A Most Mysterious Fate
Posted on Thursday April 8th, 2021 @ 1:14pm by The Navigator
Episode 1: The Maelstrom Awaits
Timeline: Day 14 at 2355
[STARDATE: UNKNOWN. LOCATION: UNKNOWN]
The stark smell of smoke had been somewhat overwhelming, but as it began to subside, Jennifer scrunched her eyes at the bright light that was aimed directly at her and through her closed eyelids. She felt powerless and heavy; she couldn't move her hand, her head or her body. More importantly, she couldn’t feel anything, or anyone - and that panicked her.
Then she heard it.
The sound of breathing that wasn't her own. It heaved, like a man and rapid as if he'd run into the room. She listened, silent and almost still, the slightest tremble as she grew scared at what was happening. Whoever it was in the room with her, they moved slowly, their heavy feet causing a metallic ring to echo just slightly, and just enough to give her a clue as to her surroundings; she was perhaps on a ship or starbase, as opposed to a cave or some other natural dwelling.
She slowly started blinking, desperately trying to open her eyes to see what was around her. "Where am I? Where is everyone?" she pondered just as the blinding light slowly subsided and she could take a look around her surroundings. A dark room, lit by consoles. She was strapped to some sort of bed with a lamp just inches from her spotted face, which explained why it was so bright. She was relieved that nothing she could see indicated she was on a Borg vessel or any other such ship; perhaps she was on a planet somewhere? Maybe she had been strapped to the bed for her own good to undergo medical treatment? All she knew was that she wasn’t on the Nogura anymore. She was about to call out for help when she spotted something moving out of the corner of her eye. Something gangly, something enormous. Turning her head to the right to take a good look, she swiftly turned back and stared at the ceiling, a look of horror on her face as she contemplated what she had made out.
Languid, tall and gangly, the alien being had four long, upper limbs with long, pointed digits. It’s skin, at least the skin that was visible to her, was a pale grey colour, the kind of colour Romulans looked when they’d had too much Romulan ale. Daring herself to look again, her eyes lingered a little longer. She estimated that the creature was between 7 and 8 feet tall, and she could definitely make out a strong rib cage through its clothing and boney arms. In truth, it almost looked fragile, to the point that it wouldn’t take much for the creature to have its arms or legs broken. An important mental note for later, perhaps.
“This one senses that you are awakening from the simulacrum.”
The figure did not move from where it stood, its shadow veiled head did not twitch to look at her. And yet there was a sense that it was glowering at her, a palpable distaste in the tone of its words that brought about a feeling of disgust in the pit of the stomach. The light shifted away from the medical table, illuminating more of the room and her host.
Now it moved, a steady almost graceful economy of movement that spoke of martial discipline. Its skull seemed shrunk wrapped in its grey, exsanguinated skin. The eyes...were gone. Not only gone but wholly missing from its biology, the vestigial remains of their evolution being a pair of dimples in the skin where sockets had resided. It moved closer, its towering form leaning slightly forward.
“This one senses a heightened state of adrenal response,” it said without its lips moving, the words summoned to her ear by means unknown. “It shall be noted.”
“Wher… where am I?” Jurot finally mustered the strength to engage with the creature, despite the terror burning away inside her, not to mention the concern about the whereabouts of the ship’s crew. “What am I doing here?” she asked quickly, with less hesitation this time.
The figure loomed a moment longer, and then one of its spindly, fragile looking arms rose up. From the ceiling an armature descended, bringing with it a pane of glass on which lines and strobing colours flickered. It placed one digit upon the pane, cocking its head to one side as a bird might.
“Interesting. This one finds correlation in your curiosity in line with data points from the earliest parts of the simulacrum, durings its investigatory phase,” it said. “This one enquires if you believe, as you did then, that further intelligence gathering will provide you a useful vantage point to make a refined tactical decision? Would you also say that this behaviour is common place within your sociopolitical bloc?”
With a deep breath, the Commander summoned all of the courage she could muster and diverted her gaze towards the ceiling above. “I will not answer your questions. You will release me and return me to my people,” she demanded. It wasn’t quite the traditional name and service number prisoners were supposed to give, but she had to make it clear to the being that she would not tolerate being held captive, nor would she co-operate with it under duress.
“This one will note that,” it said after a moment. The screen retreated back into the ceiling, and the alien leaned back, returning to where it had stood. As it did so a shaft of light tore through the room, but as a shadow passed through, it revealed itself to only be a doorway. A taller alien, thinner in the chest than the one who had been studying her, walked in. The door closed behind them, and a gust of frigid air followed it.
The two aliens regarded one another for a long moment, sharing a private conversation perhaps in their minds, before the taller one walked to loom over the tied down Starfleet Commander.
“This one you may refer to as Navigator,” it said, the voice trailing a dry feminity with it as the words grated in her mind. “This one fufils the same tactical purpose as yourself within this vessels hierarchy. This one is here to deliver final dispensation.”
“So, you’re the Captain, and he is your first officer?” Jurot queried, the presence of the feminine creature almost putting her at ease enough to at least engage in conversation. The words ‘final dispensation’ were a bit of a worry though. “Where am I? Where are my people?” the Betazoid asked again, still disorientated by the lack of her empathic abilities, hoping she would get an answer this time, since she was no longer conversing with a subordinate.
“This one is at liberty to say that your crew are well, and their bodies maintained adequately. You are aboard a Nihari Ascendancy vessel, within an area of space you call The Wasteland. This one and her ship were dispatched to assess the United Federation of Planets for annexation,” she said/thought haughtily. “This one's scientific staff determined a demonstration of your tactical abilities against a species of similar strength to the Ascendency would be a suitable gauge to your level of development. To determine if continued co-existence was a plausible tactical option.”
The door opened again, and this time a shorter figure stepped in, dressed not in the dark fabric materials of these… Nihari... but in the black and grey of Starfleet. The fact he was not ushered in with guards, nor seemed to hold the confidence of a turn coat, went some way to speak about the level of shipboard security hidden within the walls.
For the first time since waking up, Jennifer Jurot made a move to sit up and struggle against her restraints at the sight of the Starfleet officer that approached her; not out of anger, or determination to escape, but out of confusion and shock. “It… it can’t be…” she trailed off as the newcomer came to a halt at the foot of her bed and placed a gentle hand on her leg.
“Surprise,” the man smiled as he looked his colleague in the eye and then towards the Nihari commander nearby. “Can you take these off please? She’s no threat to you,” he pleaded, trying to assure the alien being of their weakness in the current situation.
There was...a moment. The Nihari commander, Navigator, looked at the human man with a look that was almost revulsion. But it was only a moment, like clouds passing in front of the sun.
“This one's tactical simulacrums proved that to be a truth,” it said/thought to them both, and literally waved her long fingered hand over the straps. The binds didn’t unbuckle and retract, instead they seemed to unwind from each other, like tendrils and string unknoting until she was free.
All the while, Jurot just looked the Starfleet officer up and down, time and again, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. How was it possible? After what seemed like an age, the man gently helped her to sit up right, her legs swinging freely as she lifted a tender hand to his face and ran her fingers across his stubble-covered cheek. “Juros… Is it really you?”
“In the flesh,” the man in command red nodded in response to her question, closing his eyes briefly at her touch before placing his hands on her shoulders. “I know it is a lot to take in, but there is so much to tell you.” Lieutenant Commander Juros Brenn, Nogura’s tactical officer and loyal friend tried his best to comfort his confused companion.
“This one suggests that there will be time after you have left to discuss in verbal litany what you have perceived. First, this one must deliver one final task assigned to it by the Premier,” Navigators voice dripped with a sudden, overbearing reverence at the mention of that title. “It was concluded from the events your minds were subjected to that your collation of species is a fundamental risk to the Nihari Ascendency. Your society is based around an ideal of ever expanding exploration and discovery, a perpetual threat that was deemed grave enough to demand study.”
Navigator looked first at Juros, and then at Jurot.
“This one is possessed of a request from the Premier, that your Starfleet never cross the frontier of our space nor attempt to survey any star system within forty light years of our border. This is a request made only once, and should it not be heeded, punitive corrections will be made to 98% of your settled worlds.”
“Starfleet does not take kindly to threats,” a third voice, somewhat deeper than the ones before it, called from the opposite side of the room as another figure came into view. If Jurot had been shocked to see Juros alive and well, then the sight of the newcomer joining their conversation was enough to almost render her unconscious.
There, enshrined in the bright lights of the darkened room, stood her commanding officer. Living, breathing, talking. Captain Sebastian Farrell, as considered and forthright as always, scowled at the being across from him. “Have you learned nothing from our interactions? Our people have surpassed your expectations in every simulation you have put them in, yet still we have not proven ourselves worthy of your respect?” the dark-skinned man shook his head slowly. “If that is the decision of your Premier, then fine. We’ll leave and we’ll take your request under advisement,” he concluded, never once taking his eye off the navigator.
“It is not a case of respect, it is a case of your clear and present danger to the Ascendency. We pitted you against the most dire threat your collation has ever faced, and fought against it even at the cost of your own lives. This is not a laudable trait for a species. It does not boast a core of logic. This simulacrum has proven to us that were you to war with us, the only recourse would be a full redaction of your sociopolitical body,” Navigator held up a hand, stalling her silent companion who had begun to move forward. “Save small breeding colonies for study, of course. We would instead desire your ignorance and cooperation, as we would seek no war with you. No more than a fire would seek a war with a mound of burrowing insects.”
“The Federation does not seek war Navigator,” Farrell countered as he took a step forward from the bed, “our goal is to seek peaceful co-existence with our neighbours. To work together with others to better ourselves and our knowledge of the galaxy,” he added, turning his head as Juros stepped up beside him.
The green-skinned Mizarian stood side by side with the Captain, in strength and unity. “If war comes to us, then we defend ourselves with every fibre of our being, but war is not our way, Navigator. We will stay out of your way as you request. It is not our intention to antagonise your people, but you must understand that there are others out there, much closer to your territory, that will pose a far greater danger to your people than Starfleet, or the United Federation of Planets.”
“This one can assure that you do not pose a threat to the Nihari Ascendency, nor do any stellar socio political group bordering our territory. Similar investigations are underway with these groups, and similar measures will be taken to assure our privacy,” Navigator said, a derisery tone to her voice. “This one has delivered its message, and fulfilled its goal. This one's crew will soon transport you back to your vessels. This one's crew has already scrubbed your ships data troves of any data pertinent to the Ascendency. You will return to your coalition and deliver our message. Our next encounter would be decidedly less civilised.”
“Then, we will leave,” Farrell nodded in confirmation, “I ask that you allow us some time to wake some of our crew. They will be essential in ensuring my people understand your message.”
“Our message is simple.” Navigator said, turning to leave. “All of these stars are yours, except for those of the Ascendency. Attempt no contact there.”
And with that they were left in the room with the solitary Nihari scientist, who had remained silent and still through the entire exchange. Save for his movement when discussion of genocide was mentioned, which might have upset his data sets.
“So…” Brenn finally looked at the Captain next to him, “was that a yes or a no on waking our people up?”
Farrell exchanged a smirk with the Commander and then gestured with a nod of his head at the bed behind them. If the look on Jennifer’s face was anything to go by, they would have a lot of explaining to do…