The End & The Beginning: The Stranded
The End & The Beginning- The Stranded - 04
Willow remembered the long transport process.
The fizzle of the confinement beam. The brightness that consumed her with its tingly numbness as her body divided into atoms and spread out across the galactic divide. Spinning, falling, churning…
…Then the world reformed…
The six-man Sunnydale Gang rematerialised on the transporter pad of the U.S.S. Phantom.
Xander checked himself over and looked to the others in dazed silence.
"We’re still here," observed Anya.
O’Brien puzzled over his controls looking rather flushed. "Um…I’ll just try that again."
"Yeah. How about without the encore this time," said Spike, turning to the others. "Now you lot know what it bloody feels like," he scoffed. For once it wasn’t just him left stranded.
Miles had stopped his button-pressing. He studied the computer terminal with a look of confusion, bordering on panic.
Riker saw this and moved across to see what the situation was. "Problem, Chief?"
The Scoobs watched in bemusement as the two men mumbled briefly before O’Brien’s look of concern spread to Riker’s bearded face. The pair examined the readouts before them and shared a worrying glance before staring up at the transporter pad where the six foreigners waited tensely.
"Double check this," Riker said to O’Brien. He turned to Buffy and her team. "It seems we’re experiencing some technical issues. If you’ll come with me, please."
Willow, Xander and Anya began hesitantly to step down from the pad.
Buffy didn’t budge. "What’s going on?"
"Just a technical hold-up for the time being," Riker assured her. "We can wait in the mess hall until we’re ready to try again."
At the back, Spike stood firm. "Hey, I’m not goin’ anywhere but back where we came from."
Buffy’s eyes met Riker’s and she saw in him something deadly serious and she knew arguments were pointless. "Spike–"
"There’s nothin’ to talk about here," he carried on. "So get that bloody machine workin’ and put us back!"
"Spike!" she snapped. "Do as he says."
He didn’t like it, but Spike respected her tone. He followed her as Riker led them away again.
Beverly shared a look with a bewildered Giles as the doors closed behind him. She turned to Data who, in turn, turned to Miles.
O’Brien’s face was red and troubled.* * *
A blue shirt and an alien yellow shirt were having a snack when they returned to the mess hall. Riker excused them, then spotted what looked like coloured crayon all over the deck. It wasn’t a stretch to figure who was responsible. He stopped the alien officer – a tall X-Files type creature – and gave him instructions before they left.
"I’ll be back shortly," he said to the Scoobs before the door closed. Spike’s guard was back outside, they noticed.
Xander’s skin was still tingling, which he thought was weird. He’d been teleported once before but under such stressful circumstances he’d barely even noticed at the time. Now he couldn’t even remember what that experience had been like. But he sure as hell remembered that last little ride through the beamer.
"Whoa," he said, rubbing at the numbness in his arms. "Ya didn’t warn me about that
Buffy felt the same sensation. "That wasn’t normal."
"What’s going on?" pressed Anya.
Spike stomped around the room. "I’ll tell ya what’s goin’ on. There’s a mess out there in need of tidyin’ and they’re gonna expect us
to clean it up."
"You mean the rogue Demons?" asked Willow.
"Sure enough. I’ll wager when Captain Potato-head prances in here with talk of ‘technical issues’, that’s when they’ll try and recruit us."
The door opened and the X-Files alien re-entered with a strange hand-held device. He watched them carefully as he knelt on the floor and began removing the crayon marks with a light beam.
Xander was right. No need for Mr Clean in the 24th century.
Giles picked up where Spike had left off; "The last thing we need to listen to right now are your paranoid delusions."
A quiet moment passed.
Anya had taken a seat at one of the tables. "I’m bored of here. I’m ready to go home now
"And so say all of us, okay," Xander assured her. "They just need to fix their machine. That’s all."
The alien finished his janitorial work when Spike went all up in his grill: "Yea, right, like there’s anythin’ even wrong with it."
"Shut up, Spike," commanded the Slayer. "Sit down…stand up…go over there…whatever. Just…shut up." She wasn’t in the mood for him right now. She was worried.
He opted for ‘go over there’ and went to the farthest corner table to scowl and brood vampirically.
They were left there for a long time, it seemed.
It was long enough for Buffy’s calm to become panic and for her panic to turn into
anger. She was even starting to fear that Spike was right about them being held in this world to go Demon hunting for the Starfleets.
And then there was the new alien security man at the door. He’d cleaned the floor then stayed, a gun at his hip. She couldn’t tell from his alien face whether he was nervous or suspicious of them.
"Xander, why is there a guard at the door?" Buffy asked under her breath.
"It’s Spike’s chaperone, remember?"
"That’s the human guard outside," she pointed out. "Why is there another guard now?"
He had no answer. None he liked.
"She’s right," Spike whispered from his corner. "This’s a prison cell. We should make a break now. Willow – you can work a transporter, right?"
"You can fly a soddin’ space shuttle just fine."
"Yeah, that’s basically just a flying car. It’s like a computer game. You’re talking about sending a bunch of us
across dimensions in little pieces. Lives are at stake. I’m not even going there, crazy vampire guy."
"But…if you had
to…?" asked the Slayer.
She hit Buffy with a set of wide eyes, as if to accuse her of being crazy too.
The doors opened finally and the alien guard stepped aside.
Captain Picard entered with Riker and O’Brien. They looked severe.
Buffy shot up before they could open their mouths. "What the hell’s going on? We’re done here. Send us home."
Spike came from the back and the gang drew into an almost offensive huddle.
Picard put his hands out to calm them and sat down at the table. Buffy took a seat.
"I have some… serious news," Picard began. "Some very bad news."
"What kind of bad news?" Xander fired back.
"It’s the machine thing, isn’t it?" said Anya. "It doesn’t work."
Willow sat down beside Buffy. She was shaking. "We can
go home, can’t we?" She latched onto Buffy’s arm for security.
"What kind of bad news?" Xander repeated louder.
"Please." Picard put his hands up again.
Buffy burned holes through his eyes with her own and, forcing calm, she said; "What bad news?"
"I’m afraid… we can’t send you back."
"What?" – from Anya.
"Why the hell not?" – Xander.
"What’d I tell ya!" – Spike.
"Three weeks ago you told us we’d be able to leave," Buffy reminded them. "You’re sending us back now
"Damn right you are!" shot Spike.
Giles slapped a palm down on the metal tabletop and waited for silence. "Let him speak."
The smooth-headed captain shifted uncomfortably. "It’s difficult to explain."
"Try," said Anya.
Picard looked to each of them in condolence. "We can’t send you home because… Because you are already there."
Spike was uncommonly quiet all of a sudden. He’d expected excuses but that hadn’t been one of them.
Xander broke the thick dead air. "Come again?"
"The transport was successful," said Miles. "You made it back."
"We’re still here," Anya pointed out. "If we made it back then why are we here?"
"Like Captain Picard said, it’s not easy to explain."
"You’re trying to tell us we can’t go home," Buffy retorted. "You sure as hell better explain why."
Picard deferred to O’Brien.
The Professor looked like he’d been thrown on the spot but he tried to get the situation across; "Okay… at first the transport seemed to be going fine. Your patterns were strong and entering quantum flux as predicted. Then it seemed like you were breaking up, like you’d hit a wall and were bounced back and scattered. I did what I could to pull the pieces together and figured it was safer to rematerialise you here until we could identify the problem. Only, when I looked, something was off with the phase transition coils…" The six of them gaped at him with wide blank eyes. "Well, we looked into it more closely and… that phase variance in the matrix had an unanticipated effect on the transition coils. The automatic safety system tried to compensate but it caused an emergency feedback cycle… and it overcompensated, causing your patterns to refract off the aperture of the dimensional rift like a mirror splitting a single beam of light in two, creating duplicate patterns. One set went through and materialised on the other side… another set was sent back here."
Silence again, as the gang was struck dumb.
Willow took a moment to translate his words in her head. "There are copies of us?" she asked after a beat.
"Not copies," said Riker. "You
are the same. Just in two places. That’s why we can’t attempt a second transport. You already exist there. Those other versions of yourselves have no idea what happened here." They looked like scared children to his eyes. But, more than anyone, he could sympathise with their plight. "I’m sorry," he offered, "but you’re stuck with us."
Buffy sagged, unable to accept what they were saying. "This is unreal."
Giles removed his glasses and dropped them on the table. "Are you certain?"
"I’m gonna have to run some further checks and diagnostics," said Miles, "but I think it’s pretty cut and dried."
"My mouth is dry," muttered Willow.
Xander got up slowly and drifted across to the food dispenser where he ordered a round of waters.
Picard got up and straightened his uniform. "This is a difficult time, I understand that, but if you could be patient a little longer until we complete our investigation."
"And then what?" said Anya.
Riker gave them a regretful look. "We’ll have a better idea how to proceed once we’ve studied the records." He hoped the bluff would buy them some calm time.
The Starfleet men made their way out, leaving the alien security guard on the inside of the door.
Buffy could feel Willow’s arms tightening like a clamp around hers and, as her eyes passed around the room, they met with Spike’s. His face said it all.
‘I warned you, Slayer,’ his eyes were saying. ‘Happened just like I said.’* * *
The doors to the mess hall came together and Picard stopped in the corridor. He sent Miles off to start the inquiry. Riker held back.
His captain looked deflated. Probably trying to figure out the answer to Anya’s question.
"I think Deanna should talk to them," he offered, "before…"
"Before their anger turns against us?" Picard finished. "Agreed, Number One."
The last thing he wanted to do was allow angst and rage to build in them. Not people with their extraordinary powers. Not when blame would fall on his head. He’d seen what became of their enemies. If he left them in their present state he had no doubt it would lead to something explosive. That was a path much better avoided.
Will pressed his comm badge. "Riker to Troi." There was a pause before she acknowledged. "Counsellor, I think we’re going to need you down here."* * *
Riker met Deanna outside the mess hall a few minutes later.
"How are they?" she asked.
"Calm enough for now. I’m just not sure how long we can keep them that way. You want to talk to them individually?"
"No. I’d like to evaluate them as a group first."
He didn’t envy her one bit. "Good luck."* * *
"How do you feel right now?"
They were sat in the metallic chairs in a circle of six with Spike sequestered in the far corner once again.
Buffy gave the counsellor a nettled squint. "How do you think?" She flapped her arms. "You tell us we can’t go home, you put guards on the door, and you hold us prisoner here!"
"Is that what you think?"
Troi’s calm patronising tone was beginning to grate Xander’s goat. "What are we meant to think?"
Troi didn’t plan on lying. Trust would be everything in this situation. "You all have…well…a tremendous amount of power. Power we don’t understand. Our experiences with other lifeforms – Q being one that stands out – has taught us that powerful beings can be unpredictable. And they can be very dangerous, especially when angered. The captain’s just worried. He wants to protect his crew."
"What’s he think we’re gonna do?" asked Xander.
"We’re not monsters," Buffy attested.
"If you’re lying to us about what happened, that’s when there’ll be a problem," Spike warned.
"You think we might be lying?"
Xander leaned in. "How do we know if all that technobabble crap is true?"
"They wouldn’t lie to us," Giles uttered with remorse.
"That’s right. We wouldn’t."
"That right?" challenged Spike from his corner. "And when beardy face told us you’d know what we’re gonna do after your investigation? You’re tellin’ us that wasn’t a lie?"
"Perhaps he was also worried about what you might do if you lost your restraint?"
Buffy put her hands to her head and forced her hair back in a measured release of stress. "I want to see proof. Proof there are other us’s back home."
"Do you think seeing the computer records will help?"
"I think it’s a start. I need to know for sure. And that it is us and not some evil twins. I wanna know for sure that Dawn and my mom have their Buffy. I need to know the Slayer is there."
Troi saw an opportunity to help them deal with their disbelief and denial. She knew they wouldn’t give up their fight to return home unless they were convinced they had done all that was possible. "I’ll have the diagnostic results brought down for you."
Deanna sensed their relief at that. She didn’t feel there were any hostile intentions to worry about. They were all a lot calmer knowing they could review the transport data. Well…almost all.
She regarded the Vampire as he sat across the room watching her with his cold dead eyes.
She couldn’t read him and it bothered her.* * *
"Is it genuine?" Buffy asked an hour later. The Scoobs were alone. Xander was pacing. Anya was watching his pacing with her pacing eyes. Giles was back at the table where Buffy was hunched over Willow who studied the pocket computer in her hands.
Spike, from his corner, glanced back over his shoulder at the alien guard on the door. His eyes were scanning like a predator.
"I’d say so," Will replied. "I mean, it looks genuine to me. The code here in the files…that’s basically doing the same job as our cryptographic hash functions. If anything was added or removed it’d throw this bitstring-type value all out of balance. Buffy, I’ve never seen security protocols this concrete. I don’t see how they can mess with that."
"Willow. We’re human beings. Your alien speech makes noise in our ears."
"The data here’s secure. It hasn’t been tampered with or forged."
"So our transport patterns did split?" Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"Uh-huh," Willow affirmed.
"So we did go through?" Buffy dropped into her seat.
"And we did get bounced back?" Xander fell into the seat beside Anya.
The Scoobs deflated like popped balloons.
Spike slapped the wall at the truth then leaned against it to steady his rage. "I need a pissin’ smoke."
Xander reached into his pants pocket and threw a wad of replicated money on the table. "Guess this’s no use to us now."
Willow eyed him suspiciously and looked the stack of cash over. "Xander… all these bills are the same."
"Yeah I know. Ten dollars. A whole useless bunch of ‘em."
"I mean the numbers. They’re all identical."
"…Huh." He deflated further into his seat. "Figures."* * *
The Counsellor returned a short while later with Commander Riker and gathered them in the speaking circle once more.
"Okay," Buffy began, "there are copies of us. I mean…other us’s back home…"
Troi was thankful for Willow’s aptitude with computers. It seemed she was able to ease the minds of the others into accepting the reality of the situation. "So, you understand now why we can’t send you there again? If it succeeds, there’ll be two sets of you there. And if it fails again there could be two sets of you there and still one set here."
"Which of us is real?" quizzed Xander.
"Both of you," said Riker. "There’s no difference. The only difference is where you go from here. The other you is doing exactly as you would have done in their shoes. Up until the moment of rematerialisation you were the same people."
It boggled Buffy’s brain. "How can you know that for sure?"
"Something similar happened to me seven years ago," explained Riker. He told them of his transporter accident and about how Thomas Riker had been created. He explained how Tom’s experience had held him back from becoming the kind of man William Riker had become. William became a Commander in Starfleet and Thomas ended up as a captured Maquis traitor.
Troi nodded. "The moral being: don’t let this situation destroy you. Don’t let it keep you from being all you can be."
"Reach for the stars, right?" Xander japed sourly.
"Exactly," agreed Riker. "Only now you can reach for the stars and actually touch them."
The Scoobies huffed and puffed and fidgeted a while as they considered things.
"Where do we go from here?" Buffy asked of Counsellor Troi.
"There are options. Many options. With some basic training and education you can learn to adjust to this time period and you can make fresh starts doing whatever pleases you. You all have unique skills."
"What do you
think we should do?" said Willow with pleading in her voice.
Troi gave it careful thought before giving her a tactful response, "I think… you might want to take some time. Go to Earth – somewhere familiar with less evidence of when and where you are. Just to give yourself time to…meditate. To reflect."
"Starfleet Academy has a summer camp for youngsters at Yosemite," explained Riker. "It’s empty this time of year. It’s peaceful, out of the way. And I know the caretaker." He gave a knowing wink and smile.
"We weren’t allowed to see any of Earth," Anya reminded them. "They locked us up for a week on that mushroom space station after the Demon War."
"Yeah," Xander added. "Apart from when they blindfolded us to take us to that court hearing thing, we were practically in solitary."
"That was when you were expected to leave here," explained Troi. "Once you are acclimatised to this place, you will be free to live your lives in your own way."
"Is that true?" Anya said to Riker.
"Provided you can learn the necessary skills and knowledge to survive here and provided you can play by our rules, then yes, you’ll be free."
A meek harumpf sound came from Xander. "Wooptidoo." * * *
The Phantom still hung in a high stealth orbit around Earth thirty minutes later.
The Scooby Gang was asked to stay in the mess a little longer until Picard returned with a plan of action. It seemed security was still required to keep them there, however, as the brown-skinned big-headed bug-eyed X-Files alien was posted in the room to block the door with a sci-fi pistol at the ready.
The human Scoobs sat in silence.
Ten minutes passed.
Buffy began to notice a growing physical tension in Spike’s body as he remained huddled in his corner. She knew something was way off kilter with the vampire, as he hadn’t said a word since they’d seen the proof of the transporter accident. And then, after thirty minutes, it happened.
Spike examined the alien officer across at the door. His weapon was in its holster and the creature seemed fairly relaxed at this point. He turned to the others to see them lost in their own inner torment. They were distant and vacant.
Spike knew he couldn’t talk to them. They weren’t interested in his plan or anything he had to say. He was on his own.
Thirty minutes had passed.
The guard’s large head angled away from him.
It was time to make his play.
Spike leapt across the dining hall like a bullet train and slammed into the alien guard.
The officer was taken by surprise and left winded. As he went down he managed to hit the badge on his chest and make a garbled sound before Spike tore the pistol from his grip and beat it against the back of his huge skull.
Buffy jumped to her feet. "Spike!"
The guard outside opened the door and Spike was out before Buffy could stop him. The door closed in her face, locked from the outside.* * *
Spike found himself out in the hallway faced with the human guard. He reacted fast, kicking the other man’s weapon away and raising the pistol in his hands. Before he could pull the trigger, his head went off with an explosive shock from the chip in his brain. The guard made a move to tackle him down and Spike dropped his gun and suffered a second agonising lightning bolt as he ran a fist into the man’s nose.
The man dropped in a pile and Spike stumbled on down the passageway.* * *
Agent Hellström of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations patrolled the bridge like the head honcho, overseeing every action, when Ambassador Worf’s security station irrupted with a warning chirp.
Hellström sprang up beside the Klingon. "What’s that?"* * *
In the ship’s cramped and simple readyroom, Picard reviewed O’Brien’s report.
"I’ll have to take the transporter offline to remove the multidimensional device," said Miles. "It’s made a hell of a mess of the coils. That’ll take time to fix." There was a moment of pause. "Sorry, sir," he added regretfully. When Picard returned a frown, Miles clarified; "New ship and all and we’ve already broken it. We’ll do our best to have her up to spec before you hand her back."
"Thank you, Chief," replied the captain. "…Professor."
"As long as I’m on your ship, sir, I’m happy to be chief."
Picard gave him a warm grateful smile.
"Any idea what we’re going to do with them, Captain?"
"With our unwilling guests? Not a damn clue, to be–" Picard’s communicator cheeped.
"Worf to Picard."
"Captain, we have a situation."* * *
The doors sprung open and Riker piled into the mess hall with Worf and security.
Buffy snapped up like a spring. "Spike got out."
"We know," said a perturbed Riker. "He’s heading for the shuttle deck. A security team’s on its way to stop him. What’s he playing at?"
"How would we know?" Xander huffed. "He went off like a raging rocket."
"Imagine a bull in a china shop," said Anya. "With a severe distaste for china."
Buffy came forward. "Wait. If you go in with force you’ll be met with force. Spike doesn’t give up easily."
"If you know a better way, now is the time," said Worf.
"Let me talk to him."* * *
Buffy found him on the shuttle deck trying to rip the door off the shuttle pod.
"Are you out of your mind?"
Spike looked up to see her leaning over the rail of the gangway. "No. But I’m outta here
. Don’t try and stop me."
"And where do you think you’re gonna go?" She made her way down the ladder.
"This is our
year now. Down there it’s the turn of the millennium. Not the soddin’ year three thousand."
"It’s not our world, Spike."
"It’s still a world we understand. With gas-powered cars and toaster ovens."
She shook her head. He just didn’t get it. "But there are other versions of us here too, remember? I work in a boutique. Willow has children with Oz."
"Not me. I’m long dead. I just wanna get back to a normal world where things are like we remember… Where a man can get a bleedin’ cigarette!"
"We all want that, Spike. Except for the cigarette. But it might not be as similar as you think down there. They’ve already had one big genetics war that we didn’t have and, from what I’ve heard, there’s a World War Three due at any minute."
Spike faltered. He knew it wasn’t their Earth but he hadn’t considered the fact that this one might be as alien as the future one. There was something else that he was beginning to realise. His position in the future might be stronger than he’d thought. There were Demons in that future that didn’t even know where they were. A whole medley of monstrosities in need of guidance and Spike, the sole Vampire in all the galaxy. He could be a leader of Demons! He could be the father of an entire race of Vampires! The Grand Sire! He could be…
Ah, who was he kidding? With the chip in his skull he was still no more a danger than a gelded horse.
He looked across at the small spaceship. He didn’t even know how to fly
Buffy came over casually and leaned against the shuttle next to him. She was looking at him strangely. It almost looked like she was smiling faintly.
"You think you’re stronger than me, don’t you?" she said to him.
"No offence, Slayer, but, in a fair fight, I know I could beat you hands down with an arm hacked off," he replied, unsure where she was going with the question.
She did smile at that. "Then… it’ll be interesting to see which of us will be stronger now." Her eyes challenged him. "Who’s gonna give in to defeat first, Spike? You or me? After today, I know I’m stronger than you here." She pointed to her head. "So I’m gonna bet on you being the quitter."
Spike huffed at her defiantly and headed back up the ladders. "If you can hack it here, Slayer, I sure as hell can."
She nodded to herself and followed him up.
Worf was waiting at the top.
"Step aside, Bigfoot," Spike said as he pushed passed him. "And get me a room, I wanna lie down. I’ve been in crypts more comfy than this tub."* * *
Doctor Crusher turned up at the mess hall while the Spike-hunt was on and took Giles to one side.
"Rupert. I just heard about the accident. I’m so sorry. It must be hell for you."
Hell sounded too strong a word to him. He didn’t have ties to much of anything these days. Not even to the Watcher’s Council. The Slayer and her team were his world and they were all here. Xander and Anya had each other.
"I’m more concerned about Willow and Buffy," he said. "They have loved ones at home. People very dear to them who will be greatly missed."
"I know what it’s like," said Beverly, "to be separated from a loved one, from family. I have a son – Wesley. He’s out there somewhere. I have no way to reach him. I don’t know for certain when or if I’ll ever see him again." She looked sad. "You let them know; if they ever need to talk…I’m here."
"I’m sure they’ll appreciate that." He wished he could take her own pain away. He didn’t even know she had a son. "Tell me about him. Wesley."
"Wesley… he is a very special boy." She smiled at the memory of him. "What I should say is young man
. He’ll be almost twenty-seven! He went with a man called The Traveler to explore new realms of existence. Or something like that… I haven’t heard from him in a long time.’
Riker returned moments later with Buffy and Spike.
The Vampire sat down as if nothing particularly interesting had happened. The rest of the gang were eyeballing him. "What?"
"Perhaps we should see the captain now," Giles suggested.* * *
Picard was standing at the centre of the bridge when Riker returned with three of the guests; Giles, Buffy and Willow. He turned expectantly.
"Everything seems to be under control now, sir," Riker reported.
Picard nodded. He faced the three visitors. "I’m sorry, but there is very little more we can do."
They looked to each other for support and Buffy replied; "We understand."
The Captain was relieved beyond measure to hear that. "I think Agent Hellström agrees we’ve outstayed our welcome here."
Hellström didn’t argue as Riker took the helm.
"Take us home, Number One."
La Forge was back at the science station. "Warp field configured. Vortex control ready."
Riker laid in the necessary co-ordinates and piloted them back into the 24th century.
The green vortex energy subsided and the ship settled into its new orbit of Earth. Year: 2376.
"All instruments verify our position," Data reported from Ops.
"Spacedock acknowledges our return," said Troi at the comm.
Temporal Agent Hellström released an audible sigh of relief. The timeline was intact. And so was his career.
He stood and turned to face Buffy.
you do with us now?" she asked.
Picard opened his mouth but Troi broke in; "We’re being hailed by Starfleet HQ."
The Captain faced front. "On screen."
Admiral Pervis, a sixty-something silver-haired human with a dark moustache, appeared on the viewer. He spoke with a soft British accent. "Jean-Luc Picard is that you? Without the Enterprise?"
"It is, Admiral. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting to get a call from head office."
Pervis nodded. "We’ve just picked up an emergency beacon from the Vulcan monastery on Delta Vindi. Sorry to throw you back into work like this with a test ship, Jean-Luc, but the nearest help is seven hours away. You can reach them faster at maximum warp."
Picard felt duty bound to protest; "Admiral, we barely have a skeleton crew onboard and our mission was not entirely successful."
"Understood, Jean-Luc. I accept full liability. Please proceed."
"I’ll have a support ship to you as soon as possible. Fare thee well, Captain."
The screen went blank and Earth returned.
The Scooby trio glanced at each other in concern and Willow looked to the Earth on the viewer. So close…
Hellström began to protest, after all it wouldn’t take long to drop them off, but Picard refused. They had orders. Vulcans were in imminent distress and there was no time to pause.
"Set a course for the Vindi system, Number One – maximum warp. Engage."