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Part of USS Sarek: An Appetite So Dangerous

Act Two

USS Brigadoon, Research Laboratory
Stardate 78014.9
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The numerical data filled her field of vision –her entire consciousness– to the point the physical world had lost all meaning to her.  The numbers were merely vehicles, of course; it was the anticipation of real world consequences that gripped her attention most fiercely.

When Yuulik looked up from the computer console, it may have been after thirty seconds or after three hours of focus.  It was one or the other but she couldn’t recall which one it was.  The gradual approach of a rapping across the deck broke the data’s spell over her.  The sound led Yuulik’s eyes to rise for Nova’s entrance into the research lab.  To look at her, Nova’s gait appeared effortless and yet Yuulik could hear the determination in each footfall.

Slowing her pace, Nova nodded at Yuulik quizzically.  

“Sootrah?” Nova said in a questioning manner.  Although Nova’s words trailed off, Yuulik could intuit Nova’s meaning from the smirk and wandering gaze.

Diffidently, Yuulik asked, “Do you like it?”  She put a hand on the blue sleeve of her uniform.  Rather than her own uniform from 2401, Yuulik was clad in the skant of Nova’s era.  The only difference between their matching uniforms was the science silver piping across Yuulik’s skant.

“Crawling through all those Jeffries tubes yesterday,” Yuulik explained, “left my uniform a filthy mess.”  She fidgeted with the hem of the short skirt.  “I liked the way you made this one look.”

Nova offered Yuulik a couple of complimentary snaps.  “You fit right in.  It’s like you belong here.”

As much as it meant to Yuulik to hear that, there was an impatience in her that wouldn’t quit. Watching Nova’s approach, it wasn’t the thigh-high boots that caught Yuulik’s eyes.  Yuulik saw Nova as a puzzle with a piece missing from the heart of it.

“Where were you this morning?” Yuulik asked abruptly.

Nova blinked heavily.  Her lips plumped up as she fixed Yuulik with a winning smile.  She hooked a thumb back over her shoulder to indicate from where she had come.

“Life support systems in the shuttle bay were acting up,” Nova answered succinctly.  She joined Yuulik behind the computer console and waved a palm over the scrolling figures on the display.

With an impatience to rival Yuulik’s own, Nova asked, “What do you have here?”

“The Sarek sent me their subspatial transkinetic analysis of the vortex,” Yuulik said.  She tapped two of the sequences on the display with her index finger.  “The Sutherland-class’ sensor capabilities are proving even more precise than what we gathered from the Dvorak seven years ago.  Like all the super-charged anomalies across the Typhon Expanse these days, the vortex is generating far more temporal flux than it was the last time.  I have a theory we should generate our subspace bubble within the higher subspace bandwidths than what Dvorak attempted last time.”

“I started a simulation to test it–” Yuulik continued.  She stabbed an accusatory finger at another computer console.  She spun on her heel and took an urgent step in the direction she had been pointing.  Nova chased after her and planted herself in the path between Yuulik and her computer simulation.

“What are you–?” Yuulik tried to ask.

“I’m seeing something,” Nova answered.  She took a step closer to Yuulik and Yuulik took a step back.

“I suppose there’s no need to rush the simulation,” Yuulik said.  Nova took another step towards her and Yuulik took another step back.

“And why is that?” Nova asked.

Fluttering her eyelashes, Yuulik teasingly said, “Don’t tell your operations manager, but I’m accustomed to a main computer much faster than yours.  I’d bet my simulation isn’t even half-done.”

Nova took one more large step towards Yuulik and when Yuulik stepped back, she bumped into the bulkhead framing the hexagonal viewport.  Yuulik laughed in nervous frustration.  

“What are you doing?” Yuulik tittered.

Raising her chin, Nova asserted, “I’m looking at you.  Your skin positively glows in the starlight.”

“You say that,” Yuulik murmured.  She looked away, folding her arms over her abdomen.  “And you were the first.  You were the first person in Starfleet who could see me.  Everyone else hears me and then they beg me to speak more softly.  You really saw me.”

Nova nodded in affirmation.  “I do.”

Yuulik said, “The only time I cried as a cadet was when I saw you fading into the vortex over that comm screen…”

“Don’t cry,” Nova said softly.  She leaned in close.  “Look up.”

Tilting her head back, Yuulik saw a small mass of vegetation and ribbons hanging from the upper frame of the viewport.

Squinting at it, Yuulik asked, “Do you have a mould problem?”

A chuckle bubbled out of Nova before she recited, “Wasn’t it one of Shakespeare’s sonnets that said: mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it, but a kiss can be even deadlier–“

Although Yuulik was baffled by nearly every word Nova had said.  Kiss was a word she recognised.  Kiss was a consequence that had been on her mind.  And she took it as all the invitation she needed.  Grasping Nova by the shoulders, Yuulik kissed her.  The sensation of ecstatic warmth that permeated every cell of Yuulik’s body was all too fleeting.

From the doorway, Security Chief Kellin Rayco interjected, “Captain Taes reports the cascade effect is accelerating far faster than your projections.  She needs those recommendations you promised her for the static warp shell.”

For a couple of heartbeats, all Yuulik could hear was the urgency cutting through Kellin’s whining.  She had to replay his words in her head a couple of times to think about anything other than kissing Nova.  Kellin’s words only began to make sense to her when she recognised that Taes was denigrating her original work.

With Nova’s arms still wrapped around Yuulik’s waist, Yuulik said, “Airlock the simulations.  We have to test the static warp shells.  Now.  There’s no other time!”

Unceremoniously, Yuulik disentangled herself from Nova to run at the nearest freestanding console.  With one hand, Yuulik accessed the Brigadoon‘s sensor systems, looking for herself at the status of the vortex.  Simultaneously with her other hand, Yuulik transmitted her revised forcefield specifications to the Brigadoon‘s bridge and the USS Sarek.

Otherwise left in the lurch, Nova teased Yuulik, “Leaping without looking, huh?”

“You can say that again,” Kellin chimed in.

Nova had been halfway in her stride toward another computer console when Kellin spoke.  Nova spun on Kellin and she scoffed at him.

“What do you mean by that?” Nova snapped at Kellin.  Almost immediately, she talked over him to say, “Don’t you talk about Yuulik like that!”

Kellin snorted.  “Maybe you should ask Yuulik about blood dilithium.”

“This is different!” Yuulik insisted.  Tapping on the sensor readings, Yuulik explained, “The levels of temporal flux are rising; we won’t be able to beam back to the Sarek.  The gravitational pull of the vortex is too strong for our shuttle’s engines too.  If we don’t collapse the vortex now, we could be trapped here forever!”

While Nova logged into her console, she asked, “Yuulik, what’s he talking about?  What is blood dilithium?”

“Go on,” Kellin prodded, “Tell her.”

“A mistake!” Yuulik said through gritted teeth.  She kept her eyes on the sensor readings; if Kellin was going to mention Yuulik’s epigenetic self-experimentation, she couldn’t bear to watch the reaction on Nova’s face.  “I made a tiny mistake.  I cared too much about solving a mystery.  It got… scary.”

Kellin countered with, “All that care of yours could have destroyed your precious mind.”

Yuulik opened her mouth but she swallowed her riposte when gravimetric vibrations rumbled through the Brigadoon.  The deck shook beneath Yuulik’s feet and she grabbed hold of her console to steady herself.  She watched Kellin fall into the doorframe with his shoulder and Nova dropped herself onto a stool at a computer console.

“The Brigadoon and the Sarek have engaged their static warp shells,” Yuulik reported out what she saw on the sensor display.  “Pinned between the two subspace barriers, the vortex’s energy matrix is dispersing as subspace oscillations.”

As another wave of gravimetric vibration rocked the Brigadoon, the deck canted left and the lights flickered on and off.  For the moment, Yuulik observed, the computer consoles’ sub-processors appeared unaffected by the strain.

A master systems display on Nova’s console demonstrated system adjustments being made by other officers on the bridge and engineering.  Nova’s fingers swiped and struck over the controls, evidently re-routing power flows where necessary.

This became all the more clear when Nova advised, “Spikes of temporal flux are interfering with our EPS distribution.  We can’t risk losing power to the forcefield emitters.  Not yet.”

Yuulik shook her head at the measurements of temporal flux from the sensor instruments.  If anything, the intensity of temporal flux was increasing, when it should have been subsiding.

“We need to modify the static warp shells to an even higher subspace frequency,” Yuulik determined.  As she tapped at her controls, she told Nova, “Notifying the bridge and the Sarek.”

When gravimetric vibrations shook the Brigadoon again, they were stronger than Yuulik’s grip.  Yuulik tumbled to the floor.  An EPS tap in the overhead exploded, showering Yuulik in sparks.  She covered her head with her hands reflexively.  For all his bluster earlier, Kellin was by Yuulik’s side in an instant.  He was lifting her up before she even saw him and walked her back to the sensor console.

“Are you okay?” Nova asked Yuulik.

“Yeah,” Yuulik swiftly said.

Her attention returned to the ship’s operations, Nova reported, “Boosting field integrity to the warp nacelles!”

Yuulik regained her bearings in a moment that came together with singular clarity.  She planted her boots in an athletic posture.  Her body felt stronger just from listening to the timbre of Nova’s voice and the soundness of Nova’s interventions.  Yuulik took hold of the side of her console with one hand and used her other to scroll through the sensor data.  Both starships had changed the frequencies of their static warp shells and the measurements of the vortex’s temporal flux levels were plummeting.  The combination of sensor readings were more beautiful than any work of art Yuulik had ever seen.

“The static warp shells are converging!” Yuulik gleefully announced.  “It’s happening!  Nova, it’s really–“

Yuulik grinned over at Nova, but there was nobody sitting on the stool.  Urgent menu options flashed on Nova’s computer console, but there was nobody there to make selections.

“Nova?” Yuulik yelled, looking around.  “Nova?”

Because the deck stopped shaking and the superstructure stopped vibrating, Yuulik took her eyes off the sensor readings.  Desperately, Yuulik turned her head from side to side, searching the entire research laboratory with her eyes.  It was plain to see.  Yuulik was alone in the lab with Kellin; Nova was nowhere in sight.

“You did it, Yuulik!” Kellin cheered.  “We survived!”

Yuulik dropped her gaze to her sensor panel once more.  Absently, she remarked, “Sensors are picking up no sign of the vortex…”

Witlessly, Kellin’s jaw dropped, agape.  He charged at the viewport and he braced his palms against the transparent aluminum barrier.  Gasping in apparent panic, he banged his hands against the viewport.

“Yuulik, it’s not only the vortex!” Kellin cried.  “The Sarek is gone too!”