(18 of 19)
(c) 2004 GLG
The starship captain knew what had happened, and was pretty sure he knew how it happened, but just not why. He weighed his options -- should he notify Star Fleet Command, or attempt to contact his trusted science officer? Or should he seek to return to his own reality now, before it was too late to try? Was it even possible to get back to the correct reality? And who was to say this reality was any different?
He remembered how different mirror universes could be. And dangerous. “Computer. Establish a link with the nearest Star Base. Compare data banks and note any discrepancies in recent history.”
“Working. Link established to Star Fleet Command. Estimated time of completion: ten minutes for initial scan, seven hours for detailed analysis.”
He used the time to take a quick shower. Rejuvenated, he dressed in his favorite casual uniform with the wrap-around shirt. He had just ordered a cup of coffee when the computer announced, “Initial scan complete. One discrepancy noted.” It displayed the orders for this mission. An amendment had been added at their last pickup point to lower the classification level and now specified the purpose of the meeting the diplomats were to attend.
He knew what he must do. He must talk with the Ambassador. But first, he So, there it was then. This reality and his own had split off on different paths only recently. The bifurcation resulted from a battle on the far side of Kzinti space: whether they killed or only captured one of their enemy’s royalty changed the course of history in the making. There were other minor differences between the timelines since then, surely. He looked at the frozen image of ‘his’ ship flying headlong into a minefield.
That was one major difference there. Why had his ship been plucked from its reality and dropped into this one? Obviously, they were to replace their alternate-selves. But why? Would it not have been easier to just prevent their deaths? And what of his reality? He should be there to face the impending war. Then he remembered the Ambassador’s plan and the repercussions it implied. Perhaps it was better this way. Perhaps he should be content to stay in this reality, a reality that offered peace and hope. But he needed to know for sure. He would need his chief science officer’s help to find out what was to become of his own reality.
He knew what he must do. If Star Fleet Command should find out the truth of the matter, they would put him and his entire crew in quarantine to prevent ‘contamination’ of the dual universes. They would probably attempt to send him back, to undo the damage, regardless of the consequences. That wasn’t a decision he wanted to leave to chair-bound bureaucrats who knew nothing beyond their little world of petty rules and regulations. They would also find out what really happened to his alternate-self’s ship. He could not allow that. Whether he belonged here or not, he wouldn’t risk a civil war within the Federation.
He sat down and edited the logs, making a copy of them first. For the better part of an hour, he painstakingly removed all trace of the mirror-image ship from the long-range sensor log. Then he moved the survey ship from the asteroid field to its final orbit around the moon. He attempted to modify the nav-deflector readings but decided it was too much effort.
When he copied the edited versions back into the main data banks, the computer responded, “The data has been altered. Access code required to continue.” He provided it. “Warning. Falsification of official records is a criminal act, punishable by General Court Marshal.”
He knew that. He helped get that law on the books. “Command override.” He gave his access code yet again.
“Override accepted. Another officer’s command override is required to modify ship’s official logs.” He sighed. He expected this, but he had learned a few tricks in his time. He opened a drawer and retrieved a data card from a hidden compartment. When he inserted it into his tricorder, his second-in-command’s voice was heard providing his access code.
“Access code accepted. Data transfer complete.”
He deleted the transfer logs, erasing superficial evidence of tampering. He knew a computer expert would have no trouble tracing his activities, of course. The original unedited logs were still there, in the secure memory banks. However, no one should go looking for them without cause. And he would not give them that cause. He activated the comm link.
“Bridge. Do you have an analysis on that explosion back a couple hours ago?”
The substitute science officer responded, “Not yet, sir. I was having difficulty accessing the computer files. Someone in stellar-cartography had them open, sir. I’m working on it now, sir.”
“Very well.” He made a mental note to have a private word with her. He didn’t like excuses or pointing blame at others. It wasn’t fair because he had set her up, but he didn’t want her to develop any bad habits either. “Please notify the ambassadors that I would like to meet with them in the conference room before dinner.” He needed to brief them on the change in their mission. It simply wouldn’t do for them to show up and advocate war during peace talks.
“Aye aye, sir.” There was a pause. “Sir, I have an initial report on that explosion. It appears a survey ship suffered an anti-matter containment failure.”
“Any chance of survivors?” he asked. But of course, he already knew the answer.
“None, sir; the wreckage has fallen into the planet’s atmosphere.”
“Very well. Notify Star Fleet Command. Tell them they can cancel the scouting mission.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
He closed the link. That should tie up the last of the loose ends. And buy him time to plan what, if anything, to do next.