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The Rings of Time

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Introduction (blurb)Edit

2020 The U.S.S. Lewis & Clark, under the command of Colonel Shaun Christopher, sets off on humanity's first manned mission to Saturn. But the unexpected presence of a stowaway complicates the mission - as does a startling encounter with an alien probe. But when Colonel Christopher attempts to capture the probe, he suddenly finds himself transported across time and space to a future era of space exploration....
Stardate 7103.4 The U.S.S. Enterprise responds to an urgent distress call from a mining colony orbiting Klondike VI, a ringed gas giant not unlike Saturn. For unknown reasons, the planet's rings are coming apart, threatening the safety of the colony and its inhabitants. Searching for a way to avert the disaster, Captain James T. Kirk and his crew investigate a mysterious alien probe that has just entered the system. But when the probe is beamed aboard, Kirk abruptly finds himself floating in space above Saturn, wearing an old-fashioned NASA spacesuit, with the Enterprise nowhere in sight....
Two missions. Two crews. And a time-twisting crisis that spans the centuries....

SummaryEdit

June 28–July, 2020

NASA’s space shuttle Renaissance launches from Cape Canaveral to deliver the final payload and mission commander to the USS Lewis & Clark, a new long-range space vehicle for a mission to Saturn. The Renaissance was the first and only craft of a second-generation of shuttles, as the program was abbreviated due to a second global economic crisis. The same problems plagued the development and construction of the Lewis & Clark, and that project was barely completed. The craft featured a new impulse drive that made a trip between Earth and Saturn possible within 3 months. The Lewis & Clark’s mission bypassed Mars and Jupiter in favor of exploring Saturn, its unexplained hexagonal polar storm, its deteriorating ring system, and its moons, as well as a never-before seen comet that was passing by. Colonel Shaun Jeffrey Christopher, a divorced father and the son of a retired Air Force pilot, served as mission commander. Captain Alice Fontana was his co-pliot (and former lover), and Dr. Marcus O’Herlihy was the chief scientist and medical officer. The trio of specialists was joined by a stowaway blogger, Zoe Querez, in search of the mission’s “real” story. The crew convinced mission control that Zoe’s unauthorized presence was not reason enough to return to Earth, as they believed such an upset would put an end to the entire fledgling space program. At the time, space exploration faced its lowest ever levels of financial, government, and public support.

Zoe remains under suspicion, especially by Fontana, but Christopher and O’Herlihy gradually come to accept and enjoy her presence. Christopher refuses to comment on his prior assignment to Area 51 (during which he was involved in the study of Ferengi technology captured in 1947 and in the development of the DY-100 class sleeper ship) or on his secret previous relationship with Fontana.

September 2020

The Lewis & Clark arrives at Saturn and begins its survey, shortly before the arrival of the comet. The crew finds the dissipation of the planet’s rings and the storm to be worse than expected, and they are also unable to explain the comet’s strange behavior—it changes direction and velocity, avoiding a rendezvous with the astronaut’s probe. The comet settles into a stationary position over the polar storm and sheds its icy skin, revealing a probe of extraterrestrial origin, and Christopher undertakes a spacewalk to study it up close. The probe fires a series of energy pulses into the storm, instantly stabilizing and restoring it to its former size and intensity. When Christopher touches the probe, he blacks out and awakens 250 years in the future, in the body of Captain James T. Kirk.

Stardate 7103.4, 2270

Near the end of its 5-year mission, the USS Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Skagway mining colony’s Governor Dawson. The colony is located on a moon in close formation to the ring system of Klondike VI, a Saturn-like planet. Klondike’s rings are collapsing and its polar hexagonal storm is diminishing in a manner very similar to the Saturn incident of 2020. The colony comes under fire from many of the ring’s asteroids. The colony’s science specialist, Qat Zaldana, comes aboard to help investigate the phenomenon while the ship maintains a defense position over the colony, protecting the habitat dome with its phasers and deflectors. Further echoing the Saturn incident, a comet arrives in orbit and again reveals itself as an alien probe. When it is beamed aboard, the crew recognizes the ancient and pitted device as Preserver technology. Kirk touches the probe and loses consciousness, awakening in the antique spacesuit (and body) of Colonel Christopher in 2020.

2020

Kirk, in Christopher’s body, is brought aboard the Lewis & Clark, where he feigns shock and memory loss in order to avoid raising the astronauts’ suspicions. In secret, he studies the ship’s technical manuals and intuits the backgrounds of the crew and of “himself.” Kirk is attracted to Zoe and carefully rebuffs Fontana’s advances, though he is careful not to unmake history by spurring the wrong woman (whoever that will be). A fire breaks out in the mid-deck and is barely contained. Fontana actually saves Zoe’s life during the emergency, but quickly calls for her imprisonment as the most likely suspect for the arson. The other astronauts agree and confine the blogger to an airlock. Mission control orders the ship to return to Earth a week early, unwilling to risk the entire mission to yet another incident.

Fontana assembles many small clues about “Christopher’s” behavior and concludes that he is not himself. She attacks Kirk and convinces O’Herlihy to lock him in the makeshift brig as well. O’Herlihy drugs and restrains Fontana, taking over the ship himself, setting the ship for a collision course with Saturn. He reveals that his daughter, Tera, has been captured by the Human Extinction League on Earth and that they demand a disastrous end to the Saturn mission, with Tera’s life hanging in the balance. HEL believes that humanity is a plague on the Earth and advocates the species’ voluntary extinction. They also want to restrict an expansion into space, where humanity would poison the rest of the galaxy as well. Kirk manages to escape into space and EVAs to the ship’s other airlock while Zoe distracts O’Herlihy. Kirk defeats O’Herlihy and releases Fontana, who avoids the impact with Saturn, then stops O’Herlihy from spacing himself out of guilt and grief.

Stardate 7104.2, 2270

Christopher, in Kirk’s body, immediately acts crazy and is subdued and confined to sickbay. Only a mind-meld with Spock reveals that he actually is Colonel Christopher rather than a mentally unstable Kirk, though they keep this secret from the rest of the crew. Christopher hears a drumbeat in his head and finds himself unable to shake the rhythm. Meanwhile, Spock must focus on the Skagway disaster rather than the search for the real Kirk, and Zaldana is left to study the spatial phenomenon on her own. The situation continues to deteriorate and the lunar colony enters the inner rings, coming under increasing fire from the asteroid material. Though evacuation procedures are nearly complete, many of the remaining colonists panic. They steal ships and try to intercept the Enterprise and its last evacuation shuttle, pleading for room on the already overloaded starship. The uncontrolled traffic makes it impossible to defend the colony and causes several collisions.

Christopher escapes sickbay during the emergency and reveals the parallels between the Saturn and Klondike incidents. He talks to Zaldana about his probe encounter and realizes that the beat in his head is the frequency that the probe used to stabilize Saturn in 2020. The Enterprise uses its phasers to duplicate the probe’s pulses, stabilizing the Klondike storm and restoring the meteorological ecosystem. The disaster is averted and the colonists return home. The Enterprise then departs for Saturn and executes a time-travel slingshot maneuver to travel to 2020.

2020

Kirk is beamed from the Lewis & Clark to the Enterprise, where Spock is able to restore Kirk and Christopher to their own bodies via a mind-meld. The Starfleet crew gets intel from Zoe about the HEL compound and are able to rescue Tera O’Herlihy and end the minor terrorist threat. The question of what to do with Zoe is rendered moot when she reveals that both she and Qat Zaldana are the same person and an advanced life-form (a Q?), who was interested in seeing how humanity responded to the dual-era challenge. She admits to being impressed before disappearing. The Enterprise returns to its own era and the crew is reminded that there is no such thing as a routine mission in the great unknown.

Christopher and Fontana are reunited and renew their relationship. They eventually marry and have two children, one of whom—James Kirk Christopher-Fontana—was likely conceived on the journey from Saturn to Earth. O’Herlihy “retires” from the space program after the mission, though his scientific findings are studies for years after and are crucial to the next century of inter-system exploration and colonization. Tera O’Herlihy Franklin recovers from her capture and goes on to command one of the Area missions to Mars in 2033. The government covers up all of the mission’s extreme incidents (Zoe’s presence, the mutiny, the existence of an extraterrestrial probe, and the ship’s near destruction) to avoid any public panic or enemy advancement in such uncertain geopolitical times.

ReferencesEdit

CharactersEdit

BrubakerChristine ChapelPavel ChekovShaun Geoffrey ChristopherSkooka DawsonFarisAlice FontanaMaggie ItaJames T. KirkKwanShirin LuddenMascaliLeonard McCoyMarcus O'HerlihyTera O'HerlihySchneiderMontgomery ScottSimoneSpockStoltzfusHikaru SuluNyota UhuraCeleste VossQat Zaldana/Zoe QuerezJase Zero
Referenced only 
ApolloRobert AprilJonathan ArcherBalokBarbarellaBuck BokaiJeffrey CarlsonCasanovaChekovJohn ChristopherKatie ChristopherKevin ChristopherRory ChristopherJames Kirk Christopher-FontanaZefram CochraneMatthew DeckerJoe DiMaggioShepard FaireyBen FinneyBill GatesAmanda GraysonGusHultquistJesusSteve JobsMiranda JonesEdith KeelerGeorge Samuel Kirk, Sr.George Samuel Kirk, Jr.Winona KirkKodosLady GagaDebbie LauderdaleSumi LeeJanice LesterAbraham LincolnMacGyverCarol MarcusDavid MarcusGary MitchellMiramaneeMontezumaLisa NowakShannon O'DonnellJocelyn O'HerlihyPlummerLincoln RobertsRuthEmilia SakamotoSarekKhan Noonien SinghWill SmithSpock (mirror)Sub-MarinerTrelaneH.G. Wells

Starships and vehiclesEdit

ColumbusUSS Enterprise (Constitution-class) • GalileoUSS Lewis & ClarkRenaissance
Referenced only 
Apollo 11Ares IVSS Botany Bay (DY-100-class) • USS DarrowDY-100USS FarragutModel TUSS RepublicSolar QueenSoyuzRMS TitanicUSS Vancouver

LocationsEdit

asteroid beltAtlantic OceanCape CanaveralCassini DivisionEarthKlondikeKlondike VISaturnSkagwayYukon Gap
Referenced only 
Aleutian IslandsAlpha CentauriArea 51ArretAsiaBhopalBlinoguCamus IICanadaChernobylColonial WilliamsburgDenevaEnceladusFranceGamma Hydra IVGeorgiaGideonGulf of MexicoHoustonHubble TelescopeIndiaIndianaIowaJohnson Space CenterJupiterKansas CityKashmirLunaManhattanMarsMediterranean SeaMiddle EastMillennium GateMirmirror universeMoscowMount RainierMyrddin VNew PangeaNova LimboOmahaPacific NorthwestPlatoniusPlutoPsi 2000Puget SoundRoswellRussiaSmithsonianStar CityTarsus IVTartarus PrimeThomas Jefferson Elementary SchoolTitanTora BoraValhalla PrimeVulcanVulcan's ForgeYosemite National Park

Races and culturesEdit

Human (Native American) • Vulcan
Referenced only 
BlineDeltanFerengiGornHortaKlingonMetronOrganianPreserverRomulanTholianVian

States and organizationsEdit

Human Extinction LeagueNASAOrder of the FacelessStarfleetStarfleet CommandUnited Federation of Planets
Referenced only 
Central Intelligence AgencyDepartment of Homeland SecurityEastern CoalitionFederal Bureau of InvestigationScientologyStarfleet AcademyUnited States Air ForceUnited States SenateVulcan Science Council

Science and technologyEdit

agonizerairlockartificial gravityastrogatorblogbooster rocketcameraCelsiusclass J gas giantcommunicatordeflectordeuteriumdilithiumdisruptore-mailescape podEVA Maneuvering Unitfirefire extinguisherflash drivefusion reactorGeiger counterGlockhyposprayiceimpulse engineintercomInternetion stormjet packkeyboardlaptoplaserLIDARlight yearnitrogenNomadoxygenphaserphoton torpedoproberadiationradiorespiratorresveratrolSacagaweasatellitesensorsensor webshieldsslingshot maneuversolar sailspacesuitsyringetelevisionthermometerthrustertime traveltractor beamtransportertreadmilltricorderturboliftvideo gameVoyager 1zero gravity

Ranks and titlesEdit

astronautcaptainchief engineercolonelcommandercommodoredoctorensignfirst officergovernorhelmsmanlieutenantlieutenant commandernurseSenatorscience officeryeoman

Other referencesEdit

2001: A Space Odysseyapple cobblerAssignment: ArmageddonasteroidautomobilebeerBhopal disasterBiblebridgebrowniebungee cordC/2018-G2captain's logcarbon dioxidecargo baychain mailchampagneChernobyl disasterchicken soupThe Chrysalis ExperimentcockpitcoffeeThe Cold Equationscolonycometdinosaurdogdog tagdollarEagle ScoutFirst AmendmentfootballGreat DepressionGulf oil spillHarry PotterHurricane KatrinakamikazekatraketchupKobayashi Maru scenariomacaroni and cheesemind meldmirrormugatoNobel PrizeOccam's Razororchidpizzaplomeek soupRoman candleroot beer floatsanctuary districtSaurian brandyshuttlebayshuttlecraftsickbayspace amoebasteelsushitattooteatitaniumtoilettransporter roomUFOVelcroVulcan nerve pinchwineWorld War IIIwrenchyellow alertYouTube

TimelineEdit

ChronologyEdit

Production historyEdit

Published Order
Previous novel:
The Children of Kings
TOS novels Next novel:
That Which Divides
Previous story:
"Work Is Hard"
Stories by:
Greg Cox
Next story:
Most recent Star Trek story

Related storiesEdit

  • TOS episode: "Tomorrow is Yesterday" - The Enterprise crew recalls meeting John Christopher, Shaun's father, on several occasions.
  • TOS episode: "The Conscience of the King" - Kirk recalled his meeting with Kodos after Governor Dawson mentioned not wanting to be like the infamous governor.
  • VOY episode: "One Small Step" - Shaun Christopher thinks of how it will be up to the Ares crews to investigate Mars at a later time, while he goes to Saturn before them.
  • DS9 episode: "Past Tense" - Shaun Christopher refers to the thousands of homeless crammed into the sanctuary districts first seen in this episode.
  • DS9 episode: "Little Green Men" - Shaun Christopher recalls how the DY-100 class was based on Ferengi ships that crashed at Roswell.
  • TOS novel: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, Volume 2 - Shaun Christopher recalls the mysterious disappearance of the DY-100 prototype from Area 51.
  • VOY episode: "11:59" - Shaun Christopher recalls the last thing he heard about Shannon O'Donell was that she was working on the Millenium Gate.
  • TOS episode: "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" - James Kirk recalls how Miranda Jones wore sensors similar to those of Qat Zaldana, though for different reasons.
  • TOS episode: "The Corbomite Maneuver" - When he saw the alien probe approaching, Kirk recalled how probes, such as Balok's, had been dangerous in the past.
  • TOS episode: "The Changeling" - When he saw the alien probe approaching, Kirk recalled how probes, such as Nomad, had been dangerous in the past.
  • TOS episode: "The Paradise Syndrome" - When he saw the writing on the probe, Kirk immediately recalled the obelisk and his time with Miramanee.
  • TOS episode: "The Mark of Gideon" - When he boarded the Lewis and Clark, Kirk initially wondered if it was a trick like the one performed by the inhabitants of Gideon.
  • TOS episode: "The City on the Edge of Forever" - Kirk recalled how even a minor change in history could have huge consequences when he considered what he would do because he was in the past.
  • TOS episode: "Turnabout Intruder" - When Kirk switched bodies with Shaun Christopher, he recalled being forced to switch with Janice Lester and was thankful that he was at least the correct gender in this switch.

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