CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 73591.9: With the Federation task force still seventeen days away, tensions in the Kilka Sector continue to grow. Though there has been little military action observed on either side, the possibility of the Elorg invasion at any moment means many sleepless nights. While Admiral O’Connor insists we can hold out should the Elorg invade, most of the others are less optimistic, including myself. Nevertheless, though we have made little progress, Captain Talbot and I are still discussing battle plans should the Elorg arrive first.
Captain Christopher hastily ran several possible strategies through his mind as he strolled through the Starlight’s corridors en route to the mess hall for lunch. Despite the fact he had designated this time for thoughts other than the Elorg, no matter what he did, his mind always came back to the Kilka Sector and the troubles therein.
If the third fleet moved in conjunction with the fourth and attempted to outflank the destroyers, they might have an opportunity to penetrate the Elorg’s defense perimeter with the first, second and fifth fleets, but still, the losses would be heavy. Not wanting to see that much bloodshed, Christopher quickly discarded that particular plan, in favor of the next one that floated into his mind…
But as fate would have it, that particular plan never materialized in Christopher’s mind. Instead, as he passed an intersection in the corridor, Christopher suddenly found himself in the bubbly presence of Erin Keller, who had quietly popped out of the corridor to join him. “Hey, Alan,” she said warmly, grabbing her partner’s hand.
Christopher suddenly felt his pulse quicken. “Erin,” he replied, grinning.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve talked,” she said as they turned down the next corridor and headed for a turbolift.
“It has been busy,” he agreed, recalling the numerous crises they had faced in recent weeks. “Sometimes it seems like we’ll never get a break around here.”
“It’s always something, isn’t it?”
Alan nodded. “It is,” he agreed. “What have you been up to? Are you…feeling better?”
Slowly, Erin pulled her hand free of Alan’s grasp, and folded her arms on her chest, nodding indolently as she recalled the “sickness” Alan referred to. “I still see the Velora when I sleep,” she said softly. “I don’t know if I’ll ever truly recover… But yeah, I’m feeling better.”
She pulled in a deep lungful of air, and expelled it as they came upon the turbolift at the end of the corridor. Clearly, she was not comfortable talking about her incident. Still she smiled, and shook it off. “But you know, I did beat my high score in Metrix last night.”
Alan stopped dead in his tracks. “I was so close to beating it last night! I mean… I was so close I could smell it!” he exclaimed. “That is the last time you’re getting the night shift—at least until I surpass your score. Understood?”
“Yes sir,” she replied sarcastically before turning on her heel to bring herself face to face with him. “Face it, Alan, I am the Metrix Goddess. There is nothing you can do beat me!”
“We’ll see about that,” replied Alan defiantly…but inwardly, he knew that Erin spoke the truth.
Erin glared, and slowly backed away; the look on her face was clearly her “you’re more than welcome to try” gaze. But as she approached the turbolift doors, the look faded, and a new conversation began. “So, have you fabricated a plan to save us from destruction?”
“Several,” said Christopher, recalling the many that had been floating through his mind prior to his conversation with Erin. “But our beloved Admiral O’Connor still thinks they’re either too risky…or too stupid. She hasn’t specified which… But quite frankly, we’re not going to resolve this crisis playing it safe. Risk is a part of the game.”
“Agreed,” said Erin. “The sooner this damn war is over, the better.”
Christopher folded his arms, gritted his teeth and smiled. “Watch your language, Commander,” he said quietly.
Erin mimicked his actions. “Sorry…the sooner this damn crisis is resolved, the better,” she corrected in a tone drenched in sarcasm.
Christopher expelled a long sigh as he realized his words were falling upon deaf ears. But before he could begin his usual lecture on vulgar language, Lieutenant Bator’s voice erupted from his communicator.
“Bator to Christopher,” he said, sounding rather urgent.
He slapped is comm badge. “What it is?” he demanded.
“You have an incoming transmission from Ka’Tula Prime. It is your mother; she says it is urgent.”
Christopher knew his mother well enough to know that she did not panic often, and when she did, he almost never liked the chain of events that followed. And so, Christopher did not take the news lightly.
Seeing the newfound concern rush over Christopher’s normally placid face, Erin quickly offered assistance. “My quarters are nearby. You can take the message there if you want.”
Christopher nodded. “Thanks, Erin. Bator, patch the transmission through to Erin’s quarters. I’ll take it from there.”
Quickly—much faster than they had been moving before—Alan led Erin back through the myriad corridors of deck four until he spotted the doors he recognized as Erin’s. With Erin following close behind, he burst through the doors and rushed for the computer terminal at her desk.
Christopher quickly slipped into the chair and activated the screen; a moment later, his mother appeared. She looked very worried, very shaken, and held a handkerchief in her hand. “What is it?” Christopher inquired.
“It’s Drayan,” she said in a slow, nervous tone. “She’s gone!”
Alan blinked. “Gone?” he repeated, wondering just how gone his older sister was. His parents’ imprecision often drove him insane; this was another one of those moments when he wished they would just be more specific. “What do you mean gone?”
His mother attempted to compose herself by taking several deep breaths; after a few moments, she sighed, and continued. “She went to the mountains several weeks ago. It’s been six days since we last heard from her, and we fear the worst! Sensors aren’t detecting any life signs!”
Not wanting to jump to any conclusions, Alan remained calm. Though his mother’s response was still vague, Christopher knew enough of his sister’s activities to put together the missing pieces. He knew from their meeting in the Zephyrus System that Drayan was planning an expedition to the Farhelian Mountains. She was a geologist, and such events were common, often long-term and dangerous tasks.
Even so, six days without checking in was odd. Alan had to investigate. “I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he said evenly. “I’ll bring the Dark Star so we can perform a more in-depth analysis of the mountain range.”
His mother nodded affirmatively, and though she lacked the words, her eyes relayed an entire message. And Alan heard it loud and clear. He had to get to Ka’Tula Prime, and fast. And as he felt his own emotional barriers begin to break down, Alan quickly bid farewell to his mother before terminating the comm channel.
When he looked up, Erin was standing right there. “I’m sorry,” she offered.
“She’s not dead,” said Alan.
“I’m not saying she is,” Erin replied. “But…I know how you feel. Brian and I were very close, and I would hate for you to lose your sister… ”
“You’re too kind,” replied Christopher.
Erin only smiled. “I know,” she said. “But we don’t have time to glorify me! You’ve got to go!”