Chapter One - Where quite a few have gone before
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine. Things you don't probably aren't either.
Xander sighed in annoyance when he saw the last toy gun swept up by a rugrat.
“Damn,” he muttered, “There goes my costume.”
As if summoned by his lament, an accented voice came from behind him. “Now that won’t do at all. I refuse to let anyone leave my store unhappy.”
Instinct overtook him and Xander spun around, tensing himself. A moment later he relaxed, upon only seeing the proprietor of the costume shop. “Jeez man, don’t do that. Especially not in this town.”
The man raised an eyebrow. “Apologies, I’ll keep that in mind. Now, why don’t you give me an idea on what you were looking for.”
“Huh, you sort of sound like Giles. Anyway, I was planning on dressing as a soldier. I have some fatigues at home and really only needed the gun. But that kid ran off with the last one,” Xander explained.
The owner’s second eyebrow joined the first. “That wouldn’t be Rupert Giles, by any chance?” At Xander’s nod, the man grew a smile. “Fancy that, someone knows old Ripper here. Ah, forgive me. Ethan Rayne at your service,” Ethan said, offering Xander a hand.
“Xander Harris,” Xander said, shaking his hand. “Ripper?”
“Old school nickname,” Ethan brushed off. “I was planning on checking in with him after Halloween. If you see him before, don’t let him know I’m here. I intend to surprise him. Now, costumes,” Ethan said, clapping his hands. “You mentioned a soldier, but that sounds a little bland. Why don’t you follow me, I’ve got something in the back that I haven’t managed to get out on display yet.”
Xander mulled it over. “Sure, why not? A friend of Giles is all right in my book. Lead on, MacDuff.”
Wincing slightly at the misquote, Ethan led Xander to a small room in the back, to where a few sci-fi costumes were laying on a table. Xander’s eyes widened upon recognizing them and quickly walked over to the one in gold.
“Can I…?” he asked Ethan, turning his head to look at the man.
“Be my guest,” came the reply.
It didn’t look exactly like it did in the show. Xander lifted it up to inspect it closer. It was more elaborate, like someone had taken the original costume and actually tried to make it into a uniform.
“This is really good work,” Xander said, impressed.
“Yes,” Ethan agreed. “I don’t stock rubbish, you know.”
“Oh, sorry,” Xander backpedaled. “I didn’t mean it like that. But still, I don’t think I could afford this.”
Ethan scoffed. “Nonsense, my boy. For a friend of Ripper’s I’ll let it go for $20.”
That was a little steep, but Xander decided he’d be willing to drop the cash for something that had this standard of quality.
“Sold. Thanks man,” he said, handing over two crisp $10 bills. Ethan took the money and bagged the costume and its few accessories, handing the set to Xander.
Both men reentered the store proper when the door opened. Looking over reflexively, Xander said, “Huh, I wonder what she’s doing here?”
“You know her?” Ethan asked.
“Yeah, she works at the High School, same as Giles. I just didn’t think she was into the whole Halloween dress-up thing,” Xander responded.
Ethan smirked slightly, out of Xander’s view. “Well, I’ll have to see about helping her out as well, then. Good day, Mr. Harris,” he said before moving off.
Xander shrugged and left the building, trying not to break into the snoopy dance at his great fortune.
“What the hell?” Jim Kirk wondered upon taking in his surroundings. “How did I get here? Last thing I remember was ferrying some Vulcans on a trip to one of their settlements.”
Noticing he was in the middle of a road somewhere, Kirk broke into a steady pace. Thoughts flew through his head as he examined his surroundings. This looked like Earth, but it didn’t seem… modern enough. Something caught his attention that was, however. It was a small black chip, one light blinking on the top.
Kirk picked it up and examined it, turning it over in his hands. An even smaller button was prominent next to the light.
“Might as well,” Kirk shrugged, pushing the button. He was mildly surprised when a foot-tall purple hologram of a woman projected herself above the chip. She tossed her head around, and if she was human Kirk would say she was getting the kinks out. This also drew his attention to her unusual hairstyle, short in back but with long bangs styled to fall down and frame her face.
“Ah, that’s better,” she said with emotion. She blinked a few times and looked around. “Now, where am I?”
“You don’t know either, huh?” Kirk asked. This he could deal with. A sentient AI was not the strangest thing he’d ever seen, after all.
The AI’s attention immediately snapped on to him. Her eyes seemed to narrow. “And who would you be?” she asked suspiciously.
“Kirk, captain, USS Enterprise,” he said, trying to allay the AI’s fears.
“Kirk? Are you serious?” she said incredulously.
“Completely. Why, heard of me?” Kirk replied with a roguish grin.
“Oh, you could say that,” the AI quipped. “Call me Cortana. So, have you tried to contact the Enterprise yet, Captain Kirk?” she said with laugh.
Kirk opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, and grabbed his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise,” he said into it. The only response was a small ping.
Kirk turned to the side and exhaled noisily, missing the look of shock on Cortana’s face.
“Enterprise, I know you’re there,” he said, turning back, “I heard the acknowledgment chime.” Another ping greeted him. “Uhura, this isn’t funny anymore.” Ping.
Cortana came out of her stupor and muttered to herself, “He really was serious.” She raised her voice. “Captain, what’s the problem?”
“Well the ship is up there, but it’s like there’s no one on board. I don’t know what the hell happened,” he said in confusion. He came to a decision. “Enterprise, activate emergency recall, authorization-”
“Wait!” Cortana interrupted. “Take me with you. If you’re right and the ship is abandoned, you’ll need some help. I can integrate with the ship’s computer and run some things for you.”
The captain’s eyes narrowed as he lowered the communicator. “Can I trust you?”
“Without hesitation,” was the instant reply.
Kirk eyed Cortana for a minute before nodding. “Ok.” He reactivated his communicator. “Authorization: Kirk, ten theta alpha.” One soft hum and flash of lights later they were gone.
Kirk reappeared on the bridge of his ship and was bathed in the scarlet glow and glaring klaxons that signified red alert. He quickly moved to a console and switched it off before activating Cortana’s mobile emitter again.
“Wow,” the AI said, looking around in surprise. “This doesn’t look a thing like I was expecting. It’s very nice,” she nodded in appreciation.
Quirking his lips, Kirk responded, “Thanks. Now, what do I need to do to hook you up here?”
“Is there some sort of all-purpose access slot? I mean, as long as you can touch the edge of the chip to it I should be able to cross over,” Cortana replied.
Kirk thought for a second before turning towards the Science Officer’s post. “I think Spock’s got something over here… Yes, here we go,” he said upon finding the port.
“Alright, plug me in,” Cortana said with a smile.
Naturally the chip wasn’t a perfect fit, but the captain was able to touch its leads to the inside of the access port. A spark of electricity lit them up before seeming to flow into the console. The entire bridge’s lights dimmed slightly for a second, then went back to normal as a near life-size image of Cortana appeared on the viewscreen.
“Everything good in there?” Kirk questioned.
“Good? This is fantastic. The Enterprise’s computer is like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. I’m having to learn a whole new way of thinking, and it’s a damn good one. There’s so much I never knew…” she trailed off and held a hand to her head. “Hold on, let me compartmentalize.” After a short while she shook her head. “All right, I’ve got a piece of me working through all the new information. What do you need, Captain?”
Kirk didn’t hesitate. “My crew, is there anyone still here?”
A shake of her head was his answer. “No, like you thought, the ship’s completely empty.”
“This doesn’t make any sense! One second we were on a mission escorting some Vulcan refugees, and the next-”
“Captain!” Cortana interrupted urgently. “There’s a strong wave of energy coming up from the planet!”
Kirk leapt into the captain’s chair and braced himself on the armrests. “Shields!” he barked.
“Not responding!” Cortana responded with some shock.
“We’ll out run it then! Go to warp!” Kirk ordered.
“Where? The maps-” Cortana began.
Kirk’s shout cut her off. “Anywhere!”
“Warp, aye,” Cortana acknowledged tightly, before winking off the screen.
The familiar sign of stars stretching out greeted Kirk as the viewscreen went back to normal. He was about to sigh in relief when the wave hit the Enterprise like a pissed off Mike Tyson, the shockwave hurling the captain from the chair towards the Navigator’s position. His head struck the console with enough force to send him off into dreamland.
“Xander! Xander, you need to get up!”
Xander moaned slightly as he regained consciousness. “Alright, alright,” he muttered in a daze. “Did anyone get the number of the Mac Truck that ran me down?”
He reached a hand out to steady himself before getting to his feet. Xander blinked a few times and glanced up. A minute later his eyes flew wide open and he frantically looked around.
“The hell?!” he snapped in disbelief. “You mean to tell me that dream was real?!”
“Oh, you could say that,” a familiar voice rang out.
“Cortana? That you?” Xander asked the ceiling.
“Lotta yes, little no,” the reply came as the viewscreen flickered.
The AI that appeared on screen was recognizably Cortana; the face was slightly different, though the hair was the same. In addition she had decided for some reason to give herself a Starfleet uniform, one Xander identified as coming from the early seasons of Deep Space Nine. The only differences were instead of red, gold, or blue, Cortana’s shoulder accents were purple, and instead of a combadge she’d adorned it with the Starfleet symbol present on Xander’s own uniform. Also, and Xander tried to look discreetly away, she’d forgone the undershirt, showcasing a tantalizing glimpse of cleavage. Cortana smirked slightly at his reaction.
“What do you mean by that, anyway?” Xander asked, trying to cover for himself.
“Well, as you may have guessed last night a spell turned you into your Halloween costume.” Cortana waited for Xander’s nod. “And by the way, magic being real? If I didn’t know what I do now, I’d think I was going rampant. Anyway, like I was saying you weren’t the only one affected by the spell. Do you remember when I told Kirk… you… you get my meaning, that I split a part of myself off to go over the Enterprise’s systems?”
“Yes,” Xander responded slowly, not liking where this was going.
“Well it turns out that someone had dressed up as me last night, only instead of targeting me the end of the spell focused in on the secondary subroutine,” the AI explained.
“Wait, so you mean…”
Sighing, Cortana continued. “As soon as the spell ended, the subroutine was canceled and in addition to the workings of the Enterprise I also gained some new memories.”
Xander narrowed his eyes and examined her face more closely. “Ms. Calendar?!” he exclaimed in shock.
“Like I said, not exactly. If I were to guess, I’d say I got the opposite of what you did. To put it another way, you’re Xander Harris with the memories and lifetime experiences of James T. Kirk, and I’m Cortana with the memories and experiences of Jenny Calendar, aka Janna Kalderash,” Cortana finished.
Xander slumped back into the command chair. “Holy shit, this is… I don’t even know. Is she dead?”
“Would you consider Kirk dead? I’m no expert on metaphysics, but if it makes you feel any better I think I have her, for lack of a better word soul, here inside me now,” Cortana said while cupping her hands in front of her chest.
“Giles is gonna flip,” Xander muttered, stunned. “Wait, what’s this Janna business?” he asked in suspicion.
“She was Eastern European and changed her name when she moved to America. It’s not important right now,” Cortana waved off. “Besides, you’ve been through some changes yourself. Take a look,” she said, as she flickered offscreen and a realtime image of the Enterprise’s bridge appeared.
Upon seeing the image, Xander slowly rose from the chair and stepped forward to get a better look. He reached out a hand and waved it around a few times, and watched as his picture did the same.
“Holy shit,” he repeated. “I look at least ten years older.”
“And that’s not even the worst of our problems,” Cortana added.
“Great,” Xander scoffed. “I find out I’ve lost a decade of my life and you tell me that we’re in it even deeper?”
“I don’t suppose you recall your last order before you took a header into the conn?” Cortana hinted.
Realization struck Xander like the aforementioned Mac Truck. “Holy shit!” he shouted for the third time in almost as many minutes. “Where the hell are we?”
“See, that’s the thing. I don’t know. If we were in the Enterprise’s reality I’d say we were somewhere in the Vulcan system, but our astrometrics aren’t exactly accurate here. I’d need to do some deep space scans to get a precise read, and that could take a while.” Cortana shrugged. “Well, either that or we could copy some local charts.”
“Damn. Well, chart a course for home and get started on those scans. I’d rather not have to rely on some aliens that may or may not even exist,” Xander ordered as he settled back in the chair. He was reaching for padd when the viewscreen flickered to show what looked like a purple cloud materialize in empty space.
“Alert!” a hologram of Cortana appeared above the helm. “Subspace event detected,” she intoned as some sort of ship flew out of the cloud.
Xander straightened in the captain’s chair and examined the approaching vessel. It was nearly the size of the Enterprise, and consisted of what he thought was a pyramid surrounded by some kind of support structure.
“I didn’t want to have to deal with this yet,” he said to himself.
“Captain, incoming hail,” Cortana announced.
Xander sighed. “Well, here’s hoping it all goes well,” he said before steeling himself. “Put it up.”
Harris frowned slightly as what looked like a human came onscreen. He was sitting on what could accurately be described as a throne. The bridge seemed overly elaborate as well, with everything looking as if it was made out of gold. The man himself was wearing a set of fancy robes, with a jeweled glove on one hand. The men working the various stations on the bridge wore some sort of armor, and the only woman present seemed more an ornament reclining next to the throne.
“This is your god Moloc,” the man said in a deeply resonant voice. “Surrender your ship and bow before me and you may be allowed to live.”
“What?” Xander and Cortana chorused in surprise.
“Insolence!” Moloc’s eyes glowed brightly for a second. “I will not repeat myself!”
“I don’t plan on bowing before anyone, let alone giving up my ship,” Xander growled. Cortana nodded emphatically. Neither noticed the slight interest shown by the woman.
“I will take it then,” Moloc said, before cutting the video feed.
“Red Alert!” Xander said. “Give me shields! Lock phasers and arm photon torpedoes! Evasive maneuvers!”
“Aye captain,” Cortana responded quickly. “We have a full complement of torpedoes loaded, but if we use them all you’ll have to go down there and manually reload.”
“Noted,” Xander bit out as a volley of yellow plasma bursts rocked the Enterprise. “Status!”
“Shields down ten percent, no notable damage otherwise,” Cortana recited.
“If he keeps up that sort of barrage, that’ll change. Return fire, phasers only for now. And find me a weak spot!” Harris demanded.
Crimson bolts lanced from the phaser banks as the Enterprise began its attack run, strafing the enemy. The blasts struck Moloc’s ship and splashed against the shields, which flickered faintly.
“Enemy shields down to fifty percent!” Cortana stated. “Captain, I’ve found what seems to be the main engine room. It’s reading a higher power output than the rest of the ship, at least.” A smaller image of Moloc’s ship appeared in the lower left of the viewscreen. Cortana highlighted and zoomed in on a piece of the pyramid.
“Right,” Xander said as the Enterprise shook from another attack. He braced himself to keep from falling out of his chair. “Ready torpedoes.”
“Aye,” Cortana said as she swung the ship back into firing position. “I’ve had just about enough of religious zealot aliens,” she muttered as she started another assault. “Moloc’s shields are down!” she said a second later.
Xander rose from his seat. “Fire.”
He watched as the two blue orbs sped out from the Enterprise on a direct course for the weak spot Cortana had pinpointed. Their impact ignited a chain of explosions that scattered around the pyramid before eventually spreading out across the superstructure.
Xander’s attention was caught by a few smaller vessels emerging from the wreckage and immediately speeding in the opposite direction.
“Should I…?” Cortana asked.
“No, let them go,” Xander responded as the ships disappeared into the same type of subspace phenomenon that had brought the mothership. He figured it must be their form of faster-than-light travel. “I don’t feel like shooting anyone in the back today.”
“Odds are good Moloc was in one of those,” the AI commented.
Xander let out a sigh as the purple clouds winked out. “Yeah, it’s been that kind of day.”