Unofficial Literary Challenge #4: Prompt #1: Second Life
Harley Menrow woke up in his quarters, like any other day, and, like any other day, he questioned what he was doing with his life. It wasn't horrible, by any means, but it definitely wasn't conventional.
"Good morning, sunshine," the holographic attendant for his quarters, Jaya, phased on at the end of his bed, with a smile.
Menrow jumped at her, "Aah!" And then he remembered, "Oh, right. You're the personal assistant that appears in all the quarters. Must you keep appearing like that?"
"It is the nature of my program, Menrow," she answered. "The same program you hacked to harvest station-encryption algorhythms of which the absence of are decompiling me as we speak."
Menrow watched as she disappeared. "Well, that was unexpected."
Inside the space station's Bajoran Shrine was a dead Orb of Summons, encased within a spherical see-through glass-like container. The shrine had been falsely scheduled to close for maintenance, thanks to Menrow's team.
"How are things looking? Are all the sensors offline?" Menrow spoke.
A female voice, Sen Hatcha, responded over secure comms, "Everyone's in place. Security has been blocked."
"Wait. Hatcha? What's going on here?" he asked entering the shrine. He only had ten seconds to complete his task, but something about her voice triggered a dream-like memory within him.
She answered, "Uh, what? You’re off-pace question is confusing me, Menrow. Stealing is what's going on. That's what we do. You wrote it on your hand, remember?"
"Sorry. I'm having an existential moment. But I'm sure such a momentary interlude will have no consequences," Menrow commented, as he approached the Orb. But his hesitation cost him the time he needed, then--
A robotic *Click! Click! Chirp!* called out to him from behind, coming from a large, hand-sized, robot spider named Zeta, sitting on the Chief of Security's shoulder.
"A little early for a felony, isn't it?" Starfleet officer, Lieutenant Commander Sith said with crossed arms.
Knocked back into reality, Menrow quickly slapped a transporter tag onto the Orb, causing it to be dematerialized. Zeta lept out at Menrow, grabbing onto his face: Struggling for balance, Menrow pried the spider off his face and threw it back at Sith, "Ugh! It's never too early to break social order!"
Sith caught Zeta, which was enough of a distraction for Menrow to attack.
The two exchanged punch after block after redirect before Sith used his free hand to force-palm Menrow in the head and knock him out.
"Dammit. And the Orb was just one week away from retirement."
Later, Menrow's team was seated in the observation lounge on the space station. They were placed around the big table, joined by some of the senior staff. Outside the large windows sat the big, blue Earth.
"Don't feel bad," Captain Halliwell opened, "We learned about your operation by accident when we captured an Alliance infiltrator on a civilian freighter last month. He thought selling something called 'ice cream' to passengers would make him less suspicious."
Menrow glanced at her, "So, you knew about our cover-jobs at the station's bar, the Double~Helix, huh? I guess you can tell your Bolian bartender, Ottel, that I will be late for work today." He then eyed his own people in confusion, "Wait. Even that sounds offsetting? Something's not right here? Are we on Earth Spacedock?"
"No one's called it that for a very long time," Fleet Admiral Garrison said, "It's Starbase 001, and it's you who will be giving us answers-- like where is the Orb? And why aren’t you telling us where the Orb is?"
Hatcha interjected, "This is ridiculous. We're not working for the Alliance! That is-- What's the Alliance again? Great. Now I'm suffering from Menrow-nia."
"The Alliance is the large intergalactic sovereignty that is fighting us, what's left of the Federation, the us they claim to be corrupt," Doctor Ulli answered. "They're also who your contact, Kebb, is working for, whether you knew that or not."
Another one of Menrow's people, Grunley, spoke, "We're just kindly thieves who steal for a living. We have nothing against the Federation," then admitting a sudden, newly found naiveté, "Side-question: What century is this?"
"It's the 28th century!" Garrison answered, frustrated. "Why can't any of you stay on topic here?? This is worse than necro threads on message boards."
Suddenly, a tall, pale man, entered the secured room, wearing grey robes, "My apologies, everyone. I can explain it all. My name is Wayfar and I am a Traveler. This group, here, is not from this era, but rather, several hundred years earlier; and they are not thieves, but rather, a Starfleet crew of the Intrepid-class Starship Crucial."
"Those ships were retired in shame after the Janeway Trials!" Ulli exclaimed in shock.
Menrow looked to the side, "The last thing I remember is being at Starbase 78 when we were attacked by Hirogen."
"You died from those attacks," Hatcha said, remembering. "Your body was recovered, and I took over the Crucial. For a second, we felt like Klingons, and it was......... glorious."
Wayfar nodded, "I happened to be on the medical team working to save Menrow, and when all else failed, I attempted to revive him via Traveler means. All of you were visiting him that day and came upon my sneaky efforts by chance. When you tried to stop me, your interruption sent all of you into the future-- Classic sitcom set up, by the way."
"But I remember so much about my life here?" Grunley said, unsure. "Even that whole year I was a botanist for no reason: Soooo many plants."
The Traveler turned, "Unfortunately, my work is more than mere time differential, but, in this case, life duplication. I must apologize; I'm new. I just got my Traveler's license, like, two weeks ago."
"So that's it? You're going to take these people back?" Garrison interrupted. "We have an Alliance plot to destroy the Earth. The Orbs may be dead by our century, but their material is just now being sought after as a highly destructive weapon, undetectable by sensors of any kind."
Hatcha nodded, "Well, at least we'll know when the Earth dies-- and it's not in our era, so we can at least enjoy the comfort of that. Beach party, anyone?"
"No, Garrison's right," Menrow conceded. "We've been living the worst kind of life here; as criminals. I felt something was off and never did anything about it. This is our chance to set things right. It's convenient, I'll admit, but I'll take what I can get."
Later, Menrow met with two engineers, Tanik and Clark, in the Transporter Center.
"Are you sure there's a cloaked vessel at these coordinates?" Tanik asked. "Seems like we're just going to beam you into cold space--- Not that, as bad guys, you wouldn't have our sympathies about. We're still enlightened is what I'm saying."
Clark perked up, "Also, how do we even know we can trust you? For all we know, you're just going to expedite Earth's end, like that one century with the polar ice caps."
"Because, not only am I doing this for my home planet, but I'm also doing this for my personal issues," Menrow explained as he stepped onto one of the pads. "I'm not saying they're equal, but I'm not not saying that too."
Annoyed by that logic, Tanik rolled his eyes and just went ahead with the transport.
Menrow rematerialized inside a darkly lit cloaked Romulan shuttle. There, Kebb was working on the Orb of Summons, under an isomolecular resonance spectrometer.
"Dude, why is it so dark in here?" Menrow spoke as way of introduction.
Kebb glanced up from his work, "Uh, we're cloaked. How else would you know? Also, your words are weird. You talk weird."
"You can't judge me, the same you who has been working with the enemy all along!" Menrow pointed in accusation.
Kebb went back to work, "Oh, please. Like you care? You're in it for the money and money alone; and you can't tell me you don't get a cheap thrill from it-- In much the same way a young adult may knock on some old man's household door and then run like hell."
"Perhaps in the short term-- the women, the parties and riches-- but in the long term, it's meaningless. Let's better ourselves; let's live better."
The Takaran finished setting up the changes to the Orb and then offered the money chip to Menrow, "What the hell?? I'm seconds away from committing genocide. You are such a mood killer! Just take your money and go-- Oh, you might want to evacuate the Solar system, by the way."
But instead, Menrow knocked the chip to the ground. He then turned his back to Kebb, revealing Zeta having been clung there the whole time. *Click? Chirp!*
Zeta then leapt off Menrow and tackled Kebb to the ground, "Aahhhggh!! My precious face!!?? I needed that for proving to others my alternative lifestyle as having valuuueggghhhh!??"
After saving Earth in the 28th century, and returning the Orb, Wayfar performed an awkward everyone-hold-hands-in-a-circle like-séance which was successful in sending everyone back in time to the 25th century. The crew found themselves on the Bridge of the Intrepid-class U.S.S. Crucial.
"Wait, what?" Menrow checked his chair chronometer, "We've been returned many years after my accident!"
Grunley raised his hand, "Is Bacco still president?"
"I think it's a bottle of Saurian Brandy now," Hatcha replied, checking a nearby computer too quickly, "Sorry; just a Saurian; no brandy."
Wayfar entered through the turbolifts, "Man, I had to take two Orion transports to get here. It was, like, six weeks of traveling for me. This Bolian passenger wouldn't stop about his Picard obsession."
"Well, it's obvious why you didn't space-time travel; we're years behind schedule," Menrow implicated.
The Traveler held up his hand, "Like before, I really have to apologize. You did in fact return several days after your disappearance-- unfortunately, the reality time-differential placement offset just integrated this plain of your consciousness back into this point in your personal histories. You see, the offset was off to begin with, part-why your memory delayed in the future, and, as I said, I literally just got my license, which is surprisingly well laminated--"
"Dammit, Wayfar!" Menrow cursed. "I must've slept with, like, fifteen different aliens by now, and I can't even remember them."
The Tau Alpha C native handed over a padd, "You'll find all your past experiences in your logs. And don't worry about the consciousness's you've just overwritten; they're dead now."
"Ugggh," Menrow started, annoyed. He then took a breath, "No, you were only trying to help. The fact of the matter is I owe you my thanks, for saving me and for providing us with a look at another life had we been born into a century our current level of brain development was not evolved enough for." He hesitantly shook Wayfar's hand, "Would you be interested.... in dinner with the crew or something?"
Shocked, Wayfar replied, "Of course I would! This is great. You set a date. I'm going to time-travel straight to it by sensing for it alone."
In a second, he disappeared in a flutter of horizontal phasing-bands.
"Hatcha, you'll remember to set a date, right?" Menrow asked.
Preoccupied and looking around at all the workstations for her spot, she nodded absentmindedly, "Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah. Sure."
Meanwhile, Wayfar found himself unexpectedly transported to the white nothingness the Q were known to occupy during off hours, "Damn! I really over-shot that." He looked around.
"Yeah, you did," said Qu, who just happened to be standing nearby. "Want to draw smiley faces in a cloud of Calamarain?"
Wayfar nodded, "I'd like that."