It would be worse.
Vanessa had grown up in a rather rough household. Her father was a very strict man, quick to anger and hardworking. He cherished good physical health and often spent hours working out. Not only that, but he'd expected her to do the same. Along with plenty of forced nutritional dinners and lunches, there were intense physical sessions. He'd raised her to be a warrior, often yelling and cursing her out relentlessly. He forced her into a tough and angry attitude. He would yell at her until she finally yelled back. One time, she'd even actually thrown her chair at him. Despite the cut along his brow from the blow, he was proud of his daughter.
Vanessa, however, had hated her father. Once he found out about her decision to become an officer aboard a starship, he went on a rampage. He couldn't bare the thought of his daughter, whom he'd trained to become a warrior or a soldier, would decide to take a life of sitting behind a console on some cozy little spaceship. Of course, her father was quite ignorant on interstellar affairs, unknowing of the many dangers that starship officers faced each day; the grarthan were just one perfect example. Vanessa was smart enough to know how tough it really was for officers in space. She had known it the perfect place for herself, not just being full of aliens ready to take her beating, but a good place to serve the race she'd spent what little free time she'd had studying.
The oscilic had astounded Vanessa beyond her wildest dreams. Their boastful intelligence and advanced society was enough to devour her inviolate being and manifest ineptitude in her young mind. Thoughts of the oscilic fretted her like insidious imps, taking advantage of her forlorn self until it was just tenacious enough to stay with her through adulthood. Little did she know her years of worship had reaped savagely from her mortal life, leading her closer to her sepulchre in an area of space too dead to navigate.
Only now the wounds plastering scars along her body, reminiscent of her naïve youth, had reached their abrupt end. At the thought of her wasted life, she was feverish with indifference flickering up here and there like sparks from a fire. Now her bitter tongue was unsheathed and ready to slay those imps. No longer would she falter so that she would seem as shallow as the father whom she'd hated. As those hellions had purloined so many years from her life, she would purloin from them their entire lives, and everything they had reaped in their eons of reign.
She stood now, over an oscilic, behind him, looking over his console, watching his moves, and analyzing his very breathing. She was studying her prey. She had watched them all as they moved silently about her making the repairs and following the orders she'd given them. They had met her demands with efficient fortitude. Their accuracy left her a shudder. They had faced the odds against accomplishing her orders and utterly defeated them.
Her mind, though usually robust with wanderlust, had managed to focus on these sudden strangers that surrounded her. She felt entrapped by a fire she had to put out. The oscilic were indeed a festering disease, increasing each day with their impervious technology thousands of centuries old. Even their ancient times had been as advanced as the human race had been just days before. How was it that these funny little creatures whose skulls she could crush with one hand had gained such a fundamental horror. They had started off so innocent, curious, peaceful, and ready to compromise for prosperity. Now they were but another terrifying order set about their galaxy to make life difficult. They were to be the challenge that every galaxy was faced with. An arrogant, selfish race, supreme and powerful and owning of a stronghold almost impenetrable by the primitive others that encumbered them.
"Your orders have been met, Captain," High Commander Colovul said suddenly, breaking her trained eye.
As she had sat back down in her command chair, crossing her legs and crossing her arms over her chest, relaxing. Settling her easy mind, her vehement heart pounding, more than ready to act. She gathered herself together, restricting her thoughts so as not to allow them to read her mind and become aware of her plans. Such calm within her voice, almost eerily unsettling, it had even drawn some of their eyes to view her face as they heard her odd tone. "Power the Displacement Drive," she spoke slowly, "and set speeds at level ten. Activate the IPC and get us close enough to the Wolsifier to dock with it."
"Aye," came the robotic reply of her pilot. "ETA point five-three hours."
And at that statement, her plan was set in motion. Her thoughts an open book to the people she was to deceive. She could only hope they would think not to look inside of her.
Of all the times they had found themselves ailing each other in the sickbay, this was the most awkward. Trystan, holding herself back with the surprising knowledge Derl had let slip by earlier on the bridge. And Michael, quiet in mind, not just from the dopamine suppressant that Trystan had injected into him to combat the extreme effects bestowed upon him from Derl's earlier acquisition of his body, but from the fact that he sat in guilt of his attitude on the bridge.
"There," Trystan said, removing her hands from Michael's neck after just injecting the suppressant into him. She placed the instrument on the table next to the bed Michael sat on and gave him a quiet, assuaging smile.
Michael's solemn face fought to look into her eyes. "I'm sorry," he said in a grave voice, " , on the bridge. I shouldn't have been that way with you." He shook his head and looked away from her.
Their faces not inches from each other, Trystan placed her hands on the bed to either side of him and leaned in on him with a complacent smile. "It's alright," she said. "I understand you've been going through a lot of shit recently. We all have. I'm willing to allot you whatever forgiveness you need." She reached up and brushed a piece of his hair from his brow. "Besides, I'm used to you being annoying."
Michael smiled, his heart a flutter with joy, as this still beautiful young woman before him gave him more than he felt he deserved. And as he gazed into her eyes, old memories from the long-dead past rolled over and over within his mind, fleeting images of painful times and sudden intense feelings of pleasure as he remembered her gentile touch in bed, the passionate caress of her naked body against his. He suddenly found himself blushing.
Trystan giggled. "Why are you blushing?" she asked.
Michael swallowed hard and smiled nervously at her. He gave a nervous chuckle and postulated lies he'd long ago forbidden himself to say, and instead said simply, "Nothing, forget it." He smiled as though dotting the period of the subject.
Trystan continued to smile but only for a moment before it faded. Strange thoughts had suddenly encroached upon her mind. She tried to shake them off; she tried to suppress the feelings leaping from her heart. Like the invading symbiotes that feelings were, however, they took hold of her and she faltered. "You ," she said slowly, trying to be careful with her words, "it' .not like we're dead. We know." She felt as though she were supposed to look away from him, but she had failed to take her eyes from his, still inches apart. Anxiety had taken form within her, and her face trembled as her eyes spoke volumes into Michael's, whispering their forbidden nothings into the silence of eternity.
Puzzlement within Michael turned to intrigue, and they soon both succumbed to the undeniable urge to hold each other, and feel their bodies' warmth. Slowly, .slowly, their lips met, soft, cold pillows pressing together and sharing their tenderness. As they reluctantly pulled their lips apart, they both gazed, puzzled, into each other, mouths open, awe-struck.
Before Michael could think of words to speak, not that he could with even a thousand years to ponder, tears welled up within Trystan's eyes, that sharp, irrevocable feeling a rush to her nose, and a salty drop of crystal rolled down her soft skin. She turned to walk away, but Michael's hand on her shoulder stopped her.
For a moment, Michael sat there, attempting desperately to compile the appropriate words. "Trystan," he said, ".I, uh." His brows furrowed. "What's wrong?"
Trystan sniffled and wiped the wetness from her cheek and eyes with the palm of one of her hands. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked about the floor as if searching for a reason to explain herself.
All the while, Michael's brain was coursing. Here he'd been, finally ready to let go of her and all of a sudden she was the one making the moves. He was almost angry that it seemed as though she was toying with him. As if his life weren't juggling with enough as is, she was suddenly recreating the problem he'd spent years trying to solve. That anger would not show, though. For Michael could not deny that his love for Trystan was still there. He'd only just recently learned how to keep it on its leash. He'd considered it an official and permanent leash. The thought of it only being intoxicated him. His heart, so full of lust that his gaze was glued to a sugarcoated sky as he laid himself down on a bed of roses. How naïve his perception of life, how ignorant. Even after years, a lifetime, of experience, his thoughts stayed drifting in a dream world. Now here was Trystan, not even sure of her own thoughts and feelings, allowing herself to enter a temporary state of mental instability and allowing it to reign without limit. It would hurt both of them.
Or would it?
Was it possible that after the last few days of spending her life in a relationship with though they were a couple, loving and caring of each other, had it been that now that it had been taken away, she had realized what she'd been missing? It is often that one wants to be rid of something only to want it again once they are finally rid of it. It's a normal human trait to never be happy with what you have, to always reach for more, to always be more aware of the bad sides of something rather than the good. And they do this only to realize after they've lost it completely, that they had a good thing going before. It was typical human thought process. Trystan knew that. She'd acknowledged it before, yet there she was, standing in that sickbay, lost in Michael's eyes and begging for his touch. Like a horrifying monster splayed open for the world to see, she demoted herself to a state .
What was Michael to do? Michael had that urge as much as Trystan. He loved her, yes, but he had not the want to give his hopes up on her again only to have his heart broken again. He might have one more night of passion with her, but at what cost? The pain of a broken heart? Was that really worth it? Sex was all it was. Sex was nothing special, only a characteristic, a natural embrace, foolishly exalted to seem like a sacred blessing. Sex was no more "sacred" than a bowel movement. The heart on the other hand, was not something to be played with. The heart is not a toy for fragile, weak hands. One's soul is the very matter of the heart; it's very residence. To break it was for one's home to befall a natural disaster.
Both Trystan and Michael were playing a dangerous game, their mortal hands not worth its play. They toyed with fire; unworthy of its brilliance as much as the human race had been unworthy of the synthetic chemical, ecstasy.
However, in Michael's mind, another thought plagued. Were sex so menial in truth, then why not allow such a menial activity? Then it hit him, as it had struck Trystan so many years before, sex meant nothing. It was exactly the thought on Trystan's mind each time that she had gone to a rave or a club back on earth, seeking some one-night stand. Those clubs had been a playground for her erotic mind, hungry and lethal. Her keen understanding of it was not as petty as Michael's, not as naïve. Trystan had fallen from grace long before, she knew it was unobtainable. Divinity, as Trystan had realized, was a futile goal for any human being. She had realized herself no better than any other and had therefore succumbed to the same poisons and evils as the rest of them had. She stood by, curiously watching, as Michael would decline her offer of a beer or a drug from one of her friends, wondering how he could be so fake. So shallow as he was to think he was better than they were, too good for one of their drinks or one of their habits. She knew it was his flaw. But she also knew it was him. Somehow fake and yet not fake. Ignorant as he was to believe life a bed on roses, yet it was his choice at the time to decline their offer. And as he had respected her enough to let her do what she wanted, she, too, respected him enough to let him decline without argument. So often she would sojourn herself to the phlegmatic soul that she was, sojourn her hidden lies to a place of lost cause, an unreality where she would find no one but herself. On her face lied plastered a mask of indifference, a virtual sludge of putridity. She had known herself human, and she had known the human being, imps as they were, spreading hell among the universe, a bitter taste on its intergalactic tongue. And there was herself, a vanguard of this wicked fleet, the needs of others a mere murmur among her primary, selfish thoughts and needs. The human itself was a mortal, small thing. Humanity, however, was an immortal and unfortunate scar on the universe, its fundamental terror echoing throughout its eternal void for its incomprehensible eternity. And like that hell within, the two of them would rage.
.But it would not be that day.
Michael, expecting a reply from Trystan had gotten only silence. He knew, though, from what she had just said moments ago, what she wanted. Somehow, despite his ignorance on love, despite his naïve, childish nature, he was able to set himself in place at that moment, the right place. He slipped slowly off of the bed and took hold of her arm. "Trystan," he said quite seriously, "what you're saying." He shook his head. "I need to know that this is it. I know I was the one who broke it off the other day when Claire showed up. I know I was the one who came back from that grarthan ship and fought with you. Which is why I need to know, for sure, that you are what I need. I'm not sure anymore. I used to be, but these last few days have changed that. .I need to know that nothing will ever change it that includes you. I don't want you to come to me and tell me that you made a mistake. I don't want to find out that I'm no better than all of those guys you met in those bars."
Silence. Trystan's shamed face looked up into his. He had once been the bad guy. So many years before, he had been the one who had put her through hell. Now here he was, trying to deny her the ability of doing the same to him, though undeserving, she let him have it. She wasn't sure why at first. She was never sure of anything.
Michael's gaze had befallen the floor. "I'm gonna think about this," he said finally and left.
He left her there. He left her touch there. He left their kiss there. Had it meant anything? What had it done? Trystan had allowed him the gift. Trystan gave him what he had once deprived her of. And without knowing it, without the realization, she had become, for a short few seconds, more than human.
"Thanks for letting me stay with you, Sean," Bevouyn Mourayn said, dropping a glob of items his ex-wife, Kathyrine, had somehow managed to neglect destroying.
Suffice it to say the divorce had as Bevouyn had imagined. After a long, important speech to Kathyrine about how he had become quite fed up with the rather unpleasant nature of her company, Kathyrine had given Bevouyn a rather unpleasant "speech" of her own. Of course, by speech, it is meant that she chased him through four different levels of the station with a loaded gun in hand and was currently on a transport to a mental research institute after her seventeen-minute reign of terror inside one of the recreational facilities.
"Oh, it's no problem," Sean replied, walking into his kitchen.
Sean and Bevouyn had become friends just two years before after running into each other in a cafeteria aboard the station. It was just months after Bevouyn had been transferred over for scientific research. Sean, on the other hand, had been working aboard the station for close to five years as a full-time ambassador from the GFIP in addition to acting communications officer aboard the occasionally dispatched ship.
Bevouyn could not count how many times he had turned to a day off with Sean in the holo-grid to get away from Kathyrine. Bevouyn had known all too well the debt of pure gratitude he owed Sean and did his very best to make sure it was paid. What bothered Bevouyn now, was that he felt as though he were imposing on Sean by asking to stay with him. He'd contacted the stations civilian services and requested the issuing of some new quarters, but they had yet to reply. It often took quite a while anyway. Bevouyn would imagine that a station crew, especially such an exemplary one as Rechronan's would manage to work things out quite quickly and efficiently. Then Bevouyn remembered that it was his request, and, as the rest of his life, it would be dealt with in an inconvenient manner.
"You can sleep in here on the couch," Sean said, coming out of the kitchen with two glasses of water in hand, one of which he handed to Bevouyn.
Bevouyn glanced away from his case of collected holo-grid programs he'd managed to salvage to the plush, green couch against the wall behind him. Looked rather comfortable. "Thanks," Bevouyn said, taking the glass of water from Sean. "I really appreciate this. I hate the idea of imposing on you."
"Oh, no, no, no," Sean said, waving his hand in the air. "It's alright, man, really. I'm just glad to help. Hell, I feel sorry for'ya. I mean, you just got shoved off a ship you were abruptly ordered to board the other day-course, we both got shoved off, and then you come back to the station only to divorce your wife and get chased maniacally around the station with a gun at your back. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty bad few days if you ask me."
Sean took a seat on the couch just as Bevouyn was taking a seat at a chair just to the right of the couch. Bevouyn took in a deep, heavy sigh. "Gods, you don't even know the half of it. I've been putting up with that woman's shit for years. Sometimes I wonder why I never asked her to shoot me."
Sean chuckled for a short second. "Aw, man, don't talk like that," he said, his voice followed by the sudden BANG of his booted feet atop the glass table in front of the couch. "You fell in love with a psychopath and expected her to change. Everyone makes that mistake at some point."
Bevouyn's gaze fixed on the table that Sean had just tiredly set his feet upon, subconsciously searching for a crack in the glass after such a loud BANG. What he was really thinking, however, was why he'd married Kathyrine in the first place. "No," Bevouyn said finally. "No, actually.I loved her, every bit of her. I even loved her weird, freaky side."
"Ah!" Sean said, realizing suddenly. "The sex."
Bevouyn snickered. "No, not just the sex." Seriously, he continued, "She." He shook his head, ".I don't know. I saw that she had things wrong with her just as anyone else does, but I loved her all the same. I didn't think it would be so bad. Matter of fact, I felt it was the most amazing thing to ever happen to me." Bevouyn's thoughts traipsed along the memories of his first nights with Kathyrine, all of the laughs they'd shared, the conversations, the sunsets over the ocean where they'd spent their anniversaries and honeymoon, sex, of course. What's more, he'd thought about how much she'd done for him in all of the years he'd known her. "Kathyrine," he said, "wasn't just some freaky psycho to me like she was you or anyone else. She wasn't another cynical thought to me. You of all people, Sean, know that I'm a first class cynic. Kathyrine was the only thing I could count on to put a smile on my face without making me wonder what she was fiendishly plotting. I trusted her. I trusted her to make me happy without any side effects. And that's what she did! I used to love it when she yelled at me." A smile from days long past creased his face. "Kind of a turn on. Even when we did argue, we just made up afterward and loved each other more than before."
"Well, if that's true, then why'd you divorce her?" Sean asked skeptically.
Bevouyn's smile was quickly replaced with a frown. "I don't know. I've grown so tired of putting up with everything-not just from her, but everyone. Seems like I just couldn't love our arguments anymore. I couldn't bare them any longer, not even knowing that we'd make up eventually."
"Well, Bev, that's why there are marriage counselors. People don't get divorced because they're tired of fighting. You're supposed to try talking to her about it."
"I did, Sean, multiple times," Bevouyn exclaimed, frustrated. "Every time I did, she'd either pretend like she didn't know what I was talking about or come after me with a metal rod."
"Now there's a reason to divorce someone."
Bevouyn let out a formal chuckle at Sean's last statement and finally allowed his mind lay at rest in the vastness of his own head. The quiet, comfortable silence set in. They had been friends far too long to be subjected to a state of awkward silence. Instead, they had managed to relax and settle, enjoying the serenity of a friendly presence.
Whilst Sean's thoughts were on work matters, Bevouyn's still lingered within the past, a bit of a habit for him. His memories came to him, each like a grain of sand through an hourglass. One by one, they piled upon him. There were memories of days spent holding Kathyrine within his arms, or taking her for a nice flight through the air as she giggled at the sound of his wings flapping above her. She had not worried over the height nor the idea of looking down at a surface so far below she should be rather unfortunate were Bevouyn to lose hold of her.
It was obvious to Bevouyn that he had loved Kathyrine. He had only needed some time away. Not only that, but she had been in some dire need of help. Bevouyn had been quite worried about her for a long time. Yes, they had met under unusual circumstances, but it was no coincidence that she happened to be loading a gun the first time they met each other. Sean had wondered for quite some time after they first started going out why she'd been in the bathroom with a gun before she finally told him. Once she had, the sudden horror of where she'd fated that one loaded bullet to go had brought agony to his heart. Since then, he'd done his best to make her life as wonderful as possible, trying to show her that life could be a great and happy place that she'd want to have. Rather than throw it all away, to shatter one's senses with the injection of a single piece of lead.
What Bevouyn had inadvertently achieved, however, was a sense of how wonderful his life really was also. Himself the faithful cynic that he was, always acknowledging the bad and forgetting the good, for the first time, was able to see the good. Kathyrine had shown that to him as much as he had shown her. They had made each other happy. Two of them, both living supposedly horrible lives, had brought happiness to themselves. They saved each other. They gave each other something that nothing in their lives had ever given them. That is why they had stuck together through such hard times. Even as Kathyrine had yelled at him and destroyed his possessions, she had felt that love for him lingering within the back of her head. They had their understandings with each other. Their quiet, secret understandings. Though they'd never spoken of it openly to each other, they both knew that she did it because she obviously had something mentally wrong with her. Both of them knew that Bevouyn accepted that and therefore put up with it because he loved her.
So why had he not been able to put up with it lately? What made it any different now than it was before? Perhaps Bevouyn really was simply tired of dealing with it along with the rest of his life. Perhaps he seriously just needed that time off. Perhaps he'd done it so that she could get the help that she needed at this perfectly suitable mental research facility she'd been taken to. Bevouyn had never liked the idea of her being taken to a mental facility. He'd have rather they dealt with it together. Only after so many years it had been made quite clear to Bevouyn that they couldn't deal with it together. He knew it wasn't healthy for a marriage to go through .
.Or perhaps he simply didn't love her anymore.
The chime of Sean's door broke such unpleasant thoughts that rang through Bevouyn's head. Sean got up and left the room to answer it, leaving Bevouyn there in the calm resonance of an empty room. Bevouyn didn't know the sense of an empty room too well. It seemed to him.
After a few moments of some inaudible muttering in the other room, Sean returned followed by someone that came of much surprise to Bevouyn.
"Mr. Beltran," Bevouyn said, standing up from the chair and turning entirely to face Sean and the man beside him.
Indeed, David Beltran had rung Sean's bell, looking for Bevouyn.
"So then you do know him," Sean said, a bit surprised as well.
Bevouyn finally recognized Sean again. "Oh, yes. Mr. Beltran and I were working together when we were assigned to the Wolsifier," Bevouyn exclaimed, remember the stressing memories of how he'd first met David in that ventilation shaft on the way to the Kristarian Star-sphere. "I assume you came for me?"
"Yes," David said, smiling broadly. "I have news from the Council."
"You work with the Council?" Sean asked curiously.
"Yes," David said, turning to Sean. "I'm one of their Chief Science officers. I'm the one they always go to for questions. They keep me busy."
"Oh," Sean began interestedly "the you must know Council member Chalmbern. Have you seen his new robes?"
"The silver with the golden linings?"
"I have. Quite well made. I'd imagine he paid quite a bit for them."
"Oh, that's nothing. You should've seen his footwear the other day."
Sean and David continued to exchange irrelevant matters as Bevouyn watched growing evermore frustrated with each exchanged comment. "Will you just get to the point!" He shouted suddenly, startling both Sean and David.
They both shook off Bevouyn's sudden outburst and went back to business. "The council is assigning us aboard a ship," David said. "All three of us. We're to board , under command of Captain B'Naran, in the morning. Further orders will be issued during a briefing upon launch."
"Well," Bevouyn said after a long period of silence and some awkward glances, "looks like its back to the lab."
The savage beast crept ever closer. A valiant ship commanded by a graceful , under the control of inherently evil creatures. They traversed quickly through the bounds of space, overcoming destruction, a streaming echo of a deadly voice. The Vehemence carried in its maw a wicked power with a decided fate of overpowering impossible odds, with a decided fate of purloining innocence. For her crew was that of the oscilic, all of them on a mission of capturing Trystan Wolsey and taking her to the Kristarian Star-sphere to be placed in the hands , that was still undetermined.
All Captain Vanessa David knew was that she was to board Wolsifier, take Trystan into custody and return to the Star-sphere. Not necessarily what she was actually going to do, however. She knew not what exactly she was to do quite yet. She had restricted her mind from such thoughts so as to elude her uncomfortably psychic crew. She had decided she would likely board Wolsifier and make the decisions from there. She was fraught with worry despite her confidence. She felt herself a very capable person, but she'd spent her life learning how impeccable the oscilic were. They were not ones to make your enemy, that she was sure of.
Therefore, the fear she could not hide. It was there, as much as her heart was there. It emanated from her like a beam of light, enhancing her aura with an obvious hint of terror. No doubt the oscilic around her could sense it even then, feel it. What had they thought of it? Did it seem like nothing to them, as though they logically figured it was simply fear that the mission wouldn't pan out? Or did they know? As she sat there then, for all she knew, they could have read her already and devised a plan to stop her. Despite her restrictions, despite her thoughts and actions, they could know at that moment, as she looked around at them. As she peered at their blank faces and into their dark, emotionless eyes.
She shuddered at their eyes now. She could see the horror within them. There was a fire that burned at them, invisible, masked by their darkness. They had eluded her for the past lifetime, eluded her senses, given her a false reading of sincerity and nobility. Oh, what cards they were! Their faces plastered with nothing, their wounds inflicting; the spawns of wrath that they were. She would have them pay or be driven down in madness. She would go honorably, taken down without stead. She would have gone down to a more powerful enemy, known for taking on the odds and giving chance to a situation that had none.
A BEEP and CLICK unlike the usual sounds heard around the bridge broke her concentration. Her first officer, High Commander Colovul, whom she'd been staring at with whole interest for the last two minutes, turned his head slowly to her, gave her a blink, and she then realized he'd activated the view screen. She watched him slowly turn his head back to face the front, and she did the same with interest. On the view screen at the front of the bridge she could see the elegant, yet ignorant, Wolsifier flying along, innocent and peaceful.
As sudden as a knife in her back, she felt that ping of guilt slice through her spineless back. Then there was a slap at her face as she realized where she was and what she'd done. For so many years she had helped the oscilic, her newfound enemy. Oh, how the guilt flooded her! She hated feeling guilty, one of the worst feelings in the world, in her opinion. There she was now, sitting in the command chair of an oscilic ship at the behest of those oscilic scum. It made her feel sick to her stomach. All she knew is that she would no longer abide by their orders.
"Range?" she said, her voice low and yet reverberating through the bridge like the call of the pristine eagle. She had authority in her voice and the bitter taste of vengeance congesting within her mouth.
"Twenty-one point four kilometers and closing," was her answer from the drone at the helm.
Swiftly and as a surprise to the bridge crew, she stood up from her command chair and stepped toward the teleporter operator on the right side of the bridge. "Prepare to teleport me aboard," she ordered, watching the computer as the teleporter operator prepped the system. Behind her, Colovul had stood up and stepped toward her.
"Captain." he said, preparing to quote the regulations of commandeering other vessels.
"Please," she said, turning to him and putting up her hand, "Commander, don't quote regulations with me. I've made my decision."
A pause as he considered this odd behavior. "Then I should go with you," he said.
"Negative," she said, simply and finally.
An awkward silence. "This is not normal procedure."
Vanessa looked back at him again. Behind her she heard the operator announce the teleporter ready. For a moment, she only stared into Colovul. The hesitation was profound. She thought perhaps that she might read him to find out if he'd read her. She would not be surprised to find he was reading her at that moment. She could almost feel his mind reaching into her thoughts and taking hold. She wanted to fight him, but she had not the ability. She closed her mind to it all, cleared her mind. Her nonchalant face would not show the true terror within her being. She was frightened beyond thought. She could not know then, or ever, if he was reading her. Breaking through the presumed barrier, she finally constructed the wit to respond. "We're not going by 'normal procedure'."
She tore her gaze from Colovul's destructive eyes and turned back to the operator. "Send me in," she ordered.
All the while, aboard Wolsifier, Trystan had met with Derl in the docking bay holding Ranner. She'd found him there with Selene when she went looking for Claire. Michascee and Selene's ship were docked in the other docking bays. The three of them had been working on repairs whereas Trystan had gone down specifically to talk to Michael.
Derl was sitting just within Ranner, working on a console at the behest of Claire. Selene was poised over a section of the outer hull that had been removed in order to repair the plasma vents. Claire was knelt down next to Selene. After greeting everyone, Trystan succumbed to her sudden obligation to help in the repairs and was now assisting Claire and Selene in finishing the plasma vent.
"Alright," Claire said standing up and dropping the tool she'd been using behind her into a pile of them on the ground without taking her eyes from the plasma vent. "That should take care of that." The three of them stood up together and gave it one quick look over. "Help me put the panel back on," Claire said. As they turned to pick up the piece of hull lying on the ground and put it back on, Claire said, "Ranner, dude, plasma vents one hundred percent?"
"They are, Claire, thank you," Ranner replied thankfully, the blue light at the nose of him lighting up as he did.
"Thank God," Claire said tiredly as they finished sealing the hull back on. She let out a heavy sigh as she wiped the dirt from its charred, blackened plating. "Damn," she sneered, "stupid bitch messed up the hull."
Selene let out a sigh as well. "You should see my ship," she said, dusting off her hands. "I think we should just be lucky we weren't destroyed. I never thought I'd say this, but we owe that oscilic in there our lives."
"Amen to that," Claire said.
Trystan didn't say anything. She'd listened out of curiosity but found her only contribution to be furrowed brows and attentive silence.
"Thanks for the help, Trystan," Claire said as they all gathered back inside Ranner.
"Anytime," Trystan said, forcing a smile. "Hey Derl!" she called as soon as she saw him at the console inside.
"Lady Wolsey," he said, turning his attention toward them.
"Yeah, I haven't talked to you since you went down to the maintenance room to check out what was wrong with the plasma flow. Whatcha find?" she asked, stepping up beside his chair. Selene and Claire had followed, listening with curiosity.
"Indeed," Derl said, his gaze falling to the floor, "I discovered the mercury flowing freely through the plasma and was unable to determine its origin psychically due to the sudden temporary loss of my abilities within that room. I believe that until more is discovered, it would be best to avoid that room."
"Mercury in the plasma-what?" Claire asked, confused over the whole idea.
Trystan shook her head, mystified. "I haven't any idea."
No sooner had Trystan made that last statement had Derl perked up, suddenly sensing the presence of another. The presence of someone that should not be there. He stood up slowly and began walking toward the ramp that led outside Ranner.
"Derl, what is it?" Trystan asked, following.
Derl stopped as soon as he got to the bottom of the ramp, the same place all four of them had stopped suddenly as they all lay gaze upon Vanessa David who was standing just in front of the exit from the docking bay.
"Lady David," Derl said, himself confused, though only momentarily until he read her mind to discover what was going on.
"What are you doing here?" Trystan asked, stepping up to Vanessa, utterly confused , everything!
"Look, we don't have too much time," Vanessa started anxiously. "We need to get to the bridge. There's an oscilic ship within docking range of Wolsifier right now, and they're after you, Miss Wolsey."
Before Trystan could respond, Derl spoke up. "She's telling the truth. We need to get to the bridge immediately."
The five of them hurried up to the bridge. Trystan had contacted Michael via her personal communicator and made plans to meet with them on the bridge. On the way, Vanessa had explained everything to them about the Vehemence and it's technology.
Just as they got to the bridge, Vanessa had finished explaining her recent knowledge of the oscilic as well.
"There's a hell of a lot more to it than you know," Trystan exclaimed to her, thoughts of her genetic origin and that of humanity grazing her mind.
"Alright, everyone pick a station," Vanessa suggested as they filed onto the bridge. She had heard Trystan's words but was more worried about more prominent matters. "Master Derl, I want you at the tactical station," she said. Derl complied, knowing exactly what she was planning. "We need to disable the Vehemence so that we can get away without them chasing us. I recorded their exact coordinates and position before leaving. Derl, I'm going to need you to calculate to find exactly where you need to fire to shut down their main power. I'm downloading a tactical analysis of the Vehemence into Wolsifier's main computer now." She proceeded to a secondary console no one was at and used her personal computer to interface with the console and download the information. A few seconds went by. "Alright, there," she said.
"Calculating," Derl said, working his console as fast as he could.
Michael came running onto the bridge not long after.
"What is it? What's wrong?" he said, walking directly toward Trystan before he was startled suddenly after noticing Vanessa. "Captain David?"
Under normal circumstances, Vanessa would have shrugged Michael's entering the bridge off and continued preparing to disable Vehemence. Only the last time she'd seen Michael was just before his being taken by the grarthan. "Mr. Hillman." Vanessa said in awe of his sight. ".You' 're alright."
"I believe it better if we save the explanations for later," Derl said, attempting to get Vanessa back to the problem at hand.
Slowly, Vanessa managed to take her gaze from Michael. Nodding, she said, "Yeah." Her full focus now back on disabling the oscilic ship, she started working the controls at the security station, making sure the oscilic weren't boarding despite her orders. "Alright," she said, "Derl, are you ready?"
Selene was currently making her priority the sensor station where she was trying to detect the oscilic ship in vain. However, when the sensors did discover something, she recoiled slowly, her perplexed eyes glued to the readout on the computer screen. " many ships did you say were within range?" she asked out loud to Vanessa.
Vanessa turned to Selene at the other side of the bridge, confused. "Just the Vehemence. Why?"
".Because I'm reading six sensor contacts on an intercept course." She finally looked up from the console at Vanessa. "I don't recognize their hull signatures."
Everyone on the bridge had fallen silent, turning their attention to Selene. Only Vanessa ran over to look at the sensor readings herself. Michael followed shortly after.
"Oh God," Vanessa said after reading the screen. She slowly took a step back, horror on her face. "It's the enemy."
Trystan, who was sitting at the very front of the bridge at the pilot console, watched Vanessa. "Those neutronic things?" she asked.
Vanessa nodded. She leaned back over the sensor console suddenly and ran another quick scan of the neutronic ships to determine their range. "Their time to intercept is thirty seconds, so we need to act fast. No doubt the Vehemence has already detected them as well. They're going to want Trystan and I aboard before a fight starts" She turned to Derl suddenly. "Derl, you know what to do. Create a scattering field to deflect their targeting scanners so they can't teleport us," she ordered; Derl complied immediately afterward. "Once the neutronic ships enter range, they're going to concentrate their firepower on them. While they're distracted with that, we can get away." She turned to Michael. "The neutronic ships will likely attack us as well."
Michael, his mind racing with so many things going on at once, tried to pull it all apart in his mind to make it make sense. Finally, he gave Vanessa a nod then turned to Trystan. "Trystan and I can handle that." He gave Trystan a smile. "It's our ship after all." Trystan returned the smile. He turned to Derl. "Derl, if you don't mind?"
"Of course not," Derl said, getting up from the tactical station. Michael took control as soon as Derl was out of the way.
"Alright, Wolsifier," Michael said to Trystan, "you know the drill. Take evasive action. Let's see some of that fancy flying."
Trystan smiled gleefully at being called Wolsifier again. She'd missed it, and suddenly felt as though she and Michael finally had the Wolsifier itself back again.
"Come on guys," Vanessa said to everyone else, "let's give them some help."
They all took separate stations, each one putting to use their best bridge skill.
"The Vehemence just appeared on sensors," Selene announced. "They're engaging the other ships."
"Defensive systems online," Michael announced.
Activating the manual piloting controls at her station, Trystan's seat suddenly transformed so that it wrapped around her head like a helmet, projecting a virtual image of space outside the ship through a visor so that she could actually see where exactly she was flying the ship. At the same time the console before her suddenly separated into three sections, revealing two mobile slots in which she inserted her hands and grabbed two handlebars that controlled the maneuvering of the ship.
Vanessa, Selene, and Claire had all watched this, impressed at the attractive design, and had also all three been thrown back against their seats as Trystan said, "Hold on," and engaged the ship's engines at full thrust.
The Wolsifier shot off straight between the swarm of black neutronic vessels that were already firing on the Vehemence. Though combating its attackers, the Vehemence itself was following the Wolsifier, whether that was because they knew they were trying to get away from them or not. Torpedoes streamed out of the Vehemence like comets with their long, glittering tails. As they struck the neutronic ships, the torpedoes seemed to have little or no effect. However, the positronic appendages, as they were launched like swarms of locusts against the neutronic warships, seemed to work. As they attached to the hull of one of the black ships it shortly faltered and stopped dead in space. Unfortunately for the Vehemence, its hull wasn't lined with enough of the appendages to stop all six of the neutronic ships.
With all of the appendages launched and only two neutronic ships disabled, the Vehemence took off at its maximum speeds. It did its best to dodge the red and green energy firing from the neutronic ships, but as the shields took their beatings, its oscilic crew were scattering about, rerouting power from this and repairing that. It continued to follow the Wolsifier, catching up with it with each second. Soon the Vehemence was right on top of Wolsifier; a blast of fire meant for the Vehemence hitting Wolsifier here and there as the Vehemence continued its evasive action. The Vehemence had been faster than Wolsifier, but the neutronic warships had been faster than both had. Another direct hit and suddenly the shields around the Vehemence collapsed. Plasma fire guzzled from each neutronic warship, tearing through the Vehemence as raindrops would an ant pile. Smoke and fire billowed out from the Vehemence's groaning hull. The entire right wing on the Vehemence detached, blown off in a twisting mesh of metal that cried out in agony. The wing flipped forward like a boomerang, moving down slowly toward the Wolsifier.
Trystan with her virtual mask had seen this horror now flinging at them and was forced to make a hard turn to port but would be too late. As the Wolsifier made a downward turn, the dismembered wing from the Vehemence struck the Wolsifier's belly, narrowly missing hitting a main engine pylon in a tragedy that would surely have separated the entire engine from the ship. The blow had been so hard to Wolsifier's belly, slicing through the shields as though it were no more than air and ripping a gash through the ship. Power aboard fluctuated like mad. Trystan's virtual mask lost energy and went out, the others, not strapped to their seats, had been tossed about the bridge like tennis balls, the lights throughout the entire ship flickered a bit before finally giving out, and with the darkness came an agonizing slumber.