It had been a few days since he had been placed in command of the newly commissioned N.C.X. Raptor. Despite the success against the Urthean attack not that long ago, Fleet HQ was demanding that the vessel complete a full shakedown test before it was returned to active status.
Harry had been on a few shakedowns mostly after refits were completed. They could occasionally be long and boring but they were a necessity in working out all of a vessel's quirks before being pushed into full service. Sometimes all it took for a critical failure to occur was the unavoidable occurrence or individual error. A stem-bolt could be improperly tightened, a bulkhead to be improperly sealed or a computer component could be installed wrong. Also from the meeting he had last night in Commander Stiles' office via viewer conference the higher-ups were eager to start using the ship as a testbed for future technologies.
The last few days they had just been cruising around the sector running drills, trying to get a better feel for the ship. It also allowed him to get familiar with most of his crew. Stepping into a turbo-lift, he scanned his eyes over the names and their last assignments. It seemed to him that most of the crew was made up of a hodgepodge of transfers from other ships passing through and a mix of station personnel. A few of them he did know, casually at least.
There was a lot of ground to cover and with the Fleet backing up starbase 186 for once they wouldn't have to worry about outside interference. Harry Martinez looked at this mundane duty as an opportunity to see if this menagerie of crew members could function as a unit. With there only being thirty-five crewmembers there was no reason that they couldn't get to know each other. It would be a lot different from the bigger cruisers Harry was used to.
The turbo-lift ride to deck two was short, the walk to the forward of the ship was a bit longer. He stepped through the double doors of the mess to see that everyone that had been ordered to assemble seemed to be present. The crew was chatting amongst themselves quietly and milling about.
"Attention," Jakar shouted over the din as Harry entered. "Captain on deck!"
Everyone immediately quieted down and Harry thanked Jakar. It was unusual being referred to as Captain, even though he hadn't achieved the rank yet. Jakar, his tactical officer, insisted on it as a matter of tradition. Harry, reluctantly, agreed that if a flag officer was aboard that they would address him properly.
Harry cleared his throat and began. "I suppose you are all wondering what this meeting is about and I promise you I will be brief and to the point." Harry said, "Fleet Headquarters has ordered that we begin shakedown tests of the Raptor despite our success a few days ago."
A quiet groan went around the room. Harry waited for it to pass.
"They are requesting a full test of all the ship's capabilities and equipment. They want us to record and document everything in detail. The reason being, they hope to press the Raptor into service as an active testbed for new technologies. They want this done as soon as possible. As of attending this meeting, you are all now on active duty. I suggest you drop the complaints. There is a lot of work to be done. The way I see it, the sooner we get it done the better."
Fara, who had been sitting in the front row with her arms folded across her chest and venom in her expression, was the first to shoot a paw in the air.
"Excuse me, sir, but why wasn't I informed of any of this?"
"Trust me, Ms. Phoenix," Harry assured, "I just found out about this last night. If I had had any warning I would have let you know."
Fara scowled and rolled her eyes.
"Is the Raptor ready for this?" Harry asked pointedly.
"If you mean the repairs are complete," Fara replied, "yes, sir."
"Well, then you had better get started," Harry said, walking up to her and handing her one of the stacks of data pads he had. "Your assignments. Pass them out to the rest of the section leaders," he said with a smile.
Fara scowled but took the pads and did as told.
"You are all dismissed. Return to your stations," Harry said.
"AAAAUGGH I hate shakedown duty!" Land complained to Terri-Lu, the communications officer, firing up the flight control console.
"Do you ever do anything but complain?" Terri said, placing a audio receiver on one of her spines near her ear.
"Well yeah, but complaining comes easiest." Land smirked. "Have you ever been on one of these before? It is dullsville with a capital 'D'."
"Since I properly maintain and monitor the equipment that I use," Terri replied rather calmly, "it won't take me long to do the checks required. I'll log everything I do, so I'll be spending most of this little task listening to subspace chatter and enjoying a good book."
Jack looked dumbfounded for a moment. "You keep a log?"
"Yes," Terri said, smirking, "I'm probably one of the few communications officers who stays on top of their paperwork. Perhaps, if you maintained your station, you wouldn't be pulling your hair out filling out reports for the next two hours."
"I just started flying this tin can!" Land protested, smacking the control console. "I barely even know her and HQ wants me to start poking around inside her and see what's what?"
"It's all standard regulations." Terri chuckled. "If you'd read them once in a while, it'd save you a lot of headaches."
Jakar couldn't help but chuckle from his station.
"Yeah, laugh it up. I'm sure you can keep up with miles of paperwork."
"I do," Jakar said while wearing one of his rarely seen smiles. "When you sleep as little as I do, you'd be surprised at what you can get accomplished."
At that moment, Harry entered the bridge and quickly sat in his command chair, activating the adjoining displays.
"Are we underway yet Mr. Land?" Harry asked.
"No, not yet," Land answered, sitting down in his chair.
"Then I suggest you get to it. Are all stations secure?" Harry asked, typing on a small pad.
"All stations are green. We're ready to start the tests." Terri Lu replied, sitting down in her chair.
Harry looked over at the engineering station and tapped his com station. He felt like irritating Fara a bit more. "Ms. Phoenix, will you be joining us on the bridge?"
"Just one darn minute!" Fara spat back. "I'll be up there soon. Everything checks out down here."
"Very well chief, no rush." Harry smirked. "Mr. Land, set a course at your discretion."
"Aye, sir." Land said, pulling up the stellar charts and looking for anything in the region that might be worth checking out. He spotted an expanse that looked fairly uninteresting. If anything, they could probably do some good warp speed tests. He set the coordinates.
"Course plotted and laid in," he reported.
"Very good," Harry said, clapping his hands. "Let's get this test over with. Mr. Land warp five."
The stars on the viewer leaped forward and started to streak by.
"So where exactly are we going, helm?" Harry asked as he got out of his chair and then walked up to the navigation console.
Jack glanced back down at his console. "The Loran Expanse. I figured you'd like some room to see what this ship can do."
"Good choice," Harry said.
Fara came onto the bridge and threw herself down into the engineering station seat and powered up the display.
"Nice of you to join us, Chief," Harry said casually.
Fara issued a quiet snarl and went to work.
"You know skip, you probably shouldn't rattle her like that," Jack muttered, trying not to laugh.
Harry smirked. "She needs to be rattled a little. It'll make her focus a bit more." He then looked over his shoulder back at Fara. "Fara, are the Warp Engines up for a decent break-in?"
Fara was hunched over her console, scrutinizing her readouts.
"Everything looks five by five. Warp intermix efficiency is at 99%. Nothing unusual to report."
"Well," Harry said, looking at the orders, "Fleet HQ wants to know how fast we can go. They figure that since you have a modified Warp core for a larger vessel equipped in the Raptor, they want to make sure it can withstand the warp stresses of the higher speed ranges."
"It should," Fara replied. "I don't think we've even tried anything above seven five."
"Very well, no time like the present. Mr. Land, increase our speed by twenty-five percent every forty-five seconds. They want thorough readings for each speed." Harry ordered,He then turned to his Lt. O'mara. "Mrs. O'mara, I want those sensors running in top form."
"I'll d-do my best sir. This isn't exactly top of the line equipment I am working with." O'mara replied.
The deck plates began to hum as the engines slowly increased their speed.
Episode 1B, Special 04
IDP: 2009-2012, 2020
Edited by Saurex Conoway
So far the tests of the Raptor's systems have been successful. There have only been a few minor operational problems that are computer-related, but nothing critical. The warp engines have performed well and they can sustain a flight of 9.7 for at least two hours. We are currently sitting a light-year out of Confederation space in the Mirobi sector. It is a fairly empty area of space that is ideal for such tests due to its vastness and lack of star systems.
We will be underway shortly, as soon as Fara's people are done going over the Warp Coils. Once we recharge and get mobile, it's on to the tactical systems.
Harry sat drinking a cup of coffee, watching the screen waiting on word from engineering. It was nice to simply enjoy the quiet, although he was sure Jack Land was asleep at his post and doing a good job of appearing to be upright from behind. Jakar was busy going through all his diagnostics before the weapons tests began. Michelle O'mara was currently monitoring sensors at her station. Suddenly, there was a disgruntled grunt from Jakar.
"Problem Chief?" Harry asked.
Jakar nodded and pointed to his console on the wall where the torpedo launcher controls were up. "Yes. The forward launcher appears to have jammed for some reason."
"It's probably a malfunctioning magnetic clamp," Jakar grunted, standing up.
"That's unusual. I thought that only happened in certain outdated models of launchers," Harry said.
Jakar smirked. "Yes, but during the construction of this vessel, especially the later additions, we had to improvise on what parts we got. I will take care of it. I don't want to delay Ms. Phoenix by bothering her with this."
Harry frowned. "Do you need help?"
Jakar shook his head. "I'll be fine. I'll just replicate a new clamp and slap it in."
He disappeared between the aft portside bridge doors.
"Improvise?" Harry wondered sipping his coffee. "Lieutenant Lu, I don't recall anything about improvising anything about this vessel in the reports you gave me."
"Sir?" Terri said suddenly muting the earbud and looking at him.
"I thought this ship was supposedly state of the art, with modern equipment."
"It is. Mostly, Sir." Terri said, looking a bit flushed.
Terri bit her lip."There were omissions in the report."
"Omissions?" Harry said, stopping mid-sip "What kind of Omissions…"
"Oh, I told her…." Terri sighed, realizing something slipped that she shouldn't have let out.
"You told who, Lieutenant?" Harry asked grimly.
"Sir, there were some problems during the final stage of the Raptor project." Terri finally said.
"Problems?" Harry said, raising a brow, still looking very irritated.
"Problems with distribution, equipment getting lost or not just arriving," Terri said frustrated. "We had to make do with a few parts here and there."
"Make do..." Harry said incredulously.
"I told Fara that she needed to include these changes in the dossier we gave you, but she insisted on not sharing those changes with you." Terri added.
"How many of these little changes am I not aware of?" Harry asked, drumming his fingers on his coffee cup.
"The Forward Torpedo Launcher, two of the turbo lifts, the warp plasma conduit, half the power relays, two of the warp coil sections- "
Harry held up his paw. "Ok, I get it."
Terri looked down at the ground looking a bit embarrassed and worried.
"I appreciate your honesty. I just hope that if there is a little detail like this again in the future you will be more forward with it. Is that understood Lieutenant?"
"Sir, Yes sir." Terri nodded.
"I will speak to Chief Phoenix. Until then, if there is anything with this ship that changes that I don't know about, I want to know about it before anyone else. Is that absolutely clear?"
Terri nodded. "Of course sir!"
"And as for you Mister Rivas," Harry said, turning to Don, who seemed to flinch realizing the gaze of his CO was now targeted on him. "You are the operations manager. Why did these little details slip past you? Why is my communications officer a bit more informed than you are?"
The Cornerian wolf spun in his chair to face Harry and folded his arms.
"Sir, I was placed here to serve as the liaison between Arspace Dynamics and Starfleet. No offense, but this was supposed to be my ship and believe me, I am not too happy about this either. The problem is Chief Phoenix. I have had multiple confrontations with her over this on the deadlines and delays this project has had over the last 18 months and so far she has met them. If I had known about this I would have this ship put to a fleet yard for a thorough once-over."
"Were you aware of these delays?" Harry demanded.
"Yes, but Fara kept assuring me she had solved the problems." Rivas shrugged.
"You didn't think to look into it?" Harry growled.
"My orders were to get this project done by the deadline or it would be scrapped," Rivas said. "We didn't have much of a choice."
Harry was starting to get angry when a meek voice from behind him chimed in.
"C-c-commander, I have s-s-s-something on sensors."
Harry took a deep breath and let it out. "We will continue this later, with Ms. Phoenix. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." They both replied.
Harry walked across the bridge, punching the back of Jack's chair, jarring him back awake, to O'mara's station and said. "What is it, Lieutenant?"
"I'm picking up a single vessel. It appears to be adrift sir." Lt. O'mara reported. "It appears to be a shuttlecraft."
"A shuttle? Out here? That's unusual." Harry said. "Scan it for life signs."
"One life sign...it is very faint," Michelle said.
"Very well. Mr. Land, take us to one-quarter impulse and move to intercept." He set his cup down in its holder and tapped a com button on his command console. "Bridge to Shuttlebay. Be ready to tractor in a shuttlecraft."
"Aye Sir." A voice replied.
"Strange…" Michelle muttered.
"Sensors detect energy scouring on the hull. Some of the signatures indicate proximity to a warp core breach. The others are something I h-h-haven't seen before."
"Can we beam the pilot aboard?" Harry asked.
"Negative, the unknown energy would in-int-interfere with the transporter," Michelle replied.
Harry saw the ship's tractor beams snag the drifting craft and drag it below the view of the top of the saucer. "Medical team, report to the shuttle bay immediately." He added, hitting the com switch. "I suggest you get down there as well, Lieutenant. I want a full report."
Michelle nodded nervously and got out of her chair, heading for the bridge's forward exit.
Michelle exited the turbo lift on deck four and walked down to the loading ramp where Dr. Okan was waiting with two EMT's. He nodded to her as she quietly waited on the other side of the ramp. Knackt, Fara's chief assistant, soon arrived with a tool case.
"How quick can you get into that shuttle?" Dr. Okan asked Knackt.
"You don't worry about that. I'll get the door open easy as pie." The rat smirked, tapping his tool case.
The signal tone sounded as the shuttle was brought into the bay, and decontaminated. The doors parted and Knackt headed in first with the medical team behind him and Michelle bringing up the rear. Knackt walked up to the shuttle, sat his tool kit on the damaged nacelle, and pulled out the tools and quickly went to work on the door.
Michelle felt a bit useless and was fidgeting with her tricorder when she thought she had seen a double image. She rubbed her eyes and then realized that was indeed what she was seeing. The number on the shuttle was a 5 and along its side it said: Shuttlecraft Angel Island N.C.X Raptor.
Sitting across from her was the same shuttle on the other side of the bay.
"Um…d-d-doctor," she stammered, dropping her tricorder.
"In a moment, Lieutenant." Dr. Okan said as Knackt popped the seal open on the door of the shuttle and scuttled out of the way, making way for the medical team.
He climbed into the cockpit and scanned the pilot before he turned the chair to face him. Vitals were weak, but viable. He then paused when he looked at the pilot's face as he checked his pulse at his neck.
"Told ya it wouldn't be a big deal," Knackt smirked, walking up to Michelle as she picked her tricorder up off the deck and started to scan the shuttle.
"D-d-d-did you notice the name on that sh-sh shuttle?" She asked Knackt.
"What are you talking about?" Knackt said, looking at her a bit confused.
Michelle pointed at it. Knackt looked and made a startled squeak when he saw the name on the shuttle.
"N-n-n-no kidding." Michelle replied.
"Okan to Martinez.." Okan said, hitting his com badge.
"Yes Doctor, what is it?" Harry replied.
Okan signaled to his team for an emergency transporter tag. They entered the shuttle and were a bit stunned at what they were seeing.
"I think you better get down to sickbay and see our guest, ASAP."
He said, applying the tag to the pilot's uniform. "Okan to Sickbay, two for emergency transport."
In the chair, looking a little worse for wear, was the unconscious Harry Martinez.
Harry arrived in sickbay and stopped short when he saw the unconscious form of himself in the gurney.
"One second, commander." Dr. Okan said, motioning. "I just started a full biological profile and I would appreciate it if you stayed out of the way."
Harry put his hands up in a placating manner and walked back to stand by the doctor's office as he watched. This person, whoever it was, definitely looked like him, the same build and everything. It was almost like looking into a mirror. Harry leaned against the wall and waited patiently, his thoughts drifting toward the reports that they now had two identical shuttlecraft as well and he still needed to have a little one-on-one with his chief engineer about a few technical details.
"Is that a person…" Harry started to ask,"Or some sort of construct...an android?"
"As far as I can tell, he's you," Okan replied. "Brain waves, genetic profile, everything...he's you." He then paused. "However, his brain patterns seem out of sync, I've never seen anything like it before." Okan finally motioned him over and walked over to the main display and activated a restraining field.
"Doctor?" Harry asked.
"It's more for his protection," Okan explained. "He's in a weakened state. I don't need him thrashing around."
"Understood. I understand he's in poor shape, but he has some questions to answer."
Okan nodded. "I'll revive him, but he's not going to be very lucid."
"Understood," Harry grunted.
Okan walked over to a stand with hypo sprays laid out on it, grabbed a stimulant, carefully placed it against the unconscious Commander's neck and injected it. Suddenly the master diagnostic display started to make warning noises and the indicator arrows started sliding towards zero.
"Doctor?" Harry asked.
"I don't understand…" He said, quickly thinking before running over to grab a neutralizing agent. He quickly injected it and the readings returned to positive.
"I don't know…" Dr. Okan said. "the stimulant I injected him with seemed to have the opposite effect. I've never seen a reaction like that before."
Harry looked a little frustrated. "Doctor I appreciate the fact you want to keep him alive, but the fact that there is a duplicate here is a very pressing matter I would like to get to the bottom of."
"Understood sir." Okan nodded.
"I'll be on the bridge." Harry said, taking one more look at his doppelganger and leaving the sickbay. "Martinez to O'mara," he said, touching a wall panel outside of sickbay.
"I want that shuttles logs ASAP. Is that understood."
"Y-yes sir." She replied.
The duplicate Angel Island sat in the middle of the shuttle bay with all its hatches open and Fara's engineering teams crawling over every piece of it.
Fara hooked up the umbilical power to the shuttle and finished fastening the clamps. "Ok, Michelle we're ready to power up."
Michelle nodded, sitting in the pilot seat of the shuttle. "Ok, I'm going to try to get it going." She opened the shuttle's manual power controls and started to activate them. Soon the main control boards lit up.
"That's encouraging," Michelle said. "Powering up the shuttle right now," she said, entering the commands. A slow hum began to fill the interior of the shuttle and then all the panels started to short out.
"KILL THE POWER! KILL THE POWER!" Michelle shouted as Fara dove for the controls on the umbilical and disengaged the power. "Fara! I th-th-thought you said you had it hooked up right?!" She said, molting a few feathers out of fright.
"I did! Every damn shuttle in the fleet uses the same power," Fara growled.
"Well, this one doesn't, obviously!" She said, putting out a small fire on one of her arm feathers. It's almost like you hooked it up backward!"
"Well I didn't! This isn't the first time I've done this," Fara said rather indignantly as she scanned the shuttle with a tricorder she had fished out of a kit set up on the nacelle. "Ok…the emergency grounds kicked in…that's weird. That's only supposed to happen in case it is hooked up wrong. But you have to be almost retarded to pull that off because you have to almost beat the connection on there to make it do that." Fara puzzled. "It's hooked up right...I double-checked it…."
"Well try reversing the polarity of the power source," Michelle said after a moment of thought. "What have we got to lose?"
"Sure." Fara said, going back to fidget with the power source. "Now try it."
Michelle opened the manual panel, reset the breakers, and tried again. This time the shuttle powered up with no problems. She looked over at Fara and shrugged.
"I'll be damned," Fara muttered, seeing the lights kick on and the impulse engine starting to hum again.
Michelle cracked her feathery fingers. "I'll access the ship's logs now." She started typing and bringing up the shuttles records as Fara climbed in behind her. As the time readouts began to flash on the main display, Fara pointed at the console and crowded Michelle in the cramped pilot's area.
"Wait," she snapped, "hold on a minute! Look at that." She was pointing to one of the log entries.
Michelle blinked at the screen. Every single log entry's timestamps were at least 6 hours ahead of their current time.
"Check out the last one," Fara said. "Before the shuttle lost power."
Michelle nodded and accessed the log, putting it on the overlay viewer of the shuttle.
The picture was hazy at first, but soon it showed the interior of the shuttle bay and a lone figure stood watching the shuttle depart.
They both looked at it. "Isn't that Lt. Rivas?" Fara asked.
"I think so," Michelle said.
The screen flickered again, showing an aft view from the shuttle looking back onto the Raptor that seemed to be in the middle of some sort of vortex as the shuttle flew away from it. However, suddenly a bolt of energy shot out from the swirling vortex and struck the Raptor. The lights and engines on the ship suddenly went dark and it started to careen out of control before another energy bolt hit it and the ship exploded.
All that remained was the swirling vortex, and the log terminated.
They both exchanged shocked glances.
"W-w-we need to get this to Harry." Michelle choked out.
"No kidding," Fara said, reaching for the data extractor.
The bridge crew of the Raptor was assembled in the Raptor's ready room, seated around the table in the small conference area that the ship had. Fara and Michelle stood beside the master display console that played the shuttles log footage. The room was eerily quiet except for the dull hum of the engines of the ship.
Michelle broke the silence. "According to the shuttles log entries, the Raptor will encounter that anomaly in three and a half hours. We also recovered this. It's the last personal log on the shuttle." She said, hitting another control button on the table.
I have just witnessed the destruction of the U.S.S Raptor with the loss of all hands save.. myself.
"That was all we could recover, we couldn't get anything else," Michelle said quietly.
Harry stood up and began to pace around the table, his hands placed behind his back as Fara and Michelle took their seats.
"So now we have to consider that everything we have just seen is going to happen...in a matter of a few hours," he said tensely. "The ship will be destroyed and for some reason, I'll leave the ship. Suggestions anyone?"
"I've already done a preliminary scan of our course ahead," Jakar said, "and there are no threats to us along our present course."
"I've been talking to everyone within subspace radio range," Terri added. "No one else has seen any unusual activity."
"Lieutenant?" Harry asked Lt. Rivas.
"Logically, it's already happened," he grunted. "If that is what's going to happen to us, how do we even know what to do? We could change course, we could stop, but regardless of what we do, we don't know what action will prevent this from happening."
"That's a real cheery outlook," Fara grumbled. "We're dead if we do, dead if we don't."
"Regardless," Rivas said with a small glare at Fara, "I think our best bet is to just continue as we were."
Harry thought about it and said, "Agreed. However, we need to understand whatever decisions have been made were thought to be right at the time this…first happened." Harry rubbed his brow. This whole situation was perplexing and he had hoped Doctor Okan had some answers for him. "We will continue with the shakedown and deal with the situation as it occurs."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"Dismissed," Harry said before adding, "except you, Fara." He waited until everyone had left the room and then continued. "I need to talk to you about some eccentricities with this vessel."
Fara shifted in her seat, but remained calm. "What are you talking about Captain," she asked, although her tone suggested she knew she was in the hot seat.
"I'm talking about the rather large amount of equipment that you have scavenged to keep this vessel operational."
"Oh, that," Fara said, tapping her fingers on the desk.
"You are aware that Starfleet has some very strict guidelines about what equipment is requisitioned for starships, especially prototypes," Harry said bluntly. "I trust you have at least looked at these during the development of this starship."
"Yeah, sure." Fara said, drumming her fingers a bit more rapidly.
"I understand there have been difficulties in the creation of this starship and some hurdles that have been overcome," Harry said, "but what I don't appreciate is you not being forward about it. I asked you for a full brief on this ship and if it wasn't for my bridge officer's honesty, I would not have known about this." His tone was dangerous as he spoke. "Why didn't you share this information with me?"
"I…um…" Fara sputtered before Harry put up his hand.
"Save it," he said. "In light of the current situation, it seems a bit pointless. But, if we survive the next few hours I want you to understand something," he steepled his fingers and leaned forward. "If you ever do anything behind my back, or anyone else's again, I will have you thrown in the brig and then off this ship when we dock again. Is that understood, Chief Engineer Fara?"
Fara nodded mutely.
"And if we get back, I want a full debriefing on the status of this vessel. I want to know everything you haven't told me. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Commander," Fara muttered, keeping her gaze lowered.
"Dismissed," Harry said curtly.
Fara got up and quickly exited the room.
Harry sighed, stood up, and walked over to the window to watch the stars streak by with his hands behind the back. The whole situation was bothering him. It was frustrating him beyond belief. Suddenly the com chime sounded.
"Captain, this is Dr. Okan. Our guest has regained consciousness."
"Very well," Harry said, glaring at his reflection in the viewport. "I'll be down shortly."
Harry arrived in sickbay and saw his doppelganger lying on the central med-table looking about and mouthing words to himself.
"How long has he been awake?" Harry asked.
"Not that long..." Okan replied, keeping a watchful eye over him.
"Has he tried to talk?"
"Not yet. He's been like that so far, however; his brain waves are a bit more stable than they were."
"Can you hear me?" Harry asked the doppleganger.
His double stared blankly at him.
"What happened to you? Why did you abandon the Raptor?" Harry snapped, hoping to communicate some urgency with his tone. His double looked at him with an expression of terror and confusion and made some half-choked sounds.
"Goddamnit," Harry yelled, grabbing him by the shoulders and giving him a shake. "Tell me something...anything!"
"COMMANDER MARTINEZ!" Doctor Okan shouted, stepping around and forcefully dragging him away from the med-table. "Please do not accost my patient...er...yourself!"
"That thing Is not me!" Harry glared.
"He's as much you as you are." Dr. Okan snapped back at him. "He's just delirious and probably experiencing some sort of hallucination from the brain wave distortions. The last thing he needs is you manhandling him. Now, kindly get out of my sickbay before I have you confined to quarters for being unfit for command."
Harry glared at him and then broke his hold and stepped back. "I'm sorry Doctor," Harry sighed.
"If he is ready to talk, I'll tell you." Okan glared. "Please leave, sir."
Harry glared one more time at his double and then left the sickbay.
He was now officially in a fugue as he walked the corridors of deck two, this situation sucked. He was potentially looking at the loss of his first command in a matter of hours. He felt completely at a loss and impotent to do anything about it. He sulked as he strode to the Raptor's mess hall. When he entered, he found a few crew members quietly eating. He walked up the stepped platforms to the viewports that were currently open.
He took a deep breath and tried to focus. His anger was getting the best of him and he needed to stop letting this bother him. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen.
"Captain?" He heard a familiar voice behind him and turned to see Terri Lu standing there.
"Lieutenant?" He asked.
"Can...we talk?" she asked. "You know...off the record."
Harry nodded and asked, "What is it, Terri?"
"I'm…scared, sir." She said quietly, sitting in front of him in the alcove. "I...I don't want to die." She brushed her hair out of her eyes. "I know we don't exactly have it easy and danger is part of our jobs but this…" she crossed her arms and rubbed her forearms with her hands, "is a bit much." She started to sob a bit. "I'm sorry," she sniffled, wiping her eyes.
"Lieutenant, you have permission to cry," Harry chuckled reassuringly as he gently put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it.
Terri nodded and chuckled a little through the tears. "Are you scared, sir?" She asked.
"I am more angry than anything right now," Harry replied. "There has to be a way out of this. I won't accept it as a finality."
"Yet it's already happened…." Terri noted with a warble as her voice trailed off.
"Lieutenant," Harry said, sitting beside her, "I assure you I will do everything in my power to make sure nothing happens to any of us." Harry's face suddenly became a vision of determination. "And I will not leave this ship unless it's the only option I have left."
"Are you sure you can find a way?" Terri asked with a bit of hope.
"I will find a way, that I promise you," Harry replied.
Harry walked down the entrance ramp of the shuttle bay and approached the duplicate Angel Island sitting in the middle of the bay. The only sound was that of the red alert klaxon, the only activity in the Raptor's shuttle bay.
He stared at the shuttle with a mixture of despair and contempt.
There has to be a solution. Harry thought to himself. I refuse to accept abandoning the ship as my only option. He paused, taking a deep breath. Something I'm not seeing...something I'm not understanding...I refuse to accept what has happened as a finality!
However, time was running out.
He turned on his heel and headed for the exit. The doors closed behind him and he ascended the ramp heading for the bridge.
A few hours later
Harry sat on the bridge, staring. On his master systems screen, a timer was slowly ticking down.
"Anyone see anything out there?" He asked, watching the time slip below 30 seconds.
"Running a full scan, sir, but there's nothing on sensors," Michelle reported. "I am running a full spectrum as well and I am detecting no anomalies."
"Mr. Land, I hope you are awake and paying attention." Harry said sharply.
"Skipper, there is nothing in our course. I'm keeping an eye on it," Jack said reassuringly.
Harry glanced at the chronometer. There were only a few moments left now.
Suddenly an alarm sounded and the ship suddenly dropped out of warp.
"Report!" Harry snapped.
"We've dropped out of warp sir," Jack said, looking perplexed at his board. "I have no idea why."
"Engineering?" Harry said, hitting his com button. "Why have we stopped?"
"No clue sir. I'm working on that right now." Fara replied over the speakers.
"Captain…" Michelle spoke up. "We appear to be over some sort of gravity well. I think it may be what pulled us out of warp. Putting it on screen."
There was a moment of stunned silence as the screen changed views, looking down into the gaping maw of some sort of vortex stretching endlessly downward into time-space.
"All hands to Battlestations, Red Alert!" Harry said, getting out of his chair. "Fara I need emergency power now."
"You got it, sir," Fara replied.
"Mr. Land! Punch it!" He ordered, walking up to behind the con.
"Aye, Aye, skip! Diverting all available engine power to warp drive," Land replied engaging the warp.
The ship seemed to pull away from the anomaly for an instant and then suddenly it was wracked by a tremendous shudder as though some sort of opposing force was holding it in place. Harry braced himself against Jack's chair as Fara suddenly appeared on the bridge and transferred engineering controls to her station. She stared at the display and furrowed her brow.
"Commander," she said, "the Raptor's engines can't take this strain too much longer."
"Understood. Mr. Rivas, divert all available power from secondary systems to the warp drive!" Harry snapped over his shoulder. "Steady as she goes Mr. Land!"
"We're at maximum warp Harry!" Land shouted over the roar of the protesting warp engines.
The ship shuddered and bucked again as a few of the consoles shorted out, hurling sparks into the air.
"Captain, I'm giving her all she's got," Fara called out, "if we keep this up we'll tear ourselves in half!"
No. Harry thought. I won't give up.
The ship shuddered again and another klaxon sounded.
"Sir! We have to stop! If we keep this up the ship'll tear in half or we'll blow to pieces!" Fara yelled pleadingly.
The ship shuddered again and the hull began to groan. The whole bridge crew exchanged worried glances. The ship stopped gaining forward momentum and started to descend aftward into the anomaly.
"Captain, we have to stop," Rivas said, hopping up and running up beside him.
The ship shuddered again and another klaxon sounded.
"Captain!" Rivas snapped.
"Decrease acceleration," Harry finally said. "Do what you can to slow our descent."
Land nodded and backed the acceleration off. The engine's roar became lessened and the ship slowly stopped its descent.
"Report." Harry ordered.
"We seem to be holding at warp 7 right now," Mr. Land reported with a sigh of relief.
"Prepare a probe, type seven, fire it into the vortex," Harry said, breaking the silence.
"Aye, sir," Rivas replied before heading over to his station and keying in the commands. "Probe is away," he announced.
On the screen, the probe shot out the back of the ship, however; there was a sudden flash from a bolt of energy that destroyed the probe.
"Mr. Rivas if- " Harry started to say, but suddenly a bolt of energy shot through the hull of the ship and knocked him to the ground.
Meanwhile, in sickbay, a similar bolt of energy slammed into the duplicate Martinez at the same time, causing Dr. Okan and Nurse Twila to dive for cover, startled out of their minds.
While Harry was out, he got the impression that something was calling out to him, demanding he join with it. It was all so hazy and disoriented. The more he resisted its call the stronger it became.
Harry lay on the deck in a daze. His head was ringing as Rivas stood over him, trying to rouse him as O'mara knelt beside him with a tricorder.
"He's coming around." She said.
"Captain, are you ok?" He finally heard Rivas ask.
Harry nodded, feeling the pain recede as Rivas helped him back to his feet. "I think so… what just happened."
Michelle stood up. "I think it was some sort of scan, but I'm not certain of the source."
Harry straightened his uniform. "Well, this just got a whole lot more complicated." He said staring into the swirling vortex.
"Now what do we do Captain?" Rivas asked.
"I…don't know. Everyone, start working on solutions…." He said trailing off and heading for the exit.
"Captain! Where are you going?" Fara asked as he approached the door.
Whatever that thing is, it wants me… Harry meekly thought as he put his hand on the door and shook his head.
"Nowhere...I'm just lost in thought." He said thumping the bulkhead with his fist.
"What if we tried blowing the hell out of it," Rivas suggested. "We're sitting in a goddamn escort vessel! We could just dump everything we have into it and hope for the best."
"I hate to contradict you, sir," Michelle spoke up, "but if whatever it is can take out a probe, it can take out a torpedo."
"Well, if we can't go forward, let's just ram the Raptor down its throat!" Land suggested, spinning in his chair. "What have we got to lose?"
"That is the stupidest idea I've ever heard," Fara growled.
"So, what? Are you suggesting we just sit here?" Land demanded.
"We could end up god knows where if we did that," Fara said, frustratedly glancing at her readouts, "but we can't sit here forever. At our current rate, to hold our current position, we'll burn our engines out in an hour."
"So let's go with my idea?" Land shrugged with a tiny grin.
"No!" Rivas and Fara both barked.
"Like blowing the hell out of it is any better. We're not even sure what 'it' is." Land snapped at Rivas.
"Terri, have there been any attempts from it to communicate with us?" Harry asked, keeping his back to them.
"No sir," she replied, "other than that bolt that hit you it hasn't emitted anything...no energy, frequencies, waves...nothing."
Harry sighed. The situation was getting grimmer by the moment.
His com-badge chirped.
"Martinez," he said quietly, activating it.
"Captain," Okan said, "you are awake and would like to speak to yourself."
Finally! Harry thought.
"I'm on my way," he replied, "Mr. Rivas, you have the con."
He left the bridge quickly.
Harry arrived to find his other self struggling against the restraining force field. His doppleganger was yelling the same thing over and over.
"Doctor! Release me at once! I have to leave this ship immediately!"
"So now you talk?" Harry asked coldly.
"Of course I talk, you idiot," the duplicate barked. "Now release me! The entire ship is at stake!"
"Release him, Doctor," Harry said after a moment of thought.
"Not when he's violent," Dr. Okan said, glaring between both Harrys.
"Release him now. I'll take full responsibility."
"Do you have any idea what it is you are doing Sir?" Okan said belligerently.
"Hell no, but do it anyway." Harry snapped back.
"Fine," Okan cried, throwing his hands up in defeat and deactivating the force field.
"Thank you, Doctor," duplicate-Harry said, hopping up and looking around agitatedly.
"Tell me anything you can." Harry demanded.
"We were on a shakedown cruise when we encountered a gravitational anomaly," duplicate-Harry said, stretching his legs.
"We are already on that part." Harry groused.
"Then I have to get out of here."
"Why?" Harry asked.
"The anomaly...it wants me and...me alone," duplicate-Harry said with a shudder as he tested his balance. "I have to get off the ship."
"Surely there has to be another option?" Harry asked as his double started heading for the doors.
"All other options were exhausted," the other Harry said kneeling and opening a hatch at a ladderway as Harry moved to follow. "I have to get off the ship." Duplicate-Harry slid down the ladder to deck three. "If I leave maybe you will have a chance to get the Raptor out of here," he noted.
"You know that's pointless," Harry snapped as he followed his doppleganger. "We can't get away from the gravitational well."
"It's a chance. What more do you want?!" The other one snarled, looking at him with desperation.
Harry growled and grabbed his arm. "I don't take chances with my crew at their expense!"
The other Harry glared at him and quickly backhanded him, knocking him back.
"You don't understand," he said before heading for the shuttle bay.
Harry spat some blood onto the floor and touched his snout, still tender from the blow. The other Martinez entered the shuttle bay with Harry trailing behind him and headed for the shuttle they found him in. He walked over to the bay controls and activated the main hangar door. A siren sounded as the door retracted and the force field activated, revealing the spiraling void beneath them.
"There is no escape...no way out. This is the only way." Duplicate-Harry said, walking over to the shuttle
Harry quickly walked over to a wall locker, pulled out a hand phaser, and armed it.
"Commander!" He shouted as the other Harry opened the hatch to the Angel Island.
He stopped and turned around to look at Harry.
"This didn't work last time! It won't work this time," Harry said. "If you leave the ship, you will kill all of us."
"Do what you will. I'm leaving." His double said before turning to board the shuttle.
Harry tensed. He was on the edge of a precipice, a small tinge of doubt racing through him. He forced it down and pushed his thumb down on the hand phasers trigger.
"This stops now!" He snapped.
The weapon fired and a crimson beam struck his duplicate who tumbled forward limply and slumped to the ground by the side of the shuttle.
"Bridge," Harry said, hitting his com badge and quickly leaving the bay, "standby for orders. I'll be there shortly."
"Aye, sir," Rivas replied.
Harry arrived on the bridge and quickly hopped into his seat.
"All stop on engines Mr. Land and bring us about, bearing 180 mark 0. I want to be looking down this thing's throat."
"Aye, sir," Land said.
As the engines cut out, the ship began to sink even further into the anomaly. The ship quickly swung around. As they turned, an energy bolt leaped out from the anomaly and barely missed the Raptor.
"Transfer all available power to shields and engines," Harry said. "Attention all hands, brace yourselves."
The Raptor's warp engines engaged and the Raptor raced toward the center of the vortex. The ship shook and shuddered as it encountered unseen forces passing through the gullet of the vortex.
"Steady as she goes Mr. Land," Harry said, keeping his eyes focused on the screen. Ahead of them was a light so luminous that it made the bridge awash with its brilliance. He felt all eyes upon him and he remained fixed on that point in the center of the anomaly.
Down in the shuttle bay, unseen by anyone, the fallen duplicate Harry and Angel Island started to slowly flicker and fade from existence.
The ship shuddered again, more violently than before, and still they pressed on until the brightness was almost blinding. He felt Terri come up behind him and place her hands on his chair. He glanced back and gave her a reassuring half-smile.
Now we'll find out if I made the right choice.
Another vicious tremor passed through the Raptor and the ship protested by sounding various alarms. The glowing center's brilliance now washed everything out in monochrome tones. It flared to a painful intensity and then, suddenly, it was gone. The viewer only showed the passing of stars in warp space.
"Mr. Land?" Harry said.
Jack swallowed as he frowned at his readouts. "Skip...I don't know how to tell you this…we're back on our previous course."
"Your instruments are functioning correctly?" Harry asked.
"Diagnostics are green across the board here," Jack replied.
"Any sign of the anomaly?" Harry asked Rivas.
"Negative," Rivas reported.
He heard Terri sigh with relief behind him.
"Captain," Michelle spoke up, "the chronometer! Look!"
Harry was amazed, it was reading the time as if the past several hours had never occurred. There was no accounting for it.
"Check all logs and run diagnostics, even on the replicators," Harry ordered, "I want to know what just happened."
Harry stood, drinking coffee and staring out the window in his ready room. He heard his door chime and announced the visitor could enter. Lieutenant Rivas entered the small office.
"Don, what can I do for you?" Harry said, turning to the wolf.
"We've been over that shuttle bay and this ship several times now. There is no sign of the duplicate you or the shuttle," Don announced.
"Today has been a very strange day," Harry sighed.
Don nodded. "Yeah. What do we make of this? None of the computers have any record of what happened and other than some burned out components, there's no physical evidence either. It's almost like nothing happened. Was it just a dream or an illusion or what?"
"Maybe we'll never know," Harry replied sitting at his desk. "I'm not even sure how to report this to Fleet HQ...or if I even should."
Rivas nodded. "So, how did you know?"
"The way to get out."
"I didn't," Harry replied, "but it was the only thing we hadn't tried, the one thing that seemed too desperate to try." Harry paused to sip his coffee. "Mr. Land was right though. What did we have to lose?"
"We had some new orders come down the pipe sir," Rivas said, handing him a data pad.
Harry picked up the pad and scrolled through it.
"Algion Prime," Rivas said matter-of-factly, "I haven't been there in a long time. The storms must have let up."
"Good," Harry said, "they want us to get the research data from the outpost. I guess they weren't happy with what little they got years ago." He handed the pad back to Rivas. "Do you think we can handle it?"
"Fara says repairs are coming along well. We should be able to continue the cruise if we don't have any other bumps in the road along the way," Rivas reported with a shrug, "Starfleet saw that it wasn't too far out of our way, so we got the job."
"Very well, to Algion it is," Harry said. "Is there anything else?"
"No sir. I'll go wake up our navigator and have him set course." Rivas chuckled, excusing himself.
Harry sighed as Don left and put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. As he did, behind him a shadowy form stood outside the window. It was humanoid and apparently immune to warp travel outside of a ship or vacuum for that matter.
You did well, for a Marsupial I'll give you that...
… but your real test is yet to come.
The barely visible figure disappeared in a bright flash. Harry turned, seeing something out of his periphery, but only saw a starfield. He returned to his thoughts and relaxed.