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These Are The Days Of Our Lives

The USS Jaxartes is once more patrolling the former Neutral Zone boarder.

Part 1: You’re My Best Friend

USS Jaxartes / New Alberta
23rd July 2401 06:40

Lieutenant Junior Grade Jason Devron, was almost ready to begin another day as Captain of the little Raven class corvette USS Jaxartes, when an evidently important communiqué was routed through to his quarters. He slipped on his jacket and fastened it up, before seating himself at his small desk and accepting the communication.

The Federation logo was swiftly replaced by the image of his friend and colleague Dinari Lyambo, with his bright beaming toothy smile. “Happy Birthday, Jason.”

“I don’t believe the Priority Communication channels where set up for this sort of thing!” Jason exclaimed light heartedly.

“Well I can’t forget such an auspicious occasion like this; now can I? The Namibian enquired. “You’re my best friend.”

Jason noted the term ‘auspicious occasion’.  “I’m having a Birthday, not being launched out of Space Dock!” The Lieutenant chuckled.  “Any way this ship needs her Chief Engineer back and I need you. It’s been three and a half months. Surely you don’t know that much to teach those cadets?”

Dinari clutched at his chest briefly in mock distress. “You wound me so!”  His face turned a little sterner. “It’s been tough, but at least I’ve been around during mom’s divorce.”  

“How’s that going?”

“Remarkably well; considering all the various investigations that are currently going on.  You’ll get to hear about it all soon enough, but half the Board of Directors could be looking at the inside of a cell before the year is out.” 

“What about all the money?” 

“Oh we won’t be seeing any of that. Not that I care after the way he treated everyone.”  The smile came back, a little forced this time. “Well I’d better not keep you any longer.  Otherwise you’ll be late on shift. And we can’t have that!”

They exchanged goodbyes; and the Federation logo reappeared on the screen.  Jason felt sorry for his good friend and the whole of the Lyambo family, for all the harm their father had caused them.  His company had been responsible for creating banned drugs and compounds which had then been smuggled out to one of the Daystrom Institutes orbital facilities.  The stuff was regarded as so dangerous, it couldn’t be replicated legally.  Any attempt to do so; would shut the equipment down and have the authorities alerted within seconds. However making it from scratch apparently got around that issue.  Though how, was apparently one of a number of things listed under ‘Top Secret.’

Devron’s grandfather had been involved in the original investigation until his untimely death.  The fact that Jason himself was responsible though under Borg influence was still a bitter pill to swallow.  Why he’d been deliberately selected as a target by the Borg had never been established.  It was possible those facts would never be unearthed. Jason wished he’d got to know the man, but their time together had been far to brief. 

            **********

Lieutenant Devron had been on the bridge, no more than an hour; sifting through reports and logs on his PADD.  Noting in particular that the holo-deck had been in use between the hours of 3 and 5am.  A quick word with Ensign Harris confirmed his suspicions.  The ships EMH had been linking itself up with the holo-deck, whilst it learned how to fly!  Jason was so regretting ever telling him he’d flow their shuttle; after that part of the EMH’s memory had been lost.  But the doctor had lost several hours of memory, and he’d only explained the reason as he thought he should.  Now the EMH was spending time learning those skills in much the same way anyone else would.  Whether he’d let the EMH lose in a real shuttle was another matter.

Having lost two shuttlecraft; in separate incidents so far this year, they had been forced to make do with a smaller Type 15 Shuttlepod which was a sort of dull grubby yellow.  What scrapyard the pod had been dragged out of, no one was saying.  But he had to suppose it was better than nothing, only just though.

“Sir, distress call from New Alberta.” The voice of Ensign Cho the Communication’s officer cut into his thoughts. 

“What help do they require?” He responded swiftly.

“Their planet is due to intersect with a large meteor storm and they’re experiencing technical issues with their defence satellites.”  Cho answered him.

“Tell them we’re on our way.” Then to his helmsman. “Mister Harris lay in a course from New Alberta. Warp 4.”

“Course plotted and confirmed, warp engines ready.” The New Zealand came back.

“Hit it.”

            **********

Just under three hours later the USS Jaxartes was lined up in position to intercept any of the approaching meteors that may pose a threat to the planet and its resident colonists.  Ensigns Tholakath and C’Rren spent the next hour studying and plotting the approaching cluster of rocks; ranging in size from pebbles that would just burn up in the atmosphere; to some a bit larger that a Type 6 shuttle.  There were close to seventeen thousand separate targets, though the vast majority thankfully could be ignored.

With a few minutes to go before the first of the meteors came into optimal weapons range; the Captain moved from his seat to the unoccupied Engineering station at the rear of the bridge, and set about reconfiguring in as a secondary Tactical control.  Once he was happy with the settings, he turned to the young   Cardassian. “Right Mister Tholakath, if you concentrate on everything in front.  I’ll operate the aft phasers should anything dangerous get past you.”

“Thank you sir.” The Tactical Officer acknowledged. “Time to first target four minutes and twenty-three seconds.”

The next three hours was spent picking off meteors one by one as they approached the planet; Devron himself only had to fire a handful of times as the Ensign was able to deal with the rest with ease. As the last of the harmless fragments past out of range, everyone gave a small collective sigh. “Well done everyone.” Commented the Lieutenant as he made his way back to the Captain’s seat.

“The Mayor sends his thanks.” Ensign Cho informed him a minute or two later. “And wonders if we have anyone that wouldn’t mind checking over their equipment to see what the fault was.”

            **********

Half hour later the Captain had beamed down with the ships engineer, Torf and crewmen Tyson and Appleby. They arrived on a flat clearing of land three quarters of the way up a snow covered forested mountain.  The air was crisp but not overly cold, thought they were all still glad they’d donned thermal jackets.  A small log cabin sat just behind them, with an elderly man sat in a rocking chair on the buildings wooden veranda. “Welcome strangers.” The man called out in a thick French accent. “Claude and his wife are just through the tree’s there.  I take it you’re here about the tower?” I slightly shaky finger pointed in the direction of a trackway marked out by wooden posts which had been painted red.

The tower was the communications link with the satellites which should have been protecting the planet from the meteorites.  They thanked the man for his help and started heading along the path; when a young girl of may be ten, ran up to them and grabbed Jason’s arm.  “Monsieur, I have been asked to show you something” Then she asked him. “Will you follow me, please?”  Her bright blue coat which came down to just past her knee’s seemed a little thin for the climate, but she apparently didn’t mind the cold, and a French style beret in mustard sat on the top of her head; partly covering her jet black shoulder-length hair which completely covered the girls ears.

Devron had no idea what the young girl was referring to, but felt it might be interesting to find out, so he waved on the rest of the away team and said he’d catch up with them shortly. None of the crew had brought up the subject of his Birthday, no doubt having forgotten.  But he didn’t mind that much, this planet was too beautiful to feel down and the girl seemed happy to have visitors.

            **********

Through the trees Torf and the two crewmen came to what could only be described as an old shed with a 12 meter metal tower attached to the rear.  The Betazoid engineer wrapped a knuckle on the door.  Promptly it was opened by a tall thin man in his mid to late thirties. “Ah good, good.”  He stepped back slightly. “Your Captain not with you?”

“He’s with some young girl at the cabin.” Appleby pipped up.

“You must be mistaken Monsieur?” Claude replied. “No one has lived up here for years.”

“What about the old guy in the rocking chair?” Added Torf a little concerned.

“I assure you no one comes up here. Other than to check on this machine”

The three crew members darted back outside and raced back along the track.  The log cabin was right where they expected to find it.  But the rocking chair was empty, in fact it was more than just empty, it was broken and looked to have been like that some time; years in fact.  The door to the cabin was open and its interior almost bare; save for a log burning stove that had seem much better days and a musty, filthy old bed.  The Betazoid came out coughing from the smell.

“Chief, if the Captain went off with that girl, why can I only see our prints in the snow?” Tyson asked nervously.  The engineer looked all around the clearing.  He was right.  The foot prints made after they’d beamed down and those made just, by walking up to the cabin were the only marks in the otherwise flat snow.  He tapped his comm-badge. “Torf to Jaxartes.  Can you locate the Captain?”

 

Part 2: The Invisible Man

USS Jaxartes / New Alberta
24th July 2401 10:00

First Officers Log:  It has now been almost 19 hours since our Captain mysteriously vanished, down on the surface of New Alberta during what was meant to have been a routine away mission. Despite the area being covered in an ankle deep layer of snow there is no visible sign of a struggle, accident or him having moved from the sight he beamed down to, at all. It’s like he’s just vanished!  Then we have the old man and a young girl, neither of which appear to should have been there. Both were witnessed by three of the crew, yet also look to have disappeared.  I can’t believe they’d all have the same collective hallucination.  The other thing that makes no sense is that for a fraction of a second there appeared to be multiple life signs of the captain down on the planet’s surface and one here on the ship itself, before he vanished completely. This whole thing is both bizarre and perplexing.

Currently teams of crew and locals are scouring the mountain for clues, whilst from orbit we use every imaginable type of scan we have at our disposal, in the hope of spotting something.

This ship as already lost one Captain and a First Officer under strange circumstances.  I really don’t want to be facing that again. To say I’m worried is an understatement.

 

            **********

Lieutenant Lyanna Stuart got up out of the chair in the officers mess and headed for Science Lab 2; which had been converted into a sort of operational command centre.  Ensign Cho was running things with the help off crewman Appleby.  The large table in the middle of the room currently had a real time topographical map of the mountain and parts of the surrounding area.   As the young Korean received incoming messages from the various search teams, the two of them would update the information on the map.

“Team 3 have completed their search of grid 17.” Cho called out, just as the Lieutenant walked in. “Nothing to report. Moving on to grid number 18.”  Appleby tapped the centre of that grid twice on the map, turning it purple, indicating a completed area before moving the three of spades to the adjacent grid.  Lyanna noted the different playing cards representing the various groups hunting for their missing captain.

“What’s the coffee cup indicating?” She asked politely.

“It indicates I’ve been drinking coffee. Ma’am.” Appleby replied sheepishly, realising he shouldn’t be leaving a hot drink on top of sensitive equipment.  Though when he took a sip from the half full cup, he realised how cold its contents had actually got.  The Orion shook her head, and tapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t do it again.”

Another two teams reported in and two more areas where added to those that had now been thoroughly investigated. Neither appeared to reveal any clues.

Stuart left the two of them to their work.  She should insist they take a break, but no one wanted to stop and rest whilst their captain remained missing, least of all her.  Heading back up to the bridge she bumped into Torf who’d not long beamed back on to the ship.

“You look shattered.” The Betazoid said with a hint of concern.

“That good!” She half smiled back. “How come you still fit and awake.  You’ve been as busy as the rest of us?”

“Looks can be deceiving.” He offered in way of reply. “I’m feeling it just as much as anyone else.”

“I hear you went down into the town.  Discover anything useful?” The lieutenant asked as they walked on.

“Described the guy to some of the locals.” Torf paused as they entered the bridge. “Jérôme Bruyere, he went missing some nine years ago.  He was the last person to occupy that cabin and one of eight people who all disappeared on that mountain. With gaps of between eight and fourteen years”

“And the girl?” Asked Stuart taking the captains seat.

“Céline Dubreuil, or so some old woman thinks. Which is impossible; as she disappeared 98 years ago!”

The Orion turned sharply and looked right at him. “How can this woman be sure?”

“She’s her sister.” The Betazoid let out a sigh. “Every inch of that mountain was covered back then.  Bodies have never been found.”

“Any idea how long they searched?”  Lyanna asked.

Torf couldn’t give an answer to that question though. “Coincidently these disappearances happen around the time of a meteorite shower. Just like the captain!”

The name of that girl was still spinning through her mind as she thought about going down to the planet’s surface herself.  Dubreuil, she’d heard it before.  Then a flash of realisation; she had the same name as the Mayor.  did the colonists know more than they were letting on, but where just going through the motions of a search for the sake of appearances, whilst knowing full well Devron like those others wouldn’t be located.  

The chair buzzed and a light on the panel attached to the armrest. “Stuart here.”

“It’s team 6.” Came Cho’s voice hesitantly. “They’ve found a body.”

            **********

Lieutenant Devron stood in the snow, he wasn’t sure how long he’d been there or the distance he’d covered.  The sun had set and rose again, that much was clear.  But no one could see him, save for the young girl Céline whose hand Jason was currently holding. He was the invisible man. 

She’d apologised for what she’d done and hoped he’d forgive her despite what lay ahead.  It was her roll to seek out the replacements for those who had died previously; though why she had this task she didn’t know.  She was the only one the woman she called the witch, had kept alive. Céline had chosen Devron, not because the girl felt he deserved the same fate that had befallen the other, but because this young Starfleet office looked like a survivor, and just may be this time there was a chance to end the nightmare.

Céline had told him all about this wonderful place she’d been in, full of friendly dragons, unicorns, rabbits and the Eldeerox; a strange cross between elephant, deer and fox.  Clearly a creature of pure imagination, created in the mind of the girl herself.  Of cause these creatures had spoken to her and kept her company, whilst she waited for the next task the witch required her to perform.  Céline was the first of those that had been taken by the witch or at least that’s how she’d always seen the thing that had taken her as.  The fate of the others she had no clues to; just they were no longer part of world she’d been in.  All she knew was she’d been sent out to find another.

Jason had seen the search teams; approached their members and shouted at them.  But as the girl had informed him, he was invisible and couldn’t be heard either.  When he’d placed a hand on the shoulder of Tholakath and the Cardassian had shuddered, he thought for a moment there was a slim chance, but the Ensign just shrugged it off and carried on walking.

A half hour later they came across another team.  He recognised crewman N’Quith in this group who was with three of the locals, two men and a woman. The two men had just entered a small cave carrying torches.  Several minutes passed before one of them rushed back out, turning to the young crewman.  “Send a message, let them know we’ve found a body.”

Jason looked down at the young girl. “Who have they found?” He asked her.

“I’m not sure.”  The young girl replied with a tear in her eye. “I didn’t realise she sent any of the bodies back.”  He grabbed him tight.  “Remember what’s real, she will create a world for you to be happy in, and if you accept that world she will take everything you are. She is evil remember that.  I’m just a tool of hers and I must leave you now”

The girl was gone, or had she ever really been with him, was this a dream, nightmare or what.  Devron entered the cave and soon found the second local crouched over a body, the body of a man he recognised; it was the old man from the cabin appearing not much different to how he’d looked when Jason had seen him there. Jason knelt down placing his hand on the dead mans chest, but didn’t create any sort of indent in the man’s clothing.  Like his body wasn’t part of this world anymore.  Was he dead, was his lifeless body out there just waiting to be found like this one?  How many other souls roamed this mountain; how many others had fallen victim to the as yet unseen witch.  Was there any chance of escape or rescue, or was his fate already sealed from the moment he’d arrived.

A voice on the breeze blowing into the cave caught his attention.  It wasn’t a member of the search team, it came from elsewhere.  The world around him started to ripple and waver, losing all coherent form, colours blending together to form a wishy washy grey.

“Are you with use?” Came the voice, a voice he knew but couldn’t place in the hazy fog of his mind. “Jason, can you hear me?”

Part 3: I’m Going Slightly Mad

Various
Various

Jason Devron’s eyes flickered; he was in a bed, a bio-bed in fact.  He could hear the rhythmic pulse of the monitoring system behind his head, indicating his heart, lungs; brain etc. all appeared to be functioning relatively normally.  The image was a bit blurred and rather bright, Jason trying to look through half open eyes.  He wanted to cover them with his hands, but discovered his arms where strapped to the bed, as to where his legs.

“What’s the meaning of this?” He half yelled hoarsely. “Where am I?”

“Where do you think you’re going to be?” Came a female voice reflecting both annoyance and concern in that one sentence.

Objects began to take form, one of which was a shadowy blob towards the foot of the bed. “Doctor?” It was both question and statement.

“Oh, so I’m just plain old doctor today am I?” The shadow replied.

The light was starting to hurt Jason’s eyes just a little less, and the blob took on a fractionally more humanoid appearance.  But he still couldn’t understand what the doctor had meant by that last comment or why he was strapped to the bed.  Was he back on the Jaxartes?  He must be, but how and when?   The more he thought about the Sickbay aboard the ship the clearer his surroundings became.  Yes he was undoubtedly back, there was no denying it.

“What happen?” He asked considerably more calmly. “Why am I strapped down?”

“Don’t you remember anything?” Doctor Andrianakis asked, running a medical scanner up and down his body, before feeding the data into a PADD.

“Last thing I remember was being up a mountain on New Alberta.” Devron continued to go through the details. Beaming down; the old man outside his log cabin and then the young girl that ran up to him.  Followed by the feeling of being invisible and no longer part of the world.  He recalled walking amongst the search teams, like an unseen ghost.  Had they been looking for him, he assumed so.

“And you think that was real?” Asked Andrianakis

“It felt real to me.” 

“More real than this?”  She touched him softly with the back of her hand across his forehead.  Yes that definitely was real.  He’d felt her hand before and knew what it was like, there was no mistaking this was real.  But then what had happened to him?  Trying to think too much was starting to make him feel tired, all that recollection of events which he could no longer be certain had actually happened was having an effect on him. Jason closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

            **********

Jason woke up; he was clearly in bed, but the bed felt different, bigger and softer; he wasn’t strapped down either.  This wasn’t Sickbay, or his quarters on board the ‘Jax’, in fact this wasn’t a room on a starship at all. This was somewhere on a planet.  But which planet and how did he get here.  Had he just been dreaming about his time on the ship; why did it feel like so much time had passed?

The room was beautifully decorated with flowers in vases; mostly white lilies and classical style paintings of gods and mighty hero’s on the two longer of the walls.  A status of Hermes the Greek messenger stood on a stone plinth in one corner, next to a pair of large French windows.  Soft dappled sunlight played across the closed curtains. He knew this room from somewhere.  It was part of a memory, but what memory? 

He slipped out of bed; wearing just a pair of shorts and ambled softly across the wooden floor in bare feet.  Pulling back the curtains; his eyes were greeted by the beautiful sight of Athens.  Just the way he remembered it when he’d been there with Phoebe during their time together on Earth.  Yes this was the hotel room.  The one he’d ended up with after the hotel had booked them in one room together.  That made him smile; everyone seemed to think they were a couple during that last visit to Earth. Imagine that though, the two of them sharing a life. Jason stood there for a few minutes taking in the view, before feeling a pair of bare arms wrapped themselves around his waist.

“I’m glad you thought of this place.” The Greek woman said softly. “The perfect place for our honeymoon.” She kissed him tenderly on the cheek.  The memory came back to him.  Yes, there’d been a wedding, their wedding, how could that have slipped his mind.  He was always forgetting things.  It was why he’d taken early retirement.  Yes that was definitely it. The stresses and strains of being a Starfleet captain had proven too much, and this young woman had stayed by his side through all the trials life had thrown their way.  Four years had it been?  Yes it must have been, or at least that’s what his brain was indicating, how time seemed to fly.

He had such a wonderful life, such a perfect beautiful life, with a perfect and gorgeous wife. What could possibly be better?  The answer came to him a few moments later.  Thought that was just a trick of his imagination, more than fleeting moments had past.  The honeymoon had been years ago, that was clear by the two young boys that came running in. Alan 5 and George 7.  They had their mother’s eyes and their fathers thirst for adventure.  George as always was chasing after his younger brother, claiming he was a Starfleet officer and Alan a filthy Orion Pirate.  The younger boy was complaining about always playing the part of the one who got arrested or shot, and didn’t feel it was fair.

Jason comforted the young boy and playfully ruffled his hair, reassuring Alan that everything would be ok and telling George to be nice.  He’d known an Orion once or at least seemed to recall one.  Part of the crew may be though; the name escaped him.  So much of life seemed a blur, day’s, week’s and year’s had raced by.  He could remember them being born, their first words and their first attempts at walking. All the toys they had and were constantly leaving scattered across the floor, just waiting for someone to trip over.  Even that weird creature that looking like a deer with an elephants head and a fox’s tail.  He felt a shiver run up his spin.  Why didn’t that image fit?  Why was that memory so wrong and out of place?

Their mother called the two boys to go and wash their hands as dinner was almost ready.  They both rushed out of the bedroom, but not without squabbling over who’d be using the sink first. 

The bedroom was different, yet so familiar to him a huge four-poster bed sat at its centre with red satin sheets and a half dozen pillow resting against the calved wooden headboard.  He was wear a suit now, though he thought it had been draped across the bed only moments before.

‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’.  He laughed to himself, as he turned to look in the mirror on the vanity table by his wife’s side of the bed.  He caught sight of a young girl reflected in the mirror, Blue coat, and mustard beret.  Yet she was clearly not in the room with him.  She wasn’t there long, just a brief moment.  He sat down on the bed, hands clasped against his cheeks.  He knew that girl, seen that face before, but were?

“Remember what’s real, she will create a world for you to be happy in, and if you accept that world she will take everything you are. You must remember.”  Jason jumped, why had those words come it him? Was he in a dream or nightmare?

Then he heard the kids screaming from down stairs. “Don’t make us go daddy!” Devron jumped up and ran to them missing out a couple of the steps in his haste to reach the bottom. The dining room was dark and filled with long dancing shadows.  Phoebe was in the middle of the room clutching the two terrified children.  There was something very weird going on!

Part 4: The Show Must Go On.

USS Jaxartes
29th July 2401 15:30

Acting Captains log:

It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I have had to report to Fleet Command that despite our best efforts and those of the New Alberta colonists no trace of Lieutenant Jason Devron can be found anywhere on the planet’s surface.  Nor has there been any indication that a cloaked or hidden vessel of some sort may have been responsible for his disappearance.  Therefore after six days of searching the decision to halt any further efforts has been taken.  I only hope the anger and frustration everyone feels, and the sense we are giving up too soon will pass.  Much of that anger is directed at me and I can well understand why.  I myself must keep those feeling in check, even if it makes me look uncaring right now.

It is now my responsibility to get this crew home.  Our fate and that of the ship is yet to be decided.  But we are not all returning.  Before we depart this hated planet, I must bid farewell to one more person.

<End Log>

            **********

Lyanna Stuart took one long look around the Aft Observation Lounge.  The balloons still hung from the ceiling, though a few of them had deflated a little in the six days since they’d been put up.  The silver and red banner proclaiming ‘Happy Birthday Captain’ hung on the wall just above the painting of the USS Jaxartes.  Plates and napkins sat staked at the far end of the large conference table.  The food had long since been removed though whether anyone had eaten any or simply tipped it in the waste shoot on the replicator, she wasn’t sure.  Only the cake remained protected by a Perspex dome, a near perfect miniature copy of a Raven class corvette in sponge, cream and icing.

The emergency call from New Alberta had side-lined the crews plans for a surprise party; a party in the end that never took place, for the Captain had never returned.

The young Orion wiped a tear from her cheek.  It would never do for the crew to see their commanding officer had been crying, no matter how dire and bleak the situation.  Then she stood and headed to deal with the next unavoidable issue. 

            **********

Doctor Phoebe Andrianakis had spent more time on the planet’s surface than any other member of the crew.  Now she was back in Sickbay, but this would only be a brief visit, her last visit in fact.  The USS Jaxartes was breaking orbit within the next few hours, and she wouldn’t be going with it.

She knew Lyanna would be on her way, possibly right now in fact. Ready to make one last plea for her to reconsider the decision she’d made.  But for better or worse Phoebe’s mind was made up, she was staying on New Alberta.

She’d never really realised the feeling that had built up towards Jason.  He’d just been a great friend and companion or so she thought.  But with his lose had come a vast emptiness; like her whole life had come to an abrupt grinding halt.  She would stay here, down on that planet and scour every millimetre of that mountains surface, alone and crawling on her hands and knees if she had to.  She’d keep on searching until she found answers or the wilderness claimed her lifeless body.  After all she felt dead inside already, so nothing else really mattered. 

When she’d lost the crew of the MRT Atragon in February she’d felt devastated.   Hachiro, Max, Lei, Joshua and Hoydock, had all been close friends.  They’d made a fantastic team in the short time they’d worked together.  But the crew of the Jaxartes had lost four of their own to that day, and it had been that shared lose that had brought them together.  Helped her and them cope with the strange circumstances that six months on had still not been resolved.

“I can’t convince you to change your mind can I?” Came the voice of the ships First Officer and now acting Captain, as she entered the room. Andrianakis turned towards the new arrival and shook her head solemnly.  “You know you’ll always be part of the family.” Lyanna continued trying to put on a brave face.

“I know. I just feel he’s still out there, hoping someone will find him.” Phoebe proclaimed.  “I can’t abandon him.”

“I know how you feel, but I have my marching orders.” The Orion looked down at her hands. “You’re a civilian so you have the right to do as you see fit.  In that way I envy you.” 

“Has the rest of my stuff been taken to the Transporter room?” The Greek woman asked.

“Yes, C’Rren actually saw to it for you.” Answered Stuart.  The Caitian Science officer was another one who’d formed a close bond with the doctor.  If truth be told they all had.  As Lyanna had said; they were a family. Diverse and complex, but a family never the less.

The EMH who had been conspicuous by his absence up until this point materialised at the foot of the nearest Bio-bed.  If a computer generated holographic program could ever show genuine signs of sadness, then right now would be a perfect example of it. “It has been my privilege to have worked alongside you doctor Andrianakis.” The EMH spoke softly, far removed from the harsh even brash manner with which he’d used during their first encounters.  There may only have been a half dozen or so physical forms the EMH’s had been programmed to take and each model type had started out with the same basic design and operational parameters.  But each one had become an individual; moulded by the environment they worked in, the needs of their patients and the crew in general.  You could line ten up in a row, all seemingly identical; yet Andrianakis knew she could pick this one out of the line with little difficulty.

“The privilege has been as much mine.” She half smiled back. “I leave Sickbay in your capable hands.” 

The EMH nodded respectfully, there wasn’t really much else it could say at that point.

“May I walk you to the Transporter room?” Lyanna asked the doctor.

“Certainly; that would be lovely.” The doctor replied picking a small backpack off the floor and grabbing her coat from the hook.

            ********** 

Roughly ten minutes later Phoebe was standing on one of the six circles that made up the transporter pad; her luggage such as it was occupied two additional circles to her right.  “Stay safe.” Lyanna said to her giving the doctor one last long huge. 

“May the wind always be at your back.” The Greek woman said softly.

“I will return, of that much I promise you.  This isn’t over, not by a long shot.” The Lieutenant promised.  Then she turned her head towards crewman Lightwood at the controls. “Energise.”

Barely had the doctor departed from the ship when Stuart received an urgent message from Engineering.

            **********

A few short minutes later the Orion was in the middle of Main Engineering arms folding across her chest.  “What do you mean; some of our Antimatter has gone missing?”

“Precisely what I’m saying.” Replied the Betazoid. “The computer constantly monitors the flow of how much enters the reaction chamber.  So it knows the levels remaining in the storage tanks.  The figures don’t match.”

“I guess a leak is totally out of the question?” Stuart enquired.

“We and this ship would be spread over a rather wide area of space by now, if that was the case.” Torf confirmed.

“Computer error?” She offered as a solution. “What about those anomalies you reported?”

“Myself and crewman Tyson both scanned the storage tanks and came up with the exact same answer the computer does.” 

“That answer being?”

“Twelve micro-grams of Antimatter are unaccounted for.  And despite that sounding like such a tiny amount.  It could have the same explosive potential as one of our photon torpedoes.”

“Oh crap!  We’re not going anywhere are we?” 

The Betazoid engineer simply shook his head in reply.

 

Part 5: I Want To Break Free

Various
Various

Jason Devron looked at the fear and confusion on the face of his wife and two children.  This life had seemed so wonderful and real.  Until that girl had appeared in the mirror.  Why did he not remember looking in a mirror before that point, surely he must have?  She brought back memories of a different life, one far removed from the one he was living.  What did it mean?

And then there was the way the walls, floor and ceiling of the dining room seemed to undulate as if reality was having a hard time existing. “Show yourself!” Jason yelled. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

Before his eyes a shape began to take form.  At first it was hard to figure out what it was, but what finally appeared, could only ever be described as your typical witch.  Tall slim, green skinned with long slender arms and fingers, ending in sharp talon like nails.  A pointed jutting chin and beak like nose.  All wrapped in a large black flowing cloak with a black pointed hat. “Not what you expected?” The figure cackled in a typical witch like manner. “She did say I’m a witch after all.” 

Devron wasn’t all that impressed by the show of theatrics before him.  He was no Dorothy and he certainly wasn’t going to attempt any meaningful conversation with the Wicked Witch of the West. “What do you really look like?” 

“I have no true form, not in the sense that you could comprehend.” Replied the witch. “Nor do I have a name.  The notion just never arose.  I exist, I am.  It’s as simple as that.”

“You’re scaring the kids.” Came Phoebe’s voice from over by the table.

The witch bowed apologetically and swept the cloak up into a swirling arc.  When it fell back down in had turned to a flowing elegant dark green dress and Jason was looking into the eyes of his own mother. “Better?”  The look on his face was all she really needed. Though in reality she’d been probing and examining his mind since the moment she’d taken him from what he regarded as the real world.   A few moments later she’d changed again, the dress had turned into a pants suit with a white blouse under the jacket on the figure of a woman much shorter than his mother.  Facing your old high school science teacher Miss Clement was rather an odd experience.

“I can only create images from your memory.” Announced Miss Clement. “And you rather liked her.”

To be honest as a young teenager, he’d kind of had a crush on this particular 37 year old Kent born brunette teacher.  Frankly a dozen or so other boys did to. She had a lot of curves and in all the right places.  Every one of them had been so disappointed when she’d married the slightly younger music teacher Miss Ecclestone.   Jason pointed towards his two sons’. “How do you explain them?”

“Still part of your imagination.” Miss Clement assured him. “You imagine how they might look, and here they are.” 

The room by now had settled down into a perceived normality and Jason invited the entity in the form of his old teacher to sit and eat with his family.  He wanted answers after all and this thing, creature, entity; whatever it was had them. Over the next hour and a bit, he learned much about this strange being.  Those that had come before him had simply accepting the world around them.  They had lived and grown old in a fantasy of their own creation.  The entity smiled devilishly. “Of cause you won’t remember our little chat, all this will fade from your memory and you’ll go back to living a happy carefree life. Whilst I feed of the energy your life creates”

“What about the girl?”  Jason asked after taking a sip of wine.

The entity look noticeably saddened and the light of the room seemed to dim slightly.  “She is my gateway to your world. My seeker and she has attempted to betray me.” The lights flared and the log fire erupted with flame like someone had just thrown petrol across the fake coals. 

“What will happen to her?” It was Phoebe who asked the question, even though Jason knew he was thinking it.

“She seems to think by planting her image in the minds of those that serve me; one of them will defeat me.” Miss Clement laughed in a very uncharacteristic way. “Foolish girl will never learn.” 

Devron looked at his wine glass and caught the fleeting reflection of the young girl in its contents.  Now he understood.  She’d never left his side in all this time, every moment he’d lived in this fantasy world, that girl had been there, just waiting for him to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out this wasn’t real.  Like an idiot though, it had taken him way to long.  But who was she.

[Céline Dubreuil was one of twins. After an argument with her sister she’d ran away from home and fallen prey to the one she called the witch.  Spending the next 98 years in her service and not aging a day in the process.  But the girl had never stopped fighting in all those years despite the magical world she spent most of that time inhabiting.]

Jason had an idea, if all this was imaginary; then why not imagine himself right in the heart of the witch’s lair; she’d describe it in part, and somehow the girl was guiding his thoughts towards filling in the blanks.  Within the blink of an eye he found himself in a well-lit cave, pink mist swirled around at his feet. Phoebe and the children had gone with a sad farewell, only the entity remained.  This time however in the form of a Borg Drone.

“Resistance is futile.” She proclaimed. “When will you ever learn?”

Devron made a run at her, putting the full weight of his body into a shoulder charge, only to literally bounce off her like he’d hit a solid wall.  He staggered away holding his right arm, whilst she just laughed. The Lieutenant took stoke of the situation.  This wasn’t a cave, no the walls appeared to be made of glass and stretched way above both their heads. 

“You pitiful creatures amuse me so much.” The entity in its Borg form laughed.  She produced a small glowing object and held it out to him. “I have a challenge for you, since you’re so keen on beating me. This device will take you to any place and time on or around this planet.  Use it and see if you have the brains to defeat me.” She tossed it to him. 

“What’s the price?” Jason asked, studying what appeared nothing more than a palm sized smooth rock.

“Win you go free.” Came her answer. “Loose and your first act of submission will be to bring me the rest of your crew.”

The young Lieutenant held the stone tightly.

            **********

A few minutes later Devron found himself aboard the USS Jaxartes standing next to the Antimatter storage tanks.  Only moments ago he’d bid a tearful farewell to his wife and two children.  Eleven years of a life that had never really happened.  If he was successful would he remember that time?  Would he be trapped in the past; find himself back in the present or a future as yet unwritten?  Could he even exist in the real world if he pulled this mad stunt off?

He placed a cylinder roughly the size of his forearm into an extraction point on one the tanks and set about drawing a small amount of the antimatter.  Once done and everything seal up; what Jason basically had in his hands was a small bomb.  It may have seemed simpler to grab a phaser but that could very well alert someone to his presents, and right now he didn’t really feel like trying to explain that. He had no idea if this was before, after or even the same year he’d originally been taken.

The stone clearly knew when his task was done, and swiftly whisked him away to the next location he was thinking about, not far from the shed and the tower.  There was a lot more snow around, and a few flakes were falling, adding to what already lay across the ground. It was mid-afternoon judging from the position of the somewhat watery looking sun hanging in the sky. But on which day he couldn’t really tell.  All he knew was; this was where it had begun some 98 years ago. Jason made his way carefully towards the small building.   Noticing as he drew closer a horse and two wheeled cart parked outside.  That wasn’t good.  It meant someone was inside, someone who at this very moment might be activating the machine inside, and if that happened; any act upon his part would be fruitless. The entity had told him about the machine during the meal. She’d given a lot away during that lengthy chat.  Was it over confidence or total control of the situation that this thing possessed?

Whoever was in there he’d have to get them outside and if possible well away from the shed.  He wasn’t entirely sure what the destructive power of the bomb he was holding would produce.  Enough to destroy the machine; most certainly.  Take a huge chunk of mountain with it, possibly! 

It took several attempts to get the stupid horse moving.  The fact it only understood French may have been the key issue.  Telling it to ‘rentrer chez soi’seemed to do the trick.  Devron quickly dived behind the nearest tree.  As two men realising their horse had decided to go walk about, burst out of the shed yelling several words in French which didn’t sound too happy. 

Jason waited a moment then sprinted for the door and entered the shed.  He didn’t notice the other figure of another young man not too far away; who trudged purposefully through the snow behind him.  He was looking around the room for the best position to place his makeshift bomb.  Not that it would probable make much difference once it detonated; when he heard the door slam shut behind him.

Spinning round the young lieutenant was confronted by the young man. His feature reminded him somehow of the old man he’d first witness by the log cabin on beaming down. “How?” 

“Because it was always going to happen this way.” The young man grinned. “You’re not changing history, your part of it.”

Part 6: Who Wants To Live Forever?

New Alberta
3rd October 2303

Jérôme Bruyere was a man with a mission.  That mission was to save his wife from impending death.  He’d been shown a glimpse of the future in which she would be killed by a burning rock falling from the sky. That moment was only a matter of hours away. The man in Starfleet uniform before him had prevented the defence satellites going active.  The power cells for the generator had been in that cart.  This was the reason she would die; or at least that was what had meant to happen. But Jérôme was in possession of something much more powerful and he was being guided as to how that power could be used.   

Jason noticed the man was holding a cylinder, a bit like the one he’d brought with him.  Inside this one though appeared to be a swirling pink cloud of gas.  It looked very much like the mist from the glass cave he’d been inside.  Was that the entity inside there?

The man appeared to read his mind.  May be he could, Devron wasn’t sure of anything right now. “Yes this is the witch.” Jérôme growled. “And with the help of that antimatter you’ve so kindly brought with you.  She will soon become a permanent integrated part of the power supply, keeping the planet defence system operational. 

Jason thought about making a grab for the cylinder, and possibly destroying it. Anything that might set about a change in the future, or was it the past?  Time was all mixed up and so was his head.  Was it even possible to make alterations to something that had already happened, especially when it was those events that had brought you there in the first place?

“You cannot alter fate.” Jérôme smiled pulling out a small weapon from one of the pockets on his jacket; motioning Devron to put down the cylinder of antimatter and step back.  “I know what you’re planning, and know how to stop you.”

Something was nagging in the back of Jason’s mind. If the entity was inside that cylinder why not just get this man to set it free; why allow him to hook it up to this machine?  A few moments later, Jason noted the man was a little stuck. He had three objects and only two hands with which to hold them. The gun would have to go back in his pocket. 

With Jérôme attention distracted in his efforts to connect up the two cylinders to the machine; the Lieutenant felt now was his best opportunity to make a move. Lunging forward he made a grab for the weapon. Jérôme reacted and a brief struggle ensued. A crash of braking glass and a rising column of pink mist caught both their attentions, bringing a momentary stop to the fight.  Jason no longer held the jacket collar and wrist of one Jérôme Bruyere.  Yes the body and clothing remained unchanged, but the mind of the French-Canadian man was now that of the entity or at least under its control. 

Jason let go and the man stepped back, flattening and straightening out the jacket. “Oh don’t look so disappointed Mr Devron.  Did you never stop for one moment and consider what your actions might create.” 

“I don’t understand all this?” Jason held his hands up waving them around the room.  “What was the point?”

“The point was, you’ve set me free from my prison.” The Jérôme entity laughed. “Instead of only being able to snatch another pitiful sole whenever the colonists needed to activate their machine.  Now thanks to your gallant efforts, I get to take them all. Starting with you.”   

Devron felt like someone had just clapped two large invisible hands around his head and was slowly starting to crush his skull.  The shed and his mind were both filled with echoing mocking laughter.  Everything was starting to spin, his vision blurred as the pain increased.  One thought in Jason’s mind held just long enough for the stone to react and whisk him away.  Jérôme cursed and then followed. 

**********

Jason found himself in a warm well-furnished wood cabin.  He knew who the woman there was even before she turned from the small kitchen stove soup ladle in hand and screamed at finding a complete stranger in the room behind her.  It was Jérôme’s wife; the ladle clattered to the floor. “Who are you?” The tall skinny woman with rusty coloured hair tied in a bun yelled. “What do you want with me?”

“Don’t asked questions.” Responded Jason firmly. “If you want to live, just get out and run!”

When the woman made no effort to move and just stood there just trembling.  The Lieutenant looked her in the eyes sternly and yelled. “RUN!” That broke her out of her confused state and made her bolt for the door, grabbing a thick fleece lined coat on the way out.  The door hadn’t even swung back shut on its huge sturdy iron hinges when Jérôme appeared in the room.

“Really, mister Devron, did you really think you could escape me?” The face and body was of the young French-Canadian the voice sounded closer to how the witch had spoken when Jason had first encountered the entity. “I could keep this up all day. But I’ll make you suffer in the process.” The man smiled.

“Who wants to live forever?” Replied Jason with an even bigger smile.

The wind outside seemed to have picked up; the gentle breeze had been replaced by a strengthening gust.  There was a rumble like thunder, yet the sky outside was clear.  That much was evident from the sunlight casting shadows across the room. The entity looked out and up into the sky, before darting out the same door the man’s wife had used. 

When Jason followed a few seconds later; Jérôme was standing arms outstretched reaching for the sky and the large lump of burning rock now suspended motionless.  It was the meteorite that was meant to have killed the wife of the man the entity now possessed.  The reason it had convinced him to be at the shed were it knew Devron would find himself. “Did you really think you could distract me long enough that I wouldn’t realise and be killed right here and now?” It asked him in a furious tune. 

“No.” Jason answered plainly. “I wasn’t the distraction.”

 Jérôme half turned, a look of mild confusion turned to one of slight worry, then finally horror.  As the Lieutenant pointed the business end of a double barrelled shot gun, which he’d snatched up from behind the door, at the man’s chest and fired twice in quick succession.

            ********** 

Reports state that the explosion was heard clear across the valley and the huge cloud of earth and snow turned steam was witnessed by dozens of colonists down in the town as it billowed skyward and spread out across the ground.  The impact caused a major avalanche but luckily for the colonists; well away from the town or any of the farmland in the valley.  It was one of five meteorites that stuck the area within the space of a few minutes, but had by far been the biggest.

When a group headed up there to investigate at first light the following morning, they found a crater 4 metre deep and 20 wide, where the Bruyere residence once stood.  Several trees around the crate lay either uprooted, leaning outward or in some cases split and shattered by the blast.  A few still smouldered having caught fire.  

They found Marie, Jérôme’s wife not far from the scene of devastation, who was being comforted by a young girl Céline Dubreuil.  The woman was cold and clearly shaken by the ordeal.  She kept babbling about some strange man in uniform appearing from nowhere in her kitchen and ordering her to leave the house.  That had only been minutes before its destruction.  She wanted to thank him and ask his name; but the rescue team couldn’t find any sign of this mystery individual, nor apparently Marie’s husband, who seemed to have disappeared.  In fact an extensive search over the following days would reveal no clues to either man’s whereabouts. 

As for the network of defence satellites; with the power cells installed in the generator, they would protect the colonists from any further meteorite strikes for the next 98 years.  Until a fault in the system would require the assistance of the nearest available Federation vessel; the USS Jaxartes.

 

Part 7: Now I’m Here

New Alberta / USS Jaxartes
23rd July

Lieutenant Devron looked about him, slightly confused and disorientated.  A moment ago he’d just shot a man; technically in cold blood.  Even if that man had been possessed by an Entity which had designs on enslaving the planets population; if not potentially those of other planets to.  Killing someone like that was never a first option, and far from easy to make, though possibly being a spur of the moment decision had been the only reason it had worked.  It would weigh on his mind for years but Jason hope all the lives he’d saved would balance things out in the end. 

Right now he felt thankful for being in one piece, rather than a cloud of scattering atoms after the impact of the meteorite.  Then again recent events had taught him not to take anything for granted or at face value.  The stone had turned to dusk.  Jason could feel traces of it on the tips of his fingers and in the palm of his hand. So where and just as importantly, when was he?

The movement of three figures beside him gave the first clues to the answers he was looking for.  Torf, Tyson and Appleby had all made a move towards the red wooden markers that indicated the way to the shed and the transmitter inside.  There had been no old man at the log cabin to greet them this time.  In fact having died nearly a hundred years ago; the cabin itself had never been build.  It was just a bare patch of snow covered ground.

When the girl came running up to him in a blue coat and mustard colour beret, the idea that he was simply going round in circles sprung into his mind.  Jason signalled for the rest of the group to continue on.  Smiling at the realisation that was exactly what he’d said before.  But the girl wasn’t alone not this time; a much older woman followed her.

“You’re looking remarkably young and healthy for someone that was here a hundred years ago.” Remarked the elderly woman; with a smile on her face. “Though much of what I remember may have been what I dreamed. It’s hard to get one’s head round.”

“I know exactly how you feel.” Jason replied. “Who would this young lady be?” He asked looking back at the young girl who seemed a little puzzled about what was going on.

“This is my granddaughter, Abigale.”  Céline informed him happily. “Oh, I have something important to give you.”  It was at this point the Lieutenant noticed the wooden box she had with her.  The woman lifted up the two clasps and opened it carefully; revealing a cylinder inside.  The cylinder containing the antimatter he’d left at the shed.

“How did you end up with it?” Jason asked Céline.

“When a young girl sees a stranger ender a building and another guy she knows follow him, a girl can get sort of noisy.” Her mind wondered back to the start of some very bizarre events many years ago. “I heard the fighting but when I plucked up the courage to push the door open, you’d both vanished into thin air!”

“I’ve been doing a lot of that of that lately.” Devron half laughed to himself.

“Something told me that one day you’d be back.” Céline declared. “Took your bloody time though!” She added light-heartedly.

The two of them chatted as they walked to catch up with the rest of the away team with the girl following just behind carrying her favourite toy, a stuffed deer like animal with an elephants head and fox’s tail. Something her grandmother had made just after Abigale’s mother had been born. 

The shed and tower stood right where it had always been, with the machinery inside that linked up and operated the defence satellites in orbit.  Someone had pulled a couple of wires out which had preventing the equipment from operating correctly.  There was one person on the top of Dervon’s list of suspects, but he wasn’t going to say anything.  Some things are better left unexplained.

It wouldn’t take much for Torf to get the whole thing up and running again.

            **********

When he beamed back up to the USS Jaxartes a couple of hours later, it was with a sense of relief , part of him just wanted to head to his quarters, flop down and sleep.  Dervon didn’t make it all that far though, apparently the rest of the crew had other ideas regarding how he should spend his early evening. 

As his First Officer ushered him into the Aft Observation Lounge, it became clear they hadn’t forgotten his Birthday at all.  He smiled broadly as they all yelled “Happy Birthday.”  Chief Petty Officer Lose passed him a glass of wine, which Jason took a small sip of.  It reminded him of the last drink he’d shared with the entity and his imaginary family.  He looked across at Phoebe who as engaged in a conversation with Cho, which they’d most likely started before his arrival.  He’d created a life with that young Greek woman standing over the other side of the room.  It had seemed so wonderful and perfect, but surely something like that could never happen, not in the real world.

“Penny for them.” Lyanna broke his train of thought.

“Oh, you’ll need more than a penny, trust me.” He replied, clinking his glass against hers and taking another sip. “You’d never believe me any way.” 

There was something different about her Captain right now.  He seemed calmer, more assured of himself.  Oh she knew the hell and torment he’d been going through these last couple of months.  Had he really thought he was that good at hiding it?  She knew the rest of the crew hadn’t noticed it, except possibly the doctor.  Those two did get on rather well.  But no, something had happened down on the planet, it had brought out a bit of the man she’d first met at the academy.  She wasn’t going to press for answers though, that would come later.  Now was time to celebrate.  You only get one life, so enjoy it as best you can. At least that’s what she believed.  Jason’s view of life was a little different; sometimes you do get more than one life.

As Devron stared out of the window looking down on the planet below; he pondered the impact his actions had made.  He’d altered history, may be only a tiny bit, but it was changed.  People had lived who before had died, children had been born that originally would have never existed.  It was a lot to think about.  Then there was the Entity; what was it and where had it come from, where there anymore either on New Alberta or any other planet.  Just as important, having witnessed at first-hand what it was capable of; who’d captured the Entity and where they still around? 

He felt an arm partly wrap around his waist.  Memories came flooding back of a Honeymoon in Athens that had never really happened.  Now I’m here. Part of him wished he’d never left that dream world. “You’re doing an awful lot of thinking.” Came Phoebe voice softly. 

Jason turned to face her. “Have you ever thought about changing the past or creating a different future?”

“Many times.” The doctor replied. “But then I wouldn’t be in the here and now.”

“Well I for one am very glad you are here right now.” He commented with a smile. 

Across the room Chad Harris was half way through a cheese sandwich; watching the exchange between captain and doctor.  He gave Cho a gentle nudge in the elbow. “Are those two…..you know?”

The young Korean communications officer looked at him and then followed his gaze tilting her head thoughtfully. “Not yet. But I wouldn’t rule it out, given time at least.” 

“A double wedding perhaps?” Chad winked.

The kick in the ankle may have been a touch harder than Cho had intending, but the New Zealander got the message, not to be so cheeky. Watching him hobble for a moment, she both wanted to laugh and give a kiss at the same time.  He was a pain at times, but he was her pain and that was all that mattered. 

Spotting Ensign Harris’s plight Devron commented to Andrianakis. “Oh, to be young and in love!”

The Greek woman paused a moment. “Hold on he’s about six weeks older than you.” She finished off the drink in her hand. “Any way shall I be mother and go cut the cake?”

Jason merely nodded in agreement as she walked over to the table.  His thoughts were back in another world for a brief moment, remembering she had been a mother, at least in another lifetime.  But right here and now; these are the days of our lives, and the best he could do was to live them.