by TS Caladan
The System's starship called the Shrike with all 222 brave men and women onboard had traveled through a trans-warp conduit they were unaware existed. Captain and crew soon discovered they were inside a dark prison of complete nothingness: a black cage extended to infinite proportions. The vessel explored its confines at Warp 10 in all directions. Useless. There was only one solar system that remained: a sun called Radon and a set of 14 planets that orbited in perfect precision. Fourteen lifeless planets. The only people or lifeforms in the whole world, numbered exactly 222.
"What are we seeing here, Ensign?" the Captain and bridge crew wondered. "The craft sure is familiar."
"I like it," Sam Smith said. She idolized Duke, too much.
Ten eyes stared intently at what Duke put up on the big screen. The new, old rock star and Efficiency Expert had a good idea.
Captain Jano allowed it.
(The Ensign added a black choker to his blue uniform and no one criticized at all). From his station in back, he told the bridge crew: "Delta-9 class shuttle or 'runabout.' But. Ah. I've made some major changes/additions to it, sir. I'm good at tweaking, making improvements. I came up with a few new things we might need, right?"
Clay responded first with arm movements. He expressed, "Very interesting. Handy, little machine. With less mass and your upgrades, Ensign, should reach Warp 12. Of course. It's..."
"Spit it out, man," Captain Jano softly ordered his First Officer.
"Ridiculous?" Jano asked.
Clay explained, "Well. Yes, sir. In regard to the fact...there's nowhere to go."
Duke said, "M'thoughts were: We didn't need to use the whole ship to shiz around in. Senior officers can take the runabout to the planets, if need be. Special things I installed might surprise you. Sir."
Jano rubbed his chin from the Big Chair. "Useful. My new small ship. Wait. Wait. Wait. Duke?"
The Captain glanced at Clay and asked the Ensign: "How is it possible? How can we physically duplicate your program and, and materialize something as large as a SHUTTLE and project it out into space? Commander? (turned to Clay) Has that ever been done before?" the curious Captain asked. Jano was enchanted with the historical possibility.
Clay answered and moved three of his arms: "Not to my knowledge, sir."
Duke proudly told them: "Now. With my upgrades, we can do it, Captain."
"Super-mega-cool," Jano used an expression he'd read in connection to "Ensign Rock Star."
Duke laughed a bit.
At that moment, Doctor Bennov walked out of the Lift and up two steps and faced his Captain.
"How's the crew, Doctor?"
"Peachy-keen. It's the future, no one's sick. Ha. They miss the stars." Lev's tone told the Captain that everyone was on edge and yet: hid their fears and feelings well.
They were certainly trapped in a lifeless void. The starless space almost resembled the crew's collective FEAR. Or, great worries that they might never return to home-universe, a world filled with endless suns and systems around them. It was possible the crew wouldn't see their families ever again or a universe crowded with variety or anything they'd ever loved off-ship. Was this it for humanity? What went on in the real world? Was it gone or were they gone from it? What of the future? Jano also hid a personal fear that would have been unthinkable, normally: What will happen as more time ticked by? Could things grow even darker? Would his well-trained crew, eventually, become angry and frustrated and turn on each other?
Duke suggested, "We should take a trip? Ha..."
"...Test m'runabout. I can show you what she can do."
Sam agreed with her big eyes.
Captain Jano responded to Duke, jokingly, "YOUR runabout? Thought it was MY runabout?" Blaine turned to Clay.
The Ghinn stated almost sincerely: "Can't wait."
The Captain looked up a bit at his friend, the Doctor.
Lev said, sullenly, "Great. Anything. I am so damn bored."
The Captain was pleased and said, "Super-mega. We'll take a little trip in the sports car."
Before the very same black 'day' rolled around again, Jano had a late-night plan. He even wondered if Sam or Clay would figure it out and buzz the door of his quarters soon? He placed two 'cumfy cots' next to his main bed so three people could lay horizontally. Then...
Buzzer to his door buzzed~ It had to be them. And it was. Sam and Clay entered the large room.
Samantha said with a sweet smile, "Don't mind us, Captain."
"Can you tell I expected you?" Jano asked the pair.
Commander Clay was a bit confused. "Wait. Sir. What's all this, then?"
"In my quarters, it's late...call me: Blaine. Anyway, thought you knew? Isn't this why you two are here?"
The telepaths looked at each other, oddly. Clay replied to the Captain,"No, sir."
Smith was also unaware and wondered, "Ha. My first thought was you had two sleeping-buddies coming over...eh?"
Jano laughed. "No, Sam. Ha. Nothing like that. I only wanted to get horizontal and us three have a serious pow-wow about everything: Oh, I don't know? Best thoughts on dealing with an 'R'? Or how to get us out of HELL! Maybe the future, what the Mineerans showed us? Like that."
"Interesting, sir. (to Sam) He knew of what we plan..."
"No I don't, Clay..."
Clay continued to Sam: "Even to the point of laying down...this way." The Ghinn motioned one of his 4 arms, horizontally.
(Jano was really in delight, but...) He yelled, "What the hell are you talking about?" angrily.
The First Officer plainly stated, "Captain. I mean: Blaine. I must use your special, deluxe-model VR chamber. It's very important, sir."
Jano protested at first. "What?..." He chuckled, quickly changed his attitude and smiled. "...I actually thought for a second I could hide something from the two of you. Ha, ha. It's a prototype; don't screw it up. What're you going to do, Clay?"
The alien replied without emotions, "Get answers, maybe get us back? OUT of the puzzle, you called Hell. Your device has crystals, conducive to access the lovely blue-spirits we met, the Mineerans. They're not really gone. I believe...or we FEEL that a Ghinn, through your device, can make contact, assess when and where they existed and talk to them. It's worth a try...Blaine."
Sam Smith shook her head up and down in an excited affirmative.
The Captain decided and said, "Clay. Get rid of one of the cots and I'll pull out the chamber."
Jano addressed the entire population of the universe: his crew, 221 souls he'd trapped in a dead dimension. There was trouble with many of the officers, exactly like Jano feared would happen in time. Two months had passed. Stark fears and worries had grown. No terror, as yet. There were a few fights, scuffles, a number of bruises and some work for the ship's doctor. The Captain took charge. He calmed their nerves to a degree. He explained the disappearance of Commander Clay, which was basically true: The Ghinn from planet Ghinn was deeply involved in a temporal project to bring us back into our right space and time. They all wished him success.
The Captain, Miss Smith and possibly a couple true 'sensitives' onboard knew the Captain's speech wasn't quite accurate. Clay was on a personal mission to find an answer and get ship and crew back home, but he was gone. He no longer laid prone and still upon the insides of the chamber. Sam was consulted and also three specialists because Clay was nowhere to be found. The silver, tubular, prototype chamber was inspected intensely. Every part, inside and out. No one was in control of the situation for days. It was like Clay was dead, like their world. Now what?
There remained no answers, no news and no Commander.
Captain Jano was alone in his quarters. Before sleep, he had deep thoughts and wondered about his own telepathic abilities. How mystic was yahoo Blaine Jano? Would he speak to Charles (R) again? What will happen to the missing alien, his 4-armed friend? Unknown to Clay, he'd charmed nearly the whole crew. What would we do without the man if gone forever? Or the question: Do Mineerans exist, can Clay reach them and will they help us? Jano remembered what the marvelous natives showed him of tomorrow...
In one timeline...
The beautiful, sweet, blue-spirit souls called Mineerans were brutally, savagely destroyed in a 24-hour period, the last day of the gods, called 'Operation Ragnarok.' Their perfect, idyllic, simple utopia utterly destroyed by madmen: The System! Massive drones and ground machines were dispensed from 13 Death Stars over power-grid points that shattered:
EVERY FANTASTIC STRUCTURE ON THE SURFACE AND 2.3 BILLION PURE AND WONDERFUL CHILDREN OF THE SUPREME ENTITY...WERE TOTALLY WIPED OUT~
In the other timeline...
Spirits (Roman/Greek, good, positive TITANS): Children of the Gods had been trapped inside a Black Ball of Hell, a Tartarus Prison for thousands of years, since the ancient 'War of Gods,' vaguely recorded in history and greatly misunderstood. Now they were FREE! Released, lovely, spiritual, Birds of Paradise that sung their colorful, bright and sweet songs through the Systems and had such positively-charged effects as they flew in sheer freedom and blue-white light!
The problem, big dilemma, FEAR for those on the starship that knew of accurate pictures of 2 different realities or futures, shown by high Mineeran mystics on cave walls, was...
The Shrike, or more specifically, it was the decision of Captain Jano, that determined fate.
Today. Tomorrow. Today was one more day in blackness, Captain thought: One more day without my friend, one more day with a crew that clashed more and more. He also thought: Today was an opportunity to discover the answer? That was positive. Why did Jano feel the answer to everything was very, very simple? Even elementary! But then, why were the smartest, most gifted people and aliens unable to see the answer and way home if it was right in front of them?
That night. He had a dream. Horrors, terrors, nightmare-fears were realized and felt inside his sleeping body. Was this the work of Charles? When tomorrow became today and the Captain was conscious, the only part of the dream he remembered were words in the same, strong, deep tone that sounded like Charles' voice, only much lower. The thing, maybe still in the middle of Station 34, said:
"What does a shrike do to it's prey, Captain? I want your ship and I beckon you once more to come for me! You know where I am. I'm not totally out yet: a final step. Like I said: You're the KEY. YOU must turn the key, Blaine. Or stay lost in empty captivity, never get back! You must decide."
When he shared that nugget of info with Samantha Smith the next day, she told him the absolute truth: "Dream image was correct. For sure, sir."
Captain Jano was torn and really wanted to hear from the girl; he'd probably, without a doubt, GO with Sam's recommendation (as always). He listened carefully, but he knew in his heart it would never be that easy...
Smith seriously told him what he already knew: "You have to decide, Blaine. The duality, huh? Make a command decision. It is on your shoulders, my man. We believe in you. I think we all do and we're willing to follow you. (smiled big) Whatever you say, sir."
Her tender words touched him deeply. "Thanks, Sam. I think I know what to do."
"Glad I could help."
The joyride "TRIP" that the popular Ensign Duke suggested was never attempted. The gang was preoccupied. He tested the amazing, little 5-seater on his own, alone. (Captain thought that was odd). But the senior officers decided it was high-time and a "peachy-keen" idea if the core crewmates and friends buzzed the 14 planets or some of them in the runabout, finally, like a group activity.
Clay was strangely missing, of course.
Duke piloted what he named the 'Epsilon' from the navigation station. He powered-up dilithium-based engines of the 'suped-up' runabout and shouted, "Let's shizz!"
Captain laughed and so did the Doctor and Sam. He remembered the old reports of "Duke-mania" and one of his catch-phrases.
"You don't think I came up with that? Or half of m'lyrics, do you? Hm. Or m'disk covers, come to think of it."
Psychic Sam didn't know? She sat way up front, near the engine, ahead of the Command Seat, and down in what was called: "the pit."
Jano sat in the Big Seat or small Command Chair and asked Duke: "Why 'Epsilon' for the Flyer? Must be a reason."
The musician of some color replied, "Yes, sir. It was one more than Delta."
"Really?" Everyone but the Captain laughed. It rang a very tiny bell in his brain. He repeated, "One more than..." His head turned and then he noticed the cute vision who joined the group. He was happy about that. More than he let on. She had, when no one was around, in the Lift, just prior to their shift on the bridge, Lieutenant Lee...
'Jumped his bones,' in a sense. The gorgeous blonde from Hong Kong grabbed the Captain, totally inappropriately and unprofessionally for those few seconds when they were alone. Blaine didn't mind, but was staggered.
Lee begged the Captain's forgiveness and chocked it up to the trauma of a big, black Void that surrounded them, forever.
He forgave the young officer and wiped a trace of the offense off his lips before the door opened.
Presently, she sat at the communications station onboard the Epsilon.
Captain pointed out Lee and said to the group, "I'm especially glad the Lieutenant here asked to come. Marki, you should join the core more often..."
"Here, here." The Doctor agreed.
"She been here a lot longer than I have," Duke stated.
Sam said with joy in her voice, "Please, Marki. You sure are one of us. My advice is: You should get out more, see the sights more, you know what I mean? Mix with people. It'll do you good, Lieutenant. Or tell me to go to hell? Ha. Ha!"
"Thought we're in hell? Thank's Sam. Captain. Everyone is so sweet and cool. (smiled) Maybe I will?"
"Good. Second string is in command of the Mothership. I'm sure they'll be fine. Punch it, Duke. Take us on a tour..."
"Shiiiizzzzzzzzzzzzzz." He hit the switches.
The Epsilon buzzed the 14 planets even though they were randomly scattered in perfectly-placed orbits out from Radon. The famous musician, now ensign, did fancy space-flying at sub-light or SLOW when they cruised a planet. Then the refurbished runabout took off at warp to the next one.
Dr. Bennov from the science station in the back part of the micro-bridge looked at displays on his console and said, "I'm sure Clay would have given you a full report, sir. Best I can tell, every planet's composition are types of rocks and minerals, no large crystals, simply inert carbons and basic metals. Not a plant, tree, animal or blade of grass. Oh. No oceans or water at all. That's about it, Captain."
The Epsilon zipped to the next planet, which was the rock counterpart of Jupiter.
Jano asked, "It was almost a sun in our Solar System. Neptune. These gas giants. And their counterparts are dead in this realm? Sam! You down there in the pit?"
"Captain?" She was visible on the bridge after she took two steps up from the micro-engine room. "You rang? I had my feet up; I was getting a little too comfortable."
"Miss Smith," Jano semi-pleaded: "...Could you shed some light on ANYTHING in this darkness? Take your best shot," Blaine coaxed the brunette.
"I'm blocked. Stifled. Blinded. Maybe it's Charles' spell, stopping me from seeing? I don't think everyone on the 34 was killed. We remain lost in mystery, my Captain."
"Funny, Sam. You usually come through for me around this time."
"I can only tell you what you've heard before and you know damn well it's true, sir..."
"What?" Jano felt fear again.
Sam told him while everyone listened intently, "You cannot go to anyone else for the way out of hell. You must rely on only yourself for the answer. It's all on you. Sir."
Then the Epsilon arrived at the solid rock (no rings) parallel of Saturn.
Jano scoffed at what 'Saturn' triggered in his mind. "There was such a stupid, ancient religion made up by mad fools over this planet."
Duke supported him with, "Don't I know it? Didn't want it on m'covers, but they insisted. Oh, well. Deals with devils." Saturn triggered something else inside Duke. He suddenly coaxed Jano: "M'suggestions are pretty good, sir. I suggest you check out the rear section, in back. The whole VR room acts like your prototype, deluxe model, sir."
The statement surprised the Captain. Jano stared at the Doctor.
Lev shook his head and responded, "It's fantastic! Just like your prototype."
"Does everyone know of my special, one-of-a-kind prototype?" Jano asked the little bridge.
The Captain gave a hard look to Lt. Lee.
Sam hypnotically suggested: Maybe you SHOULD check out the back?
~Only now was he hit with a weird thought that could lead to the solution to everything?
"Okay, then." Jano got up and walked in back and locked himself into the holo-room.
Something from him and his adventures with the incredibly perfect, golem body in a Mineeran wonderland, might send him to where Clay went and maybe to the long lost Mineerans? It was worth a shot.
Next thing the Captain knew, he was prone on the floor of the unique holo-chamber, and...
He woke up as himself and not within a smooth, air-brushed, golem-body. He woke up on Mineer at a perfect time and place. Was something orchestrating EVERYTHING? Because as he jumped to his feet and marched into a beautiful, natural setting, he understood reality was only a realm of the mind - as the kind, gentle, wise Mineerans told him ages ago. In front of him, now, miraculously stood Clay and the Mineeran with his face, their leader, in a clearing of the woods.
He ran to them.
Clay turned his head and was only slightly startled that his Captain was next to him.
The usually happy and peaceful Mineeran was sad and his face seemed worried.
The Commander waved a few of his arms and said, "Just in time, Captain. But..."
"What d'you mean, BUT? Can't they help?" The desperate Captain was confused. The friendly natives were only willing to aid (saved them from night creatures) when they last met. "Did you ask?"
His Mineeran counterpart in appropriate dress, answered the big question, "No. We cannot. We want to tell you the simple answer so much to save our people, the lovely blue-souls that have been trapped in darkness for so long. We are forbidden. Because it is YOUR decision. Not mine. You must find the solution on your own. The laws that locked you in prison are the same laws that can release you." His head looked down at the ground. Then the Mineeran sadly turned and walked away. In a moment he was gone. He disappeared into the lush, thick, colorful jungle that only existed in the mind.
Blaine Jano faced his First Officer.
His First officer was disappointed and expressed it. "Sorry, sir. It didn't work."
"Nice to have you back, Clay." Jano managed a smile.
The Ghinn nodded.
When they returned to the micro-bridge of the Epsilon, the Captain shocked his crew when he informed them: "Clay's coming. He's right behind me."
And he was! Everyone cheered and even hugged the Ghinn. He had enough arms to hug all of them in return. Everyone was happy. It was a great and unexpected reunion. Samantha was elated. Suddenly...
The Captain received a burst of energy and knew unmistakably: He must encounter Charles again or whatever devil R he was, back at Station 34. This time: The Epsilon will slip down the rocky channel to the heart-center of Mineer, with a lot of room to spare. Somehow Jano knew the meeting would resolve everything, one way or the other:
He and his crew would be fine and saved the day and the positive future would happen, or...
He and his crew would be killed.
Jano ordered: "Ensign Duke. You may not love outer space after this. Take us back to Tera, that's Planet Three in the system. I have to see an old friend." One more surprise took form and shape and was an electrical fear that was heard and felt inside Blaine! It took most of his strength to not react. The words frightened him. No one else heard:
"Come Captain. Directly into my trap as you did before. A full turn of the Key and the final curtain drops! Come free me! I can't wait to unleash my hordes, my Hounds of Hell, upon the universe. Come quickly, Captain."
'SHOULD they enter the pole hole and go in and face the Heart of Darkness or should they not?' was not the question or the answer. The answer or question was, 'WHAT pole hole should they enter?' With his core crew intact and new clarity of thought, he knew! Of course no one could answer it for him. All he had to do was plunge into the other pole to change polarity of the trans-warp conduit and therefore invert everything back to the way it was. Wasn't that easy? He simply needed to clear a path that went the other way, an exit out of hell~
A refurbished runabout called the Epsilon, with one extra passenger onboard, dropped down into the hollowness of Tera or Middle-Mineer via the North Pole and not the planet's South Pole...and a remarkable thing happened because of the Captain's decision to alter course and go in the other way...
The war of the gods was finally over. Exquisite legions of phenomenal, extraordinary spirits were freed from thousands of years of bitter captivity inside a Big Black Ball. But they were released out of the hexagonal portal, now open, at the prison's North Pole. The angels could now join with the Infinite Entity and spread extreme positive vibrations throughout the cosmos on all levels.
The U.S.S. Shrike returned to the starry, life-filled universe it had left at the exact point it left. Everything was back to normal. Who'd believe the reports of where they were?
The devil-Entity remained trapped within a Big Black Ball. No mass hordes of evil minions were unleashed upon the universe. It was a much better, brighter world...in this timeline.
"You understand, Lieutenant, this has to remain our little secret?"
She giggled. The topless blonde in Paradise had the full attention of her Captain. She stretched, breathed deep and was astounded and overwhelmed at the fantastic world that surrounded her. Like no other VR in existence. Nothing was this precisely perfect, intricate and the heightened sensations were beyond belief! She was thrilled at the beauty all around her.
Blaine was amazed at her. He smelled her hair and almost lost consciousness because of the marvelous sensations. His knees were weak. It was a long time since he was with a real woman. It was Paradise. It was truly the sweetest fantasy of all because it was shared with someone he cared about. Jano grabbed her very inappropriately and unprofessionally.
"Tell me, Captain. Why did holo-emitters in the back of the runabout stop working? I heard Duke gave up trying to fix them, You know anything 'bout that, sir?"
He really didn't. "I'm just happy things turned out as they did. Also that I was able to procure another one-of-a-kind prototype, eh?" He smiled and looked into her fabulous eyes.
"Thank you, Captain." The Lieutenant gave him a big smile and a big kiss.
Later. When the love-making was over in Paradise, he got out of his tubular chamber in his quarters and she got out of hers in her quarters.
Another dimension existed and ruled and was the prime reality over all other realities on Mineer. Here were Mineerans how they actually looked. They were powerful, psychic plants that thrived in the ultraviolet spectrum. They also had the ability to enter minds, alter perceptions, create their own type of 'golems,' namely: beings with brains and test them, use them, make them do things and therefore change their world. Experiment on them, breed them or kill them. The parent only now discovered what his two 'sons' had been doing to the visitors that approached Mineer.
~ ____, You're not setting a good example for _____, communicated the parent.
~ We had fun playing with our toys, father. Took them long enough to figure it out, eh?
The youngest 'son' expressed ~ Man, they're slow! And can you believe they thought there was an R?
The two children laughed. So did the parent.
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