Check out our latest Fleet Action!

 

You Changed The Ending

Two crews. Myriad destinies await!

You Changed The Ending – 2

Bridge, USS Constellation
August 2401

Captain’s Log, Stardate 78593.6

 

Charting a course into the region of the Swallow Nebula in the Delta Quadrant, Constellation continues her very first voyage of exploration.  Now that our scientific partners from the Romulan Free State have rejoined the crew, we strive again towards cooperative exploration of regions uncharted by either Starfleet or the Romulans.  Fortuitously, our mission directives from the Delta Exploration Initiative have landed us directly in the path of a planetary distress call.

The timbre of LCARS alerts and feedback tones swelled, filling the bridge with an operatic crescendo.  Early in her career as a starship commander, Taes had always found such environments oppressive.  Her contemplative home colony and science postings aboard starbases had primed her for far more sedate surroundings.  Only aboard Constellation has Taes begun to find comfort in the musicality of the noise.  

Now, she could better understand the intention and purpose behind every note.  The flatter thrums spoke to the stability of the life support, while the soaring ballad told her about the voracity of the sensors.  The insistent shrill revealed how direly the engines were in distress.  Everything in its place.  Everything in its–

“Time,” Taes said.  

She had wandered to the aft of the bridge to examine the engineering console and ponder.  She trusted the crew had already prepared for her order.  It needed no further elaboration.

It was Kellin– of course, Kellin was the first to move.  From the executive officer’s chair, he flipped up the status console and swiped through the displayed data.  With one last glance at the screen, he rose to his feet and descended the command platform.  His body moved urgently, as if he’d been separated from a parent while shopping through a marketplace.

“USS Themis was due to reach the Onitha Colony thirty-three hours ago,” Kellin reported.  “It’s been forty-seven hours since they last made contact.  Still, they’ve offered no response to our hails.  Long-range sensors detect no indication of the ship on our course heading.”

Taes replied, “Thank you, commander,” while she entered a calculation on the engineering console.  She looked to Chief Engineer Pagaloa for confirmation, and he nodded his agreement.  Taes smiled a thanks at him and she turned to face the swirl of stars visible through the viewscreen.

“Lieutenant Door,” Taes ordered, “increase speed to warp nine point nine seven.  We’re close enough now.  We can maintain that speed the rest of the journey to Onitha.”

Romulan Liaison Flavia slapped the side of her science station, using it as leverage to swivel her chair.  The slap from the Flavia’s palm on the metallic housing added a dissonant note to the music of the bridge.  When Taes turned toward the noise, she found Flavia’s gaze waiting for her.  There was a knit of consternation across Flavia’s brow, and she raised an arched eyebrow at Taes.

“Is such haste prudent, captain?” Flavia asked.  Despite deferring to Taes’s rank, Flavia’s inflection sounded much like a pompous admiral’s.  Flavia was the mission commander for the Romulan scientists on board and Taes’s liaison to the Romulan Free State, and she damn well never ever let Taes forget it, not even for a nanosecond.

Still, the only answer Taes deigned to provide was a curt, “Yes.”

Flavia raised a single shoulder.  It proved a puckish shrug proffered in Taes’s direction.

“Far be it from me to remind you,” Flavia said, “of how desperately distant we are from any Starfleet facilities should you burn out our warp core.  You received that distress call from the Krenim Colony, what?  Nearly five days ago?”

Flavia shook her head, sending her dark ponytail swinging.  “By this point, are there likely to be any survivors remaining?”

“Five million,” Taes said firmly.  She closed the distance with Flavia, firmly slapping her boot heels on the deck with each step.

“Five million, Flavia.  I want you to say it.”

Something twitched in Flavia’s jaw, but her stare remained dead-eyed.

“Five million,” Flavia affirmed in a placating tone.

“There are five million Krenim on that colony,” Taes said.  “Long-range sensors have detected their star system being shredded by Adler-Lasky temporal radiation and polaric ions.  When Captain Cambil confirmed USS Themis was in range to reach the Jameeta system first, I committed Constellation to assist.  We won’t abandon our sister ship, and we won’t ignore a cry in the night.”

Flavia spun back to face her console.  “Very well.  I, ah, approve your recommendation, captain.”

Striding towards the raised science platform, Kellin diffidently asked of Flavia, “What changed your mind?”

Without looking at him, Flavia deadpanned, “For all the Star Empire’s mistakes, we learned much from the irradiated husks on Chaltok IV.  We may still learn from the corpses of the fallen Krenim.”

Kellin gasped.  

“Not irradiated husks,” he murmured.

Turning to him with fiery eyes, Flavia admitted, “I don’t disagree with our mission.  Perhaps there would have been more survivors from Chaltok had Captain Taes been flying through that sector over a century ago.”

Flavia winked at Kellin.  

“Sometimes I just like to hear Taes yell at me.”

 


 

Taes had hardly given the order for a standard orbit of Onitha when she began to question her competence as a starship commander.  Through the forward viewscreen, the swirl of warp-twisted starlight was rapidly replaced by the Jameeta system until their destination planet filled half the screen.  Something was wrong; maybe everything was wrong.  Taes rolled her shoulders back in the captain’s chair and gripped the armrests to ground herself.

From the forward science station, T’Kaal reported, “Captain, planetary surface analysis can detect no signs of a colony on Onitha.  No life signs, no  artificial structures.  Although sensors detect no indicators of destruction, there is simply no colony.”

Softly, Doctor Nelli echoed T’Kaal’s words from the mission specialist chair to Taes’s left. 

“No life?” Nelli said.  Their vocoder was even more monotone than T’Kaal’s inflection had been.

Reflexively, Taes breathed an irritated ” tt” between her teeth.  She rapped the knuckles of her left hand on her armrest.  Not only was she puzzled by the lack of a colony on the other end of a distress call, but the dispassionate manner in which T’Kaal delivered the information gave Taes a knot in her stomach.  Taes should have expected no different from the Vulcan science officer, but her matter-of-fact delivery made Taes question if T’Kaal had anticipated this as a possible outcome.  

Had there been a warning sign Taes overlooked?

Taes was still mentally reviewing options when Kellin bounded to the navigation pit.  Kellin took position behind the flight control station, where the exocomp pilot, Cellar Door, was hovering over the curved LCARS controls.  Before he spoke, Kellin offered Cellar an affectionate pat on the upper casing.

Then, Kellin asked, “Did we fly off to the wrong coordinates, buddy?”

“No mistake was made, commander,” interjected Security Chief Ache.  Despite the gentle humour in Kellin’s words, there was a protective edge to Ache’s response.  Her six eyes blinked at Kellin blandly through the translucent tactical console between them.

Ache insisted, “We have arrived at the coordinates provided to us.  This is the origin point of the distress call.”

Hitting the consonants of the rank hard, Flavia added, “Captain, it’s not only the colony that’s missing.  The temporal radiation exposure is hardly more than background radiation.  We shouldn’t have been able to detect it on long-range sensors at the current levels.  And yet we have done for hours before our arrival?”  From her console to Taes’s left, Flavia snatched sensor readouts from her display and launched holographic pop-ups from Taes’s chair.

Taes rapped her knuckles on her armrest, harder this time.  She spared only the briefest of glances at the sensor data shared with her by Flavia.

“Has the Themis been here?” Taes asked.

Ever the star pupil, Ache quick-drawed her response.  “We’re not picking up the Themis’s transponder signal within range of our scanners.”

Nonchalantly as before, T’Kaal added, “Metallurgical scans can detect nothing resembling the Themis’s hull specification within the star system.  Not even hull fragments.”

“Don’t joke about that,” Ache scoffed through her nose.  The effort proved forceful enough to make her facial tentacles flare out.

T’Kaal asked, “Who has told a joke?”

Nelli let out a pained exhale beside Taes.  It served as a sufficient distraction from Taes’s reflection on if she should intervene between Ache and T’Kaal.

“My body,” Nelli said, “feels heavy.

Taes shook her head and said, “I’m so sorry, doctor. Did I hit your chair?”

Much like the rest of Constellation, the bridge lurched suddenly to port.  Inertial dampeners would have taken the worst of it, but Nelli still flailed over the side of their chair.  Taes reached out to grab at them, to keep them from falling.  Every console around the bridge resounded with shrill alerts.  Sanguine alert lights pulsed harshly from every surface.  The musicality of the bridge stations whipped up into a hurricane of distressed racket.  The noise was no longer music; it was the sound of a starship screaming.

“I told you we had no need to rush, captain,” Flavia called out amid a despairing laugh.  “It only brought about our destruction sooner.  Space-time is shattering in all directions!”

You Changed The Ending – 5

Bridge, USS Constellation
August 2401

Captain’s Log, Supplemental

 

Space-time has shattered around the planet Onitha.  In our vain efforts to respond to the Krenim colony’s planetary distress call, Constellation was waylaid centuries into the past, even before Onitha’s colonisation.  Because the temporal fractures have spread into Onitha’s past, we were able to find our way back through to the present day.  Not only was our crew greeted by the USS Themis, but two Krenim warships who traveled through different fractures from nearly twenty-five years ago.

 

Are the time distortions an invasion attempt from out of history?  Are we facing another lost fleet?

 


 

The deck rocked just as Executive Officer Kellin Rayco descended the stairs from the command platform.  After a career of standing behind a tactical console, muscle memory kicked in.  He shifted his weight to avoid rolling his ankle.  The magnitude of the vibrations was familiar, like a specific dance move repeated on holidays.  Swift aftershocks were clearly torpedoes exploding against the ship’s shields.  Clearly.  The temporal fractures were represented by sensor composites, projected holographically on the view screen.  Judging by the subtle movement of those teal blobs, the impact of the Krenim warship’s torpedoes was pushing Constellation towards one of the fractures.

“CONN, hold position,” Kellin ordered.  The word was given absent-mindedly.  He was stalking down to the tactical station, flanking the flight control console.  Through the flat plane of the holographic LCARS panel between them, Kellin was impressed by the precision Security Chief Ache was operating the ship’s phasers.  For fear of micro-managing —as one ex-security chief to the incumbent— Kellin hesitated for only one heartbeat.  But then his accountability to the crew cut through that fear.

“Disable their weapon systems, commander,” Kellin barked.

Without looking away from her targeting scanners, Ache replied, “What’s your preference, sir?”   

In staff meetings, Ache could come across as nervous or overly formal.  Here, under the wash of red alert lighting, there was a casual playfulness to the way she spoke.  Her Osnullus facial tendrils flicked upwards at the end of her question. 

“The torpedo launchers,” Kellin offered; “Here and here.”  He pointed out the areas he meant on the wireframe warship on the tactical displays.  As Ache fired the phasers again, Kellin looked back over his shoulder to see if Captain Taes would agree with his orders.

From the captain’s chair, Taes offered him the smallest of half-smiles, and then she looked away.

“Doctor Flavia, why isn’t the colony responding to our hails?” Taes asked.  “Any theory would be welcomed.”

On some mornings, if Flavia hadn’t solved the mystery yet, she would entirely ignore questions from Taes until she was ready to answer.  There was no hesitation in this instance, even as an EPS conduit exploded over her station.  From the port-side science console, Flavia plucked two of the sensor panes from the LCARS panel and tossed holographic expansions of them in Taes’ direction.

Flavia declared, “The grinding of planes between differing time zones is generating chronon oscillation.  At this frequency, the oscillation reverberates into subspace.  Our signal is degrading before it can even reach the planet’s surface.  Captain, I know the imperial expansion of Starfleet’s presence across the delta quadrant is principal, but we have that last subspace relay probe-“

“Launch it into low orbit,” Taes ordered.

To one side of the main viewer, Cambil was holding tightly to the arms of her chair as her ship was hit hard by multiple torpedo hits. Being a former tactical officer herself, Cambil looked at the sensors of the torpedoes as they hit both ships. “Their torpedoes are chroniton based; they’re in a state of temporal flux. I’m not sure our shields can prevent some of them passing through.” She looked back at Taes. “We may have no choice in destroying them, captain.”

Taes tilted her head to the right.  She didn’t blink.

“It may come to that, captain,” Taes said.  Kellin could hear the honeyed diplomacy in her delivery.  When she used that voice on him, she was usually about to shut him down.  “For now— right now we have more choices.”

Cambil cleared her throat as she ran through ideas in her head. “Captain, if we re-modulate our targeting scanners to a parametric frequency, we might be able to destroy the torpedo launchers before they fire.”

A galvanized smile sliced through the neutral expression on Taes’s face.  Her eyes wide and her eyebrows raised, Taes nodded swiftly at Cambil’s suggestion.  She pointed at Ache, and Ache sounded off a confirmation.

“Remind me, captain,” Taes said.  There was something impish about the way she looked down at the tactical readouts on her chair arm.  Even more so when she asked her question.

“Can the Ross-class muster up sensor pulses at that rate?”

“We can muster up most things,” Cambil grinned back. “Let’s get this done!” 

Cambil gave the order to Lenjir (behind her at tactical), and moments later, after the Themis’ phasers had been adjusted and fired, he reported a direct score on one of the ships. 

Smirking, Cambil looked at Taes via their opening link, “That’s one disabled, just one left to go.” 

“I better keep up,” Taes remarked. She twirled a finger in the air.

The ships shuddered from hits from the remaining Krenim warship. It was adamant it wasn’t going to give up against the two Starfleet ships. Both ships were pounding it with their torpedoes to weaken its shields.

Kellin thought he saw a tear opening in the Krenim’s shields, but Ache plainly saw it first.  Constellation landed four quantum torpedoes into the Krenim’s launchers and pierced its engines with their phaser turrets.  Even as the Krenim’s shields flared to recover, critical damage had already been done. The warships’ weapons barrage came to a halt.

“Great galaxy!” Ache exclaimed, her hands raised.  It was rare to see Ache so joyful. Too, that vibrancy was short-lived. 

“Captain, we’re being hailed,” Ache said.

“On screen,” Taes acknowledged. 

“Federation ships, this is Doctor Irlina of the Krenim.” The Krenim scientist’s voice and face interrupted the commotion on both ships. “Please send help; we are stuck in a number of temporal—“ 

On the viewscreen, she appeared scared, concerned, and terrified of whatever was happening. Behind her, an explosion went off, and the line then went dead. She was gone.

For a moment, everything on both bridges froze as if everyone was trying to work out what had just been shared and who this mysterious Krenim doctor was.

You Changed The Ending – 6

Bridge, USS Constellation
August 2401

Through the transparent viewscreen, two Krenim warships hung listlessly in space.  For all their aggression, the starships Constellation and Themis had disabled them in short order.  Likely, this victory had been aided by the warships appearing decades out of date.  It was the planet below that proved the true orb of mystery, given it had revealed little more than cryptic distress calls from time to time.  Over the open comms with the bridge of the Themis, her captain was the first to react to the lates distress call.

”Whoever this Doctor Irlina is, she must know what’s going on here,” Cambil summarised. “We need to find her.”

Manipulating the controls on her science console, Flavia offered, “She hailed us from the planet. Her signal was able to reach our relay and I can trace it back to, ah, a large industrial complex. I’m detecting the highest levels of chronon radiation at her location. I’d hazard a guess it was the source of the radiation.”

“We are detecting a number of instabilities on the planet below. I suggest we send a shuttlecraft team down.” Cambil recommended. 

“Captains, even with anti-rad meds,” Flavia was swift to interject, “more than a few minutes exposure to humanoid tissue would leave our crew members with long-term health effects. I forbid any of my scientists travel to the surface.”  As the mission commander of the Romulan Free State scientists aboard the ship, Flavia was never shy to wield her autonomy among the crew.

“What if we send the away teams in with emergency transporter armbands?” suggested Commander Hunsen beside Cambil. The Themis’ first officer tapped his console beside him. “If we modify them to emit a subspace isolation field, it should protect the away team.”

“The only flaw to that plan is that the away team wouldn’t be able to interact with anything outside of the field; they couldn’t render assistance unless it were verbal instructions,” Commander Perez countered from the engineering station behind Cambil and Hunsen. 

Seated in the mission advisor’s chair on the raised command platform, Doctor Nelli draped two of their limb-like vines over Captain Taes’ wrist. When they spoke, they didn’t raise their voice to compete with Flavia’s confident clamour. Nelli simply interrupted, paused, and then shared their intent. 

“If I may, captain,” Nelli said, “There is a further option to consider.”

 


 

Any day that offered an escape from the infertile shale of starship deck plates was a good day for Doctor Nelli. A primal drive in Nelli urged them to raise their eye-stalks, to look up. From the changing quality of light through the shuttle’s forward viewport, they could sense they had dove through the cloud cover and were hurtling to the world below. Their curiosity screamed at them to observe the natural wonders of Onitha, but their higher mind was preoccupied. 

Over the video communication, Doctor Irlina appeared to have been caught in an explosion, and Starfleet knew very little of Krenim biology. Nelli fiddled with the tools in their medi-kit, checking the status of each. Nelli anticipated she would require additional time to diagnose Irlina, even before she could begin to treat her. 

Nelli was also distracted from the shuttle’s rapid descent because of the identity of her pilot. 

“Did you tell them?” Nelli asked. She had switched off her vocoder, speaking in ultrasonic pops and vibrations. “Your crew?  Did you explain why Phylosians are hardened to temporal radiation?”

Moving their fuzzy artichoke-shaped head to face the medical officer, Lieutenant Andar responded in their native tongue. “I found it difficult to explain to them in a way they could comprehend. Even Doctor Forbes couldn’t quite fathom the science behind how we are immune.” Returning their focus back to the controls, Andar’s scarlet-eye stems increased in glow as the sensors started to show them what awaited them on the surface. “This Krenim settlement is highly impressive regarding the number of structures. It may cause difficulties in finding a suitable location to land the shuttlecraft. I will endeavour to bring us close to Doctor Irlina.”

Nelli shifted their weight in the co-pilot’s chair and then they closed the medi-kit in their lap. 

“I trust in your pilotry skills, Andar,” Nelli replied. “Even for us, limiting our time on the planet’s surface will be critical.”

Curiosity got the better of Andar as they started to level off their descent. “Doctor, may I ask you a question, from one Phylosian to another?”

“My truth is open to you.”

“I have not been with my shipmates long,” Andar explained. “I have transferred from the Triton to the Odyssey and then to the Themis. I am curious how you have adjusted in your career to respond to different comrades?”

“My path was unwise, my choices anathema to all ancestral wisdom,” Nelli answered. They reached out to Andar, touching his central stalk to communicate the deeper meanings between them. “Mistakenly, I tried to live outside the crew’s community.  This choice was unnatural. It may have taught me more about humanoid experience, but it left our captain vulnerable to emotional detachment.  My roots were required to hold the senior staff together.”

“I appreciate the insight,” Andar replied just as the shuttle approached its landing spot. “I am reducing our speed, preparing for landing.”

”Don’t repeat my mistakes,” Nelli suggested.  “Make your own.”

As the shuttlecraft slowed down, it gently hummed as it lowered itself down onto the clearing that was nearest to the entrance both Phylosians would use to gain access to Doctor Irlina. 

“We are secure,” Andar announced as they rose from the pilot’s seat. Taking out their tricorder, Andar started to scan beyond the shuttle. “We will need to climb down what appears to be a set of emergency access tunnels to the doctor’s location. Fortunately for us this will not take as long if we had a full humanoid away team.”

Making use of the shuttle’s haptic interface, Nelli pressed the controls to open the rear hatch. After strapping the medi-kit to their body, Nelli followed Andar into the shuttle’s aft compartment. 

“The desire for any living being to burrow beneath the soil, and to live there, remains mystifying,” Nelli remarked. 

Andar slithered across to the locker and pulled out the emergency transporter armbands. Taking one out, they handed it to Doctor Nelli. “Commanders Hunsen and Perez have modified these for our own biology, fortunately for us our Phlyosian physiology will allow us to interact beyond the subspace isolation fields.”

Nelli accepted one and strapped it around one of their motor thighs. After they activated their armbands, both Phylosians made their out of the shuttle, towards the access.  

With any talk of Phylosian secrets left behind on the shuttle, Nelli tapped their combadge. They opened a comm channel with both captains, on the bridges of their respective starships. 

Almost as soon as Andar lifted open the hatch into the Krenim facility, identical warning alerts sounded from Andar’s tricorder and the starship bridges. 

Ah!  Nelli, I want you to halt you ingress,” Taes said over the comms.  “The radiation levels within the bunker are significantly higher than all estimates.

Lowering herself to the ground, Nelli tentatively dangled two of their upper limbs into the access shaft. The subspace isolation field hugging their body crackled into the visual spectrum they could perceive. After quickly reviewing the sensor readings on their medical tricorder, Nelli wrapped their vines around the top rungs of the hatch’s in-built ladder and began their descent. 

“We can proceed, captain,” Nelli said through their vocoder. “The isolation fields will be sufficient to protect us.”

I disagree,” Taes said, raising her voice protectively. “Contact the local medical staff. Request they carry Doctor Irlina out to you.

“She may not survive for that long,” Nelli said.  “The isolation field—“

Climbing deeper into the bunker, the isolation field around Nelli flared and it crackled again. Looking up, Nelli could see no similar affliction in Andar.  The field generator in their band did not appear to be struggling as much as Nellie’s own. 

Say again, Nelli?  You cut out?” Taes said. 

After another crackle, Nelli felt the transporter band on their trunk go scorching hot at the same time the glow of the isolation field flared brighter.  Too soon, it faded into collapsing hexagonal energy bands. The isolation field was failing and Nelli simply climbed faster, recklessly. 

You Changed The Ending – 8

Cockpit, USS Jalada
Relative Stardate 51268.4

“My guy, I can’t believe it!” Kellin exclaimed.  Bounding down the ramp into the cockpit of the Delta-class runabout, Kellin crashed into the back of the pilot’s chair.  Despite his reckless enthusiasm, he had enough presence of mind to catch himself without throwing his full weight into the furniture.  Rather, he clapped Hunsen on the shoulder.  Through the overhead viewport, Kellin could still see the chroniton radiation crackling against their deflectors, just as their runabout passed through the temporal fracture.

“Without really knowing you,” Kellin enthused, “I trusted you could manoeuvre around those first two time fractures, penning in Themis.  Your pre-flight was too habitual to give me any worry, Commander Hunsen.”

Only pausing long enough to take a deep breath, Kellin gripped the back of the chair as he said, “But you only had twenty-five metres of clearance to twist past that third fracture.  I thought we were going to end up in the Stone Age, but you got us through.  What a star!”

Hunsen smirked at the enthusiasm that Kellin was pouring out. “Thanks, it’s nice to get behind the controls; I don’t get to fly as often as I did when I first left the academy.” He pressed a few buttons to check their heading and speed. “So far, so good,” Hunsen paused as he could sense just how excited his companion from the Constellation was. “Don’t get me wrong, I miss an engineering room, but being a pilot was my first love.”

A fraction of Kellin’s consciousness was divided between actively listening and that curdling feeling in the pit of his stomach.  He had to concentrate to push down the blossoming embarrassment at the way his voice had cracked towards the end of his encomium to Commander Hunsen.  That kind of fawning was junior officer behaviour.  He chose to leave it in the past.  

“I feel like that about security sometimes,” Kellin said faintly.  He sprinted up the ramp to the operations console and flung himself into the chair.  He cleared his throat while he reviewed the sensor readings, preparing to lower his voice by an octave the next time he spoke.

“Long-range sensors are picking up indicators of the chroniton integrator at the coordinates our Science Officer Yuulik located from Constellation,” Kellin reported.  He used his formal timbre.  “On this side of the time fracture, it looks like we’re heading towards a disabled Krenim warship of a classification I don’t recognise.”

The longer Kellin stared at the sensor readings, the more he wanted to know, but they were still too distant for any clearer an analysis.  In the absence of anything he could instruct the ship’s sensor suite to do, he began to softly drum on the underside of his console.

“Commander,” Kellin tentatively asked, “can I ask you something a little personal?”

Hunsen smiled. “Sure, from one first officer to another. What’s on your mind?”

Keeping his eyes on the down, Kellin shared, “Yuulik said she was ‘absolutely confident’ about her sensor analysis no less than three times.  From her, that’s basically a blood oath.  That also makes me nervous.  Do you think– does it make me a bad first officer that I doubted her until I saw the sensor readings for myself?  It’s not like I can double-check the work of every officer every day, huh?”

Hunsen chuckled. “I don’t think it makes you a bad first officer. When you’re in an unusual situation like this,” he motioned to the scene beyond their runabout, “you need to be certain of what is happening before making a decision, an order.”

Reflecting out loud, Kellin said, “Doctor Irlina was absolutely certain that not a single Krenim colony within six sectors would possess the chroniton integrator she needs to repair the paradox machine.  Just as she was certain that we would find it in this time zone.  What kind of timeline do you think we’ve dropped ourselves into?”

“One that is one I want to remain in for too long,” Hunsen said. “Those ships that attacked us earlier come from this one.” Looking down at the readings coming from the temporal scans that the Themis had taken earlier. “We need to get in and get out, agreed, Commander?”

“I have your back on that, commander,” Kellin chimed in.  “Not only does the computer think the matter in this universe vibrates on a frequency parallel to our own, quantum dating marks us as being almost thirty years in our past.  I’m just a baby out there, somewhere!”

Hunsen chuckled. “I’m flying with an infant,” He said. “Well, actually, I suppose thirty years ago, I was only ten.” He shook his head. “How time has flown past. I don’t think ten-year-old me would have imagined that I’d be a first officer, flying into a temporal bubble to steal some technology while also being a father to an infant of my own.”

“Oh wow,” Kellin remarked, but this exclamation lacked his earlier exuberance.  Hunsen’s revelation had stunned him.  “On top of it all, you’re out here being a dad?”

“Yeah, my Imzadi gave birth to our first son recently,” Hunsen said with pride. “He’s only a month old, but I’m already sensing the connection we have with him is going to be great. Do you have a family of your own, commander?”

“Nothing as such,” Kellin replied.  Still thinking of his own parents as the heart of his family, Kellin added, “My sisters are out exploring the galaxy in their own ways or still back home on Vega Colony.”

“No Trill version of an Imzadi at all?” Hunsen double-checked. “Well, we’ve got a list of available bachelors and bachelorettes available on the Themis. Just say the word, and I’ll introduce you to them!”

Kellin tentatively said, “I don’t know if I’m up for a cross-command relationship.  My husband and I were hardly ever aboard the same starship until we finally separated last year.  I think it might be too hard?”

“There’s nothing wrong with a long-distance relationship,” Hunsen stated. “Louwanna, my Imzadi, is the chief counsellor on the Odyssey, but since she’s had Eddim, she’s temporarily transferred to the Themis while on maternity leave.”

“Do you expect she’ll go back?” Kellin asked, his curiosity piqued. “To the Odyssey, when she’s ready?”

“We’ve not discussed that far yet,” Hunsen admitted. “I was never planning on returning to the Odyssey, and it’s not as if we need a chief counsellor on the Themis unless Samris transfers, but he’s about to become a dad himself with his fiance, T’Rani, being pregnant.” 

“I always assumed I’d have a partner if I became a father,” Kellin said.  “But life is short.  It’s starting to feel like one of those things I need to think about?  Is fatherhood something I need, just for me, regardless of whomever else I have in my life?”

“There’s nothing saying you can’t be a father by yourself,” Hunsen remarked. “Do you want to be a dad? Because if you do, it’s one of the best jobs in the galaxy.”

You Changed The Ending – 10

Cockpit, USS Rubenstein
August 2401

“The source of the negative particles appears artificial, commander,” said Science Officer Nune.  Through the viewport, the thin blue line of a particle stream was just barely visible to the naked eye.  He swiped up a holographic LCARS frame to enhance the image.  While the particle stream was magnified on the hologram, Nune tabbed through outputs from forty-seven different sensors.

Nune recounted, “The negative energy is being generated by an orbital particle fountain.  I’m reading no lifeforms aboard the particle fountain, nor the Class H planet below.  Subspace transponder identifies it as belonging to something called the… Confederation of Earth.”

“We were forewarned to prepare for alternative timelines,” Perez reminded Nune. “Just take us in carefully.” The Rubenstein shuddered from something outside. Perez frowned. “Looks like low-level graviton pulses coming from the station, probably created by the particle fountain.” 

“Wait, we don’t want our first looks to be our last look,” Nune objected firmly.  His shoulders rose closer to his ears while he scrolled through a holographic menu wheel.  He explained, “I’ll run a simulation on how the graviton pulse might interfere with our tractor beam.  Let’s hang back, commander.”

“What do you mean, hang back?” Perez questioned him. “What we need is over there. Follow my orders and take us in, Nune.” She glared at him for a moment. “Have you truly forgotten your roots?”

Like the wind was knocked out of him, Nune couldn’t say anything other than a tapered scoff.  Still, he tapped the thruster controls to maintain their distance from the particle fountain.

“Commander, I haven’t forgotten anything,” Nune tightly said.  “If anything, I’ve learned more.  We can’t expose any of our runabout systems to the negative particles.  Our only hope is keeping hold of the Krenim’s collection pod.  The safest thing to do is secure our tractor lock on the pod before we approach.”

“Well, it feels like you’re thinking more like a scientist than an engineer,” Perez remarked. 

Snarkily, Nune asked, “And what would I have done as an engineer?  Boost power to tractors and hit the engines fast enough to outrun our troubles?”

Before Perez had a chance to respond, their runabout shuddered. “What was that?” She asked as she checked the sensors one more time. “What on Earth? I’m detecting a Kapal F-Seven class freighter approaching us,” She paused. “No, make that two. They’re heavily modified.”

Any of the heat in his chest was quickly forgotten when Nune added, “Their transponders are consistent with the fountain’s Confederation.  I guess their charter doesn’t include articles to share interstellar resources for the benefit of common interests.”

“Take evasive action. I’ll add more power to the shields and start collecting the particles for the Krenim pod,” Perez announced. 

The stars whirled through the viewport as the runabout swerved under Nune’s control.

Throwing a wicked grin at Perez, Nune promised, “If you think my science department has influenced my judgement, wait until you see what I’ve learned from my favourite security chief.”

 


 

Wreckage of Krenim Weapon Ship

Walking slowly in his EVA suit, Hunsen found his visit to the wreckage of the Krenim ship, not something he had expected to be doing a day ago. Around him, various systems were damaged, and parts of the ship were exposed to the void of space. Bodies of the crew floated in space. Holding his phaser rifle tightly in hand, he continued to use the other to scan what they were looking for. 

“We’re almost there,” he shared with Kellin, who was just behind his left shoulder. 

Kellin’s amused guffaw was transmitted over the suit-to-suit comms before his response.  He lumbered closely behind Hunsen, finding a steady rhythm on his mag boots.  Also leading with a phaser rifle, Kellin kept the phaser emitter pointed at the compartment’s opposite quadrant, left open by Hunsen’s sweep.

Hunting experimental technology in a parallel universe is just another day,” Kellin intoned with light-hearted sarcasm.  “We gotta get you home safely to the best job in the galaxy.

“Yeah, I’m not sure my Imzadi would be happy if she knew how much danger I was in right now,” Hunsen admitted as they dodged a floating of a dead Krenim officer. “Fatherhood does change your perspective on things.”

Oh really?  Like a brain parasite?” Kellin asked.  “What has fatherhood changed for you?

“Well, you don’t take the small things for granted anymore,” Hunsen answered. “You enjoy them more as those moments you have as a dad with your kid become more precious.”

Swinging his phaser rifle to the right, Kellin asked, “What moment has meant a lot to you?

“Stupid things, like the first time my son smiled at me when I held him,” Hunsen replied. “Louwanna said it was probably gas, but I was certain it was a smile. He knew who I was; I could sense it.”

“That’s almost too overwhelming to think about,” Kellin said.  “It’s what scares me off.

“What makes you worried about it all?” Hunsen enquired as they went down a junction. He pointed to a nearby closed door. “Just in there.”

I don’t know if I want it enough today.  Being a father,” Kellin said.  He thumbed at the door controls, but they were darkened and didn’t respond to his touch.  “I think about it a lot.  It’s a nice idea.  But I don’t need it yet.

Using the heft of his gauntlet, Kellin smashed the door controls off the bulkhead.  He prodded and tested the wires and crystal protrusions within the exposed access controls.

At the same time, I don’t want to regret not being a father twenty years from now,” Kellin added.  “I don’t know if I could survive the weight of that regret.  But simple fear is no reason to make a life-changing decision either, is it?

“You do it because you want to become a dad,” Hunsen advised him as they entered the room. “It will give you an entirely new perspective on life, and you’ll realise the decisions you would have made in the past, and you’ll make them differently now.” 

Hunsen paused as he kept his tricorder out in front of him. “To quote my old captain, ‘bingo’!” He pointed at the device in front of him. “Here we go, exactly what we were sent to find. Let’s set up the transporter enhancers and get out of here!”