Author: Brendan Chris
“Engines are still offline!” Yanick cried as Silverado fell towards the surface of Deloria II, held in a tractor beam by Lord Stalart’s ship.
“Captain,” Noonan said softly.
“Fire phasers! Disable their tractor beam generator!” Stafford ordered furiously, ignoring Noonan and gripping his armrests until his knuckles turned white.
“We’re entering the outer atmosphere,” Jall reported. Glancing at the clear dome over the command chairs, Noonan could see the faintest reddening as friction began to build with the planet’s atmosphere. The ship was going down; nothing was going to stop them at this point.
“Chris,” he said, gripping Stafford by the arm and pulling him face to face, “It’s time to abandon ship,”
“NO!” Stafford snapped, “This is MY ship and we are NOT letting her go down!”
“Weapons are offline,” T’Parief reported.
“Don’t make me force you,” Noonan said softly.
“You wouldn’t DARE!” Stafford seethed.
Noonan looked around. Stafford followed his gaze to T’Parief, Yanick, Wowryk and Jall. His officers, the people who would go down with the ship if he didn’t order them to safety. What mattered to him more…saving his ship, or saving his crew?
“All hands,” he jammed a finger at the all-call button on his chair, opening the shipwide emergency broadcast channel, “Abandon ship. Repeat, all hands abandon ship.”
Releasing the all-call, Stafford got to his feet, nearly losing his balance as the ship shook.
“There,” he said, quietly but angrily, “We’ve given up on her. Are you happy now?”
“Hardly,” Noonan said not leaving his chair. Behind him he could here Jall trying to convince Jeffery to leave as the latter tried to save Fifebee from the computer core, the malfunctions preventing him from transferring her program to a portable data module.
“But we are saving the crew,” Noonan said.
“Yes,” Stafford said turning to leave, “We are,”
He took two steps towards to the forward turbolift before realizing that Noonan hadn’t moved.
“Are you coming?” he asked.
“No,” Noonan said calmly, “I’m staying here,”
Stafford rushed back to Noonan’s said and kept his voice very low.
“Are you a f**king idiot?” he snapped, “After telling me we had to get everybody out ‘for the good of the crew’, you’re telling me you’re going to sit here and commit suicide?”
“Of course not,” Noonan said, “And there isn’t time to explain. Go. Now.”
“I’m not leaving you here!” Stafford said, “And don’t try your little mind trick on me! I know how hypnotism works, you can’t hypnotize an intelligent strong-willed subject-“
“You will leave now,” Noonan said, reaching out with his preternatural powers, quite difference from hypnosis, “I’ll manage. Go.”
Stafford turned and left without another word. As the other officers hurried down the emergency ladder to the lifeboats below, Noonan found himself alone on the bridge.
There wasn’t time to explain it to Stafford, but Noonan quite simply felt that the chances of saving the ship were slim to none. Closer to none than slim, actually. And there was no way he was going to risk the lives of the mortal crew, even if it was a reduced skeleton crew.
Leaving his chair in the center of the bridge, Noonan moved forward and took Yanick’s seat at the helm. The chair was set so high he had to fumble beneath it for the adjustment lever before he could comfortably operate the helm console, but once in position his fingers danced over the control pads with impossible speed.
He tried redirecting power flow to the impulse engines. No response. He tried establishing a warp field, risky in an atmosphere but possible. Nothing. The computer was still in a state of shock over the sudden disconnection of Sylvia and systems were continuing to switch on and off at random, functions were scrambled and incoming data was spotty at best.
He looked up at the flickering main screen, where the view of the planet was largely blocked by Stalart’s ship and the glowing blue tractor beam. He could see one escape pod as it left the ship and fell towards the planet.
The ship bucked like a wounded animal, sending Noonan’s face slamming into the helm panel, his nose breaking. Even as the wound quickly healed, he was scrambling to find out what had happened as he wiped the blood from the panel and saw more escape pods falling to the planet, one of the damaged and spinning out of control.
All around him, the flicking control panels dimmed, then a stream of data started pouring into the helm console. Astonished by his sudden good luck, Noonan quickly found two things:
First, The stardrive section was gone. The computer malfunctions had triggered an emergency saucer separation, detaching the saucer from the rest of the ship. Second, the shock of being abruptly disconnected from the backup computer core in the engineering hull had proven to be too much for the traumatized main computer. It had completely crashed, leaving only the backup systems.
Again, Noonan’s fingers moved with unnatural speed over the controls as he quickly tried to bring the backup systems into some semblance of functionality. Without the interference from the main computer, he had much greater success. As the sensors came back up he saw the alien ship still on the screen, clearly damaged. Checking their altitude above the planet, Noonan realized that Stalart’s ship was now incapable of escaping from the crash trajectory it had put Silverado on.
The hull temperature started to drop as Noonan restored partial shielding to the forward hull, and he activated as many thrusters as he could to try and slow the saucer’s descent. Without the main impulse engines, there was no way he could pull the saucer out of its dive, but he could try something.
First things first. With at least some control over the ship’s systems restored, he setup a harmonic resonance in the shield grid that disrupted Stalart’s tractor beam, sending the other ship spinning off course and out of Noonan’s sight.
One problem down.
Now, he was on his own, sitting in a giant disc over two hundred meters in diameter, trying to figure out how to land it in the ocean dead ahead without smashing it to a million pieces.
Noonan fired the maneuvering thrusters, hoping that the shape of the saucer could give him a bit of lift, if he could just get the angle right. He had less than a minute before impact. There was no chance the saucer could survive a crash landing on solid land and still be space-worthy, but an ocean was different. If he could hit the water just right, he might be able to save the ship!
The saucer pitched back, orienting itself to give the most air resistance. With the bridge now at it’s proper orientation, rather than staring straight down at the planet Noonan found himself looking out across the curvature of the planet, the temporal distortion visible overhead. But he was still falling too fast! There was no way he was going to put the saucer down in one piece!
The saucer bucked like a midshipmen’s bed during shore leave. For a moment, he was sure he could see more lines of distortion, radiating out from his position in all directions. His skin tingled as a surge of energy washed over him, lifting him out of his seat.
And suddenly it was over. Whatever it was that had just happened, there was no time to worry about it. The saucer had suddenly slowed its vertical decent, but the angle Noonan had moved it to had it acting like a giant airfoil and the saucer was now moving forward as well as down.
No time to think now, just seconds until the saucer hit the ocean. He diverted all remaining power to the structural integrity fields and the inertial dampeners. If he’d angled it right…
The saucer hit the water, moving down and forward. Windows, hatches and bulkheads in the lower decks buckled as the saucer hit the water then jumped, like a rock skipping across the pond. Noonan was tossed clear over the helm console, his body smashing with incredible force into the bulkhead next to the viewscreen. The saucer flew through air for a short distance before hitting the water again. This time it slid across the water, rapidly losing speed as water began pouring in through the breaches in the lower decks.
Lieutenant Jane Fifebee didn’t have a clue what was going on.
One minute she’d been at her station as Silverado did battle with Stalart’s ship, the next she was standing next to her holo-relay in Impulse Engineering. Her program was badly fragmented, many subroutines weren’t responding and her personality database was sending back ‘personality not found’ errors.
She rushed to a console, trying to determine what was happening. She quickly found that the saucer section was gone, the crew had abandoned ship and she was alone in the stardrive section, which was on a collision course with the planet. Even worse, the backup computer core in the secondary hull was crashing to a halt. She wasn’t sure how exactly her program had been transferred to the secondary core, but concluded it probably had something to do with the malfunctions apparently plaguing the ship.
Without wasting any more time, Fifebee manually activated the main impulse engines. The stardrive section bucked; the inertial dampeners were clearly lagging. Unable to use any computer control or other navigational aids, Fifebee made adjustments to the impulse engines faster than the eye could see, hoping that she was in time.
Seconds later, Fifebee was still hard at work when the computer fully crashed. Her program and the impulse engines ground to a halt as the stardrive section drifted in it’s new but stable orbit around the planet. A few systems fired briefly at random, a thruster here, a phaser beam there, but it was the last twitches of a lifeless corpse.
The only sign of life on the derelict starship was the computer voice, stuck in a loop, it’s last response caught in the voice buffers.
One month later…
“Anybody know how we’re supposed to get in?” Lieutenant San Jall asked, standing between Ensign Trish Yanick and Ensign Rengs Aris on the upper surface of the saucer, the sunlight glinting off the metal.
The primitive Delori ships that had delivered them there were gone, pulled away by an unexplained phenomenon. The Delori themselves were gone, leaving the senior staff, the Hazardous Team and several members of the night shift standing on the saucer in the middle of the Delori ocean known as the Central Sea.
It had been a long trip, taking them weeks to work their way from their crash sites to the source of the automated distress beacon in the saucer section. They hadn’t really known what to expect; some of them knew the saucer had crashed, others thought the entire ship lay beneath the sea. None had been prepared to see the saucer half-submerged in the water, appearing to be largely intact. They happiness at finding each other alive was still running strong, and even T’Parief had a smile on his face.
“Well,” Stafford said, grinning, “I have to admit, I’m not used to seeing the ship from the outside. Simon, any ideas?”
“Shuttlebay,” Jeffery said at once, pointing towards the aft end of the three-deck superstructure that sat atop the saucer.
“Uh, how do we get up there?” Yanick asked, “I mean, not to sound blond, but this metal is kinda slippery,”
As if to prove her point, Jall went to take a step towards the shuttlebay and stumbled, falling backwards, sliding down the smooth hull and splashing into the cold water.
“Oops,” Jall said, his head poking up through the surface of the water, “I think I just found the forward phaser array,”
“Glad to know it’s still attached to the ship,” Yanick giggled.
“Here, like this,” Jeffery said. He moved with tiny, shuffling steps, reaching out to brace himself on a lifeboat hatch.
“Y’know, I suddenly wish we didn’t make our ships so smooth,” Simmons said, moving carefully as Marsden lost his balance with a yelp and went sliding down into the water.
“But they look so good!” Stafford grinned.
Finally, after a couple of tries, they stood staring at the huge shuttlebay doors.
“I guess a Slim Jim is out of the question?” Jall asked.
“Who?” Yanick asked.
Jeffery had moved along to one of the personnel egress hatches next to the main doors and was tapping at the panel. Activating the manual release, he pushed the door open.
“Ladies first,” he gestured.
Wowyk and Yanick exchanged glances, then crossed their arms and glared at Jeffery.
“Whot?” he asked.
“Do you think, Simon Jeffery, that we’re just going waltz into an abandoned starship with no weapons and no means of protection while you men stand out here where it’s safe?” Wowryk demanded.
“Ah was trying to be chev..chav…”
“Chivalrous?” Stafford offered.
“Yeah man, that’s it,”
“We’re not going in first,” Yanick said firmly.
“Honestly, I think if there’s anything on board it has more to fear from Dr. Wowryk than you have to fear from it,” Jall said.
Wowryk put her hands on her hips, glared at Jall for a moment, then gave him a very hard shove. The Ops officer went stumbling down the slope of the hull, lost his footing, fell to the metal with a dull thud and slid down into the water.
The men stared at Wowryk for a moment.
“I found the aft phaser array too,” Jall called from below.
“Well,” Stafford said, “I guess we just need to find somebody else to go in. Somebody brave. Fearless. Willing to face danger. And not part of the irreplaceable senior staff,”
“I guess this is where we come in,” Stern sighed.
The Hazardous Team poked their heads into the shuttlebay.
The airlock Jeffery had opened led into a small alcove off the main bay. The lighting in the ship was dim, emergency lighting only. Inside the shuttlebay they could see the shuttlecraft, two of which were turned on their sides. A third had smashed up against the forward bulkhead, one warp nacelle crushed. The runabout Niagra had taken heavy damage in the crash. Apparently the third shuttle had hit the Niagra on its way to the forward bulkhead, destroying the runabout’s starboard impulse and warp engines. Most of the LCARS display panels they could see up in the control room were dark; only a few of them showed any sign of life. Without the hum of the engines and the other ship systems, the saucer was eerily quiet.
“It’s quiet in here,” Simmons said, “Too quiet,”
“I’m sure you’re about to change that,” Stern muttered.
“Somebody wanna run and tell the cowards, er, senior staff that it’s safe to come in?”
“I’ll go,” Rengs said.
Shortly after, the gathered crewmembers (including a very wet San Jall) were milling about in the shuttlebay.
“Anybody got a tricorder?” Stafford asked.
No less than ten tricorders were offered.
“Good thing we had so many of these,” Stafford mused, taking one from Jeffery. He noticed that Jeffery was looking a bit fidgety, shifting his weight from one foot to another.
“Somebody wrong, Simon?” Stafford asked quietly.
“Don’t ye think ye should be…well…commanding about now?” Jeffery said.
“I am commanding,” Stafford said, frowning.
“Yer not telling us to do anything!”
“I haven’t decided what to do yet,” Stafford said, moving the two of them out of earshot of the rest, “Look, Simon, I know back in Dufarndan you were sort of running the show, and you did a pretty good job of it. But it’s time now for you to sit back and let me handle things,”
“If ye can,” Jeffery said, immediately wishing he hadn’t.
“Is that what this is about?” Stafford asked, “You don’t think I can handle this?”
“Nay,” Jeffery said, “Ah don’t mean it like-“
“Because I have been doing this command thing for a while, you know,” Stafford went on, “Despite what you may think, Starfleet DID make me the Captain for a reason!”
“Ah didn’t mean it like that,” Jeffery said again, “Ah just…”
“Just what?” Stafford asked, “I think I know. You just think you have a better idea, right?”
Jeffery bit his lip.
“Let’s try mine first,” Stafford said, calming himself down, “And when we get to the part of the meeting where I say ‘any suggestions’, that’s your cue,”
He walked back to the rest of his crew. Jeffery stood for a moment, not sure whether to be angry at Stafford for pushing him down or relieved his friend was taking a more aggressive stand.
“Anybody else find anything?” Stafford asked, “Cuz I sure haven’t,”
The group had been scanning with their tricorders, trying to find any sign of life on the ship before they went exploring.
“Nothing,” Jall confirmed, “No life signs, no weird energy readings besides the temporal thingies.”
“OK, here’s the plan,” Stafford said, “Hazardous Team, you guys start searching the ship,”
“For what?” Stern asked.
“Anything,” Stafford said, “Jeffery, you and Jall head down to…oh geez. What is that place? The one that has the saucer fusion reactors and the other systems we use when we’re in Separated Flight Mode? The one we’ve never used since reattaching the saucer is such a huge pain we’ve never detached it in the first place?”
“Saucer Engineering?” Jeffery asked.
“We have a Saucer Engineering room?” Yanick asked.
“We kinda have to,” Jeffery said, “Since both Main and Impulse Engineering are in the stardrive section. It’s pretty tiny though.”
“With all these engine rooms, it’s a wonder we have room for anything else,” Wowryk said.
“Wowryk, you and Trish head to Sickbay. Check things out, and find a medkit for this hole in my arm,” he held up his arm, still wrapped in Delori bandages.
Wowryk crossed her arms again.
“T’Parief, go with them,” Stafford added quickly. He looked around to see who was left.
“Um, I guess since I’m out of senior staff Quintaine and Burke are with me,” he said, “Let’s head up to the bridge,”
Everybody split off in his or her separate ways, heading deep into the empty saucer.
Yanick and Wowryk climbed the dark Jefferies tube ladder down to Deck 8. Yanick had seen holo-programs where people were in an abandoned ship, and there were always scary noises. The ships creaked, groaned and otherwise demonstrated just how creepy they were. The saucer was sitting in a calm sea, and there wasn’t so much as a drip. Only the sounds of her, T’Parief and Wowryk’s hands and feet on the ladder. Somehow, that made things all the creepier.
“So, Noel,” Yanick said, hoping to get a conversation going, “How was your time on Deloria II?”
“Ungodly,” Noel answered.
“Um, oh,” Yanick said.
“Lieutenant Jall got on our nerves,” T’Parief said from above them.
“Sounds pretty standard,” Yanick said, giggling nervously.
“Dr. Wowryk was nearly seduced by a man,”
“OHHHH!!!” Yanick was suddenly all ears, “Was he cute? Nice? How far did you go? C’mon Noel, you gotta tell me!”
“He was,” Wowryk winced, “Evil. Why don’t you just ask Mr. T’Parief about all the furry woodland creatures he slaughtered on our trip?”
“PAAAAARI!” Yanick growled.
“We ate most of them!” T’Parief objected, trying to defend himself.
“That doesn’t help!” Yanick snapped.
Relieved to be out of the conversation for the moment, Wowryk pulled open the hatch to Deck 8. Taking a moment to catch her bearings, she pointed the palm beacon she’d found down the corridor and headed towards Sickbay.
Stafford pulled himself up the ladder. The exact same ladder that, a month ago, he’d rushed down on his way to the escape pods. This time, he was returning to his bridge.
His bridge! He almost clapped his hands in giddy excitement. Which would be a bad thing, as he was currently using his hands to climb the ladder. Plus it would really hurt his manly image. But he was excited. Below him Quintane and Burke were theorizing about how the saucer had landed, but Stafford ignored them. He figured the computer records would tell them that.
Remember that there was still at least one member of his crew that wasn’t on her way back, Stafford climbed out the hatch onto the bridge.
It looked almost the same as he’d left it, except that there was bright sunlight shining in the dome overhead, somewhat uncommon on a starship. There was also what looked like dried blood on the helm console and a large dent in the bulkhead next to the viewscreen.
“I wonder what did that,” Burke said.
“I dunno,” Stafford said, “But at least it didn’t break the viewer,”
“It doesn’t look like it’s broken,” Jall commented.
He was standing with Jeffery down in Saucer Engineering, a small compartment on Deck 9, just aft of the computer core. The saucer had a number of redundant systems that served either as backups if the main systems in the stardrive section failed or as independent systems if the saucer were to be separated. Fusion reactors, SIF and IDF field generators, deflector shields, you name it.
Walking up to the small reactor pillar in the center of the room, Jeffery tapped at his tricorder.
“It’s not,” he said, “But it’s only running at half power, and it looks like most of that power is being re-routed to emergency force-fields and structural integral field generators,”
“I guess the saucer took some damage on the way down,” Jall commented.
“Aye,” Jeffery said. He closed his tricorder and tapped at the panel for a few moments. The reactor pillar brightened as he increased the power, then the main lighting flickered on.
“We’ve got short circuits in the lower decks,” Jeffery reported after moment, “Looks like a lot of flooding down there,”
“At least the auto-cutoff systems kept the shorts from crashing the entire power distribution network,” Jall said brightly, “Again,”
“Aye, cuz this time there was nobody aboard to f**k it up,” Jeffery took a quick look around, “Let’s head to the bridge. Nothin’ more to do we can’t do from there for the time being,”
Yanick gave a little jump as the power in Sickbay came back on.
“Oh, good,” Wowryk said calmly, not looking up from where she was picking up scattered medical supplies. T’Parief had gone to check the labs and morgue for…whatever it was security officers checked for.
“Er, yeah,” Yanick said.
“You know,” Wowryk said thoughtfully, neatly arranging some hyposprays she’d recovered on the surgical cart, “This reminds me of my first day on this ship. Scattered medical instruments, power outages, not sure if we would survive or not,”
“We have a ship again,” Yanick said, “That’s a lot more than we thought we’d have!”
“True,” Wowryk agreed, “But we also thought Starfleet would be here to rescue us by now, and that hasn’t happened yet. Our record on assumptions really needs work.”
“Well, for all we know they could be in orbit, trying to get through the interference,”
“Perhaps,” Wowryk said coolly, “Trish, please hand me that tissue regenerator,”
“Geez, what climbed up your butt and died,” Yanick muttered, handing over the requested instrument.
“Nothing,” Wowryk said.
There was silence for a few moments.
“I don’t think it’s nothing,” Yanick said, “I mean, it’s bugging you, so it’s gotta be something important,”
“No, it’s petty,” Wowryk said angrily, grabbing a neural stimulator off the floor.
Yanick walked over and took the helmet-shaped device from her.
“Noel,” Yanick said, “We’ve all been apart too long. Don’t hold back on me now,”
Wowryk looked down at the floor.
“I,” she hesitated, “It’s terrible of me to think this,” she said, “But some part of me wishes the ship HAD been destroyed,”
“What?” Yanick was shocked, “How could you say that?”
“Look at this,” Wowryk gestured around them, “I really mean it when I say I feel like I’m back where I started. I’m in a trashed sickbay on a trashed ship! If it had just blown up we could be on our way to new assignments. They might have even given us a new ship! Something fresh from the shipyards, or at least something that wasn’t around during the bicentennial! But no!” she was gaining volume and confidence now, “Now we’re going to be expected to haul this beaten corpse off the ground yet again! Even if the stardrive section is gone they’ll probably just dig another one up out of some other junkyard!”
Yanick looked at her for several minutes.
“Are you really that unhappy here?” she asked quietly.
“I’m glad to be back around familiar, human faces,” Wowryk said crisply, “And I’m relieved so many of us seem to have survived. Trish, let’s…let’s not talk about this anymore. OK?”
“OK,” Trish said, turning away so Wowryk wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.
“Ahh, that’s better,” Stafford grinned as he sat in his chair, the lights coming up around him, “Burke, if Jeffery’s got the power back up, see if you can get some systems running. Sensors and communications would be great,”
“OK,” Burke said, sitting down at the science station. The interface display flickered online easily enough, and it only took him a moment to determine that his pornography collection was intact and undamaged.
“Thank God,” he sighed in relief.
Quintaine had slid into the Port Auxillary console and was restoring access to the ship’s flight recorder.
“Hmmm,” he said.
“What?” Stafford asked.
“Well, there’s a lot of weird stuff to go though,” Quintaine said, “And a lot of it’s scrambled from the computer malfunctions, but it looks like somebody was on the bridge right until the crash,”
“Really?” Stafford said, “Who would have been here after we left?”
“Captain,” now Quintaine was looking at him strangely, “Somebody had to have landed the saucer. There’s no way the automatic systems would have brought it down,”
“I guess you’re right,” Stafford said, scratching his head, “I just can’t think of who would have done that,”
“Heya folks,” Jall gave a little wave as he climbed out the emergency exit hatch, followed by Jeffery.
“Hi,” Stafford gave an absent-minded little wave, “Uh, you guys were on the bridge when we evacuated. Any idea who would have flown the ship down?”
Jall and Jeffery exchanged glances.
“Noonan,” Jall said, frowning, “who else?”
“I don’t remember,” Stafford said, “Didn’t he go to the escape pods like everybody else?”
“The two of ye were havin’ a row,” Jeffery said, “Arguing about something. Next thing Ah know, ye were haulin’ me off the bridge,”
“He must have…” Jall paused, “You know, I can’t think of what he’d do at a time like that,”
“He messed with my mind,” Stafford said softly, “I…I was trying to get him to come with us. Next thing I remember, I’m with Yanick and Jeffery in the lifeboat. He did something to me,”
“So where did he go?” Jall asked.
Stafford looked back at the helm, at the blood on the panel. Jeffery and Jall followed his gaze.
“Nay, he’s can’t be badly hurt,” Jeffery said, “Ah mean, he’s nah here, is he?
Stafford looked up at the bright sunlight streaming in the dome overhead, remembering all the extreme precautions his First Officer took to protect himself from the sun, and one incident just recently, on the planet Starbase 45 orbited, where Noonan had almost gone up in flames.
“Maybe he was here,” Stafford said darkly.
“Trish,” T’Parief hurried down the corridor, now brightly lit but still disturbingly quiet, following Yanick as she walked angrily away from Sickbay.
“What?” Yanick asked, wiping tears off her face.
“You should stay with Wowryk,” T’Parief said, “It may not be safe to wander,”
“Oh come on Pari,” Yanick said angrily, “We’re home now. What does it matter?”
“We don’t know,” T’Parief pushed on, “There could be hostiles on board, you could accidentally open a door into a flooded section-“
“Since when did you turn into such a worry-wart?” Yanick asked, turning back to face him.
T’Parief stared at her. She still wore her work cloths from the Delori research ship, including the cleavage-revealing top Jeffery had suggested. Her hair was free of its ponytail and fell in a tangle behind her back. Any makeup she’d had on had washed away and her face was wet with tears. She really did look like a drowned rat.
And T’Parief had never been more turned on.
“I missed you,” he said, pulling her into his arms and bending down to kiss her.
“Ohhhh,” Yanick said after they broke apart, “Thanks Pari. I really needed a hug,”
“My pleasure” T’Parief trailed off. Yanick’s face had suddenly gone blank. She blinked, looking at him, a confused expression on her face.
“I have to go,” she said, her voice a strange sing-song, like she was talking to a baby. She turned and walked away.
T’Parief moved to follow her. Wait. Follow who? Nobody had been there at all.
Shrugging, he returned to Sickbay.
“Ah think Ah got it!” Jeffery called from the Engineering station on the bridge.
Display screens across the bridge flickered as the main computer came back online, sending the backup systems back into standby mode and assuming control of the ship.
The main viewscreen flickered, then a moving starfield appeared with block letters hovering in front of the Federation logo:
WELCOME TO LCARS! PLEASE ENTER YOUR AUTHORIZATION CODE TO ACTIVATE YOUR STARSHIP!
“Great work Jeffery!” Stafford said, “Let’s get this thing going!”
Jeffery looked blankly at him for a moment.
“Don’t you have the code?”
“Oh, this is just GREAT!” Jall groaned, scraping dried blood off the helm console.
“Computer, initiate system startup, authorization Stafford-Omicron-Niner-Beta,”
“It was worth a try,” he shrugged.
“Oy, this is just perfect,” Jeffery held his head in his hands.
“Well, didn’t you write this thing down somewhere?” Stafford asked.
“Of course not!” Jeffery said, “Ye only need the activation codes when yer activating a new starship! We dinna need to do that! But something in the crash must have wiped out the activation records. Nobody can use the main computer until we get that code!”
“Well, shut it down!” Stafford ordered.
Jeffery tapped his panel. The Federation emblem vanish and the backup systems came back online.
“Well, we’ve got some stuff running on backups,” Quintaine said, “Scanners, flight log access, basic functions. But if we’re going to get out of here, we’re going to need the main computer,”
“Sylvia would have the codes, wouldn’t she?” Jall asked.
Everybody looked at Jeffery.
“Ah dunno,” he shrugged. He brightened, “But ye know, they’re probably in the user’s manual!”
“We have a user’s manual?” Jall asked.
“Aye! It’s down in me office in Main Engineering!”
Stafford blew out an exasperated breath and crossed his arms, staring at Jeffery.
“Oh,” Jeffery bit his lip as he realized that Main Engineering was no longer attached to the rest of the ship.
Stafford stormed off the bridge into his ready room. Burke and Quintaine were hovering over the Science console, working to reconstruct the ship’s crash into the ocean. Jall was examining the banged-up bulkhead next to the viewscreen, muttering something about ‘moving to art-deco’ under his breath. Jeffery sat staring at the Engineering console, wondering where on Earth to start. He had to admit; he was thrilled to be back aboard. He’d put so much time and energy into this ship, the idea of leaving her abandoned somewhere had really been eating at him. He could repair the body, but he had no idea what they were going to do to find Sylvia, the ship’s soul.
He glanced over at the ship schematic. The entire stardrive section of the diagram was dark, the saucer had red indicators all across the lower hull. If he had an engineering team he could send people to start patching up the hull. On his own, he couldn’t really do much aside from making sure flooded sections were sealed off, redistributing power and looking for any other glitches caused by the systems crash that led to this entire mess.
“Hi Trish,” he said, giving a wave but not pulling his eyes from his screen.
“Um, can you do me a favor?”
“Sure, what’s up?’
“Could you restore replicator power to Deck 2 and reinitialize the EPS grid? There are some specialty systems I need access to,”
“Sure,” Jeffery tapped at his console, redirecting energy flow, “All done. Anything…”
Trish was gone.
“Else?” he finished.
“T’Parief to Jeffery,”
“Commander, have you seen Ensign Yanick?”
Jeffery thought to himself for a moment. Somebody had just come to visit him. Was it Trish? Naw. Trish would never walk up to him talking about EPS grids and power systems. It was probably Quintaine or somebody. If Trish had been there, she would have said something about the pretty colours on his console or something.
“No sign of her, mate,” Jeffery said, “Sorry,”
Yanick stepped out of the Jefferies tube onto Deck 2. The Captain’s quarters were at the very front of the deck, quarters for higher ranking officers running down the deck on the port and starboard sides. To the aft was access to a pair of escape pods and the ‘Ambassador’s Suite’: luxurious quarters for VIP guests. Ignoring the rest, Yanick walked straight to Noonan’s quarters and tapped at the door.
Noonan’s belongings were scattered around the room, having been knocked off their shelves in the crash. His NX-class ship model was smashed against one wall, his books were in a pile on the floor and most of his wine glasses were smashed. Bright sunlight streamed in the windows, causing Yanick to shield her eyes.
She bent down to the floor, finding a single unbroken glass. The delicate gold filigree around the rim glittered in the bright light. Humming softly to herself she checked the tiny power indicator on the base, noting it was dead. Oh well. She wasn’t looking for the glasses anyway. They were for regular feedings. She needed something larger…there! Reaching under a pile of books she pulled out the large thermal container Noonan had sometimes used.
Still humming, her eyes open but not truly seeing, she placed the container in the replicator.
“Computer, wine,” she said, “New Orleans, 1791,”
“Access restricted,” the backup computer voice intoned suddenly, “Please enter authorization code,”
Yanick began tapping at the panel, entering dozens of seemingly random characters.
“Code accepted,” the computer said, “Please state clearance code,”
“Noonan,” Yanick said, “Lafeyette-Alpha-Three,”
The thermal container shimmered for a moment, then Yanick removed it.
She climbed down the Jefferies Tube to Deck 13.
Most of the deck was flooded, the transparent aluminum windows looking out into space having buckled in when the ship hit the water. But the corridor was clear, as was a small closet near the center of the deck.
She left the thermal container by the door. The door opened, the container vanished. After a few moments, it reappeared.
“More,” a soft voice whispered.
“Got it!” Burke called triumphantly.
“Got what?” Jeffery asked, not sounding very enthusiastic.
“Fifebee’s original sensor readings from before the crash!” Burke said happily, “Along with sensor readings from the crash itself!”
“How’s that possible?” Jeffery asked, coming over to look, “The systems were goin’ haywire!”
“It looks like the main computer shut down a few minutes before impact, letting the backups kick in,” Burke explained.
“Any sign of Fifebee?”
“No,” Burke shook his head, “It looks like her program was transferred somewhere, maybe the stardrive computer core. But, Commander, look at this!”
They stared at the readings.
“Well, this explains a lot,” Jeffery said, eyebrows reaching his forehead.
“Uh-huh,” Burke said, dazed.
There was another beep.
“Incoming contact,” Jall said at Ops, “Looks like…um, it looks like a hot-air balloon?”
“Life signs?” Quintaine asked.
“Three humans, one Vulcan,” Jall said, “Looks like we’ve got more stragglers arriving home,”
“I’ve got another one just entering range,” Burke said, “Single engine biplane. Looks like an Andorian and a Rigellian,”
“Good to know,”
“I think we better get the Captain,” Burke said, turning back to his other sensor readings, “He’s gonna wanna see this,”
T’Parief was walking the corridor outside Sickbay while Wowryk treated Stafford for the wound to his arm. He still felt a sense of unreality, standing there in the ship’s corridor as though nothing had happened. Except for the eerie silence, he could almost imaging the ship was floating in space rather than an ocean.
Inside, Wowryk was running a tissue regenerator over Stafford’s arm.
“So, Doc,” Stafford said, “How was your trip?”
“You make it sound like a vacation,” Wowryk said coolly.
“Well,” Stafford grinned, “The way I hear it, you guys spent a few weeks camping in the great outdoors,”
Wowryk said nothing.
“I’m sorry about Lord Stalart, I mean, Luke,” Stafford said suddenly.
Wowryk took a deep breath, then released it.
“I was the one that pushed you into adopting him,” Stafford went on, “I really thought it would be good for you. I thought that having the little guy around would help you…” he trailed off.
“Help me with what?” Wowryk asked, starting to look angry.
“You just…” Stafford swallowed, “You always looked so…lonely,”
Relieved that she wasn’t hitting him, Stafford pushed on.
“I mean, I know you were dating Jeffery at the time, but you wouldn’t let him close. God knows he bitched about that enough. But you had him at arms length the whole time, like you were scared to get close to him. I thought that maybe, if you had Luke to take care of, you’d open up a little bit,”
“That’s very thoughtful,” Wowryk said after a moment, “And you were right. I did open up to Luke,” she paused, her eyes tearing, “I miss that little guy,”
“I mean, it’s not like I knew he was an evil alien overlord,” Stafford went on quickly, “I thought he was an innocent little baby-“
“Chris,” Wowryk interrupted.
“Yes?” Stafford asked.
“Could I have another hug?”
“Hello, Trish,” T’Parief said, giving Yanick a small wave as she walked past Sickbay and down the corridor.
“Hello, Barney,” Trish said absently, wandering past him, cradling a large silver container to her chest.
“Trish?” T’Parief asked, confused.
He turned, entering Sickbay.
“Doctor Wowryk, I…I…” he trailed off.
Stafford and Wowryk were standing by the main bio-bed, arms wrapped around each other. Wowryk’s head was on Stafford’s shoulder, tears streaming down her face. The two of them started, then broke apart like a glass hitting pavement.
“Excuse me,” T’Parief said, eyes wide as he backed out the door.
“It was platonic!” Stafford called out.
Far too disturbed by the image he’d just seen, T’Parief set out on his own to follow Yanick. She had climbed into one of the Jefferies tubes and, according to the scent he was following, had gone down.
“Senior officers, report to the conference lounge,” Stafford’s voice came over the comm.
Damn, bad timing! T’Parief didn’t like the idea of disobeying orders, but in this case, he figured Stafford would want to know just what was going on.
He stepped out of the Jefferies tube onto Deck 13.
He spun around, nobody was there.
“We’ve been looking for you,”
He spun again. This time, he found himself facing Yanick and Noonan.
Noonan looked different, which for him was highly unusual in itself. He was drawn, haggard. Almost as if he had shrunk into himself. Or rather like a fruit that had just slightly dried up. Yanick stood next to him, humming to herself as she twirled her hair around a finger.
“Perhaps we should go to the meeting?” Noonan suggested.
“Of course,” T’Parief nodded, his mind having gone blissfully blank. After, nothing was unusual with the situation, right? Everything was status quo.
Captain’s Log, Stardate….
“Stardate unkown, actually. I mean, we know what stardate it should be, but since we’re on this stupid planet with all the temporal time thingies, for all we know we’re a thousand years into the future at this point. Or the past. Or something like that.”
“Anyway, the senior staff has gathered to discuss the situation in which we find ourselves, our first meeting in over a month! And though we’re still missing two very important members of our team, I just damned glad we’ve got everybody else back!”
“OK, Ensign Burke,” Stafford said, gesturing for the short, blond science expert to start.
“Um, OK, well,” Burke swallowed. He wasn’t used to addressing the entire senior staff, “Well, uh, here are Lieutenant Fifebee’s readings from before the ship crashed,”
“Ye mean before Stalart and his midget bastards pulled us out of orbit and stole Sylvia,” Jeffery said angrily.
“Er, yes,” Burke tapped the display screen. An image of the planet appeared, overlay with severall large amorphous blobs, “Uh, we found from our initial readings that the planet was covered by strange layers of temporal interference. We didn’t really have time to figure out what they were, but we knew that they blocked most of our sensor readings, attempts at communication, pretty much everything but line of sight. And they do a great job of messing that up too!”
“Right,” Wowryk said, “If we’d known what was down here, we would have scrammed right away,”
“Which brings up the next point,” Jall dove in, “We have reports from different groups of survivors that give six very different descriptions of the planet,”
“The Hazardous Team found themselves in ancient times,” Burke went on, “Early agricultural and trading societies, worship and sacrifices to deities and demons, barely at Bronze-Age type technology!”
“Yanick, Jeffery and I found ourselves in a suburban city,” Stafford stared intently at the diagram, understanding dawning on him, “Wowryk, Jall and T’Parief wound up in the local equivalent of the Middle Ages,”
“More like the Dark Ages,” Wowryk huffed.
“At least you were not desired as a large pet,” T’Parief said.
“How amusing,” Noonan put in.
Something at the back of Stafford’s mind tugged at him, telling him that something wasn’t quite right. He shook his head, trying to push back the feeling.
“Anyway,” Burke went on, “It seems that not only is this planet cut off from the rest of the universe by a layer of temporal interference, it’s also been split into several different temporal ‘zones’, one for each continent. Based on what we’ve found there, we’ve name them the Ancient Zone, the Medieval Zone, the Steam Zone, the Renaissance Zone, the Tribal Zone and the Stupid Zone,”
“Stupid Zone?” Yanick asked.
“Have you BEEN to the 21st Century, honey?” Jall asked.
“Yes,” Yanick said, “I’ve been to this planet’s 21st Century and Earth’s 21st Century,”
“That’s only six zones,” Jeffery pointed out.
“Well,” Burke said, “We haven’t had anybody return to the ship yet who came down in the seventh continent,”
“What a pity,” Stafford said, “So what the hell happened when we were returning to the ship? With all the stuff fading, and the Delori vanishing, and sailing right past the saucer without blinking an eye?”
“It all has to do with being in sync,” Jall explained, “See, we don’t belong on this planet. Neither does the saucer. The Delori do. I’d guess that we were slightly out of sync the whole time we were in their time zones, but since we were in physical contact with the people and the objects there, we were ‘anchored’ in that zone,”
“But you didn’t really belong,” Noonan mused, “Fascinating. And because you were still in sync with the saucer, you were able to find it,”
“But the Delori couldn’t because they were perfectly synced to their time zones,” Jall nodded.
“Why did they vanish as soon as we left their ships?” Wowryk wanted to know.
“We looked at the sensor readings from right before the saucer hit the ocean,” Burke said, bringing up another image, “And we think it explains it,”
They watched the screen. The image showed sensor readings around the saucer as it fell through the atmosphere. There wasn’t much to see, just the huge shimmering layer of interference above and the ocean below. But then, just for a second, the image changed. Suddenly, there were six lines of shimming incandescence radiating out from the saucer in all directions. The series of numbers next to the image jumped suddenly, and the saucer’s velocity suddenly dropped,”
“What the hell?” Jeffery frowned.
“Very interesting,” Noonan said, “Yes, I remember seeing this as the saucer came down,”
The ticking in the back of Stafford’s head and grown into a full-blown itch. Something was not as it should be. Dammit, but what?”
“Look,” Burke pointed, “Whatever this temporal stuff is, the saucer passed right through a major nexus of it! The temporal barriers dividing the planet all intersect here, and the amount of energy is amazing! They actually repelled the saucer for that moment when it passed through the nexus, pushing it away from the planet!”
“If they hadn’t,” Noonan said, “The saucer probably would have taken much more serious damage in the crash,”
“Wait,” Stafford’s jaw dropped. The time zones, the blank Delori map, the comments Jeffery had heard regarding the ‘nature of the world, “Barriers. You mean, the Delori CAN’T LEAVE? They’re stuck in their time zones, and they got snapped back because of that?”
“Right,” Jall said, “They only made it as far as they did because of us…because we CAN pass through the barriers. As soon as they lost physical contact with us they were pulled back into their time zone. They probably don’t even know what happened!”
“My God,” Wowryk said, “Those people, they’re all trapped. Trapped in their own parts of their world, unable to leave, unable to grow!”
“Why?” T’Parief asked, “What is the motive? Why would somebody do this to themselves? Or why would somebody do this to these people?”
Noonan was frowning at the original diagram of the planet. He gestured for Burke to zoom in on one section. The seventh continent. It was located on the exact opposite side of the planet from the Central Sea. Unlike the other 6 time zones, which were wedge shaped and extended out from the Central Sea towards the seventh continent, the time zone around the seventh continent was round.
“That continent,” Noonan said, “None of our people landed on it because it’s on the far side of the planet,”
“I guess,” Burke shrugged, looking at the diagram, “Most of the lifeboats came down around the Central Sea here. They’re not exactly built for long range,”
“And you described a ‘nexus’ of temporal energy nearby?”
“Yeah,” Burke said, indicating a convergence of the anomalies on his display, not far from the saucer,”
“Perhaps a temporal pole, so to speak?” Noonan asked.
“That would suggest,” he said, “that if there’s a temporal pole near us, and the seventh continent is at the other side of the planet…”
“Then the other pole, and possibly whatever is generating them, is there as well,” Noonan finished.
“Creepy,” Yanick said.
“Yeah,” Stafford agreed, “Somebody’s really been messing up this planet AND these people,”
“No,” Yanick shook her head, “I mean, it’s creepy that we were able to figure all this stuff out,”
“It did take us over a month,” Jall pointed out.
“OK,” Stafford said, “So we know what’s happened to the planet, but we don’t know why. We’ve got three objectives. First, we need to get off the planet. If we’re really lucky, the stardrive section is still in orbit. There may even be a rescue ship up there by now. Even if we have to abandon the saucer on the planet, we can at least get back to Federation space,”
“We have no readings of the stardrive section after it detached,” Jall said, “It’s probably still up there,”
“Right,” Stafford nodded, “Jall, Yanick and Jeffery are going to try to figure out how to get up there and either use the stardrive section to evacuate the rest of us or at least get the authorization codes so we can finish booting up the damned saucer!”
“Goody!” Yanick said, turning to give Jall a high-five.
“Second,” Stafford said, “We need to stop Stalart from doing whatever it is he’s doing. Third, and most importantly, we need to get Sylvia back!”
“Now we’re talkin’!” Jeffery said, slapping a hand on the table.
“I take it I will be assisting with that?” T’Parief asked.
Stafford shook his head.
“Sorry big guy, but if the folks in the Medieval Zone thought you were a dragon, what will the people in the Stupid Zone think?”
“Being dissected in a lab would be bad, sweetie,” Yanick said, patting his arm.
T’Parief grumbled in displeasure, but said nothing.
“You’ll need to keep in mind,” Burke jumped in, “Stalart and his people are out of sync with this planet the same way we are. If we can find this ship, there’s no reason why he can’t find it,”
“Who’s goin’ after Sylvia then?” Jeffery asked.
“I’m taking the Hazardous Team back to Dufarndan…the Stupid Zone…whatever,” Stafford said, “We’re going to go back and kick Stalart’s ass, along with the asses of all his little cronies, back to where they came from!”
“But if Stalart’s arming the Delori with advanced weapons-“ Noonan started.
“We’ll take advanced weapons with us,” Stafford said, “Jeffery, is there any way to move the saucer closer to Dufarndan? We might need the extra support, especially if Stalart’s close to finished repairing his ship,”
“Pye might be able to move ye a bit closer with the thrusters,” he said, “But this ain’t a boat. And without the main computer, it’s gonna be tricky!”
“He’ll try,” Stafford said.
“Won’t the Delori see the saucer?” Jall asked, “They can see Stalart’s ship, right?”
“They didn’t see it before.” Stafford said.
“It’s sitting in a temporal no-man’s land,” Burke suggested, “Stalart’s ship landed in Dufarndan. If we get too close…well…I don’t know, to be honest.”
“I think there’s a fourth objective we must consider,” Noonan said.
“What’s that?” Stafford said. As he turned to face his First Officer head on, he was almost overcome by a wave of dizziness. Something was 100% not right. And it had to do with Noonan…something about Noonan being there.
“We need to find out who is doing this to the Delori,” Noonan said, “And whoever they are, they are very possibly on the seventh continent. I want to go there,”
“What, just cross the planet like that?” Jall crossed his arms, “If you didn’t notice, the shuttles are smashed, the transporters are down and there isn’t exactly a hovercab we can call,”
“I can make it,” Noonan said, “I can obtain an aircraft in Dufarndan, fly as far as I can in that zone and proceed the rest of the way. If there is a second nexus of temporal energy, it’s vital that we know it,”
“I don’t see why,” Stafford said.
“Because,” Noonan said, “I can only think of one reason why Stalart’s people were investigating this planet to begin with,”
“To get control of whatever is causing this time fracturing?” Wowryk asked.
“It makes sense,” Noonan said.
“It does,” Stafford finally agreed, “You going alone doesn’t. Take T’Parief with you, if you’re going to be traveling most of the time. Or Ensign Day.”
“I’m more effective on my own,” Noonan said, “This experience should prove that,”
He was right, Stafford realized. It was all so reasonable. Noonan was better working on his own than as part of a group, he did it most of the time on the ship anyway and-
Something in Stafford’s mind snapped. Suddenly, everything was clear…and he knew exactly what the problem was.
“Fine,” he said, eyes boring into Noonan, “Dismissed. Noonan, stay here,”
The staff starting filing out.
“Nice command performance,” Jeffery said, patting Stafford on the shoulder on his way out.
Finally, Stafford and Noonan were alone.
“Do you remember,” Stafford said, “About a year ago. We were testing out that Improbability Drive. We had a little chat, about how strange you were; the sun thing, the fang teeth, always drinking wine, living off in your own little world?”
“Yes,” Noonan said.
“I seem to recall saying that I’d lost my trust and respect for you. And after we had that little argument, things got better. We were working as a team again. Things were going well,”
“They were,” Noonan said.
“And I also remember,” Stafford said, “That you promised me that you wouldn’t make the same mistake with the rest of the crew as you made with me. That you wouldn’t influence them with whatever mind-power you have.”
“I did,” Noonan said.
“Y’know, I almost didn’t notice it this time,” Stafford said, “Maybe you were more subtle. Maybe it’s because of this mess we’re in. But you’ve influenced me twice now. You forced me to leave you behind when we evacuated, and now that we’re back on the ship you’ve been trying to get us all to just imagine that you being here alive is perfectly normal, and I WANT TO KNOW WHY!” Stafford slammed a fist down on the table.
Noonan was quiet for a moment.
“I did force you to leave me,” he said, “I needed everybody safely off the ship, and felt that I had a chance to save it. Which I did, I might add,” he held his head high, “I was seriously injured in the crash. Now, despite what you may think, I can be hurt. Badly. I couldn’t take the steps needed to recover. It was all I could do to pull myself off the bridge and away from the sunlight streaming in the windows. I made it to an empty section of the lower decks and remained there. With enough time, I would have healed. However, when you returned, I knew I had to take action. I couldn’t allow any of you to see me in that state, so I influenced Yanick to bring me what I needed to heal myself. I returned, still weak but mobile. If I hadn’t done something, you all would have asked very inconvenient questions about why I had not attempted to help any of you, why I had taken no steps to repair the saucer, etc. Instead, I chose to give the impression that all was well. The rest of the crew has no suspicion of my true nature, and I had hoped that enough time had passed that you wouldn’t either,”
“Didn’t quite work that way, did it?” Stafford said softly.
“No,” Noonan replied.
The stared at each other in silence for several minutes. The 200-year old being Noonan had become and the young man Stafford was, so much like the man Noonan might have been.
“I should be angry,” Stafford said.
“You saved the ship,” Stafford sighed, rubbing his forehead, “And you were looking out in the best interest for the crew. But tell me, Matthew, how do you feel about this?”
Noonan started. It was the last thing he was expecting. He was expecting Stafford to rant, to rave. To scream and yell and eventually tire himself out in a cooling ember of mortal rage. This, this tired, resigned question was the last thing he was expecting.
“How do you feel,” Stafford said, “About living a lie? How do you feel about reporting for your shift every day, hanging out in the lounge, meeting people in the corridors, when none of them really know you? When all they know is this façade you keep working so hard to maintain?”
Noonan said nothing.
“You remind me of a character in one of Anne Rice’s old books,” Stafford went on, “See, she wrote about these immortal beings, vampires really. They all lived these strange, fantastically dark lives. They had riches, they had eternal life, they had so many of the things that people dream of. But they were always, always alone. Something about you just reminds me so much of those poor characters,”
“You may be more right than you know,” Noonan sighed. He sat down across from Stafford, “Chris, I wish I could tell all of you about my life. I wish I could tell you what it was like to be me, what it was like to have seen the things I see or why I do the things I do,” a red tear formed in the corner of his eye, “I want to share who I am with all of you. But it’s not possible. My people have learned from experience, far too much experience, that we have to stand apart. We need to stay alone,”
“Then why are you here?” Stafford asked.
“That may be a question I need to think about,” Noonan admitted, “I will have to think about it very carefully,” he stood and straightened his uniform, “After this crisis is over,”
“Go to the seventh continent,” Stafford said, returning to business, “Find out what’s there. Hopefully, by the time you get back we’ll have Sylvia and a way off this planet,”
“Good luck then,” Noonan said, reaching out to shake his Captain’s hand, “Good luck to both of us,”