It doesn’t feel the way I thought it would.
For that matter it doesn’t look the way I’d imagined it either. It’s very tranquil and peaceful. As the stars streak by me I can see nebulae and pulsars and colorful celestial phenomena all around me. There is a slight pull dragging me through space. No, dragging is the wrong word. I feel the desire to move forward, I can’t even begin to explain it. I don’t know what my destination is yet but I know that I want to get there more than anything else I’ve ever wanted.
Before I go on however I feel a need to tell my story. I don’t know if there is anybody out there who will listen but it seems to matter little now.
My name is Nathan Bartley, I was born in the small town of Western Falls in Montana on March 9, 2349 – that’s stardate 26185.2. I decided to join Starfleet when I turned eighteen but I couldn’t see myself spending four years at the Academy. So I just did the basic training and then packed my bags to go out and travel the stars. I considered myself real lucky to be assigned to Eagle. A deep space explorer under Captain Michael Owens.
Six months have I been on Eagle and six months have I now been hopelessly and utterly in love.
“For the sake of everything that’s sacred, will you stop staring at her?” That was Samuel Tenosa. My best friend on the ship. We had gone through basics together back on Earth.
It was one of our typical get-togethers after a long duty shift. The usual bunch: Sammy, the lovely Akira Wannabe and the always pestering Jack Portobello. We were all sitting at our spot on the upper level of The Nest, Eagle’s main lounge.
“Forget about it,” threw in Jack and had another sip of his Saurian brandy. “He’s daydreaming again.”
The gruff Italian was right of course. I was daydreaming. As for a few tables away sat the object of all my dreams and longings. She was my goddess and she had been since the first day I had laid eyes upon her.
DeMara Deen. Lieutenant.
Just the sound of her name made my heart beat faster.
She was so gorgeous, so exquisite and desirable and yet so untouchable. She was perfect in every sense of the word. That flawless body, golden locks, copper skin that looked softer than Andorian silk and a smile … a smile that could have tamed an entire Klingon army.
She sat just a few tables away but it could as well have been galaxies. She was laughing and casually conversing with the captain, of all people. No way could I ever hope of being that close to her. No way. But I could dream.
“It’s pathetic how much you drool over her,” continued Jack. “Don’t get me wrong she’s quite something.”
Oh yes, she was and that was my problem really. She was not just physically attractive, she had an almost mysterious aura to her that made her irresistible to most who as much as caught a glimpse of her. It wasn’t purely sensual like it was with Deltans, no it went far beyond that.
“I can’t help it,” I finally managed to sigh. “I’m so in love with her.”
“You and everybody else on the ship,” Sammy said and laughed.
“You know she’s only about twenty years old,” Akira chipped in. “Tenarians are a fascinating race. Too bad there aren’t more of them in Starfleet.”
“Yes, I’m sure you would just love to meet some male Tenarians, wouldn’t you?” replied Jack.
“I need to find me some man who has what it takes to treat a woman right,” she shot back.
I could never quite tell what it was between the two of them. They loved to fight and it seemed obvious to everyone but to them that they were made for each other.
Jack just scowled at her and then turned back to me. “Nat, the sooner you stop thinking about her the better. Trust me, she’s so far out of your league it isn’t even the same sport anymore. Besides, she’s an officer and there are certain boundaries when it comes –“
“Boundaries?” asked Akira.
“Yes,” said Jack, annoyed by the interruption. “Officers and enlisted men don’t mix.”
“That’s dumb,” was all that the young Japanese woman could think of to say.
Jack nodded. “Dumb it may be but it is true.”
“I don’t know I think I’m with Aki on this one,” Sammy said. “Speaking about officers.” He gently nodded his head towards the other side of the room and we all turned to look.
Another lieutenant was headed towards our table. She had shoulder long, sandy blonde hair and dark blue eyes. She didn’t look it but the petite young woman was a technical genius and Eagle’s chief engineer. She was coming straight towards the table where we sat.
We all quickly began to stand but she shook her head. “Please, you’re off duty.”
So we stayed in our seats.
“What can we do for you, ma’am?” Akira asked.
Lieutenant Louise Hopkins looked slightly uncomfortable. In fact she always looked uncomfortable in a crowd. “I was just wondering if perhaps you could help me work on the recalibration of the injectors we discussed yesterday.”
“I’d love to,” Akira said and stood up.
“No, no,” Hopkins replied quickly. “Not right now. Later.”
Akira nodded and sat back into her chair.
“About an hour?” Hopkins asked.
“I’ll be there, Lieutenant.”
“Thank you,” she said, gave us a curt nod and then quickly headed for the exit.
“See, Aki gets along fine with officers,” Sammy pointed out.
But the Italian wasn’t buying it. “That’s a woman thing.”
Akira shot Jack a long stare. “You don’t even know what you’re talking about, do you?”
I wasn’t paying anymore attention to their conversation. The captain had just left moments earlier and DeMara Deen sat all alone now. It might have been my imagination but she seemed to long for some company. And then, all of a sudden, she looked straight at me. There was no mistake about it, her radiant purple eyes locked with mine. It lasted less than a heartbeat as that was just as long as I could dare to look back at her. I quickly diverted my glance. Unfortunately my friends had noticed.
“You should really go over there and talk to her,” Sammy said. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”
“Are you kidding me?” I shot back a little too loudly. There was no way I could do that. I was ashamed of it but it was the truth.
Jack just shook his head. “Pathetic.”
I was on my way back to the quarters I shared with Sammy on deck eighteen. After the embarrassing incident in the Nest I was not much in the mood to be sociable anymore. It was then that I got the call from Lieutenant Jose Carlos–deputy chief of security–to report immediately to the situation room for a mission briefing.
When I arrived at the security offices on deck fifteen I found that nearly the entire department had already assembled in the large briefing room. I quickly found Sammy and Jack and joined them.
“Do you know what’s going on?”
Sam just shook his head. “We just got the call to come here. I think it’s serious.”
“It’s never serious,” said Jack. “They probably just found an unidentifiable object on whatever rock we’re hovering over.”
None of us knew much about Eagle’s current mission. The senior officers never let us in on the details and most of the time we had to rely on the rumor mill if we wanted to know specifics. The problem with that of course was that it was a completely unreliable source of information. Everybody had a different story to tell. What I knew for sure was that Eaglewas currently in a sector of space which had not been properly explored by Starfleet and according to the rumors we had recently made contact with a mysterious alien race. I had long stopped paying much attention to rumors.
The briefing started a few minutes later when Lieutenant Nora Laas entered the room. Nora was Bajoran. An ex-Marine and a former resistance fighter she was the toughest person I’d ever met. Not that I talked much to her. In fact most of the department was intimidated by the chief of security. But everybody secretly wished that they could be a little bit more like her. Me included. I sure was glad that she was on our side.
I must admit I didn’t pay too much attention to the briefing. It involved some personnel protection assignment, fairly routine stuff. We did this all the time and hardly ever did anything happen. An away mission would have sparked my interest. Those were exciting and sometimes quite dangerous. But from what I picked up we weren’t to leave the ship.
After the meeting we all proceeded very orderly to the main armory in an adjacent room. One by one we were given our equipment. I was quite surprised to find what the armory officer handed to me.
“You still don’t think this is serious?” asked Sammy as he checked his type-III phaser rifle.
Jack was too busy admiring his weapon to reply. He had a thing for guns which I didn’t quite understand. But this was indeed an occasion. We usually never got to use the rifles, the most powerful firearm we carried.
“Its times like these I wish we had some Marines on board,” said Sammy as he finished securing his own weapon.
Jack shook his head. “Marines? They only come aboard if there is a full out war on. Besides we can easily handle whatever it is they throw at us.” Almost as if to emphasize his words he began to pet his rifle as if it was an intimate lover.
I rolled my eyes. I shared Sammy’s sentiment. True, I worked in security but I hadn’t joined up to fight wars. I did however suddenly wish that I had paid more attention to the briefing.
After having received our weapons, Lieutenant Nora divided us into groups and I was glad that Sammy, Jack and I stayed together. We and a few others headed for cargo bay two on deck twenty-eight. There were nine of us, led by Lieutenant Carlos who was an imposing, muscular man of Latin American ancestry.
For a while we just stood around the bay, near the cargo transporter. I became increasingly anxious, looking left and right, halfway expecting something to creep up on us from behind the many crates.
Carlos noticed. “Relax crewman, this should be a walk in the park,” he said and gave me a reassuring smile. It didn’t feel honest but it helped putting my mind at ease somewhat.
Then the cargo transporter came to life and something or somebody was beaming on board. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the pillar of blue light transformed into the delicate form of Lieutenant DeMara Deen.
Sammy gave me a nudge with his elbow as he noticed the Tenarian operations officer.
I ignored him and simply stared at her, she didn’t seem to notice me. She held a silver case not much bigger than something to hold a computer padd. She stepped from the transporter–my eyes followed her all the way–and approached Carlos. They spoke for a few minutes. To my displeasure I noticed that most men in the room were looking her way. I found that very rude of them.
Then, without warning the red alert klaxons began to echo throughout the cargo bay and the lights turned to a deep crimson. All of us snapped to attention. Something was happening.
“Intruder alert, security proceed to deck fourteen, section eight.” It was Commander Edison’s voice that blasted over the speakers. Eagle’s first officer.
Carlos turned to us. “You,” he said and pointed at me and my group of three others. “Stay here, the rest with me,” he didn’t waste any more time and rushed out of the cargo bay with the remaining guards.
I turned to Sammy. “What’s going on here?” I whispered.
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Jack, come with me to secure the door. You two stay close to the Lieutenant,” said Citek, the fourth member of my group. He was a Bolian, blue-skinned and all. He was also a Petty Officer and therefore our immediate superior. I liked Citek. He had a seemingly never-ending supply of jokes. The fact that none of them were any funny didn’t bother him in the least. We just figured that Bolian humor didn’t translate well.
He was all business now however. He took Jack Portobello with him to guard the main entrance to the cargo bay.
That left us alone with Lieutenant Deen. Sammy discreetly gestured towards her. He wanted me to talk to her. I resolutely shook my head.
He gave me an annoyed look. Then he pretended to spot something behind a crate nearby. “I’ll better make sure the room is secure,” he said to me and gave me another insisting glance. I couldn’t believe he was putting me into this situation but there was no point to object. He had already walked off, leaving me all alone with the woman of my dreams. My goddess.
I took a careful step towards her. My heart was suddenly racing at near light-speed and I felt something stuck in the back of my throat.
“Your name is Nathan, am I right?”
She knows my name? I couldn’t believe she knew my name. I couldn’t speak, I just nodded slowly.
“I’ve seen you around,” she said and smiled at me. That smile. The smile I could die for.
“So, uhm, Lieutenant, do you know …”
I don’t understand why I couldn’t manage a simple sentence. The purple eyes were bright as diamonds now and they were cutting right through mine.
“Call me Dee,” she said with that smile. “I don’t care much for titles.”
I nodded again. I felt like a complete fool. A nodding fool. I forced the next words out of my mouth and they sounded painful to my ears. “I’ve always meant to ask you if … uhm … if you like … Chinese?”
This wasn’t going well at all. What was I doing asking her that anyway? For all I knew she was the captain’s girlfriend. The captain! And here was silly me, nothing more than a crewman, asking the most desirable woman on the ship if she liked Chinese. I had lost my damn mind.
She just looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face.
I immediately began to stammer. “I mean … I mean, the food. Chinese food.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever tried it,” she replied. Her smile was back.
Maybe I was not completely lost, perhaps this could go somewhere. Why not, why shouldn’t I catch a break for once? I know it was wishful thinking but –
“We’ve got an intruder!”
Deen’s smile dropped off her face.
The voice belonged to Citek and I heard footsteps running towards me. I turned around, bringing up my rifle. After that everything went so quickly I still have trouble understanding what exactly happened.
Jack and Citek were coming our way fast. A weapon’s blast shot through the cargo bay and hit Jack square in the chest. I watched in shock as the beam burned its way through his uniform and his flesh. He immediately dropped to the floor.
I whipped around to find the attacker. The shot had come from where Sammy had gone. And he was the only person I could find. I watched with utter disbelief as he fired again. This time connecting with Citek. No, that couldn’t be. Could I be imagining this?
I brought my own weapon to bear and before I could even think about it I fired. I watched quietly as the force of the impact pushed him backwards and over a low crate. As I glanced down at my weapon I realized that it was not set to stun anymore. When had that happened?
I turned towards Deen. I saw something in her eyes I had never thought I would see. Utter fear. And it was because of me. She was afraid of me. She stepped backwards but I was faster. With the butt of my rifle I connected with her head which sent her spinning to the floor. I was on top of her instantly. I had turned my weapon around again and pushed the muzzle into her chest.
She was still clenching the small case that she had brought aboard. I had no idea what it contained that could be so important. All I knew was that she had to die for it.
She looked up at me, her eyes wide. “Nathan, don’t do this,” her voice was surprisingly firm. She did not beg.
It didn’t matter of course. I had to kill her and that was all there was to it. I pushed the rifle harder.
Kill her. Don’t think about it, just do it. You know you must.
But those thoughts were not my own. That was not my voice inside my head. I looked around. There was Jack and Citek, both dead. And there was Sammy, killed by my own hand. I had just killed my best friend and I didn’t understand why.
There was another presence in the room. In the shadows. Somebody stood there, watching me, quietly.
I looked back down at Lieutenant Deen. Dee. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t kill the one person I thought I was in love with.
No. Kill her. Now. You know you must.
And then I knew what had to be done. I jumped up and screamed like a maniac as I charged the stranger in the shadows. He didn’t see it coming. He was a man, not very tall. Small horns poked out of his bald head. Two antennas protruded from his temples. He tried to get away but didn’t have the time. I fired my rifle but he didn’t fall. He just stood there, straight as a beam. A large scorch mark on his brown vest. His dark eyes looked at me and for a moment I thought he smiled. When he finally sagged to the floor I knew what had caused his final amusement.
As I looked down I saw the dagger that was stuck in my chest. I didn’t feel pain not even when I dropped onto my knees. I had let go of my weapon and stared curiously at the curved handle of the dagger. I wondered if I should pull it out. I didn’t get around to it. I lost all feeling in my hands and legs and my body slumped to the ground.
I closed my eyes for a few moments, gathering some strength. When I opened them again I saw an angel smiling down on me. She reached out to gently touch my face and stroke my hair.
“You’re going to be alright,” she said softly.
We both knew that wasn’t true but somehow it didn’t matter at that moment. All that mattered was that she was there with me. One last time.
“I love you,” I said.
She nodded, knowingly.
She lowered her head and I closed my eyes once more when her lips touched mine. It was a short kiss but it was the most intimate sensation I had ever felt. I looked at her smile. I never wanted to stop looking at it.
“You’re going to be alright,” she said again.
And suddenly I knew she was right. How could she not be? She was my goddess, my everything. Hers was the last face I ever saw.
That is my story and I’m glad I had a chance to tell it. I feel I’m getting closer to where I’m going. I can see something. It looks like a rift in space. A portal, perhaps? There’s a bright yellow light and I’m beginning to feel warm. It is a very pleasant feeling.
So this is what it looks like? I wonder if Sammy will be waiting for me on the other side.
As for my last thoughts as I drift towards eternity? I think you know.