The question asked by Captain Theodoras settled over the Captain’s Mess and the gathered individuals and was answered with a simple chuckle from Commander MacIntyre as he settled into a seat.
Gabrielle Camargo’s promotion ceremony had gone pretty quickly before she had been dragged to the Captain’s Mess for an impromptu staff briefing with more than a few gathered in Port Royal. She’d found herself a seat on a couch next to Ra-tesh’mi Velan, who’d congratulated her again as she sat down, and directly opposite the couch with the three individuals who had prompted this meeting. Lieutenants Michaels and W’a’le’ki and Ensign Linal, all of them doing their best to not cast their eyes wildly about the space they’d either never visited or only once or twice before.
The other couch that formed the open box section had been claimed by Commander MacIntyre and Doctor Pisani, who Gabrielle noted had leaned into the Commander pretty quickly after he sat down. She wasn’t at all discreet about their relationship and in less public spaces she’d started to note the commander wasn’t either. And as for the captain, she’d pulled a single seat over and sat herself down, with Commander Gantzmann opting to stand behind her, arms crossed and looking like a statue.
All Gabrielle knew was there was a matter of some urgency and she was needed as the ship’s chief science officer. And apparently, it all revolved around the word periwinkle.
“Periwinkle,” MacIntryre repeated, seemingly for himself. Another brief chuckle, which didn’t seem to impress the captain. “I came up with a list of code words for time travel events as a thought exercise a few years back. Back when my career was going nowhere fast and I was dreaming of grand adventures the likes of Enterprise, Odyssey or Wells.” He shrugged his shoulders, offered a small smile, and then continued. “A few of those codewords I came up with as things I can tell people who might be looping or travelling backwards as ways of getting my attention and cooperation without having to spend precious time convincing me.”
“And you choose periwinkle?” Doctor Pisani asked as she sat up a bit to look at MacIntyre better.
“They all needed to be things I wouldn’t forget,” he answered.
The captain hummed for a moment before she spoke. “So, the fact that two of my crew ambushed us,” her eyes turning to the three women on a couch together, “adamant to get one word out as soon as they saw us, the third the same as soon as we had her fished out of Port Royal, gives you reason to believe them, Commander?”
“Must have told them that word for a reason,” he answered.
Gabrielle watched the captain study her second in command for a moment more before she relaxed a touch and even smirked slightly. “We’re going to need to get our time travel plans lined up. A single memorable word is better than trusting secrets to people.” The captain finally looked at her and the apologetic look on her face was clear to all. “Sorry for ruining your party Commander, but seems the life and time of a science officer is never boring.”
“Thought that was true of all officers, ma’am,” Gabs replied. “So, we’ve got a time travel situation going on and you three,” she looked to the women opposite her, “are at the heart of it.”
“Yes,” all of them answered in unison, though she heard the irritation in the Ensign’s voice and saw it on her face. Impatient with the situation, Linal was sitting right back on the couch, arms crossed and looked like she could bring down a starship with a scowl if she tried.
“I call it a broken clock situation,” MacIntyre interrupted. “Probably not the best, but hey, I never took temporal mechanics. Time loop that has a fixed end point and resets to the same start point, without someone noticing or remembering it, or outside interference, it would continue to play out exactly the same each loop.”
“Temporal causality loop,” she clarified for MacIntyre. “The Enterprise and Bozeman were caught in one out in the Typhon Expanse. So was the Bakersfield back in 2381.” She shook her head, an act to clear the wealth of knowledge that wanted to spill forth and let everyone know just how much she knew. It wasn’t helpful or needed right now. She then leaned forward slightly and looked at the three women opposite her. “So, what’s going on?”
“We’re stuck in a loop obviously,” Linal snapped out, her tone annoyed and angry.
“Ensign,” MacIntyre immediately snapped out. “Watch your tone. This can’t be easy, but antagonising us isn’t going to help.”
Samantha Michaels turned to face Linal Nerys and just nodded her head at the woman. “We’ll get this sorted, don’t worry,” she said quietly and then turned back. “In roughly a day and a half, we’ll arrive in a star system with an alien structure near the star. Two L-class planets, one of them a radioactive hazard. So far we’ve always opted to explore the structure and we get varying levels of success on exploring it before something, I’m guessing within it, activates and resets everything to just before Fightmaster walks into Port Royal.”
“GSC-9587,” Gabs muttered to herself. “Motu Maha’s scans don’t mention any alien structure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s near the star itself.” She’d taken to looking down at the carpet between the couches, her brain working away. “Chroniton signature?” she asked, the affirmative head nods all she needed before eyes once more went down.
“And what have we managed to find so far?” the captain asked.
“How to open a door and that the corridors are very long, wide and poorly labelled,” Samantha said, earning a slight chuckle from W’a’le’ki and a grumble from Linal, who stopped when she cast her eyes in MacIntyre’s direction.
“Ensign,” Doctor Pisani spoke up, “a word in private.” Not a question, but a statement, as she got to her feet, not letting go of MacIntyre’s hand until she was fully standing, then guided the ensign to the far side of the Captain’s Mess and more specifically to a replicator, a quiet conversation ensuing.
“How long is long?” Velan asked after a moment.
“The sstation’ss core iss kilometress acrossss and transsporterss are dangerouss in the radiation environment around the sstar,” W’a’le’ki provided. “Sscanss of the facility have been unhelpful either due to the sshielded nature of the sstructure.”
“Makes sense.” The chief engineer took a moment, reaching up to stroke his beard, then stopped and simply smiled. “I wouldn’t recommend jetpacks. One wrong move and you’d pinball down the corridor until you ended up as a smear on a wall. Oh…the Argos!” He snapped his fingers for emphasis as he settled on the idea.
“Oh no, not those things,” the captain said. “And besides, we don’t have any shuttles aboard with ramps to take them on and we can’t beam them over.”
“Don’t need to,” MacIntyre said, cutting off Velan as he was about to speak. “Just tractor them along under a shuttle, set them down in the station’s landing bay, then land the shuttle. They won’t be any worse for a little vacuum exposure, will they?”
“Nah, should be fine,” Velan answered. “Couple of them should let teams get aboard the station and scoot down the corridors with a bit more speed.”
“Now we’re talking,” Samantha spoke up, glee obvious in her voice, even nudging W’a’le’ki with her elbow. “Maybe we’ll finally find some computer consoles this time.”
“Did you just invite yourself on the away mission Lieutenant?” MacIntyre asked, waited a moment, then cracked a grin just as both of the lieutenants were about to voice their protests. “Captain, with my having provided these three with periwinkle, may I suggest Lieutenant W’a’le’ki lead the away team to the alien structure since she is the senior of the three who seem to remember what is going on?”
“I second that,” Gabrielle found herself saying straight away. “And I’m going along. We need the best eyes on this but we need the people who can remember along with us so if we do find anything they’re right there to learn it should we fail to stop the loop in time.”
“May I ask,” Commander Gantzmann spoke up for the first time, her voice quiet but firm and carrying over the small space, “what would happen if we simply changed course and avoided the GSC-9587 system?”
“I don’t know,” Samantha said, looking to W’a’le’ki, who shrugged in response. “We’ve never tried that.”
“The loop resets,” Gabrielle said, chasing down a few ideas in her head, “and we have this conversation again but the lieutenants tell us it’s pointless, or we avoid the loop, but leave a potential booby trap waiting for someone else who doesn’t have what we have – three crew members who know they’re in a causality loop.”
“Or figures out how to turn it off and then weaponizes it in the future,” Gantzmann added.
“Cheery thought,” the captain said, looked up at Gantzmann and shook her head at her. “Why do you have to do that?”
“Professionally it’s my job,” Gantzmann replied.
“Sure,” the captain dragged the single word out. “We’ll maintain course and speed for now and play things out when we arrive. I want two shuttles ready to go, Argos on the deck ready to be underslung. Yank off the cargo decks Velan and put as many seats as you can.”
“Can easily fit two on the back,” the chief engineer answered. “And still room left over for a small supply box. Scanners, cutting phasers, that sort of thing.”
“That gives you a team of eight Lieutenant,” the captain continued with a nod of her head slightly to W’a’le’ki. “Our time travelling three, Commander Camargo,” she smiled at Gabrielle briefly, “and I want one security officer on each Argo. That gives you two more slots.”
“Yess ma’am,” W’a’le’ki replied. “I’ll have my sselectionss by the time we arrive.”
“In the meantime, I want all three of you to go to sickbay for a checkup, then hit the sack.”
“Was just about to ask for that Captain.” Doctor Pisani had rejoined them, with Ensign Linal in tow. “Check up and scan for chroniton radiation exposure. And I want all of you,” she specifically turned to look at Linal,” to have a quick fifteen-minute check-in with Counsellor Hu.”
“Well, it’s what the doctor ordered,” the captain said. “Dismissed folks. Gabrielle, stay a moment.”
They waited, just her and the captain, while everyone filed out. Even Commander Gantzmann, though the captain had seen her to the door, said something in a near whisper to her, then returned, reclaiming her seat. “Again, sorry for interrupting your party Commander,” the captain placed special emphasis on her new rank.
“Mysteries wait for no woman Captain.”
“That they don’t. So, what do you make of all of this?”
“They seem honest about it, but you’d have a better feel of that than I would ma’am. Though I’ve had a few encounters with Ensign Linal previously and I’ve never seen her so…standoffish?”
She saw the captain nodding her head in agreement. “They were adamant in their statements and when they mentioned periwinkle I did since surprise from Mac straight away.” She watched the captain look away, her gaze shifting an unspecified middle distance for a moment. A thinking look. “Get your people to run every scan they can think of while you get some sleep. We’ll have a briefing in the morning before we drop out of warp and hopefully have a bit more evidence to support their claims.”
“You think something might be amiss ma’am?”
“Ensign Linal’s behaviour just has me a bit concerned.”
“Understandable ma’am.” She rose to her feet and gently tugged on her uniform tunic. “Lieutenant Commander Gabrielle Camargo. My dads are going to be so proud when they hear.”
The captain chuckled as she got to her own feet. “We’ll do what we can to get you a clear comm signal as soon as we can so you can tell them. Now, go get your people working and then get some sleep. Busy day in the morning hopefully.”
“Hopefully ma’am, hopefully.”