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With Every Breath

Posted on Mar 29, 2019 @ 5:45pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane & Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Mar 29, 2019 @ 5:45pm

Mission: The Uncertainty Principle

"WITH EVERY BREATH"

(Continued from "The Enemy Within")

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Location: USS Phoenix, dying in space
Stardate: [2.19]0328.1730
Scene: Outside battle bridge - deck 3, drive section


Michael Turlogh Kane checked on the insensate form of Byte as Kass finished her conversation with Eve Dalziel - the counselor made reference to him allowing the marine to 'pull the trigger' on her plan, and Kane waited silently by as the conversation finished, nodding when Kass quizzically mouthed the phrase 'ten minutes?' to him as Eve continued her entreaty not to do anything until Dr. Eden had been given an opportunity to update him.

Byte was inert. It lay prone and prostrate on the deckplate, eyes wide open but unseeing. Kane had deactivated the android once it became apparent that it knew about Kassandra's plan to destroy the other Phoenix.

"What'll ya do with him?" asked Kass, as Kane got to his feet.

"It's not a person, it's a machine," Kane reminded her, before gesturing down the hall. "I'll put it in the ready room. Nobody has any reason to go in there." He pitched his voice low. "Now, tell me what you have in mind."

A flicker of suspicion seemed to pass across Kassandra's face, and she made a show of flicking her blind eyes from Byte's prone form back to Kane as if to underscore her misgivings. After a moment of careful scrutiny she rolled back on her heels and looked up at Kane, pointedly re-holstering her phaser.

"Mah Marines're currently assemblin' a real large 'splosive device. Only able ta use whut tha Marines have, but right now we gotta 'bout a whole kiloton of explosives rigged tagether. Once it's complete, Ah’m plannin' ta take over Engineerin' and force 'em to open another passage through null-space, jus' like the one we put Yu though earlier. Then…"

Kass let her thought trail off, because Kane was filling it in for himself. "Then you send it through the conduit into the Engineering department of the other Phoenix, and detonate it. The explosion sets off an antimatter containment breach, and the other Phoenix explodes. The matter displacement from the detonation should move the majority of mass out of our shared point in space-time, thereby allowing us to go merrily on our way with no further trouble or damage."

"That's about tha height've it. Finish 'em affore they finish us."

Kane regarded Kass carefully. Her weapon was holstered, but her entire demeanor was like a coiled snake, ready to strike and take him out if it seemed like he was going to stand in her way. She seemed almost like a different woman - the affable, if snarky, veneer of civilisation being stripped away to reveal something cold, ruthless, and calculating.

He saw a reflection of himself.

"It's not a particularly elegant plan," he said. "A hammer instead of a scalpel, but it should work. How do you plan to detonate it? A timer?"

Kass leaned insouciant-like against the corridor wall. "Fuck no. Ain't no sense in givin' 'em a chance ta disarm tha thing. Better ta send someone through with it, then detonate before they gotta chance ta figger out what's happenin'."

Kane motioned down to Byte. He grasped the android's ankles while Kass put her arms around its torso. Together, they hefted it down the corridor towards the ready room - given the smaller size of the battle bridge, neither the secondary ready room nor the secondary conference room were attached to it. "I had no idea Mister Byte was so heavy," he wheezed. "Who would you send through? One of your Marines?"

They reached the ready room and hauled Byte inside, dropping the android onto the floor with an ungainly thump. Kass straightened up again, catching her breath. "Me. My plan, my job."

"Suicide, Major?"

"Ah'm too pretty ta go ta prison, an' that's 'zactly where Ah'd end up after this lil' escapade, even if it works. Besides, as my old man always says - always do yore own dirty work."

They returned to the corridor. Kane turned back to the ready room door. "Computer, seal this door. Authorisation Kane, alpha-alpha-three-zero-five."

The maglocks engaged with a light clunk, immediately followed by the computer's disembodied voice. [[Door sealed.]]

Kane paused for a moment, looking Kass in the eye. "There's been enough death already."

"No there ain't. We're tha original Phoenix, and they're tha goddam copies. We lost Jake, we lost Jon Maynell, Loo'tenant Crow is comatose, an' Ensign Ryan is on life sapport n' sickbay. While our friggin' copies git away oxen-free? Hell no. Let 'em burn."

Kane looked at the floor. In truth, his statement just now had been something of a test to see if Kass was adamant. He could see she was, and he could also see that she was right. Malin-Argo and his staff had been trying for hours to stymie the imminent warp core breach and nothing had worked. The Phoenix, and everyone on her, was doomed unless desperate measures were undertaken, and this was as desperate as it got. If that meant killing the other Phoenix from the other universe, well then, that was an acceptable price to pay.

He reached out and put his hands on her shoulders. "Thank you, Major," he said meaningfully. "I'll keep Doctor Eden and Counselor Dalziel occupied, make sure you have enough time to carry out your plan."

Kass pulled herself away. "Yeah, yeah." She turned on her heel and moved away down the corridor to the nearest turbolift, then stopped and looked back. "Y'all'll look after mah kids fer me, won'tcha?"

Kane nodded. There was nothing else he could do.

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Scene: Primary sickbay - deck 12, saucer section


Sidney Bartlett stood quietly by the IC biobed as, for the third time in as many minutes, he did a brain stem reaction test on the young woman lying under its protective shield. There was nobody else in the room, but nearby on another biobed, Karrington Crow's unconscious form slumbered until her machine's watchful sensors.

The test was completed almost instantly - a low-level electrical pulse directed into the radiation-ravaged body, targetting the brain stem in an attempt to kick-start synaptic activity - and once again came back negative. There was no bio-electrical activity in Lynette Ryan's brain stem, and furthermore, no blood pressure save for what the biobed's ventilator system was supplying to her. There was nothing except the sound of her laboured, regular breathing, being controlled and monitored by the biobed's computer system.

When she had been brought to sickbay less than an hour ago, with beta radiation burns on one hundred per cent of her body, there was already very little that Dr. Bartlett could have done. Lynette was already deeply comatose and unresponsive to stimuli, requiring immediate artificial respiration. Her optic nerves had been burned away by the radiation, but even a direct corneal stimulation had not provoked any blinking, indicating severe brain damage. There was no response to supra-orbital pressure, no cough reflex, and no observed reaction to the increased CO2 levels in her blood.

Dr. Bartlett did not know the young woman whose life was about to come to an end in his sickbay, but that did not stop him from reaching out and tenderly smoothing her hair away from her face. Her skin, now coloured a grotesque combination of burn-red and a sickly brown, was greasy to his touch, and did not easily flow back into position once his thumb had moved it. Yet for all this, there was no longer any pain on her face - it was as if Lynette Ryan lay in a sleep without dreams. Her brow was smooth and not wrinkled in discomfort, her mouth no longer downturned in pain, her eyes no longer wide with fear.

There was nothing else to do. Dr. Bartlett prepared himself to deactivate the biobed, at which point Lynette Ryan's heart would cease being artificially stimulated, and she would pass from this life. It was not the first time in Sidney Bartlett's long career that he had been present for this moment, but it had never lost any of its significance for him, always being conscious that, even though he must use clinical language, the patient was still a person, with hopes, dreams, loves, and a life.

Professionalism. Everything must be recorded. Bartlett touched a control on the biobed lid. "Patient unresponsive to all stimuli. Internal scans indicate widespread tissue and organ damage. Third brainstem test negative. In my medical opinion, the patient's survival is not possible and brain death has already occurred. Accordingly, I will now deactivate the biobed's artificial ventilation system and allow nature to take its course."

Bartlett's hand moved over the biobed control. As the system shut down, the final breath escaped Lynette Ryan's lips, and the lifesigns on her monitor flat-lined silently. Her chest did not rise again.

"Death occurred at fifteen-nineteen hours," intoned Sidney Bartlett. He waited a moment to give the soul a chance to depart, to let her know that she had not been alone when she passed, before turning back into sickbay.

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Scene: Secondary conference room - deck 3, drive section


"Understood, Doctor," said Kane, as Bartlett finished delivering his news. "Please inform Commander Malin-Argo of Ensign Ryan's death. I'm sure he would want to know."

[[Yes, Captain. Sickbay out.]]

"Computer, do not route any communications messages to this room or to my communicator until further notice." Kane set his jaw - when Kassandra launched her invasion of Engineering, the first thing that Malin-Argo or Jasmine Yu would likely do would be to contact him. By cutting them off, it would hopefully sow some confusion and but the marine extra time to complete her mission.

To his credit, Bartlett had been brief and to the point. Another member of the crew gone, another casualty to be recorded. They were dropping one by one, while the copies of themselves on the other Phoenix got away scot-free, untouched by all this tragedy and death. There was no justice in the universe, but all the Lynette Ryans and Jake Crichtons (and Kassandra Thytoses, he remembered bleakly) would not die in vain. If the warp core breach was inevitable, they would not go out like a light, at least not without a fight. Kane balled his fists with determination - this was the real ship, and deserved to live.

The door chimed, announcing the arrival of Dr. Eden and Counselor Dalziel. Kane mentally prepared himself for what was to come. "Come."

The two women entered. Both of them looked tired and drawn, but then again, Kane supposed he did too. The last few days had been torture, like a clock counting inexorably down to execution, and everyone was feeling it. He took a moment to rue the day he'd ever allowed this irascible old woman and her insane experiment aboard his ship.

"Doctor, Counselor. Please, sit down." He gestured to two seats opposite him, and the two women duly sat.

"Captain Kane," said Dr. Eden, "I have information pertaining to the other Phoenix that may cause you to pause your plan to destroy it."

Kane held up a hand. "I'd be happy to listen to you, Doctor, but first - what is happening in Engineering?" An extra minute, he thought.

Eve leaned forward. "Commander Malin-Argo has had no success in slowing the warp core breach. There is a black pall over the whole department since the death of Ensign Maynell."

"Then I regret to inform you that Ensign Ryan has also died," said Kane. Another minute.

Dr. Eden stayed respectfully silent, but Eve's eyes fell to the tabletop. "Oh God, not another one of us. She interfaced with that probe knowing the damage it could do to her."

"You ordered that action, Captain, did you not?" said Dr. Eden pointedly.

"I did, Doctor," said Kane evenly. "If I had not done so, you would not be delivering the information contained within it to me now."

"Was anyone with Lynette?" asked Eve. "When she passed, I mean?"

Kane's eyes were still narrowed and focused on Dr. Eden. The woman's gaze was boring through him. He wondered what was happening in Engineering. "Doctor Bartlett was with her, Lieutenant. He contacted me a few minutes ago to notify me of her death."

"Someone will have to look after Mackie," said Eve. "I'll make the arrangements, Captain."

"If we could move to business?" asked Dr. Eden. She softened her tone and looked sidelong at Eve. "I sympathise with the loss of your shipmate, but time is passing with every breath."

Eve exhaled deeply and nodded. "Yes. Captain, the probe contained scientific data that the other Phoenix has accumulated over the last few days. As you know, they're not as badly damaged as we are - "

"According to Lieutenant Yu, they're not damaged at all," said Kane. "Everything is just hunky dory over there. We're the ones who have suffered everything."

Eve nodded quickly. "Yes, sir, but their Doctor Eden must be heavily involved in analysing the problem. That's what was in the probe - information from one scientist to another. We have new data, a new working theory."

"Alright then, let's hear it," said Kane. "What did the other Doctor Eden have to say for herself?"

Dr. Eden paused a moment before speaking. "Captain Kane, try to remember your Academy science classes. Two or more particles with the same quantum state cannot occupy the same point in space-time, yes?"

"I loathed math and science class," said Kane, "but yes, I remember that principle."

"The other Phoenix's sensors are undamaged, and were able to scan the residue of the transwarp conduit that caused us such a catastrophe. Their conclusion is startling - they propose that two dimensions, universes if you like, have merged at this point in space-time."

"You just told me that wasn't possible."

"Please pay attention, Captain Kane. I told you that two or more particles with the same *quantum state* could not occupy the same point in space-time. Electro-magnetic waves, for example, are made up different particles to normal matter, and thus can exist in the same point in space-time in either universe. That is the crux of our problem - the disparity in phase between both Phoenix has been enough to change their quantum state. We cannot break away from the other Phoenix without first shattering that disparity."

Kane bristled at Dr. Eden's tone, but frowned. "How would that be possible?"

Dr. Eden sighed. "My counterpart theorises that it would be akin to focusing a lens, with a new transwarp conduit acting as that lens. Imagine a picture of the Phoenix, Captain, so out of focus that there appears to be two starships, one superimposed on one another." She held up her hands, trying to describe what she meant. "Now imagine that you are viewing that picture through a kaleidoscope or through a pair of binoculars. You can refocus the scene by using a focusing wheel to alter how light passes through the device, thus bringing our two starships closer and closer together until they join up, and a clear picture is seen."

"I'm following you," said Kane, "but you've just told me that we are two different starships from two different universes."

Dr. Eden nodded. "Yes. To continue our analogy - we must keep refocusing through the clear picture, until both starships have passed *through* one another and become a blur of two starships again. Only this new blur is, in fact, a separation of both starships into their respective universes. The disparity in quantum states is, momentarily, the same, then we break apart again."

Kane raised an eyebrow. "Is that possible?"

"Theoretically, yes." Dr. Eden rubbed her eyes with the back of her gnarled hand. "However, this Phoenix has suffered too much damage to attempt to generate the kind of power we'd need to open a new transwarp conduit. Our systems will not function at that kind of level."

"So we're dead in the water." Kane shook his head in irritation. "Why are you telling me this, Doctor Eden?"

"Think about it, Captain Kane!" snapped Dr. Eden. "If you obliterate the other Phoenix, *they* won't be able to open a transwarp conduit either! My counterpart in the other dimension has, by sending me this data, indicated that this is their working theory! We have to give them time to set it up!"

Kane looked incredulously at Eve and Dr. Eden. "Are you serious? There is no way we can know that!"

"We can't just *murder* them either!" said Dr. Eden.

Kane slapped his palm against his own chest. "*I'm* Captain Kane! Not the other one! *I'm* the original, and *I* will fight to live! That should go for the two of you as well!"

"We're only the originals from our own subjective point of view!" snapped Dr. Eden. "The crew of the other starship also have a right to live!"

"Not at my expense, nor at the expense of *this* crew!" said Kane. He turned to Eve. "Counselor, I'm angry that you've brought his nonsense to my attention - in case you haven't noticed, a sizeable number of your friends and colleagues are dead! We have to take steps to protect ourselves!"

Eve shook her head quickly. "Captain, that's unfair - "

"Doctor Eden, if the other Phoenix is destroyed in accordance with Major Thytos' plan, will the anti-matter displacement from the explosion hurl the two Phoenixes apart, or will it not?" Kane jabbed a finger at the woman. "Your professional opinion, not your personal one."

Dr. Eden was silent for a moment, her lip curled into a contemptuous sneer as it became clear that Kane was not going to change his mind. "Yes, it's possible, alright? It's possible."

Kane smiled viciously. "I refuse to wait any longer. If Major Thytos succeeds, then we're free and can go home. If she fails, we're doomed when our warp core breaches. On the other hand, waiting an indeterminate amount of time for the other Phoenix to initiate a plan we know nothing about makes no sense. How do you know that they're not waiting for us to be destroyed in the hope that the anti-matter displacement from *our* explosion will free them?"

"So what if they are?" snarled Dr. Eden. "You just want to kill them anyway?"

"NO!" thundered Kane. "I want to *survive*, and I want to give us all the best chance of doing that! Now get out, both of you!"

There was nothing more to be said, and anyway, Dr. Eden didn't need encouraging. She stormed out of the room, followed by Eve, while Kane again checked the chronometer.

Any minute now.

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Scene: Main Engineering - deck 36, drive section


Right about then, Kassandra Thytos was finishing up attaching the explosive to the probe, while the other marines held the engineers at gunpoint. Near her, Harry Bellacotte kept his pulse rifle on the Grazerite while she closed the probe back up, now loaded with a kiloton of miniature explosive.

Malin-Argo was seething. A moment before Kass had arrived in Engineering, Dr. Bartlett had called down to inform him of Ensign Ryan's death, and it had hit him hard, coming so close after Jonathan Maynell.

"Engineering to Captain Kane!" he bellowed for the fifth time, before looking around in angry confusion. "Major Thytos, this is outrageous! How dare you bring armed marines down to my engine room!"

"Shush," said Kass as she made the final seal. "Keep him covered, Harry. Ain't nothin' stoppin' this thing now." She turned around to face Asta Elgin, who was staring at her with a mix of horror and shock. "Hey, honey."

"What's going on?" gasped Asta.

"What else? We're gonna try ta break free," said Kass. She reached out a hand and touched Asta's face. "Ya know Ah love ya, right, Asta? You an' Lysander - Ah'm sorry for what Ah'm about ta put y'all through."

"What are you talking about?" Asta's eyes were wide with fear.

"There's a PADD on mah bed in mah quarters explainin' everythin'," said Kass. "When we're free o' this mess, go talk ta tha Cap'n. He'll do right by ya. An' one more thing, Asta honey - please don' hate me."

Kass disengaged from the shaking Asta and moved back to the probe. She shot a glance at Bellacotte. "Been a friggin' honour, Harry."

"You too, Major," the big man replied, never taking his eyes off Malin-Argo. "Give 'em hell."

"Major," said Malin-Argo, "what are you doing?"

Kass accessed the probe's control panel, calling up the built-in subspace isolation field. "If Ah got this here whackadoodle right, then I oughta be makin' mah way through null-space right about - "

She touched the final control. With a whirr, the machine spun into life, its circuitry activating its subspace isolation field. Almost immediately, Kass became transparent as both she and the bomb-probe began to phase-shift out of existence.

Her last word, her last breath, floated out of her ghost.

" -now."

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NRPG: Last couple of posts now folks! Apologies for long, long delay. Alix wrote a big-ass chunk of the opening scene.


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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