“Someone once said that time is the fire in which we burn…an immutable, constant force that is hunting us down throughout our entire life until that one fateful moment at the end. And then…poof…it’s all over.” Erin Keller looked up from the sleek, hexagonal device before her and locked eyes with Kendall Johnson. “Well, little buddy…we’re about to prove him wrong.”
For weeks now, Erin Keller and Kendall Johnson had logged more than a little time in the science lab attempting to defy that very universal force… Erin hadn’t set out the change history, nor had she set out to make it. She simply had a vision—to scan the space-time continuum with the very first Starfleet-made temporal probe.
And now, after weeks of hard work, on May 23, 2396, at 0137 hours, she stood beside Kendall Johnson and admired the finished project.
“Incredible,” said Kendall softly, his eyes locked on the probe’s sleek curves and hard edges. “We actually did it.”
Erin smiled. “Let’s just hope it works.”
Putting his tricorder and a few other supplies on a nearby table, Kendall let out a long sigh of relief. “We’ll find out tomorrow morning.”
It seemed that Kendall was ready to call it quits for the night, but for her part, Erin could have gone on for a bit longer, just to revel in the experience. Still, she didn’t want to argue with Kendall, nor did she want to be half-asleep for the coming trial run. So she relented. “Very well then,” she chirped, setting her own tools aside, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
Standing at the doors, Kendall waited for Erin as she gave her baby one last look for the night. Satisfied that all was well, she smiled, and turned to face Kendall.
Crossing the threshold into the corridor, she raised a brow to Kendall’s statement. “What?”
He cleared his throat. “Doctor Tolian Soran. That’s who you quoted earlier. Well…sort-of quoted.”
Erin smiled, tucking a stray lock of her auburn hair behind her ear. “Hey, I tried,” she said as they approached the turbolift. Had she been able to recall the man’s name earlier, she would have stated it initially, but all that would come to her was where his words were said, the planet Veridian III. “Thanks for enlightening me, though.”
They entered the lift. “My pleasure,” said Kendall softly.
The night had proven to be a restful one for Erin after all. When she entered her quarters, she suspected she would simply sit around and play Metrix for the better part of the next five hours, but the milky brown ball of fur curled up on the end of her bed quickly convinced her otherwise.
Cleo growled lazily at the disruption of her nap, but upon seeing Erin’s approach, the cat seemed to shrug indolently and return to sleep without a care in the world. Immediately, the sentiment resonated with Erin, and she quickly found herself curled up in her bed with Cleo.
Morning arrived quickly, and Erin followed her usual routine: breakfast with Bator, Rachael and the others, followed promptly by the daily staff meeting. Both events took place without incident, and about an hour later, she found herself standing beside Kendall Johnson at her operations station preparing her beloved probe for its maiden voyage.
“Everything looks absolutely perfect,” Erin announced as the computer finished its last diagnostic.
“Including me?” asked Alan, slowing rising from his command chair to face his beloved.
Erin flashed him a sheepish smile. “Especially you. But you have some toothpaste dribble on the front of your uniform.”
He raised an eyebrow and looked to Johnson for confirmation. The nervous young lieutenant quickly inspected the Captain’s uniform from afar, and shook his head curtly upon discovering Erin’s joke. Alan rolled his eyes and smiled, turning to face the viewscreen. “Erin, Kendall, if you’re ready, launch that puppy! I’m eager to know what I’m going to be doing in five minutes. Or maybe tonight at twenty-two hundred hours…”
“You don’t need a temporal probe to tell you that, Alan,” said Erin seductively as she and Kendall programmed a flight path into the computer along with a few other details.
The Captain smiled. “Good.”
After a moment of relative silence, the operations station erupted into a harmonious symphony of sensor bleeps, indicating all was well and ready to go. Not wanting to take all of the glory, Erin stepped aside and placed her hands on Kendall’s shoulders. “Go for it, little buddy.”
He looked back at Erin, his large green eyes peering deep into hers. “Are you sure about this? It’s your project, after all.”
After everything they had been through recently—especially Kendall—the decision was hardly one she had to think about. “If anyone deserves to make this little bit of history, it’s you.”
His eyes lit magically lit up for the first time in recent memory, and Erin even detected a grin on Kendall’s face. It always made Erin feel good when she could make someone happy; seeing Kendall happy was even better.
A moment later, he touched the large, orange button designated for the launch, and then all eyes turned their sights to the viewscreen, where the steely gray probe surged out into the unknown amidst a magically scintillating starfield and a large Class-M planet.
And the sensors came alive. “We’re getting some initial telemetry from the probe,” said Kendall as he scrolled over the first few pieces of data. “It appears to be scanning this sector of space on May 23, 2402.”
“It looks pretty boring,” Erin added, noticing the lack of sensor data being provided. She knew the sensors were accurate, so the other option had to be the case. “Why don’t we back it up to…yesterday? We’ll be able to detect ourselves coming here.”
Christopher turned back to them and smiled approvingly. “Truly astonishing. I smell a golden star on the horizon.”
“Just one?” asked Kendall.
“I wouldn’t complain if I were you,” added Harrison a moment later. “You may find it suddenly revoked without provocation,” he said lightly.
Christopher turned to his first officer. “I have my reasons. Remember the incident on Stardate 72914.5 when the…”
His voice immediately trailed off as a series of sensor alerts filled the air—only this time, they were neither harmonious nor indicative of good news. Quickly, Erin brought herself to Kendall’s side to get a better look at the situation. “What is it?” she asked, not seeing any apparent malfunctions.
Upon hearing his muffled grunt, Erin craned her head to glare at Bator in his tactical station. “Maybe the probe is detecting its malfunction in the future, and is being courteous enough to warn you now.”
Erin forced a smile to her face. “Cute, Bator,” she said. “But somehow—”
An explosion suddenly filled the viewscreen. Glistening with a twinkling blue hue, the hazy cloud of fire lingered for a few moments as Erin watched her weeks of hard work emerge on the far side as a smoldering hulk. But it got worse. She didn’t need sensors to tell her that the probe was being drawn into the planet’s atmosphere. What she did need to know was what happened. Again, she turned to Kendall.
“The chronometric beacon is failing,” he said. “The probe is losing its anchor in time!”
Without an anchor, the probe could theoretically crash into the planet’s surface at any time—in any place, and there was virtually nothing they could do about it except hope that it did nominal damage to the space-time continuum. And if it crashed in the future, there was nothing they could do to retrieve it in the first place.
But as Erin watched the planet’s atmosphere consume her probe, some sixth sense of hers told her it was going back in time, and that she would have a chance to retrieve it and rectify any errors made this time around.
“The probe has crashed on the central continent,” Bator announced after an additional moment. “It appears to be salvageable.”
“How old is it?” asked Kendall.
Bator received the question with a skeptical look, but answered—in turn, answering his own question, “The probe appears to be in excess of 300 years old.”
Much as Erin had suspected, the probe went hurtling back in time as it crashed. But since it appeared to be intact, she had no intentions of letting it rot any longer. “Alan, I want to lead an away team to the surface to retrieve it.”
He bolted from his chair looking more than a little concerned—but he undoubtedly recalled their earlier conversation about the rules of the game—when it came down to duty, they had to put their personal feelings aside. And to Erin’s relief, he did just that. “Have fun.”
Within a few moments, Erin, along with Kendall, Bator and Doctor Hartman, materialized on the surface of the warm Class-M planet their probe had crashed into. But the sight Erin was taking in was not the one she had been expecting. Instead of a thick, rabid jungle, filled with wild animals and overgrown weeds, she and her companions found themselves standing in the middle of a primitive town filled with large huts made of a bamboo-like material and decorated with vibrant, grassy roofs.
Suddenly, a petite female figure emerged from the nearest hut. She wore blood-red shorts and a similar-colored top, and her wild blond hair was pulled back into a messy braid, blowing gently in the wind as she approached against the warm day’s breeze. “Erin. Bator. Kendall. Sarah,” she said, turning to each of the respective individuals as she said their names. “Welcome to Termina… We’ve been expecting you.”