Say Hello to the Enemy

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They say that all good things must end someday

Autumn leaves must fall

But don't you know that it hurts me so

To say goodbye to you

Wish you didn't have to go

No, no, no, no

– Chad and Jeremy (A Summer Song)

=/\=

There was a communications trill in Carmen's left ear. "Yes? Bryce, calm down. Outer side? Yes, we'll go right there. Calavicci out."

"Trouble, boss?" asked Kevin.

She didn't answer, just tapped her left ear a couple of times to start her own message, to the Human Unit. "People, let's convene in Dan's old office. The Varg-i-yeh are just about on our doorstep. It's time we got a good look at them."

=/\=

It felt weird to be standing in Dan's old office. He had added nothing personal whatsoever – perhaps he had been afraid that even the slightest revelation of a personality would have given away the multiple layers of his existence.

The window faced away from the galactic core. The USS Adrenaline was just outside the Milky Way's galactic barrier, and senior employees of the Temporal Integrity Commission all had fine views of our galaxy. But lower level and newer employees only had views of the outside. Andromeda and Triangulum were two semi-bright remote smudges in what was otherwise unrelenting blackness.

But now it wasn't unrelenting blackness at all, for the invasion could be readily seen. "I wish Tom were here," Carmen said, "He's more likely to know about the configurations and all of that."

"Carmen, I don't think anyone has ever seen this sort of thing before," Sheilagh said.

"The ships look kinda like – is anyone else seeing this? – I think they kinda look like spiders," Crystal said.

"Yeah," HD said, "there's a middle piece that's round, and all these smaller bits tethered to it."

"I wonder if those pieces can come off," Kevin said, "it's an odd design. You gotta figure there's a purpose behind having that kind of a smaller satellite piece. It's just begging to be a part that you can separate."

"Maybe," Deirdre said, "and that might be for combat. You get the main piece away from the action, and the smaller parts can go on the attack. Or maybe the big piece goes on the attack, and the smaller bits are for rescue or you get the women and children off or whatever."

"Women and children?" Otra asked.

"I'm no strategist," Deirdre admitted. "I've really got no idea."

"It might be that," Levi said, "but it's also their means of propulsion. See how they kinda pulse? The smaller units go forward, all in a bunch. Then they pull the bigger part along and it gets ahead. Then the smaller units leapfrog ahead. And so on."

A large clot of ships suddenly pushed ahead together, and the scene shimmered a little. "What does that mean?" Polly asked.

"If their technology is anything at all like ours," Kevin said, "it means they've got cloaks."

=/\=

On Callisto, Helen Walker sent out a message. It was scrambled but she had every confidence that the message's recipients would be able to decipher it – and far faster than the old Human Unit had been able to decrypt the Manifesto file.

The message was, after all, rather brief, and it was only addressed to one group.

The message read as follows:

"Our interests are the same. We can work together and go anywhere in time we want. In exchange, I want asylum for my people. Are you interested?"

It was addressed from the Perfectionists to the Varg-i-yeh. Someone was bound to be in charge there. And if they wanted to quickly and easily grab the galaxy – and with minimal casualties – Helen figured they would look at her proposal with favor.

=/\=

He arrived late, and it took him a while to find everyone else. The Temporal Integrity Commission's offices were a kind of an odd configuration. They were a series of concentric, interconnecting rings. The outermost ring was shuttle bays and offices, such as the one in which the Human Unit found itself. The next ring was where the computers were located. They were powered, in part, by a particle accelerator. Engineering was in the third ring, along with all of the bays where time ships could be serviced. Taking off in a time ship was a far different act than taking off in other years, such as 2192, or in other circumstances, for time ships beamed out of the Adrenaline and then flew to wherever – and whenever they were needed. The fourth ring was the bunks. The fifth was the cafeteria, gym and medical offices. The sixth ring was a safe room in case of attack. The Armory was there as well. The final, seventh ring – the core, truth be told – was where there was a small courtyard garden. Within the garden were flowers and fruiting trees, and a small monument to Agents killed in the line of duty. So far, there were only two names on the monument.

Carmen was wondering to herself who, if anyone, of her three deceased employees should have his or her name engraved on that monument.

"Ah, I see you found us," she said to Richard as soon as she saw him. "I thought you had up and gone."

"No, I had to try to do something," he said absently.

"I take it that whatever you did, it did not work," Polly said.

"Perceptive in any timeline," he said to her. He looked out the window with the others. "I take it those are our boys."

"Yep," Kevin said, "say hello to the enemy."

=/\=

A cloaked ship was nothing. The Varg-i-yeh also had what were essentially almost cloaked transmissions. It did not take long to decipher Federation Standard or the message.

The message was brought to the leader, who took an electronic device from a lackey but made sure not to physically touch that underling. There could be no touching between and among Varg-i-yeh. "Has the source been traced?"

"It has."

"A response will be prepared. Leave."

The response was prepared. It said:

"Your proposal is intriguing. There is a first-line ship right in front of us. As a gesture of your good faith, show us how to defeat it. You have four of your hours."

The Leader sent the message and then relaxed a bit. Such assistance was thoroughly unnecessary. There was no need to bother with Fifth Columnists. They were powerful and they were ruthless. There would be no mercy for anyone – not even for helpers. Whoever this Helen Walker was, that one was living in a fantasy world.

The Varg-i-yeh didn't need her. But she could, potentially, be useful. If they could reduce their casualties, that would be very helpful. And any information could, potentially, be good. Even if it were proven wrong or were an active attempt at sabotage, the information would still be of assistance as it would provide a window into how the denizens of the Milky Way thought.

As for the time limit, it was completely arbitrary. Four hours, four days, four years – they were all of a piece for a species that lived and died by time travel, temporal splits and temporal integration and reintegration.

It just didn't matter.

=/\=

And when the rain

Beats against my window pane

I'll think of summer days again

And dream of you

– Chad and Jeremy (A Summer Song)

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