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River of Time


Irina Pavlova
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Note: This story was inspired by the song "River of Time" by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane fame. I've long been obsessed with stories dealing with the passage of time and my character, Major Irina Pavlova was created around that obsession. Combine that with me being a Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna (Kautonen's other band) fan and this practically wrote itself. There is a link to the song at the bottom of the post.

It was the same dream every night. A ragged, worn and wild-eyed Irina Pavlova walking into the sanctuary at P’Jem doing her best to look confused. The Vulcan monks always rushed to her aid and that of her 4-year-old daughter, wondering how two humans could suddenly appear at their doorstep, no starship in orbit and none on the landing pad. Just the two humans, both tired, dirty and confused, neither with any idea of how they got there.

Of course that was the dream version. The reality version involved a detailed plan, and Irina tried to have every contingency covered. The small scout ship would land on the planet only thousands of miles from the sanctuary, and then using its transporter Irina and young Katya would transport to roughly halfway up the long mountain pathway. The ship would then follow its programming and fly itself to the bottom of the ocean and power down, hopefully not to be disturbed, at least not until the 24th century from whence it will have come.

P’Jem was selected carefully. Irina needed to find a place that in the 22nd century could at least call for a ship to bring her home, while being remote enough for her to slip in unnoticed. The P’Jem of the 2170s was the perfect spot, with only a few monks and one transmitter remaining after the monitoring station was dismantled by the Andorians in the 2150s, and not yet the mining colony that would would be founded there in the 2210s. In 2175 it was just an uninhabited rock, with a small sanctuary, four or five Vulcan monks and one powerful transmitter.

The plans were months in the making. Her assignment as chief of strategic operations at Duronis II made things easy. The runabout was one of many available for the embassy’s senior staff to use, and as a marine major and department head Irina was in such a position that checking out the runabout for a week’s leave was little more than a routine requisition. She would have a full week before anyone started looking, and unless they looked more than two centuries in the past, she would never be found.

Every night it was the same dream, and every morning the same reality. Everyone she had ever known was long dead. It didn’t matter what she did, their faces haunted her every night when she closed her eyes. Her father telling her that military service was a waste of her talent. Her brother who promised that grandpa’s old Mercedes would be running by the time she came back from her first tour. Most of all it was Dimitri, the boy next door. Clumsy, awkward Dimitri, her sidekick, shadow, best friend and worst enemy for as far back as she could remember. They had joined the marines together, and the night before Irina shipped out on Columbia, they had progressed from friends to lovers.

Dimitri had been dead for 150 years now, never married, never meeting his only child. Much of his life was lost to history, but Irina was able to find out that he left the marines just months after her ship was reported lost, and the only other references to him are a college degree in astronomy, a retirement ceremony from the Moscow observatory and his obituary, which had little more than the dates of his birth and death, and that he was engaged to Irina Pavlova in April 2170 and had a daughter named Katya, born the same month.

Irina saw his face every night, imagining him working everyday at the observatory, studying stellar data, but always really looking for just one thing, the NX Class USS Columbia, missing longer and longer as he grew older and older. She could imagine him an old man, no longer working, but still always looking upward and hoping against hope that somehow she was still out there.

Of course he couldn’t possibly have known that she was doing the same thing, and continued to do so long after he had breathed his last. Stranded on the planet Kjenta II and essentially immortal while there, Irina had no clue regarding the true passage of time. Days blurred into weeks, months, years and ultimately decades as over two centuries passed her relentlessly by. Lan Treng, Columbia’s science officer told them that it was radiation from the planet’s upper atmosphere that prevented cellular decay and kept them young, but everyone, including Irina, didn’t believe it, thinking only that they had lost track of time.

Irina woke in a cold sweat as she did every morning, but today would be different. Today she was on leave, had a runabout reserved and her bags packed. She and Katya were traveling light, with just some civilian clothes, her old uniform and a few of their possessions that had come with them from the old USS Columbia. Her modern uniform, commbadge and everything else that wasn’t made before 2175 would be left on the runabout, powered down and abandoned beneath the ocean of P’Jem. After a week, Starfleet would probably go looking for her, perhaps if they looked hard enough they would find a 2-year-old runabout that had spent the last two centuries at the bottom of the ocean.

As Katya woke up, they ate breakfast as usual and made their way to the docking ring. Everything was in order, the runabout was ready and Irina logged her flight plan for P’Jem. In addition to meeting her needs, P’Jem had a few other points in its favor for Irina’s plan. It orbited a star of sufficient mass to make the slingshot calculations possible with a smaller ship and the radiation of that star was such that even the weak shielding of a runabout was more than adequate. Most important of all was the lack of curiosity it had as a destination for Irina and Katya in their 24th century existence as it was the place of retirement of one T’Sal, a Vulcan girl who was Irina’s roommate when she went through security/tactical branch training at Starfleet Academy back in 2168. T’Sal was one of the very first Vulcans to attend the brand-new academy, and was the last surviving member of Irina’s class. Irina had contact T’Sal a few days before, and nobody would possibly question her motives for visiting.

The trip to P’Jem was uneventful and accomplished in just over two days. Irina and Katya passed the time on eduational activities and Irina even taught the little girl how to pilot the runabout, at least the real basics, and let her do so under close supervision. The normalness continued as they arrived at P’Jem and had a lovely dinner with T’Sal.

Irina had never liked Vulcans and she and T’Sal were not friends all those years ago, but the passage of time had changed a great deal of things for both women. The two talked about time and timelines, and it was T’Sal who introduced Irina to the concept of time being essentially a river, with people wading in, swimming to the other side as the current pushed them until finally they would emerge on the opposite bank and end their journey. The current only moving in one direction, and no matter how hard one fought, one could never swim backwards.

Irina told T’Sal about James Kirk and the slingshot maneuver, and how she was going to swim backwards to where she belonged. To her credit, T’Sal did not try and talk her out of it, but rather just asked her to be mindful of what might happen downriver.

The next morning Irina and Katya woke up on the runabout, got dressed and ate breakfast as usual, only this day Irina was back in uniform, only it was her 22nd century uniform. The old flip-open communicator and first generation phase pistol were at her belt, both clearly showing the wear and tear of 219 years on Kjenta II, while the uniform was crisp and new, preserved in Irina’s closet on the Columbia in the cold of space.

The runabout was programmed for the slingshot maneuver and Katya’s bag was filled with books carefully selected from the 22nd century with a science fiction theme all the better to explain the four-year-old’s inevitable comments about the 24th century as mere products of an active imagination.

The runabout broke atmosphere and Irina put it on course for the P’Jem star, then engaged the slingshot program and sat back. She closed her eyes and thought of Dimitri waiting by his window. She did the calculations for an arrival date in June of 2175, 2-years after Columbia was reported missing. She had the wild-eyed look already, and figured if she just pretended ignorance, to have no clue how she ended up at P’Jem or where the Columbia was, nobody would be any the wiser for it. By the time USS Discovery found the Columbia in 2390 she would be long dead anyway, and hopefully history would just repeat itself.

To Irina’s chagrin, Dimitri’s face didn’t remain in her mind for long. She thought about her 24th century commanding officer, Fleet Captain Toni Turner, and her mountain of an XO Lieutenant Commander Hannibal Parker. There was Colonel Tyr Waltas, who one year before as Captain Tyr Waltas was the main actor in her rescue from Kjenta. There were others, the Vulcan science officer T’Mihn who had helped Irina with the calculations, the marines and startfleet officers she had gotten to know at Duronis, and finally the little boy Bolt who had become Katya’s playmate.

What would happen to all of them if Irina swam up instead of downriver? Would she disturb the waters of their lives?

“Why are you crying mommy?” Katya asked as the P’Jem star grew larger and larger in the runabout’s viewer.

“Because I can’t go home” Irina replied as she tearfully changed the runabout’s programming for a return to Duronis II.

“Why not? I like Donis embsy.

“I know, that is why we are going back. Its your home.”

“We live together?”

“Yes Printzyessa, we live together, but everyone swims in the river alone.”

“What river mommy?”

“The river of time."

Major Irina Pavlova

Chief of Strategic Operations

Duronis II Embassy / USS Thunder-A

Edited by asiafish
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