A fiery nebula and stellar nursery

Somnabulence, Part I

After leaving the nebula race track behind them, the Potemkin continued its course toward the Stellar Fountain.

It was a typical Gamma Shift, with only a few lower ranked officers on duty while the command crew slept. Instrument readings were normal and all was quiet.

Except for Rollands, Mekiah and Aston who were unfortunate enough to have pulled bridge duty. And Arnet who had been called from his rest by a very upset Andrea. Or Melina, restless about her pregnancy. Then Jordan was awakened by Bom's snoring. Finally, Prax had trouble sleeping and resorted to meditation.

The normal happenings of the evening were interrupted by a beeping at the bridge's science console. A ship dead ahead, about three minutes out. It was similar in size to an Intrepid-class starship with about 75 life signs aboard. The 'Tem dropped out of warp nearby and Mekiah picked up a signal coming from the ship. However, when she put it on speakers there was only silence - before suddenly blaring at piercing level "...Distress! Please help!" and falling silent again.

Down below decks Melina and Tora both couldn't sleep and so began to walk the hallways. Jordan and Bom flirted a bit, and Arnet tried to calm Andrea, who was upset that the anomaly was "brighter now" and asking for protecting before falling asleep in his arms.

Rollands opened a channel and hailed the other ship - only to have her call echoed through the halls of the Potemkin at a high volume. And the ship suddenly shimmered, as if it were cloaking. When relayed to Warp, he decided to head to the bridge himself and met Prax, also aroused from his quarters. Down in their quarters, Bom called to the computer, only to be answered in a softer-than-usual computerized voice saying "Specify operation to initiate, Commander."

Problems quickly compounded as the ship's lights suddenly turned to full, temporarily blinding everyone who was awake, and making the sure rest were no longer sleeping. Up on the bridge, the ship "de-cloaked" and life signs were readable again. The comm systems blared again the same distress call and then fell silent, followed by all the normal console noises on the bridge disappearing. Warp and Prax made it to the bridge to be filled in. And upon Warp commenting that the lighting was awfully bright, the lights suddenly dimmed back to normal Gamma Shift levels.

Mekiah also noted that the life sign readings suddenly had disappeared. But the computer printed out a rather odd message on her console: "NO UNUSUAL READINGS. MISSION CAN CONTINUE." And before anyone had a chance to blink, the console went dead followed shortly be the rest on the bridge, and then they all displayed the cryptic message.

Several decks down Jordan became aware of a new presence onboard, at the same moment that Andrea, awoken by the lights, pronounced that there were "ghosts" onboard while somehow pulling the phrase "mission will continue" out of the ether.

Up on the bridge the message was blinking off and on, and slowly it began cropping up all over the ship. After hearing Jordan's report of some new entity onboard, Warp ordered a scan of the entire vessel. This is when Mekiah turned up something interesting. Sensors showed 412 life signs - on a ship with only 411 crew members.

Warp asked for the senior staff to come to the bridge to deal with the strange happenings. Of course, before they could get there, the ship inexplicably jumped to warp on course toward the anomaly and the helm would not accept inputted coordinates. Sensors detected an explosion - the mystery ship had blown up the moment the 'Tem warped away.

When Bom, on his way to the bridge, felt the ship going to warp. But when questioned, the computer's newly-soften voice echoed through all the corridors of the Potemkin "WARP DRIVE WAS ENGAGED TO PROTECT THE BUILDER."

The increasingly confused crew asked who the builder was, only for the whole ship to hear that the builder was on the bridge - listed under personnel records as James B. Mitchell.

The computer seemed to be under the impression that Warp had built the Potemkin, and would not be dissuaded. However, when Warp asked for it to cut engines, the ship gently fell back to sub-light speeds after a moment of hesitation. Prax and Mekiah were ordered to take the ship back to the site of the accident, while Warp ordered the computer to perform a self-diagnostic, only to have it come back too completely with an "all things normal" result. Then, two seconds later, the ship refused to move at Prax and Mekiah's command.

Warp tried his hand again at ordering the computer, asking it to release helm control, but it responded "UNABLE TO COMPLY. OVERRIDE PROTOCOLS IN EFFECT."

At this point Arnet spoke up, asking why the ship wanted to protect "the builder" so badly, only to be told that the Builder could not perish as "the Maker" did. The natural follow-up question came back with the answer that the computer identified the 'Tem's former commanding officer Fleet Admiral M'Hawarr Sierra Kuei'Shen as the Maker. When told that Sierra was not dead, the computer stubbornly answer that she was no present.

Tora and Bom began contemplating a hard reset of the computer that "involves yanking on a lot of conduit," while Warp and Prax began asking probing questions to the computer. It responded that the Maker commanded it to be, while the Builder gave form to her words, and the Maker existed before the Potemkin. Warp tried his hand at commanding again, saying the Builder requested helm control be restored. The computer hesitated again, but eventually acquiesced.

Unsolicited the computer explained the Maker had existed for all time before perishing on stardate 9911.04. Her lost was unanticipated and unavoidable, and she had left the Potemkin and ceased to exist. The stardate, Mekiah later found, is when Sierra had turned over command to Captain Back.

The computer seems to have created a narrative to fit events, including identifying Prax as the "youngest apprentice" of the Builder. Meanwhile, the ship jumped to warp as previously commanded, but then cut engines moments later, explaining it was attempting to protect the builder and shutting down consoles on the bridge.

Arnet asked how the Builder's existence was in danger, but the computer went into a loop only repeating "THE BUILDER'S EXISTENCE MUST BE PRESERVED. THE BUILDER'S EXISTENCE MUST BE PRESERVED. THE BUILDER'S EXISTENCE MUST BE PRESERVED..."

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