Chapter 15.
'Tribune,' Will Riker said, 'I think we've found as much as we can about the wormhole. I'd be grateful if you would escort us out of the Neutral Zone. The Enterprise will be waiting for us back at Starbase 44.'
'Just a moment, Tribune, if you please,' interposed Beverley Crusher. She turned to Riker. 'You haven't been paying attention, have you, Commander?' she asked sweetly.
He looked startled. Apart from not being used to being interrupted on the bridge when he was in command, he could see that there must be something important he had missed. He had to admit to himself, he had been concentrating only on getting back home, once he had learned home still existed.
'You were pretty upset when you found out there were two Will Rikers in the galaxy, weren't you?' she asked. When some of the others looked questioning, she explained, 'Will was involved in a transporter accident once where he was duplicated. There are two of him around now. Well, there are three of him now, in fact!'
'What are you talking about, Beverley?' he asked in exasperation.
Lieutenant Selar intervened. 'We have not arrived yet,' she said. 'The Enterprise is still somewhere out there. We may be playing golf in the holodeck at this moment. All of us are in two places at once just now.'
'Well,' said Mary Ann, 'we could prevent all of this ever happening. All we have to do is hang around for a while, and when we see a freighter heading for the wormhole we blow it to kingdom come!'
Worf laughed suddenly. The whole affair had become amusing, now that the problem had been resolved. 'It would not even be murder,' he laughed. 'All who would be killed are with us here, or back on primitive earth.'
He stopped laughing and began to consider the paradoxes.
'I suspect that it might be better not to create too many new paradoxes,' said Data, almost echoing his thoughts. 'The situation has been resolved. It is better to do nothing.'
'We could do worse,' added Deanna. 'We could simply intercept the freighter, and stop it passing. Then we would have two of all of us, and two of Sela and Dovor!'
'An interesting concept, that not killing me is worse than killing me,' said Sela. 'You may be coming around to a more Romulan pattern of thinking. Two of me might be a bonus, certainly, but one of Dovor is too many.'
'So what do we do?' asked Tribune Sarel with some amusement.
'If your ship can spare the time, Tribune,' said Sela, 'we will have to wait here for some days until the Enterprise arrives.'
'I can think of nothing more interesting than observing this amazing encounter,' Sarel replied. 'If a member of the High Council wants me to remain here, how can I refuse? I will await your pleasure.'
He switched off, and the screen went blank.
Suddenly Riker uttered an expletive. The others looked at him in surprise.
'Does Commander Riker utter an obscenity every time he thinks?' asked Sela, as Riker hurriedly reestablished contact..
'Only when he comes up with an original idea,' remarked Selar.
'Not often enough to worry about, then,' said Sela.
'Can we contact Starbase 44 from here?' Riker asked Sarel, when he reappeared.
'Of course,' said Sarel. 'The frequencies of the starbase are not too secret.'
'I need to contact them on a Federation frequency,' he said excitedly. 'Can you get me a line to Admiral Wrigley?'
Sarel ordered his communications officer to accomodate Riker.
Riker settled into the communications seat, and was quickly shown how to operate the controls. He knew the appropriate frequency, and hurriedly tapped the right buttons.
'Starbase 44,' Riker said to the officer who appeared on the screen, 'this is William Riker, Executive Officer of the Enterprise. I urgently need to speak with Admiral Wrigley now!'
He was quickly put through. Wrigley looked puzzled.
'Hello, Commander Riker,' he said. 'This is somewhat out of protocol. Where is Captain Picard?'
'Admiral,' said Riker grimly, 'I have urgent information. I can't tell you now how I know. On stardate 48333.7 a Bajoran assassin will attempt to kill Ambassador Gul Lurgen, as he arrives at a religious ceremony on Deck Six at 0742 hours. The assassin has been surgically altered, and goes by the name Altarin G'Norg. He is armed with a plastic knife.'
'My god!' gasped Wrigley, who was about to pooh-pooh the idea that an assassin could succeed with a plastic weapon, 'that's in about twenty minutes! I'll get back to you!'
'If you get back to me,' smiled Riker, 'you'll find I don't even remember telling you! I'll explain it all in a week or so!'
Admiral Wrigley hesitated at this bizarre addendum, but the time was too close. He switched off and called Security.
Riker also switched off.
Malcolm sat with Mary Anne in the small dining area of the starfighter. They had progressed to holding hands. Their romance was providing some interest for their shipmates. Arrg was almost overcome with emotion, which made him scary indeed.
'You make this very difficult for me, you know,' he said. 'Geordi and Glock heard your proposal, so I would be humiliating you if I refused. So, I guess as a gentleman I have to say yes.'
'How romantic,' she smiled.
'Glock was scandalized, I have to tell you. He's trying to fit in, but the Ferengi are unreconstructed male chauvinists. They think they are being kind to a woman if they don't beat her too often.'
'Ferengi women don't do any proposing, then?' she asked.
'I don't think they do much off their own bat at all,' he said. 'I doubt if the Ferengi even bother to ask them to marry them. It's just, 'Hey you, come here!' You do realise that romances forged in times of stress and adventure are notoriously likely to break down in times of peace.'
'Ah, well,' she sighed, stirring whatever was in front of her, 'we'll probably split up after forty years or so. If we stay on the Enterprise we won't see too much stressless living!'
Sela sat with Deanna and Beverley in the small lounge of the starfighter.
'Thank you,' she said, putting a small data disk in her purse. 'I have found myself somewhat changed for the experience, but I find myself still uncomfortable in human company.'
'I don't understand how you can hate humans so much,' said Beverley. 'Did you hate your mother so?'
'I understand,' said Deanna. 'Sela, I suggest you obtain some psychology books on the subject of prison camp experiences. Earth certainly has books on the topic. It is not unusual for prisoners in desperate conditions to identify with their jailers. When you were young it would have been necessary for you to identify with your Romulan heritage and reject your mother, in order to psychologically survive. But now that need is past.
'It should be possible for a Romulan to look inward enough to exorcise these fears. You may come to accept your human side.'
'My years of growing were all Romulan. I may not have a human side. But we will see. You are not entirely correct in your analysis. My hatred was most specifically toward the Enterprise crew, for sending my mother back to her death and humiliation.' Sela was surprised to note within herself that she had not reacted with revulsion to the implication of a certain insanity in her behaviour. She considered Dovor's behaviour in that light.
'Ambassador Spock never came to accept his human side,' commented Beverley.
'Yes he did,' said Deanna. 'But he did not change his behaviour. He preferred to remain a Vulcan, but he became quite reconciled to his mother's heritage.'
'How do you know that?' challenged Beverley.
'Because I met him,' answered Deanna.
Sela rose to her feet.
'I will return to Romulus,' she said. 'If we meet again, it may be as enemies, but I will just be fighting for my world. I hope it may be in peace.'
'Perhaps Romulus will change its introverted ways,' said Beverley. 'You would make an ideal ambassador.'
The three moved off to the transporter room, where Riker waited. Sela went to him.
'Make no mistake,' she said, 'I am still a Romulan. But I have learned something from this debacle. Humans are not the ogres I had thought. Weak, indecisive, and often unintelligent, but not monsters.'
A smile flickered over her face.
'My moment of truth came when I saw what my people had become without you. In some mysterious fashion you have brought a sort of balance to the galaxy. You are one of the least intelligent of races, apart from the Klingons, but you seem to respond to challenges. In any case, we seem better off with you than without you.'
'And best wishes to you, too,' grinned Riker.
She stepped onto the transporter. Dovor stood sullenly waiting. He guessed that Sela was relying on his silence about the matter, and that he would have to maintain it, if he were not to become a pariah among his people.
'In any case, a race that is capable of inventing a game like golf must have its virtues,' said Sela. 'A game designed to calm the mind and enhance peaceful deliberation.'
Sela disappeared in a shimmer.
'She never did see you play golf, Will, did she?' said Deanna.
Aboard the Romulan vessel, Sela stepped off the transporter platform. Sarel welcomed her formally. It was the first time they had spoken without human presence.
'Thank you, Tribune,' she answered.
'Do you wish accomodation with Dovor?' he asked.
'No, I think my association with Dovor is a thing of the past,' she answered. 'Our ambitions now diverge. My experiences on this little adventure have modified my views very much.'
'I understand that the humans pursued you into the past under the impression that you were about to commit some crime against them,' he said neutrally. 'I wonder that they had let you live this long. Perhaps our intervention saved your lives.'
'Not our lives,' she said, 'but perhaps our freedoms. We did intend them some harm, but as it was they... saved my life. Dovor, certainly, may have faced prison, for some actions he performed against them. But I wonder whether their curious system of justice could have convicted either of us of any crime? An interesting speculation. It is curious that we may have escaped punishment if they judged us insane. I suspect that Dovor is. Perhaps I was.'
Sarel did not let his astonishment at this revelation show.
'Have you accomplished anything?' he asked. 'During your imprisonment did you manage to steal any secrets of, say, their technology?'
Sela opened her purse and took out a computer disk.
'Only this,' she smiled. 'It's about time the Romulan empire was introduced to golf.'
Sela had transferred back to living quarters on the Romulan vessel, but a curious informality developed between the two crews. Some days later a small freighter appeared, while the warbird stood in front of the Pinball Wizard, and cloaked them both. Both crews watched as it moved uncertainly, lined itself up, and vanished suddenly. On this occasion only Sela had the curious feeling of watching a vessel in which she knew she was traveling. She had a wish that they could have intervened, and stopped the ship, but realised that was impractical. Who knew what effect it would have?
After this bit of excitement, there was another period of waiting.
The members of the crew of the Pinball Wizard were given welcomes as guests of the Romulans, and some of the Romulan crew tried out the new game of golf. Mary Anne showed them her basketball game, but it was not subtle enough for their tastes, so she was forced to spend her spare time competing against Malcolm and Arrg.
Playing Arrg was fun. It was also not very challenging. She would be surrounded by a team of snarling wolves who would instantly back off if challenged, and who were totally non-aggressive. But Arrg loved it.
Riker felt it only fair that all the scientific data recorded by the Pinball Wizard in the past, and of the wormhole, should be shared with their hosts, but he kept secret the arms cache they had obtained. Some Romulans were invited over to partake the hospitality of the starfighter, but the number was restricted, both for reasons of security and space. Sarel was interested, among other things, in Riker's collection of old earth music. Riker copied it for him.
Three days later, the advent of the Enterprise was detected. The Romulan ship moved off out of detection range, and waited. Sarel had been fascinated by all the proceedings, and had remained in very good humor. All of them watched from afar as the Enterprise dropped out of warp, and stopped near the wormhole. Now the others from the expedition had the strange feeling of knowing that they were on that ship over there. Sarel was unaffected by this feeling, but was intrigued by the happenings.
'I can't let them pass without offering a greeting,' he said jovially. He opened a channel, and hailed the Enterprise.
'Enterprise, how pleasant to see you visiting us. Have a good trip. I'm sure all will go well, Commander Riker. Don't worry, be happy. A member of the Romulan High Council wishes you well. No need to reply.'
He shut off. 'I don't think we need to tell Commander Riker that the member of the High Council is Lady Sela. He might not understand.'
'I'm sure he doesn't.' grinned Riker. 'Where did you get 'Don't worry, be happy'?'
'I discovered it in the music chips you lent me,' replied Sarel. 'Very pleasant.'

Once the other Pinball Wizard had split from the Enterprise, and vanished into the wormhole, the Enterprise turned about and began to warp away. Riker immediately called it and announced that he was back.
'Number One, is that you?' asked Picard in surprise. 'You just went through.'
'We were very quick,' said Riker with a grin. 'I'll explain it all later. We even managed to bring back a couple of passengers. One of them is your old friend Lady Sela.'
'This is all very mysterious,' said Picard, 'but I suppose our first priority is to leave the Neutral Zone before some incident occurs. We'll wait for you to catch up.'
'Not a problem, sir,' replied Riker. 'We are being escorted to safety by Tribune Sarel. We'll catch up with you out there.'
Picard was perturbed, because he did not know what was happening, but obviously Commander Riker was not troubled, so he took the advice, and the Enterprise moved up to warp six and headed out of the Neutral Zone. The Pinball Wizard and the warbird followed them, a strangely mismatched pair.
The Enterprise met the Pinball Wizard near the boundary of Romulan space.The small starfighter descended easily in one of the huge docking bays, and the crew climbed out. The giant Romulan vessel stood nearby.
On the Enterprise the inhabitants of Ten Forward looked uneasily at the huge vessel hanging before them. But no alerts had been sounded, so they simply continued to drink their drinks and watch.
After the days spent on the small craft the expanse of the bigger ship was almost akin to stepping out into the open spaces of a planet. Each of the passengers moved apart from the others slightly, establishing a larger body space again.
Jean-Luc Picard was waiting on the bridge.
'Welcome back, Number One,' he said, as Riker, Data and Deanna and Selar entered. The others had made beelines for their particular kingdoms, to make sure that nobody had let things slide in their absences. 'I gather that something, at least, happened, since you brought back a pair of passengers, without their ship.'
'It's a long story,' said Riker, 'and it's probably the most traumatic experience of my life!'
'Did you succeed in what you attempted?'
'Well, success in this case was that nothing happened,' smiled Riker. 'I'll explain it all later. Your old friend Sela was there'
'Yes,' frowned Picard, 'a most mysterious person. She certainly looks like Tasha Yar. Perhaps that led her to her delusion.'
'She is certainly a student of human history,' remarked Deanna. 'She knew more about it than Will. Perhaps she came across Tasha in her studies. Her traumatic experiences with her own mother may have left her looking for a substitute mother.'
'Perhaps that's it,' smiled Picard. 'Were there any other benefits to the trip?'
'From a scientific and philosophical point of view, the trip was very successful,' said Commander Data. 'We have photographed the surface of the earth extensively sixty-five million years in the past, revealing details of its surface still unknown to geographers. We have recordings of movements of the stars at that time, and have comprehensive astronomical photographs, as well as a pictorial record of a collision of a comet with the planet Jupiter. In addition we have resolved a number of time-travel paradoxes. If one travels into the past and alters one's history, one does not cease to exist, although one's origin is gone.'
'Don't remind me, Data,' said Riker, wincing.
'Very well, Commander,' replied Data, thinking to himself, that must imply that he has a perfect memory of the event himself, thus needing no memory stimulation. ''Shall I omit reference to the matter in my report?'
'No, Data, tell all.'
At that moment the doors opened and Ambassador Spock entered the bridge.
'Ambassador,' Riker said in surprise, 'I thought you were going back to Romulus.'
'Indeed, I am,' said Spock. 'Your return has been so quick that I have not had time to depart, so when you signaled the Enterprise to come and fetch you, I decided to come and hear the results. Presumably nothing much has happened, since you have returned immediately.'
'But we haven't!' exclaimed Riker. 'We've been weeks. I can't get used to the time anomalies myself! All will be explained in everybody else's report. I don't know that I understand it all myself!'
'Were the Romulans up to no good?' asked Picard.
'Their intentions were bad,' said Deanna, 'but we got there before they did anything.'
'So they did nothing wrong?' said Picard.
'They told a few half-truths,' observed Selar. 'In this case, that was quite bad, but possibly hard to prosecute in a court of law.'
'Well, we don't have them,' said Picard. 'It would have been difficult to hold them when you were being escorted by a Romulan ship out of Romulan territory. In fact, I'm pleased they did not try to make an incident out of it.'
'I think they may have been embarrassed by the actions of the renegades,' said Deanna. 'In any case, they have been very cooperative.'
'Perhaps it might be diplomatic to invite the ship to starbase, and thank them formally,' mused Jean-Luc. 'They seem to be hanging about to see what happens.'
'Couldn't hurt,' said Riker. 'They seemed a decent lot.'
'So the result of your mission has been the status quo,' said Picard. 'Often a satisfactory outcome.'
'Actually, sir,' said Data, 'we have returned with quite a wealth of - profit, as Mister Glock would say. We have a cache of weapons which have never been invented, we have astronomical data as I have mentioned, and a number of interesting theoretical time-travel paradoxes have been resolved.'
'I can't wait to hear the explanation of all this!' said Picard. 'I realise time travel involves anomalies, but it's so strange that you don't seem to have been gone more than a few minutes!'
'The photographs of the surface of the earth so far back should be of interest to a keen archaeologist like yourself, sir,' said Riker. 'Did you know that a comet wiped out the dinosaurs?'
'Of course, Number One,' he replied. 'About sixty-five million years ago. If it had not, we would not be here now. Actually, it was not a comet. There is some evidence that it was actually an asteroid, or metallic meteorite, which struck the earth somewhere around the Gulf of Mexico.'
'How do you know it was a meteor?' asked Riker in astonishment.
'There was a stratum of earth found which had far too great a concentration of iridium,' replied Picard. 'This led to the conclusion that an asteroid had struck, and later its impact site was discovered under the earth. This led to the whole theory of the extinction of the dinosaurs.'
'I wonder how they discovered it when it was a comet,' said Riker thoughtfully.
'What?' asked Picard.
'It'll all be in the mission report. I wish you had come on this mission,' sighed Riker.
'By the way, Number One,' said Picard, looking about him, 'I have found that book I promised you.'
He handed Riker a tiny recording chip.
'What book?' asked Riker in puzzlement.
'About Atlantis. You remember, we were playing golf recently, and you asked about unsolved mysteries on earth?'
'You said there weren't any,' said Riker. He checked himself. 'Well, you said that to this me.'
Picard looked at him oddly, and decided to recommend some shore leave.
'No, I told you about Atlantis. This is Terran archaeology's greatest mystery. A civilisation which appeared and died sixty million years before humans began to walk upright. It was discovered below the sea in the twenty first century, when the complete satellite scan of earth's surface took place. They found remains preserved and fossilized for millions of years, with a genetic genotype different from anything else on earth. The scientist who solves that mystery will be a celebrity!'
'I believe you could become very well known in the field of archaeology,' said Riker, sitting back in his chair, 'if you were to instigate a DNA comparison between those remains and the Romulans. Just a hunch.'

Read the epilogue, or go home. You're nearly finished! Go on!