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Part of USS Mariner: M3: Let Loose the Beast of War and Bravo Fleet: Labyrinth

8) The Pressure of Reality

USS Mariner - Bridge
September 2401
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Slowly opening her eyes, bright light emitted from every corner, but the shapes were familiar, yet strange. Sazra slowly rose and noticed herself sitting on the ground. She pressed her hand against the side of her head, feeling that piercing pain of a headache crawling up and coming to flourish to become the migraine she rather avoided. Taking a deep breath, she looked around slowly, seeing the bridge in its natural perfect state but covered with a light blue-white crystallized layer. Certain spots had crystals growing but strangely different colors: purple, red, or orange. 

Taking a deep breath, Sazra carefully muttered, “Is this death?” She was trying to get up from the floor but noticed she was stuck. Her eyes looked down to the floor, seeing the crystal floor growing slowly onto her skin. She took a deep breath and gave a brief facial expression of acceptance. If this was it, she wondered what was waiting for her at the other side, or was this the other side? What would happen next was a better question.

Brace Brace Brace…” 

Sazra could hear the echoes of her voice that made her look around.

All energy to shields above the Mariner, Captain!” 

Her head turned in the direction of where Miki would have stood. Her eyes diverted slowly downwards, and she saw the crystal crawling up her skin, the cold wave reaching her fingertips. 

It's too big. I can't avoid it.” 

The pity and sad voice of K'Nala echoed from the navigation console. Sazra shrugged at the echo and knew damn well that K'Nala had done everything she could have done to prevent the ship from getting hit. It was a wild ride, and they would have been ripped apart if it had not been for her pilot skills. Sazra smiled softly, grateful as she could feel the cold, numbing feeling crawling up her legs as the crystal form grew up her leg. 

Taking a deep breath once again as she closed her eyes, now fully accepting and feeling the growth of coldness crawling faster up over her whole body. 

Captain,” the familiar voice of K'Nala sounded and echoed in the light blue and bright bridge. “Captain!” It became louder. "Come back to us!” That was not a particular sentence Sazra remembered as one of her final moments on the bridge. Come back to where? Was this not death? The afterlife? Sazra wondered if Kobahl was with her right now.

“Please…Wake up!” The voice echoed through the bridge. The crystal color started to change from light blue to darker red, and cracks were shown. That was Asipa? Why was she crying out to me? Sazra opened her eyes, seeing the blurry sight as the crystal had covered her face, but the cracks expanded. “Asipa?” 

With another bang, the bridge shook as pieces of crystal started to drop, and suddenly, everything went black. There was a loud gasp of air as Sazra opened her eyes, seeing the broken ceiling and flickering lights. A wet, dripping feeling fell upon her cheek as her vision improved, seeing Asipa holding her head with tears rolling down her cheek. “Captain!” 

A sharp pain came from her chest as Sazra growled lowly in pain. Her eyes diverted down to the source of the pain, seeing K'Nala in a CPR position with her paws over her chest. “What….” Sazra coughs and feels her ribs painfully there in place.

K'Nala quickly took her hands away and checked Sazra. “Stay calm, Captain. Good to have you still with us. Your hearrrt stopped beating for a few seconds, and we had to perforrrm CPR on you to get yourrr hearrrt beating again”. K'Nala would never forget the cracking sounds of her Captain's ribs, as they were marked into her memory for the rest of her life. 

“Status….report.” Sazra gets pushed slowly up with the help of Asipa, only gasping for some air, seeing the bridge's condition much worse than she had wished for. The screen was broken, and some consoles were offline, sparking as the lights flickered. The front of the bridge had a collapsed ceiling, and there were quite some serious wounds. 

Drata looked up from treating one of the crewmen. “We are alive somehow.” He didn't want to sound sarcastic, but the realization of his final moments was still sinking its fangs into him. Drata looked at his injured Captain. “I have no possible way to conclude the ship's condition right now, but I could gather that we are running emergency power, systems are down, and that also counts for communications. Miki is trying to get a clear path as the turbo-lift is down, so using the old fashion tubes” 

“As the Lieutenant said, systems are down. That also counts for navigational systems. I did my best, Captain… I am sorry,” K'Nala said with tears forming in her eyes.

Looking at the young Caitian reminded Sazra of her own insecurities. She placed her hand on her furry cheek. “You did good. Help Drata with the wounded. Asipa, get communications back online. We need to know what the status is of the rest of the ship.” Sazra blinks, noticing that Asipa is refusing to move. She holds her grip tied on Sazra. “Asipa?” 

“No…you heard what Drata said, systems down, you just had a heart attack….your heart stopped, and we almost lost you, Captain.” Asipa's emotions were seen in the big Ferengi eyes. “You need to lean on us to do the job. You need to rest and get medical attention as fast as Miki gets a way out.” 

There was little argument about that fact; Sazra looked around, and some officers who could function looked worried at her and briefly nodded. “Okay, those that can help, help Miki find a path out of the bridge.” Then, the realization dawned on her, Silina was still on the middle decks during this whole ordeal. Sazra wanted to get up,  wanted to find her loved one, wanted to make sure that she was still alive. But her body didn't permit her to move, to work, to look as the pressure of reality sank in that her body had endured quite a bit on such short notice. “Damn…” 


  • Great story. I really enjoyed the sense that the ship was almost a nautical one with the shouting of “brace” before a collision. I can’t wait to see how the crew gets out of this and hopefully the rest of the crew is okay.

    June 19, 2024
  • "Brace Brace Brace…" Wow, readers, brace yourselves for this story! You truly delivered a heart-stopping moment with Sazra's near-death experience. The intensity builds upon the chaos of the previous scenes. I'm eagerly awaiting the next part—don't leave us hanging!

    June 19, 2024
  • Tightly written, tautly paced and we all know that I am a fan of Crystal - Body Snatchers! I'm really warming to the events aboard the USS Mariner and this one delves deep in one of my favorite narrative - conventions - "Body Horror"! After all - every single David Cronenberg movie can't be wrong - right? Conveying the dread of being violated, the alienness of such an experience, having to face the loss of your own individuality - that's no easy feat and I was both thrilled and dismayed to be sharing this experience with Sazra. Its a fine line to tread between genuine horror and schlock and - for my dollar - this really unnerved me and made me want to see the Captain persevere! I felt as impacted as the rest of the crew by the end of the story!! This, my friend, is Top - Shelf writing and I commend your Bravado!!!

    June 19, 2024
  • Why do you have to pull on my emotions like that? The way this was written really gave a pace of urgency, but also the reality of what could happen to the Captain. As I was reading it I thought about the moment when I was writing personal stories and this happened, but in the end the Captain died. It shows a great contrast and I really enjoyed how you did it. The beginning of "brace" really fit the mantra of this story.

    June 19, 2024
  • At first, you had me scratching my head about how the Underspace threw us into a story about crystals. I was as lost as Kobahl. But then you brought me, as the reader, into the light, same as our dear Captain - only to realize there was little light in the reality that was the Mariner’s present situation. This crew has been through so much, and here they are, back in deep again. Hope we find out about Ruslanovna soon too. I’ve always liked those two. A nice entry on all fronts, and leaves me ready for more.

    June 21, 2024
  • Dang! This chapter does an excellent job of blending dreamlike elements with intense reality, creating a moment that's both surreal and gripping. The imagery of Sazra surrounded by crystals initially had me wondering if this was some kind of strange afterlife scene too, or maybe just avivid dream of the unconscious. The sudden return to reality was both shocking and powerful. Sazra’s confusion and calm acceptance of her fate only to be jolted back by the voices of her crew was beautifully handled. You can really feel her disorientation and the struggle to make sense of her surroundings. The emotional tension builds up well, especially with characters like Asipa and K'Nala showing their concern and determination to save their captain. There loyalty is touching. Nice work on keeping the tension high and the reader engaged!

    June 24, 2024