The Captain and the Queen
by D. A. Madigan
|Table of Contents|
Part 3 appears
in this issue.
“Intraship beaming,” Jason heard Spartan’s dry tones begin, as the bridge dissolved in golden haze...
“...is highly dangerous,” the voice continued, as a brightly lit chamber filled with racks of energy weapons formed around him.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jason said, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. “Next time send the Venture Mark IV back to get me, okay?” He walked over to rack of hand weapons and took down three laser-blasters, stuffing them into his pockets. Then he quickly strode over to another rack and took down a bulky laserblast rifle. “All this firepower and you guys still haven’t invented personal forcefields,” he muttered. “Forget the Venture Mark IV, next time I want to be rescued by Space Ghost.”
Inset in the wall next to the heavily reinforced door leading out of the room, there was a small communicator panel. Jason pressed the switch underneath it. The strangely unfamiliar face of Spartan formed there. “How the hell did they get aboard?” Jason demanded.
“Unknown, sir,” Spartan replied crisply. “Serpentmen are capable of employing non-technological methods of matter and energy manipulation.”
“Magic, huh?” Jason snarled. “What about the Voltan maxim ‘no unreal thing exists’?”
The image of Spartan appeared to ponder this. Finally, it intoned “That is not a Voltan maxim. That is simply stupid.”
“Okay,” Jason said, his eye lighting on a bin full of what he assumed were phaser charge cartridges. He quickly strode over there and started filling his pockets and the front of his shirt with them. “Riddle me this then, Caped Crusader... what are the odds of me surviving another intraship beaming?”
A pause, and then Spartan’s voice declaimed, “Normally, the odds of surviving one intraship beaming without extensive programming of the teleporters beforehand is 72.6%. The odds drop by roughly 13.4% with each subsequent use of the same teleporter banks without proper realignment of the Schroedinger coils. However, internal sensors are reporting a flux of an unknown extradimensional energy permeating the ship, which could well have a negative effect on those odds.”
“Bang a duck slowly!” Jason cursed. “They saw me do it once, they’re not gonna let me do it again. Bastards!” He thought frantically. He didn’t want to be driven off the Venture; these Ool pudknockers had demonstrated a vexing capacity to track and follow him no matter where he went. On the other hand, they needed to capture him alive, and presumably, get him back down to Earth to sacrifice him...
“Spartan/computer,” Jason said suddenly. “Is the Venture capable of FTL travel right now?”
“Affirmative,” Spartan replied, in a very dubious tone. “But, sir, the computer cannot adequately handle all crew functions. Precise interstellar navigation would be impossible without humans to man the various instruments and controls.”
“Can we break orbit, head out of the solar system, and go to translight speed?” Jason inquired.
There was a brief pause. The lights flickered for a second. “Diagnostics show the photonic drive chamber will not sustain a reaction,” Spartan’s voice said, finally. “I hypothesize this to be an effect of the extradimensional energy permeating the ship.”
“Won’t let me teleport, won’t let me leave Earth,” Jason grumbled to himself. “Dorkwallopers are giving me no choice but to go blow their scaly little asses all to hell. Okay, then.”
He walked over to the outer door. “Okay, computer, any uglies right outside this door?”
Spartan’s voice responded, “The corridor outside is empty.”
He should have known. On Pippin’s Venture, there might have been a way to outwit the Ool, but this was Kane’s ship. That meant he had to kick some ass.
One further thought occurred to him. He asked the computer a question. Upon receiving the response, Jason nodded. “Okay. If I say ‘Plan Omega’, do that, then. It should work at least once.”
He turned and faced the door. “Open up,” he gritted, leveling the phaser rifle.
In the rec room, Jessica fumed. It had been over an hour since Jason had teleported himself off the bridge. In that time, she had cast spells to make it impossible for him to do that again, and impossible for him to move the ship away from Earth. She had psychically located him in the arms locker where he had taken refuge, and directed a group of serpentmen to the corridor outside, taking care to make sure that their presence was cloaked from the Venture’s internal sensors.
Jason had walked right out, into the ambush, just as planned... and then everything had gone wrong. With a speed and coordination she had found incredible, he had fought his way past the serpentmen, blasting three of them into nothingess, rolling past the other two with a completely flabbergasting agility.
When one Ool, with the lightning quickness typical to their race, had lunged in and yanked the laserblast rifle away from him, Jason had whirled, made a blinding behind the back draw of a laser-blaster from his rear pocket, and shot both Ool with incredible marksmanship while somersaulting down the corridor. All five Ool had been completely vaporized.
In the name of the Thousand Eggs of the Mother Serpent, when had Jason turned into an action hero?
Well, you couldn’t send a serpentman to do a woman’s job. She’d just have to handle this herself.
Jason woke up, feeling groggy. Before he could stop himself, his voice had wearily muttered the oldest cliche in the universe... “Where am I?”
Jessica’s voice immediately responded. “Be quiet a sec, Jay. I’m concentrating on something, here.”
For half a second, the soothing voice reassured him, and he relaxed. Then he realized he was laying on his side on a hard surface of some sort, hands secured behind his back by tough plastic cords. “What the jiminy loving jeepers?”
The last thing he remembered was seeing Jessica at the end of a corridor, curled up on the floor, crying. Apparently terrified. And wearing some totally hot outfit, too. He’d approached her, wondering how she’d gotten mixed up in this. She’d looked up as he’d reached her, and her eyes had seemed to glow as a gloating leer of triumph suffused her features. She’d muttered something awful sounding... and then, blackness.
Now he could hear her voice whispering strange phrases in an inhuman, hissing language. “Aw, man,” he said. “If I’m the Hierophant, then Jess must be the Serpent Queen. Oh, man. This bites.”
He struggled with his bonds, but it was futile. After a few more seconds, he heard and felt Jessica approach. He opened his eyes and looked up at her. “So, you’re really not Jessica, right? You just read my mind and shapeshifted into someone you knew I’d trust, so you could get close enough to knock me out, right?” The hope in his voice was pathetic.
Jessica laughed merrily. “Yeah, right,” she said. “You have been a very naughty fellow, ex-husband. Escaping us like that, and then, who would have thought you’d be brilliant enough to hide your distinctive thought patterns from me for hundreds of years by casting an amnesia spell on yourself! I expected a shapeshift, which you obviously did, but that...!
“But everything is going to be okay now. I’ve just placed a spell on the Venture to cause the photonic core to overload itself and detonate in a few minutes. Now, I’ll just shadowshift you and myself back down to Earth. In your powerless state this will probably be very unpleasant, but it won’t kill you.”
Jason started to speak, and she raised one finger. “Don’t even think about being clever,” she said. “I’ve reinforced the extradimensional energy ward around you. No technological teleport device could even begin to get a lock on you right now.” She laughed again, this time an undertone of malevolent triumph sending chills up Jason’s spine. “Kane’s time trip did accomplish one thing,” she said. “Now that we know how we are defeated in the future, I’m sure we can find a way to prevent it.”
Jason closed his eyes. “Jess,” he said quietly, “I’m sorry.” Then, “Plan Omega.”
Jessica Cutter shimmered and vanished in a golden haze.
Jason rolled off the table top in the rec room where she’d brought his unconscious form, came to his feet, and rolled forward again, this time bringing his bound wrists beneath his feet as he’d seen Kane do on “The Jesters of Trimurti”. “Spartan!” he yelled. “How do I disable the photonic core from here?”
Spartan’s voice replied, “No need, sir. The unnatural energy manipulation has already been terminated.”
“Oh,” Jason said, sitting down suddenly on an art deco metal chair with foam padding. He should have felt good. He’d won. He’d figured, if Jess died, the spell would stop functioning, or at least, he’d have time to order the warp core to be ejected, or something. It was amazing how lousy he felt.
From behind Jason, the familiar whooshing sound of a Space: The Final Frontier door opening came. Jason turned in the chair. The sight of the person standing in the doorway stunned him. He was literally the last person on Earth Jason would have expected to see.
“She isn’t dead,” the short man said grimly, striding into the room. “I darkshifted her into a crater on the far side of the Moon. She’ll stay there, in shadowform, until maybe I can figure a way to undo whatever the Elders did to her.”
Jason’s jaw dropped. “YOU did...?”
“Yes,” the diminutive fellow said in a tired voice, coming over and sitting in a chair next to Jason’s. “You see, you aren’t the Hierophant, Jason.”
Andrew Cutter closed his eyes, and the corners of his mouth turned down for a moment. “I am.”
Jason sat in the rec room chair, eyes closed, trying not to think. So, he wasn’t the Hierophant, after all. He wasn’t a kickass immortal wizard wandering the Earth under a self-imposed enchantment of amnesia. He was just... Jason. And Jessica had been the Serpent Queen, but now she was... somewhere else... and as it turned out, the Hierophant had actually been her husband, Andy.
“Fate always drew us together,” the short master mage had explained to Jason shortly before. “She should have realized that. I did shapeshift, and I did cast a spell of amnesia on myself, and it took three hundred years before we ran across each other again... but still, she should have known.”
It kind of figured. Even under his own memory loss spell, Andy had been the modern equivalent of a master magician... which was to say, a computer programming wizard. As he’d explained it, he’d had no idea of his true nature, until just a few hours before. As best he could figure, Jess had cast a very powerful spell or two in close proximity to his sleeping form, and that had crystallized the ongoing process of the recovery of his full memories and powers. He’d then followed her invisibly, trying to figure out exactly what was going on before he intervened in a situation he didn’t fully understand. It wasn’t until he’d heard her little speech to a tied and helpless Jason that he’d realized the full scope of the situation... and by then, all he’d been able to do was save Jess’ life when Jason’s ploy caused her to be transported into the depths of space.
In the distance, Jason could hear voices and footsteps. The ship was starting to come alive again. With the Hierophant’s help, the time-travel equations that had caused the weird integration of the Venture’s crew into the present day population were being gradually reversed. Spartan had been returned to his normal form. Much of the crew had reappeared. Part of Jason wanted badly to meet the namesakes of the characters he knew from TV, but another part, remembering how different Spartan himself had been, shrank from the concept.
Still, there was one thing he really needed to know.
He got up from the chair, made his way through a bewildering maze of corridors while lost in thought. He got to the turbolift, stepped inside, and absent mindedly said “Bridge.” When he stepped out, Spartan was there, sitting at the science console. Andy Cutter, looking very out of place in black jeans and a cardigan sweater, stood near him. A few other representatives of the mostly tan 23rd-century human race were there in somewhat different looking, but somehow entirely correct, Starfleet uniforms. They all stared at him as he walked over to Spartan.
“Look, Spartan,” Jason said in a very weary voice. “there’s only one thing I still don’t understand. I understand that the Ool thought I was the Hierophant primarily because they somehow mystically discovered that the Venture was trying to pinpoint my location with sensors... but what I don’t understand is, why did Jarius A. Kane program the computer to find me and beam me aboard, if I’m not the Hierophant? Did he just make a mistake?”
Cutter smiled. Spartan looked as if he would have liked to, except that it would have been too human an expression. “Perhaps this will help you to remember, sir,” Spartan said coolly. “The Hierophant thinks you’re finally ready.” He reached one long, faintly greenish finger out and touched a series of buttons. On the main viewscreen, an image took form.
A familiar image, of a man in a gold Starfleet Command tunic and black trousers, sitting in the Captain’s chair. He was speaking. “Captain’s Log, stardate... oh, hell, computer, put the stardate in. We are in orbit around Ceti Epsilon...”
Jason’s jaw dropped. In the back of his head, a whispering rush of images began to cascade.
“Brodenrury got it wrong,” Andy Cutter said, grinning broadly. “He got the first name wrong.”
On the view screen, the Captain, a much bigger and far more formidable looking man than the actor Shane Wilson had ever been, was finishing making his log entry. “...all is well. This is Captain Jason A. Kane of the P.C.S. Venture, recording. Kane out.”
On the dark side of the moon, at the bottom of a pitchblack crater, the Hierophant appeared in a shimmer of yellow light. An energy manipulation spell held heat, light and air in a close circle around him. A few feet away, a black, faceted crystal glittered on the crater floor. The essence of the Serpent Queen...all that was left of the woman he had once loved, so long before, so far away, in such different form... he sighed and walked over to pick the crystal up. He should just destroy her. Whatever she was, she wasn’t his wife anymore. But as long as there was a chance...
His fingers closed over the crystal... and without warning, it erupted into an explosion of darkness, covering him completely, instantaneously robbing him of consciousness.
Somehow, in the lightless, airless crater, malevolent, musical, and definitely feminine laughter could be heard.
The Venture, assuming the timestream had been realigned and the threat of the Elder Gods averted, had completed its slingshot maneuver around the sun and returned to what its crew hoped would be a gloriously altered future.
Won’t they be surprised, the essence of the Serpentqueen chuckled to herself as she and her unconscious mate sped Earthward in a bolt of coherent darkness.
History would not be changed. The Elder Gods would return on schedule. And a hundred years or so in the future... who knew what might yet transpire?
After all, Jess told herself with an evil smile as she materialized in the caverns far beneath the Earth with the Hierophant unconscious in her arms — some sacrifices have to be made.
Copyright © 2005 by D. A. Madigan