Chapter II

1920hrs
USS Enterprise , NCC-1701-D
Battleship Strike Group 10

Stepping into the transporter room with Data and Yar in tow, Picard found that preparations for this away mission were well underway. The transporter chief, Chief Petty Officer Miles O'Brian was studiously working over the transporter panel as a pair of Federation Marines checked their equipment as a third marine, the dark skinned and bald headed Colonel Benjamin Sisko, briefed them on what to expect.

"A problem, Chief?" Picard asked, making his presence known. Almost at once the marines came to swift attention before Picard gestured for them to carry on.

"Just a little fine-tuning, sir," O'Brian gave Picard a glance as he continued working. "My scans of the Daedalus's transporter systems show them to be configured a little differently from the norm."

After a few moments, Sisko turned away from his men – actually a man and woman – and approached Picard handing over a tactical vest. "Sir, I don't like sending my people lightly armed into a potentially hostile environment."

"Colonel," Picard sighed, taking the proffered vest. He knew Sisko would rather his marines went in first with a fully armed and armoured fire team, checking for potential threats. But this was not the time for that. "This is a first contact mission. Not the boarding of a Romulan Warbird. If we were to go over there in full combat gear we would be more likely to be shot upon re-materialisation, than greeted as possible allies."

"Yes sir." Sisko shook his head, helping Picard into the tactical vest, making sure it was secure before handing over the captain's personal phaser. "At least let them take Phaser90s."

"Very well," Picard nodded, transferring his combadge from his duty uniform to the tactical vest and holstering the phaser. "But they're to keep them clipped at all times..."

"Unless directly threatened."

"Unless directly threatened," Picard verified."

"Sir," Data interrupted as he checked and holstered his personal phaser. "Signal from the bridge. Daedalusis ready for us."

"Understood," Picard stated, stepping up onto the transporter platform. "Chief," he asked O'Brian. "Is everything ready?" Behind him, the two marines were taking their places beside Yar and Data.

O'Brian nodded.

"Energise."

USAF Daedalus , 02

Ever since the Asgard had given them transporter technology, the transport rings had pretty much fallen out of use. Now the Ring Room, as it was called, was the standard location for beaming people onto the ship when they didn't want them to materialise on the bridge. So, it was here that Colonel Caldwell found himself and Major Sheppard waiting with a pair US Marines just in case it turned out that Picard was not from the Federation, but the 'Evil Terran Empire,' as Sheppard had called it. He doubted that was the case, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

"Sir," Major Sheppard called out. "They're beaming now..."

Out of the flashes and chimes of the transporter's materialisation process, Caldwell saw the forms of two people appear – a male and female – wearing urban MARPAT BDUs. Marines, he instantly knew. A thought that was confirmed by the 'Starfleet Arrowhead, Federation Seal and Anchor' Insignia – as he thought of it since the Eagle and Globe had been replaced – and the embroidered words 'F. MARINES' over the black tactical vests left chest pouch. They were armed; he saw, quite similarly to his own marines with a combat knife each, a thigh holstered assault pistol that looked like it had come straight off of Star Trek VIand a rifle clipped to the front of their vests that looked very much like a P90.

They were also quite ready to engage any threats; each kept a hand near their pistols while they pulled out a scanning device which they waved about. The whole time, they were glaring daggers at Sheppard and the two US Marines as if daring them to attack. Apparently satisfied, they put away the scanning devices which Caldwell was beginning to think were the infamous tricorders before moving apart creating a space in the middle. The female, he saw reached up to a pouch just below her right shoulder and pulled out what he assumed was a communications device. Flipping it open, she held it much like he would his cell phone. "Lieutenant Hartman to Enterprise," she stated sharply. "Clear!"

"Acknowledged," Caldwell heard an Irish accented voice state. "Completing transport cycle."

Once again, Caldwell saw the transporter deposit three more people. Admiral Picard, he recognised at once, and two others; an attractive blonde female on the left, and a golden skinned male to the right. Both wore a mustard-gold version of Picard's uniform. Like the marines, they all had tactical vests, the only differences being that they were armed only with the assault pistols and had the word 'STARFLEET' instead of 'F. MARINES'. The familiar golden combadge, as he knew it was called was attached just above it.

Stepping forward, he extended a hand. "Colonel Steven Caldwell, Commander of the Daedalus." He indicated Sheppard, who stepped forward. Picard studied him for a moment, and looked like he was trying very hard not to suppress a grin. "This is Atlantis's acting military commander, Major John Sheppard. You are Admiral Picard, I presume."

"Indeed," Picard confirmed shaking Caldwell's hand. He indicated the two to either side of him "Lieutenant Tasha Yar, Security and Tactical Chief and Lieutenant Commander Data, my Operations Officer." Pausing, he offered a brief smirk. "The jarheads scowling away at your marines are Lieutenant Hartman and Sergeant Ermey, whom I believe you just met." At this, the two Federation Marines briefly redirected their scowls at Picard before turning back to the US Marines.

"Admiral," Caldwell said, giving him a small grin. "I think we should adjourn to the briefing room and let our marines compare war stories, and maybe boot camp stories." The latter Caldwell said a little louder, clearly hoping his own marines would take the hint a stop staring back at Picard's. "If you'll follow me..."

They were led to a somewhat spartan briefing room whose main feature was the large central metallic table and the set of viewports on the far wall through which he could see the Enterprise and the Intrepid-class USS Bellerophon holding station next to the Daedalus. The marines were left just outside.

Already seated at the table was a tall lanky female in a blue jumpsuit with her hair tied up in a severe looking bun. She was, Picard observed, fidgeting nervously with their equivalent of a padd that looked somewhat like a large tablet.

After taking their seats, Caldwell sat at the tables head in front of a large display that was showing a schematic of the Enterprise and Bellerophon. Yar was frowning as she studied the display since it was more detailed than she had hoped any scans would produce; noting that they had located one shield generator on the Enterprise, and two on the Bellerophon. "Sir," Yar said quietly. "They've got some fairly detailed scans on our ships."

"I noticed," Picard confirmed. "The same is true of us as well. And, they are not hiding it which is a good sign in my book." He paused thoughtfully. "Lieutenant, if we have any of them over to the Enterprise, I want them to see some of our scans on their ships; such as the number of Harpoon missiles they have stored in their magazines."

Caldwell brought the meeting to order. "I'm guessing you'd like to know a bit more about the Wraith; other than the fact that they're a life-sucking hostile race who uses humans as livestock."

"We would," Picard acknowledged.

"I'll take it from here," Sheppard announced, taking control of the meeting. "The Wraith is essentially a humanoid race that evolved from an insect species we call the Iratus Bug several million years ago after ancient species called the Alterans seeded human life in this galaxy. What we think happened, was that the Iratus Bug which feeds of human life energy began taking on the characteristics of the human host."

"So," Data interjected. "This hostility towards humans is some sort of base instinct."

"That's the opinion of Atlantis' CMO," Sheppard confirmed. "And it's a necessity for them since an adult Wraith cannot eat the same way we do." As he was speaking, Picard silently made a mental note to speak with Doctor Crusher about this. He glanced up as Sheppard continued. "Then about ten thousand years ago, the Alterans encountered them after the Wraith began a conquest of this galaxy." Picking up a control unit from the table, he aimed it at the display behind Caldwell.

The schematics in the main section of the display disappeared, and were replaced with an image of a long dark haired surprisingly human looking female in a pasty-white outfit. "The recording we're about to show you was found in Atlantis's database. The woman on the display is an Ancient or Alteran as they called themselves." He touched a control on the unit, and the recording started.

"Then one day our people stepped foot upon a dark world where a terrible enemy slept." The woman, Picard thought, sounded mournful. "Never before had we encountered beings with powers that rivalled our own. In our over-confidence, we were unprepared and outnumbered. The enemy fed upon defenceless human worlds like a great scourge until finally only Atlantis remained."

"You're recording this," Picard quickly asked.

"Yes," Data confirmed. He had his tricorder out and flipped open.

On the display, the woman continued. "This city's great shield was powerful enough to withstand their terrible weapons, but here we were besieged for many years. In an effort to save the last of our kind, we submerged our great city into the ocean. The Atlantis Stargate was the one and only link back to Earth from this galaxy, and those who remained used it to return to that world that was once home. There, the last survivors of Atlantis lived out the remainder of their lives. This city was left to slumber, in the hope that our kind would one day return."

Sheppard shook his head. He hated that recording since it showed the Ancients as cowards they were. "Cowards," he muttered."

"So they just left the denizens of this galaxy to fend for themselves?" Yar asked, sounding shocked as she thought of her own home of Turkana V."

"Yup," Sheppard said mockingly. "Pretty much, Lieutenant."

"So," Picard asked. "How do you fit in to all of this?"

Sheppard told them.

O-O-O

Just outside, the Federation Marines and the US Marines were well into the umpteenth minute of their staring match and getting pretty bored with it as well. "So," Lieutenant Hartman said, never taking her eyes of the US Marine called Cadman. "How long we goin' to stare at one another?"

"I don't know, Lieutenant," Cadman responded. "I guess when you two stop staring at us."

"Oh please," Ermey stated in his thick Kansan accent. "Don't make my sound like my fourth Great-Great-Great Grandpa."

"Your fourth Great-Great-Great Grandpa?" Cadman asked, shifting her stare from Hartman to him for a second. "Who was he? Some big famous marine?"

"As a matter of fact," Ermey answered, his eyes lighting up at this subject. "He was. Have you ever heard of Gunnery Sergeant Ronald Lee Ermey?"

"Damn!" Cadman rolled her eyes, finally giving up. Reaching slowly into a pocket, she pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to her fellow marine. "You win. Here's the Twenty, Corporal Hudson."

"When did you two make that bet?" Hartman asked. "You've never spoken a word since we beamed in for the security sweep."

"What they teach you guys at Quantico?" Cadman asked. "Obviously not to use your mark one eyeball."

"Same as you," Hartman stated.

"Don't look at me," Ermey laughed at Hartman. "I went to MCRuD San Diego."

"Sign language," Cadman grinned. "Hudson's kid is deaf. You were too busy staring at our faces to notice what we were doing with our hands. A good marine never lets himself, or herself, get distracted. Just remember 'A Distracted Marine is..."

...One Dead Marine." Both Hartman Ermey said together.

"So they do teach you to use your eyes." Cadman concluded

"Just don't tell old shiny Colonel Ben Sisko about this little incident," Ermey said deadpan.

Hudson smirked.

"Corporal," Cadman glowered. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," Hudson answered nervously.

"I don't think so," Cadman said.

Hudson muttered something.

"Care to share that with us?" Cadman's voice had just gotten an edge in it.

"Sir," Hudson said. "It's just that Sergeant Ermey's comment made this Corporal think of Captain Ben Sisko. He was the dark skinned bald guy with a goatee beard from Star Trek DS9, sir."

Hartman and Ermey looked at each other. "Lieutenant," Hartman told the US Marine. "That was a pretty accurate description of a person Corporal Hudson has never seen."

"Oh Shit!" Cadman raised her hand to the small radio pickup she wore over left ear.

O-O-O

"Excuse me," Caldwell said, turning away from the table. "What?" Caldwell paused. "Well find a way to deal with it... I don't know. Talk shop. Caldwell out." He turned back to the table. "You were saying?"

"Colonel," Data said after a beat. "At our strike group's top speed, it would take us over five days, twelve hours and nine minutes to cover the fifty light years to Atlantis."

Caldwell grinned. "We can cover that in just over two hours. Faster, if we go at full power."

Data cocked his head slightly, looking at him almost quizzically. "How?"

"Doctor Novak?" Caldwell asked, indicating the fidgety woman to speak up.

She hiccuped. "Hyperdrive technology," She looked over to Sheppard who was idly playing with the display remote. "Would you stop that?"

"Stop what?" Sheppard looked innocently at her as he began tossing the remote into the air and catching it. "Oh, this."

"Hyperdrive technology," she resumed. "It's how we break the light-speed barrier and achieve interstellar and intergalactic travel. Essentially what it does is create a subspace window through which a spacecraft, like this one, can move into hyperspace to cross vast distances while avoiding the effects of time-dilation. We use it the same way you use your continuum distortion drive, only with Hyperdrive we can achieve much greater velocities." She tapped something on her tablet and looked back at Sheppard. "Major, could you bring up the schematics please?"

Casually aiming the remote, he brought up the schematics of the Enterprise and Bellerophon, idly wondering how much money he could get off Trekkers for these blueprints. They even showed where all the heads were. How accurate are they? He mused. This wasn't the peace loving and open Federation from the show; this was a much more hard edged group. It made him wonder if the Andorians had a bigger role in this version of Starfleet. They actually reminded him of the alternate versions depicted in the third season episode Yesterday's Enterprise, but Picard being an Admiral and such made him doubt they were from that reality.

Something Sheppard was glad about. The whole thing about the Enterprise-C ending up being tossed into the future smelled of the Temporal Cold War from Star Trek: Enterprise.

Tapping a couple controls on her tablet, Picard watched the information on the shield generators disappear and be replaced with data on the navigational deflectors and warp nacelles which the schematics highlighted. "As you no doubt guessed, we've..." She paused as she hiccuped again. Reaching for a glass of water, she tried drinking it from the wrong side.

"Doctor," Data informed her. "That will not alleviate your synchronous diaphragmatic flutter. What you are attempting, is I believe called an 'old wives tale.'" Beside him, Picard was trying very hard not to laugh, as was Sheppard.

"She gets the hiccups when she's nervous," Sheppard stated. "Doc, you were saying?"

"We've managed to get some scans of your ships," Novak stated, glancing at Caldwell. "It looks like this device at the front of your lower hulls could be modified to create the window. You could then travel through hyperspace just as we do." On the display, the navigational deflectors flashed briefly. "There is the issue of subspace radiation, but you should be able to use the subspace field generators in your continuum distortion nacelles to create a non-propulsive field that could cancel out the radiation."

"And just how fast is this hyperdrive technology?" Yar asked.

"It all depends on how much power you feed into it," Novak answered. "The more power, the faster you go. Ha'taks can take days or weeks to cross the Milky Way, while Asgard vessels could do the same in the blink of an eye. Our hyperdrive at full power could get us from here to Earth in about three weeks."

"A little faster actually," Caldwell stated with an in inward grin, knowing Data had no doubt already worked out the math for that. Caldwell for a moment wondered how much power the M/AM reactors the Federation used generated compared to what the Asgard used.

"Could we do it?" Picard asked. "Modify our systems in this way."

"These scans would suggest that we can," Data confirmed. "And the navigational deflector systems are designed for 'on-the-fly' modifications. My main concern is how long it might take and the fact it will require the dish to be powered down..."

"Meaning we loose our main long range sensor systems," Yar put in. "And, no warp drive."

"Well there's always Quantum Slipstream," Shepard noted.

"An FTL drive they've never heard of and even we don't know how it works," Caldwell commented. "And from what I can recall is highly unstable."

"That sounds too foolhardy to use," Picard said in a firm tone knowing Data would interested in researching everything they knew of this new form of FTL travel.

"Are there any ways to increase the speed of the warp drives among the battle group?" Sheppard asked.

Picard looked up in surprise, wishing he had brought La Forge or at least an engineer with his away team. Still he doubted any methods they could think of would be enough. "A few," Picard admitted. "However I doubt any would be as effective as your hyperdrive. A technology I assume is quite reliable."

Caldwell nodded, confirming Picard's assumption. Leaning back, he pondered who would be the best to assign to help upgrade the Federation ships to use hyperdrives. They'd certainly need the help to do it in a timely fashion; they were after all running against the clock. It also made him ponder if the Federation would be able to translate what he knew was Hermoid's swearing under his breath.

Still the Asgard and Novak were the best qualified to do so and Atlantis needed all the allies it could get ASAP. He just hoped how they upgraded the Federation ships didn't come off as technobabble. A thought suddenly occurred him. The IOA will never believe this.

"I'd like to send my specialists on the Hyperdrive technology to help with the upgrades Admiral," Caldwell said thoughtfully. "Doctor Novak here and Hermoid. If you'll allow it?"

Picard nodded. "Of course. It would speed things up greatly."

Hope Hermiod doesn't get on their bad side. Sheppard thought, wondering if the universal translator would be a bad thing for Hermoid to be around. He was glad he wasn't going to be there. "Sir, I think we should send a marine or two with them as escorts," Sheppard stated thoughtfully. And keep Hermiod in line.

O-O-O

"This is the FN PD Phaser90," Hartman was saying proudly, showing the two US Marines her weapon. "A descendent of your own P90s. Created by FN Herschel for the Federation Marine Corps in the late fifties as its weapon of choice for personal defence. It features a compact bull-pup design and has an ambidextrous grip. It fires a nine-point-five-six by four-five millimetre phaser pulse with a firing rate of about one-thousand-one hundred pulses per second."

"Better rate of fire than this," Cadman commented. "But I bet it eats through it's power source fairly quickly."

"The prototypes did," Hartman confirmed, indicating where the magazine would be on the P90. "But with the production Sarium-Krellide power pack it can be fired continuously for ten minutes before needing replaced. Only downside is the weapon can get a little warm when you fire it that long."

"Wow," Hudson commented. "That's what about eleven-thousand rounds, or over two hundred magazines."

"You just said it fires pulses," Cadman said. "But, being an energy weapon I'd have thought it'd fire a beam."

"It can," Hartman answered. "But, we don't usually use it in that mode. It tends to give away your position. Fleet does, but then again they use the Colt PAR-15, a Type-3 Phaser Assault Rifle; bug sucker with a long black barrel."

"LT," Ermey supplied. "You didn't mention we usually carry them ourselves when we're in full gear."

"You're not in full gear?" Hudson asked.

"I wish," Ermey said. "Admiral Picard wouldn't allow it; something about creating the wrong impression. Normally we'd have knee and elbow pads, anti-phaser vests with ballistic protection inserts and the famous combat helmet that we like to call the 'Battle Bowler' due to it's similar appearance to the old Mk-6 helmet the British Armed Forces used to wear. This tactical vest normally goes over the anti-phaser vest."

"Fuck me," Hudson remarked, thinking just how similar these high tech marines equipment was to his own "I'd have thought that BDU you're wearing would be some sort of high-tech fabric that could protect against anything. Though I'd suggest you be careful with that helmet remark. The Brits still wear 'em."

"Yes and no," Hartman said. "Our BDUs are made of an organic algae-based fabric called Xenylon. Unfortunately it offers next to no protection against phasers or bullets."

"Which just means it's shit for protection against anything other than immodesty," Cadman commented. "And yes Corporal, I have spotted you trying to sneak a peak when I've been using the can in the field. I catch you doing that again; I might just set up an explosive device set to go off when you need to use it." Turning to Hartman, she supplied. "I'm an expert in high temperature and energetic materials technologies."

O-O-O

"You know," Sheppard said suddenly as the briefing was winding down. "We've been so focused on the immediate situation, I've only just realised this. You've told us who you each are, but not who you represent or where you come from and so on. We've pretty much told you who we are and why we're here. Hell, we even told you how we woke the Wraith."

At the head of the table, Caldwell blinked. Picard, he realised had carefully manoeuvred them into not asking this critical question. He knew everyone had secrets; thing they didn't want others to know, but even ones enemy usually told you who they were. "Well caught, Major," Caldwell said with an inward grin. He knew he was about to 'learn' of the United Federation of Planets and how they came to be here. "So," he asked, directly at Picard. "Where did you come from?"

Picard sighed inwardly. He'd been expecting this question, but he'd also been hoping he could put this off till after he'd had a chance to speak with his adjutant and intelligence officer. Merde, he thought. I should have brought them with me; especially Deanna. Oh well. He could feel the tension that one question had created. How he answered it, could make or break this alliance. Carefully, he spoke up putting as much pride in his voice as he could. "We represent the United Federation of Planets. We are an alliance of many worlds and races who agreed to come together about two hundred years ago and exist semi-autonomously under a single central government based on the principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality, and to share our knowledge and resources in peaceful cooperation and space exploration." He paused thoughtfully. "We and our ships are part of Starfleet; the Federation's defensive and exploration arm."

Caldwell nodded; glad to have suspicions confirmed. "And, how did you come to be here."

Picard told them, citing the original Romulan War and how it had flared up again after the Romulans brutal destruction of the Klingon colony on Narendra III; an attack the Federation had helped defend against during which they had very nearly lost the Enterprise-C. "We were actually on route to Narendra III to rendezvous with a Klingon Task Force before conducting some joint sorties into Romulan space when we were displaced to this place and time."

"'To this place and time'?" Sheppard asked.

"We come from what on your calendar would be early 2366," Data for once didn't go into details about the date; a fact for which Picard was thankful.

Same time...
City of Atlantis

"Doctor Weir?"

"Yes Chuck?" She answered, looking up from her desk where she was trying to read up on the casualty lists on her computer. Leaning just inside the entryway to her office was Chuck Campbell; the engineering scientist who had taken over from Peter Grodin.

"We just received a subspace data burst from Daedalus," Campbell approached her desk, handing over one of the tablet computers the expedition used. "You're not going to believe what it says; Doctor Zelenka doesn't."

Taking the tablet, Doctor Weir glanced over its contacts. "'Star Trek is real. Signed: Major Emma Cooper, DaedalusXO,'" she read aloud the last line. "Is this a joke?"

"No, Doctor," Campbell said mirthlessly. "The next page contains sensor data and gun camera footage."

Advancing on to the next page, she saw pictures of various starships that seemed vaguely familiar. There was also very nice picture of a bald headed guy that bore more than a passing resemblance to Patrick Stewart. "You're right," Doctor Weir stated. "I don't believe it, but let's not take any chances." She glanced back at the Patrick Stewart lookalike. "Wake Doctor McKay. Have him gather together everything we have on Star Trek; be it DVDs, CD-ROMs, books, magazines, you name it."

"Yes, Doctor," Campbell muttered turning to leave her office. "McKay's going to hate me."

Oh," Doctor Weir added, a malicious grin forming on her face. "Forward this to General O'Neill." She raised the tablet, indicting the report."

"You sure," Campbell asked. "You'll have him having the entire SGC humming the TNG theme by the end of the day."

"No choice." She paused, as another thought crossed her mind. "Wait a minute. Why isn't Doctor Zelenka making this report?"

"None of us wanted to make it," Campbell grinned. "So we drew straws."

Weir shook her head. "So you got the shortest?"

"Actually, I drew the longest."

USS Enterprise , NCC-1701-D

Stepping onto the Enterprise's bridge, Commander Aaron Cavit, the ship's executive officer nodded respectfully to Captain Riker who was leaning back in the command chair. Resting his bearded chin thoughtfully in his hand, Riker glanced at the view of Bellerophon and the Daedalusjust beyond, silently wondering how the meeting was going over there. The last they'd heard was the report from the marine escorts that negotiations had begun. That had been about fifteen minutes ago.

Riker turned way from the image to Cavit, who was heading for the tactical console. "Is there any news from the away team?"

"Nothing yet," Cavit said brusquely. "But, they're still not due to check in for another five minutes."

"Still..." Riker said. "I'd feel better knowing what was happening over there."

"We all would," Cavit agreed. "In the meantime, we've made some interesting discoveries about the Daedalus."

"Really," Riker said, standing up and joining Cavit at tactical.

"Yes, really," Cavit stated turning to the science station in the aft console tier, bringing up a series of schematics of the Daedalus. Playing the touch sensitive control surfaces like a pianist, he highlighted various points. "See here," Cavit stated, pointing to various spots. The ships systems are powered by multiple very small fission-based power cells running in parallel. That in itself is not unusual as there are many races that use fission to power their ships, but what is unusual is the amount power being generated; nor can we identify the fissionable mineral being used. It is completely unknown."

Riker frowned. "Are those shield generators?"

"Yes sir," Cavit confirmed. "Readings suggest they might be as powerful as a mid to late twenty-third century starship."

"They shouldn't even have shields just now, let alone starships capable of faster-than-light travel. At this time, the most advanced spacecraft available to them should have been the DY-100s. And even then, they were nowhere near capable of generating the level of power this ship can."

"Sir," Ensign Sito announced from her communications station. "Away team reports they're preparing to return to the ship; four heavy. They also say that two of the heavies are permitted to carry arms and is requesting both yourselves and Commander La Forge meet them in the transporter room."

"Acknowledged," Riker answered, turning to the young Bajoran. "Tell them we're on our way and contact Commander La Forge."

O-O-O

In main engineering, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge frowned as he studied the report from the Intrepid. It looked like they were having some minor problems with their power grid again. Silently he cursed the engineers who in their haste to get the ship launched and combat ready had used second hand components. A prime example being the EPS taps that fed the primary shield generators; those, he knew had been taken from an old refit Constitution-class starship. They'd have to be replaced first chance they got since they weren't rated for the full power demands of modern generators. Sure they were fine for the ships shakedown cruise, but that had been nearly two months ago; that ships chief engineer had had plenty of time pull them and hadn't.

"Barclay," he called. "Get on the horn to Robinson. Tell them they're needed on the Intrepid ASAP. Then send a priority message to the Intrepid, informing Captain Pressman that I want to see Lieutenant Samael after we deal with these Wraith."

"Yes sir," Barclay looked from the padd he making notes on. "Is this the last straw for the lieutenant?"

"More than likely," La Forge swore as the ship-wide intercom came to life.

"Now here this, now here this," Sito's voice echoed through main engineering. "Commander La Forge report to Transporter Room One immediately. Commander La Forge report to Transporter Room One Immediately."

USAF Daedalus , 02

Entering Daedalus's ring room, Cadman quickly made her way with Hudson to the centre where the transport rings were located. Already in position were the two engineers – Novak looking nervous standing beside the irritated Asgard. Novak clearly trying hide her nervousness by doing something on her tablet as the Federation Marines talked animatedly on their communicators no doubt ensuring that appropriate security precautions were being put in place on the Enterprise.

"Hey LT," Hudson asked as they took up their positions beside the two engineers. "Wonder what their transporters are like?"

Cadman shook her head. "Probably just like ours. It's about one of the few technologies we have in common, appearances aside. Dumass."

"Nope," Hudson said with a grin. "I just like shooting at bugs!"

Cadman grinned back, and then came to attention as Caldwell entered with three main Federation officers. "You know," Admiral Picard was saying. "I can guarantee your engineers safety while they are aboard the Enterprise."

"I don't doubt it," Caldwell flatly stated. "I saw how they assessed us when they beamed aboard. They're going because regulations demand it, and because I'd like to know if the attitude of those two marines is the norm."

"Very well," Picard said, indicating his two junior officers to take up their positions as he did so himself. He tapped his combadge. "Picard to Enterprise," he stated as Caldwell indicated he wanted to give some last minutes instructions to his people. "Nine to beam up."

"Standing by," the Irish voice stated.

"Remember," Caldwell said. "You three are representative of the United States and its armed forces. Do not do or say anything that could put us into a bad light. You are to behave in the best traditions of the Marines. That goes doubly so for you, Corporal Hudson." Giving a curt glance to Picard, he indicated he was finished.

Picard nodded. "Energise."

Almost at once, Cadman's sight became fuzzy with static until she could no longer see anything but that kind of static that some people liked to call television snow as a strange tingling sensation spread across her entire body—

USS Enterprise , NCC-1701-D

— and then the sensation faded with the static, revealing that she was no longer on the Deadalus. Instead, she was standing in the middle of a raised platform that was identical to the transporter rooms seen on the series. She was on the large central blue pad, while on five of the surrounding six pads were Picard, Yar and Data on the forward pads with the two Federation Marines on the rear ones.

Very quickly, she looked herself over. Checking all her parts were still there. "I'll check what I can't see later," she said quietly, only belatedly realising that Picard had stepped down and was talking with three other officers. Two had the red uniform like Picard's, and the third was in that murky gold coloured uniform that both Data and Yar wore.

Beside her, Hermiod promptly strode forward and off the platform and headed straight for what she presumed was the operator's console. She groaned inwardly as he started talking. "Lluh eht neht epahs retteb ni eb retteb smetsys ytefas esoht."

Silently, she made eye contact with the operator who was dressed in a black jumpsuit with gold shoulders and tried to communicate sympathy. She stopped when she saw the mirth in his eyes. "The safety protocols are top of the line," he told the Asgard in a thick Irish brogue. "I'd refuse to operate the transporters if they weren't. In fact, in the two hundred years we've had transporters there has only ever been three accidents; only one of which resulted in any fatalities.

My God , Cadman thought to herself. They can understand him. He's going to have to bite his tongue. She cleared her throat, trying to get Hermiod's attention and tell him to get his little grey butt back on the transporter platform. Instead, the three Starfleet officers turned to face her. "Sirs, I must apologise for-"

"There's no need," Picard glanced up at the transporter platform and gestured for them to step down onto the deck. He waited till they had done so before continuing. "Colonel Caldwell already told me all about this particular Asgard." He paused, giving the Asgard a hard stare until he joined Doctor Novak.

"Welcome aboard the Enterprise," Picard finally said. "Allow me to present Captain Riker, Commander Cavit," indicating the two in the red command division uniforms. Riker, Cadman recognised at once as did Novak if her expression was anything to go by, but Cavit she couldn't place other than knowing she'd seen him somewhere. Was probably a guest character or something, she thought. "And this, Doctor Novak," Picard indicated the last officer. A dark skinned human in the murky gold uniform, "is Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, our chief engineer."

Cadman slowly took him in. He didn't have a VISOR, nor did he even have those funny ocular implants from the movies. His eyes were a natural looking dark brown in colour, making him wonder if he was ever actually blind.

"Commander," Novak nodded, suppressing a hiccup.

Picard's combadge chirped. "Troi to Picard," the detached voice of his adjutant announced. "Would you please join me in my office?" Hudson and Cadman had wondered if Deanna Troi was on this harder edged Enterprise. It sure looked like she was, though clearly not in the position of a counsellor. Sharing a glance, both Cadman and Hudson hoped they didn't encounter any full blooded Betazoids. The last thing they wanted to do was to try and explain how they knew what the Federation Marine CO looked like when they'd never even met the guy. Empaths were one thing, but a telepath who could read ones thoughts was completely different. The very thought made Cadman shiver.

"On my way," he answered, handing his tactical vest to O'Brian. "Well," he said turning to the Riker and the guest. "It looks like I'm needed elsewhere."

As Picard left, O' Brian still holding Picard's vest, turned to the diminutive alien. "Can't say I've ever met an Asgard before," he told Hermiod.

Hermiod looked up at the human, and blinked his big black eyes. He hadn't expected them to recognise his species.

Taking charge, Riker made the connection with what had been bugging him ever since the Asgard had stepped off of the platform. "Ah yes, a Grey," Riker commented.

Hermiod suppressed the urge to groan. Damn Loki for what he'd done and how he'd made the Asgard be thought of among humans; he didn't even want to know what Loki had done to get people to think that they anal probed people. Then again Loki always was making errors which Supreme Commander Thor had to clean up after. "Ikol gnikcuf!" Hermiod muttered.

"Actually," Riker explained. "We do have records of the Asgard. Mostly of a small group of Asgard who had become stranded in the Milky Way Galaxy. About eighty years ago the USS Potemkin," as he spoke, he brought up an image of the vessel, "encountered a small band who were hell bent on preserving various species for some reason. We never did figure out why."

Novak blinked as she looked at the image of the Constitution-class vessel. It wasn't exactly what the famous starship looked like in the movies; to her it looked much more like the Enterprise from the new Star Trek, film that rumours stated JJ Abrams would direct. Looking at the basic statistics about the ship, she realised it was in fact a little longer at three hundred-and-eleven metres. Thank God they didn't go with that ludicrous seven-hundred metre length, she thought.

"Commander," he announced looking at La Forge. "Could you show our guests to engineering?"

"If you'll follow me..." La Forge announced, heading for the transporter room doors.

O-O-O

Other than Hermiod, everyone from the Daedalus noticed the corridors of this Enterprise to be a bit darker in tone than they were in the show. The carpet was the same wine-red as the command division uniforms and the bulkheads while being of the same overall design were more of a dark grey; though thankfully the hallways were still relatively brightly lit unlike the images of the bridge she'd been shown.

As they followed La Forge, Cadman was on the lookout for the alien races, noting the absence of the really strange and non-humanoid shaped species that always tended to get featured in the novels and comics. In particular, she hadn't noticed any Horta. Now that actually made sense to her since no one in the right mind would want a race that primarily eats metal on a ship made of the stuff. She'd have to note in her report that they stuck to the races that were for the most part human shaped. Which made the weirdest race that might be on the ship the Kelvans, assuming they were onboard since they'd be indistinguishable from humans or even Betazoids. Hudson smiled as they passed a few Andorians and Tellarites, realising that the producers of Star Trek: Enterprise had gotten them exactly right. In fact, a couple of the Tellarites gave him glares or grunts. While they hadn't said anything, he could easily imagine the rude remarks that were probably thinking to themselves.

Turning off the main curving corridor onto one of the narrower radial passageways, the group came to halt after a few metres where the passageway ended in a bulkhead with a set of doors. The doors Novak saw, were labelled as being a turbolift. "We're just a short turbolift ride away from main engineering," La Forge explained as they seemingly awaited the 'lift. "But I'm sure you know the golden rule about working in an engine room." Novak nodded. "If you don't know what something is or does..."

"Don't touch it until you do," Novak answered as the doors opened allowing them to enter.

"Engineering," La Forge commanded.

"Unauthorised personnel detected in turbolift," the computer announced. La Forge swore. Better get them temporary authorisations, he thought to himself. "Please state authorisation code."

"Authorisation La Forge Zeta Two-Eight-One-Five Gamma," La Forge ordered the computer Authorise present personnel full engineering access to all non-tactical or security related areas until further notice."

"Acknowledged," the computer responded. "Proceeding."

Well, Cadman thought to herself. This is an improvement. It seemed that unlike the show, people couldn't just go where they liked. Here you needed to be authorised to enter a certain area. In her head, she pictured young Wesley Crusher trying to take over engineering the way he did back at the beginning of The Next Generation and being stopped in his tracks simply because he didn't have the correct clearance. Hell, Cadman thought, He nearly killed the entire crew in that one episode alone.

The ride to engineering didn't take long. No more than a few seconds had passed before the 'lift doors opened.

"Well, here we are," La Forge told them, leading the way out.

Following the three engineers out, both Cadman and Hudson took in their new surroundings. The layout was pretty much as it was in the series; the main area still was still brightly lit with the open plan layout and the large master systems display was still mounted against the forward corridor bulkhead, however the corridor was now apparently sealed from the rest of the ship by a set of doors either side of the master systems display. Before the display, was the engineering vestibule, where they'd exited the turbolift, with the master systems table in the middle that led to the large circular area encompassing the warp core.

That was where she stopped in her tracks. This warp core, the more powerful multi-columned core from the movies and about the only thing that it had in common with the core she was expecting was that the reaction chamber was at deck level.

"That's a thing of beauty ain't it," La Forge said, observing where Cadman was looking. Cadman could only agree.

Beside her, Hudson wasn't so much looking at the layout of the place. He was looking at the people, she could tell by the way he kept looking this way and that; his eyes occasionally tracking someone until they turned into the chief engineer's office or disappeared through a doorway. In all, he could see about two dozen or so engineers working at consoles or giving the warp core a scan with a tricorder. Most of them were wearing their normal uniforms, but he could also see a few wearing the white extravehicular suits from the movie First Contact, albeit without the helmet.

All the time, he was trying to keep his eyes open for any minor characters or guest stars to be working in Engineering. Like that one who was in Total Recall, whatever her name was and her character was later an important character in that Star Trek e-book series. He didn't remember too much about her, but he did know she refused to drink hot chocolate in public after accidently spilling it on Captain Picard. Then he blinked, seeing the one species he truly hadn't expected to see. It was a three breasted feliniod with the pips of a lieutenant junior grade. Of all the aliens he imagined to be on the ship, that wasn't on his list. Following her with his eyes, he walked into the master situation table. Wincing, he looked up as a passing Caitian elicited a soft chuckle.

La Forge just shook his head. "Everyone does something like that the first time in here," he told Hudson.

"And," a second lilting voice supplied. "At least you didn't spill any Hot Chocolate on the Admiral." Hudson looked up at La Forge and saw Ensign Gomez conferring with La Forge; only she wasn't an ensign. She was a full lieutenant. I did that a couple years ago when he was just plain Captain Picard."

"All right people," La Forge called out. "Let's have a meeting. A waited a moment while his team stopped whatever it was they were doing and approached the console. Realising they'd just be getting in the way, both Cadman and Hudson backed away, instinctively taking up a guard post position either side of the turbolift entry way. Then La Forge turned to Novak. "Doctor Novak, the floor is yours."

Novak took a deep breath and hoped she didn't hiccup. "Thank you, Commander La Forge," Novak said cordially "What is a hyperdrive?" she stated, taking a step forward as she answered her own question. "Well, like your warp drive it is a means of getting round the light speed barrier. Now you do it by generating a bubble of subspace around your ships that distorts the space-time continuum allowing your ships to achieve faster-than-light speeds. The hyperdrive on the other hand opens a subspace window through which the ship moves into hyperspace. From there, the speed of ship is dependent both upon the design of the hyperdrive and how much power it is being supplied with." Novak got nods of understanding, but then that was the easy part. Now was going to come the hard part; trying to explain the science of generating the hyperspace window and ensuring that it remained stable long enough for the time it'd take to cross the threshold and propel a ship across the galaxy or even between two of them. The fact that science in Star Trek was as hard as jello would not be any help whatsoever. Silently, she was glad Hermiod was here.

"Sorry to interrupt, Doctor," an engineer stated, being nothing of the sort. "But that sounds a lot to me like how a transwarp drive is supposed to work." Cadman looked at the engineer and blinked. It was the Lieutenant Joe Carrey from Voyager, only with the lower rank of an ensign. What the hell was he doing on this ship?

1940hrs
USS Leeds , NCC-65352 (Nebula-class Cruiser)

In his ready room, Captain Jack Crusher sat behind his desk thinking of his two kids as he slowly sipped his mug of Raktajino. Leaning back, he slowly savoured its taste as the whipped cream slowly melted in the dark brown Klingon beverage. Gazing at the image of his two sons on his desktop viewer, he wondered if he'd ever see them again. Would Matt enrol at Starfleet Academy like his older brother Wesley? Would he or Wesley get married and have kids? And, if they did, would he have the chance to hold any grand kids in his arms?

In a way, it wasn't really quite as bad for him as it was for the others since he did at least have his wife aboard the Enterprise, but he knew the crew would soon start to feel the separation as many of them had family and loved ones back in the Federation. While it wasn't an immediate issue, it was something that would eventually have to be dealt with.

His musings were interrupted by the sound of his door chime. "Come in," he called out.

Looking up, he watched as the ready room doors slid apart and admitted his first officer Commander Rudolph 'Rudy' Ransom. Ransom looked like he'd been kicked in the stomach by Reman shock troops. "I take it you just read Jean-Luc's report on the Wraith?" Jack asked.

Rudy nodded. "I can't help wondering just what these Alterans were thinking. It's almost as if they never learned that a good defence is often a good offence."

"Unless you're being sneaky about it," Jack grinned.

Rudy shrugged his shoulders. Being sneaky had worked for him. And thanks to it they had discovered a secret Romulan facility where several clones of Starfleet captains were being trained on the skills they'd need to infiltrate Starfleet and hopefully take the place of the original. The last they'd heard was that the debate about what to do with the clones was still raging. Many believed that since they were adults, they had the same rights as any other intelligent and self-aware being; while the rest were so revolted by thought of being cloned unwillingly they just wanted them vaporised. About the only thing they could agree on was that they couldn't join Starfleet; the security risk was just too high since it would place them exactly where the Romulans wanted them. "At least there's no Husnock here." The Husnock were like vultures; attacking Federation colonies while the Federation's forces were elsewhere. Supposedly, there were plans for a small warship that could be assigned to starbases and colonies to ward off the Husnock.

"Still," Jack said. "The Wraith seem almost like something out of a horror-themed holoprogram." He paused thoughtfully. "Maybe it's just me, but I've always hated those programs."

"And we're the all you can eat buffet," Rudy added. "Especially if we're all genetically related, like Professor Richard Galen theorised."

"A theory which has never been proven yet," Jack said supplied. "One way, or the other."

"Wasn't Admiral Picard one of his students?" Rudy asked.

"Yeah," Jack nodded. "He keeps trying to get Jean-Luc to join his quest. Doesn't seem to realise there's a war on."

Rudy shook his head incredulously. "Got his head buried in the sand if you ask me."

Jack silently agreed. "So, what actually brought you knocking at my door?"

Rudy handed a padd to Jack. "The specialists from the Daedalushave finalised our hyperdrive designs."

"So, what's the bad news?" Jack asked.

"As suspected, we'll have to shut down the deflector dish to carry out these modifications. And we only have about forty minutes to get it working and calibrated."

"With I'm sure," Jack commented. "Everyone trying to get through to Scotty on the Robinson."

"Other than Lieutenant Samael," Rudy supplied. "I seem to recall him making a comment along the lines of 'I refuse to work with that half-wit idiot of an engineer ever again.'"

"Who said that?" Jack asked, only letting a smallest bit of humour emerge. "Scotty or Sammy boy?"

"Scotty."

2000hrs
Stargate Command,
Cheyenne Mountain
South West of Colorado Springs, Earth

In Stargate Command's nine years of operation as a United States Air Force Base, it had never lost its original character. The drab reinforced concrete bulkheads concealed 3/8-inch continuously welded low carbon steel plates and exposed conduits gave the place an almost claustrophobic feel. Which wasn't too surprising the newly promoted Major General Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill thought since the place was buried beneath NORAD and a kilometre of solid rock. Being the gateway to space, this place was every schoolboy's fantasy come true. Unfortunately for them, this base didn't exist – officially.

If one were to look at the 'public' plans of NORAD stored at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, they would see not Stargate Command, but a missile silo once used to store Nike missiles intended to defend the base against Soviet strategic bombers during the Cold War. The system had been decommissioned in the mid-sixties and converted into an ICBM testing facility by some old fart of a congressman who thought it would be a good idea to annoy the base personnel with the sound of rocket motors being fired off once or twice a week until the mid seventies.

For two decades, the facility laid abandoned, all but forgotten and slowly gathering dust until the early-nineties when Major General William West initiated Project Giza. And so, the facility underwent another refit; this time to house the Stargate.

It didn't take long for the Stargate to be activated, and after an initial false start, the President ordered the founding of Stargate Command in 1997. A top secret facility that's main goal was to establish peaceful relations with the galaxies inhabitants and acquire advanced technologies with which to combat the Goa'uld.

Nine years on, despite at least a dozen attempts at the hands of the late Senator Richard Kinsey, to shut the facility down, several alien attacks, a couple foothold situations, the destruction of a Stargate, theft of a Stargate and countless hostile attacks, the base remained operational.

Equipped with the most advanced technologies available, both domestic and alien, Stargate Command was the true gateway to the galaxy.

Gazing out past the control room windows, Major General Hank Landry stood beside O'Neill as he watched the inner ring of the stargate unlock and began rotating, stopping briefly as each chevron began glowing in turn. "So that's the Stargate," Landry said bluntly as the event horizon formed, erupting horizontally into the dangerous unstable vortex, before snapping back into what appeared to be nothing more than a vertical pool of rippling water contained within the dark metallic Naquadah ring. "Now that is the impressive."

"Indeed," O'Neill said, looking out into the Embarkation Room. "It never gets old. Just wait till you step through it."

"Sir," Master Seargent Walter Harriman had turned around in his seat at the dialling console. "Doctor Weir wishes to speak with you. She says it's urgent."

"Put her up," O'Neill said, turning his direction to one of the newly installed TFT monitors on the main control board as the dark haired Doctor Weir appeared on the display. Behind her, he could see some brownish copper-like consoles being manned by some of her people. Clearly, the situation hadn't been completely resolved over there yet as she still wore her tactical vest as did some of the others he saw.

"General," Weir said by way of greeting.

"Doctor," O'Neill said. "You have the situation well in hand, I take it?"

"For the moment," she nodded. "We've gotten the all the Wraith that managed to get into the city. At least all those we could find. But, there's more on the way; which is why I'm speaking to you."

"You do know," O'Neill began. "Any reinforcements would take three weeks..."

"I'm not asking for reinforcements. I'm calling to report that we may have found some allies against the battle with the Wraith?"

"Great," O'Neill said. "Who are they?"

Weir paused, a small grin appearing on her face. "Before I tell you, I must warn you that I'm not playing a prank."

"This should be good," General Landry muttered, not exactly feeling at ease.

"And you are?" Weir asked.

"General Hank Landry," Landry introduced himself. "I'm going to be taking command of the SGC when General O'Neill takes over Homeworld Command."

"They're travellers from an alternate reality," Weir told him.

"Nothing unusual there," O'Neill supplied more for Landry's benefit than his own. "Even SG-1 has travelled to other realities and come back to tell the tale. Doctor Jackson did it first."

"I know," Weir confirmed. "I've read the reports, which is why we believe this to be the real thing. Now this is the part you won't believe." She paused. "These travellers are a naval battle group from a political entity called the United Federation of Planets."

O'Neill blinked, beginning think that this really was a joke. "So, you're telling me that somewhere there's a reality where Star Trekis real?"

"Yes," Weir confirmed. "My chief scientist told me the theory. In fact he stated, though he loathed admitting it, of there being distinct possibility that there could be a reality out there where we are the TV show."

"Please don't go there," O'Neill said, thinking of the ridiculous Wormhole Xtreme. "Okay. Assuming this isn't a joke, which reality are they from. One we've seen or a completely new one?"

"Both." Weir answered. "I'm sending you a complete report of everything we know so far, but it seems they've come from a reality where the Enterprise-C survived the battle of Nerendra III resulting in a second Federation/Romulan War."

"Anyone we know show up?"

"Well the lead ship of the battle group, which is designated Battleship Strike Group 10 is the famous Enterprise-D with an Admiral Picard in overall command of the battle group, while the ship itself is under the command of a Captain William Riker."

"And, are they going to help us?"

"Yes," Weir answered simply. "We're getting their ships equipped with hyperdrive technology as we speak. I can't tell you much more right now. The Daedalus and the battle group are now maintaining long range communications silence. Don't want to tip off the Wraith."

"Understood," O'Neill stated. "Keep us updated. O'Neill, out." As the screen reset to its default mode, he turned to Landry. "Guess it was a good thing we never called the BC-303 the Enterprise."

"You don't believe any of that crap," Landry eyed O'Neill. "Do you?"

O'Neill rubbed his forehead. "Hank..." he said sympathetically. "One of the first things you learn here is that the impossible, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, happens every day. Just look at the stargate."

"Sir," Harriman said, joining the generals, a file already in his hands. "Doctor Weir's report; I've taken the liberty of inserting the numbers for Paramount, Viacom as well as contact details for Richard Berman, head of..."

2005hrs
USS Lakota, NCC-42768 (Excelsior-class Destroyer (Lakota-subtype))

Pushing her dark bangs behind her ears, Commander Ariane Bauer stepped from the turbolift onto the bridge. Taking an automatic survey and noting that all sixteen stations were manned and ready, she crossed the short distance to the command chair where Captain Erika Benteen was studying a PADD. "Captain," Bauer announced nonchalantly. "Deflector Control reports that all modifications are complete; restart procedures underway."

"Very well," Benteen announced, shifting in the command chair as she handed her PADD off to a passing crewman. "Resume course for Atlantis and prepare to engage hyperdrive."

"Yes sir," Bauer said clipped like. "Helm, resume course for Atlantis; engage impulse engines. All ahead, full."

"Resuming course for Atlantis; engaging impulse engines. All ahead, full, aye." The helmsman, Ensign David Kranz acknowledged, carrying out the order.

One of the nice things about impulse engines was that it didn't take long to get up to full speed. The low level subspace fields generated by engines space-time driver coils allowed the ship to accelerate from very low velocities of only a few kilometres per second to half the speed of light in only a few seconds. So, in the second it took Bauer to shift her gaze from the helmsman to the viewscreen, the ship was already moving at a velocity nearly quarter the speed of light. A moment later, she looked over Kranz's shoulder again and saw their forward velocity was at half light speed. "We're now at full impulse, Captain."

"Rig ship for hyper speed," Benteen said.

Bauer hadn't heard that term before, so she looked back at Captain Benteen.

Benteen shrugged her shoulders. "Needed to call it something, and since we usually refer to warp velocities as warp speed..."

Bauer nodded, mentally making a note to herself to add it to the Commanding Officer's Book of Orders or COBO as it was usually referred to. It was book containing the orders and procedures that the CO or Officer of the Deck could follow in any number of situations. Each ship had its own COBO and it was always initially written by the ships first CO and added to only when necessary. Lakota's COBO had been initially written up in 2342 by Captain Nash. She tapped her combade. "Engineering," she enquired. "We ready to engage the hyperdrive?"

"We are a go for hyperdrive," the chief engineer responded. "Based upon recommendations provided by Daedalus's hyperdrive specialists, I suggest we don't go above twenty-five percent power until its run in."

"Understood. Bridge, out." Bauer acknowledged. "Activate emergency force fields and seal all transverse bulkheads."

At the operations console adjacent to the helm, the Vulcan operations officer, Lieutenant Solock played his fingers across his station like a pianist. "Force fields activated, all bulkheads sealed."

"Captain," Bauer supplied. "Ship is rigged for hyper-speed."

"Engage," Benteen ordered, leaning forward in her chair. "Let's see what she can do now."

Almost immediately, the pervading murmur of the engines grew in pitch as power was diverted to the ship's navigational deflector, which began to glow brightly and direct the energy needed to generate the hyperspace window. A couple million kilometres ahead of the ship the energy was focused into a single point where the very fabric of space was torn, open creating what looked like a cloud of bluish-purple nebulous gases that was too regular in shape to be natural. "Hyperspace window established and stable," Kranz reported. "ETC: thirteen seconds."

"Full scans," Benteen ordered as the ship closed the distance. "Let's learn all we can."

"Sir," Kranz reported. "Forward velocity increasing; we've been caught in a graviton distortion emanating from the hyperspace window. It's pulling us in."

On the viewscreen, the hyperspace window was all that could be seen. An instant later, the Lakotamade contact with the window, crossing the threshold into hyperspace.

Seated at the twin tactical station behind the command chair, Lieutenant Arithon took in the viewscreen with one eye while keeping the other eye on his tactical readouts. Being able to look at two different things at once was one of the advantages of being a Frunalian. On the viewscreen, was a landscape that didn't remotely resemble what space looked like when travelling at warp. Instead, he saw a landscape of cerulean and obsidian touched with just a hint of white light that streaked by at high speed.

With the other, he analysed what his sensor sweeps were telling him, or rather not telling him. Long range sensors were useless; detecting nothing but static, making him feel somewhat blind. He just hoped that combat wasn't common in hyperspace, and unless the Daedalusor Atlantis had a way of cutting through the static any combat they did get into would most likely be at a knife fighting range of tens or hundreds of metres. "Long range sensors are useless," he announced. "There's too much static."

"Understood," Bauer looked back from where she stood behind the helm. "What about short range?"

"Limited to a maximum of eight hundred metres," Arithon shook his head. "To see any further, we'll have to resort to visual scanning with our imagers and our mark-I eyeballs."

Seated in her command chair, Captain Erika Benteen silently watched the vista being shown on the viewscreen. "Helm," she asked. "Is there any way to determine how far we've travelled so far?"

Kranz shook his head. "Not without dropping back to normal space."

"Do so." They'd only been travelling this way for half a minute, but if this hyperdrive was as fast as they'd been told it was, they should already have crossed quite a distance. She wanted to know just what that distance was.

"Aye sir," Kranz carried out the order.

The landscape, Benteen had quietly been watching receded almost immediately to the edges of the viewscreen revealing the much more familiar star speckled view of space. She sighed, releasing the breath she hadn't been aware she was holding; very glad they hadn't collided with anything upon dropping out of hyperspace be it a star or planet given how blind they'd been.

"Ensign?" she prompted.

"We're back in normal space," Kranz checked a reading on his console. "Checking our position; Captain, we were in hyperspace for thirty-three seconds, and just travelled fifteen-point-nine-light years."

"Wow," Lieutenant Kieran Duffy said with admiration from the bridge's engineering station. "Even the Intrepid-class can't go that fast at maximum warp. And that was just at twenty-five percent power." Seated in the chair to his right, his warp engineering specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class T'Vikil simply raised a single arched eyebrow.

Curious, Bauer glanced over to the science station. "Wasn't the Excelsior's original transwarp drive supposed to be that fast?"

"Faster actually," Lieutenant Shira answered from her science station. Bringing up the specifications on her console, the Deltan science officer resumed her brief review. "It was supposed to allow the Exelsiorto travel at about forty light years per minute."

"Wasn't it said," Benteen looked thoughtful, remembering something her twin sister had once told her. "That all speeds were possible with a transwarp drive. At least I think I remember Leah saying that." She paused. "Still, it seems like the hyperdrive has succeeded where the transwarp drive failed."

"Indeed," Shira agreed. "In theory she could go at any speed. However, it could never be tested; even after Captain Scott's sabotage had been discovered and corrected. Of course the system also attempted to push the ship and bubble of normal space into the transwarp or hyperspace realm instead of opening a portal to enter it."

"Is it possible that's why..." Bauer's voice trailed off as an alarm sounded from the rear of the bridge. "Report."

"Sir," Crewman First Class Terri Decker called out from where she worked beside Arithon at the tactical station. "Sensors have just picked up a vessel dropping out of hyperspace."

"On screen," Benteen commanded. "Sound general quarters; condition yellow."

The ship that appeared on the viewscreen, was quite flat and symmetrical in design, perhaps being about half the size of the Lakota with a raised area near the stern. "Threat level?" Bauer asked.

"Minimal," Arithon reported, as he triggered the general alarm, alerting the crew to the ship's increase in alert status. "With our shields raised, they could fire on us all day and not make a scratch."

Benteen shook her head mirthlessly, getting an idea of why the Wraith were such a big threat. If ships like that were the standards of this galaxy... Still she couldn't get cocky. And she knew they would need to gather allies in this universe given getting back was something maybe only the Organians or Metrons could do.

"Hail them," Benteen ordered to the surprise of the crew. Not that it showed other than the occasional blink or frown.

"Hailing frequencies open, Captain," Ensign Christian Andrews stated at the communications station, before initiating their usual response to unidentified contacts. "Unknown ship, alter course or be fired..."

"Belay that," Bauer growled in the ensign's ear. He stopped him cold in his tracks.

"This is Captain Erika Benteen of the USS Lakota," Erika said in a firm tone. "You are?"

"I am Katana Labrea," the captain of the unknown ship stated, as the image of a dusky woman in her late twenties appeared on the viewscreen wearing what appeared to be a leather outfit of some sort. She was also apparently wearing a headset. "Are you always this rude when you meet people?"

"You have to...forgive our usual response," Benteen stated, quietly fuming at Ensign Andrews. "We've been at war for a long time and just discovered this sector of space."

"Right," Katana said sarcastically. "Good luck surviving the Wraith. They'll make whatever you fought look tame."

Katana had to admit they had guts. And she really hoped they did survive; they Travelers needed all the allies they could get to trade with. Plus someone that could hold their own with the Wraith was about as rare as Lantean ships and spare parts were these days.

"If you're not scrap metal by then, feel free to look us up," Katana stated. "We call ourselves the Travelers."

"We will," Erika stated, surprising herself by actually meaning it. "Lakota, out."

"Captain," Crewman Decker stated. "She transmitted a file on a sub-channel. I'm holding it in a secure buffer just now, but it appears to be a set of six images."

Her image winked off, returning to a view of the small boxy ship. "That could have gone worse," Benteen said quietly to Bauer who was now standing to the left of the command chair. "At least, that first contact went quite well."

Bauer nodded. "Open a secure channel to the EnterpriseEnsign Andrews," Bauer ordered. "Transmit the contact report and append the file Katana gave us." She paused thoughtfully. "Maybe some the locals will know what they are."

"Resume course for Atlantis," Erika ordered. "And engage hyperdrive at ten percent."

"Aye sir," Kranz nodded briefly. "Estimated time to Atlantis: One minute, forty-five seconds."