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[2008: NOV-DEC] Paradox


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The five figures stood over the body and looked down. This area of the caves was particularly dank and the corpse had lain hidden for at least a day; it was not a pretty sight.

David Callaghan was the first to speak, sighing as he moved the hand that was covering his nose and mouth.

“We have a problem.”

Abby Flynn looked over at him. She was the unofficial leader of their little group, a group so secretive it didn’t even have a name. The five scientists had come together during the early days of the Iron Rebellion and had, one way or another, found themselves ideologically opposed to the forces of President Galen who’s aggressive expansionism had split the Federation in half.

A bitter civil war now raged, claiming thousands of lives every day as everything the Federation had stood for perished in the flames.

Abby, Callaghan and their three colleagues were all that was left of what was once a much larger group, a collection of academics who had tried to use their intellect to fight back rather than their hands.

But brains had proved no match for guns. Until the Ferengi had come.

“Without him how are we supposed to get the rest of the materials? The whole project is going to collapse.” Said Ybin, rubbing a hand over his bald blue scalp.

David shook his head. “That’s not the problem I’m talking about, Doctor. I mean we have a murderer. One of us in fact.”

Abby swallowed as the enormity of that truth sank in. These were her friends, people she’d known for years. They had no secrets from each other. And yet here they were, all of them standing over the body of Joro, the dead Ferengi smuggler. Finally she found her voice and managed to speak.

“You’re right. No-one else knows where we are. And the Ferengi certainly didn’t die naturally.” She hesitated. “If the President’s forces knew the location of this place we’d all be incarcerated by now. Or dead.”

Abby looked at the others. The only thing she could be certain of right now was that she hadn’t killed Joro.

“Someone here is working for the President, trying to sabotage our plan. That suggests we’re close and we’ve got someone scared. Well, that’s fine by me.” She paused to tuck some of her greying hair behind her ear. “The chroniton inducer is almost done. Clearly Joro isn’t going to be able to get us those extra parts he’d promised so we’ll have to do it ourselves. Ybin, you and Rejor will have to head into the city and see what you can acquire.”

The Bolian and the Vulcan exchanged a look.

“That would seem the most logical course of action, Doctors.” Said Rejor. “It seems clear that time is now of the essence, more than ever.”

“Good.” Abby nodded. “David, Xensha and I will stay here and work on the transporter. If we don’t hear from you by dawn, we’ll assume the worst. Be careful.”

Ybin grunted. “We’ll have to be. The loyalist forces are getting stronger ‘round here by the day. If we weren’t nearly finished I’d have suggested we shipped out days ago.”

Dave shook his head. “No. No more running.”

As the two aliens picked up their gear and slipped out of the cave, Abby sighed deeply. With the recent influx of security troops loyal to the President swarming all over Bajor she doubted they'd have any success - she just hoped they didn't get killed. Or worse, captured. They all knew the stories of what happened to the President's political opponents, those who had voiced their opinions in the early days before Starfleet had been split in half and the civil war had begun in earnest. That had been three years ago. She never ceased to be amazed at how quickly the civilized Federation had descended into chaos and anarchy.

"I heard the Romulans have taken two more systems this week." David's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Even if we're successful here, will there be anything left to save?"

Xensha looked up from her workstation as he spoke but she kept quiet. In the flickering light from the fire her Trill spots seemed to almost crawl across her skin.

"I know." Abby sighed. "Even the Klingons are taking back planets on their border. The last report from the fleet also mentioned that the Dominion had resurfaced, too."

Xensha finally spoke up. "If that's true Bajor will be the first to know."

"Which makes our work here even more important. If we succeed, if we can send someone back, then none of this will have happened. The President would never have caused the schism that ripped the Federation apart" She smiled. "And the Dominion certainly won't be knocking on our door."

David placed the PADD he'd be working on back on the table. "Do you think we'll remember everything?"

Abby shook her head. "It won't work like that. For us nothing will have ever changed. The Federation will be just as stable as it ever was. The only one who will know any different is the one we send back." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Which is why I suggest they... eliminate themselves after the job's done."

"There will be two of them, won't there?" Xensha asked. "Two people existing in the same time. You're the expert, doctor, that can't happen, can it?"

"No, that's why whoever we chose will have to die. The same person can't exist twice, reality would begin to protest if it went on too long.” She smiled, wryly. “The mechanics of temporal science are complex at best."

"So no-one will ever know what we did to save the Federation then?" David asked. "That's kind of fitting, in a way. I, for one, will be glad to forget the last few years." He paused. "And be glad to have my friends back."

Abby couldn't agree more. They'd all lost friends and family in the war. She had cousins serving in Starfleet, on the Minotaur, that she hadn't heard from since the civil war broke out. And then there were the colleagues dragged off by the President's troops. Worse, though, were those people she thought she knew well who had sided with President and his warmongering. Had they done it because they really believed he was the true leader of the Federation, or had they betrayed themselves and their friends, throwing their lot in with the side they thought would win? And winning they were - the resistance had never been exactly well-organised, but under the President's onslaught they'd been utterly divided. As far as Abby knew, her little group was the only one left on Bajor, perhaps in the entire quadrant. Likewise, news from their fleet under Admiral Greenwood had dried up. She knew there had been an attack on Tellar planned but whether it had succeeded, or even taken place, they'd never heard.

And now this - the Ferengi smuggler in the storeroom, killed by one of her friends. Was it Xensha, the quiet Trill, or perhaps David? Or had she sent the murderer out into the city to return with an army of Presidential soldiers? She frowned. Why had the murderer made a move now, this close to completion? Maybe Joro had discovered that there was a spy in the group and was murdered to keep the secret, she couldn’t think of any other explanation.

David interrupted her thought again.

"Did we decide who was going to go through?"

Abby swallowed. "Me."

* * *

The heavy footfalls echoed through the cavern. Abby grabbed the old Klingon disruptor from the desk and dived behind the buffer coils. She was dimly aware of the other two seeking cover somewhere behind her.

She breathed a sigh of relief as Rejor came into view, but the Vulcan was supporting Ybin as he stumbled along, clutching his side. Xensha was already out of hiding, medkit in her hand, as Rejor eased the Bolian to the floor.

“What happened?” Abby demanded.

Rejor looked at her, self-consciously wiping blood from his hand. “We acquired the necessary materials to complete the transporter. However, as we were returning we ran into a small patrol. Professor Ybin and I managed to defeat them both but not before Ybin was injured.”

“The soldiers?”

“Both dead. I concealed the bodies. Nevertheless, I suspect their disappearance will shortly be noticed.”

Abby nodded and turned her attention to the groups medical doctor. “How is he, Xensha?”

“Bad, but it could have been worse. It looks like a phaser shot skimmed his left side, made a mess of things. He’s lucky to be alive.” She shook her head. “I’ve sealed it up as best I can but he’s lost plenty of blood. He’ll need a lot of rest.”

“You hear that, Ybin? I’m afraid you’re not going to be able to add your finishing touches after all.”

The Bolian smiled weakly, his blue skin quite pale. “No problem, doctor, just find me a place with a view and I’ll be sure to tell you all how you’re doing it wrong.”

They laid Ybin on the floor next to the transporter itself and got to work. None of them spoke much. The parts Ybin and Rejor had located weren’t ideal but they’d have to do. Abby found herself glancing suspiciously at the others out of the corner of her eye as she worked. After a while she moved to the back of the cavern next to Rejor. She trusted the Vulcan more than anyone else and had known him virtually her whole life. She knew she would be willing to give her life for him - if there was anyone she could confide in, it was Rejor.

“I think Joro discovered the identity of a spy which is why he was killed. You know what the little weasel was like, always sniffing around…”

Rejor continued programming the computer as he answered. “I agree that is the most logical conclusion. However, I surmise the spy is not a threat to us at this time.”

“Oh? And how did you work that one out?”

“I believe they are here to observe only. I have not detected any covert communication signals nor any unusual sensor readings. Therefore the spy is not in contact with anyone outside. The Ferengi was killed because he knew the identity, as you said.”

“Well, that’s something at least.” She paused. “Who do you think it is? Who’s the logical choice?”

Rejor started running another diagnostic. “Spies are rarely chosen logically, otherwise they would be easy to uncover. It is possible that I am the spy, as I am the only one with telepathic powers. Likewise, you would make a logical choice as you are the leader of the group and therefore seem, to less logical people, above reproach.”

Abby chewed her lip nervously. “Could we, I mean, could you..?” She left the question hanging.

“Perform a mind meld? I could, but I do not believe that would help us at this time.” He indicated the battered terminal in front of him. “The program is complete.”

Abby let out a breath and nodded slowly. Rejor stood up from his chair and looked down at her.

“You still have concerns about this plan, don‘t you? Do you think the time portal will fail?”

“No, that’s not it. I…” She shook her head and started again. “The portal will work fine, I’m certain. It’s just, well, we’re scientists. We shouldn’t be contemplating an assassination.”

“But your actions will save hundreds of thousands of lives and ultimately the Federation itself.”

“I know, I know. But killing a defenceless man? Back then, Galen hadn’t done anything wrong. You know his history as well as I do - quiet, academic, brilliant political mind.”

“Is is not what he is, doctor, but what he will become.”

“It just seems… wrong. So wrong.”

“If those are your feelings, perhaps another one of us…”

Rejor stopped as Doctor Callaghan stood up, wiping his hands on a cloth.

“It’s done,” he said. “It’s time.”

* * *

The scientists stood in a lose semi-circle around the transporter pad. David pressed a button and their faces were painted with a purple light as a portal appeared before them, a stable hole in time, into the past.

Abby’s throat was dry. After all the work, the running, the friends they’d lost it was finally done. But they had no time to celebrate, they needed to act. To think that they were about to change history, to go against one of the strongest directives of the Federation in order to save it, in this dingy little cave seemed such an anti-climax.

Words. There must be some words at least. It couldn’t just end in silence. Abby opened her mouth to speak but staggered backwards as something hit her heavily on the side of her head. Her eyes blurring with pain she dimly saw David and Xensha struggling and felt Rejor’s arms steady her.

With a flash of light David collapsed, dead or stunned Abby couldn’t tell. Xensha pointed her phaser at them.

“I’m sorry.” She said. “I’m so sorry.”

Abby fought to keep the anger out of her voice. “Xensha! How long has it been? How long have you been betraying us?”

The Trill woman gripped the pistol in both hands. “Since the beginning.”

Abby gasped. “All this time! How could you?!”

“I’m sorry, Abby. I didn’t want it to end like this. I reconsidered many times, thought about joining you. But I couldn’t!” Xensha shook her head angrily. “I couldn’t let you go ahead and re-establish that stagnant Federation after all the President has done for us.”

“But President Galen is a murderer!”

“No! He’s a saviour! Without his changes the Federation will surely rot, a victim to it’s own bureaucracy, it’s remains scavenged over by the Romulans and the Klingons and the Tholians.”

“But his actions have already condemned the Federation.”

“Only because of people like you, Abby. I know you’re convinced what you’re doing is right, that much is obvious. But that’s because you’re blind to change, afraid of it. It you could just see what…”

“Your mission has failed, Xensha.” Rejor’s soft Vulcan voice cut through their argument.

Xensha looked confused. “What? How do you mean?”

“Ybin.” The Vulcan gestured to where the injured Bolian had been lying. “He crawled through the portal while you were fighting with Doctor Callaghan.”

“No! No, it can’t be! We wouldn’t still be here if he’d done it…”

Abby frowned, thinking. “The portal is still active. The chronitons are still affecting us, keeping everything in this cave as it was and changing the rest of the universe. If we turn it off reality should return. It’s over, Xensha, you’ve lost.”

As Xensha began to lower her phaser the cave was suddenly filled with armed figures wearing the faceless combat armour of elite Presidential troops. One of them stepped forward and levelled its rifle at the Trill woman.

“No wait!” Xensha began. “I’m one o…”

Another flash of impossibly bright light and she was gone.

Abby pulled herself to her feet with Rejor’s help, her old bones protesting. She wasn’t going to die on her knees.

The soldiers around them straightened up as a robed figure strode into the cave, a Terran, his black beard half concealing the Presidential seal around his neck.

“So,” President Galen began, his voice deep and confident, accustomed to giving powerful speeches. “You are the ones I have to thank for my rise to power.”

Abby and Rejor exchanged a glance.

“Us?” She said. “I don’t understand.”

“You will.” The President smiled and gestured behind him, beckoning someone out from the shadows. “May I present my chief advisor?”

Abby gasped in shock. “Ybin?!”

The Bolian was much older, his blue skin wrinkled, but his features still recognisable.

“Surprised, Doctor? I can’t tell you how much I’ve looked forward to this day. You may have just seen me vanish into the portal but I have had to wait decades before I could thank you properly.”

“Thank me? Thank me for what?!”

“For creating the time portal, of course. I went back, fully intending to carry out the mission, assassinate Galen before he became the President, but when I found him, he was just a boy.” The elderly Ybin shrugged. “I couldn’t do it. So instead of killing him I vowed to speak to him instead, intending to divert his political prowess to keeping the Federation strong.”

Galen smiled. “It’s was Ybin’s advice that got me into politics in the first place. His speeches that got me elected.”

“You guided him?” Rejor asked. “You used your knowledge of the past. Yet you still caused him to split to Federation and cause a civil war. Why?”

Ybin rubbed a hand over his bald head. “Power. You have no idea what it feels like to know the consequences of your actions before you’ve even taken them. That’s true power. The President’s troops have already won the war. Soon we will have united the Federation under his rule as it should be - one Federation, one voice. We were merely waiting for you to complete your work here so I could go back in time.”

Rejor nodded. “If you hadn’t gone back and spoken to the young Galen it would have resulted in a paradox, a threat to the very existence of this universe.”

Abby buried her face in her hands and wept. All their intentions, all their plans and this was the outcome? Ybin looked at her and smiled.

“You can’t change the past, Doctor Flynn. You of all people should know that.”

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Ah nuts.

I forgot to add the 'completed' icon and now it's too late to edit.

This IS a finished story and I WOULD like it to be considered in the competition.


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