The station was silence, and darkness.
Stillness lay over everything inside the old drilling platform, drawing to the forefront of his mind memories that often plagued him in the still depth of the night. Here, it seemed as though it were always night time. All he had to do was turn the lights down, close his eyes, and the serenity of pure darkness would wash over in an instant, and in that instant Michael could transport himself back through time and space itself. Back to happier days at the Academy, where life seemed to weight so much upon an innocent and ignorant young man who thought he knew everything, held every answer, and had the weight of the world setting upon his shoulders. Stress was defined by tests, making the grade, performing well on guided simulations, performance reviews. Back when the totality of his concerns were centered around a beautiful blonde in medical blue, or the press of time before an examination. A time when the stability of the Federation was ironclad: or so everyone thought. If he could talk with himself now, he’d never believe that things could have gone this far: not the cadet… not the him that belonged to an immortal Starfleet.
His hands tightened around the golden rank pips clutched within, while the points of his communicator drug painfully into his palm from the pressure of his grip. To force himself back to reality, back from a place that by comparison seems almost utopian to him, into this world of darkness and dread. This universe where the Dominion holds sway. This place where the Jem’Hadar walk the streets of his home town Helena, where a Cardassian Gul sits in that once sovereign office formerly known as Starfleet Command. This world of darkness, where the light has been forced back to the edges of walls and threshold of closed doors, realms once designated for the shadow.
“Such somberness,” the voice from behind Michael turned the man’s head, and a moment of tension drained to subdued restlessness, as Michael’s eyes spied the old Betazoid standing in the doorway of the control room. Donovan had long since been both friend and confidant to Michael, a former teacher, a former commander, now both equally disturbed by the condition of this galaxy, and the oppression beneath Dominion Rule.
“You’re dwelling again,” Donovan continues, his solid, black eyes bearing down upon Michael, seeming to both offer comfort at the same time as penetrate the man’s skin to search the soul beneath. Normally the depth of Donovan’s gaze gave Michael little concern, as he often stated that he had nothing to hide from the man, but now, he found it to be uncomfortable, almost painful. The feeling drove Michael up from his chair before the control panels,
“Could you cut it with the empathy thing,” Michael spoke, exhaling a breath. “Sometimes I like to reminisce,” he continued, looking over the old betazoid man he’s called friend all these years, feeling so unsure, so exposed as the man continues to stare at him. Michael tries to match those eyes with his own, but that just makes it worse, so he finds himself looking at the head of thick, black and gray hair upon Donovan’s head, as he exhales and stamps in agitation. He knew what he was doing… trying to pry him open like he always did. Trying to get him to talk, to confide. A talent the old man had, to be able to size up Michael and take an accurate measurement without so much as saying a word. At first, it was disarming. Now its simply annoying.
“I just, wanted to wish you well,” Donovan spoke, smirking, holding a hand out towards Michael, which Michael eyed dubiously a moment before grasping. Donovan’s aged eyes sharpened, as he pulled the other closer, touching shoulder to shoulder as he whispered into his student’s ear. The words rose the hairs on the back of Michael’s neck, the force of Donovan’s warm breath, nearly as much as the pressure of his words.
“I will be your eyes, and your ears. If it comes my way, and is of value to you, I promise you, you shall find it at your doorstep… even if it should cost me everything.” He spoke, gripping harder on the man’s hand with a nearly painful grip, causing Michael’s attention to fall back from the voice and tone, to the pain in his fingers, pulling his mind from the reverie, from the darkness that had taken to occupy it, replacing it with a heat of anger derived from pain. Michael could feel the man’s lips curl into a smirk, could hear it on his voice, as he spoke once last phrase.
“I believe in you my boy…”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Though I do wonder, if I can really do this?”
His voice reached out to the walls, to die in the solitude of the station, to fall upon the waiting ears of the specters of history themselves: for he speaks to none in the dark isolation of the mining station. He floats free, gravity reduced to create a weightless environment, allowing Michael to simply dwell in formless thought, with eyes closed, body free of any entanglements of weight and pressure. It was as close to formless as he could manage, as close to surreal, celestial, as he could approach this side of the mortal coil. A different perspective to drive out despair, and center himself towards the task at hand. Its daunting, to dwell on the idea that he has set himself to moving the mountain.. to push back the Dominion without the power of Starfleet at his back. Only its memory is his ally now, his only strength to come from within. But it was far to late to turn back now. The summons already 12 hours old, sent with the ache in his fingers from Donovan’s grip: a quick data burst loosed into the never-ending night of space for those few to find. A brief summons, with coordinates to this station, encoded carefully with help from Donovan… A call to arms..
He knew his time of doubt was coming to an end. That soon he would have to steel himself against these moments, would have to stop living in the past, start looking forward, to standing sure and strong on the top of the hill. These people, they’re entrusting everything, following him down a path that would brand them traitors to the Dominion, criminals in their own homes. They’re following him down a path that would, if caught, led to their execution. He owed them to be sure, and strong in his resolve. And like a Klingon commander, he had accepted their lives into his hands, honor demanded he did not squander that trust.
He stared down at the table, upon which shards of paper were strewn, covered in a malformed chicken scratch of penmanship. The tactile lists left no evidence in the computer of having ever been created, no deletion anomalies if he chose to destroy them, or hide their having ever existed: only a pile of ash upon the metal deck plates. Upon them, scribbled a list of modification, of ideas, battle strategies, thoughts, targets, goals… every thought he could nail down, to collect them, organize them… there were hundreds of them, laid out across the metallic table top, facing every which way, as through simply thrown about its surface. He picked one up, read it… tossed it aside, to pick up another. Ideas from modifications of the Raiders he procured from the Ferengi black market, to the base itself. How to protect the nebula, to the advantages of building inside it. The pros and cons of every foreseeable turn, and yet he knew not even a tenth of what would present itself would find itself here on this table… but he knew their continued existence wouldn’t find itself in these plans.. but in decisions made in the moment.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
He would await their arrival, knowing that one by one, they must make the journey, and one by one, they would arrive. Once gathered, the truth of their convictions would be judged, tempered and forged in the heat of war against the Dominion. Starfleet is not dead. The United Federation of Plants has not fallen. Not while Captain Forester draws breath. The Dominion will rue the day they stepped foot in the Alpha quadrant… and the Cardassians the day Gul Dukat began to draw breath. The doors of Rome opened, awaiting her children to come home.