|A team in the past blaze a trail into uncharted territory in a struggle to protect the galaxy's future from itself.|
"You seem a little more cheerful than usually you do at this time of year." Allarn's father said as he joined her on the wooden porch of the house he built himself many years before. "It's nice to see."
"I've never liked coming here for this." She told him, reaching out to accept the drink he was offering. The stars shone brightly overhead above them in the dark skies above the idyllic country setting in which she'd been raised.
"I know." He smiled. "You never truly understood the meaning of endings, did you?"
"No." She agreed. "Not until now."
"You found it hard when your brother died." He sighed sadly to himself. "By that I mean not to infer that it was an easy time for any of us."
"You told me so much when I was growing up here." She began. "But they were just stories. They were words that meant nothing to me beyond painting an image on the canvas of my imagination."
"This lesson you had to learn through experience. I always knew that." He sipped at the finely flavoured wine made locally by a family with an eye for quality.
"I believe I have." She smiled.
"Then tell me your story." He told her. "We are alone and will not be disturbed. I'm ready to hear it."
Allarn sat quietly before the controls of her ship. She was dimly unaware of the stars spiralling away before her, lost as she was in her private ruminations. Every year she made the journey and each time it seemed harder and more trying but still she felt compelled to do so.
"Penny for them?" Stirk said with a smirk as he joined her on the bridge, which was little more than a generously proportioned control room with large circular windows peering out into space.
"My thoughts?" She smiled, turning to her travelling companion. "Nothing exciting, I'm afraid."
"I suspected not." He grinned in reply. "You're not considering the end of the Universe, how to battle unseen forces or enlighten the races to the folly of their ways?"
"Everyone needs a day off." She sighed wearily, looking back to the forward window with a hint of trepidation. "Anyway, this is much worse."
"Indeed it is." Stirk agreed firmly with a hearty nod. "Luckily it's a problem I don't have to face."
"Lucky you." Allarn muttered through gritted teeth. She glowered fixedly through the window out into space as it flew inexorably towards her.
"What are they like?" He asked, leaning nonchalantly on the bulkhead wall while his left ankle crossed over the other.
"Terrible." She turned to face him, her hands balling into fists and her lips pulled thinly over her face, the tension clearly visible although she made no effort to conceal it in any case. "And yet every year I do it again. Every year I make the journey."
"Why?" He shrugged as the very corner of his lip fluttered upwards in mild amusement. "Tradition?"
"My kind cares little for tradition!" She scolded him coldly.
"Whatever else they may be…" She began with a deep frown that fully furrowed her brow. "…They're still my parents."
"Christmas, eh?" Stirk laughed openly. "I was grown in a tank of green super-oxygenated slime. I have nothing to worry about from my genetic forebears."
"Except that out there somewhere is yet another version of you that may well be a homicidal maniac." She reminded him with a sarcastic lilt to her voice and paused to appreciate the effect of her words as the amusement dissolved instantly from the face of her travelling companion. "It must be like having the darkest recess of your mind on display for all to see at some other place over which you have no control."
"Actually it is." His eyebrows traced down angrily into an arc that covered the tops of his green eyes.
"Well that's how I feel about Christmas!" She told him with a huff as she crossed her arms over her chest and looked out of the side window indignantly. Stirk took a few steps over the metallic floor and sat in the chair beside her. "It really can't be all that bad." He ventured.
"They still call me, Kella." She turned to face him, her arms uncoiling and her palms moving to face upwards in a gesture very close to surrender. "My kind takes a new name when they reach a level of maturity where we are self sufficient. My father still calls me by my child's name."
"I'm still called Experiment Beta 201-R by those who created me." Stirk shrugged apathetically.
"My mother is Human mostly." She continued, ignoring his input to the conversation as often she did. "She is aging slowly for her species but still every year she looks a little frailer, a little less able. I don't like to see her like that. I want the woman I remember. My father hardly changes at all. He doesn't work much any more but says he will after my mother dies."
"They don't sound so bad." He told her with a certain warmth to his tone he already knew she'd find patronising and more than slightly offensive.
"They're not." She smiled as a flood of feelings broke through the barriers she erected around them. "I love them really."
"Of course you do." He smiled. "So how are we coming?"
"The eddy?" She sighed. "As I said, it gets harder every year."
"Have you found one?" He shrugged, his eyes flicking over the myriad controls that were far beyond his understanding for now.
"I'm tracking a temporal shift that's due to hit in about three weeks." She told him. "I've found a wake that's creating a minor eddy, it's big enough for me to manipulate into a vortex that should provide us a conduit back to my home."
"Not many people's parents live several thousand years in the past!" He quipped with a shake of his youthful head.
"Every year there's some new technology." She moaned openly. "Every year the eddies are distorted with matter streams, sub-space waves and the like. Each year they're harder to find."
"And this one?" He asked with a genuine curiosity, or at least one that had a believable façade of sincerity.
"The Corinthian!" She smiled. "That ship is causing more damage to sub-space with it's malfunctioning Transwarp drive than a thousand Borg conduits opening at once."
"Really?" He leant back in surprise. "It's really that bad?"
"No." She laughed at his lack of comprehension of the concept of over-exaggeration in which she frequently indulged. "It's certainly doing a lot of damage. She's been tracking some alien ship for months now. Some kind of temporal wake is heading for it. I can surf back on the pre-shock to visit my parents and then I'll come back and find out what's going on."
"How do you know so much about a Federation ship?" He shrugged.
"Well it's an unusual vessel." She told him, turning the majority of her attention back to her instruments. "I was on board her recently. I've travelled a lot since, from my perspective it was quite a long time, from theirs only about a year maybe. I lose track sometimes."
"I've never heard of it." He sighed. "What's special about it?"
"It's a prototype." She began, paying his question little attention. "It was made from Borg technology. The real fun is the crew. They've got no clue what they're doing or how dangerous that ship could be. The Captain is totally unqualified and the science staff are made up from a seven foot tall genetic disaster and a disgruntled Section 31 technician."
"That's fun?" He frowned.
"When I say fun…" She turned to him with a playful glint in her eye. "… I usually mean fun for me!"
Allarn slept poorly. Her quarters were too cramped for her taste and the bedding was functional with little thought to the simple pleasures she enjoyed so much. She turned again, pulling the sheets tight around her and tried yet again to empty her mind of the distracting thoughts which kept her from sleep.
"Lights!" She instructed as she sat up finally in her bed, resolved that sleep would perpetually evade her the night. She slid out of her bunk and headed for the control room. The doors slid obediently open as she made her way along the black corridors, dimply lit with sickly green light. She had chosen the decor of the interior herself. It was not ideally suited to her biological requirements but it appeared oddly alien somehow and she greatly approved of that. It had the desired effect on the few guests she invited aboard and falling over frequently in the dark she considered was a small price to pay.
"Chocolate!" She demanded sternly as she entered the control room. "Hot Chocolate. Very chocolaty. With cream on top!" The replicator panel in the centre of the array of control binnacles flickered to life and duly complied with her request. A cup materialised effortlessly in the alcove, exactly to her specifications. She sat down heavily in her chair and pulled her blanket around her body. It was not cold but somehow comforting to be surrounded. Somehow it reminded her of the child she kept locked away inside her. She took great pains to keep it well concealed behind her polished public face of confidence and competence but it gnawed at her constantly and occasionally she let it out to breath so long as she could allow it to do so on her own terms. Sat at the fore of her personal ship with the stars tumbling lazily by, wrapped in a sheet drinking something her father would have vehemently disapproved of but her mum would have given her anyway, if indeed she ever submitted to her weakness before them.
"Couldn't sleep?" Stirk called out softly from the hatchway behind her. She turned with an expression of annoyance that he had bluntly stumbled upon her ruminations.
"No." She agreed objectionably. "Seeing as you're here, you may as well come and join me." She instructed him, pointing to the co-pilots chair. "Another Hot Chocolate." She told the computer.
"Thank you." He said gingerly, regarding the beverage with a hint of suspicion as it appeared before him.
"I was thinking about my father." She admitted with a sigh.
"I'm listening." Her friend said warmly.
"When I was eight he told me there was no longer any such thing as Christmas." She began with a sigh. "The Christian faith took over the old pagan festival and usurped it. He told me that it was originally a Greater Fire Sabbat and it would mean more to me as I grew older. He called it the, "Tide of destruction"."
"I see." He frowned.
"I was eight." She reminded him with a frown. "I went from looking forward to Christmas all year to dreading and even fearing it. One minute it was about brightly coloured trees and presents and the next it was about violent endings."
"How lovely." He agreed sarcastically. "I can see why you're looking forward to seeing them again at this magical time."
"He was hardly the romantic!" She agreed with a smile flickering briefly over her features as she clutched the sheets tightly around her. Suddenly a bleep sounded through the bridge and a red light began flashing on her console with a sense of urgency. Her smile broadened. Allarn discarded her drink to the side and shrugged off the sheet in almost a symbolic gesture of returning to her polished routine of unquestionable ability.
"We've reached the eddy." She told her companion. "We're ready."
"I gather this will be a bumpy ride?" He winced slightly as he watched her work.
"Oh yes." She grinned. "Quite dangerous. We're ripping open a natural subspace ripple and throwing ourselves into it. Subspace is going to try to spit us out as soon as we start, the trick is staying in at a regular warp speed until we decide to let it."
"And something tells me that you're going to consider this fun?" He guessed from her enthusiasm.
She nodded at him with a beaming smile. "Fun for me." She added.
The ship emitted a focused beam of radiation and banked into the invisible ripple in the fabric of space and time. Suddenly it vanished from sight in a quite unremarkable way, simply fading into obscurity. Inside the ripple was quite a different story. Space was ripped apart. The walls of the universe glowed and sparked with broiling energy as it lashed out angrily at the interloper. Flashes and sparks uncoiled out towards her ship as it made its way along the path with the shields resisting the pummelling that subspace was gleefully dishing out.
Behind them a dark shape followed them in.
While Stirk panicked and then seemed to coil into a ball and whimper nervously as arcing bolts of energy lashed out at the windows, Allarn decided it was time to take a quick shower. Never the typical female her father often berated her for her lack of attention to her appearance, telling her that normal people often judged you entirely on such things. Not sharing his compunction for perfection she decided many years before that it was better to simply go along with his demands rather than antagonise his temper, which would frequently result in an unseemly bout of sulking.
She stepped out of the tiny cubical and reached out for a towel. Her showers were not of the sonic type. She was a purist in many ways and insisted on water to clean her body, as she was then able to enjoy the spiritual benefits of being one with the natural universe rather than just a creature able to manipulate it. She was intelligent enough to know and fully understand that manipulating the Universe was only possible if the Universe permitted it and it would only do so on its own terms.
Her hand brushed against the smooth surface of the bulkhead as she searched blindly for a towel. Suddenly she was aware of the cold of her wet body and her hair clinking to her neck. She scrambled around for the towel with increasing urgency while she briefly flirted with the idea of installing a sonic shower after all.
"Hello!" A voice called out before her. She froze instantly and looked up in surprise while her stomach knotted up in fear. The voice was not that of her travelling companion but was male and harsh.
"Who are you?" She gasped accusingly, wiping the back of her hand over her eyes.
"I'm Colin." The man admitted as he stepped forwards. "I'm sorry to have to do this to you." He turned to gesture behind him to where two other stood. "This was his idea." He pointed to a man of approximately his own height who was grinning inanely.
"Thunderstick!" The man waved at her. "I got the coordinates. Have you any idea how hard it was for me to find you naked? It took weeks of planning but I didn't have anything important to do." Allarn grasped the towel angrily and covered herself while her cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
"How did you get on my ship?" She demanded.
"We didn't." The last of the three told her as he stepped forwards. "Luckily for us your mind doesn't have anywhere near the same level of security that the doors of your ship do. You should work on that!"
"What are you saying?" She frowned curiously.
"By now I would have thought that was pretty obvious." Colin turned back to her, his hands clenched behind him and his eyes rolling back in his head as he glanced around the bay. "We projected ourselves into your mind."
"I got the coordinates!" Thunderstick announced proudly. "I got us here."
"You have to excuse him." Colin sighed. "The last few centuries were pretty tough on him. He's little more than a pet now only we don't have to put down newspapers."
"I'm going to take offence in a minute." He glowered back at his friend.
Colin ignored him and continued. "We didn't mean to alarm you. We have a warning for you, that's all."
"A warning?" She glared at them distrustfully. "About what?"
"About the ship that's in here with you!" The tallest of the three told her firmly. "About the ship that's tracking you."
"Tracking me?" She shrugged. "I've detected no-one."
"Have you ever heard of the Doranian races?" Colin asked. Allarn shook her head in reply. "We entered them quite regularly. The last time so did Section 31. With the help of the crew of the Corinthian we were able to disable their vessel and capture it."
"We're building it into a better racer!" Thunderstick leapt up excitedly. Ignoring him, Colin continued. "We don't have long to explain. One of the crew of the vessel was called, Captain J. Titor. He was alive during the Eugenics war and now serves with Section 31. He escaped but according to the memory banks we examined he is coming after you."
"Why?" She asked the quite reasonable question.
"We don't know." Colin admitted. "He is able to mentally project himself as we are. He had all the details he needed to locate you here so we came to warn you."
"You've warned me." She told them with a note of annoyance. "You can leave now!"
"You can mentally project as well." Colin told her as he stepped over to her. She instinctively backed away. "Give me your hand!"
"Wait…" She snapped as she backed into the wall.
"Just give me your hand!" He said again.
Allarn woke suddenly and a scream broke free from her reflexively. She gasped for air, her chest heaving while her heart pounded away within. She looked around the darkened room where she had slept and nobody was there.
She smiled at herself and closed her eyes, scolding herself for allowing a dream to leave such an impression on her while relief washed away her fears.
She reached up to her forehead to wipe away the sweat and noticed dimly that there was something in it. With fresh nervousness she gazed in surprise at a Padd that had been loaded with information, written out by her own hand while she slept. She blinked as her brow furrowed, her mind working over the pieces of the puzzle while she made a cursory review of the data.
"Computer." She began, her heart beginning to race again in her chest. "Scan for…" She looked at the part where she's written of the vessel behind her. "Scan for shielded tachyon emissions directly behind us in the low alpha band."
"Detected." The computer hissed in a voice designed to appear slightly alien and uncomfortable.
"Source?" She demanded as she felt a surge of adrenaline course through her.
"Source can only be attributable to another vessel directly behind us."
"Are you going to tell me what is wrong?" Stirk ventured as he sat quietly beside Allarn on the bridge of the ship. For three hours she had been reading data from a private computer system and had grunted a mono-sylabolic reply to his every inquiry.
"We're in trouble." She said finally, her Padd dropping to her knee. "Well I am. You're just going to die along side me but then you were only ever coming along for the ride."
"Oh good." He smiled uneasily. "You can let me off here then."
"Well that's also part of the problem." She told him flatly. "We're stuck in a temporal eddy. If we attempt to alter course the ship will be ripped apart like a live dog at a Klingon wedding feast."
"Ahhh." He said with a nervous laugh. "So we have that to look forward to as well. I take it though that that isn't the worst part of our predicament?"
"Oh no!" She said in agreement. "I woke up having spent seven hours entering data into a computer pad with absolutely no memory of having done so. If the data is correct then behind us is a Temporal bounty-hunter who has evolved from a Section 31 agent over the last four decades. Apparently he is going to kill us in some needlessly brutal way as soon as the opportunity arises."
"But you have a plan?" Stirk shrugged.
"No." Allarn leant back in the chair and sighed deeply. "Not exactly."
"Oh well." He grunted sarcastically. "I had a good innings. I was alive for nearly three months. That can't be bad."
"It's always a lifetime." Allarn told him bluntly.
"So what can we do?" He stood up and began pacing the floor, keeping a good distance from the window while the bare face of the broiling energy lashed out at him as if making a personal attack on his being.
"Nothing." Allarn stood up and slowly let out a deep breath. "We can't change course unless there's a natural curve in the fabric of space and time and that almost never happens. We can't drop out of the rift until we're finished, it just doesn't work that way."
"We're not just going to sit and wait to die?" His voice rose as he spoke in exasperation.
"No." She shook her head. "A lot of the data concerned a way to mentally project myself through space and time."
"What?" He stepped back in amazement. "You're going to leave here mentally?"
"No." She shook her head. "Apparently I'll be freeing my mind of the confines of my corporal form and settle my consciousness into the mind of someone else."
"Well not me." He shrugged. "I don't think I'd like that at all."
She glowered at him in utter exasperation. "What would be the point of projecting myself into the one and only being in the entire history of the universe who is stuck in here with me?"
"Good point!" He said thoughtfully. "So where are you going?"
"The Padd gave me a good idea of a place to start." She shrugged. "I'll need to get some equipment from the medical lab."
The examination bed had been liberally modified with various pieces of equipment in their brash and careless work to prepare the devices. Time was hardly on their side with the threat of the enemy bearing down on them with whatever weapons a temporal bounty-hunter might have at his disposal.
"I think we're ready." She glanced up with a troubled expression to her travelling companion. He averted his eyes from her fixed gaze and hefted the long, unpleasant tool in his hand.
"I have to kill you?" He grumbled. "I don't think I can do this."
"You have to give me a shock of electricity to stop my heart." She told him softly. "The medical equipment will react automatically to revive me."
"After two minutes?" He frowned deeply, his concern clearly showing on his face. "That's a long time."
"It will be longer for me." She smiled and reached out to lay her hand on his shoulder. "In those two minutes my mind will transcend time. I'll have a lot longer to look about."
"I'm not worried about that." He snapped at her angrily. "I'm worried about you being hurt. I scared that you're going to be injured by this."
"And I'm not?" She shook her head. "I'm trying not to think about it, believe me. The fact is that I can live for about ten minutes without having any permanent damage to my brain. I'm young and fit, I'll be fine."
"Have you ever done anything like this before?" He asked hopefully.
"Well my first husband was able to make time stand still but in a very different way." She smiled.
"I'm serious." He snapped, his eyes showing the pain and doubts he was feeling.
"No." She replied solemnly. Without another word she stepped to the bad and climbed up. She laid back until the lights above filled her vision and all else melted into shadows around her. "The drugs are working." She said rhetorically as she noticed her head beginning to swim.
"You have to focus now." He told her bravely, fighting his apprehension.
"This is my first time." She said. "I'll have to focus on going into someone I know."
"Are you seriously sure about his?" He asked. The device in his hand seemed heavy, like a great burden he had to wield.
"Die for two minutes or permanently?" She smiled thinly. "It doesn't seem too hard a choice to me." Her left hand clenched tightly around a stone. A semi-precious crystal from Earths ocean floor, polished and shaped that had been given to her many years ago by her mother's sister. The feeling of it seemed to fill her mind for an instant and she could almost feel her aunt. Her face appeared clearly from the clouded mists of her memory on the day she'd handed her the stone. "I'm ready." She whispered.
Everything exploded in pain, a bright white light lit up her senses and she screamed in silence for an eternity and then there was only darkness that coldly permeated the very essence of her being.
"Oh my god!" She snapped suddenly. Her body convulsed and she sprung from her chair. The disorientation fogged her mind and memory seemed beyond her for now. She wiped her eyes as she gazed around the place she had found herself. It was dimly lit and coldly metallic. Haphazard pieces of machinery were fitted everywhere, bolted to panels, tucked into gaps and if it didn't properly fit it was made to by force.
"A ship." She whispered to herself. "I'm on a ship…" She looked around again at the decaying bay in which she had awoken. "…of some kind." She added dubiously. Footsteps aroused her interest as she heard the sound of someone softly approaching. A face appeared, white and deformed as it was suddenly bathed in the garish white glow of the inadequate lighting.
"What's up?" He smiled, his flat teeth bared in a friendly expression of warmth.
"Haldo…" She frowned deeply as his name appeared in her head. "Haldo Compz?"
"Is this a joke?" He sighed in a mixture of intrigue and annoyance. "It's been a long day. Every time I repair one thing two more break down…or break off."
"This isn't the Corinthian?" She rubbed her temples, looking around the badly degraded vessel.
"You're damn right!" He grumbled, wiping his grubby hands on a cloth that had been draped over a pile of components that were beyond repair. "She had her problems but you certainly learn to appreciate how great she was when you have this to contend with."
"Where am I?" Allarn breathed heavily as memories began to return to her befogged mind.
"I wish I knew." Haldo admitted as he shrugged an apathetic gesture of weary resignation. "Sensors are playing up badly. It's not enough that they don't work properly in this region as it is, now I have to contend with delicate components literally falling off the outside of the ship."
"You'll offend me in a minute." A female voice called out from nowhere.
"It's not your fault." Haldo slapped the bulkhead wall playfully and smirked. "Nobody is blaming you!"
"It doesn't sound like it." The voice grumbled. "Just remember how dead you'd all be if it wasn't for me."
"How could I forget when you remind me every two minutes?" Haldo shook his head and smiled at Allarn. He frowned as her blank stare failed to change into anything other than a look of deepening confusion. "Are you alright?"
"I think so." She nodded. "I'll be alright."
"Shall I ask Katherine to check you out?" Haldo pointed back up to the control room. "Blake has ordered all of us to report any minor symptoms immediately in case they're early signs of another radiation leak."
"I'm fine." She assured him with a smile.
"I think he's being an old woman too…" Haldo winked at her and threw the cloth back on the pile of burnt out pieces of machinery. "So, WP." He began with a sigh. "What shall I fix now?"
"Well there are two things that need your attention." She began thoughtfully. "There's a minor discrepancy in my dorsal sensor array or the life support equipment is three minutes away from a total cascade failure."
"Tough choice." He frowned in concern. "You're joking?"
"Nope." The ship assured him.
"I'm on my way." He grabbed his tools and dashed from the bay without another word leaving Allarn still more confused.
"My aunt?" She said to herself looking at her left palm. In it she had held a stone given to her by her mothers sister. It should have connected her mind and let her visit her body and yet she had found herself back in her own in a place she didn't recognise at all.
"Anything?" Ensign Rogers asked dejectedly as she ran her fingers over the dusty controls of the ship, wondering what most of them were for or even if they indeed had a purpose. Certainly there was no refinement to the ship of any kind. Starfleet style interfaces were conspicuously absent, being replaced with armoured panels to better resist assimilation by the Borg and on top were bolted various assemblages that had been fitted randmonly over the course of several centuries.
"I'm not showing anything on sensors." Captain Blake Girling shook his head dolefully. "I'm assuming they're working correctly of course."
"Or at all." Katherine learnt back in the fairly comfortable chair and sighed deeply in frustration at yet another long and painfully tiresome experience aboard the strangely mismatched assemblage of parts that formed the ship.
"I don't like you." WP23 sneered hoarsely at the Ensign.
"You're not required to." She told the computer sternly, her arms crossing in annoyance over her chest.
"Is there anything out there or not?" Blake said to break the tension that had been steadily building between them for some time.
"Probably." WP23 replied with a vagueness that the officers found instantly irritating as she had intended they should. "The ship is here, we just can't see it."
"Is there a problem with the sensors?" The Captain scowled as he ran his eyes over the diagnostic panel before remembering that the independent computer safety system designed to monitor all other systems had burned out three days before.
"Should I go outside with a hand-held torch and a Tricorder?" Katherine suggested acidly.
"I really would like it if you could go outside." WP23 retorted. "For the record all of my sensors seem to be functioning within normal parameters."
"Normal parameters?" Blake raised an eyebrow suspiciously.
"She means they're dead." Katherine shook her head in annoyance. "Like everything else on this shambling pile of corroded dura-steel."
"Actually they're working fine." The ship replied sharply. "They have achieved a level of excellence they would never have attained if they were wrapped in a saggy bag of oily human flesh."
"So where's the ship?" Blake asked firmly, his voice rising as his patience did the opposite.
"It's out here somewhere." WP23 told him flatly.
Just as Blake was about to give in to his well-maintained temper and lash out at the nearest pile of machinery Haldo entered the bridge of the small vessel. He did so in his normal way, brashly and careless, wiping his hands on his tunic and paying little heed to the others.
"I fixed life support." He told them nonchalantly. "It was 30 seconds from failure but there was no need for panic as the air aboard would have kept us alive for about 20 more minutes."
"What?" Captain Girling snapped to the ship. "Why wasn't I told about this?"
"Well it's only life support." WP23 began thoughtfully. "I've not had a crew for so long that I've got used to not thinking of it as a priority."
"Not a priority?" He growled. "In future consider the lives of the crew important enough to inform me of anything that might threaten them."
"If you say so." She muttered to herself giving the impression of a teenager rolling its eyes defiantly at an irate parent.
"I do say so." He closed his eyes as his rage boiled away inside him.
"Blake." Haldo began.
"…Captain Girling." He corrected the engineer.
"Blake." Haldo began again. "I think there may be something wrong with Allarn."
"Now you tell me." He sighed wearily and seemed to sink into his chair. "This was all her idea…"
"Well she seemed to be acting oddly." Haldo shrugged. "She's just not quite herself."
"That may be the only bit of good news I've heard in months." He grumbled a reply.
"What's the matter?" Haldo grinned widely in amusement. "Blowing up the Corinthian to destroy a possible alternate future timeline wasn't enough fun for you?"
"I think I enjoyed it rather less than you did." The Captain told him with just the ghost of a smile. "Having a piece of my mind shattered was rather disconcerting to say the least."
"It must have been like sticking you head into a washing machine and then dropping a piano on it." Haldo said thoughtfully and in a way somewhat lacking in subtlety.
"Something like that." Girling nodded solemnly. He hefted himself out of his seat with much greater effort than such an act could possibly require. "I suppose I should go and talk to Allarn."
"Someone should." Haldo nodded. He frowned deeply as if suddenly he was concerned for her. "I'd do it myself but something came up."
"What?" Captain Girling asked with a raised eyebrow.
"A plasma conduit." Haldo said earnestly. "It came up through the rear floor-plates while I was having a sandwich and sprayed superheated gas out everywhere before the emergency dampers caught it. I'm going to need to replicate a new pair of boots now…" He paused for a second thoughtfully. "…And underpants."
"Please change in the toilet!" WP23 reminded him. "I can see everywhere on board except the toilet."
Allarn sat on a metal bench while she wracked her brain. Her memory was fragmented at best. She had held her mission in her mind long enough to ensure that she was certain at least that she was there to discover more about the time-traveller stalking her ship.
"Allarn?" Captain Girling called out as he entered the bay at the starboard side of the heavily modified vessel. He sat down on the bench beside her while behind them, set into the wall was a huge conduit that hyper-accelerated the Warp field.
"Girling." She smiled warmly, relieved to see yet another familiar face. "This isn't the Corinthian, is it?"
"What do you mean?" He asked softly, realising instantly that Haldo's concern was not entirely unjustified.
"What ship is this?" She asked. Her eyes seemed to be pleading for help as if she were lost and trying to find her way.
"This is WP23." He told her calmly, trying to remain as supportive as possible. "The Corinthian was destroyed."
"When was it destroyed?" She frowned in deep concern. "What year is this?"
"She was destroyed in the future." Blake told her, his brow furrowing in deep frown. "The Borg were attempting to build a time portal to send themselves back and take over all of history. We blew it up and escaped back here to the distant past. It's 2273 now."
"2273…" She repeated the words to herself and stared forwards. Her mind raced as the parts began to slot together in her mind. "My aunt was alive in 2273." She said rhetorically. "She was working as a reporter for the Federation. She did that for twenty three years."
"What are you talking about?" Blake shook his head. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I must have made a mistake." She smiled a thin apology. "It's nothing to worry about. I'll be fine."
"You're a member of my crew." He told her with a smile. "Like it or not it's my job to worry about you now."
"You may have your work cut out for you." She shrugged.
"Rogers to Girling." The intercom suddenly broke the gloom of the dingy bay. "We need you up front."
"Girling here." He tapped the front of his badge before speaking. "On my way." He stood up a great deal quicker than he had sat down and turned to face her. "Allarn, why don't you join us in the bridge?"
"Weapons range in three minutes." Katherine said as she watched the image of the ship floating in a perfectly represented hologram at the edge of the controls.
"You're never satisfied." WP23 sighed at her. "First you want to find the ship, then you moan because I find it for you. It's no wonder you're single."
Captain Girling stepped into the dingy control room with Allarn trailing closely behind. He stepped to the front and took his seat behind the huge single window that dominated the bridge. "We found them?" He asked with a slight grin of satisfaction.
"They're heading straight at us. We'll be in range of their weapons in less than three minutes." Katherine reported. "You better tell Haldo to replicate another pair of underpants."
"This is rather bold." Girling frowned and began rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "WP, can you handle them?"
"Are you joking?" She sneered at the suggestion. "Any contemporary vessel of this period is no match for me."
"Perhaps they don't know that." Katherine suggested.
"Confirm that that is the ship we're looking for." Girling instructed as his mind failed to reconcile the evidence to his satisfaction.
"Confirmed." WP23 agreed with her own assessment. "That is a Taranov-class private frigate refitted as an Orion attack ship. It has the usual Orion markings and is not transmitting any electronic registry."
"Orions." Allarn said thoughtfully from behind a contemplative expression as she wracked her unresponsive memory. "They used private vessels to patrol their space. That would be typical of them."
"So they're threatening us?" Blake asked with a shrug. "They're tying to scare us off?"
"This is meant to be a quiet observation mission." Katherine reminded him. "Maybe we should leave before they get a good chance to scan us properly."
"No!" Allarn said suddenly. The others turned to face her and she realised she wasn't even sure why she'd said it. Somewhere at the back of her mind was something that recalled this. She had seen this before and it reminded her of something she needed to know.
"No?" Captain Girling shrugged. "You're going to have to do better than that. We can't risk changing the timeline without one hell of a good reason."
"I can't give you one." She bit her lip in concern, glancing periodically at the hologram of the Orion ship as it closed on them. "I can assure you that you don't have to worry about changing the timeline. Don't ask me how. I just know…"
"Blake!" Katherine warned. "You need to decide."
"Shields up!" He said after a momentary pause. "Charge weapons. Load the…" He frowned for a moment.
"Heat the Photon Pellet streamer coils, charge Phaser banks and ready the Warpedoes?" WP23 finished his commands for him.
"Yes." He agreed reluctantly. "…Ready the Warpedoes."
"I can't wait to see the look on your face when you fire one of those." She enthused gleefully. "They make quantum torpedoes look like striking a damp safety-match; and I've got six of them."
"Allarn…" Blake turned to her. "You asked us to investigate this ship. Now we're here and they're about to attack us. You need to tell me what's going on."
"I can't." She shook her head, the frustration of her clouded mind causing emotions to swell inside her bringing a tear to her eye. "I don't understand it all myself."
Her chest exploded in pain. A burning spark of pure white brilliance blossomed behind her eyes and suddenly she was awake. Her muscles were numb and her senses dull but she was dimly aware of the sound of her own voice crying out in pain. As the bright lights around her melted away she began to notice the feel of a gentle restraint on her shoulder and then another voice. It was deeper than her own, a man was with her. She calmed herself slightly and forced her eyes back open. The light pricked at them like a thousand rusting needles but although she winced in pain she forced them to remain so.
"You're ok." He said to her in a soft and reassuring voice. "You're back on your ship."
"How long?" She gasped.
"Just under two minutes." He told her. "According to the computer, you're fine. You're going to be alright."
"Not unless we can stop the bounty-hunter." She reminded him coldly, hoisting herself up from the examination bed.
"Did it work?" He asked. "Did you find anything?"
"I don't know." She replied earnestly, rubbing her painfully throbbing temples. "I was in another place. I was on another ship."
"What was it like?" He smiled haphazardly as his curiosity overwhelmed him.
"I don't remember." She frowned at herself. "It was all like a dream somehow."
"You don't remember anything?" He sunk visibly, his shoulder sagging and his face dropping in disappointment that the last two minutes of waiting patiently over the effective corpse of his companion were all for nothing.
"I remember something." She smiled. "Not much but I do remember something."
The lab of Allarn's vessel was the most sombre part of the ship by far. The walls were painted in a pearlescent shade of black with a throbbing green done as the only light source mounted in the centre. Around her were rounded metal binnacles with circular displays feeding her information from her computer archives.
"What was the Girling doing in 2273?" Stirk asked as he paced the floor despondently. "That was years before his birth."
"He was there." She assured him. "And so was I. It was me, of that I'm certain. I travelled back in time and jumped into my own body in 2273."
"But that has never happened." He exclaimed in frustration.
"Then perhaps it will in the future." She told him with a knowing smile. "Time travel is like a single room with a thousand interconnecting corridors. It's difficult to get your mind around it."
"You seem to manage." He dug his hands into his trouser pockets dejectedly and sighed to himself at his own ignorance.
"This man following us." She began thoughtfully, tapping her chin as she spoke. "He must also be from a future."
"Why?" He asked with a frown.
"Because he has a time machine." She told him thoughtfully. "Any graviton inverter can shift time with the proper calibration but it's unreliable at best. If he's developed a completely safe drive system that can travel through time with multiple interactive systems then he's done it in the future."
"Ok." Stirk agreed tentatively. "I can understand that at least."
"Quite aside from the level of sophistication needed he would have to have a great deal of power and an ability to generate a very tight tachyon field." Allarn continued thoughtfully. She turned to a binnacle and began entering some information. "So why was I drawn to 2273?"
"I wish I could tell you." He huffed indignantly. "I wish I could do anything useful."
"Unless…" She grinned as realisation began to dawn on her. "Unless he began to develop the technology back then."
"Is that possible?" He shrugged.
"With all the alien races out there waiting to be discovered?" She asked mockingly. "It's highly possible."
"And if we find out where the technology came from?" He squinted slightly as he spoke, fairly certain he was following her thinking correctly.
"We may find a weakness we can exploit." She nodded happily. "Knowledge is power."
"So that means you have to do it again." Stirk frowned angrily as his chest fluttered with fear. "You have to die again?"
"Yes." She nodded. "I have to."
This time was easier on her. She snapped up suddenly, her mouth dry and her eyes burning in the sockets. Her hand reflexively went to her chest but instead of stillness her heart was pounding excitedly. She took a couple of deep breaths and closer her eyes while trying to calm herself before making an attempt to acclimatise herself with her new surroundings. Her dulled senses began to take information from around her. Noise filtered back into her perception and the feel of something hard beneath her registered on her mind. Her fingers found something and she toyed with it vacantly. Suddenly her chest heaved again in excitement and she stood up suddenly. The thing her fingers had found was attached to her neck by a piece of cord. She took it from beneath her clothes and held it before her eyes. The crass white lights shone off the smooth pink surface of the crystal. Rose quartz, cut into a loop and worn as a charm, the same charm her aunt had given her many years ago.
"I made it." She gasped. "I'm in my aunt's body." She glanced around with refreshed optimism. The room she was in was tiny and made from grey and white panelling. A mirror was affixed to the wall to her left and it was otherwise free of decoration. She turned around her to see a standard moulded white toilet seat.
"I'm on a ship." She smiled to herself as she recognised the design. "I'm on a Starfleet ship."
The bridge of the ship was in chaos. The few officers that were aboard seemed outnumbered by the excited civilians who milled around with various pieces of mundane technology recording every minor action the crew made.
Allarn took a moment to look around the bridge. It was large and perfectly circular. She ran her eyes over the various controls and then froze as she found the one that would tell her the most. A schematic view of the ship she was on. Excelsior class, long and slender like an animal bred for speed. She looked closer and noticed the unusual arrangements of impulse engines and her mind again was wracked with confusion. Excelsior class ships were an established design and there had rarely been changes to the successful layout. Then as she spotted the name of the vessel realisation came and her mind settled. Enterprise. She was aboard the Enterprise B.
It had been built with cutting edge technology to better carry the illustrious name deeper out to space and further into legend, the modification to the design were to set her apart, to stand her above the rest.
"Kirk…" She whispered to herself in surprise as she saw him at the far side of the control room. He was smiling warmly and shaking the hand of a young female ensign with oriental features. His friends were around him and yet he seemed awkward and self-aware.
"Hey?" A man slapped her boisterously on her back. Her temper flared and her fists balled reflexively as she turned to face him. Her anger subsided instantly, washed away by amusement at the sight of the ridiculous headgear he was wearing. "Are you getting all of this?" He grinned excitedly. "That's Captain Kirk over there. The Captain Kirk!"
"I know who it is." She snapped back in annoyance.
"Are you ok?" He put his hands on his hips and glared at her. "Are you going to choke on me? I called in every favour I was owed to get us here, don't you dare freeze up. We've got a job to do."
"I know." She glowered back at him.
"Well you're a reporter now." He told her. "Go and get reporting."
"You're wrong." She smiled knowingly. "There's a story here but it's bigger than you ever imagined."
"What?" He sneered at her incredulously. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"She looked up as the Captain stood at the heart of the bridge. "It looks like it's up to us." He said.
"Damn." The reporter grumbled. "What did I miss?"
Commander Chekov led the reporters from the turbolift into the unmanned medical bay. "Does anyone here have any experience with basic first aid?" He called out to the bemused journalists in a slightly odd Russian accent that had been much coloured by his travels over the years.
"I know the basics." Allarn smiled to herself. "Do you have any idea what we can expect?"
"I wish I could tell you." He shrugged. "In a situation like this we could be seeing anything from radiation burns to puncture wounds from shrapnel. All I need from you is help stemming the flow of blood and trying to calm down whoever we manage to rescue."
"Why us?" One of the reporters called out the quite reasonable question. "Why this ship? It was just meant to be a quick trip around the solar system. Why in the name of the Galaxy is there no other Starfleet vessel in range while we're this close to Earth?"
Chekov glanced round to the man with an expression of confusion as if that question had never occurred to him. "This really isn't the time." He said firmly before returning to his impromptu briefing. "What I can promise you is that the refugees we rescue are likely to be frightened and disoriented. They'll need to see calm and friendly faces. I need everyone to remove any recording equipment they might still have on them."
With universal grumbling the journalists duly complied and discarded their equipment.
"This is the medical bay." Chekov gestured around the room where bio-beds were fitted in an orderly row along the bulkhead wall. "This is what we call a triage centre. It's larger than the sickbay examination room and all we can hope to do here is help whoever can be helped. Is that understood."
The civilians seemed to be less comfortable with every word the officer spoke as worried glances were exchanged and the apprehension grew steadily among them.
Suddenly the ship lurched to the side violently. The civilians let out a discrete collective scream of terror and mostly collapsed on the floor, writhing around fearfully.
Allarn watched them incredulously while she grabbed hold of a beam for support. Her lips curled into an appreciative grin of satisfaction as the terrified reporters glanced around expectantly.
"Are you alright?" Chekov cried out as the ship steadied herself.
"You better ask them." She pointed to the dishevelled team of reporters as they staggered uneasily to their feet. Chekov smiled at her brightly and shared her amusement. Allarn turned to them with an expression of innocence. "I'll bet you're glad you turned off your recording equipment now!" She berated them scornfully.
"Ensign Sulu to Chekov." The comm bleeped on the wall. He flicked a switch to reply. "Chekov here."
"We're moving into transporter range." She warned. "We're expecting the first of the refugees any second."
"Thanks." He shuddered as he turned to the inexperienced men and women. "I hope you're all ready."
"The Nexus!" Allarn cried out suddenly. Chekov turned to her in surprise, his expression largely blank. "The Nexus?" He repeated.
"The energy ribbon." She told him excitedly. "It's called the Nexus. It's a source of huge gravimetric power."
"We believe it could be." Chekov shrugged curiously. "What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
"Whatever created that could be used to power a time machine." She told him while her brain filled with new ideas.
"What are you talking about?" He frowned deeply and dug his hands into his sides in annoyance. "We have people on the way who need our help."
"El-Aurians." She said softly as the memories began to swim back to her mind haltingly and only with an effort of concentration.
"Refugees." Chekov agreed. He stepped forwards to speak to her with a lowered voice that would exclude the others. "Do you know something about all this?"
"They are an advanced species." Allarn continued speaking her thoughts out loud as her mind spilled over. "They came in ships built to cross the galaxy and then flew directly into the Nexus."
"What are you saying?" He asked darkly, his hand reaching out to her shoulder but not in way designed to offer support of any kind. "What do you know about all this?"
"What year is this?" She glanced up at him from angrily pitched eyebrows as her mind stilled itself.
"What?" He shook his head as if to him she was making no sense. "It's 2293."
"After the Orions." She said rhetorically to herself. "But there has to be a connection."
"Orions?" Chekov sneered at her in growing annoyance with her unusual behaviour. "You better tell me what you know before I have you removed to the brig."
"On what charge?" She asked him earnestly.
"Perhaps I'll worry about that later." Her told her with a firmness in which she saw little latitude.
An alarm sounded around the bay. "They're incoming." Chekov shouted to the civilians. "Everyone prepare yourself to receive casualties." He turned back to Allarn. "I want your help too but we're going to have a proper conversation later." He assured her.
The room began to whine with the sound of a transporter beam. Her vision began to cloud and Allarn felt herself sinking once again into darkness which although like sleep felt somehow more like waking.
She jolted to consciousness and sat bolt upright in shock. For a moment her disorientation was absolute and then slowly she began to realise that she was back aboard her own ship and was again alive.
"How do you feel this time?" Stirk asked. His face was ashen white with fear and his mops of dark hair were matted with nervous sweat.
"I'm ok." She clutched her chest. Her heart felt weak and erratic as though it was becoming accustomed to death. "I'm fine." She lied with a crooked smile.
"Please tell me that you found all you needed on this trip." He said hopefully, rubbing his damp brow with his hand as he held up a medical scanning device. "You were out for three and a half minutes. The automated system couldn't revive you straight away this time."
"The Nexus." She nodded wearily. "This has something to do with the Nexus."
"What is that?" He shrugged. "I've not heard of it."
"It's an energy ribbon." She huffed as she hefted herself from the bed and made her way uneasily to the archive computers. "It passes through this galaxy on a regular basis. In 2293 a group of El-Aurian refugees were escaping from the Delta quadrant and flew their transports directly into it."
"Why would they do that?" He asked.
"Good question." She agreed with a sigh as her breathing became more laboured with the effort of walking. "I was there. I was in my aunt this time."
"That's good." He said hopefully. "What did you learn?"
"Not a lot." She shrugged. "But now I suspect that the Nexus has something to do with all this. It exerted a huge gravimetric field on the ship I was on. That kind of field could create a temporal differential." She smiled at the young man. "That means it could distort the flow of normal space and time."
"So you think that perhaps the Nexus is powering this time machine?" He said with a cautious note of optimism.
"Maybe." She agreed. "But the problem is that the Federation first encountered it after 2273 where I went first. I still don't see the connection."
"Wait." He grabbed her shoulder and turned her back to face him. "You can't do this again. You're killing yourself."
"We're already dead." She spoke softly. "This is our only chance. If you see a choice them I'd be happy to take it. If not then I'm going to take another trip as soon as I've had a rest."
With a gasp Allarn reeled backwards from where she awoke to find herself standing. Confusion again befogged her mind, halting her thoughts as if trailing through a field of thick mud with heavy boots. She noticed dimly that the bridge of the Enterprise had been very badly damaged. Machinery was strewn around, conduits were exposed where panelling had been removed and the air was thick with the acrid smell of a poorly maintained life support system. It had also shrunk. It was now the size of a Runabout control room.
"This is not the Enterprise!" She frowned to herself. She noticed her chest heaving air into her lungs greedily as if she's undergone some great exertion. Then she noticed the incredulous faces of the others who stared at her in a blank kind of confusion.
"No." Captain Girling said in agreement. "This is not the Enterprise. This is WP23, about as far removed as you can get from the flagship of the fleet."
"And you're hardly a match for Kirk or Picard." The ship replied haughtily.
"Allarn?" Haldo grimaced at her expression of befuddled confusion. "Are you ok?"
"Just so that you know…" Katherine interjected. "The Orion is about to come into weapons range. Their weapons are charged and ready to fire."
"Excellent." WP23 enthused. "Orion weapons are going to tickle."
"If they do cause any damage I'd like to put my vote in for the Artificial Intelligence circuitry." Katherine offered earnestly with a sarcastic glance towards Blake.
"Perhaps we could paint a target on it and hold it out in front of the shields to draw their fire?" he suggested with a smile.
"Please hold this position." Allarn almost begged as she leant forward to the large window at the front. "Something is going to happen which will answer a lot of questions."
"I'm not at all happy about any of this." Blake told her with a sigh. "I'll keep us in position as long as possible but whatever you're hoping to find I hope you find it quickly."
"Incoming!" Katherine announced regretfully. "They've fired an energy weapon. Contact in four seconds."
"Evasive manoeuvres." Captain Girling ordered. "Lock weapons and prepare to return fire."
WP23 banked hard to starboard so that the weapon flashed over her shields sparking slightly as it bruised her defences. A conduit erupted angrily from the belly of the ship leaking drive plasma out into space.
"What the hell?" Girling barked as the warning lights came on. "You didn't seem to think a direct hit was going to do any damage."
"Nobody's perfect." WP23 announced apologetically. "I was only built by Humans."
"This is serious." Haldo rubbed his temples in exasperation as the information came up on a small engineering status screen. "That weapon is off the scale. It would carve us up like a roast chicken!"
"I hope this answers your question." Blake told Allarn as he set the controls for still more evasive manoeuvres.
"What can you tell me about this weapon?" She rushed over to join Haldo at the engineering controls.
"Great!" Katherine sneered in annoyance. "So we'll just sit here and get shot at while they satiate their scientific curiosity?"
"Return fire!" Captain Girling ordered. "Just a warning. No Warpedoes."
"I suppose." The ship grumbled as the window flashed with the launch of a dozen photon pellets streaking towards their target.
"You call that a warning?" Katherine screamed out in alarm. "According to Goruss they have twice the destructive yield each of a photon torpedo."
"Maybe you need to define you concept of a warning?" WP23 said thoughtfully. "When they connect with the ship all the other Orions would definitely think twice before firing that damn energy weapon at me again. That's what I call a warning."
"You've killed them!" Girling barked accusingly at the ship. "I specifically instructed you not to do that."
"Does this mean we're not friends any more then?" The ship asked innocently.
"Blake." Katherine stood up in alarm from her chair as the holographic rendering of the Orion ship lit up with impacts. "Blake this is bad."
"I already know that." He grumbled. As he saw what she was pointing at his concern grew to match her own. "No effect." He gasped in surprise. "Your pellets just dented their shields."
"Well I shot at them." WP23 said apathetically. "I'm all out of idea."
"That weapon." Allarn announced excitedly. "It's very odd. The beam itself is phased in such a way as to draw in subspace energy so the power is somehow accelerated."
"How does that help us?" Blake shrugged hopefully.
"I don't know." She admitted apologetically. "I think it helps me though, I just can't remember how."
"I have a suggestion." Haldo began hesitantly.
"It's about time." Blake told him with a note of quiet relief.
"There's just one problem." Haldo bit his lip in concern. "We have to let them fire at us again."
"No." WP23 said firmly. "I don't like that plan at all. I demand that you think of something else."
"I'm listening." Blake told him, ignoring the ship.
"The beam is basically a low powered Phaser beam being used as a channel to transmit this weird energy signal." Haldo began as his fingers danced across the controls preparing to instigate the plan. "I can set the shields to emit a feedback pulse that will invert the frequency. If I'm right that will stop the beam drawing in subspace energy and focusing it outwards and cause it to draw it inwards to the power source."
"In English." Blake said in irritation. "Will it stop them?"
"As fast as a brick wall stops a blind man." Haldo shrugged. "Hopefully."
"Hopefully." Katherine raised a knowing eyebrow and turned to glower at him in annoyance. "And if it doesn't?"
"I dunno." He shrugged before nodding towards the Captain that he was ready to put his ill-conceived plan into action.
"WP23." Blake began with a heavy intake of the slightly acrid air. "Cease evasive manoeuvres and fire a single burst of pulse Phasers."
"I'm only doing this become I'm programmed to do it." She told him with a distinct note of disapproval.
"I don't care one way or the other, so long as you do it." He told her. He glanced up as the stars drifted back before them, the ship locking onto her target while presenting herself as an easier target. The blast of the twin pulse cannons reached out into the darkness of space and vanished in the distance. Blake turned his attention to the hologram beneath them which showed the blasts connecting with the scout ship almost harmlessly.
"They took the bait." Katherine huffed nervously. "Incoming weapon signature. Contact in five seconds."
"Blake." Haldo began with an earnest impression of sincerity. "I'd like to say it's been a pleasure serving with you." A grin formed across his leathery face. "But… well…It really hasn't."
"I should have stayed two centuries in the future." WP23 added to Blake's growing tension headache. "At least there everybody appreciated my Warpedoes."
The blast of crackling yellow energy flicked out through space like the tongue of a lizard catching an insect. Carrying on its beam the subspace accelerator that increased the power of the systems exponentially. The beam raced to the dilapidated future vessel at the speed of light while the little vessel patiently cursed Blake Girling to the depths of hell. Her shields exploded with a rippling white light as the beam connected and blew her backward from her axis and sent her spinning helplessly through space. The beam almost instantly vanished and the Orion ship staggered back, reeling from the effect of the inversion. The lights from the windows faded into darkness and the two huge engine bells at her tail died out and ran cold.
"Ouch." WP23 managed to say while sparks crackled over her worn out hull.
"We're alive." Blake Girling said in surprise as he ran a diagnostic of the damage.
"Speak for yourself." Katherine told him over the noise of escaping gas and several minor explosions coming from the engineering of the ship. "I'll wait and see."
"Damage report?" The Captain demanded of Haldo, turning to face the troubled engineer.
"Just the toilet roll holders." Haldo grinned back. "Everything else is smashed to bits."
"You have two minutes to get us underway." Blake told him with a smirk. "Good work by the way."
"How are you?" WP23 said with rhetorical sarcasm. "Oh I'm fine. I enjoy getting hit with new subspace beam weapons."
"How bad was it?" Blake sighed to himself and asked after a lengthy pause.
"Have you ever carelessly pulled up your trouser zip?" The ship asked angrily. "Well this zip was 28 miles long and…"
"We get the idea." Katherine snapped to cut her off. "You're just a ship. You can be repaired."
"You make it sound so easy." Haldo grumbled at her as he took a box of tools and left to track down the worst of the damage and fix it back together with some kind of adhesive tape.
"That was interesting." Allarn leant back against the controls and rubbed her chin thoughtfully.
"For future reference the Federation generally uses something called sensors." Katherine scolded sarcastically. "They're a much more efficient way of gathering data than sitting around making vague comments while people shoot at you."
"Allarn." Blake stood up and waved a hand to gesture for the Ensign to back off. "You owe us an explanation, don't you think?"
"I wish I could give you one." Her eyes still seemed to be pleading for something although it was increasingly difficult to discern exactly what it was.
"Maybe we'll find it on that Orion ship?" Blake suggested hopefully.
"We're going there?" She asked hopefully, stepping up from the counter in her excitement. Blake nodded his agreement. "Something is very wrong here and we need to find out what it is. That's why we're here, isn't it?"
"Thank you." She smiled warmly.
"For taking the risk of getting us all killed?" Blake smiled emptily. "Any time."
Haldo put the delicate plasma relay monitoring control valve into the space made for it among the delicate plumbing of the ship. He then forced it into place by repeatedly bashing it with a large hammer.
"Working out a little frustration?" Allarn asked with coquettish smile as she stood in the hatchway watching him work.
"Oh I don't have time for getting annoyed." He grinned back. "That system hasn't worked in 42 years but it holds two pipes apart. Whoever built this thing up from a Runabout crammed some very over-powered technology in here. In some ways the engineering is like a Swiss watch and in others it's more like spaghetti thrown at a wall."
"It's certainly different." She agreed unreservedly as she gazed around the patched over engineering. "I don't think Starfleet would entirely approve."
"Approve of what?" He frowned. "The fact this ship is from nearly two centuries in the future or that it even exists at all?"
"Both." Allarn shrugged. "I'm not even sure I approve."
"Well I went through the legal requirements in a spare moment I had while nothing was dropping off of the outside of the ship." Haldo stood up and wiped the accumulated carbon from his hands down the legs of his uniform trousers. "This ship is in violation of just about every requirement ever made of a ship to allow it to operate in Federation space. In fact I think they'd have to invent several new laws to cover it."
"Nobody's perfect." WP23 told him in her annoyance. "You battle the Borg ceaselessly without repairs for half a century and see what happens to you."
"She's touchy today." Haldo smiled to himself.
"You can't lie to me." Allarn told him knowingly. "You're loving this."
"Actually I am." He nodded as a warm smile grew over his face.
"Blake!" Haldo cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled down the corridor to the control room that Blake insisted they refer to as the bridge. "We're ready to get underway. Her self-repair equipment is taking care of the rest."
"We have an intercom!" Blake called back through the ship.
"Actually we don't." Haldo said with a shrug to Allarn. "I guess that's my next job."
"Can I come?" She asked hopefully. "I want to talk with you if that's ok."
"Fine." He grinned as he led her along the way to the rear of the ship where most of the engineering subsystems were housed. "What can I do for you?"
"To start with you can promise this won't go any further?" She insisted as she negotiated the uneven floor plates and jumbled cables.
"Well of course that depends on how much I drink." He told her. "However that doesn't seem to be a major problem at the moment so you have my word; such as it is."
"How did we come across the Orion vessel?" She asked.
"What?" Haldo turned to face her with a confused frown. "Is this a joke?"
"I'm serious." She told him flatly. "Please…"
"We're in their space." Haldo explained with a dubiously doubtful expression. "This is that they hide out here. We think there's a central base of operations in here. We monitor all Orion activity and stay out of their way as far as possible but this scout caught our eye. It had some odd power emanations that we'd never seen before."
"Who found it?" She asked.
"You did." He told her as his eyes narrowed. "Is everything alright with you?"
"I'm fine." She assured him with a smile.
"Well you found it and said it reminded you of something you'd seen before." Haldo continued. "You said it was important."
"But I don't remember it now." She bit her lip curiously as she tried to work it all out.
"I think you need to see Katherine." Haldo reached up for her shoulder but diverted his hand at the last minute and leant instead against the bulkhead wall.
A screech suddenly whistled out of Allarn's comm badge, loud enough to make them both wince in surprise and discomfort. Haldo grabbed up a device that looked like a large screwdriver and jabbed in into a computer socket. The noise died away to be replaced with the voice of Ensign Katherine Rogers. "…come to the bridge." It said before cutting off with more static.
"I'll work on that." Haldo frowned to himself as Allarn turned about and headed back to the control bay.
The Orion scout was of an odd design. Rounded and bulbous, it was as impractical for atmospheric flight as it was for carrying cargo through space. At the front three round windows peered blackly into space and from her belly a single wing jutted out, suspended by a mass of filthy engineering.
"I'm maintaining a weapons lock." WP23 told them as she observed the vessel gingerly, unwilling to be on the receiving end of another blast from its disproportionately potent weapons.
"I didn't tell you to do that." Blake said rhetorically as he ran a diagnostic of the alien vessel with her surprisingly good sensor array.
"Yeah well, you didn't tell me not to." She told him with her usual bad tempered tone of annoyance at her Captain.
"It's totally inert." Katherine confirmed. "I'm reading nothing whatsoever. No life signs, no power reserves. It's absolutely dead."
"If I didn't know better I'd say it looked as though it had been there for decades." Blake suggested as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Allarn, what do you think?"
"We need to go over there." She replied enthusiastically. Her hand moved to her chest reflexively as her heart seemed to flutter beneath her ribs. Her sight seemed to fade to darkness but she blinked it away and waited. It cleared and everything began to settle into place.
"I'll go." Blake stood up from the seat and stepped back to where the transporter pad was set into the floor. He drew a Phaser from the weapons cabinet, which had been reloaded with contemporary equipment. He hefted the black and grey sidearm and turned it over in his hand.
"Why you?" Katherine objected.
"Who else?" He shrugged. "My built in shields will protect me, I don't remember any other member of the crew having them."
"The others." Allarn snapped up as she recalled something from their last meeting. "The other two Starfleet officers who were resurrected with you?"
"What?" Blake scowled at her. "What about them?"
"Where are they?" She frowned. "Can't they go with you?"
"Dead." Katherine interjected as she cast a curious glance to the Captain. "They died on the Corinthian. Don't you remember?"
"Sorry." Allarn blustered. "Of course."
"Beam me over." Blake told the ship, ignoring Allarn as best he could although her comments had stirred up things which he had yet to come fully to terms with.
In a shimmering column of light Blake Girling materialised aboard the Orion ship. Shortly after arriving the team had agreed to discard their Starfleet uniforms and anything conspicuously from the future if they left the confines of the ship. He was dressed in dark black and grey clothes as WP23's transporter was sophisticated enough to dress him in alternate costume during the beaming cycle. He levelled the antiquated Phaser pistol around him and gazed into the darkness. The Tricorder at least was more recent than the weapons issued aboard the Asimov and seemed reasonably adequate; although a more modern design would have suited him better.
"Blake to WP23." He spoke into his badge. "Nothing here. Nothing at all."
"There has to be something." Katherine's voice replied in frustration.
"I'm not detecting anything." He confirmed, shutting the grey flap on the scanning device at his side and stepping cautiously forwards. "The interior is in darkness." He continued over the open communications channel. "Even the emergency lights are dead." His torch beam cut through the gloom, the white disk it projected danced over the surface of the ships walls. The panelling was bland and functional belying the former role of the vessel as a simply light cargo freighter before refitting by the Orion pirate syndicate.
"I'm just behind the control deck." He said as if thinking to himself out loud. "Behind is a short corridor that leads to a large door that seals off the loading bay. "I'm going to enter the bridge."
"Be careful." Allarn's voice warned him over the channel.
The door slid open and he stepped forward into the control room.
"He's stopped transmitting." Katherine screwed up her face in frustration as she worked the controls. "WP, are you reading anything at all from over there?"
"Nothing much." She agreed, putting her feelings aside for once. "I'm still detecting his comm badge signature but it's very erratic."
"Beam him back." She jumped up from the seat and headed back past the transporter. "Send him directly to sickbay."
Sickbay was actually one of two small bunk-rooms where they'd pulled out the top bunk and fitted rows of racking to store whatever medical supplies they suspected they'd need. The fact that it had only a single bed was a source of much consternation to Ensign Rogers but as space on board was very much at a premium Haldo had insisted that if any two people got sick they had better both hope that they got sick first.
Blake was already materialising when she rounded the last corner and scampered into the small bay. She knelt down beside his unconscious form and snapped open her medical Tricorder as Allarn watched from the doorway where the door had rusted open about a decade before. When the medical scanning device showed that Blake was in fact not there at all she made a loud curse and discarded it rudely to the floor.
"Blake?" She called out to him, her hand on his forehead while her other reached for his wrist to check her pulse.
"What's going on?" Allarn shook her head in confusion.
"He doesn't register on normal scanners." Katherine told her with disinterest as he fingers tightened around his veins. She breathed a sigh of relief and turned back to her with a smile on her face. "He's alive." She said while slumping back to the bed. "His temperature is normal and his pulse is regular."
Blake groaned and his arms began to move around. "Where am I?" He groaned. "What happened?"
"You're safe." Katherine told him softly. "You're back aboard WP23."
"I can't be both!" He quipped as he sat up slowly, rubbing his temples. "What hit me?"
The crew sat around the briefing table in the middle of the ship. The previous inhabitants had seen fit to make a lounge aboard big enough for the entire team. The wall was fitted to the far wall and a monitor was fitted flush to the end, as if peering back at them.
"So what did you see?" Allarn asked, leaning forward with her hands tightly clenched together expectantly.
"I'm not sure." The Captain admitted. "It was dark aboard but I think…"
"What?" Katherine felt her stomach knot somehow as she sensed the worst.
"If it helps I made a study of the Phaser and your badge." Haldo added. "Both were drained and showed signs of radiation burns."
"Radiation?" Katherine turned to him with interest. "There was a leak over there?"
"No." Haldo frowned darkly. "The burns were from Blake's shields. They must have been activated and put out enough power to actually damage the outer casing of a Phaser pistol.
"My god." Katherine shook her head in disbelief but knew better than to question his competence.
"So what drained them?" Blake leant his head on his upturned palm as he listened intently.
"I don't believe they were drained in the conventional sense." Haldo told them, his eyes darting from one face to the next. "From the corrosion I would say they were in the process of wearing out."
"What?" Blake frowned. "We only picked the weapons up from the Asimov a week ago…"
"By my reckoning they were nearly three hundred years old." Haldo told him firmly. "The badge is designed to emit a tracking signal nearly indefinitely but even that was almost dead."
"So what happened to the crew?" Allarn asked urgently.
"Well from what I saw…" Blake began hesitantly. "There were three of them. One was sat in the centre and two others were fixed in laid-back seats.
"They were dead?" Katherine guessed.
"There wasn't much left of them." Blake nodded. "Bones and dust. That was about all."
"Well this has been a weird day!" Haldo sighed and leant back in the chair. "Nice to know some things never change."
"WP." Blake began thoughtfully. "Can you leave some kind of marking buoy here to warn people of the dangers of trying to go aboard that ship?"
"Why not destroy it?" She suggested.
"Not yet." He shook his head. "We may need to investigate it more thoroughly. I'd like to wait until we know what happened there."
"How about a portable cloak?" Haldo suggested. "We left one aboard the Wanderer once. We could tow the scout to somewhere quiet and leave a low-level cloaking field in place. I could rig one up with enough power to last another century at least."
"Do it." Blake nodded in appreciation. "Katherine. Scan the charts for somewhere to hide the ship. An asteroid or small moon." She nodded in agreement.
Allarn opened her mouth to speak and then her chest exploded in agony.
She convulsed violently. She found herself thrashing around on the examination bed aboard her ship, her limbs flailing wildly around.
"Calm down." Stirk was shouting at her, his voice cracking with emotion.
She bit her lip and closed her eyes against the brutal white lighting and waited for the feelings to subside. Gradually she found some perspective, she realised where she was and calmed herself down.
"Not again!" He warned angrily, a tear streaming down his cheek as he spoke. "Never, never again."
"What happened?" She gasped, her chest was raw, the muscles that drove her lungs were numb and cold.
"Six minutes this time." He shouted accusingly. "If you were Human you'd be dead for good."
"I'm not Human." She smiled thinly as the pain began to soften into the background.
"I hope that was worth it." He told her. "I just hope it was all worth it."
Allarn sat in the control room peering out into the temporal conduit with a blanket wrapped around her. Bolts of energy flared around her as subspace angrily lashed the ship.
"How much longer are we going to be in here?" Stirk asked softly, still in awe of the spectacle beyond. "How much further do we have to go?"
"It doesn't work that way." She told him with a whimsical smile. "Time and distance mean nothing in here. It looks to us as though we're moving but actually we're just waiting. We're waiting for the cogs of the universe to turn to just the right position and then we leave."
"And that bounty-hunter will leave right along with us!" He grumbled.
"I felt it." She narrowed her eyes as she spoke, his words hardly registering any more. "I felt the pull of it. I remember being in the other time and feeling the draw to come back. I fought it."
"We can't do this again." Stirk told her firmly. "I can't do this. I won't help you any more."
"I found a lot." She turned to him with an optimistic smile. "This technology may have come from the Orion syndicate back in 2273. They had a ship outfitted with a radical new power source that malfunctioned. I think that Captain Titor found a way to stabilise it."
"What makes you think that?" He frowned.
"The interior of the ship had aged. There was some kind of temporal discord on board that seemed focused on the crew." She rubbed her temples wearily. "I'm certain it was the same power source."
"So if it was is there any way we can use that information?" Stirk asked excitedly.
"I don't know." She replied earnestly. "Haldo Compz did something to the shields. He said there was some kind of subspace amplifier and he needed to invert the field somehow."
"Somehow?" He sounded less than impressed.
"I'm not an engineer." She shrugged. "I'm not sure what he did. I'm not sure I remember…"
"Then we're dead." He groaned.
"We would be in any case." She smiled thinly and without humour. "My shields are simply not that sophisticated. "We can't invert them."
Stirk picked up a mug of hot chocolate from the replicator and held up the steaming cup before him. "I could get used to this." He smiled to himself. He carried on his way to the lab. Allarn had ignored him as usual and instead of resting had decided to spend the next few hours poring over files.
"Can I get you anything?" He called around the open hatchway. He frowned in annoyance at the lack of reply but it was not unusual. In the short time he'd associated with her he'd learnt that Allarn frequently lost track of the outside world when embroiling herself in her studies. "Are you ok?" He called round with a jovial ring to his voice, despite his mood hardly reflecting it. All pretence of good humour vanished as he saw the examination bed. Lit and in use with the rod laying discarded on the floor and Allarns lifeless body sprawled across it.
"No…" He whispered as the mug fell unnoticed through his fingers and shattered on the floor.
Allarn opened her eyes and stared about. She was in what looked like a cargo bay but perhaps a little smaller than she would have expected. The mood was sombre and around her were people with wounds and abrasions, many holding dressings to their heads while others staggered around in confusion. She noticed a familiar sight as she stood up to her feet. Commander Chekov was standing by a terminal, his shoulders slumped and his head hung while he worked on the computer.
She walked over to him slowly, noticing the subtleties of his posture. She was becoming accustomed to travelling in this manner and her head seemed clearer than before. She was aboard the Enterprise, seeing Chekov proved that. He seemed uninvolved in the task and there appeared to be little urgency so she assumed that the ship had escaped the ribbon during her absence.
"Is everything alright?" she ventured to the Starfleet officer.
"There have been better days." He told her without looking up from his work.
"We're alive." She said softly. "In the end isn't that all that counts?"
"Not all of us." Chekov turned suddenly to face her, his face contorted with anger and despair. "We paid a price for our escape."
"The ship?" She guessed but knew something terrible had happened, something bad enough to touch his very soul with its darkness.
"The Captain." He told her, his anger melting away to leave only sadness. "Captain Kirk."
"Dead?" She shut her eyes sorrowfully as she remembered something she found it difficult to believe she'd forgotten. "I'm so sorry."
"I knew it." Chekov smiled thinly as his eyes glazed while he fought back a tear. "I knew he'd never fade away in retirement. That was one man whose death I knew I wouldn't read about in the obituary column. He was destined to die a hero."
"You served with him for a long time, didn't you?" Allarn asked, her voice lowered respectful of his loss.
"He was more than a Captain." He nodded, wiping the corner of his eye with the back of his hand.
Allarn looked behind him to the console he was working on. It was a communications array terminal. "Are you informing his family?"
"We are his family." He smiled thinly. "No… Spock must be told but Scotty and myself will do it in person. He would do the same for me. Any of us would."
"What's going on?" Allarn turned behind her to the source of a soft female voice that had a deeper resonance than she was accustomed to hearing although in what way she was unsure.
"We have to wait here." Chekov stood up straight, stretching his back and pushing his loss to the back of his mind. "The Enterprise was badly damaged. A ship is going to rendezvous with us and escort the refugees back to Earth."
"Earth?" The woman asked dully, her mind clearly elsewhere in quite another time and place. "I've been to Earth."
"You have?" Chekov asked conversationally, trying to be as sympathetic as he could. "You're from the Delta quadrant. Your drive technology must be remarkable."
"We can't talk about it." She sighed. "It's a secret. It's all a secret." The dark skinned woman walked off, shuffling her feet listlessly as she paced away.
"Shock…" He shrugged but Allarn had already left his side.
"Do you have a moment?" Allarn laid her hand softly on the woman's shoulder. She shrugged it off objectionably and carried on walking. "I just want to be alone." She muttered.
"Please." Allarn called after her.
"She needs to be alone." A voice told her firmly. She turned to see the face of a young man staring back at her. His hair was light and combed back and his face sported a neatly trimmed beard. "Can I help you?"
"You're a refugee?" Allarn said with some surprise at his tidy appearance. "You seem to have weathered the storm rather well."
"It wasn't a storm…" He told her, his eyebrow tracing downwards in an arc as his mood darkened visibly. "It was a tide of destruction."
"What?" She felt a flow of adrenaline pass through her and her chest fluttered nervously.
"I'm Brin." He stretched his hand out to greet her. "Brin Macen."
"Allarn." She replied without thinking. She silently scolded herself for her slip in using her real name.
"How can I help you, Allarn?"
"Your drive system." She began excitedly. "It carried you here from the Delta quadrant? How does it work? What is your power source?"
"It's a secret." He smiled knowingly.
Her expression took on a grimmer tone. "It's very important." She pleaded. "I can't tell you how much."
"You don't understand." Macen shook his head and raised his hand for her to stop. "When I say it's a secret I don't mean I won't tell you. I mean I can't."
"Please." She insisted.
"I don't know." He explained. "None of us do. It's a secret. Our government provides for our transport needs to other systems. We're not told how the ships work."
"Why?" Allarn protested. "That's insane. What if a member of the public was the next Zephram Cochrane? You'd never advance like that."
"I agree." He nodded. "Actually I am an explorer but my own ship was powered by what we refer to as conventional engines. Even I was not allowed access to our long-range drive technology. My ships were always dropped in the region I was to explore."
"Why would a government behave like that?" Allarn frowned thoughtfully to herself.
"You're a journalist?" Macen clasped his hands behind his back and regarded her suspiciously.
"Yes." She shrugged, remembering that she was inhabiting her aunt's body still.
"No." He told her flatly. "Who are you really?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you." She assured him with a wry smile.
"I'm an explorer." He retorted dryly. "I've heard that a million times."
"I'm something of an explorer myself." Allarn grinned back. "Have you ever heard the Human expression, "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"?"
"I gather from the inference you intend some kind of trade of information?" He narrowed his eyes as a ghost of a smile appeared on his face.
"I think between us we can cause much more trouble than that." She grinned.
Captain Scott had been afforded the private use of the Captain's ready room. He was distraught at the loss of his old friend and had gratefully taken up the Captain's offer of a private place to begin sorting through his feelings away from prying eyes.
He looked up slowly as the door chimed. "Enter." He said finally, standing up from the counter to compose himself. The doors slid open as the young Ensign Sulu stepped through leading in a couple of strangers.
"These people have come to offer you their condolences." Sulu told him with a supportive smile. She gestured to Allarn and Macen.
"I'm Brin Macen." He stepped forwards with an outstretched palm. Scotty glared at it for a moment, lost in a turmoil of thoughts and feelings. Remembering himself he reached forward to shake the offered hand.
"Captain Montgomery Scott." He replied.
"I was the ranking officer aboard the second transport." Macen began with a glance back Allarn. "I wanted to say how much all of us appreciate your efforts and mourn your loss alongside you."
"Thanks, laddy." Scotty smiled warmly. "Actually that means a lot."
"I met Captain Kirk a few times, I'm so sorry he's gone." Allarn added innocently while saying the first thing that simply popped into her head.
"Aye." Scotty nodded in agreement. "He was a great man. There won't be many more like him."
"Our people will always remember him as a hero." Macen told him. "I can promise you that."
"Well I'm not convinced he's dead." Scott smiled. "Whatever that ribbon was it had a temporal signature. I'll be filing a report to Starfleet and coming back with a ship to search for any signs before I give up."
"I wish you luck." Allarn said softly as herself and Macen exchanged glances that suggested that they both feared for the man's sanity.
"Kirk has come back from worse." Captain Scott told them, already knowing what was going through their minds. "If Starfleet won't help I'll do it myself. I already found a colony with good scientific research equipment and a background in temporal mechanics and I'll retire there and search alone if I have to."
"Right." Macen agreed with a hesitant and slightly awkward glance at the young Ensign who seemed to be interested only in looking elsewhere for the moment.
"Captain Scott?" The Captain asked politely. "Do you have a moment? I could use your help on the bridge."
"I'll be right with you." He agreed. As the Ensign left, Scotty winked at the two visitors. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a metallic flask from which he poured them both a drink. Once he was also furnished with one he held up the glass for the others to follow suit.
"Captain Kirk." He said proudly. Allarn and Macen repeated his words and they all downed the drinks in one.
Scotty left the ready room behind and the doors swung shut as he left. "You did it." Macen told her, folding his arms over his chest. "You got us onto the bridge and to a secure terminal."
"Well I had some luck." She admitted. "I was going to set off the fire alarms but this is much better."
"Captain Scott seems to have a few personal issues." Macen observed stoically.
"He has trouble letting go." Allarn smiled to himself. "According to my third cousin, twice removed he once captured a Klingon ship."
"Klingon?" Macen asked curiously.
"Kind of like burly teenagers with prunes on their heads and bad personal hygene… only with sharper teeth." She explained succinctly. "Anyway, after the original Enterprise was destroyed the bridge crew escaped to this Klingon ship. Apparently the Doctor painted "USS Bounty" on the outside but Scotty had painted NCC 1701 all over the engineering bay. Some people are like that."
"Something tells me you don't have that problem?" Macen suggested as Allarn went to work on the computer with eloquent efficiency.
"Well I don't really care about anything." She admitted earnestly. The computer bleeped that it had accepted her access codes but really she had confused it so much it had simply given up and let her in. "You were telling me about your ship."
"We were told that we were being sent to the promised-land." Macen continued the story he had begun before. "I assumed they meant the Alpha quadrant."
"It's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live here." Allarn added as she plunged deeper into the Enterprises systems.
"From what I could tell the crew were deliberately driving the ship directly into the Nexus." Macen told her flatly.
"Maybe the Captain was madder than Captain Scott?" Allarn suggested dryly. "Perhaps he'd hit his head on one too many conduits."
"Something was wrong…" Macen agreed.
"What were you running from?" Allarn asked conversationally.
"Aliens." Macen told her with a grimness that surprised her enough to momentarily distract her from her work. "Terrible aliens."
"Who?" She raised an eyebrow curiously.
"We were told not to tell." He began hesitantly
"You can trust me." She assured him.
"They are called the Borg." He told her, spitting the word out with hatred and venom "Borg?" She sat up in interest. "That doesn't make any sense."
"You know about the Borg?" He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned in surprise.
"If you know about them now then how comes they're a mystery 70 years in the future when the Humans encounter them for the first time?" She rubbed her temples thoughtfully.
"You're definitely not a reporter." He smirked thoughtfully, curious about his new associate.
"Unless…" She said thoughtfully. Her interest in him vanished instantly as her attention turned back to the computer. "We're in a holding pattern." She began. "The Enterprise is effectively motionless while we wait for a vessel to come and dock with us."
"We were hit pretty hard." Macen sat at the edge of the desk.
"Oh my god…." She sat back in the chair and gazed forward in horror.
"What it is?" Macen stood up sharply.
"The vessel that's coming to meet with us." She told him nervously. "The Captain is J.Titor."
"What does that mean?" Macen asked.
"Titor works for a secret organisation called Section 31." She told him bluntly. "In the future he's developed a way to travel through time and is trying to kill me."
"Why?" He said with a shrug. "Why would he want you dead?"
"That's what I'm here to find out."
The pair left the Captain's ready room unnoticed amidst the chaos going on all around the bridge. Officers were running around in all direction in vain attempts to get as many of the systems working as possible before the rendezvous with the other ship.
"So who is this Section 31?" Macen asked, his voice lowered so only she could hear him.
"Long story." She told him bluntly. "I've had several meetings with them already. I doubt this will be my last."
"And the Borg?" He continued. "You know more about them than I do, don't you?"
"Probably." She smiled knowingly. "I get around quite a bit."
"I'll bet you do." He agreed. "What did you mean earlier when you said that in the future nobody knows about the Borg?"
"Just history." She shrugged. "Just take it from me that when Starfleet first encounters them they find it a surprise."
"Well even though we El-Aurians are a tight lipped people someone would have mentioned them sooner or later?" Macen suggested as they cut through the sporadic melee of activity to the turbolift.
"Not with Section 31." She told him as the doors slid closed. "They have the power to utterly suppress the information. They'll probably begin a quiet investigation of their own." She thought to herself for a moment. "Maybe that's no bad thing really."
"So what are you planning to do?" He leant back against the wall and waited for her to come up with the next insane part of her plan to ruin his day still further.
"We have another problem." She told him thoughtfully. "The Orions had an engine of this design about 20 years ago. Where did they get it from?"
"I don't know." He replied earnestly. "I imagine that my government sent out ships to investigate the Alpha quadrant ahead of time."
"To scout it out, you mean?" She smiled as an idea occurred to her. Macen nodded in agreement. "Except they weren't looking to settle in the Alpha quadrant."
"I don't quite understand." He admitted with a dubious expression of curiosity.
"They were looking for the Nexus." She announced. "That's why they sent the refugees directly into it. They already knew about it."
"Why?" He shook his head and frowned. "How could they know about it?"
"I'm not sure." She admitted. "But Captain Titor knows about it too and I think he knew about it 20 years ago as well."
A small white Starfleet ship dropped from Warp with a flash and slowly made its way towards the damaged Enterprise B. A gaping wound had been cut into her secondary hull that seared deep into the framework of the powerful Starship.
The new vessel was very much like an Oberth class upper hull but the lower sensor pod had been replaced with an over-sized weapons mount with devastating potential.
"We have to get aboard that ship." Allarn said excitedly as they stood by a window gazing out at the approaching vessel.
"They're likely to employ some kind of security." Macen told her sarcastically.
"Except they want you to go aboard." She reminded him. "They're here to check out the refugees. That's you."
"Why would Section 31 be interested in us at all?" Macen said curiously as the ship slowed to a virtual halt before coming alongside.
"If they did obtain a ship from your world before then they already know all they need." Allarn agreed. "What could a group of people with little knowledge of their technology add to them?"
"Maybe they want to know more about the Borg?" Macen suggested hopefully.
"Section 31 doesn't ask questions." She told him firmly. "They already know all the answers."
"And this Orion ship? They captured that as well?"
"Maybe." Allarn sighed wearily, annoyed at the gaps in her memory. "I'm really not too sure. Section 31 could have given them the technology to test it. They do things like that."
"So the Orions had a ship equipped with the same drive as our ships?" Macen was finding it increasingly difficult to follow her story as it kept jutting off at wild tangents.
"I never had a chance to confirm that." She told him regretfully. "I have reason to believe that the technology was the same. The Orions are not an ingenious or inventive people. If they had anything advanced it was bought or stolen from someone else."
"What happened to this ship?" Macen frowned dubiously.
"We disabled it." She told him. "Everyone aboard was dead when we got there. We cloaked it and left it there until we could find out what had happened. It was dangerous to board it for some reason."
While still deeply uncertain about Allarn and her frequent obscure references to the future Macen did agree to go along with her plans. At least he was curious enough to be driven to answer the questions her story was posing.
"I'm the second officer of the El-Aurian vessel." He said, his hand outstretched to the officer before him. Captain Titor regarded it for an instant before hesitantly shaking his hand and introducing himself. He seemed to be around middle-aged with darkly tanned skin and long black hair that was fastened neatly behind his head. His eyes were grey and hard and looked through rather than at the people around him.
"Welcome to the Alpha quadrant." He said in a manner that made it clear his words were merely a formal courtesy and meant nothing to him. "I will need to place all of your people in quarantine for medical examinations." He told him coldly.
"We're your guests now." Macen replied. "We'll be happy to comply with your rules."
"We'll make every effort to inconvenience you as little as possible." He assured Macen. "It is just a formality."
"And then?" He asked, trying to remain outwardly as just an officer looking out for his crew.
"We'll release you." Titor shrugged. "You'll be free to make homes for yourself wherever you see fit."
"I see." Macen said with surprise. "It's as simple as that?"
"Isn't it?" The Captain narrowed his eyes suggestively.
"We were expecting to encounter a few more obstacles." Macen admitted.
"There aren't a great deal of you left." The Captain began thoughtlessly, ignoring the man's feelings entirely. "You don't pose a threat to the Federation of any kind as far as we are able to tell so far."
"Well then I can only thank you for your help." Macen smiled warmly.
"It's no problem." The Captain replied, glancing around the Enterprises triage facility at the refugees dotted around.
"May I ask where you're taking us for the examination?" Macen asked innocently.
"To the Earth solar system at the heart of Federation space." Titor told him abruptly, seeming to only be paying him the barest attention. "We have a facility on Europa, a moon around Jupiter."
"How long will that take on your ship?" Macen asked, carefully observing for any signs of a reaction."
"Not long." He assured him, his brow plunging into a curious frown.
"It's just that your ships aren't as fast as El-Aurian ones, are they?" He dropped the provocative statement in the hopes of catching the officer off guard.
"No they're not." He agreed. "But the Cochrane-type Warp drive is getting faster all the time. It's the most reliable drive in this quadrant."
"I'm sure." Macen agreed with a happy smile. "There's always room for improvement though, isn't there?"
"I'm sure our engineers are working on it." Captain Titor replied bluntly and turned his attention elsewhere to firmly imply that he had now lost all interest in the conversation.
"Well?" Allarn sidled up beside Macen as the Section 31 officer stalked through the bay inspecting the refugees.
"I don't know." He admitted, watching the Captain. "He's certainly hiding something."
"Maybe the fact that he's a murderous villain?" She sneered at the man in the distance.
"Maybe." He said thoughtfully. "I didn't get any impression that he knew how our engines work. If you're right then he would have had to capture the technology at least 20 years ago. He must have developed it by now even if the Orions were just a test."
"What if he couldn't?" She pondered. "What if for some reason he couldn't continue his work until now?"
"Well our ships were destroyed." Macen shrugged and crossed his arms as he listened to her thinking out loud.
She turned to watch as Captain Titor made his way through the refugees. "Blake said there were three corpses in the Orion ship." She said rhetorically. "One in the middle and two at the sides strapped to their seats."
"What do you think that means?" Macen frowned, still not knowing what she was thinking but inferring that it would not be good news.
"Why is El-Aurian technology a secret?" She wondered. "Why would a government completely hide the power source of their ships when they're not a naturally untrusting species."
"You only hide something to stop others finding it." Macen rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "What are you thinking?"
"What if…" Allarn turned back him with an expression of deep concern. "What if the secret was dangerous to you? If another species found the secret it would put you all in danger."
"That seems a reasonable assumption." He nodded. "My old ships had simple Impulse and warp-jump capabilities that were not unlike your own Federation types."
"What secret could put the entire El-Aurian species in danger?" Allarn ran her fingers through her hair and looked back to Captain Titor. "What could be so bad?"
"Bad enough to send refugees to their deaths in the Nexus?" Macen alluded as a chill ran up his spine. "Is that what you think?"
"Actually I think the Nexus is your technology." She said softly.
Allarn stepped in line with the refugees as they were led to the transport pad and beamed to the awaiting Section 31 vessel. She watched with baited breath as an officer headed down the line with a Tricorder, making a cursory scan of the El-Aurians. Suddenly the woman behind her gasped and collapsed in a heap on the floor. The officer dashed forwards to help her as she fell in a haphazard and undignified way that seemed to alarm the other refugees considerably.
Allarn backed away as if worried and then when nobody seemed very concerned about her she stepped up quietly to the transporter pad next to Macen.
"That was a bit of luck." He sighed knowingly.
"I don't believe in luck." She smiled at him. "I do believe in stealing hypo-sprays for use in the case of an emergency."
"You really don't care, do you?" He shook his head as if despairing of a poorly behaved child.
"I told you." She grinned as the beam began to dematerialise their bodies in a flickering haze of blue light.
The interior of the Section 31 ship surprised Allarn. It was exactly identical to every other Starfleet vessel she's been aboard and somehow she hadn't expected that. She was almost disappointed that the walls weren't painted black and there weren't some devastatingly unpleasant hand-weapons on racks at every wall.
They stepped down from the pad and joined a small group who were escorted to a small secure cargo bay.
"You have a plan?" Macen rolled his eyes back in his head.
"We could try to take control of the ship." She suggested.
"With a hypo-spray?" Macen added sarcastically.
"An empty hypo-spray." She corrected. "I gave that woman enough to knock out an Arcturian gorging-hound. I didn't mean to actually, I just don't know how hypo-sprays work very well."
"Do you think we're in any danger?" Macen lowered his voice to ensure nobody heard.
"Oh yes." She assured him with absolute sincerity. "Everyone but me." She put her hand down her top and pulled out a polished piece of pink crystal on a leather strap. "If this is still here it means my aunt hasn't given it to me yet and she did."
"How nice for you." He frowned. "You're a very interesting woman but I have to say that after today I hope I never meet you again."
"You'd be surprised how often I hear that." She smiled.
"I doubt that I would." He shook his head knowingly.
The Section 31 ship drifted away and accelerated steadily from the Enterprise. Captain Titor sat in the chair at the heart of his slender bridge and watched the reverse angle on the viewer. A security officer stepped out of the turbolift entrance and headed directly for him.
"Sir." He began hesitantly. "We have a problem."
The brig of a Section 31 ship was a little different to other Starfleet vessels. The rooms were smaller and forcefield restraints had been dispensed with in favour of more reliable and less humane metal bars that were magnetically sealed.
"This is your plan?" Macen scowled at her angrily.
"Well we weren't going to learn anything in a secure cargo bay." She shrugged. "This was the only idea I had. I have to admit, I really thought they'd take us to the bridge."
"Next time I'll come up with a plan." He told her in annoyance as he glanced around the cell.
"Ok." She agreed sarcastically. "We need to escape from the brig. As you said, it's your turn now to come up with something!"
"We wouldn't be in the brig if you didn't announce to the security teams that you had lied to get on board." Macen grumbled at her as his fingers felt long the seamless panelling of the cell.
"You just need to have a little faith in me." Allarn smirked. "Maybe I should take over the ship with an empty hypo-spray. Would that help you to believe in me?"
"Not especially." He told her flatly. "And I don't doubt you're crazy enough to do that somehow either."
"Well we still have more questions than we do answers." Allarn leant back on the sparse metal bench. "Like the secret of your drive technology. That's the key to all this."
"You have a thought about that?" He asked while he continued searching for any weakness to the cell.
"I have a question." She replied. "How long have your species been using the same technology?"
"Many centuries." He shrugged, paying increasingly less attention to her.
"As long as anyone can remember?" She added thoughtfully.
"I would guess so, yes." He turned to face her. "What are you saying?"
"How many people does it take to operate one of your vessels?" She asked coldly, her voice taking on an unusual note of seriousness.
"Three." He frowned at her. "A control officer and two engineers."
"I have a theory." She said darkly. "You're not going to like hearing it any more than I'm going to like saying it."
"I'm listening." He said softly, intrigued.
"I think your ships are powered by your people." She said thoughtfully. "I think in some way your species can be used to create a sub-space effect that powers your technology. That would certainly explain why your government is so keen to keep it a secret."
"It would." He agreed wistfully, wincing inwards at the suggestion. "But that doesn't answer all the questions."
"Perhaps this was all an elaborate scheme to keep this power out of the hands of the Borg." She added hopefully. "A valiant attempt to protect the rest of the Galaxy?"
"That does make sense." He frowned to himself. "But what is the Nexus? Why were we sent into it? Why were we simply not destroyed on our ships if all they were concerned about was avoiding assimilation?"
"I don't think your people are quite cold enough to kill off their own kind quite like that." She told him flatly. "Perhaps the Nexus wasn't meant to destroy you?"
"There is a legend…" He turned to her, all colour draining from his face as cold realisation dawned on him. Beads of icy sweat began to prickle at his brow. "We don't like to speak of it with outsiders."
"We're all friends here." She shrugged with a warm smile.
"Many millennia ago there was a story told." He began haltingly. "A visitor came to our planet. He made one of our kind his bride after she hid him from his enemies amongst his own people. They had five children that spread across out planet and made us the race we are now."
"Did he have a name?" She asked hesitantly, almost afraid to ask.
"They were called the children of the Q." He told her softly. "When his kind found what had happened he was attacked by them. He fled with his eldest son but they were destroyed. The legend tells that their deaths cut a wound through the universe itself."
"…The Nexus." She surmised.
"If this is true…" He began as the possibilities became apparent. "The Nexus is a subspace tear into a region quite like the Q-continuum. It could be possible that any two of our kind can create a similar but smaller tear in subspace…"
"A tear that draws in power from the very structure of the Universe?" She nodded in agreement. "There's just one small problem."
"Which is?" He turned to her suddenly, roused from his thoughts.
"It happens in death." She told him. "And Section 31 have gone to a lot of trouble to ensure they have a ship full of El-Aurian refugees."
"By the Fates!" He muttered to himself, hanging his head woefully.
Allarn stood up from the bench and wrapped her arms around herself while she thought. She began pacing the small cell when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. A toilet bowl sat in the corner of the prison and as she saw it an idea caught her.
"Guard!" She called out. "Guard!"
An officer stood to his feet and lazily stepped closer the cell.
"We want to get out of here." She told him sadly. "Tell your Captain I'm willing to show him how to stabilise the Nexus wave in exchange for his assurance that we won't be harmed."
Captain Titor regarded the pair suspiciously. "You're a journalist?" He said accusingly. "How did you get aboard my ship?"
"I know how to properly calibrate the El-Aurian biological Nexus wave." She told him, hanging her head shamefully as if her words damned the refugees and the pain of it was emotionally crippling to her.
"Allarn!" Brin snapped at her to stop. A jab in the back of his spine from a compression Phaser weapon silenced him but he glowered at her angrily, his rage contained for the moment.
"It's simple." She began. "You have to subject the subject to a pulsed beam of radiation to simulate death."
"And you've done this before?" Titor asked, still unsure of her but intrigued nonetheless. "Our own experiments have been less than entirely successful."
"Until you ran out of victims?" Macen spat out the words angrily. Titor ignored him for now.
"We call it Transwarp. All you need is two of the El-Aurians either side of your warp core." She continued. "I'll show you how to arrange the rest."
"It's feasible." The ships engineer dug his balled fists into his sides and shrugged at the Captain.
"If I have your word that we won't be harmed then I'll program a demonstration scenario into the computer." She offered with a sharp exhalation.
The Captain glanced at his engineer who saw little reason why she should not continue. "Show me." He told her coldly while his enthusiasm churned within him.
She glanced woefully at Macen who looked away in disgust.
She began setting the computer to show her intentions. "First you simply set your course." She told them, looking up to the faces gazing back at her. "You program a normal Warp journey to your destination and set the shield grid to maximum." Her fingers danced over the controls. "For instance…" She shrugged. "….Say, we're heading to Earth."
The planet at the heart of the Federation appeared on the computer generated schematic on the computer backup control. "Where is the main engineering computer node?" She looked up with a curious frown. The Captain pointed to a bank of equipment set into the wall.
"Now when you set this off the computer will try to automatically drop out of warp so you have to disable the normal safety protocols." She told them. "Are we already travelling at Warp?"
"We're at Warp 3." The engineer replied. "Why will it do that?"
"Because of the shockwave." She replied with a shrug as she stepped to the main node. "The ship will think something is wrong at first." She reached out and patted the metallic cylinder connected through an intricate circuit of pathways. "Of course it will learn eventually."
Suddenly the consoles flickered and went blank. The Warp core itself dimmed and then lit up brightly as the injectors locked open and the ship lurched to the side as if impacted by a solid object.
"What the hell?" The Captain demanded angrily.
Allarn held out her hand. In her palm was a hypo-spray and on her face was a smug grin. "So." She began. "We're heading to Earth?"
"No!" The Captain rushed to the consoles and began flicking at switches in frustration. "What have you done?"
"She's locked out the main computer!" The engineer cried out in confusion. "How did you bypass our security lockouts?"
"I didn't have time for anything as sophisticated as that." She told them. "I just injected a compressed bowlful of toilet water into the processor."
"We're locked out." The Captain stood up in fury. "We're locked into the backup program."
"That she just reset to take us to Earth." The engineer groaned.
"When we get there you'll release all of the refugees." Brin Macen told them with a wry grin. "I'm certain the Federation Government would have issues with your plans otherwise."
Captain Titor glowered at him in annoyance.
"We're dropping out of Warp." The engineer sighed as the core changed the rate of injection, a sign he was well familiar with. "We've arrived already."
"You had better hope our paths don't cross again." Titor stared fixedly at the pair.
"Funny." Macen glared back. "I was just about to say the same thing."
Her eyes opened wearily. Her body seemed to have a mass so great that moving it was for now quite beyond her powers. Allarn's eyelids fluttered as the light ripped into her senses. Suddenly the pain caught her but her only response was a weak groan of apathy as her body continued to be unresponsive to her demands to thrash around in agony.
"It's ok." Stirk told her softly. "Don't ask me how but you're alive."
"My ship?" She gasped.
"You're home." He told her. "You're aboard your own ship again."
"Behind us?" She said weakly.
"He's still there." He almost felt sorry for having to tell her.
"Change course." She told him.
"Inside this rift?" His voice raised in pitch and volume as he stepped reflexively away in surprise. "The ship will be destroyed. You said so yourself."
"Head left." She smiled. "Make sure he follows. I have a plan."
Allarn's vessel made a minor course change. Although essentially stationary inside the event the direction of her shields created a junction and subspace seemed deeply unimpressed by their actions. A sudden fury of energy lashed out at them, broiling and terrible as it thrashed over her shields.
"We're still in one piece." Stirk said in surprise as Allarn huddled wearily inside a quilt that was wrapped tightly around her weakened body.
"Is Captain Titor following?" She asked. He nodded in agreement.
"Wait for six hundred and sixty six seconds and then fire a tachyon burst." She instructed. "That will tear us free of the event and head as back into normal space."
"With no calculation?" He glowered at her fearfully. "That's suicide. We could come out anywhere!"
"Trust me." She smiled. "Number 23 is the mathematical representation of synchronicity. I think a happy coincidence is about to confront us." Her fingers touched several of the controls and a box opened up on the display. "I need to record a message." She told him with her finger touching her lips in a gesture demanding his silence.
"Did I mention how much fun this is?" Haldo asked with a weary sigh.
"So many times I've lost count." Captain Blake Girling told him in growing irritation.
"I'm detecting nothing on long range sensors." Doctor Jones added. "No sign of the Necrodians anywhere."
"They could arrive at any time." Gorus Clogg added. "We know they're coming."
"So no matter how boring it is, you keep your eyes on the sensors." Blake told the engineer haughtily. "Even if we face them alone, the Corinthian is going to be ready."
"I'm detecting something!" Haldo snapped suddenly, dragging his head from the counter where it had rested for the last two hours. "A subspace thing is forming."
"Thing?" Blake stood up from his chair and asked in an accusing tone.
"Some kind of thing!" Haldo shrugged.
"Tachyon emission are off the scale!" Jones agreed. "I've never seen anything like it."
"Some kind of big thing." Haldo reported, pretending to be taking things seriously for once.
"There's a message." Katherine frowned curiously. "It's a recorded warning."
"On speakers." Blake told her with a frown.
"To all ships. We encountered a subspace instability." The message began. "The only way to protect yourselves is to invert your shield parameters to emit a feedback pulse that will short out the field."
"Haldo?" Blake turned to the engineer with a shrug.
"I'm doing it." He replied as he reset the Corinthian's systems.
Suddenly the event erupted into normal space. Allarns ship was blasted out of the broiling subspace region followed by Captain Titor's small time-ship. The small vessel spotted the Corinthian immediately and fired a burst of energy at her.
"Impact!" Clogg reported. The view-screen lit up with the blast and the ship lurched from the weapon strike. "Shields holding." He said as the damage report appeared on the controls. "No damage."
"Blake!" Haldo said in surprise. The Captain turned to the viewer. The small time ship was reeling out of control and tumbling away into the distance, bolts of energy crackling over its hull.
"What the hell is going on?" Captain Girling shrugged.
"The first ship is going to warp!" Katherine told them as Allarn's vessel vanished in a flash of silvery light.
"The second?" Blake frowned curiously as his attention returned to the viewer.
"From the energy readings I'm getting I would say that every system on that ship is utterly scrambled." Haldo surmised.
"Shall I return fire?" Gorus Clogg asked hopefully as his finger hovered dangerously close to the flashing button marked, "Fire".
"No." Blake replied. "We don't know what they were thinking. They may not have intended to attack us."
"The Corinthian is so unpopular that people are now shooting at us by accident?" Haldo quipped but the humour vanished from his expression as he realised it could well be true. "Maybe a transfer is in order for me…"
"The second ship is heading away!" Doctor Jones reported from the science station. "They must have recovered some control.
"Do we pursue?" Clogg glanced around the bridge.
"No." Blake shook his head firmly. "We have to hold position until the Necrodians arrive."
"So we just sit here?" Haldo slammed his elbow on the counter and rested his head on his upturned palm. "Now I'm bored again!"
"Haldo!" Captain Girling turned to the engineer. "Shut up."
Allarn's father sipped at his wine, the flavour light and delicate as it gently caressed his senses. "And so you've lived your lesson." He smiled.
"The Tide of Destruction." She agreed. "The way of endings."
"And what are endings?" He asked.
"They are always the precursor to beginnings." She smiled. "I know that now. One thing flowing into the next seamlessly."
"Pagans were farmers." He told her. "They celebrated the ending of the year, the winters coming to wipe away the past to make way for tomorrow. They saw no regrets in the shadows of the future."
"When the Borg wiped out the El-Aurians that was their tide, that was their destruction." She told her father. "That was just the beginning of their new life in the Federation. Not better or worse, simply different."
"And the destruction of the Corinthian?" He smiled to himself knowingly.
"A loss indeed." She frowned as the vague tendrils of her memory resisted her momentarily. "But somehow it didn't seem to matter. In a new way everything continued as it was. As it should be."
"That is the nature of the universe." He said happily that she had indeed understood.
"I'm going to join them, aren't I?" She asked. "The crew of the Corinthian?"
"You're not a child any more." He said finally. "Our kind are a gift to the Universe and now it's time for you to choose a path that reflects that. History may well have decided for you what course you will follow."
"How is Stirk?" She asked with a wide smile.
"The clone of your brother is doing fine." He told her. "He doesn't know what he is?"
She shook her head. "Another new beginning for us all."
"You must go soon." He told her with a smile. "For you it soon begins in another time and place."
"I think I'm looking forward to it." She said with a sigh. "There was a sense of family to them."
"Yes." He nodded. "And you are now a part of it."
|Last modified: 09 Nov 2020