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Part of USS Cantabras: The Array and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Ghosts and Reflection

USS Cantabras
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Alex stepped into the holodeck and was greeted by a forest clearing, complete with a small flowing creek and footbridge going over it. “Hello old friend,” Alex said with a smile.

“Mr. Benson, it has been a while. Time has been kind to you. Is that gray trying to break out amidst your hair?”

“Ah, that trademark Maltavius humor. Not all of us can be ageless holograms.” Alex responded. 

“You have not practiced for some time Alex,” Maltavius said sagely. “I am not sure where we left off.”

“Yes you do, you’re a computer program. You can look it up in a microsecond.”

Maltavius smiled warmly, something Alex always felt was at odds with the man’s Romulan appearance. “I suppose I could. But do you remember the movements? That, my dear friend, would be the real question.”

“I haven’t done any of them for over a decade, so no.” Alex sat on the grass, “We can get to the martial arts stuff another time. I think I just need a friend right now.”

Maltavius sat on the grass next to Alex, with a worried look, “Of course my friend, what weighs on your mind?”

“I’ve been reinstated into Starfleet. We’re on the holodeck of the vessel I’m in command of.”

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” Maltavius said. “Is it an Intrepid like the Bismarck?”

Alex chuckled wryly, “Not quite. It’s a Raven-class. We’re currently on our way to fight Dominion forces to retake a telescope for the Federation.”

Maltavius raised an eyebrow, “In a Raven? That sounds like lambs being led to the slaughter.”

“That’s the consensus of the crew too. Half of them think it’s a suicide mission.”

Maltavius chuckled, “Should I ask which half you fall under?”

“I’m not sure I’d have a solid answer for you.” Alex sighed, “I don’t think it’s supposed to be a direct assault. It’s more of a stealth mission. A smaller ship with higher maneuverability, and all that.”

“There seems to be more than that bothering you.”

“Intuitive as always.” Alex absentmindedly picked at the grass, not meeting Maltavius’ gaze. “I saw April recently.”

“I am guessing from your tone it was not a happy reunion.”

“She is, or I guess was, the leader of a terrorist organization. Starfleet charged me with putting her down.”

“That does not sound like the girl in pigtails I knew. I figure she would grow up to be a scientist or engineer, given how curious she always was.” Maltavius hesitated a while, “So did you?”

“No,” Alex said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I let her get away. I told everyone she was lost in the shuffle of combat. And my crew hates me for it. They don’t say it, but I know they’re thinking it.”

“That’s not an easy decision to make. I am not sure if it were Marianne that I would not make the same decision.”

The two men sat in silence, the only sound was the movement of the small creek.

“She looked just like her mother,” Alex said, finally breaking the silence. “I don’t know if that factored in or not. It reminded me of the promise I made to her. But now she’s a fugitive from the Federation. I don’t know if I did more harm than good.” Alex chuckled, “The best part is the world she was terrorizing? They’re slavers. They enslave their people to mine felmite. I hear that some were children. And they wanted to use our help as a springboard to join the Federation.”

“Not all of the Federation members were at their best when joining. But it is the striving to be better that made them better.”

“I suppose you’re right. I still mentioned it in my report.” 

“Are you hoping the Federation will reject their application?”

“Before you started getting all sagely I did,” Alex smirked. “It’s now in the hands of the Federation, regardless of what I think.”

Maltavius beamed, “I could not challenge your thought processes if I did not. Besides, that is why you came to speak with me.”

“You got me there, man”, Alex said standing up and brushing off his clothes. Maltavius rose as well. Alex stared at the holographic representation of his friend. “I miss you, man. Probably more than I originally thought.” The two men shook hands.

Maltavius beamed, “I may no longer be alive, but I can still exist in this space.” He motioned around the clearing. “And you can speak to me whenever you like.”

“I’ll take you up on that, old friend,” Alex smiled. “Computer, end program.” The holodeck returned to the yellow and black grid as Alex walked out.

“Computer, access Chief Science Officer Lieutenant Commander Liam Marska’s log from USS Mendel. And display them on my console,” Tani said, turning her attention to the console on her desk. The logs that were requested displayed on the screen. “So you did find the microbe,” she said while reading. “You sniveling piece of… whoa. It turns out it was a bioweapon.” She further delved into the logs. “Or it will be if you’re not careful. You’re looking in the wrong place. It should be on the 36th marker, not the 17th.” She sighed, “You’re going to blow up the entire planet. Computer, send a message to-” She stopped herself, “disregard the last command. He wouldn’t listen to me anyway. He’s so far up himself that he wouldn’t listen to me anyway.”

She rose from the desk and flopped on the couch in her quarters. “Computer, replay the last personal log of Lieutenant Commander Liam Marska.”

Personal officer logs are restricted from non-investigatory Starfleet personnel and senior officers,” the computer stated.

“Override, access code Marska-Sigma-Bravo-Bravo 3-8-5.”

Override code accepted,

Liam’s voice came over the speakers in her room, “Personal log of Lieutenant Commander Liam Marska. I’ve become so frustrated with the microbe. If only I-”

“Had a functioning brain that knew to look at the 36th biomarker,” Tani said over his voice.

I found a replacement for Lieutenant Commander Veva.”

Tani scoffed, “Not likely.”

“He arrived two days ago and already is exceeding the expectations of the job. He respectfully challenges my opinion, unlike the previous colleague in his position.”

“I’m sorry if I’m more right than you.”

Liam continued to speak about the previous week exploring aboard the Mendel and personal matters, while Tani provided a colorful running commentary of derogatory and churlish remarks. Then a pause, Tani almost thought he’d quit speaking. Then he spoke again, and by his tone, Tani could tell he was smiling. “I decided to ask Lieutenant Brosa on a date. I think we’ve been skirting the issue for a few days now. We joked that I could’ve ordered her to go,” he chuckled. “Anyway, we’ve found a great place on-”

“Computer, stop log,” Tani said abruptly. She felt her face flush and the tears coming down her face before she realized it. She sniffled, “Computer, access Starfleet Science Corps on the Arcania Cluster. Narrate the entries.”

She curled up on her couch and numbly listened to Starfleet scientist drone on about the Arcania Cluster.

“So we’re going to the Arcania Cluster,” Logan mused. “Man, you are probably insanely jealous Chavez.” Logan thought a minute, “Unless you’ve been there already…” He shrugged, “Who cares? You were always a jerk anyway. And could never take a joke.”

He stared out of the forward window at the stars blazing by. That was something that you couldn’t do in larger starships. It was always a simulated view. A very convincing one, but a pilot could always tell the difference. He tapped a few buttons to run a flight simulation of the Arcania Cluster. “And… smash-o-crash-o,” Logan sighed at the results. “Computer, what are the probabilities of successfully piloting through the Arcania Cluster and reaching the Liakso Array telescope?”

“The likelihood of a pilot with moderate skill reaching the Liakso Array telescope is one thousand-”

“Whoa, whoa! Computer, stop!” Logan exclaimed and almost jumped out of his seat. “I forgot to never ask a computer the odds.” He paused, “Wait, she said ‘moderate skill’,” he smiled. “Good thing I’m a pilot of exceptional skill. Most of the time.”

He typed in a modification to the simulations. Logan found himself reaching into his pocket and gripping the dog tags inside. “Come on Naran, show me something man.” Another result of failure, Logan laughed. “You always were able to dish out a joke as well as you took one.” 

He pulled the dog tags out of his pocket and held them in his hand. Logan ran his thumb across the engraving. “You must be laughing at this ultimate joke. ‘How is Carter going to get out of this one?’” He stared down at the dog tags, “Well, I don’t much have a choice here. It’s either I figure this out, or we’ll all be crushed into space dust.” Logan gulped, “I hope that’s not the punchline you’re going for.”

Logan punched in commands to run another simulation. “That reminds me: I wonder if Pri has found my prank yet…”

Priam made his way through the dining room. He’d been working for hours on a way to circumvent the Dominion ships. So long, it seemed, that hunger quickly crept on him. Priam looked through the cabinets in the galley. “Ah, real food!” He exclaimed, “No replicated stuff for me.” He pulled a few items, mostly rations, from the cabinet.

Heading to a nearby table, he laid out his found culinary treasures. It wasn’t a gourmet meal, but it would suffice to sustain him. Priam picked up a jar and inspected it. “Jaffra sauce”?” He said suspiciously. “I’ve never heard of this before.” Inspecting the jar, he read, “’Made from the finest jaffra fish.’ What’s a jaffra fish?” He opened the jar and a large plastic sea serpent sprung out of it,” Priam jumped and yelped in surprise. “This has to be Logan’s doing,” he said, narrowing his eyes. He placed the serpent back into the jar and closed it. “It sounds gross anyway.”

Priam turned his attention to the rest of the items, cautiously testing to make sure no tricks were placed on them. He was relieved to find none. The meal was simple: A sandwich with some freeze-dried fruit and protein supplements. After consuming the meal, Priam felt a deep regret as he realized the items were probably for emergencies when the replicators didn’t work. He went to the replicators and ordered a raktajino. Priam picked up the cup and left the dining room, destined for Main Engineering.

The doors to Main Engineering opened, and Priam tapped the top of the door frame twice before entering. He set his cup on the desk and picked up the device he’d been working on. Priam turned it over and carefully inspected it. Something was missing. He snapped his fingers, “Computer, play Ludra Kognus’ ‘The Rejoining’, Act 3, Scene 8, Movement 23.” Slow, mournful orchestral music began to play throughout Main Engineering. Priam hummed along as he inspected the object, “Oh here it is!” He said as he picked up a tool on the table and pressed it into the device. After some careful manipulation, he turned a wire and wound it around the inside of the device.

Priam moved his tool as a conductor would command his orchestra and hummed to the music. He picked up a small spring between a pair of tweezers and inserted it into the device. With a small sigh, he carefully set it inside. He frowned as the music made a triumphant climax. The small spring clicked into place in the device and Priam smiled. He pressed a button on it and sat it on the desk. With a few small clicks and a plastic chip flew out of the device and across the room. “That will do nicely,” Priam said with a nod. “It’s not a jaffra sea serpent, but it will do.” Priam smiled, paused, and broke into a cackle. “Carter will never see it coming.”