by Michael Blakeney and Gem Lassiter
…continued from The Accredited Agent...
…continued from The Accredited Agent...
Finally she realized his eyes had fallen back upon her, she’d been staring too long. She wondered if he realized from the way she’d been watching that she knew. Gem was one to suspect, to hypothesize, but never to assume. Yet she knew she was right about him, even if she really still had no idea who he was.
She didn’t even know what she was doing. She was thinking of him now. She was actually accepting that she would die. This wasn’t who she was, who she was she longer knew.
One thing she was certain of was that even if she was wrong to think she knew him, it didn’t matter. If there was even the slightest possibility that he had truly come from a future time, then she had to accept that he may have knowledge that she simply could not and that she should defer in this moment to his judgment.
One question formed in her mind and she asked it casually, like it was just something she’d been pondering as she’d looked in his general direction. “What do you think we should do now?”
Suspicion crossed his face that she should so suddenly trust his judgment now. Michael clearly did not buy into her casual tone. Still, he answered her question.
”We should start by getting rid of their bodies so they don’t keep taking what little air is left.” He replied cautiously, even knowing that some oxygen would be consumed in their reaction to a phaser blast he still believed it would save more that it would take.
Gem didn’t even flinch at his suggestion, she simply held up the alien weapon to the nearest corpse and spoke as if were just any other task. “Do you know how strong a setting it’ll take?”
”Let me do it.” He said, stepping between Gem and the nearest body, his eyes assuring her that he didn’t doubt she had the guts to handle the situation; it was simply something he wished to spare her.
”Michael,” she spoke the name with feeling even though she doubted now more than ever it was the proper one to call him by. “I can-“
”I know ya can.” He said, his accent once again slipping, his mind too engaged with other thoughts to maintain it. “Am askin’ ya to let me take care of it. You,” he shrugged. “Shouldn’t have’ta carry such a memory with ya.”
”I won’t carry it far.” Gem said, emotionlessly and in a matter-of-fact tone. “It’s not like there’s any way out of here.”
”Gemini Belle,” Blakeney laughed softly, amazed that she could still be so stubborn even at a time like this. “You. Over there. Now.” He pointed to the farthest point of their stone prison, a small space to begin with but one that felt as if it were rapidly shrinking even if at times the distance between them felt far too much.
She sighed. There was, she realized, simply no reason to argue anymore. As she turned away, she wondered just how much this man knew of her, if he knew enough to use her middle name. It was something she never used professionally- something that didn’t even exist as far as she knew in her Starfleet records. At least, not yet.
It was something that only her grandfather had ever called her by, and usually only as a warning she was courting trouble and should stop whatever she was doing or saying; mid-stride or mid-sentence.
She couldn’t help but shudder as she heard the weapon he held discharge three times, in quick succession. It was not so easy to dismiss the dead when you felt you were soon to join them. Perhaps Michael had been more kind in his offer than she’d realized.
”It’s over.” He declared, and he set the weapon aside.
Though part of her knew it was something she shouldn’t ask of him Gem had to ask all the same.
“Is it over?” she spoke with slight, leading accusation. “The future’s not happened yet.”
Michael gave her a strange look, as if to say that he didn’t know what she was talking about. Gem would not allow it.
“You’re TI.” She simply insisted.
“You know that.” Michael protested with light confusion, his eyes now resting on her too long for it to be believable.
Gem crossed her arms over her chest. “You know that’s not what I meant.” She said a little too coldly. “You’re…” She stopped herself and then indicated were the bodies had been. “They were from the future.”
He looked down to the ground, not going to pretend anymore to be confused about what she was saying but certainly not going to answer.
“You don’t have to tell me about where they’re from.” She informed him, understanding fully the restrictions placed on an agent. “However what they were doing here and now is my right to know. I know they were here to sabotage the treaty negotiations.”
Michael’s vibrant eyes flashed up at her again, silently begging that she not ask too much. In that moment she really hadn’t but he was still not sure what he should say. Then as he felt the weight of the comm device he still held onto in his pocket he realized he could tell her at least what she’d have figured out herself if he wasn’t here.
“They put an impostor in Braylan’s place.” He told her, just as the files on her comm device could. “They wanted to expose him during the negotiations as an alien, causing the Talarians to know the treaty was being influenced by outside forces.”
With the Talarians Gem knew that would be enough for their suspicion to lead the treaty to crumble.
“Then why did they have him killed? They could have exposed him while he was alive.”
Michael shrugged his shoulders as if he didn’t know but the bitterness in his words made it seem like he was sure of his answer. “His outlived his usefulness and so he was just a loose end for them to tie. Besides, if he revealed himself then he’d be a common enemy to the Federation and the Talarians who’s been ruining their negotiations. With him revealed after an assassination by locals anyone could have hired then he could have been working with the Federation and there could be a lot more like him. The Talarians might even refuse to negotiate completely. The war could go on forever.”
Michael shook his head in disgust that anyone could abandon one of their own like that. It was a disgust that Gem shared, even if she covered it better.
“Why should they want the war to continue?”
“I can’t answer that.” Michael said simply, the warning expression on his face enough to tell her that he hoped that’d be answer enough.
“No, of course you can’t.” Gem acknowledged evenly, feeling even more certain in her beliefs now because she knew he could answer it if he were from this time.
She could have let the issue die there and the relief on Michel’s face suggested he felt she just might, but given it was this or thinking about her inevitable death Gem decided to press on.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t think about it myself.” She observed, and began carefully examining the issue in her mind like it was just another puzzle. “He said that we’d never advance our technology. However technology often advances in war.” Gem pondered aloud. “Not against the Talarians though, we already have a great advantage over them. However advancement is exactly what would happen if we encountered someone new. Wouldn’t we?”
Though he saw she was heading uncomfortably close to the truth and would have liked to steer her away, it didn’t matter what time you were from; you knew that what she was saying was correct.
“I suppose it’s possible we would.” He answered without any definitive emotion.
Gem felt satisfied with this answer as it allowed her analysis to continue on a path that was getting clearer, analysis being a more welcome distraction than she’d realized it would be.
“And encountering new races is exactly what we’d do. With the war over more ships would be redirected to exploration. Just as they have throughout history, they’ll find new threats and get advanced warning of those we one day will. That’s what he was talking about.”
Michael once again chose not to answer, though it was even more obvious now what that choice meant.
At least, he thought to himself, she hasn’t yet guessed the name Borg.
The satisfaction Gem had felt just seconds before washed away as she realized she’d reached the end of what her analysis could tell her, still with many unanswered questions. She sighed a little with frustration as she let herself lean against the nearest wall.
Eventually Michael moved to join her and though they stood in silence for just a moment, Gem quickly spoke again.
“It’s not going to make a difference what you tell me, you know? We can spend our final minutes of oxygen with me guessing at you, or you can give me some answers.” She didn’t even look over to him as she asked the question recently always so near the front of her mind. “Who are you?” From his silence once again it was clear he wouldn’t answer. “Who are they?”
Michael shook his head, a small smile stealing onto his lips at how persuasive she could be and at how much she’d figured out already. It probably didn’t matter now what he said anyway.
“They’re called the Faltoni.” He explained, never turning to her either. “They live in a military dictatorship and are for the most part quite happy about it. The spiritual beliefs held by the people say that the just party shall always be victorious, so when one group conquered their world they felt they were the right ones to lead. Then by keeping themselves isolated and avoiding conflict with anyone of any real power they’ve been able to keep up this illusion for centuries.”
“It sounds out of character for them to take on someone the size of the Federation.” Gem correctly observed.
“It is.” Michael answered, wondering just how far this explanation of the events that will not happen for a decade should go. “But it wasn’t just for one ship. The USS…” Michael stopped himself, deciding it was better to avoid any names. “A single Starfleet ship on a routine exploration mission will enter the Faltoni system. Their government will seize the opportunity and launch an all out assault. At first it will look hopeless, their technology more advanced than ours.”
He paused, again considering the wisdom of continuing. “However by channeling a large amount of power through the deflector dish, a technique originally developed to combat the…a species that shall not be named, the ship will be able to escape. The Faltoni’s faith in their government will be shattered. It’ll cost a lot of security to their world.”
“That’s why three of their people came back to prevent it from ever happening.” Gem concluded.
“Yes, they did.” Michael answered uncertainly, already rethinking his decision to have explained all that to her.
“And you came back to stop them.”
The look that Michael gave Gem told her she knew better than to ask, the implications of her knowing major details about the future of the agency were quite a bit different than those of an alien world she’d probably never see. However, she knew she was right.
There were still so many questions she wanted to get answered but as she considered she’d likely not have time left for those answers anyway she remembered something he’d said before she couldn’t believe she’d almost forgotten.
“You said that there might be a way to get out of here. You said it had something to do with that small device.” She indicated the pocket where she knew that he’d placed it.
Michael reached in to his pocket and removed the small but remarkable piece of technology, placing in his hand for Gem to see. Now he was making no attempt to hide it from her.
She looked at it with curiosity, wanting to touch it but knowing better than to try.
“This device could save us.” He observed. “Theoretically the odds are about one in a hundred.”
“Better than nothing.” Gem decided, having the feeling that Michael Blakeney was never one to be restricted by the odds.
Michael shook his head.
“I say theoretically because that’s assuming I could make it work. I don’t have here what I need to do so.”
Gem went quiet, feeling a little let down even though nothing had been lost. She was just where she was before and that meant she was looking for answers.
”What is it?” She asked, indicating the device.
”I’s called a Temporal Compass.” He informed her softly, knowing that there was no longer any reason to lie or to try to divert her attention. “I’s a future upgrade to yer comm unit.”
”How far into the future?” She asked, noticing now that whether it was just because he’d already said so much or it was because she’d made him remember they were going to die, that he wasn’t trying to hide nearly as much from her anymore.
”Not that far.” He answered slowly. “Just...far enough.” The distance between his proper time and hers suddenly seemed much greater to him than it ever had before.
Just far enough to keep us apart, he thought to himself with a sadness that truly surprised him. How he hated, now, the thought of leaving her behind even if they did through some not so small miracle survive this.
He sank to the ground, suddenly feeling more tired than he could ever remember, and she sat down beside him.
The first of the three dimming lanterns in the distance flickered the last of its life away and died out, leaving their surroundings even darker.
“Not so far that people from our times would be completely incompatible.” She observed with a slight smile, allowing the comment to be taken as far as he would let it.
Michael smiled back, first a little, then a lot.
The look in his eyes was one of optimism whereas the look in Gem’s was one of confusion.
Quickly Michael took the transponder from his jacket pocket, then tossed the jacket aside. It was getting warmer in here, and he wiped perspiration from his brow as he set to work linking the transponder and the compass together in a last ditch effort to turn events in their favor.
“It may be possible to contact the ship if I can force back the transponder signal through the compass.” He explained. “However I need to stop the compass from just absorbing the signal and for that I need a baseline so it can tell it what to ignore.”
Gem watched him work, noting that he no longer seemed to care at all if she saw everything that he was doing. Finally he took Gem’s comm unit out and waved it at her.
“This should give me that baseline.”
Soon, he’d linked the comm unit with the others as well. Once he’d finished, he set the three devices aside, and they made soft beeping and chirping noises as they communicated, one to the other.
“Congratulations, Gemini Belle Lassiter,” he said with a warmth exaggerated more than it should be, given the small odds they’d gained. “You’ve just given us a one in a hundred chance of survival.”
”Gemini Belle Lassiter! Stand DOWN!”
A shockingly familiar voice stopped Gem in her tracks, just before she smashed the large chunk of stone she held in her hands and was using as destructively as any battering ram into the fish tank mounted into the wall.
She stood, motionless, her shoulders sinking beneath the weight of the reality to which his voice returned her.
It was all over now.
Having no desire to feel the impact of that chunk of stone against his skull, Keiran O’Sullivan waited. He gestured to Dwan Tubman and Dane Cristiane, who stood behind him, for them to stand clear of the doorway.
”Drop it.” Keiran instructed, simply and firmly.
It took a moment for her to find the strength to release her fingers from the rock, which had cut into them and made her hands bleed, not that she felt that pain. Patiently Keiran waited and only when Gem had finally released it did he step into the room.
”Come on with ya, then.” He said softly, as gently as he could. “Let’s go.”
”Where?” She finally asked, though she feared she knew the answer.
”To sort this mess out.” Keiran answered honestly. “The lot of it.”
Though she wanted so much just to stay here, Gem had no fight left and so could only comply. She did not allow her eyes to meet anyone’s as the three security officers flanked her and escorted her into the turbolift, bound for the nearest transporter room.
”What should we do with the room?” Yeager asked discreetly. “Preserve it as evidence?”
”Evidence of what exactly, Mister Yeager?” Keiran asked evenly, glaring directly at the younger man. “Of the fact that the Domox did more damage to the ship than we’d first realized? No. Don’t need evidence of that. Clean it up.” He sighed as he finally joined the others in the lift. “As best ya can.”
Once they reached the transporter room, Dane was frustrated but in no way unduly to hear the order that Keiran gave next. “You two, thank ya for yer help but it won’ be needed any longer. Return to the Sera.”
”But, sir,” Dane objected. He had one guess where they were going next, and he wanted nothing more in this moment than to come along and see how the story ended.
”I said, Ensign,” Keiran stressed Dane’s rank, “yer goin’ home.”
”Aye, Sir.” Dane reluctantly agreed, speaking with the respect he had for very few, as stepped up onto the pad beside Dwan, and the two of them were returned to their ship.
Keiran then dismissed the officer at the controls, and input a set of coordinates. Following the sequence, he instructed the computer to wipe them from the logs the moment they were gone. Where they went now was no one else’s business but their own.
Gently he took hold of Gem’s arm and assisted her in taking her place on the transporter. She only continued to look at her feet as they were caught up in the beam, and delivered to the destination he’d chosen.
Even before they’d fully materialized it was clear to Gem there was someone there waiting for them.
”My God, Gemini. What’ve ya done to yerself?” William Lindsay asked, shaking his head and speaking the moment that Keiran and Gem materialized in his office before him. “You’re an unholy mess.”
Though usually quite responsive to Lindsay’s charms, at this time and with everything she felt or didn’t feel Gem neither moved not spoke to react to his presence.
Keiran, beginning to fear she might collapse, tried to lead her to the nearest chair, but then, she did begin to fight him.
”I’m....” She objected, but rather than finishing her sentence as she knew she couldn’t claim she was fine, she just pushed him away. Slowly she walked over to the windows to stare out from between the cracked blinds. She noted the sun had nearly set in the distance; this day was just one more thing that was ending.
One of the two men before her approached, and as he turned toward her, his hauntingly familiar face was half illuminated by the dim light, and she gave up trying to listen to him as he angrily and thoroughly began to list off the things she’d done wrong in recent days. Ordinarily she’d have defended herself, and her actions. She could not do so now however, because she knew that they were truly indefensible.
”I thought I knew you,” he said with frustration covering his true disappointment. “But I guess I don’t. Removing Liis from her ship out of spite? Scattering her crew all over the quadrant when all it’ll do is harm to ev’ra’one of ‘em? What have you become?” He folded his arms and sighed heavily for emphasis. “Who are you?”
Gem wasn’t listening. All she was doing in this moment was fighting not to break down. She found she could barely stand being here, in this room with him now, and closed her eyes to try to block at least one sensation out. She found her sorrow and sheer anguish were still no match for memories of him from that night—the night that had changed the course of the rest of her life.
Gem had just received good news and yet it somehow felt anything but. She realized now that he’d only told her what he had already while being certain they would die, now if they would live there was so much she might never know. She still had so many questions. There was so much she needed to know about him, even if she wouldn’t carry the knowledge long.
“Who are you?” She couldn’t stop herself from asking outright and bluntly now, even though she knew he couldn’t answer and knew even more so that she shouldn’t be asking. She shuddered as she inhaled and exhaled sharply, gathering her courage to press on.
”Gemini, this is no’ one of yer better ideas...”
”What’s your name?” She asked him softly, unable to prevent her hand from reaching out and grabbing onto the sleeve of his shirt. She tugged at it, pleading without the tone of her voice changing or her words sounding nearly as desperate as she felt. “Your real name.” She specified. “The one that goes with the accent that you revert to, when you get frustrated enough.”
Blakeney laughed softly and sadly. He hadn’t realized until this moment that he’d ever tipped his hand to her that way. “Doesn’ really matter, right? Names are only labels. You know, a rose is still a rose, all of that.”
”Don’t.” Her eyes flashed now with just the hint of her underlying frustration. “Don’t answer, if you don’t want to. But don’t you dare patronize me. Not after all we’ve.” She stopped herself.
”Just in case we do defy the odds and get out of here alive,” he answered, more mindful than ever to be sure his faux British accent stayed firmly affixed in place, “The less you know about who I really am, the better. Memory resequencing is a new technology from where you stand. They may not be able to eradicate what I may tell you from that maddeningly bright mind of yours. Don’t want to risk,” he reached out and touched her face gently. “Risk it causin’ you any problems later.”
Even now the realization still hadn’t fully sunk in that he was keeping quiet to protect her, even though there were surely a thousand better reasons he should have. Just enough of it got through to her to let her show him some sort of understanding.
”I take it that where you come from, resequencing is a lot more-“
”Brutal.” He whispered, withdrawing his hand as she closed her eyes. He saw the reaction she had to just the slightest touch from him, and he knew that while he may not have ways at this point of making things better, there were still ways of making them worse and he didn’t want to do that to her.
She could no longer be just ‘fun' to him; and as much of a cad as he had the propensity to be, he did still pride himself to on being a gentleman. Even he couldn’t take advantage of her that way.
”It is violently efficient.” He concluded.
She opened her eyes again and looked away for an instant. Her expression again became calm and unreadable as she turned her mind to thoughts much more typical and less passionate than ones she’d been having a moment before. “How does it work?”
She shook her head and indicated the three devices jumbled together.
She nodded that this was correct.
”Look, we have to do something while we sit here and wait to die.” She explained. “There are subjects you don’t wish to discuss, and I accept that. But unless you’re going to take that gun over there and shoot me now to spare me the experience of suffocation, then I suggest you do something to help distract me from the inevitability of it.” She softened her tone and her expression, adding one more word that truly got to him. “Please.”
”A’right.” He moved a little closer to the device, gesturing to it as beams of light danced across its face. “With a mind like yours, I’ll bet you’re familiar with the Girdwood effect.”
Gem nodded that she was and did her best to explain it. “It’s a naturally occurring extra-temporal distortion in the external field to linear time. The intensity of fluctuations in it show when history is either going off track or already has.”
Michael smiled, slightly sweetly. “Not quite, though that’s exactly what everyone thinks right now. In reality, there’s nothing natural about it. TI, or at least a group that says they’re something close to it, will eventually find a way to send a universal echo back faster than the TRV.”
“Faster than the temporal revision velocity?” Gem questioned. “I thought that was impossible.”
“As far as we can tell; it is.” Michael said with a bit of a laugh. “Still somehow they must do it because we’ve all seen it coming back. It’s more than just an echo of a single moment in time and space but sort of what are like images of all the accrued moments formed together into a single light, with the nearest events the most clear.”
“Are you saying the compass reads this light?” Gem asked, imaging the possibilities. “So it can show you the future?”
“I wish. There’d be a few things I wouldn’t have done if it were that easy.” Michael paused and smiled at her. “And some I still would have. Even though a compass can only read the Girdwood effect, this light, in a relatively localized sense as to its position in space the information involved is still far too much for any technology in existence to make any sense of it.”
“So, it sort of works on the same principal we use now?” Gem asked, settling down more comfortably to simply watch him as he spoke.
“Nothing like it.” Michael replied honestly. “What you use now is basically just a distortion Geiger counter. Compasses are a lot more sophisticated than that. They get aligned with our temporal plane when they’re manufactured and as they’re all linked and their readings tracked through our master clock, Polaris. At least when they’re in their native timeframe, they always retain that same alignment.”
Michael paused, realizing he didn’t quite have the technical know-how to really explain this. He had to think about it for a second before he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
“Let me show you.” He said as he raised his hand up sideways so it was perpendicular to the nearest lantern in the distance. “You see how both sides of my hands are in shadow?”
Gem nodded that she did, watching with fascination, in spite of everything a smile forming on her face as she thought of nothing but observing all the nuances that made him so unique.
“Now watch this.” He said with a proud grin directed at her as he changed the angle of his hand slightly and the back began to light up. “This is what happens when history isn’t playing out as expected, or like in the case of before I came here, changes have been made in the past when some of the effect rather than continuing back has bounced off the revisionary barrier. It means the compass is out of alignment and that causes it to light up.”
The smile left Gem’s face as her eyes fell to the light flickering on the face of the compass, before returning to where it illuminated his with the smile returning only slightly.
“Then they really did succeed.”
Michael shook his head. He reached over and temporarily broke its connection to the other devices, showing the compass was really dark, before he plugged it back in and it lit up again.
“History’s back on track.” He assured her, and her smile returned more fully. “I don’t know how it’ll happen but someone will resume the work, TI will probably cover up about Braylan, and the negotiations will be completed. All you’re seeing now are the signals from the transponder. I’m trying to force the signal back through the distortion. It should be rejected from the effect and pushed back into our space.” He moved his hand around in a quick motion suggesting the path he thought the signal would take, animated in that endearing way he always was.
Gem watched him as he spoke and gestured, taking in every single motion. Her heart already pounded but just got faster as the second of the three lanterns blinked out; leaving only the one left. Its fading light illuminated one side of his handsome face, leaving the other in shadow. Somehow, both of his bright, blue eyes still caught the light though, and they kept her frozen, simply unable to move and barely to breathe as he went on.
“Where exactly this will happen is impossible to predict but hopefully it’ll be outside of here and near enough to my ship to show it the path it took out, so it can send a transporter beam in.”
He then showed with his hand the path he thought the beam would take back before he turned back down to look at her. Finally, he realized that she had jumped the tracks of their shared train of thought, and his tone changed.
“Gemini, are you listening to me?”
”Gemini! Are you not hearin’ a single word’ve said to ya?”
She felt his hand reach out and shake her. As vividly as she could recall the sensation of his touch, she knew that this was too real; it had to be happening in the present.
Her mind snapped her viciously back to the ‘now’, and she slowly raised weary eyes, tinted red by sadness, in his direction.
”Gemini! God above, you can frustrate the livin’ hell out of me like few I’ve ever known.”
Across the room, the second man here felt something reach into his chest and grasp hold of his heart, as if icy fingers were trying to twist and wring the life out of it.
He realized fully, in this instant, just what the look of unfathomable grief in her eyes meant. He had to stop himself from gasping aloud, and physically bit his tongue to keep from speaking his surprise even as his every expression screamed it.
My God, he thought. The answer was in front of me all along, how could I not have known?
Lt. Commander Michael Blakeney
//// Gem Lassiter
Director, The Alchemy Project
//// Gem Lassiter
Director, The Alchemy Project