Sara Parker rushed through the ship from cargo bay 2 on deck 6 to the primary transporter room on deck 7 a single thought driving her forward. Over the past several days Sara had experienced a wide range of emotions. From finding her husband in stasis on the sleeper ship, to learning that she could revive him, to thinking he had died, each event sapping at her emotional reserves, until Doctor McDonald’s confirmation of Lex’s death had exhausted them and she’d dropped to her knees on the cargo bay’s deck. McDonald had immediately been at her side, checking for any physical causes for her sudden collapse and finding nothing beyond exhaustion. She’d been in the middle of telling Sara to go to her quarters and that she’d send Counsellor Cassaria to see her shortly when the call had come down from the bridge that the Defender had suddenly appeared, Lex was alive and he was beaming aboard. Summoning energy neither she nor McDonald no longer thought she had, she had got back to her feet run out of the cargo bay.
Sara reached entrance to transporter room 1 and stopped. Her heart was pounding in her chest and her breathing short and shallow from the exertion. She took several long deep breaths, calming her heartbeat and composing herself. Satisfied that her appearance was now more befitting of one of the ships senior officers, she stepped forward into the doors sensor range. They opened obligingly and she stepped through.
Already waiting in the transporter room were Commander Patel and Lieutenant Parsons. Sara nodded greeting to Patel and then Parsons, who stood on Patel’s right, and then took her place on Patel’s left.
“Proceed when ready, Chief,” Patel told Gav and the Tellerite transporter chief activated the transporter. Six columns of blue sparkling light appeared before coalescing into humanoid figures and the hum of the technology faded.
Sara paid little attention to most of the new arrivals, with it barely registering that Kate Sheridan, Arkin Jora and James Dulmis were among them. Instead, she was focused on Jonozia Lex who had appeared on the forward central pad and it took all her self-control not to rush forward and fling her arms around him.
“Welcome back, Captain,” said Patel.
“Thank you Commander,” replied Lex stepping down from the pad.
“Doctor McDonald has requested that you and the other survivors report to sickbay so that she can give you the once over,” said Patel. He then added with a smile, “I got the distinct feeling it wasn’t a request.”
Sara hadn’t heard the Doctor making such a request but figured that she had probably done it during her journey to the transporter room. It would also explain why Patel and Parsons had seemed to be expecting her. That the Doctor had made it more of an order than a request didn’t surprise her though. McDonald was well known for being the strict yet friendly type.
“Understood,” said Lex, before turning to the other arrivals. “The rest of you report to Dr. McDonald. I’ll be along shortly.”
The five arrivals filtered out of the room with Parsons in tow and Lex spoke to Sara for the first time.
“Hello Sara,” he said softly and from just those two words she could tell that he wanted to embrace her as much as she wanted to embrace him. They both knew their proper reunion would have to wait, but for now though she was just happy to see that he was alive, safe and well. “I need you to go over the sensor logs from the Defender and try to find out what happened to us out there.”
“I’ll get on it right away,” she said.
“In that case,” he said turning back to Patel, “I’ll be in sickbay if you need me, Commander.”
“Aye Sir,” replied Patel and Lex turned and left with the other arrivals.
“Chief, start beaming aboard the remaining personnel from the Defender,” ordered Patel and Gav grunted in affirmation. “Lieutenant, we’ve got work to do.”
“Aye Sir,” Sara replied, moving toward the exit at Patel’s side.
The turbolift doors opened and Jonozia Lex stepped out onto the bridge for the first time since he’d beamed back aboard his ship four hours earlier. In the centre seat, Lieutenant Parsons turned to see who had arrived and on seeing the Captain immediately began to rise.
“Captain on the Bridge,” he called out, gaining the attention of the rest of the bridge crew.
“At ease,” said Lex.
Parsons nodded in acknowledgement “The Senior staff is waiting for you in the observation lounge, Captain.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Lex replied and the bridge returned to work.
Lex stood at the back of the bridge for a moment, happy to be back where he felt he belonged. For him it had been over a week since he had last stepped foot here, but it felt like a lifetime had passed and he supposed that in one respect it had. The 21st century seemed a very distant time now.
He was also having trouble wrapping his head around exactly what had happened. Time travel gave most people a headache at the best of times, but this was even more confusing. They both had and hadn’t travelled to the past, remembering everything that had happened seemingly without having gone there, but also going there, creating a paradox where there were now two of each survivor. He hoped the coming briefing with his senior officers would shed some light, but suspected that it was just going to throw up more questions than answers. Feeling ready, he headed toward the observation lounge’s entrance.
The observation lounge doors opened and Lex did indeed find his senior staff waiting patiently. Most of them were chatting quietly when he entered, which quickly ended on noticing him, and he quickly took his seat at the head of the table. Along the side of the table to his right sat Thomas Patel, Simok, Jane McDonald and Bimitri Cassaria, while on the left sat Kate Sheridan, Sara Parker, James Dulmis and Arkin Jora.
“Ok, what have you got for me?” said Lex, starting the briefing.
“Lieutenant Parker,” said Patel, giving her the floor.
Parker pressed a button on the small control padd on the table in front of her, activating the large viewscreen on the wall behind. She swivelled her chair to face it and the other officers on her side of the table did likewise. A diagram of the USS Defender’s flight path appeared, intersected by a cloud of glowing purple.
“We think that the Defender encountered a temporal rift with the properties of a subspace divergence field,” she said.
“What’s a subspace divergence field?” asked Sheridan.
“It’s a divergence of fields in subspace that has the effect of duplicating matter,” explained Parker. “There were several studies into it by Kent State University in the twenty three forties but they were only ever able to duplicate single atoms and even then they were highly unstable. They theorised that it might be possible to stabilise them if you could shift one out of phase with the other.”
“As I recall, they were never able to duplicate antimatter though, were they?” asked Lex.
“No they weren’t,” Parker replied, “and I think that is why the second Defender dumped its warp core. The system is designed that if it detects a sudden leak of large amounts of antimatter then the auto ejection systems kick in; as the ship passed through the anomaly it copied the ship, sending one version back in time to the twenty first century, while the other remained here in the twenty fourth.”
“Has this happened to a starship before?” asked Sheridan, who seemed to think it had.
“As far as I know this is the first example of such an occurrence,” said Parker, but Lex could see that Sheridan was unconvinced.
“What is it Commander?”
“Nothing really, Captain,” she replied. “I just can’t shake the feeling that it sounds familiar.”
“If it was duplicates of us that ended up in the past then why do we remember what happened?” asked Lex, moving on, “and why weren’t the crew members who didn’t survive duplicated too.”
“It seems that the ships antimatter caused the divergence field to fluxuate, missing them out. The antimatter stayed with the ship in the 24th century and they were thrown with the ship into the 21st,” said Parker. “Their mass together with that of the ship’s shuttles, which are also missing, about equals the amount of antimatter the ship was left with.”
“That doesn’t explain why we remember the events that happened to us in the past,” said Arkin.
“No it doesn’t and I don’t have an explanation for that,” she responded.
“I might,” said McDonald, getting the groups attention. “The results of the initial scans we did after everyone beamed back checked out fine, with no sign of interference either physical, mental, telepathic or otherwise. The exception was Commander Lisley.”
“How is Commander Lisley?” asked Lex, diverging from the subject for a moment.
“Stable, but she has a serious case of post traumatic shock,” Cassaria replied. “She’ll need several months of counselling before she can return to active duty.”
“Why was she the exception?” Lex asked, getting back to topic.
“Due to Commander Lisley’s condition I ran more extensive tests on her than everyone else. Her test results showed a small number of chronotons lodged in the Parietal and Temporal lobes of her brain and further scans on other members of the Defender’s crew showed a similar concentration of chronotons in them too,” continued McDonald. “If the versions that travelled to the past had this too then it’s possible that these parts of the brain remained connected.”
“It would also explain why everyone on the sleeper ship died,” said Simok, “as stasis fields have been shown to have no effect on chronotons except to prolong their lifespan.”
“So essentially those sections of their brains would have continued to age until it caused their death,” suggested Sheridan.
“I’d need to run tests on the bodies to confirm it,” said McDonald, “but essentially, yes.”
“Are these concentrations of chronotons dangerous to our health?” asked Sheridan.
“No they shouldn’t be,” said McDonald, “but I would recommend we treat everyone affected anyway to get the particles to dissipate.”
“See to it, Doctor,” ordered Lex. He then addressed everyone. “Thank you all, I’ll include your reports in with my own to temporal investigations. You’re dismissed.”
Each of them nodded, rose from their seat and left the room, leaving Lex alone with just one final question he needed answered. Why?
He tapped his combadge. “Lieutenant Johnson, please report to me in the Observation Lounge.”
A couple of minutes later the doors to the room opened and Harry Johnson entered the room. “You asked to see me, Captain?”
“Sit down, Lieutenant,” said Lex. “Tell me: what happened to your brother after he failed to join us on the sleeper ship.”
<-- Chapter 19 | Coverpage | Epilogue -->