Nike - The Arrival
This story is dedicated to the memory of Elisabeth Sladen.
Comments may be added in the Nike! discussion thread in ASB.
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
Waking up seemed harder than usual. Not as if drugged or stunned, per se, both of which I have experienced firsthand, unfortunately. But it also was not my natural transition from sleep to wake. The first thing I noticed was the feel of the bed, firmer than I usually find my bed. Then I noted that the size did not feel right. That popped my eyes open, straightaway! And as they did, the darkness about me started to lighten; very nice, I must say. "At least my captors are considerate," I thought spontaneously. Too many times waking up in strange situations, I suppose, but I immediately surmised that I had been abducted. I probed my memory for anything unusual the night before, but nothing came to mind, and I could not find any unaccounted time before falling to sleep. Simultaneously, I looked about me to take inventory of my surroundings. I studied the room; fairly spacious but lacking decor, a light gray in shade, including the bed and bed linens. The bed was a reasonably comfortable but a utilitarian affair, clearly meant for one sleeper. The room had no other furnishings, no windows, no door. "A cell, then," I thought, reinforcing my first surmise of being a captive. My clothes were different than what I had worn the night prior. I was wearing a gray blouse over a gray sports-top and gray trousers, along with gray socks. Gray slippers were placed at bedside. While the colours definitely suggested prison, the cut of the clothes appeared to me to be more along the lines of a uniform.
I sat up and called out, "Luke?" No response, not that that was surprising. I called again, "Hello, anyone there?" No response. Well then, it was time to get up! At least I was not restrained; how I hate being tied up. I walked to the nearest wall, and as I approached, white symbols I have never seen before began to glow softly. Despite my utter unfamiliarity with them, I knew what message they conveyed, nonetheless - curious, that -
View Port - please state requested view.
Again, I was struck by the notion that my captors were at least ostensibly courteous. I stated aloud, "Outside." The wall appeared to drop away showing instead a star field. I appeared to be in space again. So I decided to jump - gravity felt normal, which was a mild relief. I decided to test my luck. "Exit," I said. The View Port wall did not change, but a door shaped portal opened on the wall opposite. That did not seem a proper thing for a cell to do, so I began to think that while I had been space-napped, I was more an involuntary guest than a prisoner; a definite improvement.
My new bedroom being devoid of other items of interest (though I did wonder at the time if the 'View Port' might have more to reveal), I decided to explore outside. The door led to a gray corridor lined with gray doors. "Luke?" "Anyone?" "Hello?" No response. The doors opened on request, and all were essentially empty except for bunks. So, I was in a domicile of some sort. After a while of this, I was getting bored, and a bit in need of the facilities. A voiced request caused a light path to glow gently on the floor, pulsing repeatedly in one direction. I followed it and found myself at a door clearly labeled for the use I needed. Inside the facilities were surprisingly normal, if again gray, complete with a bidet. Very posh, indeed!
After that, I decided to make the typical request, "Take me to your leader." No response. "Take me to Luke." No response. "Take me to another person." Nothing. Now that was worrisome. At that point, I was getting hungry, "How about some food, then?" At that, the light path materialised, leading me to a large room clearly outfitted for communal dining. There was still no one about. I did see the path continue into a room and a wall labeled with symbols that meant, "Order Here." So I rattled off my favorite breakfast on a whim, and to my surprise the wall opened a recess that contained my desired breakfast. How remarkable! And it tasted delightful. What my absent hosts lacked in visual aesthetics, they made up for with gustatory panache!
After breakfast, I thought I'd try another tack, "How about some answers?" One of the commissary walls developed glowing symbols meaning, "Library." I asked it, "Where am I?" Symbols glowed below the Library label, "Nike." Well, at least I had a name, now, "And what is Nike?" An image showed through the wall, a perfect three dimensional image of what appeared to me to be a space station. "Whose space station is Nike?" The answer shocked me, "Yours."
The rest of my day was spent discovering the extent to which I could get answers from the walls. In some ways, the library function was extremely helpful, more than willing to tell me anything about Nike's layout and abilities, including the ability to extrude furnishings from the floor and walls, and thankfully, the ability change colours and even display patterns and pictures. I learned that the library contained every book or other media of which I could think. However, what I did not get was any indication of who had designed Nike, who had brought me here, why I was brought here, or what I was expected to do here. Nor could I get any information about anyone I knew. It was unfortunately clear that none of my personal effects had accompanied me. And it was clear that there was no information about getting back home.
I explored both physically and through the library until exhausted, at which time I returned to my room (it did seem that it was assigned to me). I had learned that the room had adjacent private facilities that were capable of making any desired toiletries, much as the commissary could make any desired food. After availing myself of the facilities in preparation for bed, I laid down to sleep in a much more comfortable bed to my own specifications. I was both excited by my day of discovery, but also terribly, terribly concerned for my Luke. Where was he, and how was I going to get back to him?
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
By my own biological clock, at least, I awoke on the second day of my captivity. Sadly, I did not awaken in my own bed at home, but the one I had instructed Nike to form for me. As far as I could determine from my perusal of the library the day prior, Nike was somewhere in deep space, with no sun or planets in the vicinity by which to judge. Some work with the View Port, which I had learned could function as the library as well, led to my starting a running clock to keep track of time. After a visit to the adjacent facilities and a change of clothes, I was ready for some breakfast and further discovery. I decided to keep the 'uniform' for now, as they blended in rather well with the surroundings in case I found reason to hide, though from whom I hadn't the foggiest. I toyed with the idea of eating in my room, as I had learned that the wall here too could dispense foodstuffs, but decided to voyage back to the empty commissary instead. At least it felt like a place that people should be!
I had just settled down to eat a second delectable breakfast (I would have to check for some sort of exercise facilities or else start running the halls) when I saw a light from the hallway floor flicker on, pointing to the commissary. It was followed by the sound of footsteps! I hid behind the table to see who or what was coming, a butter knife in hand, cursing myself for not thinking to ask for something more substantial from the wall in way of defense.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a woman enter the commissary. She appeared taller than me, though not overly so. She had long red hair and looked inquisitive but cautious. Her clothes were precisely the same as my own. She had nothing in her hands or on her person. "Another involuntary guest, perhaps?" I mused to myself. I decided to make my presence known. I slowly stood up, butter knife placed on the chair, and called to her, "Hello, there. Where did you come from?"
The woman appeared slightly startled by my sudden appearance, but quickly composed herself, "I might ask you the same question. Who are you, and where is this place?" One thing struck me immediately - not only was she speaking in a foreign language that I understood completely, but I had done the same!
I decided there was little sense in stating anything other than the truth - if she were a fellow 'guest', best we start off on the right foot, and if she were one of my hosts, she probably already knew the answers. "Terribly rude of me, but it's been an odd few days. My name is Sarah-Jane, Sarah Jane Smith. I am a free-lance journalist. This, as far as I can tell, is a space station somewhere in deep space named Nike, though who built it or why it is here is a mystery to me. And I have no clue what language we are speaking now, do you?"
"None. My name is Beverly Crusher, by the way. I am chief medical officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. I just woke up here this morning, and I've never seen or heard of any place quite like this. When I asked aloud for someone, anyone to talk to, the lights led me here."
"Well, that is interesting. I am almost certain that I arrived a day before you, then. When I asked this place to lead me to someone, it gave no reply. I wonder if that means I was the first."
"Even though we're speaking a foreign language, you sound a little bit like someone I know. Are you from Europe, maybe the island of Great Britain?"
"Yes, I am. You sound American to me."
"No, I was born on Luna, in Copernicus City."
"Do you mean Earth's Moon?"
"Why, yes, I do."
"What century are you from, Dr. Crusher?"
"Call me Beverly. The 24th Century. Why?"
"I am from the 21st."
"I suppose you've slept a long time, then!"
"Or you've been brought back in time. If we could be whisked here, light-years from home, perhaps we've also been transported in time. Believe me, it is possible."
"I know it is possible, but how would you know?"
"I had a friend I used to travel with. I've had more exposure to time and space travel then you would guess from my home century, Beverly."
"Sounds like something Q would do..."
"Who or what is a 'Q'?"
"Highly advanced alien, odd sense of humor, likes to mix things up wherever he goes."
"Oh, well, when you put it that way, I suppose he does sound a bit like the Doctor, my former traveling companion."
Beverly started looking around, "This could be Q's doing. He has transported us to other places, other times, before. But usually he shows his presence at the beginning. You haven't seen anyone else, have you?"
"Not a soul. You are the first person I have seen here since my arrival."
"Well, if it is Q, he is bound to show himself at some point. You don't think this is the work of your alien friend, do you?"
"The Doctor? No, he'd never be so cruel; at least, not intentionally, and not without good reason."
It was about this time that another light came to life, leading from the hall to the commissary. That was all the warning we had when a statuesque woman who towered over both of us silently strode into the room. Exotic eyes that seemed to hold so much sadness and yet pierced through the soul sized the both of us up in an instant. She too wore the same uniform as us, as I now realised it must be - on her it could be mistaken for nothing else. Her long dark hair was tied up behind her, but otherwise her clothes and accessories were identical to our own. She seemed strangely relaxed, and it made me wonder if she were the representative of our 'hosts'.
"My name is Honor Alexander-Harrington." She turned directly to me, "Who are the two of you, and what have you learned thus far about Nike Station?"
And so I told Harrington everything I had learned the previous day. She asked questions deftly, guiding the interrogation (and that is essentially what it was) with a rapidity and clarity I found breath-taking. Beverly stood by, clearly interested in the answers I had to give. Perhaps she was also a little grateful not to have that intensity of purpose directly turned upon her. Finally she let me off the proverbial hook.
"My apologies. I am trying to assess the situation, and I let my zeal get the better of me. I've never been what one might call diplomatic." The last she said with a small self-deprecating grin that seemed to take decades off of her and let her exotic beauty shine through, if for but a moment. "Please, both of you sit down. Allow me to get a drink for myself, and to bring something for you two as well?"
I asked for a chamomile tea. Beverly asked for Earl Grey. Harrington retrieved for herself a large mug of hot cocoa, of all things!
Beverly and I reintroduced ourselves for Harrington's benefit. She made a bit of a face when she heard I was a journalist, and then I could swear that she blushed when I arched an eye at her response to my occupation, "Again, my apologies, I haven't had the best of experience with the media." Given my experiences with some of the more unsavory types in British media, I could hardly blame her. Her interest perked up a bit when Beverly mentioned her starship, and again we had a brief round of interrogation as she tried to extract from the poor doctor every bit of data on her Enterprise that she could.
"I'm sorry, but you really have the wrong Crusher for those questions. My son is much more the expert on starship design and operations. I just try to keep the crew in one piece."
"I can understand that, Doctor. My father and mother both are physicians."
We came to learn that Honor - took a while for me to feel comfortable saying her first name - was a fleet admiral who had been in a rather costly war of late. I think perhaps that explained some of the sadness that would still touch her from time to time as we sat there discussing matters.
"Beverly, your technology sounds in many ways in advance of that of both Manticore and the Solarian League, but if I understand you correctly, you are from the 24th century using pre-Diaspora dating. I am from what you two would call the 40th century. I don't know how that is possible. We don't have anything in our history books to compare to your Federation of United Planets - the Solarian League is about as close as we get, and they certainly never had the technology you describe."
Beverly thought for a bit, "Probably we are dealing with alternate timelines."
That rang a bell with me, too, "That might explain why I've been having such a hard time placing your time in the context of my previous travels, Beverly."
"Alternate timelines, alternate technologies, how is that even possible?" Honor asked.
"Beverly and I were comparing notes on formidable aliens we were acquainted with," and told her a bit about the Doctor and Beverly filled in about 'Q'. "Do you know any such aliens?"
"Oh, I know a fairly formidable 'alien', though he's not in the league of those two - if you ever meet Nimitz, please don't tell him I said that." She quickly changed subjects.
"Nike, that is the Greek Goddess of Victory."
"Yes, I believe so."
"Strange that we should be able to understand these symbols, these words, as clear as day and they should tell us the name of a Greek goddess for this battle station. You know, I captained the HMS Nike at one point in my career. There has always been a Nike in the Manticoran Navy, ever since Edward Saganami. It's a fit name for this place, but I wonder if it has a deeper meaning."
"Why do you call it a battle station?"
"Before I encountered you two, I questioned the view port in my room about the armaments and specifications of Nike station, and of her fleet."
"Oh yes, fleet. Hadn't you noticed the ships moored to this station?"
I had towards the end of my studies the previous day learned of ships being docked to the station, but I had to stop for sleep at that point, intending to pick up that subject today, among others. It appeared that Admiral Harrington had beaten me to it.
"Briefly, but I hadn't had time to enquire fully as to their number and nature."
"Oh, there are plenty, especially if you count the fighters. We've the equivalent of ships of the wall, carriers, battleships, battlecruisers, destroyers, scout ships, you name it. And they sound closer in capabilities to what Beverly described for her Enterprise."
"Did you come across any star charts while you were learning about the station and the ships? Anything that might tell us where we are, and where Earth is?"
"Not even a map of the closest system. Oh, there are plenty of astrogation manuals and charts, but all of systems from our own Galaxy, and none of them reference our current position. Granted, navigation was always a relative weak point for me."
"Pity. I suppose we will have to use some of those ships for exploration unless they have more useful navigation information on board. Or unless we find some of those transporters you were mentioning, Beverly."
"Hardly. We're well out of transporter range of anything for any transporter I've ever heard of."
Beverly stood up, "Enough chit-chat, Admiral, Ms. Smith. I say we see the medical facilities this Nike has to offer, and then I am going to get us full physicals. Maybe that will give us some clues as to what has happened to us. Nike, lead us to the infirmary!"
A light appeared on the floor, and away we three went.
The floor light led us to a door labeled with symbols meaning 'infirmary'. The room was gray as was everything on Nike thus far, but had a number of beds. There were also doors lining the walls. Beverly took a few moments to look at the facilities, asking a few questions to the library in the room and briefly looking through one of the doors, then spoke.
"The control system for the medical units is ridiculously simple, but in fact has a great deal of capability. It is at least as capable as any Starbase Hospital, I suspect. So, who wants to be first?"
Honor spoke, "I might as well, Doctor. What would you like me to do?"
"Let's step into one of the side exam rooms. This way, Admiral Harrington." Beverly led Honor through the door she had previously peered through. I had a chair extrude and sat down to wait.
"Dr. Crusher, before we begin, I might as well let you know a few things. First, my left eye and left arm are artificial. Second," Honor hesitated for a moment, "I'm a Genie."
Beverly looked confused, "For the first time this morning, I think this language we're all speaking has failed me, because I've no idea what a 'genie' is."
"A genie is someone who comes from a genetically modified line of human."
"I see. Genetic modification of humans is illegal in the Federation. There are real dangers to modification of the genome, unforeseen side effects...."
"I am well aware of that, Doctor. After some spectacular examples of just those sorts of 'side effects', the use of genetic modification was discouraged throughout civilized space except for correction of disease and infirmity, and in some extreme cases, such as the ability to settle high gravity worlds. My modifications are inherited, not my own choosing."
"I am sorry. Here you are confiding in me, a near stranger, and I start lecturing."
"Well, if I'm going to count on you as a doctor for the duration of this 'incarceration', I'm going to have to be able to confide in you. And if you happen to be one of my captors in disguise, then you probably already know."
"Do you really think I'm behind all this?"
"No, not really. But being a friendly doctor does seem a convenient cover for learning all sorts of things about a prisoner. Just couldn't help thinking it."
"I suppose that makes sense."
The examination began.
"You're in incredibly good health, Honor. These prostheses are incredible work - um, Honor, what is that built into your arm?"
"A gift from my father. He designed my prosthetics himself, and was very concerned for my well-being. He never wanted me caught without the means to defend myself."
"I think you've come from a hard life, Honor."
"It's had its moments, but it's the life I chose."
"There's something else here, some odd brain readings. They remind me almost of - you don't have any Betazoid ancestry, do you?"
"Now I'm the one having the problem understanding. Who or what are Betazoids?"
"A race of telepaths, or in the case of a friend of mine who is half-Betazoid, empaths."
"Empaths?" Honor gave Beverly a startled look.
"I take it you don't have any Betazoids in your region of space."
"No, Doctor, and I don't know of anyone who does. But the empathy, and even the telepathy, that's basically how Treecats communicate with each other and, to a degree, with the humans they bond to, for example, Nimitz and me."
"Ah, maybe that's it. So you share a telepathic link with this Nimitz?"
"More empathic, but yes, I get flashes."
"How interesting. Hmmm, you have a pretty ferocious resting metabolic rate, Honor."
"Part of my genie heritage, I think. I almost never get enough to eat."
"The rest of your genetic modifications look surprisingly stable. I've studied some cases, and this is almost elegant in comparison." Beverly stopped talking for a moment.
"Honor, I'm not certain how to ask you this, but do you know that you are pregnant?"
After Beverly and Honor came out, it was my turn. I went into the room and lay down on the table. Apparently the Nike medical apparatus was advanced enough that there was no need to disrobe for the examination. Beverly and I made small talk while the exams progressed.
"Robot dog, me."
Then a queer look came over Beverly's face. "Sarah Jane, I'm going to ask an indelicate question."
"Do you know that you're pregnant?"
"You are joking?"
"That's not possible; I'm too old."
"Not by 24th century standards you aren't. And Sarah Jane, you seem much healthier and, well, youthful, than I would expect for your century. Granted, our records of the 21st century have a lot of gaps in them."
"Well, Beverly, some of that may be due to the fact that I have had access to technology that is beyond the norm for the 21st century. But still, pregnant, I never imagined....a brother or sister for Luke. It's just too much to wrap my head around."
Beverly took an instrument from the wall recess and fiddled with it. "Sarah Jane, I want your permission to tell Honor about your pregnancy."
"Why is that?"
Beverly glanced again at the device she was holding, "Because I'm pregnant, too."
Beverly completed a brief physical on herself, and then we both emerged to meet Honor. Beverly spoke first.
"Honor, there's something you should know. Sarah Jane and I are both in the very early stages of pregnancy."
Honor stood up, "What? All three of us are pregnant?"
I gave an involuntary little gasp, "All three of us? Did you know before coming here, Honor? I certainly didn't, and I suspect Beverly was equally unaware as well."
Honor replied, "No, I wasn't. Hamish, Emily, and I had talked about possibly another child, especially with all the losses from the war, it almost seemed like the right thing to do, but no, I had no knowledge. Granted, I may not have been as careful keeping up with my contraception regimen."
I asked the question that I imagined was on all our minds, "Could these pregnancies be the work of our 'hosts'?"
Beverly answered, "It's possible, of course. We've seen in the past several scenarios where aliens used human pregnancy for various activities. But the initial results of the medical scans show nothing unusual about these pregnancies. It's a bit early yet, but Nike's facilities really are amazing. I can confirm that the DNA of these pregnancies are all human, and at least half are from us as mothers. Of course, I have nothing on file to compare to come up with paternity, but these are, to the best of my ability to discern, human embryos with half their DNA coming from us."
Honor added, "If pregnancy were of interest to our 'hosts', given that we have already seen that they can pull people from far ranging centuries, possibly even across timelines, and who knows how far through interstellar space, it wouldn't take much for them to simply choose a time from our lives when we were pregnant."
I asked, "Doctor, other than the pregnancies, did you find anything that was amiss in our examinations."
"Not that I can think of, other than the things you both yourselves claim as being part of your personal medical histories. However, I'll look over the data in more detail. Let me think about it a bit first."
"So what next?"
Honor provided the answer, "We go to the bridge."
The walk down the halls of Nike towards the bridge was subdued at first, all of us I'm certain thinking upon the state we had found ourselves in, and wondering on the implications. However, when the silence was finally broken, it was on an entirely different subject all together.
Honor was the first to speak, "Are the two of you getting as tired of all this gray as I am?"
I immediately replied, "Heavens yes!"
Beverly offered, "The Enterprise had these lovely beiges everywhere."
Honor sniffed, "That may be going a bit far, Doctor."
I offered, "The space station I remember most clearly was Nerva, and all the rooms and halls were white."
Honor offered, 'Trading one monontone for another? How about white walls but we keep the gray floor, and for Beverly we can have the doors be beige - I don't like how difficult they are to discern."
Beverly responded, "That works for me."
Honor spoke briskly to Nike, "Nike Station, reformat colors of all walls to white, all doors to beige, retain gray in flooring." She thought for a moment "Shift all white light symbol displays to royal blue."
The changes took place almost immediately. All three of us felt it was a definite improvement.
We made some small talk until we reached the door for the bridge. Unlike most others, it did not open on our immediate approach. Then Honor spoke again, "Nike Station, unlock access to bridge, voice-recognition Harrington, passcode W-5-Zulu-Steeple."
The door slid open as was usual. I asked Honor, "What was that?"
"When I was alone in the room I awoke in, I found that the Nike systems didn't seem to have any security, so I assigned it some, and had it lock down key facilities to my own voice and codes. I thought it was a long shot given that my 'hosts' probably had backdoor access to the systems, but why not try?"
Beverly and I shared an exasperated look, "Indeed."
The bridge of Nike as a mammoth room, with multiple view ports and chairs available. I couldn't begin to imagine how to work it all, but the chair at the center of the room clearly attracted Honor's attention, who sat in it as if it had been made especially for her. Who knows, maybe it had? She quickly worked out the displays available and brought up a number of visuals on the main viewscreens.
"Doctor, your comment about the instruments in the infirmary, about how they were ridiculously simple but powerful. I find the same true of the command displays here. These are a completely different configuration than any Manticoran vessel or station, but I think these may make even more sense, at least for something with the capacity of Nike. Sarah Jane, Beverly, this station alone could decimate a star system. It also is mobile it appears, in a way that is simply mind-boggling. If I am reading this correctly, we could jump anywhere almost instantaneously if we had the right information. Unfortunately, again I can't find anything remotely resembling astrogation data in the systems. Without that information, we might as well be completely immobile."
I asked, "Should we check one of the ships? They might have the information we need to find out where we are and where else we might go."
Honor replied, "That was my thought, but let me check something." She flashed through a number of displays, too fast for me or Beverly to follow. "Well, if we are to trust these systems, the ships have the same information as the Nike library. On the other hand, they also are more flexible in their means of transportation. We could use one of them to scout out the neighboring star systems."
I felt deflated, "And how likely is that to get us home?"
Beverly spoke up, "Not very, Sarah Jane, unless we can locate our 'hosts' out there."
Honor nodded in agreement.
The rest of the afternoon we spent in learning as much as we could about Nike's other facilities and functions, while Honor also studied the roster of ships more fully.
Much to my surprise, Honor suggested we three return to her quarters for dinner. There she had a table produced that sat the three of us comfortably, and then had the wall recess, which Beverly suggested was something called a replicator, produce an outstanding steak dinner. I was a bit shocked how much Honor could eat! In any event, we agreed to take adjacent rooms in the same hall for the evening, though for once Nike proved obstinate, and claimed these were not our rooms. Before parting, both Honor and Beverly asked that I continue my writing, acting as a chronicler for our adventure on Nike.
I went to sleep, wondering what the morning would bring, and when we would make some real progress towards returning home.
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
The alarm awoke me. Honor had told Beverly and I the previous night about setting Nike to give us a warning should more people 'arrive'. Four bells - four new people on Nike. I quickly threw on clothes and exited the room. I was not terribly surprised to find both Honor and Beverly in the hall awaiting me. What did surprise me was that both of them were wearing new uniforms compared to yesterday. Beverly was wearing a blue lab coat over a blue and black uniform of some sort of spandex like material. Honor was dressed in a black uniform with gold trim and a white beret. I felt a bit out of place for wearing the 'standard issue' Nike uniform. Then again, I didn't have my own uniform to wear, and recreating some of my civilian clothes somehow didn't feel right for the situation. The lights on the floor were already starting to lead the way. Honor nodded to me and said, "Let's be about it!"
We met the first new arrival exiting her room. A perky blonde in the now standard Nike uniform, she came to an abrupt halt when she saw us, "Where am I, and who are you?" We made the initial introductions and excuses and asked as to our new arrival's identity.
"Colonel Samantha Carter, United States Air Force seconded to Homeworld Security. So you three have been pulled out of different centuries and different parts of space to arrive here on Nike?"
Honor answered for all of us. "Yes, Colonel. But let's talk and walk. There are three other new arrivals to collect. I promise you, we'll give you all the answers we can."
I found the American Colonel quite pleasant to converse with as we walked. While we were contemporaries, there were clear differences in our recent histories. "Ms. Smith, I think we must be from alternate versions of the early 21st century." I nodded in agreement, "I am certain you are right. Hard to believe you would have missed the events in London if you were so involved in alien affairs."
We met the next new arrival at the commissary, a leggy blonde who turned abruptly at our arrival. Again, the ritual of the initial introductions and questions. "Colonel Wilma Deering, Earth Defense Directorate. From the 25th century as compared to the ones you've mentioned. I'm looking forward to the explanation for all this."
Honor turned before the next voice spoke. A dark haired woman a little taller than Beverly entered the commissary. "As will I. Captain Susan Ivanova, Earthforce. 23rd century." Honor nodded to her and spoke, "We have one more new arrival to greet, then I will be happy to give you further information, but I figure it will be easier to do it all at once, rather than repeated over and over. Captain Ivanova nodded, "Sensible."
We followed the floor lights to the last arrival, who was still in her room. Not knowing what else to do, I knocked on the door. Another tall woman opened the door, she was striking in appearance, with bronze hair, an oval face, and eyes that were blue with a blue tinge to the 'whites' of them. A scent of cinnamon wafted out of her room when the door opened. The one thing most notable about her, however, was that she was quite obviously pregnant.
"Who are you people, and where am I?" Her voice seemed to tug the answer out of me, but then Honor stepped between us, much less fazed by the woman’s oddly compelling presence. "We're all of us involuntary 'guests' aboard the space station Nike, pulled from different centuries, different parts of space, even different timelines. Some of us arrived here a day or two prior. For the four of you who have just arrived, I've prepared a briefing. If you will come with us to the commissary, we can give you some answers and some proper breakfast." Honor introduced all of us, even the new arrivals, and then asked the woman's name, "You may call me Jessica. I will come hear what you have to tell."
Honor did a magnificent job of encapsulating for the new arrivals the facts as we knew them, about the appearances, the functions the station had revealed to us, the ability to alter and order things, etc. Then she, with our permission, announced that we three had discovered ourselves pregnant, and requested that all of them undergo physicals.
Our last arrival, Jessica, stated the obvious, "I already know I am pregnant, though I am willing to submit to some medical review."
The dark haired new arrival, who like Honor also held some sadness behind her eyes, Captain Ivanova, spoke up while at the same time seeming a bit abashed, "I also know I'm pregnant." Somehow, I found that a bit surprising.
The other two, Colonels Carter and Deering, were not aware of any prior pregnancy, but were willing to undergo examination.
After breakfast, we all went down to the infirmary and Beverly conducted the examinations. While waiting their turns, Honor and I kept the rest company. I mostly conversed with Colonel Carter, who I shared a fair amount with as both of us were from versions of the 21st century, granted she was an American. Ivanova and Deering seemed to gravitate more towards Honor, and they kept busy discussing what Honor had learned about the military capacities of the ships. Jessica volunteered first for her examination, which faintly surprised me. She had seemed so reserved otherwise, observing everything and giving away very little.
Doctor Crusher escorted Jessica to an examination room. Once they were alone, Jessica asked her in a voice that would brook no disobedience, no lie, "Are you an agent of either the force that brought me here, the Harkonnens or the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV?" Dr. Crusher answered, "No, I am no one's agent. I am a Starfleet Officer."
Jessica nodded, seemingly satisfied. She lay down on the exam table, and in a much more normal voice, asked, "Can I trust you, Doctor?"
Crusher replied, "Yes. Especially with medical matters. I took an oath to serve my patients and keep their confidences."
Jessica sighed, "I had a dear friend once, a doctor under Imperial Conditioning to serve likewise. He betrayed us."
Beverly blinked, "I'm terribly sorry to hear that, Jessica. I won't, you have my word."
Jessica seemed to come to a decision, "He also saved us. I hope you can do as much."
"What do you mean?"
"There is a chemical, a substance, in my system. It extends life, extends abilities. But if I don't continue to ingest it, my child and I will die. I am afraid from what Admiral Harrington already told us that we may be here for a while. I am hoping that our abductors did not bring me here simply to die. I need you to find a way to synthesize Melange. It only has one natural source in all the known universe, and has never been synthesized."
"Jessica, if you are addicted, we can find ways to help you through withdrawal."
Jessica gave a half-smile, "Spice is no mere drug. Do your examinations, Doctor, see what you can discover."
At a loss, Beverly Crusher did just that. While she started with standard testing, she went much deeper than she had with the others, focusing more on biochemistry. "There, I think I've found it. This chemical is bonded at the molecular level intracellularly to the DNA and a number of organelles. The folding of the molecules....this....I think its tertiary and quartenary folding is actually going into subspace, folding beyond our three spatial dimensions. You say this has a natural source? That seems incredible. It not being synthesized successfully I can believe. Our standard replicators on Enterprise wouldn't be up to the task. Let me check with Nike."
Beverly made some directed queries to the library, "The standard replicators on this station won't make this, either." Jessica took the news with surprising composure. "But....yes, the medical replicators in the infirmary can create n-spatial substances. I think I can make this for you, Jessica. And if I am to believe these readings, I think I don't have much choice. The risk of killing you trying to purge this from your system would be too great."
Jessica sighed, "If you can provide the spice to me, you will have done enough, Doctor."
Doctor Crusher continued with the examination, "Well, your pregnancy is well along, but seems no worse for wear from this spice exposure. The cortical activity of your child, though, it's not typical for a child of this level of development. They more look like a fully developed awake child."
Jessica merely nodded.
Beverly finished the examinations with the same speed and efficiency as yesterday. It was obvious from the faces of Colonels Deering and Carter that they had been discovered in the same situation as the rest of us. Honor had us move to the bridge next. She seemed the most comfortable there.
Honor addressed the group of extremely competent looking women assembled on Nike's Bridge.
"We have been brought here without our consent from different eras, different regions of space, even different histories. We find ourselves in this powerful but terribly isolated station, with no knowledge of how to return home to our loved ones. We also all appear to be with child, and the responsibilities that entails."
Honor surveyed our faces before continuing.
"I believe we can expect more women to arrive over the days to come. We should prepare to greet them and to integrate them into our efforts here. I believe our goals to be as follows. First, to discover any information or means to return to our homes. Second, to prepare to defend ourselves against any acts against our wills. Third, to learn the nature of our abductors and the facts behind these pregnancies. Are you agreeable to these priorities?"
We all indicated thus. Honor had merely put into words what most of us had been thinking or had discussed earlier. However, she did not stop there.
"Captain Ivanova, from our conversation earlier this morning in the infirmary, your experience at the Babylon 5 station makes you the most qualified to run Nike Station operations, and I propose you do so."
Susan Ivanova gave a lopsided grin, "Just when I thought I had put space stations behind me."
Honor continued, "Colonel Carter, despite being from an earlier century than many of us, you seem to have the strongest grasp of advanced sciences, excepting the life sciences, of course." Here Honor nodded to Beverly. "Therefore, I'd like you to start spearheading our efforts to research our situation and the new sciences at our disposal."
Samantha Carter nodded, "I always was a science geek as well as special forces."
"Colonel Deering, you have as much experience with space fighters as Captain Ivanova, as well as scouting operations. I'd like you to head up our efforts with some of the smaller ships to start scouting our immediate region of space."
"I can manage that." Wilma Deering retorted.
"Dr. Crusher of course will continue to run our medical operations and research what has been done with us physically and mentally. Beverly, I still think we need to dig deeper into the pregnancy issue, as well as the language in which we all seem to have acquired knowledge."
"Of course, Honor." Beverly agreed.
"Sarah Jane Smith agreed to keep a log of activities aboard Nike. I believe we will need weekly briefings to go over those, Sarah Jane. We can't afford to miss something because we moved on too quickly." I repeated my agreement to such.
"Jessica, we need someone to be responsible for arranging intake of new arrivals and making certain we are keeping up with what skills are available to us from them. We also need to go over the skills in more details of everyone already here." Jessica merely nodded.
"I will assign myself to planning our defenses." Honor didn't say that she was also placing herself in charge, but so far she seemed to be doing a fine job of getting things organized, so I certainly wasn't going to object to that.
"These are just some preliminary assignments to get us started. I already know that you all have more skills than just those I have named here. I think it is not an accident that we were among the first to arrive. We seem to be being selected for a variety of experiences and skills. Quite frankly, this may have been our abductors second mistake."
I couldn't resist. "What was their first, Honor?"
"Taking me, you, all of us, away from our loved ones."
A ragged cheer went up at those words.
The newcomers under Honor's guidance looked over the bridge and also reviewed items in the library. It was during this time that Sam looked up suddenly, "Did you know that there appears to be a Gate Room on Nike?"
Honor replied, "What is a Gate Room? Does this relate to the Stargates you were talking about earlier?"
"Yes. Programmable wormholes. If I am following Nike's catalogue correctly, that seems to be what this is. Should we go check it out?"
Honor leapt up, "Absolutely!"
The group of us made quite a sight, marching down the halls of Nike to a room with a large staging area that lead to a wall with a large circular portal built into it. There was a console in the room as well. Sam went there first.
"Is this one of your stargates?" I asked.
"No, Sarah Jane. The information here in the console suggests that it works on similar principles, but this is entirely different design. Other than being round, it really is nothing like what the Ancients built. There's no chevrons, no locking mechanism. Really, I would almost say that this is lacking the flair the Ancients brought to their design, though it is also a much larger portal than a stargate." Sam hit her fist against the console. "Damn! There's no coordinates in this version of the dialing device, at least not for any star systems. We can't go anywhere without knowing its 'address'. Wait a minute, what are these two files?" Sam ignored the rest of us while going through them rapidly, then gasped, "No. You are kidding me?"
Honor broke in, "What is it, Samantha?"
"There are coordinates, just not for any planets. However, we have two other lists of coordinates. One list I think is for each of the large ships docked to Nike - I think they all have a gate. But that's not what really caught my attention, Admiral. It was this other list. There are a large number of gates in storage on board six of the ships docked at Nike. I think they are what we have come to call 'seed ships'. We know the Ancients used seed ships to plant the stargates originally."
"So, you are telling me that we can't go anywhere but Nike and the ships, but once these seed ships - I was classifying them as cargo vessels - go to a planet, they can leave behind a gate and then we can travel there instantaneously, without a ship?"
Susan Ivanova chimed in, "The plot thickens."
After some time absorbing the new information Samantha Carter had discovered, it was time to eat. As we were walking to the commissary, I had a moment of relative isolation walking next to Honor.
"I'm a bit surprised that you assigned Jessica that task, Honor."
Honor gave a small smile as she walked, "I think Jessica will do just fine in the end, Sarah Jane."
I was not certain whether to push the point, but decided to sally forth, "But she's so, I don't know, guarded. And I could swear she was trying something on me when we first met."
I thought Honor's next comment was a bit of non sequitor, "Do you know how old Jessica is?"
"Um, no, I don't think I caught that."
"No, she's been very careful not to let things like that drop. But she's probably the youngest among us."
I was a bit surprised at that, "But she has the poise, the bearing, of a woman of much more mature years."
Honor paused for a moment, "Jessica is also probably the most terrified of all of us. I think it must be taking a will like iron to hold all that in. I fear we're going to need her, need that will, before this is all done, Sarah Jane."
I let it drop at that point, but I wasn't surprised when towards the end of lunch, Honor asked Jessica to walk with her, just the two of them.
Honor waited until the two of them were out of earshot of the rest, then broke the silence.
"Jessica, what is it going to take before you start to trust some of us, at least a little bit?"
Jessica stopped walking, "Lady Alexander-Harrington, why should I? I have enemies and duties pressing me from every side. I have done so much to keep my family safe. And now I find myself abducted, in a strange new world, with people I haven't even known a day. We share no roots other then the lost Earth, we share no beliefs, no cultures, no real frame of reference - or so you all would have me believe."
Honor spoke again, "I know what it is to have enemies plot against you, your loved ones. The first man I ever loved was assassinated as a ploy to get to me, to goad me into a duel to kill me."
Jessica merely nodded.
"Instead I killed the assassin, and then I killed the man behind it, though it meant my virtual exile from my own home."
Jessica listened a bit more intently.
"That was the first attempt to assassinate me, to disgrace me. One vile enemy actually killed children to try to bring me down. I was vindicated, and cut him down in the end, but I still think of those children, and all the other lives lost to cowardly and evil foes."
Jessica nodded again, this time more briskly, "And Jessica, I know what it means to fear for your child's life. I promise you I will die rather than let your child be harmed."
Jessica finally showed some real emotion on her face, an unreadable mixture, "My name is Lady Jessica Atreides, bound concubine to my dead beloved Duke Leto. I have rarely met someone as honest as you, Honor Harrington. I will do what I can to try and get us all home, safely."
Honor nodded in acknowledgement of the trust she had just been given. Then Jessica asked, "What was his name, the man who died, your first love?"
"Paul, his name was Paul."
Jessica swallowed hard, "It's a good name."
Something had changed after lunch and the stroll Honor and Jessica had taken. It was as if years had come off Jessica, and I could see what Honor had said. As it turns out, Jessica wasn't that much younger than the rest of us, but it was clear now that she was among the younger of us. However, she already had a nearly grown boy, Paul - and didn't Honor get the queerest look on her face when she learned that name.
After lunch, Honor declared that she needed some exercise, and had Nike direct her to Nike's version of a leisure center. It was a large area again, with a few fixed furnishings for exercise, and a pool. Pretty quickly we discovered that there were changing rooms attached, and that the room could create most any exercise equipment that we could ask for.
Jessica found a spot and started doing some sort of stretching exercise that gracefully but quickly transitioned into something that looked more like Tai Chi or a martial art. For some reason I had a faint flash about 'Venusian' Aikido and clucked at myself for such nostalgia. Surprisingly, Beverly asked Jessica to start showing her some of the forms, then Honor joined in. They both picked up the basic steps rather quickly. Beverly asked what it was called. Jessica replied, "Prana-Bindu."
Jessica began to pick up the complexity of what she was doing, and finally Beverly bowed out. Honor, however, continued on for a time, until Jessica was starting to do things that quite frankly seemed impossible. Finally Honor stopped and just watched Jessica.
Jessica herself stopped a little after that and smiled at Honor, "No one other than those trained by the Bene Gesserit has ever gotten that far. That is really remarkable, Honor."
Honor gave a little bow in acknowledgement, "We ought to spar sometime. I'd be interested to see how you'd fare with that against Coup de Vitesse."
Jessica gave a slight nod back, "Maybe later. I'd like a swim now. I haven't gone swimming since Caladan."
Susan, Wilma, and Sam also did some martial exercises, while Beverly and I stuck with aerobics for the rest of the time."
After a good workout, we were back to work. Next stop, to see one of Nike's starships!
This was our longest trek yet through Nike, to get to the entryway for the ship that Honor had chosen for our first inspection. After the work-out, Wilma, Susan, and Sam had changed into their home uniforms courtesy of Nike's 'replicators'. Jessica had changed into a sweeping black robe that emphasized her serious nature. The ship was identified as the equivalent of a battlecruiser in Nike's listing. The ship itself was long and deadly looking, with some sort of swept wings at the back. The ship was quite unlike the spaceships any of us were familiar with. Honor, Susan, Wilma, and Sam all swarmed about the ship's bridge, obviously looking for things that were important to a starship's functioning. Just as obviously they found what they were looking for. Much as Nike seemed designed so simply as to be used by a child, so too had this ship.
"What's her name?" I enquired.
Honor asked, "What, the ship's?"
"Doesn't have one. Just a numeric designation. We'll have to name her, I'm guessing."
Susan spoke up, "She seems fast and deadly. How about 'White Star'?"
Honor rubbed her chin, "A former ship of yours?"
Susan Ivanova shrugged, "You might say that."
The ship was fairly automated, but still too much for just seven people. Honor stood up reluctantly from the command chair of the tentatively christened White Star, "Well, time to check out the scout ships, I believe."
The ship was not far from a bay holding scout ships and fighters. The scout ships were about the size of a bus, but shaped more like the sleek design of the cruiser. Sam and Honor went inside to check it out. Susan and Wilma, however, seemed far more interested in the fighters.
"Hmm, she's shaped somewhat like the Thunderbolt. Air capable, it appears from the design and read-outs."
Wilma commented as well, "Well, glad to hear you see something familiar. It looks quite different from our Star Fighters. Biggest difference is that this is clearly a one person ship. Ours depending on configuration could hold from two to four people. Hey, this read out here seems to mean that the ship has greater than light capability without a stargate - um, more like your jumpgates rather than Carter's stargates. What do you say, Ivanova, should we take two of these out for a test flight?"
"I think that is exactly what we should do, Deering."
The acceleration out of Nike's bay was fearsome, but Susan didn't feel any of it. "Woowee! Now this is what I call a fighter." Susan exclaimed as she sent the space fighter into a tight spiral. "What do you think, Deering?"
Wilma likewise was delighted with the advanced systems and incredible handling of the Nike star fighter, as she sent her own fighter into a series of loops. "Never felt anything like it, Ivanova. Feel like playing some sensor tag?"
Susan's lip quirked up at the corner, "Sounds like a plan."
The rest of the 'crew' of the Nike stopped their other activities to watch on a large Nike view port the acrobatics of the two ace space fighter pilots. Honor commented, "They're really quite good - I mean the pilots as well as the ships. I doubt a LAC could do nearly as well, though."
Deering scored a lock on Ivanova first, accompanied by some choice curses in a language other than the one we had been speaking since arriving. Sam turned to me, "Was that Russian?"
"I think it was!"
"Well, it looks like we can at least curse in our native languages!"
After the return of the space fighters from their trial run, we continued searching and cataloguing the wonders of Nike. Honor and Susan Ivanova found some actual robot probes that they sent on scouting patrols in local space. Finally we returned to Honor's room for another dinner - I had learned that Honor had a long standing tradition of hosting dinners for her officers in her quarters. We continued with a comparison of histories that had started yesterday with Beverly, Honor, and myself, and had now expanded to the newcomers.
"Klingons, Vulcans, Cardassians, Romulans?" Beverly threw out to the newcomers. Our newcomers all nodded their heads no.
"Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Timelords?" I added. Again, no one recognized them.
Samantha Carter joined the game, "Gua'uld, Ori, Wraith, Asgard, Ancients, Nox, Furlings?" This time all of us shook our heads no.
Susan Ivanova went next, "Minbari, Centauri, Vorlon, Narn?" Another round of head shaking.
Wilma Deering offered another. "Draconians, Zetans, Ruathans, Genesians, Vorvon, Koven, Katarians?"
I spoke up, "Oh, Draconians! Tall green scaled men with pointy heads?"
Wilma laughed, "Hardly."
The only intelligent alien species Honor knew were the Treecats and Medusans. Jessica knew of none at all. Beverly Crusher spoke next.
"We suspected we were all from different timelines, with varying different histories for Earth, but this is just a bit incredible, isn't it? How can there be so many different alien species in several of our respective timelines and not a one the same?"
Sam ventured a theory, "Well, while the classic Many Worlds Hypothesis of the Copenhagen Interpretation conjectures multiple dividing worlds from each possible solution to the Schrödinger’s wave function, implying an ever expanding tree like structure of diverging universes, there is the possibility of low probability parallel and even converging universes where these branches stay together or even join back together, though those would from that point be unable to distinguish between possible differing histories. It may be even more likely to have a parallel or convergent region of spacetime within universes even while the rest of the universes diverge elsewhere. Maybe we're being chosen from universes that diverged quite early except for the local spacetime around Earth. We're the only common point between this subset of universes."
"Oi, you've made my head hurt, Sam. Are you quite certain you've never heard of a Time Lord? Because I swear you were just talking like one."
Honor changed the subject, "So, we thinking 8 or 16 tomorrow?"
Beverly asked, "What, you mean new abductees?" Honor nodded.
"It seems like some sort of numeric progression, first 1, Sarah Jane, then 2, now 4. I'm not certain if it will be multiples of 2 or maybe the square root of the last number, but I'm thinking that there seems to be some logic to the increases."
"Guess we'll find out tomorrow. How are we going to deal with 16 if that's the number, especially if they show up scattered about Nike?"
Jessica responded, "I've been thinking about that. I think it makes more sense to have them come to us than us seeking them out. When I heard Honor was able to set an alarm for all of you on our appearance, it made me think we might be able to do the reverse, set Nike to inform the new arrivals where to go when they appear. I was thinking we have them come to the commissary on arrival, where we can do the initial inventory, debriefing, and get them breakfast. After that, we'll go from there."
Wilma asked the next question, "And what if we're it?"
Honor retorted, "Doesn't seem likely. This place has obviously been designed to accommodate more than just us."
Wilma replied, "I agree, that is the most likely. But what if we're wrong?"
Susan summed up my own thoughts, "Then we deal with that, too."
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
Another day on Nike. I was finding the mystery of Nike and the interesting company distracting, but I was still feeling a gnawing inside at the passage of time. And so far, there had been no success in finding a way home.
We guessed what time roughly Nike's new arrivals of the previous day had made their appearance, and made certain we were up and ready. I felt a bit odd as the only one of the 'old guard' in a Nike uniform (a fresh one, of course), but again I just didn't feel like wearing 'civvies' in this situation, and didn't have a better outfit. After my morning ablutions, I met the others in the commissary. As expected, they were in their native uniforms. Also, everyone but Beverly and I were surreptitiously armed with the equivalent of what Beverly called a 'phaser'.
We had had a large discussion the night before about getting Nike to create firearms. I have never been fond of the things myself, but several of the others felt naked without one. That's when Beverly brought up the phasers her world had created, energy weapons as effective as any firearm the rest of us had ever heard of, but more to the point, able to be set to simply stun an opponent. Having a weapon to stun someone seemed a much safer choice given the potential for misunderstanding Nike represented.
The new arrivals showed up pretty much on time. We still couldn't figure a way to get Nike to tell us where they would arrive before they did - I suspected the information didn't actually exist in Nike. The pattern of which rooms received arrivals, if there was one, wasn't clear either. However, our pre-recorded message went out, and the lights began their duty of leading our new arrivals to us. The number was eight. As before, there was one more new arrival as there was 'old guard'. Most of the women (and they were again all women) dressed in Nike grays who one by one arrived in the commissary looked wary and capable. Two of them were clearly pregnant. The one who caught my eye was a young woman who actually was smiling and looking at everything around her like a child in a sweet shop.
Jessica had quite wisely posted on the view ports orientation messages to forestall an avalanche of questions. I thought the "Welcome Fellow Abductees" sign was a nice touch, as was the countdown of how many we were waiting to join us before the briefing would begin.
The briefing reiterated much of what we had said to each other on our own arrivals, and what we had learned, and what was surmised. Several of the women showed real consternation at the mention of the pregnancies and that we would be asking them all to submit to physicals under Dr. Crusher's care.
Since the number was manageable, each of us took a newcomer to interview to speed up the process. Lady Jessica as our head of new arrivals took on two, choosing the two obviously pregnant women. Maybe she thought that her own obvious pregnancy would give them some common ground. Or maybe it was just the most obvious feature for choosing two.
I went to the smiling young woman. "Hello, my name is Sarah Jane Smith, from 21st Century Earth. This is my fourth day on Nike. What is your name?"
"Oh hi! I'm Kaylee, well, my given name is Kaywinnit Lee Frye, but everyone calls me Kaylee. Are you really from Earth-that-was way back in the 21st century? It's the 26th century now, you know. Am I really likely with child? A little Tam?"
The girl was charming, but so different from the arrivals thus far! "Um, Kaylee, what is it that you do in the 26th century?"
"Oh, I fix things. My daddy always said I had a real talent for it. I keep Serenity flying. Serenity is our ship. When do we eat?"
"Well, Kaylee, we could probably get some breakfast now and talk over some food."
"Hey, can this Nike make waffles with whipped cream and strawberries? I love strawberries."
"I believe it can."
While I was having Kaylee get breakfast, I stopped by Jessica to see how her new arrivals were faring.
"Hello, Sarah Jane. Allow me to introduce to you Lady Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, former Captain of the Betan Astronomical Survey, and the Princess Leia Organa Solo, of the New Galactic Republic." Lady Cordelia was an attractive if not beautiful woman with a strong face, coppery red hair, and rather striking sea gray eyes. Princess Leia had soft brown hair twisted in a hasty braid and intelligent brown eyes.
"I wish I could say it was a pleasure to meet you all," said the princess.
"I understand entirely. Believe me, though I love a good adventure, I would much rather be home now."
"This is all sounding far too much like someone's idea of a breeding experiment," volunteered Lady Vorkosigan, "And they had better hope I don't get my hands on them."
I quite shared the sentiment.
The tough looking blonde with hair as blonde and as short as Samantha Carter sat across from Susan Ivanova. Susan thought to herself, "Cocky."
"What the Frak is all this?"
Susan didn't understand the one word, but the meaning was clear nonetheless. "Don't really know. Woke up here just yesterday, myself. Susan Ivanova, Captain, Earthforce, 23rd Century. You?"
"What?" The blonde woman seemed shocked. "What did you say? Earth Force? As in The Earth?"
"Yes, I think so. I was born in the Russian Consortium, on Earth."
"Frak me! We've been searching for you, for Earth, the lost colony. Old Man Adama wasn't full of it!"
Susan was baffled at the reference to a lost colony. "And who are you, and from where?"
"Captain Kara Thrace, Colonial Fleet, CAG for Galactica. Gods, I need a drink, this is just too much!"
Ivanova smiled, "Well, I know the feeling, Captain. However, I have something better than a drink for you. Care to check out the fighter bay after your physical?"
Honor scratched her nose. "That's the size of it, Lieutenant Ripley. So, you are from 22nd century, in the space merchant marine, and had these encounters with these aliens who gestate in humans?"
"That's about the size of it, Admiral Harrington. We had just escaped, and entered hypersleep, then awoke here."
Honor noted the fresh scrapes and scratches on Ripley, making her somewhat unique among the abductees thus far in terms of carrying wounds on arriving at Nike.
"Nike and Dr. Crusher have pretty advanced medical abilities, Lieutenant. We'll get you patched up pretty quickly."
"Just call me Ripley. Everyone else does."
I was on my way back to talk more with Kaylee. Wilma Deering and the young woman she was interviewing happened to be on my way, so I said hello.
"Morning, Wilma, who's our new friend?"
Wilma nodded her head in my direction, "Hello, Sarah Jane. Meet Isabel Flores, squad leader in Rasczak's Roughnecks, a unit with the Federal Military. She's also from a 'Federation' but it sounds a bit different from what Beverly told us.""
The young woman smiled up at me, "Hola, Sarah Jane. You can call me Dizzy. This is a strange place, but at least you don't seem to have bugs, so I'll take the R&R. Still, need to get back to Rico and the rest of them soonest. Wilma said you're in propaganda."
Wilma winced, "Not exactly what I said, Sarah Jane, promise."
"It's quite all right, Wilma. I'm an investigative journalist, Dizzy. It's a bit different from doing propaganda. They tell you what to believe, I just try to find out the truth."
"Whatever you say, Sarah Jane."
Samantha Carter had gotten the initial introductions out of the way, and her new arrival seemed anxious to get started.
"You said you can access Nike's files from most of the wall areas?"
Sam said, "Yes, that's right."
"Let's go." The thin woman with the short dark hair stood up and walked briskly over to the nearest commissary wall and ordered up the Library, then proceeded with a series of rapid commands that seemed to get to the source code for Nike's Library rapidly. Sam was impressed. It had taken her much longer to think of and get to the codes behind Nike's operating system.
"Code is different, simpler yet more elegant. This is powerful but not sentient, at least not at this level. I'll need more time to be certain."
Sam reassured her, "You'll get that time, Trinity, but let's get through the physical exam first."
We escorted the new arrivals to the infirmary for Beverly's examinations. The woman named Thrace, who apparently went by the name Starbuck, was a bit boisterous in her insistence that she didn't need a physical, but Susan and Wilma were able to talk her down, I think with more promises about the fighters. The first to go was the new arrival who shared a name with me, Sarah.
Beverly Crusher had the first woman lay down on the exam table. She was thin, but it was all taught muscle. She spoke to Beverly.
"Am I pregnant?"
Beverly had checked that first, "Yes, very early stage."
The woman closed her eyes and said under her breath, "Damnit, Charley."
Beverly quirked up an eyebrow, "The father?"
She counted to herself, "Probably. Doctor, just how good is this medical equipment?"
Beverly had continued scanning while they were talking and could guess where that question was going. "It's very good, Sarah. You have cancer. You're from the 21st Century, right?"
Sarah Connor gave a weak smile, "Only by time travel. I grew up in the 20th century, and would have died then, too - from cancer."
Beverly inhaled sharply, "Well, Sarah, then for once we can say that our abductors have done something good. In my time, we are easily able to cure this type of disease, and the medical facilities here on Nike is more than capable of doing so."
Sarah seemed relieved at first, but then started, "But what about the pregnancy, Dr. Crusher? If it is Charley's - he's dead now, Doctor, it's the only thing that's left of him."
Beverly placed a hand on her shoulder, "We can take care of you without hurting the pregnancy, Sarah. Trust me."
The exams were about the same time individually, but it still took over double the time of yesterday to get through them all. Lady Jessica and I took the time to use the initial interviews that had been done and to do some follow-up questioning with the new arrivals while they waited. So far, no one seemed to be from the same history, and in fact we had several now for whom Earth was a legend, or in the case of Princess Leia, unknown! She did admit to some obscure legends of the origin of humanity as being somewhere beyond their galaxy. Still, by the end of the morning, Beverly had confirmed that everyone was human and pregnant with humans.
Today, Honor decided to join Susan and Wilma in taking the new arrival, Starbuck, out on a run with the fighters. They saw it as both a good way to further familiarize themselves with Nike flight systems, patrol our immediate area, and check out the capabilities of our fliers.
While they headed for the flight deck, the rest of us headed for the Bridge to show the other new arrivals the main systems for running Nike. Cordelia Vorkosigan seemed particularly interested in checking out the stars around us and pouring over the start charts available (all from our own worlds, of course). We had Princess Leia join her as well; hoping that she might recognize this galaxy even if the rest of us did not. Sadly, she recognized none of it. The woman who went by Trinity sat down at a terminal and hadn't stirred since, absorbed in lines of computer code, or whatever it was that Nike used in its place. Sarah Connor and Dizzy Flores started pouring over the layout of Nike on her internal schematics, plotting out chokepoints, strongpoints, and other features that might be important should the station be boarded. I didn't know how likely this was, but then again, I couldn't see it hurting, and it seemed to give them some outlet for the frustration they must be feeling on their first day. Sam agreed to take Kaylee Frye and Ellen Ripley with her to check out the power and 'engine' systems of Nike. Jessica and I stayed on the bridge with the rest of the new arrivals.
The four fighters pulled into Nike's bay. The first to emerge was Starbuck, pumping her fist in the air and yelling, "YES!" for all she was worth. Kara Thrace had dreamt of being able to fly like that, to have a machine that was able to do all the crazy, tortuous, insane maneuvers that she had only imagined up until that moment.
Admiral Harrington had come the closest to matching her one-on-one in the practice dogfights they had engaged in at the end of the patrol run. On the other hand, all three of the other women were sharp - whenever it came to two on one, she was frakked, and she'd been used to being able to take out multiple bogies all her career. Captain Ivanova was sneaky as anything. Colonel Deering was more her style of fighter, and damned good, too. But Admiral Harrington was almost inhuman in her reaction time. Only Kara's near instinctual flying saved her from Harrington's crosshairs.
As if summoned by the thought of her, Admiral Harrington came toward her. "Well, Captain Thrace, I have to admit that was the finest flying I have ever seen."
Starbuck smiled, "You're no slouch yourself, Admiral. I don't know the last time I've had an exercise like that - only thing close is actual combat against the frakkin' toasters. Deering and Ivanova were something else, too."
Harrington nodded, "Let's all get showered and changed. I'll show you how to get Nike to make you one of your own uniforms, if you like. The others are likely expecting us."
Lunch was interesting, to say the least. We were starting to resemble more a large dinner party or a picnic than the more intimate meals of the past few days. I tried to flit between knots of conversation as the lunch progressed.
Sam was saying, "Well, we had alien machines called replicators that were a real threat. The more advanced ones were able to take on humanoid form."
Starbuck spat out, "Frakkin' skinjobs! The Cylons were mostly metallic robots called centurions, but some of them looked just like people. And unlike your replicators, we had no one to blame but ourselves. We built the first frakkin' ones, and now they've wiped out almost everyone."
Sarah added wryly, "Don't think you're Colonies are alone, Starbuck. On Earth we would have, or might have, Skynet - large sentient computer system that we made to protect us, and it turned around and made death machines to exterminate humanity, including Terminators that look just like humans as well. It seems that history likes repeating itself."
I was surprised to hear the quiet one, Trinity, speak, "Machines, programs, didn't kill humanity - they've turned us into parts, batteries. For all we know, this is just another program, and we're still enslaved by them."
I was even more surprised when Jessica sat down and joined the conversation, "Omnius. I overheard you talking about Skynet, Sarah, and you about enslavement, Trinity. I remember from our history the Butlerian Jihad, to free humanity from enslavement by the thinking machines and the great computer, Omnius. History repeating, indeed."
I moved on, only to find a similarly grim discussion going on between Ripley and Dizzy.
"So, these things lay a larva down your throat, which then grows and bursts out your chest, and grows into a big mean bug?"
"More or less."
"Sounds like something the Arachnids would come up with. You wouldn't believe some of the different types of bugs they have."
I moved on, but Sam came up to me, "Hey, why did you leave so soon, Sarah Jane?"
"Conversation was a bit grim for my taste."
"Come on, weren't you and I comparing notes the other day on the Goa'uld and the Osirians?"
"I still say that your Goa'uld were aping the Osirians."
"You may be right. Anyway, how is that any different from this?"
"It's not. I suppose it's just hearing so many different histories filled with the same sorts of terrors. I mean, you and that new lot were just talking about machine horrors from a hand's full of timelines. Ripley and Dizzy are over there comparing notes on some sort of insect aliens. Even Beverly and I were talking about cyborg horrors the other day - Cybermen and Borg. Talk about two sides of the same coin! It's just all a bit depressing."
"Well, I guess that's so, Sarah Jane. On the other hand, look at how many times humanity has risen above all that, beaten their oppressors, turned our eyes to the stars. I'm glad to hear that humanity is doing so well in other histories."
"I know, I know. I suppose I'm just a bit on edge, wondering."
"When the other shoe is going to drop."
After lunch, the whole complement of Nike assembled on the Bridge to continue work. By the end of the Nike ‘afternoon’, we were ready for a briefing on the findings thus far since the morning.
Dr. Crusher started the presentation.
“First, I’d like to thank everyone for giving me permission to discuss aspects of their physical examinations with the rest of Nike’s ‘guests’. As we hypothesized earlier, the Nike pattern of arrivals has continued; all human, all women, and all pregnant with full human pregnancies. For some of you, these statements may sound obvious or redundant, but several of us are from places where other humanoids than human are encountered, and where cross species pregnancies are not unheard of. I know some have been worried about these pregnancies being the work of our abductors. I cannot promise that they are not. What I can tell you, without going into detail, is the following. There are several pregnancies that were known about prior to arrival on Nike where the features of these pregnancies are, as best we can ascertain, remain consistent with the pregnancies as experienced prior to transport here. Further, those among us who did not know themselves to be pregnant prior to arrival have confirmed that it is at least theoretically possible that they could have become pregnant in the time period necessary to be at their stage of pregnancy. All the pregnancies thus far appear to be in good condition for their stage of development, and I have not been able to detect anything amiss in them.
Now then, I know some of you have asked about proving paternity, and options to carrying these pregnancies. Nike does not appear to have any medical records from people other than those who have already appeared – and yes, we seem to have some medical records from our respective worlds, much like we have our home libraries and other written and media materials from home available on Nike. Again, all I can confirm is that these pregnancies are all human to the best of my ability to determine. As to the options regarding pregnancy, I have advised all of you that only a few days on arrival in a strange environment is really a poor venue to be making permanent decisions. However, not all of you may be aware of the option that Cordelia Vorkosigan and Honor Harrington asked to investigate, namely the availability of extrauterine incubation devices. I can confirm that Nike is more than capable of providing these, and of the transfer, even earlier than we would expect from similar technology from some of our worlds. I can transfer any pregnancy at any time to one of these devices. Depending on how long we are trapped here on Nike, this may become important. “
Starbuck interjected from her seat, “Frak yeah! Sign me up for one of those!”
Beverly waited for the disruption to pass, though I could see that there were a few women nodding their heads in agreement with that sentiment.
“With regard to our general physical conditions, overall we appear to have arrived on Nike in the same shape as we were the day before, at least by history. Granted, our memories could have been altered to reflect those, but I would be baffled as to the reason why unless it was to convince us we had been transported ‘unaltered’. However, there is one glaring hole in that theory – the language I am now speaking. I believe that it is not the effect of a universal translator or a psychic translation device, but that our actual brains have been implanted with that knowledge. Some of the failures of translation of ‘colorful language’ suggested this, as different hemispheres of the brain are involved for normal language and cursing. I am reviewing the initial brain scans that were part of your initial Nike examinations, but there is so far very little I have been able to find that supports an alteration. On the other hand, I was not specifically looking for this sort of procedure at the time, and I am planning to make more detailed scans on some of us to see if I can find that evidence.
There is one other important item from the medical scans. I have had previous experience with examining people from alternate universes from my service on board Enterprise. We used quantum signatures at that time to confirm that such individuals were indeed from different universes than our own. We all have different quantum signatures from each other, confirming our impressions from comparing our stories that we are not of the same universe. Dr. Carter, would you take the briefing from there?”
Beverly sat down as Sam stood up to address the assembled women.
“I will come back to Dr. Crusher’s analysis of our origins in alternate universes in a little bit. However, before that, I’d like to address our energy and supply situation. Nike, and it would appear, all her ships, work on a form of Zero Point Energy taps. Zero Point Energy is inherent to the vacuum, and is always there. As I've mentioned to some of you, an incredibly advanced race called the Ancients from my universe had technology that could store energy taken from the base energy of the universe. We called these storage systems Zero Point Modules and they could store massive amounts of energy, but were limited in that they could not be recharged, and we did not know how to make new ones. These 'ZPT's on the other hand, are more like the ultimate refinement of an Ancient research project to create a way of continuously drawing energy from the vacuum of space; we called it Project Arcturus. What all this basically means is that Nike and any of her ships have an inexhaustible continuous energy supply. The size of the ZPT seems to place an upper limit on how much energy can be drawn at any one time, thus Nike's has the largest and most powerful ZPT's, whereas the fighters have the smallest. This technology was known to generate dangerous exotic particles, but I am guessing that Nike is shunting those into an alternate universe or dimension. One of my colleagues, Dr. McKay attempted to deal with the exotic particle issue in a similar way, but unfortunately his project was shunting these highly dangerous particles into an inhabited alternate reality, and thus had to be stopped."
Carter continued. "The supply situation is directly linked to our energy availability. As you all have now had the chance to experience, Nike is equipped with energy to matter converters, what people from Beverly's universe call 'replicators'. We checked and it appears that both Nike and her ships have these available. With them we can synthesize food, water, clothes, tools, pretty much anything we know the basic structure for, and there are a lot of items from our home worlds in Nike's databases. So, we have all the energy we could want, and essentially limitless supplies. As we reviewed in the briefing this morning, we also have very powerful means of transportation, both of Nike herself as well as her ships, that allows for multiple means of faster than light travel. What we don't have is a destination."
Sam Carter paused, then pressed on.
"As you heard from Dr. Crusher, we all are from different universes, attested to both by our memories and the quantum signature differences found in our examinations. However, different universes may not be the best way to describe where we are from. Rather, we are all from different versions of the same universe, or if you prefer, different branches of the same universe. The similarities in our histories also show this, and the quantum signatures relate in a fashion that bolsters this theory.
Now then, we know of a cosmological 'fingerprint' from the earliest observable time in the history of the universe. In my world, we call this the 'Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation'. It is fairly uniform, but there are minor differences that are distinct. Nike has records of this from several of our universes, and they all match. Nike also has very good sensors, and I was able to construct an image of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation in Nike's universe - and it doesn't match. This implies that the universe we currently occupy branched off of our own at an extremely early period in cosmic evolution, or....this isn't even a related universe. Dr. Crusher and I then worked together to analyze the quantum signature of materials on Nike, and they are so different from any of ours that this seems to confirm that this is either a very early branch of our universe, or in my opinion, a completely different universe. Needless to say, if this is so, it is going to make getting home again even more challenging."
Sam took a few questions, then introduced our next presenter.
"Now, we'll have Lady Jessica address us on the situation with regard to arrivals."
Jessica Atreides stood up and swept forward in her black robes.
"As we all know, the population on Nike stands at fifteen. The first arrival, Sarah Jane Smith, was alone that first day. The next day two more people joined her. The third day, four women arrived. And today, eight women have appeared in our midst. We have been unable to ascertain a pattern as to what room people are appearing in; the best we can say is that they seem to be evenly distributed through Nike's space. As some of you already noted, there seems to be a numeric progression, an exponential growth in new arrivals we now believe. Every day, 2^d new arrivals seem to appear, with the day Sarah Jane arriving being day zero. We believe we can prove this and know how long it will continue. A count of the number of rooms listed on Nike's schematics reveals that there are 2047 rooms on Nike. This is precisely the number of rooms that would be needed for each new arrival if the pattern continues for a total of 11 days, ending on day 10 if we count Sarah Jane's arrival as day 0. Now, there could be some reason for Nike to deviate from that pattern in the future, for example, if Nike is meant to house that number and then the abductors start filling every available sleeping space on the ships, or if once they've filled up every room, they start giving us all roommates. However, I believe that there is another good reason to believe that the populating of Nike will stop at that 2047 number. From my own training and confirmed by Dr. Crusher, 2000 is roughly the number of individuals necessary to provide a genetically stable breeding population. I do not believe this number is a coincidence, especially given that we are all pregnant. To me, this speaks of a particular interest in our abductors in breeding. Again, this is something with which I have some experience." On this last, Jessica gave a wry smile, one of the rare expressions I had seen on her well-schooled features.
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
Another day on Nike. I was beginning to become nervous. Would any of us be able to find our way back home? It seemed so impossible - but then again, how many other impossible situations had I lived through, persevered against? Too many to count. And part of me still expected him to show up in that anachronism of a blue box, to save the day when nothing else could; despite all the years I have been saving the day for myself.
Oh well, back to attempting to beat the odds. Another early awakening. Our more technologically savvy women had instructed Nike to develop internal sensors in all the rooms to record the moment of any new arrival.
We again assembled in the commissary, though this time Jessica had set up a slightly different system. As the new arrivals were guided in, they found new tablets awaiting them with what amounted to personnel forms ready for them to fill out. Once done, they would come to Jessica's tablet for revision. It was a bit impersonal compared to our previous modus operendi, but I could see the logic behind it, and too soon we might need this sort of efficiency. Sixteen new women had arrived on Nike, right on schedule. Another group of strong, smart women, by the looks of them. I also had a copy of the personnel forms. Beverly gave me a start when she called out, "Thank goodness!" Beverly called out to the new arrivals, "Dr. Helena Russell?"
A cool blonde woman stood up, "That's me, and you are?"
Beverly smiled, "Oh, a fellow Luney! Dr. Beverly Crusher, chief medical officer, USS Enterprise."
The woman named Helena smiled back, "And you already know my name and position as chief medical officer of Moonbase Alpha. What can I do for you, Doctor?"
"Grab a breakfast to go. You and I are going to the infirmary where I will get you checked out on Nike's medical systems. As you heard in the briefing, we're afraid we're going to have a lot more company on Nike, and now I have you to share the examination duties with. Come, Doctor!"
Helena Russell gave a faint smile, "As you wish, Doctor."
Shortly thereafter, Sam Carter came into the commissary.
"How did the sensor sweep go?"
Sam made a face. "It didn't. At the moment of arrival, the power in the rooms where they appeared cut off. Trinity says it was externally triggered, not a preset code or instruction. We are going to try to set up some alternatives, but today's a bust in terms of figuring out how we're getting placed here."
I sighed rather heavily, probably too dramatic, but I was feeling a bit deflated.
I started reviewing the new arrival list again, and then something caught my eye - another journalist in our midst. "Oh ho, Beverly, you are not the only one who gets some aid!" I scanned the group of women, "Dale Arden, please step forward."
Kara was now an 'old timer' by Nike standards. She had her tablet set to flag any newcomers with fighter experience. When the tablet flashed a personnel page in front of her, she saw the names 'Athena' and 'Adama' first, not even reading the rest. She dropped the tablet and scanned the room for signs of the Cylon, but no one even looked close. Confused, she called out, "Okay, who in the name of the gods is going by Athena?"
A beautiful brunette stood up, "That would be me, I'm Athena. Who are you?"
"Kara Thrace. You're not who I was expecting. How do you know old man Adama?"
Athena had a disapproving look on her face as she retorted, "Commander Adama is my father."
"Father? Bill Adama doesn't have a daughter. What are you playing at?"
"I don't know what you mean by this 'Bill' word. But I assure you that Adama is my father. And who are you to tell me who my own father is?"
Kara swept up the tablet and read a bit further, "This is all frakked up. This says you are from Battlestar Galactica, that you're fleeing the Cylons who destroyed the 12 Colonies. Well, I'm CAG on Galactica, commanded by Bill Adama, and we're fleeing the Cylons after they destroyed the 12 Colonies. And I don't know you. I've been close to the Adamas forever, and I don't know you. So who the frak are you really and why are you trying to pull such an obvious scam?" Kara pulled her phaser on the new arrival.
Jessica stood up and demanded of Kara, "Starbuck, what is all this?"
Athena's face hardened, "You're not Starbuck. Why is this woman calling you Starbuck?"
Kara sneered, "That's my call-sign, like you don't know. Just as Athena is the call-sign for the old man's pet skinjob, so why are you using it as your name, eh? Are you another Cylon playing games?"
Athena barely seemed to notice the weapon pointed at her, "Do I look like a Cylon, you nut! Big shiny Centurions don't look human."
"Some Cylons look very human."
Jessica spoke in a voice that brooked no argument, "Everyone sit down." Much to Kara's surprise, she did, as did the new arrival, and in fact everyone in the room who had stood at the outburst. In a quieter voice, she spoke to Kara, "Starbuck, please put the phaser away. She has offered no violence. Let's have Dr. Crusher examine her, and if she is human, maybe Dr. Carter can figure this out. Maybe she is from an alternate timeline close to your own."
Starbuck put up the phaser, "Maybe. Okay, we'll do that - but in the meantime, I'm not letting her out of my sight."
"Very well. Princess Leia, would you accompany Starbuck and our new arrival to the infirmary?"
Leia gave her assent and the three of them were off.
Wilma Deering approached the other woman indicated as having significant space fighter experience in the personnel forms. She shook her head, not even starting to know what had gotten into Starbuck earlier. An incredible pilot, she had to admit, but a loose cannon for certain.
Wilma approached the brunette indicated in the personnel form, "Captain Shane Vansen, United States Marine Corps?"
"Colonel Wilma Deering, Earth Defense Directorate. I've heard good things about Marine flyers of your time from a friend of mine."
Another woman, very pregnant, approached the two, "Did I hear you say US Marine Corps over here? Sorry to interrupt. I'm Captain Kaitlin Garroway, also with the Marine Corps, 21st century edition."
Captain Vansen looked over to her fellow Marine Captain, "Good to hear it. I'm with the 58th Squadron, the Wild Cards, on offworld deployment fighting the Chigs."
Garroway did a double take, "I'm sorry, but I've never heard of your unit, nor anyone called Chigs."
Wilma allowed the two to do the inevitable comparing of notes, and it was soon obvious that they were from very different 21st centuries to each other, and indeed to anything of which Wilma had heard.
"Captain Garroway, I hope you will excuse me, but I was hoping to take Captain Vansen down to the hanger to check her out on the space fighters we have found on Nike."
"Of course, of course. Captain Vansen, we will have to compare notes further at a later time."
Jessica was continuing to process the new arrivals when one of them stepped forward. She walked erect without being stiff, a tall, slim woman with gray eyes and white-blonde hair. She was young appearing, but her eyes looked old.
"I understand you're in charge of this processing, Lady Jessica."
"That's correct, um."
"Amanda Morgan is my name, Fal Morgan on the Dorsai. I have some experience organizing people. I'd like to offer my assistance."
With the name supplied, Jessica was quickly able to bring up the personnel form for Amanda Morgan. Jessica smiled.
"I think we can use you."
Dale and I returned to the commissary after sharing our respective CVs. Mungo sounded like a real mixed bag. Dale had consented to help with keeping a record of the doings on Nike, which would be a real aid since Honor and Susan had worked out shifts to man Nike 24 hours a day, even with our small (but growing!) complement. We approached Jessica and a tall woman with hair so blonde it was nearly white.
"Hello, Sarah Jane, meet Amanda Morgan, of the Dorsai. Who is your new arrival?"
"Hello yourself. Lady Jessica, meet Dale Arden of the United States, lately of Mungo, and a fellow journalist."
Jessica greeted Dale and then looked down at another personnel file and then back up to me, all business, "Sarah Jane, we may have a problem. Would you be so kind as to take one of our new arrivals and escort her to Admiral Harrington? I'm not certain how some of our fellow arrivals will react to her. I am not certain how I will, quite frankly."
"Who, Jessica, and why?"
She pointed at a name on her tablet. "Her. And if her own report is to be believed, she is one of the creators of thinking machines in her world."
I thought about women like Starbuck and Sarah Connor, and yes, even Jessica. I repressed a shudder."
"Yes, might be best if I did. Dale, will you start taking notes here with Jessica while I see to this."
Both Dale and this new woman, Amanda, seemed a bit confused by the whole exchange, but let it pass. I called out, "Susan Calvin."
A small woman with a plain but strong face stood up, "Yes."
"My name is Sarah Jane Smith. Would you be so kind as to accompany me?"
This new Susan seemed a bit suspicious, but shrugged and followed.
On the way, I called Beverly on my communications badge, another tool we adopted from Beverly's Federation. "Beverly, I know you are going to be quite busy once Jessica sorts through the new people, but could you join Honor and I for a short interview with one of our new arrivals?
Beverly responded, but sounded a bit harried, "Um, I'm wrapping up something here, but I'll do my best."
Beverly ended the combadge discussion and replied to Starbuck, "Yes, Captain Thrace, she is human."
Kara seemed less than settled, "These skinjobs can pass as human, Doc. How can you be sure?"
"Starbuck, from everything you've told me over the past few days, it would seem that Federation medical science is far ahead of that of your Colonies, would you agree?"
"Well, yeah. You've got Doc Cottle beat, Beverly, you know that."
"So let me assure, you, I have scanned this woman to the subatomic level and she is as human as anyone, including you and me."
Starbuck seemed about to bring up another point, but then thought better of it, "Okay. It just is frakkin' weird, Doc. She says things that are so close to what I know, but it's all scrambled together somehow."
"Why don't you and Athena sit down and try to unscramble it, then? I have to go; Sarah Jane and Honor need me."
"Okay, Doc. I'll do that."
Princess Leia gave a surprisingly stern look at Starbuck, "Can I stop babysitting you now, Starbuck? I swear you're as bad as Han."
Kara sneered, "Fine, your Highness! You can go and take care of something important. I'm done making a fool of myself for today."
Leia sighed, "I hope you're correct, Captain."
Athena came out of the exam room.
Kara swallowed then spoke, "Lieutenant Athena, I think I owe you an apology."
Athena stood there for a moment, "This is all just too much, Captain Thrace. I guess I can forgive you, especially under the circumstances."
Kara gave a lopsided grin, "You can call me Starbuck."
Athena seemed to get a bit pale, "No, I really can't."
"Oh, yeah. You have your own Starbuck where you're from. A man, right?"
"Yeah, a man - and the presumed father of my child, now that I know I'm pregnant."
We met with Honor in a conference room type affair off the Bridge area. Honor sat there, rubbing her chin.
“So, Lady Jessica felt it necessary for me to meet with Dr. Calvin over her background in robotics?”
I nodded, “Yes.”
Dr. Calvin spoke for herself, “I am not certain that I entirely understand the problem here, Ms. Smith.”
“Dr. Calvin, as you learned in the morning briefing, we’ve all been brought here from disparate histories. Several of the women here have arrived from timelines where machines have turned against the human race. Some of them have lost loved ones over it. While Lady Jessica herself did not, she was aware of this, and in fact is from a far future world where a holy war was fought to destroy and forbid any advanced computer system. It’s actually engrained in their religious beliefs.”
Susan Calvin sat there considering, “Positronics and robopsychology ensured that robots could not, literally could not, harm or by inaction allow harm, to a human being. Where I am from, human children are raised by robots in complete confidence in their safety. I can say with some pride that I have had some part in that.”
Beverly added, “One of my shipmates, Commander Data, was an android with a positronic brain. I can honestly say he was one of the best people I have ever known. He gave his life to protect Jean-Luc….Captain Picard.”
Calvin interjected, “You make my point.”
Beverly held up a hand, “Not quite, Dr. Calvin. Data had a brother, an earlier android named Lore. He was the most duplicitous, genocidal individual I have known. The only physical difference between them was an emotion chip. Lore had it; Data didn’t – though Data did eventually get to experiment with emotions.”
Calvin nodded, “Well, there was their manufacturer’s first mistake – giving human emotion to machines created to serve. Or rather, the first mistake was not hardwiring rules such as the three rules of robotics into their positronic brains.”
Honor enquired, “And what are those, Dr. Calvin?”
Susan recited them as if she herself were programmed with them.
“The Third Law of Robotics – A robot must preserve its existence, unless such preservation conflicts with the second or the first law of robotics. The Second Law of Robotics – A robot must follow the orders of any human, unless following such orders conflicts with the first law of robotics. The First Law of Robotics – A robot must not harm or by inaction allow harm, to a human.”
Honor pressed further, “And what would happen if a robot violated one of the laws?”
Susan Calvin gave a weak smile, “Not possible. The robot’s brain would literally seize up if a robot even thought they were in danger of violating one of the three laws, especially the first law.”
Beverly seemed taken aback by that, “That is slavery of a sentient being, Dr. Calvin!”
Susan sighed, “Not really, Dr. Crusher. I am more comfortable with robots than I am with humans, if I am being honest, but in the end they are preprogrammed machines, at least the ones from my world. This Data of yours may have been something else yet again – there were hints in our research that true full sentience was possible, but the machines of my time did not achieve it.”
Honor turned to me, “What do you think, Sarah Jane? Enough to keep the peace?”
I thought for the moment, “Quite likely. Beverly, do you accept Dr. Calvin’s explanation of the differences between the robots she worked with and your Data?”
Beverly warily replied, “I don’t know that it matters much in the present situation, but I will take Dr. Calvin’s word for it.”
Honor nodded, “Good enough for me. And for what it is worth, Dr. Calvin, I believe you to be completely sincere in your convictions.”
Susan Calvin nodded, “Thank you, Admiral Harrington.”
We assembled for Samantha Carter's latest scheme.
"When our newest arrivals appeared this morning, we attempted to monitor the event with internal sensors. Unfortunately, we learned from this only that the power cuts out briefly in the room where the person is appearing."
So much Sam had told me earlier.
"So we're going to have to try something else. We've cobbled together a design for a portable sensor that has its own power supply. Our hope is that these will stay functioning."
I asked, "How are we to know where to place the sensors? Has anyone figured out a pattern to the appearances?"
"No, no pattern other than the arrivals are evenly dispersed throughout the living quarters. We are going to plant them in one sector of the rooms. Since we believe there will be thirty-two new arrivals tomorrow, if we cover a contiguous section 1/32nd of the total, we should capture at least one event."
A new arrival, Valentine Wiggin, asked, "So we need to place sixty-four of these devices before tomorrow?"
"Yes. So about two per person to place."
Valentine spoke again, "Then let's get started."
By the end of the day, we ended up placing three sensors each - that way we'd cover about a section and a half of what we thought would have an arrival, improving our odds of not missing a 'fringe' arrival in the section Sam had indicated for us to track.
Sam was exhausted after the marathon manufacture and placement of the sensors. Kaylee had been a huge help in assembling the devices - they had not fully trusted the replicators for this job, so wanted a human in the loop to make certain no chicanery worked its way into the sensors. But now Starbuck and a new arrival named Athena wanted to meet with her.
"Okay, so what's up, Starbuck?
Athena made the slightest of flinches at the name Starbuck, but Sam hardly noticed.
"Well, Sam, it's like this. Athena and I have been comparing histories, and it's just odd. For example, we both have Cylons in our worlds. But Athena's Cylons are machines that were created by an alien, reptilian race. The Cylons I know were created by humans and rebelled against us."
Sam thought, "Well, couldn't Cylons just be a word that a race of autonomous robots would likely be called in your worlds?"
Athena shook her head, "Not likely. And when I showed Captain Thrace pictures of the Cylons from my library files, she recognized them as being what her Cylons looked like some 50 years before. She showed me Cylons from her history and they were the same to me, too."
Sam shrugged, "A convergent history, then? We've already identified that Earth and humanity seem to be a common point in many of the timelines, but with wildly different interstellar neighbors. Maybe these Cylons are some sort of additional convergent factor, though we haven't seen them in other timelines."
Starbuck was skeptical, "Maybe, but why are all the names, even the positions, so close together. Why do both timelines have Adamas in command of Battlestar Galactica? Even if one is native Caprican, and the other the son of Tauron immigrants, that is just frakkin' freaky. Or how about my call name is Starbuck and Lee Adama's is Apollo, but Athena in her timeline knows someone actually named Starbuck and her Adama's son is named Apollo, not just their call signs?"
"I just don't know, Starbuck, it does seem like too many coincidences for chance, which makes me think that our 'hosts' picked you two in part for the fact that there are these similarities in your timelines. If we imagine every possible outcome actually happening someplace, then there are bound to be histories that are divergent, yet share by sheer chance some similarities like this. But I think it does suggest that your timelines must have been sought out for these similarities. It is just too much to believe you both happened to arrive here by chance."
Athena nodded, whereas Starbuck still seemed dissatisfied.
Starbuck grunted, "Still doesn't explain the why."
Sam Carter could only agree.
Wilma Deering and Susan Ivanova sat in the duty office off the bridge of Nike.
"So, Colonel Deering, how do the new arrivals shake out in terms of pilots?"
"We have a few more with starship experience, Susan. Lieutenant Athena has some training as a fighter pilot. She's the one Thrace had the incident with in the commissary. They seem to have worked things out, but quite frankly, Athena would need more training before I'd send her on patrol."
Susan Ivanova thumbed through the personnel file on her tablet, "I see she had bridge experience on this Battlestar Galactica."
Wilma nodded, "Yes. I spoke with her about that. She has extensive experience in bridge ops. I think she'd be best used with you and Honor here on the Nike bridge or one of the big starships if we ever actually use one. That also means her and Starbuck won't be running into each other all the time."
Susan nodded, "Agreed. I have another one with space station command experience, this Jackie Lappariere, but that's really about for station ops among the new arrivals. What about the others?"
Wilma smiled, "Captain Shane Vansen. Did you meet her yet?"
"Briefly at lunch. A Marine flyer, right?"
"Yes. She's the real deal, as my old friend Buck would say. Superior starfighter pilot. I am definitely keeping her."
Wilma sighed, "The others have a wide range in terms of flight experience. This Ana Khouri has some flight experience, but all subluminal, and it sounds as if it was with some sort of autonomous computer system. She really has more experience with infantry and special forces type tactics."
"Maybe use her for station security and scouting expeditions?" Ivanova offered?
"That's my thought." Wilma agreed, then moved on, "Jenna Stannis has some pretty decent pilot and navigation skills, but really on bigger classes of ships. We can use her as a fighter pilot if need be, but I think she would be better utilized on one of the bigger ships."
Susan nodded. She knew both of them were dancing around the question of whether they'd be stuck here in the Nike universe long enough to use those ships. She hoped they wouldn't need them, but she feared they would. Ivanova was never known for her optimism.
"We'll tell Honor she'd be good for the ships rather than the fighters. Next?"
"Beka Valentine. More of a freighter captain than anything else, but she has been part of a warship bridge crew - again, highly automated. You might want her to help augment station ops, but I think she'd be better on one of the ships."
Susan gave a wry grin, "Think our captors are giving us a hint they want us to take a ship or two out there soon?"
Wilma shrugged, "Maybe, or maybe we're just trying to find patterns in everything, even when they aren't there."
Susan replied, "No, they're there. We're not that lucky."
Dinner in the commissary was becoming a noisy affair. Those of us who weren't on duty on Nike's Bridge were there. We 'old timers' by all of a few days were seated interspersed with our latest arrivals from this morning. I had thoroughly enjoyed trading stories with the American journalist, Dale Arden, but she was on the bridge keeping track of things. I was playing host to the two newcomers on either side of me, whom I had not yet become acquainted with. The woman to my right was very obviously pregnant.
"So, Marygay, this war you were in sounds as if it lasted a very long time. I am quite amazed that you were still able to find your husband after all that time and space. However, I am glad to hear it worked out in the end."
"That's why I need to get back home, Sarah Jane."
"We all do, we all do." Sarah Jane gestured to the redhead on her other side, "Marygay Potter-Mandella, have you met Loreli Lee Long?"
After dinner, Honor met with Starbuck in her room.
"Starbuck, Kara, you don't have to do this, you know."
"I know, but you even said it. We need more information about the systems around us."
Honor nodded, conceding the point.
"We need a preliminary reconnaissance. We aren't ready for full scouting, not yet. These star fighters have amazing range. Admiral, I've done long range recon before."
Honor rubbed the side of her nose, "Somehow I get the feeling you're more informing me than asking for permission." Honor held up her hand, "You don't need to say anything, Kara. You're right. Go with my blessing, whether you think you need it or not."
Starbuck grinned, "I won't let you down." Starbuck went to get up, but Honor motioned for her to wait.
"Kara, before you go, have you considered what to do about your pregnancy? Women in the Manticoran Navy often tubed their pregnancies before going on active duty. I seem to recall you making some favorable comment about the practice yesterday."
Kara Thrace actually blushed, "I've been thinking about it, but....I don't know that it would be the right thing to do, I mean for me. I may still, but I want to wait, read through the scrolls some more - um, that's the religious writings of the colonies, Honor."
"I understand. Whatever is right for you and yours, Kara."
There was no light when the door opened. She had seen to it that the hall lights were out so as not to give her away.
She stepped into the room without a sound, weapon pointed towards the bed. Something was wrong, though. Even in the dark, she could tell it was unoccupied.
"So now what do we do, Admiral Harrington? If that is your real name?"
Honor was standing in the corner, holding her phaser at the ready, "It is. Drop the weapon, Ann, is it?"
"Yeah," she said as she swung around while ducking faster than a person should be able.
It might have been a close thing, even with Honor having her in her sights, but the other phaser from the hall hit her would-be assailant, stunning her first. However, it wasn't until Honor's own phaser fire struck that she actually went down.
"Liar," said Honor. She turned to see another of the new arrivals, a trim woman with thick dark hair and Eurasian features, standing in the hall as the light came back on, "Paula Myo, yes?"
Paula nodded, "Yes, Admiral Harrington. I thought she might try something. She's been lying to everyone and mistrustful of everything since we all arrived this morning. She made a neat job of disabling the lock and alarm you had on the door. I'm surprised you knew she was there."
Honor smiled a bit, "I had a feeling. I suppose we should restrain her."
Paula nodded, "I suppose so."
The assailant was another new arrival, a buxom blonde. She woke up chained to a chair. "Damn."
Honor quirked an eyebrow, "Indeed. So, what's your real name?"
Honor and Paula said at the same time, "Wrong."
Their prisoner took a deep breath, "Double damn. Fine, Cally. You can call me Cally O'Neal. That's the name I was born with."
Honor gave a weak smile, "Better. So why were you paying me an evening visit?"
Cally shrugged, "Wanted to find out if you were working for the Darhel."
Honor asked, "What's a Darhel?"
Cally smiled, "That almost seemed genuine. Everyone around here seems to be deferring to you, so I figured you were the most likely to be in league with the Darhel. How did you know I was coming?"
Honor flushed ever so slightly, "Heard you coming."
Cally smiled even wider, "Now that is comforting. You're lousy at lying."
Honor shrugged, "That's true. So let me make this clear. I am not working for anyone. I have never heard of any Darhel. I am just trying to get home, and help others do likewise. Is that clear?"
Cally nodded, "Didn't sound like a lie that time, so maybe so. Question is, what are you going to do with me now?"
Honor rubbed her chin, "That is the question. How about you? Are you working for our abductors?"
Honor pressed, "And can I trust you not to turn against us if I let you go?"
Cally was quiet for a time, "Yes. If you want to get home, I'm all for that."
Paula spoke for the first time since Cally awoke, "Probably true."
Honor nodded, "Probably."
Cally looked at them both, "You are two scary ladies."
Honor genuinely smiled this time, "Right back at you."
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
The day started out with some success this time! Dale contacted me on the communicator to inform me that an arrival had been caught by a remote sensor. I was elated and hoped Samantha could make something of it all. Maybe this would bring me one step closer to Luke!
Thirty-two women had arrived, as predicted. We gathered again in the commissary, though we were already looking into other greeting areas for when the numbers increased - assuming we couldn't stop the 'Nike experience' before more arrived.
Lady Jessica led a group of us, assisted primarily by Princess Leia, Cordelia Vorkosigan, and a new woman from the day before, Amanda Morgan. I was keeping a record here, while Dale had duty on the bridge - I would relieve her in the afternoon. I rather liked meeting the new arrivals; the novelty of it helped keep my mind off our situation. Drs. Crusher and Russell were standing by as part of the initial briefing and greeting, but after that they would go to the infirmary to start our initial examinations. They had already had one examination early this morning before the arrivals. Apparently one of our arrivals from yesterday had been a bit paranoid about her predicament and rather ingenious in forging an identity and managed to miss being examined by convincing each doctor that the other had done the exam. Cheeky girl, that Cally, but quite frankly I could hardly blame her under the circumstances.
The new arrivals had just started assembling when Beverly cried out, "Tasha! Tasha Yar!"
A woman with short blonde hair and wary brown eyes rushed to her side, "Dr. Crusher, what is all this? How are you here? I went back in time, through the rift, but you were still on Enterprise."
I noticed that the woman looked to have been through a fight, somewhat like Ellen Ripley's condition on arriving, all bruised and scraped. Now Beverly looked even more confused, "What are you talking about, Tasha? Oh, but it is good to see you again!"
Tasha went on, "What about the Romulans? Or the Klingons for that matter!"
Beverly seemed even more confused, "Neither of them here, Tasha, just us humans. I'll take you to the infirmary, check you out. You look really banged up, Tasha. I'll fill you in on the way." She turned to Dr. Russell, "Helena, would you take over here for me?"
As they walked, a gnawing suspicion grew in Beverly. "Tasha, you were talking about a rift in time. Where were you before you arrived on Nike?"
"A Romulan ship. Captured after the fight on Enterprise-C with the Romulans at the Klingon outpost, Narendra III. How did our Enterprise escape those three Klingon warbirds?"
"Tasha, I don't know how to put this, but I don't think we're from the same timelines."
"What do you mean?"
"Tasha, I don't remember you going back in time. What I do remember is you being killed by some thing on an away mission."
Tasha stopped, "An empty death."
"Well, yes, it was. How would you..."
"Something Guinan said. She said that the Enterprise-C wasn't supposed to be there, that I wasn't supposed to be there. Hell, she seemed to think the whole war with the Klingons was a mistake."
"It was. Tasha, we weren't at war with the Klingons. We did meet someone who told us a wild story about you being captured by Romulans years before. It seems that was true. I think I am from the timeline you and Enterprise-C corrected."
The reunion between Dr. Crusher and this Tasha Yar had been both perplexing and heartwarming. I hadn't been able to follow all of it, but it was clear they knew each other. This was the first time that I was aware of where any of us had recognized a new arrival. The closest before this had been the strange similarities between the timelines of Lieutenant Athena and Starbuck. However, their apparent confusion at seeing each other and the circumstances under which they had last parted made me think that they were from different points in time, or perhaps again, from different timelines, though obviously much closer than any others we had seen.
Until she walked into the commissary.
"Sarah Jane? Sarah Jane Smith? It is you, isn't it?"
It took me a moment to recognize her. While our brief encounters previously had been memorable ones, she was now very obviously pregnant....pregnant....
"Rose? Rose Tyler? Is that really you?"
"Last I checked. Sarah Jane, am I back in my old universe, or are you in my new one?"
I checked my shock, "Neither, dear. Come and sit down. We've almost everyone and the briefing will start. It will bring you up to snuff on what's going on, and then I'll be happy to answer any questions you have."
"Sure. I'd love to get off my feet. Not quite up to chasing about with Cybermen right now, am I?"
"I suppose not. No need to worry, none of those about."
"Oh, something must be about if you're here, Sarah Jane."
"Speak for yourself, young lady! I seem to recall you following trouble about, even across universes."
"Not lately, though!"
"I should think not." I gave her a brief hug, "Oh, but it is good to see a familiar face. Hush now, the briefing is about to start."
I sat down next to Rose, holding her hand. I had conflicting emotions seeing Rose again, especially in her condition. There was no doubt in my mind who the father must be - then again, knowing that, maybe there was real hope now for assistance from out of the blue.
The briefing began, but after a while I noticed something - the count was off. Jessica had started the briefing before the last new arrival had entered the commissary! I had wondered at the delay in starting the briefing when settling down with Rose.
I caught Jessica's eye, and she came over to us,
"Jessica, this is Rose Tyler, late of my own Earth, but most recently resident of an alternate Earth."
Jessica nodded in acknowledgement, as did Rose, who was absorbed in the details of the briefing. I whispered to Jessica, "Where is our thirty-second?"
Jessica replied in a likewise quiet voice, "Missing. Nike registered her arrival, but no sign since. Honor sent that Paula Myo to find her. She just reported back that she thought the new arrival was hiding, and that we should proceed."
"Lovely, just lovely."
Honor sat on the bridge of Nike. "Report."
Samantha Carter started, "The independent sensors worked. We're definitely dealing with a combination of some sort of beaming technology, similar to what the Asgard gave us in my timeline and what Beverly says they had in her timeline, as well as some sort of subatomic rift in n-dimensional space, what Beverly calls subspace. The opening of the rift is apparently quite energetic; I wouldn't want to be in the room when that happens, and that may be why Nike shuts off the power. The sensors did take damage from this, but we insulated them pretty well and they stood up. It's going to take a while to analyze the data fully. The bad news is that we there's no directionality in three dimensional space to the beam; it's not coming from anywhere around us, but literally from somewhere else in spacetime, maybe even another universe. The good news is we did figure out how the 'library' is getting its information on our worlds. Every time someone new is beamed in, there is a secondary beam that materializes a small data storage device into a recess behind the wall of the room that then hooks into Nike's data systems. So that's how it’s getting here."
"Why a data package? Why not beam it directly as a signal into Nike's systems?"
"Data compression. If you think of energy and information as roughly equivalent, and then think of matter as extremely dense energy; E=mc squared, after all, then it's a very efficient way to transmit the data in a very short period of time."
"Good to know. However, my priority is getting out of this universe. Can we reverse engineer the rift ripping technology from what we know so far?"
"I don't know. I don't think so. But then again, maybe someone else will bring the knowledge we need to do that. We'll know more once we've had time to fully study the sensor data, as well as go over the new arrivals' information."
"Speaking of which, what do we know of the missing new arrival?"
Trinity spoke, "I was able to hack her data package. There is very interesting medical information on someone referred to only as Linda or Linda-058. Part of an elite unit called Spartans or SPARTAN II. Lots of technical data."
Honor nodded, "So probably some sort of special forces. Might explain the disappearing act, especially depending on what she left behind. Paula having any luck locating her?"
Sam answered this time, "Actually, your midnight visitor Cally O'Neal suggested some ideas on Nike creating passive sensors in crawlspaces that I didn't even think someone could squeeze in, and we have her location - unless there's someone else we don't know about on Nike, we've got her pinpointed. What we're not sure is how to approach her without making things worse. Oh, and just to make things more fun, she seems to have some sort of weapon with her in there, and I don't think it's a stunner."
"Of course," Honor stood up and stated, "Well, let's be about it."
"Getting our latest visitor out of the walls." Honor Harrington marched off the bridge.
Beverly Crusher saw to Tasha's injuries and her overall Nike entry exam.
"Different timelines, definitely. The quantum signature confirms it."
"But you're so like the Dr. Crusher I know, at least as much as I can tell in the brief time we've been together."
"And you as well. But it's been a lot longer for me than you since we....since I last saw your alternate version."
"And the other thing, Doctor?"
"Very, very early. I had to use some more sophisticated tests to detect it, but yes, you too are pregnant."
"It has to be Castillo, the father, I mean, Lieutenant Richard Castillo, last surviving bridge officer of the Enterprise-C. We became - close in that frantic little time between the old Enterprise coming through the rift and its return to the fight. I hadn't been with anyone else in a very long time, Doctor."
"You don't have to explain anything to me, Tasha."
"No, I want to. He was sweet, and brave, and I want to remember him."
I whisked Rose down to Beverly Crusher in the infirmary after the briefing. While I was curious about the missing arrival, Rose was my first priority.
"So, what is he calling himself?"
I didn't really need to clarify who.
"Ha! That's typical."
We found Beverly finishing up with the new arrival she had recognized, Tasha Yar.
"Beverly, I have your next examinee. Beverly Crusher, meet Rose Tyler. Rose is, or rather was, from the same universe as my own, and also was a companion of the Doctor, my Time Lord friend."
Beverly took in a breathe, "Seems this is the day for reunions. Sarah Jane, Ms. Tyler, meet Lieutenant Tasha Yar, of the USS Enterprise, though not quite mine."
The blonde woman with the short hair nodded to us, "Doctor, where should I go from here?"
"Just stay here for a bit, then I'll escort you to the bridge."
Beverly turned back to us, "Well, let's see how you're doing, Rose. You seem to be fairly far along."
"You might say that, yeah."
"Sarah Jane, if you'll just wait out here?"
Rose made a face, "If it's all the same to you two, would it be okay for Sarah Jane to stay?"
I was a bit surprised by Rose's request, "Of course, whatever you'd like, dear."
Beverly nodded her assent as well.
"It's just that, every time I've had something bizarre like this happen to me, things can change quick, and us former TARDIS girls need to stick together, yeah?"
"Yes, quite right."
The exam seemed to go smoothly enough, or so Beverly kept reassuring us, but then she seemed to slow down, go into some more details on the scans than anything she had done with me.
"What is it, Beverly?"
"Sarah Jane, you both traveled through time on a regular basis, or so you told me. I picked up some trace temporal energy in Rose's scan, which I assumed was from that. Rose, first let me say that your baby is perfectly healthy, developing just fine, and perfectly human. However, in addition to the normal human DNA of your baby, intertwined with it almost like a third strand, is a strong temporal energy field. I can't explain it."
Rose swallowed, "Maybe, I dunno. I had the energy of a time traveler, yeah, but I also had the energy of the heart of the TARDIS in me at one time. He took that energy out of me, into himself, the Doctor did. And John, a human created from regeneration energy while in the TARDIS, is the father. I dunno, maybe one, maybe the other, maybe both? I wish the Doctor was here now; he might be able to explain it."
Honor approached the corridor where several others had assembled. Paula Myo and Cally O'Neal made an odd couple after last night, but the two seemed to be working together as if it hadn't even taken place. Several others were on scene as well to assist, including Ana Khouri and Sarah Connor. Joining the group at about the same time as Honor, Dale, and Trinity was Lady Jessica Atreides and Princess Leia Organa Solo.
Linda-058 watched them all from the narrow accessway. The shape she was contorted into to fit would have made people uncomfortable merely to look at, nevertheless obtain. Yet she still managed to have her weapon pointed at the converging women. All human, she noted, no Covenant species. So far intel checked out. She could have crawled farther into the bowels of Nike, made them come after her. However, the fact they were here now must mean they had a way to track her.
Jessica and Leia both offered to try to get the woman to come out, though both remained evasive as to how they would do so. Honor merely smiled - she knew those two would need to come forward someday with whatever it was that they could do, but now wasn't the time.
Honor disarmed herself visibly (though not literally), and stepped forward.
"Petty Officer Linda-058, I am Admiral Honor Alexander-Harrington of the Royal Manticoran Star Navy. We learned your name and rank by hacking into information loaded into the computer of this space station when you were brought here. I am neither your abductor nor your enemy. These women and I were abducted, just as you were this morning. The earliest of us arrived less than a week ago. Your reaction to the situation is understandable, but I need you to stand down. We will work together to escape this place and return home. In my world, the first duty of every prisoner is escape. As senior ranking officer among the abducted on this space station, it is my duty to plan that escape. I need your assistance, and I need you to stand down."
Linda-058 was interested. The uniformed officer had command presence, even if she appeared too young for flag rank. John, Master Chief, couldn't have said it better himself. Linda had to decide whether this was some psyop by the Covenant, or more likely a separatist group, or if these women were what they said and if so, whether it would be better to ally with them or to try to evade them and work alone. Alone had appeal, but would probably entail having to neutralize these women if she were to be left free to act against her abductors, again assuming they weren't one and the same.
Lady Jessica moved to stand beside Honor, but Princess Leia laid a hand on her arm, "Don't. I think our reluctant arrival is on the verge of a decision."
"Petty Officer, I do not have all day."
Linda-058 dropped to the floor of the corridor, gun held loosely at her side, "I keep the gun."
"Whatever it takes, Petty Officer. The Lady Jessica is assigned to process all new arrivals, please cooperate with her as much as you feel is allowed by your own military codes."
The Spartan nodded to the Admiral.
Doctor Helena Russell approached the group of women after the first new arrivals began to filter into the infirmary.
"Yes, Helena, what can I do for you?"
"I just reviewed the first batch of new arrivals to be examined, and I think there is one who you need to meet."
"I was just heading up to the Bridge for a bit before coming back to start exams, who is this you want me to see?"
Dr. Russell gestured to an attractive dark skinned woman who joined them.
"Dr. Crusher, this is Nyota, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. Her form says she is from the United States of Africa, in the United Federation of Planets, and is a member of Starfleet serving as communications officer on a USS Enterprise. That sounded to me like your world."
Both Crusher and Yar stood up to greet the newcomer, "It does indeed, but I don't know you, Lieutenant. I am chief medical officer from the USS Enterprise 1701-E, 24th century. This is Lieutenant Tasha Yar, also 24th century, but from an USS Enterprise 1701-D from an alternate universe to my own, though we served with parallel versions of each other. How about you?"
Uhura shook her head, "I guess we didn't do too badly if they kept the name and number in service so long. I serve on the USS Enterprise 1701, no letter, in the 23rd century."
Yar perked up a bit, "Would that have been under Captain James Tiberius Kirk?"
Uhura nodded, "Yes. I guess history recalls captains better than communications officers."
Beverly Crusher raised a hand, "Don't be too certain. I had the opportunity to meet Montgomery Scott, the original Enterprise's engineer. He spoke some about his old crew. Now that I'm thinking of it, I seem to recall him mentioning a fellow officer named Uhura."
"Scotty, eh? Yes, we served together. We both ended up joining the Enterprise permanently after the destruction of Vulcan."
Beverly and Tasha both exclaimed, "What?"
Honor Harrington, Susan Ivanova, Jessica Atreides, and Dale Arden sat in the side office off the bridge. Honor sipped at her cocoa.
"We need to change tactics."
Jessica sighed, "Obviously."
Ivanova snorted, "I'm surprised that we didn't have more trouble before this. Hell, I'm surprised no one has been shot yet."
"Well, someone already was shot, if only to stun, or did you forget Cally O'Neal?"
"Hardly, but then again, I don't really count being stunned as 'shot'."
Jessica said, "We could instruct Nike to restrict production of weapons, and to have the doors of new arrivals locked until we release them."
Honor shook her head, "That won't win trust. We're going to great pains to make it clear we are not their abductors, but that would make us their captors."
Susan suggested, "Split the difference? Lock out weapons at least until they've been through the orientation and we've had a chance to convince them we're not a threat, but keep the doors open."
Jessica asked, "But how do we guarantee they get the word?"
Dale looked up from her tablet where she'd been recording notes, "Why not have it start playing in their rooms as soon as they arrive? I would have at least watched something like that before going out into Nike."
"That could work."
Ivanova added, "I also suggest we start assigning people not on other duties at the time as 'hall monitors' for the sleeping sections to help people along to the main assembly area."
"Doable, I suppose, and it might cut down on others getting side-tracked."
Quite the morning all around, I must say! I don't think I've been quite so stunned since meeting Beverly and Honor a few days ago. Rose and I joined Beverly, Tasha, and Uhura on their trip to the bridge. We met up with Honor, Susan, and Sam there, with Beverly making her excuses to resume her post in the infirmary. After a quick round of introductions, the import of what had happened today began to register on our bridge team.
"Well, it would seem that our abductors have some interest in ships named Enterprise in your universe," Honor stated.
"Not to mention this TARDIS or Doctor of Sarah Jane's," Susan added.
Sam Carter interjected, "I would tend to agree. We were suspecting some sort of pattern, though this emphasis on variations of your timelines is unexpected."
"Maybe not so unexpected, given the two refugees from a Battlestar Galactica who have arrived here," Honor countered.
"Fair point, Admiral."
"Have you had a chance to inspect the information from the other new arrivals for other parallels, Sam?"
"Yes, Honor. These seem to be the only cases."
"Well, Rose, Lieutenant Yar, Lieutenant Uhura, welcome aboard, even if it’s not under the best of circumstances. Susan, think we could use these two Starfleet officers on the bridge here?"
"Oh, I think so, Admiral. Lieutenant Uhura, we don't really have anyone on communications, but the time is coming when that may be critical, not to mention we could do a better job of scanning the region for signals from others. Lieutenant Yar, I could also use someone on tactical here, and some assistance in organizing our internal security on the off chance we encounter any hostile arrivals."
Tasha Yar nodded in acknowledgement, "I'll do my best, Captain Ivanova."
Uhura added, "As will I, Captain, for as long as we're trapped here."
"Very good. You'll find the controls on Nike surprisingly simple to master, I think."
Kaitlin Garroway and Marygay Potter-Mandella sat side by side, with Sarah Connor, Dizzy Flores, Ana Khouri to either side of the table. A few other newcomers were scattered about as well. Cally O'Neal was standing by the door, leaning casually as she listened.
"Marygay, you have the most experience in ground troop combat, it would seem, so perhaps you should lead our effort."
"Yeah, if you count being shot through space for hundreds of years just to fight in a battle suit experience. What we need here is more of a security force rather than ground pounders."
"Well, Ana, how about you? You've had some experience in security, yes?"
"Personal protection, personal assassination, but that's about it. Nothing like this."
The door opened and in walked another new arrival, Tasha Yar.
"Sorry to interrupt. Captain Ivanova asked me to come down from the bridge to liaison with your efforts."
Marygay Potter-Mandella smiled as she looked over her tablet, "Ah, Lieutenant Yar, now you seem just what we need. It says here you were head of ship's security on a large ship called Enterprise. We are looking for some guidance on how to form a scratch security force for Nike. Perhaps you can give us a hand with your experiences?"
"I'll try my best. Let me bring up a schematic of the station and a roster of who is available."
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
The sixty-four new arrivals awoke to the sounds of chimes, followed by a voice coming from the air.
"Greetings from your fellow abductees. I am Fleet Admiral Honor Alexander-Harrington of the Manticoran Star Navy, an abductee as are you and all the women aboard this place, a space station called Nike. Our abductors are not on this space station nor do we know who they are. I ask that you wait in your room and hear out the rest of this orientation broadcast that we, your fellow abductees, have created to give you what answers we have been able to discover thus far. At the end of this presentation, there will be instructions on how to meet with us who have arrived before. We come from different times, different parts of the universe, different histories. We believe that Nike is in a universe completely different from our own. We are dedicated to discovering a way home for all, to our mutual self defense, and to the discovery of our abductors."
I was stationed in the hallway nearest to my own room. The same orientation was playing for us as it was in the room, the better to judge when it would be completing. I was pleased to see that no one at least in my line of sight was running out of the rooms or sprinting down the hall. Hopefully this would help avoid the close calls that we were starting to have as more and more people were arriving. Honor's introduction segued into Jessica's explanation of the intake process, and then Beverly's explanation of the medical situation and procedures. Beverly's part of the presentation was about half-way through when an authoritative woman with auburn hair came striding down the hall.
"Take me to Doctor Beverly Crusher."
Guess it was going to be one of those days - again.
Honor was sitting on the bridge along with just a few others - most the rest were in the corridors of Nike to help guide the new arrivals. The broadcast had just finished, and seemed to have worked mostly according to plan, though there had been a few who exited their room prematurely it sounded. Honor suspected that they had a few more close alternate histories to people already here again. Even so, when the bridge door opened and the dark featured woman with the Winton features entered the bridge, Honor still was taken aback.
"Mike, Mike Henke!"
Dale was a bit shocked when Admiral Harrington actually ran over and embraced the other woman, tears running down her eyes.
"Mike, I'm so happy to see you, but damn, why do you have to be trapped in this thing, no matter what universe you're from."
"Hell, Honor, we'll get out of this faster than either of us got away from the Peeps! Whoever behind this has made a serious mistake placing the two of us in their trap together."
Jessica was still in the commissary, but in a few days if they hadn't discovered a way off Nike, she would have to move her command center to the auditorium they had discovered on Nike's schematics. There were actually more than one commissary on Nike, but this one was the closest to the center of the station, and to the bridge, and it still made for a good assembly area. The ability to get the new arrivals something to eat and a place to eat it at was also an attraction. She had already processed a few when she heard a voice.
Jessica turned to see a familiar blue-within-blue set of eyes looking back at her.
"Chani? Chani, is that really you?"
It had to be her, but older, and of course very pregnant.
Chani was equally surprised to see Jessica look so young and so pregnant, as she had not seen her for years.
"Um, Helena, where is Beverly? I have someone here."
Even as I said the words, Beverly entered the main portion of the infirmary and came to a sudden halt.
"Commander Crusher, I have some questions for you."
"Vice Admiral Janeway?"
"The same. We can start talking as you examine me - that is the procedure is it not?"
"It is, Admiral. We also should compare histories and see where we diverge."
"I do have some familiarity with alternate timelines, Dr. Crusher. Let's get to it."
"Afterwards, Beverly, I think I ought to escort the Vice Admiral to the bridge to meet with Admiral Harrington."
Kathryn Janeway nodded, "I think that would be best."
Leia Solo was in another corridor, close to her sleeping quarters, like most of the people who had arrived on Nike. Today, however, Leia didn't need the chimes or the beginning of the recorded announcement to alert her to the arrival of new abductees. She felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if some massive power had entered Nike. She had something like this only from a few people; her father (of course she had known him as Darth Vader at the time), and her brother. However, she was much more attuned herself to the Force now than then, so it hit her like a palpable wave.
Dr. Crusher began her examination of Vice-Admiral Janeway as she gave her a brief synopsis of her past week on Nike.
"I would have thought if you had disappeared, Doctor, that Jean-Luc would have torn a hole through the Alpha quadrant looking for you."
Beverly blushed a bit at that. "Well, Admiral, we all seem to be from different timelines, so I doubt your Jean-Luc Picard has been much concerned. Here, let me show you the difference in quantum signatures between us." Beverly placed her own quantum signature on Nike's version of a viewscreen, then scanned Kathryn Janeway for hers.
"Doctor, I may not be a Starfleet physician, but I believe I have a fair head for science. To me, those quantum signatures look identical."
"That is because, Admiral Janeway, they are. I think perhaps I should accompany you and Ms. Smith to the bridge."
The three of us went up quickly to the bridge, Beverly, Vice-Admiral Janeway, and myself. I found it quite fascinating to hear that they had both been brought from the same timeline, in fact the same time. This was unprecedented in the week that we had been on Nike. I was also interested to see how Honor, Fleet Admiral Harrington, would react to Vice-Admiral Janeway. The woman had her own imposing way about her that was for certain!
We entered the bridge to see Honor thick as thieves with what I supposed must be a new arrival, though you wouldn't know it from the way that they were going about.
"Honor, Beverly and I have brought a special arrival to meet you."
Beverly continued, "Admiral Honor Alexander-Harrington, may I introduce you to Vice-Admiral Kathryn Janeway, of Starfleet Command, and according to my scans, from the same time and timeline as my own."
Honor pulled herself away from her new arrival to stride over to us, "Two Vice-Admirals in the same day, no less! Welcome, Admiral Janeway. I must say I've been impressed with the stories I've heard of your Federation and Starfleet. A bit like what the Solarian League should have been. May I introduce you, Doctor Crusher, and Sarah Jane to my good, dear friend and fellow officer, Lady Gloria Michelle Samantha Evelyn Henke, Countess Gold Peak, Vice Admiral of the Red, Royal Manticoran Navy."
Mike made a face, "None of that, Honor. Please, ladies, call me Mike, or Admiral Henke if you must be formal. The rest of that aristocratic gilding we can leave should you ever visit the Star Empire of Manticore."
I liked Mike almost immediately, much sooner than I had warmed to Honor, though I considered her quite close, now, among my Nike acquaintances.
Dr. Crusher asked, "Did you two discover any divergences in your histories?"
Honor replied, "Not yet, no."
Beverly took out an instrument she had previously referred to as a tricorder, "That's probably because you two have the same quantum signature. You are from the same time and timeline!"
I exclaimed, "Two in a row! Nike is throwing us another curveball, as the Americans would say."
Kathryn Janeway cut in, "That's all very well, but what I'd like to know is what progress you've made thus far in determining a way back to our home universes. I have some previous experience both with being trapped a long way from home with a mixed crew, and with time and alternate dimensional travel, so perhaps I could help if I could get a briefing on the situation thus far, in more detail than what I heard in the introduction in my room?"
Honor replied, "Of course, Vice-Admiral, though I will tell you we have multiple abductees on Nike with similar trans-temporal and trans-dimensional experiences, including your guide there, Ms. Smith. But we value any assistance you can lend to the cause. Mike, it would probably be useful for you to hear more as well, even though we Manticorans have much less experience with these time and universe translocations."
"I'm at your disposal, Honor."
Lieutenant Athena had the bridge watch that morning with Admiral Harrington. As the names and information of the new arrivals started to come through Athena scrolled through it, looking for any similarities such as she had experienced with Kara Thrace. At one entry she stopped, read, then read again.
"Another new arrival from a Battlestar Galactica, and with a name I recognize at that. Permission to investigate?"
"Very well. It seems to be a day of reunions."
Athena exited the bridge and headed for the infirmary.
Leia Solo had not been able to find the source of the disturbance in the Force at the commissary, so she next headed for the infirmary. As she approached, she could feel that she was getting close, though the sensation was no longer nearly as strong as that first shock on the moment of the woman's arrival. As she entered the infirmary, she was steered by the Force to the right of the room where she was somewhat surprised to see Susan Ivanova. It was the woman standing next to her that was the person Leia had sought.
Susan saw Leia approach, "Leia Organa Solo, let me introduce you to another refugee from Babylon 5, my Babylon 5 it would seem according to the scans. This is Lyta Alexander."
Leia stared at the red haired woman with dark eyes that sometimes seemed too dark. "I take it you two were friends on your former space station, Susan?"
"Comrades in Arms. Both fought against the Shadows, and both have a disliking for the Psi Corps."
Lyta snorted, "Dislike is an understatement, Susan. Best part of this whole Nike situation; no Psi Corps."
"A pleasure to meet you, Lyta. I was looking to see if anyone from my own galaxy had arrived on Nike. I hadn't expected to meet someone from Susan's."
A voice inside Leia's head said 'I bet you didn't.'
Cordelia Vorkosigan was checking in arrivals still in the commissary, though most had gone to the infirmary. A straggler came through the door.
"Hello, welcome. I'm Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan. Can I get you to fill out one of our information forms?"
"I suppose so. What is your native language?"
"Betan, but everyone here speaks this Nike stuff after arriving, except for the occasional curse word."
"Really? Have you tried speaking Betan? Really trying."
"Well, no, I suppose not."
"Try it now. Think of it like trying to access a foreign language. Do you know languages other than Betan?"
Cordelia found much to her delight that with effort, she could in fact speak Betan. She said a few words out loud to savor them.
"Interesting. So Betan seems to be English derived." The new arrival then said a few words of what sounded like passable Betan, though a bit off.
"You know Betan?"
"No, just good with languages. It is easier since arriving to just speak in this Lojban derivative. Everyone I've run into so far seems to understand it.
"You know what this Nike language is?"
"Certainly. It's a variation on an artificially constructed language from the early 21st century, with syntax based on first order logic, and a very regular phonology. Word roots mostly based on six common languages of the time, including your root tongue, English. Very easy to learn, especially for computers. I do find it an interesting twist, however, that whoever designed this communications system has a customized Hangul script for writing Lojban. Lojban was developed using a Roman alphabet. I kind of like the merger of the two; Hangul is such a well constructed writing system. It's impressive that the original Hangul was developed in the 15th century Korean peninsula, when you think about it."
"And you recognize both? That's amazing. Who are you?"
"Hoshi Sato, 22nd century Earth, Starfleet, Communications Officer for the Enterprise."
Cordelia looked at her tablet, "We seem to be having a run on Starfleet Officers this week."
Even though Wilma Deering had intelligence experience as part of her service to the Earth's Defense Directorate, she found that in the past week she had spent most of her time in a Nike fighter or trying to put together a fighter wing. She was somewhat surprised to see Lieutenant Athena approaching with another woman in tow. Athena was wearing the dark uniform that was standard for bridge crew for battlestars, as the great warships of her worlds were known. Wilma had been running Athena through drills in Nike's fighters whenever she could to start building her flight skills, just in case, so she knew that Athena was on bridge duty at present. However, she imagined the other woman with her was the reason for her unexpected appearance. The new arrival with Athena had sandy hair and brown eyes and a bit of a swagger to her walk. She was garbed in a brown flight suit that had a similar design in some ways to Athena's.
"Colonel Deering, I've brought you another recruit for your fighters. Wilma Deering, meet Lieutenant Sheba. Sheba is actually from my own Battlestar Galactica."
"By way of Pegasus." Sheba interjected.
"Well, we're glad to have the help, Sheba. Why don't we take out some fighters and see how you take to them."
"Sheba, I have to return to the bridge, but we'll talk later. Apollo would kill me otherwise." Athena smiled, "Colonel Deering will run you through your paces."
"So, Colonel, which bird can I have?"
After their trial flight, Deering couldn't help smiling. Sheba was good, very good.
Cordelia Vorkosigan had just finished giving Ensign Sato directions to the infirmary when a voice called, "Lady Vorkosigan!"
Cordelia turned around to see a familiar tall, athletic, but very pregnant, blonde woman enter the room, "Ludmilla Droushnakovi! Pregnant as well! Who is the lucky man? Please tell me it's Kou."
"Of course it's Kou! You think I'd be working on my second child with anyone else but my husband? Why are you talking such nonsense? And how are you suddenly pregnant? After what happened to Miles I thought you'd..."
"What are you saying? You must be from my future, or a version of it. Miles is my father's name. But my father's dead. Who is Miles?"
"Your first child, Cordelia. How could you not know that, unless....the briefing, it said some incredible things about different times. What was the date just before you arrived here?"
Cordelia had to think a bit to remember the exact date, as she hadn't thought in terms of the Barrayar calendar for a week.
Droushnakovi blanched, "The night of the soltoxin attack! None of us could ever forget that date. But that must mean, you weren't poisoned?"
"Of course not! Aral! Was Aral hurt?"
"No, we were able to get an antidote in time. But that means...you're pregnant with Miles, right now, and you haven't been exposed to....oh, Cordelia!"
"There's something you're not telling me, was there damage to my child from the soltoxin?"
"Not the soltoxin, but the antidote. Oh, Cordelia, we had failed you both. You were going to die without the antidote, but it was teratogenic."
Now it was Cordelia's turn to blanch, "No. How bad?"
"Should I even be telling you all this? It is your future."
Cordelia Vorkosigan's sea grey eyes glittered dangerously bright.
"Screw the future. You will tell me what has happened to my son!"
"The antidote caused severe damage to his bones. We managed to obtain an experimental treatment that saved his life, but his bones are fragile, terribly brittle. They break all the time, and it's stunting his growth, the poor thing."
Cordelia shuddered to imagine the reaction of the Barrayarans to a defective child, with their horror of mutation. A harelip could be a death sentence in the back-country.
"But he lives. What about his mind, did it do anything to that?"
"Nothing, Cordelia! He's the cleverest little man! He's so young, but Miles thinks circles around most of us."
"Well then, well then....but why do you keep using his middle name? We're naming him Piotr Miles, in the Vor fashion, after his paternal then maternal grandfathers. Doesn't he like Piotr?"
"No, his name is Miles. Miles Naismith Vorkosigan."
"My father's full name. Why?"
"Count Piotr wouldn't allow his name to be given to a child who was damaged."
Droushnakovi decided not to mention at this moment the attempt Piotr made to kill Miles.
"Damn the old goat. We need to get you into the system, Drou. We're going to try to get back home, but until then we need to be prepared for anything."
"Whatever you say, Lady Vorkosigan."
Helena Russell was holding down the fort in the infirmary while waiting for Dr. Crusher's return, but there was a long waiting line for evaluation. She hoped Beverly would be back soon, she was much more adept with the examinations due to her time's advanced medical knowledge. Helena oftentimes over the past week felt as if she was back in medical school.
"Excuse me, Dr. Russell, is it? I was informed that you and Dr. Crusher could use a hand here. I've a medical degree and I'm a fairly quick study when it comes to alien technology."
"That would be incredibly helpful. What's your name?"
"Jones. Dr. Martha Jones," said the black woman with the stunning smile.
I had managed to link up with Honor and was asked to sit in a meeting with another one of our new arrivals. The woman was much smaller than Honor (most of us were), had an attractive if not beautiful face, and dark hair. Unlike a number of our other new arrivals that day, she appeared to represent a truly new timeline from those we had already encountered. However, as per her intake form, she was our third admiral of the day! Apparently our abductors were feeling that Honor needed some more high ranking company.
It was fascinating watching the two women sitting across from each other. While they looked nothing alike in facial features other than overall coloring, they both exuded what many call 'command presence'. In some ways, this new admiral reminded me of a scaled down Harrington.
"Welcome aboard Nike Station, though of course I wish it were under better circumstances."
"As do I. I don't take well to being shanghaied - um, does your universe have that term?"
"Yes, a hold-over from the old wet navy days of Earth. I take your point."
"I am impressed with what you have done to organize things in just a week, Admiral Harrington."
"Much of the credit for that goes to the very capable women who have been abducted with us. I think you will find we have a very interesting group on Nike."
"Still, I know what it is like to have to throw together a command structure from scratch, and you've worked wonders in that time."
"Yes, you seem to have had precisely that type of experience in your own timeline. I've fought pirates and slavers myself, and they are an unsavory bunch. The degree of long term planning and scale of organization of this pirate conspiracy, however, boggles the mind."
"Yes, it does. Unfortunately they almost succeeded. I lost most of my family in the attacks on our company, I lost a crew full of good people, friends, in the course of the war, but I made them pay for that."
"I know what that kind of loss is like, Admiral Vatta."
"I believe you, Admiral Harrington."
"Call me Honor."
"And you must call me Ky; no one really uses Kylara.
Samantha Carter came to the end of the briefing.
"And so, we're trying to figure out a way to either replicate or use the rift/teleportation scheme that our abductors are using as a way to get people home. One of Sarah Jane's acquaintances, Rose Tyler, noted that she had come across a trans-dimensional rift that was being held open by an energy beam. We're looking into this as a possibility when the next arrivals take place."
The briefing had started with some background material for Vice Admiral Janeway, but this was now getting into new territory, and thus Honor had joined the assembly.
Kathryn Janeway spoke up.
"This is all fascinating, Colonel Carter. You've really done some remarkable work for less than a week's time. I have to admit, I find it simply fascinating that people from the early 21st century could have this amount of background. The timelines you and this Rose Tyler come from must be rather extraordinary. However, have you fully thought out the moral ramifications of trying this while a 'new arrival' is being brought in. It could mean the death of whoever is being brought through."
Honor was the one to reply.
"If I were the one being transported, I would rather have someone take the risk and thwart the attempt rather than sit idly by and do nothing."
"As would I, quite frankly, Admiral. But do we have the right to make that decision for another." Kathryn Janeway retorted.
"I don't know that we have the right, but I think we have the duty to attempt to escape, and to halt this mass abduction."
Sam interjected, "All of this may be moot. We still have no clear idea as to whether we can generate a sufficient energy beam of the right type to hold open a rift."
Martha Jones was new to the infirmary, but the large number of arrivals meant that there was only time for on the job training. Helena had run her through the machinery which really was simple to operate, and introduced her to Dr. Crusher when she arrived. While Martha was still a bit stunned to find herself in this situation, she'd always been one to work through her shock rather than freeze up or any such nonsense.
One of the last to come through her exam room was a very pregnant lady. She had no idea where she was from, but then she saw the scans were being flagged - hmm, similarities to someone already here. And a problem as well. From what the briefing and Helena and Beverly had said, that seemed surprising. Martha hit her newly issued combadge.
"Dr. Crusher, this is Dr. Jones. We've a bit of a surprise. Could you come to my exam room?"
"Is there something wrong, Doctor?"
"Not as such, or at least nothing we can't take care of."
Martha read through the information her patient had entered, and the scan comparisons. She hit her combadge again.
"Organa Solo, please report to the infirmary and ask for Dr. Jones."
Kaylee had been hard at work studying everything she could get her hands on in the Nike database about the station itself and the ships attached to her. While Kaylee wasn't a great fan of reading, when it came to the ships she couldn't get enough! She had loved Serenity, her home, but these ships were just so, so....Shiny! She hoped the Admiral would let her go out as an engineer on one of them. She felt a little guilty for hoping that it would take at least a few months to get them back home, so she could go out on the ships of Nike. Simon would understand, she was sure.
Ellen Ripley knocked on the open doorway in way of announcement.
"Kaylee, I've got someone here who wants to see you."
"Really? Who? Is it Colonel Carter again? She comes up with some awfully interesting ideas."
"No, not Carter."
A tall dark skinned woman with soft curled hair and luscious full lips strode into the room with the carriage of a warrior woman.
Kaylee squealed in delight, "Zoe!"
She threw herself up from her reading to hug the woman before her.
"Kaylee, what have we gotten into this time?"
Susan Calvin sat next to Samantha Carter after her briefing with some of the military types on the station.
"I think our hosts aren't malicious."
Sam blinked, "And how do you get to that, Dr. Calvin?"
"While my profession is robopsychology, I do have a degree in human psychology as well. I've been doing an analysis of the situation, and have come to some tentative conclusions."
"I would be fascinated to hear anything you've developed."
Susan sipped her tea, "The first clue is our living conditions. We are unconstrained except by our very displacement. Somehow I don't believe they have made a whole universe as a prison for us. We are not meant to be prisoners. Also, the facilities here are comfortable if a bit lacking in imagination. Our hosts have even been so kind as to transport our personal reading materials and records with us. That could only be to our benefit. We are even given the means to travel and to defend ourselves in the event of attack. But I think the strongest evidence is the pattern to the arrivals."
"In a few ways. First, the pattern of arrivals. The simple geometric progression of arrivals is providing us the opportunity to handle the displacement and sudden thrusting of new people into our lives in a manner that we can digest. While Ms. Smith arrived alone and had to deal with double the number of people the next day, with such a small number that wasn't at issue. Ever since then we have had almost precisely the number of people already here as arrive, allowing for almost a one-to-one of people who have been able to adjust to the situation as those being thrust into the new environment. And then there is the order of arrival. We had in the early days everyone arriving from very disparate histories and worlds. As we were all in essence strangers here, we had no alternative but to get to know, trust, and rely on each other. Only in the past two days are we seeing arrivals of people we have more of a history with, but we have already formed working relations with several people from different worlds, acting as bridges between the groups. It really is a very elegant way to deal with a need to bring a large number of people somewhere in a short amount of time. But the most telling item is the people they are choosing."
"What, pregnant women?"
"No, that I believe goes to their need for doing this all. I am still working on their character."
"So what, then?"
"Tell me, Dr. Carter, how do you get along with the people you have met here on Nike?"
"Well, pretty well. Sarah Jane, Honor, Beverly, all of them are really very competent, nice people, once you get to know them."
"Yes. Everyone here is unusually competent, but in addition to that, they all seem to be inherently decent people, heroic even, when you get into some of their stories. Our hosts are not bringing petty or malicious people here; they are bringing some of the best humanity has to offer."
"So you think our selection in some way reflects our abductors - hosts - own values?"
"Yes, I think it does."
"But why all this secrecy? And how could they justify our involuntary separation from our homes and families?"
"I think that goes to their needs, their constraints if you like."
"Do go on, Doctor."
Beverly was the first to enter the exam room. "What can I do for you, Dr. Jones?"
Martha bit her lip ever so slightly, "Please review these readings for me, Dr. Crusher. I'm still a bit new to all this, and obstetrics wasn't exactly a specialty of mine."
Beverly looked over the scan on the new arrival, "I see your concern, Martha. While this reading here could mean a serious problem during delivery, especially if it were under stressful conditions, we have the capacity here on Nike to correct it rather easily. Any Starbase hospital could do likewise."
Martha nodded, "You'll have to recall, however, that I'm from the 21st century, no matter the rather, um, extended education and access to advanced alien technology I've had."
"Of course. Both you and Dr. Russell are adjusting incredibly well." Beverly turned to the new arrival, "Both you and your twins will be fine."
At that very moment, Leia entered the room. "Someone called for me?"
Martha answered, "Yes, ma'am. Might I run another quick medical scan on you, for confirmation?"
"Confirmation of what precisely?"
"Relatedness, if you will."
Leia eyed the new doctor, but relented. The handheld medical scanner was done in a moment. "That's, that's remarkable."
Martha saw that the new arrival and the Princess, while seeing each other, didn't seem to be reacting as she would have expected, "Um, do you two recognize each other?"
Both shook their heads, "No."
Beverly looked at the readings Martha was comparing, "I find that hard to believe, Leia."
"Why not? Who is this woman? What is your name?"
The woman, who had been watching them all with a certain detached readiness stated calmly, "Senator Padmé Amadala. I heard the Doctor call for you earlier. Are you by chance a relative of Senator Bail Organa?"
A light went on in Leia's mind, "Oh my, oh my..."
Beverly interjected, "So you recognize each others' names, but your relation to each other...."
Leia cut Beverly off, "She is my mother. And that means..."
Martha interjected, "One of her twins is genetically identical to you."
Leia, feeling as if she were on the edge of hysteria, flipply responded, "Twins run in the family."
Finally Padmé's cool demeanor crumbled, "They said something about people coming from different times, but I didn't expect anything like this. I always thought I'd name a girl Leia, but the Organa part...."
Leia, "I was adopted by the Organas."
"No, why would you - I mean, why would I? What happened to us, Leia?"
"Mother that is a very long story, about things that happened a long time ago..."
Lady Jessica had personally escorted Chani to the infirmary and insisted that she be examined by Dr. Crusher personally. It had meant a longer wait for the two, but Jessica felt it was best given the nature of melange and what it meant for spice-addicted arrivals from her universe, whether the affluent of the Empire or the natives of Arrakis, the Fremen. While they waited, it had become clear that Chani was from a much, much later time than Jessica. Paul had done more than survive - he had succeeded in becoming the Kwisatz Haderach, and taken the throne of the Padishah Emperor in the process. And Chani had had to go the same route as she herself, loyal and beloved bound concubine, but never allowed to marry the man she loved for reasons of politics. That would have meant nothing to a proper Bene Gesserit. However, Jessica had not been a 'proper' one.
Chani kept Jessica with her during the exam with Beverly Crusher.
"Beverly, this is my son's beloved. She too has the issue with melange that we discussed previously."
Beverly sucked in a quick breath, "Well, Chani, I don't know if Jessica told you, but we can synthesize it here on Nike."
"She said, but I still find it hard to believe. No one can make the Spice, not in the Known Universe."
"Well, this is the unknown universe, and apparently we can."
Beverly continued the examination, "Hmm, another set of twins! We seem to be having a run on them here on Nike Station."
"Chani, have you been taking any special medical treatments for anything?"
"No, merely a strict Fremen diet - to help me get and maintain my pregnancy."
"This doesn't look dietary. It's only residual collections in the fatty tissues, but. You were exposed to a very strong contraceptive-abortifacient sometime in the past year or so. We are going to need to flush this out further before you deliver. There's also be some residual damage to the placenta, not enough to damage the pregnancy directly, but this could have been a real problem if left to go to term for the actual labor. Still, we're at a stage and with enough technology that we can more than deal with it. You should have a safe delivery."
Chani looked at Jessica, mixed relief and anger in her eyes, "Irulan, it must have been."
It was my turn to be keeping record on the Bridge after quite the eventful morning. All sorts of people from the same worlds or near enough had popped into Nike, along with a number of new arrivals who still were from completely unfamiliar worlds. It seemed as if it had been about a 1:1 ratio of people from worlds we 'old timers' knew - and in fact most people knew each other, more remarkably - to those who were from completely different timeline. What this all meant had been quite the item of speculation thus far.
Lieutenant Uhura turned around from her communications station, "Captain, I have a message coming in on subspace - it's a Captain Thrace, call sign Starbuck, hailing us."
Susan Ivanova had the bridge watch. She gave a small lopsided smile, "Put her on the main screen, Uhura."
The forward screen came to life showing an image from her cockpit of Starbuck wearing the distinctive helmet of her people, "Hello there, Ivanova. Just coming back in from a quick tour of the neighbors. You can tell Harrington that I didn't find any threats on the first sweep. I'll give you all a full brief after I bring this bird in and get a shower. Living in this fighter for days is possible, but not the most pleasant experience."
"Understood, Starbuck. We have some interesting updates for you as well when you're ready. Permission to approach Nike Station for docking granted. Uhura, please contact Admiral Harrington to inform her that Starbuck is back and all is well."
Honor Harrington sat across from Kathryn Janeway in her quarters, nursing a cup of cocoa.
"So, Admiral, what do you think of our efforts here on Nike?"
Kathryn Janeway replied in kind, "We're in your quarters, Admiral. In my world, officer's mess rules applied, and everything is strictly first name. So please, call me Kathryn."
"Very well, Kathryn. And you will call me Honor?"
"Certainly, Honor. In answer to your question, it is impressive what you've accomplished thus far, given how little time and information you've had. The sensor data you were able to acquire on the new arrival process is especially good work."
"That would be Sam Carter's doing - well, her and Kaylee Frye, who's quite adept with hardware."
"But you've been able to organize these women from different worlds, which has allowed for these successes."
"Well, we've only done what we had to. Speaking of organization, we could use your skills, Kathryn. You've an impressive record both from your own report, and what Beverly told me."
"Dr. Crusher seems to be quite free with my history."
"I hope you won't blame her for that. We've been working fairly closely the past six days. I know that doesn't seem like a long time, but it's been a rather extraordinary six days, even by my standards."
"I suppose. I really am impressed that you've worked out such strong relationships between Nike arrivals over this time. Welding together the Maquis and Voyager's crew took quite a bit longer to get even to this level. And we were from the same universe."
"Actually, reading here," Honor tapped the tablet, "That might have been a hindrance. A lot of history for both groups to overcome, as it were."
"Speaking of history, what are your thoughts in terms of our other Starfleet officers? Our abductors seem to have a strong interest in your Federation, or at least the universes with the Federation. Starfleet represents the largest number of women from a service to show up here at Nike."
"It is curious, isn't it? Wouldn't be the first time that powerful aliens had taken a particular interest in Starfleet personnel."
"Hardly my Q, but yes. However, what I think you are trying to get at is am I going to pull rank on them and require them all to report to me rather continue working under you?"
"Not quite how I would have put it, Kathryn. No one is working under me, at least not in any defined capacity. To be honest, it's been an awkward situation for me in terms of legitimacy. We obviously need to organize if we are to have the best chance of returning home, but other than Mike now, I have no authority over these women. Even though none of us are in a declared war against our unknown abductors, I've basically been operating as if we were prisoners of war."
"Something you've had some experience with, I understand."
Honor gave a rueful smile, "You could say that. As highest ranking 'prisoner' on Nike, I've felt a duty towards the others from military type organizations to organize our escape attempt. On the other hand, we don't know that our status is really that of prisoners of war, despite the involuntary nature of our arrival. Also, several of these women are civilians, and holding them to military discipline is also a bit awkward."
"I can see your concerns, Honor. However, I think you are right in the actions you've taken thus far. War or not, military or not, we are defacto prisoners through no fault of our own, and we have a responsibility to find a way home. If I were to fault you on anything, it would be not being aggressive enough in establishing your authority here." Kathryn paused as she let her own words sink in, "So in answer to your original question, I will fulfill my obligations to the Starfleet officers here to see that their welfare is being seen to, but otherwise I will submit to your seniority here. There can only be one captain, or in this case, admiral, of the station."
"Your support would be invaluable, Kathryn."
"You have it, Honor. However, don't think I won't call you on things that I think need doing, as one of your most senior fellow prisoners. And the first thing really is making it clear to everyone that there is a chain of command on Nike."
"And what if the next day's arrivals bring someone even more senior?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now then, as to what I can do to help - I'm a fair hand at science, so I'd like to lend Samantha Carter a hand at her efforts to get us back home. I know I questioned the morality of us trying to force open a rift, but I agree that it may be our best chance, and if what you 'old timers' has postulated about this sequence of transports stopping sometime in the next few days is correct, we need to take that chance soonest. If that doesn't work, and we need to take a longer view on a way back, I'd suggest having me work with that woman," Kathryn glanced at an entry on her tablet, "Cordelia Vorkosigan, about arranging our survey of nearby star systems."
"Agreed." At that point, a voice broke in over the comm.
"Admiral Harrington, Captain Ivanova asked me to inform you that we have established contact with Captain Thrace, and she is en route now to Nike. I am to relay that she has found no immediate threats."
"Thank you, Lieutenant Uhura," Honor turned her attention again to Kathryn Janeway, "I know you want to help with the rift idea, but given your secondary interest in exploration of our local area of space, I think you'll want to sit in on Captain Thrace's report. Plus I just want to see your take on Starbuck."
"Starbuck? As in Moby Dick?"
"Thrace's call-sign. And oddly enough, as far as I can tell, they had never heard of Melville or his whale in her universe."
I had just popped down to the infirmary to see Martha Jones, another of the Doctor's companions, and this one actually from my universe. Martha and I had met briefly during the Daleks’ abduction of the Earth, and since had some brief contacts due to her position in U.N.I.T. as a physician. She seemed a nice, smart, resourceful girl - in other words, just the type the Doctor seems to travel with. For a moment I wondered how Rose was getting on. She was in a very pregnant way, and so was doing some sedentary work for the group, though I could tell she was chafing at the inactivity the last I'd seen her. It also didn't help take her mind off the implications of Beverly's examination results on her unborn child. What would that time energy intertwined with the child's DNA mean? I was worried for both of them as well, despite Beverly's assurances that everything else seemed be going just fine with mother and child.
I, on the other hand, was fortunate to have plenty to distract my own thoughts. Honor had assembled all the admirals - Janeway, Vatta, and Henke, as well as Colonels Deering and Carter and Captain Ivanova and Cordelia Vorkosigan (Captain, retired). Captain Thrace, Starbuck, finally arrived with a hastily thrown on fresh uniform and her hair still damp.
"I see we've had some additions to the family while I was out sightseeing, Honor."
Janeway gave Honor a look, but Honor waved her aside, "Report, Starbuck."
"I went ahead and loaded the fighter's telemetry and camera footage into Nike's library. I was able to reach three star systems in the time I was away. These ships are really fast, Honor. While there were also a number of red dwarfs in range for a quick visit, for the sake of time I focused on these three stars that were more likely to support planets in the habitable zone. The first two star systems, while perhaps interesting to an astronomer, held no intelligent life or robotic activity. Pretty standard stellar systems. The third also had no technology that I could detect, but the fourth planet has a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere and an active biosphere. There were no radio or subspace transmissions, the night side was as dark as could be, showing no artificial illumination, and there were no signs of any sort of construction or other signs of intelligent activity. Also no large animal life that I could detect. Mostly plant-analogues it seems. However, this is all from low orbital observations, though I did circle the planet in a spiral several times allowing for an aerial survey of the entire surface. Then I decided to head back to Nike for my report. It's still possible that something could be lurking in near interstellar space or around one of those red dwarfs, but I did nearly an entire circuit ten light-years out from Nike two times, perpendicular to each other, and couldn't pick up anything on long range scans. Best I could do in a short amount of time, and I wanted to report back about that one planet."
Honor spoke first, "Thank you, Starbuck. This nicely corresponds with the drone data we've been receiving. The survey of local space so far is extremely sketchy, so there is a large amount of space for someone to be hiding in, but there is no obvious fleet waiting to descend on us and destroy us I'd wager. The information about this potentially habitable planet is the first we've had any indication of life in this universe."
Janeway commented, "The presence of an M-class planet so close to us is promising, but unlikely to be a coincidence."
Sam added, "You're right, Admiral Janeway, at least if our universe is any guide. We're definitely going to want to know more about that world."
Cordelia offered, "I could take one of the scout ships with a few others to do a more thorough survey of the planet."
Honor shook her head, "Perhaps later if there is need. However, we think have a very narrow window left to try to use the new arrival process to force our way back home. And if we succeed in that, we won't want anyone too far away from Nike. We don't know how long we might sustain an opened rift or rifts, and we have an increasing number of women to return home."
Sam broke in, "Actually, Honor, that may not be a problem, though I wouldn't send just a scout ship. We can send one of the larger ships that have a star gate there, and that way if we need the survey team to make a quick return to Nike, they can. Or we could send a seedship and leave a stargate or two in the system for that purpose."
"That's an excellent point. We'll have to consider it further."
Honor Harrington and Mike Henke sat in Honor's personal quarters, "So, what do you think, Mike?"
Mike finished a bite of steak sandwich, "I think the food is as good as anything we could get in Landing, much less shipboard. But that's not what you mean, is it?"
"This is just so weird, Honor. Are you sure this isn't some sort of Solarian or even Mesan set-up? Some sort of head game?"
"As certain as I can be within limits. First off, to pull off a subterfuge like this, quite frankly, they would have to have access to technology far beyond anything we've heard of. The Solarians are a paper tiger, Mike, as you well found out. They've been relying on their reputation for centuries now, barely advancing any of their miltech. The reports on Mesa, while they are very, very concerning, don't rise to this level. We're talking teleportation, Mike. I don't know of anyone even near that level of technology."
"Unless we're all in some sort of induced hallucination."
"No holes. Even the best induced hallucination would show holes in the delusion. I can't find any."
"And even if you did, what could you do about it?"
Honor sipped some more synthale, "This stuff is supposed to taste the same as alcohol, but somehow, something is missing."
"So let's assume things are as they seem to be. You seem to be moving things in the right direction, Honor."
"I'm not alone in that."
"Of course not, Honor, but you're leading the charge. You can't do anything else, never could. Anyway, how goes the project to force our way back through the rift?"
"Sam Carter is heading up that project. She gave me an update just before you arrived here in my quarters. Kathryn Janeway had some very useful additions. She came up with having what the Federation calls 'pattern buffers' to help stabilize the transporter beam for the new arrivals so that when we're trying to get the rift to stay open we'll be less likely to lose the arrival. It doesn't sound like they'll be ready for a real attempt tomorrow, but we will set up some small model power beams of various types in a sector of Nike to see if we can't figure out which is more likely to work when we make a full production one."
"Well, that sounds promising, though I don't like delaying even a day. What if this doesn't work, or we don't get an arrival's room where we've set up equipment. From what you and others have told me, we're only guessing where they are coming in, and we're likely running out of chances."
"Unfortunately true, but I believe we're doing the best we can."
"Probably, Honor, probably. I'm glad that Admiral Janeway is being of assistance. She certainly came in with a head of steam - just wasn't sure where she was going to go with that."
"Kathryn was just doing what you or I would have done, and in my case, did do, on arriving. Assess the situation, organize the resistance, take action. She's been in a situation remarkably similar to this before, you know. Transported an unimaginable distance from home, forced to forge a team out of groups not used to working together, and having to use other technologies when and as able to get home. In some ways, she's more of a natural for leading this effort than anyone else on Nike."
"Except you got there first, and you outrank her. And don't forget your experience on Hades. This isn't your first time planning an escape that should have been impossible."
"Don't 'Mike' me. I thought you'd gotten over all this false humility a long time ago, Honor. So, did Kathryn Janeway demand to take command here."
"No. She told me to assert my authority, instead."
Mike shook her head, "That woman is a surprise. Didn't know she had such good sense. I agree, Honor. You are our commander, and you need to lead us out of this mess."
"I hope we can get out of this mess."
"That doesn't sound like 'The Salamander' to me."
"Don't, Mike! The Salamander is the media's creation. I've used it when it’s benefited me. But that's a universe away."
Mike shook her head again. Honor could pretend all she wanted that the moniker was just a media hyped image, but she'd seen Honor in battle. There was more to the Salamander than mere propaganda. And God help the people behind this if ever they brought it out of her.
Mike changed the subject, "How are you holding up, without Nimitz?"
Honor paled a bit, "It's hard. We've been apart before, but this feels different. Somehow, I've always known he was out there, even those rare times when we were parted. Now, it's like there's an utter emptiness where he used to be. And Mike, it's not just Nimitz - I get the same feeling about Hamish."
"Oh, Honor, I can't imagine." Mike held Honor's hand as the cruelty of Nike washed over her.
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
The start of a new week on Nike. One-hundred twenty eight new arrivals. We don't use the chimes anymore, of course. Now it's a flashing number on the wall. I hate it. These women are all remarkable, but I hate the separation from Luke. If it had been like it was, when I was alone so often, this all would have just seemed like another adventure, perhaps my greatest since my time in the TARDIS. Instead, it is keeping me away from the son I never imagined having, and I miss him. I've tried to keep this record separate from my own private anguish, but every once in a while I feel like I need to acknowledge it here, for myself, and by proxy for the others.
The message plays on, though this time with an addendum that we anticipate some of our new arrivals to know others aboard Nike, and that a time period will be set aside after the initial intake to make connections with those with a shared background. So far it's been me, Rose, and Martha, all former companions of the Doctor. I wonder if there will be anyone else. These abductors seem to have the same fixation on the TARDIS as they do Starfleet.
I'm on hallway greeter duty again. It's really getting to be a bit old, but duty calls.
Lyta's eyes were vacuum black. She spent one more minute that way before releasing the power.
"Well?" Susan Ivanova asked.
"No specific threats. Lots of confusion, concern, some anger and suspicion but nothing directed. About what you would expect under the circumstances. Most seem normal, though there are some with latent telepathy and other gifts."
"Thank you, Lyta. That really helps, given the numbers we have to deal with."
"Just like old times, Susan? Still being used for my 'talents'...."
"Lyta, from what you've told me, you have reason to be bitter. We...well, they...they didn't treat you very well. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, but when Marcus...Lyta, I'm not really very good at these sorts of things."
"Give it a rest, Susan. I don't really blame you. Let's just get through this Nike thing, okay?"
I was back on the bridge with Honor and company. It was remarkable that this day had gone the smoothest of any since I'd arrived. I guess we finally 'cracked' the nut of how to intake the people coming onto Nike. Hopefully, we wouldn't need to do so much longer.
Sam Carter reported, "The preliminary data on our trial equipment is uncertain, Honor. The good news is that we didn't interfere substantially with any of the transports, and some of the scans show that the beams managed to go through the rifts. Bad news is that we have no evidence that the beams made an appreciable difference in the size or the duration of the rifts. We'll be looking more closely to make certain there weren't miniscule differences that might point out which beam type might work, but right now we don't have much to go on."
Honor rubbed her chin, "That's unfortunate. Keep me updated should anything change."
Jessica reported next, "So far this morning we have had no incidents and the least number of people going off on their own, even in absolute terms. We have the new arrivals doing examinations first, then we'll have a reunion breakfast in the commissary. After that we'll start tour groups around Nike to orient people, while we draw up tentative work groups in which to assign the new arrivals."
Lieutenant Yar added, "We'll be running small patrols through the corridors to make certain people aren't getting lost or getting into unexpected fights. We're not really expecting trouble, but that's usually when I get nervous."
"Best to be prepared, agreed. Well, let's be about it!"
I would say for all of us that while this system made great logical sense, the waiting for those of us who recognized names on the list was surprisingly difficult. I had never met the woman whose name stared out at me, but my research into the Doctor's previous travel companions, as well as the somewhat whimsical name itself, seemed to make this likely to be another woman who had traveled with the Doctor. However, we kept to our assigned posts and prepared the seating arrangements for the brunch following the intake examinations.
I had placed Rose, Martha, and myself at the same table, along with our suspected 'TARDIS girl' as Rose said, and several other new arrivals who didn't seem to match with any current universe. We settled down with our respective selections for brunch (Nike's one truly glowing point being the food).
"Dorothy McShane? My name is Sarah Jane Smith. This is Rose Tyler and Doctor Martha Jones. I believe we're all from the same universe, or near enough to it. We three all, well, traveled, at one time or another, in the TARDIS with the Doctor. And I believe you did as well."
The young woman looked at me with wary eyes, "You mean the Professor? Maybe so. Maybe we ought to compare notes."
Honor was oddly excited to see again one of the two arrivals who were from her own universe. She took Mike to the table that had been assigned to them. However, she was quite stunned by the other new arrival as well. A large, fair woman, nearly albino, but also strongly attractive. This had to be same woman from her intelligence briefings, but she had not been expecting quite her physical impact. But then Shannon Foraker, Haven's brilliant if eccentric weapons designer, stood up, "Admiral Harrington."
"Call me Honor, Shannon. As one of my fellow admirals here is fond of stating, officer's mess rules apply. I am sorry to say that we both seem to be involuntary guests of another power once again, though I am glad to see you again, despite all that has happened." Honor, Shannon, and Mike shared a moment of bittersweet reflection, given the horrific losses on both sides in the war between Manticore and Haven.
"I am glad you feel that way, Honor. I am glad to see you again, and this time on the same side."
"Well, that was likely to happen, Nike or not, especially with the situation with Mesa."
The other woman, who had quietly observed this all, now stood up, "And any enemy of Mesa is a friend of mine. Thandi Palane, formerly of the Solarian Navy, but recently in the service of Torch. I have heard a great deal about you, of course, Admiral Harrington, but of course also you, Admiral Henke."
Now Mike smiled and spoke, "Call me Mike. What's Ruth been saying about me, the little spy! We Wintons certainly get around."
"You could say that. She seems to have a very high opinion of you, as a matter of fact."
Honor broke in, "And how is Victor Cachet doing?"
"Victor is....Victor. Need I say more?" She blushed ever so slightly when she said his name, an utterly charming event.
"No, you really don't. The few times I've met him make that clear." Not to mention the rather interesting dossier Manticoran security kept on him that she had made it her business to obtain after their first encounter. The man was perhaps the most dangerous person she had ever met, though also amazingly upright.
"Why don't we all sit down, and we can compare notes on when we were brought here - yes, there's probably some differences in exact time we left - as well as allowing Mike and I to give you some more specific information about what we've been doing on Nike."
Admiral Janeway led Sato, Uhura, Yar, and Crusher to their latest Federation arrival on Nike, someone Kathryn was very well familiar with. She stood up well before they reached the table.
"Seven. When I saw your name on the arrival list, I didn't know whether to cry or cheer. Allow me to introduce you to some fellow Starfleet officers. This is Hoshi Sato, from the United Earth Vessel Enterprise, 22nd Century. And here we have Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, who is from a rather interesting divergent history of the Federation in the 23rd Century. Lieutenant Natasha Yar is also from an alternate history to our own, though also of the 24th Century. I believe you met Dr. Crusher during your intake examination."
"Yes. Thank you for your welcome. Vice-Admiral, I am anxious to be placed in some active role assisting in our escape back to our universe."
"I would expect nothing less. But we all need to eat, so let's sit down and have this late breakfast. I assure you the one thing that makes life on Nike bearable is the food. While we eat, we'll get you a bit more caught up and then I assure you we will get you to work."
"Very well. It is a pleasure to meet you, ladies."
As they spoke, their second new arrival from a Federation universe joined their table.
"Captain Garrett, I am glad to see you," Tasha Yar said.
"I'm sorry, do we know each other?"
"I know you, ma'am, though you don't know me."
"Ah, the time travel thing. You must be Lieutenant Yar. I was reading your entries in the Nike records. I have to say, I didn't like much of what I read there, meaning no offense to you. The....event at Narendra III must have happened only a few days from now, at least from my perspective."
"I've always found time travel rather untidy myself, Captain. Let me just say it is a pleasure to have the chance to meet the captain of the Enterprise-C, even if it has to be under these circumstances. Kathryn Janeway, Vice-Admiral, Starfleet. Allow me to introduce you to the others. I believe you met Dr. Crusher this morning in the infirmary...."
Kaylee was nearly dragging Zoe into the commissary. "Come on, Zoe! We need to greet her. I can't believe you kept me waiting this long."
"You know the Admiral's rules for today, Kaylee."
"You don't always follow rules, Zoe."
"I do when they make sense."
As they approached the table, the woman stood up in a stately manner.
Kaylee squealed, "Inara!"
Inara Serra smiled back at her as Kaylee gave her a hug, "Kaylee, dear." Inara nodded towards Zoe, "Zoe."
Kaylee looked down at Inara, "Did you and the Captain finally get it right?"
Inara smiled peacefully, "Yes, I suppose we did at that, Kaylee. Why don't we all sit down and catch up. I have a feeling I'm from further along in time than both of you. What a strange thing, this time displacement."
Ky was alone among the 'old timers' - and how strange that all of a day made one a veteran on this impossible station, who approached the end of the table where her small group sat. But she was interested to see the woman sitting at the table appeared to be younger than she remembered.
"Master Sergeant Pitt?"
"Yes, ma'am. I'm guessing you’re the Vatta on the station. Admiral Kylara Vatta?"
Ky smiled, "The same, but call me Ky, everyone else does."
Cally Ray Pitt replied, "Ma'am, I don't know that would be an appropriate way to address an Admiral."
"Oh, don't worry about that, Pitt. You don't know it, but I've known you a few years from my time. When we first met, I was just a probationary captain on my first cruise for Vatta."
"Permission to speak freely?"
"This is all just a bit weird to me. You say we've known each other a few years now, and that we met when you were a probie captain on a commercial run, but you're, well, you're really young, ma'am, for an admiral. And you put together a multi-system force to fight a large force of pirate ships? I've never heard of such a thing. How could all this have happened? And how did I come to be in all this?"
"Well, first you almost killed me, then you saved me, then you protected me, then you spied on me, but mostly you gave me good, solid advice. I think we ought to sit down and I'll try to bring you up to speed."
"I think I had better, um, Ky...."
Cordelia Vorkosigan and Ludmilla Droushnakovi approached the table with the new arrival that, while they didn't recognize her name, clearly had come from a universe at least related to their own. They found an unnaturally beautiful woman waiting for them.
"Admiral Elli Quinn, of the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet?"
"Yes. And you're Lady Vorkosigan, aren't you? But so young...I know, the time displacement thing."
"Yes, and this is a friend of mine from Barrayar, Drou. But you seem familiar with my name, and you are commanding a mercenary force that takes its name from the Dendarii Mountains, which are on my husband's family estates. Care to explain how that name came to be applied to your fleet?"
"Well, it was Miles' idea, really."
"Miles Naismith, uh, Vorkosigan. Your son, ma'am."
Cordelia took a deep breath, "So, my son has become some rogue of the spaceways?"
"Oh, no ma'am. The Dendarii were more in the way of a hobby for him, well, at first they were a cover, then a hobby. And then he die...was injured, and he had to retire from that, but he seems to be keeping really busy being a Barrayar Imperial Auditor, that and having his own family now, of course."
"Admiral Quinn, could it be that you didn't note carefully the date from which I am from?" Cordelia's hand strayed to her belly, "You've told me more about my unborn son than I ever imagined knowing."
Elli paled, "You mean you're pregnant with MILES right now? I thought, well assumed, that you were from some other timeline where you had other children."
Cordelia motioned for all of them to sit, "I think we ought to sit down and then you can tell me more about my son's future."
Sarah Connor sat waiting for the new arrival, who was later than most of the others on arriving. That was no surprise. Anyone with a medical background was being drafted as soon as they arrived to help with the examinations. Sarah had spent more time in the infirmary than any other woman on Nike without medical skills. It was still hard to believe she was being treated for cancer and was already in remission, and would be cured in just a day or two more. Of course, if she was able to get back to John before then, she'd gladly go and be thankful for whatever extra time Nike had given her. She was also thankful for one other thing Nike had given her; hope. Before Nike, it seemed that no matter what she and John did, Skynet still happened, Judgment Day still happened. But now she had met women from literally hundreds of timelines where Skynet and Judgment day never occurred.
The redhead entering the commissary approached Sarah, a woman she had never met. A woman from after Judgment Day. A woman who had the same name as hers.
"You're Sarah Connor. You changed your hair. John had that picture."
A woman who was her daughter-in-law, and if Nike held true to form, the mother of her grandchild.
"And you're Kate Connor, John's wife."
Ellen Ripley was one of the few civilians who went by her last name rather than the first names the other civilians preferred. Despite that, she had felt more relaxed on Nike than she had as far back as she could remember. Working side by side with intelligent, competent women on this space station was like a breath of fresh air. Of course, being a whole universe away from the aliens who had twice threatened her life was a big plus as well. The one down side was Newt. She hoped she was okay. She knew she just trying to distract herself from meeting with the ghost she was now approaching.
"Ripley, how the hell are we here? Last thing I remember was taking ten."
How did you tell someone, even PFC Jenette Vasquez, the last you remember of them was their blowing up with a horde of aliens baring down on her.
Shane Vansen was excited to be approaching the latest new arrival. She had not believed she would be seeing someone she knew on the station like some of the others had, but there her name was, clearly. She couldn't wait to show her the fighters on Nike.
"Lieutenant Vanessa Damphousse, welcome aboard Nike. Let's get some chow, then I'll take you to get checked out on the Nike fighters."
"Thank you, Captain."
Helena Russell went to meet with the new arrivals she had been assigned to, neither of whom was from her own universe, unlike many of the others today.
"Colonel Virginia Lake, Lieutenant Commander Katherine Hitchcock? I'm Doctor Helena Russell. Welcome aboard Nike."
"Thank you, Doctor Russell," Virginia Lake responded, "I understand you're originally from a moonbase?"
"Yes. I read that your organization, SHADO, had a moonbase that it operated out of as well?"
"We do, yes."
Helena turned to the other new arrival, "And you command a submersible for a supranational organization, the United Earth Organization?"
Katherine Hitchcock responded in kind, "Yes, Doctor. Comparing notes between Colonel Lake and myself that seems to be one place the UEO and SHADO overlap, our activities underwater. Looks like the other Nike abductees don't have nearly as much experience in underwater living and operations."
"That's very interesting."
Samantha Carter had been so busy, so desperately busy, these past few days. Not that that was anything new in her life. Ever since she joined Stargate Command, it seemed she had been running from one crisis to another. She knew Honor, Susan, Jessica, even Sarah Jane, in her way, had tried to shoulder the other burdens facing Nike, but the science of what was happening, and how they could get back, fell squarely on her shoulders. She had been so focused on the problem, that she hadn't given much thought at first as to why other people were seeing arrivals from the same or at least similar timelines, but no one else from her own timeline. No one, that is, until today.
They came in as a group. Beverly had been glad of the influx of medical personnel with the last group of arrivals. Among those with medical experience were three names she had recognized. And here they came, in a small knot. She rose to greet them.
She didn't know which one had called her name.
"Janice, Jennifer, and you must be Tamara Johanson."
"You know I'm not from the same timeline as you, don't you, Colonel Carter?" Doctor Janice Frazier offered.
"I could tell. But, you were on SG-1 in your universe, did you..."
"Yes, we were one of the teams from other timelines that came through to your SGC, I believe. So we have met before. And of course, we've a shared history somewhere back there."
"My Janice or not, I'm still glad to see you. And you two, I'm pretty sure are from my timeline. And of course I am glad to see you again, Jennifer." Dr. Keller nodded to her and smiled. "And to meet you, Tamara. Please, all of you, sit down and enjoy the food service here on Nike. I wish we weren't all stuck here, but if we had to be anyway, at least we have good company."
Susan Ivanova and Lyta Alexander were among those who stayed on the bridge even for the big 'Day Eight Brunch'. Someone had to, but aside from that Lyta wasn't in the mood to meet their new arrival in such an informal setting, and Susan wasn't going to just leave Lyta alone...their 'Conspiracy of Light' had done too much of that already. Of course, the fact that Lyta was basically devoted to tearing apart PsiCorp did endear her to the woman.
The woman in Earthforce uniform (most military new arrivals were taking advantage of Nike's replicator abilities to change into their normal uniforms before leaving their rooms) stepped through the door onto the Bridge.
Even though Lyta was the one who knew her, Susan was the one who greeted her, "Captain Lochley, welcome to Nike Station's bridge. I'm Susan Ivanova, and I believe you know Lyta Alexander, whose been helping us here with the arrival process."
Elizabeth Lochley nodded, "A pleasure to finally meet you, Captain Ivanova. I've heard a lot about you from John and your other friends on Babylon 5." Much cooler in tone, Lochley said to Lyta, "You just keep turning up, don't you, Ms. Alexander?"
"I guess so. I seem to have a knack for attracting the attention of powerful forces. I am getting tired of being played with, however."
"I'll bet you are. Captain Ivanova, you do know what Lyta Alexander is capable of, don't you?"
Susan didn't care at all for Lochley's tone.
"I know she stood with us against the Shadows, the Vorlons, and Clark's corrupt government. Where were you?"
Elizabeth Lochley sighed, "Doing my duty."
"Weren't we all?" Susan quipped.
"John seemed to think so."
"Yes, he did." Susan eased up a little, "And that's enough for me. Let's get some food. Even if we're standing watch, Nike still can provide some great grub. Come on, Lochley. We'll get you fed while we orient you to Nike and the bridge."
Lyta didn't comment either way if Sheridan's acceptance was enough for her.
After our late breakfast, our group of Doctor travelling companions broke up to attend to our various activities. Martha obviously headed for the infirmary, Rose volunteered to spend some time with Dorothy, or 'Ace' as she said she preferred to be called, whereas I accompanied Honor to her next stop. Honor brought along one new arrival, and Kathryn Janeway another.
Samantha Carter greeted us in her lab space, a sprawling work area aboard Nike. A number of other women buzzed around, all seemingly intent on various projects.
"Sam, I want you to meet Vice-Admiral Shannon Foraker of the Haven Navy. She's one of the most brilliant technical experts I have known. Sam, Colonel Carter, is a brilliant scientist from her timeline who's done a great deal for us here on Nike."
Even though Honor spoke with affection for the newcomer, she also had that same shadow of sadness and loss cross her face that I had come to know whenever her thoughts turned to the terrible war her nation had just endured.
Kathryn Janeway gestured to her own new arrival, "And this is Seven of Nine. I think you will find she has a number of skills to help with the effort."
Janeway's former crewmate nodded, then walked over to a Nike workstation, "Colonel Carter, how much have you learned about the nanites employed by Nike?"
Sam came to attention, "They have limited replication abilities and no self direction. Those were some of the first things we checked. They appear to have a role in station maintenance and repairs, probably also in the malleable nature of stations decor."
Seven nodded, "Very good. Have you been able to communicate with them?"
"Communicate with them?"
"Yes. I have some limited capability to intercept their communications; a legacy of my time as part of the Borg Collective. You are correct that they have no self volition, but they don't lack a certain base level of collective intelligence."
Beverly and I had compared notes on our respective universes, she had told me about the Borg. Nasty sounding things just a bit too close to Cybermen for my taste.
"Really, that is quite fascinating, and just a little bit disturbing."
"Why should that be?"
"In our exploration, we've found more than one instance of replicating nanobots, which we call replicators, though that is a bit confusing given your Federation seems to use the same term for the machines that can replicate things like clothes and foodstuffs."
"These nanites seem quite placid."
"So long as they stay that way. But this might be a very useful ability, Seven is it? We'll have to discuss it further."
"I am at your disposal."
Sam turned to the other woman from Honor's universe, "Vice-Admiral Foraker, allow me to give you a tour of the facilities. One of the biggest things we are working on is our plan for escape from Nike."
Leia and Padmé were sitting quietly in Padmé's room on Nike.
"You're still holding things back from me, aren't you, Leia?"
Leia sighed, "Not entirely. I really know very little of those times."
"I still have a hard time believing Ani....your father, could have become this Vader you speak of. What could have gone so horribly wrong? I know Ani had his dark moments, but this is all too much, still."
Leia placed a tentative hand on her birth mother's, "He saved Luke in the end, though. And who knows what you may go back to, armed with the knowledge your time on Nike has provided, not to mention the advanced medical care. We've already seen that there are other histories, other ways things can be. Maybe for you, in your time, things will be different."
"And we could be together as a family? Doubtful. A secret marriage, the whole Jedi order set against 'entanglements', what were we thinking? I feel as if I'm just waking up from some fragile dream."
"You have to have hope, Padmé. Hope kept us all going in the rebellion, and we won. Hope has to keep you going as well."
"There never should have been a need for a rebellion. Palpatine as some absolute Emperor....it never should have happened. If I do get back, I'll kill him myself, rather than let him destroy the Republic."
Leia smiled, appreciating the spirit of her mother she'd never known, "Nobly said, but you don't know the power he's been hiding. It has to be the Jedi who depose him, no one else will stand a chance."
"I don't know that Ani will be ready to hear anything against Palpatine, not initially. But Obi-Wan, he might listen."
"Obi-Wan might indeed."
We former traveling companions of the Doctor sat around the table having our tea. It was the first time Martha had had a chance to spend some real time comparing notes with Rose, what with all the exams that needed to be done. The influx of more medical personnel today had given her a bit more free time, though still terribly busy with the escalating numbers of new arrivals every day.
"So you, and Mickey, married?"
"Yes. Guess we have the same taste in men, eh?"
"So let me get this straight. The Doctor uses the alias John Smith, which is the name adopted by my Doctor. My ex, your hubby, is Mickey Smith, and that makes you Martha Jones Smith. And then there's you, Sarah Jane - Sarah Jane Smith! Oi, I know Smith is a common last name, but this is just a bit much, don't you think?"
"Well, when you put it that way, yes it is."
"And you're carrying Mickey's child."
"Of course. And you that human Doctor's child!"
"John, yes. I think you had a bit of a crush on our favorite Time Lord, didn't you?"
"Well....yeah, I did. But he didn't seem to be over his last travel companion."
"Well, at least Mickey seems well over me. I'm glad you two found each other."
I sat there, sipping my tea, listening to these two compare notes, and the thought whispered through my mind - how many of us fell for that damned alien?
Sam Carter reported the latest to Honor Harrington.
"Beverly mentioned that we should cross check the quantum signatures of the data packs that come along with new arrivals. It turns out that they are not from our universe, nor are they from Nike's."
"A third universe? That's remarkable - and concerning."
"Yes. Even if we manage to hold open and cross through the rift, we're still not likely to be back in our own universe."
"So, it will take some persuasion to have our abductors help us return."
The Nike assembly room was needed to fit us all in. Honor took the podium.
"Women of Nike Station, I am here to brief you on our plan for escape tomorrow morning."
A cheer went up with that, but Honor held up her hands for silence so she might continue. Fortunately, most of the women understood the signal and the rest figured it out from their neighbours soon enough. As the hall fell quiet, Honor continued, "Our success is by no means assured, but our resolve is steadfast. Our science committee under the leadership of Colonel Samantha Carter have analyzed the data at hand, and determined the most likely energy beam types to hold open the rifts. This is still part guesswork, and thus we have no idea if our attempt will succeed, but we must prepare for that potential breakthrough. The plan for tomorrow is to scan for arrivals in one designated sector of Nike - large enough to ensure based on the established pattern at least one and probably two arrivals are taking place in that sector of rooms. As you know, the station's internal power is shunted away from the room of the arrival, but Sam Carter's team has figured a way to extend the range of some of Nike's other sensors to cover those gaps. We will use the teleportation - transporter devices on Nike to deliver two teams. The first team will materialize directly in the room, setting up Federation-style pattern buffers and the force beam generators. If they are successful in forcing open the rift, the second team will be transported directly into and across to the other side of the rift. They will establish a beach head and set up beam generators and pattern buffers on that side of the rift as well. Then the first team will go through as support for the second, while the rest of our security forces secure the room here on Nike. Depending on the resistance we meet, and our ability to secure the rift and to establish transportation back to our home timelines, we will begin moving Nike residents through the rift."
I noticed there were a number of concerned faces in the audience. I myself no doubt had some concern showing on my own. Honor clearly was reading the same in the crowd.
"I know that there are many unknowns in this plan, but thus far this is our first, best chance to strike back and take the fight to our abductors. Let us all hope for success."
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
We were all up well before the normal time of arrival on Nike - some I believe haven't slept all night. I was stationed on the Nike Bridge for this, our strike for freedom. The large viewscreens showed the teams in the transporter rooms, as Beverly and Janeway called them. Honor sat leaning forward in the command chair of the bridge, as if willing herself through the screens to the bridgehead groups. We had all pretty much vetoed any suggestion of Honor leading the teams - we needed her in overall command should things go pear-shaped. Sam was leading the first team, having won that debate that she would be able to best adjust to any technical challenge with the machinery, and a formidable woman from Honor's timeline, Thandi Palane, was in charge of the second team. The briefing recordings had been amended for today to inform new arrivals that our escape attempt was in progress and to stay in their rooms until further updates directed them where to go and what to do (the old briefing information would play in the meantime to inform, distract, and prepare them).
I watched the timer on the screen tick down - three minutes, two minutes, one minute, then finally - zero hour!
Carter's team one beamed into the new arrival's room. Their personal shields snapped on to deal with the exotic particles radiating from where the rift literally was cutting through the fabric of reality. Seven of Nine and Ana Khouri started setting up pattern buffers around the bed where the new arrival was starting to materialize while the others set up the beam. Sam Carter flipped the switch and the beam of energy raged into the heart of the rift - and was answered by an equal torrent of energy from the rift that slagged the beam machinery and threw Sam Carter and her team across the room.
The medical team beamed almost at the same time as the rift snapped shut. Crusher began directing the other women as she triaged based on her tricorder readings. Most were merely bruised and stunned, but Sam Carter had a bad burn as well, her shield having overloaded with her proximity to the explosion. The rest they bandaged up while Crusher and Carter were beamed directly to the infirmary.
I was simply stunned, as apparently were most of the others who were monitoring events on the bridge. While I had been prepared for failure, given how tentative our knowledge of the rifts was, none of us had been prepared for the immediate and dramatic failure of the plan.
Harrington turned to Foraker, "What happened, Shannon?"
Shannon Foraker turned from the sensor readings, "Don't know how, Admiral, but it looks like the rift also acts something like a one-way mirror - energy can come through to Nike, but anything sent from Nike just bounces back."
"Impossible. We would have picked it up with the trial beams."
Shannon shrugged, "There might be an energy threshold to the effect."
"Unbelievable. Well, I had better make an announcement to Nike and we all had best get started on the intake process for the new arrivals. Once team one is patched up, I want them debriefed in case they caught anything the sensors missed. Then I'm going to the infirmary to check on Colonel Carter."
Honor reminded me so much at that moment of the Brigadier.
Lyta Alexander had performed her scan of the newest new arrivals - and how quickly did that status change in this station - when she detected one going off the script with some very interesting facets to her brain. As the calamity of the escape team's failure was still going on, Lyta managed to gain Susan Ivanova's attention.
"We've got just one new arrival who appears to be roaming, and there's something a bit off on her."
Susan turned from the discussion on the failed mission, "Is she a danger?"
"I don't know. Her mind is confusing. Want me to check it out?"
"For you, Susan, yes."
"Then please do. I've got my hands filled with all this."
"So I can see. Good luck."
"Same to you."
The young woman with the dark hair was the one with the odd mind that Lyta had detected. She was weaving down the hallway of Nike, almost as if drunk, but Lyta didn't think that was the case. The young woman spoke as she approached the end of the hallway where Lyta had entered.
"I like you. You don't yell your thoughts."
Lyta wished she could say the same for the dark-haired woman.
"Thanks. What's your name?"
"Really? That is a coincidence. This station's name is Nike."
"That's what I said."
Now Lyta was confused, and slightly discomfited as the woman had come closer, and her drunken weave seemed to become more of a dance.
"That your name is Nike? Or did you mean that the station is called Nike?"
"You ask a lot of questions. I need to find them."
Now Lyta's head began to hurt, "Find who?"
The woman weaved right past Lyta's position. Lyta had thought to stop her there but somehow her uncoordinated movements seemed to dance right by her. Both bemused and concerned, Lyta followed the strange brunette.
They made for a strange procession of two, the young woman lead in her dancing stroll, Lyta followed warily. She eventually made her meandering way to one of the work-rooms on Nike.
Another young woman, though older than the one that Lyta had followed, stood up with her jaw dropping, "River?"
"Kaylee. Where's Simon?" River Tam turned to Lyta Alexander, who had followed her into the room, "See, I can ask questions, too."
Lyta Alexander trailed behind Kaylee Frye as she escorted the odd woman, River Tam by name, apparently, to the infirmary. Another woman Lyta had only seen in passing, Zoe Washburne, joined them, apparently called by Kaylee.
"You seem older, River." Zoe mentioned.
"No, you are younger, you both are."
"Time travel. You get used to it, sort of." Kaylee chimed in.
Dr. Crusher had her hands full with Colonel Carter and some of the other injuries from the failed escape attempt. Word had already spread about the setback. However, Zoe saw one of the other doctors and flagged her down.
"Doctor, can you check out our friend here? She's a new arrival, but she isn't particularly good at following instructions."
"Sure. My name is Jennifer Keller. And you are?" she enquired of the new arrival.
"You look like sisters, but are from far away." River said to Dr. Keller while gesturing to the Doctor and Kaylee.
"Hmm, now that she mentions it, you do look a bit like you could be my sister, Doc." Kaylee declared.
"I suppose we have a similar look, yes. But as your friend notes, I'm from pretty far away from your neck of the woods."
"Not the same." River proclaimed. As an afterthought, "River Tam, that's my name."
As they led River Tam to one of the exam rooms, a woman came out of the other and did a double take, "Cameron?" she said in River's direction.
"I'm not tin." River proclaimed solemnly.
Sarah Connor stiffened and placed her hand on the phaser at her side, "So you say. Dr. Keller, you need to watch yourself until you've examined this woman. She looks like an older version of a Terminator model I've had dealings with. Something like your humanoid replicators, but more primitive and nastier."
Now Zoe placed her own phaser at the ready, "This is our shipmate, River. No need for gunplay, Connor."
Dr. Keller took a step back. Rather than wait to reach the room, she detached her medical tricorder (as Beverly called them) and scanned River.
"Not tin, I said."
"She's scanning as pure biologic, Sarah. I think this must just be a coincidence."
Sarah Connor let her hand drop to her side, as did Zoe, though she kept a close eye on Sarah.
"Life is a stage, and we but poor players." River sang.
"Shakespeare? What's that supposed to mean?" Lyta Alexander asked.
Zoe responded, "You get used to it, sort of. Actually, River is much better than she used to be."
"Scrambled brains make thinking hard, but thoughts can kill."
"This is better?" Sarah Connor asked, her tone a bit disbelieving.
"Oh, loads better!" Kaylee offered.
Dr. Keller was still scanning, then looked up, her face ashen, "Scrambled brains indeed. This woman's brain's been tortured and experimented on, deliberately. That's the only way to explain some of these readings.
"Simon saved me. He's a good brother. Kaylee, we need to get back to Simon. You haven't had your baby yet. Time travel is twisty."
"I know, River, honey. The Admiral is working on it. She's almost as good as the Captain, and almost as smart as your brother." Kaylee offered as comfort.
River looked at Lyta just before going into the exam room with Dr. Keller, Kaylee, and Zoe, "You're a very polite monster. I hope to be as polite a monster someday, but it is hard to keep their thoughts from my mind.
"From you, I'll take that as a compliment." Lyta watched the door closed, wondering if it had been man or alien who had violated that woman's mind, and wondering at all the coincidences around this woman this morning. Lyta just shook her head as she walked away, wondering how else today would be odd.
I accompanied Honor when she left the bridge in Susan's care. We entered the main infirmary where Beverly had brought the injured from the escape attempt explosion.
"How are the injured doing, Doctor?" Honor enquired formally of Beverly when she managed to catch her.
"Mostly bruised. The personal shields took the brunt of the explosion. One or two minor fractures, a couple more possible concussions, but on the whole we were lucky. Carter's the most injured, her shield was the only one completely overwhelmed by the explosion, but it only failed towards the end. She has some rather serious third degree thermal burns as well as radiation burns. I've managed to block out the pain, but she is going to be staying with us in the infirmary for at least a few days until her tissue regeneration is far enough along for discharge. At least, if I have that time."
"As of right now, we have no travel plans. On the other hand, no one is quitting."
"I understand. Jean-Luc would say much the same." Beverly wondered if she'd ever be seeing him again.
"How are you going to handle your first inpatient, Beverly?" I asked.
"Well, we'll all be here most of the day finishing the exams on the new arrivals. I'm going to move in for the night shift for tonight; it will give me an excuse to stay in and work on some of the research I've been doing on this strange language phenomenon. Actually, I think I might be close to figuring out precisely what they did. Having Hoshi Sato, who actually knew a variant of the language and the writing prior to her arrival is helping as a contrast case for the scans."
"Good," Honor added, "Keep me informed on that as well. Where is Sam, Doctor?"
Beverly escorted us to Sam's bed. "Samantha, you look a terrible mess!" I exclaimed.
Sam Carter smiled on the side of her face that wasn't damaged, "And feeling a lot more comfortable than I have any right to be. Beverly Crusher combined with the technologies on this station work quite the miracles. You know, I think some of this stuff they're using on me is from Beverly's Federation, but others may be Ancient derived. It's really quite fascinating."
"I'm glad you're keeping in good spirits. I'm surprised all the medical personnel who know you aren't clucking over your bed."
"I sent them away. Frazier's the worst! I think she feels like every SGC member is a child to be cared for, even from another timeline."
Honor broke in, "How are you really doing, Sam?"
"Really okay, all things considered. I'm not kidding when I say I'm feeling better than I should be. Looks horrible, though. I think I might be freaking out a little if Beverly and Janice hadn't assured me that Nike can repair these kinds of burns completely. I'm really very lucky. I imagine you already know how the rest of my team fared. Pretty amazing things, these personal shields."
"Yes, something from Jessica's time, but Foraker was able to modify them so they don't explode if hit by certain beam weapons. Apparently the originals could cause an explosion somewhat the size of a tactical nuclear warhead."
"Well, I'm pretty certain I'm still alive because of mine, even if it didn't perfectly protect me, so I won't complain."
"You're an amazing woman, Samantha Carter."
"Thanks. Sometimes you don't have any other choice."
Beverly was still finishing up with the injuries from the failed escape attempt when the first of the new arrivals started to trickle in. At least none of the pregnancies had been adversely effected by the explosion. She had worried about miscarriages from the shock, but the shields had absorbed enough of the damage for them that that was not likely. The one possible exception was Samantha Carter. Her shield failure had meant more kinetic energy, heat damage, and even radiation exposure, than the others. However, the brunt of the damage had been to the upper half of Colonel Carter, with the lower half of her body seeming to have escaped most everything. Still, the antiradiation treatments would take care of mother and child for any residua. Now her mind turned to the two hundred fifty-six new arrivals, and thus that many new examinations. Granted, they had had a shot in the arm of new medical arrivals the other day, but it was still daunting.
"Dr. Crusher, we were told by the briefing that all new arrivals with medical skills should report to you, first." The first of two women who had just come up to her said. Crusher's eye was immediately drawn to the one standing just behind the first to speak, as she was wearing an old Starfleet Medical uniform.
"Yes, that's right. And you two are?"
"Doctor Carolyn Lam, 21st century." The first woman replied.
The woman in the Starfleet uniform behind her added her own name, "Doctor Christine Chapel, Starfleet Medical, 23rd century."
"Welcome aboard Nike, for what that's worth. We're glad to have the help, though. We're expecting to need 256 exams today, including your own. Maybe we can get those out of the way and demonstrate the equipment and procedures at the same time."
"Doctor Crusher, I heard on the way in that one of the injured from your escape attempt this morning was a Colonel Carter. Would that be Samantha Carter?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. You said 21st century, right? Are you associated with Stargate Command, then?"
"Yes, I'm the SGC's chief medical officer."
"Hmm, you might want to say hello, then. I keep trying to get Sam to rest, but she's restless. A brief visit after your exam may do her good, but just a brief one, we're going to need to put you to work soonest."
"Doctor Crusher, you're also with Starfleet Medical, aren't you?"
"Yes, Doctor Chapel, but I'm 24th century. Still, your name is familiar to me. You served as doctor on the same Enterprise Dr. Leonard McCoy served on at one time, didn't you?"
"You have a good memory for history, apparently, Doctor Crusher. I was his nurse first, but once I received my medical degree, yes, I served as medical officer on Enterprise."
"Well, we'll have to compare notes sometime. Now, to those exams."
Leia was still a bit off her game following the arrival of Padmé Amadala. How many shocks can one woman handle in her life, she wondered idly. Her parents not her parents, a brother she never knew about, and her biological father - the embodiment of the Dark Side, at least for all the time she had known him, at least until the day he died. Now to meet her birth mother, who died in giving birth to her, when she was still carrying her? Leia knew she was a strong woman, a leader, a fighter, but this when did she get to live a normal life? Everyone had hoped that somehow a miracle would be pulled out and the escape attempt would succeed. Most were probably still dealing with the aftermath, but the new arrivals were starting to fill out their forms using the tablets they had instructed Nike to make for them in their rooms. As she browsed the names of the new arrivals, one was flagged for her attention as a possible match of universe. The name was both familiar and intriguing at the same time....well, well, well, who would have thought. But she was surprised that she hadn't sensed this arrival.
Leia had Nike direct her to the room of her new arrival. Already, other new arrivals were leaving their rooms, following the instructions they announced through Nike's communications. However, Nike confirmed her new arrival still in her room. They had Nike generate door ringers, and she used the one for her arrival's door to ring in. The door opened.
"Mara Jade - Skywalker, and how does that happen, I wonder?" Leia quipped. But then she really saw and felt Mara Jade. She knew she was strong in the force, and now that she was close, she could feel that strength. However, it was all focused internally, like a tightly held fist or knot. And of course, Mara was pregnant, but somehow Leia didn't expect her to be so far along. But in addition, she didn't look at all well. "What has happened to you?"
"Coombs spores." Mara said matter of factly.
"And what are those?" Leia Organa Solo asked.
"You don't know? Wait, they said something about time displacement. And you're pregnant. Your first or second pregnancy?"
"My what? This is the only time I've been pregnant, at least from my perspective."
"Huh, so you probably don't think much of me at this point in your history."
"But later I do? The Skywalker name? Unless you've secretly discovered you're my sister, and I very much doubt that."
"I married your brother. This is his unborn son, Ben."
"And these spores? Coomb spores?"
"Deadly. They only reason I'm alive is I've been using the force to hold them back from killing me, and from infecting Ben. But it is getting harder."
"We're going to see about that." Leia reached out with the force, lending Mara her strength. At the same time, she hit the combadge. "Nike bridge, I have a medical emergency. Please have the transporter room transport myself and the new arrival with me to the infirmary."
"Transport?" Mara said as she felt herself dissolve in a shower of light.
Helena Russell and Christine Chapel were on hand to triage the medical emergency beaming into the infirmary.
"I've engaged a quarantine field." Doctor Chapel announced.
"No need," Mara Skywalker stated weakly, "Coombs spores are non-communicable. Made them quite the failure as a bioweapon."
"Let us just scan and confirm that, ma'am." Doctor Russell added.
"Okay, I've identified the potential pathogen. It's seriously embedded, even if we ran her through the transporter again with enhanced biofiltering not certain that would work. On the other hand, means this stuff isn't coming out to infect anyone else, either." Chapel commented.
"How's the fetus?" Russell enquired.
"Clean. This is really remarkable. There seems to be some sort of energy field blocking passage through the placenta. I'm picking up more of it throughout her body. What is that?" Chapel was impressed.
Leia provided the answer, "The Force. The life force of the universe."
"Well, that's a new one on me. If you can hold that in place for a few more hours, I think we can synthesize a counteragent." Chapel sounded more confident then she was.
Kathryn Janeway had the late shift in the command chair on Nike's bridge tonight. She had stayed up all night before to prepare for the escape attempt, only to see it abjectly fail. She had fallen into a dreamless sleep, exhaustion winning over disappointment. Her preset alarm had awoken her with enough time to get ready for her shift, and now, sitting in the command chair on the bridge, she reviewed all the data collected from the escape attempt and subsequently during the course of the day. Surprisingly, Vice-Admiral Foraker's off-the-cuff remark about a one-way mirror type effect with an energy threshold seemed to be the best explanation thus far. Maybe she was the technical genius Harrington touted her to be. Kathryn hit her fist against the arm of the chair. She just couldn't believe she'd been abducted away from the Federation again! Twice in a lifetime was just too much to ask of anyone. Well, she was damned if she was going to lay down and take it now. She'd gotten back once, and she'd do it again.
"Admiral Janeway, I need to speak to you, in private."
"Doctor Crusher. I didn't expect you to still be up so late."
Beverly Crusher waved it away, "I was keeping an eye on Colonel Carter, and I was running a final analysis on a project. Admiral, can we go into the side office?"
"Certainly, Doctor." Kathryn stood up and walked with Beverly towards the side room that served as the watch officer's private work area.
"All right, Doctor, what is it?"
"I need to sit down, and so do you."
"Now you're really starting to get me concerned and intrigued."
Deep breath. "I've been working on figuring out how the knowledge of this language and writing system was implanted and even set as our 'default' way of communicating."
"So I had heard. Something Hoshi Sato's been helping you with?"
"Yes. Anyway, I was able to determine the areas altered in our brains by comparing them to each other, especially compared to Hoshi Sato, some of the medical records of abductees from more modern civilizations. That's where our abductors made their mistake."
"They used too complicated a process to get the effect they desired. I could think of a few that would have been simpler with much the same results. However, it appears that synaptic connections were superimposed during the equivalent of being held in a pattern buffer in a transporter."
"Hmm, that's fascinating, Doctor, but it doesn't explain your need to come here and speak to me privately when you are obviously exhausted yourself. Nor does it explain your obvious concern."
"It left more than just a trace of the modification technique. Have you ever heard of Thomas Riker?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. He was the duplicate of Will Riker who joined the Maquis.
"Duplicate isn't exactly the right term for him. Before a second transporter beam was activated, there was only one William T Riker. After, there were two, but neither had any more of a claim to being the original than the other. Look at this data, Admiral."
Beverly handed a tablet over to Janeway, who reviewed it for a few moments before speaking, "So, this is the residual signs of a transport. I didn't realize that they lasted this long."
"Usually, they don't, but that seems to be a side effect of the synaptic overlay. It’s fading, and probably won't even be detectable in another week."
"You're data suggests there were two transporter beams entangled - much like what happened to Riker."
"Three, actually. That's my analysis. I spent a great deal of time analyzing both those men alongside engineering, and took an interest afterwards in some of the animal experiments to recreate the effect. Those failed, but this entanglement signature is very similar, though more durable. Note that two of them appear to be locking on to the same target for transport, whereas the third is much smaller and transporting in. That third one is undoubtedly the beam used to implant the linguistic knowledge we have acquired on arrival at Nike."
"The two other beams, they're identical in size and complexity, but one is brief and the other much longer."
"That's what I think, too."
"What are your final conclusions, Doctor." Kathryn felt herself trembling inside, as she had already come to her own conclusions, both about what had happened and what Crusher thought had happened."
"They twinned us, only leaving the one beam on long enough for the duplication. The other was used to hold us in a pattern buffer with the third beam intertwined to provide the language."
"So you think we all have identical twins somewhere, well, other than the language thing."
"I think they left us home, and brought us here, altered to communicate better."
"I tend to agree with you, Beverly. If they had just provided us universal translators instead of this alteration, we might never have known."
"What do we do?"
Kathryn stared at her hands, the hands she had known for decades, as if they were foreign to her, but they remained the same old hands she'd remembered, "First thing is, you and I are going to wake Admiral Harrington."
Honor Harrington had absorbed everything Beverly and Kathryn had to say in silence as she sat at the table in her quarters.
"You both know much more about this transporting business than I do, but may I ask a question or two?"
"Beverly, have you rerun these tests to make certain of the results? You did say it was a subtle effect, only found around the site of the language areas altered presumably by our abductors."
"I did some quick rechecks when I realized what direction this was heading. I'm reasonably certain they are correct, but another more thorough check, especially by someone else, might be reasonable."
"That's the first thing. I don't want this being spread around until we are certain. Speaking of which, how do we know that this evidence wasn't planted to make us believe that we are copies to dissuade us from escape?"
"Nothing much, other than it being an awful lot of trouble to go to to plant false information, and there's a good chance we would have missed it entirely if we didn't look fairly soon after arrival for it."
"Then again, if I may play Devil's Advocate, our abductors have already done so much that this wouldn't be a great stretch of their resources I would imagine. You did say that this method of providing us with a mutual comprehensible language was unnecessarily complicated and could have been achieved with simpler means. Might that not have been done on purpose to bring this evidence to our attention?"
Kathryn Janeway interjected, "That's true, Honor, but this all seems to be too complicated to work as a deception plan. There's too many ways it could have gone wrong."
"We don't know that this is their only plan - that is, if it really is a plant. Beverly, I'm ordering you to get some sleep. If you have to, pull one of the other doctors to babysit Sam and that new arrival in your infirmary. Kathryn, you are on duty anyway, and familiar with the technology, at least as much as any of us. I would like you to go over the data again, rerun whatever scans you need using the late shift personnel, but keep it as quiet as you can, at least until we are more clear what the odds are of this twinning hypothesis being the case. I will want a full report in the morning, just you two, before the next batch of new arrivals are due."
"Or batch of new lives." Beverly added.
"Just so, Beverly, just so. Still, at this point we have no way of intervening in that process, though we've a few lines we're following that might be usable by the last day, depending what we decide. I need some rest, now, ladies. I will see you bright and early."
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
Honor had barely slept overnight, but still was up well before the next arrivals were due. She followed Nike's guidance to the doors of a room she had only briefly been shown before. She opened the door and stepped in. Once the doors closed behind her, they disappeared, as did the room itself.
Kathryn Janeway was standing in a courtyard of some sort overlooking a bay spanned by an ancient bridge.
"This holographic technology is amazing. This is from Earth, isn't it?"
"San Francisco, Starfleet Academy. I've spent a lot of good days here, especially recently."
"You've finished your analysis of Beverly's data."
"Oh yes. The Doctor does very good work. I can see why Starfleet Medical is always trying to get her to stay."
"The results, Kathryn?"
"She's right. It is subtle, but it is clear. We were split in twain."
"Could it be a plant, to discourage us from going home?"
"It could. There's always that possibility. But I don't believe it, not really. Too cute. Too much chance that we would have missed it."
"And even if there were duplication, how do we know that they weren't transported somewhere else, some other station like Nike, perhaps."
"The other transporter beam signal is too short. Just long enough to have duplicate locks, then the other was released. No transport time. They stayed. We, on the other hand, were in a pattern buffer for a good, long time."
"Can you really be sure?"
"No, not 100%, but sure enough."
"What do you think we should do about this, Kathryn? What do you want to do?"
"I've been pondering that all night. But then again, I suppose that's one of the reasons you asked. Part of me wants to fight to get back, if nothing else to spite our abductors. It will be awfully complicated, but we'd muddle through somehow. That's what people do."
"But I don't know that I really like the idea of having half a life, sharing. I've always been an explorer. I suppose most people who serve as Starfleet captains are. This station, this universe, it is an enigma just begging to be solved. And I have to admit, just getting to know the women, their stories, who are here on this station, would be interesting as well."
"So, this place was in the data package that came with you?"
"Among others, yes."
"I wish we had something like this in Manticore. It would be nice to see a bit of home."
"Nike, do you have enough data on anyplace on Manticore to provide a holographic simulation? If so, please display."
The scene changed. Suddenly they were on the bridge of a ship of the wall. It was a bit eerie without any crew.
"A nice ship. A bit claustrophobic and militant by Starfleet standards, but it's a fine ship."
"It's amazing. I've spent most of my life on bridges like this, wearing the Queen's uniform. But this is just light and force fields. It's not home."
"No, it's not. Do you know what you want to do, Honor?"
"I want to go home. I have people I love, people who depend on me, back there. If there really is another me there, that's some comfort, that they haven't been left alone. But I want my child to know Hamish. They didn't just copy us, they copied our children. My child deserves to have a father."
"So do it. Maybe not everyone will feel that way, but everyone will want to help you, and anyone else, to get back."
"So, when do we break the news? Now? After the new arrivals are at least given the initial briefing. All together so no one is alone when they learn? I think that last is important. I don't want anyone to be alone."
"I guess we have some planning to do."
"Correction. I have some planning to do. You need at least a nap. Don't worry, we'll wake you for the big moment."
We had risen early this day to implement our contingency plan. Admiral Foraker and the rather interesting Seven of Nine had taken lead on our technical efforts the other day with Sam injured and Kathryn Janeway on night shift. Between them, two other 'old hands' who made an odd pairing, Trinity and Susan Calvin, and our Tardis Girls, including several other new arrivals from yesterday with previous experience of the Doctor and TARDIS, we were able to put the finishing touches on the plan. I had described early on to Sam Carter the time the entire Earth was trapped in a pocket universe, and one brave woman, Harriet Jones (with previous assistance from an alien named Mr. Copper), had created a 'subwave network' to seek out the Doctor. A semi-sentient program that used technology to travel and reach out to seek the Doctor and those who know him. Of course, we had had to link into the massive processing power of Mr. Smith, as well as linking it to the rift in Cardiff, to successfully send out the message that eventually summoned the Doctor to the Earth's aid. Here we hoped to summon him to our own. It was unfortunate that we had to work in secret, but there were some aboard Nike that never would have allowed the creation of an artificial intelligence, even this minute and directed. However, I didn't see that we had much choice, especially now that we had failed to force open a rift. But perhaps we could use it to throw a bottle into the ocean of the multiverse.
We were ready to broadcast the subwave through the rifts, and would use a similar though far less powerful beam generator to modulate the rift, hopefully, to send it forth. The calculations for the project had been double checked by a peculiar young woman who had had an adventure with the Doctor by the name of Zoe Heriot, one of yesterday's arrivals. I still found it odd how much she seemed to know about the old Doctor, especially for spending so little time with the Doctor on that space station the Cybermen attacked. Still, it was good to have her aboard. I was also glad to have another scientist in our midst, but I found it particularly jarring to see her so young. Elizabeth Shaw had worked with U.N.I.T. and the Doctor I had first met all those many decades ago. I had had the occasional dealing with her over the past few years when I had rubbed shoulders with U.N.I.T., but this was a much younger version of Dr. Shaw than I had last seen before arriving on Nike. Still, every bit of expertise on our favorite Time Lord and a way to get a message to him was welcome.
We teleported the beams into some rooms with rifts opening per Nike's newly attuned sensors. We had arranged for the machines to work remotely, not wanting even a potential risk of the previous day's fiasco. On came the machines, out went the signal. Everything seemed to be working. Then, it was all over, and we had a bit of explaining to do to the baffled new arrivals who had industrial machinery sitting in their rooms, among all the other mysterious experiences of arriving on Nike.
I suppose that it is only natural that the events of our tenth day on Nike station should blur somewhat in my memory. I, of course, distinctly recall our launching of our 'message in a bottle' for the Doctor into the rift. I recall among the five hundred twelve new arrivals the several further arrivals of people who had traveled with him on this day, including a young Jo Grant - I don't know what it meant that they had been taken from an earlier era, where I was left til so much later. However, the surprise assembly called for all of us in the hall, new and old, in the great hall of Nike was all that filled my mind. Even Sam Carter and the other inpatient, Mara Skywalker, were brought in for this.
Honor Harrington took the podium and addressed the assembled women.
"Fellow abductees, I have called you all together to brief you on research conducted by Dr. Beverly Crusher on our predicament."
"As some of you will know, Dr. Crusher has been investigating the changes made that cause us to speak and read the same language here. Those investigations have shown her how this was done. But they led to further information suggesting a disturbing possibility."
"We have found evidence that we may have been duplicated," I heard the words, and my heart sank, "Using teleportation type technology, we believe two patterns of us were made. One was altered with this linguistic knowledge we all have, and materialized here. The other we can't be certain of, but it seems likely that they were simply rematerialized at the time and place of our abduction." I could hear the murmuring, see the looks of dismay on those near me. "I know that this is a shock to us all, especially those of you who have just arrived. I made a pledge when we came onboard Nike, that we would find a way home, that we would stand together in our mutual defense, and that we would learn who had done this to us. As far as I am concerned, that pledge still stands. To that pledge I will add another - for those who do not feel they are able to return home under these circumstances, we will help you find a place to live your lives."
It was a short speech, but a heartfelt one. Somehow, it made me feel just a little bit better. However, it could not lift fully the crushing weight of the realization that I was now superfluous; Luke likely still had a mother, and didn't have any awareness that anything was amiss. The hall was awash in conversation, in question, but already Lieutenant Yar's security team was guiding people to the commissaries - we were too big a group now to fit into just one. Honor had announced at the end that we would all eat now together, to be together, to talk together, to support each other. I thought it a wise idea, but really, all I could think about was Luke, and whether I would, or even should, ever see him again.
"Frak it. Frak all of it! All I have to look forward to going back are toasters hunting us down, a crazy pipe dream of finding Earth - though I admit that meeting you all has at least made it clear there is an Earth, and the Old Man isn't totally full of it. I'll stay here flying these fighters and seeing what's going to happen next. One Starbuck per universe, I say. Gods, otherwise I'd be just like one of those frakkin's skinjobs where you turn around and you see the same frakkin' face."
"Starbuck, don't hold back, tell us how you really feel."
"I thought I'd need to get back, for Paul. But if what we now surmise is true, and what Chani tells me of how events unfold, then what would I do there? Maybe go back to Caladan, but maybe not."
"I will return, Reverend Mother. Arrakis is my home, and Usul is my man, no matter how many of me there are."
"I understand, Chani, I really do."
"I'm tempted to stay. This is a whole new universe to explore. But I have a duty to get these women back to their own homes, if they desire it. I'll see that through, then decide, if a decision is still to be made, what to do."
"That's all very well, Admiral Janeway, but I think, if that is an option, that I'll stay. I have nothing, nothing at all to return back for. My last duty was discharged at Narendra III."
"That is reasonable, Lieutenant Yar. What about you, Lieutenant Uhura?"
I had to hand it to Honor and the others, they had planned as well as anyone could for the fallout from so grievous an announcement. First the pan-Nike assembly, followed by the communal meal. Then back to work enrolling new arrivals who were quickly sorted. While there might have been plenty of downtime to talk, no one was at leisure to be on their own. Even the people who were on nightshift were kept up running a drill at first, so that they too had time to digest and reflect while at the same time not being left to dwell alone. I don't think any of us were at our best that day, but that wasn't the point of it. The point was to absorb the initial shock of the message, that we might not be, or not solely be, the people we thought we were. That even if we returned home by some miracle, things would never be the same, not for us our 'twins' who never left home. I doubt very much that anyone was unaware of this ploy, but like me, I suspect most were grateful for the activity, and the company, nonetheless.
Mara Jade Skywalker was feeling better than she had in months. The doctors here had been as good as their word, and she felt cleansed of the alien spores that had threatened to end her life, and that of her unborn son, Ben. She felt she could finally allow the force to unfold from the tightly held fist within her, to feel it flow more naturally, the way that it was intended to. However, as good as she was now feeling, she was not certain that she was prepared to meet Luke's mother.
"Senator Amadala." Mara said formally when escorted by Leia into her room.
"Please, call me Padmé. The Old Republic, for you at least, is long gone, and I fear that even should I return, I would be of little use in that position anymore."
"Mother, please." Leia protested. She didn't like the continued morose tone her birth mother's voice carried these many days. Every once in a while, especially when set upon some duty on behalf of Nike station, she saw glimpses of the woman Padmé must be, glimpses that reminded her of herself and her early days in the rebellion, but they were so fleeting.
"Mother, nothing. Please forgive me, Mara. I have experienced more surprises than I can ever remember, these last few days. I used to think of myself as strong, and with good judgment. Now, I don't even know fully who I am."
"Nonsense, mother. You heard the experts. You are as much you as your doppelganger back there. And mother, I can feel the force in you, me, Mara. I tell you, we are ourselves."
"Yes, yes, of course."
"Sen...Padmé, I am honored to meet the woman who gave birth to Luke Skywalker. I am certain that Leia has told you of some of his accomplishments. I am from a time further along, and would share with you even more."
"I would like that. It seems that in our children, my poor Ani found his redemption, in more ways than one."
Starbuck and Wilma Deering looked over the flight rosters. A lot of new arrivals had some flight ability, and their job was to run them through their paces, while at the same time keeping the slightly more experienced 'old hands' running patrols of local space. Harrington was an absolute stickler for system security. Starbuck liked it, though. Kept her in the vacuum, kept her from thinking too much.
Wilma Deering was of much the same mind. She appreciated the chance to work with the advanced fighters Nike had to offer, and of the chance not to dwell too much on whether, if she ever did get back, it was to find herself already snuggly inserted into Buck's life.
Honor Harrington was having a rare moment to catch up with Lady Jessica. We had all been so busy, all these many days, but none more so than Honor and Jessica, and none so busy as today, when idle thoughts could prove our enemies.
I sipped my tea and injected into the conversation, "So, Lady Jessica, do you think your theory of us being brought here as part of a breeding scheme holds up, especially given how many close relations have been seen lately among the new arrivals?"
Jessica cupped her tea in her hands, "The facts still point in that direction, I believe. The fact that some of us have similar bloodlines, even to the point of some being the same suggests to me that we are not just being collected, but selected for some desired trait or traits. Strengthening bloodlines that way was not unknown to the sisterhood."
Honor leaned forward, her own signature cocoa forgotten for the moment, "And what traits might that be?"
Jessica thought for a moment, "Well, in my own family's case, I am guessing prescience. In the case of the Amadala and the Skywalkers, manipulation of this 'Force' that Leia was so reluctant to share with us about at first. Not that I blame her for that."
I sat alongside the women heading up our research and defense efforts during a very lively debate as to what our next action should be, come the morrow. The question before us was twofold - did we dare try to interfere with the new arrival process to prevent the creation of another thousand plus displaced twins, and if so, did we have a means to accomplish such a task? On the first question, opinion was hotly divided, and sometimes divided within the same person, as we were torn between preventing more of these violations, but also questioning whether we had the right to sentence those same thousand to oblivion, even if presumably their twin would go on without interruption. There was also the quiet yet important point that if we did succeed in preventing those arrivals, we would lose half our strength and expertise for surviving in this universe. Most of this was moot as we had no reliable way to interfere with the process. While it was possible that an even more aggressive application of energy might overwhelm the mirror effect and collapse the rift, it was more likely to destroy any machinery capable of accomplishing it. A more likely approach would be to disrupt the transport signal before the new arrivals could materialize, but this was seen as almost akin to simply slitting our new arrivals' throats before awakening, and whether philosophically the same or different, did not pass the squirm test (or 'gut check' as some of our fellow abductees liked to say). Nike was capable of moving, but our technical experts suspected the abductors might have a way of locking onto Nike herself rather than the region of space we were currently in. And again, the thought of a thousand pregnant women materializing in the vacuum of space should we be successful in moving Nike without our abductors being able to track it was simply too horrific to contemplate.
In the end, it was decided that we wouldn't, couldn't, risk harming the last batch of new arrivals. We would monitor the situation, and if any opportunity presented itself to strike at our abductors, we would, but we would not sacrifice innocents out of spite.
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!
There was something in the air that morning, despite the climate control of the station. Everyone seemed on edge, knowing there was a good chance this would be the last time our abductors sent new arrivals to Nike. What would happen after that, none knew. Guesses had abounded, but there just wasn't enough information. The moments ticked down to when the arrivals had occurred each day. And like clockwork, it happened once more.
We had some contingency plans in place. One attempt to hold open a rift involving a four-dimensional bauble manufactured in Nike's medical replicator. Another attempt at contact with another universe, or at least tour abductors, using psychics. A third just again trying to beam a message through the rifts, a poorer version of our own message in a bottle from the previous day.
Lyta Alexander stood shielded in the room as the new arrival began to materialize. She reached through the rift with her mind, the weapon the Vorlons had bequeathed her. All she felt was the reflection of her own mind, at first. So instead of sending, she concentrated on listening. Whispers of alien minds wafted across the rift, but nothing concrete, nothing comprehensible. About the only thing she could feel was haste and, was that, panic?
The object just didn't look right. One's eyes seemed to slide off it, and it seemed bigger or smaller depending how you turned it. Tasha had won the draw on being the one to plant the 'doorstop' into the rift. But it was tricky, tricky indeed. The rift wasn't even visible to the naked eye, and the size was miniscule. The object had a point tapered to a molecule's width that wavered in and out of 3 dimensional space. Tasha with the aide of some rather sophisticated equipment was finally able to thread the object through the rift. And then the rift closed as the new arrival finally materialized, leaving a smooth break where the half of the object had disappeared into the now closed mouth of the rift.
As the rift closed, Lyta lost the tentative contact with the alien mind or minds. However, as she shifted her focus to the occupants of Nike, she noted the normal (if one could call anything about this normal) responses to arrival on Nike. One thousand twenty-four new souls, added to the thousand plus already there. One mind shrieked out at her, however, someone who couldn't believe not just the situation of being on Nike, but something, something about her very being. Lyta hit the combadge, resisting the temptation to just plant the information in someone's mind, "Infirmary, this is Lyta Alexander, I think you have a medical emergency about 50 meters hubward of my position. Recommend you send a medical team with security there now." Lyta considered following that wail of confused anguish herself, when she noticed something unexpected, the touch again of that alien mind from the rift.
Crusher was heeding the call from Lyta Alexander when Dr. Frazier called her over to a console, "Look at this, Beverly. Something has activated this medical storage facility next to infirmary two."
"Damn. What could that be? What is this showing? Wait, no, really..."
"What is it?" Janice Frazier enquired.
"A moment. I'll need to go see for myself. We're getting a download of information into the medical records, and - oh, Martha? Martha Jones? Could you go with the security team to check out that warning Lyta Alexander just sent us? Dr. Frazier and I have to check out something else."
"Of course, Beverly. It would be my pleasure."
Martha Jones transported into the area with Dizzy Flores at her side. No sign of trouble, but then again, the rooms on Nike were sound-proof.
"Nike, open all doors in this hall, medical over-ride, authorization Jones."
All the doors flew open at Martha's command. Suddenly a voice screamed out, "Where the hell is this?" Dizzy led the way, but Martha followed her into the room. A very pregnant ginger haired woman lay on the bed in the room, her gray Nike uniform straining as she grimaced in pain, "How the hell am I pregnant? I was just with the Doctor, we had been in the TARDIS. I am not pregnant - oooh, is that a contraction?"
Martha Jones was quite taken aback. She had no idea who this was, but she clearly seemed to be delirious. She hit her combadge, "Two for immediate transport to the infirmary."
We thought the new arrivals being delivered while numerous, would be all should our interventions not work, as they did not. But there was more, oh yes, more than we realized.
"Captain Ivanova, I'm monitoring the correct number of arrivals occurring in all the unclaimed living quarters on Nike, but there is another one opening in the infirmary."
"Call down to them, see what that is about."
"Aye aye, ma'am," Lieutenant Uhura acknowledged the order. A moment later we could hear the dialogue between her and the infirmary.
"Yes, this is Dr. Lam. Dr. Crusher is investigating the arrival of a significant amount of data in the medical files, and activation of an ancillary storage area in infirmary two. She said she'd report as soon as she verifies."
"Verifies what, Doctor?"
"She didn't specify."
That was curious enough. However, what came next was what truly gobsmacked all of us.
"Captain, the other rifts have closed, but a new one just opened at the heart of the station. Incoming message, ma'am."
This was a bit redundant of poor Nyota Uhura to say, as no sooner had the words left her mouth than most of the lights on Nike dimmed as a voice was piped in over the com system. The voice did not sound real, more some neuter machine voice, but all scrambled and hard to discern through what sounded like static and possibly explosions!
"DO NOT RECORD…..MESSAGE! It….danger……..you………..message to you….discover…by…..enemies….all life….almost made it…………….found me…………..I am risking……………message………you have…right to know……………..split from……home…………..bring life………desolate….verse…………thinking beings……obliterate…eons……..the enemies……..life. We….not survive there…..you can….chose…..best……bright…………..hero…………..many histories……….skills…..courage…………..bring intellect…………..universe…….enemies of all………….stop us………….quest. Even……….seek our…….destruct………they……succeed. But they think the universe you are in now….safe, sterilized. They won’t expect………………….seeded sentience……………..once they….find you……will pause….sider…..der if you…….natural…………that universe or………………gone awry……their plans………….buy you time….grow strong…………….fight back……..sorry………message……………confusing to you…………hard for us to think in the terms you……………provided you……….best technology………………your own worlds……nothing of ours must ever be found……………………bring death immediate…………you may not be able………on technology for all……needs, which……..I chose only your breeding………………….have the first gen…………….even if you have to abandon……….named the station………..hope……….would………you to………….the……ard the enemies……..life……………everything………………….not your only challenge……colleagues and I………different……….who………populate and grow……..enough…………defeat…..enemies….all……….chose you…………….others chosen and spr……………….new stars. Some…………….aggressive……………..vigil……..prepare………….br eaching…..last of my defense…….damaged us badly……….surprise assault…………this last mess…………..did not……..our backups………………last this long………..I die. Remem…….live, prosper………not record any of this……….not…….contact……home…………………bring doom……………………by the enemies……………..admire you……………….bye."
Martha Jones materialized in the infirmary and began scanning the excitable young woman who likewise materialized on the exam table. Dr. Lam came over to assist.
"Now, miz, you have gone into labor, and you seem to be progressing rapidly. No doubt the shock of it all is advancing things."
"Do you think? I'm not even supposed to be pregnant! Is this some sort of alien trick thing?"
"It's possible, but we've all been pulled away to this place, Nike, from times when we were pregnant. My name is Martha Jones. What is yours?"
Another contraction wracked the redhead, "Argh! Where is he? My name is Amy Pond. What is this place? And have you seen an old blue box policebox somewhere?"
"Nice to meet you, Amy. I take it you're asking after the TARDIS and the Doctor. Not here, I'm afraid. We've been brought here by parties unknown from all sorts of times, parallel worlds. However, our abductors seem to have a predilection for certain associations, including most every human who has traveled with the Doctor. I myself have as well. Hold on, I think you have another one coming."
Amy grimaced again, "I'm not supposed to be pregnant. I don't remember being pregnant."
Martha shook her head, "I'm sorry to hear that, but you are most definitely pregnant and in fact in labor. So far everything looks to be progressing well. I think I have enough scans to give you something for the pain, though you'll still feel discomfort as you will need to feel what you are doing when you start pushing."
"Anything will do."
"Here we go. See how that is."
"Better. Ah, much better. Is this like some sort of alien thingee?"
"Scans indicate a normal, healthy human child." But even as she spoke, the scanner identified an anomaly that only matched one other in the Nike database.
"Amy? Do you have any idea whose child this might be?"
"I don't even know that it's my child, and I'm in labor!" Another contraction came, giving her pressure but no pain.
"Were you, um, involved with anyone?" Martha asked carefully.
"Yeah, my husband, Rory Williams. I was married within the last year, oh about - Rory! We were married about nine months ago."
"Bingo. This Rory, he's not, by any chance, a Time Lord?"
"What? Rory? Hardly. Well, he has traveled through time, but he's as human as I am."
"Maybe that's it, the time travel. Amy, your baby, and the scans are confirming the baby is yours genetically, is perfectly healthy, perfectly human. But the baby has an additional energy signature wrapped around her human DNA, temporal energy. We've one other woman here with a similar pattern. It's not harmful, but it is known to be associated with the Doctor."
"What do you mean, associated?"
"No time now, you're ready to start pushing."
A lesser woman might have hesitated, but as soon as the announcement, no matter how scrambled, had begun, Honor ordered compliance with the plea that no recording - other than our own memories, of course - be made of the alien's message.
After the receipt of the message, Honor looked about the bridge, at me, at Ivanova, at everyone.
"Why did you agree so quickly to not record that message?" I enquired.
"A feeling, Sarah Jane. I just felt that the speaker, our abductor I presume, was being honest, and was frightened for our own safety. Call it intuition if you must."
"Well, it certainly sounds as if another force has put paid to our abductors now." I added.
"And perhaps to our best chance at getting home." Susan Ivanova added glumly.
"Admiral, all rifts are believed closed now, and we're receiving no more transmissions." Uhura reported.
"Noted. Thank you, Lieutenant Uhura."
"Honor, I jotted down what I could make out of the transmission on my tablet. Do you think that counts as 'recording'."
"Hmm, probably not. But we ought to clear it out of your tablet and just print it on paper for now. I somehow think our abductors' enemies won't be rifling through paperwork anytime soon."
"Very well, I'll see to it."
"Admiral, Doctor Crusher is calling in to ask if you could come down to infirmary two. She wants to show you something related to that extra rift that opened."
"Very well. Susan, you have the bridge. In the meantime, Sarah Jane, get that message transferred to paper and wiped off your tablet. Then see if you can help Foraker and the others on deciphering what it all means."
Honor strode into the Nike infirmary Beverly Crusher and Janice Frazier were currently occupying. "Well, Beverly, what surprise do you have in store for me now?"
"It looks like Jessica's theory about a breeding program was correct. That last, extra rift, it delivered a large biocontainer system. It was filled with, well, everything we need to be mothers to several more rounds of children."
"But, who would the fathers be?"
"That was part of that last massive download of information to the Nike systems. Medical records on all the donors, though I doubt they were aware of their donations. I recognized several names from my own life, including Jean-Luc Picard. And Honor, if we assume these records are accurate, and I suspect they are as the ones I recognize from Enterprise, at least, seem the same, then we can also confirm paternity on our current pregnancies."
"Remarkable. This is going to be quite the day, I see. I wonder what else is in store."
"Well, one thing I can add is that Nike has just had its first delivery. A healthy baby girl from a new arrival named Amy Pond. I hear she's named the girl Melody."
"It's a nice name."
Honor Harrington marched onto the bridge of Nike after her sojourn to infirmary two to meet with Beverly. She seemed to have done quite a bit of thinking on that trip, because on her arrival she immediately began to issue orders.
"Susan, bring up the flight data on all reconnaissance drones and flights, including Starbuck's and display on the main screen."
"Aye aye, Admiral." Captain Ivanova motioned for the order to be acted upon.
"There," Honor stated, pointing to a nondescript point in space on the monitor, "We are going to jump the Nike to that point. Have all flights return to Nike dock, and bring in the drones. I want one drone left on our location. Once everyone is in, announce to everyone the jump and make it so."
"I want an immediate meeting of all the general officers and representatives from the research effort in conference room one. Call me when they are assembled."
At the meeting, I sat with Honor and several others of the command and technical groups in the conference room. Many of them harkened from earlier arrivals, or from universes we earlier arrivals were familiar with. This was the inevitable result of the skyrocketing numbers new arrivals over the past few days. We had needed to act and act quickly to attempt to take advantage of the new arrival process before it ended, as indeed it seemed to have today, rather finally, I feared. That all would have to change over time, of course.
"Ladies, we have a lot to think about from the past several days. I think, at this point, the thing we need most is time. Time to digest what we have learned, to get to know each other and the other arrivals amongst us. We need also to learn well all the capabilities of Nike and her fleet, and review the facts as well know them. While we all hoped to escape quickly and return home, we now know that neither will be quick or easy. I will be looking to all of you as well as others to assist in this task."
"We're with you, Admiral Harrington." Admiral Vatta chimed in. It was funny how most of our higher echelons of military looked so young, due to either being prodigies and/or from civilizations with life extension technologies since they were all also fertile.
"I agree." Admiral Janeway added, though with a stifled yawn, as she was staying up late from the night shift.
Honor forestalled any other comments, "Thank you both and all. I feel I can count on everyone in this room to do their duty to each other. Say whatever else we will about our abductors, they seemed to have good taste in personnel."
A small chuckle eschewed from a number of the women in the room.
"Now we need to plan for a longer strategy. I have already ordered the immediate removal of Nike and her docked fleet from this immediate area, just in case something breaks through from the attack on our abductors."
"Then you think that message was real?"
"I do, though I am not going to take it for granted, in fact, I want the research group to work on three different hypotheses. The first is that everything we have seen or heard is the truth at face value. The second is to assume that we are in fact being manipulated into a plan of action and to find proof of such. The third, to cover all bases, is to assume everything we know or think we know is false, even possibly down to our personal memories. Quite frankly, I am inclined to believe the first at this point, but I want us to make certain we are not missing any possibilities."
Sam Carter had been released from infirmary for this meeting, though she was still clearly healing, "We can do that. Probably break into three teams, heaven knows we're likely to have the personnel for it now, have each one work with that as their guiding premise. Once we've made preliminary findings, we'll rotate the groups and make them look at it from the other premises. That should keep us on our toes."
"I also want plans for our defense drawn up in much more detail. I want us to start assigning flight crews and ship crews, and begin drills. There will also need to be fighting crew assigned to Nike station defenses. I will take that upon myself, and will be drafting some of you to that cause. Colonel Lockley, I am thinking of having you take over day-to-day administration of Nike station, please be prepared to do so. Captain Ivanova is going to act as my chief of staff for the time being, but she's requested a ship assignment, and I am inclined to give it to her."
"Very well, Admiral." Colonel Lockley nodded.
"I also want a detailed plan for surveying the space around us, both for resources and threats. Admiral Janeway, I am placing you in charge of that effort, but I recommend you enlist Cordelia Vorkosigan as part of your staff. She has some excellent exploratory credentials."
"Sounds good." Janeway said.
"Dr. Crusher, you of course will remain in command of our medical division. Please prepare to transfer any pregnancies to in vitro incubators that people want to. I will go ahead and place my own name down on that list. Before, when we might need to make a break at any moment, I didn't dare to be separated from my child that way. Now, I don't want to be hindered in my duties or place my child at unnecessary risk in their execution."
"Aye aye, Admiral." Beverly responded.
"I also think we will need to start organizing for all the births that are due to arrive, for child care. Lady Jessica, I would ask that you continue for now with that role, but also look into whom among the new arrivals may have useful skills in that regard. I also would like you to arrange for gauging and maintaining the morale of the Nike population."
"I can do that."
"That is all for the moment. Understand, this is not the end of this discussion, but only the beginning. Now then, let's be about it."
Sarah - That would cause a very big change in the space-time continuum.
Turtledove Winning Dominion of Southern America & Nike!