A Time Before Yesterday
by Tom Heald
The Adventure Continues as the Enterprise C heads back into the Rift
I had just finished repairs on the Primary Weapons Array Console when the announcement we were all expecting came.
"Attention all hands. This is Lieutenant Castillo, Acting Captain, USS Enterprise C. With the death of Captain Garrett, I have assumed command. We have sustained heavy casualties, and many of you are also assuming new responsibilities. I know each of you, and to a person I know you are ready for the challenge. The ship is in good hands, and we are now ready to return to our time, to our
future; but more importantly, to restore our families future and save them from
this war with the Klingons."
"Lieutenant Tasha Yar is our new Tactical officer. She has transferred from the Enterprise D where her 20 years of experience in the Klingon war may just give us the edge we need when we return to battle the Romulans on the other side of the time-rift. Returning to our time is our one chance to restore history and give our families back home a chance for a peaceful future." After a momentary pause he continued in a metered voice. "We know what we have to do. Captain Garrett trained us well. Now let's make her proud!"
"Engineering, report," said Captain Castillo after closing the link.
"We have full impulse," I said, "and a full complement of weapons has been transferred from the Enterprise D. The enhanced shields are at 100 percent and stable for the moment. There is no chance of warp drive for another three or four hours."
"No matter, we don't need warp to attack." He raised his arm and dropped it forward, "Head back into the rift."
"Yeah, but warp would be damn handy if we have to retreat from those four Romulan Warbirds," I heard Johnny, our helmsmen, mutter as he engaged the engines and came about.
"Shields Up," said Tasha just as the ship started to come about. "Three Klingon K'Vort-class Battle Cruisers approaching off the port quarter."
"Show me!" said the Captain. "Ironic isn't it. Here we are 22 years in our future being attacked by three Klingon warships while trying to return to defend their ancestors on an outpost being attacked by Romulans."
"Tactical shows a fourth ship on an intercept course," said Tasha just as the ship appeared in the corner of the main screen.
"Well, thank you, Captain Picard," said Castillo as the Enterprise D blocked the attacking Klingons and came under heavy fire.
"Screen forward. Full Impulse," Captain Castillo ordered as we approached that weird rift in space that had pulled us out of one battle and into another. I watched on my console as the Enterprise D took several hits from the Klingons. Just as the rift was closing behind us there was a terrible explosion, but I couldn't tell if it was the D or a Klingon.
"Fire a staggered volley of photon torpedoes at the Warbird directly ahead," ordered the captain as we broke through the rift right on a Warbird's tail. "Let's see if we can punch through their shields."
"Recommend you come right to 221 Captain," said Tasha from tactical. "That Warbird has its shields down and is activating its transporter. It's a sitting duck."
"Do it then. Hit it with everything we have," he ordered as our first volley of torpedoes struck the Warbird dead ahead.
Turning, the Enterprise fired a salvo at the second Warbird. Racked by internal explosions it shook visibly. With a second salvo its engines began venting plasma as it drifted dead in space.
"Put it between us and the others," barked the Captain. "Let's see if we can get another one."
The three remaining Warbirds turned to attack; however, one was obviously laboring as it came about.
"Target the weak link first," said the captain. "Then
All three Warbirds fired. Three blasts ripped open the hull of the crippled Warbird as we passed behind it, but four hit us. We lost shields, weapons, then main power.
After what seemed an eternity the forward screen flickered into focus as the emergency power came on.
"I say again, Captain," said the Romulan on screen, "Did you really think your pitiful little ship could stand up to four Romulan Warbirds?" He had a sarcastic smile on his face, and you could see the arrogance swelling up within him.
"You mean two and a half Warbirds don't you?" said Captain Garrett with only a hint of sarcasm.
The Romulan's eyes narrowed. "Energize," he said through a clinched jaw. "Trophies for the victor," he continued as he leaned back in his chair. A sadistic little smile grew across the Romulan's face as Tasha Yar, Captain Garrett and John Hudson, our helmsman, were transported from the bridge.
The last thing I remember was a brilliant flash as the crippled Warbird exploded. Apparently it threw the Enterprise into that subspace rift again. This time I think we went back in time as there is no Federation traffic on the subspace bands, and I can't raise a time beacon. I appear to be the only survivor at least on the bridge. The ship is a disaster but stable for the moment. All I can do now is put out a general distress call and hope that someone, somewhere, sometime can render assistance.
The Next Morning
It was cold, a bone chilling cold that penetrates deep into the marrow. As I looked out over my shipmates, I felt as one with them. Captain Garrett sat in her chair with Lieutenant Castillo at the helm. My friend and new found love, Peggy, sat at Engineering just as I remember her with a bright smile, dimpled nose and -- when no one was looking -- a quick wink. But nobody was winking today. No one stirred, for they were frozen in time. A time before yesterday. A peaceful time before the distress call that threw us into the chaos of battle -- a past, once present and now future battle.
I savored that moment when all was at peace with the universe, a perfect moment except for that damn klaxon. Why didn't somebody shut it up? It was pulling me back where I didn't want to go -- back to a bleak future somewhere in the past.
status report," I said as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes,
and my mind snapped back into the present. I had fallen asleep in the captain's chair. "And turn that klaxon off," I ordered as my breath formed small clouds in the cold.
"Antimatter Containment field unstable," replied the computer. "Hull breaches on decks C, D and
"What is the status of the environmental controls; why is it so damn cold in here?" I interrupted.
"Ambient temperature has been lowered to conserve power. All non essential power has been diverted to the containment fields."
"Scan the ship for any life-signs."
"One life-sign found on the bridge. Ensign Athomas Van de Hill."
"I know that!" I said,
"Do you have full internal scanning capabilities?"
"No, scanners in the forward section of decks
"OK, can you account for all crew-members, dead or alive?"
I said cutting of the reply.
"Fifty-six crew-members missing: Commander
"Collate the last known position of the missing crew members with the damage to the ship and calculate the probability of survivors." I commanded.
"No survivors are predicted with a 99 percent certainty."
The computer told me what I feared most but didn't want to hear. Grief rose like a searing flame from the knot in my gut to become a burning lump in my throat. I fought back the tears. I was determined to carry on like Captain Garrett had told me. I must hold to duty, she had said; there would be time for grieving later.
Moving to the engineering station I determined that the antimatter containment field was being disrupted because two of the four Magnetic Resonators -- which generate the magnetic containment field -- were offline. I had to get to them fast.
"OK Computer, can I get to engineering?"
"The Turbo-Lift is functional; however, engineering has been exposed to space."
"Terrific, I can get there; I just can't go there." My mind was racing -- looking for options, looking for anything that would save the ship.
"Warning:" said the computer. "Antimatter Containment field collapse imminent, estimating ten minutes until a core breach."
"Out of time and out of options," I said choking back the nausea welling up from my stomach. "Where is the nearest functional Escape Pod that I can get to?"
"Autonomous Survival and Recovery Vehicle One is located
"I know where it is," I said as I ran to the Turbo-Lift.
As the pod's hatch hissed open, I ran to the control panel. My hand -- hovering over the launch button -- started to tremble. What am I doing, I thought, panicking like a first year cadet? It's my ship now. I can't abandon her, not like this. She has fought too hard and survived against overwhelming odds. It's my duty to her and my crew-mates to save her if I can.
I stepped back onto the Enterprise's deck and went to a nearby storage compartment where the emergency environmental suits were located. I found one close to my size and wiggled into it. Entering the pod with new found confidence, I went to the control panel and programmed it not to activate its environmental controls upon launching and to take up station keeping 1,000 meters aft of the Enterprise. She may come in handy later, I thought, as I punched the launch button and jumped back onto the deck.
The retaining latches retracted with a chorus of scraping sounds and thunks that reverberated through the hull over the omnipresent pulse of the ship's Warp-Core. Escape Pod One launched with a series of pops as I entered the Turbo-Lift and donned my helmet.
Engineering was a mess. Across its deck ran a ragged, gaping hole from bulkhead to bulkhead with no apparent way across.
"Computer, Shutdown artificial gravity," I ordered.
"Enter your command level authorization code."
"I'm an Ensign! I don't have a command level authorization code."
"Enter your command level
"All right, all right. As sole survivor of the USS Enterprise C, I assume command, and as Acting Captain, I establish a command code of alpha-one-three-niner. Now Shutdown the artificial gravity."
"Enter your command level
" I did; it did, and as I drifted across the ragged hole in the deck, I looked down through the outer hull into empty space beyond. It was enough to make the most seasoned engineer weep.
"Warning:" said the computer. "Antimatter Containment field collapse imminent, estimating five minutes until a core breach."
On the far side of the abyss, I came to rest against the railing around the core and pushed myself in the direction of the nearest core maintenance station. With all the damage to the hull, a successful core ejection was unlikely. My only option was an emergency shutdown, but did I have time? I started the shutdown sequence holding onto the console with one hand while entering commands with the other. As the procedure paused at each safety
checkpoint, I blindly pushed on. No time for niceties, I thought. It's time to be bold and blessed rather than safe and sorry.
As the core shutdown, I started shunting the residual antimatter into magnetic containment bottles. That done I pushed myself back across the deck to the core itself.
"You're safe now, old girl," I said hanging onto the hand rail, feeling the pulse of the ship subside as I watched the flickering remnants of antimatter drain from the chamber. "We may be beaten but we're not defeated, not by a long shot."
Hand over hand I moved along the rail, stopped and ejected the first of the failed Magnetic Resonators. Shaking my head, I moved onto the next one.
"Maintenance Log," I said. "Magnetic Resonators one and four are non operational. Their coils are fused and there is heavy pitting in their resonance chambers. They must have sustained one heck of a power surge. It's a miracle that we didn't lose containment before the two remaining resonators stabilized the field. New ones will have to be replicated; however, the maintenance replicators are down along with almost every other system on the ship. There is nothing else I can do, so I have shutdown the antimatter reactor and will take a shuttlecraft in search of a Federation planet that can render assistance."
"Computer, what's the status of the shuttlecrafts and their fuel reserves?"
"Two shuttlecrafts are operational. The Shuttlecraft Pike has sustained minor damage and has a fuel reserve of 53 percent. The Shuttlecraft Kirk is in maintenance bay one for its 5,000 hour service cycle that was underway when all hands were called to battle stations."
"OK, prep the Pike for immediate departure. Can I get to the shuttle bay?"
"The Turbo-Lift shaft has sustained damage in the aft section, and the Jefferies tubes have been exposed to space."
"It gets better and better," I said aloud.
The Prime Directive applied; I knew I should initiate the self-destruct sequence before abandoning the Enterprise. Otherwise our technology could fall into the hands of a less advanced race and alter their future and possibly everybody else's future. But the old girl had been through too much for me to destroy her now. Besides, she was my only chance to get back to my family, my future. I may find a way to save her yet, I told myself, though I knew better.
"Computer, launch a maintenance scooter from the shuttle bay and direct it to enter Engineering through the breach in her hull. Then shutdown all non essential systems including the emergency containment fields. Leave only the structural integrity fields in place along with communications and sensors. Suspend the emergency distress beacon, and arm the self-destruct mechanism. If the ship is hailed or boarded, ask for my authorization code. If not given or if a power loss is imminent then activate a 30 minute self-destruct sequence with warnings transmitted on all hailing frequencies. Authorization code alpha-one-three-niner. Confirm instructions, and report as systems are shutdown."
As the computer started to put the ship to sleep, the scooter stopped beside me. I stepped onto the foot pads, grabbed the retaining belt, and strapped it firmly around my waist. The manual said I should let it autopilot me to the Shuttle bay but it was way more fun to guide it manually. I grabbed the controls and descended into space much faster than it had risen.
Shuttle bay was a mess, doubly so with gravity shutdown. The minor damage to the Pike that the computer had reported was a beam through its hull. With gravity down, it spun slowly like an insect on a pin. Minor damage under normal conditions with a full maintenance staff but these are not normal times.
That's the trouble with computers; they answer your questions, but they never tell you what you need to know.
I scooted over to the Kirk and checked its maintenance log. It was configured as a cruiser class shuttle, outfitted for longer trips with only a small crew, ideal for my situation. All of the heavy maintenance was complete; the only items left undone in the Kirk's log were the interior upgrades and window replacement. I could live without those.
After docking the maintenance scooter to the rear hard-point on the Kirk, I began preflight. Everything went without incident as I proceeded slowly through the list. This was no time for haste, or to cut corners. There are no minor problems when you are alone in space. I smiled to myself as I thought -- and I have most certainly used up my quota of luck for the day.
I had only been aboard the Enterprise for five standard months, but in that half year I had come to think of her as home. Fresh out of the academy and full of hope I had come to prove myself to all.
As the newest Ensign on Engineering's third watch, I was assigned to Lieutenant Sue Anderson's team. Peggy, with six months seniority over me, was assigned to teach me the ropes -- the Enterprise way of doing things. We were a perfect match: She would start a sentence, and I would finish it. We soon spent much of our off duty hours together, but we agreed that our careers must come first, that any attachments would only stand in the way of our rapid advancement through Starfleet ranks. Friendship, that's all it was, no attachments, no commitments. That lasted about two days. We fell head over heels in love.
During the battle with the Romulans, Peggy was badly burnt when a plasma conduit burst. As the medics took her away, I walked beside the litter holding her limp hand, choking back my tears. At the Turbo-Lift door, Lieutenant Anderson put her hand on my shoulder and nodded toward the plasma fire on the far side of Engineering. Not a word was spoken, for which I was grateful, as grief gripped my throat so firmly that words were not possible. Surely I would have burst into tears had I attempted to speak. Peggy was gone, but our Enterprise needed me now. I joined the team fighting the fire and soon my sorrow turned to rage as I vented all my anger and frustration into the task at hand.
After we were thrown through the rift into the alternative time line, Lieutenant Castillo assigned me to man the Engineering station on the bridge. After eight hours of intensive work, I had most of the bridge equipment up and running while the rest of the crew had restored the Enterprise's critical systems. I had just started to fix a minor problem in the Primary Weapons Array Console when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Well done, Ensign," said Captain Garrett. "Lieutenant Castillo tells me you have taken over like a veteran. Keep up the good work. We are all counting on you." Then she took my hand, looked deep into my eyes and said, "I'm sorry about Peggy, she was a fine young officer and a credit to the ship. We have all lost a lot of good friends today, and in their memory we will see this battle through. For now, we must look past our anger and hold to duty; there will be time for grieving later."
Choked with grief I couldn't say anything, but did manage to nod an acknowledgment. After a moment she dropped my hand, nodded back, then turned and moved on to Tactical. I have never felt so proud to be a Starfleet officer, or felt so deeply wounded.
Shaking the memories from my head, I rose from my seat. Standing at the helm of the Kirk I saluted the bow. "Permission to leave the ship, sir," I said in my most commanding voice. It was an old navel tradition, now reserved for formal occasions or final departures. As I sat down, I muttered to myself, "Permission granted."
Launching the Kirk, I used the tractor beam to open a path through the debris. Soon I cleared the shuttle bay doors and headed for Escape Pod One. She was right where she was supposed to be. I tractored the pod close to the shuttle's stern and remotely manipulated the maintenance scooter's grapple to grasp Escape Pod One's rear hard-point. It was unorthodox but, if I was going to be alone in space, I wanted as many options as possible.
With the escape pod in tow, I took a slow tour around the Enterprise. She was a beautiful ship, now battered and bruised but still a commanding sight.
"Computer, where are the nearest Federation planets?"
"Vulcan is 37 parsecs on a bearing of 163 mark 5. Earth is 46 parsecs on a bearing of 36 mark 356."
"Stop," I said. Then thinking aloud, "When were time-beacons established in this region? Can you establish what time period we are in, and more important, what is the technological level of those planets at this time?"
"The first time-beacons were established 92 years ago in 2252 by the Standard Star Time Treaty. By the position of the stars we should be no more than 380 years in the past with a 2.3 percent variance. Then Vulcan was an advance warp-capable society, while Earth was just starting to explore its solar system using pre-warp space flights."
Some choice, I thought. Vulcan, where I can never blend in, or Earth some time between the Second and Third World Wars. There really is no choice. If I go to Vulcan, I run the risk of polluting the time line or becoming a castaway in their society. On Earth I can assume a new identity and blend in. I will have over 100 years before the war. With the right job and a little luck, I can work out how to get the Enterprise back to its time.
"Computer, Set course for Earth, Warp 4."
Earth, Wednesday, February 26, 1964 (local time)
The view from space of one's home planet, when returning for the first time, is said to be one of the most memorable events in one's life. It is an understatement! It's not just the view of that magnificent, blue and white planet, it's all of the emotions and memories it looses. For me it brought an inner glow and a chuckle or two to the surface as I remembered friends and family. Friends and family that I will never....
"No!" I said aloud. "I refuse to dwell on the
negative." I have too much to do and a life full of new memories to build. Besides, if everything
works out, I may yet return home, to my time.
First stop, the Moon. While returning to Earth,
I had used the Enterprise's computer to search
its database for a place to hide the Kirk. Earth was out of the question. The probability of it remaining undetected for 380 years was nil; then
there was World War III to consider. No, the Moon was the best bet. But even on the Moon, there was a 20 percent chance that it might be discovered; however, there was virtually no chance of its discovery before the invention of warp drive, so the chance of polluting the time line was slight.
The Enterprise's computer had spent a week churning through every geological report, official communiqués and even personal journals pertaining to the Moon. It mapped every square inch of surface that had been, or will be visited, or charted, or explored. The result: a small crater on the far side of the Moon, but first I had to drop off a few things.
Entering a standard orbit on the far side of the Moon, I set about the task of ejecting the Kirk's warp-core. Its scan-signature was just too unique for it to remain undetected for all that time. I didn't dare do a standard ejection. The force would have sent it tumbling through space. Instead, I shutdown the warp-core and released its mechanical couplers.
Donning the same emergency environmental suit from the Enterprise, I transported into space near the maintenance scooter and used a hand thruster to maneuver beside it. Uncoupling it, I scooted below the Kirk and grappled the hard point on the outer hull of the warp-core. It took a while to wiggle it free, but shortly I had towed the core to the Escape pod where I reattached the scooter and it's cargo to the pod.
Using the Kirk's transporter again, I entered the Escape Pod, fired up its environmental controls, and ran through its standard check-off list without any problems. Returning to the Kirk, it was time for my last meal in space. Changing orbit, I maneuvered the Kirk so that a three-quarter Earth sat just above the Moon's horizon.
"Computer," I said, "Play a selection of popular music from Earth's 1960s."
"Two girls for every boy," came blasting from the speakers. It was a song about a place called "Surf City," a '34 woody that wasn't very cherry -- whatever that means -- but it was good for having fun and finding girls. It sounded like a nova place
to visit but I didn't recognize the name from my Academy days.
"Computer, Locate 'Surf City,' circa 1960, Earth. Reference the previous song."
"There is no such location," came the reply. "It refers to an idealized coastal location using the local vernacular popular at the time."
"Extrapolate!" I said. "What's a likely location? Come on, this sounds like fun."
"Try Venice Beach, California. Given your age, gender and hormone level, it should meet your criteria of 'fun'."
"Thanks, Mom!" I replied with just a bit of sarcasm. "Resume music."
"Replicator, let's have a bit to eat. Hmm
How about something Californian? No, there is nothing uniquely Californian. It all comes from some place else. OK, Mexican. Let's see: Chili Rellenos with rice, beans and hot corn tortillas, some chips, salsa and a pitcher of sangria to smooth the edges."
I savored that meal; watching Earth rise above the Moon's horizon while listening to Tommy pine after Laura and learning about a little G.T.O. I think my two favorite songs were "Wimoweh," something about a lion sleeping in the jungle, and "Aquarius," when a particular celestial alignment brings peace and love to the planet.
"OK, Computer, let's get to work," I said as I entered the crater's coordinates from memory to shift our orbit.
Earth's Moon, it's a desolate but hauntingly beautiful place, and I was to be the first Terran to land on it. Neil Armstrong wouldn't arrive for another five years. "Let history record
No, let's hope not." I said to myself.
The crater so carefully selected was located on the floor of a much larger crater, blasted into the debris field near its wall. I tucked the Kirk into the side of the craggily little crater near the base of the older crater that now loomed high above the shuttlecraft.
"Computer, transport me to the rim of the lower crater." Climbing onto a small boulder I used a hand phaser on a low stun setting to sweep my tracks from the dust. From my vantage point on the rock I looked down onto the Kirk.
"Computer, run the Shield program," I ordered as I blasted the far rim of the large crater high above the Kirk with a narrow beam set at its lowest power level. Nothing! I raised the power setting slightly and tried again. A small landslide appeared just below the rim and cascaded down throwing up a large spray of rocks and dust as it descended.
It looked strange! There were no billowing clouds that one would expect to see in an atmosphere. It was more like an exploding hedgehog, a chain reaction of rubble and rocks as large boulders collided and exploded into ever smaller bits. The slide hit the Kirk and enveloped it. I watched in amazement as the tan spray of debris cascaded forward over the crater floor and kept right on coming.
I hadn't expected the veil of debris to reach me let alone engulf me. The sun was blotted to a faint glow and I could hear the rasping of fine particles against my face plate.
"Computer, get me out of here," I said as a small lump of claustrophobia grew in my chest. "Transport me to the upper rim above the dust cloud."
"Unable to comply," came the reply. "The scattering effect of the particulate matter has lowered the transporter's safety margins to unacceptable levels."
"Any damage?" I asked as I regained my composure. "How thick is the deposit? Will the transporter still function?" I had programmed the computer to incrementally lower its shields after the initial impact to allow the debris to build up without damaging the hull.
"No damage," came the reply. "The debris runs from 1.63 to 2.61 meters above the hull. It should not pose a problem to the transporter after the particles settle back to the surface."
Like drizzle in still, calm morning air, the dust was settling fast now. With no atmosphere to suspend the fine particles, gravity was doing its work even one sixth gravity. I could see the rim of the small crater now. It reminded me of one morning along the Appalachian Trail looking down into a "holler" filled with light, wispy fog, except the consistency was wrong. This looked more like a bowl of rice pudding, and it was settling at about two meters per second. The slide area was clearly visible now. It looked like dozens of others loosed by small meteorite impacts. The Kirk was completely covered, leaving no hint of the treasure hidden beneath the slide.
"Computer, beam me up to Escape Pod One, and make sure you leave the dust behind then run your sleep program."
"Acknowledged," came the reply as my view of the crater morphed into the interior of the pod. I was on my own now. The computer would no longer respond to any query unless it was preceded by my command code.
Firing up the engine, I left orbit and headed for Earth at one quarter impulse with my cargo in tow. I wanted to time my arrival to avoid going into orbit. At this time, history showed Earth with eight satellites in geosynchronous orbits at 35,800 km, mostly for meteorological observation and communications. Then there were an undisclosed number of spy-satellites in low polar orbits at a maximum altitude of 750 km. Earth used them to keep track of friend and foe alike. Additionally, records showed a great deal of space junk in random orbits at various altitudes, and everything was being tracked from Earth.
My course from the Moon was a long arc timed to flyby Earth just as the Sun's terminator passed over my beam-down coordinates in south-eastern California. Then the escape pod with the Kirk's warp-core in tow would continue into the Sun. From Earth it would look like a rogue meteor caught in the Sun's gravity-well. The large sunspot, well that would be just a coincidence. I know it's all terribly over planed, but that's what happens when you spend a month and a half alone in space with nothing else to do.
"I love it when it all comes together," I said with a way-too-big grin covering my face. I checked the local-time chronometer -- Saturday, February 29, 1964, at 06:02. Reaching over, I activated the emergency transporter.
I materialized about four meters from an incredibly primitive looking tree with spear-like leaves ringing its branches like bracelets, and a huge white blossom in full bloom on the end of one limb. "A Joshua tree," I said as a roaring, screeching sound raced into my consciousness.
Turning I saw a strange ground vehicle, with a tubular frame, coming at me in slow motion. Its front wheels were locked and turned away while the rear wheels spit rocks and clumps of dirt as they bounced sideways over the dirt road, skidding toward me. The driver practicably stood with his back pressed against the seat; his legs locked on the floor in front of him. He was leaning right and you could see the strain in his neck muscles as he pulled down hard on the wheel. His frightened eyes were locked on mine; his jaw set hard with determination.
The woman beside him was leaning forward with her head buried in her hands, and that vehicle kept right on coming. Its rear wheels skidding as they raced around the front. Centimeter by centimeter it crept toward me and then struck. In real time, I flew through the air watching the ground rushing up toward me. Then nothing.
There was music in the background and a rustling of voices as my eyes tried to focus. "Oh," I moaned as I tried to move my head in the direction of the voices but failed. Darkness moved in.
It was quiet now with a dusty smell in the air. There was a cold towel on my head and a soft hand stroking my right cheek.
"Oh, God," I heard a soft voice say. "Please let him be all right. Please let him live."
"God, ha!" It was a deeper voice. "It's a doctor he needs. But not to worry, he'll be OK. He's a strong lad."
"Who?" I said. "Where?" It was all I could get out before the room started to fade again. The towel felt cool and soothing as I lay back, the hand comforting, but the rest of me felt like a bone gnawed on by a Klingon targ.
"Come," I heard as I tried to push myself up. "Let me help you."
I felt a hand on my back lifting me as I swung my legs over the side of a high-backed couch with a faded blue and gold pattern.
"Here," came that soft voice again. "Drink this. It's herbal tea. It will help clear your head."
She was beautiful, and there was a resonance to her voice that sang when she spoke.
"Hi, I'm Gene," he said, offering his hand. He was a big man with broad shoulders and a winning smile. His eyes had a quality to them that spoke of constant attention, unending thought, always analyzing the situation.
I smiled as I looked up at him, but I didn't take his hand for I needed both just to keep the cup of tea from shaking.
"And this is Nickie, my Nubian princess," he said as he stepped back and put his arm around her shoulders.
"I am honored to meet you, princess," I said as I bowed my head slightly.
"Oh, no," she said with a big smile. "You mustn't pay any attention to him; he never misses an opportunity for a pun or a practical joke. I'm not a princess, just a friend." She reached over and wrapped her hands around mine, which were still grasping the tea cup.
Gene laughed, a deep, full-barreled laugh without restraint. Then with narrowed eyes, he tilted his head slightly.
"Now who, or what are you?" There was a set to his jaw that spoke of resolve. The joker was now an interrogator.
I sat there holding the cup of tea, unwilling, unable to talk.
"One," he counted, "you weren't walking on the trail, you just appeared there. Two, you were all sparkly. Like a kid's Forth-of-July sparkler. Three, your clothes, your uniform. They're made from some kind of cloth I have never seen before. You're not from around here are you? Hell, I'll bet you're not even from this planet."
"Oh, Gene! Leave him alone. You're not at the precinct house any more." The lilting quality had left her voice. It was stern now.
"So?" he said with a lower voice as he leaned forward without changing his expression, that look of authority.
"No, I'm from Earth," I said staring back at them. "I can't say anything more." In truth, I didn't know what to say. I looked down. My head hurt. I just wanted to be left alone. "I must protect the future," I muttered to myself.
"What!" he said. "Protect the future? You mean like the H. G. Wells future?" He looked over at the woman. "My God, Nickie," he stammered. "He's not from a different place; he's from a different time!"
"That's why he appeared with all those sparkles on him," she said.
"No, not appeared," he said in a metered voice. "Materialized!"
"No, no," he said cutting me off. "It's OK. You rest now. We'll talk later."
That evening it turned cold. Gene made a fire in a masonry alcove while Nickie prepared a stew on an appliance that produced an open flame to cook it. She actually used fresh-grown ingredients. It was delicious, the stew along with a tossed salad and warm sourdough bread that all blended into the most wonderful aroma. Later we pulled our chairs around the open fire to warm ourselves.
"So," Gene said, "how far in the future are you from? Are people still killing each other? Oh, hell! What's the stock market doing?"
"I can't talk about the future. I must preserve the integrity of the time line."
"OK," he said. "I can understand that, but look. I deal in fiction. I'm a television producer. I have a hit show on NBC, 'The Lieutenant'. It's up for renewal and though they assure me it will be, I don't trust them, so I've been working on a new project, a space adventure. It's kind of like a wagon train to the stars. You know: good guys, bad guys, cowboys, Indians. Well maybe you don't know, but the point is, it's all fiction. Don't give me any secrets, just make up some stories."
"Not the facts, mam!" he said mimicking some other voice. They both broke out laughing.
"Sergeant Friday will never forgive you," Nickie said still laughing.
"The point is," said Gene, "I'm looking for concepts here. Use your imagination. Nobody will believe it. Nobody in their right mind believes anything on television, not consciously anyway. That's why science fiction is such a great medium. You can talk about today's problems in tomorrow's context without getting the censors all bent out of shape. Tell me about the people not the technology. Who was the most famous captain in your armada?"
"Fleet," I said, "Starfleet. That would be Captain J. T. Kirk, Jamison Terence Kirk."
"No, no, no," he said. "That's much too pedestrian for a -- Starfleet -- captain. James not Jamison and for his middle name something heroic, something Greek. No, Roman! Tiberius, that's it, James Tiberius Kirk."
"You men," Nickie said with a smile, "and your heroics. Terence makes him sound kinder, gentler. A man of the future." Then she broke out in laughter.
"What," said Gene in mock sarcasm. "You don't get to be Captain of a rocket ship by being kinder and gentler," he scorned.
"Star Ship," I said. "We call them Star Ships." Then I chuckled. "I love the way she baits you, and you fall for it every time." Then looking at Nickie, "You remind me of our communications officer on the Enterprise. She had the same laugh, quick wit and rapier tongue when provoked."
"She looked like me?" asked Nickie.
"No," I said, "she didn't look like you but she was vid-perfect gorgeous like you."
"Hey," said Gene, "get your own girl. This one's taken."
The next afternoon we flew to LA in Gene's plane. It was a fixed wing craft with a propeller that rode on air-currents like a bird. What an experience.
"I learned to fly while I was still in school," Gene said, "and then I joined up when the war broke out. I love to fly. After the war I flew commercial airlines, a glorified bus driver in the sky, but that wasn't for me. Later I came to Hollywood to write scripts. It's a tough business to break into so I took a day job on the LA police force. Which brings us to identity, you need one."
The rest of the trip Nickie and Gene drilled me on the finer points of life in the '60's, my new life. When we arrived, they helped me pick out some new clothes and drove me to the bus station.
"Are you sure you want to go to San Francisco," asked Gene? "You could stay here awhile. I could find a job for you on the MGM lot, just until you get established."
"No," I said. "I can't stay here. I talk too much; you two team up and drag it out of me."
"Here," said Gene as he handed me a ticket and an envelope. "Take this, you'll need it until you get established." He raised both hands and stepped back. "Don't say no. It's a loan. You can pay me back when you get a job."
I did pay him back, just before his "Star Trek" series appeared on television. I loved it. It was nothing like the real Starfleet of course. It was a lot more fun. Eventually I married and raised two wonderful daughters. They're grown now, and my wife and I are retired. We bought a used motor home, fixed it up, and took a 10-week trip around the country. It's an "Aero Cruiser" that looks a lot like the Shuttlecraft Kirk minus the nacelles of course. In fact, I have a frame around the license plate with "USS Enterprise C, Shuttlecraft KIRK" inscribed on it. Sometimes when we are on the road we tow a small SUV behind it. Its license plate reads "Esc Pod 1".
Have I polluted the time line? No, I don't think so. Except for Gene and Nickie I have never disclosed my past. Not even my wife knows I come from another time. Everybody just thinks I am a Star Trek nut which of course I am. Thanks to Gene, I have the perfect cover story. Who would guess it's all true!
Back at the Rift
After being thrown through that strange rift that cast the Enterprise C forward and now back in time, I put out a general distress call in hope that someone, somewhere, sometime would render assistance.
"Star Ship Enterprise," came a hail. "This is Captain Berman of the Temporal Ship Wells. What is your status?"
"Temporal Ship Wells," I said with my eyes wide in amazement. "Where in the name of all Deities did you come from? Who sent you? How did you know I was here? Wow, am I glad to see you!"
"Calm down, Ensign. I'm here because of you. As to who sent me, you did. We received the general distress call you programmed into the Enterprise C's Shuttlecraft Kirk. You can imagine our surprise when it woke up on Stardate 35575.2 and told us where and when you would appear.
"So this is my second time through the rift?" I asked.
"No, you only came through the rift once; however, in this time line, while you were traveling to Earth, you downloaded 380 years of your original time line's history along with some very precise reports on your encounter with the Enterprise D and the ensuing battles. We compared that time line with our current line and were startled with the results. You were quite successful in preserving the time line; however, one of your descendants caused a major disruption that started World War III twenty years early and on the continent of North America, not Japan as in your time line. Suffice to say that we prefer your time line to ours, so it was decided to come here and inspect the Enterprise C, some eighty-six years ago."
"Eighty-six years!" I said in disbelief.
"Yes, after the Enterprise C appeared in our time, Starfleet was convinced that time travel could be engineered. And as they say, knowing it can be done is half way to getting it done. It took us over 80 years to perfect the temporal engine that powers this ship. We now have the ability, not just to reopen the rift, but to create a temporal vortex into the past at a specific time."
"You're not going to send me back, are you?" I watched my adjudicator wipe the perspiration from his brow. He is going to do it, I thought. He's going to kill me!
"Yes," Captain Berman said as a broad grin broke out on his face. "You're going home."
"You can't do that! You can't send me home to die. Captain Picard said that there were no survivors. The Enterprise C disappeared with all hands."
"Hold on Son," he said as his expression turned solemn.
"We're not sending you back to die. If everything works out you will live to see your family again."
"But how? If the C disappeared without any trace...."
"No, the Enterprise C disappeared in Captain Picard's time line and there is no Enterprise C or even a B in our time line.
It's your time line, a restored time line that we hope to send you home to.
Let me go back to the beginning."
"After the Shuttlecraft Kirk woke up," continued Captain Berman "Starfleet visited your Enterprise C. The history you downloaded and the sensor logs convinced us that it had indeed traveled through a rift in time. That incident was the nexus between alternative time lines.
In Picard's time line the Enterprise C disappeared while defending the Klingon outpost on Narendra III from the Romulan's, but your Enterprise did weaken them and we believe they withdrew and did not press the attack.
The Klingons never knew the Enterprise C responded to their distress call. With no pressure from the Romulan's, the Klingon Empire eventually attacked the Federation in Picard's time line.
"In our time line no Federation vessel came to the aid of Narendra III and the Romulan's prevailed.
This lead to a protracted war between the Romulans and the Klingons. After 24 years both empires fought to a standstill. Both sides had made deep inroads into each other's territory but nether side was able to conquer the other's home-world.
With both economies in ruin, a de facto cease-fire ensued for the next 62 years.
Long supply lines and bankrupted economies left the outer colonies of both empires to fend for themselves.
Out of necessity, they became trading partners. Now the economies of both empires are so intertwined that they have started unification talks.
If this 'Imperial Union' ever comes to fruition, it's certain to start a countdown to war with the Federation."
"So how will sending me back help?" I asked.
"We believe, as Picard did, that a restored time line where the Enterprise C is destroyed defending Narendra III will avert both wars, but only if the Klingons know what happened.
You have to go back and you have to live to tell the tale".
"We have just recently visited Narendra III at the time of the Romulan attack.
We now know that the four Romulans attacked the outpost and appeared to withdraw after the outpost sent out a distress call.
In actuality, however they set up an ambush. We now know the precise time that the Klingon relief ships will arrive and that is our target window."
"So you want me to go back and warn the Klingon relief fleet," I said.
"When I arrive you believe the time lines will switch, but what if there are no relief ships in the restored time line?"
"It's not without risk, but if you accept that the disappearance of the Enterprise is the nexus between all three time lines, then all actions before that time should remain the same or close to it.
We also know, from the Enterprise's logs, that it disappeared thirty minutes before the Klingon relief ships are supposed to arrive.
If our calculations are correct, you will arrive in the restored time line after the Romulan Warbirds have left and just before the Klingon relief ships arrive."
"But you already told me that this time line is different," I argued.
"That my going to Earth altered..." My voice trailed off as I pondered my fate. Looking up I said, "It is my best shot isn't it?" Then with resolve, "Let's do it!"
"Good, you will start a fifteen minute self-destruct countdown in this time line, then go to Escape Pod One and prepare to launch. In the mean time I will open a temporal vortex and send the Enterprise back to her time.
If you launch five minutes before destruction, you should have just enough time to clear the area before the Enterprise explodes."
"So what will happen to you," I asked?
"Will you get back or not?"
"No one knows," said Captain Berman. "The question is, will the return of the Enterprise C cause the time lines to switch?
You see, no one knows if I even exist in your alternative time line. The one true thing that we have learned from past time incursions is that if we restore your time line, neither Starfleet nor either of us will remember any of these events -- for none of them will have occurred."