Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Prime of Your Life”
By Alan Decker
Fourteen down; Sixteen more to go, Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter thought to himself as he trudged into the turbolift on Deck 64 and ordered it to take him to his next destination. On a facility the size of Waystation, there was bound to be the occasional mechanical issue or malfunction, but generally speaking Waystation ran fairly smoothly. Porter’s team of engineers was able to rotate jobs so that no one ever felt overwhelmed or driven into the deck plating by the workload. That was the normal way of things, anyway.
Today was definitely not normal. Currently, Porter and every other member of his staff was running around the station taking care of their assigned share of blown out power conduits. Repairing one power conduit every once in a while was expected. Thirty in one day was a pain in the butt.
The turbolift slowed to a halt a few decks later, and Joan Redding, a reporter for the Associated Worlds Network headquartered on Waystation, stepped on. Spotting Porter, she immediately broke into a smile. “Mall Level One,” she ordered then turned to Porter as the turbolift resumed its ascent. “There’s the man of the hour. Do you have a comment on the recent rash of power outages on board?”
“I didn’t realize our problems were worthy of making the AWN nightly news,” Porter replied.
“They aren’t,” Redding said. “I’m just being nosy.”
“You do a lot of that.”
“It’s in the job description. So what’s going on?”
Porter sighed. “We made an upgrade to the primary reactor that the reactor didn’t like. It’s expressed its displeasure by shorting out half the conduits on the station.”
“Sounds like fun.”
Redding patted him on the arm as the turbolift came to a stop at Starfleet Square Mall. “When you get finished, I’ll buy you a drink to take the pain away.”
“I don’t think there’s a drink big enough.”
Redding shrugged. “Wouldn’t hurt to try. See you later, Craig.” The reporter headed off into the mall concourse as the doors closed again.
Since when are we on a first name basis? Porter wondered. He didn’t have much more time to ponder anything as the turbolift almost immediately arrived at his destination: the Dillon Enterprises headquarters level.
“Fourteen down. Sixteen more to go,” Porter muttered, stepping out of the turbolift, engineering kit in hand.
Seated in the quiet solitude of his richly decorated office, Bradley Dillon stared at the ornate woodwork on his ceiling, lost in thought. One of his flagged search terms had brought back a hit today from the Starfleet Information Center, which published unclassified logs and reports from the various starships, starbases, and other Starfleet outposts around the galaxy.
Usually, this was just volumes and volumes of standard dreck. We mapped a star system, we watched a star collapse, we ran screaming from some new life form. Bradley had no interest in most of this material, but occasionally something of potential interest cropped up. A promising invention, a new species with incredible technology, and the like. Therefore, Bradley had the SIC records scanned daily looking for items of interest. Additionally, he had a few terms flagged of a more personal nature.
It was one of these terms that had shown up today. Actually it was a name rather than a term:
Three years earlier, Leximas had been a resident of Waystation and one of the few close friends Bradley had ever known. During a confrontation with a cult known as the Starshine Kids, Leximas’ physical body had been destroyed, but she continued to live on as a non-corporeal being on another plane of existence working for the entities known as the Directors. As such, she rarely returned to the universe Bradley knew; however, several months earlier she had appeared to Captain Lisa Beck to help her in defeating a being called the Selvan. Just a couple of weeks ago, Leximas had appeared to him, telling him of a battle to come. He had told no one of this visitation, but now it seemed that she had indeed returned again to assist the USS Explorer in its fight with a creature called Irma.
Irma. Somehow that didn’t sound very threatening. From Captain Baxter’s report, though, it seems that the battle with Irma was brutal and that Leximas appeared to have been killed.
Was that even possible? Had she passed from the physical to non-material planes only to be wiped out by this Irma being. That hardly seemed right. Two years earlier, Bradley had attempted to intercede on Leximas’ behalf by using a time pod built by a Dr. Derrick Azar to pull her out of harm’s way before her physical form could be killed. Unfortunately, he never even really got to make an attempt, since the pod blew up before he could get the chance. After that, the pod’s remains had been confiscated by Starfleet due to the laws concerning time travel and such and had since languished in the possession of Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter.
Porter. Porter. Gisele’s morning status report had mentioned Porter. Why was that? Bradley leaned forward and checked his deck console. Porter was scheduled to make a few repairs in the Dillon Enterprises complex today. How fortunate that the man who could give Bradley another chance at pulling Leximas through the time stream to safety had basically come right to him.
Bradley tapped a panel on his desk. “Gisele, I’ll be stepping out for a short time. Feel free to contact me if needed.”
“Of course, Mister Dillon,” Gisele’s voice replied crisply. With that, the billionaire entrepreneur rose from his desk and strode out of his office.
He found Lt. Cmdr. Porter a short time later as the engineer lay halfway inside an access panel in a corridor lined with Dillon Enterprises employee offices.
“Good morning, Mister Porter,” Bradley said warmly. “How goes the battle?”
“Wonderful,” Porter grunted back.
“I’m glad to hear it.”
Porter slid out of the hatch and looked up at the Dillon Enterprises CEO. “Why am I even here? Don’t you have people to handle this sort of thing?”
Bradley smiled. “But I’m renting this space from Starfleet,” he said. “Why should I incur the expense of a maintenance staff to deal with what is really your obligation as the lessor of this space.”
“Remind me to have you evicted,” Porter said, drawing a chuckle from Bradley. “At least someone’s amused,” Porter added.
“You can be very entertaining; however, there is another matter of far more importance that I wanted to discuss with you.”
“Can’t wait,” Porter muttered, climbing back into the access hatch.
“I wanted to know when I could have my time pod back,” Bradley said.
Porter immediately slid back out of the hatch. “Excuse me?”
“My time pod. You’ve had it in your possession for two years now. I think that’s plenty of time for whatever scans you needed to perform.”
“That thing isn’t exactly a replicator, you know. It’s a time machine, a WORKING time machine…at least it was.”
“Have you had any luck repairing the remaining components?” Bradley asked, ignoring Porter’s point entirely.
“You’re not getting it back, working or not,” Porter said. “Last I knew, there were some pretty clear rules about time travel, and I’m pretty sure giving time machines to power-hungry rich people was against all of them.”
“Is that your final word on the matter?”
“Yes. But if you want to take it up with Captain Beck, I’m sure she’d have a few more words to offer you.”
Bradley winced slightly, but quickly recovered himself. “I’ll take that under advisement.”
“You do that,” Porter said, sliding back into the hatch. “Bye bye now.”
Five hours later, with all of the conduits now repaired, Porter tossed his engineering kit onto his bed and stepped into his sonic shower. He’d more than earned a break. The question was what to do with his free time. Choice A was to fall into bed, but despite being fatigued, he didn’t really feel sleepy. Going to bed now would just royally screw up his sleep routine anyway.
Choice B was to head down to the mall and find some food. He’d been snacking out of replicators around the station all day, though, so he wasn’t really hungry. Also, he wasn’t sure that he was quite ready to take Joan Redding up on that drink offer should she spot him in the mall.
There was also a Choice C, something that had been nagging at him since his conversation with Bradley Dillon several hours earlier. What Porter hadn’t told Bradley was that the heart of the time pod had indeed been salvageable and that Porter was fairly sure it was now functional, or at least it would be when Porter made the last few connections. The idea of taking his mind off of the monotony of power conduit problems by tinkering with something far more interesting certainly had its appeal. And hiding out in his lab beat dealing with the crowds in the mall, some of whom would probably still be grousing about today’s power issues, not that they had anything to complain about. The interruptions were minor and the automatic systems instantly rerouted around most of the trouble areas. Porter wondered how they’d deal with a real power failure. Panic and mass hysteria most likely, which would then be followed by loads of complaining when the crisis had passed.
That final thought pretty much sealed it. He was going to the lab.
Science Lab Two, while technically open to all Starfleet Science personnel assigned to Waystation, was generally known to be Porter’s private domain. There were enough other labs on board that this was never really an issue. Instead, the crew was more than happy to give their Chief of Operations/Science Officer his own space in which to work.
Porter had no plans to turn down their offer and treated Science Lab Two practically as an extension of his own quarters. As such, he’d turned on some music (songs from a 22nd century popular music style called Xeno-rock due the inclusion of influences from the various alien cultures Earth was encountering in this era) and sat down at his work bench with a giant mug of coffee to see about putting the finishing touches on what he had dubbed the “temporal reactor” from the destroyed time pod. The reactor was attached to a small padd Porter had rigged to control the device. Now all that was left was to reconnect the leads from the internal power supply to the reactor’s core mechanism.
The big question was what to do once he got the thing working again. Technically, any activities that affected the time stream had to be cleared with Starfleet Sciences and Temporal Investigations, not that most captains did that when the issue arose. Still, in those situations, there was usually some kind of emergency going on. Here, Porter was just tinkering for no good reason, but he just couldn’t see wading through some bureaucratic morass to run a simple test.
All he planned to do was send a tricorder a few minutes into the future. If all went according to plan, it would reappear in the lab, but its chronometer would now be a couple of minutes slow. Was that really worth the reams and reams of forms he would need to fill out?
He’d just run the test and be done with it.
After making the final connection, Porter placed a tricorder on the small platform he’d connected to the temporal reactor’s control leads. In the original time pod design, these leads had been connected to the pod itself and created the chronometric effect around whatever was inside the pod. With just a few leads connected to the platform, Porter would create the effect on a much smaller scale.
He made one final check of the tricorder’s chronometer, picked up his control padd, programmed in the destination time 5 minutes in the future, then activated the reactor.
Energies hummed in the device, and slowly the platform was shrouded in a swirling blue haze of chronometric particles, building and building until…
The particles suddenly exploded outward in a blinding flash of light. Porter reflexively shielding his face with the padd, then, once the effect had subsided, brought it back down, blinking furiously to clear his vision.
One thing instantly became obvious.
He wasn’t in his lab anymore.
Instead, he was in a dim room surrounded by cargo crates of some sort, various barrel-shaped containers, and assorted other chairs, tables, and discarded items. In front of him, though, was his work bench complete with the temporal reactor and tricorder. Evidently the chronometric reaction had grabbed a bit more than the tricorder, and this certainly wasn’t 5 minutes into the future. Honestly, he had no clue where this was, but he had no interest in staying.
Porter picked up the padd and tapped in the temporal coordinates of the time he left Waystation.
“Lovely,” Porter muttered, opening the temporal reactor. The power source was dead. Completely drained. “Just lovely.”
He let out a deep sigh and surveyed his surroundings. At least he’d appeared somewhere deserted so that he could take some time to get his bearings and plot his next move.
That thought vanished abruptly as an alert klaxon began to blare accompanied by a booming computer voice.
“ALERT! ALERT! CHRONOMETRIC INCURSION DETECTED! ALERT! ALERT! INTRUDER, REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE!”
Crap! Porter’s head darted back and forth, looking for a place to hide. There wasn’t one. He could make a break for the exit, but if forces were coming, why bother?
Porter decided that his best bet was to hide the temporal reactor and hope to make it back here some time later. He quickly snatched up the tricorder and slid it into his pocket then grabbed a couple of containers and put them on the work table, obscuring the device. With that done, he raced to the other side of the storage room. Almost as soon as he’d gotten in position, six figures materialized in an amazingly fast shower of molecules.
“Freeze!” the lead newcomer shouted, aiming his arm at Porter. Porter almost missed the small weapon barrel extending from a mount on his wrist. The other five newcomers, all clad in uniforms of angular black and grey sections had similar weapons trained on Porter.
“Frozen,” Porter said, putting his hands in the air.
He’d been beamed directly to an office of some sort. That was something of a good sign considering he very likely could have ended up in a brig. Porter had been left to his own devices for a few moments, but he decided that trying the door or pulling out his tricorder and running some scans would most likely be frowned upon by his captors. This left him with little to do but stare at the desk in front of him and the large white panel on the wall beyond it. Porter had a feeling that the panel was covering a window. Obviously, he wasn’t supposed to get a look outside. But what was outside? Where was he? Or when was he? Based on the transporter he’d just experienced and the look of the computer on the desk, he was guessing the future. Beyond that, it was hard to guess.
The office door suddenly slid open, allowing a tall uniformed man to enter. He stood a full head above Porter and had a head full of black hair that was slowly going gray around the temples.
“Lieutenant Commander Porter,” he said warmly as he strode into the office. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Commodore Theodore Ritter. Just call me Ted. Or Commodore. Or Ritter. Whatever you’re comfortable with. Sorry about the reception a few minutes ago, but you caught us by surprise.”
“Glad I wasn’t the only one,” Porter said, feeling slightly more relaxed as Ritter sat down across from him giving Porter a better look at the insignia pin he was wearing. It contained the familiar gold Starfleet delta, but it was sideways and tail-to-tail with another delta in silver with black filling in the space between the two.
Ritter chuckled. “Keeping your sense of humor. Glad to hear it. Not that I would have expected otherwise considering your profile.”
“That’s why I was delayed for a bit. I wanted to read up on you before we met. The headquarters folks thinks it helps with the adjustment. You feeling adjusted?”
“Didn’t think so,” Ritter replied. “I’m sure you must have a mess of questions, so we’ll take things a step at a time. First off, let me ask one. How did you get here?”
“I’m not sure,” Porter said, quickly deciding that maybe full honesty wasn’t the way to go just yet. These people looked like they could be future Starfleet, but it could just as likely be a parallel universe. Or maybe even the future of a parallel universe. “We’d been having some power issues in our reactor. I think something must have affected something else I was near because I suddenly wound up here, wherever here is.”
“I’m sure it was a shock,” Ritter said sympathetically. “On the upside, there are worse places you could have ended up, like inside one of our reactors. That storage room was probably as good of a place as any, even if it didn’t give you the best first impression of our station.”
“So I’m still on a space station.”
“Oh yes. Actually, you’re still on Waystation. You’ve just missed the last 120 years or so.”
Porter coughed in shock. “One hundred and twenty YEARS?!?”
“And a touch more. As I said, there will be a bit of an adjustment. Would you like a look around?”
“Uh…sure?” Porter said hesitantly as Ritter waved him over to the covered window. Once Porter was there, Ritter tapped in a control code on a small keypad by the window, causing the white covering to instantly vanish revealing the view beyond.
Stretched out before Porter was a collection of saucer-shaped sections, any one of which looked larger than the current Waystation saucers. At that moment, Porter realized that they were slowly turning, revealing even more saucers.
“Welcome to Waystation Prime. The upper level has nine interconnected saucers,” Ritter explained. “And each of those have anywhere from one to seven saucers stacked below them. You’re actually on top of the original station right now.”
“This is Ops?” Porter asked.
“Not any more. That’s now in A-Column. We’ve converted this level into offices for researchers visiting the archives.”
Ritter laughed. “I knew you’d have a lot of questions. Let’s take a walk. I’ll show you around a little.”
The commodore of Waystation Prime led Porter out of the office and into a small ring of a corridor surrounding the central turbolift tube. Out in the hall, two of Ritter’s subordinates silently fell into step behind them and followed the pair into the turbolift.
“Archives,” Ritter said, sending the turbolift into motion. “Generally we call this column of saucers the Old Quarter. The lower saucer of your original Waystation is now mostly storage and cargo bays, and the upper is the archive and the museums.”
“What kind of museums?” Porter asked.
“Well, the Dillon Consortium got its start here, so there’s a couple of decks dedicated to that. There are several others for things like Beta Quadrant expansion, the Multek Enclave, and that sort of thing.”
“Are the Multeks in the Federation now?”
Ritter frowned slightly. “Well…to be honest, they aren’t much of anywhere now. The whole bunch of ‘em vanished close to twenty years ago, planets and all.”
“When did this happen? How is it even possible?”
“We’ll catch you up on future history later. As for that last question, if you figure it out, let me know,” Ritter replied with a shrug as the turbolift slowed to a halt.
As Porter expected, the archives were little more than a few rooms of computer terminals. Ritter offered to let Porter look up what had happened to his friends and family, but Porter refused. Something about that seemed oddly morbid.
Ritter actually seemed grateful not to have to spend the time waiting for Porter to do research, and quickly shuttled him out of the archives to more familiar surroundings.
“At least Starfleet Square Mall is still here,” Porter said with relief after stepping out of the turbolift and taking a good look around.
“Preserved forever as part of the History of Waystation exhibit,” Ritter replied.
“That would explain why nobody’s shopping,” Porter said, noting that they were the only ones in the mall at the moment.
“You want to see the current mall?” Ritter asked eagerly. He pinched one of the rank pips on his collar. “Ritter to transport control. Four to beam to New Starfleet Square. Energize.”
In an instant, Porter and the others dissolved in a torrent of particles only to reappear a split second later in a transporter alcove. A transparent wall and door in front of them revealed throngs of people milling back and forth in the concourse beyond.
“Please exit the alcove promptly,” a computer voice said while Ritter led Porter out the door and into the main mall concourse. Almost as soon as they’d left, another party of potential shoppers materialized in the alcove.
“Busy place,” Porter said, pushing himself up against a bit of wall to stay out of the way as beings milled about, many of which were of species he’d never seen before. He looked up…and up…his eyes finally stopping at the ceiling which was a skylight looking up at a bright sunny blue sky.
“We’ve got six decks of stores in a ring around Saucer-C of F-Column,” Ritter said. He followed Porter’s gaze to the ceiling. “Holographic ceiling to coincide with the station’s daily cycle. Sure it’s not the same as the arboretum complex in B-Column, but people seem to like it.”
“Uh huh,” Porter managed to reply, nodding numbly.
“You doing okay, there, Craig?” Ritter asked.
“Uh huh,” Porter repeated.
“Come on. I’ll buy you some lunch,” Ritter said, patting Porter on the back. “We’ve got an incredible Klingon steak house…unless you’d prefer Andorian. We’ve got a few McBaughb’s on board.”
“Steak’s good,” Porter said, trying to process. Did Ritter just say McBaughb’s?
Despite his initial trepidation, Porter quickly discovered that Klingon steak wasn’t bad at all. Of course, if anyone was going to know how to kill something and cook it over an open flame, it’d be the Klingons…not that the steak house used real meat. At least Porter didn’t think it was real. Who could be sure?
“You said this was Waystation Prime, right?” Porter said after he’d had a chance to calm down a little and start into his meal. Across the table from him, Ritter swallowed a bite of meat and nodded. “So there’s more than one now?”
“Absolutely,” Ritter said. “When you folks first got out here, this was the frontier. Well, frontiers don’t stay that way forever. Before too many years passed, the Federation’s borders extended well past Waystation into the Beta Quadrant. This was still a major port of call along the route, though, so this place just grew while other Waystations were opened up farther out. We lost the first Waystation-3 in a war, and there was that nasty black hole incident with Waystation-7, but Waystation Prime’s been here all along. We have you and your colleagues to thank for getting this legacy started.”
“That’s nice of you to say, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the time you’ve spent showing me around, but why are you telling me this?” Porter asked.
“Pardon me?” Ritter asked confused.
“What about the sanctity of the timeline and not letting me know about the future. Are memory wipes that good now?”
“Memory wipes,” Ritter said with a hearty laugh. “Why would we…” He stopped as a thought occurred to him. “Ohhh. I see the problem now. You don’t know about… Listen, Craig, the reason I can tell you everything about the future is that you’re not going back.”
Porter stared at Ritter in stunned silence. “Huh?” he said finally.
“Temporal Prime Directive. If someone shows up from the past, they stay here. Saves a lot of trouble.”
“That would explain the guards,” Porter said, nodding his head at the pair of officers at the next table that had followed them all the way from the Old Quarter.
“Them? No. They’re here to keep curious people from this time away from you. Your uniform is a dead giveaway that you ain’t from around here.”
“So I’m just supposed to settle in here and not try to get home.”
“Why would you want to go back? We can tell you everything you missed.”
“My life is there.”
“You can have one here as well,” Ritter said, smiling kindly. “I’m not going to lie to you. It may be difficult at first, but I think you’re going to see that the 26th century has a lot to offer.”
Porter didn’t respond. What was there to say? And he certainly couldn’t make a break for it. He had no clue how to get back to the storage room where the temporal reactor was, and even if he got there, he didn’t have a new power source for it. What he needed was time. Maybe he could play along for a while until he found an appropriate power source. Then he could slip back to the storage room and hope like hell that the temporal reactor hadn’t been found in the meantime.
No way. Too risky.
Porter’s mind raced, going over the situation again. Wait a second…there was another possibility. He could escape now, and all it would take was his tricorder and a moment of opportunity.
He finished his meal while letting Ritter chatter on about Waystation Prime’s various amenities and how happy Porter would be in the future. For his part, Porter spent most of his time nodding a lot and smiling occasionally to make Ritter think that he was actually impressed. Okay. To be perfectly honest, he was impressed, but that didn’t mean that he was ready to leave everything he’d ever known behind. Sure, his love life was non-existent in the 24th century, but there was no reason to believe that future women would like him any better. He’d be 120 years out of style, and his science and engineering knowledge would be 120 years out of date.
He was going home. That was all there was to it.
After the meal, Commodore Ritter took Porter back out into the mall with the promise of showing him the largest Dillon’s, formerly known as Dillon’s Supply Depot, in the galaxy. According to Ritter, the Dillon Consortium had dropped the Supply Depot part of the name a few decades earlier because it didn’t sound upscale enough.
Ritter had just finished this explanation when their little group walked passed just the thing Porter needed. Catching Ritter and their two chaperones off-guard, Porter suddenly made a break for a transporter alcove.
Dashing inside, he shoved a trio of slime-covered slug-like things off of the transporter pad. “Arboretum. B-Column,” he ordered, remembering Ritter’s comment about its location.
An instant later, he was standing in a grassy clearing surrounded by towering leafy trees. Porter raced into the trees, yanking his tricorder out of his pocket as he went. Based on what had happened with the temporal reactor, Porter concluded that he was still probably soaked in chronometric radiation. If he could excite those particles enough, he should be able to instigate a small time jump. It wouldn’t be much, no more than a day most likely, but the Waystation Prime people wouldn’t be expecting it. Also, he now knew to get himself into hiding as quickly as possible as soon as he arrived at his new time.
Tricorder alterations complete, Porter stopped and aimed the device at himself. He just had to hope that the energy now leeching from the tricorder would set off the chronometric particles before Ritter and friends nabbed him with a transporter.
The tricorder hummed louder and louder and louder.
Then Porter vanished…
…and just as abruptly reappeared in the exact same spot, this time, though, he found himself directly in front of a grey-haired human woman.
“Oh my!” she exclaimed, lurching backwards. Porter recovered from his time jump quickly enough to grab the woman’s arm and steady her before she could topple to the ground.
“Sorry I scared you,” Porter said, getting ready to break into a run.
“But…how did you?” the woman stammered in a slight British accent.
“I’ve got to go.”
The Waystation Prime computer answered the question for him. “ALERT! ALERT! CHRONOMETRIC INCURSION DETECTED! ALERT! ALERT! INTRUDER, REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE!”
“That’s why,” Porter said, starting to move.
“Wait! I can help you,” the woman said, latching onto his arm with one hand as she tapped a small decorative broach on her flowered blouse. “Computer, retrieve.”
In another instant, Porter and the woman were transported into the living area of a small set of quarters. “There,” the woman said, settling into a cozy looking armchair. “You should be safe now.”
“Um…thanks. But…er…why did you help me? You don’t know a thing about me.”
“True, but now you can relax and tell me all about yourself. As for why I helped you, you looked like a nice young man, a nice man in a rather old Starfleet uniform, I might add. You seemed like you would have a most entertaining story for a lonely old woman.”
“You’re sure they can’t find me here?” Porter asked nervously, looking around.
“They’re probably still combing the arboretum. Just relax and have a seat,” the woman replied, gesturing to another arm chair opposite hers. “Now let’s start at beginning. What’s your name?”
“Craig. Craig Porter.”
“Hello, Craig. My name is Rosalyn.”
It was hard to escape the feeling that he should be doing something other than relaxing in the company of a perfectly pleasant older woman; however, Rosalyn had encouraged Porter to stay with her for the moment while the Waystation Prime crew ran around in circles. Eventually, she told him, they would come to the conclusion that the Chronometric Incursion alert was simply due to a temporal echo caused by Porter’s disappearance a few days earlier.
A few days. He’d obviously underestimated how much chronometric radiation the temporal reactor had doused him with. With that much time gone, how could he be sure that the reactor was even still in the storage room? He couldn’t. Not until he took his leave of Rosalyn and went searching through the Old Quarter. Rosalyn, however, did not seem to be very interested in letting her guest leave.
“Any children, Craig?” she asked kindly as Porter fidgeted in his seat.
“No, ma’am. Not yet.”
“Ah,” Rosalyn said, obviously disappointed. “Well, don’t get discouraged, lad. I’m sure the right lady will come along soon enough.”
“You never know.”
“So when exactly are you from, if I can ask?”
Porter paused for a moment. Surely telling someone about the past wasn’t a big deal. His life was probably a matter of record. She could just go look him up if she wanted. “It was Stardate 54762 when I left. You are still using Stardates, aren’t you?”
“Oh yes,” Rosalyn replied smiling. “While many things have changed over the years, I think you’ll find enough to make you feel comfortable here.”
“No offense, but I don’t plan on staying,” Porter said. “As soon as I get a chance, I’m heading home.”
“So you have a time machine?”
“Sort of. It needs some repairs, but I didn’t think Commodore Ritter would give me the chance if he knew about it,” Porter said.
“Probably not. Time travel is rather tightly controlled. I assume you’ve hidden your device somehow.”
“Not as well as I’d like, but they’ll have a heck of time finding it with all the crap that’s in that storage room.”
“I doubt they even know to look,” Rosalyn replied, lost in thought. She smiled a few seconds later. “Your device was leaking chronometric radiation, wasn’t it? That’s how you could jump in time without actually having the device with you. You still had enough radiation on your person to cause a jump when the particles were excited, which you did with your tricorder. Very clever, Mister Porter.”
“I do what I can in a pinch. Honestly, though, I shouldn’t be here at all. I was only trying to send the tricorder five minutes ahead when…” Porter trailed off as his mind was taken over by cascade of nagging questions that led him to one inescapable conclusion. He fixed his gaze on Rosalyn.
“You knew I was going to reappear there, didn’t you?” Porter said, rising from his chair. “You even knew when. How did you know that? Who are you?”
“Don’t be silly, dear. I’m Rosalyn. I was just out for a stroll when you showed back up. Just sit down and relax.”
“I don’t think so,” Porter said. “Even in my century, we can detect the use of a transporter. And since you beamed us within the station, there should be logs. This wouldn’t take long to put together. Why aren’t I in custody?”
“You’re either working with them or blocking them somehow,” Porter said, backing toward the door.
“Don’t go out there,” Rosalyn warned, getting up from her chair.
“Thanks for the hospitality, but I think I’ve told you plenty. All I want to do is go home. Just let me go home.”
The doors opened, allowing Porter to step out into the corridor.
An instant later, he vanished in a spiral of swirling energies.
“Oh…Bugger all!” Rosalyn shouted.
At first, judging by the various monitors and screens around him, Porter assumed that he’d been transported to the Ops of Waystation Prime, but something was wrong. First off, faint as it was, Porter could feel the thrum of engines beneath his feet. He was on a ship. The main viewscreen was not showing space, though. Instead, it was a holographic diagram of various intersecting lines. Porter had no clue what they meant.
The big things that tipped Porter off that something had changed were the uniforms of the blond woman and the Cardassian male that stepped up to the pad at the rear of this bridge (at least he assumed it was a bridge) where he’d materialized. For one thing, there was a lot more black in them, but the right part of each tunic was colored indicating department role. Another clue was that the insignia badge was different. The delta was still sideways, but instead of it being two of them end to end, there was only one, with a rounded shape at the end.
“Where’s the time machine?” the blonde woman demanded, holding her hand out.
“He doesn’t have it on him,” a Bajoran woman reported from a nearby console.
“Are you sure, Barys? Then how…lingering chronometric radiation. He caused the second jump himself.”
“Um…who are you people?” Porter asked.
“Carrek,” the Blond snapped.
“Of course. Welcome to the Federation Time Ship Flux Capacitor, Mister Porter,” the Cardassian said. “This is Captain Lornstrum. I am Commander Carrek.”
“Time ship?” Porter asked.
“How did you get away from the arboretum?” Lornstrum demanded, pacing back and forth quickly.
“I got beamed out,” Porter said. “When did we get time ships?”
“You’re in what you would consider the 29th century,” Carrek explained. “Things have changed a great…”
“Who beamed you out?” Lornstrum asked, words coming fast as she cut Carrek off.
“A woman. Her name was Rosalyn.”
“Bain! Rosalyn Bain!” Lornstrum shouted. “Dammit! If that woman doesn’t stay out of things that don’t concern her, I’m… Where’s the time machine?”
“Why should I tell you?” Porter said.
“Do you want to go home?” Lornstrum replied.
“You can send me back to Waystation?”
“Of course. You turn the time machine over to me, and I’ll send you back.”
“Why should I give it to you?”
“That’s the deal, Porter. We’ll send you to Waystation Prime to retrieve the device. Once you have it, we’ll recall you here, then send you to your own time.”
“I don’t get it,” Porter said. “Obviously, you can already travel in time. Why do you need my device?”
“I don’t, but your century can’t have technology like that. You people do enough damage to the time stream as it is. I’m not about to make it any simpler for you.”
“What if I say no?”
“Then you stay here,” Lornstrum said. “We can wait for you to change your mind.”
“I could escape.”
Lornstrum laughed. “You’re on a ship in the middle of space in the 29th century. Where are you going to go?”
Porter thought about this for a moment. “All right. You’ve got me there.”
“So we have a deal?”
“Yeah. I’ll get the device, then you send me home.”
“We can’t do that, Captain,” Barys said. “According to the timeline, he never returns to Waystation.”
Lornstrum spun to face the Bajoran officer, her face full of fury. “Why did you tell him that?” she demanded angrily.
“It’s right here,” Barys said, looking back at her console. She frowned, confused. “At least it was. His timeline is in flux now.”
“Of course it is, you nanobrain! By telling him he doesn’t go back, you made it so he could go back! For all we know, you just changed the history of the universe by making it so he does something to get home when he wasn’t supposed to!”
“Or perhaps, you just set time on its proper course by seeing to it that he does return,” Carrek offered. “One can never tell with these things.”
“Wait,” Porter said. “Am I going home or not?”
“I guess so,” Lornstrum said unhappily. “But only if you bring me that time machine. Now where is it?”
“In the storage room where I first appeared on Waystation Prime.”
“Check the records and see where that is,” Lornstrum ordered Barys. “And try not to screw up the timeline again while you’re at it!”
Barys, fighting back the urge either to cry or punch Lornstrum, did as she was told and soon had the temporal and physical coordinates of the storage room. Meanwhile, Porter was given some civilian garb appropriate to the 26th century, just in case he should be spotted by anyone from the era while searching if the temporal reactor had been moved from the storage room.
“Um…this is nice and all,” Porter said, looking at his new outfit. “But won’t I set off another Chronometric Incursion Alert as soon as I arrive?”
Lornstrum snorted derisively. “They can’t detect our technology,” she said, then, without so much as a “nice meeting you,” Lornstrum ordered Porter back onto the temporal transport pad and had him sent off on his assignment.
Rather than ending up in the Waystation Prime storage room, Porter discovered that he’d ended up on some kind of circular platform surrounded by a cylinder of pale energy. Just outside of the cylinder, he could make out the form of a yellowish- green skinned alien with mottled skin wearing a red jumpsuit or uniform of some kind.
“Do you mind?” an annoyed voice said from beside Porter. He turned and found himself face-to-blur with the distorted image of a man. At least Porter assumed it was a man from his voice. Porter tried to touch him, but his hand passed right through.
“I’m trying to talk to my minion,” the man finished.
“MINION?” the mottled alien protested angrily.
“Oh, shut up, Silik!”
“Sorry about this,” Porter said. “I’m not supposed to…”
And suddenly he was back on the bridge of the Flux Capacitor.
“Again, Barys!” Lornstrum said scowling. “And don’t screw it up!”
An instant later, Porter was once again hurtling through time.
This time, as promised, Porter appeared inside the cluttered storage room where he’d left the temporal reactor, at least he hoped it was the same cluttered storage room. Who knew how many of those things there were on Waystation Prime? He froze in place for a few moments, waiting for the Chronometric Incursion alarm to start blaring again. It didn’t. The 29th century people were two-for-two so far this trip.
Reasonably confident that his arrival hadn’t been noticed, Porter made his way toward the workbench that had been dragged forward in time with him. There it was. Right where he’d left it. The temporal reactor was another story.
“Rosalyn,” Porter muttered, seeing the empty space where his ticket home used to be. He was going to have to find her. Hopefully, she was still on Waystation Prime. Finding her on the station would be difficult enough. He didn’t want to have to expand his search to the entire 26th century Federation. Now what did Lornstrum say Rosalyn’s last name was? Oh yeah.
“Computer, where is Rosalyn Bain?”
“Rosalyn Bain is in her quarters.”
Good start. “Where are her quarters?”
“Saucer-D. H-Column. Deck 34. Room J-3498. Do you wish to transport to this destination?” the computer replied.
Wow. Now this was service. “Yes,” Porter said. He was whisked away to the corridor directly outside J-3498 before the sound of his response completely faded from the air.
Porter tapped the door chime.
“Just a moment,” Rosalyn voice called sweetly from inside the quarters. The doors slid open a few moments later, revealing Rosalyn, who was now dressed in a completely black suit, smiling warmly. If she was surprised to see Porter, she didn’t show it. “Craig! Come in, dear boy,” she said, standing aside for Porter to enter.
“I hope I’m not interrupting, Ms. Bain,” Porter said darkly as he spotted the temporal reactor blinking away happily on the room’s small dining table. Rosalyn had evidently replaced the burnt out power supply.
“Nonsense. I’m going to be heading home soon, that’s all. And it’s Mrs. Bain, but please, call me Rosalyn.”
“So you don’t live here.”
“No no. I have quarters here. Occasionally I come aboard to teach a few sections at the Academy Annex, so it’s nice to have my own space.”
“I’m sure the privacy helps when your stealing things from people,” Porter replied. “I’ve come for the time machine.”
“I know. I was waiting for you.”
“You knew I’d be back?” Porter asked, letting a bit of his confusion show through.
“Those 29th century wankers grabbed you as soon as you stepped out of my quarters earlier. That’s why I didn’t want you to leave. They couldn’t get you in here. This space is protected.”
“But they said their technology was superior to this century’s.”
“Most of it,” Rosalyn said enigmatically. “But let me guess. They told you to hand the time machine over to them, and then they’d send you home, right?”
“That’s the deal,” Porter admitted.
“How about I give you the same deal?”
“Why should I trust you? You lied to me before.”
“True, but I actually care about getting you home, and I’m quite positive that your friends in the future don’t. Really I am working toward the same goal as they are: keeping this technology out of the hands of people who aren’t ready for it. I will complete that task; however, I’d prefer to do it with you safely back where you belong.”
“I don’t get it,” Porter said. “If you’re so determined to protect the universe from this technology, why do I matter to you?”
Rosalyn smiled sadly. “Because you just want to go home. You may not have a wife or children waiting for you at the moment, but there are people, your friends and family, who will want you back. If I can prevent them from feeling your loss and the pain of not knowing what’s happened to you, I will because its the most horrible torture imaginable. A couple of months ago my husband and a boy I love like my own son went to the Andromeda Galaxy, and they haven’t been heard from since. No one knows what’s become of them, and there’s not a bloody thing I can do to bring them back to their home. But I can send you to yours. It’s not much, but maybe the scales of karma will balance and bring my family back to me.” Rosalyn quickly turned away as her voice betrayed just the slightest quiver. “Can I make you some tea?”
“Sure,” Porter said softly. The older woman busied herself with an actual kettle off to the side of the room as Porter took another look at the temporal reactor. She had already punched in the coordinates for his return to Waystation right down to putting him in Science Lab Two. And she had a point. Did anyone really need the ability to travel in time so easily? The temporal reactor could lead to all kinds of disasters. It was probably best to be rid of it.
“Here you are,” Rosalyn said, bringing Porter over a steaming cup of fragrant tea.
“Thanks,” Porter said, taking a sip. “To be honest, after all that’s happened today, drinking this is downright comforting.”
“Good. Take your time with it. I’ll get you home whenever you’re ready.”
“No offense to you or your kind hospitality, but the sooner the better,” Porter replied, chugging the rest of the liquid in one gulp. “Thank you very much.”
“You’re more than welcome,” Rosalyn replied, picking up the control padd for the temporal reactor. “Just pick up that little platform that the leads run to,” she said. “I think the effect should be a bit more focused this time.”
“I hope so; otherwise, we may both be taking this trip,” Porter said, taking the metal disc-shaped platform into his hands. “I’m all set. Goodbye, Rosalyn. And thanks again.”
“Safe journey, Craig.” Rosalyn gave him another warm smile, then activated the temporal reactor. An instant later, Porter was gone, leaving only the platform, which clattered back to the table beside the reactor.
Rosalyn set down the control padd and activated a small comm screen built into the sleeve of her black outfit. “This is Bain. Assignment complete. I will be returning with the item shortly.” Section 31 Agent Rosalyn Bain then closed the channel and set about packing up her prize for transport.
Porter knew he was home the instant he appeared. This was the familiar confines of Science Lab Two all right, just as he remembered it…well except for that big empty space where his work bench used to be. Oh well. He’d just get another one.
His happiness at being home was abruptly interrupted by a blood-curdling scream. Porter spun around and saw Lieutenant Sean Russell, Waystation’s Chief of Security, standing behind him and gasping for breath.
“Don’t do that!” Russell shouted.
“What?” Porter said.
“Appear like that. Where the hell have you been? We detected some kind of energy surge down here 20 minutes ago, and you were gone. I came down here and…wait. What’s with that outfit?” Russell asked, looking at Porter’s odd attire.
“It’s from the future,” Porter said grandly.
“It is! I fixed the temporal reactor from Bradley’s time pod and went…I went…” Porter trailed off. Where had he been exactly? It was the future, but why couldn’t he remember the details? They were so clear a moment ago. A light dawned.
“The tea! The damn tea!” Porter exclaimed.
“What tea?” Russell asked confused.
“She slipped me a mickey!”
“I can’t believe this. I trusted her!”
“Who’s her?” Russell demanded.
Porter opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out. He could see her in his mind…sort of. The image was fading fast. In an impotent fury, Porter cried out the one name he could remember.