by L.G. Fugate
Colonel Steve Zodiac was ready to return to Earth. Fireball XL5's patrol of Sector 25 for the World Space Patrol had been really hectic this time around, with space weather acting up all over the place. Neither Professor Matthew Matic nor Dr. Venus had any idea of what was going on, and Commander Zero back in Space City had also been unable to come up with an explanation. All Steve knew was that Fireball XL4 was taking their place in Sector 25, and they were heading home for a much deserved rest. "Robert, hold course for Earth." Steve ordered. Robert the Robot responded by repeating the order. Steve then left Fireball Junior for the comfort of the lounge, where Venus had a hot pot of coffee waiting.
Suddenly, he found himself being thrown to the deck as Fireball lurched and pitched. He made his way back to Fireball Junior as fast as he could. Opening the door, he was shocked to see not bright points of stars set against the black velvet of space, but a maelstrom of swirling light and color outside of Junior's viewports. Robert was fighting a losing battle to keep the ship steady, and smoke was shooting from his head in a steady stream. Steve got to his control seat and joined the battle as the ship pitched and yawed even more violently than before. Steve called into the intercom, "Matt! Venus! Are you all right? Hang on - I'm going to try and get us out of this!". Reaching across to the control panel beside him, he fired the main retros. No effect. He tried to turn Fireball away from the storm, but he couldn't. Finally, in desperation, he fired the main boosters. Maybe they could kick Fireball away from the storm. With red lights flashing, and klaxxons blaring, Steve passed out from the intense speed. With a strangely blinking light glaring in the foward viewport, Fireball wavered, blinked, then disappeared.
"Captains' Log, Stardate 5234.6. We are completing patrol of our assigned sector and are preparing to set course to Starbase 3 for resupply and reassignment. Mr. Spock reports that he is picking up a strange variation in a local pulsar, which we will investigate before leaving the sector." Kirk switched the log off and turned to Spock, at his Science station. He was peering intently into the hood of his viewer, apparently fascinated by what he was observing. "Spock", Kirk said, "what's the current status of the pulsar?" "Captain, it appears that the pulsar is undergoing some sort of gravimetric shift.", Spock replied without even lifting his head from the viewer. "As you know, a pulsar is a neutron star that rotates rapidly, throwing out a beam of radio-frequency photons as it goes around, much like the lighthouses of your old earth did. My observations show that this particular pulsar's frequency has shifted down to a much slower speed, then back to it's normal speed in a matter of an hour. This is very unusual behavior for such a body, and we are the only starship in the area to study it."
Kirk looked at the star on the main viewscreen. Even at this distance, the gravitational waves the pulsar was radiating were causing the great starship to rock occasionally. "I don't think we can get much closer, Spock, without endangering the ship. Will you be able to get the data you need to study the star from here?", Kirk asked. Spock stood, and approached Kirk. "I recommend that we launch a class one probe to get closer to the star. It will be able to ride out the gravity waves better than the Enterprise, and it's sensors can be precisely tuned to get the information we need." Kirk considered a moment, then agreed. "Agreed, Spock. Mr.Sulu, work with Spock to outfit a class one probe to be sent closer to the pulsar. We'll monitor it's progress from here."
Two hours later, the probe was on it's way. Spock and Sulu were monitoring intently. "Captain, the probe is picking up an unusual entergy pattern. It appears to be a craft of some kind, and is moving rapidly away from the pulsar.", Spock said. "Sulu, get it on visual", Kirk ordered as he quicky regained his command chair. This pulsar was very unusual to begin with, and now an unknown ship was beating a quick retreat from the heart of the disturbance? Sulu spoke, "On screen, Captain. It doesn't match any ships in the Federation database. It's current speed is nearly Warp 1.5 and it's accelerating." Kirk turned to Spock, "Spock, any ideas on what that ship is doing here? Could it have been damaged by the distrubance?" Spock took another look at the probe data and shook his head. "Insufficent data, Captain." Kirk turned to Uhura, "Uhura, try to contact them." "Yes, sir. Hailing frequencies open..", she said. " Kirk spoke up, "This is the Federation Starship Enterprise to unknown ship moving away from the pulsar. Do you require assistance? Please respond." Silence filled the bridge. "No response, Captain.", Uhura said. "Mr. Sulu, pursuit course. I want us to overtake that ship as quickly as possible. Mr. Scott - stand by on tractor beams. We may have a runaway ship to rescue."
As Enterprise approached the unknown ship, the viewscreen was able to show some detail. "Spock," Kirk said, "It appears that the pods and fin sport some kind of name - X, L, 5. Check our databanks for anything similar or related." Spock consulted the library computer console for a moment. "No, sir, it does not correspond to any entry in the Federation data banks." Kirk frowned. An unknown ship possibly from an unknown race might be a larger problem than the pulsar... "Uhura, continue hails on all frequencies, and have Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott meet me in the transporter room to beam over to that ship. Sulu, you have the con, Spock, you're with me."
Aboard Fireball, Steve lay slumped in the pilot's seat, unconcious. Robert was beginning to stir, though. As he processed the current situation, he realized that Fireball was still accellerating, and that Steve was incapacitated. His emergency programming dictated that in situations where the commander was disabled, that the safety of the ship and it's occupants were his chief concern. Robert cut the engine and fired the main retros to stop the ship. He then extended his claw and nudged Steve's shoulder several times. Steve moaned, but didn't stir.
Kirk and the landing party had just entered the transporter room when Sulu called. "Transporter Room from Bridge! The unknown ship has just stopped dead in space! I'm bringing the Enterprise out of warp and coming around to transporter range now - please stand by." Kirk strode to the Transporter Room Bridge Monitor screen and activated it. The screen showed the unknown ship coming back into view, this time from the front as Enterprise approached it after overshooting it. "Captain Kirk", Sulu called, "We're now at transporter range from the unknown ship. Dr. McCoy, we're reading four life signs, three of them are human." "Thank you, Mr. Sulu", Kirk said, then turned and joined the landing party on the transporter pads. "Energize!"
The landing party materialized in Fireball Junior. McCoy, seeing Steve slumped over the control yoke, moved to his side and began running a medical scanner over his unconcious form. "Jim, he's human, and has a minor concussion. He'll be okay as soon as I get him back to Sickbay." Kirk glanced at Robert, who was still holding the ship steady. "Spock, what do you make of this--robot?" Spock, who was scanning the controls with his tricorder, turned to Robert and scanned him. "This is a mechanized computer, Captain. It contains no weapons and is programmed to fly the ship.", Spock said. Looking around, Kirk said, "Well, let's go aft and see if we can find the rest of the crew. Scotty, can you work that door?" Scott stepped up to the door out of Junior, and after a quick inspection of the controls, punched the button that opened it.
As they moved thru the corridor, Spock and Scott scanned everything. They soon came to a large room that held a round desk with a chair in the middle. Professor Matic was lying half-on and half off the table with his feet in the chair. His glasses, while still on his head, were twisted so that they rested on the back of head instead of the front. McCoy scanned him. "He's in the same condition as the man up front, Jim. I wonder if the others are in the same condition." Moving on thru the door at the back of the room, and down another corridor, they entered what looked to be a Sickbay. A low moan came from a pile of furniture and glassware that had been thrown to the floor. Kirk and McCoy quickly began digging down thru the rubble to find Venus, unconcious and bleeding from her forehead. Her arms were wrapped protectively around a small, furry animal that was also unconcious. McCoy scanned her quickly, then sprayed an antibiotic on her wound. "She's okay, no concussion, and the cut on her head isn't serious at all. As far as I can tell from my instuments, the animal is just unconcious, although I don't claim to be a veternarian." Spock, who had been scanning the room with his Tricorder, said, "Captain, we appear to have found all four lifeforms that our sensors had indicated. I can find no other forms of life on board." Kirk picked Venus up and carried her to one of the beds. Laying her down gently, he told Scott and Spock to bring the other two men to the Sickbay. As they left, he turned to McCoy. "Bones - are you sure these people are human? We have no record of this ship or anything remotely like it - I'm having trouble believing they're from Earth or an Earth-colony." McCoy rescanned Venus and said, "Confirmed, Jim. They're as human as you or I." Kirk frowned. He hated puzzles. Just then, Scott and Spock returned with the unconcious forms of Steve and Matt. He picked Venus up again and said, "Okay then, Bones, grab the animal and let's get them back to our Sickbay. Maybe we can learn more when they've recovered."
Later, as Kirk attended to his duties on the bridge, the intercom beeped. "McCoy here, Captain. Our guests will be waking up any moment. Did you want to be on hand when they do?" "I'll be right there, Bones. Spock - take the con. I'll be in Sickbay." He exited the bridge quickly and in moments was striding thru the doors of Sickbay. McCoy was standing over Venus, running a scanner over her head and checking the readings on the instrument. Kirk stopped, waiting for him to finish. He hadn't noticed how beautiful she was back on the other ship. McCoy, noticing Kirk's bemused expression, said, "Well, Jim, come on in. She's not going to bite you." Under his breath he said "At least not yet." Kirk stepped into the room and stood beside McCoy. Venus's eyes fluttered open, then closed again, as if hurt by the soft light in the room. When they finally opened, she muttered, "Oh, that Lazoon. What am I going to do with him?" Kirk moved into her line of sight.
"I'm Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise", he began, "we saw your ship apparently out of control and came to help. We found you and your crewmates unconcious and brought you back to our ship for treatment." Her eyes went wide in surprise as she realized she wasn't dreaming. As she started to sit up, her head began to throb and she stopped. "Now, I wouldn't be trying to sit up just now, miss.", McCoy said. He helped her back to the pillow. "I'm Dr. Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer of this ship. You have a minor wound to your head, but you'll be all right with some rest." Feeling the bandage on her head, she said, "I'm Venus, Doctor of Space Medicine for our ship, Fireball XL5. Are Steve and Matt okay?" She turned her head the best she could without it hurting more, and was able to see Steve and Matt, eyes closed, on the biobeds near her. "They received minor concussions, Dr. Venus, but they, too, will be fine after some rest.", McCoy said. "Oh! What about my Zoonie?" she said, not seeing him in the sickbay. McCoy replied, "Don't worry, he's in the next room. He was unconcious as well, but you did a good job of protecting him. What did you call him?" Venus smiled and said "He's my pet Lazoon, and I call him Zoonie. He's very intelligent, but always finding trouble!" Her eyes were having trouble staying open and they fluttered closed. McCoy told her to rest and motioned Kirk to step out into his office.
"Bones, do you have any information for me? I need to know where they came from. I've got Spock and Scotty over at their ship trying to find some evidence of their origin, but so far as they can tell, it and they come from Earth. The problem is, their technology is like nothing we have records of, and we have absolutely no data on them or the ship." McCoy shook his head. "Sorry, Jim. You just witnessed the only time any of them has been concious since we brought them here. I could wake them by administering a stimulant, but I'm afraid it may affect their recovery. They read as humans to our instruments, but since we have no way to tell if they truly are human, the best medicine is time. I'd estimate that they'll sleep about another 1 to 2 hours. Let's wait until then..." Kirk sighed. "Okay, you're the doctor. At least Spock and Scott should have completed their analysis by then."
One hour later, Kirk, Spock and Scott were in a briefing room, going over the Fireball data."Captain," Spock was saying, "They have no weapons like ours. The ship's main weapons are nuclear missiles, and we found several hand weapons that can best be likened to our phasers on stun, but using a technology that we have not seen before. The only computer I found aboard was the robot we saw flying the ship. While it is a magnificent work of engineering, it does not even begin to approach the sophistication of the Enterprises' main computer." He looked to Scott, who was studying a technical schematic of Fireball's main engine. "Mr. Scott has been working with the ships' engines." Scott looked up and shook his head. "Captain, I don't know why this works, but it obviously does. They use an unknown radioactive element to power what appears to be an impulse engine, but we clearly tracked them moving away from the pulsar, under power, at warp speed. I'll need to consult with their engineer to figure out how this works." Kirk studied his own monitor for a moment and then said, "Well, according to Doctor McCoy, they'll regain conciousness soon. We'll have to wait until we can talk to them to get this cleared up. In the meantime, try tracing their path from where we first picked them up backwards. Maybe we can find evidence of a wormhole, or some such thing...Dismissed."
Kirk was resting in his quarters when the call came from Sickbay. "Captain Kirk, please come to Sickbay immediately". He immediately set off, hoping that this time he'd get to talk to them. As he entered Sickbay, he heard McCoy trying to explain why they weren't on their ship. He immediately walked into the room where the unknowns were being treated and introduced himself to the group. "I'm Captain Kirk and this is the Federation starship Enterprise", he began. Steve turned immediately to face him. "I'm Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol and captain of Fireball XL5. "What's happened to my ship?". Kirk accepted Steve's outstretched hand and shook it seriously. "Colonel Zodiac, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the Enterprise. Your ship is nearby. Your robot seems intent on holding this position. As far as we can tell, your ship is undamaged. Unfortunately, much of your technology is foreign to us. Would you and your crew feel up to discussing what happened to you?" Steve looked around at Matt and Venus. Each nodded in turn to indicate they were fine and ready to follow his lead. Kirk, noting this exchange, nodded as well, and motioned for them to follow him. He lead them down the busy passageway to a briefing room where he indicated chairs for them. He thumbed the intercom switch and said, "I hope you don't mind, but I'd like my Science Officer and Chief Engineer to be here. Kirk to bridge - Mr. Spock, would you and Mr. Scott please join Colonel Zodiac and his crew and me in briefing room 2?" Spock responded, "Of course Captain. Mr. Scott and I will be there directly. Spock out." Kirk turned to the XL5 crew. "Is there anything I can get for you? Something to eat or drink?" Steve smiled. Not many enemies he had faced had offered him food and drink, so maybe this guy wasn't a threat. "Thank you, Captain Kirk. I'll have some coffee, if you have any." Matt chimed in, "I'll have some tea, please!" Venus just smiled and politely declined. As Kirk was ordering the drinks, she leaned over to Steve and whispered, "Do you think he's okay?" Steve leaned back to her and whispered, "I don't know yet, but I have a hunch he's okay. Let's play along and see." She nodded and turned to whisper the plan to Matt. Suddenly, the briefing room door swooshed open and Spock and Scott stepped in, followed closely by Yeoman Rand carrying a tray of drinks. She had thoughtfully brought a thermos of coffee and extra cups as well. She sat them in the middle of the table, then turned and left, giving Steve a big smile as she did. "Well", Steve thought to himself, "they sure are a friendly bunch!" Kirk, noticing the interchange, cleared his throat and handed out the drinks. "Colonel Steve Zodiac, I'd like to introduce my First and Science Officer, Mr. Spock, and my Chief Engineer, Commander Mongomery Scott." Steve stood and shook hands with them. "I'd like to introduce my crew, Captain. This is Venus, our Doctor of Space Medicine, and Professor Matthew Matic." Matt and Venus then shook hands with Spock and Scott. "Now then, Captain, where are we? Who are you? I don't remember any colonies like yours, and you certainly aren't from Earth, although you seem quite human." Kirk smiled. Here was a mind very much like his own, with the same questions he himself needed answered. "Colonel Zodiac, I was about to ask you the same thing. We are members of Starfleet, which is controlled by the United Federation of Planets. Mr. Scott and I do indeed come from Earth. Mr. Spock is from the planet Vulcan, which is in the 40 Eridani star system. We were monitoring unusual variations in a pulsar when your ship suddenly appeared, moving at extreme velocity. Fearing you were in trouble, we pursued and caught up to your ship just as it came to a complete stop in space. We found you and your crew in need of medical aid and brought you back to the Enterprise for treatment. We've checked your ship over, and it doesn't match any ship or technology in our records. We're as confused as you are." The XL5 crew looked at each other. Matt spoke up, "Ah, Captain, would you have a chart of this area of space I could see? I'd like to see if I can match up any star positions." Kirk turned to Spock. "Mr. Spock, please display a star chart of this sector, and mark it with our current position and that of the pulsar. Spocks' hands flew over the panel of the computer he was sitting at, and the tri-screen viewer in the middle of the table lit up with the desired chart. A flashing red dot indicated the pulsar, and two smaller flashing white lights indicated XL5 and Enterprise's positions. "Ah, okay, thanks.", Matt said as he began to study the chart. Steve, Venus, Kirk and Scott watched and waited. Spock continued to manipulate the computer console, performing calculations as Professor Matic called out stars he recognized. In minutes, it became obvious that Matt knew the area well. "Steve," he began, "We're almost right where we encountered that strange storm. The only difference I can find is that pulsar. It's wasn't on any of my maps back on Fireball." Spock, his right eyebrow arching high, spoke up. "Captain, it appears that Colonel Zodiac and his crew are from a slightly different dimension than we are. Much like that "mirror" universe you once described to me, they come from a reality adjacent to, but separate from our own. I theorize that the pulsar must be moving between dimensions, and happened to appear in Fireball's path. It's tremendous gravity and the spacial disturbance that accompanied it's eruption into their dimension must have thrown them into our dimension. It's possible that the link between the two dimensions is still intact. Our probe is still in the vicinity of the pulsar. I suggest that we use it to explore this possibility."
Kirk and Steve looked concerned. Each was thinking about the dangers this might impose on their ship and crew. Venus said, "Mr. Spock, do you mean that we are no longer in our own universe?" "Quite so, Dr. Venus.", Spock replied. "My calculations show that you were thrown from your continuum into ours by the pulsar. It may be possible to send you back the same way." Matt was calculating furiously on a pad that was given him. "Ah, Steve, I can confirm Mr. Spock's theory. I also confirm that he's right about us maybe being able to go home. We ah, need to get back to Fireball as soon as possible and check her over for damage. We're gonna need her in top shape for the return journey!" Kirk looked at Steve. Steve nodded and said, "Very well. Captain Kirk, if Mr. Spock could work out a course for our return trip, Matt and I will return to Fireball to check her over." Kirk said, "Very well, Colonel. Mr. Scott will accompany you back to your ship to assist. Anything you need from the Enterprise will be made available to you." As they all stood to leave, Venus turned to Steve and said, "Oh, I almost forgot about Zoonie! May I stay here and check on him? I'd also like to talk to Dr. McCoy about their medical science before we leave. I may be able to learn a few things from him!" Steve smiled. He was glad that she was taking this well, and the opportunity to learn from these new friends shouldn't be wasted. "That'd be fine, Venus. We'll contact you when we're ready to leave."
As they left the briefing room, Steve turned to Scott and said, "Mr. Scott, if you'll show us to your ejection room, we'll get going back to Fireball." "Ejection room? What's that? Surely you'll be wantin' to transport back your ship.", Scott said. "Transport? What's that?", Matt asked. "We'll just take our oxygen pills and use ah, thruster packs to cross over to Fireball. That's the fastest way I know of, since our docking port technology isn't compatible." Now Scott was really confused. "Y'mean that you want to spacewalk back to your ship? What about your spacesuits?" Steve laughed. Maybe these Federation people weren't so advanced after all. "We take an oxygen pill before going out into space, and we use a thruster pack to manuver in space. We haven't used spacesuits for years! Here. Take one of mine and show us to your airlock. We'll help you get across." Scott looked skeptical, but was intensely curious. He palmed the pill and led them to the airlock closest to their ship. "Tell you what,", he said. You can walk back to your ship and I'll transport over and meet ye." Steve and Matt grinned at each over and Matt said, "Okay. Last one over has to make the coffee!" Scott smiled and agreed. He showed them how to work the Starfleet thruster packs. After seeing that they were okay without suits in the vacuum, he then left them and proceeded to the transporter room. Steve and Matt left the Enterprise and floated over to Fireball. As they entered the airlock, they noticed a bright glow that quickly faded. Out of the glow stepped Scott, with an ear-to-ear grin. "Now, then, laddies, it appears to be a tie, doesn't it?" While Matt was fumbling for words, Steve laughed and clapped Scott on the shoulder and said, "I guess so, Mr. Scott - let's get to work. You can tell us how you did that while we do a systems check."
Back in the Enterprise Sick Bay, Venus was talking to McCoy. "You seem to be a very good doctor, Dr. McCoy.", she said. McCoy smiled and said, "Please, Dr. Venus, call me Leonard. You seem to be a pretty good doctor yourself. And that pet of yours! He's quite a handfull. Why does he constantly repeat "Howdy Folks" and "Welcome Home"?" Venus smiled, remembering Zoonie learning those phrases from Commander Zero when he first volunteered to care for him while she was out on an important mission. "He's really quite intellegent, Dr. McCo- oh, I mean Leonard. He's like a very intelligent parrot, able to mimic phrases he's exposed to. Our Commander Zero taught him to say those things to welcome me home after a long mission. I sometimes wonder if he knows what he's saying, and then he'll do something that makes me think he does. What about you? Do you have a pet, or a family?" McCoy's smile faded a bit as he said, "No ma'm, I don't. I was married a few years ago, but we divorced and I haven't seen her since. My daughter, Joanna, is studying to be a doctor, but it's been a few months since I've been able to see her. I'm sure she and I will get together the next time Enterprise gets back to Earth. Do you have family back on your Earth?" Now it was time for Venus' smile to dim a bit. "N-no, Leonard, I do not. My life is the World Space Patrol now, and they are my family, too." "I know just how you feel, Dr. Venus." And he held her hand and smiled into her big blue eyes. Blinking back a tear, she brightened her smile and said, "You really must call me Venus, Leonard. I would like that very much." "I'd like that too, Venus.", McCoy replied. Just before things got more interesting, they were both startled to hear "Hoooowdy, Foooolks!" from the doorway. There stood Zoonie, eyes slowly blinking, a big smile on his face. Venus rushed over to him and scooped him up in a big hug. "Oh, Zoonie, you're all right! Thank you, Leonard, for taking care of him. I would be lost without him!" Zoonie's only response was to lay his head on her shoulder and close his eyes, apparently lost in bliss. McCoy, blinking back a tear of his own, just smiled and nodded.
In Fireball's engine room, Scott was getting a lesson in Neutomic motors. Steve was performing checks while Matt called out instructions and explained the functions of different parts of the motor. Scott was lost in the details, soaking them up like a sponge. He'd already formulated seven different ways to incorporate this technology into the Enterprises' impulse engines. He and Matt had quickly found common ground in their love of engineering. "You know, ah-Scotty," Matt began, "You remind me of a fella we have back on our Earth at Space City. His name's Jock and he's also from Scotland. He's a real boss engineer, and is in charge of all maintenance at Space City. I think you'd like him a lot." Scott said, "He's the boss engineer? That's good for him. Maybe I'll get to meet him someday, if the interdimensional corridor stays open and our two universes agree to trade and technology exchanges." Matt looked confused and then realized what Scott had said. "No, no, Scotty. When I said he was a real boss engineer, I meant he was a real good engineer. We say 'boss' to indicate something's good." "Oh! "Boss". I see." Scott said. He preferred the more precise language of engineering. Coloqualisms confused him, like the time at Sigma Iota, when the gangster leader had captured Kirk, Spock and McCoy and was radioing his demands to the ship. Boy, was he glad to be away from there!
Suddenly, a loud crackle was heard over a speaker attached to a bulkhead. "sssssSpacccccee CCCCittty calllliingggg Fireball XXXXXL5!" Steve and Matt looked at each other. "Matt! That's Lieutenant Ninety calling us from Space City! I'll go forward and see if I can reach him. Stay here with Scotty and keep working on these systems checks." "Okay, Steve.", Matt replied. As Steve left, Scott turned to Matt and asked "Who's this 'Lieutenant Ninety'?". Matt said, "He's Commander Zero's aide back at our base at Space City. He's probably been trying to call us since we disappeared from their scopes when we crossed the pulsar 'bridge' to your universe. I'll bet Commander Zero is hoppin' mad by now!"
By this time, Steve had reached the control room in Fireball Junior. Throwing the switch for the Neutroni radio, he said, "Fireball XL5 to Space City - Come in Lieutenant Ninety - over!" Ninety's obviously overjoyed voice crackeled back, almost overpowered by static. "Colonel Zodiac! Boy, are we glad to hear from you!" "Give me that, Lieutenant!" came a gruff voice over the link. "Steve? What in SPACE has happened to you? You disappeared off of our scopes hours ago and we still can't find you! Where in BLAZES are you?" Steve smiled. Despite Zero's gruffness, he knew that the Commander was worried sick about him and his crew, he just couldn't let it show... "We're fine, Commander. We ran into an interdimensional bridge and were transported into another dimension. We've met friends here who are helping us to get back home. I'll have a complete report for you when we return. We should be able to attempt the return in about an hour. - Over." Static crashed and sizzled, and then Zero's voice could be heard faintly - "'d better have a good story for this one, Colonel! Report to me immediately upon your arrival!Space City out!"
When Steve had returned to the engine bay, Scott asked, "Were you able to communicate with your base?" Steve nodded. "The Neutroni radio apparently can transmit and receive across the interdimensional bridge. Say - do you use Neutroni radio on the Enterprise?" Scott shook his head. "Nay, I've n'er heard of it. Do ye have a spare one I can study? It'd be good to be able to communicate with ye during and after the crossing." "Sure thing, Scotty.", Matt said, "I'll get one of our spares for you to take back to the Enterprise, and I'll also show you how to hook it up." He walked away to carry out his task. Just then, Scott's communicator beeped.
communicator from his belt and flipping it open, her said, "Scott here.".
"Scotty, this is Kirk. We are tracking a Klingon
Battle Cruiser on long range sensors, apparently on course to these coordinates.
How are the checkouts going?" "Jus' fine, Cap'n. We've nearly finished, and Colonel
Zodiac was able to contact his base via their Neutroni
radio. They're gonna let us have one o'their spares to study and use to talk to them as they make
the trip back. How long do we have until those Klingons
"About an hour, Scotty - help them any way you can, but get it done quickly. Let me know when they're finished. Kirk out." Scott closed his communicator and turned back to Steve. Did ye hear about the Klingons?", he asked. Steve said, "Yes, but what's a 'Klingon', and why should we be worried about them?" "Och, they're baddun's fur sure", Scott said. "Mean as they come and always lookin' for a fight. Nothin' my Enterprise canna handle, but best ye' be on your way back home b'fore they get here!". Matt returned then, carrying a large box. "eh, Scotty, we're about done here. Why don't you and I return to the Enterprise and set this Neutroni radio up?" Steve turned to Matt and said, "Make it quick, Matt. There are some 'Klingons' headed this way, and according to Scotty, we don't want to be here when they arrive!" "Ah, okay, Steve. Scotty - could we use that 'transporter' of yours?" Scott smiled, "Sure, Matt. Come stand by me and I'll get us back to the Enterprise in two ticks of a cesium clock." He opened his communicator and said, "Scott to Enterprise, two to beam over." Steve's mouth dropped open in surprise as a bright sparkeling light enveloped Scott and Matic as they faded away. "Whoa!", he thought,
"I'm going to have to try that before we go!". He then turned back to his work.
In Sickbay, Venus and McCoy were finishing up comparing notes on the two universes' medical technology. "My, my, Leonard. Your people have certainly made a lot of advances in medicine. There are drugs and techniques here that we've never heard of, but, thanks to you, we'll be able to use to save many lives!" McCoy, looking through his own notes, said, "Venus, your people have some amazing advances, too. I'll be able to write several books on just my examinations of your and your crew alone, not to mention all of the things we've discussed here today." Lowering his eyes, he added quietly, "I wish we had more time to work together. I'm really going to miss you." Venus, her face suddenly wet with tears, whispered, "I'll miss you too, Leonard!" "Bridge to Doctor Venus." came a call from the ship's intercom. Venus wiped her eyes and moved to the viewer on McCoy's desk. Pressing a stud, she said, "Doctor Venus here.". Uhura appeared on the monitor. "Doctor Venus, I have a call for you from Colonel Zodiac aboard your ship. Would you like me to route it down to that terminal for you?" "Yes, Lieutenant, please." She put on a smile. She didn't want Steve to know she was sad about leaving McCoy. "Hi, Venus!", Steve said as his image appeared on the monitor. "Is everything ready to go? We need to leave as soon as possible because a 'Klingon' ship is approaching our position, and Captain Kirk is worried about them interfering with our entry into the pulsar's dimension bridge." "Yes, Steve, I've learned a lot from Dr. McCoy, and he's given me samples and other information to bring back to Space City with us. I'll get Zooney and come over right away." "Okay, Venus. Ask Dr. McCoy if you can use that 'transporter' of theirs. It's a lot quicker and easier than a jet pack, and you don't even need oxygen pills! Oh, and bring Matt with you, too. He went back to the Enterprise to help Mr. Scott install a Neutroni radio so that we can stay in contact with them."
"Very well, Steve. Venus out.". She pressed the stud again and Steve's image blipped off of the screen.
"Captain, I have a call for you from Colonel Zodiac aboard the Fireball XL5.", Uhura said. Kirk turned to her in his command chair and said, "On screen, Lieutenant." "Captain Kirk, this is Steve Zodiac. Do you read me?" Kirk smiled. He remembered his first experience with video communications. He was glad that Scotty had set them up with a communicator circuit, since their "Neutroni radio' was incompatible with any receivers aboard Enterprise. "Yes, Colonel Zodiac. Is everything ready to go?" "All I need now is my crew, Captain. They should be arriving any time now. I've fed Mr. Spock's course instructions to Robert, and he indicates we should have no problems following them. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you and your crew, Captain. I don't know what we'd have done without your help." "Colonel, I'd like to propose that, as long as the interdimensional bridge allows, we continue to communicate. I'm sure the Federation will want to assign an Ambassador to your dimension and possibly hold talks about trade and cultural exchanges." "I'm sure our government will want that, too, Captain. I know I'd like to have another chance to explore your Federation." "Captain," Sulu interrupted, "Klingon battle cruiser now at 10 minutes to intercept." Thank you, Mr. Sulu. Colonel, did you hear that?", Kirk asked. "Yes, Captain, I did. I hear Venus and Matt transporting over to Fireball now. Give us 5 minutes to get set up, and we'll be ready to go.Zodiac out."
Steve turned just in time to see Venus, Matt, and Zooney finish materializing out of seemingly thin air. "Boy, I wish I'd had a chance to try that!", he thought to himself. "Captain Kirk says we have ten minutes until those 'Klingons' get here. Get strapped in quickly so we can get going before they arrive." "Eh, sure, Steve.", Matt said as he turned to go to the Navigation bay. Venus stood a moment and watched Steve settle into his seat next to Robert. Stifling a deep sigh, she took Zooney's hand and led him back to Sickbay. He looked sadly at her as they moved out of Fireball Junior.
Kirk was getting nervous. If Fireball didn't get going, they might be attacked by the Klingons. "Mr. Sulu. Position us between Fireball and the Klingons. I want to make sure they make it into the interdimensional bridge." "Aye, sir. Shall I raise shields?" "No, not yet. I don't want to signal them that we're hiding something. Let's just make it look like we're studying the pulsar. But, keep your finger on the button, just in case."
"Okay, everybody strapped in?", Steve called over the intercom. "Zooney and I are ready.", Venus called back. "Me, too!", called Matt. "Okay, Robert, follow Mr. Spock's instructions and take us home." "TTTAAAAKKKEEE UUUUSSSSS HHHOOOMMMEEE", Robert repeated. Fireball's thrusters turned the great ship around to face the pulsar and it's mighty Neutomic main engine began to roar. Steve felt the pressure mount as the ship began to accelerate quickly. He knew that they were going to have to move as fast going home as they did arriving here. The pressure mounted quickly. He could feel himself begin to slip into unconsciouness. In the background, he could faintly hear what sounded like Kirk's voice calling. He had already turned the Neutroni radio on and called out above the roar of the engines, "I can't make out what you're saying, Captain! We're okay so far! Keep transmitting!" Outside Fireball Junior's windows, the stars became multicolored streaks. Steve's last thought before he passed out was how beautiful they were...
Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk and Scott were watching the viewscreen intently. Spock was bent over his viewer, calling out Fireball's speed. "Warp .5, Warp .75, Warp 1, Warp 1.6. Captain, they are entering the pulsar's gravity field. We'll loose sight of them in just a few seconds." "Keep watching, Spock. Uhura, has there been any further transmissions from Fireball?" She listened to her earpiece a moment, then answered, "No, Captain, but the channel is open and they are receiving." "Captain, they have entered the event horizon of the pulsar. I have lost them on all scanners. Switching to telemetry via their 'Neutroni radio...I have a signal. Telemetry reports all is well and they are on course. They should enter their own continuum in 3.5 seconds." Kirk smiled and said, "Very good, Spock. Keep on it and report any changes." He turned to Scott, who was also grinning. "Well, Scotty, did you learn much about their technology?" "Aye, sir, I did. I'm going to have to work on it a bit, but I'm sure we'll be able to use some of it to improve our own technology. In fact, with your permission, I'll return to Engineering to work on it." Kirk nodded, and Scott left the bridge. Looking around, he noticed that McCoy hadn't come to the bridge to see the XL5 crew off. Hitting the intercom button for Sickbay, he said, "Kirk to McCoy. Bones, are you there?" "McCoy here, Captain. What can I do for you?" Kirk thought he sounded a little odd, maybe a bit tired. "Just curious Bones. You didn't come up to see Colonel Zodiac and his crew off. I thought you would at least have wanted to see them get thru the interdimensional bridge." In his office in sickbay, McCoy was looking at an image on his viewer. It was a candid shot of Venus holding Zooney, all smiles and bright eyes. He turned to the intercom and said, "Not a problem, Captain, I've just been busy. You know, all that paperwork documenting the things we learned from them. Please be sure to let me know when they arrive in their dimension. McCoy out." Kirk knew better than to press McCoy when he was trying to hide an obvious emotional state. He released the intercom button and stared at the viewscreen, wondering what they were seeing.
"Captain, telemetry reports that Colonel Zodiac and his crew have rentered their own dimension. We should be able to contact them shortly.", Spock reported. Aboard XL5, all was quiet. Robert had brought the ship to a full stop in space as soon as they had cleared the pulsar's gravity well. His programming now called for him to wait until the crew awakened from their speed-induced unconciousness.Several minutes went by before the door to the control cabin opened and Venus stepped through. Quickly checking Steve over, she stood quietly, watching him. It had been a long time since she had seen him so serene. On an impulse, she bent down and gave him a light kiss on his cheek. As she straightened up, he stirred and opened his eyes. "Ohhh, Venus! You're a sight for sore eyes! Is everyone okay?" She smiled and said, "Yes, Steve. We made it through the interdimensional bridge okay. Matt is computing our course back to earth now. We should try to contact the Enterprise on the Neutroni radio to let them know we're okay." "Yes, you're right, Venus. I'll call them now. Would you please make some coffee? After that adventure, I sure could use a cup of your great coffee." She smiled, turned and started back to the lounge. Steve watched her go, wondering if someday, just someday, he would be able to approach her without the barriers of rank. With a sigh, he turned to the Neutroni radio and called the Enterprise. "Fireball XL5 to Enterprise...Fireball XL5 to Enterprise, come in Enterprise." Loud static blasted thru the cabin, then he heard Uhura's voice, faint and almost undecipherable against the static. "Fireball XL5, this is Enterprise. Do you read me?". "Enterprise, this is Colonel Steve Zodiac. I read you faintly, repeat, faintly. We have arrived home in good condition. Thanks again for all your help!" Kirk's voice now came from the speaker, more strongly. "Colonel Zodiac, Kirk here. It was our pleasure. We will leave a probe orbiting the pulsar to relay any further communications from your or your World Space Patrol directly to Starfleet headquarters. Please keep in touch, and we look forward to meeting you and your crew again. Kirk out." Steve grinned and rose from his seat. As he strode thru the cabin door on his way to the lounge, he thought, "Yep, this was going to be one Heck of a story to tell Commander Zero!"
This story previously appeared on the UNITY CITY website, hosted by Robin and Pauline Day, webmasters of the Space City website.