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An awayteam find themselves stranded in an ancient and abandoned desert city, where they quickly find they are not alone.
95% ish of this episode had been written in a notebook all the way back in June, which I spent early to mid July typing up. It would've been finished then but I started suffering really severe pains in my right hand, which I think is repetitive strain. I tried to rest it and use my left, but soon both hands were aching at the slightest use. It's been over a month and I'm still suffering, but fortunately it's usually localised to where it all started; my right thumb.
I didn't have much left to do, so I spent a night finishing this (and re-writing half a scene I've lost, somehow), hoping that this problem isn't permanent. Hopefully this is being read by someone, then I did make it. Anyways I'm pretty proud of what I did with this one, so I hope you enjoy it.
19th - 25th June 2019
dates July 2019
31st August 2019
Unknown dates early 2001
Many millennia ago, the planet of Thairo lay on the brink of destruction. A dark soul, camouflaged by his kind and gentle facade, charmed his way up through the ranks, into the elite and finally the royal family. What they were yet to discover was his unique and terrifying power, what they later called magicks, had made him untouchable to anyone who noticed his lust for power.
Taken by him, the King's consort, as well as his daughter, lavished upon him all the privileges of their station. Still he wanted more. His ire turned to the king himself, who had come to consider him a loyal friend. That fateful night the king was drawn to his chambers by his faithful wife, only to be slain where he stood. She took her own life before the guards arrived.
With the princess still in his thrall, the dark soul destroyed anyone or anything he desired, until one day the people banded together to capture them. Their punishment, a swift execution.
Little did the people know, the dark soul expected, no, hoped for his capture and death. For he and the princess had jointly cast a spell that would preserve their essence once their souls had moved on to the next. A missing piece left behind.
They say that one day a stranger who shares that fractured piece of his soul will return, and he will be made whole again. On that day our world will be no more.
Kathryn stared, unblinking toward the man on the viewscreen. Many of the bridge crew braced themselves for the inevitable.
"Why didn't you tell us all this when we first arrived? You morons have pretty much screwed yourselves over," Kathryn sniped finally.
Speechless, the man on the screen opted to pressing on a visible control on his computer. Then he was gone, replaced by a close up view of multiple vessels facing them, one of them turned around to leave.
"Hmph, that was rude," Kathryn said flippantly. Chakotay smirked discreetly behind her. "So, did anyone make any sense of that gobbleygook?" No one responded with anything more than a few shaken heads.
Two Days Earlier
The inside of the Delta Flyer seemed to be a little tense despite Morgan's attempts to distract everyone. Her flying the shuttle in somersaults an hour previously still had Craig biting his nails and nervously looking around. She settled on putting her feet up on the console and cracking open a bottle of pop, ready to give up when James passed her to sit at the helm.
"Any sign of this thing Janeway was after?" he asked in a disinterested tone.
"Nope," Morgan replied.
James glanced back over his shoulder at her, "any idea what this thing even was?"
Morgan pulled a face. "Of course. There's this planet with rings that contain giga tonnes of energy... stuff."
She got a blank stare back. "Is this another coffee field trip?"
Jessie scoffed from the far back of the room. "What else? She never trusts us with anything else." James and Morgan looked in her direction while she shook her head, opting to ignore them.
"What did you do?" Morgan accusingly whispered to James.
"Me?" he mimed back.
Morgan rolled her eyes. "It's not coffee. Mum would've told us and or acted sketchy. She's never been that secretive, right Craig?"
Craig barely made a sound over his chattering teeth.
"Fine," James sounded unconvinced. "The only planet with rings is an hour behind us. And the one we seem to be flying closely by with a welcoming party coming our way, doesn't."
Morgan jolted upright, her feet dropped to the ground. Jessie overheard and ran over to take the parallel station to her.
"It should've been on auto pilot. I'm sure I put it back on," Morgan mumbled. Craig made a pained and hesitant squeak.
"Lets turn us around and send them an apology message," James said, turning the directional lever slightly to the left. The shuttle rocked at the same time a flash of light flew by the window. The lever went to the right during a few more flashes. "Warning shots, almost flew into the first one." He heard a clatter and a splash behind him, followed by some grumbles. "What now?"
Morgan crouched down to blindly pat around for her fallen bottle, a look of thunder on her face. "How dare they, they'll pay!"
"They're hailing us," Jessie said while hurriedly working.
"Alien vessel, you are in Maji territory. You have trespassed in a restricted zone. Disengage immediately."
James looked over at Morgan again, catching her dabbing the wet console with her sleeve. "Restricted zone? Nice of your mum to send you here."
"Wha... she never said that. Only check the ringed planet Morgan sweetie, it's super urgent," Morgan said, pulling a face.
"Yes urgent. Mummy's overdue her million cappuccinos," Jessie groaned.
"So you admit that you have ill intentions. State them or we will open fire."
James grit his teeth for a moment. "Nothing, this was a mistake. We're leaving."
"Lower your shields and prepare for inspection."
Morgan reached over to Jessie's console to cut off the comms. "No way, hose ray," she muttered, cueing three confused frowns pointed at her. The shuttle rocked a few more times, bringing a scowl back to her face. "Ooh, you asked for it."
"Morgan, now isn't the time to avenge your Cherry Coke," Jessie said.
James pushed one of the levers down, the Flyer swerved almost vertically down underneath some of the alien ships trying to surround them, then back upwards, skimming the very edge of the nearby planet's atmosphere. Several of the ships started firing as it sloped back to the left to get out of orbit. One of the alien ships sharply turned to fire phasers at the same time red pulses shot out from the nearby moon.
The shields couldn't take much more, a few strikes snuck through them to strike the engines. Light quickly faded, smoke billowed. The shuttle floated instead of flew, one more hit rocked them further into atmosphere. Gravity soon grabbed a tight hold.
Morgan eyed the window and the closing in planet. "Shoot, try extending the wing flaps."
"The what?" James stuttered.
"Tom said it was a new feature that I was not allowed to try or he'd tell my mum I had a wild party in here," Morgan said bitterly.
Despite the situation James struggled not to laugh. "Ok so, one of the do not push buttons, easy."
He looked over the side panel which happened to have a little framed photo of Tom scowling and pointing at whoever was looking at it. Several buttons were disguised underneath a fake plastic panel.
After a few button presses, the Flyer's wings extended at the back, slowing their descent down somewhat. The Flyer's nose glowed from the heat as it attempted to pull up. The efforts were in vain as several more torpedo shots struck, pushing the shuttle onto its side. It span the rest of the way through the clouds, towards the ground.
When Craig awoke with a splitting headache he found that he'd landed on ceiling, right side first. He tried to look around, very little light seemed to be getting through the windows. The first sign of movement he crawled over to them. He was more than a little relieved to find it was Morgan.
"Where the hell are we?" she asked in a groggy voice.
Craig squinted towards the darkened window. Morgan followed his gaze. They both realised almost at the same time the darker patch had been where James was unfortunate to land when the shuttle flipped upside down.
"Oh yeah, we're..." Craig mumbled, pointing up at what used to be the floor and the consoles.
Morgan stumbled over to James to give him a shake, then a few more when he didn't respond. "Wake up you lazy so and so."
James eventually woke up, he stared at her with puzzled narrowed eyes. "What are you doing?"
Morgan stopped shaking him, and she walked away. "Somebody had to wake you up," she replied as she walked over to Jessie. She knelt down to check on her, then give her arm a shake as well.
"Morgan, quit it," Jessie moaned.
"Is it me or is it getting hotter in here?" Craig timidly asked.
James could feel the heat building at where he touched the ground. He looked down at the cracked and chipped glass beneath him. Carefully he stood up. All he could see seemed to be dirt or sand which had started to leak through the cracks.
Seeing that, Morgan rushed down to the lower level to push the exit open, only to be immediately dazzled by a huge, blazing star in the sky. She rushed outside to pick the door back up and close it up again, retreating back from the searing heat to the stuffy shuttle.
Craig had followed her. Without the sudden light in his eyes he was the first to see the stretch of desert all around them. "Oh boy," was all he could mumble.
Meanwhile at the top, front part of the shuttle, Jessie tried to stand up but a sharp pain took over her left foot.
"What's wrong?" James asked.
"I think I've twisted my ankle," Jessie replied. She shook her head when James approached. With some grumbling James held onto one of her arms as she wobbled to at least one of her feet. Once up she quickly sat on a nearby side turned chair. "I'm fine. I'll be fine here."
"Okay, but we should see if we have any water or rations first," James said, about to go down to the other room as well.
Craig hurriedly came up, blocking his way. "This desert is all we have, and it's a bottle out there," he stammered, waving a bottle in his face.
James took it from him, staring dubiously at him. He barely loosened the lid when he got a whiff of the definitely not water. "Great, a desert? We can't stay in here, but we can't go out either."
"Not true. Morgan spotted a mountain and she thinks some stone structures," Craig sounded sheepish. "Then she took off."
"What?" James stammered. "Did you see it?" Craig shook his head. "Go get her back, there's a chance she might have been seeing things." He shoved the only tricorder he had into Craig's hands.
"Hang on. There's no power in here, no protection. We're not much better off in here anyway," Jessie said.
"Yeah it'd be like camping in Neelix's oven, only cleaner," Craig said.
"She's right," James sighed. He looked at Craig a little irritably, "really?"
Craig's eyes bugged out, "oh!" He ran back out.
Jessie shook her head, "charming as always."
James walked back over to her, offering a hand. Instead she stubbornly used the nearby console for support.
"We should stick together at least," he said.
"We, or all of us?" Jessie wondered, pointing at the vacant door. Even doing that caused her to wobble, almost losing her balance. With an annoyed groan she accepted his help. "Fine, fine. I'd rather you than Craig."
Fortunately for the group Morgan wasn't seeing things. After hours of stumbling through sand, cursing, removing layers of clothes, vowing to kill Kathryn later, they reached the stone structures she and Craig mentioned. An ancient town sitting at the base of some hills with no sign of any kind of life.
"This doesn't look good," James wheezed.
Morgan brushed him off to sit behind the first large stone she saw to get some shade. Craig didn't care much either, he was tempted to crawl the rest of the way. Though with sand all over, stuck to him he might has well have done.
"Is there anyone even here?" Jessie asked while James helped her sit down beside Morgan.
He looked to Craig, expecting the tricorder to still be in his hands. Only he seemed to be partially lying on it, so James nudged him to one side so he could pick it up. The exposed portion of it felt so hot to the touch, he held onto the part Craig had lay on. A short scan later he sighed, "no other lifesigns, but why?"
"We need to find some water or we'll die here too," Jessie said.
Craig's moans muffled in the sand, "that's why." The others barely made him out.
Morgan groaned impatiently in his direction. "Ok, I can take a hint." She got up to everyone's bafflement. "One of you come with me."
James glanced at the still lump that was Craig, he waited for any sign of life before turning back. "We can scan for it." Typically then he noticed the screen had froze, the entire device had heated up so much it was starting to burn his palm.
By the time he got it to respond, Craig dragged himself into a sitting position after a few attempts to find a spot that wasn't burning his butt, while Morgan stared curiously around, apparently not bothered by the excessive heat and humidity. "There's a well spring system underground, as well as a maze of tunnels."
Morgan brightened up, "ooh, sounds like fun. Which one of you losers are coming with? Old man or sad boy?"
"Hey," Craig barely whined, he had little strength left.
"What? Jessie can't walk, genius," Morgan mocked him.
Craig weakly glanced towards James with a tired frown. "Why don't we decide this like adults."
"So, Rock Paper Scissors?" James said.
Craig stared as if he'd said something obvious like up is up. "Ready?" They both counted to three, then drew. Craig moaned at his balled up fist and James' straight palm. "Best two out of three?"
"Oh for," James groaned, not only for his response but Morgan leaving without anyone. He ran after her.
The heat underneath Craig had him shuffling across to where Jessie sat, with the biggest pout on his face. She stared at him back as if he'd sat on a puppy.
"So er, should we be worried?" he asked.
"You should," Jessie snarled.
He found out the hard way that he'd actually sat on her good foot.
Morgan excitedly ran around every corner and room they came across, eyes wider than usual. James wondered if she'd snuck that bottle Craig found. Her next target seemed to be the only room with a door. It looked heavy and had been bolted up in chains attached to the wall.
"I doubt that's the well," James said, warily staring at it. Something about it had given him goosebumps.
"It's nice down here. Maybe we should tell Craig and Jess," Morgan giggled.
James chose a random direction to look and it didn't disappoint; a grimy corner where a number of furless rat like creatures gnawing on a long dry bone, bugs scampering about. "Yes, nice."
A massive bang brought his attention back to the door, which no longer stood and instead lay flat on the floor with Morgan walking over the top of it.
"Morgan, what's the matter with you? There's nothing here you'd like or need," he complained.
They both spotted the only item in the surprisingly cool and dry room, a huge stone box as tall as they were with a lid three foot thick. Alien text on its side got his attention, but Morgan stared towards the lid.
"Oh that looks..." she said eagerly. Quick as a flash she wasn't, she shuddered in revulsion. "Eeew, why?" She went further into the room anyway.
"Did Craig offer you any 'water' during our trip here?" James asked before following. "Come on, we need to find some. Jess and Craig need it."
"Water, oh yeah," Morgan said, finally with a focused look in her eye. Instead of leaving though she pushed at the heavy lid, leaving it very slightly open. Clouds of dust billowed out. James pulled her away before she got a face full of it. She snatched her arm away, only to swing it back at him. James ducked back just in time. "Get off me, or it's off next time you prick!"
"Fine, I'll get the water. You have a great time grave robbing or whatever this is," James snapped. He marched off without her.
"Oh stop being such a..." Morgan groaned, then her eyes shot wide open. "That's not funny!" She chased after him. "Why would a grave be in their water system?"
James shrugged, "I dunno, why is a huge box sitting in a previously locked room?"
Morgan sighed, "how strange." James nodded. She responded by grimacing, "oh gross, stop that."
"What?" James silently said to himself, his patience a thing of the past. He turned around to face her, "stop what?"
Morgan whined, "no I don't. Harry's greasy and annoying and kissable, wait what?" she shrieked.
James stepped back once with his eyes widening, "seconded the what. We need to find that water, you must be dehydrated badly."
Morgan shivered as her eyes darted around. "Yeah, probably right. It's creepy, cold in here."
Finally they continued onwards until they reached an old, crumbling well. A couple of buckets had been dropped half hazarded nearby it. With no ropes that they could see, James figured they couldn't use them. He peered down the well, hoping to see the bottom but all he could see was black. The well itself seemed to narrow to climb down.
"There has to be somewhere else," he said, checking the tricorder once more.
Morgan watched him while pulling a face. Then she'd nod and look away, grimacing again.
"That's really creepy, stop that," James muttered.
"What is?" Morgan said irritably, "are you done?"
"I think so. There's a storage room I think two levels up, we can look there for anything we can use," James replied.
As soon as he lowered the tricorder, Morgan lunged for him. He expected another attempt at a punch, anything other than the 'smack' on the lips he did get. He pushed her from him in shock and quite a bit of horror, it didn't register that she stared similarly back at him. "Morgan, what the hell are you doing?"
"I dunno, I don't, I didn't," Morgan stuttered. She wiped her mouth repeatedly, "why would I? You asked me to stop being creepy and then..."
"That counts as creepy. I'm done, you go back up, I'll look up that store room on my own," James said fast and louder with every word, his voice started to tremble.
Morgan felt a metaphorical punch to the gut and throat. "No, I'm sorry, its too dangerous."
"I dunno, it seems safer to be on my own," James muttered as he hurried away without her.
"What the hell just happened?" Morgan stammered once he was gone. The memory of it made her gag. A woman's laugh echoed around, but she groaned merely as if it were normal. "Oh leave me alone."
Night had fallen by the time Morgan returned to the surface. The temperature had fallen dramatically to almost comfortable. Jessie noticed her first and tried to get up.
"Where's James?" she asked. The pain in her foot forced her back down.
"I dunno, took off and left me," Morgan replied over the top huffily. Both Jessie and Craig stared at her suspiciously which prodded her nerves. "Stop that, it wasn't my fault."
Jessie raised an eyebrow, "what wasn't? He better be okay."
"Yes and so am I, thanks for asking," Morgan said lightly to cover her nerves. She rushed over to their new camp fire, reaching for the bottle Craig had found in the shuttle.
"Morgan, I know he can take care of himself but..." Jessie tried to sound patient.
Craig scoffed, "yes, he's very good at dying." Both of the women glared at him, putting off any smile he tried. "Take care of, get it? No, okay."
Jessie rolled her eyes in disgust, then focused on Morgan. "Why didn't you follow him?"
"Pfft, he'd get the wrong idea," Morgan blurted out bitterly. Then she realised what she said, her eyes nearly bugged out. Jessie and Craig weren't sure why, so looked on confused. "I was drunk, must've been it." She twisted open the bottle.
"On the bottle you just broke the seal off now?" Jessie said plainly. Morgan wordlessly offered her it after one sip. "No, what did you do to him?"
"Oh nothing like that!" Morgan groaned at the same time James approached the group carrying the two buckets. "We just had a little, bitty kiss, that's all."
"What?" Jessie and Craig stammered. Craig wasn't done, "I knew it. I was right, right?"
Jessie stared at the fire for a moment, then at James standing a far from the group, his gaze a million miles away. Craig walked across to accept one of the buckets, but with a cold look on his face.
"I thought you were my friend. Not anymore. You've just made an enemy," he muttered.
James groaned impatiently, abandoning the rest of the water to walk away towards the fire. He noticed Jessie glancing aside, away from him. "Why are you all acting like this is my fault?"
Craig only glared in response. Morgan avoided looking at him. Jessie bit her lip firmly. "It's not that, it's just... she's sixteen and... you didn't?"
James' shoulders dropped, he stared back at her in dismay. "I didn't. I pushed her away. Morgan..."
Morgan squeaked in response, "I didn't start it."
"What, you..." James stuttered until his face hardened. He looked around a little helplessly, then with offense. "You know what, I'd rather bake in the shuttle than put up with my own friends thinking I'm a pervert."
"Think?" Craig quipped.
James gave him an extra special glare as he walked off away from the group, towards the desert. Jessie tried to get up to follow him. It took her a while to get to her feet and limp a few steps.
"James no, I didn't mean it that way. Wait!" Jessie shouted after him. She stumbled, landing on her knees. Morgan walked over to help her. James, having heard her fall, stopped and turned around. Jessie pushed away any attempts Morgan made, "oh stop it, you have some bloody nerve, get off me!"
Morgan moved off with a scowl on her face, "fine, be a jealous cow right here."
Craig meanwhile glanced between them all, his expression a little torn from watching Jessie's reactions. "Look, doesn't matter who did what. We shouldn't be alone, especially when it's pitch black out there."
James had already started to walk back to where Jessie had stumbled. "She's sixteen sounds like an accusation," he mumbled bitterly. Even still he helped her back to her feet.
"To be fair, out of the two of you, you're more likely to do creepy stuff like that so," Craig chimed in. Morgan gave him a look of utter betrayal which punched him in the gut. Fortunately for him the others chose to blank him out all together.
"I'm sorry, what she said threw me a loop," Jessie meekly said. "You're okay, right?"
"Hmm," James barely said, taking a spot the furthest away from everyone that was still in heat range of the fire.
Craig avoided eye contact with all of them, then he realised his bottle had gone. Seeing Morgan take a swig of it, he panicked and rushed over to get it back. She moved out of his way with a childish groan.
"What's it about him anyway? If I hit people and go on a murder spree, will I be more appealing then?" Craig whispered to her.
Morgan slowly turned her head towards him to glare. Then she shoved him so he was lying flat on his side.
As the night went on the temperature dropped even further until the crash party were starting to shiver. What pieces of clothing they'd took off earlier that they still had with them were put back on, but it wasn't enough. Three of them had shuffled closer to the fire, Jessie somewhat reluctantly.
She looked back over her shoulder towards James still sitting in the same spot as before. Holding what was left of their water, Jessie tried to get up. Instead she shuffled over to him, still in a sitting position. Her ankle still complained so she only got close enough to offer the water.
They sat in awkward silence for a while, long enough for Craig to curl up by the fire with his long sleeve grey shirt about to fall off into the flames. Morgan noticed so she reached over to pick it up. A little snore from him startled her, she dropped it onto his face instead.
"I didn't mean to blurt out something so stupid, or accuse," Jessie stuttered. "In that split second I was thinking that Morgan meant you both chose to, and..." James glanced at her curiously and a little shocked. "I hated that it bothered me so much. I wanted to know if you did and I knew it wasn't any of my business. All in that one second."
"I didn't. It came out of nowhere, I stopped it," James said. Jessie nodded but looked guilty anyway. "I don't think she's herself. I'd expect Tani, not her to do... that."
"What else did she do?" Jessie asked. A bemused glance had her stuttering, "not that making a move isn't weird on its own."
"It is, and no it wasn't the first or only thing," James answered. "Come on, you know the Morgan crush rumour isn't true. You of all people."
Jessie smiled, scooting up a step to sit beside him. "I of all people get it."
"Huh?" James said.
Jessie playfully bumped her arm into his, remaining there. "You and I both know what you and I mean. You mean she's your close female friend, like me, so I shouldn't humour the rumours, or should I..." she sounded serious but her eyes were anything but. He didn't have to say no, his face said it for him. "And I mean I've been there and miss it sometimes."
James inched his shoulder away, staring suspiciously, "did you have some of that wine as well?"
Jessie grimaced, "eew no, wine is like sweet fizzy water."
"Okay," James said while uneasily glancing around, "maybe I misunderstood then."
Jessie surprised him by stroking his cheek gently. He froze for a moment while her thumb caressed just under his bottom lip. "You miss me too, right?"
The proximity, it took all the strength he had not to close in, but it wasn't enough to pull him back either. "Jess, I, we can't..." he whispered.
Jessie's smile was sweet, which didn't help him at all. "Yes we can. Just pretend I lied about having the wine." She had moved closer while she spoke.
"I did try some of it earlier to make sure it wasn't water," James said.
"See, it's our thing," Jessie giggled.
They brushed lips for a moment and lingered there for a moment. He closed in to kiss her gently. Once her arm was tightly woven around his neck it got more intense.
During a brief separation for air he realised her breath did have a taste of alcohol to it. She was about to lean in for another when he pulled back slightly. "You did drink some?"
"Only a little bit," Jessie said, gesturing her hand to indicate half a bottle.
"Oh, ohno," James mumbled just as Jessie passed out on his shoulder.
The tunnel never seemed to end, nothing but darkness lay ahead. A voice, gentle as the breeze that carried it, soothed and beckoned. A stampede of the tiniest feet echoed above, following them. It seemed to be getting darker still, their eyes could not focus on anything. A warm gust drifted into their face. They followed it to an ember orange wafting in the distance.
The corridor reached its end, a large opening walled by small flickering flames. Walking inside they felt their weight begin to lift. Skin felt cool, tingly. Through the smoky haze someone approached. Their pull drained what little energy they had. Skin felt like it was on fire. Then they stepped forward, allowing them to see.
James reached gingerly out, expecting nothing but glass. His reflection smiled, bringing out the darkened brown eyes and ashy hair. The reflection reached out as if the mirror was delayed, only they grabbed his arm, dragging him into the darkness again.
He hit the stone cold floor hard, yet he felt no pain. Footsteps ran by him. He weakly looked up to try and see who it was. Then he saw her face, twice and blurred. The one in the lead, holding her by the hand, smiled and said something he couldn't hear.
"Morgan," a different voice said ethereally. It jolted him back to reality with a panicked Craig crouching next to him, shaking his arm.
"What's the matter?" James groggily asked. He found he was unable to properly open his eyes yet with the scorching sun peeping over the nearby building.
Craig's attempt to scramble back to his feet scraped the stone they were lying on, waking Jessie so abruptly she gasped.
"Morgan, she's gone," Craig said.
James sat up in a hurry, squinting his eyes. "What?"
"When I woke up she was gone. Why would she..." Craig stammered.
"Hold on," James tried to sound calm. He looked around for their few items, hoping for a clue. Water buckets, the tricorder, the ropes, a couple of phasers, empty wine bottle, all were still there.
Craig nabbed the tricorder as if he'd just seen it too. "Underground. She's gone underground."
James remembered the last few seconds of his dream; Morgan running, her face full of terror. "We should go look..." he hesitantly glanced over at Jessie.
Craig shook his head, "no, no we. We can't all go and we can't split up."
"Well we have a problem, don't we," Jessie muttered. "Just give me a sec..."
"Nuh uh, no time," Craig said. He tried to run off but James grabbed his ankle, almost toppling him over. "What are you..."
James glanced again at Jessie. "Are you okay to?"
"No, yes, maybe. Doesn't matter, I'm not staying here," Jessie replied.
Craig struggled on his one free leg, "get off."
"Did anyone else bring weapons?" James asked.
That got Craig even more panicked. "What do you mean? We're alone here, oh god."
Jessie reached for her discarded jacket she'd used as a pillow, quickly brandishing a phaser. "What, do you think I'm new at this?"
James tossed up a phaser to Craig, and to the boy's relief he let go of him too. He barely caught it, it bounced on hitting his hands and fell into the fold of his arm.
Once Jessie was up and limping, they made their way over to the same underground tunnel James and Morgan used the previous day. The temperature shift from hot and stuffy to cold and dry disoriented all of them for a few steps. The clammy walls and echoing drips, the darkening corridors had them all on edge. Everytime Craig heard so much as a click or a tap, he'd pick up speed and or try to investigate rooms without his teammates, even if the tricorder didn't say anything.
After six attempts at this, James pulled him back once more and took the tricorder away. A quick scan told him the only lifesign was two metres below them. He quickly tried to scan for the nearest route down.
"Craig," Jessie hissed when Craig tried to escape again. He made a little whimper and protested a but. "Fine, go off without us. Deal with whatever's managed to kidnap Morgan without either of us."
Craig pouted, "fine fine, no go without super freak and limps-a-lot."
Despite what he said he walked ahead of her and tried to overtake James. Jessie glared into his back. James had enough and left him to it, as long as he was within arm's reach. He slowly span around on the spot until settling on one of the doors Craig had tried to go through earlier. "This way I think."
"Oh sure, now it's right," Craig grunted, stopping and turning to go back the way he came.
The door lead to another long corridor, with massive steep steps going down. Jessie clutched onto the wall and took them one at a time with her good foot. Craig typically picked up speed and once more got ahead of both of them. James was more concerned with the winces and occasional stops Jessie was doing.
"It's okay," she said assuredly. As if it'd prove her point, she took another slow step down. "While you're stuck there," she gestured to him standing ten steps below, "I really wanted to apologise for yesterday."
James flinched, briefly turning his head away. "About what?"
Jessie glanced to one side, biting her lip firmly. "About being all, I don't wanna say jealous but, yeah jealously blurting something stupid and hurtful out like I did. I didn't mean anything by it."
"Oh that," James said to her confusion. He winced, this time in her line of sight so she frowned. "You already told me," he said regrettably. Jessie lost a little colour. "It's okay, I get it."
"You do?" Jessie said, worried and a little embarrassed. "When you say oh that though, it makes me think I did something else. It was only a few sips, what did I do?"
James hesitated, once again wincing. He glanced down the steps to see how far Craig was. He still could see him, stopped on one step trying to catch his breath. He turned back to Jessie biting the nail on her thumb while clutching a part of the uneven wall. "Nothing, nothing wrong. I'll tell you later."
Jessie sighed in relief. "Our little wannabe hero's gonna get away if we don't keep moving."
James smirked before checking on Craig again to find him at what looked like the bottom. It looked to him like he'd jumped off the last step to make some action pose with his phaser pointing. He couldn't help but laugh at the thought when he heard Jessie yelp behind him. Stone groaned and scraped at the same time. He swung around to find no sign of her.
Craig took that opportunity to look for Morgan without them.
Jessie landed on the hard sandy ground. Her injured throbbed so much it took her breath away.
She saw a ray of light flickering only a few metres away. She pulled herself over to it. The light was getting dimmer by the second. Jessie picked it up, recognising it as one of the light arm bands. Pointing it at all corners of the room she saw nothing but the walls.
A voice whispering whistled in her ear started her into dropping the light. It span a little as it hit the ground. When it stopped Jessie noticed it was shining on Morgan lying slumped on her side. She pulled herself closer to her. Her head was bleeding heavily and face was deeply scratched.
The light finally went out completely and Jessie found herself in total darkness. She couldn't even see her own hand in front of her face, let alone anything else. That was when she heard the sound of footsteps. The sound was closing in and getting too close.
Another noise joined the foot steps, it was like somebody was breathing through a scratched throat. As both sounds got closer, Jessie shook. She pulled herself back the way she came until she hit what felt like a stone wall. The sound increased until it was so close that Jessie could sense whatever it was, was standing just a centimetres away from her.
James pushed at the spot he thought he saw Jessie last. All he achieved was a cracked stone and some light rubble falling over him. He stepped aside to try elsewhere when he heard a familiar sound, not that he could place it. Constant tapping, hundreds of small footsteps. He looked up to see a swarm of black scuttling down for him. He had no choice but to run, and then jump the rest of the way down.
Craig reached a large open room filled with statues and many other carved stone objects. He was busy ogling the tall, raised platforms that seemed to lead elsewhere when he heard the same sound that James did, coming from the wide corridor to his right.
"Craig!" he heard James yell over the top of it.
"Fine, I'll wait," Craig huffed, eyeing the ground level exits on either side of him. Then he saw James and what he was running from. "Nope," he squeaked with his eyes bugged out. He ran to the left.
James meanwhile spotted the ledges. He leapt onto one of the stone carvings, then jumped again to grab the edge of the ledge. The bugs ignored him and continued running straight, likely after Craig instead.
Once he was safely up on the ledge James followed the narrow, rocky corridor down into a familiar cross section. He wondered why until he recognised the door Morgan had broken down. He went inside with a sickly sense of unease, but he stopped when he realised the box Morgan had barely opened had been pushed off entirely. The feeling that someone was watching him made him turn around sharply to confront them, only to find he was still alone. Even then he didn't feel that way.
Craig came to a sharp corner. He heard voices coming from around it. He backed up against the wall and peered around it. About five aliens were standing, armed to the teeth, far down a corridor. They were discussing something frantically but they were so far he couldn't make it out.
He pulled back, opting to stay where he was until they were gone. Then he heard a chilling, painful scream. Craig looked around the corner again. Thousands of black bugs that were the size of mice had swarmed over two of the aliens, bringing them screaming in agony to the ground.
As soon as a few of the bugs cleared Craig could see what little was left; charred flesh and ripped clothing. The bugs started running after the others. Craig decided to run back the way he came. What he didn't know was that the three aliens were right behind him.
Using only the tricorder as a source of light, James stumbled up some large steps in the pitch black. He happened on a stone door part the way up. Even though he could see the faint glimmer of light at the end of the stairs, the door drew him toward it. It felt like the right way.
He pushed it open, then he immediately spotted Jessie knelt on the ground against a wall. Her eyes wide, staring straight ahead of her. James ran over to help her up to her feet, the entire time she didn't move on her own steam, her eyes remained locked on.
"We have to get out of here, the place is infested with..." James stammered until movement caught the corner of his eye. He turned his head to follow Jessie's gaze as it stepped out of the darker shadows. With its rotting skin, visible bones and empty eye sockets, it looked like any old corpse, only it was standing upright, glancing between them, growling through the gaps in its throat. He or she seemed to smile, exposing its jawbone for all to see.
Hurried footsteps approached, they both thought the worst.
"Oh god, they're in my hair," Craig's voice stuttered. Neither of them could see his eyes bug at the sight of the walking corpse, he ground to a halt. "What the hell is that?"
The corpse briefly looked over its shoulder then back again. "Finally, after three thousand years," it spoke in a very hoarse voice.
Craig noticed Morgan lying nearby. His face hardened as he reached for the phaser.
"I will be whole again," the corpse continued.
"Ah, shut the hell up!" Craig snapped before firing. The blast tore a chunk of its rotting back, it dropped to the ground.
Jessie pulled an annoyed face while James stared at it blankly. Craig meanwhile crouched down to gather Morgan in his arms.
"Is that it? I could've done that," Jessie complained. She and James noticed its back regenerate, it was getting up.
The team rushed out through the door James had come in. They hurried, even through the pain in an ankle until they got back to the surface. Only they were greeted with more company, aliens pointing rifles at them. One of the ships that attacked the Flyer had been parked outside the town.
"You, what have you done?" the leader snarled at them.
"Well funny story, I wouldn't go down there," Craig stuttered. "Bugs and stuff."
The leader stared at him coldly, "you have disturbed Him. You have doomed us all."
Craig smiled a little too smugly, "you mean Him as in that walking corpse. No problem."
"Don't be a simple buffoon. You cannot kill what's already dead," the leader said.
"But," Craig whispered.
James stepped in front of him, rolling his eyes. "Can we save the blame game and exposition until after we help this girl?"
The aliens looked disturbed and started talking amongst themselves. The leader shushed them. "If it were her, then surely he wouldn't have awoken," one alien spoke up.
"Perhaps, the mythology may have been mistranslated," the leader said.
Jessie cleared her throat. "Excuse me, but some answers would be nice seconds after some medical attention."
"You're correct. We must evacuate the ruins. Come," the leader said.
They lead the awayteam inside the small ship, still under guard, into a room with a bed and a woman sorting through medicines. With Morgan lying on the bed, she got right to work.
"We asked you to leave. Why didn't you?" one alien angrily asked.
"Woah, hold on. You barely gave us the chance to. We would've gone but you destroyed our engines," James snapped.
"That was definitely not our intention," the Maji leader said. He ushered the last remaining members of his team outside, leaving only the guards and the doctor. "It is as we feared. The beast has awoken. The question is how, considering what we know."
"How do you know, did you see him?" Jessie asked, shuddering.
The Maji leader clenched his jaw, his gaze drifted over towards Morgan. "No, the signs were there. The Sbaracs, the toxic atmosphere. Although your claim to have seen and defeated him gives me some doubt."
Craig scoffed in offense, "oh we saw him alright. He kidnapped Morgan, did something to knock her out, was probably going to do the same to Jessie... I bust in and save the day while this guy stares at his nails." Fortunately for him James only found the remark funny and smirked.
"Perhaps, he is weak still from his resurrection," the leader mused aloud. "You claim he pursued the two females troubles me."
"Why, other than he's a big creep," Jessie said.
"Goes without saying," the leader said. "But no, his first action must be to regenerate. If he pursued you both instead then our information is wrong or incomplete."
James exchanged similarly confused glances with the rest of the team. "No context doesn't help."
"Right yes," the leader said. "Legend has it that the mage will rise when the remainder of his soul, his reincarnation, returns to him. He won't be alone. The princess he bewitched, traitor to the royal line, she would wake up to. He wouldn't dare risk using her soul to save his own."
Craig started to fearfully stutter, "there's another one of them?"
The leader nodded. "They who hold great power with a grudge to rule, or destroy this world. In death they are invincible. With their completed souls they'll be a curse on this entire sector."
Jessie chuckled not out of humour but confused nerves. "I don't get it. You mentioned reincarnations, so how would these two still exist to wake up if they've moved on already?"
"Magic. The mages were extremely adapt at it," the leader replied as if it answered everyone's questions. "If Iinan has awoken, Unu will have as well. This means one of you at least shares a fragment of their soul."
James warily glanced behind him toward Morgan. Craig stared at him suspiciously. "He lured her there, twice," James said. "Just because he was a he back then, doesn't mean he is now."
"It's possible, but that's not how the myth is told," the leader said. "Considering what happened we must consider anything. It's still possible Unu's soul is here too, or that she's still sleeping. Either way we must depart from here." He moved over to a wall console to tap on it. "Arden to Control, Ishnan are all four search parties back yet?"
"No sir, and they haven't called in."
The leader Arden's face filled with conflict. "We cannot waste anymore time, nor can we leave people here. Iinan will use them. Try again to contact them."
Screams from outside so chilling it gave everyone a cold shudder. Most of the room ran back to the airlock they came in through. The scream had turned choked and croaky by the time they got there. Not far in the distance, near the underground opening, stood a man dressed in tattered clothes with their back to them. He held up a rotting corpse wearing the alien's uniform by what was left of their throat, and coldly tossed it aside. As if he could hear them, he turned around.
The three Voyager crewmembers looked on in horror at his face, less so than James at seeing his darkened reflection again, in the flesh.
"Get back inside!" Arden shouted, pulling more of his people with him through the airlock.
The door had barely closed when the ship took off, leaving the James lookalike behind, smirking and following their path with his gaze.
"What the hell... what the hell was that? I thought you said he needed him to charge," Craig stuttered angrily and fearfully, pointing at James repeatedly. He didn't notice, he was in a daze.
Arden sighed sadly, "it's only temporary. It is merely a flesh regeneration. Iinan would need his fragmented soul in order to stay that way permanently."
Jessie held onto the nearest thing while her whole body trembled, the pain in her ankle a distant memory. "Ok so, what did he want with Morgan then? Unless..."
Craig calmed down long enough to scowl in James' direction. "What is it with you? You and your past life can't leave her be, you creep." James' eyes drifted in his direction.
"Oh give it a rest Craig, now's not the time," Jessie hissed.
Arden seemed deep in thought. "Perhaps, I've been thinking about this all wrong."
The ground beneath their feet jostled, a panel similar to the one Arden used earlier bleeped a second later. He quickly pressed it again. "Sir, a sandstorm appeared out of nowhere. It's blocking our targeting scanners."
"Take us into orbit," Arden commanded.
The next time the ship jolted, it didn't stop. Anyone who wasn't already quickly clung onto something.
"It's thickening. Almost as if it is blocking, no following us."
A huge gust of sand struck the right of the ship, pushing it on its side. Everyone felt the ship lose pull down. The windows on the left almost pointed directly towards the surface.
Morgan ran in from the medical bay despite the guards trying to stop her. "What's happening now?"
Craig turned to look at her but in between he noticed the right hand window, double checking it he swore he saw a face within the sand.
"We're going down. Brace."
Craig stumbled towards Morgan. Jessie was inadvertently in his way, clinging on to a wall post near the ground. "Jessie?" She frowned up at him. "You scare the hell out of me sometimes, but you're cool." He wandered off, leaving her very confused.
"You," Craig said with venom. When James looked at him his resolve wavered. "I hate you, jerk, you're a murderer," he said so quietly and quickly. James heard him anyway and shook his head.
Craig reached Morgan. "I feel like if I don't tell you now, I never will."
Jessie squinted her eyes in his direction. "Is he?"
"Yeah," James groaned.
"Sad bastard," Jessie sighed. James chuckled quietly.
Morgan was far from amused though. "What are you talking about? We crash all the time. We did it yesterday in fact."
"Morgan, I love you, I always have," Craig announced a little too boldly.
To no one's surprise Morgan groaned impatiently. "Oh thanks for making everything awkward, you ninny."
The ship meanwhile grazed the sand on landing, bumping lightly into a stone hut similarly sized. Everyone barely rocked on impact.
"Ohno," Arden said, noticing the buildings around them.
"Did we go in a circle?" Jessie asked.
"No, much worse," Arden replied, glancing panicked between the two women. "You both must stay here until we can take back off. We can't risk Unu awakening."
"Tch," Craig grunted, getting everyone's annoyed attention, "it's obvious who Iinan's girlfriend is." His face fell, anger in his eyes, "then again, it's really not."
James internally counted to ten, anyone watching him noticed his fists continuously clenching. "So what then, how did I wake him up so we can avoid that again?"
Arden glanced between everyone. "Proximity was probably enough. You entered the city and Iinan..." he stalled to click his finger.
"Then why did it take so long, and why did he take Morgan?" Jessie asked.
"Yes why me, and who is Iinan, and what the frick?" Morgan stammered.
Arden groaned a touch impatiently before he started to tell the story again.
"Okay, so we avoid opening things, fix this ship and wait this guy out," Morgan said. "Or have I or Jess..."
"Or Craig," Jessie smiled cheekily.
Morgan looked put off for a second, then sniggered quietly. "Or Craig's already woken her up?"
Craig didn't look impressed. "Hey, if anyone's James' soul buddy it's not me."
"No way to know who Unu's reincarnation is, so we must leave. Only then we can work on an evacuation procedure," Arden interrupted to everyone's relief.
"Hold on, evacuate what?" Craig asked.
Arden scowled, "the planet, clearly!"
James shook his head stubbornly while pacing across towards Arden. "Are you saying that we can't stop him? I did this, I should try."
"No!" Arden barked, "Iinan will drain your body and soul, a fate worse than a simple death."
"But..." James protested.
Morgan pushed her way in front of him, forcing him to back off a touch. "Nothing is invincible. This Iinan creep must have a weakness. Won't he die if he finds no one to kill?"
"We just don't know. His curse has laid dormant for thousands of years. There's no way to know everything," Arden answered.
"What about these abandoned cities, are they from that time as well?" Jessie asked. Arden's worried expression answered her. "Then would a magician have stuff like books and potions, I dunno, a broomstick?"
"I can't express this enough. Any one of you step aside will doom us all," Arden said.
"Really? Cos we're already in a pickle with this Iinan guy? Is this Unu girl even worse, or..." Craig wondered.
"They need each other as much as they need their soul buddy as you put it," Arden said.
"So we do nothing?" Morgan stuttered with a helpless expression on her face.
Arden looked at her with sympathy. "Yes. You'll be transported to the flagship as soon as we can repair. There you will also do nothing." A few members of his crew entered to talk quietly to him. None of the team made it out. "Excuse me," he said, walking off and leaving the group with only the guards.
Jessie shuddered as she sat down on a box nearby. "I don't like this one bit."
"Ok so this James past life is just a witch, big deal. I really doubt our James is so accident prone that he'd trip and fall into getting a life suck," Craig said.
Morgan stared with some contempt, "this just a witch crash landed a shuttle with sand. Avoiding him's the only part I agree with."
James glanced across at the nearest window. "How far do you think we got away from him?"
Craig followed his gaze, confused, "I dunno, a few miles at least, why?"
"None of you three can risk going out there, but I can, at least until he gets here," James replied.
Jessie's head darted up, "and what? You don't know what to look for."
"A book," one of the guards said. "Ancient magics. Iinan in the myth wielded one in his more powerful spells. It and its opposite were buried in one of the three abandoned cities of the old kingdom. This could be it."
"What are you doing?" another guard snapped at her.
"Three, so there's a slight chance this isn't Unu's city?" Morgan said with interest.
"Wait, why would we want his book?" Craig asked.
Morgan shrugged indifferently, "it won't stop him, but it means he won't be as tough. Right?"
"Right," the first guard replied. "There were two opposing sides in the ancient magics, but the texts that mapped out where both books were hidden were destroyed during the Borg invasion."
James thought about it, then nodded. "It's a start. I'm looking for a book."
"We are," Morgan abruptly said. She noticed Jessie's attention going towards her.
"I feel like I should remind you of the part where Iinan regenerated into a James clone," Craig said. Morgan mouthed so in his direction. "So James' past life looks like him, but Princess Unu doesn't? Doubting it. Unu's reincarnation will be a woman, so I should go instead."
"We will escort you both," the guard said.
"Both?" Craig moaned. "That would mean having to put up with him."
"Oh grow up, Craig," James groaned.
Morgan and Jessie didn't look happy about it, for different reasons. Jessie glanced at the agitated teen. "If Unu is me, and I start wandering around, punch me out or something."
"But..." Morgan stuttered, "what if it's me?"
Jessie smiled deviously, "please you maybe super strengthy, but I have my ways. Ask James."
Craig smirked in James' direction, who looked a little flustered already.
Morgan was confused at both their reactions, and at Jessie's comment. "But I was sleepwalking when I went down there. I assume to lure him down there. So with Unu, maybe someone else will go wandering, like Craig or even me again."
"Either way, you're going to get a phaser to the foot and a kick in the face," Jessie said.
Morgan pulled a face at her, "haven't you gotten that backwards?"
"Nope," Jessie said with a smile.
"Just what do you two get up to in your spare time?" Craig asked in James' direction. He looked at him strangely, then decided not to bother and walk off. Craig hesitated over following with growing impatience.
"Sometime today, Craig," Morgan said, rolling her eyes. "You know before the gross dead guy comes back for his book and happens on James."
"I'd get more sense out of a dead guy anyway," Craig huffed. He finally followed after James, still making huffing sounds. "You better keep that weird kink of yours away from an innocent girl like Morgan, you creep."
Morgan and Jessie stared after them, looking a little confused. Jessie gasped when she got it, then cringed, "that's not what I meant."
"Oh, I thought you meant you like to kick James's ass from time to time, and can't say I blame you," Morgan said.
"No, he meant... actually yes, that's less embarrassing," Jessie stuttered, blushing furiously. She turned her attention away from the teen, leaving her even more confused.
The team of James, Craig and three guards entered a large structure that reminded the two humans of an ancient church. The first room they came to was a massive, mostly empty hall with rubble covering most of the floor. The only thing still intact was a podium at the opposite end. The team split in half to look around.
"So what is it?" Craig asked suddenly.
James glanced over his shoulder briefly. "Dust, and over here more dust."
Craig's little growl amused James more than he liked. "No. Jessie, Tani, that future girl, now Morgan. What's it about you that gets girls all drooly over you..." He didn't wait for an answer he knew he wasn't getting. "Morgan's not going to be as impressed with your Slayer thing so it's not that."
"Craig, there's a skin melting zombie sporting my face who wants to destroy a planet, likely on his way here to do just that. Maybe save your needy, creepy entitlement for a sixteen year old girl for later, or the more appropriate time of never," James said in a dreary, uninterested tone.
Craig hmphed in response. "Oh, so it's a huge insult when it's said to you, but with me..."
"With you it's accurate," James cut him off before walking away.
Craig stared at him, jaw agape. It took him a while to recover. When he did, something black, metallic resting on the podium caught his eye. He hurried over to claim it, only to be blocked by a shield closely surrounding it. Everyone heard the buzz. "Er guys?"
The sinister chuckle from a woman he could not see echoed all around him. "Okay, creepy factor reached," he stuttered as James approached him, staring curiously at the object. "Not you, that's..."
"Don't care," James muttered. He reached for it and got the same forcefield buzz back in response.
"You've found it," a guard said on approach. "But it's the dark, this is troubling."
Craig glanced between them all, the laugher he heard continued to echo around him. Judging by the others reactions they couldn't hear her. He turned towards the altar behind him. A movement in the shadows caught his eye. He got the attention of a female guard, gesturing for her to follow him. James and the other guard were discussing the book and didn't notice.
A stretch of corridor lay ahead of them behind the altar. Neither of them could see anything unusual, but Craig could still hear the woman's laugher from the end of the corridor. "Do you hear that?" he asked the guard.
"Hear what?" she said.
Craig walked a few steps ahead to peer around the corner. To his surprise he found Jessie standing around casually. She spotted him. "Shh," she pressed a finger by her lips.
"What are you doing here?" he whispered.
Jessie stepped closer, eyeing him up and down. "Same as you. Looking for a book."
Her voice sounded breathier, almost sultry to him. He couldn't help but wonder if the same thing happened between Morgan and James earlier. It pressed on his nerves a little, he didn't notice her step into his space and peer up at him with her dark, almost black eyes.
"Look, I'm mad at James too but I'm not that mad, or suicidal," Craig stuttered, his whole body started to shake. She had his neck in a claw grip, leaving him genuinely fearing for his life and tried to back away.
The Maji guard looked on, worried, she wordlessly ran back the way she came. Jessie's eyes followed her, freezing the woman in her tracks.
"We've lost contact with the team."
Jessie and Morgan looked on at the couple of Maji's at the nearby console, both worried. Jessie turned her back on them all to tap her commbadge. She was the only one to see Arden enter the room.
"What team?" he asked.
His crew nervously eyed him. "A recon team of no consequence," one answered.
"You mean the alien men, one of which is Iinan's reincarnation, is of no consequence?" Arden said calmly with a straight face. He turned on his heel to hurry back, yelling, "assemble security teams, bring back the aliens, whatever it takes!"
Morgan ran over to the doorway to block him. "Don't get your pants in a twist. We're just sorting your mess. Iinan won't be here yet, chill out."
"My what?" Arden said. He signalled for the people approaching behind her to continue, he moved out of the way towards the two who were inside already. "My mess? You shouldn't have been in our space." Several security got stuck trying to get by Morgan, while some knew better and slipped under or around her.
Morgan grabbed one of the pushers behind her by the arm to push him backwards into some of the others, bowling them over. "And you thought the best way was to shoot at our engines while we were still near the orbit of your cursed planet?"
"I already said, it wasn't..." Arden's eyes flickered fearfully. "Your friend, where is she?"
Morgan glanced around to where Jessie had been earlier to find she was no longer there, or anywhere in the room. "She's hurt, she couldn't have gone far."
The man she'd grabbed struggled a bit, then piped up, "she seemed fine to me."
Morgan groaned, letting him go as she ran out. Arden shouted at her to stop.
TO BE CONTINUED
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