I put down my journal. “Yes?”
“Your personal log of the Starfleet reception is not on file.”
“Your personal log of the Starfleet reception is not on file.”
“That would be because I didn’t write one.”
“I trust you will correct that oversight immediately.”
I shook my head and took a deep, slow breath. “Glin, will you have a seat?”
He sat across from me in the only other chair at the table.
“So, what about this log?” I asked. “What am I supposed to write, and how was I supposed to know?”
“You are to write a factual account of the Starfleet reception as you experienced it. Do not misrepresent anything you learned from others as if it were your own firsthand knowledge; the log should record only what you experienced through your own six senses—pardon me, five. You should know this because it’s the responsibility of all crew members to record personal logs of all official activity.”
“Sorry,” I replied, still trying to keep a lid on my patience. “No one told me about this responsibility. And I didn’t know I was a crew member. Guess it’s nice to be included, though.”
“A Cardassian military cruiser is not a passenger ship; we are all crew here. And it is up to the crew member to know ship procedures.”
“You were a lot nicer to me at the reception,” I remarked.
“At that time, as far as I knew, you had not yet used your personal relationship to secure privileges that limit our chances of carrying out our mission.”
My hands flew up, almost on their own, and I rose a few inches in my chair. “I what?”
Zorak chuckled. “Do you wish to fight me?” But he crossed his ankle over his knee and remained seated.
“No, of course not,” I answered, settling back into my own chair. “I just don’t like being accused of something I didn’t do.”
“Perhaps not,” he conceded, “but the evidence is not in your favor.”
“I didn’t ask the gul to give me first access to my personal things on the buoy,” I said. “I was just as surprised as the rest of you when he said that. And besides, don’t you guys have enough to keep you busy with everything else that’s on there?”
“Perhaps,” he admitted, “but the optics are not good.”
“I guess I can see that,” I said. “I’ll get started on that log.”
“Bring it to me when it’s finished. I’ll be in my office.” He stood and went out.
* * *
The unfamiliar tone sounded in my San Francisco hotel room for the third time.
“Computer,” I asked, “what is that sound?”
“You have an incoming transmission from Starfleet Command.”
I was expecting that—impatient but dreading it at the same time. These were the people who had detained me on suspicion of mass murder, but that was nothing compared with what they had done to the gul.
“Play the transmission,” I said, not sure how to phrase the request.
The screen over the desk lit up with an ornate display. I moved to get a better view so I could read it, but the computer began reading it for me. “The honor of your presence is requested at a special reception to be held at the Sato banquet hall at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco . . .”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” I said. “First they treat us like criminals, and now they want to throw a bash for us?” But if they were still moving forward with prosecuting the gul, there was no way I was going to attend any reception . . . unless it would give me the chance to talk to someone and get this whole mess straightened out. Visiting hours at the jail began in a little over two hours. I’d talk it over with the gul then, I decided, and go from there.
I was considering leaving for the jail early when I heard another tone. This one I had heard at Starfleet HQ, but I couldn’t remember off the top of my head what it meant. “Computer, what is that sound?”
“There is someone at the door.”
It took me a second to remember the word I had heard them use at Starfleet. “Enter.”
The door opened, and the gul stood in the doorway.
I wanted to hug him but thought it might be inappropriate. “Wow, you almost missed me; I was about to leave to go visit you. Well, come in. Sit down. Can I get you anything to drink?”
He entered and took a seat. “Thank you. I wonder if the replicators here are programmed for rokassa juice. If not, then coffee is fine.”
We had to settle for coffee. I ordered one for myself, as well, and joined him in the sitting area.
“So, they let you out,” I prompted.
He nodded. “After reviewing the ship’s log and the contents of the buoy, Starfleet dropped the charges, issued an apology and released the ship. Most of the crew are back aboard, and I remained behind to deliver a message, but I see that you’ve already received it.” He turned to the invitation, which I had left up on the screen over the desk.
“It makes a little more sense now,” I replied. “I was going to boycott that reception if they were still trying to make you out to be a criminal.”
The gul shook his head. “Your animosity is misplaced,” he chided. “Detaining us was only a sensible precaution until all the facts came to light. And once they did, they released us without delay.”
“And now they’re throwing a party to say thank you,” I conceded. “What should I wear?”
He shrugged. “Earth fashion isn’t exactly a subject they teach at Bamarren Institute, but the computer will know. Ask for a selection of images of appropriate costumes, then choose your favorite to be replicated.”
“Sounds a lot easier than shopping,” I remarked.
“Shopping is an option, too, if you enjoy the exercise. There are many fine boutiques in the city, and the sales staff will help you find something appropriate to the occasion.”
“I’ll probably just replicate something. Are you hungry?”
But as it turned out, reality was more complicated. Two days before the event, I got a video call from a young Starfleet ensign. “What are you planning to wear?” she asked. She was pretty and bald, and her skin was blue. I had never seen her species before.
“I don’t know. I don’t really know what they wear to these things in the twenty-fourth century. I thought I’d just let the computer pick something out.”
“I can help with that.” Her answer came out all at once, giving me the impression that letting the computer choose could be a disastrous idea.
“Okay.” This sounded like more work than shopping, but I didn’t see a gracious way out. “Thank you,” I added, remembering my manners a little late.
Her name was Emily, despite her alien appearance, and I found her to be pleasant company. We did make a circuit of the boutiques, and I lost count of how many outfits I tried on, but it was more than 20. Finally, she approved of a gold and white creation that looked like an odd combination of bridal gown and metallic bicycle racing gear. I was too tired of shopping to object. When she had done my makeup, I barely recognized myself, but at least I was finally ready for the reception.
Once again, it was not to be. “Now for the important part,” Emily said as she scooped up all the makeup things and headed for my hotel room replicator. “Recycle.”
I resisted the urge to let out a groan. “And what’s the important part?”
She returned and took a seat in the same chair the gul had used. “Protocol.”
What followed was a crash course on whom I would meet, how they fit into the Federation organizational structure, what I was to say when I met them and what I was not to say.
“Fortunately,” Emily remarked, “you have pretty good posture; we don’t have to work on that.”
“What does posture have to do with it?” I asked.
“Federation laws prohibit tourism by people from the past,” she began, “and severely restrict time travel for any reason. So, your mere presence in this time is rare enough to arouse a lot of curiosity. Add to that the fact that you’re one of the Quicksilver heroes, and I’m afraid you’re going to have a lot of eyes on you tonight. Now, the media is not allowed into the reception itself, but they will be allowed to live-broadcast the guests as they enter. But don’t worry, you won’t have to answer any questions.”
“Okay. Anything else I should know?” I asked, even though I was still trying to soak in this much.
“Yes. If you should happen to meet the president, just imagine he’s one of your college professors. It helps with the nerves.”
“Thanks,” I smiled.
She smiled back. “My grandmother taught me that one--the one I was named after.”
I wasn’t sure I followed her meaning. “You were named . . .”
“. . . after my grandmother, Emily Mays. She was from Chicago, so this is personal for me.”
Of course. In a future full of travel between solar systems, migration would have been a natural result. How silly of me to be surprised that a non-Human could have had a grandmother from Chicago.
“I know,” she said, reading my face but misunderstanding its meaning. “Bolian and Human. Not a good combination. It almost killed my dad.”
I was struggling to keep up. “You’re . . . part Human?” I blurted.
It was Emily’s turn to be surprised. “Oh, can’t you tell? My bifurcating ridge is barely even there, and my skin is much darker than a full Bolian’s.”
I shook my head. “Sorry,” I said, “I’ve never met a Bolian before.”
“Oh. Well, they don’t look like me. See this line?” She indicated a vertical feature, like an inverted crease, that ran down the center of her head and face and disappeared beneath the collar of her uniform.
“On full Bolians, it’s much more pronounced. And most Bolians are a much lighter shade of blue.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“My grandmother was a rich brown, like chocolate cake. I’m glad I got some of that.”
I smiled. “Me, too. What about your dad?”
“My dad . . . sad to say, he survived the encounter with my mom, only to die two years later in a transporter accident. I don’t remember him.”
“I’m sorry,” I replied, still at a loss for words. One thing I was learning in this century was that in any place and in any time, people are still people. We all have a story; we all have something to be proud of, and many of us have to deal with tragedy.
She shrugged. “Made me who I am, I guess. Any questions before we go?”
“Can’t think of any.”
“Mays to transporter room, we’re ready to beam over.”
A moment later, we were standing on a transporter pad. We had barely stepped off it when a party of Cardassians from the Mekar materialized behind us.
We lined up two by two, Cardassians on the left and Federation people on the right, and walked to the reception hall through a corridor between two glass walls with the media beyond. At the head were the gul and a Starfleet captain. I was placed near the end of the line, and to my surprise, I was told to walk on the right with the strangers from the Federation. My Cardassian partner was a tactical officer named Tarak. If I had known it was the last time I would see him, I would have made more eye contact.
On entering Sato Hall, we encountered a reception line of Federation dignitaries that included Admiral Li, the ambassador to Cardassia and several cabinet members. An aide introduced us to each person as we shook hands, and the aide at the head of the line had a particularly resonant voice. I found myself anticipating the end of this diplomatic gauntlet by noting the moment I stopped hearing the words “Gul Caybin G’lek of the Cardassian military” ring out from my left.
After that it was more relaxed. Gul G’lek came to me as I was reading the plaque under a statue of the hall’s namesake, pioneering Starfleet communications officer Hoshi Sato. “Your colleague from another time,” he remarked.
“My colleague?” I asked. I had trouble imagining myself as a Starfleet officer.
“You are a linguist, are you not?”
“True,” I admitted, “but I take it she was a genius.”
“According to legend. Have you been introduced to our Federation teammates?”
“Our teammates? No, not exactly. But I recognize most of them from the video I watched from the buoy.”
“Come, I’ll introduce you.”
The last thing I wanted to do was learn even more names, but it would have been rude to say no. And besides, even if I didn’t remember it, these were people I had worked side by side with, risked everything with, to save all the civilizations in the quadrant. I would have been crazy not to want to meet them.
As fate would have it, Lieutenant Commander K’vel was the last one. She had dramatic eyebrows, pointed ears and a face that looked as if it had never smiled. She was a statistician, the gul said, but I didn’t think that was a very good explanation for her mood.
After that it was champagne and dancing, and for a glorious ten minutes I felt like I had gone to heaven. Captain Nado came over and chatted, toasted our teamwork and moved on. I mentioned something about the video from the buoy, and Caybin pulled me close and said in a voice full of promise, “There’s a lot more.” We were staring into each other’s eyes, our faces coming closer, almost touching. Then Caybin’s body went taut and his eyes took in the hall.
I followed his gaze. Something didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t say what. I saw Glin Zorak staring at a blue ceramic bowl he held in his hand. Caybin and I were facing the same direction now, with him slightly behind me. He put his hand on my arm in a protective gesture just as Admiral Li and Commander K’vel walked past us. They were now in complicated outfits of colorful flowing robes instead of the dress uniforms they had been wearing just a few minutes earlier. Then Caybin gripped my arm as what looked like a walking corpse with prosthetic body parts appeared out of nowhere, directly in front of K’vel. The two bodies collided, and the corpse’s immediate response was to raise its mechanical right hand and drive a spike into K’vel’s left eye.
I was struggling to process this, the name “Borg” falling on my consciousness from a presentation I had seen on the Mekar, when the scene began to fade as I dematerialized into the transporter stream.
“Computer,” said Caybin as soon as we were solid again, “activate temporal field.” We stepped off the transporter pad without delay to make room for more people to be rescued, but the operator shook his head: the Borg had acted so quickly that a second transport would not be possible. The nine of us, then, would appear to be the only survivors.
We all walked to the bridge together, an odd combination of essential personnel and people who had chanced to be standing near them. I was lucky to be in the second category. Glin Zorak, head of intelligence on the Mekar, was there with an assistant, along with Glin Lagar, who was in charge of tactical, a science officer named Amel, the Federation temporal physicist Dr. Drem (who belonged to a species with tusks), a Human teenager named Greta LaRue who seemed to be a Federation cabinet page, and Frieda Stein, a Human server still carrying a tray of champagne. Only instead of delicate crystal flutes, the champagne was now contained in ornate but bulky ceramic bowls. Without a word, Dr. Drem took the tray from the server and studied the bowls as we walked.
* * *
Glin Zorak shook his head, his eyes still on my report. “It will do,” he said. “But I’ll give you a note for your next log entry: it’s unnecessary and not customary to record your personal emotional reactions.”
“Okay,” I replied. “I’ll make a note of that.”
He chuckled, then straightened his face and looked at me. “That’s all. Your journal is waiting in your quarters, and whether I like it not, no one from this office can read it until you do.”