Ethan’s palms were sweaty and the tension in the air was thick. Today they would be heading home. Or at least to their own reality. He realized that Trinity and the baby had been due last week. He was likely a father again.
“Okay people, red alert. Mikaela, move us into position. Jolie, maintain an open channel with the Watership and Heracles if you can. Carolyn, prepare to activate the deflector.”
“Aye sir, moving now. Full impulse onto position.” Mikaela’s hands moved deftly over the helm console as she punched in the orders.
Jolie nodded as she began to press on the Comm’s consoles many buttons, “Aye Cowboy,” she stated as the connection with the two ships was established. “Connection established, both Captain Vausees and Captain Crawford can hear us.”
Carolyn swallowed. Hard. The moment was at hand. The reality of how challenging, how tight, and how unpredictable this was all going to be had been rumbling in the back of her mind. Now it had roared to the front. She needed to focus. And get ready. “Aye, prepping defector.”
Ethan stood and slid into the empty tactical station. Usually, Jolie manned the operations and tactical stations on this tiny ship, but Ethan wanted her to fully focus on the operations panel. This was going to be tricky.
Entering commands into the computer, their single modified torpedo was loaded into the launcher. “I have located the site of the solar instability,” he announced as he waited for whatever forces worked within the star to move the instability to the correct position. At precisely the time prescribed by the computer, Ethan pressed the fire button, and a single torpedo launched from the ship and sailed across space
There was a light explosion near the star’s surface thirty seconds after the launch, and for a moment, nothing happened then a massive flare erupted, sending burning plasma into space, and energy of unfathomable depth.
“Jolie, how does it look? Are you ready to activate the deflector?”
Jolie looked back at Ethan for a moment before turning her attention to Carolyn. “Ready?”
Carolyn held her hand over the console, waiting and watching. This was it. The moment. “Ready.”
USS Watership –
Rebecca sat in the observer’s seat on the bridge of the Watership as the modified deflector beam intersected with the solar flare. As the artificial pulsar formed, a cloud of… something started to swirl. Then in a brilliant flash, white light erupted like a volcano sending tendrils of red and orange energy into space.
As the rift stabilized, it started to swirl like an angry whirlpool. Someone… she didn’t know all of this crew well enough said reported, “The rift is opened, and I am getting sensor readings from the other side. Confirmed. I have the transponders of the Heracles and Zebulon Pike. It isn’t stable and is shrinking at a rate of half a meter a second.”
“Come on!” Rebecca hissed through her teeth. “What are you waiting on, Vax?”
Peter stood, unable to sit. “Send an emergency message to the Heracles. Get them moving!”
USS Zebulon Pike –
The last of the crew had beamed over to the Heracles leaving just Jolie and Ethan on the bridge. Ethan stood at the engineering panel, dumping the last of the ship’s energy reserves into the deflector array, but the rift was still collapsing.
“That’s all we can do,” Ethan announced. He moved over to the captain’s seat and pressed his right palm flat on the sensor panel. “Computer initiate self-destruct. Authorization Talon, E. commanding officer. Voice code 411-Delta- Mike.”
“Voiceprint verified,” the computer responded.
Jolie placed her right left palm next to Ethan’s, “Computer, initiate self-destruct. Authorization Kyo, J. executive officer. Voice code 098-Romeo-Echo.”
Once more the computer verified the code and voice.
“Set counter for a fifteen-minute timer,” Ethan said, “Enable.”
The red alert klaxon blared in response. “Warning: self-destruct sequence has been initiated in fourteen minutes and fifty-three seconds.”
Ethan gave his bridge one last look before slapping his combadge. “Talon to Heracles. Two to beam up.”
USS Heracles –
Vausees looked up from the console, which she was manning, as the crew from the Pike joined her crew on the Heracles. She had allowed the crew from the Pike to take over some of the secondary stations on board as well as assist her crew in the maneuvers that were going to be needed if this ship and both crews were going to make it back home, in nearly all one peice.
Carolyn’s hands ran across the engineering console on the bridge of the USS Heracles. The clock was moving faster than they had anticipated. Her former ship, the Pike, was doing its bid to save them.
Aimee stood over Carolyn’s shoulder, reading the information as it came in, “This is going to be close, isn’t it?”
Crawford swallowed her creeping terror. There were always risks in Starfleet. Some crews never made it home, or they paid the bill for victory with the blood of their fellow officers. Nobody got to choose when their clock would run out. She was starting to wonder if they’d pushed their luck too far at this moment – that they’d never see home…or that they would die trying to run into the arms of their friends and family. She gritted her teeth as she worked the Heracles in every way she knew, and in some ways, she was just making up along the way, “My dad used to say close only counted in horseshoes and phaser grenades.” She looked at Aimee, “I don’t know which one we are, but close is the understatement.” She tapped the console further, “No second chances. This is where we get off this ride.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Aimee quipped. “Could we use the deflector of the Heracles to slow the collapse?”
Crawford scanned the console, “We can squeeze about 2% into the mix…it’ll give us a few more seconds in the long game…but seconds count just as much as minutes.” She tapped the console, “We’ve got the extra time, short as it is.”
“It will be enough,” Ethan spoke suddenly. “You are the best engineer in the fleet,” he boasted with pride.
Jolie stepped up next to him. “It will have to be,” she stated as she looked at Vausees. “Let’s get out of here.”
The Zebulon Pike crew was now bunched together around Carolyn as if they were protecting her. Ethan was proud of them. Fleet may not always like what they did, and they usually pretended that they didn’t exist… until they needed someone to get their hands dirty. But these people, without a question, were the best of the best.
It struck Ethan that this was probably the last time this whole crew would be together like this. Without a need to protect the cloak, Audren would return to Talaria and her estate. Carolyn was definitely destined for bigger and better things. Jolie was certain to get an XO’S position. She had a bit of a tarnished record, but it was impeccable since, and she had been a rising star. The only question mark was Mikaela. She certainly was an excellent officer, but would she stay with Starfleet Intelligence, or would she return to the presidential detail?
Ethan checked the chronometer. The Pike’s warp core should be going critical now. He turned just in time to see the brilliant antimatter explosion as the… his ship was ripped apart, sending debris in all directions. The energy surge from the explosion broke the final barrier between the realities.
Not waiting for Vax to give the order, he shouted, “Helm punch it!”
Trever looked back at Vausees for a split second before his hands instinctively knew that it was now or never. The pylons glowed as the nacelles activated pushing the ship toward the tear.
Crawford closed her eyes out of instinct. This was that moment. The deep breath before the jump.
Suddenly klaxons rang throughout the ship as the deck shuddered, shook, and then bounced, sending some to the ground as the ship rumbled, then thundered through the rift. The roar had begun quietly, but now, as the ship pushed from one reality to another, it became a rollicking sound blasting from all sides as the lights flickered, sparks flew from all consoles, and klaxons continued to shrilly trill through the sound-filled air. An explosion blew out the helm console, sending a helmsman to the deck, and the sound did not abate. There were shouts from officers reporting their progress and their status, but it was lost in the noise as the Heracles reached out its strong hands to pull them through the hole in space and time. It felt as if it was forever as smoke, steam, and debris filled the air, and the bridge became a broiling collision of sound and fury.
And then, as if someone had simply turned off a switch, it was over.
The bridge was a mess. A few fires burned in the various corners of the bridge, and a few bodies were struggling to stand. Carolyn released the death grip she had held on the console and tapped at the flickering unit. A moment of fear coursed through her body as the scanners adjusted themselves. She quietly prepared for the worst. Until a beep sounded out and she nearly shouted, “We’re home! USS Watership is on sensors…and the rift is closing behind us. Sickbay and engineering teams are on their way…we’re home. We’re home.” She said it a few times so it would be real to her. She had lived.
“Comms, hail the Watership,” Vausees ordered
As the conversation slowed the screen flickered and Captain Peter Crawford filled the screen, his bridge looking worse for wear. His uniform had ripped, and his face was full of sweat, but a smile soon filled his face, “Welcome home, Heracles…and crew of the Zebulon Pike. You’re in the right place.”
“Captain, I believe an escort is in order to the nearest starbase for offload of the Pikes crew,” Vausees stated as she looked at the crew on her bridge. “As well as repairs to our ships.”
Crawford gave a nod, “A small fleet of Raven class ships arrived just as you came through. We’re clear to Starbase Bravo. The Watership and crew will get you home. You’ve done well, Captain.” He looked into the background, “You’ve all done well together to make it home. We’ll take it from here.” He gave a nod and kept his eyes on his daughter, who had the biggest smile of them all. She was home. And her dad was there. The channel closed as the Watership and the Raven fleet moved to escort the Heracles. The rift was shut, and the space around them slowly began to return to normal, as normal as a stormy section of space could be in the midst of a calamitous turn of events. Moments later, the various ships jumped to warp to make the slow journey home. The space they left stormed on as if nothing had changed.
Starbase Bravo – USS Heracles, USS Watership
Vausees stood at the umbilical that attached the Heracles to the starbase. With her stood both Commanding Officers, Ethan and Peter.
“We need to do this again sometime,” she stated in a sarcastic tone as she looked between the two officers.
Ethan sighed, “We did make a good team. In the end at least.” He glanced at Peter and nodded, “Thanks for coming to the rescue.”
Crawford chuckled, “Watership is a search and rescue ship. There’s talk of her getting put into refit and getting a new name in a few months. They said they’ll find me a new ship or somewhere to be…I’m not ready to give up that center chair quite yet.” He gave a nod to Vausees, “You did what you needed to do, Captain…space is more complex and complicated than any of us can begin to imagine…I’d like to think I’ll never have to face what you faced.” He paused, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.” He turned to Ethan, “I’m sorry about the Pike. Losing a starship is never an easy thing to accept…or get over easily.”
“First time, but yeah this sucks.” Ethan took a deep breath and let it out, “But, I’m going home and spending time with my baby. I got word from Trinity a little bit ago. It’s a girl. She named her Abbygale Lynn.”
Vausees could agree with that statement. She could not imagine losing a ship of her own, but she could imagine the pain it could cause. She then held out her hand to Ethan and Peter. “Until our paths cross, Captain’s,” she said as she shook their hands before they departed the umbilical.
The Heracles detached the umbilical from the starbase and pushed away. Moments later the ship streaked away in a flash of light; its destination, Earth.
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” -Winston Churchill