James Blish adapted all the original series episodes into short story form, and his version of Assignment: Earth appeared in the Star Trek 3 anthology. However, Blish chose to significantly alter the episode, virtually eliminating Seven and the rest of the guest cast. My idea was to go in exactly the opposite direction and write the story from Seven, Isis and Lincoln's point of view, leaving out the Trek crew's scenes which didn't include the Æ characters. Jumping from there, I thought it would be interesting to add original material which made Gary Seven's story richer. Not a traditional adaptation, I hope you enjoy the embellishments.
The adaptation is now also available as a free ebook from Catspaw Dynamics.
If you had been in a ship travelling through this part of space, you would see an orange sun and its six lifeless planets. So unremarkable a system, your commander would probably continue on, making only a brief entry in his logbook.
However, if your ship decided to explore this group, say for possible useful minerals and compounds, you might discover that the motions of the planets indicated that there should be another body orbiting the orange star.
Your ship's scanning devices, no matter how sensitive, could not find any evidence of such a body, though. Perhaps your commander was a bit more daring and chose to take his ship in for a closer look. If your ship's exterior viewing systems were anything other than portholes you would not see anything.
But if you were lucky, or unlucky, enough to follow along the orbit of the phantom celestial object and had a window to look out of, you might be horrified to have a clear view of the stars replaced with a shimmer and then the features of a dark red planet, your ship entering in the upper reaches of its atmosphere. Electromagnetic scanners dead a moment before would come alive suddenly, your ship caught in the planet's gravity well.
Then, even if your ship had the ability to extricate itself from such a situation you would not escape. Beams of energy would fire up from the surface and gently drag the ship down to the planet. Friendly, highly evolved people would greet you. Perhaps some of your own kind would be with them. They would apologise for the inconvenience. You would ask why you had been brought to the surface. They would gently avoid answering. They would give you accommodations and show you their world. You would ask when you might leave, and they would gently shift the conversation. You might make friends, they had such a good life here, and you might express that you miss your home. Knowing that they could avoid it no longer, they would tell you that they were the Aegis and their mission was to help the galaxy evolve peacefully, and to do that they had to keep their existence utterly secret. And then you realise that you will never see your homeworld again, but you will have a glorious life.
Welcome to Aegea.
Osai City was warm under the orange sun. Spread over kilometres, architecture and landform blended easily. As no where else in the galaxy, dozens of species co-habitated with the native Aegis. Vibrant and alive, each individual knew its place in society, every being knew its purpose. They all knew what was at stake and believed in the Aegis' mission. For millennia, they had been trained to help their native cultures evolve and avoid destroying themselves.
In the heart of the city stood the Temporal Agency Cooperative, the nerve centre of the Aegis' operations. From here, they dispatched their agents across the galaxy without the use of the clumsy and inefficient spaceship. The large building dominated the plaza that surrounded it. Whereas much of the city's architecture did its best to harmonise with the landscape, constructed of local stone and natural materials and standing at most three storeys, the Temporal Agency building stood out. Constructed like Buckminster-Fuller's geodesic domes, it stood over twenty storeys tall at its apex and was made of a dark complex compound that embodied the properties of both plastic and metal.
As he passed through one of its many entrances ringing the base, he felt a static charge that tickled across his skin. Gary Seven crossed the large polished stone floor acknowledging many of the personnel who greeted him, adjusting his new suit, feeling uncomfortable in the restrictive clothing. He would have felt more comfortable in his jumpsuit and cloth shoes. Above him the levels ringed the dome, their centres open to main floor below. He looked up and a friend waved down to him. He returned the gesture.
In the very centre of the floor, a circle 20 metres across was marked with different coloured stone tiles. Seven came up to the control desk that stood outside the circle and brought the system online. A small sphere of blue mist appeared. While Seven set his destination coordinates, he watched it grow and thicken until it filled the entire circle.
Annoyed, he looked around the huge, open area. Where is she?, he thought.
At a run, the black cat nimbly picked its way through the crowd of feet and other appendages on the floor. Seven sighed. While he and Isis had worked together for years, he felt that the shape-shifter had too much feline in her. She wasn't much on being punctual.
Isis rubbed herself against his leg and meowed.
"I don't care what happened, Isis. I asked you to meet me half an hour ago. You know I don't like excuses, or lateness."
She made a pitiful mew, and hopped up into his arms.
"Being cute doesn't make up for it. And why do I have to carry you? Would it be too much trouble to walk around on two legs once in a while?"
Isis purred and rubbed her head on his hand which stroked her head automatically. He sighed again, knowing that it was useless. She knew where his buttons were.
He looked down at the transporter controls for one last check and reluctantly stepped up to the blue sphere of mist. He took a look back at headquarters, waved to some friends, and began walking into the swirling blue haze. His casual pace belied the power of the Aegis' technology. Around the edges of his vision Seven was aware of light and space being warped as he headed towards Earth, some 5,000 light years away. It would take him only minutes to "walk" there. He looked down at his wrist chronometer, what humans called a watch. He checked the servo in his pocket. It's readout was synchronised to the transporter's.
Seven was not a happy man. It had been over 20 years since he had been on Earth, and he did not relish the idea of returning. While his ancestors had been taken from there over 6,000 years ago, Seven felt no love for the barbaric culture of this backward and isolated planet. Participating behind the scenes in their world war had been a sickening experience. Isis, you have no idea what you're getting into.
It was also troubling that, while he was now a supervisor, he had to assume the mission of a field agent. There was nothing he could do about it, though. The situation on Earth was critical, he had lost contact with his field agents, and he had no time to train replacements. Yesterday, Isis had laughed at his frustration, and had quickly shifted into cat form when he had given her an icy glare. She had darted out of the control room before he could act.
As usual, he felt no ill effects from the transporter. He recognised the objects that appeared off in the distance. Earth's system would be appearing momentarily. Isis murmured, her voice sounding far off.
"Yes, Isis, we're almost there," he said, his own voice sounding equally detached. He saw Earth appear as a point of light in the mist, felt himself slow within the stream and prepared to emerge at his agents' office in New York City, along the Americas' east coast. Suddenly he lurched, nearly losing his hold on Isis, who howled in confusion. His body distorted along the matter stream like some funhouse mirror illusion. But this was no trick of light. Something was causing interference in the transporter's path. Momentarily, he made a connection that his agents had been waylaid by the Omegans, and that he was to share their fate. Just as quickly, he chastised himself for his paranoia. It was not good to have negative emotions assert themselves now, not when he needed a clear head. He was about to reach for his servo to take manual control of the matter stream when his vision was filled with a sparkling shimmer, dissipating the blue mist of his transporter. Whatever it was it had him, and he could do nothing about it.
Shapes began to coalesce around him, first some sort of room, and then the unmistakable forms of sentients. He felt his body solidify in a way that was alien to his experience, and he found himself face-to-face with what appeared to be three humanoids, though they were dressed in a manner that was unknown to him. Something about them was familiar, though. Calmly he stood there and stroked Isis' head. He did nothing to provoke them, but Isis yowled. He slowly stepped off the transporter pad and descended the steps to the floor.
"Why have you intercepted me?" he asked the man closest to him.
The man in the gold shirt was younger than Seven, but was just as calm. "Security," he said to his red-shirted companion.
The wary man flipped a switch on the console, and a voice through a speaker said, "Security."
"Transporter room, on the double." The words came out as an order.
The quick reply of, "On our way, sir," left no doubt in Seven's mind this man was their leader. He did not let his gaze waver from him for an instant. He was still having trouble placing who these people were. The man in the gold shirt stepped closer.
"Please identify yourselves," Seven said, this time not phrasing it as a question.
The shorter man sized him up, as if deciding what to tell him. "This is the United Spaceship Enterprise. I'm Captain Kirk, commanding."
Isis fidgeted in his arms, muttering to herself. "Yes, I heard him, Isis. We're on board a space vessel," then to Kirk, quickly, "From what planet?" He casually let Isis slip out of his arms to the floor. It was an old tactic, one that they had used on many unsuspecting beings before.
Kirk looked at him quizzically and replied, "Earth," as if there were no other possible answer.
"That's impossible, in this time period there weren't—" and as Seven said it his eyes tracked back to Kirk's companions, specifically the tall, lean one in the blue shirt, and his gaze was drawn to the man's ears. Curse me for a fool, he thought, it's been too long since I've been in the field. I should have noticed that right away. His conclusion was shocking. "Humans with a Vulcan, you—" he said almost to himself, "You're from the future, Captain!" He felt like an idiot stating the obvious, and even then it was only half the truth. The situation was too complex. He needed to act from a position of power, and it certainly wasn't here. He stepped towards their transporter's controls purposefully. Perhaps he could bluster his way through this. "You're going to have to beam me down to Earth immediately."
But as the words left his lips, the doors to the room slid open and two more red-shirted men entered.
"Phasers on stun," Kirk said quickly, and his men drew their weapons off their hips, aiming them at Seven. They were calm and cool, and Seven knew that bluster wasn't going to get past them. How could men from a future of Earth be here now? He became aware of Isis' growling. He did not like what she was saying.
"Careful, Isis," he said, trying to avoid escalating the situation further. While far from liking the order, Isis backed off and sat down. Kirk looked down at the feline, clearly at a loss to explain how the cat understood Seven.
"All right," Seven muttered, expelling air, "Captain Kirk, my name is Gary Seven. I am a human being from the 20th century. I was on my way- "
"Humans, of the 20th century, do not go beaming around the galaxy, Mr. Seven," Kirk snapped sarcastically, cutting him off.
"I have been living on another planet far more advanced. I was beaming to Earth when you intercepted me."
"The location of that planet?" Kirk replied in a tone that indicated to Seven he was being humoured.
"They wish their existence kept secret. Even in your time it will remain unknown." By their actions and the way they spoke, Seven understood that he was not dealing with humans as he knew them. He felt sure that they were what he said they were: men of the future. And that meant they would not be bluffed, and would not be satisfied with half-answers.
The transporter operator said with a Scottish accent, "It's impossible to hide a whole planet."
Acknowledging the man, he replied, "It's impossible for you and not for them." He needed to get out here. Now. "Captain Kirk," he said, raising his voice, "I am of this time period, you are NOT! You interfere with me, with what I have to do down there…" he took a breath to regain control of himself, "and you'll change history. You'll destroy the Earth, and probably yourselves, too." It was mostly the truth. It was a truth that they needed to comprehend. They had the ability to travel through time, they had to know about changing timelines. The Vulcan confirmed Seven's assumptions.
"If what he says is true, Captain," he said emotionlessly, "every second we delay him could be dangerous."
Kirk's eyes never wavered from Seven's. "And, if he's lying…" The captain was a hard customer. He had to be in his work, and Seven did not resent him for it. He was only frustrated by his current circumstances.
"This is the most critical period in Earth's history, and the planet I'm from wants to help Earth survive."
"What if it turns out you're an invading alien from the future?" Kirk shot back. Seven jumped inside. Did they know of the Omegans? For a moment, Seven debated within, wondering whether or not he should divulge that part of his story.
Behind him, the Vulcan said, "A most… difficult decision, Captain."
Kirk wavered. "I… can't beam you down, without further proof, one way or the other." The captain was just as frustrated as Seven was. He had a critical decision to make, and it could not be made on pure facts. Seven could not violate his oath to the Aegis. It was out of the question. He let his gaze drop, wishing there were another way to resolve this matter.
"Security confinement," Kirk said flatly.
"This way, please," one of the security guards said curtly to Seven.
Seemingly subdued, Seven walked between the two guards. Professionals, they had their weapons held at their hips, aimed at Seven's torso, but if they thought they were dealing with an average human they were mistaken. Seven's hands flashed out and he sent one man into the wall behind, stunning him, and the other sprawled out on his back on the transporter pad. Isis screeched and leapt onto the latter man, claws extended, attempting to scratch his face.
The Vulcan, almost as quick as Seven, secured his grip on the agent's shoulder. Seven felt it pinch. It hurt, but Seven's nervous system did not react as the Vulcan expected it to. With ease, Seven broke the man's grip and spun, countering the Vulcan's attack with a chop to the side of his neck, felling him. The Scottish man, seeing an opening, tried his own attack, but Seven merely repelled him into the recovering guard.
"Jim. Jim! What's going on there?!" came a voice over the intercom.
Kirk had been the calmest of them all. Rather than directly attack Seven, he stepped over to the transporter pad and retrieved the guard's phaser. The guard was otherwise occupied, trying to dislodge the enraged cat. As Seven dashed to the transporter controls, Kirk stepped up behind him and coldly pulled the trigger. Seven glowed for a moment. He stiffened, almost managing to stay conscious by sheer will, but even his enhanced body could not withstand the stunning energy and his vision collapsed into a black tunnel, a point of light, and nothingness. The violent episode was over almost as soon as it had begun.
Even passionate Isis knew when a battle was lost. She momentarily debated whether or not to shift form, but after seeing her Supervisor brought down by their energy weapons, she doubted if she could do anything to help him. As quickly as her fury had come, she let it go. Isis broke away from the bloodied security guard, much to the man's relief. She sat down for a moment and cleaned herself off. That Vulcan was certainly interesting looking.
"Sickbay to transporter room! Jim, what's going on down there?" the voice over the intercom said crankily.
"Bones," Kirk replied, "check the prisoner you'll find in security confinement. I want a medical analysis fast. Is he, or isn't he, human?"
Isis trotted over to the Vulcan and wound herself around his ankles. Looking up at him, she saw one of his eyebrows arch as he took notice of her. He couldn't resist, and he reached down to pick her up. The battered security guard warned him, but he needn't have. Isis curled up in the man's arms and began to purr.
"It seems, Mr. Hanson," he said sardonically, "that I do not offend her."
"Spock," Kirk said lightly, "I don't know how you do it." They left the transporter room and headed down the corridor, unaware that they carried a very capable agent in the guise of a lounging cat. They entered a meeting room and sat down at the table. The Vulcan casually rubbed Isis' head while Kirk dictated a report to the computer built into the table.
"Captain's log: supplemental. A man in a 20th century business suit. What is he? Not even Spock's Vulcan neck pinch could stop him. Without our phasers, he would have overpowered all five of us. I find it difficult to believe, the mysterious Mr. Seven, can be human. And yet, suppose he is?"
Isis was in heaven. Spock was hitting that perfect spot behind her ears. Still, she made sure to listen to every word said. Anything at all might prove useful to her and Seven. Even if they were a bit backward, they had still been able to disable her supervisor, a rare event indeed. Backward, yes, but more capable and civilised than their 20th century counterparts. She wished she could be there when Seven woke up. Cat laughing always made him incredibly angry. Purrrrrrrr…
"What do you make of the cat, Mr. Spock?" Kirk asked.
"Quite a lovely animal, Captain. I find myself strangely drawn to it."
What a sweet talker, Isis thought.
Kirk flipped a switch on the console. "This is the captain," his voice echoed throughout the ship, "all science, engineering, and supervisory personnel, lock into the briefing room. Our next decision can be of enormous consequence, not only to us, but to Earth's entire future. You've already been given as much, information, as we have. Please break in at any time with analysis of that information."
Gary Seven crawled out of the depths of unconsciousness. That Captain's voice was very loud, echoing throughout the ship, and most annoyingly, his head. Wow, that energy weapon sure packed a punch, he thought. How barbaric! He struggled to sit upright, and that was all he could manage for the moment. He assumed he was in a holding cell. The lack of furniture and decoration, and the energy field around the open doorway confirmed it. He rubbed the back of his neck and was glad Isis was not sitting beside him on the unpadded bench. He didn't think he could take her taunting right then.
Isis washed her paws while Kirk conducted the conference.
"Navigation report," he said. The computer's screen turned on, showing a young man at a control console.
"We have analysed the direction of his beams, sir. Our starmaps show no habitable planets in that area of the galaxy."
The screen blanked as Spock said, "He did say his planet was hidden, Captain."
"Engineering," Kirk said, and Isis recognised the man in the red shirt from the transporter room.
"Still unable to analyse it, sir. It was so powerful it fused most of our recording circuits. Could have brought him back through great distances, could have brought him back through time. There's no way for us to know."
Oh, and they were so close, Isis thought mockingly.
Kirk's mouth set itself grimly and he flipped off the monitor. "Mr. Spock, historical report?"
"Current Earth crises would fill a tapebank, Captain. He could be interfering for, or against, Earth in areas of over-population, bush wars, revolutions, critically dangerous bacteriological experiments, hate movements springing up— "
"Specific events today?" Kirk said, to the point.
"There will be an important assassination today, an equally dangerous government coup in Asia, and, this could be highly critical, the launching of an orbital nuclear warhead platform by the United States, countering a similar launch by other powers."
Isis forgot herself and meowed out loud in shock. This Vulcan was just a bit too clever for comfort.
"Weren't orbital nuclear devices, one of this era's greatest problems?"
"Most definitely," Spock confirmed, "once the sky was full of orbiting h-bombs, the slightest mistake could have brought one down by accident, setting off a nuclear holocaust."
Just perfect, Isis thought, the last thing Seven and I need are amateurs meddling in our affairs. It was time to think about getting out of here, even if she did feel wonderfully lazy in Spock's arms. Maybe in a minute or two.
Kirk wiped his face with his hand. "Dammit, Spock," he said almost to himself, "we're supposed to be back here to observe, not to jump in the middle of it." Irritated, he said, "and where is Bones' report?" He stabbed the intercom button.
"McCoy here," came the voice over the speaker.
"Bones hurry up with that report. Join me in the briefing room with your analysis," Kirk said, forcing his voice to be calm.
Seven was feeling a bit better, and stood up. Things didn't spin too badly. Let's see if I can check this out quietly, he thought, stepping towards the humming energy field. The hard sole of his shoe scraped on the floor. Seven frowned at his uncharacteristic clumsiness. So much for that. The young security guard turned quickly and observed his prisoner. Okay, I've blown it, might as well check it out while I'm here. Seven lifted his hands and carefully pressed his fingertips into the forcefield. It zapped him unpleasantly. Wonderful. Crude and wasteful in its energy usage but nonetheless effective. He put his hands on his hips and sighed, trying to look defeated in front of the guard. The man, confident now that the prisoner had tested his prison and found it secure, turned his back on Seven. It was best to not engage your prisoners for too long.
Seven casually took a step back. He could not believe the mistake his captors had made. He could feel his servo's weight inside his coat's interior pocket. Well, it did look like a common pen. Seven pulled it from the pocket and rotated the barrel back and forth, entering the coded sequence. It freed the shield and he slid it down, extending the antennae.
This had to be done quickly. He glanced over at the guard before aiming the servo at the door frame. Responding to the pressure on the barrel, the servo shot an electromagnetic beam that cancelled the forcefield. The guard, having good reflexes, turned, and was shocked to see the cell deactivated. Seven's deft fingers quickly switched frequencies along the barrel and he zapped the young man before he could fire his weapon.
That was a little tight, he thought, but he was happy he hadn't been stunned again. Seven's servo had quite a different way of subduing a foe. The security guard stiffened and then relaxed, a dreamy expression lighting his face with a smile. He slumped against the wall and Seven walked right past, checking the corridor for others who might try to stop him. "You're tired," he said, "go to sleep." At which the man slid down the wall and lapsed into unconsciousness. Seven's headache was gone and he was fully recovered from the phaser's effects. All except for his pride.
McCoy entered the briefing room and lost no time in giving his report. "Well, I must admit the sensor readings seem too good. Human readings, yes, but not a single physical flaw. Totally perfect body."
Isis began squirming in Spock's arms. She had seriously underestimated these humans. It took them a while, but they did seem to have the ability to get to the bottom of things. More importantly, her collar was vibrating a message as well. Seven was free!
"If an alien needed a body—" Kirk supposed. Isis dashed across the tabletop.
"—he might be inclined to prepare a perfect one, Captain," Spock added, completing the thought. "But then again, he may be telling the truth." She hit the floor nimbly on all four paws.
"Gentlemen!" Kirk said exasperatedly, "I need proof! All you're telling me is that on the one hand he may be lying, and the other—"
And out the automatic doors she went to rendezvous with Seven. Please, just ignore me, she thought. I'm just a cat! Really!
She ran full tilt down the curving corridor, past people who tried to stop her. She leapt over a smiling, crouching woman going, "Here kitty kitty kitty," just as a voice boomed over the speakers, "Security alert! All decks alert! Prisoner has escaped! All decks alert! Prisoner has escaped!"
Seven was through reasoning with these people. So when he entered the transporter room, it was with servo drawn. Two zaps and the two personnel slid down the walls in happy stupor. It took only a moment for him to figure out the primitive controls. There was no way around the security protocols, and he knew he had only moments before he had more company. Come on Isis, where are you? This is no time for dawdling! He located his own transporter's carrier beam and locked into it.
The transporter hummed to life and he started the auto-engage sequence. The doors slid back partially and an exhausted Isis staggered in, meowing plaintively. She had tried three rooms before getting it right. Klaxxons started to wail.
Seven reached down and scooped her up. "I know, Isis," he said comfortingly, "but we'll be gone before they get here." He hopped onto the pad and the room began to shimmer. As the room faded from his sight he saw Captain Kirk and his men enter the room too late to stop him.
The familiar blue tunnel appeared and he felt more comfortable. Isis was panting in his arms and he did his best to soothe her. The Earth filled his vision and then it seemed as if he was flying into white light. As it faded into darkness the details of a room appeared.
He knew it well, and taking the last few steps forward, he entered his agents' offices. The carpet was plush beneath his feet as he cleared the vault door. The circuits noted his passage, closing the heavy steel door automatically, locking the transporter portal. Finally, two halves of a shelving unit closed in front if it, concealing the door from view. Seven noticed that his agents had replaced the books on the shelves with cocktail glasses. He'd have to have a talk with them about that.
He surveyed the office before stepping to the window and looking out. It was tastefully furnished with modern decoration. The colours were a bit garish for Seven's tastes. A large wooden desk dominated the room. He was on Manhattan in New York, the United States' largest city. He looked down to the street from his vantage point in the high-rise apartment. The people seemed like insects scurrying down there in the noise. Combustion vehicles polluted the air with noxious emissions.
"You're right, Isis," he replied, "it is primitive. It's incredible that people can exist like this." Unbidden, his mind filled with unpleasant memories. He chuckled softly. "Least we won't have to. Not for long." He said it to bolster himself. He wanted to get the job done and then get the hell off this planet. Forever. He turned and set his partner down on the really bright orange chair. Facing the bookcase, he said, "Computer on."
If your typical Manhattan apartment did not have a transporter hidden behind a shelf of cocktail glasses and a bank vault door, it was also unlikely to have a computer hidden behind a bookcase. Sliding on noiseless pivots, the bookcase rotated to the left, revealing an Aegis computer which replied, "Computer on," in a synthetic female voice devoid of emotion and inflection. Above the waist-level control console, a circular viewscreen was blank. To the right of the screen flashing status lights indicated processor activity.
Seven stood in front of the computer, which was taller than him, and as wide as the bookcase which hid it. "Specify location of agents 201 and 347," he ordered.
"Identify self," the computer asked.
He leaned wearily against the console and rubbed his eyes. "Simply check my voice pattern. You'll find me listed as Supervisor 194. Codename: Gary Seven."
"Voice pattern matches, but I have no listing of a Gary Seven assigned this planet."
"Computer, I am a class one supervisor," he said testily, "you are ordered to override previous instructions and answer my questions."
Isis hoped the computer would be smart and cooperate. If it had Seven's records it would know that the supervisor had fried more than one artificial intelligence with his servo in the past. She chittered at Seven to keep his cool.
"I am a Beta 5 computer, capable of analytical decisions. Please confirm identity as supervisor by describing nature of agents and mission here."
Through gritted teeth he snarled, "Computer, I caution you I have little love for Beta 5 snobbery! Override!"
Oh no! Isis couldn't bear to watch and sank back into the chair.
But Seven had had enough excitement for one day. Baffled by the computer's reluctance to cooperate, he gave in and said, "All right.
"Agents are male and female. Descendants of human ancestors taken from Earth approximately 6,000 years ago. They are the product of generations of training for this mission.
"Problem: Earth technology and science has progressed faster than political and social knowledge.
"Purpose of mission: To prevent Earth's civilisation from destroying itself before it can mature into a peaceful society."
The computer annoyingly ran the information through its processors for a moment before replying, "Incomplete."
Seven glared at the grey and black machine.
"But sufficient. Location of agents unreported for three days."
"Why didn't you say so in the first place?" he muttered. It started to compute. "No! Don't answer that. Simply begin search immediately. Recheck all news broadcasts, decode any government intercepted mes—"
"I am aware of proper search procedures, 194," it said indignantly, cutting him off.
Seven, who had been pacing, stopped dead in his tracks and thought, what's the use? I'll have it reprogrammed when we're through this crisis. He flopped down in a chair to wait out the search. After a moment he realised he needed more details about the task at hand. "Computer, also summarise agents' current activities. Report when ready."
He watched Isis cleaning herself, one rear leg high in the air. She meowed at him.
"Well then," he snapped, "don't do it right in front of me!"
She chackled back, sounding hurt.
"Sorry, Isis," he said, sighing, "there's more going on here than you know about." He looked out the window. "Almost 25 years ago I was an agent here on Earth. If you think it's primitive now you should have seen it then, or 50 years before that when my supervisor was assigned here. They've come such a long way in such a short period.
"I have mixed feelings about it. I am human, but I am of Aegea. I see their potential and how fraught with danger the road ahead of them is." He was quiet then, remembering the war, lost friends and hated enemies. It was still hard for him to talk about it.
Isis meowed again.
Seven rolled his eyes. "Yes, my dear, we can get something to eat when we're done here." He ran his hand across his brow, chuckling. The Beta 5 was taking its time, so Seven walked back through the apartment to find a change of clothes. He felt rumpled after his time on the spaceship.
When he returned, the Beta 5 was still computing, but it wasn't long before it presented its findings.
"In response to nuclear warhead placed in suborbit by other major power, United States today launching suborbital platform with multi-warhead capacity.
"Purpose: To maintain balance of power."
Seven added, "It's the same kind of nonsense that almost destroyed planet Omicron IV. Balance of power won't work. The other side will still launch more, and they'll end up with the sky full of h-bombs waiting for just one mistake."
"Analysis correct. Earth situation similar.
"Mission of agents 201 and 347: Set malfunction on United States rocket."
Seven was pleased. They had chosen the focus point well. Keeping a timeline stable required picking the right key event that enabled the flow to continue with the least possibility of a negative outcome.
"Progress of mission," he said. "Has the rocket been set to malfunction?"
The Beta 5 sent a query to its remote sensors. "Negative. No progress."
Seven's blood went cold, and Isis verbalised their fear with a murmur.
"How much time before launch?" Please, be enough.
"Exactly: one hour 27 minutes 12 seconds."
He flashed a look at his watch, knowing that he had to act fast. Isis, of course, stated the obvious and hopped across the coffee table into his lap.
"Computer, record the following. Unless agents are found immediately, I must undertake their mission." It was the last thing he wanted to do. It had been too many years since he had been in the field. After a moment, he knew he had no choice.
"Computer, produce the documents and credentials necessary to gain me access to the launch site. I'll also need a map of the base and instructions on how to make an exceiver from the rocket's existing guidance system."
On the streets of Manhattan below, Roberta Lincoln was dashing down the sidewalk. It had looked so nice when she had left her apartment this morning, but the fall day was cold and she cursed herself for not wearing a heavier coat over her outfit. The skirts were so short this year. She could feel goosebumps on her goosebumps. She dodged around a man and raced into the building, nervous that she was late for work, the third time in the past two weeks.
The replicator tray slid out on the Beta 5. Seven watched as the green matter field formed the items he requested. He pulled them from the tray and it slid shut. They seemed to be in order. Credentials for the CIA, NSA and the NYPD Homicide Squad would get him past most security personnel. He unfolded the map of McKinley Rocket Base and laid it out on the expansive desktop. It was near Cape Kennedy in Florida and currently handled the U.S. military's launches.
His study of the map was interrupted by a voice calling "Hello?" from the outer office. He pocketed his ID before heading for the door.
Roberta entered the reception office. "Anybody here?" She poked her head around. Her mood brightened when she found it quiet. "Looks like your lucky day, Roberta. They can't dock you if they don't know you're late." She smiled as she hung up her jacket in the closet. As she turned, she was startled to see the inner office door open and a tall, rugged looking man in a very nice suit stepped out, straightening his tie.
He didn't smile when he said challengingly, "Where have you been?"
Roberta seemed oblivious to his mood. "Uh, oh, the subway got stalled…" she fabricated.
"Where have you been for the past three days?" His eyebrows sat flatly above his cold eyes and he placed his hands on his hips, which made him look even bigger. She appeared to be 201, fitting the general physical description, all except for the hair and that could be easily changed. He had never met her personally as she had been already placed in deep cover on Earth 10 years ago. He hadn't been a class one supervisor at that point, and so had not had direct control over the first part of her assignment.
Her eyes narrowed at him suspiciously. "Now wait a minute. Why should I tell you? Who are you anyway?"
He walked up to her and crossed his arms authoritatively. "Where's 347?"
"With 348?" she said blankly, with an annoyingly vapid smile on her face.
"201, code responses are not necessary."
She called what she thought was his bluff. "Listen, friend," she said, the smile vanishing, "maybe I'd just better call the police right now, huh?" Aggressively, she reached beside him for the phone handset, showing no fear of his dominating presence.
"Oh, sit down," he said dismissively, blocking her hand from picking up the phone.
"Who do you think you are?" she said, traces of fear now beginning to show.
"I said: sit down!"
She saw the determination in his eyes and said, "Okay, I will," her voice barely more than a whisper. She sat down at her desk, afraid to move.
Seven was impressed, amusement lighting his stern features, and his body language relaxed. He actually smiled! "I'll say one thing for you, you play your role well. However, that is no longer necessary. I am Supervisor 194, codename: Gary Seven. I need a complete report—"
"Report?" she said disbelievingly.
"Yes, a report. Everything you have done for the past three Earth days! Launch is imminent. I need a quick report on this mission." His annoyance returned. He stabbed a finger, pointing at the typewriter to emphasise his words. Roberta scuttled her chair over to the typing desk.
"Oh…" she said, getting the concept. "Everything I've done?"
Seven rolled his eyes and snagged a piece of typing paper off the top of the pile and handed it to her.
"Everything you've done." He looked at her like a teacher does a particularly slow student. She fed the paper into the typewriter.
"Oh." She composed herself. "Hunh, well, let's see…" she raised her hands to the keys.
"Not with your fingers." He slid his fingertip along the servo touchpad built into the base of the typewriter. It hummed to life.
Now it was her turn to get indignant. "Well, how do you expect me to type? With my nose?!" The typewriter clicked and clacked and she was utterly horrified to see:
How do you expect me to type, with my nose?
on the paper. She looked up at the strange man and said, "Did you see that? The machine typed everything I—"
Did you see that? The machine typed everything I ---
"It's typing everything I'm saying! Stop it. Stop it. Stop it!" She whucked the side of the machine futilely.
It's typing everything I'm saying! --- stop it --- stop it --- STOP IT!
Seven frowned and turned off the typewriter. It was beginning to dawn on him that things might not be what he thought them to be. "Okay, that does it! I quit!" she said angrily, pushing her chair back quickly. She brushed past Seven to get to the closet and her jacket.
"Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You—" he said fumbling.
She waved him off. "I'm quitting right now!" she yanked her coat off the hanger.
His blood ran cold again. "You're not acting are you?!"
"Acting?! I'm leaving!" She grabbed her purse off the desk and strode to the door. "Good-bye!"
This just keeps getting worse and worse, he thought. He reached into his coat and pulled out his servo. As Roberta grabbed the doorknob he fired a pulse and the door lock set itself.
"Hey," she said, trying the door. "Hey!" She glared at him, and then tried to free the lock like a fox caught in a leghold trap.
He touched the remote cube on her desk and said, "Tie into computer." The cube lit up, casting a bright green glow.
"Computer on," it replied.
"Scan unidentified female presence."
"Roberta Lincoln. Human. Profession: secretary."
She forgot her efforts to get out. "Hunh?" This day was getting weirder and weirder. Possessed typewriters, talking green paperweights. Where was the hookah-smoking caterpillar?
"Employed by 347 and 201."
By Aegea, what have I done now?, Seven thought. I'm so rusty it will be lucky if I get out of this one in one piece!
"Description: Age 20. Five feet seven inches. 120 pounds. Hair light brown presently tinted honey blonde. Although behaviour appears erratic, possesses high IQ."
"Hunh," she said again. Then why were my marks in high school so bad?
"Hey!" This was getting a bit personal. She stepped closer to the strange cube, expecting it to grow arms and legs.
"Small mole on left shoulder. Somewhat larger star-shaped mole—"
"Hey!" How on Earth did it know about that?
"Watch it!" she said through her teeth. Roberta slapped her hand down on the cube and it turned off immediately. "Okay, I'll bite. What is it?"
Seven, stunned, sat down on the edge of the desk. He was mentally kicking himself. Sheepishly, he looked at her and said, "Miss Lincoln, nggghhmmm…" He didn't want to hear it. He turned away and wiped his hand down his face. He hoped he didn't look as stupid as he felt just then. "Miss Lincoln, uhm, what kind of work did your employers say they were doing here?" He had to force out each word individually.
Roberta was looking at him like he was an idiot. "Research for a new encyclopædia?" she offered, having the distinct feeling that she was just as much an idiot as he was. "No?" she said. Flabbergasted, he didn't move a muscle. "No," she said with finality, shaking her head.
Just get her out of here. "All right, you can go." He freed the lock with his servo.
There are many things that make a great agent. Intelligence, courage, calm under pressure. By far, adapting to the situation at hand and turning it to your advantage assured your success and survival. For a Beta 5 to say that Miss Lincoln was intelligent was remarkable. Beta 5s were snobs. He hadn't exaggerated. And so he said spontaneously to her back—
"Of course, if you do, you won't be helping your country." He let it fall casually, nonchalantly off his lips. It should strike a nerve with an American. "Unless you don't care about that."
She turned back quickly. "Sure, I care. What do you think I am?"
"I don't know, Miss Lincoln, what you are. Not yet. All I know is that my incompetence has made you aware of some very secret devices that are vital to the security of this nation."
"Oh. Well what are you guys around here anyway?" she asked. "FBI, or some kind of government agents, huh?"
Isis trotted out of the office and meowed to get Seven's attention.
He pulled one of his IDs from his coat pocket and handed it to Roberta. It read Central Intelligence Agency, Colonel Gary Seven, Special Agent.
"Very groovy," she said, handing it back to him.
Isis meowed again, this time more crabbily.
He turned, "Oh, thank you, Isis, I'll be—" He caught himself, getting used to the idea and feeling of kicking himself. "—right in." He sighed.
Isis squawked at him before turning and re-entering the inner office.
Seven looked at Miss Lincoln. He didn't know what he was going to say until he said it. "It's a trained cat." Yes, that was it. "Just like, uh, guard dogs, that kind of thing."
"Yeah?" she said hesitantly.
He turned before she used that keen mind of hers to shred his story. "Oh, don't let anybody in here. I'll be busy."
"Okay," Roberta replied, wondering when she would feel normal again. Did the cat fade out leaving only its smile behind?
Seven closed the door and sat down at his desk for a moment, reviewing his performance thus far. He had smacked himself in the forehead a dozen times before he realised what he was doing. Isis cackled at him. "Yes, Isis," he said wearily, "I know you heard everything, but if you want that bigger apartment on Aegea, just remember who approves those requests. And stop laughing at me!"
Isis merely rolled around on the rug like she had had a particularly good dose of catnip.
He was about to lose his temper when the computer said, "Incoming data on location of agents 201 and 347. One moment…"
At last, he thought. Perhaps they found a better target event at the last moment and had to leave in a hurry. He walked over to the unit and waited for the data to collate.
"Supervisor 194, agents 201 and 347 have been terminated."
The Beta 5's cold voice carried no emotion, only the information, but Seven was still stunned, perhaps by the matter-of-factness with which it had told him. "Details," he managed to force out.
"Occurance: Automobile accident.
"Location: Highway 949. Ten miles north of McKinley Rocket Base. Agents 347 and 201 were killed instantly."
"That just doesn't make sense," he said, shaken. "For them to… die in something as useless a… an automobile accident." He felt a wave of grief wash over him. 347 had been his best operative and a close friend. He and his ancestors had been nurtured by the Aegean culture. It meant he had highly-evolved physical and mental abilities, much like the idea of the ubermensch that bastard Hitler had appropriated. It also meant his emotions were not clamped down upon like most humans in this culture. It took a moment for him to regain control and still Isis heard the pain in his voice when he snapped, "Are the facts verified?"
"Verified. Descriptions of bodies are exact."
What a waste. He felt himself go dead a little. He shook himself. No, I can't afford to withdraw right now. Think of the task at hand.
He heard the doorbell ring in the reception office. "Computer off." It slid back into its hiding place, the bookcase rotating to fit the wall seamlessly.
Roberta got up from her desk where she had been doing yoga breathing to calm herself down and opened the door for two men. The shorter one looked arrogant to her and the taller one was probably ill. His skin had a green pallor to it and he wore a toque. It wasn't that cold out.
They stormed in and the short one demanded, "Where's Mr. Seven?"
"Oh, I don't know what you're talking about. Listen, you guys can't come in here," she replied hurriedly.
"Where's Mr. Seven?" he said more angrily.
"Uh, you can't come in here!" Roberta said, beginning to panic again. "Now get out! What do you think you're doing. This is a government office! You can't come in here!" she shouted.
Good girl, Seven thought, hearing the ruckus in the other room. Those men from the future were very resourceful. He didn't think they'd be able to track his transporter beam. Thinking of that, it was time to leave. On the desk was a pen set. He tipped one of the pens downwards and the case of cocktail glasses slid apart, revealing the bank vault door. He grabbed up Isis and dashed for the transporter.
Roberta was stalling as best she could, but it wasn't swaying the two men at all. "Neither one of you can come in here! This is against the rules!"
"Where is Mr. Seven?" the man said again firmly, looking about the room for hiding places.
The tall, ill-looking one was waving a little device about. "In here, Captain," he said placidly, standing by the door to the inner office.
"What do you think you're doing?! You walk into—"
The short one joined the tall one as they examined the readings on the device.
Roberta was being ignored for the moment. She had a clear path to the phone and dashed to pick it up. She dialled 0, and the operator answered immediately. "Send the police! 811 East 68th Street, apartment 12B!" she managed to spit out before the short one broke the connection with his hand and tried to wrestle the handset out of her grip.
"Give me the phone!" he grunted.
"No! Get your hands off of me, you big jerk! Who do you think you are! Let go!" She was fighting like a banshee.
Seven calmly and quickly turned the combination dial. It beeped and hummed, and then the vault handle turned on its own and the door popped open. Seven looked at the office door, listening to the commotion on the other side. He was suitably impressed by Roberta's performance. He hoped Captain Kirk was as unhappy as he sounded.
Roberta struggled as the captain held her from behind, pinning her arms in a bearhug. She was mad. "What do you think you're doing, you big jerk?! What's the big idea?!"
"Spock," the captain said to the tall one.
"Mr. Seven isn't in! Help! Help!" she wailed.
On the inside of the vault door were a number of controls. Seven inputted the coordinates of McKinley Base, knowing he had only moments before they burst in.
The captain swung her bodily into the arms of the other one.
"Let go of me! Stop it!" she snarled. Spock was even stronger than the captain. The shorter man squeezed past the struggling pair and pulled another device from his overcoat pocket. Roberta kicked at Spock's shins but he still wouldn't let go. "Don't go in— what's the big idea?!" She wormed in his grasp and twisted around. "Get your hands off of me! I mean it!" Her arms were free and she reached back hoping to claw his face, but grabbed his toque instead and yarded it off. Still fighting she twisted around again and stopped dead in his arms when she saw his ears. They were pointed and his eyebrows echoed their shape. He looked like he was from another world.
"What are you?" she squeaked out. Behind them the captain aimed his device and the doorknob blew apart in a bright flash. Roberta wondered just what she had gotten herself involved in.
The blue mist formed and Seven stepped in knowing he would not be stopped. He had the feeling he had forgotten something. Why not, he thought, it's been a great day for blunders so far.
Roberta watched the captain push in the door, the knob still smoking. She heard nothing inside and was surprised and relieved that Seven had hidden himself or gotten away. These men must be enemy agents working for the Russians. She wondered what they would do to her. The man called Spock pulled out her chair for her and sat her down.
When the captain returned he held a document in his hands. "Where's Mr. Seven?" he asked her for the thousandth time.
She kept her composure. "I'm warning you. I've already called the police."
He wasn't listening. He held up the sheet for Spock to see. "Plans to McKinley Rocket Base." Spock's eyebrow cocked up in an interesting expression. They heard footsteps and a voice in the hallway outside. The doorbell rang and then there was a knock.
"Open up in there! Police!"
"Eeeee!" Roberta managed to scream before Spock's hand clamped down over her mouth. She kept screaming and struggled to get up, but he held her firm once again.
More pounding came from the door. "Open up in there! This is the police!!"
The captain pulled yet another device from his pocket, and flipped it open. "Wide scan, Scotty! We'll be moving!" The cops sounded like they were going to break in. The captain jerked his head towards the inner office and said, "Spock, in here!" Spock started to follow him. When Roberta almost broke his grip, he hesitated. "Spock!" he said more urgently. At the last possible moment, Spock let Roberta go and dashed into the office.
Roberta lost no time in jumping up and opening the door for the police. "In there," she pointed wildly. The cops were like bloodhounds, scurrying into the office. Roberta stopped at the doorframe. New York's finest confronted the two intruders with guns drawn.
"Now, Scotty!" the captain shouted.
"What's going on here?!" the older cop said.
All four men stopped dead, and Roberta blew a fuse when she saw them start to glow and shimmer, fading from sight.
Moments later, the two police officers reappeared in exactly the same spot. Both seemed to be in a state of shock. They looked at one another and then at the equally dazed Roberta.
"Where did you go?" she said.
"Uh, nowhere, lady," the younger cop said.
"Listen, you two phonies. I saw what I saw!"
"Uh, why did you want the police, ma'am?" the older one said innocently.
She lost her temper. "Because people are popping in and out of here like a magician's rabbit!"
"Women! A burglar under every bed."
"C'mon, Charlie. We got work to do. Good day, ma'am."
"But, wait, uh, you, uh, oh gosh." The cops hustled out, slamming the door behind them. She heard them run to the elevator.
The mist cleared in front of Seven and Isis and they exited the warehouse. Good, no one saw us drop in, he thought. He stepped out onto the road and surveyed his surroundings. A few people walked past and paid him no attention. He would have had to have passed a dozen security checks just to be on this site.
Isis said she was still hungry, and how handy, there was a food vendor right over there.
"All right," he replied, "no sense in working on an empty stomach, but I'm giving you five minutes." As they looked over the food a klaxxon sounded. Isis said she wanted one of those tubes of meat.
"A hot dog?" he said, drawing a few unusual stares from the other patrons. He shivered at the thought of eating animal flesh, but Isis licked her lips. "All right, girl." To the vendor he said, "A dog with mustard, please. A bottle of that orange juice, and a pack of Beeman's."
"Hmm? Okay, okay. And ketchup on that dog, too," he sighed. "You'll never survive in New York, Isis. They'll think you're crazy."
The voice coming from the loudspeakers spread out all over the base. "Attention! Stand by for launch area clearance! It is now 60 minutes to launch! T minus 60, and counting!"
Seven looked back over his shoulder and saw the huge Saturn V booster looming over the tops of the warehouses. He looked at it with a mixture of apprehension and purpose. If someone had noticed him, they wouldn't have liked the way he did it.
"Here's yer dog, mister," the vendor said.
"Thank you," he said, turning back casually. He reached into his wallet after putting Isis down and gave the man two crisp, new dollar bills. The cat meowed incessantly at his feet. "Give me a break, will you Isis? You're going to get it!"
The vendor looked at him oddly and gave him his change. Seven cracked open the orange juice and took a deep draught. He pocketed the gum and pulled the hot dog off the counter and headed in the direction of the rocket, meowing cat in tow.
Seeing Von Braun's dream like this turned his stomach. Hitler had used Von Braun's rockets to carry death and chaos to England during the war. The Americans gave him a home, the goal to eventually send a man to the moon but they also wanted their weapons of destruction. Seven would have rather been a few miles away at Cape Kennedy enjoying the latest manned spaceflight, but he was here watching the same rocket used to deploy a hideous weapon of mass destruction.
He found a bench in the shade and fed Isis the meat in chunks. "Try and chew it, will you?" he said annoyedly. He needed a moment to go over the map one last time and confirm the shortest route to the rocket was this way. He reached inside and only found his wallet and IDs. His quick mind remembered that it lay on the desk back in New York! Well, I guess it's not so quick after all, he thought, if I can leave it sitting there when I'm here. He exhaled noisily and drained the juice bottle, dropping it into the garbage can. He had the time to do his job, but if the men from the future found the map, as he was sure they must, he could take no chances.
He tossed the rest of the hot dog in the garbage. Isis protested loudly. "Not now, Isis! We have to get there, now." She silenced herself. He had that tone in his voice. She burped when he picked her up. "Cat breath," he muttered.
Walking quickly, he listened when the loudspeakers spoke again. "Attention! It is now 50 minutes to launch! T minus 50 and counting! All systems clear! All systems clear! Standing by for inspection of launch pad!"
He needn't have worried about the map. His mind had recorded the details accurately. He turned out of a narrow alley and found himself outside the Launch Control building. He saw the automobile outside. Its tag read "Launch Director Cromwell".
His planning was interrupted by a stern voice behind him. "You! Speak to you a moment!"
Seven turned and faced a security guard with his hand on his hip-holstered gun. Seven was relieved, happy it wasn't an energy discharge weapon.
"Yeah, sure, Sarge," Seven replied, dropping easily into an attitude that said he was military and that they were all friends. He reached into his coat and pulled out his NSA ID, handing it to the man with a, "There it is."
"I'll have to confirm this, Colonel."
"All right." Isis mewled from her perch in Seven's arms. The guard eyed the animal, thinking it odd for one of these NSA heavies to have affection for anything, let alone a cat.
"Oh, uh, just put the cat down and keep your hands at your side."
"All right," he said casually again, letting Isis drop down. The guard was experienced. He wasn't taken in by Seven's easy manner. His eyes were too sharp for that.
The guard didn't take his eyes off Seven as he opened the call box mounted on the building's wall and picked up the handset. "Give me Security," he said momentarily, "Identification check."
"Be careful, Isis," Seven said, "Don't get stepped on."
Isis rolled her eyes as best she could in her cat form and walked towards the guard's feet.
"Uh, yeah, Security?" the guard said. Isis bumped into his legs and then yowled like her tail was caught in a door. The guard jumped, looking down at what he thought he had stepped on. Isis jumped back.
That half second was all the draw the Aegis agent needed to get his servo out and stun the man. The guard stiffened, his face filled with surprise. Seven grabbed the handset from the guard's mannequin-like hand and said, "Uh, Security, this is, uh…" he mumbled like the guard as best he could, reading the name off the man's nametag, "Sergeant Lipton, an' we got it all straightened out down here."
"Okay, glad you're on the ball," came the reply.
"All right. Thank you very much. Good-bye." He hung up the phone, and put away his servo. "All right, sergeant," he said softly, taking his ID from the man's numb fingers, "now let's just turn right around. We're gonna walk this way." The guard's face melted into a goofy grin as Seven led him across the lot and behind some cars. "You just sit right down right there and have a little nap." The man slumped against the warehouse wall and fell into a peaceful snooze. "Isis," Seven said, "you're an accomplished actress."
"Attention!" the loudspeakers said, "it is now 45 minutes to launch! T minus 45 and counting!"
Seven knew the routines associated with launches. If the guards were all as vigilant as Lipton over there, it would be highly unlikely he'd make it to the gantry undetected. And there was only one way to do it.
He stood behind Launch Director Cromwell's vehicle and pulled out his servo once again, setting it to act as a powerful electromagnet.
"All systems clear! All systems clear! Stand by for inspection of launch pad!" The klaxxon sounded.
Aimed at the trunk lock, the servo clicked the mechanism and the trunk popped up. Seven looked over at Isis.
"Yes, you, who else?!"
"Mrow, rowr," she chittered, hopping into the trunk reluctantly.
"Well then, don't argue with me!" He climbed in and pulled it closed.
"Attention! First alert! First alert! Begin clearing gantry area! Clear launch pad! Safety crew clear launch pad!"
Seven felt a door open, and then the automobile jiggled with the weight of a person getting in. He had to stifle Isis from making a noise of protest.
"All systems continue green! Repeat: all systems still green! Standing by for inspection of launch pad!"
Seven assumed it was Cromwell. The vehicle rumbled to life, and he tried not to think about the fact that he was separated from the vehicle's volatile fuel source by only a few layers of steel. Isis howled once before regaining control. She muttered an apology.
"It's all right, Isis, I'm just as afraid as you are," he said to soothe her. He spent the ride trying not to have his head bump on the inside of the trunk lid. He was not entirely successful.
After a number of minutes, the klaxxon sounded again. Over the rumble of the automobile, Seven strained to hear the loudspeaker.
"Attention! Stand by for launch area clearance! Range safety verified! Launch Director now enroute to rocket gantry to confirm launch pad clear! Ground stations 3, 4, and 11 stand by for confirmation! Repeat: stand by for launch area clearance!"
Seven smiled, but it quickly faded as Cromwell jerked the vehicle to a stop, jamming the agent into the back of the trunk painfully. "Ow, ow, ow," he said almost noiselessly.
"Give him a second to get out first, Isis," he whispered, rubbing his back. They heard another vehicle pull up and Cromwell got out. "Hi Jack," he said.
"Mr. Cromwell," the other man said in reply.
"Launch Director at gantry, beginning final check," Cromwell said. Seven assumed he was talking to Launch Control.
Seven and Isis heard the men walk away, and they waited a minute to be sure. He popped the trunk a crack and looked out. Isis squinted at the daylight. Good, it was all clear.
"Attention! It is now 35 minutes to launch! T minus 35 minutes and counting!"
He let the lid up all the way and Isis hopped out, meowing indignantly. No, not a graceful way to travel at all, he agreed.
Seven looked around quickly before making his way to the service elevator.
"Canary Islands confirming! They are go for launch! All ground stations confirm go!" came the voice of ground control over the speakers.
It wasn't long before Cromwell and his men returned, satisfied that no one had been left behind. "Lock the elevator at the top, Lieutenant! Time to get out of here!" Cromwell ordered.
"Attention! Clear launch pad! Repeat: clear launch pad and gantry!"
The elevator began its ascent to the top of the rocket. Seven stepped out from the back of the car, looking down at the men getting into their vehicles and driving off. The agent felt only relief as he was lifted up, away from their world. It was chaos, barely controlled.
He turned away from his human concerns and faced the rocket. They were so small below, and yet they could dream like this! Isis hopped up on his shoulders and he loosened the constricting tie around his neck. The work he had to do would be delicate and he wanted to be as comfortable as possible.
Back in New York, Roberta had thought about it. A lot. After the cops had made a hasty exit, she had been left alone. No one had told her any more cockamamie stories. No one had done anything weird. It was silent in the office apartment. She was sitting at her desk, almost afraid to move. She had come to the conclusion she wasn't hallucinating. The cops had pretty much confirmed that. Drained, she rested her chin on her hands.
She looked down at the green paperweight on the desk without moving her head. "Computer on," she said, half joking.
Immediately it went "Boing!" and lit up briefly, but did nothing else.
"Far out," she whispered.
It boinged again. She picked it up and rolled it around in her hands, trying to find a switch, or a way to open it. There wasn't any and it appeared to have been carved out of a single piece of green crystal. Maybe there were some answers in his office.
She stood up and walked purposefully into the other room, her fear and anxiety having passed for the moment. Setting the cube down on the large desk, she said, "Computer on," again. But still it only boinged at her.
"Scan me," she said, trying a different approach, "where is my star-shaped mole?"
She tried a number of different questions. Who is Mr. Seven anyways? Who had she been working for these past few weeks? None of them gave her anything more than a boing.
"All right, don't answer," she said angrily, her frustration returning, "but you can tell him I quit. And you can tell him I promise not to tell anybody anything. He's safe." She was rationalising, and she knew it. "And you're safe, my little green friend."
"Same to you." She plopped down on the edge of the desk, not convinced if she really should leave. "Oh," she sighed in defeat, leaning back on her hands. Her hand knocked the pen set, flipping down the pen that opened the shelving unit. After the shocks earlier, this one wasn't so bad. Expensive to hide a vault like that. She walked over to it. Examining the combination locks, she thought they looked odd. Instead of numbers there were strange symbols around them. Somehow they seemed to make sense to her. If Roberta gave herself credit for her intelligence she would have realised that her brain had the ability to analyse underlying patterns where there didn't seem to be any, and she wouldn't have been as surprised as she was when, after a few twists and turns of the two dials, the vault door swung open on smooth hinges. "Oh!" she exclaimed, getting out of its way.
She barely paused to look at the inside of the vault. As soon as she saw more dials on the inside of the door she couldn't resist figuring out their puzzle as well.
Seven let the elevator go right to the top. It was where he wanted to be. He set Isis down.
"Meooo…" she said.
"Yes, I know you're not afraid of heights, Isis."
"Me mee mee yurrrr…" she caterwauled.
"No," he muttered, "I'm not particularly fond of them. It's not polite to make fun of your supervisor." He let his eyebrows lie heavily over serious eyes. Isis stepped aside. Seven opened the door and looked out. No, no. Don't look down, that won't do you any good. He loosened his tie a little more and carefully stepped out onto the platform. Ooh! Okay, a little windy out here. Fine. He gingerly stepped over the chain barrier and crawled out onto the gantry arm. The control systems were right in front of him, behind an access panel on the rocket.
The loudspeakers below startled him. "Attention! 20 minutes to launch! T minus 20 minutes and counting! All systems continue green! Repeat: all systems still green!"
The cat chirped.
"Give me a minute, will you." Memo: don't bring Isis on next global crisis. He slid along the arm until he was close enough to work. Isis crawled up his backside and poked her head under his arm as he reached for the servo in his pocket.
"Yes, thank you. I know how to open it." He dialed in the setting and zapped the panel open. Not content to be quiet, Isis crawled up on his shoulder to look inside the rocket.
"All right, I know there's not much time." Seven looked at his assistant. This was something more than her usual cat calls. His own gut was unsettled, and he guessed that hers was no better. Neither of them relished being this close to a nuclear weapon. She crawled back to sit on his legs.
It took him only moments to figure out the crude circuitry. It was the guidance system all right. Sliding his hand in carefully, he began to disconnect wires and change the missile's programming.
"T minus 15 minutes and counting!" His hand twitched only a millimetre. Easy Seven, don't lose that famous cool now. Yellow wire with white band, cross-connect to yellow wire with black band. Bypass circuit A803. How primitive and complex! On Aegea, something like this would be a small chip, easily reprogrammed verbally in seconds.
"T minus 14 and counting!"
Isis paced the gantry arm. "MEEEOOOWRRRR!"
"Meee-yowww," Seven replied mockingly. "You are nervous, aren't you doll?"
"All right," he sighed, "I'm going as fast as I can." Blue wire with red stripe, remove. Replace with split red wire with white stripe.
"T minus 13 minutes and counting! Status board looks good! Stages look good! All systems go! Status board says go!"
Seven didn't have time to smile at being undetected. Just a few minutes to go and he was barely two thirds done! He resisted the urge to speed up his hand. He was going as fast as he could without the risk of making an error. There was no room for that. He wiped the sweat from his eyes.
"T minus 8 minutes and counting! All systems go! Status board go!" Green wire with yellow stripe rewire to junction C5…
And then the unthinkable happened. It started as a high-pitched whine, and then he felt it in his body. No! Not now! He quickly sat up and pulled Isis into his arms. His vision shimmered and he knew where he was headed. The gantry faded from sight and he felt like he was in the grip of the Enterprise's transporter once again, but then he was in the familiar blue mist. The office in New York was forming. But how?!
He stood up and exited the matter stream. Roberta stood there gawking at him.
"What are you doing?" he said angrily. "I wasn't finished!"
"I'm sorry," she wailed, "I just touched that button right there, and then…wow!"
He bit down his anger when he realised what had happened. "You must have intercepted the Enterprise trying to beam me onboard."
There was no time to get back to the rocket now. He walked across the room, dropping Isis to the floor. "Computer on!" It swung out immediately.
Well, blow my ever-lovin' mind, Roberta thought.
"Lock into launch site scan!" Seven barked.
The circular screen filled with an image of the Saturn V booster. "One minute to launch," the Beta 5 replied.
"Ohh-migosh!" Roberta quivered.
Seven said nothing. Well, Captain, it looks like I may have created your future for you after all. Mind you, it's 30 years early. Shouldn't change the timeline too much. He had never felt lower, had never failed like this.
"30 seconds to launch."
Roberta looked at him intently. "Look, uh, hey, I mean, like, uh, not even the CIA could do all this." Suddenly she was very, very scared.
"15 seconds to launch." Seven was like a statue, his eyes staring flatly at the screen.
"10 seconds. nine seconds. eight se—"
"Computer," Seven spat, "cease verbal countdown."
In silence, he and the Roberta watched the rocket. The engines flared and moments later she lifted from the pad, firing flame Earthward.
"Rocket achieving necessary acceleration for Earth orbit, passing the one mile mark."
Seven had been unsure whether the missile would get off the ground or not. His anger was beginning to fade and he took a moment to consider his options. The Beta 5 marked off the altitude in five mile increments. By the time it said, "Rocket passing 20 mile mark and accelerating," he had an idea.
"Computer, adjustments at the rocket base were not completed. Can I still take over the rocket as planned?"
Take over? Roberta thought. Whoa!
A moment later the Beta 5 replied, "Rocket control possible with exceiver circuits operated manually."
Thank Aegea for small miracles! "Exceiver on manual," he said, hoping for a way to solve this. "Lock into flight telemetry. Visual off." Don't be distracted by images. Think it through.
Roberta backed up while Seven worked at the computer console, absorbed in his task. She picked up the phone on the desk and punched the 0. But she didn't count on Isis. The cat re-entered the office at just the right, or wrong, moment. She screeched a warning at Seven, and he whipped around firing the servo at the phone's cord. It disintegrated into a puff of dust.
Casually, he turned back to the console. "Roberta, please don't try to leave. You'll find all the doors locked."
Roberta couldn't believe the cat! She stared at it, trying to comprehend how it knew what she had been doing. She swore the cat was giving her a snotty look, and the way it was meowing at her!
"Are you jealous, Isis?" Seven said smoothly. "Most unbecoming." At which, Isis spun around and went back out into the reception room, tail held high in indignation.
"Rocket altitude now 100 miles," said the Beta 5. "Standing by to begin malfunction as planned."
"Begin malfunction of third stage," Seven ordered.
"Exceiver setting now nine zero point zero eight."
"Nine zero point zero eight," he confirmed.
"Second stage ready to detach."
"Second stage detaching. Third stage igniting," the Beta 5 continued. Seven watched the spent section drift away from the rocket.
"Begin malfunction, take it off course."
"Malfunction setting correct. Rocket veering from planned course."
Roberta was trying to figure this all out. What was happening?
"Arm the warhead," Seven said.
"Accomplished. Nuclear warhead now armed. Set exceiver nine one point two one eight."
"Exceiver nine one point two one eight."
He paid no attention to Roberta. She was feeling like a fool. This Mr. Seven was a madman! Her eye spotted a heavy metal cigar box on the desk.
Seven never saw it coming. He didn't even feel the blow to the back of his skull, but he went down for the second time today. He lay there like a stunned fish. Oddly enough, the viewscreen turned itself off.
"Look, I'm sorry," Roberta said apologetically, kneeling down to make sure she hadn't hurt him too much, "but, uh, like you asked me, I do care about my country, and you can't be CIA."
"Orbital platform separating," the Beta 5 reported.
Roberta plucked Seven's servo from his coat pocket, mimicking his hand movements by twisting the barrel. It bleeped and blooped like it had done for him, so she was pretty sure she had a powerful weapon in her hands. "Hold it!" she said to him forcefully as he struggled to shake off the blow to the head.
"Computer! Rocket status!" he spat out between clenched teeth.
"Hold it, Mr. Seven! I'm tellin' you you're through monkeying around with my country's rocket!" It took a superhuman effort for him to bring himself to his knees. Spots swam before his eyes. Roberta kept her distance, her aim not wavering from him for a moment.
"Warhead still armed. Six minutes to impact."
"Hold— just don't move! You've done enough already!" she yelled hysterically as he nearly gained his feet. He sat back heavily, twisting around to face her. He did not have a pleasant expression on his face. Far from it, Roberta had never seen such naked hostility in someone before.
"Roberta you've got to let me finished what I've started! Or in six minutes World War III begins!"
"Flight path continuing on target," the computer said emotionlessly.
Young Miss Lincoln hesitated at that. Clearly, she did not want to have this responsibility, but she had no other choice. Seven crawled over to the very bright orange chair and hauled himself up and sat down, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Roberta, you're not going to believe this. I am not CIA, I am not even a citizen of this planet."
"What're you talking about?! Y'know, I've just about had enough goofball stories and crazy stuff for one day!"
"I am from another planet, one that wants to help Earth survive. We are far more advanced than you are and we know what you are going through."
"Then explain you, Mr. Seven. Why- why do you look like one of us if you aren't, one of us."
"I am human, Roberta. My ancestors were taken from here thousands of years ago so that they could learn and train how to help the rest of their people. On thousands of worlds out there, agents like myself help races grow up without destroying themselves."
"I've seen the Day of the Triffids… and Invasion of the Body Snatchers… and War of the Worlds, mister! How do I know you're not some invading alien who wants to conquer us?"
"Rocket descending and accelerating. Do you have further instructions, 194?"
Thankfully he recognised the title of the last one. "Roberta, you've got to believe me," he pleaded, "Look, a truly advanced planet wouldn't use force. They wouldn't come here in strange alien forms! The best of all possible methods would be to take human beings, train them for generations until they're needed here—"
She cut him off. "Mr. Seven, I want to believe you. I— I do. I mean, I know this world needs help. That's why some of my generation are… kinda crazy and rebels, y'know. We wonder if we're gonna be alive when we're 30."
"Two minutes to impact," the Beta 5 reminded. Seven couldn't help himself, he stood up and looked over at the console. Roberta didn't stop him. Maybe if he explained exactly what he was doing and why. It was unorthodox, but it was one of days.
"Hold it right there, Mr. Seven," said Captain Kirk, as he entered the room with his Vulcan crewmember. Oh, for the love of Isis!
"Oh no!" Roberta said. Not them again.
Kirk lost no time in taking control. He had the phaser aimed at Seven. "Spock, you're the expert, can you detonate the warhead from this computer?"
"I can try, Captain."
"Altitude 550 miles," the computer said. Seven watched as Spock tried to comprehend the Beta 5's controls.
"Captain," he said, pushing down his panic, "I want that warhead detonated too. Unless I do it, at least a hundred miles above ground, just barely in time, frighten them out of this arms race—"
A device beeped from Kirk's pocket. He retrieved it and flipped it open. "Captain," came a voice from it, "monitors show all major powers on full missile alert. Retaliatory strike ordered on warhead impact!"
"Altitude 450 miles."
"Spock," Kirk said with feeling.
"I can estimate some of this, Captain. But without more time—"
Seven's temper flared. "Captain, he can only guess! Will you please let me do my job?!"
"I don't know what your job is! You may set those controls so we can't detonate that warhead!" the little man countered.
"Listen you! Get away from him!" Roberta snarled at Seven's side, levelling the servo suddenly at the man from the future.
Seven's hand was a blur and he had the servo pointing at the ceiling, holding Roberta's hand in a viselike grip before anyone could react. "Roberta, be careful! The servo was set to kill." He took it from her hand and passed it to Captain Kirk.
"Altitude 400 miles." Spock was still having no luck with the Beta 5.
He felt he had shown his good intentions, and so he tried, "There are only seconds. I'll need time to set it."
"Please," Roberta added, "he's telling the truth."
Kirk, unsure of what to do, backed over to his shipmate.
"55 seconds to impact."
"Spock, if you can't handle it, I'm going to have to trust him."
"It is difficult to know which is best, Captain."
"40 seconds to impact."
Seven wondered how many decisions the captain had had to make like this. He wondered if he relished them, the knot in the stomach, the sweat on the brow.
"Without facts, the decision cannot be made logically. You must rely on your human intuition," Spock added.
"Altitude 300 miles. Descending and accelerating."
"Go!" Kirk said suddenly.
"30 seconds and accelerating."
"Computer go to visual!" The two men from the future stepped back, the decision made. It all rested on a man they knew less than nothing about. The heart of Eurasia was fast approaching on the screen. "Count by tens!" Seven said tersely, recalibrating the controls Spock had tried to work.
"190 miles. 180 miles."
Furiously he accessed the command paths.
"170 miles. 160 miles."
Punching keys too fast he missed the sequence by one digit. No!
"150, 140, 130, 120…"
Frantically, he tried to re-key. It was too late! It—
The screen flared brilliantly, causing them to squint their eyes painfully. No one moved.
"Detonation: 104 miles."
Only then did Gary Seven let the weight of the day press upon him and he sagged heavily on his arms before turning to look at the others. He managed to force out a small smile. He pushed himself upright, beginning to notice the considerable bump on the back of his head. His hand rubbed it gingerly.
"Oh gosh," Roberta said, embarrassed. "Oh gosh, I'm so sorry, Mr. Seven."
"It's all right, Miss Lincoln," he said, feet shuffling towards the reception room, "it's just the kind of day I've been having." He opened the door and stepped out.
He could not believe his eyes. His stupid cat was curled up in a ball on the couch, fast asleep!
"Isis!" he yelled. Oh, that was a mistake. His head throbbed and he saw spots again. He sat down heavily on the couch next to the very much awake cat, and promptly passed out.
Roberta poked her head out and saw him sprawled there, the cat curling up once again, and knew that he had had enough for one day. She closed the door quietly and turned to face the two men in the bad clothes.
"Look you two, I'm still angry at you for earlier, so don't you try anything funny!"
"We wouldn't dream of it, Miss Lincoln," Kirk said, smirking.
"I want Mr. Seven's servo back, please," she said commandingly, her palm outstretched.
Kirk passed it to her wordlessly.
"Now, you go and disintegrate, y'know, whatever it is that you did before. You can come back tomorrow. Mr. Seven needs his rest now. It's not every day you save the world," she said proudly.
"No, Miss Lincoln," Spock said drily, "it is not. Captain?"
"Why would I argue with such a lovely young lady?" he replied with a boyish grin.
Roberta merely slitted her eyes and crossed her arms.
Kirk's smile disintegrated, and after a, "Scotty, two to beam up," so did their bodies.
"Hmph," she muttered, "you'd think that in the future men would have grown up!"
Seven had come to an hour later, but Roberta had merely dragged him through his office to the adjoining apartment on the other side. No amount of protest would dissuade her, so he quit arguing. He took the shower she told him to take, and he went to bed right after.
Maybe Earth isn't as barbaric as it used to be after all, he thought, his head sinking into the thick pillow. He was out almost immediately.
Isis curled up between his legs. This agent stuff was too hard on a girl!
The next morning Seven awoke, his legs twisted under the sheets. He never understood why he just couldn't kick Isis off the bed in his sleep. His body always accommodated the cat's peace, and as such his legs ached from contorting themselves around her furry form. Well, I'm conscious now.
"Isis! Wake up! Off the bed! I'm all fouled up here. Go on! Get up, you lazy cat!"
Isis protested, groggily sitting up. "Mrraaawwwww…"
"Don't give me that."
"Well then, go and have a shower! It's in there," he said, pointing to the door. The cat hopped down off the bed and walked towards the bathroom. Her body began to shimmer and shift and by the time she had reached the door, her meow had become a hum.
He didn't like her good mood. "Y'know, Isis, we're going to have a talk later about your performance yesterday!" he called through the closed door.
Her humming paused. "And what could I have done, Seven? I'm not up on the Beta 5, and I doubt that I could have influenced Kirk and Spock any more than you and that blonde could have."
"Well, um, yeah, and her name's Roberta!" Oh, that sounded authoritative. Isis was humming again. He walked into the kitchen and ran the cold water tap, splashing some of it on his face before filling a tumbler and drinking.
"How can you go to sleep when there's a crisis…" he muttered to himself as he pulled on a red mock turtleneck and a cream coloured suit from 347's closet. Luckily, they were near the same size. He pulled his comb from the other suit and straightened his hair before leaving the bedroom for the office.
Seven sat down at the desk and said, "Computer on." It slid out, lights blinking readiness. For the next hour he read reports, closed files and attended to the arrangements for 201 and 347. They had been thorough and professional, but as is unavoidable in their line of work they had established relationships and Seven would have to notify those people. Some he could call. Others, friends, he would have to visit. Then he could recover the bodies and transport them back to Aegea for cremation and a memorial service. Oh, 201 wanted to be buried here on Earth. It was not unheard of.
He was about to begin his own assignment report when he heard the reception door open and close. He glanced at his watch. 8:55. She was early. He smiled, touching the bump on the back of his head. It was much reduced with a night's rest.
"In here, Roberta!" he called through the closed door.
"Oh, hello," she said brightly, opening the door. "Uh, how are you today?"
"Much better, Miss Lincoln," he said easily. He looked puzzled. "Is that the same dress?" Bright, very bright. He liked the colours in the Forties much better.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, uh, well, y'see I went to this party last night after I left here, and um, well, I haven't been to bed yet. I, uh, needed to go out and be crazy after, after yesterday," she said nervously.
"That's all right, Roberta," he said soothingly, "we really put you to the test yesterday. The question is: can you handle what's happened? Do you need some help understanding all of it?"
She thought about, biting her lip. "Mmmm, no… I think I picked it all up yesterday. Was there something I missed?"
He chuckled. "Roberta, you didn't miss a thing," he said, wiping his brow with his hand. Isis walked in, her coat looking particularly glossy. "Well, aren't you looking pretty, doll."
He scowled at her. Roberta eyed the cat suspiciously. She was more of a dog person.
The Beta 5 spoke. "Incoming transmission from ship in orbit. Audiovisual data."
Seven got up and Roberta joined him in front of the screen. "Go to visual." The Scottish man from the transporter room appeared.
"This is Lieutenant Commander Scott aboard the Enterprise," he said with a burr, "the captain and Mr. Spock wish to beam down." He eyed Seven with dour doubt.
"Certainly, Commander. At their convenience."
"Acknowledged." The screen went blank.
"I don't think he likes you," Roberta said.
A hum grew out of the silence and two figures shimmered and coalesced. Kirk and Spock were back in uniform. "Good day, Mr. Seven, Miss Lincoln," Kirk said kindly. "It's nice to be here under more, hospitable circumstances." He shook both their hands.
"Greetings," Spock said not offering his hand, but nodding deferentially.
"We had a close call," said Roberta.
"I'm just glad it worked out, Captain," Seven added. "I was about to dictate my report. I'd appreciate your input."
"Certainly, Mr. Seven. It would be, our pleasure," Kirk replied.
They adjourned to the reception room. Seven walked over to the typewriter and fed in a sheet of paper. He touched the servo switch and the machine hummed to life. It didn't take long to tell the typewriter the story. Kirk and Spock stood while Roberta sat down, and Isis perched on the black leather couch. The men from the future added their point-of-view to Seven's report, as did Roberta, and the meowing cat which Seven translated. Roberta kept eying the hairball.
Wrapping up, Seven said, "And in spite of the accidental interference with history, by the Earth ship from the future, the mission was completed." Isis did not like the blonde much at all and certainly did not like being stared at by her.
"Correction, Mr. Seven," Spock said, "it appears we did not interfere. Rather, the Enterprise was simply part of what was supposed to happen on this day in 1968."
Roberta looked over again and was stunned to see a beautiful woman sitting where the cat had been a moment before! She had long, silky black hair, and wore a revealing black dress, if you could call it that. And around her neck she wore a diamond necklace that looked exactly like the one the cat wore.
"Yes, our record tapes show, although never generally revealed, that on this date, a malfunctioning sub-orbital warhead was, exploded, exactly 104 miles above the Earth," Kirk added.
"Well, so everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to." Seven lifted himself out of the low chair and sat on the edge of Roberta's desk.
The three men were not paying attention to what was going on behind them. Roberta walked over to the couch and took a close look at the woman. No, it wasn't an illusion, and she had that same snotty look in her eyes that the darn cat did! She hummed and nearly purred, not moving a muscle.
"And you'll be pleased," Spock continued. "Our records show that it resulted in a new and stronger international agreement against the use of such weapons."
"Do you mind telling me who that is?" Roberta interrupted, asking Seven indignantly.
He barely saw Isis shift back to cat, but he still saw it. One of these days, Isis…
"That, Miss Lincoln, is simply my cat." Really, I'm innocent, he was saying.
"Your cat?" she said disbelievingly. All eyes turned to the couch. The cat sat there going, who me? before it scratched its diamond collar with a determined hind leg.
Change the subject, change the subject… "What else do your record tapes show?" Seven said, turning his attention back to the men from the future.
"I'm afraid we can't reveal, everything, we know, Mr. Seven," Kirk said, smiling.
"Captain, we could say that Mr. Seven and Miss Lincoln have some… interesting experiences in store for them."
"Yes, I think we, could, say that." Kirk flipped open his communication device. "Two to beam up, Scotty."
"Live long and prosper, Mr. Seven," Spock said kindly.
"The same to you, Miss Lincoln," Kirk added. "Energise!"
Seven watched Roberta's face as she watched the two men dematerialise. Well, they may have gotten some things wrong, having crossed realities as well as time to get here, but I think they're right about Roberta. He smiled. He needed someone to keep Isis on her toes. The catwoman had gotten too comfortable in her position as his assistant.
He wondered how Roberta would like life on Aegea.