“Twilight of the Gods”
Stardate 75162.2; March 01, 2398
Written by Chris Adamek
Wisps of ashen steam swirled above Erin Keller’s mug as she seated herself at the table in the center of the mess hall. As the hot chocolate’s sultry aroma reached her nostrils, Erin couldn’t help but smile—even a week after her illustrious return from the Yelss ship. “The Yelss might be a pretty advanced species,” she said to her companions, “but they make shitty hot chocolate.”
Bator snorted. “Somehow, I am not surprised,” he said, indolently picking at his plate of Ktarian eggs. “The Yelss don’t strike me as the galaxy’s culinary artists.”
Alan nodded agreeably as he downed the last few sips of his orange juice. “Do they even eat?” he inquired a moment later.
Erin blew a breath of cool air upon her beverage, and then shook her head. Despite her lengthy stay aboard the Yelss station, the amount of time she spent in the presence of the eerie quadrupeds was nominal, at best. “Well, they don’t eat while on duty, at least… I never actually saw one in the mess hall.”
“They must like to eat in private,” Neelar stated. “Many species consider public eating to be distasteful.”
“And Bolians are not among them,” Alan swiftly interjected. He picked up his spoon, and playfully pointed it at the Bolian. “I remember this Bolian back at the Academy… I think his name was Gessal, or something… Well, he and I were assigned to the same team during the remote wilderness training exercise—and I swear, the man had to eat every three hours! We probably lost forty-five minutes waiting for him to eat…”
Erin abruptly rolled her eyes. “Oh, how terrible,” she quipped. “I see you still managed to pass the wilderness training course…”
Alan dug the spoon into his bowl. “It was an epic struggle…”
“I think I had an uncle named Gessal,” Neelar mused to nobody in particular—and as a barrage of memories flooded the Bolian’s mind, he set down his fork to consider them. “I think he might have been in Starfleet, too…”
“…But of course, I prevailed—which is truly an indication of my incredible stature,” Alan continued, completely oblivious to Neelar’s rambling. “I mean, overcoming such odds—”
“You had wilderness training in the Canadian Rockies,” Erin gleefully interjected. “That’s a walk in the park, little buddy! Try spending four nights in the Amazon!”
“Or near the Congo,” Bator promptly added, shoveling a forkful of runny Ktarian eggs into his mouth. “I believe there were mosquitoes larger than your cat in that jungle.”
Alan promptly raised a dismissive hand. “You know, in general, it’s not a good idea to contradict your commanding officer. If he says conditions in Canada were utterly brutal, then—lo and behold—conditions in Canada were brutal.”
“Alan,” said Erin softly, “I very much like Canada, and I’m quite certain that it can get a little rough—but between you and me, it is not brutal in the middle of May.”
It was often very difficult to get Alan to accept defeat. One needed not only mounds of evidence to prove him wrong, but the iron will to cut through his ego and see the conversation to the end. And as a mercurial frown fell upon Alan’s face, Erin could tell she had prevailed.
Or so she thought…
“I spent the night on Kemada IV once,” he said matter-of-factly. “That was brutal… I also spent several nights on Alarin III. That was brutal…”
Knowing this discursive banter could go on all morning—or worse yet, all day—Erin very quickly decided to end the conversation once and for all. She abruptly cast an icy glare upon Alan’s face and then playfully jabbed him in the shoulder. “Be quiet!”
And the blabbering abruptly came to an end. “Yes ma’am!” Alan very promptly dug his spoon into his dish and brought a heaping spoonful of brightly colored cereal to his mouth—and then he froze.
For a moment, Erin suspected the dreadful conversation would continue—but as a glint of concern spread over Alan’s face, she knew that something else entirely was on his mind. “What is it?”
At first, Alan provided her with little more than a shrug. “It looked like an explosion,” he eventually said, nodding at the windows.
Curious, Erin promptly brought her attention to the windows at the front of the mess hall. She quickly scanned the twinkling starfield and saw nothing out of the ordinary—but before she had a chance to voice her skepticism, a sudden burst of white light pulsed in the distant stars. The phenomenon lasted only a few seconds, but as the light began to fade, the decking beneath Erin’s feet began to vibrate.
She suddenly noticed tiny ripples in her hot chocolate, and as the miniscule vibrations grew into outright trembles, Erin’s concerned gaze promptly flitted between her companions. “I don’t know about you guys, but I have suddenly lost my appetite.”
“Me too,” said Alan, his voice now completely devoid of the humor it possessed only moments ago. He placed a cautious hand on the edge of the table for support, and then hesitantly rose to his feet. “Let’s get to the bridge.”
“What’s going on?” Captain Christopher strolled onto the bridge just as the shockwave began to subside, and given the tone of his voice, he was fully expecting some answers.
But as Matthew Harrison peered into the stars on the viewscreen, he knew the Captain would be disappointed with his report. “Sensors have detected a massive surge in the subspace continuum,” he reported.
Christopher gently rested his hands on the edge mission operations console. “Cause?”
“Unknown,” Harrison replied, gradually coming about to face his commanding officer. “Sensors have not detected anything out of the ordinary.”
“Well,” said Christopher lightly, “I suspect something out of the ordinary has happened…”
“The shockwave was centered in a nondescript region of space 8.4 light years from our current position,” Neelar Drayge reported a moment later. “If there was something there, it’s definitely gone now.”
Christopher nodded agreeably. “It was probably gone 8.4 years ago,” he quipped.
And Harrison had to concur. Since no object can innately move faster than the speed of light, anything that transpired undoubtedly occurred long before the Starlight’s arrival. “It may have been little more than a star going nova,” he suggested. “The celestial objects here are very old, and our sensors are not yet fully operational…”
Christopher stared intently at the viewscreen. He was almost inclined to agree with Harrison—but not quite. Even though the sensors were not yet fully operational, they still worked—and there was little doubt in his mind that they could detect a star 8.4 light years away without much trouble. “That may be the case,” he conceded, “but I’m not entirely convinced.”
“And with good reason,” Erin crisply interjected as she tapped a few commands into her console. “I’m detecting a few chroniton particles in the explosion’s wake. That could have been some sort of temporal incursion…”
Or worse, thought Harrison grimly. With the Yelss constantly lurking nearby, one could never know what might happen next. “I suggest we investigate further, simply to be on the safe side.”
And Christopher promptly nodded his agreement. “Neelar,” he said, casually approaching the command chair, “set a course for the anomaly. Warp eight.”
Harrison almost cringed at the command. While they had managed to successfully test the Starlight and its newly acquired warp nacelle at speeds much greater than warp eight, never had the journey lasted more than a couple of minutes. At warp eight, it would take the better part of two days to reach the anomaly—and using an ancient warp nacelle designed for a maximum speed of warp five, Harrison found such a journey to be risky. Still, he said nothing, knowing that the Captain would drop out of warp at the first sign of trouble.
Lieutenant Drayge entered a few last commands into his console and then turned to the Captain. “Course set,” he said.
Christopher quietly settled into his chair. “Engage!”