Star Trek: Defiant

"The Season of Shadowlight" - Part Four

Written by Catrin Kadiya

Commander Lebin paced restlessly five meters from the site of the disappearances. He'd called the other officers away as well, not wanting anyone else to disappear. That was the last thing they needed. That two people had disappeared was beyond his comprehension. People *didn't* just vanish, he kept telling himself--and certainly not when he was in command of the away team.

Hearing the approach of a vehicle, Lebin turned and found Captain Bridges and Minister Teca approaching in her personal carriage. As the vehicle slowed, Lebin put his hand on the horse's snout, mindful of the long spires that jutted from its temple. The captain maneuvered his chair out of the carriage, followed by the minister.

"Your captain tells me you've had trouble," Teca said to Lebin, looking around. "My eyes are not as sharp as they used to be, but I see nothing amiss."

Lebin looked away from the captain, disconcerted that he'd had to come down. His place was on the ship--where he was safe. "Minister," he said, "we're missing two members of our away team and if that isn't something amiss, I don't know what is. According to Lieutenant Tyrell, they vanished right over there."

Teca followed the young man's gesture with her eyes, squinting. There was nothing unusual in the area. "Vanished," she said.

"Minister," Lieutenant Tyrell said, approaching the group, "one minute Shuriik was walking with us and the next, he was gone. It was like a transporter snatched him away, but I didn't hear anything."

"And I didn't hear anything when Laine vanished," Kadiya added, her eyes darting to the captain. "I took a scan of the away team and she wasn't there."

"Transporter signatures?" Bridges asked, his hands clasped in his lap. He held them as though he wanted to be swinging his fists at whomever had taken Laine.

Lebin shook his head. "I contacted Commander Ry and she's still scanning from the Defiant, but nothing so far. As Minister Teca says, nothing is amiss--other than the fact that Shuriik and the doctor are missing."

"How much time was there between the disappearances?" Bridges asked, maneuvering his chair closer to the patch of earth that they were all obviously avoiding.

"Sir, I wouldn't recommend going over there," Jen said, stepping in his path. "The area should remain as it is while we investigate."

Bridges nodded, staring at the flat plain of grass. "You're right."

"In answer to your question," Kadiya said, coming up beside the captain, "less than ten minutes. The away team arrived moments after Shuriik disappeared, and Laine went soon after."

Bridges frowned. "How can two people simply vanish without a trace?" He looked around at his crew. When no one was forthcoming with an answer, he smiled shortly. "Maybe they're together--shopping," he said, trying to lighten the mood. There were a few half-smiles and short laughs. Maybe they were shopping--and maybe it would snow on Vulcan, too.

Teca kneeled down and scooped up a handful of dirt. She let it sift through her fingers and she shook her head.

"Minister?" Bridges asked.

Teca looked up at him, letting the rest of the dirt fall out of her hand. "I may have an explanation," she said slowly, as if she didn't like the conclusion she'd arrived at.

Lebin looked at her impatiently. Had the woman had something to do with the disappearances?

Teca looked at the young commander sharply. "I had nothing to do with this." She laughed at his astonished expression. "You are obviously upset about what has happened. You are all looking for a quick solution." She shook her head and looked back to the captain. "Please, come back to my home and we will talk there. If this is what I believe it to be, staying here will not solve anything."

* * *

Shuriik opened his eyes to darkness. He blinked a few times, realizing the darkness was not complete. It was hazy, the way the light had been as they'd walked back to the transport site. He wiped a hand over his face, moisture rolling off. Shuriik discovered that he was lying down and he slowly brought himself upright, looking around. He was in a forest, pine trees rising all around him, framing the charcoal sky above. Each needle was traced with drops of water, as though it had just rained, and the scent of pine permeated everything.

Shuriik stood, checking his weapon and tricorder. Surprisingly, he still had both. He withdrew and opened the tricorder, setting it for a short range scan. Nothing. With a frown, he increased the range. Nothing. The instrument wasn't even scanning the trees closest to him or his own life signs. With a sigh, he folded it away and looked around. As far as he could see, there were only trees.

"Hello?" he called out, wondering if anyone else had been brought to this place. The land was a total contrast to what he'd seen of Lencia earlier; no dry plains, no shoddy markets, just lush forest. He reached out and touched the soft boughs around him, water flecking out and soaking his uniform. He closed his eyes, enjoying the impromptu shower. Raking his damp hair back from his forehead, he turned in a circle. There was no indication as to which direction he'd come from. It looked as though he had been dropped from the sky.

Shuriik looked up, narrowing a suspicious eye to the sky. The sky looked back at him without revealing a secret door. Returning his gaze to the trees, Shuriik scowled. He opened the tricorder and began to trace his steps as he moved through the thick, wet forest.

* * *

Laine ducked under some low hanging branches and raindrops pattered down on her. She wiped the wetness from her face, finding that she had entered a long tunnel, closed in on all sides by the pine trees. She looked down at her tricorder, eyes narrowing when she discovered that it had failed to map her previous steps. The screen was empty.

Laine took a step forward and it appeared as a small blip on the tricorder. She took another, and one more, then all three vanished from the screen. She wiped the raindrops from the screen and ran it through a self-diagnostic. According to its own sensors, it was functioning perfectly. Laine tried to begin a new map, but once again, the path vanished. She glanced back at the way she had come, finding that the arch she'd entered through was gone. Swallowing her panic, she looked forward again and started walking.

She closed the tricorder and slipped it into its pouch at her waist, brushing aside another wet branch. When she heard a rustling ahead, her heart hastened and she broke into a run.

"Hello?" she called. "Hello?"

The tunnel curved and Laine followed the path. When she heard laughter, she drew herself up short.

"Shuriik?" she asked. "Hello?"

There was no reply.

Laine turned and looked behind her again. The curve in the tunnel was gone--behind her, there was nothing more than a dead end.

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