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The newly discovered element was incorporated into the prototype with little difficulties, once again relying on Bensu’s inexplicable insight into the technical aspects of their work which had confounded them both over the last two decades during which they had jointly designed, developed, fabricated and refined the prototype.

Of course their chosen designation was somewhat misleading, after all there were no plans to construct any additional versions, in fact it would have been near impossible to do so considering the amount of time, effort and most importantly resources which had been expended for just one model. And of course it had never been a plan to mass-produce. On the contrary, its uniqueness was by design and very much an essential quality.

Now that the final, missing piece had been acquired and incorporated, a nearly twenty-year effort had finally reached its conclusion. All that was left now was to bring it to life.

Where to do this had been obvious. Ever since their first joining at the Forge, Bensu had maintained a connection to the place Xylion had later learned had been named Deep Oasis hundreds of years ago.

That connection persisted not just because his first conscious memory remained tied to that location, there had been something else and more unquantifiable that linked him to that place.

Xylion had since determined that it was part of the sensation he had first perceived, both through tactile stimulation as well as through thermal radiation, when he had first awoken there as a child after falling from the cliffs above and which had ultimately drawn him to Bensu’s katra, for a lack of a better term. And it was indeed a form of radiation his sensory equipment had been able to register, even if any kind of classification had eluded him for years.

It affected Bensu as well and perhaps even more significantly. It was the reasons he was not fond of revisiting this place, even if he could not articulate this anxiety clearly to the one person with whom he was so inextricably connected.

Xylion had of course insisted on returning to Deep Oasis on numerous occasions after their joining, and particularly once he had reached adulthood and his focus on trying to understand Bensu’s nature and origins intensified.

Deep Oasis’ remote location left it undisturbed by other Vulcans and yet rarely had any of those visits yielded any kind of significant results.

This one was to be different.

Xylion had arranged a shuttle to transport the prototype and then used an antigrav unit to move the casket-like container to the exact position in which he had first ‘met’ Bensu.

“What if this won’t work?” the voice inside him asked.

“Then we will analyze the results and try to identify any possible faults preventing us in succeeding,” he said as he prepared the container for what was to come.

“Of course. But what I mean is, what if something goes wrong? What if …”

Xylion knew what he meant without it having to be spelt out. After all, to his knowledge, what they were about to attempt had never been done before. Certainly not in this manner. Xylion was no the first Vulcan or even non-Vulcan for that matter, to serve as a vessel of sorts for another consciousness. What his thorough studies on the subject had demonstrated, was that no Vulcan had ever possessed the katra of an unknown alien being before, and more importantly, nobody, in recorded history, had ever attempted to separate such a katra in the way they were about to.

“Considering the time and resources we have committed to this undertaking, this appears to be a most inopportune juncture to develop indecision on what we are about to endeavor.”

“My dear, old friend, I may have been part of your immensely and impressive logical mind for sixty years, but I am not, nor will I ever be a Vulcan. It should be obvious that what I’m seeking now is some reassurance before we do what has never been done before.”

Xylion raised an eyebrow even if of course there was nobody within one hundred miles who could have witnessed his facial expression. “In that case, I offer you my reassurances that we will proceed with an abundance of caution as we will bring to bear all the knowledge we have been able to accumulate over the last decades.”

“It’s times like these I wish I could sigh heavily.”

“Perhaps soon you will.”

And with that Xylion went to work, and even Bensu began to focus in earnest, understanding that they would both require their uttermost concentration for the next few hours.

First Xylion removed the cover of the two-meter long container to reveal a seemingly unconscious body. Male, and not overly tall with the skin the color of deep copper, almond-shaped eyes and a hairless head featuring four prominent, white bony ridges running perpendicular along the scalp. The body looked like no race Xylion had ever encountered or even read or heard of before and yet Bensu had been able to implant a perfectly clear picture of this body in his mind.

Its outer appearance was not the truly revolutionary aspect of this body. Xylion was well aware and had in part studied android designs, most notably those of famed cyberneticist Doctor Noonien Soong. But the idea of crafting a fully artificial body had not appealed to Bensu, even if it could be argued that this was exactly that.

Instead they had partly grown a synthetic body which was a hybrid of sorts, mostly biological in nature with only very few mechanical components at all. As far as biosensors were concerned, this body was real flesh and blood. Albeit currently entirely dead.

It was perhaps one of the greatest achievements of synthetic design known in the Federation and yet nobody was aware of this, thanks to the total secrecy in which Xylion had worked on this prototype. And it was impossible for him to claim much of the credit for either its development or its construction. Most of that expertise had come from Bensu directly, even if he had been unable to explain how he had come to posses this knowledge.

The most critical step in bringing the prototype to live and making it more than essentially a dead husk of flesh, muscle, bones and blood was also one of the most dangerous. For this part Xylion had to depend on what he had been able to learn about the Vulcan ritual of fal-tor-pan, the transfer of a katra from one body into another.

He had spent years studying this, spending a great amount of time with Vulcan priests and masters of this discipline to gain a complete understanding, never letting on that what he planned to do was even outside their realm of experience or knowledge. And yet, as far as he knew, it was the only way to ensure Bensu could inhabit a body of his own.

What Xylion didn’t believe in were the ceremonial aspects of this age-old ritual, nor was he a man of hesitation.

So he carefully touched his own face, planting his fingers exactly where he would have done if performing a mind meld and mirrored that move on the prototype’s face.

And then he closed his eyes and began to focus inwards. His mind enveloping what in a sense was Bensu’s essence inside himself. Bensu for his part needed to do much the same, focusing on who or what he was and where he existed inside a body and mind-space not truly his own.

It was an experience like no other for both of them, and while it felt somewhat reminiscent of their first encounter in this very desert many years ago, it wasn’t exactly comparable either. First and foremost neither Xylion nor Bensu were the same person any longer, thanks to the vast experiences they had shared over that period of time.

The intensity of those experiences suddenly washing over him, without a filter or restraint, came as a surprise to Xylion, who was unable to remain on his feet and instead fell onto his knees while managing to hold on to the prototype’s face.

He saw glimpses of another set of experiences, of another life he knew as not his own. The amount of information that washed over him was too much for even his disciplined Vulcan mind to process. And it rushed by him like a starship at high warp, with nothing staying behind as it all streaked past him with mindboggling speed. The only true sense he had of this experience was that it seemed to last for hours, an endless stream of fractured and jumbled memories. He couldn’t be sure if he could even trust his perception of time while in this state as the world outside of his mind had ceased to exist.

A burning pain shot through his head followed by what felt like a terrible emptiness, like the never-ending vacuum of space itself. The dread this invoked was so beyond anything he had ever known, a terrible scream reached his ears and it took him a long time to realize that it was his own.

He heard a distant voice somewhere in his head and began to focus his thoughts solely on that in order to avoid the pain he felt. He thought it sounded vaguely like Bensu, except muffled and extremely distant.

His first fully cognizant thought in his mind was that whatever they had attempted—incredibly foolishly, considering its extraordinary scope— had ended in failure since Bensu’s voice was still there, inside his mind as it had been for decades.

He opened his eyes to see the stars.

A few moments passed until he caught up with the reality of his situation. He was lying flat on his back in the sand, staring up at the clear night sky. It had been early morning when they had started out the experiment.

The voice was still there.


But it didn’t come from inside his head.

A shadow fell over him and the prototype stood above him.

“You look a lot taller in person.”

Present Day

The sand fire had lasted well over four hours and when Xylion and Bensu reemerged from their shelter, they found that the storm had left their surroundings significantly changed. As far as Bensu could tell, the ubiquitous sand dunes had shifted dramatically and causing entirely new valleys everywhere he looked, almost as if they had stepped into an entirely different desert.

It was only thanks to Xylion’s tricorder that they were even able to locate the entrance to the canyon which led back towards Deep Oasis and any sign of the small, meandering stream that had once run along it were gone.

Bensu feared that the sand fire had altered the landscape so drastically, they would not find their way back to Deep Oasis at all.

But as it turned out it was still there even if the cliff didn’t appear nearly as high as it had before. The small lake at the bottom of the cliff had practically disappeared.

They unpacked the mountain climbing equipment they had brought along in their backpacks and then repelled down about fifteen meters.

Bensu immediately felt a familiar tingling sensation all over his skin the moment he had set foot on the sand again, something in this place had always caused this reaction in him, even when his consciousness had lived inside Xylion’s mind. There was no doubt that he was inexplicably connected to this specific area of the Vulcan’s Forge. How and why however, he didn’t know. His memories simply refused to go back any further than seventy years when he had first joined with a young, lost Vulcan boy.

But something was different to the last time they had come here.

While Xylion checked on their equipment, Bensu left it were it was and instead walked away from the cliff as if something was calling out for him. He couldn’t say what it was, only that it existed. Like a tractor beam homing in on him.

Whatever it was, it seemed to take him to one of the large rocks which surrounded the barely remaining lake.

He didn’t recognize the oddly, almost cone-shaped rock which seemed unlikely considering that it was far too large and heavy looking to have been placed there recently. As he stepped closer he realized that the rock had indeed always been there, but the sand fire had shifted much of the sand surrounding it, revealing much more of the stone.

Bensu dropped to his knees in front of it and gingerly touched the rock. It did not feel in any way special but he was certain that something had pointed him to this exact spot.

Xylion joined him when he noticed his interest. “Have you found something?”

“I’m not sure. Something’s here. Something that hasn’t been here before. Or at least something we didn’t notice before.”

Xylion retrieved his tricorder again, flipping it open and pointing the scanning nodes towards the rock. “Curious.”


He waved the tricorder into other directions briefly to get comparative readings of their surroundings before coming back to the rock which was almost half a head taller than he was. “The background radiation levels appear to be stronger in the immediate vicinity of this boulder.”

Bensu looked up at him. “But this boulder has always been here, I’m sure. Is it possible that the sand storm somehow intensified the latent radiation to this level.”

“We do not have enough information to formulate a hypothesis.”

Bensu expression made it clear that he was not happy with that response.

“It is … possible.”

He nodded and looked back towards the stone. From all outward appearances it was just that. And perhaps, he thought, it wasn’t the rock itself that was unusual, perhaps it was some sort of energy which had been released thanks to the intensity of the sand fire which had ravaged the area for hours.

He suddenly knew exactly what needed to be done. Bensu looked back at Xylion, right into his eyes. “Mind meld with me.”

The Vulcan simply raised an eyebrow and Bensu knew why. Xylion was not entirely comfortable with this ancient Vulcan ritual and had only very rarely practiced it at all. It was hardly surprising of course that after spending the better years of his life sharing his mind with another person, that he wasn’t exactly eager to do so again, even temporarily. As such Xylion’s and Bensu’s minds had not touched again since their permanent separation and Bensu knew of only a couple of instances over the last ten years in which he had been forced to make direct telepathic contact with another being.

“I am uncertain what you would hope to achieve by performing a mind meld.”

“There is something here, and I think it wants to make contact with me. But I don’t have the facilities to do so. I need your mind as a bridge of sorts,” he said and was sure he sounded us uncertain to Xylion as he did to his own ears. There was no scientific evidence to support any of this. It was merely a feeling and even then, he couldn’t be sure if that feeling justified what he had proposed.

Xylion took a moment to consider the stone and then his surroundings as if he could gleam another explanation for what Bensu was experiencing. “We know that the radiation levels in this immediate area have increased since the sand fire. It would be more prudent to fully investigate these new readings before deciding on a course of action.”

But Bensu shook his head. “We’ve been looking over these radiation readings for decades, just because they are somewhat higher now doesn’t mean we are going to learn anything else. And what if this spike won’t last? What if this is our only opportunity to take action? We have to take advantage of this now.”

Xylion remained unconvinced. “That is not a valid scientific argument.”

He uttered a heavy sigh, pretty much having expected this from the man he knew so intimately. “Fair enough. But come on, Xyl, you are the one who wanted to come back here in the hopes to learn more about me and where I came from. I’m telling you that the way to do that is to perform a meld, not spending another decade pouring over data. Do you want answers, or not?”

It was an interesting reversal of roles, Bensu had to admit. Even though this had always been about his origins and his history, it had usually been Xylion who had driven any new discovery. It had been Xylion who had chosen Starfleet as a career to find a way to learn more about Bensu, and it had been Xylion who had chosen to dedicate much of his life to that task afterwards. Bensu had only ever really been in the passenger seat for most of this. A willing participant, certainly, but only a participant nevertheless.

This inexplicable feeling he was experiencing now however was prompting him into action like never before.

In the end perhaps Xylion came to understand this change as well, realizing that for the first time since he had known him, Bensu was truly insistent on following through with something that could possibly lead to unraveling the greatest mystery of his life.

“Very well,” he said. “Allow me twenty minutes to prepare. While you wait, try to clear your mind of any thoughts not relating to this effort.”

He smiled at that. “Sure, I’ll just go ahead and flip the off-switch on my mind. No problem.”

The empty look he received in return showed that Xylion was not in a joking mood. Nor was he really ever.

They both knelt quietly in front of that stone with their eyes closed until after exactly twenty minutes Xylion indicated that he was ready. They moved closer to each other and Xylion made contact with his face, just like he had done nine years earlier when he had successfully transferred his katra into an empty shell of a body.

What followed was both strange and familiar to Bensu. He immediately recognized a mind he had come to know well, one which had been a home to him for over sixty years, and yet it was also new and changed since he had last touched it. Experiencing it this way was very different then it had been before. Thanks to their familiarity they merged easily, and yet it was odd to have an entire body between them.

But this was by far not the strangest element. He could feel another presence with them and judging by Xylion’s thoughts, he too was aware of this straight away. It wasn’t exactly another mind, or even an intelligence but a force of some sort. And even though he didn’t recognize it, couldn’t name it, he immediately knew that it was part of him. Something that had been left behind in this place when Xylion and Bensu had first merged.

It was difficult to explain, it was really more a feeling, a sensation and it felt like a whirlpool of energy, a stream of power known and unknown at the same time.

He resisted it at first, with Xylion providing a convenient buffer, but he could tell that whatever it was, it meant him no harm. He let Xylion know to let it through, to let it touch his mind unfettered.

And so he did.

It struck him like lightening.

He felt an immense force upon him in an instant, tossing him through the air like a ragdoll and with such speed it made him dizzy. The world around him changed as suddenly and so quickly all he could perceive was a blur. The impact was just as sudden and unexpected and it forced all the air out his lungs. Then everything went black.

* * *

Bensu had no idea how long he had been out when he finally came to again but he knew that something was very wrong. Firstly, his own body didn’t seem to respond to his commands, he couldn’t move his arms or his legs and appeared completely paralyzed.

And if that by itself wasn’t worrisome enough, he also quickly realized that he was no longer where he had started out. Instead of in a desert, he found himself indoors somewhere. A hospital perhaps, which would make sense. Something bad had clearly happened during his mind meld with Xylion and it had brought him here afterwards.

His vision was too blurry to make out any details of this new place he found himself in, but he was certain he was surrounded by artificial light and no longer outdoors as he couldn’t feel the powerful Vulcan suns warming his skin anymore.

He perceived movement just in front of him and apparently it was enough to upset his seemingly fragile condition as it immediately caused everything around him to move as well.

His vision cleared slightly and something struck him immediately. This wasn’t like any place on Vulcan he had ever seen. He was inside a building but its design was not reminiscent of Vulcan architecture. In fact he wasn’t sure if he had ever seen this style employed anywhere within the Federation.

Doors, windows and even decorations employed a pronounced triangular shape with a strong focus on right angles everywhere he looked. Except, he realized, he wasn’t actually able to move his head at all.

Bensu knew exactly what was happening, after all he had lived his life in this manner for over sixty years. He had no control over the body he was inhabiting, he was merely along for the ride. But this time he couldn’t sense another mind with him, certainly not Xylion. He was alone.

But then, who was in control?

Whoever it was, they moved confidently through the unfamiliar structure, clearly having been there many times before, and heading to their destination without hesitancy and with obvious purpose.

The more he saw, the more familiar it became to him. He had been here before, he was certain of this.

And while his surroundings became sharper and more recognizable with each step his host made, sounds mostly remained muffled and unintelligible. He spotted other people, shapes at first, unable to truly make out faces, and he heard distorted voices but was unable to hear what they were saying.

And then, little by little, pieces were beginning to fall into place and the world around him began to take on clear and familiar forms.

The Central Authority.

Quagum City.


Those were names he had known once very well and they were coming back to him now.

He entered a large, triangular shaped room, made to look even larger by the small number of people inside. The assembly hall had been designed to hold a few hundred people and yet less than twelve were currently inside, all of them clustered around the wider, far end of the room.

Bensu joined them and quickly fell in with the smaller of the two groups which were standing at opposite sides of a large, three-cornered table.

Jetro was currently addressing the small crowd. He was by far the oldest person in the room, even though possibly only in body. He wore long robes and steadied himself against a simple cane he took wherever he went.

“It is not conscionable to keep this from the people any longer. They have a right to understand what is about to happened. They have a right to prepare themselves for what is to come in their own way. It is not too late to reverse our earlier decisions. To do what is right in the face of this calamity that has—that will befall us all.”

Jetro spoke slowly and with great consideration as he had always done, ever since he had first met the elder politician and scientist some ninety rotations prior when his body had still been young. The older man had quickly become a teacher and mentor to him.

His audience was unmoved however and the leader of the opposing group simply shook his head. “Our decision is final and it has been final ever since we first made it. A panic will serve no one. This matter is closed.”

“As is, it appears, the matter of dignity and decency,” said Jetro, never shy to get in one last shot.

“This meeting is now adjourned.”

Jetro and half the people in attendance shot the speaker confounded looks at the choice of his words. And from the pained expression on his own face, he too realized that his word choice had been poor. Of course no precedence for this had ever existed on Celerias. Nor would this one become one for future generations.

“May the Soul Father have mercy on us all.”

With those final words the speaker and the rest began to stream out of the assembly hall.

Bensu caught up with Jetro outside the Central Authority building.

“So, what’s next?”

“That’s an excellent question, my young friend, isn’t it?” Said Jetro as he looked up at the sky above which over the last few weeks had turned an increasingly darker shade of purple. As far as the general population was aware, this was because of an increase of harmless solar radiation outputted by the Celerias sun and flooding the solar system. Jardo and Bensu knew that this was only a very small part of the truth.

“We have spent the last six hundred rotations thinking about what comes next. We have spent incalculable amounts of time and resources worrying about the continued survival of our species, and what have we come up with? Transference.”

“Without transference we would have died out as a species a long time ago,” said Bensu.

Jardo nodded slowly. “We have been so concerned about keeping us going as a people, to maintain our memories, our experiences, our culture, we never once stopped to think about preserving that which we need most to survive.”

Bensu didn’t respond to this, after all he knew exactly what his mentor spoke off and instead he simply followed his glance.

Jardo raised his cane, pointing at the sky. “That’s where our future could have been. That’s where we should have focused our efforts on. Not spending all our time wondering what our next body should look or feel like. All this time we were looking inwards when we should have looked outwards. That, my young friend, would have been our salvation.”

The older man looked back at Bensu and a knowing smile formed on his lips. “It’s too late for us now. But not for you.”

Bensu shot him a quizzical look.

“Come now, after all this time, why keep up the pretenses?” he said and uttered a heavy sigh. “It doesn’t much matter to me anymore. I have accepted what will become of us. Before all of this I had always thought that one day I would have a chance to learn more about — the universe. I’m sure you would have been a great teacher, my young friend. Or should I say, old friend?”

Bensu didn’t get a chance to respond.

“You take care now,” he said. “And if you choose to honor the last wishes of an old, dying man, make sure you tell them about us. What fools we were. Maybe it will help somebody else avoid our mistakes.” Jardo reached out for Bensu’s head, using a finger to brush along one of his bony white ridges, a gesture of fondness in Celerian culture.

Then he turned and walked down the street. “Don’t you forget about us.”

There was not going to be a dawn for Celerias as mere hours later the purple sky turned fiery red and before any of the six billion Celerians could even wonder about this peculiarity, the solar super flare hit with such abrupt intensity that the entire surface of the planet was cooked within seconds, before a subsequent shockwave ripped the planet apart to its core.

Celerian scientists had speculated that it had taken fifteen billion years for their planet to form and develop life. It took a mere fifteen solar minutes for it all to be annihilated.

Bensu had little memory of what had happened to him at the moment the super flare had hit. What he did recall was a sudden spike of heat which quickly grew intensely uncomfortable. A powerful force had pushed him onto the floor of his home and after that the world had grown dark.

He hoped it meant that the end had come as painlessly for the population of Celeria as it had come for him. Except that just as Jedro had prophesized, the solar flare had not meant his own undoing.

He recalled flashes of space, ongoing and seemingly never ending. Planets and stars, pulsars, nebulae and black holes, none of which he was able to name but he had no doubt he had touched them all in some form or other. He had vague recollections of stellar formations and of a journey through a spatial portal which had changed everything, which had taken him from one corner of the galaxy to another.

Bensu opened his eyes and found Xylion looking back at him, still exactly where he had been when they had first started the mind meld.


Clearly Xylion had seen what he had seen.

“That was … a hell of a trip.”

Xylion needed a minute to collect his thoughts which seemed out of character for him. But it was clear that the mind meld had had a profound affect on him as well, having left him momentarily fazed.

Bensu was in no better shape.

Still on his knees next to the large rock, he let himself fall back onto the sand, shooting an empty look at Xylion who had been able to hold on to his posture. He began to nod slowly. “Celerias. I remember it now. Like a veil has been lifted off my mind. It was my home a long time ago.”

“A species which appears to have mastered the technological and biological requirements to transfer their katra, their essence, into synthetic bodies. This explains the knowledge you were able to demonstrate while we developed your current body.”

“Transference, they called it. In the end Celerians were nothing if not obsessed over the practice, swapping bodies almost on a whim. Jedro was right, if they had spent just a portion of the time they dedicated on developing the perfect synthetic body on exploring the possibilities of space travel and colonizing other worlds, their civilization may have survived.”

Xylion raised an eyebrow with curiosity. “Curious, you refer to the Celerians in the third person. Is there a reason you are not counting yourself among their number?”

He considered that for a moment. “I’m not sure, I wasn’t even consciously aware that I was doing that.”

The Vulcan got onto his feet, efficiently dusting off the sand off his robe. “I will have to consider what I have seen through your mind in more detail. But it appears clear that you survived the destruction of Celerias and I further believe that based on the stellar constellations I witnessed, not only was Celerias not in this quadrant, it may have been destroyed multiple centuries ago.”

Bensu got up himself, standing on shaky legs and he needed to steady himself by holding on to the rock which no longer felt extraordinary in any sense. “But how could I have survived all that? How could I have travelled through space and for such a long period of time?”

“Those questions remain unanswered for now and I do not recommend that we attempt another meld so soon after what we have both just experienced.”

He nodded and then uttered a little laugh. “And here we thought we might finally get to find out where I come from.”

“We have. Or at least we have unlocked part of your history. It is a vital first step but much more work remains. In any case, we now know more than we ever did before.”

Bensu looked skyward, the wide-open desert and the clear conditions giving him an unobstructed and unpolluted view of the darkening sky above and its millions of visible stars, each and everyone seemingly teasing him with endless possibilities. “The answers to our questions, no doubt, are somewhere out there.”

The story continues in
Quantum Divergence

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