Counsellor Bimetri Cassaria exited the turbolift at the beginning of the alpha shift in his usual jovial mood. He walked down the ramp on the right hand side and took his post just to the left of the captain, who returned his smile.
“How is the day finding you, Counsellor?” asked Captain Hudson, who already had a good idea of the answer.
Cassaria had gotten on well with Celia Hudson ever since he was first assigned to the Constitution nearly six months ago and the two of them had quickly fallen into this routine at the start of each shift.
“It finds me well, Captain,” he replied. “I take it that it finds you in similarly high spirits?”
Hudson’s smile broadened, “It does, Counsellor.”
Cassaria settled into his seat and let the ambient sounds, both physical and telepathic, of the bridge wash over him as Captain Hudson returned to managing the vessel and her crew.
“Ensign Ebonez,” said Hudson, “what’s our ETA at Forcas III.”
The young, light brown haired helm officer inclined his head towards the Captain, “We should arrive in 18 hours and 26 minutes, sir.”
The Constitution was en route to the Klingon colony to help settle a trade dispute between them and the Federation colony on Sherman’s Planet. Relations between Sherman’s Planet and the Klingons had always been a little strained, ever since the Federation had succeeded in developing the disputed world better than the Klingons nearly a century earlier, allowing them to take control of the world as per the terms of the Orgainian Peace Treaty. However, in a twist of fate, the colony’s biggest market for its main export, quadrotriticale grain, was the Klingon colonies that lay within a few light years of the planet, including the one on Forcas III.
The current trade dispute had erupted when a short fall in production had forced the colony to raise its prices. Immediately the Klingons had objected, claiming that the reduced output was just a ruse and that the colony had in fact sold the rest of the grain elsewhere and were now attempting to get the same payment from them for less product, an accusation the colonists fervently denied. The situation escalated when the Klingons refused to pay anything for a delivery of the grain, instead impounding the ship until the grain spoiled and the colonists started demanding compensation. The Federation council had eventually decided to dispatch a mediator to settle the dispute and assigned the Constitution to take him there.
Cassaria’s train of thought was disrupted as he felt something invading his consciousness. Hardly noticeable, it was nothing more than a slight tingling sensation at first, but he could feel it continue to grow and become more intense.
Cassaria was well trained at blocking such invasions out, and quickly erected his mental blocks in order to prevent it from encroaching any further. Happy that he was properly protected he turned towards Captain Hudson to report the odd occurrence. “Captain, I…”
Cassaria cried out in pain as the force of the telepathic contact ripped through his defences as if they hadn’t been there at all and a searing white pain engulfed his mind.
“Counsellor!” exclaimed Hudson, coming to his side.
“Captain, I’m detecting a large concentration of chronoton energy at bearing 285, mark 041,” reported Ensign Thane from the operations console, “distance, 1 light year.”
“Set… course… for… it…” Cassaria stammered through the pain.
Hudson turned to Ebonez. “Ensign, alter course to head for that reading,” she ordered.
It was the last thing that Cassaria heard as he finally and mercifully passed out.
The thick white mist swirled around Cassaria, obscuring everything further than a metre in any direction, which was, in fact, everything. He couldn’t even tell what, if anything, he was standing on.
Cassaria could hear the words and the voice that uttered them quite clearly now, but in the mist he couldn’t tell the direction it was coming from. It sounded like it belonged to a girl who, he estimated, could be no older than 8 or 9 years.
Help me, the voice cried again.
Cassaria tried to reply, but when he opened his mouth nothing came out. He tried again with the same result, so he changed tactic.
Where are you? He asked with his mind, but before she could reply he felt the white world begin to rush away around him.
Cassaria groaned, his head pounding, as he felt the outside world reassert itself on his senses. Almost immediately he heard the voice of the Constitution’s Antosian chief medical officer, Doctor Orias Pax, “Captain, he’s regaining consciousness.”
Cautiously opening his eyes, Cassaria found the doctor leaning over him with a tricorder. Captain Hudson stood beside him, a concerned look in her face. After a few moments Pax closed the tricorder and nodded to Hudson.
“You gave us quite a scare there, Counsellor,” said the Captain.
Cassaria gave a weak smile. “What happened?” he asked.
“You blacked out on the bridge when something overloaded your paracortex,” explained Pax, referring to the lobe in the Betazoid brain that was the source of their telepathy. “It affected all our telepathic crewmembers, but you were the only one to lose consciousness – the rest ended up with a just a very bad headache.”
“I wasn’t spared that either,” joked Cassaria, rubbing his forehead.
“Here, this should help,” said Pax, pressing a hypospray to his neck.
Cassaria felt the pain dull to an annoyance. “Do we know what caused my blackout?”
“Actually, we were hoping that you could shed some light on that,” replied the Captain, “especially as it seemed to be directed at you. It might help us to understand what we found.”
“What you found?” repeated Cassaria.
Hudson nodded, indicating to one of the other biobeds that was just outside of Cassaria’s field of view. “Her.”
Cassaria carefully pushed himself to a sitting position, fighting a bout of nausea along the way, and looked over to where the captain was indicting. Lying almost motionless on the nearest biobed was a blond haired woman in her mid-twenties. She wore what seemed to be a Starfleet issue uniform in the gold of the operations division. However, instead of the coloured shoulders of the current uniform, the shirt was a single solid colour broken only by a black line that ran across it, dividing it in the same place the coloured shoulders ended on the current ones.
“When we arrived to investigate the source of the chronoton energy reading, whatever had caused the burst had dissipated,” she explained, “and in its place we found a drifting shuttlecraft with her on board.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s been like that since the away team found her,” said Pax. “She’s in a catatonic state brought on by some form of temporal psychosis. It’s a bit difficult to diagnose because there’s only one other case on record.”
“So she’s a time traveller?” asked Cassaria.
“That’s the leading theory,” said Hudson, “although there are other possibilities, especially when you take into account our destination or that we’re not far from the Romulan border.”
“So she’s could be a spy?” said Cassaria looking over to her. “Doesn’t look like a very effective one.”
“It’s still a possibility and one that I can’t ignore,” she responded. “As a result I’ve currently got Commander Sullivan going over the shuttle with a fine toothed comb and Doctor Pax here it running a full genetic profile.”
Feeling a little more sure of himself, Cassaria swung his legs off the biobed and walked over to the one on which she lay. He opened his senses slightly, trying to get an ambient reading off her. He could feel the painkiller that the Doctor had given him dulling his senses, but they still functioned well enough for him to find what he was looking for.
This time he had been looking for it and he heard it clearly. The woman lying on this bed was the same person who had been calling to him as a little girl in the mist.
“Captain,” said Cassaria, “I think there’s another option.”
Cassaria sat beside the mysterious woman’s biobed as ready to attempt what he was about to as he would ever be. He felt Doctor Pax withdraw his hands from the cortical monitor that had just been attached to his forehead and move to beside Captain Hudson, who still wore the concerned look on her face that she had since he had first proposed this.
“You’re sure about this?” she asked again.
Prompted by Hudson’s question, Cassaria asked himself if he really was as prepared to go through this as he thought he was. In the hours since the idea had first entered his thoughts Cassaria had researched it thoroughly, going over all the previous attempts to contact catatonic people by telepaths as well as the single recorded similar case of temporal psychosis that had occurred on the USS Enterprise four years earlier. Dr. Katherine Pulaski, the ship’s Chief Medical Officer at the time, had noted in her report that her patient, a duplicate of Captain Picard from six hours in the future, had regained consciousness shortly after he had been discovered. However he had been confused and frightened, completely unable to focus or recognise the world around him and the ship’s counsellor, Deanna Troi, had had similar problems where she had tried to sense his emotional state. Cassaria expected to find something similar in this patient.
“Yes,” he replied confidently. “If there are any problems, Doctor Pax can administer the telepathic blocker.”
Pax nodded in agreement, although he didn’t look any happier than Hudson.
“I’m preparing to lower my mental blocks,” reported Cassaria.
He saw Doctor Pax tap his tricorder…
… and sickbay disappeared into blackness.
Cassaria was more prepared for the disorientating effect this time when the darkness faded and the swirling white mist returned. In fact, he closed his eyes again and stood motionless, ‘listening’ for the cry for help that had drawn him here.
Help me, the disembodied voice of the young girl cried after a few moments. The voice was quieter than it had been before and its tone had become more desperate as if it was slipping away, but it was still strong enough to get a sense of direction from. However Cassaria didn’t move, instead reaching out with his mind in the direction that the plea had originated in an attempt to find a marker to guide him to her. When he found her, her fear nearly overwhelmed him.
Hold on for just a little while longer, he thought comfortingly, I’m coming to help you.
Cassaria opened his eyes and was surprised to find the white mist had dissipated to reveal that he was standing at the intersection of three corridors of a design common to modern Federation starships.
Momentarily disorientated, Cassaria refocused on the telepathic marker before deciding in which direction to head off. To his left and to his right, the corridors bent away, following the curved hull that was a staple feature of most Starfleet vessels, while ahead of him the corridor terminated in the double doors that would normally lead to a turbolift car. Cassaria could sense the girl behind these doors and walked towards them, stopping just short to press the call button for the turbolift. The doors parted in response but, instead of the inside of a turbolift car, he was surprise to find that he was looking into the interior of a starship’s sickbay.
Disorientation washed over Cassaria again as he felt the universe shift around him. Getting his bearings again he found that he was now inside the sickbay and a quick check behind him confirmed that he was standing in front of the now closed doors. As the doors hadn’t opened automatically despite his proximity, he tried to disengage the lock using the panel on the wall next to them. As expected it had no effect and he turned back and surveyed the room.
The sickbay was more advanced than the Constitution’s, which itself was quite advanced, although it was also smaller than the nebula-class ship’s. A surgical alcove dominated the far end of the room, with a monitoring station and control console in the centre. Two bio-beds were placed along the wall to Cassaria’s right and the entrance to the Chief Medical Officer’s office was to his left, the window of which took up most of the wall on that side of the room.
Cassaria could hear the faint sound of someone sobbing and after a moment he worked out that it was coming from inside the CMO’s office. He entered the office and peered over the top of the desk, where he found a young girl sitting on the floor with her back to the wall and her forehead resting on her knees that she tucked into her body.
“Hi there,” said Cassaria in his best non-threatening tone. “What’s your name?”
The girl’s sobbing stopped and she slowly looked up at the counsellor. The movement caused her shoulder length golden hair to fall over her face and she brushed it back with her hand.
“Kitty,” she replied with a sniff.
Kitty’s eyes were red and swollen, as if she’d been crying for quite a while. Cassaria walked around the table and sat down next to her.
“Hello, Kitty,” replied Cassaria, “my name’s Bimitri.”
Kitty looked a little confused. “Bim-ee-tree,” she repeated, rolling the word around her mouth in the way eight year olds do when they come across a difficult new word. “Are you part of the crew? Everyone in the uniform is.”
“I’m part of Starfleet, but I’m from a different ship,” he said looking at his uniform. “I heard you call for help.”
“I was looking for my mom,” she explained, “but I got lost and I then got looked in here. I couldn’t get out. Have you seen her?”
“Who’s your mom?”
“My mom’s the Captain,” she replied proudly, before she looked downcast again. “I have to find her ‘fore she changes things.”
“What’s she trying to change?”
“She wants us to stop being lost, but it’ll change ev’rything,” replied Kitty. “I might even disappear,” and she tapped her chest to emphasise her last point.
Now that Cassaria had a better picture of what was going on he knew what he had to do to help her and he got to his feet and held out his hand.
“Come on, Kitty,” he said. “Let’s go find your mom.”
Kitty smiled as she took his hand and pulled herself up off the deck and she continued to hold his hand as the walked to the entrance to the sickbay. Cassaria touched the locking controls on the control panel and as he suspected the door opened this time.
“Kitty’s a pretty name,” he said as they stepped through the doorway, “what’s it short for?”
“Katherine,” she replied with a smile. “It’s my Mom’s name too.”
“How do you feel, Counsellor?” asked Dr. Pax.
Cassaria blinked several times, his eyes feeling dry as if he’d been staring at the same spot for hours, but otherwise he felt fine and let Pax know he was. It was a sharp contrast to the pounding headache that he had woken with last time.
“How long was I in there?” he asked.
“About two hours. We were beginning to get a little worried, but both your readings remained constant throughout,” replied Pax. “So, what did you find out?”
“I think her name’s Katherine,” said Cassaria. “She’s the daughter of a starship captain, most probably from the future.”
“She is,” said Captain Hudson and she walked into sickbay, flanked by one of Constitution’s security officers. “Commander Sullivan managed to recover some information about her from the shuttle,” she said, handing a padd to Cassaria.
“‘Lieutenant Katherine Shannon Sheridan, born on Stardate 56718.9, daughter of Captain Kathryn Janeway,’” Cassaria read aloud. He lowered the padd and commented, “No mention of her father or current assignment.”
“No. As we’d surmised, most of the shuttle’s computer systems were completely fried,” confirmed Hudson, before looking in Katherine’s direction and continuing, “and that was all we could get. Did you find out why she’s here?”
“As expected, it was a little strange in there,” replied Cassaria. “I ended up speaking to a younger version who called herself ‘Kitty’. She told me she was looking for her mother before she changed things and stopped them from being lost.”
Captain Hudson looked thoughtful for a moment, as if the last piece of a puzzle had just fallen into place.
“She’s coming around, Doctor,” said the nurse from the woman’s bedside, causing Hudson to look in her direction and Pax to walk over and monitor her progress.
Hudson led Cassaria to the far side of the room. “Janeway’s ship, the USS Voyager, was reported missing in the Badlands six hours ago.”
“About the same time that she appeared?” asked Cassaria rhetorically. “That can’t be a coincidence.”
“Starfleet Intelligence agrees, but not that she’s from the future,” replied Hudson. “They think that she might have been planted here to re-enforce the idea that Voyager is lost and will be for a long time, meaning that Starfleet is unlikely to look too hard for her.”
“With all due respect, Captain, that’s a bit far fetched.”
“Apparently SI has received some intel from Voyager’s last port of call at Deep Space Nine that the ship and crew have been captured. It’s a more plausible idea than the one that she’s from the future. Voyager’s a brand new ship, one of Starfleet’s most advanced,” replied Hudson. Cassaria was about to protest again when the Captain put her hand up and stopped him. “What I mean is that one is just as likely as the other and until they know more, Intelligence is going to explore all the possible avenues of enquiry.”
“So what will happen to her?”
“When we get back to Earth she’ll be handed over to Temporal Investigations, who, along with SI, will ascertain the validity of her being from the future and the level of contamination to the timeline if she is.”
“And if they decide that she isn’t.”
“That’s up to Starfleet Intelligence.”
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