Xylion, Hopkins, and Deen had gone to work straight away to try and determine how to use the curious device Garla had produced to open communications with the subspace aliens and which had left them mostly stumped initially.
Realizing that answers wouldn’t be forthcoming immediately and that he would do nobody any favors by impatiently hovering over the engineers and scientists trying to decipher the device, Michael had decided to let them get on with it in peace for now and had instead brought Amaya back to his quarters after she had requested a private conversation.
She hadn’t spoken much during their brief journey to his cabin and Michael was well aware that her mood had likely not improved significantly since her angry outburst in the observation lounge when she had confronted the stubborn Krellonian Sentinel who had developed second thoughts on assisting them in their mission.
Michael didn’t blame her one bit. After all, it was no easy thing to watch a fellow starship and her crew parish, and he had to admit that watching Edison’s sacrifice had effected him greatly as well, even if he hadn’t known that version of the man well, or the fact that he had threatened him and his ship with violence just a few hours before.
Once they had reached his quarters, Amaya visibly relaxed and took her time to take in her surroundings, studying the art hanging on the bulkheads, the photographs of friends and family, his extensive collection of old paper tomes, and other assorted knickknacks.
Michael watched her as she did so. He hadn’t really seen much of the Amaya Donners of this universe, at least not up-close and in a calm and private setting, since that surprisingly passionate kiss she had first greeted him with and which he had not been able to ban from his memory. He was struck once more how similar she looked to his Amaya, more so even than the two Edisons had resembled each other. Or perhaps it was so much more noticeable as it had been only days since he had last seen her counterpart, whereas it had been years since Gene Edison had been killed.
Amaya seemed amused by some of the things she found in his collection and Michael guessed that she recognized those pieces from her late husband, indicating to him that he had shared much with his counterpart including, it seemed, his romantic interests.
She picked up a frame containing an animated picture of his brother, smiling at something somewhere beyond the camera, his dark graduation gown softly rippling in the breeze. “Matthew,” she said and then turned to look at him.
Michael felt his throat tightening. His brother had died tragically in his universe many years ago and in a twisted turn of fate which had included an unlikely trip back into time, he had been forced to live through Matthew’s death twice, unable to prevent his demise a second time despite his best efforts. Now he couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps he was still alive in this reality, having been able to escape his cruel fate and carry on the Owens lineage in his brother’s absence. “Is he…?”
She shook her head sadly and then placed the frame back where she had found it.
Michael felt a little sigh escape his lips as he understood.
Amaya, realizing that this was a painful subject, quickly moved on. “I wanted to thank you for retrieving those escape pods,” she said. “We’ve started bringing them aboard Agamemnon.”
He nodded. “Of course. It was the least we could do.”
She headed towards his seating arrangements and put herself down in one of the chairs by the slanted windows and he followed suit. “Losing Eagle was a big blow to Starfleet.”
“Edison was a good captain,” he said, not so much because he believed it but because he felt it needed to be said.
Amaya looked right into his eyes. “We both know that’s not true.”
“I didn’t know him as well as you did.”
“I heard what happened while we were gone, Michael. Edison was out of line to threaten you the way he did. Something very dark happened to him after he took command of Eagle. Perhaps he was never ready for that level of responsibility in the first place. Perhaps it was losing his captain,” she said, sorrow noticeably creeping into her tone.
“I am truly sorry for what happened. If it hadn’t been for my plan to go and retrieve Garla, this would not have turned out this way,” he said.
She quickly shook her head. “Don’t apologize for making a command decision, Michael. It was the right call at the time and you know it. There is no way we could have foreseen how this would play out.”
He nodded, thankful for her wisdom which reminded him a great deal of his own Amaya. “But it does mean that you’ll be left with one huge mess with the Krellonians no doubt looking for blood.”
She glanced towards the windows for a moment. “Yeah. They’ve been on a war footing for a while so this will not come as a surprise to anyone,” she said and then looked back towards him. “With both Garla and her chief lieutenant gone, however, not to mention a substantial number of their ships, it will take them some time to regroup and attempt another incursion. Enough time for us to prepare.”
“I hope so.”
“Of course, having another ship around would help improve our odds,” she said with a playful smile. “Any chance I could convince you to abandon your plans of finding a way back home and instead stick around here for a while longer.”
She had made it sound like a joke but Michael could see through it. There was more than a kernel of seriousness underpinning her request and it wasn’t difficult to understand why. “It wouldn’t be fair to my crew. None of us belong here.”
“Of course,” she said quickly, perhaps too quickly before she looked back into his eyes. “Is there an Amaya Donners waiting for you on the other side?”
He nodded slowly.
“But she isn’t your wife, is she?” she said as she threw a furtive glance across the room, indicating the lack of any pictures or other mementos speaking to a married man.
“No she is not.”
She nodded. “Tell me about her. What is she like?”
He grinned. “She’s very much like you, I think. She’s the captain of the Agamemnon as well. She’s strong, smart, and beautiful. She’s among the most resourceful people I’ve ever known. She can be as stubborn as an ox and as supportive as a lifelong friend, sometimes both at the same time. I’ve known her since my early days at the Academy and we have been the closest friends ever since,” he said, purposefully leaving out the less than cordial relationship they had shared in an alternative timeline.
Amaya returned that smile. “I think I’d like that version of myself.”
“I think you would too,” he said, perhaps sounding a little more wistful than he had wanted to. He had described her best attributes and the reasons why he had fallen in love with her even though as of late those feelings had apparently not been reciprocated.
“But there’s more to it, isn’t there?” she said.
He shot her a surprised look at her ability to see through him so easily.
She offered a good-natured smile. “I’ve learned reading that face a long time ago.”
He nodded with understanding. “Things have been a little difficult as of late and I’m not entirely sure why. It may have something to do with this mission. Let’s just say things have cooled down between us rather suddenly,” he said, unable to shake the odd sensation of discussing his relationship with Amaya with her nearly exact duplicate.
This Amaya didn’t respond to this straight away, instead, she seemed lost in her thoughts for a moment.
“Star to Owens.”
Michael glanced towards the ceiling upon hearing his first officer’s voice. “Go ahead, Commander.”
“It looks as if we had a minor breakthrough with Garla’s device and we might be ready to try something. I thought you might want to be around for that.”
“We’re assembling in holodeck two.”
Michael thought that to be an odd place to test unknown technology but then nodded. A habit he had never been able to shake, regardless of the fact that on an audio channel, Star couldn’t see him. “We’ll be right there, Commander. Owens out.”
With the channel closed once more, he glanced towards Amaya. “Time to go back to work,” he said and stood and a moment later she followed suit.
She reached out for him as he made his way towards the doors and Michael stopped and turned to look at her.
“If nothing else, find a way to make it work between the two of you,” she said, sounding deadly serious, as she looked straight into his eyes. “From everything you’ve said, your Amaya sounds a great deal like me. And if that’s true then I have no doubt in my mind that she loves you a great deal. Don’t make her lose you like I’ve lost my Michael. I need you to promise me that.”
He nodded slowly. And even though he had no idea how he could make that happen, how it was even in his power to change her mind, in that brief moment he knew he had to find a way. “I promise I won’t ever give up on her.”
That seemed to improve her mood again and she offered him that brilliant smile he had fallen in love with so long ago. “That’s all I needed to hear. Now let’s get out there and kick some subspace alien butt.”