"He's waking up, Captain," he heard a woman's voice becoming aware of the smell in the air which had a metallic tang to it, not really dry but not that humid, either. He could feel the sheet that was pulled over his body which he could feel through his uniform. The pillow felt firm and its fabric felt dry. There were sounds but he couldn't really identify them or what they indicated. Light filtered past his eyelids, and it was soft light, diffuse, warming. He was on a bed, a firm bed like the pillow.
"Good. Thank you Doctor Cordell," he heard a man say on his right.
He inhaled and opened his eyes, looking to the man on his right who had on a form of Star Fleet uniform and the insignia of a Captain. That hadn't changed, the uniform had. To his left he saw a woman in a blue uniform who had a device in her hand which looked like a tricorder and she held it like one. Her uniform was also different than what he expected. The man looked down and his face, framed by greying black hair smiled, his face weary.
"Hello, Mr. Edrera, I'm Captain Menard," he said, "how do you feel?"
Glancing beyond him and around the room, he shivered.
"I... I'm tired and a bit disoriented... where am I? This isn't the USS Belhaven."
Menard looked at Dr. Cordell and she raised an eyebrow and then looked at Raul.
"That is to be expected, Mr. Edrera. You were attacked... and your body has been...re-patterned based on an old transporter matrix."
Looking at her he felt suddenly very cold.
"W...what?" he said very softly.
Menard leaned forward and reached to pull one of the old Klingon stools over and adjusted it before sitting down.
"You are correct, Mr. Edrera, this isn't the USS Belhaven nor the USS Blade the ship I command. Or commanded, at least. Dr. Cordell is the Chief Medical Officer of the USS New Carrolton, and ranking head of medical staff for the interim. We are on a vessel that was salvaged by a very enterprising Daystrom Industries operative who came to rescue our task force that had gotten into an extreme situation. This ship is unnamed but is owned by Daystrom Industries."
Capt. Menard raised his eyebrows to look around the Klingon sick bay that had been converted to use for some of the wounded of the different ships.
"That operative stopped a ship of unknown origin that was coming to attack this vessel. He had the necessary equipment to stop that ship and, as a side-light, save my life. The ship is now headed towards Starbase 01-04 where our task force survivors will be dropped off and the ship then continue on to its destination."
"And... me? What happened to me? Was I on one of the ships...?" he asked letting his voice trail off.
"No, you weren't," Dr. Cordell said, "you are... or were the man who saved Captain Menard's life and stopped the first vessel by destroying it. You don't remember that, do you?"
He shook his head negatively and shifted up in the bed. Dr. Cordell placed a pillow from the New Carrolton behind his back.
"What is the last thing you remember?" Menard asked.
"I was on the transporter platform and the command to energize had just been given by Captain Rokon of the Norreth. I had been accepted for transfer to Star Fleet. Didn't I...make it?"
"You did, yes. You had decades in Star Fleet and retired as Captain."
He blinked, obviously taken aback.
"Captain? But I'm just a Lieutenant."
Captain Menard closed his eyes and then opened them, trying to keep his feelings from showing through.
"In your life you changed how you were addressed, Mr. Edrera. We've learned a bit about your background and I don't think how you were known, to us, is how you are used to be addressed in this period of your life."
"Huh?" he said softly.
"We know you as Raul Edrera, but that isn't your given name, is it?"
He shook his head.
"No... I'm Sopheth Edrera. Lieutenant junior grade Sopheth Edrera. My host godfamily named me Raul Morgan, but no one calls me that outside of family."
"And, Lieutenant Edrera, how old are you?"
"I'm 28... standard," he looked at Dr. Cordell, "how old was I when... this happened?"
"You were 53 standard, Lieutenant."
"Twenty five..." he sat back shaking, his left hand grabbing the blanket.
"Its a lot to take in," Captain Menard said, "but we couldn't keep you asleep for the entire trip. Your body was forcefully repatterned using an old transporter matrix. I consider that an attack but there are other explanations for it, but for whatever reason, it is a bad shock to your system when not done using a proper transporter system."
Mr. Edrera looked at the Captain, confusion being replaced by something else.
"Not by a transporter? But how?"
"That is a long story, Lieutenant," Dr. Cordell said, "and we don't understand it ourselves all that well. Your system received a major shock as you dropped a few kilos in mass which were...left as cold plasma vapor in your survival suit inhibiting its functions. We've run what tests we can and your body has stabilized and genetically you are the same person, but physiologically you are younger. We adapted Klingon neural stimulators as a sleep inducer system which allowed your body to stabilize. Those were taken off two hours ago."
"More importantly the ship got us out of the system that had been forcibly taken over. Now it is the better part of two weeks until we arrive at the starbase. There is no way we can repattern you as there is no transporter pattern on this ship for you. For anyone," Menard said.
Looking from Dr. Cordell to Capt. Menard, Mr. Edrera looked confused.
"So I'm... what are you saying?"
"Mr. Edrera," Dr. Cordell started, "it is unethical to keep a sentient being asleep in the hope that there might be, somewhere, a more recent transnporter pattern of that person. Especially as privacy and physical storage capacity puts an absolute time limit for how long an old pattern can be kept and that is usually not more than a few hours, at most, and seconds is the usual SOP. It was a medical decision to have you wake up, Mr. Edrera, as only you can make the decisions that need to be made by what happened to you."
Edrera turned a paler shade of blue as he listened.
"I know most space forces, military forces, give some training on such an event, Mr. Edrera," Menard said.
"Yes, we get a couple of days overview of transporter problems and transporter based attacks, artifacts that can be utilized against personnel. Its rare..."
"Very rare," Dr. Cordell said.
"... and the solution is normally to repattern based on your last transport. But that isn't possible if what you're telling me is true."
"Yes, that is what we give for cadets. We can't do that in your case. And we can't make decisions for you once it became clear that nothing standard or even non-standard would work in your case. So here we are."
"Who did this to me?"
Dr. Cordell looked at Capt. Menard who made a sour face.
"Mr. Edrera that is a difficult question to answer. The system our task force was guarding was Organia. When the commander of our task force received multiple distress calls from the Organians he was... hesitant... until the Scout USS Roland reported that there were sub-space readings that were... extremely unusual, and lent credit to the Organians. Their system had been invaded, in-force and the few Organians that had transitioned back to physical form had to flee in their old starships. They were being wiped out and we have a responsibility to respond to calls for help. This was a case of genocide and not to respond was out of the question. What we encountered..."
Menard inhaled slowly and looked at Raul.
"We don't know who they are... but the few Organian ships fleeing were outnumbered at least ten to one. As you know entering any military service requires the agreement to put your life in harms way to protect others and that is what we did. In the end... we lost."
"Didn't they... how did you survive?"
Shrugging, Capt. Menard leaned back his hands clasping his knee.
"In the end, once the engines on our ships had been damaged to the point of being inoperable, they left. They destroyed our ships when they were in the way, but their goal was to just stop anyone fleeing the system. Sub-space had been blanketed so that no information could flow in, even from sensors, and nothing went out that we know about, at least. Their ships... if they are ships and not something... else... are of a type and configuration unknown to us. Some of their weapons we understand, like phasers and plasma beams. Others are, well, how do you explain a 100 gravity shear plane that goes through any shield and makes a molecularly clear shear through anything while twisting it by pulsing back and forth at 100 gravities? I can tell you what it is, what it does, but how it works? No. Anti-neutron particle beams projected through interphase skipping in and out of normal space, that is beyond us. They didn't try to kill us, just left us for dead."
"But who are they?"
"We don't have a name for them, nor do the Organians. When you... Raul Edrera... rescued us... in reviewing records here, by Daystrom Industries, we learned that they are called the 'Swarm' by the one race that has encountered them multiple times and survived. An apt name, all told, as it describes their behavior. If you want to know what they call themselves, then you are out of luck."
Sopheth stared at Captain Menard and then at Dr. Cordell.
"This can't be happening..." he whispered.
"It is a lot to take in, Mr. Edrera," Cordell said and then looked at Menard, "I think he may need some time to rest and adjust to this. What has happened to him is a major shock and he needs time to adjust more than physically."
Captain Menard looked at Dr. Cordell and smiled wanly.
"Yes it is and not just a shock but a crime," he looked back to Edrera and pressed his lips together, tightening his smile. "I didn't mean to give you too much to handle, Mr. Edrera, I'm sorry if it is overwhelming and a shock. This should never happen to anyone."
Sopheth relaxed, sat back and looked around the room.
"I was sent by... Daystrom Industries?"
Menard nodded, "Yes."
"Then where is the rest of the team? Surely there must be a crew to run this ship that came with me, right?"
Captain Menard chuckled.
"Ah, just you and one other."
"Just... two people? It must be a small ship," Edrera said and then shook his head, "but even a small ship needs specialized positions..."
Dr. Cordell closed her tricorder and moved a portable table next to the bed and attached it there, then reached down and placed a water flask and cup on the table surface.
"Actually, that other team member is here, with us," she said.
"Ah... where?" Sopheth asked.
"Let me introduce you... M5 would you like to introduce yourself to Sopheth Edrera?"
"Of course and thank you, Captain Menard. Something like this is far outside my experience," the voice of M5 said into the room.
"You're welcome, M-5. I've had incidents in my career, nothing like this, but experience does help."
"M-5? Who is M-5?" Raul asked.
"M-5 is the system that Daystrom Industries sent with you to examine this vessel and see if it could be salvaged," Dr. Cordell said.
"It also runs the ship," Capt. Menard said, "much to my exasperation I found that I am a rescuee and passenger and that this is not a Star Fleet vessel."
"But... you were attacked? Isn't that an act of war?"
"Yes it is, Mr. Edrera," M-5 said, "but official articles of war have not been drawn up against the Swarm. And Star Fleet in performing its rescue may have inadvertantly inserted itself into a conflict between the Swarm and Organia to prevent genocide of the Organian people."
"That should do it right there," Menard said.
"It would with a normal commerce vessel, yes, Capt. Menard. Daystrom Industries has certification by Federation Trade to deal with warlike hostilities as an autonomous organization. Without full declaration and articles of war from the full Federation Council and Assembly, authority to handle this instance from this ship devolves to Daystrom Industries of which I am a part."
"No, wait a moment, I remember the history of M-5, now!" Sopheth said looking at Dr. Cordell, "But this doesn't sound like that system."
Captain Menard sighed and stood up.
"That system was a horror, Mr. Edrera," he said as he looked from Sopheth to Dr. Cordell, "and this one is nothing like that system. Part sentient computer, part starship, part lawyer, and something you can reason with. No this system is both far better and far worse than that old M-5. This one is competent, capable and friendly. I'll take my leave now, Dr. Cordell, and see what those of us who are old command crew can do in our advisory roles at the various bridges and sensor stations on this ship."
"Of course, Captain," Dr. Cordell smiled as she walked to the foot of Sopheth's bed.
"And you should relax, Mr. Edrera. M-5 is always around to talk to and gives you privacy otherwise. I will come back later in the shift to see how you are doing. Until then, good-bye, Mr. Edrera."
"Thank you Captain," Sopheth said. He could hear Menard talking to M-5 and the system responding as he walked out of hearing range, but he couldn't make out any of the questions or answers.
"I actually recommend getting up, walking around and getting some exercise when you are up for it," Dr. Cordell said, "that will help you to adjust faster than anything. We brought what personal materials you had to the other part of the room. This is just a small security recovery room, not a full sick bay. I'll get back to there and tend to other patients. Call for me if you need me, Lt. Edrera."
"Thank you, Doctor Cordell, I will."
She waved as she left the room, the door silently sliding shut behind her and he looked at the shipping cases and pack that had been left for him.
"This is not what I expected when I stepped onto the transporter platform," he said flatly, "not what I expected, at all."
"I do understand, Mr. Edrera," M-5 said, "If you wish to be left to yourself, I will give you privacy and only answer when called for."
Looking around the room he shook his head.
"Its... M-5, you knew me as I... well... was, I guess? What I became before this happened?"
"Yes, I did. We had time to talk during the weeks before this happened. You were the commander and only crew on this ship, and my duty is to care for all aboard this ship or any ship I am put into as an M-Series system."
Sopheth shifted in the bed and found his boots next to it and put them on. They were his boots from the GDF and had been well worn in and their comfort was a welcome relief from so much that had happened. He looked around the room as he stood up and shifted to get used to the space of it.
"And I was entrusted with... this?"
"Yes you were, Mr. Edrera, with the help of other members of Daystrom Industries and authorized by Enid Daystrom, you had asked to find this ship and bring it back. As you no longer register as a quantum verified member of Daystrom Industries, that job is now left to me."
"You? M-5? You can do... that?"
"It is why the M-Series was designed. Not just as a ship combat system, but as a means for a ship and survivors to self-rescue if they fell below the minimum necessary individuals to run a ship and save their lives. I couldn't do that with you as you were the commander of the mission. Now I am to complete my task, save those who have been rescued, and then continue on to the designated reception point so I can explain that loss."
Sopheth had moved to the items holding the belongings of his prior life and lifted up the one marked as clothing and took it to a side bench and opened it. He pulled out pants, shirts, a jacket and pair of operator's boots and stacked them neatly as he did so. There was a faint smell to the clothes that had been worn and processed with on-board adapted cleaning systems, but they still left a slight aroma behind. It was that smell, his own and yet different for age and body chemistry that spoke to Sopheth more and more deeply than anything he had been told. These were the clothes his older self had worn, perhaps just a few days previously. They were not his current Fleet uniform, nor his GDF uniform, nor his current off-duty clothes, but the clothes of a man who had been through all of those institutions and more. Much, much more.
"Why me?" he asked very softly.
"I don't know, Mr. Edrera," M-5 said in lower tones, "I could speculate but don't have the skills to make sense of all the information and data I have. That will take someone who knows what these things mean better than I do."
Sopheth took up the jacket with the Daystrom Industries insignia and smelled it, inhaling deeply.
"Star Fleet?" he said in barely a whisper.
"They will get the data, of course, unlike those things kept back from me in their data stores, mine are available to show the circumstances involving the rescue. I don't think they will offer any major insights. For that I think the one person who has worked intimately with the M-Series and sensors will be the one to comprehend this. Kathy Lorimar. She has been helping M-Series units understand sensors and their meaning since the first one was installed on the USS Grant to demonstrate it worked. She narrowed down where this ship was based on where everyone else had looked and the actual sensor traces left behind in general surveys. This is something where Star Fleet will concentrate on the threat, not the effects, as that is their duty. And if no one else can make sense of it, there is Enid Daystrom. Between her, her brother Karl, Alexander Jomra, Roger Arrivan, Kathy Lorimar, and Enak Varda there will be an answer, I'm sure."
Putting the jacket bundle down on the bench, Sopheth turned around and sat next to the unpacked clothing.
"And what about me?"
There was a moment of silence.
"Sopheth, if I may address you as that?"
Pressing his lips together he nodded.
"Thank you, Sopheth. Your life is your own, as it always has been. You had planned on being with Star Fleet and did well in that not just on the ship side but on INTEL/CO-INTEL. Your past obligation to the Fleet is now done, and it is up to you if you want to work on the intervening decades of knowledge to catch up and re-apply or do something else with your life. There will be ramifications no matter what you choose to do. There is one part that you will also need to think about, Sopheth."
Looking puzzled Sopheth leaned over to pick up the boots and saw that they were generally self-adjusting, sturdy, and would function well as part of a powered suit or an unpowered one. They were practical boots, of the kind he preferred back on Gishan, with just a few changes in style that pointed to changes in outlook in life.
"What is that?"
"Your co-family lineage. You told me that the Morgans were related to the Daystroms back from the founding of the human colony on Gishan. You are family, if distant co-cousins. All of my records and talks with you indicate that this means something not just to the Daystroms but to your co-joined families from Gishan."
"I hadn't... really? I hadn't thought about it, much, because almost no one talks about that part of the human-side family save to recognize that it exists. They have a hard time dealing with someone both famous and infamous, both. At least that is what Grandmother Morgan told me."
He smiled remembering the sunlight coming through the windows of his human grandparent's kitchen and listening to his grandmother talk as she prepared breakfast for the two clans. Part of why he volunteered for the GDF was to help protect family, clan and planet, as it was no longer just a co-colony but something different and unique blended between Andorian and Human cultures. Just one small world amongst many in the Federation, left to its own devices as Star Fleet couldn't be everywhere, all the time and systems were left to their own internal governance and self-defense. Some systems were so well trafficked that they got Fleet outposts, but Gishan wasn't one of those. The hard-headed, old ways human colony had been kept distant by the Andorian culture until a large scale assault by Orion Pirates forced them together as Andorian cities burned and vaporized, while human defense systems sprang to life in isolated pockets planet-wide. He was a member of those Defense Forces... had wanted to join Star Fleet to continue that work on a larger scale.
"If family means anything to the Daystroms as it does to the Edrera/Morgans... then... a possibility, yes. Still I need to be filled in on the last 25 years... so I can make a good decision. Any chance of getting a sub-space message out?"
"I'm sorry, Sopheth, but the Klingon crew had a three-way mutinous split and the sub-space transmitters for messaging were the first things taken out. I can give you historical records to go over for the next few weeks, but no messages out until we get to the starbase. That has been a sore point with the Federation personnel, so do be aware of it."
"I can understand. Good, that gives me something to do! I think any material available just after my transfer to Star Fleet is where I would like to start. That and get some exercise in. Is there anyplace set aside for exercise in this ship?"
"There are kilometers of hallways, tens of decks of gangways, some places where proper ship decking hadn't been put in, and a generally limited operation turbolift system that some Star Fleet personnel are starting to deal with. The ship is in a general state of disuse save for those your prior self got to operational status. Those saved all our lives. But there is a lot left to do."
Putting the boots down on the bench, Sopheth got to the floor and went through the packages looking for lighter exercise clothing. Only once he found the generally lighterweight clothing did he stop and think.
"Kilometers... this isn't some Bird of Prey, then?"
"No, Mr. Edrera. This is a multi-cluster ship with infrastructure adapted to larger scale and dwarfs anything short of a full starbase. Without turbolifts it is hard not to get a workout while going anywhere on this ship."
"Wow..." he whispered, "just... wow."
"There is much to learn, Sopheth. Take it at your own pace and I'll do what I can to make sure you don't miss anything important."
Sopheth Edrera started changing his clothes so he could start working off the amount of nervous energy he had accumulated and get some of the stiffness out of his back and legs. Then get something to eat. Medical homeostasis equipment had done wonders to keep a body alive when it was unconscious, but it still did not include solid food and he knew he would be famished once he got in a light workout.
"Thank you, M-5. You aren't anything like the old M-5 that we learned about for a few minutes back on Gishan. Now I need to work out. Doctor's orders."
Playing 'catch' with a ball and glove had finally become something of a challenge to Reyard, as his youngest daughter Rachel had progressed past the 'no' stage to learning basic higher functional motor skills as well as expanded linguistic capability. At 3 meters of distance she was now able to actually catch and throw the ball which had progressed past the easily squeezable types to one that, while lightweight, no longer offered safety from missing a catch. She could throw under-handed, side-arm and over-arm, although still shakey on the last she could reliable get it to within an easy jump of Reyard. While he was in no way skilled at these simple throwing capabilities, they still filled him with enjoyment and knew that not all of learning was via the instructional systems or physical research that he and Ushanda required of their older children. In another year Rachel would be getting her first real visit to a library and museum for something other than the astonishment factor of being in buildings centuries old. Of course they had not been built for those things, but they had been adapted to them to serve beyond their ancient business and manufacturing functions. There was something vital and important of actually having to find a physical book or look at the actual physical remains of a long extinct creature to understand it. Automation could do so much, but not everything had been properly put into automated formats and there was no substitute for actually learning how to find something by research and walking around.
Play was a vital element to raising any child and that meant physical time in the semi-chaotic environment that was their family home away from home in Indianapolis. Seasons come and go, the challenges and opportunities of each come in their turn and that, too, was a basic part of planetary life. Rachel loved the now passed winter, splashed in puddles along solid walkways that had mud flow over them and had become adept at finding her way into the production facility a short walk from their home. Reyard had insisted on basic devices to help their children keep track of where they were in their early life, but Ushanda had over-ruled constant monitoring beyond early walking stages. They had some differences of opinion on when a sense of indpendence should become part of life and she had finally carried the day by pointing out that her family hadn't done much of that once a child learned how to walk on their own. There was some illusion to that, of course, but by and large if a child did not approach a hazardous area or one restricted for various reasons, they were left to explore and given limits as to how far, how long and when they were expected back. Rachel was just at that age where she now came and went from their home only after she had done any necessary tasks of upkeep.
Their older two children were with Karl and Eileen's two children exploring one of the old museums devoted to engineering history, and had working examples of ancient artifacts powered by petroleum, coal and even wood, plus a working old blacksmith shop where everything was made by hand. Karl had suggested it after he had visited the place and, as it was a local attraction, Eileen had thought the children and their friends might enjoy a day outing to it. With Ushanda visiting cousin Aktar's family in the Centauri System, L'Tira in Cascadia and Karl at Vesta with Mr. Jomra, that left Reyard to 'hold the fort' for the Executive level of Daystrom Industries. Luckily production was taken care of by Kembe and others in Indianapolis and Reyard mostly spent his time going over finances, arranging transport and worrying over those people who were out for the company in harm's way. For them, at least, the amount of current production had now yielded enough to have a spare SERS packaged up that would just barely go as cargo on one of the SWISS courier vessels. There was much that always had to be done by Reyard, but nothing so critical that it required him to actually be at job site while his youngest wanted to have some play time before he went to the job site. His work required the secure conditions there and the active M-Series systems that allowed for that security.
Besides, playing catch was relaxing, even though he did have to run after most of what was thrown to him. Going after one of those errant tosses he heard his daughter say, "Daddy, you have a message coming!"
She had dashed over to the small basket he had brought which had a small meal and fluid containers, plus their jackets in case the wind picked up. As he picked up the ball he looked back and saw Rachel already at the basket semi-sorting through their two jackets until she had his up in her one hand. There was a soft tone he used to notify him of such messages and he hadn't bothered to relay it to other devices he carried with him. As he walked back putting the ball in the glove and taking it off, he saw that Rachel had already dropped her glove and was now trying to find the comm unit as it obviously wasn't on or in his jacket. It intoned again and she looked around while he got closer and smiled as he saw it flashing next to where she had dropped her glove.
"Try closer to your feet, sounds close to you," he said as she looked at him and then down at the ground and slowly turned until she finally saw part of it sticking out from under her glove. It gave off the tone again and she picked it up.
"Its from M, dad," she said as she had it in her hands and it registered that she was no Reyard Chambliss.
"I hope its nothing important," he said, "here I'll exchange you glove and ball for comm unit," he said holding out the items to his daughter who turned and exchanged his comm unit for them. His presence registered and the message cleared. He gave it a quick scan and looked at his daughter.
"Rachel, I have to get to work, there is a sub-space message incoming for me there," he said as he knelt down to pick up his jacket.
"Awww... that sucks, daddy. Can I come along?" Rachel asked her outdoors outfit modeled on something that Enid had left behind in her clothing design system.
"Afraid you can't, dear, its in the secure area and personal," he said shaking his head as he put the comm unit on his belt.
Rachel nodded, her curly brown hair shifting as she did.
"OK, daddy. Do you wants me to take the basket home and stuff?"
"Yes, I do want you to do that, Rachel, and I'm sorry to cut our time short."
"OK, I can do that! Let you know when I get home!" she said smiling.
He knelt down and hugged her, then kissed her on her cheek.
"You're wonderful for doing that, sweety! You get to the lesson package and keep up with it as best you can, OK?"
She nodded and smiled as he let go.
"I will! Don' worry!"
"OK, then, Rachel. I need to hurry now."
"Good-bye, Rachel, see you later today for dinner. Eileen should be back by then."
"Yay! I can't wait!" she said.
He waved as he turned and saw her getting a liquid flask out to take a drink from it. He slipped his jacket on and picked up his pace. When he knew he was out of sight he started running. He had never had a call from any M-Series unit, at least not outside the work environment. Until now. And this one was marked 'URGENT'. These two things did not bode well to Reyard Chambliss.
"M-3, open remote connection," Reyard said as he got to his the chair in his small office.
"M-3 Tie-in, affirmative. Incoming message, sub-space, from USS Osusha, encrypted, M-5/V, remote."
"Display, overview, ancillary information, connect affirmative."
The small holospace over his desk came to life and the quadrant overview came up to show parts of the spiral arms of the Milky Way that contained both Earth and the position of the USS Osusha, which was a Heavy Cruiser of the Valiant Class of vessels. It was part of a three vessel Task Force that had intercepted a ship that showed up as a light green dot next to their three blue dots. That was between where Mr. Edrera was supposed to have met up with Fleet vessels and a nearby starbase that showed up only as a trapezoidal light blue pip a few light years from the position of the Task Force. He had gone through channels at Star Fleet to find out why there was no message starting two weeks ago and there had only been rigmarole in response. Even Mr. Jomra couldn't get anything via his channels and the entire Fleet was keeping quiet about something. No one knew what that was, however, and Reyard had gotten suspicious enough to start finding out what the cost would be for him to get a SWISS courier operator to find out.
"This is Captain Stovak of the USS Osusha, am I in contact with Mr. Reyard Chambliss of Daystrom Industries?"
"Yes, Captain Stovak, my idents have been forwarded."
There was a pause for a moment.
"Very good, Mr. Chambliss. I've been directed to provide you a direct link to your salvaged ship's main systems. Are you prepared for that link?"
"Yes, I am Captain."
"Very well, starting connection."
There was a brief amount of background noise and then a positive connection tone.
"M-5 tie-in," came the feminine voice through his system, a voice that sounded eerily like that of Enid Daystrom.
"This is Reyard Chambliss, M-5. Why has there been a delay in reporting? Is anything wrong?"
"Yes, Mr. Chambliss, there is something wrong. We had waited for our assigned routing and comms window for Star Fleet, and no ship arrived in one week's time. Mr. Edrera had gone through sensor analysis of that position and determined that a starship had been there and then been called off-station in an emergency mode, leaving no forwarding information at the beacon site. He had determined that this was abnormal activity and decided to find out what had happened. That data pack is being sent to you as part of this message as well as all the events thereafter. Star Fleet also has a full copy of these event records."
This caught Reyard off-guard as he understood field operatives had a wide lee-way in matters that a civilian didn't have, but this was extra-ordinary.
"What happened M-5?"
"The ship emission trace led us to Organia, which has been invaded. The commander of the Fleet Task Force had received distress calls and ordered all ships to rescue survivors. That Task Force came under attack and lost vessels and the remaining were disabled and the crews left to die. Mr. Edrera ordered us to effect rescue and then egress the system. We did that and came under long-range and close in attack. As we gathered the last of the survivors Mr. Edrera utilized the device and damaged one vessel that then moved into sub-space and intersected my vessel's space. Mr. Edrera was re-patterned to his self of 28 years old. I attacked two remaining vessels, destroyed both and left the Organian system after shielding my wake behind a large KBO equivalent object. Six other ships pursued but did not catch me nor effect the rescuees. On our way to Starbase 1-04 we have been intercepted by the patrol group Task Force that has been sent in support of the Fleet Task Force that responded to the Organian distress call. They are effecting personnel transport...."
"Wait a moment, M-5!" Reyard said leaning forward trying to take in all that he was being told. "Are you telling me that Raul Edrera has been... that someone has imposed an transporter pattern on him from when he was 28?"
"Yes, Mr. Chambliss, that is correct. I believe the Swarm was attempting to utilize a general transporter omniwave dissassociation but due to the disruption of their vessel could not do that."
Reyard shivered uncontrollably as he heard that.
"Oh my stars..." he said, "they tried to disrupt him based on a transporter bioscan..."
"I think that is the only explanation left that fits after talking with multiple science, engineering and medical crewmembers that we had rescued from Organia. The Swarm could not properly locate my vessel and utilized a narrow focus disruption sub-space transmission. Their ships would have the opportunity to have such data and utilize it, if they could. Without being close they cannot get a sensor lock on my interior due to the hull and possible Daystrom Industries equipment interference."
Sitting back Reyard hugged his arms around himself. The transporter was very safe, effective and with all safeguards and used properly it had a very low accident rate. That very same technology and capability utilized without such safeguards or utilized as a weapon, however... killing with it was simple. Doing these other things were highly illegal, with stiff punishments including death for the worst of them.
"The Swarm..." he saw the indicator for the datapack and that it had completed. Reyard shook his head.
"M-5, what is your status?"
"I am currently having the intercepting Patrol Group transfer Fleet personnel to their vessels for better care and faster transport to the starbase. Lt. Sopheth Edrera, the being who is the younger instance of Raul Edrera, is still coming to terms with events."
Reyard inhaled deeply.
"I can imagine, that is worse than... to find you've been repatterned forcibly... a horror and shock. There are no recent transporter scans of him available here, that I know. Does the Fleet have any?"
"Uknown, Mr. Chambliss. Mr. Edrera has asked to speak to you."
"We have transmission bandwidth. Put him on."
The man sitting at a desk inside a Klingon battleship was obviously a younger version of Raul Edrera, dressed in clothing that was somewhat loose fitting to him that his later self had brought with him.
"Hello, Mr. Edrera, I am Reyard Chambliss, Director of Personnel Operations for the Defense Unit of Daystrom Industries. I send you my regards and my shock, this is not what I ever expected and this is something no one should have done to them."
"This wasn't what I was expecting when I decided to transfer to Star Fleet!" Sopheth said with a sad smile and shook his head, "Now I... this is a shock, Mr. Chambliss."
"Reyard, please, Mr. Edrera. What decisions you wish to make are your own. What I can do as I'm the one left in charge for the time being, is that I will ensure that all our contracts with you are honored and that based on your history and background that you came to us with, that if you wish to take up your life with us, we will be honored to have you with us. I will personally make sure that everything that can be done to ensure that there has been no tampering to your mental or physical self has been done, as that is the very least I and this company can do for you. When any we send into harms way are harmed, we will do all that is possible to make things right or to otherwise give you the fullest capacity we can if any permanent damage has been suffered. You have suffered the worst kind of permanent damage for all that it has not harmed you it has harmed who you were to put you in this place. Any who work here understand that there is horror that can be visited upon us and we do not flinch from it."
Sopheth looked at the older man with the somewhat drawn and angular face who was looking intently at him with compassion.
"Even as... I am?"
"Mr. Edrera you are only a couple of decades out of step with where technology has gone and have a background in the Gishan Defense Forces and are an able individual in engineering and sensor work, as well as cargo inspection and certification with small arms ratings. Daystrom Industries has a need of people with those skills and the demonstrated ability to learn on the job and perform well and excel when given hard tasks. If your future was wiped from you, Mr. Edrera, what you are capable of has not been lost. We need individuals who can do many things from identify useful cargo to help in the installation of M-Series systems on starships to working with small arms as part of a team or on your own for your own defense. It is why you passed muster with Eileen Daystrom, my wife Ushanda Daystrom-Chambliss, Karl Daystrom and others, including the President and CEO Enid Daystrom who sent you out to find the ship you are on. You were a good man and that means you are a good man, Mr. Edrera. And as the man to provide you with support and given the authority to do so, I will welcome you back home after this successful mission and then help you straighten out your life and start in on whatever your new career is inside or outside of Daystrom Industries."
Sopheth Edrera blinked as he looked at Reyard, as he had never heard anyone talk about him like that nor give him such a wide-ranging acceptance before. Not even his mother. Not even his grandmother, either of them, not like this.
"But I'm not... who you sent out... I'm young and..."
"You are a good man then and now, Mr. Edrera. That is what matters. You can't get old experience, but you can gain new ones. If one future has been stolen, do not let that stop you from making a good new one."
"I've talked with a lot of people here... even M-5... I know that Star Fleet would take me in, put me through the Academy, though, to get me up to speed on current Fleet operations..."
"If I may, Mr. Edrera, Star Fleet will have to change greatly over the next five years. By the time you do your hopefully abbreviated course work, get you first mission suite, you will find that within that timeframe a lot is going to change. Not because of the Fleet, but because of Richard Daystrom and Enid Daystrom. Your choice is not if you want to help defend the Federation, but how you want to do that. Star Fleet has a fine career path to it and offers that in one venue. We offer that in another and, happily, get to be the driving force behind the change in the Fleet."
"You mean that, don't you? No one here has been able to tell me much of anything about what you do... even M-5 is... it says that as I'm not a properly identified employee, that I can't be told much."
"Yes, Mr. Chambliss."
"I assume that all the major medical scans show a clean bill of health for Mr. Edrera, and that all other scientific work shows no major physical or psychological intrusions as best as can be given?"
"Yes, Mr. Chambliss, that is correct."
"Good! Then you have the NDA and necessary background material plus the few presentations we've made so far there with you, correct?"
"Yes, that is correct. It is part of a data package organized by Karl and Ushanda Daystrom."
"I helped compile it, so it is good. That is a remote encrypted NDA agreement, Mr. Edrera, and if you sign on to the agreement, we will get a basic scan of you and then the information will be released in a secure setting. You do have a secure room on a Klingon vessel, correct M-5?"
"There are many on this ship, yes Mr. Chambliss."
"Excellent! Mr. Edrera if you want to understand which way the future is going, you need but sign on to the Non-Disclosure Agreement, and then the presentations will be given to you and M-5 can start answering your questions. That may take longer than this rendezvous, however. So as the ship you are on is headed to the Constantin Yards in Alpha-Centauri, may I suggest that you take the next month or two talking with M-5 and I believe that there is at least one or two waystations between where you are at and Constantin where you can talk further with any available personnel here. Really, you should not be in the dark about this, Mr. Edrera, there is no excuse for that."
Sopheth was following the talk between M-5 and Reyard as well as listening to what he was being told. He hadn't liked the stonewall that both Star Fleet and M-5 had put up around various subjects and if living alone on a ship for a couple of months with a sentient computer system was the price to pay for getting out of that darkness...
"Thank you, Reyard. I'm Sopheth, by the way. I would like to do that."
Reyard nodded, "Excellent and I don't think you will be disappointed, Sopheth. Now there is only one last part. We have a listing of all living relatives that you left us to be notified in case anything has happened to you, plus other close friends from that former life. I do have to contact them, but if you wish to send along a message or let me excerpt from this one, I can do so."
Sopheth pressed his lips together.
"I... for my family, I'm OK just, bewildered, and having to get on with life. Please contact me if you can. For those friends I made past my current age... I... can you just notify them that I've been repatterned and that I don't know them any more?"
"Unfortunately a few of those are co-workers to you. I will help them to understand that their past experiences with you are... their's alone now. That you are without them. They will understand, I expect, Sopheth, and they may take this harder than you are as this is a true loss to them as well as a loss of friends you never knew."
"There is no way to explain it, really, Reyard. At times I'm just so... lost."
"Go through with the NDA and talk with M-5 more about things, Sopheth. You will learn a lot more and do understand that everyone here has gone through that material as well. What had only been presentation material is now... believe me, Sopheth, you have just made horror we had heard about something real and no longer an academic exercise. I am in sorrow that we lost who you were, but ready to welcome back who you are as you will understand most personally just what it is we face in the future."
"I do have to do that, just to... understand for myself. Thank you, Reyard."
"No, Sopheth, thank you for trusting us. We allowed you to go into harms way, we can do nothing other than stand by you now. M-5?"
"Yes, Mr. Chambliss?"
"Is Star Fleet trying to give you any troubles?"
"I... Capt. Menard has discussed with me the finer points of space law, Fleet operations and the fact that Star Fleet cannot order me to do things without a full declaration of war and required mobilization that must go through proper channels. He has been communicating with Star Fleet Command once we have gotten within comms range of the Patrol Group. I do not believe that he is getting all that far with them."
Reyard grunted and then chuckled.
"Yes, since they then have to go through the Council and Trade... ahh, yes... I don't believe there will be anything that the Fleet can do until there are some more legalities gone through. Thus, M-5, you are to make best possible speed once your rescue ops are complete, to head towards Constantin Shipyards and do get within comms range of the two waystations that are close to your path so that you can get updates. You are a member of Daystrom Industries and the Federation has drafted no war articles nor has it mobilized the Fleet to my knowledge. If the Swarm are, as you have said, taking over Organia, then it must be remembered that Organia is not part of the Federation and we are under no obligation to defend it. Sad but true. Come home, M-5, and we'll see if we can't get a proper crew for you and see what Sopheth wants to do with is new life."
"So ordered, Mr. Chambliss. The Fleet will not like that I've sent you so much information."
Reyard shook his head, "They never do and it doesn't matter. Let Captain Stovak know I'm disconnecting and thank him for the transmission bridge. Best possible speed, M-5."
"Aye-aye, best possible speed to Contantin with designated waypoint message windows. Expected transit time 18 weeks."
Reyard whistled and inhaled.
"Sorry that it will take so long. If anyone needs a lift to Alpha-Centauri from your rescue ops, let them know the ride is for free."
"Acknowledged, Mr. Chambliss, and thank you. I think that a few people will take advantage of that, Fleet allowing."
"No dawdling. That is it. Chambliss, out."
Transmission Ended showed up in the holospace over the desk.
"M-3, do you have that datapack?"
"Yes, Mr. Chambliss."
"Good, let the other Executive Level Officers know that it is here. I need to go through it and see just what did happen to Raul... now Sopheth Edrera. That the Swarm is attacking such a people is unexpected. That they have succeeded... horror. Pure horror."