Shadows Dancing

Ensign Xavia Brammer's voice interrupted the meeting. "Captain to the bridge. We have made contact, repeat, we have contacted the Windjammer."

Lucara slid off the counter with an uncharacteristic bounce, eyes suddenly glittering as her mind raced, calculating possible scenarios.

"On my way," she replied calmly, and then, "Gentlemen, dismissed. Please take your stations. We shall continue our speculations after we have assessed the present situation."

She made her way to the bridge, not looking back to see if the others were following.

Moira's eyebrows rose in surprise at the message from the bridge. Windjammer found? Lady bless! She said a silent prayer to the Goddess for the Chief's safety and that of the security officer with him. 'Twill be another long day, Imzadi, she said to Emerald.

"Mister Kahallan, ready two security teams, heavy arms and full body armor," Lucara said as the security chief exited the ready room. "Dispatch the first to transporter room one. Equip the second with rebreather equipment and a full range of grenades, including anesthizine gas. You will lead this boarding party, and Lieutenant Drake will accompany you. She is the only one who has seen these discs close at hand. They are to be recovered if possible. Stand by to transport at my signal. Mark and move."

Lucas took up his position to the left of the captain; his fingers were itchy to do something. "Sir, if we can't beam then straight — say, if the hostiles have removed their comm badges, which is likely — we'll probably need to send an away team in after them. I'd like to be on that team, sir."

The response came quickly, clipped and sure, from Kahallan rather than Lucara.

"Mister Lucas, there will be an away mission. Mine." He stood quietly for half a heartbeat. "And if we have to go in using the shuttlecraft, it will be under hostile fire. I'm going to want you piloting."

Lucara nodded toward the battle-thirsty counselor. "Well shall see, Mister Lucas. If Mister Kahallan has his way, you will be right in the thick of things. However, until we assess the situation, I am dispatching no one — in a shuttle, by transport, or otherwise."

A line of doggerel she remembered from a chaplain back from her own days in battle ran through her head. It began "Praise the lord and pass the ammunition."

"Aye, sir." Lucas smiled. He was excited by the prospect of flying a shuttle under fire, but the main excitement was the thought of helping to save their captive colleagues. revenge had nothing to do with it. Honest, guv.

As he waited for his responses, Kahallan tapped his comm badge once again, looking back down at his PADD and scowling. Then there was the quick shift of his eyes to look up and across the bridge and the long curve of the tactical station.

"Lieutenant Del Ross, to the bridge, double time."

Without a pause, Kahallan stalked across the back curve of the bridge, setting his PADD on one side of the tactical boards.

"Excuse me, Commander."

He didn't wait for an answer; in fact, he didn't even wait for his own words. Quickly, with sharp and precise actions, he stabbed out his commands. His work was very determined as he prepped the security board. As his fingers traced the colorful telltales, his even commands echoed their purpose.

Hitachi nodded approval as Kahallan moved the security functions to the other section of the arced console.

"This is Kahallan, chief of security, to all security personnel. No time for introductions. I need security teams four through fifteen at post in five: on the bridge, life support one and two, engineering, battle bridge, computer cores one, two, and three, and the sensor suite. Team three to transporter room two, full lock and load, folks. All tactical personnel, at ship's phaser banks and launch tubes to be issued sidearms."

Without a pause, Kahallan looked up, his gaze quickly snaring Lucara. "You are lucky the Eclipse is a lot bigger than the Hawking, Captain, sir. We still have three watches to draw from."

And then it was back to work.

"Teams one and two, including officers Danalla, Lorgnan, and Jungk, report to shuttle bay one."

Then he paused, his hands, for the moment, unmoving on the boards. He took a look over his shoulder, back toward the turbolift. And then his fingers drummed, swiftly, precisely, a double four-beat, accented by the snap of his thumbs. Once, twice . . .

And then with a whoosh, the doors to the lift split as Lieutenant Maissa Del Ross entered the bridge. The second watch officer had a calm and even demeanor, her sharp eyes were framed by long dark lashes, her black hair braided down her back, and her features harkened back to old Earth and the Spanish Mediterranean. When she stepped through, Kahallan moved back from the boards. Snaring his PADD again, he now set the device to mirror the displays.

"Lieutenant Del Ross . . ." He gave her a quick nod.

The young officer paused, and her answer was just as simple. "Aye, aye, sir."

Another career security officer. Kahallan smiled a small wry grin. As she stepped forward, he continued.

"Del Ross, you are the security liaison once I step off the captain's bridge. You will coordinate onboard security in case they decide to take the battle to us, and you will answer directly to Commander Hitachi. Support him. We are dealing with a highly disciplined group, so do not pull any punches.

"Here, here, and here . . ." Kahallan indicated specific tactical board readouts. "Security status, sensor tie-in, and tactical overview. Team three is posted to transporter room two. They are your rapid response unit."

Now he looked up again, he eyes going to the chief engineer.

"Commander O'Shaughnessy, you can make sure we have sufficient power set aside for site-to-site transport on demand, correct?"

Moira's expression might have been interpreted in many ways — most of her siblings would have said, Is the Pope Catholic? — but all those many ways all amounted to, Duh, obviously. She didn't bother saying it out loud.

Kahallan took a look at the chromometer as the young-looking security officer, recently promoted from the ranks, merely nodded as the new security chief started to leave the bridge.

"The boards are your," stated Kahallan as he stepped away. It was two long strides to the turbolift. At the doors, however, Kahallan stopped and spun on his heel.

"Commander O'Shaughnessy. I need an engineer with a good head on their shoulders and experience in a firefight. Do you know one?

"Lieutenant Drake, Mister Lucas, I believe you are with me.

"Mister Tyler, let's have four shuttles running hot."

Finally, Kahallan spoke to the captain, tapping his PADD as he did so.

"I will be monitoring tactical from here, so if I need to know something, make sure it gets copied to tactical. I will brief and prep in shuttle bay one. Give us a ten-minute warning whether we use the shuttles or go by transporter.

"Good hunting, Captain, sir."

Hitachi turned from his work and met Kahallan's dark gaze. "Take care of yourself, Commander, and good luck."

* * *

Moira watched as the turbolift door closed behind Kahallan, hands on her hips, and a look of exasperation on her face. "I do," she muttered under her breath to the absent security chief. "I'm knowing a whole department of engineers with more experience in a fight than any of them will be needing." Then she sighed and relaxed. Commander Kahallan was apparently just the way he was; he probably didn't even realize his strong resemblance to a cyclone.

She pondered Kahallan's question as she rode the turbolift to Engineering. It wasn't a matter of experience and level-headedness, but rather one of staffing. Who could she spare? By the time she reached Engineering, however, she'd made her decision. Tapping commands into her PADD, she brought up the department's duty roster, then made a detour to the LRS console.

"Jefferson, can ya get someone to watch your stations and come to my office?"

The young man nodded, white teeth flashing against his dark skin.

Moments later, when he stepped into the office, she motioned for him to be seated. "We're after receiving word from the Windjammer. 'Twill seem we have a chance to rescue Chief Mulvihill and our missing security officer. Our new security chief is requesting an engineer for his away team. I'm not ordering ya to go, Patel, but would ya be willing?"

Jefferson did not hesitate. "Most certainly! Chief Mulvihill is held in the utmost of esteem. It is only my duty to assist in his rescue and return him to his rightful place." The young man hesitated a fraction of a second, realizing his statement might not sound quite the way he meant it. "Oh! But that is not to imply we hold you in any less esteem, Commander Moira! What I meant—"

"I know what ya mean, Patel," she assured him with a smile. "This will be Chief Mulvihill's place, and I'm respecting him as much as ya will. Now then, won't we all be glad to have him back?" She referred to her PADD. "Commander Kahallan is thinking to attempt the retrieval of some artifacts from the ship we're following as well as retrieving our people. That will be what your task will be, 'tis my thinking. . . fetching the trinkets. He'll be assembling his team in shuttle bay one."

As the ensign stood and left the office, Moira whispered, "Lady go with ya, lad."

* * *

When she entered the ready room off the battle bridge, Moira noted with satisfaction that it was even smaller than the one off the main bridge. Almost cozy, if such a room could possibly be construed as such.

"Ya wished to see me, Captain?" she asked softly.

Lucara looked up and thought that the engineer looked tired.

"Yes, Commander. Sit down."

Moira sat down gratefully and, despite her obvious exhaustion, gracefully when Lucara invited her to do so. She interlaced her fingers and rested her elbows on the arms of her chair.

Lucara paused, weighing her words, knowing the weight of the authority she must maintain could easily quash the type of officer she was most intent on cultivating.

"Commander, I gave you an order earlier. Can you explain to me why you chose to ignore it?" Her voice was deceptively mild, but her fingers flexed slightly on the desk. It was clear that she wasn't used to having her orders ignored.

Leaning forward slighting, the engineer studied Lucara's face for several seconds before raising an eyebrow and cocking her head to one side.

"Aye, Captain." The very smallest of smiles flittered across her lips and then disappeared, lost again to the exhaustion. "Sure now, and didn't I notice the enemy will have been doing not the least bit of good to the Eclipse? 'Twas my thinking that ya will have been preparing to go down with the ship, so to speak."

Moira shook her head slightly. "I'll not be having a fine ship such as the Eclipse lost to Starfleet if I can help to save her. Begging the Captain's pardon, of course, but I'm thinking Chief engineers will be allowed to stay at their posts to ensure such a thing will not be happening."

The captain sat back in her chair, her fingers steepled in a characteristically Vulcan gesture, and studied the tips of those fingers.

Moira relaxed, leaning back in her own chair and folding her arms under her breasts. "'Twas not as though I'll have been disobeying your order, not quite, Captain. 'Tis just that ya will have entrusted the workings of this ship to me, and so 'twill be my duty to see that the Lady Eclipse will keep on working."

The chief engineer said nothing more, but her eyes — piercing green gems, intent on Lucara's face — fairly screamed, you can argue if you want, but you know I'm right.

Lucara was silent for quite a bit longer than one might have expected in such a situation.

For per part, Moira waited patiently through her captain's silence. She wasn't sure if it was meant to intimidate her, but that sort of thing never seemed to bother her. Because of her psi talent, no silence ever seemed complete to her. Her eyes remained focused on Lucara's face.

At the point at which it seemed that she wasn't going to say anything at all, Lucara spoke again.

"I see. May I remind you, Commander, that when I give an order, I am not asking you what I need, I am telling you want I want."

She let that hang for the barest of moments and then looked up to calmly meet Moira's eyes again.

"So, the next time you decide to ignore an order, Commander, I trust your reasons for doing so will be equally logical."

Moira gave her another fleeting smile and nodded. "Aye, Captain. Ya can count on it."

Gray eyes to green ones, locked intently.

"Good work," Lucara added, very softly.

In the moment when their eyes locked, Moira realized that, in addition to the respect and admiration that was growing for Lucara, she genuinely liked the woman. She wasn't sure if it was the captain's subtle sense of humor or just her own sixth sense putting her at ease. She barely heard Lucara's last comment. Moira was determined not to lose another captain while she was on the Eclipse.

Lucara stirred, restless in the first gesture of impatience and frustration she had permitted anyone to see.

"As soon as we are docked, we need to talk, all of us, about what we are going to do. I am unwilling to relinquish Mister Mulvihill to the pirates, wormhole or not. We need to analyze every scrap of data we have on the wormhole and that ship. This is most . . . irritating." She almost looked as though she would have liked to use much stronger terms to describe the situation.

Moira, too, was less than pleased with the situation. To discover Chief Mulvihill alive, only to see him snatched away again! A nagging bit of impulsivity wanted to find a way to crash through the barrier that the wormhole presented, but her practicality realized that Lucara was right. They had to pore over the data with the proverbial fine-tooth comb. There had to be something there. They needed to rescue the chief. The Celtic blood flowing through her veins wanted retribution. The modern woman quashed down that impulse.

"I suggest you try to get some rest until then," said Lucara, interrupting her thoughts, "and some food."

Moira nodded and stood. "And I might respectfully suggest ya be taking your own advice, Captain."

Captain Lucara nodded wryly. "You may," she conceded. "I shall attempt to preempt the fuss that Mister Hitachi and Mister Kahallan will certainly make if I look anywhere near as drained as I feel physically at the moment.

"It will take an hour or so before docking with the saucer is competed and the crew and civilians have returned to their quarters and stations. We won't be able to to get much else done until that is settled. I suggest that we both take the opportunity to refresh ourselves." She nodded again in Moira's direction. "Dismissed, Commander. Again, well done."

* * *

One by one . . . Kahallan waited, his armed still crossed, still leaning against the cool hull of the Rappahannock. One by one, the security team left. One by one, until Drake, Jefferson, and Lucas finally debarked. Like a shadow, he rested against the little ship for a count of four long heartbeats before finally moving.

"Mister Logon . . ." The chief's voice was cool, calm and quiet. "Commander Hitachi and I will be wanting a full meeting of all security personnel in two hours. Everyone is up. Make sure they know and find us a place big enough so that everyone who wants to talk will get their chance."

"Aye, sir," replied the petty officer. "We'll have two birds ready, and I'll have boarding parties standing by in the pilots' lounge. I'll be rotating the troops through, but I think I can promise you one squad of a dozen security at any given moment with another dozen in the vicinity," reported Logan briskly.

Logon was one of the senior petty officers aboard the Eclipse and was widely known and respected. He had been part of Eclipse's crew for over four years now, and his reputation was that of a stern disciplinarian. Many an enlisted person had complained to the commissioned officers about Logon's tendency to pop people's heads off, but the senior staff quickly learned that he was someone who could get jobs done efficiently. An experienced line officer, he had the uncanny ability to know what any given officer wanted before they asked for it.

The man's quick and sure response was met with just the slightest nod from Kahallan.

"Good. However . . ."

Kahallan let the one word hang for a long moment. Then he added an additional clarification to the petty officer's command.

". . . when things are set, I want you and CPO Danalla to take a break. If we do get a second chance at this, folks, I'll want both of you at your best. Do it, Mister Logon."

Eyes narrowed, Kahallan watched Logon turn on his heel and begin barking his orders. Then he took two clipped steps forward, turning to the flight operations chief.

"Keep the Rappahannock warm and continue prepping the second runabout. Until Mister Mulvihill is returned, I will want both — not one, but both — runabouts on standby and ready to fly in five.

"We will not be caught short-shuttled again, aye?"

The flight chief nodded crisply. "Aye, sir. Understood."

With that, Kahallan turned, precisely and surely, his boots snapping out a sharp staccato rhythm on the shuttle bay deck. As usual, he didn't pause at the door, timing his measured pace to match the opening shush of the sliding panels. Without a word, he continued down the long curving corridor, working his way toward the turbolift.

But then he stopped, meters short of the turbolift.

Kahallan paused not at an intersection, but at a vertical accessway, one of the many narrow chases and ladderways leading around and through the guts of the Eclipse.

It was a long climb.

The vertical chase was right, the polished rungs crowding the accessway, matched by cable runs and power conduits and ventilation grills. the climb set a pattern of exertion; his breathing matching each reach of his arms and the pace of his legs on the rungs. Silent as a wraith, he was more at home here than in the automated comfort of the turbolift.

Each rung was a silent curse for someone taken away, one of the Eclipse's, one of his own.

Each rung was a silent curse for someone killed, one of the Eclipse's, one of his now.

While he'd just stood, just waited, just watched.

Finally, deck one, just outside the bridge.

* * *

"Shall we stand down from red alert, Captain, sir?"

"Yes, Mister Kahallan," said Lucara. "By all means, you may bring the ship down to yellow. I wish to remain in a state of some readiness until we have completed preliminary repairs."

"Aye, aye, Captain, sir!"

Kahallan's first task was simple, succinct, and straightforward: With a single stab of his fingers, the flashing red alarms downshifted to warning yellow. It was followed by an open channel announcement.

"Eclipse, this is the bridge . . . Standing down to yellow alert."

Finally, however, as the last of the level one diagnostics came in, he brought up the sensor logs concerning their dark quarry. This time . . . this time the ship's sensors should have been working, watching the hostile alien as closely as the aliens had been watching the Eclipse. In a second window, Kahallan brought up the visuals of the alien ship's bridge.

He investigated the combat data from a particularly Kahallan point of view: Just what might be the best way of getting inside that ship? Resting his elbows on the console, he folded his fingers together to rest his chin on his thumbs, returning to his study. And he looked over the panel, the computer finished downloading the most recent tactical events. Looking it over, Kahallan could see that the battle played itself out like pieces on a chessboard.

For Lucara, it was a strange sensation seeing the ships' paths fly about the screen as though one was watching it on a news program rather than actually being in the thick of the fight. But then there was a haze that came over the pirate ship just as Eclipse fired her torpedoes. The beautiful parabolic arc reached out like tentacles as they turned in toward the pirate ship; it appeared for a moment that the gleaming Eclipse was about to embrace the pirate ship in her warp death grip.

But it was that haze. Why would it be there?

And then . . . they were gone. The torpedoes missing, the Eclipse's phasers firing into open space where the ship had been but a scant few meters away, striking at nothing but vacuum and the dust of space.

Something prickled at the back of the Vulcan's neck as if she felt some danger close at hand — a phantom that she could not believe in, and yet she felt it stalking them somehow. With a determined pace, it crept along as Eclipse gently glided through the placid oceans of space. It wasn't safe here.

Turning back to her screens, she scrolled through other views of the ship's hull to satisfy herself as to their integrity. In spite of what the sensors might have said, Lucara spent a long time staring at the breached hull in the saucer section; and in spite of their lack of success in recovering Mulvihill, she was satisfied that her decision to have the saucer section hang back in the battle was the correct one.

The captain turned the viewscreens outward again, perusing the vast panorama of space — a black, star-spun void where the wormhole should have been — that stretched to infinity and beyond.

And from somewhere deep inside, a strange sensation arose. Suddenly, she choked on a mouthful of redmint tea, sputtering, wide-eyed. Perhaps it was a residual memory of the death screams of the crewman who had been sucked through the hull breach with the structural integrity field has failed? Perhaps it was Kavanagh's ghost?

Nonsense. Nonsense and illogic and . . .

Meanwhile, Kahallan scrolled back through the battle log, frowning. And then ran it again. He did it once more, to make sure he was reading the information correctly and not just seeing a blur of his own vision. And when he was sure, he didn't look up, he merely spoke in an even, quiet, conversation tone.

"Captain Lucara, I believe we have another anomaly."

Without a pause, his fingers stabbed across the console, flagging the strange distortion in a bright red circle and then copying it to two other shipboard locations.

"Chief O'Shaughnessy, this is Kahallan. I have just sent you a portion of the ship's log from the battle. We have a strange distortion just before photon torpedo impact and the escape of the hostile vessel. This strikes me as odd, but finding out what it means might be more Engineering's and Science's bailiwick.

"Lieutenant Drake, do you copy? The same information should be showing up at your workstation. We need to know if this means—"

Lucara set the cup in the holder with a trembling hand and pressed her forefingers against the bridge of her nose.

"Engineering, how long until repairs are completed?" She tried to control the urgency in her voice and was disappointed with her failure. She rose, needing to be away, to hide what she was feeling . . .


The security chief stopped, interrupted.

"—Kahallan out." His closing, while final, was almost a whisper.

"Gentlemen, I shall be in the ready room. Please notify me as soon as we can be underway with any safety margin. Mister Kahallan, you have the conn." she rose quickly and left the bridge.

He looked up, his attention quickly snared by the hint of a choke, a subtle shake of a hand, and words spoken with an uncharacteristic emphasis.

"Captain Lucara?" His query came out quickly, and just as swiftly changed to an assured response. "Captain Lucara, aye, aye, Captain, sir."

Slaving tactical to the captain's boards, Kahallan took the conn, quickly crossing the bridge in a tight, smooth arc, until he was at the central command station. He made sure, however, that his path took him past Commander Hitachi. Catching the commander's gaze, Kahallan nodded his head in the direction of the ready room. His message was unmistakable.

Follow the captain.

He might have done so himself, but it seemed Kahallan's duty at the moment tied him to the bridge. He settled down into the command chair, slowly leaned back and crossed his arms, considering. Then he tagged his comm badge.

"Do you copy, O'Shaughnessy?"

* * *

What repairs that could be made outside of a space dock were well underway. The Engineering crew was working efficiently, their light and easy banter dispelling tension. Moira stood beside the main status board with Chigara, the two of the discussion strategies for repairing the various compromised systems.

"Engineering, how long until repairs are completed?"

The captain's request wasn't unexpected, and Moira smiled.

"We'll be needing at least seven hours, Captain."

She was about to comment further when she heard her brother's voice in her mind.

Moira, whispered Padraig, his voice quieter than usual, and trembling like a child's . . . urgent and demanding and yet terrified of something. Moira! he hissed in a tone she hadn't heard from him in more than a decade. Father is here with us . . . he whispered. She could sense his furtive glances, as though there was something out there hunting him. Can you feel him? I can.

She stood stock still, surprised. This was the first time since their arrival on the Eclipse that Padraig had initiated contact with her outside the holodecks. But what the heck was he talking about? Father? Here? That was impossible! Their father was on Earth.

Oh, Moira! Moira! RUN! RUN! HE'S COMING!! HE'S RIGHT OVER THERE! screamed Padraig. It was the small child who had so many reasons to fear, not the man who had conquered those fears.

Her hear raced, and her palms were sweating from Padraig's terror.

A voice interrupted her; she wiped her hands on her uniform and gripped the back of a nearby chair.

"Chief O'Shaughnessy, this is Kahallan. I have just sent you a portion of the ship's log from the battle. We have a strange distortion just before photon torpedo impact and the escape of the hostile vessel. This strikes me as odd, but finding out what it means might be more Engineering's and Science's bailiwick."

Moira stabbed a button on the console to acknowledge the security chief's data.

Suddenly, in her mind, Padraig was hit hard across the face in a brutal, swift stroke that sent him to some ethereal floor. Moira's face stung from the blow, and for a moment, she saw through Padraig's eyes . . . their abusive father was towering over him. So big, he always seemed so big. And poor little Padraig . . . for years, he was Sean's favorite target for abuse, despite their older siblings' and mother's attempts to shield him. Sean's broad shoulders, his large hands, and his eyes cried out the rage that had been unleashed.

Another interruption . . . the console indicated another file transfer from the bridge, and Kahallan's voice floated from her comm badge.

"Do you copy, O'Shaughnessy?"

Moira slapped her badge. "Aye, Kahallan, I copy," she said, considerably more terse than her usual calm, cheerful demeanor. She broke the connection abruptly, surprising herself and Chigara, and possibly Kahallan as well.

In her head, the scene of Padraig's terror played out. She suppressed an overwhelming urge to wince as she watched each terrible blow fall on her weeping brother as he cried out, AWAY, MOIRA! AWAY! GET US FAR AWAY!!

For a second, maybe two, Moira was very nearly paralyzed by her fear and Padraig's both. But training took over — Starfleet's training in self-defense, and her grandmother's training in . . . other things. She slammed up her psionic shields, which she usually kept lowered in the non-threatening atmosphere of the Eclipse, and placed herself mentally between her brother and whatever it was that threatened him. She surrounded him with her strength.

She felt a touch on her arm and realized her eyes had been tightly closed. She glanced at the concerned face of her warp engine expert.

"Hey, Chief . . . are you okay?"

Moira took a deep breath and nodded. "I am. Thanks." She even managed a smile. Chigara didn't look entirely convinced, but shrugged and turned back to the console. She noticed her fingers maintained a death-grip on the chair, and consciously released it. Everything in the department looked so routine, so ordinary. But in the realm of the unseen, there was anything but normality.

She made it to her office with no problems. Whatever it was that had terrified Padraig didn't appear to be aggressively hostile . . . at least, not now. She closed the office door behind her and sank slowly into her chair. Elbows on the desk and her face in her hands, she shook from the adrenaline coursing through her body.

Paddy . . . ya be okay now. She felt him crying, as he always had after one of his encounters with father, huddled tightly in a corner of her mind. What was it that terrified Padraig so much that it sent him back to the abused child he'd been so long ago? Moira could feel her anger rising. How dare anyone hurt him like that again! Then she shuddered. What could possibly threaten an ethereal being? She began downloading Kahallan's data to her PADD.

Em, I'm on my way up to your office. I think we have a lot to talk about.

Emerald snapped up, the distressed tone of her Imzadi's mention communication shedding the sleep from her mind.

I'm awake, Mo. What's the matter?

The science chief glanced around, momentarily confused by her surroundings, until she realized she was in her office on the science deck of the Eclipse. There was a small puddle of drool on the PADD in front of her, and as she rubbed her face, she felt the impression of the PADD on her skin. Of all the times to fall asleep, she thought to herself.

The viewscreens in front of her displayed the last anticlimactic moments of the battle with the pirate ship. She shook herself and turned to the replicators. "Computer, double mochaccino, please."

After the tall, foamy drink had appeared, Emerald cradled the warm mug in her hands and wondered what could give Moira's thoughts that cutting edge of fear.

As Moira hurried to Emerald's office, she could feel Padraig's stark fear receding as the ship began moving. Meter by meter, slowly at first and then much more quickly, the Eclipse distanced herself from the wormhole. By the time she walked through the door to the Science department, Moira could sense Padraig's emergence from what was, for lack of a better term, psychic catatonia, although he remained quiet. Moira noticed quite a few people working at several stations as she passed through the room to Emerald's office.

She set her PADD on the desk as she slid into the chair opposite her lover, folding her arms tightly across her chest as through a chill wind blew through the ship. Perhaps it had. Inclining her head in the direction of her PADD, she said, "Kahallan will have a bit of data he'll be liking us to look at."

She looked Emerald in the eyes. "But we've another problem . . ."

As Moira relayed the twins' recent experience, Emerald could sense the residual fear behind Moira's shields.

"'Tisn't Sean that will be out there, Em," Moira said quietly. "But whatever 'tis . . . 'tis as fearful to Padraig as our Fa. sure now, I don't care for yon desperate thing either."

She was paler than Emerald had ever seen her and her voice barely rose above a whisper. She was obviously shaken by the experience.

"Ya didn't sense anything unusual while ya were sleeping, will ya have?" Moira shuddered. "'Tis not so bad when we'll be moving away from the wormhole, but I don't look forward to getting close to that thing again." She rubbed her arms; she felt as though the temperature had suddenly dropped to freezing.

Emerald reached across the desk to take Moira's hand. "No, I don't think I sensed anything. My dreams didn't react, at any rate, but then you know that I have no range. My telepathy is limited to touch," she said as she gave Moira's hand a squeeze. "But I might be able to trace it if I had a link. Did you feel anything, or was it just Padraig? Ghosts tend to relive memories of their mortal life; although, with Paddy, I suppose anything's possible."

She mulled a thought around. "Do you think he'd let me meld with him to see if I can get a line on what triggered the fear?"

Moira considered the request and managed a bit of a smile. "'Tis true. Ya will never know with him.." And then the smile was gone, to be replaced with a look of concern tinged with fear. "'Twas hard to tell what'll be my own reactions at the time, with Paddy's being so powerful." She shook her head.

"I'll have sensed something . . . but 'tis near impossible to tell ya what. Padraig's reaction . . . Well, he'll never have been able to project so strongly before. Whatever 'twas, 'twill have frightened him to the point of terror that he'll not have seen in twenty years or more." She hugged herself tightly again, almost as a gesture of comfort for her brother than anything else. "Aye, he might let ya in . . . but I'm thinking 'twill take some convincing on my part."

Pausing for just a moment, Emerald nodded. "Okay. Just let me know if you want to give it a try," she said before turning to watch the replay of the battle on one monitor while another showed the same sector of space in real-time.

When the Eclipse fired her torpedoes, the wormhole had opened. It seemed to occur when the torpedoes made their turn back toward the pirate ship, which then adjusted its warp coils somewhat and the hole appeared to open completely, then they slipped through it. When they'd made the adjustment, the sensory signals seemed to shimmer for a moment. As the torpedoes passed the closing wormhole, it also shimmered for a moment, as if hesitating, and then closed completely.

"Computer, can you show me a subspace spectrograph of the wormhole, both a current one and one from during the battle. Also, compare the wormhole with those created by the Borg. Note any differences."

"Please restate the question," replied the computer coolly.

Emerald gave the computer a dirty look and sighed. Sometimes she wondered if anyone told the computer system that the Science department had been reactivated when Captain Yeade brought her onboard.

"Computer, examine sensor logs from the recent encounter with the unknown ship and include all sensor logs from then until now.

"Are there any indications of alpha, beta, gamma, theta waves, or any other indication of psionic activity from the region where the wormhole appeared?"

"There is no evidence of organized brain wave activity within the regions indicated," came the quick reply from the computer.

Moira sighed, not at all surprised by the computer's answer. Once more, she reached out across the desk to her friend.

"Ya know I don't care to speak of Sean . . . And I don't think 'twill be wise to let people know about Padraig. But I'm thinking, perhaps, this will be something the captain ought to know about. She's a Vulcan, she is, and having the katra of my brother in my head likely won't be as strange to her as others might find it." Moira rubbed a hand across her eyes and slumped in her chair, emotionally exhausted. "Ah, Em, this will be a time I'll be missing Captain Yeade. I don't know about Lucara, but he'll have understood without having to do so much explaining."

Emerald got up and walked around the desk to stand behind Moira's chair, and started to rub her shoulders. "It would be easier with Captain Yeade, but if Lucara made it to Captain, she didn't do it on logic alone. Not in Starfleet, anyway. She has to have some ability to deal with hu— um, non-Vulcans." emerald had to mentally correct herself. With her relationship with Moira, she was starting to think of herself as being human, even though she had no genetic connection to them.

"Shall we request an interview with Her Majesty?" Emerald's thumb stroked the back of Moira's neck, easing the tension there. "And if you get your brother to talk to me, perhaps we could go to one of the holodecks . . . if he'd be more comfortable there, that is."

Moira hadn't realized how stressed she was until Emerald rubbed the tension from her neck. "Hmm. In the past few days, I'll have come to know Lucara as an excellent officer. But she'll still be a Vulcan, and we're talking about an emotional onslaught." She shook her head. "Perhaps our experience, Paddy's and mine, will just be a coincidence . . ." She paused to consider various options. "Aye, talking to Padraig will be a good idea, if he'll be willing to talk, that is."

Paddy . . . Hey, c'mon, talk to me. Moira felt her twin's presence, as well as a sense of expectation, as though he was trying to decide what to do.

Okay, okay. I think I'm fine. Well, I'm getting there, at least, he finally replied.

Good. Em wants to know if she can link with ya and see where that . . . entity came from. Ya could talk to her in the holodeck if ya'd be more comfortable that way. Moira thought, not for the first time, that it was awkward that Emerald could "hear" Padraig, but he couldn't "hear" anyone but his twin.

He was silent for several long minutes, pondering. Yeah, I guess so, he said eventually. I mean, I don't really want to go through that again, but I think it would be better to find out where it came from . . . so we don't have to get near it again. Moira heard his mental sigh. Sure, let's do it on the holodeck . . . She felt his rising cheerful humor. . . . and you can critique my program.

Moira laughed out loud. "Well, ya hear him. He'll talk to ya and show off his programming skills at the same time." She seemed almost to be speaking to herself now. "If Yera would be available, I'll have mentioned this to her. I'll not feel comfortable talking to Father Lucas about it, that'll be the truth. I don't know how he'll be managing in Starfleet thinking psionic talents will be 'occult,' and I suppose that will be leaving the captain." She looked up at Emerald and smiled. "I guess we can let the captain be deciding how important 'twill be."

"Great! It'll be interesting to see what he looks like or, rather, what he thinks he looks like." Emerald grinned.

"Aye," agreed Moira. "'Twill be most interesting."

© Kelly Naylor