DISCLAIMER:I don't own anything, not even the words. Only the order in which they were placed. That said, I own (the majority of) the plot, and any and all original characters not otherwise specified.
Sorry it took so long for me to get the next part out. I will honestly try to spend more time and get the next parts out sooner than what has become the norm. Reviews aren't necessary for my continuation on this fic, but they help - the more I know people are reading and enjoying this story (if at all), the more motivated I will be to work on it.
Thank you, and enjoy.
More than five hours later, all six found themselves back at the house. Jay had gone to put her limited cooking skills to the test in the kitchen, while the others retook their positions in the living room to discuss what they had learned.
"So basically," Renee was saying, frowning at Liam's global screen, "That weapon, whatever it was, ripped a tear in the ID wormhole, and it acted as a vacuum, pulling us through?"
"Yes," Zo'or answered curtly, slightly irritated at the humans' inferior intellect.
"We have experienced this phenomenon only once before, in our entire history of inter-dimensional travel," Da'an supplied by way of explanation, more patient than his fellow Taelon. "Several hundred years ago, the Mehth'rah class cruiser, the Shah'lahyu, engaged a formidable Jaridian battleship. When it became apparent that they would be defeated, the Shah'lahyu attempted to escape via an inter-dimensional corridor, but the Jaridians followed.
"The Shah'lahyu had maintained open communications with a nearby ship during the incident, and so all data recorded during this time was saved and has been studied. There was an explosion onboard the Jaridian ship mid-flight, for reasons still unknown. From the data retained, scientists have deduced that the explosion caused a rip in the constituents of the wormhole, and pulled both the Shah'lahyu and the remnants of the Jaridian ship through the tear. Data continued to be broadcast to our ship until the moment the Shah'lahyu crossed the threshold; after that, nothing was received."
The three humans, who had been listening with rapt attention, were quiet for several long moments. Finally, Sandoval broke the silence. "What happened to the Shah'lahyu?"
Zo'or straightened up in his chair. "It was never heard from," he replied tersely, his voice strained; he was trying to control his apprehension.
"That is correct," Da'an began, "Neither the ship nor the Jaridian wreckage was heard from again. We had assumed both had been destroyed in the cross-over."
"But now," Liam looked at him, "You might have another answer. What happened to us could have happened to them." He paused for a moment before asking, "Da'an, did the recordings from the Shah'lahyu show anything anomalous? Besides the tear in the wormhole?"
Da'an thought for a moment. "If you are referring to our current temporal situation, no. The Taelon analysts who studied the incident came to the conclusion that the Shah'lahyu, based on the data provided, simply ceased to exist. However…" he started, his voice taking on a more meaningful tone.
Liam picked up his train of thought. "However, absence of proof is not proof of absence."
"To borrow from the human term," the Taelon affirmed.
Zo'or, irritation growing at the apparently irrelevance of the conversation to themselves personally, spoke out, "While this discovery is fascinating, it is in no way aiding us in determining a way to return to our own time. The Shah'lahyu, whether it encountered a similar situation or not, was never heard from again. I do not intend to share the same fate."
Renee nodded subconsciously. "While I hate to agree, he's right. Was there anything in the shuttle's databanks that can help us?"
"That's where this little bit of information comes in," Liam explained, holding out his hand to Renee, still looking in the direction of the two Taelons. Without thinking, she handed him the global. He hit a few commands, and said aloud what his brain was acknowledging from the printout on the screen.
"The tear," he began, pausing to make sure he had their attention, "Is still open."
Jay, lacking both superior cooking skills and enough groceries, had settled on making soup for her guests, that being the one commodity her parents seemed to keep in stock. She was pouring broth into a second pot when suddenly she jerked forward, eyes squeezing shut. Broth spilled onto the stove and into one of the burners with a sizzle.
It lasted only a second, and then she regained her composure, taking in a deep breath. The vision had been quick, and would in most instances have made absolutely no sense to her. But when Jay remembered what had happen earlier that day on the road, the decision she'd made (or rather, that had really been made for her), it all began to fit together.
Eyes wide, she slowly turned her head around so she could look out the kitchen door, into the hallway. She couldn't actually see the others in the living room from her angle, but she stared in their direction anyway, imagining the five beings conversing through the walls.
Ten years from now, things would be very different…especially for two people in that room.
"What are you talking about, Major?" Sandoval spoke out, turning from the window to look the other man in the face.
"What I mean," Liam answered, "Is that the rift we somehow traveled through is closing, but at a relatively slow rate. It may still be large enough for the shuttle to get back through."
"Major Kincaid." Zo'or held out is palm; it was not a request. Liam handed him the global without question.
As Da'an joined Zo'or and both aliens looked over the data displayed on the screen, Renee looked to Liam. "What does 'relatively slow' mean? You said it's closing. Do we have days or weeks, or…?" she trailed off at the shake of his head.
Liam sighed. "We have a day, at most. Hours, more than likely." He looked to the two Taelons for confirmation.
Zo'or kept his attention on the global screen, while Da'an looked up to answer. "You are correct, Major. It appears that we have exactly twenty-seven hours and thirty-one minutes until the rift has sealed completely."
Sandoval looked at his watch, doing mental calculations. "That puts us just before eight-thirty tomorrow night." The rest of the group silently confirmed, their concentration elsewhere.
"So what? We just have to cross through, or…why do I get the idea there's something else?" Renee asked, suspicious. They were all too quiet.
"Well," Liam began, "We don't have the full amount of time, we still need to be able to fit through the tear."
Renee nodded. "And?"
"And…the tear is over a kilometer in the air."
Renee's curse came out as a sigh. "Which means we need the shuttle, no choice. Wonderful."
Sandoval, none too pleased with the problem himself, asked, "How long before the shuttle is no longer able to make it through the rift?"
Da'an was about to provide the answer when Zo'or spoke up, his voice tighter than normal. "If the rift continues to close at a uniform rate, then we have nineteen hours and five minutes."
"After eleven fifty-seven tomorrow morning, the shuttle will not be able to cross the rift," Da'an supplied.
Liam hung his head, sighing. Renee's eyes went wide from shock and just the smallest bit of fear. Sandoval managed to keep the mask of indifference from slipping too much, and turned back to look out the window; the sun was still relatively high in the western sky, but it was slowly making it's way lower in the horizon.
The stretched silence was finally broken when Jay walked into the room from the hallway, the small black dog following at her heels. "Okay, your, what I hesitate to call 'dinner', is ready." She stopped short when she noticed the expressions on their faces.
"O-kay…cheerful!" she said in her sarcastic way, leaning against the doorframe. This earned her a few exasperated stares. More to herself, she mumbled, "Right, okay. Maybe I'll just let it stay warm for a while." Quietly, she made her way across the room and sat down in a chair, her hand reaching down to absently stroke the dog's fur as he sat on the floor beside the chair. "What's up?"
After a brief argument, her guests decided to give Jay and abridged version of their predicament, just enough to let her know what was going on.
"Can you fix your shuttle?" she asked when they had finished.
Liam shot a glance at the two Taelons, they being the most knowledgeable in the technology. At their drawn expressions, his hopes were not soaring too high. "We don't know," he began. "Probably, given enough time, which we obviously don't have. But we're not even sure what exactly the problem is, only that the engine itself is non-responsive. Meanwhile, the other systems are fine."
"We will return shortly to attempt further progress," Zo'or stated, standing up; it was not a suggestion. The others had no choice but to agree.
Jay sighed. "Alright, but let us eat something first, we haven't had anything since this morning." She started to get up.
Zo'or inclined his head, his only indication of aspiration. "Very well. However, you," he fixed his gaze on the teen, "Will not be joining us this time." At Jay's raised eyebrow, he added, "Agent Sandoval will remain here to ensure your compliance."
Sandoval looked none too pleased at his new assignment, but knew better than to contest Zo'or's will. Jay, on the other hand, had no such problem. Crossing her arms in front of her, she spoke, "This is my house, my time. I'm not taking orders from you."
Zo'or's stance did not change. "You have said yourself that you endanger your timeline by being exposed to ours more than necessary. You have already shown us a faster route to the shuttle. Therefore, your assistance in this matter is no longer required, and there is no reason for you to accompany us."
The hard expression on Jay's face looked as though it has been carved of ice. "Fine. Then take your lackey with you." Out of the corner of her eye she caught the daggered glare Sandoval sent her way. Apparently, the feelings of loathing were distrust were mutual.
Zo'or's face displayed as much amusement as any Taelon possibly could. It has been some time since a human had openly attempted to defy him, he welcomed the change in routine. "We cannot trust you, or your version of history. Major Kincaid has informed me that another of your people is aware of our location, and while he has stressed that he does not believe you or this other pose a risk to our safety, I do not share those same sentiments."
Da'an, noticing the girl's tense posture and tight jaw, was afraid what would happen if she angered Zo'or any further - his child, in frustration, was known to act irrationally, and as much as the Synod leader might deny it, they needed the assistance of this young human. Before the girl could say anything in response, the older Taelon calmly interjected.
"You have stated that you wish to help us, but it does not appear that you can aid us in this matter. It is true that you do not have our complete trust, however, " he glanced quickly to his fellow Taelon, and then back to her, "It is being built. If you agree to remain here with Agent Sandoval, we would be further assured of your sincerity."
Jay knew she wasn't going to win this one, not without destroying what progress she had made, and that was simply not an option. "Fine," she agreed, defeated. Without moving her head, she slid her eyes to Sandoval, who was looking the other way. She wasn't afraid of him, but she still didn't want to be left behind with him. She didn't know what it was, but instinctively she knew she had to be careful around him, watch what further information she divulged in his presence.
Renee hadn't been oblivious to Jay's reaction after conceding to stay behind with Sandoval. She couldn't blame her - one didn't need to know the man's true nature to feel uncomfortable around him, he just had that effect on people.
"You know, I should probably stay behind as well." At everyone's questioning looks, Renee clarified, "That shuttle's pretty cramped, and as it is I'd only be in the way." She allowed the slightest of glances in the younger woman's direction before continuing on. "If I stay here, I might be able to do more."
"Such as?" came Zo'or's condescending voice.
It sounded to Renee that he really didn't want her to stay. Probably had more direct motives for wanting his loyal pet to stay behind, she thought.
"Maybe I can take another look at the shuttle's data, come up with an alternative if you can't get it to work. All I need is an download, I can do it from here." At the disbelieving expression on the Synod leader's face, she continued before he could speak against the idea. "I'm not saying it'll work, but it's a better use of our limited time than having me standing around in the woods, watching you work. And besides," she couldn't help adding, "With Sandoval here, maybe he can help."
Da'an turned to Zo'or. "Ms. Palmer states a valid point."
Zo'or attempted to control his voice as he answered, "So she has. Very well." With that, he stalked off to the adjoining room where they had left the various articles and equipment brought back from the crash site earlier, Da'an and Sandoval followed.
When the others were out of earshot, Jay turned to Renee and said, rather defensively, "I didn't need your help." Renee raised her brows, but before she could say anything, the girl quickly added, "But…thanks." Renee nodded in acknowledgement, and the teen went and sat back down.
Liam had been hanging back, and Renee walked over to him. "Good luck. I don't think any of us want to spend the rest of our lives stuck ten years behind everyone else."
She grinned. "Oh, please. Piece of cake." At Liam's stare, she sobered. "I'll be fine."
Liam began to lean into her, when both realized they weren't alone. Glancing across the room, they looked, somewhat embarrassed, at their host. Jay hadn't actually been paying them any interest, but noticed when she became the center of attention.
"Don't mind me," she fought back a laugh, nonchalantly glancing the other way, out the window.
Still self-conscious, Liam simply cupped Renee's face gently for a few seconds, locking eyes with her. Unbeknownst to anyone in the room, Sandoval had started to return to find out what was keeping his fellow Companion Protector when he caught sight of the scene. As Liam started to turn, the Agent ducked back into the other room, unnoticed. Liam silently left to join the others.
On the far side of the room, her back to the entire scene, but knowing enough to recognize what was going on, Jay watched the trees through the window, swaying slightly in the evening breeze. A slow grin spread across her face as she thought on the scene only moments before. Well, my visions of the future have never been wrong before, I guess that still holds true now.