Chapter 1
Some parts of the galaxy are crowded with stars, nebulae, dust. Others, the areas between the spiral arms, for instance, are virtually empty. Not just the ordinary emptiness of space, but an emptiness of background as well. There are no nearby stars, and the galaxy itself can be seen as a faint wash of dots painted in a smear.
Like a shadow, the Vardan Rak hung in this space unlit. An observer would have been unable to determine if it was moving, as there was nothing nearby to measure its movement against. This was a part of the Romulan empire's territory which was really just space. There were no stars near enough to light up its exterior, had there been anyone to see it, and its windows were shut, or blanked.
Although stars and planets have their interest, deep space offers much to scientists. The background radiation of empty space provides continual grist to their mills.
Life aboard a Romulan science vessel might be considered boring to some, but the Romulans were not a race easily bored. Aboard the Vardan Rak those not actively on duty were wont to spend their time on contemplation, research or in intellectual games. They had learned the technology of holodecks from the Federation, but tended to use it to reconstruct scenes from home where they could sit and contemplate the great ideas. Romulus had a beautiful but violent face, and it might seem odd to a human to see a Romulan sitting entranced in his or her own thoughts at the base of a spectacular fire falls.
As the ship was charting a relatively unexplored part of Romulan territory, they went about their duties methodically. All learning was important, and they dutifully recorded everything about the few stars in the distance, as well as the features of space itself.
The Tribune in charge of the ship was named Tripeg. He was a long-faced Romulan with a dark countenance, a lover of poetry and science, and he found a fascination in the mathematical aspects of space. A Romulan, like a Vulcan, would reject the idea that he would enjoy anything, but Tripeg enjoyed the empty wastes of space.
They had not been long arrived, but already data flowed in.
'Have we data recordings in every direction?' he asked. It was a formality. His crew were so experienced that they could probably have continued without his issuing a command during the stopover.
'I have not been recording in the area bearing 66 as yet,' said an officer. 'A vessel is on patrol there. It is the Forr Took, Tribune Sarel's warbird. Its emissions would overwhelm the readings. I will record there when it has gone, and its trail has dissipated.'
'Record in that direction anyway, but note its presence,' said Tripeg. 'The dissipation may have its own interest.'
'Tribune, I have something anomalous about three light years away,' said Moureg, a science officer, a short time later. 'It was good fortune that you gave that order.'
Tripeg came over.
'On short wavelengths there is some sort of vortex,' said Moureg, 'but nothing is visible to the eye. It is some distance away, but fairly large. It has nothing to do with the starship. In fact it is a good distance away from it.'
Tripeg's interest was caught, and he ordered the ship to be brought closer. From nearby the identity of the phenomenon was clearer.
'It's a wormhole!' exclaimed Moureg with a sharpness in his voice which signaled excitement. 'It's not very big, but worth recording.'
Wormholes were uncommon enough that all the crew who were not required to maintain the ship either came to the bridge or followed the action through their viewscreens throughout the ship. A wormhole was like an eddy in space, which might go from one place to another like a huge door. But like an eddy in water, its stability was likely to be short.
Isgri, another science officer, joined Moureg. She did not have to explain her interest. Most of those on the bridge knew that the study of wormholes was her major interest, but she had never actually seen one.
Moureg studied the wormhole for a few minutes.
'Is it stable?' asked Tripeg with interest. 'The only known stable wormhole is in Bajoran space. It would be desirable to have one of our own.'
'It seems relatively stable,' replied Moureg, 'but not completely. I would estimate it might last some months, so it will be possible to explore it, but it is not big enough for a large ship to pass through.'
'So, not a warbird then,' said Tripeg, 'but could we go through?'
'No, but a scout ship could fit through comfortably. I need not remind you, I am sure, that there is an element of risk. The wormhole might suddenly disappear. There is a small, but finite, chance that the other end of the wormhole might come out in a solid object.'
'I think that problem could be discounted,' remarked one of those nearby. 'The percentage of matter in space is so low that the chance is negligible. And if there were a solid mass right at the wormhole, traces of matter would be coming through it, especially if that matter were gaseous or stellar.'
'Then we can call for a volunteer crew, to explore who knows where,' said Tripeg. 'You all understand the danger?'
'The danger is mostly that the wormhole might close, and cut us off in some distant corner of the galaxy,' said Isgri. 'For a Romulan, not such a terror. A group of us could survive away from the Star Empire. The ship could sustain us indefinitely if we did not find a habitable planet. Which of us would not take the risk for the chance of new knowledge?'
'I agree,' replied Moureg. 'But do not forget we know almost nothing about wormholes. A few have been investigated without mishap, but the explorers have generally not stayed long, and have had little time for exploration. And we do not know that the other end is in our galaxy. In fact the worst scenario would be to find ourselves in intergalactic space.'
'Why so?' asked Tripeg curiously.
'Because if we were to be stranded, there would be nothing to do but meditate for the rest of our lives!' said Moureg drily. 'We could be millions of light years from a star.'
'If that is the case,' interposed a woman, 'it might be best to take equal numbers of each gender. A colony could be maintained until the ship found another galaxy, and perhaps began to seed it with Romulans.'
'These hypotheses are becoming too involved,' said Tripeg, with a slight smile, 'but I agree. If we have the volunteers we will have a gender balance. It is overwhelmingly likely, however, that the ship will look around, record nothing of interest, and return through the wormhole. The most urbane of us might falter at maintaining a colony on a runabout. I presume from your continued use of the word 'we' that you intend to assign yourself to the crew, Moureg?'
'Yes,' Moureg agreed. 'It is also possible that we will find some resources which can be quickly mined or harvested in the next few months. The wormhole does seem likely to last at least that long.'
Tripeg considered contacting the warbird, but decided that this was his responsibility. The warbird would have its own agenda. It had probably not even registered the presence of the wormhole, as it would not be scanning all frequencies like the Vardan Rak was. If it approached the danger area it could be warned.
A crew of six was assembled, and Tribune Tripeg reported the discovery and his intentions back to the central base on Romulus. All information on star formations was downloaded into the scout ship, so that the explorers could try to determine their position at the other end.
'We will fulfil the rest of our duties here while you explore,' said Tripeg, 'but will not stay beyond that time. If you are held up, but return later, the scout ship can easily take you home. I wish you well in your discoveries.'
The six, which included Moureg and Isgri, detached their vessel from the larger one, and aimed themselves through the center of the wormhole. It was an eerie sensation, even for a Romulan, since there was nothing visible to their senses.
Passage through a wormhole is an unsettling experience for humans, but the Romulans would have scorned closing their viewports, or protecting themselves, apart from the obvious action of turning on their shields. Moureg noted the time on the chronometer, and the space around them wilted.
For a time their internal clocks ceased to function, and they had no idea how long they had been traveling. As they popped back out into normal space, and the world seemed to fall back into flatness like a jigsaw puzzle solving itself, Moureg glanced at the chronometer. No time had passed.
Interesting, he thought.
Isgri had remained impassive, as was the norm for her race, but her heart sang with the thrill. She absorbed every nuance of the journey, and the reactions of her own physiology to it. Strangely, it seemed long enough for her to take in every impression, but also seemed to take no time at all.
They were in open space, but there were a few stars within a few light-years.
'So far safely,' said Moureg. 'Let us examine our surroundings. It is just possible that we are still within known space. If not, the computers may be able to extrapolate our position - if we are still in our own galaxy!'
'The wormhole is still visible, and seems stable still. We have a way home,' said Isgri without any emotional inflection. They began to analyse their surroundings and took measurements on the two nearest systems.
'One is a normal double star,' said the astrophysicist, Blend, 'and the other is a single yellow star. The double star has ten planets, none life-supporting. The yellow star has nine planets, the fifth one the largest, just sub-solar, and the third life-supporting. The computer is attempting a match from its database.'
They settled into looking at the stars around them, looking for any unusual phenomena, but were surprised as the computer almost instantly found a match.
Blend glanced at the screen and laughed shortly. The others looked at her. She swung around in her chair, with a grimace.
'What a great discovery!' she said sardonically. 'We have come on our great adventure and discovered - Earth!'
'Are you sure?' asked Moureg with a frown. 'If so, we had best be going back through the wormhole. I don't fancy facing earth's starships on their own territory!'
'What an anticlimax to a great adventure,' said Isgri wryly. 'All right, let us go back. we can take our recordings of the wormhole from our own side.'
'The High Command may have some idea how to use this tunnel into earth's home territory,' said Blend. 'I doubt it, though.'
'What starships?' asked another member of the crew, Roga puzzledly, still following Moureg's last words. 'I am not registering any extraterrestrial activity at all.'
'That's odd,' said Blend. 'The orbits and planet sizes match exactly, but the picture of the earth shows little resemblance! The atmosphere is almost right, but not the configuration of land.'
'There is a theory that a solar system of a given mass will form a certain configuration,' mused Moureg. 'This could be another star system which began with almost the same amount of matter as the earth's sun, and so condensed in an identical way.'
'With so many stars, its probability is possible,' said Blend doubtfully, 'but the odds that we should come out at a never-before discovered solar system which is identical with that of our greatest enemies...'
'The humans have on a number of occasions found parallel universes,' put in Roga. 'It only seems to happen to them. Could this be a parallel earth, where the humans have not developed space travel?'
'I have never heard of a wormhole which went to another universe,' said Isgri. 'But then, again, we know hardly anything about wormholes, and it may be theoretically possible.'
Blend pored over her computer.
'The next system is a perfect match for Alpha Centauri! The odds of two systems matching is astronomical.'
'Well, this is astronomy we are talking about,' observed Roga.
Isgri in the meantime had been examining earth star maps which she had called up on the computer.
'Yes,' she said, 'the star maps are right for earth - almost.'
'Almost?' said Blend. She called up the maps herself, and studied them. Then she had the computer run a simulation. She sank back in her seat with a sigh of satisfaction.
'We missed the obvious,' she said. 'A wormhole is an eddy in space-time. Why did we assume it just came out in different space but the same time? We have not traveled far in space, but far in the past. It is earth, but the computer puts us about sixty-five million years in the past!'
The group were silent at the enormity of this discovery.
'This puts a different complexion on traveling through wormholes,' said Isgri eventually. 'The further back one goes, the higher the background radiation of the cosmos becomes. If we found ourselves within the first half million years of the universe, the radiation would be sufficient to discorporate the atoms of the ship!'
'I think we would still have warning of that,' said Blend thoughtfully. 'Plasma would drift through the wormhole. I doubt that wormholes could exist back in that era.'
'An interesting idea arises then,' remarked one of the others. 'If we ever do discover how to travel through time, a measurement of the background radiation of space could give a general idea of where we were.'
'But why should this wormhole travel through time when none of the others has?' asked Moureg with a frown.
'How do we know?' said Blend. 'There is no communication between the two ends of any wormhole besides going through it. There could be millions of years difference in time, and one would never know unless one were able to study it. We must make the suggestion to Bajor. Perhaps they would even let us investigate.'
'The wormhole near Bajor is atypical,' said Isgri. 'It is stable because it is maintained by some mysterious extratemporal beings. Traveling through it is said to be quite a different experience than through a natural one. It is known that both its ends are contemporaneous to some extent. Messages have been exchanged with ships after they have traversed it, by subspace.'
'We are here,' observed Blend, 'presumably in our own universe. What a chance to observe the changes over time. And how odd to be browsing at our leisure around the enemy camp, so to speak.'
'We must make sure not to be observed,' observed Moureg. 'A chance observation of an extraterrestrial vehicle might alter history somehow.'
'Just think,' added Isgri. 'They are probably crawling around down there, not having even discovered nuclear power yet.'
'I think we should go back soon, after making our observations,' said Moureg. 'The High Council may have some ideas on what to do.'
'How amusing it would be to come and mine all their outer planets before they even discover them,' smiled Blend. 'it might set the earth alliances back centuries!'
'A dangerous thing to do,' said Moureg. 'Changing the past is always dangerous. They have interacted with us for some time. Still, they only traveled to the outer planets for mining a couple of centuries ago. Mining them would not have a far-reaching effect. Who knows what the Council may elect to do?'
'All tampering withtime is dangerous,' said Isgri. 'That is why time travel is forbidden. But while we are here, let us record what we can. We can have the computers scan quickly, and the scientists on Romulus can digest the information at their leisure'
They set out to photograph and record as much as possible of the planets and stars nearby.
'If nothing else,' chuckled Isgri, 'we might profit by selling all these records to the humans. They might pay a fortune for all this early history of their sector.'
'And to think we always thought you pure-bred Romulan,' observed Blend, 'when you obviously have a great deal of Ferengi blood.'
They all smiled, including Isgri.

The small ship popped back out of the wormhole. There was no sign of the Vardan Rak.
'Have they finished the survey already?' asked Isgri in surprise.
'Well, as the Tribune said, we can return by ourselves,' said Moureg, also puzzled. 'Set a course back for the home world.'
They did not hurry. There was some refitting of the ship necessary for the long journey, and Isgri waited to take more measurements of the wormhole.
'Odd,' she muttered. 'If anything, the wormhole seems slightly more stable than when we left.'
Eventually all was prepared, and they began their journey at impulse speed, while they continued to scan the area. Suddenly Moureg said, 'It's going back!'
The Vardan Rak was returning. They drew to a halt, and began to trek back to the wormhole. They had nowhere near the speed of the big ship, so it was settled in place by the wormhole long before they caught up with it. They hailed it.
'I didn't see them come out!' exclaimed Tripeg. 'Bring them in!'
'Was it so uninteresting that you came straight back?' he asked as the crew disembarked from the small vessel.
'What do you mean?' asked Moureg in surprise.
'You've only been gone about ten hours,' said Tripeg.
'Interesting,' said Moureg. 'We felt we had been away about three days. What made you decide to come back?'
'What do you mean?' asked Tripeg. 'We have not had time to finish our explorations since you left.'
'Well, this is an interesting wormhole,' commented Isgri.
'Tell me about it, while the computer is uploading all your discoveries, then,' replied Tripeg. 'It sounds like the wormhole itself may be as interesting as anything else.'

Sela was meditating while staring out of her window at the majestic scenery of the Romulan landscape. It never ceased to stir her with its rugged grandeur. The planet was in continual volcanic eruption, but in most areas the eruptions were controlled and predictable. Her home perched on a dangerous-looking outcrop, so that her views of the mountains could never be breached.
There was a signal from outside, and she called out, 'Enter!'
Gan Devan, a member of the High Council, entered.
'May your meditations be peaceful, lady,' he said.
'And may yours be deep, Gan Devan,' she replied. 'What brings you here?'
Instead of answering, he said, 'All of your acquaintance know of your abiding fascination with the planet Earth and its inhabitants. How are your studies proceeding?'
He had used 'abiding fascination' where he meant 'obsession', but felt that it would be politic to use a euphemism. It was widely known that Sela was the daughter of a Romulan father and a human mother, and that she utterly rejected her human heritage, and hated the memory of the mother she had known only briefly.
In fact, the story was stranger still. Her mother had been Tasha Yar, a member of the Enterprise crew. Tasha had been killed during a visit to a planet many years before, but a temporal accident had changed history, so that she was no longer dead. In restoring history, Tasha had volunteered to go back in time, and had been captured by the Romulans. When time was restored the crew of the Enterprise had no memory of her restoration, so that they did not believe Sela's story of being Tasha's daughter. The Romulans did not know that Sela's mother had been a part of the Enterprise crew, and that her hatred of humanity was directed more at the crew of the Enterprise, who she believed had sent her mother to death and humiliation.
'I am studying law at the moment,' she replied. 'They have some curious beliefs. In the past, even when they had the death penalty for various offences, it was regarded as a defence that one was insane!'
'You mean that a person who was insane could commit a crime and not be executed? Amazing. And how repulsive. Did they allow insane people to.. mix?'
'If they were dangerous they might be confined. It was felt that they might recover.'
In Romulan society, insanity was the antithesis of rationality, and therefore to be insane would involve at least being cut off from normal people. It was felt that a mind once insane could never fully recover. An insane Romulan who committed any crime would be executed, or put down as it were.
'Extraordinary!' he said. 'No wonder they are such a barbaric society.'
It occurred to him that this might subtly offend Sela, who was, after all, half human, but he detected no chilling of the air.
'They employed people known as psychiatrists who attempted to cure the insane. It appears that most humans were somewhat insane. Perhaps they still are.'
The thought flashed into his mind that perhaps Sela's obsessive interest with Earth might indicate a touch of human insanity, but he brushed it away. She was a shining star in the Romulan High Command firmament.
'Knowing of your interest in the planet Earth,' he said, 'I have brought some news which should be of interest.'
She bade him sit. She remained standing, staring out the window.
'One of our science vessels has discovered a wormhole in the Gardoff sector,' he said. 'When they investigated it they found that the other exit was not only near Earth, but far in the past. They have taken measurements of all the astrophysical data they could in the time, and have transmitted them back to Romulus. I thought it might interest you to have a copy.'
'How far in the past?' she asked interestedly.
'I am told, sixty-five million years,' he said.
She spun around as her interest flashed. 'Sixty five million? Do you have the reports on Earth itself?'
'Of course,' he replied. He handed her a padd, and she held her breath as she looked at it, and pressed a few buttons.
After a moment she breathed out slowly, and asked, 'Is this wormhole still there?'
'Yes. Our scientists estimate that it will have a lifetime of some weeks to some months. But wormholes are notoriously hard to predict.'
'Your interest has been very helpful to me, Gan Devan,' she said, and he took this as both thanks and dismissal. When he had bowed himself from the room, Sela opened up a secure communications channel.

On to Chapter 2, or return to base..