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The Music in Silence Tony had to grin when the hatch failed to respond when he tapped the release button. Just another thing that his buddy Tigik would have to try and fix he thought as he reached for the manual release. It took a little more effort than he had expected but he finally managed to get the wheel to spin. He was soaked with sweat and short of breath but once it was fully spun he pushed the hatch out and then looked out himself. It was a sunny day. There were trees all around the clearing and mountains in the distance. Near by was a shallow river but it was the air that was such a pleasant surprise. It was fresh and clean. Almost crisp with a slight chill to it that was refreshing after spending the last month trapped on a retrofitted old freighter. Not that he really had any reason to complain. The ship might have been old but it was still functional and it had been the only ship available. Still it did smell and the air purifier did nothing to help with the smell. “Well?” Came that familiar complaining growl that was as close to a friendly comment as Tigik seemed capable of. Tony turned to look at his Tellerite engineer. “It looks even better than I had expected after reading the reports.” “Yeah well you can forget my living out there. I’ll just stay here and keep this baby running tip top.” “In that case you need to repair the hatch release mechanism.” Tony replied with another grin. At that the Tellerite turned away, grumbling under his breath as he did. Then he stomped off in search of his tools. Tony just shook his head with a grin before he stepped outside. It was even nicer outside. There was a gentle breeze that had a slight hint of some delicate floral scent. “It’s spectacular.” At the sound of that oh so familiar soft throaty voice he turned to stare. She was as always a vision. Her long wavy auburn hair swept back from a heart shaped face, sparkling green eyes and a pair of ruby red pouty lips that always made him want to kiss her. “Not as spectacular as you.” She giggled at that. A soft musical giggle that if anything made her seem even more attractive. “No need to flatter me anymore Tony. After all I am sharing your bed these days.” “I know. That makes me the luckiest man in the universe.” Tony replied as he moved over to take her in his arms. “That may be.” She replied with a smile that revealed snow white perfect teeth. “Still we have a lot of work to do.” “Yeah I guess your right.” With that said he gave her a long slow kiss. Then reluctantly let her go before walking back to the ship and re-entering it’s small cramped corridors. ***** Tony paused as he walked up the gentle slope to look back at the lush valley that they had called home for the last 2 months. It was simply majestic. The only thing to mar the beauty of the view was the large rusted hulk of their ship. That and the tents that they had erected to live and work in while here. As he watched he thought he could spot the shape of Tegik hard at work on one of the wheeled all terrain vehicles. The huge doors to the main cargo bay were open and it was now a kind of garage where all their vehicles were stored when not in use. He could not help grinning at the thought of how much grumbling the man did. It was as if he was never happy unless he was complaining about something. With a final long lingering look around he turned and continued walking up the gentle slope towards the ridge. He could see a couple people there, busy taking soil samples. Even from here he could spot the auburn hair of his Rigan girlfriend. As he got closer he saw that they had parked the small 2 person dune buggy style vehicle in a small dip. Around it were scattered a number of sample cases and various technical scanning devices. All the tools of a good botanist and geologist. Now that he was close enough he could hear them talking. The normal banter of two hard working specialists. “So how’s it coming?” He asked. At the sound of his voice they looked up from where they were bent over some kind of spectrometer. “Oh. Hi Tony. I didn’t notice you there”, replied his girlfriend. “Things are going well.” Replied the older man with her. “These soil readings are perfect. Lots of nutrients, minerals and both simple and complex enzymes.” “Do the readings fall within the required parameters for colonization?” “Easily”, replied the older man. “Good. So far all the data we have collected has supported that finding.” “Does that mean we may be able to finish up these tests early and return to civilization?” “No. We need to do a good, in depth complete evaluation before we can call it quits.” “Well it can’t be to soon for me.” “Why?” asked Tony. The older man looked around the landscape before replying. His face went through a few rather bizarre expressions as he did. “I’m not sure I can explain this right. It’s just a feeling. Like we’re being watched.” “Now Ed. Does this have anything to do with that music you said you heard?” Asked the attractive Risan woman with them. “Look I know what I heard. No way was that sound made by any wind moving through the vegetation.” “What about by some kind of bird. We know that there are a number of life forms that fall within that category.” “Maybe. How would I know. I’m not a zoologist.” He replied as he reached up to rub his neck. “I’ll ask Maude about it when I get back to camp.” Tony replied. “Thanks.” Ed replied. He still seemed a little out of it. Not over worked but still, somehow not just right. “Mind if I borrow Tara for a bit?” Tony asked. “Ha, ha, no. You two lovebird run along. Don’t mind me. I’m just a silly old man.” He replied. He was smiling and seemed his old self again. Tony reached out and took the Risan’s hand in his before they walked away from the work site. “Is he OK?” Tony asked. “I think so. Maybe it’s just the peaceful silence of this place. It can get a little creepy at times.” “Don’t tell me you’ve heard music?” “NO. But I agree with Ed. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had the hair stand up on the back of my neck because I thought someone was watching me.” “Strange that you’ve mentioned that. A couple of the others expressed similar comments along those lines.” “It’s probably nothing. It’s just so quiet all the time.” She replied as she snuggled in closer to him. “I’ll take your word for it. I don’t get away from the camp all that much and Tegik makes enough sound to wake the dead when he’s working on something.” She giggled at the mention of the always grumpy engineer. He was quite the character but at the same time he was one of the hardest working members of the expedition. He was always busy. “I though you were crazy for bringing him. He always seems to be in such a foul mood but now that I’ve gotten to know him I like him. He’s…. nice in his own way.” “He can be. I’ve known him for close to 15 years. I’d trust him with my life.” “You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.” She replied. “For now I need to get back to work or I’ll never get all these plant samples catalogued.” “All right. I can take a hint.” He replied as he turned to hug her close. After a moment he backed off enough to give her a kiss. He wanted it to last but reluctantly broke it off and let her go. “See you later.” “Of coarse.” She said with a big smile before she turned to walk back to where all her equipment and samples were. He grinned as he watched her walk away. She was one hell of a woman and he knew he was lucky to have her. Yeah, real lucky, he thought as he turned away and started walking back down the hill. ***** It was a few weeks later and Tony had finally decided to take a day off from all the paperwork and explore. All the others except Tegik had been able to take a day off here and there to relax. Now it was his turn. That’s why he was here, a few miles down river. The sun was high in the sky and the day was hot. Down here in the valley the air was still without even the hint of a breeze. His shirt was plastered to his body with sweat and he was glad he had brought along 2 extra canteens when he had decided to take this walk. Right now he was looking for a place to sit down and relax. Hopefully somewhere with a little shade. Then he would just sit and enjoy the quiet. Tegik had been making more noise than usual the last two days. Not that he was doing it on purpose, just that it took a lot of work to pound the dents out of the damaged land rover that had been rolled a couple times. Still the peace and quiet was a nice change from all the clang, clang, bang of metal on metal. Seeing a spot under a large tree close enough to the water that he could hear it Tony wandered over and took off the backpack he had been carrying and sat down. His shoulders were a little stiff and it felt good to take it off. After a few minutes he dug out a sandwich and started to eat it. As he did he wondered if he could talk Tegik into making him a rod and reel. Maybe even a few fishing lures. This spot reminded him a lot of his grandfathers place back on Earth. He had spent a lot of summers with him and they had done a lot of fishing back then. Sure the vegetation was completely different but still there were some similarities. And according to Maude there were plenty of aquatic life forms in the river. Even a few that might vaguely be related to terran fish. Finished with his sandwich he leaned back, shifting his backpack so that he could rest his head on it. Finally comfortable he just relaxed. After a while he started to drift off to sleep. As he did he had to wonder why most of the team thought it was to quiet. ***** How long he had been asleep he did not know but suddenly he came awake. The sun was still up but it had shifted. Now it was low in the sky, a sure warning that night would be here soon. Sitting up he shook his head. Now he would have to hurry if he wanted to get back to the camp before dark. How could he have been so silly to sleep the afternoon away like this. Standing up he grabbed his backpack and pulled it on. As he did he realized it was no longer quiet. There was a soft melodious melody playing in the background. One so gentle and relaxing that it faintly reminded him of the music used to sooth newborn infants. Quickly he looked around, expecting to see Tara or some other member of the expedition standing there playing a joke on him. There was no one. Not as far as he could see. So if no one was here then where was the music coming from? Maybe one of the expedition was close by taking samples or running some tests. That would explain the music. Most of the land vehicles had the capability to play music if the driver wanted. It helped pass the time. “HELLO! WHO’S OUT THERE!!!” he yelled. Just like that the music stopped. “HEY. QUIT FOOLIN AROUND!!!” Nothing. No response. Nothing but the endless silence that the others had complained about. With a shrug he gave up and started back. Probably they had not heard him or they could have been driving by on their way back to the camp. Still it was a little strange. By now he was use to hearing the various musical selections that each member of his team preferred. None of it matched the music he had been hearing. Only Maude’s preference for classical music even came close. ***** By the time he finally made it back to camp the rest of his team except for Tegik were seated around the fire. Some were still eating. Others were busy doing their normal after dinner activities. Ed and Maude were playing a game of chess. Malik was playing a soft tune on his harp. T’Sol was making back up copies of the days reports and findings. As he pulled off the backpack Tara came over to greet him. The big smile on her face made him forget everything. The huge hug and kiss that followed just sealed the deal. It was only later after he had finished eating that he remembered the incident with the music. It prompted him to ask the group a question. “Who was down south along the river this afternoon?” Most ignored the question and kept doing what they were doing. A few looked his way but only a couple responded. “As far as I know Tony you were the only one down that way,” replied Ed. “Actually you were the only one absent from the camp this afternoon,” responded T’Sol in her crisp even tone. “Everyone else was busy. Most with reports and a few with specimen analysis or containment.” That remark prompted a few chuckles. It also caused Maude to spin in her chair and add her own comment in response. “Zoology is not a simple calculated science. Most critters don’t want to co-operate. Besides it’s not like they were dangerous.” “T’Sol. Are you sure no one was out doing a last minute data pickup or specimen collection?” Tony asked. “Positive. All the land rovers were parked in the cargo bay.” At that comment Tony nodded his head. He remembered now. Tegik had requested that all the vehicles be kept in the camp today. He wanted to do a basic systems check on all of them and perform some basic maintenance as well. So if everyone had been in camp, who had been down south making the music? ***** It had taken Tony almost 2 weeks before he was able to get away and take an afternoon off to drive south along the river. It took almost no time using the all terrain vehicle to drive south till he found the tree he had taken his nap under. Once there he parked. After that he quickly jumped out and collected the equipment he had borrowed. He had a few high tech sound sensors, recording devices and scanners. Once he had them all set up he grabbed the lunch that Tara had prepared for him and relaxed to enjoy the afternoon. As he ate he realized the others were right. It was quiet. Almost too quiet. Having spent most of his time in the camp he had not really noticed before now. But as the afternoon slowly dragged on he began to experience the same peculiar sensation that the others had described. Mainly that it felt like they were being watched. He tried to shake it off. To ignore it but the more he tried the more uneasy he felt. Finally with the sun starting to set he figured he had wasted enough time. He got up and was about to start loading up all his gear when he heard it again. The same soft melodious melody he had heard the last time he was here. A quick glance at the scanners showed that it was real. It took a few moments to triangulate the location and he was mildly surprised when the sensors told him the sound was originating from less than 500 meters from his location. Grabbing his tricorder he set it to record and moved slowly in the direction indicated. As he got closer the sound became clearer. It was unique. The soft harmonies and gentle tones blended to form a truly beautiful sound. One that was impossible to describe. Suddenly Tony stopped. There was the source of the music. Surprised he could only stand and watch. Never in a million years would he have expected such wondrous sounds to emanate from such an unlikely source. There amid the tall grass stood a dozen or so of this planets equivalent of a prairie dog. They were all facing away from him towards the setting sun. Tony continued to stand and watch, mesmerized till they finally finished singing just as the sun started to set. Then they dropped back down onto all fours and scattered. In seconds they had vanished from sight. Only then did he stop recording.
The Price We Pay ((An’ahyaes Valley, Tralorian Plains, Han-Shir, Vulcan. Approximately 4000 Terran years ago.)) The plains were green. The long blades of the hardy grasses were drenched in blood, cloaking the deep, rich red of these grasslands in a sickly hue, brilliant malachite where it was yet fresh, fading to a dull khaki where it dried in the hot sun. The air stank of copper. These plains, so close to the wilderness that edged the Voroth Sea were some of the most fertile on the continent, but it would be poetic justice if nothing ever grew here again. The soil of these valleys could feed a nation if carefully tended, but it’s value had been measured in blood and death over the millennia as different clans fought over it, and Lohraedhys would be happier if the valleys turned to desert, if the soil dried up and blew away like the sands of the Go’an. The land should echo the desolation that she felt, for it had lost what she lost. Farmers’ plows would raise bones from the red soil for generations, and it would be better if that was all that grew here. Then perhaps the bloodshed would stop. But it would be too late, always far too late, to matter. He was gone. Now there was nothing but silence. Feet clad in delicate slippers made their way silently over the ground as Lohraedhys picked her way through the carnage of the battlefield, heedless of the blood that stained those slippers or the hem of her fine robes, hand embroidered in the most intricate of patterns. They were clothes that befit the bond-mate of the heir to the leadership of the Ayein clan of the Nel-Gathic peoples, who had controlled the great An’ahyaes Valley for an age. Now the blood of her bond-mate and all their warriors wet it’s soils, and only the old, the infirm, the children and their mothers remained, lost and bereft, without guidance, without purpose, without those they had loved. Behind her a keening arose, a wordless, tuneless wail of pure loss, the sound of a heart torn in two, as Siyarhenae mourned his passing. She had been but a trophy taken from an enemy, yet he had made her his own too, had loved her with the same fierceness he had loved Lohraedhys, that same passion that she had felt, every time she touched him, and would never feel again. Valeohrohen. ((City of Ti’yeht, Lyein hills, Han-Shir, Vulcan. Some time before.)) He had laughed, watching their son play with his pet Sehlat in the cool quiet of the gardens of their house, part of the complex owned by his family. Ochre leaves threw dappled shade and the extravagance of a tiny mist fountain lent a luxurious humidity to the thin air. Pale grey eyes watched the child, amusement and peace in every line of that angular face. Long fingers plucked idly at the Vulcan harp in his lap, seemingly without any attention spared to the action yet the melody that trailed in their wake was both simple and almost unbearably sweet. He had a gift with the harp. He was talented in many things but there was some sweet, bitter poesy in his soul that spoke through it’s strings, that could goad an audience to hope or to despair. Sometimes he seemed more eloquent in his music than in anything else, until he set words to it and surpassed even that. He could capture the strong, vibrant emotions of his people in a few simple words that never the less spoke of the soul of every Vulcan, the deep passions and furies that drove their people to hate, and to love, to destroy and to build. They were capable of the greatest things because they were so driven, and he most of all. He was a musician, a composer and a poet, his deep voice rendered his songs in tones that spoke to the depths of being. He was a scholar, and a warrior, a gifted tactician and a talented leader. He fought with a ferocity few men could match, and could touch her with a gentleness she had never thought possible. He moved through life with a certainty born of a fire in his soul; he was a man of deep passions and convictions, and who inspired love and loyalty in his people. He had certainly inspired it in Lohraedhys. She would have followed him to the ends of Vulcan, he was dearer to her than life itself. And she loved nothing more than to sit and listen to him play, and watch their children. They were yet young, there would be more, each with the mark of their father, if the Gods were kind. Each with his talents and passion for life. She smiled over at him and he met her gaze with equal fondness, paused in his playing and reached out a hand, two fingers extended to touch hers, mind meeting mind. She could feel his intense love for her in that touch, see it in his strange, pale grey eyes. There was no need for words. Valeohrohen Naykh Hawehl-khur, they called him in their tongue. Valeohroen Silver Eyes. ((Cultural Studies Lecture Series, StarFleet Academy, San Francisco. Present Day.)) “Valoren ‘Silver Eyes’ was a Nel-Gathic warlord during the Ozay’in era, famous for three things. First, his exacting tactical manouvering which led to the defeat of the Kor’hin clan over water resources despite their vastly superior numbers. Second, the subsequent mass slaughter of his own Ayein clan when the Kor’hin peoples staged an uprising led by the brother of the leader he killed, and third, as far as can be deduced, being the individual in whom the rare ‘dominant grey’ eye-colour allele appeared de novo. There’s a piece of trivia for you.” Professor Alexander Saint-Gabriel smiled thinly. Ancient Vulcan culture was not his favourite topic and fortunately was not one on which he had to dwell for long. “Compared to many events from this era, these records have been preserved relatively intact by the descendants of the survivors of the Ayein clan. How much of these records is factual is debated in great depth by Vulcan historians, for much of the story was passed on as oral tradition and has become as legend, and plenty of discussion on various sources can be found in the literature. Fact or fiction however it is considered to be an excellent example of the pre-Surak Vulcan culture of the region, and is often used by way of a moral fable for young children.” Certainly such stories were preserved by modern day Vulcans with a ‘lest we forget’ attitude. “I want you to study the story itself, the accompanying song of mourning and the discussion and interpretation in your texts, and then find and summarise for me two papers discussing either the veracity of the source material or the implications for modern Vulcan culture with references to the original work by class next week.” ((An’ahyaes Valley, Tralorian Plains, Han-Shir, Vulcan. Approximately 4000 Terran years ago.)) Siyarhenae’s wailing wound to disharmonic, unsatisfying close, the final tones hanging in the air and begging by their very harmonics for an answer, but it was an answer that would not come. Lohraedys knew that for certain now. Heedless of the mess of the battlefield she crouched in the bloodied grass, green staining her robes and her hands, as she reached out to touch his still form. Tall and spare, lean muscles hardened from fighting, he lay stretched out upon the bloodied ground, flung there in the throws of death. But his angular face, so very expressive, was still, slack, peaceful. One might almost think he had accepted his death willingly, were it not for the five strangers who lay dead around him, torn nearly limb from limb. Amongst them he seemed strangely intact, save for the bloody spear which protruded from low in his torso; straight through his heart. She reached out to touch his face, and he was cold. Where there had been a warm, driven, passionate mind, there was nothing. This was not him, this was only a corpse. Valeohrohen was gone. She could not voice her loss as Siyarhenae did, but she grieved, perhaps even more deeply, for he had been her world since she was too young to understand who he was. Bowing her hear, a tear trickled down her cheek, precious moisture shed in recognition of all that had passed from this world. Such loss was the price they paid for the passion of their people, capable of such greatness, and such sorrow. Was the former worth the latter? A breeze sprang up, stirring the bloodied grass, bringing with it a cool relief and soon, as Yel approached the horizon, and she knew that it would bring with it the cool mists that gave moisture to these fertile lands. It was a travesty that such cycles of life should continue when so much death surrounded her, an insult to the loss they had all suffered. The suffering on this plain should turn back that wind and call forth instead the hot breath of the Go’an and turn these lands with their wealth of pain to dust. If she could have she would have taken the spear from his corpse and used it to follow him. But there were the children to think of. Two still hiding up in the hills, and the one she carried inside her. She hadn’t even had time to tell him. For their sake, for his legacy, she would go on. But there would be no more light in the world, no more joy. No more songs.
((Act 1 / Scene 1)) ((Bridge / USS Ennock / 12 Hours Ago)) The bridge of the USS Ennock was awash with amazement and astonishment as the piece finished. The Captain had brought back with him the most interesting thing: ‘a piece of music’ long since thought lost in the vastness of the Earth catalogue. Captain Jenkins explained the music concisely. “It’s called ‘4’33’.” Lt. Marcum stood against the wall by the Tactical station and muttered. “It’s called BS, because that’s what it is.” The crowd of officers looked his way and Captain Jenkins strutted confidently over to Tactical. When he arrived he leaned in smugly and opened his mouth. “Another unenlightened barbarian who’d rather pull the trigger than listen to pure bliss.” ‘Shawn’ - Lt. Marcum - shook his head with some disgust and pointed a finger accusingly. “Another ivory tower Captain too in love with his own Command to see beyond his bloated ego. It’s pure and senseless garbage. It is not music.” ((Act 1 / Scene 2)) ((Bridge / USS Ennock / Now)) Lt. Marcum took his hand off the Tactical station and shook it before returning it to his side. Shawn stood for a moment staring at nothing. He eventually realized that nearly half a day had passed since the confrontation on the bridge... the first ‘confrontation that is. He held up his hand and reached out for the Captain. No one was there... save a few zombified corpses of his former colleagues. He could no longer help them. He stepped into the turbo lift and closed his eyes. His hand held onto the railing and he felt himself flashback. ((Act 1 / Scene 3)) ((Turbo lift / USS Ennock / 11 Hours Ago)) Security held each of his arms firmly. While he struggled to get free of their grasp the two oafs were a flush with conversation about the Captain’s song. “I thought it was the greatest thing I ever heard. Ever... in my whole life ever.” said the first guard. “Oh I do agree very much, an absolute masterpiece of music.” said the second. The banter was endless and idiotic. Shawn was going crazy listening to the air escaping their lips. It was all nonsense, the song had no noise in its whatsoever... totally devoid of it! These idiots had no understanding of the lunacy... of what they were saying! “I probably could have listened to it for an hour. It’s just such a unique ‘take’ on music.” said the first guard. “I think I may just put it on repeat after we dump this loud mouth - referring to Lt. Marcum - in his quarters. Hey Shawnny, what’s wrong? Not loud enough for you?” said the second. Shawn shook his head and said in a disgusted voice. “The volume ceases to be on any consequence when NOTHING IS HAPPENING AT ALL!” “Alright that’s enough out of you spoil sport.” laughed the first guard. ((Act 1 / Scene 4)) ((Deck 4 / Turbo Lift Junction / USS Ennock / Now)) Shawn didn’t miss those security guards as he took his hand off the railing. Forcing open the turbo lift doors he headed down the hallway to his quarters. As he looked over the mostly untouched corridor his thoughts turned to his family and loved ones. He couldn’t remember their names, or what they looked like, or even if he ever cared much for them - or vice versa - but he did take the time to think of them... or at least attempt it. Assumptions like that kept him on his toes: did he have a family? was he a loner? why all of a sudden could he not remember anything about himself? These were all good questions and he had no explanation for them as they piled up around him metaphorically. However he did have a perfectly good explanation for that cursed song: ‘It’s BS.’ Arriving at his quarters brought about another set of doors to open. Prying them open Shawn wondered how the turbo lift was still operational when he couldn’t open doors. He approached his computer workstation and looked at his hand. “Time for a flashback.” he said ironically as his hand-to-surface flashback technique - one he didn’t remember having yesterday. - took over and he flashed... back. ((Act 1 / Scene 5)) ((Personal Quarters / USS Ennock / 10 Hours Ago)) “You’re obsessing over nothing!” She said. “I agree... it’s driving me insane. I hate it to so much. It’s eating me up inside and I don’t know how to control it anymore. At first when I didn’t hear anything I thought it was stupid but we’re way beyond ‘stupid’ now.” He responded. Ensign Sally Taylor had been talking with Lt Shawn Marcum for over a half hour. Word had travelled fast that Shawn had insulted both: the Captain’s amazing new song, and his “Bloated Ego”. Shawn sat back and tried to take stock of the situation - which was bad - but he couldn’t... because of that song. It was almost etched in the forefront of his mind... and it was a blank slate! “What’s so amazing about it Sally?” “Well you see: Centuries ago on Earth the piece 4’33 was premiered as part of a then ‘contemporary recital’. While the performer David Tudor played no actual deliberate sounds, there was still bound to be sounds heard during the piece in the room. It’s the unpredictable nature of these sounds - which are inherently unique to the specific settings of the space its performed in - that makes it so amazing Shawn!” “... and that’s it?” “No, much more in fact! 4’33 has great value and was instrumental in establishing and influencing genres of music to this very day!” “... but it’s nothing.” “But in it’s nothingness it represents both: everything as it is and constant rebirth.” “It’s lacks real stakes and has no definition.” “You’re wrong Shawn. Like life; 4’33 is made up of all those incidental sounds and throwaway moments in time. It represents perfectly the ‘tension’ that exists between the desirable ‘played notes’ and the undesirable ‘noise’ that makes up all music.” “No you’re wrong Sally. You’re all wrong.” “You’re scaring me Shawn.” ((Act 2)) ((One Week Later / Runabout Kennedy / Bridge)) ---Coroner Notes - Starfleet Mission Codename ‘Caged Bird’--- Something powerful must have snapped inside him because the levels of brutality observed here is not to be found in any of his psych evaluations. The chain of events following Lt Marcum’s conversation with Ensign Jennings are fragmented at best. It is the opinion of this recon team leader that the corpse found in Marcum’s personal quarters is Ensign Jennings and her injuries are similar to those suffered by other members of the crew... and that Lt Marcum is the sole belligerent in the brutality that followed said conversation. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lt. Martin Mendez rubbed his temples and noticed he was sweating. With a brush of his hand the main sweat was gone from his forehead but the symptoms remains oblivious to him. This recon assignment was his first since being promoted to Lt. and he was eager to do well. So eager in fact that he missed a number of important things in his attempt to analyze everything all at once. Oblivious as well was the crew of 4 he travelled with. The mother ship of the Runabout Kennedy - the USS Brinkman - was 2 hours away at warp 5. They had spent 2 hours travelling to rendezvous with the USS Ennock and just over 2 hours aboard. The mission was simple in nature: discover why the Ennock had missed its usual check in time at the DS11. What they found was controversial and horrifying. “There’s something else too.” Said Ensign Tommy Hayward. “I told you to keep to specifics.” Mendez spat in response. “You also told me to keep my eyes open for anything unusual. This certainly qualifies as unusual on a cultural level!” “What is it?” Martin asked trying to do a better job keeping a level head when dealing with his eager subordinate. “A 20th Century recording of a piece of music, but the kicker is the piece of music contains no music whatsoever and consists entirely of the experience and sounds contained in whatever space its performed and/or heard in. It’s an amazing discovery!” The Ensign grinned as he finished. “I suppose that will have to be our silver lining. This was by far the most disturbing and unsettling mission I've ever taken part in.” “What do you think caused Lt. Marcum to snap?” Tommy asked inquisitively while he stroked his light brown ‘chin fuzz’. Lt. Peter Bon entered and the conversation ceased. Bon was short and of Asian decent with black hair and eyes slightly too close together for comfort...and he was heavily disliked by both Mendez and Hayward. He was a genius however and at 22 had potential that far exceeded either of them. “The extensive damage to the USS Ennock will make the determination of what caused the Lt. to snap virtually impossible. The data is quickly decaying as the two of you discuss ‘mindless’ things.” Bon was dismissive as he put the two of them down. He sat at the Ops station and adjusted course. “Three men, three opinions on a piece of music from a ship whose crew was recently butchered by one their own.” Mendez said in grim summation. “What a concise but unnecessary description. Would you care to recite how breakfast was as well or was that what Ensign Hayward was cleaning up on the Ennock?” The cold insult escaped Peters lips and as Martin wiped his forehead again his sleeve had become wet from the sweat that had accumulated. “No Exit.” Tommy broke the silence that had frustrated the atmosphere of the room since he had brought up the song. “What?” both Peter and Martin responded together. “That’s what this reminds me of. It was a play from the 20th century just like the piece of music. A remarkably good one at that, I’ve read it many times and we performed it aboard the Brinkman two months back.” “Why don’t you summarize the experience for us then-” responded Peter sarcastically, which was lost on Tommy who simply continued talking. “Well in 1944 the play ‘No Exit’ written by Jean-Paul Sartre was released. It’s original french title referred to those private discussions that we tend to gloss over when we remember the past. Those little throwaway moments in the grand scheme of things.” “But what is it about Ensign?” Martin asked as he leaned back and breathed deeply, closing his eyes. “In a nutshell: the play depicts a possible version of the afterlife in which three deceased characters spend eternity locked in a room together.” “It sounds like hell to me.” laughed Lt. Bon. “Why are these three ‘characters’ locked in a room together for eternity?” “It’s their punishment.” “For what?” asked Mendez quietly. “The characters have various explanations for the what and why. They spend the entirety of the play discussing it.” “What do they come up with then expert?” Bon said as he rolled his eyes. Tommy leaned forward and thought back for a moment. Martin opened his eyes and looked over to Ensign Hayward as the man sat motionless. He looked over to Lt. Bon and two of them shared a look of pure puzzlement. After a moment Ensign Hayward shook his head and continued speaking as if no time had elapsed since Lt. Bon’s question. “Garcin is a both callous and cowardly. He cheats openly on his spouse without remorse or sympathy. Serrano is manipulative and twisted. She is both honest and cruel. Rigault is a deceitful murderer and knows only a life of temptation and greed. They all have their own baggage.” “What happens to them?” asked Mendez curiously. “Oh eventually the three are given the option to leave... but they are too fearful of the unknown and so they decide to stay together in that room in hell.” was Hayward’s response as he finished typing on the screen in front of him. “If you gave me that option I would gladly leave.” was Peter’s sarcastic retort. Martin shook his head - splashing a bit of sweat on the console - and quipped. “The airlock is right over there Pete.” Lt. Mendez looked over to Ensign Hayward at the Comm station and asked. “Who are you typing too anyway Ensign?” “Oh it’s Sally... err Lt. Cmdr Kelsey sir. I sent her the song. She really likes it and is heading to show the Captain right now.” Martin’s face went hollow as the words hit him. This kid was too eager and it wouldn’t be long before he was held over for promotion because of him. “I didn’t realize you and Lt. Cmdr ‘Sally’ were on a first name basis.” “We had an introductory dinner like all Ensigns.” Both Lt.’s exchanged looks with each other. “Introductory Dinner” was BS and they both knew it. “Let’s just enjoy each other’s company in silence and get through the rest of our trip back to the ship without killing each other, shall we?” Martin said after thinking about it a moment. “Should I put the song on?” asked Hayward curiously. “No.” was the response from Bon. ((Act 3 / Epilogue)) ((Several Hours Later / Runabout Bridge / Main Shuttle Bay / USS Brinkman)) Mendez was shivering a bit and his hands were clammy. All he wanted was to have some tomato soup and get some rest. He inquired again to Ensign Hayward at the comm. “Anything?” “No response sir and I keep hailing. There’s no chatter at all.” was Tommy’s response. “What about Lt. Cmdr Sally?” quipped Bon. “Not now. But what about her Ensign?” said Martin effectively cutting Peter off mid quip. “I haven’t heard a thing from her since she went to see the Captain hours ago. You don’t think she and the Captain are together do you?” his voice was nervous in anticipation of the reply. “Don’t know, don’t care.” said Peter. “All I know is someone is going to have to go out there and check the bodies.” said Martin. Mendez, Bon and Hayward looked through the window of the runabout over the various zombified corpses that littered the Main Shuttle Bay of the USS Brinkman. The two Lt.’s looked at each other and then after a moment they looked at Ensign Hayward who wore the red shirt of the group. “Fine. But this is the last time! Promise?” said Tommy as always. “We promise.” lied Mendez and Bon.