A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover
by Hazel Köhler
Well, well. Who would have thought it possible? Peace with the Klingons, after all these years of, if not outright war, then at least constant sniping, needling and general unpleasantness. On both sides, it had to be admitted.
The disaster at Praxis had turned out to be a pivotal event in the relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. There had been hotheads on both sides, but wiser counsels had eventually prevailed; the presence of a Federation ship in the vicinity, offering what aid it could when the Klingon home-world’s moon had been destroyed, had not gone unappreciated by the more thoughtful of the Klingon ruling council. Captain/Admiral James T. Kirk, legendary scourge of the Klingons, had been a reluctant broker of the peace, and was now living in peaceful retirement in his beloved Iowa. Meanwhile, diplomats on both sides were working hard to maintain the fragile cease-fire. There had even been some discussion about inviting the Klingon Empire to become part of the Federation – no doubt, on the part of the Klingons, there had also been talk of inviting the Federation to become part of the Klingon Empire. Either way – the peace was holding, so far, and ships from both sides were permitted to enter each other’s space with only the minimum of challenge.
Captain Joseph Wallace was fairly new to his command. He was proud of his ship, the USS Churchill, and even prouder of the fact that it had been he, and his ship, who had been in the right place at the right time when news came in of a message received from a Klingon ship in distress.
“How long before we’re in scanner range, Garza?” he asked.
First Officer Danielle Garza, an unflappable woman from one of the Titan colonies, checked her readings. “Less than 30 minutes now, sir,” she replied. Her finger hovered over another button on her console, as if she were anticipating another request. It wasn’t long in coming.
“Let me hear that message again.”
Like most people of his rank in Starfleet, Wallace had a rudimentary knowledge of the Klingon language, and he was able to understand most of it even without the translation thoughtfully provided by Starfleet Command.
Wallace frowned. He must have listened to that message a dozen times now, but he’d finally worked out what bothered him about it. The voice was fairly calm, under the circumstances, and the speaker was obviously fluent in the language, but there was something about the accent, the quality of the voice, that suggested that he wasn’t a native-born speaker. With any luck, Wallace mused, they’d soon find out…
“Coming up on the co-ordinates now, sir.”
Wallace leaned forward, gazing at the scene of devastation on the viewscreen. The Klingon ship was dead in space, surrounded by debris. No lights, no evidence of power, nothing. The bridge section was open to vacuum.
“Not a warship,” Garza murmured. “A freighter, or a passenger transport maybe. Would have been pretty lightly armed.”
“Hail them,” Wallace said, but without much hope of an answer.
“No response, Captain.”
“Take us in slowly,” Wallace ordered. “And keep up the long-range scanning. I want to know if whoever did this is still around.”
He watched as the image of the Klingon ship slowly enlarged on the viewscreen. It was now much easier to see the extent of the damage. From the look of it, it was a miracle that anyone had survived long enough to send that distress call. And that, come to think of it, was another point in favour of the voice not being a native speaker. Klingons rarely yelled for help, especially not when the Federation might hear. Didn’t sit too well with the warrior ethos.
It soon became clear that the attackers were long gone, and Wallace ordered an investigation team into a shuttle to get a closer look. He listened and watched as the team quartered the wreckage, finally coming up to what was left of the bridge.
“I can see some bodies still inside, Captain,” Garza reported.
Wallace sighed. “See if you can retrieve them,” he said. “We’ll return them to the Klingons for – whatever they do with their dead.”
It was not without difficulty that the team gained access to the inside of the dead ship. Eventually, they simply touched down on a portion of the hull that didn’t look too badly damaged, and climbed in through the gaping hole.
Anchoring herself to a handy stanchion, Garza swept her torch beam around the dark, shattered bridge. Four bodies, that had somehow escaped being sucked out by decompression, drifted in zero gravity. Garza steeled herself. She’d seen worse in her years in Starfleet – not much worse, admittedly, but she could cope with this. She watched one of the team attach a tether to one of the bodies, and begin towing it up to the hole. It was a tricky job, manoeuvring the dead Klingon up and out, and into the shuttle, and it was almost an hour later that they returned for the final body, wedged under a fallen chair by the communication station. “This must be our mysterious caller,” Garza muttered as they laboriously levered the chair up and away.
The body started to drift upwards; Garza grabbed his arm to stop him from floating too far, and in doing so, saw him properly for the first time. “Oh, my God…”
At maximum warp, it took only a few hours to reach the nearest Starbase. Wallace worried and fretted all the way; it didn’t help matters that Starfleet Command had called several times, demanding more information about their find. Some high-ranking officers met them on arrival, taking charge of the corpse and whisking it away for close examination. Garza, as the leader of the boarding party, came in for the lion’s share of questioning, but as she remarked to Wallace later, there were only so many ways of saying “we boarded the Klingon ship and there he was.” Eventually, Starfleet Command was mollified, if not satisfied, and the USS Churchill was free to go.
Admiral Carpenter turned away from the wide window as the flash of the Churchill’s warp drive disappeared from view. He sat down at his desk, and finally acknowledged the doctor, who had been waiting patiently for his attention.
“What can you tell me, Doctor Wright?”
“Well, sir, he appears to be human. Excellent physical condition. No injuries that I can see – he seems to have died from the effects of decompression.”
Carpenter tapped his pen on the desk as he mulled this over. “What would a human be doing on a Klingon freighter?” he wondered out loud. “Anything to tell us who he was?”
“Not that I’ve found, sir.”
“All right, Doctor. Keep at it. Find out everything you can –”
The admiral was interrupted by a beep from Wright’s communicator. He gestured to her to continue as she glanced at him for permission to take the call.
“Doctor Wright! Get back here, quick! He’s waking up!”
“What?” Carpenter and Wright exclaimed simultaneously.
“He’s waking up!” the voice repeated. “I know it’s incredible, but you’ve got to see this!”
By the time Dr. Wright reached the infirmary, Carpenter hot on her heels, her initial shock had given way to an excited professional curiosity. How could someone recover after so many hours exposed to the total airlessness of space? She skidded to a halt outside the small room in which the ‘corpse’ lay, straightened her uniform, and entered. The ‘corpse’ was propped up on pillows, eyes closed. As the doctor approached, he opened his eyes – clear, astonishingly blue eyes – and looked straight at her.
Admiral Carpenter found his voice first. “Who are you?” he demanded. “What’s your name?”
The ‘night’ shift was nearing its end, and the skeleton bridge crew were getting ready for the ‘day’ shift hand-over. It had all been very quiet and peaceful – one birth in Sickbay (mother, daughter and surrogate all doing well), the detection of a new comet, and one slight accident on the Paressi’s Squares court. All pretty much par for the course for the Enterprise E.
Commander Data rose from the captain’s chair as the turbo-lift doors hissed open and the day-crew entered the bridge. He formally handed command back to Captain Picard, and started to return to his own station when his attention was captured by the acting First Officer’s face.
“I was sorry to hear of your accident, Paul,” the android said, with a reasonable facsimile of concerned sympathy. “I hope your eye is not causing you too much pain.” Data was at a loss, even after many years of associating with humans, to understand why some of the other bridge crew sniggered.
Commander Paul Metcalfe, currently deputising for the absent Will Riker, dabbed cautiously at his bruised and swollen left eye. “I learned a valuable lesson, Data. Never assume that a difference in rank will give you the advantage in Paressi’s Squares. Ensign Byrne takes no prisoners. Haven’t had such a rough game since the last time I played against Worf.”
No-one paid any attention to the fact that, over the next few minutes, Commander Metcalfe’s spectacular black eye faded away to nothing. They were all far too used to it.
The day continued much as the night had done, almost completely uneventful. Captain Picard decided that, since the Enterprise didn’t have to be at their next rendezvous, collecting Will Riker from the Klingon ship IKS Gra’tahk, for several hours yet, there was time to do a little comet-chasing. It was on the way, anyway.
The comet was gigantic. Roughly egg-shaped, it was the size of a hundred Enterprises. This far out from the nearest star, it was also quiescent, so a shuttle would have no trouble landing on it. The scientific team spread out as far as they could across the surface of the comet, taking measurements and samples and installing a tracking beacon, while observers still on board Enterprise charted its course. The comet would make a spectacular display in the skies of Marcellus Epsilon 3 in about ten years.
“Thank you for the warning, Captain Picard.” Raych T’ran, a scientifically sophisticated Marcellan, was one of the few people on his planet to have any inkling of the realities of space travel, and the odd things that could be found in the void beyond his planetary home. “Too many of my people are still superstitious about comets. They believe they always bring disaster.”
“We had similar superstitions on Earth, too,” Picard smiled. “You’ll have plenty of time to reassure your people that there’s nothing to fear. According to our readings, the comet will bypass your planet by a very comfortable margin.”
“Close enough to be beautiful, far away enough for safety?” T’ran suggested.
“Well, once again, my thanks. I hope you will be able to visit when the comet arrives.”
Picard smiled again. “Thank you. I hope I am still on active service when the time comes. Enterprise out.”
The expedition to the comet had pleased everyone, except the hangar crew, who had to clean the shuttle’s hull of the sticky, soot-like deposits clinging to its underside. So it was in a very good mood that Picard ordered a course to be laid in to rendezvous with the Gra’tahk. A very good mood that was about to be rudely shattered…
“Gra’tahk within scanner range, Captain.”
“Good. Hail them, please, Ensign.”
“Whatever you say, mon Captaine…”
Picard groaned as the person who just a second ago had been Ensign Wheeler, turned around in his chair and gave an insouciant wave. “Q… oh, no…”
The entity placed a hand dramatically over his heart. “You wound me, Jean-Luc. I visit to bring some joy into your dull little lives, and this is the welcome I get.”
Picard ignored the insincere complaint, and turned to his A/FO. “Commander Metcalfe, would you…?”
“Aye, sir.” Paul stood up, grabbed Q by the arm, and hustled him out of Wheeler’s chair. “Wheeler. Back here. Right now,” he snapped, stabbing his finger into Q’s chest.
“Oh, very well, then. You’re no fun any more.” Q casually snapped his fingers, and an astonished Wheeler reappeared in a vivid flash of blue light.
“Thank you.” Paul’s thanks were as sincere as Q’s complaint about his welcome. “Q – what do you want this time?”
“Do I always have to want something? Can I not simply pay a visit to my favourite inferior life-forms?”
Paul simply folded his arms and gazed coolly at the unwelcome visitor. Despite having witnessed this kind of scene before, Picard was impressed all over again. Commander Metcalfe had a way with the Q entity that Picard himself had never managed to achieve.
Picard’s relationship with the creature who admitted no other name than Q went back to the very early days of his captaincy of the Enterprise. What had started out as an attempt at intimidation had evolved into something completely different – Q apparently regarded the crew of the Enterprise in general, and Picard in particular, as pets. He seemed fond of them, in his way, and indeed, on the occasion of being kicked out of the Q Continuum, had even come to them for refuge and help. Riker couldn’t stand him; the antipathy between Q and Worf had stopped just short of actual blood-spilling, which, given the temperament of Klingons as a race, was nothing short of a miracle. Then one day, a certain Lieutenant-Commander Paul Metcalfe had been promoted, and transferred to a bridge posting on the Enterprise. Shortly afterwards, Q had dropped in for a chat, and had become instantly fascinated by the new tactical officer. Right from the start, Paul had a sneaking suspicion that he knew the source of this fascination, that Q knew all about him. Picard was too grateful that someone else was now the focus of Q’s attention to worry too much about the reasoning behind it. The only downside was that Q’s visits increased in frequency.
Paul actually seemed to like the entity, or at least, not actively to dislike him. And for his part, Q accepted far more from Paul even than from Picard at the height of his favour. When Picard had questioned him about it, Paul had just shrugged. “In my situation, Captain, you get used to weird. Compared with some things I’ve seen, and even been, Q’s nothing special.”
Whatever the reasons might have been, Paul was willing to take Q off Picard’s hands, and Picard was willing to let him.
Now, Picard watched the stand-off between Metcalfe and Q with a little uneasiness. “You can use my Ready Room, if you have things to discuss,” he offered.
Q turned his head. “Always the perfect host, Jean-Luc,” he beamed, and snapped his fingers. Entity and A/FO vanished in the usual flash of blue light.
“In this continuum,” Paul remarked with heavy sarcasm, “we have something called ‘walking’ and ‘opening doors’. You should try it some time. You might like it.”
Q dismissed such gross physicality with a gesture. “You are so limited in your perceptions. You have the innate ability. Why can I never persuade you to use it?”
“Because I enjoy being human!” Paul replied sharply.
“Playing at being human, you mean. You stopped actually being human a long time ago.”
Paul folded his arms again. “If the sole purpose of your visit is to try and wind me up, forget it. This isn’t 21st century Earth. Everyone knows what I am, and I’m comfortable with that.”
Q shook his head sorrowfully. “You have more in common with that walking tin-can out there than with the humans. Why won’t you see that?”
“By ‘walking tin-can’, I assume you mean Commander Data,” Paul said icily.
“Pah! An android who wants to be human. A Mysteron reconstruction who thinks he is one. You two are made for each other.”
“Q, I’m warning you –”
Q held up his hands. “Oh, spare me the famous Metcalfe temper. Let’s be friends. So, how has your day been? Hmmm?”
Q cocked his head to one side, and raised his eyebrows with a winning smile. Paul glared at him; then a grudging smile tugged at his mouth. “We had a look at a comet.”
“A comet? Really. How… fascinating.”
“Yes, it was. We still have the capacity to find a lot of interest in what we see around us.”
If Q recognised the sarcasm, he refused to rise to it. “And where was this comet?”
“We left it a couple of hours ago. Just a hop, skip and jump for you, I’m sure.”
Q wandered over to the starmap displayed on the wall-screen. “About… here?” he asked, indicating a spot sparsely populated by either stars or anything else.
Paul joined him, and peered at the map. “Think so. Looks about right.”
“Interesting. And what did you find out about this comet?
“Common-or-garden composition,” Paul shrugged. “Nothing hazardous about its trajectory. It’ll make pretty patterns in some planet’s sky in a decade or so – nothing else in the meantime. Why do you ask?”
Q frowned. “Oh, nothing. Nothing...”
“Q… if you know something…”
“Mon cher Paul, do I not have your best interests at heart at all times? And please, not the folded arms and the glare again. I simply cannot bear you to be vexed with me.”
Despite Q’s plea, Paul glared again. “That doesn’t work with me, Q. I’ve faced far more frightening entities than you.”
“Ah, yes,” Q enthused, as if remembering something. “The colour ‘white’ comes to mind. HE could always call you to heel, couldn’t he?”
Despite himself, Paul smiled at a distant memory. “Usually…” He gave himself a mental shake, annoyed at having his train of thought derailed. “Out with it. What’s so special about this comet?”
“Nothing,” Q assured him. “Absolutely nothing. As you said, in your quaint, old-fashioned way, a ‘common-or-garden’ comet. Nothing special at all.”
And with that, Paul had to be content.
The Ready Room doors hissed open, and Paul came out, back onto the bridge. As always when dealing with Q, he was mildly surprised, and very pleased, to find that he was in the same space-time frame as when he’d left. He took his seat beside Captain Picard.
“How long ‘til we rendezvous with the Gra’tahk, Captain?”
“45 minutes,” Picard replied. “So, what did Q want?”
Paul shook his head. “I’ve got no idea. Just a chat, I think. Although he was very interested in the comet. Seemed to know something about it. He assured me several times that it was nothing out of the ordinary, which makes me even more suspicious – I think we’d do well to keep an eye on it.”
“Agreed. Speak to Stellar Cartography about it. Are you all prepared for Commander Riker’s return?”
“Yes, sir. Just a couple of crew roster changes, but they’re not due for a couple of weeks yet.”
“Good. You’ve done very well in this temporary reassignment. I’ll put a commendation on your record and –”
Picard was suddenly interrupted by a flash of blue light in front of the viewscreen as Q swept an elaborate bow. “Mon Captaine, delighted to see you again. Paul – I beg your pardon, Acting First Officer…” Paul rolled his eyes, and glanced apologetically at Picard. “I bring you a gift. Enjoy!”
With that, Q vanished in his usual manner. But this time, something was left behind. Something else blue. Something with blond hair. Something that stood up slowly and shakily, and looked around him. Something that stared incredulously at his surroundings, then at the Acting First Officer of the USS Enterprise. Something that said, “Paul?”
Commander Paul Metcalfe just sat, transfixed, in his chair. Finally, his brain made contact with his mouth, and he said – “Adam?”
“Paul… what the hell’s going on? Where am I? This isn’t Cloudbase! Who are these people?”
Somehow, Paul found his voice again. Propelling himself out of his chair, he stared up at the ceiling in incandescent fury. “Q! Get back here this second!”
There was no flash of light, just a voice on the very edge of hearing… enjoy… Letting out a deep breath, Paul took a tentative step forward. “Adam? Is that really you?”
Captain Blue stared at his friend. “Of course it’s really me! Who do you think… hold on. Why aren’t you in uniform? Where am I? Who are these people? And what’s that?” The last three words were spoken as Blue caught sight of the viewscreen, and the vista of stars streaked by warp-speed.
“It’s… going to be a bit hard to explain, I’m afraid…”
Picard, initially taken rather aback at the sudden appearance of a total stranger on the bridge, pulled himself together. Where Q was involved, absolutely anything was possible. But even so… “Commander Metcalfe, do I take it you know this person?”
“Er, yes, Captain, I do. An old friend.” Paul tore his eyes away from the man whom he knew had been dead for almost three centuries. “A very old friend…”
“He looks a little – confused, Commander. I suggest you look after him. Mr. Data, please take Commander Metcalfe’s station, and hail the Gra’tahk.”
Almost afraid to make physical contact, as if Blue was a phantom that would disappear when touched, Paul reached a hand out to take Blue’s arm. “Come over here, Adam. We’re in their way.”
Blue complied, but shook his head in confusion. “He called you Commander. Why?”
Paul sighed. “It’s going to take a fair bit of explaining, Adam. Let’s go somewhere a bit more – private.”
Paul wondered what on earth had possessed him to bring Blue to Ten Forward rather than to his quarters. Initial attempts at conversation had been interrupted by Blue almost dislocating his neck as he twisted first one way, then the other, staring at various non-human members of the Enterprise’s crew who were spending their off-duty time in the bar.
“Paul!” Blue hissed, leaning forward across the table. “Are they… aliens?”
“Yes,” Paul sighed. “They are. Lieutenant Borshak over there is Bolian, as is Mr Mott.” A little smile tugged at his mouth. “The best barber in Starfleet, if you were thinking of having a haircut while you’re here. T’far is Vulcan, Nog is Ferengi…” He trailed off at the sight of Blue’s expression, and finished lamely, “Enterprise has a largely human crew, but we’ve got our fair complement of aliens. Nice not to be the only one, for once.”
The limp attempt at humour went right over Blue’s head. “Paul – where am I?”
Good old Blue. Always wanting facts, no pussy-footing around or dribs and drabs. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, your honour… Paul took a deep breath, and launched right in.
“OK,” Blue said slowly, some time later. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight. It’s the latter half of the 24th century. This –” an expansive gesture around the bar “– is a starship. Not just a starship, but the flagship of a whole fleet of starships. I was brought here for reasons unknown by a – a – thing that calls itself Q. You are over three hundred years old. Everyone knows about you, and nobody minds. Have I got all that right?”
Paul knew better than to smile. Instead, he just nodded. “Spot on.”
“Adam, try to come up with a better explanation. You’re here, I’m here – you’re drinking synthohol, for God’s sake!”
Blue glowered at his glass. “Is that what this swill is? Almost as bad as the first time I tried English bitter.”
Paul tried again. “Adam, in all the time we knew – we’ve known each other, have I ever lied to you?” Blue took a breath to answer, but Paul cut him off. “About anything important, I mean. Why would I make up a ludicrous story like that? How would I get all these people, and the stars outside –” He gestured towards the window, and at that precise moment, the streaking effect died away, to be replaced by a more normal starscape.
Blue gawped at the window. “What –”
“We just dropped out of warp,” Paul explained. “I expect we’ve arrived at our rendezvous with the Gra’tahk.”
“And what’s a gratarrgh?” Blue asked.
Blue stood and crossed swiftly to the window. (A window! And such a big window! In a spaceship? Ludicrous…) Outside hung what was undeniably a spaceship, of a design Blue had never seen outside a science fiction movie. “What’s it doing here?”
“Our First Officer’s aboard. He’s transferring back here.”
Blue looked confused, not for the first time that day. “I thought you were the First Officer?”
Paul shook his head. “This is just a temporary assignment. Usually, I’m the Tactical Officer.”
Blue continued to stare at the ship, until a few minutes later, it moved away, then accelerated at a fantastic rate. It had vanished against the stars by the time a vivid, multi-coloured flash winked on and off in the general vicinity of its last position.
“And that flash was…?” he asked.
“The visual manifestation of warp acceleration,” Paul replied, with no real hope of being understood. To his surprise, Blue nodded.
“Like the theories about going to light-speed?” he suggested. “Sonic boom at sound-speed, flash of light at light-speed. Wait,” and he held up a hand, “you’re going to tell me this ship goes faster than light, right?”
Paul shrugged. If Adam was going to put on a pretence of being blasé, he’d respond in kind. “Several times the speed of light, in fact. That’s only if we’re not in any particular hurry, of course.”
Paul suddenly lost patience with this game. “Adam. Drop the ‘oh yeah’ attitude. Everything I’ve told you is the truth. Everything you’ve seen is real. This is not a Mysteron mind game.”
Blue looked away, then back. His expression had changed, from hard-cynical to almost totally lost. “Paul – I’m sorry. But can’t you understand? I’m somewhere I don’t understand. One minute I was on Cloudbase, the next I’m here, apparently hundreds of light-years away from Earth, on some futuristic spaceship. You tell me that nearly three hundred years have gone by, you’ve proved Fawn’s theories about retrometabolism, and you want me to just accept it? Sorry. I can’t.”
Paul sighed. This was going to be very difficult. Luckily, just at that moment his com-badge chirruped for attention, and the voice of Captain Picard floated out from the tiny speaker.
“Commander Metcalfe, please report to my Ready Room. And bring our – uh –visitor with you.”
“S.I. – Aye, sir.”
Paul glanced at Blue with a sheepish grin for that slip of the tongue. “I hate to think how long it is since I last said ‘S.I.G.’, but five minutes in your company and it seems like the right thing to say.” He stood up, and gestured for Blue to accompany him. “Come on, Adam. Jean-Luc Picard’s a completely different kettle of fish from Colonel White, but you still don’t keep him waiting.”
A steaming cup of Earl Grey tea materialised in the replicator, just as the door chime announced the arrival of Commander Metcalfe and his friend. Picard nodded a greeting to his officer, then indicated the replicator. “Raktajino, Paul?”
“Thank you, Captain.”
Blue’s jaw dropped as a brightly-shimmering light filled a small niche in the wall, and from it Picard removed a mug filled with a dark brown liquid. It smelled remarkably like coffee, but different, too. Picard turned courteously to Blue. “What will you have, Mr…”
“Coffee. Black. Er... please.” This time, Blue watched the niche carefully as Picard repeated the order. No, he hadn’t imagined it. The mug of coffee did materialise out of nowhere in the bright shimmer. He took the proffered mug gingerly, and sipped cautiously, aware of Paul’s slightly amused scrutiny.
“Up to standard?” Paul asked.
Blue refused to be baited. “It’s fine, thanks.” Then, because Paul wasn’t the only one who could play games, he added, “Quite up to Grey’s standard.” Looking down into his cup, which seemed perfectly solid despite its odd origin, he missed the sudden twitch of Paul’s mouth, and the flash of old pain in his eyes.
So did Picard. The captain sat down, and invited the two other men to do the same. When they were both settled, Picard leaned forward, steepling his fingers under his chin.
“Well, I won’t pretend that this isn’t a highly unusual situation,” he began, “even taking Q’s involvement into consideration. Has Commander Metcalfe explained where you are, Mr…”
“Captain Blue,” Blue said firmly.
Paul rolled his eyes. “Adam Svenson,” he clarified.
“Captain Blue, eh? A Spectrum colour officer,” Picard remarked.
Blue goggled at him, and finally managed to croak: “You know about Spectrum? And me?”
“Well, not in any detail. Only what I’ve read in history books, and of course, what Commander Metcalfe has told me… but that’s not important at this moment. What is important is finding out why Q brought you here, and even more important than that, how to get you home. Any thoughts on that, Paul?”
“As regards the ‘getting home’, we could try the Kirk Slingshot Manoeuvre,” Paul suggested. Seeing the slight twitch of distaste that crossed his captain’s face, he continued, “or we could wait for Q to come back. I’ll try calling him, but frankly, Captain, you know Q. It’s like calling a cat.”
Picard sighed. In his view, trying to coax Q to come and visit was a new and undesirable development, but it was possibly the only practical solution.
“As for why he’s here, I’ve got a couple of thoughts that I don’t like very much.”
“Oh? And what are those?”
Paul glanced at Blue, who gazed stolidly back. They’d discussed those thoughts in that bar place, and he didn’t like them, either. Particularly as Paul had refused to tell him anything about the outcome of the Mysterons’ War of Nerves – some garbage about a Temporal Prime Directive, whatever that was.
“I very much doubt,” Paul began, “that Q brought Adam – Captain Blue – here out of the goodness of his heart, or because he thought I was lonely. I think that he knows something we don’t. He was very interested in that comet, for instance, and he dropped Adam here shortly after that. He must know that Adam and I worked together back in the 21st century, that we were good friends and a good team. I think – we think, Adam and I – it has something to do with the Mysterons.”
“So, when are you actually going to tell me what you’re doing here?” After meeting the captain, Blue was starting to come around to the idea that this was not all some gigantic hoax. He had to admit that everything hung together too well. There would surely have been something to give it away by now, some inconsistency in the story, some anachronism. But there was nothing he could see.
“In a minute,” Paul replied. “Let’s get you settled into quarters first, then I’ll tell you everything I can. Only –”
“I know. The Temporal Prime Directive. That’s about not going back in time and killing your grandfather, right?”
Paul grinned. “In a nutshell.” He stopped outside a set of double doors, waited for a moment, then the doors swished open to admit them to a small, brightly-lit room.
Blue stepped inside when invited to do so, and looked around. “What’s this?” he asked, although he had a reasonable idea.
“A turbolift.” Paul made no attempt to press any buttons; instead, he simply said in a firm, clear voice: “VIP Quarters.”
The lift started smoothly – it was the unexpected direction that made Blue stagger a little. “Sideways?” he asked.
Paul nodded. “Sorry, should’ve warned you.”
“How does it work?” Blue asked, then noticed the expression on Paul’s face. “Sorry. Your Temporal thing again.”
“Partly,” Paul replied with a rueful smile. “But mainly because it’s very boring. I took Starship Engineering at Starfleet Academy – had to know my way around all the main and most of the subsidiary systems before I could graduate – but turbolift engineering? Not my thing.”
Blue noted with amazement the fact that the flashing lights along the walls of the lift, which he assumed indicated direction of movement, suddenly switched from horizontal to vertical with no accompanying jolt or sense of change.
“Inertial dampers,” Paul explained, in response to Blue’s unspoken question. “Same thing that stops us getting smeared in a layer a molecule thick over the inside of the hull when we go in or out of warp. Ah, we’re here.”
Blue was coming around to the idea that he was on a spaceship, sorry, starship, that had roughly twice the complement of Cloudbase. The vessel seemed huge, from what he’d seen so far, but insofar as he’d given it any thought at all, he expected the accommodation to be more or less similar to his quarters on Cloudbase. He was therefore astonished when a door slid open to reveal a room several times the size, and considerably more luxurious.
“Get yourself settled in,” Paul said. “Just ask the computer for anything you want – the replicator’s over there. And this,” Paul fished a small gold brooch shaped like a lop-sided, blunt arrowhead from his pocket, “is your com-badge. Just tap it to switch it on or off. Anyone you need to call, just say their name.”
Blue took the badge and examined it carefully. It had no obvious fastening.
“Just press it against your tunic. It’ll cling until you pull it off.”
Blue sat down, a little nervously. The first reaction of shock had worn off, and the wave of anger that had followed it was passing. Over by the wall-niche that Blue supposed he should learn to call a ‘replicator’, Paul was getting more coffee, and the stuff Picard had referred to as ‘raktajino’. If this was a hoax, or an hallucination, it was a remarkably detailed and consistent one. He had a million questions to ask, Temporal Prime Directives notwithstanding, and he was determined to get a straight answer to as many of them as possible. Paul put the mugs down on the table, and sat in the chair opposite Blue, looking as comfortable and relaxed in this weird setting, with the stars streaking behind him, as he did in the Garden Room on Cloudbase. Time for the first question, Blue decided.
“What is that stuff you’re drinking?”
Paul looked a little surprised. Of all the questions he knew must be buzzing around in Blue’s mind, this one was unexpected, to say the least. However, it could be answered without interfering with the timeline. “Raktajino. Klingon coffee,” he explained. “Want to try some?”
Blue raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. “Coffee?” he remarked. “Not tea?”
Paul shook his head with some vehemence. “Klingon tea? I might be retrometabolic, but there are some things even I won’t do!”
“That bad, huh? I thought all Englishmen preferred tea –”
“No, lethal. As in for humans. There’s an antidote, but frankly, I prefer biscuits with tea, not medication.”
Paul passed his mug over, and Blue took a cautious sip. It had an interesting flavour, undoubtedly coffee, but with a hint of chocolate, cinnamon, and a couple of other spices he wasn’t familiar with. “Nice,” he remarked, handing the mug back. Oh, to hell with prevaricating… “Paul. I’ve accepted that I’m on a starship. I’ve accepted that I’m in the future. But you still haven’t told me what you’re doing here. How did you get here?”
“Here on this ship, or here in this time?”
“Well, they both have the same answer really. Fawn was right. I never died. I’m here in this time because I belong here. And I’m here on this ship, because… oh, dammit. Stuff the temporal directive…”
“Paul? The Earth transport is about to leave. It’s your last chance…”
Paul shook his head. “Thanks all the same, Pete, but I don’t think so. Earth isn’t very healthy for me at the moment.”
“Where will you go?”
Where indeed? Paul gazed out at the desolate lunar landscape, and at the blue-and-white half-sphere that hung in the sky. Earth. Home. And somewhere he needed to stay away from, if he wanted to stay alive. He was a freak, a genetically-modified human. And although the experiments that had caused the Eugenics Disaster hadn’t created him, any abnormal human was fair game for the vigilantes right now.
“Where will you go?” Pete repeated.
“I don’t know, Pete. And it’s best you don’t ask that kind of question. We both know that the Lunar Council’s going to re-integrate with the World Government any day now.”
Pete Simmonds, Moderator of the Mare Tranquillitatis City Council, was the sole reason Paul was still tolerated on the Moon. Paul knew that Pete had stuck his neck out when the Lunar Free State Council had made conciliatory noises to Earth’s Government, and defended the presence of one of the hated ‘genetic monsters’, as popular tabloid journalism called them. To protect his friend, Paul didn’t mention the deal he’d made with a supply-freighter captain who was heading out to the Titan colony tomorrow. Neither did he say goodbye…
Paul found that he enjoyed the nomadic life. He worked his way around dozens of planetary systems, making a living by hiring himself out in various capacities. There was no kind of ship he couldn’t fly after a few days’ study, no weapon he couldn’t handle. But even he had his dry spells from time to time…
The bar in the little spaceport was nice and peaceful. Word had gone around the rougher elements that frequented the port that the human who worked as a bouncer in the Launchpad Bar was bad news. For a while, this had actually attracted the rougher elements, eager to try themselves against him. This state of affairs hadn’t lasted long, not after a group of Nausiccans, bent on trouble, had all ended up in the infirmary. So now, all Paul really had to do was to sit conspicuously at one of the window tables. Easy money… and as boring as all hell.
An outraged yell of protest, and a guffaw of raucous laughter, attracted Paul’s attention. He sighed, put down his glass and got to his feet. Klingons again! A new bunch, this time, though. Obviously hadn’t heard of him. He strolled over to the bar, where an enormous Klingon was dragging the terrified bar-tender across the counter. Paul reached up and tapped him on the shoulder.
The gigantic Klingon dropped the unfortunate bar-tender and looked around, then down.
“Hey, you. Out.”
The Klingon stared incredulously at his challenger. The human barely came up to his chin! This pujwI’ would be easy to deal with. He grinned round at his crewmates, drew back a gigantic fist and – found himself flat on his back. Roaring his outrage, he hauled himself upright and once again came in on the attack. Paul evaded the swinging fist with ease, ducked under the Klingon’s arm, braced himself against the bar and kicked his feet out from under him.
The Klingon hit the floor like a felled sequoia. Sprawled on the floor once more, he did what Paul had been hoping for, but hadn’t expected quite this quickly, and lost his temper. He drew a wicked-looking knife and thrust upwards with it; Paul grabbed his wrist in both hands, and twisted… With a yell of pain, the Klingon dropped the knife. Paul snatched it up, pinned the Klingon down with his knees, and held the knife to his throat.
“As I was saying – you, out.”
Some hours later, the Klingon, who had introduced himself as Klarn, discovered a new reason to admire his new human friend. They had been drinking bloodwine for hours. Most humans couldn’t take much more than a couple of cups, but this little human, this Paul Metcalfe, had been matching him cup for cup and showed no sign of intoxication.
“So, you want to get off this dirtball?” Klarn said. “I could use someone like you on my ship.”
Paul was surprised, to say the least. “Are you offering me a job?”
“It’s a good life. Supplying our colonies, a little fighting here and there… what do you say?”
Paul frowned slightly. “Aren’t you concerned about the bad blood between my people and yours? We’re supposed to be at war, after all.”
Klarn dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “I never get involved with politics.”
Klarn had been right. It had been a good life. At first, the rest of the crew had been suspicious, and slightly contemptuous, of the human in their midst, and Paul had had to fight for his position. But eventually, he won them over, and for the next few decades, he’d travelled around Klingon space in Klarn’s freighter, supplying colonies, fighting here and there, and avoiding the Federation, until the terrible day that the unidentified ship had opened fire. Paul had seen his old friend Klarn killed in front of him, along with the rest of the crew. As the bridge had been torn open to vacuum, he’d just had time to broadcast the distress call…
“The Federation didn’t quite know what to make of me,” Paul mused. “Genetically-modified humans were still regarded with some suspicion, but after poking and prodding at me for a few months, they came to the conclusion that I was harmless, and let me go. I think I surprised them when I applied to Starfleet Academy. Tell the truth, I rather surprised myself. After so long with the Klingons, I’d picked up a few Klingon attitudes, and regarded the Federation with as much suspicion as they’d regarded me. But I’d had enough of bumming around. I knew I wanted to stay in space, and I also knew I wanted to mix with humans again. So I applied, got accepted, and here I am.”
“I would’ve expected you to be in command of your own ship by now,” Blue remarked.
Paul shrugged. “Perhaps one day. But I’ve learned not to rush. Besides, I like what I’m doing at the moment. Enterprise is a good posting, so I’ll stay here for as long as they’ll have me.”
Blue hauled on the joystick as another asteroid tumbled towards him. The shuttle responded, rolling to port, then immediately to starboard to avoid another boulder. He felt a sudden judder throughout the small craft as a previously unseen asteroid impacted on the shuttle’s hull – an alarm shrieked a warning: “Severe damage to starboard nacelle. Multiple hull breaches. Loss of life support in 20 seconds… 15 seconds…”
Blue swore, and slammed his hand down on the console. “End simulation!” he shouted. Asteroid field and shuttle cabin vanished, to be replaced by the glowing grid of the holodeck. “Damn! That’s the third time this week!”
“You’re doing fine,” Paul reassured him. “You should’ve seen how many times I crashed, before I got the hang of the asteroid field exercise. And I suppose I ought to tell you – this particular manual flying exercise is fourth year Starfleet Academy level. You’re on it in just a few weeks. I’m impressed.”
Blue couldn’t resist a smug grin. “Well, I always was a better flier than you. Try again?”
Paul shook his head firmly. “You’ve had enough for one day.”
Blue sighed, but was forced to agree. He’d lasted three whole days before rebelling against his passenger/guest status, and had demanded to be able to do something, anything, to relieve the tedium of being shepherded around the enormous starship. Captain Picard, learning of Blue’s skill as a pilot, had relented enough to allow him to learn to pilot a shuttlecraft. Apparently, even Picard had been impressed by Blue’s rapid progress. Nevertheless, even the excitement of operating a new and unfamiliar craft was starting to pall slightly, especially as he hadn’t yet been allowed to get his hands on a real one. The holodeck simulations were uncannily realistic – he’d never dreamed such a set-up was possible – but they were no substitute for the real thing.
Also, while he hated to admit it, life on Enterprise was just a little, well, dull. He mentioned this to Paul as they strolled down the corridor towards Ten Forward. To his surprise, Paul agreed.
“Things are quiet right now. We’re on a diplomatic mission, hence all the stops. Several planets in this sector have applied for Federation membership, and there are a lot of formalities to go through. Captain Picard’s a highly-respected negotiator, so the Enterprise gets a lot of these assignments.” Paul snorted slightly. “Your arrival was the biggest piece of excitement we’ve had for months!”
They reached Ten Forward, and took a window table. Blue gazed out at the vista of the planet below. It looked remarkably like Earth, streaked in blue and white. Only the shimmering arc of the planet’s system of rings spoiled the illusion. As he watched, the planet and its rings shifted, and started to recede into the distance.
“We’re off, then,” he remarked. He thought he’d never get used to the smooth, inertia-less movement of this enormous ship.
Where are we going this time? Blue wondered. And would he ever get something to do, apart from flying simulated shuttles? Why had Q brought him here?
Paul lay in bed, hands clasped behind his head as he gazed at the soporific shifting shadows on the ceiling. He was pleased with the progress Blue had made at fitting in to what must to him be a very alien environment. But then, Blue had been – was – one of Spectrum’s best. Intelligent, adaptable. Wonder if he’s ready for the transporter yet? he mused sleepily. He yawned widely as the display on the ceiling had its desired effect, rolled over, and went to sleep –
– only to jerk suddenly awake, shaking with fear at nightmares of falling. “Computer! Lights!” he shouted.
Paul hunched forward, burying his face in his hands and breathing deeply to try to dispel the terror of his old nightmare. I haven’t had that dream for years! Why now?
Spectrum had learned to respect and take heed of his hunches and premonitions, Starfleet too. He’d lost count of the number of times disaster had been averted by a flash of psychic intuition. Q had seen that in him immediately, and had badgered him to develop it. Paul had always been reluctant to acknowledge his non-human side – he dealt with his apparent immortality by ignoring it, and took the same approach to the increasingly obvious fact that mentally, too, he wasn’t as human as he’d thought. He’d left the Mysterons far behind, at the end of the War Of Nerves, but now, they seemed to be back in his life. First with his suspicions about why Blue was here, and now with the old nightmare.
Paul let out a long breath, feeling the hammering of his heart slow down. He wouldn’t get back to sleep now.
The following morning, he talked it over with Blue, during breakfast.
“Could be the fact of my being here,” Blue suggested, “reviving old memories?”
Paul shook his head. “Would’ve happened before now, surely, if that was the case. No, I think something’s going to happen. Just wish I knew what.”
They went their separate ways, Paul to go on duty, and Blue to the shuttle simulator again, but met up again for lunch, once more at their favourite table in Ten Forward. It seemed that Blue would never tire of watching the stars streaking past.
With impeccable timing, just as they’d finished eating, Paul’s combadge gave an almost apologetic chirp.
“Ensign Casteneda here. Sorry to interrupt your break, Commander, but would you come to Stellar Cartography? There’s something I think you ought to see.”
“On my way.” Paul stood up. “Sorry, Adam. Duty calls.”
“What’s Stellar Cartography?” Blue asked.
Paul considered for a moment, then smiled. “Come and see.”
Blue had visited several planetariums in his life, but had never seen anything even remotely like what he saw now. It was almost like actually being out there, standing on nothing, watching the galaxy wheel around him.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Paul remarked.
“Fantastic,” Blue breathed. “Holodeck technology?”
“Yes, but visual only. Nothing tactile. What did you want to show me, Ensign?”
Casteneda came forward. “It’s Comet Marcellus, sir. The one you asked us to keep an eye on?”
With something of a shock, Paul remembered the exploration of the comet, and the subsequent conversation with Q. There’d been so much on his mind since then, he’d almost forgotten. “What about it?” he asked.
Castenada looked almost apologetic. “I don’t know how such a thing is possible, sir, but it’s changed velocity.”
Paul frowned. That wasn’t possible, according to all the laws of orbital mechanics. “Show me.”
The ensign called up a curving green line that extrapolated the course of the comet from where they’d first seen it. The line passed through the Marcellan system, comfortably missing all the planets and assorted system debris. “That’s the course we originally plotted for it, sir. Then at the last check, we noticed a change…” A red line branched off from the green one. This line passed much, much closer to the sole inhabited planet of the system. In fact –
“Collision course!” Paul exclaimed. “How –” He stopped, and looked at Blue. “I don’t think we need to ask ‘how’, do we?”
Blue shook his head. “Have you been tracking this comet all the time?” he asked.
Slightly confused, Ensign Casteneda looked at Paul.
“It’s all right, Ensign. You can answer him.”
Casteneda nodded. “Er, yes, sir. Ever since Commander Metcalfe asked us to.”
“Any break in the tracking?” Blue continued.
“Let me check.” Casteneda checked the readings on her console, then looked up in surprise. “Yes, there was. For 87.5 seconds, early yesterday afternoon. How did you know?”
Blue glanced at Paul. “I think we’ve just found out why I’m here, don’t you?”
A nasty suspicion crept into Paul’s mind. “Where exactly is that comet now, Ensign?”
She checked her console again, then looked up, eyes wide in astonishment. A red blip appeared on the map projection, showing the comet’s current position. “We registered an increase in speed, but that’s ludicrous! It shouldn’t be in that position for another ten years yet!”
“How soon before it reaches Marcellus 3?” Paul demanded, his voice rough with anxiety.
“Two days, if it maintains its current speed. But, sir, there’s no way something like that could hold together, travelling at that speed!”
“Oh, I think you’ll find there is, Ensign,” Paul said cryptically, turning towards the door. “Come on, Adam. I think we need to talk to the captain.”
Once he’d seen the evidence from Stellar Cartography, Captain Picard needed no persuading to change course and once again go comet-chasing. But this time it would be no pleasure jaunt. Millions of lives were at stake. There were no other Federation ships in the vicinity, and it would take the best part of a day to get to the Marcellan system, even at Warp 9. It was going to be tight.
The senior crew sat around the long conference table, thrashing out a plan of attack. As the only other Mysteron expert on the ship, Blue had also been invited to attend the meeting, although he wasn’t sure how much he could contribute. Comets up close and personal were way beyond his experience. One thing was certain, though – the comet could not be permitted to collide with Marcellus 3. There could be no survivors from that kind of event.
“What kind of weapons do you have here?” Blue asked, thinking along the lines of blowing the comet out of the sky.
“Photon torpedoes and phasers,” Riker replied. “But that comet’s huge. It would be asking a lot of our weaponry to blow it up. And even if we did manage it, that would just mean the planet would be bombarded with fragments instead of with one big chunk.”
“If we did manage to split it, it might be easier for tractor beams to handle,” Geordi LaForge suggested.
“How about several tractor beams?” Paul added. “And several phasers, come to that. We have enough shuttles properly equipped to mount a pincer attack.”
Picard chewed his lip for a moment as he considered. Finally, he nodded. “Geordi, Paul, Data, see what you can do to increase the capacity of the shuttle phasers and tractor beams. Will, contact Raych T’ran and warn him.”
With a chorus of “aye, sir”s, the senior staff dispersed to their tasks. Blue felt a little at a loss, until Picard spoke again. “Mr Svenson, I need to ask you some questions.”
Blue sat down.
“You and Commander Metcalfe seem convinced that this is something to do with the Mysterons. What makes you so certain?”
“Well, Captain,” Blue began, “Stellar Cartography briefly lost contact with the comet about twenty-four hours ago. The beacon your exploration team left on it stopped transmitting just for a couple of minutes. Paul and I believe that the Mysterons destroyed the comet, and recreated it, so they could control it. We’ve seen them do things like that before.”
Picard pondered this for a moment, then pressed a button on his desk.
“Stellar Cartography. Ensign Castenada here. Yes, Captain?”
“Can you back-track the comet’s course, to where the break in telemetry monitoring occurred? Then send a probe to scan for any debris in the area. Report any findings directly to me.”
Castenada acknowledged her orders, Picard finished the call, then returned his attention to Blue. “I’m not doubting you or Commander Metcalfe. But before leaping to any conclusions, I want to be absolutely sure that this is the same comet.”
Blue nodded his understanding. “From what Paul’s told me, that comet’s enormous. Seems like rather a big bite, even for the Mysterons, but in Spectrum, we learned the hard way never to underestimate them.”
“But could they affect it to such an extent that it’s going to crash into Marcellus 3 ten years before it was supposed to bypass it safely?”
Blue spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. “Captain Picard, Q took me out of the year 2070 and dumped me here. To me, the War Of Nerves has only been going on for two years. We’ve learned a lot in those two years, but everything we learn just opens up more questions. The only thing I can tell you is that I think they’re capable. We’ve seen that they seem able to do just about anything they want.”
Picard nodded slowly. “From my perspective, the name of the Mysterons is an echo from the past. A name to frighten children with. I dare say Earth’s experience with them had some effect on the formulation of the Prime Directive.” Picard paused for a moment, holding Blue’s gaze with a look of deep and sincere sympathy. “Mr Svenson – Captain Blue – I know you must desperately want to know how the War Of Nerves ended, but you must see that we can’t tell you.”
It was Blue’s turn to nod. “Paul said it was something to do with a Temporal Prime Directive. Not messing with the timeline. Have you really discovered time-travel?”
Picard smiled slightly. “There have been enough incidents to warrant some sensible precautions. Now, I have to oversee preparations for dealing with the comet. With all due respect, I don’t think you have the necessary experience to help us with that. I suggest that you go back to the holodeck, and get in some more practice with the shuttle. I understand you’re doing very well with it.”
For a moment, hope had flared in Blue’s mind, but he pushed it away as he left the conference room. From the sound of it, sending shuttles out to attack the comet was going to be very risky. Blue was confident in his flying, but was under no illusions that Picard would send out someone whose only experience was on the holodeck.
But dammit, when was he going to fulfil Q’s purpose in bringing him here?
Paul didn’t show up in Ten Forward that evening, nor in the commissary at breakfast the next morning. It wasn’t until late morning, when Blue decided he’d had all he could take of simulated asteroid fields, and it was time for a break, that he ran into his friend again. Paul looked bleary-eyed with fatigue, but confident of success.
“We’ve souped up the shuttles’ armaments like you wouldn’t believe,” he told Blue. “I think we can do it. Geordi’s a genius. Sorry I haven’t seen you for a while, but we’ve been working non-stop.” He yawned hugely, then grinned apologetically. “I’m going to get my head down for a couple of hours before the show starts. See you later?”
Blue watched Paul head off towards his quarters, then decided to see if that cute holodeck technician was free for lunch. She might have greeny-grey skin, no hair, and antennae, but something about her reminded him of Karen.
Considering the seriousness of the situation, and everything that Picard had on his mind, Blue was pleased and flattered when the captain contacted him to suggest he might like to watch the assault on Comet Marcellus from the bridge. Blue had been wondering where the best vantage point might be, but hadn’t even considered asking for access to the bridge. He took a vacant chair and leaned forward to watch.
An attractive young woman, who’d been introduced to him as Deanna Troi, ship’s counsellor (“Don’t try anything with her, Blue-Boy,” Paul had advised. “She’s Will Riker’s, and a telepath. Lethal combination…”) looked rather strained. “Everyone’s very tense, Captain,” she murmured.
Picard nodded. He hardly needed empathic talent to know that. The comet loomed large on the viewscreen – millions of tons of rock, ice and organic compounds, rolling inexorably towards the helpless planet.
Raych T’ran’s anxious face appeared onscreen. “The evacuation is as complete as it can be, Captain Picard. I just wanted to say that, whatever the outcome, we of Marcellus 3 thank you and your crew for your efforts on our behalf.”
Picard nodded. “Thank you, First Scientist T’ran,” he replied formally. We will do our very best. Our shuttles are about to engage the comet. I hope we will have a chance to speak later. Good luck.”
The image of the alien administrator winked out, replaced once more by the view of the comet. “His people believe that comets bring disaster,” Picard murmured to no-one in particular. “I tried to reassure him, only a few weeks ago, that that was mere superstition.”
Blue looked at the captain in sympathy for his unenviable position, then back at the viewscreen. Half a dozen augmented shuttles drifted into view, closing in on the comet.
“All shuttles in position, Captain,” Wheeler reported.
Picard acknowledged the information with a nod. “Shuttles, stand by. Phasers, medium spread. Full power, twenty second burst. Fire.”
Lethal rays of unimaginable power lanced out from the Enterprise, bathing the tumbling comet in a fiery glow.
“Photon torpedoes, first salvo, fire.”
Four torpedoes struck home, one after the other.
Six more lances of light struck the comet from all sides.
“It’s breaking up!”
Blue had no idea who’d spoken, but the suppressed excitement in the voice was obvious. Picard leaned forward. “Photon torpedoes, second salvo, fire. Engage tractor beams.”
Under such a sustained barrage, the comet didn’t stand a chance. It came ponderously apart; Enterprise held its position as chunks of glowing rock spiralled in all directions. Shimmering bluish-white tractor beams from all shuttles and the Enterprise itself criss-crossed space, searching to trap the cometary fragments. But in the confusion of shuttles and hurtling lumps of comet-rock, it was almost inevitable that something would get through…
One piece of the comet had broken through the net of tractor beams. Paul’s voice sounded over the comms. “I’m on it…”
Ignoring the rest of the debris from the destroyed comet, Paul sent his shuttle diving after the fragment. In answer to his terse enquiry, the computer informed him that the fragment, about a hundred metres across, was on a direct course for one of the largest land-masses on the planet, and would impact at a sizeable fraction of sound-speed.. Paul winced. Evacuated or not, an impact there would cause catastrophic, irreparable damage on a planetary scale.
“Cometary fragment targeted. Weapons locked on,” the computer reported.
Paul rammed his finger down on the firing button, keeping it depressed until the depleted power of his shuttle’s phasers was completely exhausted. The fragment developed its own tail as pieces broke off and vaporised in the intense heat of the beam, but as the phaser ran out of power, there was still a respectably sized chunk left.
“Fragment still on collision course.”
Paul swore fluently in Klingonese, unheeding of the fact that Enterprise was listening in.
“Paul!” Picard shouted. “It’s too late! Break off!”
“Just one chance left, Captain. I’m going to ram it.”
Blue buried his face in his hands. “No, Paul… please…”
The bridge crew watched in shocked silence as the lone shuttle closed on the tumbling chunk of icy rock. A faint glimmer surrounded the shuttle as Paul fed extra power to the shields. “Match velocity and attitude… get in underneath it…” Blue suddenly realised he was mumbling phrases from the Asteroid Field shuttle exercise out loud, and made a gesture of apology at Picard. To his surprise, the captain didn’t look annoyed at the interruption – rather, he nodded approvingly, before looking away, back at the viewscreen.
The shuttle was now right alongside the fragment; there was a brilliant flash from the over-stressed shields as Paul threw the little craft sideways against the wall of rock that loomed over him.
“He’s lost shields!” someone exclaimed. Blue leaned forward, biting his lip, as if he could restore power by sheer force of willpower. Surely Paul would have to break off the attack now? To his horror, the shuttle started to move in again, this time wedging itself against a spur of rock that jutted out from the side of the fragment. For a heart-stopping few seconds, the shuttle remained rammed hard against the piece of comet-debris, its engines straining against the inertia and mass of the giant boulder. Suddenly, the spur, loosened by the sustained assault, broke away. Against such an abrupt release, Paul had no time to compensate. The broken spur slammed into the shuttle, ripping off the starboard nacelle and sending the small craft spinning away. Picard leapt to his feet, shouting into the open channel. “Enterprise to Commander Metcalfe! Are you all right? Respond!”
“It was enough!” The sudden cry from Tactical startled everyone on the bridge. “That shunt – it was enough! The fragment will splash down mid-ocean. There’ll be tidal waves, but the damage can be contained. He did it!”
“All shuttles, return to Enterprise.” Picard let out a deep breath, and relaxed back into his chair. “And retrieve Commander Metcalfe.”
Tractor beams soon retrieved the last, damaged, shuttle, and retrometabolism and 24th century medical magic restored its pilot to full health within a couple of hours. Meanwhile, Enterprise monitored the tsunami caused by the fragment’s impact as it raced across the ocean that covered more than half of Marcellus 3’s surface, and called the planetary administration over and over again, without success.
The atmosphere on the bridge of the Enterprise was tense, as once more, Enterprise hailed Raych T’ran.
“Enterprise calling the Science Institute. Come in, please…”
“Receiving you, Enterprise. Thank you! How can we ever repay you for what you’ve done?”
A sigh of relief ran around the entire bridge.
“First Scientist T’ran,” Picard smiled, “you don’t know how glad I am to hear your voice. What’s your status?”
“Shaken, Captain, but thanks to you, all alive. I’m sorry it took so long to answer you, but our communications have been badly damaged. We think a piece of the comet must have struck one of our communications satellites. Until just now, we could hear you, but not respond. I hate to ask this, after all you’ve done already, but…”
Despite the communication being in sound only, Picard held up his hand. “A team will be with you immediately, First Scientist.” Picard issued his orders in a crisp, authoritative manner. “Number One, assemble an away team. Take Doctor Crusher with you. Mr La Forge, have a look at that satellite.” He turned his attention back to the channel with Marcellus 3. “T’ran? All the help you need will be with you shortly.”
“Thank you, Picard. Now, I must see to the needs of my people. T’ran out.”
Paul was to be included in the away team, and, at his insistence, so was Blue.
“This comet business has the stink of the Mysterons all over it, Will,” Paul had argued. “Adam knows the Mysterons as well as I do. I want him with me on this.”
Riker could hardly refute that argument, and half-an-hour later, Blue was walking down a corridor with Paul, hardly able to contain his excitement at his first visit to another planet.
“Can I fly the shuttle?” he asked, almost like a child begging for a treat.
Paul shook his head. “We’re not taking the shuttle. There’s still a lot of atmospheric disturbance. No point in taking unnecessary risks. We’re going down by transporter.”
Blue shrugged his compliance. “So, who are these people we’re going to see?”
“The Marcellans,” Paul explained. “Nice people. Pity you’re not meeting them under better circumstances. They’re actually two different races. The original natives have a mindset I can only describe as pastoral. Wonderful farmers, fishermen, craftsmen of all kinds. But not an ounce of whatever it is that makes a space-faring race. Then about five hundred or so years ago, they gave a group of scientifically-minded aliens permission to settle on their planet. It could have been a disaster for the natives, but it wasn’t. They all hit it off so well, that apart from the physical differences, you’d never believe they were two different species.”
Blue nodded thoughtfully. “So the scientists rule the planet?”
“Not exactly. They advise, that’s about it. The scientists have their own council, and First Scientist Raych T’ran is the current head of that council. Therefore, he sits on the Veld Moot – that’s the name of the planet’s governing body – and it just happens that, at the moment, he’s the head of the Moot. So in effect, he’s the ruler of the planet.”
Blue digested this information in silence. One man, ruling an entire planet? Hardly seemed conceivable. His ruminations were interrupted as Paul stopped at a set of doors.
“Here we are. Transporter Room 1.”
The doors swished open, and Blue followed Paul inside. His visions of the transporter as a rather larger shuttle were dispelled as he and Paul entered a large room, more than half of which was taken up by a platform with glowing circles on the floor and ceiling. “What’s this?” he demanded.
“The transporter,” Paul replied, blandly. “Watch…”
The six people ahead of them in the room stepped up onto the platform, taking position on the circles. One of them, Melanie Farmer, an engineer Blue had met before, smiled and waved at him, then glanced around at her companions, and nodded to a man standing behind a console that Blue hadn’t previously noticed. “Energise,” she instructed.
The man at the console tapped a couple of buttons, and pulled down a sliding lever. Blue gaped in horrified astonishment as the sextet were enveloped in light, then vanished in a shower of sparks.
“What happened to them?” he demanded, grabbing Paul’s arm.
“Relax,” Paul replied. “They’ve transported down to the surface. Come on, we’re next.”
“Oh, no!” Blue hung back as Paul tried to coax him onto the transporter platform. “I saw what happened to those people. You’re not getting me on that thing!”
Paul smiled sympathetically. “Sorry, Adam. I keep forgetting. You’ve made such good progress in settling in, I forget you’ve not been with us that long. Chief?” This last was directed at the man at the control panel. “Contact Lieutenant Farmer, will you?”
“Farmer here. What is it, Chief? Did I forget something?”
“No, Lieutenant. Commander Metcalfe asked me to contact you.”
Paul stepped up to the console. “Melanie, could you speak to Adam? He’s a bit nervous about transporting.”
Blue winced as a chuckle sounded from the speaker. “Of course, Commander. Come on, Adam. There’s nothing to it. Safe as starships.”
Blue raised his eyebrows at Paul, who simply smiled. “Transporters are our way of getting around, Adam. Proven technology. Please, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“Who said I was afraid?” Blue muttered, as he reluctantly followed Paul onto the platform. He looked down at his feet – his toes protruded beyond the limits of his circle. Hastily, he shuffled backwards, and glanced at Paul, who gave him an approving nod.
Blue tensed. In front of him, he could see a glowing curtain of light, partially obscuring the control console and Chief Singh. The glow filled with sparks, which grew in brightness and intensity until the transporter control room was completely hidden from view.
After a second or two, the glow and the sparks faded. Blue turned to Paul in surprise. “Didn’t it work?”
Paul grinned. “Of course it did. Look around.”
Almost afraid to move, Blue cautiously peered around.
That his surroundings had changed was beyond doubt. They were now standing in an even larger room, which looked like the foyer of some kind of government building. Through a large window, Blue could see that a storm was raging, rain lashing down, and debris being bowled along by the force of the wind.
Blue and Paul turned as Will Riker called to them from across the foyer. They went over to him, to be introduced to the person with him.
Riker spoke first. “First Scientist T’ran, may I present Commander Paul Metcalfe, the Enterprise’s Tactical Officer.”
Paul touched his forehead and made a slight bow. “First Scientist. An honour to meet you.” He indicated Adam. “This is my friend and colleague, Adam Svenson, of Earth.”
Blue did his best to imitate the honorific gesture.
T’ran returned the bow. “Commander Metcalfe, I understand that you deflected the fragment, at enormous personal risk. For that, I, the Veld Moot, and all the people of this planet, thank you. I am glad to see you are unharmed. Now, I understand from Commander Riker that you have something you need to discuss with me?” T’ran cast a glance around the busy foyer. “Come to my office. We can talk in peace and privacy there.”
Blue’s curiosity about what an alien head of government’s office would look like was soon satisfied. He was slightly, and unaccountably, disappointed. Apart from the fact that he couldn’t read the language of the various notices and books around the room, it could have been the office of any government official on Earth. Come to think of it, though, there would have been a number of government offices on Earth where he wouldn’t have been able to read the language, either.
A second alien joined them, one who looked somewhat different from T’ran. “May I introduce Garm Doran, First Farmer. She will be the next head of the Veld Moot, so I asked her to join us.”
Blue found himself covertly studying the two aliens. Superficially, they were both humanoid, but he noticed various differences between them. Doran was thick-set, six-fingered, and taller than the diminutive T’ran, who barely came up to Blue’s shoulder. And while T’ran had long, pointed, sensitive ears, she had no visible ears at all, and a pair of little horns protruded from her forehead.
T’ran himself served them all with refreshments, then sat behind his desk and looked straight at Paul. “What is the matter you wish to discuss?” he asked.
Paul was equally as straightforward in his reply.
“First Scientist – have you ever heard of a race calling themselves the Mysterons?”
None of the humans expected T’ran’s reaction. He went pale with shock, staring in horror at his visitors, then buried his face in his hands. Doran also paled, and spoke in a shaky voice.
“Raych, if you wish, I will leave.”
T’ran held up a trembling hand. “No, Garm. Stay. This will concern you, too.”
She watched him with worry evident in her large, expressive eyes as he left his desk to cross to a small cabinet against the opposite wall. From it, he took a flask made of some translucent material, and poured a drink. He downed the liquid in one gulp.
“Forgive me, Commander Metcalfe. My people have not heard that name for many generations. We had hoped never to hear it again.” He sat down again, visibly struggling to regain his composure.
“I will explain. You are aware, of course, that we Marcellans are of two different races? Garm Doran is from the original Marcellan race, and I am one of the in-comers. My race called ourselves the Vaachi…”
The Vaachi were an intelligent, inventive species. Fascinated by all kinds of science, they developed a space program, and started to explore the moons of their world, and the neighbouring planets. Whilst not warp-capable, and therefore limited to their own system, Vaachi ships nevertheless made landings on every planet on which landings were possible. The crews brought back many strange and wonderful things and stories of the other worlds in their system.
As their population grew, they decided to start colonising, to relieve the strain on their home planet’s resources. Not wishing to be too far from their home planet – at least, not at first – they chose to make their first extra-planetary settlement on their largest moon. Encouraged by its success, some of the hardier Vaachi moved on to the outermost moon, little more than an over-sized asteroid rich in some of the rarer metals that were getting to be in short supply back home.
“At first, all went well,” T’ran said, his voice now breaking slightly. “The colonists established a mining post, and soon, a regular supply train was established between the outer moon and our home world. Then, one day, an exploration team discovered a buried building, of a type they had never seen before. They reported strange, shifting lights and shadows in the walls, an almost subliminal humming sound in the air, and an air of – menace.”
He looked up as he said those last few words, and saw Paul and Blue exchanging glances. “I assure you, that is the truth as it was reported by those explorers.”
“We believe you, First Scientist,” Blue said. “Commander Metcalfe and I have seen – something similar on our home planet’s moon.”
T’ran nodded. “The explorers were courageous. Despite the menace they could feel around them, they continued to search the place. Finally, they came to a large central chamber, in which was a glowing crystal.”
“A pulsator,” Paul breathed.
“You know of these things? Then I pity you and your home world. The crystal struck out at our people, killing two and knocking the others to the floor. Every attempt to escape was thwarted by the crystal. At last, one of them, braver, or more foolish, than the others, brought the laser-drill he carried to bear on the crystal, and destroyed it. Only then were the survivors able to leave. But very soon afterwards, my people heard the voice of the Mysterons for the first time. They swore that they would destroy all Vaachi life, in vengeance for their ‘attack’ on the buried building.”
“Sounds all too familiar,” Paul growled, heart-sick at hearing more-or-less the same story as the tale of the start of the War of Nerves on Earth.
“Many brave Vaachi lost their lives in the fight,” T’ran continued. “Even more were resurrected into the service of the Mysterons, betraying and killing their own people. For all our advances, for all our science, we were almost powerless against them. The zombies were unkillable, unstoppable.
“Our thoughts turned to escape. We built the biggest ship we could, and sent as many as possible of our people away. The rest – remained behind. The last communication with our home planet was terrible. The Mysterons had launched an all-out assault, possibly in anger at the escape of some of their potential slaves. The last message was not a cry for help, but a dire warning to stay away.
“My ancestors grieved for their lost planet, but knew that all they could do was to search for a new home. It took many generations, but eventually, the ship found Marcellus, and its inhabitants. The native Marcellans welcomed us, gave us land, accepted our science – more importantly, they gave us a home again. And for that, every Vaachi will be eternally grateful.”
As he stopped speaking, T’ran looked over at Doran, and smiled.
The First Farmer smiled in return. “Raych T’ran, our two peoples have benefited more that we would ever have thought possible. If the original act of my ancestors was generous, the outcome of the combination of the Vaachi and the Marcellans has more than repaid that generosity.”
T’ran sighed, and looked down at his empty glass. “But now it seems that the Mysterons have found us, and that act of generosity may well be the undoing of us all.” He looked up, gazing at his human visitors. “Commander Metcalfe, do you believe that the premature arrival of the comet was due to Mysteron interference?”
Paul nodded. He’d been deeply affected by the story of the destruction of the Vaachi. “I do. Earth’s story is slightly different from yours –” he glanced at Blue “– but not all that different. Adam Svenson and I know the Mysterons all too well. We will help you.” Now, Paul’s glance fell on Will Riker, and he continued, with a slight touch of belligerence in his tone: “With or without the assistance of the Federation.”
It was another five days before the Enterprise left Marcellan orbit. Much to Blue’s delight, Raych T’ran had allowed him access to the planetary archives, and specifically to the logs of the generation-ship that had brought the Vaachi refugees to Marcellus 3. Once Paul showed him how to access Starfleet’s archives too, Blue also looked for similar incidents. He’d uncovered several dozen other records that seemed to him to indicate Mysteron activity, and on his return to Enterprise, Blue had taken his findings to Stellar Cartography.
Ensign Castenada was only too happy to help. She entered co-ordinates, and best guesses at co-ordinates, into the computer, over-riding the computer’s complaints at having to guess with a peremptory “Just do it!” and had eventually come up with a lop-sided ellipse of what Blue referred to as the ‘sphere of Mysteron influence’.
Blue took the results to Paul first.
“Hey, well done, Blue Boy!” Paul leaned forward, gazing intently at the display on his computer monitor. “Computer – extrapolate a common point of origin for all the marked incidents.”
“There is insufficient information on which to base such an extrapolation.”
“That’s all we’ve got. Improvise, with provided information.”
“Extrapolating. Please wait.”
By now, Blue was well-used to the computers of the 24th century. Seymour’d love this, he thought, with a sudden lurch of home-sickness he hadn’t expected.
As if it had read his mind, the computer suddenly projected a series of green lines across the screen, none of which crossed at any common point, but many of the crosses did all occur in one particular area of space. Helpfully, the computer drew a green circle around the area.
“Calculations suggest that this is the most likely area of origin.”
“Thank you!” Paul sighed, and pushed his chair away from his desk. “Let’s go and see the captain.”
To the surprise of both of them, Captain Picard was not particularly receptive to the notion of Mysteron-chasing.
“Commander – Paul – and Mr Svenson, I am not unsympathetic. But we gave all the assistance to Marcellus 3 that their Federated Associate status warrants. And no other planetary system has reported Mysteron incursion. I’m sorry. I cannot commit the Enterprise to a mission of personal vengeance.”
And that seemed to be that. Life on Enterprise returned to normal, Paul returned to his regular Tactical duty,
Blue returned to his normal passenger status, hating every minute of it. He was now even more convinced that the purpose for which Q had dumped him onto the Enterprise was not yet fulfilled – indeed, that it was approaching. Just confirming that the incident on Marcellus 3 was Mysteron-based surely wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of his presence here? If so, surely the entity would have returned him to his own time and place by now?
Enterprise’s next mission was to Qtar, yet another planet on the list for Federation membership. More tedious hanging around while diplomatic niceties were conducted, more dull receptions on board for planetary dignitaries… As the starship orbited the planet, the senior crew got down to learning, with no real enthusiasm, the honorifics required by the social code of the Qtari.
Blue could almost have wished that he could have turned time back to when he was just a passenger – he was now an accepted, if unofficial, member of the crew, and expected to behave accordingly. Which meant a lot of protocol, which in turn reminded him of being introduced into polite Boston society as a boy. Unfortunately, that meant that Picard and his careful instructions reminded him of his mother… Sometimes, it was all Blue could do to keep from laughing out loud at such a ludicrous comparison.
Blue brought the shuttle neatly into the hangar, and checked that the entrance forcefield was back in place before cracking the seal and letting his passengers out.
“Nice flight, Adam, thanks!”
The two passengers disembarked, and strolled back into the warren of Enterprise’s corridors, while Blue checked the shuttle for fuel and other post-flight matters. He handed the log over to the hangar officer, and wandered off in the same direction as his passengers.
Back in the solitude of his quarters, Blue wanted to beat his head against the wall. Here he was, on a starship, three hundred-odd years ahead of his time. He was finally allowed to actually pilot an incredibly advanced shuttle. He’d been on another planet. He’d helped the administration of that planet discover the source of their trouble. They were in orbit around yet another planet.
And he was so – damned – BORED!
Paul was no better off, Blue had to admit. Once Captain Picard had said no to exploring the region of space both of them believed to contain the Mysterons’ home world, Paul had simply shut down, and gone back on duty as normal. Blue, who could read his old friend like a book, recognised the signs of barely-contained rebellion, and said nothing to set him off.
The door-chime jolted him out of his wallow in self-pity. “Come in!”
The golden-skinned, yellow-eyed person who entered was by now quite familiar. “Hi, Data!” Blue called. “Be with you in a second.”
After an initially shaky start, when Blue had confused the terms ‘android’ and ‘robot’, he and Data had become good friends. Data was fascinated with the arrival of a human from historical times, and seized every possible opportunity to quiz Blue on events of the 21st century. Blue, in his turn, was fascinated by the notion of an independent artificial being, and the two spent many hours just talking. The turning point, as far as Blue’s acceptance of Data as a sentient being was concerned, had been the discovery that Data had a pet ginger tabby cat, named, rather inappropriately, ‘Spot’. Reasoning that no mere robot would even consider keeping a pet, let alone give it a name, Blue wholeheartedly accepted Data as ‘people’.
As usual, the android got straight to the point, instead of engaging in time-wasting small-talk.
“I have been analysing the stellar co-ordinates you obtained from the Marcellans and associated files. I believe I have narrowed the frame of possibilities.”
Blue almost snatched the PADD from Data’s hands, and scanned it avidly. Sure enough, the marked area of space was considerably smaller.
“This is fantastic, Data. How did you do it?”
“It was quite simple, Adam. Your initial parameters did not include the presence of life-supporting planets. I merely included that criterion in the search.”
Blue almost cursed out loud. Instead, he smiled ruefully. “I still have a lot to learn about this time, don’t I?”
Data hesitated for a second, then placed a hand on Blue’s shoulder. “You have made great strides in your time with us, Adam. You should feel proud of your accomplishments.”
Blue thought of the shuttle, and the holodeck exercises. “I guess I do, at that. Let’s show these to Paul.”
To Blue’s surprise, Paul wasn’t so enthusiastic about Data’s findings. “Sorry, Adam. It’s just that… well, Captain Picard said no, and that’s it.”
Blue’s jaw dropped. “Paul? Is that really you talking? Tell me – how many times did you go against direct orders when you knew you were right? Or has living this long dulled your sense of right and wrong?”
Paul sighed, and shook his head. “It’s not that, Adam, really. It’s just… oh, I don’t know, I just can’t summon up the energy right now…” He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. Then, without opening his eyes, or moving in the slightest, said, “Damn. Should’ve recognised it. But it’s been a long time…”
Faced with Blue’s determination, Data’s refined search findings, and Paul’s nagging sixth sense, Captain Picard had little choice but to accede. All he asked was that they wait until the current mission was over and done, then the Enterprise could go and hunt Mysterons.
Blue accepted the stricture with a mixture of relief and resignation, and turned to Paul. “Will you be OK ‘til then?”
Paul gave him a wan smile. “I’ll have to be, won’t I?”
“Jaas… ragitch… jofaari.”
“Close. Try again. Jhass rhageech jAfaari.”
Blue sighed. He’d never been particularly linguistically gifted in human languages. Learning an alien language was something he’d never even considered. This’ll look great on my personnel file, he thought morosely. “What does it mean, anyway?” he asked out loud.
Paul thought for a moment. “Well, the literal translation would get you barred from decent society on Earth, besides being physically impossible unless you’re double-jointed. But to the Qtari, it’s a blessing on the house and family of the person you’re being introduced to. Or something like that, anyway.” He stopped, and rubbed his eyes again. Blue looked concerned.
“Is it still bad?”
Paul nodded. “It never goes away. Doctor Crusher’s almost given up trying to find an anti-nausea drug that lasts more than a few minutes. I just wish I knew why I’ve been feeling like this for so long. We’re nowhere near those co-ordinates that you and Data worked out.”
Blue shook his head, and gazed out of the window at the planet below. Despite the haze of its atmosphere, it was easy to see that the Qtari home-world was largely desert. The dominant colour was reddish-brown, interspersed with the blue of its small seas. The two large continents, Temeka and Salas, that made up the planet’s dry surface, had fringes of green around their edges, where most of the Qtari lived. It seemed almost impossible that this unpromising world had produced a people capable of warp-travel, but it had.
Representatives of the two Qtari governments had been on board for a few days now, finalising arrangements for the formal reception and dinner tonight. The rulers of both continents would be present, and their flunkeys and functionaries were irritating the life out of the crew of the Enterprise.
The starship’s main function room had been transformed. A long table, covered with an impeccable white cloth, was laid with glittering glass and silver. Banners bearing the insignia of Starfleet, the Federation, and the Qtari, hung from the walls. Behind the chairs of the two guests of honour stood obsidian monoliths, which Blue had ferried up from the planet that afternoon. These were to hold the Eyes Of Qtar, the ceremonial sceptres carried by the two rulers. Tradition demanded that whenever the reigning monarchs met, their sceptres had to be mounted side by side, exactly level with each other, at such a height to be clearly visible at all times. So much had been made of this, that Data had been called in to supervise the positioning of the monoliths. The android could be relied on to get the precision result demanded by the Qtari officials.
Not being a member of the senior crew, Blue had not expected to be invited to the formal dinner. So he had been astonished when the invitation arrived, in the form of a heavily embossed rectangle of thick parchment. He dressed with care in the unfamiliar dress uniform of a Starfleet officer, and when the summons came, hurried to the function room to wait, with the other invited members of the ship’s crew, for the arrival of the Qtari royal delegations. Blue was not to be presented to the two monarchs, for which he was profoundly grateful. As an American, it went against the grain to bow to royalty, even though he saw other American crew members doing so. Out of the corner of his eye, of course. It had been carefully explained that it was considered bad manners to look directly at the monarchs unless being presented. Also out of the corner of his eye, he saw Paul bow, and deliver the honorific in a clear, steady voice. It took someone who knew Paul very, very well to realise that his voice was being kept under control only by rigid discipline…
The dinner was a nightmare. Blue hardly ate a thing, too horrified by what he’d seen mounted on the monoliths behind the monarchs’ chairs. Paul must have been feeling the same way. Despite himself, Blue’s gaze kept returning to the Eyes Of Qtar – the two long sceptres, topped with white crystals that glowed eerily in the function room’s subtle light, surrounded by gleaming, translucent, pale green rings…
Captain Picard, the senior representatives of the Federation, and the Qtari monarchs and senior advisers withdrew for talks after the meal, at which the stiff, formal atmosphere in the function room relaxed a little. The rest of the Qtari delegation, and the crew members who had attended the dinner, split into small groups for socialising, and much to his surprise, Blue found himself talking to a junior member of the Salasian royal family.
The prince complimented Blue on his delivery of the honorific, and after a few minutes of desultory, but fairly easy, conversation, Blue plucked up the courage to ask about the sceptres.
“I don’t know much about such things,” he confessed, “but I understand that regalia is usually symbolic in some way. Those sceptres are the most unusual I’ve ever seen.”
The prince held Blue’s eyes in a steady, cool gaze. “Yes,” he said after a short pause. “They are symbolic of the gods who created all Qtari. The rings are the Circles of Creation, and the crystals are the Power of Creation. Before the coming of the Circles of Creation, our ancestors were primitive, war-like creatures. Now, we live to serve the gods, and to spread the message of their power throughout the Galaxy.”
Blue suppressed a shudder. He had a shrewd idea who these ‘gods’ were.
As soon as the reception was over, Blue looked around for Paul. Unable to see him in the groups of people leaving the room, Blue tapped his communicator. “Paul?” There was no reply. Frustrated, Blue wandered out into the corridor. After an evening in the company of what Blue was convinced were dozens of Mysteron clones, Paul had to be feeling dreadful, and when he was feeling dreadful, he tended to go either to the gym, or back to his quarters. Back in his Spectrum days, Paul had avoided Sickbay as much as possible, and things were no different now. Trouble was, on a ship the size of Enterprise, Paul’s quarters, the gym and the Infirmary were quite a considerable distance apart. Which would be the best place to start looking?
Blue caught himself and smiled ruefully at his 21st century thinking. There was another way to find people these days…
“Computer, where is Commander Metcalfe?”
“Commander Metcalfe is in his quarters.”
Blue stood outside the door of Paul’s quarters, tapping his foot impatiently. He’d rung the door chime several times, and was certain that he’d heard something inside the room, but the door remained stubbornly closed. Paul still wasn’t answering his calls on the communicator, either.
Blue moved to the computer access panel a little way down the corridor, and spoke to the central controlling AI again. “Computer, please open the door to Commander Metcalfe’s quarters. Authorisation Svenson-zero-two-zero-gamma.”
“You do not have sufficient authority to gain access to senior crew accommodation.”
Damn… He really needed to speak to Paul. Perhaps Data could help…
At the sound of his name emanating from the communicator on the bedside table, Paul lifted his head groggily from the pillow. He felt terrible – his head was spinning, and there was a grinding nausea in his guts that he hadn’t felt for centuries. It was his sixth sense all right, and it could only have been triggered by one thing – the Qtari. Their cold eyes, measured speech and icy, emotionless demeanour had screamed Mysteron! to him throughout the reception. How he’d survived dinner, and as much of the reception as he had, amazed him. Head pounding, disoriented as never before, he’d finally stumbled blindly away from the function room and collapsed onto his bed.
The voice – Adam’s voice, he realised blearily – called him again. He tried to answer, but nothing would come out. He sank back onto his pillow, and closed his eyes.
The door chime, and the sound of his name, jolted him out his stupor again. “Paul! It’s me, Adam! Open the door!”
Once again, Paul tried to respond, to give the voice command to open the door, anything, but the only sound he could make was a half-stifled moan. As the chime sounded again, he gathered his strength and rolled off the bed, thumping heavily onto the floor.
“Paul! Open up, I need to talk to you!”
It took all of Paul’s stubbornness to force him to his feet again. The room swam around him as he staggered towards the door. He’d almost made it, when the spinning, whirling nausea and the encroaching darkness clouding his vision overcame him; his knees buckled, and he collapsed to the floor.
As Blue had hoped, Data’s security clearance was sufficient. As the door slid open, Blue peered into the dimly-lit room. “Paul?”
Behind him, Blue heard Data ordering the computer to raise the lighting level. He stepped into the room, and almost tripped on an obstruction on the floor just to the side of the doorway. Blue looked down, and gasped as he realised that he’d nearly trodden on Paul’s arm. “Paul! Oh my God, what’s happened?”
He knelt beside his friend, feeling under his jaw for a pulse. There was one, a little slow, but strong and steady, and Blue felt a surge of relief as Paul opened his eyes and tried to sit up. Blue pushed him back down again. “Lie still,” he ordered. “We’d better get you to Doctor Crusher.”
Paul groaned, and closed his eyes.
“I came to tell you that I thought the Qtari were Mysterons, but I guess you’ve worked that out for yourself,” Blue said later, as they met with the captain in the Bridge conference room.
Paul nodded. After much argument, he’d persuaded Doctor Crusher that he was absolutely fine now, thanks, and was more than capable of returning to duty. Also, the fact that the Enterprise had moved into a higher orbit two hours ago was helping enormously.
“So if I understand correctly,” Picard said slowly, “you believe that Qtar is a planet entirely populated by Mysterons?”
Paul nodded again. “It’s the only reason I can think of for the strength of the effect they had on me.”
“Could the Mysterons not simply have reconstructed the delegation?” Picard asked.
“I thought that was it, at first,” Paul sighed. “But I’ve been feeling the effects of my sixth sense ever since we established orbit, and that was hours before the first Qtari came on board. No, I’m convinced that we’re dealing with a planetful of constructs, here.” He sighed again, and gazed unhappily out of the Ready Room window, down to the planet below. From this height, the whole sphere was visible. “I wonder what they did to deserve such a terrible fate,” he murmured.
“Look at this!” Blue exclaimed suddenly, drawing Paul and Picard’s attention to the computer screen on the wall. “While you were in Sickbay, Paul, I had a look at the Federation’s files on the Qtari. Those ‘ancestors’ the prince told me about? The ‘primitive, war-like people’? That was just over a century ago. Now, I know I’m American, and we think a hundred years is a long time –” Paul snorted a little laugh, remembering the old days of good-humoured US/UK needling that had gone on between himself and his partner “– but it seems to me that a century is a pretty short time to go from ‘primitive savages’ to warp-capability. And look – this planet is inside the original sphere of influence I worked out from the Marcellan data.”
“And if I remember correctly,” Paul said slowly, “no-one had ever heard of the Qtari before that. This is a pretty well-travelled region. You’d think someone would have noticed them before then.”
Blue raised an eyebrow. “The Mysterons dabbling in a bit of social engineering?”
Paul’s eyes widened at the enormity of the thought that had just struck him. “And Federation membership would allow them free access to a vast region of space. They could spread their infection anywhere they wanted, virtually unchallenged. Captain! We have to stop the Qtari application from being approved!”
“Not just on the say-so of two of my crew,” Picard pointed out. “I’m going to need a lot more evidence to put to the Federation Council than the fact that one of my crew passes out in the presence of an applicant race.” Picard looked distantly thoughtful for a moment, then nodded sharply.
“Mr Svenson. The final talks are being held on Qtar. Presumably you would know what to look for, if this race is possessed, as you claim?”
Blue was slightly taken aback by the sudden question. “I suppose so, Captain, yes.”
“Then you will be a member of the delegation. Under the circumstances, I don’t think it would be wise for Commander Metcalfe to go down to the planet.”
Blue shivered, and not from the chilly wind that blew in from the sea. He was repelled by the icy arrogance of the Qtari, but nevertheless, forced himself to smile pleasantly at his guide. “Thank you for agreeing to show me around,” he began. “The Federation has asked me to be, well, a tourist, if you like. To get a non-political view of your planet.”
“A tourist?” the Qtari asked.
“Someone who visits for pleasure,” Blue clarified.
“Ah. We Qtari have no need of such pastimes. Our work is our pleasure.”
You’re not kidding, Blue thought. Besides there being no leisure facilities, Blue hadn’t seen a single young Qtari. “I notice there are no children around,” he remarked, carefully. “Are they not allowed to come into the business districts?”
“We Qtari have no need of children. When our time comes, we are – replaced.”
A world with no children? Blue shuddered inwardly. And it didn’t take much imagination to work out what they meant by ‘replaced’. ‘Cloned’ might be nearer the mark. Or ‘reconstructed’…
Despite the underlying aura of menace that pervaded the planet, Blue did find a lot of interest in his tour. One place that fascinated him was an immensely tall tower, with moving walkways and stairways carrying thousands of people up and down on mysterious errands. His guide offered no explanation about the building’s purpose, nor did Blue ask. However, he did see, in the presence of thousands of Qtari, a good opportunity to test Paul’s theory that this was a planet of constructs…
“This is breath-taking!” he enthused. “We have nothing like this at home. May I take some pictures?”
The Qtari shrugged. “If you wish.”
Blue took out a specially adapted tricorder, flipping up its cover to reveal a little screen. He pointed it at the stairways, sweeping slowly across, up and down to include as much of the structure, and as many of the people, as he could. The Qtari, affecting polite disinterest, looked over Blue’s shoulder at the screen, but saw nothing more than moving pictures of his people. He had no idea that what the screen should have been showing was X-ray negative images. He shrugged again, and looked away while this ‘tourist’ took his pretty pictures.
“All this machinery must take a lot of maintenance,” Blue remarked, as he continued his scan.
“It requires no maintenance.”
“None at all?” Blue was genuinely surprised. “How long has it been running?”
“Since just after the time of the primitives. The Eyes Of Qtar guided us in its construction.”
“But if it’s been here this long,” Blue pursued, “surely it would have become obsolete by now.” He considered for a moment the anti-grav shaft in the Mysterons’ complex on the Moon, and the transporter on the Enterprise. “You must have found more efficient, more advanced ways of doing things.”
The Qtari turned cold eyes to him. “Why? It functions as it should. It requires no maintenance. Why replace that which is perfect?”
Blue bit back his retort that this was the human way. These people might or might not be Mysterons, but one thing they definitely were not was human. The non-humans on Enterprise had certainly adapted to working and living in a largely human environment, but they all kept their own ways and mindsets, something which had caused Blue some adaptation problems of his own. But he was learning not to be so insular.
“The Eyes Of Qtar showed us what we needed to know, to break out of the prison of our savagery,” the Qtari continued. “What they showed us was perfect, and cannot be improved upon. Neither would any right-thinking person dare to believe that what comes from the Eyes could be less than perfection.”
The Eyes Of Qtar. They cropped up over and over again, and the mention of their name was the only time any Qtari came close to showing any emotion. And this wasn’t the first time Blue’s guide had dismissed the notion of innovation. Under Blue’s carefully guileless questioning, the Qtari was led to reveal far more than he intended.
The ‘primitives’ had not, after all, been the cavemen that Blue had originally imagined. They sounded very much like humans – they had had some limited space-travelling capacity and had explored the planet’s moons. Suddenly, Blue realised what must have happened. It was the Vaachi all over again.
He shivered again, and hoped that Captain Picard would conclude the talks soon.
It was with considerable relief that Blue watched the desert planet of Qtar recede into the distance. Now he knew how such a planet had produced a space-faring people. But now, the problem was how to stop them space-faring any more. The whole of this sector was at risk.
Meanwhile, Picard was mulling over the evidence that Blue had brought back from his visit to the planet, and reviewing the information held in the Federation’s databanks about the Mysteron War of Nerves on Earth.
Seven million people on Qtar, he thought. How could it possibly have escaped anyone’s notice that the population is just too small to produce the level of technology needed for inter-stellar flight? Perhaps that’s what the Mysterons wanted. Perhaps they affected the minds of those involved in First Contact.
The sound of the door chime broke into his thoughts. “Come.”
The door swished open to admit Paul and Blue.
Paul spoke first. “We’ve reviewed the Marcellan data in the light of what Adam found down on the planet, sir,” he began. “If I can show you?”
At Picard’s gesture of agreement, Paul crossed to the large computer screen on the wall. “This,” he said, bringing up the original extrapolations that Ensign Castenada had produced, “is what we got from the Marcellan and Federation databanks that seemed to indicate Mysteron activity. We asked the computer to estimate a common point of origin for all the incursions – the green lines represent the best it was able to come up with.” He tapped a command into the computer, and a web of lines appeared on the screen, criss-crossing at various points. “And this –” another command shrank the display considerably, but did nothing to improve the crossing of the lines “– is what Data managed to reduce it to. Qtar is here, four light-years outside the boundary. However, while we were looking at the suspected Mysteron incidents again, we realised that there was a sudden increase about a hundred years or so ago. So, if we now take Qtar into consideration, and also the time-factor of their sudden burst of technological advance, we get this.”
Paul entered another sequence of commands. On the screen, the boundary line re-shaped into a rough figure of 8, and the criss-crossing lines moved with it. The complex web simplified, the dozens of junctions resolved, until finally, only two were left. One was centred on Qtar, and the other:
“The Mysteron home-world?”
Blue nodded. “We think so.”
“I see.” Picard chewed his lip, gazing thoughtfully at the display. “What plan of action do you have?”
Paul spoke again. “There’s evidence that when the Mysteron influence is removed, their constructs simply – drop dead. We intend to go to that planet, and remove or destroy its power source.”
“How do you know there will be a central power source?” Picard asked. Then answered his own question. “Ah yes, the pulsators. You think there will be just one?”
“To be honest, Captain, I don’t know,” Paul replied earnestly. “But we can scan for the power signature of the pulsators, and see what we find.”
Picard paused again, gazing at the second node of influence. “Very well,” he said at last. “We will go to this system and see what we can see. Make your preparations.”
Picard looked unhappy as the two left the room. He had agreed to hunt down and destroy a callous, emotionless race that had terrorised Earth for decades, caused the Vaachi to flee their home-world in terror, and subjugated the entire Qtari people. And who knew what had happened on all those other planets, represented by pinpoints of light on the computer screen? And yet – he had only the word of his tactical officer and a stranger dumped here by Q, a creature notorious for trouble-making.
If they are right, I will be an accessory to genocide. But the evidence is clear. The Qtari are a menace. They have to be stopped. And I have to persuade the Federation Council of that.
It would take, according to Data, seventy-two hours, eighteen minutes and eleven seconds at warp six to reach the orbit of the outermost planet of the Mysterons’ native star system. To minimise the risk of alerting the Mysterons, the Enterprise would wait there, while Paul and Blue went to the planet itself in a shuttle. Geordi and Data made sure that the shuttle’s warp signature would be so diffused and distorted that it would be detectable as such only by someone who was specifically looking for it – to any other observer, it would seem to be just part of the general background radiation of space. To make doubly sure, Blue plotted a course that would keep the massive bulk of the system’s only gas giant directly behind them for most of the journey – the planet was blasting out radiation and radio waves on a variety of bands, which would nicely mask the tiny emanations of the shuttle. The only downside of that was that it would also mask the transporter.
Blue was rather torn between the realisation that no emergency beam-outs would be possible, and relief that what he still referred to as “that infernal machine” wouldn’t be hurling him, atom by atom, across miles and miles of nothingness. Shortly after his first experience of the transporter, he had prevailed on Chief Singh to tell him how it worked. Blue had been appalled, and hadn’t gone near any of the transporter rooms since. “If I have to go into space,” he’d told Paul quite firmly, “I’ll do it in a machine I can understand. The shuttles are fine for me, thanks.”
Paul and Blue spent most of the time trawling through their memories of the complex in Crater 101 on the Moon, with Paul throwing in odd little snippets of information that Blue surmised must have come from later in the War of Nerves. He now knew better than to ask, just making mental notes of whichever ones seemed the most interesting, or useful. For instance, the power signature of the pulsators.
“They emit regular bursts of radiation – harmless to humans, you’ll be glad to know – which this little gadget here can detect.” Paul displayed a small box, about the length of his hand, that Blue recognised as a tricorder of some kind. “And there’s a much larger one installed on the shuttle. We can hide in the asteroid belt and scan the whole planet in a matter of hours with that.”
“What’s the radiation?” Blue asked ingenuously.
Paul shrugged. “Does it matter? It’s harmless.” He frowned at Blue’s penetrating stare. “All right, all right. Don’t glower at me like that. It’s on the same frequency as the control signal that seems to activate Mysteron agents. But of course, a lot more powerful.”
“So the pulsators are the source or conduit of the Mysterons’ instructions to their agents, as well as being a power source.”
“Looks like it, yes.”
Blue pushed his hand through his hair. This was something he had to tell Colonel White, if he ever got the chance. “So when we find the pulsator?” he continued.
“We blow it to smithereens.”
“That didn’t do Black or the Vaachi much good, did it?” Blue observed morosely.
“Ah, but Black had no idea what he was firing at,” Paul pointed out. “Also, he didn’t have our targeting scanners, phasers or photon torpedoes. Think about it, Adam! We can stop the Mysterons for good!”
“You’re preaching to the choir, Paul,” Blue sighed. “I already know we’re doing the right thing, despite any reservations Captain Picard might have.”
“So why so down-hearted?” Paul asked.
Blue looked away for a moment, then back again. “I just wish this chance had come three hundred years ago,” he said, so softly that Paul could hardly hear him. “You’ve told me nothing about how the War of Nerves ended, and I can understand why. But – it went on for a while, didn’t it? A lot of people died.”
Paul nodded slowly. “It was war, Adam,” he said quietly. “This is our chance to stop it happening to anyone else. And if there’s one thing that the Mysterons understand – it’s revenge.”
Enterprise drifted just beyond the orbit of the outermost planet of the Mysterons’ home system. In the shuttlebay, Paul and Blue were busy checking the final details before leaving, when the door opened and Captain Picard entered. The sound of his footsteps echoed around the hangar as he approached.
“Gentlemen, I wanted to wish you the very best of luck.”
There was an awkward silence for a moment, before Picard made up his mind to say out loud what had been bothering him ever since that day when he’d been shown the extent of the Mysteron/Qtari influence. He cleared his throat. “Paul – you said ‘when the Mysteron influence is removed, their constructs simply – drop dead.’ You’re a construct. Might the same thing happen to you?”
He noticed the exchange of glances between Paul and Blue, and wondered, not for the first time, if these two might not be slightly telepathic with each other. Deanna Troi said not, but there was definitely something.
“I take it you’ve already had this conversation?”
“Yes, sir, we have,” Paul responded quietly. “And I’ll give you the same answer I gave Adam – as far as I know, I’ve been independent of the Mysterons since I fell off the Car-Vu. I don’t believe that their removal will do me any harm. However, if I’m wrong, well… not making my four hundredth birthday isn’t something I’m going to lose any sleep over. I’ve had a good life, and if this is where it ends, then so be it. If it means getting rid of the Mysterons once and for all, it’s worth it.”
The captain nodded. “Understood. We’ll hold station here for as long as we can. Meanwhile, I wish you both a safe return.”
There were eleven smallish planets, one gas giant and two asteroid belts in the system, spread over a distance about one-and-a-half times the size of Earth’s system. Their initial target was the inner of the two asteroid belts, beyond which orbited the Mysterons’ world. Paul, of course, took such things for granted but Blue was not yet sufficiently accustomed to the speed that a shuttle was capable of reaching – keeping to impulse power, they reached the asteroid belt in a little over two days. Blue blessed those hours of practice on the holodeck as he wove the shuttle through the complex orbits of hundreds of chunks of rock – he had deliberately chosen a particularly crowded part of the belt, to give them more cover.
“How’s this?” he asked.
Paul nodded, intent on the instruments that were busily scanning the planet ahead. After a few minutes, he stretched, and glanced over at Blue with a grin. “All set up and nicely ticking away,” he reported, gesturing at the scanner controls. “Now all we have to do is wait for the results. Hope you remembered to bring a pack of cards.”
Blue learned two things over the next few hours. Firstly, that waiting for a planet to complete a rotation was probably the most boring occupation ever, when all you were doing was watching it.
The planet ahead of them was slightly smaller than Earth, and with a slightly faster rotation. It appeared to be almost entirely dry, apart from modestly-sized caps at the poles, but criss-crossing the surface were features that looked like dried water-courses. The atmosphere was thin, and would certainly not support human life. In short, its similarities to Mars were so striking that Blue and Paul had several serious, and not-so-serious, conversations about them during the hours spent waiting for the scan results.
“I think they’re like tourists who don’t trust foreign food. You know, the kind who go to some exotic resort but cram their luggage full of sausages, cornflakes and teabags. No imagination,” Paul remarked.
Blue laughed at the sudden mental picture of Mysterons as the stereotypical British tourist of the 20th century. “Complete with rolled-up trousers, and knotted handkerchiefs on their heads,” he suggested.
“Demanding a full English breakfast and The Daily Blighty newspaper,” Paul chuckled.
Secondly, Paul had got much, much better at poker.
An abrupt chirrup from the computer interrupted their conversation.
“We’re in business,” Paul announced, once he’d looked over the results of the scans. “A nice big hot-spot, slap-bang on the equator. I think that’s our target. What do you think?”
Blue peered over Paul’s shoulder, and nodded his agreement. “Right on the money, I’d say.”
There was a silence as the two old friends held other’s gazes. This was it. Almost brusquely, Blue turned back to the helm.
“Shall we go?”
This had been the trickiest part of the mission to plan – the final approach to the planet. Neither of them had any idea what kind of scanning capability the Mysterons had – memories of the destruction of the Phobos probe had come back to haunt them frequently during their discussions – but it was a safe bet that the aliens would be keeping watch on their immediate surroundings. From observations made from Enterprise, and now confirmed at much closer quarters, it seemed that the Mysterons’ planet was subject to occasional meteor strikes. Therefore, the strategy they had come up with was to emulate a meteor. It would take some skilful piloting – they would release a decoy seismic charge to explode on impact a few thousand kilometres from the hot-spot, while the shuttle would fly at zero feet to the actual hot-spot co-ordinates. With any luck, they would be too low to be detected.
Blue instructed the computer to simulate one of the faster breakaway asteroids. The shuttle arced gracefully away from the protection of the asteroid belt, and started a long, slow drift towards the planet. The initial kick away from the asteroid belt took their speed to just above quarter-impulse. For the rest of the four-day journey, they would coast along, with perhaps the occasional nudge from thrusters. To keep up their disguise as an asteroid, they had agreed with Enterprise that they would adopt a ‘silent running’ approach – no radio contact, and certainly no accessing the entertainment library. So with no electronic means of entertainment to fall back on, Blue and Paul spent the time working out various landing and infiltration scenarios, talking – and playing poker.
Paul consulted the notebook, in which he’d been keeping the scores. “OK,” he announced, “I estimate that you owe me twenty-five years’ holiday on Risa and a customised shuttle.”
“What?” Outraged, Blue grabbed the notebook. “Let me see that!” After a moment or two, he had to concede that Paul was right. “You have improved!” Blue admitted grudgingly.
Paul laughed. “When you play poker regularly with Will, Deanna and Data, you get good fast, in sheer self-defence!”
He kept Blue in fits of laughter with stories about the poker school that met once a week on Enterprise. Blue had sat in on a few sessions, and had had a couple of experiences of The Ultimate Poker Face, as Will Riker had once dubbed Data. In such company, he wasn’t at all surprised that Paul’s game had improved.
Their laughter was brought to a sudden, shocking halt as the computer chirped a warning. “Incoming scan.”
Blue scrambled across to the helm. “Source?” he asked, already horribly afraid that he knew the answer.
“Source is a large construction on the surface of the planet.”
“Damn,” he muttered. “Something told me this was going too well.”
He and Paul both froze, watching with fascinated horror as two green rings appeared out of nowhere and started moving across the control panel. They shrank back as the rings changed course and came straight for them, sliding over their bodies. Blue felt his skin prickling wherever the rings touched; feeling as if he was moving through treacle, he turned his head to look at Paul.
His friend sat rigidly, pressed against the back of his chair as if the rings were exerting pressure. His face had drained of all colour, and his eyes were fixed, staring at nothing. The rings swept across him, and back on to the control panel. Paul slumped forward, as if released from restraints, and buried his face in his hands. Blue leaned forward, laying a tentative hand on his friend’s arm.
“I’m… OK, I think.” Paul looked pale and shaken, and his hands trembled.
“Good,” Blue replied, casting a worried eye over the controls, “because we’re in deep trouble. Look.”
Responding to a control that had nothing to do with the two men on board, the shuttle changed course and speed, heading inexorably and directly towards the hot-spot.
The noise of the shuttle’s engines died away, the echoes fading in the gigantic chamber in which they had landed, and silence rolled in like a smothering tide. Paul and Blue looked at each other: what now? Nothing on the shuttle had responded to their commands since the arrival of the green rings; they’d been powerless passengers all the way down to the planet’s surface and into the strange building that the computer had identified earlier as the source of the rings.
As if in response to their thoughts, the entry hatch slid open.
Paul shrugged helplessly. “What else can we do?” He stood up, somewhat shakily, and made his way cautiously to the open hatch.
“Air’s OK,” he reported, after a moment. He stepped out, into the massive chamber to which the shuttle had been brought, and dropped abruptly to his knees, hands clutching at his head.
“Paul!” With an alarmed cry, Blue hurried over to where Paul knelt, and crouched beside him. “What’s wrong?”
“Mysterons… everywhere… worse than Qtar…”
Blue laid a hand on Paul’s shoulder, looking around in frustration. There was no apparent way out of this chamber, other than the way they had come in, and that entrance had now sealed itself against the hostile atmosphere outside. He had to do something to help Paul – perhaps there was something in the shuttle’s med-kit that would work. But even as he stood, he saw, with horror but with no particular surprise, the hatch silently closing.
“No!” Blue launched himself towards the small craft, grabbing the edge of the door with both hands, and exerting his whole strength against it. But to no avail; he had to let go to avoid having his hands severed at the wrists. The hatch sealed with a soft thunk. Blue rammed his hand against the panel that would normally open the door, but it remained stubbornly closed.
Shoulders sagging in momentary defeat, Blue turned back to Paul. “How are you doing?” he asked.
Paul swallowed a couple of times, and nodded. “Better. I’m – getting used to it, I think. So what do we do now?”
“Damned if I know,” Blue sighed, looking around once more. “Hold on, what’s that?”
He pointed at a spot on the closest wall, a spot that had started to glow. As they watched, the glow became bigger and brighter, then dimmed to reveal an open arch leading to a corridor.
“I think we go that way,” Paul said softly.
The never-ending corridors glowed eerily with a kind of half-light that made Blue’s eyes itch. He glanced at Paul – his old friend was looking extremely uncomfortable. Blue could well understand why. Back in the old days, the presence of just one Mysteron construct had been enough to trigger a spinning nausea and pounding headache. What must it be like for him to be in the Mysterons’ home city?
Half-seen shadows flitted in and out of peripheral vision, melting in and out of the weird light in the walls. Blue had the strangest feeling that the shadows’ movements had purpose. When they came to a junction of corridors, there was always more activity in one direction than in another, and there was an almost irresistible compulsion to follow that activity. Blue decided that the shadows were acting as guides. Or lures…
The atmosphere of total alienness was starting to tell on them both. Paul hadn’t spoken for what seemed like hours. More than once, he stumbled, and would have fallen had Blue not grabbed his arm to steady him. A little desperately, Blue started to wonder if they’d have to spend the rest of their lives wandering around these endless corridors. As they rounded yet another corner, and yet another vista of half-perceived colour and shadow opened up in front of them, Blue suddenly realised where he’d seen a place like this before. As a child, he’d once had a nightmare of running down such corridors, each one leading to another, then another, and still another, corridors without end or destination. In the dream, he’d had no idea what he was doing there, or why it was so important to reach wherever he was supposed to go. This was that nightmare.
The words, spoken softly, nevertheless crashed into the all-enveloping silence like a thunderclap. Blue stopped, and turned to look at Paul. “Almost where?” he asked. He could barely raise his voice above a whisper. To speak out loud in this – place – was almost like shouting in church.
Paul shook his head. It looked as if that slight movement was almost more than he could manage. “Don’t know. I just know we’re almost there.”
Blue looked around. The shadows had paused, too, as if they were waiting. One of them started to move again, then the rest followed, slowly at first.
“The guides are getting impatient,” Blue said. “Come on. Not much further now.”
At the far end of the corridor was an actinic glow that hid whatever was behind it from sensitive human eyes. Blue and Paul stopped, shielding their eyes from the glare, unwilling to simply walk into the unknown. As they paused, uncertain of their next move, Paul became aware of a sensation of non-physical pressure behind him. Reluctantly, he turned his head.
“Adam,” he murmured. “Don’t look now, but I think our hosts want us to stay…”
Blue looked round, too. Behind them, the shadows had emerged from the walls, and now floated behind them, ranked in an ethereal but impenetrable barrier. Without quite knowing how, Blue knew that trying to get through that immaterial barrier would be the last mistake he would ever make.
He swallowed hard, then faced front again. “Doesn’t look like we have much choice. Ready?”
Paul squared his shoulders with an effort. “As I’ll ever be.”
The shadows closed in behind them, as together, they walked into the light.
It was impossible to gauge the size of the space in which they found themselves. The domed ceiling, the curved walls, seemed to float in and out of perspective. Coloured lights flickered at the edge of vision. Blue could have sworn they’d taken no more than a few steps, but already, they were far, far away from their point of entry. A patch of wavering darkness against the solid glare of light faded imperceptibly, and was gone – their guides had seen them to their destination and had now left.
Blue glanced worriedly at Paul, then stopped short, pulled up by shock. Paul looked as if he were hypnotised, or possessed – his eyes were glazed and unfocused, his expression blank. Blue had seen that kind of expression before, on a Mysteron agent on the verge of completing a mission. To see it on Paul’s face made Blue’s blood run cold. His hand stole down to the phaser clipped to his belt. It was set on Kill.
“They’re calling me.”
In the total silence, Paul’s voice made Blue almost jump out of his skin. There was something about Paul’s tone that made Blue look at his friend carefully – the rapt expression was a rictus. Paul was struggling against the insidious pull of the Mysterons, his human mind battling the implanted instincts of his cloned body. The conflict was agonising.
“So. One who is of us, and one who is not.”
The new voice was cold and sharp, like breaking glass. Paul’s head snapped round in the direction of the voice, and Blue, despite the fact that he’d never heard it before, recognised it as the true voice of the Mysterons. The familiar deep, sonorous drone had been a travesty of this voice.
Moving jerkily, as if sleep-walking, Paul moved forward. Perforce, Blue followed, as the walls folded around them.
It was with little or no surprise that Blue realised they were now standing in a room of roughly the same size and appearance as the heart of the complex in Crater 101, on the Moon. Just a few paces away was a hexagonal console, and in the middle, emitting a beam of coruscating light upwards into the unseeable heights of the complex, was a gigantic pulsator. Bigger than any Blue had seen before, this pulsator exuded sheer menace. This was what they had detected, from millions of miles away in the asteroid belt. The source of the Mysterons’ power. The King Pulsator.
“You are quite correct.”
With a start, Blue realised that he’d consciously recalled the memory of that long-ago mission, and that the Mysterons, if indeed the voice and the pulsating glow ahead was them, had read it in his mind. He wished now that he’d taken Deanna Troi up on her offer to teach him Betazoid mental discipline.
“Why are you here? Do you not know that to intrude means death?”
“Yes, we know,” Paul replied, his voice little more than a whisper, but steady and firm. “As do the Vaachi, and the Qtari.”
“The Qtari are as one with the Mysterons. They are at peace.”
“They are dead!”
“No. They live. They breathe. They prosper.”
“They are slaves. Their race is stagnant. They worship you as gods. Is that what you had in mind for Earth, too?”
“Your race is violent and uncontrolled. You must be destroyed.”
“Because you are violent and uncontrolled. What other reason need there be?”
“You are the ones who must be destroyed,” Paul replied hoarsely. “You cannot be permitted to destroy the lives of any more races.”
“Paul!” Blue hissed. “For pity’s sake, what are you doing?”
Paul didn’t seem to hear him.
“Brave and foolish words, Earthman. But what can you accomplish, alone and unarmed, that armies and weapons have failed in?”
Paul lunged towards the console, plunging his hands into the column of light. The Mysterons reacted instantly. Green rays stabbed out from the console, freezing Paul in mid-leap, holding him suspended in the air.
“Oh no, you don’t!” Blue growled. He drew his phaser, but had taken no more than a step towards the console when another green bolt swatted him contemptuously aside, bathing him in the same green glow that held Paul.
Blue tried to stand, but the light held him imprisoned like iron bars. Struggling against his confinement, Blue was furious with himself and with the Mysterons. This was why Q had brought him here, and he had failed. He could only watch in helpless rage and terror as the Mysterons turned their attention back to Paul.
“We should kill you. But you were once an instrument of our vengeance. As you were once, so you shall be again.”
Green rings passed up and down Paul’s body – through the glowing walls of his cage, Blue could see that Paul was trying to fight the influence, his face contorted in a rictus of agony. Then slowly, his expression relaxed, and his head dropped forward. The light surrounding him dimmed, and he was lowered gently to the floor.
“Good. Kill the human.”
“Oh my God, Paul, no!” Blue whispered. “Fight it, please!”
Paul turned slowly to face him, his eyes cold and implacable. Without taking his eyes off Blue, he spoke in a cold, clear voice: “Release the barrier. This is where it ends, Adam. The final hand.”
Heart pounding, Blue leapt to his feet as the light around him faded. A lethal bolt of energy from his phaser missed Paul by millimetres, sizzling into the console as the Englishman dived sideways, towards the massive pulsator.
Grasping the fiercely glowing crystal in both hands, Paul wrenched it away from its mounting; his body arched in indescribable pain as the glow rose to unbearable heights, sending scintillating lances of white light stabbing through him. Enraged beyond measure, the Mysterons unleashed their full fury on this Earthman who dared defy their power, who dared lay hands on the King Pulsator… green beams sent dozens of rings snaking over their attacker’s body, paralysing him as the pulsator burned the skin from his flesh. All the while, their voice pounded in his head, “Replace the crystal, or you will be destroyed!”
But in concentrating on their erstwhile slave, the Mysterons had forgotten Blue. Bolt after bolt of energy poured from his phaser into the console, targeting the sources of the rings. One by one, the emitters died in showers of sparks.
A cry of pure agony tore from Paul’s throat as, released at last, he raised the King Pulsator above his head, and sent it smashing to the floor to shatter into thousands of pieces. He dropped like a stone, and lay motionless on the floor.
Echoing Paul’s cry, the Mysterons screamed their frustration as their power began to fail.
“C’mon, pal, let’s get out of here!” Blue grabbed Paul and heaved him over his shoulder, making for the nearest wall. But the wall remained solid – there was no way out.
Easing Paul back down to the floor, Blue pounded the wall with his fists in thwarted desperation, until an unexpected touch almost made him jump out his skin. He turned – against all expectations, Paul was alive, and awake.
“Help me to stand, Adam. I can get us out of here.”
Incredulously, Blue stared for a brief moment at the terribly burned face of his friend, then knelt, easing him gently up. Paul stroked his mutilated fingers along the wall, searching for the right spot. Blue supported him as he searched, casting anxious glances over his shoulder. The ruined console now seemed a long way away – whatever power the Mysterons had used to manipulate space had been negated by the destruction of the crystal. However, it was now becoming all too apparent that the same power had also maintained the physical structure of the complex – a lethal shard of metal crashed down from the ceiling, hitting the floor only a few metres from where they stood.
“Paul, I don’t want to rush you, but –”
“Almost… got it. This is… difficult for me…”
The ground trembled under their feet. “Paul –”
“Just… a little longer… Here it is!”
Paul flattened his hand on a patch of wall, ignoring the crackling of his blackened skin. A gap appeared under his hand, rapidly opening wide enough to allow them both through.
Paul took one step, then his legs gave way, and he collapsed to the floor.
Despite the urgency of escape, Blue knelt beside him. He looked into the ruined blue eyes of his old friend. “Leave me, Adam. The walls will open for you, just go straight ahead. The shuttle is quite close. They were playing with our minds when we came in.” Paul smiled slightly, and some of the charred skin on his face flaked off. “But I was better than them, in the end…” His voice trailed away, an indefinable something left his body, and he lay still.
Blue closed his eyes and bowed his head. When the Mysteron influence is removed, their constructs simply – drop dead… “I’m damned if I’m leaving you here, Paul,” he murmured. “You deserve a better grave than this.”
Once again, he scooped his dead friend up from the floor, and started towards the next wall. As Paul had promised, another gap opened. Blue hurried through it – the ground tremors were getting worse, and he could hear the crash of falling metal and masonry behind him. It was almost like magic – every time he approached a wall, another archway opened, then collapsed as soon as he’d gone through.
Racing the destruction, Blue passed through wall after wall – the corridors were gone now, as were the shifting patterns of light and shadow. Large cracks traced every visible surface but it was as if some enormous power was supporting the complex ahead of him, only relaxing its hold once he had passed.
With a near-sob of relief, Blue saw the shuttle, gleaming in the half-light. Oh God, please let me be able to open the door! he prayed silently, but his guardian angel was obviously still with him – the door opened as soon as he touched the panel.
Gently, but hurriedly, Blue secured Paul’s body onto one of the passenger couches. He strapped himself into the pilot’s seat, and fired up the engines, hoping against hope that the same magic that had got him through the walls would open the ceiling. But Heaven helps those who help themselves, he thought, firing a phaser blast.
The shuttle shot through the jagged hole in the ceiling, up and away from the convulsing, dying Mysteron complex.
Expecting every second to be snared by the rings again, Blue poured on the power, ignoring everything he’d ever been told about the dangers of going to impulse power within an atmosphere. But the Mysterons appeared to have too much else on their minds to worry about him – their complex was crumbling, wrenched apart by seismic convulsions. On the rear-view scanner, Blue saw sprays of lava spurting from cracks in the ground – one spectacular jet lanced up through the heart of the complex itself. And in a final, cataclysmic chain reaction, the Mysterons’ home city blew itself apart in an inconceivable orgy of fire and destruction.
On Qtar, millions of bodies lay dead in the streets of their now-silent cities…
On a remote planet, the remnants of the free Vaachi crept out of the mountain caves in which they’d hidden for generations, looking in wonder at the litter of corpses that lay everywhere…
In Martian orbit, scientists on Starfleet’s Utopia Planitia ship-building facility recorded a massive seismic disturbance at the site of the long-abandoned, and forbidden, Mysteron complex…
On countless other planets, the death of the Mysterons was witnessed with awe and wonder…
Numbed with grief, Blue had no conscious recollection of navigating the two asteroid belts that lay between him and Enterprise. He scarcely seemed to see as a team of Doctor Crusher’s medics collected Paul’s body from the shuttle. Picard himself escorted Blue to sickbay, but Blue was oblivious to the honour. The doctors determined that Blue was suffering from a severe reaction to the stress of his mission and Paul’s death, and prescribed mild sedatives and a lot of TLC; Blue simply accepted everything without comment.
Outside, the stars were streaking past – Enterprise was heading back to Earth, so that Paul could be buried near his parents, in the ancient city of Winchester. It had been almost a week now, since Blue had brought the shuttle back home. For all of that time, Paul had lain in a sterile environment in sickbay, watched over by an anxious medical team who had finally, and sadly, come to the conclusion that he had not survived the destruction of his creators. The Mysterons had claimed their final victim.
“It was when he said ‘This is where it ends, Adam. The final hand.’ That’s when I knew he’d beaten them. Paul always was a sneaky son-of-a-bitch. He knew how the Mysterons talked, and he knew that I knew, too. That’s why he quoted that last conversation we had with you, Captain, before leaving Enterprise, and why he referred to the endless games of poker we played to pass the time. He knew the Mysterons wouldn’t say anything like that, if they thought they had the upper hand. He knew I’d pick up on it.”
Blue fell silent, looking down at the table. A smear of spilled liquid from his glass seemed to hold his entire attention. Picard had no idea how to answer him; every phrase that came into his mind seemed too trite. This man was adrift, centuries from home, alone, and he had just lost his best friend. Right now, Picard could cheerfully have strangled Q for dumping Adam Svenson into such a terrible situation.
It was with a certain amount of guilty relief that Picard answered a beep from his combadge. “Crusher here. Captain, is Adam with you?” Doctor Crusher’s voice, taut with suppressed excitement, issued clearly from the badge. Picard glanced up at Adam, gazing into his glass of synthohol, oblivious to the call. If ever a man needed a real drink, Picard thought.
“Yes, Beverly, he is. We’re in Ten Forward.”
“Could you both come to sickbay straightaway, please? There’s something he has to see.”
Hope flared in Picard as he acknowledged the summons; he tapped Blue’s arm to attract his attention, and smiled. “Doctor Crusher wants to see us,” he said when Blue looked up.
Blue nodded dully, and followed Captain Picard out of the bar.
The normally calm and collected doctor was almost jigging on the spot as the captain and Blue entered sickbay. Her smile was threatening to split her face in two – Blue gazed at her, a mixture of disbelief and joy growing in his heart. He hardly dared ask, but he had to: “Is he…?”
“Yes,” Crusher replied. “He’s still unconscious, but vital signs restarted about ten minutes ago, just before I called you. You can go in and see him.” She gestured towards a small side-ward. Blue stepped eagerly forward, not even noticing that Picard didn’t follow him. Beverly Crusher noticed, though, and nodded with sympathetic approval. “He needs to be alone for this,” she said softly.
Blue entered the dimly-lit room, and approached the bio-bed. Paul lay under the diagnostic canopy, heavy bandages still swathing his hands and hiding his face. But he was alive again. That was all that mattered.
Now that it had finally re-started, retrometabolism got to work quickly. It had some terrible injuries to cope with, and the replicators worked overtime to produce the high-protein, high-calorie liquid food that Paul needed to fuel the process. Deanna Troi was a frequent visitor, helping Paul over the trauma of the mission, as were Blue, Data, Picard – it seemed sometimes that just about everyone on the ship called in on some pretence or other. There was, however, one person conspicuous by his absence. There was still no sign of Q.
Some days later, Blue and Paul sat at their favourite table in Ten Forward. It had been a week packed with events – the top brass of the Federation had called Picard and Blue to Starbase 4346 for questioning about the Qtari affair. Despite the fact that he had still not quite recovered, Paul had insisted on attending the hearing. It had taken three days, and the reports from various other points of mass-death of Mysteron clones, to convince both Starfleet and the Federation of the necessity and rightness of what Paul and Blue had done, and by the end of it, Paul was almost prostrate with exhaustion. He’d submitted to Doctor Crusher’s furious scolding with a meekness that astonished Blue, and it was only the fact that he’d gone straight back to bed and behaved himself perfectly for the next couple of days that had persuaded her to let him out during the day. “And you’re off-duty until I say otherwise,” she’d warned him. “I don’t care what happens, you’re to take it easy for a while. And I’ve told the captain that, too, so don’t go running to him.”
Paul was only too happy to comply. Physically, he was almost completely recovered, but he’d been left with a lethargy that simply wouldn’t go away. At the same time, he felt a kind of restlessness, an inner compulsion pushing him to – well, he had no idea what it was pushing him to. All he knew was that he was finding it very hard to relax.
“I think I could settle here pretty easily,” Blue said. “Looks like I might have to, anyway. No luck with contacting Q?”
Paul shook his head. “No. Not a peep out of him. Still, he’s like a bad penny, turns up when you least expect him to.”
“What does he look like, anyway?” Blue asked. “Never did get to actually see him.”
“Rather patrician-looking,” Paul replied, after due consideration. “Short hair, aquiline nose, usually looks at people as if they’re a bad smell.”
Blue laughed at the description. “I’ll have to keep a look-out for him,” he remarked. He finished his drink, then indicated Paul’s equally empty glass. “Another one?”
“Why not. I am off duty, after all.”
Blue turned to signal the bar tender, but the bar was somewhat busier now than it had been when they’d arrived – a group of people had just come in and were clustered around the bar. “I’ll go and get them,” Blue said. “Won’t be long.”
As he waited for his turn to be served, Blue gazed out of the window at the stars. Amazing what you can get used to, he mused. He remembered, as clearly as if it were yesterday, his reaction to his first sight of the stars streaming past in smears of light, his first sight of aliens, his first realisation that he was actually living what seemed like a scenario from a science fiction movie. And what a movie! Strange planets, aliens and the bad guys vanquished once and for all. He looked over at Paul, who was talking to a short alien in an ensign’s uniform and a head-dress – Nog, the Ferengi, if he remember correctly. What a strange life he’s had. And if he could survive that holocaust the Mysterons subjected him too, what else could he survive?
Blue smiled to himself, then turned towards the bar – and found himself looking at a stranger. A stranger with an aquiline nose and a supercilious smile, who said, “Closing time…”
The room was plunged into darkness, with a shocking suddenness. The starscape outside the windows altered dramatically, and in the immediate foreground, instead of tables and chairs, there were lush plants, silhouetted against the dark sky and the moon. Blue stared around him a little wildly. This isn’t Ten Forward! Where the hell am I this time?
As he struggled to re-orient himself, he heard a familiar voice calling out from behind him:
“Adam! There you are! I’ve been looking all over the place for you. The Old Man wants to see us right away.”
With an enormous sigh of relief, Blue turned to face his friend and partner, and the final wisps of confusion vanished. I’m back on Cloudbase! Thank heaven for that…
“Where did you get to?” Captain Scarlet asked, as they left the Garden Room together. “I said I’d meet you in the gym, but when you didn’t show up –”
Blue shook his head. “Paul, you’ll never believe it…”
He stopped speaking abruptly as they passed a maintenance worker in the corridor. A maintenance worker who smiled superciliously, shook his head and held a finger to his lips. Naughty, naughty…
With the merest nod of acknowledgement, Blue continued along the corridor, ignoring Scarlet’s “What won’t I believe?” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of blue light – he stopped for a moment, suddenly disoriented.
“Adam? Is something wrong?”
Scarlet’s voice, concerned, solicitous… Blue frowned. Paul… there was something he’d been about to say to Paul. What on earth had it been?
“Adam! Are you all right?”
Blue pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. He took a deep breath, and let it out in a sigh. “Yes,” he said, opening his eyes again and smiling at his partner. “I’m fine. Just a bit of a headache. Some of those night-flowering plants in there are a little pungent. Well, come on! Didn’t you say the Old Man wants us?”
Paul stopped in front of the door to Holodeck 4, pressed a couple of buttons, and spoke out loud. “Computer, run program Scarlet-1.”
After a barely discernible pause, the contralto voice of the computer confirmed that the program was running. The doors swished open, and Paul stepped into the Control Room of Cloudbase.
They were all here. Colonel White sat behind the round desk, and Lieutenant Green acknowledged Scarlet’s arrival with a nod. Four colour captains and five Angels sat on the stools around the desk. No-one spoke – they were just – there. And so was someone else.
“Q,” Paul sighed, “this is my fantasy. Go and find your own.”
Q stood up from his perch at the end of Green’s desk. “I find the capacity of the human mind to wallow in nostalgia endlessly fascinating,” he remarked. “You haven’t run this program for years, and now, you immerse yourself in it. Why is that?”
Paul didn’t take his eyes off the tableau around the desk. “You wouldn’t understand, Q. Now, just go away, will you?”
The entity moved around in front of Paul, to stand facing him. He shook his head sadly. “I thought better of you, Paul, really I did. Now, I find that you’re just like all the others. Narrow. Limited.”
“It’s called ‘being human’, Q.”
Q brushed an imaginary speck of lint from his immaculate, wine-red Spectrum tunic. “I knew you could do it, of course,” he said. “You just needed that little push. Let me be perfectly honest with you, though – I was quite impressed. You were dead, but you still managed to open all those gateways. Your primitive friend thought you were a guardian angel, watching over his every move. Isn’t that sweet?”
Paul nodded vaguely. He wasn’t really listening. Neither, although his eyes were fixed in that direction, was he looking at Q or the scene from his past. Instead, he could see in his mind’s eye the coruscating light from the King Pulsator. Once again, he felt its raw power burning into his mind and body. Oh yes, Q had had it right. He had the innate ability – he just had to reach it, focus on it, use it…
Dreamily, he raised a hand and snapped his fingers, and Q vanished in a flash of red light and a receding cry of “That’s my boy!”
Paul smiled to himself. Well, he mused, mostly human, anyway.
He took one last look at his old friends and colleagues. Everyone needed an anchor to their past. It was too easy to get lost if such an anchor wasn’t available when needed. But you had to remember to weigh the anchor when it wasn’t needed. He walked slowly towards the Control Room doors, turned, and saluted.
“Computer – end program.”
Art by Gary Hurtze,
Visual Effects Producer in Star Trek, The Next Generation
and Star Trek Deep Space Nine
Characters, concepts and equipment from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons are © Carlton International Media Limited. Characters, concepts and equipment from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation are © Paramount Pictures. I’m simply borrowing them for a little while, and will put them back when I’m finished.
The ‘Kirk Slingshot Manoeuvre’ is the time-travel trajectory around the sun, taken by James T. Kirk and his crew in a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey, in the film Star Trek: The Voyage Home, my favourite of the original cast films.
Many thanks to Chris Bishop, Caroline Smith, Sue Stanhope, Mary Rudy, and Marion Woods for their input and patience (a.k.a. ‘nagging’) with my notorious writer’s block.
I’ve been toying with the idea of putting Captain Scarlet into Starfleet for some years now. After all, if he’s indestructible, he could well be immortal, and if he’s immortal, or at the very least, a long-lifer, he could very well still be around at the time of Starfleet and the Federation.
I put him with the Klingons initially, partly because it amused me to juxtapose two very different physical types, and partly because the Klingons as a race respect warriors. Paul is certainly that.
Whether the Captain Scarlet universe, as created by Gerry Anderson and expanded on in comics, annuals and fanfics, can be reconciled with the Star Trek universe, is a bit doubtful, to be honest. However, more than one story talks of atomic war in the time leading up to the creation of Spectrum, and the first ST:TNG story, not to mention that fab film Star Trek: First Contact, also features atomic war in the late 2050s, just before Zefram Cochrane made his first warp-flight.
To anyone inclined to quibble that the momentous First Contact, when the Vulcans landed on Earth to shake hands with Cochrane, was never mentioned in Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons – well, I shall fall back on the trusty fan-writer’s defence: it wasn’t specifically ruled out, either. So as long as I haven’t committed too many breaches of canon, I hope I can be forgiven for taking a few liberties with two of my favourite television series. It’s been done with love.