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“I had every confidence that you would manage to breakthrough,” said Gary Seven as he regarded the Starfleet away team before him.

“It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing all the way,” said Hopkins and Laas could tell that she was still somewhat shaken from their strange trip through their various memories, none more disturbing to her than her own.

He nodded. “I caught a few glimpses here and there. But what matters is that you managed to establish a stable, telepathic connection by working together.”

Xylion took a step forward, although Laas was quite aware that in reality, none of them were truly standing there at all, instead, their physical bodies remained sitting on the floor of the Ring’s control room. She tried to ban that thought, it was giving her a headache.

“Now that we have established this connection, it is time that you explained who you are and why you have contacted us.”

“I suppose that is only fair, Xylion,” Seven said with a smile.

“Let’s start by telling us exactly how you know who we are,” Laas said, not entirely able to not see this odd human with his pet animal as a threat and secretly wishing she had a weapon with her. Not that she needed one, of course.

“You could say I’ve done my homework on you,” he said as she walked up to Laas which caused her to tense slightly, ready to jump into action. Lieutenant Nora Laas of Rakantha Province on Bajor, chief of security of the U.S.S. Eagle.” He continued to Xylion. “Chief science officer of the aforementioned vessel, hailing from the city Sh’calla on the planet Vulcan.” Then to Lou. “Lieutenant Louise Chirac-Hopkins, chief engineer. Born in Ottawa on Earth.” He continued to the Niners. “Chief Petty Officer Isabis Awuzie, better known by your codename Diamond. Deputy Team Leader of Special Missions Team Forty-Nine, born in Lagos on Earth and Chief Petty Officer T’Set, or Ivory, from the ShiKahr District on Vulcan.”

Gary Seven finally moved on to Bensu. “And then there is you. Bensu, the bartender.”

Bensu looked at him expectantly, waiting to hear more.

“You are a bit of an enigma, aren’t you?”

“So I’ve been told.”

“You know the Aegis would be very interested in you, considering that, as far as I can tell, you are one of the very few unique individuals in quantum reality.”

“What does that mean?” Nora asked.

He turned to look at her. “I’m sure you must have noticed by now that there are multiple versions of you in the infinity that is quantum reality,” he said and briefly glanced towards Xylion. “Some of you have come face to face with your counterparts already.” He turned back to Bensu. “But in the endless universes that exist, you will likely not find another Bensu anywhere.”

“Fascinating,” said Xylion. “What is the Aegis?”

“I apologize, I got carried away a bit, I suppose. Allow me to introduce myself properly,” said Seven and faced the rest of the team once more. “I am Class One Supervisor 194, an Agent of the Aegis. You could consider us an organization that keeps an eye on time and space as well as on the multiverse. We try to keep the balance as best as we can and interfere only if deemed absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, this is one of these times.”

“Your concern then is with the massive particle collider and its builders,” said Xylion.”

Gary nodded as he allowed his cat to jump out of his arms. “Precisely. Truth be told they have been on our radar for some time now but matters have become more worrisome as of late. The situation has escalated far quicker and more dramatically than we had anticipated.”

“I suppose the annihilation of an entire universe will do that,” said Laas. “I have to say, if you truly are a guardian of the multiverse of sorts, letting something like that happen, doesn’t exactly speak to your competence.”

Seven nodded. “Yes, I suppose we deserve that. We were caught off-guard by this development and we believe that the universe that was destroyed wasn’t the first one.”

Louise looked shocked. “It has destroyed others?”

“Yes, I think it has and it may destroy more if we don’t find a way to stop it.”

“We?” Laas said. “You seem to be the expert on this. Why can’t you and your Aegis take care of this matter? Why would you need our help?”

“It’s complicated. Events are unfolding at a faster rate than we could have expected. This might sound somewhat trite coming from someone who is used to move through time and space, but time is running out for all of us and there is little I or the Aegis can do alone. We are up against something immensely powerful which to tell you the truth scares us quite a bit.”

Xylion raised an eyebrow. “And yet you believe that we will be able to stop this force?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. But what I do know is that by fate or pure coincidence, whatever you wish to call it, you find yourself in the right place at the right time to prevent what has been set in motion.”

“And what is that exactly?” said Laas.

He looked her square in the eye. “I was hoping we could find out together.”

She offered him a dumbfounded look in response, unable to believe that he had not more to offer already, considering what he had told them.

“This place is what we like to call a hub of the quantum-verse. You have, of course, already experienced this yourself the way you have traveled from one quantum reality to another. But this place also possesses tremendous psionic energy which is how we were able to connect to each other and how I believe we can glean more knowledge about the subspace creatures who constructed it.”

“How do you propose we accomplish this?” asked Xylion.

“You’ve already done the hard work,” he responded as he regarded all members of the away team, one after the other. “You’ve created a fairly stable psionic construct powered by the energy of your combined minds. Allow me to function as your guide as we attempt to pierce deeper into the veil.”

Laas couldn’t quite suppress a little sigh. “I don’t like this,” she said but then shrugged as she considered Xylion. “But I suppose we’ve come this far.”

The Vulcan offered a small nod. “Agreed,” he said before turning his focus on Seven. “How do we proceed?”

“All I need you to do is focus your minds. I believe you already know how to do that.”

“Here we go again,” Laas said and then took a deep breath before closing her eyes. It didn’t take long at all for her to see yet another disturbing image inside her mind. She saw herself, along with the rest of the away team, all sitting in a circle in the Ring’s control room where this strange journey had first begun.

It was disconcerting, to say the least, to look down at herself like that, an out of body experience which most people equated to the sensation of shuffling off the mortal coil altogether.

She spotted Gary Seven sitting among the away team. He craned his neck and looked upwards, right at her and oddly it caused a sudden calm to settle over her being, allowing her mind to focus on the questions they had been asking since the moment they had first encountered the superstructure in subspace.

Who was responsible for building it?

The odd séance disappeared with a flash and she felt herself being pulled through a vortex as if she was riding a rollercoaster of time and space. She remained stationary but the world around her seemed to change at warp speeds.

She was still inside the Ring, and she could feel the presence of the rest of the away team in her mind, although for the moment they were invisible to her. Instead, she saw the interior of the superstructure. But not the way it was now, rather than how it had been years, perhaps decades ago, essentially a construction site, entire sections still missing or nothing more than skeletons. The reptile-like subspace aliens crawling all over the structure, inside and out, adding to it like busy little ants.

How did they make the Ring so powerful?

She couldn’t be sure if the question had been hers or if it had originated from somebody else within the mind-link.

It seemed to matter little and within a moment the answer became obvious. Just like Xylion and hypothesized, the vast majority of the interior of the structure was dedicated to massive acceleration tubes, designed to allow particles to travel at the speed of light.

There were large freighters that had entered the subspace pocket from regular space to deliver the particles.

She could see the path they had taken, she traveled back to their point of origin which was a place she had seen before. The Piqus system in Krellonian territory. There, within the asteroid field, two hidden bases produced a powerful molecule in great secrecy.

Why were they working together?

She watched as the subspace aliens send out probes all over the Amargosa Diaspora, encountering various people and races, including humans and Krellonians, abducting them, and carrying out terrible experiments on them like they were little more than lab animals.

It was their way to try and learn about other races and possibly find allies in their task of creating the Ring.

Eventually, she could see, they settled on the Krellonians, reaching out to Garla and convincing her to assist them in creating the particles they needed in return for the power to reshape her own world. Those were empty promises, based not on what could be, but on what was already reality elsewhere in the quantum-verse.

But what is the purpose of all this?

The massive collider began to spin like it had when an entire universe had perished. It had done so before, Seven had implied this and she could see it now. Not just once or twice, but dozens of times. Maybe more. Universes just like hers had fallen, one after the other, wiped out of existence by the immeasurable powers generated by the collider.

She could see an entire group of subspace aliens, speaking seemingly anxiously in a language that to her ears sounded like indecipherable clicking noises. And yet, somehow, she could sense what it was they were discussing.

An artifact that was being used to oppose their plans, a people who stood in their way, who had managed to interfere.

The aliens turned as one, all looking straight at her.

“Beholder.”

She didn’t understand but she certainly felt them in her mind. Something was targeting her, targeting all of them.

“Beholder.”

Images she had tried to ban from her mind reappeared as if to punish her: Bajorans being brutally tortured by the Cardassian invaders of her home. Her mother and father working themselves to death in a forced labor camp. Her sister being killed by Cardassian soldiers while she was attempting to smuggle them both off-world. A shapeshifter, having taken the form of Xylion, driving an appendage turned steel blade through his body after having pushed her aside.

“Beholder.”

As much as she tried to hold on, she was no match for the intensity of her own emotions, of her own grief. She felt herself slipping away and being sucked into a void offering nothing but darkness so complete it would swallow her mind and soul.


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