In her nearly five-year tour of duty as Eagle’s chief of security, Nora Laas had gotten used to her objections being considered and then ultimately cast aside by those above her in the chain of command, and so, she was left with few options other than to look on with a frown on her face as Commander Xylion and Bensu were getting ready for yet another mind-link to attempt and make contact with whatever they had caught a glimpse of earlier, appearing out of the ether like a shady specter.
She had conferred with her security team, the human Niners operative Diamond, and her Vulcan colleague Ivory, making sure to position them in the control room for maximum coverage to deal with whatever may ultimately emerge.
Of course, considering, what they were up against, Nora was beginning to doubt that a few phaser rifles would make much of a difference in the face of universe-destroying forces.
She watched on silently as Xylion and Bensu took up sitting positions near the center of the room, Xylion reaching out to make contact with the other man as they both closed their eyes to focus on their mental connection.
Nora had never truly understood psionics and how exactly it was supposed to work. She knew that certain species, including Vulcans, had the innate ability to create telepathic connections with others and that Bensu--although she still wasn’t entirely clear to what species he belonged--seemed to possess similar abilities. Since it was impossible to see or physically fight a psionic field, she usually regarded it with a high amount of skepticism. Considering their current circumstances, where they now found themselves, and what had transpired over the last few days, she felt fairly justified in her beliefs.
It didn’t take long for their joint efforts to bear fruit.
“Look, over there,” said Hopkins after she had spotted the slight shimmer in the air again where the initial specter had first appeared. But something was different this time. For one, its shape seemed different, much smaller than what they had witnessed before. It barely would have reached her knees.
“I can sense it,” Bensu said. “It is close, attempting to breakthrough.”
Laas exchanged a concerned look with the chief engineer. “Breaking through from where?”
But Louise just shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t have a clue.
“It is a powerful intelligence,” Xylion said, eyes still closed as he continued to support Bensu’s efforts.
She stepped closer to the Vulcan. “Can you determine what it is?”
But Xylion didn’t respond, either because he couldn’t hear her or maybe because he was so focused on the task at hand that he had no perception of the outside world.
She shook her head. “I don’t like this.”
She felt a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s just give it a chance,” Louise said.
Whatever it was the two telepaths were trying to accomplish, however, didn’t seem to work the way they had hoped. The small blurry shape refused to solidify, almost like a transporter beam which was perpetually stuck in the rematerialization cycle.
Bensu’s smooth dark brow began to furrow. “I cannot maintain the connection.”
“We have attempted this previously,” Xylion said calmly. “You must center your mind on a single thought.”
“I am trying but it isn’t working.”
Xylion seemed to attempt to compensate for Bensu’s lack of focus with his own as he was visibly beginning to extort more and more effort into his psychic link. Laas knew things were going wrong when she spotted the first trickle of bright green blood dripping down his nose.
“We have to stop this,” she said.
When Xylion’s body began to tremble, Louise removed her hand from her shoulder. She took a knee next to the Vulcan. “Commander.”
But he continued to ignore all external stimuli.
“Commander,” she repeated more forcefully. “You have to stop.”
When this also didn’t work, she grabbed him by his shoulders and began to shake him slightly. “Xylion, stop.”
His eyes shot open and he gasped loudly as if coming up for air after being submerged underwater for hours on end. He glanced at Hopkins with wide-open eyes.
“Xylion, are you all right?”
It took him a moment to respond, maybe because he didn’t immediately recognize her. Then he offered a minuscule nod and removed his physical connection to Bensu.
“I am unharmed.”
But Louise looked doubtful. “You are bleeding.”
Xylion reached for his nose, his fingers coming away with droplets of his blood. “A superficial injury, Lieutenant, I assure you.”
She kept his eyes on him a moment longer and Laas had an inkling on why that may have been. After all, she was well aware that Louise had once carried a torch for the science officer, in fact, she had learned of this in the most unusual manner in a holodeck of all places. That had been years ago and clearly Louise had moved on from what appeared to have been a foolish infatuation with a man who had made it his primary mission in life not to show his feelings. Considering the look she held in her eyes now, however, perhaps she had not entirely moved on after all.
Regardless, the moment soon passed and Bensu also reopened his eyes and Louise seemingly realized that she had neglected to check on his well-being. “How about you? Are you okay?”
He nodded slowly. “I think so,” he said and then glanced back towards the Vulcan. “I felt my mind touch it, Xylion. It was so close. I thought I had it, I thought I could push it through but it slipped past me. We need to try again.”
Laas couldn’t believe what she was hearing and quickly stepped up closer, shaking her head. “Not going to happen,” she said forcefully. “Whatever you were trying to do, it didn’t look right. Xylion here looked close to popping a few blood vessels in his brain.”
“The mental strain was significant,” Xylion agreed. “However, I could sense it as well.”
“Was it the subspace aliens?” Louise asked.
“I don’t think it was,” Bensu said.
“Agreed. I could sense a powerful intelligence attempting to make contact with us. But something prevents it from doing so,” Xylion said.
“Well, we tried,” Nora said, slinging her rifle over her shoulder and crossing her arms in front of her chest. As far as she was concerned, this was over.
“If we could somehow amplify the psionic energy from our side, perhaps that will be enough to establish contact,” Bensu said, sounding much more eager now than he had before. “We were so close.”
“We might be able to fashion some form of rudimentary psionic enhancer with equipment on the runabout,” Louise said.
“We don’t necessarily need a technical solution,” Bensu said, looking first at the chief engineer and then at the science officer.
Xylion understood straight away. “We require another telepathic conduit.”
Xylion, Bensu, and ultimately even Louise turned their heads to find the only other person on the away team who fit that description. It took Laas a moment longer to realize who they had singled out. Oddly, she had never really thought of the woman as a telepath or even a Vulcan for that matter, although her elegantly taped ears and angled eyebrows didn’t exactly hide her ancestry. Perhaps it was the fact that she had barely ever heard the dark-skinned operative utter more than two words that had caused her no to think of her sooner.
It was Diamond, her fellow Niner who spoke up first. “This is not the kind of thing we do,” she said quickly. “You need muscle or tactical firepower that’s where we come in. But we don’t go messing around inside other people’s heads. That’s psych ops stuff.”
“She has a point there,” Nora said.
Xylion pushed himself off the floor and considered his fellow Vulcan who simply stared back at him. “I will not order you to participate in the mind-link, however, I would be remiss if I were not to stress the importance of what we are trying to accomplish here in order to locate a way in which we can return to our universe and stop the particle accelerator to cause any further damage.”
“So, you know, no pressure or anything,” Louise mumbled under her breath.
Ivory raised one of her finely arched eyebrows. “I am not an accomplished telepath.”
“You are Vulcan. You have intrinsic psionic abilities not shared by anyone else on this away team other than Bensu and myself. Even if you have not trained those abilities, our chances of success increase significantly with your assistance.”
True to what she knew of the operative, she said nothing, simply staring back at the older Vulcan and for a brief moment Laas wondered if they were carrying out an entire conversation in their minds instead. She disregarded the thought, fairly certain that Vulcan telepathy didn’t work that way.
Ivory turned to her fellow Niner and wordlessly handed over her rifle.
Diamond considered her skeptically. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes,” she said simply and then walked over to Xylion and Bensu.
Xylion offered her a very small nod and then indicated for her to kneel on the floor, creating a tight triangle with him to her right and Bensu to her left.
Although she clearly had little experience in these matters, most likely having dedicated most of her life to training her body and mind for combat instead, she had obviously paid close attention to what they had done previously and she reached out to touch Bensu’s face to make contact with him while allowing Xylion to touch hers.
“Clear your mind of any thoughts other than the task ahead. You will shortly be exposed to several significant mental stimuli that you may find difficult to decipher and understand. Avoid the temptation to let these thoughts distract you. Instead, keep your focus on supporting and strengthening Bensu’s mind,” Xylion said and then watched her bop her head slightly before she closed her eyes.
“This just gets better by the minute,” Laas said quietly who had hoped that they were done with this foolhardy approach only to now having to witness yet another person being dragged into this. She shot a glance toward Diamond and spotted something on her face she had not seen there before: Concern.
Ivory was clearly not entirely prepared for what she experienced next and her usually carefully maintained visage quickly distorted to display surprise and then discomfort, perhaps even pain. Her mouth opened as if to utter a moan but it never came.
“Look to my mind first,” Xylion instructed. “Let it wash over you to steady your own.”
That did the trick as Ivory began to relax thanks to Xylion’s calming influence.
Not long after that, the shape that had emerged earlier returned.
Their joint efforts seemed more successful now. Although neither of them spoke, each of their faces became masks of stern concentration and the strain Xylion had exhibited earlier was not nearly as worrisome this time around.
“Look, it’s starting to emerge,” Louise whispered and pointed at the object
Laas took a few steps closer to it, raising her phaser rifle while doing so. She didn’t know if it would be of any use against what was beginning to take form, but if nothing else, the heft of the weapon felt reassuring to her.
The shape was perhaps twenty or twenty-five centimeters tall and forty centimeters long, far too small for an average-sized humanoid. In fact, it was so small, Laas went down to one knee to study it in closer detail as more and more of it became visible.
It was an animal of sorts, four-legged, black-furred with a small head and a long tail. It wore something shiny around its neck. “By the Prophets, what is that thing?”
Louise stepped up next to her. “That,” she said, sounding incredulous, “is a cat.”
Laas looked up at her. “You’re kidding?”
She shook her head.
When she looked back at the domesticated animal, it hissed at her and then leapt forward so quickly, it caught Laas unprepared as she fumbled for her weapon while it jumped right past her.
When she turned back to find it again, she realized that the cat had not been alone after all. Unbeknownst to anyone else present, somebody else had appeared.
A man, appearing roughly middle-aged with dark hair and wearing what looked like a very old-fashioned two-piece suit complete with a shirt and necktie. An outfit Laas recognized mostly from historical records from Earth. The man appeared to be human.
The cat made a beeline to the strange man who quickly picked it up and took the animal into his arms.
Startled by his sudden appearance, Laas pointed her rifle at him, joining Diamond who had been a beat faster at leveling her own weapon. “Who the pah are you?”
The man took a moment to take her in, stroking the black cat in his arms. “The name is Seven. Gary Seven. We have much to talk about.”