"Bridge to Ambassador Spock."
Spock roused himself and turned to the communication panel next to his bed. Pressing the button a little to harshly, he answered the hail.
"Captain Rodgers respectfully requests you presence on the bridge sir."
Spock frowned. It was most unusual to call a civilian passenger to the bridge of a Starship. "Is there a problem Lieutenant?"
"I'm sorry sir I don't have any more information for you. Shall I send someone to direct you?"
"That will not be necessary."
Spock swung his legs easily from the bunk and strode to the door. He had travelled many times before on Surak class Starships and was well aware of the ship specs. After all, he had been involved in the design process. He reached the Turbolift just as the red alert siren began to sound. The ship lurched to starboard causing him to loose his footing somewhat. The lift doors opened and a team of security officers spilled out into the cramped corridor. The Lieutenant in charge regarded the Vulcan, noting his civilian attire.
"Please return to your quarters sir. The ship has gone to red alert. "
"My presence has been requested on the bridge Lieutenant."
The security officer frowned then turned to his men "Ritchards, please escort this gentleman to the bridge then get back down here pronto. " And with that the man marshalled his troops and headed off down the corridor at warp speed.
The Fleming's bridge was even smaller than that of the old Enterprise. This vessel, although designated Starship, was actually a small medical supply ship used to ferry drugs and personnel between planets in the sectors close to Earth. It was mostly storage space with a tiny security division and some crew quarters. Spock immediately stepped down towards the Captain's chair but his attention was on the forward view screen.
Floating in space barely 2,000 km from the now stationary Starship, was an extraordinary phenomenon. Spock blinked twice. He was seeing a huge image of an elderly woman dressed from head to toe in black. He took another step towards the centre seat. Captain Rodgers turned to the Vulcan. He was a handsome, sandy haired man of ruddy complexion, although right now there was not a trace of colour on his face.
"Ambassador - help me out here will you - this IS Queen Victoria is it not?" said the Captain in his clipped English accent.
Spock reached his side and carefully folded his hands behind his back. Unconsciously he took up the very same stance he had often adopted on the bridge of the Enterprise when perplexed by some strange occurrence.
"A representation of her at any rate. What do sensors tell you?"
"That there's nothing there."
"Fascinating." Spock turned to scan the rest of the bridge. There was no science station on this ship. Sensors and deflectors were tied directly into the helm. There was however, a very small library terminal. Spock indicated the computer station. "May I?"
Rodgers nodded and got to his feet. He stepped down to the helm and reached past his navigator to punch in some figures. "Help yourself. We have tried to get around it - but it moves with us. We even tried going through it but that was like hitting a brick wall."
Spock remembered the lurch just before getting into the turbolift. "I encountered a similar phenomenon many years ago. If this is the same - you will be unable to escape it. Are you able to re-route main sensors to this terminal Captain?"
Rodgers looked at his helmsman who nodded quickly. "Right away, sir."
Spock turned back to the terminal at waited for the ready signal. Rodgers spoke again. "Are we getting anything yet Lieutenant?"
The officer at communications turned slightly and shook her head. "Nothing sir. I'm broadcasting lingua-code on all frequencies - but so far, her majesty is not amused."
The Captain favoured his Communications Officer with a frosty glare but she merely shrugged and turned back to her station. Rodgers wiped sweat from his brow and stepped up to the upper bridge level where Spock was working. "Anything?"
Spock continued feeding information into the computer. This Captain was a man of few words, which Spock appreciated. He wished he had something more to give him.
"Your initial analysis was accurate in that the sensors detect nothing out there. I have run a diagnostic on the view screen itself, and it is functioning correctly but with this terminal, I am unable to conduct a more detailed analysis. It has been many years since I have had reason to...."
Spock never finished the sentence. The image of Queen Victoria was beginning to shift and fade in and out in a most disconcerting manner. Within a few moments, the image was unrecognisable but then it began to coalesce into a different form. Spock allowed his eyebrow to disappear into his hairline. Now the image was that of Admiral Lord Nelson.
Rodgers looked back at the Vulcan. "I know a little of your history, Sir - I called you up here hoping that you could advise me on this. I realise you haven't served on a Starship for a few years but - quite frankly - you're all I've got"
Spock nodded. This vessel was not meant for exploration and the crew was not trained for the intricacies of deep space phenomenon.
Rodgers was speaking again, "You mentioned that you'd encountered this before?"
Spock decided to abandon his fruitless attempts on the computer and got to his feet. Standing next to the Captain, he felt that curious sensation of déjà vu again. It really was most disquieting.
"On the surface, it would appear to be the same phenomenon. However on that occasion, we were well outside charted space. The beings from the planet Excaliba generated the images onto our viewscreen. As we are nowhere near their space, I am at a loss to explain why this is happening here."
"What did your Captain do about it?"
Spock folded his arms behind his back once again and regarded the viewscreen. "He... beamed President Lincoln onto the Enterprise with a full honour guard."
Rodgers nearly choked. Once in control again the Captain actually laughed, despite the seriousness of the situation. "That certainly fits the image of Kirk from my history texts. How did it end?"
"With a battle between the forces of good and evil. I'm surprised those events are not required reading at the Academy."
Rodgers blushed slightly and failed to meet the Vulcan's eyes. "I'm sure they are - military history was not exactly my strong point at the Academy, Sir."
Spock gazed back at the viewscreen. "Captain, I cannot rule out the possibility that somehow the Excalibans have created these images, but neither can I conclusively prove it to be the case. It is my opinion that these images are being called from your own mind. You are British are you not?"
Rodgers nodded and began to pace the upper deck of the Fleming's small bridge. "My security team's on standby in the transporter room. Maybe I should try to bring that thing on board."
"It is of course a command decision. As a civilian, I can only advise. And in this case I would advise caution."
A new and entirely unexpected voice with a gleeful lilting quality spoke then, "For pity's sake would you get a move on. Kirk would have been sitting down to dinner with the Admiral by now"
Both men, and the entire bridge crew, wheeled round to face the person who had spoken. Standing beside the turbolift doors was a tall man dressed in Starfleet uniform. The man tugged at the hem of jacket, and began to saunter towards the surprised Officers.
Rodgers reached for the intercom switch. "Security to the bridge, we have an intruder, repeat - we have an intruder on the bridge."
Spock was regarding the stranger with a quizzical expression. He had never actually met this being, but had watched enough footage of his exploits to know exactly who he was. "You are responsible for these images?"
"Well done Spock - the intelligence of your species never fails to amaze me."
Spock sighed and turned to the confused Captain Rodgers. "I have the dubious pleasure of introducing you to a being that calls himself Q. He is from a race we now know to be the Q continuum."
The turbolift chose that moment to deposit five security officers onto the bridge. They levelled their phasers at the Q's head. Spock addressed the Security team without taking his eyes from Q. "Your weapons will be ineffective. He can render them inoperative. Q, I am curious - why are you here?"
"Because, Mr Spock, I need your help."
Captain Rodgers stood and advanced on the strange individual menacingly. "Alright I've had just about enough of this. How about someone explains what's going on to the poor Captain?"
Q barely glanced at the Captain. "Forgive me, we of the Q find your reality quite difficult to interact with in a manner you would understand. May I have the opportunity to explain further?"
Spock turned to Captain Rodgers and raised an eyebrow. "It would seem logical."
Rodgers sat down in his command chair heavily and sighed. "Ok - lets talk."
They all sat around a small table in the Fleming's briefing room, Captain Rodgers, his first officer and Spock facing the Q who was smiling broadly. He cleared his throat in what Spock decided was a most theatrical manner and began talking.
"You are aware of an energy ribbon that passes through your space on a regular basis. This vortex or nexus as you call it, is the conduit through which our continuum travels between realities. I won't attempt to explain the science of it, as you're simply not equipped to understand, however there have been several occasions where members of your species have accidentally been caught in the nexus. Once inside, they exist in our fluid time state but do not appear to be aware of the fact. We decided it would be of scientific interest to study these individuals. However, whilst a member of our continuum was inside conducting research, one of your race managed to escape his fluid time state and return to his own reality."
Spock interrupted, "You refer, of course, to Captain Picard."
"Ah yes - my old friend Jean-Luc. A most remarkable individual, whom I have taken a personal interest in over the years. He managed to break free with the essence of another of your kind - Captain James Kirk. I really don't know how they overcame the effects of fluid time - a remarkable feat for so primitive a species. However in so doing, they disrupted the very fabric of the nexus. My compatriot, who calls himself Lien - was seriously injured. I also believe that he has become quite insane."
Spock, to whom the idea of mental incapacity was even more hideous than death, delicately cleared his throat, "That is... most unfortunate. However I fail to see why you have deemed it necessary to inform us of these facts."
"We of the Q have reached an ethical dilemma Mr Spock. Lien has vowed not only to destroy both Picard and Kirk, believing them to be responsible for his present condition, but also your entire reality. We can't allow him to do that, but unfortunately, neither can we stop him. We have occasionally resorted to execution in the past, but Lien has not actually committed a crime - yet. Until he does, he is a grave threat to this reality and although he is weak, make no mistake - he is still quite capable of carrying out his threat. We need your help to protect these two individuals until a way can be found to stop Lien."
The silence in the small room was deafening. Spock suddenly felt every one of his 140 years. "You are unaware then, that James Kirk is already dead?"
Q shook his head impatiently and said quickly, "The man that left the nexus with Picard was only partly your Captain - an echo if you will."
"I do not understand."
Q sighed deeply and stared at Spock as if he were an imbecile. "Our research is not complete, but it is our observation that members of your species trapped in the nexus remain anchored in time and space. Their perceived journeys are achieved by mentally manipulating fluid time to create alternative realities within their own minds. Are you with me so far? Good. Now, the longer they remain within the nexus, the more realities are created. Each reality contains the essence of the person creating it, but the real person remains suspended in time and space at their point of entry. Fortunately for us, it was one of these alternative realities that Picard encountered when he entered the nexus. Still with me?"
Spock allowed his eyebrow to disappear into his hairline "Are you suggesting that James Kirk is still alive?"
Q smiled fondly and nodded his head in a most patronising manner, "At last!!! He does indeed exist at the point of space-time where he entered the nexus. And while he remains within it, he is in great danger. Lien is forced to expend vast amount of energy to travel through your space and time, but whilst inside the nexus, he is still very powerful. It is imperative that we get Kirk out of there before Lien comes for him."
Spock regarded the Q sceptically, "Why do you need my help?"
Q leaned back in his chair and stared right back at Spock before answering, "We believe that the damage to the nexus caused Lien's insanity. I am not willing to risk madness to retrieve Kirk, but I believe you would be. Further - your species has the advantage of being creatures anchored in time. That fact should allow you to exist within the damaged nexus - theoretically. And then there is the problem of Picard - Even I cannot be in two places at once. He and I are old friends. I want to take care of his protection personally."
Spock got up and began to pace the tiny room. He was remembering Picard's unexplained absence from the Memorial Service and wondering if Q was, in fact, already too late. "What is your plan?"
"Because Kirk is still in the nexus, Lien will go after Picard first. I will protect Picard while you are attempting to get Kirk out of the nexus. With both of his prey existing in your space, Lien will be forced to come out of his lair and that will weaken him further."
"And if I succeed in locating Kirk and removing him at his point of origin, will that not alter the time line allowing Dr Soran to destroy Veridian?"
"I don't believe so. The El-Aurian refugees existed within the nexus for only a few moments and yet they left behind echoes of themselves. The echo of Kirk that Picard meets should still exist."
Spock was still not convinced. "How will I know that I have located the real Captain Kirk?"
Q became quite animated. He leapt up from his chair and came round to stand in front of Spock. "By entering the nexus at the same point of space and time as he does. I can take you to the correct time but it will be up to you to arrive at the right place. If you agree to my plan, we must leave now."
Spock hesitated. He looked at Rodgers and his first officer through narrowed eyes. Basing his decision on data supplied by one very dubious source was dangerous, but if there was even a chance that Kirk was alive....
"I agree." He reached to grasp the hand held out to him. From the objective of Captain Rodgers, the two men disappeared in a flash of light.
"Captain Rodgers?" said the Fleming's First Officer in a bemused tone, "how the hell do we log this?"
"We don't." Rodgers sighed getting to his feet. "We wait until we have more facts."
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