"Oh damn," Constantine said, looking at the Romulan vessels on his viewscreen with a professional – and slightly nervous – eye. "We're outnumbered and outgunned."
Jackson nodded grimly, as the Kirks, the Spocks and the McCoys gathered around the bridge. Constantine had slumped into his chair. Jackson was leaning on his railing.
There were six of them, Romulan vessels all, in battle formation.
"I reckon we could probably beat them, with a little luck," the alt universe Jim said.
"Your ship is more advanced," Spock Prime said.
"Captain," Alt Spock warned, "that could be problematic."
Jim looked at his Spock, with a frown on his face.
"How so?" he asked. Spock motioned him over, and spoke quietly.
"If these vessels, any of them, survive this encounter, they will bring back sensor data of our significantly more advanced weaponry, thus polluting the timeline," he explained. Jim's eyes widened, and he cursed under his breath.
"So we not only have to survive, we have to blow them all up?" he said.
"Yes, however," Alt Spock continued, "that would cause a war between the Federation and the Romulan Empire…"
"Oi," Jackson said, overhearing them. "They've invaded our space. This is a war – their war!"
"No such war occurred in the existent timeline," Spock said. "My conversations with… our source," he added, with a brief glance at the crew of the USS Enterprise of this universe, "indicate that apart from a brief incident, there were no hostilities in our era."
"So we can't start a war, and we can't use our weapons," Kirk said.
"Succinctly put," Spock nodded. Jackson looked thoughtfully at them, then at the Romulan vessels.
"What d'you reckon they're talking about?" James Kirk asked his Spock.
"Presumably whether they can legitimately cause a war here," Spock said, looking mildly troubled. "I believe that they intend to preserve this timeline as much as possible."
"Why should they want to?" Kirk asked. "This is a separate timeline…"
"Events in our time," Spock cut him off, "caused – if my assumptions are correct – the creation of theirs."
"How is that possible?" Kirk asked.
"Many ways, but they may be trying to maintain the events that led up to it," Spock said.
"Huh," Kirk grunted. He had always hated temporal theory.
"In any case, using their more advanced weaponry may prove disastrous to the timeline," Spock said. "If the weapons on their Enterprise are more advanced, then they cannot risk using them to destroy the Romulans – destroying those ships may lead to war."
"They've already caused a war," Kirk snapped. "And the timeline is mutable, isn't it?"
"Theoretically," Spock said, with a slightly uncomfortable frown.
"Right then," Kirk said, and he walked over to his counterpart, just as Jackson spoke to the original Spock.
"Is it just me," the big eared science officer said, "or do they look different to the ships the Romulans used last…?"
The Enterprise Prime.
"Those aren't the same ships," Sulu said with confidence. "It's a new design."
"I see what ya mean, lady," Scotty said, leaning forward to study the vessels before him.
"What?" Chekov asked.
"They're bigger," Sulu said. "The hull's green, and the eagle is silver not orange."
"So it's different?" Chekov asked.
"I think so, yes," Sulu said.
"Well, vhat does that mean?" Chekov asked. "They have different classes of starsheep, so do ve. Ve have the Miranda and the Constitution, and the Kelvin and the Daedalus…"
"But…" Scotty said, taking a close look at the vessels before him, "those ships look a hell of a lot like the one we fought, 'cept that it's bigger and bolder…"
"Like that new Enterprise is to us," Sulu finished.
"Uhura," Scotty asked, "have they said anything?"
"No, Scotty," she said, looking worriedly at him. "They're just… sitting there…"
The Enterprise Alternate.
Sulu had taken command, (since Scotty had mixed up the ranking orders) and had ordered scans run – Chekov had discovered nothing about the ships that made him feel very happy – they were powerful, dangerous, and above all else, they were well armed and shielded.
"They look odd," Uhura commented.
"How so?" Chekov asked.
"Well," she said, pointing at the resident Constitution class vessels, "they look sort of old fashioned and - well, kitsch. Those Romulan ships don't."
Sulu looked at Chekov, who nodded with both eyebrows raised.
"I think she might be onto something there," he said.
"But then that would mean," Sulu said.
"That they came from the same place we did," Uhura finished. "Yes. And that's what worries me."
"We need your help to destroy them," James said to Jim. Jim blinked, then grinned at his Spock.
"I knew I'd like this guy," he said. "We can't, according to Spock."
"Mine says the same thing," James said. "But we can't let them come here and think they can. This is an act of war – and there is no way in hell they're going to get one up on us."
"Might I point out, Captain Kirk," Jackson said, leaning on a railing, "that we have not as yet been fired upon, and that we have not as yet detected any communications from those ships."
"Jackson, shut up," Constantine said from his command chair.
"He's right," one of the McCoy's said. "They haven't done anything."
"They're waiting for the chance to," Jim said. "Its Romulans, Spock," he added, looking at his Spock with a cocked eyebrow. To the Prime Spocks surprise, his counterpart actually looked momentarily upset, then calmed himself.
"Nero," he said simply, "was an aberration."
Spock Prime wondered just who Nero was, but was spared this by McCoy – his McCoy – waking over to him.
"What're they waitin' for?" he asked, softly.
"Unknown, Doctor," Spock said. "When we know, so will you."
"Huh," McCoy grunted, then he walked away, muttering something vaguely like 'green blooded son of a…'
"How long has it actually been since they got here?" Jackson asked.
"Twelve minutes," Spock Prime began.
"Thirty three seconds," the Alt Spock added.
"Captain!" Willems called, and Constantine and the two Kirks looked at him. "They're hailing!"
"On screen!" Constantine yelled. His head snapped around, and he looked at the screen, which appeared to black out for a moment... and then a face appeared; the face of a man long thought dead by the Alternate crew.
Although he had hair, long and white, and a long white beard, Nero was still very recognisable.
"Hello, Spock," he said, smiling. "And Spock. Good to see you. And you, James T. Kirk. My, how true the old saying is. Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose."
The Kirks looked at the Romulan, Jim with disdain and anger, and perhaps confusion, James with resolved strength of will; the McCoy's were confused, and the Spock's only frowned, but Jackson supplied a translation to the quote.
"The more things change, the more things stay the same," he said.
"Indeed, thank you," Nero smiled. "And indeed, things are the same, between us, Captains. And Spocks. Prepare to die."
The screen blacked out, and then the Romulan vessels opened fire.