NIMR Reports is a Fan Fiction Magazine on the World Wide Web for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea starring Richard Basehart and David Hedison


 

by Rachel Howe and Alison Passarelli


May 3, 1979 - 1500 Hours . . . 

While Seaview headed for Honolulu and a long-awaited shore leave, Admiral Harriman Nelson was holed up in his laboratory. Unable to subdue his natural scientific curiosity, and against his better judgment, the Admiral painstakingly reassembled the timepiece left behind by the mysterious Mr. Pem. Finally ready to test the tiny time machine, the Admiral decided he would take himself two minutes into the past.

Just as Nelson was about to press the red button on top of the device, Lee Crane entered the Admiral's domain without knocking. "Admiral, what's going on down here? I've been calling you for five minutes. Sonar's picked up . . ." Seeing what Nelson had in his hands, but clearly not wanting to believe his eyes, Crane swallowed before saying, "Tell me that isn't what I think it is."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Lee."

"Have you lost your mind!"

Unshaven, haggard, exhausted from days of non-stop work, Nelson snapped, "Have you forgotten to whom it is you're speaking, Captain!"

Crane pursed his lips. "I'm sorry, Admiral. But you're not going to use that device as long as I'm Captain of this ship."

"Oh? And since when do you tell me what I can and cannot do!"

"Admiral. Please. Think about what you're doing."

"I have thought about it. And I've concluded that if the proper precautions are taken, Pem's timepiece could be used for the benefit of mankind. The genie's out of the bottle, Lee. We can't put it back. Just think of the possibilities!"

Shaking his head, Crane shouted, "No! It's too dangerous. We can't do it. That thing has to be destroyed! Give it to me." Crane held out his hand.

Nelson's shoulders slumped. He lowered his head. "I . . . I suppose you're right." He placed the watch in the palm of Crane's right hand. "I don't know what came over me, I --"

Chip Morton's voice resonated from the ship-wide intercom: "All hands brace for shock wave. Repeat, all hands brace for --"

Seaview was rocked by the concussive aftermath of an undersea quake, happening far away in the South Pacific. Nelson lost his footing and fell into Crane. The Captain fell in turn, hitting his head against the specimen table; he squeezed his hands reflexively, and thus, accidentally engaged Pem's apparatus. The two men disappeared from Seaview.


Captain's Log, Stardate: 7316.1, First Officer Recording:

Two days ago, the Captain was taken ill with a virus. As per his usual stubbornness, and according to the script, he resisted all medical treatment. However, after being nagged and hounded by Dr. McCoy for the better part of six hours, and after passing out face first in his chicken sandwich and cah-fee, the Captain finally relented and reported to Sickbay. Still quite feverish, he remains a patient in the infirmary. According to Dr. McCoy, the Captain alternatively calls out for Edith Keeler, Miramanee, Rayna 16, and even some of Mudd's women. He keeps getting out of bed and wandering all around the ship, pressing important buttons, calling himself "Kirok", and causing us no end of trouble. I suspect that in his delirium, he is searching for Miss Keeler -- the woman from our first season whom the Captain allowed to get run over by a truck, when he could have easily prevented it. He was only doing his duty, but he still feels kinda bad about it. Be that as it may, I have now set course for our next assignment: the study of a newly discovered, uninhabited Class-M planet named H'trae in the L'oS solar system. I anticipate no difficulties whatsoever in completing this mission.


"I've got to get to the Control Room." Still dazed, Crane struggled to his feet, nearly falling over again because the bulkhead was not where he expected it to be.

"I'm afraid that isn't going to be easy, Lee." Nelson's voice, coming from some little distance away, sounded shaken. "Have a look around."

"Admiral?" Crane rubbed his eyes, trying to clear his vision. It didn't help much. The light was an odd reddish-orange, and drifting swirls of fog made it hard to see far. What was worse, what little he could make out bore no resemblance to Seaview's lab. Clusters of jagged rocks lay scattered over bumpy, sandy ground, with here and there an unhappy-looking cactus-like plant growing at an odd angle out of the stones. "Admiral?" he called again.

"Over here, Lee."

Crane set off in the direction of the voice. The nearest way would have been over the rocks in front of him, but when he started to put a foot on the nearest one it wobbled alarmingly. Frowning, he put out a hand to feel it; it was soft and almost warm, and when he broke off a piece it crumbled in his fingers to white, almost weightless beads that clung to his skin. He brushed them away, deciding to stick to solid ground. He found the Admiral a few yards away, crouched on his hands and knees among the stones.

"Admiral? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." Nelson sat back on his haunches, looking up at the Captain. "But I can't find the device anywhere. Do you have it?"

"Device? Oh . . . no." Crane looked down at his empty hands. "I must have dropped it back there. Admiral, what is this place?"

"That's a good question." Nelson got to his feet, brushing his hands on the front of his trousers. "Somehow, I don't think we're anywhere on Earth. It seems . . . it seems Mr. Pem's device has taken us rather farther than I intended."

"I'll say." Crane looked around again, shivering; the air was a good deal colder than Seaview's usual 75 degrees, and he wished he had a sweater. "Can you . . . can you get us back?"

"If I had the device, I might be able to answer that," Nelson said impatiently. "Come on, let's start looking."

After half an hour of searching, Crane spotted a glitter of metal in a crevice, and reached in to retrieve the watch-like gadget. "I've got it, Admiral," he called.

"Good. Whatever you do, don't touch that button!"

"Don't worry, I won't." Crane laid the thing down on the conveniently flat top of the nearest rock, and waited, jogging on the spot and beating his arms against his chest in a futile attempt to keep warm. The light had dimmed to a sullen deep red, and the temperature was falling rapidly.

"Is it in one piece?" Nelson asked anxiously, appearing from behind a teetering column that looked almost like part of a building.

"As far as I can tell. These rocks are pretty soft."

"I know -- almost like some kind of natural polystyrene. I'd like to get a specimen before we leave." Nelson came over and picked up the device, but after a moment he shook his head. "This is no good -- I need a better light."

"And if we don't find some kind of shelter soon, we're going to freeze to death," Crane pointed out.

"I wouldn't go that far, but it is getting rather chilly, isn't it?"

"Maybe we could build some kind of hut out of these rocks," Crane suggested.

"Maybe, but I've got a better idea. There's something that looks like a cave entrance over that way. Come on -- and gather up some of that dead vegetation."

Shaking his head, Crane started gathering what loose spiny stems he could find. There were more than he had thought, and soon he had a prickly, awkward armful.

"Here we are," the Admiral said proudly. "Home sweet home."

It hardly looked very homelike, but at least the irregular opening in the little cliff promised some shelter from the increasingly icy blast of the wind. Crane followed the Admiral inside, dropping his scratchy burden.

Nelson put his own collection of fuel down to one side, then brought out his lighter and applied the flame to one end of a stick. Within moments, a cheerful little blaze lit up the cave, revealing another opening in the back wall. "There," he said, pleased with himself. "Now, if only we had something to eat . . ."

"I think I've got some marshmallows," Crane offered. He fished in his pocket and brought out the sticky packet, left over from a vacation camping trip. "But we're going to need water, too. Perhaps we should explore a bit further."

"No need for that." Nelson smiled suddenly. "I think I know exactly where to go. Back in a minute." He picked up a loose piece of cactus stem and thrust its tip into the blaze; it immediately flared up into a very acceptable torch.

"But Admiral," Crane protested. "We don't know anything about this place."

"Really? Look around you, Lee. Have you ever seen a cave system that didn't look exactly like this one?" Without waiting for a reply, Nelson straightened up and headed for the inner opening. "Don't go wandering off, now," his voice floated back out of the darkness. "And keep the fire going."

With a sigh, Crane hunkered down to wait. Outside, the wind was picking up, howling like a banshee, and the outer opening, in contrast to the flickering firelight, looked as dark and menacing as the inner one. Minutes went by, and the first marshmallow was done to a turn, and there was no sign of the Admiral.


First Officer's Log, Stardate: 7316.7

A most unfortunate development has occurred. As soon as the Enterprise was in orbit around the planet H'trae, Captain Kirk, still in the grip of delirium, somehow contrived to beam himself down to the surface. To make matters worse, it would appear that this planet is by no means as hospitable to life as the 'M' classification would indicate; indeed, I intend to take this matter up with the original explorers at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, Dr. McCoy and I, and a crewman whose name is hardly worth recording, as he seems unlikely to survive, intend to beam down and search for the Captain, in the hope of returning him to safety before he gets into any worse trouble.


"Where . . . am I? It's . . . pitch black. Can't . . . see my hand in front of . . . my face."

The Captain's fever continued to ravage its victim. The latest rewrite from D. C. Fontana called for Kirk to demonstrate his physical fragility by first swaying, and then collapsing to the ground. This he did, in a most convincing manner -- if he did say so himself. He lay on the ground moaning. His head ached with a fierceness he hadn't felt since falling off Sam's horse, back on the Kirk Family farm in Iowa . . . Iowa . . . Earth . . . Edith . . .

"Edith? Where are you? I'm trying to find you. I'm really sorry about that truck, but the episode was ending; there were no commercial breaks left. I couldn't let Bones be the hero! If it makes you feel any better, I practically broke down and cried! And I even said a bad word!" He thought he saw a light in the darkness. Did his eyes deceive him? Was the light was getting closer? Kirk dragged himself to his feet. "Edith!" he called out. "Is that you?" Balancing himself against some sort of rough-looking, but peculiarly soft-feeling wall, Kirk moved toward the light.

"Hello! Who's there?" the voice ahead cried out to Kirk.

"Edith! Edith, it's me, Jim! I . . . I . . . Oye!" Having grown faint from his effort to stay on his feet, Kirk slipped to the ground and succumbed to oblivion.

"What the devil!" Admiral Nelson bent down on one knee. Lowering his makeshift torch, the Admiral took a long look at a man in a uniform of some kind: black boots, black pants, a gold-colored shirt, upon which was an odd triangular-shaped emblem with a starburst in the center. The man was alive, but his pulse was extremely rapid. And the Admiral could feel tremendous heat emanating through the uniform itself. He had to get him out of this cold dampness, and close to the fire Lee had going.

The Admiral trekked backward toward the cave mouth and hollered to Captain Crane for help. Within three minutes or so, Nelson and Crane had carried the unconscious stranger back to their campsite. They laid him gently on the ground near the burning brush.

"Lee, I'm going back to search for water, you . . . what's the matter?"

The Captain had been kneading his forehead. He looked up in response to the Admiral's question. "Hm? Nothing."

"You look very pale all of a sudden; what's wrong?"

"I just realized . . . I have a splitting headache, Admiral."

"Probably from hitting your head in the lab. Any other symptoms?"

"I'm a little dizzy, a teensy bit nauseated, I'm sort of having double-vision, there's a funny sound in my left ear, I think I wrenched my back carrying that guy, and my feet hurt."

Nelson was sorry he asked. Just what he needed: two casualties! "Try to rest till I get back. Then we'll figure out a plan of action."

"Aye, sir."

Nelson waited until Crane settled himself on the ground near the stranger, then he made his way back into the cave.


Stardate: 7316.9 . . .

"Mr. Spock?"

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Sir, I'm getting nothing but static on all Star Fleet channels. In fact, I'm getting static on every channel. And I've run an equipment check. It's not a malfunction."

"What is your conclusion, Miss Uhura?"

Looking thoughtful, the beautiful Bantu woman removed her ear piece, came to a standing position and said, "Beats the heck outta me!"

The First Officer swiveled back to face the forward screen and thought to himself, Thanks for nothin', lady. Aloud, he said, "Continue to scan all frequencies. Let me know the moment you contact anyone."

"Yes, Mr. Spock."

"Sir?" said Lieutenant Sulu.

"Go ahead, helm."

"Sir, I was just tracking two other Federation vessels in the next sector . . . they just . . . they vanished, Mr. Spock. According to sensors, we are the only ship in the known universe."

Vulcan brows rose in bemusement. Meeting the eyes of the Enterprise's senior helmsman, Spock merely said, "Continue scanning, Mr. Sulu."

"Aye, sir."

"Chekov," the Vulcan said, turning his chair toward the Science Station, "have you located the Captain yet?"

Hunched over the hooded viewer, delicately turning the control mechanism on the side, the young officer replied, "Planetary conditions are causing a great deal of interference, Meester Spock."

"I did not ask for --"

"Sair!" Chekov bolted upright. "Got heem! I tink?"

"Explain."

"It may be a false reading, but sensors are peeking up three life forms on the planet surface -- all human."

"Fascinating." Spock pressed a toggle on the side of the command chair. "Transporter Room, prepare to beam up the Captain."

"We can't Mr. Spock. Too much interference. Suggest you use the shuttlecraft."

"Very well. Lt. Uhura, inform Dr. McCoy that the Captain has been found." Pressing yet another switch, he said, "Spock to Hangar Deck . . ."


Lee Crane was roused abruptly from a semi-sleep by the strange babblings of the strange stranger.

"Edith, I'm coming. Don't worry. We'll see that Clark Gable movie! Just don't cross that street!" The man in the gold shirt pushed himself to his feet and nearly fell into the fire.

Crane stood and tried to restrain the feverish fellow. "Hey, where you going?"

"Bones, get out of my way!"

"Will you sit down and relax!"

"Edith! Wait! I'm coming! I'm . . . I . . . I . . . I am Kirok! I have come!"

"What the heck are you talking about!" Crane struggled valiantly to keep the stranger from getting away, but in his current condition, he was no match for the husky, determined man in the weird uniform. The stranger broke free and ran toward the opening of the cave; however, he passed out before going more than a few feet. Unfortunately, that was far enough. Crane heard a crunching sound. He looked down -- Pem's timepiece lay in a million pieces. "Oh, no!"


May 3, 1979 - 1505 Hours . . .

"Damage Control, Report!" Even as he waited for the reply, Chip Morton was surveying Seaview's Control Room, noting the burnt-out instrumentation panel and the wisps of steam that still leaked from a damaged pipe. Seaview was still underway and holding trim, but there was no doubt that the ship was wounded. And where's the Skipper? Why isn't he up here?

"Minor damage in frames thirty-seven through forty-two, sir. There's water inside the outer hull in thirty-nine, and the main breaker there is shorted out." The voice from the bowels of the ship was imperturbably machine-like. "All critical systems are AOK."

"Very well. Send a full written report up to the Control Room, and get on the repairs." With an inward sigh of relief that it was no worse, Morton clicked the microphone over to another circuit. "Up bubble ten degrees! Engineering, ahead one third. Surface!" Where did Lee get to? This is supposed to be his job. Oh -- the Lab! He clicked again, switching to the private circuit for the laboratory. "Skipper, is everything okay down there?" There was no answer. Shaking his head, Morton switched back to ship-wide broadcast. "Captain! If you can hear me, please report!"

There was still no reply; what was worse, neither was there any word from the Admiral, from whom Morton had been subconsciously expecting some testy query. There was nothing else to be done. Concealing his growing panic, Morton summoned Chief Sharkey over and ordered him to check the laboratory.

In the next three hours, more and more of the crew were called away from their normal duties to join the search. They searched Seaview from stem to stern, from the chamber below the bridge to the cramped crawl-spaces below the Missile Room. Parties of men shuffled on hands and knees around the labyrinth of the ventilation system and checked closets and lockers everywhere from Officers' Country to the Engine Room. Remembering certain unfortunate incidents, Morton even checked the torpedo tubes and the escape hatch. The Admiral and the Captain were nowhere to be found, but neither was there any sign that they had left the ship; the Flying Sub was in its berth and the mini-sub and diving bell were in their usual places, and after a good deal of hunting the two missing diving suits turned up in the Sick Bay laundry closet. Reluctantly, the Exec was forced to the conclusion that he was in sole command. The only hint as to what had happened lay in the Admiral's notebook, lying open on the laboratory bench. Careful scientist that he was, Nelson had been keeping detailed notes; unfortunately, the pages of crabbed handwriting, dense with mathematical equations and interspersed with cryptic, much-altered sketches, made little sense to a layman. There was one thing in the notebook, however, that did mean something -- a doodled marginal sketch of something that looked like an old-fashioned pocket-watch. When he spotted that, Morton's harassed frown deepened even further. He let the search go on for a while longer, but with less and less hope that it would accomplish anything. Finally, with a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach that had nothing to do with his missed dinner, he gave the order to scale down the hunt, and asked Sparks to put through a call to ComSubPac. The redoubtable Admiral Starke would not be pleased, but he needed to know what had happened.


The shuttle ride down to the planet was a bumpy one, thanks to the storms that raged through the upper atmosphere. Even so, Dr. McCoy was heard to mutter that it was better than using the transporter. Ignoring him, Spock concentrated on the controls, fighting the wind to bring the shuttle down as near as possible to the co-ordinates where the sensors had picked up life-signs. In the end, the shuttle came a little too close for comfort, screeching to a halt barely ten feet from a low cliff.

"Nice driving, Mr. Spock," McCoy grunted. "Now all we have to do is locate them." He took out his tricorder and fiddled with the buttons for a moment, shaking his head. "This interference is pretty bad. It's a miracle the Captain survived transporting into this."

"I suggest we start over there, Doctor." Spock pointed through the viewscreen to a reddish glow coming from the cliff a few yards away. "Ensign, assist the Doctor with the medical supplies."

"Aye, sir." The grim-faced man in the red shirt bent over and picked up the two crates.

The shuttle door sighed open, letting a blast of cold, bitter-scented air into the cabin.

"Class M, my grandmother's right foot," McCoy grumbled, when the atmospheric composition registered on his tricorder. "No-one could survive here for more than a day or so."

"Then we should start the search without delay." Checking his phaser, Spock strode out into the night, and the other two followed. A few strides over the uneven ground brought them to the opening in the cliff face.

"Halt! Who goes there?" The voice that came from inside the cave was human, but it was not Captain Kirk's, and the figure that appeared in the opening was too tall, too dark-haired and much too lean. He carried a flaming brand, but had no other weapon that Spock could see.

"Commander Spock, First Officer, USS Enterprise, and Dr. McCoy, Chief Medical Officer. Might I ask who you are?"

The stranger swayed suddenly, and caught at the cave wall to steady himself. "Lee Crane, Captain of the SSRN Seaview -- not that I expect that means anything to you." He peered suspiciously at Spock's uniform, and then at his ears. "Were you looking for something?"

"Our Captain -- and we've found him." McCoy had been frowning past the stranger, into the firelit interior of the cave.

"Bones?"

That was the Captain's voice, slurred and weak but unmistakable. Had the Vulcan half of his nature allowed it, Spock would have felt relief. Being who and what he was, he merely allowed himself the logical satisfaction of noting that one part of their mission had been safely accomplished; Kirk was here, and alive.

"I'm here, Jim." Ignoring the man who called himself Crane, McCoy stepped into the cave and knelt beside the figure that sprawled in the shadows. The tricorder warbled, and he tapped buttons, frowning.

"How is he, Doctor?" Spock inquired.

"Not good. The fever's worse, and he's badly dehydrated. We have to get him back to the ship. Ensign, bring those cases over here."

"You've got a ship?" Crane broke in. "Or do you mean that flying camper-van out there?"

"The Enterprise is in orbit," Spock explained. "Might I ask how you came to be here, Captain?"

"I wish I knew." The dark man started to shake his head, and stopped abruptly. "Admiral Nelson . . . well, let's just say we had an accident with a time machine."

"A time machine on twentieth-century earth? You are from the twentieth century, are you not? At least, your uniform would indicate as much."

"Sounds incredible, doesn't it?" Crane gave up the struggle to stay on his feet, and slid down until he was sitting on the ground with his back against the wall. The brand had burned down almost to his fingers, and he tossed it away. "But here we are -- wherever here is."

"The planet named H'trae in the L'oS solar system," Spock told him. "And you would call this the twenty-third century." He paused for a moment, thinking that over. There was at least a possibility, given the sudden loss of communications with other Starfleet vessels, that they had time-traveled themselves. "Or possibly not," he added. "At any rate, we were in the twenty-third century when we got up this morning."

While this exchange was going on, McCoy had been working on his patient, applying hyposprays, and making him as comfortable as possible in the collapsible anti-grav stretcher that had traveled in the larger crate. "You can figure that out later," he said now. "We're going back to the ship." He glanced over at Crane. "You're coming with us."

"But . . ." Crane protested.

"I concur with the Doctor," said Spock. "This place is not capable of supporting animate life for long. Irregular though it is, we will have to take you aboard."

"What's more," McCoy added, "you need medical attention yourself, if I'm not very much mistaken."

"I'm all right," Crane insisted. "I bumped my head a bit, that's all. And I'm not going anywhere without the Admiral!"

"You mean there's another of you around here someplace?" McCoy shook his head disgustedly.

"Sensors did detect three lifeforms," Spock reminded him.

"Why don't you take your Captain and come back for us later?" Crane suggested. "The Admiral can't have gone too far. He should have been back by now!"

"Unwise," Spock pronounced after a moment's thought. "Forgive me, Captain, but you seem to be in no condition to be left here alone. I shall search for your Admiral myself."

"First left, second right," Crane said. "At least, that's my guess. He said something about all these cave systems being alike. It didn't make sense at the time, but I remember now."

"Of course. The Paramount Universal Cave-set Theory, propounded by Fox in the twentieth century. I do not believe I shall keep you waiting long, Doctor."

"Now hang on a minute, Spock!"

Ignoring the Doctor's protest, Spock switched on his flashlight and headed for the entrance at the back of the cave. What lay beyond it was much as he had expected, down to the suspiciously square or pentagonal archways and the flat, sandy floor. He took the first opening on the left and the second on the right, and was unsurprised to find himself in a large, well-lit space. It was a laboratory of some kind, well furnished with racks of reagent bottles and banks of panels studded with little flashing lights. In the center of it all, absorbed in a frowning, fascinated study of an exposed circuit, stood a sandy-haired man in the same khaki that Crane wore.

"Admiral Nelson, I presume," Spock said mildly.

"Yes?" The man started and looked up. "And who might you be?"

Spock introduced himself.

"You do realize what this is?" the Admiral said, hardly paying attention.

"It appears to be some kind of scientific apparatus."

"Well, obviously. But it's more than that." The Admiral's eyes glowed with excitement. "This, Mr. Spock, is the control center for a time machine -- one of the most powerful I've ever run across, and I've seen a few."

Operating his tricorder, and turning in a slow 360 degree arc, the Vulcan replied, "Forgive me, Admiral, but I was not aware that twentieth century naval officers had such vast experience with time machines."

"Well, Lee and I are the only ones who actually --" Taking closer notice of the being before him, Nelson said, "Forgive me, Mr. Spock, but what exactly are you?"

"I am a hybrid, Admiral. My mother is an Earth woman; my father, a Vulcan."

"I see. To whom is your allegiance then?"

"My allegiance is to science, to truth, and above all, to Desilu."

Nodding and smiling, the Admiral said, "I think we understand each other, Mr. Spock."

"Yes, Admiral, we reach." As he gazed into the screen of his tricorder, Spock's brow rose. "Admiral, for the moment, I suggest we continue our discussion elsewhere. Ionic interference is growing more intense as we speak; it may prevent our returning to the safety of the Enterprise in orbit above this planet. Also, I am now detecting a temporal displacement in this general vicinity."

"I'm not surprised. I was just about to re-connect . . . What's that?"

A low, rumbling vibration had begun. The men felt the sensation in their feet first. Dust rose from the ground. Millennia old bedrock loosened and fell from the ceiling.

"Earthquake, Admiral. The epicenter is two point one seven three kilometers southeast of this spot." Shutting down the tricorder, Spock pointed to the doorway of the cave laboratory and shouted, "After you, sir."

The two men made it into the mouth of the cave with seconds to spare. The walls behind them collapsed and tons and tons of stone closed the way to the mysterious cavern that housed the mysterious time machine. In the minutes it had taken Nelson and Spock to get back into the open, the earthquake had subsided.

"Spock!" yelled Dr. McCoy. "What the devil took you so long!"

"The Admiral needed to stop for a cigarette," responded Spock.

"So sue me!" shrugged Nelson.

Rising shakily from the cold ground, Crane said, "Admiral, are you all right?"

"Fine, Lee. Are you any better?"

"He would be if he'd let me give him a hypo," McCoy interjected.

"Forget it!" grumbled Crane. "For all I know, you got your medical degree through a correspondence school!"

Sneering at the swaying man in the khaki shirt, McCoy answered back, "If there's one thing I hate, it's a Captain with a martyr complex! Just my luck to have two of 'em on my hands at once."

"Oh, let's just get out of this Godforsaken place before it's too late!" commanded Admiral Nelson.

"Where is Ensign Tomlinsonleslie?" said Spock, craning his neck in all directions.

"Where do you think, Spock?" said McCoy. "While you and the Admiral were off taking your little coffee break, the Ensign got swallowed up by the earthquake. That makes fourteen red shirts in two weeks who've died without a trace. That poor boy won't even make it into the credits."

"SAG rules are harsh, Doctor, but they are necessary," said Spock with more emotion than usual.

"Maybe if he'd studied at The Neighborhood Playhouse like me," put in Crane, "he'd have had a chance. It took me three years to learn to how act sick with sincerity. Watch this!" Despite a stouthearted effort to maintain his balance, Crane found himself falling into Dr. McCoy.

"Oh, for Pete's sake!" Holding the Captain up by the elbow, an impatient Leonard McCoy looked at Nelson and said, "Admiral, this man has a concussion, damage to his left inner ear, a torn muscle in his lower back, and it appears his shoes are too tight. You're his superior. Do I have your permission to give him a temporary anodyne?"

"Of course, Doctor. Go ahead."

"Hey, wait a minute!" protested Crane.

"It's for your own good, Lee," promised the Admiral.

"But but but . . . I'm allergic!" stuttered Captain Crane.

"To what?" cracked McCoy.

"To all the sulfas, half the mycins, and I can't even look at ice cream!"

"Pipe down, Captain, and take your medicine like a big boy." As he reached into his medical pouch for a hypo, McCoy let go of Crane, who ignominiously tipped over and hit the ground -- hard.

"Ouch! My knee!"

"Whoops." McCoy took a quick reading on his portable medi-scanner. "Looks like you chipped a bone, Crane. You are accident prone, aren't ya? Don't worry. I'll just make it a double." Dr. McCoy adjusted his hypo, bent down and pressed a healing shot into Crane's right shoulder.

In seconds, Crane's balance was bellisimo, his headache was history, his nausea was nullified, his back was better, his knee was nifty, and his feet felt fabulous. He stood under his own power and muttered a reluctant, "Thanks," to Dr. McCoy.

"Yeah. You'll get my bill in the morning."

A peculiar, disorienting draught suddenly undulated across the surface of H'trae. The universe seemed to expand and contract in an instant. All of yesterday and all tomorrows became today -- and then it was gone.

When he recovered his wits, Spock once again engaged his tricorder. "The temporal disturbance has returned. It seems to be coming in waves. These readings are very similar to those we took several years ago in the proximity of the Guardian of Forever."

"Spock . . . the lab. We've got to get back in that cave and close that circuit," insisted Nelson.

"You may be right, Admiral, but the area is unreachable to us at the present time. I suggest we head for the shuttlecraft and attempt to return to the Enterprise -- while we still can."

The men had to shout over the wailing wind to be heard. McCoy activated the anti-grav stretcher -- much to the amazement of Nelson and Crane -- and guided it, with Kirk aboard, to the waiting shuttlecraft. When the door sealed shut, the three conscious humans virtually collapsed with relief. Confined to his free-floating bed, Kirk was dementedly droning on about onlies and grups and saying rude things like, "Mind your own business, Mr. Spock! I'm sick of your half-breed interference, do you hear?"

Nelson and Crane exchanged glances as they prepared to take a voyage into space.

"Excited, Lee?" queried Nelson quietly.

"Nah. I've already been to Venus, remember?"

"That reminds me," whispered the Admiral. "I wonder what's happening on Seaview."

"Oh no! My ship! Admiral, we've got to get home! You know Chip's no good in a crisis!"

"I'm afraid he'll have to do, Lee. We're stuck here for the time being."

"This is all your fault, Admiral. Why'd you have to put that stupid watch back together again!"

"One more crack like that, Captain, and I'll have you transferred to the U-444."

"You really know how to hurt a guy, Admiral. Now my headache's back," said Crane, as he slumped in his seat and massaged his brow.

"Brace yourselves, gentlemen," called Spock from the front of the craft. "I expect severe buffeting upon take-off, and violent yawing, pitching and rolling as we attempt to achieve orbit."

"No problem, Mr. Spock," shouted Nelson, "we do that everyday under water on the Seaview. And we don't have seat belts, either."

"Interesting." Touching a white button just to his right, the Vulcan said, "Spock to Enterprise, prepare to receive shuttle-craft."

The engines roared into life, and the little craft leapt into the air, rocking the passengers in their seats. As they climbed, Nelson started patting his pockets with an increasingly worried expression.

"I don't think you'd better light up in here, sir," said Crane.

"What? No, that's not what I was looking for. Uh . . . Lee, you do have the device safe, don't you?"

"Well, not exactly," Crane confessed. He reached into his pocket and brought out a crumpled, knotted ball of handkerchief. "I'm afraid this is all I could find, after Captain Kirk stepped on it."

Nelson accepted the sad little bundle. There was too much noise for him to hear the jangle when he shook it, but he could feel tiny, sharp-edged fragments through the cloth.

"I'm sorry, sir, but I just couldn't stop him."

"You could at least have . . ." Nelson started, and then stopped himself, realizing that the Captain was in no condition to be shouted at. "Oh, well," he said after a moment. "So much for that idea. I was hoping we could use it to get back into the cavern, at least. And I don't know if I could build another one, without my notes."

"You'll think of something, sir."

The shuttlecraft lurched again, seeming to stumble in the air, and dropped several hundred feet straight down. When Nelson opened his eyes again, he saw that Crane was slumped in his seat, unconscious or very nearly so.

"My apologies," Spock called back. "We are encountering some turbulence. If this vessel were equipped with seat belts, I would recommend fastening them. As it is, I suggest you hang on!" The shuttlecraft went into another sickening curve, rolling almost on its side, then settled. "We should be clear of the atmosphere in two point three four minutes."

Nelson picked himself up off the floor, and managed to get the semi-comatose Crane back in his seat. Something in the back of his mind was ringing alarm bells, but it took him a moment to realize what it was. The acceleration needed to escape the planet ought to have been mashing them into the floor, not just giving them a few bruises. Some technology was at work here that went beyond any physics he could imagine. He spent the rest of the trip, when he was not worrying about Crane's condition, thinking about that.

The shuttle bay, when the craft finally came to rest there and the doors opened, was almost a disappointment -- just a big, light, chilly space, oddly short on detail. Where were the pipes, the ducts, the labyrinths of intricate wiring, the banks of flashing lights? Then Crane stirred and started groggily to sit up, and Nelson pushed the questions to the back of his mind. He wanted to see everything there was to see on this fascinating ship, but his body was beginning to tell him in no uncertain terms that it wanted rest, and before he could attend to anything else he had to be sure that his friend was taken care of.

"Must have . . . blacked out for a minute," Crane said weakly.

"More than a minute." Nelson helped him to his feet, because it was obvious that he was going to get up anyway. "How do you feel now?"

"Fine -- just a bit dizzy."

Dr. McCoy had been checking on Kirk again, while Spock closed down the shuttlecraft's engines, but he looked around now, and gave Crane a concerned look. "You'd better come with me. You too, Admiral."

Nelson started to protest, out of habit, and then realized that he would be happier seeing where they took Crane.

"Mr. Spock!" The voice booming from the speakers was Scottish, and worried. "Welcome aboard, sir. Can ye come to the Bridge? We've got a wee problem with the instruments."

"On my way, Mr. Scott." Spock turned off a final switch and headed for the exit. "You will keep me informed, Doctor." It was not quite a question.

"Of course, Spock."

Reaching the Sick Bay involved a short walk across the Hangar Deck, and then a rather longer ride in some kind of elevator that seemed to go sideways as well as up and down. When they arrived, the Admiral had to wait for a while in the outer area while the Doctor and his staff attended to the patients. Even here, there was plenty to see, and Nelson had hardly had time to become bored with studying the exotic equipment, let alone to settle down in a chair, before McCoy reappeared, shrugging off his surgical gown.

"He'll be fine," he said in answer to Nelson's questioning look. "He probably would have been anyway, but this way he'll be back on his feet a bit faster.

"That's a relief." Nelson dropped into a chair. "I wasn't looking forward to having to find someone to take his lines."

"As for our own Captain -- if he doesn't manage to unfasten the restraints, maybe we can all get some sleep." McCoy wandered over to the cabinet against the wall and took out an oddly shaped glass jug. "And now, Admiral -- I have a prescription here that should be just what you need." He poured a greenish-yellow fluid into a couple of shot glasses, and held one out. "Saurian brandy," he explained, winking. "Just a wee dram, as our engineer would say, and then I'll have someone show you to your quarters. It's been a long day for all of us."

"That it has," Nelson agreed, taking the proffered glass and raising it. "To the twenty-third century!"

"That may not be appropriate," a dry voice observed from the doorway.

"Now what, Mr. Spock?" the Doctor demanded sourly. "Can't anyone get any peace and quiet around here?"

"Perhaps not, Doctor." Spock came farther into the room. "According to our instruments, we have receded in time some seven hundred years. If that is so, the correct toast would be, 'to the sixteenth century.'"

"I knew it!" Nelson put down the glass from which he had barely sipped; scientific excitement surged through his veins like strong coffee. "That whole planet is a time machine of some kind. We just have to find a way to control it!"

"I fear that will not be practicable at present, sir." Spock consulted the device he was holding, which seemed to be some kind of high-tech successor to the clipboard. "Interference from the planet is so strong that it would be impossible to return, even by shuttlecraft. However, computer projections do indicate that more favorable conditions should prevail in approximately ten hours from now."

"Well, there's a stroke of luck," said McCoy. "A time machine that keeps office hours. Now if you don't mind, Mr. Spock, I have patients here who need their rest. I'll see you in the morning."

Nelson glanced at his watch, but it had stopped.

"Whichever century we're in, Admiral, it's way past your bedtime," McCoy said sternly. "Now drink up your medicine and go get some rest. It's amazing what a difference a good night's sleep can make."

"Now that sounds familiar!" With a chuckle that turned into a yawn, Nelson picked up the glass.


May 3, 1979 - 1815 Hours . . .

"Commander Morton!" On the videophone screen, Jiggs Starke straightened his shoulders and stared down his aquiline nose at the camera. "Do you intend me to believe that you have managed to lose both your senior officers without a trace? When you weren't even on a mission?"

"Yes, sir." As he always did when confronted with this Admiral, Morton felt about six inches tall. Not a very satisfying breakfast, then, he told himself wryly.

"Have you any explanation for this . . . this carelessness?"

"A theory, sir."

"A theory!" Starke echoed. "Let me tell you, young man, when I was your age Lieutenant Commanders weren't permitted the luxury of theories. We had the answers or we took the consequences!"

"Sir," Morton said between gritted teeth.

"Well, let's have it."

"Sir, there's some evidence that the Admiral had been experimenting with a time-travel device before he . . . disappeared."

There was a long, stunned silence on the other end of the line. Then Starke said, sounding a bit deflated, "And what exactly do you propose to do about that, Mr. Morton?"

"Wait and see what happens, sir."

"Yes, well . . . very well, carry on. And if we wake up tomorrow and find ourselves subjects of the British Crown, or if you get back to Santa Barbara and find it's part of Mexico, we'll know who to blame!"


Stardate 7317.2 - Give or take 700 years . . .

Jim Kirk woke suddenly from a long, confused dream, and found himself staring at a ceiling that was not the ceiling of his cabin. When he turned his head, he could make out the outlines of other bunks, and the flicker of diagnostic lights. Sickbay? What am I doing here? He tried to sit up, and flopped back, realizing only then that he was firmly strapped to the bed. "Bones? Bones!"

"Good morning, Captain." Nurse Chapel appeared from somewhere out of his range of vision, tricorder in hand. "Feeling better, are we?"

"Where's Dr. McCoy? And who trussed me up like this?" He did feel better, he realized; at least, nothing hurt very much, and the room seemed disposed to stay put even when he moved his head.

"The Doctor will be here in a moment, sir."

"Get me out of this!" When she made no move to obey, he tried turning on the charm that rarely failed him. "Please, nurse?"

She smiled, but stood her ground. "That's for the Doctor to decide, sir."

"Then where is he? Bones!"

"All right, I'm coming. I'm a doctor, not a bellhop," grumbled a familiar voice. "Easy, Jim. I'll cut you loose in a moment -- as soon as you give me your word to stay put and do as you're told."

"What is this?" Kirk indulged in a brief, fruitless struggle against the restraints, and then lay still. "And who's that?" He jerked his head towards the man in the other bed -- a dark, skinny, long-boned fellow with a dressing on his temple, who was somehow managing to sleep through the commotion.

"One thing at a time, Jim." McCoy came and sat by Kirk's bed, blocking his view of the stranger. "You've had a bad bout of Rigellian Flu -- you've been off your head for the best part of three days. If we hadn't tied you down last night, nobody would have gotten any sleep, even if you hadn't managed to crash the ship into a star or blow up the engines."

"But I'm all right now!"

"You will be -- if you don't do anything dumb. If you behave yourself, you might get out of here in a couple of days. For now, you aren't going anywhere -- and that's an order!"

"We'll see about that," Kirk muttered mutinously. "You still haven't told me about your other patient."

"You don't remember? Well, that figures. We picked up a couple of strays last night -- from the twentieth century, or that's their story."

"WHAT?!" Kirk made another vain attempt to sit up. "Bones, that settles it. I have to go to the Bridge."

"I can't allow that, Jim. But I can get Spock down here, if you like."

"Is that your last word?"

"Absolutely."

"Then do it."

Seven minutes later . . .

". . . Those are the salient facts, Captain."

"So let me get this straight, Spock. I come down with a little cold, take a nap for five minutes, and the next thing I know, my ship ends up in the blankety-blank sixteenth century! And, while you were at it, you just decided you'd pick up two sailors from the bloody twentieth century, and bring 'em along for the ride!"

"I see no reason to use profanity, Captain."

Jim Kirk rubbed his burning left eye, let out a deep, downhearted sigh, and said, "Tell McCoy to undo these restraints, pronto, or I'm gonna raise a ruckus like nobody's ever seen before."

"Are you sure you're well enough, sir? The Doctor's report clearly states --"

"Don't question me, Spock, just do as I say, gosh darn it!"

"Really, sir, your language! Since this morning, I have received three memos on this matter from NBC censors. I respectfully suggest --"

"SPOCK! I order you to untie me! Right now!"

"Very well, Captain." As he released the straps that were keeping Kirk confined, Spock added under his breath, "One might have said, 'pretty please.'"

From the next bed there came a few faint murmurs. The patient was stirring to wakefulness.

Dr. McCoy came bounding into the scene of the disturbance. He glanced momentarily at the diagnostic readings over Crane's bed and shook his head. Leveling a nasty glare in Kirk's direction, he said, "Happy now, Mr. Loud Mouth? You woke him up!"

"Where am I?" queried the dark-haired man in the bed.

As the injured man tried to lift himself, Dr. McCoy pushed firmly against his shoulder. "No you don't, Captain. This is your post for the time being."

"But where am I?" repeated Lee Crane.

Now on his feet, Kirk positioned himself on the opposite side of the patient's bed, across from the Doctor. "'Who are you?' might be a better question."

"Jim! Don't be so rude," chastised McCoy. "You're on the Enterprise, Crane, in Sickbay."

"'Crane,'" muttered Kirk. "That name sounds familiar. Spock, what was the name of the other man you brought aboard?"

"Nelson," called an informative voice from the doorway. "Admiral Harriman Nelson, at your service." His face shaven, his clothes cleaned and pressed, his demeanor that of a well-rested man, the Admiral came into the room proper and put out his hand to Kirk. "Captain, glad to see you're feeling better."

Wearing a somewhat suspicious facial cast, Kirk grasped Nelson's hand. "Thank you, Admiral."

"Doctor, how's Lee doing today?" inquired Nelson.

"He's perfectly all right," answered Crane.

"In a pig's eye," responded McCoy.

"You always say that, Bones." Reaching his right hand toward Crane, Kirk said, "Sorry I was so disagreeable a minute ago, Captain. Rigellian Flu always makes me testy. Furthermore, and more to the point, I don't like mysteries. They give me a --"

"Bellyache?" finished Crane. "Me, too, Captain, me, too."

"Mm. I understand you and the Admiral saved my life on that planet. I'm eternally grateful -- to both of you."

Nelson waved his hand dismissively.

Crane said, "Don't mention it, Captain."

"How do really feel, Crane?" asked Kirk, with genuine interest.

"Oh, just slightly worse than I did the time the whole crew beat me up in 'The Deadly Dolls'."

"Uh, Lee," nudged Nelson, "that mission was Top Secret, remember?"

"I'm afraid there can be no secrets between us any longer, gentlemen." That was Spock.

All eyes turned toward him.

And that's just the way he liked it. It was about time the cameras were on him again. He intended to make the most of it. "The situation is dire. As far as my superior mind has been able to deduce, with some slight aid from the ship's computer, when the Admiral and the Captain vanished from their present, Earth history was irrevocably altered. Mankind never ventured beyond Venus. Starfleet never developed. We never came to be. On a happier note, the Beatles reunited in late 1979 and embarked on a World Tour with Frank Sinatra, Steve and Eydie, and Don Rickles. Shortly after that, in the summer of 1980, it appears a cataclysmic event took place on Earth. Records are sketchy, but it seems an enigmatic alien had a hand in starting a nuclear war which devastated the planet. The incident marked the end of history. Without the Admiral and the Captain there to prevent the catastrophe, humanity ceased to exist."

"Then we've got to send them back!" pronounced Kirk vigorously.

"Duh, Captain," groaned the Vulcan.

"Watch it, Spock, I still don't feel good, and I'm still in a bad mood."

"My apologies. At any rate, there is yet another problem, if I might be permitted to finish."

"And if I say no, you'll just call your agent and get me in trouble with the big cheeses again, so go ahead and spill your guts."

Placing his hands characteristically behind his back, the Vulcan inclined his head and continued his discourse. "Twenty-four hours ago, in real time, a certain person, namely you, Jim, beamed down to H'trae, fooled around with certain equipment in a certain lab, about which you certainly knew absolutely zilch, zero, nada, and, which interference somehow caused the Enterprise to retreat seven centuries into the past. We are now trapped in antiquity, with no way to repair the breach in either this or the original timeline."

All eyes fell upon James T. Kirk.

"I didn't touch anything!"

"I knew there had to be a reason why the circuit was exposed that way," said a distressed Harriman Nelson. "You didn't happen to kill any alien scientists did you?"

"I don't even remember being there!" cried a distraught Kirk.

Interceding on Kirk's behalf, Spock said, "The planet is uninhabited, Admiral."

"Well it wasn't always, Mr. Spock."

"Duh, Admiral."

Kirk elbowed his First Officer in the ribs. "Spock! Mind your manners. Can't you see the guy's got four stars and an Irish temper?"

Although Spock towered over the Admiral by a good four inches, there was something exceptional about this man that made the Vulcan feel small in his presence -- even inferior -- and it had nothing at all to do with the four silver stars on the Admiral's collar. "I beg your pardon, Admiral. I have been hanging around humans with an arrested vocabulary for so long that I fear I have become contaminated."

"I know what you mean. Try eating dinner with Chief Sharkey seven nights a week and see how you start talking."

Desirous of regaining the cameraman's undivided attention, Kirk broke in abruptly, "Look, the question is, what are we going to do about the situation?"

"There is very little we can do," answered Spock.

"I don't agree Mr. Spock," replied Nelson in a resolute tone.

"Admiral, our instrumentation has been damaged by temporal and ionic disruptions. In addition, computer projections proved incorrect. We must now wait six more hours for another window of opportunity to return to H'trae. Once there, we do not know whether we can effect any change in the status quo or not."

"Good things come to those who wait, Mr. Spock. In the meantime, I'd like to try to put Pem's time machine back together again. I believe I might be able to fix it -- that is, if I had a decent lab to work in."

"Admiral, the Enterprise is at your disposal," offered Kirk with a smile. "We've got fourteen science labs around here somewhere, so if . . ." Captain Kirk found himself growing unsteady again.

"Ya know, it's a curse to always be right," sniggered Leonard McCoy. "Let's go, Jim, back to bed."

"But we've got a universe to save."

"Yeah, yeah, all in good time." McCoy returned his oscillating Captain to his waiting mattress. "Let Spock and the Admiral rebuild the time machine. For the next six hours at least, you and your buddy, Crane, are stayin' right here."

"Company! Cool!" cheered Lee Crane. "Do you guys have Scrabble®? How 'bout Monopoly®? I don't think I could handle Twister® at the moment. I'm too dizzy."

"Whataya say to a game of Battleship®? I'd sure like to sink your submarine," declared Kirk with glee.

With a raised left brow, Spock turned to Admiral Nelson. "Shall we head for the Science Lab, Admiral, and attempt to right the wrongs of the cosmos?"

"Eloquently put, Mr. Spock, and dramatically uttered. Don't tell me you're part Thespian, too!"

"I did study with Stella'pau Adler, sir."

"Very impressive. I wish I'd had the opportunity myself. Sort of had to find my own way, if you know what I mean."

Hoping to make up for his earlier faux pas, Spock responded, "Some of us are born gifted, Admiral."

Nelson's eyes widened; his lips formed into a grateful smile. "Thank you for the compliment, Commander. Now take me to one of your science labs so we can get started on making the universe right again."

"I believe I said it better, but I will show you to the lab."


June 13, 1980 - 0930 Hours . . .

In command of Seaview for more than a year now, Commander Charles P. Morton leaned over the plot table and drew in the next leg of his submarine's course.

"Skipper?"

He still couldn't get used to being called that. Lee was the Skipper not him. But Lee Crane and Admiral Nelson had been declared officially dead last month by the government. Somehow, despite that official declaration, Morton kept hope alive in his heart that someday . . . someday, his friends would return. Putting those thoughts out of his mind for the moment, Morton tossed his pencil onto the table and said, "Coming."

"What you do make of it?" said Executive Officer O'Brien, standing behind the radar station.

Morton watched as what could only be called a UFO streaked across the screen at 60 knots and climbing.

"Could be a meteorite," stated Chief Sharkey.

Morton shook his head. "Much too slow for a meteorite; much too fast for a plane." In seconds, the object had broached the surface and vanished beneath the Pacific Ocean.

"Do we investigate?" inquired O'Brien.

"Any investigation will have to wait. We're due to rendezvous with the Fleet. By the way, how's the reactor behaving?"

"Patterson's checking it, now, sir."

"Good. I don't want any foul-ups on this mission. Admiral Starke's going to be on the Enterprise monitoring the exercise, and he's just looking for an excuse to jump down some subordinate's throat. And it ain't gonna be mine, if I can help it. So turn to and police up the place!"


Stardate: Unknown . . .

Laid out on the bench in the Enterprise's main laboratory, the contents of Crane's handkerchief did not look very promising; crumbs, pocket-lint, a bent dime and a lot of gritty dust mingled with the tiny metal wheels, tangled bits of circuitry, and sharp-edged slivers of glass. The watch-face was bent almost in two, the minute hand was missing altogether, and the second-hand was broken into three pieces. What gave the Admiral hope was that the heart of Pem's device, a sizable chunk of translucent crystal, still seemed to be intact. The rest, he would have to rebuild from memory and what he had. Carefully, he sorted out the valuable pieces from the trash, aware of the half-Vulcan's inscrutable curiosity in the background. The tools were oddly-shaped, but familiar enough, and he was determined not to waste too much time wondering about the fascinating but irrelevant equipment in the laboratory.

"Will you be requiring anything further?" Spock asked after a while.

"Hmm? Yes, there is one thing, but not immediately. I'll need access to your nuclear reactor to power this thing when it's put together."

"Nuclear reactor?" Both those slanting, unlikely eyebrows shot to even steeper angles. "Admiral, the Federation has not used fission technology in over two hundred years. My Romulan cousins might be able to provide a nuclear warhead, but they live on the other side of the galaxy, and anyway we aren't on speaking terms."

"Then what do you use for energy?" Nelson waved a hand at the laboratory and the ship it implied. "I can't believe you run all this on solar cells!" He thought about that for a moment. "Stellar cells. Whatever."

"No, Admiral. We use a controlled matter-antimatter reaction in a dilithium crystal matrix -- but I must ask you to keep that information to yourself. It isn't due to be discovered until well after your time."

"Yes, yes, I understand all that," Nelson said impatiently. "Well, it will have to do -- but I may need to make some adjustments. In the meantime -- do you have anything equivalent to Krazy® Glue?"


June 13, 1980 - 1035 Hours . . .

"Morton, as of now your orders have been changed. That UFO has to be investigated, and Seaview's still the ship best equipped for that. The rest of the Fleet will stand by out of firing range."

"Understood, sir." Morton was not about to start arguing tactics with Admiral Starke. He could almost hear what Admiral Nelson would have had to say about this, though.

"Keep me informed, and try to get a move on. With the President here to observe, we don't want the exercises held up for too long. Any questions?"

"No, sir."

"Very well. Good luck, Morton. Enterprise out."

"Mr. O'Brien!" Morton took a moment to check his calculations, then swallowed. "Come to course 007. All ahead -- full!"

"Sir -- the reactor!" O'Brien said unhappily. "It might not take the strain."

"Are you questioning my orders?"

"No, sir. Aye-aye, sir." O'Brien picked up a microphone and relayed the order.

He's right, though, Morton admitted to himself. If that reactor blows a gasket now, we're in big trouble. There isn't a man in the world who could fix it the way the Admiral could. He clicked the microphone he still held to a different channel. "Patterson, keep an eye on that reactor. If it shows any signs of overloading, I want to know about it immediately."

"Aye, sir."


Stardate: Still Unkown . . .

An hour before the transporter window to the planet was due to open, Spock called a meeting in the Briefing Room. He and Admiral Nelson were the first to arrive; the Admiral carefully carried the restored time-travel device. Shortly afterwards, Yeoman Rand appeared, carrying a tray. She smiled shyly at the Admiral, who was examining the three-way viewscreen in the center of the table.

"Coffee, sir? Careful, it's hot -- I used a phaser to warm it up."

"That's just the way I like it." Smiling in turn, Nelson helped himself to a cup, and laid a small bottle of nail-polish remover in the corner of the tray. "Thank you, Yeoman."

"My pleasure, sir." Considerately, Janice put the tray down and took a seat, sparing the Admiral from any further attempt not to notice her legs below the skimpy uniform.

A minute or so later, Chief Engineer Scott came in, followed by Dr. McCoy.

"How are your patients, Doctor?" Spock inquired.

McCoy pulled a face. "You'll see for yourself in a minute. They're right behind me -- Jim just wanted to give Captain Crane a tour of the Bridge.

"And very impressive it is," Crane chimed in from the doorway.

"Lee!" Nelson jumped to his feet. "How did you convince . . ."

Crane grinned. "Oh, I think it was the pillow-fight that did the trick. Wouldn't you say so, Jim?"

"It was rather effective, wasn't it?" Kirk followed his fellow-captain into the room, smirking.

"Of all the puerile behavior -- I don't know which one of you's the worst!" grumbled McCoy, but he did not seem entirely displeased with the success of his treatments.

"Who won?" Nelson asked, trying to keep a straight face.

"I think we'd have to call it a draw," replied Crane. "Of course, it wasn't the same with those fancy space-age pillows -- no feathers!"

"Feathers, eh?" Kirk smiled thoughtfully. "Yeoman, make a memorandum. Sick Bay is to be equipped with genuine feather pillows at the earliest possible opportunity."

"And while we're on the subject of home furnishings, Admiral," Crane put in, "I want a proper Captain's chair in the Control Room! Why can't we be comfy while we're saving the world?"

"I'll bear it in mind," Nelson said dryly. "In the meantime, why don't you pull up one of these chairs and sit down? We haven't got all day."

"Indeed, gentlemen." Spock rubbed at one earlobe. "Time, I must say, is of the essence."

"Why? We've got eight hundred years, haven't we?" Kirk said airily.

"I fear not, Captain." Spock scratched the ear again, more vigorously. "Sensor readings, such as they are, indicate that the machine on the planet below is becoming dangerously unstable. If we cannot repair it, we may be destroyed along with it -- or at best, stranded in this uncivilized epoch." He started to steeple his fingers together, then ruined the effect by scratching yet again at his ear.

"Spock," McCoy said, frowning, "is there something wrong with that ear?"

"Nothing of consequence, Doctor." Spock looked embarrassed. "That is -- I believe I may be experiencing a minor allergic reaction to the perfume in Yeoman Rand's nail-polish remover."

"Nail-polish remover?" McCoy echoed. "Has everyone on this ship gone completely insane?"

"On the contrary, Doctor. We were simply following the instructions on the glue package. It was the only logical course of action."

"I told him not to hold the device to his ear," Nelson explained, with his lips twitching. "That glue is powerful stuff, and there must have been a drop left on the outside of the casing."

"I merely wished to ascertain whether the device was ticking," Spock said with dignity.

Nelson rolled his eyes. "Ticking! Of course it wasn't ticking. It's not a watch, it's a highly sophisticated time-travel device. Anyway, after that the only logical thing to do was to borrow the nail-polish remover."

"Be that as it may, time marches on." Spock lifted his hand to scratch again, and restrained himself with a visible effort. "Let us get down to business. Mr. Scott . . ."

"Hey, wait a minute," Kirk interrupted. "I'm the Captain around here, aren't I?"

"Of course, Jim," Spock said with glacial patience. "However, you have been incapacitated -- or otherwise engaged -- for some time."

"Well I'm back now! Mr. Scott, do you have anything to report?"

"Aye, sir. We've been trying to repair the sensors, but the interference blows the replacement parts almost as fast as we can fit them. And there's another problem."

"Yes?" Kirk prompted, when the engineer hesitated.

"The engines, sir," Scott admitted. "We cannae go to warp under these conditions. Maybe if we could get away from the planet under impulse power, we'd have more of a chance. But I would'nae be wanting to try anything fancy like a slingshot maneuver, even then."

"If all goes according to plan, Mr. Scott, that will not be necessary," said Spock.

"Plan? We've got a plan? Why wasn't I informed?" Kirk broke in.

With an eloquent tilt of one eyebrow, Spock turned to Nelson. "Admiral, if you would explain for the Captain's benefit?"


June 13, 1980 - 1145 Hours . . .

Seaview was within a mile of the UFO's last known position -- and to Morton's amazement the reactor was holding together. Sometimes it seemed to him little short of miraculous that the submarine had survived this long without a major breakdown, when her designer was gone. The Flying Sub had fared less well; without Lee Crane's inspired handling, they had lost three of the smaller vessels in the last six months alone, and the current model had been growing less and less reliable over recent weeks. Pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind, Morton leaned over the sonar man's shoulder, trying to spot some trace of what they had come to find.

"Got it, sir." Kowalski looked up, pleased with his skill. "It profiles like -- like a flying saucer, sir."

"Co-ordinates?" Morton prompted.

Then the alarm went off.

"It's the Reactor Room, Skipper," O'Brien announced.

"What the . . . Patterson was supposed to report if there was any trouble. Get someone down there on the double! No, belay that, I'm going myself. Chief, you're with me!"

"Aye, sir."

"O'Brien, you've got the con." With that, Morton and Sharkey headed with haste for the Control Room's aft hatchway.


Stardate: Whatever . . .

"As I understand it, Admiral," began Kirk, from his place at the head of the table, "you want permission to plug that watch thingy into our dilithium crystal thingy, in order to do . . . something to it, and then you want to take us back a day in time -- or something like that. Is that about the gist of it?"

"Not big on details, are you, Kirk?" asked Nelson, wearing an expression of exasperation.

Kirk shrugged.

"The Captain is more of a 'big picture' man, sir," Spock whispered into the Admiral's ear.

"Yes, well . . . I suppose that's one way of putting it." Straightening up, Nelson said, "So what's your decision, Kirk?"

Turning to his right, Kirk looked Lee Crane in the eye. "What do you think, Lee?"

"I think you'd be wise to listen to Admiral Nelson. He's rarely wrong." Crane winked at his friend who was sitting across the conference table.

"That's not what you said on the turbolift a minute ago," tattled James T. Kirk.

"Uh, Jim," giggled Crane, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You said he shoots at you every other day. You also said he's always using you as a guinea pig for some dopey experiment . . ."

Grinning awkwardly at Nelson, Crane leaned to his left and mumbled, "ix-Nay on the ossip-gay, im-Jay."

"You even said he tried to drive you crazy on purpose once 'cause he thought you were an imposter? And didn't you tell me he --"

"Admiral," started Crane, "I don't know what he's talking about. The guy's crackers!"

"We'll take up this matter when we get home . . . Commander."

"Oh, great! So now I'm demoted? Well excuse me for complaining about being shot. You didn't have to listen to Krueger you know. The least you could have done was aim for my big toe -- but noooooooo, you went right for the mid-section." Crane pointed animatedly to a spot on his right side and stood in place. "For your information, it still hurts!"

McCoy rose from his chair and placed a restraining arm around Crane's elbow. "Easy, Captain. Don't get yourself so excited, you'll undo all my handiwork. Besides, this is all in the past isn't it?"

"Speaking of the past," sighed the First Officer, "can we put these trivialities aside and focus on the cogent issues?"

Crane sat down again. "Sorry, Admiral. I guess I needed to get that off my chest."

"It's all right. I understand. I guess I had it coming . . . Captain."

"Hey, Lee," smiled Kirk, "you're not demoted!"

"Of course not," confirmed the Admiral, "I'll just dock his pay, that's all."

"Too bad, Lee," murmured Kirk.

"Captain," said Spock, "do we or do we not have permission to proceed with the plan as laid out by Admiral Nelson?"

"I don't know. Scotty, what's your opinion?"

"Well, sirrrrrrrr, I dinnae like the idee of an Irrrrrrrrishman fiddlin' 'round with me wee bairns, but I must admit, I cannae see any itherrrrrrrr way arrrrrrrround the prrrrrrrroblem."

"Is that a yes or a no?" said Kirk, searching feverishly through his English/Scottish-Scottish/English dictionary.

"That's a yes -- sirrrrrrrr."

Yeoman Rand went around the table refilling everyone's coffee cup. As she passed the Vulcan, he said, "Got any plomeek soup?"

"No, sir. Shall I get some for you?"

"If you wouldn't mind."

"Why no, sir. All I have to do is go down seven decks, then over two decks, then up four decks, then ask the ship's cook if he's ever heard of such a stupid thing, then wait for him to make it, and then I'll have to traipse all the way back here with a heavy soup tureen and serve it to you."

"Good. So long as it's no trouble."

The young golden-haired woman put down her tray and excused herself from the Briefing Room.

When the door swooshed shut, Spock shouted, "My! She's t'ra kat'loecacch' po'krache't'ra."

"WHAT?" cried Dr. McCoy.

"Roughly translated, Doctor," replied the Vulcan, "it means, 'Twenty-three skedootie, what a cutie-patootie!'"

"Uh-oh. Jim, did you hear that?"

"I certainly did, Bones. What year is this?"

Without even being asked, Spock launched into a graphic dissertation on biology -- Vulcan biology. He talked at length about having things 'ripped' from him. Before long, he was tap-dancing on the table to the tune of I'm Gettin' Married in the Morning.

While Kirk, McCoy and the others fretted over what to do, Crane took the Vulcan aside. "Pssst, Spock," he called with a tilting head. "All you need is a cold shower, Pal."

"Indeed?"

"Works for me. I haven't had a girlfriend in four years, and I'm okay."

Spock looked him over skeptically. "Are you?"

"Unless you count the Mermaid . . ." Apparently deep in thought, Crane peered into the distance for a moment. "Nah, you can't count her. But there was this French Mam'selle on the beach once. Then again, she couldn't even speak English, which was actually a blessing, 'cause when she nagged me, at least I couldn't understand her."

"Captain --"

"I did spend some quality time on a Venetian gondola with a pretty girl who sang to me. Unfortunately, she got stabbed in the back, and I got a bullet in the shoulder. Plus, I had to pay for the boat -- and we never even left the pier. What a gyp!"

"Captain, please --"

"Did I tell you about that short, blonde chick who was so needy it was pathetic? She really got on my nerves. I chased her all over the ship in high heels -- she was in high heels, not me -- pretending I was going to kill her. It was the Admiral's idea -- one of his better ones. The moral of the story is: Never date a woman who smokes, Mr. Spock. Not only do they stink up your ship, they expect you to light their cigarettes twenty-four hours a day."

"Your point being, Captain?"

"Point? Uh . . . Just keep a stiff upper lip, eat all your vegetables, hit your marks on time, and don't ever cross Irwin Allen."

Wishing he had an ahn-woon at hand, Spock responded, "Captain Crane, it is my firm belief that never before has one man talked so much and said so little. Even on his worst days Dr. McCoy makes more sense."

"You got a problem, Spock, take it up with the writers."

"I shall, at the earliest opportunity."

A voice from the table called, "If you two are finished with your coffee-klatch, we could use some help over here."

"Coming, Captain," said Spock.

"How's it going, Spock?" asked McCoy solicitously. "Need a shot? Feel like killing Jim?"

"Negative, Doctor." Perched in his designated seat once more, the First Officer explained, "The madness is gone -- thanks to the inane, insipid, ludicrous, pointless drivel heaped upon me by Captain Crane just now."

Smiling, Crane said, "Hey, glad I could be of help!"

"Oh for heaven's sake!" shouted Nelson. "We've got to get moving before it's too late. That planet's orbit is becoming more wobbly as we speak. It could blow at any second. What do you say, Kirk?"

"Are you sure there aren't any less dangerous alternatives we might have neglected to consider?" said Kirk sensibly -- for a change.

Replied Spock, "Sir, we are absolutely, one hundred per cent, indubitably, indisputably . . . almost positive."

"In that case," said Kirk, "I hereby give my permission for you to dip that . . . whatever it is . . . into the matter-antimatter chamber. But one question, Admiral."

"Yes, Captain?"

"Do you really know how to control that thing? That is, can you guarantee we won't end up in The Lost World or something like that?"

"Look, Kirk, there are no guarantees," proclaimed Nelson frankly. "All I'm offering us is a chance."

"And don't worry, Jim," broke in Crane, "I can handle things if we end up lost in The Lost World. But I'll need a neckerchief."

"Okay, then. Let's go, fellas."

The men rose from the table and prepared to return to their respective stations.

Janice Rand met them at the door. She had in her hands a gigantic bowl of the Vulcan delicacy known as plomeek soup. The massive amount of steam emanating from the mealy mixture had caused her elaborate beehive-do to come undone. "Mr. Spock, your soup!"

"Changed my mind, honey. But be a good girl and bring me some hot chocolate, will ya?"

"And I'll have a roast beef on rye," said Lee Crane as he exited the Briefing Room, "light on the mayo, heavy on the mustard, and make it quick, babe, I'm starving."

"Men!"


June 13, 1980 - 1149 Hours . . .

"Admiral!" screamed Francis Ethelbert Sharkey, "Admiral, what are you doing here? How'd you get here! We thought you were dead!"

The Admiral stood in the shadows of the Reactor Room, smirking at Chief Sharkey. Morton was in the corridor, bent over the unconscious form of Seaman Patterson, checking the young man's pulse, and questioning in his mind how, why and who had drawn with a red pen on Patterson's face. The answers that came to him were most disturbing. "Chief! Get out of there!"

"But sir, the Admiral --"

"That's not the Admiral. Now get out and shut the door."

"But the radiation . . . he'll die!"

Morton leaped into the room, dragged his CPO out and closed the hatch behind him.

Seaview suddenly plummeted to the sea-floor. It had been more than a year since the crew had done the 'rock and roll'. They were badly out of practice and it showed. It took three takes to get it right! When the motion ceased, Morton pulled himself to his feet. He was standing face to face with the spitting image of his friend and former paycheck signer, who disappeared with a wave of his hand. Although stupefied by what he had just witnessed, he had no time to dwell on the matter. The ship's captain grabbed Patterson's arms and ordered the Chief to take his legs. Off to Sick Bay they went.


Stardate: When You Figure it Out, Let Us Know . . .

The Engineering deck of the USS Enterprise was impressive, Harriman Nelson had to admit. There were panels of blinking lights, and a glowing tunnel leading into the guts of the ship, and plenty of floor space for unarmed combat, furnished with enough hulking equipment racks and narrow gangways to make things interesting.

"Admiral, are you sure this is safe?" Crane fretted.

"Safe? Who said anything about safe?" Nelson took one last look at the battered, glued-together timepiece in his hand, and adjusted the winding knob by a tiny fraction of one turn. "This has to work, that's all."

"What about the radiation? You know what it can do to you if you're not careful."

"Stop worrying, Lee, and that's an order. Dr. McCoy's right here." Nelson's right hand tingled unpleasantly at the memory of the time he had triggered an attack of werewolf-itis by plunging his hand into Seaview's reactor. He could almost feel his hackles rising at the thought, but there was no time to dwell on that now. "Mr. Scott, if you wouldn't mind?"

"Stop!" Kirk shouted suddenly. "We can't do this yet. What if it all goes wrong and I haven't made my big speech yet?"

"Captain," Spock said sternly. "That would be impossible. It would contravene all the laws of script-writing. Therefore, logically, you must allow the Admiral to proceed, knowing that the opportunity for speechifying will -- must -- come later."

"Very well," Kirk pouted. "Proceed."

"Aye, sirrr." Scott handed the Admiral a pair of long-handled tongs, then stepped well back. "Ready, Admiral? Three, two, one -- now!" He touched a switch, and an access port clattered open.

Carefully, Nelson gripped the device with the tongs and plunged it into the blue-glowing heart of the reaction chamber. He counted to ten, then pulled it away as Scott closed the port. Had that been enough? Too much? There was only one way to find out.


June 13, 1980 - 1205 Hours . . .

"It doesn't look good," Morton said, answering O'Brien's question when he returned to the Control Room. "The emergency generator will give us an hour or so of air, but after that . . ."

"And the reactor's still running wild?"

"That's right. It would be suicide to go in there now." Morton leaned over the plot table and drew a careful, meaningless circle. Think, man. Think. What would the Admiral do in this situation? What would Lee have done?

"Mr. Morton." The voice nearly made Morton jump out of his skin. It sounded . . . it sounded exactly like Harriman Nelson in a bad mood. Automatically, the Captain straightened up.

It isn't the Admiral. It can't be. So what is it? Judging by the dropped jaws and goggling eyes, everyone in the Control Room was wondering the same thing. "Man your stations!" he snapped.

"Mr. Morton." Familiar and yet somehow horribly wrong, the voice could have stripped paint off a bulkhead, but there was an odd smile on the Admiral's face.

"Sir." Ramrod straight, chin up, Morton braced himself for whatever was coming, knowing it was going to be bad.

"Well, aren't you going to ask me what to do?" The smile intensified, becoming almost a smirk.

"What are your orders, sir?" Morton asked obediently, keeping his voice colorless. Somehow, in the last year, he had managed to forget just how difficult his old employer could be.

"You will prepare a nuclear missile for firing."

"A nuclear -- Admiral, you know that's impossible. The Failsafe. . ." But it's exactly the kind of thing the Admiral would order. How many times as he got us out of worse fixes than this with a well-aimed missile?

"I'll take care of that. Are you going to carry out my orders, Mr. Morton, or not?"

"No, sir." Behind him, Morton heard a clipboard clatter to the floor. "I can't carry out that order." This can't be happening. It's all a crazy nightmare, and I'm going to wake up in a minute and have to deal with the day from the beginning.

To Morton's utter astonishment, the Admiral began to laugh. "All right, Mr. Morton. Let's talk it over in my cabin."

"Aye, sir." Morton turned to the gawping O'Brien. "You've got the con. Keep me informed of any developments."

"Aye, sir," the Exec said in turn.

"Shall we?" The Admiral gestured to the spiral staircase.

Morton followed him, but when he got to the top of the stairs, the corridor was empty. Shaking his head, he kept going. The door to the Admiral's cabin, locked for so long, swung slightly ajar.

"Come in," a mocking voice called from inside.

Morton stepped through the doorway and pulled the door closed behind him. There, sitting in the leather armchair behind the desk, was -- himself. He blinked and pinched his arm, but the figure was still there: blond, receding hair; slightly aquiline nose; pale blue eyes; trim figure. Only the expression was wrong; he could not imagine ever twisting his own features into an expression of such malign amusement. He had seen the same expression only a minute before, in the Control Room, on a quite different face.

"I didn't think you were really the Admiral," he said stupidly. "Who are you? What are you?"

"The name doesn't matter. It seems that my instructions were a little out-of-date, but we'll just have to make the best of it."

"What are you talking about?"

"With the Admiral and the Captain unavailable, I'm afraid this isn't going to be nearly as amusing." The being smirked across the desk, and Morton found himself fighting a powerful urge to plunge his fist into his own grinning face. "On the other hand, maybe this is better after all. We'll just have to rearrange the parts a little, that's all."

"I still don't know what you're talking about," Morton gritted.

"Of course you do -- you've done it often enough before. Remember the time the Admiral was going to hit his head on the Flying Sub floor later that day, and the good Captain developed a hitherto unsuspected streak of scientific intelligence? Remember that other Admiral who helped out with the Menfish? Remember the time Kowalski got to save the world from that geriatric alchemist and his pet volcano?"

"All right, I get the picture." Morton remembered that last incident only too well; he still had occasional nightmares about the stiffness of gold paint on his skin.

"Good. I see that the fans' assertions about your underrated intelligence were not quite as deranged as they seemed, though the Sci-Fi Channel has destroyed most of the evidence, I'm afraid. So . . . do you want to be the Admiral, or the Captain?"

"The -- the Admiral?" Morton stammered. "I couldn't. No-one could."

"But someone has to take the part, and we don't have time to arrange a guest."

Morton shook his head. This conversation was making less sense by the minute, and he had a nagging feeling he ought to be doing something more important than talking to a mad simulacrum of himself. "What would it involve?"

"The Admiral's part? Oh, it's a nice part -- very demanding. You get to choose between watching your best friend die in agony, and starting the nuclear war that will wipe your race off the face of the earth."

Nuclear war -- oh no! Suddenly, Morton noticed the Failsafe board on the wall behind his double's head. Distantly, he wondered why he had never noticed it there before. "And the Captain's part?"

"A little less subtle, but there's still plenty of scope for good acting. You'd get to sacrifice your life for your ship -- and then, perhaps, live after all and choose between dying in agony, or pressing the button to start the war."

"And those are the only choices I get?"

"Precisely. So, Captain Morton, which is it to be?"

"Why go to all this trouble?" Morton demanded. "Why not just push the button yourself?"

The alien giggled nastily. "Because that would make a very short episode. I suppose we could spin it out a bit by bringing in the giant jellyfish, but I think that's a rather tired device, don't you?"

"All right," Morton sighed. "Suppose I say I'll go along and be the Admiral. Who's going to be the Captain?"

"That's an interesting question." The being twiddled its thumbs for a moment, pretending to think. "Mr. O'Brien is next in the chain of command, but I don't think that will work, do you?"

"Why not?"

"Think, Captain -- or should I say, Admiral? No-one cares about O'Brien -- no-one's even quite sure who he is. He's nothing more than an extra in an officer's uniform! Besides, we'd have to renegotiate his contract if we wanted him to speak more than six lines in an episode. No, we need someone for the audience to identify with. I'm afraid it's going to have to be . . . Chief Sharkey. Yes, Sharkey will do nicely."

"Doesn't he get any say in the matter?"

"Of course not. He has even less choice in the matter than you."

"All right. Now what happens?"

"Now I leave you all to your own devices for a little while. I'll tell you now, though, you may as well skip the bit where you try to send poor Patterson to do the dirty work in the Reactor Room. It isn't going to work, and we've lost enough time as it is."

"Patterson?" Morton echoed. He had almost forgotten about the crewman languishing in Sick Bay. Even a good night's sleep, Doc had said sadly, wouldn't cure him this time.

"Never mind." With a giggle, the being opposite dissolved into the suddenly thickening shadows and was gone, leaving Morton contemplating the empty chair.


Stardate: Only the Shadow Knows . . .

"Good Golly Miss Molly! How'd we get here!" cried Leonard McCoy as looked about in wonderment.

"It worked!" asserted Admiral Nelson as he, too, scanned the horizon.

"Edith! Edith, where are you?" piped up Jim Kirk in a weak voice.

"Where the devil is he going?" shouted Nelson, as Kirk ran off to the west.

"Oh, does my head hurt," muttered Lee Crane, seconds preceding his crash to the ground.

"Fascinating," remarked Mr. Spock.

McCoy knelt down beside Captain Crane and pulled out his portable mediscanner. It was the only piece of equipment he had on his person. "Spock, do something! Go get Jim before he falls off a cliff or wanders onto the F Troop set."

"Check." The Vulcan took off in a flash.

"What's wrong, Lee?" inquired Nelson in a concerned tone as he, too, knelt next to Crane on the cold, hard ground of H'trae. "I thought you said he was all right, Doctor."

"He was, Admiral." The physician studied the readings on his Feinberger and scratched his head. "I don't understand this at all."

"What's happened?"

"Well, Admiral, according to my mediscanner, Captain Crane's concussion is fresh as a daisy again."

"Am I on Five Fingers?" asked an evidently dazed Crane. "I . . . I don't know my lines!" Attempting to focus on the men looking down at him, he said, "Hey, I didn't know you two were guesting this week. What are you, Russians?" Casting a glance at himself he gasped, "Where's my tux? Where's my bow tie? What have you done with my cummerbund you dirty Commies!"

"Oh no," sighed Nelson. "Try to think, Lee." The Admiral grabbed his friend by the shoulders and shook him hard. "Five Fingers is canceled, man. It's no more. It's finito."

"No! No, it can't be! I have house payments!"

Rising to his feet, Nelson said, "Can you do anything for him, Doc?"

"If I had my medikit I'd shoot him full of red stuff. That usually brings Jim back to his senses. But I didn't realize we'd be coming back here the way we did."

"Yes, I'm sorry . . . I should have thought . . ."

Spock came into view -- carrying Captain Kirk over his shoulder. He laid the unconscious Captain down next to the conscious one. While the man in khaki twisted and turned and moaned and groaned, McCoy took a reading on the man in green and black. "What'd you do Spock, nerve-pinch him?"

"I had to, Doctor. The Captain started telling me all about his days on the Canadian stage, which was bad enough, but then he threatened to reenact his death scene from Kingdom of the Spiders."

"He really is out of his gourd, isn't he?" observed Admiral Nelson.

"It may interest you to know, Admiral," continued Spock, "that the Captain also began spouting dialogue from The Brothers Karamazov."

"That's odd," replied Nelson. "He didn't have much of a part."

"Sir, the Captain was reciting your lines."

"Oh he was, was he? I always suspected he had his eye on my dressing room."

"This is incredible," McCoy interjected.

"What is it you find so extraordinary, Doctor?" said Spock.

"Jim's temperature is 103.7. A minute ago it was 98.6. I just can't account for it."

"The explanation is simple, Doctor. Tomorrow is yesterday."

"Don't start quoting episode titles Spock, Jim's in trouble."

"As usual, Doctor, you have misconstrued what I have said. It should be perfectly clear even to you that the Admiral's experiment was successful."

"You mean we're not only back on the planet, we're back in time?"

"Bingo! Give the man a cigar! Look yonder."

McCoy and Nelson turned their heads in the direction of the Vulcan's pointing finger.

"The cave mouth is clear of debris. Congratulations, Admiral."

"Thank you, Mr. Spock, but it looks like I goofed. I neglected to take into account Jim's and Lee's condition a day ago -- or today -- or whatever the heck day it is."

"Aw, so what?" shrugged Spock. "They love the attention. And I am quite certain Dr. McCoy's noxious potions will make them at least functional. Is that not so, Doctor?"

McCoy stared irritably at his Vulcan colleague and said, "I don't have any noxious potions with me, you green-blooded reject from Mission Impossible!"

"That was uncalled for, Doctor."

"That's why I said it, genius!"

Kirk's eyes fluttered open. "Where . . . am . . . I?"

"How do you feel, Jim?"

"Can I stay home from school today, Dad?"

"It's me, Jim, Bones."

"Bones? What are you doing?" asked a confused Kirk. "What am I doing on the floor?" The Captain struggled to get himself to his feet. "Where are we?"

McCoy latched onto Kirk's elbow. "Take it easy."

"What's the matter with Lee?" wondered Kirk.

Crane rolled onto his side and attempted to stand also. Nelson assisted.

"I'm all right now," insisted Crane.

"Not quite, Crane," replied Dr. McCoy.

"What's going on?" demanded Kirk. "Spock, report."

"Captain, we are on the surface of H'trae, approximately 38.8 hours in the past from the time we were last on the Enterprise."

"You mean to tell me Nelson's wacky watch worked?" said Kirk incredulously.

With pursed lips and quickly disappearing patience, the Admiral answered, "Listen, James T. Jerk, I've had just about enough of your impertinent attitude. If you were in the Navy, Sonny boy, I'd have you --"

"Gentlemen, can we put this conversation aside and get to the matter at hand?"

"What matter would that be, Mr. Spock?" inquired Lee Crane, rubbing his aching brow.

"You know, Lee," said Nelson, "if you'd turn up at rehearsals once in a while, you might be able to follow the scripts. We've got to go into the cave, return to the lab and close that circuit Kirk disrupted yesterday."

"By accident!" Kirk reminded the group.

"Be that as it may," Spock interjected, "that should, if we are fortunate, and if my calculations are correct -- and when am I ever wrong? -- bring us forward to the twenty-third century, where we belong."

"Ahem?" said the Doctor.

"I mean where some of us belong," corrected Spock. "Once that goal is accomplished, then we must --"

"You people sure gab a lot," declared Harry Nelson. "Let's just get the job done already. Dr. McCoy, you stay here with Lee and Jim while Spock and I --"

"-- attempt to right the wrongs of the cosmos," finished the Vulcan.

"It just doesn't have the same punch the second time around, Commander," reported the now completely out of patience Admiral from the twentieth century. "Let's go."

Less than five minutes later, Nelson and Spock returned from their mission.

"Any change out here?" queried Nelson as he came into the light. "What on earth . . ."

"Readings are inconclusive, Admiral. Perhaps . . ." The Vulcan had his eyes on his tricorder and thus was not seeing what the others were seeing -- until he looked up. "Uh oh."

It had begun with a low rumble some two and one half minutes earlier. A massive toroidal structure appeared to rise out of the ground and join itself to an ancient mountain. It pulsated with energy and seemed almost alive

"Spock!" The lump in Kirk's throat prevented him from saying anything more. He felt his innards twisting into knots and pretty much wished he were dead.

"Mama Mia!" declared Lee Crane. "What is that thing?"

"You took the words right out of my mouth, Lee," said Nelson. "What is it?"

A booming voice bellowed into the air: "A QUESTION. SINCE LONG BEFORE YOUR CITIES HAD PARKING GARAGES, EONS BEFORE MACDONALD'S HAD SERVED ITS FIRST FRENCH FRY, AND PRIOR EVEN TO JACK BENNY'S THIRTY-NINTH BIRTHDAY, I HAVE AWAITED A QUESTION."

"I asked first," complained Captain Crane.

"Here we go again," murmured Spock to himself.

"Are you a giant bagel or a giant doughnut?" asked Nelson.

"I AM BOTH. AND NEITHER. I AM MY OWN CROISSAN'WICH, MY OWN ENGLISH MUFFIN. I AM THE OTHER GUARDIAN OF FOREVER."

"Can we go home now?" asked Kirk quietly, as his rising temperature caused him to commence shivering, and his broken heart caused him to commence crying.

"You wouldn't happen to know a Mr. Pem, would you?" the Admiral inquired of the disembodied voice.

"YES, INDEEDY. PEM CAME HERE ON A FIELD TRIP IN 1776. AGAINST MY EXPRESS INSTRUCTIONS, HE GOUGED OUT A CHUNK OF MY CRYSTALLINE EXTERIOR TO BUILD HIS OWN TIME PORTAL -- SORT OF A PORTA-PORTAL AS IT WERE."

"He damaged you?" said Spock.

"YES. BUT BY THEN, THEY WHO BUILT ME -- THE OLD ONES -- WERE EITHER LONG DEAD OR HAD VANISHED INTO THE PAST. THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO REPAIR MY SHELL. AND THEN, AN EVEN GREATER INDIGNITY OCCURRED HERE JUST YESTERDAY. SOME BUSY-BODY --"

"All right, all right," interrupted Kirk, sniffing, "save your sob story. Can you just tell us what date this is?"

"BY YOUR RECKONING, THE STARDATE WOULD BE 7316.8."

"We've done it!" cried Harriman Nelson.

"Yes, Admiral," said Spock, "we have righted the wrongs of the cosmos."

"Give it up, Spock, they don't give Emmys to sci-fi stars in the Sixties."

"THE SIXTIES . . . BEHOLD . . ."

Eerie oboe music started playing in the background and a viewscreen of sorts became visible within the center of the Guardian. The men watched in awe at the stock footage rolling by with rapidity: John Glenn was hurtling into Earth orbit atop a Mercury-Atlas rocket . . . Casey Stengel was giving an interview to newsmen in the Polo Grounds . . . theme songs from Top Cat to Car 54 were audible . . . there were Patty Duke and Walt Disney and Walter Cronkite and Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance and Andy Griffith . . . suddenly there were black and white movies of four mop-topped young men running away from legions of screaming girls . . . psychedelic images of tangerine trees and marmalade skies followed . . . Neil Armstrong was stepping on the moon . . . the underdog New York Mets had pulled off a pennant and were winning the World Series . . . and then the chronicle of the past ceased abruptly.

"I am a fool," stated Spock with annoyance.

"I've been telling you that for years," said Leonard McCoy.

"Once again I have missed recording History." The Vulcan immediately engaged his tricorder, but there was nothing to archive. "Guardian, why have you stopped showing us yesterday?"

"I AM BROKEN, REMEMBER?"

His hands balled into acrimonious fists, Kirk moved toward the Guardian. "I'd like to crush you into a million pieces! You ruined my life you big fat hole! Spock," he said without turning, "I want this hunk-a-junk destroyed. Call the ship and order a phaser barrage on this spot. Give Scotty the coordinates."

"I cannot, Captain."

Kirk spun around to face his Science Officer. "That's an order, you overgrown elf with a hyperactive thyroid."

"Sticks and stones -- Mr. Tambourine Man. Hah! What an embarrassment."

"That track was an artistic triumph, unlike your vomit-inducing rendition of Proud Mary."

"I am immune to insults, Captain. Perhaps in your feverish state you have forgotten that fact."

"I may have a fever, Spock, but I'm still your commanding officer. Now carry out my last order."

"I repeat, sir, I cannot."

"Why not?"

"It's obvious, isn't it?" said Admiral Nelson.

McCoy, Kirk, Spock and Crane looked at each other and shrugged in incognizance.

Feeling an attack of vertigo coming on, Lee Crane slid down against a boulder and took the time to search through his script. It was tough to read the spinning text, but he finally found the right passage. "Oh! Of course! In order to get back home again, the Admiral and I have to jump through this giant hula-hoop." He threw his thumb in the direction of the Guardian.

"So that's it, huh?" said Nelson. "Makes sense. Pem's watch is totally drained of power. And I'm afraid we don't know enough about its operation, yet, to trust it to return us three centuries."

"Agreed, Admiral," Spock said, nodding. "The Guardian is the only way. However, in its current defective state --"

"Eureka!" shouted Crane.

The others turned to look at him.

"I skipped ahead a few pages. All we need to do is put the lambent stone from Pem's watch back into the Guardian's casing. That'll repair the gap in its crystalline structure."

"That hardly seems likely," responded the Vulcan.

"Look, if the writers say so, then that's it!"

"Lee's right," said Nelson. "Besides, as you said, Commander, there's no other way."

"Very well, Admiral."

"No no no no no!" announced a clearly troubled James Kirk. "Nobody's going through that portal."

"Jim," began Spock gently, "if Captain Crane and Admiral Nelson are not returned to their own time, then billions of people will die. And we will have nowhere to go."

"What if they land in the wrong time? They could do even worse damage."

"Time is like a river, as we proved once before. The eddies and currents of the temporal predicament will most likely carry them to the proper destination."

"What's the matter, Kirk?" asked Nelson benevolently. "Does this have anything to do with . . . the Edith you keep calling for?"

Kirk slid to the ground next to Crane. He had tears in his eyes.

"It has everything to do with it, Admiral," answered McCoy, when no response was forthcoming from the Captain. The Doctor crouched on two knees and placed a hand on Kirk's shoulder. "Let it out, Jim. You've been keeping it in all these years. Just let it out."

"Uh . . . that's not in here," interjected Crane as he flipped pages in his script. "Nope, no crying scenes for the ham-actor. Sorry, Jim."

"It's all right," said Kirk. "I've got to be stoic for the sake of the show."

"What a trouper."

"Spock, Admiral," said Kirk in a mournful whisper, "do whatever you have to do to --"

"Right the wrongs of the cosmos?" completed Spock.

Nelson ran a frustrated hand through his graying red hair and started mumbling curses under his breath.

Apparently taking heed of the Admiral's unhappy mood, the Vulcan said, "Very well, Captain. First we must reconstruct the Guardian's external sheath. Then, we'll ask it to show us reruns of the Sixties again. Then --"

"Oh, just do it!" barked the Admiral.

"My my my," offered Spock, "someone didn't take his nap today."


June 13, 1980 - 1225 Hours . . .

When his alien double had faded away, Chip Morton sat for a few moments, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Then, still shaking his head, he jumped up and made for the Control Room.

"What's our situation?" he demanded.

"Not as bad as it was five minutes ago, sir," O'Brien responded. "The reactor suddenly started behaving itself again -- radiation levels are dropping all over the ship, and we should be able to get under way again soon.

"That's good," Morton said automatically, but then an unwelcome thought struck him. "Where's the Chief?"

"The Chief? I dunno, Skipper -- I haven't seen him since . . . "

"Kowalski! Come with me!" Without a backward glance, Morton hurried out of the Control Room.

"Skipper? Is something wrong, sir?" Kowalski asked plaintively from a few yards behind.

"I hope not," Morton said grimly, but he already knew what they would find in the Reactor Room corridor.

Sure enough, the Chief was there, sprawled unconscious outside the open door of the Reactor Room, still wearing his useless radiation suit.

No, Morton thought. Not the Chief as well. By going in to shut down the malfunctioning reactor, Sharkey had saved Seaview -- and doomed himself. If the Admiral and the Skipper had been here, this would never have happened. They'd have thought of another way -- wouldn't they? With a heavy heart, he bent to pick up the Chief's shoulders, directing Kowalski to take the feet. "Let's get him to Sick Bay."

Afterwards, unable to face the crew in the Control Room, Morton went back to the Admiral's cabin. He needed to be alone where no one would look for him, to think for a while and compose himself. Down in Sick Bay, he had blurted out something that he could never have imagined himself saying in public. I'd give the whole world to have him back. It was true, though. He didn't know if he could bear to lose the Chief; he knew that without him, Seaview would never be the same. Even so, he was surprised and uncomfortable at his own outburst.

Unfortunately, the cabin was no sanctuary. The alien was sitting behind the desk again, this time wearing the Admiral's face. The borrowed features could not hide the malice that lurked in his eyes.

"Well, are you ready to deal?" the alien asked without preamble.

"Deal?" Morton echoed blankly. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh yes you do." The alien picked up the remote control for the TV screen on the wall. "Do you need the action replay, or can we cut to the chase?"

"All right," Morton admitted. "I remember. But it wasn't --"

"You want your friend back. I want your world. I think we can come to an arrangement."

"I can't just -- it isn't mine to give!" Morton protested.

"But it is." The alien gestured at the Failsafe board on the wall. As Morton watched, the protective cover slid up, exposing the left-most button. "One turn of that key you have round your neck, one push of the button, and it's done. You don't even have to do it right now -- as an earnest of my good faith, I'll restore the Chief to perfect health first. Then it'll be up to you to fulfill your part of the bargain. Do we have a deal?"

What would the Admiral do? Of course -- he'd play along, and find a way out later. Well, why not? But even as Morton reached up to take the alien's proffered hand, even before he saw the squiggly red mark that the contact left on his palm, he knew that he was making a mistake. He was not Admiral Nelson; he doubted that he had either the wits or the strength of will to get away with this.


"And if someone else doesn't watch his mouth, that someone else is gonna get his Vulcan ears pinned back!" Nelson snapped at the Vulcan.

There was a short, chilly silence. Then Spock said stiffly, "Shall we proceed?"

"Yes, get on with it," McCoy put in. "The sooner we can get this over with, the sooner we can get back to the Enterprise and put Jim to bed."

"I don't need --" Kirk started to protest, but he caught the Doctor's eye and, for a wonder, shut up.

It took only a moment for Nelson to crack open Pem's battered timepiece and extricate the crystal. Spock ran his tricorder briskly over the Guardian's surface until he found the place where the missing piece fitted, and Nelson pressed it into place and jumped back. The crystalline surface started to glow more brightly, and a sound came from the Guardian that sounded almost like a sigh.

"Guardian," Spock said then, standing at a safe distance with his tricorder at the ready, "show us the Sixties again -- slowly."

"SORRY. I'M THE SINGLE-SPEED MODEL -- TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT."

"Then we must take it. Admiral, if you will get into position?"

With a heave, Nelson got Crane back on his feet. "Hold on to this," he muttered, pressing the remains of the timepiece into the Captain's hand, "and when I shove you -- move!"

"We haven't even said good-bye properly," Crane pointed out.

In the portal's viewscreen, images began to flicker past.

"We don't have time for that!" Nelson turned for a moment, and faced the party from the Enterprise. "Well -- I guess this is good-bye," he said awkwardly. "Thank you for everything and -- and good luck!"

"Live long and prosper, Admiral," Spock returned, raising his free hand with the fingers uncomfortably spread out in a Vulcan salute.

"I hope Jim feels better soon!" Crane added. "And give my regards to that pretty nurse! Even if she does have a voice like a computer!"

"Take care of yourself, Crane," McCoy said gruffly.

"Goodbye!" Kirk called. "Maybe . . ." But if he said anything more, Nelson and Crane never heard it, for at that moment Spock gave the signal and the two of them started for the portal at a dead run. Moments later, they dissolved into the flickering images.


June 13, 1980 - 1245 Hours . . .

"Well?" the alien said expectantly, when Morton returned to the Admiral's cabin after seeing for himself that Chief Sharkey and Patterson were once again in perfect health. "Are you ready for your part of the bargain?"

"Now wait a minute!" Morton could feel the creature's will beating at his mind. It had managed to assume one of the Admiral's most intimidating expressions of barely-checked impatience. Drops of perspiration broke out on Morton's forehead as he struggled to resist, and his hand moved slowly, inexorably, towards the fateful key that hung against his chest.

"You have no power to refuse," the alien informed him. "You surrendered your will to me already. Do it!"

"No!" But the key was in Morton's hand, and moving towards the Failsafe panel. He found himself watching the movement of his own hand with a horrified kind of fascination, as though it had nothing to do with him.

And then, quite suddenly, it stopped. The alien made a small, exasperated noise, and the pressure of its will simply vanished.

"What?" Morton demanded, thrown off balance. "What happened?"

"Nothing, my dear Commander. Nothing at all." Unholy amusement contorted the visitor's face for a moment. "There's been a mix-up, that's all. In a very short time, the last year of your life will cease ever to have happened. I doubt there's even time to do a rewind effect, so we may as well relax and let it happen -- or not. Don't worry -- I'll be back when this time comes around again!"

"You mean all this was . . ." Morton never finished the question.


May 3, 1979 - 1504 Hours . . .

In Seaview's laboratory, two figures materialized in mid air. As the ship lurched again, righting herself, the deck swung up and hit them, hard. For a moment, neither of them moved.

Crane was the first to struggle to his feet, pressing a hand to his bruised temple. "Are we home?" He leaned against the bulkhead, dazed. "I've got to get to the Control Room!"

"Hang on, Lee." Nelson stirred, then pulled himself up. "You're not going anywhere until I find out the date -- and then you're going straight to Sick Bay."

"I'm all right," Crane insisted, not very convincingly. He stayed where he was as the Admiral went over to the bench and started looking through his notes. "Well?" he asked after a moment.

"It's all right." Nelson pointed to his notebook, then to the chronometer on the wall, and suddenly began to laugh.

"Admiral?"

"It's all right, Lee," the Admiral said when he could control himself again. "We're home -- just about exactly the moment we left. The ink on this last page isn't even dry yet." He grinned as Morton's voice came over the intercom ordering a damage control report. "See -- they haven't even missed us yet!"

"Not bad for a giant doughnut." Crane smiled weakly. "But Admiral -- I warn you, if you ever start messing with time machines again, I'm going back to the Navy!"

"I won't," Nelson promised.

Then Chip Morton's voice came over the intercom again. "Skipper, is everything okay down there?"

"I'll get that." Nelson reached for the microphone. "Control Room, this is Nelson in the laboratory. Everything's fine, except . . ."

"Give me that." Crane took the microphone out of the Admiral's hand. "Everything's absolutely fine, Chip. Couldn't be better." He clicked the microphone off and turned to the Admiral, holding out the crumpled bit of metal in his hand. "How are you going to dispose of this?"

"Give it here." Nelson stepped over to the sink and switched on the waste disposal. "There." He dropped the defunct timepiece in. There was a brief noise of grinding and crunching, and then the mechanism went back to its usual hum. "Satisfied?"

"I guess." Crane leaned over, holding on to the bench with one hand, and switched the unit off.

The door opened, and Chip Morton walked into the laboratory.

"Chip? What are you doing down here?" Crane demanded, as the Admiral hastily flipped his notebook closed.

"I just wanted to make sure everything was all right, Lee."

"Why? We told you we were fine."

"I don't know." Morton shook his head. "I just had a strange feeling. When you didn't get on the intercom right after we crashed, I thought maybe . . . well, can you imagine what Admiral Starke would have had to say if I'd managed to lose both of you when we weren't even on a mission?"

"Well, that's one thing you don't have to worry about any more." Incautiously, Crane let go of the bench, and nearly fell over. "We're both here, and . . ."

"And you belong in Sick Bay," the Admiral interrupted, catching him by the arm. "Come on."

"Are you absolutely sure nothing happened?" Frowning, Morton came to steady his Captain on the other side.

"Nothing happened. Really. Everything's right where it's supposed to be."

"Or it will be, in moment." Nelson started for the door.

Shaking his head, Morton resigned himself to the fact that -- once again -- he was never going to find out what had really happened.


"THEY HAVE RETURNED TO THEIR PROPER TIME," the Guardian said suddenly, interrupting its flow of images from the past. "ALL IS ONCE AGAIN AS IT SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE BEEN."

"That's nice." Spock frowned at his tricorder, which had popped up a message saying "Error -- memory full. Abort/Retry/Fail?"

"Now can we go home?" Kirk asked plaintively.

"In a minute, Jim," McCoy assured him.

"WOULD ANYONE ELSE LIKE A GO? I COULD DO YOU A TWO-FOR-ONE SPECIAL ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY."

"You could?" Kirk struggled up on his elbows. "Spock, do you think . . ."

"No, Captain," Spock said firmly. "I do not think that would be wise."

"But Edith . . ."

"Captain, you would only be causing yourself needless pain. The reasons for Miss Keeler's death remain as valid as they ever were."

"I wonder." Kirk dragged himself to his feet. "Guardian, would it be possible to bring someone through you back from the past? Someone who was going to die there anyway -- who couldn't be allowed to carry on living in her own time?"

There was a pause, and a clattering of sophisticated computer circuits. "NO," the Guardian said at last. "I WAS NOT CONSTRUCTED FOR SUCH A PURPOSE."

"Well, it was worth a try," Kirk said sadly.

"I CAN, HOWEVER, SHOW YOU A GLIMPSE OF WHERE YOUR FRIENDS HAVE GONE."

"Forget it." Kirk was already turning away, reaching for his communicator, but McCoy laid a hand on his arm. A new, triumphant sound -- French Horns -- came from the hidden speakers, and a new picture flashed on the portal's viewscreen: a sleek silver ship with water breaking almost over her decks, sailing purposefully across a choppy blue sea.

"Fascinating," Spock observed. "A surprisingly advanced vessel, for her time."

Kirk seemed suddenly distracted. "You know what? I am not leaving here without a look at --" He took an unbalanced step or two toward the Guardian.

"Jim! What are you doing?" McCoy started after the Captain, but was stopped by Spock.

"Perhaps we owe him a private moment, Doctor."

Thinking back on a particularly painful incident he wished he could forget, Leonard McCoy sighed. "Perhaps you're right, Spock."

The Vulcan Science Officer and the human physician turned around and walked a short distance in the opposite direction.

When he was about a yard away from the time machine, Kirk cleared his sore throat. "Guardian?"

"WHAT IS IT?"

"Can you show me New York City in 1930?"

"I DO NOT KNOW. LET ME CHECK MY BANKS." The Guardian glowed red for several seconds. "OKAY, EARTHLING, CAN DO. BEHOLD . . ."

Out of nothingness were conjured reflections of a black and white past: the Sultan of Swat had just belted another homer in Yankee Stadium . . . crowds swarmed about Greta Garbo, in town to promote her latest film, Anna Christie . . . men in rumpled suits, transformed by the Great Depression from tax-paying citizens into penniless beggars, queued along endless bread lines . . . and then it appeared in all its urban glory -- the 21st Street Mission . . .

Unbidden into Kirk's febrile mind sprung the words and melody of an old song -- a very very very old song. A song he had heard only once. Up until this moment, the music had been lost to him. Now, as pictures of that fateful yesteryear rolled by, the tune miraculously came back to him. Barely above a whisper, in a voice cracking with illness and regret, Jim sang the last verse to that old Earth poem. He sang it to her:

"Good-night, Sweetheart, though I'm not beside you,
Good-night, Sweetheart, still my love will guide you,
Dreams enfold you, in each one I'll hold you,
Good-night, Sweetheart --"

Without warning, visions of those bygone days terminated.

"Guardian, what happened?" demanded Kirk.

"THE YEAR IS ENDED."

"Oh."

"Captain, are you coming?" called Spock.

Jim did not answer. Dejected, he closed his eyes. Inwardly, he saw himself in a peacoat, standing in a dingy stairwell, holding the hand of the loveliest woman he had ever known. "Edith!"

She was smiling at him in that special way. She touched his face tenderly. "You'd better go, Darling. They're waiting for you."

"I don't want to go."

"I know, but you must. We'll meet again, Jim, I promise."

"Do you?"

"Yes. This is not good-bye, it's only . . ." She kissed his lips. " . . . good-night, Sweetheart."

"Good-night," he echoed, as his dream dissipated in a mist of filmy tears.

"Captain!" Spock entreated with more urgency.

Kirk wiped his eyes. He straightened up, let out a deep breath, pulled on the bottom of his tunic and walked over to join his friends at the transporter coordinates.

"Are you all right, Jim?" questioned McCoy.

Rigellian Flu had him on the verge of collapse, but Kirk knew it was not his physical condition McCoy was worried about. Keeping his sight set on the horizon, Kirk swallowed. In reply to the Doctor's inquiry he said simply, "Let's get the hell out of here."

Moments later, the three figures dissolved into a fading golden shimmer, and the Guardian was alone again.

The End


Copyright 1998 by Rachel Howe and Alison Passarelli


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