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A Lukewarm Welcome

Posted on Sat Jul 13th, 2019 @ 11:33am by Captain Charlotte Reynolds V1 & Lieutenant Commander Kenna Wolff & Lieutenant Commander Maralen Seitha & Lieutenant Caroline Isley & Lieutenant Jace Eldridge & Lieutenant JG Natalie Cross & Lieutenant JG Morgan Lindsay V1 & Ensign Colby Pierce & Lieutenant Ian Acainus & Ensign Samaire MacBride
Edited on on Sun Jul 14th, 2019 @ 9:50pm

Mission: Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Source of Distress Call, Uncharted Star System
Timeline: MD 14: Arrival at Source of Distress Call

The starlines were streaking by, but it didn't assuage Captain Reynolds's curiosity. They'd been approaching the source of this distress call for hours and hadn't picked up anything significant on sensors. No ship, no station. Perhaps it was coming from the surface of the planet?

She turned to her science officer, intrigued by the situation they were in, if a bit wary. "So you're telling me that there doesn't appear to be a source for the distress call? Could it be a stray beacon, maybe one transmitting an old signal?"

Maralen sat quietly, listening to the signal for a few minutes after it had been put on the bridge speakers. His head canted off to the side slightly, and his ears twitched. "The signal is... not repeating. That means that it is likely not automated," he commented for the benefit of everyone else. "The words change, not looping as an automated signal's words do." He did not understand the language any better than anyone else, but the matches that came up as the translator cycled through its algorithms changed as did the sounds of the words that it did not translate.

Lieutenant Isley opened her mouth to reply, but Maralen was faster. In a way that saved her. She had been about to reply that she had no idea what the source was. She punched a few more keys on the science station and then noticed as the sensors finally were able to say something.

"It's coming from near the planet, captain," the blonde said. There was a pause. "Possibly in orbit, but definitely not on the surface."

"But we're not detecting anything in orbit," Charlotte replied, mostly to her herself. This wasn't making her feel any less uncomfortable. "Run a deeper scan at the source of the signal. There has to be something there. A beacon, debris, something. And Tactical? Take us to Yellow Alert. I don't like this."

Caroline shook her head, frustration obvious in her expression. "Nothing, captain. I'm sorry. I can't find anything." It doesn't make sense, she thought to herself. Something was emitting that signal.

Natalie leaned back in the chair, looking at the readings on the screen. It was rather odd. She had expected the signal to grow stronger as they approached the source but it had remained the same the whole length of the journey. And even now, it remains unchanged. Natalie looked over her shoulder in the direction of the Captain. "Captain, the signal strength strikes me as odd. It has remained steady our whole journey here." She looked back to the screen in front of her. "It should have gotten stronger as we approached it." She added as she punched a couple of more keys in front of her. The screen zooming out showing the signal over time and displaying a steady line.

Charlotte gave a suspicious look in Natalie's direction. "Good catch, Lieutenant. I think we're dealing with something a bit less benign than it claims to be. Alright everyone, what else can you tell me? I want to know as much as possible before we get there."

Maralen had given Natalie a look that said that was a good catch indeed, but he was still listening to the signal. Both the parts that were being translated by the Universal Translator and those he was hearing that were not being translated. His head tilted to the side slightly, his calm shell slipping just a bit to reveal that he was just a bit perplexed. "Interesting..." he murmured before speaking louder for the captain to hear. "The signal is being routed through the Universal Translator, but the unit seems incapable of translating all of it as though the language itself changes, slipping beyond the translation algorithm's capability then back in." He had never really seen that before, and it fascinated him as much as it disturbed him.

Ian said nothing for the moment, he didn't have enough information to make an informed decision, and the information he did have was conflicting. So, instead, he reached out mentally to see if he could determine anything.

Larson was in engineering, running a diagnostic on the main sensors. Someone on the bridge said they were not operating correctly. Pierce was in the security office, doing reports and filling out the duty roster for Lindholm's approval.

Charlotte felt an uneasy feeling coming over her. A distress signal that seemed to be actively attempting to elude them. There could be benign reasons for that. Perhaps it was a fearful race and the message was intended to be difficult to track for anyone but their own people. Perhaps it was scattered to dissuade pirates. Or perhaps it was a lure...

She turned toward the Strategic Operations Chief. "Commander Wolff, are we seeing any other ships in the area? Pirate activity, other people responding to the distress call, anything. I want to know if someone else is interacting with this signal."

There was a moment's pause then Kenna repIed "There is one ship in range...unsure if they have the ability to receive the signal."

The translator was at it again, spitting out a variety of words and word fragments as it attempted to translate the illusive message. Distress, assistance, help, ship, require. The words weren't unexpected. What was odd though was the fact that the translator was still struggling, unable to lock onto the language. It wasn't unheard of for the translator to be unable to fully decipher a language. But the fact that it was getting matches in different languages was odd. Charlotte racked her brain for an explanation. Could the transmitter be cycling languages?

She was about to speak up when another idea crossed her mind. The universal translator ran through a variety of languages and algorithms to identify a given transmission. This beacon was almost behaving in the same manner. Probing, testing. They weren't unique words coming through. They were matches. So it wasn't trying to translate itself. Could it be attempting to...

The thought completed itself in a moment. She yelled out to her comms officer. "Thyra, shut off the translator!"

Her call had come a moment too late. There was a shrill squealing noise that came from the audio speakers across the bridge, so sharp that it drove the Captain to her knees. And then the bridge went pitch black.

The screech tore through Maralen's head, his sensitive feline hearing picking it up in a way that most of the rest didn't, even though it was obviously too much for them as well. He felt himself start to collapse and caught the edge of the nearest console, gripping it to keep himself standing. His teeth gritted, he attempted to channel the sensation as he had been trained. Pain becomes strength..

It took a moment or two for the emergency lights to come on, bathing the bridge in the low blue hue. The first thing Reynolds noticed was that they were no longer at warp.

Ian, who had fallen to his knees when the high-pitched noise had come through the speakers was still there when the emergency lights came on. He wasn't quite writhing in pain, but his eyes were screwed shut and he was immobile.

Morgan, curiosity having gotten the better of him, came off the lift to the bridge after a momentary blackout in the tube. Looking around, he paused just inside the door, his eyes taking in the members of the bridge crew, assessing.

The first screech had caused Isley to go completely black. She woke up a moment later, with everyone else, slumped over the science console. It took a moment for her to gather herself. Did that . . . come from some thing? she asked herself as she pushed keys.

The soft blue hue of the emergency lights drew Maralen's focus from his internal struggle. The sound had ceased almost as quickly as it had begun, but the aftermath remained. His head throbbed, but he could push through. He'd had worse in his service to the Singers, after all.

His eyes cast over the bridge, his hand still gripping the panel. None looked injured, but he did notice the doctor tending to the diplomatic officer. The rest seemed to be recovering. But the ship He frowned slightly and focused. The vibrations were different. They were no longer at Warp. He looked at Charlotte.

Charlotte uneasily rose back to her feet. Her eyes met her reflection in the view screen...and then spotted something behind her. Swiveling on her feet, she found herself facing what appeared to be a shadow, sticking to the edges of the back wall. But it was a shadow with shape. With form it shouldn't have. Upon realizing it was spotted, it stepped away from the wall and into the light. It's darkness remained. It was vaguely humanoid, but the darkness seemed to emanate from it. It looked about the bridge, sizing up those standing there.

Charlotte looked on uneasily. With the best assurance she could muster, she squared her shoulders and spoke. "I am Captain Charlotte Reynolds. You are aboard my starship, the USS Defiant. Please state your purpose here."

It watched the captain, tilting its head as she spoke. Around her, the computers cycled through numerous screens and settings. It was clearly hooked into them.

When Charlotte looked to the back of the bridge, Maralen's eyes followed hers. As the thing moved, he felt himself go Cold in response to what it reminded him of. It was like looking at Living Darkness incarnate, and it made him think of his last Masters. Thus the shift into the Cold Precision. And that shift led him to look to the quickly-cycling computers. It was accessing them, but how? Was it some kind of Artificial? A Telecyber? Something else entirely unknown? He moved to stand beside Charlotte, the consummate First Officer standing with his captain.

Ian felt a cold tendril of sweat slide down his spine. He wasn't a security officer, that was Elias' role and presence of the shadow was more than a little disconcerting, nonetheless he found himself stepping forward towards the creature unsure of whether it was friendly or hostile, or perhaps just indifferent.

Kenna drew her side arm. "Locking down the computer," she said as she used one hand to attempt to do so, "Permission to remove the intruder, Captain?"

Charlotte stood there for a moment thinking. It was just standing there, assessing them. The look of it was like something out of a nightmare. But she strained against her preconceptions. Could this thing not be hostile? If this was in fact something responsible for the signal then it had lured them and pulled the ship out of warp. That seemed hostile. As she ran through a thousand possibilities in her mind, she noticed something. The form seemed to actually appear more humanoid than when it had first appeared. More defined. It's learning. She heard the words form in her mind before she fully understood what she was thinking.

Before she could attempt to reply to Kenna, a mechanized voice filled the bridge. Screens flickered and altered as it replied. "Permission Denied."

The creature turned aggressively to face Kenna. Charlotte decided now would be a great time to intercede. "Can you understand me?"

The being nodded.

Charlotte wasn't sure if she liked that better or worse. "I'm Captain Charlotte Re-"

"Captain Charlotte Reynolds. Born February 12th 2235. Tempe, Arizona, Earth. Graduating class of 2257: Helm Program. Award for Academic Distinction. Demerit for unauthorized maneuvers in a training vehicle. Allergy to Macrolide based antibiotics. Right handed." The mechanized voice filled the bridge again. It seemed less mechanical than the last time. "I know who you are."

Charlotte felt a shiver run down her spine. She replied as calmly as possible. "What do you want?"

The shadow spoke again, but it no longer came from the computer. It seemed to emanate from the room itself. It was a deep baritone voice that seemed to resonate with the very framework of the bridge. "I have learned much about you and your crew. You are all out here playing god. Deciding the fates of entire worlds. Making decisions that could shape the galaxy. It's easy to see you take yourself very seriously. Boldly going and all that. I've decided that perhaps you need a reminder of what you really are, a reminder of what true power looks like. So I've availed myself of the opportunity to give you a sorely needed lesson in humility."

The form looked at Kenna again. Before the eyes of the entire bridge crew, Lt. Commander Wolff's sidearm seemed to dissolve into a few specks of light, scattering across the room. In fact, all of the weapons on the bridge had disappeared in such a fashion.

Morgan licked his lips as he heard the entity out and said, "I'm not too sure what you meant by playing god. I however am the most likely here to do what you refer to on a regular basis, though it is solidly in the saving lives camp rather than taking them. Doctors have always been accused of playing god. However, I believe it is more about doing our best to use science to help, not hurt."

The creature looked at the doctor. "Ah. The Doctor. Healing wounds and curing disease. Yes, you certainly do fit my description. I can enumerate the reasons you are culpable easily, but your very function enables this behavior. You're the means by which this entire endeavor overcomes its natural boundaries. Would diseases need curing or wounds need healing if you'd stayed where you belonged in the first place?"

Oh for the love all things...Kenna scowled and glanced towards security. he was not doing anything. So she chose to take things into her own hands. She would deal with the incompetence of the Security team after she dealt with the intruder. She stepped out from behind her console and moved towards the being. "You can stand there and comment all you like, but what gives you the right to judge us." She strode towards, putting herself between the captain and being. "You intrude our vessel and judge? You have a lot of gall. You will cease your actions or I will make you."

An unsettling laughter filled the room. "You'll make me, will you?" The creature looked her over once or twice. "I like your spirit. We'll deal with you later." With a casual gesture, the creature swept its arm to the side. Following that movement, Kenna lifted off the ground and floated off to one side. She hung as if restraints held her ams and legs, preventing her movement. "I've head from your doctors. I've heard from soldiers. Any others want to defend your honor?"

Maralen watched and listened to the creature. He tried to sense it, subtlely, as well. Kenna was correct on two counts. Yes, it had invaded the ship. And yes, it was judging. But she had been wrong, too. It had the power here, not them. Challenging it with force was not the most strategically sound move that could have been made.

However, the creature had said something that had caught him. It had said '... if you had stayed where you belonged.' It thought to restrict them to their home system, but surely it had seen, via its search of the computers, that they were not all from the same home system. And it had accused them of playing god, but was it not doing just that now?

Maralen did not move, did not make any motion that could be perceived as hostile. He pushed the Cold from his manner as well, returning to the Calm, channeling all of his initial fear into pure caution, a more useful form of itself, wariness.

"You have searched our computers." he began reasonably. "You know our files, even the history of the member worlds of the Federation, through that. Therefore, there is no point in addressing those points. However, I wish clarification on something you said. You accused us of playing god, deciding the fates of other worlds. How do you, specifically, define that?" He studied the being for a moment, continuing after that pause by means of explaining his question more clearly. "The Federation sees itself as aiding or protecting as desired or needed by its member worlds. Each has signed agreements to become a member world. None have been conquered or forced into this position." You, on the other hand, he thought very privately, buried deeply in his mind, have done just that, forced us into your choices for us... played god, He kept that to himself for now, buried. Now was not the moment to antagonize the being, not until they knew more about its capabilities and possibly its limitations. Every life form had them; he just needed to find out what they were.

"Commander Maralen Seitha. Ledaran," the entities voice announced. "Your Federation's history has plenty of examples. Shall I dwell on the Valakians, the Nibirians, the Selonans, or perhaps one of the countless other worlds your species has decided to make decisions for. If the Federation only concerned itself with its member worlds, then why send vessels like yourselves out into the unknown, to play in the affairs of whatever planet you stumble upon."

Maralen could have corrected the being's use of 'your species' in reference to him versus the Federation, but he let that go for now. That was not nearly the battle of words that needed to be undertaken just now, and he had learned very early in his service to the Realm to choose his battles carefully. So instead he focused on the question and part of the accusation.

"The misconception you seem to be under is understandable." he responded, tone still calm and reasonable. "However, ships like this one are not out here with the purpose of 'playing in the affairs of whatever planet we stumble upon'. Ships like ours are sent to explore, to expand the frontiers of knowledge and understanding. In fact, we only stopped here because of what we had thought was a distress call. Distress calls take priority over any other mission because of the desire of the Federation to aid those in need, not for a desire to 'play in their affairs.'"

His tone had remained reasonable and calm, his manner not shifting even slightly. The fact that the being knew his name and species only meant that it had accessed his Starfleet record, but there was much it would not know about him that came before his Starfleet record, much he had not told Starfleet because they would likely not have understood. So the little knowledge it had of him did not upset him. No, he was in Rep Mode just now, reasonably and rationally 'negotiating' with the life form who currently held the power.

The shadowy being's attitude seemed to shift, its shoulder's slumping. "You really do enjoy droning on, don't you?" It took a step forward, and it almost appeared to take on additional features. As if there was a face just barely obscured by the shadow. "Yes, yes. You are on a mission of peaceful exploration. You only came here to aid someone in need. Blah blah blah." The tone was noticeably sarcastic.

The entity suddenly took on humanoid features. They were vague, as if you couldn't quite get a glimpse of them. Charlotte felt simultaneously like the man's face was at once recognizable and the face of someone she'd never seen before. The entity-turned-man stepped toward Maralen. "You are here because I wanted you here. The fact that I played you like a fiddle is mostly irrelevant, except that you are predictable little beings. 'Moths to the flame', if you will. All of you are. Your Federation and the other petty little beings who make 'claims' to the galaxy. You came to aid something in distress and think that makes you noble. You are simply defying nature. If a predator attempts to eat its prey and you prevent it, the predator may starve. The prey exists to be prey. You have just interrupted to natural order, causing damage you are too small to see. Playing like your own petty gods and making a mess."

Maralen studied the being's new form, unmoving. His expression remained unchanged. Its argument had merit, in principle. There was only one problem. The first part of its most recent response to him was 'You are here because I wanted you here.' This implied premeditation. A lure. Until now, Maralen had been reasoning with the being on the premise that they had accidentally intruded into its domain, that it had misunderstood their intentions. But that one statement alone changed everything. Or was it meant to? Was fthe whole argument a strategy, to learn about their motivations perhaps? To incite a response in them perhaps? He had no way to know what the rules of this game were.

He glanced to Charlotte to gauge her reaction, her feeling on this matter. Simultaneously, he reached out, sensing the being before them as subtly as possible, an attempt to see at least its surface intention. To sense something, anything about it.

"That argument," he continued verbally, hoping to keep it engaged until he got something they could use, "has merit in the basic principle of it. But, as you said, we are outsiders. This means that we cannot know that said predator is part of that place's natural food chain. It might be an outside influence as well, destabilizing a food chain by preying on an animal that another animal needs to survive." Again reasonable. "And in that case, removing the intruding predator or saving the prey animal would restore the natural order of that place."

Though that whole argument chain brought up another question. Was it saying that it was a predator and they had disturbed its meal? Or that it was a predator which had sensed what it believed was another predator and was challenging it to combat for the right to hunt here? Or maybe it was simply questioning their moral code as valid. That would also be a relevant point, that they judge the universe by their own code of ethics. But it was doing so as well, was it not? So this brought him to... nowhere. He was still a blind man searching a dark room for a black cat that didn't exist. But he had to do something, didn't he?

Maralen’s attempts to reach the creatures mind were fruitless for a moment. It was like staring into the vacuum of space. Utter, oppressive silence. Then in a split second, it all changed. The entire room boomed with beings voice. But he hadn’t spoken. It boomed through the speakers, it emanated from the walls. And it crashed like thunder in the mind of every telepath within 3 decks. “Attempt to enter my mind again and I will scatter your ashes across the sector.”

Charlotte had stewed in her mind for a few moments, feeing the emotions boiling up inside her. Her entire training was now braced against her inherent urge to lash back. She’d struggled with saying things she shouldn’t for years. And seeing this being in front of them, using whatever powers it held to restrain Kenna, restrain her ship. It was pushing her to her edge. Taking a deep breathe, she tried to change the subject. But the tactical portion of her mind was still working, pulling apart the entities words. “I think we’ve gotten off wrong here. Obviously, we’ve disturbed you and entered your space. If you release my officer and my vessel, we’ll leave and not trouble you again.”

The man turned to face her, looking amused. “Have you listened to a single word I’ve said? I brought you here! I’m not going to let you simply leave.”

Charlotte was sure she heard it this time. This being had intentionally lured them with the distress call. It didn’t all add up. It was clearly a powerful being, but could something like that manipulate a ship’s systems from lightyears away? And would a being such as this need to enter the ships systems in the first place? She supposed it could be explained away by the being’s appearance. It had a flair for the dramatic. “So you admit freely. But isn’t that exactly what you claim to despise? You’ve gone out of your way to interfere with our path. How can you be sure that you’re not the intruder here? Aren’t you playing god?”

The entity smiled at that comment. “Because that’s the difference between playing god and being one.”

As if on cue, a bright flash outside the ship briefly blocked the stars from view. When it faded, a vast field of gas had replaced it. But the gas was moving, impossibly quickly. Within moments, it was beginning to form into several masses. One much brighter and hotter looking.

Morgan crossed his arms over his chest then and regarded the entity. "You claim to be a god and have determined to bend us to your will. The premise of our Federation is peaceful exploration and negation. We only defend ourselves when we must and prefer to speak. To talk. To get to know others. And now you're showing your might with a light show. How benevolent."

Silence. Deep abiding, eternal silence. And then, suddenly, one voice blazing through his mind. Maralen's Shield of Calm flickered as he grimaced just for a second against the assault. Retreating to his own mind once more, he closed his Walls, and his Shield of Calm reasserted itself.

He was now listening rather than talking. And his strategic mind was parsing all the tiny details the being had revealed to this point. It brought them here, it said. Maybe that was true, and maybe it wasn't. But once they were here, it had played games with the translator. It had then boarded the ship and sifted the computer. If it was indeed as powerful as it said, it would not have needed the ship's computer to threaten them. Something was... off here.

A theory was beginning to form, but he needed more information. Then the being changed the view on the screen. That could be the real view outside the ship, but it could also be an illusion. They were using the cameras outside via the view screen to see that. It was possibly just another manipulation. And even holding Lieutenant Commander Wolff aloft could be nothing more than a trick of force fields. He needed a way to test his theory, but how?

Perhaps if he moved to where Wolff was suspended, he could 'see' what was holding her. If it was a forcefield, touching it would let him know that. If not, he would need a very different theory. Slowly, he moved away from Charlotte -- standing near or far would mean nothing if this creature had the power it said it had; and if it didn't, it still wouldn't matter for different reasons -- he made his silent way across the bridge toward Wolff, letting everyone else engage the being now.

The being nodded. “I understand. You doubt me. Go. Check the bindings holding your Wolff. Check out the viewport. Note that the imaging system is off. You are simply seeing outside. Have someone step outside in an Environmental Suit if you want.” He seemed to concentrate and a star formed ahead. The nearest mass quickly became a planet. With numerous climates and biomes. Teeming with life.

Sure enough, Kenna was hanging without any signs of binding. No forcefields, ropes, invisible allies. She was just hanging in mid air, and looking more annoyed than ever, though she didn’t seem to be talking.

Caroline had watched the entire scene on the bridge with a blank, detached expression on her face. It was hiding her fear. This thing was unlike anything conceivable. Had it called itself a god? She watched it attack Kenna. It had effortless power. How were they going to get out of this? She didn't have a weapon. Or any ideas of how to combat something like this. She looked toward the captain, hoping for some kind of a miraculous solution.

Charlotte couldn't stay silent anymore. "You've searched our computers, so you know that we do not mean you harm. But by your actions, it is obvious the same can't be said about you. But no matter your motivations, I will not allow this ship to become your pawns."

The man looked at her amused. "What makes you think you hold any of the cards here?"

Charlotte started speaking as quickly as possible. "Computer, initiate auto destruct sequence. Authorization co-"

"Oh, shut up," the man said dismissively waving. The computers stopped listening in mid command. "You humanoids are so stubborn. I'm halfway through lecturing you on your insolence, halfway through constructing a planet for you! And there you are acting as if you're going to destroy your own ship to spite me. That'd be a foolish move even if I didn't have control over your entire vessel." The man sighed. "Let's try this another way, shall we? I suppose I'll need a name. Perhaps something you'd recognize, Captain. Maybe Typhon, Illuyanka, Apep, Nidhogg? Take your pick."

Charlotte assessed the man. His name choices were interesting. It was a smattering of different mythologies, but there was a common through line for each and she didn't like it. The man thought himself a god, but not just any good. Each of the ones he named were serpentine creatures, mighty forces of chaos and destruction, many with a penchant for trying to overthrow the established pantheon. It didn't bode well for his motives.

"Let's say, Typhon. It's easier to say," Charlotte replied coldly. The choice was a bit more complex than that. She'd been more interested in the serpent's eventual fate.

'Typhon' snickered. "So be it. Now let's see." He stroked his chin in thought, before turning to face the Ledaran. "Commander, I want you to select 3 of the officers on this bridge."

Maralen studied the being for a moment, trying to determind anything about it. "To what end?" he asked. "It would help to know what I am selecting them for in order to make informed choices." He clarified to avoid the being thinking that he was challenging it. He had seen what challenging it got someone when Wolff had done so and had no desire to end up suspended next to her.

Typhon sighed. “I have half a mind to just blink you away and make someone else choose. But fine. I’ll indulge you. I am going to set up a little challenge for you. And you will choose three of your officers. You don’t get any more information than that.”

Maralen thought through the dossiers, sifting information in an attempt to create a well-rounded team with a varying set of skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, he had been given only three, and he was not taking Charlotte into harm's way. No good Executive Officer would do that, so that left him the rest of the bridge.

Frankly, he hated being at the mercy of this being, but he was accustomed to his life being dictated by things bigger and more powerful than he was. So, ultimately, it was familiar, if hated. He motioned, indicating Pierce, Redgrave and Lindsay. He said nothing as there was no need at this stage.

"Perfect," Typhon said with a suspicious smile spreading across his face. "I'm going to be starting you on a little challenge that will push each of you to some of your unique limits. Once you determine what the challenge is, it should get a little easier. But until then..."

With a snap of his fingers, the bridge suddenly became replaced by numerous fields of color. One was brilliant white, one warm yellow-orange, one deep green, one blue, and a few they weren't facing. The crew also found themselves floating in midair, unable to move.

Typhon spoke up. "So Commander Seitha, you chose your three. This is how its going to work. Ensign Pierce is going to go to my first challenge, along with Commander Wolff and Ensign Lafayette." As the selected 3 floated to the white region, he turned.

"Meanwhile, Doctor Lindsay will be headed to my second, along with Lieutenant Burton, Lieutenant Acainus, and Ensign Sh'shraaqir." That bundle floated over to the yellow-orange.

"And that leaves Master Chief Redgrave, Ensign MacBride, Lieutenant Isley, and of course yourself." The four floated over to the green. "It seems only fair you participate in this process."

Before any could respond, another snap of Typhon's fingers and they were all gone, leaving he and Captain Reynolds standing alone in the bizarre collection of colors.

"What the hell have you done to my crew?" Charlotte demanded, no longer restrained by whatever force had managed to keep her mouth shut. But even as she spoke, the world took shape around them. The green region was quickly materializing into view a lush dense rainforest, pelted by a torrential downpour. The white was a massive frigid mountain top, buffeted by a heavy storm. The yellow gave way to a precarious collection of rocky archways, thousands of feet in the air and scorched by the sun. In the distance an ocean sprawled out before them and numerous other biomes formed. It took a moment before Charlotte realized she was standing on a color herself. It seemed to be silver.

A mere moment later, she felt the ground shifting beneath her forming into floors, walls...pillars.

"You see this isn't just a challenge for your crew, Captain. It is a challenge for you. As your officers are about to come face to face with some of their worst fears imaginable, I am putting you face to face with yours. You will stay here, helpless and forced to watch them go through this."

It was only another moment, before Charlotte found herself standing in a lavishly decorated building. Somewhere between a castle and a temple, her mind said. The rest of the crew were here, all dressed in bizarre formal attire. They all looked as surprised as her. A sizable throne formed in the middle and Typhon, who now seemed bigger than ever walked to sit in it. "I hope you don't mind, but I've borrowed a few elements from your history. Thought the flourish would be fun. Oh by the way, we can't have you looking like that. You need to play the part."

"Play what part exac-" Charlotte spat back, but it didn't take long for her to notice. Her uniform had melted away, giving way to some ostentatious ballgown in her command yellow. Her Starfleet Insignia was clasped to one of the straps. She felt rage building in her, as her hands balled into fists. "Enough of this. I demand you release my crew, now! We're not puppets for your entertainment."

Typhon laughed. "Oh, but you are, my dear. And I'd avoid acting out too much. Could be bad for your crew."


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