That his counterpart suffered from serious anger issues was difficult to deny after the way he had lashed out against Jarik the moment he had been beamed onboard. And even after he had knocked the unprepared Vulcan onto his back and as he hovered over his prone form, Michael was sure that he could see murder in the other Captain Owens’ eyes.
And yet his temperament was not his most pressing concern at the present moment. There was also the little matter of Altee and his base on the surface being made aware of Jarik’s abduction and likely of his and his people’s escape as well. Not to mention the quickly approaching Preserver fleet which was destined for a showdown with Altee’s forces and with them positioned squarely in the middle of things.
And then of course there was his father and the Prism artifact they required to get back home, both still on the surface and now seemingly frustratingly out of reach.
“Captain, I need to get in touch with my ship,” Michael told his counterpart.
But the other man was barely paying him any attention, all his focus, for now, seemed to be reserved for Jarik. “Later,” he said and then reached down to grab hold of the dazed man and pull him off the floor. “First the two of us are going to have a little talk.”
It was clear that there was little chance to alter his counterpart’s priorities and Michael huddled with Leva and the liberated Niners around the transporter console. “Commander,” he said quietly, “can you access subspace communications from here to reach Eagle?”
Leva, who had apparently been thinking the same thing, had already been working at the console and was quickly shaking his head. “Comm systems are restricted to the bridge, I can’t get access.”
Michael had guessed as much. “I’ll have to use the subdermal communicator,” he said quietly and hoping that it had enough power left to deliver a message to Star.
The doors to the transporter room opened and a team of half a dozen armed security officers rushed inside, led by a familiar face. On his ship, in his universe, José Carlos was Nora’s deputy but here it looked as if the burly Hispanic man was in charge of security. He quickly surveyed the scene, his surprise at finding two versions of his commanding officer palpable. “Captain?”
“José, we have some guests,” Owens said even while he was still holding on to the noticeably groggy Jarik by the lapel of his jacket. “Mister Jarik and I are going to have a talk. Keep our new friends here close,” he said and then dragged Jarik off the platform and towards the doors.
“Yes, sir,” he said and indicated for his men to guard the others in the room.
Fearing he wouldn’t get another chance soon, Michael inconspicuously reached for his neck and gingerly tapped against the subdermal transponder implanted there, hoping that it would be enough to get a message to Star, however, the way it immediately began to gently vibrate against his skin told him that it was likely not successful in establishing a link. It had never been designed for repeat use.
Owens pushed Jarik out into the corridor and the half-Vulcan seemed far too dazed to offer much resistance.
Michael, Leva, and the Niners had little choice but to follow along as they were prodded by the security team.
The look in Sensy’s eyes made it difficult to hide that the man was eager to take action but Michael didn’t believe this to be the right time, not while once again outnumbered by armed guards and stuck on a starship with no immediate escape routes. He told the SMT leader as much by slightly shaking his head as they were herded outside.
Owens was apparently far too riled up to consider taking his prisoner to the brig or an interrogation room and instead dragged him right towards a nearby door. Michael recalled that on his Eagle that room would have been one of the science labs.
The entire party followed Owens into the room and Michael quickly found that on this ship the room had been converted into a storage unit, apparently there hadn’t been much need for labs while fighting a civil war.
Two young crewmen were working in the room.
“Get out,” Owens hissed at them and they immediately darted for the exit even while Michael, the rest of the away team, and their security escort streamed inside.
Owens practically threw Jarik towards a chair where the man landed awkwardly.
Before he could pay any more attention to his prisoner, the entire room shook hard, nearly causing him and the others to lose their footing. Owens turned towards his security chief. “What the hell is going on?”
Carlos had rushed over to a computer console, presumably to get an update from the bridge. “It’s the base on Arkaria IX, sir. They have opened fire. Shields are up and holding,” he said before he turned to his captain for further orders.
“Altee can go straight to hell as far as I care.”
“There are also at least a dozen starships closing in on our position, both Guardians and Preservers. They’ll reach us in less than five minutes.”
“Break orbit, get us out of here,” Owens said even as his poisonous glare remained on the groggy Jarik slumped in the chair.
Michael took a step forward which immediately elicited a response from the security team surrounding him. “My father is still down there.”
Owens turned to face his double. “And what do you suggest we do about that now? We’re sitting duck out here.”
Michael wanted to argue that if he had not taken such rush actions earlier, perhaps they would have found a way to retrieve both his father and the Prism from Altee’s clutches before the Preserver fleet reached them. Of course, that ship had now sailed and he had to begrudgingly agree that their options were bleak.
The captain gestured towards Carlos. “Do it, Lieutenant. Put some distance between us and those ships,” he said and then turned back to Jarik. “I don’t want to be disturbed while I’m tending to our very special guest here.”
The security officer followed the order and contacted the bridge to relay the instructions accordingly.
“Before you do anything. Let’s search him,” Michael said in the unlikely hope that perhaps Jarik had the Exhibitor on him.
Owens turned his head to glare at Michael over his shoulder, clearly not appreciating being given orders on his ship.
“He may carry weapons,” Michael said quickly, not wishing to share too much with the other Owens unless he absolutely had to. It was becoming increasingly obvious to him that although this man looked and sounded just like him, the differences were stark enough that he couldn’t allow himself to trust him.
Owens uttered a heavy sigh. “Fine, but let’s be quick about it.”
Michael gave the task to Leva who quickly stepped up to Jarik and first ran his tricorder over him and then, in order to be thorough, also padded him down manually. “I got something,” he said as he reached inside the sitting man’s jacket.
Michael tensed up, as did the security team which raised its weapons.
Leva retrieved a small silvery device which led Michael to think that his hunch had paid off.
“It’s a hypo-spray,” Leva said as he looked back at his commanding officer.
Owens snatched the device out of Leva’s hand and considered it briefly. “I suppose he could have used that as a weapon,” he said and then no longer interested in the medical device, tossed it across the room and far out of Jarik’s reach. “Anything else?”
Leva shook his head as he stood back up and then made his way to where the hypo had landed to retrieve it, offering Michael an apologetic glance.
“Good,” Owens said and took the spot Leva had vacated, hovering over Jarik who was slowly getting back around, looking up at the man looming above him through half-open eyes. “I have some questions and the way you answer them will very much determine how things will go for you.”
When Jarik paid him very little attention, Owens grabbed hold of him by the collar of his shirt to lift him slightly, only to punch him right in the face. “You decide how easy this’ll go for everyone. Are you tracking this?”
“You are wasting your time,” Jarik said, spitting out a wallop of spit mixed with green blood to the floor.
“Maybe,” Owens shot back. “But’s it’s my time to waste and who knows, I might even enjoy it. Now, I want Star. I know you worked with her when she killed my brother. Tell me where she is.”
Michael was appalled by the way his counterpart carried out his interrogation. “Captain, this man can’t possibly know about that. He came here with us. He is from our universe and would not have been involved in your brother’s death.”
Owens, still holding on to Jarik’s shirt with a balled fist turned towards Michael. “How can you be sure?”
“He was taken from my ship along with my father,” Michael said.
“Taken by Star.”
Michael nodded reluctantly. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean that he knows her.”
“You said it yourself, he has betrayed you and made a deal with Altee. Which means, one way or another, he is working with her.”
Michael could tell that Owens really wanted to believe this. Maybe even needed to believe it. “If I’m right we’ll get nothing out of him this way. Allow me to ask a few questions.”
Owens made no move to hand over his prisoner.
“If we get nothing, you can still interrogate him your way until your knuckles bleed,” he said when Owens wasn’t being swayed.
The other man grinned. “We’ve only just met and you already know me better than most. Wonder if it's because there is a little bit of me in you?”
“I sincerely hope not.”
“We’ll see,” he said and let go of Jarik to allow him to slump back into the chair. “Ask your question but make it quick. Patience is not one of my better attributes.”
Michael stepped up to Jarik who looked up at the same face whose owner had just pummeled him repeatedly. The quickly swelling bruises on his face bearing testament. As much as Michael had come to distrust and despise Jarik over the last few days, he still hated seeing him like this. A small part of him still held out hope that perhaps they could eventually find a way to be friends again. Although, admittedly, he knew that it would be a long and difficult road to get there.
“Where’s my father?”
Jarik wiped some more blood from his face. “He’s still down there. Still alive. But I think you know that he is not doing very well,” he added and then began to cough.
“What about the device? Does Altee have it?”
The cough turned into laughter. Michael didn’t fully understand why.
“What exactly amuses you?” The other Owens asked who had remained close by. “Mind sharing the joke?”
“The joke?” Jarik said and then began to nod slowly. “I suppose it is a joke, isn’t it?” he said but kept his eyes on the man who wasn’t native to this universe.
“What are you talking about?” Michael asked.
“I just find it hilarious how blind you have been this whole time,” he continued, alternatively coughing and laughing, creating a terribly irritating hacking sound. “Your father has been working with Altee. They’ve planned all this together to take control of the Ring.”
Michael shook his head.
“Oh, you find that difficult to believe? Really? Is it any more unexpected than seeing your old man coming back from the dead?”
Michael took a step back.
Owens took one forward. “This is not getting us anywhere,” he said and then unceremoniously grabbed hold of Jarik again to use his face as a punching bag, not even bothering to ask questions at first, just hitting him over and over again until green blood was beginning to pour down the half-Vulcan's face. “I can drag this out for hours before I find a way to kill you in the most painful way I can think of. Or you can give me Star.”
When he finally took a break from beating Jarik to a pulp, the half-Vulcan was coughing so hard he had tears in his eyes and was fighting for each breath of air, and with his last bit of strength he feebly reached out towards something.
Michael followed his line of sight and realized that he was looking at Leva, or rather the hypo-spray he was holding. He thought he understood. “Captain, he’s dying. He needs what's in the hypo. Jarik suffers from a degenerative disease.”
But Owens didn’t seem to listen and just went back to striking him with his fist, his eyes wide with mad obsession.
Michael knew he had to stop this and intervened, reaching out for his counterpart and pulling him back.
Owens whirled around and took a swing at Michael who managed to deflect the blow but only enough to soften it. He still stumbled backward and his chin felt on fire. When he reached for it to try and soothe the pain, he came away with blood. But it was green.
Leva and the Niners quickly moved forward to help their captain but so did Eagle’s security detail, and since they were the ones armed, there was little the away team could do.
“Don’t ever do that again,” Owens fumed.
Michael massaged his chin. “You get nothing out of him if he’s dead.”
Owens looked back towards the bloodied and gasping Jarik who was barely able to keep himself upright in the chair. Then he walked over to Leva and took the hypo out of his hand before returning to the dying man. “Tell me how to find Star and you get your precious medicine,” he said, holding the device just outside of his reach.
“Cloaked … ship,” he said between gasps.
Owens nodded slowly. “That makes sense. It’s how she’s been able to avoid me all this time.” He looked around briefly and then found what he was looking for. He picked up a data padd sitting on a storage crate and threw it into Jarik’s lap. “I want the cloaking frequency. Give me that and I’ll give you what you need.”
Jarik was apparently no longer in any kind of state to offer opposition and instead quickly tapped away on the padd and then held it out for Owens in a trembling and blood dripping hand.
The captain calmly took the device and looked it over.
“Hand him the hypo,” Michael said sharply.
Owens looked back up, first at Michael, then at the gasping man in the chair. Finally, he tossed the medical injector at Jarik who caught it clumsily and after some effort managed to apply it to his neck.
The results were almost immediate as he quickly began to breathe more normally again.
Owens handed the padd to Carlos. “Relay these details to the bridge. I want a search pattern in place within the hour. Star is nearby, I can sense her, and this time she isn’t getting away.”
Carlos nodded and did as he was told.
Owens stepped closer to his counterpart next. “Let me ask you something, Captain. If this man truly is from your universe, if he’s only been here for less than a day as you say, how come he knows the exact configuration of Tazla Star’s cloaking device?”
Michael had no answer as he stared back at the slowly recovering Jarik. It was feasible, of course, that he had learned this when he had been taken from Eagle after their arrival in this universe, or that perhaps it had been shared with him after he had agreed to work with Altee. Or maybe, in his desperation, Jarik had simply provided a believable but random frequency in hopes it would give him access to the life-saving hypo.
Apparently, Owens had not expected a reply and instead headed for the doors. He stopped short of leaving the room and turned back. “I think he may have been right about something else. I think you may have been played for a fool,” he said, reached for his phaser, and then fired it at Jarik.
Michael watched on helplessly and in shock as his friend and former Academy roommate disintegrated in front of his eyes.