Once upon a time, in a land hundreds of light years away, there was a cadet whose life seemed to be governed by the game of velocity. She would train hard, strive for perfection, and make sure she ruled the court. As a result, she became known as one of the most potent velocity players at Starfleet Academy, one of the few to have graduated with a perfect record.
But a series of tragedies befell the galaxy as the cadet became an ensign, and separated her from her first love. As the war raged on, she could only dream of her intense, heated matches, and long for the day in which they returned.
That day was today.
The target stormed over Erin Keller’s head, creating a gentle breeze as it did so. Keller ducked to avoid being touched by the target, and quickly rolled aside to get out of its way. Once she found her bearings at her new position, Erin quickly took aim for the disk-like target and opened fire. The vibrant orange phaser beam lashed out of her phaser and summarily struck the wall.
“Damn,” she muttered under her breath as she watched the target dissolve from red disk to a blue one. As long as the target remained blue, two points were awarded to Erin’s nemesis—Rachael Meyer. And should Erin take aim upon the target and miss, Rachael would again be awarded points. Erin knew she needed to earn a hit, and get the target red once more.
As the target bounced off the hologrid, Erin took several steps back to get a clear shot at the target while it was still moving at a relatively slow velocity. But to Erin’s consternation, as she took aim with her phaser, the target veered in the direction opposite the one she had anticipated, allowing Rachael to score several strikes.
With each hit, the target increased its speed, making it more difficult for both Rachael and Erin to take aim. Erin concentrated, and carefully took aim as the target seemed to slow for a moment of vulnerability. But just when Erin thought she had seized the moment, Rachael’s phaser beam collided with the target, sending it in the opposite direction. Erin’s phaser beam waywardly streamed into the ceiling, only widening the gap between their scores.
“Shit,” Erin cursed under her breath as the target went into what she had liked to call ‘ballistic mode.’ While it was still possible to hit the target, the opportunities were rare seconds at the very most. So Erin made due haste to take advantage of the moment when it presented itself. As if by magic, the spinning blue target came to a momentary halt while Rachael had her back turned. Without hesitation, Erin allowed her skills to take over, and she fired.
The orange beam soared out of her phaser, but as it hurtled toward the target, Erin realized it was obviously off course. But by some stroke of luck, the target veered straight into it, and moments later, dissolved back into Erin’s colors. Taking advantage of the newfound sluggishness, Erin quickly cast several phaser blasts toward the target before Rachael could even turn around—but by that time, there was nothing that could be done…
The target vanished.
“Game over,” called out the computer. “Keller wins.”
Erin allowed a smile to crack upon her face as the computer relayed the results. She slowly folded her arms and turned to Rachael. “Hey, good game,” she said in a warm voice—she almost meant it.
Rachael forced a diplomatic smile upon her face and took several steps toward Erin. “So much for beginner’s luck,” she grumbled. “You could have at least humored me for a while longer.”
Erin raised an eyebrow. “You’re lucky I let you hit the target once,” she quipped. “Usually, my opponent’s score is a big, fat zero.”
Erin couldn’t help but beam. It was the first game of velocity she had played in years, but it seemed as if she had never stopped playing. To her consternation, Rachael seemed less than enthusiastic about the game. Even so, Erin, on her high, didn’t feel like quitting yet. “Do you want to try again?” she inquired.
Rachael gazed quizzically at her phaser and phlegmatically fiddled with the controls. “I suppose,” she mumbled. “But go easy on me, okay?”
Erin shrugged. “Very well, then. Computer, reset ho—”
She stopped mid-sentence. As the hologrid suddenly disappeared. At first she thought she activated the wrong program, but she quickly realized she never finished her sentence. Nor had she ever seen the program that replaced their velocity playing field.
It was a massive forest, darkened by a moonlight sky, and an eerie fog rolling through the murky thicket around them. “What the hell?” Keller demanded as a small green-skinned troll emerged from the mist bearing an axe and no reservations about using it. Erin quickly reached for her phaser, but soon realized that it dissolved with the velocity program, leaving her defenseless against the troll.
Not ready to become lunch for the holodemon, Erin approached the green imp and introduced his face to the bottom of her boot. He squealed feverishly and tossed his axe aside as he careened to the muddy forest floor with a satisfying splat.
“I’ll have you know you just assaulted the Holy Warlord of Tehr’zul,” came the familiar voice of Matthew Harrison from the back of forest, near the location Erin recognized as the holodeck doors.
She turned to the Commander and his companion, Bator, and frowned. Seeing that it was Harrison that interrupted her velocity match, Keller’s anger only grew. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded of him, coming only a few centimeters from his face.
Harrison slowly backed away, but not by much. “Coming to enjoy the holodeck,” he said, matching Erin’s wicked tone.
“I believe it would be beneficial for your health if you enjoyed one of the other holodecks,” Erin replied tersely. “Or else you might just find yourself getting cozy with the Holy Warlord of Tehr’zul.”
“Leave the Holy Warlord out of this,” Harrison said evenly.
With that said, Erin reclaimed the centimeters Harrison had withdrawn and looked him square in the eye with an icy glare. “You’re fortunate I don’t feel like battling you tonight,” she snapped before pulling away from Harrison and turning back to Rachael. “I guess we’ll continue this at a later time,” she chirped before demanding the computer show her the way out.
As soon as Erin entered the dark, cozy atmosphere of her quarters, she was immediately relieved of her troubles. She liked that effect her quarters had on her, and wished she could find such refuges in other places on the ship. But to her consternation, no such places existed, so after a long, stressful day, Erin always enjoyed the retreat to her quarters.
With her skin still clammy and sweaty from the workout on the holodeck, Erin knew a trip to the sonic shower would be the best way to rid of her filth. But her encounter with Harrison had only put her on edge, draining her of her energy. Despite the sonic shower, Erin could hear her cozy bed’s enchanting call even louder, and more clear.
And so, without a second thought, she quickly migrated to the aft section of her quarters and plopped down into bed, not even bothering to slip into some more comfortable clothing. This day had been longer and more tiresome than she had thought. Sleep would overcome her in a matter of moments.
And so, not one to defer a dream, Erin slowly closed her eyes and relaxed, allowing her thoughts to run free in the vast reaches of her mind. Only to be stopped dead in their tracks by a sound near her bed.
At first, she thought it was Cleo playing rough with his toys, but that idea was quickly quashed by the fact that Cleo was already sleeping comfortably at the foot of her bed, leaving one other option Erin dreaded to think—she wasn’t alone. Slowly, she opened her eyes, half expecting to see one of her friends playing some sort of trick on her. What she saw was no joke.
A frail, one-eyed alien stood beside her bed, simply staring at her with its haunting gaze. As it realized it had been seen, the alien cocked its head and took a few steps back.
Erin was simply frozen…