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Last time on The Adventures of Augment Gothic

I pulled the thump gun, flipped up the blade and leaf type sights, and sighted in on another large walker grouping. In a final crescendo of fucking, I pumped my hips frantically and came inside Lori's clutching pussy, while simultaneously pulling the trigger and sending the 40mm high explosive grenade right into the concrete at the heart of a large walker group.

The group of walking corpses was ripped apart by the concrete shrapnel in a plume of blood, guts, and torn off body parts, my kill counter going down to zero.

A simple midi-style celebratory jingle played and in old game style block font 'CONGRATULATIONS' was displayed across my vision. And that was it. More low-key Q bullshit.

Instantly, I felt my connection to my armor and nanite network re-establish, then my connection to the ship and Natasha, then to Hermione and Carl in the Star Trek universe.

'Father!' 'Father!' 'My Lord!' I heard shouted in my mind near instantly as the connection re-established. 'You're back!'

'I am,' I gently reassured, a genuine smile on my face. 'Stand by. I have a few things I need to do down here.'

I looked down at Lori and she looked unconscious, so I pulled my cock out of her gushing pussy and tried to rouse her.

"Lori. Lori, wake up," I tried several time before I gave her ass a hard slap. "Lori!"

"Hmm, what?" Lori groggily replied.

"You should probably go back to your room, though I recommend you take a shower first," I recommended.

"Uh, yeah, I'll do that," Lori answered, walking off pantsless, thankfully the men's shirt she was wearing was long enough to cover most everything. If she bent over even a little, though, her puffy and wet little slit would be visible to everyone.

I thought about telling her to take her boxers but was interrupted by T'Maz's call.

"Captain, this is T'Maz, do you read me?"

"I can, T'Maz. How is the ship and crew?" I asked, once the rooftop door closed and Lori was out of earshot.

"The ship is fully operational. The crew have been carrying out the orders you wrote for us to find on the…pool lounger," T'Maz dutifully reported, as if it pained her to use those seemingly illogical words. "I believe that Q was preventing us from contacting you and transporting to the surface. Transporter capabilities appear to have been fully restored along with communications."

"Ha! I'm glad that you got my message. I wasn't sure Q would allow it," I replied. "Do not yet transport me from the surface. If the doctors require blood samples from the surface, they can beam them to the ship. Level 10 biohazard protocols are still in effect. No infected undead humans are to be transported to the ship. That is an order. Current evidence suggests infected humans can possibly transmit whatever is affecting them through an energy field. Natasha, please lock down transporters in line with my orders."

"Understood, father/captain," Natasha and T'Maz responded simultaneously.

"I'll contact you soon. Gothic out," I said.

Feeling whole again, I connected to my armor and ordered it to deploy. My armor deployed near instantly over the clothes I was wearing, in its silver chrome fluidic state, including the fully covering head piece. For good measure my skintight personal shield flared into visibility for a moment. Connecting to my armor's buffer inventory, I called out my rifle and jumped up on to the roof wall in a single leap, landing gracefully on the very edge.

Looking down at the horde of walkers below me, I grinned a bloodthirsty grin, my eyes sweeping over my gathering targets, more and more of them having been drawn to the area because of all my shooting and the recent explosion.

If these things could actually feel fear they would have known to run as I set my rifle to maximum power and began firing thick, bright neon blue bolts of energy down into the hordes of undead. There were no bodies to fall to the ground when their bodies sublimated to wispy ash and were vaporized, their molecules floating away in the breeze as if they had never been.

My loud evil cackles echoed throughout the area as the night was practically lit up with bright neon blue lights. If even a single iota of self-preservation had been left in their dead brains, they'd have run screaming for their very lives.

The Adventures of Augment Gothic

Chapter 49

Looking down at the horde of zombies below me, gathering mindlessly due to the cacophony of noise I was making, my pulses of neon blue light stitched a line of annihilation over the dead as I strafed left and right with purpose.

There was something therapeutic, cathartic, fulfilling even, in seeing the enemy that had made you feel vulnerable and afraid being sublimated into superheated molecules floating away on the wind, their last groans, growls, and snarling noises from their half-rotten throats the last and only fading sign that they had ever existed in the first place. It was a fitting end for such disgusting abominations.

Who was it in Star Trek that had expressed their unease with vaporization for that very reason? Saying that it was as if they had never existed. Was it Picard? Or Riker? I couldn't quite remember as it had been a one-off, throwaway line in the first place. It made a certain kind of sense. The bloody aftermath of a fallen corpse was absent. There would be no visceral visual reminder in the aftermath that you had even taken a life at all. Was it easier than to justify or feel nothing? Were you spared even the smallest iota of regret or guilt when they just…disappeared? As if they had never been.

This wasn't the first time I'd vaporized a body, and it most certainly wouldn't be the last. It was by far the most efficient way of cleaning up a scene, after all. Leaving evidence behind could lead to all kinds of bad outcomes in the future.

I brushed aside these errant thoughts as irrelevant, just the ridiculous workings of an Augment's overactive thought process. It was a curse as much as a blessing in this new life of mine. Intense introspection was not something I had engaged in in my old life, but I was doing it constantly in this one, for better or worse.

He'd only been in this dimension a few days now, but Q's little trick had made him afraid in a way that he hadn't felt since the early days of the Occupation, when he was still getting used to his enhanced body and facing danger every day. He would freely admit, at least in the privacy of his own mind, that he hadn't liked how it made him feel, not one little bit. With his enhanced physical capabilities and his advanced, unique technologies, these mindless zombies would have been, should have been, no threat to him. Under normal circumstances he could jump into the middle of a horde of thousands and his armor would prevent them from doing shit all to him, their teeth and fingers breaking on his armor as they tried to bite and tear at his body. Lord, with his advanced weaponry, there would be little need for even good marksmanship; he wouldn't even need to aim for the head, one shot would probably blow up the top half of their bodies, much less what setting his rifle to vaporize would do to them.

Had he gotten complacent? After an honest bit of reflection he didn't truly think so. Having Q using his reality warping powers on him was not something he could do anything about, or even prepare for. And even with the externally imposed handicap he'd been forced to endure, he did pretty well for himself, he thought. He'd found food, shelter, and weapons pretty quickly upon being dropped in the middle of a zombie horde. He'd joined the canon group to put him in a good place to survive and cause chaos. He hadn't exactly been doing all that well on the causing chaos front, but that would all change now that he had access to all the resources of his starship.

Had he been acting like a scared little bitch with how afraid and vulnerable he'd felt since arriving here? With how careful he'd been? Again, he didn't think so. From the moment he had arrived in this dimension his body had not been normal, diminished while fighting off whatever it was that had caused the apocalypse on this world. With his armor and weapons unavailable to him, his internal nanite network suppressed, he had been forced to proceed with extreme caution. One moment of inattention or a lack of caution could have been his end, after all.

Fuck anyone else who thought differently, he thought. Not that he was going to advertise his experience in this dimension. His girls would understand, though.

Taking his finger off the trigger, the neon blue light that had bathed the area in its destructive glow went dark. It was time to take this up a notch.

XXXXX

I grinned a bloodthirsty grin, one that would have made even a Klingon backstep in instinctual fear. My rifle disappeared back into my armor's buffered inventory and my sword and combat knife were brought out, their purposely darkened blades reflecting none of the night's moonlight. Unlike the few other times I'd used my sword in battle, I didn't activate the plasma cutting edge, instead I activated something I had been inspired by the Star Wars universe to create but had never used thus far. It was also something a lot less flashy than plasma and perfect for stealthy combat.

While the hilt of my sword was insulated, the blade itself vibrated near imperceptibly to the naked eye, using ultrasonic vibrations to increase its cutting power and damage output. The wounds it could make on organic tissue, which would conduct those vibrations, were terrible. Thankfully, a few races in the Star Trek universe, though notably not the Klingons for some reason, had explored the idea of that technology in their distant past, before they inevitably abandoned bladed weapons to the annals of history. Not that it was a very difficult technology to recreate even without the historical shortcuts available to me.

A plasma edge, on the other hand, had preternatural cutting power as it could cut/melt through even the toughest modern materials, but unfortunately, it was rather flashy and noticeable, and that heat also cauterized as it cut, and I was not in the mood for clean, cauterized cuts. No, I rather felt like bathing in the blood of my enemies as I beamed from the roof of the CDC into the middle of a gathering horde that had been worked up by the loud echoing retort of my rifle firing.

Surrounded on all sides by walkers that had no idea that I was now amongst them, I swung my double-edged sword in a wide 360-degree arc at neck height, bending backwards to get at those behind me in the style of the Matrix bullet-time scenes. Ten walkers lost their heads. Where there should have been geysers of fresh blood, unfortunately, only a thick, clumpy, stew-like blood was released by these rotten bags of flesh that had once been living breathing people.

Bodies fell to the ground like broken puppets, making the battleground a little dangerous for my footing, but I didn't let that stop me as I jumped up and over the mound of bodies, bringing my sword down on the top of the head of a particularly large walker. My sword cut his body in two perfectly symmetrical halves, even penetrating deep into the hard concrete of the city street below us, his two halves falling apart messily.

Rotten hands grasped me tightly from the side, so I swept my sword up in an arc, severing limbs from bodies, then sweeping low and wide, cutting the legs off of five walkers who fell to the ground in a bloody heap.

Without conscious thought or direction, dozens of battles saw my left hand come up instinctually, still holding my combat knife. Bending my wrist, three firing apertures appeared before I started firing small, but deadly burnt orange disrupter bolts, hundreds per minute streaming from my wrist to give me some more breathing space. They chewed up the walkers' bodies, tearing whole swathes of bodies apart into a bloody mist as I swept my wrist mounted weapon around in a wide arc.

'Fuck, that was not what I wanted,' I thought with chagrin, but that was the price of experience. Finely honed instincts achieved in battle often took over without conscious thought, which wasn't a bad thing most of the time, but I had other desires in mind at the moment.

There were times when killing at a distance, with a powerful energy weapon, just felt too impersonal, too antiseptic, too devoid of the emotion that riled in your heart like a tempest. Unfortunately, there were many such times during the occupation where the impersonal killing done with an energy weapon was woefully insufficient to calm the bloodlust inside my heart.

Cardassian rapists, especially those of underage girls whose innocence they were attracted to, were often the target of my wrath. These were often bored soldiers, stationed in remote and strategically unimportant areas of the Bajoran countryside, away from the eyes of their mostly uncaring officers who might have made a token effort to stop them (assuming they weren't participating themselves), drunk on their power over a helpless population. These monsters would sometimes go door-to-door raping, before they ran out of energy. Sometimes that meant the horrors they perpetrated were done for the night. That was the best outcome usually. Sometimes, though, they'd force the Bajoran family themselves to do the raping for them, making fathers rape their young daughters, and sons to rape their mothers and sisters, all at the tip of a disrupter. In some often-terrorized Bajoran villages, when the night came, families would swap family members to lessen the horror, even if just a little.

It might be rather dark to admit or openly acknowledge, but those often-terrorized villages, in particular, were prime recruiting grounds for the Resistance, the Cardassians themselves our best recruiters for the most bloodthirsty killers and assassins in the Resistance.

Those were the monsters I took particular delight in taking apart piece-by-piece with my knife or sword as they repeatedly begged for death. The sweet and quick release of a disrupter bolt set on kill was a mercy they didn't deserve for what they had done, for the innocence that they'd taken. The first one of these monsters we'd encountered after Ro Laren had joined my cell left her near catatonic with despair, never realizing what she'd been spared by leaving Bajor, what her people had been forced to endure in her absence. Nerys, Neela, and I had held her close as she sobbed. In the end, it had changed her, of course. It was inevitable; you couldn't see and experience that kind of horror without being changed by it. What little innocence and mercy she'd had left in her heart for the Cardassians, from her years spent in and protected by the Federation, had died that day.

As these memories played in my mind, my body had been moving on autopilot, severing heads and limbs, often leaving still biting heads behind on the ground that tried ineffectually to get at me. A quick sweep of my wrist weapon along the ground put them out of their misery, not bothering to stab the brain with my sword when there were so many more tempting, moving, and intact targets to take out my anger upon.

I killed maybe a thousand more walkers in this manner before the bloodlust in my heart was satiated for now. Cut apart bodies laid on the ground, gathered in makeshift, macabre piles that I had created to give me a little room to move around as the battlefield had started to become treacherous for my footing. Of course, the walkers just kept on coming, seemingly endless. I was in Atlanta, a big metropolitan city, so there were probably hundreds of thousands more in this city alone.

No, if this world had any chance of survival and recovery it needed a very systematic and very efficient method of destroying all these walkers, a machine-like efficiency even. One Augment, even with all my unique and powerful capabilities, could only do so much when there were likely billions of these things roaming the Earth at this very moment.

This world needed some external help if there would be any hope for recovery.

XXXXX

"Gothic to ship, I believe I'm ready to talk," I joked with a large visible smile as I kicked my feet a little as I sat on the edge of the roof of the CDC headquarters, 12 stories up in the air. Given the great height I was at, thankfully, even with my armor's head piece retracted, I couldn't fully smell the horde of increasing walking rotting bodies gathering at ground-level, though I could still hear their groans and growls.

The unexpected sex and bloody killing spree of the past couple hours had been truly cathartic and I felt better than I had since my involuntary adventure in this dimension had begun. My killing spree had thinned the number of walkers significantly in the immediate area, at least for a time, but like words written in wet sand on the shore by the sea, the tide inevitably came back and washed away all your hard work. You don't get mad at the sea for destroying your work, you just accepted it as the way of things, as inevitable, well, unless you got really creative and started to building concrete dams.

The walkers were not my enemies in the truest sense. They had no sense of right or wrong, good or evil, no true desires for conquest or dominion. They didn't kill out of anger or pettiness or ideology, or any number of inane reasons that sentients routinely came up with to justify what they did. They weren't even like animals. At least you could understand why an animal killed. It was for food, for territory, or to protect itself or its offspring. There was a purpose behind it, most of the time, guided by a strong sense of self-preservation.

"Captain!" "Captain." "Gothic!" I heard multiple voices call out in greeting.

"It's good to hear your voices," I said with a satiated smile, mentally activating a video link to see them, a display arranged in a half circle appearing in my visual field, but not in the real world. The neural transceiver in my brain was overlaying the images on my visual field, so that I alone could see them.

It looked like my crew had been having a staff meeting as they were sitting in the conference room and had turned to the monitor to converse with me.

"I'm so happy you're all right, Gothic," Neela gushed with a large smile. "This dimension is dangerous, especially if Q took away your armor and weapons. There are so many of those…moving corpses on the ground."

"Yes, it is, thankfully my body recovered from the infection after the first day and I was able to locate food, shelter, and weapons," I reassured. "Now that I have my normal armor and weapons, the corpses are not a threat to me."

As I said that, I absentmindedly switched my rifle's firing mode to the displaced transporter targeting setting, lined up a shot on a particularly large walker, and fired. Instantly, a tritanium bullet with a gram of molecular solvent inside of it, traveling at supersonic velocities, was propelled from my rifle's shortened barrel and was beamed an inch from the forehead of my targeted walker. Given how close the headshot was, the walker's head practically exploded, the bullet over penetrating and killing multiple walkers behind it. The overpenetration in this case was welcome, but it wouldn't always be so. I made a mental note to redesign the tritanium bullet to allow for variable propellant loads to prevent overpenetration when it wasn't a desirable outcome.

"I tore apart the transporter control systems trying to get it operational, maybe just to beam you a phaser or supplies, but nothing worked," B'Elanna said, looking saddened at her failure. "I'm sorry, I-we-couldn't help you, captain."

"It's all right, B'Elanna, everyone. Q had a mission for me to complete before I would have my normal resources available," I reassured, purposely looking at each of them, trying to convey my sincerity. "If he didn't want something to work, then there was literally nothing you could have done. I don't blame any of you for that."

"I…I haven't had an opportunity, or the desire, to be honest, to go through the ship's records on my own while down here," I admitted, a little embarrassed that my killing spree had taken precedence over everything else, but mental health was important too, damn it. "T'Maz, please report on what you've learned."

Over the course of the next 10 minutes, T'Maz provided a comprehensive report on what the ship had learned while it had been in orbit of the planet, while I had been playing survivor in an MMORPG set in a post-zombie apocalypse. Given the limitations they'd been operating under, the information was nowhere near as comprehensive as normal as the pervasive anaphasic energy field was interfering with their scans from orbit. It was a very rare energy type to encounter, and our sensors had not been calibrated to see through that kind of field.

"That makes no sense. There is nothing in this time period capable of producing energy like that, much less humans themselves. The Federation has probably encountered it only a handful of times in its entire history," I said, going over all the facts I had just learned. "Are the living humans on the surface also producing the anaphasic energy?"

"No, from your close, personal scans of the humans of this world and dimension, they don't appear to," T'Maz replied stoically.

"From my scans?" I asked confused.

"Your armor's emergency protocols dictate a full upload of its memory and scans in the event it is unexpectedly disconnected from the quantum information network for more than a few minutes," T'Maz replied. "I believe you instituted these emergency protocols after the last dimension Q sent us to."

"I did do that, didn't I," I confirmed, still confused at how this meant that there was any data.

"You confusion is understandable. It appears that even though your ability to interface with your armor and the wider quantum network was suppressed by Q, your armor sensors were still fully functional and capable of gathering data while on the surface," T'Maz explained. "Thankfully, this included all your physiological data taken by your armor's sensors. The EMH doctors have been closely reviewing the data since the connection was re-established and they have reached some fascinating conclusions."

"Ah, now I see," I said, curious as to what my doctors had learned from all that data.

When I had created those protocols I had envisioned an emergency situation, where I had been kidnapped or was affected by some kind of spatial anomaly, perhaps one where the connection only re-established briefly to the quantum network and therefore had given my crew unrestricted access to all the uploaded data. From the eyeroll I saw B'Elanna give me and the bright, amused smile from Neela, the data they'd received had included my intimate encounters with Amy, Andrea, and Lori.

"Even during an apocalypse, diminished, without your armor and weapons, danger all around, you find time to have a threesome," B'Elanna sniped.

"Jealous, B'Elanna?" Neela joked right back. "I'm sure Gothic would be willing to let you join in the next time we fuck."

"Have scans detected any indication of FTL travel in the solar system? Or any high energy signatures on the planet's surface that shouldn't be present in this time period? Anything at all to suggest the involvement of a more advanced species?" I asked quickly, ignoring the heated look B'Elanna sent Neela who looked entirely unaffected by the hard look.

"Negative, Captain," T'Maz reported. "We are continuing to scan the surface, but the only high energy signature we can detect through the extensive anaphasic interference is yours. Nor have we received any indications that any warp capable species have visited the star system in the past several months. If they arrived before that, the energy signature would have already decayed and faded into the background radiation."

"Fine, let's bring the doctors onto this call, please," I said.

I could see T'Maz tapping on a control panel a moment before the EMH I had styled to look like the actress, Gal Gadot, appeared on a new holographic screen. She was in her office in sickbay. The Gal Gadot hologram had taken on an unofficial leadership role amongst her fellow EMHs.

Her bright, beautiful smile had me questioning why I hadn't bent her over a biobed at this point. She was Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman shape from the movies and was therefore smoking hot, like stupidly hot. Part of me had hesitated to do so because I knew that that there was no un-ringing that particular bell and that my digital daughters might get some ideas that I wasn't sure I wanted to act on yet, but that was an issue for future me to tackle.

"I am glad that you are out of danger, captain," the Gal Gadot EMH offered in her sexy voice, the Israeli accent in her English something I had purposely kept.

"Thank you, Doctor. I am too," I replied, continuing to take shots at walkers below, putting them down permanently. "I'm anxious to hear what you and your sisters have learned and when I can safely return to the ship."

"We are attenuating a shield frequency, with engineering's help, that we believe will stop the anaphasic energy field, which would allow us to beam you back to the ship, or any walkers, for that matter," the doctor answered. "Although we do not believe you are emitting that field, we would rather be safe than sorry in this instance."

"I completely agree and will defer to your judgment, of course," I said with a nod.

"Since your connection to the ship was reestablished, we have been closely examining all the sensor data your armor's systems has been gathering over the past several days. Needless to say, it has been rather fascinating. Since we have arrived in this dimension, our programs have been active 26 hours a day. There is nothing similar in the entire medical database shared by all affiliated races in the alpha quadrant, well, outside of folklore, or stories that border on fairy tales among the many humanoid species," the doctor reported in an excited tone. "The CDC data you downloaded also included all the shared data from the other research centers around the world, which has been extremely helpful, even with the technological limitations of this time. Your armor's advanced sensors filled in the knowledge gaps in several areas."

"What did my armor report?" I asked, hoping to learn something that even the show itself had never speculated on.

"While your armor was not specifically designed for intensive medical research, your sensor network is extremely advanced and has had the opportunity to closely analyze your internal physiological changes in real-time, from the moment you arrived in this dimension and were first exposed to the anaphasic energy field, to the present moment," she explained. "Having such a detailed and ongoing moment-to-moment record of your physiology, including a baseline, made it very easy to identify and recognize how you were affected and changed by the energy field. That record, along with the research findings from Dr. Jenners' work, and the nearly thousand infected blood samples you've provided in the past few hours, have helped us better understand things."

"Nearly a thousand blood samples?" I asked in confusion. When exactly had I done that?

"During your…battle…with the walkers, as you call them, your armor's surface was splattered with the infected blood of many of your slain targets," the doctor explained patiently, not an ounce of judgment in her voice. "Your armor's sensors analyzed the blood samples and recorded the results. I assume that was the reason behind your choice of a blade weapon, instead of the more efficient vaporization. Thank you for all the additional data, captain. It's made our jobs much easier."

"Yes, well, you're very welcome. That was exactly the reason I did that," I embarrassedly bullshitted in reply. Neela and B'Elanna's snorts of disbelief and humor were quite loud and rather rude in my opinion. "What conclusions have you reached?"

The doctor paused, looking hesitant to respond, but she eventually did.

"We still require more data to confirm our findings, including firsthand experimental data taken under controlled conditions, but we believe the anaphasic energy field was designed to jumpstart or force genetic evolution in humanoids, or perhaps just to prime the subject for rapid genetic change," the doctor answered, my eyebrows raising in shock. "Before I elaborate, would it be possible to get a fresh blood sample from you, captain? While your armor's internal sensors are very advanced, they still do not provide the same diagnostic depth and breadth as the equipment purpose built for those functions in sickbay."

"Of course, doctor. I'm happy to assist however you like," I said, before I turned my right hand upright and a standard Federation-style medical hypospray was replicated in my hands. I placed it up to my neck, my armor flowing down to give me space to take a sample. The internal vial filled with a very large sample of my blood. "Please feel free to initiate transport at any time."

Moments later, a medical transport beam lit up the hypospray in gray lines for several long seconds. The dematerialization process was substantially longer than normal given the medical isolation protocols that were affecting the way the transporter functioned in this instance, given the dangers involved.

"Thank you, captain," the doctor said before she handed the blood sample over to the Tricia Helfer looking EMH doctor. As a medical hologram, there were a lot of things they could safely do in this dangerous scenario that a normal flesh and blood doctor just couldn't. "We believe the anaphasic energy field is a catalyst, the mechanism by which a humanoid race's DNA is forced to rapidly evolve to a more advanced state, for lack of a better word. Perhaps unlocking potential towards some end form would be a better option. The energy field and the changes it brings about in the subject's DNA actually bears several similarities to similar technologies that the Federation has encountered from elder or ascendent civilizations, or the remnants of similarly old but extinct races like the T'Kon or the Iconians."

"That is fascinating," I whispered, deep in thought, my mind making connections to various things I had learned during my training stage in the Star Trek dimension about those ancient, extremely advanced civilizations, as well as several fictional realities that might shed some additional insight on this. "Why then, instead of forced evolution, do we have the dead walking the surface of Earth by the billions?"

The doctor again looked hesitant, as if she was struggling with how to word her answer. As a computer program, that was a sign of just how mightily she was struggling with the current situation.

"The answer, or potential answer to that question, would be pure, unadulterated speculation without the continuous moment-by-moment sensor data available on how it affected your body and DNA, captain," the Doctor replied animatedly, even wetting her lips with a gleam in her eyes, as if excited to even talk on the subject. "We believe that how your body, how your significantly more enhanced DNA reacted to the energy field, was more in line with what the race that designed this energy field actually intended. Dr. Crusher on the Enterprise once speculated that your enhanced DNA was a potential ideal evolution of the human species long into the distant future, not the ultimate expression of it, though, one where geneticists have speculated where we may shed our physical forms altogether and become more akin to energy, but certainly one that would require a lot of time, luck, and hardship to achieve."

"You are saying that my body was advanced enough to safely receive the changes the anaphasic energy field was designed to impart?" I asked.

"Yes! Yes! Well, at least that's our current hypothesis," the doctor enthusiastically answered, with a touch of embarrassment at her last answer. "You have to acknowledge and understand that despite all of humanity's accomplishments, the human form, at least from a genetic perspective, is still in a primitive stage of its evolution, at least when compared to the DNA we've stumbled upon left behind by long departed elder civilizations, some of whom have shed their physical forms altogether and now only exist as energetic beings."

That statement made something click in my mind. The ancient Alterans from the Stargate universe, hadn't they designed something eerily similar to jumpstart their own evolution to reach ascension? Or if not for that purpose, weren't there also examples in that universe of their healing technology affecting humans negatively, because they weren't evolved enough to be affected by it like the designers intended? For God's sake, there were even examples of humans coming back from the dead after being exposed to the healing beam of that Alteran cube-shaped device whose name escaped me. It was that same technology that the Goa'uld had watered down enough to use in their sarcophagus technology, the same technology that slowly drove them insane and evil because they too were not physiologically advanced enough to use it like the Alterans had.

"How did it effect my DNA?" I asked slowly.

"The changes in your DNA are very minor, but so are the genetic differences between a chimpanzee and a human. Even a minor genetic change can have profound and unknowable effects as a whole, which is why we so often see unintended consequences when parents genetically enhance their children," she said with a shrug. "Genetically, we believe that your DNA has become more adaptable, more 'accepting', if you will, on an individual level, of rapid beneficial adaptations or improvements and Dr. Crusher had already speculated that you might be capable of that to a degree already. Now, that level of active adaptation, again, on an individual level, is unnatural, artificial, and exactly what this likely extremely advanced race intended to change in their people. No individual lifeform naturally adapted to anything. As a species we might, though, over time."

"I don't fully understand," I admitted.

"Active adaption implies that you're in one environment and then you go to another one, maybe a hostile one, that you then physiologically adapt to it," the doctor was gesturing widely with her hands. "That does not happen naturally! What happens is that in the genetic variation of any generation, some people have certain properties that others don't. You go into a new environment, this new hostile one, and everyone who does not have that particular and favorable genetic variation necessary to survive, well, they die. They are summarily removed from the gene pool and the one person who had that property, in advance, survives, hopefully long enough, to pass on that beneficial genetic variation to the next generation. Therefore they did not actively adapt, they were already fit to survive in that new environment. They were the fittest to survive those particular circumstances and thus pass on those desirable genetic characteristics to the next generation. Adaptation is true in the broad sense of a species, over time, but there is no active adaptation, on an individual level, ever going on."

"The colonies the Federation has discovered, from navigational errors or ship crashes on inhospitable worlds centuries previously—" I began.

"Those suited to survive in that unexpected, inhospitable planetary environment, survived to pass on those beneficial genes," the doctor continued the thought. "Even in just a few centuries the genetic difference among the population of a colony like that can be quite noticeable from baseline humanity. Of course, given our current knowledge and capabilities for genetic manipulation, many of those unplanned colonies took matters into their own hands to immediately and artificially grant those favorable genetics they identified to the rest of their people, genetics suited to survive their new situation, with understandably mixed results and outcomes. With as many colonies like that that we've found, the ones that roll the genetic dice and beat the odds, there are probably many times more unknown examples where they ended up killing themselves with genetic manipulation and we just never learned about it."

"And you believe the creators of this technology were doing something similar?" I asked. "What was their goal?"

She hesitated again.

"Speeding up or jumpstarting evolution, in real time, on an individual level, unlocking potential, they're all euphemisms for the Hail Grail in this field, granting adaptive DNA," she practically whispered. "The shapeshifters the Federation have encountered, like the Allasomorph and the Chameloid and others, have a touch of it, on a very basic level, but even then they can only assume other natural forms, not adapt their DNA to make something new or to improve themselves."

"Given how primitive the human form is, the people of this world could not successfully make the final change, that transition, but there was just enough of a change to see some rather unexpected outcomes, as is so often the case when you manipulate DNA. Even in death, their bodies continued to produce anaphasic energy, a corrupted form of it to be sure, but still. And somehow the energy is reanimating the dead, but without any higher brain functions, which also slows the rate of decomposition. In essence, the reanimated humans, now producing this field, infect and change others with it by proximity."

"How does a walker biting someone kill them, then?" I asked.

"We…don't know. Without some firsthand data, I could only speculate," the doctor offered uncertainly.

"Please speculate, doctor," I ordered.

"If I had to guess? The living are affected by the anaphasic energy field, but they don't produce it on their own until they turn. A bite from a walker might cause the living person's body to start producing the energy on its own and that kills them," she answered with a shrug. "Though it could just be something more mundane that actually kills them. These are rotting dead bodies, after all, which wouldn't be good for anyone bitten."

I nodded at her answer as it mirrored my own thoughts and suspicions.

"If the humans of this world stumbled upon or activated some advanced alien technology, exposed themselves or a test subject, and then they died. It could have quickly spread beyond their ability to control," I speculated, my thoughts wandering to how to detect this technology and take it for myself.

T'Maz, who had remained silent during this entire conversation, chose that moment to speak up.

"Unless we begin systematically eliminating the reanimated corpses on the planet, captain, which I would remind you, number in the billions, I do not believe our sensors would be able to detect the energy this alien device emits, not while the surface is already so saturated with it."

I chuckled. T'Maz knew me too well. She knew that obtaining advanced technology from an elder civilization would be like a siren's call to me.

"Yes, those were my thoughts as well, T'Maz. But don't forget we need to cause a certain amount of chaos before Q will allow us to leave this dimension. Eliminating the walkers and helping this world's survivors recover should cause plenty of chaos," I both admitted and planned. "Doctor, I'm ready to return to my ship whenever you're ready."

XXXXX

Sickbay. Onboard TheFlighty Temptress. In orbit of Earth. The Walking Dead universe.

Twenty minutes later I was beamed to the ship directly onto a biobed in sickbay. Seeing the futuristic environment that I had designed and owned brought me a great deal of satisfaction. Situations like this were exactly why I had spent so much money on this space.

Leaning my head up slightly, I saw that I was in the isolation ward section of sickbay, an area cordoned off by not only physical walls, but active forcefields that went through the floor and ceiling and every wall, thus isolating this area by both physical and energetic barriers. Unlike in a starship, where a power failure could expose the whole ship, isolation was going to be maintained regardless as the physical barriers would be unaffected and this area had its own independent power and life support systems. I had learned many hard lessons from watching episodes of Star Trek.

Reaching out with a single poking finger, just as I had expected, my finger was stopped by a reddish energy field that flared into visible existence, preventing me from getting up but also preventing the spread of anything dangerous to the ship and crew. Since I had designed and built this ship myself, I had the ultimate override authority on everything onboard, so I could, in theory, override this forcefield at any time. In reality, I had input several scenarios, many of them where I was medically compromised, where my override authority wouldn't work. It was a delicate balance to strike between maintaining my authority and giving it up when I was not right in body or mind and thus a danger to everyone. That was another hard lesson that I had learned from many episodes of Star Trek.

Just as I had designed it, if the containment area was in danger of being breached, the entire room could be flooded with a radioactive pulse that could disintegrate everything in the room or only specific substances. The entire area could also be exposed to space. This level of protective isolation was unheard of onboard a starship.

I had spared no expense in designing and stocking my ship's sickbay with the most advanced of capabilities and equipment. Indeed, you'd have to visit a top tier planetary medical facility or an advanced star base to find the medical capabilities that were present in this room. Even the Enterprise herself didn't have these capabilities, many of which had been augmented by the advanced alien technologies that I had stolen or acquired over the years.

I could see T'Maz and the rest of my crew waiting outside the isolation area through the transparent aluminum panels.

"Great to be back!" I snarked loudly while lying on my back.

Moments later my three EMH doctors appeared, the holoprojectors allowing my doctors to appear anywhere on the ship. As they were programs, photons and forefields, they would be completely unaffected by even the deadliest pathogens and thus had free reign to appear and move about in the isolation ward.

"The force field is just a precaution, captain," the doctor who looked like the actress Tricia Helfer assured me gently, a calming smile on her face. "Once the scan confirms what we already expect, that you are not emitting the anaphasic energy field, we can release you."

"Is there anything we can do for you while you are being scanned? A pillow? A cold drink? A sloppy double blowjob perhaps to make you more comfortable? It won't interfere with the scan," the doctor who looked like a young Angelina Jolie offered with a lovely, inviting smile.

Immediately and without my conscious thought, my eyes went to my crew who had heard this rather scandalous offer, dreading their reaction.

T'Maz merely raised an eyebrow at this unexpected offer from what she perceived as a Federation medical professional, hologram or not. Outside of a Risian hospital, I imagine that a doctor offering a blowjob to their patient would seem quite illogical and out of place to her, prompting the eyebrow of doom.

Neela's face had lit up in delighted amusement and was giving me two thumbs up and was nodding her head vigorously, as if encouraging me to accept the offer. That saucy slut had really come into her own. Or I had corrupted the shit out of her.

B'Elanna was looking disgusted at the offer, knowing that I had extensively and personally reprogrammed the Federation's Mark 1 Emergency Medical Holograms that served in my sickbay. This probably hadn't helped her opinion of me when she already thought that I was an oversexed man slut.

I had never been a fan of reinventing the wheel in my design philosophy. You could see that in all the technology that I had ever designed. If another race had taken a stab at something, even in their distant past, I was more than happy to recycle whatever I could from those old designs to speed up my design process. That could range from only taking inspiration from certain design ingenuities, to copying wholesale whatever I could. That was one of the things I was quite proud of. I had little in the way of ego when it came to my work. I was quite happy to take the best of Federation, Cardassian, Ferengi, Collector, Husnock design, etc., and mash it into something that was greater than the sum of its parts. That amalgamation also had the benefit of making subverting or reverse engineering my technology that much more difficult, considering so many disparate design philosophies, from so many different races, went into everything I made. Many who tried would find it wholly incompatible with their normal systems.

In my EMH's case, I had borrowed heavily from the brilliant programming that was part of the Vulcan Love Slave holonovel that Quark was famous for having on Deep Space Nine. Vulcan Love Slave had actually been a series of Ferengi novels first, a highly celebrated part of their literary canon actually, before it became a highly successful and interactive series of erotic holonovels. Some of the best and brightest of Ferengi holoengineers had poured their hearts and souls into that program, holoengineers the caliber of Dr. Louis Zimmerman himself, if they were objectively evaluated on their work alone rather than on the nature of the content that they created.

The Vulcan Love Slave series were masterworks of holographic programming that would have been celebrated and lauded if the Federation wasn't so fucking uptight at times, or anti-Ferengi when it came to capitalism. So, yes, when I had taken on the daunting task of reprogramming the EMH programs to better serve my needs, I had liberally borrowed/stolen from the programming found in the Vulcan Love Slave holonovels. It had immeasurably improved my doctors' bedside manner, their ability to adapt to whatever they encountered, as well as their ability to collaborate together on a single starship, something the Mark 1's were famous for not being capable of. Orgies and reverse gangbangs required a lot of coordination and collaboration, after all.

Have you ever wondered why the Federation didn't have multiple EMH programs on a starship ready to turn on in an emergency situation? Made sense, right? More doctors would be better than a single one in an emergency. Voyager would have certainly benefitted from more than one doctor after being stranded in the delta quadrant. The PC answer they gave to anyone who asked-not that many did or were even really aware the EMH program existed outside of people in Starfleet Medical-was that the programs were too complex, too large to have more than one in a sickbay's systems. That was utter bullshit. Memory was cheap. And the Federation was great at making system upgrades. If they wanted to make it work, they could have. The reality, as I found out, was that that the programs, having been based on the personality of Dr. Zimmerman, practically killed each other if they were activated together and were forced to work with each other for any length of time. I wasn't even being hyperbolic there.

I had been amazed and not a little impressed at how quickly the stock EMH Mark 1s had designed holographic phasers that shot/transmitted computer viruses capable of killing/destroying other holographic programs. After I had shamelessly stolen that particular idea, Star Trek had plenty of rogue holograms after all, I had wiped their programs to baseline, pulled up my sleeves, and reprogrammed them with a not so little bit of Vulcan Love Slave in the mix. An offer of a double blowjob was rather tame when viewed through that lens.

"Thank you, doctor, but I'll pass for now," I answered, tempted to answer in the alternative, but deciding it wasn't worth the headache my audience might give me for accepting. "You can begin the scan now."

A bright white beam of light came from the emitters in the ceiling, cycling between colors as different scans were conducted over the next ten minutes. My doctors stood with their backs to me, taking in the medical readouts and pointing out various things. It was all an affectation for their living patients, of course, a way of making themselves appear like real people as they could obviously take in the readings directly and more efficiently from the computer itself. The base EMH had that too.

When the sensor beams cut off they came over to my biobed and released the forcefield, the field coming into visibility for a moment before winking out. I sat up with a fake groan, cracking my back.

"I guess I'm not contagious, huh?" I joked, looking at my crew.

"Your body is not emitting the anaphasic energy field the walkers on the planet are," doctor Gadot answered with perfect bedside manner, just as I'd programmed her. "In fact, I believe the field successfully made the change it was designed to do. You said that it took nearly a full day and night of sleep to feel normal again, that it had never taken that long for you to overcome a sickness."

"That's right, after a full night's sleep, I felt back to normal," I answered.

"We believe that your body, your DNA, successfully accepted the change during that period," Doctor Gadot explained.

"What will that mean going forward?" I asked. "Will I suddenly be able to shapeshift into other races?"

"That is highly unlikely," she replied. "But, to answer your more fundamental question, we really don't know. This was something forced on your genome, by external forces, by a mechanism we truly don't understand and can't replicate, just like becoming an Augment was. We're in entirely uncharted territory here. It may be quite some time before we learn what it truly means."

That answer was disappointing, but in line with what I had already expected. When I had been placed in this universe, I had wondered what Q had intended for me to get out of it. There was no doubt in my mind that this was it. What it meant in the fullness of time, though, I had no Godly idea, but it was important enough, beneficial enough for Q to view it as a reward. Only time would tell.

"No use worrying about it then," I said aloud, mostly to myself, looking down. "Doctors, I have a big ask for you, I want a treatment, something that can be mass distributed, that can prevent the living people on the surface from reanimating after death to become walkers. If this world has a chance, that's where it needs to start. We need to stop the creation of any new walkers on this world."

My doctors shared a meaningful look.

"The scientists of this time didn't have the ability manipulate DNA on the level required to revert their people's DNA back, or even recognize how it was changed in the first place. After examining your blood, we have a few ideas on that front, captain," doctor Gadot replied. "To be clear, though, dead is dead. The walkers on the planet cannot be cured or reverted to normal. However, we may be able to help the living. If it works it won't be granting the remaining living population adaptive DNA, their genome simply isn't advanced enough, but it will prevent them reanimating after death."

"That would be perfect, doctor. If you require more blood or scans, please let me know, but put all your efforts into finding a solution," I said, patting myself on the back once again for acquiring their programs and putting them to work for me. My knowledge from Star Trek: Voyager was giving me quite an advantage here as others didn't realize just how useful these EMHs could be.

I turned my attention back to my crew who were standing outside the isolation area.

"T'Maz, now that we can beam drones to the surface I want full scans of the surface. Feel free to beam drones to the surface for better scans and don't bother hiding them from any survivors in the area."

"Aye, captain," T'Maz replied immediately, as always fully supportive of my orders despite how flagrantly it broke the Prime Directive in this situation. Her Section 31 background gave her a lot more flexibility in that regard.

I could see B'Elanna was struggling with herself, but ultimately kept quiet, even nodding to herself. Now that was interesting. Was it the dire straights this world was in that changed her mind on this? Or was she coming to trust me more? I'd take whatever progress I could get.

"The primary mission is to conduct a census of the living but make note of any large groups of walkers too. I intend to design and widely distribute a weaponized drone to systematically eliminate all walkers on the surface," I ordered. "If the sensor drones see the living committing terrible crimes, like unprovoked murder, rape, cannibalism, or crimes against children, flag it for later review. That's a secondary mission for now."

If the sensor drones had conclusive proof of crimes like that, I could add them to the drones' targeting database for capture or elimination if they were encountered in the future. I turned to my remaining crew.

"B'Elanna and Neela, like the last universe, I want you to download all the available data this world has to offer. There have to be intact data centers down there," I ordered. "Grab cultural data too, like games, books, movies, entertainment, etc. Pretty much in line with what we grabbed from the last universe. Feel free to expand those parameters as you like if something occurs to you; we've got plenty of memory storage."

That was even more true now that I had reverse engineered their harvester weapon and learned the Vidiian data compression techniques they used to make that small device possible.

"Will do, captain," Neela instantly replied, with a serious nod.

"Dismissed."

XXXXX

Holo-Design and Fabrication Lab.

It was nice to be back in the design lab, I thought, as I spun my chair in a lazy circle like a little kid, staring up at the ceiling of my lab, deep in thought. This place felt like home, or my home away from home. My armor, my weapons, my island home, my starship, all of them had started off as unrealized pie in the sky ideas brought to tangible reality in this very room.

Was it any wonder that I felt energized and hopeful here, like anything was possible if I just put my mind to it?

I had long intended to develop a modular weaponized drone of my own unique design, one that I could ideally scale up for use on a planet or in space, but I never quite got around to it, instead using Minosian designs I already had on hand or extremely small drone designs that I had recreated from my old life in the US military.

The Walking Dead universe, though, had given me the opportunity to finally do it and do it BIG. Well, that was one way of putting it, being forced to do it was probably more accurate, not that it wouldn't be a fun project and useful long into the future. It would be a field test on a planetary scale as thousands of drones were released to eliminate billions of walkers. Given the enemy, I didn't expect much in the way of progressive design improvements from failed encounters, like the Echo Papa 607 system was so good at, but maybe some incremental improvements in efficiencies were possible via a self-diagnostic of encounters. Even if survivors tried to hit the drones with multiple missiles, their 24th century shields and thrusters would be more than enough to survive the attack or move out of the way quick enough.

My chaos meter was at a depressingly low-level at the moment, so if I ever intended to leave this dimension, I'd have to up my game and actually cause some. Saving Amy hadn't exactly given me a big bump, which was telling. Blowing up the CDC from orbit, with the entire main cast inside, might get me the numbers I needed, but more likely than not even that probably wouldn't be enough to get me to 100%. Plus it wasn't really my style. No, saving this world from itself felt like the right move and would give me all the chaos I could hope for.

The first step was to give this fucked up world a fighting chance by eliminating the billions of walking corpses on the planet whose sole purpose seemed to be killing the living. If that was the only thing I did, I'd be giving this world a shot at recovery. Not a great shot, but still, a shot at regaining what they had lost in time. It would probably take a few centuries, a few wars, and a hell of a lot of luck, though, and that was with me being optimistic. Much more likely was that this was the end of humanity on Earth in this dimension. That was the far, far more likely future here without outside intervention.

The second step would be to build a safe haven for the living survivors. Initial scans of the planet's surface from orbit painted a more dire picture than I had initially expected, the scans suggesting that there were perhaps 10 million survivors worldwide, while there were billions of walkers. Even with a swarm of drones vaporizing walkers 24 hours a day, it would be the work of years, decades even, before all the walkers were eliminated. The surviving population of Earth just didn't have that long. Whether they liked it or not, the living needed to be brought together in one secured and prepared place. The old prejudices based on old hurts, or national borders, or religion, or culture, would have no place in the new world that I was building.

"Fuck!" I yelled suddenly as that thought hit me. I really was building a new world here, wasn't I, with all that that entailed. I continued my chair spinning.

That was the third step, wasn't it? I wasn't just killing all the walkers; I'd be picking up and transporter relocating millions of survivors in one place. That meant I needed to use existing infrastructure where I could, which meant repairs, but it also meant providing them with new housing, large scale construction even.

It meant providing them with food, with education, with health care, with government, with protection and policing. I couldn't just bring all these traumatized people together in one place, many forcibly I'm sure, and expect them to not kill each other. How many petty dictators and warlords would I have to kill who loved this new world exactly as it was now and who wanted to stay exactly where they were? How many would fight me to the death to keep the power they'd amassed and the people they had that power over under their thumb? Maybe forced relocation wasn't the answer, but granting everyone that choice, divorced of local pressures, would be key. Getting them independent as quick as possible would be the ideal, but how fucking realistic was that now that all the vestiges of the old world had fallen away?

Should I encourage them to become farmers? Or should I provide them with replicators for the short-term? If I use replicators to feed them, at what point did I take those replicators away and expect them to provide for themselves? What level of education should I provide them with? A level of education suited to their development as of 2010? Or maybe something more suited to an agrarian society that would be more sustainable long-term if my help stopped? Should I take a hands-off approach and let them figure it out? Or should I just say, 'fuck it' and elevate them to a 24th century Star Trek level of knowledge? If I did that, I'd not just be breaking the Prime Directive, which despite my recent actions I did see the merits of even if I wasn't beholden to it, but doing this would be like taking it out back, shooting it in the head, pouring gasoline on the corpse and burning it to ashes. This would be the most flagrant breaking of the Prime Directive the Star Trek universe ever committed by a human, not that they would learn about it from me.

And of course this would all be running on the equivalent of automatic as I had no intention of sticking around long enough to see any of these plans through to the finish. Could my AIs handle it? I'd likely have to fully release all my limiters on them if I placed this on their plates in addition to their normal duties.

There were so many questions with so many fucking insane consequences if I made the wrong decisions. This was playing God in a big fucking way. This world was already objectively fucked to begin with, to be fair, but my fingerprints would now be all over this if it all went to shit.

An Augment's mind was a powerful thing, but I could feel my mind running on a thousand tangents that had no end in sight. Decision paralysis was a real danger for a person like me, so I forcibly shut down those thoughts and focused on the immediate task in front of me as a respite, designing a weaponized drone that had to do far too many things really fucking well and yet be easy to create by the millions. As a long-time designer, I knew that that was a very dangerous project to take on.

"Carl, Hermione, Natasha," I called aloud, and they appeared holographically in front of me.

"How can we be of service, my lord?" Carl greeted me with a little bow, as I had called him first.

"Oh, not much, I just need your help designing a weaponized drone whose first task will be to vaporize billions of reanimated humanoid bodies," I answered with a glint in my eye, watching Carl closely.

If I hadn't been watching for it, I probably would have missed it as Carl's holographic image froze for a moment, before a wide, extremely happy grin appeared on his face.

"I would be most happy to assist in that goal, sir," Carl replied eagerly and excitedly. Hermione and Natasha rolling their eyes good naturedly at their fellow AI who could be quite single-minded when it came to all things weapons. The AI couldn't exactly help it, that was his core purpose after all and why he had been created in the first place.

"I'm going to borrow quite heavily from Minosian drone programming, especially the progressive adaptability of the Echo Papa 607," I said. "Show me the standard Echo Papa 607 drone."

Immediately, the burnt orange drone appeared, with its large head and emitter connected like a scorpion's tail.

"I have never been a fan of the Minosian design aesthetic," I said grouchily, getting up out of my chair and walking around the hologram, "but you can't argue with its effectiveness and the sheer number of technologies they managed to fit into this small chassis. They really were masters of their craft. A powerful sensor package, the ability to disrupt local enemy communications, cloaking, deflector shields, energy weapon, holographic projection, and a stasis beam weapon. And it can analyze an enemy encounter in which the previous generation drone was destroyed, and a new, improved design can be created and then manufactured in 12 fucking minutes. Now that's a masterwork."

"Thank you, sir," Carl practically beamed, like I had personally complimented him. Arguably, I had, considering how closely he was connected to the weapon system.

"But it's ugly as sin and I need it to appear friendly when called upon for what I need it to do," I replied. "The drone along with its holoprojector will need to interact with millions of surviving humans on the surface, so it can't look like something out of a Terminator movie designed to kill all of humanity. There are going to be plenty of crackpot conspiracy theorists who will believe I caused the apocalypse in the first place."

"It could certainly be made…prettier, more friendly looking," Carl quickly returned uncertainly, looking concerned now that I had expressed some displeasure with the product. As always, he was the ultimate salesman.

"Carl, I know the Echo Papa can carry out multiple mission types and roles," I began before fully explaining what my tentative goals were in this dimension, now and in the future.

"Our planetary conquest and administration package, designed for pacifying your enemy's planetary colonies, would likely be ideal for your current mission parameters, my Lord, and was quite popular among our former customers," Carl answered excitedly after a moment or two of thought, happy to help me. "It includes the systematic elimination of military targets and eventual resistance fighters, the creation of a new authoritarian government and policing organization, and the mass re-education of a large civilian population. The walkers, as you called them, could easily be designated as the primary military targets. Re-education typically would involve indoctrination and propaganda campaigns to accept their new overlords, but that programming can be easily modified to a more traditional educational scheme."

The Minosians never ceased to amaze me. Maybe it was a good thing that they had been wiped out by their own creations. If the Romulans or Cardassians had encountered them and bought their services, the Federation may have been well and truly fucked.

"Hermione, Natasha, it sounds like we have a good starting point with this conquest and administration package, but can you please work with the existing programming and smooth out the rough edges that are inevitable in anything the Minosians created. You know how I think," I ordered with a sigh. "We're going for less conquerors who are now trying to indoctrinate you to their way of thinking, and more saviors who are trying to make your lives better because otherwise you'd all be fucked. Replace the current re-education program with a Federation colony education program, but keep in anything that puts the focus on me as their lord and savior in case we ever need to retreat to this dimension permanently."

(It would be years in the future before I realized the consequences of those rather flippantly offered words.)

"Will do, father," they said in unison, a gleam in their eyes that I didn't notice, before disappearing into the digital ether to begin carrying out my orders.

"All right, Carl, this is the design I've settled on for the new drone," I said before mentally opening a new design parameter file that I'd mentally built from memory. "I'd like your thoughts on its design."

I had considered many drone designs that existed in both the Star Trek universe and those that I had seen in real life or in fiction, before I had made my decision. It had been a hard one, but one that I was happy with.

Appearing in large holographic form was the white spherical drone weapon that had appeared in the 2013 movie Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise.

"An interesting design, my Lord," Carl offered, while circling the drone weapon. "A large, spherical design, which will make the deflector shield geometry very simple and power efficient, maximizing its power to defense ratio. White, I am assuming, to make it appear less threatening to the planetary population?"

I nodded, while that was true, it was also because the drone in the movie was white in color, not that I was going to admit that to Carl.

"Small, but powerful ion thrusters at the 'back' of the unit, with multiple distributed micro reaction control thrusters on its surface for quick, sharp turns and changes of direction. It will likely be extremely fast in both atmosphere and in space, capable of extreme evasive maneuvers."

"I intend this drone design to be used in atmosphere and in space, you're right," I admitted. "The design I borrowed from originally had quite prominent protruding thruster ports on the back, but it was unnecessary with the superior tech base I have access to."

"This x-shaped sensor and holoprojector module on its…face. I am assuming that as the ion thrusters are directly opposite it, this is the 'front' of the drone weapon that will face forward while in motion?" Carl asked.

"Yes, exactly," I answered.

"The four circular lenses are intended to appear as eyes, anthropomorphizing the drone to appear more natural and thus less threatening, I assume?"

"Yes, exactly. These drones will be used to kill billions of walkers, but they will also be the primary way survivors will be communicated with," I shared. "The holoprojector will display a VI I design for the purpose of communicating with them, or maybe just you or the others. I'm a little hesitant to create a new digital child."

"I see. The Minosians tried something similar with the standard Echo Papa 607 drone design," Carl explained. "The two fixed, extendable weapon turrets on each side of the drone weapon are quite interesting and formidable, but perhaps unsuited for its intended mission role."

"Hmm," I said, getting up and similarly walking around the floating holographic image. "I believe I know what you're getting at, but please explain."

"The dual fixed turrets on each side are ideal for bringing concentrated fire upon shielded targets, but you intend these drones to eliminate billions of unshielded humanoid bodies. I recommend making each weapon turret capable of a range of independent movement and targeting to increase its efficiency."

"Yes, I agree," I replied slowly, thinking on the suggestion more, adding notes to the design file. I even ran a quick and dirty simulation showing how many walkers per minute the drones could vaporize with both turret designs and Carl was 100% right. The ship Q had originally given me had weapon turrets just like that, capable of both independent movement and targeting. I'd see if that design could be repurposed and retrofitted here. "What else?"

"If your plan is to use these drones as channels for introduction and communication, it may be counterproductive for these weapon turrets to always be visible. Perhaps they can be retracted when not needed?" Carl suggested.

"That's a great point. It's hard to engender trust while the drone that is talking to you has its weapons pointed at you the entire time," I chuckled and sighed. "Those weapons are direct from the movies. My plan was to use my rifle design, allowing for different energy types, in this case phaser, disrupter, antiproton, and a cutting laser. But I also wanted to use the stasis beam technology from the original Echo Papa drone."

"I do not believe your rifle design is currently replicable or capable of being manufactured with the same ease as the Echo Papa 607 standard drone," Carl hesitantly reminded me.

"Fuck, you're right," I admitted with a sigh, cursing myself for a moment.

This was exactly why I had asked for Carl's opinion. While I was a world-class designer, in my humble opinion, there were practical, logistical realities that had to be considered when designing weapon systems that were meant to be produced by the thousands or tens of thousands, ones that were intended to carry out a very specific long-term mission types. My personal rifle had never been intended for mass production or ease of manufacturing after all and therefore I had spared no expense during its creation. To eliminate billions of walkers worldwide I would need a drone capable of being easily and quickly manufactured, and ideally on the cheap.

"I'm willing to spend the extra resources and manufacturing time on the drone weapons I'll keep onboard my ship, but these drones will never be facing large, shielded targets like a modern starship. Disrupter energy is ideal for what I need it to do by the billions and is the most energy efficient at destroying organic tissue. Any walkers inside closed buildings, for example, can be beamed out and purged from the buffer," I thought aloud.

"Transporting targets as a method of elimination is quite energy intensive compared to standard disrupter weaponry and will strain most power cores capable of fitting inside this chassis if used on too many targets within too short a period, but it may prove necessary for targets inside buildings or located underground," Carl concluded.

"I'm not concerned about the power demands in that regard. Any walkers locked inside rooms within buildings are contained and can be eliminated at leisure."

"According to my analysis, the current drone configuration does offer sufficient internal space for the systems and capabilities you specified, including a small transporter module."

"Good. I'll likely just use the standard Minosian construction and mining drones to build up the infrastructure I need on the planet and in the system," I shared. "According to recent scans, the asteroid belt in this reality actually has many of the materials I need, including things that shouldn't be present. At least they weren't in the Star Trek dimension. That might be Q throwing me a bone, but I'll take it."

My eyes went over the large list of systems I needed to efficiently integrate into this different design. I wasn't reinventing the wheel, thankfully, but it would still take time to stuff all of this into the new chassis in a way that preserved its ability to be easily manufactured and/or repaired.

"We've got a lot of work to do, Carl," I said with a mock sigh, not bothering to hide my excitement at the challenge in front of me.

"I am eager to begin, my lord!"

XXXXX

B'Elanna and I stood outside my sickbay's isolation ward, looking through the transparent aluminum windows, watching as my three EMH doctors worked on the biobeds, modifying and finetuning the diagnostic equipment before the real show began in earnest. The large isolation room was currently segregated into two areas by a humming blue forcefield. On the left were three biobeds, on the right were another three biobeds.

"How confident are you that the forcefields will prevent the anaphasic energy field from leaving the isolation ward?" I asked, not bothering to turn to B'Elanna or taking my eyes off my doctors diligently working.

"Confident enough to stand outside the ward and risk exposing myself?" B'Elanna replied.

"Great answer," I replied quietly.

"Every simulation says it'll work, but we're dealing with what is likely an elder civilization's technology," she continued with a shrug. "You were inundated with the anaphasic energy field for days on end, giving your armor time to accumulate a great deal of sensor data. That allowed us to come up with a counter that we're very confident will confine the field. If we're wrong, though, I'll be able to adjust the field harmonics and only I will be exposed, rather than the whole ship, since you're apparently immune now."

"Did you and Neela flip a coin?" I joked.

"No, I volunteered," she admitted, not looking at me. "It was the least I could do considering-"

"Captain, we're ready to begin when you are," Doctor Gadot unknowingly interrupted whatever B'Elanna has been trying to say.

I glanced to my right at B'Elanna, but she said no more. Trying to push a woman as stubborn as her would be a gesture in futility, so I let it go.

"Gothic to Neela, energize," I ordered, our omnitools acting as comm badges.

Moments later the three biobeds on the right were filled and loud snarls drowned out everything else.

The first biobed had a beautiful blonde woman in her early 20s who was groaning and sweating, multiple bite marks on her forearms, probably from trying to defend herself. While she was not a walker yet, she would be as soon as the fever killed her. On her right were two male walkers, one maybe only a few weeks from having turned given how well preserved he was and the next was probably a walker that had probably been turned near the beginning of all this. It wasn't immediately clear to my doctors whether this would make any difference in the testing, but they wanted to add that variable to their research study. Upon materializing in the biobeds the two male walkers immediately began attacking the restraining field that surrounded them, repeatedly bashing their heads against the field.

"Reset restraining field to maximum," I quickly ordered.

Usually the restraining field only loosely restrained the patient, allowing several inches or more of movement for a modicum of patient comfort, but in this case the two walkers might actually kill themselves by mindlessly bashing their skulls open on the restraining field. Immediately after the command was given the restraining field reset to maximum, becoming skintight, the walkers' vacant eyes now the only bit of them allowed to move.

"Is the anaphasic energy field being blocked?" I asked.

"Yes, it's working exactly as expected," B'Elanna answered seriously, after a moment or two of consulting her console.

"Begin dictation and scans," Doctor Gadot spoke aloud for her experiment records. "First subject is female, pure human, approximately 23 years old. Per sensor records she was first bitten 4 hours, 36 minutes, and 8 seconds ago by a walker, several times on forearms. She is already experiencing an acute fever; body temperature is 103.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Blood pressure is extremely elevated from normal. Time to patient death is approximately 2 hours. Time to reanimation is unknown and highly variable. Body is being adversely affected by DNA modification as the fever progresses."

The doctor continued to dictate for the record, her fellow EMHs both examining the scan results and adjusting the scans in progress in real time for best results.

"What's the purpose of bringing these three onboard?" B'Elanna asked, not looking at me directly.

"The doctors wanted a recently bitten person to study, to see how the body reacts and is changed by the bite in real time. She was the most recently bitten person we could locate," I explained. "The other two are to study how the anaphasic energy field is generated, how their DNA was changed, and ultimately how the energy field allows the body to reanimate after death. The doctors also want to better understand how the energy field is slowing or stopping normal decomposition."

"Can't we save her?" B'Elanna asked uncertainly, as if afraid to sound too accusatory.

"We have nowhere near enough data to successfully accomplish that. Trying might even make things worse, so it was deemed too hazardous," I answered, before glancing at her troubled expression and internally sighing. "If we can mitigate the risks, we'll try."

For the next two hours my doctors conducted every scan known to Federation, Minosian, Husnock, and even Vidiian medical science, while B'Elanna and I waited patiently, though I could tell B'Elanna's patience was running thin as her job was to continually monitor the forcefield to ensure the anaphasic energy field remained contained. I was continuing to work on my latest drone design while the doctors worked, tweaking the internal energy transfer conduits; B'Elanna even made a few helpful suggestions on that front. Given how advanced and skilled my EMH doctors were and the processing resources they could call upon through the wider quantum network, those two hours were probably the equivalent of several weeks of research by a team of flesh and blood doctors.

"Captain, we'll continue to study our sensor readings, but I believe we are ready to move onto phase 2," Doctor Gadot advised while looking at me through the windowed barrier.

"Understood, doctor," I replied. "Security, report to sickbay. Neela, energize."

Because of my orders several things happened. The first was the appearance of two 7-foot-tall space marines in bulky power armor appearing in sickbay. Just as I'd programmed them, they took in the situation in order to protect me, my crew, and my ship, in that order. Their holographic gaze locked on the walkers as the true danger in the room. Since Natasha knew that they were dangerous, so did they. Recognizing the walkers were restrained, they remained vigilant while waiting for my orders, though they already knew what their roles were to be as Natasha and the ship knew. The second was the transport of three very rough looking, dirty human men onto the biobeds on the left side of the isolation ward. All three were being kept immobile by the restraining field.

"What the fuck?!" "What the fuck!" "Where are we?!" came three simultaneous yells and violent fearful thrashing on the biobeds, the red restraining field over each biobed lighting up repeatedly as they tried and failed to escape.

"Gentleman, you're here to help us better understand what happens physiologically when you're bitten by a reanimated corpse," I explained with a grim smile. "We thank you for your sacrifice, forced though it may be."

I could feel B'Elanna's glare from next to me, so I muted their protests.

"Yes, B'Elanna?" I asked, trying to be patient with her. While I could have warned her ahead of time, I purposely hadn't, looking to test just how far her change of heart went.

"This is fucking sick, Gothic, even for you," B'Elanna sniped, a frown on her face. "No one deserves this."

I audibly sighed. B'Elanna was one hell of an engineer; I'm not sure I could have gotten anyone better considering how many advanced and unknown alien technologies I'd forced her to work with and understand. A more experienced and less gifted engineer would have had a hard time adjusting to all the new and alien tech on my ship, as their knowledge base and thinking would be more rigid and based on standard technologies in use by the alpha quadrant. But maybe it had been a mistake recruiting her before she joined the Maquis. She still had too much of that Federation idealism in her for the kind of work I routinely got up to.

"I'll admit, I'm capable of some truly horrific shit, B'Elanna, ask the Cardassians to tell you stories about me from the Occupation, but I'm very rarely cruel for no reason or to people that don't deserve it. You're a talented engineer and I'd hate to lose you, but if you're going to roll with this crew long-term you're going to need to start trusting me as your captain and your boss, specifically trusting that I usually have a very good reason for everything I do. If that's too hard, at the very least, give me the benefit of the doubt."

B'Elanna looked defiant, like she wanted to stop me and save these men, but in the end had given me a small nod and remained silent. It was a small victory, but a lot of small victories could add up to a big victory in time.

"I don't need you to be a natural born killer or a monster, but I do need people who are willing to get their hands dirty and break the rules. If you can't handle that, then maybe you need to return to Starfleet. The galaxy will seem like a much nicer place with them, a place that makes sense, where good always triumphs over evil and victories can be achieved without sacrificing our noble ideals. Say the word, I have several powerful favors I can call in with Starfleet that would see you reinstated to the Academy for your final year," I calmly offered, giving her some time to think on what I said. "In this case, though, these three fully deserve everything that's coming to them. Sensor sweeps of Atlanta while you guys were blocked from helping me caught what these sick fucks did."

I gestured at the young woman who was not yet fully turned, sick and dying from a fever.

"As best we can tell, her and her 13-year-old sister had been living in the suburbs of Atlanta since the world fell apart. They survived together all those months despite how hard it was, their parents seemingly having died at the beginning. Unfortunately, during a supply run, they were caught by these three bastards," I said, gesturing first at the 20ish woman in the midst of being turned, then at the still muted and thrashing men who didn't understand how they had gotten where they were and how and why they were restrained.

"They took the two of them into an abandoned house and made her watch as they took turns raping her 13-year-old sister for two straight days before they grew tired of the little girl when she stopped crying and screaming; then they shot her in the head," I explained cooly. "Then they started raping the older sister. When they'd had enough of her, they tied her up and left her for dead, leaving the front door wide open. She begged them for hours for them to just kill her as they raped her. They just laughed. As they intended, a walker got in, bit her and now here we are."

I forwarded the video the sensors had taken of the events to her omnitool. To her credit she opened them up and watched for nearly ten minutes, tears streaming down her face, before she closed the video file. She was strong. A weaker woman would have thrown up at seeing what she had seen.

"Still think they don't deserve this?" I asked quietly. She had no response. "Think on my offer."

"Sorry, doctors, please continue," I ordered.

My space marine holograms deactivated the restraining field, allowing the two walkers to get up and off their biobeds before my marines quickly grabbed them by the throat and back of the neck, dragging them bodily over to the three living men. As holograms they were in no danger from the walkers, obviously.

"Doctors, where do you want them to be bitten?" I asked.

"On the forearm, captain. I'd rather they not die due to blood loss," Doctor Gadot answered.

The two snarling walkers were brought over to the two men and their right arms were raised up by the doctors for biting. The restraining field was adjustable to allow for surgery on exposed extremities.

"No!" "Please!" "Don't do this!" "Please, have mercy!"

"Of course. In fact, I'll show you sick fucks the same amount of mercy you showed those two girls you raped," I replied coldly, watching unblinking as all three were bit.

To her credit, B'Elanna stayed and watched the whole thing, not saying another word, the Klingon bloodlust possibly having been aroused and giving her a bit more metal. I'd take whatever I could get. Trying to find another engineer would be a giant pain in the ass.

Despite my offer, if she opted to leave my crew it was 50/50 odds whether or not I would just kill her instead, giving her the courtesy of a quick and painless death for her mostly excellent service on the ship. My recent adventures in the multiverse, the quantum slipstream drive, the ability to travel dimensions, unfortunately she knew way, way too much about my ship and the advanced technologies it held, after all, to just let her go.

Well, maybe 60/40. 70/30? Nah, 60/40.

XXXXX

Center for Disease Control. Atlanta, Georgia. Earth. The Walking Dead Universe.

"What is that amazing smell?!" T'Dog and Glenn cried before running into the CDC's kitchen, their eyes opening wide at the elaborate breakfast spread before them. I stood by the side of it, smiling at them, happy to give them a good meal after having had so little since the world had ended. If my plans came to fruition, no longer would humanity have to survive on the leftover scraps of the old world.

Gradually the rest of the group arrived, including Rick, Shane, Amy, Andrea, and Dr. Jenner, gathering at one end of the room eyes wide in shock with a mix of complex emotions in them.

Arranged on a beautiful hardwood table, one you might see in a formal dining room, or a Michelin starred restaurant's breakfast buffet-a table that most definitely hadn't been there last night-was a breakfast fit for a king or queen. Cold pressed juices and milk in cold crystal carafes. Bottles of chilled champagne. Coffee straight from a replicator pattern taken from one of the finest cafes in Columbia in The Flight of the Navigator dimension. Fruits from around the world that they probably hadn't seen since the world fell and supermarkets became the stuff of old memories, bagels straight from a Brooklyn deli that had, molecularly-speaking, come out of the oven only minutes ago, croissants and elaborate pastries from the finest Parisian bakeries, platters heaping full of applewood smoked bacon, sausage, wagyu beef, oysters, caviar, smoked salmon, eggs, and cereals, and granola, amongst a dozen other delicacies in shining sterling silver serving trays. I had considered adding a few alien breakfast dishes, but felt that that might have been more trouble than it was worth at this early a juncture.

The group stared in disbelief at the sight before them, not sure if their eyes were playing tricks on them.

"Do you- do you- are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Lori asked quietly and insistently, needing validation from the group to even believe what her eyes were seeing.

"If you mean a spread fit for a King, yeah, I see it," Daryl quietly answered.

"How? How- how is this possible?" Rick asked, glancing between the food and me. "Where did you get all this Gothic? I can't imagine the CDC had fresh fruits like this lying around? Did you find a still working refrigerator somewhere? There's no way you could have left and come back with all this."

A look of realization appeared on Dr. Jenner's face. Only Dr. Jenner looked like he understood how I had done it.

"No, no, I replicated the food," I answered simply, not quite sure how to broach this topic but deciding to power through and just let it come out organically. Rick looked understandably confused. "Replicators are advanced pieces of technology. They work primarily by converting energy into matter. Energy is used to rearrange an array of easily accessible atoms into whatever they are asked to create. A food replicator rearranges the atoms into pre-scanned food patterns. This coffee's pattern, for example, was taken from a little café in Columbia. Moments after it was brewed, it was scanned right down to the molecular level, and now we can make an infinite number of copies from that same pattern. These bagels were pattern scanned in Brooklyn, minutes after they were done baking. These pastries were replicated based on patterns taken from the best bakeries and patisseries in Paris when they opened for the day."

"You mean like in Star Trek?" Amy asked slowly. Several people had recognized what I was talking about as they had obviously seen the shows.

"Exactly like in Star Trek," I instantly replied with a soft smile, patiently waiting for them to work through their thoughts.

The look on everyone's face was priceless. There was disbelief and confusion, obviously, along with worries that I was a crazy person, but then their eyes would inevitably flash back to the impossible array of food in front of them and the cycle would begin again. I could practically see their thoughts, acknowledging how nearly impossible it'd be to get this wide array of fresh-looking fruit and food in the middle of the apocalypse, but finding even that nearly impossible feat more believable than technology from a science fiction television show being real.

"I can tell you guys need just a little more proof. Perfectly understandable. So how about this?" I asked before I turned my right hand upright, and a phaser materialized in my hand. I purposely slowed down the materialization process to more closely mirror the transporter effect they were used to seeing in the shows. The Husnock transporter technology had been created by a race of conquerors and thus they had spent a lot of time and energy on speeding up the materialization process. Gasps of shock and fear were prevalent as many cried out and stepped back. "A standard Federation type 2 phaser the likes of which you have probably seen in Star Trek TNG, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine. Can a television show prop do this?"

I pointed my phaser at the wall and fired, a bright beam of crimson colored energy struck the wall on the stun setting. Any fan of the show would recognize the phaser, the red beam, and the specific sound the weapon made. They were all iconic.

The stunned silence continued till I broke it myself. It was much harder to doubt my claim now that I had done the truly impossible. Getting all that food together was only practically impossible, from a logistical perspective given the current state of the world, but it was in the realm of possibility. An actual, honest to God, working energy weapon from the television show Star Trek, though? Now that was a much, much harder to explain away.

"My name is Admiral Gothic of the Bajoran Defense Forces. A dimensional traveler not of this world, but someone much like you once upon a time," I introduced, looking each of them seriously in the eyes, especially the wide and shocked eyes of my recent lovers. "And I intend to save this world from itself."

Amy's eyes rolled up in her head and she fainted, collapsing into her sister's arms.

"I honestly think that this went about as well as I could have hoped for," I joked. "At least none of you tried to shoot me."

Not a single person even smiled at my little joke.

"Well, let's eat!" I cried, and started filling up my plate.

Once they got over their shock, they'd join me, I'm sure.

XXXXX

Author's Note:

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Chapter 50: 17,485 words

Chapter 51: 16,053 words