Episode II: The Right Stuff
by Justin Lindsey Allman

SD 43870.25
At the gates

"Chartreuse, you have that dampening field working, don't you?" My voice didn't hide an ounce of fear.

My hands had breached the maintenance hatch airlock and the protective grace of the inertial dampeners. My fingertips slipped erratically under the multiple gravities which the ship was being exposed to. It hurt.

My heart stopped beating as I watched the planet spin away in an awkward spiral. My eyes were seeing the planet move as if it were nothing more than a child's lazily discarded toy. Relativity prevented me from grasping the truth; it wasn't the planet bouncing away. It was me.

Flashes of angry light reminded me that we were under fire from a vessel ten times our size and that time was short. The little world slipped from my sight as my ship dodged its attacker. It was not a good day.

Through my thin airtight emergency vac-suit I could feel the erratic pulse of the warp core. It was this ill-timed throbbing that had put me half out the maintenance hatch of my starship, ready to leap into space with little more than a plastic bag to protect me. I was afraid, more so than any other moment in my life. My mind was occupied with what I was going to look like if Chartreuse didn't get that inertial dampening field extended outside of the hull.

"Kirk to Faulkner, we can't keep this up much longer. Get that deuterium flowing now." Her voice was calm. She even sounded a bit annoyed that I hadn't opened the deuterium valves to allow the ship to enter warp.

"Adam, I have it. You can jump, no wait...yeah go for it!" Chartreuse's voice carried uncertainty, but I had no choice, it was now or never. We couldn't keep dodging disruptor fire forever, and if we couldn't go to warp we would all be dead.

As my feet left the deck I thought about how innocently this day had started. Twelve hours ago the world had been a very different place. A safe, controlled, structure that I had slept quietly inside, forgetting in its banality all my past transgressions. Now, that life was about to explode out into space. It seemed funny that all I could think about was how I missed my breakfast.

Ensign Adam Faulkner

The ship was the Einstein, and I was her Conn officer. We were on a scientific survey of radio anomalies near the Romulan neutral zone, a task that I hadn't been taking well. I was an experienced officer and should have been assigned to a more respected ship. My last post had been a prominent vessel that had taken fire in the Cardasian border conflicts a few years back. I hadn't protested this assignment, but I had hoped that my superiors might have thought better of me. I wasn't looking for glory; I was here to do a job. On the other hand, the Einstein had some good points. I was the head of my department, and I had plenty of time to pursue my ongoing studies, my favorite being the continuing exploration of the humanoid female.

I was enjoying a pre-shift breakfast with a pretty petty officer named Chartreuse Ivey. I had worked for the last four months on charming this particular young lady and it was finally paying off. Chartreuse was from the dilithium rich world of Coridan. She was only twenty-four and had the telltale blue hair that revealed her family as royalty. I wasn't sure if she was a princess, but she was beautiful. We had just sat down and taken the first few sips of our coffee, so there hadn't been much talk yet. Petty Officer Ivey was a warp plasma specialist and had heard about my actions on the Cardasian border. She had agreed to a breakfast date when she found out that I had received a commendation. I had hoped to tell her of how I had saved the Kyushu. Before I could our ships tactical officer, Amanda Kirk, interrupted us. I wished communicators could be left off.

I explained to Kirk that I didn't go on duty for another thirty minutes, but she ordered me to the transporter room right then and there. I had discovered that arguing with Kirk was more than a waste of time and often had consequences that could end in my personnel record. She was stubborn and only wrong when the computer, the captain or God said so.

On the way there I had worked myself up into a good frenzy. Kirk had been running unnecessary tactical scenarios for the last six weeks. She had convinced the captain that we needed cross training for possible tactical threats. We were in a science vessel on a mission to study radio anomalies in a highly protected region of Federation space. We were like kids in our own back yard. There was nothing to fear.

This time I was going to tell her just what I thought.

When the door slipped apart to the transporter room I was justified in my anger. She had gathered up a small group for her damned fool scenarios. There she was with two security officers and Ensign Tien. Dan Tien was a nice kid from Terra and was turning out to be a good friend. He was tall, dark haired, and quite a whiz with the computers. He was also the ship's operations officer and had the same duty shift as me. It was an outrage that she would get us both off duty to run one of these stupid exercises.

"Lieutenant Kirk, " I began, as I strode right up to her face. My voice was telling of my emotional state, "I know that being raised on Vulcan has alienated you from the niceties that we all share, but if you could just once..."

"Ensign." She cautioned me; her voice dry and to the point. " Gear up. We are beaming down in three minutes."

"Beaming down? We're in the middle of the Alorn Nebula. The nearest planet is three light years away."

"Adam, we changed course last night." Dan's voice was also cautionary. He was scared of Kirk, but I wasn't.

She was a decorated hero, but that didn't make her better than anyone else. Medals only meant that someone high up was looking in your direction. She was an arrogant woman and had serious control issues.

"I'm the ship's pilot, why wasn't I informed?" I said, slightly embarrassed that I hadn't noticed the great nebula missing from my breakfast view.

Neither Kirk nor Tien offered up an answer. They simply handed me a tricorder and a phaser. I walked over to the operators console, which was unmanned, and saw that the panels were black. Kirk stepped onto the transporter and the others followed in suit.

"I'm not beaming anywhere unless I know where it's to." I said. This whole course of action was not only highly irregular, but also damned annoying.

"Mr. Faulkner. If you do not step onto the transporter I will have you court martialed upon my return." Kirk said as flatly as ever.

"Faulkner to Captain Ch'thanak." I tapped my combadge.

"Go ahead," came a soft-spoken, almost musical voice.

"I am in the transporter room with Kirk; do I have orders to beam down?"

"Kirk," The reserved Andorian captain said over the speakers, "is there a problem?"

"No sir." She replied with a glare. She was beautiful to a flaw. A strong build, and yet gracile contours. Her hair was silken, a sienna sunset from a long lost world, and she had striking brown eyes. She held this beauty as if it were her authority over all others. It was as if she had learned early on that she had this allure, and then let it command, knowing that men across the galaxy would swoon to her. It agitated me. As if by her looks alone she should lead. I knew better, though.

She was a proven officer, and a fine athlete, if not one of the best in the fleet. But the longer that I served with her, the more I came to the conclusion that she was nothing more than that. A good looking, rulebook bound, jock with nothing but a surface depth of concern for her fellow crewmen.

"Then proceed Mr. Kirk." The captain commanded.

First Contact

"What kind of godforsaken hole is this?" I asked, as we materialized at the landing site. It was an ugly world, and I had started to get the feeling that this wasn't a training exercise. There had been a tone in the captain's voice, and a fret on Kirk's brow that normally didn't show. They sent up red alerts in my mind and my adrenaline began to flow.

"Tricorders out, phasers up. Thompson and St. John take point..."Kirk issued orders to us with quiet calm. She was good at what she did, and having her on this rock brought a certain security. If there was a tactical situation she was well trained. We were close to the Romulan border, and though there hadn't been even the scent of our neighbors for nearly twenty years, I didn't like the idea of being near them. Suddenly the back yard seemed a little less safe.

I drew out my tricorder and pulled up the meteorological scanning interface and looked onto the most desolate landscape that I had ever seen. The sky was empty, not devoid of objects, but empty like a person's heart after the loss of a parent or a child. It was a sorrowful wound to the eye. Grey and lost. Far in the distance rose up jagged mountains that reached up to the empty heavens. Desiccated fingers that had fallen short of their embrace a billion years ago. They reached around us, surrounding us at nearly a kilometer out.

There was a strange wind chime sound in the air and a foreign scent that reminded me of something that had been left too long in a freezer unit. The air was cold, and it was drier than bone. A frozen empty world that I hoped never to see again.

"What is this place?" I asked, trying to find the source of the wind chimes.

"Charon Four?" Tien replied sounding unsure. As he spoke the words I riffled through my mind to recall that name. It had been more than a navigational point that I had glanced at recently.

Kirk looked at the young man. She had the best poker face in the fleet, and even the highest admiral would be hard stricken to call her bluff.

"It's the only possible place that would be of any interest within range of our original position," Tien replied to Kirk.

She stared at him for a moment more and then let a small grimace crack on her cheek.

"It is indeed, Mr. Tien." She sounded impressed.

At that moment I realized why I had been left out of the loop; we were breaking interstellar law by violating the Neutral Zone. The Treaty of Algeron, signed by both the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire, directed both governments to stay out of the very region of space in which we now were in. To be here meant an act of war. I found it hard to believe that we would have been sent here without consent of the Federation council.

"We are here by orders from Starfleet," Kirk began. "This is a mission of utmost importance. This was the first contact point for the United Earth Forces and the Romulan Star Empire nearly two hundred years ago. Earth Forces encountered a Romulan ship that was bombarding this location from orbit. The Romulans immediately attacked the starship Endeavor and chased them from the system. It started two hundred years of hostilities and cost billions of lives. A year ago, long-range scans showed evidence of Tachyon surges on the surface and a confirmed Starfleet comm signal. Starfleet put this mission together then."

Suddenly, I felt a surge of confidence run through me. I had thought that I had been overlooked by Starfleet command, and had been given a milk run as a punishment, or as a sign that I hadn't deserved better.

Kirk nodded and then refocused on her tricorder. She directed us to begin a standard scanning pattern, and we started our survey of the dead world of Charon.

Every cadet had learned and forgotten about this world in his first few weeks of classes, never truly standing out as a great historical fact, but significant in its existence.

For me, the moments of greatest importance were the flight of the Kitty Hawk, or the first breach of the warp threshold by a human. I should have been more interested in Federation history, but I had focused myself. Flying a ship had been my dream as a child and was my life as an adult. I didn't care about discoveries or intrigue; I just wanted to be behind that helm and do my job.

Life in the fleet isn't like the media reports. Officers aren't all like Picard or Tryla Scott. We are just people and it was how we had chosen to live our lives. It was a job and usually not a very glamorous or exciting one.

At one time I had been in the spotlight, a moment that I had tried to forget. Forgetting wasn't easy, though. With the renewed faith from my superiors a grave guilt began to rise inside me.

"Lieutenant," Tien eagerly summoned Kirk, "My tricorder is showing a density variation." He pointed to the tiny screen in his palm.

Both Kirk and I approached. It was more than a density shift, it was a clear indication of a cloaked structure. There were tetryion and chroniton emissions. Some kind of interphasing cloaking device had been used to hide the structure. I wasn't sure, this wasn't my field of expertise. I was lost in the readings and began to wonder why I had been selected for this mission. As far as I knew, none of us had any specialization's in this area.

"There is an energy signature matching one that Starfleet recorded in this region a few years ago. The energy signature is defiantly Iconian," Tien explained, then added, "My thesis was on the Iconian computer virus that destroyed the Yamato in Sixty-five."

It became clear that we were here to safeguard Dan.

Using the tricorders we were able to 'see' the building. The structure was a large cube about 25 meters across with a low rising dome on top. The tricorders showed that it was slightly out of phase touching the surface of subspace. There were no life signs and it showed no viable source of energy. Whatever this building might have been it was in the center of the crater and it looked as if it had been hit by something with a lot of kinetic force. It was broken and burnt, devoid of life. An empty can discarded long ago on the side of a less traveled road.

I recalled images of haunted mansions from the second rate holo-novels of my childhood. The kind of tales where the foolish soon to be killed run in headfirst.

"Alright men, let's go in two by two," Kirk said motioning to an opening that appeared as if had once been a door. Dante's immortal words over the gate of Hell came to me as we approached the invisible entrance: "Abandon all hope ye who enter here."

My throat tightened as Kirk motioned for St. John and me to take point.

We entered the invisible building, tricorders in one hand and phasers ready in the other. St. John was on his second tour of duty, a young man who had wanted nothing more than to see the galaxy. He had seen some action two years back on the Cardasian border and we had traded war stories. Not that there was much, but we each had a moment of outstanding bravery. He had spoken of the Setlik Three recovery, and I had talked about my time on the Kyushu.

I watched St. John as he moved concisely and without any sign of fear. He was a brave man, but it wasn't his time. It was mine. A surge of emotions ran across me and I moved forward and cut off his advance. I had to be the first one in. I had to take on whatever was in there. Four years ago I had run away, and irony had made me a hero. This time it would be different. This time I wouldn't run.

As we scanned and passed through the two-meter tall entrance we stepped into a real, visible room. It was as if it were transparent only from the exterior. The room was small and devoid of any decor. Several small bowls extended from the walls one-meter off the ground and every thing was composed of a stone-like substance. There was a tomb-like feeling in there, an understanding with the walls that we were the first to violate this silence in at least two hundred years.

The bowls in the wall fascinated me, and I scanned them with more intensity than the rest of the building. This room had been exposed to incredible heat, but there was still some molecular residue in the protrusions. They held soil at one time, and vegitative matter. I imagined some kind of flowers or vines that spread out from the bowls and arced across the ancient room.

Kirk ordered us in further. I was already three steps ahead of her and crossing the room to the next chamber. It was as if I weren't in control of my actions, as if I had a need and this was my only chance to fulfill it. Nearly four years ago I was thrown about by fate and rewarded for something I didn't deserve. Now after so long a sleep a force was rising in me. It bade me to move and commanded me to be brave. To make penance for my lies.

Kirk, Tien, and Thompson, our other security escort, entered quickly behind us. Their tricorders drank up information like starved children.

"There is neutronium lacing in the stone work, and it looks like there are Iconian glyphs beneath the surface dirt." Tien read from his small device.

"Five more minutes, then let's get back outside." Kirk clarified our time schedule.

"I'll go into the next chamber. Scans show it's clear." I was here and I had to have my moment, this was it. I was going to be brave this time. Starfleet had decorated me. I hadn't deserved it, but I had taken it none the less.

"Wait," Kirk began, as I approached the dirt-covered ancient doors, "We'll go together. You three follow us," She commanded.

Kirk was going to mess things up. If something were to be found, some danger that needed to be confronted, then I needed to find it.

We had to force the doors, but they separated easily with a cloudy shove. They were cold, gritty, and there was a sulphurous scent that they exuded. As the dirt from the portal fell it revealed a circular room with a column-like console at its center. I had seen similar designs built by avian species, and wondered if the ancient Iconians, or whoever had built this place, might have had feathers. Again, it was a very Spartan affair, with only one other entrance on the far side of the room. And again the feeling of the tomb, as if the dead were still here watching and angry that we would desecrate their long lost home. I had my tricorder out, but my mind was on my phaser. I walked across to the other door. This room was empty, and I was sure Kirk was going to call us back. I knew our time was limited, but I needed a chance to prove myself and it wasn't happening here. I shouldn't have expected much, but still its ghost-like genre inspired my imagination.

"Ensign, wait." Kirk beckoned me back. But I didn't stop. I had to see what was on the other side. Face it down and save myself. I had been living a lie for one day too many and this was my one chance on this tour of duty to clear my conscience.

"Ensign..." But Kirk couldn't finish. Tien shouted something about a tachyion surge and that's when it went crazy.

I paused at the door, held in place by Tien's warning. The doors parted with a dusty whoosh and I was suddenly face to face with the first Romulan that I had ever seen in my life.

I froze for only a second, and was about to stun her, when in clear and concise words she spoke my name.

"Commander Faulkner, what's going on?" the Romulan woman said with a very confused look on her face.

"Don't move," Kirk called out, phaser extending its fearful aim toward the alien woman.

The woman was light-skinned, with dark hair and green eyes. She looked at me as if she had known me for many years, but hadn't seen me for awhile.

"Faulkner, back away," Kirk commanded.

I took a step back and the doors closed. I turned to Kirk, who then waved for us all to exit. She ran into the room in which we had come from, but stopped mid-stride. She dropped her weapon and raised her hands in the air, then slowly backed up.

She was under the guns of several heavily armed and armored Romulans.

Kirk's Way

The Romulans moved us into the adjoining chamber that I had so eagerly run too. When we entered there were only more centurions, and the woman was absent. This room was cleaner than the others, with strange and colorful displays. The tomb feeling was gone, replaced by a militant air. The sense of ancient wonder was now overridden by a distinct uniformity. The room was dominated by a central console that was similar to a tree with interface panels. Around it several alcoves lined the walls. Etched on the surface I could see that there was at one time a vine-like plant that had risen up and covered the whole room and ceiling.

The five of us were moved into one of the alcoves, and once we were secured several of the Romulans left the room. Three had remained behind, one whom was not armored as the others. He was tall and pale, with gaunt features. He looked like the stereotypical Romulans that were in the federation Database, and I found that amusing.

"S'hey tok noth nomba tu ra ley?" He said in a nasal voice.

Kirk stepped forward, despite her arms being cuffed and weapons drawn on her." Tru lan Tru Nomb Tu ra ley."

"She speaks Romulan?" I whispered to Tien. Even in the end she was too much.

"I think it's Vulcan," he replied under his breath.

"Dab ne knee sola Tu ne rotar Horak," he commanded Kirk.

She replied in the same fevered tones. The Romulans hadn't taken our commbadges but the translators weren't working for some reason. The Romulan then waved towards Daniel.

"No! Take me!" Kirk pushed forward losing the alien language.

The Romulan guards stepped forward and one brought a heavy rifle to Kirk's face. She fell back and I got to my feet. Before I could act I was threatened with disruptors. With my hands bound behind my back, I didn't make much of a threat to them. They motioned for Tien to step away. He looked nervously at Kirk as she pulled herself up from the ground. She nodded to him as if to tell him to be brave. He held his chin up and was led from the room by the thin Romulan. The two centurions remained to watch over us.

We all had heard the rumors of horrible acts that the Romulans committed in interrogations and it was a bitter swallow to simply watch him go. We all knew there was nothing we could do.

"Shoral ne?" Kirk said to one of the centurions. He looked confused for a moment, then shouted a guttural command. 'Shut up' seems to need very little translation in any language.

Kirk sat back on the ground. I kneeled next to her and began to whisper, "What are we going to do?"

"Nothing yet."

"We can't just..." I didn't finish because unless one of us became disruptor proof, the only thing we could do was just sit there.

"They were speaking a very harsh dialect of ancient Vulcan." Kirk whispered to me after a moment. "I can understand only bits and pieces."

"Do you think they destroyed the Einstein?"

"No. It left orbit the minute we beamed down. Our beam out window is only a few minutes, but I don't think that she'll be there to transport. If captain Ch'thanak can see the Romulan ship, he wont reveal his position."

"Great," I said with disappointment. What had I been thinking? A few minutes ago I had been wishing for an opportunity to jump in front of the gun. With my wish granted, I was set into a moment of clarity. It all seemed so petty. I was petty.

"Everyone be ready. When they bring back Tien we'll make a break for it."

"If they bring him back" St. John said sourly, and not in the hushed tones we had been using.

The guard shouted at us again, and we sat quietly. Time passed very slowly and I had no idea how long we had been there. Maybe an hour had gone by. With each passing moment, my hopes of a rescue from the Einstein faded.

"I thought I would redeem myself here," I said softly to Kirk never taking my eye off the guard.

Keeping the centurions in her sight, she replied quietly, "What do you mean?"

"I'm sure you heard about my commendation."

"Yes, it's what got you this assignment, but now's not the time to brag."

"I didn't deserve it." I confessed.

St. John and Thompson moved closer. Thompson interjected, "You saved the Kyushu by using the Mappin Maneuver."

"I did a four point roll with a high energy turn. The ship barely held together as we warped to safety. The margin for error was .0004 percent."

The guards approached, suspiciously eyeing the group. We held silent for a moment until they moved away.

"I don't understand what this has to do with us here." Kirk watched noting that the guards didn't seem to care if we talked in quiet tones.

I had known Kirk for nearly seven months. There were some things she just didn't get. Human emotions, regrets, love. Somewhere on that desert world she had left those things behind, and though she was a good officer she was a poor human.

"It's not about this, it's about me." I looked into her eyes hoping to find some kind of connection. Such a beautiful woman, and yet so cold and empty.

"What really happened?" Thompson asked. He had been fairly quiet up till now. He was on his second year in the fleet, and this was his first starship assignment. I had recently found out that he had a grandfather named Faulkner and wanted to know more about his lineage.

"When the Kyushu took its first hit, our drives were knocked off-line. We took a pounding before we got warp back. The bridge suffered a direct hit, and my console exploded into flames. I was hurt bad and the captain had been knocked out. I turned away from my console to head to the escape pods, when another hit threw me back into the helm. In my struggle to pull myself up from the burning board I somehow initiated the maneuver." I had paused, for that was the first time I had ever told the truth, ever confessed my sin.

"I lucked out," I said sourly.

I wanted to hear them chastise me or sacrifice me up to the Romulans. I was a fraud, and I didn't belong with them.

"You were there, and because you were the ship was saved. It doesn't matter whether you intended to save them or not. You did," Kirk said, once again in the matter of fact tone; the one that seemed to imply that I was foolish for my thoughts. But this time I knew better than she.

"I was running away."

"How long are you guys going to sit there?" Tien's voice rang out across the room.

We turned to see him standing alone, with not so much as a molecule to represent the centurions. The room had changed too. It was darker and covered in a light gray soot. The eyes of the dead were once again on my shoulders.

Kirk jumped toward Tien and turned to have him remove the bonds. He drew out a small hand phaser and began to cut through our hand-binders. His uniform was dirtied, and he had a nice scuff on his face.

"How did you escape? Where are the guards, and where did you get the phaser?" Kirk said as she rubbed her wrists.

"It's a long story, but sufficient to say this place is not maintaing temporal integrity. I think that our presence is causing some kind of temporal disturbance." Tien said as he unlatched the rest of us.

"Can we go that way?" Thompson motioned towards the portal through which Tien had left.

"No, its...there's no exit that way. We have to go out the way we came." Daniel looked as if the other way had caused him some great anguish. I wondered how much torture had been applied before his captors disappeared.

Kirk had already moved to the exit. She stood near the side so she wouldn't activate the door sensor, if it still worked. She listened intently, then held up four fingers and pointed to the other side of the door.

She motioned us around and we knew what to do. All the cross training was now paying off. She held up three fingers, then two, then one. When the security team acted it was as if they were a series of linked telepaths. Thompson and Kirk pulled open the door as St. John rolled through. Then just as quickly, Kirk and Thompson were in hand to hand with several Romulans. Tien began to stun the centurions and I jumped into the fray.

There were ten of them, but Kirk and her staff had taken two out straight away, and Tien shot three, leaving the odds a little better for the group. I took a couple of good hits to my head but I managed to get my opponent down. When he went for his gun I was able to get a solid square shot to his jaw. Thompson, the youngest of our troupe, had gone down but St. John had spared his disintegration with nothing less than a double-fisted strike to the back of one of the Romulans necks.

Kirk was amazing. She used quick efficient movements focused on the bilateral split. The Romulans never stood a chance against her. Tien had been rushed and had lost his phaser, but Kirk and I were able to clear off his attackers.

"C'mon kid," I said as I helped Tien up.

Kirk grabbed the disruptors and began stunning the fallen soldiers, "Tien look around for the tricorders and phasers, Thompson search the bodies for communicators, Faulkner and St. John, over here." She nodded for us to come to the next door.

Kirk was a fighter, and she knew no other way. As I watched her she was more alive than I had ever seen her before. I had her akin to the Vulcans, but seeing her in the fight I was sure she must have been half Klingon.

We were moving toward the door when it opened and surprised us. Standing in the doorway was the female Romulan that had called my name earlier. She was holding a federation phaser and it was leveled off directly at me.

A Moment in Time

"My name is T'Soria. I'm from the I'nagram, a Federation Starship." She said dead pan.

Thompson moved forward and the Romulan re-oriented the weapon. " I am here to help you," She claimed.

"Then drop the weapon," I said doubting her words.

She bit her lower lip and held still for a moment. I could see Kirk tensing up waiting to strike. Someone might have been killed if the weapon misfired. Our last sortie had gone well, but we nearly lost Tien and Thompson for it.

"T'Soria, my name is Ensign Faulkner, if you really want to help us then lower the weapon." This time I said it with as much sincerity as I could muster. Kirk's way was good, but this wasn't the time for cowboy antics. If T'Soria had wanted us dead then she would have killed us.

"I know who you are, I have served with you for the last seven months," she said as she lowered the weapon. I wasn't as confused as I should have been. I didn't exactly know what was going on, but I had a strong suspicion.

Kirk rushed in and snatched the weapon away before T'Soria could respond. Thompson and St. John held their phasers in the ready to fire position.

"Kirk, wait," I said quickly.

"I am in command here. I make the calls." Kirk said, never taking her eyes or the phaser of T'Soria.

"Then make the right call," an angry whisper ripped from my mouth. I wasn't a genius, but I saw that there was a bigger picture here.

Kirk paused, then reluctantly lowered her weapon.

"Adam," The strange alien woman came closer to me. She reached out and gently touched my shoulder. "I am here under orders from you... your future self."

"Commander Faulkner." I confirmed my suspicions.

"Yes, you...he...." She paused and took a breath.

"This building is in a temporal flux," Tien interrupted as he read off facts from his tricorder." Multiple time frames are merging."

"There's more to it than that," T' Soria interrupted. "Kirk, yourself and Tien will return here in the future to fight a mad Cardasian obsessed with killing you."

"Our presence it causing a collateral build up in both time frames. We can't exist simultaneously in the same space." Tien continued.

''You have to leave here immediately. You have to go before you attack the Romulans." T'Soria said.

"Attack?" Asked Tien.

"Yes, there is a group of Romluans here investigating this structure. Because of the temporal distortions you will attack them before they detain you. Your escape will be the attack that sets everything in motion."

Kirk sighed heavily.

"That attack is First Contact." said the Romulan woman.

The building shook violently and across the communicators came a distinct hissing voice;"Kiirrrrrk"

"The mad Cardasian!" T'Soria gasped. "You have to go now!"

"We're out." Kirk said leading away to wards the exit.

Kirk went through first, and then Tien. Thompson and St. John were holding for me to go next. I waved for T'Soria to come with us.

"I can't go. I have to stay here. My Faulkner needs me now."

Another explosion and the door from the other side of the room flew off in a burst of light and smoke.

"It looks like you have run out of options." I said, moving towards her.

"Go, I will hold him back."

From the burning smoke a figure appeared. It was barely human in its shape, covered in a pearl-like armor, and lumbered into the room.

"Go!" T'Soria shouted, as she opened fire on the figure. It paused, but the phaser beam just washed off it like water. Thompson, St. John, and I, had opened fire next, but it was obvious that nothing was working. The metal monster then raised its arm and a blue beam lanced out. There was an explosion and I had been thrown back. Thompson and St. John then me dragged out of the room. Consciousness was fleeting. I was confused. I saw the empty sky and crossing it was a giant bird. There was a bright, buzzing white light that had enveloped me and I had hoped it was the transporter beam, and not death, taking me away.

Command Decision

A medical technician was hovering over me, and Kirk and Tien were at the transporter Controls.

"Damn it!" Kirk cursed at the board. The transporter beam flickered on the platform and the Medic moved me off and away from the brilliant display.

"We lost them!" Tien shouted and then the ship rocked.

I was thrown with my Med tech across to the transporter room and slammed into a locker. My left shoulder was burning.

"What's happening?" I asked, still confused and in pain.

"The Einstein is under attack- our main drives are off-line." Tien shouted from behind the transporter console.

Our ship was under attack and its helm and tactical were in the transporter room. I set my pain aside, and tried to rise. The Med tech wanted me to stay down, but now was not the time. I had only been stunned by the blast and was good to go.

Again, the ship rocked. I could tell it was a shield hit. That was good. At least we still had those.

"Kirk we need to get to the bridge!" As I spoke, the transporter pad lit up with a series of small bursts and smoke began to billow out from the floor.

"We've lost the buffers," Tien reported

"Damn!" Kirk stabbed at the controls desperately. "Reroute to transporter room two."

"I can't. We don't have the power; it's all going to defensive systems." Tien said.

"Reroute from life-support," she commanded.

Tien looked at her, then me. He knew it was over, and as I looked around and didn't see Thompson or St. John I realized what it was that had happened.

Four years ago I had been on a ship that was being attacked. Because I was there, the ship survived. Because I was there- not because I was brave. I had been at the right place and the right time. That place was on the bridge then, and as the ship rolled from another hit, I knew where I needed to be to make that same difference. I knew where we all needed to be.

"Amanda, we have to get to the bridge."

She looked at me then back to the console.

"They're gone," I said dryly. I didn't want to leave them, I hated even saying it, but there were eighty of us up here and two of them down there.

"They're still on the planet." She said, showed me the first display of humanity, and there was nothing I could do to acknowledge it.

"We have to get to the bridge. The Einstein needs her tac now."

"Bridge to transporter room," someone called down across the comm, "We have taken a hit to engineering. We have heavy casualties."

"Bridge, where is captain Ch'thanak?" I asked.

There was a pause, "He's dead."

The situation had gone from bad to worse. Technically, Kirk was now in command of the ship, and I was her first. Kirk had command in her past, and she knew how to fight Romulans better than anyone on board.

"Kirk, you go to the bridge, I'll go to engineering."

Who was I, and what was I becoming. Four years ago, I had run in fear from the fire and the noise. Today I ran into it. What had changed inside me? I hated that kid that had run away, but as I ran through the corridors, I knew I was no less afraid now than I had been then.

Kirk had said that I had saved the ship because I had been there. What then is the measure of courage? To not be afraid, or is it simply to be where you know you need to be. My thoughts of bravery came to a close as the doors to engineering parted and I saw the dead strewn about.

I ran to the engineering console and found the diagnostic programs. The dead, my friends with whom I had spoken only yesterday, staring at me now with frozen looks of fear. I wanted to run before I joined them, but I realized that I didn't have that luxury. Our best chance of survival was to get the ship out of here.

I was the helm officer and the liaison from the bridge to engineering. It required me to know a great deal about starship engines and how they work. I had a large amount of base knowledge, but very little experience.

The console was difficult to read and it took me a moment to figure it out.

"Kirk to Faulkner. We have one D'Deridex attempting to disable us. They have breached our shields and are attempting to tractor lock us. What's your status down there?" Her voice was cool and calm once again.

I prayed that I was reading this right, "Um.. there are several breaches along the Warp Plasma Conduits but I think we can override... no wait, the deuterium flow is restricted, I need to manually re-open the valves."

The matter/anti-matter reaction chamber was the heart of a starship. It was the power source from which the ship derived all its life. The Warp Plasma Conduits were like arteries that the energy from the reaction chamber traveled to get to the Warp Engines. The conduits had several fractures in them, and safety programs had shut them down. Those programs could be overridden with a command code, and they were not what was keeping us in danger. The problem was that the fuel, the deuterium, wasn't reaching the reaction chamber in a steady flow.

Deuterium Oxide was a naturally occurring isotope of water, and found abundantly through out the galaxy. It was the base fuel for the Warp reaction chamber. Mixed with anti protons it generated a usable explosive energy. Because the flow was intermediate we weren't able to feed the reactor enough fuel to go to warp speed.

"Get it done, I'm dropping us into the atmosphere, Kirk out."

The atmosphere would diffuse the disruptor fire, but this ship wasn't made for sub orbital flight. I wasn't on the bridge, and it wasn't my call. I focused on the console and brought up the relevant data. The damage was in our secondary hull, a pontoon-like structure that sat below the main hull of the Einstein. The lifts to it were gone and there was no way to get there. Transporters were off-line now, and even if I had wanted to there was no way to get to the flow control.

"Damn it!" I shouted, as I hit the control panel. The ship rocked again.

A rumble began to rise in the hull, and I could hear the ship's superstructure groan as if a great weight had been placed upon it. The one hundred sixty-meter vessel began to shake and I knew that we had entered the planet's outer most atmosphere.

"Adam!" a familiar voice came from behind me.

"Chartreuse," I said in panicked tones, as I saw her crawling from out of a Jefferies tube, "The deuterium slush is cut off, and we can't go to warp!"

"I know, I have overridden the WPC lockouts. I was going to do that next."


"I hadn't figured it out yet," she said shyly.

I brought up the schematic of the Einstein. We had to get to the secondary hull and open the emergency flow valves. We didn't have transporters or any safe connecting structure. I knew that I could do the repair; it wasn't anything more than opening a panel and pulling a maglock lever, but I had to get there to do it.

The ship took another hit and the boards lit up like Christmas trees. From the ceiling there was a groaning of steel and sparks showered down on to Ivey and me.

"Get me an emergency vac suit and redirect the inertial dampeners between us and the secondary hull."

"You're crazy."

I just smiled. I was about to earn that damned commendation.

The Jump

Once I had on the Emergency Vac suit, and the Einstein was clear of the atmosphere, I made the leap. I just focused on a single point on the secondary hull and didn't look at anything else. I know in my mind that it took only seconds, but they were very long seconds. I realized as I approached the secondary hull that I had launched myself too fast. I slammed into the hull as the ship shifted. I was now embedded in the side of the pylon that connected the two hulls.

It was a lucky drop; had I missed the pylon I would have been dangling in space and out of the protective grace of the dampeners. I braced against the strut, hands gripping into a vent, and I realized that I had no magnetic booting. I could make it though. The valve wasn't too far from my position. I looked up and saw flashes of light. The Romulan was still firing on us, and Kirk was still flying close to the planet and was using it as a shield. As long as the Einstein didn't dive back into the air I would be okay, otherwise I would be one dead ensign. I crawled out a few meters on the ship, and I noticed that wasn't falling off as I had feared. Chartreuse had jumped the gravity up in the deck below and it was enough to keep me from floating away.

I came to the access hatch and keyed in the release code, 1-6-1-3-9-5. The hatch slid open and away. I quickly checked the interface to see if it was damaged. Under the flashes of death that beamed around me, I could see that it was operational, but un-powered. I keyed in the sequence and pulled up the mag-lock. It was just a cylinder with a handle. It had to be pulled out, turned, and pushed back in. It came out with ease, and then as I was about to turn it, the ship took a hit. The small amount of gravity that had been holding me in place faded, and then I could feel my weight pulling me away from the ship. The inertial field was off-line. As if that weren't bad enough, as I looked up and a piece of orbital debris struck the hull less than a meter away from me. I didn't see what it was, but it took out a man-sized chunk of the tritanium skin. Small flecks of the hull began to tear around me, and I knew we had entered a debris field. If we were going less than 4500 kph I would have been surprised. Starships maneuver at one half light. If I were to have been hit, I would have exploded.

I pulled myself back to the mag-lock, turned it, and struggled to push it down. I locked my foot into the hole and with the other I pushed down, opening the valve with every last prayer and ounce of will. It slotted in nice and tight.

I had done it. Even if I died, the ship could now go to warp.

"Faulkner to Kirk, GO!" I said tapping my commbadge. The ship lurched and I slid off and away. The cable that held me tightened like a fishing line with a fish that was just too big. A sharp pain had emerged in my side and a horrific hissing appeared as my plastic protector breached under duress. Then there was a series of flashes and I watched as one of the warp nacelles exploded into a huge fiery blue streamer.

I held up my arms as if it would protect me from the super-heated steel that was rushing past me. The ship would go to warp any second and I would be killed by the massive spatial distortions. I would join Thompson and St. John, my brothers whom I thought I had left behind. So many had died, and I wasn't sure how many more would follow. We had committed an act of war by being here. I only could hope that for whatever reason Starfleet had sent me, that it had been worth it in the end.

I had done it, I had finally earned my commendation. There was a moment when I could feel the warp field form. A bright buzzing light enveloped me and space faded away.

The next thing I knew I slammed into the deck of the transporter room. The same Med tech was over me again. They had beamed me out at the last second.

"We need to stop meeting like this." I smiled. I felt like a wet pair of jeans. It was as if I weighed a hundred tons. The room started to spin and then I heard something about radiation, but by the time I realized what I had really done, going out in space with no rad protection.

I had Tien to thank for my life. He had at the last second routed power from a shuttle into the transporters and saved me. Tit for tat.

The Einstein was saved, and we made it back to Federation space. We later discovered that The Romulan ship had also been from another time-frame and that there had been no official protest from the Romulan Empire. We all received commendations, but I pinned mine on St. John's grave. For him and all those whom we had lost out there.

Present tense

"Wow, that's an impressive story." Said a very young and beautiful human girl sitting in the strange alien bar. The air was thick and the music had a strong beat that pushed into the chests of all the patrons.

Faulkner smiled his devil be damned smile across a very small table. He held up a drink (he didn't even know what it was) and took a sip.

"So did you say you were a captain?" she said with a sultry glance. Her features were smooth and dark, her eyes endless green seas.

"Well not yet, but soon."

"I have never made love to a hero before." Her tones were pleasing to his ears.

"Oh, you have to try it."

She rose from the table and motioned him to join her.

Faulkner dropped two strips of latinum for their server and put his arm around the lovely young girl.

"I have a place near by. You can stay the night if you want." She said.

"Well it depends, what did you have in mind?"

She whispered in his ear and answered every want and desire that Adam Faulkner had ever imagined about strange alien girls in seedy backwater bars. This was a dream come true. He had earned that commendation, and was now about to reap the rewards of a hero.

The two stepped out of the bar and into the streets. A ground vehicle pulled up, a long white expensive-looking taxi. The door opened and the girl smiled.

"Kirk to Faulkner, report to the bridge immediately." Came a voice from inside Faulkner's jacket.

"What was that?" said the angel as she stepped in the door.

"It was nothing," he lied. "Let's go."

"Is that your wife?" The girl said with a very suspicious glance.

"Kirk to Faulkner we are locked on to your position. Stand by to transport.

"Wait!" he snapped out his commbadge. He turned to the girl and smiled, "I need to go."

The girl looked as if she had lost something important. Faulkner grabbed her firmly, and kissed her one last time.

She looked saddened.

A bright buzzing light enveloped Faulkner and he watched the pretty young girl fade. He was angry. Kirk was always running these stupid training exercises and this time he was going to tell her just what he thought.

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