Friday, November 23, 2012

Game Q

Q was bored.
This Q wasn’t renowned for tormenting Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), as well as the starship Voyager.  Nor was it any manifestation of Q they had encountered, to their knowledge.  But, to be from the Q Continuum was to be Q; such a manifestation would be identified as Q, as it would identify itself.  So this was Q.  And, Q was bored.
“He” (though not a he; Q was genderless) sat on a pulsar, legs dangling, chin propped in one hand, staring into the void.  (To be technical, Q did not have legs, chin or eyes.  Q had no body in the humanoid sense; no physical body at all.  But this was a little beside the point.)
He sighed.  He was eons old, by human standards; yet by Q standards, relatively young.  Still, he was not without experience.  As a member of the Continuum, he’d been around, seen a bit.  And he was still far, far older than that whelp “son” of Q, the “kid” called “Junior” whom Junior’s “father” lauded.
He was omnipotent.  He could do anything.  And he was bored.
And that was why: Because he could do anything.  And, in fact, did.  He did anything, anything he wanted, for a long, long time.
Until it got boring (which didn’t take long).  He didn’t see much point to doing anything he wanted to do, anymore.  Didn’t see a point to anything at all.  The Continuum wouldn’t let him erase existence – that might have been fun… to be nonexistent.  By doing so, he might erase himself… but, upon contemplation, realized that it would probably not work out; someone, somehow, would bring it all back; and him, too, just to punish him, if nothing else, with more of this pointless existence.
Was it truly the lack of challenge?  No… That wasn’t it.  He disliked rules or restraints.  He liked being able to do anything.  He just didn’t know what to do.  Every interesting idea that struck fizzled in a yoctosecond (1 septillionth of a second… eternity on some timescales & levels of dimension).
He decided, strictly in boredom, to invent a game.  It would have logical rules, with a prize, a goal waiting at the end to be won.
Randomly, he plucked seven player-participants from across the span of time and space:
  • Yeshua of Nazareth, commonly called Jesus Christ, Messiah, son of God on Earth (suspected of being a minor Q);
  • Tasid Daor, First Hunter of The Strenna (a planet in a system so remote they saw no stars; it would never encounter another civilization in its entire history);
  • Oio Owohoho, struggling scientist from a subspace universe in the University of Henrico – his laws of science and physics were radically different;
  • The Unnamable Big Green Cloud, from the far future, when all galaxies had dissociated;
  • Little Gear, a mechanical life form favored by probability;
  • Sentient Algebra, a derivation of Algebra (also sentient but preferred ‘simple’ algebra); and
  • AAO (Against All Odds) – a successively amalgamous, unlikely thing, difficult to describe in words or terms understandable to three-dimensional organics (like us) – which, against all odds, should not exist, yet it did.
Q joined as an eighth player.  The game allowed up to 14 participants, but he didn’t feel like crowding the small table he’d made for the group.  Yeshua dealt the cards; AAO passed out pieces.
"I'm hungry," Tasid said, through her third ventricular orifice, meaning a stiff shot of alcohol, also, would not be unwelcomed.

work in progress...

Sunday, November 18, 2012


What happens on Pathos, stays on Pathos.  That was the unofficial rule.
It didn't bring much comfort to Dallas Ewing.
Drugs inundated Dantari territories.  The Dantari were immune to addiction; it was probably good that they had no interest in profiteering, or they could make a killing.  They would have made the Sultan of Brunei look like a bank clerk.
However, the Dantari were interested in order.  Not profit.  Not power.  Order.  They imposed order with exceptionally-Dantari harshness.  And, unfortunately, their immunity to addiction made them insensitive to its effects.  Rather than forbid the drug trade, they regulated its flow through their territories.
Pathos sat on the edge of Dantari space, a remote planet afflicted by disease ("pathos"), beyond Federation borders; a free zone where Starfleet rarely ventured.  It reminded Dallas of the Old West, in American history: Not quite as lawless, but governed by a system of anarchy that left most to fend for themselves.  The Dantari claimed no jurisdiction on the planet's surface, and didn't much care what went on there.
Not that they were unseen.  Dallas not only had to deal with the drugs (and, sometimes, the drug runners); when the Dantari came calling, he had to deal with them.
Like today.  Two stood in the doorway to the clinic as he walked up: two icicles in the Pathos heat, in their crisp black, green and white uniforms.  They looked like… well, sort-of like… well, he didn’t know what they looked like.  Some said they evolved from dogs; others claimed bugs.  A white, shell-like skin covered their bodies.  They had long snouts, and hocked legs jointed backward, giving them an odd gait as they walked; they could spring fast into motion.  Most, he understood, wore specialized goggles over their eyes, protection perhaps against some forms of radiation.  They didn’t need them here.  Two pairs of hard, yellow eyes stared at him… as one regards an insect, about to crush it.
Dallas tried to calm his nerves and ignore the rapid thumping of his heart.  It was said the Dantari could smell fear.
"Can I help you?"
"We are looking for a woman," the taller one said – only an inch or so taller.  His snout was thicker than his companion's.
"You'll have to go across town for that," Dallas said.  "Try the Sublight District.  Around midnight."
They didn't get the joke.  They reminded Dallas of Laurel and Hardy.  But alien.  And without a lick of humor.
The speaking Dantari activated a holographic projection: a short, plump, Caucasian female, with a round face and black frizzy hair, pinned up.
"Never seen her.  If you think she's a patient here… well, it doesn't matter.  I've never seen her."  He tried to stare into the yellow eyes, waiting.
They waited.
"I don't know what makes you think I would know her.  Now, if you don't mind, I have a clinic to run."  He made to go into the door, which they blocked.
They didn't budge.  They looked at each other for a long moment.  Were they telepathic?  Then the short one told Dallas, "I will remain in your clinic for the day, if she comes."
No, you will not, Dallas nearly retorted.  Dantari made people nervous, like they made him nervous.  He didn’t want them scaring his patients.  That was why patients came to his clinic; for the relaxed, friendly atmosphere he offered.
But he had no way to refuse them.  It was his clinic; by Pathos law, he could run it in any way he saw fit.  But there was little enforcement of law on Pathos.  The meager local police kowtowed to special interests, favoring whoever paid them off or shared aligned interests.  They looked the other way when Dantari came around.  Dallas could say no, but it wouldn’t matter.  No one would back him up.  No one made the Dantari leave if they didn’t want to leave.
“Fine.  Whatever.”
The Dantari pair parted; the tall one stepped out from the entrance, spoke a word and shimmered out of sight.  Transporters.  Dallas still hadn’t gotten used to the invention.
He stepped past the remaining Dantari, unlocked the door, and waited as he followed Dallas in (shorter than his companion but still taller, by intimidating inches, than Dallas).  “You can stand in the corner there,” Dallas said.  And face the wall, he thought.  “I’d appreciate if you’d not address my patients or my staff.  I don’t know the woman you’re looking for or why you want her…”
He paused, waiting for a clue.  The Dantari said nothing.
“…but, if she comes and you need to ask her questions or arrest her, or whatever, please take her outside, in a calm, orderly fashion.”  He hoped the Dantari would appreciate that.  “Don’t make a scene.”
The Dantari took position and waited, silent, watching the door.
Dallas sighed and went into his office, to prepare for the day.

“Boss, who is that?” Sweetie whispered, half an hour later.  Sweetie: a nickname that she insisted her friends use (the people she liked).  She was his secretary; his assistant… and a godsend.  Dallas couldn’t run this clinic without her.  It would never have opened, in a place like this, if not for her knowledge and connections.
“A Dantari,” he said, which was obvious.
“That’s the third time this month.”  Sweetie peeked through his window, and the outer window, to the lobby where Mr. Yellow Eyes stood.  “Who are they after?”
“How do you know they’re after someone?”
“He sure isn’t enjoying the view,” Sweetie said.  “And he’s not a patient.”
Dallas guessed that was obvious too.  He wondered if the Dantari could hear them.  The walls weren’t thick.  Even if they were, it wouldn’t have surprised him.  They had things, now, like communicators, the cell-phones of this era – and their big brothers, complants, brain-communication implants, like cell-phones on mega-steroids, that could do all sorts of staggering things.
“I wish he’d go somewhere else.”
“Me too, Sweetie, but who’s going to make him?  Try to ignore him.  Who’s our first appointment?”
“The Romulan lady and her son.”  She hesitated.  “I’ll go unlock the door.”
“Thanks, Sweetie.”

The day passed without incident.  Late that afternoon, after Sweetie and the last patient left, a tired Dallas Ewing faced the stalwart Dantari and told him he was closing.  He hoped the alien would not return the next day.
Without a word, the Dantari walked out.  Dallas locked up and turned to see which way he went.
The alien walked across the plaza toward an alley, a shortcut to the shuttle-bus stop—the same direction Sweetie went, to go home.  Not sure why, but suspicious and concerned, Dallas decided to follow as well, keeping a respectful distance.  He entered the alley as the Dantari emerged out of the far end, near the bus stop.  There, Dallas saw people lined up, as the transport descended from the sky.
He couldn’t see Sweetie—nor the Dantari.  His concern grew.  Did the Dantari take her back to his ship?  (They had to have a ship; few Dantari resided on Pathos that he knew of.  Their biology wasn’t suited for long-term exposure in this environment.)
Then he glimpsed the Dantari’s uniform, just as it disappeared down another alley a short way down.  That’s a bad alley, Sweetie told him once.  Don’t go in there.
Nervously, more from knowing that fact, Dallas moved after him.  The shuttle-bus lifted off, behind him.  He wondered why Sweetie didn’t use a personal communicator.  He could have contacted her.  But then he rarely used his.  She showed up for work every day.  Aside from that, their personal lives beyond work remained private, which suited Dallas.  He wasn’t overly sociable.
From the alley came a scream that stopped him cold – a short, harrowing burst that sounded inhuman, like an animal (he pictured a bear) in agony.
Heart pounding, Dallas bit his lip and forced his feet to move.  People got attacked on Pathos all the time.  Some died: That was (partly) why he came to this backwater planet.  He didn’t know what he would do, or what he would find.  There was no point calling the police.
In the alley, a silhouette of a figure bent over a shadowed figure on the ground.  Dallas stood motionless.  He wanted to yell, but he was too scared.  The attacker might come after him.  He ducked back around the corner of the building to avoid being seen.  Was it the Dantari?  Had the alien attacked someone in the alley?  Was that Sweetie, lying dead, down there?  Or had someone attacked the Dantari?
Leave, his conscience told him.  Just go home. This happened all the time on Pathos.  He shouldn’t have even been there.  He told himself that he needed to go, while it was still daylight.
He swallowed and stepped away from the building, intending to do that.  Let the Dantari deal with it, or someone else.  It wasn’t his concern.
“Hey boss.”
He jumped.  Sweetie stood at the mouth to the alley, where he had just stepped away.  “What are you doing here?!” he blurted without thinking.
“Same thing I was going to ask you.”  She smiled with her usual Sweetie charm.
“I thought you were on the bus.”  However, he hadn’t known that, and wasn’t sure why he thought so now.
“You shouldn’t be here, hun.”
Dallas peered past her, down the alley.  “Did you see – Did you just come from there?  That Dantari went in there.  There was a scream.”  He couldn’t make out details; it was too dark.  The silhouetted figure was gone.
“I told you this was a bad part of town.  Come on; I’ll walk you to your car.”
A strange sense of calm overcame Dallas, looking into her eyes.  No need to question, he thought; no need to worry.  It’s okay.  Go home.
He asked no more questions, felt the worry disappear, let Sweetie walk him to his car, and he flew home.

He woke in the middle of the night.  Scenes tumbled through his head, from some horror movie he’d once seen.  In the dream, a Dantari detective hunted for a killer, but turned out to be the killer in the end.
The clock said it was four in the morning.  He laid in bed, thinking of his old life, and the Dantari.  Had something happened to him?  Would his partner be waiting at the clinic in a few hours?  Would they hunt for his killer, if he was dead?  Would they somehow think Dallas did it, or hold him responsible for failing to report it… an accomplice?
Don’t worry.  Don’t worry, he kept hearing in the back of his mind, a fading echo, like the dream he just had.
He couldn’t help it.  And he couldn’t get back to sleep.

Sure enough, the tall Dantari was waiting – without his partner.  Instead, he had a troop of Dantari, armed with weapons holstered on their uniforms – phasers, they were called, Dallas had learned.  The door to his clinic was open; he could see them rummaging inside.
“What—“  What are you doing, he thought to say, but really he was thinking, What happened?… but figured he already knew.
“You will answer my questions,” the Dantari officer said, flatly.  “If you choose not to cooperate, or if you can’t remember, you’ll be transported to our ship, where we can obtain the requested information.”  He paused, then added, “With or without your consent, Dr. Ewing.”
It was the first time any Dantari addressed him personally.  It unsettled Dallas even more.
“I’ll try,” he said… and weathered the barrage that followed.  He described the situation as he had experienced it – still fresh in his memory: trailing the Dantari, out of curiosity, losing his trail, then going home.  The obvious question arose: Why did he follow the Dantari?  Dallas didn’t want to get Sweetie into trouble – he didn’t feel certain that she was involved – but he couldn’t lie.  Honesty came as second nature to Dallas Ewing.  So he confessed: He thought the Dantari was after her, and wanted to know why – if the Dantari meant to question her, harm her, whatever it might be – why he hadn’t done so before then, when he had all day to do it, with her sitting in plain sight in the clinic, the day before.  Dallas was concerned, and that was why he followed.
“I swear to you I’m not a killer,” he told the tall Dantari.  “I didn’t… I didn’t do anything to your man.”
“You are not accused,” the Dantari said, at which Dallas felt a private sigh of relief.  “Where is your assistant?”
“I don’t know.  At home, maybe.  I don’t know where she lives.  She—“  He hesitated to spill it, but those hard yellow eyes bored into him.  “She should be on her way in.  She’s never missed a day of work, and she’s usually on time.  Why are your men going through my clinic?”  He watched them through the open entrance.  “I told you, I’ve never had a patient matching the woman you showed me.”
“Doctor,” the Dantari said.  “That was your assistant.”
Dallas stared at him as if he was daffy.  “What?  No.  Uh-uh.”  He shook his head.  “That wasn’t the face you showed me.”
“Sweetie is her alias.  Does she have other names?  A family name.  A surname.”
“Yes, it’s—”  Dallas paused.  “It’s…”  He couldn’t remember it.  He tried, and… couldn’t.  Odd.  She had worked for him for the past year.  He felt certain that she had a real name, a last name, and that he knew what it was, but… Why couldn’t he think of it?
“The woman we seek is a shapeshifter.”
Dallas had learned that there were such things… though to his knowledge he’d never met one – but then, how would he know? – until now.  If the Dantari was right.
“A limited allasomorph with hypnotic ability,” the Dantari continued.  “She is a killer, Doctor.  A murderer.  She has killed several individuals in these territories.  My subordinate is her latest victim.”
“How do you know?”
The Dantari didn’t explain.  “Your clinic is closed for today.  Perhaps indefinitely, until further notice.  Return to your home.  Go nowhere else.  Your further cooperation may be needed.  Do not attempt to leave Pathos.  It would be best for you if you remain in town limits… in the presence of others… for your protection, Doctor.  And, should you see or hear from your assistant… contact us at once.”
Dallas wanted to stay, in case Sweetie appeared – and this was his clinic; they were tearing the place up! – but he knew better than to argue with authority.
Once again, he got into his aircar and flew back home.

TBC -- YG link:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Information and Death, Part 2

T'Rhan approached the front desk. "I am here to collect Lia McFerren.  I am T'Rhan." No other formality.

The Dantari at the desk stared down the length of his white snout at her, eyes hidden by black goggles. He cocked his head. "Wait."

A moment later, a plump brunette strolled out and stood next to him. "Did Lia contact you?"

"She did." T'Rhan did not explain.

"Ma'am, I'm a deputy of the Dantari Enforcement Group," the stout woman explained. "Though Lia isn't being formally charged with anything, I think it would be best if you answer some questions before we release her to your custody. I'd like to know your intentions."

"I am and have been her instructor at the behest of her parents. If she has done something wrong I would be first to know.  I do not believe her parents have the skill to pull off a misdeed of any sophistication.  I do know they were on a public shuttlecraft, as Lia informed me by public communications relay. This public shuttlecraft was likely to have other passengers, one of them being your problem."

"I was the other passenger, Miss T'Rhan. I've gotten to know the McFerrens a little. Lia's free to go with you, if she chooses. That won't be the case for Kate and Jon. They're being remanded to my custody. I'm taking them to Pathos, by Dantari directive.  I don't want to see young Lia get hurt. I feel... protective, of her. She can call on me for anything, if she needs me. And I trust she knows that." The stout woman said this very pointedly, so that T'Rhan would get the hint. "You didn't answer my question, so let me ask you again: What are your intentions?"

"I am her teacher." T'Rhan's eyes were unreadable. "Our destination is reputable, The Sphere Of Glass, known for its hospitality for those of the upper class to which Lia belongs."

Her questioner took this in, curious. "Ooo, Sphere of Glass. Is it really glass? Wouldn't it break?"

"It is a name belonging to a planet." T'Rhan held her anger at this creature. "Lia and I are on a time constraint."

"I'm sorry... Miss T'Rhan.  Like I said, I'm kind of sweet on Lia.  Don't want her to get hurt.  I think she's an innocent, caught up in her parents' lifestyle.  So I hope you'll take good care of her.  Because we'll be watching.  You follow me, darlin'?"

T'Rhan didn't answer as Lia greeted the Vulcan in traditional Vulcan manner. T'Rhan nodded in approval.
T'Rhan spoke to the deputy. "We thank you for your kind hospitality during this matter." Both nodded in robotic fashion in lockstep. So together it was like one mind in two bodies.

Mrs. McFerren called out at her daughter's retreating back and demanded "I'm innocent too!"

"Where's our lawyer!"

The woman who questioned T'Rhan, and now turned to Lia's mother, Kate, stepped through the open doorway to the jail block. The door closed behind her, cutting Lia off from hearing her.

"They don't have lawyers here," Sweetie said. "And no upright attorney would represent you," she told the McFerrens. "Now listen up, Mom and Dad. The Dantari have agreed to release you into my custody on one condition: You go with me to Pathos, and you check yourselves into rehab. And you do NOT get to leave Pathos, EVER, until I say you can. Otherwise... it's life imprisonment for the both of you. And Jon here gets a male Klingon girlfriend."

JP by Sandy (McFerrens/T'Rhan) and Todd (Sweetie/Dantari)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Verik and Verika (3)

Waypoint 5 grew familiar after days there.  Verik and Verika obtained guest housing with Walden Wehrle's help, containing basic amenities.
'Basic' covered more than they had ever hoped to enjoy back home.  Complants were one thing.  Replicators were quite another.  And to have warm, comfortable shelter, with clean, running water!...
The shower felt grand to Verik, after wearying hours of stress, attempting to secure help for his people.  It was his first since departing the planet after which he'd been named.  His twin sister represented her half of the binary worlds of Verik and Verika.  The Orion ship which delivered them restricted shower usage to its crew.  One of them had made a pass at Verika, offering to let her use it in exchange for sexual intercourse.
Verika had accepted the Orion's offer, then slept with a Vulcan named Eppes after arriving at Waypoint.
This bothered Verik.  She was his sister... his twin.  He could not deny feeling jealous.  Would she sleep with anyone, for any reason?  Or for no reason at all? – other than her gratification?  Her sex drive seemed out of control at times.  He was not like that.  What affected her so?
He had noticed a rising sense of agitation within himself, since leaving Vulcan II.  It stood to reason that something in this off-world environment affected them both.  He was not a biologist and had not yet conducted an analysis; doing so seemed in order.
Vulcans do it only every seven years, Verika had told him.  Can you believe that?  I'm lucky if I get it every seven months!
That's because of sexually transmitted diseases, Verik had replied dryly, ignoring her saddening joke.
She was out, somewhere, who knew where, with who, he didn't know... but it wasn't hard to guess what she was doing.
Many Verikans shared her lust for intercourse.  Verik could not deny that it was enjoyable, but its purpose was procreation.  An imbalance in social and/or biological conditions had taken it to unnatural, unhealthy extremes (as STDs proved – one of many ills infecting their worlds), yet no one wanted to acknowledge or address that fact.  They simply indulged their baser, animal passions.
Perhaps we need our own Surak, he thought.  Surak, an ancient leader, had promoted a philosophy of abstinence, suppression of emotion and devotion to logic, in order to save the people of a double-planet system, T'Khas and T'Khut, known together as 'Vulcan'.  The 'Vulcans' credited Surak with their survival from a dark, war-torn time, an era of savage conflict which turned their planets into barren deserts and threatened their species.
The parallel was not lost on him.  Star-maps marked the planets Verik and Verika as 'Vulcan II', as they were nearly identical to the Vulcan double-planet system – duplicates, too close in resemblance, in geological and geographical formations, to be anything but.  A duplicate Earth also existed, listed as Earth II, known to its inhabitants as Miria.  This lent support, however slim, to the postulation that nature produced such worlds in processes of parallel development.
Yet the explanation seemed... unsatisfying.  They were the only two such duplicate systems known.  Why not duplicates of Orion, or Andoria, or millions of other planets?  When given the fact that humans and Vulcans were two of the most powerful, influential species in their region of the galaxy, the parallel took on added weight and mystery.  Some special factor determined their duplication, Verik felt certain, though he did not know why.  The explanation of their existence remained a mystery, which even temporal observations ('chronovision') failed to solve.  That in itself proved to be a great mystery.  Verik understood, since the beginning of his learning period here, that with the advent of temporal imaging, few mysteries of time or space could not be solved.  But no one knew for sure when, how or why the duplicate Earth and Vulcan systems formed.
Historical comparisons proved no more enlightening.  Verikans were of the same racial stock as Vulcans, as Mirians of Earth II genetically matched Earth humans.  They started from similar levels and conditions, millennia ago, when Vulcan was a lush, green world, before wars reduced it to desert.  Verik's planet, however, remained in such a state, despite centuries of conflict.  The Verikans had not renounced emotions in favor of pure logic.  And yet they survived, so far, despite their passions.
Out of the shower and dressing for bed, he considered an option, wild in thought, yet perhaps executable.  There existed an otherdimensional intelligence called the Q Continuum.  When this 'Continuum' made contact with denizens of the universe, it did so in the form of a being (or different beings) called 'Q'.  This Q was supposedly omnipotent, unlimited in power; it could do anything, anything, at will.
If I could make contact, Verik thought, would this Q be willing to help us?
"Why on Earth should I do that?"
Verik nearly jumped out of his bedclothes.  A man had appeared, arms crossed, regarding him in the dim light of the outer room.  He was slender, dark-haired; human, apparently, judging by looks.  But scanning him through his complant, Verik saw something even more startling: Nothing.  It was as if the stranger was not there.  Not a holographic projection.  No energy readings, no lifesigns, no disturbance of the molecules in the air, no mass... nothing at all.  And yet, there he stood in plain sight.
"You... you..." Verik said.
"Q," the being corrected him.  "But as far as you're concerned... I'm God."
* * *
"Oh God... oh God... oh God... Don't stop... Oh... my... Godddddddd..."
She grabbed mounds of hair in her hands, moaning and shuddering.  Waves of ecstasy flowed through her.  Then she started slapping his head, pushing him away.  "Stop... stop!"
The Vulcan man, Eppes, raised his head from between her legs, smiling.  "Do you really wish for me to stop?"
"Yes," she whimpered.  Verika closed her eyes, letting the feeling flow back and forth within.  It filled her with a bright, radiant light, unlike anything she had ever known or felt.  She'd had sexual partners back home.  But it never made her feel like this.
She thought Eppes generated the sensation, at first.  But she had slept with one of the Orion men on the ship, when she came here with Verik.  She had noticed it then, though nowhere near as intensely.
Something whispered in the back of her mind.  She focused on the light, feeling its power, a strange sensation; she could reach out to it, with her hands, almost touch it.  What was it?  Where did it come from?  Not Eppes, of that she was certain.
"You're wrong," Eppes said.
Verika blinked, eyes open; the spell shattered.  Disappointment crashed inside of her, seeing him, resting on his elbows, between her thighs.  "What?"
"I said you're wrong.  It does come from me.  I've noticed how you like it.  You welcome it.  I had a feeling about you, Verika, when I saw you.  You have a gift for receiving it.  Not everyone can."  He paused.  "Only Vulcans can."
"I'm not Vulcan," she whispered.
"Close enough."  Eppes grinned.  "Would you like more?"
The expression Verika gave him would have frozen an Andorian.
"You're lying," she said matter-of-factly.
And this Eppes could eavesdrop through complants, without being detected.  Verik had claimed this about him, earlier.
She didn't mention that she had seen 'the light' with the Orion.  It was theoretically possible that Eppes might have been able to... do whatever it was, that she experienced... from that distance, but... her instinct told her that he didn't, and was only using it, what he sensed from her, to manipulate her.
A Vulcan who lied, manipulated, and used women for sex.  The emotion disease, Verika heard, had caused a drastic transformation in their race over the last few decades, from the way they were.  They used to be honorable, if cold, according to most annals.
But, like she told Verik, you can't believe everything.  "How many... women... have you..."
"How many men have you?"  Eppes wasn't grinning anymore.  "I really like you, Verika."
"Get out."
"This is my domicile," he shot back, angry.
She bounded from his bed, heading for the door, naked.  By the time she stepped out, clothes had materialized.  Don't approach me again, she sent via complant, then permanently blocked him.
* * *
"God?" Verik said.
"Of course.  And yes, I do know what that means.  But do you?"
Verik felt like he had fallen into a pool of mental molasses.  He wanted to leap on the entity and strangle him out of sheer hatred... if he truly was God.  But nothing worthwhile occurred to him to say.  He could only just stare dumbly at this... this thing, who called himself God.
"You're in shock," Q said.  "Not unknown to happen when I appear... in fact, not unlike your people's initial reactions, the last time we crossed paths.  You'd love to do insidious things to me, wouldn't you?  You're far from the first.  But, I'm an interdimensional being.  Omnipotent... invincible...  You can't hurt me.  I'm not even 'really' here... though 'real' presses the limits of perception these days, I'll grant you."
Before Verik could ask, Q answered, "I'm here because you wanted to see me.  Whereas I'm usually the one to pose questions, in the form of a challenge, for once I'm here to provide solutions."
Verika, irritated from her encounter with Eppes, entered their unit to find Q standing there, with Verik.
Him, she thought, recognizing Q instantly.  Him.
"I was wondering when you'd get here."  Q smirked and winked at her.
Verik had mentally applied Verikan features to Q.  The appearance matched.  Q had proclaimed himself God to the Verikan people, then betrayed them.  Nearly all (if not all) Verikans despised, hated and resented 'God' – Q – with unbridled passion.
Verika lunged for him, fingers curled into claws, ready to rip his throat out.
"My, my."  Q clucked scoldingly as she passed through an empty space.  "I expected that of your brother."
"We're full of surprises," Verik said.  It sounded like a challenge.
Verika whirled about.  "Why do you torment us?"
"Torment?  Hah!  Sit through a Klingon opera.  That's torment."
"Why did you lie?" Verik said.  "You claimed to be God—"
"—promised peace, prosperity... but our worlds are at war!  People are suffering and dying!  Disease, starvation..."
"Well now, that's interesting, my son..."
"Stop calling me your son!  I told you before: We are not your children!"
"Oh but you are."  Q stepped close, face-to-face, serious.  "You are my children, Verik.  I created you.  All of you.  You're an experiment... like Miri's planet.  We – the Q Continuum – wished to see how your progenitor races would fare, humans and Vulcans, in different circumstances.  We wanted to see if your potential was singular or inborn.  So I duplicated your planets and peoples, placing you in the right location and conditions for you to survive; what humans call 'the Goldilocks zone'.
"Miri's Earth continued along the same course as Earth, until they hit the immortality snag.  With you it was different.  You didn't embrace logic or suspend emotions.  You've warred for millennia.  You never advanced beyond your planets on your own.  And yet, you didn't threaten yourselves with extinction or mass destruction, or turn your planets into wastelands, like the Vulcans did... which led them to adopt Surak's philosophical claptrap.  Your planets are what Vulcan could have been, proving Surak wrong.  They didn't need logic to survive."  Q grinned.  "I can't wait to see the look on his face."
Verik and Verika traded looks.  "Surak?" Verik said.
"We had a bet," Q said.
"But... according to the Federation Temporal Database," Verik said, "true time travel is impossible.  You can't—"
"What makes you think I mean time travel?" Q said.  "Maybe Surak is one of us.  But yes, of course I can.  Not like you think.  What is time, anyway?  Do you know?  No, I don't think you do.  We don't change history as you'd understand it.  The Continuum has a directive of noninterference now.  It doesn't stop us from having fun when the urge strikes... but it does force us to be a little more responsible.
"Back to the point: Did I tell you to fight?  Make war on your neighbors?  Who's responsible for your dying and disease and starvation and suffering?  Me... or you?  I may be many things, but I'm not a liar.  I promised I'd save your worlds, if you pulled together and showed potential to make you worth saving.  So here you are; you've taken a first step.  Bravo, kids.  Good for you.  I'm going to help you.  That's why I'm here.  But don't expect me to do all the work.  Q only helps those who help themselves."

TBC  (OOC: Couldn't resist Q again.  Fun character to write.)

(This post is revised from the original version.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Verik and Verika (2)

Verik reveled in the most stunning aspect yet discovered of his complant: Chronovision.
Investigating the technological limits of Earth-based humans, led him to the subject of time travel.
Verika discovered it first: “They traveled through time.”
“Impossible.”  Verik turned his search to it.
“That’s the word I had in mind.  But consider the Mirians.  Earth II*.  We don’t know how it was created.  Let alone Vulcan II.”  [*Miri's homeworld]
Sure enough – if he could believe the data – there existed numerous accounts of time travel, creating temporal incidents, anomalies, alternate timelines… even temporal warfare, cold and hot…
Until it suddenly stopped.  Chronos, a transtemporal entity or consciousness of some sort, emerged from odds of probability, and halted time travel altogether.  Somehow it had the power to do so, and that power was independent of human factors.  It was indeed impossible – now.
He wondered if the reach of Chronos extended from the true beginning to the end of time and space, or covered a limited span around the current era.  What must it be like, Verik wondered – to transcend the barriers of linear progression?… to exist across time, inhabiting every point at once, from the perspective of a singular consciousness?
The logic of the Chronos Edict, a natural and inevitable event, impressed itself upon him.  If time travel could rewrite history, it would eventually eliminate itself.  Chronos seemed to be the result – and kept it so – though it raised a great fuss among circles of physicists, when it was announced, as well as in the Federation’s Department of Temporal Affairs, who thought it would put them out of a job.
Temporal observation remained possible.  They could see through time – they just couldn’t alter history.  Still, that was a heady power to have, Verik realized, albeit a bit intimidated by it all the same.  To step through the temporal veil…  He could witness his own birth.  He could ‘meet’ his ancestors; see the history of his people, the formation of his world, the universe itself!  He could read Pitesto, as the great poet penned ink to page; he could walk with the kings of Baizan; watch Voltega deliver his famous speech in The Valley of the Vulcans…
He might finally answer the age-old mystery of how Vulcan II came to exist.
Verika suggested lunch before the appointment.  Verik thought it a waste of time, even though he had not eaten since the day before, aboard the Orion ship, but she insisted, and they found a small diner, completely empty.
“Plomeek seed spread on honey-mustard bread, with fried carrot crepes, grape pie for dessert, and Kaferian spiced-apple Zinfandel.”
“Excellent choices, miss.  And you, sir?”
Verik deliberated.  “A, umm… uhh… no, I don’t want that…”
Across from him, Verika played with a salt shaker, cupped in ink-black fingers on one side, snow-white on the other.  “For mother’s sake, Verik.  It’s food.
He glared at her.  Staring into her dichromatic face, half-black, half-white, should have given him a headache by now, but hadn’t.  Yet.  “We’re wasting time.”
“We have to eat...
He browsed the menu again.  The waiter, a hologram, who could wait until the next century, said after a moment, “Would you like me to come back?”
“A, uh… one of those… rolls…”  Verik pointed.  “And…”  Lengthy pause.  “Water.”
The waiter disappeared (literally).  Verika was shaking her head.
“Okay.  That… “  Verik made a gesture.  “Uh-uh.”
“Black… white…  Do something.”
“Like what?”
“Something else.  Be my sister.  We didn’t come to dress up.  This isn’t fun and games.”
“Well, just so you know, while you took all month to check out the menu, brother, I’ve made an appointment at the Earth Institute of Planetary Sciences.”
“You did that?”
“They want to know more.”
“They said they’ll examine the data and let us know.”
Verik tried to relax.  He rapped knuckles on the table.  “Could this really work?”
“I do hope so, brother.”
“Please remove that costume.”
Verika made an irritated noise, but returned to normal.  “Why does it bother you?”
“I don’t like different.  I don’t like change.”
“Embrace the new, brother.”
“I prefer new ways of looking at the old.  What is, not ‘what-if’.”
“I think it goes deeper.  You’ve been learning all these new and scientific things since we were kids, all part of this new technological era affecting our worlds.  But you don’t want to use it for progress, for creating something new.  You want to preserve the old and traditional ways.”
“As I’ve said.”
“But if you use it to hold us back, keep us down, stuck in the past… That’s oppression, brother.”
“And you’d leap headfirst into this new future, all these radical ideas.  You’d sow chaos into our world.”
“No, Verik.  Order would emerge.  Even if it seems like organized chaos.  Culture is pain and suffering, brother.  That’s life.  But it can be fun… enjoyable… and that makes it worth having, as we build something new.  Your old was new, once.  And my new will be old someday.  But we keep... moving... forward...”
Verik followed her gaze without turning his head.  A man had entered behind him: Vulcan, and, he could tell, handsome enough to catch his sister’s attention.
Shush.  I can look.
The Vulcan looked back.  Realizing she was staring, Verika feigned interest in the condiments on the table.
He walked up to them.  “Pardon me.  I am curious…”
“I’m Verika.”  She grinned.  “My brother, Verik.”
“Eppes, child of Mudfen, child of Snupk.  You are Vulcans?”
“Well… not exactly…  But not Cheronian either, if you mean…”
For some reason, Verik didn’t like him – and not because of his sister.  Don’t say too much, he warned her.
Did Eppes hear that?  He paused, mouth open, said, “Forgive my intrusion,” turned and left.
It was Verika’s turn to glare.  Verik shrugged, baffled and innocent.  What did I say?
“We’ve reviewed your case and examined the data.”
They met via complant.  The man facing him was bald, brown-skinned, in a white waistcoat .  Silver studs dotted his face in diamond shapes, on forehead, chin, cheekbones, below large brown eyes.  Verik did not think to query their significance. 
His name was Kaiitiaurattlbong.  Even if I spoke fluent Earth Standard*, Verik thought, I’m not certain I could pronounce that.  (*He speculated on the side why they didn’t just say English: Earth’s common language.)
They agreed that Verik would talk to the head of the Action Recommendation Committee.  Though Verika claimed him better at such things, Verik wasn’t stupid: She didn’t take part.
“Mr. Verik, we find indications of a potential danger to your twin-world system.”
“As I knew.  Except it’s not potential.  I believe it’s definite.”
The brown man hesitated.  “I’m afraid we can’t help you.”
Verik tightened, and waited for the why.  “Vulcan II does not meet the optimal profile,” Kaiitiaurattlbong said.  “To qualify for official recommendation, requires that a number of factors be in place.”
Anger sparked in Verik; he quickly snuffed it.  When my planet blows up, will that qualify? he wanted to say.  “I… I don’t understand.  You’re telling me… you would let two planets… populated planets, a civilizationperish…?”
His emotional state wasn’t lost on his host, who clasped his hands together.  “The problem, sir, is your planets are at war.  You are not an authorized representative of your people.  Nor is your companion… your sister.  They don’t even know you’re here.  You took it on yourselves to seek help, which is admirable, but… our society has a directive of noninterference.”
“Yes.  Your prime directive.”
“Given the political state of your worlds, our involvement could be seen as influence – interference with the natural order.  Your governments have not sought our help.  It would be better if you were united and attempted to solve this problem yourselves, together.”
“I… we’ve tried.  They won’t listen.  Unification…”  Not enough people wanted unification, badly enough to do whatever they had to do, to achieve it.  “Unification could take more time than we have.  If we don’t act soon, it could be too late.  Please, sir: Is there anything you can do?”
“We’ll gather more data.  I’ve sent your case for higher review on personal recommendation based on the urgency of the timeframe.  The Committee may do something, but they may not.  Many worlds are in need of help.”
“Doesn’t the Prime Directive apply only to Starfleet?”
“It applies wherever it applies, Mr. Verik.”
“I mean… isn’t it a directive for Starfleet only, to obey and follow?”
“Maybe it used to be; I’m not in Starfleet, I don’t know, sir.  It’s a general rule today.”
“Who’s your highest authority?  I’ll take this to President Pike if I must.”
“If that is your wish.”
Verik’s frustration gnawed at him.  He felt desperate.  “What’s the point of having all this power, all the things you can do, if you don’t use it?”
“Mr. Verik, I know how you must feel.  I’ve heard this before.  All we should have to do… is act… and solve the problem.  It sounds like counter-logic, but it never works out that simply.  That is why they made the Prime Directive.  It protects others from our interference; it protects us.  Not long ago, people dared to think as you suggest.  ‘We can bend the rules, here and there.  We’ll make exceptions, for good reasons.’  We’ve suffered a costly, life-consuming conflict as a result.  A state of civil war.  Earth once led the Federation.  It is an affiliate member now, in the loosest sense.  In some places, they’re still fighting.  It’s a hard lesson.  The road to hell is paved with good intent.  To resist temptation…  We can’t act only because we can.”
“But you acted for the preservation of your planet, did you not?  This Prime Directive didn’t interfere with that.  Thank you, Mr. … Kaiitiaurattlbong.”
He severed the link and took deep, relaxing breaths.  He didn’t know why he felt so angry, other than at the unfairness of it.
Complant, he thought.  Are you aware of my situation?  The impending destruction of Vulcan II?
Can anyone help us? – who won’t say no…?
*Projected outcomes indicate several possibilities.  Further information is required.*
What do you mean?
The complant wanted specified conditions.  For example, some imperialist races had technology and resources to stabilize Vulcan II, but might conquer, enslave and/or deport the inhabitants.  The sought-after assistance might be gained for a price, possibly in the form of trade; supplying weapons to the Verikans in conflict could tip the balance and end it.  Other potential providers did not have restrictions like the Prime Directive; it could be as straightforward as asking for help.
One of the offered possibilities echoed the brown man’s words:  Taking direct, personal responsibility, and attempt to unite his people… or, bypassing that, utilize available resources to effect salvation – although based on data, the odds overruled success.
He shared this with Verika through their personal link.  She must not have turned it off: His intrusion caught her off-guard, and for a moment, he saw the man from the restaurant.  He was on her, or she was on him, sharing their bodies and their thoughts, seeing each other through the eyes of the other, while they—
Verik snapped off the link, shocked.  He was trying to save their worlds, while she—
Verik.  It was her.  Did you just
I won’t talk to you right now.
“Thank you for coming.”  He had contacted the induction officer from earlier, when they arrived at the Waypoint 5 habitat.  “I’d like to apologize for my reaction… about God…”
The chair-bound Walden Wehrle dismissed it, as before.  “Not my business, like I said.”
Verik sat on the wide stone edge of the water fountain.  He avoided getting soaked by water droplets with a plain command, to not get him wet.
Reality didn’t always allow such control.  It was a chaotic system.  What the man at the Science Institute said, had struck nerves: Your planets are at war.  What could he do about it?
“We used to worship a god,” Verik said.  “Not like so many cultures, where they start with pantheons, different gods, and evolve to a monotheistic system.  We had one, in the beginning.
“My sister and I were named after our planets.  It’s supposed to be symbolic.  We represent them.  It’s after the legend, a creation myth: Verik and Verika, twin brother and sister, the first man and first woman.  They had no home, so they asked God, ‘Please, give us a home.’  They performed rituals of supplication to impress him, creating beautiful things… stars, animals, plants, water.  God, impressed by their offerings, gave each their own land, to call home.  Our worlds.
“But then they fought.  They argued.  God told them to stop or he’d take it away.  And now we’re fighting… our planets are at war… and we’ll be destroyed, if we don’t do something.”
“You have options.  Try them,” Wehrle said, shifting in his chair.  “Ask the ones you can ask.  What can happen?  They’ll say no.  Or they’ll say yes.  Just don’t give up.”  He looked around.  “Where is your sister?”
“Right here.”  Verika appeared beside Verik, sitting with him on the fountain’s edge (fully clothed).  “That was beautiful, brother.”  She took his hand in hers, offering her most heartfelt look of empathy.  He didn’t refuse her.  I’m sorry, she thought as he let her in.
We need to stick together, Verika.  I can’t do this alone.
I know.  We will, brother.  “Mr. Wehrle.”  She tipped her head to him.
“If you don’t mind,” Wehrle said, “I don’t know why you hate God, but—“
Their eyes flicked at him; an instinctive reaction.  It was still a tender subject.
“—or who you ‘met’ that is supposedly God, whom I’ve never met face to face yet, on account of he’s too damn bright, brighter than the sun… But anyway, I’m going to tell you: Prayer does work wonders.  There’s a God up there, yessir, you believe it; a good god, of love and grace… and you may not believe it, but miracles happen.  I’ve seen it.”
Verik and Verika regarded him coldly.  They looked at each other, then Wehrle.
“God is a myth, Mr. Wehrle.”
“An imaginary friend for adults… who haven’t quite learned to grow up yet.”
“Izzat so.”  Wehrle looked at his lap, stroking his mustache.  “Heh.  That’s funny.”
“Would you like us to share it with you?” Verika said.  “Our experience with God?”
“If there truly was a God, as you say,” Verik said, “there wouldn’t be so much war and death and pain.  Our planets wouldn’t be at war, or facing destruction.”
“Does God tell you to fight?” Wehrle said.
Verik and Verika sat silent, their spat still raw in their minds.
“If God wanted your worlds destroyed, would you be here trying to save them?”
“Your argument presumes the existence of the God you claim,” Verik said.
“You don’t have to believe what I believe,” Wehrle said, “but I’ll tell you, whatever happened to you… that wasn’t God.  People did that.  May not look like you, may not look like me, but… people.  Tell you this too: Get your heads right, kids.  You are going to do some growing up, speaking of growing up, if you want to save home.”


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Verik and Verika

Arcadia’s 11th year anniversary is this Friday (11-9-2012).  Eleven years ago, this began.  While we didn’t maintain a steady consistent run these last few years, the concept hasn’t died…

They arrived at Waypoint 5, an outer-system hab.
They carried no tags.  This was unusual.
Information was god, in an era and society which lived upon it.  It was power; it was currency.  It was about knowing things; knowing everything that could be known; everything knowable.  The unknown held mysteries; threats; danger.  Centuries of space exploration, of bizarre encounters, of contact with such dangers, proved this.
Borders fluctuated, with recent breakdowns, conflicts, shifting alliances.  Illegals infiltrated daily, with an increasing number of refugees.
It brought an adamant awareness.  Security was paramount.  Information became indispensable.
Undocumented citizens could not exist.  Untagged travelers could not be.
They were humanoid, brother and sister.  Few could mistake the mutual resemblance.  Fewer still made passage into the Sol system undetected.  Sensors scanned them, gathering data in micro-beats; height, weight, age, appearance, physiology; on the genetic level, storing their codes, and neural; psychologies, traits, mannerisms, knowledge, memories, skills, experience, names and stages of development.  Sensors, the angelic elite of Information, had grown refined, far-reaching and targeted to degrees once impossible to imagine.
(Clarke’s Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  Unstoppable Progress followed necessity and innovation, often in startling leaps.)
They stood in line, fidgeting, nervous.  Refugees crammed the wait area, shoulder to shoulder, more aliens than they knew existed.  Most they couldn’t name.  Some had pointed ears, like the twin brother and sister, but did not come from their system; of these, some sported tattooed markings on faces and shaved heads.
“Look at these people, sister,” Verik said.  He kept his focus on the uniformed induction officers, moving through the crowd, separating refugees.  “Is this the Federation we’ve heard about?”
Verika glanced around, with the same distraught expression shared by others.  “You can’t believe everything you’re told, brother.”
She was scared.  So was he.  He knew she wanted to go home.  So did he.
But they would not have a home for long, if they didn’t get help.
Crossing the Federation proved surprisingly simple.  According to the captain of the Orion ship who delivered them, this was not always the case, but times were changing, and changed more quickly than anyone had expected.  Space remained a hotbed of travel, expensive or inexpensive depending on the means, and many transited between the outer worlds of what had once been Federation territory, to what had been the core-zone of Federation territory, centered around its great, former capital, Earth.  The Federation, these days, laid in the mercurial in-between.
A man slid up to them in a floating chair, wearing an inductor’s uniform, skipping others in the line ahead.
“Travelers?” he said.  “Or refugees?”
He spoke in their language.  This would not have been unusual – they understood the Orions – but lips did not match the speech delivered by universal translators, in their previous experience.  He spoke in their tongue, exactly.
“We aren’t refugees,” Verik said.  At least not yet, he thought.
“You’re on the wrong level.”
The surroundings vanished, replaced by a public park: a startling opposite to the waiting area.  Here, was some evidence of the grandeur which drew them.  A clean, beautiful city stretched in all directions, filled with pristine buildings of stunning architectural design.  The air felt warm, fresh, fragrant.  A sun shined in the blue sky overhead – apparently fake, yet entirely realistic.  Shuttle traffic had been added for effect.
They stood near a water fountain.  Verik and Verika gasped at droplets of spray, blown by the wind into their faces.
“I’m Walden Wehrle.”  The induction officer produced pellets from a pocket; birds swept in, gathering for the treat.  “Welcome to Waypoint.  Are you visitors or residing?”  He was long, slender, elderly, with an odd-shaped head, wisps of dark gray hair and mustache.
Verik thought he should be making notes, taking their names, or… something.  But he had no stylus or entry pad.  “I…”  He glanced at Verika.  “We don’t know.  We came to save our planets.  Will you help us?”
Wehrle hesitated.  “I… don’t know how to do that.  Did you bring belongings?”
“We traded them for passage.”
“Why are you in a chair?” Verika asked.  Wehrle gave her a dull look.
“Forgive my sister,” Verik jumped in.
“It’s said that you can cure any disease.  You can bring reverse aging.  Deformities.  Even death.”
Wehrle chuckled, a gentle, quiet sound.  “You’re new.  I don’t need enhancements or body-switching or all that genetech stuff.  I’m happy as-is.”  He flicked a pellet in a trailing arc; laughed, as a bird snatched it in mid-air, over the fountain.  “Best I can suggest is pray.”
Wehrle tapped a silver cross pendant hanging from his neck.  “To the Lord Our God.”
“God!” Verika snapped.
For once, Verik shared her reaction.  Nothing provoked him instantly to such anger and rage, as the mention of… “God?  God is a liar.  A trickster.  Deceitful… wicked… poisonous… treacherous… worthless.  We don’t want to meet him again.”
“God isn’t… What?  You’ve met God?”
“I won’t speak of it!”
“Calm, brother.”  Verika tried to soothe him.  “Calm.”  She shot the induction officer a contemptuous look.
“I think you have the wrong idea,” Wehrle suggested.
“I think you should shut up now.”  Verika’s tone, the flash of her eyes, caught the inductor by surprise.  “If you truly pray to that… thing… you tell him, for us, if we see him again—“
“Verika.”  Her brother’s voice stopped her.  Making threats, upon arrival in a new world, could create a bad reception, hurting their cause for coming.  Hopefully Wehrle did not misunderstand or take it personally.
In this instance, Verik felt the volatility of emotions, to which ancient Vulcans could relate – and no doubt the modern.  News had reached him of the emotion-disease crippling Vulcan society.
Wehrle waved it off in the spirit of religious tolerance.  “Not my business.”
“It’s also said,” Verik added to Verika’s statement earlier, “that the Federation can move planets… transform planets… create planets.  Entire solar systems.  As well as destroy them with ease.”
Wehrle fed his birds in uncomfortable silence.  “You have to take that up with somebody else.  I’m sure you’ll find someone.  Do you have a destination in mind?”
He said it like it was too late, to Verik’s ears; as if they had already perished.  The reminder irritated him further, a reminder of his own helplessness.  “The Orion captain said the same thing.  He promised we’d find help in the Federation.  That’s why we came here.”
 “For starters, this isn’t the Federation.  This is the solar system – Earth’s solar system.  We’re independent of Federation government… more or less.”
“How do we get to Earth?”
“You can take a shuttle to Mars.  Earth, you’ll need approval, since you aren’t citizens.”
“How much does it cost?”
“The shuttle’s complementary.  If you don’t mind riding with refugees.  We get a lot.  You need to apply for an Earth pass.  That could take a bit.”
“What do we do?”
Verik heard the desperation in his sister’s voice, hoping as he did to find someone – if they only knew where to look.
“You don’t have to travel to Earth physically.”
Briefly and succinctly, Wehrle explained complants; their purpose and function, common implant devices used for communicating, gathering and sharing information, and more, and would they consent to wearing them?  They made things so much easier – such as programming their language into him, based on their own cognitive language centers; instant universal translators.  He conjured a facsimile pair, placing them in their palms, and waited as they considered.
“I think I understand this.”  Verik studied the device.  “Direct sharing of information.  These may benefit us, sister.”
“How do we know they’ll work?”
“Your racial type and biosignature is Vulcanoid,” Wehrle said.  “They work fine for Vulcans.  Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“What if they’re mind-controlling?  He looks pretty mind-controlled to me,” Verika directed at Wehrle.  The inductor ignored her off-the-cuff remark.
“I don’t think so.”  Verik applied the facsimile to his head, behind the ear as instructed.  The system heard his mental consent and activated the device; it solidified into a legitimate plant, establishing the link before he had finished speaking.  But he didn’t consent to placement within his cranium; he wasn’t ready for that yet.
“What if I don’t want it on my head?” Verika said.
“Put it in your pocket,” Wehrle said.  “Let it function by remote transmission.  But if you lose it, that can create unnecessary delays in function.  It can nanobond to your clothing, but there’s the same risk.  It’s easier to have it directly attached.”
“And more efficient,” Verik said, trying it out.
“Put it on your hand, neck, shoulder… anywhere,” Wehrle said.  “Most people just put it on their heads.  Shortest distance between two points.”
“Or in their heads,” Verik corrected, learning.
“For long-term wearers,” Wehrle said.  “Short-term… it’s fine, where you’ve got yours.  Negligible transmission degradation.”
“Shouldn’t you have to be a doctor, or licensed, to let people wear these?” Verika said.
“What makes you think I’m not?”
She gave in with a sigh.  “I’ll try it… but I’m keeping it right here.”  She placed it on the back of her wrist, turned it upside down, gave it a shake.  It didn’t come off.  “What if I want to remove it?”
“It responds to touch and direct command,” Verik said, cutting off Wehrle before he could answer.  “Mentally or verbally.”  For demonstration, he plucked his from the side of his head, showing her.
Your touch.  Your command,” Wehrle clarified.  “Except for certain emergencies.  It’s a really smart system.”
Verika removed hers, then replaced it.  “So what does this… Oh.”  Her eyes went wide.  “Oh.”  She started looking everywhere, turning her head this way and that.
Verik had already intuited the directional interface, giving him a 360-degree view, without bodily movement; an amazing leap over binocular vision.  He could see behind him, below him, and above.  He could extend the range, seeing around people, objects, buildings from any direction.
Then supplemental sensor capacity came into play, from a steady subspace stream, propagating through powerful relay stations and satellites.  His knees weakened; he felt momentarily dizzy, as he found himself looking upon this habitat, Waypoint 5, from space.  “Astonishing,” he whispered.  “We’ve never developed anything like this in our world.”
“I know,” Wehrle said.  “Good day, sir.  Ma’am.  Mind the laws and be safe.  I’ll be in touch when you need me.”  He nodded to both and departed.
Verik heard and saw him go, in a way impossible without complants.  His mind was still outside of the habitat.
There, he saw distant stars, planets, spatial phenomena and other objects he never knew the cosmos contained.  Habitats: Thousands and thousands of habitats, like this one and not like this one, across the galaxy… tiny (and some not so tiny), artificial islands and cities in space, in solar systems and between the stars.  Their estimated combined population outnumbered the total of planetary populations.
How did they get built?  How did so many people spread throughout the galaxy?  Given the rules of parallel development, and the time it took advanced, spacefaring civilizations to arise, and survive to that point… despite the age of the universe, an estimated 13 billion years… there was a consistent, recurrent pattern of growth across the cosmos, with most arriving at about the same point.  It explained why so many across the galaxy used warp drive: They came upon it roughly at the same time.
There were exceptions – as the human species proved – but the rule held as a measure.  Other races – Andorians, Orions, Cardassians, Tellarites… and, Verik noted, the primary Vulcans – were in space for centuries, even millennia, before Humanity, yet never progressed to the current human stage of development.  Humans exceeded them.
Verik absorbed knowledge from the ‘datagrid’, through his complant.  Available knowledge.  He also noted that, as a foreign national – not an Earth (or Federation) citizen, only a civilian – some areas to which he requested access were denied.  Possibly classified military information, government secrets… every organized body had its rules, and its secrets.
“Strange place,” Verika said.  “Nothing like our worlds.”
No, Verik thought back to her, in response.  But it’s our worlds we came to save, and so we must find those who can and are willing to help us.
“Stop doing that.  That creeps me out.  Oh – look!”
Verik thought she meant two aliens walking down the avenue nearby.  The database listed – ‘tagged’ them, as a Tholian and a Gorn: Fearsome creatures to behold.  A chill of fear ran through him.  Through filters, he saw their holographic disguises, appearing as ordinary humans.  Questions struck his scientist’s analytical mind: How did they move in this gravity?  How did the Tholian tolerate the temperature, comfortable for carbon-based humanoids, but freezing cold, to a fatal degree, for her kind?  Did their human companions use complants (he found that they did), and see through the disguises?  Why did they accept them?  Tholia and Gorn’ar were at war – did that play a role in their presence?
But he was distracted by his sister’s second exclamation: “Look!”
She was green – the same green as that of the Orions, on the ship that delivered them.  Her hair had darkened, grown long, thick, falling around her shoulders.  “How did I do that?”
Verik sighed, shaking his head.  His sister.  Though they were twins… they were not entirely alike.
“Marvelous!”  Filled with glee, Verika shifted through a dozen likenesses in under a minute, adding makeup, different clothing, hairstyles.  “Look at this one!”  She turned half-black, half-white: pure black down one side of her body, white on the other, in a straight line, head to feet… with matching hair and clothing.  “Cheronian!”
“Verika, we have work to do…”
“Oh, I know, but… okay.  I like this one.”
Verik fixed her with a hard stare.  “I don’t.”
“Tough cookies.  Let’s go.”
To his embarrassment and resentment, Verik followed.  “We don’t know where we’re going!”
I do…”