That was the only description Erin Keller had for the numerous boxes of trinkets and baubles that sat before her on the floor in Alan Christopher’s quarters. Slowly, Erin approached the box nearest her position, and peeled the lid away. As she dropped the lid on the floor, Erin carefully pulled out a lush green potted plant. And she frowned.
Seconds later, Alan Christopher popped in from an adjacent room. “What?”
Erin held up the plant. “You’re not supposed to pack plants in boxes!”
He shrugged indolently. “What was I supposed to do with them?”
“I have a few suggestions,” Erin bitterly blurted out before realizing what she had said. Immediately crestfallen, Erin’s hands quickly covered her mouth as she apologized for the slip of the tongue. “I am so sorry, Alan!”
Though if he had been offended remained to be seen, for the look on Alan’s face was relatively stoic. Then, after a moment, a faint smile cracked his face. “Don’t worry about it, Erin,” he said softly. “It’s the hormones talking, not you.”
Still looking glum, Erin nodded, and with the plant in her hands, started heading for a seemingly empty corner of their quarters. She set the plant down on the floor and took a few steps back. “How does that look?” she inquired.
Alan came up alongside Erin and considered it for a moment. In all reality, he hated it, but considering Erin and her pregnancy-related mood swings, he decided it would be in his best interest if he did not mention that. “I think it looks fine,” he said.
Erin smiled. “So do I,” she chirped before returning to the stacks of boxes. Alan quickly followed, but stopped a few meters shy of Erin. “What is it?” she asked.
He grasped his shoulder and began rubbing it to ease out the spike of pain that had suddenly manifested itself therein. “I don’t know,” he said softly. “I must have pulled something while we were unpacking your plethora of interesting goodies.”
“Probably,” Erin agreed. “Why don’t we take a break?”
That was the best idea Alan had heard from her all afternoon. He smiled and started heading for the sofa along the windows in the back of the room—but his attention was summarily diverted from the couch, to the vast starscape before them, where a small—yet incredibly noticeable burst of light briefly flashed in the distance.
“Did you see that?” Erin inquired, standing a meter or so behind Alan.
He nodded. “Sure did.” He sighed, and turned to face her. “That was no twinkling star.”
“I don’t know what it was,” admitted Erin. “I guess we could go to the bridge and find out…”
Five seconds later, they were on their way.
As the turbolift doors parted, Alan Christopher briskly strolled onto the bridge and assumed a calm, yet concerned demeanor as he approached Lieutenant Bator at tactical station to his right. Bator was a large Phobian, with a rough, tan skin and menacing brown eyes; even so, his demeanor was incredibly pleasant. “Bator,” said Christopher evenly, “have our friends, the sensors, detected anything strange in the past few minutes?”
Given the befuddled look on Bator’s face, Christopher assumed not; still, he waited patiently while the Phobian carefully reviewed the sensor logs. “Nothing,” he said.
Had Christopher been the only one to see the strange flash of light, he would have—at that point—attributed the incident to his overactive imagination. But Erin Keller had been standing right beside him, and had clearly seen the same burst of light. He turned to Erin at ops and shrugged. “Maybe we’re both going off the deep end,” he conjectured before making his way down to the forward section of the bridge, where he seated himself in the command chair beside Matthew Harrison.
“Might I inquire what is going on?” asked Harrison in his customary hushed tone.
Christopher nodded. “Erin and I saw a burst of light out the window in my… our quarters.”
“And sensors did not detect it?” asked Harrison with a curious frown. “This is most odd.”
Again, Christopher nodded. His mind was wandering around numerous possibilities as to the origins of the mysterious light; consequently, it was not the best time to try and hold an intelligent conversation with him. Unfortunately, none of his ideas proved very enlightening, and the Captain was left with more questions than answers. Thus, he resorted to the only thing in his mind that did make sense.
“Neelar,” he called out to the young Bolian at the helm, “set course heading zero-one-nine, mark six.”
Briefly, Neelar Drayge’s hands tapped at the controls while he input the necessary commands. “Course set,” he announced a moment later.
Christopher nodded. “Engage at full impulse.”
The Captain didn’t know exactly what he would find by heading for the mysterious flash of light. His mind told him to expect nothing; after all, the sensors rarely made such blatant errors. Still, Christopher could not deny that strange feeling in his gut, nor could he ignore the strange voices whispering in the back of his mind…
Something was out there.
The tactical station bleeped, and Christopher was immediately on his feet, staring down the Phobian for a report.
“I am detecting trace amounts of chronoton particles,” said Bator evenly, though as he spoke, his face gradually betrayed that calm voice. “Chronoton levels are dramatically increasing.”
Alarms started to go off in Christopher’s mind. Something certainly was not right. “Source?” he prompted.
Bator shrugged. “Unknown.”
Slowly, Christopher turned to Commander Harrison for his take on the situation. To his credit, Harrison still seemed relatively unconcerned—then again, he had not seen the odd explosion of light that seemingly prompted this situation. “Perhaps we should launch a temporal probe,” he suggested after a moment’s thought.
Christopher liked the idea; if anything could shed some answers on this seemingly temporal situation, the hallmark of temporal technology would be the right tool for the job. “Do it,” he said to Erin Keller a moment later.
Seconds later, the viewscreen a sleek, steely gray probe surging through the void of space in search of answers—which, to Christopher’s relief, it readily provided.
“I’m picking up another ship,” said Keller as the first bit of data arrived in the Starlight’s databanks. “It looks like it’s out of temporal alignment.”
“Tachyon beam,” were the first two words out of Christopher’s mouth, and the order was swiftly executed.
Within moments, a solid beam of white light surged out from the Starlight’s deflector with such fury that Christopher was almost tempted to shield his eyes. The only thing preventing him from taking such an action was the swirling vortex that was slowly being drawn into existence by the tachyon beam’s interaction with the chronoton particles.
Virtually frozen in place by the chronometric distortion, Christopher simply watched in awe as the faint outlines of the second ship started to make themselves known amidst the swirling nether. At first, the sight didn’t exactly register in the Captain’s mind; it was just another ship. Its pocked hull was blackened by numerous scorch marks, and almost all of its lights were dim. Christopher blinked, coercing his eyes to focus on the emerging ship, but the action had the unintended affect of blinking away his trance, too.
Two seconds later, Alan Christopher realized he was staring at an Akira-class starship; two seconds after that, his gaze happened upon the ship’s registry—NCC-72080: U.S.S. Starlight.