The Centaur floated there in the emptiness of space, where the research station used to be before the Captain pulled the trigger to its destruction. The ship looked worse for wear, but aside from needing a new paint job and some more cosmetic work, the ship was buzzing with activity. The crew on board were working around the clock, repairing the remaining critical systems that were damaged in the battle with the IKS Shadriq, reconnecting major EPS power grids to restore power to other essential systems, as well as trying to get the regular interior lighting grid back online, while stuck with the backup lighting. It was dark inside, easy on the eyes maybe, but not when you’re trying to connect conduits and other electrical cords into the correct sockets, so everyone was working with palm lamps and other lighting equipment.
Outside the ship, were a few shuttles slowly scanning various sections of the saucer, triple checking for any exterior damage that the on board sensors and damage control systems didn’t report. One of the shuttles, had Captain Carter and Vakai on board as they had just finished inspecting the patch up job on the warp nacelle made by the Don S. Davis before they had left the system. The Don were taking the specialised teams they had on board to another system to deal with more occurrences of the Omega Molecules. The Centaur would go with them to assist with the scouting of the area, but for some reason, engineering has been unable to establish a stable warp field. So while main engineering went about checking and rechecking every component and system, the Captain and First Officer wanted to take a peek at the torpedo pod.
Vakai brought the shuttle close enough before enabling station keeping, so that the shuttle remained still while they stared out of the viewport, directly at the massive hole in the torpedo pod. “I don’t know what the Starfleet Engineers back in 2295 used to build this ship with, but if that hole was any bigger, we’d be missing some nacelle pylons, if not both of them.”
Carter sighed as he leaned back into his seat. “I haven’t seen the Centaur looking this bad in years. But you’re right. It could have been a lot worse.”
Vakai nodded, “It is too bad that the Don had to leave in a hurry after they fixed up our nacelle. But these…molecules?” Was really all Vakai knew, was that they were molecules, from what the Captain tried to explain to that race on that space station before blowing it up.
“They’re still appearing. And we still do not know why. At least…” Carter paused as he pulled out a padd from his side that he had stuffed there between him and the seat before they had left the shuttle bay to inspect. “Starfleet has not said much, but they sure like surprises.” He then handed the padd to Vakai.
Vakai frowned as he took the padd and began to skim over it before stopping and went back to the top to read it more slowly. “A battlefield promotion?”
Carter smiled, “I may be the Captain of the Centaur but ever since you came on board-”
“You left me in Command of the Centaur.” Vakai finished his sentence as he leaned back into his seat. “You did say you were mentoring me.”
Carter chuckled. “I did, didn’t I? I made sure Starfleet Command knew about it, as well as filed your reports and logs to them as well. So they knew you were in Command.”
“Until this…Omega Directive.” Vakai set the padd down on an empty space of the console controls before him.
Carter sighed and nodded his head. “Yeah. Until this started. But there is one other thing that Starfleet Command respects, and that’s you trusting in me and obeying my orders in this kind of situation.” Carter told him. “They know that this Directive is not easy for any crew, that you all have been taught in the Academy to not follow orders blindly, that if orders were to be unjust, you do what you feel is right.”
Vakai turned in his seat to look at Carter. “Except I wasn’t given the chance to do what was right when you fired on that station, Captain.”
Carter sighed again, turned in his seat to face Vakai and looked dead in the eyes. “I was not going to give the order to Gomo or to anyone else left on the Bridge, Commander. Like I told you. Once you make Captain, you will understand that what I did, had to be done and that is why I chose to fire the torpedoes, not order someone else to do it. Only I should have the death of those researchers on my conscience, not you or anyone else.”
Vakai sighed, “But as your First Officer, you shouldn’t have to bear with those lives on your conscience all by yourself.”
Carter smiled, “I do appreciate that, Number One.” He smirked, “But what is done is done. Now there is something else we need to discuss.”
Vakai raised a brow. “About?”
“What’s going on with you and Sivol?” Carter’s smile turned into a grin.
Vakai rolled his eyes as turned to face the controls. “We have not yet decided.”
“The hell is that supposed to mean?! You tell me that you two had some…romantic relationship in that…what did you call it?”
“It was like a virtual reality, to me anyways. But it was also as if we were living the lives of completely different people on a completely different planet with incredible unique abilities. And yes, we did.” Vakai explained as he started to bring the shuttle about and slow their way across the ventral side of the saucer.
“Then why are you two even discussing it?” Carter asked.
“Because it…” Vakai paused, wanting to make sure he chose his words carefully before sighing again. “It was incredibly real. Living, eating, breathing, pain, touch, feeling and…”
Vakai hit the station keeping button again, bringing the shuttle to a sudden halt right in front of the Centaur’s saucer section when he had been working on getting the shuttle to the shuttle bay. He turned his seat a full one eighty and got up. “We haven’t told anyone about this. Aside from me and Sivol, Ryker and Gomez are the only ones.”
Carter turned in his seat. “I kind of figured that out.”
Vakai stood there with his back facing Carter as he started to rub the bridge of his nose. “We had children. Me and Sivol did. Even Ryker and Gomez had children.”
Carter’s eyes grew and he leaned further back into his seat, as much as he could already anyways. “Wow. Thirty sum years in fifteen seconds, and you guys had children.”
Vakai lowered his hand from his face down to his side and looked up at the ceiling. “Kendra. Makail. Trexi. And Lexa.”
“Sounds like beautiful children to me.”
Vakai chuckled, “They were. I had never been so happy in my life until I saw the face of my first newborn. And her eyes…the way she looked up at me…” Vakai lowered his head and looked down at the open palm of his left hand, imagining Kendra’s newborn face as if he were still holding her little head in his hand. “Then every year, we had another and another and every single one was beautiful in their own way. I never felt so happy to be a father.”
“Then what is keeping you two from getting together?” Carter asked.
Vakai wiped his cheeks before turning around to face Carter. “Remember when I said that the being told us the world we experienced, the one that we had been…playing different lives in? That the being said, that world was a fantasy of Ryker’s?”
Carter slowly nodded his head. “Right. Something about Ryker having been so intrigued about the past history of humankind on Earth, that there used to be these…what were they?”
“Video games. Humans used to play a lot of video games, it was like a plague but it was one of the best forms of entertainment, something that the humans back then enjoyed whenever they came home from a long day at work or whatever it was they called it.” Vakai sighed, “The one that the being was referencing to, was what Ryker told us at the very beginning of when we started to play these new lives. Something called Final Fantasy. He said he made the world much like what Ryker had been thinking of, and so we all believed that the world we lived in for over thirty years…was nothing but Ryker’s fantasy.”
Carter got the look on his face that he was beginning to understand. “So…you and Sivol think that, if you two were to get together…that those children you two had together…wouldn’t be the same, is that it?”
Vakai walked over back to the pilot seat and sat back down. “We were both made to look human. We didn’t have our racial features, our pointy ears. Hell, Sivol was able to experience full control of her emotions for the first time in her life and she was able to do it for over thirty years and now that she has had that kind of experience…she has been diving into her emotions more and more than she’s ever had as a Vulcan. The children we had, they all appeared human. But now…we’re back to who we are, to what we are. I know that Vulcans and Romulans are nearly identical with obvious differences, aside from our facial features. But we know for a fact, that if we had children, they will never be the same from the ones we had in that…fantasy.”
Carter nodded his head slowly. “And you two miss them…don’t you?”
Vakai groaned as he leaned back into his seat. “I miss them every single day, every single minute…every single second of my life, I miss them. Even if it was a fantasy, it was so god damn real.”
Carter raised his brows. “Haven’t heard you use the lords name in vain before.”
Vakai rolled his eyes.
Carter leaned forward and patted Vakai’s knee. “I get it, son. I do. I mean…well I’m not a father myself, but I do hope to be some day, whenever me and the Doc decide to retire and settle down.”
Vakai sat up in his seat and looked at Carter with wide eyes. “You and Doctor Pearce?”
Carter chuckled heavily as he leaned back into his seat with a nod of his head. “Yup. Me and the Doc got a thing.”
Vakai’s eyes went back and forth, trying to think of moments of them being together, to see if there was any sort of hint. “I had no idea.”
Carter laughed, “It’s not like we broadcast it all over the ship, you know. But yes, me and Doctor Summer Pearce had been on board the Centaur since we were young Ensigns. When she became the Chief Medical Officer, I became the First Officer. Now I Command, and she still gives me orders.” He chuckled then sighed in content. “But me and her have had such long…great great years together. I don’t know how much longer I plan on staying in Command, Vakai. I’ll probably still be, even when you make it to Captain and take command of your very own starship. But mentoring another? After you, I am not sure if I will have it in me anymore.” He turned in his seat and looked at the Centaur. “And she’s an old girl too. I know it in my bones, that when they retire her, me and Summer will retire together. Because I do not want to Command any other vessel after the Centaur.”
Vakai sat back in his seat and stared at the ship as well. “They say at the Academy, a ship is just a ship. Attachments are pointless.”
Carter laughed, “Who the hell said that?”
“Some professor. I already forgot their name.” Vakai smirked.
Carter shook his head with more chuckles, “Good. If ya had told me their name, I’d take this girl straight back to Earth and give them a thing or two about it. The Centaur is not just a ship! She’s history! She has been around for little over a hundred years. She is the prime example of Starfleet Engineering, that we can build something to last. Of course, she has new bells and whistles to keep her up with the times, but that’s besides the point. She has seen so many things, been in so many battles, been in a war or two.” Carter then remembered and sat forward in his seat, turning it to look at Vakai. “There is a section on board the Centaur, a wall panel that rarely ever gets removed because there is hardly anything important back there aside from it being some very old storage space for useless items. The first and original crew of the Centaur, began to use the inside of the wall panel, as a way to remind the next crew that they were there and that they had done their very best to keep the Centaur in tip top shape. She’s not like most vessels, a lot of her equipment poking out of her hull. Having to run diagnostics manually. Kind of like the old days where Starfleet had those five year missions. And every crew that had served on board this ship, had scribbled their names into the inside of that panel.” Carter then sat back into his seat and looked back towards the Centaur. “Even my first Captain did.”
Vakai stared at him when he explained it all, before looking back at the ship as he thought it over. “Then I guess we better make sure that no one finds that panel, even when they put her in a museum.”
Carter chuckled, “Hell. I wouldn’t care if they did. It will just prove that professor of yours that they are dead wrong. She isn’t just a ship. She’s our home. She has kept herself going, out of sheer luck or just being a damn miracle. She has kept her crew alive more times than I could count when we should have been dead. Starfleet Engineers rate ships to only be able to handle so much, and yet these ships…somehow prove to them that they can handle much more than that.” Carter shook his head. “It’s like my first Captain told me. You treat her right, and she will treat you the very same.”
Vakai chuckled. “Should we get back in there and see what is taking them so long to get a stable warp field?”
Carter smiled and nodded his head. “Oh I suppose. The Chief will probably give us some engineering babble that we would barely even understand and I’ll just have to say ‘yes’ to, only to find out that he’s about to blow us half across space just to get something working.”
Vakai chuckled again and shook his head, taking one look at the torpedo pod from their angel now. “I just hope we don’t get pulled into another combat situation. Even if we can get one tube to work, we would still be severely outmatched and outgunned.”
Carter started knocking on the side of the console. “Knocking on wood, Commander.”
Vakai laughed only to be interrupted when the comm display started notifying them that a transmission was incoming. Vakai raised a brow when he saw it was coming from the Centaur itself. “Captain Carter and Commander Vakai here.”
“Captain. Commander. We just received a transmission from the Don. They said that, before they left the sector, their sensors detected an unknown installation in orbit of one of the planets in the Oros System. The very last system in this sector that we had yet to investigate. They got unusual readings from their sensors, and wished to pass it along to you, Captain.”
Carter frowned a bit before looking at Vakai. “We will be right there to review the data, Lieutenant. Any word from the Chief on the warp drive?”
“He says he needs another hour to figure out what is going on. But he believes that it might have something to do with one of the plasma injectors, that he may have to replace one of them, if not all of them. But he also thinks that the repairs on the warp nacelle and the warp coil had messed up some sort of balance and he thinks he may need to completely shut down the warp engines, get inside and figure out what is wrong with the coil.”
Carter sighed heavily. “The Don was being rushed, all they could do was fix the damage to the coil and nacelle before high tailing it out of here. That’s why we got stuck with repairing the rest of the ship, and a fat hole in the torpedo pod. Looks like we will be stuck here for a while longer.” Carter told Vakai, knowing full well they were still on comms with the ship. “We’re heading back in now, Lieutenant. Have the senior staff report to the Bridge for a briefing. Carter out.”
Vakai pressed the button to terminate the link before activating the thrusters and navigating the shuttle into the shuttle bay. “An unknown installation, huh?”
Carter nodded his head. “Not sure what it is but since we’re out here and it could be hours before we can go to warp and assist…well…anyone for that matter…in regards to the Omega Directive, might as well get some idea on what the installation is.” Carter paused for a second then looked at Vakai. “You might as well start picking out your team, Commander. If the sensor data is intriguing enough, I’m going to send you and your away team in our only runabout. Should get you there in no time.”
Vakai nodded his head, “Understood, sir.”
Carter then remembered something. “What about Gomez and Ryker?”
Vakai raised a brow as he landed the shuttle. “Sir?”
“You and Sivol are undecided about continuing your relationship. What about them?”
Vakai sighed heavily, shaking his head. “I don’t know. I believe that when Gomez heard from the being that it was Ryker’s ‘fantasy’, she…” Vakai shook his head some more. “As far as I know, they haven’t been talking.”
Carter took in a deep breath and exhaled heavily before standing up and heading for the rear hatch. “If it starts to affect their duties, Commander, you’re going to have to make them talk it out.”
Vakai got up and followed behind him. “So far it hasn’t been, sir. They just refuse to talk to each other, at least…outside of work.”
“Well, just be prepared in case it does start affecting their jobs.” Carter warned him.
Vakai nodded his head. “I will, sir.”
“And Commander. Just call me John, okay? I thought by now we’d be pals.” Carter grinned.
Vakai smirked, “Aye, si-…John.”
Carter chuckled. “All right. Let’s get to the Bridge and see what the Don found.”
Both Carter and Vakai stepped out of the turbolift to find the senior staff, and Vakai’s own team that he had been planning. All of them for that matter. Sivol, Ryker, Gomo, Gomez, Maya and Koyda.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. I have an announcement to make.” Carter raised his voice as he stepped towards the center of the Bridge. “Our First Officer here, has received a Battlefield Promotion to a full Commander. I like to think that he is well on his way to becoming a Captain in his future.” With that, there was a round of applause on the Bridge before Carter raised his hands to silence them. “I will be reviewing the rest of the crew for possible promotions later. Right now, we got a gift from the Don before they left the sector.” Carter turned to Sivol and nodded his head, gesturing to her to put the data on the main viewer.
Everyone looked at it, the data consisting of some unusual readings, some of them being energy readings that looked rather odd. And the alloy of the installation was made out of unusual materials. Furthermore, there was data about the species living on the planet in which the installation orbited.
“Well, that is certainly interesting.” Carter said out loud.
Gomez took a step forward. “What is its power source?”
Sivol shook her head, “Unclear. Don wasn’t able to get a great detail of scans on it, since they were in a hurry to leave.”
Ryker folded his arms over his chest as he sat there at the helm station, looking up at the viewer. “It looks like it’s bigger than the old International Space Station that Earth used to have. What does that make it…size of an outpost? Like the Regula stations?”
Gomo shook his head. “A little bigger than that. I can’t even tell if it has weapons or shields. Sensors either don’t say much or the alloy wouldn’t let the sensors detect any sort of defenses.”
Carter began to stroke his beard as he stared at him. Something familiar about it but he couldn’t put his finger on it. “The design…I can’t figure it out but it is like I have seen it somewhere before in some archaeological research.”
“What do you think it is, Captain?” Vakai asked.
Carter turned to Vakai and was about to lecture him about calling him John but then realized they were in the presence of the Senior Staff and Vakai was just being formal and professional. Carter shrugged at the thought before looking back at the view screen. “It’s probably nothing, really. But since we can’t go to warp right now,” Carter looked to his Chief Engineer who looked away, acting as if he didn’t see the Captain giving him a look. Carter looked back at the viewer, “We have time to investigate the installation. What about the planet? How much did Don’s sensors get details about it?”
Sivol went over the data real quick before giving Carter her answer. “Enough. There are several hundred thousand lifeforms on the planet. They seem to be in the steam age. Whether they know about the orbiting station or not, is unclear.”
Ryker turned in his seat. “They would have primitive telescopes back in the steam age, maybe. So they probably do know about the station. But they wouldn’t even know what to do about it since they wouldn’t have the technology to go into orbit to check it out.”
“Sir, would we not be in violation of the Prime Directive if we went to investigate this station, when there is a risk that the civilization down on the planet may see us?” Asked Koyda, who had not been on the Bridge during the time Carter fired on a primitive research station.
Carter looked towards Koyda. “Not sure how much you’ve heard, son. But the Omega Directive supersedes the Prime Directive. It’s not a coincidence that this installation happens to be here, orbiting a planet of primitive people with no technology of going into space, when this sector alone had a cluster or two that we had to destroy. That station belongs to someone, someone who used to have a claim here, for some reason no longer exists. Or they had abandoned the station for some reason.” Carter threw up his hands. “I don’t know. None of us do. That’s the mystery of it all. We need to know whom the station belonged to, and if it is a primitive station or perhaps an ancient station with technology that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
“So how will we get there?” Maya asked.
Vakai took the lead on this one, “My team and I will take the runabout from the shuttlebay. It is getting prepped right now as we speak, EV suits are being loaded in as well. Ryker. Sivol. Gomez. Gomo. Maya. And Koyda. You are all with me.”
Gomez frowned, “I would rather stay here, on the Centaur, and get the warp field stabilized.”
The Chief shook his head. “It wouldn’t matter, lass. Whether it is the injectors or the coil itself, one less hand won’t make much a difference. Your First Officer gave you your orders. Go.”
Gomez sighed, “Fine. I suppose it won’t be such a bad thing anyways. I’ll get to look at the engineering of it before the Chief here gets his grubby hands on it.”
The Chief smirked, “Hey now!”
Everyone chuckled, though Gomez gave Ryker a dirty look before looking away, one that Vakai noticed. Maybe Carter was right, maybe he needs to get those two to sit down and talk it out. But now wasn’t the time. “All right. Those who have been called. Go get your gear and report to the shuttlebay.” His team acknowledged and left the Bridge together. Vakai looked at Carter. “I’m hoping the Centaur won’t be long.”
Carter shrugged one of his shoulders. “You’ll have to talk to the Chief on that one.”
The Chief raised his hand. “Ey! I’m doing the best that I can, all right? I got my team working around the clock to get this old girl back on her feet. Just give me a few. I can’t pull some miracle out of my arse every bloody time it’s asked for, ya know.”
Carter and Vakai laughed before they both turned to look at the main viewer, at the blurred image of the installation. “What do you think it is, Captain?”
Carter shook his head. “I don’t know. And I don’t want to make assumptions either. Just be careful. We have no idea how old that station is, and whether it is stable or not. Or why it was abandoned. Could be some voles or mutant creatures on board with…dozens of tentacles.”
Vakai looked at Carter and raised a brow. “I’m sorry. Tentacles?”
Carter looked at Vakai. “Son, every mysterious abandoned ship, station, colony…you name it…has bloody tentacles written all over it.”
Vakai sighed and shivered a bit. “I’ll keep that in mind…”
Carter smiled, “Good luck out there, Commander.”
Vakai nodded his head and looked at the view screen again. “Yeah, we’ll need it.” And with that, Vakai left the Bridge.