Michael Owens and the crew of the starship Eagle
find themselves in yet another reality not their own.
In a galaxy that barely resembles his home, Michael must come to terms with his own personal demons and a family he had long thought lost.
Now, as the motivation of their most important ally is brought into question, the crew finds itself stuck between two of the Federation's greatest enemies in a race against the clock to prevent the unthinkable.
Continue the journey into the depths of quantum reality in Book Three of the Quantum Divergence trilogy.
And don’t miss Book One, False Vacuum
, Book Two, State of Entanglement
, and the Road to Quantum Divergence stories, Civil War
Expanded Universes Characters:
Action/Adventure, Drama, FamilyWarnings:
Adult Situations, Character Death
The Star Eagle Adventures
12 Sep 2021 Updated:
13 Aug 2022
Part 1 - The Hard Hello: 6 by CeJay
She had served under Michael Owens long enough to be able to read the look he had giving her after the briefing had ended and so she remained in her seat while the rest of the attendees left their chairs and streamed out of the observation lounge.
The captain waited until they were alone before he turned to face her. “The stakes we are dealing with here, they are difficult to fully appreciate considering the far-reaching implications.”
Star nodded. “To say the least. I certainly never expected to be thrust in a position in which our decisions may very well determine the fate of an entire universe and a countless number of lives.”
“Our leadership over the coming hours may be more critical than it has ever been, which means we cannot afford to make any mistakes. Too much is at stake. The mission must come first.”
Tazla didn’t disagree but couldn’t help feeling that there was more to what he was trying to tell her.
He rubbed his forehead and then briefly glanced out toward the large windows of the observation lounge. Eagle had cleared the Bok globule a few minutes ago and now the kaleidoscopic star field of the Amargosa Diaspora was almost fully visible again. “We’ve made too many mistakes already and it may have cost us--cost the universe--dearly.”
He turned to face her once more. “I should never have asked you to go after the other Michael Owens. It was an unnecessary risk on my part and all it accomplished was to cost us precious time and very nearly your life.”
Tazla considered that for a moment before she started to shake her head. “It’s impossible to say if it would have made any difference in the grand scheme of things. Meeting my own alternate version was not an experience I’d care to repeat but I now understand why it was so important to you to try and bring the other Michael Owens back. I had a very similar experience. I could see in her a large part of myself and where my life could have taken me if I had made only slightly different choices. I felt a desperate need to attempt and steer her away from the path she had embarked upon and perhaps, in some manner, I almost felt that I had a responsibility to try. That in rehabilitating her, I’d also rehabilitate myself somehow,” she said as she considered her captain who didn’t have an immediate response to what she had said. “I don’t know if any of that makes sense.”
He uttered a little, humorless laugh. “I’ve given up trying to make too much sense of things right about the time we jumped into a different reality.”
“It has been challenging.”
“My point is this: When I asked you to try and bring the other Michael back, I wasn’t entirely putting the mission first. Sure, he would have been an asset dealing with Altee and his fleet, but I was driven by personal sentiment and we cannot afford those types of feelings to cloud our judgment when dealing with the possible destruction of an entire universe.”
She nodded. “I understand.”
“This thing we are dealing with here, I fear that we’ve only just scratched the surface of it, which is a scary thought considering what we have already experienced.”
He seemed to be satisfied at leaving the matter at that but Tazla didn’t get out of her chair. Another matter had been nagging at her ever since they had arrived in this, latest universe, and this was as good a time as any to bring it up, she decided. “Sir, about Bensu. Xylion and DeMara were right to point out that he has been our key player so far in figuring any of this out. His abilities, no matter how nebulous their origins, are essential for us to have any chance of stopping whatever it is we’re up against.”
His only reply was a heavy sigh.
She continued when it was clear he wasn’t going to speak. “You are, of course, right to be skeptical. We should all be. But something seems to have changed very recently that has made you reconsider our approach.”
Owens stood and walked over to the windows to consider the bright and splendid reds and blues of the Diaspora, seemingly trying to consider his next words carefully. “I know how this must seem to you and the rest of the crew. That I had a sudden change of heart.”
She left her chair as well and took a few steps to follow him. “Perhaps, if you could let me into whatever doubts you have developed, I could better understand your skepticism and manage the crew accordingly.”
He rubbed his forehead again but then finally turned back around to face her. “You have every right to know my thoughts on this, Taz. The problem is, I’m can’t be sure about the things that I’ve seen and how far I can trust them.”
“Let me ask you this: During our transitions into these other realities, did you experience any kind of unusual dreams or visions?”
She shook her head. “No, nothing I would call any more extraordinary than jumping universes like playing hopscotch. Certainly nothing particularly memorable.”
He nodded slowly. “I have had visions each time.”
“What kind of visions?”
“They are not too dissimilar to what I’ve experienced when I entered sub-space for the first time. And some of the things I saw there, such as the Ring, and alternative realities, are precisely what we eventually encountered.”
It didn’t take her long to put the pieces together. “And you’ve seen something that has made you doubt Bensu.”
“The things I saw were disturbing but the things I felt where were far worse.”
Tazla was afraid of asking her next question. “What did you see?”
“I’m well aware of the need to consider these types of events with a certain amount of skepticism and to avoid jumping to premature conclusions. It is well understood that our senses can betray us easily and cannot always be trusted, especially if we experience strange visions prompted by inter-dimensional travel and subspace anomalies.”
She nodded slowly, acknowledging his reasoning.
“I saw Bensu being chiefly responsible not just for the death of one universe, but all of them.”
That left her stunned.
“And we could be enabling him to do exactly that.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“So, you know how I feel.”
She needed yet another moment to process the magnitude of what he had suggested. “Where do you propose we go from here?”
His hand was back on his forehead, apparently trying to stave off what must have become a permanent headache. She couldn’t blame him. “A few days ago, I recall watching a message from my seemingly dead father to warm me not to trust anybody. I thought at the time that he had put me in an impossible situation. I would never have dreamt that this could be applied to a situation in which the entirety of all existence was at stake.”
“In all honesty, these are stakes I don’t believe any mortal being should be forced to ponder outside the realm of philosophical thought experiments. This is the stuff of gods.”
“If we want to be or not, we are in that position now.”
“I wish I could offer some sage advice but this is well outside my wheelhouse of expertise.”
He nodded. “Yours and mine both. As for how we proceed, we continue as discussed in the meeting. We already know the price of inaction and it is not acceptable. All we can do is keep our eyes wide open and do the best we can to steer events away from a worst-case scenario.”
“Which means not trusting Bensu,” she said. “What about Xylion and the rest of the crew?”
“I’ve always prided myself in the fact that we have a close-knit senior staff on this ship and in the majority of all cases, that is our greatest advantage. But in this case, I fear it could also be a huge risk. We already know Xylion and Bensu were practically the same person once upon a time.”
She shook her head. Not in disbelieve but at the possible ramifications of what he had said. “They share a strong bond. And if we cannot trust Bensu we may not even be able to trust our chief science officer.”
“I hope to God that’s not the case as I cannot see us standing a snowflake’s chance in Gre’thor against these odds without both of them,” he uttered another low sigh. “Let’s keep this between us for now and keep a short leash on our former bartender at the very least. He might be our savior. Or he could be the architect of our undoing.”
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