"Captain, bring up the display of the two stars in Sector 008," said a female voice as the doors opened to the bridge of the Iconian ship. The voice belonged to Kerrin, an Iconian female who was currently helping Kira and Nige try to solve the mystery of why two super-massive stars were on an unnatural collision course in the Maffei I galaxy.
In response to Kerrin's order, the captain activated the main view screen aboard the bridge. Just minutes ago the ship had bore them to the galactic core from their original destination at an Iconian shipyard that was over 300 light years away. Kira and Nige were still amazed at the Iconian's level of warp technology that allowed them to move such distances in so little time. Then again, these were the same people who were responsible for making a gateway transportation system that spanned at least two galaxies.
"Computer," said Kerrin, "scan the area between the two stars for any anomalous readings."
The Iconian computer responded with a few blips that informed them that it was working on its task.
Kira, who was standing on the bridge slightly behind Kerrin and to the right of her, felt a strange, queasy feeling. "Kerrin," he began as he tried to steady himself on Nige's nearby shoulder, "do your ships utilize any form of temporally displaced energy in order to propel them?"
"No, Kira," responded N'teiu, the Captain of the Iconian ship that they were traveling aboard. "Why do you ask?"
"My anatomy has always been sensitive to temporal displacements, and ever since we arrived I have felt something that seems to remind me of a temporal wake of some sort," said Kira as he tried to quell the strange sensation that was permeating his body. He reached out his hand and leaned on Nige's shoulder in order to steady himself.
"Do you need to sit down?" asked Nige.
Kira nodded yes to answer Nige and he brought him over to a nearby, unused chair next to a console.
"Computer," said Kerrin, "include in your scans any areas of temporal displacement."
Suddenly the computer chirruped a few more chimes, to which Kerrin moved over to the console that Kira was seated in front of. Moving around his frame she began to look over the data that was pouring out of the screen.
"You are correct, Kira," said Kerrin in a slightly puzzled tone, "there is a temporal disturbance in this area. In fact it seems to be strongly isolated directly between the two stars at near right angles."
"Can your sensors interface with your data to show us what this temporal anomaly looks like on the view screen?" asked Nige.
"Yes, they can," said N'teiu.
In answer to his question the screen's image now was superimposed with a second layer of data that was poring over the view screen. A large temporal rift could be seen directly between the two stars sending tendrils of disturbance out of its long, thin cordlike core.
"A temporal rift alone shouldn't be causing the two stars to change their course and be pulled along with it," said Kira. "There must be another component to this thing that we can't see."
"Our sensors picked up something else," said Kerrin in a worried tone. "It looks as though this is no simple temporal rift." Kerrin punched a few more keys on her console that caused the view screen to add yet another layer of data above the first two. "It is a subspace tear that is temporally out of phase. How it was formed I do not know, but as it travels along it is temporarily damaging subspace around it, causing a massive gravity well."
"That's one weird thing we've found," said Nige.
"And virtually impossible to detect on long range scans, thanks to the temporal component," said N'teiu.
"Do you think this thing was created on purpose?" asked Nige.
"I've never seen anything like it before, but that doesn't mean that it isn't naturally occurring," said Kerrin.
"Well, now that we've found the thing, how do we fix it?" said Kira.
"First we'll need to isolate the temporal displacement. After we've done that we should be able to modify a torpedo with a temporal shield tuned to the variance. The torpedo would then be able to penetrate the anomaly and seal the subspace component," said Kerrin.
"What about the stars?" asked Nige, "Will they go back to their original orbits after the disturbance is dissipated?"
"No," said Kerrin, "but they will not collide as quickly as we had imagined. This repair will buy us some time to figure out a way to correct their original stellar orbits."
"First things first," said N'teiu, "we'll begin working to seal the rift. In the meantime, I suggest that you and your scientists work on a solution to the stellar orbit problem. We'll inform you of our progress."
As Kira, Nige and Kerrin started to make their way back to the conference room full of scientists, Kerrin whispered in Nige's ear, "That's N'teiu's way of asking us to get out of his way for a while."
Nige allowed himself to laugh a bit at Kerrin's little joke. Perhaps these people did have a sense of humor about things. At least anyone's sense of humor was better than his Kelvan companion from his own timeline. Speaking of which. "Kira," asked Nige, "how long has it been since we've heard from Benton?"
Kira's features went blank for a second as he paused to think of where the Lieutenant might be at this present moment. "As far as I know he's still en route to the core with the Kelvans of this time line. I'm not sure if they're going to get here in time to render much assistance," responded Kira. "But, I don't think that we're going to need the Kelvans help in this matter. They aren't nearly as technologically advanced as they are in our time, and thus, they aren't much help to us."
"I'll ask N'teiu to contact him for you," said Kerrin.
"Thank you Kerrin," said Nige, "if you could have N'teiu ask him when we might expect him to arrive that would be much appreciated as well."
"Gentlemen," said Kerrin, "perhaps now would be a good time to rest for the evening. It is now very late, and you will need your rest for tomorrow's sessions with our scientists. I'll show each of you to your quarters if that is acceptable to you."
Given their fatigue, and Kira's near collapse on the bridge moments ago, both men accepted the offer of rest. Kerrin took each of them to their temporary quarters on the ship. She had managed to secure them rooms that were right next to each other. Both rooms were spacious, and decorated in the Iconian's standard white pallor. One curious design element that caught their attention was that the two rooms could be linked together. All one of them had to do was press a series of buttons, and the partition between them would dissolve, decorations and all in something that reminded them of a holographic display, although obviously more complex.
As Nige and Kira each entered their rooms for the evening the found that they had been provided with a change of clothing in each of their sleeping quarters. The clothes resembled the design that Kerrin was wearing, comfortable, flowing clothing with varying off-white tones.
Kira was so exhausted at this point that he barely managed to flop down on the couch in his sitting quarters. He was about to nod off when he heard a chirruping sound coming from somewhere nearby. Rousing his mind and body he searched for the noise, and found that the sound came from a nearby lightly glowing orb. He touched the device and was immediately greeted by Nige's voice.
"Kira," said Nige through the small speakers, "go over to the wall and press the glowing button in the corner."
Groggily, Kira complied with Nige's request. "Okay. Just a second. Let me find it."
Fortunately the button was easy to find, and as soon as Kira depressed it the wall between the two rooms dissolved, effectively merging their respective sitting areas into a great-room of sorts.
"You got to love their sense of design," said Nige as he walked into Kira's portion of the new room.
"Remind me to ask them how they do that too," said Kira as he tried to rub the sleep from his eyes.
Noticing his friend's fatigue Nige immediately said, "Sorry to keep you up, Kira, but I was wondering something."
"What is it?"
"Was it just me, or did the Iconian's solution to fixing that thing out there seem too easy."
"It did seem too easy," agreed Kira.
"If this was the test that Q was going to give us, I think you're getting off entirely too easily."
"I don't think the test is going to be dissipating the anomaly," said Kira, "the real test is how to correct these two stars' orbits."
"Any ideas on how to do that yet?"
"Not a one. Granted, I'm tired at the moment, and still a bit queasy from being this close to the temporal rift. I've got to get to bed now, Tyran. My mind is mush from all this thinking."
"I'll see you in the morning then," said Nige. "Do you want me to separate the rooms again?"
"Nah, leave them open. It makes the place more comfortable."
"Good night then," said Nige.
Kira plodded his way back to his side of the great room where the sleeping quarters were located. He quickly undressed and after finding some sleeping garments of some sort he switched clothes and climbed into bed beneath some of the most comfortable linens that he'd ever had the chance to sleep under.
He was nearly asleep when he felt the weight of the bed shift beside him. *What on earth?*
As Kira rolled over in his bed he was shocked to see what had caused his bed to shift. Any vestiges of fatigue were definitely out of Kira's system once his eyes had focused on the thing that was disturbing his sleep.
"Q!" shouted Kira. "What on earth are you doing in my bed!?!?!?"
"Kira," said Q as he hiked up the covers of the bed up to his chin, "it's not what you think."
"Oh very well," said Q. He snapped his fingers and reappeared on a nearby chair in Kira's room.
"Would you mind explaining this intrusion?" said Kira in a terse tone.
"I'm just here to check up on you, Commander," said Q.
"Define 'checking up on me'," said Kira with a foul look on his face.
"Did anyone ever tell you that your patience wears thin too quickly?" said Q as he tried to change the subject.
"Believe me, Q," said Kira in his most sarcastic tone he could muster at this late hour, "only you tend to bring out the worst in me."
"Commander," said Q, "I'm touched."
As he sat up in his bed, Kira rolled his eyes and said, "Why me?" in a barely audible whisper.
"Why you, indeed, Commander," said Q.
"It was a rhetorical expression," said Kira, "not an invitation for an answer, Q. Frankly, I'm not sure why you're putting all of us through this perverted form of torture. Do we amuse you, O great, omnipotent Q? Have you had your fun yet, or shall we feeble bipeds continue to amuse you by trying to fix something outside our abilities like the broken orbits of two super massive neutron stars?!"
"Remind me to never disrupt you this late in the evening," said Q in his own disgusted tone, "you can be quite disagreeable when you've not got enough sleep." Q paused for a moment to see what Kira's response to his banter would be. At this point Kira gave up on having any sort of rational discussion with this pompous git of a super-being.
Sensing Kira's resolve, Q finally dropped his standard, annoying tone and simply said, "To be perfectly honest with you Kira I'm here to see if you have made any progress in figuring out how to correct the problem that we set before you."
"You set this problem before me?" said Kira, "You make it sound like you created this problem for me."
"We did," stated Q.
"We created this test for you."
"For what purpose, Q, amusement?"
"No, there is nothing amusing about this situation, Commander. This test is very serious to your continued existence. I'm not acting on my own in this matter, for at the moment the entire Continuum is watching your progress through this situation with much interest."
"And what makes me so interesting, Q?"
"If you don't know the answer to that by now, Commander...," said Q as he let his sentence trail off without completing it. "Let's just say that we're interested in you for the moment and leave it at that."
"If you're not going to tell me why you're doing this test, or offer any assistance in this mess that you've obviously created, then why are you still here?" said Kira.
"I'm just here to give you the smallest of hints. Actually, it's more than a hint, but still I think it will help you."
"The biggest obstacle you have to overcome isn't figuring out how to correct the orbits of a few stars; your biggest obstacle will be removing the constraints you've placed on yourself. Until you think without limits, without borders or boundaries, you won't be able to solve this problem. Think about that while you sleep."
With a snap of his fingers Q disappeared from Kira's bedroom leaving Kira alone in his thoughts. Q's final sentences stuck in his mind. For some reason the words kept rolling around in his mind in a vicious circle, keeping him from sleep for a few hours. Finally, exhausted, both mentally and physically, Kira gave up on trying to figure out what was going on around him. He made a mental note to try to remember to talk to Tyran about tonight before he lulled off into a restless, but much needed sleep.