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Somewhat surprisingly, it had been Xylion, not Bensu, who was confidently guiding Michael along with Doctor Katanga, DeMara Deen, Bensu and a security officer across the ship, apparently having been able to glean the source of the disturbance which had now twice affected Bensu and which he had been able to interpret more clearly thanks to their shared mind link.

They ended up on deck eight and Michael immediately made a mental calculation as to what was located on this deck. There were his quarters, of course, those belonging to Tazla Star and other senior officers, the entrance to holodeck one, as well as VIP quarters.

Xylion came to a stop in front of the latter.

Michael instantly knew who occupied that cabin. “Is this it?” he said. “Is this the source?”

Bensu reached for his head as if he had felt another pang of pain. “Most definitely. It’s coming from just inside.”

Michael wasn’t sure if the extra muscle was required it may have seemed inappropriate considering the rank of the person who occupied those quarters presently, but he felt like taking no chances and indicated to Jos Carlos, the deputy chief of security, who quickly drew his weapon.

Then he did the civil thing and used the annunciator.

There was no response.

“Security override,” he said to Carlos.

The muscled officer nodded and began to enter the required code into the panel next to the door.

Michael felt his body tense up just before the two door panels split with a hiss.

Whatever it had been that Bensu had felt, he was sure he could feel something similar the moment the doors had opened. Something he couldn’t possibly describe was washing over him, a tingling sensation he could sense deep in his core.

Carlos could feel it too, momentarily taken aback by this unexpected sensation.

Deen gasped and looked at him. “Are you sensing this?”

He nodded.

“What … what is this?” Carlos said, clearly somewhat disoriented by this unexpected sensation.

Nobody had an answer.

“It’s here,” Bensu finally said.

He wasn’t sure what was driving him on, innate curiosity at what could possibly make him feel this way, or perhaps it was concern for his father, but Michael was the first one through the door.

The lounge was empty and he continued towards the bedroom.

He stopped in his tracks.

In the middle of the room stood his father, holding in his hand a small and unremarkable silvery rod. Jarik was by his side and between the two men, an object was floating a few meters in the air. It was glowing in bright green and white colors as if it was made out of pure light. Not much larger than his head, the perfectly geometrically triangular shape was rotating slowly and filling the room with bright light.

Both Jarik and his father were transfixed on it, and Michael couldn’t help but stare at it as well, sensing the power of the strange object deep within him.

“This is it,” said Bensu after a moment, nearly whispering. “This is what I’ve been sensing.”

It was only then that Jon Owens and Jarik took notice of the visitors. Owens dropped the device he had been holding and after a moment the light shape vanished as if it had never even existed, taking its light with it.

The powerful force that had been penetrating him just a moment ago, disappeared just as quickly, although the sensation continued to linger at the edges of his consciousness.

When his mind finally cleared again, he glared at both Jarik and his father. “Somebody tell me what the hell you’ve brought onto my ship.”

* * *

“We’re calling it the Prism,” Jonathan Owens said, as he took his seat at the conference table along with Jarik who remained on his feet just behind him.

Michael had taken his usual chair at the head of the table and Xylion, Bensu, Deen and Hopkins were present as well.

Michael had also invited Gene Edison to the meeting after briefing him on what they had found in his father’s cabin. Captain Edison had chosen the chair to Michael’s right, the seat usually reserved for Star when she was present. Of course, it didn’t escape Michael that it had originally been Commander Edison’s chair once upon a time, and this version of the man—save perhaps for his full beard and the four pips decorating the collar of his uniform—appeared perfectly at home there.

A former first officer having come back from the dead, however, was not on the agenda for this meeting, instead, it was a somewhat unassuming, small, silver and rod-shaped device sitting at the center of the conference table which currently held the attention of most of the eyes in the room.

“Not that, exactly,” said Owens Senior, indicating towards the device. “That is merely a summoning instrument, an exhibitor if you will. It allows us to bring forth the Prism and its awesome power.”

“Power to what end?” Edison said.

“It’s difficult to say, precisely,” said the admiral.

It was clear that nobody in the room was particularly comfortable with that answer and Jarik jumped in. “We have studied the Exhibitor and the Prism for the last six years, ever since we managed to obtain it at a great cost,” he said. “You’ve probably already felt its power yourself,” he added, looking straight at Michael. “ What we know for certain is that it affects the space-time continuum and possesses trans-dimensional properties.”

“We learned about the Ring structure from studying the Prism,” said Jon Owens and received a noticeably dark scowl from Jarik in response.

Michael rubbed his forehead as he considered the Exhibitor on the table which even now, as it lay there inert, seemed to be unable to entirely mask the power contained within.

He looked towards Bensu. “What impressions are you getting from this device?”

Bensu stared at it intently. “I certainly agree that it is incredibly powerful. I’m also getting the feeling that it may be very old.”

“I appreciate the input,” said Jarik in a sharp tone, “but we’ve been studying the Prism for years. You’ve seen it for a few seconds. We have a fairly good understanding of what the Prism can do.”

“In which case, please enlighten us,” said Michael just as sternly. “And you might wish to start by telling us for what purpose you were using it when we found you with it.”

Jon Owens and Jarik exchanged glances but didn’t speak.

“You said it has trans-dimensional properties,” said Edison. “It is connected to the Ring, isn’t it?”

“We don’t know that for sure,” said Jarik.

It wasn’t good enough for Michael. “You studied this thing for six years and you don’t know for sure? It showed you the Ring. You brought it with you when you went out to search it and you activated this Prism just now.”

“And not for the first time.”

All eyes darted to Bensu.

“That’s right,” said Deen before looking at Michael. “This is the second time Bensu was affected by it. The first time was just before the gateway opened.”

The pieces fell into place and Michael glared at his father. “You brought us here.”

He shook his head. “Not on purpose.”

“You're saying that massive Ring out there can be controlled by this little thing,” said Edison, glancing at the small rod on the table.

“I don’t believe it can,” said Bensu as he stepped a little closer to the table from where he was standing near the windows. “At least not directly. But the Prism and the Ring are clearly related in some way. It opened a gateway when it was first activated and I suspect that a second attempt to do so failed.”

Jarik remained stonefaced but Jon Owens nodded slowly.

“You were trying to take us back home?” said Michael, looking at his father.

“It didn’t work. We don’t know why.”

“We simply have to make another attempt,” said Jarik resolutely. “Last time we used it we were far closer to the Ring then we are now. Reducing our distance may be all we require to make it work again.

But Michael quickly shook his head. “I don’t think so. You don’t know nearly as much about this device as you think you do. And the last time we traveled through a gateway we nearly lost the ship. Not to mention that I still have an away team out there,” he said and then glared at the two men who had harbored this secret. “This is the kind of information you should have volunteered to us from the beginning.”

But neither his father nor Jarik even made eye contact with him.

“So what do you suggest we do?” Edison asked and for a brief moment, Michael let himself forget that this wasn’t his friend and former first officer speaking.

Michael glanced at his science officer. “Commander, I want you to run your own scans on this device.”

“You don’t think we’ve already scanned it with every sensor known to man?” Jarik said, sounding incredulous.

“I have no doubt that you did. But we have something you didn’t have access to,” he said and looked straight at Bensu.

He picked up on Michael’s insinuation straight away. “Sir, I’m not sure how much help I can be with this.”

“Just like you weren’t sure about where to find the Ring or how you are connected with this Prism in the first place,” Michael said. “I get that you don’t understand what is happening with you and how you know the things you know but as far as I’m concerned, you are the closest thing we have to an expert on all the very odd things happening around here and that means I want you to work on this.”

He nodded. “I’ll do what I can.”

Jarik, however, didn’t appear particularly fond of this idea and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “The Prism is the property of Special Affairs and Investigations. I can’t just hand it over to you.”

Michael offered a smile containing little humor. “Seeing that I have both the former and current head of SAI here, I’m sure we can work something out.”

When neither his father nor Jarik offered a response he continued. “Gentlemen, let me be clear. This Prism of yours may be our best chance to finding a way back home and I intend to pursue it anyway I can and with all appropriate caution. You are welcome to oversee any of our efforts to investigate it further, but while this device is on my ship, it is my responsibility.”

Silence fell over the assembled group in the room.

When there were no further objections, Michael turned to Xylion. “Commander, I think your focus is clear. I expect hourly reports on your progress.”

The Vulcan nodded and then approached the table to pick up the Exhibitor. He hesitated briefly as if whatever Michael had felt from the device was affecting him also. Then, while Jarik scowled at having to surrender the Exhibitor, Xylion took the device and left the room with Bensu, Deen and Hopkins following closely.

Michael looked at his father again. “If there is anything else you’ve failed to mention regarding the Prism or the Ring or any other crucial information about us having traveled to another universe, now would be a good time to tell me.”

Before his father could respond, Jarik spoke up. “You know everything you need to know, Captain,” he said, sounding much more formal than he had previously and then turned to leave the conference room.

Jon Owens followed a moment later.

Michael offered a sigh.

“I don’t envy your position, Captain,” Edison said.

He nodded to the other man to acknowledge the expression of sympathy.

“And, Captain, I know I’ve been somewhat hostile towards you since you first arrived here. I suppose I’ve become rather suspicious over the years but regardless of my tendency of not trusting people easily any longer, I do wish to say that it is good to see you again. My Captain Owens was taken from us far too soon.”

“I feel the same way. And I think, considering all the people we could have run into over here, I’m glad it was you, Gene.”

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