Daily Archives: September 8th, 2007

Star Trek: Outwardly Mobile: The Holly Hop Incident, Conclusion

This is the conclusion of Jay P. Hailey’s and Dennis Washburn’s The Holly Hop Incident.

I’ve gotten a few positive responses and no flames, so I take it to mean that this wasn’t such a bad idea. It has even been suggested that I write my own stuff. To that I express thanks to those who have confidence in me, but I have trepidations about my own talents in this area. I’m not saying that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, but I would rather post stories of authors who have talents greater than mine.

As before, Jay requests any feedback concerning his stories. His website is http://jayphailey.8m.com and his email is jayphailey@hotmail.com.

Star Trek: Outwardly Mobile

The Holly Hop Incident Part 03

(Stardate 44630)

By

Jay P. Hailey

And

Dennis Washburn

 

“Captain’s Log: Stardate 44630.3

“The Harrier is about to make contact with the USS Hood. This Hood is not the starship we know. It is oddly different and primitive.

I have decided to conceal the Harriers’ origin as a Federation starship, so that we don’t interfere in history.

Lt. Green and Dr. Holly feel that they are close to identifying the malfunction of Holly’s’ device, and possibly returning us home.

Until then, we are continuing our efforts to find out just where or when we are, and what’s really happening here.”

“Are we ready?” I asked.

Yes, Captain.” Li’ira answered.

“Then let’s do it. Helm, plot an intercept course and engage.”

The Harrier approached the other starship. Soon we were within their sensor range.

“They have scanned us.” Varupuchu reported.

“Helm, take us to one half impulse speed.” I responded.

“Aye, Captain.” Spaat said. He took the Harrier smoothly to sublight velocity.

Varupuchu watched his scanners. “The Hood has come about and is now approaching us. They have stepped up scanning. Our sensors show an increased readiness in their weapons and shields.”

I stood up, and tried to collect my thoughts. They were slippery. “Yellow alert. Hail them.” I said.

Flagg said “Hailing, Captain.” He watched his board “They are responding. I have an open channel.”

I figured there was no point in waiting to double think myself. I took one last look around the bridge. All Starfleet and Federation insignia had been covered over. Our badges had been replaced as well as our rank insignia.

The control panels of the Harriers’ bridge were emulating a dozen different languages and software. Lt. Bruce had thought that it would give the gag away if all the control panels read in English. The only problem was there wasn’t another single language that everyone knew. There wasn’t another single computer protocol that everyone could operate with. In the end I had ordered everyone to use what they could, and hoped that the different appearances could be glossed over.

As a result, Varupuchu was flipping through “pages” on his panel, each another function of his station, while Spaat seemed to be having a musical interlude, his control panel operating in an obscure Vulcan dialect that used musical tones.

In an attempt to cover this, I had ordered a tight focus on myself as we hailed the other USS Hood.

The screen came up and there was the Captain of the USS Hood. I didn’t know him, but he looked the part. He was a male human about my age. His gray hair was cropped extremely short and his face was composed. His uniform was a maroon coverall with pockets and loops all over it. I could see instruments in various pockets. There were not enough to be a burden, just enough so that he didn’t have to waste valuable time looking for a pen or something.

There were patches and “scrambled egg” braid here and there. The man was a walking bill board advertising his rank, assignment, status, some of his history, and about a dozen other things.

He was even wearing a baseball cap with “USS Hood, NCC 1703” embroidered on it.

I wouldn’t have been surprised to see waistcoats and breeches on the bridge of the other ship.

He said “This is the Federation starship Hood. Please identify yourself.” My universal translator obligingly repeated every word.

“Wop-bop-a-lu-bop, bing bang boom!” I said, to tell him that our universal translator hadn’t heard enough to make an accurate translation. I heard his translator beep helplessly along with mine. The universal translator hasn’t been built that can handle doo wop music.

The Captain of the Hoods’ eyes bugged out. He looked extremely surprised and shocked. I remembered somewhat belatedly that if this man was from Earth, then he and I shared cultural references.

“Er, [Which way is the bathroom?]” I shouted in Klingon. I heard someone cough behind me.

“[This is very nice..] Er [Killing!]” I had almost used the Klingon word for chocolate. It sounds like “chocolate.” The Klingons didn’t have any chocolate until they met Earth people.

Now the Captain of the other Hood looked appropriately confused. In first contact situations, confused is good. It’s when you think you know what’s going on that you’re in trouble.

“I am Captain MacDougal of the Federation Starship USS Hood.” The other Captain said. He began to tell me of the United Federation of Planets, slowly. It was standard procedure when awaiting translator lock.

Harksain Varupuchu caught my attention and made a gesture. I took it to mean that the translators on the USS Hood were about to lock on. It might have meant that he wanted a transfer, judging by the look on his face.

“[We are on a peaceful exploration mission. We wish friendly contact.]” This was difficult to phrase in Klingonese.

The translators beeped and repeated the statement in English. I got the feeling that I was going to have a sore throat before this was done.

“I understand,” said Captain MacDougal. “We also wish peaceful contact. Please tell us more about yourselves.”

“We are from the Twelve Colonies. It is a political union of planets some distance from here.” I waved vaguely at the Harrier’s port side.

I don’t know where Lt. Bruce got “The Twelve Colonies,” but it seemed to do the trick for the moment. I exchanged a series of details about this mythical place with the other USS Hood. Most of them I was remembering from Lt. Bruce’s’ “Extensive briefing.” Some of it I had to make up on the spot.

“Lt. Commander” Flagg had a perfectly straight poker face. There was no telling what he thought of this mess.

“Are you a single species, or do you have others as part of your political union?” MacDougal asked.

“We are composed of many races, at this time.” I said “And you?”

I didn’t really listen to the answer. MacDougal should have been offering more, if we were reading from the same book. He was holding back and stonewalling. The answer to that came up next.

“What can you tell us of an insectoid race in the direction of Orion?” I asked. Perhaps they knew more about the “Alliance” we had met earlier.

“Ah, those damned bugs.” MacDougal looked sour. “They have been trying to exterminate us. The war has been going on for two years now. We fought them off just recently.” He looked haunted “It cost us five starships.”

“I’m sorry.” I said. What else could I say?

“We are interested in learning more about you.” I continued “Perhaps we could speak in person, or even visit your Federation?”

“Perhaps.” MacDougal said, “I’d be interested in seeing your ship.” I thought he would be. It was two hundred years advanced from his own. “The rest will have to wait.”

“Tomorrow, then?” I asked.

“Agreed” Captain MacDougal said and the channel was cut.

I sat down in the center seat. I was a little shaky. I hate adrenaline. Most of the bridge crew wasn’t watching. Li’ira’s reaction was plain. Her eyes were shiny and she was struggling to keep a straight face. I was angry for a moment. It was easy for a spy who was trained in this sort of work to point at my efforts and laugh. She wasn’t the person on the screen.

Then I relaxed a little. Miraculously it had seemed to work.

The other USS Hood reported with a subspace beam focused in the direction of Earth. It wasn’t very powerful and wasn’t very focused. We easily listened in. The codes used in it were not in our records. It was a sequential encryption code. Each number used increased the complexity of the equation. It would take our computers about four days to crunch the message into submission. Again, I would have to wait.

The next day, MacDougal and some of his officers shuttled over to the USS Harrier. Their shuttle was interesting. It as a museum piece but the design was good. It was as if they had a lot of practice with primitive techniques.

The shuttle landed in the Harriers’ shuttle bay. After a while it opened and the crew of the USS Hood came aboard the ship. They were an interesting bunch. They reminded me strongly of the old pictures of the Astronauts and Cosmonauts of Earth. They wore the baseball caps and festooned jump suits. I realized that they had followed the standard Starfleet color scheme. Their jump suits were maroon, gold and blue. Our uniforms were mostly black with the same colors marking the same distinctions.

Another thing that added to my subconscious impression that these men were “primitives” was that they were all human. Starfleet had integrated crews from different races from the start but it wasn’t too popular or widely spread until about one hundred years ago, by our time.

Before then you’d see ships from Earth or Vulcan claiming to be from Starfleet, even though they were built and manned entirely by their home planet.

I figured that this Hood was an “Earth” ship, being entirely built and manned by Earth for Starfleet.

As we walked through the ship, certain alien members of the crew got strange looks from the crew of the Hood. Again I had a historical flashback. According to our sensors, the Hood was much slower than the Harrier. This would mean that the Federation that the Hood was from would be a lot smaller. I figured that they simply hadn’t expanded far enough to meet Lemmnorians or the Drazi.

We arrived in the conference room and I introduced my officers. At this point I made yet another inward grimace. I hadn’t realized that Lt. Spaat and Harksain Varupuchu weren’t human. I was taking them as individuals, not as aliens.

It was extremely unlikely that another group of humanoids would meet a set of Vulcanoids and Andorian-oids, and set up a situation so close to the Federation. I had to admit inwardly that the gig was essentially up, at this point.

My head swam and I had trouble concentrating. I could hear the board of review requesting my resignation. Would there even be a board of inquiry? Would there even be a Federation? I had screwed up, big time. However, I kept a straight face and played it through.

Captain MacDougal’s reaction caught me off guard. He stopped and stared at Spaat and Varupuchu. Although Li’ira got a second look due to her nice shape and pheromones, the crew of the Hood focused on the Vulcan and the Andorian.

“Who are they?” MacDougal asked. I introduced them and named my command crew.

“You have Vulcans serving on your ship?” MacDougal asked. He seemed incredulous.

“Err, we don’t know about Vulcans.” I was still trying to maintain my cover. “Mr. Spaat and Mr. Varupuchu are valuable members of my crew, yes.”

“Okay…” MacDougal seemed taken aback.

We started a briefing, which featured me trying like mad to be cagey about our “Twelve Colonies.” This was because if we had met the Hood in our own time, there would some border line Prime Directive issues. I especially didn’t want to mess up the time line of the UFP. Another very good reason is simply because I didn’t have enough detail to tell Captain MacDougal. We didn’t have enough time to invent a more credible background story.

MacDougal also seemed to be playing his cards close to his vest. There was a lot of detail about his UFP he seemed to be trying to hide. I wasn’t in any position to pry since I wasn’t giving him much in return.

After a long time of fencing, MacDougal lost patience.

“You people seem to have a very advanced starship, here.” MacDougal began “I have consulted with my superiors and we in the United Federation of Planets would be interested in signing a treaty with you. Especially a mutual defense or technological exchange treaty.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. That was uncommonly direct. “That is certainly a bit premature.” I said.

“Please consider our offer.” MacDougal looked stubborn.

“I’m sorry.” I said “In my culture we have the, er… First Instruction, which forbids interference with other cultures. If there were any way around it that would a job for the diplomats.”

MacDougal said “Look, I’ll level with you. The war is going badly for us. Soon it won’t matter. The Bugs will interfere with us like you’ve never seen.”

I saw the First Officer of the Hood look grim. A young lieutenant from the Earth ship looked shocked and then went pale.

I wasn’t going to be pushed “I must abide by the First Instruction. I have no choice.”

“We’re about to be killed!” MacDougal was very angry. I thought that was understandable. “You stand on your `First Instruction’ while people, real people, are about to be exterminated by a bunch of damned bugs!”

“I have no choice in the matter.” It was a weak reply, but it was the only one I had.

The atmosphere in the room had become decidedly tense. “Phagh!” The Captain of the Hood said and got up to leave.

We escorted him back to the shuttle bay. There we found his shuttle empty and Flagg talking to an earnest young ensign from the Hood.

“Ahem!” Captain MacDougal said, drawing the attention of the young man. The shuttle pilot ran into the shuttle abashedly. Flagg came quietly over to me.

The shuttle craft from the Hood powered up and left the shuttle bay.

I walked with Flagg back into the body of the Harrier.

“What did you find out?” I asked Flagg. I didn’t expect a complete answer, but I figured that something would be better than nothing.

“I didn’t have much time.” Flagg said, thinking his encounter over.

“He was a very young man. My approach involved stories of adventure.” This was telling. The young man hadn’t had enough experience to realize that “adventure” was synonymous with “death.”

Flagg continued “He was especially interested in the `Seek out New Worlds and New Civilizations’ part. He’s never seen an alien.”

“Huh?” I was confused. “Just how wet behind the ears was he?”

Flagg shrugged “I didn’t get that far.”

Over the next two days I talked with Captain MacDougal. He wasn’t giving an inch. He wanted help against the Bugs and my efforts to find a compromise met with failure. He didn’t want the Harrier to help negotiate a treaty or a cease fire. He wanted phasers.

I was in a bad position. I needed more information and I wasn’t going to get it from the USS Hood.

I waited for Green or Holly to come up with any new data on the Holly drive. Even with Snoopy’s’ help they simply weren’t able to go very fast. The tampering with the experimental drive that had landed us in this situation was quite subtle, according to Charles Holly, the inventor of the drive.

With no progress forthcoming from talking to the Hood, or from the Holly Hop, I had to make a decision.

“Set course for Vulcan.” I ordered. “Engage at Warp 6.”

“Aye, Aye, Captain.” Spaat said.

The USS Harrier swung around and leapt into warp speed. We had taken the Hood totally by surprise. They turned to pursue, but it was too late.

“The Hood is hailing.” Flagg reported.

“Don’t accept it.” I said.

We easily out ran the Hood. It was my hope that we could find more information, or at least a more reasonable reception at Vulcan.

While we were leaving the Hood behind, its subspace radio was passing us, warning the Federation that we were coming.

We got to the edge of Vulcan’s solar system about eight hours ahead of pursuit. This was odd. Vulcan was one of the founding planets of the Federation. The one in our time had much better defenses.

“Approaching Vulcan space, Captain.” Spaat reported.

“Slow to Warp 3 and continue at Warp until we are hailed or until we sight a Vulcan ship.” I ordered.

“Aye, sir. We are now in Vulcan Space. Eight minutes, 37 seconds to Vulcan.” Spaat said.

“Scan Vulcan, please.” I said to Varupuchu.

“Scanning.” Varupuchu directed the scientific equipment of the Harrier towards Vulcan. He looked at his readouts, now returned to standard operating mode. He double checked the scan.

“Seven Minutes to Vulcan.” Spaat reported.

Flagg added “Federation starships continue to pursue. They are about eight hours away at their current speed, warp 4.3. They appear to be trying to en globe the system and cut off our retreat.” I didn’t like the way he phrased that. It rubbed me the wrong way to be pursued by Starfleet.

“Mr. Varupuchu?” I prompted.

“I am not reading any life forms.” Varupuchu sounded irate.

My heart seemed to stop in my chest. “Confirm that! Run a diagnostic on the sensors.”

Varupuchu began the diagnostic “I have confirmed the readings, Captain. There are no life forms on Vulcan. The background radiation appears to be 3000% of Vulcans’ normal level.”

“Oh, God.” I think I said that out loud. Although my particular area of interest was Klingon culture and history, I knew of Vulcan. Who in Starfleet didn’t? Spock had been the first, but he hadn’t been the last. Through the Vulcan officers in Starfleet we all had a window on a planet where things were a little better. Maybe we didn’t wish to cast out our passions on the sands, but we all knew it was possible. The Vulcans were once called the “intellectual puppets” of the Federation. We all knew differently. They were our consciences.

Now two billion of them were dead.

We continued into orbit. I was in shock really. It just didn’t make sense. I was ready to blame the “Bugs” that this Federation was fighting.

The details didn’t fit that theory. The destruction of the surface was incredible. The area of ShiKahr and Vulcan’s Forge were bombed into a glassy, radioactive slag about 5 meters deeper than the original surface.

I remembered all the history. When I visited, I could almost hear Surak across five thousand years. It was all gone. The destruction was 100 years old. I couldn’t believe it. Who would waste Vulcan that thoroughly and leave Earth or Andor untouched?

Vulcan had once been a very violent planet. I had visited the catacombs under the palaces of the ancient nobles. They might have survived there. Except that when we scanned into the catacombs, we measured an incredible amount of thorium. The radioactive element was so thick in the ancient chambers that even in an armored vacc-suits, we would have received a lethal dose in twenty minutes.

Then Flagg delivered another blow. “Look at these scans.” He said. I looked. It was a spectroscopic analysis of the atmosphere of Vulcan. The damage was so extreme that we couldn’t call this planet class M, anymore. However, Flagg had a more subtle point to make. The spectroscope revealed the chemicals and elements present in the atmosphere of Vulcan. Flagg compared the waste products of the bombardment with the records of various weapons in his tactical database.

The analysis showed that the bombs used were fusion bombs. They were big ones. They matched stuff present on Earth during it’s “Cold War” nuclear standoff. They did not match the profile of Vulcan weapons from their nuclear holocausts. Nor those of many other worlds.

“I think the conclusion is clear.” Flagg said, “Earth did this.”

“No.” I couldn’t believe it. Earth people are the most aggressive xenophiles in the Federation. I could not accept that this would happen under any circumstances.

Flagg drilled the message home. He did several other tactical analyses. He showed me the long range scanner reports. The Federation Starfleet was mostly headed towards us from Earth. The rest were from the usual starbases. The starbases themselves were out of position. It was as if they were guarding a perimeter, not a collection of planets.

I was almost violently angry, once the message had gotten through my skull. Those bastards. Those unbelievable maniacs! No wonder those bugs were set on killing them! It was a rational choice, given the circumstances!

We stayed in orbit around Vulcan or a little while longer, trying to assure ourselves that no one was waiting to be rescued. So much as one life form, or one forlorn message to posterity would have soothed me, a little. There was nothing. The destruction was complete.

With dread in my heart I ordered a course for Andor. I feared what we would find. I simply had to know for certain.

The Harrier ran the Earth blockade easily. It did not have time to form up.

As we sped for Andor the news of what we had seen at Vulcan cast a pall over the ship. The morale of the crew was shaky and everyone had a kind of stunned look. I would have worried, but I was still trying to get my mind around the whole planet having been murdered.

Holly came into my office. I should be specific. He pounded frantically on the door until I let him in.

“We’ve got it! We got it!” He whispered intently, looking about my quarters as if he expected a man in a black hat to be eavesdropping.

“What do you have?” I was learning not to assume things about Holly.

“We discovered how the Tampering was done. I can recreate it!” He was waving his hands and almost physically restraining himself from dancing. “I can steer the machine back home, I think.”

“Excellent!” The subject of home focused me “I’ll get us moving towards the spot where we appeared.”

“Huh? Oh, that’s not necessary, Captain.” Holly said

“It isn’t?” If I had understood any of Holly’s work, and that was stretching it a bit, then it was a type of dimensional transfer. Each area of space is unique in terms of dimensions. Each has its own dimensional quirks that seem to change randomly with time. This is why standard “Hyper drive” systems don’t seem to work. Each “Hyper space” jump has an element of randomness to it.

“Location isn’t as big a factor as you might guess. If we misjumped at all, then the fault is in the field of the drive itself. Time and space aren’t relevant except in a macroscopic sense.”

It took me a few seconds to work that out. “Time?” I said “So we HAVE time traveled.”

Holly didn’t even hesitate. “Oh, yes. It is certainly a possibility… I think.”

I could feel my face grow hot. “You said `time and space aren’t relevant’. Are you saying that this device can travel in time as well as space!?”

He looked at me intently. I had missed something and he needed to explain it more clearly. “For the purpose of this device, time and space are interchangeable. Travel in one is the same as travel in the other.” He continued bemused “I’m not even certain they are different things at all….”

All the warnings drilled into us in the Academy and Command School came flooding back to me. Time travel was dangerous. The slightest action could have chaotic and unpredictable consequences. I remembered in he records I had read, where Captain Kirk and all the others who had time traveled had held the entire existence of the Federation in their hands. Some didn’t even know it at the time.

Now, Holly had made it easier to travel in time than to fly to the nearest star.

My head swam “Do you realize what you’ve done?!” I roared. Holly stopped and looked at me. He didn’t get it. I regained control of myself, with effort. “Don’t touch that thing until you hear from me!”

Spaat called from the bridge “Captain Hailey to the Bridge.”

I ran out of my quarters and down the hallway, heading for the turbolift. As I ran, things started to occur to me.

Suppose that these `wrong hands’ that Flagg was so afraid of got hold of Holly’s’ device? I could think of about five ways to get completely filthy rich right off the top of my head. If any single person got it then they could be a master criminal like the galaxy hasn’t ever seen before. No police force could ever touch them. Worse, what if this hypothetical someone had an ax to grind? I could think of several terrorist groups who would love the ability to travel in time easily.

The Klingons would love this device, too. They might declare it dishonorable. One the other hand, they might invent a new code of time travel honor and use it violently.

What if the Romulans got it? The hairs on the back of my neck rose. As the turbo lift moved towards the bridge I began to think furiously. Control of the device would be extremely important and so far the USS Harrier had the only one. Where better to time travel to than the first test of the prototype?

If they wanted to keep the Holly Hop in their hands once they had already gotten it, then taking it from the wreck of the Harrier seemed to me to be the easiest way.

I didn’t know exactly what a Romulan ship from twenty years in the future might look like, but I did know that the Harrier stood little or no chance against one. Especially if they knew us well.

As I entered the bridge, I was having several waking nightmares. Many of them featured technologically advanced Klingon, Romulan and Federation starships appearing near the Harrier with forceful opinions about the fate of Holly’s’ mad device.

“Report!” I ordered. Spaat told me that we were approaching Andor.

“Scan the planet, and Varupuchu?”

“Captain?”

“Keep a careful eye out for any subspace anomalies, or anything out of the ordinary, okay?”

Varupuchu gave me a dubious look, but said “Aye, Sir.”

Flagg was looking at me with a neutral expression. I had a chill. This affected Flagg’s paranoid area of responsibility.

The Harrier warped into Andor’s solar system, and towards the fifth planet. Our sensors detected about the same thing as on Vulcan. The planet Andor had been bombed right out of the `habitable’ category. There was debris. The Andorians were quite capable of violence in defense of their homes. Evidently they had put up a stiff resistance.

This is where we discovered the smoking gun. There were destroyed ships and a ring of debris orbiting Andor. Among the wreckage were bodies. Dead Andorians and Humans littered the sky of Andor.

We kept going. “Set course for Mereau 4.” I ordered. “Maximum sustainable speed.”

This got a reaction from the bridge crew. Back to the starting point? Perhaps there had been a break in the problem.

I had been thinking that being lost had been a blessing in disguise. It had given Green, Holly and Snoopy a chance to ferret out the true workings of the device. It had also given me a chance to evaluate the effect of it on the Federation.

“Lt. Commander Flagg, please come with me.” I started to the turbo lift.

Flagg entered the lift behind me. I gave the turbolift the destination of engineering. As it started to move, I said “Hold.”

Flagg looked at me expectantly. “Do you know what Holly just said to me?” I asked. I told him the whole story.

“Look,” I said “Sending a ship from the future is a brute force approach. I don’t even want to imagine what steps might have been taken by a subtle person. They would have had years to prepare!”

Flagg took the whole story in with his usual poker face. I could his face flush slightly and a vein start to throb in his head. I didn’t think this was unusual, given the circumstances.

“Hey!” New wrinkles of this mess were occurring to me all the time. “That might explain the sabotage. If the Federation thought it wouldn’t work, then they would stop working on it, leaving an enemy power to develop it!”

“Huh?” Flagg was having a hard time following my reasoning. “That would be a paradox. How could they develop it, if they stole it from the Federation? If the Federation abandoned the experiment, how could they steal it in the first place?”

“That’s part of what I mean! A time travel device this easy to use throws causality right out the damned air lock!” I was excited now. I felt like I might be getting a handle on what was going on. “Anyone could be the saboteur, absolutely anyone! With time travel that easy, a mole could be implanted in the past, and build a trustworthy record the hard way. It might be someone we think we know! Hell, if it were an emergency, you could send someone into the past undercover as themselves. It would a nearly unbreakable cover.”

Flagg just looked at me. It was clear to me that I had lost him.

“The effects of this device are too crazy. Once this thing becomes well known, then there will be no stopping it.” My train of thought was leading to a conclusion that I didn’t like. “Continue.” I said to the turbolift.

Flagg said “Why are we going to engineering?”

I said “I didn’t know at first, but it’s becoming clear to me now. That device must be destroyed.”

“Wait, didn’t you just say that this would just give the advantage to the enemy?” Flagg seemed confused.

“If the device was destroyed by their efforts, maybe. I’m hopping that if we destroy it, and never reappear back home, then it will never have happened.” I wasn’t really clear on why I thought that this would work. I had to try something.

“That means we’ll be stuck here, in this place.” Flagg pointed out, “Caught between psycho-Earth and the `Bugs’.”

“Maybe. Perhaps it’s one ship versus the whole Federation, and maybe reality as we know it.” I didn’t like those odds. I really didn’t like the idea of Romulan ships from the future appearing from nowhere and blowing us up.

The turbo lift arrived in Engineering. The door opened and I stepped out. I was in a hurry. I was racing a specter from the future, and I didn’t know what would happen next.

Flagg said “Just a minute.”

I turned to see Flagg holding a phaser on me. “Not so fast, Captain.” He said.

“What…?” Too many horrible possibilities crossed my mind for me to deal with. He could be the agent. He could be one of any twenty agents.

“That was excellent.” Flagg said. All signs of confusion were gone, replaced by a self confident smirk. “You had me fooled this entire time. Right up until the end. You didn’t expect me to by the `sudden dawning’ routine, did you?”

“I…. er… wait.” I said. I had no idea of what Flagg was talking about.

“Who are you? The Romulans? The Obsidian Order? It doesn’t matter, now, does it? I have you.” Flagg was enjoying his moment of triumph.

With a sicken creak, the turbolift car fell down the shaft. I stood there for a moment, in shock. I had heard of such catastrophic failures in turbolifts before. They were only simulations, used for training purposes.

The turbolift crashed to the bottom of the shaft, four decks below. I went and looked at the edge of the door. There were shear marks in the metal. The metal itself looked fatigued.

“No way!” I said to myself as I turned towards Engineering. The coincidence was too convenient. If it had been a story, I would have stopped reading that point. Only real life could be that inconsistent. A writer who pulled that trick would have been incompetent.

I entered Engineering. It was filled with the usual shift. There were the young Ensigns and Crewmen running like mad and the old NCO’s running the place. It looked busy. There was work going on all around the compartment.

“Attention!” I bellowed. Engineering was still one of the few places where a bellow was still a useful command tool. Everyone in Engineering Section heard me, and stopped where they were.

“Set your panels on remote and clear the section!” I bellowed.

There was a split second of hesitation while most of the youngsters tried to figure out what I meant. The old-timers started to move. They knew there would be time to discuss my sanity after the section was cleared.

Soon, the Engineering Section of the USS Harrier was cleared. There we a few panels left open, and tools left laying out. I went to a panel where the impulse control sub master station was open and found a plasma cutter. Set correctly, this tool would do, nicely.

As I approached the master systems monitor, where the Holly Hop drive was attached, a voice interrupted me.

“Hey!” Dr. Charles Holly yelled “What do you think you’re

doing?”

“I am going to destroy the drive, Doctor.” I said

“You can’t do that! What are you, Mad? That’s our ride home!” Holly approached me and began to yell in my face.

I tried to explain what I thought might happen if the drive were returned to the Federation. Holly would have none of it. “What utter hogwash!” He shouted.

“What if I’m right, Doctor? What if the things I describe start to happen?” I asked.

“Impossible! No one in their right mind would use my drive that way! It would be suicidal! The effects on the space time continuum would be devastating! It would far outweigh any political gain!”

“But, what if they didn’t care? What if they didn’t understand the consequences? Haven’t you thought of that?”

“And I thought Flagg was paranoid! Give me that!” Holly lunged for the plasma cutter.

Holly and I scuffled for a bit. I was hampered by the fact that I really didn’t want to hurt the little guy. He had no idea how to go about fighting at all, but he didn’t let that stop him, I have to give him that.

“All right, break it up!” Flagg shouted.

Holly and I separated quickly. I was shocked. Flagg should have been too injured to move, after falling four decks in a turbolift. But there he was. One of his ankles was badly swollen. He was holding one arm close against his torso. His face was red, and he was out of breath.

“Caught you, didn’t I?” Flagg said. He was using his good hand to hold his phaser on me, and was leaning into a bulkhead to keep from falling.

“Good!” Holly yelled “The Captain has obviously gone mad!”

“Shut up!” Flagg yelled at Holly. “You’re the one who started all this, you loon.” Holly’s eye bugged out, but he stayed quiet.

Flagg returned his attention to me. “You may think you’ve won, but we in the Federation have a few more cards up our sleeve than you might think.”

“Huh?” I said “But, I thought you were the saboteur.”

Flagg said “I was, but that was only to get the Harrier away from your pursuit. We’re in a random alternate universe. It’s still too hard for your side to track these jumps.”

“A random alternate universe?” I couldn’t believe my ears. This made the whole thing much worse.

“Not for long, you bastard.” Flagg said “Soon I’ll take the Harrier to our new hidden base. From there, with ultimate control over the Holly Hop, we’ll safe guard all of time from your depredations.”

“Please don’t call it that! I hate that name!” Holly looked pained.

“What happened?” I was curious “What was different?”

“Huh.” Flagg said ” In this universe, The warp drive was discovered in the in the year 2008, by a scientist named James C Jones.”

I recognized the name. He was the scientist who laid the theoretical foundation that later led Zefram Cochrane to discover warp drive.

Flagg continued “In this universe, the government had access to certain materials from a downed Vulcan scout ship. It was used to give Jones a boost to his work. But the Earth wasn’t culturally ready for contact. Remember that they were still discriminating against each other on the basis of skin color. It was like giving cannibals the warp drive. As soon as they met real aliens, humanity as a whole went psychotic. The Vulcan and the Andorians were too similar to humans in many ways, and too different in others. Despite a small percentage of xenophiles, most humans couldn’t handle it.”

“I don’t believe it! It was only sixty years later when our universe had first contact. There’s no way we could have changed that much!”

“But it was two generations of people who were inundated with Science Fiction! It was two generations of people who grew up watching TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5! The small minority of xenophiles had expanded to a majority by the 2060’s.”

“You used my drive to come this place?” Holly said “You used my drive to travel time?” He seemed to be in shock.

“I am also talking too much. It’s time to take action.” Flagg raised the phaser towards me and took a step forwards.

I yelled “No, Flagg! Wait!” Flagg fired anyway. He missed me, because as he took his step forwards, he stepped in a puddle of lubricant which had leaked from an open panel. It should have been secured but I had rushed all the engineers out of the place too quickly.

I couldn’t feel my legs clearly, and I was shaky. Nearly being killed does that to me. I finally got the message and tried to move to try to take the phaser away from Flagg.

Flagg was still too quick. He knew I would try to run, or take the phaser. He rolled into an upright position and covered me while laboriously climbing up on his damaged leg.

Flagg was nearly erect when he stepped on a tool that had been left lying on the floor next to the panel. Again it was inexcusable sloth, but I hadn’t given anyone time.

Flagg stumbled across the engineering section and landed against another open panel. I cringed as he flailed about, grabbing an exposed power converter for balance. The Power converter sent a minute portion of the power than was running the USS Harrier through Flagg’s body.

Flagg screamed as several thousand volts of electricity arced through his body. His spasmodic muscle contractions threw him across the section, where he fetched up against a bulkhead with a solid, bone wrenching impact.

I turned, with some effort away from the industrial accident and back to the drive. I turned on the plasma cutter and made my adjustments.

“Wait!” Holly said “It’s still not too late!”

“What are you talking about?” I said irritably.

Holly moved between the drive and me. “We know the dangers now! We can control them much better!”

“No!” I said “It’s far too dangerous!”

“Please!” Holly was beginning to sound desperate “We can put together a committee of responsible scientists! It doesn’t have to fall into the hands of military morons like Flagg, (No offense, Captain.)! Think of the opportunities for science! Please don’t destroy my work!”

“My decision is made!” I said as I started for the drive.

“You can’t! I won’t let you – OOP!” This last Holly said as I belted him in the mouth. Hurting him was becoming harder to avoid. Holly sat down and held his mouth that was now bleeding.I approached the drive and was about to destroy it when Holly said “Mook Ouwf!”

“What in the world does `Mook Ouwf!’ mean?” I thought.

“MOOK OUWF!!!!” Holly shouted.

I turned to find out what his problem was, and I was way, way too late. Flagg had me centered nicely in his phasers’ sights and was pulling the trigger as I saw him.

Flagg’s phaser made an agonized warble and gave off pretty, but harmless blue sparkles, then beeped its annoying malfunction beep. Flagg groaned inarticulately.

I looked at Holly, who was still holding his mouth. He moved his hands and said “Oh, yeah, life’s fair.” He bled all over his shirt.

I looked at Flagg stunned. “That’s the worst luck I ever saw.” Flagg continued to groan. I don’t even know if he was conscious.

Holly looked at Flagg. “Yeah, he was unlucky, I was unlucky…”

“No, but really.” I said. “That was more bad luck than you might expect in a life time! He was really unlucky.”

“That’s it!” Holly yelled, spraying blood across Engineering. The Macmillan improbability vector! Why didn’t I see it before?”

“What in the world are you talking about?” I yelled.

“The drive! It causes trouble!”

“It’s taken you until now to figure that out!?” Without any further delay, I took the plasma cutter and melted the Holly Hop drive to an unrecognizable heap of slag.

Suddenly I was back on the bridge. I looked around for a minute to reorient myself. Everything appeared to be in good shape, but we were now at red alert.

“Report, all stations!” I said

Li’ira looked behind me and then ran to the Tactical station. Flagg was not there.

Spaat looked readings at his panel, and reported “We are presently in Earth’s’ solar system. We are near the edge of the system, at approximately the same position as when we started the test.”

“Scan for ships, please.” I said

“Scan complete.” Varupuchu said. He had evidently started scanning as soon as we had moved. “Scans show Starfleet and civilian traffic. None of it is within a billion miles, Captain.”

“Is it our Starfleet or the other one?” I asked

“It appears to be ours, Captain.”

Li’ira said “I’m getting reports from all departments now, Captain. No damage reported, no casualties.”

Then she said “Captain, we’re being hailed by Starfleet Command. They inquire as to our status, and ask why we haven’t started the experiment, yet.”

Eventually we got the whole thing worked out. When I destroyed the Holly Hop drive, we had reappeared in the same position we had held when the jump was started. From outside, it seemed as though no time had passed at all, although we did give off a blast of Taylorons.

Flagg was not on the Harrier. There was a Lt. Colonel Flagg discovered as a part of Starfleet Intelligence, but he had never been anywhere near the Holly Hop project.

Holly was nice enough to try to explain it to me. When I said that the Holly Hop threw causality right out the air lock, I was correct. On a fundamental level, the Universe is elastic. A certain amount of time travel and paradox and be adjusted to. Holly’s drive had taken that elasticity and stretched it past the breaking point.

Holly said that according to his analysis, the drive had pinched itself off into a causality loop of it’s own. Once it was there, it set up an improbability field, which caused the worst possible things to happened to the drive, and the vehicle using it.

Flagg’s whole time war was just a reflection of the drive and the universe working together to destroy the paradox caused by the drive.

“When Flagg decided to fight for the drive, he became a force in that micro-universe to preserve the drive. The micro-universe fought back. That’s why Flagg was so unlucky!” Holly was excited. He even showed me the equation, where Flagg’s decisions and mine were described in arcane mathematical terms.

I didn’t understand a bit of it. Frankly that made me rather happy.

The biggest surprise, to me, came after we had put back into Spacedock and had gone through a post mission debriefing. I received orders to make the USS Harrier ready for a patrol. This wasn’t a mission for an experimental vessel, it was a job for a ship of the line.

When I asked why we were given these orders, I was told that due to a short fall of available ships, the Harrier was being activated to cover until the fleet was rebuilt following Wolf 359. Evidently Starfleet wanted to get their moneys’ worth out of the refit they had given the Harrier.

I was confirmed as Captain of the Harrier. This was also a surprise. It meant that, after a review of the Holly Hop incident, Starfleet Command trusted me to command in the field.

I Insisted that Li’ira be transferred to the Harrier as my real First Officer. This caused an immediate problem. Fortunately, Admiral Quinn was able to help me there.

“Why her, Jay?” Quinn asked “It’s not because she’s ah… Orion, is it?” Quinn asked. I knew what he meant. Was I letting my hormones run loose? Was she trying to sleep her way into the command track?

“No.” I said. I explained to Quinn how Li’ira had come to Starfleet, and how much she valued our occasional tolerance. I told him how much she was committed to upholding the ideals of the Federation. I felt that she was potentially a valuable officer out on the frontier where the ideals need to be put into action. I was afraid that if she was left in the Intelligence branch, that she would turn into another Colonel Flagg. I told the Admiral that we were cheating ourselves if we let her be wasted that way.

“Okay, Captain, you have convinced me!” Quinn said, and Li’ira was transferred straight over to the Harrier as a Lieutenant Commander.

After a start off like that, I figured a quiet patrol would be just the ticket…

-End-