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Star Trek Chronicles Book III

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After a long time waiting, Book III is finally here. As always this is a WIP, but your comments are more than welcome.

Please enjoy.

**********************************

Ch. 1

Stardate 62077.76

January 29th, 2385 09:10 Hours

USS Pearl

He coughed and struggled to breathe as his body heaved for air. Hank Harrison struggled to turn himself over and had only one thought; he was alive. He couldn’t believe the words in his own mind, but he knew from what he felt that he was certainly alive. This wasn’t some vision or trick; not a delusion at all only a fact.

The pain he felt was all too real. The landing was much rougher than he thought it would be. His eyes watered as the smoke in the air was thick. He tried to see if anyone else was up, but he merely heard labored breathing beside him. That’s when he remembered who he was with.

Bethany.

Her name energized him into action and he rolled over again, looking at her blue face. It was her natural color as part Andorian, so his initial fears of her choking on the air were briefly subsided, but he turned his attention away from her face to her chest. It rose up and down quickly. The air wasn’t doing her any good and him little better.

“Computer,” he said as he coughed, “clear the air!”

An error beep was the only answer he got. The computer systems were down and that fit perfectly for the situation. There was no way the ship would allow the environmental controls to get this way. He struggled to get himself up, realizing he was swallowing more of this hideous air. Hank didn’t really care at the moment about that; he’d been through hell and back to get here, and he wasn’t about to be killed by bad air. He’d survived so much…it’d be a waste of a coroners log to record he died choking on bad air.

He smirked inwardly. He’d have to make it a little more interesting than that.

He felt a firm grip on his right shoulder and he turned to see a coughing Mark Walker, head wound included, with a strong look on his face. “Sir…systems won’t work…manual release…” Mark coughed some more, his body convulsing from the sheer power of it, and then he collapsed downward onto the deck.

No telling how long Mark had been breathing the air, trying to work towards a solution. The head wound certainly couldn’t help matters and Hank gripped the nearby console and steadied himself.

Starfleet had covered this all in basic training. Mark had done what he could, but now it was up to Hank; manual release was the only way. The problem was Hank wasn’t sure where the manual release was located.

It was either on the starboard or port side of the bridge, but Hank wasn’t sure. He couldn’t remember now…damn it to hell, he could remember enough to keep himself sane before, but now he was blanking. His eyes danced quickly about the bridge, searching for an answer.

In the end, he went with his preference; to the right side he walked and his hands felt the wall quickly, not wasting any time second guessing himself. Time wasn’t a luxury he had at the moment, as the clock was ticking on Mark and Bethany. Neither would last too long in this and no one else on the bridge would either.

He had so many questions…personal, professional, and everything in between. He wasn’t about to die without answers. He wouldn’t allow himself to die without answers.

He found the wall panel and pulled it off quickly, every ounce of strength he had going into it. He was finding it harder to concentrate…his vision was becoming blurry.

All were indications he was beginning to lose consciousness and he moved quicker. He had to find the environmental control manual release…he had to clear the air or at least get the systems running.

He scanned the data chips and levers with his eyes, each one looking more like the other. Was it the one on the left? The right? Middle? Down? Which one?!

Calm…he had to remain calm. Panic was the number one cause of death…

And being caught with an Orion woman by your XO…, he thought.

He refused the urge to laugh. Where had that come from? The academy…junior year…

He punched his fist into the wall and his mind wandered back to him. He was losing focus far too fast just from smoke inhalation. He must have sustained some other injury.

He had to find the manual release. He couldn’t stop coughing now, his chest heaving every second, and he knew time was short. He reached for what he thought was the release and pulled.

The ship rocked and Hank fell backwards.

He had fired a damned torpedo. He tried to steady himself again but his lungs would take no more. He collapsed to the deck, his eyes burning, his chest heaving, and his mind racing. What now?

“Red alert…red alert…” The klaxon and computer came on simultaneously as Hank could hear the environmental systems come back on.

“Dumb…luck…” Hank said as he laid his head back and began to laugh.

Nick watched as his former captain-and best friend-was carted off the bridge, still unconsciousness. Hank had somehow managed to save the ship, even while the bridge was being flooded with toxic gases. Hank had saved them all again…while Nick was out cold on the deck.

He turned his attention to Mark as he was being treated by a nurse, eager for a distraction. “How are you feeling?”

Mark grimaced slightly. “I’ve been better, sir.” He looked over to where Hank had been and frowned. “The captain?”

Nick looked over to that spot and sighed. “Doctor Bearrian believes he’ll be fine…he only suffered minor injuries.” He smiled weakly at Mark. “He’ll be back on his feet in a few hours.”

Mark nodded. “Aye, sir.”

Nick walked over to Bethany, who was at her post working the sensors. He gave her a slight pat on the shoulder and she looked up kindly, though her face was weakened. “Worried?” He asked quietly.

She gave a slight nod. “I have nothing out there…sensors seem to be working fine, but I can’t figure out where we are. Our position has changed and we’re flying blind…and we really shouldn’t be.”

Nick looked over the sensor readings and tapped his fingers on the chair. “I don’t have much to offer in the way of advice…keep at it, I guess,” he said with a tinge of annoyance. “I’m getting tired of us being in the middle of everything.”

Bethany smiled at that. “Well…better than being stuck on border patrol, right?”

Nick smirked at her. “Some captains prefer border patrol…maybe I’ll look into it.”

She winked at him and turned around, back to her work at the sensors.

Nick turned around and looked back at the bridge. The crew was slowly pulling itself back together after that...wave had impacted them. Damage had been minimal from…whatever it was that hit them. The question now was not about the damage done to them, but about everything else. Sensors were detecting nothing out there, and communications with other ships were nonexistent. What was going on?

“Damn it!” Chris Walker yelled from the engineering console. He beat his fist into the computer three times before he stopped, wincing in pain. “I’ve got nothing, nothing at all! The sensors are working, the lines of communication are open, and I got nothing!”

Nick walked over to the engineer quickly, a look of intense concern on his face. “There has to be something out there, Chris…relax.”

Chris shook his head bewildered. “The Federation database, any subspace communications, all of them…gone. Like they were never there…or they’re being blocked somehow…I don’t know anymore.” He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. “Sorry…just…stressed.”

Nick stared at the console’s screen and sighed. “I understand, Commander…keep trying and until we succeed there, keep repairing damage from the battle.”

Chris nodded slowly. “Understood.”

Nick walked back over to his chair and sat down in it, his eyes locked onto the viewscreen. There was clearly space out there, but they had no idea what was there…Romulans, or something worse could be waiting for them as soon as they tried to escape.

The best thing to do in this situation was to continue repairing damage and trying to figure out where they were. Nick didn’t like the idea of being lost in space…too easy to walk into an ambush that way.

He looked over at Commander Leonard and stood. “You have the bridge, Commander…I’m going to visit Commander Worf.”

“Aye, sir,” she responded dutifully.

Nick walked into the turbolift and called out for Cargo Bay Three-where the survivors of the Valiant had been transported. He arrived there in moments and as he entered the cargo bay, he was struck by the strange sense he’d been here before.

“The Dominion War,” Nick whispered to himself as he surveyed the recovering crew of the Valiant. He’d seen many times where triage centers like this were needed…many people struggling to survive the injuries that afflicted him. The general sense of confusion and pain in the air was strong then…but not here. Some of these people were injured worse than others, but the medical staff seemed to have everything in hand…people weren’t dying by the dozens like they had in the Dominion War.

He looked about the room and found Worf hovering over a crewman of his. The Klingon looked worried, but otherwise was in good shape. “Commander,” Nick said quietly.

Worf didn’t look at him, but merely fixed his eyes on his crewman. “Captain…a word?”

“Of course.”

Worf began to walk out of the cargo bay, and Nick followed. The Klingon’s stride was determined and angry. Upon arriving out into the empty corridors, Worf turned to face Nick. “What has happened?”

Nick frowned. “After we affected your rescue, we managed to get Captain Harrison and his party on board before the Hayes was destroyed. Shortly after that…we were hit by some unknown energy wave; we have no idea where we are or what’s happening out there. We can’t communicate with anyone else, and we have nothing on sensors…it’s like everything is gone.”

Worf stared into Nick, his eyes taking in the information. “Defensive systems?”

“We’re still all right-shields are damaged, and some minor damage to the phasers from the battle, but otherwise we’re well.”

Worf sighed. “This…does not please me.”

Nick nodded in agreement. “Trust me, no one is. I’m sorry about the Valiant…she was a good ship.”

“It is not the first ship I’ve lost…ultimately, my crew is safe. I thank you for that.”

Nick knew how hard it was for Worf to thank someone and smiled at his former CO. “I was doing my duty…you taught me well.”

Worf gave a swift nod. “And how is Captain Harrison?”

Nick’s face darkened. “He’ll recover from his injuries here. But I have no idea the damage that was done to him while he was captured…I’m not sure how he’ll be.”

“If Captain Harrison is as strong as I believe, he will recover quickly.” Worf’s eyes turned back towards the cargo bay. “I must return to my crew. Excuse me.” He departed and Nick watched him go.

One former CO of his was fine.

It was another one he was worried about. What could have happened to Hank while he was captured?

But the better question was, should Nick even ask? Did he have that right?

He’d find out soon. He hoped.

Edited by trekfan

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Blimey, they survived that wave ... somehow.

I loved the opening scenes where time seemed to slow down for Hank as he struggled to find the controls to save everyone on the bridge in time. A cracking start to things :thumbsup2:

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The first part was my favorite as well - this reminded me a bit of the scene in "Evolution" when the bridge is flooded with toxic gases. *shudder*

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Thanks Mrs. P and Starfire. I must apologize for the long wait between chapters...it's been a far busier summer than anticipated.

Today, Ch. 2. It's got a big reveal at the end...and as always, any and all comments are welcome.

**************************************8

Ch. 2

Stardate 62078.39

January 29th, 2385 14:45 Hours

USS Pearl

His eyes slowly opened again and he tried to sit back up.

A firm hand held him back down. “Not so fast, Captain; a glass of ice cold sweet tea won’t cure this problem.”

Hank blinked a few times and smirked. “Doctor Bearrian, a pleasure.”

Bearrian smiled back at him and gave Hank a pat on the shoulder. “Welcome back.”

Hank extended his hand and Bearrian slowly eased him up. Hank’s head felt like a very heavy brick and he had to take a few seconds to readjust himself. “Did I hit my head?”

“The back of it, yes. Apparently it wasn’t enough to keep you from saving the rest of us.”

Hank chuckled. “I…I really had no clue what I was doing…what did I do?”

Bearrian stared at him for a moment and then smiled wider. “Well…you triggered the manual torpedo firing mechanism, which sent the computer into red alert, and reactivated the environmental systems. As Commander Walker explained it to me…it was a backdoor reboot.”

“Chris has been in here?” Hank blinked again and sighed heavily. “How long was I out?”

“Five hours; you slept like a baby.”

Hank let loose another sigh, this time one of frustration. “Doctor, if you wouldn’t mind giving me something—”

“I already have-you should feel better within a few minutes.” Bearrian grinned. “I figured you would want to get back into the swing of things quickly.”

Hank stood slowly and looked down at himself. “First thing I’m doing is taking a shower and changing into a clean uniform.”

“I took the liberty of leaving that up to you, sir,” Bearrian said humorously.

Hank smiled at him. “Any other injuries the crew’s suffered?”

The Doctor’s face grew a shade darker, but not by much. “Nothing we can’t handle…but we’ve had some close calls.”

Hank nodded and patted Bearrian on the back. “I’m sure you performed well.”

Bearrian smiled. “Thank you, sir.”

Hank left sickbay on that note and headed to his own quarters; he then realized he may not have quarters anymore. A quick inquiry into the computer found that this was indeed the case-his belongings had been moved into storage back on Earth.

A little disappointed in himself for thinking that he had a place still, he needed to find a replicator and a shower. He exchanged some pleasantries with a few passing crewmembers, but his mind wasn’t near where his body was. This was perhaps an opportunity…one where he could use it to kill a couple of birds with one stone. He needed a shower, some food, but most of all he needed to speak to Bethany.

He was amazed at how he could be thinking about her despite all he didn’t know. Where was the ship? What happened at Gallos? What happened while he was away? These questions all bounced around in his head, but none of them were his biggest concern. That belonged strictly to Bethany.

How could he tell her? He’d had months…literally months to think of a way to tell her how he felt and yet, standing aboard his ship again, he couldn’t fathom how to even start the conversation. He did have a way to get to her though.

A quick ride in the turbolift brought him to her deck and in a few moments he found himself staring at her door. Would she even be here?

He rang the door and waited. He felt like a school boy all over again…his mind was sending him images and feelings of years past.

The door opened and her surprised face said it all.

He felt like he should run. Instead, his years of Starfleet training told him to stand his ground…that or his fear he would trip over himself while attempting a graceful exit. “Hi…can I borrow your shower?” Her face looked at him confused for a moment and he smiled widely. “I…uh…don’t have a place anymore.”

“Oh…oh God, yes, that’s right!” She laughed and invited him in. “I’m sorry…just forgot.” She was in her uniform, but her hair was down, and she looked like she had just gotten out of the shower.

Hank quickly made his way in and breathed a sigh of relief. He had gotten through the initial part. “Also, mind if I borrow your replicator? I need a new uniform.”

Bethany nodded in agreement. “That one is pretty foul smelling.”

Hank winced slightly. He guessed he had gotten used to the stench; he didn’t think he smelled all that bad. “Yeah, it is,” he agreed. “I’m gonna hit the shower real quick like.”

She smiled at him. “Don’t use my bath beads!”

He smiled back. “Good thing you told me; I would have thought they were candy.”

The shower was quick and he found his new uniform sitting there waiting for him. Bethany had sized him up just right. He had lost some weight during his imprisonment and thusly his uniform size had decreased slightly. The fit was loose enough for him and he smiled at himself. He’d had to shave later-the stubble beard was still there, but that couldn’t be taken care of here.

He exited the bathroom and smiled at Bethany. She was sitting on the bed, fully dressed and ready for duty. “Why else are you here?” She looked at him curiously. “Why come to me?”

He smiled awkwardly. “Certainly…an odd situation. I suppose I could have gone to Nick’s quarters, but somehow the crew might have gotten the wrong idea.”

His joke made her grin, but her eyes remained locked on his. “On the bridge…when we saw that wave…”

He remembered. He remembered it quite clearly. He sat down next to her, considering his words carefully. “…I thought…those would be our last moments…”

“…oh…” She turned away but he grabbed her hand quickly, his eyes locking on to hers.

“Even if it wasn’t…I wanted to let you know in some way…how…how I felt.”

She nodded slowly. “About me?”

He smiled. “Yes, about you…it wasn’t much, I know, but the situation hardly allowed for a more creative approach.”

She smiled back at him. “How do you feel about me?”

He struggled with himself. How the hell was he going to say this? “Bethany…we’ve known each other for a long time…and…for years…I…” He grabbed her hand tighter.

The words didn’t come forth though.

“Red alert, all hands to battle stations!”

In an instant, what time they had together was gone. He registered the klaxon, he registered the red flashing light, and he even registered his heart pounding away.

He just didn’t know how to say it…he didn’t know how to express it…

He stood and helped her up as well. He smiled. “We’re needed on the bridge.”

She nodded silently and gripped his hand tighter.

She understood this conversation would have to be finished another time.

There were other, more pressing matters at hand.

They arrived on the bridge, his hand still in hers, but that only lasted for a brief instant. Whatever he felt, he was sure that the bridge wasn’t the place for it. Hank Harrison knew only one thing to do in this situation.

“Report!” He commanded louder than he wanted to, but the effect was the same. The bridge seemed to pause for an instant as the crew realized he was indeed there, in the flesh, and alive.

Tony Parks seemed unfazed by the moment though, and answered quickly. “We’re being scanned by an unknown entity.” He looked to Hank and grinned a little. “Good to see you, sir.”

Hank grinned back. “Agreed; now, what’s our situation?”

“We’re in fair shape.” A commander approached him, an African woman with a commanding presence. “Commander Roxanne Leonard, first officer.”

A wave of embarrassment hit Hank and passed just as quickly; he wasn’t in command anymore, so naturally Nick had to find a first officer. Hank nodded slowly. “Commander, is it hostile?”

“Not according to sensors. We can’t pinpoint it and it seems to be right in front of us, but it isn’t. I can’t explain it.”

“I can,” came the response from Mark Walker, who strode onto the bridge with confidence and poise. Hank was amazed at how much the young man grew into his role in his absence.

“Well, I’m all ears,” Hank said.

“It’s a cloaking field of some sort, but not of any enemy ship we’ve encountered.”

“Recommendations Lieutenant?” Nick asked from behind Hank. The two briefly exchanged a look of understanding and Hank reluctantly stepped back from the captain’s chair. That wasn’t his place anymore.

Nick walked to the chair and stood looking at Mark.

Mark thought quickly on the question and answered. “We don’t take any chances, sir. I recommend we stay at red alert until identity and friendliness can be established.”

“That won’t be too much of a problem; we’re being hailed,” Bethany announced.

The bridge crew exchanged surprised looks and Hank refused the urge to respond. Again, it wasn’t his place.

“Let’s see them,” Nick said curiously.

The viewscreen changed from an image of space to that of a middle aged man, distinctly human. The man looked happy. “It worked! It actually worked!”

“Excuse me?” Nick asked confused.

The man laughed at the question and clapped his hands enthusiastically. “Oh, yes, yes! You’re alive, no injuries from the trip?”

“What trip?”

The man looked at Nick surprised, and then smiled. “You don’t realize what happened? You’re the first, the absolute first! Never before has an artificial wormhole been this accurate and relatively harm free! You made the trip, you survived it, and furthermore, you’re not erased!”

“Erased? What are you talking about?” Nick stepped towards the screen. “Who are you?”

The middle aged man laughed at the question. “I’m transferring transporter coordinates to your computers now. Come down as soon as possible, and all will be explained.” The communication ended and Nick stared at the screen in confusion.

Hank could barely comprehend it himself.

“What the hell was that about?” Chris Walker had a look of anger painted on his face.

Nick turned around quickly. “Problem?”

Chris scowled. “I’ve still haven’t been able to reestablish connection with the Federation database.”

Hank looked at Bethany quickly, conveying his question without having to say it. She answered him just as fast. “I think it could be coming from them…I’m picking up some sort of jamming signal…it just appeared.”

“What?” Commander Leonard peered over Bethany’s shoulder and absorbed the information herself. “She’s right, Captain-they do appear to be jamming us.”

“That can’t be right,” Nick said with determination. “Why would they jam us? What could they possibly gain from that?”

Mark shook his head. “I don’t understand it.”

“Damn!” Chris beat his fist against the console, drawing the attention of the bridge to him.

Hank walked towards him quickly, wondering what the matter was. Chris was a loud person, true, but he didn’t react so strongly to nothing. Hank had a sickening feeling in his gut that something was wrong. “Chris?”

“Something is seriously screwed up here, sir…I’ve gotten through their jamming…and this…can’t be right.” Chris turned towards the entire bridge and pointed at the screen.

The image was blurred as Chris made his way to tactical and began adjusting it, talking as though everyone was listening; everyone was, though Hank wasn’t sure Chris knew or cared. “I’ve tapped into an old Federation satellite near what should be a scrap yard. It barely works, not used anymore by Starfleet-it just sits there. I’ve used these thing a few times over the years for…personal use.”

“Personal use?” Hank looked at the screen. “What are we looking at?”

“Give me a damned second,” Chris responded briskly. Something was clearly wrong with the engineer, Hank knew.

In a minute the image cleared up and Chris magnified something.

Hank had to look for a few seconds to tell what it was, but that’s all it took, a few seconds. His eyes recognized it quickly for it was. “A ship…a Del’Vreer ship,” he uttered with venom.

Chris stared at Hank. “Who?”

He mentally slapped himself. Of course no one aboard here knew what the aliens were called. “They’re called the Del’Vreer…the species that attacked New Haven…they’re the Del’Vreer.”

Nick locked his jaw. “What exactly does that mean? We’re looking at one of their ships, so what?”

Chris adjusted the image to magnify out further…and then further…and then further…

The message was clear to everyone on the bridge.

Hank stepped forward slowly. “My…God…”

The screen showed huge chunks of space blanketed in Del’Vreer ships; so many ships that Hank could barely make out the stars.

“That’s supposed to be a Federation scrapyard…even if they’ve managed to overwhelm our fleets, how could they cannibalize our relics that quick? They couldn’t! There’s not a damned trace of them anywhere!” Chris pointed at the screen angrily. “What the hell is going on?!”

It struck Hank like a lightning bolt. “Bethany, scan for chroniton particles on our hull…if I’m right, you should find them there.”

She looked at him briefly with curiosity, but did as she was told. Her console beeped and she cocked her head to the side. “You’re right…we’re bathed in them,” she said in wonderment. “This much chroniton radiation should have killed us…”

Nick looked to Hank in confusion. “What exactly does that mean?”

“It means…we’ve been involved in…time travel.” Hank leaned against the railing and folded his hands. “They didn’t have to beat us…they had to stall us…” He felt out of breath. Maria was right…she was right…

You're so strong, so youthful. It can all go away Hank. It can all go in a flash, he remembered.

Maria had said those words to him and at the time he hadn’t realized what she meant…but that flash she was speaking of was that wave that hit them, that wiped everything away. They didn’t need to fight the Federation, they only needed to make sure it never existed…they only needed to make sure it ceased to exist. But how much damage was done?

“I’m glad you remember.” The voice echoed across the bridge. That voice…her voice…

Hank turned to see here standing there, just emerged from the turbolift, dressed in a tight black uniform, her hair pulled back, her smile still just as wicked…and her eyes…those eyes that conveyed all she had done to him…and all she could do.

He stared.

She smiled wider.

Mark drew his phaser and aimed it deftly at her. “Who are you?”

She ignored him. “Come now, Hank…you didn’t think it’d be as easy as blowing up one of our ships? You didn’t think it’d be that easy, did you? I’d be so disappointed.”

The rest of the bridge seemed to drift away into darkness. It was only him and her.

“Maria…”

“Yes, Hank,” she said slyly. “Not a trick…not a game. I’m here for one reason and one reason only.”

He narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. “I want you to die,” he said with as much conviction as he could.

She smiled at him. “Perhaps we both will…events are now out of my control.”

Hank wouldn’t play-not anymore. Not this day…not this game. “Why are you here?!”

She crossed the bridge; her hands coming up to touch his face, but Hank grabbed them and stopped her. She leaned in closely to his ear, her words loud enough for the bridge to hear, but seductive enough for only Hank to understand. “I’m here…to help.”

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Oh my!!! I would have preferred Hank to go to Nick's quarters, though, but that's just the slash fan in me speaking. :P Great update!

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Time travel ... the sneaky little sods. So now they're ridiculously outnumbered and seemingly surrounded by the enemy, with help seemingly coming from an unlikely and seemingly untrustworthy source.

Gripping stuff. :thumbsup2:

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Whew. Finally, after many moons and rewrites, ch. 3 is ready to go. I must apologize for the long wait, but Ch. 4 is nearly ready and hopefully I can get into a groove and get this thing going again. As always, any and all comments are welcome, and please, enjoy.

**************************

Ch. 3

Stardate 62078.44

January 29th, 2385 15:12 Hours

USS Pearl

Mark stared at this woman, who appeared out of nowhere, and had his former captain under a spell. What could Harrison be doing? How did these two know each other? This woman had some power over Harrison…but what that power was Mark couldn’t tell. His instincts were telling him she was wrong, that she shouldn’t be here, yet she had said she was here to help.

Captain Fulton stepped forward, his eyes deftly locked onto Harrison and this woman named Maria. The voluptuous redhead was beautiful, that much Mark could admit. However, what beauty she had was marred by the vibe coming off her…a vibe that told Mark not to take her at face value.

Fulton stared for a few seconds before asking the question on everyone’s mind. “Who the hell are you?!”

Maria pulled her hands away from Harrison and looked to Fulton with a smile. A terrifying smile. “My name is Maria, and I am a Del’Vreer.”

Mark’s grip tightened on the phaser and he readjusted his aim-from her body to her head.

She saw his movement but made none of her own. “Go ahead, aim for the kill shot. I see you’ll do it…and I don’t care. You’ve seen my species in action; do you think a phaser shot to the head will kill me?” She chuckled lightly. “Try-please.”

“Lieutenant, hold your fire,” Harrison demanded. Mark’s eyes shot to him.

“Sir…if she’s Del’Vreer—”

Harrison nodded slowly. “Hold your fire…that’s an order.” His tone was deadly serious and Mark readjusted his aim back to her body. What was going on here?

Fulton moved next to Harrison and stared at Maria. “You’re Del’Vreer?”

“Did I stutter? I would have thought your former XO would have been quicker than this, Hank.”

Harrison clenched his fists and swallowed hard. He was visibly shaken by her. “What kind of game is this? Here to help…you? You’ve never helped before!” Harrison flew into her personal space. “I should deck you here and now,” he growled.

She brought her hands up to his chest and held them there. “I’ve helped plenty…you’re dreams, remember? I didn’t have to do that…I was trying to prepare you.”

“For what?!”

She smiled at him. “For this-we were never going to make a direct confrontation with the Federation and its allies. It would have been a bloody battle…and my species can ill afford more losses.”

Harrison’s eyes flamed. “Your losses?! How about those people on New Haven, what about them? What about those lives?!” He pushed her off, slamming her into the back consoles. “What about the people who died aboard this ship?! You have the gull—”

“We’re dying,” she said deftly.

Harrison’s rage froze. He stared at her for a moment before speaking. “Dying?”

She approached him again, this time keeping her distance. “We have three thousand of our species left…and that’s a very generous estimate.” She shook her head. “We’ve waged war too long, killed too many people and in the process killed our own. We’re nearly sterile as a species, Hank.” She looked into his eyes. “We had to survive…and decades ago, we still had a chance to live. So we went back in time…and took over your Federation and its vast resources.” She stared at the viewscreen sadly. “Look...look at it. My species lives…but at the cost of more peoples, more lives.”

He stared at her. “All this death…all this destruction…is for survival of your people?”

“For once…I wish I could lie to you.” She turned her gaze back to him. “I picked you, Hank, to help me…I picked you because you understand me. I had to hurt you to keep my people off my trail. I had to destroy your prison and watch you barely escape…I had to give you those dreams to prepare you for this.”

He stepped back, a look of horror on his face. “This what?!” He demanded. He shook his head vehemently. “No…no, it’s another game, another trick, another GODDAMN VISION!” He slumped against the wall, his face contorted in pain. “It’s not true…it’s a lie!”

Bethany stood from her station, but stayed in her place. The fear in her eyes was strong. “Hank…Hank?”

Captain Fulton looked back at his friend and then to Maria. “Mark…get her off my bridge, and place her in the brig, high security.” He stared at her coldly. “Set phasers to kill.”

She shook her head slowly. “You underestimate him, Nick.”

“Don’t talk to me,” Captain Fulton demanded as he bent down next to Hank. “Hank…let’s get you to the ready room.”

Reluctantly, Harrison stood, his body seemingly weaker. He walked into the ready room with Fulton, and the bridge was left in a state of shock.

“You bitch,” Chris said with hatred.

Mark agreed with the sentiment of his brother but wasn’t about to voice his opinion; Chris could speak for both of them in this case.

He pointed her to the turbolift, his phaser trained on her, set to kill. She went in silently and he followed.

They left the bridge quietly.

But when the turbolift began to move, Maria began to speak. “I say the truth…and I see you are like Hank…you understand.”

Mark jammed the turbolift stop button and stared at her in anger. “I should kill you now.”

“You won’t…Hank knows that, and thusly I do.” She stared at him, her eyes taking in his face. “I understand why he took you under his wing.”

He ignored her words and asked the question forefront on his mind. “Is what you said true? Is all the death and pain you caused just for your species’ survival?”

She sighed sadly. “Yes…it’s all true. I did what I had to keep my motives secret. I was among a very small minority in my people…the minority who believed your people are worth saving. The majority condemned you…they would exist as a whole while you existed as a barely surviving race.” She frowned. “I would not be a part of that.”

“So what are you a part of? All I see is that you tortured the captain.” Mark brought his phaser up to her neck and pressed it against her. “I should just pull the trigger.”

Her eyes met his. “Do it…and condemn your race, your timeline, to oblivion. Nothing will save you but me. I know where the Del’Vreer went exactly in time. I know how to undo the damage…who else aboard does?”

He angrily scowled and jammed the turbolift go button. The lift began moving once more and he pulled his phaser back. “For your sake, you better be telling the truth.”

“And what if I’m not?” She asked coyly.

He glared at her. “We have two Klingons, a Romulan, and a Tellarite on board; between us we can come up with some pretty nasty deaths.”

She smirked at him. “I like you.”

“I don’t like you-now shut up.”

His hands quivered with every thought running through his mind. It was all fake, all another trick, it had to be. “It’s the final insult to a pitiful death…” he mumbled. Hank Harrison sat; shaking at what he had just seen…what he had just heard. She was here to help? She was here to save his crew?

“BULLSHIT!” He yelled at the ceiling, his eyes welling with tears of anger. He stood, his hands clenched. “I won’t believe it! You hear me?! DO YOU!”

That’s when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he looked down. “Hank, stop it!” Nick’s face was covered in worry and fear. Was this Nick? Was this all real? Had she played a trick on him once more?

Nick’s eyes locked on to his. “I am here…do you understand me?” His hand moved its way down to Hank’s hand. “Feel me, feel the blood going through my veins…it isn’t a trick.”

He shook from the relief. He slowly sat back down, his tears coming freely now. “I…can’t anymore. I can’t….question it anymore. I…don’t care anymore.”

Nick pulled his chair and sat down across from Hank. “Who was that woman?”

“She…” He struggled for the words. Then his mind became clearer for an instant. “Get Bethany in here.”

Nick stared at him. “This can stay between us—”

Hank grabbed his wrist tightly. “No…Bethany deserves…needs…to know.”

Nick nodded, and tapped his combadge. “Commander Reeves, report to my ready room immediately.”

It only took an instant for her to appear, and immediately she sat down beside Hank on the small couch, her eyes full of worry…fear…sorrow. She put her hand on his, caressing it lightly. “Hank...I’m here.”

He nodded slowly. She was here…she was real. No trick, no vision, and no illusion…his Bethany was here.

Somehow…it made it easier, while at the same time harder, for him to talk. “I have to tell you…both of you…what happened…for any…anything to make sense.” He didn’t bother wiping the tears from his eyes, knowing more were to come. He had to continue.

After staring at Bethany for what seemed like eons, he began. “When I was captured…the first few days were nothing. I don’t remember them at all…and then came the day when I met…her.”

“The woman on the bridge?” Nick asked as delicately as he could.

Hank closed his eyes, his mind bringing forth all the details as though he were still there. “Yes…it…it was…her. Maria…” His eyes flew open. “She was…everything I had ever dreamed.” He realized his words, and turned to Bethany, barely able to crack a pathetic smirk. “I was never a good dreamer.”

She gripped his hand tighter, nodding. She wouldn’t say anything…it was a discussion to be held elsewhere. Hank took a shallow breath and continued. “I…she…she tortured me. At first she used…my desires…my own fantasies to weaken me…and then, when that failed…she resorted…to pain.” He gritted his teeth as he remembered the agony that she brought forth on him.

It seemed as though she could make him feel the worst pain a thousand times over just by her touch. She was the ultimate bringer of terrifying agony…and he could do nothing about it. “…there was no way to stop her. All I could do…was make her mad. I had to test her…but only to keep myself…sane.”

Nick closed his eyes for a moment. “Hank…”

“Let me finish,” he demanded. Hank stood from the couch, walking towards the window with the view of space. He couldn’t bear to look at them anymore. He needed…a void. “Then, the duties of torture were passed on to Hekon…the Romulan commander we met at New Haven.” He remembered all the painful simulations Hekon put him through, the creatures that Romulan had created to harm him… “He put me through hell…many times over the months.”

“Oh…Hank…” Bethany said in sadness.

He didn’t turn around, didn’t focus on her reflection as he stared out into space. “Then she returned…in my head…with visions of a life I never had…a life…with her.” He grabbed the wall for support. “We…were together.” He wanted to vomit. He fought the urge and continued speaking. “Then the prison I was in began to fall apart…and soon, I was able to board the Hayes. Oron…and G’rull…my cellmates…they were very helpful.” He turned to Nick. “I trust them.”

Nick nodded. “All right…how did you know about us and the chroniton radiation?”

“Oron…he figured it out. He knows a lot.” Hank turned around, looking at them both. “G’rull…has been looking for a warrior’s death. He shouldn’t need it now…but I’d like him watched.”

“Done,” Nick said firmly.

Hank closed his eyes, rubbing them. “Nick…I need a few minutes with Bethany, if you don’t mind.”

His friend nodded and left silently.

Then there was just the two them.

Bethany stood, making her way towards him. She grabbed both his hands gently. “It wasn’t your fault.”

Hank opened his eyes all the way, looking into hers. “Yes…yes it was. I…I gave in…and I…she still affects me.” He gripped her hands tightly. “I have to deal with her, Bethany…and until I do…”

She brought her hands up to his cheek, touching it softly, kindness in her eyes. “I understand.”

He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. After a moment more, she left the room.

He was alone…again.

He sat back down on the couch, his hands cradling his head. Maria was back…and this time she was claiming to help. The only one she would cooperate with was Hank…he knew her, knew how she would demand him.

He stared at the floor.

“…once more unto the breach…” He whispered fearfully.

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Welcome back. :thumbsup2:

Quite a game going on in Hank's mind at the moment. I don't envy him, wanting to have nothing to do with Maria but knowing he doesn't have that luxury right now.

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Just wanted to shoot an update here; chapters are beginning to form once more, and I have three down since the last posting here, so over the weekend I'll be posting the remaining chapters here. As always, thanks for staying tuned. :)

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All righty, here's chapter 4 after a long delay. As always, any and all comments are welcome and please, enjoy.

***********************

Ch. 4

Stardate 62078.51

January 29th, 2385 15:47 Hours

USS Pearl

Nick stood in the transporter room alone, his eyes fixed onto the transporter pad. He needed a place to think...needed a place to consider Hank's words. More than anything, he needed some air...the details his friend had given him were horrifying. Nick wasn't sure how Hank had managed to keep sane through it all...and frankly, he doubted his own ability to withstand that kind of punishment.

With a wife, and a baby on the way, he would have done anything...said anything to guarantee their safety. Would the Del'Vreer have kept their word if he did bargain with them? Nick doubted it. Hank's trials and wounds were deep...Nick questioned whether or not the Hank Harrison he knew still existed in that shell he had seen in the ready room.

He quelled his doubts though. He had seen flashes of that old Hank in the short time the man had been back aboard. His friend was still there, somehow, and Nick owed it to the man to figure out what he could do to help. His fear was that there was nothing he could do...that the condition Hank was in was permanent. Nick wasn't a doctor, however. He promised himself he'd order Paul to give Hank a thorough checkup soon.

The doors opened to the transporter room, and Nick looked up surprised; he saw Chris standing there with a grim look on his face. "Something I can do for you, Commander?"

Chris entered the room, the doors shutting behind him, and scowled. "Give him back command."

Nick's eyes narrowed. "Excuse me?"

Chris got closer into Nick's personal space, the anger coming off the engineer in waves. "You promised to relinquish command as soon as he got back...well, he's back," Chris growled.

Nick stared. He had promised that and now his own words would damn him. "No." Nick's voice was strong, filled with conviction. "I can't do that...not now. I made that promise...in error."

Chris scoffed loudly. "You son of bitch, I knew it! I knew you were too damn greedy to give it up!"

"Now hold it right there-"

Chris cut him off harshly. "Go to hell, Fulton! You made a promise," he said as he pointed at Nick, "and you will keep it."

Nick frowned. "I'd watch your tone."

Chris stared and scowled once more. "You XOs are all the same...I almost half wish that Leonard would have a reason to take your place, but then she may be worse than you."

Nick was beginning to lose control. He balled his hands into fists. "Commander, I've given you enough leeway here-any further comments are to be made in a log, respectfully."

"Lose your rank for a second, and see facts," Chris demanded. "Harrison knows what's going on out there; he knows these things...he's the best man for the job."

"He's a wreck," Nick blurted out. Realizing his words, he struggled to recover. "I mean...he's in no shape to command right now. Not after being a POW for so long...he's in need of rest."

Chris rolled his eyes. "What makes you more qualified? The fact you have command at the moment?"

"I'm more qualified for this mission because I'm not three months behind on news, developments, and more; Hank is. He needs time to catch up, readjust to life-"

"As a second fiddle?" Chris finished sarcastically. "This crew stayed together for him, not you."

Nick's face grew darker at that. "I know that," he admitted frankly. That thought hadn't left his mind since he assumed command...he knew what this crew was here for and he knew that it was for Hank Harrison. Hank had affected this crew in such a way in his short time as captain that it defied logic.

"Than you apparently don't know much more than that," Chris shot back. "You promised to give him back command, so I expect you to do it," Chris growled.

"And he'll get it back...once he's recovered."

"He is recovered," Chris asserted. "He saved our assess while everyone else was out cold-he was barely on the ship for ten minutes and he saved us all again." Chris stepped into his personal space. "What the hell is wrong with you? Has command gotten to your head that fast?"

"Command has done nothing to me-"

"I beg to differ," the engineer said angrily. "You order everyone around like you're GOD and not a captain."

"I'm your superior officer!" Nick yelled, his control finally breaking. "You will follow my orders, and that's the end of the story. I'm done with this conversation, Commander...speak anymore on this and I'll write you up for insubordination!"

Chris stared at him furiously. "To hell with insubordination...who are you going to report me to anyway? There's no Federation out there...so what's to stop me?" He stepped into Nick's personal space again. "I asked, what's to stop me, Captain?"

Nick locked his jaw. He wouldn't be baited into this. "You'd never mutiny...not on my ship," Nick said as he pushed his chief engineer away slowly.

Chris balled his fists but didn't swing. Neither one of them did.

Nick tugged down on his uniform angrily. "Commander Christopher Walker, you are hereby relieved of duty, effective immediately-go to your quarters or I'll put you in the brig," he stated coolly.

Chris' face went pale. "Excuse me?!" He seethed with anger. "I should knock you on your ass-"

Nick stepped into his personal space and locked eyes with his engineer. "One more word, and you'll be in solitary confinement. One. More. Word."

Chris' face was red with fury but his mouth remained shut. With a fierce nod he walked out of the transporter room and left Nick alone.

Nick rubbed his forehead. His chief engineer was right...the ship and the crew were here for Hank...not him. He had to remember that...but Chris' behavior would not be tolerated. Not under his command. The engineer had been begging for disciplinary action and Nick gave it to him.

He tapped his combadge hard. "Captain to engineering."

"Gates here, sir. Something I can do for you?"

"Commander Walker has been relieved of duty-you are now in charge of engineering, Lieutenant."

There was silence on the other end and then the woman answered surprised, "Aye, sir."

"We'll be leaving for an away mission soon-report to transporter room three in an hour."

"Understood, sir-"

"And Lieutenant...Commander Walker is confined to quarters; if he so much as steps in engineering you are to call security immediately. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Gates answered quickly.

"Good-Fulton out." He tapped his combadge again to end the conversation and took a deep breath.

His wits about him now he calmly walked out of the transporter room and headed for the bridge...at least there he would be able to relax, if only for a small bit.

Her mind was everywhere but where it needed to be. She was trying to distract herself, admittedly-what she heard from Hank was...horrible. What she heard him tell her was equally horrifying and nauseating. How could anyone...any species...justify what was done to him?

She was standing on the transporter pad, waiting for Lieutenant Gates-who was running late to the transporter room after being placed in charge of engineering. Bethany was surprised Chris had been relieved of duty, but everyone's nerves were frayed today...maybe it would do him some good.

However, Bethany couldn't help but feel her place was with Hank, not about to be beamed down to a planet that may or may not exist. She wasn't sure where her head was right now...but it wasn't here. She should be far more worried about exactly what they were beaming into but she didn't give a damn at the moment.

Really, all she cared about right now was Hank. Yet, a sense of duty...and Hank's privacy...drove her to do what she was asked to. Nick wanted her on this mission and he was her captain...so she would go. Hank himself would have insisted she go, she knew, and that's why she was here primarily. Hank needed his privacy...at least for now. She couldn't force him to let her help...but she wished to God she could.

"All right, is everyone ready?" Nick asked.

Mark nodded as his security team stood behind him. Gates did the same and Bethany reluctantly followed her lead. She should be staying aboard...but she had a job to do. She was going to do it.

Nick took a deep breath. "Energize."

Bethany watched as the transporter room around them disappeared and in its place...a lab of some sort. She let out a little gasp of excitement-her eyes saw so much technology...so much equipment she had never seen before. Her mind reminded her of the grim circumstances however and her moment of excitement quickly evaporated. This wasn't the time.

Mark and his team drew their phasers, but found no one to point them at.

Bethany took out her tricorder and frowned. "Jammed," she said in confusion. "I can't get a scan of anything or anyone."

Gates took out her tricorder but found the same thing. "Mine too."

"All right, let's forget about the tricorders...what can you make of this equipment?" Nick asked curiously. "I've never seen anything like it."

Bethany got closer to some of the equipment and scanned it with her eyes. "It's Federation design-at least the console anyway. But what it's for...you're guess is as good as mine."

"That's actually the oven," a chirpy voice said from behind them. Mark and his team whipped around with their phasers drawn, but the middle aged man with long silver hair and brown eyes only smiled. He was the same one they spoke to before on the bridge "Welcome! I'm excited to see you here...not often we get guests."

Nick stepped forward, his eyes betraying his curiosity and annoyance all at once. "I'm Captain Nick Fulton of the-"

"Yes, the Pearl-a remarkable vessel, truly," the man said as he stepped forward. "Your ship was the first to survive transport unharmed and I'm very intrigued as to why-but first, introductions should be made." He extended his hand. "My name is Doctor Theodore Brownstone...or Doc Brown, as I'm otherwise called. My other nickname, Tor Stone, really hasn't taken," he said with a wide smile.

No one smiled at the joke, least of all Nick.

Brownstone frowned slightly. "Well, I guess that joke is a work in progress-"

"Where the hell is this? What is this?" Nick asked in annoyance. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but time is of the essence here."

Brownstone smiled widely. "Of course it is-that's our mantra here."

"Here where?" Nick asked forcefully.

"This is the Federation Temporal Research Facility; we're tasked with studying, researching, and maintaining the proper timeline...and you've been brought here to help fix what's gone wrong."

"What has gone wrong?" Nick asked angrily. "Was it one of your experiments?"

"No, no," Brownstone insisted. "Not us-someone has gone back in time and destroyed the Federation itself. We haven't been affected because we're essentially outside the timeline...however you would have been if we hadn't pulled you out when we did."

"So...what, you expect us to save the universe?" Nick shook his head in bewilderment. "I don't pretend to understand this...there's no such thing as a Federation Temporal Research Facility. I've never heard of it."

Brownstone smiled. "Well...that's exactly how it should be."

Nick just stared.

Bethany blinked her eyes and closed them for a moment.

It was just another day in the life of a Starfleet officer.

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"Just another day" indeed, lol! What a true mess and yet so very intriguing! And I'm so sorry but all I could think when I read that argument between Nick and Chris was KISS ALREADY. *facepalm* I can't help it! Your male characters are always so shippable! The whole "stepping into his personal space" thingy had me...

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"Just another day" indeed, lol! What a true mess and yet so very intriguing! And I'm so sorry but all I could think when I read that argument between Nick and Chris was KISS ALREADY. *facepalm* I can't help it! Your male characters are always so shippable! The whole "stepping into his personal space" thingy had me...

Ah, another place and another time, Nick and Chris may indeed have found one another...thankfully, not here though; I have so much drama planned ALREADY that adding yet another pair to the mix would have been a warp core breach, LOL. I'm glad you enjoyed the argument so much-it's really been on it's way since the two first met. I fiddled with the idea of letting them fight it out but I think the verbal sparring worked just as well, if not better. Plus, I really couldn't see a way Chris would get out of any charges if he did take a swing.

*ahem* Anyways, on to Ch. 5, where we see Hank begin to deal with all the stuff that's happened to him, and get some surprising news from Doctor Brownstone. As always, any and all comments are welcome and please, enjoy.

***********************

Ch.5

Stardate 62078.71

January 29th, 2385 17:33 Hours

USS Pearl

His temporary quarters were sparse. His head hurt like hell.

And his friends were somewhere below him, on an invisible planet. Yet all Hank Harrison could think about was her.

She was his torturer. His temptress. His weakness.

Maria.

The name made him cringe internally. He wished she never had a name. He wished he never did the things with her that he did do...yet all his wishes were for naught.

He had done everything with her. He had let loose his innermost demons and she used them...she used him.

He hated himself for that.

He sat on in his chair, staring out into space, barely comprehending what she had said to him. That she was trying to save her species...that she was trying to help them. It didn't make sense. Yet, he knew she was telling the truth. The connection they had...facilitated by her invasion of his body with her nanites...allowed him to know her. He knew when she lied.

She wasn't lying now.

And God knows how he wished she were. He hated her. He wanted her dead.

And yet, a small part of him...wanted her back.

He was revolted for even considering it, but the truth was that he'd never be over her. She had scarred him...damaged him...to the point that he may never be the same person again. He might never be able to be the man he was. That could mean he might never be right for Bethany.

That was something that sickened him to no end. He loved her. He wanted her.

And yet he could never be with her like this. He was broken...possibly beyond repair.

And it was all Maria's fault.

The door to his quarter's beeped and Hank looked at it for a moment. "Enter," he said quietly.

In walked Daren Grimes. "Captain...may I have a moment?"

Hank smiled weakly. "I see you joined back up, Mr. Grimes."

The older man smirked weakly. "Call me Daren, sir."

"Call me Hank," he responded quickly.

The older man looked a little uncomfortable but nodded. "All right...Hank. Can I sit?"

Hank pointed at the nearest chair. "Please...that one's more comfortable anyway."

Daren sat down and the two remained in silence for a moment before the older man spoke. "I...I never got a chance to thank you for what you did at New Haven."

Hank's heart skipped a beat. New Haven...oh...poor New Haven. His face grew pale. "Don't thank me for anything. I failed them."

Daren stared at him. "You can't honestly believe that."

"Thousands of deaths...all my fault," Hank said slowly. He looked at Daren with sadness in his eyes, on the brink of tears. "I should have never left. I should have never ordered the retreat...I left that planet defenseless and they were all killed...slaughtered," he said as he looked down at the floor, "because of me."

"Hank-"

"Don't!" He yelled angrily before he realized who he was yelling at. Daren was a survivor of that colony. He was one of the few. Hank took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. "I'm..." He stopped and started again. He decided it was best to say what he really thought. "You should hate me. You should hate everything I stand for...everything this uniform," he said as he grabbed what he was wearing, "stands for. I have no right to be thanked by you...or by anyone for what I did at New Haven. They're dead because of me."

Daren shook his head vehemently. "They would have died anyway. The Pearl wasn't going to stop them...you and I both know that."

"We didn't even try!" Hank yelled loudly. "We...we just left. All because of me...I gave the order. I made the call."

"The only call possible," Daren said softly. The older man leaned forward, his face kind. "You saved me...my best friends...and my son. You saved us from my stupid idea...my idiotic attempt at playing hero." His eyes glistened as he spoke. "We could have been dead...I could have killed my son...if you hadn't given the order to save us. You risked your ship...your lives...to stop those things from killing us. New Haven is not your fault. It's not my fault...it's their fault."

"Is it really?" Hank asked with anger. His fists clenched, growing red from the pressure. "They didn't make me leave. They didn't put a phaser to my head and demand it. I left...I gave the order. I killed them."

Daren leaned back and sighed. "I know how it feels."

"How what feels?!" Hank demanded. He stood quickly, tears slowly leaking from his eyes. "You know nothing...nothing!" Hank could feel the tears on his face and he turned towards the window, his back facing Daren. He shouldn't be seen crying. He was a captain...he had to be strong.

"I know how guilt feels."

"Do you?" Hank asked, his voice trembling.

"You wish you could have died with them."

He turned and stared at the older man. "What?"

Daren's eyes weren't looking at Hank. They were just...staring off into the corner of the room. "You wish you could have died...that you were dead. That there was a way where you could have suffered their fate...and let them live. I know...I know how it feels," Daren said slowly. "You think to yourself...is it real? Did the universe really do that to you? Did they really let you live...while they died? How is that fair...how is it ever fair?"

Hank sat down slowly, the tears stopping, his anger subsiding. "How do you know that?"

Daren's eyes looked into his. "I lost my wife...just a little while after my son was born. I was on Earth...taking care of him...while she was serving as a medic in the war. She died in the last days of the war...stepped on a mine."

"I'm...I'm sorry," Hank said with sincerity.

"You think to yourself...what's the point? Why should you live while they don't?" Daren took a deep breath. "It took me a long time to realize that there's a reason for things like that happening. I don't know what it is...I have my theories...but there's always something to live for. I have my son," Daren said as he smiled, "and you...I hear you have your heart set on someone."

Hank's face flushed red. He didn't think the crew would be so quick to pick up on his feelings for Bethany. He smiled nonetheless. "Thanks."

Daren gave a slight nod. "Anytime. Thank you for saving me...and my son. I owe you." He got up and left the quarters. Hank leaned back in his seat.

He did have something to live for.

Her name was Bethany.

And for Hank Harrison...that was all he needed.

Nick stood there, frustration starting to get the better of him. "Doctor, please, explain yourself more clearly."

Brownstone smirked wildly. "Yes...well...hmm. I'm not good at explanations when I'm so excited. Perhaps my wife?" He looked at the door behind him. "Lusa, we have guests."

The door opened up and a fairly young woman stepped out. Her eyes were happy and her face was glowing. It was a look that Nick recognized immediately.

"I'm sorry about my husband-he gets a bit ahead of himself."

"I'll say," Lieutenant Gates muttered.

Nick didn't pay her any mind however. "You're pregnant," he blurted almost by accident. Immediately he felt his face grow red from the abruptness.

Lusa nodded her head. "Yes," she said happily, "I am. It'll be our first." She grabbed Brownstone's arm and tugged him towards the door. "Follow us-I'll explain what I can."

Nick turned to Mark. "Post security outside this door. The rest of you...follow the leader," he said with some annoyance. Mark did as he was told and soon the remainder of them-Nick, Mark, Bethany and Gates-were following Lusa. They entered into a large, cavernous room, databanks lining the walls and a giant viewscreen-twice as big as the main bridge aboard the Pearl-dominating the front of the room.

"Welcome to our monitoring center, Captain," Lusa said with a smile. "Here, we watch the timeline unfold...predict where it might go...where it could go...and research what makes certain things happen and certain things...not happen." She turned to Nick with a smile. "Our job is primarily to observe and research our readings from the timeline."

Brownstone nodded enthusiastically. "True...however, we have a secondary directive should a situation like this occur...where the timeline has been altered dramatically."

"And that directive is what?" Nick asked sharply. "Doctor...I don't know if you realize what's going on out there-"

"Yes, yes, we do, we do!" Brownstone said with excitement. "The Del'Vreer. A remarkable species...one that is apparently quite determined; few would go to these lengths to destroy the Federation."

"I can name a few off the top of my head," Mark said strongly. "We have a lot of enemies."

"And many friends," Lusa countered quickly. "We are one of those friends, Captain," she said, looking at Nick kindly. "Please...allow us to explain."

Nick sighed. "All right...let's hear it."

Brownstone nodded. "Thank you, Captain." He cleared his throat and began to speak. "This facility was built originally for the very purpose of correcting any errors in the timeline."

"Built when?" Bethany asked curiously.

Brownstone smiled. "Shortly after the formation of the Federation...2175 I believe." Brownstone looked up at the ceiling for a moment before smiling. "Yes, 2175. We were tasked with protecting the timeline from outside elements interfering in it."

"Such as?" Nick asked coolly.

"Have you ever heard of the Temporal Cold War?" Brownstone asked with caution.

Nick looked around, seeing the looks of confusion on his officers' face. He had no idea what Brownstone was talking about. "What?" Nick answered with confusion, mixed with annoyance.

Brownstone shrugged. "Perhaps Admiral Winsor can it explain to me why you don't know."

"Winsor?!" Nick stepped up and grabbed Brownstone by the collar. "He's here?"

A flash of recognition crossed the older man's face. "Yes, yes! Winsor and the Victory are here...as well as the Thames!"

Nick set Brownstone down and leaned in close. "Where?" He demanded.

Brownstone smiled. "Yes...well, the rest of the explanation can wait. This way," he said, walking deeper into the facility.

Nick and the rest of his team followed. Mark pulled up close to him, his eyes taking in the corridors around them. "Sir...can we trust this guy? He seems...off," Mark said in whispers.

Nick offered up a shrug. "We don't have much of choice, do we?" He whispered back.

Mark offered a nod and stepped back, his eyes watching Brownstone and his hand gripped around his phaser.

Within another few moments they arrived in what looked like a cargo bay...a rather big one too.

In it were Starfleet officers.

"Yes, well...here we are. Ah, there's Admiral Winsor!"

The gruff, angry, scowling visage of Admiral Greg Winsor approached and he looked to be in his usual mood-bad. "About damned time," Winsor said as he stood in front of next, his eyes looking behind him. "Where's the rest of your crew?"

"Aboard the Pearl, sir."

Winsor gave Nick a confused look. "She survived the transport here?"

"Remarkably well," Brownstone said with excitement. "I don't know why, but we'll soon find out."

"Your ship didn't survive, sir?" Gates asked with concern.

"She did...she's just badly damaged. We have repair teams up there now, but it could be days before we have lifesupport functioning again." He looked back to Nick. "We have wounded that need medical treatment...get your medical staff down here. We lost most of ours on the trip over."

"Aye sir," Nick said as he slapped his combadge. After a moment, he heard Commander Leonard's voice.

"Captain?"

"Commander, I need medical teams beamed down to the planet immediately...we have injured Starfleet officers here."

"Understood, sir. Captain...one other thing. That woman...Maria...she's requested a meeting with you. What should I tell her?"

"Go to hell," Nick responded with a bit of a grin.

He could hear Leonard chuckle a little on the other end of the line. "Understood, sir. I'll relay that verbatim. Leonard out."

Nick looked over the crowd of officers in the large cargo bay. "How did you get here?"

"How do you think? That damned...wormhole thing."

"Artificial wormhole," Brownstone corrected with pride. "Quite an accomplishment."

"It got seven of my people killed!" Winsor yelled angrily.

Brownstone was unfazed. "Better than all of them, Admiral."

Winsor growled but turned his attention back to Nick. "We need to talk...there's a lot to discuss...especially after what happened to Starfleet Headquarters-"

"Sir?" Nick asked quickly. He felt a knot in his gut as Winsor's face clouded.

"Christ...you didn't hear, did you?" The older man rubbed his forehead and scowled. After a moment his hands drifted towards his side. "Starfleet HQ was destroyed by the Del'Vreer. Due to a large number of deaths in the admiralty...I'm the new Commander in chief."

For Nick, the room grew silent. His mind raced to the one person who mattered above all else.

His wife.

"Sir, was anywhere else on Earth attacked?"

Winsor shook his head. "No, thankfully...just HQ."

Nick sighed in relief before he caught himself. A lot of people had been killed by the Del'Vreer...and the list seemed to get longer by the day.

"Come on," Winsor said as he pointed ahead. "We have work to do."

Nick nodded and looked back to his people. "Let's go."

And so they walked through the crowd of Starfleet officers.

Some injured.

Some dying.

All out of place...and out of time.

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And here we are with Ch. 6. As always, any and all comments are welcome and please, enjoy.

**********************

Ch. 6

Stardate 62078.94

January 29th, 2385 19:33 Hours

Federation Temporal Research Facility

It had been two hours since Greg Winsor had discovered the Pearl and her crew were alive. It didn't exactly please him that Brownstone had forgotten to mention that information earlier, but that didn't matter now. The scatterbrained scientist was the least of Winsor's problems. He had a lot on his plate...more than he thought. Fulton had been debriefed by Winsor as soon as the two got a moment alone.

The facts were disturbing. The Romulans seemed on the verge of civil war-at least before the Del'Vreer interfered in the timeline. Spock had been saved, the Valiant lost, and Hank Harrison recovered. Intermixed in all that was the mysterious Del'Vreer named Maria. She and Harrison had a history-at least that's what Fulton told him. The younger man wouldn't go into details about that, saying only that Harrison should be the one to tell. Winsor had grudgingly agreed. He'd talk to Harrison later...right now the most important thing was getting his people treated and getting on the same page with everyone. That was going to take time.

"Admiral?"

Winsor turned around and looked over his former XO. "You look tired, Thomas."

"I am, sir. We've been transporting the critically wounded aboard the Pearl, per your orders, sir. We've just finished the last group."

Winsor grunted in approval as he began walking towards Fulton and his people. "Good. Has Barash been transported?"

"Aye, sir." Thomas responded slowly. "His condition is unchanged. He's aboard the Pearl now...her CMO doesn't have a plan of action as of yet-"

"He better get one," Winsor said as he whipped around quickly. He paused for a moment before shaking his head. "Sorry, Thomas...we're all on edge."

"Yes, sir, we are." The two began walking again towards Fulton and his people.

Winsor couldn't help but reflect on how screwed up this entire situation was. He had few answers and too many questions. That had to change if they even wanted to have a chance.

Fulton saw them coming and met them as they arrived. "Sir, my medical staff has finished treating the non-fatal wounds. It seems everyone will make a full recovery."

Winsor nodded solemnly. "I want to see her."

Immediately, Fulton's defenses rose. Winsor could see the anger in the man's eyes. "Sir, I recommend against that-from everything I've heard-"

"That's second-hand knowledge, Captain. I want first-hand knowledge...I need to talk to her."

Fulton locked his jaw, a look of gravity on his face. "Aye, sir. We can beam up immediately."

"Good," Winsor said as he turned to Thomas. "Captain, you'll continue to coordinate efforts on this end. Find Morris and get her beamed to the Pearl immediately...after I get done with interviewing the prisoner you'll beam up as well. Quarters will be ready for you...we're going to have one decent night of sleep before we hash this all out in the morning."

"Admiral, wouldn't it be better-"

"Yes, it might be," Winsor responded curtly, "but we're doing this my way. Clear?"

Thomas nodded. "Aye, sir."

Winsor gave his old XO a pat on the back. "We all have pieces of the puzzle...in the morning we'll finally have an idea what the finished product looks like." He turned to Fulton and pointed up. "Let's go."

Within moments the two arrived aboard the Pearl. Winsor was amazed at how well the ship had held up. With everything Fulton had told him, Winsor half expected the ship to be in shambles, as she was after the New Haven Disaster. Instead, he found himself surprised. The transporters still worked and the crew didn't look nearly as worn down as when he last saw them.

Winsor was sure Harrison's return had something to do with that. Fulton gave a quick nod of thanks to the transporter operator and he proceeded out into the corridor, Winsor following close behind. "Your crew seems to be doing well, Captain."

"Yes, sir," Fulton said with some pride. "They've adjusted to this craziness...better than I could have expected."

Winsor nodded quietly as the two made their way into the turbolift. "Brig," Winsor called out as the doors shut and the lift began moving.

"Admiral...this Maria...she's a dangerous thing, sir. Our dealings with the Del'Vreer...as limited as they are...don't give me a lot of faith in her intentions."

"She said she was here to help, right?"

Fulton nodded with trepidation. "That's what she says, sir. I don't believe her."

"Neither do I," Winsor responded quickly. "Don't think I've become delusional in my short time as CinC. These people blew up Starfleet HQ and killed a lot of good people too...I want answers from her. Answers she can give me right now and no one else can." Winsor shook his head. "If I have to beat it out of her, I will."

"Understood, sir," Fulton said quietly.

Winsor looked back at him. "You have a problem with that?"

Fulton shook his head. "If it comes to you having to beat her for information...I'll join you. Trust me on that, Admiral."

Winsor let loose a small smirk. "Good."

The turbolift doors opened and Fulton stepped out with Winsor following. In moments the two had arrived at the brig area.

Fulton pointed to the figure in the brig. Winsor was rendered breathless for a moment.

Beautiful...was an understatement in his mind. She was quite attractive...more so than he thought she could be.

But then again, she was supposed to be this attractive. It was part of her allure...her charm...her trap.

Winsor cleared his throat and Maria turned around. Her face registered no surprise.

She just smiled. "Well...Admiral Winsor. I see you survived."

In that instant, Winsor knew he wasn't looking at any usual prisoner. She wasn't scared. She wasn't begging for mercy. No pleas, no bargains...she was confident.

"So...you know me?"

She nodded as she approached the forcefield, her hands folded casually behind her. Her eyes locked onto his. "I know of you. The information I have paints you as...interesting."

Winsor could feel the tension from Fulton. He could feel the man restraining himself. It was a gut feeling...one that probably was right. For now, he ignored the captain; Fulton wasn't part of this conversation.

"Why did you go through all of this...just to go back in time and wipe out the Federation?" Winsor approached Maria, eventually bringing himself right in front of the forcefield. "Why the games? Why the ploys?"

She shrugged. "Why not?"

"Not an answer."

She smirked. "Your people...the Klingons...the Romulans...the Cardassians...so easy to turn against one another. It was better that you were distracted. When you're distracted you miss certain things...things that could help you. That's what happened to you. You missed certain things...and your people suffered."

Winsor narrowed his eyes. "New Haven...the Cardassians...the destruction of Starfleet HQ...all was a distraction. All just to keep us off your trail? You expect me to believe that?"

"You don't?" She responded coolly.

"I don't," he shot back angrily. "All that death...all that destruction. It wasn't a distraction...it was senseless. It served no purpose."

"If you say so...I'm only telling you what I know."

Winsor shook his head. "Not good enough. Tell me what you don't know...tell me what you think...what you believe the true reason was."

She folded her arms. "A distraction."

"Bull shit," he responded harshly. "You don't believe it."

She smiled again. "I might not." She sat back down and crossed her legs. "But I'm not here to talk about what's old. I'm here to talk about what's new...your situation. My offer of assistance."

"To help your people?" Winsor scoffed. "More than likely a lie. From everything I've heard you do one thing well and that is to lie."

"Ask Hank. He can tell you if I'm lying or not."

Winsor's nostrils flared. "What you did to Harrison has broken a good officer and a good man. I should have you executed. I almost wish I could...but then I'd be just as lost as your people."

That brought out a reaction. Maria's smile disappeared and with it all appearances of kindness. "You know nothing of us. You don't know the sacrifice I'm making."

"You are doing nothing," Winsor responded with ferocity. "You have sacrificed nothing. The people you killed...the death you brought upon the galaxy...was for nothing." Winsor smirked wickedly. "In the end that's what your entire people amount to...nothing."

Maria carefully folded her hands across her lap and said nothing.

Winsor had gotten what he wanted. "Let's go, Captain." The two began to walk away when Maria called out.

"How is Barash?"

In an instant, Winsor had stopped and turned around. "What?"

"I can feel him dying, Admiral. Slowly...surely...dying." She stood, a wicked grin on her face. It held no warmth. No kindness. It chilled Winsor to the core. "You need him, don't you, Admiral?"

Winsor took a deep breath. He was about to ask a question he would surely regret. "Can you save him?"

"Not while a prisoner, Admiral. As you know...everything has a price. That's mine." She laughed. "I never thought I'd be in a position to save a Kel'Mar...but life is a funny thing. It's...unique. Hank taught me that...and for his sake, and yours, I offer my aid to Barash. If you deny me, he will die and with him will be key information...information you will never recover...information you will never see again." She stepped right up to the forcefield, her eyes afire. "Release me, and I save him...treat me as a guest, not a prisoner, and you will be able to enjoy his company once more."

He felt a knot in his stomach. Was he that easy to read? He felt a coldness creep up on him. It enveloped him, slowly, but he felt it.

"Admiral, don't trust her," Fulton demanded. "She's trying to get her claws in you...Hank warned me about it. I'm now warning you. A deal with her is like a deal with the devil...you can never win."

She turned her attention to Nick. "How are your wife and unborn child? Oh...that's right...they don't exist now, do they? Or perhaps...they're dead." She shrugged. "Who knows?"

Fulton ignored her, but the pained expression on his face was enough to show everyone in the room that Maria had gotten under his skin. It was a low blow.

It just didn't concern Winsor. He patted Fulton on the shoulder and approached the forcefield again. It was the only thing separating them now...his face was mere inches from hers. He could stare into those eyes for as long as it took for him to determine the truth.

"You can save him?"

"I can make him live, again...yes. At one time his species possessed the technology mine does. When they began to die off, they abandoned it and all the benefits it brought them. A sad mistake...but one that I can make sure Barash avoids. He can be saved. All you have to do...is lower the forcefield."

He stared at her for another moment before speaking. "Captain...she is free to go."

He could feel Fulton rush up behind him. "Admiral, you can't be serious! After all she's done-"

Winsor turned around sharply. "You have a hearing problem, Captain? A superior officer, your CinC, has just given you a direct order. Free her-put an armed escort on her at all times, set the phasers to kill, whatever you have to do to make yourself feel safe, just free her! Is that understood?!"

Fulton looked shocked. But he was a Starfleet officer. He understood his place. "I'll be filing an official objection to this action, sir."

"Do that," Winsor growled. "Just get her to sickbay, now. Is that clear?"

"Aye, sir," Fulton said quickly.

Winsor nodded and turned his attention to Maria. "If he dies, you die."

She smiled. "Understood, Admiral."

The forcefield dropped and she stepped out, but not before Winsor got in her face. "You had better damn well understand it. I will personally make sure you suffer if you screw this up."

She nodded. "Of course."

Winsor nodded back and briskly left the brig area.

Fulton had his orders. The man would follow them.

Winsor couldn't help but feel he made the only decision possible. He had to save Barash.

He just hoped to God he didn't pay too high a price for that favor.

If he did make a mistake, he got the feeling he would suffer.

Along with everyone else.

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