When Yuulik had first stepped out of the shuttlecraft the day before, Brigadoon Security Officer Collins had greeted her with a formal, “Ma’am.” Later that night, when Collins had delivered a replacement hyperspanner to Yuulik in the Jeffries tubes, he had referred to her as, “Lieutenant.” Collins had called her by her name when they had crossed paths in the mess hall that morning.
But by the time Collins shoved Yuulik into the brig and energized the forcefield of her cell, he only called her, “Traitor.”
Yuulik said nothing in return.
The security guard’s accusations had stabbed into Yuulik like it was her thesis defence. It felt like when Captain Taes would so often tear apart one of Yuulik’s theories in favour of one of her own. Being questioned like that normally lit a fire in Yuulik. Armed with a staggering self-assuredness, Yuulik was typically more than happy to unleash her fire of certainty, even if she burned down the universe in the process.
But these security guard’s accusations were different. They said Yuulik had sabotaged and destroyed the USS Sarek or, at least, banished it to a temporal inversion fold. They said Yuulik had murdered Nova DeVoglaer. Nova was the only member of the USS Brigadoon crew who had vanished when the Sarek disappeared. Yuulik had no defence to that. Intellectually, she knew she could verbally skewer mere security goons, but that fire in her belly never came.
Even left alone with her thoughts in the brig, the words didn’t even come in hindsight. She was at a loss. In no universe should the Sarek, while enclosed in a static warp shell, have been enveloped by the vortex. In no universe should Nova have been the only member of her crew to be stolen back into the temporal inversion fold, while the Brigadoon remained in normal space-time. The physical laws of the universe were a sham, clearly, which meant everything Yuulik thought she knew was wrong.
Without Nova, there was something wrong with Yuulik and there was something wrong with the universe.
Laying on her bunk in the brig, Yuulik only found her voice when Kellin Rayco broke the silence. Despite the lumbering of his long legs, Yuulik hadn’t heard the Sarek‘s own security chief dragging a stool across the brig. She hadn’t seen Kellin sitting himself down outside her cell. Like the rest of the Sarek‘s away team –Commander Elbon, Science Chief Flavia, Doctor Nelli– Kellin was left stranded on the Brigadoon too.
“Yuulik, what did you do?” Kellin asked. Tilting her head to look at him, Yuulik saw Kellin hunched forward with his elbows on his knees. They had only begun a conversation, but Kellin sounded as tired as he usually sounded at the end of their interactions.
Yuulik responded by shouting brusquely at the overhead. She proclaimed, “What do you think I did? I devised a brilliant plan to save Nova and the Brigadoon! The static warp shells were only half-successful. Evidently.”
In a performance of patience or condescension, Kellin slowly asked, “So why did you direct a subspace tensor matrix at the USS Sarek?”
That got Yuulik’s attention. She sat up on her bunk and she glared at Kellin.
“Kel, even you have more sense than a Kylerian goat!” Yuulik spat back. “There was no subspace tensor required in my plan. The Dvorak tried that seven years ago and they failed!”
Wincing at Yuulik as if she has stabbed him, Kellin asked, “Why are you lying to me?”
Yuulik scoffed at him. Now, she had some small certainty. Kellin’s tone wasn’t patient at all. She could hear the self-satisfied moral superiority dripping off every syllable.
“I did no such thing!” Yuulik insisted. “You saw me. I was monitoring the Brigadoon‘s sensors. I only ever submitted my recommendations to the captains. This was me being reasonable.”
“The computer logs,” Kellin added more sternly, “tracked your biometrics engaging the deflector dish to generate the tensor matrix. Your DNA was all over the deflector control room.”
“To generate static warp shells!” Yuulik screamed. “What are you talking about?”
Kellin shook his head at Yuulik. “I wish I was surprised, but I can’t be surprised you betrayed Captain Taes–“
Through a gasp, Yuulik cursed, “Grozit!” Jumping to her feet, Yuulik didn’t know what else to say. After the past year of serving with Kellin, she was gutted that he could think so little of her, let alone say so out loud.
“–When you conducted secret epigenetic experiments on yourself in the hopes of learning slightly more about blood dilithium,” Kellin continued, clearly heated, “you proved how little you value your own health. But you fooled me. You made me believe you sabotaged the Sarek‘s sensors and tricked us all into coming here so you could rescue Nova.”
The forcefield between them flared and crackled as if it was just as angry as Kellin.
Kellin concluded, “I thought you actually cared about her. But I guess there’s no one you wouldn’t betray to prove you’re–“
Yuulik banged her fists against the forcefield, declaring, “I love her, you idiot!”
Unexpectedly, the forcefield collapsed under Yuulik’s assault. It flashed right out.
“Nova is a woman of substance,” Yuulik entreated. “Starfleet doesn’t produce officers like her anymore. I love her down to the subatomic level!”
“Then why–” Kellin started to say, but Yuulik never heard the end of that question.
The spiralling sparkles of an annular confinement beam blinded her. The hum of a transporter beam drown out the sound of Kellin’s voice. As Yuulik blinked away the flurry of the transporter effect, she recognized she had been beamed on the emergency transporter pad of the Sarek‘s shuttlecraft Castillo.
“Did you mean it?” Nova asked. She was sitting on the edge of the flight controls with her legs crossed at the knee, waiting for Yuulik. Nova asked again, “What you just said to Kellin, do you mean it?”
Yuulik, for her part, began to hyperventilate. Her eyes welled up with tears at a speed that alarmed her. Like she was watching Nova through a fog, Yuulik couldn’t find her bearings. She didn’t know where she was, didn’t know what to be true.
“Nova?” was all Yuulik could say, fighting back those tears. “You’re alive? They said I murdered you…?”
Nova launched herself across the cockpit and threw her arms around Yuulik. As much as Yuulik wanted to give into her own body, to melt into Nova, Yuulik’s posture remained awkwardly stiff. Her conscious mind couldn’t comprehend this particular reversal and what she saw beyond Nova made it even worse.
“Is it snowing?” Yuulik asked incredulously, “in the shuttlebay?”
Fat, fluffy flakes of snow were gently falling onto the shuttlecraft’s forward viewport, right there in front of her eyes. Between the cozy atmosphere of the shuttlecraft and the open bay doors, the Brigadoon‘s main shuttlebay was turning into a winter wonderland.
In a chummy sing-song, Nova replied, “I told you. The life support systems in the shuttlebay were malfunctioning.” She looked at Yuulik, looked right at her.
“I think I made a mistake,” Nova said, “when I created this blind spot in the internal sensor grid, right here.”
“You?” Yuulik tentatively asked. “You did… this…?”
“I promise you, Sootrah,” Nova pleaded, “I never knew what would happen to the Sarek. I’m not– I’m not a science officer. I’m doing the best I can. These past seven years as a non-corporeal being felt like seven hundred. It left me time to think.”
Yuulik felt her extremities going numb and her knees going weak. She stepped back from Nova, but she nodded at her words attentively. Yuulik dropped herself into the pilot’s chair and she never took her eyes off Nova.
“The vortex has a finite source of subspace energy to hold onto the Brigadoon,” Nova said, “or we would have been lost in the temporal inversion fold forever. I modified the subspace tensor matrix so that I could tether the vortex to asteroid Typhon-518. Re-directing the pull of the vortex should have been like tugging the tail on a subspace slip knot. Within the safety of the static warp shell, the Brigadoon would be released while the knot tightened around the asteroid.”
“But something happened in the last seven years,” Nova continued. “The asteroid was eaten by a subspace tear. The Typhon Expanse is unrecognizable since we returned. So I directed the subspace tensor matrix at the starship Sarek instead. I thought your modern systems would protect the ship at the same time the Brigadoon was released from the vortex. I’m so sorry, Sootrah.”
Yuulik pressed her palm to her forehead. “I need to– Nova, I need to process what this–“
Shaking her head, Nova threw herself into the co-pilot’s chair. She reached across the space between them, taking Yuulik’s hands in her own.
“I’m sorry, Sootrah, we have to go now,” Nova insisted. She set her jaw and her brow furrowed at Yuulik. “Your shuttle has never been molecularly entangled with the vortex and its forcefield generators can create a static warp shell. We need to escape before the vortex returns! You’ve been accused of destroying the Sarek and I’m probably guilty. We need to set course for Risa, or beyond the Typhon Frontier, and we need to run!”
Her throat tight, Yuulik asked, “Did you falsify the computer logs? Did you make me look guilty?”
“I won’t lie to you,” Nova replied, her eye’s looking heavily half-lidded. “Yes, I did it. Your arrest caused the commotion I expected it would. It proved a distraction while I prepared the shuttle and your jailbreak.”
“Nova, wait…” Yuulik said, her voice strangled by emotion, “Wait, we can’t go. We need to rescue the Sarek crew.”
“The Brigadoon can handle that,” Nova firmly countered. “I left all my logs unlocked in the research lab. Sootrah, I can’t wait another day. If we wait another day, it’s going to be another seven years, another fourteen years, another hundred years. My god, Sootrah, Mars is on fire! There may not be a Federation left standing by the time both the Brigadoon and the Sarek escape the vortex for good.”
Nova squeezed Yuulik’s hands.
“Come with me,” Nova whispered.
Yuulik recoiled her hands from Nova’s grasp.
“Come with me,” Nova begged.
Yuulik moved her hands even farther from Nova, so she could tap the activation sequence on the LCARS panel in front of her. Orienting herself with the flight control panel, Yuulik shared a private thrilled look with Nova, when she said, “Activating RCS thrusters!”
Nova spun her chair to face her LCARS console as well. “Powering up the warp core.”
Swiping her fingertips over the controls, Yuulik had hardly lifted the shuttlecraft off the deck when the shuttlecraft rocked from side to side.
“Ahhh!” Yuulik cried out.
Her gaze on her panel, Nova explained, “They’ve got us in a tractor beam!”
“So much for that sensor blindspot,” Yuulik muttered.
Yuulik’s combadge chirped loudly.
“Yuulik, where do you think you’re going?” Kellin’s voice asked over the communication channel. “The Sarek is gone! There’s nothing out there but the Typhon Expanse.“
Desperately, Yuulik revved up the thrusters, testing their strength against the tractor beam’s grip on the shuttle.
“Yuulik, you’re needed!“
Yuulik stabbed at a purple bar on the LCARS controls.