Paul Gadzikowski


Prime Contact

Chapter 1

"Well, I'm glad we could help those people," said the Doctor.

"Why them?" Barbara Wright asked, as she and the Doctor's other passengers boarded the TARDIS. "Why the Sensorites, and not the Aztecs?" She followed him to the TARDIS's control console, as Susan and Ian wearily found chairs. "Is it pure predestination? Is that why the Aztecs were doomed no matter what we did? Were we fated to help the Sensorites?"

"It's not that simple," said Susan. "I went through advanced dimensional relativity before Grandfather and I left our world, and the question of determinism wasn't really even addressed yet."

"Doctor," Barbara pleaded, "I just want to understand."

The Doctor sighed. He'd been setting controls and eyeing readouts, but now the console central column had started moving - meaning the TARDIS was in flight to another space and time - and he had nothing more to distract him from Barbara's questions. He was listening to her now, if reluctantly, rather than shutting out her arguments and making demands as when they'd argued in Mexico - probably because she was approaching him with questions rather than with demands of her own.

"It is a complex concept," said the old man, "much of it describable only in highest mathematics. But I can address one aspect, and perhaps that will satisfy your curiosity."

The Doctor turned from the console and took her arm, leading her over to the sitting area, probably having noticed that Ian and Susan were showing interest in the subject too.

"The history of the Aztecs as you know it," said the Doctor, seating Barbara and then himself, "was formed by the free will of those who lived it: of the priests and the people of the time and place, and ultimately of the invading Spaniards who cast judgment on it. That is pure, true history, what is wrought by free will. Time-travelers who would change such history by persuasion alone, as you have learned, are doomed to failure.

"Now a time of great oppression is less pure history, and a time-traveler's persuasion is much more likely to have an effect. Such has been our own experience on one or two occasions."

"You're suggesting," said Ian, fascinated, "that if we were to land in the Napoleonic Wars when Bonaparte was oppressing most of Europe, we might engineer a French defeat before Waterloo and actually change history?"

"I said there were many other factors," said the Doctor with a touch of his characteristic irritability. "Any given space-time event may present Blinovitch convergence. Or it may - especially with Earth history, I'm learning - have a holistic relationship within the Web of Time -"

"Doctor," said Barbara, "I think you've answered my question."

"Ah. Very well." The Doctor segued out of his tirade before he developed any emotional attachment to it. Behind them the central column chimed, the ship having come to rest. "Ah! Susan, the scanner please."

They all followed him to the console and Susan activated the scanner's visual monitor. They seemed to have landed in a storage facility.

"Those are anti-gravs," said the Doctor, though Barbara didn't know whether he meant the objects that were obviously storage containers or the futuristically obscure tools mounted on the wall near the door. "Fairly primitive - twenty-second or -third century."

"Twenty-second or -third century Earth?" Ian asked.

"Could be," said Susan, reading the TARDIS instruments, "except that we're traveling in space."

Barbara sighed. "Two spaceships in a row."

"Your aim for Earth spaceships is great, Doctor. I'd think you could manage to hit the planet a little more often," complained Ian not without humor, though the Doctor's apparent inability to return the schoolteachers to their native place and time was a sore point between them.

The Doctor ignored him. "No one seems to have noticed us," he observed. "Shall we clean up a bit before we look around?"

Barbara and her companions turned to the TARDIS interior as, just too soon, Susan switched the scanner back off.


Lieutenant Spock followed Number One from the bridge of the starship to the cargo section, where half a dozen crewmen on security duty met them outside the door of the hold where the anomaly had been detected. Number One gave them each a grim, confident glance, and then led the charge into the hold.

Spock was the only one brandishing a tricorder instead of a phaser, but even he was pointing it at the intruding object as the squad rushed into the hold. There was no trouble identifying which was the item that didn't belong - a large blue box with Anglic lettering in strategic places, but giving off sensor readings Spock found most tantalizing. The squad formed a half-circle around it (it was up against a wall of storage containers), trained their phasers on it, and waited.

Nothing happened.

After .37 minutes Number One asked Spock, "Well?"

All he had been able to tell her on the bridge from ship's internal sensors was "a type of energy I have never seen before". The tricorder rendered little more now. "It must have some kind of sensor shielding to defeat interior scans. There is definitely energy being harnessed and used - and at a lower rate now than at first, presumably because the object is now at rest after its materialization - but I cannot tell what kind or for what purpose. My only certain conclusion is that it is not what it appears."

During his report Number One had lowered her phaser and taken the tricorder to look herself. Now she handed it back to Spock and approached the object, Spock following with the tricorder, which continued to be inadequate to this task.

"'Police telephone'," Number One read. "'Free to use of public'. Some sort of galactic cop?"

"That construct appears to be a door handle," Spock said, pointing.

Number One tried the door handle, accomplishing nothing except to discover that the Police Box had a mechanical vibration that confirmed it to be some sort of powered device. Ten point one six more minutes of investigation added only trivia to their accumulated data.

"I can't be away from the bridge to no end like this when the captain's off the ship," Number One finally snapped in a rare, for her, display of human frustration. "Call Engineer Scott and have it moved into the security area. Lieutenant Scott," she corrected herself; the chief engineer had recently been awarded a field commission.

Spock called engineering on the intercom as Number One left, and noted with approval that Scott and three engineers arrived in point nine two minutes. They took four anti-gravity load handlers from those mounted on the wall, applied them to the Police Box, powered them up, and utterly failed to move the Police Box from its position.

"This canna be," Scott groaned after 2.4 minutes of the engineers' attempts. "A physical object canna behave thus."

Spock opened the tricorder again. "Perhaps it is not a physical object."

"Are ye daft, sir? The anti-gravs glom onto it just fine. It's aye physical." Scott belied his skepticism by edging next to Spock to look over his shoulder.

"These energy readings could be indicative of quantum phenomena," Spock hypothesized, after another look.

Scott snorted. "That muddled, they could mean just about anything that makes its designer cleverer than us."

"Indeed," said Spock; allowing himself a note of what humans called "dryness", to express disapproval of Scott's informal language.

If Scott noticed, he was not chastened. "But the first wants it in lockup, ye say. How are we going to do that if we canna move it?" He crossed to the front of it as he spoke, and pounded on the front, door area, lightly, just for emphasis. As if in response the door opened.

"Oh!" An old man with long white hair disembarked. "Good day." His civility to Scott vanished when he saw the anti-gravs attached to the Police Box. "My good man, would you be good enough to explain what you are attempting to do to my ship? You, you men with the weapons, put those away! How rude. Never in my life."

Meanwhile three other people came out of the Police Box. Spock tried to catalog all the anomalies they presented just to a visual survey. They were all humanoid; and human appearing, though Spock would reserve judgment pending examination of the data his tricorder would be gathering right now. They all wore Earth clothes - but none of the four were wearing contemporary clothing. With his knowledge of his mother's planet's history he was able to place the couple's and the young woman's styles as c. old-style 1950-1975, while the old man's fashions were from some fifty years earlier ... when, however, his long hair would have been unconventional. Furthermore, while trespassers on the starship, they - the old man at least, and perhaps the young woman - were taking umbrage at what they seemed to consider highhandedness on Scott's part. Finally, the Police Box was too small for four people to have fit inside in any degree of comfort, yet all of them were freshly groomed and at ease.

Of course this all flashed through Spock's Vulcan mind parallel to his realization that, as senior officer present, responsibility to deal with the intruders fell to him; and his realization that the old man had referred to the Police Box with a word that had fascinating implications.

"'Ship'?" he said.

The four looked at Spock for the first time. He was accustomed to the disconcert some humans showed on first meeting a Vulcan in person, but the couple were as startled as if Vulcans were entirely unknown to them. The old man and the young woman were more phlegmatic.

"You're an officer?" said the old man.

"Lieutenant Spock. And who, sir, are you?"

"I am the Doctor." The old man introduced Susan his granddaughter, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesteron. "We, my good man," said the Doctor, as if he were presenting a puzzle in a competition which he gleefully expected Spock to lose, "are travelers in Time."

In later years, given his own experiences, Spock would marvel at how absurd this idea seemed to him now. But he tried with his still far-from-perfect Vulcan control to deny the Doctor the satisfaction of seeing this opinion on his face as he said, "Indeed. May I show you to the bridge?"

"What about these?" The Doctor rapped one of the anti-gravs with the head of the walking stick he carried.

"Here now, that's precision equipment," Scott growled. The Doctor ceased immediately, looking as close to apologetic as he had yet done; and a friendship was born.

"Mr. Scott," said Spock, "you may remove the anti-gravs and leave the ... ship as is, on my authority. I shall explain to Number One. Mr. Giotto," he said to one of the security detail, "you will stand guard over the timeship -"

"The TARDIS," Susan piped up.

"The rest of you are dismissed."

"Aye sir," said Scott and Giotto in not quite unison.

"Doctor, if you and your entourage will follow me."

"Entourage," Susan giggled.

"Are there any more aboard your TARDIS?" Spock asked as they proceeded through the corridor.

"No, just us," said Chesterton, his manner reminiscent of the captain's when trying to reassure someone. "We're quite harmless."

"I am not," said the Doctor.

"Are we going to the bridge to meet the captain?" asked Miss Wright.

"The captain is on the planet we are orbiting, conducting a first contact mission," said Spock. "The first officer has the bridge."

"First contact with whom?" asked the Doctor.

"They call themselves Klingons," said Spock.

"Indeed?" The name apparently meant nothing to the Doctor. "What ship is this, by the way?"

Spock walked up to the turbolift doors, but apparently no car was at the station just at the moment for the doors remained shut. He turned back to face the intruders - or, as the case may turn out to be, guests - and answered the question without trying very hard to control pride:

"This is the United Starship Enterprise, Captain Christopher Pike commanding."


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