Two men stood in the middle of the galaxy. They could have been virtually any height, with the only points of reference the stars and galaxies around them. An outsider watching them would have noticed the lack of protection, and the fact that they could hear them talk. If such an outsider existed.
The younger of the two was shouting at the other. "And I'm telling you, you're wrong! I know these creatures, I've studied them, they will adapt. The harsher the consequences, the more impossible the odds...the more they'll change, the more they'll invent, until they win."
The elder of the two in a deeper voice, heavy with amusement, replied. "Would you like to make a wager on that? I'm sure a heavy enough blow, from an unexpected enough source, will reduce them to animals."
The first looked over at the second smirking. “The normal terms?”
“Acceptable, but this time, how will we determine a victor? I don't want you worming out of this one.” He frowned at the younger one. “None of this ‘Eventually it will work out’”
The first pointed through the space around them to a single Federation starship. “That one. That one independent ship will determine their success or failure. Is that concrete enough?”
The elder replied, "Done then. Let it begin."
Those last three words, so close to the words thought to have started the universe, had a very similar impact, though not nearly so beneficial.
With those words, warp travel became a thing of the past. Ships of all types and races suddenly shuddered to a halt. Emerging in real space, their respective crews worked and slaved to find the failed part, item, or device that had caused the crisis. Eventually, all came to realize that some fundamental aspect of reality had changed. The ability to enter warpspace was no more.
Whether through considering kindness, or the vilest villainy, interstellar communications remained. As they realized what had happened, some empires rattled sabers and threw forth challenges, while others spoke softly offering submission if only their opponent's doomsday weapon would be withdrawn. And while the diplomats argued, the military despaired. What good a powerful fleet of ships, or unique weapon, when the means to move had been removed. What possible show of strength could be made to an invader who would be gone years or even decades before a response could arrive.
As the days spread out into weeks, the ruling forces sent out messages to their fleets. The text changed from source to source, some written with a hopeful mien, military precision, or hopeless abandon. The messages said, "Do what you can. Return if you may, good luck to you all." For when the interstellar distances had been comparatively short, no Captain would fail to heed their superiors. Now, with every ship a comparative giant and none to intervene, only the personal convictions held any Captain to their oaths.
The individual planets fared no better. As part of a warp society, each had interdependencies that suddenly could no longer be met. Risa, the pleasure planet, soon fell victim to its own success. Visitors to the planet at first laughed that they were “forced” to remain on vacation longer. However, the seriousness of their situation was all too soon forced upon them. Lacking regular shipments of food, the planet degenerated into a combat zone. Only the lack of weapons on the planet prevented widespread deaths, as the starving people did what they could to survive.
Earth, home and center of the Federation, found itself struggling to support the masses as suddenly the infrastructure for adjoining systems was ceased. Terra forming of Mars became a high priority in order to continue feeding the people. Romulus was hit by a revolt as the Remans, knowing the Romulan fleet was no longer immediately recoverable, attacked. Interestingly, the Klingon home world saw the fewest changes. There, where there was the thinnest veneer of polite society, they simply took up the old ways of gathering food, either from others...or by others.
"Look at them" declared the elder of the two. "Just as I said, they are turning into animals. They fight amongst themselves, or foolishly bang their head against the walls. They trick and twist, but I see no spark, no invention. Just admit you’re wrong."
The other shook his head. "Not yet my friend. First, we agreed on a single ship, and we've not even looked there yet. Things may not be as dark as you believe."
The first voice chuckled evilly. "Or perhaps they are darker yet, I don't think you noticed the other ship nearby. "
"Wait! That ship wasn't there, that's not fair!" the higher voice exclaimed.
"The Fair is in Minnesota, and that's not until summer." came the wry reply. "Now, let's see how your 'inventive' friends respond. "
"Indeed" came the surprisingly calm reply, "let's just see."
It’s been 3 days since we dropped out of warp. The crew has taken it surprisingly well, just another question to be solved. We’ve already validated that the engines are working correctly, and have tried several of the shuttles as well. We are currently waiting for a response from Starfleet, hopefully they know more about what’s going on.
We received the message from Starfleet. This phenomenon is affecting everyone. While communications through subspace are still functional, we aren’t getting home anytime soon. The command staff has been told, but not the overall crew. I saw the stunned looks as comprehension of our situation took hold. I have faith that they’ll be able to come to grips in a day or two, then the hard part will come.
It’s been a difficult adjustment. We’ve had a number of suicides amongst the crew, many after receiving messages from family. We keep looking for a solution, some way to get home. But nothing is coming. We are heading to the nearest star system. Hopefully it will be able to provide us some fresh food and water. We’ve already lowered the oxygen content to extend the life support, and lowered the heat and lights. Not that we needed to lower them, the one thing we have plenty of at this point is power. However, the doctors tell me that doing this will cause people to slow down a bit, lower their level of activity. It should help extend our supplies a bit longer.
I am beginning to believe our ship has been hit with the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”. As we were continuing our journey, a Romulan heavy cruiser was picked up at maximum range. More surprising was the hail that followed soon after. Despite my misgivings, I admit to being more curious than worried when they asked for a truce. It’s been several days, and they will soon be entering transporter range. We’ve invited them to a meal together to share information. I’ll avoid Admiral Kirk’s mistake with the Romulan Ale however.
The Ale might have helped. The meal was almost a complete disaster. They had come in with their standard “better than thou” attitude, and admittedly my own officers could have been more gracious. Sniping comments were met with angry responses, leading to backbiting apologies. Short of supplying both sides with rapiers, I can’t see how it would have been worse. We are still in a truce, which does suggest they are desperate. I just hope they don’t realize we are too.
Well, we’re finally getting down to the negotiations. They want us to form an alliance to defeat the Tzenkethi or Grendellai. Our two ships have more than enough power to shatter all but the largest fleet. And fast enough to run if we can’t win. Obviously we’re not interested in becoming pirates. However, several of my command staff wonder if that was thrown out to test our resolve. In any case, we are already comparing information of local space. Starting tomorrow, we are going to start brainstorming other ways of getting home.
It’s been a difficult week. No real change throughout. Everyone is getting on the others nerves. We’re going over and over the same things, or wishing for things we don’t have. One memorable plan involved sling shotting around the sun to go back in time. I’m glad I didn’t have to point out that required warp to work. I didn’t want to stop this, partially hoping that someone would discover something, but mostly to give the crew something to do. At this point, I think I’m going to have to stop these meetings.
I don’t know whether to promote or punish my team. They have an idea…and in theory it could work. A Romulan ship uses a controlled singularity for power. Using that technology, it might be possible to fly through a black hole. Using a number of probes to track the rotation of the black hole, we could plot a course through the center. Then, combined with a variant of the engine shielding placed on the hull, we fly through. Based on the theory, we would nearly instantaneously travel…who knows where. Both I and the Romulan Captain have given permission to start producing the probes. If nothing else, this will give us hope…something we’ve been very short on.
We completed our first successful test. The probe slipped into the hole, diving through the gravity well like a greased eel. I still can’t believe we’re going to try this. Roughly, we are going to allow the Romulan singularity to expand to the maximum level while being controlled. By removing the normal limits, but having a maximum limit, the rapid expansion will open up a wormhole. At that point, we will thread the unstable wormhole with the materials from Romulan ship’s core. It will temporarily stabilize, and we will fly through. Moments later, the wormhole will completely destabilize, sealing it on both sides. In theory it makes sense, but then again, I’m not an expert on Schwarzschild geometry.
Tomorrow is the day. We’ve run all the tests, made the upgrades to the ship. Not that the original engineers would even be able to recognize this as a New Orleans class. It’s been about 6 months since we first started working on this refit. We’ve gone through many strange changes, adjusting to the new plans and to each other. We found out far too late that one of the Tal’Shiar was part of the Romulan crew, and lost one of our own in an assassination. His death surprisingly tied the groups together, as the Tal’Shiar responsible was found dead in a…surprisingly painful method with the sign in Romulan and English “Thus always to traitors.” And, equally surprising was the first Romulan-Human wedding, officiated by both myself and the Romulan Captain. Most surprising of all was the meeting between the Romulan Captain and myself. He officially requested sanctuary for him and his crew, and pledged himself to me as a Head of House. After that, many others did the same, as well as an increasing number of my own crew.
Well, in case this doesn’t work, we’ve decided to send the information and diagrams to the nearest starbase. If it works, we’ll be instantly transported across space. And I’m told, that with some experimentation, we can modulate the gravitational field of the singularity to better “aim” our jumps.
I am intensely proud of this ship and crew, both Romulan and Federation. We have pulled together despite, or even because of hardship. And tomorrow, we’ll truly go where no one has gone before.
“As I said, they invent, they win. Now pay up.”
“Only if they are successful. And anything could happen.”
“You’re wrong. Even if they completely fail to transport themselves, they’ve already succeeded far beyond my expectations, much less yours.”
“Oh really, and how are you going to twist this one into a win?”
“Easily. They’ve found peace and they’ve found hope. Look at them, thanks to someone’s interference, two of the least likely races to cooperate are working together for a common goal. Even more, their example, even as a failure, will encourage others to continue their work.” He gestured across the space in front of them. “Look at the brightening locations. Those are all of the spots that this independent ship’s actions have affected. Over there, a group is looking at sending small amounts of matter through subspace. That group is looking at time travel, there’s even a group looking into cryogenic sleep. And all of them are working together, friend and foe, to get it done. At this point, if the ship succeeds…they are a beacon…if they fail a martyr. Either way, their message spreads, they have already succeeded.”
After a few moments, his friend nodded. “Fine, take your money. It’s not worth arguing with you. It’s just a story anyway.”
The first laughed. “Ok, how about this. How about a story based on a human, who is raised on Romulus, but chooses to join Starfleet.”
The deeper voice chuckled, “Don’t be ridiculous. That’d never work.”
[2005: NOV-DEC] Creative Impulse
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