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Posted on May 11, 2019 @ 3:40am by Lieutenant Jasmine Yu & Lieutenant Eve Dalziel & Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on May 11, 2019 @ 3:40am

Mission: The Uncertainty Principle


(Continued from "With Every Breath")


"The inventor of the mirror poisoned the human heart."
- Fernando Pessoa, "The Book of Disquiet"


Captain's log, supplemental - as our warp core spirals towards a breach which will destroy the Phoenix, I am determined to use every means at my command to save this ship and destroy our counterparts from the alien dimension...


Location: USS Phoenix, timelocked and heavily damaged
Stardate: [2.19]0510.1940
Scene: Battle bridge - deck 3, drive section

Jasmine Yu sighed, standing behind the tactical console, coordinating the rescue efforts with her security teams. Her mind raced back to the time spent briefly in the other dimension, when the young woman came face to face with the crew from the other Phoenix. It was unbelievable. All this time, she and everyone else thought they were aliens existing in a different continuum, when in reality they were just another version of the Phoenix crew. The other Phoenix, unlike her own, was still intact, which deep down she wanted to believe was unfair. Why them, and not the other way around? But she immediately pushed aside those thoughts and chided herself for being selfish. She chose to be glad that at least one Phoenix still had a chance to make it out alive but at the same time clung to a sliver of hope that her ship would survive as well. However, that hope kept diminishing as every second passed, bringing them closer to a warp core breach and thus ultimately, the ship's destruction.

The Asian woman tilted her head and glanced around the room. She raised an eyebrow. Odd. Kane and Byte had stepped outside the bridge, which had been a while back, and the android hadn't returned. Then a growing suspicion of the Captain began gnawing at her. Something didn't seem right. Why was Kane holed up in the Secondary Conference Room and not here in the Bridge, where he was supposed to be in times of crisis? He didn't even go to the Ready Room and chose the conference room, which also seemed strange to her. And where did Byte go? Maybe he went to Main Engineering to assist Malin-Argo and Eden. She tapped on her comm. Badge. "Bridge to Main Engineering."

No response.

"Bridge to Engineering," Yu spoke. "Commander Malin-Argo? Lieutenant Dalziel? Anyone there?" But no response. She became alarmed, fearing the worst for a moment before composing herself, tapping her comm badge again. "Bridge to Captain Kane."

[[Kane here. What do you want, Lieutenant?]] His voice was harsher than normal, and that disturbed the security chief.

"Captain, I tried to contact Main Engineering but there was no answer."

[[Now, why would you do that, Lieutenant?]]

"Well, sir," said Jasmine in a calm voice. "I just wanted to check in on them and make sure everyone is alright."

[[Why wouldn’t they be?]] She could tell the Captain was getting very testy with her, as if he was annoyed she called him, which made her even more suspicious of him.

"Captain, since they aren’t responding to my calls, with your permission, I'd like to send a security team down there to make sure everything is alright."

[[Permission denied.]]

"Sir, may I ask why?"

[[You may not, Lieutenant. Kane out.]]

Just like that, the Captain ended communications in an abrupt way that really did alarm her regarding his plans. **Why didn’t the Captain want me to send a security team to Main Engineering? What’s going on here? ** She let out a sigh of frustration, leaning slightly forward, her hands wresting on opposite sides of the console.


Scene: Malin-Argo’s Office - deck 36, drive section

"Well, what are you going to do now, girl?" Lorraine Eden said with her customary brittle authority.

"What do you mean? It seems to me it's already been done." Eve Dalziel gestured helplessly to the spot where the munitions-laden probe, along with Kass, had disappeared from. Around Engineering, several of Kass's marines stood firm, their weapons covering everyone.

Doctor Eden regarded the Counselor with disdain. "It's a pity- after all the time you've spent with me, you're still not thinking much like a scientist."

"I didn't realize scientists were hell bent on disobeying orders."

The older woman chuckled. "We are not disobedient. We hypothesize. We experiment. We use academia to push the boundaries of the laws of nature. We discover. We step on toes, but it's not malicious. We search for the truth. And somehow, I don't think destroying our doppler is a truth I can support. Can you?"

Eve paced for a few steps, shuffling her feet. Although she hadn't answered the question posed to her, she felt an unrest similar to what had been described. Something about this just didn't *feel* right. "When Kass gets back, I'll just have to convince her and Kane not to detonate the payload."

"You don't understand, do you?" Her tongue was just as sharp as it had been since her arrival. “That bomb isn't something than can be set with a timer. Our contemporaries aren't going to simply allow themselves to be destroyed. They won’t let anyone leave an explosive device on their doorstep without trying to defuse it. It can't be remotely detonated due to the phase variation between that ship and ours. Your Marine friend signed up for a one-way trip. She's not *coming* back."

Dalziel was upset and puzzled. Why wouldn't Kane have sent Byte instead? While the Maddox-type android was a valued member of the crew, and an immense resource, it would have still been the lesser of two evils to pick him over Kass. "Computer, where is Lieutenant Byte?"

[[Lieutenant Byte is not aboard the Phoenix.]]

Eve frowned. She had answered one question, but replaced it with another. But that would better explain Kassandra being jettisoned over to the other ship. "Computer, where was Byte’s last known location before he disappeared?"

[[Outside the Battle Bridge - deck three, drive section.]]

Eden took a perverse delight with this disturbing turn of events. “Don't you see, girl? The only true conscience aboard the ship, and someone took him out of the picture."

That was not the way Eve would have put it, but she had to agree with the assessment. "But why?"

"Miss Dalziel, we neither have time to ask, nor do we have time to answer that. The query you should be posing is are we going to take back Engineering, or not?"

The Captain and the Major had made a calculated but desperate decision. And now, despite her attempts to stay above it all, Eve was being forced into the same mold. If Doctor Eden’s theory was correct about 'refocusing' the two Phoenixes, and they succeeded, that would be a strong bargaining chip to keep the both of them out of the brig. If it wasn't, and they failed, there'd be nobody left to argue the point. Therefore, the die was cast. "First things first- we'll need to neutralize the Marines outside."

Lorraine Eden looked all too pleased with herself. "Those of us left in Engineering outnumber those ruffians easily - couldn't they be taken by brute force?"

Eve shook her head. "These are tech heads we're talking about. It would be like asking a helmsman to bake a cake. Too much room for error. I'd have to mobilize them to attack first, magically without drawing attention, and even *if* we managed to do that and storm them, the Marines would have plenty of time to call for backup. Also, those pulse rifles they're wielding are particularly nasty. It needs to be something they wouldn't be expecting."

"Do we have any allies *outside* of Engineering?"

Eve thought for a moment on this. "There's only one way to find out." She walked over to the console and began typing in a message for Jasmine Yu on the Battle Bridge. Only Marines had been sent to Engineering, so Eve surmised that either Jasmine wasn't in on the plan, or Security's resources weren't spoken for. {{THIS IS DALZIEL. LIEUTENANT YU DO YOU READ ME?}}

"Why not just use your communicator?" asked Eden.

"The comms may be compromised. Anyone, especially Kane, could be listening. But there’s a lot less chance someone is watching Jasmine's station except for her."

Jasmine didn't answer right away. This would have been a lot easier face-to-face, but they didn't have that luxury. Eve leaned in over the display in secrecy and anticipation, even though the only two people that could see it were her and Eden. Finally, there was a reply. {{YU HERE.}}

{{KANE HAS SENT AN EXPLOSIVE DEVICE TO THE OTHER PHOENIX. EDEN AND I ARE GOING TO ATTEMPT TO GAIN CONTROL OF ENGINEERING TO UNTANGLE THE SHIPS AS AN ALTERNATIVE. ADVISING YOU OF THE SITUATION.}} In spite of Eve's admission to the Chief of Security, she didn't feel any lessening of the pressure that had been mounting as they edged closer and closer to destruction.

{{MESSAGE RECEIVED.}} Jasmine hadn't needed to respond, but it was a small comfort that she did.

Searching for satisfaction, and finding none, Eve turned her attention back to the armed marines. "We need to immobilize them," she repeated. She scanned the department, which had grown far too familiar for her liking, looking for tools that could be used against the Marines. The place had seen better days. The warp core was pulsating wildly, an unnatural rhythm as it strained to stay within parameters. There were blood stains and charred patches of flooring, a heavy reminder of the of dead and injured personnel they had suffered through, and remnants of medical supplies left behind when the first wave of injured were treated in place.

Medical supplies… "Computer, locate Ensign Lysander Elgin."

[[Ensign Elgin is in the Counseling department on Deck 13.]] That was a stroke of luck as far as Eve was concerned. This *might* work. "If Malin-Argo was the only crew left behind after I take care of the Marines, would his expertise be enough to carry out your plan?" she asked Doctor Eden cryptically.

Lorraine Eden stared down her younger counterpart. "I believe so- but what's your idea to 'take care' of them? You don't strike me as the violent type."

Eve almost smiled - the old crone had no clue. "Let’s just call it 'Operation Sleeping Beauty'," she answered, before tapping at the console to message her assistant.


Scene: Battle Bridge-> Secondary Conference Room

Jasmine Yu tried contacting Engineering again and no response. She now contemplated sending down one of her officers down there to find out what was happening and whether anyone was still alive, but that meant defying the CO's orders. She sighed, but then something yellow flashed on the control panel. Jasmine's eyes shifted to the screen. It was a message from Lt. Dalziel and Dr. Eden. She quickly read the message and her brown eyes widened in shock. It all made sense, going by Byte's disappearance and Kane's suspicious behavior. The Captain, along with Kass Thytos, had planned on destroying the other ship. Well, she couldn't let that happen and inhaled in a deep breath, preparing herself for a very difficult task ahead.

Stepping away from the tactical station, the Asian turned around and exited the bridge. One of the tactical officers, Ensign Salvador Guerrero, took her place at the tactical station. She moved at a modest pace down the corridor, acting as if there was nothing out of the ordinary in her behaviour, until she stopped at the entrance to the conference room and pressed the door chime.

[[Enter.]] The doors parted, permitting the young woman to enter the room. Kane was there, sitting at his desk, and he looked up, wearing an annoyed expression. "What now, Lieutenant?"

Yu maintained her composure, masking her anxiety with a calm expression. "Captain," she began slowly yet kept her voice steady. "This is rather difficult for me to say so I"ll just come right out with it."

He raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his seat. "Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Captain, it has come to my attention that you, with Major Thytos' help, have made the decision to destroy the other ship, in order to disentangle ourselves from them."

"Yes," Kane said in a flat tone.

"Even after knowing the other Phoenix has a working solution to the problem?" Yu raised an eyebrow.

"A solution that is not guaranteed to work! A solution that benefits them, not us!" the Captain snapped. "Why can't you, or Lieutenant Dalziel, or Doctor Eden, understand it is about *our* survival, and not theirs?"

"So if I heard right," Yu argued calmly. "You want to destroy the other Phoenix to ensure our survival?"

"Now you get it, Lieutenant."

"That's murder, Captain," Jasmine declared, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice.

"We're the originals! It's either them or us!" Kane slammed the desk with his right hand. "Anyway, it does not matter what you think, Lieutenant. By now, Major Thytos has likely made her way to the other ship."

**Not if we could get her back before she activates the explosive device,** Jasmine thought, setting her jaws together and clinging to hope that even if they didn't survive, at least the other Phoenix would. She inhaled in a deep breath before speaking in a calm, yet firm voice. "Captain Kane, since you have been emotionally comprised and unable to make rational decisions, I hereby relieve you of command, effective immediately."

Kane set his jaws together, his eyes burning with rage. "This is mutiny, Lieutenant," he snarled.

Jasmine sighed, giving him a solemn look. "Captain, let's not make it any more difficult than it already is." This move against the Captain, felt like a punch to the gut. The young woman didn't want to remove her CO from command but his most recent decision to destroy the other ship had left her with no choice.


Scene: Malin-Argo's office - deck 36, drive section

Eve had tasked Doctor Eden with tracking Xander Elgin’s location as he raided sickbay and delivered a canister of sedative gas to the nearby Jeffries tube. Hopefully, everyone would be too busy to notice the unorthodox orders he was following. Meanwhile, Dalziel chatted up the Chief of Engineering through his console. She was grateful for his willingness to consider another way out of this situation than what had already been set into motion.

"It’s there," Eden said to Eve. "Your friend has placed the anesthizine in the Jeffries tube. Is Mister Malin-Argo ready to begin?"

"Yes. He's closed off the ventilation to the area to allow the anesthezine the best chance of doing its job. He's awaiting my signal." With that, Eve typed one last message to the CEO.


A beat later the comm became active. [[Malin-Argo to Dalziel.]]

Game on. Eve lifted her head to answer, even as the marine outside the office cocked his head at the sound of voices. "Yes, Commander?"

[[I need you to retrieve the tools left behind earlier in the aftermath of Ensign Maynell's accident,]] he began. [[The rest of my staff is occupied with more important matters.]]

"Of course, sir. I'll take care of it." Eve got up to leave.

Doctor Eden watched her go. "What do I do now?" the elderly scientist asked.

"Stay here," said Eve. "This room is airtight enough to protect you, and we should be joining you shortly. But otherwise, we need someone still conscious if anything goes wrong."

Eden nodded.

Eve knew that nobody had specifically been in the Jeffries tube when Maynell had been killed; so too did Malin-Argo. But the fresh Marines had arrived after that accident had happened, making it a decent ruse in case they overheard anything.

She walked nonchalantly through Engineering, making a point to not observe their unwanted guards. To them, the Counselor was merely carrying out her instructions. Her legs wobbled a little while standing at the opening of the access tunnel. She wasn't sure if it was due to stress or exhaustion, but neither of those was welcome right now. She took a deep breath at the bottom of the tunnel's ladder, and focused on carefully climbing one rung at a time, making her way upward until she reached the shallow platform where the soft-sided bag containing a cylinder of the potent soporific had been left for her. She slung the strap over her shoulder and lowered herself back down the way she came.

She walked to the master console where Malin-Argo was standing and knelt, placing the sack on the floor, and handing him a tricorder that had been tucked into the bag by Xander under the guise of the 'tools' needing to be brought down. Then, Eve pulled the top of the canister so it was peeking out of the bag, and opened the nozzle, pointing it towards the entrance and keeping it out of direct sight.

Malin-Argo hefted the tricorder. "I need to show this to Doctor Eden right away," he grated, a little louder than he needed to.

Eve stood up and nodded, and they both walked back to his office as quickly as they thought they could without arousing suspicion. Eve felt the eyes of the nearby marines follow her across the deck, but none of them made any move to stop her and the Grazerite.

As soon as they crossed the threshold, Malin-Argo activated a small keypad, securing the door, then went to his desk and brought up a remote control of the station he had been working at, not leaving anything unattended, and they waited for something to happen. "How long should this take, Lieutenant?" he whispered.

Eve's gray eyes examined the outside scene for any changes. "Not long. Even if they figure out they're being drugged, there should not be enough time to react or alert anyone for help. There's enough anesthazine out there to tranq two hundred people."

In a set of circumstances where they had counted down moment by moment an impossibly large number of times, the next thirty seconds felt the longest of any of them. At first, nothing happened, but then Asta Elgin collapsed in a heap. The marine near her shouldered his pulse rifle and moved to her assistance, but a moment later, his eyes rolled up into his head and he went down in a heap.

Even as the other marines and engineers noticed, they started dropping like flies. The drug was too strong, and and it spread quickly, even in the open-plan Engineering decks. Eve watched as Harry Bellecotte shook his head in alarm as he realised what was going on, but he was already too groggy. The big man went down on one knee, his rifle clattering to the deckplate, and after another couple of breaths, fell forward into his face, out cold.

Another few seconds dragged by as the three of them looked out of the office window, making sure nobody was still awake. With the remainder of the staff knocked out, and being sheltered from the gas behind the office door, the off-kilter vibrations and wild color gradients of the warp core were that much more noticeable.

Malin-Argo manipulated the office mirror terminal and groaned, looking grim. "Doctor Eden - please look at these readings. I think - "

Eden came to his side and Eve watched her click her tongue with displeasure. However, she did not rush to respond. She checked a couple of the data streams twice before speaking. "Your assessment is correct, Commander. I'm sorry."

Eve heard a nascent whine in her ears that she didn't recall hearing before. It was a high-pitched sound that seemed to emanate from the very heart of the pounding warp core. "What's happening?" she asked in alarm.

Malin-Argo pointed to a steep red curve on one of the readouts, surrounded by angry oranges and yellows. "The acceleration towards a breach is moving more rapidly than we can compensate for, and still execute the series of steps required to follow the Doctor's calculation."

"Even if the explosion the Captain sanctioned for the other vessel is a success, we've run out of time," Eden admitted. "This ship is lost."


Scene: Secondary conference room, deck 3, drive section

Captain Kane stood up to his full height and pulled out a phaser from the desk, pointing it at Jasmine. "Lieutenant Yu, return to your post and we will pretend this incident never happened." He took a step towards her, the phaser still aimed at her.

Jasmine gulped, eyeing her Captain with nervousness, and fear shone in her eyes – not because she was afraid of him. She could understand not wanting to die. She didn't want to die either, but that didn't mean they had to kill one another to survive. "I am sorry it has come to this," she said in a low voice.

Inhaling deeply, in one quick move she grabbed the CO’s wrist, holding the phaser, with both hands. Jasmine twisted Kane's arm to the side but the Captain pushed back, the phaser now aimed at the ceiling. She put her right foot forward, stepping to the inside of her opponent. Using the full weight of her body, the Asian managed to twist his hand into a wrist lock, loosening his grip on the weapon, thus allowing her to snatch the weapon away from him. Before she could make her next move, Kane bolted out of the room. As Jasmine chased after him into the corridor, she heard a male voice call out to her.

"Lieutenant Yu!" Ensign Guerrero came jogging up to her, looking alarmed. "You have a message from Lieutenant Dalziel."

Jasmine stopped, letting out a sigh as she stared ahead. The Captain was already far ahead of her down the corridor. As she watched, he disappeared around a corner. "What does it say?"

Guerreros's eyes were full of fear and alarm. "Warp breach is imminent, and it is too late to stop it."

Yu sighed again and noticed the Captain had vanished. Instead of pursuing him, she quickly turned around and made her way to the battle bridge.

Inside, Jasmine headed to her station and quickly read Eve's latest message. It read that, since they could no longer thwart the destruction of the ship, Eve, Eden and Malin-Argo had decided to save the other Phoenix and were attempting to lock onto Kass in the other dimension to pull her back, but were unable to because of interference from the rupturing warp core. Thus to resolve this issue, they needed Byte's assistance, but they had been unable to reach him. Jasmine's eyes widened as she realized Kane might have done something to disable him and hid him somewhere where he would be unreachable.

"The Ready Room," she said to herself. "Of course, it makes sense the Captain stashed him there, knowing no one would dare enter the room unauthorized."

She looked around the battle bridge, seeing the concern wrought on the faces of those officers waiting at their stations. "Wait here," she said, knowing that it might be the last time she was ever going to see them. No need to tell them about what was happening, she reckoned, especially not if everything was coming to an end. "I'll try to be back shortly."


Location: USS Phoenix - timelocked, but undamaged
Scene: The Vulgar Tribble - deck 10, saucer section

Asta Elgin poked at her plate of food, trying to kill as much time as possible before she had to go back to Engineering. There were just too many strong personalities there right now, and it was making her, and almost all the other engineers, a mite uncomfortable.

First, there was Malin-Argo. She could handle him, normally. He was demanding, quick to criticize, and very sparing with praise or even acknowledgement of a job completed satisfactorily, but he was a known quantity, relatively even-keeled, and in all fairness, didn't expect more of them than he expected of himself.

Next there was Lieutenant - no, Doctor - Crowe. A brilliant scientist, who Asta privately thought was a *teensy* bit of a know-it-all on occasion, though she'd always had the distinct impression that it was due to a bit of an inferiority complex, probably to do with her lowly rank, if her insistence upon being called 'Doctor' was any sort of clue.

Finally, there was Doctor Eden. A renowned 'genius,' and a condescending battleaxe of a woman. She ignored everyone whom she determined to be beneath her, which, as far as Asta could tell was pretty much everyone. Asta had the distinct impression Eden only deigned to speak to Captain Kane because he was in charge of the Phoenix, and she thought of him as some sort of concierge with delusions of grandeur.

It was really a case of too many cooks in the kitchen when you put the three of them together, or some other folksy saying that her aunt would use. Eden expected everything she wanted, when she wanted it, and seemingly had no realistic idea how much work some adjustment she wanted would take, nor how much time was reasonable for it to be accomplished in. That in turn sent Malin-Argo into a tailspin of trying to meet Eden's unrealistic expectations, because he prided himself on running an efficient, well-oiled department, and he took Eden's cutting remarks when things didn't proceed as quickly as she wanted as a personal insult. That, in turn, made him ride all his engineers more than usual, and everyone was tired, grumpy, and fed up with being told to do the same work three times to get things the most imperceptible smidgen more efficient. Crowe was desperate for Doctor Eden's approval, which brought out even more of her know-it-all tendencies, and she flitted around engineering generally, in Asta's opinion, getting in the way and exuding an unseemly aura of neediness.

Add in the failure of the experiment, and this issue with another version of the Phoenix, just out of phase, trapping them in an isolated patch of space, and it was practically a powder-keg. Lysander had even half joked about coming down there and observing everything to write a paper about it.

Not exactly a welcoming workplace. She'd have to go down soon though, or Malin-Argo would be bellowing down her comms, demanding to know where she was, and if she'd finished that phase coupler realignment, or even if -

"It's dead already." Her aunt's voice broke into Asta's internal diatribe. She gestured down at Asta's salad. "Don' think ya gotta stab it no more."

Asta looked down at the salad, which was looking decidedly limp and bruised. She sighed.

"Ah know that there look," said Kass. The marine folded her arms and looked down at her niece with a critical eye. "That's yore "Ah don' wanna go somewhere but Ah hafta' look. Not lookin' forward ta dealin' with Her Royal Highness again?"

"No. She's been in beast mode since we started having trouble with that other Phoenix, and now she's getting impatient and complaining that the other Doctor Eden must have been dropped on her head as a child, because 'surely she must be able to decipher my simple instructions and act on it by now'. You have no idea, Kass. That woman's got a tongue that flays you and then rubs salt and vinegar in the wounds."

Kassandra chuckled. "Oh, believe you me, I know. If'n she weren't an old lady and well above mah pay grade, Ah woulda laid her flat on her wrinkly ass an hour after she came aboard. At least she finds y'all useful, but me? Ah might as well be a piecea annoyin' furniture that's in her way."

Kass sighed as Asta pushed the plate away from her. Nearby, Iphie clucked her tongue in annoyance as she looked on from behind the bar. "But you'll have to go back sometime, ya know. How's about Ah walk ya back? Then Ah can walk in, be loud, an' annoy 'em all enough that you can slip back ta doin' whatever it is you were doin' before lunch with no one catchin' wind of you."

"I'll take you walking me down to Engineering, but I think you should probably avoid antagonizing them on purpose." Asta picked up her tray and took it to the recycler.

"Oh, not everyone, just her. Ah'm still tryin' to get on Malin-Argo's good side." Kassandra's lip twitched in a sly grin.

"Huh? Why?" Asta turned to look at her aunt in surprise.

The sly grin widened, and Kassandra put her hand out, two fingers raised. "Two words, gal. Prehensile. Tongue."

It took a moment for Kassandra's meaning to register, and Asta screwed her face up in disgust. "Ewww, Auntie Kass!" Asta clapped her hands to her ears. "I didn't need to hear that! That’s my boss!"

"Who ain't in mah command structure, an' has a prehensile tongue," Kassandra smirked at Asta.

"There isn't enough bleach to get that thought out of my brain now," Asta complained as they headed out the door.


Location: USS Phoenix, timelocked and heavily damaged
Scene: Corridor-> Ready Room

When the computer rejected her computer codes, Jasmine Yu realized Kane had locked and sealed the room. "Computer, switch to manual override."

[[Unable to comply,]] intoned the computer.

Jasmine let out a sigh. Well, she needed to find another way to get inside. She moved up the corridor to the next junction, and looking around, saw two male technicians- one Human, one Tellarite - working on repairing a damaged panel. She called out, "Crewmen, I need help to pry open this door!"

"Yes, Lieutenant." The Tellarite and Human technicians stopped their repair work and followed the Security Chief back to the sealed ready room door. They each took a side and inserted their fingers within the space between the doors. Using their full strength, the two technicians managed to pry open the doors half-way, leaving just enough room for Jasmine to squeeze herself through the opening. Spotting Byte lying dormant on the floor, Yu glanced behind her shoulder "Crewmen, return to your task. I'll take care of this." The technicians complied, leaving her alone with the Ops chief.

Reaching out for the hidden switch on the Android's lower spinal column, Jasmine pressed it and waited for him to come online. Relief washed over her face, when he opened his eyes, blinking for a moment and then sat bolt upright.

"Lieutenant," Jasmine spoke as Byte tilted his head, his eyes shifting up to meet her gaze. "How are you feeling?"

Byte sat silently for a moment. {{I detect no damage to my systems and am currently functioning under normal parameters.}}

"Good to know you are unharmed."

{{Lieutenant,}} Byte began. {{There is something you need to know. Major Thytos is attempting to destroy the other Phoenix and the Captain, by disabling me, is working with her.}}

"I know." Jasmine nodded, "but right now, we urgently need to head to Engineering. Come, I'll fill you in on the details on the way."


Location: USS Phoenix, timelocked but undamaged
Scene: Turbolift to Engineering -> deck 36, drive section

The turbolift hummed to itself as it carried Kass and Asta down through the decks of the Phoenix, but Kass was not done teasing her niece.

"The problem with yore generation is y'all don know howta have fun," Kassandra quipped, pulling out a pair of work gloves from a pocket and pulling them on. She and some of the other Marines had been helping out in the Engineering and Science departments, lugging heavy equipment from one place to the other since the ship had first gotten stuck, reasoning that since they weren't doing anything else, they may as well lend a hand. It freed up some of the Engineering and Science people for Doctor Eden to order around imperiously, and gave her someone to run her petty errands like getting cups of tea, and finding her a better chair. "Or maybe it's jus' Starfleeters. Y'all could really stand ta loosen up a bit."

Asta rolled her eyes, but Captain Kane's voice interrupted the teasing. [[Bridge to MCO.]]

Kass' face turned serious, and she put on her 'Kane voice' - the professional-sounding, businesslike tone that she used for no-one else on the ship and that she put on just for him. Asta smirked at her aunt as she tensed up. "Uh, Thytos here, Captain."

[[Major Thytos, we're seeing another phase portal forming in Engineering, originating on the other Phoenix. Looks like one person is coming through, but there's something else with them - a mechanical device that we aren't able to get a good fix on. I understand you already have some Marines in Engineering doing grunt work, correct?]]

"Yes, sir."

[[It will take a little time for Lieutenant Yu to mobilize Security to the area. Will you please instruct your Marines to detain the intruder until Security gets there? Politely, please?]]

Kass nodded, even though Kane couldn't see her. "Right, sir. Ah'm on it. Thytos out," she replied, with a sharpness to her voice. She tapped her commbadge, opening a new frequency. "Harry, which o' mah Marines are in the vicinity o' Engineerin'?"

Harry Bellecotte's gruff voice answered her. [[McQueen, Pia and Massimo. I'm in the matter storage pods too. Why?]]

"We gotta bogey incomin', and Ah got me a feelin' that we're gonna need some muscle. Ah'm headin’ downta Engineerin', so once Ah git thar, Ah'll need y'all ta converge on mah location," Kass said carefully.

Asta blinked. That wasn't quite the order which Captain Kane had given to Kassandra. **She knows something. Or at least she thinks she does…**

The turbolift slowed and came to a halt on deck thirty-six, the main deck of Engineering's open-plan layout, and they stepped out into the hallway. Asta glanced sideways at her aunt, contemplating whether it was worth the effort of trying to drag more information out of her as the older woman hurried up the pace, and decided it wasn't. Kassandra's jaw was set, her pronounced underbite giving her a somewhat pugnacious, bulldog-like expression, and there was a tension around her eyes, a subtle deepening of the fine wrinkles that her aunt, if you asked her, would swear weren't there at all.

"Y'all know howta create one of those phase portal thingies?" Kassandra asked sharply, not bothering to pretend to look over her shoulder at Asta.

"Theoretically I do, but - "

"Good. So when we git ta Engineerin’, you go right ta the nearest control panel and do whatever you have to to keep the goddamn thing open, ya hear me? I don't got time ta exp-”

Kass's commbadge chirped, but it was Lieutenant Byte this time. As ever, the android spoke in a preternaturally calm voice. [[Major Thytos, Byte here. Be advised that we have identified the object coming through the tunnel with the intruder. It appears to be an -]]

"Lemme guess," said Kass, "a 'splosive device?"

[[That is correct. How did you - ]] Byte managed to sound surprised.

"Fore mah next trick, allow me ta astound y'all with mah psychic powers. Tha intruder would be me, right?" A deep line had formed on Kassandra's forehead, and her lips were puckered in an expression of irritation. Asta could see that this was clearly what she'd been expecting, but she wasn't at all happy about it. "Change o' plans, Byte. Ah think it's fer tha best if we don't involve Yu. If Ah can't reason with myself frum tha other universe, ain't no way Yu can reason with me. Tell the Cap'n Ah know exactly where she - Ah'm - the intruder, is goin'. Ah'll innercept her afore she gits there."

[[Understood,]] replied the android [[Keep us apprised.]]

Once the connection closed, Kassandra began a stream of invectives that would have made Asta blush if she hadn't heard them all before. Asta fixed her aunt with a disapproving stare, and the cursing trailed off into a malcontented grumble. The Marine fumbled with the collar of her uniform jacket and shrugged it off, balling it up into an untidy wad of fabric before tossing it on the floor. Reflexively, she ‘looked’ up at Asta and back to the abandoned jacket.

"Ya kin lecture me 'bout mah untidiness later, kiddo," she said, a slightly peevish note in her voice. "An' if'n ya could jus' roll the one on swearin' in with that'n too, Ah'd be grateful."

Asta shrugged. "No need to give me attitude, and I don't understand why you can't just *not* when you know it’s wrong to."

"Because swearin' an' bein' untidy are fun. That's why, *MOM*!" Kassandra snapped at her.

The doors to Engineering opened in front of them, and Kassandra barreled through them, Asta hot on her heels. From out of the chief engineer's office, Malin-Argo, Lorraine Eden, and Karrington Crowe appeared in response to the commotion.

"Where's that friggin' portal thing?" Kassandra bellowed at Malin Argo. "Tell me now, 'less y'all wanna to risk havin' a kiloton of explosives goin' off right over tha annimatter injection systems!"

Malin-Argo's eyes were wide, and as Asta looked around, she could see that several engineers were working at control stations, already point-pointing the location. The Grazerite gestured up to the top level of Engineering. "Up there, Major. Near the power distribution controls."

Kassandra gave a nod of acknowledgement and ran over to the lift even as four marines - McQueen, Massimo, Kuenzi, and Harry Bellacotte - converged on her, ready for action. "Y'all git yore asses up there double time! We got us trouble a-comin'!"

Although armed with only hand phasers and not wearing their armour, the marines quickly diverged, running to different corners of Engineering and swarming up ladders like ants even as the engineering staff looked on in growing alarm.

Asta turned to Malin-Argo urgently. "Commander, we need to get working as quickly at possible to create another phase portal, just like we used to send that probe to the other ship. We need a backup plan in case the Major isn't able to contain the situation. Worst case scenario, we need to be able to take that bomb out of phase with us so it doesn't damage us."

The Grazerite nodded. "I will work with Doctor Eden and Lieutenant Crowe," Argo said gravely. Asta turned away, and he cleared his throat. "And where are you going, Ensign?"

"Up there too. Hopefully it will be unnecessary, but at least if everything goes wrong I can try to defuse the explosive. A backup plan." Asta bolted across the engine room and legged it after her aunt, feeling a sense of deja vu. Always the one doing the chasing, she thought to herself, as she trailed behind her impetuous aunt rather like a helpless fish sucked into the wake of a passing ship.

By the time Asta reached the top of the ladder she had picked, her aunt was already standing in front of a shimmering, roiling disturbance in the air that was beginning to coalesce into a recognizable form. It was the subspace phase portal, and the visitor from the other Phoenix had almost come through null-space - Asta squinted, and yes, she could see that it was image of the other Kassandra Thytos. Same size, same silhouette, sam profile, and there something else with her. It looked like some sort of floating platform, stacked high with a wall of thermite bricks, all conncted to one another, and the control panels nearby were blaring in alarm. It was a bomb, with enough explosive power to obliterate the Phoenix and everyone aboard her.

Kassandra stood feet apart, knees slightly bent, weight on the balls of her feet, ready and waiting to spring forward on the newcomer.

"Try and talk her out of it first!" Asta gasped as she leaned against the top of the ladder, breathless from the fast climb. "Don't resort to violence, I mean it! You know her, you know how to reason with her!"

Kass glanced back at her. "Goddammit! It's pointless, but fine - Ah'll do it yore way." "Stay back though, Ah don' wanna haveta worry 'bout ya if things turn nasty! Stay back there with McQueen!"

Kass gestured back to a tall female Marine who was hovering around the periphery of the action - a statuesque, tall woman with skin almost as dark as her uniform, whose head was topped by a riot of tight curls, barely tamed to Marine regulation by decorative golden spirals and clips. McQueen nodded curtly at Asta, before kneeling down and unrolling a set of tools.

"Got a steady hand, Ensign Elgin?" She had a singsong accent, and a deep, fruity voice. Asta nodded, and the woman smiled reassuredly, a toothy grin of perfectly straight, white teeth. "Good, because if this explosive is the handywork of my counterpart over there, then I'll need all the help I can get. But maybe we'll get lucky, and the dragon lady will get the interloper to stand down, no?"

"I doubt it," Asta breathed as the other Kassandra Thytos fully materialised from the subspace portal, holding a control panel in her hand, a panel that had a chronometric reading on it counting inexorably down to zero. The other Kass had a fixed, singular expression on her face, an irresistible imperative etched there.

"We're probably going to be lucky if this doesn't end with a formal declaration of war," Asta whispered fearfully.


Location: USS Phoenix, timelocked and heavily damaged
Scene: Main Engineering - deck 36, drive section

Malin-Argo and Dr. Eden turned away from the control panel that had pronounced the fate of the Phoenix and everyone aboard her. The Grazerite's bovine face was grimmer than Eve had ever seen it, and Dr. Eden seemed numb. The both stood there like petrifying statues, seemingly unable to move. Behind them, the control announced that there were less than three minutes to a warp core breach - that whine she had heard earlier was now rising to a high-pitched scream, as the strain on the anti-matter containment field rose to breaking point. When it finally failed, the uncontrolled annihilation of matter and anti-matter within the intermix chamber would cause an explosion that would completely obliterate the ship and everyone aboard it.

As the realization hit Eve, something broke away inside. She couldn't tell if it was good or bad, but it didn’t matter anymore. "Okay, *this* ship is done for, but if we can't save ourselves, can we protect the other Phoenix from that explosive? Can we stop Major Thytos?" That was the only shred of hope they had left.

Malin-Argo looked out into Engineering, where several of the surviving engineers had realised what was happening and were embracing one another in fear as the warp core's pounding increased exponentially.

Dr. Eden reached up and placed a hand on the Grazerite's shoulder, bringing him back to the here and now. "We can try," she said in a small voice.

Malin-Argo turned back to his controls. His voice betrayed the strain of trying to focus. "I need to attempt to hone in on the Major's location. Doctor, can you work to calibrate the sensors to counteract the fluctuations in the warp core?"

"Of course, Commander." Dr. Eden's slender, bony fingers quickly worked on the left side of the display, trying to take rapidly fluctuating energy discharges and tame them, allowing Malin-Argo's search for Kass across null-space to be fruitful.

The screaming and pounding grew louder. Eve wondered if she was the only one who could hear it due to her Cardassian biology, or if it was the sound of imminent catastrophe as the core destabilized further.

Malin-Argo and Dr. Eden went through another ballet of hands and arms. The older woman shook her head. "There's too much interference for -- to get a lock -- her. Maybe -- can try to amplify - "

Eve was starting to lose parts of the conversation, her head pounding along with the droning noise. Was this the sound of death?


Location: USS Phoenix, timelocked but undamaged
Scene: Main Engineering - deck 35, drive section

"Well, we shall have to watch and see. Here she comes." McQueen jutted her chin towards Kassandra, who was now standing toe to toe with herself. The double was pulling an antigrav sledge behind her, on which was sitting the large mound of cobbled-together thermite, with a couple rings of grenades all piled in for good measure. The whole lot of it was delicately strung together, like a nightmare version of Christmas tree lights.

"Just what in tarnation d'ya think y'all're doin' here?" Kassandra said sharply to her doppleganger once the double had finished coming into phase.

The other Kass looked around, seeing Asta and McQueen nearby. "Y'all know what Ah'm doin' here. Ah'm doin' what I hafta do fer me an' mine,” she said, her tone of voice matching Kassandra's in intensity.

"That's friggin' idiotic. Look back here." Kassandra jerked a thumb back in Asta's direction. "Y'all really gon' tell me y'all're gonna kill Asta? Our Asta? The kid ya raised since she was little?"

"*Yore* Asta, not *mah* Asta. *Mah* Asta is on a ship that's a-fixin' to try yore ship's stoopid idea, even though it ain't in no condition ta even think about attemptin' it. Y'all're here bitchin' at me, but yer perfectly willin' to doom *us*, albeit not takin' such an active role because ya ain't got no stomach fer it. No, y'all're a buncha cowards. Ya won't do the actual deed, but the end effect'll be the same thing."

"Stop trynna rile me up! Ah know that's what yore doin'! An' yes, she's *our* Asta! Our timelines can't've diverged all that long ago, can't be that much different!" Kassandra snapped sharply. "Don't you be no plumb idiot, Kassandra Urania Thytos! Ya know damn well n' right that this here shit is worse n' Barbossa, an' ain't ya just spent mosta yer life regrettin' that? Don't add to the guilt!"

"Ah ain't gonna listen!" yelled the other Kass. "I ain't goin' back ta have *mah* Asta an' *mah* Lysander lookin' at me with horror an' contempt an' disgust, but I also ain't goin' back with this deed unfinished an' have everyone Ah love die for no goddamn reason whatsoever! Yeah, it'd've been nice n' all ta see 'em fall in love an' get married, maybe had a grandniece or nephew to dandle on mah knee, but you, yer goddamn ship, an' yer meddlin'! Y'all ain't given me the option! Ya know, all this time we've been seein' these flashes of the future, an' I kept on thinkin' that it was the universe givin' us a second chance, a way to stop those horrible futures, but y'all know what I think now?"

Kassandra shook her head. Her eyes kept flicking from the control panel in her double's hand back towards her steely expression. "Naw, why don'tcha go on an' tell me?"

"I think each one of those flashes forward was yore universe trynna do us in, like we was a virus or somethin', and that each time we got pulled back to the present, then that was our universe fightin' back!" Kass pointed around Engineering with her free hand. "Only we're too close to bein' in yore universe, so of course y'all're winnin', that's why everyone's died on mah ship, an' that's why you and yore goddamn ship don't even have a scratch! Well, we're tha originals, not y'all, an' if there can only be one, it's gonna be mah ship, otherwise what's the friggin' point of all the lives we've lost?"

"Yore wrong!" spat back Kassandra. "We're the originals, dammit!"

The other Kass shook her head. "Well, this ain't the best spot ta do this, but maybe this here boompack'll manage ta breach your pissant core afore the safeties come on. Fuck alla y'all." She lifted up the control in her right hand.

"Y'all're a such a goddam foul-mouthed bitch!" bellowed Kassandra, barging forward to tackle her double, bowling her over into the handrail that surrounded the open space that contained the warp core. The two Kassandras began to circle one another in a deadly dance.

"Ensign Elgin, we need to get moving! The bomb's armed and, we only have a minute before it's ready," McQueen said, tapping Asta's shoulder. McQueen moved towards the thermite, opening a tricorder to take a scan. Asta followed, trying to keep her eyes fixed on the two versions of her aunt, unwilling to take her eyes away lest she suddenly realize she didn't know which one was hers and which one was the homicidal duplicate.

Finally, she wrenched her eyes away to focus on McQueen. The marine's brow was furrowed as she struggled to interpret the datastream on the tricorder's screen. "We're lucky that the marines on the other Phoenix didn't have time, or perhaps the authorization, to get a payload from one of the quantum-polaron torpedos, otherwise this would have been over almost as soon as it started. But with this many disparate explosive sources you have to build a system to synchronize the explosions, or risk wasting your power. That synchronization will take time, and that's our window. Now, hold these wires for me."

Asta did as she was bid, and raised her eyes to look at the fight. All around the upper walkway of the Engineering deck, the two Kassandra were locked in a deadly combat. She could no longer tell which Kassandra was the original. It had degenerated into an odd contest of shallow feints and lunges as both women, used to using their sensor nets as a way to outfox the enemy, were now fighting an opponent who had the exact same advantages. Finally, one of them gave up on the elegant fighting and lunged in, intending to win through brute force. The other was unable to move in time and slammed against the railings with a painful sounding clang, letting out a pained groan as she sagged against the metal bars. As the other approached for the finishing shot, the one up against the railing snaked a hand out and grabbed the other by the hair, slamming her forehead into the railing, where she lay stunned. Victorious, the sensate Kassandra straightened up, and strode towards McQueen, who was arm deep in wires.

"Asta, gimme McQueen's phaser," she demanded, holding out her hand. "It's time ta put an end ta this nonsense.”

As McQueen watched, and everyone on the main Engineering decked stared up and on, Asta looked between the woman in front of her and the one lying on the deck plates. She couldn't tell which was which. She shook her head.

"Asta, gimme the goddamn phaser! This ain't no time ta fuckin' piss about!" Kassandra swore at her, and made a move towards McQueen. Asta shook her head again, and moved to block Kassandra, who swore, viciously. "Fine. I’ll do this the hard way."

Kassandra turned on her heel and walked back towards the insensate other Kassandra, leaning down to pick up the control device from the floor. She laid it atop the unconscious woman's body, and then pressed a few buttons on it.

"What are you doing?" asked Asta. "How do you know how to use that device?"

"It's idiot-proof, and Ah'm not a complete moron," said Kass, stepping up. "Now git back. You too, McQueen."

As she lay on the ground, the other Kassandra began to shimmer, transitioning out of phase and into nullspace. The remaining Kassandra rushed to the railing and bellowed down to Malin Argo and Doctor Eden. "Keep that damn phase thingie open, y'hear!"

As Asta and McQueen moved away, Kassandra put her boot to the antigrav sledge and boosted it into the rapidly-dwindling portal. The sledge, grenades, thermite, and other Kassandra were swallowed up by the brilliant white light just as the time hit zero.


Location: USS Phoenix, timelocked and heavily damaged

In Engineering, the pounding of the warp core stopped shockingly suddenly. The anti-matter containment field, overloaded for the past few days, finally gave way under the enormous radiation being emitted from the core, and anti-matter surged into the intermix chamber, flooding the dilithium crystals therein.

A moment later, as Eve Dalziel closed her eyes and covered her ears with her hands -

- as the bodies of Jake Crichton, Johnathan Maynell and Lynette Ryan lay in the mortuary of sickbay -

- as Captain Kane climbed down an access tunnel ladder somewhere in the bowels of the ship -

- as the comatose Karrington Crow breathed through a machine in the ICU while Dr. Bartlett smoothed her hair away from her face -

- as Jasmine Yu and Byte looked at one another in the turbolift en route to Engineering -

- as Sotaar and Procter and Guerrero manned their stations on the battle bridge -

- as Malin-Argo and Lorraine Eden shared one final glance at one another -

the starship Phoenix splashed fire in the void of space, detonating in a fireball that shattered her drive section into a million pieces. The secondary explosions played over the broken parts of the saucer section that survived, incinerating them utterly in a rainbow of flame as the Phoenix died, burned to ash.

When the last part of the saucer section burned up, there was nothing at all of her left. And when the light of the explosion faded away, she was gone forever.


Location: USS Phoenix, Wolf 1061 system
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane got to his feet in surprise. The viewscreen had changed - the white nothingness had given way to the starfield once again, and all systems across the Phoenix's bridge were surging back into life. All around him, the bridge officers were running diagnostics as the main computer suddenly began working normally.

He stood in the centre of the bridge. "Report."

At Ops, Byte turned to face him. {{Sensors are indicating a drastic drop in local chronoton readings. Furthermore, our navigational shields are back online, and we appear to have returned to normal space-time.}}

Kane felt a surge of elation. "We're free? What about the other Phoenix?"

From his seat, Jake Crichton checked his own readout. "No sign of her. Whatever happened in Engineering must have fixed the problem."

"Yes," said Jasmine Yu from Tactical. "I see normal operations on my displays. Like nothing was ever wrong."

"Confirmed," reported Lynette Ryan from the bridge engineering station. "All systems are green, Captain."

Kane lifted his head. "Bridge to Engineering. Report."

The gruff voice of Malin-Argo answered him. [[The subspace portal has been closed, Captain. One of the officers from the other Phoenix was attempting to bring a bomb into this universe, but was prevented from doing so and cast back into null-space. Our ship is safe.]]

[[Captain Kane,]] came the voice of Lorraine Eden, [[I recommend that we make haste to return to Earth. Even though this experiment has been a failure, it would make sense to vacate this area of space immediately.]]

Kane turned to Sotaar at the conn. "Set course for home, Lieutenant, best speed."

The stars all turned on their axes, and the Phoenix snapped into warp.


Scene: Captain's ready room - deck 1, saucer section
Time Index: A day later

Kane and Kass sat on the ready room couch, finishing up their cups of tea. Outside, the starfield was a blur as the ship powered its way home at maximum warp. Kass had just finished telling him her story.

Kane leaned back and crossed his legs. "The other Phoenix was doomed from the beginning, then."

"Accordin' ta what she said, yeah," said Kass. "They had no hopea gittin' out alive, but they were determined ta take us with 'em if'n they couldn't."

Kane nodded, and silence surged softly back into the room.

Kass broke it after a minute. "She said that they were tha originals, and that we're tha duplicates. She said that we're tha ones that deserved ta die."

Kane raised an eyebrow. "I think that we're the originals. Do you believe her?"

A shadow passed across Kass' face. "Maybe. After all, y'all have no way of knowin' who won that fight between us."

Kane had nothing to say. All across the Phoenix, the crew was putting this experience behind them, and in another couple of days the ship would be home. Dr. Eden's propulsion experiment had been a failure, but lessons had been learned, and science had taken another step forward. He was glad that it had not cost the lives on anyone aboard his ship.

He looked again at Kassandra, but she was already getting to her feet to leave.

Outside, the stars twinkled.


NRPG: "The Uncertainty Principle" has come to an end with this monster novella, and a great ending it was too. Well done, everyone.

One Phoenix was destroyed, the other one remains, and we are aboard the one that remains. Are we the originals, or the duplicates? Will we ever find out? Does it matter?

Next up, shipboard life and the comforts of home. Your characters can remain on the ship while we're in orbit of Earth, or you can have them conduct their own business for a while.

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

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



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