by TS Caladan
Captain Blaine Jano of the U.S.S. Shrike "drove" a 'golem' body over and through and across and under and along a stunning topography that was the surface of marvelous, magnificent, mystical and magical TERA (aka 'Mineer' to natives). He'd been through his share of holo-rooms and every which way of Virtual Reality experiences, but this was intensely different. This was super, mega, ultra, omni, frikken amazing! No detail was ever this intricate. No design was this creative, captivating and imaginative. Sounds were phenomenal and so incredibly clear and soothing. Overall. The feelings. It was the feeling felt and generated and broadcasted in such wondrous places. Miles were traversed. With each step, the Captain's blood pressure lowered more and more: a healthy harmony healed his soul. Water songs brightened his heart. He was in total touch with his spirit. It was a lone blue spirit-light that walked through a crystal clear and ultimately lovely universe. He never wanted to leave the feelings he touched. He'll always remember the feelings, the fun, the electrical excitement that rushed through his being~
...But he had to end paradise and return to the real world. And yet, beauty was the 'real world,' as the Mineerans showed him: a perfect place that he actually could reach at any time with proper focus of the mind. Mineerans taught him the possibility of mind-travel without apparatus. That was the future. For now, an artificial, mechanical, incredibly tremendous and exquisite dream ended...
The Captain popped the silver, tubular chamber, only a few feet longer than his length, OPEN. A little white gas residue was in the air. The return-journey was completed. Blaine was back in his quarters on his starship. He possessed his own, personal device that accessed Mineer at any time. He only hoped he wouldn't get addicted to the damned thing!
The System held a Supreme Council meeting on planet Ralia, its capital. Onstage were 13 representatives from the highest, most esteemed Orders in the galaxy. The large, colorful crowd was composed of throngs of humans, aliens, 'artificials' and much more. The old Earth equivalent would be a 'summit' meeting at the United Nations.
Of course, in the 24th Century, leaders of the Milky Way spoke not. They communicated telepathically to psychics in the audience and in the universe. To top officials, the 'sensitives' were the only citizens that mattered. For the 'yahoos' who were not telepathic, visual holograms in everyone's own particular language were viewed on individual monitors.
Comfortably seated in plush violet seats were the Captain of the Shrike and his two bridge psychics and friends: Sam Smith on his left and Commander Clay on the right. Each wore formal attire.
'Yahoo' Doctor Bennov was busy and not part of the group.
Samantha and Clay clearly understood the thoughts expressed onstage. Captain Blaine wore weird 'sunglasses' where English words digitally appeared on the lenses that automatically interpreted the mental-transmissions...
~ Citizens want to know! Experiment 34 has sparked the interest of System Lords.
~ Yes. The mystery. The questions: Where is the base and who erased it?
~ What kind of psychics do we employ if they cannot see ahead, reach true answers?
~ What about the entity inside Mineer?
~ What entity?
~ Ha, ha! We are as helpless, as useless as monitor-readings of the mystery. We live in our own darkness. There is one positive Entity, free to roam, infinitely! The other. The creature, the Beast. The dark one is trapped in a tartarus. Mineer cages the Devil! Do you not see what I see? We are left with remnants of the gods. Their War, not ours!
The crowd reacted strongly with emotions, thoughts, movements and sounds.
The oldest rep onstage, highly respected, waved his thin, wrinkled arm and thought:
~ My view is...34 now hovers inside the planet. Near center or slightly off-center. Inside! Inside the Dark, where not one great seer and mystic in this arena, or anywhere, can see! Or enter? Mineer's core. We only know it is the darkest, most negatively-charged place in the galaxy. We know not why. Black curtains, a wall of evil that no one can penetrate! We cannot go there or know what is there. It remains...the Heart of Darkness.
It was a lot to take in. The three from the Shrike had the same reactions as other citizens: Wonder, bewilderment, awe, uncertainty, worry, questions and no hard answers. If the psychics didn't know?
Captain Jano looked to his right...
Clay raised each of his arms, silently, and implied: Who knows what will happen?
Jano looked to his left.
The brunette commented with a surprised expression on her face: "Funny. Captain. I don't just see you and a Ground Team within the mantle of Mineer...I see the whole freakin' ship, sir. Huh." Amazement was plastered on Sam's face.
The Commander supported her when he viewed the mind-images that were suddenly in her head. "I agree. I would estimate that very soon, our ship will be sent to explore the inner planet and see what we shall see."
Blaine rubbed his head. "You know? I believe everything you guys say, hm."
The Shrike low-orbited with a few other System vessels around Tera. They were parked or patrolled the area that would have been exactly where 34 orbited, before the base disappeared. There was no tangible confirmation that 34 was sucked or somehow got transported inside the planet. There was no verified proof that a Monster was caged within the reverse-Earth, yet the FEELINGS among seers and psychics were undeniable. Where did the Station go? Maybe to the one Blind Spot in the Galaxy? Who or what was inside? Physical and psychic scans of the center always resulted in zero.
A deja vu occurred in the Captain's quarters. It was late, he sat with Doctor Lev (Ben) Bennov and they each had blue drinks in their hands...
"Don't you remember, Ben? Before the big disappearance?" the Captain reminded the Doctor. "We even had blue Meads in our hands?"
Lev recalled. "...And that was when you mentioned, you were ordered to Grace's office, saw Charles?"
"Yes. You're less of a yahoo than you think, Doctor," the Captain told his friend.
They 'clinked' glasses.
"I wish. Ha. Soon, everyone will be a telepath, eh?"
Jano said, "I thought you believed they were the problem? Now you want to be a sensitive?"
Lev Bennov gulped down the blue that was better than Vodka and said, "I don't know, Blaine. Sometimes I might WANT to know the inside scoop on everything?"
"Strange..." the Captain continued his thought: "Now team Whitehead and Wall are gone, with the rest of 34."
"Let me make a prediction, right now..."
"Okay, Doc. Shoot."
"We'll be ordered inside Tera. It will be the Shrike that goes. Far as I'm aware, anyone can go in; no one's done it. Why have they waited so long? 34 is waiting for us, I think. Maybe? Maybe you'll be talking to Charles again, only it will be on the inside?"
The Captain was impressed. "That was good. Our psychics had the same feelings. Oh. There is news, I forgot to say..."
"What's that, Cap?"
"Tomorrow we get a replacement for Charles. New guy's coming."
Lev said, "Oh, really? Interesting. Wonder if he's another Company-man? Ah. One last thing, before I turn in?"
Dr. Bennov asked, "Do you believe what the Mineerans showed us? I mean...the future?"
Blaine's face changed to: serious. He responded with confident words: "I know what you mean. Yes, I do."
Unknown to almost everyone in the Milky Way galaxy, a horrendous, hideous, merciless INVASION OF DESTRUCTION was unleashed upon the lush, beautiful surface of Tera/Mineer! An extermination! The mystery planet, and not a parallel one, held onto a continuous, stable, static, sweet reality that was unchanged. The surface environment no longer altered according to who walked upon it. The quarantined Earth II (LH-130) was not like the 'chain" of Amusement Park planets that were quite popular for skilled psychics. The System did not bother with another assault team of Stormtroopers and take their chances with negative realities generated by soldiers. This time ROBOT DRONES were sent in to kill all the simple Mineerans, destroy the fantastic/natural beauty on the surface and take ultimate control of the 'test subject.'
Very powerful and very deadly MACHINES, by the thousands, were cloaked and secretly sent to wipe out everything! Machines appeared to have killed all (cohesive/stationary reality) life and destroyed the extraordinary beauty of Tera! In a 24-hour period, the attack called "Ragnarok" or 'Last Day of the Gods,' ended paradise or what seemed like one.
The Shrike was assigned to enter the hollow center of Tera, exactly as predicted by yahoo Doctor Bennov and telepaths. Before that happened, the bridge crew welcomed a new member, a 1-named, musical celebrity: Duke!
The only persons familiar with the man's music was Sam Smith, a fan of music, and the Doctor. She flipped and was ga-ga over their new "Efficiency Expert," who came highly recommended by the System and had his station already prepared.
How could a man in his eighties look as if he was in his thirties? He was slim, trim, toned and relaxed in his deep blue uniform. The man of African descent [light skin] had straight, violet hair that reached his shoulders. Duke was cool and attended the Academy for only a short time. (Who knew?)
Even the Doctor was a fan and joined the 'gang' on the bridge when he heard about Duke.
After introductions, the first thing they all wanted to know was...
"What's your secret?"
It took the 87-year old man a moment to realize what they meant. "OH! You mean what happened to me? Fountain of youth, right? Well. I can only say: It's a long story and we'll have to do lunch if you want to hear it? Ha."
"How's this evening?" the star-struck astro-gator and psychic asked with glee.
They laughed. Except for Commander Clay. He asked them, "Who's this guy?"
Captain looked him up and heard the man's music for the first time minutes ago. He liked it: upbeat, catchy, positive.
Doctor answered the Ghinn's question. "Clay. This dude right here, this guy, our new System's Efficiency Expert, his music! What this man did?"
"What?" Clay asked the Doctor.
"Says here," Jano read from a screen on the Command Chair. "Your music, and I'm quoting: finally put the last nail on Rap so that it was never, ever heard again."
"Praise Duke!" Samantha said, probably too loud. "You're a hero."
Duke casually said, "Look. I simply want to do the best job I can. Please don't hate me if I make a few tweaks or, or suggestions? I don't play music anymore. My love has always been outer space, as quite a few of m'songs were about. I really only want to serve the System. Hell with m'phony former life. I told them at the Academy: I don't care if I begin at ensign-grade, which is what I am. I just want to get up there with the Fleet, ha. You guys are the real rock stars." He jerked his head and his violet hair moved.
Dr. Lev expressed in full admiration: "What did we do to trade Charles for Duke?"
"Ensign Duke. You weren't at the Academy long, I take it?"
"They expedited my stay, Captain." The musician and singer smiled.
Jano winked at the de-aged 'star': "Gotcha."
After the wave of admiration was over, it was time for business. Blaine Jano was glad there was a light interlude on the bridge and a few laughs. There may not be laughs later. The Captain firmly said: "You've seen and heard the orders. Helm?"
Blonde, pretty, Lt. Lee answered, between the Captain and the big forward-screen, "Yes, sir?"
Jano took a breath. He said, "It's time." He looked into the eyes of the Doctor and the two telepaths on the bridge. They nodded for GO. He ordered, "As fast as you can, Lieutenant. Get us over Antarctica continent and HOLE in the South Pole..."
"Aya, aye, sir." The Asian hit the right buttons to the proper coordinates. She informed them, "From what I recall, sir, Mineerans didn't call it Antarctica; they called it Atlantis."
Clay nodded. He thought the fact was interesting. So did the Captain.
The Shrike shot like a lightning bolt and smoothly screeched to a halt, directly over the massive, irregular opening at the bottom of Tera. On Tera as on Earth in this century, Antarctica had no more ice and no more Nazis. In a moment, the U.S.S. Shrike slowly eased into position and carefully, ever so carefully, made the long descent through the rocky passage and into the Heart of Darkness [Middle-Mineer].
Journey to the center of Tera was actually a calculated, smooth ride. Every type of recorder filmed and filed the information for some citizens of the galaxy as well as the System. Answers were within.
Very few but the highest of elites and the thing at the pinnacle of everything, realized the utter desolation that 'Operation Ragnarok' did to the exterior surface. Fantastic beauty and phenomenal/positive feelings for anyone and everyone were completely gone. Native Mineerans seemed to have disappeared, their world virtually destroyed.
The Shrike arrived near the center of Darkness, close to the middle of Evil. And there...
In the blackness and supreme negativity, hovered the 34 Station, its lights still on. Power remained. Did the people?
Both psychics concurred as the Doctor, the Lieutenant and Ensign Duke simply watched.
It was decided, but really it was an overall strong impression that the sensitives FELT: Captain Jano should beam over to the base, alone. He did...
Although lights were powered on the outside of 34 and systems appeared operational, on the inside of the Station: There was total darkness, the same blackness inside the hollowness of the planet. Captain turned on his belt light which illuminated corridors and bulkheads. Soon the hall led to the main promenade deck. When Jano arrived in the center of the center, he saw a brilliant blue light and a large, bald figure within the blue light. He turned off his unneeded belt light. He didn't recognize the figure at all who appeared nearly naked and extremely powerful. Jano walked toward the blue man of light. In seconds, he was right in front of the creature, beast, monster, alien, devil and god? The Captain wasn't frightened. He should've been...
First words from the alien figure was a question and it would have probably been one of the last questions Jano expected to be initially transmitted from a blue man, who didn't move his lips when he communicated. He asked Blaine, "Why do you think Charles left your ship, Captain?"
"Charles? What? What are you saying?"
"Answer: So he could be with you now. Look very close, Blaine. Deeper. Imagine Chuck much younger and mega powerful. Now wrap him in blue light. Ha, HA! Good to see you again. You're looking well."
"I have a funny feeling, if I looked to my psychics for confirmation of your words? They'd do it."
"How right you are! Exploit Tera? I don't want to exploit Mineer. I want to DESTROY IT! And I have. For very, very good reasons. Well. Good for me, bad for you."
"What do you mean?"
"You do not know, sir. Really, none of you do...unless I allow it. Who do you think calls the shots, at the top of the heap, running the Big Show, eh, Captain? I wanted you here and you are here. Tell you what, since I sense your skepticism of my ultimate power? Maybe that's a defense, ah, don't know..."
Jano desperately wanted clarification and understanding. "Wait a minute, God. If you have all this power then, then why is it..."?
"Oh. Please. Go on, Captain." The dark entity smiled brightly.
"Then why is it you are trapped? You cannot escape your own Tartarus?"
"Bravo! Ancient mythology, Captain? I'm impressed. Possibly you missed Ragnarok in your studies: changing of the Old Guard. A new Sheriff in town, sir. Everything's different now...since you fell into my trap. I beckoned you IN, inside a vortex, a hyperspace conduit you weren't aware of. You're the one trapped, Blaine. You, your ship, your crew won't be able to escape."
"...You were correct. I was a mere wisp of darkness, trapped in my own prison. Then I brought Charles here and he gladly helped me in my escape plan. By the way, we killed everyone on 34, not needed. It was all to lure you here. That was the KEY! You've set me FREE, Captain! Soon, I'll switch with my sister, the good Entity. She'll be trapped here and I will be gone. Lovely. And only you to thank. Wait until you see what happens to the galaxy when I get through with it? Why stop the destruction and chaos there? There are other galaxies."
"You're mad." For the first time, Captain Jano felt fear. He kept up a sincere, brave front to the enemy so far, a being he knew could destroy him in a blink of an eye. He sensed Charles Wall must have put on a Power Ring and had become a devil a billion times stronger and a billion times more evil. Blaine knew his phaser and the ships entire fire-power would be useless. He didn't know what to do. Getting back to the ship, with the help of his friends - was a good idea. "What should I call you? You're not Charles. Who are you really?"
"I'll answer the question. Everyone knows Qs are gone from your timeline. They were locked HERE, wisps of Darkness. I've gone to the next level with your help, a snaky-sinister dimension, one more beyond the Q. I'm an R."
"An R?" Blaine was cynical. He hid his worry and odd thoughts. Then he realized 'this guy' might know everything?
The Entity laughed and laughed again.
The Captain was stunned and didn't laugh. He asked, "What if I just walk out of here now?"
"I want you to! Please go. Take your starship. Travel beyond light-speed, Captain. Explore your Tartarus, the one you cannot leave. Ever!"
Blaine wished and hoped all of the blue demon's words were mad and wrong, but he knew they weren't. Jano understood that he could freely leave: Him and his mighty vessel and his precious crew could leave the hollow center of Mineer/Tera...
He did. He left darkened 34 as soon as possible. Onboard he gave the order and the starship made the climb through the southern, rock-lined channel and OUT THE HOLE.
The crew didn't understand the story the Captain relayed to them. How were they imprisoned if they were free to warp to any quadrant of the galaxy? In seconds, their scans and their eyes told them how they were locked in cosmic jail:
Fourteen pristine planets circled a yellow star called Radon. The planets were lifeless as scans always showed...
...As was the rest of the universe!
THERE WERE NO STARS, CLUSTERS OF STARS, GALAXIES AND CLUSTERS OF GALAXIES IN THE UNIVERSE! The entire universe consisted of one yellow sun and 14 orbiting bodies that contained no life! And a starship called Shrike~
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