Alathea trailed behind the short redhead woman through the corridors of an exceptionally comfortable ship. She observed the pristine passageways and the well-coordinated attire, each hue showing a rank within the crew. If the person in front claimed to be the captain, then this cultural palette held red as the most revered color.
The captain glanced over her shoulder. “Am I too fast for you?”
“So why are you behind, then?” The question hung in the air, a gentle nudge toward the nuances of shipboard etiquette.
Alathea closed the gap. “Why are you calling black holes wormholes?”
“Because some of the black holes are wormholes.”
Alathea frowned. “What is a wormhole?”
The captain stopped and tilted her head. “You have space travel, and you’re human. How come that you don’t know? Einstein published his theories before we even set foot on the Moon.” The cosmic paradox deepened, revealing a perplexing gap in the shared understanding of the universe.
“Who’s Einstein?” Alathea inquired with genuine curiosity.
The captain shook her head. “There are mysteries behind your culture. Wormholes are special black holes that connect two different parts of the universe. This one seems to connect the Milky Way with some intergalactic space in a faraway galaxy cluster. There are speculations that some wormholes can connect two different universes.”
The captain pointed to the door, which slid open, revealing something akin to an elevator. Alathea nodded and entered, positioning herself with her back against one wall, her gaze fixed on the captain.
“Thank you. Yes, I see mysteries behind your lack of knowledge, too.”
The rest of the journey unfolded in silence, traversing the luxurious expanses of the ship. Elegance intertwined with opulence, hinting at the affluence of its enigmatic owner. Finally, they arrived at a room featuring a circular command center. As the captain touched a surface, an immense map of the galaxy materialized before them. The celestial canvas stretched out, revealing the intricate dance of stars and galaxies across the cosmic stage.
Alathea’s eyes danced across the map of the galaxy. Such maps were as grand as something she would expect to see in the imperial palace, and yet, here it was in this tiny ship, brimming with technological marvels that seemed to defy conventional norms. Since the destruction of Rakis, she knew that attitudes toward machines had become more lenient, but this level of technological audacity was pushing the boundaries.
“So, can you find where your Chapterhouse is?”
“Can you expand the map?”
“To include the whole galaxy cluster. This is only the Milky Way. Chapterhouse is not in the Milky Way. We will also have to update the map to today’s one. This one is slightly out of time.”
The redhead woman blinked and stayed silent. “Your ship can go between galaxies?”
Alathea tilted her head, looking at her. “Well, it has the Holtzman drive.”
“Holtzman drive?” The captain echoed her expression, a mixture of curiosity and perplexity.
Alathea flexed her fingers, betraying her annoyance with this woman. An image of her teacher’s stern face flashed through her mind. She stilled her hand, assuming the relaxed Bene Gesserit stance.
“Seems like there is a lot we do not know about each other. Maybe we should start at the beginning. Old Terra. That’s what we both have in common.”
The door opened, and a cleaned-up Borg drone entered, showcasing her newfound femininity and striding purposefully towards them. Alathea examined her. This was the first Borg she had ever seen outside of the classroom. Why was there a Borg, and why was she alive?
“I thought Borg has more mechanical parts.”
Borg focused on her. “Doctor removed most of my Borg implants.”
“My?” This was another inconsistency with what she learned about the Borg.
“Wait. Do you know about Borg? Did you people meet them?”
Alathea tilted her head, wondering what was going on here. This woman was extremely ignorant. “Yes, we had battles with them a long time ago.”
Borg took out a device from the pouch on her hip and started waving another cylinder in Alathea’s direction. “Captain, I’m detecting quantum and chroniton variation.”
Captain smiled. “How big is the variation?”
“Big. Around 33,245 years.”
“What is the chroniton variation?” Alathea asked.
“A measurement that shows how much you are displaced from our space-time.”
Captain nodded. “And you are coming from a great distance to us. Thirty millennia. No wonder there is so much confusion between us.”
Alathea blinked. Is it possible that the black hole threw so far away into her past? How did that happen?
“And you know about Borg?” the Borg inquired.
Alathea shrugged. “I learned about them in school.”
“Who won?” the captain interjected.
“We did,” Alathea responded matter-of-factly.
The captain grinned. “Of course we did.”
“Wait,” Alathea said, her curiosity piqued. “Borg mentioned quantum variation, too. What is that?” The cosmic classroom was open, and Alathea was ready for a crash course in quantum variations, Borg-style.
“A measure of our universe. Variation might show you are not from our universe. We’ll have to perform additional tests. Variation is very variable across your body,” the Borg explained.
“That’s strange,” the captain remarked.
Alathea fixated on the Borg. A different universe? Was she? Did the Holtzman drive can jump between universes? And if so, how on Terra—literally—did she end up so far in the past? The cosmos seemed to unfold a perplexing plot twist, and Alathea found herself caught in the interdimensional crossfire.
“So what now?” Alathea’s eyes danced from the Borg to the captain.
“You can be our guest while we figure out what happened,” the captain suggested.
Alathea nodded. That meant she needed to figure out what happened. Or did she? She was here, safe, free to live her life—not as a Ghola, but as a superior human. A product of tens of thousands of years of breeding and gene manipulation in Axotl tanks. There was no match for her among these humans. She could do what she wanted, be what she wanted. The possibilities stretched before her like an uncharted cosmic playground, and Alathea couldn’t help but feel a sense of liberation in this unexpected twist of fate.