(14 of 19)
(c) 2004 GLG
The Captain bid the Commodore farewell and closed the link. He sat there, collecting his thoughts. His superior hinted that his ship would not be going out on another mission after it arrived back to Earth. He had heard rumors of plans to modernize the fleet, but these were put on hold while tensions with the Klingon Empire remained high. Perhaps the diplomats really did find a lasting peace, or at least as much peace as one could hope for with the Klingons. If so, and if the retrofits were to start soon, his ship was a logical choice to begin with.
He suspected they were going to try, again, to pin more rank on his uniform ... which would also mean he’ll end up sitting behind a desk twiddling his thumbs. He’d put them off time and time again, but sooner or later, they’d succeed. That much seemed inevitable. He’d accept it, perhaps, but only if he could do so on his own terms.
And still, something nagged at him. Not all the pieces fit yet. Why did the Ambassador tell him to expect war if peace was in the making? There should have been time before he picked the diplomats up at their respective home world for at least one of them to have heard the news.
He had that feeling again that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He reached for the comm unit to call up to the bridge but remembered at the last second that his chief science officer was away on a mission. Then he recalled where that mission was to, and everything clicked into place.
“Working,” a pleasant if artificial female voice responded.
Checking his chronograph, he asked, “Have the sensor logs for the past hour been analyzed?”
“Computer, transfer all sensor logs for the past hour to secure storage.” The computer required his access code, which he provided, to complete the task. He then opened the files and examined the data. He wasn’t a scientist by any stretch of the definition; his training was in military tactics and strategy, but he considered himself to be an explorer above all else and so could hold his own in most scientific endeavors.
First, he examined the data around the time of that strange vibration they felt earlier, not really expecting to find anything of note. There was one slight anomaly, a fluctuation in the ship’s navigational deflector, which seemed somehow familiar. Next, he replayed the long-range sensor logs of the star system that they recorded the explosion in. What he saw was astounding. Star Fleet had accounted for all the ships in the fleet. And yet here was evidence to the contrary. He replayed the logs, this time slowing the images down and enhancing them as much as possible.
He sat for a long while in stunned disbelief.
This just wasn’t possible. Or was it? He replayed the data from the nav-deflector. He was certain he'd seen that before, and was pretty sure of when and where. “Computer, access secure archives, retrieve ship’s logs from ....” he had to stop and recall the stardate. He suppressed the painful memories of that day.
“That information is classified. Access code is required.” He provided it. He scanned through the data and found the nav-deflector readings from that day. He played the logs and noticed the same sort of fluctuations, but longer lasting and quite a bit stronger. That confirmed his suspicions.
He returned his attention to today’s logs. He set a time hack about fifteen seconds before the anomaly and began stepping through the logs one frame at a time. About a tenth of a second before the vibration started, he noticed a visible distortion on the main view screen playback, as if a ragged hole in space opened just ahead of the ship. He checked the aft view and found the same hole closing behind the ship one point six seconds later.
When he checked the long-range sensor logs, he found exactly what he suspected he would. In one frame, a lone survey ship was scouting an asteroid field; in the next, it suddenly jumped to low orbit around a moon, and a second ship was closing on it. That ship appeared to be a twin to his own starship,
That ship was his own starship.
And it was sailing towards its own demise.