The Other Side
Posted on Sun Mar 24th, 2019 @ 10:59pm by
Mission 1: Unscheduled Madness
The techs were completing tests on the modified shuttle, the USS Igrayne, in the bay and Ozzie stood to the side, replaying the recording of her *final* message. She hadn't updated the thing for a while and wanted to make sure it was current enough to make sense.
"If you're watching this holo, then I'm probably waiting for you on the other side of the great divide, assuming there is another side. I know the book of Altha says all life resonates beyond material substance, but I don't even know what that means. How could I know? The temple faithful keep saying that to deny the greater truth keeps the way closed, but I just don't see how believing or not believing something makes it real or not. I mean, gravity is real, whether or not I have any convictions about it. So if there's a spirit resonating somewhere else and connected to whatever it is that's me, then I figure it will be there whether I believe in it or not, right?" In the recording Ozzie chuckled and looked away from the camera, running the back of her neck before turning back and leaning in too close. "Kind of pointless thinking about it after the fact though. I'm gone, right? Hey, if there's any chance, I'll get you a message from the other side and let you know. If you don't hear from me, I'm probably raising a pint with old friends and shooting dice with Pappi Thorp. Mom, Dad, I love you both, and I love everything you've ever given me. Thanks for raising me. How ever I went out, I hope it was a hell of a ride."
Oddly fitting, if this did turn out to be her last act, Ozzie thought. The miniature image shut off, confirmed storage in the data system in case of her death, and Ozzie sighed. She wasn't the greatest orator ever, but she still felt the goodbye was true enough to her. She thought her mother, the High Priestess Isuri of the temple of Altha, might be pained by her daughter's continued lack of faith. But Ozzie wasn't going to lie to her either. Ozzie rubbed the nape of her neck where the beginning of her tattoos barely peeked out of her hairline. That had been one of the more painful things she'd done as a young adult- getting her skull cap tattoo. At the time she still could recite all the verses and perform all of the temple rituals, but even while she was getting the ink done, she had her doubts. The ink seemed more permanent than her faith.
She took a walk into the back of the shuttle. As she got halfway up the gangplank, Crewman Wyatt met her, looking awkward in addition to just wet behind the ears. "You don't gotta do this, Lieutenant," he said. "We can just crawl out in a year or so on impulse. Is it worth dying just to get out of this sooner?"
"Believe you, me, I had the same thoughts," Ozzie admitted. "But if we stay here, we keep hallucinating, and we've got in over our heads in just a few days as it is. In a year we might devolve into the kind of psychosis best left to the horror genre of Holo novels. There's lives at stake if we stay, so waiting it out isn't really an option, if there's any shot at shaking loose."
"I guess I knew that," Wyatt admitted. "I just was getting used to working with you and I'd hate to--"
"Don't come apart on me." Ozzie stuck out her hand. "Just wish me luck."
"You believe in luck?" Wyatt shook her hand, and avoided hedging bets with goodbyes that the Lieutenant didn't want.
They broke off and Wyatt stepped back. She hit the button and the ramp begin to close. "About as much as I believe in anything."
As she took up the piloting chair and started her flight check, Ozzie saw the bay door was lifting, unveiling the great beyond.
"USS Igrayne to flight control, all systems go. Upgrades are also reading full strength." The hum of the engine was different, another pitch she wasn't used to hearing on a shuttle ride. Even though Ozzie knew the sound was due to the engineering changes to support the massive increase to structural reinforcement fields it was still disconcerting. This eggshell was about to get thrown against a wall.
"Shuttle Igrayne, you are go for launch. Godspeed."
Ozzie engaged the thrusters and throttled a little to slip out of the bay and into space. She put a few kilometers between her and the ship and then banked around to prepare for warp.
"Orion, are sensor feeds updating?" She was looking at the test package science had installed for readings. Ozzie's display was updating, but if the Orion couldn't collect the information needed, there was no point.
"Igrayne, hold." Came the response from bridge Operations. Things got real quiet and Ozzie found herself fidgeting.
"You never were good at waiting." Ozzie heard her father's voice and she turned to see Ernandan Thorp reclining in the copilot's seat, his hands folded behind his head.
"Dad?" Ozzie suspected she was hallucinating, but at the same time, the vision was so convincing. She kept her self from diving in to bear hug her old man. There was nothing she would find more comforting in that moment.
"Tell you what, kid. You got guts."
"Be present in your own breath," her mother chided softly, resting a hand on Ozzie's shoulder from behind. Overcome with another wave of emotion, Ozzie twisted to look at the serene face of the elegantly robed Betazoid priestess. "Time is an illusion. Its passing is a trick of perspective. The spirit is not subject to gravity, space, or time. You can find the locus in you and time will lose it's grip. The falling Ax of time's executioner will evaporate, and all anxiety which is a lie will cease to be in the light of the one moment of all moments. There is only the all-being."
Ozzie's father scoffed. "That kind of language is nothing but feely fuzz. You're alive. You're about to be more alive than you've ever been. You ride that bucking beast into the unknown, and you'll live more in that second than you ever have, come whatever may on the other side."
"The funny thing is, I kinda think you're both saying the same thing."
"Shuttle Igrayne," The comm came back to life, "We have confirmed all sensor package uplinks. Signal is good."
"Roger that, Orion. Setting my heading."
"You are cleared to engage warp drive. See you on the other side, Lieutenant Isuri."
Ozzie looked between her parents and then focused on the control board. The 'Engage Warp Drive' key was flashing softly.
"You guys might want to buckle in." Ozzie told the visage of her parents. She felt her mother kiss her hair and saw the reflection of her in the display's glass. Melel Isuri started a chant in ancient Betazoid, the old words that Ozzie knew were a covering prayer for safe return. For a moment, Ozzie saw her own reflection and her mother's superimposed on one another, and her mother's lips became hers as they said the familiar prayer.
Her life and all the universe seemed to focus like one bright point on the moment infront of her.
"Pull the trigger, Ozzie." Her dad said.
"Engaging Warp Drive." She tightened her harness and hit the command.
The drive kicked in with a tremendous reverberation pattern, taxed as it was with the power for the additional structural system support and Ozzie's ears interpreted all of the sound with a high pitched squeal in her head, causing her to wince reflexively. The flash from stillness to Warp lit the cabin and everything started to quiver as the fabric of space around the ship was folded and created the massive wave chasing the ship to otherwise impossible distances. The drive whined and the ship bucked as if hitting choppy waves in the folded space. The little shuttle creaked and Ozzie grit her teeth at the sound of metal on metal from the bulkheads' stress. Alarms blared and all the lights went out. She was feeling force on her body as the dampening fields were strained to the edge of safe levels. She would have said it was as if she were heavier than a black hole in her innards. Her arm shaking from the turbulent ride, Ozzie could barely extend her fingers to engage secondary systems and redirect a fraction of power to the dampening fields. And then, just as quickly as the ship had leapt into warp, it suddenly came to a stop, skidding to one side and entering a tumble.
Ozzie passed out.
Everything in the cabin was still and silent.
The computer came back online and started reporting loss of cabin pressure with obnoxious alerts and the unsympathetic announcements of the computerized voice. "Hull breach imminent. Emergency force-fields have failed. System power at three percent."
That computer, she was a bad-news-Betty, but Ozzie couldn't move to tell her so. She simply lay limp in the pilot's seat, her hands free floating in the zero gravity of the slowly decompressing cabin.