Chapter 12.
Beverley had already set up a small hut, and had her medical set-up functioning. Mary Anne ducked down, and deposited Malcolm on the make-shift bed. Beverley quickly examined his ankle, announced that it was a mild sprain, and quickly removed the pain. He was able to walk again immediately.
'Take it easy for a day or so,' she said. 'Try not to fling yourself around too much.'
'Well, I think that definitely entitles you to be number one husband,' observed Mary Anne flippantly, as they returned towards the fire. 'We have to start these pecking orders early.'
'So I get to be the man on page three?' he asked.
'It sounds like I get to marry every man in the book,' she said, a bit glumly. 'Not really what I was looking for.'
'I'll fight them all,' he said with a laugh.
'Wow, we're really back on primitive earth!' she said with a smile, and a kiss.
Dovor was still unconscious, and there seemed no immediate need to restore him to consciousness. He was securely tied up, and stored in the shuttle for the moment. Afterwards the group reconvened around the fire.
'You may gather I am not going to mate with Dovor,' announced Sela drily. 'I suggest that I go with Revi and Pachek, if we can find them still alive, and perhaps Lieutenant Selar, to this other planet. Three women and one man should prove sufficient to start off a planet, if we can find them. It should be an interesting experience.'
'He's not much use to us,' said Deanna. 'You may as well have him. One of the other females might accept him.'
'You haven't considered staying with us, have you?' asked Geordi. 'You are half human, you say. It would balance the numbers.'
'I thought of it,' she admitted, 'but it may be best that I do not. I have done all of you great harm, and it would be resented eventually. There are other things I have done in the past, too.'
Geordi paused to consider her answer, but they were all distracted by Will Riker. Now that he had a moment to think, his mind had begun to race furiously.
'Mister Data, how long was it before the comet would impact upon earth?' he asked.
'Approximately one hundred and twenty thousand and forty two years, sir,' answered Data, having learned that more accurate replies produced a curiously negative reaction.
'A hundred and twenty thousand years!' echoed Riker in astonishment.
'And forty two,' corrected Data. He noted that he had reverted to Mister Data.
'This was all a fluke,' observed Sela. 'When the science report arrived that there was a wormhole which traveled back sixty-five million years, I knew that there had been a comet impact about that time, which eradicated most of the dinosaurs, and allowed man to evolve. I examined the report they had made about earth, and found that it was still populated by dinosaurs. I gathered our little group of earth-haters together, and we came through the wormhole to see whether we could locate that particular comet and destroy it. You arrived before we could do anything.'
'A hundred and twenty thousand years,' repeated Riker, relaxing a bit. 'It just shows how a mind-set can work. When we thought that the Romulans had altered its path, I assumed they would have set it to crash into earth immediately. when we found out that wasn't the case, I never thought to change the timetable! Well, at least it gives us a bit of time to try something.'
'What are our chances of finding another comet of the same size?' asked Selar.
'Negligible,' answered Data. 'That was the largest comet in the solar system. Building another is virtually impossible. A large component is gas, which is difficult to build with. This ship would not have the facilities. It has weapons.'
'Data, do we have all the information on the comet?' asked Riker. 'Its mass, size, exact trajectory?'
'Everything, sir. When we examined its path earlier, all information was permanently stored.'
Let's get back to the ship,' said Riker. 'Ensign Smith, you take Shuttle One, and Commander Data the other. Ensign French, organise the supplies back on board. Doctor Crusher, get your equipment back on board.'
He assigned roles to the others, and they sprang to their duties, even Sela.
'What happened to 'Malcolm' and 'Mary Anne'?' said Mary Anne to Malcolm as they carried all the supplies back to the shuttle.
'The play came out the same way,' he said.
The two shuttles took off with everyone crammed aboard again, and delicately slipped back into their slots in the curve of the starfighter.
'Well, let's try some building blocks,' said Riker grimly, when they were back in the operations center. Dovor had been locked up very securely. 'I don't know whether this will work, but we're sure going to try.'
The first thing was to salvage the tractor beam from the Romulan freighter. Fortunately it had not drifted far, and they soon found it, and transferred the equipment to the Pinball Wizard.
The starfighter had its own tractor beam, but it was not as strong, nor as efficient, as capable of being focused. It was merely an afterthought, something that might have an occasional use as a weapon, or to pick up debris after a fight. The freighter's tractor beam was capable of selecting one object from among others and of very fine placement of that object.
Luckily, one of the attributes of a starfighter was a facility for modification, and the tractor beam was able to be easily slotted in in place of a range of phaser banks.
Next, Data and Geordi weighed the still intact freighter, to the nearest milligram. It was much lighter than the comet. Although the comet had been composed mostly of ice, it was solid, and large, while the freighter was mostly a shell. Its use was carriage, so it required a lot of space. However, it was useful as a base for building on, and did have a significant mass.
The fragments of the Romulan ship which had failed to negotiate the wormhole had continued on into space, but only at a low impulse speed, and they decided to chase this. The Romulan fighter had exploded comprehensively, and was spreading outwards in a sphere. The bigger ship was still in one group of debris, and easily captured.
They were still nowhere near the required mass, but there was no shortage of large and small asteroids, and they had virtually infinite time to work with.
They gathered the remains and dragged them to where the freighter hung in space, the tiny engines of the starfighter striving manfully. As the Romulan ship was largely in one piece, though open to space, and those few bodies still in it were frozen, they were able to salvage some of the technology, especially weapons, which were totally unknown to them. They did this hurriedly, though. Nothing would matter if they never returned to their own future.
Riker said, 'It's pretty easy to work with the ships, but it's going to be tough gluing asteroids together.'
'That will not be necessary, Commander,' said Data. 'If we put all this matter together it will travel as one.'
The work was easy enough in concept, but quite time-consuming. Traveling to asteroids, snaring them, and then returning them filled a few days. When the 'new' comet was all in one spot, loosely held together by its minuscule gravity, Data and Geordi again weighed it exactly.
'It requires another 243 micrograms,' announced Geordi. He had the replicator produce exactly that amount of water, and transported it across to the conglomeration.
'At least, 243 micrograms of it is the right material,' he remarked.
'Well, its not the right shape,' said Riker, 'but if we give it the right mass and velocity, it may do the trick.'
'Our imponderable is the amount of gas that the sun would have driven from the comet in the time,' said Data. 'It may not be much. In the comparatively short time, astronomically speaking, not much may have been driven off, and it is likely that during the passage far from the sun, those molecules would drift back slowly under the influence of gravity.'
When they had finished it was an impressive conglomeration, a sphere about eight kilometres across. It was smaller than the original comet, which had been mostly ice. This one contained mainly iron-nickel. The starfighter which had been dragging it together from all over the solar system was like a dot in comparison.
The calculation of the asteroid's orbit was not easy, even for the computers, as the movements of all the nearby solar system bodies had to be taken into account, but even a difficult computation does not take a computer long.
'Something is wrong,' said Data in puzzlement. 'Our chronometers are out by a few hours. However, the computers have taken new readings of all orbits, and this asteroid will strike earth at exactly the same time and place as the original.'
The tractor beam slowly and gently eased the mass into the correct orbit. To those on board it did not appear to be moving, as they were moving with it. They looked at it silently for a few minutes. All the hopes of humanity rested with it. At Riker's command, Data slowly eased the Pinball Wizard away. In an atmosphere their movement might have disturbed its trajectory, but out here in the vacuum, they had no effect. When they were a good distance away, Riker broke the silence.
'Well, I guess we can't hang around here for a hundred and twenty thousand years,' he said grimly. 'The only way we can find out if we've made any change is to go back again. Ahead full impulse Mister Data. Ensigns Smith, Mendon and Btt'h, attend your stations.'
'Back to Ensign Smith,' Mary Anne complained mockingly to Malcolm, as they moved briskly from the bridge, 'and we never really got to the Mary Anne and Will stage.'
'Wait and see what's in the future now,' he said grimly, 'and hope we don't have to run back again!'

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