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[2006: MAY-JUN] Transparent Desires


Ryan Horn
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“Captain! We're under attack! The Borg have breached decks ten through fourteen. Nothing seems to stop them...what can we do?”

Calmly, Starfleet's most renowned Captain turned to the panicked ensign. “Mr. Glottin, calm yourself. Initiate a level 3 magnetic pulse on decks nine through fifteen. That should take care of the problem.”

The ensign's frantic typing on his keypad was the only sound for precious seconds as he worked furiously to complete the task. In moments he turned back to the captain a look of awe on his face. “Captain...the Borg...they're...” Suddenly, the ensign’s face changed before her eyes taking on the leaden look identical to the Borg. When he spoke it was a surprisingly pleasant alto “Lieutenant junior grade Allison Cadney, this is your requested wakeup reminder. Lieutenant junior grade Allison Cadney, this is your requested wakeup reminder...”

Shaking her head to clear it as she acknowledged the call, Allison sighed. In her dreams she was everything she wasn't awake. She'd joined Starfleet at a young age, her dreams of helping others, of seeing the incredible sights of the universe, of leading people into new and exciting adventures, had seemed well within her reach. That was over twenty years ago, and the dreams had faded. Oh, she was at least accomplishing some of those goals. She was on the USS Excelsior, assigned to deep space exploration. She'd seen amazing sights, from her review of the logs of the away team members, or from the mission reports turned in from the command staff. Sadly, despite her every wish to the contrary, her responsibility was to gather the information on each of these missions, and provide a summary of events. In the grand scheme, she was merely the scribe who reported it all.

-------

“Captain's Log, Stardate 2380623.012

We've arrived on a class M planet in the Darvonis sector. Starfleet has requested our investigation of a colony created on this world. Previously a thriving new colony, all contact suddenly ended two weeks ago. With any luck, this will not take us from our primary mission for any significant length of time.”

--------

Allison moved through the corridors, as unnoticed as a ghost. No one actually moved through her, but no conversations paused as she moved, no one's eyes did more than flicker in her direction, no one raised their hands in friendly greeting. Continuing her path through the ship, she rang the chime of the counselor's door as she'd done hundreds of times before.

“Enter, and be welcome.” came the reply from inside the room. Allison thought back to when she'd first heard that friendly voice...the thoughts that finally someone cared...or at least noticed her. Sadly, she’d quickly learned that even here, she was no more than a statistic.

The handsome younger man looked up from behind the desk he sat at, obviously trying to remember who she was. “Ah...Lieutenant junior grade...”

“Cadney sir, Allison Cadney. I'm here for my yearly psychological evaluation.”

“Of course, of course, let me bring up your file.” Moments passed as the blonde officer read through his report. “Everything here looks normal. If you have no questions, it looks like we are set.”

“Ah…Counselor, I still have the problem we discussed before.” Seeing the lack of comprehension on his face, she continued. “It's like no one knows I exist.”

“Lieutenant, if you feel that way, simply put yourself where others are. Don't sit back, join a discussion, sit with a group of people.” He paused, looking at the time on his panel. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare for the away mission.”

Allison found herself being gently, but firmly, guided out of the room. He'd taken the amount of time required, nothing more or less. She walked out feeling even more transparent than ever.

--------

“Captain's log: Stardate: 2380623.542

The away team has returned from the planet's surface with disturbing news. The colony is dead. There was no sign of an overt attack, in fact people were sitting or lying in comfortable locations. The doctor informs me that all died from dehydration, however it appears that they were well on their way to starving to death. We will stay near this planet for another day in order to bury the dead, and attempt to determine what caused their deaths.”

--------

“Chief Security officers Log: Stardate: 2380623.600

Our investigation of the colony is inconclusive at best. There are no signs of violence; the only significantly odd event is the number of people hooked up to empty IV tubes in their medical facility. We will continue to look; I just wish we knew what happened.”

Ending the log entry, he sat back and closed his eyes. He could almost see the scene on the planet, as if through a window playing itself out before him. His lips, barely moving, mouthed the words “So that’s why…”

--------

Allison sat in the ship's lounge. She'd tried the counselor's advice, with the same lack of success as the last time he'd suggested it. She had sat down with a lively group of people talking. They hadn't noticed her arrival...and even hours later...no one had talked to her or appeared to have included her in the conversation. She ended up moving to a corner table, pulling out her PADD. She might not be one of them, but at least she'd complete her work. In moments, she lost track of the events around her, as she began the work of combining the individual logs into a coherent summary for the mission report.

--------

“Chief Medical Officer's Log: Stardate 2380624.263

The initial determination of the medical personnel on the colony world was a coma-like reaction. No apparent injury was encountered, nor any symptoms prior to the “infection”. Worse, they were unable to find any means of passing the reaction from one person to another. Some worked daily with the coma victims without incident, while others were affected kilometers away. More interesting, while the bodies remained in a coma, their brain waves indicated they were dreaming. I've completed several autopsies; there are no foreign particles, no failed organs. Our initial prognosis remains, these people died of thirst, mere feet away from a water source.”

Shutting off the recorder, she wearily looked around her office. What could be so important, so overreaching, that someone would “forget” to eat or drink?

--------

“Captain's Log: Stardate: 2380624.532

The doctor informs me that there is no additional information she can glean from the planet, and the burials have been completed. We are going to continue on our course to the micro quasar in a nearby system. I look forward to the temporal testing that is planned around it. On a side note, I am concerned by the relaxed attitude the crew is taking recently. While we are unlikely to meet significant martial threats out here, I have received multiple reports of crew members not showing up for their duty assignments. The FO assures me that the problem will be taken care of.”

--------

Allison paused as she transcribed the notes from the mission logs. She imagined leading the team on the planet, finding the missing link that caused all of the colonists’ problems. After a moment she chuckled slightly. “Or I could imagine that someone would notice me, just about as likely.” She was grateful that the other departments were busy, the lounge was almost empty, a rarity at this time of day.

--------

The Chief of Security lay absolutely still on the bio-bed. Doctor Williams checked the readings again, physically the Chief was fine, though dehydrated, but simply would not wake up. Mystified, he walked over to the CMO's office, knocking once before entering. “Melissa, I've got a problem with Jeffries, someone found him at his desk, staring at...Melissa?!?” Sitting there, a slight smile on her face was the Chief Medical Officer of the Excelsior, staring into nothing just as was the Chief in the other room.

--------

If there was one thing that the Captain hated, it was being woken up. Not for the loss of sleep, but for the fact that if she'd been awoken, things were in a bad way. The panicked call from sickbay confirmed her fears once more. Recognizing the symptoms as similar to the reports on the planet, she ordered the helm to return there. She spoke the words aloud that screamed in her heart, “Whatever it is, it won't happen here...not on my ship...not to my crew!” For a moment, she thought she saw a window, an old terran style four paned window with worn white trim. It looked real enough to touch...then disappeared. She blinked her eyes for a moment, clearing her head.

“Captain. We've arrived in orbit around the planet, what are your orders?”

“Helm, how did we arrive so quickly? I just gave the order to turn around.”

“Ah...Captain, that was several hours ago. We woke you based on our proximity to the planet.”

She blushed, thankful that no one else could see her. This explained the image she’d seen, she'd been dreaming. She'd simply have to ask the counselor what that image suggested.

“Thank you Mr. Cotter. I'll be beaming down.”

Captain Astrid Solaris wasn't surprised by what she found once on the planet. An entity, showing such pure evil that she shuddered, was revealed before her. The shiny black undulating surface stretched to show the faces of her crew. Somehow it had absorbed their essences into it. Their bodies might survive, but they’d never live again. A tendril reached towards her, pulling her towards the entity. She fired her phaser, hoping to hurt the entity. The creature morphed itself around the beam, unaffected by it.

“Don’t fight my dear Captain, you are lost...as is your crew.”

Its burbling laughter infuriated her; Astrid stopped fighting the tendril and threw herself at the entity.

“Not my crew, you monster! You'll never take them!” She didn't know if it was the purity of her purpose, her righteous anger, or that she’d surprised the entity by attacking, but she could feel every blow release a member of her crew...saving one more person. Finally, the entity fell away to tatters, she’d destroyed it. No more would it trouble her crew, her ship...or even the Federation. She'd won!

--------

“Captain? Captain!?” The captain had answered the call, but after a few moments of talking to her, Williams realized she'd stopped talking. “I've got to do something...it's spreading like the plague!” He moved to signal a medical quarantine. An image to his left distracted him, he saw himself stopping the plague, curing it. He saw himself shown to be a hero to Starfleet, and remembered as one of the great healers.

Doctor Williams body was found lying a mere foot from the computer pad he’d set out to reach.

--------

Allison moved through the ship in a daze. She'd spent most of the night gathering all the information from the away mission, but found herself unable to get in touch with those crew members. She grumbled quietly as she sat down with her tray of food. “I'm not THAT transparent, they could at least acknowledge me.” Raising her voice slightly, she spoke to the young ensign sitting down the table from her. “Excuse me, could you please pass the salt?”

Moments passed without a response. Shrugging slightly, she got up to get it. Reaching for it, she frowned at the Ensign who had remained unmoving. “Ensign, it is rude to ignore a superior officer, or anyone who is...Ensign?”

Looking more closely, the ensign was asleep, sitting there. “Huh, must have pulled an all-nighter like I did.” Shaking him slightly she tried to wake him. “Ensign, wake up...Ensign!” Now seriously concerned, Allison hit her comm. badge. “Lieutenant Cadney to Sickbay we have a medical emergency in the Lounge.”

The slightly shrill echo of her voice echoed through the room. She suddenly realized how quiet it was, no one was moving. Nor had anyone in the room reacted to her announcement. No rush of people, no heads turning. The only sound was the echo of her quickly retreating footsteps.

--------

It took her several hours to confirm her fears. She was the only conscious person on the ship. After her initial reaction, she found that this didn't panic her as it would others. She'd felt alone on the ship before, this was just a more literal extension of the feeling. Instead was the sense of responsibility. She was the only one left; no one else could save the ship. Allison began examining the logs from the Captain and away team for clues. Her entire life had been reading other's work and summarizing it, allowing her to quickly qualify her situation. No one had any idea. Nothing anyone in sickbay or on the planet had roused any from their coma-like sleep. There was nothing detectably wrong with anyone affected; they simply were no longer conscious. Life became a dream for them, until their body failed.

Allison sat there stunned. Here she was, in the perfect situation to prove herself...and she still couldn't make a difference. No one would ever know that she had not been affected. When a rescue ship came to investigate, they'd be affected as well. The process would continue, again and again. In absolute frustration she screamed. “I...just...want...to make...a... DIFFERENCE!!!” She fell forward, cradling her head in her arms as she cried.

--------

Hours later, or perhaps only minutes, she raised her head, and [...]ed it to the side as she heard some faint noise. Then she saw it hanging in midair: a perfect window. She could see in it all of her dreams coming true. Allison saw her shattering the window, releasing everyone from their slumbers. Hailed by Captain and crew for saving their lives. One promotion leading to the next as her worth was shown to all. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, that her desire to make a difference matched what needed to be done. But in that moment, she experienced crystal clarity. She could, knowing from the images she'd seen, destroy the window. She would have made a difference, but might not even be recognized for it. Even if she was she might well fade back into obscurity. Or, she could accept the images, open the window and have all of her dreams fulfilled. Others might claim it wasn't real, but she would never know the difference, nor would anyone else.

It came down to that, her decision...perhaps her one chance to make a true difference in the lives of everyone she knew, or perhaps an even larger audience than she'd ever know. Or, to have all of her dreams fulfilled with one simple action. Slowly, deliberately, she moved to the window...

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