Chapter One: The Beginning
United Alliance Date 2469:
Lecture on Empaths in United Alliance History and the Effects of Pyschics on the Development of the Known Universe. Presented by Archivist and descendent, Patience Gireau.
"The secrets of psychics, telepathy, and empathy have long been held sacred by my people. Earth's history is rich with tales, legends and myths of those super-powered beings once revered as gods. We now trace those tales to the alien species scattered to the far reaches of the universe. Please save all questions until the end of the lecture."
Section 1. The Voyage Begins
"Earth dreamt of traveling to the stars for centuries before they finally made it there; first, in orbit around their planet, then to the moon. Travel to Mars failed on numerous occasions. Eventually, though, they would reach beyond this solar system, extend their grasp to the rest of the galaxy. Once there, the universe was theirs to explore - or so they believed."
Captain Liam Gireau stared with great admiration at the lines of his ship through the window of the observatory. "Admiral Hossein, I will serve our people proudly."
The older man clapped him on the shoulder. "Aye, boy!" Turning, they strode down the deck, pacing out her length. "There are rumors of pirates harassing our people on the outer edges of known space. Investigate there and report back. Take these 300 people to Space Station Duo along the way."
The captain accepted the tablet thrust into his hands.
"You'll pick up a compliment of 700 on their way to Remillion 9." Hossein gestured toward the ship and the boarding passengers. "I don't have to tell you to bring our people home safely, especially the President's son."
Gireau saluted. "Aye, Sir." He watched the older man walk away then turned back to consider the responsibility of captaining the mammoth ship. He took a deep breath in anticipation. This would be his second time serving in command on a larger ship; his first as captain of the exploration group. There were more qualified individuals already serving the United Alliance but his younger age secured him this position. Gireau shook his head in self-recrimination. Never mind his 13 years of service, or his turning the Battle of Terrors in their favor. The Terronians had thought to conquer them with a brutal force of nearly 100,000,000 lives, 4,000 ships, 200 battlecruisers, 90 nuclear-rigged shuttles, and 7,000 single-manned fighters. He had piloted the more experimental battleship of a secret design he wasn't even supposed to know about, against orders, and won the war through sheer luck alone. That, and the unmanned fighters his best pilots had flown through simulation.
Gireau recognized the improbability of his win and realized that the UA wouldn't publicly reprimand a hero for disobeying orders; no, instead they assigned him to the farthest reaches of the universe. Public Relations framed it that "He was a hero of the UA, and as such, who would better represent them?"
He smiled. He was getting a ship well over 304 meters long, 98 meters wide, boasting more than 50 decks. His crew would number in the 1000s, and with the civilian specialists, their families, and the passengers they would carry, he expected the ship to teem with life. His enthusiasm grew with the idea of the autonomy afforded his crew and ship - the first voyage beyond their known bounds, beyond the established space stations. As a televised documentary once said, The crew of the UASE V1 had a "Mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization, to boldly go where no one has gone before..." (Star Trek, The Next Generation; Gene Roddenberry).
Early the next morning, well before reveille, Gireau debarked the shuttle that ferried him to the Mars space station. The actual station rotated around one of the moons but he caught glimpses of the red planet far below. He paused a moment, adjusting to the slight differences in gravity, and oriented himself to the docking and berthing bays. He'd hoped to be aboard his ship sooner in order to do a last-minute inspection. Admiral Hossein had sprung yesterday's surprise visit on him so he hadn't been able to meet more of his crew as he'd planned.
Gireau donned a clear, thin-membraned helmet that would protect him in case of accidental rupture or other harm to his body and strode confidently onto his girl, removing it once safely aboard.
"Attention! Senior officer on deck! Captain on the deck!" He straightened with satisfaction, eyeing the saluting officers, cadets, and enlisted members. He would end up with 750 military personnel from all of the five combined armed forces branches: what was formerly the Air Force but had morphed into the Aeronautic Exploration division, the Army had become the Scientific Exploration division, the Marines were still the grunts, while the Navy and Coast Guard saw to aeronautic and military strategy while running rescue and other missions. They would pick up the rest of their complement on the next space station.
Beyond the 1400 crew stood their immediate families and specially qualified friends. Children wailed their impatience to be free. Gireau smirked and nodded at one little boy. His eyes skimmed the milling crowd and he cleared his throat. 1400 men and women snapped to attention. Their families soon followed suit, straightening clothes, hair, shoulders, and turning their eyes toward him.
"This fine crew has been tasked with a mission of mercy, exploration, and aid. These next twenty years will be fraught with new people, new galaxies, and challenging adventures. These officers and service members were chosen specifically for this ship, the UASE V1. We have earned the trust of the United Alliance and serve her with great pride." He nodded again, returned the salutes, and spun on his heel.
His XO raised a hand and dropped it, her voice echoing in the silence. "Bridge Crew, report to your stations immediately. The rest of you will find your assignments in your quarters. We ship out at 0900. Dismissed!"
He slowed so she could catch up to him. "Captain Gireau. A pleasure to be serving with you again."
Gireau inclined his head. "I wouldn't have taken this assignment without you." He caught the grin she fought to bite back but didn't acknowledge it as she held the hard-nosed mien she wore after years at his side.
"Thank you, Sir." They kept pace as they reached the bridge and stopped as the main doors slid open. "She's fine, Captain. Just fine." They shared a look as they took their seats in front of the viewing screen. "Captain has the bridge."
Gireau flashed her a quick grin, unwilling to hide his excitement. With full autonomy of the ship and crew, missions were his to accept or reject unless they came down directly from President Green. Even then, he'd been told that the challenge would be to use his discretion in order to do what was best for his people.
The captain raised a hand and dropped it, receiving a smile from the navigational team. "Aye, Sir!" The ship began to move, the clamps holding it in dock releasing. A loud cheer resounded and Gireau grinned, sharing their excitement, staring forward as the stars drew nearer. This was nothing new to him - the beginning of a voyage, the first movement of a ship from dock, he'd already experienced. The command of a converted warship, two cruisers, a hundred fighters, and twenty shuttles all at his command... he felt the blood surge in his body and knew the power rush could go to his head. Gireau sank back into his seat, visibly forcing himself to relax.
He felt like a rookie on his first deployment; he shook it off and lost his grin. He straightened his shoulders and turned his mind to the almost 4200 people counting on him. He warily eyed the 10 new enlisted officers, some of whom were still enrolled in academy classes. He snorted under his breath; he'd been assigned children before, but none as young as the redhead sitting at the telecommunications panel. The next youngest was 18. It wasn't odd to have 18 years-old officers onboard a ship. Their first assignments usually weren't long-term. In this case, Midshipman Linda Gallaway would graduate her program and remain with them at the top of her class.
Gireau considered what he knew about each of the officers on the bridge crew. There was a variety of midshipmen, ensigns, lieutenants, commanders, and others on the bridge. At any one time, however, there was a minimum of 15-20 personnel filling the crew slots. Behind him were the tactical and security stations; on the far sides were communications, operations management, and various other systems. In front of him were navigation and conn. His seat sat at the head of a group of command chairs - one for his XO, his first mate, the doctor, and the ship's counselor. His doctor had served as ship's counselor for so long that he'd negated the role years ago. Galena turned and smiled at him, her raised eyebrow indicating that she sensed his nervous excitement. "How is everything in Medical, Doctor Hopper?" Gireau asked, wanting to redirect her attention.
Galena's lips twisted up in a grin. "All's well, Captain."
Gireau winced as he leaned his head against the supports. "Ready?"Gireau nodded once and directed his orders to the helm. "Take us out. Heading 020 hours."
"Aye, Sir. Heading 020 hours." The navigation officer repeated, entering the heading on the personal computer tied into the ship's main navigation controls.
"Bring up the display. Let's see what we've got." Systems officers raced to do his bidding and he sucked in a sudden breath at the view before him. The massive screen allowed them to see 360* as far as the eye could imagine, magnifying specific fields and details. "Drop display, set the viewer translucent." Not everyone enjoyed the immediate view; not everyone trusted the shielded and blacked-out windows. Gireau did, however, and preferred the unobstructed view when beginning any journey or exploring any new area. Several people shifted nervously and Gireau scowled. There was a name for people like those - a name that had gone out of use long ago - cowards. He pushed the thought away. Everyone had to undergo rigorous psychological evaluations, medical and physical examinations, and years-long training. There were no cowards in his crew - only warriors and diplomats, and often the two were not exclusionary.
Gireau made himself comfortable in his captain's chair. "Everyone knows where the head and mess are?" After receiving several confirmations, he settled in for the long journey. Gireau eyed the Bridgeway and considered the mess hall beyond. Dare he leave his XO in charge? He shook his head. No, he wanted to be here, part of the excitement.
"Captain, Engineering has a message for you," Comms called for his attention.
"I'll take it on my PC." The message alert chimed on his personal computer and he opened the text icon. "XO, you have the bridge." He walked to the aft of the bridge and entered the ready room, pulling up the message. "Engineering, this is the captain. Please explain how a brand new ship that just cleared its trials suddenly develops sub-light issues."
"It was not smooth sailing for the crew of the UASE V1. They all needed to adjust to each other; thousands of strangers now living and working with each other in what was essentially thought of as a 'tin can'...."
One week out and Gireau already had a headache brewing. The crew worked well together, even with the very junior additions, but as always, there remained logistics to work out, scheduling issues, medical catastrophes, life sciences disasters such as the life support backup systems failing during a test, random FTL failure, and a disgusting menu in the canteen. Gireau should have put in for a cook but had thought the food replicators would do just as well, programmed with the crew's favorite dishes. Turned out the replicators for a ship this size could mimic taste but not flavor.
Pinching his brow bone, he decided to ask for meds only if his headache became unbearable; taking a last glance around the bridge, he dismissed everyone to their stations. "Captain has the bridge." As he sat there at his console in the middle of the bridge, considering logistics and their next stop at SS Duo, he held out his cup for a refill of the dark brew they still called coffee, and a midshipman coming on-shift quietly retrieved his drink. At the first sip of java, his headache began to slowly ease. He watched the academy's officer take a seat at the communications console; she worked efficiently and soon had a new program running to improve the computer's translation capabilities. He surreptitiously kept an eye on the young woman; the comms officer, Linda Gallaway, also new to the crew, quietly argued with the girl for a moment, but calmed, nodded her head at something the younger woman said, and set to work. The two shared a smile and brought their focus back to their jobs. The captain followed their example. The rest of the linguist's shift, the captain's cup never reached empty, his headache held at bay.
Section 3. Nightmares and Psychic Attacks
"The origin of the empaths was unknown until Commander Corrolles met her aunt; an entire planet of telepathic, empathic, psychic creatures, set out to explore, to aid, to heal....enslaved for their abilities, they slowly receded into obscurity, content to live as legend. Yet there were those of Brillia who still ventured out on their own. They met other races, other species. They married and had children of their own intermixed with other peoples. The abilities waned as their bloodlines were diluted. They began to return home, breeding among themselves, still sending their healers out to lend aid where needed. They trained their people for centuries, equipped them with knowledge and abilities, until their bloodlines regained their strength. By that time, other species with psychic abilities had begun to proliferate. Some were conquerors. Some were servants. Some were teachers, and leaders. Some were warriors. Some were thieves, and they stole what they wanted with no thought towards the sanctity of the people they violated. The Brillians were still, and still remain, the most powerful empaths in the universe."
Serena jumped up, heart racing, sweaty hair plastered to her forehead. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, pictures, all swirled and jumbled together in her head. Darkness. Blood. Anger. Fear. Its time is coming. Eating. Consuming. Taking the whole. The StarKiller no more. The crew gone. The families - the bodies of the dead fallen; gone where they lay. Blood seeping down the walls, rising through the carpeting. Emotions, dark, cruel, hatred - colors so intense they caused a headache to pound behind her eyes. Hand shaking, she ran her fingers through the tangled mess blocking her view. She blinked several times to clear her vision and took deep breaths. Her other hand hovered over her comlink in indecision. Her head pounded in pain, stabbing, piercing, needle-like feelings in the brain - and even as she reached to press the silver and gold button, her vision blacked over and she passed out, sinking back into the nightmare. Echoing voices tugged at her consciousness.
*Where is that brat? What makes her so entitled? She better not still be sleeping. Gah! I'm 18; I moved away so I wouldn't have to babysit younglings. She shouldn't even be here - she needs to go back to school; grow up.*
The chiming of the door brought her fully awake.
Lisa? Linda. The communications officer. She seemed to think that they needed to compete against each other.
Serena untangled herself from the twisted bedding and gratefully shoved herself into the tiny closet-like shower. The waste recycler conveniently tucked away in the corner, several soaping options and sanitizing solutions made up the rest of the unit.
The small bathing room allowed her a smidge more privacy than she'd get in a shared sleeping arrangement; though the double-bunks shared a larger bathroom with a real tub, she'd ultimately received private quarters and was relieved for it. She leaned against the wall in her bath and let the water beat on her shoulders. Only higher ranking officers had their own private quarters; maybe some single women who could afford to pay their passage rates; and, of course, political figures and guests of the massive ship. Serena finished her musings, avoiding the lingering remnants of her nightmares, as she dressed. Eyeing the stale nutritional bread on her tiny table, she answered the chime.
Yesterday, the girl had told her to go home. Serena had pointed out the captain's presence on the bridge. The girl smiled at her, hatred glinting in the eye, pretending to get busy with work. Now, the girl - Linda. I was right. - linked their arms together and pulled her along. Serena extricated herself, easing away from the junior communications officer's claws. She shuddered as they neared the bridge; she needed to fortify herself before entering the captain's domain. The man himself was cold, aloof, almost impossible to get a read on - he kept his emotions locked down. She found it a pleasure to be around him for that simple fact. If only he could teach the rest of the crew to be so - so - she flinched as they crossed the Bridgeway and the doors slid open.
Linda let her go to take position at the communications panel. Serena took a deep breath, fortifying herself for the extra-long shift, and joined her seatmate. The captain took the head of the chairs facing the viewscreen as his officers claimed their seats. The first mate - Venturie? - he despised the captain to no end. He felt himself entitled to the captain's position, having family as executive officers, captains, and even an admiral in his ancestry. He had a mean temper, though, and had only gotten so far by bullying others. He bided his time until the captain screwed up enough that he could cause a mutiny and take over.
Serena cowered as she felt his absolute rage as it consumed him. She caught the captain's flinch and drew the mental pain into herself. While most people could sense the emotions and feelings of others - intuiting them - Serena could feel them, sense them, and even manipulate them. She wouldn't tell anyone her secret; being an empath was already a dangerous thing. What she was, though.... At 16 years old, Serena Corrolles couldn't imagine spending her long life being hunted, constantly on the run. Turning her mind and focus on the real-time translation program she had proposed as her graduation project, she set to work. Life would have to sort itself without her.
Section 4. Orders with the Inner Circle
"Their very first assignment to return the survivors of a great catastrophe to a home planet, no one knew exactly what dangers they would face. This was supposed to be an easy assignment. Drop goods off at a space station, pick up the survivors and colonists, retrieve the rest of their crew, and journey beyond the known stars. Yet politics had already begun to play, even as the journey was only barely started."
Gireau sat in his ready room, fingers steepled at his chin, discussing their first assignment with his inner circle of command officers. Space Station Duo waited for a delivery of supplies, lives, and cargo; their arrival at light-speed would take two more months."These 700 brave souls are on a mission of aid." He pushed a datapad across the table, turning on the projector. The wall lit up with panels of information.
"The previous inhabitants contacted us a couple years ago asking for assistance to return to their planet and need our technological advances to re-establish life. Their sun has made it a planet-wide wasteland. They fled fifty years ago, but with the development of a radiation reinforced bio-shield Remillion 9 is habitable again - with hard work and determination. The colonists wait only for the supplies that we're bringing." He received the nods his officers gave him and spun the datapad around, switching to a new view.
"At Duo, we will also pick up 200 refugees, the only survivors of Remillion 9. They've traveled for six months just to reach here and meet up with the colonists. It will take us 3 months to carry almost 1000 civilians to Remillion 9. We're dropping off a unit of 150 United Alliance Army personnel to help them establish their own military presence. I want our security force to work closely with the colonization team and work out logistics. Dr. Lee will verify their progress and examine their proposals before the team ever reaches planetside. Dr. Hopper, you'll oversee the medical readiness of the survivors and colonists. Make sure they have plenty of supplies."
Section 5. Tricks and Treats
"Morale on a starship can be hard to manage, especially without a ship psychologist. The UASE V1 had more than its fair share of religious leaders and therapists; however, the crew would not seek services with the civilians. Military concerns, military issues, needed to remain safely with the military, with those who held the highest security clearances. As a result, the crew kept their concerns to themselves, even seeking military avenues for their rest and relaxation. Commander Corrolles eventually stepped up to meet the emotional and mental needs of her fellow crew mates. At only 16, Commander Corrolles became well-known for her knack at reading people. She was set on a course to reveal empaths and psychics to the entire Alliance; it only seemed to fit that she lend her aid where needed. However, empaths were still grossly misunderstood; no one in the year 2187 had knowingly met an empath until Commander Corrolles revealed herself."
"Job! Hey, Jobadiah." Ace grinned at the young lieutenant as the other man jogged over. "Hey, this is Midshipman Corrolles. Serena, this is Lieutenant Jobadiah Heartsworth. Job, tell Serena anything you think you want. She'll pull up an HDT program that will blow your mind!"
Serena shifted uncomfortably. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lieutenant." She recognized the awkwardness he felt around the captain's first-mate. Job looked tired, lines of stress pulling his mouth down into a frown.
"I like war simulations. Keeps me sharp."
Serena smiled, nodding her head. "I believe Ensign Lords shares a similar interest. Though she pursues it only for pleasure."
Ace clapped Job on the shoulder. "There, see?" He waved his hand, gaining the ensign's attention.
"Carolyn. Come meet Lieutenant Heartsworth."
Serena shook her head slightly, correcting the commander's error while addressing only one man. "Ensign Carol Lynn Lords, Lieutenant. She holds the record for most battle-sim kills in program Seven Ought Niner."
Job turned to the young woman, impressed. "That's you? Tell me, how did you defeat the left flank right bank scenario?"
Carol blushed and led the lieutenant aside, looking to Serena for reassurance. She frowned as the first-mate ignored the girl's personal space boundaries. Serena waggled her fingers, sending them away, and crossed to the window even as Ace tried to draw near.
"Every time. I don't know how you do it, Serena."Admiration filled the man's voice.
"Look, Commander. Here's Commander Thoreau. Maybe you can take her for a drink?" She sighed at his frustrated groan. "You know I'm too young."
"You can't turn 21 fast enough, Midshipman." He clenched his fist. "I'll take responsibility for any drinking you do."
Serena smiled tightly, coming to attention when Thoreau drew near. Thoreau, picking up on the panic the teenager blasted to anyone willing to intervene on her behalf, nodded sharply. "Ah, Midshipman. I've been looking for you. Come with me."
Serena followed behind the executive officer with relief. "I heard that you're exceptional in finding recreational activities for your fellow crew members that are not only fun but also beneficial for their psychological health. Dr. Hopper requested that I learn from you what makes you so good at this."
Thoreau led her to the holographic display theatre. "Dr. Lee mentioned that you've been spotted in the conservatory. She seems to think that the time you spend talking to the plants is actually helping them grow. Dr. Hopper said that the reports about your time in the HDT can't be that healthy - you're spending all your down time either here or in the conservatory...and mostly alone. We've noticed that you wait until the early hours when shifts are overlapping and you're supposed to be asleep. I'm not asking. If I don't ask, you can't lie and I still have plausible deniability." She hesitated outside the HDT and leaned against the wall. "The only difference between these areas and the rest - I haven't figured it out yet." She stared at the teenager. "Is there anything you need?"
Serena sighed and looked away. "Nothing that I can speak of, Commander."
Thoreau nodded, once. "I'm approving your time in the HDT because I think it offers you something you won't get elsewhere and I'm recommending that you spend half your R&R in the conservatory." Thoreau began to move away and turned back, spinning on her heel. "Be careful around Commander Venturie, Midshipman. You're still a minor."
Serena sucked in a sharp breath. "O-of course, Commander. Thank you." Stricken, she sagged against the walls of the HDT.
*Isn't there anyone who can help?*
Section 6. Opinions and Facts
"With the autonomy of the UASE V1, and the military/scientific partnership, Admiral Gireau received two first officers - his XO, Captain Thoreau, at the time a commander herself, and Commander Ace Venturie. Commander Thoreau was his trusted right hand, a position that Commander Venturie coveted. Venturie made many mistakes, even faced a tribunal, yet stole aboard the UASE V1 with President Green's blessing. The betrayal of the Alliance Council ran deep."
Gireau noticed his first mate's attention on the young midshipman and did not approve; for while he himself was constantly enticing young widows to his quarters, he believed Corrolles too young for the first mate, the younger man still 11 years older than the girl. Gireau figured himself to be 14 years older, and he considered Venturie a child by experience alone.
It stymied him, how Venturie made the rank of first officer; he'd written the man up for insubordination within the first few weeks of their journey. One more, and the man's performance would fall under review. He turned his mind to the upcoming dock with the Space Station; he needed to verify with his XO that everything was in order for the transfer of cargo and the resupply of their own needs. He felt certain that things would smooth out among his crew as soon as they had their full complement of military personnel and were underway once more. He relied heavily on Thoreau, his XO, to ensure the safety and comfort of his crew. Venturie had yet to prove worthy of such trust. Gireau forced his mind back to his duties, ignoring the inkling of doubt that niggled at his brain.
Gireau paced the far end of the conference room, sat on the couch and sprang back to his feet. He was restless, unsure, and concerned. He couldn't pinpoint the discontent...but yet he knew it centered around his first mate. Venturie hadn't been his choice. He'd asked for and gotten Thoreau. Yet President Green had insisted on assigning him Venturie. His XO and his first mate vied for the role. Gireau would choose Thoreau over Venturie every time.
Now, Gireau shook himself and sank back on the couch again. The child, the midshipman, seemed very innocent. He hadn't seen her as receptive to the first mate's attention. In fact, he'd heard rumors that the midshipman had sought refuge from the other man. Until she lodged a complaint, though, all Gireau felt he could do was keep an eye on the situation. In the meantime, worry rode his shoulders and scratched at his brain. He commed his officer. "Venturie, report to my ready room." The reply was garbled but he felt the hatred. He only hoped that whoever Venturie was with now was safe. Venturie at least knew to respect the bounds of office - with his superiors, anyway.
Serena breathed a heavy sigh, her head dropping back against the wall. "Thank the gods." He'd stalked her - that's all she could call it, really - from the communications lab to the canteen, to the HDT. The HDT had been full, though, so she'd meandered to the civilian decks. She'd wanted to visit the conservatory but believed that Venturie would haunt her there, find her, and corner her. He was under a misguided assumption that she was meant for him. She humored him, because she knew better, but she needed to learn how to defend herself against him. Maybe her next HDT visit should include a class on self defense? A class he couldn't attend and ogle her.