Chronological Defense Corps Headquarters
The temperature chamber was held aloft by a hover sled. It coasted quietly into the room. Trapped within the chambers tight confines, the former High Magistrate Pernox shifted hir head as best s/he could, trying to absorb as much information as possible, to better effect hir release.
Deep down s/he knew it was futile, but what else could s/he do? S/he had been bred to be a survivor, to triumph. And what should have been hir crowning achievement, the decision that propelled hir to first among the Magistrates, had led to hir downfall.
“Sled stop,” commanded the solemn voice of Commissioner Onnorax, the head of the Defense Corps. The sled complied immediately to the voice command. Pernox groaned. It was frigid inside the chamber, hir cramped joints hurt, hir breathing was restricted and each breathe drew as much ache as it did methane. Hir jailers could’ve easily transported hir from hir dungeon to the Chronological Defense Corps Headquarters, but they chose a slow and painful form of transportation instead.
Through the small translucent screen, Pernox saw Onnorax, colored a deep crimson standing in front of a large display screen, with an energy web splayed across it. With the commissioner was High Magistrate Zezrene, trilling with barely contained glee, and a far grimmer Arezene. Zezrene burned with a confident solar orange while Arezene’s carapace was a sorrowful gray. Pernox was certain that the hover sled had been Zezrene’s idea.
Nearly beyond Pernox’s vision, blending with the shadows were the night colored Assessors. S/he could not tell how many there were, their dark forms indistinct and ran together, mixing with the dimness ringing the room. Hir crystalline form tingled at their appearance. It was always a fateful sign whenever the law bringers appeared.
Making sure s/he was within Pernox’s eyesight, Onnorax pointed one long arm back at the screen. “Do you have any idea what that web represents?”
Pernox took a few moments to answer, biting back an insolent retort. “No,” s/he finally said.
“It is time,” Onnorax replied, “Or better, it represents time,” s/he paused, tracing a skeletal finger along one temporal strand. “Do you see this strand here? It is not perfect, there are small, very small fractures between the strand. It is like this across the web, broken lines…everywhere. Do you know why that is?”
“No, I do not,” Pernox said, not hiding the disdain in hir voice.
“Each fracture represents a disruption in the space-time continuum, a rupture caused by us,” Onnorax hissed the last word. S/he paused, shivering noticeably as hir coloring turned from red to a deep violet. “Something I have sworn to prevent, your arrogance forced me to abrogate. We altered time because of your hubris, committed multiple temporal incursions to hide our violations of the test ban treaty.”
“Will it be enough?” Zezrene asked. Onnorax shrugged hir shoulders.
“Only time will tell,” Onnorax soberly answered.
“May I speak?” Pernox interjected.
“Your words have already led us to the precipice of intergalactic pariah status,” Zezrene ripped, “Haven’t you spoken enough?”
“Let her speak,” Arezene said, with force. S/he finally looked at Pernox, hir gray pallor lightening. “Say your piece Pernox.” She was stung that Arezene no longer prefaced her name with her title. Before her fall, to commit such a faux pas would have been inviting harsh punishment, maybe even death.
“I will never regret or apologize trying to put the Tholian people first,” Pernox declared. “The ship was lost, along with its entire crew; there was no need to destabilize the timeline. Your actions have likely drawn the attention of your counterparts from the other powers.”
“We were surgical, precise,” Onnorax declared, with utmost assurance. “Our incisions were small and only involved episodes concerning our people.”
“Unfortunately the commissioner was not allowed to merely erase you from the time stream,” Zezrene interjected, none too pleased, “The other Magistrates remain pleased with your service on Romulus and your negotiations with the Dominion that kept us out of the war.”
“But nearly everything else has been revised,” Onnorax reasserted hirself. “Except here,” s/he scuttled over to the screen and tapped the center of it. “The locus of the disturbance.” Pernox’s eyes followed the commissioner’s finger to the starburst within the center of the web. “There was too much temporal disruption. We could not simply erased the failed mission from time itself, the chroniton fallout was too great to get our agents close to.” A sickening green overtook Onnorax’s raging violet. If Pernox didn’t feel such discomfort s/he could sympathize with the commissioner for having to betray his oaths to preserve the timeline.
“So there is a possibility that Starfleet’s Department of Temporal Investigations will intervene?” Pernox asked.
“They already have,” Onnorax flushed red again.
“I spoke with two of the humans, Lucsly and Dulmer via subspace,” Arezene said, “I tried to allay their fears about the disturbance and the minor ripples. We doctored data to make it appear like a naturally occurring phenomenon. They seem mollified…for now.”
“Then all should be well,” Pernox said, “Release me at once so I can continue serving the Assembly.”
Zezrene’s laugh screeched through the chamber’s audio receiver. “You are not getting off so easily.”
“If you think this imprisonment is easy, why don’t we switch places?” Pernox retorted.
“It’s far from over,” Onnorax was now colored obsidian, as black as a starless void; as pitch as the Assessors. “The Jov’k Tholis has uncovered a massive polaric ion energy outburst in the Caldera Expanse…of Tholian manufacture.”
“That’s…that’s impossible,” Pernox shuddered.
“The Eye of Tholia wasn’t destroyed,” Zezrene couldn’t stop from gloating, “It was hurdled backward into time, and across space. Now evidence of our furtive activities has returned to the Alpha Quadrant, literally at our doorstep.”
“If we do not recover the polaric ion device, the Federation or another power will and they will discover who created it and falsified readings will not suffice the next time they seek an audience,” Arezene said sadly, still not looking up.
“Commander Narskene is capable,” Pernox threw out, after searching her cortex for information about the military officer. “Narskene’s record is most impressive. From the Expansionist campaigns to testing the Federation’s mettle this midcentury, Narskene had proven hir worth. S/he will not fail.”
“S/he will not,” Zezrene dipped her head, “you on the other hand…”
“Your consciousness will be deleted,” one of the Assessors had slithered forward, so quickly that Pernox had not even seen or sensed movement. S/he blotted out Onnorax and the others. “Your memories will not be available to your successors.”
“That is unconscionable!” Pernox bellowed. If her consciousness was not placed in the crystal memory upload to enter the Lattice that meant that not only would all of hir knowledge be denied future generations, but also the wisdom that she had received.
“I know what you are thinking,” Zezrene’s thoughts crawled into her mind, “But the Assessors have a way to separate your tainted engrams from your predecessors. They will live on, you will not.”
“You can’t do that!” Pernox pushed against the unforgiving confines of the chamber. The Assessor sunk back into the shadows, oblivious to hir pleas or hir pain.
“The decision has already been made,” Arezene said, meeting her gaze one final time. “I am sorry.”
“Let us begin then,” Zezrene remarked. “Assessors….”