The Vesta crew are assigned to look for a rumoured Tholian experimental ship adrift near Federation space. Developed during the strength of the Typhon pact, it is believed the ship was damaged during tests and abandoned. Starfleet Intelligence has acquired information that led them to believe that the ship contains technology from the other Typhon Pact members, as well as data in relation to these species, which could be vital to the Federation maintaining the upperhand in the current political situation. The Flagship of 72 is sent to capture the ship, and recover whatever she can before the Tholians find the ship again.
However, things go awry when a Tholian ship shows and fires on both the Vesta and the cruiser in an attempt to destroy them both. When the cruiser is eventually destroyed a catalyst causes a subspace distortion, damaging the Vesta’s warp assembly forcing it to hide in a nearby nebula.
A game of cat and mouse ensues as the Vesta uses her QSD to affect the subspace anomaly and hide from the more ships that arrive. But something is off about the anomaly itself leading to crossovers from other dimensions/timelines, including a far future version of Vesta’s Miran CEO, whose prime version received a near fatal dose of radiation on the abandoned Tholian ship…
Mission: Between Realities
Location: USS Vesta, Medbay
Timeline: Following “Out of Time” and “Eye of the Needle”
Martin leaned over the biobed, alternately studying bioreadings and Jack’s too-still form. He understood why the child-like engineer’s friends had wanted to do something – anything – to reach him, even if what they did do put him at greater risk. But the isolation ward had been resterlized and the doctor had done as much as he could to further boost Jack’s radiation compromised immune system.
“Come on, Jack,” he muttered quietly. “You’re supposed to be practically immortal, remember?”
In the corridors outside of the medbay, another Jack was stalking the corridors in lazy circles. The security minder behind him hadn’t said much, except to confirm that the teenager wasn’t about to step foot anywhere on the ship without her as a shadow. It might have bothered him once, he might have even complained about it. Now, Jack simply tried to keep a grin off his face, designing a circumspect route around the arteries that led to the medical nexus of the ancient starship.
Ancient to him, at least. The teenager had seen hundreds over the centuries, and even in their variety, their secrets weren’t difficult to pick apart. Besides, where was their version of Jack going to go?
“Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?” Jack mused aloud, not caring if the security lady behind him had an answer. Or if she was even listening. He wasn’t even talking about her. Practiced eyes ran over the walls of the corridor, memory reconstructing the equipment hidden behind their sleek facade. In a way, the ancient teenager missed these systems, even in the complexity of what he could do so simply in his time and universe. The chance to go back and rekindle what was, to him, now a distant memory had been too irresistible. “I swear, I wasn’t even planning on time traveling. Did that for a while, you’d be surprised how fast that gets boring. No, I’ve been kinda drifting lately, the Consortium doesn’t go in for the whole child worker shit. It’s easier now if no one deals with me in person, so I just do it all through messages and then act like I’m an assistant. That gets boring, too, honestly, I haven’t had some real fun for a while.”
“And then this kid in a space suit shows up in my dreams, right?” Jack stopped as he turned the corner, brushing back light-brown bangs to spy the door to the medbay ahead. “Only it’s not a dream and the kid is me. Sorta.” His feet picked up again, trudging toward the doors ahead. “Surreal isn’t even the half of it, let me tell you, and I’ve done time travel. I should be used to this.”
A heartbeat away from triggering the doors, the Only confessed to himself, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything really weird, I’m not so used it it anymore.”
He let the doors open and strode through, blinking at the activity inside the medbay. That fit with the tension on the bridge, and the terse welcoming party from Commodore Red Arm in his office. The puzzle pieces were fitting together for the Only teenager again, the rhythm of crisis all too familiar in his head. Jack let out a yelp, jerking aside as someone in blue rushed past to a biobed, and a glance at the long figure told him it wasn’t the version of himself in this timeline. He shook his head, the grinding sound of his voice piping up, “Is the Doc in charge here? Sore-on-somebody?”
The PA turned and looked, brows forming a furrow at an almost but not quite familiar face. Then he mentally shrugged it off – there’d been a lot of that, either in here or reported by patients coming in. “You mean Dr. Sorenson?” He looked over the young man – no obvious sign of injury nor indication this was an emergency. “He’s in ICU. Can I help you?”
“I’m here to see me.” Jack said in explanation. Only a moment later, the teen realized how poorly that explained things, slapping a palm to his forehead. He used it to brush aside his bangs again, quickly recovering. “Jack Mantell? The engineer kid.” He peered around the man, searching for a sign or an indication of what the ICU would look like from here. “Should I just go back?”
Right. Can this day get any weirder? The medic immediately chastised himself for tempting fate with the thought – he didn’t want to imagine how, but he was sure it could. At least this weird had potential to help if only as a blood donor. “I’ll take you.” With that he headed toward the isolation ward, careful to lead them through the sterilization field before arriving where Martin stood monitoring Jack’s condition. “Sir? Jack’s, um, that is…” he gestured at the teen, “…he’s here to see Commander Mantell.”
Martin had turned and at the sight of an adolescent Jack, his brows rose. A crossover, obviously. He’d have to be, what? a thousand years older? Unless this Jack came from some timeline where things had gone differently – a different cure, a slight alteration in the virus leading to a different rate of aging… If he stopped to think about it, it would be disturbing how readily his mind had taken to those kind of what ifs. “Jack, I presume.”
“Anything but Johnny,” the Only muttered, stepping deliberately past the doctor until the boy on the biobed occupied his entire view. Himself. Or at least a version of himself, one far younger than the teenage Jack. His tanned skin paled at the sight of the tubes and monitors beeping inside the sterile unit, not sure if this was a better answer to his question of the Commodore at the top of the ship. “I heard radiation, right?” Jack indicated the monitor above the bed with a pointed hand, his mind turning with thoughts of the way exposure could have been limited. Or avoided. “Last time I saw him, he had on a space suit. That should have stopped it. I couldn’t hear him, but I could see him talking through the suit, we never got to…”
Jack lost his words as he stared at the small form on the bed, so unlike the dancing figure he had witnessed bursting into his reality a few days ago.
“Radiation,” Martin confirmed. “I think his exposure went beyond what the others saw, certainly past the suit’s limits, though…” his lips compressed, holding back the thought that exam and treatment upon return should have prevented this. “I don’t know how it reached this point. I didn’t see him until after he collapsed in engineering.” The doctor looked aside, head bowing with a weight of guilt – if he hadn’t been in surgery, if he’d gone himself or followed up… “In any case, the damage was acute. Arithazine only goes so far and, ironically, the effects of the Miran virus work against microcellular regeneration techniques.”
He swore under his breath. “As if we needed another reason to hate the Life Prolongation Virus.” The Only glanced between monitors, as if they made any sense to him at all, much less the medication names that Doctor Sorenson spit out. Jack was an engineer, first and foremost, when something didn’t work after troubleshooting he simply rebuilt it. “Why not just use the transporters?”
The teenager snapped his fingers, shaggy hair whirling to splash against his ears and forehead as he spun back to face the tall doctor. “You still store patterns in this century, right? It’s not the quantum resonance signature database era yet? Just reload his last pattern and merge it with his current brainwaves, and bam! Issue number three-hundred and forty-seven, The Boy Wonder Returns!” Jack rubbed his hands together, eager once more to meet his double from this universe. “I’ll help you with configuring the transporter, shouldn’t take more than four hours, tops!” Starting back the way he came, he glanced to the doctor as he passed close by him, “I’ll use your office, right?”
“I’d gladly let you – if it were that easy.” Martin sighed. “We suffered massive power losses when the Tholians attacked, and then …whatever happened that lead to the interphasic rifts that have people like you crossing over also played hell with our systems. There’s no usable pattern now.”
“Tholians? Those has-beens?” Jack looked incredulous at Sorenson, then back at the other version of Jack. He mirrored the sigh from the physician, for other reasons entirely. “What good are transporters if they’re never onLINE?” His voice broke at the last word, and it cracked a wry grin on the Only’s face. That only made the case of irony even stronger. “At least Tholians explains your bridge crew playing a game of interstellar chicken. I tried to help…” he shrugged a pair of slender shoulders, “…but I didn’t come here to play Starfleet again.” He pointed a finger at the prone figure in the biobed. “I came to see him, and I’m pretty damn sure I didn’t get the same radiation poisoning he did on the way. Scan me, prove me wrong, ’cause however the Tholians are involved that’s probably your reason.”
First an alternate Asahi who voluntarily came in for medical care, now a version of Jack asking to be scanned – it almost gave Martin hope, at least for their universes. After a brief adjustment to prevent any cross-contamination from two near identical sets of readings in the same room, the doctor ran the medscanner over the teenager. “You’re correct. You have no signs of radiation poisoning…” he trailed off, then looked up, a sudden excited smile breaking on his face. “You have no radiation poisoning! You can save him!”
“You’re the expert, Doctor.” Jack placed a hand over his chest, tucking his chin down to it. “I’d trust you with my life.” The teen snickered, remembering how skittish and nervous doctors like this one had once made him, too. “And since he can’t talk right now, take it from an older and wiser Jack.” He looked up, winking at the giddy doctor. In any century, nerds were all the same: just give them an impossible problem and watch the heroics unfold. “Jack trusts you with his life, too, even if he’d never admit it.”
“Thank you,” Martin said, genuinely touched and warmed to hear trust from any version of Jack.
The teenager chuckled, making a show of rolling up his sleeves. Jack threw out his hands, grinning as if this was going to be as easy as hot-swapping a plasma injector at warp. “Alright, how do I save him?” Bravado almost lost him as his expression turned skeptical and his head drew back with a sharp breath. “I don’t have to kiss him, do I? Please let this not be the Fairy Tale timeline.”
“Nothing like that,” the doctor chuckled in return. “No, I only need to take some stem cells,” he explained as he applied an instrument to the offered bare forearm. “We can culture these and then splice them to his cells to replace and repair the radiation damage.” Martin checked the sample, then nodded, smiling at the teenage Jack. “This will take a little while for a sufficient culture. You’re welcome to stay with your younger version until then.”
Jack let out a breath of relief, feeling lighter without the need to solve another Vesta mystery for them. His entire purpose for coming, through time and across realities, was lying in front of him on the biobed. The Only took a breath, closing the distance between them in a few steps. His hands rose, only to fall on the edge of the bed, looking down at the smaller, younger version of himself. The teenager felt like he had to say something, unsure of what could be so important to say to a kid in a coma.
“Hi Jack. It’s me…Jack.”