings, T’Penni gave an affirmative nod to Thaustin and made their way to the science lab. 

Wherefore Art Thou – 6

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440.84

The USS Constitution hummed with activity as Commander Kazlaf moved gracefully in her anti-gravity exoskeleton suit within the astrometrics lab. Her elongated fingers danced across the holographic controls, manipulating complex data streams that pulsed with the heartbeat of the ship. She felt the weight of responsibility pressing upon her as she prepared to address the senior staff regarding the mysterious computer malfunctions that had plagued the vessel.

“Thank you all for gathering,” Kazlaf began, her voice resonating with authority as she addressed the attentive officers assembled before her. The soft hum of the ship’s systems provided a constant backdrop to her words, underscoring the situation’s urgency. She was known for her no-nonsense attitude and getting straight to the point after getting everyone together amidst the chaos now affecting the ship. 

“As many of you are aware,” Kazlaf continued, her gaze sweeping across the room, “our ship has been experiencing random computer malfunctions of late.” She paused, allowing the gravity of the situation to settle over the room like a heavy cloak. “After extensive analysis, I can confirm that these malfunctions stem from a photonic surge induced by our attempt to use the interplexing communication beacon in conjunction with the nearby pulsar.”

“That would disprove the theory that the malfunction detected was our bio-neural circuitry failing,” Ethav remarked, his Andorian antennas twitching as he spoke. 

A ripple of concern spread through the gathered officers, their expressions mirroring the gravity of the situation. Kazlaf’s hands moved deftly through the holographic interface, illustrating the intricate chain of events that had led to the ship’s current predicament.

“As I said, the surge originated from the pulsar itself,” Kazlaf shared, her voice steady despite the weight of the explanation, “it has grown through our systems, causing disruptions across various ship functions. However, the most alarming revelation is that the surge harboured a distinct bioelectrical pattern.”

The realisation hung in the air like a dark cloud, casting a pall over the room as the implications of Kazlaf’s words began to sink in.  T’Penni raised an eyebrow inquisitively, her stoic demeanour betraying the keen intellect that lay beneath. “Have we identified the nature of these beings, Commander Kazlaf?” T’Penni inquired, her voice calm and measured amidst the palpable tension that permeated the room.

Kazlaf nodded, her expression grave, the weight of responsibility evident in her eyes as she met T’Penni’s gaze. “Preliminary scans suggest that these entities are photonic in nature, likely native to the pulsar’s environment. However, their motives remain unclear.”

“Are we certain these are lifeforms and not a random holographic malfunction?” Lonar asked as she crossed her arms against her chest. The Cardassian female sighed heavily. “I know photonic beings can be real, but are we certain?”

“Those bioelectric readings have a neural signature to them.” Doctor Uknare pointed at one of the displays. “They’re the real McCoy.”

“So we have some unwanted guests,” Jarata said as he leaned against a nearby console. 

The silence that followed was palpable, each senior staff member grappling with the implications of Kazlaf’s revelation.

“So, what are our options?” McCallister asked his team. “Can we fix the ship?”

“I can’t see how,” Kazlaf replied. “Until we deal with these photonic beings, we will continue to have these malfunctions.” She knew the captain would want to resolve the situation, but Kazlaf wasn’t aware of how they could secure the technical issues. She turned to T’Penni to add something. 

“If we can contain the beings in Holodeck One, then we should be able to undertake repairs and ensure our computer systems remain unaffected,” T’Penni added.

“Any ideas then? How do we contain them?” Lonar asked aloud. “How can we isolate them if they can access our systems through our holographic projectors?”

Commander Thaustin’s voice resonated with determination as he addressed McCallister, who stood beside him. “Captain, I suggest we initiate a diplomatic approach. I volunteer to lead an away team to Holodeck One to make first contact with these beings.”

Captain McCallister regarded Thaustin with a nod of approval. “That sounds like a reasonable approach, but what program are they currently existing in?” 

Kazlaf, like everyone else in the room, turned to Doctor Uknare. The Haliian medical officer sighed heavily. “I left the Romeo and Juliet program running.”

A chuckle escaped the captain. If Kazlaf knew him better, she would have thought he was annoyed, but she was sure it was amusement. “Shakespeare makes first contact?” McCallister rubbed his forehead.

“At least it isn’t a Captain Proton holonovel,” Jarata remarked. 

“Or Vulcan Love Slave: Part Two The Revenge,” Counsellor Naef-Oron commented with a deep, heavy chuckle.

Everyone paused to stare at the Brikar male after that statement. Kazlaf knew that the holo-novel series that the counsellor was referring to was known for its steamy and erotic nature. 

“Anyway,” McCallister said, moving the meeting on swiftly. He turned to the first officer. “Number One, proceed with caution, and keep me informed of any developments. In the meantime, T’Penni and Ethav are working on repairs.”

With the meeting adjourned, Kazlaf watched as everyone started to depart astrometrics. T’Penni remained, focussed on the main sensor readings of the ship’s systems.

“Lieutenant,” Kazlaf said, interrupting the Vulcan’s focus, “are you okay?”

Placing her hands behind her back, the engineer looked at Kazlaf. “I am fine, thank you.”

“You sure? You seem distracted?” Kazlaf pointed at the display.

Kazlaf noticed the hesitation in T’Penni’s response. “I did not focus properly on the ship after the beacon failed.”

“We all make mistakes, lieutenant,” Kazlaf said, feeling a sense of sympathy for the young woman. “And sometimes we can become too focussed on what is in front of us instead of the bigger picture.”

“Indeed,” T’Penni agreed.

“Just keep an open mind and learn from this,” Kazlaf advised with a warm smile. She knew that would probably be the only time she would be this ‘nice’. 

T’Penni bowed slightly to the chief science officer before exiting the lab. Kazlaf watched her leave before returning to the work before her. She knew that she needed to compile as much data as possible on their guests for Commander Thaustin before he entered the holodeck. She only hoped that he didn’t ask her to join him as part of the away team.

Wherefore Art Thou – 7

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78440.9

As the away team stepped into the holodeck, they found themselves amidst the vibrant scenery of Verona, the fictional setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The holographic characters bustled about, oblivious to the presence of the real-life Starfleet officers.

Thaustin glanced around the scene, his expression with frustration. Beside him stood Jarata, who wore a bemused expression.

“This is quite the spectacle,” Rubon remarked, gesturing toward the bustling streets of holographic Verona. “I’ve been on some away missions, but this takes the cake.”

Thaustin offered a wry smile. “Let’s hope it’s not the kind of cake that gives you indigestion.”

Doctor Uknare observed the scene with professional curiosity while sharing Jarata’s bemused look. “Who thought my holonovel would be the scene of our first contact situation?”

Lonar stood with her arms folded, her expression unreadable behind her stern features. “Impressive or not, we need to find a way to communicate with these photonic lifeforms and resolve this situation.” She had her tricorder in her hand, trying to determine where their mystery guests were.

“We’ll need to tread carefully,” Thaustin agreed, his gaze sweeping the holographic crowd for signs of the alien entities that disrupted the ship’s systems. “We don’t want to antagonise them further.”

As if in response to their conversation, a figure stepped forward from the crowd, adorned in theatrical attire and bearing an air of authority. The leader-being, a shimmering form of light and energy surrounded her, regarded the away team with curiosity. “Greetings.”

Thaustin stepped forward, his voice steady. “I’m Commander Thaustin of the Federation starship U-S-S Constitution. We come in peace.”

The leader-being appeared confused and turned to her group of followers, all appearing like the characters in the holonovel series. “Starship? Federation?”

Realising that this would be a tricky situation to open a dialogue, Thaustin stood up straight. “We belong to a vast galactic union of planets who all live together peacefully and share in knowledge. We travel to the stars via our starships, which you are on.”

“You must mean the container,” The leader-being remarked.

“Is that what you call it?” Uknare asked, smiling in a friendly way.

“Indeed,” The leader-being confirmed. She spread her arms out, “We detected this environment was suitable for us to survive in.”

“This is our holodeck,” Thaustin said. “Everything you see here is a simulation. None of it’s real.”

The leader-being looked at the others on the away team as she asked for more clarity on Thaustin’s words. “A simulation?”

“This is all a photonically-based projection.” Jarata shared, “None of it is real to us. We call it a holonovel.”

“A holonovel?” The leader-being questioned before speaking more. “We are photonic based.”

“And we are carbon-based,” Uknare added.

The leader-being looked them all up and down. “We are enjoying this,” she paused as she repeated Jarata’s phrase, “Holo-novel.”

Thaustin remained where he was as he replied to her. “We understand that you find enjoyment in this holonovel, but your presence here is causing disruptions to our ship’s systems. We need your cooperation to resolve this situation.”

The alien leader regarded Thaustin with intrigue, her form flickering with thought. “We do not want to cause harm, but we are intrigued by this holonovel.”

Uknare showed her pride in hearing that her planned production was something their visitors were interested in. “It is based on a famous production from the past. It is known as Romeo and Juliet and is a romantic tragedy.”

“When will it start?” The leader-being asked. Each question continued to build her interest in their current setting. 

Thaustin could see that these beings were unaware of what they were experiencing. They had to be delicate with this. “The production hasn’t started as we’ve not properly organised it. We must choose those who will act as the characters.”

“We were organising actors for each role before practising this performance,” Jarata added.

“Are you not the actors?” The leader-being asked.

Quickly beside her, the teenage-boy-being stepped forward. “Ah, the actors have spoken. Your roles in your production must start for us to understand further.” 

”Yes, you must begin at once.” The leader-being agreed. “We want to see this Romeo and Juliet,” She looked at both Thaustin and Jarata as she spoke. “Will you perform?”

Thaustin exchanged a glance with Jarata, who raised an eyebrow in amusement. “That’s compelling, but I’ve always fancied myself more of a supporting character,” Jarata said.

Thaustin suppressed a chuckle. “I’m sure you’d steal the scene, Rubon. But let’s focus on the bigger picture here.” He looked back at the leader-being. “Our ship, our container, is in danger while you are within our systems. Can we please negotiate a way that avoids it receiving any further damage and for us to find an alternative to continue this dialogue?”

The leader-being seemed both unconvinced and slightly annoyed, its form pulsating with amusement. “Sentient beings playing the roles of characters in a grand drama? How delightful! But if you seek our cooperation, you must participate fully in this production. We wish to understand this romantic tragedy.”

Thaustin sighed inwardly, realising they had little choice but to play along for now. “Very well. What do you propose?”

The leader-being’s form brightened with excitement. “Show us the production of Romeo and Juliet. Perform for us, and we shall consider releasing our hold on your container.”

Thaustin exchanged a resigned look with his team. Jarata was amused, as was Uknare, while Lomar didn’t appear confident with the idea. Eventually, Thaustin knew he had to give in. “Agreed. But we must have some say in how this unfolds.”

Jarata smirked. “I suppose I’ll have to brush up on my Shakespearean acting skills.”

“Shakespearean?” The leader-being questioned Jarata before returning to Thaustin. “Will you be this Romeo?” 

Thaustin paused and found himself speechless and mumbling his response. “I suppose?”

The leader-being quickly turned to Jarata, “And you, will you be Juliet?”

“Never thought I’d be playing Juliet,” Jarata smirked.

“Wait a second, I was meant to be directing this production,” Uknare stated. “Should we consult with the captain?”

The teenage-boy-being then stepped forward. “We have accessed your container’s records,” He then waved his hand across the air, and a PADD appeared with a long list on it. “Your fellow beings will play these roles, and then we will release your ship.”

“I don’t think we have a choice at who plays who, doctor,” Lonar said as Thaustin took the PADD and showed it to the others.

“To be Juliet or not to be Juliet,” Jarata said, trying his best to quote Shakespeare. “I’m not wearing any long dress,” He added.

Thaustin raised an eyebrow. “You’ll make a radiant Juliet, Rubon. Just don’t forget to practice your tragic soliloquies.”

Jarata grinned. “And you, Thaustin, will be the most dashing Romeo the Delta Quadrant has ever seen.”

With a sense of resignation, Thaustin and his team prepared to leave the holodeck, knowing that Captain McCallister may not be pleased to hear that his ship was being held hostage by beings that wanted his crew to put on a performance. Leading the team off the holodeck, Thaustin sighed heavily to himself as he knew that the tale of Romeo and Juliet was about to take on a new, unexpected twist in the depths of the Delta Quadrant.

Wherefore Art Thou – 8

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78442.52

In the holographic recreation of a bustling Verona street, the glow of simulated sunlight bathed Thaustin, who was portraying Romeo, in a warm embrace. As he stepped forward, a mixture of apprehension and excitement played across his features, though deep down, he couldn’t shake the feeling of silliness that came with performing this Shakespearean drama on the holodeck. This whole thing was absurd in his mind and he was quite surprised that the captain had agreed to go along with this. Doctor Uknare, who had been excited before their photonic visitors had arrived and taken over the ship’s system, had somehow managed to put together a short performance of the tragic love story. Between organising key scenes to making sure everyone looked the part, their chief medical officer had proven not only was she an exceptional physician but also an incredible director. 

Taking a deep breath and tugging on the very tight tights he now wore, Thaustin closed his eyes for a second before he stepped out into the scene. Uknare had programmed the holodeck to project the script she had adapted so her actors and actresses could see their words without the audience seeing them. Thaustin was certain there was no way he could remember everything he had to say. 

So far though, the crew of the Constitution appeared to be making their photonic guests happy with their performance. 

“Is the day so young?” Thaustin recited with exaggerated drama, his voice carrying a note of wonder. “To me, sad hours seem so long.”

At his side, Ethav, embodying the spirit of Mercutio, bounded into view, his energy infectious as he joined Thaustin in the scene. “Ah, my friend Romeo! Thou art smitten by Cupid’s arrow,” Ethav exclaimed with a twinkle in his eye, his words filled with both jest and caution. “But pray, what sadness makes your hours longer?”

Thaustin remained in character, playing the heartbroken teen. “Not having that, which makes my heart yearn. Not having the love I give returned to me.” 

On the other side of their performance, Commander Belire Kazlaf, playing the role of Tybalt, entered with her entourage, their presence began to cause havoc as they played the antagonists to the two already performing.  

“What, ho! You villains, play your part,” she declared, her voice carrying authority as she raised her holographic sword. “The streets of Verona will be torn apart!”

Thaustin, as Romeo, attempted to diffuse the tension, though a hint of amusement danced in his eyes, betraying his feelings of absurdity at the situation. He could see the same thing coming from Kazlaf, but on the other hand, he wondered if she was really enjoying it or just doing her job. 

“Peace, Tybalt, peace! The Prince hath warned us,” he implored with mock seriousness. “Another brawl, and harsh punishment we shall earn.”

Lieutenant T’Penni, embodying the role of the Prince, entered the scene. She spoke with an air of authority, her Vulcan demeanour lending gravitas to her words. T’Penni, like most of the senior staff who hadn’t been part of the original away team to meet the photonic lifeforms, had protested at the news they were being forced to play. Nevertheless, she finally saw the logic in ensuring the ship was saved and not destroyed. “These brawls have marred the streets of our good city. Peace, I declare!” she announced. “Henceforth, let any who disturbs it cease.”

As the tension simmered and the others moved away, Thaustin turned to Ethav, his expression a mix of excitement and self-consciousness as he confided about his character’s love. “Alas, Mercutio, I am struck by the love of love of which I have none returned,” he confessed with exaggerated melodrama, his hand placed dramatically over his heart. “Fair Rosaline, whose magnificence doth imbue my soul with tenderness and truth will not return the blessing I desire.”

Ethav listened intently, a mix of concern and amusement playing across his features. “Romeo, thou art a dreamer, lost in love,” Ethav remarked with a playful grin, his tone gentle yet teasing. “Forget to think of her is best.”

“O, Mercuitio, my friend, teach me how I will forget!”

“Come with my company tonight, a masquerade within our enemy’s home that will surely help you forget to think. More beauties to dance around you than ever before. They will help you, for this I am sure!” Ethav said out towards the crowd. 

As the scene faded, the photonic beings were shown to be captivated by the complex performance unfolding before them. Thaustin had noticed their leader being so engrossed with what was being said. He truly wondered though if they really understood it. 

The holodeck then transitioned to the grand mask party scene, the atmosphere buzzed with anticipation and joyfulness. Thaustin, still in character as Romeo felt a surge of mixed feelings coursing through him. His gaze swept across the room, searching for his dear friend Jarata, who was playing as Juliet. The moment he saw Jarata he wanted to chuckle at the ridiculous outfit he wore along with the long curly blonde wig. 

This was truly the strangest diplomatic effort he had ever made in his Starfleet career. 

With a nod of reassurance to himself, Thaustin approached Jarata, his steps filled with a mix of nervousness and eagerness.

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn brighter than the sun!” Thaustin exclaimed with pretend genuine awe, his voice resonating in the air as he laid eyes on Jarata being Juliet. He was trying so hard not to smirk. At the back of his mind, Thaustin knew that once this was over, the two of them would be laughing at this over drinks for some time. 

Jarata, clad in an elegant mask and costume, turned to face Thaustin, his eyes alight with curiosity and excitement. Their gazes met, and for a moment, time seemed to stand still as they performed an unspoken connection amidst the masquerade.

Ethav, still portraying Mercutio, watched with amusement as Thaustin and Rubon interacted, a knowing grin playing across his features. “Does she teach you to forget what you thought of your old love?”

“Is she not fairer than the twilight breeze clad in starry splendour?” Thaustin continued, his words filled with a mixture of admiration and adoration.

Rubon, in character as Juliet, grinned at Thaustin, his eyes twinkling behind his mask as he fluttered them in a flirtatious way. “Good sir, your flattery doth outshine the heaven above.” He adjusted his voice to be of a higher pitch. 

“My fair lady, will thy deny me the chance to hold thy hand?” Thaustin offered towards Jarata. He knew this next bit meant that he had to make it believe they were truly falling in love with each other for the first time, but Thaustin wasn’t too keen on it. 

“Good sir, you speak with lips like blushing pilgrims, but I grant thee a dance,” Jarata replied as he held out his hand towards Thaustin’s and took it. 

Instantly, Thaustin blushed and had to look away from their audience. He could see Jarata doing the same thing. To them both this was silly and ridiculous. 

Before long they moved onto the famous balcony scene. Once again Thaustin felt stupid in what he was wearing and what he was performing as. It didn’t help as he gazed upwards at the balcony to see Jarata standing there looking out. He was clutching his chest with both hands. 

“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou my newest love?” Jarata’s voice carried a soft, harmonious tone, filled with yearning and longing. 

Thaustin, like every other performer, had heard Uknare’s voice come over the intercom through a hidden earpiece they all wore. She had told them to pull themselves together and make it look real. Their photonic visitors were enjoying every moment and she didn’t want their stupid childish antics to spoil any chance of them getting the ship out of danger. It didn’t help that the captain was standing close by them, glaring at them all to be a bit more professional. It was hard to take him seriously as well, especially with what he wore.  

Looking at the words he would use for his response, Thaustin moved away from the prompter and stood under the balcony as he spoke. “Deny thy name,” he recited, his words echoing with sincerity. “And I’ll no longer will be of the Capulet house.” He paused as he turned around. “But wait, what yonder is this? It is the east, and Juliet is my sun. Arise my fair sun. Arise! For thou art as glorious!” 

Thaustin then started to climb up the nearby trellis to make his way towards Jarata. 

“O Romeo!” Jarata exclaimed as he held out his hands.

“O Juliet!” Thaustin shared back. 

The two then hugged one another, ending the scene. Thaustin felt Jarata chuckling to himself in their embrace. Straight away he started to do the same.

Out in the crowd, watching them, Captain McCallister stood with the photonic beings that had invaded his ship’s systems. The leader-being, confused by what they were watching turned to the captain. 

“I do not understand the humour here, is this not one of your greatest love stories?”

McCallister winced at that question. He, himself, was dressed for the role of Friar Laurence, and so he turned to the leader-being and smiled at her. “It is from my homeworld, but through every culture that we have encountered that has similar literature types, there is normally one that stands out. For example, within the Klingon Empire, it is the battle that Kahless, their greatest warrior, endures alongside his wife Lady Lukar at the Great Hall of Qam-Chee.”

“More carbon-based creatures?” The leader-being asked.

“Indeed,” McCallister acknowledged. “The Klingon Empire is one of our longest-serving allies.”

“And how does that story end?”

“Well, I believe they are almost killed by Kahless’ blood enemy,” McCallister replied. 

“More end of life for you?”

“Sadly, yes.” McCallister looked at the leader-being. He was hoping their dialogue wasn’t about to end. Especially as he knew he was up in the next scene. 

The leader-being grabbed him by the arm gently and asked him to clarify more. “Why is there so much end-of-life in your stories?” 

McCallister remained cool by her touch. “It’s what makes it a tragedy, a sad conclusion that their love cannot endure.”

“Romeo and Juliet will die?” She checked.

“They will, but their death brings an end to the fighting among their families,” McCallister explained. He was hoping now that he had not just damaged what good they had developed with their visitors so far. He had to turn his spoiler around to be more optimistic.  “Their tragedy brings some hope.”

“Like your own tragedy.” The leader-being said, looking upon McCallister seriously.

“What do you mean?” McCallister asked, confused by her words.

“By us remaining here in your container, we are bringing your death sooner.” She shared. “There is no room for hope.”

Wishing that he was finally breaking through with them, McCallister gestured towards Thaustin and Jarata to join him. He turned back to the leader-being. “Yes, as we said, if you do not relinquish control back to us, then this will be our own tragedy.”

She nodded with an apologetic look and turned to her own kind. “We should leave,” She turned to McCallister. “Thank you, captain.”

“You’re welcome?” McCallister said, still confused but almost relieved that their situation may have just been resolved. He was about to turn to Thaustin when all of the photonic beings appeared to vanish into thin air. 

“Is it over?” Thaustin asked.

“I hope so, this corset is squeezing the life out of me,” Jarata remarked as he tried to pull on his outfit to give him a bit more space around his chest area.  

“Bridge to Holodeck One,” spoke the gruff voice of Counsellor Oron.

Tapping his combadge, McCallister answered straight away. “Go ahead, Naef.”

“Sir, we are no longer detecting the photonic beings within our systems. Computer controls are starting to return to normal.”

“That’s great news! Once we have engine control, then set a course at the best possible speeds away from the pulsar. Get us some distance from it,” McCallister ordered. The sense of relief was etched into his tone.

“Aye, sir, bridge out.” 

At that point, everyone who had been cast had moved over to meet with the captain. They had all witnessed the exchange he had and were all wondering the same thing. What happened to them to convince their visitors to leave so soon?

“Did we just teach a new species some empathy?” Doctor Uknare asked the group.

“It is a possibility, doctor,” T’Penni remarked with a bewildered expression. “Their behaviour was erratic and very illogical.”

“Maybe it was their way of making first contact,” Kazlaf offered. 

“Maybe we were their first every first contact,” Jarata offered.

Thaustin nodded at his friend’s suggestion. “Rubon may be right. Maybe they didn’t know how to interact with us and saw this,” He pointed to the projection of Verona around them, “as the only way to try and communicate with us.”

“Whatever their intentions, I’m just glad this is over,” McCallister said with a heavy sigh. He turned to T’Penni and Ethav, “Lieutenants, make sure every system is repaired, I want this ship in a better state than it is now.”

“We’re on it, sir,” Ethav said with a smile before he and T’Penni made their way towards the exit of the holodeck. 

Turning to the others, “Let’s get out of here before they return, I’m more than eager to get back out of here.”

“But we didn’t finish the play,” Uknare complained. “Surely we can-”

“No!” Jarata and Thaustin said in unison.

McCallister and Kazlaf chuckled at their colleagues’ reaction. 

“Sorry, Kamra, but the curtain has finally been drawn on this stage,” Kazlaf said as she placed her hand on her friend’s left shoulder before they all left.

Wherefore Art Thou – 9

USS Constitution (NCC-91701), Fabula Stretch, Delta Quadrant
Stardate: 78445

Despite the bustling activity in Main Engineering, there was an air of focused determination. Each member of the ship’s crew was diligently reviewing every system on board, ensuring its safety. In the wake of the unprecedented breach by the photonic beings, a highly advanced non-corporal race that could gain full computer access and were intrigued by a Shakespearean play, Captain McCallister had mandated a strict safety protocol. He forbade the use of any system until it was deemed absolutely safe. The crew, fully aware of the gravity of the situation, was leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to secure the ship and protect everyone on board.

At the epicentre of these efforts, T’Penni stood at the central command console, her every move a testament to her meticulousness. As each check came in, she ensured that nothing was being overlooked. Her sharp Vulcan mind meticulously scanned through the final checks over all of the systems. Her fingers danced across the controls, her eyes focused on the readouts, ensuring that every component of the starship was operating at optimal efficiency. As she delved deeper into the computer logs, her keen senses detected a subtle anomaly, a message hidden amidst the normal data that should be there. 

Intrigued by the anomaly, T’Penni isolated it and analysed it with precision. What she found was nothing short of fascinating—a message encoded within the intricate pathways of the ship’s systems, a cryptic communication left behind by the photonic beings that had briefly taken control of the Constitution’s computer systems.

With a sense of urgency, T’Penni double-checked her findings, confirming the message’s authenticity. It was unmistakably a communication from the enigmatic photonic entities, a testament to their profound regret for intruding on the crew and the ship. After unravelling the content of the message, T’Penni found herself startled by what they had left.

“Computer, locate Captain McCallister,” She spoke.

“Captain McCallister is located in the ready room on deck one.”

Swiftly, T’Penni downloaded the message onto a nearby PADD and ordered her deputy to take over while she went to see the captain.

T’Penni entered the ready room, content that Commander Thaustin was also present. The two men sat on one of the sofas, drinking hot beverages while reviewing what she assumed was a range of ship reports based on the PADDs dotted around the table in front of them.  

“Lieutenant, please tell me that’s your report telling me we can get underway,” McCallister asked. He sounded almost like he was pleading with her.

“I am afraid it is not, sir,” She replied. “I do apologise.”

“So what’s got you looking worried, Lieutenant?” Thaustin asked from where he sat.

T’Penni passed the PADD over. “I have discovered within the ship’s logs—a message left behind by the photonic beings.”

McCallister’s brow furrowed with curiosity while Thaustin leaned forward, his interest piqued. 

“What does the message say, Lieutenant?” McCallister inquired, his voice tinged with anticipation.

T’Penni explained her findings, detailing how the photonic beings had somehow corrected the issues they had caused when she attempted to use the interplexing beacon to contact the Odyssey, McCallister’s brother’s ship. “Based on what I’ve deciphered,” she continued, “I believe their message indicates that if we bounce our signal off the pulsar they inhabit, it will now reach the Odyssey without causing a feedback loop that will give them a gateway into our systems.”

McCallister’s eyes lit up with a mixture of surprise and excitement. The prospect of finally contacting his brother’s ship after their prolonged separation filled him with a sense of hope. “Lieutenant T’Penni,” he said decisively, “you have authorisation to proceed once your final checks have been completed. Send our datastream as soon as possible.”

Acknowledging the captain’s directive with a nod, T’Penni returned to Main Engineering to carry out his orders. Finally, she felt she might redeem herself after her last attempt to use the interplexing beacon caused alien beings to flood the ship’s systems.

Odyssey will finally get the message they’ve wanted to send for ages.