A fiery nebula and stellar nursery

Indistinguishable from Magic, Part III

In attendance: Admiral Warp, Commander Bom, Commander Arnet, Commander Fuller, Commander Tora, First Lt. Rollands, First Lt. Melina, Lt. Andronicus, Ensign Hunter, Citizen Drosan

In between the events of last sim (TEM: Indistinguishable from Magic, Part II) and the beginning of this sim, two important things have happened:

FIrst, Count Orlov and a troop of palace guards have burst in on Tora, Mel, Ceja, Rasputin, the red nutcracker and the blue bureau. Orlov assumes the away team has invaded his room to steal the Orlov “diamond,” and they are taken as prisoners to the Empress, along with the odd statuary and furniture that appeared in the room.

Second, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, has heard about the duel on her frozen lawn and sought out Grigori Potemkin, her Procurator and potential love interest, to see about his well-being. As the sim opens, the two groups have come together: Catherine the Great and her retainers, Admiral Warp and his team, Grigori Potemkin, Mr. Tora's away team, Grigori Rasputin (still unconscious, and bleeding), Bom and Wesley Crusher (still inanimate) and Grigori Orlov, the Orlov Diamond, and Orlov's entourage. (There are a lot of Grigoris in this story.)

As the sim opens, the two away teams find themselves thrust together--some literally, as the guards shove them into the room where Potemkin lies on the floor. Catherine the Great, Empress of Russian, commands the room as easily as she does the empire, and even the away teams seem in awe of her. She is grateful to the doctor and his colleagues for saving Potemkin's life, but before she can reward them Count Orlov intervenes, presenting the other away team as thieves. To wit, he has taken back from them the Orlov "diamond," which he now presents to Catherine.

The Orlov "diamond," however, is in reality a tetrahedral quartz bathed in antineutrinos. Antineutrinos, as Ceja has remembered from her engineering days, cause antimatter containment fields to break down, and sure enough, Catherine's proximity to Potemkin causes another warp core containment failure. Ensign Aklar and Nurse Ceja, coming at Potemkin from different angles and different backgrounds, reach a simultaneous realization: Potemkin's warp core is going to breach, and there is no turning back.

Mr. Tora, meanwhile, has found on the still unconscious Rasputin an odd jeweled egg. It's almost gaudily decorated, and has a slit around its equator, with a hinge at one end. Opening the egg, Tora has mysteries of the universe revealed to him--in particular, he can see the duality of the nutcracker that is Wesley Crusher, and the bureau that is Bom Mobom. He can also see the warp core inside Potemkin, and his engineer's eye tells him too it is about to explode.

Focusing on the bureau and the nutcracker, Tora is able to transmute them both back to their original incarnations. While Arnet and the others get Potemkin as far away from the antineutrinos as possible, Tora reaches out to the furniture in the room and converts two pieces back into people. Bom pats himself down, feeling a hankering for clothing, while the Traveler Wesley Crusher, indefatigable as always, freezes time and hurries over to Potemkin to evaluate him. He concurs with the others: imminent, unpreventable warp core breach, for which he knows only one remedy.

Admiral Mitchell is ahead of him: "Can we eject the core?"

This is Crusher's answer--but ejecting the core of a human being is complicated, as Doctor Arnet points out. If only they had the dingus that put Potemkin and THE Potemkin together, Crusher muses--only to have Tora grumpily point out that they do, in fact, have the dingus. The Faberge egg. Crusher is as enamored with this device as he has been with all the oddities in this mission, referring to it as the long-lost "Tsar Heart," but the away team anxiously tells him to get on with it. Undaunted, Crusher talks it out with the crew: the egg can separate the two Potemkins, but then what? The USS Potemkin will still have a warp core breach, and Grigori Potemkin may die of a heart attack--or both may happen. Crusher could remove Potemkin's heart--"eject" it, as it were, and the egg could then become a new heart for him. But then the egg would not be around to help them separate man and ship. It is the chicken and the egg problem, Crusher points out happily. The away team is less giddy.

Together, they devise a plan: Crusher will remove Potemkin's breaching core, and whisk it away, where it can detonate safely. When he leaves, though, time will resume, and Potemkin will be dying. That is when the crew of the Potemkin must save man and machine. Together, using the egg, they must use their thoughts to manipulate time and space. They must separate the USS Potemkin from Grigori Potemkin. Arnet and Ceja, the doctor and nurse, will focus on the human side. The rest, many engineers among them, will focus on all the aspects of the ship they have come to know intimately after so many years. None of them knows the science of the separation--not even the Traveler Wesley knows that--but the egg is a sort of calculator, Crusher tells them, which will "do the math for them." All they have to do is THINK.

But once the ship and the man are separated, there is one more step--the most dangerous of all. Arnet and Ceja must think the Faberge egg into a beating heart, and think that heart into Potemkin's chest. If they can do that, man and machine will be saved.

After many bracing swigs of brandy and all hands on the egg like a strange seance, Crusher begins. Focusing on the mathematics of it, he pases his hand into Potemkin's chest and removes the flaring warp core that is his heart. In a wink he is gone, and the desperate race to save Potemkin's life begins. The crew begin to separate Grigori Potemkin from the USS Potemkin, conduit by conduit, corridor by corridor. Arnet and Ceja, meanwhile, focus on the man--Arnet on the flesh and bone and blood, Ceja on the man himself, his personality, his brain, his soul. Varric Drosan, the Betazoid, uses his telepathic ability to stabilize Potemkin's psyche.

The ship and the man finally separate, and the crew fall back, exhausted. There is no rest for the weary for Arnet and Ceja, however, who immediately get back to work imagining the egg to be a beating heart. Together, they transmute the egg into a heart, and push it inside Potemkin's body. Whatever science or math it is that does it, the procedure works--for all intents and purposes though, it is indistinguishable from magic.

As Potemkin rests on the floor, recovering, Catherine's men break down the door and she enters. She is relieved to find Potemkin recovering after another critical operation, and Potemkin is sufficiently recovered that he can flatter her with the idea that he dueled in her name. Clearly Potemkin's words mean more to Catherine than any diamond, and she has her men take him away to his bedchambers to rest and recover, his position in the court not only intact, but by all accounts elevated after the events of the day. History is back on course.

Before Catherine can have the rest of them carted off as thieves, however, Crusher returns, working a bit of mojo on her to convince the Empress that the away team are his operatives. Having gained her trust at some point in the past, she lets things go--particularly as Potemkin has been saved--and leaves them alone. When she's gone, Crusher praises the Potemkin crew for their work. As Potemkin was taken away, Crusher had a peek at his heart. "That's quite a ticker you gave him," he tells them. "Should see him through to a ripe old age--as it should be." As for the exploding warp core, Wesley assures them he got it as far away in time and space as he could in the milliseconds he had before it exploded. "I got about as far as Siberia and 1908," he says. "Someplace called Tunguska."

The crisis in the past averted, Crusher fulfills his earlier promise to return the Potemkin away team to the time and place of their departure--just outside the blast door inside Targ's Arse, where, he claims, Ard Jarikar has laid a trap for them. Claiming something like Starfleet's Prime Directive as reason for not telling them too much, Crusher does thank the crew with a hint about Jarikar's whereabouts: "Altair VI." Varric Drosan also has a question for the Traveler, which he communicates telepathically. "As to Mr. Drosan's question, I quote The Clash: If I stay there will be trouble. And if I go there will be double." Drosan doesn't quite know what to do with the answer, but he has it, nonetheless. With a rather knowing, "See you next time!" Crusher waves and is gone, and time resumes its normal course.

But rather than just return to the ship, Commander Bom has an idea: steal Ard Jarikar's ship, the Triple Over, which was left at the mooring inside Targ's Arse to bait the Potemkin away team into coming inside. Besides being a good source for intelligence on Jarikar and his recent activities, Bom reckons it will make a nice souvenir--and royally piss of the pirate. As the sim ends, the Potemkin crew head for Jarikar's ship, determined to make lemonade out of the oddest lemons they have perhaps ever been dealt...

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