SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Fourteen
Lieutenant Commander Pavlo Celcho dropped the Type 6 shuttle Campese to impulse at the very edge of the Helaspont nebula. The shuttle travelled through the haze for a minute before breaking clear into the black.
“Welcome beyond the veil, Groa,” he said.
Ilata gasped as he looked upon the universe. Celcho could not help but smile as Ilata stared slack jawed at the vista before him.
“It’s so dark...so vast,” he said with awe. “It’s almost terrifying! It seems to drain you and reinforces the loneliness that dwells deep, deep inside. Yet these tiny points of light fight against the black, pushing it back. They almost seem to be irradiating hope that you aren’t alone.” He stretched out his hand towards to forward window, reaching out into the universe. “I could...I could never have dreamt it would be so beautiful.”
Celcho could not argue with that. “It is beautiful. I sometimes count my lucky stars that I get to journey between them, if you excuse the pun.”
A look of joyous wonder illuminated Ilata’s face as he drew in the view before their shuttle. The captain had been more than willing to let them take a trip out and the only hold up was in notifying the Echlans that they would be launching a shuttle. While the George Smith had been available Celcho decided on the smaller Campese, if only so to allow Ilata to have a ride on a different type of shuttle before he returned back to his planet.
“Which one does your planet orbit?” inquired Ilata.
“It’s in that general direction,” he said pointing to a group of stars.
“You don’t know which your home system is?” said Ilata shocked.
Celcho laughed. “No sorry. There are a lot of them out there, best I can do is give you a general idea which way it is...or at least where I think it is. I could get the computer to point it out if you want.”
“There are so many stars, yet people still fight over them,” he said mournfully.
“Well, not every one will be suitable or useful to people. That limits the number worth fighting for...though it is still a huge number; you would think there would be more than enough room for everyone just to let each other be. Unfortunately, just the existence of others can be seen as a threat to some people. Fear can be a very powerful motivator for war.”
“One day I’d like to come out here and explore, see what this universe has to offer. Maybe see that Orion and Deltan you mentioned earlier.”
Celcho chucked at the thought. “You ever out my way I’d be more than happy to show them to you.”
The shuttle returned to silence and Ilata went back to looking out into the stars. Celcho gave the shuttle a little nudge to slowly start it rotating so that Ilata could see even more. He kept an eye on his sensors, watching for other vessels. Luckily they were very close to the nebula; if a hostile ship approached they could escape into the nebula. If the hostile vessel chose to pursue them it would be limited to low warp speeds due to the hazards within the nebula and that meant they would not be able to run down the shuttle, which already had a very limited top warp speed. Despite that it always paid to remain vigilant.
Celcho briefly wished that a hostile ship, either a Tzenkethi or even a pirate vessel, did make a move against the shuttle. It would be quite exciting for Ilata and given the Swiftfire would then respond it would be an incredible sight for the Echlan man to see an Akira class in battle. Celcho quickly chastised himself for these thoughts. If that happened there would be a high probability that people would be killed and no matter if they were persons on the Swiftfire or not, people dying should never be seen as a form of entertainment.
“Can you take me to Xall-ic, the pulsar near my home system?” Ilata finally asked.
“Of course,” he replied as he powered up the shuttle and swung it around to re-enter the nebula.
Celcho brought the Campese out of warp a fair distance from the pulsar and closed in at impulse. Soon their forward view was dominated by the rapidly pulsating star.
“Is Xall-ic what you expected?” he asked
Ilata nodded somewhat disappointedly. “Yes.”
“But I wish it...” he paused and turned to Celcho. “Pavlo, can I ask you a personal question?”
“Do you believe in an afterlife? In gods?”
Celcho had some idea that this question might come up but that did not mean he was fully prepared for it. “Personally? No, I don’t. Dead is...dead. There is no heaven or hell to reward you or punish you. You live your life the best you can not because you might score some points with some all powerful entity but because it is the only one you get.”
He was not sure if that was the answer Ilata had expected or wanted. The Echlan just nodded and turned his attention back to the pulsar.
“Never before have I really thought about it but after I heard about my fiancée’s death I’ve found myself wanting...wishing to believe that after this life Yinchiaz and I could meet again and be together.” He let out a nervous laugh. “I wanted to believe when we got here we’d find...something...anything to show that there was more beyond this life.” He then shook his head. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Was I hoping there would be a door to paradise? Or maybe that Zadic would reach out and take us there? Stupid isn’t it.”
Celcho reached over and placed a reassuring hand on the man’s shoulder. “It’s only natural to want to be with those you’ve lost. It’s impossible to live life without regret but you can’t go back in time to change it. As long as you remember her and what you had, she’ll never be truly gone.”
Ilata glanced back up at him. “Do you really believe that?” he asked, his voice barely masking his disbelief in what Celcho had said.
Celcho was not surprised or offended by this. He expected it, his words did indeed sound like some hollow promise to ease Ilata’s mind. a statement whose only purpose was to make the griever feel better. He had somewhat prepared for this and he pulled out a necklace from his pocket and dangled it before Ilata.
With his other hand he cupped the small object that hung at the bottom of the necklace. “It’s a wedding ring. It’s Human tradition when you marry someone you exchange and wear rings as a symbol of your love and the union you’ve entered.”
“I did not know you were wed. I assumed that you were courting the ambassador’s daughter.”
Celcho grinned but did not take his eyes off the small object he rolled in his palm. “We’re just friends. No, this is from a long time ago, nearly twenty years.” He paused as he considered the time almost considering it unfathomable that so much time had passed. “I married young, just before I graduated from the Starfleet training academy. I’d known the girl...Grace, for just about three years by that time. Anyway I married her and two months later I shipped out on the Horatio, another Starfleet vessel, to begin my first tour. In the end our marriage only lasted two years. We hardly had any physical contact in that time and the tyranny of distance torpedoed my marriage.”
“Didn’t you try to work it out?”
He looked back up at Ilata. “Yes, but short of giving up my career there was little I could do. I did suggest we have a child to see if that would mend things but Grace was always the more sensible one, she rightly talked me out of that decision. She no more wanted an absentee father for her child as an absentee husband. Plus there was another man.”
A look of repugnance shot across Ilata’s face. “She was unfaithful?”
“She said she had not been physically but more importantly she was emotionally unfaithful. I was angry at the time...and for some time after as well. I refused to accept it and I did some terrible things that I can never forgive myself for.”
His memory flashed back to that time. He saw his wife before him, his fingers holding her shoulders tightly as he spoke to her, his voice quickly rising until he was yelling abuse and obscenities at her. She shook her as if it would make his points clearer. She started to yell back but he was not listening, all he cared about was making him heard. Then there was a flash of movement and the feeling of pain swelling in his cheek. He let go of her and placed a hand to his burning cheek. He looked at her face; it was a mask of anger, behind her long black hair that now partly obscured her face he could see her dark eyes burning with it. Without thinking he moved his hand from his cheek and pulled it back and...Celcho jerked his head to dislodge the memory and forced it back down, too ashamed to let it continue even if only in his own mind. He returned his eyes to the ring. “How could I blame her? I was hardly there when she needed me so she leant on someone else. So my one fling at marriage came to an end.”
“What happened to Grace?”
“She married the other man. Good choice, he was a stand up guy and they had a family. She...she passed away around eleven years after we broke up.”
“Was she killed by war?”
Celcho shook his head. “Shuttlecraft accident. Subspace tremor overstressed the ship’s warp core and it exploded. The point is it was completely accidental and no one was at fault. Her husband was good enough to invite me to the funeral...if the shoe were on the other foot I don’t know if I would have been big enough to do the same. He was...is a better man than I.”
“I am sorry for your loss,” said Ilata patting his arm reassuringly.
“People die; it’s an unfortunate part of life. It doesn’t matter how they die, it will always be tragic and it always leaves lives shattered in its wake. Mine was a long time ago; I was young and thought I was in love.”
“You obviously were since you still keep the ring.”
Celcho let out a little laugh. “Yeah, I was. Unfortunately happily ever after is just in fairytales. I wore this on my finger for a few weeks after the divorce before I moved it to the chain. I wore this with me all the time but eventually I wore it less and it moved into the bottom of a draw. I guess what I’m saying is that things might be terrible now but they change, you can get over things.”
Ilata returned his gaze back to the pulsar and sighed deeply. “I would really like to believe that. I really would.”
Susan Core walked into the Ice Lounge and headed to the nearest replicator and ordered a coffee. The machine made a slight whirling sound at it deposited the mug for her to take. Core gently and carefully picked up the hot object and slowly made her way to a nearby table.
“Mind if I sit here?” she asked.
Lieutenant Commander Whitechapel looked up at her, shook her head and gestured for her to take a seat. “Be my guest,” she replied.
Core smoothly sat down and released the hot object onto the table, giving her hand a reprieve.
“Reading anything good?” she asked.
Whitechapel shook her head. “Just an update of the latest military movements of the Totality and the Coalition.”
“Ooo! Is that the one where the surprise twist is that the major did it because he was actually the illegitimate son of the baron?” Whitechapel’s glare did not have even a trace of humour. “Obviously not,” she whispered into her mug as she brought it to her lips.
Core saviour the taste of her coffee as it sent a warming sensation throughout her body. She took a second sip before placing it back on the table.
“So how’s your father?” she asked
Whitechapel gave a look of suspicion. “Did the captain send you down to keep tabs on me?”
“No. Why would you think that?”
“Sorry, it’s just when the captain sees me he gets this look of annoyance that should be directed at my father.”
“Yes, those two aren’t getting on fantastically. The captain does not like being kept out of the loop.”
“My father was simply following his orders and guidelines. He doesn’t answer to Captain Masters.”
“Don’t have to tell me that, I understand. Deep down I’m sure the captain does too,” she said tapping her chest before letting her hand slip lower. “Somewhere around his small intestines probably.”
The joke got a laugh out of Whitechapel. “So you’re really not here to spy on me?”
Core shook her head. “Nope. Ice happens to be on my side of the ship. However, if it makes you feel better I can take notes on what you do and say.” Whitechapel playfully rolled her eyes. “I am surprised that you are sitting on your own. I expected Pavlo to be here, you two are always eating together.”
Her subtle hint was either missed or ignored by Whitechapel in her reply. “He’s off ship at the moment. Not that it matters, everyone seems to be avoiding me at the moment. I can just imagine the rumours that are sweeping the ship at the moment.”
“I doubt you could,” correctly Core as she took another gulp of her drink. Whitechapel gave her a ‘please explain’ look. “The current front runner is that you are having an affair with the captain and your father has found out causing the friction between him and the captain.”
Whitechapel nearly dropped her padd. “Are you serious?”
She raised an eyebrow at Whitechapel. “Aren’t I always?”
Whitechapel shook her head in disbelief. “Where do they come up with these rumours? That’s nearly as bad as the ‘Major Daley is the daughter of a time displaced Captain Masters’ rumour that was going around just before they went official with their relationship.”
Core grinned widely. She remembered that rumour, partly because she had started it as a bit of harmless fun. It was incredible juvenile but Core had always enjoyed stirring the pot. In the end it became one of the more prominent rumours concerning Masters and Daley, mainly due to the fact it was so out there that it could not possibly be true, though people spread it just in case!
“The crew bores easily,” she replied.
“This hasn’t exactly gone fantastically, this mission,” pointed out Whitechapel.
“I can’t disagree with that. I still don’t understand why we aren’t dealing with the Coalition as well.”
“Not sure it is a bad thing. Do we want to have a relationship with a people that go around targeting civilians?” she asked.
“Well, we do have a good relationship with the Bajorans. They blew up more than a few Cardassians who were non-combatants.”
“That’s different; they were fighting to free their world,” countered Whitechapel.
“I’m sure if you ask the Coalition it would say it is doing the same. Plus as I’m sure you’ve read the Coalition has also come under attack by similar bombings. One person’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist.”
“So which do you see the Coalition as?”
Core traced the lip of her mug with a finger as she considered how to answer that question. “I guess that would depend on whether I believe it is ever acceptable to target civilians.”
“I’d say it isn’t, though that is very easy to say when I’ve never had to go through what people like the Bajorans have had to face. Placed in the same situation...I’m not sure if my moral values would remain intact.”
“I’m guessing you have a take on our situation?”
“Obviously the Totality has something we want,” she stated. She had no idea what exactly that was at the moment but the whole mission was too odd for just a meet and greet. She decided to once again go back to a familiar issue to compare it. “Aside from the humanitarian aspect of aiding the Bajorans they also had something we wanted, which was why Starfleet and the Federation was so quick to set up a presence in the system.”
“You mean the strategic location of Bajor in relation to Cardassia Prime.”
“Pretty much. The Federation gets Bajor to join and then it has a very handy base just a few light years from the capital of the Cardassian Union. Of course the discovery of the Bajoran wormhole only heightened that value.”
“So what do you think the value of the Totality is?”
Core shrugged. “The location of Echla is not bad. It’s fairly close to the Tzenkethi, Ferengi and the Breen, though we already have valuable real estate in this area. Inside the nebula might be a good place to set up some covert bases or use as a covert staging ground. The basic mineral surveys we’ve taken on this system are quite promising. Given they are only just breaking the light barrier I highly doubt they would have any technology of value, though they might have medicines or treatments of interest. Whatever it is your father or at least his superiors consider it important enough to warrant exclusive dealings with the Totality.”
“But the captain disagrees and wants a more balanced approach,” said Whitechapel.
“So which do you think is right?”
“How can I make a decision on which is the better option when I don’t know all the facts...which is what the captain is facing.”
“On the other hand he might know all the details and just disagree with the decisions that were made.”
“Quite possible. Jono can be a bit hardheaded. Also it just might be that the ambassador and the captain just don’t get along. Not everyone can be universally liked like I am,” she said with false modestly.
Whitechapel gave her a playful smile. “I’m sure.”
Core glanced to the lounge’s entrance just as Lieutenant Commander Celcho entered. He waved at their table. That was her cue to leave, she had no doubt he would join Whitechapel and she did not want to be a third wheel, at least not at the moment.
“Well, this has been enjoyable, Nikki. I should probably get back to my duties before someone notices I’ve taken a coffee break,” she said with a wink.
“Thank you, Susan.”
“For sitting with me. I appreciate the gesture.”
“It’s why I’m well liked, Nikki. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Core took her mug back to the replicator to recycle it, passing and exchanging greetings with Celcho. As she turned back she saw she had indeed been correct and Celcho was sitting with Whitechapel. They made a cute couple; maybe a rumour would help spur things along. As she left the lounge she considered if universally displaced spouse would be juicy enough to get the rumour mill churning.
* * * *
Ilata did not quite know what to make of the room he found himself in. It was bear and empty save from him and his host. He was in what the crew called a ‘holodeck’. Apparently it was able to recreate any scene and be fully interactive. He did not want to think about how it was at all possible, like most of the devices on the ship it was basically magic to him.
“What is it you wanted to show me?” he asked.
He had been offered an opportunity to change things on his world, to shape the future. It was an intriguing idea but he had been told none of the details on how he would go about doing such a thing. He almost did not bother coming to the meeting but in the end he decided he did not have anything to lose by attending it.
“I could show you a great deal. I could show you the wonders of the universe or its terrors. Almost anything is possible in here. I could even let you spend time with your fiancée.”
Ilata scoffed. “How? Do you have a time machine?”
While the jibe had not meant to be funny it seemed to produce that reaction in his host. “Not today,” he chuckled. “Computer, run program Ilata-one-alpha.”
The area before him wavered and from nothing appeared his fiancée. It appeared to be a perfect reproduction of her and at first he thought it was just a still image but then he noticed her eyes were blinking. His jaw dropped and he took an involuntary step back and found that her eyes followed him.
“What is this?” he said his voice barely above a whisper, his mind racing with possibilities. Their replicators could create food and drink; maybe they were capable of creating an entire being.
“It’s a hologram. A collection of force fields to create a realistic three dimensional image, an image you can touch...and can touch you back.”
Ilata looked at the man with wonder and shock. He slowly reached out and touched the arm of the, what had he called it? The holo-gram. His fingers touched the skin and to his amazement it felt real. It was soft and had warmth to it and he could feel its delicate hair move as he brushed his fingers gingerly up and down its skin.
“Yinchiaz?” he spoke quietly.
“Yes, Groa,” it replied.
Ilata jumped back in fright. It had replied with his name and in her voice. He felt joy seep into his heart and he reached back out and grasped onto her, embracing her. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he sobbed out her name again.
“Is everything alright, Groa?” she asked innocently.
He pulled back and stared into its...into her face. She looked right back at him he ran his hand down her cheek, caressing it and felt her nuzzle into his hand. Her breath glided over his skin, exciting his hair and sending a shiver through him. He smiled widely at her and she returned the smile, a smile that filled his heart with joy.
“It is now, Yinchiaz,” he whispered as he lent forward touching his forehead to hers. He closed his eyes as he absorbed the sensation of close contact with her. Her breath tickled his lips, her scent encased his nostrils. “You look...you smell...you are her.”
“It is a very realistic...illusion,” spoke up his host.
Ilata broke off his embraced and turned to face him. “But she is real! I can touch her, hear her, feel her! She knows who I am.”
“Of course she...it does. It’s a computer program. It knows you because it was programmed with that information. She’s just an amazing fake. What was real about your fiancée is gone and can’t be replaced. Her memories and feelings, what made her the woman you loved, is no more. All you are have here is an empty shell. One that can be made to disappear with a click of a finger.”
Ilata’s fiancée suddenly disappeared from in front of him leaving him grasping air.
“What? Why did you do that?” he asked sounding like a petulant child.
“To illustrate a point. Computer, run Ilata-one-beta.”
In front of Ilata the very fabric of space seemed to warp and suddenly he was looking into an office as if he was part of one of the walls. The door in front of him opened and in walked Yinchiaz. She mumbled and searched through files on a desk. Ilata suddenly realised that this had to be where she worked in the capitol building. There was an alarm and she froze. A voice came over the room’s speakers for personnel to remain in their offices and out of the hallways. She did not look frightened or worried, if anything she looked angry and annoyed. There was a gunshot and then another and finally she looked concerned, moving to the far side of the desk so to place it between her and the door. Suddenly the room rumbled and the wall exploded towards her and fire engulfed everything.
Ilata screamed her name as he watched her immolate. The scene then wavered and it returned back to the view of a pristine and empty room. He was too shocked to speak. He had not been prepared for such a scene, he had been partly absorbed by her presence to even consider what he might see and the sudden destruction of the room and her had almost drained him of will. His legs felt weak and he allowed himself to fall to his knees. He clutched at his chest and felt the thundering of his heart as if it was trying to break its way out of his chest. His stomach churned and he had a momentary belief that he was going to be sick all over the floor.
“Take my hand,” he was told. Ilata reached up and allowed his host to pull him to his feet. He looked around the room and saw that it had changed slightly and Yinchiaz was back behind the desk, her face a mask of concern. He was guided over to stand next to her, close enough to touch but he could not bring himself to do so. “Watch.”
Time again began to move, but far slower then before. He saw a drop of sweat start to run down her brow, no doubt brought on by panic. He watched as she slowly clenched her jaw as if to steel herself against what would come next. The room shook, but he did not feel it. The wall erupted slowly and he saw the brief moment of fear she would have felt magnified into drawn out seconds. She then closed her eyes and mouthed something as the fire swept into her. It melted away her skin, her flesh and then her bones were reduced to ash. All in slow motion and all before him.
The need to vomit quickly returned. “Why?” he said barely above a whisper. “Why did you make me watch this?”
“Did you hear what she said?”
He shook his head. He knew what was coming next and took a long blink so to avoid seeing the love of his life be reassembled from ash. When he opened them they were at the moment just before she died and he watched and listened as she mouthed something. He could not hear it. She did it again and again, slowly getting louder and he finally heard it.
“Groa,” she said. “Groa,” she repeated. “Groa.”
That was her last word. Her last thought was of him. No longer able to contain it he doubled over and threw up on the plush carpet of the office. He continued to retch as that awful noise assaulted his ears. His stomach was empty but he continued as if he could purge the experience from his system. He finally stopped but his throat burned and the powerful taste of bile coated his mouth.
Once he was quiet he heard his name continued to be repeated. “Turn it off,” he asked still doubled over. He glanced up at the morbidly still spectre as she continued to repeat his name. “Please, stop it.”
His host spoke a command and the spectre froze and silence returned to the room. Ilata slowly straightened himself and took a step back from his vomit as the smell wafted up towards his nose.
“You had to see this Groa. To show you that the woman you loved is gone. That all we can do, despite our magnificent technology, is create a copy that can parrot her. A copy that is empty and soulless. One that is a poor substitute for the real thing.” He paused to let the words sink in. “Of course, we can’t know for sure what happened to her in those last moments. Security footage from the building that survived showed that she was last seen entering this office before the attack but once inside it is a mystery. Does it matter if the exact details are wrong? It doesn’t change the fact that she went into that room and she died in that room.”
Anger welled up inside of Ilata. “Why are you showing me all this? What good does it do to show me how she died? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” he yelled. He balled his fists in anger.
“It’s good to be angry. But you shouldn’t be angry at me. You should be angry at him. Computer, run Ilata-two-alpha.” The scene from the capitol building faded away and was replaced by a single Echlan man. “From security footage this is one of the suicide bombers. He planted the device that was closest to Yinchiaz, so he would be the most directly responsible for her death.”
The man looked over to Ilata and a self satisfied smirk came to his face as he said, “Zadic is the way.”
Ilata roared as his most primal urges burned their way through his veins. He charged the man and tackled him to the ground.
“Zadic is the way.”
He growled like an animal and punched the man in the face.
He punched again and again as he mercilessly beat the man. The terrorist did not try to fight back; all he did was smirk up at Ilata and repeat his phrase. Even as his teeth broke and blood filled his mouth he continued. Ilata poured all his grief and anger into his fists and into the face of the man. Blood coated his fingers, it splattered against his clothes and his face. At some point the man lost the ability to talk but he keep beating him until his growls of anger and rage turned to sobs of grief.
“I...can’t...live...without her!” he cried into his blood soaked hands. His body felt weak, his muscles soft. He felt as if he was going to collapse into a ball. His face was wet and sticky from his tears and the thick blood that coated his hands.
A hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly.
“He was an Acolyte of Zadic. A lone extremist.”
“The Acolytes aren’t lone extremists!” he shouted, spittle and blood launched across from him to the prone body under him. “The Coalition funds them, trains them...it created them.”
“You can’t punish that man...the men who took you fiancée from you. You could recreate this man to eternity and kill him an infinite number of times but in the end it wouldn’t change anything. This is just an illusion.” The body disappeared from under him and Ilata looked to his hands, which were clean and the only dampness on them were from his tears. “But there is a way you can balance the ledger.”
“I don’t care about balance!” he yelled as he forced himself to his feet. He rounded on his host and grabbed the front of his shirt. “They took my life from me! My life is meaningless without her!” he yelled at him, their faces centimetres apart. His host did not flinch or look concerned as he shook him. His grip slackened. “How do you balance that?” he asked pathetically.
“You can’t. It’s impossible. What you had in life is gone. In death it can’t be re-experienced because there is nothing beyond this life, no paradise and no waiting loved ones. The only thing that awaits you would be peace and liberty from the pain of an existence without her.”
Ilata took several deep breathes as he tried to regain some composure. “What do you mean?”
His host gently unclasped his hands from his shirt and turned Ilata back around. “Computer, run Ilata-three-alpha.”
The room wavered and another scene appeared before him. Ilata watched as the scene played out. “You want me to do that?” he asked.
His host shook his head. “It isn’t about what I want. It’s about what you want.”
Ilata watched as the scene repeated itself again before him. Deep down he was sure that he should feel some sense of horror or disgust at what he saw, but he felt neither. All he felt was acceptance. “Even if I wanted to I can’t do this, it’s impossible.”
“Not with this.”
Ilata turned and looked at the device that was held before him. He had no idea what it was meant to be. “What is it?”
“It’s your salvation.”
Ilata listened as the device was explained to him and all became clear. Commander Groa Ilata had one last mission to fly.