THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL
Previously: Episode Four
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2267, March 27th (1 Year, 7 Months, 27 Days)
I made full Lieutenant 18 months to the day after arriving on Potemkin. Zane had made JG at the end of the first year. Starfleet security had been, to put it mildly, deeply concerned with the potential for the Microfabricator and quietly blackbagged the whole thing. The sonic disrupters were deemed inhumane by the medical board, since they could be easily used to literally splatter someone across a wall… but the site to site emergency teleport relay was being quietly added to medkits across starfleet. The system still required a linked transporter system and a preset sickbay or hospital to function, but the single use nature of the wafer-thin relay patch was not deemed an issue. Their utility in saving lives outweighed the issue of replacing them after each use. I’d received the Cochrane Medal of Excellence for that, as well as Starfleet Medical Progress Decoration.
I was on one of my exile shifts, working away under the watchful, and often highly opinionated Lt. Commander Kobok, who’d assigned me the task of improving the deflector dish’s cycle time without any guidance or parameters as to what “Improving” might entail. By the way, while Vulcans seem pacific and even tempered to most of the rest of the Galaxy at large, when dealing with each other we come across as harsh, demanding, judgemental, sarcastic, and often cruel. It’s all down to the smallest variation of inflection, something no one but another Vulcan would notice. Kobok and I may have respected each other professional, but on a purely personal level, we detested each other. Of course, being Vulcans, there was no way we going to let that get in the way of our duties.
Our duties that day were put on hold as we received instructions from the bridge that the ship was going to warp and that I was needed on the bridge. Setting aside my latest brainchild, a progressive pulse deflector that could be used to scour corridors in case a ship was boarded, I jumped into the turbolift. “Lt S’Janus, Reporting as ordered.” I said, since I had probably not been summoned in my role as a doctor (that tends to be worded more in the vein of “Medical Emergency on the Bridge”).
“Take a look at this, and tell us what you think, S’Janus,” Commander b’Onno instructed. I looked in the scope, considering. She hadn’t given me any hint as to what I was looking at, clearly wanting me to make my own determination. “It looks like a star that is… destabilizing. These fluctuations… this is sped up… These are cyclic…” I was speaking aloud as I parsed what I was seeing. It looked like a star with severe gastric distress. “This isn’t a natural phenomenon. Something is hitting that star with progressively more disruptive signals. It’s as if they’re dialling in on a frequency that can cause… there… It’s beginning to flare.”
I looked up to see the senior staff looking at me. “That’s where we’re headed, isn’t it? Where is this?”
“It is on the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone. And yes, that’s where we’re going. We’d like you to continue monitoring. Unless you’re needed in Medical?” The request was pro forma. Strictly speaking I was not in Commander b’Onno’s division, but I wasn’t going to refuse a request from a Senior Officer who had the Captain’s silent but tacit approval. “Of course. Should I remain here, or head down to Astrophysics and monitor from there?” The Commander considered, then said, “You can take over at Navigation. We know where we’re going. Just reroute the display.” “Yes ma’am.”
The show would have it seem like we arrived 3 minutes later after a commercial break. The reality is it took the better part of 13 hours to settle into the system, an unremarkable Yellow Dwarf with a single inhabited planet that was home to 17 million Tellarite colonists from one of their more fractious (even for Tellarites) religious factions. They were fiercely self-sufficient and we were immediately told that they didn’t need our help dealing with a sun that had gone a little wonky. They had two old planetary defense frigates and a system recon cruiser of more modern design, but none of them had the resources or scanning power of Potemkin.
The Captain assured them we weren’t here to interfere, merely to document and analyze, but immediately countered that once he was off the line, saying some less than politic things about local politicians. I kept quiet, continuing to study the baffling readings. They seemed, strangely… familiar. Then I pegged it. It was a deflector pulse pattern, not one designed to tumble intruders down long corridors, but being pushed through the main deflector array. But aside from that, the way it was being done was almost identical to what I’d been working on.
I quickly began routing computer power to the task, doing a backtrace to try and localize the source. It had to be within a certain ring… and there it was. A faint gravimetric distortion.
“Captain.” I interrupted his conference with the XO. “I’ve located what I believe to be the source of the disruption.” “On screen.” I flipped the visual up, then false colorshifted it to make the distortion more visible.
“What are we looking at?” Commander Braunstein asked.
“I believe there is a ship there, broadcasting a deflector pulse beam of very high intensity at the surface of the star… or rather just beneath the surface.”
“To what end?”
“I believe this is an attempt to generate an artificial and massive solar flare… with the goal of destroying the local colony.”
“Romulans!” the Captain hissed. “Helm bring us around in a slow sweep that makes it look like we’re just doing routine observation. Weapons… I want a full spread of photon torpedos on the area just around that distortion and full phasers for 3 seconds. Yellow Alert, but keep it quiet.”
Keeping it quiet meant passing the news by word of mouth, rather than a ship board announcement. It was a paranoid thing to order, but fully understandable. If this was Romulans, their cloaking device would make targeting them difficult, but there had to be a ship generating the effect. The evolution went off without a hitch. Our torpedos and phasers stabbed out at practically knife range… and passed right through the empty space without so much as a ping. Everyone looked to me.
“There has to be a ship there… “ I began… then froze, a horrible nasty sneaky thought occurring to me. “One moment Captain. There’s something I need to check.” Oh nononono. This could not be happening. “Permission to launch a probe, Captain?”
“Permission granted, but I want an explanation.”
“As soon as I have one, Captain.”
I launched the probe, steering it around the distortion, being careful to keep it out of the direct line of the deflector pulse. I compiled the scans into an overlapping mosaic on the main screen as time seemed to drag by. “We’re waiting, Lieutenant.”
“One more… Okay. I’m doing this on the fly. Char…” I said, addressing the Tactical Officer informally, “Could you remove all background elements we know we should be seeing?” The Tellarite nodded, his dark eyes narrowing as he focused, stripping the layered images out one by one as as I worked to counter the distortion. Finally, after about ten minutes of silence, I got my gasp of recognition. I didn’t feel vindicated. For the first time in a long while, I felt terrified. What my probe had picked up was there on the main screen for all to see… but I was the only one who realized the potential ramifications. They weren’t just bad… they were potentially ruinous. Because, there on the screen… was a Constitution class deflector dish.
“Explain. Now.” The Captain ordered.
“I believe, Captain, that we are looking through a window into a parallel universe. From the evidence, I believe it is one very similar to our own and… “ I chose my words very carefully, “One where the Federation is a despotic and likely highly militarily aggressive state.”
Commander Struchen quirked her half-Vulcan Eyebrows at me “You can infer all that from one image?”
“I can. The logic is difficult to refute. That is a Constitution Class Deflector. Hence, one may extrapolate that that is a Constitution Class Ship. Our attacks passed through the space without registering on anything and only by collecting nearly 20 minutes of scan data were we able to get even that clear of an image… and that only because of the strength of the distortion they are creating. Thus, parallel reality. Given that, I suspect, rather strongly, that that ship is that reality’s Potemkin. I cannot be certain of this fact, but it seems likely. Regardless, their actions are clearly hostile. Creating a Weapon System that can generate a Solar Flare on command has no non-terror weapon utility. It would be too slow to use against Warp Capable ships. Thus, it can only be used to attack planets or space stations. Thus, it is a terror weapon.”
“Assuming you’re correct… how do we stop them?”
“We… “ I swallowed, knowing I was going to be pushing my luck. “We need to get over there, infiltrate the vessel, find out exactly how they’re doing what they’re doing… and stop it from happening again, if we can. I suspect from the way they are running through cycles, that they are testing a new and unproven technology. Sabotaging their efforts may cause them to lose face if such failure becomes public knowledge. Despotic governments tend not to be… forgiving.”
“If that ship is Potemkin…” The Captain began.
“Then that means it is quite likely there are, for lack of a better term, evil twins of all of us on board. Yes.” I finished, cringing at the thought of just how dangerous an Evil Twin of me could be.
“Excellent. Then that means none of us,” he indicated the Senior Staff. “Can go over there. Two copies of any of us would be hard to hide. Lieutenant. Since you seem to have some understanding of this technology, you’ll be leading this mission. Pick two junior officers to assist you… then you and Kobok and Sumit get together and figure out a way to get into that ship undetected. I expect results within the hour.”
I knew when I’d been dismissed. I also knew that I’d need the best… and that meant Zane. I also tagged Ensign Alger Jons, who I had every reason to believe was a top notch fighter. I wanted to be able to use every tool in my arsenal in the Mirror Universe; I didn’t need anyone not in on the secret tagging along.
The details of how we managed the transfer aren’t important. They’d come across as technobabble to you and are highly classified to boot. Suffice it to say that, 90 minutes later, the three of us were standing in an ISS turbolift heading to main engineering… or rather the jeffries tubes around it. All of us were dressed in ISS Uniforms thanks to a little creative fabrication and Zane and Alger both sported evil beards. I felt ridiculous in the ISS version of a female uniform, but then I’d felt fairly ridiculous in the USS’s version of a female uniform too, so there you go.
As soon as we exited the lift, we split up, going into full on stealth mode. My cloak allowed me to move unseen, but keeping from being bumped into is often quite tricky in a busy starship. Still I was on pins and needles, ready to kill my double within moments if she detected what I was about to do. “Victoria,” I subvocalized, calling on my VI, now running with a bizarre hybrid of Pokegear, Omni-Tool, and Isolinear technology… with a lot of magic tossed in for good measure. “Is there another VI on board this ship?”
“Negative Commander.” She replied in my ear.
“Is there any magic you can detect?”
“Negative Commander.” She replied again.
I sagged a little in relief. Assuming I had a twin on this ship, it didn’t appear she was a Jumper. I relaxed. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I was wrong… as I discovered when I rounded the corner into the ISS version of the lab I’d been using. There, wired into the Deflector Dish Control Panel… was the head of a Borg. And leaning over it was a half cyborged version of myself.
I cringed, my emotions momentarily getting the better of me, but reined them in, listening as she talked to the thing.
“Three-of-Twelve. What seems to be the delay?”
“My Queen. I am processing as fast as this primitive system will allow. My systems have not yet completed their self repair.”
“I am aware of that Three-of-Twelve. But this project is vital to the Collective. You must try… harder.”
“Yes my Queen.”
I stepped back out into the hall, hugging the wall. This wasn’t good. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t good. The Terran Empire? And the Borg? Wonderful. Kirk hadn’t even been to the Mirror Universe yet if I was remembering the timeline correctly. Fabulous. My evil twin had clearly acquired a damaged Borg and was using its adaptive circuitry to power her weapon. I wasn’t sure if she was an actual cyborg or was simply pretending to get the Borg to obey her, but I wasn’t at all certain that the Borg was fooled.
“Victoria, scan this ship for nanotech infestation.”
“Affirmative. 21% of the command pathways have been infested.”
I cursed silently. It was using them, delaying the process to get into the system.
“Zane. Get the Pinch from the warehouse.” I ordered.
Fuck it. I needed to do this fast. I stepped back into the bay, then pulled a hypospray from my boot and used it on the guard watching the other me’s back. I slowed time, sliding up behind my doppleganger and nerve pinched her. As the two began to fall, I reached out with my magic and forced it into the Borg Drone’s head. As I’d expected, Three-of-Twelve’s system was no more shielded against direct magical interference as a 1990’s era cellphone would have been. Smoke started pouring out of his eyes and it went dead. I didn’t trust that at all, so I froze the entire console solid, then isolated then entire unit. I slapped a transporter targeting patch on the thing (What, you thought the Transporter crews were just really good at guessing?) then used the remaining engineering console to gain control of the emergency jettison system. With a flick of a switch, I teleported the entire corrupted console and the head into a rapidly decaying solar orbit. It would melt in a second, then burn to ash in a few more. I heard feet pounding towards me and shifted into my Asari form, complete with Spectre Battle Armor and combat load out. I had my wand tucked into Victoria and I threw up a shield over the door and opened fire as the Redshirts rounded the corner. “Victoria, initiate core jettison.” I ordered as I mowed down the engineering crew. “Zane, Alger… Bug out in three.”
“Alger’s down” Zane said. I sighed “Well bag and tag him. Not leaving him in this reality.”
And with that we used the emergency transport patches both I and my clone had created to leap into the cross reality relay we’d hastily built and jumped, moments before the warp core of ISS Potemkin scrammed, punching out the bottom of the vessel… just ahead of the EMP pulse that fried every electronic circuit and Borg Nanobot within the massive starship. They’d recover. Of course they would. But they’d be missing one vulcan scientist. After scanning her thoroughly to make sure she wasn’t actually a Borg Queen or infected in any way, I’d transported her into my warehouse and had my people bind her up and toss her into a cage… then fuse the cage’s lock. I wasn’t taking any chances with her… but I couldn’t just kill her. I didn’t know what that would do, but she was going to stay there until I decided. I did have her tattooed with a big E on the forehead and both hands, just so everyone knew which one of us was the Evil one.
The Captain praised us, putting in Alger for a posthumous Legion of Honor, and Zane and I in for the Star Cross (mine with Clusters). Our scans were classified. And AJ and Rocky were arguing about who’d gotten the cooler death. Morons.
Next: Episode Six