By Doc Nebula
Jason sat at his computer keyboard, tediously tap-tap-tapping away with thehand that wasn't in the cast. Fucking crazy ass drivers who didn't watch where they were going. Fucking insurance assholes who wouldn't pay for his physical therapy. He sat there, slowly and laboriously answering his email, cursing the world at large, unaware of the horrors that slunk through the nighttime shadows just outside his bedroom window.
"Sssarrr ooesssa ssaalllik assllaanokin Ssoorta?" hissed the green scaly humanoid from the darkness of Jason's front yard. The crystal the creature held in its clawlike hand was a disgusting shade of pus-yellow, and pulsated in a nauseating fashion within the creature's webbed digits. After a second, a voice responded, in the pleasant tones of a human female. "Steen hyek alto dossin," it purred warmly. Either speaker could have used standard English, or any of several other human tongues, but there was greater security in speaking Lemurian.
The only living creatures on the planet that understood Lemurian were the Ool… and their Queen.
Obediently, the Ool watching Jason through his bedroom window scuttled closer to the side of the house. The Ool are a swift, stealthy species, cunning and well versed in deceit and treachery. Offsetting this is the fact that they are a race of terrible cowards who can generally be bested in a face to face fight by the average human ten year old. The Ool assigned to watch Jason was very aware that its life hinged on Jason's continued ignorance of his own true nature. Should the cloak of amnesia fall away from Jason's intellect and the Hierophant awaken, the Ool's death was as certain as it would be slow and excruciating. Worst of all was the fact that the Ool had no way of knowing for certain that this had not already happened. The human wizard could be shamming to lure him into an already laid ward spell; if so, it would doubtless be triggered any second now...
The Ool breathed a raspy sigh of relief as he reached the house without incident. The human must still be under the spell laid on him by the Queen so many sun-turnings ago. It had been very sloppy of his nest-clan to lose track of the human for so long, but now they had found him again, and soon, they would return him to the Queen and regain her favor.
The Ool elongated its serpentine neck, stretching to peer into the strange flat panes of warped mineral dust that the humans filled their wallholes with. Its slitted serpentine eyes widened. The Jason human was huge, even for his ilk. He would feed a nest-clan's egglings for a week...! But necessity forbade killing him except after the proper ceremonial.
Reluctantly, the Ool retracted its venom-fangs and instead drew a prepared vapor-egg from its belly pouch. The fumes of the vapor-egg would stun a herd of hairy humans. Now to shatter the clear-stuff and make the throw -- by the time the Jason-thing awakened, he would be bound to the Black Rock again, deep within the earth, safe until the Serpent Star rose once more and the sacrifice could be done!
Jason's nose itched. He looked up from his computer, his good hand coming up to scratch beside his nostril. He had the strangest sensation of being watched...
Abruptly, the room around him dissolved in a shower of golden sparks.
Just as abruptly, the sparkling golden haze surrounding him formed into different shapes and patterns, before fading away to reveal... a Star Trek transporter set?
Jason stared around in bemusement. He'd never actually visited a Star Trek set, of course, but this sure looked like one... to be specific, it looked exactly like the transporter room from the first series. Weird, boxy machinery, made of a mixture of plastics and metals, that was strangely quaint and futuristic at the same time. Silently blinking lights in the wall panels. He glanced down; yes, he was standing squarely on a group of concentric metal rings inset in the platform; there were several others in a grid on the floor around him.
Across the room was a console, but no one was behind it. To the right of the console was a classic Star Trek door; Jason knew just by looking at it that it would whooosh open obediently if he approached it. He stepped down from the platform and crossed to the console. There were strips of blinking lights and metal slide-levers similar to the tonal balance levers on a 1970s stereo system. To one side was a simple solenoid switch. Jason's eyebrows twitched.
"What the hell," he said, and flicked the switch. Immediately, a cold voice said, "Working... inquiry?"
Doesn't sound at all like Majel Barrett, Jason noted to himself. "Uh, yeah," he said. "What the hell is going on here?"
Down on Earth, the Ool was blocks away from Jason's house, crouched down in a storm drain, staring around in terror. The failure, although inexplicable, was complete. The Ool had made a lightning fast search of the human's home, slithering like a king cobra from one chamber of the monkey-warren to another, forked ophidian tongue waving through the air to catch the distinct human stench... and found nothing. The Jason creature had simply vanished away. The Queen would be furious. If she laid hands on the Ool, extinction was certain. But perhaps, if the Ool could find a sewer leading out into a large body of salt water, it could lose itself there...
A shadow of hideous coldness fell across the Ool. It hissed in fear and attempted to lunge away, but paralysis had already taken hold of its serpentine form. The shadow swallowed it whole.
Seconds later, the shadow subsided in another place entirely, leaving the stunned Ool laying in a twisted posture on the floor. The Ool's eyes slowly focused. The black sandy floor was warm and comfortable. All around, it could hear the hissing of Lemurian, the scratchy sound of slithering scales... the Ool quailed. Had it turned its head, it knew it would have seen the ancient black stone of the Queen's egg shaped throne. But it dared not turn its head.
"Well," came the pleasant, sweet tones of the Queen's voice. "It seems you have failed me, little serpent."
"In the event that the Captain failed to record a log entry for a certain predetermined time period following temporal transition," the coldly mechanical voice stated, "automatic programs were initiated to sensor pinpoint a particular human of this space-time era and beam him aboard the Enterprise. The ship is then to be placed at this human's disposal. That is all that this program is aware that is the hell going on."
Jason stared around in dawning wonder. "You're trying to tell me that this is actually the U.S.S. Enterprise? Commanded by James Tiberius Kirk? Constellation class starship of the United Federation of Planets?"
"Actually," the computer replied drily, "I have made no attempt to communicate any of that to you."
Jason waved his arms in the air maniacally. "That's insane! The Enterprise is a fictional creation! None of this is real!"
Abruptly, Jason realized what he was doing. Waving his armS around maniacally... striding around the room shouting at a disembodied voice... "Uh... I'm... fixed? How did THAT happen?"
The computerized voice sounded actually bored. "Standard transporter programming causes reintegration of the basic pattern in an optimized form. All defects and injuries are corrected to programmed ideals. This is normal operating procedure."
Jason's eyebrows rose. "You don't do that in the TV show!" he exclaimed. "Geez, I hope Darren never finds out about this or he'll never let me live it down."
Jason paced around the room for a few minutes, thinking. Most likely circumstance: he'd taken some really good drugs and eventually this trip would wear off. So, he might as well enjoy it while he was here. "You said the ship was to be put at my disposal?"
"Within limits," the computer said primly, its cold voice somehow managing to exude disapproval.
"What limits?" Jason asked, immediately suspicious. NOW he'd find out that he could use the sonic showers and drink Romulan ale to his heart's content, but he couldn't move the ship, fire the phasers, or use the transporters to bring up any topless dancers. Limits my ass!
"My programming is rigidly parametered by the Prime Directive," the computer responded. "You may take no action that would violate this."
Jason scowled. "So you won't let me blow up the Florida Social Services office?"
"If it can be demonstrated that the Florida Social Services office is an area in which nonhumans actively conspire to the detriment of human-gene beings, then the Prime Directive will not only allow such a place to be a target of offensive weaponry, it would almost require it." The computer's voice seemed almost contemptuous, as if speaking to a moron.
Jason whirled around and clenched his fists in his hair. "What? Are you crazy? I thought the Prime Directive mandated no interference with the independent development of any sentient culture!"
"That is its first clause," the computer explained patiently. "Its second clause, which the 20th century Earth human Gene Roddenberry apparently was never aware of, mandates that all possible aid be rendered to any human-gene culture that is in danger of enslavement or extinction by any nonhuman species."
Jason was outraged. "Kirk never -- ! He -- !" He stopped and thought. "Well, that explains how come Kirk never got court martialed for all the shit he did, I guess. But Picard got court martialed once for violating the Prime Directive…!"
"Captain Kirk," the computer noted, Jason would have sworn with a touch of irony, "is a real person. Jean-Luc Picard is, to the best of my knowledge, entirely fictional."
"This is just SO weird," Jason growled. "But, never mind… I can't see how that affects us here. The short form is, I have a Galaxy class starship with weaponry that would let me conquer the world, and I can't use it."
"You can blow up all the Ool you want," the computer replied snidely.
Jason stopped and went completely quiet for a moment.
Then: "...the Ool?"
On the planet below, a gloriously nude young woman named Jessoca Cameron stepped out of her bedroom closet. A quick glance across the room told her that her erstwhile husband Andrew continued to snore on their shared bed. She would have been shocked if it had been otherwise; ensuring that a mere human remain unconscious for any period she desired was a very simple incantation. Andrew would continue to sleep while she made her preparations for the day.
She turned back to the closet. The deep blackness that had been there only seconds before was now gone. She quickly began going through her mundane clothing, looking for an outfit that would arrest and hold the attention of a typically libidinous heterosexual human male, without seeming so far out of her established persona as to excite commentary.
Jessica was an eyecatching example of the Earthly female; around six feet tall, with a figure that neatly carried off the generally unlikely combination of being both voluptuous and athletic. Every separate feature of hers was shaped to excite the interest of human men, from her long shapely legs to her improbably large, firm breasts. Her face in repose had a prettiness that bordered on the glamorous; when animated by a smile, it became stunningly beautiful. Her hair was a shaggy, shiny auburn, her eyes were big and brown and sparkled with apparently joie de vivre, her mouth was wide and full lipped and frankly sensual. None of her appearance was an accident, of course; every detail was calculated for effect.
As she looked over the available clothes, she absently slipped into a plain pair of panties and bra. Not that she needed either; her absolute conscious control over every molecule of her body made underwear superfluous. Nontheless, Jason would be shocked if she showed up with her nipples protruding through her outer garment. Pleased, of course… but shocked. And she didn’t want to distract him overly.
Ignoring the large selection of fetish outfits and accessories that a simple enchantment kept anyone but her from ever noticing (for such clothing did not fit the persona she intended to project today at all) Jessica finally pulled a tight pair of blue jeans and an equally tight brightly tie-dyed t-shirt out of the closet and slipped them on.
She turned, gestured, and the air shimmered in front of her, condensing into a seven foot tall, four foot wide oval of silvery reflective surface. She regarded herself dispassionately. Yes. The clothing was well within the limits of her 'normal' behavior, and accurately depicted someone who cared little for appearance and gave little thought to it. At the same time, the clothing was form fitting to a point where the astounding female physique inside it would arrest the attention any human with a functional pair of testes. She should have no difficulty finding some pretext for getting Jason to a point where he could be secured and brought back... home... again.
She noticed a fleck of green under one nail and raised her hand to her face pensively. A scale, from the Ool who had failed so inexplicably. She had had to exterminate it, of course, in front of the others, and she had had to do it slowly, and painfully, and with her own hands. To maintain terror and set an example. Nonetheless, she actually did not blame the poor serpentman for its failure.
She should have had Jason wrapped up like a Christmas package (she snorted, what a human thing to think!) long before. But at first she'd been unsure he was truly their long lost charge. Appearance meant little; she herself, in the Glory Days of ancient darkness, had had a considerably different seeming.
But, although certain characteristics had been present that reminded her strongly of her ancient foe... Jason had certainly been filled to the brim with the same arrogance, humorlessness, and insatiable greed for learning... still, in so many other ways, he had seemed so bumbling, so foolish, so short sighted and lacking in wisdom... in short, so human.
And then things had become very very busy and she had let herattention wander to other areas. It was only the temporal intrusion of the legendary starship from the future, using its technological sensing beams to probe the assembled human herds of Earth for the specific genetic signature that she knew belonged to Jason, that had refocused her attention on the human boy, and confirmed for her that he was, indeed, the Hierophant. Why else would the near-mythical warrior Kirk have transcended time and space itself to rescue him...?
Well. Enough cogitation. The Ool had had a clear memory of Jason's disappearance in its mind as she had slowly executed it. The shimmering effect that had surrounded Jason could only mean the Enterprise had arrived, was in orbit, and had yanked Jason off of Earth mere seconds before they would have effected his recapture. Most likely, history had already been slightly altered by that event, but the conservation principle was on her side. In the original timeline, the Hierophant had been re-captured and sacrificed on schedule, and the channeling of his immense mystic energies had reopened the long closed doorway and allowed the Elders to return once more to their kingdom the Earth. History tended to conserve itself, therefore, there would be a strong temporal inclination in her favor to get Jason back in time for the Serpent Star's rising in the near future.
With an irritated sigh, Jessica flicked the scale off her finger. She did not let her calculations do more than brush over the certain knowledge that if Jason could not be recovered in time, then another powerful thaumaturge would have to be sacrificed in his place... and there was only one other such currently on planet Earth.
If the Hierophant could not be sacrificed, then the Serpentmen of lost Lemuria would turn on their Queen. And that could never be allowed.
She raised her slim fingered hands and concentrated, a line of effort furrowing her smooth-skinned brow.
Darkness pooled around her, rose up like a tide of impenetrable blackness outlining her statuesque profile, and swallowed her whole.
Seconds later, the room was empty save for her sleeping husband, who rolled over uneasily as his slumber was disturbed by a sudden wave of unearthly cold, before subsiding with a murmur back to deeper sleep.
At the Mt. Palomar Observatory, Dr. Selmar Indrishna was tapping in coordinate changes to the programming of the main telescope. He did this deftly, his brown fingers flowing fluidly across the keyboard. Nothing about his demeanor betrayed the fact that he had no authorization whatsoever for what he was doing, and that once it was discovered, as it inevitably would be, he would immediately lose his job and all standing in his professional community. Such things were of no importance. Since prehistory, the Doctor's lineage had been devoted servants of the Elders and allies of their chief servitors the Ool, and he had his orders.
An artifact of advanced technology was somewhere in Earth orbit. It was his job to pinpoint its coordinates. If he succeeded, he would be rewarded richly, and better, he would be remembered with favor when the Elders walked the Earth once more. If he failed... best not to think of the consequences of failure.
He stared at the monitor screens, moving his gaze in increments from the high density color TV screen to the left to the CRT filled with rows of cascading numbers on the right. The big telescope was sweeping the quadrants of the visible sky while the computer ran star chart comparisons at speeds that the human intellect could barely comprehend. He had only a few moments before someone came running in to see why the telescope was no longer pointed at Mars...
There. A pinpoint of reflected light in the sky, repeating on several time lapse photo stills, where none should have been. Data from the radio telescope indicated that it radiated electromagnetic energy in the frequencies generally used by humanity. Indrishna moved his mouse pointer to hit the PRINT icon and half a second later, a laser printer the size of refrigerator spat out a single sheet of paper. Then he COPIED and PASTED the screenful of coordinates into a standard email window, tapped in quickly the address 'firstname.lastname@example.org', and hit SEND. Now, even if he didn't get out with the hard copy, the Ool should have the information they needed.
Below him on the observatory floor, Indrishna could hear a clatter of approaching footsteps, and urgent shouts. He shoved the hard copy into his pocket and ran for the nearest doorway marked EXIT, his other hand fingering the small leathery egglike object his contact had given him a few hours before, along with his orders.
In case of emergency...
The Serpent Queen stood within Jason's house, very still, eyes closed, probing the area with a range of senses far beyond those of normal humanity. The tingling electron signature in the air confirmed that Jason had been removed from this area with matter/energy-displacement technology. The focused wavicle beam had pulled him through the wall on an 80 degree vector leading up off the surface. The starship would be... THERE, roughly... then... but what really would matter was whether the beam's signature retained enough coherency for her to piggyback a shadowcast along. The cold vacuum of space would not touch her in darkform, of course, but if her human body were to materialize short of the starship, there was nothing in her repertoire that she could shapeshift into that would let her survive the exposure… even if shapeshifting could be done that quickly, which it couldn't.
Abruptly, her left hand began to tingle. She raised it in front of her eyes and concentrated; in the center of her palm, a pulsating, sickly yellow crystal seemed to emerge partially from the flesh. A snakelike voice hissed
in Lemurian. She listened for a few seconds, then said two words and let the crystal subside back into her metabolism.
So. They had the coordinates of the Enterprise. Now she could darkshift there easily. Better, she could take along several others. Even now, a small squadron of Ool was hurrying through the sewers to this location. Once they arrived, the group of them would follow Jason to the starship and recapture him. It should be simple. He would be distracted, bewildered... his mind awhirl. Easy prey for the Serpent Queen and her followers.
One more detail to take care of while she awaited the group of Ool soldiers. Mentally, she attuned her thoughts to a particular marker she had previously memorized. In her mind, an image of Dr. Indrishna quickly formed. He was hustling down a steel fire escape. Security guards were clattering along above and behind him. He had a hard copy in his pocket; the information contained there would probably be ignored, but there was a chance, if he was captured, that some human somewhere might start putting things together. Couldn't have that...
She concentrated, mentally shaping a few inhuman ideagrams in the darkness behind her closed eyes, and the piece of paper burst into flames. Indrishna screamed at the sudden burning agony as his trousers pocket flared up. He stumbled and fell from the fire escape, twisting in the air as he tumbled forty feet, hitting the tarmac below with a soggy thud.
As the final finishing touch, Jessica psychically flicked open the vapor-egg in the doctor's pocket. A cloud of toxic green gas immediately enveloped him. If the fall hadn't killed him, the poisonous mist would, all but instantly.
He had served well, she noted to herself mentally. She would remember to have his family rewarded appropriately when the Elders came to Earth. They could be high up on the sacrifice list. Such an honor would doubtless thrill them. While other humans were worked to death, or used as incubators and meals for Ool egglings, their essence would be consumed by the Elders themselves. It was the most exalting possible death any human could aspire to…
On the Enterprise, Jason stared around the bridge set -- for that was how he still thought of it -- with wonder and irritation. Wonder because, well, it was the Enterprise bridge set! He half expected to see Sulu sitting at the navigation console and Uhura in a miniskirt up at communications, but no, it was as empty as the rest of the ship. Irritation because, well, it was as empty as the rest of the ship, and worse, now the stupid computer wasn'tletting him do what he'd come up here in the first place to do.
Upon arrival, he had stared at the depiction of the planet Earth on the main viewscreen for several seconds, until he had suddenly remembered what he was doing there.
"I really think the Captain would want me to have access to his logs," Jason repeated again, trying to keep the aggravation from his tones.
"Access to Captain's logs is reserved to Alpha clearance personnel," the computer also repeated, in that same 'I'm talking to a moron' tone it often affected with Jason. "Give vocal authorization codes or accede to retina scan for personal identification."
"God DAMN," Jason muttered. "Okay, what CAN I have access to?"
The computer hummed for a second. "Mr. Spock has prepared an interactive briefing tape on our current mission in case of this eventuality," it then said. "You may display this on any monitor."
"Why the FUCK didn't you SAY so?" Jason roared. "Here..." He looked around.
The temptation was just too much. He sat down in the Big Chair. "Display this briefing tape on the main screen."
The image of Earth vanished, to be replaced by a picture of someone Jason didn't recognize, wearing a blue uniform tabard somewhat similar to those he had seen on STAR TREK, but somehow... realer. The person had greying hair that was very short in the front and on the sides; as his head was turned when the image formed, Jason could see a long grey ponytail pulled back with some kind of metal ring hanging down past his shoulders. The person's ears were distinctly pointed and rather longer than a TV Vulcan's. As the person turned to face outward, Jason saw a blunt, square face with an obviously once or twice broken nose, a nearly lipless slash of a mouth, and probing dark eyes. The image's skin tone was a faint but distinct green.
"Spock here," the image said, in the clipped, dispassionate tones of a Vulcan. "This briefing tape has been prepared in the event that the crew does not survive temporal transposition. This tape is interactive. I will begin narration; feel free to interrupt with any questions at any time."
"You don't look anything like Spock," Jason said dubiously.
There was a quick stuttering jump cut, as if the image on screen had suddenly been spliced. Then the face there replied dryly "Actually, I look exactly like Spock. I simply bear little to no resemblance to the human actor named Leonard Nimoy."
Jason's mind whirled. "Look, maybe this is off the subject, but you and the computer keep saying stuff like that. Now, how in the world can a fictional show like Star Trek actually be real, and if it is real, then...why is it so different from the show?"
Once again, the image seemed to jump and stutter. Then 'Spock' said "There are many hypotheses that could explain this phenomenon. Unfortunately, in our few travels to the 20th Century, we have not had the luxury to investigate how, indeed, so much of our 23rd century timeframe could have been reproduced in the late 20th century as an inane and generally quite offensively unintelligent dramatic entertainment program, or, indeed, why so many of the details are wrong. Applying the Vulcan logical paradigm of Uren's Scalpel, we would generally aggregate to the simplest hypothesis. Time is, of course, multidimensional, continuous, instantaneous, and non-linear; sentient beings perceive it in its entirety but for the most part are unaware of this. It is quite likely that the human Gene Roddenberry had several compelling but distorted glimpses of an actual future, which inspired him to create that vapid and foolish fiction known as Star Trek."
Jason pondered this. "So, you mean, there is a starship Enterprise, but it doesn't necessarily look the way it does on TV. And the same for Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, Bones... oh, man, don't tell me Janice Rand isn't the galaxy's biggest hottie in actual reality!"
This time the image on the viewscreen jumped and quivered for several seconds. Finally, almost reluctantly, it began to speak.
"Yeoman Janice Rand is quite aesthetically pleasing from a normal biological human libidinous standpoint," the recorded Spock stated. "She bears a passing resemblance to the actress who portrayed her in the TV program, in coloring and physical build. There is no such position as ship's doctor. There are crewmen named Chekov, Uhura and Scott, but they bear little resemblance to the depictions given them on your television, as no distinct human ethnic culture survived the 21st Century. Earth humans of the 23rd Century, after extensive and drastic eugenic breeding programs enforced by the Elder Entities and their Ool servitors, have very few distinct racial features, other than the occasional genetic throwback. Family names were established after the Liberation in the early 22nd Century from heroic traditions and mythology and even common words. Thus, there are many Hoods, many Pikes, many Kirks, many Uhuras, Chekovs, and Scotts. Along with Kings, Waynes, Kents, Jordans, Caesars, etc."
Jason pursed his lips. "Everybody on Earth's a white guy in the 23rd Century?"
Spock replied, after a pause, "More a light tan. With, as I say, occasional atavistic throwbacks, such as, for example, Yeoman Rand’s lightly pigmented hair and relatively Earth/Caucasian epidermis."
Jason digested this for a moment. "Um... okay. So... what is the Enterprise doing here, and what do you want with me?"
"Excellent questions," the image of Spock replied. "To begin with..."
Spock began a long, dry dissertation. Jason listened for several minutes, eyes gradually growing wider and wider. Finally, he couldn't take it any more. "Wait a goddam minute!" he interrupted. "Lemme see if I've got all this straight so far. Um... The Federation High Council decided to actually attempt to tamper with history, and sent the Enterprise, the only starship to successfully time travel and survive intact, to come back to this time period and try to prevent... what? The imminent return of some Lovecraftian horrors to Earth? And in order to do this, you have to prevent someone called the Hierophant from being sacrificed by some race of ancient serpentmen called the Ool? Which sacrifice will open the portal allowing Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth and all those other multidimensional ickies to return to Earth? Which, in your history, already actually happened?"
"That is the essence," the simulated Spock replied levelly. "Human records from the 21st Century are fragmentary at best, but we know from the scrolls of the Ool themselves that the Hierophant is an ancient Forerunner enemy of theirs, a powerful sorceror who first opposed them in galactic pre-history, before the protohuman Forerunner race had even attained space flight technology and left their first world. The Ool themselves are an artificial race, evolved through arcane means from saurian genetic stock, designed to be the actual servitors of the Elder Entities, who preferred to use humans as slave labor and foodstocks. Originally, the Hierophant was a willing servant of the Ool, but he turned against them when they destroyed his mate and then resurrected her in a corrupt form as an equally powerful tool called The Serpent Queen."
Jason rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Wait. Let me guess. Let's see... somehow, the Hierophant managed to trick the Elder Entities into withdrawing from this particular plane of reality, and then somehow he slammed shut the portal, and ever since then, throughout the galaxy, the Ool and this Serpent Queen have been struggling to reopen the way so the Elder Entities can return. Right?"
The image of Spock blurred and stuttered once again. "Indeed," it finally said. "How is it you know all of this?"
Jason snorted. "They use this plot like fifty times a year in HEAVY METAL. And in order to open the portal, they need to sacrifice a human with like huge magical powers, and there are only two of them left in the universe because magic really has fallen into disuse in this high tech age, and those two are the Hierophant and the Serpent Queen, and SHE isn't volunteering. So the Ool are falling all over the place trying to find this Hierophant guy. Now you're saying that in your history, they actually DID, and they sacrificed him, and the Elder Gods came back and... what?"
"Apparently," Spock's image intoned calmly, "they immersed the planet Earth in a reign of darkness and terror for more than a century. According to our records, when ships of the Interworld Scientific Alliance, following ancient Forerunner records found in Memory Alpha, traced a Forerunner colonizing probe to Earth in the early 22nd Century, they found a planet ruled by terrifying, inhuman monsters of nearly incomprehensible power. A world shrouded in impenatrable darkness, whose surface was covered with icy wastelands interrupted only by scatterings of vast, nightmarish, four-dimensional fortresses built of black Cyclopean stones towering into the endless black sky. A world where barely two million humans yet lived, and where 90% of those lived out short, miserable lives of perpetual backbreaking labor, ending in horrifying deaths as food for the Ool, incubators for their young, or, very rarely, sacrifices to the Elder Gods themselves."
"And... you guys blew them up?" Jason said, tone incredulous.
"The Elder Gods are extradimensional entities who manifest themselves through continuously open quantum portals in the very fabric of spacetime," Spock explained. "Excessive amounts of electromagnetic energy of any sort can scramble the rather delicately balanced phase-polarities of these portals, which is why, upon taking over a material planet, they immediately enshroud it in thick cosmic dust clouds, so as to make it dark and cold. The ISA ships called for a fleet; while that fleet, composed of Vulcan, Klingon, Ferengii, and Orion ships, fired antimatter weapons into the dust cloud shrouding Earth, a heavily cloaked Romulan vessel located the main flux-portal being used by the Elder Gods in this solar system and employed de-phased ionic particle pulses to reverse its polarity. The extradimensional materials used to transform Earth into a non-Euclidian hell were sucked back through and the portal sealed itself rather spectacularly."
"Wait a minute," Jason muttered. "You said crossing the streams was BAD."
The image of Spock raised one eyebrow. Jason waved his hand wearily. "Never mind. In joke. So, if eventually the Good Guys won, why did you guys decide to change history...?"
"It was a difficult decision to reach," Spock pontificated. "Yet the industry and resourcefulness that the surviving Earth humans displayed in repairing their damaged world and rebuilding their ruined civilization was extremely impressive. When the Interworld Scientific Alliance broke apart due to political factionalism, it was Earth humans who suggested replacing it with a Federation of Planets, and although the Klingons, Romulans, Orions, and Ferengii all retreated into distant, hostile isolationism, my people could see the logical benefits of such an alliance. Over the course of the 22nd Century, and much of the 23rd, there has been much speculation as to how much better off galactic civilization might have been had Earth continued its technological progression and met the ISA on a more equal footing. As Earth itself grew more influential, more and more human scholars began exploring the possibility of realigning the timestream in a more positive manner. The voice of non-interventionalism became weaker and weaker. Certainly, it is difficult to rationally argue that an entire planet full of human-gene beings should be allowed to be slaughtered by horrors from another dimension if something could be done to prevent it."
"Okay," Jason said. "I guess. And... so... what happened to the crew?"
Spock said gravely, "I can only surmise. However, past experiences with time travel have shown that different methods of temporal dislocation allow for different effects. This is to say, when a chemically deranged Chief Engineer traveled to the early 20th Century via the Guardian of Forever, he found it relatively easy to effect a huge change in known history, which the Captain and I were forced to correct. However, when we employed the solar slingshot method of transcending lightspeed while remaining within the physical parameters of the universe, we found it virtually impossible to alter the time stream. For this event, in which we wished to overcome the conservation effect that would normally preserve history from casual temporal distortion, Captain Kirk employed equations and energy matrices developed from our tricorder scans of the Guardian's portal, using these to enhance the Enterprise's impulse engines and defensive energy screens. The objective of this was to cause the Enterprise and its crew to enter the current time-space coordinates in a more fully integrated fashion, not as 'intruders' or 'outsiders' unable to change the fabric of history, but as integral parts of what would become our 'present day'. Thus, we would not be changing 'history', but only effecting a non-coherent potential future."
Jason gaped. "Um...and... this made the crew...?"
"Again, I can only surmise," Spock's image declaimed, "that this caused the crew of the Enterprise to be integrated into the fabric of local space-time, which is to say, when they appeared in this 'present', they did so by becoming part of the present day population. Which is to say that I believe the crew of the Enterprise to be scattered, probably without remembering their true identities at all, throughout the population of the planet below. Probably living out normal, mundane lives."
Jason scratched his eyebrow. "They're probably all Trekkies," he mused.
"More likely they all deeply despise the program," Spock rejoined.
"Sooooooo..." Jason's head hurt. "Um... how do I come into this again?"
Spock's image seemed to hesitate. "From the surviving scrolls of the Earthly Ool colony, we know that in this era, the Hierophant dwells on Earth, but in an amnesiacal state, probably inflicted on him by his Ool captors to keep him from manifesting his powerful paranormal abilities. We know that he somehow managed to escape the Ool, and that much of the past several centuries has been consumed by their attempts to recover him. And we know that eventually, they did recover and sacrifice him, opening the portal for the return of the Elder Entities to Earth."
"And..." this was the part Jason found most difficult to believe. "And you guys set the transporters to find me and beam me up because... I'm this Hierophant guy? Under some kind of enchantment of amnesia, or something?"
The image of Spock froze for a second, then became animated again. "It was Captain Kirk who programmed the computer to find and recover you, sir," Spock finally said. "I myself do not know for certain why. Your speculation, however, would seem... logical."
"So how do I get my memory back? Can't you reintegrate my brainwaves with the transporter, or something?" Jason drummed his fingers on the arm of the Captain's chair impatiently.
"It is not that simple," the computer/Spock admonished him. "The recovery of buried memories cannot be forced, or there is risk of great mental damage being done. If the simple knowledge that you may be the Hierophant… and I repeat, I do not know that you are… is not enough to cause your recovery, then it would be rash in the extreme to attempt to force the issue. If your memories are to return, they must be allowed to do so gradually, at their own pace, as you are gradually brought more and more into familiar surroundings and associations."
"I see," Jason said pensively. "Well, then, being on the Enterprise isn't gonna help ME, although I can see how it's a good way to keep the Ool from grabbing me. Can we start scanning somehow for 23rd Century people in the population below, and beaming them up here a few at a time? If we can find Kirk again, or the real Spock, they've got to have a better handle on this than I do."
"A logical plan of action," Spock's voice said. "While I cannot be certain, I believe that I myself may well be the 'real' Spock, which is to say, as there would be no ancestral equivalent for my person to integrate myself with on the planet below, I suspect my being was somehow integrated with that of the ship's computer, using the orientation tape I made as a basis for my projected appearance."
"Wait a minute," Jason said, the geek in him rising up abruptly. "Spock would have ancestral equivalents on Earth. Spock has human ancestors…"
The Spock-image on the viewscreen blurred and stuttered again, and then reformed. Jason was amused to see it raising one eyebrow at him. "Oh, please," the Vulcan reproduction said. "As if humanoids separated by millenia of divergent evolution could freely interbreed, even with common Forerunner DNA buried in their basic genetic codes."
"Spock isn’t half human?" Jason said, appalled. "But…"
"My ancestry is a matter of no pragmatic importance in the matter at hand, sir," the image of the Vulcan intoned coldly. "Suffice to say, I do not believe Commander Spock was integrated into the human population on the planet below, I believe his essential identity was codified into the ship’s central computer’s data banks."
"That’s just ‘cuz you’re half computer ANYway," Jason muttered. "Green blooded, inhuman, totally anal… and I’ll bet that you DID have some human DNA in you. Maybe not a casual intermarriage, but I’ll bet if a Vulcan and a human got married and wanted to have a child, 23rd Century technology could do something for them."
"These are foolish and futile speculations," ‘Spock’ said, stolidly. " However, with your order, I will immediately commence scanning for humans similar to the Enterprise's crew on the planet below."
"Make it so," Jason said absently. "Let me know if you find anything." His fingers continued to drum on the arm of the Captain's chair. How to get his memory back? Hypnotism? A good knock on the head? Romulan ale? "Still," Jason said, musing more to himself than anyone else, "as long as I stay alive and free, the world doesn't get conquered by Cthulhu. Cool. Okay, I guess I have an obligation to keep from being sacrificed by nasty serpentmen."
"Sssssssss," came a vicious hissing from behind the Captain's chair where Jason was sitting. "Hhhhyou whill unnnnderssssstand if we feel an equal obligation to ssssssssacrificccccccce you?"
"Fuck me," Jason breathed. "I knew I should have asked where they kept the phasers."
From a room that had most likely been a crew rec center, Jessica watched on a cubicle viewscreen as her team of Ool slithered out to surround Jason. They should now be able to catch him without difficulty. However, if somehow he were to escape, then her presence on the ship could be played as a trump card. In the meantime, let her Ool take the risks of initial contact. They were, after all, expendable.
Now would be a damned good time to remember some cool spells, Jason thought to himself as he backed towards the front of the bridge. The serpentmen, looking like nothing so much as giant king cobras with tentacle like arms growing from just below their hoods, slithered forward slowly. Their nasty little claw hands, undulating at the end of their apparently boneless tentacle arms, grasped strange, egglike objects.
Jason frantically searched his memory. In a comic book or a movie, this would be the moment of stress when all his buried recollections burst free, giving him the ability to cast incredibly powerful sorceries like fireball, lightning bolt, iceblast, or even...
"Spock!" Jason screamed. "Intraship beaming! Beam me to a weapons locker NOW!"
"Intraship beaming," Jason heard Spock's dry tones begin, as the bridge dissolved in golden haze...
"...is highly dangerous," the voice continued, as a brightly lit chamber filled with racks of energy weapons condensed out the golden haze around Jason.
"Yeah, yeah," Jason said, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. "Next time send the Enterprise-D back to get me, okay?" He walked over to rack of hand weapons and took down three phaser pistols, stuffing them into his pockets. Then he quickly strode over to another rack and took down a bulky phaser rifle. "All this firepower and you guys still haven't invented personal forcefields," he muttered. "Forget the Enterprise-D, next time I want to be rescued by Space Ghost."
By the heavily reinforced door leading out of the room, there was a small communicator panel. Jason pressed the switch underneath it. The strangely unfamiliar face of Spock formed there. "How the hell did they get aboard?" Jason demanded.
"Unknown, sir," Spock replied crisply. "Serpentmen are capable of employing non-technological methods of matter and energy manipulation."
"Magic, huh?" Jason snarled. "What about the Vulcan maxim 'no unreal thing exists'?"
The image of Spock appeared to ponder this. Finally, it intoned "That is not a Vulcan maxim. That is simply stupid."
"Okay," Jason said, his eye lighting on a bin full of what he assumed were phaser charge cartridges. He quickly strode over there and started filling his pockets and the front of his shirt with them. "Riddle me this then, Caped Crusader... what are the odds of me surviving another intraship beaming?"
A pause, and then Spock's voice declaimed, "Normally, the odds of surviving one intraship beaming without extensive programming of the transporters beforehand is 72.6%. The odds drop by roughly 13.4% with each subsequent use of the same transporter banks without proper realignment of the Heisenberg coils. However, internal sensors are reporting a flux of an unknown extradimensional energy permeating the ship, which could well have a negative effect on those odds."
"Fuck!" Jason cursed. "They saw me do it once, they're not gonna let me do it again. Bastards!" He thought frantically. He didn't want to be driven off the Enterprise; these Ool cocksuckers had demonstrated a vexing capacity to track and follow him no matter where he went. On the other hand, they needed to capture him alive, and presumably, get him back down to Earth to sacrifice him...
"Spock/computer," Jason said suddenly. "Is the Enterprise capable of warp travel right now?"
"Affirmative," Spock replied, in a very dubious tone. "But, sir, the computer cannot adequately handle all crew functions. Precise interstellar navigation would be impossible without humans to man the various instruments and controls."
"Can we break orbit, head out of the solar system, and go to warp speed?" Jason inquired.
There was a brief pause. The lights flickered for a second. "Diagnostics show the warp core chamber will not sustain a warp reaction," Spock's voice said, finally. "I hypothesize this to be an effect of the extradimensional energy permeating the ship."
"Won't let me teleport, won't let me leave Earth," Jason grumbled to himself. "Peckerheads are giving me no choice but to go blow their scaly little asses all to hell. Okay, then."
He walked over to the outer door. "Okay, computer, any uglies right outside this door?"
Spock's voice responded, "The corridor outside is empty, according to internal sensors. However, serpentmen… "
"…are capable of employing non-technological methods of matter and energy manipulation," Jason said, "Yeah, yeah, so there could be a dozen of the little fuckers waiting for me outside by now… SHIT!"
He should have known. On Picard's Enterprise, there might have been a way to outwit the Ool, but this was Kirk's ship. That meant he had to kick some ass.
One further thought occurred to him. He asked the computer a question. Upon receiving the response, Jason nodded. "Okay. If I say 'Plan Omega', do that, then. It should work at least once."
He turned and faced the door. "Open up," he gritted, leveling the phaser rifle.
In the rec room, Jessica fumed. It had been over an hour since Jason had transported himself off the bridge. In that time, she had cast spells to make it impossible for him to do that again, and impossible for him to move the ship away from Earth. She had psychically located him in the arms locker where he had taken refuge, and darkshifted a group of serpentmen to the corridor outside, taking care to make sure that their presence was cloaked from the Enterprise's internal sensors.
Jason had walked right out, into the ambush, just as planned... and then everything had gone wrong. With a speed and coordination she had found incredible, he had fought his way past the serpentmen, blasting three of them into nothingess, rolling past the other two with a completely flabbergasting agility. When one Ool, with the lightning quickness typical to their race, had lunged in and yanked the phaser rifle away from him, Jason had whirled, made a blinding behind the back draw of a phaser pistol from his rear pocket, and shot both Ool with incredible marksmanship while somersaulting down the corridor. All five Ool had been completely vaporized.
In the name of the Thousand Eggs of the Mother Serpent, when had Jason turned into an action hero?
Well, you couldn't send a serpentman to do a woman's job. She'd just have to handle this herself.
Jason woke up, feeling groggy. Before he could stop himself, his voice had wearily muttered the oldest cliche in the universe... "Where am I?"
Jessica's voice immediately responded. "Be quiet a sec, Jay. I'm concentrating on something, here."
For half a second, the soothing voice reassured him, and he relaxed. Then he realized he was laying on his side on a hard surface of some sort, hands secured behind his back by tough plastic cords. "What the fuck?"
The last thing he remembered was seeing Jessica at the end of a corridor, curled up on the floor, crying. Apparently terrified. And wearing some totally hot outfit, too. He'd approached her, wondering how she'd gotten mixed up in this. She'd looked up as he'd reached her, and her eyes had seemed to glow as a gloating leer of triumph suffused her features. She'd muttered something awful sounding... and then, blackness.
Now he could hear her voice whispering strange phrases in an inhuman, hissing language. "Aw, man," he said. "If I'm the Hierophant, then Jess must be the Serpent Queen. Oh, man. This bites."
He struggled with his bonds, but it was futile. After a few more seconds, he heard and felt Jessica approach. He opened his eyes and looked up at her. "So, you're really not Jessica, right? You just read my mind and shapeshifted into someone you knew I'd trust, so you could get close enough to knock me out, right?" The hope in his voice was pathetic.
Jessica laughed merrily. "Yeah, right," she said. "You have been a very naughty fellow, ex-husband. Escaping us like that, and then, who would have thought you'd be brilliant enough to hide your distinctive thought patterns from me for hundreds of years by casting an amnesia spell on yourself! I expected a shapeshift, which you obviously did, but that...! But everything is going to be okay now. I've just placed a spell on the Enterprise to cause the warp core to overload itself and detonate in a few minutes. Now, I'll just shadowshift you and I back down to Earth. In your powerless state this will probably be very unpleasant, but it won't kill you."
Jason started to speak, and she raised one finger. "Don't even think about being clever," she said. "I've reinforced the extradimensional energy ward around you. No technological teleport device could even begin to get a lock on you right now." She laughed again, this time an undertone of malevolent triumph sending chills up Jason's spine. "Kirk's time trip did accomplish one thing," she said. "Now that we know how we are defeated in the future, I'm sure we can find a way to prevent it."
Jason closed his eyes. "Jess," he said quietly, "I'm sorry." Then, "Plan Omega."
Jessica Cameron shimmered and vanished in a golden haze.
Jason rolled off the table top in the rec room where she'd brought his unconscious form, came to his feet, and rolled forward again, this time bringing his bound wrists beneath his feet as he'd seen Kirk do on The Gamesters of Triskellion. "Spock!" he yelled. "How do I disable the warp core from here?"
Spock's voice replied, "No need, sir. The unnatural energy manipulation has already been terminated."
"Oh," Jason said, sitting down suddenly on an art deco metal chair with foam padding. He should have felt good. He'd won. He'd figured, if Jess died, the spell would stop functioning, or at least, he'd have time to order the warp core to be ejected, or something.
He’d saved the world from the return of the Ancient Gods of Darkness and Evil. He’d saved the whole human race from centuries of enslavement and horror. Hell, he’d saved the fucking U.S.S. Enterprise from blowing the fuck UP… how cool was THAT?
It was amazing how lousy he felt.
From behind Jason, the familiar whooshing sound of a Star Trek door opening came. Jason turned in the chair. The sight of the person standing in the doorway stunned him. He was literally the last person on Earth Jason would have expected to see.
"She isn't dead," the short man said grimly, striding into the room. "I darkshifted her into a crater on the far side of the Moon. She'll stay there, in shadowform, until maybe I can figure a way to undo whatever the Elders did to her."
Jason's jaw dropped. "YOU did...?"
"Yes," the diminutive fellow said in a tired voice, coming over and sitting in a chair next to Jason's. "You see, you aren't the Hierophant, Jason."
Andrew Cameron closed his eyes, and the corners of his mouth turned down for a moment. "I am."
Jason sat in the rec room chair, eyes closed, trying not to think. So, he wasn't the Hierophant, after all. He wasn't a kickass immortal wizard wandering the Earth under a self imposed enchantment of amnesia. He was just... Jason.
And Jessica had been the Serpentqueen, but now she was... somewhere else... and as it turned out, her husband, the Hierophant, had actually been…
…her husband, Andy.
"Fate always drew us together," the diminutive master mage had explained to Jason shortly before. "She should have realized that. I did shapeshift, and I did cast a spell of amnesia on myself, and it took three hundred years before we ran across each other again...but still, she should have known."
It kind of figured. Even under his own memory loss spell, Andy had been the modern equivalent of a master magician... which was to say, a computer programming wizard. As he'd explained it, he'd had no idea of his true nature, until just a few hours before. As best he could figure, Jess had cast a very powerful spell or two in close proximity to his sleeping form, and that had crystallized the ongoing process of the recovery of his full memories and powers. He'd then followed her invisibly, trying to figure out exactly what was going on before he intervened in a situation he didn't fully understand. It wasn't until he'd heard her little speech to a tied and helpless Jason that he'd realized the full scope of the situation... and by then, all he'd been able to do was save Jess' life when Jason's ploy caused her to be transported into the depths of space.
In the distance, Jason could hear voices and footsteps. The ship was starting to come alive again. With the Hierophant's help, the time travel equations that had caused the weird integration of the Enterprise's crew into the present day population were being gradually reversed. Spock had been returned to his normal form, reintegrated through the stored biological records kept in the Transporters. Much of the crew had reappeared. Part of Jason wanted badly to meet the namesakes of the characters he knew from TV, but another part, remembering how different Spock himself had been, shrank from the concept.
Still, there was one thing he really needed to know.
He got up from the chair, making his way through a bewildering maze of corridors while lost in thought. He got to the turbolift, stepped inside, and absent mindedly said "Bridge." When he stepped out, Spock was there, sitting at the science console. Andy Cameron, looking very out of place in black jeans and a cardigan sweater, stood near him. A few other representatives of the mostly tan 23rd century human race were there in somewhat different looking, but somehow entirely correct, Starfleet uniforms.
They all stared at him as he walked over to Spock.
"Look, Spock," Jason said in a very weary voice. "there's only one thing I still don't understand. I get that the Ool thought I was the Hierophant primarily because they somehow mystically discovered that the Enterprise was trying to pinpoint my location with sensors... but what I don't understand is, why did James T. Kirk program the computer to find me and beam me aboard, if I'm not the Hierophant? Did he just make a mistake?"
Cameron smiled. Spock looked as if he would have liked to, except that it would have been too human an expression. "Perhaps this will help you to remember, sir," Spock said coolly. "The Hierophant thinks you're finally ready." He reached one long, faintly greenish finger out and touched a series of buttons. On the main viewscreen, an image took form.
A familiar image, of a man in a gold Starfleet Command tunic and black trousers, sitting in the Captain's chair. He was speaking. "Captain's Log, stardate... oh, hell, computer, put the stardate in. We are in orbit around Ceti Epsilon..."
Jason's jaw dropped. In the back of his head, a whispering rush of images began to cascade.
"Roddenberry got it wrong," Andy Cameron said, grinning broadly. "He got the first name wrong."
On the view screen, the Captain, a much bigger and far more formidable looking man than William Shatner had ever been, was finishing making his log entry. "...all is well. This is Captain Jason T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise, recording. Kirk out."
Jason stared around the room… and then fixed a fierce glare on his Science Officer. "Okay, then, Mister… now about all this attitude and tone you were giving me when you were melded with the computer and I didn’t know who I was…"
Spock raised one eyebrow. "Attitude, Captain? Tone? With all due respect, sir, I believe you must be mistaken. Such intangible aspects of vocal communication inevitably arise from emotional response, and, as the Captain well knows, Vulcans have no emotions."
Jason groaned. He’d walked into that one. One day he’d learn he could never get the better of Spock in verbal interaction. He glanced down at himself, and sighed. "All right," he said. "Spock, take the con, while I go get back into uniform…"
On the dark side of the moon, at the bottom of a pitchblack crater, the Hierophant appeared in a shimmer of yellow light. An energy manipulation spell held heat, light and air in a close circle around him. A few feet away, a black, faceted crystal glittered on the crater floor. The essence of the Serpent Queen...all that was left of the woman he had once loved, so long before, so far away, in such different form... he sighed and walked over to pick the crystal up. He should just destroy her. Whatever she was, she wasn't his wife anymore. But as long as there was a chance...
His fingers closed over the crystal... and without warning, it erupted into an explosion of darkness, covering him completely, instantaneously robbing him of consciousness.
Somehow, in the lightless, airless crater, malevolent, musical, and definitely feminine laughter could be heard.
The Enterprise, assuming the timestream had been realigned and the threat of the Elder Gods averted, had completed its slingshot maneuver around the sun and returned to what its crew hoped would be a gloriously altered future.
Won't they be surprised, the essence of the Serpentqueen chuckled to herself as she and her unconscious mate sped Earthward in a bolt of coherent darkness.
History would not be changed. The Elder Gods would return on schedule. And a hundred years or so in the future... who knew what might yet transpire?
After all, Jess told herself with an evil smile as she materialized in the caverns far beneath the Earth with the Hierophant unconscious in her arms -- some sacrifices have to be made.