Science specialists, Midas among them, were frantically scanning the kaleg and then storing the data in protected units. After all, the Earhart's databanks were wiped the last time she encountered the kaleg. In the meantime, Karl tried to hypnotise me to induce more memories, (I'm beginning to suspect he's an undercover shrink! I must tackle him about that one day soon,) but it seems that I'm not susceptible to hypnosis.
"Don't worry about it," he assured me. "Not everybody is. It's quite normal."
Karl then adopted one of the science stations on the bridge (probably to monitor me), and then Jarrod, who had been detained in engineering, joined us. The silence of an expectant bridge soon enveloped us. Only the gentle bleeps and squeaks of the consoles broke the silence, so I began to amuse myself by studying the crew.
Luke remained at the helm while Rutter had taken up the adjacent Operations Station. Al was posted at tactical and Midas had retained his post at Science Station One. That was an awful lot of responsible stations assigned to junior officers. T'Roc must have seen me looking. She chuckled.
"Yes, Jenny. When I said I had hand-picked my crew, I meant it."
I was about to dig deeper but Jarrod interrupted.
"I don't understand it," she admitted. "One minute it's haunting the ship and the next minute we can't catch it!"
"Haunted?" I asked.
"Yes, you said you'd seen it on board dozens of times."
"It's never actually been on the ship," I answered, still distracted by T'Roc's choice of crew. What did she mean by that? Why had she picked so many junior officers? What skills could they possibly have that more senior officers didn't possess?
"Then what was it? I thought you said it was the kaleg?"
"It is the kaleg ... or rather its shadow—a reflection of it. If the kaleg had ever actually touched us, we'd be gone. It would have taken us."
Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable. All eyes were upon me again.
"What?" I asked nervously.
"Lieutenant Vernai, it seems that Cadet Terran's memories are becoming less and less hindered by her consciousness."
"Indeed," replied Karl. "I suspect that it's a combination of the memories which having started, are becoming easier to recall, and our close proximity to the kaleg."
"Are you a shrink?" I blurted, scowling madly.
"I majored in psychoanalysis, but prefer a more ... informal role."
Oooo! There's a story buried there somewhere.
"You mean to say that all the time we've been in the area, we had that many near misses?" continued Jarrod.
"Captain," interrupted Al.
"I think I've found something. I think the kaleg is following a search pattern. It's a pretty complex one but I've been able to predict its movements for the last ten minutes or so."
"Excellent! Can we calculate an intercept course?"
"Indeed we can, sir." Al sounded ever so triumphant and was grinning from ear to ear as she passed the coordinates onto Luke.
"How long before we intercept?"
"A tad under twelve minutes, sir."
"Just a tad? Not a smidgen or a dash?"
T'Roc was feeling playful. Her Klingon side was becoming excited at the thought of a challenge.
"No sir. Just a tad."
The wait seemed endless. We manoeuvred into position, turned to face the kaleg head on and waited. Just as Al had predicted the kaleg suddenly turned and began a new path directly towards us.
It was beautiful: a column of blue light streaked with little white, pink and purple needles that flowed like static. It twisted and turned mesmerically upon its centre point. It was hard to believe that something so calming and beautiful had been responsible for so many deaths.
The tension grew. You could feel it in the air, smell it almost. A shiver ran down my spine and I felt cold.
"What is it Jen?" asked T'Roc.
"It knows we're here. The Dancers know we're here. It's coming for us."
"Contact in ten seconds, sir!" shouted Luke.
Even T'Roc moved onto the edge of her seat.
The kaleg now filled the viewscreen. Rutter reduced magnification but it still dominated the view.
"Five ... four ..."
I found I was holding my breath.
"Three ... two ... one ..."
We all felt the impact as the kaleg touched the nose of the Earhart. It wasn't a jerk or a shove. It was a gentle vibration, like a shiver running through the ship. You could feel it underfoot and in everything you touched.
The kaleg breached the hull and I felt it twist so that it matched our pitch and could swallow us whole. I heard Karl gasp.
"Report!" shouted the Captain.
"The kaleg has breached decks nine and ten," reported Luke. Those were the decks that extended to the furthermost point at the front of the ship.
"Panic, sir! The crew are starting to panic!" cried Karl.
"Confirmed, sir!" said Al. "I have reports coming in. People are starting to disappear. Everything that it touches."
My heart went out to Karl. As a Betazoid, he didn't just have his own fear to deal with but everybody else's. I though, felt strangely calm and unafraid. In fact—and this will sound really crazy, but I felt untouchable.
Suddenly the viewscreen began to glow blue, then twist and spiral. With eerie silence, the phenomenon grew, expanding rapidly, stretching everything it touched as though it were made out of rubber and pulling it into its centre where it disappeared.
Amazingly, everybody stuck to their posts as it drew nearer and nearer the bridge crew.
"I want as many scans of that thing as we can muster!" shouted the Captain.
"On it, Captain!" returned Midas.
It touched Luke and Rutter's stations, but the two men still didn't budge. A pang of fear shot through me, but it was for them, not for me. Their bravery was commendable; T'Roc had chosen well. Our mission was to discover what this thing was and there was only one way to do that: to be taken.
The kaleg reached Luke first. It touched his fingers and they too seemed to turned to jelly as the kaleg pulled on them. His fingers stretched and contorted in front of his eyes and then he let out a long drawn wail of pain.
The way that scream tore through me will remain with me forever. It wrenched at my every fibre and ripped a hole in my heart. That was someone I knew! A friend, a close friend—and I was watching him die! No, not die. The kaleg didn't kill. It just took, but as Luke's howling body was stretched and twisted as he was sucked into its sapphire glow, I found no comfort in that thought.
His agonising scream trailed on, equally as contorted and twisted as his body, and then the kaleg touched Rutter and began to draw him in too. His scream joined Luke's. He turned and looked at me, and the terror in his eyes was unspeakable. I had to close my eyes; I couldn't look anymore, but the screams echoed on and on, and were soon fortified by Jarrod's, then T'Roc's and then the rest of the bridge crew. They crescendoed so deafeningly loud that I had to cover my ears to try and block them out. I buried my head in my arms, but nothing could stop the noise.
Yet, I felt no pain, only the torment of knowing that the people I cared so much for were being hurt and torn from me.
I wondered why was I so unaffected by the kaleg. Why was the kaleg taking everybody else and not me? And then I felt the kaleg touch me ... and I felt no more.