Michael understood that their best shot at trying to figure out how the Ggteway operated was by hoping that Star and her away team would be able to retrieve Garla and find a way to make her cooperate. But even if assuming that the Krellonian agent was able and willing to contact the subspace aliens which had constructed the structure, there was no guarantee that they would cooperate, certainly not if his father was right and their ultimate goal was nothing less than invasion. Having been responsible for torturing a member of theirr race previously also would not exactly endear them to help Eagle find a way home.
His father and Jarik had not been nearly as helpful as he had hoped in this either. He had considered them both, if not subject matter experts, at least the closest they had to one. After all, his father had made it clear that the pursuit of the ring structure had been one of his agency’s top priorities over the last few years and it had been his intelligence that had gotten them to where they had ended up in the first place.
When the two men had first come onto Eagle, just before they had discovered in-between space, Michael had been concerned with the possibility of his father meddling with his command. Instead it had turned out that both men had a frustrating tendency to hide themselves away which would have suited him just fine if not for their current dilemma.
All this meant that they couldn’t afford not to pursue every single avenue available to them and Michael had given Xylion and his team wide latitude to learn as much as possible about the gateway.
When he entered Eagle’s main science lab to check on their progress, he found them hard at work. His chief science officer, along with Bensu, Hopkins and Deen where closely studying a holographic projection of the Ring currently being displayed above a console at the center of the lab.
Xylion turned to look at the captain. “We have arrived at a working theory about the operational nature of the structure.”
This quickly caught his full attention as he stepped closer to the projection. “Let’s hear it.”
“We don’t have any concrete evidence to back this up yet,” said Hopkins.
“But it does seem consistent with what we’ve seen so far,” added Deen.
“Noted. Don’t keep me in suspense.”
“Our theory posits that the structure is essentially a massive particle collider,” said Xylion as he manipulated a control console which in turn altered the projection by removing the Ring’s outer hull and revealing a series of large conduits which ran the entire length of the structure. Small light particles traveled these conduits at increasingly higher speeds. “If correct, we believe particles are accelerated to levels of kinetic energy beyond anything we have come across previously.”
Michael couldn’t deny that this was an intriguing theory.
“What we cannot account for—among a number of other things—is what kind of particles are being accelerated within the Ring,” said Deen. “But even if we’re talking about your regular old protons here, or some sort of anti-matter—and we’re pretty sure we’re not—the power this collider could be exerting—“
“Would be damn near incalculable,” said Hopkins, her eyes twinkling with awe as she kept them on the projection.
“It certainly would be enough energy, we believe, to penetrate branes in subspace and creating gateways to other universes,” said Xylion, as usual doing a much better job at keeping his emotions in check.
Michael could feel a cold shudder run up his spine. He couldn’t admit that he was an expert on quantum physics but thanks to Starfleet’s obsessive need to classify and compartmentalize information, he knew one thing that his more science-minded people did not. He was fairly certain that the Ring was operating on Omega molecules. Considering that some theories held that Omega had been present just before the Big Bang, possibly as the accelerating agent, this massive collider—if that’s what it truly was—may have been far more powerful than even his science team could guess at.
He glanced towards the member of the team who hadn’t spoken yet. “What do you make of all this, Bensu?”
The bartender looked over the projection for a moment, then at his fellow colleagues and then finally considered Michael. “It might be difficult to believe considering my close history with Xylion’s brilliant mind, but much of this science goes over my head. What I know—or rather—what I sense, is that there is an immense power emenating from the Ring.”
“And we need to find a way to harness that if we have any hopes of getting back home,” Michael said.
“I’m hesitant to suggest this,” Bensu said. “Mostly because I’m afraid of what I might find over there, but I think it is becoming unavoidable that I visit the Ring myself and see what I can—“ Bensu stopped suddenly, reached for his head and with a loud gasp fell onto his knees.
“Bensu?” Deen cried and was by his side immediately, grave concern etched onto her features. Hopkins and Xylion were not far behind. “Science lab one to sickbay, medical emergency.”
“What happened?” Michael said as he too quickly closed in on him.
Bensu shook his head. “I’m not sure. I felt a powerful force just now. It’s the suddenness of it that caught me off guard. I’ve felt this once before.”
Michael remembered. It had happened on the bridge just before they had been thrown into this alternate universe. “Owens to bridge.”
“Leva here, sir.”
“Commander, what is our status?”
The tactical officer needed a moment to respond, likely checking the bridge instruments. “Unchanged, sir. All systems are operating as expected.”
“What about the Ring? Any activity? Any sign of a gateway?”
“We’re still having trouble getting reliable readings from that structure but no, there are no indications of any anomolies.”
Michael exchanged a look with Xylion before he spoke again. “Very well, keep an eye on it and let me know the moment you detect anything out of the ordinary. Owens out.”
Bensu was clenching his teeth. “It’s the same sensation, I’m sure of it. And it is close.”
“Are you able to describe what you are experiencing?” Xylion asked calmly after having taken a knee next to Bensu.
“It’s not pain exactly but it is very uncomfortable, as if every single synapse in my brain is firing all at once. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
The doors to the lab opened to admit Doctor Katanga carrying a medkit over his shoulder which he promptly unslung after seeing Bensu on his knees. “What happened?” he said as he was retrieving a tricorder from the kit.
“He just collapsed,” said Hopkins. “He says it’s the same as the last time this happened on the bridge.”
The veteran physician took a knee as well as he began to scan his patient. “I am detecting significantly elevated brain wave activity but I can’t say what is causing this,” he said as he studied his scanning device. “Of course, if you had allowed me to study you in greater detail when I asked, perhaps I’d know what I’d be looking for now.”
“Hindsight is a funny thing. Maybe you were right,” said Bensu through clenched teeth.
“I’m a doctor, son, of course I was right.”
“The good news is it’s already starting to pass,” Bensu added. “Just as it did the last time.”
“That is not sufficiently acceptable,” said Xylion. “You seem to be sensing something in close proximity.” He glanced right at Michael before continuing. “It might be a danger to the ship and crew.”
He nodded. “Considering what we’ve been through I tend to agree.”
Bensu shook his head. “I can’t tell you what it is, I’m afraid.”
“But perhaps you can help us locate the source,” Xylion said.
Bensu considered him skeptically. “I don’t see how.”
“You were able to direct us to in-between space before,” said Michael.
“That was different. Don’t ask me to explain but this experience is not coming with directions. It’s just a very powerful sensation that, to be quite frank, is overwhelming my mind and my senses.”
“Then, logically, what you require is another mind to allow you to focus on what is happening to you.”
Katanga seemed to be the first to realize what Xylion was suggesting and quickly shook his head. “Absolutely not. I will not condone one of those hinky Vulcan mind melds your people seem so fond to administer with wanton disregard. They are highly unreliable and outright dangerous. It’s not happening on my watch.”
Xylion glanced at the other man. “Doctor, you seem to forget that our minds were already linked—in a manner of speaking—for long periods of time and therefore are quite familiar with each other.” He continued before Katanga could raise another objection. “Furthermore, I am not proposing a full mind meld.”
“What are you thinking?” Michael asked.
“Consider it a bridge instead of a meld. Linking our two minds without fusing them and thereby keeping them as two entirely separate entities. It will allow me to support and stabilize Bensu’s thoughts and hopefully allow him to focus on the source of this phenomenon.”
“Call it what you will, I still don’t like it,” the doctor said.
Michael looked at Bensu still kneeling on the floor, still in noticeable discomfort. “I can’t order this. The decision is yours.”
“Seventy years sharing a mind was really more than enough for me,” he said. “But we need to figure this out and I can’t think of any other way of doing that.”
“I know I’m going to regret going along with this but at the very least we need to take this to sickbay where I can monitor this loony mind bridge procedure in better detail,” Katanga said.
But Xylion shook his head marginally. “There is no time, Doctor. The longer we delay, the more likely the chance that we will lose the connection Bensu has with whatever is affecting him.”
Bensu looked right at his long-time friend. “Let’s do it.”
The Vulcan knelt down directly in front of Bensu and then reached out with one hand, each finger making contact with specific points on Bensu’s face. Michael had seen images of Vulcans performing mind-melds before and this didn’t look all that different.
“Try to focus your thoughts on the sensation you are currently experiencing. Think of nothing else.”
“Shouldn’t be too difficult, it’s like somebody is setting off fireworks in my head.”
Xylion’s face twitched slightly as he seemed to be making contact with something.
“I can sense you in my mind,” said Bensu. “Again.”
“Pay no attention to it. Keep your mind focused.”
For a moment neither of them spoke, or if they did, Michael couldn’t hear it and it was taking place telepathically. But it was obvious from studying their faces that something was happening and that Xylion was dedicating a great amount of effort and focus on what he was trying to accomplish.
Katanga’s visage in the meantime was scowling harder by the minute, ready to put an end to this the moment he felt it was getting out of control.
Xylion gasped and then fell backwards, Hopkins and Deen able to steady him in time before he he dropped to the deck.
“Are you all right?” Hopkins asked, obvious concern lacing her voice.
“I am unharmed, Lieutenant.”
Katanga was running his tricorder over both of them. “I’m going to be the judge of that. How about you, Bensu, how do you feel?”
He offered a little smirk. “Surprisingly much better. The sensation is gone.”
“Were you successful. Are you able to tell the source?” Michael asked.
Bensu shook his head. “I’m afraid not, Captain.”
Xylion stood with Hopkins’ help. “However, I believe I do.”
Michael wanted to ask how but then decided against it as he repriortized their next steps. “All right, let’s get an away team together and beam back over onto the Ring. Commander, do you feel well enough to guide us?”
The Vulcan considered Michael with what appered like curiosity for a brief moment. “I am well enough, Captain. But there is no need for an away team.”
Deen shot him a confused look. “What do you mean?”
“The source of the disturbance is onboard Eagle.”