The Triangle, Colin Curtis: Double Take
Marching from the mind of Andy Simpkins
If you possessed the senses to see anywhere at any time and to see beyond the fragile film that shields one reality from another, the now from then and the endless possibilities of half-realised time-lines and dimensions and the faint ghosts of what might have been, you would have got a fair idea of what the Vortex looks like.The Vortex was and always will be.Through this maelstrom, a ship made its way.The ship, in its external appearance, was nothing spectacular to look at.Far from it.It did not appear as a menacing hulk as depicted in countless films.Nor did it have the appearance of something sleek, fast and capable of rapier-swift course changes through the vacuum of space.The exterior appearance was that of a globe, featureless, without seam or external lines of construction and emanating a faint luminescent glow from somewhere within.
If you were standing in the interior of this globe, you would have received the impression that the interior was constructed on a far greater scale than could possibly be contained in the globe you first perceived. This was because the makers of this ship knew what they were doing when they made this this vessel.This was no ordinary ship, this was a TARDIS.
In what passed as the main control room, a man paced.The man was tall, of indeterminate age with blond hair with a light beard framing his face.He was in a state of, what could be described as, extreme agitation and consternation.This was Lord Macfadyan.A member of a race of a highly evolved humanoid species called Gallifreyans.There was something else about him.He was a Timelord.A member of the aforementioned race who had been given guardianship over the realm of the fourth dimension, presiding over time in all its manifold aspects. This being went under his more commonly used title: The Buccaneer...
"No, no, no!This wasn't supposed to happen.I set the controls to take this ship to Pollux V and now this happens!Adrift on the currents of time and sliding down eddies of extra-dimensional flux!I blame those accursed technicians back on Gallifrey.This would never have happen if I had been allowed to repair my own ship."
He added that last comment to soothe his ego and to preen his emotional feathers.He then added: "Cre'at, are you sure we have no fix on our position?"
The Cre'at in question was a member of a race of bio-mechanoid beings from the planet Sotus.It had the appearance of a floating, cylindrical metallic head approximately 2 feet in height.The organic part of it was a growth of thick bristles, from which the Sot'm drew nitrogen from the surrounding air with which it could metabolise and power its internal systems, covering the lower half of what constituted a grave and patriarchial face. When it spoke, its emotionless voice said:
* It is impossible to determine where we are.This whole area of space seems to be a convergence of realities, a gathering of parallel dimensions and alternate time lines.I am sensing objects drawn into this area of space but cannot draw anymore information that that *
It was then that the door to the control room opened an a third person joined the unlikely duo.He was human, 6 feet tall, in his mid-thirties with short brown hair and the build of a man who has spent most of his adult life in the armed forces.This was Captain Colin Curtis.A member of UNIT.A highly specialised military division of the United Nations.Curtis had arrived on the Buccaneers TARDIS approximately a year ago, subjectively speaking, ostensibly to accompany the Buccaneer and Cre'at in their travels through time and space but his real purpose was to observe him and to report back to UNIT headquarters on Earth to let them know if the Buccaneer displayed any errant behaviour that might endanger Earth.
"Typical!Ask a Timelord to set a course for a holiday planet in order to have a spot of rest and recuperation, maybe have a picnic or just do a spot of sunbathing and look what happens!Lost in who knows where and no map to point us in the right direction!".Curtis said in a semi-comedic tone.
"If you would only let the dynamics of the situation penetrate your primitive human brain, you would appreciate the severity of the situation.I cannot devote all my time pandering to the jibes and comments of a hitch-hiker from that backwater planet that you call Home" the Buccaneer shot back at him tartly.
"No wonder you left Gallifrey!Who did you offend, I wonder!Was it a case of leave of your own free will or leave with the aid of a Size 10 boot up your behind!"
"Me and the Council of Timelords had a few... differences of opinion.Never mind, I'm sure they will contact me when they have come to their senses and offer me a place with them, where I rightfully deserve to be, of course."
The Sot'm, Cre'at, hovered nearby and observed the scene in a stoical silence. It had witnessed these exchanges many times in the past and was used to them.It had tried analysing the mechanics behind these conversations and had given up in a fit of futility.It would never understand the workings of their minds and had no desire to continue further.
* Organics! * it simply said.Behind that simple statement, there lay a multitude of feeling and a wealth of bafflement.
The Buccaneer and Curtis would have quite happily continued with this exchange of banter but suddenly, the TARDIS was rocked violently for about 7 or 8 seconds, accompanied by the interior lights flickering and alarms sounding off.A shower of sparks erupted from the main console, which then flickered and went inactive. Curtis held on to the edge of the console, trying to remain upright while the Buccaneer flicked various switches and read-outs on the console while swearing fluently an ancient Gallifreyan dialect.
As soon as it had started, the rocking ceased and an air of normality almost returned to the control room.
"What the hell happened there?" demanded Curtis.
* We have landed.Would you like a dried vegetable product? * Cre'at asked innocently, totally oblivious to the uproar which had just occurred.
"Yes, but where?" Said the Buccaneer. "I'll try the main viewscreen, that should enlighten us."
The Buccaneer flicked a few switches. Instead of being rewarded with a view of what lay outside, there was a shower of sparks from the main console and the control room being plunged into darkness.
"That was not what I was expecting, bloody Gallifreyan Temporal Technicians!They couldn't organise a facelift for a Sontarran!"
"Why don't we try the old-fashioned approach and have a peek out of the door?" suggested Curtis
* You would be killed instantaneously in a very horrible manner.I would be scrapping you off of the TARDIS exterior for weeks * helpfully suggested Cre'at.
The Buccaneer sighed heavily.He had grown used to the presence of Curtis around and would maybe suffer a dim disquiet of sadness if he was torn limb from limb, but not for long...
"Oh, very well, then" the Buccaneer said in an exasperated tone "Do what ever it is you Humans do to stimulate that lump of barely evolved protoplasm your species calls a brain.I have, on the other hand got to stay here with Cre'at and get the ships internal systems back on line."
"For a race of highly-evolved time-travelling humanoids, where has your sense of adventure gone?" said Curtis
"It is alive and well and sticking close to my sense of self-preservation!" the Buccaneer shot back.
* Cowering in the dark, to be more exact! * said Cre'at
"Shut up and hand me the multi-phasic wrench, and less of the lip..... Mechanoids!For a species that has no sense of humour, you are coming close to evolving one!"
Curtis left this tirade behind him as he walked through the corridors of the ship to the main door. After a moments deliberation, he pushed it open....
Cre'at was right!They had landed.The area that Colin stepped out into was big!Approximately 40 feet high with a balcony running around the interior circumference of the room.All around was the blinking and electronic chuckles of readouts, displays and control boards in the room.What drew his attention after he had finished looking around had him in awe was a large cylindrical object in the middle of the room.It was 10 feet in diameter and made of a translucent material.It stretched from ceiling to floor and was held in place by buttresses of undoubtedly extremely strong metal.However, within the cylinder was, to Curtis's senses, a swirling mist of luminescence that to his eye spoke of immense power held in check by forces beyond his Earthly knowledge. He had a fleeting thought that if this energy was to escape its confines, this building or vessel, whatever it was, would be instantly vapourised.He was held spellbound by this sight of futuristic engineering until he felt a heavy hand land on his shoulder in a none-too-friendly grip.
"When you've finished admiring the warp-core, I'd like to ask you a few questions...!"
Whirling around in surprise, he could only gape in horrified surprise at the person who confronted him.
The person who confronted him was dressed in a one-piece jumpsuit. Black in colour on the trousers and lower torso where it changed colour on the shoulders where it was coloured mustard yellow. A small metal pin badge in the shape of an oval surmounted by an upwards pointing chevron was pinned to the left side of his chest. On the collar of his tunic were three metallic studs, two of them gold in colour and the third, a metallic black. What took Curtis' breath away was the strangers face. Apart from a few superficial differences like the three small fleshy ridges on the bridge of the stranger's nose and the elaborate earring that hung from the strangers left ear, he could have been looking in the mirror! The stranger's look was mirrored in his look of surprise. The two men, apart from superficial differences due to the different worlds they came from, could have come from the same genetic mould.
"Who the hell are you!!!??" demanded Curtis
"In the name of The Prophets, I could ask the same!!" demanded the stranger, while speaking he had drawn a small hand weapon from a sheath on his tunic belt and was pointing it at Curtis' face.The muzzle of the weapon was burnt and pitted, suggesting that it had seen much use over a short period of time.
Sensing the need for caution as opposed to action, Curtis said simply: "I am Captain Colin Curtis, attached to UNIT Special Forces on Earth. Serial Number NA957126C.My ship was caught in some sort of temporal and extra-dimensional vortex and was dragged to this place, wherever this place may be...."
"Never heard of it, Human.As for myself, you are talking to Lieutenant-Commander Tanak Rel, Chief Engineer on the United Federation of Planets Starship USS Sommerfield".The stranger bowed his head in a mock salute and continued. ":Our ship was sucked into this, I must admit, rather strange region of space and has been marooned here for the past several weeks.Despite the best efforts of the crew on our starship, we have been unable to break free from this spatial anomaly and get back to Federation space.We have had contact with representatives of other ships also trapped here, however, their best efforts to aid us have come to no avail and we are still stuck here.I have been supervising my engineering staff using any available technology that comes our way to reconfigure the warp-engines on this ship to break free of this region of space but all attempts have been useless.The chief enemy we are fighting is boredom now.It seems we will be stuck here for some time to come.It makes me almost nostalgic for fighting the Cardassian scum who have been occupying my home planet of Bajor."
"From what I can gather, you are an alternate universe version of myself.The physical resemblances are very marked and we seem to share the same militaristic outlook on things.However, I was chosen to protect Earth from alien invasion." Curtis said. "You have no resemblance to any alien species I have ever come across..."
"Try visiting our universe sometime.You might feel safe and secure in your only dimension, but listen, you dim-witted Pah-Wraith, it's a big multiverse out there and you could get all kinds of scum, trying to get in from outside, hungry for a piece of the action and wanting a little death and destruction to whet their appetites as well!Tell me about it, I know only too well!!" The Bajoran said in an angry voice. "Seeing you are an uninvited guest on our ship, I have to take you to the Captain so she can see what to make of you!"
Tapping the small badge on his left breast, he said "Lieutenant-Commander Tanak to bridge.We have another 'guest' just turned up onboard. Suggest you interview him in your ready room and see what he has got to say for himself."
"Bridge here, not another one?Very well, send him to the Captains ready room.She will be along shortly.Bridge out."
"Understood, Tanak out."
"Right, it looks like you have an audience with the Captain and I am to escort you to see her. She's a right steely old Targ, all right.She plays hard but fair with her crew and I'm sure you will too.Anyway, I hate to do this, regulations you understand, but I have to have a phaser trained on you just in case you make a run for it while you are being escorted, just in case you try your luck with me..."He gave a short whistle and two burly security guards appeared from other parts of the room to flank Curtis. "Sven, Olaf, if you would be so kind as to help me escort our guest to the Captains ready room."
Swiftly marching through some corridors and into a turbolift, Curtis' mind was in a whirl.The Buccaneer had spoken in the past of parallel dimensions and multiple realities to Curtis but he had dismissed it as being too hypothetical.He was only used to one time-stream and one existence so all this what he was perceiving was amazing in the extreme.Meeting an alternate reality version of himself only added to the fact that this region of space that the Buccaneers TARDIS and all these other ships were trapped in, was nothing less than a convergence of realities and alternate timelines.He would have to tell the Buccaneer when he got back to the TARDIS.If he ever did, he sourly thought to himself.
The Bajoran who called himself Tanak Rel stood to one side of the turbolift, idlely humming a tune to himself. "He might look for all the world like he is miles away but if I were to make a false move, that phaser would be in my face and discharging before I could say Lethbridge-Stewart!" thought Curtis. "He might be an easy-going, casually disregarding authority type but when he has a direct order, he moves like greased lightning and he gets the job done...fast". Curtis thought "A bit like me, in fact, very much like me."
The turbolift came to a halt and the twin doors hissed open.The party stepped out into a small room.Carpeted and with a long conference table running down the middle of it.On the wall was a screen showing a schematic layout, presumably, of the ship he was on.The general layout of the ship was that of a large bi-convex saucer section which he presumed held the bridge and the other main control centres and habitational sections of the ship.A short connecting section on the underside of the saucer section joined the saucer section to the main body of the ship which resembled a slightly flattened cylinder.On either side of the main section of the ship were short pylons which connected to slightly smaller elongated cylinders, which Curtis assumed were, the ships engines.Under this diagram was the legend saying "USS Sommerfield, Excelsior Class United Federation of Planets Starship, commissioned 2357.
"...Captain Susannah Pyecroft, Commanding Officer..." said Curtis aloud.
"...At your service, Mr.Curtis!" came a female voice from the other end of the room.
Colin Curtis turned around to see a woman, in her late fifties, small of stature with iron grey hair and a steely demeanour to match, seated in the chair at the head of the table." Captain Pyecroft, I presume.Allow me to introduce myself.I am..."
"Yes, I know who you are.I was watching the visual sensor logs while you were being escorted up here.You claim to be Captain Colin Curtis, from Earth and belonging to a military force know as UNIT.Regrettably for you, I have checked all Federation records and cannot find any trace of the organisation therein. Needless to say, this considerably weakens your case as a legitimate visitor to our ship and my first instinct would be to throw you in the brig until we are out of this anomaly and proceed to the nearest Starbase where you would be subject to further questioning." She said.Curtis slumped in the grip of the two security guards and wondered what life in an alternate-universe penal colony would be like.
"However, given the extenuating circumstances we are in, I will give you the benefit of the doubt as long as you can take me to your ship where I can meet with your commanding officer." Curtis sniggered briefly under his breath and thought for a moment about how the Buccaneer could ever be his commanding officer!The man couldn't control a rabbit, let alone a star-faring vessel. He had enough trouble telling the TARDIS where to go!Captain Pyecroft continued: "We realise that this is an unusual situation we are in, you as well, so if you meet with my wishes, we will discuss this further. We have had numerous visitors to our ship, so claiming to be of help but, regrettably, are too technologically deficient to be of service to us.There is one gentleman who is still on board who has been of great service to us.He has been most helpful in providing us with information about how to escape from this spatial anomaly.At this moment in time, I, as a duly elected representative of the United Federation of Planets am about to discuss a mutual trade, information and technology deal with him which I feel would be beneficial to both our parties.While you are here, maybe you would like to meet him.He hails from an alternate version of Earth approximately 150 years in your future." Tapping the comm. badge on her chest, she said "Show him in."
The doors hissed open and a man entered. He was approximately six feet in height, in his early thirties with short dark hair and to Curtis' eye, had a rather oily, ingratiating, smug smile on his face on his face.He was dressed in a conservatively cut business suit of a tan colour. Sliding down into the proffered seat he sat with his fingers steepled and a look of calm contemplation on his face.
"Mr. Morden, it is so very nice to meet with you again. May we continue talking about our trade agreement. I am sure we can come to an agreement that is both profitable and mutually beneficial." Said the captain, a rare smile lighting up her features.
At the mention of the strangers name, Curtis heardTanak Rel inhale with a sharp hiss and a look of surprise cross his face, however he stayed silent but Curtis could see a multitude of emotions cross his face in a fraction of a second, horrified surprise being predominant.
Captain Pyecroft turned to the security detail for a brief moment before turning her attention back to the stranger.
"Regretably, Mr.Morden, I have some unpleasant business to attend to first before we can discuss things further. If you could excuse me for a short while, I will be back as soon as possible."
"Of course, madame Captain, my... associates and I look forward to doing business with you.I shall remain here and await your return." Bowing his head slightly in acknowledgement, he turned around in his chair to look at the starscape through the conference room windows.
Turning to the security detail, she said: "Now, Mr.Curtis, if I may crave your indulgence, you will take me to your commanding officer so he may explain how you managed to gain access to our ship without our knowledge!"
Marching swiftly to the turbolift doors, the security detail and the Captain entered. However, before the doors closed, both Curtis and Tanak Rel turned to face the area where the enigmatic Mr. Morden was seated.He was still sitting down, but instead of relaxing, he had his head cocked to one side and was sitting stiffly in his seat looking for all the world like he was listening attentively to a voice that was inaudible to everyone else but himself. Before the turbolift doors slammed shut in their faces, both men could have sworn that they heard a faint alien chittering and hissing that emanated from one side of the conference room...
Marching swiftly through the corridors that lead to the engineering levels, the Captain said to Curtis: "I trust when we meet your Captain, he will be able to enlighten us about your unannounced appearance on this ship."
"Captain, nothing will give me greater pleasure. My 'Captain', for want of a better term, is somewhat verbose and florid in his speech and prose but he will be able to fill you in on our predicament...."
"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Mr. Curtis" said the Captain icily.
Upon reaching the engineering level, the party halted at the doors and the Captain said without preamble: "After you Mr. Curtis, I look forward to this." The doors hissed open and the party stepped in.
Curtis strode quickly to the spot where the Buccaneers TARDIS had materialised, only to find an empty space where it had once stood.When Curtis had left the TARDIS, its chameleon circuits, in a rare moment of working properly, had taken on the appearance of one of the control consoles that were dotted around the engineering section. A small red symbol, in the shape of an umbrella, if depressed on the touch-sensitive 'console', would open the TARDIS doors to gain access to the ship within.
"I don't understand it!!My ship was here!!The Buccaneer couldn't have dematerialised without letting me know. There must be some mistake!!"
"The mistake is mine for accepting your cock and bull story, Mr. Curtis.We have had extra-dimensional visitors on our ship over the past month or two but to present me with such a bare faced lie about how you appeared on this ship is inexcusable! Security, take him to the brig!I've got things to discuss with Mr. Morden..."the Captain said with a look of unadulterated contempt on her face.
Under the heavy-handed grasp of the security guards; Sven and Olaf, Curtis was swiftly escorted down to the lower levels of the ship to the detention level. Halting at a rather spartan cell, the two guards roughly shoved him in and activated a force-field that barred Curtis' escape.
"Listen, you dimwits, I can explain everything! Just let me talk to Captain Pyecroft and I will explain everything to her!" The two security guards, oblivious to his pleas and entreaties, had shambled off and were out of earshot. Sighing heavily, Curtis looked around at his accommodations. Apart from a basic toilet unit in one corner of his cell, the only other feature to highlight his confining cell was a long padded bench that served as both chair and sleeping arrangements.
Slumping down heavily on the bench, Colin Curtis reflected on the events that had happened over the past couple of hours. The Buccaneer, despite his foibles and idiosyncrasies, would never leave him stranded on an alien spaceship in the middle of God-Knows-Where without so much as a bye-your-leave. His mind whirling with what had happened, he laid back on the bench and closed his eyes...
What seemed to him like a few moments later, he heard the sounds of a heated conversation echoing in the corridor that led to his cell:"... Well, if you hadn't cut your thumb and fainted in a muddled heap in that Jeffries tube while we were conducting a serious maintenance repair job for the Captain, none of this would have happened and we wouldn't be on punishment detail!!..."
"But what happened to me was irrelevant! Those maintenance ducts are so dusty an full of sharp corners and edges. I hate to think what the dry-cleaning bill will be for my uniform! I am lucky that I only received a slight abrasion to my left thumb. When I went to sick-bay about it, Doctor Selok, in his usual Vulcan manner, would only raise an eyebrow slightly and, I swear, slightly lifted the corner of his mouth in, to him, constituted an almost orgasmic outburst of outrageous laughter! I have never felt so humiliated in all my life...!"
The two verbal combatants walked past Curtis' cell and stopped suddenly. Looks of amused amazement crossing their faces. Both were dressed in the now all too familiar one-piece jumpsuits. The first one was in his mid-thirties, with unruly sandy blond hair with a light beard framing his face. His uniform was standard black but with the shoulders coloured red, signifying one of a command rank. The second person was slightly shorter, in his late twenties with light brown hair brushed straight back from his forehead. He had a somewhat grave and serious countenance whilst the first had a rather irreverent look about him. The second was dressed in the same cut shipboard uniform but the shoulders were coloured mustard yellow signifying operations. They both peered at Curtis for a few moments and the first one said to him:
"Rel, that's not you, is it? What did you do to offend old Iron drawers Pyecrust? What are you doing out of uniform?"
"As I keep saying to you, Frasier, old Pyecrust has had it in for all three of us since we transferred from the "Lethbridge"...
Curtis rolled over and stood up to face them fully and walked over to the edge of the force-field that divided him from his inquisitors. They both gaped at him in amazement and the first one said in a surprised tone: "Hold on, you're not Snarly Features, are you? The similarities are breath-taking but you are Human, not Bajoran???! I know it's hard to tell you Bajorans apart with the wrinkles on your nose and the scowl-lines on your forehead but you are not him!!"
"No," snarled Curtis in an irate tone. "If you were conversant with what has been happening on this ship over the past couple of months, you would realise that what lies outside this ship is not what it seems and is a juncture of parallel timelines and realities. I had the dubious pleasure of meeting Tanak Rel and your captain a few hours ago and here I am...I am fully Human as you two are but from a different timestream. Now if you don't mind I am busy feeling sorry for my self so if you don't mind..."
"Well,you certainly sound like him any way, we haven't seen Tanak Rel since our last duty shift "
"Who are you two anyway, apart from someone who revels in seeing people in incarceration?"
The first one said airily "I'm Lieutenant-Commander Frasier Macfadyan and this is my friend Lieutenant-Commander Niles Atreus. We and our colleague, Tanak Rel were transferred here about several months ago from another Star-Fleet vessel and have been bitterly regretting it ever since..."
"Did you say Macfadyan?"said Curtis in a daze "Oh God. Not in this universe as well..." he thought to himself.
"Why, yes that's right. The latest in a long line of Macfadyans stretching all the way back to old Earth" He said proudly, puffing himself up and to Curtis' eye, rather smugly as well.
"The name and the face look all too familiar, even down to the mannerisms and the smug aura about you." added Curtis. Turning to the second person he said:"...and I suppose you have mechanoid friends in high places on a planet called Sotus, judging by the your calm demeanour and the way that you almost seem to float around" he said
"Cannot say that I've heard of the place. Anyway, Frasier, we have work to do and we've got to go and get suited up." said Atreus,
"Well, if it wasn't for your debacle in the Jefferies tube, we wouldn't have to go outside and fill in all the micro-meteoroid impact craters on the starboard warp nacelle pylon!" said Macfadyan pithily "Anyway, Curtis or Crumbly or whatever your name is, hope you get back to your own universe safely and soon. Drop by for a Latte if you're in this neck of the woods again."
With a casual wave, the two strangers departed and Curtis was left on his own to contemplate his fate and wonder if the Universe really had a twisted sense of humour.
"Guards, you are relieved. You may go now!"
Upon hearing the all to familiar voice, Curtis awoke from an uneasy sleep and turned over to see Tanak Rel framed in the doorway of the cell.
"What the Hell do you want now?" said Curtis sleepily
"I need your help, as strange as it may seem, Curtis. Ever since that smug bastard, Morden, appeared on this ship I've had a bad feeling about him ever since."
"Why should I help you, since I came on board, I have been treated with the utmost hostility and caution. Give me one good reason why I should?"
"Listen, man! Seeing we are extra-dimensional versions of each other, we should have a fairly good idea of what makes us tick. The captains being hoodwinked by the man and I do not like the sound of his... associates one little bit. I've managed to grab a look at some of the other-universe technology he has to offer and it is just as I suspected; same as what can be fabricated here or in Federation space but in a slightly different package. Our Mr. Morden has been trading in technology that is readily available in the Federation and in the meantime, having a swift peek at what technological strengths and weaknesses the Federation has. I fear that Mr. Morden and his mysterious associates are just using the talk of a mutual trade agreement and all this talking of 'you scratch my back any I'll scratch yours' as a smokescreen for what I are think are more underhand activities."
"How do you know all this? Ok, he seemed rather ingratiating when I set eyes on him in the Captains Ready Room but he seemed legitimate. How did you come by such information and can you verify the authenticity of this information? Acting in a hostile manner to a guest of the Captain is hardly grounds for promotion..."
"Don't ask me because I'm not too sure myself. It happened a few days ago when I was at my workstation in Engineering. I was running some diagnostic routines on the warp-nacelles when a message appeared on my console. I thought this was unusual in itself as intra-ship communications are normally sent via our communication badges." He said, indicating the small pin on his chest. I checked the computer records to see who had sent it but there was no sending messenger and no point of origin that it was sent from, despite checking and cross-referencing the computer logs."
"Upon reading the message, I felt uneasy because both Frasier and Niles told me, in the course of conversation a few days ago, that we would be receiving a 'dignitary' from a parallel Earth ship in a few days who seemed to fit the description of Mr. Morden and the message, amongst other things, told me not to trust him. So far, my suspicions have been proven right."
"But how do you know that it was an authentic message?" queried Curtis.
"Looking at the message and reading it, it just... rang true. Don't ask me why. It almost seemed as the message in itself was confirmation of what my suspicions were about him when I first heard of him and saw him. It just seemed that there was an age-old power, knowledge and authority imbued into every word of the message and I swear, that when I was reading the message, I could almost feel some one looking over my shoulder and nodding in approval as I was reading it..."
Curtis shook his head in disbelief and said "If what is true, I will need proof in order to confirm the veracity of what you have just said..."
Tanak Rel took a few steps until he was facing the control panel by the entrance to Curtis' cell. Touching a few controls on the panel, the force field that barred his exit from the cell shimmered out of existence and Curtis warily stepped through into the corridor.
"You want proof? Come with me." said Tanak Rel simply.
"Where are we going?" said Curtis
"To pay a visit to Mr. Morden and his associates. I pray to the Prophets that I am wrong. If I am, I will gladly accept a court-martial. However, I feel that there is big trouble afoot and it comes in the shape of an oily, business-suited Earther, no offence! I chose this time to release you as the ship is on night-watch at the moment and the majority of the crew are in their quarters or pursuing leisure activities at this moment so we should make it to the guest quarter levels without hindrance."
Making their way through the labyrinthine corridors of the starship, they made their way. They encountered very few people on their way and after a while, they found themselves outside a door in the guest quarters section of the ship. Going toa panel on the wall, Tanak Rel opened it and pulled out two of the weapons that Curtis were told were called phaser rifles and what looked like a large and ungainly hand-held torch.
"Right, when this door opens, be prepared to shoot and quickly! I'm not too sure what lies on the other side of this door but, rest assured, it is not friendly! Take one of these rifles and give me general coverage once this door opens. Computer, open door. Overide access code Tanak 94 beta!"
The door opened swiftly and all hell broke loose! Illuminated in the unearthly glare of the hand-held spotlight was Mr. Morden as he whirled around in surprise, and he was not alone!! Illuminated by the modified torch were two creatures who looked like creatures from both Curtis' and Tanak Rels worst nightmares. Vaguely Centaur-shaped and quadrapedal they were, but that was where the resemblance to the graceful creatures of Earth legend ended. They were coloured a dull brown, they had a hard chitinous exo-skeleton and had a marked and sickening resemblance to certain arachnid species that inhabited Earth. Curtis felt his gorge rise and had a barely restrained urge to vomit.
"Fire, man!!" bellowed Rel urgently.
Curtis took aim, many years of Army training coming to the fore and depressed the fire button on the phaser rifle. One of the creatures collapsed whilst emitting a shrill hissing scream, its hindquarters burnt to a cinder by the laser light of the phaser rifle. Tanak Rel managed to fire off a couple of volleys at the remaining creature and at Mr. Morden before they both erupted from the door in a flurry of energy weapons fire and flailing spider-like limbs before they both ran off down the corridor.
"Computer, activate ship-wide emergency and place force-fields up on deck 12,sections 17 through 24!!An emergency klaxon immediately started sounding and illuminated strips in the wall of the corridor started glowing red, signifying an alert of the highest order.
The two men picked themselves up off the deck and wondered what the hell had just happened.
"What on earth were those creatures and what were they doing with Morden?" gasped Curtis.
"Just as I thought and it's exactly what the message said. Our Mr. Morden is in the pay of some none-too friendly creatures that in Human terms in his home universe, are called 'Shadows'. They appear to have their own agenda where it comes to fraternising with other species but, rest assured, it is not out of a sense of altruism..."
"What was the point of that torch light you shone at them?"
"The Shadows seem to employ an organic cloaking technology. They are only visible when light of a certain frequency and spectrum is shone upon them. Their cloaks are otherwise impervious to most ranges of visible light." He then said" Computer, locate Mr. Morden and alien intruder.."
A voice, female in tone but computer generated in origin said; "Mr Morden is heading towards the main shuttlebay, the alien intruder is heading to main engineering..."
"May the Prophets damn them! Our Mr.Morden has been using the time on the ship to good use. He has been studying ship schematics and Jeffries tube networks in case he had to make a bolt for it. That way he has managed to bypass the force fields in place in this area and on this deck. Curtis, you head to main engineering to see what that creature is up to. I'm going to try to head off Morden before he get to the shuttlebay."
He tossed the phaser rifle to Curtis and, then reaching into his pocket, pulled out one of the small communicator badges and passed it to Curtis.
"Tap on this twice to encode this to your DNA pattern so no-one else can use it. If you need to contact me, tap on it once and state my name before using it. That way the computer can direct your call to me directly." Striding over to a small panel set in the wall, he pulled it open." You get in here to get to main engineering. You should catch up with the creature easily as I saw how big it was and there are only a handful of access tunnels that could accommodate it. The computer will guide you with directions to Engineering. I will give our Mr. Morden a little surprise when he gets to the shuttlebay" He gave a lopsided grin and said" He may have a fair idea of how to get around this ship without being caught but I know a few shortcuts that I can improvise. Anyway, go and take care of that creature. Good luck and whatever deities you may worship watch over you. Computer, deactivate force fields and locate exact position of Mr. Morden...
Clapping Curtis firmly on the shoulder in a comradely gesture he turned around and ran off down the corridor. Turning to look at the open access panel, Curtis shrugged inwardly and climbed in...
"Escape, escape..." were the only thoughts on Morden's mind as he pushed open the hatchway that led into the main shuttle hangar bay. A thin patina of perspiration coated his face and his nerves were on edge as he ran to the control panel to activate the shuttle on-board systems." So far so good..."he bitterly thought." All my attempts to dupe these parallel universe Earthers were going well until that Bajoran chief-engineer and that Human turned up and scuppered my plans. I do not possess nearly enough details of their technology so I can give it to my Masters back on Z'Ha'dum.... Using parallel universe technology back in Home Universe to set the younger races to fighting amongst themselves is all very well but it was fraught with potential pitfalls and difficulties. I am sure they would have succeeded if only they would have taken these things into account. That fool, Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5 thinks he can employ the help of the elder races to help him vanquish my Masters but we shall prevail. A million years of history and with vassal races at our command, we cannot fail! Once the younger races of Home Universe have what technology I have to offer them, they will use it to create even more powerful weapons of mass destruction. They will use them against each other and the strongest race that still exists in the bloody aftermath will serve us well as our underlings! However, I must seek an escape from this alternate reality and find a way back to my Home Universe with the help of the Shadow who survived and will accompany me..."
His reverie was brought to an abrupt end when he felt the business end of a phaser rifle being shoved into the small of his back.
"Why, Mr Tanak Rel, what an almost unexpected pleasure..."he said in his most oily, ingratiating voice." I wasn't expecting a send-off but seeing it is you, I will make an exception."
"Who are you and what are those creatures?" demanded Tanak Rel.
"My associates? As you are probably aware, those creatures are known as Shadows. Seeing you have every intention of either killing me or handing me over to your superiors for trial and imprisonment, I would normally refrain from telling any one about my plans, but seeing it's you, I will make an exception..."
Warily circling the impassive Mr. Morden, Tanak Rel kept his phaser rifle trained on the Human and said" Ok, then. What have you and that semi-arachnid scum been up to in this pocket universe?"
"Morden leaned up against the console he had been working at almost casually and started:
"Approximately three years ago, relatively speaking. I was part of a geological survey mission in my home universe going to a planet called Z'Ha'Dum to explore some ruins there. We thought the ruins had been uninhabited for millennia but there was life there. A lifeforce so old and powerful, it was almost inconceivable. They were the race I now serve, their name in Human speech is unpronounceable so we simply call them 'Shadows'. Most of the crew I was with on the ship was dispatched when they discovered my Masters coming back to life after the long sleep they had under the ruins of Z'Ha'Dum. I, however, was spared, along with a couple of others in order to serve my Masters"
"Listen, Tanak Rel. You are a clever man. I have had a chance to browse your personal records during my time on your ship and saw what the Cardassians did to your home world during their occupation. You saw your country and planet brutalised, your planets resources taken from you, mined by slave labour taken from your populace. There were three ways in order to survive under Cardassian rule: to live like a slave and die a miserable, squalid death, to become a collaborator and fawn at their feet so you could be spared in order to become a traitor to your own race or, the option you took, to fight back and form resistance cells to strike back at your oppressors! You spent a long time fighting for the Maquis an it has made you a hard man, knowing who to trust and who can watch your back in a fire-fight. We, too, are like that. You saw all negotiation and hope for a peaceful settlement to the occupation go up in smoke as they took no heed and lay waste to your planet. You saw that the only way to counter violence was through strength and force. Only through might and struggle can a race exceed itself and gain ascendancy over its peers. That is what the Shadows offer; the means and the way possible for strong races to prevail over lesser ones and gain their true place at the Shadows side. Forget the lesser races in your Home Universe! The true way forwards is only through a races ability to stand up for itself!"
A thoughtful look passed over Tanak Rels face to be replaced by a look of grim determination. "What you say, to your ears anyway, has the ring of truth to it but..."
Hefting the phaser rifle to his shoulder and drawing a bead on the centre of Mr.Mordens forehead, he continued: "The Cardassians gave us almost the same twisted line of logic when they first appeared on our planet. They were once a peaceful race but they had a taste of what absolute power is like and they drank too deeply. They were corrupted by it and started looking around for races they could order around and intimidate! That is why they raped my planet and that is why we struck back and gave them a bloody nose. As for your skewed notions of what constitutes a lesser race, that is what the United Federation of Planets is there for; to help give a hand to and to protect fledgling civilisations from trash like you and your precious Shadows. All races have within them, the ability to exceed themselves and to reach great heights without the need for war or armed struggle, it's called peaceful negotiation and respectful co-operation! Something your Masters wouldn't recognise if it came up to them and bit their arachnid arses! Anyway, as much as I would like to stay and talk, I have to turn you over to the Captain and, if my colleague Colin Curtis can find it, blow your Shadow friend out of the nearest airlock..."
Mr. Morden smiled briefly and said: "Oh well never mind, the reason is why I was being so candid with you is because..."Moving more quickly than was Humanly possible, Morden crossed the space between himself and Tanak Rel, grabbed hold of the phaser rifle and smashed Tanak Rel across the face with it. He fell to the deck, barely conscious and with his mouth filling with blood. Through a haze that threatened to engulf him, he saw Morden standing over him pointing the captured rifle at his chest. Mr.Morden continued: "...you will be perishing briefly and I wanted a chat with you before I departed. I would kill you where you lie but I find the thought of violence rather distasteful so that is why we leave it to the younger races to kill amongst themselves."
Activating a stud on the side of the shuttle, Mr.Morden climbed in and turned around to face the semi-conscious Tanak Rel.
"However, my surviving colleague has no such compunctions about sparing life. Good-day. Lieutenant Commander Tanak Rel, I would say that we will meet again in more amicable circumstances but very shortly, your ship will be experiencing some....difficulties and I do not wish to be present when it happens."
The hatch closed on the side of the shuttle and it raised up on its underjets. Accelerating smoothly forwards, the shuttle bay doors opened. Passing through the force-field that guarded the interior of the shuttle-bay and the interior of the star-ship against the vacuum of space, the shuttle swiftly gained speed until it was a quickly moving dot against the starscape until it was lost for good.
Slowly hauling himself to his feet, Tanak Rel gingerly felt his jaw to see if it was broken and found no permanent damage, however his whole body ached and he felt drained of energy. He gloomily thought to himself; could my luck get any worse??
Without warning, the sound of sirens started wailing and the voice of the computer split through the air of the deserted shuttle-bay. "Warning! All crew-members, abandon ship! Warp-core overload and breach in 5 minutes! Warning! All crew-members abandon ship! Warp-core overload and...."
"It just did!". He bitterly thought.
Negotiating your way through a cramped Jefferies tube while trying to find your way to the engineering section whilst clutching a dirty great phaser rifle is no mean feat; thought Curtis.
"Computer, which way to Engineering?"
The emotionless female voice of the computer said" At your current location, turn left at next junction and proceed down the stairwell. On the right hand wall, you will see an access port which will be your entry to the main gantry around Main Engineering and the warp-core."
At the junction, he followed the route as stated by the computer and found himself in a small alcove with a ladder going down approximately 20 feet. He climbed down the steps and found himself facing a hatchway 3 feet on each side. Undoing the latch, he gingerly opened the hatch and quietly stepped through.
He immediately knew there was something very wrong as soon as he stepped through and squatted down behind a computer console. He saw that the anti-matter contained within the warp core was swirling around within its containment cylinder in a very agitated manner, ready to break free of its material and immaterial bonds. The normally quiet hum of the Engineering section was split asunder by the sound of emergency sirens rending the air. Additionally, several crew members lay sprawled out on the floor, either heavily stunned or killed by the monstrosity which stood/crouched in front of the main computer console facing the warp-core. It was busy tapping commands into the console using its pair of manipulatory limbs on its upper torso.
Moving quietly around the upper gantry, Curtis moved into a position to take aim at the Shadow and phaser it out of existence. He managed to find a spot on the gantry behind a console with a clear shot at the monstrosity on the lower level. Raising the rifle to his shoulder, he took careful aim at the creature, but as he did, the creature, probably possessing senses that Curtis was unaware of, whirled around and looked in the exact direction that Curtis was situated. Emitting a sibilant hiss of recognition and fury, the Shadow swiftly ran to underneath the gantry where Curtis was located. Crouching down on its two pairs of hind limbs, it made a huge leap up to the edge of the gantry whilst flailing out with one of its two pairs of hind limbs. Recoiling from the abortive swipe that the creature had made, Curtis managed to fire off two salvoes from his phaser rifle. One went astray and hit a buttress supporting the warp core and the other shot grazed off the chitinous abdomen of the Shadow. The creature fell to the floor, and gave voice to a howl of pain and rage. It made another charge, leapt and landed upon the railings where it scrabbled to gain purchase on the deck plating.
Approaching the Shadow, Curtis fired a prolonged burst of phaser fire into the creature. The Shadows exo-skeleton deliquesced and a long wound appeared in its thorax. The pain drove it to greater excesses of frantic strength, it half-fell, half-climbed over the railings and made a charge at Curtis. He raised the phaser rifle to his shoulder and aimed at the creatures head. Before he could fire, the phaser rifle was knocked out of his grasp by the enraged and pain-maddened Shadow. It flew over the railings and landed with a clatter on the deck plating on the lower level.
"Things aren't looking too good..."thought Curtis as the creature ran limping after him on the gantry. Frantically looking for an escape off of the deck he was on,he turned to seek an escape. Unfortunately, as he did, he tripped and fell to lay face-upwards on the deck. The Shadow halted over him. Like a cat playing with a mouse, it raised one of its hindlimbs high and drove it sharply through the fleshy part of his upper arm. Curtis screamed in pain as the razor- sharp end of its leg sliced through muscle and skin. The creature, satisfied with the reaction it had received, drove its other foreleg through his other shoulder.
Pinned to the deck by the creature's fore-legs, Curtis could only think: "Not like this... Any other way but not like this......"
The Shadow hissed its triumph and reached down with its fore limbs to tear his head from his shoulders. Suddenly it paused, as if hearing something. It looked up and as it did, three lances of phaser fire hit it and passed through it, burning its head and thorax to a smouldering heap of foul smelling ash. The remainder of the Shadows body fell heavily upon Curtis, who, pinned by the weight of the creature, could only lie there supine under the smouldering carcass of his former foe.
Desperately trying to shift the smoking body of off him as much as his wounded arms would allow, he managed to shift its weight so he could sit up. As he did, he heard the clattering of footsteps coming a nearby stairway. Turning to look, he saw Macfadyan, Atreus and Tanak Rel.all clutching phaser rifles, running towards him. He sagged with relief and through a pain-filled daze, he managed to say: "I never thought I'd be glad to see you guys..."
A little while later, a small crowd was assembled in engineering. At the centre was Colin Curtis, standing rather unsteadily on his feet, having his wounds attended to by the solemn Vulcan doctor Selok.Macfadyan, Atreus and Tanak Rel stood to one side talking animatedly to Captain Pyecroft. She turned to look at him and strode over to him, a look of contrition on her normally stern features.
"I owe you a very sincere and very heartfelt apology, Mr. Curtis. Without the help of yourself and Mr. Tanak, there is no way we could have seen what Mr. Morden and his accomplices would have accomplished if they had laid their hands on Federation technology." A small cloud passed over her face as she continued; "I will freely admit to being duped by him and, regrettably I will have to face the consequences when we get back to Federation space. As I said to you earlier, given the circumstances this ship and myself were placed in, any offer of help was eagerly taken. Unfortunately, I accepted it from the wrong person. Thank you once again, Mr. Curtis."
She turned and walked away from him to face his saviours." Lieutenant-Commanders Tanak, Macfadyan and Atreus. When you are all free, I wish to speak with you all at your earliest possible convenience in my Ready Room. I feel there are a few matters about your exemplary conduct in this matter that we should all discuss."
Accompanied by two security guards, she made her way out of Engineering to her Ready Room to await the arrival of Curtis' erstwhile colleagues. Once she had left, Macfadyan turned to Curtis and said:" So what will you do now? It looks like you are stuck on our ship for an indefinite period of time. Your ship is nowhere to be seen and so it looks like you are marooned here. You could always apply to Starfleet, you would get a commission easily and they are short of good starship captains, following the Battle of Wolf 359 against the Borg."
"We might even run into each other sometimes. You could always beam over to share a Latte and a good chin wag" helpfully suggested Niles Atreus.
"Hey hey, let the man make his own mind up. Having two of me or you, whatever in Starfleet? Could they handle it?" said Tanak Rel ."But seriously, Curtis, you would be ideal Starfleet material and we would be glad if you came aboard, so to speak."
Just at that moment, there was a familiar noise emanating from behind the small group. Turning to look, they saw the familiar shape of The Buccaneers TARDIS materialising in front of them. The outer doors opened and a familiar face poked his head out, closely followed by a familiar floating mechanoid head.
"Why, there you are Crumbly. Sorry to leave you high and dry like that, but once myself and Cre'at had finished repairing the old girl, we had to take the TARDIS back out into the vortex to give her a road test so to speak. Have you had a fun time poking your nose into other peoples business?"
Curtis smiled: "It's a long story, Buccaneer. I'll tell you about it when we're under way. The Buccaneer turned and looked at Frasier Macfadyan. He said, trying to mask his surprise: "You're a handsome chap! Where have I seen that face before? In the bathroom mirror, I suppose. See, Curtis! Now you know what I mean about parallel timelines. The Macfadyan gene is prevalent in all the universes!"
Curtis sighed resignedly. "Yes, the universe did have a twisted sense of humour, so it seemed." He thought. Meanwhile, The Buccaneer turned and said: "Cre'at, if you and Niles Atreus could stop looking at each other with undisguised curiosity, we do have to go shortly!"
Curtis turned to look at Tanak Rel "Farewell, friend. It has been an interesting time. I would wonder if we could do it again but you have your universe and I have mine. Look after yourself and may your Prophets guide you."
"Thank you, Curtis I hope you make it home safely. One question that is bothering me. After all this time and all that has been happening, I am still wondering who sent me that message?"
It was then that they all heard a voice behind them say: "Perhaps I can answer that, my children."
Upon turning to look around at the source of the voice, they all saw a humanoid figure standing there. He was dressed in a simple robe covered in elaborate patterns. His face was lined and spoke of thousands of years of life, wisdom and experience. A full beard, white with age, framed his face and a small metal circlet rested on his head. He stood there, a serene smile on his face as he waited for the inevitable question.
"Who are you?" said Tanak Rel.
"If you will allow me to answer that question and many more, I would be only to pleased to help you. My name is Lorien."
"What are you and what are you doing here?" said the Buccaneer, in barely concealed tones of bafflement.
The stranger held his hand up, as if to silence them all while he pondered on what to say." All questions deserve an answer and I shall answer them. I am from the same universe, as you perceive it, as your recently departed foe, Mr. Morden and his Shadow colleagues. At this time in his home universe, there is a power struggle happening. A struggle between the race you perceive as Shadows and another of the elder races, called Vorlons. Each side has their agents taken from the junior races of their home galaxy acting in accordance with their masters wishes. However, where the Vorlons seek order and uniformity in all they see around them, the Shadows seek to set the younger races to fighting amongst themselves so that the strongest shall prevail. Naturally, myself and others like myself scattered throughout our galaxy find this abhorrent. This incursion into this pocket universe was inexcusable and we had to stop it before it went too far. Unfortunately, we could not 'show our hand' so to speak as that would have given Mr. Morden and his masters an idea of what we are up to. A principal factor in the struggle is a man called John Sheridan. He will be a nexus under which the previously divided and disunited young races will rally around to form an interstellar alliance."
Lorien sighed and sat down on an empty chair." Once this is accomplished, the younger races, united will finally oust both the Shadows and the Vorlons out beyond the Rim of their Home Galaxy, never to return. The elder races have forseen this and will willingly accept it. Their time is past and it is time to make way for the younger, more dynamic races to take ascendancy amongst the stars. This is the way it must be." He raised a wry smile on his aged face and said: "To use an analogy, children do squabble and it down to the parents to set things right. However, there comes a time when children do not need to take the advice of their parents and, instead, look to their own judgement."
"Just out of curiosity, what will happen to Mr. Morden. He escaped me and the need for vengeance is strong." said Tanak Rel.
"Oh, don't worry. He will meet his fate at the hands of one who was coerced into serving him and his masters. Have no fear about that."
"And Captain Pyecroft? She was duped by Mr. Morden and I fear for her future."
"She will face a Judge Advocate General Court martial when you return to your home space, but worry not, she will receive a reprimand but her career will not be harmed in the long run." He gave them all a satisfied smile and said: "As for you all, you are destined for greater things. Farewell to you all." As suddenly as he had he had appeared, he was gone, as if he had winked out of existence.
"I suppose that is one way to make an exit" The Buccaneer said rather enviously.
At that moment, Cre'at floated back out to join the assembled party. * I have been checking the TARDIS' navigational computer and, I am at a loss to explain. There are coordinates and escape velocities for escaping this anomaly. I suggest we implement them forthwith. I will send a copy of them to the 'Sommerfields' computer core as well*
"Oh well, time to go." said Curtis
Tanak Rel, Frasier Macfadyan and Niles Atreus stood back several feet as the luminescent sphere that was the Buccaneers TARDIS dematerialised and faded out of their existence. Turning to go, Tanak Rel idly wondered if the Universe did truly have a twisted sense of humour...