The End & The Beginning: The Final Hours
The End & The Beginning- The Final Hours - 03
"The year was 2376 and I was only eighteen. The Enterprise-E was under repair from our great space war with the armies of Darkness… and we were onboard the ship that would take us on our final journey home…"* * *
The U.S.S Phantom
There was no saucer. No engines on sticks. It was a small, compact machine with side-mounted warp engines that hugged tight up to her body. She was sleek and mean – a mark-2 Defiant class, similar to the USS Defiant
that came before her, but with a little more of an aggressive character. She had a rounder look. The nose was less prominent and the engines had a sharper appearance.
The Scooby Gang had been told that Demons were still loose out somewhere in the galaxy and that this new Defiant redesign would be tasked with rounding them up.
It wasn’t the Enterprise. It was small, cramped, and powerful. Built for war with the Borg and now reassigned to an equally dangerous task. But first, before a new crew would take her out on that mission, she had one special inaugural flight to undertake with a small team from the Enterprise in command.
Hanging over the planet Earth deep within the cavernous Spacedock, the USS Phantom, connected to the station by umbilical walkways, hovered silently like a small tank in a vast circular parking garage.
Onboard, her temporary crew and six interdimensional guests prepared for a trip back in time.* * *
The Sunnydale group found themselves being shepherded onto the bridge of the Phantom which, it was fair to say, was packed full to the brim. They were ushered out of the way and into an alcove at the rear of the room where Captain Picard invited them to witness the maiden voyage of this new little battle ship. For them, it was nice to be taking a space trip that didn’t involve Demons and death.
Buffy was back in black, Giles had reverted to tweed, and Xander had relinquished both his borrowed Starfleet uniform and Han Solo Gallactica outfit and returned to casuals, but his styled dark beard remained. Along with Willow, Anya and Spike, they stood together at the far rear beside a thin blond-haired man. He wore a straight-edged creaseless suit of black and watched every move like a nazi sentinel. He was a Temporal Agent; there to ensure the security of their own timeline.
The bridge around them, oval with a single-level deck and in shades of deep purple, had seating for six.
Picard had the centre chair. To his right at the engineering station sat Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge. Standing over him was a second engineer in casual clothing. He was Miles O’Brien, Professor of Engineering at Starfleet Academy. Beside them at tactical sat the Klingon, Worf.
Ahead of the captain, between he and the small viewing screen, Commander William T. Riker had the helm. To the left sat Data at the science and Ops station.
It was a small space for such a number of people.
Deanna, also to Picard’s left, reported from the communications post; "We’re receiving the all-clear from Spacedock, Captain."
"Power her up, Number One," said Picard. "Take her out."
"Aye aye, sir," Riker acknowledged, loving every second. He was thrilled to be giving the new bird a test flight.
Dwarfed by the great opening leading out of Spacedock, the small vessel slipped through easily at half impulse.
Soon they were clear of Earth and the station. Giles was asked to confirm the date and time of their departure from their own reality. Going back eighteen days, he was fairly certain of the time. His companions agreed; about five past eight in the evening, when Giles had finished his long-winded tale about the Rhamhal myth. The myth that turned out not to be a myth.
La Forge keyed in for 2pm to give them six hours to prepare for the final phase of the trip. "Warp field configured, Captain. We’re ready to generate the temporal vortex."
"Helm and vessel ready, sir," Riker reported.
"Lay in a course for the twenty-first century, Will," said Picard. He pointed to the stars. "Engage."
A sizzling green gateway of energy exploded before them on the viewer and the Phantom vanished in time.* * *
One hour after taking a dive through the Borg vortex, the ship hung in stealth-mode over the 21st century Earth of the Starfleet dimension, year: 2000.
They’d spent the time locating the precise transport co-ordinates in this reality to set the Scoobs in the correct spot in their own universe where the Magic Box would
be. The multidimensional transporter was programmed with the unique signature of their cellular patterns in order to beam them back into their own dimension.
And now, while La Forge and Data worked their calculations, the Scooby Gang sat down together for this: their Last Supper.
It was the last time they would eat in this world of starships and aliens. Their last opportunity to eat food magically replicated from stored energy. Their last opportunity to eat whatever their unlimited imaginations could come up with. Their last chance to eat for free.
Buffy, given all they’d been through and how much they owed him, had even invited Spike to join them. It was the least she could do after leaving him behind on Epsilon with a spear through his gut. She even let him drink blood, all be it from a metal cup so they couldn’t see.
A mound of food lay before the Sunnydale team. Everything from salads to steaks. From pasta and pizza to strawberries and cream. From sushi and noodles to apple pie and ice cream. The only thing too big for the food machine was the wild boar with apple gag that Xander had tried to order.
They’d shoved two of the metal tables together to make a banquet bench for six. It hadn’t been easy – the tables and chairs were mag-locked to the deck for safety. Buffy and Spike had used all their super strength to shove one of the well-rooted tables almost a metre before Willow found the magnetic release.
As they tucked in, it dawned on them that their imaginations might have been a little big for their stomachs.
It wasn’t long before Willow collapsed back in her seat, the first to admit defeat. She cradled her swollen belly and looked around the room, and at the happy faces of her friends.
"I think I’m gonna miss this place," she said, surprising Buffy. "A little," she added. "It’s got outer space and…aliens…and stuff. It’s kinda cool, don’t you think?"
"She’s got a point, ya know," said Xander, surprising them all. "It’s nice to go back to good old bad old Sunnydale, but… think of all the amazing things we could see and discover here. Home’s gonna feel a bit like the Iron Age after this." He waved a replicated drumstick.
"I just can’t believe we’re finally going back," Buffy said with yearning. "I feel like we’ve been here forever."
"I know," agreed the young witch. "But…It’s gonna be harder to leave than I thought." A smile lit up her face. "But I can’t wait to see Tara."
"She can’t wait to boink
Tara," Anya whispered in Xander’s ear.
Spike swallowed a chunk of rare steak and washed it down with O-negative. "I can’t wait to get the hell out of here. This place is suffocatin’."
"We got the Hell
out of here last week," Buffy reminded them. "It’s time to get the us
out of here."
"Hear, hear," agreed Spike and turned to Will. "You can keep yer spaceships. I’ll take a dank crypt and a graveyard full of uglies over this any day."
Buffy led them in a toast to going home.
"There’s gotta be something
you’re gonna miss about the future," said Will.
"Free stuff," replied Xander through a face full of chocolate cake. "I’m gonna miss all the free stuff."
"Like all the food and clothes…of which I can take none with me," grumbled Anya. "I’m going to miss not being able to go anywhere or do anything whenever I want."
Xander made a double-take. "What? Who needs to go anywhere? Everything you’ll ever need’s right here – games, virtual reality rooms, restaurants. Well… maybe not here but on the bigger ships."
"I miss the smell of fresh air," sighed Giles.
Buffy frowned. "Fresh air smells?"
"And home cooked bacon." Rupert sniffed the air nostalgically. "First thing I shall do in the morning is make bacon butties. You’re all invited for breakfast."
"So Giles’ll celebrate his return by slaughtering a pig," joked the Slayer.
"Sounds like a plan," said Spike. "Fancy bleedin’ it first?"
"I’m fairly certain I’ll opt for the pre-slaughtered variety."
Xander licked his lips and rubbed his hands together in anticipation of more free food. "Bacon butties all round. Good one, Giles." Then he whispered to Buffy; "What’s a butty?"
"…I think it’s like a bun," she whispered back, pointing at her ass cheek. "Buns, butt, butty. It’s a Brit thing. Best not to ask."
"There’s really nothing you’ll miss when we leave?" Willow asked again, astonished at how easily they could shrug this universe away.
Xander picked out a fat jam and cream scone. "I already mentioned all the free stuff."
"People," said Buffy. "I think I’ll miss the future people. I wish folks back home could be so…" She searched for an appropriate adjective.
"Annoyingly prissy?" offered Spike.
"’Cos there’s only so much politeness you can put up with before it becomes down-right offensive," he explained. "I don’t trust people this prim n’ proper. The world’s not like that."
The Slayer shook her head at him.
"That’s our world," said Will. "Not theirs. They’ve evolved."
"Please…" Spike tried not to laugh. "I’ve been around a while, Red, and believe me… People don’t evolve."
Xander could see an argument a-brewin’. "I think I might be over my fear of space," he threw in from left field.
"Really?" Will said with more surprise than Xander would’ve liked.
"…Yeah. Doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to getting back on solid ground, mind. I couldn’t live
out here… But takin’ a vacation, that’s not so bad." He gave Will a big supportive smile. "It is
She smiled back gratefully.
Buffy suddenly groaned. "D’oh. …I think my stomach’s about to go Supernova."
Xander anticipated the shock wave and raised his plate as a shield. "Deflectors on full, Captain."
Soon they were all so full that a serious decision was made. Games were needed to work it off.
It came down to a choice between Xander’s Twister and Willow’s Scrabble.
"Scrabble’s boring," complained Xander. "We need a fun work-out."
Willow gave it some thought. "We could make a Piñata."
"Buff?" asked Xander.
Reluctant to take sides, she eventually came down on the side of Twister.
"How’re we gonna play Twister?" challenged Will. "Somehow I doubt a big plastic mat with coloured circles is gonna be in the replicators here."
Xander pondered on it for a second then snapped his fingers.
He knew what he needed. He thought about asking where he could get the items from the guard outside the door – the human security officer assigned to Spike (because he couldn’t harm humans without sizzling his brain). Then he remembered where they’d got all the yummies.
"Can these machines make other stuff besides food?" he asked Will.
Two minutes later, Buffy, Xander and Willow were on the floor of the mess hall with replicated crayons drawing circles on the deck. While Xander worked with a crayon in each hand making rows of blue and yellow circles, Buffy had the green. He’d avoided giving Willow the yellow crayon. She was creating six perfect red discs in a nice neat row. But she didn’t look too happy.
"I don’t know if we should be colouring the floor in," she said.
"Relax, Will," Xander replied. "You’ve seen how spotless everything is in this place. I’m sure they have something stronger than Mr Clean around here. They’ll get this up in a jiffy."
When they were done they stood and admired their handy work.
Even Willow was impressed. But Buffy spotted a new problem.
"What about the spinny arrow thing?"
Xander’s face dropped.
"The computer can do it," said Will. "Computer – prepare a list of the following options and randomly select from them on command."
The computer chirped and the friendly female voice replied; ‘Please enter your selection list.’
"Selection one – left foot red, selection two – left foot blue…" and she went on until all appendages and colours were covered.
They all started out together, even Giles after some persuasion, as the computer gave them their commands. But the old man was soon out and the witch not long after. It wasn’t easy when they were so dangerously full.
Spike had acted like the game was stupid but it was obvious to all that he was having a blast. Until he collapsed on his back (with a little help from the Slayer). It was his own fault. Whatever order the computer gave him he always managed to wrap himself around her and she gave him a few warnings before slamming him down.
Then it came down to Xander and the Slayer.
It all went well until Xander’s elbow in Buffy’s face sent them crashing to the deck in a heap.
When their allotted time in the mess hall was up, they cleared their plates into the recycling unit and went to spend their last few hours relaxing with the crew. Willow joined Data and Geordi as they finalised their equations, Giles spent some time with Doctor Crusher, Xander and Anya got a room, and Buffy went to see Worf. He introduced her to Klingon bloodwine and talked of his people’s home world.
At 8pm they were called to the bridge.
It was time to jump out of the frying pan and into the Hellmouth.* * *
When they arrived on the bridge, Counsellor Troi, Geordi, Worf, Riker, and the captain were waiting for them. Picard gave them ten minutes to say their goodbyes before Riker took them to the transporter room.
Troi and La Forge offered their farewells as Picard approached Giles. To Willow, it was like the two captains of their respective worlds wishing each other fair sailing.
"All the best to you, Rupert," said the captain.
"And you, Jean-Luc." He shook Picard’s hand. "Goodbye."
Buffy outstretched her hands reluctantly and offered Worf her bat’leth. The sword of Gor’agh. "I guess I have to give this back."
"I am afraid so," Worf acknowledged, accepting the weapon. "However, It will always
be here for you. And you will always be welcome on Kronos. There, the story of the Slayer will be told for centuries." He stepped back. He wasn’t one for long goodbyes, it seemed.
"Cool," she replied, and joined her friends.
Commander Riker stepped across to the exit. The door slid away and he offered the opening to them. "Well, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Let’s get you home."
Looks were exchanged between the Sunnydale posse. For a second it seemed none of them would take the first step. Then, from the back, Spike pushed through with a huff, looked at the Scoobs like they were dysfunctional, and went out the door. The others quickly took his lead and left the Phantom bridge for the last time.
Captain Picard returned to the centre chair. "Have a safe voyage home," he said to them all.* * *
They arrived at the transporter room of the Phantom to find the Irishman there with Doctor Crusher and Data.
"I hope you haven’t lost your touch, Professor," said Riker as he entered.
Miles smiled back at him. "Well, it’s been a while. But don’t worry. Operating a transporter…it’s like riding a bicycle. So I hear," he answered in jest.
Giles approached the doctor, after cleaning his spectacles and returning them to his face.
Crusher sighed. "Well…it’s been the longest three weeks of my life."
"It hasn’t been the worst," he replied with the coy smile of a shy schoolboy.
The doctor’s shoulders dropped a touch and she put her hands to his forearms.
Something passed between them, something unspoken and intimate. It gave the Scoobs cause to wonder what exactly those two had been up to.
"Goodbye, Rupert," Doctor Crusher said finally.
He took one of her hands delicately in both of his. "Beverly."
Spike, altogether bored with the long goodbye, leaned in to Buffy and said softly yet harshly; "All the clothes he could have replicated, and he’s still
"It’s been a heck of a trek," Willow pronounced cutely as she stood before her android friend.
"A heck of a star
trek," Xander threw in.
"I wish we could have known each other better, Data," she admitted.
"Considering the likelihood of our encountering each other being eight thousand four hundred and ninety seven billion to one," Data responded, "I am thankful the opportunity was afforded us to meet at all."
Surprisingly she gave him a hug to which he rather mechanically patted her on the back.
Spike, rolling his eyes, moved onto the transporter pad, more eager than ever to get back to the demon-infested hellhole of Sunnydale.
Riker offered Xander a hand to shake. "I don’t think I’ll ever understand your world. But have a safe journey back to it."
He accepted the outstretched hand with a grateful nod.
The five companions stepped up onto the pad and joined Spike there.
Buffy took one final look at the room. It wasn’t the Enterprise but it bore all the hallmarks of this universe.
An odd chirp sounded at O’Brien’s controls and Data went to investigate.
"That didn’t sound good," whispered Xander.
"There’s still a slight phase variance in the matrix," Miles reported, seeing the concern on their faces. Especially Xander’s. "Oh, it’s nothing to worry about. It’s a one-off transport. If it was a permanent installation then we’d have a problem." They didn’t look any wiser for his explanation. "The device is designed to work independently so the thing kicked up a fuss when we planted it in the chamber there. It doesn’t get on so well with the phase transition coils." They didn’t laugh. "Anyway, let’s get you home."
A moment later, Miles reported ready.
This was it.
Riker turned from O’Brien and regarded them finally. "Perhaps we’ll meet again," he said, and then; "Energise, Mr O’Brien."
Buffy watched the curly-haired Irishman run his fingers across the controls and look up to the platform where they stood. Their eyes met and he gave her a smile. She didn’t have time to return the gesture. For Buffy, Willow, Giles, Spike, Xander and Anya, it was time to leave.
The transporter began to take effect…
…and the world of their star trek adventure disappeared.