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Out Of Mind » MEMBER ADVERTISING & BLOG FORUMS » T.S. "Tray" Caladan » Starwalkers, episode 33: 'Third Side of the Mirror' by TS Caladan

Starwalkers, episode 33: 'Third Side of the Mirror' by TS Caladan

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Starwalkers, episode 33:
'Third Side of the Mirror'
by TS Caladan



Starwalker Command ship, the Enlighten, completed a routine mission to the Omicron Theta System. Captain John Church was bored. They'd entered a "spacial void," rather than going around it, and the void was big, black and boring. He remembered weeks earlier. He understood that the special/secret information retrieved when holo-photographers filmed the galaxy for the Union...
       Was unbelievable! The physical, cosmic universe everyone perceived around them did not really exist. And the fact that another side to 'Alice's Looking Glass' existed or a parallel world. On the other side was a universe where there was no Union or Star Command. His core group of friends piloted a refurbished, "suped-up," cloaked runabout called the Delta Flyer. They were outlaws and Lizard Zorns in control probably had some great reward for the capture of Enlighten's Captain and crew, missing in action.
       But that was another world, the real world: a reality best forgotten. Here, Star Command was untouched by an ultimate space battle. Life went on, here. Life went on in this DREAM that Captain Church knew had to be accepted as the real thing. It was very routine. Recent SC assignments were dull and drab. Now the Void. Church wanted excitement. He had no clue that in a matter of minutes his life would get a heck of a lot more interesting~
       The bridge contained the usual people at their stations, plus pretty blonde: Yeoman Summer.
       "Sir! Captain. We are being hailed," Commander Staak, with newly-designed earpiece to fit his ear-hole, informed Church with some emotion.
       "Why...why did that surprise you, Staak? You said..."
       "Because the hail is not from a ship."
       Captain Church commented, "There are no ships in the Void area, as I understand."
       Staak continued with, "Correct, except us." The Remoran's hand touched his new earpiece. "Source is the closest celestial body, beyond Tartarus Nebula..." Staak checked his monitor screen, then said, "A small, rogue planetoid is orbiting nothing. The 'surprise', as you say, sir, was due to its tremendous distance, speed and because it is located in the very center of the Void."
       "Beyond the cloud? Hmm. If the mysterious planet is in the center of the Void...check movements of rogue and Void itself. Do the movements match? Is the rogue...the cause of the Void?"
       "Brilliant, Captain," the Commander expressed. "Should have been a scientist, sir."
       Church waved his arm. "Explorer. Same thing. Strange, though. I thought nothing was out here, once we entered the Void? Hail them back," Church ordered.
       Lieutenant Ito tried, then reported, "It's no good, sir."
       Lt. Bellikov expressed what the bridge crew soon realized, "We'll have to increase speed drastically, sir, to get in range."
       Church rose to his feet and turned to his Science Officer. "It's not a beacon. How can we receive their signals, yet we are far from them...getting our reply-hail?"
       Commander understood the question completely. His best response was, "Unknown, sir. Whatever the source, they should not be transmitting faster than light, Captain."
       "Lieutenant. Warp 9, directly at the rogue planet. Then screech to a stop and follow at a safe distance."
       Lt. Ito replied quickly, "Aye, sir. Settings are in and we are ready to go."
       Captain told his friends and Yeoman as he looked toward Staak, "I should have a catchphrase at this point. Maybe 'engage' or, or...go for it...or...punch it..."
       Commander Staak frowned, a bit.
       Captain told Lt. Ito: "Do it! That's a good one. Do it, Lieutenant."
  
       They reached nearly 'maximum warp' and the appropriate lightshow of stars resulted, then abruptly ended. The SC ship, with "911" as its designation on front of the saucer-section, sped to the sunless planetoid. The ship and crew followed behind. Sensors soon discovered that the course of the planetoid turned slightly, then turned again, unnaturally. Was the irregular rock artificial? Was it a spaceship?
       The Enlighten and its "Starwalkers" altered course with every slight shift in direction. Sensors also displayed the fact that the odd body in space accelerated. As time went on, the rogue moon or planet traveled faster and faster. Why? Where was it going? Did it have a mind of its own? Sensors recorded a huge power intensity inside the small, celestial body: too powerful for normal space. Enlighten should have been bombarded by deadly radiation from the asteroid or craft. Whatever the super-radiation was, broadcasted in all directions, beyond light-speed, it seemed absolutely safe. Normally, such power frequencies would have torn the ship and crew to shreds at close range.
      The "Starwalkers" followed on course and replied to the original hail.
       Immediately, Enlighten received a weak response.
       Communications officer, Lt. Freeman, told her Captain, "There's a signal coming in from it, sir. But..."
       Church smiled a curious smile. He looked at Staak again. "That was quick. (to Lieutenant) Put it on. Let's hear it."
       "..rd to be   ve. Is it really tr e? A   r all th se years. Is this th..."
       "Seems to be all we have, sir. Transmission faded. There is nothing now," Staak reported.
       Church asked the Commander, "You have the ground coordinates, localized the signal, have you?"
       "Done," Staak answered. "Terrain appears safe, low radiation, as impossible as that sounds, Captain."
       "Then assemble an Away Team. And...before you ask me not to go, Commander, I want all of us 'staff' on the planetoid." Church turned to Ben. "Except you, Doctor."
       "What?" the silent O'Leary blurted a question when he heard his name.
       Church continued, "Yes. I want Staak and Boots there...along with that new 'quantum specialist,' Gates Sirtis."
       "You know the Specialist's first name, sir?" Staak asked Church.
       "I make a point to know (the names of the cute ones)..." Captain's words, that only the Commander fully understood, trailed off...
       "What d'you want me to do while you're gone, twiddle my thumbs? No one's sick. It's the future."
       "No, Doctor. You get to run the whole show and...and...pretend to be Captain." John Romulus Church raised his right arm and motioned toward the Captain's seat, a few steps higher than the rest of the bridge.
       Ben was elated. His big, blue eyes got much larger. "You mean?"
       Church called to Boots and Staak, "Let's go."
       They followed the Captain to the turbo-lift.
       "...I'm in command? Really? I've never sat in the Big Chair." O'Leary was delighted.
       The last thing Church said as the group left was: "Don't do anything...you know. And don't get too comfortable, Doctor."
       Ben sat, laughed, stretched, yawned, looked around and put his feet up when the Captain was gone. First words out of the Doctor's mouth to the two lieutenants in front of him was, "You guys...shine boots? Ha, not our good Engineer. Ha, ha! These guys?" Dr. Ben pointed at his black boots that rested high up on the edge of the control console. 
       Ito and Bellikov slowly turned back toward the Captain's chair. Ito was the first to inform the Doctor, "You know you are being recorded, right now, sir?"
       The Doctor didn't know, but acted as if he did. He stared up into the small recorders he had forgotten about, near the curve of the ceiling. "Of course! What? What?" Ben brought his feet down, assumed a sitting-attention position and was more serious. "What? You can't take a freaking joke?" He was a bit embarrassed and said to the lieutenants, "You know, you don't get this kinda stuff from our walking freezer-unit Commander. Right?"
       Ito and Bellikov turned back to the bridge screen with big smiles on their faces.

       A little time passed before the beam-down to the strange planetoid. Starwalker Command commanded a new issue of wardrobe for all staff and crew of Galaxy-Class starships. Personal wardrobe-computers in everyone's quarters were automatically programmed with the new designs. Clothes were materialized at the start of the day and the same machines literally destroyed the clothes at end of the day. After a trip to their quarters, when the three 'boys' and one lady beamed to the surface...



They had something to talk about outside of the mission, the good air and blackness of the sky.
       "'Blue-bloods,' they called it. I saw this coming, people. Captain's Choice, that's crap! Ugh. I liked the old, grey, generic things better, you know?" the Captain confessed.
       The perky, feisty, blonde was quick with the comment on the new clothes. "I like them, especially the pins." The attractive Specialist of "higher and lower physics" wore two pins on her collar and was considered a 'technical' expert with an advanced ranking on the level of an Engineer.
       "If you don't know Crewman Sirtis, gentlemen, she's the Union Specialist, vaulted up the ranks...because of her...talents in..."
       Engineer Boots and Commander Staak had the pleasure, previously. They nodded.
       She took over the line with a grin: "...In Quantum Mechanics, sir."
       "Quantum Mechanics, that's right. I read your field study (after I saw how beautiful your photograph was)...[Staak glared at Captain John]...and remembered you could be vital to...to...understanding the Super-Radiation this jagged, little ball...seems to emanate."
       Crewman Gates Sirtis had her Tricorder out before the others. She took readings. She asked the Captain,"If I may ask, sir? What did you...like about my report to the Union...and how does it relate, uh...to what we may find here...sir?"
       "Ah. Good question, crewman..."
       Staak and Boots looked at each other.
       "...Your...theorem...was that the entire Cosmic Continuum...might be bullshit...right?"
       "That's right, sir. It's...it's the...gist of the research, Captain," the pretty physicist in black and a medium amount of red said.
       "That's exactly what I liked about it...and...and precisely how it relates here." John turned to his Science Officer. "Have, have we given this rough rock a name, Commander?"
       "How's 'Desolation'?"
       Boots interjected, "I don't mean to sound like the Doctor, Commander. But if he were here, I'm sure he would say: Staak. You can't come up with anything better than that?"
       Captain Church chuckled the most.
       The Engineer suggested, "Suppose we give the Lassie the honor? Of naming this place?"
       Church smiled and said, "Splendid. Sounds lovely. What would you like to call it...in the Union Report...ah, ah...crewman?"
       Staak knew his Captain almost used an inappropriate first name.
       Crewman Sirtis was uncomfortable with 'fawning over her,' as if she was "so female" that she could not do her job. She did not want any special treatment. She brushed off the naming. "May I ask a question first, sir. I am curious."
       Church was intrigued with this young woman. Could he be more intrigued than usual? He said, "By all means."
       She asked, "Give me your honest...not opinion...of the new clothes. Dig deep, what do you believe or feel are the true meanings of the command and 'variants' for the crew?"
       Staak cocked an eyebrow. He knew John Church was falling in love; he'd seen it before. But. The Namoran had a 'sneaking suspicion' this could be different~
       Boots was surprised that she subtly gave the Captain an order.
       John obeyed and acted like the two of them were old friends. The Captain volleyed back quickly into her eyes: "Admirals in saintly white? That's a laugh. I think my black and blue means the Captain will take the bruising for his crew with a heavy burden on his shoulders and the crew class-system stinks with the red or amount of red in the uniform showing how expendable or BLOODY the lower classes are to Starwalker Command."
       There wasn't one pause. Does he not pause when he stares into the eyes of beautiful women? Staak wondered.
       "Interesting," was her only word.
       "Fascinating."
       They had walked a short distance in the direction that the Tricorders showed them other lifeforms were located. Readings displayed information that beyond a large rock, there were humans, 20 in number, scattered over a wide area.
       Gates, Boots, Staak and John walked around the rock and entered a clearing. They saw people, humans, a group of old men. There were crude huts and a type of settlement among the rocks. A few machines appeared to function in the camp. The bald and white-haired men were startled and approached as the Away Team approached them.  
       "They're men," one of them said to another.
       "Unbelievable. It's true then. The hail was real."
       "Our enhanced signals were received. It wasn't imagination or a mirage, gentlemen."
       Church forged in front and introduced himself. "I'm John Church, Captain of the Enlighten, the finest ship in Star Command..."
       One of the wrinkled men with amazement on his face asked, "You're the latest in Starwalkers?"
       Church responded with, "You could say that, sir. This is my First Officer, Commander Staak, (gestures) Engineer Randolph and Crewman Sirtis."
       The lady received much attention from the very interested, old men.
       One of them said, "Crew-MAN? She's the best-looking crewman I've ever seen." They nearly surrounded her.
       The apparent leader spoke. "Forgive our enthusiasm, Captain. We have been out of touch from the rest of the universe, stranded here for 18 years. I am Dr. Jaden Jones..."
       Crewman Sirtis expressed: "Dr. Jones from Galactic Tech? I based my paper on your work in the different gravities, sir. You were lost with the rest of science ship, Marshall."
       "This is goot. A beauty with brains," Dr. Jones said as he smiled.
       "You're survivors of the Marshall?"
       "Yes, Captain. Two hundred of us misfit scientists exiled ourselves from the rest of the world, after what we'd learned. Only nineteen survived the crash."
       "Hard to believe: we'll be rescued from our...Power Island," another of the men said.
       Gates Sirtis looked at the others and named the planetoid. "'Power Island' is as good a name as any."
       Church confirmed it. "Power Island it is, then."
       Commander Staak asked, "Our sensors showed 20 humans. You stated 19, Dr. Jones?"
      "Oh!" The leader looked around at the rest of the elders and they looked back, oddly. "Right. We have to explain. There were twenty survivors, actually. One of our colleagues, a Dr. Janeway, was very pregnant. We operated the best we could and saved the child. Her name is Tina. She's 18 and spent her whole life with her 'mom' and, ha, us renegade, mad scientists..."
       More bizarre expressions formed among the old men as if a terrible secret was withheld. Staak and Captain Church felt it in their bones.
       The Captain almost insisted: "Dr. Jones. Why don't you take us to her? And as you do, please explain, exactly, what you meant...when you said: We exiled ourselves from the rest of the world...after what we'd learned?"

       In the walk beyond the settlement on the tiny planetoid (that somehow had the Electro-Magnetic power of 1000 galaxies), the four Away members were informed...
       That gaseous, intelligent "entities" inside the Tartarus Nebula captured total control of the Marshall spacecraft and crashed it into the asteroid now called 'Power Island.' The planetoid is itself a huge spacecraft from ancient times made to resemble a natural object. The scientists from Galactic Tech calculated the secret formula to recreate the awesome Zero-Point Power from the massive Black Hole in the center of the galaxy. The entities sensed the Power potential or what could be done with the formula and their help. The aliens made contact at a significant time and pleaded for the exiled scientists to free them. 
       A sad story was told to the Away Team:
       The special 200 scientists who knew of the Zero-Point Power were the only ones who knew the formula. They were on their way directly into a White Giant sun, to commit mass suicide and rid the world of brains that contained the means to replicate the center of the galaxy anywhere! The knowledge surely would have been made into a horrific Weapon of Mass Destruction by despicable forces in the Alpha Quadrant. The scientists were convinced they were doing the right thing: oblivion.
       Then they were contacted by beings inside the Tartarus Cloud. Dr. Jones informed the Away Team what the beings told them: their knowledge or secret formula could be used for a supremely good and noble purpose: to save millions of souls trapped in the Void, on a spiritual plane. The scientists didn't have to crash themselves into a sun and also could save many others~
       If the formula or knowledge was released to them, inside the Nebula, the entities could enhance the Power to such an ultimate degree that they'd escape their prison. The Void would be shattered. Millions of souls would return to the normal Life/Death Cycle, rather than an eternal doom of a stagnant purgatory. When the entities told the scientists that their spirits were like trapped 'dark matter' under a tremendous force where once-living, now-dead, lifeforms can never escape...
       The scientists agreed. They cooperated with the aliens in the Tartarus Cloud. Initially, a microscopic amount of the EM Power was unleashed and the scientists were able to power-up the old planetoid. They moved Power Island at any speed and were thrilled by the incredible Force! The Power was intoxicating.
       Staak snapped the men out of their flashback story, which he was sure was truthful, and asked: "I am unclear, Dr. Jones."
       "I'll answer anything, Commander," the leader responded in almost a blank stare.
       "When will this moment occur, when the Void is shattered? And the spirits released? Are you so sure this is the correct course of action, Doctor?"
       Jaden Jones held an empty expression in front of a mesmerized mind. He replied, "Our planetoid is super accelerating, yet we feel nothing on the surface in this protective bubble. We are way passed your lame Warp 10, Captain. Why don't you call your Engineering or Navigation? See how fast Enlighten is going and where we are heading?" Dr. Jaden's eyes appeared crazed. Was he a mad scientist?
       "That's insane!" Church shouted and looked at Staak.
       The Commander shook his head for more of the impossible. "Unless the ship is within the bubble."
       When Church pulled out his communicator and flipped it open, the device did not beep and function. "What?"
       "Oh. That's right," Jones weirdly declared. "Your communicator won't work and they also can't call you. Your crew's been trying to make contact since you arrived."
       The Captain thought about the young girl, Tina. They were supposed to be taken to wherever she was.
       Suddenly, a loud scream from a female voice was heard! Boots Randolph took off like Faser-fire in the direction of the scream.
       "Boots!" John yelled at his Engineer.
       Boots had his Faser drawn. The Captain was right behind him with his weapon also in hand. They ran to a slightly lit clearing and never thought to wonder: where the light came from?
       A woman was on the ground. It wasn't the girl; it was her mother, Dr. Janeway. Boots got to her first and checked her vital signs. When the Captain arrived on the scene, the Engineer said sadly, "She's dead, John."
       "Dead?" The Captain was stunned.
       Staak, Sirtis and the others slowly gathered around the scene. She was dead all right.
       Jones solemnly said, "You arrive here, your rescue, Church, and look what happens? One of us is dead."
       [dramatic pause of silence].
       Church had his head down. Now he raised it. He seriously said to Jones, "Where's the girl? She has to be told about her mother."
       Jaden's eyes were less blank. Dr. Jones said, "Goot. You tell her. Over there." He turned and pointed to a huge spike of an outcropping that stood straight up like a phallic, rough obelisk. "Her place is right behind that jagged pillar, almost like a marker. Aaah." The old Doctor stared at the hot crewman and drifted off again in his mind...
       Church gave orders to the others: "Do the best you can to get through to the ship. See what you can learn from these people. I should find the girl and tell her. Meet you later at the main camp."
       "Yes, Captain."
       "Aye, Captain."

       When John R. Church passed the tall spike that appeared like a rough obelisk, he saw the girl's simple dwelling. Then he got a view of Tina. Tina Janeway was not the 18-year old he'd expected. Church assumed she'd be a conservative 'bookworm' with glasses, child of scientists that knew only calculus, electronics, theories and more calculations. The Captain did not expect a sexy 'bombshell' blonde, 'knock-out' with titanic, physical proportions. John's mouth dropped. John's mouth dropped because she was topless and the girl coolly, casually walked closer and closer to him~  

     

 'Something was very wrong on Zenon,' as the expression went, because the Captain instinctively pulled out his Faser. "Back!" The intuitive Captain stated, "I don't know what you are." John wasn't really frightened. It was all a defensive, reflexive act. To the Captain, it was more likely the voluptuous vision with amazing, natural 'boobs,' was a monster alien ready to eat him and the sweet vision was merely a lure like numerous examples in nature.
       The celestial 'siren' warmly put her arms around the Captain and softly nestled her charms up against his sharp, new blue/black uniform. "I'm a woman. I can be any woman to you, John."
       "Well, that saves on introductions, Weena, Vina, I mean...Tina."
       She aggressively went to kiss him, passionately...
       He blocked her. "This is wrong. Please stop. Your mother. The other woman in the group; we found her dead."
       "That wasn't my mother."
       "It wasn't?"
       "Jaden lied. When he said they operated on her and did the best they could, they really took me, the fetus of this body, out of the dead mother. She died in the crash, John."
       "Who did we find dead?" a puzzled Captain Church asked the super goddess of mystery.
       Tina answered, "That was an entity from the nebula, made real. Like me, but unlike me. I, unfortunately, had to kill it."
       John tilted his head. He believed her, that she killed the creature in a human form. He asked, "What are you?"
       She replied, "My body is the youth who was raised here on the Island. But I'm changed now. The one speaking is also an ancient spirit from the Tartarus Prison in another plane of existence, But now I'm free! I'm free, John. Free to love, to learn, to explore and use this wonderful body. Fuck me. I want to know what that is, what it feels like, John." She removed her bottom piece and what appeared as nylons.
       This was far too much for Captain Church. First he met his dream-girl, who was only a young crewman, but maybe the most intriguing woman he'd ever met. Next he bumped into the most fabulous tits in the galaxy on Power Island, and...
       All the famously-horny Captain said was..."NO." 
       "No?"
       "No." He was adamant, stubborn; he wasn't going to do it.
       She tackled the poor guy. He was flat on his back. She straddled him then pushed the softness of her own nebulous clouds down into his face and back and forth. Heaven.
       John changed his tune. He remembered from weeks ago: Oh yeah, might as well go for it; this wasn't the real world at all. This was a hell of a lot better than his parallel counterparts. Was it?
       The Captain explored all of Tina's fantastic body. While they made love, the entity told him that the scientists taught the girl to never be ashamed of her body. She didn't know to cover-up like they did, for some reason. That was their dirty, little secret. The old guys never touched her, only got good views of her over the years. Captain and creature continued doing it as the sweet entity in Tina's body revealed a few more secrets that were 100% true:
       1)  She was the 'Last Knight,' the last positive warrior of the Light.
       2)  If more of the entities materialized in the physical world, as what will happen very soon with the accumulation of mega-energy, they surely would destroy her.
       The most devastating news heard during the phenomenal love-making was...
       3) The increased speed of Power Island and the Enlighten approached Warp 15. Their direction or target was into the very center of the galaxy. In less than a minute, they'd plunge through the center and be CRUSHED! The entity, and possibly even Tina, wanted to experience love before the end of everything. One exquisite moment of tenderness before the enhanced Power reached critical mass, before the Void was shattered and before millions of demonic entities escaped the Tartarus Prison and brought HELL to the galaxy...  
       BANG!

       "Wake up. Wake up, Captain Church?"
       "Wha?" The Captain came out of his unconscious state. His head hurt and he rubbed it. "What's going on?"
       One of the few 'Caretakers' in the galaxy stood over John as he laid on the ground of an extremely beautiful and colorful planet. "Take it slow. You've had a bad fall, Captain."
       Church's eyes focused. He got to his feet. He was groggy. He couldn't believe where he was. The environment that now surrounded him was unbelievably beautiful. This place was not the barren rock called Power Island, he thought.
       "Yes it is, John."
       "I know you. I remember."
       "Yes. We've met before." The Caretaker had the same twinkle in his eyes. "When you had shore leave on our Amusement Planet. It was episode #27, if I recall correctly."
       Church just stared into the interesting face of the aged 'man' in sheer robes. John finally expressed: "What? I was with..." Then he realized: "You're the Caretaker. Episode 27? Wait! We fell into the big Black Hole in the center of the galaxy..."
       "Ha, ha. Did you? Did you really? How marvelous," the Caretaker commented with a question and huge smile. "Who says you get crushed in a Black Hole, eh, Captain? Ever think of the possibilities of a White Hole, a continuous FOUNTAIN of positive energy and force? On the other side of the Mirror?" The Caretaker beamed with a bright aura.
       "Am I dead?"
       "No. Ha, ha."
       "Where's the girl?"
       "Oh, boy. She didn't really look like the way you saw her, John."
       "I can believe that. My crew?"
       "Your friends are fine and also those onboard your ship."
       "Good. Huh. It's lovely here. (looked around) But I don't understand anything, sir."
       "Hmm. This will help." The Caretaker waved his hand and the entire universe changed~   

       Almost like a Q, the Caretaker transported himself and the Captain to a famous white domed theater in Los Angeles, circa 1982. They sat in a dark movie theater, alone, in comfortable, red seats and each held a box of warm, buttered popcorn in their hands.
       Church was cool. He turned to the 'thing' that sat next to him and asked, "What's this?"
       Caretaker replied, "Popcorn. You eat it, it's good."
       "I know what popcorn is. What is...all this, Companion? I mean, Caretaker?"
       "Oh that was interesting. So was you calling her Weena. And then it was...Vina, was it not?"
       "I got the girl's name right."
       "Oh, John. You are a joy." The older man's reaction spilled a little of his popcorn. "Not what I mean at all, my boy. Ha. Ha. Hey John, we know you are well aware of the real world, the other one, yes? The one with a decimated Union and your gang are outlaws?"
       "This is good."
       "What?"
       "I mean the popcorn." The Captain munched, listened and then said: "Go on. Yes. I know. Staak knows. This is a dream-universe. Two worlds, right? I would have assumed one was positive and one negative, like matter/antimatter?"
       "That is the case. Did you know that, in the reverse world, your First Officer now has human ears?"
       Church laughed a little. "Ha. Human ears, you say?"
       "The point is, John...my universe is a realm, as I've stated previously: your kind are not prepared for. Our kind birthed the Q..."
       "What's a cue? Never mind that; will I ever get the chance to tell my Science Officer, uh, that he has...ears...in the parallel world? What I mean is..."
       "You mean will you see them again and will things turn out right in the end, yes? Don't you know what this has been about?"
       "I don't have a fucking clue!" John yelled in frustration and tossed some of his popcorn at the Caretaker's face in childlike playfulness.
       "Ha. Of course. You lost your recent memory. After your latest 'boring' assignments, you took the Enlighten back to the Amusement Planet."
       "I did?" Church was intrigued and sensed no deception in the words the alien spoke.
       "But on this shore leave, you discovered...ha, your true love, soul-mate, shall we say? Ah."
       "WHO?" The Captain was so engrossed in the Caretaker's words at the moment, he stopped eating popcorn...
       "Ah, ha. I surely shouldn't tell you every answer, not on this particular subject, Captain."
      John tried to charm the alien. He smiled and said, "Oh, go ahead." He winked.
      "You are a sly one, John. You know that's not going to work on me. I will tell you that you were up in a tree with her, playing like children; it was fabulous to experience it with you. Then you fell, like a fool...and bumped your head hard on the ground. You only came to a short time ago."
       "What about the Void? Tina? The Nebula and...and Power Island?"
       "Possibly, this will explain."
       Then the big, empty theater in LA got brighter. The screen lit up with white light.
      "What's this?"
      "It's what I've brought you here to see, Mr. Explorer. But I know you won't be ready for the truth."
      "Huh? Sure I will. Enlighten me, ha." Cocky John threw a single kernel up in the air and caught it in his mouth. He smiled and asked, "What is the movie you're going to show me?"
       "Let's call it: 'Reality,' a third alternative to your positive and minus universes. Or a Third Side of the Mirror. A gray, a Bendu, in the middle. Oh. Never mind that reference."
       Church smiled again and told the Caretaker: "I can take it."

       A few hours later...
       "Stop. Please, stop. I can't take it anymore." John was visibly shook.
       The sweet, sincere Caretaker said softly to the Captain: "I completely understand, John. This will make you feel a lot better. It's been a pure pleasure to see and feel and play as you do. Until we meet again." The infinite supreme-being waved his hand, and...
      
       Captain Church sat in the Big Chair on the bridge of the Enlighten. He was totally dazed and slowly waved goodbye to the Caretaker, who wasn't there anymore.
       A few of his crew saw the gesture and thought little of it.
       Things were different. He checked the stardate. Strange.
       Commander Staak sensed the change in the Captain as if John only now recalled vivid dreams he had last night and Staak knew. 
       John Romulus Church turned to Staak and saw a great change in the appearance of his Remoran First Officer. HE HAD HUMAN EARS! It was as if only the Captain was aware of the small change in reality or whatever had happened in this different timeline. He stared at Staak and Staak, with ears, stared back.
       "Captain?"
       John came out with the first question on his mind. It was very weird to those on the bridge that heard it. He asked Staak: "Do Remorans have purple blood?"
       Enlighten staff member of SC from Proxima Centauri raised both of his eyebrows and answered, "No, sir. Remor has a purple sun, as you know. We're the same as Earthlings, except for the cybernetics."
       "Nine percent, Staak?"
       "Yes, sir."
       Dr. Ben O'Leary spoke to the Yeoman and only now heard the Captain's words. He asked John, "Anything you want to tell us, sir? We can discuss it in your Ready Room."
       "I have a Ready Room?"
       Staak merely pointed to one side of the bridge as the officers looked on in confusion.
       Church was a little surprised among the many big surprises he'd witnessed or experienced in a 'Dream Theater of the Mind' awhile ago. One of true reality. No deceptions. He gestured for the Commander and the Doctor to join him in his...new room that the Captain only discovered now. 
       When they were inside, the two who wore red and black and 3 pins heard John say...
       "I don't even like fish," after he spied a huge Lion-Fish in a spherical, white tank. There were archeological specimens on the walls the Captain was unfamiliar with. He looked at Staak. "I still can't get over you with ears."
       Ben and the Remoran looked at each other and shook their heads.
       The worried Doctor immediately went to work on the Captain without medical equipment.
       John waved him off and ordered them to: "Sit down."
       They sat. His two best friends were extremely concerned about the Captain's mental health.
       The Doctor stated, "John. I may have to authorize Staak to take command."
       "Do you want to hear the truth, gentlemen?"
       "Of course."
       Staak declared, "I'll know if it's...real or not."
       "Weeks ago. If you think I was fucking blown away by a parallel, Tom London, real world and our cosmos was nothing but a Dream World on some grand VR holodeck somewhere...what if I said...we're only a television program, to, to...entertain America and other countries, way back when we had countries?"
       "What?"
       "He's telling the truth." 
       "In this other world, our...our adventures...sell products!"
       "You're kidding?"
       "I saw the commercial ads! Selling crap, cars and shit. No shit."
       "Wow."
       "I saw...I saw...our credits! It was a PLAY, for God's sake. Theater. We're a jumble of characters and the actors who play those characters. We're even a mixture of 'spin-offs' and film versions of ourselves, sometimes with different faces, like, like we change over time. Ha."
       Ben seriously asked, "John. Don't you have that good Saurian Brandy?"
       "Hey. Now that's an idea. Special occasion it is. You know, this is a nice room." The Captain grabbed the brandy out of a secured case. "Wait. How did I know? Never mind."
       Dr. O'Leary said, "We know you don't partake, Commander. Great, more for us. We wouldn't want to twist and distort those metallic circuits you got, now would we?"
       John had a strange feeling that the Commander might surprise us all.
       "On this...special occasion, I will join my friends in a toast." It was a 'bombshell.'
       The Captain placed a glass of the rare elixir in Staak's hand before he changed his mind.
       Staak said with feelings, "To long life." He raised his glass.
       "To long life."
       They all drank together. It tasted divine.
       Ben was nearly moved to tears.
       John felt great, like there really were long lives and amazing adventures ahead of them.
       The Doctor and the Captain turned to Staak, curious of his first reactions to the potent alcohol.
       The red-blooded Commander unfroze from his always at-attention position and finally, suddenly, relaxed. Staak took another gulp and casually asked the 'boys,' "Have you noticed the new crewman Specialist, the one who's a wiz at Quantum Mechanics? Guys. Have you noticed...she has large breasts?"
     






  

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