Origins, Chapter 21

 

 

 

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 Twenty-One

The Firestone whirled around to fire another volley at the pursuing Romulan ship. The Z-1 Nova Class VIII battleship was just the type of vessel that the battle cruiser was built for. A small fleet of them had been in the Neutral Zone just outside Federation space. It was their usual tactic to lie in wait for an unsuspecting ship, then uncloak and ambush it when it came too close. In this manner they tested the defenses of the Federation, looking for a weakness to exploit when the time was ripe to invade.

When the Federation ship of a design previously unknown to them had appeared, they were at first unsure how to react to it. Then it had turned sharply toward them, in a manner which could only mean the ship\’s sensors saw through their cloaking device. The Romulan battlecruisers wasted no time in decloaking and readying their weapons. If they could disable this new ship, they could take it back to the Empire and learn its secrets.

As hard as it was too believe, the Firestone had not, in fact, detected the Romulan ships through their cloak. Upon entering the sector, the helmsman automatically set their course parallel to the Neutral Zone border. Stevens bellowed, \”What do you think you\’re doing? I didn\’t tell you to change course!\”

The helmsman, for his part, was completely baffled. \”But sir, shouldn\’t we stay on our side of the Neutral Zone?\”

\”Did I ask you to question my orders!?\” Before the helmsman could reply, Stevens pulled a phaser from his belt and fired, vaporizing the hapless crewman. He then pointed at someone seemingly at random. \”Take his place. Return us to our previous heading.\” The crewman quickly responded, almost diving for the chair. No sooner did he adjust their course than the Romulan ships came out of hiding. \”At last! Now we\’ll see what this ship is made of!\”

The Romulans also discovered the threat posed by the new Federation battlecruiser. Space crackled with discharged energy and plasma from hull ruptures as the ships performed their deadly dance. The Romulan ships hammered the Firestone, but it only served to piss off Stevens. \”Captain,\” his science officer reported, \”decks seven through nine have suffered hull breaches.\”

\”Casualties?\”

\”None. Those sections had been shut down due to our small crew complement.\”

\”Then fire at those bastards! They\’ll pay the price for daring to attack us!\”

The design of the battlecruiser was sound… its new materials and structural reinforcements allowed them to take a great deal of punishment. Conversely, one Nova ship was dead in space, another badly damaged and limping, trying to stop moving in circles and make their way back to Romulan space. The third Nova was lightly damaged and used this to its full capacity. However, where three ships could hold off the Firestone, only one ship was severely outmatched. The dreadnought unleashed a swarm of photon torpedoes, following them up with the phaser cannons on the sides of the saucer section. The torpedoes slammed into the Romulans with deadly accuracy. Shields that were once flaring strong now weakened and died. The ship tried to use its cloaking device, but as it faded, an explosion appeared on its port side, and the ship came back into view.

The Firestone pounded them mercilessly, and the enemy battleship came apart at the seams in a brilliant bloom of plasma and ignited gases. Another short volley sent the limping battlecruiser to join the others.

The captain jumped out of his chair. \”Yes!\” He pumped his arm down in a victorious gesture. He then raged over to the viewscreen, practically putting his face in it, so he could drink in the wonderful sight. \”Ramsey, are there any other ships in the area?\”

The man he called Ramsey glanced in his viewer. \”No, sir. This sector is ours.\”

Stevens grinned. \”Good. That will show those damned Romulans not to interfere in our mission. Helm, resume our course and speed. We have places to go.\” He sat back down in his chair and caressed its sides. \”Ohhhhh, yes… this is a fine ship that Starfleet decided to give me. Under my command, I\’ll show those bureaucratic fools how to do things.\”

Ramsey watched his captain lose himself in another delusion. He felt that the man was a fool for wasting precious resources, but he was a smart fool. He knew where to go to get the materials to repair the ship after its escape from spacedock. Once fixed, nothing could stop them, which frankly scared Ramsey a little. Their captain was getting a little too obsessive these days. He couldn\’t do anything now, but he could wait silently, as he always did, for the captain to slip up. When he did, Ramsey would make his move.

~ * ~

It\’s a slow night, Apollo thought to himself as he walked the corridors. Or maybe I only think it\’s slow because I don\’t get around this late very often anymore. Since that night on Fremma, he and Sam have been able to retire for the night earlier than usual. Of course, sleep was out of the question, but who needs sleep anyway.

Tonight was different. The science officer on gamma shift was sick, and Sam volunteered to pull a double shift. Not unusual for this ship… Apollo noticed that friends always covered for each other… it\’s just that without any distractions, he couldn\’t sleep, so he\’d taken to his rounds again. Which makes me realize that I\’ve been a little selfish lately. The crew used to like to see me walk around. I have to remember do it more often again.

He found himself entering Stellar Cartography. On the trail of the Firestone, they had a rare opportunity to observe a star\’s collapse into a neutron star. They had stopped to record it, and now the people here were poring over the data they\’d retrieved. It reminded Apollo of his time aboard the Oberth. It was surprising that with as much information they had gathered while he commanded her, they still had so much more to learn about the galaxy. He felt quite sure that there were plenty of surprises waiting to astound humanity as they explored their tiny section of space.

He snapped out of the memory as he realized one of the officers was waving him over. It was Karen. He strode over to lean against the back of her chair. \”Captain, this is amazing,\” she said in awe. \”I never believed that a star could collapse so quickly.\”

He stared at the screen, mesmerized by the view. The star had shrunk from a red giant to a neutron star in the matter of a few years. Astronomically speaking, it was faster than the blink of an eye. \”What would cause such a high rate of collapse?\” His Vulcan curiosity won out in him, and he joined her in her research.

\”We haven\’t yet figured it out.\” She moved over to make room for him; he got down on one knee, as there were no chairs left. \”We think that it reached a certain point that there simply wasn\’t enough material for the star to maintain its previous size. As it shrank, its gravitational forces grew, and its reduction rate increased exponentially, until it stabilized in the form we see now. However, there\’s no visible evidence to answer why it shrank faster than normal.\”

The captain nodded. \”Perhaps a black hole in the vicinity, casually drawing material away from the star?\”

\”That was my thought, too. We\’re conducting further scans to see if we can find any trace of stellar material trailing away from the star. If we can find it, we\’ve found our culprit.\”

\”Intriguing,\” Apollo said, mesmerized by the view on the screen.

Karen looked at Apollo. \”You love her a lot, don\’t you?\”

\”How could I? I\’ve only just seen it. Besides, I\’m merely curious about the star, not emotionally attached to it.\”

\”No. I mean you love Sam a lot.\”

Apollo stopped what he was doing, then shifted his entire attention to her. \”What are you talking about? Of course I love her.\” He paused, looking at her suspiciously. \”Why? What are you getting at?\”

\”Oh, I was just curious as to why you haven\’t done anything about it.\”

Apollo was perplexed. \”Why I haven\’t… wait a minute. Why are you here? Aren\’t you on alpha shift, too?\”

She shrugged. \”Yes, but I just got wrapped up in my work. And no, I\’m not pulling the extra shifts to get you to change your mind about letting Ethan on board early.\”

\”I\’ll bet. You two have something going.\”

\”I should hope so. I\’m his mother.\”

He shook his head in frustration. \”No, I mean you and Sam.\” He noticed that heads were beginning to turn. \”Let\’s continue this in private.\” He got up and headed for the door; she followed.

Once out in the corridor, he started up again. \”You and Sam planned this.\”

She looked shocked. \”How could you even say something like that? We both know she had to pull a double shift.\”

\”Yeah, and I\’ll bet if I check Sickbay, I\’ll find out that Lieutenant Brenner never went there, much less get confined to quarters. Both you and Sam know that if I\’m not occupied, I have trouble sleeping, and I make my rounds. It\’s not hard to guess that since we just studied that star, I\’d make a visit to Stellar Cartography. Fess up, now… you know what happens when you gang up on me. Remember the fountain at the Academy?\” He added an impish grin at the end for emphasis.

\”Okay, okay… call off your dogs.\” Karen was waving him off. \”I\’ll confess, you did come up here and there in our conversations, and your feelings for her aren\’t really concealed that much.\”

\”I don\’t even try to conceal them.\”

\”That much we could tell. And believe me, that\’s not a bad thing. I mean, we all know how you liked to hold your cards pretty close to your chest.\” He gave her a skeptical look. \”Look, all I\’m saying is that we were concerned… okay, she was concerned, and she wanted me to find something out if I could. So, now that that\’s out, you bum, why haven\’t you asked her to marry you?\”

That took Apollo off his guard. He tried to cover himself. \”I\’ll have you know it\’s inappropriate calling your captain a bum,\” he said, pointing at her. She smirked but didn\’t budge. \”It\’s not working, is it.\” She shook her head. He sighed. \”To be honest, I… I really don\’t know. I mean, I do love her, but… I guess… maybe I grew a little too comfortable with how the relationship is now. Maybe I just get scared about it. I mean, think about it. I\’m her commanding officer. Suppose she has to go on a dangerous mission. I have to order her to do it. How the hell can I live with myself if she gets hurt? Or killed?\”

Karen\’s eyes glazed over for a minute. This was definitely something she hadn\’t thought of. \”Well… it sounds like something you two have to talk about. And you do have to talk to her about it. There is no reason why you should be putting it off. Now, if you\’ll excuse me, sir, I have to return to my work.\”

Apollo smiled at her sarcasm. She returned it as she passed through the door. For a moment, he looked down both ends of the corridor, confused as to where he wanted to go so he could think. With a sharp sigh, he picked a direction and headed that way.

~ * ~

The doors to the shuttle bay opened to admit Sam. She walked inside, every footstep echoing through the cavernous room. \”Captain? Are you here?\” She noticed that the outer doors were open; the atmospheric force field was the only thing between her and the cold depths of space. She was startled as Apollo floated into sight. He was hovering near the ceiling when she entered and called out. His legs were crossed, with his arms resting on them, as though he were meditating. \”I just got off duty. Again. You weren\’t in your quarters, and I knew you wanted to check out that info on the star. Karen said…\”

\”We need to talk, Sam, and since technically neither of us is supposed to be on shift, you can drop the formality.\”

She did so, but noticed by his tone that he was troubled by something. \”What\’s on your mind?\” she asked simply.

He gazed out past the bay into space. \”You know, I come here a lot when I need peace without interruption. No one ever thinks of looking for their captain in the ass end of the ship. On the Excalibur, Skip and I used to meet here whenever we needed to talk, and didn\’t want the rest of the crew to overhear.\”

\”Is that why you called me here? To talk about \’something\’?\”

When he was low enough, he merely uncrossed his legs and straightened them to touch the floor. Then he started pacing, trying to get the words out. He decided the blunt approach would be best at that point. \”Sam, I want to ask you to marry me.\”

She had hoped he would ask her that, but she didn\’t expect him to just bluntly come right out and propose. After the initial shock washed over her, she realized something sounded wrong about what he said. \”Wait… you sound unsure of that.\”

He nodded. \”I\’m not finished. I want you to marry me… but…\” he walked up to her and grasped her shoulders. \”I have this little problem, kind of a conflict of interests. You see… I love you very much, but I\’m also your CO. You should be able to understand when I say that I don\’t want to worry about you – any more than I\’d worry about anyone else in my crew – if I were to send you on a landing party. If it got dangerous, if you got hurt, or worse… I\’d never forgive myself.\”

She smiled, relieved that it seemed the worst thing he worried about. \”Silly. You know me better than that. Well enough to know that I picked this career for a reason. If we were going to let a thing like this stop us, one of us would have never stayed in the Academy. Apollo, I love you very much, too. And quite frankly, when we were apart, I kept hoping we\’d be together again… I always dreamed that you would ask me that one question.

\”You would be a fool, or extremely cold, if you didn\’t worry about me. But you would be a bigger fool if you let that worry hamper your judgment. Now I think that I\’m a big girl, and I can take care of myself. I know you will try your damnedest to keep from giving me any special treatment, and I\’ll try my damnedest to keep from taking any. Would that be all right by you?\”

He smiled. \”That would be just fine.\”

She blushed. \”So… is there something you wanted to ask me?\”

He nodded and knelt down. At first, she thought he was going to be corny and propose to her that way. But the next thing she knew, he sat her on his raised knee and slowly lifted her into the air until they reached the center of the bay. \”Samantha Taylor, from the day we met, I felt a connection with you. As we spent time together, that bond strengthened, and my love for you grew until my heart threatened to burst from my chest. By the time we graduated, more than anything else, I wanted to share my life with you. There wasn\’t a day that went by that I didn\’t think about you. You are the light in my heart, impossible to extinguish, nor would I ever dare to. You would make me a very happy man if you would be my wife.\”

Sam couldn\’t help but feel a tear roll down her cheek, even though they had been talking marriage since she walked in. Now she knew why the shuttle bay door was open. He must have rehearsed this, the bastard. She was too choked up to speak, all she could do was nod frantically. She pulled him close and held him tight when suddenly she heard applause. She looked down. Their friends came in, smiling and cheering. Karen was leading the bunch.

Sam glared at Apollo, but it was clear he was as surprised as she was. \”I didn\’t know about this, I swear.\” He headed toward the floor.

Upon touching down, Karen came up to them. \”I was wondering when you two lovebirds would come to your senses. God, Apollo, do you have to have a shuttlecraft drop on you to figure out what was left to do? And you, Sam… we\’re not in the 21st century. You could have asked him just as much as he could ask you. Boy, Apollo, you\’re lucky Skip\’s not around. He\’d beat you senseless, though he wouldn\’t have far to go.\”

They looked at her, and at each other. When they returned their gazes to her, they wore a matching set of evil grins. Karen knew that look all too well, and before they could twitch, she was out the door in a flash.

Laughter sprang up among the group. \”Hey, I just thought of something,\” Apollo said. \”If the captain is supposed to perform the weddings on a ship, who performs it if it\’s the captain\’s wedding?\”

Thelem thought about it. \”I suppose we could go to a starbase. Then a commodore or an admiral could do it.\”

Their conversation was interrupted by the intercom. \”Captain Racer to the bridge.\”

Apollo found the nearest companel. \”Racer here. What\’s up?\”

\”Sir, we\’re picking up reports from the USS Bozeman. They\’ve discovered a debris field close to the Romulan Neutral Zone. The debris has been identified as belonging to at least three of their battleships.\”

\”What does that have to do with us?\”

\”Sir, they said the ships were Nova-class.\”

Apollo slowly looked up. \”I\’m on my way. Racer out.\”

Thelem was puzzled. \”What does it mean, Captain?\”

Apollo stopped as the doors opened and whirled around. \”There\’s only one ship currently in our fleet powerful enough to take on three Romulan Nova-class battleships and win.\” He shot down the corridor.

\”The Firestone,\” Sam whispered. The other Bridge officers quickly fell in behind their commander.

~ * ~

\”Are you sure this was caused by a Federation ship? I mean, I didn\’t think we had any such weaponry capable of doing this to Nova-class ships. They\’re the most advanced that the Romulans have come up with, at least to our knowledge.\”

Apollo\’s eyes narrowed to slits. \”Believe me, Captain Bateson, we have a ship. The Firestone was built for just this type of confrontation.\”

He didn\’t like this at all. The Valiant had entered the sector only moments before, to find the Bozeman sifting through the wreckage. As a consequence for alerting other ships to watch for signs of the battle cruiser, certain technical details had to be included for their safety, details such as the fact that the Firestone had enough firepower to take out a squadron of Romulan ships, or obliterate a fairly decent-sized planet.

The first reaction Apollo had to deal with when contacting Captain Bateson was disbelief. Before the Firestone, the Federation didn\’t really have a chance to face this new threat. In light of recent events, they may still have problems. \”Any sign of the Firestone from your sensor sweeps?\” he inquired of the other captain.

\”One moment.\” He conferred with one of his officers off the screen. \”We picked up a warp signature leaving the area, one the likes of which I\’ve never seen. We\’re sending the info to you now.\”

The moment they started receiving the signal, Sam recognized it. \”Sir, it\’s the Firestone, all right. Attempting to trace its course now.\”

Apollo looked at Bateson and smiled grimly. \”Thank you for your help.\”

Bateson chuckled nervously. \”Just be sure you get the bastard. I\’ve only heard a little about what this Stevens guy is like. There\’s nothing worse than a Starfleet officer gone bad.\”

\”In my opinion, Morgan, Stevens was never anything but bad. Worse that Starfleet didn\’t realize this from the start. If you find him, do not engage him before reinforcements arrive. He was dangerous before he got his hands on the Firestone. Now…\”

\”Say no more. We know what to do. Give\’em hell, Apollo. Bozeman out.\” His face was replaced with a view of the Soyuz-class ship drifting through the debris field.\”

Thelem said, \”Well, Captain, shall we continue our pursuit.\”

Apollo wanted nothing more, however… \”No, not yet.\” He sat there, thinking for a moment. \”We\’ve always been one step behind Stevens. There\’s got to be a pattern to this madness, and I want to find out what it is before…\” He was silent for a moment, then jerked out of his seat. His face contorted in pain, though he tried hard to hide it.

\”Captain, are you all right?\” Thelem asked, drawing concerned looks from around the bridge.

The moment passed… they were really beginning to worry. Then Apollo snapped his head around to glare at Thelem. \”I\’m fine. M\’Ress, call up Stevens\’ service record. Have it patched through to my office.\” He didn\’t wait for acknowledgment before leaving the Bridge.

~ * ~

A chime sounded. \”Come in,\” Apollo responded.

The door opened and Sam entered the foyer. \”I hope I\’m not intruding.\”

Apollo looked up from his reader. \”Oh no, not at all. Come in, come in.\”

Sam entered his office slowly. \”Is… everything all right?\” Apollo ignored her. She looked at what he was reading. \”You\’re still working on Stevens\’ record?\”

He gestured toward the viewer. \”His Starfleet record, his personnel file, even his psych profile, and if you tell anyone I got that, I\’ll swat you.\”

\”Hey, I\’m the last person to rat on someone looking at something they\’re not supposed to.\” She put her hands on his shoulders and they jerked. \”Jeez, dear, you\’re wound up tighter than a clock spring.\”

He nodded absently. \”Yeah, that\’s right. I\’ve been a little tense lately.\”

She started to work, kneading his shoulders and neck. \”My God, it\’s like trying to work steel cable. You really ought to relax.\”

\”You heard what Bateson said. I doubt anyone can relax until that wacko is under control.\”

\”Well, I think you\’ve been working at it too hard. Maybe you should take a step back, take a deep breath, retrace your steps.\”

The muscles under her hands suddenly went slack. She thought he passed out when he suddenly stood up. When he turned to look at her, she could almost swear she saw a light turn on over his head. \”Retrace my steps! Darling, your wonderful!\” Before she could react, he cupped her face and kissed her, then sat back down. \”Computer, give me a list of Commander Stevens\’ activities during his Starfleet career.\” The viewer promptly revealed the requested list. \”Now give me a list of reported sightings of the Firestone since her abduction and correlate the two lists.\”

A second list popped up aside the first. Several entries were highlighted. \”Look at this, Sam. He is retracing his steps… doing everything he did when he was in Starfleet. I think we just found a way to figure out where his next move will be.\”

\”But why would he be doing this? Surely, even if he is insane, he has to have some reason for going back to those places.\”

\”Possibly. I haven\’t quite worked that out yet.\”

She nodded and took another look at the screen. She then noticed entries on the second list that weren\’t highlighted. \”What about these? There\’s no comparison with the other list.\”

He looked them over, too. \”Instances where he confronted conflicts he didn\’t deal with in the past? Unexpected moments, like where he encountered the Romulans?\”

\”I don\’t know… there seem to be an awful lot of them.\”

She looked at the lists again. \”Well, then, what about the ones on the first list that weren\’t highlighted?\”

His reverie stalled, and he made a face. \”Hmm… good question. Computer, bring up the highlighted entries on the first list.\” The computer promptly complied.

They studied the list for a while. \”It looks as though at each of these stops, Stevens didn\’t do too well,\” Sam noticed.

Apollo reread the entries. \”You\’re right. Each place he\’s visited marks a point in his career where he suffered a downward slide.\” He pointed at one entry. \”I remember this place! We were on the Merrimac. Klingons tried to establish an outpost there. We stopped them, but after losing our landing party, Stevens wanted to beam up and take them out from orbit. I refused to go along with it, so he went up without me. That bastard told them I was killed. As a result of his lie, he was given a reprimand, and started in motion a series of events that made me quite the unpopular person.\”

She hugged him from behind. \”I\’m so sorry you went through that. It\’s okay now.\”

He nodded. \”Actually, I like to think that it made me a better person today. Captain Kirk seemed to think so, anyway. He saw me shortly after that incident. Backed my actions, too. If not for him, I probably wouldn\’t be here.\”

\”Well, yeah,\” she said, rolling her eyes. \”After all, he did pull your ass out of the Excalibur.\” He swatted her arm and she returned her attention back to the screen. \”I still wonder why there are so many entries on the first list that aren\’t matched by the second.\”

\”I don\’t… wait a minute… there is something we\’re missing. Computer… of the entries on the first list that don\’t correspond to the second, bring up anything you can find in recent events that would correlate to them.\” A third list was generated.

\”Whoa,\” Sam said, impressed. \”I think you may be on to something here.\”

Apollo chose a random event from the third list. \”Here\’s one from about three weeks ago… a colony administrator was found murdered, but there was no trace of who did it.\”

\”The Firestone was in that area,\” Sam noted.

He nodded in confirmation. \”And here, about four days ago. Supply Station 74 reported a sudden mysterious loss of construction materials.\”

\”Apollo, they specialize in alloys needed for starship hulls.\”

\”And the person in charge…\” His face paled. \”I know this name.\”

\”What?\”

He studied another entry. \”And here… a name pops up here that I recognize.\” He began skimming through them. \”And here… and here… and here… Sam, I know what he\’s doing.\”

\”What\’s that?\” she asked, though a chill went through her in anticipation of the answer.

\”It all has to do with the Scandal I exposed. He\’s rounding up the major players in his corruption ring, either using them to get repairs or supplies he needs, or… if they don\’t cooperate… he kills them. He\’s either re-establishing ties or he\’s killing them. And if that\’s the case… I think I might know where he might strike next.\”

She nodded. \”Should we notify other ships as to his pattern?\”

\”Nnnnnno… he might intercept the transmission. It wouldn\’t be hard, because it\’d have to be a broadly based transmission. No, better to use a messenger type system.\” Apollo stood. \”We could contact the Bozeman, tell them to seek out other starships and give them the information through ship-to-ship messages. It\’ll be slower, but it cuts down on Stevens\’ chances of finding out that we know what he\’s up to. And if that fails, we still have an ace up our sleeve.\”

\”What\’s that?\” she said to his back as he headed for the door.

\”He thinks I\’m dead.\” He was almost out the door when she grabbed his arm, whirling him around.

\”Just a minute, buster. You just reminded me why I\’m here in the first place. Why would he think you\’re dead? Does it have to do with what I saw on the Bridge earlier? And don\’t you dare avoid my questions this time. You obviously have these flashes of pain. I\’ve seen you go through that before. Don\’t make me get Sorel in on this.\”

He stopped dead, raking over her with his penetrating gaze. She felt her courage start to bleed out of her, but she held firm and stood her ground. Finally he re-entered his office and the door closed. He walked back over to the desk, sat down, and put his face in his hands.

\”Dammit, Apollo, I\’m waiting! Tell me what\’s wrong or I\’m going to Sickbay.\”

He took his hands away from his face so she could hear him. \”You know, blackmail is very unbecoming of you.\”

\”I mean it!\”

\”He wouldn\’t find anything.\”

\”That remains to be seen.\” Realizing that she might be breaking through, she walked over to him and took his hand. \”Besides, if we\’re to be married, I would think it would help our relationship if you didn\’t keep any secrets from me.\”

\”Oho, so now it\’s manipulation.\” He looked up at her and decided that she was right. \”C\’mon, let\’s go to Sickbay. I guess Sorel should hear this, too.\”

~ * ~

Sorel scanned Apollo\’s back as the captain related his story. \”I\’m afraid my equipment confirms what you say… there is no trace of injury. While you may have physically destroyed the projectile with which you were shot, it is possible that the trauma induced by such agonizing pain would leave a mental scar. Your mind flashes back to that experience in times of stress, and your body relives what it felt when the spiderweb bullet invaded your nervous system.\”

\”Are you sure there\’s nothing there, Doctor?\” Sam asked. \”I saw one of those moments when he was in pain. It\’s hard to believe there was nothing in there causing it.\”

Sorel shook his head. \”I did not detect any foreign object in his system. There isn\’t even any scarring, aside from his purported mental ordeal. I have heard of spiderweb bullets though, and there was no recorded case of anyone surviving an attack. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of energy to purge the device from your body.\”

\”There were black scars on the ceiling of the Starbase 47\’s medical bay as proof of that. So… now you know. It was a secret I intended to keep from anyone else. The reason is obvious… can you understand the ramifications if Starfleet got wind of the fact that I could be in combat, and then out of nowhere this would strike? I\’d probably never command a starship again.\”

Sorel stood silent for a moment. \”The logic of your statement is valid. However, I would not necessarily say that I could come to the same conclusion.\”

\”We\’re here for you, Apollo,\” Sam said in assurance. \”I\’m here for you. We\’ll help you in any way we can.\”

\”I echo her sentiments, Captain,\” Sorel said. \”There have been several instances in your life when by all accounts, you should have died, yet you did not. You are, simply speaking, a gross exception to life\’s set of rules.\”

\”Who are you calling gross?\” The humor was lost on Sorel, who rose an eyebrow. Sam, however, leered at him and shook her head. \”So, now that we\’ve established that I\’m some kind of cosmic nonconformist, are we done, medically speaking?\”

\”I have no sound reason to keep you here, Captain.\”

Apollo stood… before heading for the door, he looked at the two of them. \”I… just wanted to thank you. For everything here. You have no idea how much this means to me.\” Apollo took Sam\’s hand in emphasis and gave it a little squeeze. She smiled in return. \”Now, what say we go catch us a starship?\” They left Sorel to his work and headed for the Bridge.

 

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