Beyond Acheron

Updated: Aug 8, 2021




All Our Times Have Come. Here But Now They're Gone. Seasons Don't Fear The Reaper. Nor Do The Wind, The Sun Or The Rain. We Can Be Like They Are. Come On Baby...Don't Fear The Reaper. Baby Take My Hand...Don't Fear The Reaper. We'll Be Able To Fly … Don’t Fear The Reaper. Baby, I’m Your Man.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

Captain’s Log, Stardate 50032.5. Eagle has been dispatched to Ajilon VI, an uninhabited planet near the Klingon border on which the Federation and Starfleet have been performing important geological field studies which scientists believe will lead to a revolutionary new way to terraform particularly hostile planets. The geologists and terrafromers on Ajilon VI claim to be very close to a significant breakthrough. Unfortunately the Klingon war has forced Starfleet to reprioritize. With Ajilon so close to the border and with intelligence information showing a steady build up of Klingon activity in the area, we have been ordered to secure the laboratories on the surface and evacuate all science teams.

In the meantime the settlers on Ajilon Prime have refused to leave their homes and decided to take their chances even while the Klingons have shown interest in this system in the past. I can only hope that they won’t be bold enough to directly assault a populated Federation colony. Eagle will not be able to remain behind to offer assistance as we have been instructed to leave the system as soon as the evacuation of Ajilon VI has been completed.


***

Life was great for Savannah LeBeau.

Everything had just come together perfectly. Her lifelong dream to become a Starfleet officer had come true just a few months earlier and not only that, she had been given the posting of her choice when she had been allocated to the USS Eagle. A ship she had chosen not just because it happened to be a Nebula-class explorer with seemingly unlimited scientific resources but also because it was where Tam Grax had been stationed after he had graduated a year before she did.

They had both been determined not to let their relationship fizzle out like so many others at the Academy. So they had stayed in constant contact with each other after Grax had shipped out and as soon as Savannah had gotten her ensign pip, she had requested the same ship.

And the deities had smiled down at young love and given their tacit approval.

It hadn’t stopped there.

Like Tam, Savannah had majored in exo-geology at the Academy with a strong focus on terraforming. Her thesis paper had been on Doctor Joachim Stuber’s work on Ajilon VI, the very same place Eagle had entered orbit around two days earlier.

Savannah and Tam had been at the top of science officer Xylion’s list to assist the researchers on the ground with their work and ultimately to pack up shop in order to get the entire project out of the way of what could potentially become a battlefield any day now.

The Klingons were the last thing on Savannah’s mind however as she studied the consoles in one of Ajilon’s science labs. She felt like a kid in a candy store, having unrestricted access to almost a decade’s worth of geological data.

“By Rixx, Annah, can you imagine how high we’d have scored on those exams if we’d had access to this place.”

The young, caramel-skinned girl couldn’t quite get that Cheshire cat grin off her face even while her eyes never once diverted from the screen. “Forget the exams, with this, I would have scored a perfect mark on my thesis.”

Tam, the only other person in the lab, turned to face her. “If I remember right you got ninety-five points on that.”

“Ninety-eight,” she said, her eyes still glued to that screen. Then her smile dropped off her face as if somebody had viciously backslapped her. “Oh my god.”

“What is it?” he asked with concern.

She had stopped scrolling through the text, now intently focused on a single paragraph. “ The Mohorovičić discontinuity on Ajilon VI lies at around ninety-five kilometers beneath the MSL and well within the asthenosphere and not within the lithosphere as I put in my paper,” she said and slapped her forehead. “There’s my perfect score. I’m so stupid.”

Tam laughed.

She shot him a withering glare.

“Did I ever tell you that you look cute when you think you are stupid?” he said and moved in closer to reach out for her waist.

“No,” she said sharply and tried to free herself from his grasp to focus on the console instead. “And stop acting so immature, we don’t have time for this.”

Tam didn’t let up. “Sure we do,” he said. “We’ll transfer all this stuff back to Eagle and you’ll have a whole week to look over all the mistakes you’ve made in your paper.”

That garnered him another glare. “Mistakes?”

He shrugged his shoulder innocently. “Sorry. Mistake. Singular.”

She nodded with apparent satisfaction but still fought his attempts to draw her closer. “Tam, this isn’t the place and we still have work to do.”

“I think we deserve a break. In fact as your superior officer I’m ordering you to relax.”

“Oh do you now? You have one year seniority over me, that hardly makes you my superior officer,” she said and pressed her hand against his chest. “Besides, I have other things on my mind right now.”

He cocked his head slightly. “No you don’t,” he said with a lopsided grin.

He was right of course. He always was. She frowned. “I hate when you do that.”

She gave up resisting him and he pulled her in until their lips were mere inches apart. He smirked. “No you don’t,” he said just before their lips met for a passionate kiss.

All thoughts about the inappropriateness of the venue had slipped her mind even when his hand reached for the zipper of her uniform jumpsuit and pulling it down slowly.

She heard the footsteps first.

Like a startle deer she jumped away from Tam only to see that somebody had stepped into the open door way. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, we’re so busted.

Just calm down, Annah But when Tam turned to see who had interrupted their impromptu display of passion he realized that she was absolutely right. We’re so busted.

It was none other than Lieutenant Nora Laas, chief of security USS Eagle. Former Bajoran independence fighter, former Marine and current all around hard-ass. The kind of woman who had perfected the art of killing subordinates with a single look. The very same look she was giving the two young ensigns now.

“Lieutenant, ma’am ... we were just finishing up with …”, Savannah stumbled over her own words and didn’t help the situation by frantically fumbling with the zipper of her halfway undone uniform.

“I can see what you were finishing up with in here.”

“Ma’am, if I could just –“

Nora shut up Tam without a single word. The Look and one raised finger did the job just fine.

Of course Tam Grax could read exactly what the Bajoran was thinking.

Not one more word. You can consider yourselves lucky you’re not my officers or you’d be running a hundred laps around the saucer section tonight.

“You have exactly five minutes to pack up everything you can and transfer back to the ship. We’re getting out now,” she said and began to turn away.

Savannah who had finally managed to get her uniform back in regulation style took a step forward. “But we won’t be able to get everything here ready in five minutes. There is just too much data and what about the experiments and lab samples and –“

Nora Laas turned back to look at the ensign with a slightly softer expression on her face. “Next time you might want to think about that before you decide to turn an away mission into a rendezvous. We’ve got reports of cloaked Klingon ships in the area so our orders are to pull out. You got five minutes. One second longer and you can find out how a Klingon will put up with your attitude,” she said and was gone.

Savannah took a deep breath. “She’s going to tell Xylion. That’s it, I’m dead.”

“Relax, you’re not dead.”

She glared at him. “This is all your fault. Now Xylion will find out and we’ll never go on an away mission ever again as long as we are on this ship. You know what that means? We might as well be back at the Academy.”

But he just shook his head. “She isn’t going to tell anyone.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because Lieutenant Nora might be a tough-as-nails warrior who’ll take on half a Cardassian army without thinking twice but she isn’t a tattletale. Trust me, it isn’t her style. Now come on, you’ve heard her. We’ve only got five minutes and I don’t know about you but I’d rather not find out about Klingon work etiquette.”

She went back to her computer console to begin transferring the most essential data. “Can’t be much worse than hers,” she mumbled. “You do realize that we’re both dead, right?” she added without interrupting her work.

“We will be if you don’t shut up and get this done.”

“And we just got them to sign off on us sharing quarters together,” she continued, clearly unable to stop thinking about the encounter. “You know that’s the first thing they’re going to take away. Oh great, I hate to think having to move back in with Velane. You haven’t heard snoring until you’ve heard the Tellarite version.”

“They do have the nose.”

Savannah stopped and turned to look at him.

“What?” he said with an innocent shrug. “It’s true.”

“That’s just –“

The force of the explosion threw them both to the ground even before the consoles all around them erupted with sparks and broken polymers. The lights went not a heartbeat later.

Annah!

Her training, not to mention her survival instinct had kicked in just in time. She had flattened herself to the ground and buried her head under her arms.

Tam Grex crawled over to her without delay, ignoring the dust and debris raining down on them from the dark ceiling. “Annah, are you alright?”

She looked up at his dirty face, her sparkling hazel eyes filled with shock. “What … what happened?”

“I don’t know,” he said, trying to look around the small lab. Without any major light sources in operation, he could hardly see further than a couple of meters. He focused back on her. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

She nodded slowly. “I’m fine.”

The red glow of the emergency lights kicked in, giving their surrounding an ominous crimson glow.

Grex stood and tapped his combadge but his only response was a discouraging beep as it was unable to open a comlink.

Savannah followed suit and tried her own with the same results.

“I’m going to find Lieutenant Nora. I want you to head to the transporter room and report back to the ship.”

She shook her head. “No way, we’re both getting out of here.”

“We don’t know what happened, Annah. I need to find out.”

“Have you lost your mind?” she shot back, barely able to keep her composure. “It’s obviously the Klingons. What do you think you can do? You aren’t even armed.”

He reached for a small pouch at his waist and pulled free a small matchbox-sized phaser. “I’ve got this.” “Where the did you get that from? They didn’t give me any weapons.”

“Well, you should’ve asked. Listen, now is not the time to argue. I need you to get back to the transporter room, that’s the only place on this Rixx forsaken planet where Eagle can get a clean lock on you. Go there and try to have them beam you out, let them know what happened,” he said and had already made his way to the doorway.

She took two steps after him. “Tam, please, don’t”

“Pull yourself together, Ensign,” he said sternly.

She shook her head. “Don’t do this.”

He gave her a small, reassuring smile. It’s going to be alright, Imzadi.

And then he was gone.

Savannah remained in the small lab, frozen in place for what seemed like an eternity but which in reality was no longer then ten seconds. She was angry at Tam for leaving her and she was frightened of what the Klingons would do to him, and her, if they found them. Mostly however she was annoyed by her own reactions to this unexpected event. At the Academy she had always prevailed in stress simulations, always made the right decision and never hesitated. But this was no simulation.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to force her mind to believe that it was.

When she opened them again she quickly made it to the open door and looked out into the corridor that connected the lab to the rest of the research facility which was home to over fifty scientists and technicians and another twenty-five crewmembers visiting from Eagle.

It was empty in both directions.

She had an easy decision to make. Turn left and do as Tam had said and make it back to the transporter room or turn right and follow him.

She didn’t hesitate again.

She turned right.

***

Savannah LeBeau had never been in a battle and as a member of the sciences division she had hoped she never would have to be.

She had passed all the basic courses at the Academy for armed and hand-to-hand combat. She had even had one hour’s worth of instructions on how to defend herself against a Klingon warrior.

What a monumental waste of time, she remembered thinking while her instructor had pointed out the best way to try and stop a blood thirsty Klingon swinging a bat’leth towards her head. The Klingons are our allies, when am I ever going to need this?

Now, as she made her way slowly down the dark corridor and towards the sounds of weapons fire and battle cries she wished for nothing more than having paid more attention in that one hour.

Tackle them low, her instructor had told her. Tackle them low and aim for their kneecaps. Or was it their groin? Damn it, she couldn’t remember.

The corridor opened up into the facilities main lobby, a large, cavernous room with high glass ceilings beyond which raged the perpetual storms of Ajilon VI.

There were no Klingons here. At least none that looked alive.

The battle had moved on, the sickening smell had remained.

The smell of death, of burned air and material and flesh.

There were bodies everywhere, mostly personnel of the research station, a few Starfleet officers and just three or four dead Klingons.

Savannah felt sick and fought against the urge to heave.

“Tam,” she said so quietly, her voice hardly even reached her own ears.

A loud chink from above made her shoot up. The transparent aluminum was peppered with some nasty looking cracks, some of which were growing under the immense pressure from the angry elements buffeting against the sheer surface.

She didn’t have much time.

She turned back towards the field of corpses and found only two bodies clad in blue-shouldered Starfleet sciences uniforms. One was female, dark-haired, like herself, her face turned away from her. The other one was male. He lay face-down also but his size and mass was just about right to be …

Please, no. Please, no.

She approached slowly, very slowly, desperately hoping she would notice some detail that would make sure it wasn’t him.

She never reached his body.

The growl coming from behind her made her swing around, her already pounding heart now ready to burst out of her chest.

The Klingon was easily seven feet tall and his face a grotesque mask of blood and feral pleasure. He had been injured, his right arm hung limply by his side. But his left arm was holding a short sword with a sharp glistering blade.

And he was coming right at her.

She stumbled backwards, slipped on the slick, blood-covered floor and then over a dead body to land awkwardly on her backside.

Remember your training, remember your training, remember your training.

But it didn’t matter how many times she repeated her mantra, it just wouldn’t come back to her. Her mind was entirely blank, unable to produce a single coherent action amidst the petrifying fear that had gripped it.

She stared at the warrior’s one good eye and saw nothing but bloodlust there.

He would kill her and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.

His sword–she couldn’t remember what it was called–was just inches from her chest when she heard the phaser beam.

The Klingon fell forward and right on top of her but the sword never made contact.

She screamed.

Imzadi.

She heard his voice projected in her mind.

But her vision had become a blurry mess. An immense pressure was pushing down on her chest and she couldn’t breathe anymore. She was fighting for air now but it didn’t seem like a battle she would be able to win.

Her eyes focused on those two bodies lying on the floor again and for the first time she realized that the woman wasn’t dead yet. She was stirring slightly.

The pressure eased off.

Strong hands grabbed her and pulled her onto her feet.

“Annah, are you alright?”

She looked at Tam’s reassuringly calm, dark eyes as they made contact with hers. His face was dirty and his uniform ripped and bloodied. He held a phaser in his hand, he had used it to cut down the Klingon.

“Tam … I thought you were …, I thought we were both –“

She looked back down to find those bodies. The young woman was still stirring. She tried to reach her but Tam held her back.

“No, we have to get out of here now, the ceiling is coming down and this whole place will be exposed to poisonous atmosphere, we’ll die in a matter of seconds.”

“But she’s still alive,” Savannah protested.

Imzadi, you have to let go.

In the end he was stronger than any resistance she could muster. He pulled her away and out of the foyer. After that everything was like a blur and she would remember only bits of pieces afterwards.

They met up with Nora and the rest of the survivors.

They reached the transporter room.

They beamed back onto the ship.

Ajilon VI became a grave for those who remained.

***

She didn’t want to be back there. Not ever again.

And yet she was.

Once again making her way through the crimson-tinged corridors and towards the main lobby of the research outpost just like before.

But this time she knew exactly what she would find there.

The repugnant odor grew more overwhelming with every step she took.

She wanted to turn around and run away but her feet would not obey her commands and if she wanted to or not, they were taking her back.

Just like before the room was littered with the dead and nearly dead, most of them still bleeding profusely from the violent slashing wounds they had received.

Savannah’s boots stuck to the ground as if she had stepped into something sticky. She lifted one of her feet and found that it was drying blood.

It was eerily quiet this time around, she couldn’t even hear the storm raging outside.

Her gaze fell upon the eyes of the young, female Starfleet officer. She was stirring, not quite dead yet.

She rushed over to her prone form, knelt next to her and lifted her head into her lap.

The woman’s hazel eyes found Savannah’s but their life was rapidly draining out of them. Her mouth was forming words but they never came over her lips.

A tear shot into Savannah’s eyes. As hard as she tried, she couldn’t remember her name but she was sure she had served on Eagle with her. Maybe they had even attended the Academy together. She looked that familiar.

But what is your name?

It bothered her to no end that it wouldn’t come to her. It wasn’t right to forget it now. It wasn’t fair.

The girl died in her arms.

***

“It’s driving me crazy that I can’t remember her name.”

But Tam Grax didn’t appear to be listening to her. They were sitting opposite each other in The Nest, Eagle’s single largest crew lounge, each of them with a barely touched beverage in front of them.

Savannah hadn’t stopped talking over the last hour and yet hadn’t noticed that the Betazoid across from her had barely said a single word.

Until now.

She looked straight at him even as his gaze seemed to be wandering. “Tam?”

He made eye contact. “Huh?”

“Jeez, I’ve been sitting here talking out my soul and you are off in your own little world. You’re a Betazoid, you’re supposed to be a good listener.”

He gave her a boyish grin. “I’m a geologist not a counselor.”

“Oh wow, thanks. And apparently not a boyfriend either, huh?”

That got to him and he looked genuinely embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Annah, I just been having a lot on my mind lately. You were talking about your dream.”

She took a sip of her grape juice and then nodded. “Dreams. I’ve had it every night since … you know. I keep going back to that place. It’s driving me insane.”

He moved his hand across the table to take hers.

She found his touch cold.

“It’s tough for all of us who came out of that alive. You remember what Nora said. If that hadn’t been just a scouting party none of us would have made it off Ajilon VI alive. Face it, it’s going to take some time to get over such a traumatic experience. But eventually you’ll just have to let go.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you didn’t stare down a Klingon who was ready to cut you in two.”

His dark eyes become more intense. It wasn’t your fault, Imzadi.

“Like hell, it wasn’t. I froze up like a first year cadet. I could’ve saved that girl … damn it, I could have saved her.”

He shook his head. “Believe me, you couldn’t have.”

The cool tone in her voice gave her pause for a moment. He sounded so confident.

“Oh my God, what time is it?” she said and jerked her head around to find the chronometer. She found it. Savannah jumped to her feet. “I’m going to be late for my shift on the bridge. Commander Xylion will go ballistic.”

Tam smirked at her. “He’s a Vulcan, he doesn’t go ballistic.”

He was right of course, he wouldn’t. What the chief science officer would do was much worse. He’d give her that look that let her know exactly how disappointed he was and how much more he had come to expect from her. In a way that was even worse than the most intimidating glare Nora Laas could produce.

“I’ll catch you later,” she called back while she was already rushing towards the doors.

***

She entered the bridge six minutes late.

She had been asked to assist Xyilon and Lieutenant DeMara Deen to sort through the data they had been able to recover from the research station on Ajilon VI. They were now both waiting for her at the science station at the back of the bridge.

“I’m so sorry I’m late, Commander.”

The tall Vulcan turned towards her and looked down at the much shorter officer.

Great, here it comes.

“Ensign, Lieutenant Deen has preliminarily prioritized all the data we have been able to recover. Please assist her with finalizing the archival process and determine how much data was lost or is unrecoverable.”

She nodded. And?

But there was nothing else. No scolding, no mention of her tardiness, not even a glimmer to show his displeasure. He simply turned toward the Mission Ops station and began to work.

Slightly irritated by the lack of being reprimanded, Savannah wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth and quickly joined Lieutenant Deen at Science I.

Savannah liked DeMara Deen. It was in fact pretty difficult to dislike the Tenarian lieutenant. She was just about her age, strikingly beautiful with her shimmering purple eyes and her flowing golden hair and quite possibly the kindest person she had ever met. But what Savannah appreciated the most about the youthful lieutenant was the fact that she treated everybody the same. Be it a crewman, an ensign or the captain, she extended everybody the same amount of respect and if she disagreed with you, she’d let you know straight. DeMara Deen wasn’t quite the typical Starfleet officer.

“Are you alright?”

Savannah took a seat next to Deen. “I’m fine, just a bit surprised, I guess.”

“Don’t worry about it, Annah.”

She looked at the beautiful woman next to her and then she thought she understood. They were giving her a break. Even Xylion. She wasn’t quite sure if she was supposed to be grateful or offended.

I’m not a fragile porcelain vase, you know?

But she decided to keep that to herself.

While Savannah began to work the panels, Deen kept her shimmering eyes on her. “I’m no counselor but I do get the feeling that something has been bothering you. Do you want to talk about it?”

Savannah stopped. For a moment she wished Tam had shown such interest in her earlier. “It’s nothing, it’s just that dream I’ve been having. Have you ever had a recurring nightmare?”

She thought for a moment. “I don’t think I have.”

Savannah nodded. “Tam seems to think it will go away after a while.”

Deen’s eyes widened. “I beg your pardon?”

Savannah didn’t quite understand why. “I’ve talked to him about it before I came up here. That’s why I was late. To be honest I don’t think he listened to a word I said,” she said with a little smile and then ran another search algorithm on her station. “I don’t think I’m the only one who’s been affected but what happened on the research station.”

“You talked to whom?”

Savannah looked back at the now clearly concerned expression on the lieutenant’s face. “Tam. Tam Grex. You know him. We work together in Geology. Dark hair, dark eyes, about half a head taller than you, kinda handsome –“

“Annah …”, but she stopped herself.

Savannah was quickly becoming very confused by her behavior. The look in Deen’s eyes had turned to one of pain and concern.

Even Commander Xylion, whose sharp Vulcan hearing had picked up on parts of their conversation, had interrupted his work to glance her way.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “Did something happen to Tam?”

She stood from her chair when she realized that everyone on the bridge was now looking her way. The half-Romulan tactical officer, the silver-haired helmsman, even Commander Edison and Captain Owens had risen from their chairs in the command area and now looked straight at her.

It was all a bit too much. “Please, tell me. What’s going on?”

DeMara Deen who had also stood, took a small step towards her and tried to reach out for the ensign but Savannah flinched away. “Dee? What is it?”

“Annah, Tam never came back from Ajilon VI.”

***

Savannah’s head was spinning.

After the scene on the bridge she had escaped into the turbolift. Deen had called after her but she hadn’t, couldn’t stop. The world around her had felt as if it was falling in on her and she had trouble breathing.

This can’t be happening. It isn’t happening. I’m dreaming. That’s right, I’m still in the dream.

She took a deep breath, determined to wake herself.

But how?

“Computer, please list all occupants of this turbolift.”

The computer beeped obediently and responded. “Ensign Savannah Marylyn LeBeau is the only occupant of this turbolift.”

She nodded to herself. “Right. Computer, what is the current stardate?”

Another beep. “The current stardate is 50034.3”

“That sounds about right. But let me ask you this, Computer. How do I know that this isn’t a nightmare and you’re just telling me what I want to hear?”

This time the computer needed a second longer to respond. “Unable to comply. Please restate your question.”

Dream or no, that response was hardly a surprise and Savannah didn’t waste another second thinking about it. Instead she stormed out of the lift as soon as it had deposited her on deck ten.

It didn’t feel like a dream.

The floor beneath her feet, the recycled air she was breathing, the stinging sensation in her lungs as she ran as fast as she could, it all felt perfectly real.

But it can’t be.

She didn’t stop until she had entered The Nest, nearly running right through two astonished crewmembers who avoided her just in the nick of time.

It looked exactly the way she had remembered it just a few minutes earlier.

“Tam, where are you?” she cried.

She caught the attention of almost everyone present but none of the faces that had turned in her direction belong to the person she was looking for.

The table at which she had sat was empty now.

She took another step into the room. “Tam?” she asked again but her voice was beginning to fail her.

“Annah.”

Her heart nearly stopped upon hearing the voice and she whirled around.

Only to come face-to-face with DeMara Deen. She had followed her from the bridge.

Savannah furiously shook her head. “It’s isn’t true, Dee. It just isn’t true. He was right here, I was talking to him.”

Deen stepped closer and Savannah could see the pity in her eyes. She knew what it meant.

“I’m not crazy, you have to believe me. We came back together. We both came back,” she said, her eyes becoming moister with each word. “You have to believe me.”

“I do,” she said softly and hugged Savannah. “I believe that you saw him.”

But something was wrong and she quickly freed herself from the embrace and took a step backwards. “No, you don’t. You think I made it all up. Or you think that I’m seeing things but you don’t really believe me.”

“Annah, listen to me. What happened on Ajilon was a very traumatic event and –“

“No, I’m not going to accept that,” she shot back. “I’m not being delusional. I can tell the difference between reality and dreams. And I didn’t dream Tam was here. He really was,” she said and didn’t care that she was causing another scene as everyone was no focusing solely on her. Even some of the patrons on the upper level had come up to the railing to look down and see what the commotion was all about.

Savannah didn’t care about any of them. Instead she caught a glimpse of a waiter who had stepped up the table she and Tam had been sitting at. He was in the process of removing a half-empty glass of grape juice.

But there were two glasses on that table.

“Wait,” she shouted and rushed over to the waiter.

He froze.

“Two glasses,” she said. “Two glasses,” she repeated and looked back at Deen who had followed her. “That grape juice was mine and the other one was Tam’s. Why would there be two glasses here if I was alone?”

Deen turned to the waiter.

He looked slightly embarrassed. “Well, you ordered both of them. It was a bit strange to tell you the truth. You put one in front of the empty chair and just sat there for nearly an hour by yourself.”

Savannah just shook her head. “No, no, he was right here. He was sitting in that chair.”

The waiter didn’t know what else to say.

And from the strange looks she was getting from the other patrons it was clear that none of them could corroborate her story. None of them had seen her sitting there with Tam Grex.

Savannah just stared at the now empty seat. “I don’t understand,” she said and then turned to Deen with pleading eyes. “What is happening here?”

***

DeMara Deen had taken Savannah back to her quarters.

“I think Xylion will understand if you don’t feel like finishing up the data analysis today.”

But the data analysis was the last thing on her mind as she stared out of the window and the stars racing past the ship. “I saw him, Dee. I remember talking to him, touching him,” she said and then turned to face her. “I remember coming back with him from Ajilon as clear as I remember my first day at the Academy.”

“The problem is nobody else on this ship does. Which means either there is something wrong with over eight-hundred people or …”

“Or there is something wrong with me,” Savannah finished. “But why? Why would I imagine all this?”

“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “But I’ve been told that the human brain is a very complex machine. Too complex for its own good and sometimes it has its own very genuine way to deal with a traumatic experience.”

The ensign let herself plop down on her bed. “So I’m imaging all this because I can’t handle the fact that Tam might have died on Ajilon?” she said, mumbling to herself.

The Tenarian took a step towards her. “You know, as your superior officer I probably need to order you to report to Trenira for a full psychological evaluation.”

Savannah quickly shook her head. “Please don’t. I know how these things go. I get something like this on my service jacket, it’ll stay with me forever.”

“Alright,” she said with a smile. “Tell you what. You take the rest of the day off and don’t worry, I’ll square it with Xylion. You get some rest and we’ll talk again tomorrow. Maybe things will right themselves. Or at least your memory will.”

“Thanks, Dee.”

“You just get some rest,” she said and turned towards the doors.

“Dee?”

She stopped short before reaching the exit and turned.

“What if there isn’t anything wrong with me? Isn’t that possible?”

Deen thought about that for a second. “Well, I suppose stranger things have happened. I’ll run some scans, check for temporal anomalies, chroniton particles, that kind of thing. I’ll also have a look to see if there is any precedent for what you’re experiencing in the database.”

Savannah nodded gratefully and Deen left.

***

She was back again in the one place she didn’t want to be.

Once again the smell was nauseating but once again it didn’t stop her from entering the lobby of the research center.

Once again she stepped into the sticky puddle of blood covering the slick floor.

Once again she found the two bodies.

But it wasn’t the young woman she may have been able to save she focused on this time.

It was the dark haired male ensign lying close to her. He had looked so familiar before, like she was supposed to have known him. But her mind had shielded her from the truth.

With shaking hands she slowly turned his body, for the first time beginning to comprehend who had died here.

Then she saw his face.

Imzadi

Her eyes sprang open.

“I swear Xylion must have been working on an Orion slave ship before he signed up for Starfleet the way he works us. Or maybe he just thinks that we’re all good little Vulcans who don’t mind working around the clock to please our master.”

Savannah jumped out of her bed as if it had caught fire and saw just a glimpse of somebody walking into the washroom.

“Tam?” she sounded almost hysterical.

“I’m sorry, Annah, I didn’t mean to wake you but …”

He had walked back into the bedroom, giving her a curious look.

“Are you alright? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost?”

She furiously shook her head as if it might help her to make sense of what she was seeing. “I’m still dreaming. Wake up, Savannah. Wake up!”

“Hey, what’s wrong?” he said and tried to shorten his distance to her.

But she slipped away. This isn’t real. You’re not real.

Imzadi, what are you saying? I’m right here.

She glared into his dark Betazoid eyes. “No, you’re not. At least … I don’t know anymore.”

He moved quickly, embracing her before she could shrink away again. “Doesn’t this feel real?” he said as he held her tightly.

And it did. It felt very real. She wanted to run away but she didn’t. She took in his familiar touch and fragrance and everything seemed to be just right, just the way it was supposed to be. She let herself relax in his strong arms.

I don’t know what is happening to me.

Everything is going to be alright, Imzadi. Everything is going to be fine. You just have to let go.

And then she felt that cold shiver up her spine again and she began to tremble slightly.

“Computer,” she said, never letting go of Tam but closing her eyes tightly.

A soft trill confirmed it was ready to receive her request.

“What is the location of Ensign Tam Grax.”

She held her breath.

“Ensign Tam Grax is not on Eagle.”

She quickly let go of him and stepped away.

“Imzadi,” he pleaded.

But she just shook her head. “You’re not real. You’re not here,” she said and ran out of the room and down the corridor.

“You have to let go, Imzadi,” he called after her.

***

The corridors were empty and seemed to go on forever.

She still heard his voice in her head, even as she tried to put as much distance between herself and her quarters as possible. She had no idea where she was going, she had no idea what she was doing.

What the hell is happening to me?

But an answer to that simple question was just not forthcoming.

Tam Grex was dead. She had seen his death certificate, she had seen pictures of his body taken after the Klingon attack had been repelled and she had even seen him in her dreams. Or were they memories? She couldn’t tell anymore.

The line between dreams and reality was becoming a blur.

Is this what it feels like to lose your mind?

When she finally stopped, her lungs burning and her legs tired, she found herself in front of sickbay. She hadn’t consciously tried to reach it but now that she was here she decided to enter.

It was empty.

There were over eight hundred souls on Eagle and she hadn’t encountered a single person–a person who was supposed to be alive–within the last ten minutes. A sudden feeling of panic and abandonment took hold of her. As if she was the only person left alive.

“Hello?”

There was no answer.

“Is anyone here?”

This isn’t right. Nothing here is right.

“Please, anyone?” she begged now.

“Ensign?”

She whirled around to find Eagle chief medical officer step into the room. The raven-haired doctor gave the young woman a curious look.

“Doctor, thank God,” she said, relaxing visibly. “I was beginning to think …”

“You were beginning to think what, Ensign?” asked Doctor Ashley Wenera when Savannah didn’t continue.

She looked right at her. “I was beginning to think I’m losing my mind.”

“Why don’t you take a seat,” Wenera said as she reached for a tricorder.

She did as instructed and plopped herself on one of the bio beds. “To tell you the truth, Doctor, I’ve been having the worst day.”

Wenera activated the tricorder and began to scan her. “I’ve heard about the incident in the Nest yesterday.”

She swallowed. She knew that if the chief medical officer knew about her mental breakdown, if that was indeed what it was, then she was in trouble. Of course the chances of sweeping the entire affair under the rug had been rather small considering the scene she had caused.

“How have you been sleeping?”

“Not … good.”

Wenera nodded sympathetically. “We lost twenty-two good people on Ajilon VI. Nobody is supposed to sleep good after that.”

Savannah averted her glance.

“I know that you and Ensign Grax were close. It is never easy to lose a fellow crewmember. It is so much more difficult to lose a close friend.”

“Doctor,” she said and looked straight at her. “I keep seeing him. I mean, really see him. Just like I see you now. How is that possible?”

She shook her head slightly. “I don’t know. But I’ll give you something to help you sleep for now,” she said and turned her back to her to load a hypo-spray with a mild sedative. “You will have to find a way to let go.”

When Wenera turned back to her patient, she found her staring back at her with wide-open eyes. “Something wrong?”

“You sounded just like … “

The doctor applied the hypo to her neck. “This will help you sleep. I suggest you attend the memorial service tomorrow. I think it should help you find some closure.”

She hadn’t even known that there was one. “I don’t know if I can do that, Doc. I don’t know if I’m ready.”

“Yes you are. I want you to go there. In fact, consider it an order. I may not be a counselor but I think, therapeutically speaking, it’s a step into the right direction for you.”

***

She hadn’t wanted to attend a memorial service for somebody she wasn’t even convinced yet was really dead.

But she didn’t have a choice. Savannah knew that if she didn’t attend, Doctor Wenera would most likely prescribe her a month worth of session with Counselor Trenira. Even though the way things were going, it looked as if a trip to a psychotherapist’s couch was becoming unavoidable.

She was running late.

Savannah had found that her rarely used dress uniform was practically falling off her slim frame. She had always been a slender person but apparently had lost a significant amount of weight over the last days. The truth was she couldn’t even remember the last proper meal she’d had.

She was forced to replicate a new uniform, two sizes smaller, and then rushed out of her quarters in hope that the delay would go unnoticed.

“Hold that door,” she shouted as she hurried down the corridor and towards the holodeck.

But the crewmember didn’t appear to have heard her and slipped inside without taking notice of the approaching ensign.

She managed to get to the doors just as they were about to close and she had to jump in order to avoid being hit by them as they squeezed shut.

Great, now even the doors treat me like air.

What she found inside was a beautiful yet somber setting.

The memorial service had been set up on a hill surrounded by fields of fresh smelling wheat which seemed to reach all the way to the horizon.

Bright rays of sunshine penetrated the cloudy skies, giving the entire scene a serene amber tinge.

There were easily over one hundred of Eagle’s crewmembers assembled here as well as all surviving personnel of the science outpost and yet it wasn’t crowded.

The captain had already moved behind a glass podium and as Savannah moved closer she noticed that he stood apart from the others, separated by a reflecting pool. She counted twenty-three sparkling lights under the surface, one for each person lost.

“We have come together today to remember and honor those who are no longer with us. But let us be determined not to focus on the pain that their loss has caused us but instead celebrate their accomplishments, their courage and their resolve …”

As Captain Owens spoke, Savannah found DeMara Deen and Ashley Wenera standing close to the pool, both of them, like herself, wearing blue, thigh-long dress uniforms.

She joined the two women.

“This is a beautiful program, Doctor, serene but inspiring. It is very appropriate,” said Deen.

Savannah nodded. “I agree, I think Tam would have liked it,” she said and tried hard to avoid becoming teary.

“Thank you,” said Wenera quietly. “But I didn’t do this on my own. Hopkins and Xylion helped with the programming.”

They kept their eyes trained forward to see holographic images pop up behind the captain, displaying the faces of those who had died.

“Trevor McGuiness,” the captain said as he began to go through the names one by one.

Savannah found her chest tightening again, her head was beginning to spin slightly and her knees felt weak.

Maybe I shouldn’t have come.

“Elizabeth Delhomme.”

She turned to see if anybody had taken notice. But the crowd was listening to the captain and watching the holographic images. No, not everybody.

One of the many faces was looking straight at her.

And differently to all the others, his one was smiling.

Imzadi

“Tam Grex.”

She closed her eyes. Get a grip, Annah. He’s not here. He can’t be here.

When she opened them again she found that he had refused to disappear. Instead he was making his way through the crowd. Coming right towards her!

Panicked she looked around. Somebody, please notice him.

It was a futile hope.

And he knew he wasn’t going to go away either.

She took a deep breath. I guess I just have to face it.

“Anderson Ling”

And then the world around her blinked out only to be replaced by a different yet very familiar place. No, not again, not now.

She knew immediately where she was but this was the first time her nightmare had crossed over into a waking state. It had now turned from a distressing dream to a much more disturbing hallucination.

She tried whatever she could to get herself out of this vision but instead her legs began to walk on their own accord, taking her back into the foyer of the science outpost, through the blood and the dead bodies and right towards Tam Grex.

It’s going to be alright, Imzadi. All you have to do, is let go.

She fell to her knees next to his body, his dark empty eyes looking right up at her.

She wanted to take his hand but found that he was holding on to another dead body instead. The body of the young woman she had been unable to save.

Savannah turned the girls body and looked at her face.

This time she recognized her immediately.

“Savannah LeBeau.”

She was looking at her own face.

No, no, this can’t be. This can’t be.

She was back on the holodeck and there was her face again, larger than life as a holographic projection and captured during a heartfelt laugh as if somebody had made a terrific joke. A joke to which she herself was the punch line.

“This is a mistake,” she shouted. “I’m right here. Captain, I’m right here.”

He didn’t take notice, nobody did.

Nobody but Tam Grex who put a hand softly on her shoulder, causing her to turn and face him.

“They made a mistake.”

But he shook his head.

“What’s going on here? I don’t understand,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“I think you do, Imzadi,” he said. “You came back for me but it was too late.”

She nodded as the memories were beginning to reassemble themselves bit by bit. She had found his dead body in the foyer and it had paralyzed her. A Klingon had come after her but Tam hadn’t been there to save her.

She swallowed as she began to understand for the first time. “What happens next?” she whispered, shaking slightly.

Tam took her into a tight embrace. “Let go.”

And she did. Of the holodeck, of the people assembled there, of Eagle, she let go of everything that was keeping her in this universe.

“I’m scared.”

“You don’t have to be,” he said and looked into her eyes. “It’s going to be alright.”

She believed it. Even when she felt everything around her beginning to dissolve. Everything and everyone but her and Tam Grax.

DeMara Deen shuddered as she felt a sudden cold shiver run right up her spine. She turned to look to her side but found nobody there.

“Did you feel that?” she asked the doctor.

Wenera shot her a quizzical glance. “Feel what?”

“I’m not sure. It felt like a chilling breeze.”

“I get those every time I attend one of these,” she said with a little smile. “I like to think that it means that they’ve moved on to a better place.”

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