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Shore leave at the Great Barrier Reef was understandably cut short as the marvels of the Coral Sea had suddenly become the furthest thing from Michael Owens’ thoughts.

Star had naturally been fully understanding and had been the first to offer him her heartfelt condolences, and he could tell that she truly meant it. She had also pretty much insisted to return the trawler to the seaport while he beamed back onto the ship. He had hesitated for a moment, considering her lack of experience with actual seafaring vessels, but she had convinced him that if she could pilot a three million ton starship, she’d be able to handle a comparatively tiny boat.

He had relented, mostly because he found it suddenly quite difficult to focus on even the most basic tasks. And even after returning to his quarters on Eagle he still felt a sense of shock he hadn’t experienced since Jana Tren, the woman he had loved, had been killed during the war.

He had of course not been as close to his father as he had been to Jana, not even as a child, and yet he couldn’t deny that inexplicable feeling that had settled over his chest, like a massive weight threatening to crush him. And even after having lost far too many people he had been close to over the years, his mother, his brother, Jana, Gene Edison and many other crewmembers and sometimes friends, he realized that he had not gotten used to this at all. That it still hurt as if a part of himself had been violently ripped out of his body.

It had also left him slightly dizzy, unable to think what it was he should be doing first, even after he had returned to his quarters.

One of his first thoughts had been to find DeMara, his closest friend and confidant, and share the news with her. After all she had known his father quite well and differently to him, had actually gotten along with him very well.

He ultimately decided against it. Not only was she busy on Earth, the news would surely have hurt her a great deal as well, and Michael was already concerned about the way the death of a very close friend had affected her on their last mission.

It was then that it suddenly struck him why the news felt so devastating besides the obvious reason. With both his mother and brother already gone, he had now lost everyone in his immediate family. The Owens clan went beyond this, of course, he had cousins, nephews and aunts, but many of which he had never been particularly close to.

He felt alone all of a sudden, which seemed odd to him considering how rarely he had spoken to his father over the years. And then, very slowly, an even worse feeling began to spread inside of him.


It took him a surprisingly long time to process all those emotions raging in his mind. In the past when he had lost people, it had usually been in combat or during some other pressing situation which had not allowed him time to think or grieve immediately, there had usually been a crisis surrounding the death of a friend or colleague which had forced him to divert all his attention to trying to resolve it and ensure that nobody else shared that same fate.

For the first time in as long as he could remember, Michael found himself wishing for just such a crisis. Anything really to take his mind of the death of his father.

It was Tazla Star who managed to ultimately get him out of this miserable state he had fallen into. She came to see him a few hours after he had left her in Australia to check up on him and to let him know that she had managed to return the trawler semi-successfully.

Apparently sensing his despair, she had attempted to lift his mood by recounting her experiences of attempting to pilot the boat, including the three near-collisions as she had tried to navigate around much larger ships in the port which had very nearly resulted in her being taken into custody by the authorities and more than a few choice words by the captains of the other vessels.

Michael did find himself laughing out loud at her horrible attempts of mimicking an Australian accent, and repeating some of the sailors’ words they had used to describe her sailing skills.

“Turns out steering a boat on an ocean isn’t quite the same thing as piloting a starship,” she had said. “Unless maybe you count trying to navigate through a class-four ion storm.”

She had asked him if there was anything else she could do for him before she had left, but as it turned out she had already done enough and he thanked her for it.

After taking a sonic shower and dressing in his uniform again, he headed straight to Starfleet Headquarters to meet with the medical team responsible for taking care of his father’s body.

He had taken his time to look at his still, lifeless corpse, taking a very small amount of comfort from the fact that he looked so peaceful and at rest after having lived a life that had clearly taken its toll on him.

After having identified the body he spoke to the medical examiner. He had already been told that his father had died from a heart attack but he needed more details, after all at just eighty-nine years, Jonathan Owens had been too young to pass away from such a seemingly preventable death. But as it turned out, the medical examiner who had access to his father’s medical records determined that Jonathan Owens had suffered from heart problems for a few years now, no doubt brought on by the stressful nature of his occupation. And he had repeatedly refused to seek treatment which his doctors had highly recommended.

“He was one of the most stubborn men I’ve ever known,” said Jarik who had met Michael in a small coffee shop on Market Street in the late afternoon. “And he was so damned secretive about his own health. It was just never a topic he would talk about. Even to me.”

Michael nodded, seeing how evasive he had been about his actual work, it came as little surprise that he would have been just as vague when it came to his own well being. “I’ve been told it runs in the family.”

“I feel awful about this, truly. No two days ago you were asking me about him and I told you he was fine, that there was nothing to worry about. I didn’t even realize how wrong I was. I am so sorry, Michael.”

But he just shook his head. “You couldn’t have known.”
“Couldn’t I? I’ve been working closely with him over the last three years. I practically talked to him every day. I should have seen it, Michael. I should have seen it and I should have insisted he’d seek help.”

Michael sipped on his coffee. “We both know he wouldn’t have listened to you. The man was too stubborn to listen to his doctors, what could you have done?”

“I could have threatened to quit, that’s what. I could have told him that he needed to take care of himself or I would walk away.”

He uttered a mirthless chuckle. “It would have accomplished nothing. He most likely would have called your bluff. And no doubt if you hadn’t been there over the last few years, he would have worked himself even harder and died sooner.”

Jarik didn’t say anything to that.

“It wasn’t your fault. Let’s face it, if anyone is to blame here, it’s him.”

“Don’t do that.”

He looked up. “What? It’s true. His own stubbornness killed him.”

“He was a good man. Maybe he wasn’t a good father but he was a good man.”

“I guess you would have known better than me,” said Owens, finished his coffee and stood, he had a funeral to prepare for.

* * *

There was a no more sobering place to fully realize the cost of the recent war than at the Starfleet Cemetery where the majority of those who had fallen in the conflict had been laid to rest.

Michael understood that not all of the sea of countless white headstones belonged to casualties of the most recent war, but they made up, without doubt, a significant proportion.

He watched on as his father’s remains were being lowered into the ground to join the thousands of bodies interred in this place.

No matter how Michael had felt about his father when he had been alive, Starfleet had clearly thought very highly of him, judging by the large turnout at his funeral. The throng of white dress uniforms extended nearly as far as he could see, and he was fairly certain every last member of the admiralty was in attendance, certainly everyone within a day’s reach from Earth, and many of which seemed eager to share a few words with him, even those with whom he had clashed in a professional capacity over the years.

All past transgressions appeared to be water under the bridge, at least for this occasion, as many came up to him, offering their condolences and reminding him what a great man his father had been.

Michael accepted all this graciously of course but in the back of his mind he was unable to stop wondering if perhaps the casket had been accidently switched out somewhere and that he was attending the burial of an entirely different man by mistake.

Any such doubts were ultimately dispelled for once and for all when he and the rest of the mourners watched a tall and gracious looking Andorian dressed in a long and beautiful black gown walk up a small makeshift stage just a few meters from where his father had been buried.

Owens thought he recognized her even before the music had begun and she had started to sing one of the most moving renditions of La mamma morta he had ever heard.

The tragic aria of a woman lamenting the killing of her mother who had died protecting her during the French Revolution had been his father’s favorite musical composition and seemingly unsurprisingly he had managed to include in his will not only that it be performed at his funeral, he apparently also had the connections to ensure Piraa Sh'zohlel, the Federations most famous soprano, would be the one to sing it.

The performance was impeccable and Sh'zohlel easily channeled the legendary Maria Callas who had made that same piece immortal centuries earlier. Her rich and exotic bel canto technique added an otherworldliness to the aria unheard of before Earth had joined the intergalactic community.

It was only after the music had died down—the audience remaining in quiet appreciation instead of breaking out in inappropriate applause—and the Andorian had cleared the stage that it struck him how much like his father this performance had been, making sure that even in death, at least for a brief moment, he remained the center of the universe.

The speeches were next and he had dreaded those the most. Especially since the Commander-in-Chief had delivered a glowing testament to what he had called sixty years of selfless service to the Federation. The Chief of Staff, the Commander, Starfleet and the Head of Fleet Operations had all struck a very similar tone. When it came to his turn to speak—he had not wished to deliver a speech, but the top brass had talked him into it—and he stood at the podium in front of at least a few hundred high-ranking Starfleet officers, he found himself at a loss for words.

It wasn’t because he was unaccustomed speaking in front of crowds or at funerals. As a Starfleet captain he had done both more times than he cared to remember, most recently only a few months ago on a planet very far from Earth. Granted, he usually didn’t have to address nearly the entirety of Starfleet Command, but public speaking wasn’t the issue.

He glanced at those faces in the crowd looking up at him expectedly and awaiting to hear from the one person they believed had known Jonathan Owens better than anyone, his own son. The truth was the exact opposite.

He spotted DeMara Deen in the audience as well, he had arrived with her from Eagle and her eyes were still red from the tears she had shed for a man she had greatly respected. After reading over his prepared remarks, she had also strongly suggested some changes to soften his language, all of which he had dismissed.

He looked down at the padd resting on the top of the podium, reading the first words without uttering them out loud. ‘My father gave his life to Starfleet. The cost of which, unfortunately, was not just his health, but also his family.”

There was no doubt that this would not play well with this crowd and when he had written it, he had felt an old anger resurface, and had not cared what the rest of the galaxy might think of him for condemning the man who had been a father to him in name only.

He switched the padd off. “There is little else I can think of to say about my father after everything we have already heard. His accomplishment had a tremendous impact on Starfleet and the Federation. Jonathan Owens dedicated his life to Starfleet, and taught many of us, including me, what it means to serve and to believe in something far greater than any one of us.

More importantly however, he was my father and while we had our difficulties over the years, even though we didn’t see eye to eye on many issues, I can say one thing with absolute certainty. I will miss him. Not Jonathan Owens the admiral, but my dad. I wish we could have had more time to get to know each other again.

I wish …” he stopped himself when he realized that he was threatening to lose control of his emotions while stumbling through the improvised speech. He hadn’t even realized that he had felt that way. Regret, he realized, was a vicious emotion and one never truly understood until it was already far too late. Exploring it now, in front of hundreds wasn’t the right time or place. “Thank you for a lifetime of tireless service to the Federation, Admiral.

You can rest now, Dad. We have it from here,” he worked hard to suppress the tears which were threatening to escape his eyes as a terrible silence seemed to have gripped the entirety of this vast cemetery. He could have sworn even the birds had stopped chirping. Or perhaps he had simply tuned out the world around him.

He left the podium quickly and without making eye contact with anyone until he was back in his chair and feeling DeMara’s hand gently on his shoulder. He looked up at her and she was nodding slowly, wordlessly thanking him for his words.

“It was a terrible speech,” he said later when they had moved on to the reception and he had found his voice again.

“I think it came from the heart, and I think people could tell.”

He had to field another string of well-wishers and condolences at the reception, many of which coming from people Michael had never even seen before. Some faces however were familiar, such as his cousin Vincent Owens who had brought his wife Kerra, both of which served in Starfleet as well, Vincent as a scientist and Kerra in the Sol Defense Force. They had been accompanied by their son Rhory who Kerra had proudly announced had recently aced his entry tests for the Academy and who was on track to become a cadet later in the year.

Michael was hardly surprised, having found Rhory to be a very bright kid even at an early age, and even though he didn’t speak much, his attentive eyes seemed to do little to hide a keen intellect. The young man was clearly meant for big things, perhaps even following his own footsteps and becoming a starship captain one day.

Michael was much more surprised to see another face at the funeral, one with which he was even more familiar with and for entirely different reasons.

“My condolences, Michael. I’m really sorry for your loss.” The tall, dark-skinned woman wearing captain’s pips on her all-white dress uniform jacket hugged him briefly before he had even been able to register her approach.

“I didn’t even know you were on Earth,” said Michael once they had let go and he was able to take in Amaya Donners fully.

She nodded. “Yes. Sorry I didn’t tell you. It was really just meant to be a short layover. Agamemnon was due to depart two days ago but … well, I couldn’t miss the funeral.”

It took him a moment to process this. The two of them had been friends since their Academy days, had even served briefly on the same ship and only recently had become more than friends even though they had both avoided trying to define their relationship exactly. It was difficult enough maintaining a friendship as starship captains with literally half a galaxy between them most of the time, harder still during a war.

“I wish we had time to catch up but Agamemnon is making preparations to depart even as we speak,” she said and sounded genuinely apologetic for this missed opportunity to spend time together.

“Of course, I understand. Thank you for making it to the funeral.” But then he remembered that he had thought that he had seen her before the funeral. At his father’s base in Russia just a few days earlier.

She hugged him again before he could bring it up. “I’m truly sorry, Michael, I’m still in shock myself. We lost a great man but more importantly, you lost your father. I promise I will make time to talk to you soon,” she said and then disappeared again among the crowd of white uniforms surrounding them.

Michael didn’t see her again that day and remained too busy trying to find her with the many other mourners seeking to have a moment with the son of the late, great Jonathan Owens.

* * *

Once back on Eagle, after a long and exhausting day, one of Michael’s first stops was the bridge where he found a skeleton crew of only three officers standing watch while most of the crew was on shore leave.

Ensign Rachel Milestone was the most ranking officer, casually chatting with a female Vulcan ensign whose name escape Michael in that particular moment. He tried to not let that annoy him too much, even though he had prided himself on knowing the name and face of every officer under his command, a challenging task considering the frequency of crew rotations on a ship of Eagle’s size. Considering the day he’d had, he forgave himself for his lapse.

The petite ensign was sitting in the first officer’s chair, even though she was the duty officer and as such was within her rights to occupy the center seat while she was in command. The young woman had a large smirk on her face, clearly amused with the conversation she was having even though the humor appeared to be entirely lost on the Vulcan, judging by her stone-faced expression.

Milestone’s smile quickly dropped off her face when she spotted the captain approach and she stood from the chair and snapped to attention a little bit too quickly Michael thought.


He waved her off. “At ease, Ensign.”

She visibly relaxed.

The Vulcan woman who had been standing already, with her hands clasped behind her back offered him a short nod.

“I was hoping you could look into something for me,” he said, addressing Milestone. “I’m looking for the Agamemnon.”

“Yes, sir,” she said and then promptly headed towards the operations console at the front of the bridge, taking the empty chair while Michael followed her.

“Checking sensors now, sir,” she said as she worked the station. She started to shake her head within seconds. “She’s not in the system, sir.”

“Can you check sensor records?”

She gave him an efficient nod and turned back to the console. “Got her, sir. She was moored at Starbase One until four hours ago.” Anticipating his next order, she went back to look at the current sensor feed. “I have her on long range. She is traveling at warp eight on a heading of two-three-one mark five-two.”

Michael considered that for a moment. “Can you tell when she arrived in the system?”

Her fingers danced over the console. “According to the starbase’s arrival log she got here four days ago, sir. One day before us.”

He wasn’t sure why it bothered him so much that Amaya Donners had never tried to make contact during the time they had been both in the same place. Starfleet captains, he understood were busy people, knew it first hand of course, but it felt odd to him that she hadn’t even attempted to get in touch until the funeral, especially since they had only recently worked together on a particularly challenging mission which had not ended in a way either of them had hoped for.

“Is there anything else you would like me to check for you, sir?”

Michael looked down and seeing Milestone glancing up at him and realizing that he had been in thoughts for a few seconds. He shook his head. “No, thank you, Ensign, that’ll be all.” He stepped away from operations but stopped again when he heard her speak again.


He turned to look at her.

She had left her chair. “I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss.”

He gave her a short nod to acknowledge the sentiment and then headed for the turbolift and back to his quarters.

Amaya had left him a message as it turned out but it was text only and didn’t elaborate any further on the few words she had said to him at the funeral, merely offering her condolences once more and apologizing for the missed opportunity.

A short while later DeMara Deen came to visit, correctly anticipating that he didn’t feel like being alone. They sat together and he talked to her about his father and the few happy memories he had of him, the majority of which had been while his mother had still been alive.

There was however one moment which stuck out to him, he told her. It was the day he had graduated from the Academy and he remembered vividly how proud his father had been of him. The cynical side of him had always attributed his father’s pride as a merely selfish indulgence on his father’s part. An indication that he was pleased with his efforts of ensuring his own legacy by having one of his sons follow his footsteps.

Now on reflection however, he could remember how happy it had made him to have his father’s adoration in that brief moment.

“I don’t think it was ever just about him, Michael. I know he could be intense and that he often put his work before everything else including you and his family. But I also know that he loved you dearly.”

Michael nodded at those words and told her about their last meeting and his offer to join him and how he had turned him down.

“Are you still considering it?”

He shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. Besides Jarik told me at the funeral that he would be filling in as the interim director of SAI. It makes sense for him to continue my father’s work, whatever it was. Better than someone who knew next to nothing about it.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“But I can’t stop thinking about Amaya. She was there the day I met dad at his base, I’m sure of it now. And I also know she worked for him before, was practically instrumental in getting her Agamemnon. I can’t shake the feeling that they are up to something.”


He stood from the couch he had been sitting on and stared out of the sloped viewports into open space. “Amaya and maybe Jarik as well. It is not like her at all to not talk to me and now she’s off to God knows where in a big hurry,” he said and turned to glance back at her. “My father was worried about something. I mean really worried. I had never quite seen him like that before. Something is happening, Dee, and I have this terrible feeling that it will catch us all by surprise.”

“What do you think it is? What was he working on?”

Michael shook his head. “I haven’t got the slightest idea, but whatever it is, I think by turning him down when I did, I might have inadvertently made matters worse. Whatever’s coming, we won’t be prepared for it.”

The story continues in
Quantum Divergence

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