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Part of USS Constellation: You Changed The Ending

You Changed The Ending – 2

Bridge, USS Constellation
August 2401
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Captain’s Log, Stardate 78593.6


Charting a course into the region of the Swallow Nebula in the Delta Quadrant, Constellation continues her very first voyage of exploration.  Now that our scientific partners from the Romulan Free State have rejoined the crew, we strive again towards cooperative exploration of regions uncharted by either Starfleet or the Romulans.  Fortuitously, our mission directives from the Delta Exploration Initiative have landed us directly in the path of a planetary distress call.

The timbre of LCARS alerts and feedback tones swelled, filling the bridge with an operatic crescendo.  Early in her career as a starship commander, Taes had always found such environments oppressive.  Her contemplative home colony and science postings aboard starbases had primed her for far more sedate surroundings.  Only aboard Constellation has Taes begun to find comfort in the musicality of the noise.  

Now, she could better understand the intention and purpose behind every note.  The flatter thrums spoke to the stability of the life support, while the soaring ballad told her about the voracity of the sensors.  The insistent shrill revealed how direly the engines were in distress.  Everything in its place.  Everything in its–

“Time,” Taes said.  

She had wandered to the aft of the bridge to examine the engineering console and ponder.  She trusted the crew had already prepared for her order.  It needed no further elaboration.

It was Kellin– of course, Kellin was the first to move.  From the executive officer’s chair, he flipped up the status console and swiped through the displayed data.  With one last glance at the screen, he rose to his feet and descended the command platform.  His body moved urgently, as if he’d been separated from a parent while shopping through a marketplace.

“USS Themis was due to reach the Onitha Colony thirty-three hours ago,” Kellin reported.  “It’s been forty-seven hours since they last made contact.  Still, they’ve offered no response to our hails.  Long-range sensors detect no indication of the ship on our course heading.”

Taes replied, “Thank you, commander,” while she entered a calculation on the engineering console.  She looked to Chief Engineer Pagaloa for confirmation, and he nodded his agreement.  Taes smiled a thanks at him and she turned to face the swirl of stars visible through the viewscreen.

“Lieutenant Door,” Taes ordered, “increase speed to warp nine point nine seven.  We’re close enough now.  We can maintain that speed the rest of the journey to Onitha.”

Romulan Liaison Flavia slapped the side of her science station, using it as leverage to swivel her chair.  The slap from the Flavia’s palm on the metallic housing added a dissonant note to the music of the bridge.  When Taes turned toward the noise, she found Flavia’s gaze waiting for her.  There was a knit of consternation across Flavia’s brow, and she raised an arched eyebrow at Taes.

“Is such haste prudent, captain?” Flavia asked.  Despite deferring to Taes’s rank, Flavia’s inflection sounded much like a pompous admiral’s.  Flavia was the mission commander for the Romulan scientists on board and Taes’s liaison to the Romulan Free State, and she damn well never ever let Taes forget it, not even for a nanosecond.

Still, the only answer Taes deigned to provide was a curt, “Yes.”

Flavia raised a single shoulder.  It proved a puckish shrug proffered in Taes’s direction.

“Far be it from me to remind you,” Flavia said, “of how desperately distant we are from any Starfleet facilities should you burn out our warp core.  You received that distress call from the Krenim Colony, what?  Nearly five days ago?”

Flavia shook her head, sending her dark ponytail swinging.  “By this point, are there likely to be any survivors remaining?”

“Five million,” Taes said firmly.  She closed the distance with Flavia, firmly slapping her boot heels on the deck with each step.

“Five million, Flavia.  I want you to say it.”

Something twitched in Flavia’s jaw, but her stare remained dead-eyed.

“Five million,” Flavia affirmed in a placating tone.

“There are five million Krenim on that colony,” Taes said.  “Long-range sensors have detected their star system being shredded by Adler-Lasky temporal radiation and polaric ions.  When Captain Cambil confirmed USS Themis was in range to reach the Jameeta system first, I committed Constellation to assist.  We won’t abandon our sister ship, and we won’t ignore a cry in the night.”

Flavia spun back to face her console.  “Very well.  I, ah, approve your recommendation, captain.”

Striding towards the raised science platform, Kellin diffidently asked of Flavia, “What changed your mind?”

Without looking at him, Flavia deadpanned, “For all the Star Empire’s mistakes, we learned much from the irradiated husks on Chaltok IV.  We may still learn from the corpses of the fallen Krenim.”

Kellin gasped.  

“Not irradiated husks,” he murmured.

Turning to him with fiery eyes, Flavia admitted, “I don’t disagree with our mission.  Perhaps there would have been more survivors from Chaltok had Captain Taes been flying through that sector over a century ago.”

Flavia winked at Kellin.  

“Sometimes I just like to hear Taes yell at me.”



Taes had hardly given the order for a standard orbit of Onitha when she began to question her competence as a starship commander.  Through the forward viewscreen, the swirl of warp-twisted starlight was rapidly replaced by the Jameeta system until their destination planet filled half the screen.  Something was wrong; maybe everything was wrong.  Taes rolled her shoulders back in the captain’s chair and gripped the armrests to ground herself.

From the forward science station, T’Kaal reported, “Captain, planetary surface analysis can detect no signs of a colony on Onitha.  No life signs, no  artificial structures.  Although sensors detect no indicators of destruction, there is simply no colony.”

Softly, Doctor Nelli echoed T’Kaal’s words from the mission specialist chair to Taes’s left. 

“No life?” Nelli said.  Their vocoder was even more monotone than T’Kaal’s inflection had been.

Reflexively, Taes breathed an irritated ” tt” between her teeth.  She rapped the knuckles of her left hand on her armrest.  Not only was she puzzled by the lack of a colony on the other end of a distress call, but the dispassionate manner in which T’Kaal delivered the information gave Taes a knot in her stomach.  Taes should have expected no different from the Vulcan science officer, but her matter-of-fact delivery made Taes question if T’Kaal had anticipated this as a possible outcome.  

Had there been a warning sign Taes overlooked?

Taes was still mentally reviewing options when Kellin bounded to the navigation pit.  Kellin took position behind the flight control station, where the exocomp pilot, Cellar Door, was hovering over the curved LCARS controls.  Before he spoke, Kellin offered Cellar an affectionate pat on the upper casing.

Then, Kellin asked, “Did we fly off to the wrong coordinates, buddy?”

“No mistake was made, commander,” interjected Security Chief Ache.  Despite the gentle humour in Kellin’s words, there was a protective edge to Ache’s response.  Her six eyes blinked at Kellin blandly through the translucent tactical console between them.

Ache insisted, “We have arrived at the coordinates provided to us.  This is the origin point of the distress call.”

Hitting the consonants of the rank hard, Flavia added, “Captain, it’s not only the colony that’s missing.  The temporal radiation exposure is hardly more than background radiation.  We shouldn’t have been able to detect it on long-range sensors at the current levels.  And yet we have done for hours before our arrival?”  From her console to Taes’s left, Flavia snatched sensor readouts from her display and launched holographic pop-ups from Taes’s chair.

Taes rapped her knuckles on her armrest, harder this time.  She spared only the briefest of glances at the sensor data shared with her by Flavia.

“Has the Themis been here?” Taes asked.

Ever the star pupil, Ache quick-drawed her response.  “We’re not picking up the Themis’s transponder signal within range of our scanners.”

Nonchalantly as before, T’Kaal added, “Metallurgical scans can detect nothing resembling the Themis’s hull specification within the star system.  Not even hull fragments.”

“Don’t joke about that,” Ache scoffed through her nose.  The effort proved forceful enough to make her facial tentacles flare out.

T’Kaal asked, “Who has told a joke?”

Nelli let out a pained exhale beside Taes.  It served as a sufficient distraction from Taes’s reflection on if she should intervene between Ache and T’Kaal.

“My body,” Nelli said, “feels heavy.

Taes shook her head and said, “I’m so sorry, doctor. Did I hit your chair?”

Much like the rest of Constellation, the bridge lurched suddenly to port.  Inertial dampeners would have taken the worst of it, but Nelli still flailed over the side of their chair.  Taes reached out to grab at them, to keep them from falling.  Every console around the bridge resounded with shrill alerts.  Sanguine alert lights pulsed harshly from every surface.  The musicality of the bridge stations whipped up into a hurricane of distressed racket.  The noise was no longer music; it was the sound of a starship screaming.

“I told you we had no need to rush, captain,” Flavia called out amid a despairing laugh.  “It only brought about our destruction sooner.  Space-time is shattering in all directions!”