<USS Banshee> "Shadow of a Shadow"

  • From: "Brad Ruder" <groundzero@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: ussbanshee@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004 21:19:06 -0800

?Shadow of a Shadow?
by Lieutenant Commander Joshua Asper

The information held in the data storage device was taunting, almost chastising. Granted there were certain things that could further the race of humanity in a positive light and there were specific hurdles that made one famous, but to come back with such achievement and rewards was not something that was often seen. Had he had the power he would?ve twisted the PADD into a mangled mass of scrap metal to be deposited in a garbage heap, but he restrained himself. Josh had put in a lot of overtime and had paid his dues to a degree that wasn?t often attributed to someone of the lowly rank of Lieutenant ? at least, as far as the command structure went.

After all the hours of work, after all the times that he bent over backwards to please those in high places, and after all the blood, sweat, and tears that he had to trudge through in his personal life because of his career he didn?t get it. The promotion that he got was worth the while, he supposed, but the position was what mattered. The powers that be had made their decision and had decided who would take the place as executive officer on the Banshee as the command staff shifted dramatically.

Second Officer wasn?t bad, he?d admit to himself in his solitude, but he wanted more. Ambitious wasn?t a word that should be used to describe Josh because he always felt himself to be more than the word described. It was almost fanatical. Starfleet was his life and he would do anything to succeed within its confines. Things happen for a reason, he thought to himself, but why now and why her?

Cyanah Kaelyre. Josh did respect her for her abilities and her cool head under fire, although there was always something that he expected to see from her and didn?t. Honestly he couldn?t put his finger on what it was, but it was there and alluring to the notion that she could be more than she was. Then again, she did just revolutionize Starfleet?s perception on warp travel and the means of doing so ? that in itself was no small pinnacle to reach.

Smirking, Josh sat up on his bed and rubbed his neck. The room was abnormally quiet for this time of day and he wondered where Telsia and Cameron were. Taking it as a blessing disguise and allowing himself to once again return to wallowing in the silence, Josh laid back down on the pillow with his arms behind his head. The two-tone ceiling stared back at him and Josh determined that the silence, though bathing him in serenity, had shattered his train of thought.

?Lieutenant Commander Joshua Asper,? he said aloud as he put his feet on the floor and stood, ?Second Officer, Chief Tactical Officer, and Shogun Squadron Leader for the USS Banshee. I do it all, don?t I?? He laughed as he stared himself in the mirror and admired the three gold pips on his neck and his ego, which had inflated a bit.

?What you aren?t is Executive Officer.?

Josh turned sharply on his heel and stood face to face with a brash young man with three golden pips on his collar, dirty blonde hair, and a grin that could slay even the maddest of hearts. The eyes were a deep brown color that Josh knew stood only as the doorstep into the soul ? a tormented soul at that. Curling his lip slightly he found himself staring at himself. ?What do you want??

?What do I always want??

His stomach almost churned at the sadistic smile that appeared on his face. ?What you?re always here for, to make my life a living hell.? Turning away he traipsed across the room and into the bathroom. Running a hand through his hair, Josh activated the faucet with a wave of the other and the cold water swirled around in the sink. Cupping his hands, Josh splashed some of the water onto his face. Nerves surging, Josh blinked a few times and looked up.

?You can?t get rid of me that easy, you know that.?

?They all determined it was stress-related. I?m not stressed,? Josh walked back out into his living room and walked right through the person he knew wasn?t there, but he still felt the breath on the back of his neck and could hear the footsteps following behind him. It was starting all over again and he knew that he couldn?t dare tread the path that he?d once walked ? it had bad consequences. ?The USS Iliad was a long, long time ago and I have no need to go back there.?

?Yes, you know you do.?

Shaking his head violently, Josh almost gave himself a headache. ?I won?t go back there, I refuse to. What you did to me and what you made me think, feel, do, was associated with what was out there and what wasn?t.? The restraints once again closed around his wrists and his sternum and an overwhelming sensation of claustrophobia washed over him and his breath bated in his throat. He couldn?t breathe and he coughed to force his airway open, but to no avail.

Walking down the corridor and catching his breath, Josh drew the looks of his shipmates and was surprised that some of them looked concerned. Pushing away a lieutenant who was offering help, Josh jetted into the nearest turbolift and was relieved when the doors hissed shut. Cracking his neck and his knuckles, Josh rolled his shoulders back and forth. He looked down at his civilian clothing and sighed. Thankfully he wasn?t on shift or due to be on shift.

?What is the easiest way to get rid of the stress??

The words dripped with cynicism and reeked of complete abhorrence. He knew he wasn?t there. He knew that the words were simply in his head. He knew that the person that was supposed to be standing behind him was nothing but his mind?s attempt to relieve the stress. He knew that the ?person? watching over his shoulder was bad, bad news. ?That was then and this is now.?

?Times change, people don?t. And, besides, you weren?t court-martialed for the other one.?

The words that weren?t there stabbed his soul and once again he found himself fighting for air. This time Josh was able to shake it off and turned around to face his enemy ? himself. ?They didn?t court-martial me for it because they never found it. What are you doing to me? There is no it. There is no point to this conversation. I?ve been into the depths of Dominion space with nothing but my flight team with me and I?ve survived. I?ve faced numerous enemies with more teeth and attitude than you ? hell, I?ve faced enemies with tentacles that housed millions of poisonous spines, but they all left when they lost.?

?Commander, are you all right??

Josh halted and his breath caught in his throat for the third time. Damn it all, Josh thought, it?s happening again. Slowly Josh rotated himself and stared at an ensign from science who had tilted his head. Obviously, he was trying to guage what he?d just seen ? or heard ? and compare it to what he knew of Josh before. ?I?m just fine, ensign, why do you ask??

Uncertainty lined the man?s features, but he ventured anyway, ?You were talking to yourself and looking away from the doors. I do strange things like that when I?m alone, but always in the comfort of my own quarters.?

?Well, ensign, different strokes for different folks ? right?? Josh pushed passed him and walked down the corridor. Truth be told, Josh had no idea what deck he was on or where he was going. Walking just to keep moving, Josh trudged on. Around the next corner his nemesis was leaning against the bulkhead with that devious smile still plastered across his face: one that Josh wished that he could smack into oblivion. ?Your presence here is futile.?

?Is it? Remember what happened last time I was here??

?Nothing! You?re not here, that?s the point. You?re nothing but a figment of my imagination because things have been stressful these last couple of days ? ?

?You know what happens when you?re stressed.?

The large doors parted and Josh found himself on the holodeck. Ripping off his shirt and tossing it down onto the floor, Josh began to stretch his arms and he had to grit his teeth from fighting against the verbal assault he was receiving. No, that he wasn?t receiving. ?Computer, activate training program Asper Gym Seven.? It was true that he was overworking himself in his career and at home, but he accepted that and it was time that he worked off some stress.

The scene before him altered and changed. The hologrid shifted in composition and faded into the stone walls of a warehouse out of the 1920s. A wrestling ring was just behind him, but that wasn?t why he was here. He saw it. Hanging suspended from the ceiling in all its thrashed glory the punching bag was his target. It had seen the course of several fights and sparring matches, but it was always there when he needed someone to ?talk? to.

Right hook. The story that had been elaborately concocted by the menacing recreation of himself was false, plain and simple. Left jab. The tale was inaccurate considering the lack of physical evidence and real people to tie into the plot line. Right high kick. There was no such crewman that he was aware of or had been informed of; then again, he never asked. Left middle kick. The court-martial that was spoken of never happened because there was no crime committed.

?That ensign back there was a perfect match.?

?Shut up.? Right roundhouse kick.

?Almost the same build as Lieutenant Kennemer.?

?Don?t know him.?

?Sure you do, and you know the face too.?

?No, doesn?t ring a bell.? Left cross.

His replica stepped in front of the bag and Josh instinctively stopped his attack on the inanimate object. There was a stare down for a long while and that evil grin escaped its prison and danced back onto the face of his counterpart. Somehow, even though words had finally escaped the argument, Josh knew what was being said. No, he knew what wasn?t being said. There was no one to converse with, Josh told himself as he turned around to pick up his discarded shirt.

?This won?t go away.?

?It will if I want it to.?

?Murder never goes away.?

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