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Author: Anthony Butler
Copyright: 2001

When the USS Explorer blew up, Lt. Commander Nell Vansen’s first thought was that she really should have ordered the fish.

Her second thought was that she, and everyone on the Explorer, were going to be dead. Their incompetence had finally caught up with them. It had only been a matter of time. She really didn’t know why she was surprised.

And, as suddenly as the glowing blue sphere slammed into Vansen, her body was riddled with crackling energy and everything went mercifully dark.


Then, suddenly she was walking down the corridor toward Science Lab Three. She braced her hand against a bulkhead and shook her head dizzily.

“Are you all right?” a voice asked her, placing a hand on her shoulder. She was annoyed to find it was Lt. J’hana.

Vansen rubbed her eyes. “Yeah. Just a little nauseous I think. You’d think food poisoning would wear off after a couple days.” She put aside her queasiness and pointed for J’hana to situate her two assistants, Lt. Unlathi, the massive, tentacled, gender-neutral being that was somewhat inaccurately listed as humanoid on their personnel review, and the overanxious, trigger- happy Ensign Adam Keefler, in their positions to guard the lab and its important experiment.

J’hana nodded at Vansen. “We shall protect this room from any who should attempt to infiltrate it. And should the Explorer be attacked from the outside, we are prepared to protect the experiment at all costs.”

“Very good,” said Vansen. “Keep on the lookout for anything suspicious.”

“Always,” J’hana said, and slapped Vansen playfully on the behind.

Vansen glared over her shoulder at the Andorian. “I’ll chalk that up to cultural misunderstanding. THIS time. Do it again and I promise you, you will draw back a bloody blue stump!”

“What’s gotten into her today?” J’hana snarled, standing next to Lt. Unlathi, who grunted neutrally in response.

Vansen pushed in through the double lab doors to find Lt. Commanders Hartley and Tilleran hunched over a glittering blue orb that sat hovering a little over a meter above a rectangular alien-looking control panel.

Several paces away, the Daldan science team, comprised of Proctor Gallath and his assistant Bondoth, were chatting with Baxter and Richards. The tall and gangly, light green aliens with spiked heads and beady eyes were making final adjustments to the Time Manipulator, which is what they called the device.

“Some blue orb, eh?” Baxter said by way of making conversation.

“Indeed,” said Vansen. “I trust you had no problem getting here?” she asked Gallath.

“None at all,” Gallath said easily. “We expect this experiment to go off without…what is the Terran expression? A hitch?”

“See, they’re already talking like us!” Baxter said giddily.

“Where’s our Ambassador when we need him,” moaned Richards.

“Glorious day!” Ambassador Weyoun exalted, breezing into the lab, his Ambassador’s robe billowing around his small frame. He scuttled up to Gallath and pumped his hand vigorously. “Salutations! Greetings! From all of us at the Dominion, welcome! We are tremendously excited to help you bring this meritorious project into fruition. We eagerly await the–”

“It’s ready,” Hartley mumbled, slapping her hands together, standing from her crouched position and walking over to the others, just as Tilleran slapped a panel closed on the rectangular control panel and walked over to join Hartley.

“Everything…seems to check out, I suppose,” Tilleran said uneasily, looking at Hartley. “Right, Commander?”

“Yeah,” Hartley said. “You know that as well as I. The theories behind that thing are sound. I just don’t know how you’re going to make it actually work.”

“So we have a device running off our ship’s power supply and we can’t even confirm it does what it’s supposed to do?” Vansen asked, raising an eyebrow.

“We trust in Proctor Gallath that he can make it work,” Weyoun said quickly.

“We are certain that our technology can work flawlessly in concert with Confederation technology.”

Baxter raised his index finger. “Umm…that’s ‘Federation.’”

“Very good,” said Gallath. He glanced at his assistant, Bondoth. “Well, then. Shall we?”

Bondoth nodded.

“Power up,” Gallath said. Bondoth walked over to the panel and punched in several codes. Then he backed up to stand next to Gallath.

The sphere, which had been floating harmlessly above everyone’s heads a moment before, started spinning.

Baxter looked at Gallath. “So. What’s this experiment going to show us?”

“We are going to open a portal to a moment in time just a few minutes ago, at first. But, the device should be able to reach even farther back into time, based on a successful trial here today.”

“Fascinating,” said Richards, backing just a bit more against the wall as the orb thrummed and spun around. He jabbed Baxter in the side. “Andy, is it just me or does this bring back bad memories?”

“I’m sure they’ve worked all the bugs out,” Baxter said.

“Excuse me,” Gallath suddenly said. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

“As do I,” said Bondoth. And the two headed for the lab exit.

“You want to turn off your orb thingy?” Baxter asked.

“No. It’s doing just what it’s supposed to do,” Gallath said. “Just let it run.”

“Okay,” said Baxter. “Don’t be long!”

“Oh, we won’t,” said Bondoth, as he and Gallath quickly dashed out of the lab.

Baxter stood there, tapping his foot. “Well, Weyoun. This is some honor, eh?”

“Indeed, Captain. The Dominion should be pleased.”

“Doesn’t anyone feel the least bit suspicious here?” Vansen demanded.

“Trust is the hallmark of good diplomacy, Commander,” Baxter said. He beamed. “Did I just say that? Damn, I’m smart.”

Richards stared at his shoes. “Wonder what Janice’s doing.”

The orb spun faster, glowing brighter, producing an audible hum that rose up to become an insistent thud in everyone’s ears.

“You know, I think I have to go to the bathroom too,” Tilleran said, and ran out of the room.

“Damned peculiar,” Baxter said, as suddenly a white-blue shockwave blasted out of the sphere, expanding outward, sending jolts of crackling energy through everyone in the room.

“YOWWW!” Richards cried, collapsing to the deck. Weyoun fell on top of him, and Baxter pitched forward on top of the pair.

Hartley gripped a readout console, staring at the numbers trickling across its screen. “Vansen! This thing is showing enormous energy buildup. If we don’t deactivate it, it’ll destroy the ship!”

Not such a bad thing, Vansen thought, then scolded herself. The Explorer could be blown up. But not with her aboard! She rushed forward toward the control panel and started ripping at its buttons. But there was no reaction.

“Try to knock that sphere off its axis!” Hartley suggested, as another blast wave from it knocked her unconscious and knocked Vansen off- balance. The second officer struggled toward the sphere and, hopping onto the console, proved why she was Number Three all-time on the Starfleet volleyball team. She slammed her fist into the sphere and knocked it across the room. It bounced off the opposite wall and collided with her, slamming her to the deck, slamming her unconscious, as she heard the alert klaxons chime and the Explorer started blowing up all around her.


“My, you’re looking rested,” Baxter chuckled as Vansen trudged onto the bridge, just as Lieutenant Madera was bringing the Explorer into orbit around Dalda Two.

“Wha…what?” Vansen asked, and nearly collapsed to the deck. A passing ensign caught her. She glared at him and he quickly went away.

“I said, you’re looking rested,” Baxter said. “I was being sarcastic, since I happen to know you’ve spent the last two days doing personnel reviews.”

“I have?” Vansen asked, glancing back into the turbolift. “Wait. What day is this?”

“Monday. What day did you think it was?”

“Uhm. That would be it. Morning, afternoon, or night?”

“Morning. Would you care to know what year it is while we’re at it?”

“Shove it, Captain,” Vansen muttered.

“You’ll be relieved to know we’ve arrived at Dalda Two without incident,” Baxter said as Vansen walked down to the command area. “Just to think, we did it all by ourselves. Without you.”

“I’m shocked.”

Baxter grimaced and looked back at the viewscreen. “J’hana, contact the Daldan government and have Gallath begin transporting his people and equipment to one of our labs.” He looked at Tilleran. “Any idea on the best place to do this?”

“Umm…” Tilleran said, fumbling with her console. “One of the science labs, I guess.”

“Riiight,” said Baxter. “Which one?”

“Um…Three?”

“Very good,” Baxter said, nodding at J’hana. “You heard the lady. Have Gallath set up his operation in Science Lab Three.” He looked at Vansen. “And you can assist in their welcoming.” That said, he ducked into the aft turbolift. “Science decks,” he ordered, and the doors closed.

“I’m honored,” Vansen said flatly, walking up to Tilleran’s console. “Okay, Commander. I will meet you in the science lab in twenty minutes so we can properly greet our guests. But first, I want to discuss some security concerns with J’hana.”

“I don’t see why,” Tilleran said, giving her console a few quick plucks and then standing. “The Daldans are on our side. Or at least the Dominion’s, aren’t they?”

“Well, we can’t be too careful,” Vansen said. “We have to treat this situation as if they were a hostile culture. There is a civil war going on down on their planet, you know.”

“I’m vaguely aware,” Tilleran said.

“Indeed,” said J’hana, stepping out from behind her panel. “It was their civil war that caused the malfunction in their last time experiment that caused everyone in the science building to age in reverse.”

“Yes, and I don’t want that stupid civil war interfering again,” Vansen said. “For all we know, they could have a person on our ship.”

“Highly unlikely,” Tilleran snapped quickly. Then she added, “I’ll be down in the science labs, where I’m sure our captain and first officer are already playing with the pretty gadgets.”

Vansen rolled her eyes. “All right, then. J’hana, you’re with me. Let’s see how many people we need to secure the perimeter.”

“Lieutenant Unlathi and one other,” J’hana said. Vansen gave her a questioning look.

“Is that all?”

“When we use Unlathi, we only ever need one other.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Vansen muttered as she and J’hana walked into the forward turbolift, opposite the one Tilleran had taken. “Lieutenant Madera, you have the bridge.”

“Yippee. Twice in one year,” Madera muttered and walked back to the command chair.

“Just hold the place together until we get back,” Vansen snapped as the turbolift doors closed.

“Sure, no problem,” said Madera.


Vansen arrived at Science Lab Three and pointed for J’hana to situate her two assistants, Lt. Unlathi and Ensign Keefler. As she was doing so, she looked around. “That’s odd.”

“What?” asked J’hana.

“I just got an overwhelming sense of Deja Vu.”

“Ah, yes. The feeling that you cannot help but murder someone.”

“Um, no. The feeling I’ve done all this before.”

“We have discussed security arrangements many times before, and as always I have stared at your chest throughout.”

“Okay. Glad to know we’re all on the same page,” Vansen muttered, and ducked into the science lab

As she walked by, J’hana slapped Vansen playfully on the behind.

Vansen glared over her shoulder at the Andorian. “Watch it!! That’s the second and last time you’ll ever do that!”

“That is the first time I have ever done that, and if I knew it would elicit such a reaction, I’d have started much sooner!”

Vansen just growled and stalked into the lab.

“What’s gotten into her today?” J’hana snarled, standing next to Lt. Unlathi, who grunted neutrally in response.


“Some blue orb, eh?” Baxter said by way of making conversation.

“Indeed,” said Vansen. “I trust you had no problem getting here?” she asked Gallath.

“None at all,” Gallath said easily. “We expect this experiment to go off without…what is the Terran expression? A hitch.”

“See, they’re already talking like us!” Baxter said giddily.

“Where’s our Ambassador when we need him,” moaned Richards.

“Glorious day!” Ambassador Weyoun exalted, breezing into the lab, his Ambassador’s robe billowing around his small frame. He scuttled up to Gallath and pumped his hand vigorously. “Salutations! Greetings! From all of us at the Dominion, welcome! We are tremendously excited to help you bring this meritorious project into fruition. We eagerly await the–”

“It’s ready,” Hartley mumbled, exchanging a glance with Tilleran.

“Everything…seems to check out, I suppose,” Tilleran said uneasily, looking at Hartley. “Right, Commander?”

“Yeah,” Hartley said. “You know that as well as I. The theories behind that thing are sound. I just don’t know how you’re going to make it actually work.”

“So we have a device running off our ship’s power supply and we can’t even confirm it does what it’s supposed to do?” Vansen asked, raising an eyebrow.

“We trust in Proctor Gallath that he can make it work,” Weyoun said quickly.

“We are certain that our technology can work flawlessly in concert with Confederation technology,” said Gallath.

Baxter raised his index finger. “Umm…that’s ‘Federation.’”

“Very good,” said Gallath. He glanced at his assistant, Bondoth. “Well, then. Shall we?”

Bondoth nodded.

“Power up,” Gallath said. Bondoth walked over to the panel and punched in several codes. Then he backed up to stand next to Gallath.

The sphere, which had been floating harmlessly above everyone’s heads a moment before started spinning.

Baxter looked at Gallath. “So. What’s this experiment going to show us?”

“We are going to open a portal to a moment in time just a few minutes ago, at first. But, the device should be able to reach even farther back into time, based on a successful trial here today.”

“Fascinating,” said Richards, backing just a bit more against the wall as the orb thrummed and spn around. He jabbed Baxter in the side. “Andy, is it just me or does this bring back bad memories?”

“I’m sure they’ve worked all the bugs out,” Baxter said.

“Excuse me,” Gallath suddenly said. “I have to go to the bathroom.’

“As do I,” said Bondoth. And the two headed for the lab exit.

Five minutes later, the Explorer blew up in a beautiful cascade of pretty lights.


Vansen awoke, looking around the small office she’d commandeered on Deck 12, where she’d chosen to do the hideous stack of personnel reports Captain Baxter had dumped on her.

She squinted at the blurry writing on her desktop console. Something about Crewman Wilcox spilling tomato sauce all over the shuttlebay floor. She wondered why the Explorer would even keep a semi- brain dead person on staff to begin with.

Vansen stumbled tiredly over to the replicator and ordered a glass of water. As she sipped, she looked at her reflection in the polished surface of the replicator control panel. That was some dream she’d had. It was just a dream, right? Yeah, had to be.


“My, you’re looking rested,” Baxter chuckled as Vansen trudged onto the bridge, just as Lieutenant Madera was bringing the Explorer into orbit around Dalda Two.

“Go to hell,” Vansen snapped. “J’hana. Get Unlathi and Keefler and meet me down in Science Lab Three, where Lt. Commander Tilleran thinks we have the best shot of pulling off this experiment. Captain, open up a channel to the Daldans and tell them we’re ready to receive them in the lab. Let’s get a move on. We don’t have all day!” With that, she headed into the turbolift, leaving a perplexed bridge crew behind.


“Some blue orb, eh?” Baxter said by way of making conversation, once he and Richards had assembled with Gallath and Bondoth in Lab Three.

“Indeed,” said Vansen. “I trust you had no problem getting here?” she asked Gallath.

“None at all,” replied Gallath.

“See, they’re already talking like us!” Baxter said giddily.

“Where’s our Ambassador when we need him,” moaned Richards.

“Glorious day!” Ambassador Weyoun said, dancing his way into the lab. “Salutations! Greetings! From all of us at the Dominion, welcome! We are tremendously excited to help you bring this meritorious project into fruition. We eagerly await the–”

“Let’s get this over with so I can go back to sleep,” Vansen said.

A short time thereafter, the U.S.S. Explorer again exploded.


“Bloody Mary,” she snapped at Mirk, then blinked her eyes. “Um…”

“Are you okay, Commander?” Mirk said, leaning over his bar, looking on Vansen with concern.

“Just…just a little woozy. I think it’s the chicken from last night,” Vansen said. “But keep the liquor coming.”

“Maybe a nice papaya juice instead?”

“A Bloody Mary, Mirk,” Vansen said tiredly. “Trust me. It’s one of those days.”

“One of what days?”

“It’s a human expression.”

“A silly expression if you ask me. Of course it’s a day. And if you put a lot of days together, it would be one of them. So?”

“When we say ‘it’s one of those days,’ we generally mean it is a bad day.” Vansen felt like she was explaining something to a child, certainly not the godlike creature Mirk claimed to be.

“Yes, now that makes sense.” Mirk slid a glass of red liquid with a carrot stick sticking out of it over to Vansen. “Enjoy.”

“Mirk, why is there a carrot in here?”

“Can’t a guy improvise a little? Besides, I hate celery.”

Vansen tossed the carrot out and onto the bar, then sucked back on the glass. “Mmm. You make a strong one, Mirk.”

“Glad you like it,” Mirk said. “Now what’s on your mind?”

“Ever get the feeling you know how the next few days are going to go before you even get there?”

“All the time. Then again, I’m semi-omnipotent.”

“Wouldn’t that be semi-potent?”

“Whatever. But I have an excuse. You, on the other hand, should be pretty much premonition-free.”

“Yeah,” Vansen said thoughtfully. “So why do I get the feeling we’re all in grave danger?”

“I have no idea.” Mirk squeezed his eyes shut. “I, however, just checked, and I can safely say we’re all fine.”

“I’d feel a lot more comfortable with that if you were fully potent and not just semi-potent.”

“Give a guy a chance, Commander.”


Two days later, after mulling over a horrendous stack of personnel reports, Vansen found herself standing against the wall in Science Lab Three, watching Hartley and Tilleran fuss over Gallath’s invention, wanting this experiment to just be OVER.

She looked at Weyoun, giddily chatting with Gallath. Baxter was muttering somtehing about a lamaz class to Richards. And he could hear J’hana outside taking Unlathi and Keefler through practice fighting maneuvers.

Then, finally, Hartley announced the experiment was ready. As soon as the control panel was activated and that blue sphere started spinning, Gallath and Bondoth politely excused themselves. Vansen thought that odd. Something was definitely not right about that.

Before she could communicate her concerns to anyone, the sphere sent off shockwaves of powerful energy, knocking everyone but her unconscious. And as Vansen tried to knock the sphere off its axis, she decided something was definitely out of the ordinary. Although the Explorer blew up all around her, Vansen had the unshakable feeling that she’d survive without a scratch.


The little Vorta clapped his hands excitedly. “This is a joyful time indeed! Just WAIT until the Founders hear about this. A real opportunity to treat a former member world like an equal. To come to their aid in their time of need.” Weyoun looked upward. “Truly, this is a special opportunity.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Vansen. “We’ll get there in about three days. The captain will want to do a briefing the day before. You should be ready.”

“As I will,” Weyoun said, hopping off his chair, circling around his desk and bracing Vansen’s shoulders. “As will we all! I can truly see the new day dawning for the Dominion. Can’t you, Commander?”

“Whatever,” Vansen said, and walked out.

As she walked down the corridor toward the bridge, where she was scheduled to go on-shift, Vansen felt overcome by a wave of nausea and dizziness. She closed her eyes momentarily, bracing a hand on a bulkhead, but when her eyes were closed she saw a perfect image of the corridors of a science lab collapsing around her as a great orb spun off its axis and flew toward her. She shrugged that feeling off as the lingering effects of food poisoning and continued down the corridor.

Three days later, J’hana slapped Vansen’s ass again and the Explorer blew up.


Vansen awoke in some Explorer corridor, dazed, and feeling something wet and slippery slapping against her face.

“Charlie! No. Bad boy. Don’t lick her. You don’t know where she’s been.” Peterman peered over Vansen. “Commander, are you okay?”

Vansen leaned up. “Get this mongrel off me!”

“He was just trying to help,” Peterman said innocently.

“My, you’re looking bigger,” Vansen observed.

“Look, we can stand here and hate each other, or you can tell me why on Earth you would be passing out in the middle of a corridor like this.”

“I don’t know,” Vansen said, more to herself than Peterman. “But I’m going to find out.”

“Good idea,” Peterman called after her.


“Your body is flooded with chroniton radiation,” Dr. Holly Wilcox told Vansen, pointing to the blinking green areas on her bioscan, on a panel beside the second officer’s biobed.

“How did THAT get there?” she demanded, swinging her legs down and hopping off the bed.

“I have no idea. But I’d like to study you a little bit longer to try and figure that out.”

“Sorry, Doctor, but I have more important business to attend to.” Like saving this ship from blowing up, Vansen thought as she walked out of Sickbay. She didn’t know how she knew this, but she knew it with absolute certainty. Everyone aboard the Explorer was going to die.

Except maybe her.


“Do you really expect me to believe that you’re bouncing back and forth through time, and that the only way to save this ship is to avoid Dalda Two at all costs?” Captain Baxter asked incredulously, sitting behind his desk.

“How would I know the Daldans would call and ask for our aid?”

“They called hours ago. Where have you been?”

“Unconscious down on Deck Twelve, and for a lot longer than I’d thought,” Vansen muttered to herself.

“Now,” Baxter said, looking at a padd. “Doctor Wilcox says you’re suffering from exhaustion, among other things.”

“Including exposure to a large dose of chroniton radiation.”

“Yes,” Baxter said. “That is odd. How about this? We’ll have Lieutenant Commander Tilleran give the equipment a good solid checking before activating it. Then we’ll be sure it won’t be harmful to the Explorer.”

“Yes,” Vansen said. “That should prove once and for all that I’m telling the truth.

Three days later, Tilleran, unfortunatey and oddly, didn’t spot a single thing wrong with the device, and the Explorer blew up.


Space Tastes was more crowded than usual on that particular Friday night. Feeling nauseated and woozy, Vansen stood by the doorway, trying to decide if it was worth the wait, and whether she should just head back to her quarters and get something from the replicator.

Too late.

Doctor Janice Browning came running up through the crowd, dragging a dizzy Vansen by the arm into her restaurant.

“Nell, so glad you could make it! Let me get you a booth with the other senior staff. Counselor Peterman and Captain Baxter were just telling us about a particularly hilarious lamaz class!”

Vansen grimaced. “Okay…” Browning was being overly friendly of late. If Vansen had to guess, she’d say Browning was feeling guilty about the incident several months ago in which she dumped scalding coffee on Vansen’s head. Inwardly, Vansen congratulated herself on not having such weaknesses. When she made a decision, she stuck by it, and never regretted it.

“…then he said, ‘I can’t put my hand there; how do you think I got her pregnant in the first place?’” Peterman burst out laughing, dribbling from her glass of iced tea and twirling an onion ring on her finger as Vansen slid into the end of the large circular booth. She found herself next to Lieutenant Howard Sefelt. Grand.

“Care for a stuffed mushroom cap, Commander?” Sefelt asked. “They’re great!”

“Stuff it,” Vansen snapped, and then motioned for a waitress to bring her a menu.

Sefelt, meanwhile, stared perplexed at one of his mushroom caps. “But it’s already…”

“Commander, glad to see you could make it to our little dinner,” Baxter said, wrapping an arm around Peterman as much as he could, despite her generous-sized tummy. “I was just telling these folks how nice it would be if we could all get along.”

“I’ll have the fish,” Vansen told Imhala, Browning’s waitress, not really listening to Baxter. “No, on second thought, I’ll take the spicy K’tarrian chicken.”

“You should really have the fish,” Lt. J’hana said, glaring across the table at Vansen. “It is succulent.” On that last word, J’hana made a motion with her tongue that made Vansen’s nose crinkle.

“Definitely the chicken,” Vansen said, and Imhala nodded curtly, taking her menu.

“Excellent decision, dearie,” said the Yynsian.

“Dearie?” Vansen asked. “What is she, twenty-seven years old?”

“She’s channeling an old woman,” Peterman explained. “Aren’t Yynsians fascinating?”

“I guess.”

“Where is Lieutenant Commander Tilleran?” J’hana said, beckoning a waiter for another drink.

“Probably unwinding after a long day of reconfiguring sensor pallets for this stellar survey,” Commander Richards said, finishing off his third Tom Cochrane.

“Speaking of absent friends,” said Baxter. “Where’s Mirk?”

“Probably trying to rustle up some business at the Constellation Club,” Hartley said as she sipped her Crescan ale.

“Pity,” Browning replied, breezing by with another tray of appetizers. “Maybe you all can go over there for a nightcap.” Lt. Sefelt started to rise and Browning beat him back with a kitchen towel. “Not right now! Now you must eat! EAT I tell you! You’re skin and bones. You want to die of starvation?”

Sefelt shook his head worriedly. “Um…no!”

“Then eat! I’ll be back with the main course.”

“I can’t wait to try the fish,” Baxter said eagerly. “I hear it’s stuffed with cream cheese and Gardokken olives.”

“Lovely,” said Richards, looking around nervously. “Say, maybe Janice needs a hand in the kitchen.” He began to rise from his chair. Lt. Madera clamped down on his arm. “No you don’t! We agreed you were not going to waste your time trying to resurrect that relationship.”

“Since when did you become a counselor?” asked Peterman.

“It’s only a temporary setback anyway,” Baxter said. “You two will get back together, eventually. Captains know these things.”

Peterman rolled her eyes.

Vansen watched the exchange with a growing feeling that she didn’t want to hang around to see its conclusion, and the strange compunction to get off the ship, any way possible. When her chicken came, she had it boxed up and left. That night, after dinner, she spent the balance of her evening throwing up. She really should have had the fish.


BLEEEEEEEEEP.

Vansen rolled over in bed. “Go away.”

BLEEEEEEEEEP.

“I said, GO AWAY!”

BLEEEEEEEEEP.

“Richards to Vansen. I know you’re in there. Don’t hide from me.”

“I’m not hiding from you. I’m ignoring you. There’s a big difference,” Vansen muttered back. “We don’t go on-shift for another two hours. You can pester me then.”

“No. We’re going to settle this right now.”

Vansen rolled her eyes, then rolled out of bed, pulling on a robe and tying it tight over her nightgown. She shuffled to her door and punched a control. “What is so damned important, Commander?”

“You reassigned Ensign Goro from Science to Engineering.”

“I thought he fit in better there.”

“He was in science for four years!”

“And struggling miserably. Are you going to question me on every single administrative decision I make?”

“When they’re my decisions, I will.”

Vansen sighed. “I make the personnel decisions, Commander. I don’t understand where your confusion is coming from.”

“You at least need to consult with me.”

Vansen blinked. “Why?”

Richards gritted his teeth. “Captain Baxter will hear about this.”

“Oh. And I am SO scared of him. Have a WONDERFUL breakfast, Commander!” Vansen backed away from the door and punched it closed, then returned to bed for two more hours’ sleep. After tossing and turning for ten minutes, she decided to head to the ship’s gym for her morning workout. She needed to do something to get her mind off her night’s dreams. Something about a time traveling device and the ship exploding. She shivered at that thought as she got up and started changing into her red Starfleet leotard.


As Vansen left the locker room, feeling refreshed after an hour of aerobics with the ship’s Emergency Aerobic Hologram, she pondered why the ship’s gym, such an excellent facility, was always so empty in the morning. Didn’t anyone on the ship work out? J’hana did, for sure, she postulated, but wasn’t sure she wanted to see what passed for a workout for J’hana.

With a towel slung around her neck, Vansen made her way down the corridor toward her quarters, ready to take a quick shower and change from her Starfleet leotard to her Starfleet uniform.

Before she could make it to her cabin door, another door slid open and something slammed into her, knocking her to the ground.

“Plato! Get back here! And get some clothes on!” came a voice from within the other quarters.

Vansen sighed, spread out on the deck. She looked up. “Good morning, Doctor Browning.”

Browning arrived at the door to her quarters, munching a muffin. “Morning, Commander. Been jogging through the corridors?”

“Just finished with aerobics.”

“You should try jogging through the corridors. I find it relaxing.” She glanced around. “Have you seen Plato?”

Vansen nodded to her left. “I think he jumped into that Jefferies tube over there.”

“Just great. I guess I’ll have to spend my morning squirming through the tubes again.” Browning sighed and finished her muffin. “Have a nice day, Commander. Hope you enjoyed your dinner last night.”

“Yeah. Loved it,” Vansen groaned and pulled herself to her feet. Browning hadn’t even bothered to ask why she was on the ground, or apologize for allowing her brat to bowl her over in the first place. Vansen trudged to her quarters. It would be one of THOSE days. Whatever that meant.


Still feeling the tingle of sound waves on her body, clad in a fresh uniform, Vansen strolled on the bridge with a feeling of authority and ownership.

“Personnel reviews,” Captain Andy Baxter said, breezing by her and dumping a stack of padds into her arms. “Mister Richards informs me you’re excited about the human resources side of command. So, to help you along in that area, we’ve decided to give you full responsibility for the weekly personnel reviews of all 860 Starfleet souls on our ship.”

“Uhm,” Vansen said, staring at the padds. “I think you mean monthly.”

“We decided to do it weekly,” Richards piped up from the command area. “You know, since we aim to be more competent than the average Starfleet vessel.”

“Your aim is a little off,” Vansen muttered, and took the padds down to her chair.

“Indeed,” Baxter said, then pushed a tray toward Vansen. “Bagel?”

“No thanks. I’m not hungry.” She hunkered down in her chair and started paging through the padds. She realized after her first few months on the Explorer that she needed to pick her battles. Specifically, she picked the ones that she had the energy to win. This wasn’t one of those times. So she started reading. Luckily, Vansen knew which crewmembers Richards and Baxter were most fond of. She resolved to give them all failing grades.


Vansen passed several hours in that fashion, with Baxter next to her in the command chair, chatting with Richards and reading a novel off a padd.

The bridge was otherwise quiet, save for the bleeping of panels and the hiss of the air recyclers.

Then, all of a sudden, J’hana spoke up:

“Captain, we are receiving a message from Dalda Two.”

Vansen whipped her head around. “NO!”

“Pardon?” asked Baxter.

“Don’t answer that comm!” Something deep inside Vansen screamed out. If the Explorer went to Dalda Two, it would be destroyed. She didn’t know how she knew this, but she knew it with absolute certainty.

Richards smirked. “Now you’re giving orders to the captain?”

Vansen grabbed Baxter’s uniform and dragged him toward her. “You don’t understand. I just know you don’t want to deal with the Daldans. Trust me on this one, Captain, and I promise you that you won’t regret it!”

Baxter looked at Vansen a long moment. “Well…”


Vansen spent the next three days in the brig, trying to explain herself to an unflinching Lt. Unlathi. Scan her! Anyone would find she’d taken on a massive dose of chroniton radiation. That had to count for something!

Maybe it even explained why, when Baxter refused to believe her, she’d slugged him in the face. Certainly that didn’t do wonders for bringing him over to her way of thinking.

Worse, it had landed her in the brig.

And, since she would be in no position to get anywhere near the experiment this time, Vansen probably wouldn’t be thrown back in time, and the Explorer would be permanently destroyed.

Finally, when she heard the rumbling and screams outside, and Lt. Unlathi got up to see what was wrong, Vansen felt an odd sensation of relief. At least all this bouncing back and forth through time would stop.


“…then he said, ‘I can’t put my hand there; how do you think I got her pregnant in the first place?’” Peterman burst out laughing, clinking her coffee cup with Doctor Browning as Vansen, sitting at a nearby table in Space Tastes, fell face-forward into her bowl of oatmeal.

Hearing the splat, Browning looked over, concerned, as Vansen woosily lifted her head up. “Something not agreeing with you, Commander?”

“Something not agreeing with Vansen?” Peterman asked. “What are the odds?”

“Shut up,” Vansen snapped, wiping her face with a napkin. She looked at Browning. “What day is it?”

“Stardate 55 “

“No. The day, damn you, the day!”

“Oh. Thursday.”

“Morning?”

“Yes, that is the preferred time for breakfasts around these parts,” Browning said with a giggle.

“Thursday morning,” Vansen repeated to herself. “Good. That means I now have four days.”

“Four days for what?” Peterman asked.

A plan was taking shape in Vansen’s mind. She smiled. “Oh, nothing, Counselor. You just go on and enjoy your breakfast. Good day, ladies!”


It was a simple matter to dismiss the one evening watchman in the shuttlebay and get emergency access to the runabout Passaic.

Vansen reasoned that each time she jumped back in time, she jumped back a little farther, but a little more of her memory was left intact. Something to do with the massive amount of chroniton radiation that was building up in her body, which would probably kill her eventually if she didn’t stop with the bouncing around.

By this point Vansen was sure that there was no way she could convince the Explorer crew of the danger coming. So she launched the Passaic, did everything she could to mask her engine emissions, and set her course for the Dalda system, hoping she could get there before the Explorer crew caught on.


“Where the hell did she go?” Baxter asked, stepping out of his readyroom, holding his steaming coffee and staring at the viewscreen.

“There’s no telling,” Ensign Adam Keefler said, jogging from the command deck up to the tactical console. “We just monitored a depressurization in the shuttlebay and the unauthorized departure of the Passaic.”

“Where is she now?”

“Uncertain,” Keefler replied, tapping at his panel. “Somehow, the commander has managed to mask her subspace emissions.”

“Hmmm.” Baxter sighed. “Guess she’ll turn up eventually. Keep me posted.” He turned around and headed back into his readyroom.


As the Passaic cruised toward Dalda Two, it occurred to Vansen that she didn’t really HAVE to stop the Daldan sabotage plot.

She could just head back to the wormhole and the Alpha Quadrant and return to Starfleet to tell them she’d handily escaped the Explorer’s explosion. What did she owe the crew of the Explorer? They had caused her nothing but grief since she’d come aboard. They were incompetent, inefficient, and had no business running a starship. Getting blown up, frankly, was probably exactly what they had coming to them.

Unfortunately, as much as she wanted to do it, Vansen could not bring herself to turn the Passaic around. She was a Starfleet officer, and there were Starfleet lives at stake. It wasn’t necessary for her to like those particular lives. She had to save them nonetheless.


“Is the device ready to go?” Gallath asked Bondoth, stooping over a worktable as his associate milled about the Primary Lab on Dalda Two.

“Yes,” Bondoth said. “I made one small adjustment to the temporal node. It’s ready to go.”

“Excellent,” Gallath said, “This will be an excellent opportunity to improve relations with the outsiders. We’ll finally going to be liked! Isn’t that fantastic?”

“Yes. Fantastic!” Bondoth said, turning to grab something out of a storage closet.

Suddenly, the door to the lab burst open and Lt. Commander Nell Vansen dashed through, wielding a phaser.

“Nobody move!” she shouted.

“Ummm…” said Gallath, looking perplexed.

“What can we do for you, Starfleet-person?” asked Bondoth.

“Answer some questions,” Vansen said, slowly stepping forward and allowing the doors out to the corridor to close. “Tell me which one of you is planning on destroying the Explorer. Or is it both?”

“What are you talking about?” asked Gallath. “We’re pioneering new time travel technology.”

“And destroying the Explorer at the same time!” Bondoth said eagerly, rushing Vansen and slapping the phaser out of her hand. It clattered to the floor.

Vansen and Bondoth dove in unison to the floor. Their heads smashed together painfully.

Dazed, Vansen groped for her phaser. As her vision cleared, Vansen looked up to see she was staring down the barrel of her own phaser, and looking into the maniacal eyes of Bondoth.

“The Brn’Tar sect is the right sect!” Bondoth cried, swinging the phaser around and aiming it at Gallath. “Go stand over next to the Starfleeter, old man.”

Gallath looked hurt. “But, but…Bondoth….why?”

“Why? Because the Brn’Tar sect is RIGHT!”

Vansen looked from Gallath to Bondoth. “So…when you two get to the Explorer, and you say you have to go to the bathroom,” she said, inclining her head toward Gallath, “You actually mean it.” She looked at Bondoth. “You, on the other hand, are just trying to leave the ship before it blows up!”

“What in the Tar are you talking about?” asked Bondoth, shaking the phaser in Vansen’s direction.;

“Don’t point that thing at her!” Gallath shouted at Bondoth. “Violence solves everything. That’s the way you Brn’Tar’s think, isn’t it? Arhg. To think I was going to try and set you up with my daughter!”

Vansen watched the exchange with a bland expression on her face. “Look, I can see you two want to discuss this alone. How about I just leave, you promise not to blow up my ship, and we’ll call it even?”

Bondoth swung the phaser around to face Vansen. “Don’t move. And don’t think I don’t know how to use this thing. All phased energy weapons pretty much work the same.”

“Good point,” Vansen muttered. “Look, do you HAVE to blow up the Explorer? Why not rig that device to blow up your science ministry or something?”

“Because, the Brn’Tar sect isn’t interested in destroying any more of Dalda than it already has. We have to hurt the real enemies. The outsiders!”

“Please,” muttered Gallath.

“And another thing,” Bondoth sneered, looking at Gallath. “We want the Gor’Mat sect to admit that Plornak Day should be Fermat the twenty-first and not Bosmot the forty-seventh!”

Vansen groaned. “Are you telling me this whole stupid mess is all about partisan politics?”

“That sounds like something a Gor’Mat would say,” sighed Bondoth.

“Don’t listen to him,” Gallath spat. “They’re dividers. They’re not uniters.”

“We’re real reformers,” muttered Bondoth.

“Well, WE are reformers with results,” Gallath said with a victorious grin.

“I think you’re all crazy,” Vansen said. “Vansen to Passaic. One to beam up.”

Nothing happened.

Bondoth laughed. “Looking for something?” He punched a control on a nearby panel and Vansen was horrified to see an image of a Daldan fighter vessel surrounded by what was certainly the smouldering ruins of the runabout Passaic. “We detected your runabout in orbit and had it destroyed.”

“Damn,” Vansen said. Not another runabout.

“Now then,” Bondoth said, backing toward the cube-shaped control panel and dull glowing sphere. “I think a change of plans is in order. Instead of blowing up the Explorer, how about I blow up the science ministry instead and shoot both of you?”

“That was my idea!” Vansen mumbled.

“Sounds like a typical Brn’Tar plan,” Gallath groused, folding his arms.

Bondoth punched several controls on the Time Manipulator’s panel and strode toward the door. “The both of you are free to discuss that and whatever else you like, with what little time you have remaining.”

“Believe me, I have more time than I can handle,” said Vansen.

Bondoth turned around as the sphere began to glow bright green. “Answer me just this one question, Starfleeter. How did you know about our plans?”

Vansen thought a moment. “Um…a lucky coincidence?”

“Not so lucky after all,” Bondoth sneered, and ran out the door.

As the Time Manipulator built up toward yet another overload, Vansen idly wondered if she would actually hop back in time again or not. She was no temporal physicist, so she really had no way of knowing. Then again, it really didn’t matter, since she was now dead, and the Explorer crew would soon join her.


“Commander! Commander! Are you okay?”

It worked!

Vansen’s eyes fluttered open to reveal a concerned-looking Janice Browning leaning over her.

“Commander?”

Vansen looked up at Browning. “What?”

“Was it something you ate?”

“Was what something I what?” Vansen leaned up on her elbows to find several Starfleet personnel suspiciously eying their forks. Everyone had stopped chewing.

“No,” she said quickly. “It wasn’t anything I ate.”

“Whew, that’s a relief,” Browning said, helping Vansen up. “Are you finished with your lunch? Or would you like some fruit or a piece of chocolate cake or a pizza or something?”

“Lunch,” said Vansen. “This is Lunch.”

“Last time I checked,” Browning said, looking around her restaurant.

“And this would be…” She scratched her head. “Wednesday?”

“All day,” Browning replied.

“Easy for you to say,” Vansen muttered, and left the restaurant.


FOUR DAYS LATER


Second Officer’s Log,

Stardate 55517.6. Today the Explorer is going to Dalda Two to help test some time travel equipment the Daldans have come up with. I can’t wait to see how everything turns out. That is to say, I know exactly how everything turns out, and I’ve waited to get the Daldans on the ship so I can catch Mister Bondoth in the act once and for all and prove that… Nevermind. It’s way too complicated to discuss in this log. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.


Vansen arrived at Science Lab Three, along with J’hana and her security assistants Keefler and Unlathi.

“All right,” Vansen sighed. “Here goes nothing.”

“Pardon?” asked J’hana.

“Nevermind,” Vansen said. “Just be on guard for something out of the ordinary. I can tell you with complete certainty that something is going to go very wrong in there.”

“I am always on guard,” J’hana said. “And know that if you are somehow killed, I will avenge your death.”

“Whatever,” Vansen said, and turned to walk into the lab. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw J’hana’s hand moving. Vansen whirled, grabbed the Andorian’s hand, and flipped it behind her back, shoving J’hana against the wall. “Keep your hands off my ass!”

“But…how?” J’hana asked, surprised.

“A hunch,” Vansen replied, releasing J’hana and stalking off into the science lab.

“I love her,” J’hana said breathily, rubbing her wrist.

Within, Gallath and Bondoth were making final adjustments to the Time Manipulator.

Tilleran and Hartley looked on. Hartley seemed reasonably confident about what was going on, while Tilleran, on the other hand, looked downright perplexed and out of place. Vansen didn’t have time to question why that was.

“HAH!” Vansen cried out, grabbing Bondoth’s shoulder.

“What?” Bondoth asked, glancing up at her, shocked.

“You just stop right there.”

“What’s all this about?” Captain Baxter asked, as he and Richards walked over to join Vansen.

“Bondoth here is planning on destroying the Explorer. He’s programmed the Time Manipulator to overload. You can look at it yourself and see that I’m right.”

Baxter rubbed his chin. “That’s a very serious accusation, Commander.”

“Bondoth is my most trusted assistant,” said Gallath. “He would never betray me in such a way. Why, I’m even planning on setting him up with my daughter.”

“That’s nice,” Bondoth said sheepishly.

“You won’t get away with this,” Vansen seethed.

“You really should stick to personnel decisions,” Richards smirked.

“ARGH! Why won’t anyone believe me!” Vansen cried, and socked Bondoth hard across the jaw. He collapsed to the floor like a sack of Bajoran gava.

“Glorious day!” Ambassador Weyoun said, breezing into the lab and breaking the stunned silence of the onlookers in the lab, his Ambassador’s robe billowing around his small frame. He scuttled up to Gallath and pumped his hand vigorously. “Salutations! Greetings! From all of us at the Dominion, welcome! We are tremendously excited to help you bring this meritorious project into fruition. We eagerly await the–” He looked down at Bondoth. “Oh dear.”

Baxters slapped his combadge. “Lieutenant J’hana, send someone in here to escort Commander Vansen out of the lab. Pronto.”

“But…but!” Vansen cried as Unlathi strode in and wrapped a muscular tentacle around her and dragged her backwards.

“Get some rest, Commander, you obviously need it!” Baxter called after her. Richards just waved.

“I hope you guys enjoy getting blown up!” she cried, thankful, at least, that this time Bondoth would die too.

Right after Unlathi tossed Vansen into the brig, the lights in the room started to flicker.

Vansen just yawned, leaned back, and listened to the chorus of screaming voices and chaos as the Explorer once again blew to pieces.


Vansen awoke with the worst nausea yet, to find herself slumped in the center seat on the bridge.

“I can’t just tractor a cloud,” Ensign Keefler was saying. Tilleran, sitting at her science console, seemed to be nodding in agreement.

“Where the hell am I?” Vansen asked, looking around the bridge. She then turned around to see Baxter, Hartley, and J’hana appear as if by magic.

“Trying to destroy that cloud out there,” Keefler said helpfully.

Baxter shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Vansen blinked. “What?”

“Mirk fixed the ship. The Goddess did blow up a planet, but there was no life on it, so no harm done there. I consider the matter closed.”

“Dammit! I’m now three weeks in the past, in a previous episode!” Vansen stormed up to the aft turbolift. “The stupid mission with that blonde goddess. Just great. If you all will excuse me, I’m off to find a stiff drink. I’m taking the next three weeks off!”

Baxter looked around at the other members of the bridge crew. “Did anyone else think that was a bit odd.”

Everyone nodded.

He settled into the command chair. “Good, glad we’re all on the same page.”


Three and a half weeks later, Vansen found herself standing outside Science Lab Three once again. If she didn’t get it right this time, who was to say how far back she’d be flung. Maybe as far back as serving aboard the Orleans…which meant she’d have to relive this entire six months aboard the Explorer. And she was not, by any stretch of the imagination, prepared to do that.

“Security measures are all set,” J’hana said, standing next to her.

Vansen turned to look at J’hana, nodding distantly. “Good.” She nodded down at the Andorian’s sidearm. “Mind if I borrow that?”

“Certainly,” J’hana said. “I am lethal with or without a weapon.”

“Thanks,” Vansen said, and stalked toward the doors to the lab. Before she reached the doors, she turned around and glared at J’hana. “Don’t even think about it!”

J’hana withdrew her hand. “Think about what?”

“Slapping my ass!”

“How…” J’hana stammered. “How did you know…?”

“Because I know everything,” Vansen muttered, and stormed into the lab.

J’hana watched in stunned silence.

Then she heard shooting from inside the lab, and lots of shouting.

Finally, she spoke. “That woman is fantastic.”


Captain’s Log,

Supplemental. I hate time travel. This crew has certainly had its share of time wierdness, but this about takes the cake. After thorough inspection of Bondoth and Gallath’s device, we were able to determine that Vansen was right in shooting the Daldan science assistant. Apparently, he’d rigged it to overload and blow up our ship during testing, as some strange form of Daldan political filibuster. Poor Gallath. It just goes to show that you can’t find good help these days.

Speaking of good help, Commander Vansen fell unconscious shortly after shooting Bondoth in the science lab. Apparently she was the victim of extreme exposure to chroniton radiation. Doctor Wilcox is currently treating her and I’m told she won’t die.

I’ve asked Weyoun to talk things over with the Daldans and ensure them that this is not the way that Starfleet, or the Dominion, takes care of business, and that we’d have to take our alliance elsewhere until the political situation calms down there a bit. The little Vorta agreed with me one hundred percent, and also agreed that the Daldans would probably be wise to stay out of the time travel business for some, er, time to come.

Meanwhile, we’re having yet another crew dinner in Space Tastes tonight to celebrate the fact that the Explorer didn’t get blown up this time around.

Long may she sail.


“So then I told our lamaz teacher, ‘Hurry up and finish this lesson, or so help me I’ll give birth right here.’” Counselor Peterman giggled and slurped some strands of spaghetti into her mouth.

“Are you STILL talking about your stupid lamaz?” Lt. Commander Vansen asked, strolling into Space Tastes and pulling up a seat across from Peterman. She looked none the worse for wear from her time-travel experience.

“I can’t help it if you had to sit through the conversation four more times than everyone else at the table,” Peterman said. “For those of us not bouncing through time, my stories appear fresh and insightful. Right?” She looked around the table. “RIGHT?”

Nobody said anything.

Vansen smiled as she looked at her menu. “I love happy endings.”


THE END.


NEXT:


Remember those “nice” Jem’Hadar? Well, what happens when those guys run into some not-nice undomesticated changelings on a distant Dominion world? And what happens when they come across a lost and EXTREMELY ticked Explorer crewmember? And what happens when someone on the Explorer decides it might be nice to blow the ship up? Again. Can this all possibly be contained in one story? Maybe! Find out, “When Changelings Attack.”


Tags: vexed