McCallister had thought he had done it all as a starship captain. He had fought powerful foes, made contact with a range of new and known species, helped saved thousands (if not millions) of lives and had explored thousands of light years of uncharted space. Negotiating with a hologram that was holding him and a majority of his crew against their will was certainly a new chapter in his career.
After finding Slyvexs, he led his team to find Captain Jystar’s isomorphic projection to work on a way forward with their situation. Within the area that was setup as the Quirennal’s designated main medical area, McCallister stood with the others in what appeared to be a courtyard. Plants, bushes and trees surrounded the small resting area which had an elaborate water fountain in the centre of it. Jystar had agreed to meet with them after McCallister had pleaded with her to be reasonable from one parent to another. The photonic being had agreed and now they were making their case.
“The children of the Quirennal need to be cared for. It’s that simple.” Jyster had been repeating the same point over and over again, each time the variation on words changed but the main point got across. She was adamant that now the young people had been treated and she knew they couldn’t return to their stasis chambers, they would be looked after one another.
“We’re not denying that fact.” Lieutenant Flemen had offered back. The Lumerian diplomatic officer was remaining calm, but a slight tense tone of irritation was present in his words. “We are just saying, why can’t we find a way where it does not involve you keeping all of our crew on the Quirennal against their wishes?”
“I have no choice.” Jyster stated. “If you all leave then I cannot be certain whether you will abandon my children entirely or not.”
“And by keeping us locked up here, like slaves to your cause, then you must see that you won’t be providing your children and young people with the best care. Our people will come to resent what is being forced upon them.” Commander Duncan said. He was now having a stab at diplomacy along with a bit of counselling at the same time. “Our people will struggle to find the confidence to do what you ask of them in a way that won’t adversely transfer over and affect the development of your young people. They will eventually notice the resentment and this will cause upset and tension between our people and yours. And then what will happen once all of them are grown up?”
“I’ll say it again, but you are keeping a good number of us, who are parents, away from our own children on the Odyssey.” Reyas added to Duncan’s bombardment. Their plan had to overload the hologram with so many points to consider. “Even with Odyssey’s automated system there is no way those children can be cared for by a computer and left by themselves. How can you carry the memories of a mother who sacrificed so much and not think that history is repeating itself here?”
“I am sorry, commander, but I need you all.” Jystar answered. “I do not understand what the issue is here, you are on board a ship that is more powerful than yours and now you have the freedom to not worry about maintaining a ship, all I ask is you raise our young people.”
Sighing heavily, as he felt they were going back around in circles, again, McCallister stood up from the bench he had been perched on. “Captain Jyster, I think if you explain to us how you envision us carrying out this task then we might begin to understand what you require of us.” He stated. Everyone looked at McCallister, all of them sharing similar expressions of concern. The way he had just spoken sounded like he was giving in and accepting what was being imposed on them. Raising his left hand to indicate to them all to pause, the captain stood up and walked over to where the isomorphic projection was standing. Jyster’s matrix flickered several times before he spoke up. “If you are forthcoming about your plans then I will be willing to speak to my crew about what more we can do to help you.”
Appearing to like the sound of that, Jyster nodded in approval. Ignoring the looks from the others, she approached her counterpart. “Captain, that is a good place for us to build upon.” She looked at the others. “While your doctor was treating my sick youngsters, I was compiling an assessment on everyone present and determining who would be apparent good carers for those who require it.”
“Can you elaborate further by what you mean with these assessments?” Doctor Slyvexs said as she crossed her arms against her chest. The Denobulan doctor looked exhausted from the nonstop work she had endured in treating over a thousand people in a small amount of time. “How have you come to these decisions? You barely know us. What makes you a good judge on our characters? We could all be bad parents!”
“By reviewing your interactions and behaviour since boarding my ship, I have begun to compile a list of suitable candidates for each child and youngster.” Jyster replied before looking straight at Odyssey’s first officer. “For example, Commander Duncan, you and your partner Senior Chief Court, I believe would be suitable candidates for carers for my sons Jorgeh and Wylem.”
Duncan and Court looked at one another, a sense of embarrassment appeared across their expressions and both Reyas and Slyvexs, who were not aware of their relationship, looked confused at Jyster’s remark. The captain and Lieutenant Flemen had kept their poker faces intact. Reyas looked at her husband for answers and he just shook his head subtly, indicating not for her to ask him for more information about Duncan and Court.
“And what makes us suitable candidates?” Court tested the hologram, it was obvious he was annoyed that Jyster had determined they were together.
Stepping forward towards them, Jyster looked at them. “You’re both madly in love with one another. When you’re both around one another, sensors detect elevated hormonal levels, increased heart rates…” she paused. “So unless you’re having a medical reaction to something else then I am certain you both are together. As such, I believe you both have the energy and passion that you can also use when caring for my sons. You both have a wide set of experiences and knowledge that means you would be able to cope with raising them. Senior Chief Court, you yourself are what I believe is known as a ‘godparent’ in your culture to the captain’s sons of a similar age. You would only formalise that role more with caring for your own now. I am certain both Jorgeh and Wylem, in time, will develop a strong attachment you both.”
“How do you know what we know and have experienced?” Duncan questioned, he was mad at having to ask that.
“After Commander Hunsen and Lieutenant Commander Jen were able to give me access to more shipwide systems, I was able to interface with your own computer briefly and download your ship’s roster and personnel files.”
“That’s a hostile act in itself.” Slyvexs stated without hesitation. “How can we trust you if you are spying on us?”
“My programme gives me the authority to take whatever measures are necessary to look after our young people. That includes using the technology the Quirennal has to offer to make the best informed decision.” Jyster answered.
Raising his hands in the air, Captain McCallister stepped. “Okay, this going back and forth is not helping anyone.” He looked at Jyster as her program glinted again. “We need a compromise as time is not on our side. As Commander Reyas said, we have members of our crew you’ve taken that have young children back on Odyssey who need their parents to depend on. Again, I’ll ask the same question that Karyn posed to you. Can you truly say that you cannot see that you are creating the same situation there that has bestown the ship and its crew? From one parent to another, how can you be okay with that?”
Flickering more, Jyster appeared to consider McCallister’s point and then looked back at him. “Are you asking me to return those who have younger children and infants to your ship to care for them?” Jyster said. “Meaning the rest must remain here.”
“Yes.” McCallister answered back quickly.
“James, you can’t be serious!” Reyas spoke up as she came closer to her husband’s side.
“Sir, don’t!” Duncan said at the same time as McCallister’s wife. Duncan stood closer to his superior as well.
Looking back at his wife and first officer, McCallister gave them a glance to quiet them both down. “I know what I’m doing.” He looked back at Jyster. “If the rest of us remain, we will seriously look at this situation with you and find a workable solution. Do we have an agreement?”
“No-one who returns can work on saving you.” Jyster stated.
“Alone, the Odyssey is no match for the Quirennal.” McCallister said, still holding his ground with Jyster.
Closing her eyes, she appeared to be accessing more data and after a few seconds she opened her eyes again. “From your own files, you’ll be sending back just over four hundred members of your crew.”
“And the rest of us will stay to deal with this matter in a fair way for all. Do we have an agreement, Captain Jyster?” McCallister was insisting with his tone of voice and body language.
“Agreed.” Jyster closed her eyes, “with one extra add on.”
Exhaling out hard, McCallister told Jyster to name it.
“One person from your crew returns to ensure that no-one attempts to break this agreement we’ve made.” Jyster stated. “And I want it to be Lieutenant Flemen.”
Everyone looked at the diplomatic officer, who appeared surprised by that remark. “Me?” He questioned by pointing to himself. “Why?”
“You’re the only member of the captain’s senior staff who I believe does not have the experience or ability to properly mount a decent rescue plan plus it’s in your nature to accept the diplomatic agreement we’ve made today.” Jyster said bluntly. “Alongside that lieutenant, besides your empathic abilities, I do not believe you would be an appropriate father to any of my children.”
Looking ashamed and hurt by those words, Flemen took a step back. He was comforted by Tomaz straight away who placed his hand on the back of his colleague’s shoulders and whispered the words, “Don’t listen to her.”
“Is this acceptable captain?” Jyster stated to McCallister. “You must order the lieutenant to return and honour what we’ve said here.”
McCallister took in a breath, once again another big one and turned to his diplomatic officer. “Craigen, return to the ship with the others and assume command. Tell Alfie, Henri and Theo that they’ll need to find their own league now, but I love them just as much as everyone else in the family does. Do you understand me?”
Flemen looked at Jyster then to McCallister after being consoled by Tomaz. Nodding a couple of times, the lieutenant spoke up. “I do, sir.”
McCallister turned back to Jyster. “Are we done here for now?”
Jyster agreed and closed her eyes again, her program fizzing slightly and within a few more seconds Flemen disappeared under the glow of a purple hue as he was transported off the ship. “It’s done.” Jyster said. Still her eyes were closed and within a few more seconds the entire group were transported back to the valley where they had originally met. Jyster stood among them still. “Now captain, I believe you have an announcement to make to your crew and to ensure you hold up your end of our deal I’m bringing the Quirennal’s coaxial warp drives online. Just so no-one on the Odyssey gets any ideas in coming after us, now they’ll not be able to find us.”
A louder humming noise could be heard throughout the ship as it started to vibrate suddenly. Then within an instant its faster-than-light drive came to life. The Quirennal moved all of a sudden away from the Odyssey. A sudden surge in energy brought the alien ship more alive; the chaotic webs from its advanced warp drive surrounded it before it disappeared out of sight.