Author: Brendan Chris
The Princess, the Pauper and the Dragon
“Are we there yet?” Lieutenant Jall asked, hunched miserably over his horse. Well, almost a horse. A horse with six legs and a tail that looked more like a corkscrew, but still. A rose by any other name and all that.
“No we are not,” T’Parief replied.
There was silence for a few moments as the trio rode around another bend in the twisted forest path they were following.
“Are we there yet now?” Jall asked again.
“No!” Wowryk snapped, rummaging around her med-kit for more cough drops.
They trotted down the path for several more minutes, heavy branches covered in thick, wet leaves slapping against them, lightening flashing through the tree canopy, the rumble of thunder crashing through the forest.
“When will we get there?” Jall asked, trying to shake the water from his head as the rain pounded down on them.
“The question is not ‘When will we get there?’,” T’Parief grumbled angrily, “But which of us will still be alive when we get there,”
“But it’s wet and I’m cold!” Jall whined.
T’Parief had shed his survival jacket again and was letting the heavy rain pour against his bare upper body. He found it invigorating; rinsing the dust from his scales, keeping his flesh cool and moist. No matter how many scale oils or lotions Yanick had found for him, he’d always found that the atmosphere on Silverado left his scaly hide uncomfortably dry, to the point where he seriously wondered whether or not his species was capable of shedding its skin. Of course, since his species was artificially created it would just be a matter of calling up his dear old dad and asking.
Better to just see if Jall could shed his skin. And live.
They’d been traveling non-stop for days. There’d been no sign of pursuit from Lord Dyer or any of his minions…probably because there wasn’t really any way for the evil lord to know in just what direction they were fleeing. Ahh, the joy of medieval forensics: grab some poor sod who looked guilty and toss him in the slammer. Tracking fugitives really wasn’t much of an art. Or science.
That didn’t mean they were off the hook. From what the tricorder could tell them, the wreckage of Silverado had come down somewhere in the Central Sea. The ship’s emergency distress beacon was still broadcasting, but they had no idea how much of the ship was actually near the beacon, how much had burnt up in the atmosphere and how much had broken off and crashed on other parts of the planet.
Still, the beacon was something. If they could get to it, they could use it to call for help through the thick layer of temporal interference blanketing the planet.
As the first hailstones started to fall, Jall started coughing miserably.
Wowryk sighed, then winced as the tiny hailstones started hitting her.
“T’Parief, perhaps it is time to make camp,” she suggested.
“You make camp,” he replied, hopping off his horse and shedding his survival packs, “I will find us something to eat,”
With that, he ran off into the trees, tail outstretched and head low.
They dragged the packs and the horses deeper into the woods to avoid catching the attention of anybody else coming up the path.
“You ever get the feeling,” Jall asked, rubbing his nose and sniffling, “That he’s getting a little tired of hanging out with us?”
Wowryk looked at him for a moment, then started pulling out the tent.
“I guess he’s just being his usual, moody self,” Jall went on, “Not like he ever smiles or anything, oh no,”
“Jall,” Wowryk said, “We are colleagues. We are fellow survivors. Those who don’t know us better might believe us to be friends. But if you don’t shut up and give us just a bit of piece and quiet, I wouldn’t be surprised if T’Parief cooks you for breakfast!”
“Oh,” Jall said, “Um, OK,”
He silently put up the second tent, activated the tiny heating unit and climbed inside.
T’Parief flew through the woods at top speed, tree branches sliding off his hide as he went by. His nostrils flared as he searched for a scent, any scent. All he could smell was the fresh rain; all other scents were washed right out. All in all, it really wasn’t good hunting weather. His tongue flicked out, a useless gesture picked up from his Gorn father who ‘tasted’ the air as a form of smell.
There was a sharp crack; the sound of a twig snapping under the weight of a heavy body. Coming to a stop he cocked his head, listening carefully.
He had only a split-second warning, then there was a flash of tan fur and a heavy weight slamming him to the ground.
The animal, a six-legged cat-like creature screamed at him, showing six centimeter fangs. T’Parief growled back, clamping his hands on the animal’s neck and wrestling it to the ground. The two of them rolled around, the cat’s heavy claws leaving marks on T’Parief’s scales, his claws drawing blood. Finally, after several moments of fighting he slashed the animal’s throat, blood spurting out as he severed a major artery. But he kept slashing, digging into the animal’s flank with his teeth and tearing at the flesh, rending the creature with his claws.
An hour later, Wowryk watched as T’Parief returned to camp, the body of a deer-like animal slung over his shoulder.
“Are you all right?” she asked, “You’re covered with blood,”
“It isn’t mine,” T’Parief said curtly.
“Oh,” Wowryk frowned, “That looks like a lot of blood from an animal as small as that deer,”
“The blood is not from the deer,”
Wowryk looked confused.
T’Parief rolled his eyes.
“Doctor,” he said, “Do you really think that killing one small deer would be enough to relieve the tension of spending more than two weeks with Jall? Incidentally,” he waved back to where scavengers were already gathering around the shredded corpse of the cat-animal, “Do not go over there,”
The next few days of travel were uneventful. The rain faded and the sun returned, Jall’s endless tirade of complains had dwindled to a trickle, and T’Parief was slaughtering two, sometimes three animals a night. He’d eat one of them, bringing the other slung over his shoulder for Jall and Wowryk to eat. Wowryk wasn’t truly a vegetarian, though she did make more than a few comments about cruelty to animals. It only took Jall one mention of the various animal sacrifices featured in the Bible for her to clam up.
They finally arrived at the coast, the forest path gradually widening and joining up with other pathways before merging with a wide cobblestone road. T’Parief hid under a heavy hooded cloak they’d made from animal skins, Jall had a slightly rusted sword strapped to one hip and Wowryk was sure to keep her dagger in plain sight. Not knowing what to expect, they’d gone with what they remembered of their Starfleet training: Primitive cultures in which the people did not leave home without a weapon were usually dangerous. Yup, it took them four years at the Academy to learn that one.
It was mid-day when they arrived. The town was the same size as Lord Dyer’s walled city, but the wall of this town was U-shaped. The open end of the U was the shore of the Central Sea. They could see over a dozen small sailing ships moored at the docks, some of them unloading cargo, others loading and some just sitting there doing a whole lot of nothing. Two larger ships were clearly military vessels, judging from the uniformed men walking their decks and the heavy cannons poking out the gunwales.
“Anything new?” T’Parief grumbled, his face hidden in the shadows of his hood.
Jall tapped at his tricorder.
“The wreckage is about three hundred kilometers out to see,” Jall said, “I can’t get any kind of reading on the wreck, the temporal interference is messing up the tricorder scans,”
“I thought we’d fixed that,” Wowryk said.
“So did I,” Jall said, frowning, “I compensated for the local interference. That should let me scan no problem, even though the heavier interference is blocking any signals from reaching orbit. Still, something’s blocking my scans here too, but only towards the sea. I can still scan behind us right to the end of the tricorder’s range,”
“Weird,” Wowryk said.
“Yup,” Jall nodded, then shut up again.
“Lieutenant,” Wowryk started.
“Call me Jall,” Jall said curtly, “We’re undercover,”
“Lieutenant,” Wowryk said, “I’m sorry if I offended you earlier,”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jall waved her off, “If talking with me bothers you, I won’t inflict myself or my views on you,”
“About time,” T’Parief muttered.
“So what’s our plan?” Jall asked, “How do we get three hundred kilometers out to the open sea without a ship?”
“We don’t,” T’Parief said, “We need to steal a ship,”
“Steal?” Wowryk exclaimed, “But that violates-“
“Yes, one of the Ten Commandments,” Jall said, moving towards the city.
“We must get a ship to reach the crash sight,” T’Parief said simply.
“Well yes,” Wowryk admitted, “But-“
“You have a better idea, then?” Jall called back over his shoulder.
“Yes, actually,” Wowryk said.
“Arrghh,” grunted the merchant Captain, “What be your qualifications?”
Jall wasn’t really sure if the Delori merchant was really talking like that, or if the tiny computer chip controlling his Universal Translator was trying to be cute.
“We’re got years of experience working on ships,” Jall said, “By big friend here is, um, a great soldier. The smaller one here is a doctor, and I’m an expert in operations,”
Wowryk had hidden her hair under her hat and wore a baggy shirt over a tight undershirt in an effort to hide her breasts. A little extra padding in the front of her pants completed the illusion that she was male.
“I feel disgusting,” she had commented when the disguise had been completed.
“You look great,” Jall assured her.
“Compliments from you don’t make me feel better!”
“What be operations?” the merchant Captain demanded.
“Um,” Jall struggled for a moment, “I, uh, fix things. And I’m an expert on the stars,”
“Navigation, we’ll say,” said the Captain, “Arrghh. I be Captain Munderfal. If ye be willing, ye can join me crew. I pay four higars a week, plus ye get a share of me bounty,”
“Somebody fix that stupid translator,” Wowryk muttered, “I feel like I’m in a cheesy pirate movie,”
The ship set sail the next morning. It wasn’t much to look at; the wood was slightly rotten, the sails were patched and the cargo wasn’t the greatest. They were hauling kegs of mead from Port Humujabi to Port Humnujadu. Still, standing on the deck as the wind caught the sails and the ship picked up speed the three officers took a moment to savor the open sea before them.
“It’s not warp drive,” Jall said, patting Wowryk on the back, “But it’s a start,”
The Man, the Woman and the Crentor
“Quiet,” Stafford whispered, holding a finger to his lips and wincing. His arm was still very, very tender. The med-kit they’d taken from the escape pod before it self-destructed had been enough to extract the bullets, but the battery in the dermal regenerator had given out halfway through repairing his arm, leaving him with a bloody wound that had to be bandaged the old-fashioned way and packed into a sling.
Stafford, Jeffery and Yanick had packed up all evidence that they’d ever been at the hotel they’d called home, quit their jobs and purchased a small used vehicle, just large enough for the three of them and their salvaged survival gear. They’d immediately started the trek up the coast to the Bendjari Oceanic Research Facility. Stafford, being the least mobile of the three, scoped the place out with binoculars. Jeffery, being more technically inclined, had quickly located an underground data line he could tap into with his tricorder. And Yanick, having the biggest breasts, was sent to hang out at the local restaurants and bars, trying to learn whatever she could about the facility. So far, they’d managed to learn that they submersible that was being sent to investigate the ‘meteor’ (which the local government knew perfectly well was a crashed space vessel) wasn’t due to arrive for another day.
The three of them had resolved to sneak aboard the Investigator, a research vessel usually on loan to the Delori military. If the wreckage of the ship had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, there was a slim chance the submersible would be able to retrieve the subspace beacon. The big surprise had been in the images Jeffery had recovered from the Azdeka Observatory. The life pod Stafford, Yanick and Jeffery had been in had been caught in the turbulence between Silverado and Stalart’s ship and sent tumbling off course. The result of course being that they didn’t have the slightest clue what had happened to the ship after they’d escaped. They’d assumed the entire ship had crashed in the ocean.
The photos told a different story.
The large, full-colour prints Jeffery had obtained showed crystal clear images of Silverado’s saucer section as it fell through the atmosphere towards the planet; they could even read her registry number off the hull. Of the engineering section and the twin warp nacelles, there was no sign. Jeffery suggested that the systems malfunction had triggered the emergency saucer separation and that the stardrive section had probably crashed on a different part of the planet. Stafford suggested that he really didn’t care about the stardrive section at the moment, if the saucer had the emergency beacon, that was where any survivors would be headed. Jeffery suggested that they had a responsibility to ensure that the matter and anti-matter fuel in the stardrive section wasn’t destroying the local ecology. Stafford suggested that Jeffery could go stuff himself. Yanick suggested they both shut up and that they should buy gelati before the store closed.
Eating the Delori equivalent of gelati, they quickly planned their assault.
Jeffery, having cut himself a fake access code, disguised himself as a janitor and entered the facility. The Investigator was scheduled to dock in Slip 3, the high security slip. Using his tricorder and avoiding the security patrols, he’d carefully sabotaged one of the entry doors.
The next day, the three of them watched carefully as the Investigator eased into the dock.
“So, how are we supposed to get control of the sub?” Yanick asked.
“I’m not sure if we got to that part of the plan,” Stafford said, shifting his weight and wincing as his arm protested, “Jeffery was just supposed to hack into the crew manifest and get us on board,”
“Done,” Jeffery said.
“If we’re on the crew manifest,” Yanick asked, scratching her head, “Why do we need to sneak onto the ship?”
“Cuz otherwise,” Jeffery explained for the third time, “We’d have to get through the security checkpoints and answer lots of really awkward questions,”
“Like, ‘What’s your grandmother’s maiden name?’,” Stafford said.
“Or ‘Did ye pack these bags yerself? Did ye leave them unattended at any time?’,” Jeffery went on.
“Oh, right!” Yanick exclaimed, nodding her head, “Or, ‘Is that an electric shaver making your bag vibrate, or a dil’-“
“Ship’s docked,” Stafford said quickly
The three of them snuck up the gangway and onto the Investigator, trying to look as casual as possible. Their first stop was the ship’s laundry, where they quickly grabbed garments suitable to their fake assignments. Stafford, or ‘Sendal’, was assigned to Ship’s Services and would be working in the galley. Yanick, or ‘Bottoks’ was working as an administrative assistant in the laboratory and Jeffery, AKA ‘Zetik’ was working as a sonar technician.
“Simon, we really need to have a discussion about these job postings you keep giving us,” Stafford complained, “I mean, if you’re hacking into these primitive computers anyway, can’t you get me something a bit more, I dunno, prestigious?”
“Ye mean a job where ye’d be noticed? Screw up the Prime Directive? Something like that?” Jeffery asked.
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Ahh, Mr. Zetik, I presume?”
A tall, dark-skinned Delori with thick eyeglasses had approached them.
“Er, yes?” Jeffery said.
“Glad to see you made it on board. I really must admit, the circumstances of your arrival are most unusual, but given our mission we need nothing but the best. I am Chief Scientist Braniux,”
“Pleased to meet ye,” Jeffery touched fingertips briefly with the Chief Scientist, following Delori tradition.
“Likewise, likewise,” Braniux nodded to Jeffery, continuing to ignore Stafford and Yanick, “Now then, I understand you’ve been briefed on our mission?”
“Er, just the official story,” Jeffery said, following Braniux as he headed for the Research Deck and leaving Stafford and Yanick behind, “Meteorite hunt and all that,”
“Preposterous,” Braniux sniffed, “Like they’d divert a vessel of the Investigator’s prestige for that! No, my boy, we’re on the hunt for possible the most important discovery in Delori history! An actual alien spacecraft! Imagine it! Not only would we have an answer to the question of whether there is life on other worlds, but perhaps an explanation for our own world as well! And as such, my boy, I need you to be ever vigilant in ensuring that the primary and side-scanning sonar systems are at their absolute peak! Now, off you go,”
He patted Jeffery on the shoulder and went on his way.
“And he’s off again,” Stafford grumbled, crossing his arms, “Why does he keep forgetting that I’M the Captain? I’m in charge; this is MY mission!”
“Y’know Chris,” Yanick said softly, “there really isn’t a mission,”
“We’re just trying to get home, Chris,” Yanick said, “The mission’s already over. It failed, I think, when we crashed the ship into a planet,”
“That doesn’t explain why Jeffery’s off being the guy with all the info while I’m gonna be stirring a giant pot of baked beans!”
“Well,” Yanick started leading Stafford down the cramped passageway, hoping to avoid drawing attention, “IMHBO, I think-“
“In My Humble, Blond Opinion,” Yanick clarified, “I think that we’d be screwed if we couldn’t do all this computer stuff. The hacking and cutting-“
“Whatever,” Yanick had found the galley and had pulled Stafford inside, “We’d be screwed without it. And Jeffery’s the one with all the techno know-how. Without him, we’d be begging for scraps in an alley somewhere,” she frowned, “Or maybe dead,”
“Well, yeah,” Stafford agreed reluctantly, “But he still needs to report to me!”
“Well, maybe you just need to make that clearer to him,” Yanick said, “Now, go stir your beans, I have papers to file. I guess. Jeffery wasn’t all that clear on what my job was, he just told me not to wear a bra,”
“Too much info,” Stafford groaned.
“And get a hairnet!” Yanick told him.
Jeffery reported in to the Chief Science Officer of the Investigator, a small, jittery man with watery eyes and a balding head. He was quickly ordered to complete any necessary maintenance on the sonar systems and dismissed.
Something about what Chief Scientist Braniux had said was nagging at Jeffery. Sure, there was the whole confusion on why the ship had a Chief Science Officer, a Chief Scientist, a Deputy Science Master and so forth, but it was the way he had phrased something.
Using the primitive tools he had and thankful that he still had his tricorder, complete with a ’21st Century Technology for Dummies’ data chip scavenged from the escape pod, Jeffery quickly located and repaired several minor flaws in the primitive sonar systems. He resisted the urge to up their effective range by 50%, grateful that so much time on Silverado had taught him to respect older technology.
What had Braniux said? ‘Not only would we have an answer to the question of whether there is life on other worlds, but perhaps an explanation for our own world as well!’ But that would imply that there was some great mystery to the planet, something that was puzzling the Delori. But that was absurd! Any other species, by their 21st Century equivalent age, had mapped their planet, analyzed the geography, established global communications and so forth. Most had landed on their moons as well, if their planets had moons, and Deloria II had two moons.
Jeffery shot up so fast he bounced his head off a pipe. Cursing and swearing, he ran off to find Stafford, Yanick and a map.
“Would you like beans with that?” Stafford asked.
“No,” the sailor grabbed his tray of overcooked meat and vegetables and moved off.
“Would you like beans with that?” Stafford asked.
“No,” the next sailor did likewise.
“You’re doing a great job, Creth,” his supervisor, a woman by the name of Mandi called.
“Thanks,” Stafford said blandly, turning to the next crewman, “Would you like beans with that?”
“Really?” Stafford’s gaze shot up in surprise.
“No, not really,” the sailor winked at him, “But you’ve got nice eyes,”
“Oh geez,” Stafford groaned, “I’ve been in the navy less than a day and it already starts,”
“No, silly!” Yanick pulled off her uniform hat.
“Oh! Trish!” Stafford gave a sigh of relief, “It’s you!”
“Yeah,” Trish held her tray out so Stafford could dish out some purple Delori beans, “It’s been a busy day! We’re leaving dock in an hour, and I had, like, a ton of papers to file! All these scientists kept calling me over to get stuff, then they’d drop it on the floor,” she dropped a fork, as if to demonstrate, “And I’d have to pick it up,” she likewise bent down to demonstrate, flashing cleavage in Stafford’s direction and her firm rear towards the galley. Several sailors suddenly forgot about the meals they were eating.
“Can’t imagine why they’d make you do that,” Stafford said, his throat suddenly dry.
“Guys! Guys!” Jeffery came bursting into the mess hall, his arms full of rolled up maps and charts, “We have to talk, like now!”
“I’m working right now,” Stafford said, stirring the large pot, “I have beans to serve. Y’know, since that was the most important job on this ship you felt I was qualified for!”
“Give it a rest!” Jeffery hissed, “This is important!” he poked his head into the kitchen, “Hey! Ma’am! Ah need some muscle to carry a, er, signal amplification unit. Can Ah borrow this guy?”
“Sure,” Mandi called, “Lunch rush is pretty much over,”
“You think I have muscle?” Stafford asked, flattered, as Jeffery led them out of the galley.
“Don’t let it get to yer head,”
Jeffery led them to an empty area of the main deck near the bow of the ship. The Investigator was nearly one hundred meters long with two full decks devoted to research facilities. Crew quarters, amenities, administration offices and mechanical spaces filled the remaining spaces. The ship used an unusual cycloid propulsion system consisting of two egg-beater shaped propellers pointing straight down; one at the bow and one at the stern. Jeffery assured Stafford that such a system had been used successfully on Earth in the 20th Century and that a ship equipped with such a system had actually found the wreck of the RMS Titanic.
After spending another fifteen minutes explaining to Yanick and Stafford what the Titanic was and why it was so special, Jeffery got to the point.
“Look at this,” he said, spreading a map out on the deck, Yanick and Stafford each grabbing a corner to help keep it from blowing away in the wind. The large bay doors of the research station had been opened in preparation for the Investigator’s departure, letting in a healthy breeze.
“Looks like a map of this country,” Stafford said, “What’s it called? Deifendarun?”
“Dufarndan,” Jeffery said, “And that’s what Ah thought too. Just a simple map of their country,”
“So what’s the deal?” Yanick asked.
“Look,” Jeffery started pointed at the borders, “What do ye see outside of Dufarndan?”
Stafford looked at the map for a few moments.
“Nothing,” he said, “Other than Dufarndan and part of the Central Sea, it’s blank,”
“Exactly!” Jeffery said triumphantly, shaking a fist in the air, then reaching down to catch his corner of the map as the wind took it.
“But Simon,” Stafford said, “So what? If it’s just a map of their country, why would they even bother putting anything else on?”
“Look,” Jeffery pointed at the legend in the corner of the map, then at the tricorder that held the translation of the Delori text.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
“Are they still on our tail?” Lieutenant David Stern asked, standing next to Ensign Marsden as he scanned the water behind them with an eyeglass.
“I’m not sure,” Marsden said, “I’ve been looking through this stupid thing for fifteen minutes, but it really doesn’t seem to be making things any bigger,”
Ensign Rengs, the only member of the team with any sailing experience, gave an exasperated sigh as he yanked the eyeglass out of Marsden’s hands, flipped it around, and handed it back to him.
“Oh! Hey!” Marsden exclaimed, “Now it works! Wow, that’s cool! It’s like electro-binoculars, only with two pieces of glass!”
“Fantastic,” Stern said dryly, “Now, are we still being followed by those other ships?”
“Um, I don’t think so,” Marsden reported.
“Good,” Stern gave a sigh of relief.
The Hazardous Team had been aboard the primitive sailing vessel for over five days. They’d christened the ship the Hazardous Team Vessel Water-Hazard. The HTV Water-Hazard had clearly been a private vessel belonging to a member of Jurcun high society. The galley was well stocked, the ship was fast (for an ancient vessel made of wood and animal skins) and the tricorder had translated the Delori script on the side to ‘Finarden’s Frolic’. Who Finarden was and whether he ever did frolic aboard it were unknown, but after five days of hard sailing they’d finally managed to put decent distance between themselves and their pursuers. Very likely, Rengs had suggested, their Jurcun pursuers didn’t want to chase them all the way downstream due to the difficulties in sailing back upstream to return home. Or they might have just been afraid that Dar’ugal would use his godly powers to punish them.
The Water-Hazard wasn’t a very big ship. The main deck and quarterdeck were the only open spaces on the ship, the cramped living quarters, galley and cargo hold taking up a single deck below them. The ship was long and narrow, as was the standard in ancient times. No doubt they could have picked up much greater speeds with a dozen or so slaves to man the oars stored neatly on the main deck, but as it was they were relying on the three sails. Fortunately, their pursuers hadn’t had the time to staff their oars before giving chase.
“Well, if that’s that, then I’m going to take a nap,” Rengs said. Being the only one of the six of them to know anything about sailing, he’d been in heavy demand, barely getting any sleep.
“Hey, before you go,” Stern said, “Could you tell us how to get Simmons untangled from that rope without collapsing the mainsail?
“How do you keep getting caught up in there anyway?” Rengs asked angrily, as Simmons swung gently in the breeze.
“I don’t know,” Simmons said, “It just always seems to catch my ankle. URK! Um, could you get me down? Swinging upside down is making…me…seasick…BLAHHH!”
“Evasive!” Stern cried as he and Rengs dodged to the side.
“All hands on deck!” Stern shouted, jolting Rengs out of his snooze.
Rengs climbed out of his tiny hammock and pulled himself up the narrow flight of stairs leading to the main deck.
“Whazgoinon?” he groaned.
“We’ve got another ship coming up, fast,” Stern reported. Dar’ugal was hauling on ropes, trying to adjust the sails. Kreklor, having recovered from his ‘demonic torture’ (what he considered a day spa) was trying to figure out how to construct a weapon, any weapon for their unarmed vessel.
“What do you make of it?” Rengs asked.
“See for yourself,” Stern handed him the eyeglass.
“In the name of the Prophets…” Rengs breathed.
The ship wasn’t the same design as theirs, or for that matter the same design as any of the other vessels they’d seen in the Jurcun docks. It was a larger ship with large cylinders on each side. The cylinders were spinning, and seemed to be providing a means of propulsion.
“A steamship?” Rengs asked.
“Uh-huh,” Marsden said, “And look closer,”
Squinted, Rengs did as he was told.
The ship seemed to waver, flickering and fading, almost as though a heavy fog was drifting over it. No, not fog. More like oil floating on water…
Marsden was tapping on his tricorder.
“I couldn’t understand why,” he said, “But my tricorder wouldn’t read anything on the far shore of the river. I thought it was more temporal interference,”
“And that’s where that ship’s coming from?” Stern demanded.
“That, and according to the tricorder, two more,” Marsden reported.
Rengs pulled the eyeglass back to his face.
“I don’t see any more,” he reported.
Marsden frowned and started tapping on his tricorder.
“That other ship,” he said, “Is slightly out of temporal sync with us. The other two even more so,” he started, “The other two ships are gone,”
“Gone?” Stern asked.
“Gone,” Marsden reported.
“Why would they just vanish?” Stern wanted to know.
“Why didn’t this one vanish?” Rengs demanded.
“I don’t know,” Marsden said, “But we will soon. We’re going to intercept each other in about ten minutes,”
“KREKLOR!” Stern shouted, “How are those weapons coming along?”
Kreklor was sitting on the deck, a decorative metal vase, some cooking utensils and a small quantity of kerosene arrayed before him.
“Not good,” he growled, “Our phasers still have some charge, however,”
“Yeah,” Stern said, “But once they’re gone, they’re gone. Nevermind that whole Prime Directive thing,”
“I think we’ve screwed the Prime Directive pretty good on this trip,” Simmons pointed out as he followed Rengs’ sailing instructions.
Their course and the steamship’s were converging; the two vessels both seem intent on following the river downstream, both trying to stay in the center, as far from either shore as possible. But the steamship hadn’t made any overt moves against them, and so they had followed suite, simply acting as though they hadn’t seen the other vessel. Still, with the two ships now less than two hundred meters apart (and closing) it was getting harder to do.
Marsden’s gaze was still alternating between the eyeglass and the tricorder. He jerked in surprise, then started shouting and waving frantically for Stern.
Stern quickly hurried over and looked in the eyeglass and nearly dropped the ballast bag he’d been carrying.
“RENGS!” he screamed, “GET US CLOSER!”
“Closer?” Rengs asked in surprise.
“Look!” Stern gestured.
Standing on the deck of the steamship, looking back at them with a look of total shock, a pair of bulky binoculars hanging from a leather strap, was Ensign Travis Pye.
Pye was quickly joined on the steamship deck by Ensign Craig Burke, Ensign Day and Lieutenant Curt Quintaine. The steamship was now mere meters away from the Water-Hazard, but it still shimmered with the oil-on-water sheen that seemed so common on the planet. The two crews tried shouting at each other, but their words were faint and washed out, barely audible.
“What’s wrong with them?” Stern demanded, after another ten minute shouting session.
“Near as I can tell,” Marsden said, “They’re just out of temporal sync with us,”
“Um, OK, so how do we fix it?”
“Well, we better try something,”
“What’re they doing?” Ensign Pye asked Lieutenant Quintane, the night-shift commanding officer.
“It looks like they’re tying a rope to Lieutenant Stern,” Quintane said. It was a little hard to see the other vessel clearly, and why the Hazardous Team was aboard such an ancient piece of junk he really didn’t understand, but the other ship was blurring and fading out of view, like a badly tuned TV picture.
After landing their escape pods in the middle of a farm, the night shift crew had located the beacon from Silverado’s wreckage fairly quickly, once Ensign Burke’s tricorder had been sufficiently cleared of pornography to be useful to them as a sensor device. Having launched their escape pod from the lower side of the saucer before the ship had split apart, they had no idea it was the saucer wreckage they were chasing after and not the entire ship, nor did they have the faintest clue as to how many other might has escaped, if any, or what might have happened to the alien ship attacking Silverado.
They’d stolen the steamship from a rather shady gentleman offering tours of the river, and had been very surprised to see an old-style sailing ship floating down the river, looking like something out of an ancient history text.
Stern, the rope having been affixed firmly around his waist, was now leaning far out over the railing of his ship, reaching towards Pye and the others.
“I think he wants to hold our hands,” Burke said nervously.
“I’ve heard he swings both ways,” Pye said.
“Hey, ain’t nobody gonna be holding my hands,” Day said, “I had to take-“
“An Oath of Celibacy,” Quintaine groaned, “Yes we know. Personally, I think that whole thing about Deltan sex being too mind-blowing for humans to survive was a load of horse sh*t!”
Stern was now reaching frantically for them, Kreklor and Dar-ugal had braced themselves against the railing to keep the rope taught. As they watched, one of Stern’s arms brushed against the railing of the steamship.
And went right through it.
“Maybe they’re dead?”
“Maybe WE’RE dead???”
“Look, somebody just grab his hand already!” Quintane snapped, annoyed.
“Fine,” Quintane grumbled. He reached out and clasped Stern’s right hand.
The effect was immediately.
Both ships shuddered, a wave of icy cold running through both crews as the ships rippled, a crackle of energy fading as soon as it started.
“Hey guys,” Stern said. His voice was clear, his face clearly visible. Both ships, in fact, had lost the oily water sheen as they sailed next to each other, clear as daylight, down the river.
They immediately abandoned the Water-Hazard, ferrying what supplies they could over to the steamship, which had been dubbed the Sleepy Sparrow. Grumbling that the night shift had no taste in ship names whatsoever, Stern stood on the aft deck with the rest of the Hazardous Team, watching as the Water-Hazard faded into the distance. The ship seemed to ripple with that oily weirdness…then simply faded from view.
“She was a good ship,” Marsden sniffed.
“She was a piece of crap,” Simmons said.
“She was,” Marsden said, “But she was a good piece of crap,”
“We have our own ship waiting for us,” Stern pointed, “What’s left of it, anyway,”
“How long until we get to the Central Sea?” Simmons wanted to know.
“Another week,” Rengs advised him, “This ship is faster, but it’s a long ways to go,”
“I wonder who else we’ll meet along the way,” Stern mused.
“You really need to stop that,” Jall said, looking both ways to see if any of the other merchant crew was paying attention to them.
“Careful, you’re gonna get that on the side of the ship,” Jall said.
“I just really don’t care right now,” Wowryk gasped, wiping her mouth, “Goodness, what I wouldn’t give for some mouthwash,”
“Y’know, I figured you’d be OK on the sea,” Jall said, “Y’know, cuz your favorite literary character used to walk on water and all,”
“Oh, bad choice of words,” Jall winced, ducking and throwing his arms up to ward off the barrage of blows Wowryk was aiming at his head.
“Hey, ow,” he cursed, hurrying away from her, “At least you’re not sea-sick anymore! HEY! OWWW! Quit it!”
After being told (and not too gently) by the First Mate to get back to work, Wowryk and Jall joined T’Parief below decks, hauling supplies out of the cargo hold and into the galley.
“So,” Jall said, “Have you, by chance, given any thought as to how exactly we should be getting to the wreckage? Or how we might have to get to the ocean floor to recover anything?”
Having bounced their escape pod off the lower side of Lord Stalart’s ship, Jall, Wowryk and T’Parief still had no idea what they were really looking for, other than that there was a distress beacon for them to follow.
“Why is it my job to think of this?” Wowryk demanded.
“Well, it was you that decided we had to sign on as crew on this ship rather than stealing it,”
“And believe me, my breasts have been suffering for that decision,” Wowryk complained, adjusting her shirt, “Why is it that primitive cultures almost never allow women on ships or submarines?”
“Something about providing too much of a distraction,” Jall said, “Not that I’d care,”
“No, I imagine you’re having a delightful time, aren’t you?” Wowryk snapped, “Pervert,”
“Sorry honey, I do have some standards,” Jall scrunched up his face, “And stinky pirates don’t do it for me,”
“How,” T’Parief grunted, still hidden under his cloak, “Are to we going to find the wreckage? We’re following the coastline at the moment, but if we do not head out to sea soon, we will be moving further from the distress call, not closer,”
“So how do we convince a ship full of marine merchants to just crank the wheel over and head out to sea?” Jall asked.
“You’re the Operations Officer,” Wowryk said, “Operate something,”
“You’re the Doctor,” Jall shot back, “Doesn’t that mean you should be operating ON something?”
“I’ll operate on you!” Wowryk seethed, “I know just the operation, too!”
“It is somewhat surprising,” T’Parief interrupted, “But it appears I am the only one with a plan,”
“Why is that surprising?” Wowryk asked, giving Jall a look of moderately deep loathing.
“Because, though Jall is incompetent, I had thought you would have thought of something, Doctor,”
Wowryk’s eyebrows rose.
“Why, thank you,” she said, flattered. Then she frowned again, “Hey, wait a minute…”
“What’s the plan?” Jall asked, sounding more bored than anything.
“This vessel is navigated via astronomy and magnetic sensors, correct?” T’Parief asked.
“If by ‘astronomy’ you mean looking at the stars and by ‘magnetic sensors’ you mean a thirty-year-old compass, then yes,” Jall said, shrugging, “It’s really not advanced technology. It’s a wonder they can even stay on one course,”
T’Parief let a low rattle grow in his chest as he stared at Jall in displeasure.
“Ohhh,” Jall said, slapping a hand to his forehead.
“What?” Wowryk asked.
“You’re so smart, according to him,” Jall flicked a finger in T’Parief’s general direction, “You figure it out,”
“Sure,” Wowryk tossed her head, “As soon as you tell me the steps for beginning a neural pathway reconstruction procedure,”
Jall looked at her for a moment.
“You remove the skull?” he asked.
“No,” Wowryk said.
“Um, calibrate the neural scanners?”
“Warmer,” Wowryk tilted her head in acknowledgement.
“Oh!” Jall snapped his fingers, “Inject the patient with a minor radioactive isotope to better trace the neural structure!”
“No, you don’t do that until-“
“FOR GLARNX SAKE!” T’Parief cursed, “If the ship has a compass, we can lead it off course by creating magnetic resonances with a tricorder!”
“Oh,” Wowryk nodded knowingly, “I see. But wouldn’t that be unethical?”
Jall and T’Parief exchanged glances.
“I do not think so,” T’Parief said sharply before Jall could say something rude, “We will lead them off course, jump ship when we reach our destination and let them go on their way. At worst, they lose a few days travel,”
“At worst,” Jall muttered, “there’s nothing for us to land on when we jump ship,”
“Details,” T’Parief dismissed.
“We’re arriving at the splashdown site,” Hur Genarda, Captain of the Investigator announced. They’d be traveling at full speed from port, following the coastline of Dufarndan. They were coming up on what Jeffery was sure was the edge of the known map when they’d veered straight out to sea. Considering the speed the ship had been moving at and the number of days traveled, they must have covered several hundred kilometers.
Simon Jeffery, AKA Microl Zetik, sat on the command deck, monitoring one of the sonar stations. It was such a primitive system; nothing but a round screen with dots indication sonar contacts. And the damned thing would only show him if there was another object in the water, it wouldn’t tell him hull composition, energy readings, life signs or anything along those lines. But it should at least tell him if they’re about the crash into anything.
The sonar he really wanted to be watching was up on the Research Deck, scanning the ocean floor for the smallest sign of anything unusual. They’d deployed an underwater ‘probe’ of sorts, really just a sled loaded up with sonar emitters and video cameras and pulled behind the Investigator (at a depth of five hundred meters) by a heavy cable. On the Research Deck, an entire crew of operators sat watching video screens and sonar readings, looking for the smallest piece of wreckage.
“Uh, no thanks,” Jeffery said, dismissing the crewman wandering around the command deck with a tray.
“Eat the f**king sandwhich, Jeffery!”
Jeffery’s head snapped around. Stafford was standing there, wearing his crewman’s uniform and carrying a large tray of purple meat sandwhiches.
“Chris! I mean, Creth!” He worked to contain his surprise and tried to sound casual, “Uh, yer right, Ah really could use a bite,”
“Well eat quickly,” Stafford seethed, “And tell me what the hell we’re doing?”
“We’re arriving at the crash site,” Jeffery said quietly, trying not to attract attention, “They’re good; we’re only about fifteen kilometers from the source of the distress beacon,”
“Right, and you didn’t think that as Captain you should maybe tell me that?”
“It’d look a bit suspicious if Ah left the command deck to talk to ye, wouldn’t it?”
“You still haven’t explained that map to me!” Stafford hissed.
“Ah can’t explain it!” Jeffery said, “If Ah could, Ah would!”
Jeffery actually had a few suspicions about the map, but nothing that he was sure of. What really made him take a closer look at it was the realization that the Delori, unlike every other 21st-Century equivalent culture, had no satellites in orbit of their planet whatsoever. The temporal interference prevented radio transmission, scattered microwave beams and blocked infrared signals. Which meant that, unlike other cultures at this stage of development, the only possible way for the Delori to map their planet was to actually travel the entire thing, somewhat like the early explorers of Earth. There would be no satellite mapping, no GPS systems, no orbital photographs.
But, as they’d plainly seen, the only part of the planet they’d been able to map was their single continent. Which didn’t make sense, and where Jeffery’s theories likewise ceased to make sense. What was stopping them from exploring the rest?
“Um, Sim-, I mean, ‘Microl’,” Stafford was looking out the front windows of the ship, “Isn’t it your job to help steer us around things like that?”
“Huh?” Jeffery looked as his sonar screen. There was nothing there. He looked out the window.
“What in bloody blazes?”
There, in the distance, was an ancient sailing ship, looking to be from around the 16th century. The three masts each held billowing sails and the hull appeared to be made of wood. The ship was washed out, flickering slightly. Jeffery found himself wondering just how people could be brave enough to set sail in something made of wood!
“What?” Stafford asked.
“What?” Captain Gurnarda asked.
“Uh, do you see that?”
Gurnarda looked out the windows.
“See what?” he asked irritably.
“A ship…” Jeffery trailed off.
“I see nothing,” Gurnarda waved his hand, “Enough wasted time! Helm! Come about 230, ahead slow. Notify the Research Deck of the course change and that we are beginning our search pattern…”
He went on like that for some time. Stafford, unnoticed in the commotion, took a seat at the empty station next to Jeffery.
“I saw it too,” Stafford muttered, “And I’ll bet you fifty credits Yanick would if she were here,”
“Do ye have yer tricroder,” Jeffery muttered.
“Yeah, don’t you?”
“Are ye daft?” Jeffery shoot his head in disbelieve, “Runnin’ a strange gadget on the command deck of a military research vessel? They’d go ape sh*t!”
“Just go below decks and scan!” Jeffery hissed.
“Fine,” Stafford stood angrily, “Commander!”
“So, see anything interesting?” Stern asked casually, standing on the deck of the steamship. The old girl was running low on fuel, even after they’d stopped at the coast and filled up, bartering whatever they found in the cabins and cargo hold for fuel, and if they didn’t find the saucer wreckage soon, they’d be dead in the water. Stern frowned to himself, realizing this was the first time he’d ever meant that literally.
“Nope,” Marsden said, holding the antique eyeglass he’d taken from the Water-Hazard.
“You’ve got the right end to your face, right?”
There were a few moments of silence.
“You know, those binoculars Pye had are about a thousand years newer than that thing-“
“Anybody want a brinket?” Burke asked, walking around the corner of the upper walkway, carrying a tray of steaming…something, “they might have gotten a little wet when I went past the water wheel, but they’re still packed with Delori goodness!”
“Delori goodness my ass,” Simmons muttered, coming up from below deck, “This planet wouldn’t know good cooking if it fell from the sky,”
“We did fall from the sky,” Burke pointed out, “And I cooked it. Eat it.”
“Right, right,” Stern sighed. Two weeks of sailing combined with Delori food were really not settling well with his stomach.
“Sooo,” Burke said, turning to Quintaine as he held the ship’s wheel, “We’ve been out here for quite a while, huh?”
“Yup,” Quintaine agreed.
“Pretty boring,” Burke went on.
“Sure is,” Simmons grunted, “Even those Delori playing cards were no fun. What am I supposed to do with a card that has an octopus on it?”
“It was a squid,” Marsden corrected him.
“Whatever,” Burke went on, “No drinks, no women, no bars,”
“We know, we know,” Quintaine said, getting irritated.
“Well, I’m just saying,” Burke said, patting his shoulder as he prepared to leave, “I bet you wish you hadn’t made me delete all that porno now!”
Quintaine gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes.
“Aren’t you glad you have more of us to deal with now?” Simmons asked sweetly.
“I really, really don’t want Stafford’s job if he’s dead,” Quintaine sighed.
“PSSST! Yanick!” Stafford had poked his head into the nearly empty administration office on the Research Deck, “C’mere!”
“Oh, hiya ‘Creth’,” Yanick said, waving happily, “What’s up?”
“C’mon,” Stafford grabbed her by the arm and led her to a deserted corridor, “I need to take some tricorder readings,”
“Uh, and you need me here for that why?” Yanick asked.
“So we can pretend to make out if anybody catches us,” Stafford said, flipping open his tricorder and scanning the vicinity of the Investigator.
“Excuse me?” Yanick asked, annoyed, “Do I look like a cheap whore to you?”
“Uh,” Stafford swallowed, “Well, no, but I-“
“So you thought I’d just make out with you on command, CAPTAIN?” Yanick’s hands were on her hips now, her lips set in an angry pout.
“Uh, I really need to do these scans,” Stafford said, tapping at the tricorder. He quickly detected the ship he and Jeffery had seen, noticing that it was out of temporal sync. For that matter, he and Yanick were a bit out of sync with the Investigator, but barely. Probably explained why they could see the other ship but the Investigator’s crew couldn’t. There was something else too, even further out of sync than the sailing ship.
“Really,” Yanick was still going on, “the nerve of you men! Thinking you’ve all this male superpower to instantly attract any woman you want, and that the chicks are nothing but…”
She suddenly jumped on Stafford, pushing her lips to his and wrapping her arms around him.
“Get a room you two,” muttered the passing researcher Yanick had spotted.
Once he was was out of sight, she immediately let him go and resumed her tirade.
“Maybe Wowryk’s right about you stupid, horny men…”
“Uh,” Stafford’s eyes were wide open, his mouth hung open and his brain locked in ‘overdrive’, “Um,”
“Finish scanning!” Yanick snapped.
“Right, right,” Stafford muttered.
He was pretty much finished with the sailing ship, that mystery solved. But there was that other reading…something further away.
“We need to talk to Jeffery,” he said, leaving Yanick in the corridor as he bolted for the command deck.
“Men,” Yanick muttered.
“Uh, Jall,” Wowryk said, standing near the front of the merchant vessal.
“What?” Jall hissed.
“Look,” she pointed.
“Oh shit,” Jall groaned.
A huge vessel was bearing down on them. It was several times the size of their ship and appeared to be constructed of metal painted grey rather than wood. They could see antennae’s and radar dishes attached to the superstructure, along with pane after pane of glass windows.
“That,” Jall said angrily, “Is not a medieval sailing ship!”
“I don’t think that’s the issue right now!” Wowryk cried, ducking down below the railing and covering her head.
“Why couldn’t we get a better ship?” Jall went on, gesturing widely. T’Parief and Wowryk each grabbed an arm and hauled him to the deck, just as the Investigator hit their fragile ship dead center.
Stafford reached the command deck just in time to see the sailing ship disappear from view under the Investigator’s bow. He cursed and grabbed onto Jeffery’s console while Jeffery braced himself on his chair. The captain and crew of the Investigator continued to behave as though nothing was happening.
Then, for a split second, Stafford was aware of a strange double-vision. He was standing on the command deck of the Investigator, but at the same time he was standing in the crow’s nest of the sailing ship. He could see the merchant sailors down on the main deck, carrying on like nothing was happening. He could see three forms near the front of the ship; one covered in a hooded cloak and the other two in shabby cloths. The two had skin that was more pink than the standard Delori hue, but before he could look closer the image was gone.
“What the…” Jeffery asked.
“That ship’s out of temporal sync with us,” Stafford said quickly, “And we’re just a little bit out of sync with the Investigator. That’s why we can see both ships!”
“But why?” Jeffery wanted to know.
“F**ked if I know,” Stafford said, “But there’s more,” he pulled Jeffery, protesting, away from his station to the port side of the bridge.
“Oh my God,” Jeffery breathed.
“AAAHHHHH!” Wowryk screamed, having just taken an express tour of the Investigator’s engine room and cargo holds.
“Well, that was messed up,” Jall said, tapping his tricorder and coming to the same conclusions as Stafford.
“I do not feel well,” T’Parief said calmly.
“Maybe that will cheer you up,” Jall said, grinning and pointing dead ahead.
“Oh, that’s going to hurt,” Marsden winced, staring through the eyeglass.
“What? What’s happening?” Stern asked.
“You know,” Rengs Aris mused, rubbing his epinasal ridges, “I understand now why humans install viewscreens on their ships,”
“Give me those,” Stern snapped, grabbing the binoculars from Pye. Pye chocked, the carry strap still wrapped around his neck.
Stern watched as the two ships, the huge, grey vessel and the tiny wooden sailing ship came closer and closer together. The sailing ship was heading straight for the source of the distress call, the larger vessel cutting across its path. Both ships appeared washed out and faded, the same way the steamship had first appeared to the Hazardous Team. Even as he watched, they collided, the sailing vessel appearing to pass through the larger ship and emerging from the stern.
“That was weird,” Marsden said.
“It was,” Stern said, grinning.
“I said it was weird,” Marsden said, “But I don’t think it was funny,”
“It wasn’t,” Stern said, handing him the more powerful binoculars, “Take a look, just past the sailing ship,”
“Is that…” Marsden frowned, “No way…”
“The saucer!” Wowryk gasped, staring straight ahead.
“Silverado!” Jeffery exclaimed, eyes wide in shock, a few members of the Investigator’s crew staring at him.
Silverado’s saucer section sat in the ocean, less than a kilometer off the Investigator’s port beam. The sailing ship was heading straight for it, as was an antique steamship that was just becoming visible to starboard. To Stafford, there was nothing more beautiful than the steel-grey hull of his ship shining in the afternoon sun. From his angle he could see the exterior of the bridge dome, the dark windows of his ready room gleaming in the light.
The saucer was sitting low in the water; only six or seven decks were visible. None of the crew could see if there was any damage below the ‘waterline’, but the bridge, the upper superstructure and the visible portion of the upper hull, while somewhat scorched from the heat of re-entry, appeared to be intact. Even through the faded, oil-on-water effect of the temporal anomalies they could still make out the ship’s name,
USS SILVERADO, in dark blue letters on the upper hull.
Stafford and Jeffery bolted for the door, Jeffery throwing off some excuse about being seasick, as the Investigator’s crew continued on their search, oblivious to the fact that the object of their search was sitting right beside them,
“So, how do we get aboard?” Wowryk asked.
“Well, we could jump out and swim,” Jall shrugged.
“We could,” T’Parief said, “But I would prefer not to,”
“What, scared of a little water?” Jall taunted, his relief at finding at least part of the ship intact an emotion shared by both of his companions.
“No,” T’Parief said patiently, “But I do not wish to be the target of spears or harpoons if these people,” he gestured at the sailors, “see me without this cloak on,”
“We better make up our minds soon,” Wowryk said, slightly fearful, “we’re going to crash!”
Yanick, Stafford and Jeffery raced to the aft of the Investigator where three small, runabout-type watercraft hung suspending from davits. They jumped in the first one they saw, hitting the releases and letting the craft drop to the water, spinning around as it was caught in the Investigator’s wake. A shout from up above told them they’d been spotted, and would soon be perused.
Jeffery had quickly located the pilot seat and had started the engine before Stafford pushed him away, grabbing the wheel. Jeffery pushed back, Stafford gave Jeffery a shove. Soon the two of them were slapping each other away from the wheel. Stafford, his size affording him temporary victory, jumped into the seat, grabbed the wheel with one hand and slammed the throttle all the way forward with the other. The bow of the boat shot up, the boat tilting to nearly a ninety-degree angle. Stafford barely managed to pull the throttle back before he fell to the aft of the boat, landing in a tangle with Jeffery and Yanick.
“Don’t either of you know to drive a boat?” Yanick squealed.
“How hard can it be?” Stafford said, moving back towards the wheel. Yanick beat him to it, giving him a look that clearly said he’d blown his chance to drive.
Yanick eased down gently on the throttle until the boat had picked up enough speed that the hull was sliding over the surface of the water (not through it), then calmly pushed the throttle all the way forward. (If you’re curious, this is called ‘planing’. Boats handle very differently on the water than they do in it.)
The alien ocean spraying around them and Yanick’s long hair blowing in the wind, they were so totally intent on their goal that they didn’t notice when the Investigator disappeared.
“What the hell?” Marsden asked.
Before their eyes, they’d seen the small boat leave the larger ship, heading for the saucer. But less than 10 seconds after the boat had detached, the Investigator stretched like a rubber band, snapping back along its original course and vanishing from view.
Stern, Marsden, Rengs and Burke all looked at each other blankly.
“What was THAT?”
“AHHHH!” Wowryk screamed again.
The trio on the merchant vessel braced themselves as their ship hit the saucer, the prow of the ship spearing into the ‘A’ in Silverado.
And, of course, passing right through it.
Wowryk, Jall and T’Parief however, did not.
There was a sudden pain, a feeling of icy cold, then the sensation of the warm hull metal under them. The trio looked around in confusion as the merchant vessel faded, even as the saucer became perfectly solid. The aft portions of the sailing ship passed through them, the same way the Investigator had. Within seconds, the sailing ship had suddenly stretched like toffee and vanished.
Within minutes, they were reunited.
Standing on the hull of the saucer, Yanick and T’Parief still hugging even as the rest of the crew exchanged handshakes, smiles, welcomes and congratulations, Wowryk and Jeffery surrendered to a single, brief hug, and Stafford grinning like an idiot, was almost giddy as he listened to Stern talking about how the Delori had mistaken Kreklor for a demon. None of them paid any attention to the sudden absence of the vessels and people that had (unwittingly) brought them together, though Marsden informed them that his tricorder was picking up more ‘temporal synchronization anomalies’ heading directly for them; no doubt other crewmembers who had picked up the distress call and were heading home.
“So,” Jall said, one arm around Yanick, the other around a very uncomfortable looking Ensign Rengs, “Anybody know how we’re supposed to get in?”