Chapter 6.
After the inspection of the Romulan freighter, Geordi had reported to Will Riker that there was nothing suspicious to be seen on it, and that it seemed to be almost underequipped. He returned to work, and spent most of the next two days on maintenance and discovery. The ship was new to him, and he and French found its weaponry and guidance systems new and interesting.
They tended to eat together, although the whole crew did get together for the evening meals, but the conversations tended to be reminiscences and gossip. Even Sela ate in the same room, with Lieutenant Selar, but these two often remained silent, or discussed erudite topics. Sela found herself reluctantly taking an interest in the behaviour of the humans, especially in their easy mixing with the non-humans. They were making an effort to create a comfortable atmosphere for Glock, Mendon and Arrg. None of this fitted her preconception of the human race. Although her demeanour showed nothing, she was becoming uneasy.
Geordi was working with Malcolm on the second day, when the communicator came alive.
"Geordi," called Riker eventually, "do you and your crew want to watch the comet hitting Jupiter? It's happening in about ten minutes."
"Coming, Commander," he said, and they quickly tidied up before moving through to the bridge, with its fairly large viewscreen.
"What's this?" asked Geordi, as he came to the bridge.
"The comet is about to hit," said Mary Anne. "Data is recording it all."
It was just one of those things. In the two intervening days nobody had happened to tell the two engineers about Dovor's supposed plan. Geordi still assumed it was a comet that they had come across, and were simply going to observe.
"The impact will be in a few minutes," said Data. "I will record it on every frequency. It's not a very rare event, but still interesting."
Most of the ship's contingent had gathered on the bridge. Sela was thoughtful.
"Dovor and the others might like to see this," she said.
Riker considered for a moment. He considered the Romulans terrorists, but they had shown no aggression, and there was the outside possibility that they were just scientists. Renegade scientists, unlawfully and recklessly traveling into the past, but perhaps nothing else. Besides, it was best to bring them out occasionally.
"Can't do any harm, I guess," said Riker. "OK. Would you get them, Mister Worf?"
Sela walked down with Worf. He never took his eyes off her, expecting some move. When they approached the room which held Dovor and Pachek they were sitting calmly in meditation. Revi was in a different room, in a segregation which would have meant nothing to the Romulans, but did give them some more space each.
"The comet is going to be destroyed," Sela said calmly to Dovor. "All your plans come to naught."
"How sad," he said calmly.
"You can go up and see it if you like," she added. "Mister Worf has come to escort you."
The three Romulans were gathered and accompanied Worf, with a muted excitement.
"Are you going to.. use your radio?" asked Sela quietly.
"Not unless necessary," he replied in a similar tone. "We'll see."
"By the way," she added, "I don't realize how far back we've come. I thought it was just a few hundred years."
They lined up. Deanna watched them curiously. They had come a long way, and taken great risk to try to use this comet, but seemed unconcerned about its destruction. Did they have some backup plan? She bit her lip.
The three Romulans were in strong command of their emotions, but some feeling of elation broke through as the comet hit. Sela, on the other hand, seemed extremely wrought with emotions all in conflict. For a moment there was a torrent of glee, self-hate, despair and a longing for death. Deanna was momentarily overwhelmed but it was quickly gone as Sela regained her total control. Deanna felt she should report all this to Riker, but did not know what to report!
They were close to Jupiter, so that it filled their screen. Their shields were on, to deflect the radiation which would have killed them. The comet could be seen to curve in as the strong gravitation took it. It struck the upper atmosphere like a drop of milk falling into a jug, and the wave which radiated from it seemed to flow in extreme slow motion, and stop. They knew the wave was actually thousands of kilometers across, but it looked small. It was still collapsing back, but would take weeks or months to dissipate, affected now only by gravity.
All of them watched in wonder, even the Romulans. Sela slowly exhaled.
"Well," she said, almost puzzled, "we're still all here."
"So we are," said Dovor, after a moment. He had immediately recovered his sang-froid. He turned to Riker then Data. "It would be interesting to have a quick peep at earth before you return? We do have time, Mister Data?"
"Yes," he answered. "The wormhole still appears quite stable. We may have some weeks left still."
"We did, after all," said Dovor, "come here on a scientific expedition. Anything we.."
"Afraid not, Dovor," interrupted Riker. He was slightly annoyed that Dovor, a prisoner, and someone who had supposedly hoped to wipe out the human race, was trying to take over his bridge. "You have no rights on this ship. You have attempted the most heinous crime in history, and will face charges when we return. You will be confined to a cell until then!"
"Sela accuses me for some unfathomable reason," said Dovor blandly. "I repeat, I would have harmed no one."
"A jury will decide that," growled Riker. "In the meantime, back to your confinement."
"An interesting question about jurisdiction," observed Dovor cheerfully, "but we shall see."
"All the same, it would be interesting to look at earth," said Beverley. "Can't we land in an isolated spot?"
"No," said Riker. "We can't afford to meet any primitive people. It might still change history somehow."
"Meet people?" said Dovor, with mock surprise. "Haven't you worked out yet how far back we are in time?"
"No, we haven't had time," replied Riker, an uneasy feeling returning to his stomach.
"We are back about sixty five million years," smiled Dovor. "I meant what I said about not harming any humans. Humans will not appear on earth for millions of years yet!"
"But you told me.." interrupted Sela.
"Ah, I needed the support of someone important. I wanted to come back and do my little experiments, and your party of earth-haters seemed ready to spread around money and assistance."
Pachek and Revi looked mildly puzzled, but held their peace.
"What did you mean, before we went back?" asked Deanna. "Aren't you going back with us?"
"We are captured prisoners of war," said Dovor. "I expect you will execute us."
"Of course we won't," exclaimed Beverley. "We wouldn't treat you like guests then turn around and kill you!"
"We are impressed by the honor you give us by allowing us so much freedom," said Dovor, "but we are enemies. There is no Federation here to protect us. We would expect to be executed."
"Surely you didn't expect that, Sela?" Beverley addressed her with surprise.
"But I remain a sworn enemy of your whole race," she said. "I at least would expect to already have been tortured and killed for that."
"Is that why you said, 'We're still all here?'" asked Geordi.
"You have excellent hearing, Geordi," she said.
"How do you know my name?" he asked.
"She seems to think you've met before," said Riker.
"I haven't had a lot to do with the Romulans," said Geordi thoughtfully, giving Sela a hard look. She smiled back at him blandly.
Riker interrupted impatiently.
"If this is true, that humanity won't even appear for millions of years, then we've wasted a lot of time."
"Surely not," said Data. "The chance to gather astronomical data from a time period so long ago is invaluable. We do have some time left still. I believe it is worth the risk."
Riker thought for a minute.
"All right, Data. We'll take a shuttle to earth orbit. You and Geordi can take readings, and those who wish can beam down with us to the surface. It looks like your intentions may not have been as bad as I thought, Dovor," he added, "but Mister Worf will be keeping a weather eye on the lot of you."
"We are honored to be so trusted," Dovor replied smoothly.
Worf scowled unseen by them. He did not trust them at all, but they were unarmed, and he had confidence in his own ability to keep an eye on them at all times, even without the assistance of the four ensigns.
From far out in space Data, Malcolm and Geordi scanned the surface of not only earth, but the other planets nearby. Mars had more atmosphere than in later millenia, but no observable higher life forms. Venus was as inhospitable as always.
Earth, however, was full of life, but with mainly amphibious animals. The temperature was higher, and dinosaurs ruled. Data brought up on the main viewer a picture of the blue planet.
"It's nothing like earth!" gasped Malcolm. The color was right, but the configuration was nothing like what he expected.
"The continents move around the surface at a slow rate," said Data. "But over sixty five million years a few centimetres a year changes from an imperceptible amount to a long way."
"That's right," agreed Malcolm, still a bit shaken. "I remember from school that Australia moves north about ten centimeters a year."
"A little more, I think, in this time," said Data. "But sixty five million times ten centimeters would amount to six thousand five hundred kilometers. At this time most of the continents you are familiar with are still grouped together. In the future they will spread around the globe."
"I can't even recognize which bit is Australia," breathed Malcolm.
"It is this area here," indicated Data on the screen.
Malcolm looked with interest at the area. Australia seemed only vaguely the right shape. "It's still almost attached to Antarctica," he said in surprise.
"The reason is that the sea level is somewhat low at this time, observed Data. "The land you see will be underneath the ocean in our own times."
"But quite a lot of Australia seems to be under water," said Malcolm in puzzlement. "That would be the area I came from. It doesn't look like I'm going to stand on old Swan Hill. It isn't there! The sea is over it. And Victoria is all black?"
"The dark color is caused by volcanic activity," said Data. "That area going up the east coast is quite active. It stands out somewhat, in fact. The whole land mass of the planet is remarkably flat. Presumably the reason why some parts of the shore are under the sea is that the land has sunk or risen in various places. The water inland is lakes."
"Obviously the movement of the earth's plates has not got much under way," said Beverley. "I wonder if the lack of mountains means that there is not much bad weather?"
"Possibly not a lot of rain," said Data. "What is especially interesting is this area."
He indicated a fairly round continent, isolated from the others.
"This area has no modern counterpart. I conjecture from the very high mountains it contains that it is an area where one plate is being subducted beneath another. By our own time it will have completely disappeared. It contrasts with the rest of the planet."
"I would really like to set foot on Australia," said Malcolm. "My own home town is under water, but any part would do. A part that's not under water in our day!"
"I've never actually been on earth," said Mary Anne. "I've always wanted to visit it, but I didn't expect it would be like this!"
"Well, if we are going, who wants to be a part of the expedition?" asked Riker.
Ensign Mendon spoke for one of the few times on the trip. "I will not go," he said. "The uncontrolled atmosphere of the surface would only make it more difficult for me to breathe. I shall stay and assist on the ship." Ensign Arrg decided to go. He really must begin to socialize, he decided.
Geordi decided to stay aboard with Data, which surprised Will. "I'll study all your photography," he said. "I don't really like getting my feet wet."
"Is it necessary that you should get wet feet?" asked Revi. "Can you not wear a force field?"
"It's an expression," answered Geordi. "I just like this world better than that world. I can look at all your recordings later, and I really would like to have a good look at this ship without everyone in my way. And it's a bit hotter than I like."
"We would be interested in a look at a primitive world," said Pachek, "if we may."
"I suggest that you wear something a bit lighter, Dovor," said Beverley. "It will be quite hot down there. "
"These are my clothes," he said. "This is how I dress. In fact, flowing robes are quite cool. We come from a hot planet. If you can bear the heat it will be no trouble to us."
In the end, quite a crowd traveled in the shuttle. Worf came because he was determined to keep an eye on the Romulans, though there was no obvious harm they could do. He actually thought it a good thing to have them in a group, and off the ship. With luck they might revolt and be shot. Everyone was issued a communication badge who did not have one, and Riker gave instructions.
"We could land in the shuttle," he said, "but it will cause a lot of damage as it lands, so I think we'll park in orbit and beam down. That should do no harm at all.
"I'm setting the transporter to beam us back automatically in six hours. That should give us time to see what it's like. Try to stay together, but if we do get separated you'll be beamed up with the rest. I can override and bring us all back up quickly if necessary. Don't do any damage you can help. Leave only footprints, as they say, and not even those if possible."
He added that they would visit a couple of places in Australia for Malcolm, and then he intended to have a look at the isolated continent on the far side.
Worf and the humans were all armed, and determined to keep an eye on the Romulans, although there seemed no immediate danger.
"Data identified Australia for me," said Malcolm to Riker quietly. "Can we land in that area there?"
"It's as good as most places, I guess," said Riker. "We'll have a look around, but be careful, then I thought we might have a look at that continent that won't exist in our time. We shouldn't be able to do much harm there!"
"It's an aborigine thing," said Malcolm. "It's been a part of our culture for thousands of years that we and the land are one. It would be an unbelievably moving moment for me to stand on the land of my ancestors before they were even there!"
"You wouldn't have much experience of that sort of thing, would you?" asked Riker with interest. "You're a city boy, not a country boy."
"It's a sort of tradition with my people," shrugged Malcolm with a smile. "Tribes have elected to live in the deserts in the old ways. A lot of us go and live with them for a few years when we are just kids. Good for the soul. There are plenty of reservations, but only where the cities and towns haven't grown - in other words, the desert! A couple of centuries ago, when they had exhausted most of the minerals and oil, all of Australia except the east coast was declared a national park. It's been our major source of income ever since, with tourists from all over the galaxy."
"I've been there," agreed Beverley. "It will be interesting to compare."
"OK," agreed Riker. "Let's have a look. Keep an eye on the guests all the same."
Worf nodded. He did not need to be told.
Malcolm located Australia, or what would become Australia, and Riker set the transporters. The vessel was capable of landing, but transporting seemed to offer less likelihood of any unfortunate contamination. The transporters could be set to remove any bacterial or insect intruders.
"I came from Victoria," he said. "That's the bit in the south-east corner. But what is not under water seems to be all active volcanoes. We'd probably better go for somewhere safer. I thought over there?"
The area he had chosen seemed to be adjacent to a variety of terrains, so they could visit them all with a bit of walking. This seemed to the Romulans an inefficient mode of travel, but Riker pointed out again that they must do minimal damage.
They materialized in forest country. To the south was a tongue of a large lake, west was a small range of mountains, more hills really. East were extensive grasslands.
"In our time this area is desert!" Malcolm told them. "There's a big area of inland sea just north of here. I gather when it dries up the rain goes with it. History indicates that the early settlers - aboriginal, I mean - might have wreaked havoc with the ecology before they came to their understanding with the land. Whatever, it's very different!"
The forest was not thick, and they moved through it easily. Malcolm was interested to see that the trees were fairly familiar, though not of as wide a variety as in sixty five million years' time.
Mary Anne was alert but daydreaming. She looked at the tree roots lying across their path. If I managed to catch my foot in one, she thought, and fell, and cried helplessly, 'Oh, I've twisted my ankle,' would the Commander sweep me up in his arms and say, 'I have you, my proud beauty'?
Unfortunately Doctor Crusher was present and would quickly announce that there was nothing wrong with her. What if she really twisted her ankle. Just a little bit? While her imagination fluttered around these ideas, her brain took in all the beauty and science around her, and she recorded thoroughly.
Glock had every intention of doing the right thing, all the time, but there was the problem of knowing what was the right thing. He had learned a lot of human customs, but it's the ones you don't know that trip you up.
On the home planet it was just as wrong as anywhere to steal. But taking temporary custody of someone else's possession in order to evaluate it was the normal thing. It would only be stealing if you did not give it back, or denied having it when accused. How else could one trade effectively?
Ferengi were odd-looking to human eyes, and lacked some human virtues, but in matters relating to commerce they had powers far beyond the human. Any young Ferengi could make the best pickpocket on earth seem all thumbs. And they had an innate sense for people with secret possessions.
Ensign Gr'h Arrg had a secret possession. It was something he kept checking in his big loose pocket. Not even a challenge.
Revi and Pachek were showing a surprising interest in all Malcolm had to say. He could not help but be flattered to be recognised as the resident expert by a pair of Romulans.
"Some of these trees are pretty much the same," he said. "They seem to be mainly pine trees, and some eucalypts. Those look like hoop pines, and those are a bit like celery-top pines."
"Is that important to know?" asked Pachek politely.
"Well, eucalyptus trees, or gum trees, depend on fire a lot," answered Malcolm. "If they are here, there are probably a lot of fires. They burn like torches, but so quickly they survive, and other vegetation is burned away. It's their survival thing."
Pachek did not ask where the fires would come from. As a Romulan he was well aware of the effects of lightning, which occurred widely on his volcanic homeland.
"These herbs are good for flavoring," said Malcolm, indicating some small plants.
"What is flavoring?" asked Revi curiously.
"Well, if you're eating something that has a rather bland taste, you can make it better," said Malcolm in surprise.
"You mean that you alter the taste of food for no practical reason?" said Pachek. "How odd."
Romulans ate food as nourishment. The idea of eating food as pleasure was new to them. They had not traveled at all. Romulans who had interacted with other races were familiar with the idea, and usually made polite noises to indicate that they did not find the idea repellent.
"Those are cycads," observed Mary Anne as they passed a group of new trees.
"You're a tree expert?" asked Malcolm curiously.
"I'm a textbook expert," she said. "I can tell you a lot about them, but you know more than I do."
Revi and Pachek immediately added her to their circle of interest, but drifted back to Malcolm when they realized that she did not know too much about the nitty-gritty of survival in the wild.
Small animals fled at the sight of them, but when they came across larger ones they showed no fear at all. Most of these were small dinosaurs.
"They've never seen man," said Beverley. "We're not big enough to be a predator, so they aren't worried about us."
"Should we be worried about them?" asked Deanna. "That's a bigger question!"
"I've no idea what they are, either," said Malcolm. "They must be reptiles, but I don't know much about them. One thing I do know about reptiles. They'll eat anything they can fit in their mouths!"
"Fortunately, there do not seem to be any around large enough to swallow us," said Pachek.
"These kind won't," agreed Malcolm, never averse to a tall tale, "but watch out for big snakes. They have big mouths that can unhinge, and then they sort of wrap themselves around you. They generally squash you to death first, though."
The visitors were duly impressed by this. Like many others they took a lot of notice of the harmless flies that circled their heads, but had to be warned about the savage ants which they were ignoring.
"What a great thing it would be if we could take back a few of these dinosaurs for the present day national park," said Malcolm.
"Sorry," said Riker. "It might upset the balance. Probably wouldn't, but could."
"So this world is nothing like the one you know?" asked Revi.
"No, but there's a magic just being here. The plants aren't all that different, though," he added. "I could live on the plants."
"Could you?" asked Revi with interest. "Tell us about them."
"Well, see these bright red berries? That's a sign they're poisonous. These ones are OK. And these plants have edible roots. You have to boil them in water for a while."
They had come out into less sheltered territory now.
"How long should you boil them?" asked Pachek.
Malcolm talked on, flattered by their interest, and a chance to air his knowledge on one of his specialities.
"Something I do know in the animal world," he said. "See these trees? In the bark is a thing called a witchetty grub. See here? You can eat them raw, or cook them."
Malcolm and the two Romulans tried them.
"I hope they weren't going to be the butterfly that changes the future!" laughed Riker. "I read that story myself once."
The Romulans looked puzzled, and Riker summarized the story.
"Well, we'll all be startled if we go back and find history changed," observed Sela drily, glancing at Dovor. He blandly returned her gaze. Deanna frowned.
"There aren't as many animals as I'd imagined," said Riker. "The old history books always had the place covered in dinosaurs."
"You can only have so many large animals in one area," said Malcolm. "In our day there are very few because the days are so hot. Most of them are nocturnal. Maybe it's something like that."
Suddenly Mary Anne's foot slipped, and she fell on her bottom. She let out a shriek as something speared her.
"Hey!" said Malcolm suddenly, "That's an echidna! So they existed way back here!"
The animal appeared to be a ball of spikes, which was quickly burrowing into a patch of soft earth. It disappeared as they watched.
Neither Riker nor any of the males ran to help her up. She presumed from Malcolm's sang-froid that the spikes did not contain deadly poison. After she had struggled back to her feet, rubbing her posterior, Beverley took her aside to apply some medication in privacy.
"There are probably platypuses and some other marsupials as well!" said Malcolm excitedly. "I feel at home after all! I could survive here alone."
"You could live on berries?" asked Pachek.
"These animals are all edible," said Malcolm. "You just make a fire and cook them."
"So your ancestors had fire-making machines?"
He laughed, and said, "I'll show you." He found two dry sticks, and showed the others how to make fire by rubbing them together over dry tinder. Revi and Pachek watched with interest.
Malcolm enjoyed himself. He had a great affinity for the land, and soaked in the smells of the eucalypts and pines. There were spiky grasses which he had learned to avoid, and most bushes had prickles, but he loved the land.
Mary Anne watched him with a smile. He was a remarkably transparent sort of man. Just the sort of man Chr' had told her Engineering was full of. She herself was seeing earth for the first time, so she was not as familiar with it, and could not so easily recognise how it would change. She had experienced parts of earth in holoprograms and books, but they were only samples, usually unrepresentative of the whole.
Sela found herself curiously removed from it. She had wondered whether her suppressed human nature would spring out with some sort of homesickness, and if so would she recognise it as that. But there was nothing but an aesthetic appreciation of its beauty. Of course, her mother had not been born here either, and for all she knew none of her human ancestors for generations. She was too young to have learned much from Tasha by the time she had abandoned her and been killed trying to flee.
Am I being irrational in blaming her for leaving me? It was the first time the thought had obtruded, and she considered it with surprise. She continued to observe.
After a while they had found only one other mammal, a small mouse skulking in the grass. They were surprised to see Ensign Arrg fling himself back in terror at the sight of small mammals, but he was beginning to adjust. He took no notice of animals like tyrannosaurus, and they had to alert him that this also was inappropriate.
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" he snarled.
"There are probably platypuses in the lake," said Malcolm, "but it would take a while to spot them. You have to sit around quietly for a while."
"Well, I won't be doing that till we get back to the sick bay," thought Mary Anne as she limped along.
They were now in grasslands, and could hear something large approaching. A few minutes later they had a glimpse of the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex! The humans and Worf anxiously fingered their phasers, but it ignored them and moved on through the grass. Beverley eagerly recorded everything.
She was interested to note that the grasslands were covered in flowers, but their variety was not spectacular. They had evolved, and spread rapidly, but had not attained the diversity of spectacular forms and colors that they would develop over the next millions of years. Mary Anne forgot about her injury as she became absorbed in the flowers, one of her special interests.
Out in the grasslands they found themselves waving away the flies still. Their suits had a built-in repellent field to prevent insects landing on them, as insect bites from an unknown planet could be dangerous, but the flies just buzzed around, and they found themselves waving continuously.
Once or twice they found themselves startling a flock of large flightless birds.
"Those look like emus!" exclaimed Malcolm. "Not exactly, but who would have thought they were this old!"
"Some look like ostriches," said Beverley Crusher. "Others I haven't seen before - naturally."
"Are these birds good to eat?" asked Revi. "Would they need to be cooked?"
"I wouldn't like to try one raw," laughed Malcolm, "but, yes. Most birds taste all right, and are quite nourishing. My ancestors used to catch the emus by behaving oddly, and the birds would come over for a look. Obviously these ones have more predators. They are quite shy."
The weather was hot and steamy. In spite of Beverley's speculation about the weather, it did suddenly rain twice, and each time suddenly clear up.
"Hasn't changed in sixty million years," commented Malcolm.
"It's just like your golf game," remarked Sela. Malcolm was puzzled, but the others just smiled.
The only other event Beverley recorded was that a flock of birds suddenly flew up, and a pair of pterodactyls flew over, and swooped among them.
"It never occurred to me that birds and pterodactyls existed at the same time!" said Beverley. "But I suppose they had to evolve to exist when the pterodactyls died out!"
Deanna was puzzled when Sela and Dovor suddenly tensed up, and then relaxed again. What had been said?
A little later they were suddenly transported back to the shuttle.
"You have to keep your eye on the time," remarked Beverley. "It might be embarrassing to be transported back at the wrong moment, when you were answering the call of nature or something!"
The Romulans did not know the term, but inferred its meaning correctly.
They had another brief look at a sandy desert area, but found thirty minutes enough, except for Malcolm and Mary Anne.
"It's beautiful," said Mary Anne. "I suppose you intend to retire to somewhere like this eventually."
"No!" he laughed. "I think it's great to rough it out in a place like this for a holiday, but I'm a city boy. If I ever have to retire I'll find a smallish town."
"Tch, what a blow to your image!" she smiled.
"I could live out here now," he said, "but I don't know about when I'm ninety."
The two of them trailed around for a while, dragging feet through the sand, feeling companionable. They found themselves talking freely. They could have stayed longer, but obviously the others had run out of interest.
"I'd like a look at the isolated continent," said Riker, when they were back again. "We'll give ourselves the six hours time again, after a bite to eat and a nap. If anyone is getting tired, call out and we'll come back. Twelve hours exploration might be a long time."
They beamed down onto the new location, and Revi and Pachek took note of the time carefully.
Worf and the humans remained armed, and still determined to keep an eye on the Romulans, although there seemed no immediate danger.
"Rather conveniently, Lieutenant Selar has not accompanied us," remarked Revi, "so there is nobody but us within earshot who speaks Romulan."
"Have you some plan?" asked Sela. "I had no other intention in coming here than curiosity. Our plan has either worked or has not."
"Pachek and I had thought to flee and hide. In spite of what they say, the humans will execute us. If we have succeeded, our world would not even know us. If not, we can still destroy the humans. We can stay here and breed. Far from being a human planet, this will be another outpost of Romulans."
"You would be found easily and returned," observed Sela. "The instruments on the starship could easily locate two Romulans by their DNA signatures."
"Not if there were some reason why the starship should quickly return to our time. Their instruments are much inferior to those of a starship in this case. You could drop a hint, and they would flee back. Until then we could find some underground hideaway."
The country in which the group had materialized was fairly open, as this seemed safest, and indeed most of the planet seemed to be open plains and swamps. This was a surprise to the humans, who had had some intuitive feeling that the primitive world would all be thick jungle. The unknown continent was somewhat distinctive in having one of the few high mountain ranges on earth..
Riker decided that this unknown continent would provide the best place for inspection. The fact that over the next few millions of years it would be swallowed up made it less likely that anything they might do would have an effect on posterity. As it happened to be isolated, its impact on history was likely to be nil.
Beverley and he had their cameras, and they began recording a variety of experiences. They had clothing which protected them from the snakes and vertebrates which snapped and hissed at them, though most life forms fled them. There seemed to be no birds here, not even pterodactyls.
Eventually, however, they came across a group of dinosaurs. They watched from the shelter of some trees, breathless, and Beverley and Riker recorded as much as they could.
A small dinosaur of a type they did not recognize (which was not surprising as they were limited to vague ideas of Tyrannosaurus and Brontosaurus) was incubating eggs, when it was attacked and killed and eaten. They photographed the attack in silence. In fact they had learned something of great scientific interest, though they did not realize it, that some dinosaurs incubated young.
The recordings were quite spectacular. There were cliffs and caves in the background which added to the spectacle.
Beverley and Malcolm both looked at the clutch of eggs. Beverley had the soul of a scientist, and Malcolm thought of the giant national park that Australia would become.
"Could we?" she pleaded with Will. "They're only going to spoil or be eaten here."
"Well, this whole continent is going to vanish," said Will, reluctantly. "OK."
Beverley reverently gathered up the clutch. "I hope we have both sexes," she said.

Glock surreptitiously examined the phial and found it contained perfume. It seemed to be the same as that worn by Ensign Smith. It was pleasant, and he filed the aroma in his brain for later investigation. His mind was already putting a market value on it. Nothing out of the ordinary, though not unpleasant.
In the meantime Ensign Arrg was becoming agitated. This was indistinguishable to his companions, but he had frantically searched his pockets. Oh, oh! thought Glock. Perhaps earth customs are different!
"Stay with the group, Ensign!" called Riker, as Arrg began to keep his distance. Arrg was too inherently meek and subordinate to refuse, and he began to move with them again, albeit drifting off to one side.
Dovor had noticed Arrg's secrecy, and also detected Glock's temporary loan. He was wondering about this when he began to feel some apprehension. Were the others about to attack him? He dismissed the feeling as illogical. So did the other Romulans and Selar, who were all experiencing similar fears. They found the experience intriguing.
Worf began to feel a curious idea forming. If he had recognized it, it too was fear. It translated into a haunting thought that he was about to lose his honor. He became uncharacteristically introspective, and lost his concentration.
The humans and Glock, however, simply became terrified, paralysed with fear - except Mary Anne. They had no idea what they were afraid of, but dread overcame them. Deanna was especially incapacitated, because she absorbed everyone else's fear as well as her own.
Mary Anne became aware that the others were behaving strangely, as they swung about wide-eyed, but had no idea what was going on. Her 'perfume' was protecting her, though she did not know it.
A raptor, which had been traveling in parallel, suddenly became aware that most of the little herd of unfamiliar animals it had been stalking were suddenly spooked and afraid. It swung into action and charged through the undergrowth at them.
Dovor first registered the onrushing beast, but it was not attacking him, so he paused to see how the drama would develop. Selar was at the tail of the group, and somewhat out of sight, or she could have reacted. She heard the attack, and swung around to see, but assumed that Riker or one of the others closer by would react to whatever it was.
Riker, however, was in a state of panic. He looked around at the large lizard flying across the grass at him, and froze. As it launched itself through the air a figure met it in mid-flight. Mary Anne Smith hit it hip and shoulder, and as it twisted in the air hit it with a blow near the skull. She could not fire her phaser because she would hit others, so she relied on her martial arts training. When the animal was isolated she could try to stun it. A stun setting for humans might not slow a raptor.
This might not have been enough to defeat it, except that it, too, became infected with the wave of terror, and tried to squirm away. The others forced themselves to overcome their terror, and closed in on the animal, wrestling it down. Worf in particular led the attack. The animal managed to work free and fled.
In the panic Dovor relieved Mary Anne and Beverley Crusher of their phasers. He quickly pushed them into the back of his belt. If their loss was noticed quickly he would pull them out and go down fighting. If not, he would bide his time.
Ensign Arrg was howling. "It's my fault!" he cried. "It's my fault!"
Riker fought to control his shaking and fear. "What do you mean?" he managed to say. Mary Anne lay on the ground still.
Arrg backed away. "I need my phial," he said. "I give off pheromones. That's why you are all terrified. I need my anti-pheromone to neutralise it! It's gone!"
"Do you know where you last had it?" asked Pachek quickly. "We can look for it."
"I had it when we were over by that rock," said Arrg dolefully. He pointed to a large formation about a kilometer away.
"Well, we've been over there, and there, and there," said Pachek. "Revi and I will look over there," he indicated an area in the direction of the cliffs. "Someone look in the other two areas, and see if we can find it. We only have about six minutes."
"I'll look down this path," said Glock, indicating a path they had made through the grass. "I believe I may have heard something drop." Malcolm and Arrg also spread out.
"I've got it!" called out Glock, after a few moments. "A Ferengi can find anything!" Especially if it's in his pocket, he thought. Arrg thankfully sprayed a little around his neck, and the breeze took away the tainted air.
In the meantime, Riker struggled to regain his composure. He noticed Mary Anne still sitting on the ground.
"What's the trouble, Ensign?" he asked.
"Oh, I think I twisted my ankle," she said. Commander Riker bent over and picked her up.
"I can't leave you here after you saved my life," he smiled. She was about to reply with something coquettish when they were suddenly beamed up. There were eight people, and two extra communicators.
"Hell!" exclaimed Riker, "Where are they? They've taken off their badges. We'll have to search for them."
"My phaser is missing!" gasped Mary Anne as Riker put her down gingerly.
"And mine!" said Beverley. "I noticed it was gone while we were still down there. I assumed I lost it in the fight, but I didn't have time to go look!"
"Those two must have stolen them and vanished!" exclaimed Deanna. Dovor was thankful that someone had made the suggestion, as it might have been more suspicious coming from him. He had the two phasers in the back of his clothing. Fortunately Glock was still too disoriented by the fear pheromones to notice.
Also fortunately for him, they all raced back to the bridge. He followed, and quietly secreted them away during the excitement. Worf's attention was with the others, on the instruments.
The shuttle's equipment, however, was insufficient to trace them. After a brief try, they returned to the Pinball Wizard.
"I am unable to trace them," said Data. "Since they seem to have discarded their communicators it must be presumed they intended to stay, so they could be presumed to be hiding, or they could have become prey to some predator. It seems strange that I cannot trace the phasers. They must be hidden under dense rocks."
"We can go back and find them," said Riker. "I don't like to leave them there. They could muck up history somehow."
"Why did they run off?" asked Geordi in puzzlement.
"Because they were afraid we'd punish them for trying to crash that comet on the earth," said Riker.
"Huh?" said Geordi. "They didn't do anything. None of their equipment had been used."
"What do you mean?" asked Riker in confusion.
"They didn't do anything with that ship", repeated Geordi. "None of their equipment had been used. It had spider webs on it!"
"But the comet was about to hit earth," said Riker stupidly.
"I think it may be time to cut to the chase," said Sela, "as the earth expression has it. They decided to die there rather than be executed."
"But why?" asked Deanna in bewilderment. "They knew we would not hurt them."
"That was when you thought we had failed. Maybe we have. We will never know until we return through the wormhole. Mr Data, from your knowledge of earth history, what caused the dinosaurs to suddenly die out after many millions of years of existence?"
Data consulted his interior database.
"The current belief, for many years now, is that they were destroyed by a large comet striking the earth. Conditions became impossible for them to survive. Only the smallest of creatures did survive."
"Including some small creatures we call mammals," said Sela with a forced relish, "some of which evolved into humans."
Rikers lips became dry.
"What do you mean?" he whispered.
"We won't know for sure until we go back, but I suspect that there are no humans in the future," said Sela.
"Mister Data, set a course through the wormhole!" cried Commander Riker hoarsely. "Lieutenant Worf, confine those two!"
Dovor and Sela sat down with Worf covering them with a phaser. Riker forgot them as he anxiously watched the screen for the approaching wormhole to be displayed.
Sela thought, The die has been cast. It was an evil thing to do, but it is done. Our hand must be played out.
Dovor thought, Still they do not kill us! What a poorly organized race. But it will be interesting to see that we have succeeded. One can die happily if one has achieved something great.
Worf, on the other hand, had not forgotten them. Nor was he averse to punishing them. He waited for them to try something.

On to Chapter 7, or give it up for now.