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Posted on Oct 30, 2017 @ 9:16pm by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Oct 30, 2017 @ 9:17pm

Mission: Fear Itself

= Phobophage =
(cont’d from “Maybe… Distant Thunder”)

SCENE: Turbolift -> Bridge
STARDATE: [2.17] 1030.0044

The turbolift walls seemed to press in on him. Jake tried to ignore it. It was easy; his mind was already elsewhere. In his mind, he was still in the science labs, still stepping through the doors and coming to a sudden stop, his eyes fixed on the lifeless form of Arak Schad.

There was no discerning human emotion on the Aamazzarite’s face, but it was easy enough to put the pieces together. Whatever it was that had killed Sofia Andersson had struck again. By all accounts, it was the same force that had killed Ezra Greer, and Budo Pumbular.

Jake remembered Budo Pumbular. He’d been aboard GATEWAY in Budo’s heyday. Jake had never dealt with the corpulent merchant directly, but he’d heard enough secondhand stories to get a sense of who Budo was. Budo liked nice things. Rare things. Things that were unique in all the galaxy.

Now Jake’s thoughts traced back to the music box. The music box found aboard Budo Pumbular’s ship. The music box that played, of all things, “Peter and the Wolf”.

Budo had been there, Jake remembered. Budo was aboard GATEWAY Station when…

The turbolift slowed to a halt. Jake stepped out onto the PHOENIX bridge. The skeleton screw glanced up at them. Jake tried for a reassuring smile - Jake had decided that simple optimism was a large part of his responsibility to the crew - but it did little to cut through the gloomy atmosphere. Death had come to the USS PHOENIX, and none of the souls still aboard were certain it had disembarked.

Jake stopped in front of the captain’s Ready Room doors. He hesitated; not because he wasn’t sure of the story he had to tell, but because of his guilt in waiting so long to tell it. The signs had been there all along, hadn’t they?

He thought about Thomas Vukovich, humming “Peter and the Wolf”.

Could Jake have stopped it, then and there? He would go to his grave wondering.

Jake reached out and thumbed the door chime.


The doors parted, and Jake stepped through.


SCENE: Captain’s Ready Room

Kane was seated behind his desk. He was angry - two of his officers had been killed within the last few hours, after all - but when he saw the expression on his first officer’s face, his anger melted away.

“Jake,” he said. “What is it?”

Jake Crichton came to a stop before Kane’s desk, his eyes unfocused, not seeing. His skin had gone a deathly pale.

“Captain,” Jake said slowly. “I’m… sorry.”

Kane’s stomach twisted as he braced himself for more bad news. “Has something happened?”

“I think I know what’s going on.”

“With Andersson and Schad?”

Jake nodded. “Yes sir.”

“Had Malin-Argo discovered something?” Kane asked.

Jake shook his head. “No. It’s nothing anyone’s found, it’s… I’ve seen this before.”

Kane slowly leaned back in his chair. He frowned at his first officer, something he realized he had become unaccustomed to doing since Jake had taken the job.

“You’d better sit down, Commander.”


SCENE: Conference Room

TIME INDEX: An hour later

“We called it a ‘Phobophage’,” Jake said. He couldn’t quite bring himself to make eye-contact with the assembled senior staff, nor to look at the conspicuously empty seat of Arak Schad. Beside him sat Michael Kane, stoic and unreadable.

{{Phobophage,}} Lt. Byte repeated. {{Derived from Earth’s Greek, translating roughly to ‘Eater of Fear’.}}

“Thank you, Mr. Byte,” Kane said grimly.

“It was almost ten years ago,” Jake continued. “During the Second Dominion War. I was Chief Engineer on GATEWAY Station.”

Jake paused, as the memories of that time flooded back. GATEWAY Station had been his first assignment out of the academy. In his years there, he’d spilled blood, both his own and that of the enemy. He learned what it meant to be a Starfleet officer there. He’d met his wife there.

But they weren’t all good memories. Not by a long shot.

“I’m not sure when we became aware of it. There was a rash of unexplained deaths. The victims - when there was enough of them left to autopsy, that is - all showed signs similar to what we’ve been seeing aboard the PHOENIX and Starbase 56.”

“You mean elevated levels of neurotransmitters in their blood,” Aerdan Jos said.

Jake nodded. “Yes. Specifically, neurotransmitters related to the fight-or-flight reflex.”

“Fear,” said Eve Dalziel.

“That’s what we eventually concluded,” said Jake. “At the same time, GATEWAY had gotten reports of a Dominion fleet mobilizing on our position. Intelligence said it was a major offensive aimed at pushing the Federation out of the Gamma Quadrant. Next thing we knew, we had Dominion ships closing in our our position.”

“A third siege of GATEWAY Station?” Kass Thytos asked. “How come I ain’t never heard of that?”

“Because it never happened,” Jake said. “Oh, we *thought* it was happening. The damage sure seemed real enough. But it was this thing, this *force*...”

“Hang on,” said Jasmine Yu. “You’re saying it simulated an entire Dominion fleet?”

Jake sighed. “Simulate isn’t the right word. The fleet wasn’t real… except it was. Because we were afraid of it. By this point, we’d realized something was going on, that some force had come aboard the station and was picking people off at its leisure. Our CO, Towers, he came up with a plan…”

Here Jake trailed off. These were memories he didn’t want to revisit. The corridor, stretching out before him. Xana’s pleas for help, growing more urgent yet ever further away… and then, at the end…

Jake shook his head. “His plan didn’t work out exactly the way he wanted it to. But somewhere along the way, Towers realized where the fear of the Dominion fleet was coming from. And that’s when he put a phaser to his temple and stunned himself into a coma.”

The assembled officers looked at each other, confused.

“What happened then?” asked Cantor Von.

“The fleet disappeared,” Jake said. “Poof, just like that.”

“And the entity?”

“I don’t know,” Jake said. “It was there, and then it… wasn’t. Maybe we drove it away, or maybe it left on it’s own… all I know is we were way outside our weight-class on that one.”

“If it’s really the same entity as before,” said Eve, “then why isn’t it simulating another Dominion fleet? Or a Romulan one, for that matter? There’s certainly enough underlying fear to go around.”

“I don’t know,” Jake shrugged. “It seemed to get stronger, the more it killed. Maybe that’s what we’re seeing know, maybe this is just the first phase of it’s life-cycle or something. All I know for sure is the longer it was around, the worse the effects became.”

“Ya can’t be suggestin’ we all shoot ourselves in the head,” Kass grumbled.

“Of course not,” Jake said, shaking his head. “I don’t even know if that would work.”

“Good,” said Kass. “Because I ain’t about ta-”

“There’s a lot we’re still not certain of,” Kane said, cutting in. “Commander, what about the music box?”

Jake shrugged. “That’s a new one on me. The melody - ‘Peter and the Wolf’ - I remember that from GATEWAY. But we never saw a music box.”

“Budo Pumbular was a frequent visitor to GATEWAY Station during that time period,” said Yu. “I doubt that’s simple coincidence.”

“Where this thing came from is less interesting to me than what we can do about it,” said Kane. He looked at Malin-Argo. “Have you made any progress in tracking the entity’s whereabouts?”

“None so far,” the Grazerite replied. “Quantum phase variance of this nature is extremely difficult to detect. We’re doing our best to isolate unique readings at each of the murder scenes, but we haven’t come up with anything concrete.”

Kane turned to Jos and Dalziel. “What about your biological countermeasure?”

Aerdan and Eve exchanged a glance. Then Aerdan turned to Kane. “It’s theoretically possible, but it will require precise calibration of the serum for each individual crew member. Devising the countermeasure may take some time. Furthermore, we can’t be certain of its effects.”

“Whatever this thing is, I believe it was initially confined somehow to the music box,” Von said. “Maybe we can find a way to put it back.”

{{There is also the quantum distortion to consider,}} said Byte. {{Perhaps the box was not a prison, but rather a conduit between our dimension and somewhere else.}}

“We have leads,” Kane said. “We’ll continue to pursue them. In the meantime, I don’t want anyone going anywhere alone.”

“That’s not a guarantee of safety,” Jake said. “On GATEWAY, it attacked the entire station all at once. No reason it couldn’t go after two or three of us at a time.”

“It hasn’t so far,” Von pointed out.

“We can only deal with what’s in front of us,” Kane said. “If this thing really is getting stronger… then we’ll deal with that too. In the meantime, we’ll do everything we can think of to stave it out. Understood?”

The assembled officers mumbled their agreement.

“Good.” Kane rose. “Doctor Jos, I want updates on your anti-fear serum every half hour. Commander Malin-Argo, find me a way to track this thing. Everyone else….”

He looked around, realizing they expected some heartening words, some rousing speech that would set them once more on their path to victory, and realizing that, in the moment, he didn’t have much to offer them.

“Be careful,” he said.


NRPG: The beast has been named! So as is probably clear, this mission is a sequel to a mission I did many many years ago on GATEWAY (that I think some of you ought to remember). Incidentally, Jake and Towers had a little talk about these events way back in my post “Blast From The Past” during the Civil War mission, if you’d like to go back and check.

Please feel free to message me with any questions, but so far I can say I like the threads you’re pulling on. Remember, the Phobophage is out there, waiting to turn your characters’ darkest fears against you. We’ve already had some deaths, and I’m sorry to say that not everyone left is going to survive the night, but that doesn’t mean we need to just roll over and take it.

Keep posting!

Shawn Putnam
Jake Crichton
Executive Officer


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