A fiery nebula and stellar nursery

Indistinguishable from Magic, Part II

In attendance: Admiral Mitchell, Commander Bom, Commander Arnet, Commander Tora, First Lt. Melina, Nurse Ceja, Ensign Aklar, Citizen Drosan

The year is 1764. The location: Catherine the Great's Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Potemkin crew has been whisked to the past by the Traveler Wesley Crusher, who appears able to bend space and time to his will using a science far in advance of anything known to the Federation. Crusher has collected the Potemkin away team for a singular purpose: to discover why Grigory Potemkin, the 18th century Russian statesman and namesake of the USS Potemkin, is radiating a warp signature. Specifically, the USS Potemkin's warp signature.

Thanks to a science glamour worked by the Traveler, the away team appear to the locals in period-correct costumes, with their futuristic weapons and devices disguised as period-specific analogs. (Phasers appear to be pistols, rifles appear to be cutlasses, tricorders appear to be pocket watches.) All devices work as their future incarnations though--even though it looks like a pistol, it still shoots a phaser.

Wesley Crusher still has all the youthful excitement of an acting ensign on the bridge, and delightedly explains that what the Potemkin crew is seeing isn't magic, it's science--but science so sufficiently advanced that it is indistinguishable from magic to them. He also thinks he knows someone who can help him answer how this "magic trick" was done, and before leaving admonishes the Potemkin away team not to let any harm befall Potemkin the man, lest they also lose Potemkin the ship--and probably a fair chunk of recorded history too.

No sooner has Wesley departed, of course, than Potemkin demands the satisfaction of Grigory Orlov, his main rival at court for the affections of Catherine the Great. Despite the entreaties of Doctor Arnet and Admiral Warp, Potemkin refuses to yield, and the duel is set. Sabers at dusk.

Nurse Ceja, meanwhile, has found something else out of place using her tricorder/pocket watch: a tetrahedral quartz rock bathed in antineutrinos. When Orlov is gone, Potemkin admits to the away team that he has challenged Orlov to a duel not only out of a sense of honor, but also to keep him occupied while someone sneaks into his rooms and steals the large diamond he is rumored to have bought to win Catherine's affections. It doesn't take too big a leap for the Potemkin crew to understand that this "diamond" and the tetrahedral quatrz are probably one and the same.

Potemkin enlists the aid of the Admiral's "sailors," assuming them to be men and women of action, and further asks the Admiral to be his second, with Doctor Arnet in attendance. Potemkin wants a doctor because he knows Orlov is the more skilled swordsman, and expects to be injured. Arnet is once again indignant, but Potemkin will not be swayed.

After a hasty conference, Admiral Mitchell and Commander Bom agree that both Potemkin and the mysterious "diamond" bear attention. Mitchell takes the doctor and Varric Drosan with him, while Bom's team includes Commander Tora, First Lt. Melina, Nurse Ceja, and Ensign Aklar.

Outside on a snow-covered plaza, a small crowd of aristocrats gathers to watch what they hope is a blood bath. Using his native Betazoid abilities, Varric Drosan discovers that, by the rules of the engagement, Potemkin, having demanded satisfaction, may deem himself satisfied and call off the the duel any time after first blood is drawn. Satisfied that they can bring a swift end to the duel if Potemkin can avoid a mortal blow, the three Potemkin crew members watch on with barely concealed anxiety.

In the hallway upstairs, Melina's scans and Tora's ocular implant--under Crusher's glamour, an apparent monocle--reveal three people in Orlov's room. Ceja and Melina, pretending to be ditsy socialites who have lost their way, barge into the room to find two of Orlov's brothers guarding it. At first the men are on their guard, but soon they fall for the women's act and turn their backs on the door. When the moment is right, Bom and Tora burst in and blast them in the back with phasers, meaning to keep them from seeing the future technology.

In the snowy plaza below, another blow has been struck. Orlov, clearly a better swordsman, has duped Potemkin into thinking he's doing well, and as Potemkin moves in for an ill-judged lunge, Orlov cuts him along his side. Potemkin stagers back, and Admiral Mitchell and Doctor Arnet run to his side. While Arnet sees to the wound, Mitchell argues that satisfaction has been won, and that Potemkin should call off the duel. To the Potemkin crew's surprise, the human Potemkin refuses--the sailors sent to retrieve the diamond cannot have had enough time. He bravely shakes off the Doctor's attentions and stands again, ready to fight. Drosan and Arnet both lodge their complaints with Mitchell, who, they argue, as Potemkin's second should force the issue and end the duel. But choosing not to interfere with history, Mitchell makes the difficult call to stand back and let the sabers fall where they may.

Upstairs, the phasers find their marks on the Orlov brothers' backs--but they do not fall. They are stunned, but still animated, and continue to come for the two women. Bom and Tora take care of the "zombies'" weapons, but the two men seem unstoppable without killing them, which the away team clearly does not want to do. Ceja discovers the location of the "diamond" and lunges for the chest, while Mel realizes the third person in the room is invisible to them, but not to her tricorder. She points him out in the corner, and he becomes visible.

The man is wild-eyed, with a long, dark robe and a tangled dark beard. He is as curious about the away team as they are about him. He correctly guesses they are from the future. Potemkin's future, he says, as though he understands that in the future Potemkin is not a man, but a ship. Commander Tora demands to know the man's name, and he tells them: "My name is Grigori Rasputin."

In the duel below, Orlov's skill is once again on display, and though Potemkin puts up a good fight, Orlov is too much for him. Orlov knocks Potemkin's sword aside and lunges, piercing Potemkin's right eye. The crowd screams as blood sprays on the snow, and Potemkin falls to his knees. Mitchell, Arnet, and Drosan are here in seconds, and together they bring him inside while the rest of the dinner party goes off into the palace to seek their next entertainment. A quick scan of Potemkin's injuries proves confusing for the doctor though--his tricorder is telling him Potemkin's magnetic interlock's have ruptured! Warp, the former engineer, understands immediately: in engineering terms, a ruptured magnetic interlock means a coolant leak, which in turn means the potential for a warp core breach.

Upstairs, Ceja and Melina open a chest to find the precious diamond/tetrahedral quartz, which practically glows with antineutrinos. Tora demands to know what Rasputin is doing here, and, cryptically, he tells the engineer he has come to the Winter Palace to seek revenge on the ancestors of the people who murdered him. Tora wants to know exactly how it's possible that Rasputin is murdered and yet alive, and Rasputin admits he has found a way to bend space and time to his will--sounding very much like a Traveler. Or, at the very least, a twisted version of one. Sensing danger, Bom takes a step closer--and is turned into a bureau for his effrontery.

Using a combination of engineering insights, modified phasers, and old fashioned needle, thread, and brandy, Arnet, Drosan, and Warp go to work on Potemkin, as repair crews might on the ship. As Arnet and Drosan work carefully, the Admiral monitors Potemkin's "warp core," which is reaching dangerously low containment levels. As the old engineer explains, if Potemkin's warp core breaches, it will explode. "I assure you," he tells the good doctor, "that would change history."

Commander Tora and Nurse Ceja quickly overcome their shock at Bom turning into a piece of furniture. Ceja wants to know what the significance of the rock is, but all Rasputin will tell her is that she should take it to Potemkin. With Rasputin's attentions on Ceja, Tora strikes, but Rasputin is no longer there. The Traveler Wesley Crusher chooses that moment to return, oblivious to the fact that he's just missed a great deal of drama. When Tora points out that Commander Bom has been turned into a bureau, the giddy Traveler cannot help but climb inside the cabinet, prompting Ceja to wonder which is more bizarre: the time she changed Bom's diaper when he was an infant, or here and now when Wesley Crusher climbed inside him when he was a wardrobe.

Wesley is far more interested in the rock the nurse holds, and takes it from her. Antineutrinos. Antineutrinos. The answer is so obvious he almost kicks himself: it's something the old acting ensign Wesley Crusher would have seen instantly, because it's a matter of basic engineering. The one thing the Potemkin crew do NOT want to do with this rock, he tells them, is--

At which point Wesley is turned into a life-sized wooden nutcracker. Rasputin has returned, but the effort of all his dark science has left him weak. Rasputin laughs, seemingly undaunted. "I never knew...I never knew there were others...like me," he says. Wesley is clearly the first other Traveler he has met--and his reaction was to transform him into a wooden soldier. Tora is quickly on him with a knife, and while Rasputin threatens to kill Tora with his mind, he does not make good on his threat--apparently too tired. He lunges for the door instead, and Tora stabs him. Rasputin falls to the floor, laughing again, for he knows something Tora doesn't: This is not the day he dies.

This is not the day Potemkin dies, either. Through the combined efforts of Arnet, Drosan, and Admiral Mitchell, Potemkin stabilizes, and the threat of a warp core breach is averted--for now. As they watch Potemkin sleep and wonder what kind of science or magic has brought them to this time, to this place, to this situation, Admiral Mitchell ruminates that just as Wesley Crusher's actions appear to them to be magic, so might the beam from Drosan's phaser appear to the people of this day and age. "Sometimes," Mitchell says, "everything we do is truly indistinguishable from magic."

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