Chapter 5: Tianes and chaos
The transporter platform he materialized on seemed to be the only place in the room that was not covered in junk. On second look, however, the admiral rephrased his prior thought and crossed out the “seemed”. It was the only place not covered in junk. And with a look through the open door he noticed that it was most likely the only one in the whole station.
The engineer at the control panel gave him a short look and a nod. Then he turned around and shouted through the door: “T? There’s someone from TI here for you!”
There was a loud rumbling noise in the background, followed by something that sounded like a curse. Then a voice shouted back. “I’m stuck, bring him here!”
The engineer gestured toward the door. “If you please, Sir,” he said. “And try not to stumble over anything.”
The man led him through a hallway to what seemed to be the other end of the outpost. They entered a room whose ceiling consisted purely of cables hanging down, and a few crooked cross-ties in between. On a clean piece of floor there was a puddle of water. In the middle of the room the engineer stopped and looked up. “Hey T? Where are you?” he shouted.
“Where do you think?” the reply came back out of the chaos a little to the left. “Up here trying to fix the roof. But you made me drop my welding stuff, so I got to come down anyway.”
While listening, the admiral noted a movement in the cable-forest at where the voice seemed to come from. Then there was a cracking or tearing noise and a loud curse, followed by a person hanging face-down in the cables. His hair was just long enough to be visibly attracted by gravity and his face was carved with the ridges typical for a Denobulan. With another curse he grabbed something a little higher up and within a second’s time had pulled himself out of his uncomfortable position and jumped down to the others.
“Have you seen my welding tool?” he asked the other engineer.
“Nope.” the other one replied. “But I guess it’s somewhere there.”
Following the engineers gesture, the admiral noticed that the puddle in the middle of the room he was pointing at was actually deeper than it looked like at first glance. And with water constantly dripping out of the chaos that was the ceiling, it was slowly growing.
The Denobulan made a grimace that would have caused every human who tried it to dislocate their jawbones. “Alright then,” he said. “I’ll see if I can find another one; until then make sure the water stays contained,” he ordered the other engineer, and was nearly out of the door already when he turned around and looked at the admiral.
“You know that for someone who can travel through time, you have lousy timing?” he said, trying not to sound to irritated.
The admiral chuckled. “I really seem to have a problem with that.”
The engineer clearly didn’t like him for what he was and what he represented, but something about the man in front of him was different to those they usually sent, so with a sigh he said. “If you want to talk to me, you have to come along.” And with that he had already turned around and was out of the door.
He walked down the corridor toward the transporter room, but before he reached it he turned right into another room that actually turned out to be a second corridor behind a door. In this corridor the chaos was even deeper, one couldn’t even see the floor anymore. At the end of it, behind a door, there was a storage area. Just as the Denobulan entered it, he heard a loud thudding noise. Turning around, he saw the admiral lying on the floor halfway through the hallway, and trying to get up. Shaking his head, he went back to lend him a hand. “Congratulations, nobody who hasn’t been here for at least two weeks has ever made it this far.”
The admiral only smiled in response and asked: “You’re Lt. Tianes?”
“That’s my name,” the lieutenant answered, and walked back to the storage.
“I’d like to have a word with you,” the admiral said.
Tianes didn’t even turn around. “You know that it’s really impolite to get people for something they haven’t even done yet. Not only that they haven’t even done it yet, it spoils the whole fun of actually doing it.”
His smile growing wider, the admiral replied: “I’m not here because of anything you have or haven’t done, but for something you will do.”
This time the engineer finally turned around. “See? That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about!”
He wanted to go on complaining, but the other officer interrupted him, finishing his sentence: “For us.”
The engineer surely hadn’t expected this, for he looked completely irritated. “What?” Searching for words he tried to rephrase that. “I mean, why? Why should I work for you?”
With a shrug the admiral asked back. “Why not?”
Shaking his head Tianes turned back to his shelf. “I’ve head enough trouble with you guys. After all, it’s your fault that I’m sitting in this giant fish glass now.” With a short look back to the admiral, he added: “Not you personally, of course. But seriously, who builds an underwater observation base on a planet that doesn’t even have intelligent life, and then stations an engineer and a navigator on it?”
The last question was a rhetorical one, or at least the admiral took it as such and ignored it. “We told you that it isn’t wise to build an unregistered time-shuttle. We warned you not to use it, several times. Besides, TI had nothing to do with you being transferred here,” he said. “But maybe we could get you out of this ‘giant fish glass.’”
With a sigh, the engineer looked upward and started climbing up one of the racks. “Alright, but why me?”
With a worried look the admiral answered: “Because you’re exactly who we need. You have an intuitive understanding for the mechanics of time travel.”
“There are a lot of other talented engineers out there.” Tianes replied, moving a little sideways.
“Time is something a lot more abstract than space. Only few can handle it,” the admiral replied. “But still, if you don’t want…”
While the admiral was talking, the engineer had taken another step to the side. “Very well.” he said, reaching out for something just above him. “I will…” the rest of the sentence ended with a scream, as he reached out a little too far, slipped and fell.
Luckily his fall was a short and not too hard one. While Tianes mentally checked himself through to make sure nothing was broken, the admiral offered him a hand. Taking it, the engineer said. “Count me in.”
The older officer nodded with a smile. “Alright, we will go as soon as the two of you have packed your personal belongings.”
“Cot’har will be coming, too?” the Denobulan asked a little surprised.
“No.” the admiral responded. “But I’m here with a ship that’s ordered to pick you up. Looks like Starfleet is finally giving up on this outpost. We’ll be picked up by my people at starbase 218.”
Dumbfounded the engineer stared at him. “You tricked me!” he finally said.
“Maybe,” the admiral replied with a last smile. “But until we reach the starbase you still have the chance to drop out. Although I think that what I’m offering you is better than anything else you might ever get.”