Duncan Swan was spending a lot of time in the officers' lounge on the starship Vanguard. He was a lieutenant junior grade on the ship. He was the supply officer but sometimes took shifts at tactical. Duncan was known to drink. He was not the best officer. Sara Baker was his friend. She approached him with care.
"Good morning, Lieutenant," she said with a smile as she sat down next to the officer. "That is, Lieutenant Junior Grade."
He said in sorrow, "I wish to be left alone, but I really appreciate the fact that you care."
She continued by asking, "I'm not sure, but aren't you supposed to be taking a shift on the bridge today?"
"What?" Duncan inquired.
Then a communication came down from the bridge, so all on board could hear it. The captain was calling him, "Lieutenant Swan, you are late for another duty shift at tactical. Report to the bridge, immediately!"
Duncan jetted out of his seat leaving his drink behind. He did this without hesitation. This happened all the time, and he hated himself for it. Sara had become the last person in the officers' lounge. She had a look of shock on her face.
Captain Sean Brinkledge was in his ready room. After all, he was the captain of a Constellation-class starship. He was receiving a message from his command base in that sector. The message was coming from Deep Space Nine. Commander Sisko appeared on his computer screen.
"Let's get to the point, Captain," Sisko said. "We have found an anomaly in Klingon space."
Captain Brinkledge asked, "What does that have to do with us?"
The commander replied, "You created it."
This intrigued the captain.
Sisko continued, "You will meet up with a Klingon escort. It is a K'tinga-class battle cruiser. You're going to study the anomaly while the Klingons study the nearby planet to find out what happened there."
"But, Commander," he hesitated, "this ship is nine years old—"
"Just do it," Benjamin interrupted.
The message ended. He switched off his computer. The captain recalled that planet. It was called Zelor. They rescued the survivors of a doomed exploratory mission there three years before. Duncan Swan was part of that exploratory mission. An anomaly was created by the explosion of that officer's previous ship, the Prime Maxim.
Out of breath, Duncan Swan arrived on the bridge. The captain was doing just the same. Duncan took his post at the tactical station relieving Lieutenant Tony Logan who was a little put off having to wait for him. The captain spoke.
"Swan," he asked, "could you tell us what you know about Zelor?"
"It was the planet that the Vanguard rescued the away team I was a part of after the Prime Maxim exploded mysteriously," he said.
The captain asked, "How long ago was that?"
The young lieutenant was fighting back tears, "Three years ago."
Out of respect, there was a brief silence on the bridge. It was broken by the officer's older brother who was the Vanguard's helmsman and science officer. He was an older brother by seven years. He was a lieutenant commander on the ship. His name was Elvin Swan. He was the reason Duncan, an ensign three years before, was on the ship in the first place. He watched over his little brother.
Elvin asked, "Does he have to relive what happened?"
"No," the captain agreed sitting down in his chair.
Just then, the awaited Klingon escort arrived and took its place at their port side. Both ships knew the mission. The Klingons didn't even bother to contact Vanguard before the long voyage into the distant reaches of space.
There was another silence.
Sara Baker had been called to her post in engineering. She was the engineer's lieutenant. She was walking through the door. The chief engineer was a commander. He had been on the ship for nine years. That was longer than anyone else on board. He was an officer of exceptional skill.
He inquired, "You spoke to him, didn't you?"
"I had to," she started. "He was late for another shift. So don't give me that—"
"Don't talk back to me," he interrupted. "I've seen things you can't imagine. I've been on this ship for nine whole years. Why do you care so much about that young drunk you hang around with anyway?"
Sara asked, "Do you really think I care what you think? You've been trying to pressure me off this ship for months."
"You're lucky," he said in response. "I wish I had someone like that in my life."
"So do I. Then I would be chief engineer."
They laughed together.
Both ships arrived at their destination at warp factor one. The Klingons turned to study the planet while Vanguard cut its engines. One individual on the bridge held the rank of chief. He had once been assimilated by the Borg Collective. He was sitting at the ship's ops position. They called him Adam.
"The anomaly cannot be scanned into, sir," he said. "We have two choices – we could abort the mission or enter the anomaly."
"The anomaly has grown larger in the last three years," the helmsman stated. "Did you say it was created by the Prime Maxim explosion, Duncan?"
"Yes," he replied.
The captain decided the ship should enter the anomaly. It was the only way they could complete their mission. Inside, they discovered the saucer of the Galaxy-class Prime Maxim with life aboard. It had been in the reddish anomaly for three years. Duncan immediately deserted his post to get to a shuttlecraft.
"All crews to battle stations!" the captain commanded.
The corridors were packed with officers running to their posts. Duncan was on his way to shuttlebay seven with tears in his eyes to steal a shuttlecraft. His old crew was still alive. The ship was on red alert. No one was in the shuttlebay. He stole the shuttlecraft Rhine and launched it towards his old ship.
"Where's Duncan?" his brother asked.
Adam exclaimed, "Captain! A shuttle is being launched! It's headed for the Prime Maxim saucer!"
The captain was furious, "Dammit! That's Duncan. Beam him back here!"
"Something else, sir!" Adam asserted. "A Bird-of-Prey has just entered the anomaly! And they are firing on us!"
The bridge shook as the Klingons attempted to penetrate Vanguard's hull with their weaponry. Then the Klingon ship stopped firing on the Vanguard and began to fire on the Rhine. The shuttlecraft was spinning out of control. It was going to crash into the Prime Maxim's main shuttlebay.
"Prime Maxim!" he yelled. "This is Duncan Swan of the Federation starship Vanguard! Prepare to receive this shuttlecraft!"
"Estimated time 'til arrival?"
The shuttlebay doors opened just in time. The shuttlecraft crash-landed in the shuttlebay throwing Duncan like a rag doll. The shuttle was damaged beyond repair. Then the Bird-of-Prey turned to fire on the saucer. Another Vanguard entered the anomaly at the same time they did. It was ready for a fight. Both captains gave the order to open fire on the Bird-of-Prey. It was destroyed.
There was another silence. Duncan broke it, "Ouch!"
His head hurt. At that moment, the captain of the Vanguard opened hailing frequencies, "This is Sean Brinkledge, captain of the starship Vanguard, to the entering starship, state your purpose."
What appeared to be a double of the captain responded, "This is the captain of the Vanguard."
This shocked everyone on the bridge.
"You will stand down from red alert and tell me how there can be two starships in the fleet exactly alike in almost every way," the other captain demanded.
The captain smiled, "I've heard this one before."
The captain began to explain, "It is quite possible that a rift in the fabric of space brought our two separate universes together in this anomaly. I'm guessing you came to study this…thing…just as we did."
"No," the other said, "we came to escape from a Klingon attack."
The captain was puzzled, "But we are at peace with the Klingons."
"Not in our universe," his alternate revealed.
The first officer of that Vanguard was Duncan Swan. The scar down his right temple proved he meant business. He was a lieutenant commander on that ship and had something to say, "Enough. We have a fleet of Klingon warships tracking us. You can't stay here. We will provide you cover, so you can go to warp."
On the bridge of the Prime Maxim, Captain Doris Stark was sitting back in her captain's chair listening to the conversation. She knew exactly what to do. Then Duncan arrived on the bridge. He had some of his old friends behind him.
"Explanation," she demanded.
All he could say was, "I don't know, a rescue?"
There was a Vor'cha-class attack cruiser in that sector. It was of the alternate universe. It was the command ship for the Klingon fleet. They saw the Bird-of-Prey enter the anomaly after the Vanguard. They were speaking in Klingon.
The second officer said, "The Federation starship has disappeared into a gas cloud."
Their captain replied, "Send two of our best K'vort-class cruisers to destroy them."
"We cannot scan into the gas cloud," the science officer stated.
"It does not matter," the captain continued. "Once that scout ship is destroyed, we will have free reign in this sector. The humans will have no choice but to surrender this sector to the Klingon Empire. Then the war will be over."
The woman at his side broke her silence, "It's almost sad. Starfleet Command once held a vote on whether or not to give us this sector three years ago. It is unfortunate that thousands of them had to die."
The transporter chief was having some problems. She was a lieutenant named Lisa Hovelson. Tapping her communicator, she contacted the captain.
"Captain, I think we have a problem," she said. "The anomaly is dampening our ability to transport the crew of the Prime Maxim to safety."
"Is there anything you can do?" the captain asked. "We have to leave very quickly."
She responded, "I could mass transport, but I'd have to do it blind."
She made the attempt. The Prime Maxim crew was transported to one of the two Vanguards but the wrong one. They beamed to the alternate Vanguard.
"Captain," she started, "I think we have another problem. I don't think they're from our universe."
"Can you be sure?"
She was deathly sorry, "The mass transport took them to the other Vanguard. If they are from our universe, I just made a big mistake."
Duncan had arrived in the transporter room of the alternate Vanguard and knew at once what had happened. He couldn't understand it all.
"This can't be right," he noticed. "Why am I not on my ship? Are you saying this is not my crew?"
The transporter chief tried to calm him down, "Lieutenant—"
"But that's what you're saying!" he continued.
She got on the communicator, "Doctor Selak, report to the transporter room, immediately."
Doctor Selak was a Vulcan and a well-respected one. He arrived at the transporter room to see the young officer totally losing control.
He cried out, "No! You're telling me my old crew is dead! No!"
Selak, the Vulcan lieutenant, did what he could. He overpowered the young officer and sedated him.
Captain Stark asked, "Did you have to do that?"
The next thing he knew, he was in their sickbay. The Vulcan doctor was hovering over him. The officer was just coming to consciousness.
"We're all dead, aren't we?" he asked.
"I don't know," Selak replied. "But we can beam you back to your ship, so you can leave before more Klingon ships arrive."
Duncan asked, "More are coming?"
"Yes," he said. "You have about an hour. All hope is not lost."
Duncan had to ask a question, "But why did I beam to this ship if it's not mine?"
"I don't know that either," he replied. "Is there anything you would like?"
"Sleep," he said. "I'm tired."
The doctor went to work. He gave the officer a tranquilizer so that he might sleep for a few good minutes.
"There, my old friend," he said gently.
On the bridge of the Vanguard, the crew was trying to figure out how Duncan was not lost in transport.
"I don't get it," Lisa said.
Selak noted, "He should be dead."
The first officer had the answer, "Remember that new programming we put into the computer a year ago?"
She continued, "It was supposed to anticipate questions like these."
Duncan's brother moved quickly to the nearby engineering station and said, "So let's ask the computer. It says here that the Prime Maxim could not have possibly come from the opposing universe, and that means the beaming was because their ship was simply…closer to the saucer."
"Logical," Selak stated.
The first officer of the alternate Vanguard wanted to see his alternate self. He stormed into the sickbay with Lieutenant Sara Baker at his side.
"Where is that little cuss?!" he yelled.
The doctor sprang into action, "Sir, I would advise you not to speak to him. His condition is—"
"Wake him up."
The doctor took the lieutenant out of his deep sleep. The commander had some words to say to him.
Duncan cried, "You're me!"
"You think you're me?" he responded. "I'm the first officer on this ship."
Duncan's vision wandered off to Sara at the commander's side.
This insulted him, "Stop gawking at my wife!"
The Klingon escort that came with the Vanguard was in orbit of the planet Zelor. They beamed a landing party down to discover what happened three years before to destroy the Federation Galaxy-class starship.
One Klingon said to another, "It was the beaming that caused it."
The question became, "Are you saying this was an accident? How could this planet's ancient weaponry destroy a Galaxy-class starship on its very first mission?"
"The beaming triggered that ancient weaponry," he said surely. "Pulses hit the ship causing a warp core breach."
"Why did the same thing not happen to us?" he asked.
The Klingon said, "The weapon is recharging itself. We have to shut it down, or the Klingon Empire will never claim this planet for her own."
"Some ancient race of aliens really wanted this planet's primitive population to be protected, didn't they?" the captain wondered.
Both of the two Vanguards' transporters were adjusted so that the Prime Maxim crew could be beamed to safety. Duncan Swan chose to beam last. The Klingons from the alternate universe were already on their way.
The chief engineer hailed the bridge, "Captain, two K'vort-class cruisers have just come out of warp and have cloaked."
The captain replied, "As soon as the transport is complete, raise the shields."
On the viewscreen was the other captain. He said to his alternate, "We will provide you cover, so you can go to warp."
Captain Brinkledge noted, "But you will be destroyed."
"It does not matter," he said. "It is the least we can do for a Federation starship from a universe of peace."
"Full impulse power!" the captain ordered. "Get us out of here!"
On board the alternate Vanguard, there was an admiral that was acting only as an observer in the war. She stayed quiet throughout the whole ordeal. But, after communications between the two Vanguards ended, she simply walked off the bridge and into the ready room. The captain followed her. She was waiting for him.
"Why would you do this?" she asked.
"We are doing our duty," he replied. "You know we're going to lose this war."
"I don't think risking our lives for people we can't even prove or disprove exists helps our chances either, Captain," she noted.
There was a brief silence.
"This might be the last battle of the war," he explained. "I don't want the Klingon side of this story to be the only one told."
The admiral struck her hand against his desk and left the ready room. For that moment, the captain had forgotten she had a family to go home to.
The commanders of the attacking K'vort-class cruisers knew their mission, but they did not expect more than one Federation ship in the anomaly.
Elvin Swan was at his station, "Two K'vort-class cruisers have opened fire on us from both port and starboard, sir."
"Engineering," the captain ordered, "hold down the fort as long as possible. We don't want to lose structural integrity."
First Officer Swan had an idea, "Give me power to tactical. I'll nail these Klingon bastards, Captain!"
"I have guided the ship into a stationary position," Elvin said. "If I can just—"
The helm station he was sitting at exploded. He was thrown from his seat. Doctor Selak rushed to treat his wounds.
In engineering, they were trying unsuccessfully to contain the warp core. Sara said to her commander, "Sir, I can't hold containment."
"Then increase structural integrity," he ordered, "so we can at least stay at our posts."
An explosion hit all of engineering leaving Sara Baker in command of it. The ship's computer started counting down the seconds until a warp core breach.
She looked up, "Is anyone alive in here?!"
She got no response. She decided to run to the main engineering station, so she could give the people on the bridge power to weapons. Then the ship's computer stated, "Warp core breach in thirty-five seconds."
Sara got a bad feeling, "Bridge!"
Duncan was the only one who answered, "Yes!"
Sara told him, "We don't have much time!"
"I know!" he replied. "The captain's dead!"
Tapping her communicator, she responded, "I've done all I can do, goodbye!"
Duncan cried out, "No, wait!"
Out of anger, he jumped to the ship's tactical station. He fired the last salvo from the ship's phaser banks. And, with that last salvo, he actually missed his targets. Then the impending warp core breach destroyed the ship. The shock wave from that explosion destroyed the attacking K'vort-class cruisers. The remaining Vanguard was still in danger. If it was destroyed, the Prime Maxim survivors would not be saved. On the bridge, the Vanguard crew braced themselves for impact.
Elvin said, "We have reached full impulse, Captain. Steady as she goes."
"Put aft shields to maximum," the captain ordered.
Adam responded, "Yes, Captain."
Tony Logan, at tactical, said, "We're clearing."
Then he received new information from his console, "Sir, the alternate Vanguard has been destroyed."
The entire ship was shaken as the shock wave, after destroying the Prime Maxim saucer, hit their aft shields throwing them forward. On the bridge, the engineering station exploded because of it. Doctor Selak was called to treat the injured officer.
They were safe.
Elvin Swan shouted out, "We made it! It was a rough ride! But we made it! I'm seeing stars for the first time all day!"
Doris Stark wanted to speak with the captain. She found him in his ready room sitting at his desk. They began to talk.
"He saved us," she asked, "didn't he?"
"Who?" the captain inquired.
"Duncan Swan," she explained. "You know, that officer you have to remind to take duty shifts on the bridge."
The captain smiled, "Oh, him. Everyone on this ship knows him. What's so special about him?"
"He graduated at the top of his class at the Academy," she said. Then she walked out of his life forever. She had a crew to tend to.
This made the captain think. He immediately called Duncan to his ready room to set things right.
He entered the ready room to say, "Duncan Swan, reporting as ordered."
The captain told him, "You realize it was quite possibly your actions that saved the lives of everyone in that anomaly. If you had not stolen the shuttlecraft Rhine and gone to the Prime Maxim saucer, there would have been no way to prove that it was from our universe, and we would have been destroyed like everything else in that…thing."
"So I'm going to be demoted?" he asked.
"No," the captain replied. "As of this moment, you are a full lieutenant in your department. You are also dismissed."
Puzzled, Duncan started his way out of the ready room. But he turned around to ask the captain a question, "What does this mean?"
The captain told him, "Stay away from the tactical station."
He applied the new rank to his collar and headed to the officers' lounge to celebrate with a meal. There were Klingons in the room. The captain must have given them shore leave rights. They knew who Duncan Swan was – he was the hero of the ship. When they saw him, they just laughed. Duncan had almost forgotten about his new friend, Sara. She was sitting alone at a table.
"You look like you've just seen a ghost," she said. "And with a promotion, too. That's just great."
He sat across from her and asked, "How are you doing?"
"When we get back to Deep Space Nine," she smiled, "I'm going to be the new ship's chief engineer."
Then she noticed something different about him, "What?"
He said softly, "I saw you on that alternate starship."
He hesitated, "So we were…uh…engaged."
Everyone in the room heard this. Taking what he said in, she took him by the hand and led him out of the officers' lounge. She wanted to get to know him better in a place they could not be disturbed. The Klingon escort and Vanguard were side-by-side on their way back to Federation space with their mission complete.