Daily Archives: September 21st, 2007

Sunday Op-Ed: Late Friday Edition: Kissinger Admits Iran Attack Is About Oil

“So what?, we need the oil,” sneer deluded Neo-Cons as oil prices explode due to orchestrated artificial scarcity

In a new op-ed, Bilderberg luminary Henry Kissinger admits that U.S. hostility against Iran is not about the threat of nuclear proliferation, but as part of a larger agenda to seize Iranian oil supplies. But the true meaning behind this is lost on Neo-Cons, who are still deluded into thinking that Americans benefit from the imperial looting of natural resources in the middle east.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Former US Secretary of State Kissinger comes clean on the true motives behind the planned military assault on Iran.

“An Iran that practices subversion and seeks regional hegemony – which appears to be the current trend – must be faced with lines it will not be permitted to cross. The industrial nations cannot accept radical forces dominating a region on which their economies depend,” writes Kissinger.

As blogger Robert Weissman points out, the “legitimate aspirations” that Kissinger affords Iran later in the piece “do not include control over the oil that the United States and other industrial countries need.”

Read rest of article…

Saturday Sci-Fi: Late Friday Edition

At least in this time-zone it’s getting late. My weekend is pretty booked up, thus the early posts. Jay P. Hailey’s Outwardly Mobile Trek is up to bat. This is the first of the Harrier‘s missions and if the plot seems familiar, it is. Jay has the explanation at his site http://jayphailey.8m.com/ on his Outwardly Mobile link.

Star Trek: Outwardly Mobile

Episode 04: The Voyage of the Harrier

(Stardate 44947)

By

Jay P. Hailey

And

Dennis Washburn

 

It had been six months since I had taken command of the starship Harrier. I was almost used to it by now.

I had taken command of the starship for a test of an experimental drive. When the test failed the Harrier and I were sent into the field. The Harrier was an old Constellation class starship, nearing obsolescence. She had the old Federation saucer-section primary hull, but thicker. She had four engine nacelles.

I was also an old, but proven design. I was average height with receding gray hair and comfortable padding around my middle despite strenuous workouts.

I had been surprised at first, that the Harrier had been sent out in the field. I expected a solid menu of milk runs. However, when we launched our mission in the middle of 2367, I had been told that the “Borg Incident” at Wolf 359 had made for a shortage of starships. This was proving to be the case. Although the Harrier’s main function was to relieve more modern and important ships of dull tasks, we had our share of adventure. There had been the incident with the Ferengi and then the tensions along the Cardassian border, to name two examples.

The crew of the USS Harrier was shaping up pleasantly. Li’ira, my second in command, had taken to being a starship officer like a fish takes to water. Having a Green Orion woman as my First Officer had caused some comments here and there but what else was Starfleet for? IDIC in action, I would say and point out Li’ira’s excellent record. It didn’t help much but I didn’t care. I had the officer I wanted. Recently her status had been confirmed by a promotion to Commander. Starfleet wouldn’t have chosen her by themselves, but now that she was there they had to acknowledge her.

Our new Chief Medical Officer was also an interesting person. Dr. Patricia Flynn was an exchange officer from the United States Coast Guard. Having been born on the North American continent, I was embarrassed to learn that there were still military units in operation on Earth, as well as ones operated by my native country. Dr. Flynn coldly informed me that even in the twenty fourth century people still fell off boats and drowned if someone didn’t rescue them. Besides, who better to explore the ocean? Starfleet certainly wasn’t in that business.

I apologized to Dr. Flynn for my conclusion jumping. Later, I found out that Starfleet had traded two Science officers to the United States Coast Guard for oceanographic studies in exchange for Dr. Flynn’s services aboard a starship. I also found out that Patricia Flynn wanted to be transferred to the oceanographic project as a science officer. Once I understood the cause for her resentment and sympathized with her, Flynn loosened up and became a decent Chief Medical Officer.

Another new addition to the crew was Lt. Stephanie Anderson. She was another native of North America. The same place where I had been born, the state of Southern California. Anderson was a tall Amazon of a woman with a forceful attitude. She had started her career in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but transferred to Starfleet Security because in her words “Earth is DULL.”

Our Science Officer was Tillean Darvon Ahk. She was a native of Vich-Arr, a race of humanoids who appeared 99% human, except for their delicately upswept ears and bifurcated eyebrows. Like all Vicharrians, she was always ready to jump into a project with both feet. She had no patience for proper procedures or doing things by the book. She was an excellent science officer, although I could never understand how she stayed so gonzo about science.

The last addition to the Command crew was Lt. Ruezre Vengle as Chief Engineer. Vengle was old for a Lieutenant. I learned that she had served for years with the Merchant Marine before joining Starfleet. I also learned that she was excellent starship mechanic. She wasn’t going to invent any new wonders but the equipment that we had was going to stay in good shape and run under nearly any circumstances. Lt. Vengle was a golden eyed humanoid with the ability to generate and manipulate electrical current within her body. This gave her an intuitive feel for electrical circuits that she put to good use.

-*-

We were at Minos Korva when we were alerted to expect a passenger with new orders. I ordered the transporter to stand by while Li’ira and I went down there to meet our new guest. I was nervous. The Harrier was definitely not a cruise ship. A new passenger with orders was either a mission specialist or a flag officer with orders for us to pursue a mission that they were particularly involved in.

Down in the transporter room, Ensign Wally had already been given the coordinates where our passenger waited.

“Energize” I said.

The transporter hummed and made its familiar noise. On the pad a single humanoid form materialized. It was Colonel Flagg. He seemed as straight as ever, as tense as a coiled spring. Somehow, he looked different, too. I was tempted to say younger.

Flagg completed his materialization and looked around at the transporter room. His eyes fixed on me. He said “Permission to come aboard?”

I noticed that he had not saluted the keel. Actually, because there was no “keel” as such in a starship, typically you saluted towards engineering, and the warp core. It was a gesture of respect for the ship itself. It was a piece of superstition from a long way back. Starship crewmen are not typically superstitious. Starfleet selects people on the basis of being grounded in reality. They needed to be able to approach the unknown and describe it, without fanciful interpretation. I had always been a closet animist. I was nervous until I discovered that all good human engineers were.

Flagg having failed to salute the keel might have meant a lack of respect for the USS Harrier, or it might have simply meant that he didn’t believe in that particular tradition. I wasn’t in the mood to give Flagg the benefit of the doubt.

“Permission granted.” I said.

Flagg stepped down from the transporter pad and came face to face with me. “I have sealed orders for you, Captain Hailey.” He held out an isolinear chip to me. I noticed that he was wearing Lieutenant Colonel insignia, instead of full Colonel.

I said “Thank you” and turned to insert the chip into the terminal behind the transporter console.

“Ahem!” Flagg cleared his throat. “That’s sensitive information, Captain. Need to know only.”

“Oh, of course,” I said. “Ensign Wally, please leave the room.” Wally looked crestfallen but left. I turned again to the terminal.

“Ahem!” Flagg said again. I turned to see that he was giving Li’ira a meaningful look.

“Oh, for goodness sake!” I said “Li’ira is the second in command, Colonel! I think she should be aware of our orders in case I become incapacitated.”

“I can arrange for her to view the orders, If that happens.” Flagg was firm.

Li’ira said “I’ll be outside,” and left the transporter room.

When she was gone, I turned back to the console and inserted the chip. I had to enter my authorization code and identify myself to decrypt the orders.

For all that, the orders read:

“You are ordered and required to transport Lieutenant Colonel John Flagg to Sector 001, Sol System, Spacedock Earth. These orders are classified level nine They are to be discussed on a need to know basis only.”

It was signed by Admiral Alynna Nechayev.

I looked at Flagg. I could feel my blood pressure rising. It was more cloak and dagger idiocy. The last time Flagg had nearly gotten us all killed that way. With effort I tried to remember that this was not the same Flagg we met six months ago.

“Do you have a problem with your orders, Captain?” Flagg asked. He knew that I had no grounds to ask for clarification, yet.

I sighed. There was no point in starting a big political stink at this point. I might burn up too many favors that I would need later.

“This way.” I said and led Flagg from the transporter room. Li’ira and Wally were waiting for us just outside the door.

“Assign Lt. Colonel Flagg guest quarters.” I said to Li’ira

“Hailey to Bridge.” I called, knowing that the computer would route my words to the bridge. “Are we ready to leave orbit?”

“Yes, Sir.” The cool precise tones of Harksain Varupuchu answered.

“Set course for Earth and engage.” I said, grimly.

“Aye, Captain.” The Andorian’s tone told what he thought of the Captain randomly ordering the ship about.

-*-

A couple of days later, I saw Sergeant Major Kendricks. Kendricks commanded the twelve Starfleet Marines on board the USS Harrier. The Marines had been placed aboard the Harrier during the incident with the Cardassians and they hadn’t been removed yet.

The Marines and the Security Department of the Harrier had an intense rivalry. Most of the time it was friendly. The Marines and the Security personnel were intended for two different jobs. Starfleet Security was all about being police, constables and enforcers for the ship. Not only did they have to fight well and shoot straight, they also had to act as body guards, investigators or any of a dozen other jobs.

The job of the Marines was to break things. That’s all. If I wanted someone guarded, investigated or even some undercover work done, I would call my Security Department. If I wanted mass havoc wreaked in any given place, then I called the Marines.

The Marines were very good at their jobs. They trained incessantly to be better at shooting, fighting and breaking. They had also had any sense of self preservation removed. They would attack ANYTHING on their sergeant’s orders. I saw a Holodeck exercise in which the Marines were sent UNARMED into ancient Tokyo and told to attack a mythological creature called Godzilla.

The scariest thing is that they jumped in to the Holodeck with enthusiasm and gave it their best shot. There was no hesitation.

Sgt. Major Kendricks was even scarier, since he was an old Marine. He was very professional and disciplined. He considered most Starfleet Officers too weak and undisciplined to accomplish much. He was willing to give the Captain respect because of my being “The Old Man.” That was enough for me.

“Is it true that Lt. Colonel Flagg is aboard, sir?” Hendricks said. He was at attention. All the Marines practiced strict military discipline. Starfleet prided itself on not being a military organization. It was a point of pride to us that we didn’t salute. The Marines generally agreed that we were not a military organization, and saluted away. I had learned to return salutes to the Marines I encountered on the Harrier. If I didn’t they would simply hold them until I left.

It was not an accident to meet Sgt. Major Kendricks. On the Harrier there was Marine country and there was the rest of the ship. The Marines rarely ventured out of their own territory.

I returned Kendricks’ salute. I hoped I had gotten it right, to the man who had taught it to me. “Yes, That’s correct. I am not allowed to discuss it further.”

Kendricks got a feral gleam in his eye. “With all due respect, Sir. It would be prudent to the Colonel’s safety for him to avoid sections fourteen and fifteen on decks eleven and twelve.”

That was Marine country. “Any particular reason?” I asked.

“Some of us have long memories, Captain.” He said grimly.

I was shocked. This was a huge breach of discipline and etiquette. “Thank you. Dismissed.” I said.

I had never known Kendricks to be anything but absolutely professional and correct in every detail. To see him take such an attitude toward Flagg was a dreadful surprise. It also confirmed my own bad attitudes towards Flagg. I had no urge to pursue the matter. I simply hoped that the problem would not come up on the Harrier.

Fortunately, Flagg never seemed to push his luck with the Marines. He stayed solidly in the officer’s quarters and areas near there.

-*-

Flagg attempted one of our odd “Red-Shirt” programs in one unpleasant incident. Even our security department, which hated the name “Red Shirt”, called the programs that.

When Stephanie Anderson had come aboard she had immediately reorganized the Security Department. The Security Officers were now deployed in groups of four. Each group trained together and stood duty watches together. They started to develop group identities and tactics that set them apart as individual teams.

It made the Harrier’s Security Department seem more ragged than average. They were not. They were racking up better reaction times in drills. Some of the drills were useless to run. The new groupings made such incidents hard to run and easily defeated.

Another thing that had made a big difference were Ensign Bruce’s weird holodeck training exercises. A given group never knew what to expect on the Holodeck. They only knew that they were expected to cope with it. There were locked door mysteries that would have challenged Sherlock Holmes. There were hideous dungeon crawls. There were fast paced action adventures. There was even a big Broadway dance number that the Security Team had to try to fake their way through.

Because of all this, some teams had taken to carrying odd equipment and devices while on duty. I overlooked a certain amount of this. Knives, tools and odd weapons would make it harder to second guess what the Security Department of the Harrier was capable of. Occasionally I had to call them on stuff that was too outrageous. Over all I was happy with them. Lieutenant Anderson would occasionally admit to being satisfied with them for today.

Flagg thought the idea was interesting and asked to be allowed to try out the program. I authorized this and asked Ensign Bruce to develop a scenario suitable for Flagg.

Ensign Bruce must have been rushed, because several software glitches resulted in Flagg being locked in an alpine survival scenario for a couple of days.

When we finally got the Holodeck opened and shut down, we found Flagg. He was ragged and suffering from exposure. When he left the Holodeck, he walked out on his own two feet. He thanked Ensign Bruce. I think the maniac had enjoyed himself.

-*-

About a week later I was in my office, studying the endless supply of reports and useful bits of information that Starfleet kept heaping on my desk. I was relieved when the bridge called.

“Captain, We have an incoming message. It is priority one.” Spaat said. He was usually the Helmsman, but today he seemed to be the senior officer on the bridge.

“I’ll be right there.” I said. I gratefully left the heap of reports and articles behind me.

When I got to the bridge, I noticed that the senior officers seem to have picked that time to congregate on the bridge. Normally, when a starship was moving towards a set destination and nothing seemed to be happening, you would not find all the senior officers on the bridge. The senior officers would take turns standing watch, ready to call the rest of us if something happened.

The only exception to this procedure was the Captain. I could come and go from the bridge as pleased me, and stay for as long as I found necessary. There would always be an “Officer of the Bridge” present. It was his watch and another officer would relieve him when his watch ended. The reason for my absence on the watch rotation was quite basic. I was always on call, without fail. Nothing I ever did was sacred. For that reason, standing a watch myself would be considered redundant and abusive of the time that circumstances had allowed me.

This time as I arrived on the bridge, nearly all the senior officers were there. They were almost loitering. The efficiency of the ship’s grapevine surprised me, yet again. As Captain I was frequently the last to hear the gossip of the ship. I didn’t like it, but it was part of the mystique. Gossiping to the Captain was imprudent. Almost no one did it.

I said “What’s the status of the message?”

Stephanie Anderson took over her station from the crewman who was there on her off duty shifts. She reported. “Message received and intact. It’s awaiting your order to decode.”

“Very well,” I said “Put it on the main view screen.”

The screen opened up with the carefully designed logo of the United Federation of Planets, and then switched to a view of an Admiral I had not met.

He was a humanoid. His nose seemed to have a Bajoran like ridge, although the shape was different. He was a grizzled veteran. His gray hair was cut short and he had some scars visible. Despite this he seemed to be a forceful man. He got right to business.

“Is this thing on? All right.” He held up a PADD and read the official orders.

“This is Admiral Bach of Starbase Ninety Four, to Captain Hailey on the USS Harrier. The stardate is 44947.3. Prepare for new orders. The new orders are these. You will move to the location of Deep Space Five and investigate the loss of contact with that station. Render all necessary and prudent aid, as specified in standard operational procedures. Investigate the cause of the loss of contact. Remedy if possible. Report all findings to Starfleet Command.”

He put down the PADD and looked into the camera. “We are aware of your current mission, as of Stardate 44940.4. This mission is suspended until the orders I have just given you are satisfied. Your authorization code is delta gamma 99428. A data file of relevant information follows this message. Good luck, Harrier. Starbase Ninety Four out.”

I looked at Stephanie. “Did we get the file?”

“Yes, Captain.” She answered.

“Okay, everyone. Let’s get to work.” I said. “Helm, set course for Deep Space Five and engage.”

Li’ira and I split the information packets up and assigned different officers to familiarize themselves with the details. We would put it all back together during the Senior Officers’ briefing.

-*-

In the briefing the picture became somewhat more clear.

Deep Space Five was a science outpost run jointly by the Federation and two other races.

One of the other races was the Ugohaid. They resembled four and a half foot tall raccoons. They even had the gray fur and the black mask markings across the eyes. They were very organized and militaristic in nature. They had an alliance with the Federation that included extremely strict rules of contact and interaction with the Ugohaid and the Liook Sujan. The Ugohaid were not above using violence to enforce this treaty.

Although the Ugohaid had been invited to consider joining the Federation, they had declined. They seemed to feel that the effort of joining the Federation would distract them from their primary goals.

One of the primary goals of the Ugohaid was to serve the Liook Sujan with all due respect and reverence and to ensure that every one else did, too.

The Liook Sujan were an odd race in the galaxy. They were silicon based life forms. They were utterly incapable of movement by their own power. Essentially the Liook Sujan were large sentient boulders. They thought very slowly, very deeply and very profoundly.

The Liook Sujan had vast psionic powers. They were telepathic. This was their principal form of communication and was said by the humanoids of the Federation who contacted them to be very disorienting. The Liook Sujan had even more mysterious senses, involving time and space. Discussions on these subjects with the Liook Sujan were very odd and philosophical. Evidently they had a hard time communicating the impressions these senses gave them. It was like describing color to a blind man.

The Liook Sujan, being silicon life forms, were distantly related to computers. With this in mind a Federation engineer had tinkered together an interface for the Liook Sujan to work through a Federation computer.

The Liook Sujan thought that this was fun and clever. The Ugohaid thought that it was disrespectful and sharply limited this activity.

Deep Space Five was established to study a dark matter nebula near the edge of the Ugohaid territory. The nebula broke several rules for nebulae and was endlessly fascinating to astrophysicists.

The Liook Sujan had suggested the joint station to study the nebula. They said even their strange senses were clouded by the nebula and that they were curious.

The Ugohaid viewed the suggestion of the Liook Sujan as a distasteful duty. Again the Ugohaid had established strict rules of behavior and stood ready to enforce them.

Several Liook Sujan were gently moved with earth moving equipment and transported to the space station.

The station itself was a standard Federation design, modified for Liook Sujan and Ugohaid use. Once the station had been emplaced, it became the central contact point for the Ugohaid and the Liook Sujan.

According to the information given to us by the Admiral, the station had stopped responding to calls and had disappeared from sensors.

The Ugohaid were in an uproar. The Liook Sujan were unable or unwilling to comment.

Our course from Minos Korva to Earth had made the Harrier the nearest Federation starship.

Our Science Officer, Tillean Darvon Ahk said during the briefing that the dark matter nebula baffled her. It was mostly composed of monatomic debris. It was mostly hydrogen, but then everything was. There were other minerals, too. All in single atoms. All cold. Tillean informed us that there was no conceivable reason for all those atoms to be drifting around free like that, as cold as they were. The temperature of the cloud was near zero Kelvin, except near the center, where a perfectly normal type M red dwarf star burned away.

Along with the strange material that made up the nebula, there were odd gravometric anomalies inside the cloud, where cold hydrogen, silicon, iron and oxygen hid them from view.

It was all very odd and mysterious. Now something had apparently happened to the space station.

-*-

We arrived near the location of Deep Space Five about 30 hours later. Our long range sensors reported Ugohaid destroyers in the area. The Ugohaid ships did not approach us or answer our hails. I guess they were waiting to see what we would do.

“Yellow Alert.” I ordered as we closed in on the last known location of space station. Around me the crew of the Harrier took up their alert stations. They had gotten fairly good at it lately. That made me a little more comfortable.

“Sensors, report.” I said. Varupuchu would scan for the station, while Tillean scanned the nebula itself for clues.

“No sign of the station.” Lt. Commander Varupuchu reported.

Tillean said “Captain, I am reading odd gravometric disturbances. Their range is approximately one hundred thousand kilometers from us. They are located towards the nebula.”

That was a surprise “That’s well outside the nebula, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir. That’s better than halfway between the nebula and the last reported position of the station.”

“Begin a phase one search, please.” I asked Li’ira. Then I stepped up to the science station to work more closely with Tillean. Behind me, I heard Li’ira give the specific orders necessary to carry out my wishes. The bridge became quite active.

“Can you identify the anomalies?” I asked the Science Officer.

“No, sir. I can’t even locate them precisely. I can only detect them by measuring their effects on the surrounding gas and radiation.” Tillean was leaning into her console manipulating the controls faster than I could keep track of. Screens flipped by, and the computer made the programmed noises to indicate it was processing data.

Then the Vicharrian woman stopped scanning suddenly and focused on a particular screen. I could see the wispy shapes of a mass of free floating gas depicted on the screen, as well as labels giving the content and condition of each detected mass.

“Captain, please stop the ship.” Tillean said.

I didn’t waste time “All Stop!”

“All Stop!” Li’ira repeated as Spaat our big Vulcan helmsman quickly brought the ship to a halt.

Stephanie Anderson, on the tactical station, quickly began to arrange things for a red alert. She was anticipating my orders, but I didn’t mind. It would increase our reaction time.

Everyone else was looking at me. I turned back to Tillean.

“Report, please.” I said.

Tillean put the schematic up on the main view screen. It showed the USS Harrier about to move into a cloud of cold molecular gas, characteristic of the nebula. The composition of the cloud was wrong. Badly wrong.

The cloud the Harrier was about to penetrate was composed of single molecules of aluminum, tritanium and duranium. These were the metals typically used to construct starships. There was also a significant amount of nitrogen and oxygen. In the cloud there were also atoms of carbon and silicon. All the raw material you might need to build a space station and crew.

In the very center of the cold were atoms of cold and still deuterium and antimatter. They had not reacted with each other very much. They were so cold they simply hadn’t moved into contact with each other in large quantities.

Tillean said “I noticed the cloud, but what really caught my attention was a slight pulse of gamma radiation from the antimatter in the cloud.”

I looked at her screen. The gamma radiation was very slight. Just a few percentage points above background level. I was thankful for Tillean’s sharp eyes.

“Good work, Lieutenant.” I said. “Helm, back us away from the cloud dead slow.”

“Aye, sir.” Spaat replied. The Harrier began to back slowly away from the cloud.

“Mister Varupuchu, please analyze the cloud. I want to know if that’s our missing space station.”

As Varupuchu went to work I sat back down in the center seat. This did not look good. Anything I could think of that could disintegrate a space station so thoroughly would have converted some of the mass to radiation. There would have been a blast of heat, light and radiation. There would be some clues.

It was entirely possible that this was not Deep Space Five. I thought it was unlikely that an entire space station could be so thoroughly destroyed, and then all the energy leached out of the debris.

Tillean spoke from her station. “Captain, may I launch a probe? It would help with the analysis of the gravometric anomalies.”

“Go ahead.” I said. I was curious about them myself.

As we moved, I watched Varupuchu scan and Tillean ready her probes. I felt like doing something, anything. Varupuchu was a better Ops Officer than I was. Tillean was much better as a Science Officer than me. The smart thing at this point was to let them do their jobs.

I looked at every other station on the bridge. The bridge of the USS Harrier was a big circular room covered with panels, consoles and work stations. It seemed at first like it would be overwhelming. Too much information, too many things happening at once. This was true if you looked at the bridge all at once.

As I looked around me, I concentrated on each station. Once I had become familiar with the layout of the Harrier’s bridge, I could tell nearly everything about the ship and her condition by looking at each station in turn.

Nothing was happening, except for the sensors and scanners.

“Ready for launch, Captain.” Tillean informed me.

“Launch your probes.” I said.

There was a whoosh and a thump as a group of three probes were launched.

We all watched as the probes spread out in a triangle headed towards the nebula.

As the probes got closer to the gravometric anomalies, we could see the effects of them more clearly. However, as close as the probes got, they could still see no direct evidence of the anomalies.

Then the signal from one of the probes winked out. It was just gone. Tillean altered the focus of the other two probes to search for the missing one. There was no hint. It had utterly disappeared.

Tillean continued her mission with the other two probes. It was scary losing the probe like that but what else could we do? We had to know more about what was going on.

Varupuchu approached me and spoke quietly “Captain, I have a report.”

I motioned Li’ira over and said “Go ahead.”

The Operations Officer said “The cloud closely matches Deep Space Five in mass and molecular composition. Its’ position and drift are consistent with the last known position of the station. In short, there is nothing to contradict your theory.”

I was disappointed. Whenever I heard of ships or people lost in space, I held on to the hope that a rescue mission would find them. Everyone I spoke to in Starfleet felt the same way. The next time it might be us.

“Thank you, Mr. Varupuchu. Please keep scanning. Look for escape pods or a log buoy.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Varupuchu scanned for another half hour. He didn’t find anything. We began a wider search pattern. I didn’t expect much, but I didn’t want to give up hope, yet.

Anderson reported from her Tactical Station. “Captain, I am reading a Ugohaid destroyer. She’s shadowing us.”

I said “Keep a sharp eye on her, please. Alert me if they start to close with us.” I didn’t like the idea of conducting the rest of this mission with an audience.

“Captain, the probe is back.” Tillean said grimly.

“On screen, Lieutenant.” I said.

On the main screen I could see the schematics of another cold molecular cloud. It was composed of duranium, silicon and rest of the material used to build probes. There was no molecule that was attached to any other. It had simply appeared as though from nowhere. The probe/cloud dispersed. It was generally heading in the same direction at the same speed as the probe had been when it had disappeared. It had appeared in the same spot as far as I could tell.

I heard Stephanie say “I have a bad feeling about this.” The truth was I did, too. Captains aren’t allowed to say it though.

“Helm, bring us about and set course away from the nebula. Engage at full impulse.” I said. I really wanted to warp out of there quickly. Once we were routed where would we stop running?

The Harrier abandoned the search pattern and began to fly away. As we went I said to Varupuchu “Did you find anything?”

“No, Captain.” He said. He would have reported any sensor contacts at once. I knew it, but I still wanted to hear differently.

“Keep scanning, just in case.” I said. I caught Varupuchu’s face. It was plain that he thought it was hopeless. His scan was very thorough however. After all, it might be us the next time.

“The Ugohaid destroyer is still shadowing us, Captain. They have engaged full impulse.” Stephanie reported.

I sat back into the Captain’s seat. It wasn’t very comfortable. “Anything yet, Lieutenant?”

Tillean was watching her board intently. She was calculating things about the cloud, I could see. The equations went by too quickly for me to see in detail.

“No, Captain.” She said “I still can’t get a lock on the anomalies. I can see what happened to our probe, but I couldn’t even say for certain that the anomalies are the cause.”

“Keep trying” I said. I turned back to the screen. I was disturbed that our sensors didn’t seem to be giving us any good information.

As I watched the main view screen went black.

“Report.” I yelled. The Bridge burst into activity.

“Sensors out, Captain.” Tillean reported.

“Mr. Varupuchu, run a class three diagnostic on the sensors, please.” I said “Tactical, can you get a scan of the Ugohaid ship?”

“Negative, Captain.” Anderson said “Tactical sensors are down as well.”

“Red Alert!” Li’ira said

“Mr. Spaat, are we in danger of striking anything?” I asked

“I do not believe so, Captain. I recommend a severe reduction in speed in any case.”

“Go right ahead.”

“Lieutenant Anderson, please open hailing frequencies.”

“Aye, Sir.” I heard the tones of the communications system being activated. “Channel open, Sir.”

“This is Captain Hailey of the Federation Starship Harrier, to the Ugohaid destroyer. Please respond.”

As I finished I heard interference on the channel. Garbled noise came back at me. I recognized the garbled sound of my own voice.

I looked at Stephanie. She was tuning the communications system to try to counteract the distortion. The Security Lieutenant looked confused.

“Captain,” She said “The signal is being reflected back at us. It’s having multiple reflections and each one is more distorted than the last.”

Tillean said “It is? Captain, may I try something with the sensors?”

I looked at Varupuchu. He looked at Tillean with dreadful calm. I knew he thought Tillean should have gone through him. Catching my eye he said “The sensor diagnostics report heavy external interference, Captain, but no internal malfunctions. The sensors are available.”

“What do you have in mind, Lieutenant?” I asked.

“If I encrypt the sensor signal and then route it through the communications buffer we might be able to filter out some of the interference.”

“That sounds good, Lieutenant. Proceed.”

Tillean worked with Anderson for a minute getting the stations connected correctly. Then she said “Scanning now.”

As scanners began to operate. Tillean and Stephanie had to tweak the connection but eventually they were able to put a picture up on the main screen.

I looked and saw the back end of the USS Harrier. She looked like she was four kilometers off our bow. Beyond her there was a constellation of starships. Each looked like the Harrier. The further each was from us, the more distorted it looked. At a distance I could see multiple specks of light, which seemed to be heavily distorted images of the USS Harrier.

In every direction we looked we could see a similar thing. Looking to the side, we could see a side view of our ship, distorted in more distant images.

To the rear we could see the nose of our starship, reflected many times.

“What in the world?” I said. It was a confusing image.

“I thought so! Captain, we have been englobed by something.” Tillean said with a hint of smugness.

“By what?” Li’ira said

Tillean dropped her smug tone. “I don’t know. I can tell you that it reflects our scans and communications signals back at us, distorting them.”

“Was it the Ugohaid?” I asked.

“We have no knowledge of the Ugohaid working on this type of weapon, Captain.” Li’ira said “We do know what they are working towards and this isn’t even close.”

“Besides the Ugohaid destroyer was well outside weapons range, sir.” Anderson put in.

“Captain, I think I can learn more about this with more analysis of the sensor signals. The way that the signals are deformed can tell me a lot.” Tillean said. “The problem is, I’ll have to launch another probe.”

“You sure are tough on those things.” I grinned “Permission granted.”

Tillean readied another probe and launched it with a whoosh and a thump. Simultaneously, the Harrier in front of us launched a probe. It shot across the intervening four kilometers in a flash. We heard a slight thud as the probe from the Harrier ahead of us struck our hull, and disintegrated into scraps of metal.

We watched on the screen as our probe left our launch bay and mashed itself against the Harrier behind us. We could see through the probe’s sensors that the Harrier behind us had launched a probe towards one of the distorted images behind it.

The screen dissolved into snow at the same moment as the thump from the probe striking us happened.

On replays we could see distorted Harriers throw distorted probes at each other for as far as our sensors could reach.

The time of the probe impact was nearly the same for all the images. The further away the images, the more delayed the image of the probe hitting them was.

As the images appeared to be further away from us, they got more distorted. Beyond a certain distance we couldn’t make them out clearly at all.

Into the stunned silence that followed this, we could hear an outraged beep from Stephanie’s board. “Minor damage to the hull near section two of deck six. Hull integrity down to 98% in that area.”

I realized that we had sustained a dent from the probe.

Tillean was scanning with enthusiasm. Varupuchu looked at her grimly, then shook his head at me slowly. He turned back to his station.

Tillean said “That’s odd.” And focused her scanners.

“What’s odd, Lieutenant?” Li’ira said.

Tillean again put her findings up on the main view screen. They showed a tracing of the paths of the debris from the destroyed probe.

The paths made a pretty curved flower pattern away from the Harrier. Sir Isaac Newton was screaming in my ear. “Why are the paths of the debris curved?” I asked.

As we watched, a piece of debris curved around our lower port nacelle and approached a piece from the probe that had hit that image. It approached its mirror image and the two objects met. Then they disappeared.

It was as if they had slipped through a curtain. They disappeared from the forward end to the rear. The cloud of probe debris curved out behind us and slowly disappeared, one piece at a time.

Why behind us? I looked at Mr. Spaat’s station. We were moving ahead at one quarter impulse.

“What’s the range to the ship ahead of us?” I asked

“Four thousand two hundred and eighty three meters, Captain” Spaat reported.

“Have we closed with the image in front of us?”

Spaat consulted his sensors “No, Captain.”

“Range to the image behind us?”

“Four thousand two hundred and eighty three meters, Sir.” Spaat said.

I thought about it. “Mr. Spaat, prepare to take our speed up to one half impulse. Be ready to avoid a collision with the image ahead of us.”

“Aye, Sir.” He programmed the moves into his helm console. With only four kilometers of separation no humanoid reflexes would be quick enough to avoid a collision, but the computer could act quickly enough. I hoped.

“Engage.” I said, when Spaat was done. He ran his program and the impulse engines of the Harrier fired.

Our apparent speed, as measured by our internal sensors, began to increase. Outside nothing seemed to change.

“Range to fore and aft images?” I said.

Spaat replied. “Unchanged, Captain.”

“Keep an eye on it, please.” I replied.

After about half an hour not much had changed, except that the images seemed to close in approximately 100 meters. I believed that this meant whatever had surrounded us was closing in. Tillean estimated that it was approximately 2 kilometers wide in a globe around the Harrier.

I left the bridge in Li’ira’s capable hands and went to lounge. I was hungry. It had been a couple of hours since lunch time and I had not eaten, and I needed to be at my peak to deal with whatever this was.

The Lounge on the USS Harrier was huge. It was two decks tall and had a balcony running around the edge on the second level. About ninety years ago it had been intended to combat claustrophobia among the crew. It had huge windows along the outer hull.

As I ate a sandwich and sipped some pikku juice, I could see off duty members of the crew gathering at the window. I walked over to see what the attraction was. Out of the window we could the twinkling reflections. The nearby reflections were visible and pretty. The more distant fuzzy images seemed like stars. If you didn’t know any better, it would look like a formation of Constellation class starships against a backdrop of regularly spaced stars. Taken alone it was somewhat beautiful.

“Captain Hailey to the Bridge.” Li’ira’s voice rang out through the intercom. “Captain Hailey, please report to the Bridge.” I wolfed my sandwich down as I walked briskly towards the turbolift.

When I arrived on the Bridge, I had wiped most of the crumbs off my uniform. Li’ira was waiting for me. I noticed as I approached that she looked really, really nice. I was able to concentrate enough to realize that stress had increased her body’s production of lust inducing pheromones.

“Report.” I said.

“Lieutenant Darvon Ahk has discovered what the phenomenon that surrounds us is.” Li’ira plainly did not like what Tillean had to report.

I turned to the Science Officer. “Well?”

Tillean’s enthusiasm had an edge to it now. She was still gonzo but now she was unhappy. “There is no object around us. It is the edge of the universe that is reflecting our signals.”

I didn’t get it, at first. “Could you explain that a little more?” I asked.

“We are in a universe that measures approximately two kilometers across.” Tillean said.

“We’re in an alternate universe?” I asked dumbly. Some part of my mind didn’t want to hear this.

“Not as such.” Tillean explained “This seems to be some sort of temporary micro-universe. It’s a direct expression of van der Hock’s theories of special case quantum cosmology.”

“Who? What?” I asked. The explanation was confusing me even more. “Give me the bottom line.” I said.

“This universe is shrinking.” Tillean said. “It seems to have some relationship to the power level of the Harrier. As our power runs out, this micro-universe will shrink.”

“And when our power is gone?” I asked.

“Then this micro-universe will collapse and cease to exist.”

“Us with it, I suppose?”

“Exactly.”

I went over to her station and read her analysis. Some of the math I understood. Some of it was disturbingly similar to the math used by Charles Holly, a mad scientist of my acquaintance.

“How long?” I asked.

“Twenty to thirty hours. As I see more of the collapse, I will be able to give a better estimate.” Tillean said.

There was silence on the bridge. It looked grim indeed. I went to the Captain’s chair and sat down, thinking furiously. Even if it was hopeless, I had to give the crew some hope. They wouldn’t hold together otherwise.

Oddly, the question of maintaining discipline and morale became my chief focus as death breathed down my neck. I knew that if the conviction that we were doomed took hold of the crew, then it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we were to have any hope I had to look like I had an idea.

I looked around at the Bridge. “I am open to suggestions at this point.”

Tillean shook her head grimly. Plainly she felt as if she didn’t know enough about the phenomenon, yet.

The result was similar all the way around the Bridge. Anderson wanted know if we might crack open a way with weapons fire. If this was a self contained micro-universe then the force of weapons fire had no place else to go but the confines of the micro-universe. We’d end up shooting ourselves, a lot.

I said “Download all scans, analyses, and applicable reference material to my office. If I come up with a plan I’ll let you know. Li’ira, you have the bridge.”

-*-

I went down to my cubby hole of an office. The original design of the Harrier didn’t include much space for an office or ready room for the Captain. I guess ninety years ago they didn’t ask them to do as much paper work.

I sat down and called up the information on my desk. I just stared at it. Then a reference caught my eye. Some Ensign named Crusher had done an experiment with a static warp bubble. His equations I could figure out, eventually.

If we created an inverse warp bubble, the chances were we’d destroy the engines of the Harrier in short order. Some of the math seemed to imply that we could stave off disaster for a short time. When the engines blew, the micro-universe would collapse quickly.

There were other things in the math. An inverse warp bubble might create a wormhole. The wormhole might lead back to our universe. Or maybe another, bigger one.

It was a desperate gamble. It was pretty much suicide. Try as I might, I couldn’t come up with a more constructive approach. Time was short. I had to move. I designed the warp field and wrote the basic command kernel for the engineering computer.

Then I called a briefing.

-*-

“What?” Ruezre Vengla said “I can’t do that!”

“I have the specs right here.” I said, waving the PADD. “Just follow my program and wing it a little bit and we’ll be okay.”

“The intercooler manifolds will melt in about four minutes under that load! There will be plasma feedback in the warp coils! The phase inducers are probably destroyed right now, just from hearing you suggest it!” Vengla had correctly spotted the weaknesses in my plan before she had even read the specs. Perhaps I hadn’t given her enough credit.

“We won’t have to hold it for that long.” I said

Tillean spoke up. She looked me right in the eye. I knew that she knew. “Are you sure, Captain?”

I looked her right back in the eye. “Yes. I believe this plan will work.”

She held my gaze for a moment longer. Then she grinned merrily. “Give the word, Captain!” A typical Vicharrian response. She did, however, grab my PADD and change the math around. When I got it back, the inverse warp bubble had been tuned to a specific frequency. It was a more difficult task for the control computers, but it could be done.

Li’ira had watched the exchange between the two of us. I could see the realization cross her face. As it passed it was replaced by a calm mask. Her poker face.

Ruezre was a hard sell, but eventually she agreed to tune the engines to my specifications. It wasn’t that I was going to give her much choice. Now I was able to see the possessiveness and protectiveness of a Chief Engineer for her engines from the other side. Although I had once been a member of that club, I was now the outsider. I was the Commander who demanded the impossible and ruined all the equipment to get it.

Silently I breathed an apology to Commodore Narahrat, where ever he was. I had often given him the same problems when I was the Chief Engineer of the USS Akagi.

In the end, though, the Captain is the boss. My will was done.

-*-

It took sixteen hours for us to rig the engines for the inverse warp bubble. During this time, the Harrier began to feel the drain of the micro-universe. Each moment that passed found the Harrier’s power reserves weakened and drained.

During the work to rig the engines, I could feel things getting better on the ship. We might live or die but at least we were doing something.

Finally all the preparations were complete. The ship was at red alert. I looked around at the bridge. Everyone was ready to go.

“Engage”

I could feel the engines of the USS Harrier thrum. On the Bridge Engineering Station I could see the power output and the temperature rise. The main view screen became a riot of color, drowning out the images of the Harrier. I could see a blue glow of energy begin to surround them as our view screen became obscured.

“Warp bubble formed.” Varupuchu reported.

“Warp bubble stabilized!” Tillean said

“Power reserves dropping, Captain.” Spaat reported.

The Harrier began to vibrate. I was sweating. Lights were going red all over the Bridge.

“Power reserves have been depleted. We are now at parity.” Spaat said. This meant that the Harrier was running flat out. There was no more to give.

“The micro-universe has collapsed against the warp bubble!” Tillean said.

“The warp bubble has become asymmetrical.” Varupuchu said.

I thought that we were dead. I expected a flash and then nothingness.

“Captain, the engines are beginning to super heat!” Ruezre reported from Engineering. I could see the temperature rise on the Bridge Engineering Station. It shot up and up.

“Power generation is now negative by 5%” Spaat reported. Now the engines of the Harrier were not producing enough energy to sustain the warp bubble. Somehow it wasn’t collapsing.

The Harrier’s vibrations became worse. White noise from the vibration of the hull was becoming quite loud.

“Warp bubble destabilizing!” Tillean shouted.

“Warning! Engine heat has exceeded design parameters.” The computer said.

“We can’t hold it! I’m shutting down!” Vengla yelled down in engineering.

I wanted to yell for her to wait. I knew that the moment the warp bubble collapsed, the micro universe would follow. As the edge of the micro-universe crossed us, each of our atoms would cease to exist in one universe and return to its home universe. All energy would be gone from our atoms. Cold and separated, they would join the dark matter nebula.

It hadn’t worked. We weren’t free. We were going to die no matter what. I just had to accept it. I got as far as not yelling for one more second of life from Ruezre.

The coruscating flow of energy subsided. The engines wound down and quit. The screen returned with stars in it.

On the Bridge of the Harrier, we shouted and danced. We had cheated death. It was just a hell of a lot fun to be alive. I’m told the reaction was the same all over the Harrier.

“Find our position!” I yelled happily “Hail the Ugohaid destroyer!”

Spaat had not joined in the celebration. I wouldn’t have expected him to. He did spend a few moments serenely contemplating life. I didn’t begrudge it to him. He bent to his task and then double checked.

I then checked engineering. The engines were a mess, but nothing we couldn’t fix. We were, however, shut down for the time being.

Tillean was scanning the vicinity. Her joy turned to concentration as she scanned.

“Captain,” Spaat said “I have our current position.”

We all stopped to listen.

“We are 1,307 light years to spinward of Starbase 24. Starbase 24 is the closest Federation outpost to us.”

I sat back in the Captain’s chair, stunned. The Harrier could cruise at a sustainable rate of warp six. That was one light year a day. At our best cruising speed, it would take more than three and a half years to return home.

-end-