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Infinity Box

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Summary: Have you ever stood between two mirrors on opposite walls and wondered what all the rest of the you's were thinking? Twisted response to Challenge 4242(Capt. Willow of the PROMETHEUS) AND 7035(SotL).

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Trek > Other/General
Stargate > General > General: SG-1
HMaxMariusFR15644,4233917421,7342 Jan 1325 May 13Yes

Isn't This The ENTERPRISE's Job?

A/N: Well, here we are again. My original plan was to post this next segment as a single chapter, considering that the whole is north of 20k words and 50 pages before post-beta editing, which makes it longer than the rest of the story posted so far, combined. As a result I have split it into two chapters. Good news is that the raw is done for the follow-on. Bad news is that ReadsaLot is having bear weeks at work, so they only get to beta for me on the weekends. This chapter is now completely beta'd.

My usual rule of thumb for a chapter is that it should tell a story within a story, I believe that I am still successfully doing so, even though I had not originally planned to break this into two parts. Once more, many thanks go to ReadsaLot for putting up with the infernal error machine and for asking the right questions!





Isn't This The ENTERPRISE's Job?

“Jenny, wake up your section. I need a full sweep, maximum range. Until further notice Sensory Department is to remain on Yellow Alert.” Willow turned to Buffy. “I seem to recall from yesterday's interviews that Mr. Mears' was our top candidate to be lead Torpedo Officer. Wake him up and get him down to the forward torpedo room. I want a full spread of Mark XXIII tactical probes at this system's cardinal points as soon as feasible. Also, I need to borrow one of your phaser arrays and Mr. Tejos.”

Buffy nodded and called up her torpedo room officer.

Willow tapped the console at the command chair, connecting to Carlos' quarters. “Captain to Lieutenant Tejos.”

A somewhat sleepy voice answered. “Carlos,” his name stretched out as the speaker inadvertently yawned.

“Lieutenant, something urgent has come up. I need you to convert the ventral engineering phaser array for laser communication work. Commander Kalderash is uploading the specs to the control room. We've been contacted by forces on the ground and need to be able to respond in kind.”

“Aye Ma'am,” Carlos answered, much more awake. “It will take about thirty minutes once I'm on station. I could be set up quicker if I did the ventral saucer array.”

“Good thought Mr. Tejos,” Willow answered. “However, there is the possibility of an incoming attack and I don't want to risk having one of our main phaser banks down.”

“Understood, the ventral array's field can be covered by the main, but not vice-versa.” The young Lieutenant replied as the sound of a replicator activating sounded over the link. “I'll hustle Captain.”

“Thank you. Tell your Uncle I'm sorry to have interrupted your sleep. Rosenberg Out.”

Looking over to her holographic first officer Willow voiced the concern at the back of her head. “Is there something I'm missing?”

James shook his head. “No Captain. The situation is not yet serious enough to warrant a full Red Alert, you've awakened those crew you need to accomplish the current mission objectives. With your limited human resources and the potential for combat in the near future, letting everyone else continue to rest is probably the best option. I do recommend awakening the crew an hour early and conducting combat drills in the morning.”

“Noted. Please add that to tomorrow's duty schedule.”

~~~***~~~

Lazing across the wide seat of his throne on the command deck, Klorel looked down on the four infiltrators, his eyes glowing with an unnatural light and resonant echo modulating his voice. “The shol'va and SG-1. You will make an excellent gift for my father before we conquer your world, O'Neill. Bra'tac, take them to the holding cell until we arrive at the Tauri homeworld.”

The old warrior bowed deeply to his God. “Jaffa KREE!” He said, waving to the prisoner's guards. Gathering up the gear that had been stripped from the intruders he made brief eye contact with the shol'va. A narrowing of the eyes and a subtle nod, not more than the merest twitch, were exchanged between the two as one of the First Prime of Klorel's handpicked guards planted the base of his staff in the prisoner Jaffa's back.

“My Lord, I will take their primitive weapons and secure them for your later pleasure.”

Klorel nodded. “Kree.”

~~~***~~~

George Hammond hung up the phone and glanced at the clock in his office. It was a quarter past one in the morning. He really should be home in bed but there had been problems with converting the lunar ranging laser to carry a communications signal and he had decided to stay in his office at the mountain until they had made their first transmission. The call had been from the team Major Davis had taken to the Academy. The signal had been sent. Now it was time to wait.

Glancing longingly at the door from his office that led via two corridors and an elevator ride, to a bed that he used only very rarely, the General rolled his neck and shoulders. Turning to stare at the half-full mug of coffee on his desk he fought down the heartburn merely thinking about taking another sip brought on.

“Another half-hour then I'll get some sleep,” he muttered. “Better let the night clerk know.”

~~~***~~~

Halfway to Lunar orbit another commander was considering her own bed with similar longing. Willow Rosenberg's day had begun with an early morning meeting at the school library to talk about the effects of the spell Ethan Rayne, chaos mage extraordinaire, had cast on those who got their Halloween costumes from his shop. Finding that her best friend's mom and the computer science teacher she viewed as a mentor were both missing in the aftermath had scared her far more than she had let on.

Finding out though that her memories of being a starship captain were very possibly real in an alternate universe and that one of the side effects of the chaos spell had been the creation of the very starship her alter-ego had commanded was almost more than she could handle. Like most teenagers, she was normally a bit of a night-owl, but tonight, almost as soon as she'd seen Buffy, Giles and the security team off, she had retired to her quarters and crashed into a dreamless sleep... at least until being rousted by the Yellow Alert.

Now she was sitting behind her desk in her ready-room. She had retreated there to avoid the impression that she was hovering over her people, much as she would have preferred to be looking over their shoulders, merely to satisfy her own curiosity about how things on the ship were done. But the part of her with ten years command experience put a very quick kibosh on that idea.

“Willow, the forward torpedo room reports ready to launch probes.” Buffy's disembodied voice drifted from the speaker in her desk.

Standing, Willow Rosenberg, Starship Captain reached out, touching the control that opened the return channel. “Acknowledged.” Stepping around her desk she paused by the mirror that hung right of the door, straightened her jacket, blinked and stretched her eyes to make sure she looked awake then marched onto her Bridge.

“Status?” she asked.

Commander McNally stood up from the Captain's chair. “Forward torpedo bay has loaded the probe drum in the launcher. Destination coordinates are laid in. We are ready to launch, Captain.”

“Very good.” Willow took a seat in her chair, crossing her legs and settling back against the rest. “Display dispersion pattern on main screen.”

A graphic overlay of the Sol System appeared on the viewer at the front of the Bridge. Each of the probes numbered indicating its firing sequence.

“Xander, are you ready for firing point maneuvers?”

Her best friend glanced down at his console then over his shoulder at her and nodded, a somewhat wild smile shining in his eyes. “Yes Ma'am.”

Willow looked up at her other best friend's dim reflection in the main screen. “Buffy, you ready?”

“I am.”

Tapping the control that connected her to the communications system she paged engineering. “Joyce, Xander's about to maneuver the ship to fire a spread of probes. Thrusters only, but this is a first time for us, so expect the unexpected.”

“Spanish Inquisition,” Joyce answered.

Behind her, Willow heard Jenny's chuckled “No one expects that,” followed closely by Giles' very loud groan.

“Very well then. Mr. Harris, firing position one please.”

“Aye, aye.” Gleefully grinning, Xander's hands danced across his console as he manually controlled the movement. Willow stifled the urge to order him to use the pre-programmed automatic sequences. There might come a time when having such skill would be necessary and she would not begrudge him any safe opportunity to exercise it. Under his commands, the ship began a mildly ungainly pivot about its axes until it was pointing roughly forty-five degrees upward, outward and spinward to the ecliptic. Another dance of his fingers brought the movement to a ponderous stop. “Position one, Captain.”

“Commander Summers, probes one through three please.” Willow fought down the urge to turn in her seat and look at her friend.

“Launching,” Buffy replied.

On the big screen, three green stars appeared, one after the other. Each accelerating on a curving trajectory to their destination one light month out from the system. As soon as the three probes had jumped to warp she initiated the next sequence.

“Mr. Harris.”

“Firing position two, aye.” Once more his hands danced across the console. This time rotating the ship through 180 degrees so that it was now pointing downward, inward and anti-spinward. Somewhat more crisply the ship swung to a stop on its new bearing.

“Four through six please, Ms. Summers.”

Beeps from the station behind her head told Willow that Buffy was carrying out the order. “Probes away, Captain.”

Once more the tactical probes' screen markers arched gracefully away from the ship, flashing into warp. Within the hour all six probes would be in position. Already, data streaming back from them was improving the ship's sensory picture of the Sol System. One probe sweeping by Jupiter flagged a powered down and possibly abandoned vessel there. Another passed relatively close by the Pioneer 10 probe, sending a detailed scan of that a hearty wanderer back to the ship.

“Buffy, copy Jenny's department on the take from the probes,” Willow stated thoughtfully. “It will be interesting to compare live data with the ship's archive data for the Sol System.”

“Affirmative,” Buffy answered.

“Congratulate Lieutenant Mears on a job well done and tell him he's free to rack out as soon as the torpedo room is secure.”

“On it.”

“Xander, please return the ship to a standard orbital bearing.”

~~~***~~~

Walter bustled through the door to the General's office. At nearly 2am he was expecting to find the General dozing behind his desk, not siting there staring at reports. Pulling up short he snapped to attention. “Sorry Sir! I didn't realize you were still up or I'd have knocked, Sir. SPACECOM Tracking upstairs just called in a report. The bogey executed a sequence of maneuvers and fired off a series of six shots.”

The General immediately shook himself out of his somnolence. “Impact points?”

“None Sir,” the clerk answered. “All shots were fired outward on different trajectories taking them towards the edges of the solar system.”

George nodded. “Call Major Davis at the Academy. Tell him that it looks like our message got through.”

~~~***~~~

Paul Davis looked at the jury rigged communications equipment attached to the Air Force Academy's Lunar Ranging Laser. According to the phone call he had just received from the SGC, about a half hour after he activated the laser to transmit General Hammond's recorded message, the ship had maneuvered and performed a series of launches.

His contemplation of what the next move might be was interrupted by a sudden hum from the speakers that had been attached to a wide area laser receiver that had been assembled on the roof of the astronomy building.

“This is Captain Willow Rosenberg of the Starship PROMETHEUS calling United States Air Force General George Hammond.” A young, female voice came out of the static.

Major Davis had spent the last two years working hard behind the scenes on the Stargate project. He had met aliens. He had learned to use several alien devices and could even read a little bit in the more common alien languages encountered so far. Yet at this moment, his throat was dryer than the summer Sahara. Hands shaking he reached out and flipped the switch that disconnected the recorded message from the laser.

Picking up the microphone attached to the transmitter he thumbed the button on its side. “This is Major Paul Davis speaking for the General. On behalf of the people of Earth, thank you for responding.” He had the sudden thought that the second sentence sounded a heck of a lot better in his head before he said it out loud.

“You mentioned an imminent threat of an extra-planetary nature,” Captain Rosenberg replied. “We felt it would be in our mutual interest to attempt to understand the nature of said threat and how you are aware of it in light of your limited, publicly acknowledged extra-planetary capabilities.”

“We are indeed faced with such a threat, however explanations of the threat's nature and how it came about would best be broached in a face to face forum.”

“We agree. To facilitate communications we are transporting you a secure comm-station. Please place this device in the appropriate location for our meetings.”

A white light accompanied by a high-pitched whine formed behind him. Turning he watched a briefcase sized box appear.

The hum of the laser receiver cut out as the box chirped once. “This device is a subspace communication station.” The woman's voice was much clearer through the machine. “We can talk securely via its systems over a distance of several tens of light years. It will also allow us to localize a safe area for human transport. We are currently operating on what you would call Pacific Standard Time, what would be a good time for us to meet?”

Paul nodded at the mention of Pacific Time. If these people really were from a Star Trek universe, that would make sense. After-all, Starfleet Headquarters and the Starfleet Academy were both in San Francisco. “I would need to consult the General before scheduling a face to face meeting. As it is late for both of us, might I suggest we contact you at 7am Pacific Time to finalize those arrangements?”

“That would be acceptable,” the voice answered. “So you are aware, upon receipt of your signal we launched a spread of tactical probes to this system's cardinal points. At this time we are not detecting any incoming vessels, however our probes have not yet reached their operational positions. We will continue to monitor the situation and contact you via this device should things change.”

“Thank you Captain,” the Major replied. “I look forward to speaking with you in the morning.”

“I too Major. Rosenberg out.”

~~~***~~~

“Holodecks look to be very busy today Commander,” Willow commented as she initialed the day's schedule on a personal access display device, or PADD as they were more colloquially known.

Her holographic executive officer nodded. “It seemed easiest for the training scenarios we're running. The holodeck provides the total immersion environment that would be lacking if we conducted the training at the duty stations.”

Reaching out, she laid a hand on his forearm. “Thank you. Thank you for accepting us and for accepting the challenge of molding us into a crew that Starfleet would be proud of.”

Raising his right hand he lay it atop hers and nodding before stepping back and returning to his station on the Bridge. Willow smiled as he stepped away, recognizing the acknowledgment in his non-verbal response and remembering that the program for the ECH had been heavily re-written by her counterpart.

“The other me did good work,” she whispered.

“Captain?” Kit turned from her station.

Willow walked over to the station and perched on the half-rail beside it. “Yes Lieutenant?”

“I've been considering our crew shortage issue in the event we take damage during combat,” the young officer shrugged. “Commander Kalderash is streamlining the coding and algorithms for the holocrewmen to reduce the necessary computing power, but that doesn't address one of our biggest problems.”

Nodding, Willow gestured for the younger girl to continue.

“Well,” Kit continued. “While the ship is fully holo-enabled, there are still areas where holographic crew cannot reach, inside some of the junction boxes in particular. Not to mention if the emitters were to be damaged as well.”

“Yes?” the Captain nodded. “You have a possible solution?”

Kit ducked her head, mildly embarrassed. “I know we don't have access to the VOYAGER Doctor's mobile emitter, however I believe it to be possible to mount a standard emitter to a transporter amplifier in place of the pattern enhancer. Holographic crew could carry it into a damaged area or position it to allow access to more restricted spaces. Some tweaks to the power relays would enable it to operate off the grid for a couple hours between charges.”

Willow beamed. “Great idea! Tell Commander McNally that your idea has my approval and ask if he would assign an engineering hologram to assist you in prototyping and getting it tested ASAP.”

The return smile from the young OPS officer was nearly blinding.

~~~***~~~

'What is wrong Petite?'

Jenny grimaced. She had been trying very hard to bury her discomfort and hide it from her symbiont. 'I'm sorry Rash. It's just that, well. I'm not human anymore and this is the first time I will be dealing with humans who are not part of this crew.'

'I see. Perhaps we should ask the Captain to excuse us from the mission?'

'NO!' Jenny froze in her thoughts and her steps. 'Willow needs us.'

She could almost feel Kalderash's contemplation as he considered the mission. 'I am certain that Ambassador Giles and Chief Engineer Summers will suffice to reinforce Captain Rosenberg's position.'

'Perhaps,' Jenny replied. 'But staying here won't help me get over my fears now, will it?'

A fluttering began below her diaphragm and in the back of her skull she could hear her partner begin chuckling. 'Now there's my Janna. And yes, I do know that you are not her, even though in your heart and your soul you really are.'

'Now you're trying to sound like my uncle Enyos.'

'Your uncle is not joined to the most beautiful woman on this ship.'

Jenny was still blushing at his comment when she rounded through the transporter room door. Nodding to both Commanders Summers, and boy was that going to get confusing, she slid up alongside of Rupert. “Willow?”

“On the Bridge,” Buffy replied. “Making sure the General is prepared for our arrival.”

The Trill looked sharply at the phaser the Security Chief was holding out to her. It was identical to the one hanging off of Buffy's right hip. In fact, only Giles did not appear to be armed.

“Standard away team kit Ms. Calendar. If I were expecting trouble we'd be in tactical vests with personal force shields and carrying phaser rifles.”

Over Buffy's shoulder Joyce nodded and gestured that Jenny should take the weapon. Taking the holster the science officer held it to the waist of her uniform where the special bonding nanites held it in position.

“We don't have personal force shields,” Jenny pointed out.

Buffy snapped her fingers. “I knew there was a reason Starfleet recruited scientists!” The security chief's smile contained more than a hint of the slayer among the mirth.

“Commander Summers, could you take a look at this reading?” One of the human crewmen waved Joyce over to where he was shadowing the holocrewman on the controls.

“I so need to change my name,” Buffy groused to her watcher and his girlfriend.

“Jenny?” Joyce waved for her to come to the console.

Curious, Giles and Buffy followed along.

~~~***~~~

General George Hammond glanced at Major Paul Davis then at the clock on the wall of the SGC's main briefing room. In the center of the polished table, the communications device their visitors had provided hummed to life again.

“General we're ready up here.”

The General made eye contact with the third man in the room, the head of SG-2, who nodded in return. For a moment, he wished that Colonel O'Neill and his team were the ones present at the table. Then again, if that were the case this meeting might not be taking place. Reaching out he pressed the control marked transmit on the box.

“As are we Captain Rosenberg,” he answered.

“Energize.” Her voice came again over the open frequency, followed swiftly by a whine and a growing white light centered on the empty space between the table and the staircase leading down to the control room.

As the light faded, five figures resolved themselves out of the glow, three adults and two teenagers. Four females wearing the various colors of Starfleet uniforms that were recognizable from the television series and one adult male, clearly wearing civilian attire. The red-haired teen with four pips on her steel gray collar and wearing the slightly more formal appearing red uniform jacket stepped forward.

“General Hammond, it is a pleasure to meet you in person. I am Willow Rosenberg, Captain of the Starship PROMETHEUS.” Stepping around the table she held out her hand to shake his in greeting.

Mildly taken aback by the obvious youth of Captain Rosenberg and one of her companions, George hesitated a moment before stepping forward to take her hand. “Welcome to the SGC Captain. If I may introduce those present, the gentleman in the blue uniform is Major Davis, our Pentagon Liaison, and this is Major Feretti, head of SG-2.”

Willow nodded to each man in turn. “It is a pleasure to meet you. General, if I may in return present Commander Buffy Summers, my Chief of Security and Tactical Officer.” The younger, short blonde nodded.

“Her mother, Commander Joyce Summers. The PROMETHEUS' Chief Engineer.” Joyce beamed a smile at the General.

“Commander Jenny Kalderash, my Chief Science Officer and a joined Trill.” The dark-haired woman in the blue and black uniform raised her right hand in a casual and somewhat self-conscious wave.

“Finally, allow me to present Ambassador Rupert Giles.” The civilian gentleman nodded formally presenting a stoic presence while simultaneously giving off a vibe that made the General think he might be looking at Dr. Jackson in ten or fifteen years. Stepping forward, he too reached out and shook the General's hand.

His eyes, sweeping each of the visitors, paused briefly to focus on the weapons and other equipment at their waists. In doing so, he noticed that Captain Rosenberg was making a similar visual interrogation of his companions.

With a smile she nodded, indicating a small side table by the wall with the covered windows. “Buffy?”

George saw the blonde's eyes go momentarily rebellious before she too completed a sweep of the room. “Aye Captain,” she replied and proceeded to collect each officer's sidearm, still in its holster, and place it on the table.

The young Captain smiled. “Friendships and alliances both begin with trust, General.”

Clearly the young woman had the respect of her elders and she was swiftly proving it justified and earning his own. Diplomacy was a subtle art where often how one presented themselves and what one did in the presence of the other side said as much or more than the actual words each side espoused. The last year had given the General a crash course in the many things varied cultures both had in common and also the ways in which they were vastly different. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of such things had already derailed several potential alliances.

The message Captain Rosenberg was sending by her obvious plan of coming armed and voluntarily surrendering her team's weapons spoke of a strategic mindset that was almost as valuable a resource as the ship she commanded. Someone less mature might have kept their arms as a crutch against their fear of an unknown situation. Someone less sure of their ability to control the situation through diplomacy might not have brought them at all out of fear of offending. Her choice made it clear that she would do what was necessary to protect her people and should not be trifled with while also showing that she was willing to be open with those she was treating. Finally, she reinforced to himself and the two Majors that she was in command by having a subordinate handle the collection and disposition of the phasers.

A smile formed on his own face as he gestured to the seats about the table. “Indeed they do, Ma'am.”

Willow moved smoothly to the seat at the foot of the table opposite the General's, her staff flanking out to either side of her, Giles then Jenny to her right and Buffy then Joyce to her left.

“Cards on the table then,” Willow stated. “Who we are and how we came to be here are less important than the following facts. One, my crew and I consider Earth to be our home, no matter what dimension we may happen to be in. And two, the process that brought us here was such that it is impossible for us to return to the lives we remember. We are in this reality to stay.”

“That sounds like it would be a rather heavy burden,” Hammond spoke from the experience of such weight.

“It can be,” the Captain dipped her head. “Once you have heard our full story, you may have a different opinion. In the meantime, you have mentioned that this Earth is under threat from extra-terrestrial forces. I'm not sure if you're aware, but we have information from a more advanced Earth timeline. Our records show no indication of any extra-planetary threats for the late twentieth or early twenty-first centuries.”

Hammond's cheeks began to color and he cleared his throat. “Ah, we're, ah... We sort of assumed that. We have a series of entertainment fictions, ah TV shows. They're called Star Trek. Your ship and your uniforms could be lifted directly from some of the later episodes.”

The two younger women grinned at each other while the older two began to chuckle. Only the man remained impassive, though he did remove his glasses and begin to polish them.

“Oh, we understand, Sir,” the Captain replied. “Perhaps we could start with how you acquired this threat?”

The General glanced to the officer in the blue uniform and nodded. Shifting some in his seat, Major Davis turned to the PROMETHEUS contingent. “What do you know about wormholes?”

Willow inclined her head to Jenny, indicating that she should take the lead. “Well, the only known stable wormhole in Federation space is the one near Bajor that connects to the Gamma Quadrant.”

The Major cleared his throat. “Allow me to rephrase the question. What do you know about artificial wormholes?”

The science officer's face took on a blank mask for a moment as she and her symbiont held a quick conversation. “Ah. There has been some theoretical work done on the concept but the energy focusing requirements to create one far exceed even the demands of creating warp fields for faster than light travel by ship. So far, Federation science has yet to find any material that will serve as a stable conductor. There has been some applied work attempting to mix powdered dilithium with a metallic substrate that shows some promise...”

Giles reached out and took her hand as the eyes of the two junior officers at the far end began to glaze over.

Shaking his head as the Science Officer's voice came to an abrupt stop, Davis continued. “I see. There do appear to be significant differences between our realities, then. We have discovered that there is a galaxy spanning network of wormhole portals that appears to have been put into place no less than several tens of thousands and possibly up to millions of years ago. This network, utilizing devices we call stargates, enables travel to and from any world that has such a gate.”

Clearing his throat, General Hammond picked up the briefing. “Roughly seventy years ago, an archaeological dig on the Giza Plateau in Egypt uncovered one of these devices. Two years ago we figured out how to make it work. Major Feretti was part of the first team to step through to a world called Abydos.”

A brilliant smile lit on Willow's face. “We humans are nothing if not explorers.”

The men opposite her each smiled in return as Feretti took his turn. “As I am sure you are aware, walking into the unknown is fraught with dangers. Our team made contact with the residents of that world. Humans who had been removed from Earth over ten thousand years ago to be slaves to beings presenting themselves most notably as the gods of the Egyptian pantheon.

“While we were there, the alien known as Ra arrived to collect the stockpiled mineral the people of Abydos had been mining. When he discovered our presence among them he attacked us and we barely managed to escape with our lives. In the process, Ra was killed.”

General Hammond cleared his throat. “After that, the people running the program decided that further use of the gate presented too many potential risks and shut the program down. Unfortunately, just over a year ago, forces belonging to Apophis, one of the other so-called System Lords, made a foray through our gate, kidnapping several airmen from this base. In response, we reactivated the program for the purpose of finding ways to defend ourselves against further incursions.

“We now have solid intelligence from off world that Apophis is planning to make a ship-based move against this world. Something we are ill-equipped to counter. My prime team is currently out there attempting to forestall or divert the attack, and while SG-1 can and has worked miracles in this past year, I fear our luck is beginning to run short.”

Willow looked to the friends who had accompanied her. Long discussions had been held aboard ship about what to tell these people. Discussions that had run the gamut from total distrust to total exposure. One key thing Willow knew was that in time, she would need a fully capable crew for her ship. A crew that was made up of some of the best and the brightest the world could offer. The glimmerings of an idea for acquiring them began in the back of her mind but it would mean total exposure of their current weakness to these people.

But that was not something she was prepared to do in a place where those words might be recorded and used against her or her friends. General Hammond seemed pleasant enough, nothing like the tough as nails officers portrayed in old movies, but still, he was part of a chain of command and part of her knew exactly what sort of pressures could be applied to a serving officer.

“General,” she stood. “I do believe that we can help each other. However, I feel that further conversations would best be served by being held aboard the PROMETHEUS. Would you gentlemen be inclined to a brief tour and lunch aboard before we continue?”

“Before we leave,” Jenny interrupted, nearly bouncing in her seat. “We had to adjust our transporter due to an unusual energy signature that was emanating from this base. Am I correct in assuming you have one of these stargates here? And might I see it?”

“Certainly,” George chuckled as he walked to the closed windows and pushed the button to open the shutters.

Slipping her tricorder from its holster, the Science Officer's fingers began dancing across the screen. “I can't believe these readings. What is it made of?”

Major Davis stepped over and looked at the device she was using. “The gate is constructed from a metallic refinement of a mineral we call naquadah.”

“Naquadah eh?” Jenny mused. “Remember when I said Federation science was attempting to create a conductor from powdered dilithium and a metallic substrate? Well this is exactly what those scientist were attempting to achieve. This stuff registers as metallic dilithium instead of the crystalline dilithium we use in our matter/antimatter reactors. Do you think I could get a small sample for testing?”

~~~***~~~

“Computer, analyze the item currently in the replicator tray.” Andrew grinned as he looked over at his best friend.

“Item is a plastic and metal construct resembling a prop energy sword hilt from the twentieth-century entertainment identified as Star Wars.”

“Computer compare current item against said item as it was patterned when Jonathan was transported aboard two nights ago,” Andrew instructed.

“The item patterned two nights ago is not identical. Patterned item appears to be made of a metallic alloy enclosing a powerful energy storage source as well as force field emitters, a lasing chamber and a large, multifaceted gemstone.”

Andrew turned a triumphant smile to the other young man. “Computer, please produce the device you just described.”

“Unable to comply. System analysis identifies said item as an energy weapon. Approval for replication must be made by the Chief Security Officer and the Captain.”

“Damn!” Andrew slammed his fist on the table.

Jonathan was somewhat more optimistic. “Hey, at least the computer believes that it will work. We just need to get Buffy and Willow to sign off on it.”

~~~***~~~

The ship tour followed by lunch in the Captain's Mess had been a great success. Giles and Buffy continued to accompany her on the tour while Jenny immediately disappeared with her naquadah ore sample. Joyce stayed with them to the start of the tour in Engineering, Willow had taken the General and his staff on the standard Admiral's Inspection, allowing him to take in what he understood and answering any questions he posed in a manner that his training and education allowed him to understand. She could tell that the extensive use of holotechnology on the ship intrigued him. Holographic crewmen and the entertainment/training holodecks got nods of appreciation, but it was their stop on deck 7 after the lunch that obviously excited him.

Gesturing for the party to pass through the open door they stepped out onto a second level walkway that wrapped most of the way around the open space they were in. Twenty open consoles lined the walkway, each overlooking the void. “Gentlemen, as you noted on the sign outside, this is our Flag Operations room. The OMEGA class vessels are designed as true fleet flagships with quarters and office space for an Admiral and their command staff to operate.”

Turning to the open space Willow addressed the ship. “Computer, real time tactical representation. Immediate vicinity.”

“Acknowledged.”

The open space resolved into a holographic representation of the Earth-Moon system with the PROMETHEUS centered in the space.

“The use of tactical probes like the six we launched after receiving your message gives us the ability to create a complete picture of a designated operational area, including objects that may be out of sight behind larger bodies. Similarly, sensor data from other ships, stations and planetary facilities operating in concert with us will be fed into the processing matrix for inclusion as well. Computer, mark all objects within two hundred thousand kilometers that are larger than fifty meters in length with speed and vectors.”

“Acknowledged.”

Several objects projected about the room began to flash and lines emanated from them indicating their direction of motion with speeds marked as a percentage of lightspeed. Recognizing one of the objects coming around the limb of the Earth, the Captain walked to the nearest console. “Computer, assign object fifty-one to this station and designate Mir.”

“Object designated Mir has been assigned.”

As the General and Majors moved closer Willow's fingers danced across the controls, in the space directly in front a three-dimensional representation of the Mir Space Station appeared, surrounded by data boxes displaying a broad variety of information. “As you can see, we have the ability to monitor many different things merely from our own sensory capability. Life support status, life-forms, energy consumption. If this were another starship or one of our daughter craft, then there would be a constant data-stream updating this console with the ship's status and mission effectiveness. A trained operator can monitor multiple ships from this station, providing that information to the Flag Officer's staff and relaying any orders from said officer back to those ships. There is a second rank of stations on the level directly below this one as well as floor level access to the tank. Effective use of these consoles in combination with the God's eye view provided by the holotank means an OMEGA class starship is capable of controlling a battle sphere at ranges over ten light years in radius.”

A low whistle broke loose from the leader of SG-2. “It's the ultimate AWACS.”

“How robust are your communications?” the General asked.

“To date, no outside power has managed to jam any OMEGA, nor have they been able to break our jamming. My...” Willow paused for a moment, “ah, former Communications Officer was rather fond of using late twentieth century hard rock music on the jamming frequencies. I heard that the Klingons always liked teaming up with us because of that. He claimed they would send him requests during combat, got to where he could predict their actions by what they asked for.

Willow began to chuckle. “If a Klingon Captain asks for any Twisted Sister, clear the area.”

George cocked an eyebrow at her and the chuckle turned to an open laugh.

“When a Klingon is not going to take it anymore, then things are about to get really ugly.”

~~~***~~~

The tour concluded with a visit to the Bridge, a somewhat anticlimactic stop in light of their visit to Flag Ops and the Bridge's similarity to that of the ENTERPRISE-D. After a walk-through of the stations and their responsibilities and another round of shock at the youth of the OPS Officer, in spite of her obvious competence, the General used the communications station to check in with the base. Willow then led the three SGC officers into the main briefing room where they were joined by the crew members who had been with them Earthside.

Taking their seats after admiring the broad mural of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and presenting it to man, Willow reconvened their meeting. “General, as we have said, Earth is our home and we are very happy to help you defend it. Having said that, you perhaps noticed that much of the ship is currently unoccupied.”

Hammond nodded. He had been wondering about that particular aspect.

“The anomaly that resulted in our being here occurred while much of the crew was absent, leaving me extremely short staffed for a vessel of this classification. Shortly after our arrival we took quantum signature scans that proved to us that we are not in the dimension of our memories. The important part is that both we and this ship share the same quantum signature as this universe.”

“So you're saying that whatever brought you here has made you native to this dimension,” George stated. “How does this prevent you from returning to your home dimension?”

Jenny sat up in her seat, placing her arms upon the table, hands opened upward. “General, for all intents and purposes, this is our home dimension. Several years ago there were a series of incidents involving parallel dimensional transference. Because of these incidents, the Federation committed resources to exploring the potential of interacting with alternate dimensions on a formal basis. Unfortunately, we discovered that while information may be freely traded across dimensional boundaries, the quantum signatures prevent any long-term trade, visitation or emigration. Basically, a non-native quantum signature will be erased by that native to a particular dimension, with devastating results for any material bearing said invading signature. Accelerated entropy means that within six months, living organisms will die. This breakdown is reduced to days if said organism already exists natively in that dimension. Metals, crystals and other non-organics dissolve within two to four years.”

“Basically General,” Willow continued, “I had originally considered quietly recruiting people globally to fill out a basic crew and then begin exploring this galaxy with the intent of returning in several years to open the door to the stars for all humanity. Now I find that not only is that door open, but that there are threats out there that could swing in behind us and destroy that which we hold most dear.

“I have to admit, there is a part of me that is greatly disappointed to discover this. To find that a single nation's actions have placed the world at large at extreme risk is disturbing on a fundamental level.”

All three Air Force officers flinched. “Captain...” Feretti began to interrupt but stopped as Willow held up her hand.

“I, however, cannot judge you. Even in the very best of circumstances First Contact situations can blow up in the face of both parties. It shows courage that you stand and take responsibility for how things have played out. For the record, Earth's first contact with the Klingon Empire was an uncategorical disaster that resulted in enmity and a war that was waged off and on for nearly a century. Somehow I cannot view this situation as being any worse than that one.”

“Thank you Captain,” Major Davis spoke.

“I will be up front with you,” the Captain leaned forward on the table, her stare penetrating into each of the SGC officers. “We are not and will not be a pure military asset for any one nation on Earth. I will stand with you to defend this world. I will work with you to ensure its safety. What I will not be is a club to keep the Russians, Chinese, Bahamians, or anyone else in line.”

Standing, Willow walked to the window looking aft out over the hull of the ship and into the depths of space. From her position she could see the moon off to her left and just barely see the Earth over the ship's hull to her right. “In the early days of Starfleet, before the founding of the Federation our ships bore the moniker U-E-S, which stood for United Earth Starship. From today forward we will be that again General. This is the United Earth Starship PROMETHEUS. Her crew will be global. Her mission will be to serve this world in defense, exploration and humanitarian crises. We may not be able to call the United Federation of Planets Home, but those ideals live within each of us. We will not abandon them.”

~~~***~~~

Willow stood by the replicator, having retrieved a mug of thick, creamy hot chocolate. Feretti's quip of 'Where do I sign up?' had broken the tension in the briefing room and the discussion had soon gotten down to brass tacks. Details of the variety of missions possible to defend Earth had defined what kind of staffing needs were critical for the PROMETHEUS. The meeting participants had morphed as Giles and Major Davis had adjourned to the Captain's ready room to discuss the framework on which a more long-term agreement could be worked out while Lieutenant Commander Harris had joined the discussion regarding known and suspected Goa'uld capabilities and how to counter them.

Xander's sudden groan drew her attention. “If only I had more pilots.”

This garnered a strange look from the General and Willow simultaneously. “How so?” she asked.

“The Mark XVIII-Ps. We have twenty-four of them,” Xander replied. “I only have four rated helmsmen aboard though.”

“What's a Mark Eighteen P?” Feretti asked.

“Something my former Chief Engineer developed.” Willow turned and approached the table, setting her mug beside a stack of PADDs near her seat. “He took a Mark XVIII Photon Torpedo, grafted a pair of pulse phasers to the bow, and installed a remote guidance package. Basically it is a drone fighter, we put the pilots on one of the holodecks and they fly as if they're in the torpedoes. The system can be used as a torpedo guidance package to defeat complex defenses or flown as a point defense fighter against small craft.”

“How hard is it to fly?” Feretti mused.

“The hard part would be learning the control interface.” Xander answered.

“You say that the pilots work from the holodeck,” Feretti continued. “What if we gave the pilots something they were familiar with?”

The helmsman's eyes narrowed. “How so?”

“Computer,” the Major looked to the ceiling. “Do you have the specs to create an F-16 cockpit on the holodeck?”

“Affirmative. Please designate particular model.”

Feretti turned to his superior. “General, do you think we could get the Groom Lake flight test squadron?”

George thought a moment then nodded. “I'd better grab the Groom Lake AWACs crews as well. We can give them a crash course in using the consoles in Flag Ops. That will give the pilots combat air controllers to work with.”

Feretti grinned at the young man in the red uniform. “Computer, make it the F-16 C model.”

“Acknowledged. The F-16 C Model is an available template.”

The Major and the Lieutenant Commander both looked at each other, grinning like loons. “Captain?” Xander queried.

“Go!” Willow answered. “Before I regret letting you near the holodeck again.”

~~~***~~~

“So we're agreed then,” the General said, swallowing the Captain's delicate hand in his bear-like paw. “SG-2, SG-3 and SG-5 will assist to reinforce your ship-board security. I'll have them prepared for transport within the hour.”

Willow nodded as she recovered her hand. “We'll equip them with phasers for their on-board duties, I'm not really fond of patching bullet holes in my ship. However, should it be necessary to execute a boarding action, they should carry a full kit of what they're familiar with using. We can secure their gear in the armory closest to the transporter room.”

“I'll get the ball rolling with the pilots and controllers and be in touch about timing for their availability,” Hammond continued.

Willow handed him a comm badge. “Just tap it and state your name and it will be keyed to you in our systems. If you need us to transport you there, just tap it and ask for us.” She proceeded to hand badges to Feretti and Davis as well.

Leading Major Feretti, General Hammond stepped on the transporter platform. “If necessary, I will do that Captain. Should duty permit, I would like to ask your permission to be aboard for the confrontation.”

Willow stiffened to attention. “General, you are putting your people's lives on the line alongside my own. When the time comes, it would be my honor to fly your flag.”

The Pentagon Liaison turned to shake the Giles' hand. “Ambassador, I shall be briefing the President later this evening. I will provide him with the outlines of our discussion as well as my endorsement that these negotiations go forward once the current crisis has been averted.”

With near Vulcan stoicism, the older man gave a brief bow. “I look forward to working with whomever he designates in order to achieve an equitable arrangement.”

~~~***~~~

Captain Cameron Mitchell was on pins and needles lounging in the empty hangar with the rest of the Groom Lake test pilots. Three weeks ago he had been patrolling the Northern No-Fly zone in Iraq out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. A singularly boring and frustrating mission as the Iraqis had thoroughly foxed the process during the cease-fire negotiations by attaining permission to use their helicopters for humanitarian missions. This meant that if it had rotors, they had to see it shooting before they could shoot it. Not easy when you were at twenty-thousand feet and five hundred knots airspeed while the target was at dune height and hovering. Then you had to get permission to shoot, which often meant waiting for someone to evaluate the veracity of your report and attain confirmation. Often, by the time permission came back the offending helicopter was long gone back out of the zone where the allied craft were not allowed to pursue.

Now he was finally out of that monotony and posted on the first stepping stone to his dream position. Everyone knew that if you wanted to fly the shuttle then the shortest route was through the test pilot programs. He had done a training rotation through Edwards before his six month Turkish deployment and now those scores were paying off with his posting to the Groom Lake facility. His familiarization course completed, he had just been assigned to one of the active squadron rotations. He was starting in chasers, everyone did but that did not mean that 'Shaft' Mitchell would be a glorified cameraman for long. Not once they saw him fly.

Motion at the far door drew his attention as Lieutenant Colonel Ronson led the base saucer-heads through the door. Leaning over he tapped the shoulder of the wiry black man in the next seat. “Hey Ellis, we doing more low-observables?”

Captain Abraham Ellis was one of the least distant of the base's pilots to the rookie. He shrugged. “No idea. Major Caldwell told me to hump it over here before 16:30, that's all I've got.”

Across the room Ronson looked at his watch then leaned over to Major Pendergast and spoke quietly in his ear. The Major nodded and stepped away. “ROOM!”

Instantly, the assembled officers and airmen fell into ranks and snapped to attention. Ronson and Pendergast then made a cursory inspection before stepping back to address the assemblage. “Gentlemen, in a few moments General George Hammond will be arriving to seek volunteers for a critical and potentially dangerous mission. I am assured that we are being offered this mission because we are the very best that this man's Air Force has to offer...”

A metallic whining sound began echoing off the walls accompanied by a ringing noise that seemed to rest in the very deepest part of Mitchell's ears. A flash of light formed behind the Lieutenant Colonel, who stopped mid-speech and turned toward the interruption. Twenty-four pilots, Six Radar Officers and twenty-four airmen's jaws fell open as the expected General and a young, petite redhead wearing a Star Trek costume appeared from the light.

“Room! AttenTION!” the General barked.

The sharp rustle of fifty-four men and women snapping to attention was accompanied by the clack of an equal number of lower jaws slamming teeth against their upper neighbors. Cam winced as the edge of his tongue failed to get out of the way in time.

“Captain Rosenberg,” the General nodded and took a step back.

“At ease,” Willow's voice, fully in Starship Captain mode, carried firmly through the hanger. “General Hammond has assured me that you are some of the best pilots and combat air controllers that are available on this planet. He has also assured me that due to the nature of this facility you are both discrete and aware of the necessity that certain, shall we say realities, not become common knowledge.

“My name is Captain Willow Rosenberg and my ship is the UES PROMETHEUS. General Hammond has shared with me solid intelligence that this world will come under attack from hostile extra-terrestrial forces within days, possibly even hours. I have volunteered my vessel and crew to stand in defense of this world but I am short-handed. We have a plan to bolster our defenses. That plan involves making the best use of your individual abilities. We do not have time to think about this if you are to be trained on the systems you will be operating. Volunteers take one step forward!”

Mitchell's body lunged forward the step, convinced that he was the only one doing so. Out of the corners of his eyes he checked the position of those around him and then questioned whether he had moved at all.

“Very well!” The Captain's voice again echoed off the metal walls. “First two lines step behind me and form a rank of five across and four deep!”

Cameron and the other pilots hustled to follow her commands.

“Once you are on board clear the transporter pad and follow the directions of the crew. They will guide you to the briefing room.” The Captain tapped the badge on her chest, “PROMETHEUS the first group is ready. Twenty to beam up. Energize!”

Mitchell felt light-headed as the hangar dissolved in a sparkle of light. Blinking bright spots from his eyes his knees almost buckled as the beam released him on the large transporter pad. An Air Force Major in green fatigues spoke up. “Welcome aboard the United Earth Starship PROMETHEUS! Everyone clear the pad, we have two more groups to bring up. Step through the door on your right, turn left and proceed down the corridor. Pilots, you're the second door on the right. Air controllers, you're the first door on the left!”

As he made for the door, Cam heard the Major report ready, the Captain reply, and the sound of the transporter cycling again.

God he hoped this wasn't someone's idea of a joke to razz the new guy.

~~~***~~~

At the back of the pilots' briefing room Xander blinked the spots from his eyes as the room lights returned to full brightness. He had just finished watching briefing footage of Goa'uld spacecraft conducting planetary operations against various worlds that had been in contact with SGC units over the course of the last year, two actually, once you included the original mission to Abydos. Of primary focus for the pilots, beyond the proof that Earth was engaged with a dangerous extraterrestrial enemy, were the tactics and capabilities displayed by the Goa'uld craft.

Questions flew across the room as the pilots grilled the SGC briefing team, particularly Major Feretti, for any slight detail that might give them an edge. As things clearly were beginning to wind down the helmsman marched to the front of the room. “Gentlemen, I am Lieutenant Commander Alexander Harris, the Chief of Navigation and lead helmsman for the PROMETHEUS. My rank is the equivalent of Major in your service. It is my job to brief you on the bird you will be flying and begin your familiarization with its capabilities. We sincerely hope that you will have sufficient practice time to effectively utilize the platform. Computer, replace the podium with a full scale Mark XVIII-P Torpedo.”

“Affirmative.” The podium was replaced by a stand supporting a standard photon torpedo casing. The bow end of the casing had a pair of protrusions to either side, on the narrow edge just aft of the hull curve transition.

A murmur ran through the room and Xander winced at the tone. “I know that you are disappointed that you will not actually be inside one of these deathtraps as it rockets through a flight of Goa'uld Deathgliders. However, I believe I can make this quite a bit more palatable for you. Computer, on the right, please provide a full scale standard XVIII-P control station.”

Without responding, a control station formed. Its simultaneously simplistic and highly complicated interface turned toward the assembled Air Force officers.

“Pilots!” he waved to the station. “We do not have time to train you to use our technology to control the XVIII-P, however we have worked out a solution that will enable you to transition quickly. Computer, please place a Falcon Interface station to the left.”

On the dais left of the torpedo a full scale F-16C cockpit formed, eliciting smiles from the assembled pilots.

“As you can see, we can provide you with a familiar control set. When combined with our holodeck technology, the only difference between you actually being out there flying and piloting from in here is that if your bird is destroyed, you - don't - die. That does NOT mean you get to take stupid risks with my equipment!”

There was a chuckle which ran through the room at that.

“Each holodeck can support six Falcon stations, so four have been assigned for flight operations, including this one.” Reaching out to the torpedo casing, Xander pressed the control that popped open the hatches to display the device's guts. “Before we break you into flight elements and get you strapped in for some simulator time everyone step down here and I'll get you a walk-through familiarization of the Mark XVIII and its capabilities.”

“First off, a Photon Torpedo is a guided missile equipped with a matter/antimatter warhead. This warhead also provides the power to run the torpedo's guidance and propulsion systems. The Mark XVIII-P uses a modified warhead to manage power distribution into a secondary weapons package. These are a pair of pulse phasers mounted to either side of the torpedo casing. They are self-aiming and can be targeted singularly or in combination. During your simulation runs you will be able to experiment with both methods to find what you are most comfortable with. Using the Falcon interface you will designate targets the same way you would for your fire and forget missiles, the difference being that firing will be a 'guns' operation.”

Pausing, he looked at the men gathered around him, all focused intently on the various aspects of the torpedo, except for one in the back whose attention seemed to bounce between the two control stations. “You have a question, Captain?” Xander asked, waving an arm in the distracted man's direction.

The man snapped to attention. “Captain Mitchell, Sir!”

Lieutenant Commander Harris cocked an eyebrow at the wayward pilot, who took the hint and promptly inserted his foot in his mouth.

“Just wondering when we're going to get to fly, Sir.”

Xander grinned as all the other pilots began chuckling at the rookie. Captain Mitchell sounded like his kind of pilot.

~~~***~~~

Willow walked onto the Bridge at twenty-three hundred hours mountain time. The ship's clocks had been adjusted to simplify coordination with Stargate Command in Colorado, meaning that the crew had lost an hour around mid-afternoon that day. Not that most of them had noticed considering how busy things had been with the preparations and training operations that were ongoing. Even though it felt like an invasion, she could not help but smile. A busy ship to her was always a happy ship.

The crew had spent the day running themselves ragged, attempting to predict and pre-solve problems that might occur. In the interest of having an effective crew for the upcoming action, Alpha and Beta shifts had been ordered to bed for no less than eight hours of sleep at nineteen hundred and twenty-three hundred hours respectively. She had managed to force Gamma shift to take four hours earlier that afternoon, otherwise the night shift would have been entirely holographic, again. They were to go down for eight hours at oh-four hundred when Alpha shift came back on duty.

“Captain, should you not be in bed?” her first officer asked solicitously.

She gave a wry smile and nodded. “I had the thought that our tactical probes might be a bit close in. I think we should move them out to half a light year and load a new set for launch along the approach vector once it is identified.”

“Consider it done, Ma'am,” James nodded then grinned a hauntingly familiar grin, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “And now to your bed, Captain. Oh, and per both Commanders Summers, Commander Kalderash, and Ambassador Giles, no coffee.”

As the turbolift door swooshed shut, Willow took the high road with her reaction to his declaration. She stuck out her tongue.

Yawning widely, Willow had not quite made it to her quarters when she encountered Andrew and Jonathan arguing in the corridor. As soon as they saw her, both fell silent.

Rapidly plastering a massive smile on his face, the Chief Petty Officer held out a PADD to her. “GoodeveningWil...uhCaptain. JohnoandIneedyoutosignthisrequisitiontoretrievehissidearmfromthe replicatorsystem. Buffyhassignedoffonitifyouapproveandsheisallowedoneaswell.

Blinking at the tidal wave of words from the mousy-haired young man, the young Captain grinned. “CoolsoyouandJonathanfiguredouthowtoretrievehislightsaberfromthepatternbufferandreplicateanewone! OfcourseI'llsignoffonit. Andinthefuturepleasebreatheoccasionallyandremember. I do speak babble.”

The two young men looked at each other, blinking as the Captain handed them back the signed PADD and turned through the door to her quarters. Moments after it closed they were sprinting down the corridor to the nearest armory to use its replicator.

~~~***~~~

“Buffy… Ah, Commander Summers.” Jonathan waved the petite blonde over to the table in the officer’s mess where he and Andrew were having breakfast.

Smiling, she set her tray down and glided into an empty seat. “Jonathan. Andrew.”

“Commmmanduh,” Andrew mumbled around his mouthful of omelet.

“Any problems with the Air Force guys over in the crew mess?” Jonathan asked.

“Nope!” Buffy chirped before taking a sip of her coffee and attacking her stack of pancakes. “Xander and Kit wore them out pretty thoroughly last night.”

Andrew looked up. “Kit?”

“Yeah, Willow assigned Flag Console training to the OPS department. Kit had her team and the Air Force flight controllers hopping from the moment they set foot on her deck.”

Reaching into the pocket of his robes, Jonathan extracted a silver and black cylinder which he slid across the table to his superior in the Security Department.

Buffy’s eyes flicked downward then widened. “It works?”

The Jedi nodded. “Andrew and I tested them last night. Do you think we could schedule some time in one of the gyms or holodecks for some training?”

Slipping a PADD off her hip, Buffy scrolled through her day’s schedule. “I’m free immediately after the morning briefing. How about we meet in holodeck five at nine-fifteen?”

“I’m there!” Jonathan grinned. “We can go through a few saber forms and you can get a feel for how to use yours.”

“Cool!” Buffy finished her pancakes and stood. Clipping her newly acquired lightsaber onto the side of her equipment pouch she gave a jaunty wave. “See you after the morning brief.”

~~~***~~~

Willow looked up from the stack of contingency plans on PADDs scattered across her desk. “Computer, locate Commander Buffy Summers.”

“Commander Buffy Summers is in Holodeck Five with Mr. Levinson.”

“Hmmm. I wonder,” she mused. Standing, Willow stretched and exited her ready room. “Commander, I’m going below. Page me if there are any changes to the current situation.”

Her first officer nodded and the Captain turned to enter the turbolift. “Deck eight,” she announced as the doors closed behind her.

A casual stroll later and she found herself standing in the open doorway of Holodeck Five watching awestruck as Jonathan Levinson and Buffy Summers exchanged blows with real lightsabers. It was clear that Jonathan was the more skilled, but her best friend was definitely no slouch. Blocking one of Buffy’s blows, Jonathan crouched beneath the deflected blade then leapt straight upward, flipping over the blonde. Blurring flashes of light were all she could make out as the leaping teen executed a series of swift attacks, all of which Buffy blocked.

As Buffy spun to attack, the young Jedi suddenly stiffened and leapt backwards. “Hold!”

Buffy froze. “What is it Johno?”

“We need to get to the Bridge,” he replied. “I can feel them. They’re coming.”

~~~***~~~

Willow steamrollered out of the turbolift, making the sharp turn toward the sensor station at the back of the Bridge. Buffy and Jonathan were close on her heels.

“Johno, can you tell me what bearing?” Willow barked as she leaned over the seat back and brought up the probe controls.

Closing his eyes, Levinson entered a Jedi meditative trance, focusing on the energy he could feel approaching. Letting that energy flow through him he raised his right arm, pointing it toward the source.

Checking the monitor Willow glanced back at the direction the young man’s arm was indicating. “Okay, let’s try to boost probes one and four.”

Buffy slipped into the seat and started steering the probes’ sensors to focus more deeply in the indicated direction. On the monitor, the various graphs twitched then one of them shot upward.

“Captain…”

“I see it Buffy.” Willow tapped her badge. “Sensor control. Probe four is picking up a target very deep in the subspace bands, distance is about 30 light-years and closing. I need an analysis, fast.”

Jenny’s voice floated back through the Captain’s comm-badge. “Acknowledged.”

“Buffy, ETA?”

“Hour and a half. Two tops, Wills.”

Willow took a deep, calming breath. Now was certainly not the time to start babbling. With methodical precision, she walked across the Bridge, turned and slowly settled herself in the Command Chair.

Seated, she closed her eyes, letting a wave of tension slough off her body. Opening her eyes, the Captain reached out her right hand, touching a control on the screen at her fingertips.


A/Endnote: Prior to the airing of ENTERPRISE and its Temporal Cold War retconning of the Star Trek history, it was widely accepted that General Order One, also known as the Prime Directive was a direct result of a disastrous first contact with the Klingon Empire. Picard even mentioned this in at least one episode of Next Generation. The PROMETHEUS is from a dimension that was not touched by the TCW.
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