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Sarah A. Hoyt and Rebecca Lickiss
A bleak, gray, ancient plain stretched out to the horizon, scattered ruins punctuating the distance. Uhura turned away from the steady dust-laden wind to face the gauntlet of historians and officers leading up to the flickering arch of the Guardian.
"Now, don't forget," one of the historians, a tense man with a thin face, said. "The halfpenny is the silver coin you use to pay for a quart of ale, but a loaf of bread is worth a penny, and a twopenny half-groat will buy you dinner at an inn. Be careful how much you pay. You could change history by making someone rich accidentally." He fixed Uhura with an earnest, pleading gaze.
The coins' names made Uhura dizzy. Half crown, quarter angel, angelet, and the other gold coins, added to a confusion of silver coins. She nodded sagely to the anxious, thin-faced man.
"Have you got all that?"
Quite sure of already having forgotten it, Uhura nodded reassuringly and patted the hidden purse of coins near the top of her dress, where her red bodice squashed her breasts uncomfortably, so that they protruded above, much exposed and unnecessarily enhanced. "Got them right here."
If she didn't find that idiotic boy,William Harrod, and actually had to buy food or, worse, lodging, she would have to find a local and - using age-old techniques of promising without delivering - part him from his money, which he knew how to spend. As for her own money, she'd keep it where it belonged. Hidden.
"Now, remember not to go into a tavern or a public place, unless you find a man to accompany you, or they might think ..." another of the historians said.
Uhura nodded with a confidence she didn't feel and walked by. She hoped they were right about the costume she was wearing. It had no underwear, just a sort of smock beneath the stiff gown, and the skirts were slashed, the puke-green one showing the sickly yellow one showing the bloodred one. She trusted the red hadn't been slashed to show her backside.
"Don't go into a plague house. You can't do anything for the victims without changing history."
She adjusted the red and gold turban on her head, wondering if real Moorish princesses had to tolerate this sort of coaching. If so, she was doubly thankful to be a Federation officer.
"Remember, anything you do could potentially endanger the present. Just find William Harrod and come back, quickly."
Unfortunately no one was yet sure how to come back, but they didn't dwell on that trivial detail. Just as no one was willing to explain precisely how historian William Harrod had accidentally fallen into the Guardian's time portal and become lost, either.
Uhura walked on, trying to escape the thronging mass of anxious, twittering scientists, hampered by the dress's layers of skirts, ridiculously tight waist which prohibited breathing, and flat bodice hardened by several layers of stuffing.
One of the historians kept following her, twitching at the ties that attached her slashed puke-green and sickly yellow sleeves, and rearranging their dangling, ground-dragging tassels. In a pinch she supposed she might be able to use the sleeves to strangle someone. Maybe one of the scientist-historians.
Mr. Spock melted the confusion of scientists around her merely by raising one eyebrow. She smiled at him gratefully.
"If only we could send you with a tricorder, a phaser, something ..." McCoy looked at her sadly.
"A tricorder will do me no good, sir," Uhura said. "And it might cause a temporal disruption." She nodded, and did her best to look competent and calm. "I'll be fine."
"Good luck, lass," Scotty said. "Do you remember what William Harrod looks like?"
"Yes, sir." Uhura nodded. The memory of the image taken from the Guardian was burned into her brain. A blank-faced, blandly blond young man, with a weak chin and watery-blue eyes, wearing a woman's costume similar to this one, holding her hand, preparing to kiss it. The sight of herself in that ancient picture was one she'd never forget. One she feared would come back to haunt her nightmares. She'd also heard enough of William Harrod to suspect he, too, would be a nightmare.
In front of the arch, Captain Kirk waited and looked at Uhura, head to toe, with an amused gaze. "Good job of period dressing, Lieutenant," he said, and smiled. "Very becoming."
"Thank you, sir." Uhura felt her cheeks heat, but kept her expression rigidly professional. She had to admit that, having looked at herself in the mirror before leaving her quarters, this uncomfortable combination of straitjacket and ball gown was very flattering indeed. Which didn't alter her impression that she was sauntering breathless, bare-breasted, and bare-assed into Elizabethan England.
"I still think one of us should go with her," McCoy said, stubbornly holding to his earlier objections.
"The Guardian shows only her and William Harrod." Kirk's frown indicated he agreed with McCoy whatever his words might be. "And the Guardian says only she can enter without changing the shape of time." He glared accusingly at the arch next to him.
"I'll be fine." She would be, too, because she had no intention of dying in Elizabethan England, of all the rat-infested plague-holes in the universe. If she got lucky, she would find that the reason William Harrod hadn't caused any disruption was that he died right after he kissed her hand. Though she feared that strangling him for his stupidity in accidentally falling into the portal would look bad when reported in her log, she must, therefore, rule it out as an option.
Half-smiling at the thought, she saluted her captain and stepped into the portal.
Uhura stood in what she decided must be a back alley. It didn't look at all as she imagined London would. She'd been to London, once, and she'd found it a charming, if boring, place with an atrocious cuisine and very good tea.
But the London in which she found herself looked much like a village. Well, at least, from where she stood she could see three pigs, and four ... no, make that five scrawny chickens, scavenging their way amid piles of refuse. Rotten vegetables, human waste, and things she truly didn't want to identify, mixed in with the mud into which her brand-new ankle boots sank.
All right, the buildings were probably too tall for a village. They towered up three or four stories, and the alley - she hoped it was an alley, she would hate for it to be a main street - that separated them was no wider than her arm span. Which meant that precious little light filtered through.
From somewhere nearby came a deafening roar, like thousands of people speaking, screaming, and screeching at the same time. It sounded like a disturbance of some sort, but this was where William had arrived, and Uhura reasoned that her chances of finding William were better if she went toward the noise.
"Will, Will, Will." The shriek came from above her. Looking up, Uhura saw, in the half-light above, a disheveled female head sticking out of a window.
"Will, Will. Where has that boy got to?"
"Coming, Mum," sounded from the end of the alley farthest away from the noise. From the dim distance, a small boy came running, splashing mud everywhere, and stepping on who knew what without caring. The chickens ran squawking ahead of him, as he plunged past Uhura - barely pausing for a curious look - and into a darkened doorway.
Well ... Maybe a Will, but definitely not William Harrod.
Gingerly, she walked toward the noise, trying not to step on anything that looked too obviously rank. She grabbed her skirts on either side, but, unfortunately, as she reached down to pull them up, the golden tassels at the end of her sleeves dragged in the mud.
The historians and the computer must have gotten the idea for the tassels from some picture of an Elizabethan court lady. Uhura, mincing her way through Elizabethan muck, wished very much that she could grab one of the historians and make him try to keep each portion of this sumptuous wardrobe clean.
The alley turned in a tight, blind curve, and suddenly opened up onto a street at least five times as wide. Wide enough, Uhura judged, for a cart, or maybe for five people to walk side by side. Before she could see much of it, though, a grizzled, scarred face pushed itself in front of her.
"Alms, milady. Alms for poor one-leg Will, a veteran of the Spanish wars, by your kind mercy." The man leered at her, a dubious leer that showed a near-toothless mouth, and breathed a reek of alcohol in her direction. His right leg, below the knee, ended in the proverbial peg-leg.
She turned away from him, not sure what to do. She'd never met a beggar before. She wanted to reach between her breasts and give him the whole leather purse, but in her mind she heard the thin-faced historian telling her that she could change history by giving anyone too much money.
As she turned away, she heard the beggar behind her calling out names that she was sure were obscene - "bawd" and "painted Jezebel" being the only ones she recognized.
Feeling a little better about not helping him, she looked at the other people on the street. There were a lot of them to look at - hundreds in her vicinity, many more than should fit the street. And they weren't, unlike Uhura had first surmised, engaged in anything half so rational as mayhem or disturbance. Instead, all scrambled everywhere, like a disturbed ant hill, each speaking or yelling at the top of his or her voice to other people who were speaking or screaming at someone else.
She dismissed her first fear, that her clothes might be too gaudy. Men and women alike wore clothes so bright as to make the eyes hurt. And they smelled. Not of sweat or unwashed flesh, as she'd expected, not even of the stuff that every one of them must be carrying around on their soles, since this street looked as filthy as the alley. No, they stank of perfume. The odors of all sorts of spices, the smells of most trees, and every flower known to botany, clashed in the air, and each wide-skirted lady, each tight-garbed gentleman who pranced past wafted a different one to add to the mix. Uhura decided that if she escaped going deaf, or blind, or both, she would surely lose all sense of smell before this mission was over.
Holding up her skirts she sauntered into the multitude, accepting inevitable jostling, and elbowing people out of the way when she must. Uhura looked around at the first hint of blond hair, or at the sound of the name "Will." The problem seemed to be that all these men had only three names at their disposal: William, Richard, or Henry. The occasional wild individualist would be named Christopher or Kit. The women, too, all seemed to be either Anne, or Margaret, or Mary. She guessed this must be well before the time of creative naming.
"Ah, well met, Will. You'll have a pint with me," a male voice to her right side.
Uhura looked, but both gentlemen were too portly for either of them to be the boyish William Harrod.
"Dost thou bite thy thumb at me, Will?" a voice screamed from her right, in the tone of fighting words.
"I bite my thumb, Richard. But not at thee."
Neither of these two, both young men and about the right age, had blond hair. They stood facing each other on the street, and people gave them a wide berth, as each of them pulled out long swords. Uhura, with the others, made haste to get away from them, only to be thrown against a throng of people rushing toward the disturbance to gawk.
Quietly but forcefully, she elbowed her way toward the edge of the street. She'd thought there had been law and order under Elizabeth, and that people were arrested for public brawling. She distinctly remembered reading ...
A scream sounded behind her, and Uhura looked over her shoulder to see one of the young men, either William or Richard, run his opponent through with his long sword. The wounded man screamed as he fell onto the street in a gush of blood.
The circle that had gathered to watch the fight moved away, and Uhura found herself shaking. Someone had just been killed, or at least seriously injured. She took a deep breath. Wasn't anyone going to do something? Call the guard? The medics? Shaking, she walked away, not certain that the chill she felt was from the coolness of dusk settling over the city.
A woman ahead of her fell into a man's arms, calling him her sweet Will. Uhura glared at both of them, thinking that William Harrod might have done better to have an original name, if he was planning to get lost in Elizabethan England. Any name would have done - John, or Bob, or Mike. Anything but Will. But no, he had to be William, didn't he? Right at that moment, had she come across Harrod, she would gladly have killed him ... She stopped, remembering the duel and the young man falling into the muck, bleeding. All right, she would gladly have dressed William Harrod down for the capital crime of his unfortunate name.
"Pardon me, Lady," a man said, as he squeezed past her. He smelled heavily of pine, and had warm-brown curls, and caramel colored eyes. And she'd bet his name was Will.
Frustrated, Uhura followed him with her gaze, more to have something to fix on than because she wanted to know where this presumable Will went. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he wore a sensible, if ugly color - a reddish brown. His jacket had much the same tailoring as Uhura's bodice, and his pants stopped just below the knee, where his black stocking showed, molding a straight, muscular leg. He walked with the elastic assurance of a self-confident man on an errand. Uhura envied him heartily.
Suddenly, he broke into a run, and yelled something. Almost without meaning to, she followed, and saw him plunge into a crowd. As Uhura plunged in, after him, she saw him dive into a group of men, and snatch a small boy by his ragged collar. His son?
The man pushed the boy behind him, and turned to the other four men, fists ready. "Varlets, villains, traitors, verminous excrescences, putrid meat. Wouldst thou pick on a child?"
His words showed more spirit than wisdom, unless the boy did happen to be his son, because the men he faced all looked burlier than he, taller and twice as wide, and with fists like hams.
Uhura told herself that she wouldn't intervene. It was none of her business if they fought, fair or not. For all she knew this man was the sort that went around getting into fights with all his neighbors. For all she knew, he got beat up every day. For all she knew ...
She tried to walk away from the scene, in search of the elusive Harrod, but she couldn't, because of the inevitable circle of spectators forming around the beginning brawl.
The presumed Will, defending himself from all the other Wills - or maybe one of them had the originality of being a Richard or a Henry - threw an awkward punch at one of the four giants surrounding him. The giant jeered, and threw a punch in his turn, hitting the smaller man in the face.
The smaller man remained standing. The urchin behind him made a keening noise, and - Uhura's eyes widened - plunged a hand into the pocket of his defender's jacket.
One of the attacking giants saw it, too, and grabbed the child's scrawny wrist, and twisted it, and took something from his hand. This brute, a creature whose features might have been carved with an ax, stepped out of the shadows, away from the fray where his buddies continued punching the smaller guy, who nevertheless remained standing. He held his hand up, grinning at the small glittering metal jewelry in his hand.
Before Uhura could think, she yanked her skirts up higher and, rushing forward, applied a well-placed kick to the man's knee. He screeched and dropped the jewel. She grabbed it midair. Dropping it into the only secure place available - the tight space between her half-bare breasts - she turned to the other savages beating up the man.
A well-placed blow to the back of the head dropped the man nearest her. His companions turned on her. The next one wasn't as easy, but Uhura doubled him over with a kick to his solar plexus. The young man with the dark curls punched the last one.
The man who'd nicked the jewelry had recovered, and tried to wade in. Uhura had time to knock him to the ground, and still see the presumed Will chase off his last assailant. The urchin had disappeared in the confusion, probably with his protector's cash, if he'd carried any.
The man looked at Uhura. As the circle of spectators dissolved around them, Uhura thought she caught references to her, in scattered sentences.
Excerpted from Strange New Worlds III by Dean Wesley Smith Paula M. Block John J. Ordover Copyright © 2000 by Paramount Pictures. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|A Private Anecdote (Grand Prize)||3|
|The Last Tribble||15|
|The Lights in the Sky (Third Prize)||31|
|Star Trek: The next Generation|
|What Went Through Data's Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit||87|
|The Naked Truth||96|
|See Spot Run||140|
|Together Again, for the First Time||160|
|Of Cabbages and Kings (Second Prize)||193|
|Star Trek Deep Space Nine|
|Where I Fell Before My Enemy||242|
|Star Trek Voyager|
|Good Night, Voyager||269|
|Ambassador at Large||301|
|Because We Can|
|The Man Who Sold the Sky||393|
|The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly's Feet||397|
|My First Story||439|
|A Few Words||441|
|About the Contributors||453|
Chapter One: A Private Anecdote
Landon Cary Dalton
I sit in my chair, staring at the view from the window of my hospital room. It is a nice view, but I have already grown tired of it. I have memorized every detail of every building on Starbase 11, or at least the portions within my limited sight. In some of the nearer buildings I am able to see the faces of some of the occupants. My favorite is a lovely young redhead who lives in the nearest building. Sometimes she stands on her balcony to enjoy her view. She has a look of innocent sweetness on her young face, as if she has never encountered any of the hardships and difficulties of life. I envy her.
The moon has risen. This moon appears to be much larger than the Earth's moon. It is encircled by a bright ring, not as impressive as the rings of Saturn, but still a lovely sight. I do not know the name of this moon or of any of its features, but I have their images memorized as well. I have named the various features after people and things that I have known. That range of sharply pointed mountains I named for Spock, a dear friend of mine. The horse-shaped sea I call Tango after a horse I once owned on Earth. The prominent crater in the Northern Hemisphere I call Boyce.
The lovely ring I have named Vina, for someone I think about often.
Commodore Mendez is very good to me. He has visited me at least once a week since my arrival here. He must have a very busy schedule commanding the starbase, but still he finds time for me. I wish I had some way to express my appreciation, but my injuries prevent me from expressing anything more complex than "yes" or "no."
Last week Mendez "accidently" allowed me to see the active duty roster. It was displayed on the viewer long enough for me to see my own name still listed on active duty.
"Fleet Captain Christopher Pike."
It was a noble effort on the part of the commodore to maintain my morale. This is, of course, an impossible task. My life has come to an end. The delta radiation has left my body a wasted husk, unable to move. The chair keeps my blood pumping in a vague imitation of life, but my heart knows the hopelessness of it all. My life has become nothing but an agonizing wait for death.
I watch as a shuttlecraft lifts off and flies in my direction. I entertain a shameful fantasy that it will malfunction and crash through this window to end my suffering. I am angry at myself for such thoughts. I ought to be able to find some way of dealing with this.
Then it comes to me again. I remember that same silly little thought that has occurred to me many times in the past thirteen years. It is a foolish, pointless thought, but it amuses me. I am physically unable to laugh, but inwardly my gloom lifts for a moment and my spirit rises with the thought.
"What if all of this isn't real?"
I dearly wish I could share this thought with José Mendez. He is a very sober man when on duty, but I recall him having a wicked sense of humor in private. He would appreciate the thought.
It is not that the thought reveals any great wisdom or that it possesses any deep meaning, but it is a thought that deserves to be shared. It has come to me at several crucial moments.
Yes, I'd love to tell this to Commodore Mendez, but I suppose it will have to remain a private anecdote. Even if I could express it to him, portions of it pertain to matters Starfleet has declared "Top Secret."
"What if all of this isn't real?"
If anyone has a cause to doubt the reality of his life, it is me. I was the one who visited the now-forbidden planet called Talos IV. It was there that I encountered the Talosians, a race of beings with incredibly developed mental powers. The Talosians were masters of illusion. I was shown a series of alternate versions of what my life could be. I experienced life on Earth, Rigel VII, Orion, all the while never leaving the cage in which I had been placed.
Since that day I have carried the thought with me. How do I know that I'm not still in the cage? How do I know that I'm not still on Talos IV, and that all my life since then hasn't been an illusion?
I guess I can never know with absolute certainty. Not that I've ever seriously doubted the reality of my surroundings. Still, the thought comes to me time and again. Strangely enough, the silly little thought has sometimes been of service to me.
The thought came to me that day on Corinthia VII. The Enterprise had been dispatched to survey this Class-M planet for possible future colonization. Information on the planet was sketchy, but there was no evidence of any sophisticated life-forms.
I led a landing party of six, including Spock, Dr. Boyce, Lt. Tyler, and two ensigns, Williams and Trawley. We beamed down to a dry riverbed near the planet's equator. Every planet I have visited has possessed its own unique beauty. This was a planet of purples and grays under a turquoise sky. A few scruffy red bushes dotted the landscape. Steep bluffs bordered the riverbed. Each of us drew out his tricorder and began our initial survey.
"Remarkably little microbial life," I commented.
Dr. Boyce kneeled down and scooped up a handful of soil. He let it cascade through his fingers in front of his tricorder.
"In the air, very little life," he said. "But the soil is teeming with it."
"Unusual," I said.
"Not really," said Boyce. "The same is true of Earth, though not to the same extent. There is life in the soil."
"Very well," I said. "You and Mr. Spock begin your survey. Mr. Tyler, take Ensign Trawley and establish our base camp. Ensign Williams and I will scout the perimeter."
I saw the look in Williams's eyes. It was his first time on a landing party. He was thrilled to be chosen to join the captain on a hike. I wanted his first away mission to be a memorable one. You only get one first time.
"Any suggestions, Ensign?"
He stuttered a bit at first. He was eager to impress me.
"I suggest we look for a way to get to the high ground overlooking the riverbed. That would give us the best vantage point to scan the surrounding area. We can probably find an easier place to climb if we go up the riverbed."
"Sound reasoning," I said. "Lead the way."
Williams began to march upriver. He tried to conceal the grin on his face, but I saw it just the same. I had grown more tolerant of eager young ensigns in recent years. I also enjoyed living vicariously through them as they experienced the thrills of space exploration for the first time.
Williams was about ten yards ahead of me when he stopped suddenly. He turned and looked at me.
"What do you see?" I asked.
"I'm not sure," he replied. "It looks like a sinkhole, or maybe the mouth of a cave."
Williams turned back to face the hole. I had only closed about half the distance to him when I saw him suddenly grab for the laser at his belt. I felt an immediate sinking feeling and grabbed for my own laser.
"Williams, get back!" I shouted. I was too late.
The creature was enormous. It rose quickly from the hole and reared up, its head towering a good twenty feet above Ensign Williams. Twin mandibles, ten feet long, hung from the enormous head. The mandibles snapped closed with a sound like thunder. The beast was covered with a thick carapace that looked as if it were made of the same stone as the surrounding cliffs. It was supported by dozens of clattering legs.
Williams hesitated only for a second before he began firing at the blocky head of the monstrosity. I could see that the carapace was being burned by the laser, but as the beast jostled about, Williams was unable to keep the beam focused on any spot long enough to burn through. I doubt if the creature could even feel the beam.
I added my laser to the battle, but I faced the same problem as Williams. Pieces of the creature's shell were burning and flaking off, but the damage wasn't deep enough.
"Williams! Retreat!" I shouted at the top of my lungs. He couldn't hear me over the creature's bellowing. He started to back up, but the creature was far too fast. It dove at the ensign and the massive mandibles snapped shut.
Williams was cut in two at the waist.
The beast dropped back into the pit. I raced to the edge, but the creature had vanished into the depths of the ground. Williams's legs lay nearby in a twisted heap. His torso had apparently been dragged into the pit by the murderous thing.
I settled to my knees in horror. Once again I had seen an innocent crew member lose his life for no good reason. Once again I experienced the hopelessness, the nagging feeling that I should have been able to do something to prevent this.
I drew forth my communicator to inform the others. Before I could begin to transmit, I heard a loud noise from the direction of my companions. It was the roar of a beast like the one that had just killed Williams. Then I heard the wailing screech of laser fire.
I stood and began to run down the dried riverbed toward my friends. I was determined not to lose any more people on this accursed planet.
The sounds of laser fire continued. That was encouraging. It meant my crewmates were still alive. But it also meant that they were still in mortal danger.
I came to a bend in the riverbed, and an awesome spectacle greeted my eyes. One of the loathsome beasts had emerged from its underground lair and was laying siege to my companions. Spock and the others had climbed the riverbank until they had their backs against the sheer face of a cliff. The cliff was far too steep to climb, and any descent was cut off by the monstrosity below. All four crewmen blasted away at it continuously, but it stood its ground.
I contemplated trying to draw it away, but this didn't seem a very promising strategy. It was too fast for me to outrun, and once it got me it would return to its attack on my companions.
As I examined the beast, I came to realize that its underside was not nearly as well armored as its top. If the underbelly was soft, then a laser might be able to do some damage there. Spock and the others couldn't possibly hit the beast's underside from their position high above.
It was up to me. I would have to rush underneath the creature, dodging its dozens of clattering legs. Our only hope was that the laser could rip its belly open.
For a moment I looked for alternatives, but could find none. Still I hesitated, unable to launch myself at the horror that threatened my friends.
Then the thought occurred to me. I don't know why I should think of it at that moment, but I did.
"What if all of this isn't real?"
The thought was all that I needed. It broke the tension in my mind. The thought that this might all be some Talosian illusion was funny to me. I actually laughed out loud at the absurdity of the thought.
Then I ran. I ran harder than I had ever run before. With my own laughter still ringing in my ears I ran between the monstrous legs. I sprinted up the creature's length, firing blindly overhead. I felt the splatter of warm liquids on my back. I kept firing until I emerged from beneath the beast's shadow.
I turned to face the creature. If I had failed, there was no point in running further. I stared at the bulky head of the creature. Its mandibles were still. Suddenly the creature's legs began to wobble. Then the beast collapsed. It fell into a massive heap of dying flesh.
My companions rushed down the hill to my side.
"Chris!" shouted Boyce. "Chris, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Doctor. This blood all belongs to that thing."
Trawley slapped me on the back.
"You saved all our lives!" he was shouting. "Can you believe that?"
Technically Trawley was being overly familiar with his commanding officer, but I overlooked it for the moment. The situation warranted a little laxity in discipline.
"Let's get out of here," I said, reaching for my communicator.
"Chris, I can't believe what you just did," said Boyce. "I'd never have been able to summon up the strength to take that beast on by myself. What possessed you to do that?"
I just smiled at him. I didn't know how to tell him what was going on in my mind at that moment. I never did tell Boyce that I had saved his life because of a momentary indulgence of a foolish little thought. I wish I had told him now, because I will never again be capable of sharing that story.
Trawley was also present the next time that the thought occurred to me. He had risen in the ranks quite a bit by that time. He was a full commander. His first command was an old class-J cargo ship that was being used for cadet training.
He had matured quite a bit in the decade since our adventure on Corinthia VII, but he still had a worshipful look in his eyes when I came aboard for an inspection. His cadets were no younger than he had been when he joined the crew of the Enterprise, but still Trawley called them his "kids." I still saw Trawley as one of my children.
Trawley had only been aboard the ship himself for a week. He and the cadets were going to have quite a job getting this vessel into working order. Trawley was a good, thorough organizer. Given time he would be able to restore this ship to mint condition.
None of us knew it then, but time was not on our side.
Trawley gathered the crew together on the cargo deck and introduced me to them. They looked to me like children playing a dress-up game.
Trawley insisted on telling the cadets about our experience on Corinthia VII. I could tell that he had told this story many times before. He had perfected his delivery of it over time. My own memory varied a bit on some of the details, but I didn't quibble.
There was one detail, however, that I was surprised by. I couldn't imagine how he could know this particular detail.
"...and do you know what the captain did just before he attacked the creature? You'll never guess this in a million years. He laughed! I swear, I could hear it all the way up the cliff wall. He laughed!"
The cadets laughed as well. I considered telling Trawley the whole story that day, but I didn't get around to it. I was a little embarrassed by all the attention, so I decided not to bring the subject up again. Now I'll never get the chance.
Later that night I was alone in my cabin, reading the cadet reviews. They looked like a good bunch of kids. It looked like Starfleet was going to be in good hands for another generation.
Suddenly a shudder rolled through the ship. A lump formed in my throat. The shudder wasn't really all that bad, but sometimes you sense when a disaster is bearing down on you.
I stepped out of my cabin. The corridor was filled with terrified cadets. Alarm klaxons began to sound. One frightened young girl emerged from her cabin wearing nothing but a towel. Her eyes were already filling with tears.
I grabbed her by the shoulders. I kept my voice calm, expressing a cool confidence that I did not feel.
"Everything is going to be all right. Go get dressed and report to your station."
She straightened up and returned to her cabin. I looked at the confused crowd of cadets that had gathered in a circle around me.
"What's the matter with you people?" I shouted. "Get to your posts!"
Shame is a good motivator. The embarrassed crew members ran for their stations, eager to show me they knew their jobs.
I raced down to the engine room. The hatch was sealed. I looked through the porthole into the room beyond. I could see billowing clouds of gas.
A baffle plate had ruptured!
I could see the motionless bodies of half a dozen cadets. They might already be dead. I knew I couldn't leave them in there, but I also knew what delta rays can do to a man. For a moment I froze, unwilling to face the horrors on the other side of the hatch.
Then the thought came to me again.
"What if all of this isn't real?"
I didn't laugh this time. I knew as I looked that this was very real. If I didn't act fast, none of those cadets had a chance.
I felt a blast of heat as I opened that hatch, only I knew it wasn't really heat. It was the delta radiation knifing through my body. I stumbled in and grabbed the nearest cadet. She was wearing the thick protective coveralls of an engineer. That was good. That would help to minimize the effects of the radiation. I, on the other hand, had no such protection.
Six times I entered the engine room. Six cadets I pulled from that chamber of horrors. Two of them would die later at Starbase 11. But four of them would survive.
As for me, I'm not sure if I would count myself as a survivor or not. I cannot move and I cannot speak. All I can do is sit, looking and listening to the world around me.
I sit here and I stare at the ringed moon and at the lovely young redhead. I look at a world that I can no longer participate in.
And I think. I think so much that my head hurts. I am fearful of the days to come. I am afraid that my mind will begin to wither and die. It frightens me to think that my sanity may begin to leave me.
In the midst of the horror that my life has become, the idea returns to me again. Once again I imagine that I am back in my cage on Talos IV. I dream that all of this is just an illusion, soon to be replaced with better dreams. Perhaps the Talosians will send me back to Mojave next, or back to Orion.
"What if all of this isn't real?"
Inwardly I laugh. But I know that this is real. This isn't Talos IV. This isn't an illusion. But for the first time in thirteen years I wish that it were. Perhaps it is a sign of my weakening spirit, but I wish I could trade this reality for a dream.
I wish I were back in my cage.
Copyright © 1998 by Paramount Pictures
Welcome to Strange New Worlds V. It feels wonderful to write those words. When we first started doing these contest anthologies, there was no way to know that the idea would work. Lots of things seem like they are destined for success and then turn out not to be.
The thing that has made the Strange New Worlds anthologies work, I think, is that they are a labor of love from all sides, from the thousands of fans who write and send in the stories (whether their stories are to be found in this volume or not), to the publisher and editors, who are all writers as well, and who understand the drive to get your story down the way you want to write it, to tell the Star Trek story that won't get out of your head.
Perhaps the most impressive thing, and a lesson to us all, is the number of stories about the cast of the brand-new show Enterprise that were submitted. With only days between the airing of the first episode and the closing deadline for this anthology, fans ignored all the voices telling them that there wasn't enough time, sat down and wrote their story, then -- and this is often the hardest part -- put their story in an envelope and mailed it in.
Because if you want to know the secret of how to be a professional writer, there it is: write the story, put it in an envelope, and send it to someone who can buy it and publish it. That's what the people in this anthology did, and you can do it too.
John J. Ordover
Posted June 1, 2002
I was very disappointed in this book. Most of the stories were old trek episodes told from a different (and boring) point of view. This book (compared to Strange New Worlds 1-4) is a dud and not worth your time or money.
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Posted December 8, 2009
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