A Requiem for Leonidas

by Mike Lee -- Part One

Rating: PG (language, violence)

DISCLAIMER: The characters and situations of the TV program "SPACE: Above and Beyond" are the creations of Glen Morgan and James Wong, Fox Broadcasting and Hard Eight Productions, and have been used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Likewise, the characters and situations of the TV program "Star Trek: the Next Generation" are the property of Paramount Pictures, and have been used without permission (as if they would give it if I asked). Again, no copyright infringement is intended.

This is a crossover story, starring our favorite Commodore, Glen Van Ross. This marks a number of firsts for me- the first time I've ever tried a crossover story (normally it just isn't my style), and the first time I have attempted to write with one of the established S:AAB characters. I really, REALLY hope you like it, because it's given me fits these last four months or so.

Many, many thanks to the wonderful Becky Ratliff, who gave me the idea for this story, as well as endless encouragement. I've done my part, Becky- now you get to do the sequel!

As ever, comments and criticisms are actively encouraged! Send 'em to:
Mike Lee

copyright 1997 by Mike Lee
"A Requiem for Leonidas"
Commodore Glen Van Ross replaced the caller onto its clip and resisted the urge to rub the burning itch from his eyes. There hadn't been much time for sleep in the days before the invasion of Demios, but now more than ever he had to appear strong. Operation Domino was coming apart- the Chigs had counterattacked faster than anyone had expected. The Eisenhower and most of her battle group were gone, and the Marines of the landing force were trapped on the planet below with nothing more than what they had on their backs. The sense of panic and despair on the bridge of the Saratoga was palpable, an electric tension that leapt from sailor to sailor.

Now was the time for bold action. The UN 15th Fleet had to strike back, grab the enemy by the throat and make him worry less about Demios and more about getting through the day alive. They could still win back the initiative, fight a solid battle and get a solid victory, something they badly needed. But their orders were to fall back, to quit the field in what amounted to a headlong retreat. It was a deception, of course, a roll of the dice by High Command, because to counterattack at Demios the Chigs had been forced to strip the defenses of Ixion, a system of vastly more strategic importance. If the 15th Fleet could cut behind the Chig lines and take Ixion they would have a jumping-off point in range of the enemy homeworld. It could shorten the war by as much as two years. But the twenty-five thousand kids already on Demios would have to stay behind, without food, ammunition, or hope.

It had fallen to him to say the fateful words, overriding their frantic pleas for support. Black Forest. The Marines on Demios were ordered to take to the hills and fight on, selling their lives as dearly as possible. The hell of it was, he couldn't even tell them why, in case the Chigs managed to intercept the transmission. It had been the most difficult order of a distinguished military career.

Ross could feel the headache returning, the tension wringing his brain like a dishrag, one slow turn at a time. He turned to the man standing beside him, a tall figure in black who betrayed the pain he felt in the set of his jaw and the sharp gleam in his blue eyes. "We'll be back for them Ty," Ross vowed. "I swear to you, we will be back."

Lieutenant colonel TC McQueen was like a grey-haired lion, radiating an aura of indomitable strength that was the hallmark of a natural leader. He was a born soldier in more ways than one, but his squadron was among those left to die on Demios. "I know, sir," he said softly, his eyes distant. "If there's anything left to come back to."

The commodore bit back a pained reply. He and McQueen had known one another too long to recriminate one another for the fortunes of war. And there was the bridge crew, busy at their tasks, but all of them listening, counting on his guidance. Glen Ross straightened his shoulders and got his people busy. It was the best cure for despair that he knew. "Communications, signal Whiskey Alpha. Helm, prepare to weigh anchor." There was dark steel in his words, the polished tone of command. Ross grabbed up the caller that he'd only moments before set aside and keyed to the tactical channel. "CIC, this is the Captain. What is the current position of contact india one-niner?"

"Contact india one-niner bearing one-oh-five by thirty," came the brisk reply, "distance thirty-three thousand msk's." The Chig ships were closing rapidly on the main elements of the 15th Fleet, moving into a position between the Earth forces and the Marines on Demios. Clearly they expected the 15th to contest the planet's orbital space. What kind of a son-of-a-bitch turns his back on over twenty thousand troops, after all? Ross thought bitterly. Their error would give the fleet just enough time to recover their combat air patrols and escape. No, not an escape, he corrected himself. A chance for a final victory, sooner than we dared dream. But it still felt like retreat.

"Sir, all fleet elements acknowledge receipt of Whiskey-Alpha," the signals officer replied. It was the plan for emergency withdrawal; the precious carriers and their support ships pulling away with a minimum of escorts and leaving real space, while the remaining warships formed a rearguard to allow them time to get away. The Saratoga, being the flagship of the fleet, would be the first to depart, and others would risk death to see her to safety. Already the cost in blood for distant Ixion was rising, and the battle had yet to be fought.

"Helm standing by to weigh anchor," called out the chief of the watch.

"Very well, Chief," Ross replied. "Weigh anchor and set course for Ixion." A stir went through the crew like a swift wind, as they realized that they were not running away after all, but heading deeper into enemy territory. On impulse, he leaned a little over the bridge rail and raised his voice so all the bridge crew could hear. "The Marines are going to hold the Chigs by the nose at Demios while we swing around behind them and kick 'em in the ass. They owe us for Tellus, and for Vesta, and now it's time to collect."

Ross was surprised to hear them cheer. The fate of the Eisenhower was forgotten, and the desperate screams from the troops trapped on Demios. He was the captain, and he kept faith with his crew. If he said that they were going to snatch victory from defeat, then that was what would happen, and God help the man who didn't do his part. Not for the first time, Glen Ross felt a sense of wonder at the hearts of the men and women who served under him. And like so many other times in the past, he felt their trust and vowed before God that he would not betray it.

They would win at Ixion. They had to. Or the ghosts of Demios would haunt them to the rest of their days.
It took four hours to disengage from the enemy pursuit. Six ships had been lost, including the Mother Theresa. A Chig missile had struck her engines and she lost headway, falling steadily behind the withdrawing fleet. The alien fighters had swarmed over her, firing bolt after bolt at the hospital ship. "--good luck Saratoga, and godspeed--" were the last words anyone ever heard from Captain Morse and her crew.

Finally, there was nothing more to do but wait as the fleet maneuvered to the transit point. The chief of the watch, a fireplug-shaped sailor the enlisted men referred to as "Popeye", suggested that Ross get himself something to eat. "An officer can do his job without sleep, and he can do it without food, but not without both," the burly chief petty officer growled, as though stating a fundamental law of physics. The commodore knew better than to disagree.

The stewards in the wardroom were expecting him. He called for a light lunch and three ibuprofen. Unsurprisingly, he had the large room to himself, which gave him some quiet and a little time to think. It was the last thing he wanted at that moment. Better to stay occupied rather than consider what he had just done.

Someone approached his table, and it took Ross a moment before he realized that it wasn't one of the stewards. McQueen rose before him like a thundercloud, holding himself at a stiff parade-rest. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" he asked.

Ross looked around the wardroom. A single steward stood at a discreet distance, eyeing the Marine interloper. "I'd like a pot of coffee brewed for myself and the colonel, Mister Rodriguez," the commodore ordered.

The steward left the room with a knowing nod. Ross considered his old friend. "Sit down, Ty."

"I'd rather stand, sir," McQueen replied tightly.

Ross felt the tension squeeze his brain a little tighter and clenched his jaw slightly. "All right, Colonel, have it your way. What's on your mind?"

"I don't belong here, sir. I should be on that supply ship near Demios, trying to link up with my people." McQueen spoke quietly, but the intensity behind the words was like a hammerblow. "My duty is to lead my squadron, and I can't do that from Ixion. They're going to be fighting for their lives every minute of every day from now until--" the Colonel paused, trying to rein in his anger, and failed. "I could have tried to coordinate those troops from orbit, organize resistance and rescue efforts. I might have saved a lot of lives. I had every right to stay behind, and it made good military sense, unless you think I couldn't do the job. And if that is the case sir, you ought to relieve me right now."

"Goddamnit Colonel!" Ross roared, coming up out of his chair. "Do you throw a tantrum every time you have to deal with a difficult order? Those Marines on Demios have got nothing more than their rifles and what's on their backs. No vehicles, no artillery, no air support- George fucking Patton couldn't make a difference down there! Shit!" he yelled, angry at himself for losing control, but at the same time grateful for a chance to let it all out. "I don't like this Ty. You had better realize that, after all the time we've known one another. But we're going to Ixion regardless, and if I've got your experience to call on, then we'll have that much better a chance of winning, and bringing this war closer to an end."

At that moment the steward sallied forth from the galley, setting a silver coffee pot on the table between the two men and forcing them to regain their military decorum. Ross took a deep breath. "That will be all, Mister," he told the steward curtly, then indicated a chair to McQueen. "Sit down. I can order you if you like."

McQueen took the chair and sat stiffly, his eyes wandering the room as he often did when sorting through tangled knots of reasons and emotions. Ross understood what his friend was going through, though it had been a long time since he'd led men in the field. Other people defined themselves by their families, and their friends, their goals and their ambitions, but McQueen was an InVitro. He came into a world that reviled him with nothing more than a batch number. All he ever had was his duty and the Marines he had been commissioned to lead. Now Ross had cut him adrift. It had been the right thing to do as an officer, but a hell of a thing to do as a friend.

Ross watched his friend's troubled face for a time. "Let me tell you the truth, Ty," he said at last. "I can sit here and quote you chapter and verse about the military logic of following orders and the finer points of strategy. But the fact of the matter is, you came to me with your request after I had just told twenty-five thousand Marines that they were being left to die. Twenty-five thousand. I understood why we were leaving, and what we stood to gain, but at that moment I couldn't stand to leave one more man behind. Not one man. Least of all my closest friend. I don't know what that makes me, Ty, but there it is."

Silence hung between them for a time, McQueen's eyes seeking answers in the shadows of the wardroom. When at last he spoke, he sounded weary. "The way of the warrior is death, sir. Sometimes war forces men to face hopeless battles. Because to do otherwise would betray our duty, and without that, we are not fit to call ourselves soldiers. But Marines shouldn't be thrown headlong into the fire. Someone should be there to look them in the eye and tell them- I gave the order, and I'll pay the price alongside you. When Leonidas faced the Persians at Thermopylae, he didn't order his men to hold until the last man." The colonel stood, his expression haunted. "All he said was 'follow me.' The Marines at Demios deserved no less."

Glen Van Ross rubbed a hand over his burning eyes and reached deep inside himself for the strength to carry on another four hours. TC was right, he knew. He knew it from the moment he'd told those troops that they were on their own. "Well then, Colonel, you and I are just going to have to win the battle at Ixion and get back to the 58th as fast as we can. I'll be a son of a bitch before I let the Chigs beat us as Demios."
Two hours later Ross left the flag bridge so fast the Marine sentry barely had time to get the hatch open. The pain was like a dull spike in the back of his head. No one had ever made a liar of Glen Ross, but General Merick looked like he was going to give it his best shot.

Ross had served under men like Merick more than once during his career. Officers who punched a ticket and put in the long hours to work their way to flag rank, dreaming for a chance to command an army in battle, to make history. Merick wanted to be another Patton, another Schwartzkopf, men who took risks and made bold moves, and ended up winning it all. The problem was that Merick had the ambition without the ability. He was little better than a gambler, lured by the promise of a huge payoff, but ultimately having nothing to rely on but dumb luck to win. Ross knew that once the Chigs realized what was happening, the 15th Fleet was in for a hell of a fight at Ixion. The intel reports suggested that the enemy had a numerical advantage, but with surprise and a little aggressiveness on the part of the Earth fleet, they could even up the odds. Would Merick have the courage? Did he have the strength to stick it out and make the enemy lose the will to fight? Ross was afraid the answer was no, and he was damned if he knew what to do about it.

"Now hear this, now hear this," the Saratoga's executive officer called out over the shipwide intercom, "all hands now prepare for transit. Secure all masts and set the twenty-eight-hundred cycle switchboards to standby. All hands ready damage control level yankee. That is all."

They would be at Ixion in less than three hours. Time enough to get a little sleep, but he still needed to check readiness reports from the Air Boss and the Honcho, and coordinate resupply with the fleet tender as soon as possible-- Ross dug into his shirt pocket for another couple of headache pills.

He was going to have to command his ship, his battle group, and stick close to Merick all at the same time. Someone had to be there to put some steel into his spine when things got tough. The general would resent it like hell but Ross would still do it, even if it got him beached. His career right then seemed a trivial thing compared to the price being paid at Demios.

Ross headed for the lift, trying to rub some of the tension out of his neck when the transit alarm sounded. Absurdly, he found himself looking forward to the momentary feeling of displacement as the ship exited real space. For reasons no one could fathom, a wormhole transit had the odd side effect of stimulating blood flow and opening the sinus passages. It instantly cured headaches and relieved stuffy noses. Aerotech will probably figure out a way to market it one of these days, he thought with a laugh. Damn, he was starting to get punchy-

His nerves tingled as the transit effect hit him- and suddenly spiked, tearing through him with claws of fire and ice. He screamed, but no sound came, and he felt himself falling, turning inside out-

He hit the deck, shivering from the pain. Everything was white, blinding white, stabbing into his eyes. Sound rolled through his ears, muffled and brassy, like he was under water. A bomb, was all he could think. A bomb went off just as we were transiting. General Merick--

He felt a hand grab his arm and heard a blurry sound like a shout. He tried to sit up, trying to think and give orders. "Damage--report--" was all he managed to say, or think he said, before the floor fell away from him and his eyes filled with darkness.
There was a warbling in his ears. It sounded like the call of a bird, but after a moment he realized that the sound was too tirelessly perfect to come from a living creature. He could tell that he was lying on a bed, and it surprised him that he felt no pain.

Ross risked opening an eye. The room's lighting stabbed into his eyes, making him wince and jerk his head to the side. There was a faint gasp, and the warbling stopped.

"Computer, lower the ambient light level by fifty percent," came a voice, warm and feminine. Ross felt the gentle touch of fingertips at his cheek, nudging his head back upright. "Are your eyes really sensitive?" the voice asked.

He tried to open his eyes again, this time with more caution, a tiny fraction at a time. Even the dimmed lighting made his optic nerves jangle like plucked strings, but the pain began to ebb almost at once. He was in a room with eight beds arranged in a semicircle. There was a screen over the head of each bed, but the seven he could see were dark, and the beds themselves were empty. Small cabinets hung at intervals along the walls, and trays of equipment were set beside most of the beds. He was in a sickbay of some kind, though it sure as hell wasn't on the Saratoga.

The fingers pulled away from his face, and Ross looked over to see a woman in a white lab coat smiling down at him. She had smooth, coffee-colored skin and large, dark eyes that dominated the delicate features of her face. In her right hand she held a small gray plastic case, which she slipped into her coat pocket.

"Feeling any better?" she asked. "Wait- don't try to sit up yet-"

With an effort, Ross raised himself onto his elbows. There were no IV's, no bandages- in fact, he was still wearing his full uniform. "What the hell happened?" he asked. "Are we on the Mother Teresa?" But then he remembered that the Teresa was gone, blown up by the Chigs. "What's going on here, Doctor?"

The doctor took a step back, folding her arms across her chest. Her mouth worked, while her eyes betrayed her uneasiness. "Ah, that's something we would all like to know, believe me. Do you have any recollection of how you got here?"

Ross swung his legs over the side of the bed and fought down a surge of dizziness. Standing up, he stood a head taller than the doctor, emphasizing her small-boned frame. His eyes swept her collar and breast pocket for name and rank and was irritated not to find any. "I'm the one asking the questions, Mister!" he snapped. "I want to know where I am and how long I've been here. Am I going too fast for you?"

The doctor jumped as though stung. "Wait!" she cried, holding out her hands beseechingly. "Just a minute- I'm not who, or what, you think I am, and I haven't finished checking you out yet, so if you will just-"

Suddenly Ross realized that if he had been moved to another ship, it meant that the fleet had come out of transit, which meant that the battle for Ixion was already underway. What was left of the commodore's patience disappeared. "Where in the hell is the chief surgeon!" shouted Ross, drowning out the doctor's protestations. Fed up, he took two swift strides to the sickbay hatch.

He was reaching for the latch when he realized there wasn't one. The surprise had barely enough time to register before the door slid sideways into the wall and his urgent pace carried him through the portal and beyond.

Glen Ross stopped in his tracks, taking in the scene before him. He'd known that he wasn't on the Saratoga the moment he'd opened his eyes. But he figured that at least he was still on an Earth ship--

He stood on a catwalk of gray metal that ran along the rocky wall of a large cavern, its dome-like ceiling rising fifteen meters overhead, its floor five meters below. Ross looked down on a jumbled vista of cables, portable consoles, and equipment cabinets, where more than two dozen people seemed to be working at a hectic pace. The cables all ran like roads to the center of the room, connecting to a raised circle, or dais some two meters across.

Suspended in the air over the circle was a column of smoky light, like a shaft of sunlight on a hazy day. The light seemed to twist and contort like a caged beast; each pulse of energy resonated like a faint tingle along his bones.

Ross suddenly found himself clutching the catwalk for support. Two of the technicians below caught the movement and glanced upwards. One of the men was bald and blue as a robin's egg, with a seam or a scar bisecting his skull from top to bottom. The other's skin was faintly green, and his close-cropped black hair emphasized a pair of pointed, almost elfin ears.

Dimly he sensed the doctor standing beside him, her small hand resting on his shoulder. It took several moments before he could make himself speak. "Where in the hell am I?" He forced himself to turn and look at her. She at least seemed normal, a beautiful, small-boned woman with a pained expression on her face.

"Prospero III, in the Alpha Quadrant, United Federation of Planets," she said, almost sadly. "And I'm Doctor Miriam Dubois, if that's any help. Now maybe you can tell me who you are, and where it is you're from."
It actually helped, in an odd sort of way, that the scientists were as confused about what had happened as he was.

Ross leaned back in his chair and tried to focus his thoughts as the senior members of the Prospero research team filed into the conference room. It was difficult not to stare at the exotic features of the aliens. Aliens. Beings from different worlds. And not just one race, but four, right here in this room. His mind swam at the thought.

Doctor Dubois had managed to persuade him to let her finish her scans, using that palm-sized gray case she had put in her pocket earlier. After it had finished its warbling and flashing, it had, according to her, performed a basic physical checkup and determined that he was a healthy male human, age forty-five, which seemed to interest her intensely. When asked, all he could offer was his name, rank, and serial number. It wasn't a matter of military secrecy- he simply didn't know where else to begin. Finally Dubois had decided that Ross needed to talk to the entire senior staff before things went any farther. As she left to make the arrangements, she gave Ross a small datapad, the size of a paperback book and as thin as a pocket calculator. She had programmed it with what looked like a high-school textbook on the Federation and its history.

Now, as the senior staff found their seats, Ross struggled to put a name to each of the races before him. One with orange-colored skin, white hair and thick eyebrows- an Efrosian. Two Vulcans, black hair and pointed ears. An ugly sucker with large black eyes and a mashed-up snout-- a Tell--er-- Tellarite. And a very humanlike woman with an elaborate silver earring and a funny wrinkle at the bridge of her nose-- Her race's name began with a 'b,' but that was all he could remember. And of course there was Doctor Dubois, flashing him a reassuring smile as she took a seat next to an obviously irritated human male.

"Now then, let's get to business," declared the Efrosian with a broad, grandfatherly smile. His shock of white hair and bushy eyebrows firmly reinforced the congenial image, though Ross hadn't a clue as to how old the alien actually was. "Introductions are in order. My name is Edirin Staavd, project manager and astronauticist by trade. From my left we have T'Shorra and Sovok, quantum field theorists from the planet Vulcan. Next is G'furgulag, one of the most esteemed researchers of phasic theory from Tellur. On my right here is Savra Cheyn, a Bajoran expert on astrophysics, Miriam Dubois, whom you have already met, and Richard Pierce. Doctors Dubois and Pierce are accomplished hyperspatial engineers, and round out our senior staff. Now, Miriam tells me that she left you with a datapad giving some basic information about our Federation-"

"She did what?" Pierce suddenly leaned forward in his chair, looking first at Dubois, then Staavd. "Has no one been listening to me?"

"On the contrary, Doctor," replied Sovok, arching an eyebrow. "After your fourteenth discourse on the perils of cross-cultural pollination, we could not help but grasp the foundation of your thesis."

"Mock me if you like, Doctor," Pierce replied hotly, "but it is irresponsible to be sharing information about ourselves with a being we know absolutely nothing about." The human scientist turned his angry glare on Ross. "Consider the way in which we encountered him. He could be a Changeling, for all we know, and our project could be in grave danger."

Doctor Dubois interrupted with a wave of her hand. "That was the first thing I checked for when I made my scans, Richard. Commodore Ross here is entirely human. And I hardly think that a tenth-year history text is going to going to pose a risk to the Federation."

The Tellarite scientist burst into loud brays of laughter. Pierce folded his arms and glared sulkily at his peers.

The Efrosian loudly cleared his throat and silenced the assembled scientists with a stern look. "Please forgive our behavior, Commodore. Our work has kept us here at the test site for nearly eight months, and the close quarters has frayed otherwise congenial dispositions. Now, I imagine you have a number of questions--"

Ross straightened in his seat and reluctantly set his coffee cup down. "Yes, sir, I do. Let's start with how I got here."

Staavd's grandfatherly smile faded a little. "Well, I think I can tell you why it happened, but not necessarily how. At least, not yet. I and my colleagues are members of a technological consortium-"

"A corporation." Ross had decided Staavd and his associates were civilians early on. Be my luck they're with Aerotech.

"Well, yes," Staavd agreed. "In a sense. We are working under a grant from the Federation council to research-"

"-Doctor!-" Pierce tried to interject.

"-the quantum structure of wormholes," Staavd said, talking over Pierce. "Are you familiar with the phenomena of wormholes, Commodore?"

Ross nodded carefully. "To an extent. They are areas of extremely distorted space, within which the relative distance between two fixed points is very small. Two stars connected by a wormhole can be traversed in a matter of hours or minutes instead of years."

Staavd beamed, as though lecturing a prize pupil. "Essentially correct. Now the problem with wormholes is stability. The existence of wormholes appears to be a random affair, coming into existence and then disappearing at unpredictable intervals."

The Reisler-Waring Cycle, Ross thought at once. Wormholes don't disappear, but their modulation changes relative to the respective stars' gravitic flux. Ross started to speak, but caught himself. For all of Pierce's belligerence, Ross thought the man's objections made a certain amount of sense, and the argument went both ways. Could he risk influencing their project with what he knew about wormholes? He nodded for Staavd to continue.

"At this time we only know of one stable wormhole, connecting two points in space that are many hundreds of light-years apart. The influence this one wormhole has had on the Federation has been enormous." Staavd pause to glare at Pierce's derisive snort. "At any rate, based on our experiences with the wormhole at Bajor, our consortium is attempting to artificially create stable wormholes as a means of travel and communication."

"Is that what is out in the cavern? An artificial wormhole?" Ross asked incredulously. His mind reeled at the possibilities.

Once again, Miriam inserted herself into the conversation. "Yes-- and no. Right now it's more of a portal, a doorway. We've learned the basics of manipulating the spatial fabric, it's really just an extension of warp field dynamics. What we're working on now is how to make the connection with another point in space to form the bridge."

G'furgulag stabbed a hairy finger at Ross. "It was in the middle of an experiment that you happened."

Staavd frowned. "What my colleague is trying to say is that during an attempt to modulate the spatial distortion of the wormhole, something extraordinary happened."

"We got-- harmony," Dubois said with a hint of awe. "Just for a second-"

"Point two-one-seven picosecond," Sovok corrected gravely.

"It was like-- imagine generating a thousand random bits of sound, combining and recombining them in a torrent of noise. They crash together and crash together- but then, for a fleeting instant, they blend, and you get a symphony."

"What Doctor Dubois is trying to say is that we had a connection, a conduit," Staavd declared. "And that is when you appeared, on the dais."

Right at the moment the Sara entered transit, Ross thought. "Why just me?"

"We had a tremendous power inversion when the connection was made," Pierce said gruffly. "We were increasing our energy levels, trying to push the spatial distortion ahead and extend it, then suddenly we had a connection, and the conduit began sucking in every erg our reactors could generate. They spiked at 400% output, and the safety overrides took them offline, closing the conduit. Basically, there wasn't time for anyone else but you."

Ross reached for his coffee and sat back, considering the situation. "But none of this-- history I've read is anything like where I come from. This Federation has, what, more than 200 member races? Where I come from, Earth has only met one alien race." And they're trying their damnedest to kill us, he thought. "I don't even know how to begin reading these stardates that the datapad keeps referring to."

"There are many theories about wormholes," Staavd said thoughtfully. "There is a strong case that they can consist of both spatial and temporal distortions."

Ross frowned. "You're talking about time? Like I might be from your past, or something?" The commodore shook his head. "No, that doesn't work. Let me add some more fuel to the fire. Where I come from, our primary means of interstellar travel involves the use of wormholes. My ship, the Saratoga, had just begun a wormhole transit when I ended up here. Now if the Federation is just beginning to research wormhole-based travel, then there's no way I came from your past. So where does that leave us?"

The table of scientists shared stunned looks for a moment, then everyone began talking at once. It was some minutes before Staavd could restore order. "It appears that wormhole mechanics work on a much broader basis than anyone suspected," he said.


"Meaning, Commodore, that you have travelled not just across space, but across realities. You have crossed over into an alternate time stream-- a different universe."

A small part of Ross was surprised that the news had little effect. Too many shocks had already dulled the nerves, he reasoned. But then he remembered Demios, and Ixion. The Commodore's mind raced. Transit to Ixion would take the fleet less than four hours. He checked his watch. It had been nearly two hours since the Sara entered the wormhole.

"Doctor Staavd, I have got to get back," Commodore Ross said. "There's-- a lot of people depending on me, back where I come from. Lives are at stake-"

The Efrosian looked at his assembled staff, and breathed a heavy sigh. "Commodore, that's what we are trying to explain to you. What happened was an experiment, and your arrival was a side-effect no one envisioned. We have no real idea how you got here, much less how to get you back."
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