Part of USS Centaur: Mission 4: Road Not Taken and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Chapter One – The Encounter

USS Centaur
February 2400
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“Wait, what?” Vakai proclaimed, slightly annoyed by the sudden information that was given to him.

Commander Maxwell crossed his arms over his chest. “Captain Carter will be taking half of the crew and taking temporary command of one of the other small vessels. While the Centaur works on closing that rift, Captain Carter and other vessels will be working on evacuating the colony that is a couple light years away from said rift. Because of that rift, it is causing storms to become more volatile. So you, Commander Vakai, will officially be in command of the Centaur during this operation.”

Vakai sighed, “Nice surprise when we were just about to depart, sir.” He said as he stared at the man’s face on the holo display in the office slash quarters that is apparently his now for the time being.

“It came as a surprise to me as well, Commander. Just relaying the message. Also you will be taking on a few new officers who shall assist you with the mission. They should help make your job go more smoothly.” Said Maxwell.

Vakai nodded his head in acceptance to this sudden change and new officers. “Copy that. Centaur will depart the second they are on board.”

“Good. We need you to get over there as soon as possible, Commander. Maxwell out.” And with that, the image blinked away and the holo display disappeared.

Vakai stood up from the chair and made his way to the Bridge as he tapped his badge. “Vakai to Ryker. Check the duty roster for three new officers. Find out if they have checked in and if they have, get us out of this dry dock and set a course for that subspace rift, maximum warp.”

“They’re already here sir. I am requesting permission for departure now.”

“Good man. I’ll be there in a minute. Vakai out.” He then stepped into the turbolift and let out yet another sigh as he started to rub the palm and the back of his right hand. He wasn’t hallucinating or feeling the pain of the trauma from his interrogation, but what the Counselor has mentioned was that he may also be suffering from what she called ‘phantom pains’. Although it was not like it was hurting, it was just tingling and a lot. He’s had it addressed with Doctor Pearce several times but she could find nothing on her medical scans. What Vakai has discovered though, is that any time he is a little bit stressed, his right hand would start to tingle. He knew about Captain Carter being put on the sidelines and that he was going to be in Command of the Centaur, but having half the crew taken away and three new officers just out of the blue was what bothered him. But of course, he is not the First Officer anymore, Ryker is Acting First Officer of the ship, who has most likely heard of the new officers but likely not been given the chance to review their records. This was just adding some bit of stress and now his right hand won’t stop tingling.

The second the doors split open to reveal the Bridge to him, he let go of his right hand, closed and opened it a few times before pushing the tingling sensation out of his mind and walked to his chair. But instead of sitting in it, he placed his hand on the top of it and watched on the main viewer, as the ship had left the dry dock it had been sitting in for over a month before the stars shifted as the ship turned and in a couple of minutes, the ship’s warp engines propelled it into warp velocity and began its adventure to the subspace rift, one of several or more that they been tasked to close.

“How long until we arrive, Commander Ryker?” He looked at the back of the man’s head who sat at the helm station.

Ryker turned in his seat to look back at Vakai. “At maximum warp, about a day’s journey. The rift that we are after is not too deep in the Paulson Nebula, but reports indicate that it is causing some disruption in warp travel, so I will do my best to get as close as we can but it will take an additional sixteen hours to arrive at the rift at full impulse.”

“Very good.” Said Vakai before he looked around on the Bridge and saw a couple officers that he did not recognize. A Trill and a Saurian. “Excuse me, Lieutenants?” Vakai said after he stepped closer to them.

Both of which turned to face him before introducing themselves, “Commander! My name is Bazial, I am your new Chief Science Officer.” Said the Trill with a warm smile.

The Saurian however, not much of a smile but a slight tilt of their head. “Lieutenant Gatia, Commander. Your Chief of Operations. Well, temporary of course.” She said as she looked at Bazial, which showed that Gatia made the proper correction that the Trill forgot.

Bazial cleared her throat. “Yes, of course. Captain Carter has the other half of his senior staff on board the Saber vessel that they’re using to assist in the evacuation of the colony.”

Vakai nodded his head a bit, as he understood what they had said. “Of course. Then I am going to need you two to monitor and scan that subspace rift as much as possible when we arrive, so that way we know exactly what we need to do to close it.”

“I will work with the Chief Engineer in making the necessary modifications to the secondary deflector dish in order to close the rift, but we will need the sensor data from Lieutenant Bazial.” Said Gatia.

“Which you will get and much more.” She said with excitement in her tone of voice.

“We will only need what is necessary to close the rift, Bazial.” Said Gatia.

“Of course but…nevermind.” She cleared her throat and began to turn away.

Vakai raised his hand up in the air as a halt command to her actions. “Hold on now. Explain, Lieutenant.” He directed at her.

She cleared her throat. “Not all subspace rifts are the same. Some may cause temporal effects, some may be gateways to alternate realities, some could be potentially dangerous and lethal to the ship and crew and some we’ve yet to come across that are hypothesized.”

Ryker, having overheard, turned in his seat. “Dangerous and lethal?”

She smiled apologetically, “This one apparently is not. It was detected via long range from Starbase Bravo and there were no properties detected that would consider it to be dangerous. Which is why we are on our way to close it and not some other vessel with far better defenses.”

Gomez, who had been sitting at the Engineering Station with her arms crossed against her chest, had been listening and decided to chip in. “No subspace rift is safe, regardless of what sensors detect.”

Bazial blushed and nodded her head. “Of course, Chief. But to simply put, we just do not know what this rift is and we won’t know until we get a closer look.”

Vakai shrugged a shoulder before he made his way back to his chair. “Well, Lieutenant, we are all going to find out once we get there. Because I doubt we will get that rift closed right away, right Chief?” Vakai turned to face Gomez with his question.

She nodded her head. “Of course, Commander. Depending on what modifications we have to do to the warp engines and the secondary deflector, it could take a while before we can even begin to close it but once we begin, it could take several minutes.”

“There, you see. Plenty of time.” Vakai smiled at Bazial.

She smiled even more, “Of course, Commander!” She cleared her throat lightly and sat back down at her station.

“If you do not mind, Chief. I would like to get the secondary deflector prepared with the necessary modifications. There are some things that we can at least get started with.” Said Gatia.

“Of course, Lieutenant. I’ll come with you.” Gomez pushed herself out of her chair and the two stepped into the turbolift.

Ryker then slipped out of his chair and stood beside Vakai to whisper. “Well you met two of the three new officers and I suspect you won’t like the third.”

Vakai frowned, “Why is that?”

“She’s a Counselor.” Ryker told him.

Vakai’s frown deepened. “This ship is too small for a ship’s counselor.”

“Exactly.” Ryker said before he went right back to his station.

Vakai sat there in thought for a moment before he pushed himself out of his chair, “Ryker, you have the conn.” And with that he went to the turbolift, waited for the next car to arrive before he stepped in to locate this Counselor.

To which the Counselor was in Sickbay, getting her ‘standard procedure’ medical examination. “Is this really necessary?”

Sivol closed her medical tricorder before looking at the Lieutenant Commander. “Of course it is. You of all people should know that, Commander Sucil.”

Sucil sighed and closed her eyes, only to open a second later and looked at Sivol “You’re doing this because of your feelings for Commander Vakai.”

Sivol paused in her movement to return the medical tricorder to its drawer, only to turn around and gave Sucil a harsh glare. “I think you know that regulations are fairly strict on Betazed Officers using their telepathic abilities to read another Officer’s mind without permission. Correct?”

“Of course.” She smiled.

“Then if you read my mind one more time, I will file a complaint and an immediate removal of your service from this ship to Starfleet Command. Do I make myself clear?” Sivol ordered.

“Of course, Doctor.” Sucil said with a smile still on her face. Then she turned her head when she heard the door to Sickbay open and saw the one man she was tasked to watch over carefully. “Commander! I was planning on reporting to you, but I got held up.”

“Cut the chit chat, Commander. I know exactly why you are here.” Vakai told her as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Didn’t think you were a Betazoid, Commander.”

“Lieutenant Commander Nuri Sucil. You will stand at attention and address me as ‘sir’!” Vakai’s voice became louder and more stern.

She slipped off of the biobed and stood at attention as she was instructed. “Sir, yes sir!” Though she had a problem in removing that smile.

Vakai frowned, “I do not care if Commander Maxwell assigned you to this ship to monitor me. But you will adhere to Starfleet Regulations and you will not read my mind or anyone else’s mind on this ship for as long as I am in Command, do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir. Unfortunately, the Task Force Executive’s orders supersedes yours, sir.” She told him.

“Really now? Am I not officially in command of the Centaur, Commander Sucil?” He asked her.

“You are, sir.”

“Then while I am in Command, you will follow my orders and I am ordering you to keep your telepathic mind reading abilities to yourself or I will have you sent back to Devron Fleet Yards in a shuttle. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal, sir. But if you do that sir, you will never Command a Starship again.” She explained to him.

“Excuse me?” Vakai asked.

“Assuming this is a permission to speak freely, sir. But I am not just here on Commander Maxwell’s orders. I am also here under Commander Vax’s orders as well. The Counselor that you were seeing, remember? Not only does Commander Maxwell have the authority to give and take away your Command, but so does the Counselor. If I see that your trauma affects your command decisions on this mission and puts everyone at risk, I will have no choice but to report it to Commander Vax and she will make the decision on whether you are allowed to remain in Command or not.” She explained to him. “Of course, I am not supposed to be telling you that, but you’re not really giving me much of a choice, sir, considering how angry you are.”

“What did I tell you about-”

“Pardon my interruption, sir. But I was not reading your mind. I can read facial expressions as well, and your face gave it away.” She mused.

“Are you done examining her, Sivol?” Vakai asked.

“Of course, Commander.”

“Good. Report to the Bridge, Commander Sucil. Dismissed.”

“Sir, yes, sir!” She acknowledged before leaving sickbay, that smile still stuck on her face.

Vakai turned around to face Sivol and leaned back against the end of the biobed. He began to rub the bridge of his nose. “Should have expected this.” He told himself, but out loud of course as he wanted Sivol’s opinion.

She moved in between biobeds and leaned back against the edge of one before she folded her arms across her chest. “It was indeed to be expected. But her smug attitude may be a problem.”

Vakai shook his head, “I would have accepted any counselor but a Betazoid? That only screams problems. Especially with that smug attitude.” He shook his head before he moved in between the biobeds and leaned against one across from her. He looked into her eyes, “This is only going to stress me out more than I need.” He told her as he held out his right hand, which he began to close and open a few times.

Sivol reached out to take his right hand in both of hers and began to massage it gently. “It’s tingling right now?” Vakai nodded his head. She was tempted to go get her medical tricorder but knew from Doctor Pearce’s logs, the tricorder won’t pick up anything. “Is any of this helping?”

Vakai stared at her face, “Just you alone is always helpful.”

She smiled at him, “Shut up charmer, or she’s going to sense it all the way from the Bridge.”

Vakai shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t care. The tingling is going away, and that’s because of you and to me, that is all that matters.” And when the tingling did stop, he did not pull his hand away from her massaging hands.

“So what are you going to do with our ship’s counselor?” She asked.

He sighed with yet another shrug of his shoulders. “I don’t know. Only thing I can really do is just be myself and hope this mission succeeds.”

“Just try not to let her stress you out too much. Less chances you have of an episode, the better your chances of remaining in Command.” She told him before she leaned in, pressed her lips against his, which would be locked together for what seemed like a minute before Vakai pulled away.

“I will do my best. But I should return to the Bridge. Got Command Duties to perform, so that the Counselor’s report back looks spotless.”

Sivol smiled, “Of course. Tonight?”

Vakai smiled right back, “Absolutely.” And with that, he departed Sickbay to head right back for the Bridge.

The Centaur made the long trek via warp and full impulse to the subspace rift. The crew themselves had spent their time in being prepared for what was to come and what they would need to do to close it. As the ship closed in for the twenty kilometer stopping point from the rift, the scientific fun began.

“All right, Lieutenant. Run your scans. Engineering and Operations need everything they can to make the proper modifications so that we can close this rift before it makes the storm more dangerous to the colony than it needs to be.” Vakai ordered as he leaned forward a bit in his chair, stared at what looked like a tear in space with bright light that emanated from the very center, bolts of electricity that spewed out randoming from its edges.

“Running every scan I can think of, sir.” Said Bazial. There was a moment of silence for a few minutes, until the Lieutenant gasped loudly for all to hear. “Amazing!”

“What is it?” Ryker asked, still at the Helm.

“This rift is absolutely much different from any other rift Starfleet has encountered. I don’t even know how it is possible.” She exclaimed while her eyes were locked onto her displays, reading the information as it came to her console.

“Explain.” Vakai ordered.

There was a pause for what seemed like a few minutes that Vakai was about to make another order when the Lieutenant turned in her seat to look at everyone else, her eyes still open wide in, her face filled with shock, surprise and excitement. She licked her lips as her eyes began to dart around the Bridge, looking at each and every person one at a time and they kept doing so as she began to explain. “We all know about the differences in Alternate Realities, correct? Like, quantum signatures?”

“Of course.” Said Sucil, who stood there beside Vakai with her hands clasped together behind her back. Her way of keeping a close eye on him.

“The rift is absolutely, one hundred percent, a gateway to an alternate reality but the quantum signature is almost identical except for the last two digits after the decimal point. Which has never happened before in Starfleet history!” Her excitement grew. “I mean, this rift is basically showing a nearly identical reality to our very own.”

Gomo turned in his seat, his tactical station now adjacent with the helm. He had a frown on his face from all this new information. “But how is that possible? No reality has a quantum signature that is nearly identical to our own.”

“Exactly. I mean, it’s almost perfectly identical, but the numbers after the decimal point are clearly different, which still signifies that the reality is different from ours. But that’s not the only thing that is incredibly remarkable here.” Bazial turned in her seat and looked at the data before she turned once again to look at everyone. “There is one significant number that we’ve never seen change until now. It’s like, the quantum signature would be like us as beings, unique to each individual, which is what alternate realities are, unique to each one. These sets of numbers, that are usually always the same, are like a race. Prime example, humans.”

“Is that really the best way to describe that in terminology?” Ryker asked.

She sighed and tapped her chin, “Okay. Let me try it this way. It is like a class of ship. The number is like, for example, the Centaur and the quantum signatures is the equipment on the Centaur. We can easily swap most of this equipment with any other Centaur class vessel out there.”

Gomez shook her head, “Except a lot of our equipment could fit on any other class vessel out there.”

Bazial groaned and tapped her chin some more. “Okay! I got it. Starfleet has its own unique operating system. Quantum signatures are like the software to the operating system. These sets of numbers are basically telling me that whatever is on the other side of that rift, is a completely different operating system. A completely different universe from our own.”

Gatia tilted her head in curiosity. “So what you are saying is…some events in that universe never happened?”

Bazial looked at the Saurian then at everyone else. “It means that that universe has very different species, and a very different outcome to everything, except…for Earth. That is why the quantum signature is almost perfectly identical to ours right now. Events on Earth happened exactly on the other side of that rift, as they did on Earth in our universe, in our reality. Exactly.”

Ryker whistled. “So what would happen if we were to cross through that rift then?”

“Well, for one, we shouldn’t. Because there is one last thing that I need to address. But first, let me explain what would happen if we did. Because that universe is on a completely separate operating system, which by the way, was completely theoretical up until this point. We are not even sure if our method of faster than light travel will work or not. It could take days, weeks or months to reconfigure the warp engines to establish a stable warp field bubble around the ship in order to travel at warp speeds. See, hardwares will work on a different operating system but some softwares will not. We are basically the hardware, we will survive perfectly fine because of the basics that we need. You know, air, food, water, etcetera. All the equipment on board the Centaur is software, and a lot of it will work but the more critical softwares like the warp engines, may need a patch update in order for it to work properly.” Bazial explained.

Ryker nodded his head, “So we would be stranded.”

“Until we can reconfigure the warp engines, as she explained, yup.” Gomez told him with a smirk.

Ryker returned the smirk before he looked back at Bazial. “So what’s the last thing you mentioned?”

She smiled. “The rift also goes into the past. Three hundred and seventy eight years into the past, exactly. The year would basically be Twenty Twenty-Two, instead of Twenty-Four Hundred.”

Vakai shook his head, “Then we would be advised to not cross through that rift. Even if it is an alternate reality or a completely different universe, we would risk contaminating the past of that reality and we can’t risk that.”

“Well…” Bazial shrugged her shoulders with her hands up above them. “That’s where it becomes complicated. If by some strange unfortunate circumstances that we did cross over, there would be nothing to say in their reality that we never did. I mean, we could be playing out a role that was meant to happen. But on the other hand, if the Earth’s events are identical to each other, then we would have to avoid mentioning anything past Twenty Twenty-Two. But that would literally be the only consequence that we would have to avoid.”

Vakai shook his head, he needed more time than they have to process this. “Nevertheless, we are going to remain here, twenty kilometers away from the rift. Gomez. Gatia. Do you have all the data you need to make the necessary modifications to close this rift?”

The two looked at each other, then their consoles to review the data that was sent to them before they turned to look back at Vakai. “Yes, sir.” They said in unison.

Vakai smiled. “Good. Then if you two would mind getting those modifications done to the warp core and to the secondary deflector dish, that would be swell. Sooner we get this rift closed, the less damage the storm could cause to the colony and to the ships that are evacuating the population.”

But before they could acknowledge his orders, warning alarms went off and the rift before them began to react violently. The bolts of electricity became more frequent and bright light in the center began to dim. Something was happening and their instruments did not like it. Not one bit.

“We’re holding steady at twenty kilometers from the rift, Commander. But my console is displaying some sort of gravitational pull coming from the rift.” Ryker reported.

“I don’t understand. The rift was perfectly fine. We didn’t do anything yet!” Said Bazial.

“Then what is going on, Lieutenant? Is this sudden change to the rift going to affect the storm in the region?” Vakai asked.

“Scanning now but I am not seeing any changes to the storm’s intensity. The Storm is not being affected, sir. But…the hell?” Bazial frowned at the sensor data that her console was receiving and displayed to her.

“What, Lieutenant?” Vakai started to grow annoyed with the sudden cease of information from the Science officer.

“I think something is emerging from the rift!” She said as she turned in her seat to look at the view screen, much as everyone else did on the Bridge.

In a matter of seconds, a large object that at first seemed like to be only a pillar but gew in width as the entirety of the vessel slowly emerged from the rift. It was about the same size compared to the Centaur and it was still coming towards them. At least, that was until it slowly came to a stop before it slowly started to head back towards the rift.

“Ryker, turn us around, full one eighty. Lieutenant Gatia, get the aft tractor beam locked onto that ship.”

“Aye, sir.” They said in unison, watching on the main viewer as the image shifted.

“Full one eighty turn complete, Commander.” Said Ryker.

“Aft tractor beam locked on but fluctuating. The rift is causing some interference. Compensating.” Said Gatia.

“Ryker, give us speed that would help pull that ship away from the rift but don’t lose that tractor beam.” Vakai ordered.

“On it.” Ryker’s fingers tapped several commands, slowly the Centaur began to pull the unknown vessel away from the rift.

“Commander, I got the tractor beam stabilized, we can increase speed.” Gatia said to Ryker.

“Copy that. Thanks, Lieutenant!” Ryker complimented and did just that before he brought both ships to a stop. “We are holding at thirty kilometers from the rift, which seems to be right outside of the gravitational pull of the rift.” Ryker informed Vakai after he turned in his seat to face him.

Vakai nodded his head in acknowledgement. “Thank you, Ryker. I want a full sensor scan of that vessel. Lifesigns. Damage. Offensive and defensive capabilities. Everything.”

“Sensors are detecting shield generators, of what kind is unknown. Beam emitters, point defense systems and…missile launchers? There is also another weapon system, I think it’s a weapon system, but I am uncertain of its function.” Said Gomo. “But there appears to be some cylinder-like tube just behind the row of missile launchers and it leads to a bay full of…small dormant objects.”

“Torpedoes maybe?” Ryker asked.

Gomo turned his head to look at Ryker. “Nothing like any torpedo launch system I’ve ever seen.”

“It has maneuvering thrusters, some sort of sublight drive system that sensors can’t tell what they are nor are the sensors capable of determining what kind of faster than light drive they have and the power plant…again, sensors can’t figure it out.” Said Gomez as she turned in her eyes with confusion on her face. “It is nothing Starfleet has ever encountered before.”

“It’s hull is composed of elements that the computer doesn’t even recognize. Its sensor array is also unknown to the computer and has transportation systems that are not recognized either. Hell, sensors are even picking up smaller crafts that look like fighters. A couple that look like standard shuttles but the shape is more…cylindrical.” Said Gatia.

Bazial frowned before she turned in her seat to look at Vakai. “While most of the sensors are operating efficiently, the sensor pallets for the lifesign scanners are running into some sort of interference. I can’t tell if it is from the rift or from something else on that ship.”

“So we have no way of knowing if there are people on board, alive or dead?” Vakai asked.

She shook her head. “No sir.”

“Sir, there is one more thing that I just noticed.” Gatia spoke up, who then tapped in a few commands to adjust the main view screen to bring the ship up and zoom in on the port hangar bay. There, they can clearly see a large hole in what was supposed to be a door, as well as a shimmer of some type of forcefield. “Looks like they have been attacked. Not only that, sensors have detected two crafts that do not match any of the other small crafts in that hangar. Even the material that those two crafts are made of, don’t match. It’s possible that, if there are people on board-”

Vakai stood up from his chair, “Then they’ve been boarded and are in trouble. Transporters?”

Gatia faced her console, entered some commands then faced Vakai with a shake of her head. “Negative. The rift is causing some sort of interference with the transporters as well as with the lifesign scanners. But I have scanned the forcefield, I believe that I can modify the shields of a small craft to allow it to pass through the forcefield to enter that hangar bay.”

“All right then. Inform Lieutenants Koyda and Maya to prepare two teams. We’re going to board that vessel and see what kind of assistance we can give them.” Vakai said as he began to head for the turbolift.

“Excuse me, Commander. But where do you think you are going?” Sucil’s voice filled the Bridge.

Vakai halted in his tracks, not to what she said but how she said it, and turned around to face her. “I beg your pardon, Lieutenant Commander?”

“I meant no disrespect, sir. But you are the Commanding Officer of this vessel and per regulations, you cannot lead the away team.” She told him. “And we did quote regulations earlier, did we not, sir?”

Vakai frowned at her with a harsh glare before he took a deep breath and sighed with a long exhale. He then returned to his seat and looked at Ryker. “Commander. Lead the away team and report back your findings.”

“That’s going to be a problem, sir.” Said Bazial as Ryker stood up from his seat.

“Why is that?” Ryker and Vakai asked at the same time, both looked at each other. Ryker shrugged a shoulder and Vakai smirked.

“The rift seems to be also causing interference with the comm systems.” She explained.

Gatia tilted her head then looked back at her console, with a few commands tapped, she let out a sigh of annoyance. “She is correct, sir. I will attempt to compensate for the interference, but we will have no communication with the away team once they are on board.”

“Terrific.” Said Vakai before he looked back at Ryker. “Be careful over there. Got it?”

Ryker laughed. “You know me. We’ll be fine.” He then made his way to the turbolift.

“I mean it, James.” Vakai said as he turned his seat to face the man who stepped into the lift.

“You have my word, Vakai.” Ryker winked with a smile before the door closed.

Vakai clenched his right hand, the tingling sensation having returned. Great.