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Conversations In Dark Places

Posted on Oct 17, 2014 @ 7:02pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Edited on on Oct 17, 2014 @ 7:03pm

Mission: Birth Of An Empire


(Continued from "Guest Starring...")


"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy in life is when men are afraid of the light."
- Plato


Captain's Log, Supplemental - I didn't realise just how big the Phoenix is. If we ever manage to get a full crew complement, this starship will be a population centre all on its own. In the meantime, however, I am still exploring...


Location: USS Phoenix, en route to the Triangle
Stardate: [2.14]1017.1920
Scene: Somewhere gloomy

Michael Turlogh Kane wasn't quite sure how he'd wound his way here. He thought he was on Deck 11 in the Phoenix's drive section, but for all he knew the turbolift might have overshot by a deck or two. He had stepped into a gloomy corridor, sparsely underlit, a victim of the power-saving measures enacted by Engineering to compensate for their lack of hands on deck.

Drake's prophecy was still weighing on his mind. Like this benighted corridor, the colours were leeching out of his life the closer he got to Limbo. From what he understood, some maniac named Rawyvin Seth was going to kill him and Drake was going to see the whole thing happen. It had happened nineteen years ago in Drake's past, and now the grisly anniversary was looming like a shadow under a setting sun.

There was nobody here. Kane wandered the deck alone, moving from light to light like a lost soul. Vacant rooms, empty quarters, huge and silent and monolithic. Will this be my fate after I die? he wondered. Will my spirit haunt this ship after I'm gone? Despite what he had said to little Benito earlier, living seemed futile now. Kind words for children, harsh realities for adults.

Emotions conflicted in him, self-pity dominating. It extinguished the wellspring of rage that bubbled up every so often, a rage that wanted to lash out at the injustice of it all. All that talk of facing death with dignity, it was all bullshit. Death was not an old friend that walked beside you throughout your life, ushering you into a bright new non-corporeal existence. Death was a sick, twisted bastard monster who loved spoiling things, something you kept pushing away, kept fighting until the very last - otherwise, what was the point of living?

Drake's memory shift, or lack thereof, confused him. If Drake could not remember the Romulan War, could he be mistaken in seeing what he saw? Perhaps, Kane mused brightly, they were now living in a new timeline where he would not die at the hands of Rawyvin Seth. It was a hope, but only a little one, because Drake's memories of that event had not changed. He still remembered watching Kane die while trying to save Selyara. The way Drake had told it, Kane's death the first time around had meant nothing, had been in vain. This time around, the hope was that his death would be meaningful enough to spur Selyara not to forsake the great struggle now underway for the future of the Federation. With her knowledge of who, what, and where the Neo-Essentialists were, Starfleet could begin to purge the rot from its own ranks.

But Kane wouldn't be there to see it. He'd be dead and gone, unless he could figure out a way of staving off fate itself. He could turn the ship around, but that would be pointless - Rawyvin Seth would break Selyara's mind enough to turn her into the monster that Drake described her as becoming. He could beam Selyara directly out of Limbo and then obliterate the station with the Phoenix's armament, but he'd be eradicating tens of thousands of lives, and the nightmares of the nuclear firestorms on Byss still lingered.

Am I being heroic in choosing this path, he thought. Will they think of me that way at my funeral? Will there even be a body to bury? One thing was for sure - dying millions of light years from Thomond would be poetic justice, given his actions the last time he was home. He had always assumed to be laid to rest under Bernagh's wild crags, but he doubted the spirit of the land would welcome him back after what he did. In the ancient beliefs of his ancestors, instead of the paradise promise of the Land of the Young, he would be cast out to be prey for Crom-Cruach, the Bloody Worm who sucked lost souls down into hell.

Kane stopped dead in the middle of the corridor, his internal conversation fading away. There was another presence nearby, he could feel it.

Out of the darkness ahead, something appeared.


Location: Earth, Paris
Scene: Le Mirasol Bistro, Rue de Rocquepine

Mr. Johnson stirred his espresso and watched as the Romulan entered the little cafe and crossed the floor to him. The enemy alien was wearing a scarf and a headband to disguise his distinctive pointed ears and ridged forehead, and thanks to the apathy of the other diners in the cafe, was not noticed. Outside, night had fallen over Paris and people were making their way home.

It was no coincidence, thought Mr. Johnson, that Romulans looked so satanic. It was a sad indictment of the sheer stupidity of modern Federation society that he was allowed to roam the streets at will. When the Neo-Essentialists had consolidated their power, 'Federation First' would become a brutal reality for enemy aliens. Humans would have to be re-educated - a socialist utopia with equal distribution of wealth, the elimination of hunger and want, and complete personal freedom was no way to run to an empire. The Federation was going to be changed drastically, and not everyone within its borders would be welcome any longer.

The Romulan sat down at the table opposite him, and Mr. Johnson continued to stir his coffee. The Romulan was nervous. "You are Johnson?" he said.

Mr. Johnson nodded. "No guards?"

"No. Be quick, hevam. I do not have much time to spend with a future slave of the Empire."

Mr. Johnson stopped stirring, and lowered the rim of his sunglasses. Under his stare, the Romulan flinched. "Let's get one thing straight, sharp-ears. If I was not under orders, I would tell everyone in this building who and what you are. I would make them hold you down while I used my little croissant-knife here to paint the walls green with your filthy alien blood."

The Romulan glanced around in fear. "But I am an aide to the Ambassador! You cannot - "

"Shut the fuck up." Despite his harsh words, Mr. Johnson's lips twisted disarmingly; he smiled a smile of blades in an alley. "I am not here to kill you. That, no doubt, comes later. Instead, I am here to divulge a sensitive piece of military intelligence that your government would be wise to pay close attention to."

"Why would you help us? We are at war with your people."

"But we are not at war with yours. At least, not officially," said Mr. Johnson. "The wheels of politics turn slowly."

"We are winning."

"A temporary situation, I assure you."

"Bolarus will fall. Then Cait. Then we will be within striking distance of all your capital worlds."

Mr. Johnson smiled, and sipped his espresso. It was good. "I am not here to listen to Romulan arrogance. Now listen. A new starship has been launched from Starbase Three. It is named the Phoenix, and it is the pinnacle of Federation technology. Believe me when I say that it is more than a match for a Valdore-class Warbird."

"Nonsense! We would know - "

"I told you to shut up," smiled Mr. Johnson. "If you interrupt me again I will tear out your tongue. The Phoenix is not a normal starship. It is an NX-class starship, completely experimental. It is equipped with multi-vector assault capabilities, polaron cannons, the very latest in ablative armour and shielding systems, not to mention a formidable phaser and quantum torpedo system."

The Romulan was frowning now. He stayed quiet, listening intently.

"The Phoenix was launched three days ago," continued Mr. Johnson. "We don't know where she is bound, but if her offensive capabilities are turned to the Romulan front, she represents a serious threat to Imperial forces. I advise your Tal'Shiar intelligence agents to be on the lookout for signs of her passing." Mr. Johnson took a small PADD from inside his jacket. "Here are the Phoenix's technical specifications. Her captain and crew are quite resourceful, however, and some of these details might be changed."

The Romulan took the PADD. "Very well. I will inform the Ambassador immediately. We will contact our government within the hour."

"Good," said Mr. Johnson. "Now you can fuck off."

The Romulan stood up, adjusted his headscarf and turned on his heel, clutching the PADD carefully.

He was true to his word - a couple of hours later, the Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire was looking at an initial Tal'Shiar report.


Location: USS Phoenix
Scene: Dark deck, as before

A zombie-like figure loomed up out of the darkness, a spectre from the depths of Kane's nightmares. Dead grey corpse-skin, oily facsimile hair, and... cornflower blue eyes?

Kane jumped in shock. "What the bloody fuck!" he screeched in a girl's voice.


Through his sudden panic, Kane's eyes adjusted to the gloom. It was Byte! The android had been standing alone in the corridor, just standing there doing nothing, and Kane had scared the shit out of himself when he saw it.

"Byte!" yelled Kane, breathing heavily. His heartbeat was thumping in his ears. "Are you trying to kill me? I think my balls are going to explode with the fear! What the hell are you doing!"

The android cocked its head quizzically. {{Doing, Captain?}}

Kane thumped the wall as he got his breath back. "Computer, raise ambient light." As illumination flooded the corridor, he stood up straight and rounded on the android. "Yes, doing, Mister Byte! Why are you standing down here in the dark on your own like a golem?"

Byte approached him. {{I apologise for startling you, sir. If you are feeling increased pressure in your scrotal area, I will escort you to sickbay.}}

Kane took a deep breath. "I'm fine."

{{To answer your question, Captain, I was trying to scare myself.}}

"What?" Kane frowned. "Scare yourself? What do you mean?"

Byte assumed that facial expression where it seemed to be looking inside itself for an answer. {{I have been considering the current geopolitical circumstances affecting our lives, sir. The Neo-Essentialists, the Romulan invasion, our flight into the unknown.}}

"What about it?"

{{It struck me that I was not afraid, sir. You see, I have been eavesdropping on the conversations of my shipmates, and most of them vocalise their fears of the future to one another. They are afraid of what is happening to the Federation, they are afraid because of the war, and they are afraid for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.}} Byte gestured to the place where it had been standing. {{I researched the human emotion of fear. Lovecraft espoused that fear was the oldest human emotion, and that fear of the unknown was the most powerful kind of fear. I thought that if I stood in the dark long enough, and turned my thoughts to the unknown future, then I would be able to feel fear.}}

Kane folded his arms and facepalmed. "You're not programmed to feel emotions, Byte. It's not something that can be written into a computer program."

{{I am an android, not a computer, sir.}}

"Of course. My apologies, Mister Byte. Did your experiment work?"

{{No, sir. I appear to have failed.}}

Kane smiled. He gestured toward the turbolift, and they began to walk back toward it. "I don't think you've failed at all, Mister Byte."


"Well," said Kane, "you said that you have been thinking about the future. The future is something that occupies the thoughts of almost all sentients, whether that future is decades, years, or just a few moments ahead. There's no real way to predict the future, but we spend a lot of effort in preparing for it, thinking about it, worried about the possible permutations of it." He looked at the android, watching as it absorbed his words. "How much thinking about the future have you done, Mister Byte?"

{{I have created an entirely new subroutine in my positronic matrix, with multiple files and applications devoted to the subject,}} said Byte. {{I have devoted eight-point-four per cent of my entire processing power in constructing possible future scenarios, then attempting to decide how best to react to those future scenarios.}}

Kane stopped. "Eight-point-four percent?"

{{Yes, Captain.}}

"You might not be afraid, but it sounds to me like you're doing some worrying, Mister Byte. And worry is the first step to fear." Kane smiled. "Don't worry, Byte, soon you'll be scared of your own shadow!"

The android shone like a praised child as it processed Kane's words. {{Thank you, Captain.}}

"Let's get back to the bridge." Together, they stepped into the turbolift, and the doors closed on Kane's smile.


NRPG: We're still en route to Limbo. Keep the posts coming!

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer
USS Phoenix

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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