by Robert Morganbesser

Chapter Ten

"Captain to the bridge!" Rikers voice, insistent as it was during a potential crisis, roused Picard from his reading of Hamlet. Putting his volume aside, he appeared on the bridge moments later, staring at the viewscreen as he made his way to his seat.

"What is it Number One?"

"A ship just appeared on sensors. It doesn't match any known configurations."

"Have you tied sensors into the library computer?" Picard asked.

"No, sir."

"Mr. Data, check the configuration against the library computer." Picard wasn't taking any chances. Perhaps this was another manifestation of the Doctor's collapse of the walls between realities.

"Sir, the ship is unknown to even historical banks."

"Is it close enough to see?"

"Yes, sir. It is just within viewing distance."

"On screen."

Riker had to smile when he saw the ship that had caused him so much consternation. It was a disc shaped vessel, what people of pre-first contact Earth would have called a 'flying saucer." Once it had probably glistened, now it showed ravages of what had to be a long time in space.

"Captain," said Worf. "I have scanned the vessel. It has a primitive form of fusion engine and six life signs. All human."

Riker raised a brow. "Human as in terrestrial human?"

Worf nodded. "The ship has no offensive armaments, no shields. It runs on a cesium reactor."

Riker and Picard looked at each other. "A sleeper ship perhaps?" Offered Data.

"Try hailing them, Worf." Picard sat back in his seat as Worf began hailing the unknown ship.

"Receiving a response, audio only. They claim not to have video."

Picard nodded to himself. "From the primitive look of the ship, I'd say that's true. On speaker."

"Unknown ship, this is Dr. John Robinson of Earth aboard the Jupiter 2, we mean you no harm."

"Dr. Robinson," Picard replied. "This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise. We also mean you no harm. Do you require assistance?"

The relief in Robinson's voice was apparent as he replied, "Well if you have some good star charts, we could use some directions. We're trying to find a way either back to earth or our destination of Alpha Centauri."

Riker and Picard exchanged looks of amazement. Picard made a cut off motion to Worf, then decided to tell his bridge crew what had happened earlier.

"So," said Riker. "This ship and its crew might be from a parallel dimension?"

"Yes, Number one. Mr. Worf, inform Dr. Robinson that we are going to bring them aboard. Will their ship fit in shuttle bay 1?"

"Yes, Captain. Will you require a security team?"

Riker nodded. "I think that would be a good idea."

The Jupiter nearly filled the largest of the Enterprises three shuttlebays. Once she was in, the magnetic field kept the air in and space out. Picard and Riker, along with Data and Dr. Crusher (Data had suggested she be there) waited at the bottom steps of one of the three landing struts of the ship.

They were there only a few moments when a man, tall with a rugged face topped by dark hair that was going grey appeared. "Hello. I'm Dr. John Robinson." Clad in a silver spacesuit with red piping, the man came down the steps unarmed.

Picard put out his hand. "I'm Captain Jean-Luc Picard. This is my first officer, Commander Riker, second officer, Commander Data and the ships doctor, Beverly Crusher."

Dr. Robinson smiled at each. "It's good to see some human faces. We've been out in space nearly 15 years and it gets lonely. What planet are you from?"

Picard was about to answer when the odd noise he'd first heard in his ready room began again. In a corner of the shuttlebay the odd blue box that the Doctor had called TARDIS appeared again. As soon as it materialized, the Doctor, floppy hat and amazing scarf popped out.

"Ah, Jolly good. Professor Robinson of the Jupiter 2! Well! We're all together now, aren't we?"

Robinson looked confused. "But where is here?"

The Doctor looked around the uncomfortable looking shuttlebay. "Why don't you, Dr. Robinson and Captain Picard come into the TARDIS with me? We can have some tea in more comfortable surroundings." The Doctor grinned disarmingly. "I'll leave the door open so that your communications devices can function."

Picard and Robinson glanced at the box, then at each other. As they were about to ask just how they could all fit in the box, the Doctor started walking toward it. "Come gentlemen, time is short."

Picard turned to his staff. "Number one, wait here. The rest of you can return to your duties. Geordi keep scanning for chronoton fields of unusual strength."

Riker looked uncomfortable at the Captain's command, but nodded. "I'll be right here if you need me sir."

Picard stepped through the doorway of the TARDIS first, then stepped back, then entered, followed by Robinson, who gasped, "This is impossible!" The room they had entered was large, dominated by a hexagonal console in the center.

"No, it's not I assure you," said the Doctor, appearing from a doorway. "This is the TARDIS, please don't insult her, the old girl can be tetchy."

Picard, who had seen many amazing things in his duty with Starfleet, stared. "How can this be? On the outside…" He was at a loss for words.

The Doctor grinned broadly. "The TARDIS is a sentient machine, used by my people to travel through time and space. I can't say much more than that, it isn't allowed. Please follow me."

The Doctor led them to a comfortable sitting room that looked like it came out of Victorian England. On the table was an assortment of biscuits and pastries as well as a steaming pot of tea. Pouring a cup for each, the Doctor put two lumps of sugar in his and sat down. "If there is any more civilized drink than tea in the entire universe, I have not yet discovered it."

Picard drank his plain and his face lit up as he sipped it. "Earl Grey?"

"Why yes, Captain. From the Earl's plantation himself."

Robinson added milk and sugar to his, gaining a disproving look from Picard. It proved to the captain that Robinson was indeed from America, only they would barbarize such a fine tea!

"Doctor," said Robinson. "Just what's going on here? My family and I just ended a long stay on a planet called Veridian Three where my son found a monument." Robinson turned to look at Picard. "The monument mentioned the Federation. Do you know about it?"

Picard set down his cup. "What were you doing on Veridian Three?"

Robinson sat back. "We had engine trouble and crashed there. Our supplies and repair parts are finally running low. We were supposed to go to the Alpha Centauri system and start a new colony for Earth, but got lost due to some interference from a crew member whose now dead."

"Veridian Three," said Picard. "If off limits to Federation members since it has a culture not deemed advanced enough for first contact."

"Professor Robinson couldn't have known that Captain." The Doctor interceded. "If fact the reason I am here is to help the Robinson's get back on track so they can complete their mission and help their earth." The doctor then explained about the collapse of the interdimensional walls.

Robinson whistled. "I thought I knew something about quantum physics, but you've just given me a lesson!"

The Doctor rose. "If you'll follow me, I have something else to give you."

The Doctor led them down three levels and past several more rooms. "This, gentlemen is one of the TARDIS' workshops." Opening the door and going in, the Doctor pointed to a small table in the middle of the room. "Dr. Robinson, please take that device."

Cautiously, Robinson passed his companions and took the small rectangle. It beeped once and lights began to blink on it. "What is it?"

"It's your way to Alpha Centauri, my friend." Said the Doctor. "When you return to your ship, put it on your central navigation device, then you should all return to suspended animation. When you awake, you'll be in the Centauri system."

Robinson's face lit up. "This isn't a joke? This will help us? What do I do with it when we're there?"

"Once you've arrived, the device will no longer function. Just put it in the recycle bin on your ship." The Doctor pulled a timepiece from his coat pocket. "Now you have to get moving, Professor. You have only 45 minutes to cross back into your own reality, or you'll be trapped here forever."

Robinson tucked the device in his belt. "Then let's go!"

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