"There is bad news and there is bad news."
Captain Sisko of Deep Space Station Nine looked neutrally back at the officer addressing the daily staff meeting. On the one hand, Sisko was already familiar with the intelligence report, and it wasn't a joking matter. On the other hand, Worf's new relationship with Dax was having a developmental effect on his sense of humor, when six months ago Sisko would have bet credit that Worf didn't have one. Sisko elected to neither encourage nor discourage him.
"What's the bad news?" asked Bashir.
"Starfleet Intelligence confirms that the Romulans have signed a non-aggression pact with the new Dominion-Cardassian alliance," said Worf. There were groans around the table.
"And ... the bad news?" asked Odo, with that dryness uniquely his. A stray thought occurred to Sisko, but it was frivolous so he ignored it.
"Intelligence has also discovered evidence suggesting a Borg assault directly on Earth is imminent, on the order of a month from now." More groans.
"A two-front war," said O'Brien. "Just what I wanted for Christmas."
"Remobilization of the fleet to also accomodate the Borg threat has begun," Worf continued. "I have orders from Command to take the Defiant to Earth when Borg are detected approaching Federation space."
"Why you?" Kira asked. "Why not Captain Sisko?"
"My expertise on the Dominion situation is needed here," said Sisko. "That's Command's appraisal and I agree."
"Then why not keep Defiant here?" Bashir asked.
"You forget, Dr. Bashir - the Defiant was designed for fighting Borg."
Bashir nodded in recollection as the something niggled again at Sisko's mind, but it promptly retreated triumphant at the call from Ops: "Ops to captain. There's an unscheduled ship or ships coming through the wormhole from the Gamma Quadrant."
Any unexpected traffic through the wormhole could be a Dominion attack. "Yellow alert. On my way." Their briefing interrupted, his staff followed him to Ops - Kira, Dax, Worf and O'Brien assuming their duty stations from their reliefs. "Visual." On the Ops main viewscreen the wormhole was blooming, the interdimensional energies roiling around this end of the passage to the Gamma Quadrant. Everyone peered into its center for whatever had activated it from the other side.
"There it is," called Kira. "Heading this way."
One ship. To the large end of the scale Sisko was used to. No double nacelles, so if it was faster-than-light it didn't use warp principles. It also had none of the deerlike grace of a Federation starship, or the raptors' rapture of Romulan or Klingon warships - despite some nominal streamlining it was positively boxy, like a shuttle, for its size. There were no visible markings, at least none remaining for the burning and scoring all across its surface.
"Been in a battle," said Sisko.
"Many," said Dax. She was ignoring the main screen for the science readouts. "Those burns overlap - that damage wasn't all inflicted at once. The ship is centuries old."
"Life forms?" Sisko asked.
"Yes," said Dax. She must have expected Sisko's glare, because she waited for it like a stage cue before she elucidated: "Combined defense/structural-integrity shield makes it difficult to scan for detail."
"Power surge," announced Worf. "Could be energizing weapons -" The station rocked, a second after the red alert klaxon sounded. "Shields up," Worf added.
"Are we under attack?" Sisko asked.
"Took a potshot as they went by," said O'Brien, confirming the impression Sisko had from the visual display. "Pretty powerful plasma blast - we'd have fun fending them off if they did attack. But I guess we're not interesting enough."
"Nope," said Dax. "They've just gone into some kind of hyperdrive."
"Where are they headed?" Sisko asked.
"Skirting along the Federation border, looks like," Dax said, punching up displays on the science consoles. "Toward the Klingons ..." She looked up at Sisko. "They're making a beeline for the Organia Sector."
"Who's on patrol there?"
Worf retrieved fleet assignments at the tactical console. "The Enterprise."
"The Enterprise?" said Sisko for everyone. "When the Borg are expected at Earth, Command sends Picard off the other way?"
Klingons don't shrug, but Worf gave Sisko a don't-shoot-the-messenger look.
"Transfer all data on the intruder into my office," said Sisko. "I'll call the Enterprise. And stand down from red alert."
"Aye, sir," chorused the replies.
Sisko was crossing to his office door when the stray thought from the briefing again paraded out. He paused. "You know what they say ..."
"Sir?" asked Kira.
"Bad things," Sisko rumbled, "come in threes."
"I don't know," said Giles.
Willow looked over at Xander. She saw mirrored in his face the same disillusion she was feeling.
"I thought that was what Watchers are for," said Xander. "Knowing things. If you don't know things, what good are you?"
Giles frowned, affronted. "As might be inferred from the title 'Watcher', in order for me to 'know things' they must first be observed. The very nature of your present complaint is a failure of observation."
Before could Xander could escalate Willow broke in, "But if you don't know, who does?"
"Well, -" stammered Giles - but whatever vocabulary-enhanced prevarication he might have offered was interrupted by what turned out to be the answer to Willow's question.
She began to hear a rhythmic, mechanical pumping sound, as if an engine were operating a huge bellows. The sound rose in volume as if its source were moving nearer, yet the sound was right here the whole time. Xander and Giles heard it too, for all three of them were looking around the library and peering through the stacks for whatever was making the noise.
It appeared right in front of the circulation desk, fading into hereness like a special effect. It was a wooden box painted blue, about tall enough for Giles to stoop comfortably inside and about half as wide as it was tall in its other two dimensions. Willow's first thought was that it was a vampire - or given the box's size three or four - teleporting in a blue upright sarcophagus. Sinking into a chair at the study table, she wondered what it was like to sleep standing up.
There was someone inside it, who burst out as soon as Willow couldn't see through it any more. It was a man about Giles' age but about Xander's height, slender with angular features. His hair was a reddish light brown and wavy, and hung nearly to his shoulders. He was dressed like a movie riverboat gambler, but not as flashy. No hat; a frock coat of a color dark enough to be hard to identify in the velvet or velour it was made of; a thin tie, a vest, straight trousers all of lighter earth tones; all about a hundred years out of fashion. Oddly Willow recognized his black shoes as the contemporary kind of athletic-shoes-styled-as-dress-shoes that her father liked.
"Hello, I'm the Doctor," he said, sticking out his hand to Xander, who reflexively shook it.
"The Doctor?" Giles repeated, as if it meant something.
The intruder, still shaking Xander's hand, looked over to Giles. "Why, yes."
"The Time Lord?" said Giles.
Willow had never seen a double-take in real life before. "Have we met?" the Doctor asked Giles. Just at the moment Willow would have bet, from the Doctor's accent, that he and Giles'd grown up in the same castle.
"No, but I know of you. I'm a Watcher, you see." Giles had pulled a book off the shelf behind him.
"A Watcher," repeated the Doctor, in a tone of voice that requested clarification.
"To the Vampire Slayer," Giles said, paging through the book.
"Oh, that sort of Watcher," said the Doctor. Willow wondered what other kinds there were.
"Whenever you're done with my hand?" said Xander.
"Sorry," said the Doctor, releasing Xander. "And you are?"
"Xander, and that's Willow," said Xander.
"Rupert Giles," said Giles belatedly.
"We're Buffy's backup," said Willow helpfully, trying to keep a hand in.
"A Slayer support group." The Doctor turned a spontaneous grin on Giles. "What a wonderful idea."
Willow wondered whether Giles would have the decency to be chagrined at the Doctor's judgment - after having objected strongly to Willow's and Xander's participation in Vampire Slayer activities - but Giles was nose-deep in his books. "Your most recent - recorded - appearance on Earth was at the archaeological diggings at Carbury, some years ago," Giles said, having found the entry he was looking for.
"Well, recorded by your chaps," the Doctor allowed.
"'On Earth'?" asked Willow. "Are you an angel too?"
"Will," Xander snapped, "we don't know what that guy is."
"The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey," said Giles. "The only one who travels in space and time; in a camoflaged time machine ..." Giles trailed off in distraction for a moment as he, Xander and Willow all looked again at the blue box. "... called a TARDIS," Giles finished.
"'Police Box'?" Willow asked, noticing printing on its exterior now that she'd taken a second look.
"A sort of bobby's phone booth," explained Giles. "Obsolete now, actually."
"Obviously this is some new definition of the word 'camoflaged' that I was previously unaware of," said Xander.
"Well, enough about me," said the Doctor, resuming the earnest expression he'd had when he came out of his box. His TARDIS. "I was just passing by - in a relative way - and I happened to notice a spaciotemporal anomaly, a time tunnel where there shouldn't be any. Alarms on my console going off, that sort of thing." He patted the blue box. "Something is terribly wrong here and now. I say," he interrupted himself, "where is this Slayer in the middle of the afternoon if all her team is here?"
"We don't know," said Giles. That was what Willow and Xander had come to the library to ask Giles.
"Spaciotemporal anomaly. Slayer missing. You know, I'd be very much surprised if these two phenomena weren't related."
"What can we do?" asked Giles.
"Not 'we', I," said the Doctor. He turned back toward the TARDIS. "I'll pop through the anomaly to the other end, see what's causing it, pick up your Slayer - Buffy, was it? - and be right back."
The Doctor ducked back into the TARDIS before Willow or her friends could comment. It began making the loud rhythmic noise again, and fading away. Willow expected it to fade out entirely. But instead it fluctuated between solidity and transparency, and the noise began dragging out and - Willow couldn't think of a better word for it - skittering. Like what the lead singer for Aerosmith does with his voice. After about half a minute the TARDIS settled back into here-and-now, and the Doctor banged back out the doors.
"I can't get then!" he cried.
"Why not?" asked Giles.
"Well, there are laws to Time Travel, you see," said the Doctor. He was not just concerned but agitated now. "And the first of them all is that you mayn't cross your own timeline."
"So you can't go where Buffy is -"
"Because I'm already then!"
The Enterprise-E did not carry families, though it could easily be converted for them. But the astropolitical situation in the Alpha Quadrant had changed dramatically in the near-decade between the commissioning of the -D and of the -E; and the -E had been christened in war cruiser configuration. Picard, though deploring the necessity, was happier with an Enterprise that had no children aboard. But the difference in the ship's feel seemed to be taking its toll on Troi - or so it seemed to Riker. At least, for the first few weeks on the -E, he was left to attribute her unusual moodiness to these circumstances; similar effects from this cause on other returning crew took up much of her Counselor reports to him as Exec. Then one morning he woke up in her bed.
Synthehol doesn't leave hangovers, yet for a moment Riker was as disoriented as he'd ever been in his life. But now, the previous evening - and night - came back to him in a rush. He sat up suddenly, which must have awakened Troi next to him, because after a moment she sat up just as suddenly.
"Uh oh," they said simultaneously, and began looking for clothes, or even bedclothes, to cover themselves with. Troi had in the end to retreat to the bathroom. She stayed long enough that, once dressed, Riker decided to make breakfast. Riker supposed she was regrouping; he was grateful for the opportunity himself. He was serving before she came out again. She nodded thanks as they sat at the table to eat - so it was a minute or so into the meal before either spoke, and again simultaneously, the name that was on both their minds.
After another a moment Troi said, "I thought when he took the assignment at DS9 that he'd transfer onto the Enterprise-E with the rest of us when it was ready."
"So did I," said Riker. "I miss him too, you know."
"I know. Almost as much as I do." Sometimes her telempathic abilities still took him by surprise.
"Look," he said, setting his fork down. "Our friendship means too much to me. That's what last night was about, I think. Imzadi stuff," he added, though he still didn't really understand the Betazoid concept, and she knew he didn't. "If you were lonely, and I was there for you, I'm content with -"
"That's not what it was about," Troi interrupted, the oddest mixture of joy and pain on her face. "Will, I love Worf and I miss him desperately. But the reason I made love to you last night is that I still love you and I still want you."
And that was when the intruder alert called Riker to the bridge. Fortunately one could get uniforms in one's own size from any replicator on the ship.
What's he done to the library? Buffy thought.
That was where she was, wasn't it? It was where she'd been going. She'd shown up for training only twice in the past week and Giles was being Mr. Snitty Face. She'd promised to show up right after last bell today. She remembered the bell. She remembered sorting through her homework at her locker, for the work she wanted Willow's help with, which as usual turned out to be all of it. She remembered closing her locker and taking off toward the library -
And suddenly she was here, without her books, and she didn't know where here was. It wasn't as well lit as the library. A smaller but more open room. Lots of comfortable looking chairs all facing her; with lots of uncomfortable looking people, all in the same black-and-gray pajamas, getting up out of the chairs.
"Intruder alert!" barked a bald man rising from the chair in the center of the room. "Commander Riker to the bridge." Buffy looked behind her to see who the intruder was. There was nothing behind her but the room's wall, a big-screen tv (or maybe it was a big-screen computer monitor, because it had a starfield screensaver running on it).
"Me?" she cringed. What is it about being the Slayer that automatically rubs authority figures the wrong way? "Sorry ..."
The bald man was advancing on her with a determined look on his face. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"I'm Buffy Summers," she said. Trying to go off the defensive she retorted, "Who are you?"
"I'm Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise."
"Starship?" said Buffy. "What year do you think it is?"
"2373," said the captain. Then, "Why? What year are you from?" He was either a great actor or a great starship captain.
"1997," she answered automatically while she was digesting that.
"Data?" asked the captain.
"What kind of data do you want?" Buffy started to ask. But he was asking his crew - most of whom were back in their seats now - though he hadn't taken his eyes off Buffy.
"Sensors have recorded a chronometric disturbance," said the starship crewman at one of the two nearest consoles, a guy in bad need of some sun. Then the guy frowned at his console, kinda mechanically, as if he was doing it for effect. "The nature of the disturbance is similar to that given off by the TARDIS's materialization, but 'cleaner' - as if generated by much more efficient equipment."
As he spoke a crewman with a beard, probably the requested Commander Riker, arrived wearing the same clothes - uniform - as everyone else, and joined the captain at the viewscreen with Buffy. "The Time Lords," Riker said to the captain, when the pale crewman was done.
The captain was still looking at Buffy intensely, but now with interest and concern rather than suspicion. "Ms. Summers, do you know of any reason why the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey might want to bring you four hundred years into your future?"
"No ... wait." There was one, only one possible, reason. "Do they have vampires on Gallifrey?" she asked, trying not to wince in anticipation of the usual incredulity.
"Vampires?" repeated Riker with the usual incredulity. The captain though, Buffy noticed, was merely skeptical.
But before she could say more, there was a noise like the starship pilot was clashing the gears. Riker took Buffy's arm and gently but firmly moved her away from the big screen as he and the captain moved off. "Can't finish a conversation this morning for the time-travelers," he murmured, softly enough that he probably thought no one would hear over the racket. That was always happening to her. At least, when she'd met her first Watcher, she'd learned why.
Where they had been standing - the only place on the starship bridge where there was room enough - something was manifesting. It was a wooden box, tall enough to stand in, big enough for several people to stand in, painted blue. There was painted lettering on it in several places, labeling it a "Police Public Call Box" or a "Police Box", depending on which label.
Buffy took a wild guess. "Is that a Time Lord?"
"Yes and no," said the captain. Big help.
One of the doors in the front of the Police Box swung inwards, and a man walked out. "Captain Picard!" he said, then stopped short, eyeing Picard up and down. No, he was looking at Picard's clothes. For his part, Picard was doing the same to him - which he deserved. Cordelia Chase would have run screaming for fear of contamination.
The man was a tall, wide (Giles would've said "burly"), roundfaced, middleaged guy with curly blond hair. He was wearing a full three-piece suit that looked as if each piece had been stolen from a different circus clown. Yellow pinstriped pants. A vest made up of two different halves. A floppy blue polka-dot bow tie. Green shoes with red - what were they called? - spats. Worst of all was the suitcoat (a frock coat!); a different fabric and color had been used for almost every single pattern piece, ranging from an electric pink to a plaid green.
"Doctor," said Picard, "we have a problem."
"Indeed we do," said this Doctor. "I'll wager from the design of that uniform you're wearing that I'm here out-of-sequence." He sounded British.
"If you're referring to the fact that I've already met one or more of your subsequent incarnations after this one," said Picard, "that's right."
"Exactly!" The Doctor's gaze passed over the rest of the bridge crew. "Hello, Commander Riker, Commander Data." That was how Buffy learned the pale officer's name. "That's not the problem, though," the Doctor continued to Picard, "it's only a symptom. There's a temporal anomaly terminating at this point in space-time, and that's what's drawn me farther than normal up my timestream. Alarms going off on my console, that sort of thing." He patted the blue box. Then his eyes fixed on Buffy. "You must be the anachronism!"
"Well, pleased to meet you too!" Buffy snapped, to no obvious effect on the Doctor.
"Sensor readings suggest she was brought here by the Time Lords, Doctor," Data reported. "We are patrolling Gallifrey's sector of space."
"I'm Buffy Summers. I'm the Vampire Slayer," Buffy blurted, fed up with being spoken of as if she weren't there.
She got a reaction. All the color in the Doctor's semi-florid face drained away. While his mouth worked, trying to get words out, she looked at the starship officers; there was confusion in their faces, but a grimness too. Something that provoked this reaction from the Doctor was something for spacemen to worry about.
"But that's too horrible to think about," the Doctor finally muttered. He sounded like he was trying to convince himself. "To bring a Slayer here - to need to bring a Slayer now -"
"Don't keep it to yourself, Doctor," said Picard with steely impatience.
The Doctor visibly swallowed. "Captain - you're aware that your era of history is concurrent with the founding of Time Lord society."
"The fact is in the Starfleet captains'-eyes datafile on you, yes. You were there when James T. Kirk found out."
The Doctor began to pace - no, wander - the bridge, wringing his hands. "There was a terrible war waged by the Time Lords under Rassilon. A war of extinction. It was so bloody and violent that it turned the Time Lords aside from the use of force from this time to mine." The Doctor stopped in front of a pair of double doors at the back of the bridge and looked up at Picard. "It was against a race of vampires."
"Is this war going on now?" Picard demanded.
"No, it's some centuries in your past, and in the vampires' home galaxy," said the Doctor. "But ... the vampires' leader, the most powerful of the lot, escaped Time Lord justice."
"What do you mean, escaped?"
"Captain," called an officer at a console in the back, near the exit doors where the Doctor was standing, "signal coming in. It's Captain Sisko of Deep Space Nine."
END OF CHAPTER 1
To the story of Captain Kirk's meeting with Rassilon, the first Time Lord
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