Incident On Tarsus- Part One by KevinJ
Summary: In the year 2255, the U.S.S. Enterprise, under command of
Captain Christopher Pike begins her five-year mission. Her first journey is to the troubled Tarsus Colony. What she finds there will change the nature of many things.
Categories: Alternate Universes Characters: Ensemble Cast - Multiple
Genre: Alternate Universe
Warnings: Adult Language
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 2 Completed: Yes Word count: 8039 Read: 1411 Published: 19 Aug 2010 Updated: 09 Sep 2010
Story Notes:
The series title "Shadows And Suns" is one first used by myself over a decade ago. I've borrowed it for this series set in an alternate universe TOS era. This marks my full-time return to fanfic writing after an absence of several years. It's good to be back.

1. Chapter 1 by KevinJ

2. Chapter 2 by KevinJ

Chapter 1 by KevinJ
Author's Notes:
This is the complete story of just over 4000 words. Major characters include Pike, Spock, Dr. Boyce and Number One. Part two of this "episode" to be posted next Friday, August 27th 2010.
STAR TREK:SHADOWS AND SUNS

“INCIDENT ON TARSUS- PART ONE"
-------------------------------------------------------

STAR DATE 5552.67- ABOARD THE U.S.S. ENTERPRISE,
DOCKED IN EARTH ORBIT

(6:22 A.M. SHIP'S TIME ON JULY 12, 2255)


Chris Pike entered the main briefing room, his senior officers all rising to their feet as he moved to the head of the conference table. Taking his seat quickly, he waited for everyone to be seated again, then began to speak.

“First off, welcome aboard, everyone. I know this is the first time we've all been in one place at the same time, so let's go around the room and introduce ourselves.”

As requested, each person quickly stated his or her name and rank.

“Commander Arianna Troi.”

“Lieutenant Spock.”

“Lieutenant-Commander Boyce.”

“Lieutenant Tyler.”

“Lieutenant Arex.”

“Lieutenant M'ress.”

As M'ress finished the quick roll call, Pike resumed his speech.

“I know we're supposed to be departing in three days for our shakedown cruise and I know this change in plans is rather sudden. Enterprise is the only Constitution-Class starship in range, so the job is ours.”

“And the job is?” Troi asked, even though she was sure she knew the answer.

“The job, Number One, is to render assistance to the Tarsus Colony.”

“I thought the colony is refusing assistance,” Boyce stated, fully aware that everyone in the room knew that to be the case.

“The Federation Council met earlier today and voted to send a single ship. We're taking field rations and medical supplies. When we get to Tarsus, we're almost certainly going to receive a code seven-ten ordering us to not enter orbit.”

“Logic would dictate we not violate such an order, sir,” Spock offered.

“Agreed, Mister Spock. If the code is issued, we're to leave the system and proceed as previously scheduled, to carry out our shakedown cruise. But if the order isn't issued, then we're to deliver our supplies.”

“Deliver where? And to whom?” Troi questioned.

“Wherever needed, and to whoever asks for them, Number One. Our people on Tarsus haven't been heard from since this crisis began. No one knows for sure what's going on.”

Tyler spoke next. “Do we know what caused the crop failure?”

“A severe drought. The colony declined to install weather control technology when they were setting things up and now it's come back to haunt them.”

Boyce, again stating what everyone else present already knew, said, “Chris, there are eight thousand people on Tarsus. They had enough food stored to last a month. This has been going on for three months. We're almost certainly looking at mass starvation. Are we carrying enough food and medicine to deal with that?”

“We are. That's one good thing about not having everyone aboard yet, we can cram empty crew cabins and unused rec rooms full of supplies.”

“Amen to that,” Boyce replied.

Pike held in his disapproval of Boyce's words, the two of them had gone over the subject a dozen times over the course of their friendship and had long ago agreed to disagree on as to whether or not there was a God. Instead of saying something about that, he decided to close the conversation and get the ship underway.

“End of discussion, people. Number One, get up to the Bridge and start the launch countdown. Mister Spock, you're new to the posting of Second Officer, so let's throw you in the deep end and see if you can swim, my quarters in five minutes. Have a detailed duty roster prepped that reflects our being short-handed.”

Both officers were up and out of the room in record time, the others remained seated, awaiting their captain's next words.

“The rest of you, get moving. I want full status reports from your sections by sixteen-hundred hours.” Once they were all gone, Pike opened the ship's log and began to dictate his mission dedication.

SPACE- THE FINAL FRONTIER. THESE ARE THE VOYAGES OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE. HER FIVE-YEAR MISSION: TO EXPLORE STRANGE, NEW WORLDS. TO SEEK OUT NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS. TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE!
---------------------------------------------------------

TARSUS COLONY

Kodos sat behind his desk, and sighed. His was a thankless and difficult task. In the first few days following the crop failure, it became apparent that mass starvation would be the outcome if drastic actions weren't taken, and taken quickly. Late at night on the third day, he decided to act.

The next morning he presented his plan to the colonial legislature and when they refused to consider it, Kodos declared martial law. Within forty-eight hours, the process had begun. And now the population of Tarsus was one tenth of what it had been at the beginning.

Kodos, scientist by training and politician by accident, had put into place his own highly controversial theories of eugenics, theories that had led to his dismissal from three different research facilities. He executed those he felt were genetically inferior, and those he felt would have inferior children if allowed to breed. He also executed the members of the resistance that arose for the purpose of stopping him. The executions were public and brutal with the condemned vaporized by phaser fire. He also instituted strict food rationing.

All that had extended the food supply to a point where it would now last until the new crops were ready for harvest. Those crops were growing underground in a secured facility that housed several hydroponics bays.

Kodos sighed again. A starship was on its way, one that would arrive in just a few hours. Its captain would be duty-bound to arrest him. He needed to make his escape and he needed to make it now. Pressing the button that sealed and locked the door to his office, he then erased all the files on his computer but one. That one he copied to an external drive and put in his pocket. He then walked over to the two-man transporter pad that took up one corner of his office and beamed out.

He rematerialized a few seconds later on another pad, this one located in his personal shuttlecraft. Before lifting off, he went to the last row of seats to check on his young daughter, Lenore. She was still asleep. He returned to the cockpit and lifted off the launch pad, bidding his home a silent farewell as his gaze fell over the city one last time.

At the same time Kodos was running, Chris Pike was trying to break in his new second officer.

“You had the duty roster ready ahead of time, didn't you, Mister Spock?” he inquired.

“I did, sir. When you requested that I deliver it, all I had left to do was finalize it to reflect the final crew transfers that took place this morning.”

Inspecting the roster, Pike let a brief flash of irritation cross his face. “You've set up a three-shift roster. I'd like to run my ship on a four-shift one.”

Trying to hold back his own irritation, Spock replied to the statement his captain had made, “A three-shift rotation is standard, sir.”

“I don't care what's standard, Mister. This is the Enterprise and from day one, we're going to set the new standard. Can you rework this for four shifts?”

“I can, though some non-critical duties may be neglected.”

“You mean the laundry might pile up.”

Pike could see Spock's back stiffen as the younger officer tried to keep himself in check.

“Among others, that might indeed be one result.”

“I can live with it, and if I can, so can everyone else. Send me the revisions by the end of the day.”

“Yes, sir. Will there be anything else, Captain?”

“Yes. I've gone over your service record and I was hoping you can clear something up for me.”

“Sir?” Spock questioned, not having any idea what his captain was talking about.

“While the Enterprise was being constructed, you were offered a slot in the advanced course for Command training. You turned it down. Why?”

“My presence was required at home on Vulcan and so I took the extended leave offered to me during decommissioning of the T'Sara. Furthermore, I have no desire to command, sir.”

“All right. You're dismissed.”

Pike watched as the Vulcan (half-Vulcan, he silently corrected himself) left the office area of the captain's quarters, the red door sliding open and shut with the familiar "whoosh" sound that everyone in Star Fleet knew so well. Rising from his seat he made his way out from behind his desk, his image reflected in the perfectly polished wood. He exited his cabin and began to stroll towards the nearest turbolift. He had a starship to command and he wanted to be on the Bridge for the launch.

The sight of a corridor filled with crew-people hurrying from place to place made him smile; he had missed it. His previous command the U.S.S. Everest had been a happy ship. He found himself daring to wish that the same would one day soon be said of his new ship.

The launch went off without a hitch and as the great ship warped towards her destination, the deep reddish lights inside her nacelle caps glowed as the large interior blades rotated around and around. Each nacelle cap had a small slender needle protruding from it, needles that Assistant Engineer Montgomery Scott had drawn the duty of inspecting, a task he had begun an hour after the launch.

Making his way along the narrow catwalk that led to the port-side cap, he softly spoke to himself, vowing that if he ever became Chief Engineer, he would never, ever trust such an important job to a mere ensign. He also vowed that he would personally install the coils that were being designed to replace the needles, which did the critical job of measuring small but important variances in the Cochrane constant. Those variations could be correctly predicted fairly well as a ship moved between star systems, but they still effected the speed of a ship just enough to need constant monitoring.

Repeating the actions he had taken earlier when inspecting the starboard side he pulled out his tricorder and began taking readings. The first set of parameters was normal, and so were the next two. Something about the fourth set though, worried Scott. The needle seemed to be working fine, but it was giving him a false reading.

That, Scott realized with a shudder, or the constant was fluctuating wildly, wildly enough to make warp travel dangerous. Rechecking quickly, he realized that it was fluctuating. Dropping his tricorder he then pulled his communicator and flipped the cover open.

“Scott to Engineering.”

“Engineering, Troi.”

“Commander, ye need to shut down the engines, now,” Scott ordered with a calm he had to force on himself and with an urgency only a fool could fail to notice.

Troi was seasoned enough and smart enough to know when a junior officer was right and when one was wrong. Running and pointing to the main control board at the same time, she conveyed the urgency of the situation to Larry Marvick who was the civilian that had designed the new engines.

“Shut it down!” she yelled to him.

Marvick did as ordered, handling the controls like a maestro conducting a full orchestra. As the low roar of the engines ceased, the ship dropped from warp. Troi began counting in her head (one, two, three). On three, the intercom near her whistled and she answered the call.
As she had known it would be, it was Pike calling.

“Bridge to Engineering. What the hell just happened?”

“Something caused Ensign Scott to have me shut the warp engines down. He's inspecting the nacelle needles; if I had to guess, I'd say he detected a dangerous fluctuation in the Cochrane constant.”

“Say no more. I'm on my way to the nacelle. Which one?”

“Port-side. I'll meet you there.”

A few minutes later Pike and Troi both stood alongside Scott. As he explained what had happened and showed both officers the tricorder readings, Pike realized that the younger man had saved the ship.

“You know what you just did, right?”

“Aye, sir. I think I saved the ship.”

“You certainly did. Number One, you're our resident export on warp theory. Run through the possible causes of this large a fluctuation in the constant.”

Troi began to quietly list them. None of them were good which was something all three officers knew all too well. “Temporal disturbance of level-three or higher. Destruction of a close and massive star. Imminent collision with a parallel reality on a highly localized level. Imminent dimensional incursion from a parallel reality on a large scale, say at least fifty or sixty ships.”

“Get up to the Bridge and have Spock start checking for all of those. Also, send a coded flash to Star Fleet Command on a secured channel.”

Troi's voice was calm and measured as she responded to Pike's orders. “Shall I ask for instructions as to proceeding to Tarsus?”

“Instructions”, Pike knew all too well, was shorthand code for “do we ask what to do or decide for ourselves?” He himself had asked that question several times during his tenure as Robert April's second-in-command, back in the old days on the Everest.

“No. This takes precedence by any reasonable interpretation of regulations. Have Command advise the Federation Council. And have M'ress activate the EBS system warning all ships to avoid this sector.”

“With all due respect, sir, I think you might want to consult with Command.”

“If the Enterprise were less than literally a day old, I'd say yes to that. But that isn't the case. We need to prove ourselves to the rest of the Fleet if we want to be designated as flagship one of these days.”

“Aye, sir. I'll say no more on the subject.”

The whole time the captain and first officer had been talking, Scott had been standing as far away as he could, he had caught only a few words of the conversation. He tried to read their body language but failed at it.

“Captain?” he inquired when the conversation reached a pause.

“Ensign. Stay here and wait for your orders."

“Aye, sir.”

Both the captain and the first officer were about to leave the area when Pike turned and asked another question: “Ensign, do you have a nickname?”

“Aye, my friends call me “Scotty”.”

“I'll remember that. Carry on, Mister Scott.”

Several minutes later, a conference was underway on the Bridge. Pike, Troi and Spock all were standing next to Spock's duty station.

“And you're sure this was a level-four temporal disturbance?” Pike asked, worried about the implications of Spock's findings.

“I am certain of it, Captain. Furthermore, the disturbance was centered in the Tarsus system.”

Pike turned to Tyler who held down the Navigation station.

“Time to Tarsus at warp one-point-seven?”

Tyler had anticipated the question and was ready with the answer.

“You're not going to be happy, sir,” he warned.

As he smiled grimly, Pike responded to that. “I'm already not happy, Mister Tyler. We have a full blown crisis and a brand-new ship under our feet. How long?”

“Seventy-three hours.”

“Command's not going to like that,” Troi stated.

“If anyone back at Command can get his, her, or its ass out here and change the laws of physics, they're welcome to fix this mess. Otherwise, seventy-three hours it is, and that's that. You said it yourself, Number One. The warp constant in this sector is still unstable and warp one-point-seven is the fastest we can safely go.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry for stating the obvious about the reaction we're going to get from the brass.”

Making those her parting words, Troi slid through the turbolift doorway and was on her way. As she departed, Pike resumed his place in the command chair at the center of the Bridge. Folding his arms in front of him, he took a long look at the view screen in front of him.

Time to go see what the hell is happening on Tarsus, he said to himself.

“Resume course for Tarsus at best speed."

“Aye, sir.”

“Engineering to Helm. Resuming the feed in forty-five seconds.”, came a voice Pike tried to place. Failing to do so he then correctly assumed it belonged to one of the officers who had transferred aboard earlier in the day.

Exactly forty-five seconds after the call came warp power was tied back into the helm and Arex eased the ship into warp.

As each officer on the Bridge went about tending to his, her or its work, Pike found himself with nothing to do but sit and wait. He knew that a call from Admiral Archer would be coming any minute now, and though the call would probably be something to get through as best as he could, at least it would relieve the monotony.

It took just under twenty minutes. M'ress answered the hail and at Pike's order transferred the call to the main screen. The image of Admiral Archer came into focus and he wasted no time.

“Seventy-three hours? Is that the best you people can do? Take three days to get to where you're going when we need you there today?”

“Admiral. It's the finding of my Chief Engineer that we're going as fast as we dare to. The Cochrane constant is still fluctuating.”

“I've seen the data, Captain. You can do warp three easily. That will put you in orbit of the colony less than seven hours from now.”

“We can do warp three, yes, but at great danger to this ship. At that speed we'd have to recalibrate the nacelle needles every two seconds. That's physically impossible.”

Archer scowled at the man whose image he was seeing. He had commanded the very first five-year mission, and his ship the U.S.S. Columbia had become a legend in its own time. Deciding to try a different approach, he calmly and quietly asked a question.

“Do you have the new design, the one for the coils?”

“Yes, sir. We do.”

Archer's voice rose with excitement and authority as he spoke again: “Then install the damn things. Those coils recalibrate themselves every five hundred milliseconds. That'll get you to Tarsus by the end of the day.”

Pike, knowing it was a good idea quickly and silently chastised himself for not thinking of it. He also made a mental note to gently chide Troi and her people for not thinking of it either. He then decided to make a token attempt at saving face.

“And we have your permission to do a field installation?”

“Yes. Now get to work on it. Archer, out.”

The work went slowly but three hours later, the new coils were ready for testing. Troi stood at the Engineering station on the Bridge and watched as the flow of power to the warp drive gradually increased. Switching her attention between that set of readings and the set for the coils, she put every bit of concentration she could muster into the task at hand. She felt the vibrations gently rattle the deck plating beneath her feet. The Enterprise was proving herself to be every bit as good as the design team had claimed she was. Power was flowing smoothly and the coils were performing flawlessly.

Arex's voice as he intoned the gradual increase in speed registered at the edge of her consciousness.

“Warp three, now. Now at warp factor three and holding.
Helm is steady and responsive."

“New ETA for the Tarsus system is four to four and a half hours.”

“Thank you, Mister Arex, Mister Tyler."

Pike then raised his voice for all present to hear his next words.

“Number One. I want you to personally notify Mister Scott that there's been a formal commendation placed in his service record.”

“Yes, sir. Permission to leave the Bridge?”

“Granted.”

Troi quickly pointed out to her relief which readings to watch and which to ignore then made her way off of the Bridge. Pulling her uniform shirt tightly as she tapped the lift controls, she let herself relax during the ride to the Engineering deck. She made her way into Main Engineering and quietly pulled Scott aside to give him the good news. Watching with pleasure as his face lit up, she then informed him that she wanted him to begin taking at least one shift a week on the Bridge to further his training.

Leaving Scott a very happy officer, Troi then made her way to the nearest Rec Room. She was still on duty but knew Pike would not mind her taking time for a quick bite to eat. Selecting just a sandwich and coffee with a pair of data cards she removed her food from a small compartment when it materialized. As she began to eat, she had the most odd feeling that someone was watching her closely. A quick scan of the room seemed to disprove it as the few other people present were all busy eating or reading tech manuals over a cup of coffee or tea.

Finishing her food quickly, she started back for the Bridge. Shaking off the odd feeling as she felt the caffeine from her coffee start to kick in, she picked up the pace of her walking. The coffee had raised her level of alertness enough to get her through to end of shift in a half hour.

That half hour passed quickly and as the primary Bridge crew made its way off the Bridge, Pike admonished his people to take it easy and get some extra sleep as they might well be called back to duty on short notice. Pike himself declined to rest, staying put in his command chair and not budging until the ship entered orbit of Tarsus. Tension levels of those present dropped ever so slightly when the order to not enter orbit never came.

Time to get sneaky Pike said to himself. Let's see if I can head up the landing team without Troi either insisting she take my place or insisting she take the conn. Standing next to the Comm officer on duty, Pike had her set up a call to the transporter room that bypassed the normal channels that would trigger a display on Troi's work station. The call was a text-only message and the answer came back the same way.

As he headed for the lift doors, Pike turned to call over his shoulder to the most senior officer present at the time.

“You have the conn, Mister Thelin. If anything starts to go seriously wrong, you're to call Commander Troi to the Bridge. Is that clear?”

“Crystal clear, sir,” the young Andorian responded.

Four minutes later a landing team beamed down. It consisted of Pike, Boyce, Security Chief Anderson, Security Officer Stonn and Ambassador-At-Large Lisa Fuller. As they became aware of their surroundings, Pike frowned. They were way off the mark from where they were supposed to be. All that surrounded them were a few trees and not much of anything else. Pulling out his communicator and flipping its cover open Pike waited two seconds then spoke into its tiny microphone.

“Pike to Enterprise. Something went wrong with our transport. Check and see how far we are from the city center.”

"Checking, sir,” came Christina Youman's voice over the communicator's speaker. As she got the information from Thelin who had wordlessly and efficiently slid back over to his post at the Science station, she kept her voice level and calm though doing so was not easy. It had taken her almost five minutes to come back, which worried Pike.

“Captain. Scans confirm that you are at the city center. Sensors confirm also that there is no city.”

“Repeat that, Ensign.”

“Aye, sir. Sensor readings confirm that there are no sentient life forms on Tarsus other than the landing team. Ensign Thelin is speaking with Mister Spock to confirm his theory as to why.”

Several long and tension filled seconds ticked by with none of the team members daring to speak. Finally, Spock's voice broke the silence. His voice was calm, reasoned and filled with certainty.

“Captain. Spock here. Mister Thelin and I concur on his findings. The temporal disturbance that was centered on Tarsus has altered the history of this world. There is not now nor never has been any Earth colony or Federation settlement of any kind on Tarsus. Per standing orders, Commander Troi has taken the conn and sent a coded message to the Temporal Observation Post on planet Gateway. They have advised that a preliminary report as to the existence of any other alterations will be sent within the hour.”

Stunned beyond any level he had ever imagined possible, Pike managed somehow to get out the words he needed to say.

“Understood. Do you feel that the landing team is at risk, Mister Spock? Or can we move around and take tricorder readings?”

“It should be safe, for now, sir.”

“All right. My orders, Mister Spock, are as follows. Radio silence until we are hailed by the researchers on planet Gateway. After that, the only person talking to anyone is myself, to Star Fleet Command. We'll stay here a few hours then depart for Earth. Please inform Larry Marvick and Commander Troi that I need as close to full speed as they can give me, safety protocols be damned.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. Spock, out.”

“Pike, out.”

Silently and somberly, the landing team began to move about taking tricorder readings. Pike and Fuller, having nothing else to do, both found themselves staring up into a gray and cloudy sky and wondering who could have done such a thing as they were now witness to.
End Notes:
Next week comes the conclusion as the crew of the Enterprise deals with the repercussions of what has happened.
Chapter 2 by KevinJ
Author's Notes:
Spoilers for Part 1. As requested by moderators, I will add each new story as a chapter to this series. When it's complete, I will begin a brand new series under a new title. Sorry for any misunderstanding or confusion.
SPACE- THE FINAL FRONTIER. THESE ARE THE VOYAGES OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE. HER FIVE-YEAR MISSION: TO EXPLORE STRANGE, NEW WORLDS. TO SEEK OUT NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS. TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE!

Captain Christopher Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Federation Ambassador-At-Large Lisa Fuller had been staring up into the gray sky of the planet Tarsus for a few minutes when Pike's communicator emitted the familiar beeping sound that signaled an incoming call.

“Pike, here.”

“Troi here, sir.”

Knowing there was going to be hell to pay for the way he had slipped off of the ship without notifying his First Officer, Pike faced the music as calmly as he could.

“Go ahead, Number One.”

“Captain, this needs to be said, so here goes. You had no business failing to inform me of your actions in beaming into a situation that is confirmed as being hazardous.”

“Agreed. You can yell at me when I get back.”

As her tone of voice softened a bit, Troi spoke again. She owed Pike her life half a dozen times over. “No, Chris, I'm just going to make sure it never happens again. I've issued a standing order that I be notified if you decide to leave the ship at any time.”

“Fair enough. Any word from the Temporal Observation Post on Gateway?”

“Their initial scans show no alterations other than the one on Tarsus. Per standard procedure, the Klingon and Romulan governments have been notified of the situation.”

“After the fact of their spies on the research team having notified them, I bet.”

“Probably. Chris, I'm worried. Sensors are showing minor but ongoing temporal aftershocks. If the landing team gets caught in one-”

“Then there won't be a landing team. I'll reassemble us for beam up. Pike, out.”

“Enterprise, out.”

Pike quickly drew his people together and as their figures shimmered with transporter effect, they returned to the Enterprise a few seconds later. As they rematerialized and made their way into the corridor everyone but Pike and Fuller made way for his or her duty station. Sensing that the ambassador had something to say, Pike held back.

“Captain. I know we just met yesterday and I know I'm new to my job, so if I'm out of line, say so, please,” she began.

“Of course,” he responded.

“If someone we've not met yet, that is the Federation hasn't met, is still here, then this is a first contact I'm dealing with.”

“Agreed. However, we have no evidence of a continued presence.”

“That's true. I do have the authority to order the Enterprise to remain in orbit of Tarsus for a minimum of twenty-four hours, you know.”

“I'm well aware of that. I'm asking you to not use that authority today.”

Sensing a hidden meaning in Pike's choice of words, Fuller parried his move. “But you are comfortable with my using it the next time I consider doing so?”

“I am. You're new to your job, Madame Ambassador but you are also highly qualified; you wouldn't have drawn the assignment to the Enterprise if you weren't.”

“Fair enough, Captain. I'm going to compose my report now and I'll note, for the record, that you were both calm and reasonable when we discussed the situation at hand.”

“I'll leave you to it, then. Should you need me, I'll be on the Bridge or in my quarters.”

Fuller then headed one way while Pike went off the other way. While he was nearing the closest turbo lift, a Red Alert was sounded. Klaxons blaring and lights flashing brought everyone to full alertness and people began running. Once he was in the lift, Pike keyed in his emergency override code to put his car ahead of all the others. Reaching the Bridge, he found it in turmoil as the main viewer displayed a vision of destruction. The Enterprise was being pulled down out of her orbit and the view was dizzying.

Pike took his seat as Troi yelled out orders and frantic questions.

“Flash alert to Command that we are in danger of destruction. Olmstead, we're never going to break free under impulse power. Can you handle a warp jump in atmosphere? Freeman, if he can, can you set course for somewhere no one can find us?”

As he heard the voice of his comm officer sending the alert, Pike turned his attention to the readings displayed on his command chair's left arm panel. Wave after wave of temporal energy was tearing the planet below them apart and gravitational levels were spiking. As the officers at helm and navigation nodded grimly that they could do what Troi was asking of them, Troi turned to face Pike.

“This was deliberate. A pair of ships flew in from the other side of the system and set off a chain reaction of some sort. Those aftershocks became an all-out time-quake. Chris, this is an attack on the ship. It has to be. There's no reason to destroy Tarsus now that the colony has been erased from existence.”

“Did we ID the ships?”

“No. Unknown configuration.”

“Time to impact?”

“Thirty seconds.”

Pike began to count seconds off in his head. At ten, he thumbed his comm control. His voice echoed throughout the ship as he spoke. “All hands, this is the Captain. Prepare for warp jump in atmosphere and possible crash landing.” Ten seconds later, he nodded once to Troi as she stood over the panel of the Engineering sub-station. She nodded her head in return.

Pike spoke with as much calm as he could muster. “Helm, warp speed...now!”

As the warp field began to form around the Enterprise two sets of energies, one quantum and the other temporal, began to conflict with each other. Going to warp in a planetary environment was hazardous under normal conditions and was strictly forbidden where any life forms were present. Doing it now with the temporal field present was asking for trouble. The warp field began to stretch out then somehow regained its normal shape and the Enterprise jumped into warp.

Pushing the engines for all they were worth, Ensign Olmstead watched as the numbers indicating the ship's speed kept changing. He knew that warp seven was the normal safety limit; as they approached it he kept at it, not stopping till the ship was doing warp eight-point-three.

Beside him, Ensign Freeman had set a course for the Maranis Asteroid Belt which was just two systems over. Olmstead and Freeman had trained together at Star Fleet Academy and knew each others moves backwards and forwards. Olmstead cut warp speed at the precise instant he had to and then switched to full impulse as Freeman maneuvered the ship into the belt. The trip had taken less than four minutes.

Pike, rising from his command chair, indicated to Troi for her to take over. Moving over to the Science station, he waited while Thelev ran a set of sensor scans. The young Andorian officer spoke when he was done. “Sensors indicate we were not pursued.”

“I'd like to confirm that. Run a second scan,” Pike ordered.

“Aye, sir.” Thelev ran another set of scans then spoke again. “Confirmed. No vessels in sensor range.”

Pike turned to issue an order to Youmans and then realized she was dead. Her body was aged horribly. Just seven minutes earlier she had been twenty-five years old and now she looked to be near ninety. Her skin was wrinkled. Her spine was deformed. The voice of Troi calling for someone from Medical to come up to the Bridge was the only sound on the Bridge other than the sounds of equipment functioning.

A few minutes later Doctor M'Benga stepped onto the Bridge and moved to examine the body. His dark skinned face fell ashen as he realized what had happened. “This woman was exposed to temporal energy. She died so quickly she almost certainly felt no pain,” he stated.

“Thank you, Doctor,” Pike responded.

Fifteen minutes later, the senior staff found themselves in the Main Briefing room facing a grim-faced captain that walked into the room and had his people fall silent almost immediately as they waited for him to speak.

“It's been a hell of a first day, people. We ran into a warp constant fluctuation, almost flew the ship apart, the planet Tarsus no longer exists and quite possibly never did exist, and one of our own is dead. The ship though, is intact. We've received orders to make an attempt at tracking our attackers. We will find them, and make them pay. Is there anything any of you want to say before we get back to work?”

No one had anything to say, so Pike dismissed them. When he returned to the Bridge, he was relieved to see open space in front of the ship on the viewer in front of him. The sight of stars passing by at warp speed always had a calming effect on him no matter how tense the situation. Thelev motioned for Pike to join him at the Science station, unbending himself from a crouched position over his scanner.

“Good news, Mister Thelev?”

“Yes. I've picked up our attackers' warp trail. It's faint but detectable. If you take a look, Captain, you can see that they've dropped out of warp in the Tarsus system.”

Pike was no science officer but he knew the basics of how to interpret the readouts of the scanner; a quick look confirmed what Thelev had stated.

“They're sure fascinated with the Tarsus system, maybe to a fault,” Pike stated as he yielded the station back to Thelev.

“One can hope,” the Andorian responded.

“Helm, new course. Get your coordinates from Mister Thelev.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Pike turned to face the new delta-shift Communications Officer.

“Ensign. Your name?”

“Colt, sir.”

“Ensign Colt, signal Yellow Alert and send word to Star Base Twelve that we've located our attackers.”

“Aye, sir.”

Colt closed her eyes for just a few seconds, hoping that she would be up to the task. She had, just earlier in the day, been assigned to the ship to serve as Pike's yeoman. The call from Commander Troi had woken her from a deep sleep, the order to report to the Bridge as the new delta-shift communications officer had jolted her into being fully awake. She had minored in Communications while training at Star Fleet Academy with a major in Ship's Services, hence the posting to serve as the captain's personal aide.

The signaling of a Yellow Alert was a simple enough task but she had to think hard for several seconds before she could remember how to put an outgoing call through to a Star Base.

“Star Base Twelve, this is the U.S.S. Enterprise, we have located our attackers. We are on course for the Tarsus system, arrival estimated at seven minutes present speed. Please respond.”

A voice, calm and clear, came over her earpiece. The call was crystal clear with no static.

“Acknowledged, Enterprise. Be advised that the U.S.S. Republic is on course for the Tarsus system as well, estimated arrival in one hour.”

“Acknowledged, Base Twelve. Enterprise, out.”

Colt ended the call and swung around in her seat to face Pike who was now seated in his command chair. Troi had taken up watch at the Security substation as that was her battle station.

“Captain, Star Base Twelve is aware of our situation and advises that the Republic is due on-scene in one hour.”

“Good work, Colt. Can you patch me through to Captain Stone?”

“Yes, sir. Just a minute and I'll have the call placed.”

Colt breathed a sigh of relief when the call went through with no problem. Once again, the call was as clear as clear could be. Republic's communications officer sounded as though he was just a few feet away from her as he answered the hail.

“You're on, sir,” she informed Pike as she transferred the call to him.

“Roger. You old space dog, I see they let you out from behind a desk one last time.”

“One last time is right, Chris. I've got a promotion to Commodore coming through next week and a ship full of cadets and trainees who are supposed to be learning the basics of an actual cruise. That's why we're so close to you.”

The two captains had never served together but knew each other fairly well from the times that their ships had worked together in the past.

“Understood. With any luck, we'll have things handled by the time you get here.”

Stone laughed before he spoke again. “I hope so too. See you in a bit. Republic, out.”

The next voice Pike heard was Colt's as she called out to all decks. “All hands, prepare for exit from warp speed.”

Good work, Ensign, Pike thought to himself. You knew enough to watch the readings from the helm on your board and sound the word when the time came.

As the ship dropped from warp, the view of space in front of the ship changed. The stars were gone, replaced by a single blue star and three lonely looking uninhabited and uninhabitable worlds. All three were steady in their orbits, a sign that the gravitational field of the system had not been altered. Ergo, Pike said to himself, the fourth planet never existed.

“Mister Thelev, run a full check through our memory banks. You're looking for any references to the existence of the planet Tarsus Prime. I'll take over the sensors and start scanning for our attackers.”

As he slid into place next to the now-seated Thelev, Pike peered into the scanner's blue screen. Rotating the control arm of the scanner he fine-tuned its readings and after several seconds found what he was looking for.

“Got them!,” he exclaimed, then continued with a rapid-fire series of orders, “Helm, sending coordinates now. Colt, signal Red Alert. All hands to battle stations. Helm, raise shields. Navigator, power up the phaser banks.”

Once he was in his chair, Pike saw the ships that had tried to destroy his ship. They were ominous looking vessels, cube-shaped and devoid of decoration or lettering. The sound of the Red Alert klaxon echoed as it bounced off the walls of the Bridge.

“Colt, shut that off. Go to silent alert,” Pike ordered.

The sound went silent as Colt obeyed the order she had been given. The alert lights on both sides of the Bridge continued to flash on and off with a deep red hue. Pike counted off as the seconds ticked by and when they were in weapons range, smacked the transmit button for short-range communications that was built into a goose-necked microphone on the right arm of his command chair.

He composed his thoughts carefully before speaking. “This is the U.S.S. Enterprise, representing the United Federation of Planets, Captain Christopher Pike, commanding. By attacking this vessel and destroying the planet Tarsus Prime, you have placed yourselves in jeopardy. Please respond.”

Several seconds passed before a machine-like sounding voice replied. 'We are the Borg. The planet you refer to was never meant to exist. It was eradicated.”

“Erased, you mean.”

“It existed only because of an error. That error has been corrected.”

“And the life forms that called that world home. What has become of them?”

“Eradication carries no guarantees. Some never existed, others exist in altered form.”

“And who are you to determine which worlds live and which die?”

“We are the Borg.”

“I get a feeling I'm going to get tired of hearing that. To whom am I speaking? Do I at least get to see your face or hear your name?”

The screen in front of Pike had its image shimmer and change in response to his challenge. The being he saw was humanoid, to a point. Part of his skull had been carved out and replaced with a cybernetic implant of some sort. His left eye had been removed as well, replaced with an artificial one that shone a bright red.

“I am Unit Two-six-one-one of Cube One-four-five-five. I am in charge here.”

“We've never encountered you before. What part of the galaxy do you come from?”

“Our home world is in what you refer to as the Delta Quadrant. We became aware of your kind after the cube accompanying mine emerged in this quadrant after traveling through a wormhole.”

Pike, hearing that, made a quick downward slashing motion with his left hand. Colt had remembered enough of her training to watch for such a move and reacted properly by cutting the audio portion of the transmission. Turning his back to the screen, Pike addressed Thelev. “Is that possible?”

“Yes. Though we know of no stable wormholes, the existence of one is indeed possible. And Captain, Tarsus Prime never existed. There is no external record of it. We remember it only because we were within the field of temporal alteration ourselves.”

Pike knew what order he had to issue next as he spoke. “Erase it from our own records, then. Pass the word to everyone on this ship that it's a forbidden subject as well.”

“I shall do so at once, sir.”

“Colt, restore audio, now.”

“Aye, sir.”

“You have consulted with a subordinate, Christopher Pike,” the Borg captain questioned.

“I have. And I'll kindly remind you to refer to myself or any other starship captain as such.”

“I will note that for the commanders of all Borg cubes.”

“Good. Is it now your intent to attack this ship a second time?”

“Our intent was not to attack you. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Beginner's luck.”

“I am unfamiliar with that phrase.”

“Scan this vessel thoroughly and you'll see what I mean.”

“I have. You jest as to your ship being new and presumably understaffed. Your vessel departed ahead of schedule.”

“We did. We were en route to assist the colony on Tarsus.”

“Of that, I was not aware. We were not aware. We had presumed that your people would allow the weak to perish.”

“That's not how we do business. And those people were not weak. They were strong. Stubborn, also, to a fault perhaps. But they were our people.”

“ “Were” is the operative word, Captain. The Borg are what you refer to as...I believe the word is “surgeons”. Where a cancer exists, where a world is beyond redemption or never should have existed to begin with, we remove that cancer.”

“No offense, but this is Federation space. You have no right to act as you did today.”

“We are superior in both wisdom and technology. We are to you as you are to your ancestors of more than a century ago.”

“A century isn't that much time on a galactic scale.”

“It is sufficient. We apologize for any damage done to your ship and for any lives lost. We will give you warning of any further eradication actions.”

“So that we may evacuate our people beforehand?”

“Evacuation is unsafe. Those who live on a world scheduled for eradication must be present. Any successful attempt to remove them will damage the time stream of this universe.”

“But we'll pull our people out anyhow. You must realize that.”

“Any vessel attempting to interfere with our actions will be considered hostile. You may wish to scan our vessel thoroughly, Captain Pike. I will lower our interference field so that you may do so.”

Pike waited, with a feeling of dread. When Thelev spoke it was to inform Pike that the ships in front of them were carrying weapons systems that could destroy the Enterprise or any of her sister ships with ease.

“So you can blow me out of the water without even really trying. That'll buy you some time. Six months, a year at most. You have to be aware of the existence of various other powers in this quadrant. Once they become aware of the threat you pose, they'll be knocking on the Federation's door to offer their help in improving our shields and our weapons systems.”

“I concede that you will be able to challenge us at some future point. I also trust that we can and will overwhelm you with sheer numbers. Defy us and your worlds will be cut off from each other, one by one. Allow us to carry out our mission and we will leave you alone. This transmission ends, now.”

With that, both cube ships turned and warped out of the system.

“Tracking them, sir,” Thelev reported.

“Let it go, Mister Thelev. There's no point in getting the Enterprise destroyed on day one. Not for this reason, at least.”

“As you say, sir.”

“Colt, signal all clear, ship status normal.”

“Aye, sir.”

Pike, after giving his next to last command of the day, reached out with one hand to rub his temples. He felt a nasty headache coming on. He also wondered why his First Officer had been so quiet during the events of the past several minutes.

“You've been quiet through all this, Number One.”

“Studying, sir, and acting when I saw a weakness. I didn't want to tip our hand, but I used the security systems to sneak something past the Borg.”

“What?”

“I managed to plant a tracking algorithm in one of their computer cores.”

“ “One of”...they have more than one?”

“Three, each independent of the other two. That's the bad news. We can track them only when they're using that first core. During the time you were talking to them, they switched back and forth between all three half a dozen times.”

“It's better than nothing. We'll have some idea of their course and probable next destination.”

“I did what I could, sir.”

“You did good, Commander. I'm heading for my quarters. You are to yield the center seat to Mister
Rensler when he arrives to relieve you. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Pike stood and yielded the chair to Troi. As he reached the back of the Bridge, he stepped through the lift's doorway and let himself relax just a little as the doors slid shut. He entered his destination code and closed his eyes as the lift car began to move downwards.

Day one, he thought to himself. An erased planet. Federation citizens who now were never born and ones whose whereabouts we can't begin to guess at. One of my crew is dead. What was I thinking when I accepted the offer of command for this ship? Why in hell didn't I just let HQ promote Troi?
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