But, like the Light, the Darkness is never completely gone.
It just waits, and bides its time, growing stronger, until it is time for it to come out again, to spread. And so the cycle continues. At this point in time, the year 2580 A.D., the Darkness is known as the Imperial Dalek Empire. The Light is the entire human race, represented by the Earth Spacefleet. And now, just like it has so many times before, the Light has driven back the Darkness, caused it to recede. But the Light has not won an easy battle; there has been much suffering and despair caused by the Darkness. But the Light has nevertheless won the battle in this Time, and now it is time to pick up the pieces, and begin life anew.
The light of the bright-red star that the maps called Hinire Upsilon, or HU for short, fell on the circling mass of metal light-years away. Inside, the crew of the Jumpship Dresden started thier work. They were agents of the Light, the victorious Spacefleet. Their mission: to pick up the pieces.
As she struggled to rise, she thought grumpily, *That's it. I should have asked him to go see the guy who invented revilie. And he would have asked, Why? And of course, I would have said, So I can blow him up.*
This was the only time she thought of him, half-asleep in the dawn. To think of him at any other time would have brought waves of disgust, anger, and hatred.
*I know he had to do it, but I wish he didn't have to do it right then. I didn't have time to say good-bye.*
Another blast of revilie shocked her out of thoughts, and she set about getting ready. Five minutes later, she has assembled, with all the others, in the staging area.
*One quick run before breakfast, huh?*, she thought acidly. *Well, I'd like to tell him where to stick his damned...*
She stopped abruptly as he came in; she had heard people swear that he could hear people's thoughts. Not that she really cared; she knew of only one person who could read her thoughts, and she highly doubted if he was here, pretending to be a Spacefleet sergeant.
She looked him up and down quickly, sizing him up like a prizefighter checking out his opponent. The sergeant was tall and muscular, with a little cap of brown hair sticking out of his hat. His fatigues were starchly pressed, with the creases still in them. The name on his pocket read, "Johnson, Sgt."
She completed her inspection, thinking, *No, it can't be. He wouldn't pick someone real tall, not after the last two... Not to mention the clothes are way too neat and clean for him. Everything had to be rumpled. And "Johnson"? Possibly... No way. It can't be. It isn't. But if it was, I would've had a few things...*
The sergeant spoke. His voice was clear, without a trace of accent. "Roll call! Acknowledge!" He began to read off a list in his hand.
"34th Squadron... Allen, Michael, callsign 'Yankee'?"
Allen, a tall, lanky kid of no more than 20, shook his head. "Here, sir!"
"Bedighaus, Ellen, callsign 'Spike'?"
"Cavanaugh, Brian, callsign 'Duke'?"
And on down the list he went, name after name, each with thier own codename. She smiled a little; hers was easy. After all, she'd practically been born with it. She thought glumly, *See? There's no way he could hide his accent that well. I mean, he sounds like a damned American...*
Then she heard it, just barely, wrapped up in her own thoughts.
"McShane, Dorothy, callsign 'Ace'?"
"Here, sir!", she called out, hoping not to draw too much attention to herself. That's how she had her reputation. Mysterious little Ace, best sneak in Spacefleet. But where did she come from, anyway? And how did she know so much about the Daleks? She was sure, even now, that they were wondering about her origin; they always did, everywhere she was stationed.
Usually a deadly look or a sullen snort would back them off, but not always. She smiled again inwardly, remembering the hotshot grunt who thought her reticence to explain her past meant that she was a Dalek spy. She showed him wrong, really quick; the guy was in the infirmary for three days, while she languished in solitary for her "attitude".
She snorted again, derisively. *Well, if you've had the life I've had, you'd probably have a little bit of an attitude, too.*
The sergeant finished roll, paused a moment, then spoke again. "Now, here's your mission plan. We recieved word at 1600 hours yesterday that a fighter group was hit by some sort of Dalek EM pulse. We checked the area; the Dalek forces that were here bugged out over a week ago. It's possible that the pulse weapon was automated, but we're not sure, so keep your eyes open. Here is your target area."
The sergeant pulled up a holomap of the planet below. He pointed to a moderate-sized red square in the center of the map.
"This is sector alpha, your target area. HU 3249 had been a Dalek stronghold for many years, so there may be traps. Your job is to find the missing fighter pilots and bring them back. Your secondary objective is to find the source of the EM emissions, and if it is a Dalek pulse weapon, manned or unmanned, take it out."
"Due to the high levels of EM interference in the area, and the definite possibility that the pulse weapon and indeed the entire planetoid may be housing Daleks, you are going in unaided, with minimal power to the jumpboxes. That's all. Are there any questions?"
The chorus of soldiers answered as one. "No, sir!"
The sergeant could have smiled then; he just chose not to. "Good. Suit up; we drop in 15 minutes!"
Everyone retired to his or her quarters. Ace went to the closet and took out her jumpsuit, stopping for a moment to look at what hung next to it. The leather, outdated for this time of synthetic materials, still held its shape and luster. Ace fingered the plastic covering the jacket, stopping at the "Ace" emblazoned on the back. As she put her jumpsuit on, she thought briefly of that long ago past, the time she had spent with the Doctor.
*Everything was going great*, she thought. *Then you had to spoil everything with that whole Fenric business. Sure, I understood what you were trying to do, but it didn't make me feel any better. You could have fixed things after that, just by going back to your old self, but you couldn't do that. You had to continue your little plan of manipulation in order to get things done. And as you did that, 'Professor', we grew farther apart.*
She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she almost forgot about the jump. She swore silently, and scrambled to make it to the ship in time.
Not only that, but there was no power for thrusters or scanners; no way to tell if they were on target or not. If they exhibited too much of a energy signature, then the Daleks' EM pulse weapon would home in on them, as it had the fighters. And that wasn't good at all. Ace remembered the class she had taken that explained EM pulse technology. The strong electromagnetic pulse would completely knock out a target's energy pattern, leaving them powerless. If even a moderately powerful pulse wave hit the jumpboxes, as small as they were, she reasoned later, they would immediately lose all power; no shielding, no life support. They would crash-land like so much debris. If they were lucky.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Dresden moved into position. A few seconds later, the status light in Ace's box lit up.
*Green*, she thought. *Well, here goes everything. Geronimo...*
She faintly heard the popping sound; the sound of explosive docking charges being activated. A second later, she found herself in that endless sensation of falling. She had hit the altimeter display on her wrist chrono when she started her descent, and she looked at it now.
*Hmmm... 9.32 and falling fast.*, she thought idily to herself. *We should hit in five... no, more like six minutes.*
As she continued her descent, she allowed herself to continue her thoughts of the Doctor.
*Yes, we continued to drift apart, until, at one point, just before we arrived at Heaven, I realized that I didn't know who you were anymore. Then, while we were there, and I found Jan, I thought you were... I don't know, different, somehow. But I didn't know why. I think it was because you knew what was going to happen. Every bit of it. You always did, you miserable... Time Lord.*
*And then, when Jan died... I couldn't take it anymore. I was just so sick and tired of being your puppet, just blindingly following your instructions, believing what you were doing was right. Then, I realized that your definition of right and mine weren't the same. Perhaps they never were. 'Time's Champion', my foot; you were just a cold, calculating manipulative... person who kept me along just to throw the others off the track. That's all I ever was to you. Your decoy.*
*So I left. I actually sucked it all in and made a decision. And you couldn't believe it, could you? I was the first to stand up to you and tell you to go to hell, you omnipotent bastard, because I didn't want to go through it anymore.*
She snapped herself out of her mental tirade and looked at her altimeter again. *Now at 5.32... Still in good shape.* She looked at the status light in her box, which still blazed bright green, giving a type of surrealist tinge to the metal box. *Still green... no structural failure. We might just make it after all...*
Suddenly, the box started shaking. Ace looked on frantically as the green light started to flash yellow. *Damn! The Daleks must have fired on us!* Then she registered the significance of the yellow status light.
*It's not red. No catastrophic structural failure; only moderate damage. Must have been off, or I just caught the edge of it.* She couldn't be sure just how bad that "moderate" damage was, or even if any of her squad were still functional. Without scanners, she was still blind. *Better take precautions...*
She donned her special helmet and backpack, which functioned as an encounter suit in hostile atmospheric conditions. The backpack held an intravenous fluid line to provide nourishment during battle periods and a special laser-type emergency beacon that was guaranteed to punch through any atmosphere, in case she got separated from her squad and they or the Dresden had to mount a search.
But most importantly, the pack held its own 10-hour supply of compressed air. If the box's staus light turned red, signifying a definite hull breach, Ace would turn on the air supply, hoping it would hold her until the Dresden or the remaining- if there were any- members of her squad found her. But she was going to turn it on way before that. *Damned if I'm going to get caught napping and end up eating vacuum.*
She stole a look at both her altimeter and the status light. *4.11, and still yellow...* In the back of her mind, she wondered if perhaps the status light had been damaged. She fought back the accompanying wave of hysteria this thought caused. *Keep it together, girl. Everything's going to be all right.*
She kept herself busy by counting seconds in her head. After an eternity, the altimeter read 2.50, and the light still stubbornly flashed yellow. She thought, *All right...only three more minutes until touchdown.* She turned on the air, listening to the welcome hiss of oxygen as it entered her helmet. *That's better.*
She searched around franctically in the gloom for the landing lever. When this lever was pulled, explosive charges would deploy a parachute that would slow the jumpbox's virtual freefall. After a few hectic moments. she found it, and pulled it down. All of a sudden, Ace was jerked to the left side of the box as the parachute caught the rushing air and tried to slow its descent... and remained there. The box had tilted crazily on its side. *Oh, no! The other side's chutes didn't open! Just what I needed.* She did some frantic calculations.
An object, no matter what its weight or mass, travels in freefall at a speed of 32 feet per second. The chutes, by creating drag upon the box, were supposed to slow the box down to a comfortable 10 feet per second. But with only one-half (she hoped) of the chutes opened, the drag created to slow the box was diminished by half.
*So, that means that since the gravity is Earth-standard, the speed of the box was still... 21 feet per second? Oh, my God...* At that speed, she realized, the box would crash in about two and a half minutes, and crash very hard. Hard enough to kill her. As she began to grow increasingly panicked, a voice, suddenly and abruptly, sounded in her head.
"Stop panicking, girl! Stop right now!* The voice that echoed in her head wasn't her own, she realized. It was the unique Scottish lilt of only one person: her Professor, the Seventh Doctor.
The idea of the voice of a man she still despised after two years didn't calm her down any; actually, it made her angry. *I can't believe you're here, inside my head! Get out, now!*
*But you're making me up, as a voice of reason... to calm you down.*
*Bullocks*, she thought angrily, *he is here, somehow, inside my head. And he's not calming me down at all!*
*No matter*, said the voice of the Seventh Doctor. *You remember how panicked you were when the Daleks took over the Coal Hill School?*
Ace now became indignant. *I was NOT panicked!*
She could imagine the Doctor smiling that idiot grin of his as he replied, *Then why did you take the bat?*
She considered that for a moment. Why did she take the bat, charged by the Hand of Omega, if she didn't believe, as she did, that it was the only way to damage the Daleks and give them a fighting chance? The voice of the Doctor continued.
*I know you hate me, Ace. Believe me, you have every right to be. But all I'm asking is just this once, remember the bat, and trust me. Remember the bat...*
Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the voice disappeared, leaving Ace alone with her thoughts, hers alone. She smiled slightly.
"Remember the bat... Okay, Professor. Just this once, I'll trust you. But, mind you, just this once." And with that, she sat back in her seat, strapped in, and did the only thing she could think of to calm her down.
She prayed. A few minutes later, she hit the ground.
*It must have been the circuitry shorting out when we landed.*, she thought as she unbuckled herself gingerly from the box and took stock of her condition. No physical damage; mentally, however... Ace suppressed a shudder as the shock of what she had experienced hit her. *I did it! I survived... to do what now?*
She got out of the box, wreckage now, no good to her, and looked around. The landscape of HU 3249 was a barren desert wasteland, but that wasn't surprising; the Daleks had no sense of the aesthetic. What surprised her was that she had landed so close to the EMP station that she could see it on the horizon, about 5 miles away.
*I guess I must not have been damaged that much.* Then she thought again about what she had been through and shuddered again. *It was enough.*
She switched on her scanner, and as she did, she noticed that her altimeter/chronometer were damaged in the impact. *So, how long was I out? Can't have been that long; my air hasn't gone out yet, and someone hasn't found me yet... By the way, where is everyone else? They should have survived...*
Then, she took a look behind her, the one direction she hadn't looked yet. She gasped. There was a trail behind her 10 to 15 miles long riddled with debris; her former squad, disintegrated by the powerful EM pulse that, miraculously, she had only caught the edge of.
She paused for a moment, tears prickling her face. *It couldn't be... How in God's name could I have that lucky?* Then she realized the truth. *The Professor... By keeping my calm, with his help, I remained alive.*
She smiled to herself. *That is what you've been trying to teach me all these years, haven't you, Doctor? That with calm, a little luck, and a fairly good plan, you can accomplish just about anything? Well, consider the lesson learned, Professor. In spades.*
The scanner beeped softly; it had found something. Ace looked at it briefly, and noticed a red dot on the display, with some coordinates underneath it. *A laser beacon!*, she practically shouted.
*It must be the fighters' pilots! According to these coordinates, they're about... 6 miles away, heading north, opposite the EMP station. Oh, well, I'd better get going. I don't know how much air I have left, and I'm not too thrilled with the prospect of breathing sand.* With that, she began her arduous journey.
After what seemed like forever, she arrived at the coordinates. There was a beacon, a little pole on a tripod, outside a cave. *This makes sense. The beacon wouldn't work underground.* She looked inside for a moment. *Oh, god, it's pitch in there.*, she thought. She swept her scanner over the opening.
*Hmmm... the scanner only penetrates about 10 feet in. I can see that far. I guess I go in blind. Add that to your list of daring adventures, Ace. Gods, I better get something from the Fleet for risking my butt for this. A commendation would be nice, maybe even a promotion...*, she thought as she entered the cave.
As she traversed the threshold of cavern, the light suddenly, without warning, vanished. Ace shivered slightly, and not entirely because of the accompanying temperature drop. *This is really creepy. All dark and damp and cold. But, there's more to it than that. Like, I don't know...* Then it hit her. *This is the way I felt when I first met Fenric. All cold and damp. There's a sense of evil here.*
She walked much more slowly now, as if treading lightly would keep the now-light sense of evil from becoming overwhelming. For what seemed like hours, she moved from space to space inside the darkness, her only protection the light she carried.
Finally, she saw it; more accurately, she felt it. Her foot suddenly brushed against something as she walked past it, but she was a full five or ten feet past before she realized what it was.
*That was a helmet!*, she thought hurriedly as she ran back to the spot where she felt it, for it indeed was a flight helmet. She looked around, hoping to see some evidence of life nearby. She didn't find it. What she did find, however, made her flesh crawl. Sprawled against a wall was a human body, stiff with the beginnings of rigor mortis. Next to the corpse was a Spacefleet flight insignia.
Ace fought back a wave of revulsion as she looked at the corpse. It appeared to have been shot with some kind of energy weapon. *Oh, God. What a waste.*, she thought with some level of emotional detachment, but that quickly gave way to a sense of fear.
*The Daleks could have done this... But what if they didn't?* She looked down at the ground next to the body. *No tire tracks! But all Daleks have tracks... Someone- or something else did this! But who, or why? Ace began to feel the creeping sensation of evil intensify. She spun around wildly, shining her light everywhere, hoping to get a glimpse of.. whatever it was that had killed the pilot. But there was nothing there.
Her light rested on the wall behind the body of the pilot, and she saw something she hadn't seen before. There was a shining red gem on the wall. Around it, there was a circle of writing, some unusual language that Ace couldn't identify. She touched the gem... And all of a sudden, a gust of wind materialized behind her. She turned toward it, toward the inside of the cave, and gasped.
An alien being had appeared in her way. It wasn't very tall, but to Ace, it looked plenty aggressive. It had a strange tube-like orifice at the top where she thought the head would be.
It was colored a kind of translucent blue, and Ace thought if she squinted, she could see through it to the cave wall behind it. She raised her blaster experimentally, to see what it would do. The alien didn't do anything, which surprised and infuriated Ace to some extent; she was so used to aliens doing something; the Daleks said "EXTERMINATE!", after all.
The alien stood there for a few more seconds, maybe a minute, not doing anything, just standing there, watching her watch it. Ace really didn't know what it was doing; for all she knew, it may have been deciding the best manner to kill her.
Then she saw it kind of tilt its "head", and she realized its intentions with a start. *It's sizing me up, measuring me for some reason... Why? Does it really think I'm a threat?*
Then, the alien did something that Ace wasn't expecting. It held up its three-fingered hand, palm out. Ace thought it was some kind of greeting, "take me to your leader", or some such; she couldn't be more wrong. The hand began to glow, with an eerie blue light; Ace, trained warrior that she was, saw this as an aggressive action, and began to move to fire her blaster in self-defense.
She was startled when she suddenly realized that she couldn't move. *What the hell...*, she began to think desperately, as the alien clenched the glowing hand into a fist, and pointed it at her. Ace once again struggled ineffectually to raise her blaster, to mount some kind of defense, anything. But she could not, and she was helpless, defenseless, and, she noticed rather suddenly, very, very afraid.
The alien moved its fist slightly, and the eerie blue light turned into a bright blue beam of light, blindingly bright, and heading straight for Ace. She thought that this would be the end, of her life, of everything, and in her desperation, she called out in her mind for the one person that, despite all that had happened between them, she still believed could do anything.
*Please, Professor, help me...*, she thought frantically, hoping against hope as the bright blue beam sped toward her. But the Time Lord did not arrive, and when the light hit her, it flared up, brighter than any sun. and when it had subsided, both Ace and the alien had vanished.
He struggled fitfully in his bed; in his mind's eye, all hell broke loose. He saw the bluish creature regarding her like lab animal. He saw her horror as she realized that there was no escape. He saw her desperation as she met the end, and felt, rather that heard or saw, her impassioned plea.
*Please, Professor, help me...*
He sat up frantically, a strangled cry emanating from his throat, finally coalesing itself into one single, intelligible word. "Ace..."
A figure appeared in the doorway. She spoke in a hushed whisper into the darkness, her light soprano voice betraying a hint of worry. "Doctor?" Getting no answer, she offered the question again, with a little more worry creeping into her voice, which upon further reflection, carried a slight accent. "Doctor..." It was that time that he decided to speak.
"What? Oh, yes, Melissa, it's you." The Doctor's voice betrayed a little grogginess due to the hour, but Melissa Chambers also noticed something else. The Doctor was slightly lost in thought. Melissa already knew that she shouldn't bother her companion when she was in one of his retrospective moods, but out of concern for him, she forged ahead anyway.
"Doctor...". she began, as she turned on the small light to offer her some light, and sat on the bed, "are you all right?" If the Doctor took offense at this invasion of personal space, he said nothing. Instead, he continued his internal reverie. Melissa wondered if he was in a trance or something; she really didn't have a firm grasp of exactly what these Time Lords could do, and the Doctor was definitely one of the older ones, having already lived seven lives in over a thousand years. At least, that's what he told her when they had met.
Her friend said nothing, but continued with his silence. After a few minutes' time, which seemed like hours to her (she still didn't have a good idea of exactly how fast time moved in the TARDIS), the Doctor snapped out of it, and brushed his long curly brown hair away from his face with his hand. He yawned, as if he was coming out of a dream, and looked over at Melissa, and smiled at his companion.
"Yes, I'm just fine, dear." He began to move to touch her nose, but stopped suddenly. She focused her green eyes on his intent blue ones, and she noticed something unusual. *Sadness... Why is the Doctor sad?* She vocalized her next thought to the Time Lord. "What's the matter, Doctor?" He had retreated into his mental fog again, but snapped out of it again when she spoke. "Oh, nothing, dear. I'm just fine.", he said gently, as he tousled her strawberry-blond hair.
He paused for a moment, then looked down at his silk pajamas. Still smiling, he pointed out the door, and motioned for her to leave.
She looked surprised. "Why?" He spoke, his accent becoming a little more pronounced, a little bit of a gleam appearing in his eye. "Well, because I have to get dressed, for one..."
She left, and as the door closed, she could hear him muttering, "Silly girl..."
Melissa. understandingly, got a little miffed. "Me, 'strange'? Well, look who's talking, Mister-Time-Lord-who-goes around-in-a-police-box-doing-God-knows -what-and-what's-further-talks-in-his-sleep-and-zones-out-in-his-pajamas..."
The door opened, and the Doctor reemerged, now clothed in a very Edwardian-looking suit with ruffled undershirt, matching dark breeches and dark shoes. She knew that this was the preferred style of dress for this, the eighth to go by the name of the Doctor, and who, she firmly believed, was the looniest of the lot. She had told him this, in their first meeting, and he had remarked somewhat acidly, "Well, you haven't seen what's in store..."
She wasn't sure what that meant, but she was definitely sure that she didn't want to know. So, she kept her thoughts concerning his sanity to herself, and stayed with him, telling herself that he needed looking after. He looked at Melissa, the smile completely gone from his face, but the smile in his eyes still remained.
"Now, if you're done flattering me, you really should get dressed." He walked away from her, toward the Console Room, and she called to his retreating back.
"Now why do I have to be getting dressed in the middle of the night?" He turned back to her, the smile in his face and eyes gone, replaced by a look of such intensity that she just stared at him, unbelieving; he had never looked like this to her before. It made her a little anxious, and a little bit afraid. And then he spoke.
"Because, Melissa, something very evil is going on, and we may be the only ones who can stop it." And with that, The Eighth Doctor continued on his way to the Console Room, leaving Melissa Chambers to just stare after him and begin to feel her earlier sense of dread manifest itself into full-fledged fear.
"Captain's Log, Stardate 44568.6:
The Enterprise is now truly on its way home, having left communications range with Khitomer yesterday. Everyone seems to be in good spirits, considering the situation. A situation considerably lightened by the surprise appearance of Lieutenant Saavik, who had been serving as an observer on board the Excelsior. Seeing that we were down a helm officer due to the untimely arrest of Lieutenant Valeris, Captain Sulu graciously allowed her to come with us as we make our way back to Earth. Good thing, too; now the crew seems whole again, prepared to take on anything. Anything, that is, except the realization that we may never see each other again."
McCoy looked over the chess board triumphantly as he announced his move. Savoring the moment, he allowed himself an ever-so-slight pause before he spoke again.
"I do believe that is check, Mister Spock."
Spock looked over the chess board as well, his fingers in the characteristic steeple, so like his normal self. But Kirk and McCoy, indeed the whole bridge crew assembled in the captain's quarters, knew that their friend was far from normal, despite what pretenses that damned Vulcan mind tried to put up to hide the fact.
*Why do you keep hiding it, Spock, even from us, your friends?* Kirk tried to communicate to his first officer. *Why do you hide your pain, your disbelief? She hurt you, Spock, hurt you more than any of us could possibly imagine. But that doesn't mean we can't be there for you. Why can't you let us in?*
The whole lamentation lasted but a fraction of a moment, as Spock replied, "So it is, Doctor. You have most definitely improved in recent years. My congratulations."
"Thank you, Spock. Do you know something?"
Spock, in his usual logical Vulcan fashion, chose not to answer a rhetorical comment; he merely raised his left eyebrow as a sign for the doctor to continue his discussion with himself.
As if responding to a cue, McCoy did just that. "I think that you had something to do with my improvement, too."
Scotty, also looking on, chose that time to come into the discussion. "What'd ye mean by that, lad?" His voice was a little different; not slurred by drink (he'd only had one Scotch tonight, and none of McCoy's prized bourbon, Kirk recalled), but sort of... distant. Then he remembered; Scotty had personally made the last of the repairs to the Enterprise today.
Kirk smiled to himself, thinking about what that bastard Chang and his cronies had thrown at the Enterprise, and she had taken it, the old girl, every bit of it. She had taken victory from the jaws of defeat and then came back to beat defeat over the head. Just as she had done so many times before and would continue...
Kirk stopped, suddenly realizing what the distance in Scotty's voice was. He was still in the past. In some way, they all were, now. Everything behind them, and not a thing in front of them.
Kirk had to will himself to stop thinking such moribund thoughts and instead tried to concentrate on McCoy, who was now speaking to Scotty.
"What I meant, Scotty, was that Spock, when he gave his katra to me for safekeeping, left something behind." McCoy looked around to see startled faces, including those of Uhura and Chekov, who had made their way to the board. Saavik, to her credit, was on the bridge; her "Someone has to be there" routine to Kirk sounded a little too pat, he thought, but her heart was in the right place. Let the legends spend some time together before the end.
McCoy hurriedly continued. "No, that's not what I meant. I meant he left a little of his personality behind. The logic, the reasoning, the scientific nature of him. Some of that remained. And it's definitely helped my game, not to mention my medical research papers. So, I guess I should be the one thanking you right now."
Spock had not moved during the entire episode, just sat there, looking at McCoy, and then at the board. His eyebrow raised again as he responded. "You're welcome, Doctor." Then, suddenly, he moved one of his pieces. Bishop to Queen's Five, King's Level, Kirk noticed. *Damn.*
"Check and mate, Doctor." McCoy, to say the least, looked astonished. He wasn't the only one; Chekov nearly choked on his vodka. As Uhura slapped him on the back to help him out, she replied, "Incredible, Spock. How did you do that?"
Before Spock could reply, Kirk spoke. "The Wilson Gambit, I believe, Mister Spock?"
Spock nodded. "That is correct, Captain. Named after one of your American presidents, I believe."
"That's right. Woodrow Wilson. Kept the United States out of World War One for almost four years." Kirk was happy to show off his knowledge in history, especially American history. But, like everything else, it just didn't seem to lighten the mood.
Everyone retired to the couches with their drinks, and sat there for a moment, each of them trying to think of something to say or do, anything to delay the time when they would all have to leave and be trapped with their own thoughts of life without the Enterprise. Finally, Spock, surprisingly, broke the silence.
"You were showing something to Miss Uhura earlier, Mister Chekov. May I enquire as to what it was?"
"Vhat?" Chekov was momentarily confused, between his own private thoughts and the fact that Spock was actually speaking to him. "Oh, of course. I vas just showing Uhura some pictures."
"Pictures?" Now, everyone was interested. McCoy spoke. "Pictures of what?"
At this, Chekov smiled proudly. "Hikaru sent over some pictures of his little girl with Saavik."
"Now what was her name..." Scotty was trying to remember. "Ah, yes. Demora. Such a lovely name. You're the godfather, right, Pavel?"
"Yes, I am." Chekov stuck out his chest a little, reminding Kirk of a proud father... But he stopped short his train of thought. *Always think of David at a time like this... I must talk to Carol when I get back. Maybe there's still hope for us, even though David is gone.*
He decided to join into the conversation, hoping it would keep his mind off of the past. "How old is she, Pavel?"
"She'll be sixteen in March."
"Is she going into the academy, like Dad and Uncle Pavel?" McCoy could not hide the bemusement in his eyes; Kirk was reminded of the day that McCoy's first grandchild was born. He also remembered...
"By the way, Bones, isn't Joanna expecting again?" Some of the old fire found its way back into Kirk's eyes, as he tormented his old friend.
"Now, Jim, you promised not to spill it for another week!" At the questioning glances, he replied, "Yeah, yeah, she is. She and Harry are looking at number three in May. Thanks for spoiling the surprise, Jim."
"No problem." Suddenly, like a flash, he realized how late it was. He stood. "I don't know about you younger folks", this directed at Uhura and Chekov, "or you, Spock, God knows you never sleep, but I do, and I'm very tired, so as my last order of the evening, I'd like to say: Get out."
Mild-mannered grumbling punctuated everyone's exit but Spock's; he merely said, "Good night, Jim." before he, too, departed, and James Kirk, captain of the Enterprise, was alone with his thoughts. He had a hard time getting to sleep.
He screamed in agony, as he knew he had on the Enterprise bridge, and then rushed the Klingon... and passed through him. Then he remembered; he wouldn't arrive until later, and then that bastard would get his, Kirk remembered, thinking of his firey demise. *Burn in hell*, he remembered thinking at the time...
Then, all of a sudden, the dream changed form. Jim Kirk was no longer on Genesis; he was somewhere else, a cave, it looked like. He saw a girl- no, a woman, barely past her teens, but with the look of an adult, a steely, hardened look of someone who has experienced the roughest that life has to offer, and had survived. But not without scars, Kirk noticed; as a man who bore great scars himself, he had learned to notice those scars in others.
*Where am I? Why am I here?*, he thought, not taking his eyes of the young woman. *God, she's about the same age as Carol when we met... I really must talk to her soon.* This was an idle thought; he really didn't know what to do. Then he realized, *This is my dream... I really should be able to get out of it.*
He thought of the Enterprise, of home, and prepared to wake up. But, to his surprise, nothing happened. Kirk now became angry. *What the hell is going on here? What do you want with me?*, he thought angrily.
Suddenly, a light appeared in the cave; Kirk was startled to realize that the woman was gone, down further into the darkness. The light fluttered around for a moment, its brightness illuminating but not searing. Then it moved toward Kirk, and went around his head. It seemed to recognize him, he noticed.
*What are you? Some kind of sentience?*, he thought. As to respond to his thought, the light moved on down the cave. It then moved back toward Kirk, blinked once or twice, and then moved back down the cave.
*You want me to follow you?*, he thought. The light blinked in assent. *Me?*, he thought, pointing at himself as emphasis. The light blinked again, and Kirk swore he thought he heard something speak in his mind. *Of course you, James Kirk. You are the only one here, aren't you?* Kirk stood there for a moment, and then decided, *What the hell...*, and followed the light down further into the cave.
After a few minutes of following the light through the cave, he suddenly saw the girl again. This time, her features weren't passive; she was afraid. *But of what?*, he thought. Then, the light brightened, illuminating the whole cavern, and Kirk saw what the girl was afraid of. It was a blue-skinned, translucent alien, with some kind of... hole on top of its head. As Kirk watched, the alien raised its hand, as if to greet the woman. The hand then suddenly began to glow, almost crackle with energy, and Kirk suddenly realized what was about to happen.
*That... thing's going to kill her!*, he thought wildly. *Just like David... No!*, he thought forcefully. *I'm not going to let her die like that!* He started to move toward the woman, to help her... but he suddenly realized he couldn't move. Kirk became outraged.
*What's going on? Why are you keeping me from helping her?* He directed his thoughts toward the light, which he knew was somewhere nearby, and he knew was somehow involved in all this.
The voice from before appeared in his head, only this time it was much more commanding. *Watch! You can only observe...* *I don't understand. Why can't I help her? She doesn't deserve this...* The voice continued. *You can do nothing. The event has already occurred. Your only duty, 'Captain', is to observe.*
*Already occurred... So why am I watching this?* Kirk thought dismally as he thought he knew.
*Is it some kind of torture for not being able to help David, or Spock, or Gorkon...* The tears began to well up. *All those I let down, because I couldn't get there in time...* The voice spoke again, much softer this time; it seemed to Kirk that the "light" was genuinely sad.
*No, James. This is not a punishment. All will be revealed... in time.* Kirk returned his gaze to the scene before him. The woman was trying to move away from the alien, but couldn't; she was frozen, just as Kirk was. The realization startled him, and he asked, *Are you one of them?*
The light seemed to shudder slightly as it responded. No, I am not. They are Darkness.* In Kirk's mind, the word "darkness" was capitalized; that suggested to Kirk some kind of absolute. Kirk continued to watch, as the glow in the alien's hand began to change as the hand clenched into a fist. The glow manifested itself into a beam of intense blue light, which lanced itself toward the woman.
Once again, Kirk thought about trying to move, but the voice again reverberated inside his head. *WATCH!* Kirk did, and saw in horror as the light brightened, and when the light subsided, both the alien and the woman were gone. He thought he heard her speak; what was it? Something like "Professor, help me..."
Kirk looked at the white light around him and spoke for the first time. "What are you?"
"Where it was Darkness, I am the Light." Just as before, the words "darkness" and "light" were capitalized, Kirk thought. *This must big, for such a force to be involved.* The voice continued.
"You couldn't save your son, James Kirk, but you can save this woman."
"Me? But how? I'm old, the captain of an old ship that's about to be put in mothballs..."
The voice changed suddenly; it was Kirk's own voice that responded. "Don't let them promote you, don't let them retire you, don't let them do anything that keeps you away from the bridge of that ship. Because while you're there, you can still make a difference."
Kirk was astounded. *Did I ever say that? God, I wished I had listened to it...* Then the voice spoke.
"No, you didn't... not yet. But you are there, now, and you, and your crew, can still make a difference."
"Go about your business, act as if nothing has happened. When he comes, help him. You will find your place in what is ahead."
"He? Who's 'he'?" Kirk wanted to know.
"You will know the Champion when you see him."
"That doesn't help much, you know."
"Just be ready, Captain. Be ready to make a difference once again..."
Then, as the voice faded out, Jim Kirk was enveloped by the light...
And woke up, hearing the sound of the intercom buzzing in his ears. He sat there for a moment, remembering what the light had said.
"Be ready to make a difference once again..." *And just what am I supposed to do to help whoever this 'he', this Champion, is, huh?* The intercom buzzed again, and he hit the channel open.
"What is it?", he answered a little sleepily, a little preoccupied, but definitely grumpily, a fact that didn't escape Saavik as she answered. As one trained in Vulcan techniques, she didn't place much stock on emotions, especially one so unusual and uniquely human as grumpiness.
"Sir, we have entered the Narigeron Asteroid Belt. Starfleet code number 113, section 5.4, states that the commanding officer of a vessel is to be informed, regardless of the time, when a destination is reached."
If Kirk wasn't still preoccupied by his dream, he might have smiled. Instead, he put a slight hint of bemusement in his voice. "Still the same old Saavik, eh?"
"Why, yes, sir. Would I be any other Saavik except the 'same old' one? If I was not, would you not be worried?"
Kirk was about to answer, when he realized that she was, in her own way, teasing him. *You learn well, Saavik. Perhaps you aren't as self-conscious as you used to be.* He smiled at the intercom.
"Thank you for the notification, Miss Saavik. I'm on my way to the Bridge."
Picard shut off the recorder in surprise. *Did I really just say that?* "Computer, repeat the current log entry." The computer complied:
"Captain's Personal Log, Supplemental:
Everything on the Enterprise is ship-shape... almost. I am now beginning to regret having told the bridge crew of the future I witnessed while time-shifting a few months ago. Several of my staff have changed their behavorial patterns-slightly, mind you, but they have still changed-as a response to the news.
Deanna is purposely putting off deciding between Worf and Will Riker; Geordi is beating himself trying to come up with book ideas; Data has inquired over subspace as to the current status of the Laucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge; and, on a much more personal note, Beverly is... more agressive than usual, an attitude that I must say I find a little sexy. We're supposed to go out to the theatre tonight; I can't help but wonder what will happen afterwards..."
After it had done so, Picard frowned, then smiled.
*It looks like it's affecting me too; have to watch what I say, even to the computer. Some things are just too personal for a starship captain to have on record, even a personal one.* He instructed the computer to delete the last section dealing with Beverly, and amended the log.
"I must remember to talk to each member of the bridge crew individually as to these changes, so as to stem their influence before the ship's performance becomes impaired. End log entry."
The cards flew through the air with pinpoint precision, like some mystical ballet, and as they landed on the table, Data spoke to each in turn. The first landed in front of Will Riker, who allowed a slight smile at the android's pronouncement.
The second landed in front of Geordi LaForge, who, of course, could have looked at his-and everyone else's cards with his VISOR. As it stood, he scowled slightly at the hand he had. But Data, expecting this possiblity as well as the fact that he himself could have done the same with his mechanical vision, had the replicator whip up a batch of foolproof cards. Specially coated with laximite, the cards could repel x-ray or infrared radiation, so as everyone could have an equal footing.
The third card landed in front of Doctor Beverly Crusher, who, despite the horrible hand was faced with, was smiling. Riker stopped the deal for a moment when he asked, with a hint of amusement, "Doctor, would you please stop grinning? It's distracting." And Geordi piped in, "Yeah, Doctor, some of us are trying to hate our hands here, but you won't let us."
Deanna Troi jumped to her friend's defense. "Will, be quiet and let the woman be happy for once. So...", she leaned toward Beverly conspiratorially, "where are you going this time?" Beverly stopped smiling as she responded. "We're going to the holodeck. He wants to see 'Much Ado About Nothing'."
Deanna began to smile herself. "Oh, that's wonderful. Dates on the holodeck can be so romantic." Will decided to jump in at this point. "This is the third night this week, right?"
"Yes. And I'm thinking of asking him to come see the new flowerings in the arboretum after dinner tomorrow night..."
Now it was Geordi's turn. "Now, hold on a sec, Beverly. Don't you think you're going just a bit... I don't know, fast, maybe? You two haven't really dated in years; you really should take it slow."
At this, Beverly laughed. "Fine advice, coming from you. When did you all of a sudden become an expert?" Geordi frowned, as the barb hit home. Beverly quickly made up for the slip.
"I'm sorry, Geordi. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings... Look here, all of you; I have known Jean-Luc Picard for almost 25 years. I know that if he thought that something was wrong with all this, he would tell me."
"But what if he doesn't know that you feel like that? I mean, he could just be keeping quiet because he sees that you're happy, and he doesn't want to ruin it for you."
Beverly frowned and shook her head emphatically. "No, no way. If Jean-Luc thought we were going too fast, he'd tell me... end of story. Deal, Data."
The game continued, as the next card landed in front of Counselor Deanna Troi, who, as always, had to keep all of her empathic powers in check, lest she accidentally sensed something from her friends. She kept a very good poker face on; she knew her hand was good, she just didn't know whether it was better than Will Riker's very possible royal flush.
Geordi made another grimace as he looked down as his cards. "Damn Laximite...", Deanna thougth she heard him say, then Will, playing on Data's right, began the betting. "I bet twenty to start."
Geordi tried to say something, but he suddenly realized that he wasn't getting anywhere, and he wasn't going to. At least, not with his poor hand and Will's flush looking him down. He threw his cards down in disgust. "I fold. Damn."
Geordi got up to leave; Data looked at his friend questioningly. The chief engineer threw up his hands. "Sorry, Data, I have to go. The Captain wants a progress report on the coolant relay mechanisms by 1100 tomorrow, and I have to check on my ensigns' progress before I go to bed. You know how it is..."
As Geordi left the table, Data next turned to Beverly Crusher, who was still smiling, but a little more subdued now, as if she was suddenly becoming subconscious of her attitude. "The bet is still twenty to you, Doctor."
"Thank you, Data, I know what the bet is." She looked at her cards for a long moment, and deciding to give her hand, whatever it was, a chance against Riker's hand, she put down two white chips, and then two more white ones. "I'll see your twenty, Commander, and raise you twenty more."
Deanna thought she saw Riker flinch a little, but she kept it to herself. *Is he bluffing?*, she thought. Then, without thinking, almost as a reflex, she sent out a thought ot Will Riker. *Come on, Imzadi; what are you hiding?*
Deanna saw Riker stiffen slightly; she realized what she had done. She put down her cards. "I fold."
Will began to protest. "Now, Deanna, you don't have to do that..."
"Yes, I do, Will. You know it as well as I do; I can't use my powers during poker. It's a rule that we agreed on when we started playing, and I'm not about to change it after almost five years."
As she said this, she began to get up from the table. Everyone got up with her, concerned. Deanna finished with an "I have to go now...", and left the table and walked out into the corridor. Will made to follow, calling after her, "Deanna, wait..." Data looked at Beverly expectantly, when she spoke.
"I guess the game's over, Data. I have to go and get ready for my date." She left the table as well, whistling, leaving Data all alone and confused as to his friends' behavior.
*Ah, well. Human emotions... How I wish I had them myself.* To the tune of "If I Only Had A Heart", he began to clear off the table.
"Hey, you can't get away that easily."
Deanna struggled slightly; Will let go of her arm, and she faced him in the middle of the corridor.
"I don't want to talk about this, Will..."
"There's nothing wrong about it, Deanna. You didn't get anything from me, so no harm, no foul, all right?"
"No, Will, it's not all right! It's not all right at all..." She trailed off.
"Deanna, what's wrong?" Will was genuinely concerned for her safety, she noted. But whether or not was because he still cared for her was the problem. Will realized it, too; he looked at her. "I see... You're not sure, are you?"
"About what?" She had intended the question to be innocent, but she knew it wouldn't work. Here, in front of her, was the one man who knew her best; ignorance wouldn't work.
"You know what. After Captain Picard came back from... his little mission, you've been avoiding all personal contact with me... and Worf." He didn't make a face or anything, she noticed. If he thought that she having a relationship wth Worf was deplorable, he didn't show it.
He continued. "Why is that, Deanna? Is it because... of what is supposed to happen to you?" He couldn't bring himself to say the words; that Deanna Troi was supposed to die sometime within the next twenty-five years, according to the future Captain Picard witness on his mission to save humanity.
Deanna stiffened. "Of course not..." When she saw the way that Will was looking at her, she hung her head. She hated lying to him; she was, after all, her Imzadi, her first love. She looked back at him.
"What do you want to say, Will? Of course that's what bothering me! I keep thinking about how my death tore you and Worf apart, and I keep thinking about us, and I think about me and Worf, and I think, 'Is it because I didn't choose Worf that the future comes about, or is it because I didn't choose Will?' It's driving me insane!"
"So you chose not to decide."
"Yes, I guess I'm thinking that if I don't choose no one gets hurt..."
Will took her hands in his, and smiled. "Now, you don't know that for sure.. We don't know what's going to happen, that's the whole reason behind it all."
"The future, Deanna. I remember something that my dad used to say to me: 'Your future hasn't been written yet. The future is whatever you make of it. So make it a good one."
Deanna smiled. "That makes a lot of sense. You father's a wise man, Will."
"I know. I wish I'd known it when I was younger. I found out from him later where he got that quote."
Will smiled. "From some kind of doctor, I think. Brown, he said his name was. Funny thing, though; I never heard anything more about him. A friend named Doc Brown?"
Deanna smiled, then she realized something else. "Oh, dear, I'm late. I have to talk to Captain Picard."
"Don't hide things from me, Deanna. Is it about Beverly?"
"No, not about Beverly. I'll think I'll let them handle things on their own." She headed for the lift, and Will called after her."
"So, have you decided yet?"
"No, Will Riker, I haven't. But when I do, believe me, you'll be the first to know. Right along with Worf." She smiled back at him as she entered the lift.
She entered the small ready room, to see Captain Jean-Luc Picard stretched out on his couch, reading. She was about to announce herself when Picard sat up, placed a marker in his book, and motioned for Deanna to sit down. She noticed that he seemed to be much more relaxed than usual, and she made note of this to him. He smiled.
Well, thank you for noticing, Counselor. Yes, I am much more relaxed now than I was... before it happened."
The counselor knew what "it" was, so she did not ask him to elaborate on that point; instead, she asked, "Why is that, sir?"
"I really don't know. You're the Counselor; you tell me." He leaned back slightly. Deanna thought a moment, then she spoke.
"I think it has something to do with the future you witnessed. Part of your newfound demeanor has something to do with your expanded relationship with Beverly Crusher. By the way, aren't you supposed to be having dinner with her right now?"
"It's all right, Deanna. Like a good gentleman, I let Beverly know that I may be delayed. Besides," he added with a slight smile, "she's making some kind of surprise dish for me, I think. I can wait. Go on, Counselor."
"I also think that your new demeanor has something to do with the information you recieved about your own physical condition."
"The Irumodic Syndrome, you mean?" She nodded. He spoke slowly, as if he was weighing her words with a particularly tough scale. Then he spoke, and the smile was back.
"You know, you may have something there. About the Irumodic Syndrome, I mean. I guess that knowing the way I'm going to die kind of gives me a reason to live a little."
"Are you happy with this new you?"
"Oh, yes, I am. I feel... I don't know, energized, somehow. Like a tremendous weight was been lifted off my shoulders, instead of sinking to my stomach. I know, that may not be great imagery..."
"It's all right. I get the idea. Now, not to change the subject or anything, but I have something that I would like to discuss with you. I'm not sure how to place it, exactly, but I think it's important."
"Go on, Deanna. What's bothering you?" He leaned forward expectantly, like he was enjoying playing Counselor for once.
"Well, for the last few nights, I've been having this dream..."
"What kind of dream?"
"I'm not quite sure. I just fell asleep, and then I found myself in this darkened cave. I walk along a little bit, and then I see this woman, and a light beside her."
"What did the woman look like?"
"She was no more than twenty, maybe twenty-five, with brownish hair and some kind of jumpsuit-type outfit on. That much I do remember. But what I really remember is the light. It began to circle me, finally coming to a rest near my head. Then, it began to speak to me telepathically."
"What did it say to you?"
"It said, 'Follow the woman, Deanna Troi. Follow the woman.' And so I did, and then we arrived at a larger cavern. She-the woman, that is-saw some kind of blue light, and became afraid of it, very afraid. I don't know anything, really, about the blue light; something's blocking me, obscuring my vision."
"Suddenly, the light arced toward the woman, and she began to scream, but I didn't hear that. What I did hear, though, was her thoughts. She was thinking something like, 'Please, Professor, help me.' And then she vanished."
"Did you wake up then?"
"No, I didn't. The light spoke to me then. It said, 'You couldn't help your sister, Deanna Troi, but you can help save this woman.' Now, I was surprised to hear it mention my sister; I told no one about it, at my mother's request, save you and Will. I asked how I could help, and it said, 'Tell your captain, Picard, to be ready to help the Champion when he arrives.'"
"I asked how I would know who the Champion was, and it replied, 'You will know, Deanna Troi. You will know. Tell Picard to be ready. Much depends on it.' And then the light brightened, and I woke up."
As she finished her story, Picard sat there in silence, then spoke. "Did you ask what the light was? Why it would give us this kind of warning?"
Deanna thought a moment, the spoke. "As a matter of fact, I did. It answered, 'I am the Light.' Just like that, sir, with the 'Light' capitalized. I also asked what the blue light was, and why I couldn't see what it was. It said, 'It is the Darkness. That is all you need to know for now.'"
"Hmmm. Why didn't you tell me the morning after the first occurrence of the dream? Why wait until now?"
"I didn't really get it all at once, sir. Every night, I would get more and more of the total picture. I got the feeling that the 'Light', whatever it was, was having touble pushing the message through to me. It had to do it more than once to make sure I got the message clearly."
"I see. Well, I'll certainly take this 'Light's' message under consideration."
"Where is our next stop, sir?"
Picard thought for a moment. "We're supposed to map a gaseous anomaly in the Gurien System. We arrive tomorrow, and stay for several days."
"Do you think that the 'Light' gave me the messge now, knowing that we would be going to the Gurien System?"
"Possibly, Counselor, although everything I've seen and heard about the Gurien System labels it as a very unhostile place. But I promise, I'll keep a look out for people who cal themselves 'Champions' while we look at the anomaly." He smiled. "Dismissed, Counselor. Thank you again."
"My pleasure, sir."
The figure then looked up, toward the highest heavens, and spoke. "The message has been recieved, sir. They are on their way."
From above, a face, framed in white feathers, smiled and spoke. "The time grows short, Angel. I sincerely hope they're in time."
"What are they supposed to do, sir?"
"Hopefully, avert disaster, Angel." The figure from above looked at each of the ships in turn.
"Doctor, Picard, Kirk. Two humans, and one not quite human, from three different times; you are the last hope for the future. If you do not succeed, I fear the Galaxy will not survive."
"Hmmm?" His voice was almost inaudible, muffled as it was by the console he was working under; although, she noticed that his hearing was working just fine.
"I was wondering..."
"Hmmm? What were you wondering, dear?"
She wasn't sure how to approach the subject; she wasn't sure how he would react. After all, she knew so little about him.
"I found something in the wardrobe..."
"Find something you like?"
"Well, yes and no..."
"Well, don't just stand there, girl. Spit it out. I don't have all day." For some reason, she didn't know why, but for a brief moment, she could have sworn he sounded like a crotchety old man. She disregarded it and forged ahead.
"I found a little skimpy animal skin suit in the wardrobe..."
She was interrupted by the sound of his head hitting the bottom of the console. A moment later, massaging his head, he came out, a cross look on his face. Then he smiled.
"Melissa, I assure you, any... thoughts you may have had about the ultimate purpose of that little piece of clothing, you are wrong, dead wrong. As it so happens, one of my earlier companions was a savage, a member of the Sevateem tribe. She was most comfortable in her native dress. A good thing, too; with that knife..."
Melissa smiled. "Wow, Doctor. That must have been some time in your life. Was this companion... er, recent?"
"Oh, no. Leela was one of my companions during my fourth life. That was, oh, roughly 100 or 200 years ago. Not recent at all." Then he sat down on one of the couches, and she sat down next to him. "Would you like to hear more about it?"
"Sure. I always like to hear about any of your adventures."
"Good, because this one was a good one. Let's see... about halfway through my fourth life, Leela, K9-"
"Wait a minute. K9?"
"My first robot dog. Very resourceful construct, actually. Except for two things: it seemed to be afraid of the console room, and it had this rather irritating habit of calling me "Master.' Based on recent events, you can see why this would irk me slightly."
Melissa laughed, as the Doctor continued the story. "Anyway, Leela, K9, and myself were unexpectedly called back to Gallifrey..."
Melissa smiled as she continued down the corridor. She had liked the story of the Gallifreyan assassin, and it seemed that he had many other stories like that, just waiting to be told. But, strangely, the Doctor clammed up for a while afterward. She had no idea why; was there something that the Doctor was trying to hide? Was he afraid that if he told her too much, she'd figure out his secrets?
*Well, Doctor, by not telling me anything at all, you've made me that much more curious.*, she thought. *But I've decided to leave you alone for now. When you decide to tell me more, you will.*
She entered the gothic-furnished console room... to find the Doctor apparently in a bad mood. He was shouting to the air around him.
"Would you please shut up!"
Surprisingly, a voice answered from the air around them.
"No, Doctor, I won't. This is just too tempting to resist."
Melissa grimaced at the evil, ominous voice coming from the air, and looked at the Doctor. "It's the Master again, isn't it?"
"Why, yes, dear, it is. So good to see you again, Miss Chambers. How are you? Enjoying your stay in this rustbucket, I trust?"
"Why don't you put a sock in it, you egomaniac! Can't you see the Doctor's busy?"
"Yes, of course I can. That's what intrigues me so. Now, old friend, what would possibly be so important for you to get up out of bed and make a course correction in the middle of the night, hmmm?"
Melissa looked at the Doctor. "You've changed course? But I had my heart set on going to 1590 London to see Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth!"
The Doctor looked at her, pleading. "I know, I know. I did, too. But this is more important."
"What is more important?"
"Yes, Doctor, what indeed?"
"You stay out of this!" At Melissa's shocked look, the Doctor hastily said, "Him, not you."
"Doctor, I'm worried. Does this have something to do with your dream?"
"Dream? What dream?" The Master was intrigued now. The Doctor looked at the sky and bellowed, "Would you please be quiet?" The air was silent, as the Doctor continued.
"Yes, Melissa, it has to do with my dream. I... saw something very bad, and I'm afraid that it's just the beginning." He turned to the console and began to pull levers and buttons. Melissa walked over to the other side of the console and looked at the controls, but all of them were completely foreign to her. Still, she was determined to help.
"Well, can I help?"
"No, you can't." The Doctor was now completely preoccupied with his work now; he spoke in a very distant monotone. This worried her greatly. She had never seen him so intent before.
"Well, since we're not going to London, can you at least tell me where we are going?"
"No, I can't."
"I can." The voice reappeared out of the air.
The Doctor looked up. "She doesn't need to know."
"Well, I think she does."
"Well, I think she doesn't!"
"Oh, that is just like you, isn't it? Always keeping information to yourself. I never understood your reticence, but then again, neither did 'she', did she?"
The way the Doctor stiffened made Melissa notice what the Master was saying. *What is going on here?*, she thought.
"So, out with it. What's up?"
"I can't tell you. You must trust me on this, Melissa. And don't listen to him, either." He indicated the air. "He doesn't have the slightest idea what this is about."
"Well, if you don't tell me, I'll just have to get it from him, won't I?" She crossed her arms defiantly, as the Doctor punched some buttons. The Master acted surprised. "So it wasn't supposed to happen this way, eh? Don't you know it's very bad to change history? I do..."
"Doctor, what the hell is going on here? I want to know now!" The Doctor stared at her. For a long moment, the staredown continued, then the Time Lord sighed.
"All right, then. I'll tell you." He looked up at the air. "And no butting in!"
"I wouldn't dream of it. That is, unless you hold back something."
He moved over to the couch, and Melissa sat down next to him. She had a feeling that he was going to tell her another story; however, she had a sinking feeling that there wasn't going to be a happy ending.
The Doctor sighed again. "Oh, where to begin..."
"Try at the beginning."
"All right, the beginning. Well, in my seventh life, I, along with my companion of record, Melanie Bush..."
"Wait a minute, you had a companion named Melanie? Did she like to call herself Mel?"
"Yes, she did. Now, could I get on with the story, please?"
"No, hold on. Does this companion have anything to do with the little face you make every time I want to be called Mel instead of Melissa?"
"Yes, but I can't go into it right now." He stared her down again, and decided to continue.
"In my seventh life, Mel and I traveled to this barren planet known as Iceworld. While there, we met a young girl. Her real name, I found out later, was Dorothy, but she very much preferred to call herself Ace."
He had paused for a moment. Melissa urged him to continue. "Go on."
"At the end of our adventure on Iceworld, Mel left me, and Ace stayed on. We had several adventures together..."
"And then the walls came tumbling down." The Master intoned. The Doctor looked up at the air, which remained silent.
"We eventually arrived in 1940's England, where we found out about an ancient evil's plan to rule the world with the Nazis and some vampire-like beings known as Haemovores. I was able to stop Fenric's plan, but in so doing, I... alienated Ace."
"Can't say it, can you? He betrayed her! Was about to send her to those monsters..."
"Shut up! I had to do it! She was keeping them back!"
"What? I don't understand..."
The Doctor paused for a moment. "The Haemovores fed on victims who showed no faith; indeed, the spread of a faithless evil was their whole purpose. In order to trap Fenric and the Haemovores, I had to give them a target, bait."
"Exactly. But they wouldn't fall into the trap. Her faith was keeping them away."
"Faith in what?"
The Doctor paused for a moment. "In me. Her faith in me was so overpowering that the Haemovores stayed back. I had the spring the trap; if I didn't, Fenric would have won..."
"So he tore down the one person who believed in him unquestioningly, in front of everyone." The Master spoke again.
"You did what?" Melissa was astonished; she couldn't believe what she was hearing. The Doctor, a man whom she thought possessed infinite compassion for life, had done this?
"I don't believe this... What exactly did you say?"
"It's not important..."
"He told her that she meant nothing to him, that he in fact brought her to that spot to serve Fenric." The Master voice changed, became disgusted. "And I thought you were different, old friend. But you're just as manipulative and dishonorable as the rest of those stagnant Time Lords. To turn your back on your friends like that... But, then, that wasn't the first time, was it? Remember Peri..."
"SHUT UP!!!" The Doctor strode to the console and pulled out a mass of wires. The Master's voice sounded garbled as he said, "You won't get rid of me that easily..." Then the air was simply, finally silent.
The Doctor muttered, "You won't guilt me that way. I've guilted myself enough to last a lifetime." Then he sighed again, and returned to the couch. Melissa began to ask, "Who's-", but the Doctor forcibly silenced her with his hand.
"Don't ask. Just don't ask me, all right?" His voice was forceful at first, but by the end, it came out more like a plea. Melissa decided to not push the issue, and as she nodded, the Doctor lowered his hand.
"So, what happened to you and Ace?"
"We continued our adventures together, but things were never the same again after that. She left me, finally. The parting was... bitter, at least for her."
"So, what does this have to do with your dream?"
"I had a dream of Ace... being killed by something. I have to find out the truth."
He stood up and went over to the console again. Melissa followed him and stood, once again, on the other side of the console, opposite him. "So, where are we going?"
"We're going to a planetoid known only as Hinire Upsilon 3249. At the time we're going to be arriving in, it had been a Dalek base for its war against Earth." At Melissa's shocked look, he smiled-slightly.
"Don't worry; we're going to arrive after the Daleks have left the area. According to the historical records I have, Ace was a member of a Spacefleet search-and-rescue mission there in late 2580 AD. There, inexplicably, improbably, she disappeared."
"You mean, you didn't know it was going to happen?"
"No, I didn't. It's not supposed to happen. Ace was never killed in that manner. So, obviously, something is messing with time. I intend to find out what."
James Tiberius Kirk strode purposely onto the bridge of the Enterprise-A, ready for command. The only problem was, his heart wasn't in it. At least, not anymore.
Lieutenant Saavik stood up from the command chair, turning to the captain. "Captain on the-"
Kirk silenced her with a wave of his hand. "As you were, everyone. No need to stand on ceremony for me."
"But, sir, Starfleet Executive Order 398 specifically states-"
"I said there is no need to do this. Is that understood?" Kirk's voice was meant to sound steely, but instead, it sounded very tired, Saavik noted. *And not due to sleep, either*, she thought. *Has he really given up on everything?*
Saavik relinquished the command chair to Kirk, who sat down and sighed, as if the very action was killing him, which it was, inside. The very thing that meant the most to him was being taken out from underneath him, and he could do nothing.
This went not unnoticed by Spock, who had just entered the bridge and stood in his customary science station to the right of Kirk's chair.
*This sadness at the loss of the ship is tearing you apart, Jim.*, he thought. *We both have had a great deal to live with in the past several days. Be strong, Jim. There is an old Vulcan saying: "Faith manages." You must believe...*
If Kirk could actually hear his friend's thoughts, he gave no outward sign. Instead, he turned and spoke to Spock with an air of detachment, as if their mission really didn't matter at all.
"What exactly are we doing here, in this God-forsaken asteroid belt out in the middle of nowhere?"
"According to Starfleet, there are reports of possible dilithium stores in the Narigeron Belt. We are to take preliminary readings and tests of the rock samples and report them to Starfleet, who will then send a geological survey team if the results warrant it."
"But why us, Spock? I'm sure they could've found another ship, a better ship, to do the job."
"Perhaps so, sir, but we were the closest ship to the belt, and the surveys will only take three point five days out of our schedule. We have our orders."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But don't you think that Starfleet is just... I don't know, delaying the inevitable, by doing this to us?"
"Yeah, this is just some stupid excuse to hold off on putting us in the coffin until they're ready." McCoy had entered the bridge a moment- actually, it was more like a staggering limp. Kirk shot McCoy a look.
"Bones, are you all right?"
"Yeah, yeah. And I'm not drunk." This last was directed at both Spock and Saavik, who were looking at him curiously. "I'm just still a little tired, and I think my knee joints are locking up a little bit. Damned arthritis..."
Just then, Saavik looked at her board, and called out, "Captain, I am detecting some kind of disturbance enveloping the ship!"
Spock looked at his scanners, and replied, "Miss Saavik is correct, sir. I am picking up some kind of particles from inside the disturbance. These particles are consistent with spatial-temporal phenomena."
"Spatial-temporal- do you mean that something is moving through space and time, at the same time?" McCoy was astonished, to say the least.
"That is correct, Doctor." Kirk looked at Spock.
"Is this something hostile?"
Spock was about to speak, when a voice came out of the air.
"No, Captain, I assure you, I am not hostile."
Kirk gaped. "That voice... I couldn't be..."
Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and a figure appeared in front of all on the bridge. The man was black-haired, about thirty-five, dressed in a simple black jumpsuit.
Every on stood there for a moment, dumbstruck, until Kirk finally stammered, "Gary Seven..."
The figure nodded. "Sorry for the entrance, Captain, but I'm in a hurry. I have information of great import to reveal to you, and they're not far behind."
"Who, Gary? Who isn't far behind?"
"You know them as the Darkness, Captain."
The word hit Kirk like a bolt of lightning. "The Darkness? Are you sure?"
"Yes, I don't have much time..."
"Jim, what in the devil is this all about?" McCoy, now completely awake due to Gary Seven's entrance, sputtered. Spock looked his friend. "Yes, I agree with Doctor McCoy, though not quite in exact syntax. I do not understand..."
Kirk silenced them both with a wave of his hand. "Bones, Spock, not now. Now, you said the Darkness is coming. Are you the Light from my dream?"
"No, Captain, I'm not. I do know of him, though. The Guardian is a being of far greater power than I. He called for you, and this means that you are very important to his plan."
"Plan? What plan?"
"His plan to defeat the agents of the Darkness, totally and utterly. You, the Champion, and one other..." He trailed off.
"Then you aren't the Champion, then?"
"No. He is a man of many faces, of many lives, of many deeds. You will know him when the time comes."
"Stop talking in riddles, damn it! Who is the Champion? Who is this Guardian? What are those blue things from the dream, the ones who took the woman? Is the woman dead? What is the Darkness? And what the hell am I supposed to do to make a difference? I want answers, straight answers, and I want them now!!!"
Gary Seven sighed. "All right, Captain. I will tell you what I can. Not what I know, but what I am permitted to tell you. The White Guardian is a being of immense power. His duty is to fight the forces of Darkness, led by his counterpart, the Black Guardian. I, along with the rest of the Argus Project, are primary agents of the White Guardian."
"What is this White Guardian... God?" McCoy muttered. Gary Seven smiled slightly.
"In a way, yes. Not like the God you know, but similar. May I continue?"
"The agents of the Darkness are the beings you saw in your dream. There are other names to call them, but that is the only one that matters. The woman you saw is very important to the balance, which is why the agents took her."
"Then she is alive, then?"
"Yes, she is. For now, at least. How long she remains that way, however, is up to you, the other, and the Champion."
"Why is she important to the balance? For that matter, the balance of what?"
"You would call it the balance between Good and Evil. A primitive term, but it will do. She is important, because she is a being out of time."
"Out of time? You mean... a time-traveller?"
"Yes, but in a very limited way. Nevertheless, she is important because of the things she has accomplished, and that which she has yet to do. There are several like her, people throughout history that have established themselves as crucial to the balance."
"Apparently, the agents have seen fit to take these special people out of time, and hold them hostage. Without them, the fabric of time will be irrevocably damaged, and the Darkness will prevail. We cannot allow them to succeed. We cannot!!!"
He said this so emphatically that even Kirk began to feel more important. *I'm special... Important to Time's balance*, he thought. *Maybe I'm not washed up yet.*
"And who is the Champion that the Guardian spoke of?"
"He wears the face of man, yet he is not a man. He is a Lord of Time, an nearly immortal alien who has travelled through time and space for over a thousand years, battling evil and injustice in all its varied forms."
"Such an invaluable agent of the Light has he been that the Guardian bestowed upon him the title of Time's Champion. It is your destiny to assist him and the other to defeat the agents of the Darkness and return the hostages to their proper place in Time, restoring everything to what it was, is, and will be."
McCoy couldn't believe it. "You mean that Jim here has been given this charge to save the entire Universe, along with this 'Time's Champion' and some other guy? Who is this other guy, anyway?"
"I cannot tell you much about him at all, except that he is also an important human agent of the Light, like Captain Kirk. That is all."
"That's it? Why can't you tell us anything else?"
"I think I know Gary Seven's motivation." Spock announced. "I would surmise that the 'other guy' that Doctor McCoy speaks of is actually from our future. We must not know of our futures, lest the timeline be altered before we can have a chance to save it."
Gary Seven smiled. "That is correct, Mister Spock. But don't worry, Doctor McCoy. You will understand when the time comes."
"Now, what is that supposed to mean-" McCoy didn't get to finish his sentence, because Chekov's board beeped. He took a look at it and spoke.
"Keptin, there is another spatial-temporal disturbance forming outside the ship!"
Kirk looked at Gary Seven, who nodded. "It's them, Kirk. They're here."
"Chekov, shields up, quick!"
"I can't, sir. The controls are not responding..."
"Shields aren't any good against time-travellers, you should know that." Gary Seven suddenly turned, as another flash of light appeared on the bridge. When the light dissipated, a blue alien stood in its place.
*The alien from my dream... the one who took the woman!* Kirk thought, shocked. Then, faster than anyone could react, the alien raised its hand and released a bolt of energy at Gary Seven. Kirk expected his friend to vanish, like the others, but was surprised to see the other alien crumple to the ground, unconscious.
"No!" Kirk shouted as a security man entered the bridge. The officer fired his phaser, but the bolt caroomed harmlessly off the alien, who then turned and fired another energy bolt at the officer. There was a blossom of light, and then the man vanished, vaporized.
In the commotion, Spock had sprung over the railing separating the science stations from the rest of the bridge. He kneeled next to the fallen form of Gary Seven and attempted to pull him off to the side.
But before anyone else could move to help him, the alien turned, paused a moment, and then fired a bolt at Spock. Kirk sprang out of his chair, moving toward his friend. *Got to help him...*
But James Kirk could not move faster than light. As he watched, the bolt hit Spock. He did not die, Kirk realized; the Vulcan froze there for a moment, just like the woman in his dream, and then vanished, along with the alien.
Kirk stopped suddenly, as if he couldn't believe it. *Spock gone, just like the woman. The way the alien paused on Spock like that... Could he have been the alien's quarry all along?*
"Jim!" McCoy had made his way to Gary Seven's body and scanned it hastily. He looked at the tricorder's readings, and as if he didn't believe them, scanned the body again, more slowly. He looked at the readings again, and then shook his head. "I don't believe it."
"What? What is it, Bones?"
"Last time we saw Gary Seven, our phasers had no effect on him whatsoever. But whatever that... thing was shooting, it was much stronger than anything I've ever seen..."
"What are you saying, Bones?"
McCoy's next words came out as a whisper, and the fear and sadness that emanated from them caused Kirk's hair to stand on end.
"Gary Seven... is dead, Jim."
When the wheezing stopped and the light stopped flashing, the box stood there, slient, for a moment. Then, the door suddenly opened, and voices could be heard from the interior.
"Do I really have to go, Doctor?" The female voice seemed a little shaky, fearful of the unknown that awaited outside the protection of the TARDIS.
"But isn't this the main reason you came with me, Melissa? To explore the unknown?" The voice of the Doctor was calm, with just a little bit of impatience. He had come here to find clues of Ace's fate, and nothing would deter him.
"Well, yeah, but you said that this place was crawling with Daleks. From what I saw in the TARDIS computer banks, they're pretty nasty creatures."
"I said that this place WAS crawling with Daleks. Emphasis on the past tense. We've arrived at a point of time where the Dalek forces have been scattered by the Spacefleet. There is absolutely nothing to worry about. Come on."
He held out his hand as he stepped out of the TARDIS onto the deserted landscape. Melissa took it and followed him out. Upon seeing the surface, she gasped.
"It-it's so dead-looking! Was it always like this?"
"No, it wasn't. Many centuries ago, around the time of Earth's Renaissance, this planetoid was home to a thriving alien civilization. The planet was lush and full of life."
"What happened, Doctor?" But she already knew the answer, even before the Time Lord spoke.
"The Daleks happened, Melissa. They came and stripped the planet bare, using it as a base for their little war with Earth."
"And those that lived here before the Daleks came..."
The Doctor shrugged. "I don't know. The Daleks didn't kill them, if that's what you're thinking. I think the previous civilization was gone some time before the Daleks even arrived."
He looked at his companion, and pointed off into the distance. "Look there. Some kind of Dalek military installation. Probably abandoned once the war ended. Let's go. They may have some answers."
"Who? The Daleks?" Melissa croaked a little; she didn't want to face them at all.
The Doctor smiled. "No, silly. The computers that were left behind. Now, come on, or I'll leave you here." He strode off puposely toward the installation, some three or four miles distant.
As they walked, Melissa asked some more about Ace, and the Daleks. The Doctor decided to tell her about the time when the Daleks had come to 1963 Earth and took over the Coal Hill School (after the First Doctor had left with Ian, Barbara, and Susan, of course). He had just finished with... "And once the Daleks' home planet of Skaro was destroyed..."
"Wait a minute... I don't understand. You destroyed the Daleks' home planet with this Hand of Omega thing, right?"
"So, why are there Daleks here, now? And exactly when is now, anyway?"
"All right, listen closely. 2580, and the Skaro that was destroyed was in the future. Several decades from now, in fact."
"What kind of answers are those?" Melissa was miffed again, but the Doctor didn't notice. He smiled.
"Reverse order. You didn't say how you wanted them answered. Now, then, here we are." And indeed they were.
The installation was a large building, colored gunmetal gray. At the top was a large rod, protruding into the heavens. Melissa pointed to it.
"Doctor, what is that?" The Doctor, who was busy using his sonic screwdriver to pick the lock, pretended not to hear her. She asked again, a little louder, and the Doctor looked at her.
"Hmmm? What's what?" She pointed again, and the Doctor looked at the rod thoughtfully. "Well, it appears to be a electromagnetic pulse weapon." He stood there for a moment, and spoke again. "Now that I look at it a little more closely, doesn't this whole building look a little familiar to you?"
Melissa thought about it for a moment, then she snapped her fingers. "Yes, it does! It looks like..."
The Doctor finished her sentence. "Like a giant Dalek. One thing about Davros; he'd never make it as an artist. Not an originally creative bone in his mutated body." He laughed a little, and fiddled with the lock for a few more seconds. Suddenly, an audible click was heard.
"Ah, there we go." He looked at Melissa, who began to pale. "See, there's nothing to be afraid of..."
Melissa said nothing, just took the Time Lord by the shoulders, and turned him around.
Standing there in the now-open doorway were a trio of gray Daleks, side-by-side and pointing their guns at the Doctor and Melissa.
"Oh, dear." the Doctor said resignedly, and put his hands up.
Nothing from the Daleks.
He motioned for Melissa to put her hands down, and very bravely took one step forward.
Still nothing from the Daleks.
Boldened by this, the Doctor walked right up to the middle Dalek and waved his hand over its eyestalk.
Absolutely no movement whatsover from the Daleks.
The Doctor looked at Melissa and spoke. "Melissa, I do believe that these Daleks are dead."
"Well, thank you, Mister Obvious! How come it took you so long to realize it?"
"Because I thought that somehow they had been improved from their previous design."
"Which was what?"
The Doctor walked around each of the completely stationary Daleks in turn, and as he spoke, he opened the lid of one of them. As the pungent odor of decayed flesh filled the air, Melissa plugged her nose in disgust. The Doctor seemed to have no such compulsion.
"Well, they used to be quite annoying. They would talk like this..." His voice changed to a shrill computer-like squeal.
"The Doc-tor! The en-e-my of the Dal-eks! You must be EX-TER-MIN-ATED! EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" Melissa supressed a giggle with her free hand. "Yes, quite annoying, those Daleks were." The Doctor continued. "Not to mention that they couldn't move very well at all... at least, not until they climbed stairs. My, what a shock that gave me..."
Melissa coughed slightly; she hated to bother the Doctor when he was in one of his moods, but they had come here to find answers to Ace's fate, and besides, the odor was really beginning to bother her. "Doctor..."
The Doctor looked at her for a moment, and then snapped out of it. "Oh, yes. Come on; let's get out of here." He wrinkled his nose slightly; it appeared that the smell of death was finally getting to him. He took Melissa by the hand and led her through the next door, which opened into the installation's control room.
As the door closed behind them, Melissa unplugged her nose and took a deep breath, then smiled. "Fresh air. Thank you."
"You're welcome." The Doctor smiled back at her, and then moved to one of several consoles spread throughout the room. "Now, come on, let's see what we can find."
Melissa went over to another console, and read the screen. "Doctor, what is this supposed to be?"
The Doctor walked over to her and studied the screen intently. "Hmmm... appears to be the installation's sensor logs. Let's have a look, shall we?" He punched a few commands into the keyboard, and a string of characters appeared on the screen. Melissa smiled.
"I'm impressed, Doctor. You speak computer?"
Intent on his work, the Doctor replied absently, "Of course. Doesn't everyone?" Then, realizing what he said, he smiled. "Well, of course, I have had some 1000 years of experience."
He turned to the screen again, looking at it intently. After a moment of looking, he spoke. "'lo. What is this?"
"What is what, Doctor?"
"This." He pointed at the screen. "This screen now shows the dates of the sensor sweeps stored into the computer. It appears that the installation has been operational for some 3 years..."
"Yeah, yeah. What's the point?"
"My, you're impatient, aren't you?" The Time Lord smiled at his companion.
"Well, yeah! I was kind of freaked out by those dead Daleks; I don't want to stick around in case whoever did that has any other nasty surprises."
"Like what?" The Doctor had typed a command into the console as he spoke, and seconds later, a charge of electricity arced through it. The Doctor was thrown back, hitting the ground with a thud.
As Melissa rushed to help the Doctor, the console suddenly exploded, causing her to hit the deck and cover the Doctor's now-lifeless body with her own. As the explosion ended, Melissa looked up to see the entire console on fire.
Before she could do anything, a wave of foam covered the console from above: a Dalek fire-supression system, she surmised. In seconds, the fire was out, and she turned her attention to the Doctor, who still had not moved.
"Like that, Doctor.", she muttered as she proceeded to slap the Doctor in the face. *Come on, wake up, Doc.*, she thought desperately. *I'm sure you've survived worse than this... I hope.*
After a few long, agonizing minutes, the Doctor finally awoke, dazed. Melissa gathered this because the first thing he said was, "Susan, have you been playing with the TARDIS machinery again, hmmm?" His voice had taken on the quality of the crochety old man again.
Melissa spoke worriedly, "No, Doctor, it's not Susan. It's Melissa. You remember, don't you?" In response to her voice, the Doctor shook his head, and spoke again, a little clearer this time.
"Oh, yes. Melissa. I do remember."
"Who was that?"
"Who was what? Oh, yes. That was the voice of my first life." Noticing Melissa's surprised look, he became indignant. "Well, after a shock like that, you would expect me to be a little bit addled, wouldn't you?"
"Well, yeah, but..."
"Don't worry about it anymore. I'm fine." As he spoke, he struggled to stand. After a moment, he was able to do so, and as he brushed himself off, Melissa spoke again.
"Hmmm?" The Doctor had walked over to the now-destroyed console and was examining it.
The Doctor paused, and looked at her pointedly. "Susan?"
"Yes. You said her name while you were dazed, apparently thinking that I was her. So, who is she, one of your companions?"
The Doctor paused again, and heaved a small sigh. "Not just 'one' of my companions. Susan was my first companion. She was also my granddaughter. We fled Gallifrey together in the TARDIS, hoping to see the Universe and Time and get away from my people's stagnation."
"What happened to her?"
"She left me some time ago. She fell in love and married a man on 26th Century Earth, after the Daleks' unsuccessful invasion of your planet." Melissa detected something in the Doctor's voice.
*Sadness again, just like before, in the TARDIS.*, she thought to herself. *I can understand why, now; to save the Earth, he had to sacrifice his bond with Ace, and watch as his own granddaughter left him to live in this dangerous future.*
But, as soon as she had thought this, the Doctor stiffened up, turned away from the console, and walked out the door. As Melissa followed him, he walked back the way they had came, past the dead Daleks, and out onto the surface of Hinire Upsilon. Melissa, a few steps behind, called out to him.
"Doctor, wait up! Where are you going?"
The Doctor stopped for a moment, as if realizing for the first time that she was there. As she caught up, he spoke.
"Sorry. I was lost in thought. It happens sometimes. As for where we are going, we are going there." He pointed in the general direction of the TARDIS.
Melissa, thinking he meant the TARDIS, spoke. "We're not leaving, are we?"
"No, Melissa, we are not. Before the console... short-circuited, I was able to discern some interesting information from the most recent sensor logs."
"At the same time period that Ace disappeared, the installation's sensors picked up a large amount of radiation. This radiation surge came from a cave not far from here. Not long after the initial surge, another one was detected."
"That surge was of greater intensity than the first one, and was directed at the installation. It killed the Daleks inside, and must have left an imprint inside the console, causing it to explode."
"So we go to the cave, because it was the origin point of the radiation bursts?"
The Doctor smiled. "Precisely. I might just make a scientist of you yet." He touseled her hair as they continued walking. After several minutes of walking, they arrived at the cave. The Doctor looked at the cave, and "Hmmm" ed softly.
"What is it?"
"I don't know, but I think this is the cave from my dream."
"You mean, the one where Ace... disappeared?"
"Yes, that one. Come on." He pulled her away from the cave. Melissa protested. "Where are we going?"
"To the TARDIS. I, for one, am not about to go into that cave unprepared." Once they were back in the TARDIS, he looked around in several rooms before he found what he was looking for. "Aha!"
Melissa was unimpressed. "You mean to tell me that we're going into a dark, damp cave, where something evil presumably resides, armed with just a flashlight, your sonic screwdriver, and some scanning device?"
"Exactly. Good plan, huh?"
"Yeah, great plan, Doc. If you want to get killed. Why don't we get some laser guns or something?"
"Because, Miss Chambers, the Doctor abhors weapons. I, on the other hand, love weaponry, of all kinds. Why, I remember the time when..."
The Master's voice surprised both the Doctor and Melissa. The Doctor replied, "That's quite enough of that! By the way, I thought I had shut you up earlier."
"I repaired the damage. It took me some time, I can assure you..." At the Doctor's shocked look, the Master hastily replied, "Oh, don't give me that look. I can't do anything else except talk to you. Your TARDIS computer has seen to that."
"We'll just see about that, won't we?" The Doctor strode to the main console and punched some buttons. Melissa protested.
"But, Doctor, the cave-"
"Will still be there in a few minutes. I have to make sure he can't do anything to the TARDIS while we're gone." After a few more minutes of punching buttons and pulling various levers, the Doctor stepped back from the console and gave it a satisfied smirk.
"There you go, old girl. Now talking to us is the only thing that megalomaniac can do to you." He affectionately patted the console and turned to Melissa.
"Now, then, let us be off, shall we?"
As a new day dawned, Jean-Luc Picard arrived on the bridge. He walked right to the center section and waited for a moment as Data got up out of the center chair.
"This is a surprise, sir. You are up early."
"Yes, Data. Well, I thought I would be here when we arrived in the Gurien anomaly."
"May I enquire as to your special interest in this particular anomaly, sir? According to preliminary reports, the Gurien anomaly is no different than any other gaseous anamoly."
"That is very true. But, my motives are my own, and I do not wish to discuss them with anyone else at this time. Is that understood, Lieutenant Commander?"
"Of course, sir. Would you like to hear my report of the evening's activities?"
"No, that's all right, Data. You may give your report to Commander Riker when he arrives for his shift. In the meantime, I will be in my ready room."
"Understood, sir. Would you like Commander Riker to see you once he arrives?"
"Yes, I would. Until then, though, I am not to be disturbed."
"Yes, sir." Data settled back into the center chair as Picard turned and went into the ready room. Once he sat down in his chair, he collected his thoughts.
*All right, 'Champion', whoever you are, show yourself. I'm tired of waiting.* After a few minutes of waiting patiently, with no result, he sighed. *It was worth a try, at any rate.*
Suddenly, his comm badge beeped, and a feminine voice spoke. "Crusher to Picard."
Picard smiled. *I think I know what this is about.* He tabbed the comm badge and spoke.
"Now why aren't you at breakfast? I'm sitting here with a entire spread of food here and no one to eat it with. What's the big idea?"
"I'm sorry, Beverly. I'm busy right now. I'm... expecting someone."
"Oh, really, Jean-Luc Picard? And who might this mystery person be, hmmm?" Her voice took on a mock-jealous tone, and before he knew it, Picard was laughing.
"I don't really know, Doctor. But, rest assured, once I do, you'll be the first to know. I promise. Now, eat your breakfast and get to work. I still expect the results of those latest crew physicals by 1300 hours."
"I'm supposed to eat all this food alone? Why, if I bloat and gain weight, Jean-Luc, I swear I'll-"
"Thank you for the advance warning. I'll speak to you later. Picard out." As he tabbed the comm badge closed, the door to the ready room chimed.
"Come." The door opened, and Will Riker entered. He took his customary position, stradding the seat in front of Picard, and spoke.
"Thanks... for nothing."
"You told Data to wait until I had arrived before he gave his report, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did. Why?"
"It was probably one of the most boring reports I have ever heard. We really should see if we can't teach Data to be a little more... I don't know, expressive and creative in his speech patterns. Otherwise, he'll put them to sleep in Cambridge."
Picard smiled; that was an unusual thought, indeed. "Very well. Why don't you work with Deanna to help Data out with this... difficulty? I'm sure it would prove beneficial to all parties."
Riker breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you. Now, Data said you wanted to see me?"
"Yes, I did. I want you to be on the lookout for anything... unusual while we're mapping the anomaly."
"Certainly, sir. May I ask why?"
"I'm not really sure myself, Number One. I think something very important's going to happen here; trouble is, we won't know what that is until it happens."
"I can relate to that, Will; I'm a little... unclear about the whole thing myself. But for right now, nothing is to be mentioned to the crew. Is that clear?"
Suddenly, the comm badge beeped again. Picard tabbed it and spoke.
"This is Data. Guinan wishes to speak to you from Ten-Forward. She states that it is urgent."
Shocked, Picard looked at Riker, who voiced their thoughts. "Now why would Guinan be calling us now?"
"I don't know, but I'd better find out. Data, patch her through."
A moment of silence followed, and then Guinan's voice emanated from Picard's comm badge. And she was very worried.
"Captain, raise your shields, now!"
"But why? Is there something wrong?"
"You bet there is! They're coming!"
The words hit Picard like a bolt of lightning. *They're here? Now? But where is the Champion?*
Picard was already out of the chair and out of the ready room before he had finished his thoughts. He looked at Data, who was shocked, to put it mildly.
"Data, get over to Ops and put up the shields, immediately!"
The android was at his station and inputting the commands on the Ops console almost before Picard had finished speaking. Still, it must not have been in time, because a moment later, a blue shape appeared on the bridge.
Before anyone, even Data, could react, the alien fired a bolt at Data. A brief moment passed, then the alien and Data disappeared.
For a few moments, everyone was rooted to their spots. Then, Picard sprung into action. He turned to Riker. "Get Mister LaForge up here. I need him to scan where that alien stood. Have Doctor Crusher up here as well; we might need a second opinion. You have the bridge."
He started for the back turbolift, as Riker spoke, still astonished. "Where are you going?"
"To Ten-Forward. Guinan knew this was going to happen. I want to know what else she knows." As he reached the lift, Riker spoke again.
"You know what that... thing was, don't you?"
"Yes, I do. We all do. I need to make sure; that's why I need scans of the area where it was. You have the bridge.", he repeated, and he stepped into the lift.
As it closed, Riker thought, *Oh, not again. We were barely able to stop them last time; how are we going to pull it off now, without Data?*
Riker sighed, and tabbed his comm badge.
"Commander LaForge and Doctor Crusher, please report to the Bridge immediately."
"I sent everyone away, closed the place up. I had to; what we have to discuss isn't exactly breakfast conversation." Guinan motioned to a booth, where they both sat down. Picard spoke.
"Then you do know what is going on, then?" Guinan nodded her assent; Picard pressed on. "So, you have to tell me! What you know may be the only clues we have to help Data!"
"I know, I know. I can only tell you certain things, though."
"Because it is what I am permitted to tell you. Also, it is what I believe you will most be able to understand. You remember the dream that Deanna Troi had?"
"Yes. How do you know about the dream?"
"Deanna told me about it last night. Now, you were correct to assume that the dream was a warning. It was also an explanation."
"An explanation? What kind of explanation?"
"An explanation of the course of action to take."
"I don't understand..."
"Let me put it this way. The 'Light' Deanna mentioned? It is a being of great power and righteousness, known to some as the White Guardian. The 'Darkness' is a force of equally powerful evil, known as the Black Guardian."
"I understand that much. Go on."
"The White and Black Guardians cannot battle each other directly, so they send agents to do the fighting. The 'Champion' is one of those agents, a Lord of Time who can travel through time and space and do the work of the White Guardian."
"You are also one of the agents of the Light, Jean-Luc. You have been so from the moment of your birth. Now, you, the Champion, and one other have been chosen by the White Guardian to partake in pehaps the most important mission of all."
"What is this mission?"
"The woman that Deanna saw was kidnapped by the agents of the Black Guardian. So have many others who have been found to be crucial to the balance of Time."
"And now they have Data."
"Right. Without these very special people, the balance of Time will shift to favor evil. The Federation, Starfleet, this Galaxy, indeed, the entire Universe as we know it will crumble to dust, replaced by the Darkness."
"So, what do I do now, Guinan? I just can't stand here and do nothing while Data and those other hostages are at their mercy!"
"I know, Jean-Luc. But, trust me, you won't have to wait long. The Champion is on his way as we speak. The other... you will meet in time. Be patient; everything will come together soon enough."
An awkward moment of silence followed, and then the comm badge beeped. Picard tabbed it open, and spoke.
"Sir, we have the results of both Geordi's VISOR scan and Doctor Crusher's tricorder sweep."
Suddenly, Will Riker's voice sounded very tired.
"There's no mistake, sir. There were traces of triolic radiation at the spot where the alien stood... and at the spot where Data was standing when he disappeared."
A silence followed, as deep and black as space itself. Then, Jean-Luc Picard spoke. His words held no other emotions, save one: anger.
"The Devidians are back."
"Not a one." The Doctor looked at the entrance to the cave thoughtfully. "But if this is the cave where Ace disappeared..."
"It may be dangerous to go in there. You might want to stay out here, or even back in the TARDIS."
"No way, Doctor! I'm not letting you go in there alone. Besides," she smiled at the Time Lord, "I just faced down a pack of dead Daleks. What could be tougher than that, huh?"
The Doctor looked at her for a moment, smiling, then his expression turned serious. "I mean it, Melissa. That thing in there took Ace, maybe... killed her where she stood. I don't even know what we're going to go up against. I'm just giving you a way out of this madness."
"I'm telling you that I'm not going to leave you. Have any of your other companions left you in times of danger?" She looked at the Doctor pointedly. The battle was fought without words and over in seconds. The Doctor heaved a sigh and spoke.
"All right, then. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. Come on." He took her by the hand and went into the cave. As they entered the blackness, Melissa whispered, "Is that true, what you said about not knowing what we're going up against?"
"Yes. Does that surprise you?" The Doctor whispered back, either in response to the tone of Melissa's question or to the encroaching blackness, she wasn't sure.
"Yeah, it does. I thought you Time Lords knew everything."
"The Time Lords are many things, Melissa, but omniscient they definitely are not. Now, come on."
As they continued to explore the cave, Melissa thought about the Doctor and Ace. *There's something you aren't telling me, Doctor. I can understand Ace being upset with you for lying about her purpose, but given the circumstances, you really didn't have any choice...* And then the thought struck her.
*What if he wasn't lying? What if his whole purpose for keeping Ace on was to decoy Fenric? Could the Doctor be that manipulative, that callous? What plans does he have for me?* Then she stopped herself.
*Stop that! You've been with the Doctor's companion for six months now; has he given you any reason to distrust him? Sure, he's not exactly been the most forthcoming individual in the world, but he's led a rough life, from what he has told you; his secrets should be his own, at least until he decides to tell you more. So, quit your complaining and trust the Doctor.*
Melissa was suddenly shaken from her reverie by the sound of the Doctor calling for her.
"Melissa, come here! I think I've found something!"
She followed his voice to where he was kneeling on the ground. He pointed wordlessly, and she followed his finger to... a body on the ground, still and white. She gasped.
"Is it..." She couldn't get the words out; she was now very, very afraid.
"Yes, it's dead. And from the looks of things, for a while now." As if in response to her unasked questions, the Doctor spoke.
"This isn't Ace, obviously. The TARDIS computer banks recalled that Ace was sent on a search-and-rescue mission when she disappeared. This may have been one of the rescuees." Melissa smiled faintly at the Doctor's poor choice of grammar, but never took her eyes off the body.
After a long moment, the Doctor pulled his companion from the body. As they continued through the cave, Melissa finally mustered up the strength to speak again. "How did it die?"
The Doctor looked at her softly, and whispered, "Energy weapon, and a very powerful one at that. The Daleks have no small weapons powerful enough to do that." He paused for a moment, then continued. "He died very quickly, Melissa. No pain."
"Could Ace have been..."
"I don't think so. According to my dream, the alien waited before firing; that indicated some kind of premeditated purpose. Also, the alien disappeared when Ace did; that suggests a conjugal mode of transport. But why would the alien want Ace specifically, and where did it take her?"
The Doctor and Melissa walked on for a moment, each lost in their own thoughts, when suddenly, the Doctor found something interesting. "Look at this!"
Melissa looked at the wall where the Doctor was shining his light. It appeared to be covered by a mural or some kind of alien inscriptions. "Do you know what it is, Doctor?"
"No, I don't. But if I had to hazard a guess, I would think that it's some kind of relic from the earlier inhabitants of this planet."
"The ones that somehow died out before the Daleks arrived?"
"Do you know what it says?"
"Not a clue. It could be anything from 'Leave or be destroyed' to 'Welcome to Disneyland', for all I know." He looked around for a moment, then snapped his fingers.
"I knew I'd seen this place before!"
"In my dream. This is the place where Ace was attacked by the alien." He pulled out his scanning device, a little cylindrical tube, and waved it over the whole area, including the inscriptions. Then he pocketed it, and looked at Melissa.
"Come on, let's go. There's nothing more to do here."
As they exited the cave and headed for the TARDIS, Melissa spoke excitedly. "Now what do we do?"
"We go to the TARDIS and examine this evidence." He held up the scanning device. Once they entered the TARDIS, the Doctor slipped the cylinder into a round notch in the console and pushed some buttons. As the console began to hum, the Doctor spoke again.
"We should know something in a few minutes."
"Then what do we do? Find the place where Ace is being held and kick some alien butt, right?"
The Doctor smiled. "Have I ever told you that you sound just like someone, actually, several someones? To answer your question, we'll know," he paused asthe console beeped, "right about now." He turned back to the console and looked at the screen in front of him. Then he frowned.
"What?" Melissa was worried.
"The TARDIS computers can't identify any of the elements in the sample of air I brought back, except to say that there appears to be some kind of weird radiation spike."
"Yes, it seems that not too long ago, a unusual type of radiation was emitted in that cave, The signature of that type of radiation was identical to those I found in the Dalek computer."
"So, it just confirms what we already know, right? That the radiation that killed the Daleks originated from the cave."
"But there's more. On the way out, I also took a scan of the dead body we found. There were traces if the same type of radiation."
"So, there's a connection between Ace's disappearance, the dead body, and the dead Daleks."
"Precisely. It appears that the same alien, or a group of aliens, were responsible for all three events." He looked at the readout again, and whistled. "Hmmm... what's this? Interesting..."
"What's that, Doctor?" Melissa had gotten up off of the couch where she was sitting and moved to a spot across from the Doctor.
"It appears that the TARDIS has taken some initiative of her own. She's searched the historical databases for other evidence of this strange radiation signature. And lo and behold, she came up with a match. Way to go, old girl." He patted the console affectionately.
"So what did she find?" Melissa asked impatiently.
"There have been three known cases of this radiation signature on record. One was in 1890's San Francisco, during a cholera epidemic. The second was in the year 2293, and the third in the year 2372, both on Federation starships. Hmmm..."
He looked at the readout intently for a moment, and then began pressing buttons and pulling levers. As the familiar wheezing sound of the dematerialization sequence began, and the Time Rotor began to move up and down, Melissa spoke.
"So where are we going?"
"Someplace where the technology can possibly give us the identity of the mysterious radiation signature. Specifically, the year 2293, the Narigeron Asteroid Belt, and a little ship named Enterprise."
Kirk looked at the somber faces surrounding him as he stood at the head of the rectangular conference table. Of course, Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, and McCoy were there. But Saavik was there as well; even though she was a Lieutenant, she was also the Science officer of record in Spock's absence, and Kirk was glad to have her there, if only to lend a logical air to the strange events of the last few hours.
"All right, is everyone here? Good; then let's begin. Please be seated." As everyone took a seat, he let out a small sigh. "Now, then. We all have heard of the events that took place a few hours ago, but they bear repeating, if only to assure ourselves that they did in fact occur."
"As we were preparing to begin our studies of the Narigeron Asteroid Belt, a phenomenon that can only be described as 'a spatial-temporal disturbance' enveloped the ship. A few moments later, our friend and time-traveller Gary Seven appeared. He proceeded to tell us this story." Kirk tabbed a switch on the console in front of him, and Gary Seven's voice came out of the air.
"Sorry for the entrance, Captain, but I'm in a hurry. I have information of great import to reveal to you, and they're not far behind..."
For several minutes, the bridge crew listened, rapt with attention, as the recording continued.
At the end, the crew heard McCoy's voice sputter, "Now, what is that supposed to mean-", then Chekov's shout.
"Keptin, there is another spatial-temporal disturbance forming outside the ship!"
Kirk turned off the recording, as he continued stating the facts. "At that time, an unknown life-form, blue and translucent, with some type of orifice on its upper region, transported onto the bridge. The alien fired some kind of energy bolt at Gary Seven, killing him. The alien then fired another bolt, killing a security officer who had fired at it, and then finally fired at Captain Spock. The alien and Captain Spock then vanished."
"Now, I have good reason to believe that Spock is still alive. From what we've been told, the alien, described by Gary Seven as an 'agent of Darkness', has been taking specific people out of their time periods and holding them hostage. I think that Spock was one of those people, and is now held somewhere against his will."
"So, we're going to go look for him, aren't we, sir?" Scotty was impatient. "I mean, we can't just wait here and see what happens, can we?"
"Mister Scott, that is exactly what we are going to do."
"But, why? Who knows what those beasties are doing to Mister Spock right now?"
"I understand your concern, Scotty, and believe me, I share it. But this thing could travel through space and time, and we cannot, unless you want to try the slingshot method, which isn't any good unless we knew when and where to go, which we don't. So, we have to stay here. Understood?"
Scotty sighed. "Understood."
Uhura spoke. "So, how long do we stay here, sir?"
"Until we get some kind of answers. And I think we'll get them when this 'Time's Champion' character arrives."
After a few seconds of sitting there in silence, the doors to the ancient Police Box opened, and the Doctor came out. He stepped forward a few paces, took a deep breath, and looked around. After a moment of this, he spoke.
"Well, Melissa, it looks like we're here. You can come out now."
From inside, Melissa's voice could be heard.
"Are you sure it's safe, Doctor?"
Melissa stepped out then, still in her blue jumpsuit. She looked around. "It looks safe... Where exactly are we, anyway?"
"I told you. The year 2293, and a little ship called Enterprise."
"I know that, Doctor. Could you please be a little more specific?"
"All right. In your planet's future, around the year 2067, a United Federation of Planets will be created. It will expand to include several hundred races of alien beings. We are on board their flagship vessel, the Starship USS Enterprise, registry number NCC-1701-A."
"Ah. And you think that this ship's technology has the capability to determine the composition of the sample you found on the Hinire Upsilon planetoid."
"Right. But, now that I'm here, I think there is more to it than that."
"What do you mean, Doctor?"
The Time Lord opened his mouth to respond, but he was interrupted by the door to the Cargo Bay opening. Melissa noticed this, and hissed, "Doctor, hide!"
But the Doctor stood his ground. "We have nothing to hide, Melissa. These are good people."
A man entered the Bay; a security officer, the Doctor surmised. He looked around for a moment, and then spied the Doctor and Melissa. He cautiously pulled his phaser and spoke.
"Who are you?"
The Doctor looked at the officer and his weapon calmly. "I am the Doctor, and this is my companion, Miss Melissa Chambers." He reached into his left coat pocket; the security man, surprised by the speed of the Doctor's movements, pointed his phaser at the Time Lord.
"What are you doing here?"
"Please holster your weapon, if you would; you're frightening my companion." He looked at Melissa, who shot him a look that said, *You're not kidding, Doctor.* The Doctor's hand came out of his pocket to reveal-- a brown paper bag. He fished around in it for a moment, and then, smiling broadly, said, "Aha!"
Melissa smiled; she knew what was coming. *And everytime he does it, it never fails to make me laugh.* The Doctor held out his quarry to the security officer. "Jelly baby?", he inquired, pushing the candy into the hand of the security officer. "What's your name, lad?"
"Uh, Harris, sir." The security officer answered uneasily. He wasn't sure if he was in control of the situation; Melissa couldn't blame him one bit. *The Doctor's the kind of person who makes you lose control of the situation all the time*, she thought. *And it always works.*
"Well, Harris, don't just stand there, eat it!" Harris stood there, looking at the candy. The Doctor, as if reading his mind, spoke softly. "Don't worry, Harris; it isn't poisoned. In fact, if I wanted to eliminate you," he continued, the smile never leaving his face, "wouldn't I have done it as soon as you came into the Cargo Bay?"
This reasoning seemed to satisfy Harris; he bit into the candy.
"Now, then, I need to find Captain Kirk. It is gravely important that I speak with him. Do you know where he is?"
Harris, his mouth still full of candy, nodded. The Doctor smiled.
"Good. Can we go to him, please?"
Harris swallowed his candy and spoke. "I will have to see, sir." He pulled out his communicator and spoke into it. "Harris to Bridge. I would like to have a secure line to Captain Kirk, please. It's important."
After a few seconds of silence, a voice issued from the communicator.
"Captain Kirk here, Lieutenant. What is it?"
"Sir, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but there is a man and woman here to see you..."
The Doctor interrupted. "No offense to humanity, Harris, but I am not a man. I am a Time Lord, and I need to speak to Captain Kirk immediately."
In the Conference Room, Kirk and the others heard the Doctor's voice.
"... I am not a man. I am a Time Lord, and I need to speak to Captain Kirk immediately."
Kirk reacted like he'd been shot. McCoy asked, "What's the matter, Jim?"
"The man said he was a Time Lord... Don't you get it? Gary Seven said that the 'Champion' who would visit us was 'a Lord of Time'. It's him!"
"Are you sure?"
"Right now, it's the best we've got." He spoke to Harris. "Lieutenant, bring this, er, Time Lord and his friend up here to the Conference Room. I would like to speak to him."
"Right away, sir." Harris switched off the communicator, then turned to the Doctor and Melissa. "If you would follow me, sir..."
"Of course, Harris, thank you." The Doctor and Melissa followed Harris out into the hallway and into the turbolift at the end of the corridor. As they entered the lift, Harris pressed a button, and the lift sped off. The Doctor turned to Harris. "Another jelly baby?"
Melissa punched the Doctor on the arm. "Not now, Doctor. We don't have time for this. We have to find out about Ace, remember?"
"Of course, of course." The Doctor was silent for a moment. "You sure you wouldn't like one?"
"I'm Captain James Kirk. I'm sorry if I don't know the proper Time Lord greeting..."
"That's quite all right, Captain; I'm afraid I don't know it either." The Doctor smiled. "You see, I have been away from my people for a long time."
"And your people are..." McCoy was curious.
"I come from the planet Gallifrey, and don't worry, Doctor Leonard McCoy, you haven't met them. As a matter of fact, none of you have; at least, not yet." The Doctor smiled at McCoy's surprise. "Yes, Doctor, I know of you all, even though you have never heard of me."
"My TARDIS has extensive records on each and every one of you."
"Your what?" Uhura was surprised.
"My TARDIS, Miss Uhura. "It stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. It is my time vehicle." Harris spoke up at this point.
"It looks like a blue box, sir." The Doctor smiled.
"Yes, it does. But remember, looks can be decieving."
He looked at every one in turn, then 'hmmm'ed softly to himself. "Well, well, the great and noble crew of the Enterprise-A. This is a pleasure."
"You still haven't introduced yourself or your companion." McCoy persisted.
"Aye, you seem to know everything about us, but yet we know nothing about you." Scotty spoke up.
"Very well, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott- may I call you Scotty?" At Scotty's hasty nod, he continued. "Well then, Scotty, I am the Doctor, and this is my companion, Miss Melissa Chambers..."
Melissa reached over to shake the captain's hand. "Call me Mel.", she said, smiling over to the Doctor, who made a grimace and muttered something. Saavik thought, *Carrot juice?*
Kirk continued. "'Doctor', is it? Doctor of what?"
"Of nothing, and everything. It is my name, and who I am. Aren't all names this way?" The Doctor smiled.
"Pardon me, Doctor, but we were wondering... are you also called the 'Champion'?"
At the sound of the name, the Doctor turned white, it seemed to the others. Even Melissa noticed, and wondered, *What's the matter with the Doctor? It's as if the name were like a knife through his hearts...*
But the Doctor recovered quickly, and answered, "Yes, that is true, I was known by that name. 'Time's Champion', it was, and during my last life. I don't particularly care for it, though; just 'Doctor' will do. By the way, where did you hear it?"
"Well, first from a light in a dream, and then from a... friend of ours."
The Doctor thought a moment. "This 'light' could have been the White Guardian..."
"Yes, our friend did mention a White Guardian."
The Doctor 'hmm'ed softly, then spoke again. "And where is this friend of yours? I would like to talk to him or her; it would appear that he or she knows a great deal more about things than I do."
Kirk's face fell. "I'm sorry, Doctor. He... was murdered just a few hours ago."
"I'm sorry, Captain. Please accept my condolences." Kirk noticed that the Doctor's voice held great sadness, the sadness of someone whom had lost people dear to him. He himself had sounded like that, Kirk realized, when Spock had died, and when David had been murdered.
*There has to be a way to stop this killing...* Kirk thought helplessly. *Gary, I promise, we will avenge your death. It will not have been in vain.*
McCoy spoke again. "Did I hear you right, Doctor, when you said that Gary Seven knew more about things than you do?"
"That's correct, Doctor McCoy. Intelligent though we are, Time Lords aren't omniscient. At least, I'm not; then again, I have always been somewhat of a renegade..."
"Well, then, if you don't know about what's going on, why are you here?"
"I'm here because I had a startling premonition. A dear friend of mine, a former companion in fact, was taken by some kind of strange monsters. Bluish in color, with an orifice on its head, I believe. I tracked my friend's whereabouts to a desolate planetoid in the far future, and found evidence of an unusual form of radiation. My technology is quite limited, however, and I could not identify it. I was hoping that here, in this place, in this time, you might know what it is."
Kirk nodded. "This is amazing. You see, we have encountered this entity that you speak of, first in a dream of mine, and then here on the Enterprise, a few hours ago. It killed our friend Gary Seven and kidnapped my first officer, Captain Spock."
"You mentioned Gary Seven before. I have heard the name. He worked for the Argus Project, does he not?"
"Yes, he did. You've heard of the Project?"
"Yes, I have. Our goals are similar, but their methods are quite primitive..."
Suddenly, a light enveloped the conference room, and when it had subsided, a woman was standing in the room. She was tall, and slight, with dark hair and green eyes. She was clothed in a one-piece black jumpsuit, and she turned to the Doctor, furious.
"How dare you call our goals similar, or our methods primitive, Time Lord!!" The woman launched herself at the Doctor.
Kirk, and everyone else for that matter, were astonished. The Doctor moved the woman around, his hand still on her chest, and pushed her into a chair. "Have a seat, will you?", he remarked acidly, as he removed his hand from her chest.
The woman remained frozen, though, as she sputtered, "I can't move! What have you done to me, you wretched Time Lord?"
"I've put you into a state of paralysis, using Venusian aikido. I picked it up in my travels, used it quite extensively during my third life, in fact." At the looks of the crew, the Doctor smiled.
"Don't worry, it is only temporary. Though, young lady, I suggest you calm down somewhat, or I will have to use stronger measures to protect myself. All right?"
The Doctor stated this calmly, the smile never leaving his face, and Kirk realized that this Doctor had many astonishing talents. *I'm glad he's on our side... But what if he isn't?* Kirk shook his head. *Stop it, Jim. You're being paranoid; he hasn't given you any reason for you to distrust him. Just keep your head, and everything will be alright.*
The woman began to calm down, and as she did so, her body began to respond. After a few more minutes, she spoke. "I suppose I should tell you who I am, and why I attacked you."
The Doctor just smiled. "That would be a good idea, madam."
The woman shot a withering look at the Time Lord. "Don't call me madam; I may be old, but not nearly as old as you."
McCoy interrupted then, speaking to the Doctor. "Speaking of which, you have been talking about yourself and your people as if you're some kind of ancient race. But, you look younger than us. Just how old are you, anyway?"
The Doctor smiled, as did Melissa. They apparently had known that this question was coming soon. "I, Doctor McCoy, am in fact just over one thousand years old."
Several mouths dropped around the room, including the woman in the chair, who spoke. "I had no idea you had been alive quite that long."
"So, how is that possible? Are you immortal? I remember reading material, rumors really, about immortals being around in large numbers in the late 20th-early 21st Century..." Kirk was astonished.
The Doctor laughed. "No, no, Captain, I'm not one of those. You see, Gallifreyans- at least, those who have become Time Lords- have the ability to regenerate our bodies when they become too old or damaged beyond repair. We simply... transform into a new body, persona, and identity."
"That's amazing!" Chekov spoke excitedly. "How many of these lives have you lived, Doctor?"
"This is my eighth life, Mister Chekov. I have thirteen lives available to me. Rather better than being a cat, don't you think? At least, that's what I kept telling Wolsey." He didn't elaborate on this last; instead, he continued.
"I've had some interesting regenerations, I can tell you. My first incarnation died of old age, but after that, I was painfully forced to regenerate, then I was bit by Mebellian spiders, then I fell off a radio telescope, then I contracted spetrox toxemia, then I hit my head on the console... my, I was clumsy that day. Oh, yes, and then I was shot three times, then drugged with anesthetic and probed with a thin wire. Ohhh, not fun at all, let me assure you ..."
Kirk loudly coughed, which got the Doctor's attention. "Oh, I'm sorry, Captain. You see, I do have this tendency to ramble..."
"I understand, Doctor, but wouldn't you like to know whom our guest is and why she came all this way to attack you? I sure would."
The woman became indignant. "I didn't come here to attack him." She gestured toward the Doctor, who smiled back and bowed. "Although he does deserve it."
"Me? And just what did I do to arouse your ire, madam? Park my TARDIS in a no time-machine zone?", the Doctor answered flippantly.
"All right, that's enough." Kirk looked toward the Doctor and the woman. "Be quiet, both of you. I want to get to the bottom of Spock's disappearance, and I'm sure you want to find your friend, Doctor, don't you?"
The Doctor became serious. "Yes, I do."
"Then why don't we all just sit down and behave civilly so we can sort this whole situation out, all right?"
The Doctor nodded; all the combativeness had been taken out of him by Kirk's words. Melissa heard him sigh. *He so desperately wants to find Ace. She must have been very important to him, more important than I ever realized. I wonder...*
Melissa let the thought hang, unfinished, in the back of her mind as Kirk spoke to the woman.
"Now, then, who are you, and what are you doing here?"
The woman paused and looked at everyone, even the Doctor, before she spoke.
"My name is Lyta. I am a member of the Argus Project; in fact, I was Gary Seven's partner. As for why I'm here, I've come here to help you find those responsible for his death. Purely and simply, I want revenge. And you're going to help me get it."
Lieutenant Commander Data, the android helmsman of the Starship Enterprise, scrambled to his feet and took a look around. *Hmmm... intriguing. Some type of radiation is obscuring my stereoscopic vision. Attempting to identify...* His eyes seemed to glaze over for a moment.
*Yes... it is the same type of radiation I detected when I was taken from the Enterprise. Triolic radiation, definitely. Then there is no doubt the Devidians did kidnap me and bring me here.*
"But for what purpose?" He had, over the past seven years of serving on the Enterprise, developed the habit of talking to himself. He found that it helped him collect his thoughts and focus. As he began to walk around, taking in more and more of his surroundings, he continued to do so.
"What purpose would I serve them being here? Obviously, they want me somewhere where I cannot interfere with their plans. This begs the following questions: What precisely are their plans? What do they plan to do with me? Have they taken anyone else? Has the Enterprise begun to track me? Where exactly am I..."
He stopped short his soliloquoy, as he noticed something with his advanced vision. *Impaired though it may be, I can still detect something metallic in the northeastern direction. I shall investigate...* And with that, he began to move in that direction. He had gone no more than maybe twenty or thirty feet when he heard a voice call out.
"You there, stop!"
Data whirled around, and his hand went to his phaser, which he belatedly realized has not there. *Ah, yes, I did not carry one today.* The sight he was met with made him wish with an almost human-like detachment that he had.
Right in front of him was a young woman, no more than twenty or twenty-five years of age, Data reasoned. She was dressed in some kind of one-piece jumpsuit. Her steely gaze focused on Data as she tightened her grip on the weapon she held in her hand.
Ace looked at the android before her. "All right, Yellow-Eyes, why don't you tell me who you are and why you're here before I blow you to atoms, huh?
Ace was startled by the sudden movement, and raised her blaster to fire. But before she could, the android had already taken it from her and was inspecting it.
Ace was, to say the least, astonished. Her mouth was slightly agape as she regarded Data, who was examining her blaster.
"Hmmm... This is a very effective weapon. It is much more advanced than any that I have ever seen before. Although, young lady, at the energy level currently registered, I highly doubt it could cause much damage to me."
She regarded him coldly now, as he tossed the weapon to Ace, who caught it cleanly and turned it back to him. Data was not surprised.
She spoke. "Come off it. This could hurt you. Maybe even kill you."
Data nodded his head slightly as he replied, "Yes, it would... if I were human."
The astonished look returned to Ace's face. "You mean, you're not human?" She looked him up and down, grinning. "You sure look human to me, Yellow-Eyes."
Data inclined his head. "I am an android. An artificial construct, an automaton."
Ace looked her head disgustedly. "I know what an android is. I'm not stupid."
"Of course you are not. I did not mean to offend you by implying such." Data paused for a moment. "'Yellow-Eyes'? Based on my own coloring, no doubt?"
"Yeah, Yellow-Eyes. I think I'll call you that from now on."
Data might have smiled... if he were human. Instead, he offered his hand. "I prefer to be called Data."
Ace looked at the offered hand warily. "Hold on a second. How do I know that you're not one of those blue things?"
This caught Data off guard for a moment. *'Blue things'? Could she be talking about the Devidians? That would explain her appearance here... But for what purpose could they possibly want a young woman?*
"I assure you, I am not one of the 'blue things', although I do know of them. They are called Devidians."
"Devidians." Ace tried the name on her tongue. She shuddered. "Sounds worse than a Dalek."
Data paused for a moment before answering. "I have never heard of a 'Dalek'."
The astonished look returned to Ace's face. She sputtered.
"Never heard of a Dalek? Where have you been for the last hundred years..." She looked at him a little more closely now.
"Whoa." She breathed. "Now I know you don't come from my era... Spacefleet has nothing as advanced as you, and you've never heard of a Dalek. This is right weird."
"And which era is that, may I ask?"
Ace paused for an uncomfortable moment before replying.
"Um, I really can't tell you, you see..."
"I do. You do not know from which time period I came, therefore you may be from my future. In which case, telling me any information may disrupt the timeline."
"Exactly. You know your temporal mechanics." She stuck out her hand. "By the way, I'm Ace."
Data shook her hand. Then he inclined his head slightly. "'Ace'?"
She smiled. "Yeah, like the playing card. You're surprised at 'Ace'? And your name is 'Data'? What kind of name is 'Data'?"
"It is my name. It is who I am. Are all names not this way?"
Ace sighed. "You sound like the Professor."
Data inclined his head again. "You know a Professor? Of what subject does he instruct?"
Ace laughed, something she realized she hadn't done in a while. "No, no, I just call him 'Professor'. His name is the Doctor."
Data paused. "I am very confused."
"Don't worry, you're not alone when it comes to the Doctor." She laughed, something she realized she hadn't done in a while. "In any event, 'Ace' is just my nickname. My real name's Dorothy. But don't call me that; I hate it with a passion." She shook Data's hand, finally.
Data nodded, and looked around, casting a grim eye over the landscape. "It would appear that we are some kind of planetoid."
"You mean, we're not on Earth?"
"It does not look like Earth, Ace. My senses are picking up an Earth-standard atmosphere, but nothing else to suggest that we are on Earth."
Ace sighed. "Just great. I've been plucked from my own time again, and set down in another unfamiliar environment. Only this time, I don't have to work as a waitress. Just perfect."
Data regarded her little rant with some interest. "You mean, you are a time-traveller?"
"Yeah, in a sense. It all started when..."
Data suddenly walked down off the outcropping. Ace called to his retreating back. "Hey, Yellow-Eyes! Where do you think you're going?"
Data looked back at her. "We have no knowledge of the weather patterns of this planet, or of the indigenous fauna. It is prudent that we find some kind of shelter to protect ourselves." He paused. "I know you still may be cautious as to my identity or motives. I cannot force you to come with me..."
Ace broke him off. "I'm coming, I'm coming. I don't want to be alone anyway, if those... Devidians, you called them? Anyway, if they come along, I don't want to be by myself. So, Data, like it or not, you're stuck with me."
She clambered down from the outcropping and joined the android. "Okay, where to, fearless leader?"
Data took a survey of the area with his telescopic vision, which didn't appear to be affected by the triloic radiation signature, he noticed. After a moment, he spoke.
"There appears to be some kind of small mountain range approximately 11.7 miles northeast of our position." He pointed in that direction, and Ace, squinting, could barely make out a group of rocks in the distance. She sighed.
"Almost 12 miles? But that's going to take hours!"
"I am aware of the time needed, Ace. Unfortunately, we have no choice. In addition to the mention of indigenous fauna and weather, there is also the possibility that the Devidians may be looking for us. Therefore, we must leave. Now."
He gave Ace a look that brooked no argument. She gave up and followed him. After some minutes of walking, Data spoke up. "You mentioned being a time-traveller, 'in a sense'. May I enquire as to your experiences with time-travel?"
"I really don't want to go into it now. Besides, I would really rather hear about you. You know these Devidians that kidnapped us, right? Well, how do you know them?"
Data looked at her and then off into the distance. "The incident in question occurred approximately 2.3 Earth years ago. The ship upon which I serve was recalled to Earth in response to a... most unusual find..."
But the course had never mentioned any kind of underground passages, which of course made news when Federation archaelogical teams discovered them. Further news was made when several artifacts were discovered. Chief among them, he noted as the archaeologist in charge led he and Captain Picard around the dig site, were a pair of antiquated eyeglasses and a pocket watch with fob chain dated sometime in the 1880's.
But then, suddenly, something else was found, something very unusual. So unusual, in fact, that news reports dried up, and no more information was released. The excavation site was closed down to all but essential personnel, and Starfleet urgently ordered the Enterprise back to Earth. Data, ever the detective, had privately entertained speculation as to what the "mystery" artifact might be, but had come up with anything concrete.
And now, he and Jean-Luc Picard were here, in this pit in the middle of 24th Century San Francisco, about to find out what 500 year-old object could possibly be so important as to call the Federation flagship back home. Data would never admit it to anyone, but he began to wonder about the object's benevolence or hostility.
The same thought processes had come to him when he had escorted Vulcan Ambassador T'Pel a few years ago, whom he later found to be a Romulan spy. The closest thing he could equate it to was a feeling: nervousness. *That is it*, thought Data as he continued the tour. *If I were human, I would be nervous. But of what? An object buried in the ground beneath San Francisco for five centuries?*
Data was shaken out of his reverie when the head archaeologist spoke. "As you can see, all these items were found remarkably well preserved, considering that they have not been used for 500 years." Data noticed that the archaelogist, a Mr. Bellows, had already displayed an unusual tendency to look rather strangely at Data. *I wonder why he is looking at me so?*, Data wondered. *Is it merely scientific interest, or something more?*
Picard spoke then, his clipped tones showing his impatience, an emotion that Data could understand, but never express himself. "That's all well and good, Dr. Bellows, but you've still haven't told us what is so important that the Enterprise had to be ordered home, and for myself and my second officer specifically to be sent to this site."
Bellows' discomfiture increased as Picard finished speaking; even Data could notice it now, and the thought processes of "nervousness" increased. *He is hiding something; of that there is no doubt. But what, and is it dangerous?* Picard looked sternly at Bellows, who struggled to relax. He finally walked over to a globular object, wrapped in a tarpaulin. He fidgeted for a moment, then finally gave it up, and spoke.
"This, Captain Picard, Lieutenant Commander Data, is what all the fuss is about." Bellows waved his hand over the covered object, and finally pulled the tarpaulin away. As the object was revealed, Picard looked at the object for a moment, and looked at Data, shock apparent on his features. Data, for his part, could not tear his gaze from the sight of the object, and its implications.
And, in front of them, the object that had captured everyone's attention glared back at them, its unblinking gaze making the head look almost surreal in nature. For it was indeed a head. But not just any head. It was the head of Lieutenant Commander Data.
"Wait just a second. They found your head beneath San Francisco?"
Data nodded. "Yes. Apparently, it had been there since sometime in the late 19th Century."
"But how did it get there? Obviously, you had to go back in time, but how did you do it?"
Data paused for a moment. "It was largely an accident. The Enterprise tracked a radiation signature located in the cavern where my head was found to a planet known as Devidia II. The same signature, incidentally, is enshrouding this place." He swept his gaze over the area around them as he spoke.
"Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Devidians are behind our kidnappings."
"That is correct, Ace. We discovered that the Devidians were existing out of phase with normal space-time."
"Out of phase? I don't understand."
"I will clarify. Generally, we occupy a certain point and volume in space and time, correct?"
"The Devidians were discovered to occupy the same point and volume in space, but not in time. There was a .004 second variance between their space-time and ours."
"That small a difference? Wouldn't that be insignificant?"
"That measure of difference was enough for them to escape normal means of detection, including sensing equipment. They were only visible by highly sensitive equipment."
Ace paused a moment, then spoke. "Hold on. If they're invisible, then how was I able to see them when they took me?"
"To clarify your statement, the Devidians were more than just invisible. They were completely intangible. To answer your question, it is evident that they are able to adjust their natural phase to connect with our space-time. It is not a difficult operation; in fact, I have done the reverse. There lies the answer to your earlier question."
"I'm confused. No, make that you're confusing me. And I thought that the Professor held the monopoly on ambiguity." Ace mused for a second. "Well, don't just stand there, Data; give me a straight answer. How exactly did you wind up in 19th Century San Francisco?"
Data paused again, as if to find the easiest way to explain the situation to Ace without completely losing her...
Geordi LaForge's voice was professional as always, but there was also something else, Data noticed. He was very disturbed, and the uneasiness showed, just under the surface. Data figured that it had something to do with Geordi's feelings about Data's fate.
Picard spoke. There was no trace if uneasiness in his voice, Data noticed. But then, his captain was very good at keeping his feelings reined in. "How much of a phase variance is there, Mister LaForge."
"I'd say no more than .004 seconds, sir."
"That's not much, Lieutenant Commander. Is there any way to bridge the gap?"
"Oh, sure, sir. But it would take a very advanced phase discriminator, and I know we don't have anything that can accomplish that fine an operation on the ship."
A thought flashed through Data's mind; before he knew it, he had spoken. "Yes we do, Geordi. There is a type R phase discriminator as part of my cerebral cortex. It is capable of the type of operation described."
Picard looked at Data for a moment, then spoke into the air. "Give us a moment, Mister LaForge." He tabbed his communicator badge to terminate the connection, then turned his attention fully to Data.
"I express some reaservation about sending you down there, Data. For all we know, this could be the incident that sends you into the 19th Century."
"I am fully aware of the implications of my actions, Captain, and I understand your reservations. But, if I may say so, sir, you attempts to protect me are fruitless. The action has occurred. It will occur. I believe the saying is, 'You cannot cheat Fate.'"
Picard sat there, stroking his chin, thughtfully listening to Data's comments. Then he spoke. "The saying is correct, Data, as well as your assessment of my actions. It's true, you cannot cheat Fate. But," and at this point, Data noticed at this point, Picard paused and let out a small sigh, "I was willing to try."
He looked at Data closely for a moment, but not really seeing him. Data thought that he was trying to reconcile his wishes to keep his friend safe and his wishes to find out the cause of his fate. Then, Picard spoke.
"Very well, Mister Data. Join the away team on the surface." Data nodded, and then began to leave Picard's ready room. Picard's voice stopped him. "Data?"
Data turned, and looked at his commanding officer. "Yes, sir?"
"Come back to us, Data."
Data nodded. "Of course, sir. Of course."
As he left the ready room, Data could make out Picard's voice telling the Away Team. "Mister Data is on his way to join you on the surface."
They had paused again at the end of this section of Data's narrative, to allow Ace to rest. After all, they had been walking for some time already, and she was no android. Data paused for a moment, then spoke.
"I then adjusted my phase discriminator to match the space-time variance."
"Allowing you to see them, the Devidians. But, that would've made you invisible and intangible as well. How did you get information back to the... Away Team, you called it?"
Data nodded. "That is correct, that difficulty did occur. Very good observation, Ace. To answer your question, I modified my communications device", he pointed to the pin on his chest, "to function despite the phase variance."
Ace thought for a moment. "Because of the difference in spacetime between you and the Away Team, anything you would say would have been recieved with a .004 second delay, corresponding to the phase difference, right?"
Data nodded again. Ace smiled. "Well, the Professor used to say that I was one of his best students when it came to understanding space-time. That is, when I listened to him. Must be a product of my own time-travel experiences."
Data paused. "You will have to explain that to me soon. I find it very interesting."
"Of course. But first, continue the story. I have a feeling it's getting to the good part."
"Good part? Which part would that be? At that point, I had found little good in the experience..."
Ace grimaced. "Just get on with it, Data."
"As I entered the Devidians' space-time, I noticed several things."
"I noticed several globes scattered around the cavern. I did not know the function for these globes. I do now."
"I will tell you later. Be patient, Ace."
"Now, you really sound like the Professor."
"I should like to meet this 'Professor' of yours, Ace. He seems like a most interesting fellow."
"Oh, you have no idea. But, get on with the story, please. We're almost to the mountains."
"Yes, we are at that. In any event, as I was perusing the cavern, looking for more information to impart to the Away Team, a portal suddenly opened next to me. A blinding white light."
"Like the ones that took you and me, no doubt."
"Precisely. I tried to move away from the portal, but it suddenly began to pull me toward it. I later surmised that my appearance in their space may have caused a backlash in the portal mechanism. I was pulled in, losing contact with the Away Team, and found myself lying on a street in San Francisco, circa 1893."
Ace whistled. "Whoa. So, what happened after that? You obviously got back to your own time, but how?"
Data looked at Ace for a moment. Then he added mysteriously, "It was very unusual. I returned to my own time with the help of a fellow time traveler and two literary figures."
"Come on, Data! What kind of answer is that? I told you about giving me ambiguous answers..." She trailed off for a moment, her gaze focusing on an outcropping very near to them. "What's that?"
"What is what?"
"That, over there. Near that bunch of rocks." She pointed over in the direction of her interest. Data looked at the area curiously. "I see nothing, Ace."
"Well, I'm sure I saw something move over there. Maybe we should find out what it is, eh?"
"I do not know, Ace. It could be quite dangerous. An indigenous animal, perhaps, or more intelligent life. Perhaps even the Devidians themselves."
"Oh, come on. You're not as yellow as your eyes, are you?" She teased the android. Data tilted his head slightly, as he attempted to make sense of her comment. "Besides, I have a big, strong android to protect me. I'm not worried." And with that, she called out to the rocks. "Hullo, there! Come out, we won't hurt you."
Then, as an aside to Data, she whispered, "Unless, of course, you try to hurt us..." She pulled out her blaster and checked to see the power levels that registered. *Damn, still not much power left in the thing. Hope it's enough...*
Her thoughts were cut short by the sound of something on the rocks, approaching them. Quite fast, Ace reasoned, giving the frequency of the sounds, which sounded vaguely like footsteps.
Ace raised her blaster; Data looked at her and shook his head. She could definitely understand the look. Best not to tip your hand too early. Let them make the first move. Ace had learned that lesson painfully during her first year as a DK; half her platoon had been decimated when they seriously underestimated the Daleks' firepower. She never made that mistake again.
As she lowered her blaster, a figure came out of the rocks. It was definitely humanoid, Ace noted; as it came closer, she also noticed that it was a male, dressed in some kind of uniform. One that was very similar to Data's, in fact, except for the very thick red jacket on his thin upper body.
The man closed the distance between them quite quickly. He was running as fast as he could, running for his life. As he came up to them, he spoke to them, breathlessly.
"Get to cover, quick! If he doesn't see you, we could take him by surprise!"
Ace couldn't believe him. "What are you talking about? Take who by surprise? There's no one..."
Ace trailed off as she suddenly heard a noise. She couldn't place it, really. A yell, or more like a... growl? What kind of being were they dealing with?
Then, Ace had all her questions answered. Another figure appeared, from the same bunch of rocks where the earlier man had appeared. As it came closer, Ace could definitely see that whatever it was, it wasn't human.
Oh, it was a humaniod, sure, but it wasn't a human. At least, not in the original sense. The male (Ace hoped it was male; if it wasn't, then she was going to get very worried) was colored darker than she was, very stocky and muscular. But what worried Ace wasn't the creature's musculature, or the ridges on his forehead. It was the very lethal-looking semi-circular blade he held, snarling, over his head.
Ace looked at Data, the unasked question on her face. Data spoke, his amber eyes never leaving the figure approaching them. "That, Ace, is a Klingon. And not just any Klingon, at that."
"I'd say. He seems really pissed off about something. What did you to the guy, anyway?" This question was directed at the man behind them, who was quite obviously using them to cover his prescence from the Klingon who was coming ever-closer.
"I didn't do anything! I just saw him, and waved to him, hoping to get information from him, and he started waving his... thing there over his head, and began to run toward me. I panicked and ran."
Ace was about to light into the man when Data spoke. "No, Ace. Your... supposition is quite correct, but that is not what I meant." He paused, his eyes still on the Klingon, never moving, never blinking.
"That is Kahless. The once and future Emperor of the Klingon Empire. And he does appear to be quite murderous. This is a very grave development, indeed."
Ace could do nothing but gape as the Klingon called Kahless advanced toward them, blood-lust in his eyes, and his lethal blade looking more than ready to cut them in two.
Lyta looked on, unconcerned, as the Doctor spoke. "Oh, no, Captain, you may speak for me as well. I do not condone killing for purely personal motives, and I never will."
Melissa piped up. "That goes for me, too. You're insane if you think otherwise of any of us, Lyta!"
As the other faces around the room nodded their assent to Melissa's succinct statement, Lyta spoke.
"Why not? Would you let Gary Seven's death be in vain?"
This time, it was the Doctor who spoke with force. "No, I would not. But, there are other ways to achieve justice for wrongs than cold-blooded murder."
"Ah, the belief of the Time Lords. Let someone else handle it; we're too special to interfere. That's a crock, and you know it, Doctor! Remember Skaro?"
Now, the Doctor's fury increased. "Oh, no, you don't. That was justified. They would have used the Hand of Omega to enslave the Earth centuries before it was supposed to happen. That was not a personal reason; the entire balance of Time was at stake!"
Kirk held up his hand for silence. "All right, both of you, quiet down, or I'll put you both in the brig. Now, we won't help you, Lyta. Is that clear?"
Lyta sighed. "Oh, all right. I should have know better. But, mark my words, I will have my revenge on my... friend's killers, with or without you."
"Very well. Is there anything else useful that you would like to say, other than revenge rhetoric?" Kirk was still angry, and everybody knew it.
The rest of the bridge crew were thankful that Lyta hadn't thrown David Marcus's death back at him, as an example. They reasoned that as stressed as he was, he would've exploded. Lyta leaned back, a cat-like smile crossing her face.
"As a matter of fact, I do. I know who killed Gary Seven."
Kirk folded his hands over his chest. "Well, that's great! Mind sharing with the rest of us? The same people that killed Gary also kidnapped Spock, and I want to know what I'm up against."
"Certainly, Captain Kirk. They have had many names, but we know them from our records mainly as the 'Ancient Shadows'. The name comes from their advanced age. Though, they're not as ancient as the Time Lords, mind you," at this, she shot a look at the Doctor, who didn't respond, "they are quite old."
"The 'Shadows' name refers to their ability to become intangible and invisible. They also have the ability to change form to look humanoid. They have used these powers throughout Earth's history."
"So, they are time-travellers, then?"
"Yes, they are. They hide in periods of great historical significance, doing their work in secret, covered by the event themselves. The Great Plague, cholera epidemics, other viral outbreaks, natural disasters. The history books record the events, but the work of the Ancient Shadows are never noticed."
"Yes. The best place to hide is always in plain sight." The Doctor mused. "Favorite method of time-travelling villainy, in my experience. What exactly do these Ancient Shadows do, Lyta?"
"They steal neural energy from human beings, and use it to feed. It is their only sustenance."
McCoy flustered, "That's barbaric! Absolutely unethical!"
As everyone sat there in stunned silence, a voice spoke up. "Only to us, Doctor. Not to them."
Everyone turned to face Saavik. McCoy was the first to speak. "Are you out of your logical Vulcanoid mind, Lieutenant? How can you possibly condone this?"
The Doctor spoke. "Miss Saavik is right, Doctor McCoy. As wrong as it sounds to us, we must remember that this energy is their only food source. Do we allow a sentient life-form to starve to death, or worse, kill it outright, only because we don't believe in the way it lives? That, Doctor, is barbaric."
"No, we must retain our focus. We should only be concerned with finding those who have been taken from us, and bringing them back to their own timelines safely. Anything else would bring a crisis of conscience that I, for one, would have a great deal of trouble justifying."
McCoy sputtered. "How do you call yourself a doctor when you allow this to happen?" Kirk raised his hand again. "Bones, that's enough. The Doctor's right; we cannot let our own personal feelings for their lifestyle infringe on our mission to get our friends back. Is that understood?"
Heads slowly nodded in assent; the Doctor spoke.
"For the record, Doctor McCoy, I want you to know that 'Doctor' is more than just a stylish name I picked out for myself. I am a Doctor in several areas, of which medicine is only a small part. Remember that when you presume to tear down my ethical beliefs. That, and I've had to make ethical decisions that have shaped planets. I don't exactly like some of those decisions," he shot a look at Lyta, "but I do not regret any of them, and I never will. Despite what others do to guilt me."
The Doctor remained silent, as Kirk spoke. "Thank you, Doctor, for reminding me, at least, that humans aren't the only beings in the Universe. Some are very different, and we have to respect their differences. After all, that's what the Prime Directive is for."
He turned to Lyta. "Is there anything else that we should know about?"
"Only that they can travel through both space and time, so they could have hidden Captain Spock and your friend, Doctor, anywhere. Absolutely anywhere."
"Thank you, Lyta. And with that, the meeting is adjourned. You have the Bridge, Lieutenant Saavik. Maintain Yellow Alert status until further notice. Doctor, Lyta, may I have a word?"
The Doctor, Melissa, and Lyta remained behind until everyone had left, then Kirk spoke. "Miss Chambers, you do not have to be here if you do not wish to. I can have someone show you to guest quarters..."
Melissa nodded furiously. "No, Captain, that's all right. I'll remain with the Doctor. I've already figured out that part of the job; to make sure he doesn't get into too much trouble. Although, he does seem to get into a lot of trouble even when I AM around, so..."
Kirk laughed. "Suit yourself, Miss Chambers. Now, then, we have sensor information from both Gary Seven's entrance and that of these 'Ancient Shadows'. I would rather have you together and escorted at all times on the ship, as to not create suspicion..."
He broke off as he looked at Melissa. "Miss Chambers, are you all right? You don't look well."
Melissa, who had been growing pale during Kirk's comments, began to sway a little as she responded. "No, no really. I think I'll take you up on those guest quarters..." She trailed off as her eyes began to roll into her head, and she fell toward the ground.
The Doctor caught her before she hit the ground. He held her with one hand while pressing the other to her forehead. Meanwhile, Kirk pressed a button on his console.
"Kirk to Sickbay! Medical emergency in the Conference Room. Hurry!" The Doctor kept his hand on Melissa's forehead for a moment longer, then spoke.
"Oh, dear. This is what I was afraid of..."
"What do you mean? What's wrong with her?"
"Time Lag. It's very rare; it's where the body has trouble adjusting to the rigors of traveling to different times. Very similar to Jet Lag, in fact..."
"I'm familiar with the reference. Is there anything we can do here?"
"I don't know. I'll have to look at whatever Doctor McCoy suggests for the symptoms. As I said, it's very rare. I've only had it happen to my companions one other time, but then, Adric wasn't exactly human to begin with..."
The Doctor cut short his monologue, as McCoy arrived with a nurse and an anti-grav stretcher, followed by Saavik. She spoke, as McCoy began to examine Melissa, whom the Doctor has laid on the floor.
"Is there anything I can do, sir?"
"Hold on a second, Lieutenant. What's the prognosis, Bones?"
McCoy ran the medical tricorder over Melissa's body a third time before responding. "I don't know for sure, Jim. Her brain waves are all over the place. I'll know more when I get her to Sickbay." The stretcher was brought over, and Melissa was loaded onto it.
As McCoy left with his patient, the Doctor spoke. "I really should be with her, Captain. Perhaps Lyta could go on without me with an escort..."
"Please, call me Jim. And I meant it when I said that you two weren't going to be separated while you're on my ship. Lieutenant?"
Saavik spoke. "Yes, sir?"
"I want you to escort the Doctor and Lyta to Sickbay. And hurry; the Doctor will want to assist Doctor McCoy."
"Yes, sir." Saavik began to lead the pair out of the conference room, but Lyta resisted. "I have no interest to see someone being ministered to when I could be getting valuable information on the Ancient Shadows."
"What's wrong, Lyta? Has your little vendetta dulled your belief in the sanctity of life as well as brightened your already sunny disposition?", the Doctor replied acidly.
"I will not be lectured to by you, Time Lord." She turned to Kirk. "I demand to see that sensor information, Captain Kirk."
"No. I want you two together, where I can keep an eye on you. And that's final. Saavik, take them to Sickbay."
As Saavik led the Doctor and Lyta out of the conference room, Kirk entered onto the bridge and sat down in his chair.
*God! Spock, I hope you have some idea of what I'm going through here, trying to get you back... because if we do manage to get you back, I'm never letting you forget it.*
"About time you got here, Doctor. Her brain waves are still erratic, but I didn't want to do anything until you got here."
The Doctor nodded. "Have you had this problem with others before?"
"Yeah. We used cordrazine, and he got a full recovery within 24 hours."
The Doctor looked at McCoy. "Cordrazine? Do you have any idea what an overdose, no matter how small, of that drug will do to a human's brain wave pattern?"
McCoy nodded. "Yes, I do, Doctor. Had a very personal experience with the drug several years ago. Damned near screwed up history, too..."
If the Doctor was surprised at McCoy's comments, he said nothing. "How much do you suggest?"
"I was thinking of 10 ccs to start, then 5 ccs every two minutes afterward."
"Two minutes? That soon?" Lyta decided to speak at this point, despite her professed non-interest.
"It sounds good to me. The effects of cordrazine on the neural net is fairly immediate. Doctor, do you have any suggestions?"
The Doctor hmmmed for a moment before speaking. "Might want to go to three minutes instead. That way, we can more adequately measure the changes in the brain waves before we administer the next dose."
McCoy nodded. "Agreed. Nurse Benton, prepare a hypo."
The nurse handed him a hypospray. "Already done, Doctor."
"Thank you, nurse." The Doctor and McCoy surprised each other by responding at the same time. An uneasy moment passed, then the Doctor looked at McCoy. "Do it, Bones."
McCoy nodded grimly, and pressed the hypospray to Melissa's neck. An uncomfortable few seconds passed, then the arrows on the readout above Melissa's head began to lower. After a few more seconds, McCoy looked at the readout and smiled. "Look. They're almost normal already. With only 10ccs, that's amazing."
"Yes, it is." The Doctor nodded. After a few more seconds, the arrows, stopped falling. "There." McCoy smiled again. "That did it; her brain waves are at human standard. She is human, right?", McCoy joked.
The Doctor smiled. "She looks to be sleeping right now. When will she wake up?"
"Yes, the sleep is a side effect of the cordrazine. She should be safe to wake up in about an hour or two."
"Good. That gives me time to take a look at that sensor data. Lyta, Miss Saavik?" The Doctor was all business once again. Except for the whistling of "When the Saints Go Marching In" that could be heard in the corridor immediately after the Doctor and his party left. McCoy smiled, and whistled along.
In the corridor, Saavik held back a few feet to talk to the Doctor. "Doctor?", she tentatively asked in Vulcan.
"Yes, Saavik?", the Doctor quickly responded in kind, surprising Saavik.
"You know Vulcan?"
"Yes, and a good many other languages as well. Remember, I get around." The Doctor smiled. "What can I do for you?"
"I do not trust Lyta, Doctor. I cannot be certain, but I think she is not telling us the whole truth."
The Doctor nodded. "I agree, Saavik. Keep alert for anything suspicious. She is hiding something; I just hope we find out what it is in time."
"Would you two please stop conversing in obscure alien tongues and tell me which way to go? I want to look at that information and leave as soon as I can."
The Doctor sighed, and he and Saavik hurried to catch up with Lyta.
"Come on, Data! You're not going to let him slash us to bits, are you?"
Data looked at her with the same infinitely wise look she had often seen from the Seventh Doctor. She smiled inwardly. *Man, it's going to be something else when these two get together.*
"No, Ace, I am not. But, there is the possibility that the blaster could hurt him seriously, or worse, enrage him even more."
"So? I say we take the chance. Better him than us."
"No, Ace. You do not understand. Kahless either now is, or soon will be, the Emperor of the Klingon Empire. It is a vast expanse, and its dealings with the Federation are part of my history. I cannot allow that to be changed."
He looked at Ace and the man behind them. "Take..." He looked at the man expectantly. The man straightened up a little.
"Captain John Harriman, USS Enterprise, United Federation of Planets." He stuck out his hand. Data ignored it. "There is no time for pleasantries. Take Captain Harriman and go to safety. I will handle this."
Ace looked at Data incredulously. "But you'll be decimated!"
The infinitely wise look returned to Data's eyes, and if he were human, he would have smiled. "Do not worry, Ace. I am, as you put it earlier, 'a big, strong android'. I can take care of myself. Now, go."
"But, about Harriman..." Data knew what Ace was going to ask, and he cut her short.
"No time to explain. I will do that later. Go, now."
Ace looked at Data, fully wanting to argue with him, but she sighed instead. "Fine, have it your way. But, be careful."
Data watched Harriman and Ace go off behind a group of rocks out of the corner of his eye, and then turned his attention fully to the form of Kahless, his blade making lethal circles in the air. He held up his hand, and spoke.
"Hold, honorable Kahless. I wish to have words before combat."
Kahless stopped short at this; he obviously didn't expect Data to stay at all, much less ask to talk. The Klingon spoke to the android, cautiously.
"Who are you, strange one? And why do you not run, like the other strange one at the sight of the mighty Kahless?"
"My name is Data, and I do not run from you, mightly Kahless, because I honor you rather than fear you."
Kahless was now quite surprised. Not only does the strange pale one call himself "Data", but he does not fear the great and mighty Kahless, ruler of the Klingons?
"And why do you not fear me, strange one called Data?"
"Because I have no emotion whatsoever. I am incapable of them."
Kahless then did something very strange at this point. He smiled, a feral grin. Then he spoke. "One who shows no fear must be a great warrior."
Now, it was Data's turn to be surprised a little. He did not expect this development. However, it could be an advantage, he reasoned. And in this situation, he needed every advantage he could get. "There is that interpretation."
Kahless smiled again, a more feral grin than the last. "There is another. You are not a warrior, but a coward, who does not know how to use fear as a weapon. I like that... interpretation better." He swung his blade around in circles in front of him, and assumed a battle stance.
"Now, pale one, feel the blade of Kahless, mightiest of the mighty!" And with a growl, he launched himself at Data, blade pointed in front of him, looking to run the android through.
Ace saw this, and began to move toward Data. Harriman pulled her back. "Forget about it, girl. Your friend is dead. The Klingons fight to win."
"Let go of me, you idiot!" She struggled against Harriman's grasp, but the man held firm. "You're a coward, Harriman! I can't believe that you and Data came from the same ship, the same Federation!"
Harriman looked at her blankly. "What are you talking about? The same ship? I've been captain of the Enterprise-B for almost three years, and I've never met your Data, whoever he is."
This comment brought Ace back to herself, and she looked at Harriman, as if seeing him for the first time. "Oh, god..."
Meanwhile, Kahless's charge was stopped short when Data abruptly grabbed the end of the Klingon's blade between the palms of his hands. The blade was rooted there, as if stuck in cement.
Kahless struggled to free his blade, but it didn't move. He swore. "Let go of my batleth, you monster, or I'll rip you to shreds!"
Data responded to Kahless's threats by lifting the blade, still caught in his hands, over his head. The Klingon, went after it. Losing his grip, he landed on his back on the ground behind the android. Moving quickly, Data turned around, held the batleth in his hands, and with a quick turn of the blade, had Kahless's own weapon at his throat.
Ace yelled out to the android. "Data, don't kill him! He's obviously trapped here, like us!"
Data replied, never taking his eyes off the Klingon at his feet, "I know that, Ace. I would not have killed him." He turned his attention to Kahless. "I have bested you in fair combat, mightly Kahless. Do you yield, and promise not to harm us again?"
Kahless nodded... or tried to, as the blade was still inches from his throat. "Aye, I will swear upon my blade that has been turned from me, I will do you no harm."
Data nodded, and moving the batleth to one hand, used the other to pull Kahless up. After the Klingon had dusted himself off, Data returned the first ever Klingon ceremonial blade to its rightful owner. Kahless accepted, grinning.
"I take back what I said, Data. You are indeed a warrior, and a fine one at that. I will follow you, as we try to find our way out of this... mystical imprisonment."
"I welcome your assistance, Kahless. This is my companion, Ace." He motioned to Ace, who had come out of her hiding. Ace smiled and shook Kahless's hand. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Emperor." She nudged Data, and whispered, "I knew you could do it, Data. By the way, how did you do it?"
"Klingon martial arts technique. I forgot to mention that the security officer on the Enterprise is a Klingon." Data whispered back. Ace smiled again, as Data moved on to indicate Harriman. "And this man, the man you were chasing is John Harriman."
Data didn't use Harriman's title, Ace noticed, and she knew why. Bad enough that Harriman was obviously from Data's past, but the possibility that Kahless would get angry at another with rank, and a believed coward at that, was just too great. Harriman simply nodded at Kahless, who took the lack of greeting with obvious stoicism.
"Now, Kahless, would you mind telling us what you were doing when you were taken?" Data asked. Maybe there was a connection somewhere between their appearances, he reasoned.
"I was on the hunt, hunting a wild karg that had been plaguing a nearby village, when there was this most unusual beast. It enveloped me in some kind of magical light, and then I was here. Is that sufficent?"
"Yes, it is, thank you. Harriman?"
Harriman looked at Data with obviously surprise. "You want me to tell you what I was doing when I was kidnapped?"
"That is correct."
"I can't do that. Classified mission from Starfleet Command. And somehow, I don't think you have the proper security clearance." Harriman was much more in control now than earlier, and it showed in his attitude. Clearly, he wanted to take charge.
Ace wasn't buying it, though. "'Security Clearance'? Listen here, you pompous little twerp, don't you realize..." Data held up his hand, and spoke quite forcefully.
"Ace, you are not helping matters. Please restrain yourself." He turned to Harriman. "I do not believe you understand, Mister Harriman..."
Harriman bristled. "It's Captain Harriman to you, and I don't have to take this from you. I'm the commanding officer of the Federation flagship, and for all I know, you could be a Romulan spy or something. The girl there said that we served together, but I've never even heard of you. What's your stake in all of this, anyway?" Harriman folded his arms in defiance.
Ace was about to speak up again, as well as Kahless, but a stern look from Data kept them both silent. Then, Data spoke, calmly and distinctly. "Sir, I will not mince words with you. First, I am a Lieutenant Commander in Starfleet, and the second officer on the Federation flagship, albeit a different Enterprise than yours. That, I believe, entitles me to at least a little respect on your part."
"Second, I am not a Romulan spy. Third, as I said earlier, we both serve on ships named Enterprise, so what Ace said earlier is essentially correct. However, my Enterprise is the Enterprise-D. Approximately 90 years in your future. I had hoped that you would not have to learn this information, but the deed is done."
"Last, I have expert knowledge concerning our captors and their motivations, so I would like information from you to attempt to discern a pattern to their action thus far. However, if you do not wish to cooperate with my requests, we have no choice but to leave you here while we search for answers on our own. Now, hearing these points, do you wish to change your mind?"
Harriman was about to speak when a voice from the rocks behind them spoke for him. "You do not have to threaten Captain Harriman. He will give you all the information that you require." As the voice finished speaking, a figure appeared out of the rocks.
A tall figure, Ace noticed, remarkably ordinary looking, except for two things. His eyes had the light of wisdom and age in them, very much like the Doctor, she thought. The second thing that drew her attention were the pointed ears.
The figure climbed down from the rocks, and stood before them. Harriman was dumbstruck, Ace noticed. *Good for him. Guy needs to be taken down a couple pegs.* Data, for his part, remained unconcerned, although Ace thought that he would have the same look if the sky came crashing down around them. As for she and Kahless, well, they didn't know what to think.
Then the figure spoke, and somewhere, Ace could imagine music playing. It was that melodious, that powerful, that... logical.
"I am Spock. And I have come to help."
Lyta turned around and looked at the two, as the Doctor let loose a sparse giggle, most likely in response to a joke that he had just told. Her eyes, hooded black dots, narrowed on the Time Lord. Her voice, carefully controlled, betrayed still a hint of venom, like a snake who was impatiently waiting to strike.
"Now, if you two are done, we can get to work. Lieutenant, if you please..." Lyta motioned to one of the computer terminals. Saavik nodded, and with a quick look to the Doctor, she moved over to the terminal and began to punch in a series of commands. As she did so, she spoke with a level of emotional detachment.
"I am now calling up a series of sensor sweeps that were taken of the two disturbances that involved the Enterprise. The first, of course, was the entrance of Gary Seven; the second, the entrance of the alien that killed Gary Seven and abducted Mister Spock."
"Of course, of course. Now, move away; I can take over the operation of the device." She began to move toward Saavik, but an arm held her. It was the Doctor. He spoke softly, but forcefully.
"Why don't you let the young lady do her job, Lyta? I'm sure she's as anxious to be out of your way as you are to be out of hers. Have patience."
Lyta, seething, turned on the Doctor. "And you would know a lot about patience, wouldn't you, Doctor? You and your Time Lord 'non-interference' policies. You just sat there and stagnated, while the Universe was left to rot in meaningless wars and destructive conflict!"
The Doctor's voice remained calm, but there was also a hidden anger there behind his response that belied his calm.
"You, madam, are grossly mistaken if you think for a moment that I had anything to do with the policies of the Time Lords. In fact, I fled Gallifrey and conceded myself to live the life of a renegade for the simple reason that I couldn't stand by and let the Universe rot! So, next time you try to get my dander up, madam, you might try doing your homework first."
It was a decidedly un-Vulcan response, she reasoned later, but in the uncomfortable silence that followed the Doctor's impassioned response, Saavik did the only thing she could think of. She quietly clapped in applause.
*Good show, Doctor. That woman needed to be put in her place.*, she thought, rather emotionally. This was also not a Vulcan response, and it served to remind her that for all of her training, she was still not a Vulcan. But in that moment, she didn't care.
The Doctor grinned, and bowed at the applause, the silence broken. Lyta looked at two, and in a huff, moved over to the computer console. She looked at the readings intently, and after some long moments of study, she allowed herself a small smile.
"There is no doubt. These readings are consistent with those of the Ancient Shadows' movements." She stepped back from the console, a look of satisfaction crossing her face. The Doctor looked at her.
"I still don't understand. I've never heard of these Ancient Shadows before. If they're as dangerous and as firmly entrenched in human history as you claim, then why haven't they been found out before this?"
Lyta looked at the Doctor with barely-concealed contempt. "It is possible, Doctor, that the Time Lords did know about the Ancient Shadows, but allowed them to rampage across human history unimpeded because it suited them."
"No. The Time Lords wouldn't allow something this... destructive to be unleashed on Earth without some kind of stopgap measure..." The Doctor trailed off, suddenly remembering the movement of Earth that the Time Lords had affected as part of his second trial. Lyta noticed the look on the Doctor's face and smiled.
"You know that the Time Lords have no love for Earth, Doctor. It would be just the thing for the Time Lords to do to allow the Ancient Shadows to feed on human life, without fear of reprisal. Who knows what the effects on human life could be if they continue their rampage?"
The Doctor remained silent, lost in thought. Then, he came out of it, and moved over to the console. Lyta smiled.
"That's it, isn't it, Doctor? You're just as incensed by the Ancient Shadows' actions as I am. And to think, your precious Time Lords could be in the middle of it..."
The Doctor turned on Lyta. "You know, I don't really care about these Ancient Shadows, or the Time Lords, for that matter. The only thing I care about right now is getting Ace back. That's it." He turned back to the console, as Lyta spoke acidly.
"Who knows what they've done to her already? She's human, is she not?"
The Doctor turned to Lyta, and in a bound, was in front of her. His voice was full of fury and fire, showing more emotion that Saavik had seen thus far in the Time Lord.
"She is alive, you hear me? Ace is alive, and I will not even entertain the notion that she is dead." He looked into Lyta's eyes, and she tried to move out of his sight. "If you ever, ever try to guilt me into joining your little death crusade again by implying that Ace's dead, you will regret it, do you understand me?"
For a long moment that stretched into a full minute, then two, no one said anything at all. Lyta recoiled away from the Doctor's pentrating gaze, for once silent. Even the normally verbose Saavik was speechless. The Doctor just stood there, working to control his rage at Lyta's unfeeling response.
Then, the shadow of anger, of rage, of doubt, passed, and the face of the Doctor was bright again, as if it had never been crossed by shadow. He looked at Saavik, a smile coming over his face. "Now, then, Lieutenant, why don't I have a look at those readings, eh?"
He moved lithely over to the computer console, and began to punch in commands. A different set of numbers and letters appeared, and the Doctor looked at them intently. "Hmmm... This is interesting.", he noted.
"What have you found, Doctor?" Saavik asked, curious.
The Doctor stood there, lost in thought, not even noticing Saavik's remark. Then, he suddenly came to, and looked at her.
"Eh? Oh, I was just wondering about these readings. You see, Lieutenant, I was able to use the computer to isolate and magnify two very distinct radiation signatures inside the spatial-temporal disturbance that abducted your Mister Spock."
"Toward what end, Doctor?"
Lyta spoke, the venom once again apparent in her voice, as she moved in to take a look for herself. "Yes, Doctor, for once I have to agree with Lieutenant Saavik. I fail to see what the isolation of these specific radiation signatures has to do with anything at all."
The Doctor looked at Saavik and Lyta, and smiled. "But I do. You see, if I'm not mistaken- which I'm not, usually-, I've seen these specific radiation signatures before."
But the Doctor was already on the move, as he walked quickly out of the computer lab and down the corridor. As he did so, he called over his shoulder, "Come now, ladies. We mustn't dawdle. Time waits for no man, or Time Lord, for that matter." He flashed a beaming smile at the women behind him, who finally caught up to him as they reached the turbolift at the end of the corridor.
They entered the lift, and the Doctor turned to Saavik. "Where is my TARDIS being held, Lieutenant?"
"Cargo Bay Five, Deck Eight, Doctor. It has been there, guarded by Security personnel, since you and Miss Chambers arrived."
"Capital! Take us there, if you please." Saavik punched in a few commands, and the lift began to move. The Doctor looked around the lift as it sped on, as if noticing it for the first time.
"Hmmm, quite a remarkable contraption, this lift of yours. It is not voice-controlled, I gather?"
Saavik shook her head. "Yes, Doctor, it is. Unfortunately, the ship was heavily damaged in her most recent battle, and Mister Scott has been unable to repair the voice-control computer components. They have very specialized circuit pathways, and are very difficult to repair properly..."
"I understand completely. More of a hindrance than a help, in this case. Tell you what; since your captain was so kind in helping me with my search for Ace...", the Doctor broke off as the lift stopped, and everyone got out and started down the corridor toward the Cargo Bay, "I will repair your voice-control circuitry as a show of my gratitude. When this mess reaches its customary happy ending, of course."
He flashed his smile again, and Saavik nodded. "I am sure that Captain Kirk will agree to your bargain."
"Good. Ah, now. Here we are." He walked into the Cargo Bay, and up to the TARDIS. He patted the side of the Police Box affectionately while he looked for something in his pocket. After a moment, he muttered, "Aha!", and pulled out a shiny silver object. Saavik spoke.
"What is that?"
"This is my TARDIS key. And this, of course," he waved his hand around as he opened the door to the Police Box, "is my TARDIS."
"The time-space travel device you spoke of earlier? But, it looks quite... small."
The Doctor looked at Saavik, and smiled. "I assure you, Lieutenant, that the TARDIS is much bigger than the outside would lead you to believe." And with that, the door opened, and the Doctor went inside.
Saavik and Lyta stood there for a moment, until the Doctor stuck his head outside. "Come on, now, we can't waste any time. Besides, Lieutenant, I'm sure you'll want to report this to Captain Kirk; you might find that he's probably much more interested in the TARDIS than you think."
He took the science officer's hand, and pulled her inside. As he did so, he called out, "Lyta? You sure you don't want to have a look?" Lyta looked at the Time Lord with a look of contempt on her face.
"No, Doctor, I most certainly do not. I've been inside a TARDIS, and believe me, once was enough." She tried to hide a grimace at the memory; if the Doctor noticed this, or thought anything strange about the fact that the time-traveller had been inside a TARDIS, he didn't show it. Instead, he looked at her with a face that seemed to say, "Suit yourself", and resumed his pushing of Lieutenant Saavik inside the time machine.
"I know what you're thinking. It's too lavish, isn't it? Well, my last incarnation seemed to like it, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm not quite sure yet." He walked over to the main console and patted it again, as he whispered, "How are you holding up, old girl? Enjoying it here? Has the Master come back to bother you?"
The lights on the console seemed to brighten then and the Doctor patted it again. "That's good; I thought I didn't pull out enough wires." He looked around the console, searching for something, as Saavik spoke.
"You... talk to your machine, Doctor? And it understands you?"
"Yes, Lieutenant. She is... I suppose you would say semi-cognizant, almost sentient in a way. She is connected to me directly, through the telepathic links all TARDISes share with the Time Lords who operate them. This one especially is very connected to me; we've been through a lot together. You might call the TARDIS an extension of myself." Then he smiled.
"You know, you can talk to it, too, if you'd like."
Saavik was quite surprised. "Me? I can talk to your TARDIS?"
"Yes, you can. The TARDIS is especially responsive to psi-sensitives, telepaths ideally, due to her connection with me. Go on, give it a try."
She looked at the Doctor. "What do I do?"
"Just open your mind, Saavik. Let go, and open your mind to the possibilities of time and space..."
Saavik relaxed, and put herself into a light mental trance. As she began to relax even more, images began appearing in her mind's eye...
*A young woman, perhaps no less than fifteen, looking at her, it seemed, with wonder and great sadness, as a voice intoned, "I will come back."*
*Another woman, a little older, shimmering and shining before her eyes, and then looking at her, saying, "What do you think of this look?"*
*Another figure, a man now, piloting some kind of ship, into fire, into oblivion...*
*A woman again, her head without hair, looking at her with eyes unseeing, as she disappeared in a flash of light...*
*A woman, trapped, unable to move, as a blue light, a light that enveloped her, took her out of sight, her last thoughts an imploration: "Please, Professor, help me..."*
Then, all of a sudden, the images stopped, and she was shocked back into reality as the Doctor's hand touched her shoulder. He looked into her eyes, a look of concern flitting across his face.
"Saavik, are you all right?"
She shook off the last feelings of the mind-link as she responded, "Yes, Doctor. I am unharmed. Was I unresponsive for a long period?"
"What? No, no, only about five or ten seconds. What happened? I've never seen the TARDIS do that before."
"Go that deeply inside a person's mind before. I almost lost track of you myself; that's why I touched you, to try to break the connection." He thought for a moment.
"It must be your Vulcan mind-techniques; not even Nyssa was that in-tune with the TARDIS, and she was a natural psi-sensitive. So was Ace, for that matter, and she was here the longest."
He stood there for a moment, lost in thought again, when Saavik spoke. "Doctor, we have to go."
"What? Oh, yes, of course. I found what I was looking for, at any rate." He smiled, slightly. "Lead the way, Lieutenant." The Doctor motioned to the doors leading out of the Console Room, and they began to leave. The Doctor stopped Saavik, though, as they were about to reenter the Cargo Bay.
"Wait a second. I want to know; what did you see?"
Saavik paused for a moment, then spoke, rather softly, the Doctor noticed.
"I saw scenes of great loss and sadness... but also, I saw scenes of great love."
The Doctor looked at Saavik for a long moment, then sighed.
"I do not understand.."
"Don't try to. Come on." He motioned to the outer doors. "We've got work to do."
The Doctor and Saavik exited the TARDIS to see Lyta still standing there, tapping her foot expectantly. "What took you so long?"
"We had to find something." The Doctor led the way out of the Cargo Bay and back out into the corridor. Moments later, they had returned to the computer lab.
The Doctor held up the object that he had gotten from the TARDIS, and moved over to the computer console, which stil showed the previous information. He looked at the console curiously. "Hmmm... there seems to be no direct interface. How am I going to get the component structure information from this air sample into the computer?"
"Air sample?" Lyta and Saavik looked at the container that the Doctor held. "From where, Doctor?"
"From the place where Ace was taken by these 'Ancient Shadows' that Lyta speaks of. I scanned the sample on board the TARDIS, and it turned up a distinct radiation signature. In fact, the same radiation signature that accompanied the abduction of Mister Spock."
"I do not understand, Doctor. It merely confirms that your companion and Mister Spock were abducted by the same party."
"Of course it does, Lieutenant. But we still have no name for it."
Lyta looked at the Time Lord. "I don't understand why the radiation needs to be identified. It serves no purpose."
"But it does, Lyta. Identification of the unknown is the first step in the scientific method for a reason; it gives us a basis for further investigation. Through the identification of the radiation surge, we can find out who our mysterious abductors really are."
"We know who they are, Doctor. They are the Ancient Shadows The scourge of evil and pestilence! They must be stopped!" Lyta's voice escalated in pitch with every word, so that the last sentence turned into a screech.
"Lyta, calm down..."
"I will not calm down, you insufferable Time Lord! Always, it is science over everything else. You're perfectly willing to sit around and analyze the enemy while it destroys worlds and takes innocent life!"
"That is not true. I want to find out what it is exactly we're dealing with, so that we may find an appropriate way to stop them."
"There is only one way to stop these monsters. To utterly destroy them! And if you don't believe that, then the blood of your companion and your Mister Spock is on your hands!" With those stinging words, Lyta left the room, leaving the Doctor and Saavik staring after her.
After a moment, Saavik spoke. "It appears that her wish to see Gary Seven's death avenged has not abated in the slightest."
The Doctor paused for a moment. "I don't think that's all there is to it, Saavik. For a moment there, during her rant, I thought I heard something... familiar in her voice."
"As in dangerous? Evil? Insane?" Saavik prompted, hoping to get a better answer out of the Time Lord.
"I'm not quite sure. Just very familiar, as if I should know it, but I can't recall..." Then he shrugged. "Oh, well. I'm sure it'll come to me in time." He looked at the console. "Now, we have to figure out how to identify this radiation signature..."
A short while later, the Doctor entered Sickbay, and noticed Doctor McCoy. The Doctor smiled. "Hello there, Bones. How is our little time-lagged patient?"
McCoy smiled a little. "The cordrazine did wonders; she's absolutely fine now. I should start prescribing it to all my time-lagged patients."
The Doctor laughed. "You certainly have as much of a wit as the files say, Doctor McCoy." At McCoy's questioning look, he smiled.
"No, Bones, I can't tell you the future, and you know it, so don't ask again."
"How did you know that was what I was going to ask? Are you a telepath?"
"No, I'm not. I have just become so adept at reading body language when the subject of my time-travelling comes up that I've learned to anticipate the question." He looked over McCoy's shoulder at the ward behind him. "Is Melissa in there?"
"Yes, she is, but she was sleeping last I checked. You might want to look in on her first."
"Thank you." The Doctor walked into the ward and found Melissa laying in one of the beds, her eyes closed. After a moment of watching her, the Doctor experimentally coughed. Melissa opened her eyes and looked at the Doctor, smiling.
"Do you always do that when you want attention?"
"Yes, I do, because I know I'll always get it." Smiling, he perched himself on the foot of her bed. "How are you feeling?"
"Much better, thank you. Still a little queasy, but better." At the look she saw in the Doctor's face, she continued. "Why? You want me to start throwing up on you, would that make you feel better?"
The Doctor smiled, but said nothing. Melissa became concerned. "Doctor, what's wrong?"
"I couldn't find out what the radiation signature is. I'll have to go to the next time period. Their technology is more advanced; I might be able to find something more there..."
"Wait a minute. What's with this 'I' stuff? I thought we were in this together."
The Doctor sighed. "We are, Melissa. It's just that I think it would be a better idea if I went this leg of the journey alone."
"Well, for one, you're still not completely well, and there's a good possibility that the radiation that was here and on Hinire Upsilon may have contributed to your time-lag symptoms. You'll just get worse until you get acclimated. And to do that, you'll have to stay in one place for a while, so you can get well."
The Doctor paused for a moment. Melissa noticed this, and spoke.
"There's more to it than that, isn't there?"
"Yes, there is... Why can't you just accept what I give you as an explanation, and leave it at that?"
"Because you know that's not the way I work. If you wanted someone who would blindly follow your instructions, you would've stuck with UNIT. At least, that's what you've always told me."
"Okay, okay. I just don't want you to get hurt, that's all. If this heads where I think it will, I will be far too busy keeping everything together to look after you."
"I can take care of myself, Doctor. You know that."
"I know, Melissa. But these 'Ancient Shadows', from what Lyta says, are very powerful, perhaps even more powerful than the Time Lords." He paused again before speaking. "I may not be able to stop them, and I don't want you in the middle of things if I can't."
"Doctor, you're not making much sense..."
"I know, I know. Just... trust me on this, will you? I promise, you'll be safe here, and besides, I need you to do something special for me."
"Let me guess; you want me to watch over Lyta. You think there's something not quite right with her, and you want me to make sure that she doesn't go off the deep end and sacrifice us all to her little death wish. Am I right?"
The Doctor smiled. "Exactly. Am I that transparent?"
"No, not exactly, Let's just say that great minds think alike." Melissa smiled. "Okay, okay. I'll do it. But I won't like it much."
"That's my girl. Thanks." He touseled her hair, as he got up to leave. "I'll be back to get you as soon as I can, I promise."
The Doctor was almost out of the ward when Melissa spoke.
"Be careful out there, Doctor. I... wouldn't want to be stuck here."
The Doctor nodded; he understood her perfectly.
"I will. You do the same."
He smiled again, and left, with Melissa watching after him. As he exited Sickbay, she noticed a tear roll down her cheek. She brushed it away, and laid back down on the bed.
*I'll do what you ask, Doctor. Just... come back to me.*
*The Doctor is close to identifying the radiation signature. He will not be dissuaded, Mistress.*
A female voice, but not Lyta's, rang in her head.
*Nor did I expect him to be, Lyta. His archaic principles are a strong part of his life; they cannot be dissolved easily.*
The voice in Lyta's mind continued.
*Let him come, Lyta. And whe he does, he will not be able to survive the traps I have laid. Soon, he will be dead, finally and utterly, and I will be on my way to complete rule of the Galaxy!*
The last thing that Lyta heard before she lost consciousness was the laugh of the other in her mind, an evil, deprecating laugh... the laugh of the mad.
"What do we do now?"
"Wait for the Champion, Jean-Luc. He will be here shortly; he will be able to give you more information."
"I thought we defeated the Devidians two years ago. What happened?"
"They obviously escaped. Somehow, they were able to leave Devidia II before they could be irradicated. Now, they have relocated somewhere else to do the bidding of the Black Guardian."
"Were they doing the bidding of the Black Guardian when we met them in 1893?"
"No, I don't believe so. They were just trying to survive."
"By feeding on the neural energy of human beings."
Guinan looked at Picard sharply.
"You may not have liked what they were doing, but they were doing it because it was their only way to survive. In any event, they always fed on the infirm and the elderly, those who would have died in time."
"That's why they picked times of disease and suffering. Not to hide their actions, but to make sure that their actions didn't pose more than a minor threat to the timestream."
"That's correct. Now, it's my guess that when you defeated them, both in 1893 and in this time, they were forced to find other ways to survive. They are not really a dangerous race, I've found out over the centuries; they just have a different view of survival."
"And in their search to find continued survival, they entered into an... arrangement to serve this Black Guardian."
"Yes. Now, we're forced to stop them once again. And this time, if we fail, this Galaxy, and indeed the entire Universe, will suffer the consequences."
"Hmmm... Everything seems to check out all right so far. You've done well, old girl. Keep it up." He gave the console and affectionate pat, and one of its lights seemed to brighten a little bit in response. The Doctor nodded.
"Yes, I'll try to do something about the Master when this business is completed, I promise. Now, then, where are we?"
He pressed a couple of buttons on one side of the console, and a small viewscreen came to life. It showed the environment outside of the TARDIS; a dull gray Cargo Bay, empty and desolate. The Doctor smiled.
"Well, Melissa, you're in luck. We've landed in another dull cargo bay..." Then he trailed off, as he realized that Melissa wasn't there. He had left her on the Enterprise-A, he remembered, getting medical treatment for time-lag, and keeping an eye on the mysterious Lyta.
The Doctor thought about this for a moment. "I wish I could recall what I found disturbingly familiar about Lyta. Ah, well, it will come to me eventually. I hope." He flipped a lever, and the doors on the far side of the Console Room swept open. The Doctor smiled. "Now, then, let's see what surprises the starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D has in store, eh?"
On the bridge of the Enterprise-D, a voice boomed from behind Commander Will Riker.
"Commander, we have an intruder alert in Cargo Bay Five." Lieutenant Worf, the Klingon security officer, offered this information without surprise or other emotional inflection. To him, this was as normal an occurrence as the appearance of Q.
Commander Riker, however, took the information a little bit differently. "An intruder alert? Could it be the Devidians, back again?"
"No, sir. There is no evidence of triolic radiation. Sensor sweeps of the Cargo Bay register two readings." Worf checked his board to make sure. "One is a large rectangular structure, which sensors cannot penetrate. The second is a humanoid lifesign." Worf looked at the board again. "Hmmm, this is odd..."
"What's that, Lieutenant?"
"According to the sensors, the humanoid in the Cargo Bay is reading as having two heartbeats."
"Two hearts? Are you certain?"
"Of course, sir."
"Well, then he can't be from Earth then, unless our physiology has changed recently." Riker looked at Worf. "Lock down the Cargo Bay, and send a security detail there to assess the situation."
"I will attend to it personally, sir."
Riker smiled. "I would expect no less, Lieutenant, considering the present state of affairs. Go, now. I will contact Captain Picard and apprise him of this development."
"What development, Number One?" The voice of Captain Picard startled Riker slightly as the elder man came out of the turbolift, but the Enterprise's first officer recovered quickly.
"Sir, sensors have indicated an alien intruder in the Cargo Bay. It has been locked down and Lieutenant Worf was just about to lead a security detail down there to investigate."
Picard thought about this for a moment, then spoke. "That is acceptable, Number One. But I will accompany Lieutenant Worf, and there will be no security detail."
This surprised both Worf and Riker, who spoke. "I don't think that would be wise, sir. We don't know what we're up against. It could be an alien ally of the Devidians."
Worf spoke up next. "There also is some kind of structure in the Cargo Bay that sensors have been unable to penetrate, sir. It could be a trap to let our guard down, and then attack. The Devidians have been known to assume humanoid form..."
Picard broke in. "That is true, Lieutenant, but when the Devidians do assume humanoid form, there is still a residual trace of triolic radiation in evidence. Is there such a trace in evidence in this case?"
"No, sir, but-"
"Then I think that the alien is not a Devidian taken humanoid form, but in fact someone for whom I have been waiting to meet for a while. The decision stands, gentlemen. Lieutenant, let us go and meet our mysterious visitor."
Picard and Worf entered the turbolift, and as the doors closed, Picard called out, "You have the bridge, Number One."
Riker nodded as the lift doors closed, but he could not repress a thought. *I just hope this development isn't permanent, Captain.*
The Doctor walked up to the door of the Cargo Bay, and found that it didn't open upon his approach. The Doctor hmmed softly. "That's odd; I thought that this time period's technology included door-opening sensor devices." He looked on the wall to the side of the door, and found what looked to him to be a control panel of some sort.
After looking at it for a moment, he pressed a button experimentally. Suddenly, a feminine voice came out of the air.
"Door control inoperative. Level One Security lockout in place."
The Doctor harumphed, and then muttered indignantly, "Think they can lock a Time Lord in until it's convenient for them, eh? We'll just have to see about that."
He searched his pockets, and came up with a piece of wire, yet another bag of Jellybabies, a canister containing the air sample from the Hinire Upsilon planetoid (he had learned from his mistake on the Enterprise-A, and was resolved not to waste any more time in his search for Ace)... and his sonic screwdriver.
Smiling, he carefully pried open the outer facing of the control panel and was about to get to work on diabling the security lockout when, suddenly, the door opened. Two men stepped in; at least one of them was a man, in the human sense. He was of average height, with a balding head and Roman features. But what impressed the Doctor the most about the man was his stature. He practically radiated command. The Doctor realized that this must be the Captain of the ship.
The... being next to him, the Doctor noticed, was another matter altogether. It was a full head taller than the first man, and had the carriage of a soldier; ramrod-straight, eyes sweeping over everything, constantly alert. The Doctor surmised that it was a security officer of some kind.
This entire assessment took place in the space of a second, because that much time passed before the taller being noticed the Doctor, hands inside the control panel. The alien pulled out what appeared some kind of weapon and pointed it at the Doctor. It spoke, with a voice that sounded more like a growl than human speech, but definitely male in tone.
"Move away from the console and put your hands where I can see them."
The Doctor looked at the alien, with its weapon pointed at him, and decided relatively quickly that snappy repartee wasn't going to get him out of this situation, at least not right away. Besides, he doubted that the big guy would understand his sense of humor.
The Doctor put his hands up, and moved away from the console, one foot at a time. As he put his hands up, his sonic screwdriver naturally came into view. At the sight of it, the alien tensed.
"Drop the weapon, and slide it over here. Move slowly."
The Doctor chose this time to speak. "I assure you, my sonic screwdriver is hardly a weapon, sir. Well, it could be at times, given the right situation..." The Doctor saw the alien's eyes narrow, and the Time Lord sighed, and did as instructed.
The alien picked the sonic screwdriver up from where it had been placed near his feet, and looked it over. He completed his inspection, and handed it to the smaller man next to him, who also looked it over. The man spoke, his British tones a welcome familiar sound to the Doctor.
"It appears fairly harmless, don't you think, Lieutenant? I think we can let our guest relax for now."
"But sir, we don't know who this is, or what kind of technology this object is created from. It could still be a weapon..."
The Doctor smiled. So, the big guy was a subordinate. That was good; he didn't know how he was going to get any explaining done if he would have been the captain.
"I assure you that it is not usually used as a weapon, but it has performed that function on several occasions." The Doctor smiled. "You said I could relax; does that mean I can put my arms down? They're getting tired."
The smaller man smiled, and nodded. The Doctor smiled, and put his hands down. "I think that I should introduce myself, before your security officer there gets antsy and decides to shoot me."
The Doctor offered his hand. "I am the Doctor. And you are..."
"Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise."
"Ah, a Frenchman. Quite a surprise, and a pleasure, to meet some European stock this far in Earth's future. Am I correct in stating that this is the year 2372?"
"By the Earth calendar, yes, that is the correct year." Picard paused, and indicated the bigger male next to him.
"This is my security chief, Lieutenant Worf." The Doctor offered his hand to Worf, who looked at it curiously.
The Doctor teased, "You're supposed to shake it, Mister Worf. Or are you looking for implements of destruction imbedded in my palm?" The Doctor smiled, as Worf, after a long moment, shook the outstretched hand.
"That's better. I must say, I've never met anyone of your species. And that is..." The Doctor prompted.
"Ah, yes, Klingon. A race of pure warriors, whose hearts beat the cadence of conflict and honor. It is a pleasure, Mister Worf, to make your acquaintance." The Doctor looked at Picard again.
"Yes, the year is right for me. For a moment, I thought I had ended up in the wrong era." Picard paused for a moment.
"I take it that you are a time-traveller?"
"Yes, Captain, I am. The box you see behind me", he pointed over his shoulder at the TARDIS, "is a space-time machine of great skill and power, although it is a little obsolete."
Worf spoke then. "Our sensors could not penetrate your machine. Does it imply a force-field?"
"In a way. Even though the TARDIS looks like a box on the outside, its interior is inside another dimensional plane. That is why your sensors could not detect anything; according to them, the interior of the TARDIS doesn't exist." The Doctor then turned grave as he looked at Picard.
"Captain, I would really love to continue this discussion, but I really do have information of great importance to relate, and I would like the attention of your entire command crew, if that's possible."
Picard nodded. "Of course, Doctor... I'm sorry, you didn't give a name."
"Of course I did, Captain. I am the Doctor. That is all I am called."
"I see, Doctor." Picard tabbed a pin on his chest, and spoke into it. "Picard to Bridge."
A moment later, a male voice issued from the pin. "Bridge here, sir. Is everything in the Cargo Bay under control?"
"Yes, it is, Number One. Please call the remainder of the bridge staff to the Conference Room immediately. Our guest has something very important to tell us."
"Understood, sir. We'll be ready when you arrive. Bridge out."
Picard tabbed the pin again, and it was silent. The Doctor looked at Picard, and smiled. "Mobile subspace communications device, right?"
"Correct, Doctor. You know about subspace technology?"
The Doctor smiled again and spoke, adding a edge of mystery to his voice. "You'll find, Captain Picard, that I know a great deal of things about a great deal of things."
The Time Lord motioned to the two Starfleet officers. "After you, gentlemen. We wouldn't want to be late for the conference, would we?"
Beverly Crusher said this as she sat down in her customary place at the rectangular conference table. As she did so, she looked at the seat on her left. This was the seat normally occupied by Lieutenant Commander Data. Bevery sighed.
*Don't worry, Data. We'll get you back. We did it once, followed you through space and time to find you and bring you home. We'll do it again if we have to. And I have a sinking feeling that we'll have to, too.*
She was broken out of her reverie by the stare of Counselor Deanna Troi, sitting directly across from her. The Betazoid looked at her close friend, and smiled.
"Thinking about Data, Beverly?"
"Yeah, I am. You picked it up?"
"Well, your feelings of hope at finding him, yes, I did. I am thinking of him, too. I can't stop thinking about Data coming to my rescue, to all of our rescues, in the cave. And then..."
Will spoke up. "Yeah. And then, a flash of light, and his body practically imploded, sending his head to its final destiny." He paused for a moment.
"You know, at that point, I thought about what a... human act that was, sacrificing himself for us. He is evolving, every day. No thanks to us; we've tried every way we can to corrupt him." He smiled, as Geordi spoke.
"Yeah, you're right. And when the day does come when he reaches his dream of humanity, we'll know it was because of all the things that he's done for us, like in the cave. I don't know if any of you know, but I fixed that emotion chip that was meant for Data."
Beverly looked at the Enterprise's chief engineer, her eyes widening. "I thought it was destroyed when Lore was... deactivated."
"No, Data salvaged it, and I fixed it, using Dr. Soong's notes that were left in his hideout after he died." Geordi looked at everyone, then was about to continue, when the door to the conference room opened.
Picard came through first, followed by Worf and... a strange man. He was dressed in some kind of frilly shirt and jacket, with dark slacks and shoes. His hair was a mop of curls, and as he looked around, he began to smile, an very infectious-looking grin.
Everyone took their eyes off of the stranger when Picard spoke. "If you could take a seat, Doctor, next to the Doctor..." If this wasn't a tense situation, Beverly thought, Jean-Luc would be smiling at his remark. As it was, his face was a mask of total concentration.
*I guess we're not going to the arboretum tonight, then*, she thought idly, as Picard pointed to the seat on Beverly's right. As the stranger sat down, and flashed a smile at her, Beverly noticed that out of respect for Data, his seat was empty. *And it will stay that way, until he comes back, or....* She stopped her train of thought. *Don't even think it, Beverly. Don't even think it.*
She turned her attention to Picard, who had begun to speak.
"Doctor, this is my command staff. From my left, my first officer, Commander William Riker." Will nodded at the stranger, adn spoke. "Doctor what?"
The stranger smiled. "Not Doctor what, Commander. Doctor who."
Riker looked blankly at the stranger, who continued, seeing the look on Riker's face.
"In an interrogative statement involving a person, the pronoun that should be used is 'who', not 'what'. Failed grammar in school, Commander? Sorry, no offense." The Doctor smiled, and Riker thought, *Just great. This guy's Data with an attitude.*
Picard continued. "Next to him, Counselor Deanna Troi."
The exotic Betazoid looked at the stranger, who smiled. Deanna spoke. "Doctor who?"
The stranger smiled. "Precisely. Very good, Counselor." Seeing Riker's blank look extend to all at the table, the stranger began to laugh. "Oh, dear, you are a tough audience. It's a joke... Never mind. Please continue, Captain."
Before Picard could speak, however, Deanna spoke. "Excuse me, sir, but I'm not getting anything from our guest here, and frankly, that worries me."
The stranger spoke. "You are a telepath, Counselor?"
"No, I am an empath."
"That would explain it, then. My mind is so developed that it resists empathic probes. Although, in the future, I would like it if you warned me first. I don't take lightly to my mind being invaded. Nasty past experiences, you understand." The stranger nodded to Picard. "Please continue, Captain."
Picard sighed before speaking. "To clarify before I continue, our guest is called 'The Doctor'. That is his name, in its entirety. Now, if I can complete these introductions without interruption..."
Everyone at the table nodded, and Picard continued.
"Next to the Counselor, the Enterprise's chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge. On your left, Doctor, the Enterprise's chief medical officer, Doctor Beverly Crusher. Lieutenant Worf, you already know."
The Doctor nodded his way through the rest of the introductions, saying nothing until Picard had finished. Then, he spoke.
"I noticed that there is an empty seat, between Mister Worf and Doctor Crusher. May I enquire as to whom it belongs to?"
The Doctor noticed Picard stiffen, and let out a short breath before speaking.
"That seat belongs to my second officer, Lieutenant Commander Data. He is unavailable to attend."
"May I ask why, Captain? Please indulge me in this; I have a theory."
"Lieutenant Commander Data was kidnapped by an alien enemy of ours earlier today. We are currently looking for him."
"Ah, I see. And who is this alien enemy you speak of?"
"They are called the Devidians, Doctor. They have the ability to travel through time, and steal the neural energy from human life. We have battled them before, both here and in the late 19th Century. We thought them defeated..."
The Doctor spoke then, rather hurriedly.
"Pardon me for interrupting, Captain, but these... Devidians that you speak of: what do they look like?"
"Well, they are a blue translucent color, with some kind of orifice at the top of thier bodies..."
Picard trailed off, as the Doctor appeared to be thinking. "Blue, translucent color... orifice at the top of thier bodies... I should have known immediately!"
"What is it, Doctor? What should you have known? If you have something to say, say it! Don't leave us in the dark!"
The Doctor paused for a moment, as if to collect his thoughts. Then, he spoke.
"Captain, these Devidians you speak of, the ones that have taken your second officer... I know of them."
Picard sat there for a moment, not sure how to proceed. Then, he found his voice, and spoke.
"You know of the Devidians, Doctor? What do you know about them?"
"Captain, I don't know how much I should tell you..."
The Doctor was then interrupted by the door to the conference room opening. Everybody looked to see who had entered, and all were surprised.
Guinan stood there, her eyes firmly fixed on the Doctor, who stood up, facing her. They locked eyes for a moment, and no one said anything.
Then, suddenly and without warning, Guinan walked around the conference table, ignoring everyone, her eyes firmly on the Doctor. Then, as she neared the Time Lord, her arms went up, and reached for the Doctor's throat.
"Doctor, it *is* you!" Guinan broke the embrace and smiled. The Doctor smiled back, and nodded. The command crew of the Enterprise-D, for their part, were too shocked to do much of anything.
Finally, Picard found his voice. "You... know Guinan, Doctor?"
"Yes, I do, Captain. We have met before." He looked back at the woman, who had taken a seat at the conference table next to Geordi LaForge, across from the Doctor's place. Guinan smiled.
"You know that my race is long-lived, Captain."
Picard nodded. "I figured that you had to be quite old, even when I first met you, all those years ago."
"Well, the Doctor is one of the most celebrated of an even more advanced and ancient race than mine. The Gallifreyans, especially the Time Lords, have been around for millenia."
She turned to the Doctor, meeting his glance, as he continued her explanation. "My people are able to live such long lives by virtue of cellular regeneration. When our bodies become old or injured beyond repair, they simply reconstruct themselves into a new form."
The voice of Beverly Crusher broke the awkward silence that followed, as she looked at the Doctor, then looked down at her lap intently. Noticing the crew's stares, she smiled and held up a tricorder.
"Doctor, this tells me that you have two hearts, and several other organs that I've never even seen. Simply amazing."
The Doctor smiled. "In the habit of conducting clandestine medical scans of visitors during a conference, Doctor?"
Beverly recognized the jibe, and shot back playfully, "Only when the visitor claims to be able to regenerate his body and is probably older than all of us combined, Doctor."
Guinan spoke then. "As I was saying, I have met the Doctor before. He was with a young man and woman. I believe the woman was called Victoria..."
"Yes, I remember now. During the middle of my second life, my companions, Jamie and Victoria, and myself went to Earth for a little rest." The Doctor smiled at Guinan. "As I recall, we were barely able to get out before the Civil War started."
"Civil War?" Riker enquired.
"Yes, Commander. The English Civil War."
Riker looked at him, disbelieving. "You were on Earth during the English Civil War, in the 17th Century?"
"That's correct, Commander. And so was she." He looked at Guinan, who smiled. "You mean to tell me you haven't told them how old you really are?"
"A lady does not reveal her age, Doctor. As a gentleman of English training, you should know that."
The Doctor smiled wickedly. "I should tell them anyway."
"Do, and I'll shoot you."
The Doctor's smile spread to the entire group, as they digested this exchange. Picard spoke.
"All right, you two. I'd like to get some more answers from the Doctor, if you don't mind. We still have to find out where the Devidians have taken Data."
The Doctor nodded. "I would like to help you, Captain. You see, these Devidians have also taken an old friend of mine. I took this air sample from the area where she disappeared." The Doctor held up the canister. Picard looked at Geordi expectantly, and the engineer nodded.
"When we're finished here, we can go to Engineering, Doctor, and run a scan on the sample. Maybe it can give us some clue as to where the Devidians are holding your friend and Data."
"Does anyone have anything else to suggest?" Picard looked around the table as he spoke. No one said anything.
"All right, then. I can think of only one thing left to do." Picard tabbed his commbadge. "Picard to Bridge."
"Bridge here. Lieutenant Norris speaking."
"Lieutenant, set a course for Devidia II, warp five." Picard looked around.
"I've sent a message to the Federation Security Council, asking for permission to exceed the warp five limitation. I am expecting a response at any time. When it comes in, I would like to be informed." He stood, as did everyone else. "Mister LaForge, take the Doctor to Engineering. Guinan, I am assuming that you are going to go back to Ten-Forward. Everyone else, return to your stations. Dismissed."
As the command crew of the Enterprise-D left the room, Beverly turned to the Doctor. "I would like to run a more detailed medical scan of you, Doctor. Just to be on the safe side."
The Doctor nodded, smiling. "Of course, Doctor Crusher. I will go to Sickbay as soon as I finish in Engineering."
As Beverly left, only Geordi and Guinan remained in the conference room with the Doctor. The Doctor looked at the engineer, who was fidgeting nervously.
"Anxious, are we, Lieutenant Commander?"
"Yes, sir. You see, Data is my best friend. I want to find him as quickly as possible."
"I understand completely. In fact, I was thinking the same thing. But, I have to speak to Guinan privately for a moment before we begin. Why don't you take this," he handed the canister to Geordi, "and go on to Engineering and start your tests? I will be along shortly."
"All right, Doctor." Then Geordi left, and the Doctor and Guinan were alone. The Doctor sighed. "They're good, I hope?"
"The best. As good in this time as the other crew in theirs. Everything will turn out all right in the end."
The Doctor looked at Guinan. "Do your senses tell you this?"
"No, Doctor. My faith in this crew, and especially Picard, does."
"You have known him long, then?"
"Not as long as I've known you, but long enough. He, as well as Kirk, will do the job."
"How much have you told him?"
"About the same amount you've told Kirk, I gather. The Black Guardian, the Devidians, et cetera. No mention of Kirk or their destinies."
"There is an unexpected wrinkle. Two of them, in fact."
"Oh?" Guinan raised her eyebrow questioningly.
"Someone else reached Kirk first. Gary Seven, of the Argus Project. It was he who relayed most of the information."
"No harm done there, Doctor. Gary knows Kirk well; it should be fitting that he should give Kirk the news."
"But that's not all. Gary was killed by the Devidians before they abducted Spock."
Guinan's eyes went wide. "No!"
"Yes. And what's more, another Argus Project member, Lyta, is on the Enterprise-A now, plotting revenge on the Devidians."
Guinan stood there silent for a moment.
"This is definitely unexpected. What is being done about it?"
"One of the Enterprise crew members, as well as my current companion, are looking after Lyta. I fear that may not be enough. There's something... evil about her, a very familiar evil. And I can't seem to place it."
"Don't worry, Doctor. It'll come to you eventually. Now, you'd better get going. Geordi's waiting for you."
The Doctor nodded, and moved toward the door. Guinan's voice stopped him.
"The 'old friend' you mentioned... Who is it?"
The Doctor looked at Guinan, eyes locking.
"Her name is Ace. She was one of my companions during my last life. She is... very important to me."
"I understand. Don't worry, Doctor. We'll find her, and Data, and all the others, and bring them back."
"I hope so, Guinan, I hope so." The Doctor sighed, and left the conference room.
"Sorry about the delay, Lieutenant Commander. Guinan and I had some things to discuss."
"Of course, Doctor. I understand. And you can call me Geordi." The Doctor nodded as he looked over Geordi's shoulder. "Tell me, what is that strange device you have hooked up to my air sample?"
Geordi smiled. "It's a polaric field inducer, Doctor. Do you know how it works?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. Care to explain?"
"Of course. The way the inducer works is that it uses polaric energy emissions to create a field encompassing your air sample. This is much like how our warp engines use the energy emissions from matter-antimatter reactions, channeled through the dilithium crystals in our warp core, to create a warp field around the ship."
"Hopefully, the polaric field will help us to detect any variances in the triolic radiation spikes you found in the sample. Then, maybe we can track the Devidians using those variances. Make sense?"
"Perfect sense, Geordi. So, what I found is called triolic radiation?"
"Yes. It seems to be some kind of byproduct of the Devidians' interphase activity. You might say it's their calling card."
"Ah. Then, by all means, proceed with the polaric field. I have a feeling we're on borrowed time."
Geordi nodded, and tapped several of the panels on the engineering console. The canister of air that the Doctor had brought with him through time began to glow an eerie yellow color. As the polaric field formed, Geordi looked at the display screen in front of him.
"Okay, the field looks stable. Now, to tweak the frequencies of the polaric emissions that create the field and see what turns up." Geordi tapped on several panels to his right, and the field's color changed, from yellow to orange.
The Doctor looked at it, and hmmed. "Is the color change normal when you modulate the polaric frequencies?"
"Yes, Doctor. The frequency modulation causes the lightwaves around the field to change frequency, making the color change. You are familiar with the red shift effect, Doctor?"
"Of course, Geordi. I just had no idea that it applied to polaric energy frequencies."
Geordi smiled, and looked at the display in front of him. "Hmmm... This is strange."
"What is it, Geordi?"
As the Doctor looked at him questioningly, Geordi walked over to one of the other engineering consoles, and spoke into the air.
"Computer, display the radiation variance pattern for current sample, magnified fifteen times."
After a few seconds, the screen in front of him flashed on, showing them the requested information. Geordi looked at it for a moment, as the Doctor repeated.
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure exactly, Doctor, but I think I've seen this particular pattern of triolic radiation before."
"I said, I'm not sure exactly. I'd like to make sure first before I engage in speculation. Okay?
The Doctor smiled. "Of course. Spoken like a true scientist. Continue."
"Computer, do you still have the triolic radiation sample taken from the cavern underneath San Francisco 2 years ago?"
"Can you create a radiation variance pattern of that sample from the given information in the computer?"
"Then do it. Display on a split-screen next to the current sample, and run a level three correlation computation."
A few seconds later, the screen split, and the information taken from the past sample was shown on the right side of the screen. A red block of light was seen to pass over both sample data, and after a few more seconds, the Enterprise spoke to Geordi and the Doctor.
"Level three correlation computation complete. Previous sample matches current sample with error probability of .65 percent."
"Geordi, what does that mean?"
"Where did you get this sample?"
"I can't tell you..."
"You're going to have to, Doctor. This is important."
The Doctor looked at Geordi, and sighed. Then he whispered, "All right. But not even the Captain must know the exact nature of the information, understand?"
Geordi looked at the Doctor, finally realizing what the Doctor was about to tell him. "It's... from the future, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. Several centuries in the future, in fact. On an uninhabited planetoid called HU 3249."
"Okay, that designation means absolutely nothing to me."
"It shouldn't. It's a Spacefleet designation, used for military operations."
"Spacefleet..." The Doctor held up his hand before Geordi could continue.
"Don't ask. I can't say anything more. I can show you where it is, though."
"No, in my TARDIS. It has an extensive starchart system."
Geordi paused for a moment, then nodded. "Come on, let's go." He reached for a tricorder, and the two left Engineering.
As they entered the main corridor of the Engineering Deck, the Doctor spoke. "Am I correct in assuming that my TARDIS is still in the Cargo Bay where it materialized?"
"Right, Doctor. It hasn't been moved since you arrived. In fact," Geordi allowed himself a small smile, "Worf has had his best security officers keeping watch over it at all times."
"Oh, dear." The Doctor smiled. "He's quite a paranoid, for a Klingon, isn't he?"
"Are you kidding, Doctor? Compared to some of the Klingons I've met in the past seven years, Worf's a creampuff. But, he is the best Security Chief in Starfleet, you can bet on that."
"Why would I want to bet on it, Lieutenant Commander?" Geordi started to answer, then caught the gleam in the Doctor's eye.
"Sometimes, I think Data is teasing all of us like that, only we can't see it."
The Doctor paused for a moment, then smiled. "You might be right at that. I've found in my travels that even the most unassuming beings can hide special gifts."
Geordi looked at the Doctor for a moment, as they entered the Cargo Bay. The Doctor spoke. "Just something to think about, Geordi."
Then Geordi looked in front of him, and there was the TARDIS. He looked at the Doctor, who was already walking toward the box.
"Doctor, it's just a blue box!"
"Actually, it is a perfect replica of the exterior of a English Police Box, circa 1963. But if you think that's grand, wait until you see the inside!" The Doctor beamed with pride as he spoke of his machine.
Geordi protested, as the Doctor pulled out his TARDIS key, and opened the door. "But Doctor, there's no room..."
The Doctor looked at the engineer. "You mean that your VISOR, which can see things that even the ship's sensors can't, tells you that this is an ordinary box, the dimensions of which could not possibly contain what I claim it to?"
The Doctor then grabbed Geordi by the arm, and pulled him into the TARDIS's Console Room. As Geordi stood there, he began to gape. The Doctor smiled.
"Come on, Geordi. No time to gawk; we've got work to do. Although, I think that this experience should, once and for all, prove to you not to always believe what your eyes, as remarkable as they are, tell you."
"What is this place, exactly? And how can it possibly fit into that small box?"
"This, specifically, is the Console Room for my TARDIS, my time machine. As for the reason it, and the rest of my TARDIS, fits into the box, that is because it isn't in the box at all."
"What? You mean we're not inside the box? But, where are we, then?"
"The box is just a shell, Geordi, to hide the interior from the world. We, the Console Room, the entire TARDIS, in fact, is encapsulated inside its own personal dimension."
"And TARDIS stands for..."
"Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. This is one of those relative dimensions."
"That's amazing, Doctor! Tell me... will humanity be able to build something like this, in the future?"
"I can't tell you about the future, Geordi. You should know better than to ask." The Doctor frowned for a moment, then his face lit up again.
"We've got to locate HU 3249 on the starchart, and find its coordinates for this time period. I have a feeling that the key to this entire mess lies there."
"What starchart, Doctor?"
The Doctor didn't look at Geordi, as he twisted several knobs in front of him on the hexagonal console. Then, he flipped a lever, and suddenly, the air above the console was filled with stars. Geordi couldn't help himself; he gasped.
"Now, that's a starchart!"
"Not to worry, Geordi. You'll get one of your own soon enough."
"Never mind. Now, where are those coordinates..." The Doctor looked around the console. "Come on, old girl, help me; I knew you recorded those coordinates somewhere. Show me, please?"
"Doctor, who are you talking to?" The Doctor looked up at Geordi as he spoke.
"My TARDIS, of course. You speak to your ship, call it 'her', even. Why should I be any different? In fact, my ship is very special to me. You might say it's a part of me."
Suddenly, a strip of paper came out of a slot on one of the sides of the console. The Doctor grabbed it and read it.
"This is it, exactly! Well done, old girl!" The Doctor patted the console affectionately, then moved back to where he was, facing Geordi across the console. As the Time Lord began to input the coordinates into the console, Geordi spoke.
"Doctor, what is this in the middle of the console?"
"What? Oh, that's just the Time Rotor. It's what allows the TARDIS to travel through time."
"How does it do that?"
"It channels energy from the Eye of Harmony, which is in fact a piece of a black hole. The energy from the Eye goes into the Rotor, and into the time circuits, which create a temporal displacement field. The field allows the TARDIS to safely travel in the Vortex."
"The Time Vortex, of course." The Doctor didn't notice Geordi's look of utter disbelief as the Time Lord pressed a button, and looked up expectantly. Within a few seconds, a bright dot appeared in the center of the starchart. Geordi looked at it, and paused in thought.
"That's where you got the air sample?"
"Yes. Of course, this starchart is from several centuries in the future..."
"Okay, okay. It just looks familiar, that's all."
"Familiar in what way?"
"I'm still not quite sure... It's as if something keeps blocking me when I get close..."
If the Doctor thought that strange, he said nothing, but looked at Geordi. "Now what?"
Geordi held up his tricorder. "Put this information into your computer, and call up the location on the starchart."
"All right. I hope you know what you're doing." The Doctor looked at the information, and inputted it into the TARDIS console. After a few seconds, another ball of light appeared, a distance away from the first. Geordi frowned.
"I thought I was right... Wait a minute! Did you adjust the starchart to correspond with the fact that my information is from this time period, not the future?"
"No, I didn't! How silly of me; I should have done that automatically! It's this new body; I'm not quite used to it yet." The Doctor pushed a few mor buttons on his console, and then watched with Geordi as the balls of light moved closer together... and then combined into one.
"Damn. I should've realized this immediately."
The Doctor said, "What?" as Geordi left the TARDIS, and with the Time Lord behind him, walked over to the intercom on the wall of the Cargo Bay.
"LaForge to Bridge."
"Bridge, Picard here. Have you and the Doctor discovered anything?"
"Yes, sir, we have. We'll be there shortly, with a full report. LaForge out."
Geordi strode out the door toward the corridor. The Doctor finally spoke as they entered the turbolift at the end of the deck.
"What's going on?"
"Bridge." Geordi looked at the Doctor gravely. "Doctor, you know that planet where you picked up the air sample?"
"Yes, HU 3249. What about it?"
"Well, in this time period, it's known as Devidia II."
*If it hadn't been for that insufferable Doctor's meddling, and the Master's incompetence, I would have completed my objectives by now.* Her objectives, it should be noted, weren't terribly deep, or profound. She quite simply wanted everything she could, and given her genius, that concievably included the entire Universe.
She had tried many times before to achieve her goals, but was twarted each time by either one or the other of the male Time Lords. *As if being male allowed them the liberty to destroy my dreams*, she thought morosely. She remembered her little time-trip to the time of Earth's greatest triumphs, its Industrial Revolution.
Her full intention was to use those great minds, those inventive brains, to complete her plans, and through those plans, sweep through the entire Universe. But, she had not counted on two things. First, that the Doctor, her one true equal, would be at the same place at the same point in history, along with his insufferable companion... Peri, her name was?
*Why did he have to choose female companionship, and inferior human females, at that?*, she thought again, her fury beginning to boil.
*He could have had me... me! His intellectual equal, with the vision and ambition to carry out the grandest plans. With his help, I could have ruled over all!*
She forced herself to calm down, as she pictured the second obstacle to her successes: the Master. She smiled as she thought of his fate.
*Vaporized by the Daleks, on Skaro. A fitting end, you incompetent fool, to be destroyed by a group of... pepperpots! You were too full of grandeur, too drunk with power and lusting for the Doctor's regenerations. A pity you weren't more like the Doctor himself...*
She thought back again, to her last meeting with her foe, on Lakertya. *I wanted the other one, the... sixth life. To exact revenge for the earlier failure on Earth. But, no; he had to go and regenerate on me.* Then she smiled.
*That proved to be an advantage, as I realized that he was dazed and confused over his regeneration. So, I tried to convince him of his rightful place by my side. The only thing I didn't realize was that I had to do it as his other insufferable companion. Mel; ugh, what a name. And those outfits; completely horrendous!*
Her reverie stopped suddenly, as she entered the main control room of the structure. She walked over to the hexagonal console, and pulled several levers. A screen moved into place in front of her, and with the touch of a button, it flickered on. The bright glow illuminated her hardened features, and long red hair.
A few seconds passed, and then she spoke.
"Search team, report."
An image appeared on the screen, that of a group of outcroppings. A voice sounded from the screen.
"Yes, Mistress?" The voice was low and delightedly ominoussounding. She smiled; she had trained them well.
"Have you found our quarry yet?"
"No, Mistress, we have not. But, our scans of this area here", obviously indicating the group of outcroppings, "indicate a decidedly human prescence. One of them was here, Mistress."
"How long ago?"
"Unknown. At best estimate, a day ago."
*We're only a day behind them*, she mused. *Good.*
She mentally cursed the portal technology that allowed her followers to move about in time; it was crude, and primitive, and it had lost track of their targets in transit.
They could be anywhere on this vast planetoid, she knew; the discovery of such a fresh trace of the humans, at least, was a fortunate occurrence. But, she wondered, what of the others?
"Have you any luck finding the android?"
"Not as yet, Mistress. As we discussed before, the radiation envelope that surrounds the planet makes our scans difficult. It also shields the android's energy output signature to some extent. But, rest assured, Mistress, we will find it. And the others, as well."
She pressed on. "The Klingon? The Vulcan?"
"No, not a trace of them, Mistress. They could have landed somewhere else; we have another search team looking for them specifically. Their readings aren't as jumbled by the radiation, thankfully."
"All right, Search Team Leader. Carry on." She flicked a lever, and the picture of the landscape faded away. As the screen moved out of sight, she sat down in her chair, and leaned back.
*Yes, they have been trained well. They were such a shambles when I found them a year and a half ago; depleted of energy, struggling to survive. But, I used my knowledge to save them, and now they are mine. It will be a pity to destroy them.*
She leaned back in her chair, took a deep breath of the recycled air, and coughed slightly.
*Of all the indignities... But it will be well worth it, to see the Doctor dead, whatever his incarnation.*
She closed her eyes, and slowed her breathing rate.
*Now, I should check in on my trusting little spy. See if the Doctor has returned to the 23rd Century. He would have to, eventually; his latest companion, Melissa, is still there. And if there is one thing that is certain about the Doctor, it it that he doesn't like to leave his companions. Normally.*
After a few seconds of searching, she made contact. Her spy's mind was open to the wishes of her Mistress, as always. She sent out a message.
*Lyta, hear the words of your Mistress...*
Lyta was walking through the corridors of the Enterprise-A, clearly bored. The Doctor had obviously found something interesting in the later time period, for he had not returned as yet. Lyta passed by Sickbay, nonchalantly noticing Melissa sittting on her bed. Melissa noticed her, and spoke.
"Lyta, come in, please. I think we should talk."
Lyta looked at Melissa suspiciously for a moment, then must have decided that a few words with the Time Lord's companion wouldn't hurt. She entered the room cautiously, as Melissa waved her over to a chair.
"Sit down. I promise, I won't bite." Melissa smiled, and despite herself, Lyta relaxed slightly. She sat down, thinking, *I should not be angry at her; after all, she is only his traveling companion. It is very likely she has no idea what kind of being he is.*
"How may I help you, Miss Chambers?"
"For starters, cut the formality. I can't stand it, really. Call me Melissa, or even Mel."
Melissa seemed to listen to something for a second, then turned her attention to Lyta. Lyta questioned, "Why did you do that?"
"What? Oh, that. Well, it's sort of a running joke between the Doctor and I. I half-expect him to grimace whenever I ask to be called Mel. I'm not sure why, exactly, though I have found information on one of his past companions, Melanie Bush, who also happened to be called Mel. I wonder what she did that was so horrible that he would make a face at the name?"
"Perhaps this Melanie Bush betrayed him, and he does not like the memory."
Melissa thought about this for a moment, then shook her head. "No, I don't think so. For the most part, what I have been able to get from the Doctor is that he genuinely cared about his companions. Judging by his treatment of me, that appears to be a fair assessment."
"Unless he is hiding something from you..."
Melissa looked at Lyta sharply. "You just don't give up, do you?"
"You never stop finding reasons to take down the Doctor. What did he do to you, anyway?"
"It is not what he did, Miss... Melissa. It is the way his people have treated those who have time-travel abilities. The Time Lords believe that due to the advanced age of thier civilization and thier slightly better, but only slightly, timetravel techniques, they should have a monopoly on time-travel."
"The Time Lords are that strict?"
"Rigid to a fault. The Time Lords have had a habit of interfering in the affairs of other developed worlds. They have done so for millenia."
Melissa thought about this for a moment, then spoke.
"Like what? Can you give examples?"
"You already know of the Doctor's interference of the timeline of the Daleks' home planet, Skaro, I presume?"
"He mentioned blowing the planet up with some kind of thing called the 'Hand of Omega', yes..."
"The Hand of Omega is one of the greatest weapons in the Universe. The Doctor hid the Hand on Earth in order to have it when the time was at hand to destroy the Daleks."
"He told me that he had no choice. The Daleks were after the Hand, and they eventually got it, but it backfired on them, destroying both their fleet on Earth and Skaro. It wasn't his fault; the Daleks did it to themselves."
"Or so the Doctor has led you to believe." Lyta responded tartly.
Melissa folded her hands over her chest and spoke forcefully. "Well, you're going to have to do better than that to convince me that the Doctor is evil."
"I've never said that he was evil. I said that the Doctor is a major member of a dangerously powerful race. Time Lords are isolationist by nature; they will defend that isolationism vehemently. That includes interfering in the histories of other worlds to make sure that they never gain enough power to become a threat."
"And you say that the Doctor is helping the Time Lords?"
"Sometimes, yes. Even though he is considered a renegade for his spirited defense of primitive worlds, especially Earth, the Time Lords have used his services on occasion. In fact, he was once the Lord President of Gallifrey for several centuries, even though he never actually remained on the planet to assume the position."
"I'm sorry, but nothing you have said so far has changed my belief in the Doctor."
"I did not expect to do so, Melissa. I merely wanted you to know these facts about the Doctor and the Time Lords. You may find need of them someday."
The two women were silent for a moment, then Melissa spoke. "You know that the Doctor and the crew of this ship don't trust you at all. They see you as some kind of overzealous revengemonger. Tell me truthfully, Lyta; would you kill to avenge Gary Seven's death?"
Lyta was silent for a moment, a long moment, then she spoke softly.
"Yes, I would."
"But, why? Surely killing the Ancient Shadows won't solve anything..."
Lyta looked at Melissa sharply. "But it will, Melissa. It will ensure that those... murdering leeches will not harm any other lifeform, including humanity, ever again."
"You see, Gary Seven, as well as myself, were born on Earth. We were the only ones out of the entire Argus Project to come from Earth, and because of that, we felt a unique kinship toward our home planet."
"When we heard about the Ancient Shadows' attacks on Earth's history, we felt personally threatened, out of love for our people. I wanted to strike against them, but Gary Seven was able to convince me then that violence was not the answer. He sought to rally the forces of the White Guardian in an attempt at diplomacy." She spit out the last word as if it were a curse.
"And what happened?"
"At the time, the White Guardian felt that the Ancient Shadows had done nothing to provoke any response, diplomatic or otherwise. Gary Seven saw the rising power of the Ancient Shadows, before even the White Guardian. He actually witnessed an earlier event in 1880's Earth where a group from the future was able to barely dispell an invasion force of Ancient Shadows."
"Buoyed by this, he asked the White Guardian for a chance to reach a peace with the Ancient Shadows. The Guardian agreed, but before anything could be implemented, the Ancient Shadows began their kidnappings. Instead of a peaceful venture, the White Guardian asked Gary Seven to implement a rescue plan."
"His death was the result. And now, I will implement a different plan... one of death!"
She said this so forcefully that it suddenly hit Melissa:
*I originally thought that it was just an emotional response to Gary Seven's death. But it's not; she's deadly serious about this. She'll kill the Ancient Shadows... and anyone who gets in her way. I've got to tell Captain Kirk, make him aware of this. And the Doctor, too, when he gets back... Oh, Doctor, where are you?*
In Lyta's mind, the voice of her Mistress echoed in her head.
*Report! Has the Doctor returned?*
*No, Mistress, he has not. But I believe his companion...*
The voice of the Mistress cut Lyta off in mid-thought.
*Do not trouble yourself with the companion. She is of no consequence; they always are. Just remember your mission.*
Faithfully, like some kind of wooden soldier, the words sprang from Lyta's mind.
*My mission is to lure the Doctor to his doom.*
She didn't know how she knew, but Lyta could somehow sense her Mistress was smiling evilly. It scared her.
*Mistress, will I still get my revenge on the Ancient Shadows?*
*Of course, my dear. Once the Doctor is completely destroyed, the fate of the Ancient Shadows will be yours to decide.*
Lyta's mind remained silent for a moment, then a thought came to her.
*Why will you not reveal yourself to me, Mistress? I do not know who you are...*
*And it is not your business to know! You are getting your revenge, sweet as it is, and that is all you need to know. Do you understand, or should I make it clearer for you?*
Suddenly, a lancing pain lanced through Lyta's thoughts. She thought frantically, *I understand, Mistress, I understand! I will not ask you again! Just make the pain stop!*
The pain stopped, and Lyta could sense the Mistress' smile again. Pure evil.
*Now, take care that you don't forget that, my dear. As well as your mission; keep to it, and you will get your prized revenge.*
Lyta felt the prescence recede from her mind, and she turned her attention back to Melissa...
Melissa was broken out of her reverie by the sound of a strangled shout. She looked at Lyta, who appeared to her to be contorted in pain.
"Lyta, are you all right?"
An uneasy moment passed. Lyta's face returned to normal, and she looked with ice-cold eyes at Melissa.
"I am fine, Miss Chambers. Do not trouble yourself with me. You should be worrying about your dear Doctor. He could be in the hands of the Ancient Shadows right now. And believe me... the experience will not be pleasureable. Excuse me..."
As Lyta left the room, Melissa looked at her, shocked.
*The Doctor? In the hands of the Ancient Shadows... Oh, no...*
With that horrifying thought gripping her mind, Melissa lay back on the bed and sobbed softly.
*Please, Doctor, come back to me... I need you.*
"I am Spock, and I have come to help."
Spock looked at Harriman evenly, as the younger man stammered under the Vulcan's prescence.
"Yes, sir. Of course, sir."
Ace smiled to herself. *Boy, this Spock character must be some kind of Starfleet bigwig, to be able to instill that kind of reaction in a jerk like Harriman. Good for him.*
Data looked at Spock, and raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, Captain Spock."
Spock looked at Data curiously, but returned the salute. "Live long and prosper..."
"Lieutenant Commander Data, sir. USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D."
Spock nodded. "Of course. From the future; I deduced as much from the clothing. And these are..."
Data raised his hand and gestured to Kahless. "This is the honorable Kahless, Emperor of the Klingon Empire."
Spock nodded at Kahless, who said nothing. But his stare grew hard, as if he was expecting trouble from the new arrival.
"It is a pleasure, Emperor. I have read a great deal of your exploits." Spock looked at Ace, who, surprisingly enough, fidget nervously. *Crikes, he looks at me like the Professor, when he's about to explain something to me. I feel like a kid caught after school.*
Data must have noticed her reaction, as he spoke. "This is Ace."
Spock said nothing, but his eyebrow went up. This made Ace even more nervous, as she coughed slightly, as she spoke. "My real name is Dorothy, sir. But I would really rather be called Ace, if you don't mind, sir."
Spock nodded, and seemed... bemused by Ace's discomfiture. "Ace it is, then. And there is no need to be formal; you are not under my command. You may call me Spock."
Ace seemed to relax a little, as she spoke again.
"If I may ask, what are you? I mean, Data's an android, and Kahless's a Klingon..."
"I am a Vulcan. You have not heard of us?"
"No, Spock. You see, I seem to be a little time-lost... again."
"You are from the future, as well, then?"
"Well, not exactly. When the Devidians picked me up, I was in the future, but I'm originally from the past."
"Ah. And how did you get from the past to the future?"
"First, a timestorm brought me to a planet called Iceworld, and then the Professor took me around a bit. He's really called the Doctor, you see, and..."
Harriman cut her off. "Why do we have to listen to this mindless drivel? It certainly look like she has nothing to contribute..."
"You bog off, you cowardly little scumbag!"
"Why, you-" Harriman was cut off by Spock's stare. The Vulcan turned to Ace, who was staring at Harriman, fire in her eyes.
"I agree with Mister Data; we must learn all we can about our extenuating circumstances before we can formulate a plan of action. Unfortunately, we also have a greater concern."
"And what is that?" Kahless moved into a battle position.
"No, Emperor, not enemies. The climate. It has gotten progressively colder in the past several minutes. We must find shelter from the cold for the night. I know that Emperor Kahless is hardy enough to stand it, and Mister Data, as an android, is not affected by extreme cold..."
"But we humans don't take kindly to being popsicles." Ace finished for him, a bemused smile on her face. "What about you, Spock?"
"Vulcans cannot stand extremes; they are even more susceptible than humans." Data said, and Spock nodded. Ace spoke.
"Right, then. So, first order is to find shelter; then what? Find some way to keep warm, right?"
"Correct. And I saw some kind of cave behind me." Harriman pointed in the way he and Kahless had come.
"Then that is where we shall go. I will take the lead; my night vision is more acute. Then Mister Harriman, Mister Data, and Ace. Emperor, you will guard the rear." Kahless nodded, pleased with his role.
They set off, and after a couple of indecisive moves by Harriman, they found the cave. They looked around, and not spying any animals lying in wait, went inside.
They stopped a few feet inside the cave, and Data looked at Ace. "May I have your weapon, Ace?"
"Sure, although I'm not sure what you're going to use it for."
Data looked over the blaster, and hmmed softly. Ace smiled. *Between Data and Spock, the Professor would have a time, if he were here. I hope you can, Doctor, because... you're the only one who can.*
"So, Data, come up with any gems?"
"Hmmm? Oh, yes. I have an idea as to how to use this weapon effectively."
Data gathered several rocks, and placed them in a pile in the middle of thier area of the cave. He pointed the blaster at the pile, and fired.
The rocks soon glowed with heat energy... and warmth. Ace smiled.
"Wicked magnificent, Data. You're a veritable idea fountain."
"Thank you, Ace, but it is a standard Starfleet survival technique."
Spock spoke. "I would now suggest that we get some rest."
"What are we going to do tomorrow?"
"That is simple, Ace. We are going to find these Devidians that have kidnapped us, and attempt to get home."
"Sounds good to me." Ace laid down on the ground, as the other humanoids prepared for sleep. She looked at Data.
"What about you, Data? Oh, that's right; you probably don't need sleep, do you?"
Data looked at her. His amber eyes seemed to shine, illuminated by the soft light generated by the rocks.
"No, I do not, Ace. I will keep watch."
"Okay, suit yourself. But," she added softly, "if you *do* get tired..." She smiled flirtatiously.
"I... see, Ace. Good night."
"Good night." As she fell into unconsciousness, she mentally reviewed what she had said. *Oh, Gods, I must have been crazy to flirt with him like that. I mean, he's not even human...* Then she reviewed her earlier comment, when they had met. *He does look human, though... very human, indeed.*
With that thought, and Data's image in her head, she smiled as she fell asleep.
*It might be exciting, that...*
She raised her voice a few decibels and shouted, in a tone designed to carry over distance, "Data? Are you here, Data? Anybody here? Kahless? Spock? Anybody?" When no answer came except the slight whisper of the wind, Ace became a little worried. She looked around again, ever the soldier, searching for possible ambush spots. There were none to be found; the outcropping was completely open. As she looked around, she finally noticed, as if an afterthought, the beauty of the place.
*This is great. Warm, slight breeze, peaceful... and no one around for miles, especially that jerk Harriman. But, why am I here and no one else?* As she thought this, other thoughts began to crowd her mind.
*Is this a trick? An illusion of some kind, created by the Devidians to drop my guard?* On a whim, she kneeled down and felt the grass beneath her feet. *Seems rather solid to me*, she thought with a smile. *Haven't seen a place this unspoiled since...*
She let her thought trail off as she spied something in the grass near her feet. Reaching over to her right, she picked around in the grass for a moment, intently searching for what had caught her eye. After this moment of searching, she found her quarry; a small, flat wafer-like object, rather like a necklace, with a strap attached to it.
She turned it over, the sunlight glinting off of the silver surface, until she saw the intricate design on the back. It was like some kind of connect-the-dots puzzle, she noticed wryly, with grooved lines bringing together small circular indentations. The indentations sparkled, like little mirrors embedded inside. It was then, suddenly, that Ace's mind, clouded by years of distrust and fury, allowed her to remember what the object was.
*The TARDIS key! The same damn key the Doctor gave me...* She looked around at the surroundings, this time with a much more critical eye than the previous two sweeps of the area. This time, she was trying not to look for ambush, but for recognition within her own mind. Then, in an instant, it came to her.
"Heaven..." She muttered softly. *I'm on Heaven, again. The Doctor's gone, I'm left holding the bag, and the only thing to keep me company are my wits and even those are rattled by Jan's death. Why did he have to leave me here, with nothing? Didn't he see that I still wanted to go with him, even in spite of what he had done, simply because I had grown used to, dependent on him?*
Ace stood up, and looked out over the horizon, into the fastapproaching sunset, as her thoughts continued unabated.
*Even after Jan, I still needed the Doctor to help me put the pieces back together, just like after Fenric. Only this time, he didn't put his hand on my shoulder and tell me everything was going to be all right... he did the one thing I never expected him to do. He took all my anger, all my bottled-up rage over what had happened, to Jan, to me, to my life, and left me. I needed him more then than I'd ever needed anyone, and he bailed.*
Ace frowned at the memory, even as the sun continued its fiery and majestic decent past the point where the pale blue of the lake met the now-orange sky. If she wasn't so preoccupied by the pain of her memories, she would have enjoyed the fantastic sunset. But at that point, she was beyond caring.
*Couldn't he understand that I was more afraid than angry? I mean, I've never seen anything so... hideous than what had happened to Jan and the other Travellers, and I was frightened. And, of course, I can't face my fears, so I lash out. As for Jan... Poor Jan. I wonder if I was ever in love with him at all, the way I shrank away from what he had become...*
Ace's silent reverie was interrupted by a slight, almost unnoticeable whispering noise. If Ace hadn't paused, she might not have noticed it at all. As it stood, she did notice, and she began to tense, as the whispering noise came closer, became a more readily identifiable rustle of leaves.
*Someone, here? But who?* Against everything she had been taught about an approaching enemy, Ace decided to risk boldness over discretion. She whispered softly, "Hello? Who's there?" Then after a pause, she continued, "Data? Spock? Is that you?"
Then, still no reply save the ever-closer rustling of the leaves at the edge of the forest some hundred yards away. She had overlooked the spot before, as she really wasn't expecting ambush, but her training had made her cautious enough to risk a cursory glance. She hastily began to regret her decision, and crept closer, determined to find the source of the commotion.
As a thought entered her head, Ace decided to try something. She called out, a little louder and clearer, "Benny? Professor? Is that you?" *Hey, if this is Heaven, they are the most likely nominees, aren't they?*, she thought to herself, justifying her choice of words. Then Ace stopped her advance short, as she realized that the rustling of the leaves had stopped.
Still curious, Ace decided to chance finding whatever was in the forest, and take a look for herself. The forest seemed to envelop her almost immediately, as if it had somehow expanded to take her in. As she went further inside, she smelled something very strange. She stopped a moment, and took a deep breath.
*Well, whatever it is, it isn't the fresh smell of forest growth...* She thought acidly, and then the true nature of the smell hit her. *This place, this entire forest, smells of decay, of death. Oh, God, what have I gotten into?*
Ace began to turn back, the way she had come, to escape the dark, dank forest. But, as she did so, she noticed something. *None of the trees seem to be changed, yet, somehow, they have, I know it. I can sense it.* She began to move in the opposite direction of the way she had come, expecting to reenter the grassy glade overlooking the lake. But, as the minutes spent walking stretched on, Ace could swear that the forest just kept on going, further and further ahead of her.
*This is impossible! I know I didn't walk this much when I entered the forest, so how can I walk so long and not seem to get anywhere? This is well weird.* Ace stopped short, trying to discover the mystery behind her surroundings, when she heard it.
It wasn't very loud, or very long, but Ace could definitely hear it. Her hearing, indeed her entire body, was sharpened now by both her training and the absurdity of the situation. She spun around in a circly, trying to track the sound, but it seemed to be coming from all around her. Ace finally decided to continue moving ahead.
As she moved further and further along, the trees still seemed to keep pace, as if Ace wasn't really going anywhere at all. But not that she really noticed; she was only concentrating on the sound; when she heard it again, a little louder and clearer than before, she tried to make it out.
*It sounds like a whisper... or a strangled cry. Maybe someone's in trouble!* She now increased her pace to a jog, as she moved again in the direction she thought the sound was coming from. A few seconds later, she heard it again; it definitely sounded like a cry of anguish to her ears. She speeded up again, so that now she was almost running. A half-minute later, the sound happened again, much louder, but still more or less indistinct.
It didn't matter to Ace; at that volume, she reasoned, whoever made the sound was right on top of her. And it was just then, as she made that determination, that she heard the leaves behind her rustle. She turned around, hoping to see whoever had made the sound that was drawing her almost like a siren's call. She saw the leaves rustle, and then part. A figure came out of the gloom; Ace supposed it to be humanoid, as it looked to be standing up straight. As the figure came out of the shadow, the light began to illuminate its features. It was definitely human, a man. Tall and thin, Ace saw, then gasped. The face was gaunt and sallow, remarkably unsurprising but for the green fungus growing on the side of his face, as if it was eating away at the skin and flesh. The figure curled his lips into the semblance of a smile, and Ace looked, wide-eyed, as she finally placed the figure. Even before it had spoken, she knew who it was.
"Aaacccceee...." The figure moaned in a drawn-out monotone, like the monster in some bad horror movie. But it was no movie, and Ace was practically in tears, tears of shame and fright.
*Oh, oh God, Jan... This is what you look like, what the virus did to you. I didn't want to leave you, but I was scared, and I ran. Oh, I'm sorry...*
With tears coming down her face, she watched in shock as the figure suddenly raised his hands, badly deformed by the same fungus-like growth, and began to stumble toward her. Ace began to move away, sheer fright galvanizing her into action. She had gotten no more than a few feet before something- a root, she guessed- tripped her. Falling to the ground, she turned around to see the hideous figure of a man she once loved bearing down on her, coming ever closer, closer to her...
Ace did the one thing she never thought she would ever do, the one thing that by not doing, had set her apart from all of the other companions of the Doctor. She screamed, in fright and agony, from the top of her lungs and the depths of her heart. Ace screamed her head off...
Ace sat up in the cave, a slight cry escaping from her lip. She looked around warily, wondering if anyone had heard her. Someone had; Data looked up from whatever he was doing, and turned to face her. His voice, even in a whisper, carried a melodious quality that Ace found very relaxing.
"Ace, are you all right? I heard you cry out..."
As she looked at him, his face still crowned in the now-lowering light of the super-heated rocks, she was suddenly struck by something she would have never imagined. A feeling of peace. *I haven't felt like this since I was with the Doctor.*, she realized with a start.
"I'm fine, Data. Really; I just had a bad dream..." She shivered, partly from cold and partly from the dream's eerie feelings. Data nodded.
"I can understand your discomfort. I have had several very bad dreams myself, and I am never quite the same immediately afterward."
"Hold on a second... you have dreams? And just when I thought you couldn't surprise me any more than you already have... I didn't think it possible."
"The dreaming process within me came as a result of a premature evolution of my programming. I was accidentally hit with an unusual beam during an experiment, and it somehow activated a previously unknown area of my subconscious programming structure."
"That's cool, Data. But, if you don't mind, I'd like to change the subject. The dream I had was something I definitely don't want to continue thinking about." She moved over to where Data was sitting.
"What are you working on, anyway?"
Data looked down. "As you know, your weapon is extremely useful to us, both as a source of continued heating energy and as a defensive tool."
"Yeah, yeah. But it's almost out of power."
"I am trying to correct that difficulty."
"Look here, Ace." Ace looked at what he was doing. Data was poking around at wires from his exposed arm and was working them into what appeared to be the energy reserve on the Spacefleet blaster.
"You're using your own circuitry to repair the blaster! But, how exactly?"
"These", he pointed with his free hand to the exposed wiring in his left forearm, "are energy induction wires that are connected to the servo-circuitry that moves my arm, hand, and fingers. I have a theory that I can use these induction wires to transfer energy from my own power source to the energy reserve battery on your weapon."
"But won't that drain you?" Ace asked worriedly.
"I have studied the battery's energy capacity extensively, and I do not believe a substantial loss of energy will occur."
"By the way, what makes you work, anyway? I doubt you have have a battery charger in your quarters."
"No, Ace, I do not. I function through a variety of methods, most particularly a trilithium battery pack stored in my chest and several small bioelectric storage packets found throughout my body."
"Bioelectric? You mean, organic material?"
"Yes, I do eat on occasion in order to convert the food to energy that is stored in the bioelectric packets. The packets really only act as a reserve power source; the trilithium battery provides most of my energy needs."
"Trilithium? I've never heard of it."
"Trilithium is a very stable artificial element, compounded and derived in part by the dilithium that starships use to power their warp engines. Its stable structure, as well as the largely controllable energy output created by contact with catalysts and its ability to regenerate, makes it a very useful element for small-grade power production."
"Like your batteries."
"Precisely." As he spoke, he fitted the last wire into the battery pack of the blaster. Ace noticed that he was using a small set of tools. "You carry tools around with you?"
"Yes. Several years ago, I was injured on a planet, and I was forced to use several crude tools to repair my very delicate positronic circuitry. After that experience, I resolved to carry a set of microtools inside a specially designed storage compartment embedded into my upper left shoulder." He pointed to a hatch.
"Now, then, let us see if my theory is successful." He paused for a moment, then began to wiggle the fingers of his left hand.
Ace looked on, incredulous. "Why do you do that?"
"Because the movements of my fingers activates the servo-circuitry..."
"Which, due to your jury-rigging, are now feeding the power used to move your fingers into the power batter of the blaster."
"Only a small part of the power, but yes, that is correct." After a few more seconds of wiggling his fingers, he stopped, and disconnected the induction wires from the blaster's power battery.
"Ace, would you check to make sure that there is sufficient energy stored in the power battery while I reconnect the induction wires to my servo-circuits?"
"Righty-o, Data." Ace smiled as she took a look at the power gauge. "It's at almost 3/4 power. Not great, but it'll have to do."
"To risk putting any more power into the battery could cause it to explode. The trilithium-derived energy is close to the blaster's normal energy signature, but the gamma frequency is slightly lower, I was able to determine."
"You mean, like putting diesel fuel into a gasoline engine... It'll run for a little while, but then it'll ruin your motor. Cool." Ace fingered the blaster, and smiled. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again; you, Lieutenant Commander Data, are a veritable idea fountain."
"Thank you, Ace. Now, I think you should get some more sleep. We have a very important day ahead of us tomorrow."
"Don't I know it. Good night, Data." As Ace settled in again, and fell asleep, she thought resolutely, *Yeah, it's an important day tomorrow. It's going to be the day that the Professor finds us and takes us all home, I just know it.*
Picard's reverie was broken by the sound of the ensign at the helm position in front of him.
"Yes, Ensign McKnight?"
"We are now in orbit around Devidia Two, sir."
"Thank you, Ensign. Mister Worf, would you call the rest of the senior staff together for a conference? The Doctor and Guinan as well; it's about time we got some kind of rescue plan together."
"Yes, sir." Worf punched buttons on his communications console to carry out the order, while Picard walked to the right side of the bridge, and through a door. A few seconds later, he entered the conference room. He walked to the
large windows covering one side of the room, and looked out into the depths of space. A few seconds of waiting, and the yellowish orb that was Devidia Two came into view.
As he saw the planet again, Picard could not contain his feelings of anger and dread. *I thought they were finally defeated... or that they would find some other type of energy for their needs. But now they've returned, with a more far-reaching plan. Will I have to kill them now, in order to save the past and future of Earth? Can I do such a thing?*
Suddenly, Picard heard a cough behind him. He turned to see the entire senior staff (except for Data, of course) seated at the table. The Doctor and Guinan were sitting at the far end of the table, looking at Picard. The Doctor spoke.
"Thinking of the past, Captain, or the future?"
"Both. I had really hoped that it wouldn't have to come to this. But they had to come back, with an even more complex plan to serve their needs. I just wish there was some way to help them."
"Help them? But, sir, they-"
"Mister Worf, the Devidians are just trying to survive, like we are. It is unfortunate that they have such a specific and potentially dangerous taste. But, never mind that; our first priority is to Data and the others who have been taken. Suggestions?"
"I find it hard to believe that the Devidians have come back here, sir. I mean, we trashed it good last time."
"Yes, I know. But it is still the most likely place to begin the search."
The Doctor and Geordi looked at each other. They were still the only ones who knew that the air sample that the Doctor had taken from Ace's disappearance had come from a future Devidia Two. They weren't going to volunteer that information, either; all they had told Picard was that they had found evidence of triolic radiation in the sample, which, of course, directly implicated the Devidians in Ace's kidnapping.
"So, what are we are going to do now?" Riker was impatient.
"Number One, you are going to lead an away team to the caverns where we first encountered the Devidians two years ago. You will once again create a phased-energy field and search for evidence of activity by the Devidians since our departure."
"What are we to do if we find evidence? Wait until they activate their portal and do it all over again?"
"No. If evidence is found, and a portal can be created, I will do it." It was the Doctor who spoke now, and everyone was taken by surprise.
"Doctor, I can't in good conscience allow you to put yourself into such a dangerous situation..."
"You don't have to worry, Captain. I can't completely explain, but I will take the risk. And so will you."
"Now, wait just a minute, Doctor..."
"Will, don't argue with the man- sorry, Time Lord. I've known that I was going to have to accompany the Doctor since the beginning. It's... expected."
"Yes, Commander. It is Captain Picard's destiny to accompany my on this mission, as it is the destiny of one other, who I will not reveal at this time."
Riker looked at Picard, then at the Doctor, and realized that he wasn't going to win this argument. He nodded, and stood.
"Geordi, Deanna, and the Doctor will come with me. If we may go..."
"Of course, Number One. I have a feeling that we don't have much time left to us. Everyone is dismissed."
As the group filed out of the conference room, Beverly held back. Picard turned to look at her.
"I wish you didn't have to go, Jean-Luc..."
"I know, Beverly. But as the Doctor said, it is my destiny." He gave Beverly's hand a squeeze, and impulsively kissed her on the cheek.
"And who am I to argue with destiny?"
As he left the conference room, Beverly looked after him, and let out a small sigh. *I will never be able to change the man, no matter how hard I try.* Then she let out a slight smile. *And I wouldn't have him any other way, either.*
"All right, everyone, you know what to do." Each of the group members went off in a different direction. They would go off for a few moments, stop, and plant the device they were holding down in the cavern floor. After checking to make sure the purchase was steady, each pulled the top of their respective devices up.
A blue ring around the top of the device could be clearly seen, and as the Doctor pulled the top of his device up, a thin blue line could also be seen, extending from each of the devices in turn, creating a blue ring. The group gathered together in the center, and the Doctor spoke.
"Geordi, are you sure this phased-energy field will allow us to see the Devidians and thier portal?"
"It worked last time, Doctor. Still, it wouldn't hurt to cross your fingers, though."
"Why on Gallifrey would I cross my fingers? Does it have some kind of religious significance?"
Geordi looked at the Doctor incredulously, as Riker and Troi smiled. "You're joking again, right?"
"Geordi, I am a Time Lord, and Time Lords rarely joke. But on the other hand," the Doctor smiled at this, "I have never been called a typical Time Lord. Proceed."
Geordi nodded, and tapped some commands into his tricorder, and a few seconds later, the cavern took on a bluish hue. After a brief second of study, Geordi announced, "That's as good as I'm going to get, Commander. Remember, this is fine work."
"Okay, then; let's get to it. The Captain will want a report."
The group split up again, looking around the cavern again, this time for evidence of recent Devidian activity. A few minutes later, they regrouped.
"There's no signs of any Devidians, or their energy storage globes, Commander." Deanna spoke, looking at the group.
"All right, Deanna. Geordi, anything from the tricorder?"
"Nothing that I can make out..."
"Can I see that tricorder, Geordi?" Geordi handed over the instrument to the Doctor, who proceeded to scan the area. After a few seconds of this, he punched some commands into the tricorder, and scanned again. He looked at the disply screen, and 'hmmm'ed matter of factly, as he handed the tricorder back to Geordi.
"See those alpha wave patterns, Geordi?"
"Sure, I... wait a second!" He scanned the area, and punched some more commands into the tricorder.
"What is it, Geordi?" Riker wanted to know.
"The Doctor's on to something, I think. Geordi pointed the tricorder out in front of him. "The alpha waves are more or less flat-lined throughout the cavern, except for here." The chief engineer walked over to a spot some ten feet in front of them, and turned to face the away team.
"I still don't get it, Geordi..."
"Does this spot look familiar to you?"
Riker thought for a moment, was about to say no, then stopped.
"Wait! Isn't that where..."
Geordi nodded, a wry grin coming to his face. "It's exactly the spot where the portal two years ago appeared."
Deanna spoke. "So, does that mean that the Devidians have returned to using this cavern as a base? That doesn't really make sense. For one thing, those storage globes aren't here."
"That's true, Counselor." The Doctor thougth for a moment, and then replied, "Perhaps they are still using this cavern, but only as a stopping point, a waystation, if you will, to enter this time period."
"That does seem like a better theory. So, now what do we do?"
The Doctor grinned. "'We', Commander? I don't think so. We're returning to the Enterprise so I can collect your Captain. Then, the two of us are going to pick up my companion and the other members of our little band from the earlier time period I spoke of."
"And then what?"
The Doctor grew very serious, and spoke almost in a whisper.
"Then, Commander, we're going Devidian hunting."
"Away Team to Transporter Room One."
A moment's pause, and a young man's voice issued from the communicator pin.
"This is Lieutenant Barclay, Commander."
The Doctor, looking on, noticed that this seemed to catch the Enterprise first officer by surprise, as he spoke, "Barclay? What are you doing there? I thought Ensign Holman was on duty."
"Lieutenant Commander LaForge asked me to run a diagnostic on the Transporter relays while you were on the surface, to make sure none of the important circuitry was affected by the triolic radiation. Sir.", he added sheepishly.
Riker looked at Geordi, who nodded and smiled. "There hasn't been much for him to do in Engineering, with the Gurien System being mostly a scientific endeavour. He's been getting that itch again, Commander."
"What? Oh, *that* itch. Well, must keep him busy then. Good idea, Geordi. Lieutenant, could you beam us up, please?"
"Certainly, sir. One moment..." Another pause, and then, "Energizing now."
Before the eyes of the Away Team, the Devidian cavern vanished, to be replaced a moment later by the muted colors of the Transporter Room. The figures of the group remained still in place for a brief instant, and then moved as if coming out of a deep sleep. They stepped off of the pad, and Riker moved toward Barclay, who was fidgeting nervously.
"Thank you, Reg. Are you finished with the diagnostics yet?"
"Not-not yet, sir. Almost... another half-hour at most."
"Good. After that, I wouldn't mind it if you help Lieutenant Commander LaForge run a level three diagnostic on the computer function relays. We might get into some trouble here, and I want to make sure the computer is working up to speed. Okay?"
"Sure thing, Commander. Thank you."
"Carry on, Lieutenant. Doctor, Geordi, Deanna", he nodded to each in turn, "I'll go on to the Bridge. I'll let the Captain know that he's required, Doctor."
"Thank you, Commander. Time is of the essence. I will be in the Cargo Bay, running final checks on the TARDIS circuits. If you wouldn't mind, Counselor, I could use the company." He bowed gallantly at the exotic Betazoid, who smiled.
"I would be honored to accompany you to your machine, Doctor."
As Riker left the room, Geordi spoke. "If you want me to come with you, Doctor..."
"Oh, no, Geordi, that's all right. You run that diagnostic, or whatever the Commander wants you to do. We'll be all right." With another quick nod to the two engineers, the Doctor and Deanna left the Transporter Room and headed down the corridor toward the lift.
As they reached the lift, the doors obligingly opened, and Deanna and the Doctor stepped through. As the doors closed, Deanna called out, 'Cargo Bay Two, please." As the lift sped on its way, the Couselor turned to the Time Lord.
"What's bothering you, Doctor?"
The Doctor looked at Deanna, surprised. "What do you mean?" They locked eyes for a moment, and then the Doctor sighed. "You're right. Something is bothering me. How did you know?"
"Your alien mental ablities make it difficult for me to read you effectively, I'll admit. Luckily, I also have skills that don't require empathic senses... like the ability to read body language. Ever since the last conference, you've been very tense, withdrawn."
"I have, I admit. I just don't know..."
"Why don't you talk about it? It might help to get it out in the open."
"You must understand, I may not be typical of my race, but if there's one thing I share with the rest of the Time Lords is the reticence to share my feelings. This is very difficult..."
"I understand completely, Doctor. I promise that nothing we discuss will reach anyone else on this ship."
"Thank you, Deanna. It's just that I 'm anxious about going on, and finding Ace."
"My former companion. She traveled with my previous self. I'm not sure how to explain this... when we parted, it was very bitter. She was very upset at me, and with good reason. You see, I took someone that was very important to her..."
"A man?" The Doctor nodded.
"I took this man she had developed feelings for, and subverted him and those he trusted. I put him directly into danger, and contributed to his eventual demise, because I thought it would benefit the Universe as a whole."
"My previous self was like that, Deanna. He was cold, cruel, manipulative... anything it would take to get the job done. Looking back on it now, in my present, more... sensitive state, I wonder how I could ever be that bad."
Deanna thought for a moment, and spoke.
"Doctor, based on what you've told us about your travels, you tend to rely on your companions a great deal. Maybe, deep down, you didn't want Ace to leave because then you'd be alone."
The Doctor thought for a moment, and nodded. "That may be so. But it still remains that he, or rather, I did that, and it tore Ace apart, hurt her more deeply than I ever imagined, and then she left me."
"I've noticed that you talk like your previous versions are not really you, but separate people."
The Doctor thought about this for a moment, and nodded.
"In a way, they are. I guess you could say that each of my previous versions are different parts of my personality taking center stage. Sometimes, it's not so bad; my third self, for example, was quite the technical wizard. But, other times, like my sixth self, who was a little crazy, and my seventh self, who was this cold, manipulative person..."
The Doctor paused, as if he was gathering the strength to go on, and continued.
"It can be the worst thing in the universe, to have someone like that with so much power. I've often wondered why I have so many totally different incarnations. It might have something to do with the circumstances of regeneration. I'm unique, among Time Lords, in that all of my regenerations have taken place under very extreme duress, and that duress may have a direct impact on these splits in personality."
"And you're worried about Ace because she thinks that your earlier self, the seventh Doctor, is coming to get her?"
"I think so... at least, that's the feeling I got when she was taken. That in her mind, the "Professor"--that's what she called me when we were traveling-- was the only person who could save her."
"And once she finds out that you've regenerated again?"
"I don't know how she will react. She might accept it and not cause too much of a fuss. But, knowing Ace as I do, she'll more than likely not have anything to do with me, since I've changed so much. And that could be a problem, for both of us."
"Well, this is a most interesting situation...", Deanna said, as the lift doors opened, and the counselor and the Time Lord entered the cargo bay.
"But I think you're thinking about it too much. Let things happen as they will... and have a little faith in Ace's ability to adapt, and forgive you for what you've done. Things will work out, I'm sure of it."
The Doctor smiled. "Thank you, Deanna. I guess i just needed someone to tell me that, an outside voice to let me know that I should stop worrying. I appreciate it."
The Doctor looked at his time machine, and waved his hand toward the TARDIS. "Now, then, Counselor Troi, would you like to enter my wondrous time machine?"
"Again, I would be honored, Doctor." Deanna smiled, and entered the TARDIS. The Doctor spoke. "I must warn you, though, Deanna..."
Inside the TARDIS, a gasp was heard, and a exclaimed, "Oh, my goodness!"
"...it's not what you expect." The Time Lord smiled again, as he entered his time machine.
"Hello, Commander Uhura."
Uhura turned around in her chair and smiled at Melissa. "Hello, Melissa. It's good to see you again. You're feeling better, I see."
"Yeah, Doctor McCoy says I've recovered from the time lag enough to move around the ship. He even tofd me that it shouldn't happen again; the Doctor told him that the TARDIS would help me acclimate to each time period as we arrive."
"The TARDIS? The Time Machine, you mean?"
"Yes. It is really a wonderful piece of machinery. The Doctor talks to it as if it's alive... and from what I've seen lately, I think I'm starting to believe him." Melissa smiled. "Where is everybody?"
"You mean the command crew? Captain Kirk is in his study, trying to relax. Scotty is in Engineering, keeping an eye on the engines. Lieutenant Saavik is in meditation, hoping, I think, to contact Spock telepathically..."
"She can do that?"
"I don't know, and frankly, neither does she. But, Spock is half-Vulcan, and as such, is susceptible to telepathic probing. Saavik figured it was worth a shot."
"Half-Vulcan? I didn't know that."
"Yeah, his mother is human. HIs father is Sarek, the great Ambassador to Vulcan. He's getting ready to retire, though; he's quite old, even for a long-lived race like the Vulcans, though not quite as old as your Doctor." Uhura smiled briefly, then continued.
"Spock has been seriously considering taking over for his father when we return to Earth for decommissioning."
Melissa looked shocked. "You mean, this ship is on its last legs? Doesn't look it to me. In fact, it's the most amazing thing outside of the TARDIS that I've ever seen."
Uhura smiled grimly. "Yeah, well, nost of us think so, too. And the Captain isn't quite ready to let the ship go into mothballs just yet, which is why he's so anxious for the Doctor to get back. He's hoping that the Enterprise can get one last shot in before the end. And of course, everybody's trying to keep their thoughts from betraying the hopelessness of the situation..." Uhura couldn't keep the pain out of her voice, and Melissa nodded sympathetically.
"I can understand that completely... Wait; the Doctor isn't back yet?"
"No, he isn't; we've been scanning both internally and externally for the TARDIS's signature for the past two days, but no luck yet." Uhura looked at Melissa for a moment. "Say, there's something I've been meaning to ask you..."
"You and the Doctor are time-travellers, right?"
"Yes, that's right..." Melissa looked suspicious, as Uhura laughed.
"Oh, I'm not going to ask about my future."
"Good, because I have no idea what your future is. You see, I'm from the past, Commander."
This took Uhura by surprise. "The past, and not the future?"
"Yes... it seems to be the Doctor's favorite pastime, besides solving the mysteries of the Universe and fighting the evils of time and space; picking up human women from Earth's past."
"Where from, if I may ask?"
"Late 20th Century... 1998, to be precise. You already know what the planet is like then."
"Yes, I do... more than I'd like, I think."
Melissa resisted the impulse to ask Uhura about that particular comment and about her own future. *Oh well... if there was anything important going on in my future, the Doctor wouldn't have taken me away, right?* Melissa decided to change the subject.
"Has Lyta been poking around up here lately?"
Uhura thought for a moment. "No, she hasn't... she's mostly been keeping to her quarters, waiting for the Doctor to return, I think."
"Is it just me, or is there something altogether strange about her?"
"I know what you mean. It's as if there was something else on her mind besides the obvious. As if revenge on the Ancient Shadows wasn't her primary motive for being here."
"I know... and if there's anything I've learned in my brief time with the Doctor, it's to be wary of anyone with hidden agendas." Melissa smiled. "You said Captain Kirk is in his study?"
"Right... out that door, and down the hall. Can't miss it." Uhura pointed to a door at the end of the bridge, next to the viewscreen.
"Thanks a lot, I appreciate it. Let me know if you get anything from the Doctor?"
"Sure thing. You'll be the first to know, trust me."
Melissa nodded, smiled again to Uhura, and walked down to the lower level of the bridge, past the conn stations, and entered the door next to the viewscreen. A moment's more walking, and she found herself facing another door. She pressed the touchpad on the side, and upon hearing Kirk's voice yell for her to come in, she entered.
She saw James Kirk sitting in a chair in front of a desk, reading a book. He looked up, saw Melissa, and smiled, taking off his reading glasses.
"Please, Miss Chambers, sit down." He motioned to a chair in front of the desk, and Melissa seated herself. "Bones tells me that you've recovered sufficiently from the time lag symptoms you encountered earlier... that's a relief. I was worried for a little while."
"Thank you for your concern, and please, call me Melissa." Melissa smiled, as Kirk smiled back, "Fine, if you call me Jim."
"Okay, Jim. I just talked to Uhura on the bridge... the Doctor hasn't returned yet."
"Are you worried about that?"
"I really don't know. I haven't been traveling with him that long, so I don't know what to expect. I've learned, though, to keep my eyes and ears open for just about anything."
"I guessed you were from the past, by the way; you seemed so astonished by the ship to be anything else. I've been meaning to ask you: Why did you go with the Doctor in the first place?"
"It's a long story, but for the most part, I wanted to explore the unknown, the Universe, you know, make my mark, that sort of thing. Pretty much the same reason you came out here."
"That's true..." Kirk trailed off, a look of pain crossing his face.
"Thinking of Spock?"
"Yeah, that and the Enterprise. We've been through a lot together, the three of us. I got both of them at the same time, you know. Spock and the ship kind of came together, and they've been pretty much inseparable ever since. And now, to think that they could both be taken away from me so quickly..."
Melissa reached over and touched his hand. "Don't worry, Jim. If there's one thing that I've learned from traveling with the Doctor, it's that you can't give up. The Doctor and I won't stop looking until we find Spock and bring him back to you. You have my word." Melissa smiled.
"Remember, he's got a vested interest in this too." She thought again about Ace, and what she had learned about her and the Doctor, and shook her head. *No... I won't believe what that Master told me, even if the Doctor admitted to it. I'm sure he had a reason for doing what he did.*
Melissa returned her thoughts to Kirk, as the captain spoke wistfully.
"You're right. And besides, he wouldn't leave you here... would he?"
Melissa nodded sharply at that, remembering how the Doctor left Ace... "No. I won't think about that. He's coming back, I know it. And we've got to be ready. If I know the Doctor, he'll have a plan to save everybody." The unspoken words *I hope* passed between them, like a great wave of uncertainty.
"Oh, my goodness!", she repeated again, not quite sure what else to say.
"Not many people can communicate with the TARDIS that way, Deanna. Usually only those who are psi-sensitive or particularly adept mechanically have been able to understand the ship. You should consider yourself fortunate."
"Oh, I do. I sensed a great worry from your ship concerning Ace, Doctor. Was she one of those special people?"
"Yes; she was a natural psi, though not on any really discernible level. Her abilities to communicate with the TARDIS increased over the years she traveled with me."
"She traveled with you for years? Many years?" Deanna spoke as they exited the cargo bay and went out into the corridor.
"Yes, off and on since she was seventeen years old. She came to me rather spectacularly, as I recall. As the song goes, she was 'working as a waitress in a cocktail bar' when I found her."
The Doctor was about to reply when he thought better of it. "Never mind; it's an old and particularly uninteresting tune." He began to recount the adventure on Iceworld to Deanna, and as they reached the lift, the Betazoid was laughing.
"Ace certainly seems like a character, Doctor."
"That she is, Deanna. She once told me that the things she cared about most in the world were loyalty, street cred, and high explosives, in that order."
"Why did she decide to travel with you, Doctor?"
"You know, I asked her that once, too. She said that the main reasons were that she felt I needed someone to look after me, and because we both fought for pretty much the same principles."
Deanna paused, as the lift doors opened. "I see."
They came to the bridge, and as the Doctor spotted Riker right away, he moved down to the first officer.
"Hello again, Commander. I trust everything is working well?"
"Yes, Doctor. Is the TARDIS fully operational?"
"Fit as a fiddle, Commander. Is the Captain about?"
"He's in the ready room, waiting for you. I told him you would be along to get him shortly."
"Very well, then. We won't be a moment." The Doctor began to salute, again thought better of it, and instead moved over to the ready room door. As he heard the clipped British tones of Captain Picard allow him to enter, he walked into the room to find the Enterprise commanding officer poring over a screen.
"Hello, Doctor. I was just looking over information in our databanks on you. You do seem to get around."
"I've had almost a thousand years of travel time, Jean-Luc. Anything in particular strike you as interesting?"
"Well, many things. The most interesting is the information that you, or someone very much like you, was an 'unpaid scientific advisor' to an organization known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce during the latter part of the 20th Century."
The Doctor reacted to this information with a small grin.
"Ah, then the UNIT files on me have finally been declassified. That was my third life, Jean-Luc. I was tried by my people, involuntarily forced to regenerate, and exiled to Earth during the 1970's. Very interesting time, that was. All kinds of alien activity and paranormal stuff hanging about."
"Tried? What for?"
"Crimes against the statutes of the Time Lords forbidding interference in other times. Their rules are much like your own Prime Directive, I gathered from your records."
"Yes, that may be true. You're telling me that you don't believe in these kinds of directives?"
"Oh, no, not at all; I think they work quite well most of the time. It's just the other times that bother me."
"Other times? You mean like when other extraterrestrial activity poses damage to the conventional timeline?"
"Exactly. Mind you, on the surface, the Time Lords may seem like a 'well perfect' lot, as Ace would say, but they can also break their own rules. In actuality, for all their advanced technology and near-immortal lifespans, they're much like the rest of the civilized Galaxy; insufferably corrupt and morally bankrupt."
"Have they done anything to affect Earth in any way? I was just thinking that they might have had something to do with all of this."
The Doctor frowned as he thought about this, remembering again the movement of the Earth and renaming into Ravolox in the far future, instigated by the Time Lords and discovered during his second Trial.
"It's certainly possible that they might have somehow pushed the Devidians into thier situation, but I doubt it. It doesn't look like they have anything to gain from it." But, then again, the Doctor reasoned, they really didn't have anything to gain from the Ravolox incident, either. He really hoped he was right; he wasn't too keen on facing down the Time Lords again. The times he had, he had come very close to death, final death.
"I understand, Doctor. Commander Riker told me that you were completing final checks on the TARDIS with Counselor Troi."
"Yes, I thought Deanna would be of help in communicating with the TARDIS on a more telepathic level, and besides, she seemed to enjoy the experience of working with such a vastly different intelligence."
"Yes, that is one of her gifts, something that has assisted me many times in the past. So, are we ready to go? I don't want to waste any more time..."
"Of course, mon capitaine. Right this way." The Doctor noticed the frown on the captain's face. "Is there something wrong, Jean-Luc?"
"Oh, no... it's just the French. It reminded me of someone I haven't heard from in a while."
"Really? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?"
"I never really know with Q. I wonder if he's got anything to do with this..." Picard's mind lept, unbidden, to his memories of the Borg invasion, and Q's part in it. *More now than ever, I hope I never have to face those hideous monsters again.* he thought with great resolve, as he followed the Doctor out into the bridge.
Once on the bridge, Picard turned to Riker. "Number One, we're off. You have the bridge. Keep her in one piece for me."
Riker understood the hidden message in his captain's inocuous remark: *If this gets hairy, get the hell out of here.* "Understood, sir. Be careful."
Picard nodded, understanding the first officer's concern. "I will. We'll get Data back, I promise."
The unspoken *Or die trying* passed between all on the bridge, and all accepted it as part of their duty. Their captain, the finest man any of them had ever known, was going away, and he might not be coming back. As Picard and the Doctor left the bridge, Riker, as he had many times over the past several days, wished he had objected a little bit more to the Doctor's plan. There were so many obstacles, so many little things that could go wrong...
"I've been meaning to ask you..."
"Why I chose a 20th Century police box as the shape for my TARDIS?" The Doctor finished the question, and smiled a boyish grin.
"Yes, that's it, though I didn't think that you could choose the shape."
"Oh, yes. TARDISes have what's called a chameleon circuit, which works pretty much like the name suggests. When I first came to Earth after leaving Gallifrey during my first life, I landed in the 1960's, where police boxes like this one were rather common, especially in England. Little did I know that the chameleon circuit was damaged, and that caused the shape I chose-the police box- to become permanent."
"Permanent? You mean, you couldn't fix the circuit, or ask the Time Lords to fix it for you?"
"Oh, I could certainly do both of those things; in fact, I fixed the circuit myself after my fifth regeneration. But I had become so attached to the old girl's shape that I decided to chuck the circuit altogether. It's really not that much different than the default." And with another broad smile, he continued, "As for the Time Lords, even though they have done several modifications to the TARDIS in the past, not all of them have been good, so I try to keep them as far away from her as possible."
"I see. Isn't it, well, hard to explain the police box to aliens, or those in the future?"
"Well, most alien races, as well as the humans in the far future have heard of the Time Lords and the TARDIS, so I don't have to do much explaining then. But, it's those in the past and present who seem to have the most trouble."
"The present to you is what, exactly?"
"Oh, did I say present? Slip of the tongue; actually, I tend to spend much of my time on Earth in a broadly defined period between the middle of the 19th Century and the end of the 20th Century. I really have no reason why that happens; it's as if the TARDIS has developed such an affinity for the place and time that she really doesn't want to leave."
"You speak about the TARDIS as if she were alive."
"You just did as well, Jean-Luc." Picard smiled. "So I did... I guess it comes from being around ships so much."
"Indeed. As I was saying before," he continued as he opened the door to the TARDIS, "many people in the late 20th Century seem to think that the ship is an actual police box. At least one of my early companions wandered into the TARDIS that way."
"Absolutely not. Fortunately, Dodo was a very interesting person to have around. Most of the time." The Doctor smiled, and motioned for Picard to enter the TARDIS.
The Doctor and Picard opened the huge metal-and-wood doors that separated the outer hallway from the console room, and Picard got his first look at the vast interior of the time machine. He looked at the Doctor for permission to look around, and the Doctor gave him a 'help yourself' wave of his hand. The Enterprise captain walked around the console room, looking at the bookshelf in the study area and the console.
Upon spotting the large Time Rotor, he stared at the object for several seconds, mystified. The Doctor came up behind Picard and whispered, "Wonderful, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes! How can you fit so much..."
"The TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental. It exists in an entirely different dimension than the one the outside inhabits, hence the name."
"Pardon?" Picard was confused.
"TARDIS; Time And Relative Dimensions in Space." Picard nodded understandingly. The Doctor smiled. "I noticed you're not as tongue-tied as some of your crew. Geordi was astounded, and Deanna couldn't say much past 'Oh, my goodness!'"
"Yes, well, I've gone through so much in my years in Starfleet that I've conditioned myself not to be surprised by anything. In a few minutes, I'll change, trust me." Picard smiled, as the Doctor moved to the console. "We should be off, Jean-Luc. Would you like to speak to the bridge before you go?"
"The TARDIS can do that?"
"The TARDIS, like my own humble self, can do just about anything." The Doctor made a courtly bow, and flipped several switches in a row on one of the console surfaces. A moment later, the scanner screen lit up, showing a view of the bridge.
"Number One, do you read?"
"Loud and clear, sir. I must say, from what I'm seeing right now, Geordi and Deanna's descriptions weren't exaggerating. The TARDIS is spectactular, Doctor."
"Thank you, Commander. Perhaps when our mission is concluded, you can have a tour as well. Jean-Luc?"
"Will, just remember what I said; anything out of the ordinary, no matter how inocuous, just get out. The Doctor will get me back to you if you should have to leave the system." Picard looked to the Doctor for confirmation. The Time Lord nodded. "You have my word, Commander; he will be returned to you, if I can."
Picard continued. "Your priority is to the ship and her crew, not to me or to Data. Understood?"
Riker nodded, still not sure. "I wish I could still talk you out of this, sir. I don't like it at all; not that I don't trust the Doctor, I just don't trust the Devidians."
"I empathize, Number One. I'll play it safe, to be sure." An uneasy moment followed, and Riker coughed.
"Uh, sir... Doctor Crusher wanted me to tell you to be careful."
Picard smiled. "Tell her that I will return, hopefully in time for our date. That is all. Picard out."
Riker smiled as well, as he spoke, "Godspeed to you, sir. Enterprise out."
The connection was severed, as the Doctor flipped more switches, preparing the TARDIS for temporal flight. As he did so, he stage-whispered, "So, you and the beauteous Doctor Beverly Crusher are involved, eh?"
Picard looked at the Doctor, who was studiously working away. "Yes, we are... to a point. Right now, our years of friendship seem to be gettting in the way, though."
"Really? In what way?"
"Well, we've been friends for so long, it's taking quite an effort to become more than friends. Also, the differences in age and rank are something of a difficulty."
"Really? In that you're afraid to put her in danger, or to put yourself at risk?"
"And in that I think myself not worthy of her at times, because she is so young and full of life."
The Doctor was smiling now, which didn't exactly comfort Picard. "You find this amusing?" Picard asked in a semi-threatening tone.
"Oh, no, not at all, Jean-Luc. I just find it refreshing that humans still have the same romantic hangups they've always had, and will continue to have in the future."
"The future? I don't follow..."
"Two of my most recent companions, peace officers from the 30th Century, were struggling with much the same questions that you and Beverly are now. It's too bad I didn't get here sooner; perhaps you could have helped Roz and Chris out..." The Doctor trailed off, a brief look of pain crossing his face, and he went back to work.
Picard noticed, however, and walked over to the Doctor, facing him over the console. His features lined in the blue of the Time Rotor, he said softly, "Doctor, are you all right?"
"Yes, Jean-Luc, I'm fine." The Doctor said, with a bit more force than he had intended, which didn't go unnoticed by Picard. The Doctor started the temporal flight sequence, as Picard continued, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No, Jean-Luc, I do not want to talk about it, all right! Besides, I'm fine! Really!" The Doctor rammed home the lever to start the Time Rotor, and as the Rotor moved up and down, and the dematerialization sounds could be heard, the Doctor slumped on the console, apparently exhausted.
"Doctor!" Picard moved to help the Time Lord, but the Doctor held up his hand. "I'm all right; I'm just... fighting it."
"The pain, Jean-Luc." The Doctor stood up a little straighter at the console, and as his features became illuminated by the blue tinge of the console, they seemed to grow lines, etched into his youthful coutenance.
"You see, I took Roz Forrester home, to the 30th Century, not too long ago. Before I regenerated, I felt I had to do it. But I sent her home to die. And Chris, her partner, Squire, and maybe lover, never really forgave me for it."
Picard, shocked as he was by this revelation, tried to retain his composure. "Did you mean for her to die?"
The Doctor looked Picard in the eye, pain in his face, comfort in the captain's.
"No. I didn't mean for her to die. I never meant for any of them to die..." Unbidden, the images sped through his mind: Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric, and now Roz. *Possibly Ace, too, if I don't do something*, he thought frantically. "I really didn't... they just happened. They were never part of the plan..."
The Doctor moved from the console, loping over to the chair nearby, and slumped down on it, psychic pain striking his face and body a wracking blow. *I've got to help him, or he won't be in any shape to help me, or Data, or Ace.* Picard thought, as he sat down next to him.
"Doctor, it wasn't your fault..."
"How do you know that?" The Doctor fairly screamed. "I don't even know that! Perhaps they were ways of getting my attention; telling me, 'Hey there, Doctor, don't get so sure of yourself, or you'll get it.' And I just didn't get the message..."
Picard grabbed hold of the Time Lord and looked him in the eye. "Doctor, listen to me! I know what it's like! I've seen people die under my command! I'll tell you, the pain never goes away! It doesn't, not ever! You just have to take it, and use it to your advantage! You have to turn the pain around and make it worth something, make the deaths mean something, or they'll all die in vain! Do you understand, Doctor! Make them mean something!"
Listening to Picard's words, the Doctor found himself drifting back into his own past, and seeing the deaths over again, but this time, noticing the bigger picture, what they'd sacrificed themselves for. For Katarina and Sara, their deaths meant the Daleks wouldn't invade Earth's future; for Adric, his death meant the Cybermen weren't going to destroy Earth, a planet he didn't even really know about; for Roz, her death meant the continued existence of the world she had fought for her entire life as an Adjudicator.
And, he realized, he had died several times himself, and found that they all meant something as well, although they didn't seem like it in the beginning. He had died several times for seeemingly no reason at all, but he realized that those deaths allowed newer and better Doctors to be born, Doctors who were better able to deal with and defeat the monsters he'd been protecting Time from for almost a thousand years. None of his deaths had been in vain, just as none of his companions' deaths had been meaningless. They all meant something; he was just too wrapped up in his own grief to realize it.
Picard was continuing now... "You can't keep carrying the pain around with you! You can keep their memories, their faces, their hearts, inside of you, but you can't keep the pain inside, or else you'll lose yourself! You have to pull yourself together, or you'll lose Ace! You'll lose Ace!"
The Doctor saw that Picard was right: if he didn't get it together now, he was going to lose Ace, and then everything she had done afterward would be gone. *Coming back to me, growing up into Dorothee, becoming a time-traveller in her own right and one of my most valued friends, none of that's going to happen because I wallowed in self-pity!*
The Doctor pulled himself together, sat up straight in the chair, and looked at Picard.
"You're absolutely right, Jean-Luc. What's past is past; I can't change it. Actually," he noted wryly, "I could change it, but chances are, I'd leave everything in worse shape than when I started, so why even consider it?"
The Doctor moved over to the console, and checked the readings and looked over his ship with new purpose. He did look up for a moment, though, and smile.
"Thank you, Jean-Luc. I needed a good swift kick in the arse to get me back in the present, rather than living in the past."
"And now, it's time to save Ace. Just one stop, and we'll find her, and rescue her. Hang on, girl, we're almost there!"
Picard smiled himself, as the Time Rotor moved majestically up and down in the middle of the console. *Glad I could help, Doctor... Hang on, Data. We're coming!*
Ace woke up with a start, to see the form of Data standing over her. She thought once again, half-asleep, that even for an android, he really did cut a dashing figure. Then she was fully awake, alert and ready for action.
"Morning already, Data?"
"Yes, Ace. I noticed that after our discussion, you went to sleep and did not appear to be troubled by any more dreams."
"Yeah, I had more important things to think about than the past." Ace changed the subject; the dream was something she still didn't want to discuss, even in the daylight.
"Is everybody ready to go?"
"I believe so. Captain Spock has taken me aside and mentioned the possibility that we may have to find shelter again tonight, and that we should keep this area open as a base of sorts."
"Good idea there. What do you suggest? Split up and search, then meet here at intervals? Sounds like a standard SAR plan to me."
Data nodded. "That sounds like a logical plan of action. I had momentarily forgotten that you have military experience, and that such exercises would be in your training, as they are in our Starfleet survival courses."
Ace couldn't imagine Data forgetting anything, and chalked it up to making her feel better about her situation. She looked around to see Kahless and Spock conversing softly, with Harriman standing off to the side, looking a little uncomfortable.
"Oy there, Harriman; look a little like the odd man out here, pal." Harriman responded with a grim look in her direction. Data looked at Ace pointedly.
"Perhaps it is not a good idea to 'hassle' Captain Harriman so, Ace."
"Why not, Yellow Eyes? He's just a spineless jellyfish; you remember his reaction when we met Kahless. I find it hard to believe that he became commander of a garbage scow, much less the Federation flagship."
"That is true, he does not seem to have a great deal of self-confidence. I wonder..." Data excused himself, and walked over to Harriman. "May I speak to you for a moment, Captain?"
"Certainly, Mister Data." Harriman followed Data out into the mouth of the cave, out of earshot of those inside, even Spock. Data spoke.
"I know about Captain Kirk, Captain Harriman."
"I knew you would bring it up sometime... you are the one from the future. You had to know." Harriman looked sullen, and not a little scared.
"I know that Captain James Kirk was lost during the dry-run of the Enterprise-B, some 80 years before my time. How long has it been for you?"
"Only eight months. The Enterprise-B limped back to dry-dock, and spent three months in repairs while I and the rest of the officers, including Mister Scott and Mister Chekov, submitted to an inquiry regarding our actions."
"I recall the inquiry. You and the former Enterprise officers were never formally charged with negligence in the death of Captain Kirk. It was a most unfortunate accident, Captain; you must not continue to dwell on the things you cannot change."
Harriman suddenly colored, and whirled on Data.
"What do you know, Data? How do you know I couldn't change things? If I had been a little more forceful, a little more commanding... but I wasn't. Ace's right; I'm a spineless jellyfish, and I let a living legend die."
Harriman lowered his head in dejection, as he walked away. Ace came up behind the android, looked at Harriman, and spoke.
"What's going on?"
"Captain Harriman apparently believes that he is, as you said, 'a spineless jellyfish'."
"Hey, I didn't mean to hurt his feelings, really..."
"I know that, Ace. But, you see, he believes himself responsible not long ago in his timeline for the accidental death of a very important Starfleet officer." Data briefly recounted the events of the dry-run of the Enterprise-B, as Ace nodded.
"I had no idea... and even after everybody important believes him innocent, he still thinks he had something to do with killing Kirk?"
"Yes. I tried to impress upon him not to give up hope, but he would not listen. You see, Captain John Harriman, in approximately a year, will command the Enterprise in a brief battle with two Romulan Birds of Prey in the Neutral Zone, and for his performance in that conflict, he will recieve our highest honor, the Federation Medal of Valor."
"His actions serve to distract the Romulans from carrying out a planned incursion into Federation space, an incursion historians speculate would have cost the Federation untold casualties. The Romulans, for their part, will go into hiding after that, building up their technology, waiting to assert themselves again, which they will do in my time, nearly a century later."
Ace understood immediately. "So, Harriman eventually becomes a hero, but you can't tell him because for him, it hasn't happened yet."
"Additionally, we are struggling with our knowledge of the final fate of Captain Kirk in a very different context. We have both discovered that for Captain Spock, the death of his closest friend has not occurred."
Ace held the side of her head, as she moaned, "I've been away from time-travel too long... temporal mechanics is starting to give me a headache. I promise, you won't hear a peep out of me." Ace managed a pantomime of zipping her lips and throwing away the key, to emphasize her silence.
Data managed a brief smile at that, as Spock and Kahless emerged from the cave. Spock cast a look over the android and the human, and then over the horizon. "Where is Harriman?"
"Right here, Mister Spock." Harriman came up to them. "I took a look at our surrounding areas, and it appears to be more more and more rock and sand. Just a whole lot of nothing."
"But nevertheless, we must continue to search for signs of civilization." Data nodded agreement.
"Having first-hand knowledge of the Devidians, I would hazard a guess that they, or one of their storage facilities, is nearby. They must have energy to continue their time-travel, and it would be illogical to take us somewhere where they could not get to."
"Agreed. That must be our first priority; to find these Devidians and force them to return us to our respective places and times." The voice of Kahless whispered, which for a Klingon was more like a low growl. The Emperor swung his batleth for emphasis as he continued, "Or they will face the wrath of the mighty Kahless!"
He said this with such deadpan conviction that Ace found it hard not to laugh at him. She controlled herself, however, enough to say, "You know, Emperor, that might not be such a good idea there. I mean, if you kill them all, how in the world are they going to get us home, hmmm?"
"I agree with the Emperor. Therefore, the best and most logical way to accomplish our objective is to work in teams, and move in an orderly search pattern." Spock knelt down in the dirt at the mouth of the cave, and proceeded to draw a quick but thorough search diagram.
The other four looked at the diagram, and quickly agreed on search areas. Data and Ace agreed to proceed in one direction, while Spock and Harriman agreed to move in another. Kahless reluctantly agreed to stay close to the cave, undercover, as a "strategic reserve".
Data and Ace walked away from the cave, resolutely searching for anything that might be able to help their cause. They had gotten some kilometers from the cave when Ace noticed something, or thought she did. She stopped, squinting into the distance...
"Data, you see that?"
Data looked in the direction Ace was looking in, and shook his head. "I do not see anything, Ace."
"I'm sure that for just a moment, I saw something more than just sand and heat waves. Maybe I was imagining it."
Data thought for a moment. "It is possible, Ace. However, I can also speculate another possibility."
"What's that?" Ace said, her hope renewing. *Maybe I'm not crazy*, she thought.
"That you could be seeing something outside our normal universe. Remember, the Devidians have the ability to move out of phase with our physical reality."
"But how could I spot it, whatever it is, and no one else?"
"You are more time-sensitive than any of us, due to your extensive travel with the Doctor. That sensitivity may lend itself to a subconscious awareness of the Devidians' time-phasing."
"You mean, since I've traveled through time, I can somehow sense things outside of normal time? Cool."
Data smiled. "Yes, that would most definitely be 'cool', Ace. Time sensitivity is not a well-known theory of science, even in my era."
"Let's get the others, and see what they think."
Data and Ace returned to the cave, where the others were waiting. After hearing Ace's story, and Data's theory as to the cause, everyone agreed to take a look. Spock spoke.
"I have also travelled through time in several instances. Perhaps that fact, in addition to my Vulcan mind abilities, may be of assistance in finding whatever you saw."
"Great! Let's go." The group followed Ace's lead through the rocky terrain beyond the cave. After a moment's looking, she pointed, "There, there!"
Spock looked at the area where Ace was pointing. "I do not see anything yet. Maybe if we got closer..." The group moved closer to the selected area, and as they did, Spock opened his mind to his surroundings. After a few moments, he motioned for them to stop. "I am getting some type of weak telepathic sensation from the area."
"The Devidians?" Harriman whispered.
"It is certainly a possibility." The group ducked behind a nearby outcropping, lest they be noticed. Data seemed to stare off into the distance. "I am now starting to see a shift in alpha-wave frequency just ahead. It is very possibly a by-product of a phased cloaking device."
"Phased cloaking device? What's that?"
"It is an experimental device tested in my era that not only shields an object from visual inspection, but mechanical inspection as well. A ship using such a device could hide anywhere, even within solid rock."
"Device? You mean the Devidians aren't doing this themselves?"
"It does not appear so. The frequency range is lower than that employed by the Devidians for their personal time-phasing."
"But they appear to be in plain sight, Data... Why not hide inside a rock or something?"
"I do not know, Ace; perhaps the Devidians cannot control the phase effect effectively here for some reason. Perhaps the triolic radiation that pervades this area is at fault."
"Data... I just had a thought. What if this cloak is shielding a horde of Devidians?"
"If that were the case, Ace, they would have most likely noticed us by now."
Ace looked at the seeming-nothingness for a long minute, before muttering, "I wish the Professor were here."
"The Doctor? What would he do in this situation?"
"I'm not really sure... maybe use his sonic screwdriver on it or something."
"What is this sonic screwdriver?" Data was suddenly all-ears.
"Well, it uses sound waves to disrupt mechanical circuitry and blow up bombs and stuff like that. I think he even used it against the Daleks a few times."
Data thought about this for a moment, and then spoke. "You may have given us a way to render this cloaked object visible."
"If I can use my vocal modulators to match the frequency of the alpha-wave pattern of the cloaking shield, and then slowly increase the frequency, it may have a disruptive effect on whatever machinery is maintaining the cloak."
"Bloody naff, Data. Can you do it?"
"I can certainly make the attempt." Data stood up, and after a moment's study, turned to the others. "The frequency is going to be quite high; I suggest all of you, especially Captain Spock, cover your ears." He waited until everyone had done so, and then opened his mouth.
At once, an ear-splitting noise emanated from the android, which got higher and higher in pitch, until finally, the air in front of them shimmered, like water in a pond. The shimmering effect continued, then suddenly, it was visible.
Ace breathed, "Gordon Bennett, what's that?"
It was a door, inset into a slab of rock, part of a massive fortress-like compound. Heavy, metal, almost impenetrable... and wide open.
A few seconds passed, and a group of twenty helmeted figures came out of the door. They spread out, searching for whoever had breached their seemingly invisible defenses.
Harriman responded at once, grabbing Data and pulling him under cover of the outcropping. They all looked as the figures came closer and closer to them.
*Trouble...we're in big trouble.* Ace silently answered her own question. It wasn't much consolation, given the circumstances.
"Correct. Omega, one of our greatest figures, managed through a feat of solar engineering to capture the power of a black hole and channel it through the main Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey. The almost unlimited power of the black hole provides Gallifrey and its TARDISes all that they need to survive."
"Couldn't the Time Lords cut you off from the power of the main Eye?"
The Doctor thought about this for a moment. "When I met Omega during my third life, he managed to curtail the power collection process to Gallifrey, and thus, my TARDIS was affected. However, Omega was a Time Lord of great power. No Time Lord other than he could possibly do that, as far as I know."
Picard nodded, not quite understanding what the Doctor was saying, but taking it all at face value. "This Cloister Room is quite ornate, Doctor. How do you manage to create all this detail in the TARDIS?"
"The room creation programming is wired through the telepathic circuits of the TARDIS. So, it's basically a matter of thought becoming deed. I wanted a more gothic-style look to the TARDIS, and it just became."
"What did the TARDIS look like before this?"
"Oh, it was really quite antiseptic, let me tell you. Roundels and such all over the place. It worked fine for the first three-quarters of a century, but once I neared the end of my seventh life, I desired a change. But, before he-that is, me-could get accustomed to the change, I regenerated into this form. Fortunately, I liked it as well, so I decided to keep it, at least for the time being."
The Doctor led Picard out of the Cloisters and into the other rooms of the TARDIS; the sickbay, which was so advanced, Picard remarked, that "Beverly would never leave this place", to which the Doctor chuckled; the gym, still relatively untouched since Ace was the sole occupant, although Roz and Chris did use it from time to time; and the pool, which looked somewhat out of date next to all the gothic adornments. As they walked back to the console room, Picard spoke.
"Don't you ever get lost, Doctor?"
"Oh, no, never. You see, I'm so tuned into the TARDIS, that all I have to is think about where I want to be, and the TARDIS routes me there." As if to demonstrate, the Doctor opened a door, and the two found themselves in the console room again. Picard was astonished; the Doctor, merely amused.
"That door didn't lead to the console room when we went in."
"No, it didn't, Jean-Luc. The TARDIS merely moved the rooms around to illustrate the fact that I can't get lost."
"The TARDIS can move rooms around?"
"And save them if it wants, and delete them if they wear out their usefulness, and so on. The internal relative dimension of the TARDIS isn't really infinite, but very, very close." The Doctor smiled, as the TARDIS beeped to its pilot. The Time Lord walked over to the console, and punched in a few keys on the old-fashioned keyboard situated on one of the console surfaces.
A group of script appeared on the scanner screen, which the Doctor read and nodded. "Thank you, old girl. You got us there with no incident."
"What is that?"
"Ancient Gallifreyan. Looks a little like Latin, but very different linguistically. The TARDIS was just telling me that we've arrived at our first destination."
"I can't tell you, or even show you, I'm afraid. To do so would tip you off to things you really don't need to know about right now."
"So, asking to come out would be out of the question?"
The Doctor smiled. "Absolutely, Jean-Luc. Don't worry, though; everytbing will become apparent in just a little while."
"Is the other person you mentioned before here?"
"Oh, yes. As well as my companion and another person who has become attached to this particular mystery. I'm sure she'll ask to come along, out of a sense of duty to her employers." *Which I'm beginning to think more and more have nothing to do with the Argus Project.*, the Doctor thought.
The Doctor flipped a few switches, and with the push of a button, the ornate door to the outside opened.
"Give me ten minutes, Jean-Luc." As he walked to the door, he whispered to the air, "Make sure he doesn't try to find out where he is, all right, old girl? I don't want to do anymore than I have to later on."
A shrill beep could be heard in response, and the Doctor called back to Picard, "Remember, don't touch anything. You might send the TARDIS out of phase a second or two, and that won't help anyone."
"All right, Doctor."
The Doctor walked out of his time machine, and right into the cargo bay of the Enterprise-A. Kirk, Melissa, and Scotty came into the cargo bay a second later.
"You've been waiting for me, I trust?" The Doctor flashed a smile to the group. "I see you're feeling better, Melissa."
Melissa nodded, smiling. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever come back, Doctor."
The Doctor looked sternly at his new companion. "This Doctor doesn't leave his companions in the lurch, you know that." He turned to Kirk then, and spoke. "It's time to go, James. Time to meet your destiny."
Kirk nodded, and turned to Scotty. "You have the bridge, Scotty. You know the drill."
Scotty nodded, "Aye, sir. Just be careful out there... and bring back Mister Spock. We lost him once already; I don't know how we'll handle losing him again."
"I understand completely, Mister Scott. Just mind the store until I get back."
Kirk clapped the engineer on the shoulder, and moved toward the door of the TARDIS. Suddenly, from behind him, came a voice.
"Thought you could leave without me, could you, Captain, Doctor?"
The group turned to see the indignant face of Lyta, who marched right up to them. The Doctor smiled. "Well, truth be told, we thought we could try, Lyta. You see, there is something very familiar about you, and it's something I don't particularly trust."
"Well, I can't say I don't feel the same way about you, Time Lord." Lyta looked squarely at the Doctor. "Are you going to allow me to go with you, or not?"
"Well, I could, you know... but I can't definitely prove you have a hidden agenda, so I'm going to have to give you the benefit of the doubt." *I just hope it doesn't come back to haunt me later*, was his unspoken thought.
The Doctor waved his arms toward the time machine, and the group filed in. As they entered the console room, Kirk stopped suddenly. He had caught sight of something, and it wasn't the spaciousness of the console room.
The Doctor noticed Picard too, and nodded. "Say hello to your future, James."
"Hello, Captain Kirk. I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D. I am from some 80 years in your future."
The two Enterprise captains shook hands, as Melissa looked on, astonished. Only Lyta wasn't impressed; rather, she was deep in thought.
*The three are together now*, she thought. *We will find the Ancient Shadows soon enough, and then my Mistress's mission will reach fruition. The death of my mortal enemies, and of the Doctor!*
Lyta smiled evilly to herself, as, from far away, the being known as the Mistress looked on through the eyes of her agent. *And the stupid Time Lord and his pitiful human companion won't know what hit them. As for Picard and Kirk... it's unfortunate, but there must be no witnesses, no one to stop me from carrying out my plan.*
As she noticed the Doctor bustling about, making adjustments to his time machine, she thought acidly, *Enjoy your time now, Doctor... because you don't have much of it left.*
Lyta resisted the urge to laugh out loud, but inside, she was screaming with evil delight at her trickery. She knew that there was no way any of these pathetic humans could stop her now. Soon, her mission would be complete, and the timelines would fall under the control of her Mistress.
"Why doesn't everybody take a seat, so we can be off?", the Doctor said, smiling, as the group did so. Everyone except Lyta, that is; she sullenly refused to get comfortable in the enclave of the enemy.
The Doctor, to his credit, didn't push her, and instead moved over to the console. He pulled some levers and pushed buttons, and again the Time Rotor moved in its majestic fashion in the center of the console. Once they were in temporal transit, Melissa spoke. "Everytime it happens, I get goosebumps. It really is a fantastic sight."
Picard and Kirk nodded their agreement, and Lyta remained sullen. The Doctor motioned with his hands over to the bookshelf. "There are many ancient texts there; you may peruse if you wish. It will take quite some time, subjectively, to reach our destination."
"Where are we going, Doctor?"
Picard answered for the Time Lord. "Devidia Two, circa 2372, am I correct, Doctor?"
The Doctor nodded. "I discovered while on the Enterprise-D that the 'Ancient Shadows' that are responsible for our troubles are in fact members of a race of time-travellers called Devidians. We are going there to attempt to track their movements to the source. Hopefully, Ace, Data, and Spock will be there."
Lyta spoke then. "Devidians..." It was as if she was trying out the word on her tongue. "So my hated enemies have names. It will make no difference in the final outcome."
Picard looked at Kirk. "Ambass-er, Captain Spock has been taken by the Devidians?"
Kirk nodded. "Apparently, Captain Picard. To these Devidians, he's important to the balance of Time." He looked at Picard a little more closely. "You know Spock?"
"Yes, sir. We've met. And, please, call me Jean-Luc." Kirk smiled.
"And you can call me Jim. It's good to see that the grand name of the Enterprise continues into the future. Tell me, do you get into a lot of trouble, or was it just my generation?"
Picard laughed. "Oh, no, Jim; trouble is something all Enterprises have in common. It must be the name; it's cursed."
"Or blessed, depending on what happens to you." Kirk laughed, as the Doctor sidled over to Melissa.
"I see you're feeling better, Melissa. The cordrazine helped, I gather?"
"Oh, yes, Doctor. That plus a day or so of rest. I wish I could have come with you, though. The 24th Century seems like a wonderful place."
The Doctor nodded. "Yes, it is. A little different than your time, of course, but the fundamental rules of humanity still apply. As I said once a long time ago in the future, the human race is indomitable. Unable to be beaten."
"In fact," he whispered conspiratorially, "beyond the Federation lies a vast Earth Empire, stretching the length and breadth of your galaxy, and even beyond. The human race remains the lynchpin of galactic peace even a thousand years in the future. Remember that, Melissa, when you complain about the state of things in your own time; time changes things greatly. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill, but time will change things. It is its way."
Melissa smiled. "Thanks for the lecture, Doctor."
The Doctor grinned back. "You know I never miss an opportunity to educate. Now then, I think we should find something nourishing for our guests. I believe there's some tea and scones in the kitchen."
Melissa made a mock-grimace, and then brightened into a smile, as the Time Lord went out of the console room.
Meanwhile, Kirk and Picard were looking at the books in the shelf, and Kirk pulled one out. "Look at this, Jean-Luc; 'The History of the Universe... From Before The Dawn of Time and Beyond The End of Eternity'. I wonder if we should take a look at it?"
Melissa had moved over to the Starfleet officers by this time, and noticed the book. She smiled. "Don't you two get any crazy ideas about looking up your futures, now. You might not like what you find out."
Picard nodded. "She's right, you know. However, I am curious as to whether a certain future will come to pass..."
Kirk looked at him then. "What do you mean by that?"
"Not too long ago, I found myself mentally shifting through time. First forward twenty-five years, and then back seven years to the commissioning of the Enterprise. I found later that the purpose of the shifting was to key me to the destruction of the universe through a very unusual temporal singularity... a phenomenon that I inadvertently caused in the past."
As Kirk and Melissa looked on, speechless, Picard continued. "The future I saw wasn't really that pleasant, and I guess I have a strong desire to see if that future really comes to pass, despite my efforts to change it by telling my crew about my experiences."
Melissa was enthralled by the story. "Why was the future so unpleasant, other than the singularity?"
"My friends, my crewmates, had all been separated, and had lost touch with each other and their own lives. For example, my first officer and my security chief grew to despise each other due to animosity over my ship's counselor."
"You mean that Worf and Deanna are involved?" The Doctor had come in then, carrying a tray of tea and scones.
"Yes... apparently, they grew close over a series of very surprising events. It shocked me at first, but I accepted it. Will, unfortunately, never did, and it created a rift between them that never healed, over twenty-five years."
The Doctor was going to speak then, but another voice interrupted.
"Could we please quit this senseless gossiping?" Lyta had been trying to contain her frustration, but she hadn't been entirely successful. "We have work to do, people we all care about that have to be saved, and you're sitting here chattering like old women in a quilting bee!" She was practically screaming now, and the humans shrank away from her ire.
The Doctor, however, was unperturbed. "What are you suggesting, Lyta? That I try to make the TARDIS move a little bit faster? Impossible; the Time Vortex would rip us apart. There's really nothing we can do right now, so I was trying to be a hospitable host and help my friends, and incidentally myself, get our minds off our worries for a while. But, dear Lyta, if you must insist on being a killjoy, then I certainly can oblige your wishes as well!"
Furious, the Doctor moved over to the console, handing the tea and scones to the flabbergasted Melissa. She stammered, "I'm sorry, sirs. He's not usually like this. He's really much more..."
"Hospitable?" Picard offered. "It's all right, Melissa. We understand; he's trying to keep his mind off of Ace's position. And you," he pointed a finger at Lyta, "are not helping!"
"Well, I can't help it if I'm the only one who grasps the severity of the situation! A close friend of mine was killed by these beasts, and I'll have my revenge, even if I have to go through all of you to do it!"
At that, the Doctor looked over from where he was working on the console, presumably trying to prepare the TARDIS for landing. He fixed Lyta with such a venomous glare that everyone involuntarily gaped.
His voice, however, was resolutely calm, as cool as steel and just as hard. "I will only say this once; if you ever threaten anyone, friend or foe, on board this ship again, I will have it land and you will be deposited on the first desolate planetoid I can find. Then you can spout your revenge rhetoric until you're blue in the face. Do you understand?"
The look in his eyes was so devoid of anything resembling his usual ebullience that Lyta was, for the first time, afraid of the potential powers of the Time Lord. She really had no idea what the Doctor could do, and if his manner was any indication, it wouldn't be very pretty. She muttered, "Yes, Doctor."
"Good. Now, it would do everyone a great deal of good if you could please control yourself for the remainder of this journey. To use Earth vernacular, you're on my turf now, Lyta, and I expect you to treat me and those whom I travel with with respect."
Lyta nodded dumbly, her spirit for the moment leaving her, as the Doctor continued, looking at Melissa. "Let this be a lesson to you, Melissa. Grief and resolve can be powerful tools, if channelled properly. But improperly used, they can twist you into an instrument of revenge, and that can only bring more hurt and pain, not only to yourself, but to those you care about."
Kirk and Picard listened to this, feeling in his words a very personal message, not only to Melissa, but to all of them. They had each known periods of grief and resolve which turned into revenge, and they knew how destructive revenge could be.
Kirk thought of his son, David, killed by the Klingons for no apparent reason but to prove their superiority in a situation which no one had the upper hand. Kirk had killed the one responsible by his own hand, but he carried an fear of the race that had only recently been assagued.
Picard thought of the nights after his rescue from the Borg and their foul conditioning and the horrible nightmares in which he was forced to relieve his part in the near-conquest of Earth. He had never told anyone, not even Beverly, but he could hear their voices in the darkness, even now, years later, calling out to him, the only human ever to escape the clutches of the Borg, to find them and avenge their deaths. It was a mission that Picard, feeling completely responsible, had thought about taking on more than once.
Melissa thought of the night her beloved Carlos had died, could still hear the gunfire and smell the smoke, could see his body lying motionless on the ground, and her first thought had been revenge on the cruel, ruthless gang life that had taken young men and turned them into instruments of destruction, and had taken this life that was so precious to her. It was a wound that had not healed, and may never do so.
All of them heard the Doctor's words, and felt his pain behind them, and added it to their own, and understood why he traveled; not only to explore the Universe and Time, but to help protect others from the pain he had experienced. He had taken pain and remorse, and turned it into quiet resolve and a never-ending mission for what was right and good.
There was a long moment of silence after the Doctor's pronouncement, which was broken like some magic spell by a beeping from the TARDIS console. The Doctor came to life, and looked at dials and pushed buttons. The familar wheezing and groaning noises that signaled dematerialization could be heard, and then a mild bump. The Doctor smiled then, and pulled a small lever on one of the console surfaces.
In response to his action, the scanner screen flickered to life, and in it, the group saw a cavern, rock and sand and light. The pattern enhancers from the Away Team's survey could still be seen forming a irregular parallelogram around the time machine.
Melissa breathed, "We're here, aren't we, Doctor?"
"Yes, we are, Melissa. Doesn't it look familiar?"
Melissa looked for a moment, and then she saw it, almost hidden by years of sand and sediment; a single jewel, set into the wall...
"The mural-thing we saw in the cave on Hinire Upsilon... But, that means that they're the same place!"
"That's correct. In two hundred years, this cavern, and this planet will be the place where Ace disappeared. Where it all began."
"And now," the Doctor continued, "it will be the site of another beginning... the beginning of the end of the Devidians' plans to take over the timestream. Look out, Ancient Shadows, Devidians, whatever you choose to name yourself, because the Doctor is right behind you, and he's not giving up until he wins the race."
The Doctor smiled at his deft analogy, and suddenly, a different countenance appeared on his face. For a moment, he looked more as he did in his last life, the planner, the manipulator, the over-confident Time's Champion.
Then, the look flitted away, and he smiled, as if remembering a private joke. "Come on, troops; we've got work to do!"
"What is it, Yellow-Eyes, anything interesting?"
"I am not sure, Ace. I cannot seem to figure out why the Devidians, if those figures were in fact they, have to wear suits like that in order to move around."
"It might have something to do with the triolic radiation they give off..." Ace snapped her fingers. "Hey, I've got it! The radiation that pervades this place affects your circuitry, right?"
"To an extent, yes; but I do not see what you are driving at."
Ace smiled again at her brainstorm. "Maybe they've got some machinery in there," she pointed at the imposing structure in front of them, "and it can't be disturbed by radiation, so they have to wear the suits. And rather than take them off when they go outside, they just keep them on all the time."
Data thought about this for a moment. "Why would the Devidians need to protect circuitry from their radiation? I would think they would use materials that would not be affected by the radiation."
Ace thought about it, and then responded, "What if it's out of their hands, Data?"
"You mean that there may be a third party involved?"
"Yeah... you did say that you didn't think that the Devidians could have gotten this phased cloak thing they used on their base without help. Maybe that 'help' helped them to capture us."
"That is definitely a possibility, Ace. Perhaps we had better investigate further."
Harriman's voice echoed behind them. "Why would we do that? If this mysterious third party is helping the Devidians, I don't think they'll be so happy to help us."
"That is true, Captain Harriman. However, it is a possibility that this third party is being held against their will, in order to assist the Devidians in their plans. If that is in fact the case, they may be able to help us, and right now, we need all the help we can get, do you not agree?"
Harriman obviously didn't. "I suggest we vote on it. We're a team now, for better or worse, and I think we should start acting like it."
Spock nodded. "I agree, Captain Harriman. Let's solve this democratically. Who thinks we should go inside to investigate the existence of a third party in this plan, a party that might not be willing or able to help us return to our own times?"
Data and Ace promptly raised their hands, and the human replied, "Any chance to get out of here is one we have to take, regardless of the risks to ourselves."
Spock nodded. "Now, does anyone have an alternative plan?"
Harriman spoke quickly. "We could capture one of the Devidians, force them to get us home. We were taken by only one, remember; one may be all we need."
"And what if the Devidian we capture refuses to help us? What then? Are we going to kill this being in our frustration to return home?"
Harriman colored. "They did this to us, Data! I don't know about whether androids can feel revenge, but I want them to know that we mean business!"
"So you advocate the capture and possible execution of a sentient being in order to, as you put it, 'show them we mean business'?"
Harriman thought for a moment, then tersely nodded his head. "They have kidnapped three members of Starfleet from their respective time-periods, as well as two civilians, and have held them against their will for two days. We don't know what their plans are; for all we know, they could be hunting us right now, for sport!"
Data was unperturbed by the captain's argument. "Your reasoning is flawed by emotion and is without merit. My experiences with the Devidians have shown that they are not at heart a ruthless and dangerous race, just pushed to that point by their need to survive. If you take one of them, the others will respond most harshly. And that could very well get us killed."
"Flawed by emotion? Without merit? Why you logic-bound bucket of bolts-" Harriman, in his frustration, lunged toward Data. In a flash, Ace was there, and put the captain into a arm-twisting defensive hold.
"Stop it!! This is getting us nowhere!" She pushed Harriman away from her, and he pitched backward into the ground. He pulled himself back up and glowered at her, while Kahless spoke.
"I believe Captain Harriman's plan to be a worthy one. Klingons always capture thier enemies to learn useful information. While I think that the murder of an intelligent being is dishonorable, I also think that we are in a state of conflict with these Devidians. They have been ruthless to us, taking us from our homes; we should answer in kind." Kahless tapped his batleth against the ground for emphasis.
Harriman nodded. "Exactly; their kidnapping us counts as an act of war, according to the Federation Peace Accords, or have you forgotten?" He smirked at Data.
"I still do not believe that they are entirely at fault. They may have been pushed to this by a third party..."
"I don't believe it! You're supposed to be a Starfleet officer, and you insist and defending these kidnappers, who, by your own admission, have murdered to survive!"
Data replied softly, "That is exactly why I am a Starfleet officer; I believe in peace and diplomacy as the basic tenets of advanced society. If you have forgotten that, then this experience has changed you far more than you care to admit."
Spock nodded at this. "I agree with Commander Data; we should, in good conscience, ascertain all the information we can on the motivation of the Devidians to commit their acts. I also agree that stealth, not ruthlessness and cruelty, are the primary weapons we shall use."
Harriman colored again, and stood, gesturing furiously. "I can't understand why you can't do to them what they've done to us! Your plan's never going to work anyway; you don't know your way around that base, and you'll more than likely be captured..."
As if to underline his point, a beam of energy blew out a portion of rock right next to him. He ducked and turned to see several Devidians moving toward them. In response, the group backed away, seeking cover. They found it a few meters away, a natural hollow with a large piece of rock at their backs and a ring of large rocks around them. As they moved into the hollow, energy crackling around them, Ace managed to finish Harriman's statement.
"... or we could just stand there like idiots and get ourselves shot before we even get to the base."
Harriman, for his part, said nothing, as he ducked, narrowly missing getting hit by another beam of energy. Ace fired a shot at the enemy group, missing wide. She looked at her blaster and groaned.
"What?" Data was beside her in an instant. "Are you hurt, Ace?"
"No, it's not that... I've only got half-power in the blaster. Another half-dozen shots, ten at the most, and we're through. Unarmed and helpless." Ace looked at the android. "Could you give the blaster another jolt from your circuitry?"
"I am afraid not, Ace. There is a 90.1 percent chance that the blaster would explode from reintroduction of foreign energy compounds."
"One shot deal, huh?" Data nodded. "In more ways than one.", she finished, and ducked again. She could feel the frustration welling up inside her, and then, she screamed.
"Professor, where the hell are you, already?!?!"
Suddenly, a soft noise could be heard. To Ace, it sounded suspiciously like groaning and wheezing...
The Doctor busied himself with pushing buttons and flipping switches on the console. Finally, after several moments of silence, Lyta spoke.
"What do we do now?"
"I'm recalling the records of the Enterprise-D's encounter with the Devidians from the computer. Don't worry, Jean-Luc", he grinned boyishly, "Will won't even know I've done it."
He tapped commands into the keyboard, as Picard spoke. "Why don't you just ask Commander Riker to transfer the information you need to the TARDIS computer?"
"Because, Jean-Luc, the TARDIS is so unique, the Enterprise computer couldn't possibly correlate enough with it to transfer data. The TARDIS, on the other hand, can communicate effectively with practically any computer in time or space. One of the few good things about Gallifreyan technology, I might add..." After several minutes of typing and looking at the scanner screen, he stepped back. "There's the information I was looking for."
"What's that, Doctor?"
"The exact alpha-wave energy patterns for the portal that operated here. My guess is that this area was the original home base for the Devidians. Once it was destroyed by the Enterprise-D, the Devidians were forced to move."
Picard picked up the thread. "To a new base, somewhere in space and time."
"Or even outside of space-time. The energy patterns we found here earlier are indicators of some kind of mass flight, at any rate. If I'm right, the TARDIS can use her own energy stores to create and amplify these same patterns and open the portal."
The Doctor moved over to the far side of the console. "Now, everyone, listen up; I can't do this, not by myself. I'm going to need help."
"We're with you, Doctor. Anything we can do, we'll do it." Kirk spoke.
"I know, Jim, but it's really nothing you can do. What I meant was that I'm going to have to get help within myself. I don't have the knowledge to complete the calculations that are needed for the TARDIS to project and sustain the energy in the right pattern to open the portal. Another incarnation did, though; my third self. I'm going to have to bring his personality to the surface."
"We don't have time for this, Doctor!" Lyta yelled.
"Lyta, I know time is of the essence. But this is really the only way. And it really is a very touchy operation; I can't afford to let a novice do it."
"How are you going to do this... transfer, Doctor?"
"I am going to connect with the TARDIS through the telepathic circuits, here." He motioned to his right, where a pair of glass ovals were inset into the console. "The earlier incarnations are kept in separate sections of my subconscious; the TARDIS will enter my mind, unlock the section that my third incarnation resides in, and bring him forward."
"What I need you to do, is to listen carefully to anything he says, and do anything he asks. I'll still be there, but in the background; I can't do much more than that. When the operation is completed, he'll return to his section, and I'll return." He saw Melissa's look of unease. "Be nice to him, girl; he'll be a little addled by the transfer, and may confuse you with those he knows from his time as the Doctor of record. Remember, I'm still here," he tapped his temple, "just not available. All right, everyone?"
The group, even Lyta, nodded. "Good. Now, then..." The Doctor spread his hands over the telepathic circuits. "Here goes everything!"
The Doctor closed his eyes, and his face immediately spasmed. Melissa, thinking the worst, moved toward him, but Picard held her arm. "He knows what he's doing, Melissa... I hope."
A few more seconds passed, and the spasms stopped. The Doctor opened his eyes, and everyone could see that he had changed, not so much physically, but mentally. He looked like he had more knowledge, more certainty than he had before. The Doctor smiled, and pinched his thin nose and smoothed back his brown hair.
"Well, well... You've certainly done better for yourself, old chap." The Doctor muttered to himself, then pulled up the sleeves of his Edwardian jacket. As he did so, he looked at his clothes and smiled. "Especially your taste in clothing has improved. Never did like that boorish jumper; all those question marks were really ridiculous."
He looked at the console, as if he could map out every circuit and switch. "Now, then, what is it again that I have to do... Oh, yes. Not that hard to do, mind; but I will need an extra pair of hands. Jo? Jo, come here, girl!"
Melissa coughed. "It's Melissa, sir."
The Doctor looked at Melissa with an unfocused gaze, as if he really wasn't seeing her at all, and then smiled. "Oh, yes, of course. How doddering of me. Come over here, girl." Melissa walked over to the console. The Doctor waved a hand over one of the surfaces, and Melissa took her place.
"What do you want me to do, Doctor?"
"Hit these buttons, here." He pointed to two flashing green buttons on the console. "See, the TARDIS is helping you out. First the one on your left, then the one on your right. Then, flip this switch." He pointed to a switch silhouetted in bright red.
"No, when I tell you, and exactly when I tell you." The Doctor moved over to an adjacent console and began to flip switches and press buttons. In response, the Time Rotor began to move up and down. A pulsing sound could be heard.]
"We're dematerializing!" Lyta spoke.
"No, Liz, we're not.... The Time Rotor is focusing the energy outward from the Eye of Harmony into the forcefield that's part of the HADS system encasing the exterior shell of the TARDIS." Lyta began to protest the form of address, but Picard sharply nodded in a 'not now' gesture.
"Hostile Action Defense System... a prerequisite for all TARDISes... keeps them from being blown apart by all kinds of nasty weapons."
"And that will do the job?" Kirk questioned.
"Oh, no, Brigadier, I mean, Captain Kirk." The Doctor caught himself and smiled. "The forcefield is what has to be attuned to the proper frequency pattern to open the portal. Much like your own warpfields attune to different frequencies to move in space at fantastic speeds, I would imagine." The Doctor continued to work away, and suddenly, he shouted out to Melissa, "Now, Jo!"
Melissa frantically pushed the marked buttons, and flipped the switch indicated by the Doctor. Suddenly, the TARDIS bucked, and everyone, except the Doctor, was thrown to the floor. As they helped each other up, a dull tolling sound could be heard.
"What's that?", Picard questioned, covering his ears.
"The Cloister Bell... It only sounds in grave emergencies, I'm afraid." The Doctor shouted.
"Oh, massive destruction, total annihilation, that sort of thing."
"Oh. I see." Picard fell silent, as the Doctor worked frantically at the console.
"We seem to be caught in a space-time refraction, caused by the collision of the forcefield and the portal! It appears that the patterns were not exactly in synch!"
"Oh, isn't that-" Picard heard Lyta say, then he heard nothing more from her. In fact, he heard nothing more from anyone. Time had apparently come to a standstill in the TARDIS.
Picard found that while he couldn't move his legs, arms, or head, he could still glance around. He glanced to his left, where Kirk was supposed to be...
...and looked straight into the face of his worst nightmare. His own face, grotesquely distorted by nanotechnology into that of a Borg, looked back at him. The laser light above his eye shined right into Picard's face, and he was momentarily blinded. Words came to him, the dull monotone of Locutus, the buzz of the collective omnipresent in the background.
"I am Locutus, of Borg. Resistance is futile. We will add your technological and cultural distinctiveness to your own. From this day forth, you will serve us."
Picard tried to turn away, but couldn't; in his horror, his mind screamed.
Kirk tried to move, but found that he couldn't, except to glance around. He glanced to his right, where Picard was supposed to be...
...and looked in on his worst nightmare. He saw his body trapped underneath a mottled mess of metal and chain, his legs crushed, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He realized that this was it, he was looking at his death. And it looked like he was alone, just as he had foretold, all those years ago in front of a campfire at Yosemite. But then, he heard a voice, slightly accented, call to him.
"Captain Kirk! Jim!"
A face swam into view, that of Jean-Luc Picard. Kirk was surprised; why was he here? Wasn't he in the future?
"Hang on, Captain. You're going to be all right..."
Kirk knew that wasn't the case, but he saw himself press on, gathering enough breath to speak, a hoarse croak.
"Did we do it? Did we make a difference?"
Picard smiled wanly, trying to remain upbeat despite the horror he was witness to.
"Oh, yes. We made a difference. Thank you."
Kirk gathered more breath into his tortured body, and managed to speak one more time.
"Least I could do for the captain of the Enterprise. It was... fun."
As James Tiberius Kirk saw the life slowly go out of his body, his mind screamed.
Melissa found that she couldn't move, but that she could at least glance around. The first thing she could think of was to look to her left, to make sure the Doctor was all right...
...and looked in on her worst nightmare. She saw herself working in the cantina in Los Angeles, waiting for Carlos to come home, waiting for him to hold her in his strong arms and tell her that it was done, the ties had been broken, the Jackal was dead.
Suddenly, she heard a squeal of tires, a scream, and a series of gunshots, which for all the world sounded like the pop of champagne corks.
She paled; looking back, she recalled that she didn't ask anyone what had happened. She had just known, as surely as anything, that her beloved had been shot. She ran out of the cantina, and down the street, to where a small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk. She pushed herself through the group, to see her worst fear come to terrifying life. The strong arms and body lying on the ground, riddled with holes and covered with blood.
She knelt down beside him and cradled his head in her arms. She looked around in shock at the mute faces, and looked back down at Carlos's face, pale and white, striking against his jet-black hair.
"Someone help us!!", she screamed.
Suddenly, there was a sound like a crack of thunder, and time snapped back into motion.
Picard found himself screaming, and stopped, as did Kirk and Melissa, still standing at the console. Lyta muttered, "comforting...", finishing her previous sentence, then was silent. The Doctor was unmoving, as if rooted to the console. Melissa touched the Time Lord's shoulder lightly, and he started abruptly.
"What?!? Oh, yes. Thank you, Melissa." She was relieved to see that he seemed to be back to himself, that the prescence of the third Doctor had vanished.
"Are you all right, Doctor?"
"Yes, I'm fine. You?"
Melissa shivered, remembering. "Not really, but I'll manage."
They looked over to where Kirk had managed to bring Lyta out of her comatose state and move her over to the couch. "Is everyone else all right?" the Doctor called.
Heads nodded assent, and then Kirk spoke. "What happened?"
"As I was saying before, Jim, the patterns were slightly off; when the portal and the TARDIS-generated forcefield collided, it caused a space-time refraction. The TARDIS got caught in it, sort of like a fly in amber. I must say, what a disconcerting experience..." The Doctor trailed off.
"Is the TARDIS all right?" Melissa asked.
The Doctor punched a few buttons on the computer keyboard and smiled as information came to light on the scanner screen. "Oh, yes; she's quite a resilient ship. Now, why don't we find out exactly where we are?"
He tapped some more commands, and more information came up on the screen, followed by a picture. The screen showed a strange orange color pervading the entire space around them.
Melissa looked at the screen and pursed her lips. "Doctor... that doesn't look like the pictures you've shown me of the Time Vortex."
The Doctor looked at the screen, and frowned. "You're right, Melissa. I wonder..." He continued to tap some more commands into the keyboard, and then a slip of paper came out. The Doctor took it and studied it intently.
"Just as I thought... the environmental conditions outside the TARDIS aren't consistent with what I know about the composition of the Time Vortex. I think we're outside of Time itself."
"Outside of Time? But I thought the Time Vortex was outside of Time."
"It's outside of time, little 't'. The passage of seconds and such. But not outside of Time, big 'T'."
"There's a difference?"
"Oh, of course. In its simplest terms, Time with a capital T is a extradimensional being of extraordinary power which controls the forces of what you humans know as time with a small t."
"And you're called Time's Champion because you defend the principles of this nebulous "Time" being?" Lyta was incredulous. "You've got to be kidding."
"Absolutely not. In fact, most of the nebulous concepts humanity has struggled with throughout its existence have equally nebulous beings controlling them. Death, Life, Time, Fate... They're all real; we usually just notice their effects. But Time Lords, owing to the antiquity of their civilization, have a unique perspective, because they've actually seen them."
"Okay, this is really getting beyond me. Can we just skip the Gallifreyan philosophy lesson and cut to the chase, Doctor?"
"All right, look at it this way; we're now outside the sphere of influence of Time. Outside of both time and Time, you might say." The Doctor smiled, as he looked at the screen. Something in the corner caught his eye. "'lo... What's this?" He punched some more commands into the keyboard, and the corner was highlighted by the TARDIS, brought to the middle of the screen, and magnified. Right there, for all to see, was a piece of rock.
"A planetoid?" He looked again at the readout the TARDIS gave him. "With an atmosphere, no less? Outside of Time, that should be impossible." He stood there for a moment, thinking, then he snapped his fingers. "I know what it is!"
"Just great, Doctor. Mind filling us in?" Lyta said mockingly.
"Young lady, and I remind you that compared to me you are young, you are starting to get on my nerves. The threat to jettison you has not abated; kindly hold your tongue." The Doctor growled. "It's Vanishing Point."
"In Ancient Gallifreyan text, there's a myth that a piece of the Universe split away from Time's influence eons ago. No one knows why or how; it just slipped through the cracks, I suppose. The texts gave the place a name, Vanishing Point, the Lost World Outside of Time."
"Long name for such a small piece of rock, Doctor." Melissa smiled. "You mean it's been sitting here for untold millenia, just doing nothing? You said there was an atmosphere; could there have been an ancient civilization living there, like Atlantis?"
"Unlike Atlantis, there's been no evidence that Vanishing Point ever existed... until now." He studied the picture closely. "You know what I think?"
"I couldn't suppose you're going to tell us?" Lyta muttered, obviously exasperated. If the Doctor heard her, he didn't respond.
"I think our friends are there." He pointed to the screen. "In fact, I think that there was, and is, an ancient civilization, a time-sensitive people, on Vanishing Point."
Melissa saw where the Doctor was going, and completed his thought. "The Devidians."
"Exactly. This must be their home. where they really operate from. The caverns were just waystations after all." The Doctor moved over to the console, and began to push buttons and flip switches. "Prepare yourselves; we're going in!"
"All right!" she yelled in triumph. "It's the Professor!" She turned again to face the Devidians. "You'd better watch it now, toerags, because the Doctor's here, and he doesn't like those who shoot at his friends!"
Her exultation was met with a barrage of energy, which caused her to duck and laugh happily. Now that the Doctor was here, she was back to her old self, the old Ace that would laugh with delight at the face of danger, then think later to run like hell. That Ace had faced Kane, the fascist tyrants of the Happiness Patrol, the fearsome monsters that inhabitated 19th Century Gabriel Chase, and had gleefully dispatched them all with the help of the Doctor. It was as if Heaven, Jan, everything had never happened...
She turned to see the doors open, and an unfamiliar person come out of the TARDIS. She looked at his tall, boyish form, his long brown locks, his Edwardian waistcoat and trousers with the silken tie wrapped around his neck. She looked in shock and disbelief as she finally realized who the figure was. *Oh, no... it can't be.*
She saw the man turn and spot her. "Ace!", he yelled, and her heart broke. *He's changed... regenerated. He's a totally different Doctor. He's not the Time Lord I asked for help. What happened? Why didn't he come to me before this?*
The Doctor yelled out Ace's name, smiling with relief at finding her alive, albeit in a very discomforting situation. He yelled back to the TARDIS, "They're all here, alive and well! And it appears they're in trouble! I'm going on ahead!"
Despite Melissa's protestations, he ran over to the makeshift cover, his long legs churning up the distance. In seconds, he had lithely hopped over the outcropping that shielded the group from certain death and found himself facing Ace. He tried to smile at her, but she wouldn't respond. "Hello, Ace."
"Doctor." was all she would say, and turned her back on him. His hearts broke as he saw the one person who knew him best, in their pasts and futures, move away from him. *Oh, no. I knew it; she won't accept me because I'm not the last one. I'm sorry, Dorothee; I knew I should have come to you after I regenerated.* Then he realized that this wasn't Dorothee, not yet, anyway. *As she is now, she wouldn't understand. I've got to make her understand, to get her to trust me, or we'll all die here.*
"Ace, listen to me; I know you're upset, and hurt, that my other self, your Professor, isn't here. But, for some reason that I can't even begin to fathom, I'm here, now. Can't you put aside your pain and help me?"
She turned her head back to face him, and tears welled up in her eyes. "Why? You're here, so one of two things must have happened. Either he won't come because he hates me for leaving him, or he's gone finally and you're the only Doctor that could hear me. Well, which is it?"
The Doctor struggled to answer. "He-that is, I- don't hate you for leaving, Ace. You had every right to leave; what I did on Heaven was unspeakably evil and destructive, and I regret it utterly. As I regret a great many things that I did to you and to others during that life."
"See? You're even making it sound like he's dead, just another of your selves to reference, in little zones in your mind! Or have you forgotten that I've been there?"
"I haven't forgotten. You're the first and only one of my companions to ever see that deeply into my mind, to see my methods and my reasons for doing the things I've done. And since you have been there, you should know that even though we do change, we are still the same. We are the Doctor. Pieces of the puzzle, never quite gone. You see, the Doctor you know is still here" he tapped his head, "and you know that he wouldn't let anything happen to you. And that's why I'm here; I wouldn't let anything happen to you either."
He let out a breath after his long speech, and looked Ace in the eye. "Help me, Ace. We've got to find a way out of here."
She stood up and yelled at the Doctor. "How do I know that this isn't some trick? Some fourth-dimensional memo you sent yourself? 'Be here at such and such a time to save Ace and all will be forgiven.' Bullocks, Doctor; I won't believe that just because you've changed, that you're that much different."
Data stood and grabbed Ace's shoulder. "Ace, get down!" And then, a bolt of energy hit the android square in the back, and he tensed up. To the shock of all present, including Picard and Kirk, who had just arrived, Data fell forward in the dust, unmoving.
"DATA!!" Ace screamed, then knelt down and rolled him over. His amber eyes stared back at her, unblinking.
She looked fearfully at the Doctor and Picard who were looking at Data in shock. "Don't just stand there! Do something!"
Galvanized into action, the Doctor took Data and bodily moved him into a sitting position. He fumbled into his pockets, and pulled out a jeweler's lens and his sonic screwdriver. He looked at Picard.
"How do I get in, Jean-Luc?"
Picard peeled the back of Data's scalp away from his head, revealing his positronic neural network. The Doctor put the jeweler's lens to his eye and examined the network's pathways minutely. After a few seconds of searching, he hmmmed. "I think I've found it; the motor pathways in his anterior cortex are fried. Pretty nasty."
"Can you fix it, Doctor?" Ace spoke hopefully.
"I think so; I'll have to reroute the surrounding circuitry around the damaged pathways to other areas. But it'll take some time." Meeting Ace's gaze, he muttered, "And before you say anything about my past self being able to do this with his eyes closed, or some such nonsense, it's not true. My forte at Academy was thermodynamics, not cybernetics."
Ace began to smile, seeing some of her Doctor return to this new persona. She turned away from him, and fired a quick salvo toward the Devidians. The Doctor worked for several minutes on Data, and then groaned. "I can't do this with what I have! I can't take him back to the TARDIS; she's becoming surrounded." The others looked, and true to his word, a group of Devidians had began to circle the Police Box.
"How..." Kirk muttered, then realized the reason. *The TARDIS is communicating to him through some kind of telepathic link! Amazing!*
"I need tools!" Hearing the Doctor's protest, Ace moved over to where he and Data were and pressed the shoulder hatch that she had seen earlier. The Doctor smiled.
"Bloody naff, Ace."
"Thank you, Professor. Now, hurry up; we need you two to get us out of here."
The Doctor paused. "You called me 'Professor'."
"I just can't seem to stay mad at you, can I? Hell, I can't even stay mad at *him* sometimes." She smiled again at the Time Lord, and whispered, "I forgave you long ago; you were only trying to do what you were chosen to do. But for some reason, I found that I liked staying angry. And so I stayed angry, at you, at everything. It helped me survive in the future."
The Doctor nodded, remembering his first meeeting with Ace on Iceworld. She was angry then, and it had given her an edge he sorely needed. "I understand... Dorothy."
Ace made the required face, and then smiled again. "Get to work."
The Doctor fussed for a few more minutes, completely oblivious to the energy crackling around him, from both the Devidians and Ace, as well as Picard and Kirk, who, unbeknownst to him or the TARDIS, had brought phasers.
He closed the shoulder hatch and the scalp access panel, and announced, "I'm done, I hope. Now, how do I turn him on?"
Picard knelt down and reached around to the small of his back. He flipped the android's power switch, and suddenly Data came to life. He looked around, reasserting his vision to his surroundings. His vision rested on the Doctor. "You must be the Time Lord."
"That's right, Lieutenant Commander. I'm the Doctor, and this is..." The Doctor looked around then. He frowned, as Ace supplied helpfully, "And this is my companion..."
"She's not here! But I thought she left the TARDIS when we did. Jim, Jean-Luc; have you seen Melissa since we arrived?"
Kirk and Picard shook their heads, as Ace spoke. "This Melissa's your new companion?"
"Yes, Ace, and now she's gone missing. And so has Lyta. I was afraid of this!" The Doctor pounded the dusty ground in frustration, as the Devidians marched ever closer to their tenuous position.
As the Doctor yelled Ace's name and ran toward the figures in trouble, Lyta felt a sharp pain at her temples. She tried to massage it away, hoping no one had noticed anything untoward. Luckily, everyone that had been on the TARDIS had been preoccupied with the Doctor's discovery.
Everyone, that is, except Melissa. She kept an eye on Lyta even as Kirk and Picard, galvanized into action by the sight of their friends in trouble, strapped on the hand phasers they had managed to conceal from the Doctor. Somehow, they didn't think that the Time Lord would be too happy about them carrying weapons into his time machine, but they felt the need, separately, to be ready for whatever awaited them.
Lyta continued massaging her temples, as the voice of her Mistress echoed through her brain.
*Lyta, my servant! You have finally arrived, with the Time Lord and company in tow! Very good.*
*We were almost killed by a subspace disturbance when the Doctor tried to force the Devidians' portal open...*
"That is of no concern to me! What is paramount is that the Doctor and his band are here, and here is where they shall all meet their doom!*
These words surprised the young time-traveller. *You mean that Kirk, Picard, their kidnapped friends, all of them are to be killed?*
The voice of her Mistress was hedged with uncertainty as she continued. *You know that they do not want to kill the Devidians, even though they killed your dear friend, Gary Seven! When the time comes for the Devidians to be eliminated from time for their crimes, they will try to defend them, spouting dribble about 'unnecessary death' and 'need to survive'. But it won't work, will it?*
The pounding in Lyta's head continued, and she made a muffled groan in response. This caused Melissa to come to her side, worriedly. "Are you all right, Lyta?", she asked.
Lyta turned to Melissa. "I am quite all right! Now, I must get out there, to see final justice meted out for Gary Seven's death."
As she raged toward the open doors to the TARDIS, Lyta noticed that as she grew more angry, the pain in her head diminished. *So, if I have to be angry for the pain to stop, then angry I shall be!* She directed her next thought even further inward, to where her Mistress waited. *What is your wish, Mistress?*
*You will first come to me. I am inside the large structure currently under besiegement by the allies of the Doctor. I am being held captive by the Devidians, given a harsh sentence for time-travelling without their knowledge. In time, they will most likely terminate me. You must free me from my imprisonment, and together, we will crush our enemies!*
"Crush our enemies..." Lyta murmured as she exited the TARDIS, and, as if on auto-pilot, moved toward the large, imposing structure set in stone a distance away. Melissa stood at the threshold of the time machine, debating her options.
*Should I go and help the Doctor, or go after Lyta? The Doctor thinks she has something to do with all of this, and her behavior makes it a likely prospect. But what if the Doctor needs me?* She thought about this for a few more seconds, then came to a decision.
*This is the first time since we've started travelling that I've voluntarily left your side. I just hope I don't pay for it later.* An image of the TARDIS taking off without her, as the Seventh Doctor had done with a young Ace years ago, flitted through her mind, but she dismissed it as she trudged along the same path Lyta had gone just seconds before.
Staying a few meters behind to avoid detection, she stopped behind a rock as she saw Lyta stop in front of the door of the structure. She appeared to be lost in thought for a moment, then she pulled out of her pocket a silver tube-like object, with a stone very much like a ruby inset into it. Melissa recognized it instantly.
*It's a sonic screwdriver! But I thought only Time Lords carried those...* The implications of this development began to move through Melissa's mind, but she again shoved away distraction as she saw Lyta activate the sonic screwdriver, and saw a shimmering of light, like a veil parting, in response to her ministrations.
Lyta stepped through, and Melissa realized that she had only seconds to act before the veil of light closed again. She broke off in a quiet but hurried trot, and dove through the hole created by Lyta just as she heard a humming sound that she instinctively knew was the reactivation of the force-field.
She picked herself up off the ground to see Lyta enter the inner doors of the structure. Undaunted, Melissa followed behind her, again keeping a short distance behind. As she reached the inner doors, she noticed that the doors seemed to radiate with energy. She pressed her hand against the door briefly, and was rewarded with a low vibration against her hand. Filing this information away for later reference, she continued along the same path as Lyta, into the mammoth building set in stone.
She was immediately encased in semi-darkness, as if the light from the outside simply stopped radiating past the doors of the structure. She continued along, keeping her eyes on both Lyta and the corridor ahead of her, lest she trip or make noise that would alert her quarry to her prescence. She suddenly realized that she should be worried about whatever had made the large building. *It doesn't look like the Devidians could have made this on their own, even if they do have time-travel technology. The Doctor's right; they must have had help!*
She noticed that Lyta was beginning to loom almost out of sight in the increasing gloom, so she moved a little faster, as quietly as she could. Presently, she came upon a T-intersection, with two corridors branching off from the one she was currently on. She looked as far as she could down one corridor and then the other, but Lyta was nowhere to be seen. Frustrated at losing her quarry, she stepped into the middle of the intersection to decide what to do. Suddenly, she heard a whispering noise behind her; she turned sharply around to see a wall, seemingly out of nowhere, blocking the way she had came.
She turned around again, facing the corridors, and shouted into the gloom, "Okay, you've found me, whatever you are! I'm not going to be intimidated by parlor-tricks, so come out and show yourself!"
For a long moment, nothing could be heard. Then, Melissa heard an echo of laughter. As she watched, out of one of the corridors came Lyta. She was still dressed in her black suit, which Melissa realized made it easier for her to conceal herself, and she was holding a rod-like instrument in front of her. Noticing the questioning look on Melissa's face, Lyta smiled evilly.
"To answer your question, it is a weapon. A nasty piece of machinery known as a Tissue Compression Eliminator, I believe. My Mistress tells me that it could kill you quite painfully." Before Melissa could say anything, Lyta continued. "But for now, the Mistress wants you alive, as bait for the Doctor and his friends."
Melissa began to speak. "Who is-" She was cut off as Lyta did not fire the TCE, but instead threw a silver disc-shaped object at her. Melissa reflexively turned to shield herself from this unexpected attack, and the disc caught her in the small of her back. Suddenly, Melissa found that she couldn't move. Like a puppet whose strings were cut, she dropped, lifeless to the floor.
Melissa's eyes were still open, however, and she saw Lyta loom over her, smiling. "Now, I think we should show you to the Mistress. I am quite interested in seeing her myself..."
The Doctor helped Data to a more dignified cross-legged sitting position, apparently unmindful of the energy barrage raining over his head. He then looked over at the group, now including Kirk and Picard, that was trying valiantly to repel the Devidians.
"This isn't working!" he yelled. "We've got to knock them out of action, and fast!" With a sharp look at Ace, he continued. "No killing!"
"What?" Ace looked on, puzzled. "I voted for trying to get into their base!"
"Base? They have a base?"
"Yeah, you can see it from here." She pointed at the structure seemingly rooted into the ground not far from their position. The Doctor took a look at it, and hmmed thoughtfully.
"What is it, Professor? You've got a plan?"
"Not yet... Let me look for something." He began to rummage through the pockets of his waistcoat.
After a moment of searching, his fingers found something in his pocket, and he grinned. "That's it!" He held up a small circuit board. "A energy compression circuit; I must have taken it out of the TARDIS while shutting up the Master and put in my pocket. This is perfect!"
"The Master?" Ace began to ask, and was met with a familiar not-right-now look from the Doctor. "Okay, I've got to take a look at each of your weapons, to see if any of them are compatible with this circuit. Come on, everybody, give them up!"
Each of the group carrying energy weapons complied, and finally, he took Kirk's phaser. "The circuit will work best with this old, antiquated 23rd Century phaser. No offense, Jim."
"None taken, Doctor. Now, what are you going to do?'
"Well, in its simplest terms, this little circuit is going to boost and change your phaser's output into a single wide beam. Hopefully, we can stun more of the Devidians that way. That's the good news."
"And the bad news?"
"The bad news, Jean-Luc, is that either it'll only work once, or it won't work at all, and instead blow up, in all probability killing me."
"You? Why does it have to be you?"
"Because it may require some on-the-spot fine-tuning, and I'm not going to risk any of you, even the almost indestructible Mister Data. That reminds me; Data, another chance at your microtools, please?"
Data complied, once again opening the shoulder hatch for the perusal of the Time Lord. He picked tools, one after the other, using them with blinding speed fusing the circuit to the existing innards of the phaser.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Doctor was ready. He held the weapon far away from him; the action was mostly to protect himself from any probable explosion, but it was also due to the Time Lord's disdain of guns. He yelled back, "Duck and cover!", as he pressed the trigger of the phaser.
Almost immediately, a bright, wide beam of light came out of the weapon, and almost as quickly, the group of Devidians fell down in a heap. Ace looked up to see the Devidians down and the Doctor struggling madly with the phaser.
"What's wrong, Professor?"
"I can't turn it off!"
"Then throw it away, quick, before you fricassee us!"
The Doctor nodded, and threw away the phaser as if it was a hot potato. He watched with satisfaction as it made contact with a rock and disintegrated. He rubbed his hands together happily.
"That's quite enough of that, I should think. Now, let's check on the Devidians, and then try to find Melissa and Lyta."
The group came of their hiding place cautiously, looking for more signs of trouble; the Doctor, true to form, was totally unconcerned. He moved quickly from one covered Devidian to the next, checking quickly for any vital signs. By the time they had reached him, he was smiling grimly.
"None of them are dead, thank Rassilon, but they are going to be out for quite a while." The Doctor rubbed his hands together again for no apparent reason. "You know, I really didn't think that plan was going to work."
Ace smiled. "A version of the Doctor, not sure of himself? Didn't think it possible."
"Well, I haven't had this particular body for very long." Seeing Ace's questioning look, he gave her another not-right-now-we've-got-work-to-do look back at her as they came to the entrance to the structure. Kirk tried first to get to the doors, but he was blocked by a force-field. The Doctor hmmed softly to himself.
"Something familiar, Professor?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. There's been something familiar about this whole mess since the beginning, and I'm still no closer to knowing what it is." He suddenly sat down in a cross-legged lotus position, his hands resting on his knees. Picard started to ask him what he was doing, but Ace put a hand on his shoulder.
"I wouldn't disturb him, Picard. I've seen the Professor do this before; he's meditating... looking into his mind. He's got quite a lot of memories to sift through for a almost one-thousand year old guy."
"I am not a 'guy', Ace, I am a Time Lord. Furthermore, I am well over a thousand by now." The Doctor spoke softly, his eyes still closed, never moving from his sitting position. Ace smiled.
"I hate when you do that..."
Suddenly, he sprang up. "Lakertya!", he screamed.
"Huh? What is that, some kind of Time Lord version of 'I've got it!'" Harriman asked sarcastically.
Ace smiled. "No, I get it. Lakertya is where you and the old doughnut went right after your last regeneration, right? I remember her telling me about it briefly on Iceworld."
The Doctor nodded. "Mel and I were forced down out of the Time Vortex and landed there. In fact, we landed right in front of this exact structure."
"And who was responsible?"
The Doctor frowned with grim realization. "The Rani."
"The Rani? Isn't she another one of your lot? Like the Master? Geez, I want, just once, to meet a Time Lord that doesn't want to kill me."
The Doctor whispered, "You'll get your chance, I promise." Ace looked at him sharply, as Picard spoke.
"Wait... if this is the exact same structure that you encountered when you met the Rani on Lakertya, how is it here, now?"
"I don't know, Jean-Luc..." Then the Doctor snapped his fingers.
"This isn't just any old force-field; I can sense something from it, faintly."
"Sense something? From a force-field?" Harriman was highly skeptical.
"Yes, I can. But why, unless... "I've got it! Why didn't I think of it before?"
"It's the HADS!"
"The Hostile Action Defense System! You remember, Ace; it's saved our lives more times than you can count."
Ace's eyes opened wider, as she digested the information. "You mean that..."
"Right. This structure is the Rani's TARDIS!"
"Not the same exact ship, Jean-Luc, just different types. The Rani's TARDIS has the ability to change its shape. This particular shape, though, is rather large; she must be using an amazing amount of energy to keep it together."
"Can that information help us?" Kirk asked.
"I don't know, Jim. It might mean that she's not quite as defensively sound as my TARDIS..." The Doctor trailed off, lost in thought. Suddenly, a voice could be heard.
"Doctor! You have come at last! And with a new body, to boot!"
"Well, the old one was getting rather old. Haven't seen you since Lakertya, I believe."
"Right, Doctor; I'm a firm supporter of the BLE. I've got your companion; come on in and get her."
Picard looked at the Doctor. "BLE?"
"Blinovitch Limitation Effect. One of the major theorems that govern time travel. In this instance, she's referring to the fact that Time Lords can't meet each other out of temporal sequence."
The Doctor tensed. "I should have known that you would resort to something like all of this," he spread his arms wide, "to get my attention, Rani. It's just the broad-minded spectacle you and the Master used to dream up at the Academy."
"Reminiscing won't help you now, Doctor. Or your companion... she is rather young, isn't she? About the age of Mel, or Peri, I would think. Hmmm... I wonder what happened to them?"
The Doctor clenched his fists. "I am so tired of everybody trying to use my past against me! Try living in the present for once, Rani; you might find that it really isn't so bad."
The group could hear laughter from the air. "Come and get young Melissa, Doctor, or I swear on the name of Rassilon, I will kill her in cold blood."
"You would do just that, and get a rise out of it, you fiend. All right, I'm coming. I presume I have to be alone?"
"Oh, no, Doctor. This time, I'm so confident of winning, you can bring as many friends to the party as you like."
The voice again laughed, and as the echoes died away, the Doctor turned to his friends. "Okay, we've got to move, and move fast. The Rani is liable to do anything; she's quite mad. Jim, Jean-Luc, Ace, Data, come with me."
"Hey, what about me?" Harriman wasn't too happy to be left behind.
"I'm going to need the rest of you to watch our backs, in case the Devidians awake." Harriman sulked as Kahless nodded sagely, ready to fight.
The Doctor looked Spock and spoke in Vulcan,
Spock nodded his understanding, as the Doctor looked at his group. "Are all of
you ready? I make no guarantees as to your safety in the Rani's TARDIS."
Ace smiled. "Always ready, Professor. Let's get this sleazebag."
The Doctor smiled grimly. "Trust you to put just the right spin on things,
Ace. I miss that attitude, you know." Ace nodded, as the Doctor moved to the
force-field and depressed a contact on his sonic screwdriver. At once, the
veil was lifted with a parting of shimmering light, and everyone stepped
"No turning back now, everyone. The Rani could just as easily dematerialize
now and throw us all to the mercy of the Time Vortex than face us."
"And you don't think she will?"
"The Rani, throughout all the years I've known her, has never once not met a
challenge. Except, that is, for my destruction. It has been her guiding force
for centuries; if she thinks she has it in her grasp this time, she won't throw
it away. She'll milk it for all it's worth."
As the group moved through the doors and into the interior of the Rani's
TARDIS, Ace moved closer to the Doctor and whispered, "You know, I like this
version of you better than the old one in one major respect."
"Let me guess; I'm more forthcoming with personal information."
"Right." Ace smiled. "You remember Lady Peinforte, right?"
"How could I forget? Oh... you want to know what she meant when she said that
I was 'more than a Time Lord'."
The Doctor smiled. "I can't give away all my secrets, Ace. What kind of
mysterious force for justice would I be then, hmmm?"
They presently reached a large room, with many doors leading out of it. The
Doctor looked around, and grimaced. "This is just like the Rani, to use her
own TARDIS as an impossible maze."
"How would she do that?"
"The TARDISes have the ability to change their room configurations. They can
put any room anywhere it wants. Right, Doctor?"
"Very good memory, Ace. Any of these doors could lead to the Rani, or to
another corridor, or to our dooms. There's no way of knowing."
"So, what do we do? Split up? We'd have a better chance of finding the right
door that way."
"And take the chance of losing one or more of you, either to the TARDIS's
corridors or to one of the Rani's nasty surprises? No chance."
The Doctor yelled into the air, "Come on, Rani! Make it more interesting than
this... give us something to go on."
The voice returned; the group could almost sense the sneer in the Rani's voice.
"All right, Doctor; the door to your salvation is in your name."
"What kind of clue is that?" Ace yelled. "We all know his name is Doctor."
"Not necessarily, Ace. I have had many names throughout my lives; the trick is
finding out which she's referring to."
"Well, start off, then. Maybe one of the doors will respond."
"All right... The Daleks called me the Ka Faraq Gatri. Roughly translated, it
means 'The Bringer of Darkness'..."
Just then, the gloom that had pervaded the antechamber the group was in began
to deepen. The Doctor scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Hmmm... this TARDIS
is keyed by the Rani to respond to my suggestions."
"Is that good?"
"I don't know... Let's try again. The Draconians called me 'The Oncoming
In response to his words, a mild breeze began to blow along the antechamber.
Without warning, the wind picked up to a gale. The group was pressed back
along the walls by the force of the wind. Ace yelled, "Okay, you've done
enough! My turn..."
Then, through the gloom, Ace thought she saw something on the doors. She moved
closer to one of them, pushing through the fierce wind. She looked at it, and
saw that embossed into the door was a strange symbol. She recognized it
"It's Greek, Doctor! The doors are inset with Greek letters!"
Each of the group moved to a door, and finding a symbol inscribed, they began
to call out the letters.
"Beta... Omicron... Sigma... Mu..."
The Doctor stood in the middle of the storm and darkness, and finally, he
spoke. As he did, it seemed to Ace that his eyes shone in the gloom, like some
At his words, the door emblazoned with the Greek letter Sigma, the mathematical
symbol of summation, opened. The gloom receded and the wind stopped. The
group looked at the Time Lord, who smiled wanly.
"Remember Terra Alpha, Ace?"
Ace grimaced. "How could I forget? Helen A... the Candyman... the Happiness
Patrol. Not my idea of a holiday at all, Professor."
As they went through the door, which led into another corridor, the Doctor
prompted, "And what did I call myself on that world?"
"Theta Sigma... Right, I get it. It was really one of your names?"
"Yes, it was... A nickname the Rani used to call me when we were schooling
together on Gallifrey at the Prydonian Academy."
'Wait a second, you two went to school together? Were you friends?"
The Doctor frowned. "No, certainly not, Ace. I was too much of a renegade,
even then... I didn't have many friends during my formative years."
Ace grinned. "Yeah, I can imagine you as the class clown, Professor. So,
"How about here, young Ace?"
The voice carried through the corridor; as the group watched, another door
opened. "Come in, if you dare."
"Is Melissa in there, Rani?"
"She is, Doctor; but I can't vouch for her condition..."
"If you've harmed her in any way, I'll make you regret it. You know what I'm
capable of, perhaps more than anyone here. I will make good on my threat."
"Of course, Doctor. She is alive. Come in, and let the endgame begin."
The group went through the passageway, and found themselves in a cavernous
room. Machines were hooked up to what appeared to be a large hexagonal
pedestal in the center of the room.
"The console room." Ace breathed. Picard whispered, "It's much more...
developed than yours, Doctor."
"That's because the Rani likes to keep the subjects of her experiments close
"That's right, Doctor. Don't tell me you've figured out my plan already?" The
Rani, tall and lithe with strawberry-blond hair, stepped out of the shadows and
locked onto her fellow renegade Time Lord with a feral stare.
"Not all of it, but a great deal. After you were defeated on Lakertya by my
earlier self and Mel, you searched for a way to continue your temporal
"That strange matter would have been ideal for my work, Doctor. If you had
just left well enough alone..."
"You know I couldn't do that. Traveling through time and space, you somehow
stumbled upon this... random timezone, and Vanishing Point."
"It was purely accidental. A brief disruption in space-time, a subspace
infarction, much like you experienced when you arrived here. I found the
Devidians here, struggling to survive. Their stores of neural energy were
almost depleted; they didn't want to go out into the timestream for fear of
being discovered by someone who could stop them for good. The Enterprise-D had
already done so once", the Rani looked at Picard then, "and they were shaken by
"I had no choice... they would have altered human history with their continued
disruptions. The future I know would have never come to pass. I tried to help
them... but they were unrelenting." Picard looked at the Rani, who scowled.
"One simple planet wouldn't have mattered... plus, they had heard of the Time
Lords, from other, more ancient texts on distant worlds. They didn't want to
tangle with them at all, Doctor; you know as well as I what they would have
done to them."
"The High Council isn't the same as it was then, Rani. I have to admit, I
shook them up a bit when I became President. They still haven't recovered...
but they wouldn't kill a sentient species just for using time-travel as a means
of gathering sustenance. I refuse to believe it."
"Maybe the High Council wouldn't... but there are those who don't act on the
whims of the Council, eh, Doctor?"
The Doctor remembered suddenly the actions taken against him and his friends by
Ferain and the Celestial Intervention Agency, dating back to the very
beginnings of his travels through time and space. His first trial had been a
farce, his second a complete sham designed to lure him to his doom... not to
mention more recent events, like the kidnapping of Dorothee in order to find
out his deepest secrets. The Doctor realized that the Rani was right, but he
couldn't afford to think about that right now. There were more important
things to do...
Suddenly, a voice was heard. "Mistress, I have brought the young companion."
Lyta came into the room, carrying Melissa over her shoulder like a sack of
potatoes. She laid her down on the floor of the console room, and the Doctor
hurried over to her.
"Melissa, can you hear me?"
Melissa began to stir, and opened her eyes slowly. As she focused in on the
Time Lord, she smiled. "You're a sight for sore eyes, Doctor."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine... that stun-disc she used on me hurt like hell, though. But
I'll live." She stood, groggily, as Lyta took her place next to the Rani.
Melissa managed a weak sneer as she caught sight of the Time Lady. "So, you're
the Mistress. Can't say I'm that impressed, what with the second-rate help
you've got... I could tell she was a phony straight off."
The Rani decided not to respond, as the Doctor continued. "There's one thing I
still don't understand... what does Lyta have to do with all of this?"
"She is the instrument of my revenge, Doctor. The Devidians killed her close
friend, and in her own anger, she led you right to me."
"You mean, she doesn't know?"
"What is he talking about, Mistress?"
The Doctor began to grin, as his mind sped ahead to the next move. "Lyta, the
Rani, to use an Earth term, has been playing you like a violin. The Devidians
are the ones who have been keeping Ace and the others here... but on the orders
of the Rani, known to you as the Mistress."
"Good try, Doctor, but she won't believe you. She's mine; I own her utterly."
The Rani looked at Lyta, and was surprised to see a look of bewilderment on the
young time-travelller's face.
"You mean that you're really not held here against your will? You're not being
kept here by the Devidians because you were travelling through time without
"She doesn't look too cooped up in here, does she?" The Doctor supplied
"I was, erm, able to free myself when you and the Doctor arrived. I'm about to
exact my vengeance on my captors and their friends!"
"I'm confused... the Devidians kidnapped them and held them against their will.
Why should they be destroyed?"
"Yes, why, Rani? We've done nothing except act as bait to lure the Doctor
here, right?" Ace questioned.
"Yes, and the Devidians should be punished for their crimes! But you won't do
it; you'll allow them to live."
"Yes, we will. They are a sentient race; the harm they have done is only as a
result of their need to survive. If we kill them just because they're trying
to survive, what makes us different than, say, you?" Kirk interjected. "You
want to kill the Doctor, simply because he interferes with your plans, and from
what I've heard, he should continue to do so. What gives you the right to
destroy life with impunity?"
"My position as a Time Lord gives me the right to hold dominion over those
lesser species I encounter!" The Rani countered.
The Doctor spoke softly, "You were excommunicated from Gallifrey for your
experiments, much as I was when I fled centuries ago. They will have nothing
to do with you. Your so-called 'position' as a Time Lord doesn't exist, except
in your twisted mind. Give this charade up, Rani, and tell the truth."
The Doctor turned to Lyta. "The short version is that the Rani has been using
us, all of us, even the Devidians, in order to kill us wholesale, leaving
nothing to stand between her and total domination of time."
Kirk continued. "She told us she found the Devidians, alone and dying, and
offered them sustenance in return for doing her bidding."
"It wasn't that hard to do; the ability to replicate human neural energy has
been a Time Lord capability for millenia. She ordered them to kill Gary Seven
on the Enterprise-A and kidnap Captain Spock, bringing you into the plan. From
there, it was a simple enough matter to enter your anger-clouded mind and
convince you that all of us were against you, but you had to play along to lure
"She then had the Devidians kidnap Data, bringing the Enterprise-D into the
mix... Why did you do that, anyway? Bring the Enterprises in, and Kahless
"I thought I could destroy the Federation and the Klingon Empire by killing
their greatest figures. After your deaths, I would have travelled back in time
and shown myself to the races of the galaxy as a god. They would have been my
"You are sick, girl. Very sick." Ace retorted. "Humanity would have
resisted, as would all the other sentient species. You wouldn't have had a
"You forget I am a time-traveller. If it didn't work, I would have gone back
farther and tried again. I would have succeeded in time, especially with my
greatest foe out of the way."
Throughout this discourse, Lyta was becoming more and more confused, until
finally, a light dawned. She thought, *I don't understand... You had the
Devidians kill Gary Seven and used me to lure the Doctor and your friends here,
where you could destroy them?*
The voice of the Rani echoed in her head. *Ah, the light comes on at last.
Yes, you were a pawn, as was Gary Seven and everyone else here. All pawns to
be swept off the board in one move, as I win the game!*
Suddenly, Lyta whirled on the Rani. "No! No more killing or subservience;
this ends now!" She pulled the Tissue Compression Eliminator out of her suit
and grabbed the Rani in a chokehold, pressing the weapon to the Time Lady's
"Lyta, no! This isn't the way!" The Doctor shouted, as he moved toward the
young human and her hostage.
"Wrong, Doctor! It's the only way to make sure this madness ends!" She held
the Rani tighter as she tried to wriggle free of Lyta's grip.
Suddenly, the Doctor saw a figure go past him, moving themselves between the
Time Lord and the frightened Lyta. At first, the Doctor thought it was Ace, or
Data. When he realized who the person was, he moved to stop him.
"Jim, get out of the way!"
"No, Doctor. You see, I know exactly how she feels." Kirk turned to Lyta, who
still had the Rani held tight and the TCE aimed at the Time Lady's head.
"Lyta, I once had a son, a very bright and intelligent young man. He was
helping his mother on a very important project when the Klingons attacked. He
tried to protect his project, and two of my crew, and for his bravery, he was
killed in cold blood."
Everyone looked on, shocked, as Kirk continued.
"In my rage, I took revenge for his death and killed the Klingon who had
murdered David. It made me feel better, for a while. The anger, forced by
years and years of war with the Klingons, had clouded my judgement and changed
my life. Later, when the Klingons were on the verge of extinction, I didn't
want to help them. Spock told me that they would die unless help was given; in
my anger, I told him that I didn't care."
"When I met the Klingon leader, I realized that their way of life and views
toward such things as peace and diplomacy weren't really that much different
after all. When Gorkon died, I was arrested for his murder, and was tried,
convicted, and sentenced to certain death by Klingons who had known of my
hatred of them over the death of my son."
"When the conspiracy was discovered, and I escaped and stopped it from tearing
apart a budding Klingon-Federation alliance, I realized that things had to
change. I found that I could stop feeling revenge, and start trying to
forgive. It hasn't been easy, but I think I've been doing a pretty good job."
"What I'm trying to say, Lyta, is to stop this now, with no more bloodshed.
Gary Seven has died trying to save us; let his death mean something, for he was
always a man of peace. If you kill the Rani now, it will create a vaccum of
hate and revenge that may never be filled. Don't do this to yourself, please."
Kirk finished his impassioned plea, as Lyta looked into his eyes, and saw the
hurt and the desperation in them mirrored in her own. *He doesn't want me to
do this... After all I've done, the way I've treated everyone, they understand,
and they don't want me to throw away my life.*
She lowered the Tissue Compression Eliminator, and the Rani suddenly tried to
grab the weapon. The Doctor cried, "No, don't!", as the two struggled with the
dangerous weapon. The TCE moved toward the right, then to the left, then
pointed right at the Doctor. Then, with a burst of strength, Lyta pulled the
TCE away from the Time Lord and over toward the console of the Rani's TARDIS.
Suddenly, a flash of light was seen, and one of the console surfaces exploded.
The Rani and Lyta fell to the floor, unconscious, as the Doctor moved rapidly
over to the console. He looked at the sparking and smoking console, and as he
looked at the damage, the others noticed that the machines and equipment
scattered around the room were sparking and exploding as well.
"Oh, no! This is bad, very bad..."
"What is it, Doctor?" Kirk stood with the others away from the still smoking
and sparking console.
"The blast from the TCE seems to have severed the artron energy conduit from
the Eye of Harmony to the console."
Picard cut in then: "You mean the Eye of Harmony that powers the TARDIS?"
"The same... it appears that the artron energy is going back the way it came...
into the Eye!"
"English please, Professor!" Ace was looking around, worried, and yelped as
another bank of electronic equipment exploded next to her.
"It means, Ace, that we have about a minute before this TARDIS goes up!"
"'Goes up' as in 'Kablooie!" Ace supplied helpfully.
The Doctor threw up his hands. "'Kablooie!'"
"Then what are we waiting for?"
Ace began to lead everyone out of the console room. The Doctor followed right
behind, and as they reached the intersection of rooms they had been trapped in,
Ace suddenly turned around to face the Time Lord.
"Wait! Lyta and the Rani..."
The Doctor shook his head sadly. "There's no time."
"I could go back in... We have to know..."
"Ace, listen to me; there is no time! I will not let you sacrifice your life
for the Rani. Now, go!!"
Ace nodded silently, and she and the Doctor ran hell-for-leather for the
mammoth front entrance to the Rani's TARDIS. They had barely gotten out when
the familiar dematerialization sound was heard, but with a different pitch; Ace
distractedly thought it sounded like a car failing to turn over. With a final
shriek, the entire fortress-like compound vanished into thin air. Ace looked
at the Doctor.
"Do you think..."
"It's not likely, Ace. The artron energy feedback would have eaten away the
TARDIS from the inside."
"But I heard what sounded like the TARDIS dematerializing..."
"I managed to rig the Rani's TARDIS itself to dematerialize into the Time
Vortex. If it had continued to die away here, the resulting explosion would
have destroyed this entire planetoid."
At Ace's horrified look, the Doctor whispered, "I couldn't risk you... I
couldn't. The Rani got what she deserved in the end, for all of the death and
suffering she has caused."
The Doctor thought for a moment, then he spoke with quiet determination. " Her
only fault, like so many of us have, is that she trusted too much. But, her
last acts were to face what she had done, and try to correct it. I admire her
very much for that, and I regret that I couldn't save her." The Doctor sighed,
and faced the group of wayward time-travellers before him.
"Now then, why don't we see about getting all of you home safe and sound, eh?"
Ace grinned and went to her room. A second later, everyone heard, "All right!
Everything's still here!" and we looked on, astonished, as Ace came back out
in a leather jacket, T-shirt, black leggings, and Doc Martens. She looked at
everyone, smiling like some giddy schoolgirl, and twirled around, modeling her
outfit. "Still fits perfectly, too. I can't believe it..." The Doctor looked
ready to cry himself as he replied, "You think I just deleted your room when
you left? No way. Haven't done that since..." He made a show of thinking as
he continued, "Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever deleted one of my
companion's rooms. Maybe because one or another of you always seems to come
back into my life at just the wrong time." He smiled again at Ace, who went,
whistling, out of the console room. "Going to the gym, Professor. Be back
soon.", she called back, laughing.
The others went to their rooms, and just like that, we were alone, the Doctor
and I. He moved over to the console, checking gauges and flipping switches as
the TARDIS sped along... "Wait a minute." I had just realized something. "Can
we get back to normal time, or are we going to be stuck in this out-of-time
The Doctor smiled in that infuriating boyish way of his; you know, when he's
got it all figured out and he can't wait to tell you about it. "Well, Melissa,
we're certainly not going to be stuck anywhere. See for yourself." He flipped
a switch on one of the console surfaces, and the air above the Time Rotor
shimmered, to reveal a picture of the Time Vortex. I had to smile; I was
starting to think I'd never see that swirling batch of light again.
"Very simple, Melissa. While we were off having our fun, the TARDIS analyzed
what went wrong with the initial entry into the 'out-of-time zone', as you call
it, and automatically focused the HADS to the correct frequency for the return
trip. No muss, no fuss. Not bad, huh?"
"Yeah, good work, Doctor. I'm very impressed. Now, for the most important
"Yes?" The Doctor smiled, as he moved back over to the couch and sat down.
"We have seven people from four different time periods spanning thousands of
years. How are we going to get them home without ending up in every written
record in the history of the Universe?"
"Ah, yes... putting them back in their rightful places and times with no memory
of the incidents befallen them is going to be quite difficult. I'll just have
to think of a plan."
"You mean, you don't have one? Big surprise there." Ace entered the room
then, and smiled. "So, until then, what are we going to do, sit here and
"After what you've been through, I think that a vacation would be a good idea."
The Doctor looked at Ace. "That is, unless you want to go back to Dalek
Ace just laughed at the Doctor then. "Not a chance." She turned to me. "Come
on; I want to show you how to make Nitro-Nine. I have a feeling you're going
to need it with this one." She jerked a thumb at the Doctor, as she led me out
of the console room. As I left, I faintly heard the Doctor call, "Oh, no, not
The Doctor had nodded at this, muttering, "You know, that might work", and he
and Data spent the entire night working on the plan. The next morning, they
discussed the plan with the rest of the group. They would return the groups
from the Enterprises A, B and D to their ships, and then the TARDIS would use
its artron energy stores to create a miniature, stable wormhole. The ships
would pass through it, and their memories would be erased. They would wake up
with no knowledge of the past several days.
The Doctor also decided that he would make some short hops into 23rd and 24th
Century Earth and fake some Starfleet records to make sure that no mention of
the unexplained occurrences that befell the crew remained. Ace smiled at this,
and muttered, "Still putting the pawns into play, I see...", to which the
Doctor gave her a sharp look. The operation on the Enterprises took another
couple of days, and Ace put the time to good use, chaperoning Melissa around
the little-known areas of the TARDIS and regaling her with stories of her
adventures with the Doctor. Melissa felt by this time that she was getting a
good idea of who the Doctor was and why he did the things he did.
It was clear, though, that Ace still hadn't come all the way back in terms of
trusting the Doctor; Melissa cornered her in the arboretum during one of the
tours and asked her why she still acted so distrusting around the Doctor.
"Well, Melissa, I still get the feeling that he's hiding something, something
he doesn't want to tell me about. For all I know, it could be something
important, something I need to know."
Melissa realized that the Doctor had been hedging around about Ace's future;
all her questions on the subject had been quietly ignored by the Time Lord. He
couldn't tell her that she would be reunited with her 'Professor' in only a
year's time; it could shape her entire future.
"I'm sure it's nothing, Ace. You've seen that this Doctor is nothing like the
Doctor you knew."
Ace sighed. "Yeah... for one thing, he's much more outright. And sensitive; I
don't remember the Professor ever hugging me so much. And of course, he's got
much better fashion sense, even though now he looks like he stepped out of a
Jane Austen novel instead of looking like a disheveled... professor." Ace
smiled. "And he is much cuter, too." She giggled at that, then grew more
serious, as she looked at Melissa.
"But remember this; somehow, someway, you're going to find yourself being used,
being put right into the middle of the action, whether you want to or not.
Being his companion isn't just a joyride through the Universe, despite the
sales pitch. It's difficult, it's dangerous... but it is the most worthwhile
thing you're ever going to do in your life, ever. Keep that in mind when you
get captured by the Daleks, or tortured by some power-mad future dictator;
you're helping to preserve the history of the Universe, preserve it for all
races, for all times. You're battling evil, injustice, and all the other
horrible things out there. It's the greatest rush ever... but it can also be
the death of you."
Melissa nodded at the advice. "So you're telling me to enjoy it while it
"Yeah, and that the Doctor's not always going to be there for you, in spite of
what he says. You're going to have to save the Universe on your own once in a
while, so be ready for anything. I thought I was..."
"Until he left you?" Melissa volunteered.
Ace nodded silently. "I didn't think it'd still hurt so much, after the couple
of years I've been away. But it does, it really hurts that he left me to a
future where I was a total misfit, an outcast, struggling to survive. If I
hadn't found Spacefleet, I'd be dead."
Ace gritted her teeth, trying to stop the tears forming on the sides of her
eyes. "And I would leave it in a second if he'd only ask me back. Because
even after all he's done for me and to me, I still can't imagine life without
They sat there for a moment, among the peace and the tranquility of the flowers
and plants, not saying a word, each caught in their own private thoughts. Then
Ace got up and left, leaving Melissa alone. She looked up into the bright blue
sky of the TARDIS arboretum and thought, *Doctor... How could you do this to
her? Just take her with you, with the promise of adventure, take her away from
her home, her life, and then use her and discard her like a spare wardrobe,
something that suddenly didn't fit anymore?*
Then another thought entered, a more distressing thought than the one before...
*What about me? I've got to know...*
She left the arboretum, and in seconds, found herself in the console room,
where she found the Doctor fiddling with the console. He ducked around the
moving Time Rotor and smiled at his companion.
"Hello, Melissa; I just dropped Kahless off on early-era Quo'Nos, the Klingon
homeworld. I'm sorry you missed it... he did get the karg, by the way." He
stopped smiling as he saw the determination and sadness in her eyes. "What is
it? Oh, you've been talking to Ace."
"Yes, I have. And I want to know why you did it."
"Don't be so damned innocent with me, Doctor! I want to know why, and I want
to know if it's going to happen to me!"
The Doctor still looked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, then his face
seemed to deepen, as if cast by some internal shadow. He numbly walked over to
the couch and sat down.
"Melissa, I have really no idea how to answer that. When we were on Heaven..."
"No, before that, Doctor. Start from the beginning. Start with Iceworld, and
"She's told you everything..."
"Everything that matters, especially the part where despite all that you've
done, she would still travel with you, drop everything to be with you again."
"Oh." The Doctor sighed and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I want to say
that I had no idea that all that was going to happen..."
"Come off it, Doctor! From what I've been hearing, you were manipulating her,
pushing her buttons from the beginning! I want to know why!"
"Because it was the only way!!" The Doctor's shout surprised even him; he
quieted down before he spoke again. "I knew from the beginning that she was a
wolf of Fenric; I'd been looking for the signs ever since I met him in
Constantinople. I knew that he'd be coming back eventually, and I wanted to be
"I caught the evidence of the incoming timestorm when I first met Mel in 1986.
After my regeneration, I became keenly aware of his impending reemergence in
normal time. After the timestorm occurred, I tracked it to Iceworld."
"So you knew that Ace was going to be there."
"I knew that someone had been taken there by Fenric for some reason. It was
easy to figure out who and why. I was trying to protect her!"
"By delivering her into the arms of the enemy? By risking her life?"
"By making sure he could never harm her or anyone else again."
"What if she had died, Doctor? What then?"
The Doctor whispered then, so soft that Melissa had to strain to catch it. "I
"And what of me? What happens when I lose my usefulness, huh? You're going to
drop me off thousands of light-years and millions of years away from home?"
"No. I'm going to send you home, back to your family, to your safe life. You
won't ever have to see me ever again."
"I know that's not how it works. As the saying goes, 'Once a companion, always
a companion.' I'm not sure I want to go through with it."
"What are you saying? You want to go home?"
"I'm saying I don't know if you're going to hug me one second and then feed me
to the Daleks the next. And the scariest thing is, I see right now that you
don't know either. So I guess we've both got a lot to think about."
Melissa left the room, leaving the Doctor to his console room, his memories,
and his self-recriminations.
"So, what's up for today?"
"We take Ace back."
"Back? You mean to the 26th Century, back to Daleks and Spacefleet and not
belonging because you're 600 years out of date? You can't mean that."
"I do. There's no choice, and this decision isn't up for a vote."
"That's not fair, Doctor!"
"I know it's not fair, Melissa, but I've already told you what's supposed to
happen to Ace."
"Yeah, yeah. In another year, she reunites with you-that is, the other you-
and Benny on Arcadia."
"There's more. She stays on until a group of aliens known as Ants invade the
timestream. They invade several timezones, including the 26th Century and
ancient Egypt. After we dispel the menace, I end up giving Ace some
time-travel technology, and she leaves to find her own way. She ends up
travelling in a limited time-sphere from the middle of the 18th Century to the
beginning of the 21st. She becomes a valued ally, and one of the last to see
me before my last regeneration."
"So if we don't take her back..."
"None of those things happen, and the future, both hers and mine, will be
altered. And even though I've had to do and endure some very rough things in
my past life, I've also grown quite fond of it. I'm not too happy with the
prospect of changing it."
The Doctor continued his bustling around the console, as Melissa paused for a
moment to digest all the information. "Okay, so how are we going to do this?"
"Very simple; we just land the TARDIS next to the mouth of the cave, lay Ace
down there, and the Dresden will find her and take her back."
"How do you know it's going to work? Oh, wait, I just answered my own
question; you looked it up, right?"
The Doctor smiled. "Exactly."
"But what about her memories? You are going to let her keep her memories of
this, aren't you?" A pause, then: "Aren't you?"
The Doctor started as if to answer, then stopped as Ace walked into the console
room, clad in her Spacefleet jumpsuit. She looked at the Doctor, and then at
Melissa. She smiled wanly and said, "I knew it was going to be today, or
never. And somehow, I knew forever wasn't an option."
The Doctor nodded, and flipped a few switches on the console. "We've landed in
2580, right inside the cave where you were taken. I've been monitoring
transmissions from the Dresden, and it's been about eight hours since your
jump. They're sending down another team in less than twenty minutes; they were
able to isolate the signature from the pilots' beacon rather easily, since
about five hours earlier, Melissa and I shut down the Daleks' EMP station."
The Doctor smiled.
Ace nodded silently, as if saying anything would spoil the moment, and turned
to leave. The Doctor called, "Wait, we'll go out with you." As he came around
the console and passed the endtable next to the chair and ottoman in the middle
of the room, he grabbed a box. When he and Melissa reached Ace, he held the
box out to her. Ace took it; suddenly unsure, she looked at the Doctor. "What
"It's a gift, from me to you. Just think of it as a reminder of our little
out-of-sequence meeting." The Doctor smiled, and opened the box. Inside was a
necklace, made of finely polished silver. Looped in the middle, inside a
setting of silver, was a small red stone. Ace took it out of the box, and put
it around her neck. She smiled, and hugged the Doctor. "Is it a ruby?"
"Oh, no, nothing that common for you. It's a very precious stone from the
planet Alzarius. I once visited the planet ages ago, and one of the Alzarians
gave me it as a momento of a particularly interesting adventure."
"Very cool, Professor. Does it, you know, do anything special?"
The Doctor smiled again. "Don't all my gifts? You see it's glowing now,
right?" Ace looked down and nodded. "Well, all you do is snap your fingers
like this..." The Doctor snapped his fingers and suddenly, in a split-second,
the glowing from the stone turned to a bright flash, and when it had subsided,
Ace was stone-still, unblinking. The Doctor moved to catch her as she started
to fall to the floor of the console room.
"Ace, I'm sorry... but I had to." The Doctor whispered, as he picked her up
and began to carry her to the door, Melissa following right behind. Melissa
whispered, "What is it, really?"
"Oh, it is really a precious stone from Alzar; Adric gave it to me when he came
on board the TARDIS, as tribute. But when the stone is subjected to sound
vibrations of a certain frequency..."
"Like the snapping of your fingers..." Melissa supplied helpfully.
"...the mindstone emits a light flash that reacts with the cerebral cortex of
humanoids, effectively erasing their short-term memories. It also makes their
subconscious mind extremely susceptible to suggestion." By this time, they
had exited the TARDIS and entered the cave. The Doctor set the unconscious
form of Ace down on the floor of the cave, and whispered into her ear, "If you
remember anything, remember this; I will return." He kissed her softly on the
forehead, and moved away from her sleeping body. He sighed, and Melissa put
her hand on his shoulder.
"I said that to Susan, too, and I haven't returned yet. So much to do, so
little time... Hey, I got that one right." The Doctor smiled. "Well, time to
"Now? Can't we wait until the rescue team arrives?"
The Doctor made a show of looking at the watch on his waistcoat, and then
brushed the hair from his eyes. "Ten... nine... eight..." Suddenly, Melissa
could hear a sound like the rolling of thunder from outside the cave.
"Seven... six... five..." The Doctor grabbed Melissa and pushed her into the
TARDIS. He gave the sleeping body of Ace another cheery wave, and followed
behind. A second later, the TARDIS dematerialized, and another second later,
a trio of voices could be heard. "In here! We've found her..."
"Computer, save in personal file, and power off console."
As the computer complied with the request, Data stood up, and in a very
un-android moment, yawned. He smiled at another facet of his newly-emotional
personality; since the destruction of the Enterprise-D at Veridian III, he
hadn't had much time to fully catalog all the emotional states he had
experienced, but he knew that the number was growing every day. And only
recently, after the months of debriefings by Starfleet, had he been able to
think about another equally important incident.
Thus, the reason for the computer console. He had decided to relate all he
knew of his experiences with the Eighth Doctor to a single file, for posterity.
He had used an inverse algorithmic code to encrypt the file; only another
android could have decoded the file, and with the deactivation of Lore almost
two years before, he was truly the only one of his kind left.
Not that he didn't trust his own positronic matrix to carry the information; he
just didn't know how long he was going to remain functioning. He wanted to
make sure the information remained in somewhat public domain until the time
came for it to be read. To that point, he had sent a personal communique to
Starfleet, calling in a few favors from the scientific community. The file
would be sent by encrypted subspace lines to the repository of scientific
information within Starfleet, where it would remain for approximately 200
He crossed the room and looked out onto the warm San Francisco night. He hoped
it would happen soon; he had left instructions as to where and when he would be
ready. He heard a buzzer sound outside the door of his room. He called out,
The door slid open soundlessly, but Data could hear the breathing of the person
that lay beyond. He turned toward the door and smiled, an honest display of
"It's Dorothee, now. I stopped being Ace almost five years ago. I'm
"How did you get here?"
"Oh, I got some help from the President of the Time Lords. I helped her out of
a little jam recently, and she felt she had to repay me for it. Before that,
I'd been travelling through the 19th and 20th Centuries, looking for a place to
hang my hat."
"I see. Have you seen the Doctor lately?"
"Which one?" Ace said, smiling.
"Either." Data smiled back, and Ace finally noticed. "Hey, there's something
different about you, Yellow-Eyes. Fess up."
"I have recently installed an emotions chip inside my positronic matrix. It
was a gift from my late father."
"Cool... You mean you're human, now?"
"Not entirely, but I'm still learning."
"The last time I saw the Doctor was about a month ago, on Gallifrey, his home
planet. From what I've gathered, he regenerated into the form we met not soon
Data nodded, and Ace smiled. "I wonder... is this the only reason you wanted
to meet with me? To discuss old times? You know, I was having a really good
time on Gallifrey..."
Data shook his head, slowly, and Ace whispered, "You know, you look just as
good as you did back then. But then, it's only been what, a year?"
"Less. And you look even better than you did back then."
"Oooh, Data... Is that a little humanity I'm seeing there? Are you flirting
Ace entered the room, and as the door closed behind her, a voice could be
"So, you want to keep talking...? Didn't think so."
First, the blurb... then a final word or two.
Time and Time Again
"Professor... help me..."
A psychic distress call from a past Ace sends the Eighth Doctor and new
companion Melissa Chambers searching for answers to a mysterious rash of
kidnappings across time. From the 23rd Century to the 24th Century to a region
outside of time itself, the Doctor finds allies in the crews of the
Enterprise-A and D and the return of an old enemy whose mission is total
dominion over time... and the total destruction of the Doctor.
And now, for the final word or two... or maybe more. :)
I couldn't have done this without the help of some very special people, some of
whom I know personally, some of whom helped in much more obtuse ways.
First, to the creators of both series, "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" for giving
us such great stories of past, present and future, and giving us something to
hope for in this life, and to the writers of all the Doctor Who and Star Trek
books, which I've read voraciously for so many years, and which shaped my
foundations of science-fiction writing.
Next, I'd like to thank all those in #drwhochat (you know who you are) who put
up with my incessant questioning about the story as it developed, hoping to get
the most out of it in terms of continuity.
And thanks especially to Dan Hollifield and Laura Butler, who provided expert
commentary on the novel's development as my proofreaders. Dan's long history
writing science-fiction gave me a sounding board for plot and setting
(something which admittedly I don't work very well with) and Laura's artistic
sense gave me a great feel for the motivations and emotions of the characters,
especially the Doctor, who is, as we've already seen, a much more sensitive and
emotional persona than his predecessors. It has been, and will continue to be,
a great joy to work with them to create my adventures.
For those of you who loved the story, great; I'd love to hear from you. My
email addresses are: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For those
of you who didn't like it, I'd really like to hear from you, too. Your
criticisms are what makes authors think about their work, and try to make it
And I promise that this will the first, and last crossover for a while. My
next work is a story entitled "Picture of Guilt", and it's the prelude to "Time
and Time Again" in that it's the first meeting between the Eighth Doctor and
Melissa Chambers. It's another frolic throught time, from the present-day to
the mid-21st Century, and it features all the staples of science-fiction: space
stations, intergalactic terrorists, and lots and lots of money. I hope you
stick around; my time with the Doctor is just beginning.
If you like Cris's story and you'd like to tell him so, you can e-mail him by clicking
Cris Lawrence, alias Doc8 on Dalnet, is a 20-year-old sophomore Political
Science student at Miami University of Ohio. In addition to this story,
he is currently working on two other Eighth Doctor stories: "Picture of
Guilt", featuring the first adventure of Melissa Chambers and the Doctor;
and "The Play's the Thing", which, with some revision, will hopefully
become his first published New Adventure sometime in 1998. Cris is also a
fan of the DC Comics character The Flash, and you can see the culmination
of his obsession on his Scarlet Speedster Web Page
Return to the Aphelion main page.
After the destruction of the Rani's TARDIS, the Doctor herded us all back into his own TARDIS and took off. I must say, I've never seen a prettier sight than that Victorian console room. The Doctor looked on in amusement as Harriman and Kahless looked around, gaping. Spock and Data, for their part, merely nodded and said, "Transcendental dimensions... fascinating." like they saw stuff like TARDISes all the time. The Doctor gave the ten-cent tour (console room, gym, pool, cloisters, etc.) after takeoff, and personally escorted everyone to their rooms. Ace looked expectant as the assignments were handed out, and finally, the Doctor looked at her, and smiled. "You still know where your room is, don't you?"
In the end, the group spent two days in the company of the Doctor. On the evening of the second day, Data suddenly stood up and exclaimed, "I have an idea!" Everyone was startled by this totally un-android remark, and they broke up laughing. After everyone had quieted down, Data outlined his plan; he recounted the Enterprise-D's encounter with the Paxsons some years before, and how they had used a miniature wormhole to effectively wipe out the short-term memories of the crew. This information had surprised and unnerved Picard; he couldn't believe that such an incident had occurred.
The next morning, Melissa got up and went to the console room. She found the Doctor bustling around the console, trying to look normal. Melissa sat on the couch, pretending to be engrossed in the Doctor's ministrations. Finally, she spoke.
Data stared at the computer console in front of him. The words on the screen, blazing blue on the black surface, stared back at him. He blinked once, finally, and spoke.
Acknowledgements and NA-style blurb for "Time and Time Again"
Aphelion Letter Column A place for your opinions.
Spock nodded his understanding, as the Doctor looked at his group. "Are all of you ready? I make no guarantees as to your safety in the Rani's TARDIS."
Ace smiled. "Always ready, Professor. Let's get this sleazebag."
The Doctor smiled grimly. "Trust you to put just the right spin on things, Ace. I miss that attitude, you know." Ace nodded, as the Doctor moved to the force-field and depressed a contact on his sonic screwdriver. At once, the veil was lifted with a parting of shimmering light, and everyone stepped through.
"No turning back now, everyone. The Rani could just as easily dematerialize now and throw us all to the mercy of the Time Vortex than face us."
"And you don't think she will?"
"The Rani, throughout all the years I've known her, has never once not met a challenge. Except, that is, for my destruction. It has been her guiding force for centuries; if she thinks she has it in her grasp this time, she won't throw it away. She'll milk it for all it's worth."
As the group moved through the doors and into the interior of the Rani's TARDIS, Ace moved closer to the Doctor and whispered, "You know, I like this version of you better than the old one in one major respect."
"Let me guess; I'm more forthcoming with personal information."
"Right." Ace smiled. "You remember Lady Peinforte, right?"
"How could I forget? Oh... you want to know what she meant when she said that I was 'more than a Time Lord'."
The Doctor smiled. "I can't give away all my secrets, Ace. What kind of mysterious force for justice would I be then, hmmm?"
They presently reached a large room, with many doors leading out of it. The Doctor looked around, and grimaced. "This is just like the Rani, to use her own TARDIS as an impossible maze."
"How would she do that?"
"The TARDISes have the ability to change their room configurations. They can put any room anywhere it wants. Right, Doctor?"
"Very good memory, Ace. Any of these doors could lead to the Rani, or to another corridor, or to our dooms. There's no way of knowing."
"So, what do we do? Split up? We'd have a better chance of finding the right door that way."
"And take the chance of losing one or more of you, either to the TARDIS's corridors or to one of the Rani's nasty surprises? No chance."
The Doctor yelled into the air, "Come on, Rani! Make it more interesting than this... give us something to go on."
The voice returned; the group could almost sense the sneer in the Rani's voice.
"All right, Doctor; the door to your salvation is in your name."
"What kind of clue is that?" Ace yelled. "We all know his name is Doctor."
"Not necessarily, Ace. I have had many names throughout my lives; the trick is finding out which she's referring to."
"Well, start off, then. Maybe one of the doors will respond."
"All right... The Daleks called me the Ka Faraq Gatri. Roughly translated, it means 'The Bringer of Darkness'..."
Just then, the gloom that had pervaded the antechamber the group was in began to deepen. The Doctor scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Hmmm... this TARDIS is keyed by the Rani to respond to my suggestions."
"Is that good?"
"I don't know... Let's try again. The Draconians called me 'The Oncoming Storm'..."
In response to his words, a mild breeze began to blow along the antechamber. Without warning, the wind picked up to a gale. The group was pressed back along the walls by the force of the wind. Ace yelled, "Okay, you've done enough! My turn..."
Then, through the gloom, Ace thought she saw something on the doors. She moved closer to one of them, pushing through the fierce wind. She looked at it, and saw that embossed into the door was a strange symbol. She recognized it instantly.
"It's Greek, Doctor! The doors are inset with Greek letters!"
Each of the group moved to a door, and finding a symbol inscribed, they began to call out the letters.
"Beta... Omicron... Sigma... Mu..."
The Doctor stood in the middle of the storm and darkness, and finally, he spoke. As he did, it seemed to Ace that his eyes shone in the gloom, like some ephereal cat.
At his words, the door emblazoned with the Greek letter Sigma, the mathematical symbol of summation, opened. The gloom receded and the wind stopped. The group looked at the Time Lord, who smiled wanly.
"Remember Terra Alpha, Ace?"
Ace grimaced. "How could I forget? Helen A... the Candyman... the Happiness Patrol. Not my idea of a holiday at all, Professor."
As they went through the door, which led into another corridor, the Doctor prompted, "And what did I call myself on that world?"
"Theta Sigma... Right, I get it. It was really one of your names?"
"Yes, it was... A nickname the Rani used to call me when we were schooling together on Gallifrey at the Prydonian Academy."
'Wait a second, you two went to school together? Were you friends?"
The Doctor frowned. "No, certainly not, Ace. I was too much of a renegade, even then... I didn't have many friends during my formative years."
Ace grinned. "Yeah, I can imagine you as the class clown, Professor. So, where to?"
"How about here, young Ace?"
The voice carried through the corridor; as the group watched, another door opened. "Come in, if you dare."
"Is Melissa in there, Rani?"
"She is, Doctor; but I can't vouch for her condition..."
"If you've harmed her in any way, I'll make you regret it. You know what I'm capable of, perhaps more than anyone here. I will make good on my threat."
"Of course, Doctor. She is alive. Come in, and let the endgame begin."
The group went through the passageway, and found themselves in a cavernous room. Machines were hooked up to what appeared to be a large hexagonal pedestal in the center of the room.
"The console room." Ace breathed. Picard whispered, "It's much more... developed than yours, Doctor."
"That's because the Rani likes to keep the subjects of her experiments close by. Right?"
"That's right, Doctor. Don't tell me you've figured out my plan already?" The Rani, tall and lithe with strawberry-blond hair, stepped out of the shadows and locked onto her fellow renegade Time Lord with a feral stare.
"Not all of it, but a great deal. After you were defeated on Lakertya by my earlier self and Mel, you searched for a way to continue your temporal experiments."
"That strange matter would have been ideal for my work, Doctor. If you had just left well enough alone..."
"You know I couldn't do that. Traveling through time and space, you somehow stumbled upon this... random timezone, and Vanishing Point."
"It was purely accidental. A brief disruption in space-time, a subspace infarction, much like you experienced when you arrived here. I found the Devidians here, struggling to survive. Their stores of neural energy were almost depleted; they didn't want to go out into the timestream for fear of being discovered by someone who could stop them for good. The Enterprise-D had already done so once", the Rani looked at Picard then, "and they were shaken by the experience."
"I had no choice... they would have altered human history with their continued disruptions. The future I know would have never come to pass. I tried to help them... but they were unrelenting." Picard looked at the Rani, who scowled.
"One simple planet wouldn't have mattered... plus, they had heard of the Time Lords, from other, more ancient texts on distant worlds. They didn't want to tangle with them at all, Doctor; you know as well as I what they would have done to them."
"The High Council isn't the same as it was then, Rani. I have to admit, I shook them up a bit when I became President. They still haven't recovered... but they wouldn't kill a sentient species just for using time-travel as a means of gathering sustenance. I refuse to believe it."
"Maybe the High Council wouldn't... but there are those who don't act on the whims of the Council, eh, Doctor?"
The Doctor remembered suddenly the actions taken against him and his friends by Ferain and the Celestial Intervention Agency, dating back to the very beginnings of his travels through time and space. His first trial had been a farce, his second a complete sham designed to lure him to his doom... not to mention more recent events, like the kidnapping of Dorothee in order to find out his deepest secrets. The Doctor realized that the Rani was right, but he couldn't afford to think about that right now. There were more important things to do...
Suddenly, a voice was heard. "Mistress, I have brought the young companion." Lyta came into the room, carrying Melissa over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. She laid her down on the floor of the console room, and the Doctor hurried over to her.
"Melissa, can you hear me?"
Melissa began to stir, and opened her eyes slowly. As she focused in on the Time Lord, she smiled. "You're a sight for sore eyes, Doctor."
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine... that stun-disc she used on me hurt like hell, though. But I'll live." She stood, groggily, as Lyta took her place next to the Rani. Melissa managed a weak sneer as she caught sight of the Time Lady. "So, you're the Mistress. Can't say I'm that impressed, what with the second-rate help you've got... I could tell she was a phony straight off."
The Rani decided not to respond, as the Doctor continued. "There's one thing I still don't understand... what does Lyta have to do with all of this?"
"She is the instrument of my revenge, Doctor. The Devidians killed her close friend, and in her own anger, she led you right to me."
"You mean, she doesn't know?"
"What is he talking about, Mistress?"
The Doctor began to grin, as his mind sped ahead to the next move. "Lyta, the Rani, to use an Earth term, has been playing you like a violin. The Devidians are the ones who have been keeping Ace and the others here... but on the orders of the Rani, known to you as the Mistress."
"Good try, Doctor, but she won't believe you. She's mine; I own her utterly." The Rani looked at Lyta, and was surprised to see a look of bewilderment on the young time-travelller's face.
"You mean that you're really not held here against your will? You're not being kept here by the Devidians because you were travelling through time without their knowledge?" "She doesn't look too cooped up in here, does she?" The Doctor supplied helpfully.
"I was, erm, able to free myself when you and the Doctor arrived. I'm about to exact my vengeance on my captors and their friends!"
"I'm confused... the Devidians kidnapped them and held them against their will. Why should they be destroyed?"
"Yes, why, Rani? We've done nothing except act as bait to lure the Doctor here, right?" Ace questioned.
"Yes, and the Devidians should be punished for their crimes! But you won't do it; you'll allow them to live."
"Yes, we will. They are a sentient race; the harm they have done is only as a result of their need to survive. If we kill them just because they're trying to survive, what makes us different than, say, you?" Kirk interjected. "You want to kill the Doctor, simply because he interferes with your plans, and from what I've heard, he should continue to do so. What gives you the right to destroy life with impunity?"
"My position as a Time Lord gives me the right to hold dominion over those lesser species I encounter!" The Rani countered.
The Doctor spoke softly, "You were excommunicated from Gallifrey for your experiments, much as I was when I fled centuries ago. They will have nothing to do with you. Your so-called 'position' as a Time Lord doesn't exist, except in your twisted mind. Give this charade up, Rani, and tell the truth."
The Doctor turned to Lyta. "The short version is that the Rani has been using us, all of us, even the Devidians, in order to kill us wholesale, leaving nothing to stand between her and total domination of time."
Kirk continued. "She told us she found the Devidians, alone and dying, and offered them sustenance in return for doing her bidding."
"It wasn't that hard to do; the ability to replicate human neural energy has been a Time Lord capability for millenia. She ordered them to kill Gary Seven on the Enterprise-A and kidnap Captain Spock, bringing you into the plan. From there, it was a simple enough matter to enter your anger-clouded mind and convince you that all of us were against you, but you had to play along to lure us here."
"She then had the Devidians kidnap Data, bringing the Enterprise-D into the mix... Why did you do that, anyway? Bring the Enterprises in, and Kahless besides?"
"I thought I could destroy the Federation and the Klingon Empire by killing their greatest figures. After your deaths, I would have travelled back in time and shown myself to the races of the galaxy as a god. They would have been my unwilling slaves!"
"You are sick, girl. Very sick." Ace retorted. "Humanity would have resisted, as would all the other sentient species. You wouldn't have had a chance."
"You forget I am a time-traveller. If it didn't work, I would have gone back farther and tried again. I would have succeeded in time, especially with my greatest foe out of the way."
Throughout this discourse, Lyta was becoming more and more confused, until finally, a light dawned. She thought, *I don't understand... You had the Devidians kill Gary Seven and used me to lure the Doctor and your friends here, where you could destroy them?*
The voice of the Rani echoed in her head. *Ah, the light comes on at last. Yes, you were a pawn, as was Gary Seven and everyone else here. All pawns to be swept off the board in one move, as I win the game!*
Suddenly, Lyta whirled on the Rani. "No! No more killing or subservience; this ends now!" She pulled the Tissue Compression Eliminator out of her suit and grabbed the Rani in a chokehold, pressing the weapon to the Time Lady's head.
"Lyta, no! This isn't the way!" The Doctor shouted, as he moved toward the young human and her hostage.
"Wrong, Doctor! It's the only way to make sure this madness ends!" She held the Rani tighter as she tried to wriggle free of Lyta's grip.
Suddenly, the Doctor saw a figure go past him, moving themselves between the Time Lord and the frightened Lyta. At first, the Doctor thought it was Ace, or Data. When he realized who the person was, he moved to stop him.
"Jim, get out of the way!"
"No, Doctor. You see, I know exactly how she feels." Kirk turned to Lyta, who still had the Rani held tight and the TCE aimed at the Time Lady's head.
"Lyta, I once had a son, a very bright and intelligent young man. He was helping his mother on a very important project when the Klingons attacked. He tried to protect his project, and two of my crew, and for his bravery, he was killed in cold blood."
Everyone looked on, shocked, as Kirk continued.
"In my rage, I took revenge for his death and killed the Klingon who had murdered David. It made me feel better, for a while. The anger, forced by years and years of war with the Klingons, had clouded my judgement and changed my life. Later, when the Klingons were on the verge of extinction, I didn't want to help them. Spock told me that they would die unless help was given; in my anger, I told him that I didn't care."
"When I met the Klingon leader, I realized that their way of life and views toward such things as peace and diplomacy weren't really that much different after all. When Gorkon died, I was arrested for his murder, and was tried, convicted, and sentenced to certain death by Klingons who had known of my hatred of them over the death of my son."
"When the conspiracy was discovered, and I escaped and stopped it from tearing apart a budding Klingon-Federation alliance, I realized that things had to change. I found that I could stop feeling revenge, and start trying to forgive. It hasn't been easy, but I think I've been doing a pretty good job."
"What I'm trying to say, Lyta, is to stop this now, with no more bloodshed. Gary Seven has died trying to save us; let his death mean something, for he was always a man of peace. If you kill the Rani now, it will create a vaccum of hate and revenge that may never be filled. Don't do this to yourself, please."
Kirk finished his impassioned plea, as Lyta looked into his eyes, and saw the hurt and the desperation in them mirrored in her own. *He doesn't want me to do this... After all I've done, the way I've treated everyone, they understand, and they don't want me to throw away my life.*
She lowered the Tissue Compression Eliminator, and the Rani suddenly tried to grab the weapon. The Doctor cried, "No, don't!", as the two struggled with the dangerous weapon. The TCE moved toward the right, then to the left, then pointed right at the Doctor. Then, with a burst of strength, Lyta pulled the TCE away from the Time Lord and over toward the console of the Rani's TARDIS. Suddenly, a flash of light was seen, and one of the console surfaces exploded.
The Rani and Lyta fell to the floor, unconscious, as the Doctor moved rapidly over to the console. He looked at the sparking and smoking console, and as he looked at the damage, the others noticed that the machines and equipment scattered around the room were sparking and exploding as well.
"Oh, no! This is bad, very bad..."
"What is it, Doctor?" Kirk stood with the others away from the still smoking and sparking console.
"The blast from the TCE seems to have severed the artron energy conduit from the Eye of Harmony to the console."
Picard cut in then: "You mean the Eye of Harmony that powers the TARDIS?"
"The same... it appears that the artron energy is going back the way it came... into the Eye!"
"English please, Professor!" Ace was looking around, worried, and yelped as another bank of electronic equipment exploded next to her.
"It means, Ace, that we have about a minute before this TARDIS goes up!"
"'Goes up' as in 'Kablooie!" Ace supplied helpfully.
The Doctor threw up his hands. "'Kablooie!'"
"Then what are we waiting for?"
Ace began to lead everyone out of the console room. The Doctor followed right behind, and as they reached the intersection of rooms they had been trapped in, Ace suddenly turned around to face the Time Lord.
"Wait! Lyta and the Rani..."
The Doctor shook his head sadly. "There's no time."
"I could go back in... We have to know..."
"Ace, listen to me; there is no time! I will not let you sacrifice your life for the Rani. Now, go!!"
Ace nodded silently, and she and the Doctor ran hell-for-leather for the mammoth front entrance to the Rani's TARDIS. They had barely gotten out when the familiar dematerialization sound was heard, but with a different pitch; Ace distractedly thought it sounded like a car failing to turn over. With a final shriek, the entire fortress-like compound vanished into thin air. Ace looked at the Doctor.
"Do you think..."
"It's not likely, Ace. The artron energy feedback would have eaten away the TARDIS from the inside."
"But I heard what sounded like the TARDIS dematerializing..."
"I managed to rig the Rani's TARDIS itself to dematerialize into the Time Vortex. If it had continued to die away here, the resulting explosion would have destroyed this entire planetoid."
At Ace's horrified look, the Doctor whispered, "I couldn't risk you... I couldn't. The Rani got what she deserved in the end, for all of the death and suffering she has caused."
The Doctor thought for a moment, then he spoke with quiet determination. " Her only fault, like so many of us have, is that she trusted too much. But, her last acts were to face what she had done, and try to correct it. I admire her very much for that, and I regret that I couldn't save her." The Doctor sighed, and faced the group of wayward time-travellers before him.
"Now then, why don't we see about getting all of you home safe and sound, eh?"
Ace grinned and went to her room. A second later, everyone heard, "All right! Everything's still here!" and we looked on, astonished, as Ace came back out in a leather jacket, T-shirt, black leggings, and Doc Martens. She looked at everyone, smiling like some giddy schoolgirl, and twirled around, modeling her outfit. "Still fits perfectly, too. I can't believe it..." The Doctor looked ready to cry himself as he replied, "You think I just deleted your room when you left? No way. Haven't done that since..." He made a show of thinking as he continued, "Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever deleted one of my companion's rooms. Maybe because one or another of you always seems to come back into my life at just the wrong time." He smiled again at Ace, who went, whistling, out of the console room. "Going to the gym, Professor. Be back soon.", she called back, laughing.
The others went to their rooms, and just like that, we were alone, the Doctor and I. He moved over to the console, checking gauges and flipping switches as the TARDIS sped along... "Wait a minute." I had just realized something. "Can we get back to normal time, or are we going to be stuck in this out-of-time zone forever?"
The Doctor smiled in that infuriating boyish way of his; you know, when he's got it all figured out and he can't wait to tell you about it. "Well, Melissa, we're certainly not going to be stuck anywhere. See for yourself." He flipped a switch on one of the console surfaces, and the air above the Time Rotor shimmered, to reveal a picture of the Time Vortex. I had to smile; I was starting to think I'd never see that swirling batch of light again.
"Very simple, Melissa. While we were off having our fun, the TARDIS analyzed what went wrong with the initial entry into the 'out-of-time zone', as you call it, and automatically focused the HADS to the correct frequency for the return trip. No muss, no fuss. Not bad, huh?"
"Yeah, good work, Doctor. I'm very impressed. Now, for the most important part..."
"Yes?" The Doctor smiled, as he moved back over to the couch and sat down.
"We have seven people from four different time periods spanning thousands of years. How are we going to get them home without ending up in every written record in the history of the Universe?"
"Ah, yes... putting them back in their rightful places and times with no memory of the incidents befallen them is going to be quite difficult. I'll just have to think of a plan."
"You mean, you don't have one? Big surprise there." Ace entered the room then, and smiled. "So, until then, what are we going to do, sit here and vacation?"
"After what you've been through, I think that a vacation would be a good idea." The Doctor looked at Ace. "That is, unless you want to go back to Dalek clean-up duty..."
Ace just laughed at the Doctor then. "Not a chance." She turned to me. "Come on; I want to show you how to make Nitro-Nine. I have a feeling you're going to need it with this one." She jerked a thumb at the Doctor, as she led me out of the console room. As I left, I faintly heard the Doctor call, "Oh, no, not another one..."
The Doctor had nodded at this, muttering, "You know, that might work", and he and Data spent the entire night working on the plan. The next morning, they discussed the plan with the rest of the group. They would return the groups from the Enterprises A, B and D to their ships, and then the TARDIS would use its artron energy stores to create a miniature, stable wormhole. The ships would pass through it, and their memories would be erased. They would wake up with no knowledge of the past several days.
The Doctor also decided that he would make some short hops into 23rd and 24th Century Earth and fake some Starfleet records to make sure that no mention of the unexplained occurrences that befell the crew remained. Ace smiled at this, and muttered, "Still putting the pawns into play, I see...", to which the Doctor gave her a sharp look. The operation on the Enterprises took another couple of days, and Ace put the time to good use, chaperoning Melissa around the little-known areas of the TARDIS and regaling her with stories of her adventures with the Doctor. Melissa felt by this time that she was getting a good idea of who the Doctor was and why he did the things he did.
It was clear, though, that Ace still hadn't come all the way back in terms of trusting the Doctor; Melissa cornered her in the arboretum during one of the tours and asked her why she still acted so distrusting around the Doctor.
"Well, Melissa, I still get the feeling that he's hiding something, something he doesn't want to tell me about. For all I know, it could be something important, something I need to know."
Melissa realized that the Doctor had been hedging around about Ace's future; all her questions on the subject had been quietly ignored by the Time Lord. He couldn't tell her that she would be reunited with her 'Professor' in only a year's time; it could shape her entire future.
"I'm sure it's nothing, Ace. You've seen that this Doctor is nothing like the Doctor you knew."
Ace sighed. "Yeah... for one thing, he's much more outright. And sensitive; I don't remember the Professor ever hugging me so much. And of course, he's got much better fashion sense, even though now he looks like he stepped out of a Jane Austen novel instead of looking like a disheveled... professor." Ace smiled. "And he is much cuter, too." She giggled at that, then grew more serious, as she looked at Melissa.
"But remember this; somehow, someway, you're going to find yourself being used, being put right into the middle of the action, whether you want to or not. Being his companion isn't just a joyride through the Universe, despite the sales pitch. It's difficult, it's dangerous... but it is the most worthwhile thing you're ever going to do in your life, ever. Keep that in mind when you get captured by the Daleks, or tortured by some power-mad future dictator; you're helping to preserve the history of the Universe, preserve it for all races, for all times. You're battling evil, injustice, and all the other horrible things out there. It's the greatest rush ever... but it can also be the death of you."
Melissa nodded at the advice. "So you're telling me to enjoy it while it lasts?"
"Yeah, and that the Doctor's not always going to be there for you, in spite of what he says. You're going to have to save the Universe on your own once in a while, so be ready for anything. I thought I was..."
"Until he left you?" Melissa volunteered.
Ace nodded silently. "I didn't think it'd still hurt so much, after the couple of years I've been away. But it does, it really hurts that he left me to a future where I was a total misfit, an outcast, struggling to survive. If I hadn't found Spacefleet, I'd be dead."
Ace gritted her teeth, trying to stop the tears forming on the sides of her eyes. "And I would leave it in a second if he'd only ask me back. Because even after all he's done for me and to me, I still can't imagine life without him."
They sat there for a moment, among the peace and the tranquility of the flowers and plants, not saying a word, each caught in their own private thoughts. Then Ace got up and left, leaving Melissa alone. She looked up into the bright blue sky of the TARDIS arboretum and thought, *Doctor... How could you do this to her? Just take her with you, with the promise of adventure, take her away from her home, her life, and then use her and discard her like a spare wardrobe, something that suddenly didn't fit anymore?*
Then another thought entered, a more distressing thought than the one before...
*What about me? I've got to know...*
She left the arboretum, and in seconds, found herself in the console room, where she found the Doctor fiddling with the console. He ducked around the moving Time Rotor and smiled at his companion.
"Hello, Melissa; I just dropped Kahless off on early-era Quo'Nos, the Klingon homeworld. I'm sorry you missed it... he did get the karg, by the way." He stopped smiling as he saw the determination and sadness in her eyes. "What is it? Oh, you've been talking to Ace."
"Yes, I have. And I want to know why you did it."
"Don't be so damned innocent with me, Doctor! I want to know why, and I want to know if it's going to happen to me!"
The Doctor still looked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, then his face seemed to deepen, as if cast by some internal shadow. He numbly walked over to the couch and sat down.
"Melissa, I have really no idea how to answer that. When we were on Heaven..."
"No, before that, Doctor. Start from the beginning. Start with Iceworld, and then Fenric."
"She's told you everything..."
"Everything that matters, especially the part where despite all that you've done, she would still travel with you, drop everything to be with you again."
"Oh." The Doctor sighed and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I want to say that I had no idea that all that was going to happen..."
"Come off it, Doctor! From what I've been hearing, you were manipulating her, pushing her buttons from the beginning! I want to know why!"
"Because it was the only way!!" The Doctor's shout surprised even him; he quieted down before he spoke again. "I knew from the beginning that she was a wolf of Fenric; I'd been looking for the signs ever since I met him in Constantinople. I knew that he'd be coming back eventually, and I wanted to be prepared."
"I caught the evidence of the incoming timestorm when I first met Mel in 1986. After my regeneration, I became keenly aware of his impending reemergence in normal time. After the timestorm occurred, I tracked it to Iceworld."
"So you knew that Ace was going to be there."
"I knew that someone had been taken there by Fenric for some reason. It was easy to figure out who and why. I was trying to protect her!"
"By delivering her into the arms of the enemy? By risking her life?"
"By making sure he could never harm her or anyone else again."
"What if she had died, Doctor? What then?"
The Doctor whispered then, so soft that Melissa had to strain to catch it. "I don't know."
"And what of me? What happens when I lose my usefulness, huh? You're going to drop me off thousands of light-years and millions of years away from home?"
"No. I'm going to send you home, back to your family, to your safe life. You won't ever have to see me ever again."
"I know that's not how it works. As the saying goes, 'Once a companion, always a companion.' I'm not sure I want to go through with it."
"What are you saying? You want to go home?"
"I'm saying I don't know if you're going to hug me one second and then feed me to the Daleks the next. And the scariest thing is, I see right now that you don't know either. So I guess we've both got a lot to think about."
Melissa left the room, leaving the Doctor to his console room, his memories, and his self-recriminations.
"So, what's up for today?"
"We take Ace back."
"Back? You mean to the 26th Century, back to Daleks and Spacefleet and not belonging because you're 600 years out of date? You can't mean that."
"I do. There's no choice, and this decision isn't up for a vote."
"That's not fair, Doctor!"
"I know it's not fair, Melissa, but I've already told you what's supposed to happen to Ace."
"Yeah, yeah. In another year, she reunites with you-that is, the other you- and Benny on Arcadia."
"There's more. She stays on until a group of aliens known as Ants invade the timestream. They invade several timezones, including the 26th Century and ancient Egypt. After we dispel the menace, I end up giving Ace some time-travel technology, and she leaves to find her own way. She ends up travelling in a limited time-sphere from the middle of the 18th Century to the beginning of the 21st. She becomes a valued ally, and one of the last to see me before my last regeneration."
"So if we don't take her back..."
"None of those things happen, and the future, both hers and mine, will be altered. And even though I've had to do and endure some very rough things in my past life, I've also grown quite fond of it. I'm not too happy with the prospect of changing it."
The Doctor continued his bustling around the console, as Melissa paused for a moment to digest all the information. "Okay, so how are we going to do this?"
"Very simple; we just land the TARDIS next to the mouth of the cave, lay Ace down there, and the Dresden will find her and take her back."
"How do you know it's going to work? Oh, wait, I just answered my own question; you looked it up, right?"
The Doctor smiled. "Exactly."
"But what about her memories? You are going to let her keep her memories of this, aren't you?" A pause, then: "Aren't you?"
The Doctor started as if to answer, then stopped as Ace walked into the console room, clad in her Spacefleet jumpsuit. She looked at the Doctor, and then at Melissa. She smiled wanly and said, "I knew it was going to be today, or never. And somehow, I knew forever wasn't an option."
The Doctor nodded, and flipped a few switches on the console. "We've landed in 2580, right inside the cave where you were taken. I've been monitoring transmissions from the Dresden, and it's been about eight hours since your jump. They're sending down another team in less than twenty minutes; they were able to isolate the signature from the pilots' beacon rather easily, since about five hours earlier, Melissa and I shut down the Daleks' EMP station." The Doctor smiled.
Ace nodded silently, as if saying anything would spoil the moment, and turned to leave. The Doctor called, "Wait, we'll go out with you." As he came around the console and passed the endtable next to the chair and ottoman in the middle of the room, he grabbed a box. When he and Melissa reached Ace, he held the box out to her. Ace took it; suddenly unsure, she looked at the Doctor. "What is it?"
"It's a gift, from me to you. Just think of it as a reminder of our little out-of-sequence meeting." The Doctor smiled, and opened the box. Inside was a necklace, made of finely polished silver. Looped in the middle, inside a setting of silver, was a small red stone. Ace took it out of the box, and put it around her neck. She smiled, and hugged the Doctor. "Is it a ruby?"
"Oh, no, nothing that common for you. It's a very precious stone from the planet Alzarius. I once visited the planet ages ago, and one of the Alzarians gave me it as a momento of a particularly interesting adventure."
"Very cool, Professor. Does it, you know, do anything special?"
The Doctor smiled again. "Don't all my gifts? You see it's glowing now, right?" Ace looked down and nodded. "Well, all you do is snap your fingers like this..." The Doctor snapped his fingers and suddenly, in a split-second, the glowing from the stone turned to a bright flash, and when it had subsided, Ace was stone-still, unblinking. The Doctor moved to catch her as she started to fall to the floor of the console room.
"Ace, I'm sorry... but I had to." The Doctor whispered, as he picked her up and began to carry her to the door, Melissa following right behind. Melissa whispered, "What is it, really?"
"Oh, it is really a precious stone from Alzar; Adric gave it to me when he came on board the TARDIS, as tribute. But when the stone is subjected to sound vibrations of a certain frequency..."
"Like the snapping of your fingers..." Melissa supplied helpfully.
"...the mindstone emits a light flash that reacts with the cerebral cortex of humanoids, effectively erasing their short-term memories. It also makes their subconscious mind extremely susceptible to suggestion." By this time, they had exited the TARDIS and entered the cave. The Doctor set the unconscious form of Ace down on the floor of the cave, and whispered into her ear, "If you remember anything, remember this; I will return." He kissed her softly on the forehead, and moved away from her sleeping body. He sighed, and Melissa put her hand on his shoulder.
"I said that to Susan, too, and I haven't returned yet. So much to do, so little time... Hey, I got that one right." The Doctor smiled. "Well, time to go."
"Now? Can't we wait until the rescue team arrives?"
The Doctor made a show of looking at the watch on his waistcoat, and then brushed the hair from his eyes. "Ten... nine... eight..." Suddenly, Melissa could hear a sound like the rolling of thunder from outside the cave.
"Seven... six... five..." The Doctor grabbed Melissa and pushed her into the TARDIS. He gave the sleeping body of Ace another cheery wave, and followed behind. A second later, the TARDIS dematerialized, and another second later, a trio of voices could be heard. "In here! We've found her..."
"Computer, save in personal file, and power off console."
As the computer complied with the request, Data stood up, and in a very un-android moment, yawned. He smiled at another facet of his newly-emotional personality; since the destruction of the Enterprise-D at Veridian III, he hadn't had much time to fully catalog all the emotional states he had experienced, but he knew that the number was growing every day. And only recently, after the months of debriefings by Starfleet, had he been able to think about another equally important incident.
Thus, the reason for the computer console. He had decided to relate all he knew of his experiences with the Eighth Doctor to a single file, for posterity. He had used an inverse algorithmic code to encrypt the file; only another android could have decoded the file, and with the deactivation of Lore almost two years before, he was truly the only one of his kind left.
Not that he didn't trust his own positronic matrix to carry the information; he just didn't know how long he was going to remain functioning. He wanted to make sure the information remained in somewhat public domain until the time came for it to be read. To that point, he had sent a personal communique to Starfleet, calling in a few favors from the scientific community. The file would be sent by encrypted subspace lines to the repository of scientific information within Starfleet, where it would remain for approximately 200 years.
He crossed the room and looked out onto the warm San Francisco night. He hoped it would happen soon; he had left instructions as to where and when he would be ready. He heard a buzzer sound outside the door of his room. He called out, "Enter."
The door slid open soundlessly, but Data could hear the breathing of the person that lay beyond. He turned toward the door and smiled, an honest display of emotion.
"It's Dorothee, now. I stopped being Ace almost five years ago. I'm thirty-one now."
"How did you get here?"
"Oh, I got some help from the President of the Time Lords. I helped her out of a little jam recently, and she felt she had to repay me for it. Before that, I'd been travelling through the 19th and 20th Centuries, looking for a place to hang my hat."
"I see. Have you seen the Doctor lately?"
"Which one?" Ace said, smiling.
"Either." Data smiled back, and Ace finally noticed. "Hey, there's something different about you, Yellow-Eyes. Fess up."
"I have recently installed an emotions chip inside my positronic matrix. It was a gift from my late father."
"Cool... You mean you're human, now?"
"Not entirely, but I'm still learning."
"The last time I saw the Doctor was about a month ago, on Gallifrey, his home planet. From what I've gathered, he regenerated into the form we met not soon after that."
Data nodded, and Ace smiled. "I wonder... is this the only reason you wanted to meet with me? To discuss old times? You know, I was having a really good time on Gallifrey..."
Data shook his head, slowly, and Ace whispered, "You know, you look just as good as you did back then. But then, it's only been what, a year?"
"Less. And you look even better than you did back then."
"Oooh, Data... Is that a little humanity I'm seeing there? Are you flirting with me?"
Ace entered the room, and as the door closed behind her, a voice could be heard.
"So, you want to keep talking...? Didn't think so."
First, the blurb... then a final word or two.
Time and Time Again
"Professor... help me..."
A psychic distress call from a past Ace sends the Eighth Doctor and new companion Melissa Chambers searching for answers to a mysterious rash of kidnappings across time. From the 23rd Century to the 24th Century to a region outside of time itself, the Doctor finds allies in the crews of the Enterprise-A and D and the return of an old enemy whose mission is total dominion over time... and the total destruction of the Doctor.
And now, for the final word or two... or maybe more. :)
I couldn't have done this without the help of some very special people, some of whom I know personally, some of whom helped in much more obtuse ways.
First, to the creators of both series, "Star Trek" and "Doctor Who" for giving us such great stories of past, present and future, and giving us something to hope for in this life, and to the writers of all the Doctor Who and Star Trek books, which I've read voraciously for so many years, and which shaped my foundations of science-fiction writing.
Next, I'd like to thank all those in #drwhochat (you know who you are) who put up with my incessant questioning about the story as it developed, hoping to get the most out of it in terms of continuity.
And thanks especially to Dan Hollifield and Laura Butler, who provided expert commentary on the novel's development as my proofreaders. Dan's long history writing science-fiction gave me a sounding board for plot and setting (something which admittedly I don't work very well with) and Laura's artistic sense gave me a great feel for the motivations and emotions of the characters, especially the Doctor, who is, as we've already seen, a much more sensitive and emotional persona than his predecessors. It has been, and will continue to be, a great joy to work with them to create my adventures.
For those of you who loved the story, great; I'd love to hear from you. My email addresses are: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For those of you who didn't like it, I'd really like to hear from you, too. Your criticisms are what makes authors think about their work, and try to make it better.
And I promise that this will the first, and last crossover for a while. My next work is a story entitled "Picture of Guilt", and it's the prelude to "Time and Time Again" in that it's the first meeting between the Eighth Doctor and Melissa Chambers. It's another frolic throught time, from the present-day to the mid-21st Century, and it features all the staples of science-fiction: space stations, intergalactic terrorists, and lots and lots of money. I hope you stick around; my time with the Doctor is just beginning.
If you like Cris's story and you'd like to tell him so, you can e-mail him by clicking here!
Cris Lawrence, alias Doc8 on Dalnet, is a 20-year-old sophomore Political Science student at Miami University of Ohio. In addition to this story, he is currently working on two other Eighth Doctor stories: "Picture of Guilt", featuring the first adventure of Melissa Chambers and the Doctor; and "The Play's the Thing", which, with some revision, will hopefully become his first published New Adventure sometime in 1998. Cris is also a fan of the DC Comics character The Flash, and you can see the culmination of his obsession on his Scarlet Speedster Web Page
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