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[2005: AUG-SEP] Dark Whispers

Ryan Horn

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“Send the shuttle” whispered the voice.

Cadet John Williams woke with a start, looking around his quarters. He’d dozed off in the middle of studying for final exams, and especially the dreaded psych evaluation. He looked around further, but, finding nothing out of place, quickly went back to his studies.

“Very impressive Cadet Williams. No one has ever used the shuttle in the Koyabashi Maru to create a linked transporter path. You minimized the potential losses, and maintained sufficient distance to prevent a combat. Excellent job!”

John was still amazed. He’d heard of the Koyabashi maru of course, but never believed it was still in use. When it became apparent that not only was it still in use, but he was being tested on it, he’d started to freeze. He then remembered the voice from the night before and acted on it. The shuttlecraft was too small a fish to trigger the other ships, he’d even managed to get a lock on the crew before being chased out of Romulan space.

“Must have just been my subconscious mind…all of that studying.” John muttered to himself.

“Ask her to dinner, Klingon food” whispered the voice.

Ensign Williams woke with a start, looking around his quarters. He’d been assigned to engineering on the USS Steadfast. And, as with most ensigns, he’d volunteered for more work than he could reasonably finish. But, the chance to be with the exotic half Vulcan Lt. T’Pree, it was worth it. If only he could think of some way to get her attention out of work. John shrugged and went back to the PADD in front of him, he still had several hours to go and she wouldn’t be impressed if he fell behind. He was asleep within minutes.

“Klingon? That’s my favorite!” T’Pree exclaimed in an entirely un-Vulcan show of emotion. The meal proceeded well from there, both sharing at first minor remembrances, then more and more intimate confidences. As their romance continued to blossom in the days and weeks following, John forgot all about the midnight message. After a week, John knew he was in love. After a month, T’Pree was using the same words. Six months and a promotion later, he planned the proposal, arranging her flowers, Klingon food, music. Planning everything to let her know exactly how special she was to him when he “popped the question”. When the door chime rang, he almost jumped to answer it, only to see a very somber medical officer standing there saying there had been an accident.

In sickbay, John was sobbing over her body. The burst plasma conduit had mercifully ended her life without any pain. John went over and over the situation in his mind. “We’d checked that location a dozen times, it never even had a twinge. Why now? How could this happen? It should never have failed, it was in perfect order…how could she have died? How?” In anguish he muttered “Maybe it’s better if I’d never even met her.”

Later, as the counselor tried pointing out the high points of John’s relationship with T’Pree…he found himself silently repeating “Better we had never dated”.

“It’s a trap, pattern enhancers” whispered the voice.

Lt. Williams woke with a start, looking around his quarters. His promotion to Chief of Engineering had left him more work than he knew how to complete in time. Additionally, he had to add the frustration of dealing with ensigns who tried taking on more than they could possibly complete. Combined with that, the Captain wanted to transport down to the planet below. There’d been an attack at the outpost, and they were going to investigate when they arrived in the morning. Half asleep, he added pattern enhancers to the list of equipment to bring with them.

“Emergency transport, directly to sickbay!” John shouted. The mocking faces of the Romulans who had spread the trap for them, dissolved into looks of disbelief, then dissolved completely as the transporter pulled them to sickbay.

“L…lieuten..ant.” Captain Colos whispered. “w…well..done”. The tone from the bio bed became constant as the Captain’s life signs faded completely.

John reread the report of the event given by the new Captain, sitting alongside his new pip. The small gold circle, and the position of second officer sat poorly with him. He’d seen the eyes of the Romulans. Had he not been carrying the repeaters, the Captain wouldn’t be dead…Oh they would have been captured…but alive, they could have escaped or been rescued. Now the Captain was dead, and John knew he was responsible no matter what others said. “If only I had just kept a concealed weapon, then we could have escaped safely.”

“Do not go down to the planet” whispered the voice.

Captain Williams jumped up and looked around. Since his promotion to Lt. Commander he’d waited for a repeat of this event. This time he was prepared for the whispering voice, and turned to see who or what had caused it. However, he was still shocked to see a creature in dark robes standing across the room from him. He raised the phaser toward the robed man. “Who are you? And why are you here?”

The creature in front of him laughed harshly. “ No one of importance. Just someone driven to succeed, but doomed to failure.” It paused, “Whatever you think of me though, you know my advice has been sound. You must not go down to the planet.”

John gritted his teeth, part of him wanted to accept this creature’s advice. There was something…almost familiar about him. Then he remembered the failures his life had been when he listened. “You! You ruined my LIFE! Every stage, I listened…and at every stage, my life was ruined. Now there are a lot of people down there, and I am going to save them.”

“Fine, have your people save them. But don’t go down there yourself.” The creature’s body, seemingly solid moments ago, fluttered and tore as if a great wind blew through it.

“John! For all that you care about…donnn’ttt gooooo!” with the final words, the creature pulled the hood of the robe back, exposing hands badly burned, but before it could reveal it’s face, it was gone.

John stood there, staring at the spot the apparition had been. After long moments, he put down the phaser, and sat heavily down onto the chair. No matter what else happened, he knew sleep would not be coming back to him that night.

John’s body burned. The rescue had been a trap…his own personal, real life Maru. He’d saved most of the people, and all but 2 of the crew, but you couldn’t win a Maru, you could only limit the loss. He was dying. And with his approaching death, he found the regrets that had always plagued him. If only he could go back, find a way to solve the Maru, really solve it. Maybe he could prevent this from ever happening. Or T’Pree…his heart still ached for the lovely Vulcan. There was so much he wanted to fix.

Pushing along, blinded by pain and burns, he felt a tingling as he passed through an arch. The pain lessened, still more than enough to make him feel ill, but tolerable. Using a nearby chair, he levered himself up, he looked back and gasped not in pain, but in wonder.

Images played across the surface of the Archway. Images of his life, and the times within it. He stumbled over to it, as it played a scene from his academy days. His voice raw and burned spoke barely above a whisper “Two shuttles, transporters” The images in front of him rocketed forward as he saw himself again lose the Koyabashi Maru, but receive an outstanding review for trying a tactic clearly beyond the level of a cadet. He backed away from the image, hoping that he’d be renewed, that he’d prevented this future. But as he watched, he saw his life progressing exactly as he remembered, with the exception of 2 shuttles. Frustrated, he punched the stone archway. Pain, which had fallen back with his excitement rose up with a vengeance and swallowed him whole.

When he awoke, he found the images had continued. He was just about to invite the Vulcan to dinner. He whispered to his younger self “She’ll die young”. His younger self avoided the young Vulcan that night, staying as a coworker. This time John watched T’Pree die as a panel exploded, and watched his younger self go through the anguish of loss, without the blessing of brief love. He tried to cry, but the earlier heat had sealed the ducts, so his body gave a horse wracking cough instead, driving him to his knees.

By this time, he wasn’t overly surprised at the scene in front of him. He’d played it over and over again in his mind. He whispered “Don’t let the Captain go, keep her home trap” His younger self stammered and pleaded, but the Captain insisted on going. Expecting a trap, he was able to finish off the trap, bursting it from the inside. And no wounded! John breathed a sigh of relief, which ended as on of the downed warriors slide his blade into the Captain. He sat down heavily and watched as the Captain again commended him…and died.

“One last whisper” he croaked. This time, instead of leaning, he pushed his way through. In his mind’s eye, he saw him facing himself. How once again the younger him failed to listen. As he felt the vortex that the images of his life had become for him, he saw his broken body crawling toward the archway. He screamed as he realized the loop he had doomed himself to, only to have his younger self pass through the portal.

Meanwhile, the machine continued to catalog the attempts of this bipedal, 3 dimensional creature. While sentient, it obviously did not have a grasp of the intricacies of 4th dimensional travel. However, the memories of this creature suggested others might. Perhaps this “T’Pree” would be a good entity to investigate next.

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