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[2008: NOV-DEC] The Other Temple


Sakorra Jefferson Reed
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Gasper’s ears tingled. Something had pulled the little pings and pops that accompanied usual quiet out of the air. The resulting hush electrified the hairs on the nape of his neck. He looked at the still forms of the unconscious engineering officers in the room as he pulled a Ka-Bar out of the side flap pocket on his fatigue trousers. He palmed the handle, holding the blade close to his forearm.

“Ki?” He whispered, thinking maybe she was close. The high-pitched whine of phaser fire echoed in the lower chambers of the base. Kiarna screamed. Gasper swore and quickly finished keying in the destruct sequence.

“Ki!” He was shouting before he’d even started running. He should have known. An easy op, they had told him. But things were never easy these days.

“Gasper!” She was returning fire. He grasped the railing of the stairs and flung his feet up on the rail, one on each side as he aimed his blade. When he was within sight of the shooter, he let it fly. It flipped end over end until it found its mark in the man’s chest. The shooter’s phaser fell with a clang to the metal-grated floor, and he grabbed the blade, trying to pull it from his body. He fell against the railing and slid to the floor next to one Ki had already felled. The dead man had simply been a security officer doing his job, but he worked for the wrong side of Starfleet, now.

Gasper landed on the grating and ran to Ki. He slowed his last few steps, afraid of what he would see. Ki leaned over a crumpled form, its flowing white hair now pooling with dark blue blood.

“Diel, get up!” Kiarna shook the woman’s prone body, but the Andorian’s skin was already turning silver-gray. “Come on, we have to go.”

Gasper knelt down next to Diel’s body and put his arm around Kiarna’s shoulder.

“She’s gone, Ki. There’s nothing we can do.” His free hand reached for her other shoulder as he pulled her away. She turned on him, fury emanating from every pore.

“We don’t leave people behind, Gasper. We never leave them behind!”

“You know they called for backup, and I’ve already started the countdown. We don’t have time. We have to go!”

She turned away from him. Grabbing Diel’s arms, she started to tug, pulling Diel up from the ground.

“ Kiarna! Look at me.”

Her head snapped towards him, a growl already forming on her lips.

“We can’t, Gasper.”

Booted feet pounded not that far away. Gasper looked up, quickly judging the distance of their adversaries. Then he looked back at Ki and pulled her away from Diel. Her eyes were bright with anger and unshed tears.

“We have to. I’m sorry, Love.”

Gasper leaned down quickly to grab Diel’s disruptor. Linking hands with Ki, he pulled her along with him. The farther away from Diel’s body they got, the harder he had to fight with Ki. At the end, when they were nearing the airlock and he was practically carrying her, a shot seared past his ear. He flinched away from the crackling energy bolt and swung around, firing blindly until he caught sight of a target. The next shot caught him in the stomach. He stumbled, his legs collapsing from underneath him.

His eyesight blurred. He smelled lavender, raspberry, sweat, and fire. Ki smelled like that. The food’s she loved mixed with the product of her exertion and…her. She was like fire. She was fire.

He was jerked to his feet and realized that Kiarna had regained her senses.

“Run, Gasper! Get to the airlock.” More footsteps closing in. Shouts from too close.

“Seal it, seal it!”

“Coates isn’t answering.”

“Blast! Just take them out! Can’t you aim?”

Gasper ran blindly, pulling up his memory of the deck’s blueprint. Twenty-five feet, it should be. He smelled Ki behind him. Gasper ran through the pain, blinking to clear his eyes. It felt like a knife was slicing through his abdomen, spreading infection. He doubled over, but stumbled step over step. Fifteen feet. Ten feet. The pitch of phaser fire and Ki cried out. He turned, saw her stumble, grab her leg. He reached out and grabbed her, held on, pulled. Five feet. Three feet.

“Hit it, hit it!”

He hit the door lock.

“Shields!”

He tapped the circular disk on his sleeve. The door opened and they were sucked out, depressurizing the docking bay. A former Starfleet security officer floated past him. He shut his eyes. Nine years ago, they were allies. Weightlessness flipped him upside down to see another, her weapon floating away from her, her face blue for an instant before a transporter beam engulfed her. He turned to find Kiarna. She tapped her chronometer. One minute before personal shields failed. Then the Freedom sailed up from underneath the space station, only slightly larger than a shuttle. The bay doors opened.

He woke up in sickbay. The ceiling came into focus slowly above him. Slicing pain rent through his stomach.

“Blast! Son of a—!”

“Settle down, Captain. It’s just a few stitches.”

Gasper looked up, his eyes widenening as Kinty pulled blood-soaked guaze out of the gaping wound in his belly.

“You haven’t even started on stitches! And you aren’t a doctor. What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m all you have, Gasper. Our doctor is dead, isn’t she?!” Something twisted in his gut.

“What are you doing to me?”

“Trying to keep you alive! You think you can do better?”

He tried to hold his head up, to hold the young Terran’s gaze, but he was now aware of how weak he was. He simply didn’t have strength.

“Maybe,” he said, but his tone lacked fight. “Where’s Ki?”

“She’s fine. She’s waiting until I’m done with you. Hers isn’t so bad.” She stopped for a minute, noting his grimace. “She wanted to be in here with you, but I can’t work with someone looking over my shoulder.”

“You probably just didn’t want a witness to my torture.”

Kinty grunted but continued working. It was silent save for his rapidly increasing respirations.

“What the hell happened in there, Gasper?” Her voice shook. Her voice always shook when she was trying not to cry.

“I don’t know, Kint.” He shut his eyes, willing blessed blackness to come. Instead, a new stabbing pain ripped him apart. He recoiled, trying to get away from Kinty’s unexperienced doctoring hands. “Give me some blasted painkillers, will you!”

“There aren’t anymore, Gasper! There isn’t anything, all right? We got nothing but this broken ship and each other. And now we have one less.” He heard metal clang against metal. “I can’t do this!”

Gasper sobered. He gritted his teeth and did his best to soften his tone.

“Yes, you can. I need you to, Kint.” He struggled to raise his head and meet her bright blue gaze. Her face was streaked with tears. “Please.”

He held his head up, his neck muscles protesting, until she finally nodded and picked up a new strip of gauze and a sterilized clamp.

“All right. Just a little more, and then I promise I really will be doing the stitches.”

“Great. I always wanted a zigzag pattern on my stomach.”

“Shut up.”

“Fine.”

He drifted in and out for the next few days. When he woke up the second time, Kiarna was sitting next to him, holding his hand.

“Hey.” His voice rasped.

“Hey! You’re up.”

“Yeah. I guess that means I made it through the torture.” He tried to laugh. “I guess you made it through, too. The leg?”

“Better. I’m under strict orders not to overdo it. It’s still a bit hard to walk.”

Gasper swallowed. “Where are we?”

“About twenty light years from the rendezvous point.”

He nodded. Ki reached over and grabbed a water bottle, helping him take a sip. He was sick of lying down, sick of feeling like death warmed over. He swung his legs over the side of the biobed and winced as he felt his stitches pull.

“Careful, Hon. You need to lie back down.”

“No, I don’t.” Gasper sighed. “I’m tired of lying down. Tired of operating like a third world organization. Never keeping up with them.”

“We just blew up one of their major weapons facilities. I’d say that’s a big step towards getting our footing back.”

“Seven years ago, we would have been fighting side by side with those women and men, not killing them.”

“I know.” Ki helped him down from the table and held him steady while he tried not to sway. “But most of their ships made it out before it blew.”

“Don’t know whether I should rejoice or curse. I’m happy they survived, but that just means we have more of them to still fight.”Gasper swore and continued. “We can’t win this one. They outnumber us five to one now. We can barely even use Starfleet technology. Easy nab. Easy kill.”

Ki snorted. “Starfleet. How many times have I told you? There is no Starfleet. There isn’t even a Federation. It all died, right with those ships the wormhole closed on.”

“We’re still Starfleet.”

“We don’t even have uniforms. We barely have anything Starfleet. Even this ship isn’t Starfleet.”

“A uniform, a ship, none of it makes Starfleet, Commander.” Gasper smoothed his fingers over her hair and down her spots, cupping her chin.

“Maybe not, but it makes it easier being Starfleet when you have the weapons and uniforms to back you and your own aren’t trying to kill you.” She leaned her head into his shoulder.

They sat there awhile longer, holding hands, leaning on each other, until a thought formed in his mind. It was a crazy idea, one he’d thought of dozens of times before, one he’d even acted on a few times. Each time had ended in failure. This time felt different.

“We have to go back.”

Ki’s head snapped up. Her eyes met his. “No. No. We’ve tried that. It hasn’t opened in over nine years, Gasper.”

“This time it will.”

“That’s what you said the last three times…and it never has!”

“What have we got to lose?”

“Everything! Bajor is occupied, the entrance to the wormhole guarded. We’ve lost too much now to even hope of succeeding. And what makes you think it would open this time, even if we could get there?”

“Just a feeling.”

“Like your other feelings?

Gasper stood up, frustrated. “It’s not your world being decimated, Ki! It’s not your prophets being called murderers! It’s not your people being called accessories!”

Ki stood up and faced him, her lips drawn and thin, trembling. “I’ve put my life on the line just as much as you or anyone else on our side,

Gasper! How dare you imply that I don’t care! My own world turned against Bajor, but I stayed!”

Gasper ran his fingers through his hair and growled into his hands. “I’m sorry, Ki. It just still seems like a nightmare, all these years later.

Member worlds turning on us. Those supporting us shrinking every day. We never should have become a part of the Federation. At least then it wouldn’t be in shambles.”

Ki walked to him and put her arms around him. Again, he leaned into her.

“All right. But you’d better be very persuasive when you speak with the others, or we’ll be going in alone.”

“Lieutenant, what’s our ETA?”

“2.26 hours, Captain,” said Kinty.

Gasper was flummoxed. According to several other Bajorans in their Starfleet, they’d all had “a feeling” about the same time he had. They felt the prophets were calling them home.

Just over two hours later, they dropped out of warp. He fought to keep fear from eclipsing him. His heartbeat was erratic, thumping in his chest. There were over a hundred ships encircling Bajor and the entrance to the celestial temple.

Twenty-three ships fanned out in a defensive position. Six ships flanked him, escorting the Freedom.

“Ninety seconds to wormhole entrance. We’re being hailed.”

Gasper raised his eyebrows. “On screen.”

“This is Captain Schwartz of the Federation starship Trafalger. You are ordered to stand down and prepare to be boarded.”

Gasper glanced over at Ki and Kinty. The two women laughed.

“Yeah, uh…I don’t think so, Schwartz. See, I’m Captain Tiver Gasper of the Federation starship Freedom, and I don’t want to.”

“Tiver, your captaincy is not recognized by Starfleet. You are a wanted Federation criminal. We have orders to shoot to kill on sight if necessary. If you value your life and the lives of your crew, you.will.stand.down.”

“Yeah, see, we heard you the first time, and we still don’t want to. Oh, wait. Hey, you girls want to surrender?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s a negative, Captain.”

Gasper turned back to the screen. “Well, the ladies have spoken. So, we’re gonna…you know…keep going.”

The screen went blank. The Trafalger opened fire a moment later, the ship shaking violently in the impact. They had barely working shields as it was.

“Shields at forty percent.”

“Thirty seconds to wormhole entrance.”

“Return fire.”

Kiarna fired, but they were only one quarter the size of the Trafalger and run down at that. No contest.

“Fifteen seconds. Ten, Five.”

Prophets, please. Please open your gates.

“Three…two…one.”

A split second, nothing, just black space and far away stars, but then, a circular light, widening, swirling cloud and the Freedom soared inside. And then it was a white, white haze, transcending, encompassing. He saw blurry figures, many of them. One stepped forward. He recognized her. Major Reed. Her ship had disappeared inside the wormhole, like eight others had in a three-hour span. 6, 147 lives lost. Ironic. Their alleged deaths had resulted in the deaths of millions.

Another step forward. This one looked like Captain Rocar. He’d also been en route to Deep Space Nine, back from a mission in the Gamma quadrant.

“His desire is great.”

Gasper looked towards the other figures, but they stayed wispy and gray on the edge of his vision.

“I am Tiver Gasper, Captain of the USS Freedom. I have come to seek your help.”

“His mind tells of great battles.”

“A great war.”

“I need to know what happened. Why ships came in to the temple and were lost. Why you have not opened the gates for over nine years. The Federation has descended into war. Your people are dying.”

“He is mortal and weak.”

“They try their own way.” Another had stepped forward. A child figure. Bajoran.

“Please, I do not have a lot of time.”

“This linear time?”

“Yes! Yes.”

“You do not exist in time.”

Words formed on Gasper’s lips and died. He was not sure what the prophet meant. He tried again.

“My friends are fighting a losing war. Picked off by those that were once our own. We cannot fight much longer.”

“You are at the end.”

“Yes.” Gasper felt defeated, worn.

“This one struggles.”

“He seeks answers.”

“Then please, tell me!”

“Those you seek are not lost.”

“Not lost? Well, where are they? What happened?”

“This time you speak of…it was then that our temple merged with another. Those you seek went through to the other side.”

“The other side. Another temple?”

“Others had to be prevented.”

“Couldn’t you bring them back? Couldn’t the other side send them back?”

“They will return.”

“How, when? Where are they?”

“You must leave us.”

“No! You haven’t told me anything. How do I find them? For what purpose did you bring me here if you weren’t going to tell me anything useful?”

A prophet stepped forward out of soft white light. She was the image of Kiarna. This prophet cupped Gasper’s cheek and smiled.

“We did not bring you here, Gasper. Your heart brought you here.”

“When the temples part, they will return to you. Our gates shall open once more.”

Gasper landed flat. He felt the impact radiate through to his chest bone, his head flicked with points of needle fire.

“No!” He tried to turn, reach out towards the white light and grab it back. He grabbed boot. A security guard, theirs, pointed a phaser at him. Gasper started to get up and saw Ki and Kinty, each restrained.

“Let them go. I know what happened. I talked to the prophets!”

His arm was wrenched up. He had no choice but to follow. Slammed into the bulkhead wall, the officer clamped cuffs on Gaspers’s wrists. Gasper jerked away, headed towards Ki. The officer brought his elbow down between Gasper’s shoulder blades. It was like phaser leaching through tendon, pulling apart muscle and sinew, fire on bone. He fought to draw breath.

“I talked to the prophets.”

“Please, let me talk to him.” Ki’s voice was pleading, and in the next moment, she was next to him, lavender and honey, soft and love. “Look at me, Gasper.”

Gasper met her eyes, searched, connected.

“What do you mean, you talked to them?”

“I was surrounded by white light, and they knew…they knew all of it. They said they weren’t dead, that they would return. It was right after we entered the temple.”

Ki shook her head, her eyebrows drawing inward in confusion. “Baby, the wormhole never opened. We never got in. We waited…we lost shields…and then we were boarded.”

“No. I was there.” Gasper tried to reach up and hold her, forgetting that his hands were cuffed. “Take these infernal things off.” He glared at the security officer that had elbowed him. The guy just stood there.

“Robot,” spat Gasper.

“Traitor,” spat the officer.”

“I’m telling you, they aren’t dead!”

“Tell that to my son! Tell him he didn’t hear his mother’s screams just before the wormhole shut forever.” The officer’s boot smashed Gasper’s face.

“Stop it!” Kiarna shouted, pulling Gasper close.

“You’ll be joining your murderous prophets in your precious temple soon enough Tiver Gasper, traitor to the Federation. I’ll enjoy attending your execution.”

Edited by Jefferson Reed
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