For some reason, I thought this chapter should stand on its own as it is so strange. I kinda dig the alternate history/parallel dimension thing and I wanted to try something different. I actually wrote this a while ago so the work input was minimal now. It is based on the Star Trek - Phoenix story.

Background - Ok, this goes forward a year in our heroine's life. It's based on a Japanese novel, the Taiheiki about the civil wars of the 1300's and involves some weird time and dimensional travel. Claire became unglued after the death of her fiance and was transferred to become a helmsman. She drank a lot and built a bad reputation, but she is on her way back. There are a lot of weird little time twists, so pay attention.

TAIHEIKI (CHRONICLE OF GRAND PACIFICATION)

STARDATE UNKNOWN – ELBA II FORENSIC UNIT FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE

On a barren planet with a poisonous atmosphere on the edge of the Federation was located a secure ward for the most violent, most incurable criminals in the known quadrant. The facility, Elba II was named for a small island in the Mediterranean Ocean on Earth where a man named Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, had come to be exiled after he abdicated the throne at Fontainebleau in April 1814. In 1815, with only a personal guard, the Emperor risked escape back to the mainland, where his once loyal Marshal Ney met him as an adversary. King Louis XVIII had sent Ney to capture Napoleon and Ney stated that he would bring the Emperor back in an iron cage. On the field, Napoleon's charisma won out and the soldiers of France rushed to join their Emperor. This period became known as the "One Hundred Days."

Back in Paris, Napoleon reassembled his government and reconstituted his army. The Allies, consisting of England, Prussia, Belgium, Holland, Austria, and Russia mobilized to meet him in battle. However, facing 4 to 1 odds, Napoleon moved quickly and isolated the English and Prussian armies defeating them at Ligny and Quatre Bras. As they retreated, the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Gerhard Von Blucher groped about, attempting to join forces.

As Napoleon pursued Wellington, he detached a third of his army under Marshal Grouchy to locate Blucher and destroy him. After a rainy June night, Napoleon located Wellington near a Belgian town called Waterloo, and the rest, as we say, is history. Little did the staff of Elba II know, but they would soon be faced with another escape, where a woman in exile would rampage for one hundred days before facing her own Waterloo.

Historically, Elba II had been a tiny facility once, housing only 15 inmates. The small ward had grown since the 2260's and now housed nearly 100 inmates and the main purpose of the facility was to separate the inmates from the rest of society.

Each inmate was confined to a single cell, which was equipped with sleeping accommodations. There were no doors. However, the entrances maintained force fields that stunned inmates attempting to leave. Attempts to escape were nearly impossible, as the poisonous atmosphere would kill all escapees rapidly. A force field around the facility also prevented anyone from beaming in or out. Several communal and recreational facilities did provide the inmates with some relief. Elba II's ultimate claim to fame was through its housing of the infamous Garth of Izar. On this day, two of the physicians of Elba II pondered the fate of another one of the inmates.

"I think it's hopeless. She's beyond any help," Dr. Hernandez said reluctantly to his colleague Dr. Kolowetski. They watched through the force field as a disheveled, emaciated young woman in a restraint ranted and raved about injustice. "How did she get this way?" asked Kolowetski.

The dark Chief Psychiatrist answered, "Orion pirates had killed her fiancé and she lost her mind. This disturbed young lady finally snapped and killed three newlywed brides. Fortunately, Starfleet Security apprehended her before she could strike again. She was deemed unfit to stand trial and confined here at the Forensic Unit. All treatment has failed and she has continued to threaten other women who are in happy relationships. She had once been a fine officer…"

The stocky Kolowetski nodded gravely.

"Claire, how are you doing?" asked Dr. Hernandez.

Claire rocked back and forth, her arms bound over her chest with a restraint jacket. "Please let me go. I won't hurt anyone. I didn't mean it."

The doctor shook his head sadly. "You know I can't do that."

Without warning, the insane woman exploded and charged the force field. "I'll rip your head off!" She impacted on the field and fell back hard. As she lay there, she croaked, "Doctor, didn't your daughter just marry. I'll be seeing her." The doctor's blood ran cold. He saw the images of the victims: multiple stabbings and mutilation. It was overkill, an act of extreme rage. Doctor Hernandez was caring for a serial killer.

It took several days in restraints to calm Claire down. Under heavy sedation, she was deemed fit to reintegrate back into the inmate population. Later, during recreation, Claire sat with another inmate, Ugathor Thav. Thav was once brilliant engineer, but suffered a head injury and his behavior became unstable. He had committed terroristic acts against innocent people by setting off explosives in crowded areas. He too was apprehended by the swift and sure investigation of Starfleet Security. Nearly incoherent, Thav rambled on about a dimensional/temporal portal he was making in his cell. It would lead them to paradise. The young woman laughed hysterically. "Paradise? We're all in hell!" she wailed sarcastically.

Uncounted days passed in the asylum. Thav continued to tell Claire of his contraption. It actually began to sound rather reasonable to the disturbed woman. Finally, during a game of chess, Thav told her in secret that it was finished. He described it as a pocket-sized instrument that would open a portal so they could then escape. All Claire would need to do is get to his cell at 3B.

What a nut, thought Claire. She pondered Thav's offer. What did she have to lose? If she failed, she would be tossed into the isolation cell and restrained. Been there, done that. As the ward attendants came for her, she jumped at her chance. She quickly disabled both of the attendants easily and ran for Thav's cell. She knocked out one more guard and stopped at the cell, deactivated the force field, and entered just as the alarms were going off.

Thav smiled. "I knew I could get you here. I have a proposal for you. I've always wanted you. I take you with me and you do whatever I ask."

Outraged, Claire was about to belt him, but thought again. "Hmmm. Okay, whatever. Let's go." Thav activated the device, which was no bigger than a remote control. A green portal appeared. "Wow, this really works," gasped Claire. Just then, security arrived. Thav jumped through, followed by his crazed companion.

STARDATE UNKNOWN – LOCATION UNKNOWN

Lights danced around them as they fell an immeasurable distance: they had made their escape from Elba II. Claire wailed endlessly until the sensation of falling ended.

Now in some other dimension, Thav and Claire sat on a grassy hill. The sky was blue and clear with a light breeze. Thav pocketed his device. "Only seven more charges on this baby. We better make the best of it. Okay, now about that proposal."

Thav moved into kiss Claire. She readily accepted, letting him touch her. She seductively moved around behind him and began caressing his neck. He cooed in pleasure. "Show me how to use this thing," she begged. He gave her a quick demonstration as she observed from over his shoulder. She watched intently, learning its every operation. Satisfied that she could operate the device, she suddenly wrapped her arms around his scrawny neck and snapped it.

"Filth," she said, kicking him aside. "No man but Mario can have me," she finished, taking the device from his hand. The murderous young woman rolled the body down the hill. "There are some people I've been dying to meet," she voiced coldly as she activated the device. She was rewarded with the appearance of the green portal.

USS NAPOLEON – 2367.12.25 - 2100 hrs – LT CDR FARRARE'S QUARTERS

Deep in space, the USS NAPOLEON flew on to patrol the neutral zone along the Romulan Border. The ship had been dispatched to monitor sensor activity originating from Romulan Space. Despite the doldrums of patrol, a very happy event had just occurred: a marriage. The fighter squadron known as the Wolfpack had just landed after a long patrol and the crew was anxious to get back to the Wolf's Den to resume the festivities.

The Squadron XO, Mario Farrare returned to his stateroom after a long day of flying. He was happy to be seeing his new bride again, who was also a pilot. However, she had not flown on this mission. As he stepped in, he noticed a green flash from the bedroom. "Claire? Is that you? Let's head on down to the Den, the guys are waiting." There was no sound. Mario walked into the bedroom and was confronted by a horrific sight. There was blood everywhere and a body lay on the bed. He ran to the bed where his new bride's slaughtered corpse lay.

STARFLEET ACADEMY, SAN FRANCISCO – 2367.12.25 – 2015 hrs - THE BULL AND BEAR TAVERN

In the bustling home of Starfleet Command, San Francisco, a group had gathered to celebrate. The Bull and Bear Tavern had become a haunt for many mid-level officers seeking to relax after a days work. This time, the group had come to rejoice in a marriage.

"Congratulations again," Commander Olaf Snurre offered Lieutenant Josh Goldman, "She's a real catch."

Goldman smiled. He had always been afraid to make the first move since he fell in love with Claire MacGregor as a cadet back at the Academy. On the day of graduation, he decided to give it a try. On his way out to meet his shuttle, he said goodbye. Goldman turned to go, but then stopped and kissed her. She returned the gesture and love blossomed. They were eventually transferred back to the Academy as instructors and they had been married for one week now. Josh talked for a time with the fatherly Snurre. His bride, Claire, had gotten up to use the restroom earlier and had not yet returned.

"I don't know what's keeping her," Josh said, eyeing the bathroom door. It had been 20 minutes. He went to the door and knocked, "You ok. Claire?" There was no answer. Concerned, Josh cracked the door a bit and saw a green flash. There was a large pool of blood on the floor. He burst in and found his wife lying motionless in the middle of the pool.

USS DISPLACEMENT – 2807.07.01 – BRIDGE

Far into the future, a Starfleet vessel patrolled the edges of the Sol System. However, this was not an ordinary vessel and her skipper was not an ordinary captain.

Captain Mary Thomas of the USS DISPLACEMENT was responsible for monitoring and preventing temporal and dimensional tampering. She watched as various dimensional and timelines evolved on the main viewscreen. The Spatial Anomaly Engineer piped in, "Captain, we have a serious artificial anomaly in our sector. A dimensional rift has opened, which has altered the timeline." The Captain nodded. "Temporal degradation?"

"Yes, sir. On the order of nine percent."

That was an intolerable alteration to the timeline. "Notify Admiral Tirpitz that we are going to intervene," ordered Captain Thomas. They would need to act. The Captain summoned Agent Epsilon of the Temporal Security Department and briefed him: "Your mission is to apprehend a woman who had been shifting dimensions and murdering people. She apparently has killed someone with a key descendant and this has altered the timeline. You are to be sent back to the early twenty-fourth century to prevent that. The woman's name is Claire MacGregor and here is an image of her. My orders include termination of this woman if necessary."

THE MACGREGOR HOME – 2367.12.28 – 1930 hrs - HAMAMATSU, EARTH

On Earth, on the Island of Honshu, a woman named Claire MacGregor was filling a hot tub with steaming water. As the tub slowly filled, she tossed in some bubble bath and a few floating toys. One was a fuzzy bear, designed to backstroke and blow water into the air. When the tub was full, she took off her towel and glided in.

Claire relaxed in the furo full of hot water. She was visiting home for the Holidays and had just come back from Aikido training. She had recently passed her test for San Dan and was very proud. The young woman was gearing up to be surprised for her 25th birthday. Mom and Dad always threw that surprise party. I know Aunt Martha will be there to pinch my cheeks.

Claire had learned that her father, Kevin, had just begun his own company, Aileron, Inc., and was opening a branch office in Belfast. He was also starting research into advanced holo technology. Claire enjoyed testing her Dad's holographic creations. She loved the tribble program, which simulated multiplying tribbles. Unfortunately it would crash after 1023 tribbles had been created.

Claire closed her eyes and let the hot water caress her lithe body. As she breathed deeply, she felt that something was wrong. She opened her eyes to see a man in a strange uniform standing there. The startled woman jumped. "Who are you?"

"I am Agent Epsilon. You are under arrest for violations of Temporal Ordinance Five Two Six of the Federation Code. Put your hands up."

Claire gave a blank expression. This guy must be kidding. He had to be one of those strip-o-grams. He would surely produce a musical device and begin dancing and singing happy birthday. This must have been Pat's idea; she was such a prankster. She laughed until she saw the phaser. "Whh…what?" she stammered.

"Put your hands up and step out of the tub," the man repeated sternly.

Claire raised her hands. "Uhhh, can I put on a towel?" The man frowned, but tossed her the nearby towel. She wrapped herself and stepped out of the furo. The man turned her around and cuffed her. He also put a hood over her head.

"Hey, what's going on?" demanded Claire, "This is a sucky birthday present."

Just then she heard a groan and the sound of a struggle. There was a click and a loud whirring sound began. Someone grabbed Claire fiercely and she felt like she was falling a great distance. A short time later, the whirring stopped and so did the falling. Poor Claire sat helpless on her knees.

All was now silent. A moment later, Claire felt someone yank her head up, exposing her throat. A knife was then pressed up against her flesh and a woman's voice spoke. "That fool did my work for me. All I need to do is cut your throat and be off. Hmmm, I want you to see who did this to you." The voice was familiar. The hood was torn off and Claire stood face to face with…herself.

The body of the man who arrested her now lay in a pool of blood. The other Claire held a dagger and a strange device. The two were on the property that belonged to the MacGregor family, but there was no house. In place of the building were numerous bushes and trees were growing nearby. Claire also heard the sound of a river.

Thoroughly confused, Claire asked, "Who are you and why are you doing this?"

The other Claire replied flippantly, "Well, chicky poo…. I'm you and I'm doing this because I have to. My happiness died with my love. I can't live knowing there are others of me who have that happiness. It's nothing personal you see."

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the sound of hoof beats could be heard. The other Claire became startled. She forced her captive double into some bushes and then watched for the rider. Once the rider had passed, she looked back: the real Claire was gone.

LOCATION UNKNOWN – STARDATE UNKNOWN

Completely bewildered, Claire ran for her life. She stumbled awkwardly, having her hands bound. She muttered, "Why does this kind of crap always happen to me? Some sadistic nut must be writing my life's story."

Fortunately, Claire excelled in survival training and, in the moonlight, easily tracked her way back to the body of the man. She quickly found the keys to the cuffs, removed them and was about to take the guy's clothes. However, she stopped when she heard someone running toward her. Oh shoot, no time. Claire ran off into some bushes and then remembered the phaser. She slapped her head: too late.

The other Claire came up on the body and the discarded cuffs. She laughed insanely while she picked up the fallen phaser. "No, I want to kill that undeserving woman up close. If I can't be happy, none of my incarnations will be happy either." Insane Claire set the phaser on overload and ran off in the direction of her prey. The phaser then detonated, leaving only a small crater.

Meanwhile, Claire continued to run toward a group of trees. How on Earth was she going to fight her other self with only a towel.

What a mess. I'm in deep kim chee. Also, where the heck am I?

She stopped for a moment and the sound of fighting became audible nearby. Using the moonlight to see, she crept over to some bushes and peered through. To her astonishment, there were armored warriors battling. What? Spears, swords, arrows, and other sharps instruments were dealing death in the small area. Claire's jaw dropped. Somehow, I've traveled in time to medieval Japan. How the dickens did I get here? It must have something to do with that do-hickey she was holding.

After a brief clash, the samurai of one side had been defeated and were fleeing beyond the area. The victors gave chase, leaving dead and wounded behind. From her studies, Claire knew they would return later to collect the belongings of the fallen and to engage in a strange and grotesque ritual of removing the heads of the slain for viewing.

Claire checked around quickly. She had seen one man killed, who appeared to be about her height. She realized that she would be exceptionally tall for this time period. After looking around for danger, Claire crept out into the open and dragged the body back into the bushes. It was no easy task, but desperation gave her extra strength.

The nervous woman inspected the body. The man was slain by an arrow to the head, which left the armor intact. "Woohoo, this is my lucky day," she said sarcastically. Despite her comment, the armor was exquisite. The helmet, or kabuto, was solid and had a wide, flared neck guard called a shikoro. It also had large, though light golden horns, known as kuwagata, on its brow. Claire studied the kabuto carefully and, recalling her history courses, thought this was typical of the Nambokucho-jidai, a period from the 1300's to the 1400's. Turning the kabuto over, Claire also saw kanji characters inscribed on the inside of the helmet: Yuki Munetaka, the former owner

Claire quickly removed the rest of the armor and the silk and linen undergarments. She donned these items and laced up the armor tightly. She then affixed her sword and dagger, known as a tachi and tanto. This is great, but what chance do I have against a phaser? Hmmm, maybe it'll let me blend in until I can strike. As she stood to leave, she respectfully covered the body with her towel.

The lost lieutenant recollected that the Nambokucho-jidai revolved around a war between two court factions claiming Imperial authority. In the latter half of the 12th century, the Emperor's power was lost to two powerful military clans: Taira and Minamoto. The Minamoto defeated the Taira in a bitter struggle and established the first Shogunate or Bakufu. Later, through political manipulation, the Bakufu was in turn made subservient to the regent, or Hojo Shikken, and the Emperor's power was completely eclipsed. After the Mongol invasions of the 1270's and 1280's, the Hojo clan was severely weakened and various factions began to emerge. One faction sought to restore the power of the Emperor. They rebelled and overthrew the Hojo Shikken.

In the 1330's, the rebellious Imperial faction crushed the Shikken and the Emperor was restored. Unfortunately for the Emperor, the victors over the Shikken fell into fighting each other and a new Shogun, from the Ashikaga clan, emerged to take power. The defeated Imperialists fled, continuing to resist and maintaining their own Imperial Court: bloodshed continued for many decades thereafter. Claire marveled at how similar the feudal period of Japan was to the same period in Europe: fiefs, pledges of fealty, incredible loyalty, horrible treachery, lords and peasants, religious wars, epic love stories and unending vendettas. It just went to prove that no matter where you came from on Earth, we were all the same.

Suddenly, a group of soldiers appeared in the clearing. As expected, they began to remove the heads of the defeated. Claire watched quietly as they finished their gory task. One samurai looked about. "Oi! What happened to Yuki Munetaka? Someone saw him killed by an arrow. His head is worth a lot."

"Maybe he was just wounded. I'll bet he escaped."

"Otomo will be displeased. He says he fired the arrow."

"Oh well."

Claire listened carefully. Her fluency in Japanese was excellent. Holy mackerel. That means my head is worth a lot. I'd better get out of here. With that, she slinked away toward safer ground.

SOMEWHERE IN JAPAN – THE ANCIENT PAST

Not knowing what else to do, the displaced helmsman wandered east for a day over pleasant, rolling hills. "Boy, it's hot and I could use some food," Claire said to herself. She knew she was south of some mountains and was north of the ocean. Perhaps food could be found near the ocean. Taking a short break, she commented, "This armor is heavy."

Pressing on, Claire was glad when she encountered a river and followed it for a few miles south, until she came to a village.

At the village entrance, several peasants bowed before her. Tono (lord), they called her. Nodding her acknowledgement, she asked, "May I have some food and drink?" Quickly, the villagers returned with rice and fish. Bowing, they also offered tea and water. "Thank you," she said. The villagers seemed a bit shocked. Warriors were rarely polite to them.

During conversation, Claire discovered she was near the town of Hyogo on the inland sea of Japan. I'll bet crazy Claire comes there. I'll ambush her when she arrives. I'll get that weird device and figure out how to get home.

Claire spent the night at the village in a small hut and surmised from the populace that she, Yuki Munetaka, fought to restore the Emperor. That would mean that she fought against the powerful Ashikaga family: that would be good to know. Claire remembered reading the Taiheiki, a novel about the period, much like the Canterbury Tales in England. If only she could remember the specifics. "All I know is that my side loses: typical. You'd think I could get stuck in the Tales of Genji where there's love and intrigue."

The lost woman lay back on a straw mat. She thought about Mario and how she missed him. How did the crazy Claire get that way? It could have easily been me. She almost broke under the grief of losing him. Also, her parents would be worried sick. All they would find is a steaming furo and a bathing suit. There would be a search. Investigators and hostage rescue units would be combing the area. Hopefully she would survive to return to her time period. How to get home was a good question. What if I can't get home? Women had it tough in this period of time. Maybe she could disguise herself as a man? So many questions.

Claire envisioned a plaque with her name in the hall of honor at the Academy. "Vanished without a trace," it would say. She hoped Ariel Rosenbaum could keep Gorshaiya and Rall in line. They were all good helmsmen. She wanted her bear collection to go to Joe and Kelly. Molly could get all her flying mementos. Whoa, hang on. I'm not dead yet. I'm going to beat that crazy wench. Claire filled herself with greater resolve. With that, she fell asleep with exhaustion.

NORTH OF HYOGO – SUMMER

Claire awoke to the sound of cicadas buzzing. It was day and the temperature was already rising. Her body ached and she took a whiff of herself. "Whew, you stink girl." Perhaps she should not have slept in the armor. Unlike the armor of later periods, the O-Yoroi style of harness was not meant to be slept in. The hardened leather breastplate and the other colorfully laced plates held the body's moisture.

Claire also noticed that there was some rice and porridge laid out for her. She gladly ate this and thanked the peasants again. Soon, she was on her way to Hyogo. After she left, the villagers gathered.

"That was Yuki Munetaka. I saw his coat of arms. He's fighting with Kusunoki, the great general. They can't lose."

"He's a tall guy."

"He kind of has a high voice though."

"Yeah, but he was real polite."

Claire traveled for another day walking through the soft grass and wildflowers. She found the sandals very comfortable, but far from the quality of her FastFoottm hiking boots. Eventually, she came to a forest along her path. Finding a hidden spot in the trees along the river, she chanced a quick bath. After scrubbing off the grime, she set off again.

At dusk, Claire was approaching Hyogo, where she observed an army camped along her route. She saw a large banner, known as an uma jirushi, depicting a flower over flowing water. Several riders approached her. They seemed friendly and bowed as they neared.

"Yuki Tono (Lord Yuki). We are pleased that you have survived. Lord Kusunoki requests the honor of your presence. What say you of your encounter with Lord Ashikaga?" Claire noticed that their tone, demeanor, and choice of words denoted that she was a superior.

"We got our butts handed to us. Umm, I mean we fought valiantly, but were overcome by significant forces. They paid dearly, however."

One rider dismounted and offered her his mount. "I regret that I have no better steed to offer you. Please accept this poor horse so that you may ride to meet with Lord Kusunoki," he said. This was an age in which eloquent words were commonly used among the aristocracy. She accepted graciously and rode into camp. Arriving at the camp entrance, she dismounted and a valet took her reins.

A pavilion was set up in the center of the camp. "Lord Kusunoki awaits you," a guard stated and Claire was ushered within. Heavily armed guards bowed as she passed. Several fires lit the pavilion and the generals of the Imperial Army sat on stools around a map of the area. Claire stepped forward and knelt before the general who looked like the highest-ranking man. The man, dressed in a suit of half armor over a silk tunic, spoke, "Yuki Tono, I am honored by your presence and pleased that you did not perish." Claire noted that his words were spoken as a superior to a vassal.

"My life is the property of the Emperor," spoke Claire firmly.

"Well spoken. Your life is given to the Emperor as is my own," replied Kusunoki. Kusunoki Masashige was a legendary general who had sworn loyalty to the Emperor when the Bakufu held that office in contempt. The Emperor was a powerless force, something only to laugh at and Kusunoki had changed all of that. Gambling all, the Emperor declared open rebellion and Kusunoki gathered his troops to support the Imperialists. With a tiny force, he embarrassed a huge army sent by the Hojo Shikken. This turned the tide and samurai flocked to overthrow the corrupt Shikken. The growing Imperial force under Kusunoki and warlord Nitta Yoshisada attacked the Shikken in their capitol, Kamakura. The Shikken's army was crushed and the last of the regents committed seppuku. This restored the Imperial authority, which had disappeared in 1185. Unfortunately, disagreements soon sprang up and the Emperor proved to be an ineffective ruler. The Ashikaga clan, kin to the earlier Shoguns, rose and sought to place Ashikaga Takauji as the new Shogun. Kusunoki was now here to oppose Ashikaga's march on Kyoto.

Oh no, we get our butts handed to us again.

"Tono, with all due respect, the forces of the Ashikaga are formidable. I believe we may be defeated if we fight here," posed Claire.

Kusunoki smiled warmly. "Yuki Tono, you are indeed as wise as they say. It is the Emperor's command that we fight Ashikaga in open battle at this place. We cannot question His Majesty's wisdom. As you said earlier, our lives are already forfeit. Lord Yuki, I have already said farewell to my son. We will die with honor tomorrow."

"Holy cow. I mean… I am deeply moved by your dedication and loyalty. Can we not persuade His Majesty to alter the plan?" pressed Claire.

Kusunoki sighed. "His Majesty has spoken. I had dared to try and convince him otherwise. I will be punished for such audacity. Let us speak no more of this. Come Yuki Tono, you must dance the Noh for us. I am told you are very skilled." The Noh was a form of dance that told a tale of warrior bravery.

Hoo Boy. Claire could not refuse. She actually remembered the Noh drama Atsumori, a tale of a young man in the Battle of Ichi no Tani during the Gempei War. His family, the Taira, had been defeated and was fleeing to their boats to escape. Samurai, Kumagai no Jiro Naozane, of the Minamoto Clan challenged a fleeing warrior. Accepting the challenge, the teenaged Taira no Atsumori returned to the beach and fought against Kumagai. Atsumori was beaten, and as he sat awaiting his opponent to behead him, Kumagai was reminded of his own teenaged son. He sought to spare Atsumori, but Minamoto warriors were closing in and would kill the young man themselves. The young warrior only asked that his death be swift. Thus fell Taira Atsumori. Kumagai found the boy's flute and was so moved by his bravery that he renounced war and became a priest. Reenacting the story, Claire chanted to the drumbeat, while waving her folding fan.

"Yume no yo nareba odorokite. Sutsuru ya utsutsu naruran."

(As the world is but a dream, so surprised by this; the renouncing of this world is truly real)

Finally, she ended her chant with fatalistic words spoken by warlord Oda Nobunaga, a man who had nearly conquered all of Japan in the 1500's.

"A man's life is fifty years,

Is there one who is born who does not die?"

Claire was a skillful dancer and pleased the audience. Many commented on her poise. One samurai joked. "Boy, he has a high voice and he's out of key." Another samurai admonished in a whisper, "Yuki Tono would take your head if he heard that."

NEAR THE MINATOGAWA (MINATO RIVER) – 05 JULY 1336

After the army had bedded down, the young lieutenant lay awake into the early morning. We're going to get our eggs crushed. How am I going to get out of here? She struggled between honor and self-preservation. Despite her knowledge of the outcome, it was useless to try to change anyone's mind. They already knew the outcome too. That took some balls to face death like that.

Hmmm, what to do? Claire rolled around. She had to leave some memento of her existence. Someone had to know the truth. Using her dagger, she inscribed her name in English on her Kabuto. When her head was taken in battle, her kabuto would be placed in a shrine by her killers to honor her. Some archaeologist would find it and notice the name and tell her parents. She also scratched in "Mom, Dad, Joe…I love you." Claire then got down on her knees and prayed. She, too, would die with honor.

After her prayer, the pensive woman went to another samurai, Lord Soma, and borrowed a brush, ink, and paper. On a mat, she sat in the seiza position for a time and then began to write in flowing kanji characters:

Honor above all

Fate flows like a slow river

In death there is peace.

This was her final haiku: a samurai usually wrote a pithy verse before going into a desperate battle or before an honorable suicide. While reading the samurai war tales, or Gunkimono, she always thought this would be cool. However, it now seemed kind of lonely. The regal Lord Soma approached Claire and bowed in the seiza position. "Yuki Tono, it would please me to hear your haiku." Claire bowed in return, touching her head to the floor. She read her haiku and noticed Soma's tears. "I am deeply touched that you have shared your heart with me. Yuki Tono, die today with honor."

At the sound of the conch shell blowing, the army began assembling. Kusunoki informed Claire, "Our allies, Nitta, Wakiya, and Odate, are deployed facing the sea. Unfortunately, they have not been as cooperative as we had hoped. We are expecting an amphibious landing by Ashikaga Takauji and his large force, consisting of the armies of Hosokawa, Shoni, and Otomo. Takauji's son, Tadayoshi, will come by land. We will be greatly outnumbered by the Ashikaga Army." Claire gazed eastward as an army marched toward them. "It is Ashikaga Tadayoshi," a samurai called out.

Soon, a fleet of ships under Hosokawa attempted a landing on the shore and was mauled by Lord Wakiya. Retreating to their ships, they moved further east to attempt another landing. As the morning wore on, Lord Shoni set upon Lord Nitta's Imperial troops and bludgeoned them. Kusunoki called out, "Nitta's men are falling out of line. Our flank is exposed." Seeing the opportunity, Ashikaga Tadayoshi's land-based troops charged. Claire watched as the arrows flew. Soon, spearmen clashed and horsemen slashed: the noise was intense. Claire, astride her horse, grew nervous. Maybe sticking around wasn't such a good idea.

To blunt the attack, Kusunoki led a counter charge. "Hurrah" the Imperial troops cried, driving the Ashikaga back. Claire jumped in and confronted an enemy samurai. He swung his blade, which Claire deflected. With an upstroke, she severed his head. She cut down an archer before Kusunoki sounded the recall. Riding by, Kusunoki yelled, "Hosokawa has flanked Nitta. He is sending troops to attack our rear." Taking the initiative, Claire took some men to fend them off. "Follow me," she hollered.

As Lord Hosokawa's cavalry advanced, Claire ordered, "Fire a volley and charge." The horsemen under her command unleashed arrows and then drew swords. Directing the men, the desperate young lady fought Hosokawa to a standstill. Things were getting worse, however. A messenger approached: "Ashikaga Takauji has landed and has routed Lord Nitta Yoshisada. He is maneuvering to surround us." Chaos was now everywhere: swinging blades, flying arrows, screaming, spraying blood. Her men were falling one by one. She looked back and saw Kusunoki, wounded many times, directing another charge.

Claire spurred her horse forward and cut down an enemy samurai with her spear, known as a yari. She looked around and noticed she was nearly alone. Then, there was a lull in the fighting. Six opponents lowered their weapons. Claire, as the faux Lord Yuki, heard a high voice call out, "Leave this one and destroy Kusunoki. I will take this one's head myself."

The voice addressed Claire, "Although I am a person of no consequence, let me announce my name. I am Hosokawa Tadayori Jirozaemon of the Hosokawa House. I am the son of Hosokawa Takayasu and retainer of Ashikaga Takauji. I have taken seven heads this day in battle. I challenge you."

Crazy Claire rode forward, dressed in the armor of a high-ranking samurai. Her kabuto was adorned with the kuwagata gilt horns, signifying her rank and she wore the Hosokawa coat of arms. Steadying her horse, Claire responded in the traditional manner, "I am but a humble samurai. My name is Yuki Munetaka Hidetora, son of Yuki Munehiro. I am the vassal of General Kusunoki Masashige, faithful servant to the Emperor and I have felled five warriors this day. I accept your challenge."

The Japan of this time was far more individualistic than one would see in future periods, such as the Sengoku-jidai. Here, individual glory was still a powerful motivator. Things were changing, however, and such challenges were becoming increasingly rare. Since the Mongol invasions in the latter part of the 13th century, the Japanese had become more adept in mass warfare.

Holding a long bow, Crazy Claire taunted her double. "I'm going to keep your head and have it preserved. What sort of lipstick do you prefer?" Claire grimaced, envisioning her preserved head with lipstick, blush, and eye shadow, seated on a desk.

"How about lavender. So, where's your phaser?" responded Claire with determination.

"I destroyed it. I want to kill you with my own hands."

Claire motioned her antagonist toward her. "Well, here's your chance."

Crazy Claire fired an arrow. Claire dodged, but another arrow flew. She let go the reins and sliced through the arrow with a stroke of her bladed yari. A third arrow struck her in the left chest. Claire didn't think it was too deep: the armor had stopped it. That was enough: she charged. The horse surged forward and her opponent loosed one last arrow. Claire took it in the hip. It was a weak shot. Fortunately the archer was not an expert in kyudo.

Tossing her bow, Crazy Claire backed her horse up, drawing her sword. Claire swung her yari wide: she had the advantage of reach and would use it. She struck at her opponent several times until Crazy Claire sliced through the shaft of the spear.

Both warriors dismounted quickly and expertly. Claire broke the shafts of the arrows protruding from her armor to increase her mobility. She drew her sword and raised it above her head. Crazy Claire held her blade low and away. They were both masters. Locked in eye contact, Claire said, "Why don't you give me the device. I'll just be on my way."

"Don't be silly. Your head will be so nice on my desk. We'll have such great conversations you and I. I have so much to discuss with you." With that, the insane one switched to an overhead strike and cut downward. Claire deflected the blade and thrust forward at her enemy's throat. Her opponent sidestepped and cut laterally. The agile lieutenant quickly rolled backward, avoiding the cut.

"You're pretty handy with that blade. Where did you learn such skill?" asked Claire.

"Same place you did."

Crazy Claire thrust the point of her tachi forward and Claire sidestepped and grasped her double's arm. She threw her over, but the double countered and pulled Claire down too. Claire maneuvered on top of her double and drew her dagger. However, her weapon hand was grasped and her opponent struck the arrow stub imbedded in her chest. Claire howled in pain and rolled off, holding the wound. Blood trickled down her undergarment.

"I'll bet that hurt?" Crazy Claire said rolling away and cutting off the cords to her own helmet, letting it fall away. Claire did the same as both lay gasping for air. The injured Lieutenant crawled a few feet and then rasped, "You wench."

"Yaah!" the insane one cried as she leapt on Claire's back and pulled her head rearward, exposing her throat. Claire's eyes grew. She's going to cut my head off. Claire threw her head back, striking her opponent in the nose. Both rolled away in pain.

Staggering to their feet, they scrambled to find their swords and faced off again. Crazy Claire wiped the blood from her nose. "You gave me a bloody nose. I'll gut you for that."

Claire smirked, "What do you have against me?"

"My lover was killed. My life was destroyed. I can't have you running around all happy. Don't you see?"

"I'm sorry for you, but you've been missing current events. My lover was killed too and it nearly destroyed me. My life has never been the same. I've sworn to kill his murderer," Claire stated coldly.

"What?"

"That's right. My Mario is also dead. You would kill me for nothing."

"Omigod?"

The Crazy Claire blinked. She opened her mouth to speak and then stopped. Then, with a blank expression, she charged forward. Claire defended herself and parried the blade downward. Her opponent hesitated and shifted, exposing her own belly. Instinctively, Claire cut and her double stumbled forward in a spray of blood and innards.

On her knees, Crazy Claire stretched out her neck. "Finish it," she croaked. In shock, Claire stood there, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I…I can't."

"Do it!"

The agonized lieutenant bit her lip. She raised the sword above her head. Crazy Claire spoke weakly, "The device is in my bag. Set the time and date with the keypad. It has one charge left. Try to be happy…for both of us. I'm sorry." The blade fell and blood stained the grass.

Claire looked around in a daze. Off in the distance she saw brave Kusunoki Masashige and his guard surrounded by enemies. Their situation hopeless, the great general knelt and committed seppuku as a second removed his head. With a sigh, Claire took the device from her double's bag and set the date and time. A green portal appeared. With a backward glance, Claire stepped through.

After Claire's departure, Lord Nitta Yoshisada would fight a bitter delaying action as he retreated to Kyoto. The Emperor fled, fearing capture. Nitta would continue to resist successfully until October, when he was again defeated by the Ashikaga. He fought on in the name of the Emperor, but was mortally wounded by an arrow in August 1338. Ashikaga Takauji would eventually become the Shogun and relocate the capital back to Kyoto. His dynasty would last until the 1570's, when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki was deposed by the warlord Oda Nobunaga, who began the unification of Japan.

KOBE – 2368.12.28 – 2100L hrs – AN AMUSEMENT PARK

Again, Claire was falling. In spite, she called out, "Curiouser and curiouser," citing the book that was her namesake. Eventually, the falling ended.

Claire was standing in some kind of theme park. The date was correct and it appeared to be the twenty-fourth century. Fictional characters danced around as people got on rides. Wow, I'd better get home. As she began to leave a voice spoke from behind her, "Not so fast, Lieutenant MacGregor." Claire turned to see a man dressed in that same strange uniform she had seen on the guy who tried to arrest her. "What now? You guys are starting to tick me off."

"We have an unacceptable alteration to the timeline. I know your other incarnation was to blame, but you must help to set it right," the man said.

Claire chuckled, "Oh, no buster. I'm going home. I'm tired, I'm angry, I'm wounded, and I've got some kind of rash because of this armor. So stand aside."

"No, you must help. You're the only one who can find your other self and terminate her before she started this mayhem."

"What? You want me to kill her again?"

Agent Gamma explained the alteration to the timeline and Claire reluctantly agreed to help. Gamma did heal her wounds and got her some powder, which she poured down her shirt. "Ohh, that's better. This breastplate was designed for a man," Claire said aloud. Gamma merely raised an eyebrow.

Claire and Gamma then sat at a picnic table and discussed the plan. Gamma produced a device that would show Claire her different incarnations. She was the best one to identify Crazy Claire.

The device showed her unbelievable other dimensions. She saw dozens of other selves. One was a doctor, caring for children. Another was an engineer, following in her father's footsteps. Still another was a sorceress, flying on a dragon. Claire also saw a fashion model, a comedienne, a singer, a mother that lived in a tenement with six kids, an exotic dancer, and a Terran Empire storm trooper.

Holy cow, what a bunch of weirdoes.

Claire also saw happily married selves. Pensively, she bit her lip. Finally, a double in an insane asylum, tied in a straight jacket. "That's the one."

Gamma handed her another device and told her how to set it. He also showed her how to send the recall signal to bring her back to her own time and dimension. Gamma set in only one charge for a return trip. "You have one shot."

Claire was to terminate her other self before her escape from Elba II. This would prevent the contamination to the timeline. Another dang device. Claire changed out of the armor into some clothes provided by Gamma. She put the armor and weapons in a locker and pocketed the key. Gamma then left and Claire began setting the coordinates on the device. Hmmm, I have another idea. She set the device for an earlier time in her own dimension. She was about to push the button when she thought of poor Crazy Claire. What horror that woman went through. With a sigh, Claire struck the table with her hand and changed the setting back to Crazy Claire's dimension, but for an earlier time.

USS NAPOLEON – 2367.10.03 –0730 hrs - LT CDR FARRARE'S QUARTERS

Lieutenant Commander Farrare prepped for the morning briefing. The squadron would probe Orion activity in the sector. Hostile forces were supposed to be weak. Good, I'm not feeling up to a fight today. Mario couldn't sleep much without Claire around: he just adored her. She'd be visiting with her grandma for a few more days after her graduation from the Space Conflict School. Well, I've got a job to do and a mission to fly.

Before he could leave, the door to his quarters opened. Claire stood in the doorway holding a towel in front of her. "I thought you were at Grandma's?" he asked, a bit confused.

His fiancée stepped in and let the towel fall. "Ooopps. I seem to have dropped something." Mario saw that she had nothing on underneath. She walked up to him, tears misting in her eyes. "I've missed you."

He laughed, a strange look on his face. "I just saw you Claire…but not quite…like this." Without another word, she led him into the bedroom.

Some time later, Mario rolled over. "Whew, what's gotten into you? That was wild."

Claire sat up and gazed into his eyes with a look of bitter sweetness. "She owes me for returning you to her."

Mario looked puzzled. "I don't get it."

Claire merely smiled and shot him with a hypospray. As he fell unconscious, she wiped the tears from her eyes. "Good bye, my love. You aren't going anywhere today." This was the day that he was to die.

Claire retrieved her belongings and donned Mario's gear. She would fly his mission. She wore his helmet and spoke to no one until they were launched. She had studied the upcoming fight obsessively and knew every Orion move. This time, the squadron was victorious and 'Mario' was a hero. Claire set the recall soon after landing and was whisked back to her own time and dimension.

Upon her return, Gamma was waiting. "Everything went as planned," she told him. He checked his device and the timeline had been restored. "Good work," he said.

Claire asked to see the device one last time and found Crazy Claire again. Her double and Mario sat in a furo drinking a glass of champagne. They seemed very happy.

Gamma then sent Claire back to her own furo, timed just after Epsilon should have arrived. What a trip, she thought.

USS DISPLACEMENT – 2807.07.02 – BRIDGE

Back in the distant future, the USS DISPLACEMENT continued to patrol the Sol System, analyzing temporal and dimensional anomalies.

Captain Mariko Kusunoki sat in her command chair as Agent Gamma read his report. The timeline had been completely restored and the mission was a success. Kusunoki nodded. "Notify Admiral Von Hipper that the timeline has been completely restored. We can all rest easy now."

MARTIAN COLONY – 2807.07.02 – MARTIAN CHRONICLER OFFICE

On the surface of Mars, another story was unfolding, proving Captain Kusunoki to be very wrong. Mary Thomas, Editor in Chief of the Martian Chronicler worked on the latest story: scandal in the Martian Cabinet. How boring. We've all heard this before. Thomas took a short break to look out her window through her telescope. A ship was passing overhead, moving away from Earth. It must be the USS DISPLACEMENT, the Guardian of Time for the sector. Mary always dreamed of being a Starfleet Captain. Too bad her application got lost all those years ago. Funny how events beyond your control effect your life. Well, it was too late to worry about such things. The story was done and would go for final approval to the CEO, Mr. Tirpitz.

THE MACGREGOR HOME – 2368.12.31 – 1145 hrs – HAMAMATSU, EARTH

After her return home, Claire went to Kobe to pick up the armor at the park. Using her key, she opened the locker and found all to be in place. On New Years Eve, she sat at home playing with one of Dad's holograms. It was a little chick. It felt, acted, and smelled real.

Pretty cool.

"Peep, peep, peep," it would say as it hopped around.

Claire was pensive since her temporal mission for Agent Gamma. She did the right thing even though it felt bad. Mario was gone for her. That would never change. Suddenly, Dad came in. "Claire, I got a call from the curator of antiquities in the Kobe Museum. He says you vandalized an ancient helmet."

"What?"

Dad put the angry curator on the view screen. "Miss MacGregor, what is the meaning of this?" He put an ancient kabuto up to the screen. It was beautiful and typical of a high-ranking samurai from the Nambokucho-jidai. On the inside of the helmet bowl were the kanji characters: Yuki Munetaka. Beneath those characters was English writing: Claire MacGregor. Mom, Dad, Joe…I love you.

"Oh, dude. I mean sir. I can explain."