Star Trek: The Next Generation – Timeslip
Van Turner, 1992
Began: Sept. 11, 1992
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For Anna Wethern, because I love her.
Chapter One 1
Chapter Two 11
Chapter Three 15
Chapter Four 22
College life could be very interesting, someone had said. Was there ever a truer statement made? Eric Phelps decided there wasn’t as he walked beside two large buildings on the college campus.
Eric liked college life and felt he would miss it terribly. He is time was almost done, as he was a senior in his last semester.
It was early spring, as anyone could tell be the new growth the huge oak trees in the front of the Student Services building. Indeed, by all the leaf-bearing trees on campus and elsewhere in the large southern town.
Eric thought the trees were being a little ambitious, putting out new growth in such abundance in early March. There was usually one last hard cold snap in late March or early April.
He turned left in front of the administration building, though why he had come this way, Eric really didn’t know. It would have been shorter to go the other side of the admin building.
Eric’s brown eyes surveyed the mix of white concrete sidewalks and thick green grass, orange brick buildings and might green oaks and pines. He had always thought it strange how two completely incompatible components worked so well together to make such a beautiful campus.
There were few other things so gorgeous and he was on his way to meet one such thing. Eric crossed the one way street to the small building at the front of campus. As he got nearer, he could see movement behind the double glass doors. One of them opened and a young woman came out. Eric smiled as he approached and thought, nowhere was beauty so personified.
“Rhoda,” he called. “You’re out early.” Was it just him or was he finally losing that annoying accent?
“No,” the short, petite woman responded, looking at her watch. “You’re late.” She smiled at him as he reached for her. They embraced for a moment and parted, except for their hands which remained joined as they walked back the way Eric had come.
Rhoda was short, Eric thought. She came to his chin, which made kissing her interesting. Thing was, Eric wasn’t all that tall, just five feet seven.
Rhoda ran her hand through Eric’s long brown hair and said: “I’m glad you decided to leave it long.” Now her accent was well-pronounced, Eric thought. But he liked it about her; it was part of her personality.
“Yeah, I thought I’d try to get a job it long.” Eric knew he’d have to get it cut eventually, just not yet. And long as Rhoda didn’t cut her long dark tresses, he didn’t mind getting his cut. Like hell, he thought to himself. He had gotten it cut one time before to try to get a job and it had take fifteen months to grow back. Not again.
Rhoda’s blue-green eyes looked her boyfriend over. She decided she had landed herself a nice one. Tall (well everybody was taller than she), not overly muscular but athletic, reasonably intelligent when he wanted to be. Be he had a childish streak and a wicked sense of humor.
Eric looked over his little girlfriend and thought he’d done well to have waited so long to find one. Sure, she was short but he thought it was cute. Rhoda was well-proportioned for her height, a small version of an adult or a large version of a child. Four feet ten was a funny height. She was the brainy type but you’d never know it to talk to her.
They continued their stroll through the moderately sized college campus and passed several of its other inhabitants.
“Isn’t it funny,” Eric started, “how with all the different countries fighting and acting crazy, all you have to do is look at a college campus to see that people can get along together?”
“My,” said Rhoda, smiling, “aren’t we being profound?”
At that moment, Eric suddenly spun around and squatted down, drawing a large hand gun. Rhoda spun and looked where a large red stain had suddenly appeared with a loud snap on the cafeteria wall.
“I’m not defending, stupid!” yelled Eric angrily. “I’m not wearing my colors. Come on out and take a penalty!”
Rhoda turned and rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you still do this,” she scorned. “Don’t you think you’re a little old for Splat now?”
“No,” Eric said, giving a mischievous grin. “And obviously, neither does Phillip.”
A young black man stepped from behind the cafeteria, large hand gun held up beside his head. He was shaking his head, saying, ”I’m sorry, man. I thought I saw your flag.”
Eric, Rhoda and Phillip were all wearing blue jeans and T-shirts of different kinds. Eric had a plain T-shirt, Rhoda had a blue T-shirt and Phillip had a red one with a green bandana tied around his upper left arm.
“My flag is blue, Phillip,” Eric said as if he were talking to a child. “This shirt is white.” Eric shook his head, grinning. “You know if had hit me, you’d have to take off seven points. As it is, you missed. Take off three.”
“All right,” Phillip frowned. “Sorry, Rhoda. Jeez, if I had hit you, I’d have to start over.”
Rhoda gave him the evil eye. “If you had hit me, I’d’ve gone home and got my daddy’s twelve gauge. It don’t shoot paint pellets like those.”
“Let me walk her home, then go back to my dorm and get my flag. Then I’m fair game.”
“Deal. See ya.” Phillip went into the cafeteria, leaving Eric and Rhoda.
“Now before you start,” Eric began calmly, “you know we need some kind of distraction.”
“I thought you used role-playing games for distraction!” said Rhoda hotly. “He could have hit me and ruined these jeans!”
Eric smiled and said, “The paint is water based. It washes out.”
They continued their walk and talk until they came to the dormitory where Rhoda stayed. Unlike Eric, she had lived in a different dormitory each year in her four years in college. Eric had lived in the same room all four years and rarely complained.
Rhoda and Eric climbed the steps and went inside, into the ground floor lobby. Rhoda hugged Eric and turned to go to her room but Eric stopped her.
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” he asked, concerned. “It’s just a game. Like checkers.”
“It’s a little different from checkers,” Rhoda said plainly. “But no, I’m not mad at you.” She smiled. “I love you, silly.”
“I love you, too,” Eric smiled back. He bent down and kissed her lightly on the lips. Rhoda returned the kiss and turned to leave again.
“See ya later,” she said.
“Later.” Eric waved and left the lobby, going down the steps and his way to his dormitory. The trip was a short one and Eric was walking up the interior stairs to his room on the fourth floor. All those damned stairs. That had been his one constant complaint that the school hadn’t seen fit to put an elevator in a four storey building.
Eric got to his floor, not even out of breath, and went to his room. He supposed he really couldn’t complain about the stairs. If he had gotten nothing else out of college life, he had gotten in shape. But for what, the Olympics?
He was studying computer science and engineering, why should he need to be in shape? Eric had to admit he felt better than he had felt in a long time. And not just physically. It felt good to have someone to care about and to have someone care about him. Eric smiled and grabbed his flag and cartridges.
Eric left the little cinderblock room with its one window, two beds, two closets and an odd assortment of electronic equipment. Half of it was his roommates. He tied on his flag, a blue handkerchief, as best he could with his right hand and his teeth. He went back down all those damned stairs and outside, slipping on his sunglasses.
A large red stain appeared with a loud snap less than two feet away on the dormitory wall. Eric ducked behind the corner and cautiously peered out where he saw the unmistakable figure of Phillip taking to the woods that bordered the campus on one side. He followed at a discreet distance and wished he’d gotten a rifle.
The air gun’s range was limited to begin with. Its accuracy was severely limited at distances over about fifty feet. A rifle would be decent at about a hundred twenty feet.
Eric followed Phillip deeper into the woods, never feeling like they were getting any closer. They popped off shots at each other for a while and finally Phillip didn’t return fire.
“He’s baiting me,” said Eric to himself. “And I know why. His team leader knows I have twenty-one kills, the highest number. If Phillip gets me, it’ll be worth fifteen points. And to think I’ve got over two hundred…”
Eric suddenly dropped and rolled for cover as he heard a crackling near to his left. He stayed down for a moment, then slowly rose to his feet and started toward the spot where he’d heard the crackling.
As he came into a small clearing, Eric could see the source of the sound which repeated chaotically with no apparent pattern or purpose. It was a large black pyramid with no apparent mechanism for making the crackling noise. Eric approached it cautiously and on close inspection, the square bottom pyramid had no seems or openings. It was just solid black and cool to the touch, Eric found after getting his nerve up.
The pyramid was about five feet square and five feet high. It gave off no odor and Eric couldn’t tell what material it was made of. He squatted to look at the bottom more closely.
Suddenly, the pyramid crackled and sparked and before Eric knew what was happening, an opening appeared. Eric felt himself being pulled inside but couldn’t see any one or any thing and before he knew it, he was inside the pyramid.
Eric felt his head hit the floor and knew nothing else as consciousness left him. Outside, startled forest creatures saw the pyramid vanish.
Dark eyes watched Eric as he looked at the pyramid. They saw him squat down near the object’s base and a hair covered hand reached out to touch a complex computer panel.
The dark eyes saw the pyramid spark and they saw the door open. The owner of those dark eyes and the large, hairy hand watched Eric get pulled inside and watched the door close.
The screen the creature was watching went blank for a moment then came on again. The pyramid was in a large room with no windows and a lighted door way. The creature turned to another of its kind, a large dog-like thing that walked erect, biped. It looked like a German Shepherd in the head and face. The first one, the one watching the screen looked like a Terrier.
The Terrier grunted something to the German Shepherd and stood up. The German Shepherd grunted in reply and they left the brightly lit room with the computer terminals and panels on every wall.
Eric awoke inside the pyramid and found his movement limited by the object’s tiny interior. The inside of the pyramid was crammed with complex equipment. Computer stuff, Eric surmised from the monitors and what looked like keyboards. The symbols on the keypads were nothing he had ever seen. But it was definitely computer stuff.
He tried to stand up and found that he could get a little more than half erect. Eric was beginning to feel the distinct closeness of claustrophobia and decided he wanted out of the pyramid.
Eric started looking closely at the keypads, trying to decipher which one opened the door. After spending a few moments being timid about touching the alien equipment, Eric began pressing buttons. None of them responded to his touch except one, which turned the screen on and off.
Finally, quite by accident, Eric found the button that opened the door. And moments later, regretted it. As soon as the door opened, Eric, without thinking, stepped out of the pyramid.
He found himself in a large open, empty room. Empty except for he and the pyramid. The room was all metal, though Eric couldn’t tell what type, nor could he see how the metal was held to the frame, if it had a frame.
At that moment, the light in the door went out. Eric didn’t move at first but as soon as the Terrier stepped through, he ran for cover behind the pyramid. The Terrier motioned for the German Shepherd to come in slowly. The German Shepherd grunted in reply.
Eric watched in horrified fascination as the upright dogs went to a panel in the wall. He could have sworn it wasn’t there before but he would check it out later. Now, he just wondered if they had seen him. He got his answer in a way that he simply wasn’t prepared for. The Terrier spoke. To him. In English.
“We mean you no harm,” it said in what Eric considered to be a male voice. “We are Mulgratsems.”
Eric, acting purely on instinct, panicked. He quickly drew his air gun, stepped from behind the pyramid, aimed and fired. He scored a direct him on the German Shepherd. The dog-like creature dropped to the floor and an alarm sounded in the room. It must have sounded elsewhere as well because two more Mulgratsems rushed into the room.
Eric dove inside the pyramid in the confusion. He turned and fired again and hit one of the newcomers. The beast was momentarily distracted and the other drew a strange little weapon and fired a bright red beam at Eric.
Eric ducked and rolled, the beam missing him but hitting something inside the pyramid. Before Eric could do anything, the door closed and he felt the pyramid rocking violently.
The four Mulgratsems could only watch as the pyramid vanished while Eric was assaulted with sparks from frazzled circuitry.
The rocking ceased after a moment. Eric was sure it hadn’t lasted nearly as long as it felt. The crackling and sparking, however, refused to stop. Eric, in trying to find the door switch again, got several mild and some nasty electrical burns. At long last he found the right button.
The door opened and Eric stumbled out to the sound of another alarm in another large metal room. This one wasn’t empty though. It held, on one side, several stacked crates. On the other side, on the floor, were what looked to Eric like welding torch gas bottles without gauges.
Set in the third wall was a large, odd-looking door. It looked very strong, as did the grey metal crates and the grey bottles. Everything was grey but with red or yellow lines.
Eric felt the room spinning as the effect of electrical shock caught up with him. He leaned against a crate for support as the big double doors slid apart with a hiss and a clang.
If Eric wasn’t prepared for the first encounter, he was left out entirely for what happened next. A large dark-skinned creature with long dark hair coming out of its nobbled head entered, followed by four humans. All were dressed in yellow and black.
The large dark creature pointed an odd-looking weapon at him and spoke to him in English.
“Remain where you are,” it almost growled in its low voice. “Don’t move and you will not be harmed.”
As two of the humans, or at least Eric thought they were human, approached him the effects of being electrocuted caught up with him, as well as the shock of the events of the past few minutes and Eric fell to the ground.
Lieutenant Worf, Chief of Security, went to Eric and felt his neck for a pulse. He also patted Eric down and found the air gun. “A weapon I am not familiar with,” he said, handing the gun to a human female with long dark braided hair.
“I’ll get the computer on it right away,” she said, taking the weapon.
“Check that object over carefully,” Worf ordered the remaining three people. “It may be armed or booby trapped.” He took out his tricorder and made a brief scan of Eric, then looked up and said in a loud, clear voice: “Worf to Sickbay. I need a medical team in main cargo bay.”
“Acknowledged,” said a female voice over the intercom.
“Worf to Bridge,” said Worf as he stood up.
“Bridge here,” said an English accented voice. “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“The intruder was injured either before or upon arrival. He apparently arrived in a pyramid-like object. My security team is going over it now.”
“Find out what you can and report to my ready room,” the voice said.
Worf went to join his security team in their diligent scan of the pyramid. He left them when the medical team arrived with a floating stretcher. The two blue-uniformed men lowered the stretcher and one them took out a tricorder. He took a small probe out its tray and began scanning Eric.
“This man’s suffering from mild electrical shock,” the dark-skinned man said. He took out a hypospray and an ampoule, which he loaded into the hypospray. He touched it to Eric’s neck and there was a brief hiss, saying: “That’ll help.”
The two nurses got Eric onto the stretcher and let it float up to about three and half feet. They pushed Eric out into the corridor and headed for the turbolift.
Worf went to a computer terminal and picked up a small, flat object and pressed a couple of buttons on it, then went to the pyramid.
“I’m going inside,” he told the others. “Be ready to take cover should anything happen.”
Worf had to duck when going inside the pyramid. He looked around, scanning the interior with the tricorder, occasionally going to the PADD he had picked up. Once satisfied that he didn’t know anything about the pyramid, he came out.
“As far as I can tell,” a young man began, “it isn’t armed.”
“That is all we can tell,” said another young man.
Worf tinkered with the PADD for a moment and acknowledged their findings. He ordered tow them to stand guard until notified and left the cargo bay. He went to the turbolift. The doors hissed open and he stepped inside. The doors closed and he called for the bridge.
Moments later, the doors opened again and the Klingon stepped on the main control center of the ship, the main bridge. Worf walked around the elegant rail that horseshoed the command area. The rear of the rail widened out to a computer terminal he knew very well: tactical systems control.
Worf came around to the command area as a stately man in red and black stood up to meet him. Captain Jean-Luc Picard wasn’t a tall man but at times he could be intimidating. The captain had hardly any hair but what he had was grey and it ringed his head. And he had blue eyes that could freeze even a raging Klingon in his tracks.
The captain went to his ready room calling: “You have the bridge, Number One.”
Worf followed the captain inside and found the captain seated behind his desk. He put the PADD on the desk and waited while the captain read it over. At long last, the captain looked up.
“Anything to add, Lieutenant?” he asked.
“It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. However, I feel it is safe for further investigation. Lieutenant Commander Data would be better for that.”
“Agreed,” said the captain. “Commander Data, would you come into my ready room?”
A moment later, the door hissed open and the pale skinned android walked in.
“Sir?” he said expectantly.
“I want you and your team to go to work on finding out what that pyramid is and what it does.”
Picard stood up and made for the door, which opened before him and closed behind Worf and Data.
“I’m going to sickbay if anyone needs me,” he said, going to the turbolift.