“You know, Wihtred, we really should be getting ba-”
“Woodstock. Take Woodstock. 1969. Earth. You know how many people there were time travellers? Seven percent. Last year it was only six percent. Temporal Accords mean nothing when it means seeing Hendrix live. But one faulty holomask or a Klingon ignoring the warning about the brown acid and you know who gets called in to fix things? Us. Yeah, us. The temporal agents, the chrono-repair crew, the time-fragging-janit-”
“I mean it, Wiht,” his companion insisted. “We don't head back now, we'll be on report. And you know what a stickler for punctuality the boss can be.”
“Fine,” sighed Lansing. “Let's go.” He drained his glass and hauled himself off the barstool. Steadying himself with the bar rail he took a deep breath, straightened his tunic and shook his head. “Hypo. Hypo hypo...” he muttered, patting down the pockets on his belt before finding what he needed. “Hypo.” He pulled out the small silver device and held it against his neck before pressing the activator pad. A slight hiss marked his returning to sobriety. “Mell, you really shouldn't let me touch that Risa mezcal. Goes straight to my head.”
The Risian sun was high in the sky. It always seemed to be high in the sky when they visited. Mell couldn't even remember the last time it was dark on this island. It was a slow trudge up the beach to where they had parked the timeship. The birds perching on its fins scattered at our approach.
“Shoo!” shouted Lansing. “Little sods, it'll take a fast flight through a dust ring to shift those stains. Risians have got the right idea. Con the tourists into fattening them up, sharpen up a stick, get the beach firepit good and hot...”
The ramp hadn't even finished lowering before their communicators started beeping.
“Oh come on.” Mellitus dashed up the ramp and activated a console. “Mission incoming. Oh. Oooh... you'll like this one, Wiht...”
The hologram of Risa spun slowly over the table, night and day playing across its archipelagos and thin, whispy clouds.
“So let me get this straight,” said Lansing, head still somewhat cloudy from the hypospray. He took a sip of a bright orange drink from his “Galaxy's best temporal agent” mug. “A Na'Kuhl tipped off the Earthers about the Great Tribble Truth?”
“That about sums it up. As you know, if that secret comes out too early, the Klingons get all huffy and trash that bar on Nimbus, Ensign Magriette's parents never meet, a replicator doesn't get maintained, one day Sisko doesn't get his morning raktajino, he gets careless, gets blown up by that rigged tribble in 4523.7, and then things get really complicated.”
“And nobody wants to deal with that kind of paperwork. So, phasers. Check. Quadcorders, check. Grenades, never enough. It's time to kill Na'Kuhl and drink Bru.” Lansing drained the last drops from his mug. “And I'm all out of Bru.”
Giant seismic stabilisers rumbled as they struggled to bring Risa's tectonic activity under control. Crepuscular rays from the setting sun cast long shadows over the island as Lansing and Mellitus surveyed their surroundings.
“So the sun does set,” mused Lansing as he scanned the landscape with his quadcorder. “Archeological expedition's over there by that mountain. Hang on...” He pressed a few buttons on the device. “Orbital scan says there's a cloaked Bird of Prey entering geosynch right above us. They are not meant to be here and now. This could complicate things.”
It took a full half hour of hacking their way through the thick Risian rainforest. The air, even in the late evening, was hot and sticky. Batting away the constant streams of insects, the temporal agents arrived at the outskirts of the archeological dig site. Lansing scanned the area.
“I read five humans, one Bolian in those tents by the cave entrance.” he glanced at the screen. “And twelve Risians in the surrounding forest moving in. Aaaaand there's the Klingons beaming in... moving in on the Risians in a standard pincer. This could get m-” Lansing's words were cut off as a plasma grenade from a launcher arced overhead before blasting a tree full of birds into splinters and smoking feathers. “Down!” he yelled. The camp erupted as energy beams arced from all directions.
“Over there,” pointed Mellitus. A middle-aged man in a dressing gown and unlaced boots was running towards the cave. “He seems to have the right idea. Let's see where he's going.”
Another disruptor bolt struck a nearby tree, narrowly missing Lansing. “Sounds like a plan.”
The cave was, by contrast, pleasantly cool. Rivulets of condensation ran down the walls across banks of blue cave fungi. Every sound they made echoed in the narrow tunnel, every beam of light from the installed lamps glistened from a thousand surfaces. Within minutes, the weapons fire from above ceased as, no doubt, the Klingons concluded their ambush. Lansing and Mellitus continued their pursuit. It did not take long before they reached the end of the cave – a huge, volcanic-stone door, engraved with hundreds of circles and ancient scripts. And there, standing to the side, stood the Earther.
“I surrender!” he yelled, hands waving in the air.
“Good for you,” said Lansing. “And please, secure your robe. It's really quite embarrassing to see... that.”
Mellitus was ignoring the man and examining the doorway. “Well now, this is interesting,” she said. “This one's not in our files.”
“You sure?” asked Lansing.”
“Positive. At least, no file within our paygrade. Here, robe-boy, give me a hand. Push that panel. Wiht, push that one.”
With a gentle hum, the door faded away to nothing to reveal a brightly-lit chamber.
“Did you say something?”
“Wasn't me. That was... not a voice.”
“Oh great. A telepath. Never liked telepaths. Especially that one in the 2260's who looks like Captain Chekov. Nasty piece of work, that one.”
Together, the three of them entered the chamber. The clean, dry air caught in their nostrils and their eyes struggled to adjust to the lights.
“Ehh, thanks.” Lansing sneezed and rubbed his nose. “To whom do we have the honour...?”
You have entered the Hall of S'reggit Dem Arabrednu T'ed.
“Ooh, I've heard of you,” exclaimed Mellitus. “You're in the files. The great scientist of the Tr-”
“Well, lovely to meet you – you are here, aren't you?”
There was a brief pause.
Is it time? Shall we awaken?
“No, sorry. Listen, is there somewhere you could hide for the next, say, five hundred and twelve orbits? The galaxy's in a bit of a mess right now and you're not scheduled to be revealed for a while yet.”
Very well. See you soon.
The lights dimmed to nothing. A low drip-drip of water off the roof echoed around the now-empty chamber.
* * * *
“I see by the timelines that you stopped the agent,” observed Daniels.
“Sort of. Caught in crossfire. Turns out, the Klingons had been out on the lash for twelve hours straight celebrating some mighty victory or other when the Na'Kuhl recruited them to stop some ancient Risian secret society, devoted to preserving the ancient Risian secret cave, stopping the dig.” Lansing scratched his still-itching nose. “Fill Klingons with enough celebration-grade blood wine and they're as much a danger to themselves as their prey. The Na'Kuhl's now just so much glowing goo leaking into the rich, volcanic soil of Risa.”
“And the archeologists?”
“They all mysteriously got amnesia. Almost as if their entire memories of the tipoff and the reason for the expedition got wiped by, say, a really powerful telepath. And their computers contracted a strange virus about the same time. Pure coincidence, of course.”
“Of course. Though we have a followup mission for you. The Risian bird known as the Dusk Diver has become extinct in the new timeline. According to history, the biggest breeding colony of them disappeared some time around your visit. Any ideas what happened to them?”