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|March 15 2014, 02:53 AM||#151|
Location: North Dakota, we have Badlands here!
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Second. I like to read and review fan fiction as much as I like to write it. I would have used one post to edit/add in additional reviews, perhaps even number them, but unfortunately your "Edit" feature has a time limit.
Third. No harm intended. Will cease at once.
|March 25 2014, 11:39 AM||#152|
Location: Deep Space 9
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
Comments, questions, criticisms all welcome on the story threat, I will endeavour to answer.
Commander Austin Harris, First Officer, Deep Space Nine (by FltCpt. Bossco)
8.01 - Darkest Before Dawn (Chapter 8 added, 12/09/2015)
|June 9 2014, 06:57 PM||#153|
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
|June 9 2014, 10:30 PM||#155|
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
|June 10 2014, 01:32 AM||#157|
Lieutenant Junior Grade
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
As requested, here's my winning entry from the Spring 2014 Writing Challenge - Strange New Worlds
THE RETURN OF KAHLESS
“My Lord, a small metallic object is drifting towards us”
“Yes, my Lord”
Emperor Kahless, Legendary Leader of The Klingon Empire, long thought to be dead….and looking like he probably should be having just returned from battle with a Predator, still looked impressive in his bloodied Battle Armour as he took his seat on the Bridge of his Voodieh Class Flagship, THE DRAGON, and waited for the object to be put on Screen.
“Magnify to clarity” he ordered
“Yes, my Lord”
The object, too small to be seen clearly in the View Screen, was soon magnified to a suitable size and brought into focus by the Tactical Officer.
There was the slight hum of the Transporter as the Tactical Officer correctly interpreted the Order and Beamed the object, the fabled Sword of Kahless, onto the Bridge to appear right in front of Kahless himself. Kahless then picked up the Sword and held it in front of him with both hands as he felt the Power of the Sword flow through him.
“Set Course for Boreth” he Commanded
The surface of Boreth is mountainous….desolate….no Cities or dwellings of any kind except for a single Temple situated high up on the tallest mountaintop. As we enter the Temple, we see Torin, a Klingon High Cleric, and Koroth, also a Klingon High Cleric and the one in Charge of the Monastery, going about their respected duties….when suddenly they hear the hum of a Transporter. Kahless, and a dozen of his Imperial Guard, appear in front of them.
“Who are you?” demanded Koroth “Why are you here?”
“You dare question me? I am Kahless, and I have returned”
Koroth glances quickly at a large Painting at the other end of the Hall and then back to Kahless….while the clothing is different, the resemblance to the figure in front of him is uncanny. Koroth then turned to Torin….“Are we expecting the return of the Kahless Clone anytime soon?”
Upon hearing this question, Kahless’ eyes flashed with an inner light, and his Imperial Guard, dressed all in Battle Armour and each wearing a Black Robe and a Black Battle Sash, levelled their Staff Weapons at the two Clerics and then activated them, causing them to all expand at the front with a flash of Power.
Suddenly, the two Clerics are startled by a throaty ROAR, as Kahless demands of them in anger “You dared to have me Cloned?”
After quickly explaining themselves, they informed Kahless where his Clone could be found.
Reacting to this news as only the real Kahless could, he Beamed back to the Ship with the two Clerics, and was followed shortly after by his Imperial Guard, who have just reduced the Temple to rubble.
“Engage Cloak, then set Course for Qo’noS” he commanded
THE DRAGON, along with a small Fleet of K’T’inga Class Battle Cruisers that also Cloaked when the Order was given, soon arrived at Qo’noS and then took up their respected Orbits while they awaited instructions. Kahless Scanned the area of The Great Hall and, after making sure that the position he chose was clear, Beamed down with his Imperial Guard.
The Imperial Guard, after then levelling and activating their Staff Weapons, made their way forward to deal with any threat that may turn up….and as it turned out, they didn’t have very long to wait as a Sentry spotted the Group and raised the Alarm.
“Vapourize him” Kahless ordered
As one man, The Imperial Guard aimed their Staff Weapons at the Sentry and opened fire….there was nothing left but ashes and his d’k tahg.
Within a few moments, Chancellor Martok arrived with Ambassador Worf and The Klingon Honour Guard….and, taking up his seat as The Ceremonial Emperor, the Clone of Kahless.
“So, this is the Imposter I have heard so much about”
And with that, Kahless spoke into his Communicator. Moments later, Koroth and Torin, the two Klingon High Clerics from Boreth, were Beamed down right in front of Kahless and his Group.
“Imagine my day so far” Kahless said addressing his Clone. “First I find my Sword drifting in Space. Then, when I get to Boreth to fulfil my Destiny, I find that these two couldn’t wait for my return, so they Cloned me….and more to the point, I am told that everyone knows about it and accepts it. So, what should I do with them ‘Brother’? I have already destroyed their Temple”
This news was not received well by those present….especially Worf, who was the first one to find out about the Clone, but still had him approved as The Ceremonial Emperor. It was also Worf who played a part in finding the Sword and then setting it adrift in Space.
In the meantime, the Members of The High Council have arrived and taken up their seats.
“Am I to understand that you claim to be THE Kahless-The-Unforgettable?” asked Martok
“I claim nothing. I state merely what is Fact” replied Kahless. “And who are you to ask this of me?
“I am General Martok, Chancellor of The High Council, and Leader of The Klingon Empire” Martok replied
“And what of my Clone….what is his purpose here?”
“He has united us and reminded us of what we had lost. He leads us by example….he may well be merely a Clone, but within him are the Original Teachings of Kahless. He reminds us of what it means to be Klingon” replied Martok, still not entirely convinced that this was the REAL Kahless that he was talking to.
“And how can we be so sure that you ARE the REAL Kahless as you say you are….the Clone of Kahless was unaware that he was a Clone until he was informed about it?”
You seek to test me….how would you suggest? I’ve already been informed that my Clone is physically weaker than I am, and that he doesn’t have all of my knowledge or memories”
“That may not be necessary” started Koroth. “If you are indeed the real Kahless, then there need only be an X-ray conducted”
“Explain yourself” Commanded Martok
“Something that was not made public at the time that the Kahless Clone was revealed, is that while Kahless is physically Klingon, he has an extremely powerful Alien Symbiote, known as a Goa’uld, inside him. A Symbiote which is, effectively, Immortal, and it is this Symbiote which would have kept the real Kahless alive these many Centuries”
Kahless’ eyes flashed with Power as he started to speak in a somewhat different voice.
“You may conduct your X-Ray, but it will merely confirm what you have said. Moreover, not only do I possess one of these Symbiotes, but each of Imperial Guard also has one, as do the others that are with me in the Cloaked Ships in Orbit as we speak….albeit not nearly as powerful as mine. Likewise, the Fek’lhr, whom I eventually killed, also had a Goa’uld Symbiote inside him….almost as powerful as my own”
And so, when the Medical Team arrived, they proceeded to perform Tricorder Scans, which included X-Ray Tests, on Kahless and his Imperial Guard, and were only slightly hampered by the Fact that The Imperial Guard still had their Staff Weapons pointing at them and the others present, ready to be fired at the Word of Kahless….or otherwise given cause to do so.
“It is as he said” announced the Klingon Doctor. “All of these men have a snake-like Parasite within them”
“So, it would appear that you ARE the real Kahless….what now? What are your Intentions?” asked Martok
“Quite simply,” replied Kahless “I am here to fulfill my Destiny. I have retrieved my Sword and am here now to Re-Claim my Throne”
In the meantime, some Members of The Klingon Defence Force arrived and, together with some more Members of The Klingon Honour Guard, proceeded to surround Kahless and his Imperial Guard; just as, in Orbit above Qo’noS, various Cloaked Ships of The Klingon Defence Force had managed to locate the Ships in Kahless’s Fleet (due to the vast differences in Technology), and were currently awaiting the Order to Attack.
The Clone of Kahless, like his Counterpart, was never one to refuse a Challenge, and this being no exception let out a mighty Roar in response.
“Over my dead body” stated Emperor Kahless
“As well as mine” stated Chancellor Martok
“And mine as well” stated Ambassador Worf. “We don’t want you here. If you are THE Kahless-The-Unforgettable as you claim, then you will know that we killed our Gods a VERY long time ago. And now you turn up and turn out to effectively BE a God, why should we let you take The Imperial Throne when we’re quite happy with the Emperor we have?”
And with that, one of The Imperial Guard fired in Worf’s direction. It missed, but that didn’t stop the outcome.
Every Member of The Klingon Honour Guard and The Klingon Defence Force present in that area, along with Worf Martok and the Kahless Clone, drew their d’k tahgs and Disruptors and launched themselves at the Goa’uld Kahless and his Imperial Guard.
While up in Orbit, the Ships of The Klingon Defence Force had received word about what was happening in The Great Hall and opened fire at the Ships of The Imperial Guard.
Or rather, where they thought the Ships were, because what they actually fired at were Sensor Ghosts as the ACTUAL Ships of The Imperial Guard fired at the Ships of The Klingon Defence Force from behind….giving them, for the moment, an advantage.
While down below in The Great Hall, The Imperial Guard were firing their Staff Weapons in various directions…. finding out too late that they are good for Long Range fighting, but almost useless when it came to up close and personal.
The two fights lasted almost an hour.
In the end, the Ships of The Imperial Guard were all destroyed leaving only THE DRAGON intact. Not that it was entirely one-sided, as a number of Ships of The Defence Force were also destroyed.
And in The Great Hall, many of The Imperial Guard and a number of The Honour Guard were killed.
Both Worf and Martok were sporting a number of wounds….apparently with pride.
But there was only one Kahless left alive….
During the battle the Goa’uld Kahless had taken off his Battle Armour, which left him wearing the same style Tunic as the Kahless Clone, so at this point, there was no indication which of the two Kahless had managed to survive.
The surviving Kahless stood up and, slightly unsteadily, walked over and picked up the Sword with guns pointing at him from various directions as the various surviving Klingons were waiting to see which Kahless actually survived.
He then walked over to The Imperial Throne and hung The Sword on the wall behind it, then he sat down and, after surveying the scene, turned to Worf with a huge smile on his face and said “Now THAT was Fun”.
That was enough to convince Worf that the Kahless on The Throne was The Clone and not the Goa’uld that was dead, and rather bloodied, some 20 feet away on the floor.
Then, a number of personnel were summoned to start clearing up the mess as the surviving Members of The Imperial Guard were escorted to the Brig, while the Kahless Clone, along with Worf and the two High Clerics, joined Martok as they all Beamed aboard THE DRAGON and started exploring his new Flagship.
|August 2 2014, 02:17 PM||#158|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
“Oh, boy,” Dr. Sam Beckett sighed as he landed in a flash of bluish light … somewhere. As always, it was a wholly unfamiliar place. Ever since that incident with the Cokeburg, Pennsylvania bartender,, he had lost touch with Project Quantum Leap. That leap had felt almost philosophical, and things had changed.
He had been a pioneer, a time traveler, wending his way through a means that was originally his own design but, he quickly learned, he had little control over any of it. For the first few years, he had ping-ponged between what he had known as the present time – the late 1990s and early 2000s – to events that had occurred during his lifetime. Being born in the early 1950s meant that he had had over fifty years’ worth of destinations. His memory had holes in it like Swiss cheese, but he had managed all right.
His first leap had been targeted. But the first leap back in time brought with it the need to fix something, to put right what had once been wrong, and then he had leapt again. But his leaps were no longer targeted. He would leap ‘into’ someone else’s life, fix, and involuntarily leap again.. Simplifying matters had been his guide from Project Quantum Leap, Admiral Albert Calavicci. They had worked well together for a few years.
Then he’d been whisked to a bar in Pennsylvania, and everything just sort of came together, as he had seen visions of people he’d helped during his peregrinations. He had fixed one last thing – for Al Calavicci, it had turned out – and that had utterly cut him off from not only Al, but from everyone and everything else he had ever known.
Leaping, ever since then, had gotten even stranger, but at least he had his full memory back. That had stood him in good stead as he had made his way. No longer shackled to his own lifetime – and suspecting that he was possibly dead – he had leaped all over the past. He’d been to the American Revolution, the assassination of Julius Caesar in Rome, the moment that Marco Polo had met Kublai Khan, and even the first taming of fire by primitives.
But this was different.
For one thing, there was some beeping in the background. For another, there was an incredibly hot redhead standing in front of him. She was wearing a blue jumpsuit, almost as if she was a garage mechanic. “Welcome back, Captain,” she smiled.
“Uh, thanks, um,” his voice trailed off for a second until he noticed there was a patch on her left arm that said J. Crossman, “Crossman.” It felt odd to be referring to this beauty by her last name, but a run-through of every female name that started with J would take a while.
“Sir, are you feeling all right?”
“Sir,” Crossman stated, “You seem a bit, I dunno, disoriented, if I may say so. Can I escort you to Sick Bay?”
“Sure, yes, that would be a good idea.” Sam walked along with her, wondering how he’d be able to figure out her first name. That wasn’t the only thing he was wondering about.
There were somewhat dimly lit corridors in the building. The ceilings were a bit low; he sometimes had to duck. There were some worn spots and, sometimes, he’d spot a person fixing something or other. They all wore the same uniform and, Sam, realized, so did he. No one saluted him, but they did refer to him as Captain as he and Crossman strolled. Finally, some tall, balding guy referred to his companion as Jenny. Thank God for small miracles, Sam thought. She flipped open what looked like a small cell phone, “Hoshi, can you get me Commander T’Pol?” she asked.
“Sure,” came a female voice from the phone’s tiny speaker, “go ahead.”
“Thanks. Commander, Captain Archer’s back. But he seems a little tired so I’m bringing him to Sick Bay.”
“Thank you, Ensign,” it was another female voice, but this one was a little lower in pitch and seemed a bit flat. Perhaps the Commander didn’t care about much of anything, thought Sam. Ensign, Ensign, that would be the Navy, Sam thought, but with so many women serving alongside men? That would put the date at somewhere near the end of what he had been referring to as his ‘first life’, for lack of a better expression.
Then the building lurched, and Sam realized it was no building. They were moving. It was a ship – maybe – but it was larger than he expected. It was also darkish and there were no windows. Below decks seemed huge. “So we’re underway, Ensign Crossman?”
She looked at him strangely. “I think Sick Bay was a good idea, sir. After all, we’ve been underway in the Delphic Expanse for months.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” It was an old time traveler’s trick that Sam himself had invented. No matter what anyone says to you, say yes to everything. Everything is known, everything is happening, everything is wonderful, everything is solid, you agree to everything. Vamp until you figure out what the hell everything actually means.
There was a pair of double doors with a Caduceus on each of them, etched in what appeared to be glass. It was obviously Sick Bay. “I’ll take it from here, Ensign.”
“Sure, sir,” but Jenny did hit the control to get the doors open, the moment she noticed him staring at the doors and trying to figure them out. He nodded and she departed.
Sam turned to the swishing sound of the opening doors to find a menagerie of experimental animals in cages. And, with them, there was a doctor in a lab coat, facing away from him. “Ah, Captain Archer!” The doctor enthused, but still with his back facing Sam. “I understand your visit to Degra’s ship might have gotten you a tad disoriented.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Agree to everything, whatever it is.
The doctor turned, and Sam’s jaw dropped. “Sp-space alien?” All semblance of coolness was gone. Whoever he had leapt into, that person, this Captain Archer, he knew space aliens!
“Excuse me, Captain?” the alien inquired, with an abundance of calm.
Sam blinked several times and found he was hyperventilating. Despite everything, despite how long he had been traveling in time, absolutely nothing had prepared him for this. His jaw was moving, but no sound was coming out. Finally, he squeaked out, “Where am I? What year is this? Who the hell are you? What are you?” Then the floor came up to meet him, quickly, and things got black.
When he awoke, he was on a bed. That same strange doctor was standing over him, and so was a woman with odd pointed ears who, Sam realized, was possibly also a space alien. Nearby, fortunately, was the only person he kinda, sorta knew – Jenny Crossman. She fretted a little, wringing her hands. “I never should’ve left him,” she said, pacing a little.
“You had no idea, Ensign,” assured the alien doctor. He looked at Sam. “Now, Captain, I’m curious. Did anything happen while you were on Degra’s ship?”
“Uh ….” Just saying yes could potentially be a major problem. Whoever this Degra person was, Archer had visited him – Her? It? – voluntarily. Getting this Degra person into trouble – was that a good decision that would speed everything along, or not?
“Doctor,” said the woman with the odd pointed ears, “the captain appears to be incapacitated. Perhaps I should speak with Degra.”
“No,” Sam interjected. “I, well, I don’t really know.” He raised himself up on his elbows. “Can I say something?”
“By all means,” said the pointy-eared woman.
“I want to help you – I do – but I’m not really sure of what to say.”
“Captain?” asked the woman. She raised one eyebrow.
“That’s just it. I’m not your captain. I know I must look like him to you – and I wish I knew where he was. If I had access to Al, I’d know this,” Or maybe Ziggy, he thought quietly to himself, thinking of the parallel hybrid computer that effectively ran Project Quantum Leap, “But, well,” he tried to address the confused looks on their faces, “I think I should explain things. But I barely know where to start.”
“If you are not Captain Archer,” the pointy-eared woman asked, “then who are you?”
Now or never, Sam thought. There was always a moment like this in any leap, where he had to almost blindly trust someone. She may have been a space alien, but the pointy-eared woman seemed capable of handling the full truth of the situation.
“My name is Dr. Sam Beckett. Please, please, stop looking at me like I’m delusional. I know that this sounds insane, but I assure you that, well, within what’s been happening to me, which I admit is more than a little, er, caca, I am perfectly sane. I am; I’m a time traveler. But it’s not fully controlled. I didn’t want to displace and leap into your Captain Archer, but it looks like I have.”
“Is that a permanent condition?” inquired the pointy-eared woman.
“No,” Sam assured her, “I have to do something, to fix something in time. I know how crazy that sounds. But once it’s done, I essentially leap out, your Captain Archer leaps back, and I’m on my merry way to some unknown destination.”
“Cap–, uh, Dr. Beckett,” the doctor adopted a soothing tone, “perhaps it would be best if I were to give you an examination, all right? Ensign, Commander, perhaps you should both depart.”
“No, no, that’s okay,” Sam hastily spoke, hoping for witnesses. And Jenny was the only human who knew him at all. “Unless I have to disrobe.”
“No worries.” The doctor’s face twisted into a far too-wide approximation of a human grin, and Sam nearly fainted a second time. “Just lie back, and you’ll go through the imaging chamber.”
“Imaging? Huh, it looks like an MRI,” Sam mused.
“Dr. Phlox,” Jenny asked, “what’s an MRI?”
“I do believe it’s a medical instrument from over a century ago. Now, lie still, please.” The doctor fiddled with controls that Sam couldn’t see, and the bed slowly moved backwards. It was maybe a minute later, and the bed’s direction was reversed. “There, now, give it a moment.”
“What do you hope to accomplish, Doctor?” It was the pointy-eared woman talking again.
“I am attempting to confirm Dr. Beckett’s story.” He peered at an instrument. “How very interesting.”
“Well?” asked Jenny.
“The DNA scan is not quite right. Dr. Beckett, I can’t say whether this is perfect proof that you’re telling the truth, but it is certainly possible that you are. It does not rule out your story.”
There was a chime, sounding like it came from an intercom. The pointy-eared woman pressed on a panel on the wall. “T’Pol here.”
“Commander,” it was a voice with a Southern twang, “the Xindi are comin’ around again.”
“Do you believe it to be a hostile act?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” was the response. “But I’ll let you know if I’m wrong. Tucker out.”
She turned to face the rest of them. “Dr. Beckett, I do not necessarily believe your story. However, I am curious. Why is it that you have come here, to this time and this place? And, how? The Vulcan Science Directorate has postulated that time travel is impossible, yet we do have some proof.”
“Proof? You have the means to travel in time? You could send me back!” Sam cried out.
“Dr. Beckett,” the pointy-eared woman attempted to explain, “Dr. Phlox and Ensign Crossman here certainly remember Crewman Daniels. But his equipment is off-limits and even an engineer such as Ensign Crossman or Commander Tucker does not know how to use that equipment.”
“Gooshie would come in awfully handy right about now,” Sam commented.
“Gooshie?” asked the alien doctor.
“He’s the Head Programmer for Project Quantum Leap. I don’t know if he’d be able to use your equipment, uh, Daniels’s equipment, that is. But I bet he’d give it the old college try.”
The pointy-eared woman thought for a minute. “We should have a meeting of the senior staff. Ensign, you may as well attend. Your roommate is the sous-chef, is that correct?”
“Yes, Commander T’Pol.”
“Contact her, please, as this meeting will likely continue into our next mealtime.”
“Right away.” Jenny flipped open her cell phone-like device and could be heard quietly requesting a catered meal for a conference room. “Dr. Beckett,” she asked, “do you have any dietary restrictions?”
“No,” Sam said, “and thanks, to all of you. I never know when I end up in these situations, if the people are friendly. It looks like you are; I’m glad of that.”
Jenny smiled and spoke into her device, “Yeah, Lili, I guess he’ll have the turkey. Thanks; see you soon, Roomie.” She flipped the device closed. “I get the feeling what you’re going to tell us is gonna be big.”
“Definitely. Uh, Doctor?” Sam asked, “Do you have a mirror?”
“Certainly.” The doctor departed to get the mirror.
“Why a mirror?” asked the pointy-eared woman.
“I gotta see who I leaped into. And I didn’t catch your name.”
“My name is T’Pol.”
Sam made as if to shake her hand, but she drew back. “I come in peace,” Sam said.
“There are certain issues with physical contact,” she explained.
“Oh.” The doctor had returned with the mirror, and gave it to Sam, who peered into it. “Hey, I look just like Archer. Or maybe he looks like me. Say, Doctor, I wasn’t introduced to you, either.”
“My name is Phlox.” The doctor extended his hand for Sam to shake.
“So, you shake hands, but she doesn’t?”
“You’ll get used to it,” Jenny assured him as they started to walk to a conference room. “How long have you been doing this, Dr. Beckett?”
“Time’s a little incoherent,” Sam explained, “for me, it’s all over the place. I’ve been on the road – the temporal road, I guess you could call it – for quite a while now. Sorry that’s not more specific. You’re an engineer; I bet you like things explained.”
“There’s something to be said for a little mystery. Ah, here we are.”
Jenny got the door to the conference room open. There were already six people in it. T’Pol spoke as one of the people, a very pale middle-aged blonde woman, began to set out food on the table, turkey sandwiches and salads. The blonde smiled at Sam as T’Pol explained, “We have a possible situation. This man claims to be a Dr. Sam Beckett. As you have noticed, he looks just like Captain Archer, only a bit younger. But Dr. Phlox’s DNA scans show that he is a separate person. It is expected that you will all have questions, and the biggest one is likely whether this is a Xindi ruse. However, I believe it would be best to introduce yourselves to Dr. Beckett and provide some nonclassified information about your role on the ship. Commander Tucker?”
“Yes,” it was that same twangy Southern inflection that Sam had heard earlier. “I’m Charles Tucker III, Chief Engineer here on the Enterprise. Call me Trip. And, uh, Jenny is my best engineer.”
“Enterprise?” asked Sam.
Tucker nodded. “The Enterprise is the first Warp Five starship.” He smiled proudly and turned to an Asian woman sitting next to him. “Hoshi?”
“I’m Hoshi Sato; I’m the Communications Officer. My job is to translate alien languages.”
“That must be very difficult,” Sam commiserated. He looked at the very thin man sitting next her.
“Yes,” said the man, who had an upper class British accent. “I’m Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, the ship’s Armory Officer. Travis?”
Travis was a dark-skinned man. “I’m Travis Mayweather; I’m the pilot.”
“Is anybody flying the ship?” Sam asked.
The blonde started to laugh. “When I was introduced to the senior staff, I had the same question.”
“The second shift is on the Bridge,” Travis explained. “So it’s Chris Harris.”
“Got it,” Sam said. He turned to a well-built guy sitting next to Travis. “And you are …?”
“Major Jay Hayes. My uh, my mother’s maiden name was Beckett, but I bet we’re unrelated. I’m the head of the MACO unit. It stands for Military Assault Combat Operations. My people were brought in to help fight the Xindi.”
“Xindi,” Sam said, turning the unfamiliar word over in his head a few times, “I take it they’re the bad guys?”
“More or less,” Hayes replied.
“And you?” Sam turned to the blonde.
“Oh, don’t worry about me.”
“No, I wanna know,” Sam encouraged.
“My name is Lili O’Day. I’m the sous-chef. I wield a mean spatula.”
“Got it,” Sam smiled.
Phlox said, “My species is Denobulan. I take it you have never seen anyone of my kind before.”
“Doctor, I come from a time where we still think we’re alone in the universe. I guess we’re wrong.”
T’Pol explained, “My species is Vulcan. Our first contact with humans was in 2063. It was the first time your species had ever met an extraterrestrial intelligence.”
“I see. Now let me tell you about me. My name is Sam Beckett. I’ve got seven degrees, including as a medical doctor. I was born on August 8, 1953. I take it this is a lot later than that.”
“It’s October 12, 2153,” Jenny explained.
“I’m a two hundred year old man,” Sam sighed. “I guess it’s obvious; I’m a time traveler. I invented a system, using a type of string theory. I was able to travel throughout my lifetime. That part started in 1999. It went on for about five years, and then I was sent to Cokeburg, Pennsylvania and it suddenly all changed. I had had a guide and I lost him, I lost the project, and I became somewhat directionless. At the same time, though, I also got my memory back. That’s been a kind of good news, bad news thing. I do miss my family. It’s so much harder because I remember them now.”
“I was thinking,” T’Pol said, “that we could enter Crewman Daniels’s old quarters and see if Dr. Beckett here can make any sense of the equipment in it. Perhaps that would allow him to return to his home time and location, and for Captain Archer to return to us.” There was a communications chime and she answered it on a unit that was built into the table. “Yes?”
“Commander, this is Sandra Sloane at Communications. I’ve just received the strangest piece of email.”
“Commander, this note is from Captain Archer, and it’s for a Dr. Sam Beckett.”
Everyone looked around the room. “Send the note to my PADD,” Commander T’Pol requested. Once the data had been passed, she showed the screen to Sam. “I will not read it; it is your own private communication.” Sam looked at the note.
Sam looked up. “Looks like Archer and I kind of switched places and we kind of didn’t. He’s at Project Quantum Leap, but he’s there a decade after I lost contact with them and the leaping all changed. So it’s hard to say. But he said that he thinks I’m here to try to convince this Degra person to help you. He also mentioned something about a weapon. What’s going on?”
“We are at war,” Malcolm explained, “the Xindi attacked with a weapon that split Florida and South America in two. It killed seven million people.” Commander Tucker looked down.
“I take it,” Sam commented, “that some of those losses were more personal than others.”
“You could say that,” Tucker’s words were barely audible.
“All right,” Sam agreed, “I will try. But I don’t know anything more about your war or about Degra or any of this, other than what you’re telling me. How can I be the one to convince this Degra character? Is he the leader of these Xindi?”
“He’s the designer of the weapon,” Jenny explained.
“Oh. I don’t know what to say to that,” Sam replied honestly.
“You should have a MACO presence with you,” Jay suggested, “You don’t know how to use our weapons.”
“Then it should be Security,” Malcolm remarked.
“I, I don’t want it to be weapons,” Sam declared.
“These are dangerous people,” Jay stated.
“I have to agree with the Major,” Malcolm said, and the unspoken implication was – just this one time.
“No,” Sam reiterated. “This guy is just an engineer, right? So he thinks like, like Jenny here. If I go in there, guns a-blazing, don’t you think that’ll destroy whatever trust Archer was trying to build in the first place? Even if all I’ve got is a holstered weapon, or the gun’s not loaded, it doesn’t matter. He’ll see it as a threat and that we’re suspicious. And he would be absolutely right. I can’t condone that.”
“Nobody wants you to be risking your life,” Travis pointed out.
“I’ll be all right,” Sam tried to assure them all. “Listen, I want you to understand something about what I’ve been doing for the last, I guess, decade. I’ve been in all sorts of dangerous situations. I was a medic at Saratoga during the American Revolution. I hunted wooly mammoth on the steppes of what I’m guessing became Russia. I was in the Roman Senate when they knifed Julius Caesar. I was in Nile floods during the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt, battles during the Crusades, and I was a part of the Siege of Masada. And through all of this, my bacon was saved, over and over again. Whatever is leaping me around, be it God or fate or time or whatever, well, that’s looking out for me as well, I guess.”
“Fate protects fools, ‘lil children, and I think it protects the Enterprise, too,” Tucker commented. “Still, Cap – I mean, Dr. Beckett. Dammit, why do you have to look so much like him, too? With all due respect, you don’t know anything about this. You just fell into this.”
“Leaped,” Sam corrected him, but smiled a little.
“Fine, you leaped. It’s still not right. We shouldn’t, we should not be enabling this.”
“Are there other opinions?” T’Pol asked.
“I say there needs to be a Security presence, but the mission should go ahead,” stated Malcolm.
“Same here, but with a MACO presence,” Jay countered, “We’re better trained in hand to hand.”
“Gentlemen,” T’Pol interjected, “your suggestions are under advisement. Ensign Sato?”
“It feels wrong. I would say no.”
“Ensign Mayweather?” asked T’Pol.
“I gotta say, I’m liking the idea of you going in alone, unarmed. I think you’re right, Dr. Beckett. I don’t think they’ll even try to trust you any other way.”
“I agree with Ensign Mayweather and Dr. Beckett,” Phlox stated. “The act of establishing trust means that you need to; as you like to say, walk the walk.”
“What about you two?” Sam turned to Jenny and Lili, who was clearing the dishes.
“Us? Oh, we don’t get a vote,” Jenny explained.
“Why not?” Sam asked, “And don’t tell me about rank. I don’t have any sort of a rank. And I wanna hear what you have to say.”
“Really?” Jenny asked. Sam nodded. She looked around nervously as they were all looking at her. “I can see the idea of wanting to be open and trusting. And I believe you when you say you’ve had your feet pulled out of the fire more than once. But I just, you know, I don’t wanna see you get hurt.”
Now they were all staring at Lili. “I dunno. I could make you a cake to bring. I’m, uh, this is why I’m not in Tactical.” She turned back to the task of clearing the dishes.
“Commander?” Sam asked T’Pol.
“Captain Archer would have gone in unarmed. And now you will, too, Dr. Beckett.”
|August 2 2014, 02:22 PM||#159|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
June of 2014 at Project Quantum Leap had threatened to be an awful lot like May of 2014, which had been like April and before that, going back in an unbroken chain to when contact with Sam Beckett had been lost. But then Rear Admiral (Retired) Albert Calavicci had received a mysterious text message from Ziggy, the parallel hybrid computer, just when he had been about to sit down to dinner with his wife, Beth, and their five daughters, assorted sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and a passel of grandchildren. He had sprung up from his seat, whooped louder and longer than any guy in his early seventies had any right to, and had woken up his youngest grandson, Logan.
Alone in her quiet home, as she sat near the edge of the swimming pool, Dr. Donna Eleese had been picking at takeout and trying not to think about things as the stars winked on, including, in the Big Dipper, Megrez. She had made a wish, “Here’s to you, Sam, wherever you may be.” She received the same text message, but she didn’t whoop or jump. She just sat there and sniffled, and then dried her eyes. “I do hope it’s not another false alarm,” she had sighed.
That had been a few days previously. It had been no false alarm; rather, it was almost the universe’s version of a good news, bad news joke. The good news was that the project was not dead. The bad news was that the person who had leaped was not Sam Beckett at all. And the cruelest news of all was how much Jonathan Archer looked and sounded like Sam Beckett – at least, like a somewhat older version of him. Dr. Verbena Beeks had performed the DNA test herself, and had determined that Jonathan and Sam were close, albeit not identical. Still, the DNA relationship was closer than even for non-twin siblings.
Archer had been fitted with one of Beckett’s old suits, a condition that had made Donna really cry when she had gotten home that first night. On the following day, he had asked to get out and see New Mexico, and Al had driven him around in a candy apple red sports car. “Yanno,” Al had mentioned then, “they tell me there are a lotta beautiful women around here. But,” he had shrugged, “I have no idea. I can’t see anyone but Beth.” Jonathan had smiled a little at that, a surprising revelation from someone he had no other way of knowing.
That had been the day before. Archer was being kept at the project’s secret offices and, apart from Al’s tour of the area, he hadn’t been outside. The spending of his time had been about the unexpected leap, his story about where and when he was from, and the project trying to figure out how to believe him – and be able to justify their decision, if it ever came to that. But they had come around eventually, all of them.
This time, he asked Gooshie and Sammy Jo Fuller and Dr. Beeks, “Do you think there’s any chance of me going back to my ship?”
“Well, Doc– uh, Captain Archer, I can’t really be sure. Ziggy says there’s a fourteen percent chance that you’re with us for good,” Gooshie reported.
“What do you think?”
“I have no idea. Tina and I were talking, and she thinks, well, honey, why don’t you tell the captain yourself?” He gestured encouragingly to Tina, who was a technician at the project.
Tina came over, as Captain Archer and Dr. Beeks looked on. “See, it’s like this.” She had a pair of ribbons in her hair and took them both out. “Your – I mean, Dr. Beckett’s – theory is that your life is like a string. And his time travel technology works by allowing you to ball up that string and then the days that you live all touch each other in these weird and unexpected ways. It stops being linear.”
“All right,” Captain Archer remarked, “I’m with you so far.”
“But, see, look at these two ribbons. What can you tell me about ‘em?”
“They’re both turquoise,” Jonathan said, “and that one is a little bit wrinkled.”
She smoothed the wrinkled ribbon as well as she could. “Now, are they the same dimensions?”
“I think so. They look like they are. What are you driving at?”
“Here.” She put her hands behind her back for a few seconds and then showed him both ribbons again; and now they were both a bit wrinkled. “Can you tell me which of these ribbons was in my left hand before I hid them?”
“No, I can’t. Not without knowing more about them, maybe on a quantum level.”
“Exactly,” she started to fix up her hair again. “So the way I see it is, your string – or your ribbon, if you prefer – it looks just like Dr. Beckett’s. At least it does to the naked eye and probably to the level of granularity that our instruments are set at. The instruments look at both ribbons and they can’t tell ‘em apart. So it grabs one but it thinks it’s got the other. Or maybe it doesn’t even realize that there are two. That might not matter quite so much. But either way, it’s got the wrong one. And the instruments – or maybe God, or fate, or time – I was never much for that theory, well, maybe they made a mistake. Maybe this is supposed to be a way to get Dr. Beckett back.”
“Maybe,” Gooshie allowed. “Dr. Beeks here and I were talking, and we agreed that this might be a sign that Sam’s mission is coming to a close.”
“This might even be a chance to retrieve Dr. Beckett,” Dr. Beeks clarified.
“But my people will be skeptical, and they might unknowingly interfere with Dr. Beckett’s mission,” Archer said. “I just wish there was a way to get them a message. You know, just in case Dr. Beckett really is there on the Enterprise, and not just lost somewhere. I mean, the idea is that we’re thinking this was some sort of a reciprocal leap, right?”
“Right. Al might know,” Gooshie stated. He hit the preset on his cell phone. “Admiral, can you come in here a moment?”
“Sure; be right there.”
Once Al arrived, Tina asked him, “How would you get a message to the future?”
“The future?” asked Al. “Huh.” He thought for a few seconds, and then snapped his fingers. “Wait, we did this! When I was stuck in 1945! I wrote a letter and I asked a law firm to deliver it to the project. Don’t you remember, Gooshie?”
“Some of that time frame from before Dr. Beckett’s disappearance is a little fuzzy for me,” the programmer admitted.
Dr. Beeks offered, “I can check our files. I’m guessing this was a paper letter.”
“Well, sure,” replied the admiral, “post-World War II America didn’t get email until a lot later.”
“It should be an email,” Sammy Jo said, “do you still have email?”
“We do,” the captain replied.
“So send an email,” Sammy Jo urged.
“Then we’ll make it an email,” Jonathan declared. “I can; maybe I should send something to Beckett himself. The fact that there’s a note from me to him will probably convince my staff. And then he can get some information and maybe even share it if he thinks it’ll help.” Tina had a tablet computer with her and loaned it to him. “Uh, thanks. This won’t be more than a few minutes.”
Once he’d gotten the email written, Captain Archer looked up. “I’ll need a courier.”
“I think a law firm is your best bet,” Al stated. “Just pass ‘em a few and they’ll do it.”
“I didn’t exactly leap here with my wallet,” Archer said.
“Not to worry. I’ll take it outta project funds,” Al said, “We’ll call it stamps, or something. Tina, can you find a likely candidate firm?”
“Sure.” She took her tablet back and started tapping on it furiously. “Huh. Here’s one: Koenig & Brooks. They okay with you?”
“They’re all the same to me,” the captain commented.
“Here, I’ll Skype,” Tina offered, “and then we can all see and hear what’s going on.”
A paralegal answered. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“I want to send an email,” the captain explained.
“Our overall inquiry address is –”
“No,” Jonathan explained, “actually, I’m looking for a future delivery.”
“I’m not sure I follow why you’re calling us,” admitted the paralegal. “Can’t you just schedule delivery through your online mail provider?”
“It’s a far future delivery. There’s a possibility that my online mail provider might not exist then,” Captain Archer said.
“How far in the future are we looking at?”
“October 12, 2153,” Al explained.
“You’re putting me on,” complained the paralegal.
“Tell ya what,” Al offered, “I’m guessing your billing rate is maybe a hundred an hour or so? So let’s make the price tag an even five hundred. All of this is for maybe five minutes’ worth of work. You take the money, you take the email, and you set it up for delivery. Check every few years to make sure the provider is still in business. If you leave the firm get your replacement to do this. Even all of these little checks won’t come to five hours between now and then, nearly a hundred and forty years from now. You’ll look great, too, for bringing in all that cash up front. So, whaddaya say?”
“Um, all right; send it over. But I still think this is crazy.”
“We’ll look over the email, make sure we’re fine with it and then transfer it over with your funds,” Al promised. “Bye.” Once the connection was cut, he looked at the others. “I think she’ll do it. Once you electronically transfer the file over, I think you can consider it sent, for all intents and purposes.”
“All right,” Jonathan allowed, picking up the tablet again. “We should ask Dr. Eleese what she thinks before we go any further with this.” He sighed. “She’s been avoiding me; I imagine it’s not hard to figure out why.”
Sammy Jo looked at him. “I think it’s on account that it’s been so very long.” She had a bit of a southern accent, pleasant to the ear. “It’s your look, too, I imagine. If you had had any other sort of a look, Captain, I think she would be more accepting. Now, I suspect, to look at you is to give her yet another painful reminder.”
“I don’t mean to hurt her.”
“Of course you don’t,” Al said. “But these last few days, they’ve gotta be hope and disappointment, all put together in one neat little package for her.” He hit the preset on his cell phone. “Donna, yeah, can you come over to project headquarters? We have an idea, but we wanna run it by you first.”
When Donna Eleese arrived, she cautiously entered the room. “I have a hard time even so much as looking at you, Captain Archer,” she admitted.
“I’m sorry,” Jonathan said, “I’m not like this in order to, to cause you any pain.”
“I know,” Donna allowed, “but it hurts all the same. Tell me, Al, why am I here?”
“We wanna send an email to Sam. The captain here says that it’ll smooth the way and make it easier for his people to help Sam. Otherwise, they might be spinning their wheels there for a while.”
“I see. And what are you planning to put into this letter?”
“I’ll write to him, Dr. Eleese, and I’ll mention everyone’s name and, at the very least, all the name-dropping will convince him that I’m legit. And I’ll drop some of the names of my staff. That ought to convince them.”
“This is fine,” Donna said, “but only under one condition.”
“Which is?” asked Jonathan.
“You must never tell Sam that I exist. He wouldn’t be able to do what he needs to, and he wouldn’t be able to commit fully to the people he’s trying to help, if he remembered that he was married.” She turned away, sorrowful.
“But what about you?” asked Captain Archer, “Don’t you get a say in the matter?”
“You’ve just heard my say.”
“You’re entitled to have your husband remember you; to miss you and want desperately to return to you.”
“No,” Donna said flatly, “I’m not. I don’t matter anywhere near as much as the people who Sam is supposed to be helping. I’m doing right by him.”
“By keeping him in the dark?” Jonathan’s tone remained an incredulous one.
“Yes, by keeping him in the dark. Now, if you’ll all excuse me? I have to get out of here. I’m sorry, Captain. I’m sure you’re a fine man and all of that. I don’t suspect you of ill will or foul play. But I just, I can’t even be in the same room with you. Please, please! If you are somehow stuck here, please understand. It’s nothing personal but I, I just can’t look at you anymore. Please, never again.” In tears, she turned away and fumbled for the door.
Dr. Beeks got up, too. “Dr. Eleese,” she said, “let me go with you. You need someone to talk to.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Donna turned back and looked, one last time, her lower jaw trembling. “I can’t stay. Send your email. I hope it does you some good.” The two women departed.
Sammy Jo sighed. “I don’t think we should be crowdsourcing this. Captain Archer, whatever you wanna write, I’m sure it’s fine. I approve of this and I want it and I don’t, well, I don’t dislike you or anything like that. But I’m also having a lotta trouble looking at you, Captain. Please forgive me.”
“Just seal it,” Al suggested. “Look it over and seal it. They can’t look at your face. I’m not so sure I can look at your words, to be honest.”
“I understand,” Jonathan murmured. He looked over the email again, added a few more lines and sealed it. He handed the tablet to Tina who forwarded the message to the law firm.
They had prepared him as well as they could, but a crash course in Earth politics, the Enterprise’s defenses, and the Xindi situation was just not going to be enough. “Yanno,” Jenny commented, “when we beam you over, maybe you’ll just leap again.”
“I doubt it,” Sam replied, “I always have to do something first. What about Daniels’s stuff?”
“Yes, that,” Malcolm said, “We could try.” He glanced over at Commander T’Pol.
“Yes,” she said, “let us make the attempt.” Everyone else departed.
The four of them walked over to cabin E-14, which had been Crewman Daniels’s old quarters. Once his roommate, Craig Willets, had been moved out, months before, the cabin had been locked. It contained some of the time traveler’s equipment but it had not been disturbed. Malcolm worked the combination on the heavy lock on the door and got it to open. “Jennifer, you and I had best wait outside.”
Sam and T’Pol walked in. “It just looks like a guy’s bunk,” he commented.
“Here,” she said, showing Sam a hand-held device that was roughly rectangular in shape although the top part was rounded a bit. “This seems to have been some form of scanner.”
Sam stared at the greyish device, which had a small screen. He sat down at a desk in the room. “Oh, God.”
“What is the trouble?”
Sam just sat there, and started to weep. “It’s not the same thing. Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t know anything about that device. But, God, Al used to carry around something like this. It was a handlink to Ziggy.”
“And this is a similar-appearing device? Do you believe it would work in a similar fashion, Doctor?”
Sam thought for a while. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But this is, you gotta understand, Commander. I’ve been away from my family for a decade, and more. Maybe even a lot more time, because it all seems elastic, like maybe time doesn’t really pass for me the way it does for someone like you. But this, it reminds me. I remember my best friend, Al. And I remember, oh God, I remember Donna. Don’t you, don’t you understand my feelings? Don’t you care at all?” He looked up at her, standing nearby.
“Doctor, no one explained to you, but my species, we practice a form of emotional suppression. We are not without feeling. We are simply less demonstrative.” Yet despite the fact that it would be better not to touch him, she lightly put a hand on Sam’s shoulder. And instantly, T’Pol’s touch telepathy was engaged.
She saw him leaping, into a dark-skinned man seated at a segregated lunch counter in the old South, and into Lee Harvey Oswald, and into Elvis Presley. She saw him in the jungles of Vietnam and on the ledge of a building, saving a suicidal woman.
She took her hand away. The jumble of sights, and the cacophony of sounds, had been in her mind for less than five seconds. “I believe you, Dr. Beckett, and without reservation. I am sorry that this is your existence now.”
“Thank you,” he whispered. “We should go. These things belong to Daniels – whatever they are. They can’t help us now.” He followed her out of the small bunk and dried his eyes.
Malcolm looked at them. “I take it there was no help to be found in there?”
Sam shook his head, but T’Pol contradicted him. “There was one success. I was able to confirm Dr. Beckett’s story. We will have Ensign Sato attempt to contact Degra in an hour, and arrange to transport the doctor to that ship.”
“Well, that’s a spot of positive progress,” Malcolm observed as he put the big, heavy lock back on cabin E-14’s door. “Ensign Crossman, why don’t you take our guest to wherever on the ship he wishes to go until then? Commander, I take it that’s permitted?”
“Of course,” T’Pol replied. “I will inform Commander Tucker of your brief absence, Ensign Crossman.”
Jenny nodded and Reed and T’Pol departed. Jenny looked at Sam. “Well, you heard the man. Anyplace in particular you wanna see?”
“Archer’s quarters,” Sam replied, “or do you think that’s too personal? I just, I wanna see a little bit about what makes him tick. Does that make sense to you?”
“Of course it does,” she said, “after all; he’s having conversations with your friends. I think it’s only fair.” She took him to the captain’s quarters.
“It’s funny,” Sam remarked a few minutes later, thumbing through Archer’s clothes in the closet, “but the process of leaping means that I get the clothes and the person I leap into, well, I guess they get whatever I was wearing when I first started out.”
“So it’s something out of style?”
“Maybe,” Sam smiled.
“Where do the other people go?” Jenny asked.
“They used to go to Project Quantum Leap. I get the feeling they don’t anymore, except for Archer, right now, of course. I have to believe that those other people are all right, but of course I don’t really know. We had – they have – somebody has – a waiting room.”
“Maybe there’s another one. You know, with old magazines and a potted plant that needs watering,” she joked.
“Probably.” He smiled, and the skin around his eyes crinkled.
“What’s it like? Leaping, I mean.”
“Well,” he sighed, “your identity gets pretty messed up. You stop being your own person, but that’s kind of how it’s got to be. You fall in love with whoever they love; you dislike whoever they don’t like. You get their taste in clothes, their food preferences, and even their speech patterns. Because I don’t have a guide these days, it’s all rather confusing. I go from place to place and person to person, and I’ve only got my own wits about me, when I try to figure out where and when I am. The people aren’t always friendly. This has been a damned lucky leap, far as I’m concerned.”
“You must speak about a thousand languages.”
“I speak whatever the, I guess you could call them the host – I speak whatever they speak. Then I go someplace else and I’ve forgotten all that. All I remember are the highlights and now, increasingly, I remember more and more about my first – I mean earlier – life.”
“You said first.”
“Yeah, I suppose I did. Jenny,” Sam said, “I sometimes wonder if I’m dead. Does that make any sense to you?”
“All I can go on is what I see before me,” she pointed out, “I’m an engineer, remember? If you were dead, I get the feeling Dr. Phlox would’ve noticed that, know what I mean?”
“Probably, yeah.” Sam turned back to looking at Archer’s possessions. “I like the artwork. And this model is pretty neat.”
“That looks like a kid’s toy,” Jenny commented. “I bet he had it when he was little. His father built our engine. Or, rather, Henry Archer designed it.”
“Holy cow. See now, there’s another place where we differ; my father was a farmer in Indiana.”
“Have you been to the future? I mean our future.”
“No, and I wish I had now. I’d know how your war turns out. Truth is; this is the first time I’ve been past 2004, ever. I had wondered, at times, whether that was some sort of hard ending, that time had ended and that was that. Of course I was mistaken,” he smiled again.
“Then this really is a different kind of a leap,” Jenny commented, “if it’s close to a hundred years later than you’ve ever gone before. Maybe this is your last leap.”
“Who knows? It could even be that it’s all going to change again. Or this is some sort of fluke. I can’t help feeling that it has something to do with Archer, although God only knows what.”
There was a communications chime, and Jenny answered it. “Got it; Crossman out.” She looked at Sam. “Hoshi managed to get a hold of Degra.”
“I guess it’s show time.”
|August 2 2014, 02:30 PM||#160|
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
“Can I talk to you?” Jonathan asked Al.
“Uh, sure. Step into my office,” he joked, ushering Captain Archer into the hallway.
“I’d like to get outside again. Is that okay with you?”
“Of course it is. I always love taking her out for a spin. Got any specific destination in mind?”
“I want to visit Donna Eleese’s house,” Jonathan said.
“Oh. Did you not hear her? She said she can’t handle seeing you. And I can’t say as I blame her. Frankly, you sometimes give me the willies, too. At least you’re a good guy, not like some of the nozzles Sam leaped into over the years.”
“Noz–? Uh, look, Admiral, you told me that Dr. Beckett doesn’t leap unless he’s accomplished some sort of task, right?”
“Maybe that’s what this leap is all about. He’s got something or other to do in my time period. And maybe that also means that I’ve got something to do in yours.”
Al looked at him and cocked an eyebrow. “You’re not him.”
“Just hear me out, Archer,” Al stated, in a tone that brooked no dissent. “I lost my best friend a decade ago. And she lost the love of her life. But the truth of it is; we lost him maybe five or so years before that. The moment he first leaped, he was effectively gone. Oh, sure, we had communications with him. And there was one time that he and I were switched and he was able to be here for a day and a half. And that was it. She got a day and a half out of a decade and a half.”
“I’m not done yet. See, everybody who was ever in our waiting room, they took on Sam’s appearance, his aura, his, his essence, if you will. They all looked like him. But at least they sounded like they normally do. Elvis sounded like Elvis. Dr. Ruth sounded like Dr. Ruth. Cam Wilson presumably sounded like himself – his voice was changing, poor kid. And on and on. Then we had no one for a decade, and then you. And you come here, and you don’t just look like him, you also sound exactly like Sam. I know that I would lose it under the best of conditions – and I practically have. When I got a text a few days ago, I was overjoyed. But it was because I thought Sam was back. Captain Archer, you’re a pleasant enough person but you are not Sam Beckett. But me, I get to go home to Beth and try to make some sense of it all. Donna doesn’t get that luxury. She’s been alone and bereft for years. I don’t know what your being here means. But I do know that it’s killing her.”
“I’m not here to try and hurt her. Or you, or Sammy Jo, or anyone else,” Jonathan tried to assure Al, “but if this leap is reciprocal, then I need to fix something. I know I shouldn’t really be changing too much of history. And that’s in my own best interests – if I fix or alter too much of it, I run the risk of never having been born, or losing someone on my crew because of that. They’re good people and they have a war to win and I don’t want any of them gone. I don’t want to risk that. But I think I should be able to talk to Dr. Eleese.”
“Ziggy!” Al bellowed, “Figure out why Captain Archer is here.”
“Now, I don’t know that, Admiral,” Ziggy replied, in mechanical tones that were female in pitch and were spiked with attitude.
“Can’t you at least theorize something?” Jonathan asked.
The computer beeped and whirred and seemed to be weighing the possibilities. “There is an eleven percent chance, Captain Archer; that you are here to save Dr. Eleese.”
That got Al’s attention. “What the hell’s going on, Ziggy?”
“I only know what I can conjecture. Dr. Eleese checks in every single day, several times per day, searching for news of Dr. Beckett. She checks in far more frequently than anyone else has in the past decade, ever since Dr. Beckett’s disappearance and the loss of contact.”
“What times of day does she typically check in?” Jonathan asked. Al looked at him quizzically. “I have an idea,” said the captain.
“The most frequent time is,” the computer paused to check its records, “within five minutes, before or after 2:11 AM.”
“She’s not sleeping,” Al commented.
“Admiral,” Captain Archer concluded, “I get the feeling she’s clinically depressed. Does she ever go out with you and your wife?”
“Does she ever have you over, or go to visit you, or to anyone in the project?”
“No, and I don’t think so.”
“Is she seeing anyone?” asked Jonathan.
“I’m not asking for me.”
“Oh, uh, not that I know of. Dammit, Sam, I mean, Captain Archer, she is depressed!”
“She’s like, oh, boy, is there a bookstore around here?”
“A bookstore, Admiral. I think I should go to her home, but I shouldn’t arrive empty-handed.”
“What, are you bringing presents now?”
“Just, just get me to a bookstore – it can even be an electronic one – and get me there, okay?”
“All right,” Al finally agreed, “and I’ll charge that as stamps, too. Sheesh, I hope this doesn’t make things any worse.”
On the Enterprise, Jenny and Trip stood by the transporter’s controls as Sam waited. “Now that I know what you’re going to do, I can’t help but be a bit nervous.”
“Maybe think of it like leaping,” she suggested.
“Ready?” asked Tucker.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Sam replied, shutting his eyes tight.
“All right; let’s energize this thing,” replied the Chief Engineer.
The process of being transported was strange. It was close to leaping, but not quite. Sam – when he opened his eyes again – was on board an odd ship with an even odder complement. He looked around at the strange aliens, who had forehead ridges and weird hairlines. One, who was darker-skinned, came over to him. “Captain Archer, why have you insisted on returning?”
“I think we’ve got unfinished business,” Sam said, still uncertain as to which of the people he was with was Degra. He had been shown an image, but the aliens were so … alien. He felt unsure.
“When we last spoke,” an alien man who had been standing in the back came forward, “you claimed that the initial attack on your planet was morally wrong. But you must understand something; I didn’t build that weapon for morality’s sake. I built it to save my people. And I’m sure you would do the same if the roles were reversed. You would save your own people and your own skins.”
“Degra,” Sam said, hoping that he had the right person, “yes, it’s true, I said that.” A time traveler says yes to everything. “And I suppose I can see your point. But allow me to tell you a bit about one of the young victims. You know, of the seven million innocent men, women, and children who were killed when your initial weapon was deployed.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” interjected one of the other aliens.
“Oh, I’ll listen,” Degra seemed skeptical, “but I hardly see where it’ll prove anything. Children are innocent; we all know that.”
“I’m not talking about a child,” Sam pressed, “Her name was Elizabeth Tucker. She was twenty-four. She worked as an architect; all she wanted to do was build. She wanted to make sure that everyone on Earth had a good home. Because even now, even though everyone is sheltered, there are still, sometimes, people, who are in housing that is substandard. Elizabeth – Lizzie’s – job was to help design new living spaces for them. These would be homes which would conserve energy. They would be spacious, airy, and light-filled. They would mostly have beautiful views. They would be located on grounds where people could grow flowers or even vegetables and fruits, if they wanted to. These homes would be where you could see wildlife, or other beautiful buildings. They would be comfortable, too. People would live with their extended families, or by themselves, whatever they wished. They would be sheltered from rain and wind, snow, and excessive heat. They would live their lives in dignity, beauty, and comfort.”
“Let me tell you something about dignity, beauty, and comfort,” Degra countered, “when my world tore itself apart, we weren’t thinking about such luxuries. We were thinking about survival. This young woman’s death, I will, I will admit that it is tragic but it is not my –”
“Yes, Degra, it is your fault,” Sam interrupted. “And if you try to hide behind some old cock and bull story about only following orders, then I’ve got news for you.” Sam’s voice began to rise, “we had a horrible chapter in our history, and six million people died. People tried to absolve themselves from responsibility, claiming that they were only following orders. Well, immoral orders should be questioned! They shouldn’t be followed blindly!”
“What did your people do with these ones who claimed to be following their orders that resulted in so much death?”
Sam calmed himself down before he responded. “We imprisoned them. And with the worst of them, we hanged them.”
“See?” the darker alien said to Degra, “They are primitives!”
“That all happened fifty – I mean, a hundred and fifty – years ago,” Sam explained. “Our justice system has evolved. But what those people did, it never became acceptable. Those casualties weren’t acceptable, and neither are these.”
“I don’t –” Degra began.
“Don’t let Lizzie Tucker’s death be in vain,” Sam implored. “You can end this now. Because somewhere out there, either on Earth, or on your world, or on any of dozens or hundreds or maybe even thousands of inhabited planets, in this galaxy or in any other one that harbors life, there is or there will be another Lizzie Tucker. Sure, she doesn’t have that name. And she doesn’t have that look and she doesn’t speak that language. She might not even be what we would recognize as being female. But she – that alien Lizzie Tucker – she’s got dreams, too. She also dreams of the people of her world living in dignity, and in beauty and in comfort. But the Xindi will never know her if you wipe out the humans. Sure, you might spot her, somewhere out there. But you’ll hardly appreciate her if you treat the original Lizzie Tucker’s death so damned cavalierly.”
Degra looked rattled. “Send him back to his ship.” He addressed Sam directly, “Captain Archer, I have nothing more to say to you. Do you for once think that I don’t feel any guilt?”
“Well, you sure aren’t acting like it!” Sam found himself yelling, and he wondered for a split second if those feelings were his, or if they were Archer’s. “Those guilty feelings, I bet someone higher up is telling you to just forget about them, am I right? Well, you shouldn’t,” Sam said, starting to feel the effect of the transporter again. “You should feel that. It’s more important than any orders you’re taking!”
He stumbled as he reappeared on the Enterprise. “You should –!”
“We should what?” asked Jenny.
“You should maybe prepare for peace, but for more war, as well. I think he can be convinced. I’m just not so sure he will be in time,” Sam said.
Book in hand, Jonathan Archer rang Donna Eleese’s front doorbell as Al waited in the candy apple red sports car and called Beth on his cell phone, cooing sweet nothings in her ear as she laughed at work and pretended to be annoyed.
“Coming!” Donna called. When she opened the door, she froze. “I, I thought I told you.”
“I know you did,” Jonathan said, “but I came to bring you a present, and to tell you something. Can I come in?”
She stood there, thinking it over. “I don’t know what’s better.”
“I don’t, either,” he admitted, “but let’s talk a little bit. Just a little. See, I think I have a mission, too. And I think my mission just might be here, talking to you.”
Donna ushered him in. “There’s the back patio, by the swimming pool.” He followed her in and they sat down on deck chairs. “Well?”
“Well, first, here.” He gave her the book, which was an old paperback with a cracked spine. “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to wrap it.”
“That’s all right.” She turned it over and read the title, “The Odyssey.”
“Yes. Let me tell you the story.”
“I’ve read this; I know it.”
“All right, well; then let me tell it in my own way, all right?” Jonathan looked to her and she did not object, so he continued, “A man traveled. He saw all sorts of wonders, around the known world. He was a hero of the war, and all he wanted, was to come home. But the gods wouldn’t let him. And so he traveled. And he was tempted, and he was busy, but he didn’t succumb to temptation, and he didn’t let all the things he had to do, he didn’t let them interfere with his desire to get home.”
“Homer wrote this.”
“Yes, he did. And the story, well, on the home front, Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, she was wealthy and beautiful. And everybody but her thought that her husband was dead.”
“She was the only one who believed in him.”
“Right. And so these men would come to court her, because they wanted her money. And maybe a few of them were almost decent and wanted to take care of her. But she knew better. And so she told them she would make up her mind about them when she finished her weaving.”
“Yes,” Donna agreed. “She would unravel her weaving every night, and would never make any progress. After twenty years, he came back to her, and the only people who recognized Odysseus were his old dog, one servant, and her.”
“Exactly,” Jonathan confirmed, “now let me change that story a little bit, all right? A little bit of Homer fan fiction, if you will.”
“I suppose,” the tiniest hint of a smile arrived on her lips, for the first time since he’d been introduced to her a few days previously.
“All right, so, Odysseus leaves. And this time, he’s delayed, and it’s partly because of the gods, but it’s also because he’s got good works that he has to do. He does them. And Penelope, she isn’t being courted by anyone, because she shuts everyone out of her life.” Whatever hint of a smile that Donna had been displaying was replaced by a deepening frown. Jonathan continued, “And she waited, and waited. No one knew if he was alive or dead. He was a little like Schrödinger’s Cat. By not knowing, for sure, either way, Penelope fell into inertia. At first, she told herself that she was being loyal. Then she told herself that she couldn’t be sure. Then she told herself that things were safer this way. Then she told herself that she didn’t deserve to be happy.”
“What? I’m not done with my story yet.”
“I said, ‘get out’!” Donna leapt to her feet and threw the book at Jonathan, who caught it.
“I don’t mean to offend you. And I don’t mean to hurt you. But this, your behavior, Dr. Eleese! It’s safe. It’s comfortable. And you get to play noble. You get to be the noble, loyal Penelope. But you aren’t!”
“You are not.” Jonathan got up. “It’s been a long time, getting from there, to here. And all you’re doing is; you’re stuck in this rut. You’re not moving, not going anywhere. You aren’t even widowed. You’re just … waiting. Your life is on hold, as you age and you wait, and you fret, and you check Ziggy over and over and over again! You check Ziggy instead of sleeping. And when someone finally came through, and ended up in the waiting room, you saw it as a sign of what, exactly?”
“It was confirmation that he’s still alive!”
“Maybe, but we can’t be sure, now, can we? I wrote that email, but there’s no guarantee that he’s in 2153 and can receive it. Tell me, Doctor, what was Sam Beckett like?”
She calmed down a bit. “He was wonderful. He was always looking to help people. He could sing, and play piano and guitar. He was a healer. He was kind and gentle and loving.”
“Did he snore?” Jonathan asked.
“I don’t see what that’s got to do with anything.”
“Just answer the question, Doctor. Did he snore?”
“I don’t, I don’t remember. I don’t think so.”
“Did he hog the covers? Did he pick his teeth in public? Did he leave dirty socks on the floor?”
“Did he complain about doing chores? Did he forget to call or text you? Did Sam,” Jonathan thought of what to really ask, “Finish too quickly?”
She cracked him, hard, across the face. “Get out!” she yelled again.
“I’ll tell you,” Jonathan matched her volume. “I don’t care whether he did or didn’t do any of those things. It doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that you’ve been idealizing him. He’s the paragon of virtuous perfection and no one in the last fifteen or so years has ever even come close.”
“That’s what it’s supposed to be, when it’s the love of your life!”
“Fair enough,” Jonathan replied, “but answer me this one, if you can. If you dare. He loved you that much, so why the hell did he go leaping in the first place? He had an untested system. He had no way of knowing how to get back, or even if he could. If he loved you that much, why did he leap? Why did he leave in the first place?”
Donna started sobbing, and Captain Archer could barely understand her. “He, he, we, we had a, a fight. An argument; it was about his work, and about how, how nobody believed that it was going to work. He walked out, dammit, Sam, why did you walk out on me? Why did you leave me?”
Jonathan put his arms around her. “Shh, shh, I, oh, God, I’m so sorry, Doc – uh, Donna. You didn’t deserve this. You didn’t sign on for this. Listen, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have no idea if we’ll switch again, or if just one of us will get back, or neither of us will. Maybe now I’m going to be stuck with the curse of leaping, too. But whatever happens, whatever it is, I want you to know something.”
“Y-yes?” she looked up at him, and her eyes were red.
“I want you to know that you can take this as a sign that he’s alive, my being here. But you can also – I hope you will, I really do – you can take it as a sign to let him go. Live your life, Donna. You have a long time ahead, I bet. I don’t know what your personal future is. But someone as wonderful as you are? That person, that woman, that Penelope, she doesn’t have to stay at home and weave, and then unravel her weaving, forever. And that’s true whether Odysseus is alive or not.”
Lower jaw trembling, she stared at him as Captain Jonathan Archer disappeared into bluish space.
Nearly one hundred and forty years later, Ensign Jennifer Crossman of the USS Enterprise watched as Dr. Sam Beckett did the same.
Chapter 7 (Epilogue)
Captain Jonathan Archer returned to the USS Enterprise. It took a few more tries for Degra to be convinced that humans were not a threat. This included a failed stratagem utilizing a shuttle training module, and presenting a Xindi initiation medal from Archer’s own future, which Crewman Daniels thoughtfully provided. While there were casualties, including Major Jay Hayes, the Xindi Ultimate Weapon was stopped, and Earth was not destroyed. And Degra, before his own demise, expressed regret and sorry for the many victims of the first weapon, and he acted the way he did, and tried to lead his people to peace with the human race, because of the promise that had been seven million Lizzie Tuckers, gone before their time, and all because of Xindi actions.
Sammy Jo Fuller, Tina, Gooshie, Dr. Verbena Beeks, and Admiral Albert Calavicci continued trying to find Sam. There were a few hints over the years, but nothing as substantial as Jonathan Archer’s surprise visit. They never knew whether Archer ever returned to the Enterprise, but Sammy Jo and Ziggy both postulated that, if the forces leaping Sam around were good – God, fate, time, or something else entirely, perhaps – then Earth would not have been left to its own devices during the Xindi war. Although his return could be neither confirmed nor denied – and he, too, was much like Schrödinger’s Cat – they felt that the odds were very good indeed that Captain Jonathan Archer had been returned safely to his own time period.
Those same people were also all pleased and proud to stand up for Dr. Donna Eleese when she married Edward St. John V, a British fellow who had been Gooshie’s assistant programmer.
Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.
|November 7 2014, 09:01 AM||#161|
Location: Deep Space 9
Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.
It focuses on the outbreak of the Four Years War between the Federation and the Klingon Empire in the 2240s.
* * * * *
U.S.S. Ares NCC-524
Klaxons shattered the dark stillness.
In a heartbeat, Jaffari Xa-Haghaarn was on his feet and heading for the door, grabbing his communicator just before he stepped into the corridor. Picking up the pace to a steady sprint, he flipped open the device. “Bridge, report.”
“Sensors have just picked up a number of ships incoming, sir. Their course tracks back to the Klingon Empire,” reported the officer-of-the-watch.
“I will be there momentarily. I want number and type of ships; also establish a comlink to the station.”
“Gha’vrak!” he cursed under his breath. There had been some chatter about rumblings from the Klingons, but nothing had been substantiated; so aside from being told to stay alert, the ships patrolling the border had been given no more warnings or instructions.
Bare-chested and footed, Xa-Haghaarn stepped into a waiting turbolift carriage and ordered it to the bridge. The Ares was on a twenty-four hour layover at Deep Space Station I-7, taking on supplies and allowing the crew some much needed R&R, so all of the crew had let their defences down for a moment—he himself had been enjoying some long-overdue meditation—but their lapse in vigilance would now be punished. But they hadn’t just left themselves in the lurch, but the four hundred people on I-7 and thirty thousand on the planet they orbited. With no other combat-capable ships in the system, the lone destroyer was the only line of defence.
The doors parted and he stepped onto the command deck, where the lighting had dimmed and the alert panels flashed red. The beta shift staff were all at their posts, except Lieutenant Cedrac, who was bent over the science console next to Ensign Farog. He approached the watch officer, his tread silent on the cool metal deck.
She glanced back at him. “Sir,” she replied, her French accent making the simple word sound like a purr, before looking at one of the large monitors above Farog’s console, which showed a sensor sweep of the system, “we have three D-4 battlecruisers and twelve B-6 birds-of-prey on course. ETA is in eighteen-point-nine minutes. The station reports that they have detected the ships and implemented alert status.”
He took the information in with a nod. “Are our people back on board?”
She shook her head. “The station has paged them, but it’ll take time for them to get to the transporter rooms.”
Cedrac cast a worried glance at the junior comm officer then back at him. “The Defiant and Alexander both report facing Klingon battle groups in the Akerin and Tregoss systems. The Ptolemy is the only Starfleet ship close to our position that isn’t engaged in fighting. It looks like this is an all out invasion.”
“No Lieutenant,” he said, keeping his voice low. “This is war.”
The turbolift opened again, he looked over his shoulder to see Lieutenant Rol and Chief Reese enter, both hastily dressed, before they both too their customary places at communications and helm/navigation respectively. He felt a little easier having more experienced staff replacing the two younger crewmembers who usually worked the shift—they, like himself, had opted to remain onboard, rather than partake in the recreational facilities on the station.
They didn’t have time to wait for the seventy-three members of the crew on I-7, if the station and colony were going to have any chance to evacuate, the Ares needed to intercept the Klingons ASAP.
“Chief, break docking orbit, set an intercept course with the Klingons, maximum impulse. Rol, sound battlestations and patch the station administrator to this monitor. Then contact the Ptolemy, tell them we will need their assistance.”
“Aye sir,” both men answered and set to task.
As he looked at the monitor he’d asked for the comlink, Cedrac moved from the science console and addressed Lieutenant JG Enax, ordering the Edosian to divert all power to deflector screens, load photon torpedoes and charge all phaser banks.
He nodded appreciatively as the monitor came to life and depicted the lined face of Administrator Frampton, who was obviously worried. Focusing on the civilian, he held the older man’s eyes. “Administrator, we are moving to intercept the Klingons. We will try to buy you as much time as we can, you have to evacuate.”
“You can’t take on fifteen ships on your own!” he exclaimed.
“Let us worry about that, Administrator. You have to get the civilian population out of the system,” Xa-Haghaarn stated, his tone hard.
“Already underway, Commander. Governor sh’Rohva has implemented the colony evac programme, but there are only five freighters—it’s not enough to take every man, woman and child.”
“Fill those ships, have them stand and exhale if you have too. My crew onboard will help anyway they can.”
“Good luck, Commander.”
“And to you, Administrator. Ares out.” Once the channel closed he moved over to his chair and perched on the edge, listening to all the officers and non-coms on the bridge as they readied themselves for battle. Cedrac was moving from station to station, assessing the situation and offering support where it was needed.
She would’ve had a promising career ahead of her, he mused solemnly then shook his head. We’re not dead yet.
“Sir, incoming signal from Lieutenant Commander th’Shada.”
“Put him through, Lieutenant.” He waited a moment for the channel to open, then tapped the panel on his armrest. “Go ahead, Keeva.”
“Commander, looks like you left me behind,” the Andorian XO and security chief quipped, though sounded far from jovial.
“Sorry about that. No time to waste unfortunately. How’re things looking there?” he asked, keeping his voice low, not wanting to distract those around him.
“Tense. Word has already gotten out, people are afraid and starting to panic. I’ve only been able to pin down a few of the crew and ordered them to the transporter rooms, hangar decks and lifeboats, we’ll keep things orderly as best we can. How is it looking out there?”
“We’ve got three cruisers and twelve escorts heading this way. The Defiant and Alexander are engaged elsewhere along the border, it looks like the cold war with the Klingons has finally heated up. We may not be able to take them all on, but we can at least stall them, buy the station and colony some time.”
There was a beat of silence. Xa-Haghaarn and th’Shada had served together for six years and knew each other well, having been through some harrowing missions and difficult times, but they both knew that given the odds, there was no chance that they would meet in this lifetime. Even if the Ares did buy the station some time, the Andorian would never take the place of a civilian during the evacuation, whilst I-7 had only minimal shielding—the Klingons would tear through it in a matter of minutes—so it was unlikely that the base would survive the assault.
“Good luck, Jaffari.”
“And to you, Keeva. Ares out.”
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, just as Cedrac stepped down from her checks on the upper level and stopped next to his chair, her hands clasped behind her back. He looked down at the young woman, her long, shimmering blonde hair tied back in a simple ponytail. A new addition to the crew, she had come highly recommended from the Constitution—the fact that she gave up a billet on one of the newest ships built for a post on a destroyer spoke volumes, if they were going to go down fighting, she was someone he wanted by his side.
“All sections report ready, sir,” she stated simply.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“The Ptolemy will get here seven minutes after we engage the Klingons. It looks like we’ll be going it alone.” She paused a moment, glanced at the deck before looking at him. He could see the uncertainty on her face, the questions she wanted to ask, the knowledge that their chances of survival were slim to nil (and even that was being generous). Her youthful visage wrestled with them all, as well as her sense of duty—now wasn’t the time to give voice to fear and impending doom, not in front of the crew.
Flexing her shoulders then straightening her tunic, she asked calmly, “Orders Commander?”
“As humans say, we’re going to play cat and mouse. Our objective is to stall that fleet for as long as we can, we must buy the civilians as much time as possible to evac.”
* * * * *
U.S.S. Ptolemy NCC-3801
Commander Naya had just been about to achieve the seventh sensation with Lieutenant Eilo, her Chief Engineer, when red alert sounded. Uncoupling, the two Deltans had quickly dressed and ran to their stations. She had stepped onto the compact bridge of the tug to find M’Tahvo and Valderama already at their posts at the flight control console.
“What’s the situation?” she asked her K’Normian XO.
“Multiple messages from ships along the border, the Klingons have launched a full-scale attack on Federation space,” the navigator replied in her customary monotone. “The Ares has asked for our assistance. They are at I-7 and the Klingons are on approach. All other ships are engaged in fighting and they need assistance.”
“They can’t be serious,” Valderama exclaimed. “We’re no match for a bird-of-prey, let alone anything bigger.”
“There are over thirty thousand civilians in that system, Ensign. Any support we can offer will be better than none,” she said, her eyes locked on the starscape. She looked at M’Tahvo. “ETA?”
“At our best speed, thirteen minutes.”
“Shouldn’t we jettison the container?” M’Tahvo enquired. The Ptolemy was relatively lightly loaded, hauling only a single module, though it was filled with a dense form of deuterium—they had been en route to Starbase 10 to restock their starship refuelling depot.
Naya shook her head. “Not just yet.”
“Aye sir,” she replied and set to task.
As she turned back to her chair, the turbolift doors opened. Master Chief Bahjorr and Chief Kane entered the bridge, but whilst the human quickly headed to her place at communications, the Tellarite stood on the upper tier, hands planted firmly on his hips.
“What in the name of the Goddesses third nipple is going on now!” the Cargo Chief demanded.
“It’s the Klingons,” she said simply, but before he could ask anything more, she quickly followed it up. “Master Chief, how long would it take to get several containers of antimatter into the pod?”
“What? By Gohrav’s rotting testicle, why would you ever want to do that?”
She gave him a slight smile. “Master Chief, I need half a dozen containers in the pod before we reach the Ares in less than thirteen minutes. Less questions, more action.”
With a derisive snort, he turned on his heel and left. Naya slowly settled into her chair, her stomach tying itself in knots at the thoughts of going into battle. During her tenure commanding the Ptolemy, they had faced off against a few raiders and opportunistic pirates, never any ships with significant firepower. They would now be going up against a battle-ready fleet of Klingon warships.
* * * * *
U.S.S. Ares NCC-524
“Weapons range in ninety seconds,” Farog stated, his voice shaking.
“Chief, punch us straight through their ranks, then swing us around. Enax, full barrage as we go through, then focus on taking out the cruisers’ engines—cripple them before they can get close to the station.”
“Aye sir,” they both replied.
“Commander,” Cedrac spoke up from the engineering console, “we’ve managed to boost deflector screen strength up to one hundred twenty-five percent.”
“Hold fast everyone,” Xa-Haghaarn ordered, finally sitting back in his seat and gripping the armrests, readying himself for the thrashing they were about to take.
The Ares was as ready as she could ever be, given the circumstances. He would’ve preferred to have had his senior staff around him, but he knew his crew were well trained—even a rookie like Farog. As they’d barrelled towards the fleet, Rol had been monitoring the evacuations; they were not going well. Despite having procedures in place and run readiness drills, the realities of the situation were too much for the civilians who were panicking and slowing the process down.
“Entering weapons range in five,” Enax stated, each of her three hands poised over a separate control; left on screens, middle on torpedoes, right on phasers.
Xa-Haghaarn counted down silently. As soon as he hit zero, the task force unleashed everything they had. Even before the first strike hit, he felt every muscle in his body coil. “Fire!”
The Saladin-Class destroyer took the full onslaught of disruptors and torpedoes, the sturdy ship knocked and buffeted about, warnings sounded, taxed systems groaning under the additional stress. But Chief Reese kept them on course and Enax struck back with all the Ares had. Cobalt phaser beams and crimson torpedoes scorched and smashed into the shields of the cruisers and their escorts, though the deck and bulkheads were shaking so much he could barely make out their shapes on the viewscreen.
The impacts only intensified as the ship drew nearer, the Klingons slowing and focusing on the starship, her narrow profile being put to good use evading as much as they could. The din on the bridge made it difficult to hear anything, though he picked out key bits of information—most importantly their shield integrity, which was dropping fast.
They were almost through when sparks burst from one of the port side consoles and the lights flickered. Petty Officer sh’Vhern shielded her face, but remained unscathed. A new klaxon screamed from both tactical and engineering, never a good combination. Moments later, they were through and the pitching of the deck subsided to a shudder—Klingons always met their opponents face on, as such their aft armament was minimal, compared to what they had facing forward.
“Port shields down to thirty percent, minor hull damage and power surges throughout the dorsal saucer,” stated Cedrac. “Remaining shields at sixty-seven percent and holding.”
“Eighteen casualties reported,” added Rol.
“Status of the Klingons?”
“Three birds-of-prey have taken moderate damage. Minor damage to one battlecruiser,” Ensign Farog announced, looking into his hooded viewer. “Six escorts are veering off from the fleet and heading our way.”
“Reese, bring us about, put us on course with the nearest cruiser. Enax, lock torpedoes onto their nacelles. Cedrac, see what you can do to patch that gap in our deflectors.”
“Aye sir,” the three of them replied.
Xa-Haghaarn watched the viewscreen as the stars spun by them and the hostile fleet came back into sight. They were is better shape than he’d expected, but it was far from over.
* * * * *
U.S.S. Ptolemy NCC-3801
Naya clasped her hands so tightly on her lap her knuckles were going white and her fingers bright red. Her plan was based on a report that was over fifteen years old; of another tug hauling deuterium that had been reduced to little more than dust following a surprise attack from Kzinti. The antimatter packets in the pod essentially turned it into a giant photon torpedo, the only one the Ptolemy had.
“Visual range, Commander,” stated Kane.
“On screen,” she instructed her comm chief.
The forward monitor switched from streaking stars to a field of energy beams and explosions. A couple of younger members of the bridge crew gasped at what they saw followed by anxious and terrified looks shared between them. Naya knew how they felt, partly because their strong emotions were difficult to block but also partly because she felt the same way. Her career had seen her serving on six ships before the Ptolemy, during which she had faced tough situations and terrible conflicts. This was different; she was now the one leading them into battle, she was the one who would have to keep them going.
“I’ve got the Ares,” M’Tahvo announced. “Her shields are severely weakened and I’m showing signs of structural damage. She looks to be targeting the battlecruisers engines.”
“Chief, open a secure channel to the Ares.”
“Ares, this is Commander Naya of the Ptolemy. We will be on scene in twenty seconds.”
“This is Xa-Haghaarn of the Ares, thank you for the assistance. We’re trying to stop the battlecruisers from getting any closer, but we’re not making much of a dent.”
“We’re hauling a big surprise for the Klingons, once we jettison our pod you’ll want to clear the immediate area as quickly as possible.”
“Understood, we’ll be ready. Good luck. Ares out.”
Naya untwisted her fingers and held onto the armrests. She glanced at Bahjorr who sat at cargo ops. “Master Chief, stand ready.”
He looked back at her and gave a stoic nod. As argumentative and pig-headed as the thirty-year vet was, he knew when to shut up and follow orders—even the crazy ones. She was keeping them at warp until the last moment, as soon as they dropped out, it was his responsibility to blow the docking latches and launch their makeshift torpedo, so the Klingons had little time to react.
“Twelve seconds,” M’Tahvo continued to count down.
She tapped the intercom. “All hands, prepare for emergency deceleration.”
The chronometer ticked down the seconds. Tension mounted in the bridge until the atmosphere was like a charged plasma coil. At two seconds, Naya inhaled deeply and held it.
When the count reached zero, the entire crew lurched forward as the tug’s warp field collapsed instantly, throwing the ship to sublight. The lurch was followed by a shudder as their screens took a glancing blow. There was an audible metallic thunk, as the emergency release system blew out the docking clamps, and the pod shot out from under the Ptolemy’s saucer. As the pod sped towards the cluster of Klingon ships, still on course for the station and colony it orbited, the ship pulled up the Z-axis as it tried to clear the blast radius.
Just as she slowly exhaled, the tug was punched hard from above. The deck bucked, lights flickered and alarms rang.
“Direct hit to our impulse drive! Sublight engines are offline,” cried Valderama.
“Thrusters?” she asked, knowing that the manoeuvring jets wouldn’t be of any use.
“They won’t get us far enough away, sir.”
“Pod detonation in ten seconds,” growled Bahjorr.
“Incoming hail from the Ares.”
“Ignore it,” she called over her shoulder and tapped the companel on her armrest. “Eilo, throw everything you can into the shields.” She switched to shipwide address. “Brace for impact!”
She had just enough time to push herself as far back into her chair as she could and hold fast before their makeshift super-torpedo ploughed into the Klingon fleet and detonate.
* * * * *
U.S.S. Ares NCC-524
Xa-Haghaarn watched as the pod exploded, similar to that of a photon torpedo though on a much larger scale. He had to shield his weak eyes from the brilliant flash, but as he dropped his arm he could still see it, the bright plume of destruction etched onto his optic nerve. Another distruptor impact shook him from his daze but he had to fight his first impulse of looking to a fallen comrade.
“Status of the Klingons?”
“Two cruisers and five birds-of-prey destroyed,” Farog reported, hopefully excited. “The third battlecruiser has taken heavy damage—weapons offline and multiple large breaches. Three escorts have also been crippled.”
Added to the two other birds-of-prey they had taken out before the tugs arrival, left them with just two of the escort ships left to deal with. He too started to feel a moment of hope, they may very well survive the incursion. The feeling was short lived as his thoughts switched to that of the Ptolemy and just what her fate was. Before he could ask, Enax craned her neck around towards him.
“Sir, the remaining birds are heading for the Ptolemy.”
“Chief, intercept course!”
“Already on our way.”
“Lieutenant, lock torpedoes.”
“We only have four left, Commander.”
“Make them count!” He glanced over at Cedrac, hoping that she was already assessing just how badly the tug was damaged. She must’ve felt him looking as she glanced back at him, a mournful look on her delicate features. They needed to defend the fallen ship, only then could he afford to worry about just how bad it was.
The destroyer pounced, closing the distance in a matter of moments. The two smaller ships were more manoeuvrable and made full use of their advantage, duck, diving and weaving, missing every phaser beam and the single torpedo Enax unleashed. The Edosian cursed under her breathe as the projectile collided with a free-floating section of the Ptolemy’s starboard nacelle. It was then the two ships flipped around and barrelled towards the Ares, firing as they drew in closer.
Enax launched a second torpedo. It missed the lead ship but hit the second, exploding across the hull and shearing off several panels. She quickly followed it up with multiple phaser blasts; hitting both though the point ship came out better. The second ship took the worst of it, the beams piercing their shields and into the hull, causing explosions to burst out into the vacuum. The second escort visibly slowed and lighting throughout dimming, its movements became sluggish and every disruptor beam it fired was weaker than the last. One more hit from the Ares’s phasers took the ship out in a plume of fire that was quickly extinguished.
The lead ship broke off and began evasive tactics, taking pot shots whenever they could. Reese kept the destroyer on their tail and Enax fired continuously. Xa-Haghaarn kept on top of their damage, issued a few instructions but for the most part he watched with pride as his crew worked harmoniously—despite having rarely worked together during battle conditions. The third torpedo smacked into their shields.
“Their aft shields have collapsed,” stated Farog.
“Target their warp core. Fire!”
The Ares’s last photon shot forth from the ventral side of the saucer, it shone against the blackness of space before crashing into the swampy-green hull of the Klingon ship. The explosion was instant, throwing debris and shrapnel out in every direction. Even Chief Reese wasn’t fast enough to evade a section of a wing from smacking into the ship, the jolt was harder than the impact from a weapons blast and caused the lights to dip slightly.
“Status?” he asked once the deck had settled.
“Bird-of-Prey has been destroyed, sir, no evidence of survivors,” Farog said, the relief clear in his voice.
“The hull impact has caused damage to several systems,” added Rol, “I’m getting a full assessment in from engineering.”
“Chief, head back to the Ptolemy,” he said, his voice heavy. As the non-com gave a solemn nod, Xa-Haghaarn slowly stood and turned to Cedrac. “Lieutenant, how bad have they been hit?”
“I’m showing heavy damage across the ship, their starboard nacelle and pod pylon have been sheared off, main and secondary power both out, emergency power failing, there are five large breaches across the ventral hull and forcefields are nearing collapse. Radiation levels are prohibiting more details scans of the interior, but I am picking up only around seventy life-signs.” Once she finished, her voice seemed to echo around the silent bridge. The tug was in bad shape; with almost have her crew unaccounted for, all because they had responded to the Ares’s call for help.
“Mister Rol, can you raise them?”
“Sorry sir,” the Catullan replied, his voice catching. “I’ve been trying, but they aren’t giving out any kind of signal.”
Xa-Haghaarn tapped the intercom on his armrest. “Bridge to sickbay.”
“Sickbay, Farnsworth here.”
“Doctor, prep for incoming casualties and have medics ready to beam out for rescue and recovery operations.”
“Teams are ready, Commander.”
“Thank you, Doc.” He closed the channel and looked back at Cedrac. “Lieutenant, ready at least six teams and get over there.”
The watch officer quickly stood up and gave a nod. “Aye sir.”
She had only taken three steps towards the turbolift alcove when an alert sounded from the opposite side of the bridge. Everyone turned to look at Ensign Farog, who was quickly examining his readouts. His porcine face visibly paled as he looked up.
“Th...the third cruiser is heading for the colony!”
“The battlecruiser that was damaged, she is on course for the planet. Her core is destabilising,” the young Tellarite spluttered. “Their weapons were out, I didn’t think they were a threat—I never thought to monitor them!”
“Pursuit course, ready weapons!”
“Weapons are offline, sir,” replied Enax.
Rol looked back at him. “The weapons array was one of the systems that were taken out by the hull impact. Engineering says they’d need six hours to repair the damage.”
There was a moment of stillness. They had an enemy ship heading for an undefended colony, ready to blow themselves up either in orbit or as they hit the ground—either way would lead to heavy losses and massive casualties, as well as rendering the planet uninhabitable due to antimatter radiation—whilst the Ares had no weapons or reinforcements. Xa-Haghaarn had the lives of thousands in his hands and only seconds to make a decision to save them.
“Mister Rol, address intercraft.” He waited for the boatswains whistle to sound. “All hands to the lifeboats. Abandon ship. I repeat, all hands abandon ship.” The channel closed and he stepped towards the forward console. “Chief, lay in a collision course then get to your designated evac point. That goes for the rest of you, secure your stations and get going. Cedrac, Rol, hold back a moment.”
There was a beat of uncertainty as the bridge crew remained frozen in place. “Move people!”
That set the fire under them, immediately they locked out the controls and headed for the turbolift. The junior officers and non-coms were the first to depart, leaving only Cedrac, Rol, Enax and Reese at their posts. Only then did he approach the communications station and signalled for Cedrac to join them.
“Computer, arm self-destruct system.”
“Self-destruct system armed. Enter authorisation sequence.”
“Recognise: Xa-Haghaarn, Jaffari. Commander. Authorisation alpha-one-alpha.”
“Code accepted. Additional authorisation required.”
“Recognise: Cedrac, Sabine. Lieutenant. Authorisation delta-four-delta.”
“Code accepted. Additional authorisation required.”
“Recognise: Rol, Cillan. Lieutenant. Authorisation foxtrot-six-foxtrot.”
“Code accepted. Enter time parameter and final command code.”
“Set at five minutes. Command code: Xa-Haghaarn-alpha-one-one-zero-destruct.”
“Self-destruct system activated. Five minutes to self-destruct. Mark.”
All the monitors switched to a screen with a red ticking clock displayed. He looked at the rest of them. “Get going, all of you. I’ll be right behind you.”
Three of them stepped into the turbolift carriage without hesitation. Cedrac paused in the doorway and looked back at him. “Commander, I’m in the same lifeboat as you. We will not leave until you are onboard.”
A slight smile tugged at his lips. She was going to make a damn fine Captain someday soon. “Understood Lieutenant, I just want to make sure that everything goes without a hitch. I’ll be there in a moment.”
She gave him a stern tilt of her head then stepped into the lift. He watched the doors close before stepping down to the helm/navigation console and looked over the readings. The Ares was on course for the battlecrusier, her speed set so that they would hit just moments before the self-destruct would activate, taking out both ships before the Klingons could get close enough to the colony to cause any damage. Unfortunately, they were cutting it close for the lifeboats; there was a chance not all of them would get to a safe distance before the collision, explosion and resulting shockwave. Some would’ve already run the figures and knew the odds but they, and everyone else onboard, knew that to serve Starfleet could mean giving their lives for the greater good.
An indicator flashed on the board, showing that the first lifeboat was away. Just another thirty-nine to launch and that would be the destroyer devoid of life. Satisfied that things were progressing smoothly, he headed for the lift. Pausing to take one last look of his first command, he stepped inside and descended.
* * * * *
Deep Space Station I-7
The crowd was panicked but orderly, jostling and talking loudly amongst themselves, rumours abound as to what was happening—each more outlandish and terrifying as the last, though all nothing more than over-active imaginings of civilians who had never faced a battle or war. Lieutenant Commander Keevathoranth th’Shada (Keeva to all that knew him) was working hard to keep the throng of people moving towards either the docking bays or transporter rooms, wherever he could get them to in order to see them off the station and then on towards safety.
“Commander Keeva to the Station Control Centre,” the page was emotionless as it repeated itself.
Keeva looked over to Ensign T’Vell and signalled her to take over, before heading against the flow of traffic, which slowed him down. As he headed in from the docking area the crowds thinned and he made better time, then by the time he hit the central core it was all but deserted. The turbolift up to the top of the station was faster than those of most ships. He emerged to find the control centre sparsely populated, only around a third of the usual number of operators.
Administrator Frampton was a bundle of anxious energy, though nowhere near as worked up as he’d been earlier. He strolled towards him, his gait long and purposeful, his posture stiff and formal—which looked a little out of place in the bright purple and green, sleeveless jumpsuit he wore.
“Administrator,” he called to get his attention. The whippet-thin human looked up and scurried towards him.
“Commander th’Shada, there is something you need to see.” With that, the civilian trotted over to the communications station and Keeva followed, both curious and annoyed.
The Administrator tapped the operator on the shoulder and a monitor came to life. It displayed a visual sensor scan, more specifically of a badly damaged D-4-Class battlecruiser getting closer to the station and the colony it orbited. The Ares came into view, closing fast, though she wasn’t firing, which surprised him. Seconds later, the destroyer collided with the cruiser followed by the blinding flash of the ships self-destruct system, then the warp core breach of the battlecrusier, at which point the display cut to static.
Keeva felt the blood drain from his face, his chest constrict making it harder to breath, and his stomach tie itself so tightly that he could taste bile. Something must’ve been catastrophically wrong with the ships’ weapons before the Commander would’ve order a collision course.
“D...did they manage to evacuate?” he ask, his voice softer than usual.
Frampton looked a little perplexed at the question, as though he’d never thought to check. “I don’t know.”
“Did they manage to evacuate?” he roared through clenched teeth, silencing all the activity in the control centre.
A moment later, a young redheaded human looked up from her console. “Sensor records show that thirty-eight escape pods were launched before the Ares rammed the battlecruiser.”
He focused on the younger human. “Get me all the logs of the battle up until right now.”
“Following the collision the radiation levels have interfered with our scans, but I can get you everything up to that point.”
“Administrator, I’m going to need three shuttles and I’ll also have to pull a few of my people off the evac to start SAR-Ops.”
“But the Klingons have been stopped, surely we can stop the evacuations.”
He scowled at the Administrator, his antennae curling in tightly to his skull. “This isn’t over, Administrator. That was just the first wave; they’ll be back in greater numbers, wanting revenge for their defeat here today. But right now, there are two crews out there that need help and I am not about to abandon them to the elements.”
As he headed for the turbolift, he looked back at the redhead. “Transfer those records to the shuttles,” he ordered, pulling the communicator off his belt and flipping it open. “Keeva to Tholox and Van den Berg, meet me in the hangar. ASAP.”
Stepping into the lift, he ordered it down to the bottom of the central core, where the hangar was located. Lifeboats were designed to survive a lot, including radiation fields, but even their reinforced hulls wouldn’t hold out for that long—given the multiple warp cores and antimatter pods that had exploded within a small area in a short space of time. There were over two hundred lives adrift out there that were in need of saving, and it fell to him to do so. He just hoped he wasn’t too late.
* * * * *
Commander Austin Harris, First Officer, Deep Space Nine (by FltCpt. Bossco)
8.01 - Darkest Before Dawn (Chapter 8 added, 12/09/2015)
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