A fiery nebula and stellar nursery

Paradox

In attendance: Admiral Mitchell, Captain Prax, Commander Arnet, Lt. Commander Fuller, First Lt. Melina, Lt JG Rayus, Nurse Ceja, Citizen Drosan

The Wotal, former enemies of the Potemkin and the Federation, have finally consolidated under a new government following the death of their despotic ruler, Rin. The new leader is none other than Ser, former ambassador to the Federation before Rin's takeover. Considering Ser's previous history with the Potemkin, Admiral Mitchell and his crew have been sent to rendezvous with the Wotal flagship to formally re-open relations between the two great powers.

While Potemkin crew waits--somewhat impatiently--for Ser and her Wotal delegation to arrive at the agreed-upon coordinates, they hear a loud "pop" from the turbolift. As the bridge crew watches, the turbolift opens and a woman stumbles out and falls to her knees. She is dressed in a Starfleet uniform--science blue--which is dirty and torn. Her face is marked with soot, and her long blond hair is in disarray. While Doctor Arnet and Nurse Ceja rush to her aid, Admiral Mitchell tries to place the crewman's face--and can't.

"I did it. I'm back! Oh, I've never been so happy to see this bridge," the woman says. "Commander Prax. Captain Mitchell. I'm sorry for showing up so unexpectedly and in this condition." Captain Prax remarks upon his apparent demotion in the stranger's eyes, and Ceja reports she must have been close to an explosion to have sustained her wounds. "I'm sorry... You seem to know us, but... Who are you?" the Admiral asks.

The strange woman is stunned. Nicole? Nicole Cervanny? Chief Science Officer of the Potemkin? Don't they recognize her? But of course they don't. She claims to have only been gone for twelve hours, and when she's told the stardate it reckons with when she left. When Prax searches Starfleet's databases, however, Nicole Cervanny comes up as the Chief Science Officer of the USS Ibn Khaldun. Worse, she doesn't recognize Varric Drosan, who has been aboard the Potemkin for some time now, and thinks the ship's Chief Medical Officer is Doctor Krump, the erstwhile temporary replacement for Arnet while the Potemkin's CMO was on leave. Prax also reports that a Nicole Cervanny recently went AWOL from the Ibn Khaldun.

Nicole Cervanny is distraught. This can't be happening! Melina's console beeps at Ops--the Wotal flagship has arrived. Admiral Mitchell opens communications, and Cervanny reacts as though the Wotal are still enemies, insisting the Admiral raise shields and arm phasers. While the doctors on the bridge try to calm her, Ser introduces Warp to the Deputy Prime Minister of Wotal, Fel, who seems less excited about this meeting than his Prime Minster is.

As Arnet and Ceja begin to take Nicole Cervanny to sickbay for further examination, Captain Prax interrupts to ask her about her reaction to the Wotal. She insists that the Federation is still at war with the Wotal, and that Fel, the man standing beside Ser, is the Wotal leader. She knows things about the Potemkin too--like what happened to Allayah, Prax's former fiancee. It was Prax who selected Cervanny to replace her, she tells him.

While Cervanny is escorted to sickbay by Arnet, Ceja, and Prax, Admiral Mitchell and Varric Drosan go to meet the Wotal delegation in the transporter room. When the Wotal arrive, the Admiral introduces Drosan, who explains that he's here to do a follow-up piece for the FNS. The last time he visited the Wotal honeworld, he tells Ser, its leader tried to kill him. Ser laughs, and assures Drosan that this time around things will be very different. With everyone now friends--except perhaps the surly Fel--the group sets out for the bridge.

In sickbay, Cervanny has a strange story to tell. In her pocket she has a Lektor, a device given to her by Lieutenant Nguyen. She began conducting tests on the object to test its properties, and soon discovered that it was capable of bending space-time. "Something happened. I called Marquez just in case there was a security concern. There was a power spike, a radiation fluctuation, I'm not sure what. But before I knew it there was a loud "pop" and...and...suddenly there we were." "There" was a ship, or a space station, she wasn't sure which. Though it sounds as though she is from an alternate dimension or another timeline, Ceja can find no sub-cellular markers that distinguish her from the present reality.

Before Cervanny finishes her story--or explains the whereabouts of Marquez--she wrenches a sedative hypospray from Arnet's hands and injects him with it and runs away. "Never trust a blond with a doctorate," Arnet says, and he collapses as Captain Prax gives chase.

On the bridge, Melina alerts the Admiral, in the presence of their Wotal guests, to trace amounts of chronitons in the turbolift--undoubtedly a residual effect from the arrival of Nicole Cervanny. While Fel belligerently prods Drosan to give him Federation public opinion on the Wotal, Fuller receives a call from Prax to disable the turbolift outside sickbay. Admiral Mitchell understands immediately, but before he and Drosan can move their guests to a safer location, Cervanny rushes onto the bridge from the ramp. Fuller immediately draws a phaser on her, which brings her up short, but she insists Fel is not who he says he is. She claims he is a war criminal, "The Butcher of Archer IV."

Fel categorically denies the allegations, and Admiral Mitchell demands Cervanny return to sickbay. Cervanny refuses, appealing to Ser to trust her. A standoff ensues, leading to tensions among the new "friends." Under duress from both Cervanny's accusations and Drosan's constant questions, Fel demands to be returned to his ship. Admiral Mitchell of course agrees, and with apologies he agrees to reschedule the meeting with Ser and her Deputy Minister so that they might start negotiations afresh. She also promises to follow up on the allegations against Fel.

In sickbay, Ceja is still trying to understand where Cervanny could have come from if she isn't from another universe or dimension, and Arnet has a theory. Perhaps Cervanny IS from this universe after all, but in tampering with the Lektor she has unwittingly changed her own timeline, resulting in the one the Potemkin crew currently knows as reality. Rather than finding themselves disoriented and displaced due to time travel, the Potemkin crew now finds themselves the other side of the coin--THEY are the new continuity, and it is Cervanny who is out of place. "I hate temporal mechanics," Prax says. "It's all wibbly-wobbily timey-whimey. It hurts the head too much."

The situation with Fel dispelled for the moment, Cervanny finishes her story. The war with Wotal, for her reality, started ten years ago, but the Federation in the Potemkin's reality hasn't known the Wotal for that long. Arnet has an inspiration--where were she and Marquez sent by the Lektor? She doesn't know, but there were explosives there, lots of them, and they appeared to be of Wotal design. Marquez was shot dead from somewhere across the room. The phaser fire touched off the explosives, and before she knew what was happening--POP--she was back on the Potemkin. Or, on A Potemkin.

As Ceja consoles Cervanny, Warp receives a call from Prime Minister Ser. She has just survived an attempt on her life--by Fel! Though Cervanny is vindicated, she is still in tears. She is lone in a strange universe, where people and things she knows are just a little different--a little WRONG. Ser extends her apologies and her thanks, and Admiral Warp promises to do everything he can to get Cervanny home. Unfortunately, Arnet points out, getting her home will mean changing the Potemkin's current timeline. Changing EVERYTHING...

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