“So I think it would be safe to say that I’m now officially persona non grata at the annual captain’s ball,” said Amaya Donners, sitting comfortably in her chair, leaning way back and with her boots on top of her desk. She was playing with a white baseball, tossing it into the air before catching it again repeatedly. She glanced over to the corner of her ready room where Cosmo, her three hundred pound le-matya was focusing intently on her movements, his eyes seemingly locked in on the way the white ball bounced up and down. “I see the whole thing more of a blessing in disguise, to be honest,” she continued. “No captain in the fleet with an ounce of self-respect would even want to be invited to one of those dress-up, dog and pony shows anyway. I can think of about a hundred and one things I would rather spend my time with than going back there. I mean, who needs that aggravation, anyway, right buddy?” she said and then half haphazardly threw the ball his way. It bounced off the floor just a few feet in front of him and the wildcat effortlessly grabbed it out of the air and quickly began to munch on the ball in its large maw.
Vej, sitting on the couch lining the wall of Amaya Donners’ ready room, watched the le-matya destroy that baseball with ease for a moment before slowly turning back towards the captain who was now expediently looking his way.
“I suppose this is the part where you tell me that I was out of line telling Captain Aubrey to stick his opinions where the sun doesn't shine. That I should have handled the entire thing much more diplomatically?”
The Ullian counselor, wearing a civilian outfit consisting out of a long, tan smock and matching pants which considering that he was not an official member of Starfleet was entirely appropriate, simply shook his head. “No, I was actually just wondering about Cosmo’s new toy. I thought that ball was a present from Terrence Glover.”
Donners moaned loudly and threw her head back. “Don’t get me started on that jackass. That man is so full of himself, it’s a miracle he doesn’t burst at the seams. How he can be related to Samson is one of the great ongoing mysteries of the universe,” she said, referring to Admiral Glover, Terrence Glovers father, and her one time superior at Deep Space Five.
“I take it then you ran into him as well at the event?”
“Trust me, not for a lack of trying to avoid him. It’s like a moth to the flame with that one. I don’t think I can count the times I told that guy to lay off.”
“Sounds to me you made plenty of enemies. Any new friends by chance? Last time we spoke you were thinking of making amends with Owens.”
She was clearly not happy hearing that name either. “You know what, I don’t need more friends. I have plenty. I’ve got you and I have Cosmo,” she said, looking at her tamed wildcat which still, after decades in her care, looked more wild than cat.
The large animal looked up at hearing his name, the baseball pretty much in tatters now.
“That’s right, I’m talking about you, you big, handsome fellow, you.”
Cosmo seemed to fathom the compliment considering the way his tapered ears stood up straight, right before he went back to demolishing his new plaything.
“Exquisite company to be in,” said the counselor.
Donners shot him a wide smile, her brilliantly white teeth standing in contrast to her dark skin and black hair. “For you, quite right.”
“Maybe attending that ball was a bad idea.”
“I told you, it was, didn’t I? I told you it’s the last place I’d be welcomed at.”
“But is that because they didn’t want you there to begin with or because you couldn’t keep yourself in check long enough to try and get along with people?”
Her look became frostier, clearly not appreciating where he was going with this.
“You seemed in fairly high-spirits when you left. You said that it would give you a chance to catch up with some of your peers.”
She had nothing to say to this.
“It’s him, isn’t it? You thought he wasn’t going to be there, but he was.”
Donners grimaced before looking into empty space. “He just brings out the worst in me. And every time I think I’m over it and I run into him again, I just want to … I don’t know, scream.”
“Maya, that happened twenty years ago while you were both cadets. It’s time to let it go and move on.”
She pierced him with a venomous look. “Don’t you think I know that? And I want to, I really do. But the truth is that he’s never even apologized for what he did. And that’s not even the worst of it. I can handle a cheater and a liar. What I can’t tolerate is that he’s a starship captain. That he became one before I did. That a man with such an obvious character flaw is allowed to wear the uniform and command people. That nobody else seems to see him for what he truly is.”
“Don’t you think you’re projecting your personal feelings you developed decades ago to the man he is now. People change.”
She uttered a heavy sigh. “Maybe, maybe not. In any case, you are my counselor. Fix this already, what do I pay you for?”
“Yeah, I don’t think you have an accurate picture of how my profession works. The first step is positive thinking. Don’t focus on the negative.”
“Words of wisdom. Positive thinking,” she said with obvious irony in her voice. “That’s how I usually get through my day. I just keep telling myself that today is going to be a great day and that everything’s going to be just fine. You believe that hard enough, it just might come true.”
He smirked. “Halfway there already. My job here’s almost done. Still waiting for my first paycheck, by the way.”
“Bridge to Captain.”
Donners smirked. “Ah, saved by the bell.” She looked towards the ceiling. “Go ahead.”
“Sir, we have detected an abnormal sensor reading within less than a light-year of our current position.”
“Well, we’re here to map the Amargosa Diaspora and this is the most interesting thing that has happened since we got out here. So by all means, set a course for the anomaly, Lieutenant. I’ll be right out. Donners out.”
She removed her feet from her desk and stood. “Looks like we may finally get some excitement around here.”
“Careful what you wish for, isn’t that what they say?” he said as he got up from the sofa and followed her out of the ready room.
“Positive thinking, remember? It’s going to be a great day.”
It was the middle of the night shift on the bridge when Donners and Vej entered to find the burlesque science officer Wayne Daystrom in command.
The lieutenant had already vacated the center seat, if he had ever occupied it at all, and moved to his station where he tended to feel more comfortable. He shot the captain a brief glance while she walked towards her chair. “It’s an unusual anomaly, Captain, and certainly wasn't there a few minutes ago. We were lucky to catch it at all as we had a full sensor package sweeping that area at the time, otherwise, we would have missed it, I'm sure."
“An unusual anomaly? That’s a bit vague for you, Wayne, isn’t it?” said Vej as he took the chair to Donners’ left.
“I’m still running a more in-depth scan,” he said, sounding somewhat defensive. “We should have more momentarily.”
“Are we in visual range yet?” asked the captain.
Daystrom nodded even as he continued to study his console. “Putting it on screen now.”
Donners couldn’t see anything other than the dense cluster of stars which was common in this area of space. “Magnify.”
The screen shifted but it made little difference.
Donners sighed and looked back towards her science officer. “Are you quite sure there is suppose to be something out there?”
“I am definitely reading a disturbance, Captain.”
“Run a level-five sensor diagnostic just in case. Helm, take us in, let us have a closer look at this supposed anomaly.”
The helmsman acknowledged and changed course.
It didn’t take long for Daystrom to chime up again. “It’s not something I’ve seen before.”
“Strictly speaking there is nothing there to see at all,” said Vej and he exchanged a quick smile with Donners.
Daystrom either didn’t notice the joke or decided to ignore it. “Readings remain inconclusive but sensors are picking up an increased level of neutrino emissions.”
“A clocked ship perhaps,” said Donners. “A wormhole?”
“Both are possibilities but its uneven distribution is unusual.”
“Cap,” said Vej and pointed at the screen.
Donners looked up to see that something had appeared after all. A small object was now sitting at the center of the screen, clearly artificial in nature, the metal glinting under the exposure of multiple nearby suns. It seemed too small to be a starship. “Anyone picking that up?” she asked, only slightly masking her annoyance that Vej had been the first to notice it, using nothing more than his eyes, when they were surrounded by state-of-the-art sensor technology which was supposed to alert them of new contacts long before they became visible to the naked eye.
“Sorry, sir, I’m having trouble getting a clear reading on the object,” said Lieutenant Kuvex, the Kasheeta night-shift operations officer.
Donners stood and turned to face Daystrom who was still hard at work at his station, his eyes glued to his instruments. “Wayne?”
He shook his head. “There is nothing there, Cap.”
She exchanged a quizzical look with Vej, then looked back towards the screen where she received visual confirmation of the object before she turned back to her science officer. "I'm pretty sure there is. If you'd like we can take a vote but I think things would come out my way. Unless you’re telling me that all our eyes are deceiving us.”
“I am definitely picking up increased neutrino readings in the area but sensors are positive that there are no other objects within ten million kilometers of our position,” he said as he continued to tap away at his station, perhaps hoping to get different results if he just kept changing parameters.
“We really need to get on the same page regarding things being out there or not,” said Vej
Donners clearly agreed and turned to consider her science officer again. “Wayne?”
“Look up for a moment.”
He stopped working and glanced her way.
Donners pointed at the screen. “Just tell me what you see out there.”
He looked past her to study the view screen. “There appears to be some sort of small-sized, artificial object approximately two hundred fifty thousand kilometers from our position.”
She offered him a little smile. “Thank you. Now, what do you think we should do about it, seeing that it isn’t showing up on any of our sensors?”
The look he offered in response showed that he was at a loss. Wayne Daystrom may have been a scientific genius, a direct descendant from one of the greatest minds in the Federation, but as it turned out, without empirical data, he simply was not able to formulate a hypothesis.
Donners let it slide. For all his genius, she knew that Daystrom was still a young man and some things could only be learned through experience. She turned towards the helm to find Ensign Najila Ali who was handling navigation during gamma shift. “Ensign, get us closer to that object. Half impulse for now and then reduce speed incrementally as we get closer. I want to approach this thing, whatever it is, real slow.”
“Yes, sir,” she said and turned her attention to the helm controls.
"And keep your eyes on that thing. Without a sensor reading, we might not get a proximity warning either. Meaning we have to do this the old-fashioned way and rely on our own eyes.”
The young woman nodded sharply to communicate her understanding.
Donners returned to her chair and sat down.
“What do you think it is?” Vej asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. "Beats me. A sensor probe perhaps. Could be debris of a larger object. Without a reading, it’s really hard to say.” She uttered a little laugh. “Guess that’s what it must have felt like in the early days of space travel.”
“Not really. Half of those early explorers never got to come home.”
He frowned. “Sorry, I asked.”
On the screen, the object was slowly growing in size. But as Donners had asked for a sluggish approach, it took a while for the ship to get close enough to make out any details.
“Definitely looks like a vessel of sorts,” said Vej.
Donners nodded. “Agreed. But rather small to be this far out all on its own,” she said and then glanced towards operations. “Kuvex, what’s the nearest inhabitant planet or station from our present position?”
The Saurian only needed a moment to bring up the requested information. “The nearest Federation outpost is Arkaria Prime which is four point two light-years from our present position. The closest non-Federation world is the Krellonian colony on Piqus VII which is two point two light-years away. There are no other known inhabited outposts in closer proximity.”
“I have referenced the visual data of the object with our database and it doesn’t match any known configurations,” said Daystrom.
“In all fairness,” said Donners. “We don’t exactly have a wealth of information on the Krellonians, do we?”
“That is true.”
“Do you think it could be one of theirs? A shuttle perhaps?”
She nodded. “Possible. The Krellonians don’t venture out of their borders much. And why would their ship just appear out of nowhere like this? And is it the cause of the anomalous readings and the neutrino emissions? Those are questions I’d like some answers to.” She glanced towards the gamma shift officer manning the tactical station. “Ensign, hail the object.”
The Andorian shook his head. “No response, sir.”
“Alright, open a channel then.”
Donners cleared her throat. “This is Captain Amaya Donners of the Federation starship Agamemnon to the unidentified vessel off our bow. Please identify yourself and state your intentions.”
“Message sent, no response,” the tactical officer said after a few moments of silence had gone by.
“Keep running that, maybe we’ll get lucky. Ensign Ali, what’s our distance to the object?”
“About thirty thousand kilometers. Give or take a few hundred.”
“That’s well inside transporter range, I take it we still can’t get a reading on this thing, or who or what may be on board?” the captain asked.
“No, sir, still not showing up on sensors,” Daystrom said.
“Alright then, let’s bring it onboard. Najila, get us into tractor beam range, keep it nice and slow. Kuvex, once we are in range, bring it into the main shuttle bay and erect level-eight force fields around it.”
Both officers acknowledged the orders.
Vej leaned closer to the Donners at his side. "Is that wise? Bringing it on board when we don't know anything about it?"
She smirked at that. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“I lost it when you started talking about those early explorers and their success rates.”
“We are in tractor beam range,” Ali said from the helm.
Donners nodded. “All stop. Kuvex, bring it in.”
“Activating tractor beam.”
On the screen, Donners watched as the azure graviton beam grabbed hold of the object and began dragging it towards them. "Well, at least now we can confirm it's not a mass hallucination."
“Captain,” Daystrom spoke up, sounding excited. “I am starting to get readings from the object now. It is seven point three meters long, three point two meters wide and two-point six meters in height. It is composed of different types of duranium alloys. I also read low powered warp and sub-light engines as well as a life support system.”
It took the science officer a moment longer to determine this but once he did, he began to nod. “Yes, sir. One bio-electrical signature confirmed. Humanoid, possibly human, but it is weak and irregular,” he said and looked up. “I think the occupant may be injured.”
“Bridge to sickbay, prepare to receive a possibly injured humanoid from an unknown vessel. Full quarantine procedures. Signal when ready and we will beam our guest directly to sickbay,” Donners said, glancing towards the ceiling.
“This is sickbay, acknowledged. I will summon Doctor Ssesar-Rass and let you know when we are ready to receive the patient,” the on-duty nurse responded.
Only a few brief moments later Kuvex turned from his station to glance at the captain. “Sir, the vessel is secured in the main shuttle bay. Force fields are in effect as to your orders.”
“Sickbay to bridge, we are ready down here.”
Amaya Donners stood from her chair. “Kuvex, get the transporter room to beam the occupant directly to sickbay,” she said and then to Daystrom: “You probably want to get a better look at that ship. Meet an engineering team down there and let me know what you find. For now, I want scans and external observations only. Don't try to enter the vessel until we know more about it."
Daystrom nodded and got out of his chair, already summoning engineering for assistance as he headed for the turbolift.
"You coming?" said Donners, shooting a sideways glance at Vej.
The counselor stood and nodded “Consider my sense of adventure rekindled.”
“Great day and we’re only getting started,” she said as she made a beeline for the secondary turbolift.
Vej followed her closely. “You’ll keep saying that and you’ll jinx it, you know.”
Sickbay was a hive of activity.
Doctor Rass, the green-scaled, Selay chief medical officer with her cobra-like shaped head, was calmly delegating a whole flurry of nurses and medical technicians while she stood next to the occupied bio-bed performing a number of scans on her patient.
A single, armed security officer was posted by the door, a standard precaution when beaming onboard an unidentified individual, even one who required treatment.
Donners was not able to get a good look at the patient straight away with all the movement around the bed and she felt it prudent not to get any closer in order to avoid interfering with the work of the medical professionals.
She and Vej remained close by the doors and for a moment simply watched on as these men and women were diagnosing and administering treatment under Doctor Rass’ guidance and direction.
It was obvious that they were getting a handle on the situation. The patient had arrived in poor condition apparently but from what Donners was able to gather, it was no longer life-threatening and recovery appeared likely.
Once things began to quiet down somewhat, she took a small step forward. “What do we have, Doctor?”
Rass turned her head ever so slightly towards the visitor. “Ah, Captain, I did not see you there.”
She nodded understandingly. Her primary focus was her patient, she couldn’t fault her for that.
“Human male, approximately sixty-five years old. Initial signs point towards exhaustion, possibly brought on by high levels of stress and malnutrition. With the appropriate treatment, he is likely to make a full recovery.”
Donners couldn’t deny that this surprised her somewhat. The galaxy tended to be far too large to come across another random human, particularly outside of Starfleet and this far from an inhabited Federation colony. Stranger things of course had happened.
While she was not able to see his face, she did notice him stir slightly, seemingly coming back around. She could see him reaching out and grabbing hold of Nurse Xolani Nyembe’s wrist.
“Where am I, what is this place,” he practically croaked, still weak and sounding confused.
Nyembe offered the man a sympathetic smile. “You are on the Starfleet vessel Agamemnon. In sickbay. Can you tell us your name?”
Nyembe nodded. “Yes. You are going to be all right. What is your name?”
“My … name?”
There was something strangely familiar to this man’s voice, Donners was certain she had heard it before. She took another step closer to be able to see past the medical team surrounding him and froze instantly.
She hadn’t seen that face in ten years and he looked significantly slimmer and more haggard than the last time she had come across him. His black and silver hair was trimmed shorter but his hawkish facial features were impossible to forget.
“Security to sickbay on the double.”
All eyes turned towards Donners with a mixture of surprise and disbelieve. After all, it seemed rather unlikely that this man, in his currently dazed and exhausted state was posing much to a threat to anyone, and certainly not one that the current occupants of sickbay, including one armed guard, couldn’t handle.
The guard present did not hesitate and quickly stepped up to Donners, awaiting further instructions.
“Captain?” Doctor Rass asked, her limited facial expressions were not quite able to mirror the puzzled looks of her colleagues but her eyes made it clear that she was just as surprised.
But Amaya Donners didn't react to any of this; instead, she kept her steely focus on the man still lying on the bio-bed. He didn’t appear entirely certain what was happening around him either, it seemed he was still trying to get to grips with where he had found himself or, for that matter, what his own name was.
After a few more quiet seconds, the door to sickbay opened and two additional armed security guards entered.
Donners spoke without looking their way. “Take this man to the brig at once.”
That caused a few more surprised gasps by the medical team who had still not been offered an explanation for their captain’s unexpected behavior.
Rass took a defiant step forward. “Captain, I must protest, the patient is still in my care and is not ready to be discharged. Besides, he has shown no signs of posing a threat to anyone. Certainly not in his current condition.”
The security team hesitated for a moment, looking back at Donners for confirmation.
“You have your orders,” she said sharply and then glanced back at the chief medical officer. “You are free to administer any additional treatment in the brig under armed supervision.”
The security guards grabbed the confused man and dragged him off the bed, having to steady him as he was quite clearly unable to walk under his own power.
“Captain, this is not—“
“This man is a mass murderer, Doctor. I will not tolerate his presence anywhere other than a secured area and behind a force field. If you have any objections to this, note them in your log,” she said and watched the man being hauled out of sickbay.
As soon as the doors had closed behind them, she turned around and chose a different exit to make a prompt departure, leaving behind a startled doctor, counselor, and medical team.
It wasn’t until the third chime that Amaya stopped in her tracks, after having seriously endangered the carpet of her ready room from her incessant pacing, and shot the entrance an annoyed look. “Alright, come in.”
The door panels parted to allow Vej to enter. He did so slowly. “I was just about to call a medical emergency.”
“The more likely reason for somebody not answering their door is that they do not wish to be disturbed.”
He stepped all the way inside so that the doors closed behind him. “That can’t be it, after all, who wouldn’t want to talk to a counselor?”
“In case you haven’t been able to tell, I am not in a joking mood.”
Vej offered a small, serious nod, acknowledging her obviously poor disposition. In fact, even Cosmo was practically cowering in the far corner of the ready room, knowing to stay well clear of his mistress when she was in one of her moods.
“So we picked up some sort of criminal in the middle of nowhere,” he said carefully. “Funny, he didn’t strike me as the dangerous type.”
“You of all people should know that looks can be deceiving.”
“I tend to see more than most people.”
She shot him a dark glare. “You read his thoughts?”
The Ullian quickly shook his head. "Of course not. You know my policy on this. Not without explicit consent. But spending a lifetime as a telepath, not to mention being a fairly decent observer of humanoid behavior, has given me at least a little bit of insight into the nature of the people I encounter."
“Please, even you can’t judge a book by its cover after just a few minutes,” she said and walked over to her desk. She picked up a padd and practically flung it Vej’s way.
The counselor very nearly fumbled the device, before he had a firm grip on it and was able to study the content. “Doctor Westren Frobisher,” he said and looked up. “The name sounds familiar.”
And so he did. "According to this, he—along with his research partner—worked on a dark-matter transporter device, designed to be able to transport people and objects over vast spatial distances. However, looks like the technology was abandoned when an experiment ten years ago failed and led to the death of—“ he stopped reading and looked up. “Doctor Matthew Owens?”
Donners was leaning against her desk but refused to make eye contact with the counselor, her gaze instead directed towards the window and looking into the emptiness of outer space. “That’s right. Michael Owens’ brother.”
“The same man you dated during Starfleet Academy and with whom you had a major falling out when you found out that he had cheated on you with another woman.”
“To be precise, he cheated on her with me.”
“I stand corrected. But I still don’t understand why the death of Matthew Owens would make this man, who you have decided could not be treated in sickbay over the objections of your chief medical officer, a dangerous mass murderer.”
She stood away from the desk and looked straight at Vej. “Because, what that file you have there fails to mention, is that Westren Frobisher, disregarding all safety procedures as well as orders to cease his actions, caused the death of over two-hundred thousand people when his experiment failed disastrously.”
To that Vej's eyes opened wider and he went back to look at the padd to see if he could find any indication of what she had claimed.
"Don't bother trying to find any reference to this in the official reports as Starfleet decided to cover the whole affair up. But look-up the freak atmospheric anomaly on Sentaka XII which led to half a continent being practically baked alive, and you will find that it took place at exactly the same time as Frobisher’s failed experiment half a sector away.”
“I remember that. They talked about that incident for months on the newsnets without ever providing a satisfying theory for the cause of that disaster.”
Donners uttered a little humorless laugh. “Yeah, there was a cause alright. And he’s sitting in our brig. And the reason I know this is because I was there when it happened.”
“You were on Sentaka XII?”
She shook her head. “No. I was on an inconsequential and uninhabited planet light-years away. Frobisher and Owens ever only suspected a danger to the departure point. As it turned out, it was the destination that was in real danger.”
“I … I honestly don’t know what to say.”
Vej looked back at the padd but when that offered no further insights into this situation, he looked around the room for a moment, obviously trying to put the pieces together. “What is he doing out here?”
She shrugged. "Who knows? Starfleet took him into custody after that incident but he managed to escape some time after and has been on the run ever since. Officially he had only been charged with the murder of his colleague Matthew Owens, so obviously he wasn't as much of a high-profile fugitive as he should have been. Maybe he's been working on another experiment. Maybe that's what our sensors picked up out here."
He nodded slowly. “You might be right. So what happens next?”
Donners seemed stumped by that question, clearly, in all her anger over stumbling across Frobisher, she hadn't even considered her next move yet. “I suppose we’ll have to head to the nearest Starfleet outpost, Arkaria Prime, and hand him over to the authorities there.”
"That makes sense," he said and returned the padd to her desk before heading towards the doors. He stopped just short and turned around again. "According to Doctor Rass, he has been asking to speak to you?"
“I can understand why you wouldn’t want to.”
“He’s a murderer.”
“There is that.”
She shot him another dark look. “What else is there?”
“It just strikes me that you have been avoiding the people who have caused you anger and anguish. From a purely therapeutical perspective, I think it would be good for you to face these issues head-on.” He continued when Donners offered nothing but a blank stare in response. “You asked me earlier today to earn my pay as a counselor. Well, if you want my professional opinion, go see this man, you don’t have to talk to him, but at the very least, look him in the eye and stand your ground instead of internalizing all your anger and your frustrations.” With that Vej turned and left the ready room.
Against her own better judgment, Amaya Donners decided to follow Vej's advice after all and visit Frobisher in the brig. She wasn't entirely sure what her counselor thought this would accomplish but she had to begrudgingly admit that he was at least partially right. She did have a lot of anger boiling inside of her. But as far as she was concerned, that anger was entirely justified. And how could it not be? After all, Frobisher had been responsible for the deaths tens of thousands of people through his actions. There was, as far as she was concerned, no emotion more appropriate than furious anger when considering Westren Frobisher.
If anything, perhaps she had to prove to herself that she was able to face this murderous and despicable man without losing control of herself and her emotions. She was a Starfleet captain after all and an entire ship and crew depended on her ability to make levelheaded and rational decisions.
She took a deep breath before entering the detention complex, determined to not let her emotions get the better of her which was particularly difficult since, for her, his actions had also had a profoundly personal meaning. She had been right there for all of it. Maybe could have even prevented the ensuing disaster if only she had seen through his false confidence much sooner than she had.
The heavy doors opened with a loud pneumatic hiss and she found all cells empty except for one. And even though she had purposefully taken her time before coming down to this place—four hours had passed since he had first come aboard—she found that Doctor Rass was still with Frobisher in his cell, along with two of her nurses. They had moved an entire biobed and a few medical devices into the cell with him and were still treating him for whatever injuries he may have suffered.
Even worse as far as she was concerned, the protective energy field which kept prisoners confined was deactivated and none of the five armed security guards were on high alert, each with their weapon holstered, including the two officers inside the cell with Frobisher and the medical personnel.
“I gave clear orders to have the prisoner confined,” Donners said sharply, trying to suppress her irritation which was quickly beginning to well up again after she had done so well in trying to control it.
The Selay doctor turned to face her. “The patient is not a threat to anyone in his current condition. Particularly not while in a cell and surrounded by armed guards.”
Donners was certain she could hear a hint of indignation in her voice even while her unexpressive Reptilian facial features didn't provide many indications of her general disposition.
She took a small breath to calm herself before she spoke next. “What is his condition?”
“Stable for now. He was suffering from severe exhaustion brought on by a number of factors we have not yet been able to determine,” she said. “He is likely to recover if we continue with the current treatment regime.”
The implication was not so veiled even to her hears. In other words, had they done nothing, and left him to his devices in the brig as she had wanted, he would have been in a far poorer condition. Donners was not able to work up any kind of regret or second thoughts over her orders.
She looked past the doctor to glance at the man on the bed. He was, without doubt, the same man she had met while she had been the chief engineer on the Columbia ten years ago and whom she had assisted with his experiment which had led to such disastrous consequences.
He looked weak—frail, in fact—and nothing quite like the energetic personality he had been back then when he had practically glowed with the excitement of making his life's work a reality and enshrining his name in the history books. He was conscious but his glassy stare seemed directed into nothingness.
She quickly cast off any doubts that this weak man who was little than a shadow of his former self would pose any serious challenges to her self-control. “I would like to speak to the prisoner alone. Give us the room, please.”
“I do not recommend this, Captain,” Selay said. “He is still very weak and requires supervision.”
"Fine, I'll be here supervising. Stay close by, if his condition worsens in any way, I make sure to call you," she crossed her arms over her chest to underline her firm stance on this.
Rass apparently realized that there was no arguing with the captain on this and before checking the medical instruments monitoring Frobisher one last time, she collected her staff and slowly turned towards the exit. But not before shooting Donners one last, piercing glare, no doubt to try and communicate her displeasure with her orders of late.
Donners all but ignored her doctor and looked towards the guards next. “Reactivate the force field and leave us.”
There were, of course, no objections of any kind from the security personnel which did as requested and then headed out to leave Donners alone with Frobisher safely ensconced behind a nearly impenetrable wall of energy.
Once everyone had left, she took a few small steps closer to the cell, carefully studying the prisoner on the bio bed. “You asked to see me,” she finally said without preamble and with a tone which left no doubt to her general annoyance.
It was only now that he seemed to have noticed her presence. He turned his head slightly in her direction. “You … you are the commander of this vessel?”
“Captain Amaya Donners.”
“Thank you … for coming.”
“Formerly of the starship Columbia.”
Frobisher climbed out of his bed, probably not a wise decision since he nearly collapsed to the floor had he not steadied himself quickly. Donners, of course, made no move whatsoever to try and assist him in his struggles to keep upright.
“I wish to thank you for your assistance so far,” he said and looked around the cell as if only now realizing where he found himself. “And of course I understand your need for … caution.”
“This is where you belong.”
He nodded absentmindedly before he glanced back at her, taking a few, awkward steps closer. “There is another favor I must ask of you and it is imperative that we waste no time.”
“You don’t recognize me?”
He looked her in the eye. “I have to apologize, my journey has left me somewhat disconcerted. I think much more so than I had anticipated. My memories seem out of sorts in a manner of speaking. I am having difficulties grasping all of them at present. I can remember some things clearly and others are seemingly floating just on the edge of my awareness.” He continued when he noticed her blank expression. “I have no doubt everything will fall back in place with time but if there is one thing I am certain of, it’s that time is not something we have in any abundance.”
“You are Westren Frobisher, you don’t deny that?”
He shook his head. “No. I think you are right. That is my name.”
“But you don’t remember me? How about the Columbia? How about Sentaka XII,” she said that last name with particular intensity.
Frobisher shook his head. “No, I’m sorry,” he said and turned away, rubbing his forehead as if trying to jog his memory.
Donners wasn’t buying any of this. She was not going to accept his attempts at trying to use amnesia or some sort of insanity defense to get himself out of his responsibility. "Periphocles IV means nothing to you? How about a dark-matter accelerator or the name Matthew Owens?"
He froze suddenly at then turned back to her. “Matthew? Yes.”
“He was your colleague.”
He nodded. “Yes. And a friend.”
“You killed him.”
His face turned to an expression of confusion and then outright denial. “No.”
“Yes, you did, Doctor. You killed Matthew and many more people. And I was there when you did. And now you just happen to appear out of nowhere, light-years from anywhere of consequence and you have conveniently forgotten all about your crimes.”
“Please, listen to me, whatever you think I am —“
"Oh, I know exactly who and what you are, Doctor. And I will make certain that you will never be able to hurt anybody ever again. You may not be publicly held accountable for what you have done, but I will guarantee that you will pay nevertheless. And that is the only thing I have to say to you," she said and then turned and headed for the exit.
“If we don’t act, thousands, perhaps even millions of more lives will be at risk."
Donners stopped but kept her back to him.
“Whatever you think of me, what I may or may not have done, I plead with you to put that aside for just a moment,” he said, his voice sounding desperate now. “Something is happening, something terrible, something that could change the face of the galaxy as we know it. There is a small chance that we can still influence events that may already be in motion, but I will need your help to do so and we don’t have much time. Please.”
She turned around very slowly.
“We are in the Amargosa Diaspora, yes?”
She was tempted to tell him nothing at all, to not give him the satisfaction, but in the end, she responded with the slightest nod.
“Good, good. We must be near the original coordinates. About four light-years from Arkaria Prime?”
“What is this threat you are talking about?” She couldn’t help herself. She was after all still a Starfleet officer and no matter how much he despised this man, if there was even a kernel of truth to what he had said, she couldn’t afford to ignore him.
“I think we are close. Very close. I need you to take us to spatial coordinates...” he paused for a moment, trying to remember the correct figures. “Four-two-three mark one-one-two mark five-one. I assume your vessel is capable of high warp, in which case it should take us less than three, maybe four hours to reach that destination."
She uttered a little laugh which had nothing to do with any genuine amusement. “If you think I’m going to take you anywhere other than a prison planet, you are even more insane than I thought."
“Four-two-three mark one-one-two mark five-one, Captain, please.”
“What’s at those coordinates?”
“I cannot be entirely certain. Maybe nothing at all.”
She crossed her arms again. “That’s not even close to good enough.”
“If there is nothing there, I’ll do whatever you ask. I will admit to whatever crimes you believe I have committed. I will publicly confess and offer no resistance to whatever you wish to do with me. But if you find something at those coordinates, we are in a greater amount of danger than you can possibly imagine. And doing nothing will seal our undoing.”
Donners considered this for a moment, studying him intently and the way his eyes were pleading with her. It had the opposite effect on her. She felt nothing but disgust. "I've heard enough. There is no deal to be made here, Frobisher. You are a mass murdered whether you admit it or not and you will be made to pay for your actions." She whirled around on her heels and promptly headed for the exit.
“Four-two-three mark one-one-two mark five-one,” he yelled after her. “Four-two-three mark one-one-two mark five-one, Captain. All our lives may depend on you getting us there in time.”
She heard his desperate plea even after the heavy doors had closed behind her, sounding very much like the madman she had always known he truly was.
She had initially planned to repair to her quarters for the night after stopping by the brig but as it turned out her visit with Frobisher had left her with far too much anxious energy to ever hope to get any kind of sleep in the near future and she had returned to the bridge instead.
Vej was still there and he shot her an expectant look as soon as she arrived which Donners chose to ignore even while she walked slowly to her chair and finally sat down. She could feel his insistent look but kept her eyes trained forward and onto the view screen which currently showed the dense star cluster of the Amargosa Diaspora. In truth, of course, she was looking at nothing at all as her fingers drummed rhythmically against her armrest.
Her nervous tension must have been obvious to her counselor but he kept any words of observation to himself for now and Donners felt grateful for this.
Only moments after sitting down she stood again, walking towards the helm station and Ensign Ali.
“Najila, set a course for Arkaria.”
The young woman nodded. “Course set.”
The helmsman looked up at her captain when she had not given any further orders and as it turned out she wouldn’t get any soon as Donners had turned and was now heading towards the science station where Ensign Cyril Colquhoun was looking over things. “Four-two-three mark one-one-two mark five-one.”
She took a moment to elaborate. “Tell me what’s at those coordinates.”
The science officer nodded and brought up the requested information.
“Any natural phenomena or noteworthy installations?”
He shook his head. "No, ma'am. According to our records, there is nothing there at all. All I have is empty space. The location is about a third of a half-year to stellar cluster GTR-3298, made up of six stars in very close proximity to each other, but that’s all.”
Donners considered her next order. “Run a long-range scan of those coordinates.”
“What’s the distance?”
“Two point one light-years from our present position, ma'am.”
She did the math in her head. “About six hours at warp eight?” she said, her question really posed more to herself than anyone in particular.
Colquhoun answered regardless. “Yes, ma'am.”
She looked down at him, not really having expected the response. “Run that scan, please.”
He nodded and she walked back to her chair, sitting down, after having seemingly toured half the bridge.
Vej apparently couldn’t keep shtum any longer. “What’s at those coordinates?”
“Apparently something our guest wants us to see.”
He nodded slowly, clearly having guessed something like that. “And you’re considering stopping by?”
“I don’t know yet,” she admitted. “He sounded pretty darn fatalistic about it. End-of-the-world kind of stuff. My gut tells me he is being hyperbolic, maybe even deranged and sending us on a wild goose chase at best and into some sort of trap at worst.”
“If not for that small voice in the back of your head.”
She turned to look at her counselor, having forgotten how well he knew her, how well he had learned to read her over the eight years they had known each other. “What if he’s right? What if there is something important there and I just ignore it?”
“If you like I could have a chat with him myself. Those skills I referred to earlier may come in handy in determining the veracity of his story.”
Donners mulled this over for a few seconds but then shook her head. "No, it's enough if he's made a fool of me, I don't want him to spread his craziness to anyone else."
“Unless he isn’t crazy.”
“Daystrom to Donners.”
She glanced towards the ceiling upon hearing her chief science officer’s voice. “Go ahead, Wayne.”
“Apologies for the late call.”
“It’s alright, I’m still on the bridge. And from the sounds of it, I’m not the only one working late.”
“I thought you might want to know that we have finished our external investigation of the vessel we recovered.”
Donners had all but forgotten that they had brought their prisoner’s ship onboard earlier and that she had asked Daystrom to study it. Considering what she had learned about the vessel’s pilot, and the emotions this had stirred within her, that lapse appeared almost excusable. “What have you found?”
"The overall configuration of the vessel is unremarkable. In fact, the hull appears to be a patchwork of different materials coming from widely different sources, including neutronium and thealium, materials known to be used by the Jem'Hadar and the Borg respectively."
That gave Donners pause and she exchanged a surprised look with Vej.
“The ship has no noteworthy armaments and fairly basic propulsion systems but Captain, that power core is something else. We have not been able to identify it by limiting ourselves to external scans and observations but what I have been able to determine is that it is capable of generating at least seventeen thousand teradynes per second. And that’s a conservative estimate.”
If his first observation had left her stumped, this one practically left her breathless. Some of the crewmembers who had overheard this, shot the captain astonished glances.
“I take it that’s a lot,” said Vej who was not nearly as technically versed as the people around him.
Donners nodded slowly, still requiring a moment to process that information. “Our warp core produces about four thousand teradynes.”
“It’s a lot,” he said and then after a moment of thought, glanced towards the ceiling. “Wait a minute, Wayne, you just said that its engines and weapons are garden-variety. What does a tiny little ship like that need that much power for?”
“That, Counselor, is an excellent question, and I’m afraid we won’t find out the answer to that by carrying out a purely external examination.”
It wasn’t difficult to tell that the science officer was eager to get a look inside that little ship which he had been prevented to do as to Donners’ previous orders. Of course, those orders had been given before she had learned about the identity of the ship’s pilot. “Wayne, I want you and your team to find out whatever you can about that ship, take it apart piece by piece if you have to,” she said and then considered this for a second. “In fact, I’m coming down there to join you in a minute,” she added. Since having taken command of Agamemnon, Donners had usually tried hard to stay out of her people’s way when it came to hand-on matters but she was still an engineer at heart and the curiosity that came with it was not always easy to quell. Especially not when she had so many questions she desperately wanted answers to. “Get started, I’ll be there shortly. Donners out.”
She glanced back at her helmsman who was still looking her way, clearly impressed by Daystrom’s report herself. “Najila, set course for coordinates four-two-three mark one-one-two mark five-one, warp eight.”
“Yes, sir,” she said and turned back to her station to execute the order.
“I suppose we’re doing this,” Vej concluded.
“Yes, we are. Even if it means we lose a few hours in delivering Frobisher in front of a judge, I want to know exactly what this man has been up to and if he’s as crazy as he sounds.”
“Considering what he has been saying and that seriously overpowered little ship in our shuttle bay, crazy sounds pretty good right about now.”
She couldn’t exactly disagree with that point, already fully aware that this was going to be a long, sleepless night. “I’m going down there to lend a hand. Kuvex, you have the bridge. Colquhoun, keep sensors peeled on our destination, I want to know the moment we are able to get a detailed scan.”
Her officers acknowledged their orders and Donners left the bridge with noticeable urgency.
She hadn’t liked to admit it but as it turned out, the power plant in Frobisher small vessel went completely over her head, even after her extensive training and experience as a Starfleet engineer. She had been able to determine that it utilized some sort of dark matter as a power source, very similar to the accelerator Frobisher and Matthew Owens had designed ten years earlier. But even then, when she had been one of the very few Starfleet officers who had been granted any kind of access, she and the rest of her team had been kept on a very short leash, and certainly not been allowed to study the device in detail.
In fact, after the disastrous outcome of the experiment, and Starfleet’s cover-up, the entire project had been sealed and presumably mothballed in some sort of high-security facility where Starfleet’s failures were hidden away from prying eyes, never to be seen again.
She had stopped short to order Daystrom and his people to actually take apart the dark matter power core, fully cognizant of its immense power and volatile nature, which had after all led to the annihilation of half a continent.
Unfortunately, nothing else on the ship had been noteworthy in any way, and the onboard computer had refused to give up much of anything without Frobisher's authorization.
So after toiling on that vessel for nearly six hours, studying every square-inch, taking innumerable amounts of scans, taking apart and putting back together pretty much everything save for the main power core, Amaya Donners and a full science and engineering team had remarkably little to show for themselves.
Tired but mostly frustrated with their lack of process, Amaya returned to the bridge, with Daystrom in tow, the moment she was told that they were approaching their destination.
Donners found that the bridge had rotated to the alpha-shift in her absence, with Bobby DeSoto at the helm, Tess Allenby at operations and the tall avian Aurelian Lure Mer’iab occupying the tactical station.
Her first officer, Gene Edison, greeted her by relinquishing the center chair upon her arrival. “Morning, Cap.”
She merely grunted in response.
“You’ve been up all night?” Edison asked with his crisp British accent.
She kept her replies wordless, offering just a nod as she took her chair.
Edison took a moment to look her over and then glanced towards the science officer who had taken his seat in an equally quiet manner. He exchanged a quick look with Vej who was back on the bridge as well, but judging by the way he appeared, he had managed at least to return to his quarters at some point. “Maybe we should get some rest before we tackle whatever this is,” he said softly.
“I want to get this over with, Gene.”
He indicated towards Daystrom and when she followed his gesture she realized how haggard he looked. “Some of us are on our third-straight watch. I think a bit of rest would do us all well.”
“He’s right, Amaya,” said Vej.
She frowned but was hardly surprised. Edison had made a great first officer, having been at her side ever since she had taken command of Agamemnon but sometimes she felt that he was too temperate for her liking. Vej, on the other hand, had expressed on numerous occasions that he thought that he made a great balance to her oftentimes more tempestuous command style.
In truth, she couldn’t imagine a better team of consultants by her side. Today, however, she had already decided, she was not going to heed their advice. "Wayne, how're you doin' over there? Are you holding up alright?"
He looked up at her and then nodded eagerly. “Absolutely, eager to find out what we have here. I’m running a detailed scan of the area now, should have something for you momentarily.”
“Good man,” she said and then shot Edison and instant look to communicate her resolve, even if it was obvious that he didn’t feel she had necessarily made the most appropriate decision.
He did, however, know when a battle was worth fighting, this one not being one of those. "I understand that you have history with our prisoner."
She nodded. “You could say that.”
“And you believe that there might be some truth to what he’s telling you?”
“Not for a moment.”
That left the first officer momentarily speechless.
"That man can't be trusted. He is responsible for the death of tens of thousands of innocent people and his ship sitting in our shuttle bay shouldn't even exist. Certainly can't make heads or tails of it. But the boy cries wolf the first time, you have to at least make sure the sheep are alright, no?”
“I suppose so.”
She nodded firmly. “Yes. So the quicker we can check this out, the quicker we can all get the rest we need and most importantly the quicker we can drop him off with the authorities and get him on his way to spend the rest of his days behind a high-powered force field,” she said and then turned back towards the science station. “Wayne?”
“Scan almost complete, sir.”
That was not good enough for her. “We must be close to those coordinates already,” she said and focused on Allenby, the operations manager. “Tess, what do we have at those coordinates?
The blonde woman shook her head. “Nothing, ma’am. Reads as empty space all the way.”
“Put it on screen.”
The main viewer shifted noticeably to show the familiar backdrop of the Amargosa Diaspora, its dense formation of a number of differently sized and powerful stars, including a few very noticeable red ones, creating a whole array of overlapping lens flare effects which the screen was apparently unable to compensate for and which was threatening to give Amaya a serious headache.
“How close are we to the coordinates?”
DeSoto answered that one. “Just over two million kilometers, at our present speed we’ll be right on top of them in a few minutes.”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Amaya. “There’s nothing here.”
"Scan complete, Captain, "said Daystrom. "I am registering regular levels of dust, cosmic rays, and solar winds as well as expected levels of electromagnetic radiation for a stellar cluster of this magnitude.”
“In other words, nothing but empty space.”
Donners let herself fall back in her chair, uttering a little sigh and staring at the dense starscape reflected on the screen. She had to admit that there was a certain beauty to the sight and the way in which the colors played off each other. She was also decidedly not in the mood for beauty.
"Alright, I think we have humored this madman for long enough. Bobby, set a course for Arkaria, I think it's more than time to drop off the trash."
“Setting course now,” the helmsman confirmed.
Daystrom looked up from his console. “Sir, we are now exactly on top of the —“
The ship lurched violently and without warning, throwing every last person off their feet, including those who had been firmly planted in their chairs.
Donners was flung out of the captain’s seat and just about had the presence of mind to tug and roll before landing forcefully on the deck. The impact still hurt. Lights and consoles all around her went dark, flickered a few times and then went dark again. A number of aft stations, lining the rear bulkhead, shorted out with a shower of sparks, filling the bridge with a smell burned plastics and alloy.
Then there was silence.
The red alert had come on, the red strobes flashing across the bridge, but even the usually ubiquitous klaxons were silent.
It lasted at least five, agonizingly long seconds during which clearly nobody on the bridge had been able to find enough air again which had been forcefully ejected out of their lungs.
Donners entire body ached from the unexpected landing and her head was still spinning. She knew her ship well enough that something truly extraordinary had happened and she also knew that it was going to be bad.
She slowly pushed herself back onto her feet, ignoring her bruised limbs and spinning head. “Report? What … hit us?”
The crew was only very slowly getting back to their stations as some but not all computer consoles came back to life. The main lighting remained offline.
Vej and Edison were helping out crewmember strewn all over the bridge while Bobby DeSoto crawled back into his chair at the helm. “I’m not certain.”
“Medical emergency, medical team report to the bridge at once.”
Donners turned to see Daystrom who had made the call. He was hovering over the prone and unmoving form of Tess Allenby who had been catapulted out of her seat at operations.
Edison joined him a moment later, his fingers reaching to her neck to search for a pulse. He was shaking his head slowly as he made eye contact with the captain. Then he turned back to the lifeless body of the young woman and with the palm of his hand, closed her wide-open eyes.
Donners didn't feel sorrow about losing a crewman. Instead, it was anger which was beginning to assert itself. Furious indignation at having lost a valued officer because of Westren Frobisher. She would make him pay for adding yet another victim to a long list of people who had been unfortunate enough to cross path with the mad scientist.
The view screen which had blinked out with most of the other bridge systems flickered back on and then off again revealing nothing.
“I want to know what happened and I want to know now. What the devil hit us?”
Daystrom had very reluctantly left Allenby's dead body behind and moved back to his science station, clearly hoping that work would distract himself from just having lost a friend. "According to sensors, we struck some sort of subspace boundary which we appear to have penetrated."
Donners needed a moment to think that one through. “Damage report?”
Mer’iab had returned to his tactical board. “Shields have come on and are holding steady but we have taken serious damage to the forward hull and a number of systems have been knocked off-line. Sickbay is reporting multiple medical emergencies throughout the ship. They don’t have a final count yet.”
Donners’ eyes drifted to Allenby. Edison had removed his uniform jacket and mercifully covered her head with it. Considering the force of the impact, it seemed almost lucky that so far Allenby was the only casualty. She hoped that this would still be the case when the final tally came in but she already suspected that her prayers would go unanswered.
“Lure, I need you to liaise with engineering and sickbay. I want a full damage report, ship and crew, as soon as possible.”
The Aurelian nodded sharply.
“Wayne, get all your people together if you have to. But tell me exactly what happened.”
Edison walked up to the captain after finishing his round of the bridge. “Looks like mostly bruised bones and minor cuts up here. Ensign Toledo broke his lower arm when he hit a console. That’s not counting Allenby,” he said.
Donners noticed only then that he was one of the officers with those cuts he had mentioned. A trickle of blood was dripping down into his eyes from a cut on his forehead and onto his red uniform shirt.
She nodded to acknowledge the report and they watched silently as a medical team arrived on the bridge, quickly realized that all help for Tess Allenby would come too late and then had her body beamed straight to the ship’s morgue.
“There is somebody on this ship who could probably provide us with some answers as to what has happened here.”
Her eyes drilled themselves into Edison’s. “Frobisher. Get him up here. I want him i