Five grandchildren – well, one was a step-grandchild, but who's counting? Those five ran at a man who looked a bit old and tired, and had just plunked himself into an overstuffed easy chair.
"Now, kids! Grandpop's tired. He's already had a long day," Ellen Crusher Farley sighed. There was no stopping the kids once they got started. Sure, her two were older, but Pop never seemed to be able to deny them.
"It's all right," said her father, straightening up just a little.
"How does it feel to be old?" asked little Jack Crusher, Ellen's elder nephew.
"Jack!" Cynthia Farley was, at fourteen, far too sophisticated for such antics.
"Well, a hundred is really old," her younger sister, Tara, was a bit less subtle.
"Yes, it's really old," their grandfather said, "I was born in 2348. Can you believe that?"
"That's like a million billion years ago!" enthused Scotty Chen, the aforementioned step-grandchild.
Tad Crusher, the youngest of the grandchildren, just crawled into his Grandpop's lap and said, "Story!"
"C'mon, kids, let him rest!" Ellen protested.
"It's okay, Ellie; I don't mind. Just tell me, where's your mother?"
"She and Tim and Mei-Lien went out for a walk. They wanted to work off your birthday dinner."
"It was wonderful," her father said, "especially dessert. A Betazoid woman I knew long ago – she would've really appreciated the chocolate frosting on the cake. Now," he addressed the children directly, "I would be happy to tell a story. But who wants to hear one?"
"Me! Me!" yelled Scotty.
"Me, too!" Jack exclaimed.
"Um, okay," said Cynthia. Tara nodded. The two girls settled into a small sofa near the overstuffed chair as the boys – all except for Tad, not moving from his grandfather's lap – got comfortable on the floor.
Ellen looked on and smiled, thinking a little about getting out her camera, but deciding against it. My memory has enough film in it, she said to herself.
"All right. I'm gonna tell you about the time I saw Ted Williams hit a home run. It was back in 2366. I bet that feels like a thousand years ago to all of you."
"It's eighty-two years ago," Tara said.
"That's right. I was eighteen."
The shuttle flew away from the Kreetassan home world, expertly piloted.
"So, what'd you think about the ceremony?" asked Geordi La Forge as he worked the controls. "It did get you out and about a bit. You've gotta admit, Wes, sometimes all you do is work. And all work and no play, well, you know the rest of it."
"It was all right," said the young man beside him. "But I can't wait to get back to the Enterprise."
"Agreed, Wes, the food was, eh, well, let's just say I'd rather have replicated liver and onions."
A low volume alarm went off. "That's strange," Wes said, "I'm getting fluctuating energy readings."
"Huh, wait, over there!" Geordi pointed.
"I can't see anything."
"Computer, filter to show infrared waves."
The view screen changed, and a pulsing beam appeared on the starboard side. It undulated irregularly, a Spanish dancer made solely of energy.
"It's a bit – I think it's like an old pulse shot; but it's done with infrared somehow, and not with a phaser," Geordi guessed.
"Evasive action," Wes said, "new heading to port."
"3629 mark 515," Geordi acknowledged, "Damn! Looks like it's following us!"
"That thing can't possibly have a mind of its own. Let's try evasive maneuver Delta five."
The shuttle rocked but they couldn't shake the undulating infrared pulse. "It's still coming right for us!"
"It's still not working," Wes said. He punched up Communications. "To the Enterprise, and any other ships in the area, this is the Monongahela! We have an irregular infrared energy reading, mark five-one-five, no, now it's mark five-one-six. We are going to have an impact. Repeat, there is an –"
His message was interrupted by the impact, which rocked the shuttle even more than evasive maneuver Delta five had. The star field outside the shuttle's main viewer went milky and hazy for a minute or so. After what seemed like an eternity, the stars finally resumed their usual sharp brilliance.
"Are you all right, Wesley?"
"Yeah, I think so. Geordi, do you recall seeing a star cluster before the impact on the, uh, the port side of us?"
"Huh. There's no cluster now."
Another alarm went off. This one was louder and more insistent. "We've got hull damage. We'd better find a class M planet, and soon," Wesley said, his voice betraying a little fear.
Geordi checked Navigation. "I, hmm, I think the closest class M planet might be Earth."
"Earth? But we were just at the Kreetassan home world!" Wesley thought for a second. "Then maybe Jupiter Station can hear us." He tried Communications again. "Jupiter Station, this is the Monongahela. We have taken damage. Repeat, we have damage."
There was no response but static.
"I'll try boosting the signal," Geordi said, but the only result was louder static.
"Maybe a different frequency would work."
Wes fiddled with the controls, but the static continued until they finally heard what seemed to be some sort of broadcast.
"This is the BBC. Operation Countenance has begun. Repeat: Operation Countenance has begun. Our military forces have begun raids into Iran. Soviet Union forces have announced the planned destruction of the Dnieper dam at Zaporozhye, in order to keep it from falling into German hands. Air raids continue over London and mainland Europe as the state of war is maintained on the land, even as major sea victories have been achieved earlier this year. Citizens are encouraged to check on their neighbors during air raid drills. In particular, elderly neighbors may need assistance in getting to shelters. And now back to our program of music, with Duke Ellington's Take the A Train."
Music began, a full orchestra playing an upbeat tune.
Geordi turned off the broadcast. "I hope that's either a joke or a historical rebroadcast. 'Cause if it's not, we've just landed in the 1930s or 1940s."
"Let's hope it's a joke."
But as they continued flying, it became obvious, when they noticed that Mars had not yet been terraformed, and they could not see any satellites orbiting the Earth.
"Wanna venture a guess on the correct year?" Geordi asked.
"Well, World War II is, what, 1930-something to 1945, right? It's long before Sputnik, of course."
"I wonder, maybe we can get a broadcast from Vulcan," Geordi said, "We could get a star date."
There was only more static. "I think that infrared energy pulse is causing the interference," Wes said.
"That's as plausible a theory as any. Look, we're going to need to make repairs. We'll need tin, carbon and iron. I think our best bet is a major city," Geordi said.
"We can't touch down in a major city; we'll mess with the timeline too much. We'd better land some place without a lot of people."
Another alarm went off, and it was far louder. "That's all right in theory," Geordi said, "but it looks like we can't wait for niceties. We need to get down! Now!"
It was a river, and the area was a bit wooded. The shuttle bumped a little as Wesley brought it to a stop. "It feels like landing thrusters are out, too," he said.
"We've gotta hide this thing," Geordi said, "and then, uh, find the tin, carbon and iron, repair the shuttle and, well, after that I'm a little tapped when it comes to ideas."
"I wonder what would happen if we hit that energy pulse from the other way?" Wes asked.
"Let's think about that as we go. In the meantime, grab a phaser. I think we need to fell a tree or two."
They didn't cut down any trees, just lopped off branches with their hand phasers. It was sweaty work getting the branches in place, but they finally had the shuttle reasonably hidden.
"We'll need clothes for the time period," Wes said, programming the replicator, "And for the weather. It feels like, I dunno, June, maybe. I'll put in for 1935."
They put the clothes on, which included caps for both of them, but one thing was sticking out like a sore thumb. "Geordi, your visor."
"Right. Damn. Hmm, I've read a little about the history of blindness. For most of the twentieth century, blind people would wear sunglasses when they left their homes, regardless of the weather."
"All right, let's try that," Wesley reprogrammed the replicator, "uh, wait, I'll get it to replicate a duffle bag, too, so that we can carry the materials back and carry your visor, too."
"Good thinking," Geordi held the unfamiliar sunglasses in his hands. "I'll have to depend on you for getting around," he said, "I don't love being so dependent."
"We've gotta do this. I think you can wear the visor until we hit civilization. But let me take a look at you before we go anywhere."
Geordi put on the glasses. In order to hold his visor in place and allow it to interface directly with his brain, there were two implanted posts that lit up, one on each of Geordi's temples. Wesley adjusted the sunglasses, and was able to get them to cover the two little posts. "How's that feel?"
"It's okay," Geordi said, "we, uh, this society uses money."
Wes replicated one hundred dollars. "I hope that's enough."
They left the shuttle and began to walk in the direction toward what was, they hoped, the nearest city.