Origins, Chapter 16

 

 

 

Author: Apollo Racer
Title: Origins
Email: fltadmracer@hotmail.com
Characters: New Crew/Star Trek: TOS/Star Trek TOS: Animated Series.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: In a bizarre twist of fate, a young man from the 21st century is trapped
in a frozen coffin as he drifts along the tides of time to be awakened 200 years
later.

Chapter Sixteen

Captain\’s Log, Stardate 7993.4:

The Oberth is approaching Starbase 47 for resupply and crew rotations. According to a message I received last week from Starfleet Command, I am to be on the list of crew to be rotated. It has been a good five years. The ship\’s performance has been admirable, and the crew I\’ve served with has been commendable; they are a crew I will be reluctant to leave, but privileged to introduce to another captain.

Apollo paused, then toggled a switch on the log recorder.

Personal log, SD 7993.4:

I have mixed feelings about this. It has been a wonderful experience… yet despite the fact that I have made some good friends on this voyage, the ones I truly wanted to share this with me are not around. Karen had been on inactive duty upon having Ethan. She planned on returning from Starfleet had the Excalibur returned as it should… but due in part to the loss of her husband, she decided to remain on inactive status. I can\’t say I blame her much… the man has definitely left some empty space behind in our hearts.

I haven\’t a clue as to the whereabouts of the fourth person in our little circle. I lost contact with her shortly after my tour aboard the Merrimac. Phil Komack told me once that the Enterprise was the only Constitution-class vessel to return from her five-year mission intact. Since then I have had nothing but hope for her safety.

He closed his log absently, lost in thought. In the past couple of months, he found himself reminiscing more and more. He attributed it partly to the fact that in his time with the Oberth, he really didn\’t see that much action, at least not as much as his previous assignments. Maybe this is why I\’m being reassigned. Ever since that first year when we saved the Hawthorne, they\’ve realized that command of a science vessel is wasted on me. Starfleet sees me more fit for bigger and better things. The captain smirked. Then again, that could just be ego talking.

Collins brought him out of his reverie. \”Captain, Starbase 47 is hailing us. They give us permission to dock, and they want to welcome us to their facilities.\”

Apollo nodded. \”Very well. Respond with our gratitude for their invitation.\”

He stayed on the bridge during the docking procedure. Technically, he didn\’t have any reason to stay… the starbase locked on to the ship with tractor beams and guided the ship in. They basically did all the work. This time, however, Apollo felt that he should be present when the Oberth docked for the last time under his command.

He listened to the buzz of communication as everyone did their respective duty. He often listened to his crew like this; it relaxed him, knowing that the ship was in capable hands.

He felt a sudden shift as the Oberth came to a stop. Collins had kept in constant contact with Starbase 47 throughout the whole process. This time he spoke up to indicate that he was talking to the captain. \”Starbase signals that we are secure.\”

Apollo slapped his lap and stood up. \”That\’s it, then. Everybody out.\” He headed toward the doors, then stopped. Something told him to turn around. He did, and noticed that all eyes were on him. He remembered the day that he first took command. When they looked at him that day, he saw in them eagerness, excitement and a little intrepidation. That same eagerness was there, but it was accompanied by experience. They earned each other\’s complete respect and loyalty… he was responsible for them, and he brought them home. He showed them that he was entirely willing to work side by side with them instead of standing back and giving orders. He was their friend as well as their captain. Perhaps for this reason Apollo also read sadness on some of their faces. He was leaving them; sure, it may be possible that some of them may go with him to his next assignment, but it was more likely that most of them would be assigned to other ships. Some crew members would even be staying with the Oberth, perhaps stepping up a position or two.

He took a breath and cleared his throat. \”I see your faces, and I can\’t help but feel what you\’re thinking. We shared some good times and some bad times together… fortunately more of the former than the latter. If fate is merciful, we shall have more ahead of us. One thing is certain, though… I couldn\’t have had a better crew to break me in and support me. You have all been so loyal, so honorable… I shall never forget you. Thank you, one and all.\” At first there was silence, then one by one they began applauding. He smiled, then finished by adding, \”Last one out, turn off the lights,\” before continuing his journey to the transporter room.

Along the way, he was met by warm smiles and heartfelt gestures. Apparently, Collins had put his little speech over the intercom so the whole crew could hear it. Apollo felt glad… the speech was meant for the whole crew, after all. He entered the transporter room and went to the pad. As he got into position, he spoke to the technician. \”Make sure that shore leave is granted for everyone.\” He smiled, winked, and gave her a two-fingered salute. \”Energize.\”

He coalesced in the transporter room of Starbase 47. Two people were waiting for him. \”Captain Racer, I\’m Admiral Sheffield. This is Commodore Black. We\’ve been expecting you.\”

Apollo shook his hand. \”Thank you, Admiral. I\’m flattered. I didn\’t think my return would warrant an admiral\’s attention.\”

Sheffield chuckled. \”You underrate yourself, Captain. You just finished a voyage in our new science vessel; your reports had convinced us to continue using it… in fact, about halfway into your tour, Starfleet had launched about a dozen Oberth-class ships.\” He gave Apollo time to allow that to sink in. \”Secondly, let\’s just say that the unofficial word in Starfleet is that you lead a charmed life.\”

Apollo\’s eyes widened slightly at that comment. \”Oh, really. How so?\”

Sheffield\’s chuckle turned into a laugh. \”You really are humble, aren\’t you? For all the trials and tribulations you\’ve been through, and you have no idea what to call it? That\’s really good.\”

They passed into the commodore\’s office. Sheffield\’s smile was immediately wiped from his face. \”Sit down, Captain.\” Faced with his own method of changing moods nearly instantaneously, Apollo did as he was asked.

Commodore Black took the floor. \”Captain, I\’m sure you\’ve heard about the increased Romulan activity in the recent months.\” Apollo nodded. \”Good,\” Black continued, \”Our intelligence reports show that they\’ve developed a new type of warship.\” He pressed a control on his desk. A 3-D schematic of the ship hovered over the desk. \”This new Nova-class battle cruiser has about twice the firepower of our heavy cruisers. She was built for one purpose and one purpose only… war.\”

Apollo studied the schematic. He understood what they were saying… what he didn\’t understand was why they were telling it to him, and he said as much.

Sheffield got up, placed his hands on the desk, and leaned toward the captain. \”As I said on our way from the transporter room, we\’ve reviewed your logs. Hell, we\’ve had the logs and records of every starship captain currently in service reviewed. We narrowed it down to two choices. However, our first choice is going to be promoted soon. And our second choice… well, our second choice just walked through the door.\”

Apollo was visibly perplexed. \”Wait a minute, sir. Choices for what?\”

Sheffield smiled. \”Our crowning achievement.\” He gestured toward the door. As Apollo was looking for an answer, he got up and they walked out.

The admiral kept talking as they headed down the corridor. \”You may not know this, but we could tell through your logs that however satisfied you were with your command, you felt your talents were confined on a science vessel. Yet you seemed to know how to work the bugs out of the Oberth. So we thought you\’d like to take a look at our newest ship.\”

He had timed it perfectly. He finished his speech just as they entered the observation lounge. They must have rehearsed this, Apollo thought wrily. An entire wall in the lounge was devoted to a viewport that looked out at the ships berthed at the starbase. He couldn\’t see the Oberth, which was just as well. Even if it were in plain view, he wouldn\’t have seen it because of the ship that currently drew his attention.

It was based on a heavy cruiser design, but its lines bespoke more power. There were three nacelles instead of the standard two. Normally, starships had only two nacelles, but Apollo had read of significant advances in using three nacelles for more speed and power.

Apollo suddenly realized that he nearly had his face pressed to the window in awe. He recovered quickly. \”Is that what I think it is?\” he asked the admiral incredulously.

Sheffield gestured toward it. \”Our battle cruiser, the USS Firestone. It\’s the first of its class. She looks similar to a heavy cruiser, but let me assure you, that\’s where the similarities end. This baby is loaded for bear. She\’s ready for any Romulans that want to start something.\”

Black chimed in. \”This ship can outrun, outgun, outmaneuver, and just plain outclass any ship currently in space. And she\’s all yours, Captain. All you have to do is just say the word.\”

Apollo was awestruck. He was like a little kid who was just given the largest, most expensive Christmas present a kid could ever desire. \”I… I don\’t know, sir. This is a very generous assignment. But, I think you should know… I\’ve firmly believed in Starfleet\’s principles of being primarily an group for scientific exploration. This ship has only one role… combat. I mean, if my orders are to take command of this vessel, I obviously have no choice.\”

\”No, no, Racer,\” Sheffield denied. \”No orders, at least not yet. At this point, it\’s a request, primarily volunteer. They won\’t become orders until – unless – you accept. If you do, they\’ll be finished before you go to sleep tonight.\” He watched Apollo mull it over in his head. \”Tell you what, I\’ll give you something to sleep over.\” He held out his arm, revealing that he was holding a padd. \”This holds the tech specs of the Firestone. Look them over, then give me your answer in the morning.\” At the captain\’s hesitation, he added, \”I understand how you feel, Captain… and we are primarily devoted to exploration. But there comes a time when someone will take more than a little offense to our being out here. We need to show them we have just as much right as they do.\”

Apollo stared at the admiral for a moment, then he reached out and took the padd. \”I\’ll take a look at this and see what I think.\”

Sheffield grinned and winked. \”Good. That\’s all I ask right now. I\’ll see you then. Dismissed.\” He and Black left the lounge. Apollo remained behind to get another long look at the Firestone, then he, too, left the lounge.

~ * ~

He didn\’t get much sleep that night. He was too busy studying the specs, marveling at the research and development that must have gone into designing the behemoth parked at the starbase. According to what he read, most of the equipment on the ship was experimental. A prime example was a pair of devices called megaphasers, one situated at both port and starboard on the primary hull. She had four photon torpedo bays, two above and two below the secondary hull, each with two launchers, and phaser banks all over the place.

As he studied the blueprints, he started to see a parallel with his own situation. Here was a vessel that had so much power… so much capacity to destroy. The captain of such a vessel would be tempted to use such power, and would need to fight off such a temptation. Apollo knew there were times in the past few years when his powers would have made things much easier for him and his crew. However, there were also moments when he could see just how much worse things could have been had he given in. It was a constant balancing act for him… maybe that\’s why Starfleet knew he could handle it. While they didn\’t know everything about what he could do, it was impossible to prevent them from seeing that he could do more than the average human.

Apollo shifted into engineer\’s mode, and really paid attention to the specifications. He realized that he really admired the construction of this ship. It had a lot of weapons, and it wasn\’t really that much faster than any other ship in the Fleet, so he deduced that the third nacelle was used primarily to power the extra weapons and defenses. There were certainly areas that he felt could be improved upon, but then, isn\’t that why they wanted him? To work the bugs out of it and prove that it could be a good ship?

A yawn indicated that his weariness had caught up to him. Apollo set the padd down on a table next to his bed and swung his legs on top of the mattress. After telling the computer to turn off the lights, he was soon asleep.

~ * ~

The next morning saw him heading for the admiral\’s office, his Vulcan demeanor hiding his excitement and anticipation. He nodded to the admiral\’s aide as the ensign buzzed him in. Sheffield was already at his desk, just finishing up a conversation over the comlink. As it ended, he looked up with a smile. \”Good morning, Captain. I trust you slept well.\”

Apollo allowed a small smile to escape from his facade. \”I did indeed, sir. And I think you\’ll be pleased to know that I\’ve…\”

The comlink beeped, interrupting him. \”One moment,\” the admiral said, thumbing on the com. \”Sheffield here.\”

\”Admiral, this is chief Clemens over in the restricted area. I think we have a situation here.\”

Sheffield looked at Apollo, clearly puzzled. \”What kind of situation? Do you need reinforcements?\”

\”Sir, at this time I… aargh!\” His statement was cut off by a loud bang.

Apollo raised an eyebrow. \”That sounded like a gunshot.\” He was already heading for the door.

\”A what? Racer, what are you talking about? Where are you going!?\”

He turned around and fixed Sheffield with a stare that sent shivers down the admiral\’s spine. \”I would highly suggest that you send those reinforcements. Tell them I\’m on my way.\”

Sheffield sputtered. \”What do you… You can\’t go…\”

Apollo cut him off. \”Sir, no disrespect intended, but just do it!\” He didn\’t allow any further rebuttal, as he was out the door. Sheffield launched himself out of his chair and out the door, intending to stop Apollo, but when he entered the corridor, there was no sign of the captain.

He reached the scene of the disturbance at the same time as about a half dozen other security guards. Two men were lying on the floor. Apollo stooped over the nearest one and checked him. \”This one is dead,\” he stated.

The team leader took his cue and checked the other one. \”I\’m afraid this one is, too, sir.\”

Apollo stood and glared down the corridor. \”Damn…. Contact the infirmary. Have them pick up these two. I\’m going to investigate.\”

The team leader stood up. \”All due respect, sir, I think we should wait until we find out what we\’re up against.\”

Apollo had a good guess as to the cause, but he didn\’t think he was going to get past the guard with just an argument. He looked around the area, his senses buzzing like crazy. There\’s danger here, he thought, but where that danger is or how extreme it is remains to be seen. \”Very well,\” he said slowly. At that time, medics were showing up on the scene. \”Keep your men here to investigate this immediate area. You and I will follow the medical team to the infirmary.\” With a bunch of nods, the group split up and headed in different directions.

~ * ~

Doctor Brackett was examining one of the corpses, while Apollo hovered nearby. Sheffield wasn\’t too much further away. The doctor went from the corpse to the huge wall screen that showed the corpse\’s statistics. Clearly, Apollo was watching a 23rd century autopsy. The doctor was muttering little sounds of affirmation, sounds Apollo had heard many typical doctors make when they were studying something out of the ordinary. Finally, he got too frustrated at the noise. \”What did you find?\” he spoke out.

The doctor finally acknowledged that he was not alone in the infirmary. \”Ah, Captain. This man died in a very interesting way. He was shot by a projectile weapon, but the wound itself was not what caused his death.\”

Sheffield was flustered. \”Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?\”

Brackett looked from the admiral to Apollo, gauging their interest in the results, then he motioned the men over to the table and lifted an eyelid of the corpse. \”Do you see this?\”

Apollo leaned over and examined the victim\’s eye. He didn\’t see much… a grayish haze had developed over the eye. \”What is that?\”

Brackett left the patient and walked back over to the diagnostic screen. Apollo followed. \”These are the tendrils extending from a spiderweb bullet.\” He looked at Apollo, who shrugged. \”That\’s just the slang term,\” he continued. \”When this particular projectile penetrates its victim, microscopic neurocidal fibers \”grow\” from it. They are designed to follow the neural pathways of its victim until they reach the brain. They first target the frontal lobes, penetrating the tissue and finding the pain centers. The victim suffers agonizing and paralyzing pain. This is why you see the haze… the fibers pass in front of the eyes to take the shortest route to those areas of the brain.\”

The captain was puzzled. \”But you said these fibers kill the person. This man didn\’t survive long enough to suffer much pain.\”

Brackett nodded. \”Once these tendrils find their first goal, more tendrils weave their way to the brain stem, wrap around it and constrict. This eventually causes all neurological function to cease. It sounds like a prolonged process, but in reality this all takes place in about a minute.\”

Apollo shared his thoughts. \”So these projectiles are biological in nature?\”

\”Not so much biological as pseudo-organic.\” He turned to Sheffield to make sure the admiral wasn\’t lost in the conversation. \”That means that it\’s inorganic, but it was designed to mimic an organic signature.\” He returned to his explanation. \”No matter where this bullet penetrates the skin, these fibers will make their way to the brain. Even a graze is enough to kill, for the bullet leaves behind the matrix to produce the fibers as it passes along the tissue.\”

Apollo shivered. \”It sounds like a particularly ghastly way to die.\”

\”It is,\” Brackett agreed. \”What\’s puzzling is this.\” He entered some instructions into a panel next to the screen. A small window opened in the readout and information scrolled across it. \”This type of weapon was outlawed in the Federation during the beginning of the 23rd century. Anyone in possession of it carries a severe penalty.\”

Apollo nodded. \”Then we have to find this person before he or she causes any more deaths.\”

Sheffield snorted, attracting attention. \”How can we find this person if we don\’t even know what they\’re up to?\”

Apollo thought about that for a moment. \”There are two possibilities based on the evidence we have so far. Either the parties in question are after the Firestone, or they are using it as a decoy for their real plan. I, for one, see the latter choice as unlikely, therefore it would be wise to warn anyone involved in the Firestone project to be alert for anyone acting suspiciously. If they find someone, they should use extreme caution. Let them know about the spiderweb gun, and what it can do.\” He turned to the admiral. \”We should also carry on as though we know nothing of what has happened. For all intents and purposes, these men simply died of mysterious causes.\”

\”But what good will that do? We should use this knowledge to capture these people,\” Sheffield protested.

\”And we will. But if let them know that we know too much, they will be much more careful, or they will abort the plan all together, and leave.\”

It seemed to Apollo that Sheffield finally got hold of his senses. He turned to the guard who followed them to the infirmary. \”Baker, you\’re in charge, now. Quietly inform your troops of what we found. Have all transporters set to scan for projectile weapons or parts for weapons. Also have sensors reconfigured at shuttle bays for the same. That way, if someone trips them, we\’ll have somewhere to start.

\”Yes, sir.\” The new security chief gave a smart salute and exited the infirmary.

Sheffield then turned to Apollo. \”Captain, since you seem to have a grasp on what is going on, I\’m putting you in charge of this investigation. It\’ll be your responsibility to stop this madman\’s plan. After all… it\’s your ship this person\’s after.\”

\”I appreciate that, Admiral. I\’ll find the one who did this.\”

~ * ~

Apollo was talking with Baker in the lounge. They purposely avoided talking about the scene they had witnessed earlier that day; as a result, they found a friend in each other. They were still chatting when Apollo jerked upright, hearing a voice from his past.

\”Well, well, well. Look what we have here.\”

Apollo turned around and looked directly into the face of Ted Stevens. \”I\’m surprised you stayed in Starfleet after the Merrimac.\” The captain\’s former superior officer lost none of his hypocritical tone over the years.

\”I might say the same of you,\” Apollo retorted.

His adversary studied Apollo over. \”I see you\’ve made it up through the ranks. Good job you did with the Oberth.\”

Apollo heard no sincerity in Stevens\’ compliment, but he didn\’t allow himself to rise to the bait. \”I notice that you\’re also a captain. Impressive that you would make it up through the ranks again.\” He knew that after the fiasco on the Merrimac, Stevens couldn\’t have favored to well. He had to have been busted down to Lieutenant at the very least.

Stevens took the comment at face value. \”Why, thank you. I always knew that I could make the rank. No thanks to you, of course. I\’d really like to stay and chat, but I have pressing business to attend to.\” With with self-centered smirk, he walked off.

Apollo turned back to his companion, a cold fire burning in his eyes. Baker moved to get up. \”Hey, Tom, I\’m sorry. I don\’t mean to scare you off.\”

Baker snickered. \”Scare me off? Hell, no… I\’m just going to check with the environmental section. I could swear it\’s ten degrees colder in here.\”

Apollo laughed. \”I admit, there\’s no love lost between him and me. He used to be the first officer on the Merrimac when I was in Security. He\’s also a two-faced bastard who won\’t think twice about stepping on toes, or anything else, to get what he wants.\”

Baker\’s eyes went wide. \”You were the one who exposed the Merrimac Scandal? My God, no wonder he acted like he was sizing up a potential enemy.\”

Apollo smirked. \”Yeah… if a potential enemy is how he thinks of me, then he\’s better off. Back then, I was surprised that I even had a leg to stand on. I was only a lieutenant fresh from the Academy. Now that I have more clout… well, let\’s just say he\’d better watch his step.\” Then it hit Apollo. \”The Merrimac Scandal, eh? Is that what they\’re calling it these days?\”

Baker nodded. \”You really set a precedent that day. You showed Starfleet that it doesn\’t matter what rank you are. The only thing that keeps you from reporting any wrongdoing is your own fear; and it\’s a fear wrongly placed. They even have a section in the Command Course at the Academy about showing those cadets how to stand firm in the face of authority.\” Apollo smiled, and Baker realized something else. \”A security guard. No wonder you knew what to do at that investigation site. Hell, I never knew that starship security even lived long enough to make it to captain.\”

Apollo shrugged. \”Someone had to. Otherwise, how would you be represented in the brass?\” Baker chuckled in agreement, and Apollo stood up. \”I have to get going with this investigation. Thanks for the ear.\”

Baker waved. \”Hey, no problem.\”

Apollo was halfway to the Security offices when the alarm went off. He rushed to the nearest companel. \”Racer here. What\’s going on?\”

\”Trouble over by Firestone\’s boarding area, sir,\” said the voice on the com.

\”I\’m on my way. Racer out.\” He headed toward the ship as quickly as possible.

When he got there, Stevens was there with a group of security. \”I heard the alert… when I started past this area, I saw some men try to bust their way in. I think the alert scared them off.\”

Apollo motioned the men aside as he reached the door and examined the controls. \”Well, they didn\’t make it inside. Everything seems to be secure.\”

At that point, Sheffield showed up. \”What\’s going on here? Racer?\”

Apollo looked at the admiral. \”Captain Stevens said some men were trying to gain access to the Firestone, but were scared off.\”

Sheffield looked a little puzzled, but didn\’t explain why. \”We\’d better make sure that everything\’s all right.\” He stepped up to the door and punched in an access code. The door opened. \”Let\’s go.\”

They all traveled through the umbilical to the ship. \”Everything seems all right,\” Sheffield said.

Apollo noticed that the admiral seemed distracted. \”Sir, are you okay. What\’s wrong?\”

He shook his head. \”I don\’t know… something\’s not right here.\” He headed to the nearest computer access. \”Computer, excluding myself, Captain Racer, and the party we brought on board with us, is there any unauthorized personnel on the ship at this time.\”

\”Negative. Only maintenance personnel are on board, excluding your party,\” was the computer\’s reply.

\”Good. Now…\” The admiral stopped in mid-sentence and snapped his fingers. \”That\’s what doesn\’t fit.\” He turned to face Stevens. Apollo followed his motion. \”This man isn\’t a captain. He isn\’t even with Starfleet anymore. He was drummed out shortly after the Merrimac Scandal.\”

Instantly, the guards\’ weapons came to bear on the two officers. Stevens grinned evilly. \”You always were a smart one.\” His arm came up, revealing a weapon bearing more resemblance to something Apollo had seen in a museum hundreds of years ago than to a phaser. He suddenly realized that he was facing the man who murdered the two guards in the corridor. Before he could act, Stevens pressed the trigger. A muffled blast issued forth, and Sheffield was flung against the bulkhead. Apollo knew that the bullet\’s properties didn\’t have to work in this case. Sheffield was dead before he hit the floor.

The gun was now trained on him. \”You always did show up at the wrong moments, Racer. Should have left Starfleet when you had the chance.\”

\”What do you need the Firestone for?\” Apollo pierced Stevens with a glare.

Stevens didn\’t react. Apparently, his soul was left behind on the Merrimac years ago. \”You just wouldn\’t understand, would you, Racer? No, I\’m sure you wouldn\’t. You have too much of a sense of honor and duty.\” He spat those words out as though they were poison. \”I\’ll spell it out for you.\” He started slowly circling Apollo. \”There are rumors in Starfleet that tensions are actually starting to ease up between the Federation and the Klingons. I think that it\’s just a ploy on the Klingons\’ part to soften up the Federation for conquest. I intend to show them that we still have teeth, and are not afraid to use them.\”

Apollo slowly turned so he could face Stevens again. \”Still showing your true colors, eh? Starfleet never intended to allow the Klingons to get away with anything. What makes you think you\’re the deciding factor in all this? Or is this your ego still getting in the way of your judgment?\”

Before he knew it, Stevens was in front of him. He gave Apollo a left cross that rocked his head back. Apollo, however, kept firmly on his feet. He continued to give Stevens a cold glare.

\”You always get in the way, don\’t you? Ever since I met you, you\’ve spoiled any goals I had set in Starfleet. I strived to make the galaxy safe for mankind.\” He chuckled, a little maniacally, in Apollo\’s opinion. He started circling again. \”You know, I really ought to thank you for getting me kicked out of Starfleet. I\’ve realized that I now have more freedom to do what I can than I did when this uniform meant something. There\’s just one problem. I always hated something about you back then. I couldn\’t do anything about it then… but I sure can now.\”

At the same time he realized what Stevens was saying, he heard the report of the gun, just as he felt something slam into his back. He pitched forward to the floor. Stevens casually walked over and pushed Apollo over with his boot, so he could see his face. \”If you\’ll excuse me now, I\’m going to take your ship here, and do what the Federation should have done a long time ago.\” Apollo was just starting to see his vision fog over. The last thing he heard was Stevens barking an order to his men. \”Get that trash off my ship. Leave him in the corridor, as an example to everyone.\” Just as his vision started failing, his hearing also diminished. He struggled to maintain consciousness, but it was a vain struggle. He silently screamed in his mind as everything faded to black.

 

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