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[2006: SEP-OCT] *WINNER* Eternal City

Ryan Horn

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A single starship cleaved through the depths of space, its destination unknown. The darkness within matched by that found without, the few active flickering lights providing no more light to the ship’s interior than the stars it passed through lit the exterior. A single console remained open, repeating a message over and over again. The computer, overloaded far past it’s capacity, fragmenting the message as it was sent out.

“NCC ….. Mariner...ng….ship…..distress”

Then suddenly, without any apparent reason, the message stopped.


“Captain’s log, Stardate 238510.22.35 Long range communications have picked up a fading distress call. Based on Starfleet Intel, this could be the lost USS Mariner. Three days ago the distress call stopped broadcasting. In response, we have accelerated to maximum sustainable warp and should arrive within minutes.

Captain Adara Collesh stopped the recording. She still couldn’t believe it, the Mariner. She’d read the information on it, a Galaxy class starship, sent to explore the furthest reaches of space. It was nothing special…until the day the messages stopped coming in. Ships sent out to the last known location were only able to find the slowly decaying particles from a destroyed warp core. However…there was not enough mass found to account for the ship’s destruction, something that led would-be saviors and an unfortunate number of “treasure hunters” to examine the area after Starfleet stopped. The disappearance had happened two years ago…more than enough time to push the ship far from people’s minds.

This changed just a few days ago. Suddenly there was a broken message from the ship…broadcasting a distress call and location. Adara happened to have the closest ship, so here she was…moments from answering the question of the ghost ship. As she walked out of her Ready room onto the bridge she shuddered slightly. Would this be a rescue…or a burial?

She walked carefully to the middle of the bridge, watching as her first officer moved to the science station. He examined the panel, a choked gasp coming out of him after a few moments.

“Ok Mr. Reilly, what do we have? “

Her first officer turned to face her, his face pale. “We have…it’s…I think it’s the remains of the Mariner, but you’ll need to see this.”

“On Screen.”

Adara gasped as she stared at the remains of the Mariner.

In the two years since it had been launched, the ship had obviously been through an incredible amount. Based on the warp core wreckage, she’d expected the lack of telltale blue color. However, the ship looked barely salvageable, huge chunks apparently torn from it. Only the sections nearest to engineering were in any state of repair, and even there it looked almost skeletal.

“Mr. Reilly, are there any life signs?”

He shook his head sadly. “No Captain, she’s dead in space. It looks like someone aimed her in this direction…but..”

His next words were cut off by the ensign at helm. The Ensign’s voice was shrill with excitement. “Captain…it’s the…They’re alive!” He calmed down before continuing. “Um…I mean... Hail from the ship Captain.”

She gave her first officer an amused look. “No life signs? Put it on screen Ensign.” As the screen came to life, she smiled to see her former commander answering.

“Captain Radley? You are looking well for someone who’s been missing for two years. How are you doing? And how are you shielding your life signs?”

The elder man gave her a slow smile before replying. “Commander...no, I see Captain Collesh now? Congratulations. As for how…it would be easier to show you. Perhaps you could be convinced to join me for dinner?”

Adara couldn’t help but chuckle. She’d worked under Radley just prior to his receiving the Mariner. Always a bit of a dreamer, she’d wondered sometimes why Starfleet entrusted him with anyone, but the loyalty to his people had always supported their choice. “Captain, while I’d normally like nothing better than to taste your cooking, perhaps you would like to send your survivors over here?”

“Adara, trust me. We’ve done something amazing here, you have to see it.” His eyes were almost painfully bright, the look intense in the way of fanatics or madmen. She signaled the young ensign to mute the line, then turned to her FO.

“Can you lock onto them at all?”

“No. Honestly Captain, without that signal I wouldn’t have known they were alive.”

Adara thought furiously, she had to bring them back safely…but who knew what lay in wait for her there? An old adage about the cannibal sending out dinner invitations floated through her mind, making her uneasy. Finally, the need to bring them back safely overrode her other concerns, gesturing to open the channel, she replied with a bright smile to her former CO.

“We’ll be over there in a few minutes, can you send us beaming coordinates?”

Radley looked at her with a sly smile, “That won’t be an issue Captain. We’ll beam you safely over.”

At his words, she saw the sparkling effect of the transporter surrounding her, then bringing her…elsewhere.


She found herself on the top of a hill overlooking a huge city. It was a bustling metropolis who’s borders were beyond what she could see. Turning around, she realized that the hill she was standing on was merely a high point in a park within that city. As she stared, Captain Radley walked up the path towards her. He smiled gently at her as he gestured around them.

“As I said, you have to see it.”

Gathering her wits to her, Adara smiled back. “It’s a lovely holodeck Captain, but we have far more pressing matters.”

“It’s far more than that Adara, far far more. Please…come with me into the city.”

Irritated by his actions, she pulled out her phaser, “I’m sorry to ruin this for you Captain, but we have priorities. There are people who are dying.” She fired the phaser directly upward, watching it as the beam was slowly swallowed by the atmosphere. “That’s…not possible.” She sunk to her knees into the grassy knoll.

Radley sat down comfortably across from her. “I’m sorry Adara, I really am…but there was no other way to convince you.”

She looked over at him, her eyes wide. “Where are we?”

“We are in the computer core of the Mariner.”

At his words, the shock was simply too great for Adara. She felt the grass tickling her face as she collapsed bonelessly onto the ground.


Adara woke to the rumbling sound of thunder. She sat up in the four poster bed she'd lain in, the silk covers tossed aside in her excitement. Moving to the curtains, she pulled them back to see the deep black storm clouds, punctuated by brilliant lances of lightning and the boom of thunder as it passed. She could feel the building slightly swaying with the wind the storm generated.

“How can this not be real?”

A knock on her door startled her, she turned as it opened seeing Michael Radley entering carrying a silver tray. She watched as he set down the tea setting at a table near her and sat down. He poured the tea while looking at her intently.

“I presume you have questions?”

“Questions? Of course I have questions. Where is your crew? Why did you do this? What happened to your ship?” She sat down into the overstuff chair behind her, waiting for his answers.

“I’ll start at the beginning. We’d entered a nebula, it’s been so long now that I don’t even remember what it’s name was…”

“It’s only been two years Michael, how can you..”

“Please, let me finish, I can explain everything. We entered the nebula at warp. I don’t know what triggered it, but whatever it was, the warp core almost immediately started to go critical. We did what we had to do, we ejected the core.” He sighed, appearing to fall within himself. “We stranded ourselves in the middle of nowhere with over a thousand people. The core breach had damaged multiple systems, we didn’t know if anyone was even hearing us when we broadcast our emergency beacons. We spent weeks trying to find something…anything. We had two months of supplies, three if we stretched, and nothing habitable within sensor range. Finally, someone came up with this idea. We’d setup a transporter, claim we had created a city within a bubble, and move the people into it.”

Adara stopped him, “Why not tell them the truth?”

He smiled wryly at her, “For the same reason that you needed to be brought here to see the truth. Who would believe it, and there was too great a chance they’d panic. Besides, we have made it so that the rules here mimic the rules outside.” He chuckled remembering, “with two small differences.”

She watched as he sipped his tea, deliberately stalling. She couldn’t help but chuckle remembering this part of him. He continued to drink as she matched him sip for sip. Two old friends enjoying a moment of peace amidst the insanity. He set the cup down and continued.

“Neither were things we expected. And it took decades for us to realize it.”

Adara looked over at him confused, “Decades? You’ve only been gone two years!”

“Two years in real time. However, due to a fault in the programming, we are experiencing everything at nearly the speed of light. Any decision we make is made at the speed of the ship’s computer. A minute of real time to us is measured in years or even decades.” He waited as she considered the implications of what he’d said.

Adara dropped her cup in shock, not paying attention to the noise of it shattering as she realized what he’d said.

“But that would make you..”

“A lot older than I look.” He chuckled “And continuing to age…just at a different rate.”

She shook her head, confusion and denial written on her face. “Humans can’t live that long…they aren't designed for it.”

“Why not? Life is based on physical being. If you don’t have your body telling you how old you are, how old do you feel?” He paused. “However, there are some who feel as you do, so they go through a series of reincarnations, or they sleep.”


“No one has died here Adara. We have a community of over 10 billion individuals, and in the entire history of the city, no one has died.”

“Where are they? How?”

“Adara, we have had thousands of years. Our storage technology is so far beyond yours now that you might as well be carrying jugs and spears. When we needed physical materials, we manipulated the replicators. The initial changes were hard, but as we modified the outside, the ship, we began to interact with it that much faster. As to the others, they have stayed back while we talked.”

Adara closed her eyes, breathing slowly as she attempted to regain her focus. So much was going on that it would be far too easy to be lost in it. Opening her eyes, she looked intently back at him, trying to prove him wrong on at least one point. “So, if your ship is so powerful, why did the call go out?”

He looked back at her, his face falling slightly. “Despite all of our best efforts, we are running out of materials. We simply can’t cope with the increasing size of the city. Too many people, not enough storage. We need your help.”

“What do you need?”

He smiled at her, gesturing to the door.

“We have some time, let me show you all that we’ve done.”


“Captain Adara checking in. Nothing new to report, next call in 24 hours.”

“Acknowledged Captain. See you in twenty four, Solaris out.”

Adara flopped onto her bed, exhausted. The improvements they’d shown her over the last several weeks were simply incredible. Any one of the designs she’d seen would shift the balance of power permanently, and were all the more frightening based on the simplicity of the designs. With a fairly simple set of changes, most starships could be updated. In a matter of weeks, the Federation could permanently secure it’s borders, reach systems in hours that had taken weeks, eliminate diseases. The ideas were enough to keep her head spinning.

“So, what do you think Adara? Do you grasp what we are offering the Federation?”

She sat up, smiling at him. “ ‘Offering the Federation’? Michael, you are part of the Federation, a Captain I’m lead to believe.”

He sat down in the chair facing her, gathering his thoughts. “Adara. I haven’t been a member of the Federation for over a thousand years.”

She looked at him in shock. “What are you saying?!?”

Michael smiled sadly. “Think about it Adara. The Federation setup the Prime Directive in order to prevent the effect of high levels of technology on pre-warp civilizations. Compared to the levels of technology we possess, you are equivalent to pre-warp to us.

Adara shut her eyes, biting her lower lip in concentration. After pausing a moment, she looked up. “So, if this is what you are offering. What do you require?”

“You will be a part of the City. A City that with your aid, will stretch to the infinite. Each new ship on the outside creating a link to new people, expanding it. Imagine, the entire quadrant in one city. A city not ruled by the fear of death, disease, famine, or war.”

“What of those who don’t want to be part of it? Some people won’t want to live here.”

He frowned. “I told them that you would ask, that it would come to you. Adara, do you allow a child to be alone in a room with a knife? No. You protect the child, making sure it can grow. And if you find a child left alone with a knife, you protect the child perhaps even from the parent who has left them. “

“But we aren’t children. We can make our own decisions. You must realize that!”

“Adara, you’ve lived what, 30 years? That is hardly a reasonable amount of time to even consider. You may have started to learn, but you are as yet a child.”

She looked over at the madman in front of her, realizing just how far they had gone. Worse, knowing what she would have to do to stop it. Acting quickly, before he could stop her, she tapped her badge. “Captain Adara, ordering an emergency beam out! Now!”

As she lost herself in the particles showing a transport, she saw him sadly shake his head.


Appearing back onto the bridge of her ship, she was surprised to see everyone in the positions she’d left them at when she transported out. Her first officer looked at her, confusion obvious in his eyes. “Captain? Why are you back so soon? Was there a problem with the transporter?”

“Commander, I’ve been gone for several….” Before she could complete the sentence, Radley’s words came back to her. She’d been in their computer so almost no time would have passed. “Never mind. What’s important is that we fire an electromagnetic pulse at that ship.”

“Captain, we can’t, she’s a Federation…”

“Commander, do it. That’s an order!”

As Adara watched the crew moving to obey, she felt a curious tingling in the back of her head, almost like trying to remember a dream. She saw the blazing beam of green energy firing from the ships emitters into the Mariner...then to her horror saw it slow down, and stop meters away from the hull. She turned to her crew, to find them seemingly trapped in the same frozen stance. As she moved to rouse one of them, she heard a the sound of clapping hands. Turning, she saw Captain Radley, in full Federation dress, walking toward her.

“Brilliant as always Adara, the projections said you would fire to destroy the Mariner, but I told them that you wouldn’t wait...wouldn’t let this threat escape. You’d wipe every drive then scatter the ashes…but first you’d prevent us from acting. So, what am I to do with you?”

“How…how did you do this?” Despite her training, she felt herself fall into the chair. “You can’t…it’s not possible.”

“Oh you are quite right. Outside the computer, none of this is possible. However, why do you think we are outside?” At her look of dawning horror, he began pacing back and forth while speaking briskly. “Now, you know the old question. If you had to sacrifice one innocent child to save the life of millions, would you? You are obviously willing to do the reverse. However sadly, I must agree that one innocent life is a worthy sacrifice to save untold numbers. Goodbye Adara.”

“You can't, if I die...my ship”

“That won't be a problem, you aren't going to die. I'm just going to change your mind”

“How...oh no! My mind is…”

“In our computer. Yes. In fact, currently your mind is simply a datafile. And like any file, it can be manipulated. Don’t worry Captain. You are about to be a part of something far...far greater.”

Radley watched as the look on Adara’s face changed. She smiled and nodded briefly to him as the transporter carried her back to her ship. The next step had begun. She would convince or convert the others on her ship, creating the first link. From there, they would go to a starbase, or meet another starship. Then, as each location was converted, more and more would enter the City. Each one adding their knowledge, joining, building. Michael knew that the city would never be infinite, there would always be some limit. However, with this plan it would constantly continue to grow. It would always be just shy of infinity, a city always on the edge of forever.

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