“How do we even know that this portal of yours exists in our universe?” said Edison, doing nothing to hide his skepticism which had not abated from the moment the meeting had commenced. “Even if I believe your story and you did come across this thing in your universe, there is nothing to say it’ll also be here.”
“It is,” said Bensu. “I can sense it nearby. I believe we will find it exactly where we found it before.”
Gene Edison shot the bartender a suspicious look. “You can sense it? How?”
Michael took the question before Bensu could respond. “We have already learned that he has a natural sensitivity to the events that have been unfolding lately. How this is possible remains a mystery to us.”
“As it is to me, I’m afraid to say.”
Edison didn’t look particularly convinced. Michael wondered what had happened to this version of him that had made him so distrusting of others. There was plenty to be suspicious about, considering their unique circumstances and he couldn’t blame this Edison for being careful but it seemed obvious that mistrust and skepticism were how the captain of this universe’s Eagle operated by default.
“Bridge to Captain. We’ve just detected Eagle—that is to the say, the other Eagle—beaming a shuttle with an occupant into space,” a disembodied voice Michael didn’t recognize announced.
Edison was unsurprisingly the first to react, even before Michael could digest this unexpected development. The man shot up onto his feet and glared at him. “What is this?”
Michael shook his head. “I have no idea,” he said truthfully.
“I knew you were up to something. I knew it the moment I saw that ship appear out of nowhere,” he fumed and then glanced at Amaya who seemed to take the news much more in stride.
She stood from her chair and within moments everybody else still sitting followed along. “Bridge, go to yellow alert. We’re on our way.”
Edison was already on his way to the doors with Michael and Amaya close behind.
The bridge on Agamemnon was located on the same deck as the observation lounge and Michael recognized the familiar Starfleet design as almost unchanged to the one he had seen in his universe’s counterpart.
“Report,” Amaya called out the moment she had crossed the threshold.
A tall, amber-furred avian officer with a set of impressively tall wings arching up behind his back promptly turned her way. “It just happened, sir. According to sensors, the shuttle was beamed about fifty kilometers off the other Eagle’s bow. Sensors confirm one life-sign onboard.”
On her order, the main viewscreen shifted to show what Michael immediately recognized as the Valkyrie, one of Eagle’s medium-sized shuttles. The small craft’s warp nacelles lit up with a bright blue light and the next moment Valkyrie was gone as it had jumped to warp.
“What the hell is going on here?” Edison said, his eyes focused on Michael.
“I have no idea. I certainly didn’t authorize this,” he said.
“We are being hailed by the Eagle,” the avian officer said from his tactical station.
“Put it on,” said Amaya.
The viewscreen shifted once more to show the face of a somewhat exasperated Tazla Star walking down the ramp towards the command area of the bridge as if she had only moments ago emerged from the aft turbolift.
“Report, Commander,” Michael said. “What happened?”
“It’s Garla, sir. We discovered that she was the source of our energy drain issues. She must have beamed over before we left Krellonian space and has been hiding away ever since. She tried to make a move on Lif but we cornered her.”
“How did she get a shuttle?”
Star looked noticeably contrite. “We’re still looking into that but I believe she made some creative modifications to our systems while she was on board. Nothing that could be detected easily but enough to execute an exit strategy.”
“Who is this Garla person?” Edison asked.
“She is a Krellonian operative we ran into on a recent mission. She is Lif Culsten’s aunt,” Michael said.
Edison offered him a blank look in response. “You say that name as if it’s supposed to mean something to me.”
“He Eagle’s helmsman,” Michael said. “I suppose not here.”
Amaya considered her tactical officer again. “Lure, can you tell us where she is headed?”
The avian checked his board. “According to its heading, the shuttle is on a beeline for Krellonian space.”
“Sir, I think we need to go after her,” said Star from the other bridge. Michael couldn’t be sure but he thought she felt personally offended by the fact that Garla had apparently outwitted her. No doubt spies didn’t like to be bested by other spies. He knew her well enough by now to understand that it couldn’t be her only motivation. “She doesn’t belong in this universe and who knows how much damage she could be doing here if we let her go.”
Michael nodded. “We’ll take it under advisement, Commander. I want you to continue to focus on getting my ship fully operational again.”
Michael glanced over to Amaya. It was her ship after all and it was only prudent to give her the final word. Agamemnon’s captain pointed at Lure who then promptly closed the channel.
“My first officer is right,” Michael said once Star was gone. “We can’t leave her here.”
But Edison was, once again, quick to disagree. “I have no intention of chasing after a Krellonian from another universe. Besides, we are not exactly on the best of terms with the Star Alliance. They like to be left alone and I am not going to be responsible for starting another war.”
“This changes nothing as far as I’m concerned,” said Jarik. “Our mission remains to return to the gateway and identify a way to operate it so that we can take control of it.”
Michael considered the half-Vulcan for a moment. He sounded more self-assured and authoritative than he had been before, or perhaps he had simply not noticed this side of him until now. The man didn’t even consider his father when he spoke, which considering that up until recently he had been his direct superior felt somewhat concerning, the fact that Admiral Owens was still officially listed as deceased, notwithstanding.
He looked towards his father for an opinion. He wasn’t exactly eager to hear his views but considering the unfamiliar territory they all found themselves in, he thought it best to consider all options.
“I think it’s the right—“ A sudden coughing fit interrupted him mid-sentence. He raised a hand to indicate it would pass soon but it didn’t.
“Admiral, are you all right?” Amaya asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“I’m fine,” he said between coughs. “The transition into this universe has been … hard on all of us,” he said and still couldn’t quite get his cough under control.
“I think we better get you down to sickbay,” Amaya said.
He shook his head quickly as his cough began to finally abate. “Not necessary but I think I better return to the ship,” he said.
Amaya nodded and indicated for one of her officers to escort Owens Senior back to the transporter room.
Michael watched his father leave but couldn’t quite bring himself to feel particularly sympathetic for the plight of a man who had been happy enough to make his own son believe he was dead.
With Jon Owens gone, Jarik easily retook the initiative. “We’ve lost enough time already. Let’s find the threshold to the gateway and make sure we all go back to where we belong.”