Based loosely on Star Trek, which is copyrighted by CBS and VIACOM. They own it all. There's nothing you can do about it. Here's hoping they don't care enough to sue. There's also some elements of another 1960s property, but I think they're changed enough to be fine. We'll see. Maybe their lawyers will surprise me.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 1992




Chapter One

The Federation Council was in an uproar. Fleet Admiral Ra’al finally managed to quiet them after much shouting and gavel banging.

“Would you please repeat your last statement, Dr. Tulson?” she asked the white-haired physicist standing before him.

“What for? You heard me the first time.”

“I just want to make sure that I heard you correctly. Frankly, what you have said is hard to believe.”

“Fine. I said that I can’t rebuild the transference ray.”

“But you built it in the first place. Surely, you have the blueprints.”

“Look, I was so drugged that I have no idea how I built it.”

“Dr. Tulson, I don’t think you realize the severity of this,” Ra’al said as she leaned forward in her chair at the front of the chamber, where she sat to the left of the Federation President for this special session concerning the recent Joegonot incident. “Your transference ray turned the entire Joegonot species into human beings. It is quite possibly the most powerful weapon in history. If it falls into the wrong hands, the results could be catastrophic.”

“It’s not going to fall into anyone’s hands,” Tulson insisted. Frustrated, he began to pace the chamber floor. “I have no idea how to build another one, and the original was destroyed before the Secondprize rendezvoused with the Excalibur, which brought me back here.”

“I see. Your report and Captain Rydell’s log are both very vague about the destruction of the transference ray. They refer to a freak accident and say nothing more. Would you be so kind as to fill us in on just how it came to be destroyed?”

“I’d rather not,” Tulson said as he looked down at the Federation seal on the floor of the chamber. Ra’al swore that Tulson’s cheeks were turning red.

“I’m afraid that I must insist,” Ra’al retorted. “In a matter as important as this one, we must have all of the details.”

“Okay, but I want to make it clear right now that this was not, I repeat not, my fault!” Ra’al leaned back in her chair. She had the distinct feeling that she really didn’t want to hear this story.

“The Secondprize was still four days away from Kilma Omega IV, but we were going to rendezvous with the Excalibur in one. Since I was leaving on the Excalibur, and Scott…”

“For the record, that’s Commander Scott Baird, Chief Engineer of the Secondprize,” Ra’al interrupted. The computer bleeped a brief acknowledgement of the additional information.

“Yeah, him,” Tulson continued. “Well, Scott and I still hadn’t figured out exactly how the transference ray worked, and Jaroch, the science officer, wasn’t quite sure either. When he used it on the Joegonots, he just switched a couple of wires around. He didn’t worry about how the blasted thing functioned in the first place. Anyway, I was on my way to engineering to work with Jaroch and Scott on the thing, but something happened before I got there.”

“Please be more specific, Dr. Tulson,” Ra’al said.

“All right, but remember, you asked. Scott and Jaroch were finishing work on the ship’s android…”

“I think that’s just about got it, Jaroch,” Commander Scott Baird said as he closed the access panel on Ensign Kristen Larkin’s skull.

“Agreed, Commander,” Jaroch said. The engineering doors whooshed open, and Counselor Claire Webber walked into the room.

“How is she?” Webber asked.

“Good as she ever was,” Scott said. “We’re just about to turn her back on.”

“I’m just in time. Having your programming turn you into a saboteur must be a traumatic experience. I wanted to be here to look after her psychological well-being.”

“She is an android, Counselor. I do not think she has a psyche to keep well,” Jaroch said.

“She’s a member of this crew, and it’s my job to look after her. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

“Whatever you say,” Scott replied. He reached up into Larkin’s right armpit and turned her on. They could hear the hum of power running through her circuits. Slowly, her eyes opened.

“Welcome back,” Webber shouted happily and bear-hugged the android. The pressure popped Larkin’s head off like a rocket, sending it soaring across engineering.

“Fuck!” Baird screamed. That was four hours of work wasted.

“I’ve got it!” Webber shouted. She dropped the lifeless body of Larkin and ran backwards after the flying head. It was heading straight for the huge column of the matter/anti-matter intermix chamber which rose through several decks of the ship. If Larkin’s head fell down the gap to the bottom of the column, it would be lost forever…or at least until somebody went down there, which pretty much never happened. Webber dove and caught it by the hair with one hand. Unfortunately, her momentum sent her flying over the railing around the intermix chamber. Baird dove forward and grabbed Webber’s leg, saving her from plummeting to her death. Webber dangled just above one of the support rods holding the intermix chamber in place.

“I’m not going to be able to hold you like this for much longer!” Baird shouted. “Throw Larkin’s head up here to me, so you can grab onto that rod below you with both hands!” Webber nodded in acknowledgment and threw android’s cranium. She missed Baird by a mile, but hit Jaroch right in the back of the head. He turned around slowly, his eyes glazing over.

“Oh shit,” Baird murmured. He had to get Webber up before Jaroch completely turned into J’Ter.

“How dare you hit me, puny mortal!” Jaroch/J’Ter thundered. Too late. J’Ter was out. This was one of the dangers of working with someone who, when angered, had the personality of a dead warrior pop out.

“Calm down, Jaroch,” Baird said as soothingly as possible. Jaroch/J’Ter let out a battle cry and charged him. Baird felt the wind get knocked out of him as the possessed Yynsian science officer barreled into him. He flipped backward over the railing and found himself dangling next to Claire. Jaroch/J’Ter was still raging. Suddenly, the doors to engineering opened, and Dr. Tulson walked in carrying the transference ray. Jaroch/J’Ter grabbed him, lifted him up, and started spinning him around. Dr. Tulson lost his grip on the transference ray which went flying toward the doors. The doors quietly whooshed open allowing the transference ray to fly out into the hall. At that moment, Captain Alexander Rydell and Commander Travis Dillon were walking toward engineering.

“Captain, regulations specifically state that you have to do it,” Dillon was arguing.

“Number One, it’s stupid!”

“Sir, the Picard Maneuver is standard procedure whenever a commanding officer stands up. It’s simple. All you have to do is pull your uniform top down and straighten it.” Dillon demonstrated.

“I know how to do it!” Rydell shouted. “I just don’t want to. It’s my ship, and I’ll do what I want…”

Dillon noticed something odd. “Captain!”

“Shut up! I’m yelling at you!”

“Captain!!!” Dillon shouted insistently.

“What! What’s so damn important that you…” THUNK! The transference ray smashed into Rydell’s forehead and broke into a thousand pieces. Rydell collapsed to the floor unconscious.

“I was going to say ‘duck’,” Dillon mumbled quietly.

“…and that’s how the transference ray got destroyed,” Dr. Tulson said as he finished his story. “Are you satisfied now?”

Ra’al leaned back in her chair in disbelief. “Please tell me you’re kidding,” she whispered softly.

“I wish I could, but that’s the truth.”

“The android’s head popped off?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The science officer turned into a raging monster.”

“Right again.”

“Captain Rydell was knocked unconscious.”

“You want me to repeat to whole story? I told you what happened. Now get off my case!”

“I just have a hard time believing that this is a Starfleet crew.”

“Hey, you’re the fleet admiral. Don’t you know who’s manning your ships?”

“I’m a bureaucrat. Why would I have that information?”

“Oh yeah. Sorry.”

“Quite all right. This session is adjourned. Thank you for your help, Dr. Tulson. I need to go back to my office and try to make sense out of what you’ve told us.”

“Good luck,” Dr. Tulson said as he turned and strolled out of the chamber. None of them had any way of knowing that the entire proceeding had been watched.

The tall man seated in front of the viewer slammed his fist down in irritation.

“Tulson can’t help us,” he told his companion. “We’re going to have to go straight to Rydell.”

“This is dangerous and unwise.”

“No more so than anything else we’ve done.” The man stood up. “There are preparations to make. I want everything to be perfect for when Captain Rydell pays us a visit.”

Chapter Two

“Captain’s Log, Stardate 49818.2. The Secondprize has just completed its stop at Kilma Omega IV, and we are now on our way to Starbase 37 to pick up a shipment of terraforming supplies to be transported to the Federation colony on Grindar. I am looking forward to a little bit of a break after our run-in with the Joegonots and then the events on Kilma Omega IV. I would also like to officially congratulate Commander Travis Dillon on receiving the prestigious Starfleet Officious Martinet of the Year award. He deserves it and is well on his way to winning next year’s award as well.” Captain Alexander Rydell switched off the log recorder and leaned back in his chair. This was the first time in days that he’d had a chance to relax, and he was going to enjoy it. Rydell swiveled his desk chair so that he could see out of the window of his ready room into the vastness of space beyond.

“I need a vacation,” he said to himself. Exhaustion overcame him, and he drifted off to sleep. Unbeknownst to him or the crew of the Secondprize, but knownst to you because you’re reading this, Rydell slowly began to dematerialize. Seconds later, the ready room was devoid of life. Captain Rydell was gone.

“There they go again,” Trinian said disgustedly to Ensign Kristen Larkin. Larkin turned around to see what the hostess of Seven Backward was referring to. She soon found it.

“I assume you mean Commander Baird and Ensign Sullivan,” the android replied. “They appear to be engaged in another lip-lock.”

“Kissing,” Counselor Claire Webber corrected as she approached the bar where Trinian and Larkin were standing. “I personally think it’s sweet. They’re so cute together.”

“We’re not cute!” Ensign Emily Sullivan suddenly shouted angrily. She immediately recommenced her earlier activity.

“Don’t mind her,” Trinian told the Counselor. “She’s just a bit defensive.”

“I’m not defensive!” Sullivan screamed.

“See what I mean.”

“I’m not defensive!”

“See what I mean.”

“Did that happen twice?” Webber asked confused.

Trinian and Ensign Larkin looked at each other in astonishment. Webber left as quickly as possible. This was not something she wanted to deal with.

“What just happened?” Trinian asked.

“I do not know,” Larkin replied.

“That was weird. It was like we had the same conversation twice. It was like we had the same conversation twice.”

“You did it again.”

“I know! This is getting annoying. This is getting annoying. Kris, do something!”

“I do not think I can. I do not think I can.” Larkin turned in her chair. The sudden movement dislodged the barely functioning android’s arm and sent it clunking onto the table. Suddenly, her arm reappeared on her body and fell off again.

“This is not right,” Trinian said.

“I believe that is obvious,” Larkin replied.

“No! There’s more going on here than the simple repeating of a moment of time.”

“You call that simple. These types of effects are extremely rare. Imagine it this way. You have seven billion penguins…” Trinian groaned inwardly. One of the many glitches in Larkin’s programming made her use penguins every time that she wanted to explain something. “The odds of this type of time repetition are about equal to one penguin.”

“You’re missing the point. Something very strange is going on. Oh never mind,” Trinian sighed. It was pointless trying to explain the feeling she was having to Ensign Larkin. She knew that something out of the ordinary was happening, and the time repetition was only a very small part of it. Commander Scott Baird and Ensign Emily Sullivan continued kissing blissfully unaware that they were repeating the same kiss over and over again.

There it was again. Lieutenant Commander Jaroch looked at the scanner display puzzled. This was definitely not normal.

“Commander Dillon?”

“What is it, Jaroch?” Dillon asked sleepily from the command chair. He was just as tired as Captain Rydell after the events of the past few days.

“The sensors are detecting a small temporal disturbance in the area.”

“A what?”

“A time distortion,” Jaroch explained irritatedly. He couldn’t stand having to explain even the simplest scientific phenomena to morons like Dillon. Dillon pulled himself up out of the chair and headed back to Jaroch’s science console. The screen was filled with a bunch of numbers and wavy lines. Dillon rubbed his eyes trying to make some sense of the jumble before him.

“Jaroch, I think the sensors are busted,” he said finally.

“They are supposed to look like that, sir.”

“Oh. Where’s the time distortion?”

“It is the squiggly red line near the top,” Jaroch replied. Dillon looked. It just appeared to be another line to him.

“Yeah, sure. Whatever. What’s causing it?”

“I do not know.” What did Dillon think he was, omniscient?

“Well, find out!” Dillon ordered authoritatively as he walked back to the command chair.

“Why did I bother?” Jaroch mumbled to himself.

“We’ve got him. He’s in transport now.”

“Good. Make sure all the preparations have been made for his arrival. The information in his head is priceless, and I don’t want him damaged.”

“Haven’t you found it yet?” Dillon asked Jaroch impatiently.

“This is science, not some sort of magic show,” Jaroch replied. Dillon sank back down into the command chair sulking. He hated waiting.

“I have found the source of the disturbance, Commander,” Jaroch said several minutes later. “It is coming from Lorikel, a small, class M world about a thousand light years from here.”

“I better consult the captain on this one,” Dillon said. “Bridge to Rydell.” There was no response. “Dillon to Rydell!” Still nothing. Jaroch and Dillon looked at each other in confusion. Captain Rydell was just in his ready room. They watched him go in. Why wasn’t he answering? Dillon and Jaroch walked over to the ready room door. Dillon hit the door chime. They were answered by silence. He walked forward. The door whooshed open revealing the empty room.

“Where is he?” Dillon asked no one in particular.

“Computer, where is Captain Rydell?” Jaroch asked as he stepped past Dillon into the ready room. He scanned the room with his eyes. Rydell was nowhere to be seen.

“Captain Rydell is not on the Secondprize,” the computer replied unemotionally.

“What the hell?” Dillon asked in shock.

“I have no idea,” Jaroch replied. The lights faded.

“Oh no, it’s time for the opening credits!” Dillon shouted. “Captain Rydell’s not here. What are we going to do?”

“You are going to have to do them, sir,” Jaroch replied. The theme music started.

“But I don’t know the words!” Dillon protested.

“Too bad. You are the first officer, and it is your job to fill in when the captain is not here. Now start.”

As the Secondprize sails through the starry void, the first few notes of the theme music are heard. Then, a strong, commanding voice begins speaking.

“Uh… Space?”

“Right, sir. Keep going.”

“The last front door. These are the voyeurs of the bean dip Secondprize. It’s neverending mishap; to expose strange, new women…”

“Sir, that is not even close.”

“Give me a break. I’m making this up as I go along. …to freak out new life forms and end diplomatic relations, to boldly show what no one wanted to see before.”


The lights came back on.

“How’d I do?” Dillon asked hopefully.


“That bad, huh?”

“Worse than you could possibly imagine.”

“The captain’s not going to be happy when we find him, is he?”

“No, sir,” Jaroch replied shaking his head.

“Damn.” Dillon walked back onto the bridge. “Ensign Ford, set a course for Lorikel. Warp eight. I’m betting that whatever happened to the Captain is connected to that temmorial discurgence you detected, Jaroch.”

“Temporal disturbance,” Jaroch corrected.

“Yeah, whatever,” Dillon said. He put his hands on his hips and struck a commanding pose. “I want you to scan the ready room for residual radiation or anything that might give us a clue how the captain disappeared. Lieutenant Hawkins, raise the shields. Hopefully, that will prevent anyone else from being taken.”

“Course plotted and laid in,” Ford announced from the navigation console.

“Engage, Lieutenant Porter.” The Secondprize’s engines hummed, and the great starship shot forward.

Chapter Three

Captain Alexander Rydell awoke with a start. He was sitting in his ready room desk chair, but something wasn’t right. He’d fallen asleep facing the window, and now he was facing the door. The room was far too bright as well. He turned his chair around and almost fainted at what he saw. He was on a planet. His ready room window was looking out from the top of a hill onto a small town. He could see a few, small hot pink and neon green houses a little ways down the hill. Gross. At the bottom of the hill was a courtyard. On the other side of this was a collection of larger buildings dominated by a domed structure.

“What the hell did Dillon do?!” Rydell screamed when he’d recovered from the shock. “I leave him command for a couple of hours, and he lands the damn ship in some town! I’m gonna’ kill him!” Rydell jumped out of his chair and charged toward the door. The door whooshed open revealing an apartment. Rydell, not expecting this, charged directly into a recliner. He fell in face first and lay there immobile. This was too much. What was going on? He just wanted his ship back. Was that too much to ask?

“He’s going through typical disorientation syndrome.”

“Perfect. I think I’ll go pay him a visit. It’ll be best to get my point across before he’s has time to realize what’s happened to him.” The tall man walked out of the empty control center toward his guest’s house. His loyal computer continued monitoring the area faithfully.

Captain Rydell pulled himself out of the recliner a few moments later and began to look around the apartment. It was nice with a small kitchen, bedroom, living area, and the mock-up of his ready room. He was extremely confused as to what had happened. Suddenly, the front door opened, and tall, thin man in a black jacket and beige pants entered.

“Good morning,” he began amiably. “Welcome to your home from home.”

“Hi,” Rydell responded numbly. This was getting more and more mind-boggling by the second.

“You’ll find that your every need has been taken care of. Just make yourself comfortable.”

“Yeah. Okay.” Slowly, Rydell regained a semblance of rational thought. “I’m Captain Alexander Rydell of the Federation Starship Secondpr…”

“I know who you are,” the man interrupted impatiently. “Why else would I have brought you here?”

“I don’t know,” Rydell replied “You tell me.”

“Let’s go for a walk. I’ll show you around.”

“Nice evasion.”

“Thank you. I try my best to be ambiguous.” The old style door swung open automatically as Rydell and his host approached. They stepped outside into the warm air. It was really a beautiful place. The sky was clear and blue. Gorgeous green plants lined the walkways and surrounded the small cottages and buildings. It was all very Earth-like.

“Quite a lovely place, don’t you think?” the man asked as they walked down the hill toward the courtyard. Rydell nodded his approval. Something wasn’t right though. He couldn’t see another living soul except his host. Come to think of it, he couldn’t hear any animals either. Nothing. The whole place had an eerie silence about it that was broken only by the rustling of leaves in the wind, their footsteps, and his companion’s voice. Finally, curiosity got the better of Rydell.

“Isn’t there anyone else here?” he asked.

“Of course,” the man replied as if Rydell had asked him the stupidest question in the universe. “They’re everywhere. Just look at all the happy people.” The man pointed to the benches in the courtyard.

“There’s nobody there!” Rydell replied as he stared at the empty benches his host had just indicated.

“Your feeble attempt to try and convince me that you’re insane is really pathetic Number 38.2.”

“What?” Rydell asked.

“You are Number 38.2. Sorry about the point two thing, but this place is so crowded that we’ve had to resort to using fractional numbers.”

“Look, you stupid bastard, there’s nobody here! And I’m not number anything. I’m Captain Alex Rydell! I’ve had enough of this.” Rydell slapped his commbadge. “Rydell to Secondprize.” There was no response.

“Your ship is thousands of light years from here, Number 38.2. You might as well get used to being here because you’ll be staying for a while.”

“Where is here?” Rydell insisted angrily.

“The Suburb,” the man answered ominously.

“The what?”


“What the hell’s a suburb?”

“I don’t believe you! You’re supposed to be a captain. You should know these things…” Rydell stared at him blankly. “You really don’t know?”

“No!” Rydell shouted.

“Fine. A suburb is the old Earth term for a small community at the edge of a big city.”

“So there’s a city near here?” Rydell asked hopefully.

“No. Just us. We’re the only place on the planet.”

“Then why the hell did you call it a suburb?!” Rydell screamed.

“You’re going to give yourself hypertension if you keep that up,” the man said calmly. Rydell grabbed the man by the neck and started strangling him.

“I’m going to kill you, you… you…I don’t even have the words for what you are!” Rydell squeezed harder and harder. Rydell heard a noise behind him. He dropped the man and whirled around. A small rectangular box was rolling toward him. “What’s this, security?” Rydell snapped. Annoyed, he raised his foot and stomped downward. In a flash, an arm popped out of the box, grabbed Rydell’s leg and flipped him backwards. Rydell hit the concrete walkway with a thud. He lay there gasping for breath. The man picked himself up off of the ground and walked over to Rydell.

“I wouldn’t recommend trying that again, Number 38.2. You were lucky that time that Fido got you. If the other Suburbians had seen you doing that to me, they would have been much less kind.” Rydell stood up and glared at his host. He decided it was useless to protest the existence of the other Suburbians. His companion was evidently psycho, and he had weapons at his disposal. Not a good situation. Rydell decided to try a less confrontational approach.

“Send me back to my ship, or I will be forced to slowly remove every limb from your body and feed it back to you,” Rydell said calmly. Maybe this guy would respond to logic. The man started laughing.

“You’re very humorous, Number 38.2. I’m sure that you’ll be a wonderful addition to the community.” No luck on that attempt. Rydell decided to try the direct approach.

“Who’s in charge here?”

“That would be telling,” the man replied smiling. Rydell could tell that this guy was enjoying tormenting him. Oh well, keep on trying.

“Why have you brought me here?”

“I don’t know if you realize it, but you have some very valuable information. You’re here so that you can give it to me.” Rydell was starting to get the picture. He’d been kidnapped by somebody like the Romulans or something.

“I refuse to reveal any Federation secrets,” Rydell said as per regulations. Dillon would be happy to see that he was following protocol for once. He just wished that the circumstances were better.

“Why must you Starfleet officers be so stuffy? I’m really not asking all that much. All I want to know is how to build the transference ray.” Rydell shuddered inside. Thankfully, Rydell had no clue about that one. If this lunatic got his hands on it, the results would be horrifying.

“Look, I have no idea how the thing works, much less how to build another one. Okay? Why don’t you just send me home now?”

“Clever, Number 38.2, but I’m afraid I don’t believe you,” the man replied seriously. “You are the captain of a Federation starship.”

“Yeah, so?”

“So you know everything. I’ve seen the press reports about Picard, and I’ve read the history books on James T. Kirk. Only the best get to be starship captains. You have the information I need.”

“I’m telling you, you won’t get it,” Rydell insisted.

“By hook or by crook, I will.”

“Who the hell are you?”

“I am Zero.”

“Yes, you definitely are,” Rydell mumbled.

“Why don’t you just take a stroll and look around the place. I’m sure that you’ll love it.’

“Right. Whatever.” Rydell decided to try logic one more time. “I don’t have the information you need, so why don’t you just send me home? I mean, you can’t keep me here forever.”

“I can, and I will. You are going to be here for the rest of your life, Number 38.2. Just how long that life is depends on you.” Zero turned and walked off toward the domed building leaving Rydell in a stunned silence. This was definitely not what he’d meant when he said he needed a vacation.

Chapter Four

Commander Travis Dillon paced the bridge expectantly. Lieutenant Commander Jaroch and the Secondprize’s security chief, Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins, had been scanning the captain’s ready room for over half an hour looking for anything that could give them some clue as to what happened. The wait was driving him crazy. In all of that time, the most exciting thing that occurred was the change of shifts which meant he now got to look at the backs of Ensigns Larkin and Sullivan’s heads instead of Ford and Porter’s heads.

“Well, Jaroch, what do you think?” Hawkins asked as they completed their scan of the ready room.

“Captain Rydell is not here,” Jaroch replied matter-of-factly.

“No, really? I thought he was just hiding in the toilet! Of course, he’s not here!” Hawkins shouted.

“You asked me what I thought, and my reply is about all I have to say on the subject. Captain Rydell is not here.”

“Fine, where is he?”

“I have no idea, but wherever it is, he was beamed there. I found disturbances in the air molecules of this room which match the effects of a transporter beam. Of course, the disturbance in here was about four million times as powerful, but that is a minor factor.”

“Minor!” Hawkins screamed. “A beam that powerful means he could be almost anywhere!”

“Yes, but I have more important things to worry about.”

“Like what?”

“The temporal disturbances.”

“Jaroch, I’m talking about a man’s life here!”

“And I’m talking about the possible destruction of the universe. The fact that he was beamed out means that Captain Rydell is probably still alive. That may not be the case for very long unless we find the source of these time disturbances and stop them.”

“I refuse to give up on the captain that easily.”

“Fine, you are welcome to use any resource at your disposal in your search, but I seriously doubt that you will find anything.”

“And why is that?” Hawkins asked.

“Because I won’t be helping you,” Jaroch replied as he turned and left the ready room.

“Pompous ass,” Hawkins mumbled.

“He’s been what?”

“Beamed out, sir,” Jaroch said for the fourth time. Dillon seemed to be having a hard time comprehending this.

“Where?” Dillon asked for the fourth time. Jaroch’s patience was at an end.

“I don’t know!” Jaroch shouted. “Why don’t we eject you out the airlock so you can go look for him?!”

“The captain’s disappearance has really upset you, hasn’t it?” Dillon asked. Jaroch resisted the urge to jump forward and pummel Dillon into the carpet.

“I am fine,” he replied slowly. “I just want you to get it through your thick skull that the captain has been beamed off of the ship, and I have no clue where he is. If you ask me again, I will probably kill you.”

“Got it,” Dillon said quickly. “I think I’ll just go sit in my chair now.”

“Good idea, sir,” Jaroch replied. Dillon backed away from the science station and retreated to the command chair. He sat down wondering why Jaroch was in such a bad mood.

“Commander,” Ensign Larkin said, “We’re entering the Lorikel system.”

“Slow to one quarter impulse. Jaroch begin scanning Lorikel for the source of the time thingies.” Dillon had given up trying to say temporal disturbances. He was determined not to look like a fool while in command. “Lieutenant Beck, begin hailing the planet. Larkin, put us into a geosynchronous orbit over the coordinates Jaroch gives you.” Things were going along smoothly. Dillon would find Rydell, wrap up the time thingy problem, and then, who knows, maybe even get a promotion.

Lieutenant Hawkins walked into Transporter Room Three deep in thought. Jaroch’s words had really gotten her angry. She’d show him. She’d find the captain, then Jaroch would be humiliated. Arrogant bastard.

Transporter Chief Monica Vaughn was seated in the corner of the room reading. Hawkins figured it was probably technical journals or something.

“Oh yeah!” Vaughn suddenly shouted. “Consume her with your passion, Bruno!” Okay, maybe it wasn’t a technical manual.

“Monica,” Hawkins said trying to draw Vaughn attention.

“Oh God, I wish I were Darla! Come and get me, Bruno.”

“Monica!” Hawkins shouted.

“What?” Vaughn replied. “Can’t you see I’m busy?!”

“I need your help.”

“The sex doctor is in,” Monica said putting her story down.

“Not with that!” Hawkins shouted. “I need you to help me find the captain.”

“He’s missing?”

“Yes! Where have you been?” Vaughn looked at her guiltily. “Never mind. I don’t want to know. I need you to help me trace a transporter beam.”

“I don’t know that it can be done,” Vaughn replied.

“We’ll do it anyway,” Hawkins said determinedly.

“So much for relaxing,” Vaughn mumbled unhappily. This was probably going to require actual work. She wasn’t ready to do any of that today.

“Commander, the planet is completely barren except for one building,” Jaroch said as he completed his scan of the planet.

“I’ll bet that’s where the time thingies are coming from,” Dillon said.

“Nothing gets past you, sir,” Jaroch said.

“I’ll bet that’s where the time thingies are coming from.”

“Nothing gets past you, sir.”

“Was that a time thingy?” Dillon asked nervously. The whole thing was very strange.

“Yes, sir,” Jaroch replied.

“Larkin, put us in orbit over that building.”

“We’re already there,” Larkin said.

“Good. Any response to our hails. Beck?”

“No, sir,” Beck replied.

“Damn. Jaroch, can you detect any lifeforms?”

“It is hard to tell due to the temporal disturbances, but I believe there is one person down there,” Jaroch said.

“Well, if he won’t talk to us, we’ll have to go to him,” Dillon said as he got out of the command chair. “Jaroch, Sullivan, you’re with me. Beck, you have the conn. Have Commander Baird meet us in the transporter room.” Dillon was pleased with himself. It was the first time he’d ever been able to say that. He, Jaroch, and Ensign Sullivan walked into the turbolift and headed for the transporter room.

Hawkins and Vaughn were busy discussing possible ways of finding Captain Rydell when Commander Baird entered the transporter room. He was cursing to himself about having to go on the away team. Baird hated away teams. He was the chief engineer, which meant that he should be in engineering, not running around on some planet. Well, possibly Dillon had a good reason for bringing him, or maybe Dillon just wanted to have two people in mustard uniforms to balance Dillon and Sullivan’s red ones. Dillon would pull something like that.

Baird went over to the equipment locker and grabbed a phaser and tricorder. Between them and his tool kit, he was pretty weighed down. He hoped they wouldn’t be crossing any rivers because he’d drown real fast. Irritated, Baird stepped up onto the transporter pad to wait. Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan entered a few seconds later. Hawkins and Vaughn stopped talking.

“Lieutenant, you will not find him,” Jaroch said as he prepared to beam down.

“We’ll see,” Hawkins replied. “We’ll see.”

“Your determination is commendable, but I believe that you will fail miserably.”

“Why? The fact that you’re the science officer doesn’t mean that you have to solve everything.”

“I am afraid it does. It’s in my contract,” Jaroch replied smugly.

“I’ll do it anyway!” Hawkins shouted as the away team stepped onto the transporter pad.

“Energize,” Dillon said happy that he’d soon be away from Jaroch and Hawkins’ bickering. As the transporter took him apart molecule by molecule, he could swear that he saw Hawkins stick her tongue out at Jaroch.

The away team rematerialized inside what appeared to be a small living room. The furniture was ripped, and computer disks were stacked on it almost up to the ceiling. On a coffee table in the center of the room sat a year’s worth of dirty dishes. Dillon was sure that Jaroch’s scans must have been mistaken. No one could possibly live like this. Suddenly, he heard a male voice behind him.

“Ah good,” the man said shakily. “Volunteers.”

Chapter Five

Captain Rydell had been wandering around The Suburb for almost an hour searching for some way out. So far, nothing had surfaced except for a few blisters on his feet. To the east there was nothing but water, and there were mountains in every other direction. Of course, even if he did manage to escape, where would he go? He didn’t have a spaceship, and his commbadge wouldn’t be able to contact any ship unless it was in orbit. Frustration was building and building. He wanted to take Zero by the throat and rip out his vocal cords. Then he’d… no that wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He was a Starfleet officer, and he’d deal with this situation like one.

Suddenly, Rydell heard a soft humming noise coming up behind him. He turned and saw Fido approaching. Rydell recalled a book he’d once read: The Captain James T. Kirk Method of Dealing With Alien Cultures. The concept was very simple: destroy any computer in existence. Well, if Rydell couldn’t hurt Zero, Fido would have to do. Rydell cautiously moved toward the small, metallic box and assessed the situation. He couldn’t just attack because Fido would grab his leg and slam him down again. Well maybe… yes! That would work.

Rydell let out a yell and jumped on top of Fido. This very quickly proved to be a bad move. Startled, Fido beeped frantically, then started darted forward. Rydell was dragged along as the robot moved faster and faster. He wanted to find some panel to open and rip out Fido’s circuitry, but he was afraid to move his arms because he’d loose his grip. Fido sped down the streets of The Suburb at an incredibly high rate of speed. Rydell was hanging on for dear life as the droid turned through the twisty roads. Finally, Fido hit a straightaway. Rydell worked up enough courage to open his eyes. Fido was heading straight toward a wall that had a small, Fido-shaped opening in it. Rydell was then faced with a serious decision. He could either hang on and splat horribly into the wall, or he could let go and slide and scrape horribly along the street. Splat or scrape? Rydell’s mind was paralyzed. He couldn’t make a decision. Splat or scrape?


Decision taken care of.

Rydell mashed up against the wall like a cartoon character then slid down to the ground scraping his face along the wall on the way, so he got to do both after all. Battered, broken, and bleeding, Rydell fell into unconsciousness.

In the command center of The Suburb, Zero was laughing hysterically. He’d watched Number 38.2’s trip on Fido with great amusement.

“Zero, something had better be done about him,” Zero’s computer companion said quietly. “He needs medical attention.”

“Yes, you’re right. Have him taken to the hospital. Let me know when he regains consciousness. I think that Number 38.2 needs some friendly advice on how to make his stay here more enjoyable.”

Chapter Six

“Please tell me that was you, Jaroch,” Dillon said as he turned to face the voice he’d heard.

“Sorry, sir. It wasn’t me,” Jaroch said. “The culprit is a humanoid male of approximately seventy-five years of age.” Dillon finished his turn and saw a tall older man standing at the entrance to the room.

“Eighty-four to be precise,” the man said warmly. “Welcome to Lorikel. I’m Derrick Azar.”

“I’m Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Starship Secondprize, a Starfleet vessel representing the United Federation of Planets based on Earth in the Sol system…”

“That’s great, I’m sure,” Azar interrupted. “Come with me.” Azar walked out of the room abruptly.

“Not a very nice guy,” Dillon commented as he started to follow Azar.

“I like him just fine,” Jaroch said.

“Before we go charging after him blindly, do any of you well-trained Starfleet officers have any idea what the hell he meant by volunteers?” Sullivan demanded.

“Not a clue,” Dillon said as he left the room.

“I am curious to find out,” Jaroch added as he followed Dillon.

“Hey, don’t ask me. I’m just following them,” Baird said as he left.

“Great. This exactly why we always get into trouble.”

“It wouldn’t be much of a series if we didn’t,” Jaroch’s voice called back.

“Can I have my contract changed?”

“No! Now come on!” Dillon shouted. Sullivan rolled her eyes and walked out after them.

“This is hopeless,” Lieutenant Vaughn said in frustration as the computer responded with its seventh “unable to calculate” message in the last five minutes.

“There’s got to be a way,” Lieutenant Hawkins insisted. “We have to find out where the captain is.”

“Look, Patricia, we’ve run every test possible and a few more that I made up. I can’t trace this transporter beam. I don’t think it’s possible at all, and even if it was, there are too many variables. Just give it up and wait for Jaroch to get back from this mission. Once they figure out what’s causing the time disturbances, Jaroch will turn his full attention to finding the captain.” Vaughn stood up and started toward the door.

“Go on back to your smutty book then. I’ll find Captain Rydell myself,” Hawkins said angrily. Vaughn came back to her chair and sat down.

“You’re that determined to do this?”

“Yes. I owe that man my career.”

“Well, let’s get to work.”

Azar led Dillon, Jaroch, Sullivan, and Baird into a small, cluttered laboratory. Various pieces of equipment and more dirty dishes littered the tables. In the center of the room was a tall, cylindrical chamber. It had a single door and was otherwise covered in glowing panels.

“Just get into the chamber,” Azar ordered. “I’ll be ready in a moment.” Sullivan had had enough. She was determined to get to the bottom of this.

“Whoa, Dr. Frankenstein. Just what are we getting into here?”

“Oh, this is my time tube,” Azar replied.

“Jaroch,” Dillon exclaimed. “Maybe this is where the time thingies are coming from!” Jaroch just shook his head in disgust as he scanned the chamber with his tricorder.

“Affirmative, sir,” Jaroch said finally. He turned to Azar. “Are you aware that your device has been sending temporal disturbance waves across the sector?”

“Too bad. Get in,” Azar said indifferent to the fact that he’s been disrupting the fabric of the universe. Dillon decided he’d better say something. It would look really bad if he let his subordinates do all of the talking.

“Just what are planning to do once we enter your time tube?” Dillon asked in his best command voice.

“I’m going to send you twenty-five years into the future. Take this,” Azar said as he handed Dillon a small device. “That’s so I can bring you back.”

“COOL!” Dillon shouted excitedly. “I bet I’m an admiral by then. Let’s go guys! I want to meet future me!” He threw open the door of the chamber and climbed inside. Seconds later, he stuck his head back out. “Commander Baird, you’d better stay here and make sure everything goes okay. Jaroch, Sullivan, get in here.” Jaroch checked his tricorder readings some more and with a shrug of acquiescence entered the chamber. Sullivan looked at Baird. Baird looked at Sullivan. They approached each other slowly. The two lovers moved their heads together. Suddenly, Commander Dillon jumped out of the chamber, grabbed Sullivan, dragged her inside, and slammed the door shut.

“I guess they’re ready,” Baird told Azar unenthusiastically.

“Good. Now I’ll just enter the time target, twenty-five point zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero years,” Azar said as he typed. “Then engage!” Azar activated the system. The chamber was engulfed in a greenish glow while a loud hum filled the room. Suddenly, the glow and hum ceased. Baird checked the monitors while Azar opened the chamber.

“They’re gone!” Azar exclaimed happily.

“Lieutenant Beck, there’s a huge temporal disturbance leaving the planet’s surface and heading right toward us,” Ensign Larkin said as she watched the scanners at the bridge science station.

“Transfer all available power to the shields,” Beck ordered as she braced herself in the captain’s chair. “Hold on, everybody.” Suddenly, the ship was rocked. The crew could do nothing as they were gradually made twenty years younger. Larkin disassembled and reformed as a toaster. The entire ship was overrun with children. Then, the process abruptly reversed itself. Beck felt relief as she was returned to her normal age, but then she realized the process wasn’t stopping. She watched in horror as her hands wrinkled. Lieutenant Porter changed into a withered old man and collapsed out of his chair at the helm. Then, just as abruptly, the process reversed itself again. Beck and the rest of the crew were returned to their normal ages. She stood up and let out a sigh of relief.

“Any structural damage, Larkin?”

“No. The ship doesn’t appear to have been affected by the disturbance like we were.”

“Good. Have all departments report. I want to make sure all the people that were regressed back to sperm or aged to dust came back.”

Commander Scott Baird knew that something was wrong; he just couldn’t figure out what it was. He’d looked over the monitors a hundred times. Everything appeared fine, but something was still bothering him. He glanced at the time target screen again. He suddenly realized what was wrong.

“Azar!” he shouted angrily. “You forgot the fucking decimal point!”

“Oh dear. That means I sent them a little farther than I thought. No matter.”

“It does matter! You sent them twenty-five billion years into the future!” Suddenly, a panel at the rear of the chamber exploded. Then, Baird and Azar heard voices from inside of it. The door started to open.

“Who the fuck is that?!” Baird shouted.

“I have no idea,” Azar mumbled fearfully.

“I guess we’re here,” Dillon said as the green glow faded.

“I hope so,” Jaroch said.

“If we’re dead, I’m not going to be pleased,” Sullivan grumbled.

“Let’s get out of here,” Dillon said and slowly opened the door. He could see two figures cowering behind a table across the room. “Mr. Azar?” Dillon heard a feminine voice shout “oh fuck” and the figure stood up. Ensign Sullivan and Commander Baird approached each other in shock.

“YOU’RE A WOMAN!!!!!” they both shouted in unison.

Chapter Seven

Slowly, Captain Alex Rydell drifted back into consciousness to the soft, rhythmic beeping of a medscanner. A wave of relief washed over him. The Secondprize! He had to be back on the Secondprize.

“Dr. Singer?” he called out.

“Guess again,” a familiar male voice said. It was the absolute last voice he wanted to hear. “I’m glad you’re relatively unharmed, Number 38.2. It would be a shame to lose you before you tell us about the transference ray.” Rydell opened his eyes and discovered that he was in a small hospital room…with Zero. Rydell sat up angrily.

“Will you please get a clue?! I don’t know a thing about it!” Rydell shouted.

“Come now, Number 38.2. You don’t really expect me to believe you. I am not that stupid.”

“You sure haven’t convinced me of that yet.”

“I am getting tired of playing games, Number 38.2. You have seen the awesome power of The Suburb. You’ve spoken with the other residents. There is no escape and no way to prevent me from getting what I want.”

“Excuse me,” Rydell said calmly. “Before you go into an ‘I am a god’ speech, I’d just like to say a couple of things. First, you are the craziest bastard I have ever been unfortunate enough to come across, and I would love to kill you right here. Second, there are no other people in this place, so get a life. Third, I refuse to deal with this anymore, so I am leaving. Got it?” Rydell stood up and headed toward the door.

“Stop right there, Number 38.2, or else I’ll send you to the listening room!” Zero shouted ominously. This was the first time Captain Rydell had seen Zero shaken up. He’d been getting to Zero. The Suburb’s first weakness was becoming apparent.

“What’s the listening room?” Rydell asked. He made sure that no emotion showed in his voice. He didn’t want to show fear or that he had any inkling of Zero’s weakness.

“There you will be subjected to the worst torture imaginable: Barry Manilow!” Zero replied and broke into a fit of maniacal laughter.

“Yeah, so?” Rydell asked puzzledly. Zero’s smug look turned to one of shock.


“What’s so bad about Barry Manilow? He’s not my favorite, but I can tolerate him.”

“You are made of stronger stuff than I thought, Number 38.2,” Zero said as he walked toward Rydell. “I do, however, have worse weapons in my arsenal. How about Barbra Streisand?”

“She’s fine.”




“Not bad.”


“I love Carmen.”

“Damn! Gospel! Ha! Got you!”

“I grew up listening to gospel,” Rydell replied. Zero glared at him angrily. The room was completely silent except for the beeping of the medscanner. Suddenly, a mechanical voice interrupted the quiet.

“Zero, report to the control room immediately. We have a problem.”

“I’m on my way,” Zero said. He turned to Rydell with a look of complete detestation. “I will break you, Number 38.2. It’s only a matter of time until I find something, somewhere that will drive you over the edge.”

“I don’t think I’ll be here that long.”

“Don’t count on it. The only way you’re leaving is in a body bag.” Zero stormed out of the room. Rydell could hear him shouting obscenities all the way down the hall. Rydell straightened his uniform and strolled out whistling. Zero had really screwed up, and Captain Rydell was going to exploit that weakness to its full potential. Rydell stepped outside into the beautiful day and smiled for the first time since he’d arrived in The Suburb.

“What’s the problem?!” Zero demanded testily as he charged into the control center.

“There is a small vessel approaching the planet,” the computer replied.

“On screen,” Zero ordered. The blank whiteness of the viewer was replaced by a starscape. In the center was a small transport ship. “How many on board?”

“Just one. The ship appears to have been heavily modified. Its engine configuration is far more powerful that most vessels of this class. I estimate it is capable of warp 8.5.”

“Impressive. The pilot must be carrying something very valuable if he needs to be able to go that fast. Bring it down!” Without another word, the computer activated a long dormant phaser cannon located within the dome of the control center building.

Captain Rydell was rocked out of his musings on what to do to Zero by the sound of phaser fire. He turned and saw a huge beam lancing out of the domed control building. He followed the beam with his eyes waiting to see any sign of what they were shooting at. Seconds later, he spotted a small black shape in the sky, and it was getting closer. Soon, he could make out the outline of a ship. Its course would send it crashing into the mountains just to the north of The Suburb. Rydell took off running.

“The ship is about to crash, Zero.”

“That would not be good. We don’t want the cargo damaged now do we? Lock a tractor beam onto it and bring it in gently. The phasers did enough damage to the engines that the ship won’t be going anywhere. Send out Fido to retrieve the pilot.” He turned back to the viewscreen to watch the ship’s approach. “It appears that Number 38.2 will have a new friend soon.”

Captain Rydell reached the outskirts of The Suburb and started looking around apprehensively. He hoped that Zero was too busy dealing with the crashing ship to notice that he was heading toward the crash site. This new development may be just what he needed to get off of this rock and back to the Secondprize. Finally satisfied that he hadn’t been noticed, Captain Rydell headed off into the mountains.

After ten minutes, he reached the crashed ship. Actually, it wasn’t much of a crash. The ship was still pretty much intact, but the engine assembly was a mess. Rydell climbed up onto the ship and over to the entry hatch. Just as he was leaning down to listen against the metal for any sounds of life, the hatch swung open violently and smashed into him. Rydell went flying backwards off the ship and landed on his back on the ground with a thud. He lay on the ground dazed as the pilot climbed out of the ship and looked down at Rydell.

“Oh shit!” she said. “This is just what I needed: Starfleet.”

“I’m thrilled to meet you too,” Rydell said as he picked himself up. “I’m Captain Alexander Rydell of the Starship Secondprize. I’m a prisoner on this planet, and now so are you. I need to use your ship so that we can get out of here.” The pilot jumped off of her ship in front of Rydell and pulled out an antiquated phaser pistol.

“I’m not a prisoner anywhere, got it, and you people are way out of line shooting me down like that. I’m a Federation citizen, and I know what the constitution says. You Starfleet assholes just can’t go around blasting people out of space,” she replied hostily. This was not going to be as easy as Rydell thought.

“Did you listen to a word I said? I didn’t shoot you down!” Rydell shouted.

“Then who did?!”

“This guy named Zero. He calls this place…”

“Zero! You really expect me to believe that?!”

“Just calm down and tell me who you are,” Rydell said softly.

“Karina Durham. I’m an independent cargo transporter,” she replied. Rydell glanced at what was left of the ship’s engines.

“A smuggler,” Rydell said.

“Hey, don’t give me that. If you’re trapped here, you can’t do a damn thing and you know it.”

“I’m not going to arrest you.”

“Fine. As long as that’s clear.”

“Wait. You know where we are!” Rydell exclaimed. “What planet is this?”

“It’s a moon of Hujinor Two.”

“Hujinor? This whole system is lifeless. At least I thought it was.”

“I did too. I was passing through on my way to…none of your damn business. My sensors picked up tech that I wasn’t expecting, so I dropped out of warp to take a look.”

“To see if it was anything you could sell,” Rydell said.

“Scientific curiosity. I’d made it into the moon’s gravity well when they blasted me, so here I am.”

“And I am so glad about that. I’m telling you this place is…”

Suddenly, they heard a rustling in the bushes. “What is that?” Karina asked anxiously. A small box rolled into the crash site.

“That would be Fido,” Rydell replied glumly.

“I take it that this is not good.”

“No, it isn’t. That thing is part of what’s holding me prisoner.”

“That box?” Karina replied almost laughing. “What’s the problem with it?” She raised her phaser and fired. The beam was deflected harmlessly away from Fido by a force field.

“That’s the problem.”

“Oh.” Karina replied just before two stun blasts from Fido rendered them both unconscious.

Chapter Eight

“Jaroch, please, please tell me that you have an explanation for this,” Dillon said gaping at the now female Commander Baird and Dr. Azar. Sullivan and Baird were still staring at each other in a state of shock.

“Not a clue, sir,” Jaroch replied as he scanned the room with his tricorder.

“I was afraid of that.”

“This is going to take me days to fix,” Dr. Azar moaned as she examined what was left of the exploded panel.

“I really don’t care,” Dillon snapped at Azar. “My chief engineer is now a woman! And so are you!” Suddenly, the light dawned on Commander Dillon. “Has everyone been switched?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?!” Commander Sarah Baird shouted. “You’re the only ones that have been switched!”

“Commander Dillon,” Jaroch interrupted. “May I suggest that we return to the Secondprize so that I may use the ship’s computers to ascertain what has happened to us?”

“Good idea,” Dillon said. He tapped his commbadge. “Dillon to Secondprize.”

“Yeah right,” an unfamiliar male voice replied. “Dillon has a much sexier voice than you do.”

“That would most likely be Lieutenant Vaughn,” Jaroch said. “It would appear that although the crew’s genders have been switched, they still have the same personality characteristics.”

“Lieutenant Vaughn, beam us up immediately,” Dillon ordered.

“Not a chance in hell. Dillon’s a woman, and you definitely are not.”

“Wait a second,” Dillon said to Jaroch. “In this reality, wherever it is…”

“You’re a woman, sir,” Jaroch finished.

“But how could I be a man? I’ve always been a woman and always will be,” Commander Tracey Dillon insisted to Lieutenant Commander Jarona. Commander Scott Baird was still recovering from seeing a male version of his girlfriend.

“I’m sorry, but that appears to be the way things are here,” Jarona replied.

“Vaughn, I’m telling you that I’m Commander Dillon.” Tracey turned to Baird. “Sarah…I mean…what’s your name?”

“Scott,” Baird replied.

“Scott, got it. Tell her that I’m Dillon.”

“Monica, believe it or not, she’s telling the truth,” Scott said.

“What about the others?” Vaughn asked.

“Jaroch’s a woman and…”

“Oh God, I’m sorry.”

“…Emily’s a man,” Baird finished.

“I’m energizing now,” Vaughn said. Tracey felt a wave of relief as the transporter beam took her back to the Secondprize. Soon, she’d be back on her nice safe ship, and everything would be taken care of.

“You weren’t kidding,” Lieutenant Michael Vaughn said in shock as the away team stepped down from the transporter platform. “Trust me, this isn’t a joke,” Commander Sarah Baird replied solemnly as she led Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan from the transporter room. Throughout the ship, Dillon saw the familiar faces of his crew, but there was one major difference, everyone was the exact opposite gender they were when he saw them last. The crew was looking at them strangely. Dillon couldn’t blame them considering he was looking at them the same way. At least the ship was the same.

Baird led them to sickbay in order to have Dr. Singer check out the away team just to make sure they really were who they said they were. Dr. Richard Singer looked up from a readout he was studying as the group entered.

“What the hell happened to them?! They go away on one away mission and what happens… they get their genders switched! I keep telling them to be careful, but they never listen to me! If only people would listen, I wouldn’t have to clean up these messes!”

“It would appear that Dr. Singer still has a tendency to overreact,” Jaroch whispered to Dillon.

“At least this one doesn’t cry constantly,” Sullivan muttered. Singer quickly wiped a tear away from his eye.

“Who does that?” Singer said.

“Just check them out, Doc, and see if they are who they look like,” Baird ordered. “I need to know if this is a fucked as it looks.” Singer ran his medscanner over Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan and waited for the results.

“The D.N.A. is definitely theirs. The only difference is the obvious one in the X and Y chromosomes. It’s them all right,” Singer said finally. Baird knew what she had to do. She was a Starfleet officer and knew the hazards of the job. One of the dangers of forming relationships on a starship was the chance that something could happen to your partner. She knew that, but nothing could have prepared her for this. The man she was in love with was now a woman. Awkward didn’t begin to describe it. Was Sullivan going to be this way forever? Would she still want a relationship? Baird wasn’t sure she was up for that. She liked Sullivan as a man. For now, she would just do her duty, give Dillon command of the ship, and hope like hell that Jaroch could figure out what happened and what to do about it.

“Thanks, Doc. That’s all I needed to know,” Baird said. She turned to Dillon. “I’ll take you to the bridge now, Commander. Sorry for the inconvenience, sir.” She led them out of the room. Overwhelmed by the absurdity of it all, Dr. Singer collapsed into a fit of hysterical laughter.

“You’re relieved, Beck,” Dillon said as he exited the turbolift onto the bridge and moved toward the center seat. Lieutenant Larry Beck looked at Commander Baird questioningly.

“It’s all right, Lieutenant,” Baird said. “Give Commander Dillon the bridge.”

“I stand relieved,” Beck mumbled confused. Dillon sat down in the command chair happily. He was back where he belonged.

“Jaroch, I want some kind of explanation as soon as possible,” Dillon ordered. “Ship’s status, Beck?”

“We were hit by a major temporal disturbance that caused some minor disorientation among the crew, but there was no damage to the ship,” Beck replied.

“Good. Hail the surface. I need to talk to Dr. Azar now.”

“Channel open,” Beck said.

“Dr. Azar, this is Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Secondprize.”

“What do you want now?” Azar’s voice replied. “I’m very busy.”

“How long until the time tube is fixed?”

“At least four days,” Azar replied. “I don’t see why you care, though. It only swapped your genders, so it evidently doesn’t work.” Dillon was about to respond when Jaroch broke into the conversation.

“Yes, it does,” Jaroch said. “It works almost too well.”

“What?!” Dillon and Azar stammered.

“I would suggest that you come aboard, Dr Azar, so that we can discuss this,” Jaroch said.

“Fine. Beam me up.”

“We’ll meet in the conference room in five minutes,” Dillon said regaining control of the conversation. “Secondprize out.” He was proud of himself. Despite the stressful circumstances, his command abilities had been unimpaired. He could throw around official sounding orders with the best of them. Even better, Jaroch had evidently figured the whole mess out and would put everything back the way it was. Dillon stood up and strolled confidently into the conference room.

“O.K. Jaroch, what’s the story,” Dillon said once he, Jaroch, Sullivan, Baird, and Dr. Azar were all there.

“Well, to put it simply, we have been sent twenty-five billion years into the future.”

Azar and Baird looked at each other.

“Oh yeah. I forgot about that,” Baird muttered.

“You mean you knew!” Dillon shouted.

“Hey, it slipped my mind,” Baird replied.

“Anyway,” Jaroch continued. “It appears that we have jumped universes.”

“Whoa, slow down,” Dillon said. “We did what?”

“I’ll start at the beginning. Everyone knows that the universe began at the Big Bang in which an incredibly dense ball made up of the matter which is now the universe exploded. Also, we now know that the universe will end when this process is reversed, and the matter contracts in the Big Crunch. This crunch will take place approximately twenty-five billion years after the big bang. Apparently, this explosion and contraction process has occurred several times, meaning there have been many universes each with a life span of about twenty-five billion years. Based on our experience, these universes have all been relatively the same, so that the events that occur in one universe reoccur in the next.”

“You mean that there are others of us from a previous universe on our Secondprize, and they’re having this same conversation right now?” Sullivan asked.

“Yes,” Jaroch replied. “But they are presumably the opposite gender from us.”

“Why?” Dillon asked. That part was really confusing him.

“Although each universe is about the same as the previous one, it is not exactly the same. There are minor differences such as the gender swapping,” Jaroch explained.

“This is awful,” Dillon moaned.

“Now for the bad news,” Jaroch said.

“Oh fuck,” Baird mumbled.

“You mean this gets worse?” Sullivan asked.

“Yes. Since the three of us from each universe have all jumped forward a universe, we have created a huge time paradox as well as a huge rip in the fabric of time, which will destroy all of the universes in about forty-eight hours,” Jaroch said.

“Oh, is that all?” Sullivan replied sarcastically.

“If we all jumped forward, why was the paradoohicky created?” Dillon asked whining.

“All of the forward time jumping is fine in every universe except for the first and last ones. In the first universe, there was no one to jump in and take our places, and in the last one, there was no place for us to jump to. This created the paradox. As it is, the last universe is going to be destroyed anyway since there is no where for us to return from, but we can save the other universes if we can find a way to get back to our universe in forty-eight hours. After that, they’re all going to explode and the three of us will have caused the end of all life in every universe. Unfortunately, I have no idea what to do about it.”

“Oh boy,” Dillon said softly.

“Well, Commander, what are we going to do?” Sullivan inquired. Dillon’s mind raced. He had no idea. This wasn’t in any of his courses at the academy. Finally, he had a revelation.

“We’re going to find the captain and fast,” Dillon said.

Chapter Nine

Captain Rydell was jolted awake by the sound of shouting. He tried to sit up in the bed he was on, but discovered very quickly that he was strapped down. Looking around, he realized he was back in the hospital.

“I’m telling you I wasn’t carrying any cargo!” Karina’s voice shouted from the next room. “I’m between jobs!”

“You are lying, Number 41.7, and you know it. If you do not give me the information I require, I will take it from you by force,” Zero replied angrily. Rydell struggled against the restraints, but was unable to do anything.

“You are one crazy bastard,” Karina shouted.

“So I’ve heard,” Zero retorted. “I’ll give you some time to think over your options, then I’ll return for your answer. If you refuse, I’ll sick Fido on you. In the meantime, Fido has an appointment with Number 38.2. Maybe his death will help your decision.”

“But he’s Starfleet!” Karina insisted. “You can’t just kill Starfleet officers! I don’t like them either, but killing them gets you into a heap of trouble!”

“I’ve tired of dealing with him, Number 41.7,” Zero said. “He has refused to give me what I want, and now he will die. Good day, madam.” Rydell heard Zero walk out into the hall and a door shut.

“Sick him, Fido!” Zero ordered. Rydell heard the hum of Fido’s motor. Suddenly, the small droid entered the room through a pet door at the bottom of the real door. A huge set of steel metal teeth then emerged from inside the robot and started chomping. Rydell could hear Karina screaming to be released in the next room, but he had slightly more important things to worry about.

As Fido reached the end of the bed, a set of spider-like legs emerged from him and he walked straight up the side of it. It looked like a huge spider with jaws from hell as it walked onto the top of the bed. The jaws started to move toward Rydell’s left foot. Rydell used what little slack he had in the restraints to jerk his foot over and kick Fido. The robot staggered slightly then headed toward Rydell’s right foot. He repeated kicking Fido in hopes that he could knock the robot onto the floor. He had no such luck, but Fido did stop going after his feet. Unfortunately, Fido instead walked forward toward Rydell’s middle. Rydell realized fearfully what Fido’s next target was. He had to do something quickly. Rydell struggled frantically, but couldn’t break loose. Fido got closer. Rydell relaxed and braced his hands against the bed. Fido got in position. His jaws darted forward. At the last second, Rydell pushed backwards with his hands sending him up the bed just enough that Fido missed his target. The robot’s jaws managed to rip out the crotch of Rydell’s uniform, but otherwise clanged together harmlessly. Fido turned and headed towards Rydell’s left hand. Captain Rydell decided now was the time to get out of there. He used all of the slack he had in the restraints to push his hand as far to the edge of the bed as possible. Just as Fido’s jaws launched forward, Rydell pulled his hand to the right, so Fido hit the restraint instead. The steel teeth ripped right through the tough cloth of the restraints freeing Rydell’s hand. Fido then headed toward Rydell’s right hand where the captain repeated the process. With both of his hands free, Rydell grabbed Fido and threw him against the wall. Fido obviously hadn’t been designed to deal with that kind of attack because the robot smashed into a million pieces, much like the transference ray that Zero was so interested in had only days earlier.

Rydell finished freeing himself and ran to the door. It was locked. Rydell kicked at it in frustration, but his foot went straight through the pet door. That appeared to be the only way out. Rydell got down on the ground and squirmed through the small opening. He emerged in the hallway and quickly found the door to the room where Karina was being held. Not surprisingly, it was locked also. He crawled through her pet door and into the room, where he found that Karina was also strapped down to a bed awaiting Zero’s return.

“The crotchless uniform is a nice touch, Rydell,” she commented. “I question your timing, though. Escape first. THEN seduction.”

“I’ll keep that in mind next time we’re captured by a madman, Karina. We’ve got to get to your ship,” Rydell said as he began to free Karina.

“Why?” Karina asked. “It can’t get us out of here. The engines have been blasted to hell.”

“It doesn’t have to. As long as your transmitter still works, we’ll be fine. I just have to contact the Secondprize.” He finished untying her and headed toward the door.

Rydell and Karina crawled out through the pet door and ran out of the hospital toward the mountains. Fifteen minutes later, they arrived at the wreck of Karina’s ship. The two scrambled inside and started to work. Rydell was relieved to find the subspace transmitter intact as well as most of the engine power boosters.

“This thing doesn’t have a lot of range. Unless your ship is within the next couple systems, you aren’t going to contact it,” Karina said pessimistically.

“Not a problem,” Rydell replied. “I’m running your subspace transmitter through your engine power boosters. I’ve sent the message, and if they’re anywhere within three sectors, they’ll get it. I just hope that they’re listening.”

“What do you mean?”

“If they’re more than a sector out, the message will be pretty faint when they receive it. They’ll have to have tuned the subspace transceivers in this direction and boosted their sensitivity to even detect it.”

“Great. Well, pretending that they do detect it, what do we do until they get here?”

“Give me a minute,” Rydell replied. He glanced around at the interior of the ship. It only had a flight deck, a small living space, and an even smaller engineering section. The engineering section was a wreck. Debris and electronics parts were scattered everywhere. He grabbed a few bits and pieces and returned to the bridge. “Where do you keep your tools?” he asked insistently. Karina opened a panel in the floor and pulled out a small box. Rydell took the box and started to work.

“What are you going to do?” Karina asked.

“Go and see Zero.”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“I’m going to give him exactly what he wanted,” Rydell replied holding up the device he’d just built.

Chapter Ten

Commander Tracey Dillon sat in Seven Backward feeling helpless. She’d already ordered Jarona to find the captain, and there was nothing else to do but wait. She’d been trying to get used to the sound of the new names. Alex Rydell instead of Alexis. That was really strange. She didn’t even notice the sound of the lounge doors opening and closing.

Lieutenant Sean Russell entered Seven Backward looking for one thing: a date. He figured if the universe was about to end, he’d go out in style. His eyes locked on the woman at the bar. She was about five foot nine with long legs and shoulder length brown hair. He couldn’t see her face, but he was willing to take a risk. Russell strolled over to the bar and sat down on the stool next to her. He didn’t notice Trinian breaking into fits of stifled laughter in the corner.

“Excuse me, but I want to be with you for the rest of my life,” he whispered softly. Dillon turned around angrily.

“Just what the hell do you think you’re doing, Russell?” Dillon asked. Russell fell off of the stool in shock.

“Cccommander!” he stammered as he picked himself up off of the floor. “I’m sorry, sir…I mean ma’am…I mean…I didn’t know it was you…I mean…you looked like a woman.”

“I am a woman!” Dillon shouted. Russell left Seven Backward running. Dillon turned back to her drink and started laughing. The whole situation was completely nuts.

“Hawkins to Dillon,” her commbadge suddenly barked.

“Dillon here,” she replied as she tapped the badge.

“I’m with Lieutenant Vaughn in Astrophysics Lab Two. We think we’ve found something you’d better see,” Hawkins replied.

“What is it?”

“We think we’ve found Captain Rydell.”

“I’m on my way,” Dillon said. “Dillon to Jarona.”

“Jarona here.”

“Meet me in Astrophysics Lab Two immediately.” Dillon got up and left Seven Backward at a jog.

“What have you got, Hawkins?” Dillon asked anxiously as she charged into the astrophysics lab a few minutes later. Jarona was right behind her. Hawkins looked at Jarona smugly. She knew that Jarona wasn’t the actual one she’d made the bet with, but Hawkins also knew that Jarona had likely made the same bet in the previous universe, so the victory was just as sweet.

“Lieutenant Vaughn and I have been using the sensors in coordination with the transporters to track down where the beam originated that took Captain Rydell. We weren’t able to pin down the precise coordinates, but based on the general direction and the energy of the beam, we were able to get a good idea,” Hawkins explained.

“After that,” Vaughn continued, “we increased the sensitivity of sensors and subspace transceivers on that side of the Secondprize in hopes that Captain Rydell would find some way to contact us. Thirty minutes ago, we received this message…” Vaughn hit a button on the panel in front of her. The speakers in the room began to make a loud crackling noise.

“Ry… to… condprize… get me the hell out… here…two…zero…king psychopath… suburb… come quick… Rydell out.” Vaughn deactivated the player.

“We spent the last few minutes triangulating the origin of the signal and we found the source,” Hawkins said. “It’s a moon of Hujinor Two. The planet itself is a lifeless wasteland, but the moon is capable of supporting life.”

“Are you sure about this?” Dillon asked.

“As sure as we can be,” Vaughn replied.

“Dillon to bridge,”

“Beck here.”

“Lay in a course to Hujinor II, warp 9.6, Lieutenant.”

“Course plotted and laid in.”

“Thank you. Engage as soon as you hear from Commander Baird. Dillon to Baird.”

“Baird here.”

“I need you to keep us at warp 9.6 for as long as possible. We’ve found the captain.”

“Fuck! I’ll give you 9.8!”

“Good. Tell the bridge when you’re ready, Dillon out.”

“Commander, I don’t know if this is wise,” Jarona said.

“Oh, get off it,” Hawkins retorted. “You’re just mad because we found him when you said we’d never be able to.”

“You did a great job,” Dillon said. “Now all we have to do is hope that Captain Rydell can get us out of this before the whole universe destroys itself.

“Are you sure about this, Rydell?” Karina asked as they stood at the entrance to the domed control center.

“Trust me. This will keep him plenty busy until the Secondprize arrives,” Captain Rydell replied.

“If they arrive.”

“Are you always this cheerful?” Rydell asked. She just glared at him. “Okay. Not a problem.” He reached forward and rang the door chime. The door opened automatically revealing a small, well-furnished living room. On the other side of the room, a set of double doors swung open to reveal a vast computer center. The place was completely devoid of life except for Zero. He was seated in a throne-like rotating chair in the center of the room. The place was like a starship bridge designed for an ego-maniac. A description that Rydell felt was very fitting.

Zero first looked smug as Karina entered the room. That look turned to shock when Rydell entered.

“You’re supposed to be dead!” Zero shouted jumping out of his chair.

“Fido took some obedience lessons,” Rydell replied. “I’ve come to make a deal with you.”

“A deal? Why should I make a deal with you when I could kill you at any time?” Zero asked.

“Because you can’t kill me at any time, and you know it,” Rydell said as he walked up to Zero. “I’m willing to give you the cargo of this woman’s vessel in return for you giving us transportation off of the planet.”

“I didn’t find any cargo.”

“You just didn’t know where to look. This woman is a fugitive from the Federation, and I intend to take her to the nearest starbase for trial. I’m willing to let you keep the cargo as salvage in return for letting me bring her to justice.”

“And just why is seeing her suffer under Federation justice so important to you?” Zero asked. “And what’s so valuable about her cargo that I’d want it?”

“Come on, Zero. I heard you questioning her. You know as well as I do that this is the key component to the transference ray. The reason I want to bring her to the Federation is that she stole it from us and sold most of it to the Ferengi. You well know that soon the technology will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, without the key component, it is useless to them just as the key component is useless to us without the other parts. I’m willing to give it to you because I know it will be safe in your powerful hands. Surely you could figure out how to construct the other parts. It’s a perfect trade. You get what you want, and I get what I want.”

“Yes, of course,” Zero replied obviously trying to cover up for the fact that he didn’t know what Karina’s cargo was. “I think we should be able to come to an agreement here, Number 38.2. Give me the device and as soon as I check it over, I’ll get you on your way.” Rydell tried not to let his nervousness show as he handed the device to Zero. Zero took it over to a scanner on the other side of the room.

“Computer, give me the purpose of this device,” Zero ordered. The computer probed the device and started to analyze its findings.

“This device has no purpose,” the computer said emotionlessly a minute later. Zero glared at Rydell angrily.

“It only appears that way because the other parts of the transference ray aren’t there,” Rydell insisted. Karina started backing toward the door. She had the distinct feeling that things were going to get very ugly very soon. She never should have trusted this Starfleet officer’s plan.

“Zero, this device is nothing more than a few tubes and a broken computer processor welded together,” the computer insisted. Zero picked up a phaser from a table on the other side of the room.

“You played your last game with me, Number 38.2,” Zero said as he aimed at Captain Rydell.

“Zero, a Federation starship has just entered orbit above us,” the computer announced.

“Raise the defense screens!” Zero shouted. He was a little too late. Three figures appeared on the other side of the room.

“Hold it right there,” Commander Tracey Dillon ordered as she leveled her phaser at Zero. “Are you all right, Captain?”

“I’m fine… but what about you?” Rydell asked in shock. This person was unmistakably his first officer, but she was a she.

“It’s a long story, sir. I’ll tell it to you as soon as we get you out of here,” Dillon replied. “Lieutenant Hawkins, take that man under arrest.”

“Don’t even try it!” Zero shouted. “You don’t have the backing of your starship now. I’ve raised the defense screens, so no one is beaming in or out of here. Drop your weapons and accept that you are now just three more of the many citizens of The Suburb.”

“What’s he talking about?” Dillon asked Rydell. “There’s nobody else on this moon”

“Yes there is!” Zero screamed. “There is! There is! There is!” Rydell noticed the female version of Jaroch’s eyes start to glaze over. Rydell backed up toward the wall. He wanted to be out of the way when J’Ter emerged and wiped the floor with Zero.

“Like…Oh my God,” Jarona/J’Tara said in a valley girl voice. “I like don’t believe this is happening.”

“Sorry, sir,” Dillon said. “J’Tara is not really useful.”

“No kidding,” Rydell said in disbelief. “I guess another course of action is in order.”

“What would that be, sir?” Dillon asked.

“As Scott Baird would say ‘Fuck it’,” Rydell replied. “Give me your phaser.” Dillon handed Rydell the weapon, which the captain immediately used to blast every computer console in the place. “That should take care of the shields.” Zero collapsed to the floor crying. “Hawkins, grab him, and let’s get out of here.”

“Hey, what about me?” Karina demanded.

“You’re coming with us, I thought,” Rydell replied. “We’ll drop you off at the nearest spaceport, so you can get back to your cargo transport career.” Karina smiled.

“Very kind of you, Rydell,” she said.

“Not a problem. Rydell to Secondprize, six to beam up.” The team beamed out leaving behind only the deserted town that once was The Suburb. Chapter Eleven

Captain Alexis Rydell leaned back in her desk chair and looked around her ready room. It was definitely good to be back. Of course, she wouldn’t be there much longer if she didn’t find a way to get Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan back to their proper universe in the next twenty hours. Jaroch had tried to explain the whole thing as simply as possible, but still the whole idea of another universe with Dillon and Jaroch as men and Sullivan as a woman was just too bizarre to be believed. Rydell didn’t really have time to contemplate such things. At that moment, the Secondprize was speeding back to Lorikel, and when they arrived, Rydell had to have a plan ready. Unfortunately, she was stumped.

“Dillon to Rydell.”

“What is it?” Rydell replied. She just couldn’t get used to Dillon having a male voice.

“We’re entering the Lorikel system now, Captain. We should be in orbit in ten minutes.”

“Fine. Have your team assembled in Transporter Room Three. I’ll join you shortly.” Rydell stood up and took another look at her ready room. She’d either save the universe and be back here very soon, or she’d be at ground zero when the whole thing exploded. She liked the first option a lot better.

“Look, I’m telling you that it can’t be fixed that soon. I need more time,” Azar insisted.

“There isn’t anymore,” Jaroch replied. “Nineteen and a half hours from now the universe will end if we don’t get out of here.”

“I know that,” Azar said. “I just don’t think the panel that blew out can be repaired that quickly.”

“Well, with you, Commander Baird, and myself working together, we might have a chance. Just tell us what we have to do.” Azar led Jaroch and Baird over to a work table, and the three of them started spouting technobabble that Captain Rydell, Commander Dillon, and Ensign Sullivan had no hope of understanding. There was nothing that the three of them could do so they sat down on the other side of the room. They waited and waited. Ten hours and very little progress later, despite their anxiety about the crisis, exhaustion from the events of the last few days overcame them, and they fell asleep.

“That doesn’t go there!” Azar screamed jolting Rydell, Dillon, and Sullivan out of their dreams. Rydell jumped up in a panic.

“How much time do we have left?!” she demanded.

“One hour,” Jaroch replied solemnly.

“We were asleep for eight hours!!!” Rydell shouted. “Why the hell didn’t you wake us up?!”

“We didn’t want to disturb you,” Jaroch said. “There was nothing much happening anyway.”

“You haven’t been able to fix it?”

“It’s fucked,” Baird said.

“Why don’t you just bypass the panel and connect the wires directly?” Sullivan mumbled sleepily from her spot on the floor.

“What did you say?” Rydell asked.

“Just bypass the panel and reconnect the wires in the time tube.”

“That could work,” Azar said. “Actually, it would work. This panel only keeps track of the power flowing to the tube anyway. It’s not that important.”

“It’s not fucking important!” Baird shouted angrily. “I’ve been messing with this fucking thing for hours, and it’s not important!”

“Sorry,” Azar mumbled. Jaroch dropped the tool he was working with in shock. This was incredible and horrifying. Two defeats in two days. First, Hawkins finds Captain Rydell and now this. What was the universe coming to? He slowly walked over to the time tube and checked the interior wires. Without a word, he reached in with a wire splicer and connected the wires as Sullivan had suggested.

“It’s ready,” he said.

“Don’t take it so hard, Jaroch,” Rydell said reassuringly. “Everyone has an off day.” Somehow, Jaroch didn’t find that very comforting. He silently entered the time tube. Rydell turned to Dillon. “Well, Commander, it’s definitely been an experience. Good luck.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Dillon replied as he entered the tube. Sullivan shot Commander Baird a quick look. She was going to be very glad to see her as a him again, but Sullivan was always going to remember this. She hoped it didn’t affect their relationship any. Of course, Scott was at this moment having to deal with a male version of her, so maybe since they’d both had the experience, things would work out fine between them. As she entered the time tube, she caught the look in Commander Sarah Baird’s eyes and realized that she was thinking the same thing. She just wanted her male Ensign Sullivan back. Sullivan shut the chamber door behind herself and hoped for the best.

“Turn it on, Dr. Azar,” Rydell ordered.

“Let me just make a final check. The appropriate target time has been set. All panels read nominal. All right, here we go.” Azar activated the time tube. The chamber was engulfed in the normal greenish glow, and Dillon, Jaroch, and Sullivan were gone.

“Captain’s log, Stardate 49822.3. Commander Dillon, Lieutenant Commander Jaroch, and Ensign Sullivan have returned to us safely. Jaroch’s scans have revealed that the temporal distortions have stopped and the universe is in no danger of destroying itself at the moment. I personally find this very comforting since I’m not ready to cash in my chips just yet. Due to her performance over that last couple of days, Emily Sullivan is as of this stardate officially promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. I feel that she will continue her spectacular performance at this new rank. Actually, I have no doubt that one day she’ll be Captain Sullivan. The Secondprize is now in orbit over Starbase Sixty-eight, and we have turned Zero over to Federation authorities. I hope that he can be rehabilitated. In spite of being a little crazy and power-hungry, he built a really nice place on that moon. Nice views. Interesting architecture. Now that Fido the Murder Bot it gone, it’d be a decent place to spend some time. I have looked into the possibility of purchasing The Suburb in order to turn it into a resort. Once Zero gets out of prison, maybe I’ll offer him a job.”

Captain Rydell walked into Seven Backward looking for someone. She was seated at a table by one of the huge windows that looked out into the vastness of space.

“Mind if I sit down?” Rydell asked.

“Please do,” Karina replied. “You have a very nice ship, Captain.”

“It has its perks, but I’m sure yours did too.”

“Yes, but I’ll be getting a new one soon. In fact, I just came in here for a quick drink before I head down to the starbase to start looking.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll be back in business very soon,” Rydell replied.

“You aren’t about to give me a speech about ‘the dangers of breaking Federation law’ are you?”

“No. I wish you the best of luck. I hope we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

“Not a problem,” Karina said smiling.

Across the room, Ensign Kristen Larkin sat at the bar talking to Trinian. The doors opened allowing Commander Baird and Lieutenant Sullivan to enter hand in hand. They sat down at a table near the window. They gazed at the stars, then each other, then they kissed.

“Are you not going to say ‘there they go again’?” Larkin asked Trinian puzzledly.

“No,” Trinian replied “They deserve it. They definitely deserve it.”

Tags: Original