About the Author
Christopher L. Bennett is the author of two previous works of Titan fiction, the novel Star Trek: Titan: Orion's Hounds and the short story “Empathy” in the Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows anthology. He has also authored such critically acclaimed novels as Star Trek: Ex Machina, Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Buried Age, and Star Trek: The Next Generation: Greater Than the Sum, as well as the alternate Voyager tale Places of Exile in Myriad Universes: Infinity's Prism. Beyond Star Trek, he has penned the novels X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder and is also developing original science fiction novel concepts.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
™, ®, & © 2012 CBS Studios, Inc. Star Trek and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Star Trek® I
Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco, North Am, Earth
Stardate 3113.7, Old System
“I think you’re wasting your time here, Antonio,” said Commodore Burton Kwan. “This story Kirk and his crew are spinning is just too ludicrous.”
Commodore Antonio Delgado stroked his short, grizzled beard as he considered his colleague’s words. “Did you verify it in the ship’s computer logs?” he asked the younger man.
“Well, yes, but . . . the computer . . .”
“It kept calling us ‘dear.’ If you ask me, the whole thing’s an elaborate practical joke.”
“Well, how else do you explain the Enterprise suddenly appearing in the Oort cloud, braking hard from high warp, just hours after disappearing without a trace from Sector 006? We’ve confirmed the presence of that ‘black star’ Kirk advised us of—it appears to be some new class of singularity. And we have found a passing reference in records from the period to an ‘unidentified flying object’ sighting by a Captain John Christopher, United States Air Force.”
“So you’re saying this is possible?”
Delgado hesitated. “I’m not saying anything on the record. And neither are you, is that clear?”
Kwan scoffed. “I’m happy to be left out of it. And even if I weren’t, I know better than to cross someone who plays golf with Admiral Comsol himself.” He came to a halt outside the door to Briefing Room 14. “They’re in here, waiting for you. I leave them and their mess, whatever it turns out to be, in your capable hands.”
Delgado shook his balding head as the younger commodore strode away. Kwan was the same kind of small-minded bureaucrat as the ones who’d dismissed the Enterprise’s first report of time travel earlier this year—an alleged seventy-one-hour backward jump resulting from a cold restart of the vessel’s warp engines to escape the breakup of planet Psi 2000—as a mere time dilation anomaly. If Kirk’s claim had been taken seriously sooner, valuable time might have been saved.
Delgado chuckled to himself. Then again, if this pans out, I may have all the time in the universe.
He entered the briefing room, and Captain Kirk and his first officer, the renowned half-Vulcan Commander Spock, rose to greet him. “Captain Kirk,” he said, shaking the younger man’s hand. “I’m Commodore Antonio Delgado, deputy chief of Starfleet Science Operations. Commander Spock,” he appended, merely nodding at the Vulcan, who returned the greeting in kind. Despite his executive position, Spock wore the blue tunic of the science division rather than the command gold worn by Kirk and Delgado, reminding the commodore that he served as Kirk’s chief science officer as well—a doubling of responsibility that would be difficult for anyone but a Vulcan to pull off. Delgado may have been second-in-command of Science Ops himself, but his role was chiefly administrative.
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Kirk said, though his impatience was clear. “If I may, I’d like to ask—”
Delgado held up a hand. “I know you’re eager to get back to your ship. We’ve put you through enough of a runaround already, and I’m sorry to add to it. But I can tell you that this time, you will be listened to, and you will be believed.”
Kirk’s eyes widened, his stance easing. “I’m . . . glad to hear that. I appreciate that it’s an extraordinary thing to ask someone to accept, but we’ve offered you the data from our ship’s computers, and Mister Spock’s sworn testimony as well as that of the rest of my crew.” Kirk’s tone conveyed particular disbelief and offense at having the Vulcan’s account called into question. Delgado respected that level of loyalty and trust. It had been rare enough in his own experience. Political loyalty was something he knew how to bargain and barter for, but he knew it came and went as expediency demanded. Personal loyalty, the sort he sensed here, was far more elusive.
“Well, you understand we needed time to verify the corroborating evidence. It’s essential to be absolutely sure of something like this.”
“Naturally,” Spock replied, his voice a rich baritone. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
“So with that in mind, I hope you won’t mind going over your account one more time for me.”
Kirk suppressed a sigh. “Of course, sir.”
The three men sat around the polygonal briefing table and Kirk began. “As I said in my log, the Enterprise was en route to Starbase 9 for resupply when we were caught in an intense gravitational pull from an uncharted black star. Like a black hole, but different somehow.”
“As though its gravitomagnetic effects extended into subspace,” Spock added. “Even at warp, all subspace geodesics tended to spiral in toward the singularity. Only by employing maximum warp power were we able to reverse course and break free.”
“We hurtled out of control,” Kirk went on. “Most of us blacked out from the acceleration. When we recovered, we found ourselves inside Earth’s atmosphere. We were lucky we didn’t crash into the surface. Attempts to contact Starfleet Control failed, but my communications officer picked up a broadcast on an old EM band, announcing that the first manned moon shot would launch the following Wednesday.”
“And from that,” Delgado asked, “you concluded that you were in 1969?”
“Not from that alone, sir,” Spock told him. “It only reinforced the conclusion I had already drawn from reviewing the sensor logs. Our trajectory on breaking free of the singularity was consistent with the theoretical predictions for a closed timelike curve around a Tipler object, which the dense, rotating mass of the singularity might well approximate. My scans of Earth and the Sol system revealed no traces of antimatter use or transtatorbased technology, no orbital facilities or habitations beyond Earth, and no verifiable indications of extraterrestrial life on Earth itself. The configuration of the stars and planets established a date of July 12, nineteen hundred and sixty-nine Common Era in the Gregorian calendar—four days before the launch of Apollo 11.”
“We then detected the approach of a military aircraft of the period,” Kirk continued. “We attempted to retreat to avoid detection, but our systems were damaged, sluggish. The aircraft was armed with missiles, and from what I recalled of the tense political climate of the period, I knew we were in danger of being preemptively fired upon. I ordered the tractor beam activated to hold the aircraft at a safe distance.”
“Were you aware that the aircraft might be damaged by the tractor beam?”
“To be honest, no, sir, it didn’t occur to me,” Kirk said. “Since the aircraft was small enough to fit entirely within the beam, I assumed it would simply feel a uniform attraction, no shear or strain.”
“In the captain’s defense, sir,” Spock pointed out, “few people today are accustomed to dealing with non–antigravity-based aircraft.”
“But you recognized the danger, Commander.”
“Yes, Commodore. Considering the relationship of gravity, thrust, and lift in the operation of a fixed-wing aircraft, I realized that altering the effective gravity vector with our tractor beam would throw off the balance and cause the aircraft to tumble out of control. I promptly alerted the captain to the risk, but at that point the tractor beam had already been engaged, and the aircraft quickly began to break up.”
Delgado turned back to Kirk. “So you felt you had no choice but to beam the pilot aboard.”
“Captain John Christopher, yes. He was only in danger because of my mistake, sir,” the captain told him. “I couldn’t let him die.”
“So instead you thought it was a good idea to give him a guided tour of a starship from centuries in his future. Thereby exposing him to knowledge far beyond what his society was ready for.”
“Naturally I considered beaming him back immediately, before he knew what had happened. But if he arrived intact on the ground before his aircraft even crashed, I knew that would raise a great many questions.”
“Did you consider sedating Captain Christopher until he could be returned to the crash site? Perhaps with some minor injuries consistent with ejecting from a crash?”
Kirk frowned. “With all due respect, Commodore, he was a human. A military pilot from the same country that first put humans on the Earth’s moon. He was a spiritual ancestor, perhaps even a literal ancestor for all I knew. I’d wronged him enough tearing his ship out from under him. I wasn’t going to knock him out and give him a beating as well.” He took a breath, gathering himself. “I felt I owed him an explanation. And owed it to myself to assess what kind of man he was before deciding on his disposition.”
“And the temptation to meet a ‘spiritual ancestor’ wasn’t a factor?”
The captain gave a wry smile. “Would you have felt any differently, sir?”
Delgado’s expression softened marginally. “Probably not, Captain.”
As Kirk’s account continued, it became more and more a comedy of errors. Every attempt he and his crew made to resolve the situation only made things worse, leading to the point at which a second individual from 1969 had been accidentally beamed aboard, Kirk had been captured and interrogated by the United States Air Force, and several USAF personnel had been attacked and rendered unconscious in order to rescue the captain. The only solution had been a total reboot. Spock had computed that the original “slingshot” effect could be re-created using the Sun’s gravitational field, with the Enterprise’s warp engines configured to amplify the Sun’s relatively feeble frame-dragging effects and re-create the closed timelike curve. In the process, they would regress further back in time before moving forward again on the escape trajectory. This would overlap Christopher and the sergeant with their own past worldlines, and Spock had had the inspired insight that beaming them into their own past bodies, superposing the same particles in two different quantum states, would cause those states to recollapse into a single individual apiece, with the quantum information incompatible with their reality—the experiences the two men had had aboard the Enterprise—erased from their memories.
“I’ll be honest with you, Captain,” Delgado said when the account concluded. “You bungled this situation in almost every possible way. Without Commander Spock’s creative problem-solving, the consequences could’ve been disastrous.” Kirk bristled and began to speak. “However,” Delgado stressed, cutting him off, “I can’t see that any other Starfleet officer in the same situation would’ve reacted any differently. I can’t realistically expect you or any starship commander to be prepared for dealing with a time-travel scenario.”
“It is an unprecedented occurrence,” Spock agreed.
Delgado smiled. “Well . . . almost.”
Kirk and his first officer stared. “Are you saying people have traveled in time before?” the captain asked.
“There are no records,” Spock observed, “of any such occurrence prior to the Enterprise’s own experience at Psi 2000.”
“You’re right up to a point, Commander. The Enterprise—your Enterprise—is the first known Federation starship ever to travel through time under its own power. But—and this is classified information I’m about to give you—Starfleet has had evidence that time travel was a reality since the time of your ship’s namesake over a century ago.”
“Jonathan Archer’s Enterprise?” Kirk asked.
“Yes. Archer became aware of the existence of individuals or groups from future centuries that were attempting to intervene in events of his own era through native agents and intermediaries, including Archer himself. A Temporal Cold War, they called it.” Once he’d given Kirk and Spock a moment to take this in, he went on, “These interventions seemed to end around the time of the Earth-Romulan War. There’s been virtually no evidence of visits from the future since the Federation was founded. But given the potential dangers of time travel, Starfleet Command of the time classified the knowledge that it existed as more than a theoretical construct, lest someone figure out a way to invent time machines of their own. There have been occasional isolated encounters with temporal phenomena in the century since, but nothing repeatable or controllable.” He recalled all the case studies from Starfleet Intelligence files. A starship flung two years into its future by a natural warp that collapsed around them, almost crushing them and leaving them no way back. A Tellarite ship discovering ruins of what appeared to be a time portal on a remote planet, long ago smashed by a raiding party that came through it from the past. A civilian trader who’d gotten rich off future knowledge she claimed to have gained from an alien artifact, but who’d failed to predict her own death and the artifact’s destruction in a firefight between Orion and Klingon agents seeking to possess it. “Starfleet buried the stories, and where evidence existed, it buried that too.”
Kirk studied Delgado. “You don’t seem to approve, Commodore.”
“I think they were shortsighted fools. Imagine what we could learn about our history, our future. Imagine the potential for preventing or correcting great disasters. Captain, I’ve devoted much of my career to exploring the possibilities of time travel. That’s why I left Starfleet Intelligence for Science Ops, so I could actually research the possibilities rather than just sitting on the knowledge that they existed.
“And now you’ve brought me the answer to my prayers, gentlemen. A starship that’s actually traveled in time, on two separate occasions. And a science officer who’s actually managed to achieve time travel on purpose.”
“I hesitate to go that far, Commodore,” Spock demurred. “Theory suggests that a temporal displacement creates a connection, known as a Feynman curve, between the displaced object and its origin point in spacetime. All I did, essentially, was determine how to follow that curve in reverse. Had it not been formed already by the initial accident, I would have had no way of creating it. There is still a great deal I do not understand about how the slingshot effect came about in the first place. The theoretical basis is a simple matter of general relativity, but by all rights, the unbounded accumulation of Hawking radiation at the horizon of the temporal warp should have vaporized the Enterprise before it could travel back in time.”
“But the fact is, your ship has done it—three distinct times. Whatever made it work, it’s repeatable.”
Kirk furrowed his brow. “Commodore, if you’re saying you want to take my ship apart for study, I must protest. We’re in the middle of an active patrol tour. There are colonies out there that need our protection and support. Especially now, with tensions rising on the Klingon border. The Enterprise is needed on the frontier.”
Delgado held up his hands. “Don’t worry, Captain. I understand your obligations. But you’ll need at least two weeks in port to repair the buckling your warp nacelles sustained in your return to the present.”
“Three,” Spock amended. “We also require a wholesale overhaul of our computer system to correct the . . . anomalous behavior resulting from its servicing at Cygnet XIV,” he finished with a sour expression. Delgado remembered what Kwan had said about the computer’s affectionate attitude, and suppressed a chuckle. It wasn’t the first practical joke the Cygnetians had played on Starfleet, whose power structure they found insufficiently matriarchal.
“That would take three weeks at a typical starba...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.