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“According to the latest reports, repairs on the other Eagle are ahead of schedule. Shields, weapons, and navigational systems are functional again, warp engines are currently at eighty-six percent efficiency. Their chief engineer has requested additional deuterium, anti-matter, and duranium alloys.” DeMara looked up from the padd she had been reading when the captain didn’t respond to what she had said.

Instead, she found him sitting behind the desk of his ready room, seemingly fully absorbed by something on his computer screen that she couldn’t see.

“Michael?”

He glanced at her very briefly. “Huh?”

“They’ve requested additional resources for repairs,” she said.

He nodded. “Yes, sure, whatever they need,” he said and then returned to look at the screen.

DeMara entered the required authorizations onto her padd. “You know, I have to question why we are doing all this?”

“Why we are doing what?” he said even as his focus remained on the screen.

She couldn’t quite suppress a sigh as she lowered the padd. “Look, I know that it’s not easy to meet another version of yourself. You start to question a great many things about your own nature. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m not still trying to get to grips with coming face to face with that other me and the things she said. She seemed nothing like me and yet, some of the things she said,” she stopped herself there. Her double from a now-dead universe had shaken her to the core and caused her to start reevaluating aspects of her own life. And it was still difficult for her to talk about that. Even to a close friend such as Michael Owens. Or perhaps it was more difficult to speak to him specifically, after all their relationship had been somewhat strained as of late.

He regarded her once again with a very brief glance. “What’s your point?”

She scowled at his abruptness. “My point is that this other you is not a very good person and I’m not clear why we are helping him.”

“We are about to go up against Altee and half a fleet, we need all the help we can get,” he said and returned to work at his computer station.

“The man is a cold-blooded killer. I’ve heard how he executed Jarik in cold blood. He would have done the same thing to Star if he had been given the chance. He’s dangerous, Michael, and keeping him around is not going to do anyone any favors.”

“I disagree,” he said but refused to make eye contact.

Fed up with his attitude, not to mention his lack of a focus on their conversation, Dee stood suddenly and leaned over to reach for his desktop computer. “What are you working on?” she said and then turned the screen around to glimpse at its content. “Sensor scans of the sector?”

“This is none of your concern,” he said angrily and turned the screen back to face him. “And as for my counterpart, you weren’t there. You are basing your opinions on second-hand information. He may have had a very good reason for the things he did. He’s trying to bring his brother’s killers to justice.”

She nodded slowly, remembering a very similar mission a few years back when Michael had gone against orders to chase down Westren Frobisher, the man who had been responsible for the death of Matthew Owens in their universe. “I know that there are parallels between the two of you. But you are nothing like him, Michael. Remember how you felt when you had caught up with Frobisher? How empty you were inside? No matter how angry you had been and how desperate you were to revenge Matthew’s death, you understood that killing the man responsible would give you no satisfaction. That’s why you are a better man, Michael. You know that there is no justification for murder.”

“Maybe, sometimes there is.”

A shiver ran up her spine at hearing the ice-cold tone in his voice.

She took a step backward. Then she began to nod slowly. “Maybe.”

She had backed off another step before Michael suddenly sprang into action. He practically leaped over the desk at her, knocking down the computer screen and a half-empty glass in the process.

DeMara turned to run towards the doors.

“Computer, seal the ready room,” Michael barked.

The computer acknowledged with a soft trill just as she collided with the doors which had suddenly refused to open for her.

She felt him grab her hair from behind and before she could even think to call out for help, he forcefully smashed her head against the bulkhead, causing her to stumble backward. The harsh impact had left her dazed and she couldn’t stop the room from spinning around her.

He pushed her down towards the floor and in her woozy state, she wasn’t able to keep her balance and landed on the deck with a thud, only managing to brace herself at the last moment.

Michael was on top of her in an instant and he could see his face close to hers through blurry eyes. He took his time to look her over before he finally spoke again.

“My God, you’re beautiful,” he said as he brushed her golden locks out of her face and wiped away a bit of blood that was trickling down her forehead. “You have no idea how difficult it has been for me to focus since you’ve entered the room.”

She pushed him away angrily and pulled herself up against the bulkhead to sit against it, but not before he snatched away her combadge. “What do you want?”

He sat down on the floor opposite from her, remaining within an arm’s reach, but for now just content to keep his eyes on her. The look he was giving her was one she had never seen on that face before and it disturbed her a great deal. “I like this ship,” he said and took a brief moment to take in the ready room before he glanced back at her. “It’s different and yet so familiar at the same time. And I hate to admit it, but the crew is much more efficient than my own. I think I could accomplish great things here.”

“You wouldn’t last five minutes,” she said.

“I fooled you.”

“For a moment perhaps. As soon as you started to open your mouth it was clear you weren’t who I thought you were.”

He shrugged. “I’m sure I could do better. After all, he and I are the same, aren’t we? And I could be even more like him,” he said and moved closer.

“You’re nothing like him.”

He regarded her with an almost lascivious kind of look. “I know how lonely it can be for a starship captain. I guess not so much for him, huh?”

She responded by shooting poisonous daggers through her eyes. “If you are inferring some sort of romantic relationship between the two of us you are gravely mistaken.”

“I find that difficult to believe.”

DeMara uttered a humorless chuckle. “As I said, you’re nothing alike.”

He moved closer still. “Maybe the problem is with him. And maybe you wouldn’t mind being a bit more than what you are now. If it can’t be with him, I see no reason why it couldn’t work with us.”

She watched him carefully as he closed in on her and then placed a hand on her thigh. There was little denying, at least to herself, that he was hitting a raw nerve. And yet, at the same time, she was more revolted than she had ever been in her life.

Balling her fist came as little effort then. Nor did she hesitate when she punched him right in the face.

It had been a good hit she thought, and he had not seen it coming. It had hurt her tremendously but the way his face jerked sideways and his lip split with blood, she knew it had hurt him more.

At the end of the day, however, she was not a great fighter and he recovered more quickly than she had hoped.

He struck back as if on instinct, slapping her hard across the face, causing her entire left side to sting terribly.

Owens seemed remorseful almost immediately and backed off. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.

She pulled herself back up against the wall, refusing to let him see how much pain he had caused her. “I don’t really see another way,” she said through gritted teeth, wiping away the blood which was now tickling down her nose with the back of her hand.

Owens stood back up and retrieved the computer which had fallen to the floor when he had jumped over the desk. “Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps the idea of taking over his life is nothing more than a fantasy. Perhaps we are too different after all. Besides,” he said as he brought the screen back up so that she could see it. “I am on a mission that takes priority and I’ll need your help to complete it.”

“Fat chance.”

He continued as if she hadn’t spoken, looking at the screen which had taken some damage from the fall but was still readable. “I pulled up sensor logs for the entire sector. With the information Jarik has given me, I am convinced that we can track down Star’s cloaked ship but I have to be honest, decrypting sensor data isn’t my strong suit.”

“Why am I not surprised? Seems to me your strong suit is hurting people,” she said and then wiped away some more blood to make her point.

He uttered a sigh. “I want you to understand something, my dear, lovely DeMara,” he said as he stared deep into her eyes. “I’ve been chasing Tazla Star for the last twelve months without interruption. There have been weeks I hardly found time to eat, not to mention get any kind of meaningful sleep.”

“If you’re looking for sympathy here, I’m all out.”

He shook his head. “No, that’s not what I’m after at all. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m very determined to get what I’m after. And also, so very tired.”

“I suppose that partly explains your delightful disposition.”

“Make no mistake, I will not allow the other me, or you or anyone else to get between me and Star. Not now, when I’m this close to finally making her answer for what she’s done. You think that killing that snake Jarik was out of line? I’ll kill whoever I have to in order to get to her. At this point, it doesn’t even matter anymore if they are guilty or innocent. If you stand in my way, I will get rid of you. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”

She glared at him but didn’t say a word.

He retrieved something else from his desk and it took her a moment to realize that it was a phaser. He didn’t point it at her, not directly, but the implication was clear. “You can help me to get what I need or you can stand in my way. The choice is yours.”

She wanted desperately to defy him but looking into those tired and furious eyes of his, she had little doubt that he would make good on his threat. This meant that after he was done with her, he would simply find somebody else to try and get what he wanted and if they refused, he’d simply continue to kill his way through the crew until he either got what he wanted or he was stopped.

She glanced at the screen and shook her head. “You’ll need to carry out a tachyon scan to find a cloaked ship.”

He regarded the screen briefly. “Tachyon scan.”

“We can initiate one from the bridge.”

Owens looked back at her and smirked. Then he nodded. “I’d knew you come around. Let’s do it.”

She slowly walked towards the doors but then stopped when they still refused to open and turned to face him again. “We can’t get to the bridge until you unseal these doors.”

His smile widened slightly. “We’re going to the bridge, all right,” he said. “Just not yours.” He tapped his combadge. “Energize.”

The transporter beam caught hold of her before she could do as much as offering a protest.


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