January 26, 2021 at 9:22 pm #430928
Part 9 – The End’s Prologue
“Woe to thee, thee who foresaw thy own fate.”
– G’trok, The Fall of Kang
Time: 2425, Concurrent with Part 8 – Pumpkin Love
Location: New York City, Earth
:: Apartment of Rear Admiral Oliver A. Lee and Captain Nola Elbrun ::
Oliver leaned back against the kitchen sink next to Nola and intertwined his fingers with hers.
“Thank you.” He said simply.
Nola smiled. “For what?”
“Everything: baking the cake, organizing the party, coming to Arlington with me this morning . . . if you hadn’t . . .”
Nola gently squeezed his hand. “I know what Terri’s birthday means to you, Oliver. It’s never been easy. But I will always be here for you. And remember, Terri needs her father. Especially today.”
Oliver nodded without saying a word.
Nola sensed the unease that still lingered on his mind, but it was about something else.
“I’m sure they will let you know as soon as the operation is over.”
Oliver let out a small sigh.
“If the operation fails, we will have on our hand an all-out war with the Dominion, Nola.”
“But if it succeeds, we will stop the war before it can break out.”
Oliver shook his head.
“But Mori’s plan is reckless. She’s counting too much on variables we cannot control, and her contingency plan is half-baked at best. I’m afraid . . .” A sigh. “The Federation is not prepared for an all-out war, Nola.”
The Betazoid smiled reassuringly. “I have never been the best history student, but if I remember correctly, we were not exactly prepared for the last war, either. But we won, did we not?”
The knot on Oliver’s brows tightened.
“I didn’t start the last war, Nola, but if this turns out to be the beginning of another war with the Dominion, I’d be the one who started it. It would be on me. All of it.”
His eyes fell on Terri’s still undecorated birthday cake on the kitchen counter.
“War never changes, Nola. It brings death and destruction even to those far away from the frontlines. Terri already lost her mother because of the mistakes I made thirteen years ago. I . . . I can’t bring war to her.”
Nola caressed the man’s cheek with her hand and reached out to his anxious mind.
You are doing it again: taking responsibility for the worst case scenario before it even happens. Even if it were to happen, we can’t always stop the worst case scenarios, Oliver, whether it was what happened to Korra thirteen years ago on Veron III or what is happening now on the other side of the Bajoran wormhole. All we can do is do the right thing at any given moment and leave the rest to the Fates. I don’t know what the Fates have in store for Terri, for us, or for the Federation, but I do know for a fact that you always do the right thing.
Oliver looked away and avoided her gaze.
Do I? I was willing to commit genocide on Veron III after Korra . . . He shook his head. If not for you and L’Vor, I would have.
That was not you.
The man smiled wryly.
Everyone keeps saying that. After thirteen years, I don’t know if I believe them anymore.
Nola wrapped her arms around him in a gentle embrace, her fingers slowly caressing the back of his neck.
Do you believe me?
As a wave of soothing warmth washed over him, Oliver let out a soft sigh and rested his forehead against his wife’s.
Their embrace lasted for a few more moments before a familiar and exuberant uproar from the game room brought a smile to both of their faces.
Nola tightened her hug one more time before letting go of Oliver.
“Right now I’m more worried about Terri breaking another game controller than another war breaking out.”
Oliver nodded with a chuckle.
“I will go get the kids for the cake.”
Nola watched her husband disappear into the hallway. Moments later a clean shaven man in his early forties walked inside the kitchen. The rich black of his close-cropped hair contrasted sharply with the piercing blue of his eyes and the mildly pale tone of his complexion. Even when he was on leave and without his ever immaculate uniform, Lieutenant Colonel Johannes Adlerstein exuded the unshakable discipline of a Starfleet Marine in every step he took.
“Hans.” Nola smiled warmly. “How’s the party going?”
There was not the slightest relaxation in his posture as the German answered with a smile.
“Commander Singh and the professor are in the middle of another debate over gaseous spatial anomalies. So, the usual.”
Nola chuckled and shook her head.
“How’s the Skipper?” Asked Hans, the levity in his voice having given way to genuine concern.
Nola shook her head.
“Also the usual, I’m afraid, taking the blame for everything.” A sigh. “Veron III really changed him. I don’t think we will ever get the old Oliver back.”
Before the conversation could continue, it was interrupted by a small, but raucous group of kids as Oliver shepherded them into the kitchen.
As the children gathered around the counter on the other side of the spacious kitchen and began decorating the cake according to time-honored Betazoid tradition, Oliver walked over to where Nola and Hans stood.
“There you are, Hans. Is it safe to go back to the living room yet? Or is Gaurav still debating the best ways to classify subspace distortions with Amira?”
“I believe they have moved on to quantum filament, sir.”
“Ah, of course, the dreaded quantum filament.” Pausing for a moment, Oliver said to his former Marine detachment commander, “We are at Terri’s birthday party, Hans. You don’t have to address me as ‘sir’, you know.”
“As you wish, Skipper.”
Oliver broke into a whole-hearted laughter at the German’s response. For a brief moment, life and the universe didn’t seem all too bad. For a brief moment.
Nola noticed Nami entering the kitchen and sensed the same mental guard the Trill always erected whenever she was around. Nevertheless she greeted the younger woman with a warm smile.
“Nami, it has been a while. How are you?”
“Captain.” Nami responded tersely before turning to Hans. “Colonel.”
The Marine nodded. “Commander.”
Once formality was out of the way, Nami turned back to the man she had come to see. In a hushed voice she said, “We lost the task force, sir. Only the Resolute and Kumari made it back to Federation space.”
Oliver’s heart sank.
“The admiral is dead, and Brigadier Shan is MIA. The Dominion have launched counter strikes against our positions in the Gamma Quadrant, and they have already taken Outpost 112. It won’t be long before the news gets through the wormhole. The President is briefing the Council and will hold a press conference within the hour.”
Oliver exchanged a knowing look with Hans. As his eyes turned to the kids busy decorating the cake on the other side of the spacious kitchen, his heart sank deeper into the abyss. He had brought war to them. To Terri.
“Your shuttle is ready to go, sir.”
Oliver nodded and habitually tugged at the bottom of his shirt, only to remember that he was not wearing his uniform. Why would he? It’s Terri’s thirteenth birthday party.
“Wait here, Commander.” He said to Nami. “I’ll go get ready.”
As Oliver left for the bedroom, Nola turned to Nami, but the Trill glanced out of the kitchen window to her right and avoided eye contact.
The doctor persisted. “I heard about the fire, Nami, and I’m so sorry. You are always welcome to stay here while they renovate your apartment. I’m sure Terri will be thrilled to have you.”
Nami turned her attention back to the Betazoid doctor. “That would not be necessary, Captain.” She said. Then almost as an afterthought, she added, “But thank you.”
Nola would have pressed the matter a bit further if not for Terri rushing into the kitchen, her lips swollen, her eyes teary.
“Oh, my dear.” Nola gasped at the sight of the poor girl. Turning to Hans, she said hurriedly. “The medkit is in the cabinet by the replicator.” Getting down on one knee, the Betazoid gently placed her hands on Terri’s shoulders. “What happened, Terri?”
“I didn’t mean to ki . . . touch the tofu shish kebab. It was an accident. I swear.”
Terri raised her hand to scratch her burning cheeks, but was stopped by her stepmother.
“You know you can’t scratch your cheeks, Pumpkin. It would only make it worse.” Taking the medkit from Hans, Nola took out the hypospray she had prepared for Terri’s allergy and pressed it gently against the base of the girl’s neck. “You should feel better soon, but until then, no scratching. Can you do that for me?”
Terri nodded as the pain and burning itch began to slowly subside. She took some tissue paper from Hans and wiped away the tears that had rolled down the corners of her eyes.
With Korin in tow, L’Vor made her way into the kitchen and handed two loose halves of a metallic bracelet to Nola.
“I believe these are Terri’s, Doctor. Is she alright?”
Nola saw the stick of half-eaten tofu in Korin’s hand and began to have some ideas of what had happened, but she would never embarrass the girl in front of others.
Taking the bracelet from L’Vor, Nola nodded. “Thank you. It’s just a mild case of allergy. She will be fine.”
The bracelet beeped as Nola reattached the two loose pieces around Terri’s left wrist.
“Terri, you got to be more careful with the bracelet.” Said the Betazoid. “You know what could happen if you don’t have it on.”
As inconvenient as Terri’s allergy was, it was a nuisance at most and could be easily treated. Without the bracelet, however, the girl was prone to episodes of what Dr. Vas had coined temporal cognition, during which she would inexplicably experience events from the past. Sometimes it was triggered by exposure to certain exotic particles while other times it seemed completely random, but whenever it happened, it was always a taxing and painful experience for the girl, and the bracelet was the only thing that had proven effective at preventing any relapses.
Terri could feel her cheeks burning again as she saw Korin standing behind his adoptive mother. There was no way she could ever look into those handsome eyes ever again, much less talking to the boy. She had completely embarrassed herself in front of him today.
Peeling her eyes away from Korin, Terri looked down at the bracelet on her wrist.
“Why do I still have to wear it? It looks stupid, and everyone at school keeps asking me what it is.”
“We talked about this, Terri. You can’t tell others about the bracelet and about what happened. There are people, bad people, who would try to hurt you if they find out.”
“But why? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“No, you didn’t, Pumpkin.” Said Nola as she gently caressed the girl’s cheek. “No, you didn’t.”
“What happened?” Asked Oliver as he walked back inside the kitchen in his immaculately kept uniform.
Nola got back on her feet, but kept her hands on the girl’s shoulders.
“Terri ate tofu by accident, but I already gave her the medication. She will be fine.”
Oliver reached out with his hand and gently ruffled the girl’s short blonde hair.
Terri stole a furtive glance at Korin.
“It’s an accident. I swear.”
“I believe you, Pumpkin. Just be careful next time, alright?”
Terri nodded. That’s when she noticed that her father had changed into his uniform.
“Why are you in your uniform?”
Oliver’s lips parted, , but for a moment nothing came out. What was he supposed to tell the girl? That he had brought war to the Federation? To her?
“I have to go back to Starfleet Command, Terri.”
“But . . . I haven’t cut the cake yet.”
Oliver knelt down on one knee and wiped away the moisture that lingered at the corners of the girl’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Pumpkin. I really have to go now, but I’ll see you over the weekend. Save some cake for me, alright?”
Without waiting for a response, Oliver stood back up and turned to L’Vor.
“I will fill you in on the way out, but I think it would be best if Korin stays here till Marv gets back from Tellar. I’m fairly certain your ship will be recalled within the next few hours.”
The commanding officer of the USS Endurance raised a curious eyebrow and then nodded. Turning to the Andorian boy behind her, she said, “You will stay here with Captain Elbrun until your father arrives.”
Korin nodded. “Yes, Mother.”
A quick glance at the bracelet on Terri’s wrist, the boy wondered what had happened to Terri and what the bracelet was for, but he quickly pushed aside his curiosity. He had asked his mother these questions before, and she told him that it was all for Terri’s own wellbeing and that he was to drop the matter immediately. Korin had no intention of disobeying his mother. Besides, he trusted that the admiral and Captain Elbrun had Terri’s best interest at heart.
Oliver tugged at the bottom of his uniform jacket as he said to Hans. “I’ll see you tomorrow in San Francisco, Hans, but until then I’m counting on you to keep the party going.” Turning to Terri, he smiled. “It’s our Pumpkin’s birthday after all.”
The Marine nodded. “Aye aye, Skipper.”
Oliver shared a soft kiss with Nola before heading to the doors, followed closely behind by Nami and L’vor.
Terri grabbed Hans’ arm and held onto him tightly as she watched the doors close behind them. She sighed. In the last few minutes she had managed to embarrass herself in front of Korin, give her first kiss to a piece of tofu, and then suffered allergy for all that trouble. As if that’s not enough, now her dad had left, too.
Her shoulders dropped, her lips pouted, Terri let out a grumble as her eyes fell on her left wrist again.
[End. To Be Continued In Part 10.]January 26, 2021 at 9:27 pm #430929
Part 10 – Resolution
“For what do we fight, my friends? For whom do we shed our blood?”
– Khiros D’Vend, Before the Battle of the Glethian Plains
Time: 2425, A Few Days after Part 9 – The End’s Prologue
Location: San Francisco, Earth
:: Strategic Operations, Starfleet Command ::
Rear Admiral Oliver Antoninus Lee carefully folded the paper and slipped it into a cream hued envelope addressed to the Commander of Strategic Operations.
Protocols permitted him to submit the letter electronically, but if this was to be his last official act as an officer of Starfleet, it was only appropriate that he observe the Fleet’s long-standing tradition of handwriting one’s own resignation letter.
He had not planned to resign his commission in disgrace – who would so morbidly plan such a thing? – but it was in disgrace that he would resign. And he deserved it. The sheer number of casualties, the loss of two flag officers, the utter annihilation of an entire task force, and, worst of all, the beginning of a second war with the Dominion, a war that would most certainly be bloodier and more drawn out than the first. All considered, his resignation was a rather inadequate punishment.
Letting out a small sigh, Oliver gently pressed the top fold against the back of the envelope and sealed it. Now the only thing left to do was to deliver the letter to Admiral Nehal Renfri, his immediate superior, whose office was just a short walk down the hallway from his.
A double knock on doors interrupted his train of thoughts. Judging by the tempo and intensity of the knock, he knew exactly who it was. It looked like he didn’t have to walk down the hallway after all.
An elderly Trill woman walked through the opening doors, followed by a stout Bolian in a crisp Marine uniform, the collar of which was adorned with a single star.
Oliver had not expected to see Bolanus. The Marine had opposed preemptive strikes against the Dominion, the two of them arguing fiercely before the President and then the Federation Council. How he wished the Bolian had prevailed.
Noticing the envelope in Oliver’s hand, Renfri raised a slight eyebrow.
“Is that what I think it is?”
Oliver managed a small, wry smile. With the letter in his hand, he stood up and walked around his desk. “Admiral. General.” He greeted the other two officers and gestured at the chairs around the small table on the other side of the office.
He handed the envelope to the Trill as the three of them took their seats.
Renfri opened the letter and read its content. Letting out a small chuckle, she said, “Well, even your resignation letter is worthy of the O’Ryn Prize.”
There was a barely noticeable twitch on Bolanus’ brow at the comment, but the Marine remained stoic otherwise.
Renfri did not wait for Oliver’s response, and instead she tore the letter in half and along with the envelope set them back down on the coffee table. Falling back into her chair, the Trill crossed her legs and rested her hands on the armrests.
“You are not resigning.”
With a tightened knot on his brows, Oliver took a quick glance at Bolanus.
“I was the one who convinced the Council to authorize the strike.”
Renfri nodded with a smirk. “Ah, yes, that was quite the speech and presentation.”
Oliver’s frown deepened at the Trill’s nonchalance.
“You saw the casualty report. It was one of the worst debacles in Starfleet history.” A pause. “It was a massacre.”
Renfri’s smile faded.
“They chose Mori’s operational plan over yours, Oliver. You warned them, but they didn’t listen. In fact, they completely shut you out of the entire operation. The debacle in the Tauro Sector was not your fault. Yes, you convinced the Council to authorize the strike, and you will have to live with that.” Shaking her head, Renfri continued. “But it’s not just you, Oliver. The intel was faulty, Mori’s plan was ill conceived, and I could have rejected your recommendation before it ever left the building.”
“And that’s not to mention Wang.” Bolanus added. “He was the Commander-in-Chief, and he could have shut down the entire operation, but instead he sent you to convince the Council, just so that he could boost his falling poll numbers before the next election. The blame is not yours alone.”
The Bolian paused briefly before continuing.
“You made a colossal mistake when you advocated for preemptive strikes, and as Admiral Renfri said, you will have to live with that. But we have all sworn an oath to defend the Federation, and nothing can stand in the way of our fulfilling that oath. So instead of taking the easy way out and resign, you should make amends on the battlefield and help finish the war you started. But if . . .”
Renfri interrupted Bolanus in mid-sentence. The Bolian was too blunt for his own good sometimes.
“What the General meant was, the last time we fought the Dominion, it took an alliance with the Klingons and the Romulans to beat them back, but this time, between Wang pissing off both the Klingons and Romulans last year and the Cardassians declaring neutrality two hours ago, we are entirely on our own. We will need every ship and everyone we got if we are to have any hope of winning this war.”
Bolanus continued for the both of them.
“And we would be damned if we let the Federation lose one of its best tacticians because he wants to wallow in some self-righteous sense of guilt.”
Those words struck a chord in Oliver, but he hesitated nonetheless.
“The President has made it clear that he wants my head.”
Renfri rolled her eyes.
“Don’t worry about Wang. Ihro will be President by Friday.”
Noticing the puzzled look on the human’s countenance, Renfri explained.
“My source at the Palace de la Concorde assured me that Wang would resign by Friday if he could not secure enough votes on the Council. And he cannot secure enough votes on the Council without Gorok’s support. And I know Gorok: the Tellarite holds his grudges.”
Oliver’s eyes fell on the neatly torn resignation letter on the table before him. Letting out a small sigh, he shifted his gaze through the large windows behind his desk and to the horizon outside, where the orange fire of the setting sun burned brightly, one last hooray before it inevitably gave way to the approaching night.
He had always preferred dawn.
As he shifted his attention away from the setting sun and back to the other two flag officers, something on his desk caught his eyes. It was Terri’s school science project from last month.
The silver trimmed, blue object was palm-sized and in the shape of a polyhedral torus, two new words he learned from Terri, who impatiently explained to him in layman’s terms that it was “just like a polygonal burger, but with a hole in the middle.” The device was supposed to be a high resolution chronometric sensor array, but Terri never finished it because it needed a quantum flux modulator with latency requirements that far exceeded what was readily available.
Ms. Tress, Terri’s science teacher, however, was impressed, and so was Commander Singh, his former chief science officer on the Bunker Hill and then the Themyscira, but as the project was unfinished, half a point was deducted from the final grade, leaving Terri with her first and only science grade that was less than a perfect A. Needless to say, the girl was upset. Very upset. It took Nola quite some effort and a whole plate of burgers to finally calm her down.
Terri was quite the temperamental prodigy.
The thought brought a smile to one end of his lips.
Terri . . .
His smile faded into resolute determination. He had made up his mind.
:: Later, New York City ::
As the door closed behind him, Oliver unzipped his uniform jacket and hesitated for a moment before making his way through the hallway and into the dimly lit living room, where an episode of Toran the Squirrel was playing quietly on the holographic screen, but the show’s biggest fan had already fallen asleep on Nola’s lap.
Nola greeted Oliver with a warm smile. As he sat down on the couch next to her, the Betazoid kissed him gently. She then gestured at the last slice of birthday cake on the coffee table.
“She saved it for you.”
Oliver looked at the cake and smiled wryly.
Nola didn’t need telepathy to know what’s on her husband’s mind.
“When are you leaving?”
“First thing in the morning. Remnants of Mori’s battlegroup have been ordered to fall back to Deep Space 11. If Starbase 214 falls – and it mostly likely will by the end of next week – DS11 will be our last stronghold in the Gamma Quadrant. Renfri wants me to reform what’s left of Mori’s battle group with the ships already assigned to the station and hold the line until the Tenth Fleet gets there.”
Oliver looked down at Terri and gently caressed her cheek.
“I couldn’t save her mother thirteen years ago, and now I have brought war. I will be damned if I let the war reach her. She deserves so much better. So much more.”
Terri wriggled slightly on Nola’s lap. “You are . . . Who are you?” She mumbled in her sleep.
Oliver looked up at Nola.
“It’s late. You should go get some sleep. I will stay with her.”
Nola nodded and gently moved the girl from her own lap to Oliver’s. She then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
“Take your time.” She whispered.
Oliver nodded with an appreciative smile. He watched the Betazoid disappear behind the slabbed wooden divider that separated the living from the master bedroom. Then he looked back down at Terri, who mumbled something more, but this time less intelligibly.
Oliver chuckled quietly and tucked some loose hair behind her ear. He had not spent nearly enough time with the girl since . . . since too long, and now he might not get another chance for a while.
He shook his head. The past would never let him escape and the future would inevitably come. Perhaps he should just enjoy the present for a change.
[End. To Be Continued In Part 11.]January 26, 2021 at 9:36 pm #430930
Part 11 – The Girl Who Dreamed of A Starship
“They dreamed and dreamed, until their dream became their reality.”
– Saasres Devun of the Fifth House
[Previously in Part 7 – The Future That Time Forgot]
. . . . . .
“As much as I like a good fight, and you know I do, but this treaty would not have been possible if your father had not stopped another war with the Dominion twenty-five years ago, and he didn’t stop it at the head of an armada. He stopped it with nothing more than, well, talking and shaking hands.”
Terri shrugged. “We would have trounced the Dominion in under a year.”
Her first officer’s voice came through the intercom and interrupted the conversation.
=/\= Takath to the Captain, we have arrived outside of the nebula. =/\=
Terri tapped her combadge. “On my way.” Looking back at her mother on the view screen, she said, “I have to go.”
“Give them hell, Pumpkin.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Terri responded with a chuckle.
. . . . . .
The voices were getting louder. And the laughters, too.
Terri always hated it when people interrupted her sleep. She tried to ignore them, but soon she began to grow annoyed. Then it occurred to her that perhaps her dad had come home.
She had saved the last piece of her birthday cake for him.
Terri yawned. Her eyes still half closed and her mind still a bit foggy, she tried to pull herself up from the couch and . . . Wait a second, she had never seen this couch before. And where was Nola? The last thing she remembered she was watching Toran the Squirrel with Nola in the living room.
Terri rubbed her eyes and got back on her own feet. By now the voices had grown intelligible. She turned and found a woman sitting behind a desk, her short blonde hair neatly tucked behind her ears and her face obscured by a holographic display. Her black-and-white uniform was unfamiliar, but clearly Starfleet, and the four platinum colored pips on the uniform’s right chest indicated the officer’s rank.
From where she stood, Terri couldn’t see whom the woman was talking to on the display, but it was another woman, and she sounded older.
“Well, as much as I like a good fight, and you know I do,” She sounded familiar. “But this treaty would not have been possible if your father had not stopped another war with the Dominion twenty-five years ago, and he didn’t stop it at the head of an armada. He stopped it with nothing more than, well, talking and shaking hands.”
The woman behind the desk shrugged. “We could have trounced the Dominion in under a year.”
A deep voice came through the intercom.
=/\= Takath to the Captain, we have arrived outside of the nebula. =/\=
Was she on a ship? Terri wondered.
The blonde haired woman tapped her combage. “On my way.” Looking back at the other woman on the holo display, she said, “I have to go.”
“Give them hell, Pumpkin.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” The woman responded with a chuckle before terminating the call and turning off the display.
Terri’s eyes widened as the captain’s face came into view. It was exactly how the Face app said she would look like when she grew up.
“Hello, Terri.” The woman greeted the girl with a big smile.
Terri swallowed hard. “You are . . . Who are you?”
The woman tilted her head to the side and grinned. “We are you.”
Terri mirrored the captain’s tilt of head, but in confusion. What she said didn’t make any sense. She might as well be speaking Klingon to her without the universal translator.
The blonde haired woman did not answer. Instead, she walked over from her desk to where the little girl stood.
She placed her hands on Terri’s shoulders and said, “You can call us Cornelia. Come, we need to show you something.”
Terri nodded and followed Cornelia to the door. The girl still had no clue what was going on, but something inside her said she could trust the woman. But why did Cornelia look just like she would when she grew up? Wait, her own middle name was Cornelia.
Just then the ready room doors swooped open.
The bridge before them was unmistakably that of a Starfleet ship, but it was much more brightly lit than any Terri had ever seen, with brilliant light bouncing off the predominantly white palette, which was only interrupted by the ubiquitous blue holographic displays and the occasional gray accents.
Terri’s eyes opened wide at what she saw.
Those holo displays, they looked far more advanced than the ones on Themyscira. And those consoles, too. In fact, everything just looked so advanced.
Maybe she could even find that quantum flux modulator here somewhere and finally finish her chronometric sensor array. And if she resubmitted it to Ms. Tress, who knows, she might even get that half point back.
“This was El’nar Ascendant.” Said Cornelia. Then she gestured at the empty seat in the middle of the bridge, right next to where a hulking Klingon sat. “And you once sat in that chair over there. It was yours.”
Terri blinked. “You mean I had my own starship?”
Terri grinned from ear to ear. What Cornelia said still didn’t make any sense – why would any thirteen year old have their own starship, much less a starship this advanced? – but she had her own starship, and how cool was that!
Wait, she “had” her own starship . . .
Cornelia didn’t give the girl a chance to ask any more questions. Instead, she pointed at the multi-colored nebula on the ship’s view screen.
“Do you see that nebula?”
Terri nodded. “Yes.”
“She’s there somewhere.”
“She’s the Destroyer.”
Terri tilted her head to the side. “The what?”
Without answering the girl’s question, Cornelia walked over to the captain’s chair and sat down.
“Reset the resonant pulse to continuous firing cycle and focus the tachyon particles through the axionic modulator.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.” The Tellarite Lieutenant at the science station acknowledged his order.
Cornelia turned to the human lieutenant commander at tactical. “Sasha, lock weapons on them as soon as their cloak fails. If they so much as power on their weapons, fire quantum torpedoes and blow them back to whatever hellhole they crawled out of.”
Unsure what was going on and seemingly ignored by Cornelia and everyone else on the bridge, Terri turned to the nebula again. It was beautiful. It was calling out to her.
Unable to resist her curiosity, the girl walked to the front of the bridge and paused a few steps in front of the view screen. It was mesmerizing.
“Our order is to take them in alive, Captain.” Said Takath from the XO’s seat, seemingly oblivious to the little girl standing in front of the view screen. “Starfleet Intelligence wants as little damage to that ship as possible.”
Cornelia snorted as one end of her lips curled up in a smirk.
“Come on, Takath. What kind of Klingon warrior are you, walking away from a glorious battle like this? Just imagine all the statues they will honor you with in the First City for taking down the Butcher of Kaldin V.”
“First of all, Captain, I’m from Toronto.” The Klingon officer reminded his friend. “And second of all, I would die a coward before setting foot on Qo’nos.”
“Oh, yeah? Then why . . .”
Before Cornelia could finish her retort, Sasha interrupted her.
“They have decloaked. Locking onto target . . . wait, we are being hailed.”
The smirk quickly vanished from Cornelia’s face.
The nebula on the view screen was immediately replaced by the bridge of a Romulan scout ship, where the only chair was occupied by a woman wearing a black mask that covered her entire face below the eyes. Her pixie cut blonde hair and her piercing emerald eyes contrasted sharply with the black and dark grey of her garb.
The woman stood up from her seat and stepped towards the view screen.
“Terri, it’s good to see you again.”
Terri tiled her head to the side. Was the woman on the view screen talking to her? How did she know her name?
Cornelia mirrored the other woman’s move and positioned herself in front of the much larger view screen of her own ship.
“Save it, Ayana. Surrender now before I wipe the floor with your ugly face. Or even better, don’t surrender, and we will settle this the old fashioned way. Just you and I. Or do you prefer the way of the coward, hiding behind your cloak and your mask?”
“A duel? Oh, come on, Terri, don’t be silly. We might hate each other, but we are not savages.” She paused for a moment as if to reconsider the other woman’s offer. “On the other hand, since I already won, I suppose it’s only fair that you know who beat you at your own game.”
“What the heck are you talking about? I have 271 quantum torpedoes ready to fire on your pathetic ship. And what do you have? A couple of plasmas?”
Terri blinked. Why did the woman on the view screen call Cornelia Terri? It didn’t make any sense. None of this made any sense.
Then all the sudden everything and everyone around her froze and flickered like a malfunctioning holo novel. Everyone except Cornelia.
Terri’s heart skipped a beat.
“What’s going on?”
Cornelia’s brows knitted. Turning to the little girl, she knelt down on one knee and grabbed both of Terri’s hands with hers.
“We thought we could maintain the connection a bit longer, but something is not right. We don’t have much time, Terri, so listen carefully. Remember us. Find us. And do not trust . . .”
As Cornelia began to flicker, too, the rest of her sentence turned to alien gibberish.
Terri’s eyes widened and her breathing quickened as the static noise around her grew louder and louder.
“What’s happening to you? What’s going on?”
Then suddenly everything turned dead silent.
Terri’s eyes snapped open and jolted up from the couch, only to found herself on her father’s lap.
“Sorry, Pumpkin. Did I wake you up?” Asked Oliver with an apologetic smile.
Terri did not respond. Instead she hurriedly glanced around the dimly lit living room as if looking for something. For someone. But it’s just her dad and her favorite squirrel detective on the holo screen.
Oliver gently ruffled her hair.
“Did you dream about Toran the Squirrel again?”
Terri blinked and looked down at her left wrist. The bracelet was still there and working. So it was a dream. But it was not about the furry detective.
“No, I . . .”
That was when she realized that she didn’t remember much about the dream except for a fading sensation of confusion and . . .
Her shoulders dropped, and she let out a wistful sigh.
“I had a starship.”
[End. To Be Continued In Part 12.]
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