Read Lost Time Online

Authors: Ilsa J. Bick

Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #General, #Action & Adventure, #Space Opera

Lost Time

ADS
5.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Read Online Download
Other eBooks in the Star Trek™: Starfleet Corps of Engineers series from Pocket Books:

#1:
The Belly of the Beast
by Dean Wesley Smith

#2:
Fatal Error
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

#3:
Hard Crash
by Christie Golden

#4:
Interphase
Book 1 by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#5:
Interphase
Book 2 by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#6:
Cold Fusion
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

#7:
Invincible
Book 1 by David Mack & Keith R.A. DeCandido

#8:
Invincible
Book 2 by David Mack & Keith R.A. DeCandido

#9:
The Riddled Post
by Aaron Rosenberg

#10:
Gateways
Epilogue:
Here There Be Monsters
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

#11:
Ambush
by Dave Galanter & Greg Brodeur

#12:
Some Assembly Required
by Scott Ciencin & Dan Jolley

#13:
No Surrender
by Jeff Mariotte

#14:
Caveat Emptor
by Ian Edginton & Mike Collins

#15:
Past Life
by Robert Greenberger

#16:
Oaths
by Glenn Hauman

#17:
Foundations
Book 1 by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#18:
Foundations
Book 2 by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#19:
Foundations
Book 3 by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#20:
Enigma Ship
by J. Steven York & Christina F. York

#21:
War Stories
Book 1 by Keith R.A. DeCandido

#22:
War Stories
Book 2 by Keith R.A. DeCandido

#23:
Wildfire
Book 1 by David Mack

#24:
Wildfire
Book 2 by David Mack

#25:
Home Fires
by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#26:
Age of Unreason
by Scott Ciencin

#27:
Balance of Nature
by Heather Jarman

#28:
Breakdowns
by Keith R.A. DeCandido

#29:
Aftermath
by Christopher L. Bennett

#30:
Ishtar Rising
Book 1 by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels

#31:
Ishtar Rising
Book 2 by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels

#32:
Buying Time
by Robert Greenberger

#33:
Collective Hindsight
Book 1 by Aaron Rosenberg

#34:
Collective Hindsight
Book 2 by Aaron Rosenberg

#35:
The Demon
Book 1 by Loren L. Coleman & Randall N. Bills

#36:
The Demon
Book 2 by Loren L. Coleman & Randall N. Bills

#37:
Ring Around the Sky
by Allyn Gibson

#38:
Orphans
by Kevin Killiany

#39:
Grand Designs
by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#40:
Failsafe
by David Mack

#41:
Bitter Medicine
by Dave Galanter

#42:
Sargasso Sector
by Paul Kupperberg

#43:
Paradise Interrupted
by John S. Drew

#44:
Where Time Stands Still
by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

#45:
The Art of the Deal
by Glenn Greenberg

#46:
Spin
by J. Steven York & Christina F. York

#47:
Creative Couplings
Book 1 by Glenn Hauman & Aaron Rosenberg

#48:
Creative Couplings
Book 2 by Glenn Hauman & Aaron Rosenberg

#49:
Small World
by David Mack

#50:
Malefictorum
by Terri Osborne

#51:
Lost Time
by Ilsa J. Bick

COMING SOON:

#52:
Identity Crisis
by John J. Ordover

#53:
Fables of the Prime Directive
by Cory Rushton

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS

POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 2005 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

STAR TREK is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures.

This book is published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., under exclusive license from Paramount Pictures.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

ISBN: 1-4165-0690-X

First Pocket Books Ebooks Edition April 2005

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com/st
http://www.startrek.com

“Lost time is never found again.”

—B
ENJAMIN
F
RANKLIN

Chapter
1

“H
ere comes the second front, here it
comes!
” yelped a Bajoran lieutenant. The woman was new and was at the science station. Captain Kira Nerys didn’t remember her name and now wished she could because the woman looked good and scared. Her blond hair was matted to her forehead, and her skin had an oily sheen of perspiration that slicked her cheeks and the underside of her jaw. She was sweating so much she looked basted. “Captain, it’s—it’s bigger, this one’s much—!”

Deep Space 9 jerked, quick and sharp and with a violence that reminded Kira of the way a very large, very strong Talmuna swordfish fought a line, yanking and snapping back and forth, trying to shake itself free. Something shorted in a shower of sparks, and Kira caught the odor of ozone and seared metal. There was a loud metallic groan as the station bucked, and in the next instant, the ululating shrill of an alarm klaxon spiked its way into Kira’s brain.

“Someone shut that thing
off!
You’d have to be brain-dead not to know we’re in trouble!” Another jolt threw her off balance, and she stumbled, flailed, searched for a handhold, her nails scrabbling against smooth transparent aluminum. She missed, her right temple smacked solid plasticine, and she went down, hard, right on the point of her chin, snapping her head back, driving her teeth into her tongue. Pain exploded in her mouth and jagged into the space behind her right eye, scorching a path through her brain. Hot bile crowded into the back of her throat, mixed with the blood filling her mouth with a taste like wet rust, and Kira gagged, coughed out a crimson spray, fought back the urge to vomit.

She felt a hand on her right shoulder and then someone was hauling her up, bracing her as she swayed, tried to pass out but, mercifully, failed.

“You still with us?” Commander Elias Vaughn: voice pinching with anxiety, hazel eyes searching her face. When he gently pressed the edge of his left thumb to the corner of her mouth, it came away smeared with black blood. “My God. Nerys?”

“I’m fine,” Kira lied. She was woozy and hurt, but she thought the fact that her tongue still worked was a good thing. Something thick and sticky dribbled over her eyebrow. She put a shaky hand to her forehead, felt the wet. Smelled the copper edge of her blood.

Got to hang on….
Impatient now, she pulled herself up, squared her shoulders and shrugged her way out of Vaughn’s grip. He looked hesitant but then nodded and moved back to rerouting traffic away from the station. Kira turned to Ezri Dax, monitoring internal systems. “How’s everyone else? What about the station?”

Dax said something about Ro’s security people confining folks to their quarters, and the infirmary getting swamped and Bashir sure picking a hell of a time to be off-station. Someone else rattled off a series of damage reports (all of them bad) and while Kira registered this and digested the information, her mind snagged on a staccato, slightly nasal chant. The chant was more pure sound than song: a spiked line that, nevertheless, flowed straight and true like the principal root of a complicated fugue.

The sound came from the Bynar, Soloman, communing with DS9’s main computer. Kira had heard someone say that he’d found the sound soothing, but it set Kira’s teeth on edge.

Kira snapped her head around to Vaughn—too fast, as it happened, because she was rewarded with another wave of vertigo. She blinked back from the edge of unconsciousness.
Come on, don’t lose it now, Nerys.
“Vaughn, is the
da Vinci
away?”

“Just in time.” Vaughn spared a glance from his systems’ boards. “I’ve locked down all the docking pylons and issued a general warning to reroute out of the system. There are a few freighters—empty, thank God—willing to help evacuate the station.”

“If we have to. Give them our thanks, then tell them to stand by—or to bow out if they have to. It’s no crime to stay alive.” She looked over at the Bajoran lieutenant. “Time to next distortion wave.”

“Impossible to predict, Captain.” The lieutenant input data, squinted at her screen, then shook her head. “It’s just…
random.
The only thing I can tell for certain is that the shock waves are getting stronger.”

“Uh-hunh,” said Kira. She glanced back at Vaughn. “What about Bajor?”

“Not good.” Green-yellow light emanating from Vaughn’s console played over the high planes of his bearded cheekbones and made black hollows of his eyes. His lips were so thin his mouth was a dark gash. “Ground-based stations report increased tectonic activity along the Tilar and Musilla plates. They’re trying to evacuate the coastal areas, but with so little warning…” Vaughn didn’t finish but then again, he didn’t have to.

With so little warning, they’ll be lucky if only a third of the coastal population drowns. And that doesn’t count the mudslides, earthquakes, and Kendra Valley’s lousy with fault lines…. Benjamin and Kassidy, Jake and Korena, the baby, they’ll be right in the middle. Running out of time…

Her thoughts were cut by a hail and then a leisurely baritone fuzzed at the edges with static.
“Captain Kira, this is Gold. What’s your status?”

She had to smile. “I was just going to ask you the same question, Captain.”

The channel fizzed, and then Kira caught the babble of background noise, a buzz of conversation and the blats of a computer spitting out information. Gold said something—
Koomel? Toomel?
—and then came back.
“Not one of Wong’s more graceful uncouplings. A couple bumps and bruises, but this old bucket’s seen a lot worse. I’ll hold together

oh, wait, you were asking about the
ship
.”
Despite herself, Kira appreciated the levity.
“Well, the
da Vinci
’s fine. We’re stringing baling wire right now. What about my people?”

“Still in one piece, Captain.” This from Sonya Gomez, who staffed a long-range sensor with Nog. An impromptu powwow: When the
da Vinci
had docked at the station following its sojourn in the Gamma Quadrant, Dr. Lense received word that she was one of five finalists for the prestigious Bentman Prize. What Lense clearly
hadn’t
planned on was heading off in a runabout with Bashir at the helm because—surprise, surprise—Bashir was a finalist, too. (Personally, Kira thought Lense looked like she was being knifed when she got that little bit of news.)

The
da Vinci
had been set to get under way—they’d had two crew fatalities and needed to head to Earth for the memorial services—when the first distortion waves came rippling through Bajoran space. Gomez had beamed directly to ops from the
da Vinci.
Nog had appeared a second later on the lift, so impatient to get to his duty station he’d practically vaulted the railing. Sometime in all of this, Gomez had pinned back her shock of curly sable-colored hair, but that last jolt had loosed a thick shank that now grazed her left cheek. Gomez backhanded the hair with an impatient gesture. “And I think we’ve got something here.”

“Go,” said Kira. She took the distance to the sensor station in two strides. “What the hell’s going on?”

“I don’t
know
exactly,” said the Ferengi, his words rocketing out in spurts as if they’d piled up behind his teeth, anxious as all hell to get out already. It was something Kira noticed Nog did, not when he was nervous, but good and pissed off. Nog’s fingers danced over his console. “The distortion waves—they’re not sequenced or periodic in any way. They’re much more random—like someone’s flipping a switch on and off, only at irregular intervals. All I can tell is that, what these sensors say, it shouldn’t be happening.”

Moments like these, Kira almost wished she was Vulcan:
But it’s happening, so your point?
Instead, she settled for something in between. “Except?”

“Except it is, and it’s coming from Empok Nor.”

“What?” Crowding in between Nog and Gomez, she double-checked their readings and then wished she hadn’t. “Will someone please explain this? Never mind that we’ve got Empok Nor’s lower core.” She planted her fists into her hips and pinned Nog with a hard stare. “You said you guys tore that station apart looking for any little presents the Androssi left behind. So how did you manage to overlook something powerful enough to start cracking into space-time?”

It came out harsher than she liked, and Nog’s lobes flushed purple. Abashed, Nog shook his head and Gomez opened her mouth, but it was the tiny slip of a Bynar directly across the bowl of ops and next to Vaughn who answered. “I believe I’ve pinpointed the problem, Captain.”

“Thank the Prophets.” Kira turned on her heel, ignoring the headache that was trying to leak out of her ears, and the blood-taste in her mouth. They got out of this, she’d toss back a few painkillers and take a nice long nap. “What is it?”

“I can’t say for sure what it is.” The Bynar’s eyes glittered, a bright cerulean blue. “But what I can say is that the reason it was overlooked was because the Androssi did what they always do. The problem was never, technically,
there.

There was a beat. Then, Kira said, “Say what?”

“Well, I’m
verklempt.” The
da Vinci
captain sounded about as confused as Kira felt.
“But it’d be just like Biron. They used interdimensional rifts?”

Soloman’s bald head bobbed in an emphatic nod. “Yes, sir. It’s a virus, or a code, that hasn’t just been encrypted, it’s been hidden
within
a quantum singularity. To all outward appearances, the data has been generated
by
it.”

“There’s precedent, Captain,” said Gomez. “The Romulans’ quantum singularity drive, for example.”

Vaughn frowned. “That uses a gravity well to generate power by fusing subatomic particles. They can’t
hide
anything in it.”

“But, in theory, you could,” said Soloman. “No one has ever done it because you can’t time or predict when the code will reemerge. Similarly, retrieval is very difficult. We’re accustomed to thinking of information becoming lost once this information, whether it exists as matter or energy, crosses an event horizon. Clearly, if the Romulans harness power, then information is never truly lost, it merely changes in form. Similarly, a code or command—or virus—may be stored beyond an event horizon. Either the originators of this information intended to retrieve it, or understood when it would resurface at a later time to carry out its specified functions.”

Gold, on his channel:
“But there’s a third possibility, right? That if the Androssi put it there, the
putzes
couldn’t get it out either.

“That is also possible.”

Gomez spoke up. “The problem is the quantum foam.”

Kira blinked. “The what?”

“It’s not the kind of foam you’re thinking of, Captain. Quantum foam is a region composed of quantum particles and micro-black holes that pop in and out of existence. The more closely you look at the fabric of space-time, the more chaotic that fabric becomes. What looks solid—a chair, a rock—becomes a morass of energy states and vibrating particles when viewed at the subatomic level. Similarly, the smaller a black hole, the greater space-time is distorted around the hole in proportion to the hole’s size.”

Kira pinched the ridged part of her nose between a thumb and forefinger. Her headache throbbed in time with her pulse. “Okay. But how does this explain what’s going on here?”

“This quantum foam hasn’t destroyed the information. Somehow the foam’s interacted with the singularity in which the information was hidden. The question is, what activated the code?”

“It’s impossible to answer that for certain at the moment.” Soloman’s smooth forehead crinkled in a frown. “To follow upon the quantum analogy, it could be coming from any of an infinite number of universes. The information—in this case, energy—is streaming as an encoded quantum datastream.”

“Okay,” said Kira. “So this signal, or code, or virus, or program—whatever is potentially coming from a computer in a different universe, only you can’t nail down exactly what it’s saying because the data represents all possibilities at once. Or the other way around: Something
here
is talking to someone out
there.
” Kira looked back at Soloman. “And now because of this connection, this…foam’s getting more agitated and the micro-black holes are expanding so that its effects are more pronounced on a macroscopic level?”

“Intermittently, yes. That’s what is causing these temporal-spatial distortion waves.”

“Can you shut it down?”

Soloman shook his head. “Not from DS9. I don’t even know if you could properly call the datastream
here
in the first place. The datastream is
within
a contained system continually fluctuating between temporal dimensions.”

Kira sighed. “Why do I have the feeling that this isn’t the worst part?”

“Because it isn’t, Captain.” Nog was more grim than angry now. “The more information passes through that region, the more unstable it’s making the surrounding space-time. Space is literally cracking. What we’ve felt now isn’t half as bad as it’s going to get.”

“Ten to one, those temporal-spatial ripples are triggering Bajor’s tectonic shifts,” said Vaughn. “Only a matter of time before Bajor comes apart at the seams, literally. Lord knows where it will stop.”

“What about the wormhole?”

“I don’t see how its horizon can remain coherent,” said Gomez.

“Meaning it breaks apart, too.”
And, maybe, the Prophets die.
“Soloman, is there any way to stop this?”

“I would have to proceed via inference,” said Soloman. “If I can’t interact with the datastreams directly, I might be able to infer their content by interfacing with one of Empok Nor’s nonessential systems. Something innocuous, like the turbolifts. If I can determine the
ways
in which the virus is encrypted, I’ll likely be permitted to understand what’s being said between the two systems and then effect change.”

“A self-authorizing language,” said Nog. “If we’re smart enough to figure out how to read it, we’ll be admitted into the system.”

Other books

Assignment Unicorn by Edward S. Aarons
A Denial of Death by Gin Jones
Sudden Independents by Hill, Ted
Have Gat—Will Travel by Richard S. Prather
Duainfey by Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
In Petrakis's Power by Maggie Cox