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Eclipse of a Dream

Stardate: 48269 (April 9th, 2381)
Location: Interstellar space, fifteen lightyears from Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)


Morning came as usual for the crew of the Eclipse. The night shift bridge crew cheerfully greeted their relief, heading for the turbolifts while the alpha shift crew settled in. Captain Kantri Jiji, an amicable Bolian woman, took the time to talk to everyone individually, a smile on her lips and a fresh cup of coffee in her hands. It was a good day; the crew of the Eclipse were fulfilling their primary mission, and even after a full month of sitting in exactly the same spot, studying a single phenomenon without any apparent progress, the crew’s enthusiasm was undimmed.

The little Nova-class starship was, first and foremost, a science platform. It was slow, tiny, underpowered, poorly protected and only lightly armed, boasting few amenities for its eighty five crew. What the Eclipse did have, however, was an expansive set of sensor arrays that were more sophisticated, varied and powerful than most starships five times its size, as well as a surprisingly large number of laboratories stuffed inside its small hull. Scientists of all sorts worked on the Eclipse, happily working away, the decks awash with (as the scant handful of security personnel put it), ‘the happiest bunch of nerds in Starfleet’.

One of the most excited of them all was Alistair Leavitt, sitting at the Operations console at the back of the bridge, merrily typing on his console, eyes alight with enthusiasm despite the early hour. He wasn’t a permanent part of the Eclipse crew, having been temporarily assigned to the ship by the Department of Temporal Investigations for the duration of the mission. The reason for his assignment was onscreen, just as it had been for a month now: a wormhole, a blue maelstrom of energy, looking very much like the mouth of Hell itself, writhing in the blackness of space.

“Well, Lieutenant, you look chipper today,” Captain Jiji said as she moved to Alistair’s console. “I can only assume that your simulations were successful, and that you’re not chipper for some other reason which is none of my business?”

“No, Captain,” Alistair said, grinning, before he frowned. “Uh, I mean, yes, Captain. No, wait...I mean, yes, the simulations panned out. Sir. The team spent most of the night working on it, but we think we’ve cracked it.”

Jiji grinned as she sipped some coffee, her violet eyes full of amusement. “And?” she asked leadingly.

Alistair smiled back, feeling rather proud of himself. “The computer worked out the details, and the probe is ready with the updated settings to account for the subspatial variance. We’ve narrowed down the wormhole terminus to somewhere near Betazed, around 2386, maybe early 2387. It turns out that the problem was a subspace anomaly that we had to account for to get the probe’s shielding and navigation calibrated, some major event that we think is going to happen between now and then. Maybe.”

Jiji nodded thoughtfully. “How major?”

“Well…” Alistair said, furrowing his brow as he looked down at his display. “Big enough to cause an effect on subspace on a galactic scale. We’ve no idea what that event could be, there’s no way of knowing, based on the data. I don’t really want to know, either, the Temporal Prime Directive being what it is. Best guess from the team, there will be a major cataclysm somewhere in the future, something that disrupts subspace catastrophically on a local scale and causes...well, ripples, in a sense, throughout galactic subspace. Maybe even intergalactic subspace, but unless we actually visit Andromeda or Triangulum one day, we won’t know for sure.”

Jiji sighed as she half turned, looking out the viewscreen at the wormhole. “I’m sure Starfleet Command will love to hear that. Vague warnings about future cataclysms are their favourite. Now, Lieutenant, are you ready to give this wormhole the probing it’s been begging for the past month?”

Laughter rippled around the bridge, Alistair grinning. “Yes, sir. The probe is in the torpedo tube and the team in the lab is standing by to analyse the probe’s telemetry. Main deflector is online; as soon as we have the readings from the probe, we can calibrate the deflector and collapse the wormhole within half an hour. Ready for your order.”

“Excellent,” Jiji said, and she strode away to the side of the Bridge, depositing her half-empty cup of coffee back in the replicator. “Okay, people, let’s do this. Yellow alert, shields up, standby emergency warp evasive.” At the captain’s words, yellow lighting began to flash around the bridge as the crew got to work. “Lieutenant Al-Hamza, send a message to Starbase 55, inform them that we are proceeding on schedule. Commander Cak?”

The Eclipse’s Xindi-Insectoid XO reported with his usual curt professionalism from his chair, balancing out his captain’s more relaxed joviality as she swept down to her command chair besides his. “All decks answering to yellow alert, Captain,” he said, his universal translator converting his screeches and clacking mandibles into words. “Ready on your order.”

Jiji, full of bubbly enthusiasm, took a moment to simply appreciate the moment. She was a scientist too, just like many other captains of Nova-class ships, and she truly loved her job. The captain paused for a moment, and smiling, she finally said: “Lieutenant Leavitt, launch the probe.”

It was rather anticlimactic, all things considered. Everyone watched as the tiny probe, its thruster exhaust shining blue, sped out towards the wormhole and was swallowed by the giant cyan maelstrom. Seconds passed, everyone waiting, some looking at Alistair, whose eyes were fixed on his console.

“Telemetry is stable,” he announced, many of the crew smiling at their success. The past four probes had been destroyed on entry, insufficiently shielded to handle the wormhole’s subspatial tidal forces. Alistair frowned, though, something that both Captain Jiji and Commander Cak immediately caught.

“Lieutenant?” Cak asked, his mandibles clicking with concern.

“These readings don’t make sense,” Alistair said, typing rapidly on his console. “This is...I have no idea what I’m looking at. The wormhole is reacting to the probe’s presence.” Someone gasped, and everyone looked at the viewscreen to see that the wormhole was becoming even more disturbed. The endless storm inside the wormhole’s mouth was growing fiercer, flashes of red and yellow coming from inside the wormhole, the wormhole mouth itself beginning to writhe around more violently in space.

Seeing the danger, Commander Cak ordered brisky, “Helm, full reverse.”

“Answering full reverse, sir,” the young ensign at helm said sharply, and the wormhole on screen began to grow smaller, but no less worrying. The ship abruptly shook, everyone holding on, but it passed within moments.

“That was a gravitational wave from the wormhole, it destroyed the probe,” Alistair reported from Ops. As Jiji turned around in her chair, he looked at her with an atypically serious gaze. “Captain, this doesn’t make sense. We’ve got centuries of research on dozens of wormholes and they just do not react like this to foreign objects, not naturally.”

“So it’s happening artificially?” Cak chimed in thoughtfully, his mandibles completely still. “But we’re the only ones here.”

“Yes, we’re the only ones here,” Jiji emphasised with a frown, turning back to glare at the misbehaving wormhole. “I am not liking this. Worst case scenario, Mister Leavitt, if someone is on the other side of that wormhole and really doesn’t like us.”

Alistair paused for a moment, thinking. “The worst case scenario would be a complete subspatial inversion. Basically, the wormhole would turn inside out and sort It would completely destabilise subspace for this star system and all others within...four lightyears, give or take. Warp travel would become impossible within that radius.” He paused again, the implications hitting him, and his voice become somber. “Captain, we’d be stranded, but so would the millions of people in the Huggon system. They’d be completely cut off from the rest of the Federation for years.”

Jiji and Cak looked at each other. They didn’t say a word, but they didn’t need to, wordless communication passing between them by dint of long friendship and professional experience. “Red alert,” Cak called out, and within seconds, the dreaded klaxon began blaring, red lights starting to blink around the Bridge. “Energise phaser banks, load torpedo bays. Lieutenant Al-Hamza, send a message to Starbase 55 and update them on our situation. Request immediate support. Who’s the nearest ship?”

Al-Hamza, a rather tall human at the back of the bridge, responded quickly. “The T’Kumbra is thirty hours away at maximum warp, sir. They’re the only other starship in the sector. Starfleet has scrambled everyone else to search for the Theurgy.”

Again Jiji and Cak looked at each other, and Jiji nodded. “Send a message to the T’Kumbra too, Lieutenant, ask for support. Let’s hope I’m just being paranoid.”

The next few minutes were tense. The crew, comprised mainly of enthusiastic scientists, had to refocus on preparing the Eclipse for battle. They had the training, and they knew how to do it, but it was nonetheless an unfamiliar experience for everyone. Some were veterans of the Dominion War, but most had never seen action of any sort; indeed, many had requested assignment to the Eclipse precisely because it was never supposed to see combat. After all, who would be crazy enough to throw such a tiny and fragile ship into a fight?

On the Bridge, Jiji and Cak let the crew work, trusting their people to do the job. Jiji even took the time to visit the restroom and replicate some more coffee, seeming perfectly at ease despite the increasingly violent wormhole on the viewscreen. She and Cak were indulging in some light conversation about their wormhole experiences when Alistair chimed in from Ops.

“Captain, the main deflector has been calibrated and is standing by to collapse the wormhole,” he reported.

“And the wormhole?” Cak asked, his insectoid head pivoting to look at Alistair with his penetrating eyes.

“Getting worse, sir,” Alistair said with a trace of nerves. “I can’t tell if it’s building to a subspatial inversion, but I can’t rule it out, either. We’ve got hours, at most, before whatever’s happening overwhelms the wormhole’s matrix and it completely destabilises.”

Jiji sighed, running a hand over her blue scalp. “We can’t wait for the t’Kumbra. Mister Leavitt, fire the anti-graviton beam. Make that wormhole go away, please.” Jiji tapped a control on her armrest. “Bridge to Engineering. Give us everything you have, Kristof. We need to maintain that beam no matter what happens.” After the chief engineer’s (somewhat unhappy) acknowledgement, Jiji looked at the viewscreen. A golden beam was being blasted at the wormhole, although it seemed woefully insufficient to quell such an immense natural phenomenon..

“It’s working!” Alistair called out a few moments later, relief filling his voice, grinning as he looked down at his readouts. “The subspatial distortion is decreasing, the wormhole is receding back into subspace!” A collective sigh of relief spread around the Bridge, many smiling. “Confirmed, the wormhole is collapsing safely as predicted. The collapse is accelerating...we are now past terminal collapse.”

“Meaning?” Cak prompted from the XO’s chair, mandibles clacking.

Alistair winced. “Oh, sorry. It means that the wormhole is past the point of no return. It’s collapsing no matter what happens, nothing can stop it now. There is zero risk of a subspatial inversion. We’ve done it, sir.”

Finally Jiji allowed herself to relax. Sure enough, on the viewscreen, the once mighty wormhole was receding, the multicoloured lightning within beginning to dissipate. “Keep an eye on it, Mister Leavitt. Take as many readings as you can. Lieutenant Al-Hamza, send a message to the T’Kumbra, tell them-”

Before Jiji could finish, the Eclipse was rocked by an almighty slam, the deck seemingly jerking forward, catching everyone by surprise. The crew recovered quickly, their chairs having caught them, save for Lieutenant Al-Hamza, who was curled up at the foot of the viewscreen with a clear broken arm, having been catapulted the entire length of the Bridge.

“Helm, full reverse,” Jiji said curtly, the ship itself beginning to shake violently, the metal groaning in protest at the opposing forces acting on it. “Crewman Barnes, escort Mister Al-Hamza to Sickbay. Mister Leavitt, report.”

The captain’s voice was remarkably calm but Alistair’s wasn’t, his voice higher-pitched than normal, even if he was still focused. “It’s a tractor beam, Captain, from the other side of the wormhole, through the wormhole, it’s more powerful than anything I’ve’s dragging us into the wormhole. Main deflector is holding, we’re still generating the anti-graviton beam, but there’s no way the wormhole will collapse completely before we reach the aperture in...eighty seconds.”

Jiji looked at Cak, who shook his large insectoid head. “Minor damage and casualties on all decks, nothing serious, but he’s right. We’re going in.”

Jiji grimaced, glancing out the viewscreen at the emerald tractor beam being fired from the other side of the wormhole, only just missing the Eclipse’s own golden anti-graviton beam being fired the other way. Just as well, because if those two had mixed…

An idea sparked in Jiji’s mind, and there was no time for second-guessing; she just had to rely on her own expertise with high-energy physics. “Leavitt, deactivate the anti-graviton beam, reconfigure for a high-frequency graviton beam with maximum power. As soon as we’re inside the wormhole, we’re going to fire it at the other side and ruin their day.” She tapped a control on her armrest. “All hands, brace, brace, brace, we’re going in.”

Cak leaned in, a claw moving to rest gently on Jiji’s blue hand. “It’s an innovative tactic, but we could destroy whoever is on the other side with this trick. Are you sure about this?”

“Very,” Jiji said bitterly, scowling, the jovial woman from before having completely vanished. “I don’t like my crew getting hurt. If whoever is on the other side don’t like their own medicine, tough. They started it. We’re finishing it.”

“Ten seconds!” Alistair called out, the viewscreen now completely full of the dwindling wormhole. “Five! Four! Three! Two! One!” The ship jerked as it passed into the wormhole, the viewscreen flickering as sensors tried to make sense of the wormhole’s interior. “We’re inside, shields are holding, tractor beam is holding.”

“Fire the graviton beam!” Jiji ordered. The response was almost instantaneous; another beam, this one blue, erupted forth from the Eclipse’s large deflector dish. The wormhole reacted violently to the graviton beam, battering the Eclipse’s shields with intense radiation, but up ahead, something far worse was happening. On the viewscreen, the violent storm of the wormhole interior brightened more and more, while far ahead, a searing bright light flashed briefly before petering back out.

Everything shook, the hull groaning and shuddering so loudly that it drowned out anything someone tried to say, so the crew could only hold on for dear life and hope that the Eclipse would hold up. It seemed to last an eternity but finally, and with jarring suddenness, it all stopped, the viewscreen having suddenly transitioned back to the black of space, twinkled with stars.

The Bridge crew took a few moments to recover and shake off the harrowing journey, a couple taking deep breaths before attending to their stations. Jiji was holding her head gingerly, wincing, and Cak took immediate notice.

“Are you alright, Captain?” he asked quietly, his large insectoid eyes examining her carefully.

“I’ll be fine,” Jiji muttered, keeping her eyes closed. “My species don’t do well with subspace anomalies.” She sighed, then forced open her eyes to look at the viewscreen. “Mister Leavitt, sensor sweep, if you please. Where’s the welcoming committee? That tractor beam had to come from somewhere.”

“Scanning,” Alistair said, working his console. “Sensors were a bit whacked by all that, I need to it. One vessel, forty thousand kilometers off the starboard bow. The explosion from our graviton beam hitting their tractor beam must’ve had a real whallop to throw them that far. I’m getting sharper’s a big ship, about six hundred meters...oh.” Alistair’s voice quavered in terror. “Oh no…”

“Lieutenant!” Cak said sharply, turning around, his mandibles snapping.

In lieu of responding, Alistair simply increased the viewscreen’s magnification and aimed the visual telescope that it was connected to. Someone gasped before a deathly silence filled the Bridge, everyone staring, agape.

“The Borg,” Jiji said quietly after a few seconds, her tone cold and matter-of-fact. Sure enough, on the viewscreen was a great sphere, built entirely of grey metal, ugly and hulking. It rotated slowly, visible damage on its surface. “Scan them, Mister Leavitt. What’s their status?”

“Moderate to heavy damage to forty percent of the sphere’s surface,” Alistair replied, his voice now more professional as he focused on his work. “Warp drive is offline, sublights are offline, weapons are offline, shields are offline. Their power grid is still functional, and I’m detecting regeneration underway on all damaged areas.”

“How long until they repair warp drive, or tactical systems?” Cak asked, looking out at the sphere.

“Impossible to say, Commander,” Alistair reported. “It could be minutes, it could be hours. We don’t know enough about Borg ships to make more than a guess, but the Borg have demonstrated an ability to make repairs extremely quickly.”

Jiji glanced at Cak, the two communicating wordlessly again. “We can’t take the risk,” Jiji said simply, and Cak nodded his insectoid head grimly. “Helm, set a course for the sphere, one quarter impulse, then full stop when we reach a hundred kilometers. Attack pattern beta. Tactical, ready all weapons, target critical systems at your discretion. Destroy that ship.” Jiji paused, then took a deep breath, hating what she had to do, the lives she was about to take. “Fire at will.”

The viewscreen lit up as the Eclipse sped at the sphere, phasers and torpedoes firing with wild abandon. The Borg sphere, helpless and defenceless, could only sit there as the weapons gouged great holes in the sphere. Normally the Eclipse would’ve been no match for the Borg vessel in any sort of fight, but with the Borg so thoroughly crippled, it was a one-sided and ruthless demolition.

“Continuous fire, all weapons,” Jiji ordered, looking distinctly uncomfortable at the hammering that she had ordered. The sphere was resilient, its armour, regenerative systems and extensive redundancies holding up well to the barrage of phasers and torpedoes, but even a Borg vessel couldn’t last forever without active defences. Finally, one last spread of photon torpedoes caused the sphere to explode violently, parts of it scattering everywhere.

A grim silence filled the Bridge. Nobody felt like celebrating. Instead, Jiji stood up, wincing at an almighty headache. “Stand down from red alert. Commander, see to our repair teams, get me a damage report. Mister Leavitt, please confirm our location...and confirm the stardate.”

Alistair’s reply was instant; he had already been working on it. “Right when and where we expected, captain. Eight lightyears from Betazed, stardate 64101. February 6th, 2387. We’ve travelled nearly six years into the future.”

The silence grew heavy. Jiji took a calming breath, looking around at her crew. “Send a message to Starbase 55, Lieutenant. I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear from us after six years, and they’ll certainly want to know that there was a Borg ship so deep in Federation space.”

The silence continued, growing heavier and heavier as Jiji (and the rest of the crew) waited for Alistair’s report. Jiji frowned, resisting the urge to snap at Alistair. “Lieutenant?”

“I’m sorry, Captain, they’re not responding,” Alistair said, confused. “I’m...I’m not getting anything. All the comm channels are quiet. I’m going to ping Starbase 55’s status beacon, that should...oh.” He sat back in his chair, dumbfounded. “The beacon isn’t responding, Captain.”

“What?” Jiji said, blinking. She ran a hand over her blue head, trying to work it out. “Those beacons have multiple redundancies. It’s impossible for them to go offline. Unless…”

Alistair’s voice was stunned. “Unless the starbase has been destroyed. Yes sir.”

The silence was now suffocating, cold fear beginning to grip everyone. Cak seemed most distressed, his head bowed. “There were ninety thousand people living on that starbase…” he rasped mournfully, his mandibles and claws still.

“Mister Leavitt,” Jiji said gently, painfully aware that the rest of the Bridge crew were listening, “run a general long-range scan and comms sweep. Find something. Anything. Ships, either Starfleet or civilian. Comm arrays, sensor arrays, time beacons, Starfleet emergency beacons. Send a message to Huggon III.”

“No Federation ships on long-range sensors, sir,” Alistair said, his voice unsteady. “All comm channels are silent. No transponders detected. None of the arrays or beacons are broadcasting or responding to pings. Huggon III is not responding on any frequency.”

Jiji, suddenly weak in the knees, almost fell into her chair. She looked at Cak, completely stunned. “What happened to them all?” she whispered in horror.

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #1
Stardate: 64101 (February 6th, 2387)
Location: Interstellar space, eight lightyears from Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)


The ready room of the starship Eclipse was a modest affair, in keeping with such a small vessel. Even so, it was tastefully decorated; some Bolian artwork with a hypnotising array of colours on one bulkhead, a spectacular painting of the Eclipse on another, a model of an Excelsior-class starship on a small plinth. The desk itself, rather than the usual replicated fare, was a gorgeous wooden piece with stylised silver poetry inlaid in the surface.

Kantri Jiji, when given command of the Eclipse, had fully intended to spend years with her ship. It was a dream job. However, sitting in the office at that moment, her insectoid first officer standing across from her, all those reminders of her hopes and dreams instead felt confining. The Eclipse was no longer a dream assignment. It was a nightmare.

Commander Cak knew her well enough to guess what Jiji was thinking, but was tactful enough to not say anything. That was something, and as they waited yet longer, Jiji offered her old friend a smile. Cak didn’t smile back (he couldn’t, since his ‘mouth’ amounted to snapping mandibes), but he did quirk his head to one side in his closest approximation.

Finally, the call came. “Leavitt to Jiji. I’m ready for you, Captain.”

Jiji nodded, even though Leavitt couldn’t see her. “Acknowledged. Commander Cak and I will be with you presently. Jiji out.”

She stood, running a hand over her blue scalp to try and reclaim some measure of composure, moving around her desk. She paused just before the door, though, glancing at Cak. “How do I look?”

“You’re asking the Xindi-insectoid?” Cak replied wryly, head quirked to the other side. “I can’t even see the colour blue, never mind work out humanoid facial expressions.” He stepped slightly closer, placing a claw on Jiji’s shoulder. “You’re fine, Kantri. The crew are smart. They don’t need you to be perfect and fearless; nobody could be that today, not even a Vulcan. There’s nothing wrong with showing them that you’re worried too. Trust them like they trust you.”

Jiji smiled. “Thank you, my friend. Now, let’s go see if Mister Leavitt has a spare magic wand. If we’re lucky, DTI knew that this would happen and sent him to save us from this mess.”

Cak ‘chuckled’ (or rather, he clapped his claws together, his closest approximation), and stepped aside to let Jiji leave first. Symbolism mattered, even in the small moments; leaders had to lead. Jiji promptly opened the door and strode out onto the Bridge, looking around at her crew, who looked at her expectantly.

“Any new sensor contacts?” Jiji asked the officer in the center chair, Lieutenant Al-Hamza, who nodded.

“Yes, Captain. We’ve detected three new Borg contacts in the past hour at extreme sensor range, but none strayed any closer.” Al-Hamza hesitated. “Ensign Angbhi gave us an 80% probability that one of them was a tactical cube, heading towards Cardassian space.”

It took real effort for Jiji to not react to that one. “Very well. Keep me informed if any of those contacts change course. The XO and I will be in SC-1. You have the conn, Lieutenant.”

With that, Jiji headed for the turbolift. Only when the doors closed did she look at Cak, who (to Jiji’s admittedly inexpert eye) looked just as alarmed as she did. Still, neither of them said a word as the turbolift doors opened moments later, the two of them walking the short distance to Stellar Cartography.

Unlike the Bridge and other areas like Engineering, which were all relatively spartan and simple, Stellar Cartography was absolutely state of the art. The entire room functioned as a specialised sort of holodeck, allowing users to work in three dimensions rather than two, a handy tool ijn the field of stellar cartography. The spacious circular room was ringed with consoles on a rail that enclosed the central space, all connected to the Eclipse’s powerful array sensors, usually used by a half dozen specialist personnel at any given time. The sensors were so sophisticated and sensitive that when bored, the staff liked to examine particularly interesting galaxies on the other side of the visible universe.

Today, however, only one person was working in the room. The middle of the room, instead of showing a holographic representation of some stellar phenomena as usual, instead showed a list of names, all with a varying amount of metadata attached to them. ‘Starfleet Command’’. ‘Earth’. ‘Qo’nos.’ ‘Theurgy’. ‘Enterprise’.

“Captain, Commander,” Lieutenant Alistair Leavitt said in greeting, nodding curtly and gesturing for them to join them. “I’m going to warn you straight up. I don’t have good news.”

Jiji crossed her arms. “Don’t worry, Lieutenant, we’re ready. If you’re briefing us on the state of the galaxy, I assume that the Temporal Prime Directive is out the window?”

“Out the window, out of the stratosphere and into the nearest supernova,” Leavitt said, nodding. The man seemed to have overcome his earlier nerves, now seeming much more professional, much to Jiji’s relief. She didn’t know Leavitt well; he had been a temporary assignment from the Department of Temporal Investigations, a surprisingly gentle and chirpy man despite his tough appearance and war record. It was good to see him stepping up when it counted.

“So there’s no chance of returning to our time?” Cak asked, his bulbous insectoid eyes focused on Leavitt.

“Not easily,” Leavitt said grimly. “There are only so many possibilities that I know of, and as best I can tell, none of them available. We should certainly try it if we can, to try and avert this future if at all possible, but I don’t see a way right now. I’ve already caught one alert from Vulcan that the Borg have systematically sought out all possible options for time travel known to the Federation and removed them from the equation.”

Jiji sighed. “Very well. Hit us, Lieutenant.”

Leavitt took a breath, closed his eyes briefly, then started talking, his tone professionally dispassionate. “A lot of this data is incomplete, scavenged from the only comms relay I could access, but I think I have an idea of what happened. The short version is that the Federation is gone. Earth, Vulcan, Betazed, Andoria, Tellar Prime; all of them have been taken.” He hesitated. “Bolarus and the entirety of the Delphic Expanse have been assimilated. Starfleet put up a fight, as much as they could. It didn’t matter.”

Jiji didn’t say anything for a moment. Cak looked away, shaking slightly, but managed to control himself. “Continue, Lieutenant,” Jiji said tightly. “How the hell did this happen?”

Leavitt turned to his console, working the controls. The hologram switched to a familiar map of Federation space, then zoomed to an area close to the Klingon and Romulan borders, the Azure Nebula. “It started here, about five years ago, around the same time that we left.”

Jiji stepped up beside Leavitt, frowning at the holographic Azure Nebula, her violet eyes calculating. “That’s the last reported location of the Theurgy, isn’t it? I got a classified update yesterday that Sankalov was taking his task force in there to hunt them down.”

“Yeah,” Leavitt said darkly. “It turned into a total disaster, Captain. Almost the entire task force was destroyed, plus a few dozen Klingon ships.”

Cak snapped his mandibles in surprise. “Impossible. Not even a Theurgy-class dreadnought could fight a force of that size. Besides, weren’t they already carrying heavy damage by that point after they attacked Starbase 84? And most of the crew were replaced with holograms, too, so their combat efficiency can’t be what it would’ve been with a full crew.”

Leavitt glanced back at Cak and nodded. “Yes, sir. There’s a lot of misinformation, but I did get one clear video file which is...uh...I’m not sure what to make of it. This comes from a cloaked Tal Shiar drone that was present in the area during the battle. A few months after the event, the Romulans released the footage to the public. This was still in the memory buffer of a comms relay four lightyears from here.” He worked the controls, and the hologram changed to a huge holographic screen. “I’d normally treat data like this with extreme suspicion, but it tracks too well with other things I’ve discovered to be ignored.”

With that, Leavitt tapped ‘play’, and the video file started playing. It showed a vicious battle underway, a dozen Klingon ships and one lone Federation starship locked in an all-out battle with a Borg cube. The battlezone was thick with debris and wrecked ships, testament to a long and hard-fought engagement.

“What ship is that?” Jiji asked, squinting.

“The Cayuga, Captain Zeigler’s ship,” Cak said quietly. “Good ship, good crew.” He stepped up, leaning on the rail that enclosed the holographic area. “They’ve taken heavy damage. The Klingons are trying to cover them.”

“There’s a subspace aperture there that leads to Borg space, in the Delta Quadrant,” Leavitt explained. “The Cayuga is trying to close it before any more Borg ships come through.”

Before he could say anything else, another ship decelerated out of warp: the gigantic USS Theurgy. The ship was heavily damaged, a sizable hull breach visible on the engineering hul, but the dreadnought gamely turned towards the raging battle in the distance. Its phasers began spearing out at the Borg cube as a stream of fighters began flying out of its aft bay, even the captain’s yacht launching.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Jiji said uneasily. “Ives is a traitor and a murderer. Why would they risk their ship like this?”

“I don’t know,” Leavitt said with the same discomfort, “but they are.” He paused. “Captain, the Tal Shiar drone scanned the Theurgy. They had taken heavy damage, obviously, but...uh...the sensors detected several hundred lifesigns aboard. If the sensor data is accurate, Starfleet were wrong about the crew being replaced by holograms.”

Jiji shook her head in disbelief, glancing at Cak, and the three of them kept watching. The battle went well at first, the Theurgy providing valuable cover to the Cayuga, but the Klingons were less fortunate. Every so often a new ship would drop out of warp to join the battle, but they rarely lasted long in the face of the awesome firepower of a Borg cube. The Theurgy’s fighters began to die, one by one, the Theurgy and the Cayuga taking increasingly heavy damage as the battle progressed. Phaser and disruptor fire continued to fill the battle area, and at one point, the Borg cube even seemed to suddenly become inactive, allowing the Federation and Klingon ships to inflict heavy damage.

It didn’t last long, however, before the Borg recovered and resumed firing. Jiji’s chest became tight as she watched, knowing that she was watching people die. One Borg torpedo blasted one of the Theurgy’s four nacelles, the entire ship listing, plasma trailing behind it.

“They need help,” Jiji said bitterly, fists clenched, feeling the urge to be there, to do something, even knowing that it was physically impossible.

“They won’t get it,” Leavitt said grimly. No help came. The Borg destroyed the last of the Klingon ships before turning all of its attention to the two Federation ships. The Theurgy somehow continued fighting, even as its shields started to fail, more and more weapons going offline. Finally the massive ship came to a stop, resting inbetween the Borg and the Cayuga as it continued to desperately try to seal the aperture. More and more emerald fire slammed into the Theurgy’s shields,  the last of its Valkyrie fighters dying in futile attacks on the cube.

Then hope seemed to emerge. One by one, in sequence, led by the immense Odyssey-class USS Archeron, a Federation fleet decelerated out of warp, a dozen starships in all. Half immediately began attacking the Borg ship, but inexplicably, half, including the Archeron herself, directed their attention to the crippled Theurgy.

“Are they insane?” Jiji whispered, jaw dropped in horror. Already crippled, the Theurgy was no match for the onslaught of phasers and quantum torpedoes. The dreadnought snapped out a few desperate phaser shots, scoring a lucky hit on a tiny Saber-class ship and sending it spinning into space, but her defiance was short-lived. In due course, the gruelling punishment silenced the Theurgy’s weapons, the shields flickering as they began to fail.

Finally, inevitably, escape pods and shuttles began to launch from the doomed starship. Even that, however, was apparently too much, as the Federation fleet began destroying the pods and shuttles as well, an appalling act that nearly made Jiji throw up. The Cayuga, barely more than a wreck itself by that point, was subjected to a devastating salvo of quantum torpedoes that effortlessly overwhelmed the ship’s shields, a great explosion marking the Cayuga’s destruction.

The Theurgy didn’t last much longer. Its shields finally failed, red phasers carving great holes in the helpless dreadnought’s hull. A nacelle was severed from its mounting, a photon torpedo obliterating a huge portion of the engineering hull before, finally, mercifully, the Theurgy’s warp core detonated, putting an end to the ship’s misery, parts of the dead ship scattering everywhere along with the bodies of its dead crew.

There was silence in the room as the three of them watched the Federation fleet turn their full attention to the Borg. Cak was the one who broke the silence first, mandibles snapping slowly in shock. “I think I might be sick. Has Sankalov lost his mind?”

Nobody answered. They watched as the Federation fleet finally managed to wear down the Borg cube, even as a pair of ships flew back and forth across the mouth of the subspace aperture, clearly laying a minefield of some sort. The cube succumbed, eventually exploding, but not before taking most of the Federation ships with it. Only the Archeron and a couple of other starships survived the bloodbath, all badly damaged.

“The mines?” Jiji asked, hands gripping the rail tight.

“Some sort of subspatial disruption mines,” Leavitt said grimly. “They blocked off the subspace aperture...for a while, anyway. The Borg couldn’t come through. Starfleet began pouring ships into the Azure Nebula after that, permanently establishing an armada to deal with the Borg if they ever figured out how to bypass the mines. That finally happened in 2386, last year. You can...uh...guess the rest.”

Cak made a high-pitched sound before bowing his head apologetically. “Excuse me. Did anything else happen of note before then?”
Leavitt nodded, wincing. “Yes sir. Martok died during the battle, so the Klingons had a change of leadership, more hostile towards the Federation, more aggressive. The Romulan civil war progressed, Praetor Tal’aura killing Donatra in battle. The entire astropolitical situation turned into a hot mess; by 2385, Starfleet Command considered both the Klingons and Romulans to be hostile, and advised all personnel that war was inevitable.”

Jiji facepalmed. “Did everyone start drinking idiot juice the minute we went into that wormhole?”

Leavitt shrugged helplessly.

“You can’t find anything else in the comms relay’s files?” Cak asked.

“No sir,” Leavitt said with the same dispassionate professional tone of voice. Either he was showing some true backbone, or examining the data for the past few hours had seriously affected the man. “I was lucky to get this much. The comms relay is badly damaged.”

Jiji sighed. “Would it help if we actually travelled to the relay and picked it up for a physical examination? Could that yield more data?” Leavitt shook his head, his certainty so obvious that there was clearly no point pushing him on it. “Very well. Is there anything else, Lieutenant?”

Leavitt nodded. “Just one thing, Captain.” He began typing at his console, the hologram switching to a large 2D screen bearing the Starfleet chevron. “This is from Starfleet Command.”

The screen flicked to a grey-haired Andorian. She was older, bearing the four pips of a full admiral, but despite her lofty rank, she looked utterly broken. Her antennae were drooping, her eyes lowered. It took a moment for the admiral to raise her eyes to the camera.

“This is Admiral zh’Lhar of Starfleet Command on an emergency broadcast,” she said, her voice thin and reedy. “Moments ago, we received word that Admiral Picard’s fleet at Vulcan was defeated by the Borg armada. The Enterprise and most of the fleet have been destroyed. Casualties are reported to be...extreme. As a result, as acting commander-in-chief of Starfleet, I have decided that Earth cannot be defended. Defeat at this point is now...inevitable.”

zh’Lhar took a breath, trying to inject her last remaining strength into her voice. “This is a general warning to all: do not approach the Sol system under any circumstances. If you are still in Sol or within twenty lightyears of Sol, leave immediately and seek safe harbour. All Starfleet vessels are hereby ordered to abandon Earth and the other Federation core worlds. Assist evacuation efforts and avoid battle with the Borg where possible. The Doomsday Protocol is now active. I repeat. The Doomsday Protocol is now active.”

zh’Lhar focused then, finding something deep within herself. “To those of you who are trapped on Earth and other worlds, I say this. I know that news of the cowardice of certain Starfleet admirals has been reported to the general public. I understand how you must feel. Know, however, that I am not going anywhere. I, and the millions of other Starfleet personnel still on Earth, Andoria and other worlds, will fight to our dying breaths to protect you. We will make the Borg pay for every inch of ground they take. The ships are gone, but Starfleet has not abandoned you. We are in this together. Standby for more emergency broadcasts.”

The screen flicked off. Leavitt glanced at Jiji and Cak. “The rest of the broadcasts were civil defence announcements. Evacuation orders, advice about assimilation, recruitment for any civilians who wanted to fight. The last broadcast the comms relay received indicated that Earth Spacedock had been overrun, and Borg drones were beaming down to Earth’s surface en masse.”

Jiji took a juddering breath, shaking ever so slightly. “The Doomsday Protocol,” she said slowly. “What is that, besides the obvious?”

Leavitt shook his head. “I don’t know. It’s classified, that much is certain, and it’s important. The comms relay was damaged not long after Earth fell, though, so I can't find out anything that happened beyond that date.”

“Then there might be a chance,” Cak said, mandibles clacking slowly. “There’s a secure automated comms station on Betazed, on the planet’s southern pole. It was built for this exact sort of scenario, just after the Dominion War. Betazed is only a few lightyears from here; if we get there, the station should still be operational. The Borg would have no reason to destroy it. Whatever this Doomsday Protocol is, we can find out more about itl there.”

“And we can find out where all the surviving Starfleet ships and refugees have been going,” Jiji said, smiling slightly despite the insanity of their situation. “Cak, have I ever mentioned that you’re the best XO any captain could ask for?”

“Yes, but I still wouldn’t mind hearing it more often,” Cak said, quirking his insectoid head to the side.

Jiji’s smile widened briefly before she sobered. “Assemble all hands in the shuttlebay in one hour. They need to know what’s happening.”

In the shuttlebay of the starship Eclipse, the mood was dark. The crew mulled around the two shuttles, talking quietly, tension thick in the air. They were all just waiting now, as was the entire crew, all eighty two of them. By now, everyone knew the basic facts: the ship had been drawn into the wormhole, had been pulled six years into the future, had engaged a Borg ship, and there was no communication with Starfleet. Everyone knew quite clearly that it was bad. They were just waiting to find out how bad the situation was.

When the doors finally opened, everyone’s eyes snapped immediately to them as Captain Kantri Jiji entered first, her expression grim, followed by Lieutenant Alistair Leavitt. Leavitt was a stranger to the crew, having been temporarily assigned as a mission specialist in case the Eclipse inadvertently time-travelled, and he was the closest thing they had to an expert. Some of the crew had heaped hopes on the earnest human, hoping that he had some special trick from the ever-mysterious Department of Temporal Investigations up his sleeve to save the day.

In an instant, looking at Leavitt’s pale face, those hopes vanished.

Captain Jiji recognised what her crew were thinking, and her gaze turned sharp, demanding their attention without a word as she looked around at her crew. “Alright, everyone. You all know the situation. For the past five hours, Mister Leavitt has been pouring over sensor data, trying to learn new data about our situation. He has already given me his report, but I believe you all have the right to hear this too.” Somewhat dramatically, Jiji moved to a shuttle, clambering first onto a nacelle and then onto the hull itself, standing tall so that everyone could see her.

“There is no easy way to say this,” Jiji said, her voice strong as she spoke to her eighty-strong-crew, all of them looking up at her. “Earth has fallen.” Gasps rang out among the crew. “Starfleet in this time have been defeated. The Borg, as far as we can tell, now occupy most of Federation space. We have come six years into the future, a future none of us were prepared for. We are deep in enemy territory, with Borg ships everywhere.”

The crew looked anything but reassured until Jiji continued. “But there is hope. Starfleet Command have prepared for this moment. It’s called the Doomsday Protocol.” The crew shared looks of confusion and bafflement. “It is a top secret Starfleet directive for exactly this scenario. In a few minutes, we will set a course for Betazed. There, at a secret Starfleet comms station, we will find out where the Federation have retreated to, and where we can find safety.”

Jiji paused for dramatic effect. “I know that you’re all scared, hurt, grieving. I wish I could make that pain go away. All I can do is tell you that we have hope. We have a destination, and we have a new mission: survive. Live. In the coming days, when everything seems dark, when you’re struggling, look to your crewmates. Look to the people by your side. Ask for help. Give help. No matter how bad it may seem, none of us are alone on the starship Eclipse, and so long as we are together, the dream of the Federation lives on in us.”

As the crew dispersed a few minutes later, and Jiji climbed down from the shuttlecraft, she caught Cak’s worried look. He knew the lies she had just told. They had no idea that the ‘Doomsday Protocol’ could help them; they didn’t even know what the Doomsday Protocol really was. They had no idea whether any of the Federation was still standing, whether any other Starfleet ships were still flying besides them. They had no idea whether going to Betazed would be anything except horrendously dangerous.

Jiji’s answering look was firm, and the tiniest bit plaintive. Cak understood immediately. If the Doomsday Protocol didn’t give the Eclipse crew something, anything, they were already dead.

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #2
Stardate: 64121.1 (February 14th, 2387)
Location: Approaching Tendar Prime, five lightyears from Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)


It had been a long week since the Eclipse had arrived in 2387, dragged unwillingly through a wormhole. After coming to terms with the nightmare that they’d emerged into, Captain Jiji had given the order to set course for Tendar Prime, one of the closest Federation worlds to where they’d come out from. Everyone knew that the planet was almost certainly assimilated by the Borg, but Jiji knew that they needed to see for themselves.

Early that morning, as the Eclipse flew to its destination at a sedate warp four, Jiji and her Xindi-Insectoid first officer were standing at the back of the bridge, next to an unoccupied auxiliary station. Jiji sipped her coffee as she read the display on the console, Commander Cak tapping the controls.

“Not bad, all things considered,” Jiji murmured, her violet eyes skimming the report, keeping her voice low. “If there’s still a Starfleet out there somewhere, remind me to promote Kristof again when we have time. I didn’t think it was possible to do this to our warp core at all, never mind in only a week. If this actually works, the Borg won’t be able to detect us at warp no matter how close we get.”

Cak clacked his mandibles twice in agreement. “He’s a wizard, there’s no denying it.”

Jiji nodded, then blinked and glanced up at Cak in surprise. “Wait. How are you using that term? Are there even wizards in Xindi culture?”

Cak, completely deadpan, looked back at her with his bulbous eyes. “Of course. What is that one Earth wizard...Gindulf? Dandledore? Total rip-off from the Xindi-Insectoid version. Ours are far sexier.”

It wasn’t even that funny, but something about Cak’s serious tone simply broke Jiji, and she laughed hard, struggling to keep her mug of coffee steady. The crew shared a few smiles but mostly ignored them, long used to the camaraderie between the captain and XO.

Finally Jiji regained enough control (and dignity) to glance at the bearded human manning Tactical on the right side of the Bridge. “Mister Al-Hamza, anything new on long-range sensors?”

Al-Hamza glanced back at Jiji and shook his head. “No ma’am. The cube accelerated to transwarp a few minutes ago, on course for the Delta Quadrant. The formation of spheres is holding course for Cardassia. They should be out of our sensor range in a few hours.”

“Very good,” Jiji replied, looking back at her XO. “I’m not sure whether I should be relieved or even more worried that we’ve become so used to seeing Borg contacts on our sensors. It wasn’t long ago that even seeing a Borg probe terrified us.”

Cak shook his head. “Relieved, Captain,” he said quietly. “So far, I’m impressed with how the crew are handling this, especially without a counselor onboard. We’ve had a few breakdowns, a couple of people needing time off, plus that incident with Crewman Benni, but overall, I’m very proud of how the crew are handling things.”

Jiji nodded, finishing off the last of her coffee with relish, then sighed. “We’re alright for now, but this crew can’t sustain this for long,” she said, almost in a whisper. “If we don’t find supplies at Tendar or Betazed, if we don’t find a lead…”

“Then we persevere,” Cak said gently. “Remember Captain Ransom and the Equinox?”

Jiji blinked. “The guy who murdered dozens of innocent beings and got his ship blown up by Janeway? That’s the comparison you’re going with, Cak? Really?”

Cak sighed (or rather, his universal translator guessed he did). “Before that, Kantri. That was a Nova-class starship too, but they survived for years all alone in the Delta Quadrant. They survived that. We can survive this. You’re ten times the captain Ransom was, and me? Well, I’m the best first officer Starfleet has ever seen.”

“And so wonderfully modest,” Jiji countered, rolling her eyes. She walked to the starboard side of the Bridge and deposited her empty mug in the replicator, then glanced at the  Operations station, where Lieutenant Leavitt was engaged in a rather deep conversation with Lieutenant Ghebo, the female human who served as chief science officer. The two humans were laughing together, making doe-eyes that were hardly subtle.

Jiji sighed. They made for an odd pair at first glance. Leavitt looked rather hardcore; physically very fit, his shaved head giving him an intense appearance, despite his cheerful and gentle nature. Ghebo, by contrast, was rather short, possessing a classic beauty with her perceptive eyes, dark skin and easy smile, masking a formidable scientific mind and an adorable awkwardness. In reality, they made an obvious pairing.

“Mister Leavitt,” Jiji called out, then waited a moment as Leavitt (understandably distracted) didn’t appear to hear her. “Mister Leavitt,” Jiji repeated more forcefully, and Leavitt downright jumped.

“Oh, uh...sorry, Captain,” Leavitt said, standing stiffly at being caught out, Cak giving the man a death glare.

“Are the planetary survey probes ready?” Jiji asked, her voice resigned, several of the Bridge crew containing their smiles at Leavitt’s embarrassment, while Ghebo was quite resolutely staring at the PADD in her hand.

“Yes sir,” Leavitt said promptly. “All probes are calibrated for Tendar Prime’s atmosphere as soon as we enter orbit.”

“Very good, Lieutenant, as you were,” Jiji said, shaking her head. She glanced at Cak as she returned to the back of the Bridge, speaking softly when she reached him. “I wish those two would just get that flirting out of their system. As much as I love seeing young love blossom, I don’t want that blossoming happening on my bridge.”

Cak clacked his mandibles irritably. “I would order them both down to quarters to relieve themselves, but I’m afraid that we don’t have time. Shall I just order them to get it over with up here? I could call red alert, lower the lighting a little and give them some privacy for their sex before we reach Tendar. My species have no taboos about public mating, so I would hardly mind staying while they do it. We can just tell any crew who are uncomfortable to leave the Bridge temporarily until they finish.”

Jiji’s eyes widened her disbelief, her cheeks flushing purple. She glanced at Cak, spotted the twinkle in his bulbous eyes, then groaned, looking upwards as if beseeching help from a higher power.

“Cak?” she said quietly, her voice plaintive, still looking upward.

“Yes sir?” Cak answered innocently.

“Shut up, Cak.”

“Yes sir,” Cak said, his voice despondent.

Before Jiji could decide upon appropriate retribution, Leavitt redeemed himself somewhat by announcing “Ten minutes until we arrive in the Tendar system.”

Thank you,” Jiji said a little more forcefully than was required. She moved down to her command chair, sitting down, Cak following her as always and sitting in his own specially-adapted seat. “Yellow alert, shields up. Helm, standby emergency warp evasive if we need it. Mister Leavitt, you may begin high-powered sensor sweeps now. At this distance, our warp drive’s camouflage won’t do much good anyway, and I want to know about any Borg ships hiding out there before we enter the system. Mister Al-Hamza, get the teams to the transporter rooms. I don’t want to spend a moment longer in this star system than necessary. Our people will need to work fast to get the supplies we need.”

Amidst a chorus of acknowledgements, Jiji sat back in her chair and waited as her crew got to work. The captain focused herself on the viewscreen, showing the stars distorted by the Eclipse’s warp field as the starship flew through space, trusting her crew to be able to handle any Borg surprises that might pop up.

As it turned out, all the crew’s precautions were completely unnecessary. With the Eclipse settled into orbit, the Bridge crew stared at the viewscreen in horror.

Tendar Prime, once a rich verdant world of grasslands, oceans, jungles and desert, was on fire. The entire planet, from pole to pole, seemed to be burning. The cities could easily be made out; they were the only small spots that weren’t burning, because they had been the epicenters of the blasts. The scale of the devastation was inconceivable, the amount of effort required to devastate the entire world unimaginable.

The crew had been silent for a full two minutes before Jiji finally found her voice. “Stand down from yellow alert,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper, but easily carrying in the deathly silence. “Stand down the away teams. Ensign Yhor, prepare to break orbit, and set a course for Betazed. Warp eight.”

“Course laid in, Captain,” Yhor acknowledged from the helm, her voice only half-aware. The Bajoran pilot didn’t even look at her console as she laid in the course, her eyes fixed on the viewscreen and the endless inferno.

“This doesn’t make sense,” Cak said quietly. “This doesn’t match Borg behaviour at all. Why burn a planet like this? We know their cubes have weapons that can shatter planets if they really want to. Why go to all the effort of this much devastation instead of simply destroying the planet, or assimilating it?” He paused. “Lieutenant Leavitt, what was the population of Tendar Prime?”

Leavitt’s response, commendably, was almost instantaneous. He was clearly becoming used to reporting the unimaginable. “Two point four seven billion, sir.”

Cak glanced at Jiji. “That’s two billion potential drones for the Collective, plus an entire world’s worth of advanced technology and industry. The Tendarans had some of the most advanced computer technology in the entire Federation. Something is off here, Captain.”

Jiji nodded reluctantly. She desperately wanted to get her ship as far away from that hellscape as she could, but there was no denying Cak’s argument. “Mister Leavitt, Miss Ghebo, analysis.”

Jiji didn’t miss how Ghebo immediately went to Leavitt’s station to confer, but she left them to it. Either she trusted her officers to be professional or she didn’t. Shortly thereafter, her trust was rewarded as Lieutenant Ghebo returned to her station, peered at something, then nodded.

“The planet burn was caused primarily by antimatter weapons,” Ghebo reported, her hands working her controls, her voice steady. “The major cities were targeted with warheads with a 250 isoton yield. Geological stress points were targeted with precise particle weapons fire, causing volcanic supereruptions and megatsunamis. Accounting for radiation, I…” The lieutenant’s voice faltered for a moment. “I estimate that all life on the planet would’ve been rendered extinct within twelve hours of the initial bombardment.”

“Efficient,” Jiji muttered, frowning, running a hand over her blue scalp. “Efficient, calculated and ruthless. I’ve never heard of anything like it, least of all from the Borg. This isn’t their style.”

“Captain,” Leavitt said hesitantly from Ops, “the weapons signature isn’t Borg. In fact, I’m not detecting any Borg signatures of any sort.” He paused. “The weapons signature is Federation.”

Another silence fell on the Bridge. Jiji stood slowly, turning to Leavitt and then to Ghebo, who nodded in nauseous agreement. “Verify.”

“Verified,” Ghebo reported quietly into the silence.

“Weapons signatures match class 9 photon torpedoes,” Leavitt said slowly. “Phaser signatures match a variety of different phaser arrays on different classes of starship. Defiant. Galaxy. Akira. Odyssey. Theurgy. It was a large fleet.”

Jiji half-fell back into her command chair, scarcely believing what she was hearing, a blue hand covering her eyes. Cak began to say something but she forestalled him with her other hand, taking a deep breath, working hard to steady her nerves.

“We’ve seen everything that there is to see here,” she said, as much to herself as to the crew. “This...the Starfleet we know could never commit an atrocity like this. The Federation we knew is...even if it’s still out there somewhere, something has gone very, very wrong.” Then she lowered the hand from her eyes and sat up straight, violet eyes ablaze as she glared at the viewscreen. “Which makes it all the more important that we get it right. I don’t care if the entire universe has gone insane. We’re still here. We’re the true Starfleet, the true Federation, and that will never change.”

Jiji glanced at Cak, seeing his supporting nod, and she looked forward once more. “Helm, break orbit. Set course for Betazed, warp eight.” The helmswoman acknowledged, the viewscreen tilting towards space as the Eclipse moved away from the burning planet. Jiji raised a hand. “Engage.”

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #3
Stardate: 64140.2 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Approaching Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)

It was late at night, a week after leaving the inferno that had once been Tendar Prime, that Captain Jiji awoke suddenly in her bed, panting and sweating. She sat up, looking around as if to confirm that she was really in her own quarters, before burying her face in her hands.

“Computer,” Jiji said breathlessly, “time.”

“The time is 0410 hours,” the computer’s ever-pleasant voice responded, grating Jiji’s nerves with its immutable tone. She got up out of bed, dressed in a comfortable tank top and underwear, and plodded wearily to her shower. She sure as hell wouldn’t be going back to sleep, not after a nightmare like that. Perhaps a nice warm cup of quaffe in the galley...

Dressed once more in her uniform and looking none the worse for wear, Jiji made her way through the corridors, passing the occasional officer or crewman as she went. There was no true ‘night’ on a starship, particularly a ship in the Eclipse’s situation; the ship was as busy at 3am as it would be at 3pm. Even after a long career, however, Jiji still felt somewhat off put when her body told her it was the middle of the night but she found brightly lit corridors and chirpy crew.

Soon enough, Jji reached the Eclipse’s small mess hall. With two hours until the next shift change, the place was deserted save for a couple of officers in the corner. Recognising Leavitt and Ghebo, and particularly the faintly romantic aspect of their conversation, Jiji covertly replicated herself some fresh tea and a snack. Thoroughly occupied with each other, neither of the two officers noticed that their captain was nearby.

Jiji purposefully didn’t eavesdrop, but she was smiling all the same as she silently nibbled her salad, amused by the situation. It took a good ten minutes before Leavitt and Ghebo finally noticed her.

“Captain!” Ghebo said in alarm, bolting to her feet in an instant. “We...uh...we didn’t see you, sir!”

Leavitt was blushing madly as he too stood up. “I’m sorry, Captain, we didn’t mean to...uh…”

“Mean to, what?” Jiji prompted, grinning wickedly as she lobbed a small white fruit into her mouth. At Alistair’s blubbering and Ghebo’s frantic search for an answer, Jiji finally laughed. “Oh settle down, both of you. There are no regs that say two officers can’t have a private meal in their off hours when the captain is nearby. Even Starfleet isn’t that anal. Or am I just that intimidating?”

Leavitt and Ghebo both laughed nervously, glancing at each other. “No ma’am,” Ghebo said with a relieved smile. “It’s just instinct, you know?”

“Oh, I definitely know,” Jiji said with a wink. “I was a lieutenant too, a long time ago. Well, maybe not that long ago. Honestly, you two should learn to relax around senior officers. This is not a military ship. I promise, we don’t bite.” A slightly awkward silence followed as Jjii finished off the last of her salad, and she stood. “If you’ll excuse me, I will be going back to bed. Have a good evening. I expect you both to be well rested, bright eyed and bushy tailed when we arrive at Betazed.”

After the enthusiastic “yes captains,” Jiji made her way out of the mess hall. She couldn’t resist a glance over shoulder, however, catching the two lovebirds laughing with each other, and after the doors closed, Jiji allowed herself an amused chuckle of her own. She knew that her officers would indeed be ready for duty, but she doubted that either of them would get much sleep tonight, if her guess was correct. Still, Jiji rather hoped that she could get some valuable sleep herself now. If there was any cure for a nightmare, it was seeing youthful romance bloom before her eyes.

Twelve hours later, the mood onboard the Eclipse’s bridge was sober as they neared Betazed. The ship was at red alert, the shields up and weapons armed, for what good it did. Nobody was under any illusions about the Eclipse’s ability to fight off the Borg. Even the smallest Borg vessel outgunned the Eclipse; a full cube could destroy a hundred Nova-class starships without breaking a sweat.

“Ten minutes from Betazed,” Ensign Yhor at the conn reported.

“Mister Leavitt?” Jiji asked, not needing to say anything else.

“Sensor sweep underway,” Lieutenant Leavitt reported from Ops. “No Borg ships detected. I am detecting extensive wreckage that corresponds with the orbital stations and planetary defences. I...wait. I am reading one signature that doesn’t match. Judging from the mass and alloys, believe it’s a Federation starship, but I’m not detecting any active energy signatures.”

Jiji sat back in her chair, crossing her legs in a facade of relaxation. “Miss Yhor, adjust course to intercept that contact.”

The viewscreen shifted as the Eclipse moved, stars zooming past, their light distorted by the warp field. Finally they dropped out of warp, and up ahead, they saw a Federation starship...or rather, what was left of one. The ship was an odd design; it had a large spherical section, connected to a somewhat smaller engineering hull and the usual two nacelles, rather different to conventional Starfleet vessels. The ship was riddled with hull breaches, one of the nacelles having been sheared off, the spherical section crumpled.

“Analysis,” Commander Cak said softly into the dead silence of the bridge.

“NCC 68554-A,” Leavitt reported with quiet professionalism. “The USS Taussig, a hospital ship. I’m detecting numerous hull breaches. All systems are offline, no lifesigns. Judging by these readings, this happened a long time ago.”

Cak leaned forward in his chair, his large insectoid eyes considering the wreck intently. “We could still learn something. They might have launched their ship distress buoy before they were broken, or we could find something in their databanks.”

“No sign of their distress buoy, sir,” Leavitt said, shaking his head. “Their computer core looks like it’s been cut out of the hull. Actually, the entire ship looks like it’s been stripped. Maybe it was by the Borg, maybe by scavengers, I can’t be sure. Regardless, there’s nothing to indicate why the Taussig was here.”

Jiji sighed. “Very well. We won’t learn anything further here. Resume long-range sweeps. Miss Yhor, resume our original heading, warp 5. Let’s see what Betazed has waiting for us.”

As it turned out, Betazed wasn’t quite what the crew had expected when the Eclipse settled into orbit. The planet looked strangely normal on the viewscreen, much to everyone’s surprise. There were still forests and jungles, oceans and mountains, everything one would expect. As the ship passed over the night side of the planet, they could even discern some lights coming from the planet surface, albeit far fewer than was normal.

“This is a surprise,” Cak said, his head moving back and forth in a rare sign of anxiety. “Lifesigns?”

“Four billion, almost all Betazoid,” Lieutenant Ghebo reported from the science station at the back of the bridge, her tone one of disbelief. “The population of Betazed in the year we left was seven billion. I don’t understand how the population could have declined so fast in only five years with no visible sign of conflict or disaster. There are no Borg lifesigns whatsoever.”

Jiji bit her lip, considering the planet on the viewscreen. "Send a broadband hail, all channels."

There was a long pause before Leavitt at Ops shook his head. "No response, Captain. I am reading technology down there, but nobody is answering. The cities are intact, but most of the population seem to have left the cities and moved to the countryside. I'm not detecting any spacecraft though, warp-capable or otherwise. All the spaceports have been obliterated. Precision orbital bombardment, I think."

"There's something else," Ghebo said with a worried tone. She moved over to Leavitt's station, tapping on his console, much to his bemusement. "The flora, Captain. I'm detecting a fivefold increase in jungle cover, particularly around the equatorial regions, and there are huge concentrations of Betazoid lifesigns in those areas. We'd need to go down there to be sure, but some of this flora doesn't look native to Betazed. It may be connected to what's happening to the population."

Cak snapped his mandibles anxiously. "None of this fits. This sounds like a pandemic of some sort, especially if there was a hospital ship nearby, but if the planet was quarantined, where are the warning buoys? Why didn't the Borg assimilate Betazed? Why didn't we see something about a disaster of this scale in that comms relay's data?"

Leavitt spoke up, his tone slightly defensive. "The data I retrieved from that comms relay was patchy and unreliable, Commander. I didn't see anything like this."

"Enough," Jiji said firmly. "Miss Ghebo, we need to know if it's safe to go down there. Scan the Starfleet AX-88 comms station next to Lake Baha and the surrounding vicinity up to a fifty kilometer radius. Be as thorough as you need to be; take as much time as you need."

As Ghebo went about her work, Cak leaned over to Jiji. "This is a risk," he said quietly. "We could try to find somewhere else to learn about this Doomsday Protocol. If we send an away team down there, we won't know what we're sending them into."

Jiji sighed. "It would be even more risky to fly around Borg-occupied space without a plan, blindly searching for hints. We only have a couple months of supplies and fuel, even assuming we don't run into trouble. No, Cak. We need to find out where the rest of Starfleet have gone and we need whatever supplies we can scavenge. We might never get another chance like this. We have no choice."

Cak was silent for a moment, clearly struggling, but finally acquiesced. "Aye, captain."

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #4
Stardate: 64140.5 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)

In Transporter Room One, everyone was quiet. Tension was thick in the air, enough that nobody seemed to want to break it, not even Captain Jiji or Commander Cak. The seven members of the away team were all kitted up and ready, simply waiting for the last arrival, almost shoulder-to-shoulder in the small room. Lieutenant Ghebo was late, but she had good reason to be, as she was scanning every milimeter of the comms relay station down on Betazed. With indications of a mysterious pandemic underway on the planet, everyone was quite alright with her lateness so long as she was thorough.

Finally the doors opened, Ghebo walking in with a backpack hung from her shoulders. She looked immediately at the captain. "All scans are clear, Captain. There are no indications of lifesigns or anomalous pathogens of any description. We scanned that entire area down to the molecular level. It's safe. It is a bit hot today, but that's nothing unusual for that area at this time of year."

Jiji, her arms crossed, glanced at Doctor Hess in an unspoken question. The young Bajoran physician nodded, pulling back a strand of her red hair out of her eyes. "I'm satisfied that it's safe, Captain. There's no way our sensors could miss a biological threat at that degree of scan detail. We should all go through decontamination when we beam back, regardless."

"And you're sure that you don't want hazmat gear anyway?" Jiji pressed with a frown. "When you're beaming down to a quarantined planet?"

Doctor Jhinn Hess shrugged helplessly. "Captain, there are many pandemic vectors that the hazmat gear wouldn't protect against, and would actually be dangerous to wear if we encountered them. This can't be an ordinary viral or bacterial pathogen or Starfleet would've contained it long before it reached this stage. If it's telepathic, hazmat won't matter. If it's behaviorial, and we need to run or fight, the hazmat could be a problem. The gear would also slow our work down by a few hours, which increases exposure time for both us and the ship."

Hess sighed, rubbing her ridged nose. "I don't like it either, obviously, but statistically in this scenario, we're better off like this. That's how I was trained."

"Very well," Jiji said, putting extra oomph in her voice to instantly grab everyone's attention. She was one of the shortest people in the room, yet somehow, the small blue woman appeared much larger than she was. "You all have your assignments. Lieutenant Leavitt will handle the station computer and Lieutenant Ghebo will harvest the gardens with Doctor Hess, while the rest of you will strip that place clean. Don't be shy, people. I don't expect anyone to be using this place again, so don't worry about being tidy. Get everything that isn't nailed down, then start tearing out the stuff that is nailed down. I want our cargo bays to be full to the brim by the time we break orbit."

Jiji crossed her arms, looking around at everyone. "Remember, we're on the clock. The moment that we see a Borg ship change course to head this way, you will be beamed back. The moment that there is any indication of a problem, especially a pathogen, you will be beamed back. If someone breaks a nail, you will be beamed back. We're taking no more risks today than is absolutely necessary. Am I clear?" The away team all responded enthusiastically, and Jiji smiled. "Good hunting."

She placed a hand on Cak's shoulder (or the closest equivalent that a Xindi-Insectoid had, anyway), and he bobbed his head, clacking his mandibles wordlessly in understanding. With that, Jiji stepped away as Cak, Leavitt and two security officers stepped onto the pad. At the first officer's command, all four vanished in a whirl of blue sparks.

The four officers rematerialised into a brightly lit hallway, all looking around the moment the transporter sequence was complete. The hallway was typical Starfleet fare, but the windows on one side offered a spectacular view. The sun was high in the sky, its light reflecting dramatically off the lake and brightly illuminating the hills beyond. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, and all four members of the away team took a moment to appreciate the sight.

"Okay, wow," Leavitt said, awestruck. "It's been way too long since any of us were planetside."

"Agreed," Cak answered even as he tapped his combadge with a claw. "Cak to Eclipse, we're clear to receive the rest of the team." Moments later, the rest of the team beamed in with various anti-grav trolleys and bags, all taking the opportunity to appreciate the view as well. Some tugged at their uniform collars, the heat immediately apparent. "Okay everyone, let's get to work. Leavitt, you're with me. Ghebo, you're with Doctor Hess, get to it. Chief Sijuk, find the cargo bays and have some fun."

"Uh, one moment, sir," Ghebo said as she wiped off her brow, sweat already starting to form on her dark skin. "Computer, what's the internal temperature?"

The interior temperature is 40 degrees centigrade, came the smooth automated feminine voice of the computer.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Ghebo said, looking up. "The environmentals must be out of whack. Computer, reduce temperature to 20 degrees centigrade."

Can not comply. Security code required.

That immediately caught everyone's attention. "Environmental systems don't usually require a security clearance," Cak said, perplexed, but he shook his head. "We'll look into it. Everyone, be sure to hydrate. I know how you fleshy meatbags struggle to handle high temperatures." That at least drew some chuckles, breaking the tension. "Go."

The facility wasn't especially vast, but after the away team split in three down various corridors and stairways, it didn't take long for Hess Jhinn and Nadene Ghebo to begin to feel very alone indeed. The base, normally staffed by up to two hundred personnel, was a disconcerting and quiet place when empty. The corridors and windows were spotless thanks to the automated cleaning systems, which only added to the subtle sense of wrongness that pervaded the building. At least if there was damage or bodies, it would explain why the place was abandoned.

The heat didn't matters either. Starfleet uniforms were designed with adaptive insulation for a wide variety of temperatures, from the frigid to the searing,. Nevertheless Jhinn and Nadene were feeling that their uniforms were reaching their limits, especially when the women were carrying backpacks. Finally Jhinn stopped, reaching down into one of the two anti-grav trolleys that were following them and pulling out a bottle of water.

"The temperature must've increased," Jhinn said after taking a deep drink and sweeping her long red hair back behind her shoulders. "Go on Nadene, drink."

The dark-skinned scientist didn't need convincing, and after drinking from her own bottle, she flipped open her tricorder. "46 degrees, same as outside the base. I hope Alistair fixes the environmentals soon or I'll be a puddle when we beam back. The computer must be a real mess to lock the environmentals behind security access."

Jhinn nodded, then sighed in resignation. "That's it, I'm calling it." She tapped her combadge. "Doctor Hess to all away team members, we're now in extreme heat conditions. Hydrate frequently and don't go anywhere alone. Strip off your uniforms as far as you're comfortable doing so. This is no time to be modest. That's an order."

"What aboit me, Doctor?" came the sardonic reply from Commander Cak. "I could remove my clothing, but I would prefer not to traumatise anyone unless absolutely necessary. There is a reason why Xindi-Insectoid strippers are not in high demand outside Xindus."

Nadene giggled and Jhinn shook her head, struggling to contain her own laughter. "You're right, Commander, nobody wants to see that. You're fine up to 60 degrees anyway, but I still want you hydrating frequently. Hess out."

In good spirits, the two women duly began removing their uniforms, setting the clothing and boots in their floating trolleys. Soon enough, both were reduced to the regulation sports bra and underwear, although they kept on their belts with their phasers and tricorders. In typical Starfleet beauracratical mania, even the underwear was tailored with their department colours (light blue for Djinn, dark blue for Nadene), with USS Eclipse (NCC-73888) printed proudly on the hems. Sweat had yet to overwhelm the fabric's tolerance, much to the relief of the two women, and barefoot, they continued on their way.

Thousands of kilometers away, far on the other side of the planet, a woman was roused from slumber in her chair by a loud alarm. She was completely naked, as were the other three men and women in the control room. The woman focused on her screen and and inhaled, smiling slowly in excitement.

"Stop everyone, this is time to focus!"  she called out to the others as a video feed played onscreen, showing two women in their underwear walking down a corridor. "There's a Starfleet ship in orbit and...oh, delicious, there's an away team in the facility. Oh, look at them...we're going to have so much fun..."

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #5
Stardate: 64140.9 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)

The Bridge of the starship Eclipse was a somber place. The ever-present threat of the Borg had everyone on edge, unable to relax. While they'd been at warp, there had been the illusion of safety built up over two weeks of easy flying. Now that the Eclipse was in a planetary orbit, the feeling of being trapped was unavoidable. Two Borg cubes were on long-range sensors, neither vessel showing any sign that they saw or cared about the Eclipse, but the terrifying possibility that they could change course at any moment was on everyone's minds.

So too was the plight of the away team, sent on an awfully dangerous mission to a world afflicted by a mysterious pandemic. Five different people had their eyes on sensors monitoring the area, ready to react in an instant. Captain Jiji, sat in the command chair that dominated the smalll Bridge, estimated that it would take only seventy seconds to evacuate the away team. It was at least fifty seconds longer than she was comfortable with, and so she stewed in her chair, anxiety bubbling away, hoping that her crew could handle the silence better than she could.

"Transporter beam!" called out a crewman at one of the auxiliary consoles, breaking the silence.

"Where?" Jiji demanded, instantly on her feet.

"Checking..." the crewman said, her voice tight with nerves. "Originating from the far side of the planet...vectored to the comms relay!"

Jiji didn't hesitate, slapping her combadge. "Bridge to transporter room, beam them up!" A few tense moments passed, everyone looking at each other anxiously. "Transporter room, do you have them?"

"Negative, Bridge," came the frustrated reply. "The facility's shields were raised immediately after the unknown transport terminated. I've lost them."

Jiji took a breath to steady herself, her hands curled into fists. "It was a trap. Mister Al-Hamza, can we penetrate those shields? Or at least disrupt them?"

The bearded tactical officer, stood at his station at the back of the Bridge, shook his head. "No sir. Those shields were designed after the war to repel a squadron's worth of firepower. Our phasers aren't powerful enough and our torpedoes would have to be tuned to such a high yield that we'd destroy a good portion of that peninsula. The only way those shields are coming down is if someone deactivates them from inside."

Jiji tapped a control on her chair, keying into the starship's powerful communications equipment. "Jiji to away team. Jiji to away team." When no response came, she looked back at Al-Hamza who shook his head, the message clear. Horrified, Jiji covered her eyes with one hand before she sat back down, feeling the awful familiar certainty in her gut: her people were in danger, and she'd sent them into that danger.

"We have just under two hours until the next check-in, when our people realise that their comms are offline," the captain said quietly, her voice carrying around the Bridge regardless. "With luck, they'll be able to protect themselves and take the shields offline, but regardless, I want everyone working on ways to get our people out of there as fast we can. Get to work."

In the depths of the facility, in a large windowless room that functioned as the computer core, Cak and Alistair worked in silence. The two officers couldn't look more different. Cak, a Xindi-Insectoid, had large bulbous eyes, long antennae, a wiry build and mandibles that snapped loudly when he talked. His Starfleet uniform was tailored to his thin body, so perfectly in order, the combadge at exactly the right height and orientation, the three golden pips so perfectly aligned, that Cak might've just walked off a recruitment poster.

Alistair, by contrast, was a mess. Following the doctor's orders, he had stripped off to the waist and gone barefoot, but he was still sweating profusely where he sat, typing rapidly on a console. The large screen before him showed a complex mess of symbols, mathematics and characters that Cak couldn't make sense of, but clearly Alistair did. The young human was making good progress (or so he said, as Cak couldn't tell either way), but it made for poor company. Cak was a social person at heart, and leaving the man alone went against his instincts, but he resisted all the same.

Eventually though, Cak finished stripping down the computer core of everything he could remove. Most of the components couldn't be replicated, so they would be priceless aboard the Eclipse, and the anti-grav trolley was heavily laden. The computer core still retained enough functionality to allow access to the classified data trove that it concealed, so long as the user had the access codes.

Alistair didn't have the codes, but he was both very clever and very determined.

Finally, Cak decided to break the silence. "Lieutenant, don't you want to remove your pants as well? I am growing concerned. We can't risk heatstroke."

Alistair didn't even look from the monitor. "No, sir, I'm fine. I grew up in temperatures like this. It's not a problem." Nevertheless he paused, then reached down for the bottle of water besides his seat. After taking a deep swing, he upturned the bottle over his muscular shoulders, sighing in relief before getting back to work.

Cak rubbed a claw along a mandible. "Well, you can at least remove your pants before we beam up so that Miss Ghebo can see you."

Alistair did a double take, turning his chair around to look at Cak in astonishment. "Sir, I don't...uh..."

Cak snapped his mandibles together, his own version of a chuckle. "Alistair, half the ship knows about you two. I'd wager that half the ship knew about you two even before you did. Even I noticed, and I'm not even humanoid. I just cannot fathom why you haven't coupled yet, since you both clearly wish to." Alistair's mouth dropped open in shock. "Whatever the reason is, young man, don't be afraid to find joy wherever you can find it in these dark times."

Alistair blinked, struggling to recover from the whiplash from the bizarre to the sincere. "Er...thank you...sir. I think. That's...that's good advice. all due respect, sir, I know that you're not too familiar with humanoids, but it's not really appropriate to discuss that sort of thing with us, especially on an away mission. We just...don' that."

"Really?" Cak asked curiously.

"Really." Alistair affirmed.

"I'm just saying, have you seen that man's arms when he's doing weights in the gym? Haven't you ever wanted to climb onto Alistair and have him hold you tight while you ride that hot body for all he's worth?"

Nadene laughed, shaking her head in dismay as she looked back at Jhinn. Both women were in the facility's large central courtyard, which doubled as a vast garden for growing crops, a morale-boosting activity for the facility's permanent staff. The doctor and science officer were cheerfully filling bags with various plants that were destined for a new airponics bay aboard the Eclipse, to help alleviate food problems in the future. Stripped to their underwear, Jhinn and Nadene were more relaxed than usual, and while still nervous, chose to cover their nerves with chit-chat.

"Of course I have," Nadene said, grinning as she zipped up a bag and deposited it on the trolley. "He's hot, I know, but...there's more to it, okay?"

Jhinn chuckled as she took a drink. "Honey, it had better be a good reason. It's the apocalypse. Why not embrace a little relief? I'd snag our Mister Leavitt myself if he let me."

Nadene sighed as she stood up. The courtyard's automated shades protected them from direct sunlight but it was an oven all the same, especially with the large translucent barriers that quartered the courtyard. "I know that our odds of getting to what's left of the Federation are long, but Alistair...I want it to mean something. When we met back at the Academy, a reputation. An earned reputation, maybe? If I'm being honest?"

"Oh?" Jhinn said with curiosity as she stood up, brushing soil off her hands. She and Nadene had struck up a light and easy friendship in recent weeks, but this was new information.

" night that I met Alistair, we were in neighbouring dorms, and-"

"-and he caught you with a random one night stand," Jhinn interrupted, grinning. At Nadene's wince, she frowned. "Or...not?"

"I mean, it was a one night stand," Nadene said delicately, "or...I mean, they were. All three of them. Don't start!" she cut off Jhinn with a raised finger as the doctor verged on laughter. "I was going through an exploratory phase, okay, and the guys were cute, and we all had fun, but I got a reputation after all that. That's not really me, but Alistair first knew me during that time, when sex didn't mean much, but it'd mean so much more with him, and I know that we're not really serious yet, but if this is the end, I want it to...matter, and for him to know that it matters, that he's not just another guy in my bed. Does that make sense?"

Jhinn's hand was over her mouth, but she managed to restrain herself during Nadene's breathless rambling. "Oh, it makes perfect sense, and I love it. Just tell him all that, okay? Be honest, and he'll understand."

Nadene smiled and nodded gratefully. She looked over their haul of plants on the trolley and picked up a PADD that had the manifest. "That's all of them in this quadrant. I can't wait to have a shower after all this, this heat is horrible." Rolling her shoulders, Nadene walked to a gap in one of the partitions and peered through. "That's weird."

"What?" Jhinn said as she set the laden trolley to follow them, before joining Nadene at the partition. "I don't...what are all those flowers?"

The next quadrant of the courtyard was beautiful, with four rows of concentric troughs ringing around the perimeter, and a central fountain at the middle. The troughs were full of the same sort of plants that Jhinn and Nadene had just been harvesting; nutritious, but not pretty. Unusually, however, dotted around the overgrown crops They were everywhere, with even some flowers scattered on the floor and by the fountain. Nadene approached the fountain, looking at the flowers in confusion.

"Strange," she said, picking one of the flowers up off the floor. It still looked strangely fresh, as if it had just been picked, the pollen still evident in the bulb. Bemused, Nadene took a sniff, only for Jhinn to grab her arm.

"Lieutenant, are you out of your mind?" the doctor said harshly, all levity forgotten. "We're on a quarantined world and you're smelling random flora?"

Nadene winced, dropping the flower immediately. "Oh sorry, sorry! I was just thinking that I scanned everything here from orbit, nothing dangerous, so we're safe. I was completely thorough, I promise. I mean, unless someone beamed here in the past hour and put all these flowers here..." She trailed off, her eyes momentarily out of focus. "No, that's ridiculous. Even if that did happen, the Eclipse would've detected it and warned us."

Jhinn sighed, drawing her long red hair back behind her shoulders. "It's alright. Even if these flowers were dangerous, the pollen count must be so high that we'd have been exposed the moment we passed into this quadrant. They're probably just decorative. Come on, back to work."

Nadene smiled in acknowledgement before duly moving to a trough and crouching down to read the label of what was growing inside. Her head jerked up as she thought she glimpsed movement on the other side of the partition, but seeing nothing, she shrugged and started pulling out plants.

All the while, she smiled as she thought about Alistair...maybe they could have that much-needed shower together? The thought gave Nadene a thrill, and she hummed merrily as she worked.

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #6
OOC WARNING:: this is going to become very NSFW, as I'm sure is obvious by now. Be aware before reading further.

Stardate: 641401 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Starfleet AX-88 Comms Station, Betazed

Nadene blinked as she concentrated on her PADD, trying for the third time to read the botanical code and match it to the wishlist. It was proving difficult. Her body was tingling, her breasts aching, her stomach roiling, all contriving to turn her mind to mush. She tried to remember how long it had been since they'd started this quadrant. Thirty minutes? Forty? It was hard to say.

"Doctor?" Nadene said, glancing around to see the Bajoran redhead stacking some plants in a bag. She blinked, surprised by the perked outline of Jhinn's nipples through the bra. "Doctor, I think we...we have a problem."

Jhinn nodded back as she drank some water, then poured the chest over her chest, uncaring of getting her underwear wet. "It's just heat exhaustion, we'll beam back..." The doctor hesitated. "No, it's not. Now that I think about it, this doesn't..." She looked at Nadene in shock, horrified realisation breaking through the haze in her mind. "Oh no. It can't be. We're such idiots!"

"What?" Nadene said, baffled as she drank some water of her own, hoping that it'd clear the fog in her thoughts. It didn't. She was left to stare dumbly at the redhead doctor as she picked up a flower, pulled out a tricorder and began scanning. It took a few moments for it to sink into Nadene's addled mind. "Wait, the flowers?"

"Yes," Jhinn said anxiously. "The pollen is a potent aphrodisiac. I can't imagine why anyone would...oh, that's why we're feeling I can't believe that I missed this."

'Hot' was a mild term to describe how Nadene was feeling. Now that she recognised the arousal for what it was, she rubbed her legs together in a vain attempt to relieve some of the pressure in her groin. "But that' Just an aphrodisiac? Nothing else?"

"No, nothing else, as far as I can tell," Jhinn said. She clenched a furious fist around the delicate flower, destroying it, before slapping her combadge. "Hess to Cak, come in." The badge made an ominous no-signal noise, and the two women shared a worried look. "Hess to Eclipse, come in. Anyone, please respond."

"We're in trouble." Nadene took a few steps towards a door in the perimeter of the courtyard, only to stop partway and glance back at Jhinn. "We're no use to anyone like this, I can barely think straight. If we run into someone, I might...I don't even want to think about it." A lie; it was now all she could think about, running into a couple of strapping men in a corridor, begging them to relieve her need. Before she even knew what was she was doing, Nadene was massaging her aching breasts, which suddenly felt horribly confined in the bra.

"Stop!" Jhinn shouted, hurrying over and taking both of Nadene's hands in her own, clutching them tight. The science officer looked down at their hands, marvelling at the contrast of dark and pale skin, barely registering that Jhinn was talking. "We can't...stimulate...ourselves. Focus on something else, anything else. Come on Lieutenant Ghebo, we have a problem, so let's think of a solution. Come on!"

Nadene blinked, the reflex of hearing her rank barked at her snapping her brain into focus.  She looked around, and gestured at the fountain. "There. If we lower our body temperature in the water, then we might reduce the effects of the aphrodisiac. Right?"

Jhinn looked at the fountain as well and winced, shaking her head. "No, it won't. We need..." She stopped. "Damn it. We need to orgasm."

"Uh..." Nadene said slowly, stunned. Her eyes tracked over Jhinn's beautiful features, her full lips, her ample bust which so thoroughly filled out the bra. She generally preferred men to women but had played both sides on occasion, and the attraction was burning through her body like a sudden wildfire. "Doctor, if you're propositioning me..."

Jhinn smiled weakly. "I'm flattered, but I don't...I mean, I've never, and I don't...I'm not..." Despite her words, the doctor's brown eyes began tracing Nadene's own body with obvious interest, especially her toned stomach. Nadene preened, smiling back; she was proud of her body. "The pollen, it' Orgasm should relieve the need for a time, until we can get help."

Jhinn saw the intent in Nadene's eyes a moment before it happened, and she stepped back as Nadene leaned in for a kiss. "Please Lieutenant...Nadene, no. Sit down here, right here." Jhinn was clearly struggling to maintain control, but she helped Nadene to sit down with her back to a trough. "Masterbate, Lieutenant. I'll be right over there by the fountain doing...doing the same. We both need to reach orgasm, maybe twice, then we should be clear-headed enough to get help. Masterbate, that's an order."

"Yes ma'am," Nadene muttered, and without a second thought, she unclasped her bra, allowing her breasts to fall free. She gasped in relief, palming the sensitive nipples, but she knew that true relief could only come one way. Lost in a haze of lust, Nadene barely even registered that Jhinn had stepped away as she took off the equipment belt and tossed it aside. As she slipped the final piece of underwear down her legs, Nadene noticed Jhinn by the fountain. The redhead doctor took off her bra, followed shortly by the belt and the rest of her underwear, before sitting with her back to the fountain, all observed by Nadene's feasting eyes.

Jhinn realised her mistake after she settled, having intended to go further out of Nadene's eyeline for privacy, but it was too late. Instead the two women watched each other widen their legs and lower their hands between them. Nadene gasped at the first touch on her hyper-sensitive folds, the erotic pleasure almost being painful, but she refocused her eyes on Jhinn as the other woman mirrored her movements.

Amidst the intense heat, the erotic connection was forged. As they continued to touch themselves, Nadene and Jhinn watched each other, encouraging each other with their moans, their hands becoming more and more enthusiastic in the act of masterbation. Despite Jhinn's best efforts, even if they weren't touching each other, it was clearly a shared sexual act. A tiny part of Nadene's mind wondered how their friendship might survive such an event. The rest was too far gone to care.

Nadene saw Jhinn slip a finger inside herself, then two, and she smiled at the doctor's enthusiasm as she followed the suit. In short order, both women were thrusting fingers inside their folds, moaning and shaking, their eyes still upon each other. It didn't take long before Jhinn cried out in ecstasy, closing her eyes as the sensation of orgasm overwhelmed her. Nadene grinned happily, amused that for all her discipline, Jhinn had crested first. Watching the doctor bask in the afterglow of orgasm, her ample breasts heaving, Nadene felt her own ecstasy coming, just a little more...

Then something blocked her view of Jhinn. Nadene mewled in protest, trying to peek around the shapely legs that had just entered her vision. It was only then that realisation bloomed, and Nadene's frenzied masterbation slowed. She looked up.

The naked woman standing above her was magnificent. There was no other word for it. Jhinn was attractive, with full breasts, lovely lips and lustrous red hair, with muscular legs that sported an impressive ass. Even so, Jhinn was no match for the blonde woman who stood above Nadene. Everything was just so...perfect, like a goddess had descended from some impossible legend. Her blonde hair was blonde and wild, her breasts on the perfect line between too large and too small, her muscular stomach glistening with sweat. Nadene's eyes tracked down to the stranger's groin, which glistened in that telltale way.

"Oh my, aren't you eager," the perfect woman said softly. She crouched down and kissed Nadene firmly, her warm lips drawing a cry of pleasure from the human. The kiss seemed to last an eternity before the woman pulled back. Nadene absent-mindedly noted from the black irises that the woman was Betazoid, but she couldn't begin to care, instead resuming her masterbation, only for her hand to be gripped tight by the stranger.

"Oh girl, that won't be necessary," the woman teased. She idly played with one of Nadene's nipples before turning aside, so that Nadene could see beyond her. A muscular man, equally naked, was kneeling beside Jhinn and kissing her passionately where she sat, his enormous member already firmly erect. The doctor half-heartedly tried to push him away, but a moment later she yielded, her hand gripping his engorged manhood. A moment later, Jhinn successfully pushed the man onto his back, but rather than flee, she crawled atop him, guided his member into her waiting passage, gasped in relief and began rocking back and forth.

"You like to watch, don't you?" the woman whispered, kissing Nadene briefly again. "My friend will take a few minutes to be done, then he can help you, but until then, you can watch as I take care of you." With a seductive smile, the woman lowered herself down before Nadene until she was lying face-first on the ground, and with deliberate slowness, she sensually ran her tongue up Nadene's dark folds. Nadene gasped, having craved such a touch, and she watched Jhinn ride her new lover hard, his hands on her hips, her breasts bouncing with each movement, him grunting, her gasping. As the blonde woman inserted her own finger into Nadene's womanhood, curling it up, Nadene cried out in turn, feeling her own orgasm closing in.

Amidst the mad lust and horrible heat, a thought whispered in Nadene's mind, wrapped in sorrow, pain and guilt.

I'm sorry, Alistair. Save yourself.

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #7
Stardate: 641401 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Starfleet AX-88 Comms Station, Betazed

In the windowless data vault, Commander Cak and Lieutenant Leavitt were still hard at work. Well, more accurately, Alistair was hard at work while his Xindi-Insectoid superior waited. Cak wasn't a patient person by nature, having joined Starfleet to act rather than dither, and though he knew that Alistair required an escort, the inaction grated on him. After a full half hour had passed since he'd last checked in with the rest of the team, Cak gladly took the excuse to break the tedium and tapped his combadge.

"Cak to Jhinn," he said smartly. Cak's face fell at the buzz of his combadge, indicating a failed connection. "Cak to Ghebo. Cak to Sijuk. Cak to Eclipse." Buzz buzz buzz.

Alistair turned in his seat, his muscular chest sheening in sweat from the heat. "How can we have lost comms?" he asked in bafflement before trying his own combadge on his pants, only to get the same buzz. Turning in his seat, Alistair worked the console for a few moments  frowning as he did so. "What the...the facility's shields are up...they've been tuned to block our comms. This can't be the Borg, can it?"

"It's not their style," Cak replied grimly as he pulled out his tricorder and began scanning. "I was afraid of this. I'm detecting four more Betazoid lifesigns in the building, one male and three female. They're nowhere near us yet, but...Mister Leavitt, can you lower the shields from here? There's no other way out if you can't."

Alistair turned back to Cak and shook his head. "No sir. That can only be done...uh, let's see..." Typing one-handed, he winced as the results came up. "Either in the primary control room or in tactical control. They're both two floors down, on opposite sides of the facility. Even then, we'll need the security access codes."

Cak tilted his insectoid head to the side, waiting expectantly. "Well?"

Chuckling hoarsely despite himself, Alistair turned back to the console. "On it, sir. I was working on that anyway to get the comms data. I'll work on this while you go help the others."

"...No." Alistair looked over his shoulder, startled, but Cak's voice was painfully firm. "I am staying right here. If you get compromised, all of us are trapped here and our shipmates have no direction. Get back to work, Mister Leavitt. I'll protect you."

"But Commander-"

"That's an order, Lieutenant," Cak interrupted coldly. "Hurry."

The following forty minutes were horribly tense. The small room termed the "data vault" was buried deep within the facility, and thus had no windows with only one exit. It was horribly confined between the bulky computer equipment, various consoles and laden anti-grav trolleys. Even Cak was starting to feel the heat now, though he suspected that it was just his nerves. He kept his tricorder out, scanning constantly, but fortunately no lifesigns came close. Unfortunately, it was evident from their movements that the entire team had left where they were supposed to be working, walking through the corridors (with frequent pauses) in an obvious search pattern.

Cak didn't mention anything to Alistair, wanting the man to stay focused, but neither of them could ignore the distant scream that echoed through a corridor. Neither said anything. Far from slowing down, Alistair only seemed to work with greater intensity.

"Got it!" he finally exclaimed after a seeming eternity, raising his arms over his head. "We've got security access and...the data is being transferred...yes!" Out of breath despite having been sat down for the past hour, Alistair pulled a large metal cube off the console and stood. "It's all here, Commander. I still need to decrypt it up on the ship, but we have the data, and with the security access, can lower those shields."

"Good work," Cak said curtly, his bulbous eyes still fixed on the tricorder. His voice was still thick with worry. "We have a problem, though. Both routes to the control centre and tactical control are blocked. We'll have a hard time getting past them."

Alistair stared, his mouth dropping open in horror. "So everyone is..."

"Compromised," Cak said grimly, his mandibles clicking anxiously. "There's no other explanation. We are now outnumbered six to one. Based on their movements, they're waiting for us to leave here rather than risk a direct assault. This position is quite defensible."

"But..." Alistair said slowly as he grabbed a canteen and opened it, "...what kind of pathogen can possibly do this? Just..alter people's behaviour like that?"

Cak shrugged his slender shoulders. "I suspect that we will soon find out. Whatever this thing is, it took over entire worlds. We cannot underestimate it. Do you understand?" The commander placed an oily hand on Alistair's shoulder. "We have to split up to give ourselves the best chance of getting through. Even if we fall, the Eclipse can find that data and live on. Do you understand?"

Alistair took a deep breath before nodding. "Yes sir."

Cak bowed his head as a loud throaty moan echoed down the corridor, providing a grim preview. "Good luck, Alistair."

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #8
OOC WARNING:: this is going to even more NSFW. Extremely NSFW. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Be aware before reading further.

Stardate: 64140.1 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Starfleet AX-88 Comms Station, Betazed

It seemed impossible that the brightly lit corridors could feel so threatening. The grey-silver architecture was familiar to Alistair after many years in the service, the sun shone merrily through the windows, and the distant lake sparkled invitingly. Betazed was a peaceful world, save for its occupation during the war, a world where one could and should feel safe.

Despite that, Alistair felt very unsafe indeed. He walked carefully down the corridor, barefoot and shirtless in the intense heat, an open tricorder in one hand and a phaser in the other. Given his muscular form and the intense appearance given by his shaved head, Alistair looked quite formidable, but he knew the truth in his bones. He was no warrior.

As a result, he was terrified, his heart hammering painfully as he walked, his eyes fixed on his tricorder. He'd been lucky thus far, managing to dodge the patrols which kept stopping at random intervals, and a steadily advancing Xindi lifesign on the other side of the facility confirmed that Cak was also doing well. Nevertheless, their luck could only hold for so long.

For the fifth time, noting a pair of human lifesigns rapidly coming his way, Alistair quickly backtracked and detoured around them. Every so often he heard a cry or a moan that sounded impossibly familiar, but he didn't let his mind dwell on what the sounds might indicate, the suffering that his crewmates might be experiencing. Nadene was foremost in his mind; her bright blue eyes, her jabbering excitement when talking about anything she was passionate about, the brief but wonderful kiss that they'd shared.

Time seemed to stretch. Alistair became hyper-aware of every little sound, every smell, the uncomfortable dampness of his skin. His tricorder was a precious lifeline, guaranteeing that he wouldn't be surprised. Despite how slow Alistair felt like he was going with the constant detours and backtracking, he was making real progress, torturous though it was. Just beyond lay the living quarters, then the comms rooms, then tactical control, it was completely clear, there was nobody around...

Suddemy Alistair inhaled sharply, his eyes still fixed on his tricorder as he watched one pair of lifesigns turn at a junction behind him into his area...and then disappear. He froze, realisation blossoming; this area wasn't clear. His tricorder just couldn't detect any lifesigns. It was being disrupted, probably by another adjustment to the shields. The timing and localisation was too specific to be anything but deliberate.

"Crap," Alistar swore softly, looking both ways down the corridor, before he heard them behind him, just barely: whispers, muffled giggling, movement. Trying desperately to control the urge to start running, Alistair instead hurried along as stealthily as he could, clutching the phaser tight. The heat was unbearable now; it felt like he was rushing through a furnace that refused to relent. Increasingly anxious, sweat dripping off him, Alistair took one last look at the tricorder, considered trying to modulate its scan, then decided that it would be a futile effort. Instead, breathing heavily, he folded up the tricorder as he walked and placed it on his belt.

Completely shorn of aide, Alistair's heart hammered harder than ever. Passing the open door to the VIP quarters, he crept up to the next corner, trying desperately to battle his fear and stay calm. Phaser in hand, he peeked around the corner...and saw a man and a woman, both naked, cheerfully strolling his way.

In a flash Alistair turned and ran back the way he'd come, his bare feet not making so much as a sound on the carpet. Pinned between two patrols, he had no other option but to hurry into the VIP quarters, close the door behind him and lock it. Struggling to control his breathing, Alistair looked around. It was a typical lounge with chairs and tables, complete with a replicator, though Alistair dared not use it. The bathroom though...he could at least wash himself quickly as he waited for the patrols to pass, the sound shouldn't carry, the bedroom and bathroom should be soundproofed...

Phaser at the ready, Alistair moved to the door to the bedroom, opened it, then froze.

The room was dark, the windows having been shaded and the lights dimmed, but the view was unmistakable. On the big four-poster bed, a naked woman was on all-fours in front of a muscular man, who, equally naked, was enthusiastically thrusting into her. The man grunted in exertion while the woman moaned, clearly at the height of ecstasy. Alistair realised a second later from her dark skin and long black hair that it was Nadene on the bed, her full breasts bouncing with each thrust into her. Dazed, Alistair stepped inside, the phaser dropping.

"Hello Alistair," a sultry woman's voice spoke. Alistair turned in alarm to see a naked blonde woman sitting in a chair, holding a phaser of her own that was aimed directly at him. "We've been waiting for you. Ah ah!" she said sharply as his phaser twitched, "don't raise that phaser, my love, or I'll have to stun you, and this is so much more fun if you're conscious. Are you enjoying the show?"

"What?" Alistair said, baffled. He couldn't help his eyes tracing over the blonde woman's body; her toned physique, her strong thighs, her large breasts, the perked nipples, her undeniably beautiful face. Her long blonde hair was lustrous and untamed, adding to the wild allure of the woman, who Alistair belatedly realised must be Betazoid, given her dark irises. His heat-addled mind struggled to catch up. "Who...why...what is happening?"

The woman licked her lips as her eyes feasted on Alistair's body, causing him to shuffle awkwardly, conscious of the threat of the phaser. "Oh, you are just muscular and fit...but so shy too, so awkward, I can see it in your thoughts. Oh, you might be my favourite yet..." She smiled, although there was no kindness or affection in her eyes. "I was once called Kassali, if you must know, Kass to those close to me, but alas...toss your phaser and tricorder outside the room. Now."

Alistair hesitated, trying valiantly to think of a way out, but Kassali's phaser was a silent and inescapable threat. He did his best to ignore the sounds of Nadene's moans, the man's grunts, the wet slapping when their bodies met again and again. Gritting his teeth, Alistair turned around and tossed both the phaser and tricorder out into the lounge, wincing at how stupid he'd been. The trap should've been obvious, yet he'd walked in without hesitation rather than risk a fight. Scolding himself internally, he looked back at Kassali, whose hungry smile widened.

"Now take off your clothes and toss them in the lounge," she whispered excitedly, her voice still oddly audible despite Nadene's lustful cries of "yes yes yes!" and "fucking fuck FUCK!". To Alistair's horror, Kassali's free hand drifted down to her groin as she watched him stew, her smile gaining a sadistic aspect as she slowly began to touch herself.

That was it, then. Alistair's stomach dropped as he realised that there was no escape forthcoming; he was going to die in this hot hell, reduced to a rutting beast. He briefly considered rushing out and grabbing his phaser, guaranteed to fail though the idea was; better to not be awake as it happened, right? Under other circumstances, he would've relished the prospect of sex with such a woman (as was surely about to happen), but the idea of it now was sickening. Nadene's intellect, her smile, her gentle nature, the essence of her spirit; all of that was gone. That'd be him soon. Best not prolong it.

No. No, not like this. To hell with this. If I'm going to die, I'll die fighting, giving him every minute I can.

As slowly as he dared, fighting the urge to recoil with Kassali's eyes on him, Alistair took off the empty equipment belt and tossed it away. Hearing the loudest groans yet from the bed, he glanced over and saw that Nadene and her partner had climaxed, both their bodies shaking as the orgasm burst through their bodies. Revolted, Alistair even spotted the man's seed dripping onto the bed between Nadene's legs as he pulled out. He had a brief fantasy of Nadene coming to her senses, rushing off the bed and helping him, but he saw it in her eyes: Nadene was gone. She merely sat back against the man, who held her as they both turned their eyes to Alistair, clearly enjoying the show.

"Faster," Kassali said breathlessly, masterbating with ever more enthusiasm, but the phaser remained frustratingly steady. It suddenly clicked in Alistair's mind in that moment: telepath. The DTI training felt like it had happened in a different life, but focusing his mind with sudden determination, Alistair forced himself to ignore his nausea at the stench of sex and sweat, his own fear, anything that might be happening outside the room, all of it. There was one way to defeat telepathic intrusion. It just required something horrific.

Moving on pure impulse, Alistair abruptly unclasped his pants and pulled them off, followed immediately by his grey underwear, exposing his stiffening member. His gaze flicking between the Kassali and Nadene, he placed a hand on his manhood and began pumping, thinking as hard as he could about the two women, their bodies, their lust for him, touching them...

"I know what you're doing," Kassali said with a smirk as she plunged two fingers inside herself, groaning obscenely. "Clouding your thoughts with lust...effective...oh...oh...oh!" She closed her eyes as she reached a powerful climax, crying out in ecstasy, fluids erupting from her womanhood all the while. Panting, she slowly came down from it, but not daring to take the risk, Alistair continued his own self-pleasure, concentrating despite his revulsion on Kassali's heaving breasts, her large areola, her wet slit. He typically preferred less endowed women, but she was attractive enough-

A hand slipped over his abs, making him jump, and he glanced to the side to see Nadene next to him, her intentions obvious as she got down on knees. As her lips touched his member, and Kassali got to her feet with dark intent in her black eyes, Alistair was finally lost to the madness. Disgusr slowly gave way to desire, nausea gave way to hunger, fear gave way to anticipation, and Alistair Leavitt began to die.

There was only one consolation, the final thought before the animal took over and the orgy began in honest:

I got him the time he needs...

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #9
Stardate: 64140.1 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Starfleet AX-88 Comms Station, Betazed

Completely ignorant to his shipmate's plight, Cak prowled the halls, phaser at the ready, his senses hyper-alert. The heat didn't bother Cak in the slightest; Xindi-Insectoids thrived in it, in fact. Even so, Cak found himself extremely nervous, regretting more and more the decision to split up. Even though the corridors were brightly lit by sunshine, the windows presenting a beautiful view of the valley below, Cak had never been more frightened in his fourteen years of life.

Resembling a mix of a fly and an ant, with huge bulbous eyes, snapping mandibles and quivering antennae, Cak looked more frightening than he was. Humans and Betazoids were physically much stronger, had better hearing, and were much more resilient to damage and disease. Despite being a celebrated Starfleet officer for over a decade, Cak wasn't much use in a fight, one reason among many why he'd enjoyed being assigned to a science vessel. Now, though, the lives of the entire away team, not to mention the seventy people back on the Eclipse, rested on him, his phaser, and his ability to reach the primary control room.

So why was it so easy?

As he got closer and closer, periodically using his tricorder to scan for lifesigns, Cak was flummoxed by what he saw. Where before, everyone had been clearly working a search pattern, now every single lifesign, both human and Betazoid, had converged on the same room on the opposite side of the complex. Cak didn't trust what he was seeing, but as he continued unopposed, it was hard to deny the tricorder's readings. He couldn't begin to guess at what was happening, but felt a deep pang of sorrow for poor Lieutenant Leavitt, surely infected by now.

Paranoid and jumpy, Cak nevertheless reached the control room without incident. He entered it carefully, aiming his phaser at every corner, even at the ceiling, but the room was deserted save for computer consoles. Not wasting a moment, Cak hurried over to the tactical console, lowered the facility's shields and tapped his combadge.

"Cak to Eclipse," he said, mandibles snapping.

"We read you, Commander," came the voice of the captain, and Cak sagged in relief. "What's your status?"

"I'm alright," Cak said, "and I have the data, but I believe that the rest of the team has been compromised. You need to setup a quarantine area immediately and activate the EMH."

"Already done. Standby for transport, Cak, we're getting you out of there."

Moments later, Cak fizzled away in a whirl of blue light.

Stardate: 64140.1 (February 21st, 2387)
Location: Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)

Barely five minutes later, Jiji strode into Sickbay, smiling as she saw her XO. He was stuck behind a quarantine forcefield at the back of Sickbay, but otherwise looked none the worse for wear. The Emergency Medical Hologram was already hard at work, peering intently at a monitor. He was the older model, appearing as a balding middle-aged man, much to Jiji's discomfort. She knew that Voyager's EMH had served that ship admirably, according to Janeway's reports, but she still would've preferred a more up-to-date EMH, or better yet, the new EMH installed on the Theurgy-class dreadnoughts. Unfortunately, small Nova-class survey vessels were at the back of the line when it came to getting retrofits.

"Ah, Captain!" the EMH said, looking up at her with typical enthusiastic dispassion. "You'll be pleased to know that the commander here is in perfect health and carries no trace of the contagion that we detected in the outpost. In fact, you're free to go, Commander."

He tapped a control and the forcefield fell. Cak stepped out, and Jiji clasped hands with her XO, but the sound of the quarantine forcefield re-engaging was a reminder of what they were about to do. The EMH looked at them, intuitively waiting, and Jiji looked at Cak in askance.

"I didn't see anyone infected with the pathogen," he said helplessly, "but from what I heard, how their lifesigns were moving, I don't see any other possibility."

Jiji sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "Doctor, if we beam them up, is there any danger to the crew?"

"I don't believe so," the EMH said. "This appears to be a perfectly ordinary pollen-based virus, spread by contact. I'll know more when I can examine the away team more closely, but I'm confident that the quarantine can contain this virus."

Cak looked at Jiji. "We have to try," he said, and at Jiji's answering nod, he tapped his combadge. "Cak to transporter room. Transport the away team and the Betazoids directly into the quarantine area at your discretion. Take as much time as you need with the biofilter. Double check everything. If anything feels off, and I mean anything, beam them all right back down. We're going to be as safe as we can with this."

After the transporter operator acknowledged, a long couple of minutes passed. Finally, inside the forcefield, a dozen figures slowly fizzled into existence...and the true nature of the horror was revealed.

All of them, every single one, was stark naked and engaged in sexual activity. They all stopped their movements after the transport cycle ended, a couple hesitantly reaching out to touch the forcefield, but when it became clear that they were trapped, the orgy resumed in earnest. Jiji stared, horrified as she watched her crew rutting like wild animals, unable to look away from the nightmare. Lieutenant Leavitt had picked up Doctor Jhinn and pressed her up against a bulkhead, her legs wrapped around his as he thrust up into her, grunting hoarsely. At their feet, Lieutenant Ghebo was scissoring a blonde woman whom Jiji didn't recognise. Chief Sijuk, a typically somber man, laughed gleefully as two other men enthusiastically licked his erect manhood.

Stunned into silence, neither Jiji nor Cak said a word. The EMH, utterly unaffected by the sight, simply made a sound of bemusement.

"Well, I clearly have my work cut out for me," he said sardonically.

Re: Eclipse of a Dream

Reply #10
Stardate: 64142.8 (February 22nd, 2387)
Location: Betazed
USS Eclipse (NCC-73888)

The process of waking up was slow and tortorous. Alistair dimly drifted back to consciousness, gradually becoming aware of his surroundings; beeps, the rustling of clothing, indistinct voices, the sharp smell of medical sterility. He was lying down on a comfortable surface, clad in some of soft gown, but even so, his entire body ached, his stomach roiling with nausea. Finally, eventually, Alistair started to open his eyes.

He saw people standing around his bed; a balding human man, a blue-skinned woman, a bipedal insect, all wearing uniforms. He recognised them: the Emergency Medical Hologram, Captain Kantri, Commander Cak. For a brief moment, Alistair wondered why they were there...then he remembered.

In a rush, he turned on his side and vomited onto the deck, retching violently, emptying his stomach inbetween racking coughs. The EMH quickly injected his neck, but Alistair barely noticed, soon dry heaving when nothing else could come. It took a good few minutes before he finally settled, lying on his side, shaking.

"You're okay, Lieutenant, it's all over," Captain Kantri said in a soothing voice, but Alistair didn't react. "You've been completely cured. You're going to be alright, I promise." When he still didn't respond, she added softly, "Doctor?"

"This man has been through a very traumatic experience," the EMH replied gently. "You can't expect him to just get up and dance a jig. He needs time. Ideally when we reach what's left of the Federation, I'd like him to be placed into full time psychiatric care, at least for a few days. My program is ill-equipped to give him the kind of help that he needs."

Something clicked in Alistair's mind, and he grunted. The others stayed silent as, with considerable effort, he sat up. He was twitchy, but forced himself to look at the captain. "You're only talking about me," he said hoarsely, his throat sore. Alistair looked around the small Sickbay, seeing that none of the other biobeds were occupied. "The others..."

The EMH and Cak looked at each other uncomfortably, but it was the captain who took the responsibility. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant, but the procedure that the Doctor used to cure didn't work on the others. They were infected for too long" Alistair stared at her in horror. "They're alive, all of them, but we've had to place them into stasis. Hopefully when we reach the Federation, they'll have a cure-"

"-but we can't find the Federation without you," Cak finished, his mandibles clicking softly. "Your distraction worked, Alistair. I was able to lower the facility shields and get us all back to the ship, but our codes are too old to unlock the data crypt that we retrieved. We have a team working on it, but-"

"-but you need a computer specialist," Alistair said with a sigh. He ran a hand over his face. "Understood, sir. I'll go back to my quarters, get changed and report for duty in a few minutes."

"Absolutely not!" the EMH exclaimed angrily. "You are in no shape to leave this sickbay, never mind try hacking anything!"

The captain placed a blue hand on the EMH's shoulder. "There's no choice, Doctor. If we don't get to friendly territory soon, none of us will survive the next few weeks. We can't just pick a direction and guess. We need Mister Leavitt back at work if we're going to have any chance. That's an order."

The EMH looked around in frustration, then finally threw up his hands in exasperation. "Fine! It appears that I have no choice in the matter, but I want you back here in eight hours for another examination. I'll have Security drag you here if I have to. And Captain, I'll be filing an official protest with Starfleet Command at the first opportunity."

"Assuming that Starfleet Command still exists, I'll be happy to accept a reprimand," the captain said with a tired smile. "Cak, please escort Lieutenant Leavitt to his quarters."

The commander clacked his mandibles in a wordless affirmative, then helped Alistair to his feet, supporting the man when he wobbled. Moments later, the three of them left Sickbay, leaving a very perturbed hologram in their wake.

It was just over a day later, when Captain Jiji was in the shower of all places, that the call finally came. Still lathered up, she hurriedly switched off the water before answering. "Jiji here."

"Captain," came Alistair's voice, sounding dead from exhaustion, "I did it. We need to set a course for Deep Space Nine, maximum warp."

"The wormhole," Jiji whispered. "The Federation retreated through the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant." She hesitated, running a hand over her blue scalp; there was something more in Alistair's voice than fatigue. "What else, Lieutenant?"

There was a long pause. "According to the data crypt, Starfleet plans to seal the wormhole in two days. Even at maximum warp..."

"...we won't get there for at least a week," Jiji finished, her eyes widening in horror.

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