"So how's this going to work?" I asked Midas.
"Work?" he joked.
"You don't think this will work?"
"Well, the theory's good, but theory always is," and he smiled at me and began to explain in the patient tones of an aged Vulcan master.
"The kaleg is designed to breach the temporal rift. The temporal rift is created by the gravitational forces of the black hole. In theory, if we can organise the kaleg—place it in perfect alignment to the black hole, then we can use it to influence those forces and influence the gravitational pull to ping this region of space back into normal time."
"It sounds simple enough."
"Of course it does. The most complicated of plans sound simple enough when put into mere words."
"So what's the complication?"
"The kaleg is big and the black hole is microscopic, so we need to change the diameter of the kaleg, and we can do that by using the pull of the black hole to draw it out, long and thin. That means we'll need to take the kaleg in just close enough for the gravitational forces to catch it, and at exactly the right angle. Then we'll have to hold it in place as the anomaly draws it out. As it stretches, it'll become harder and harder to hold it in position. Only when it is thin enough can we release it into the black hole, but it'll be like firing a five-mile long, microscopically thin arrow through a hole that's not even a micron bigger than the arrow itself. If the arrow catches as it enters the anomaly, it'll shatter and each little piece of kaleg will be influencing the forces independently. Similarly, while the kaleg is being stretched, if the angle is slightly wrong, it'll twist and be ripped apart and, again, each little bit of kaleg will do its own thing."
I pulled a face.
"We could just end up tearing this entire region of space apart."
"And us with it."
Midas's expression told me I'd hit the nail on the head.
"Can you do it?"
Midas drew a deep breath.
"With Luke's help, we have the best chance. He's a damned fine engineer and an excellent helmsman. If anybody understands gravitational forces, it's him."
"Jolly good," I smiled weakly. "And what can I do to help?"
"Pray?" he suggested.
"Fish fly north!" Luke suddenly shouted triumphantly.
Despite his sentence still being complete gibberish, I noticed that his use of noun, verb and adverb was more structured than before.
"Ah-ha!" shouted Midas. "Well done, Luke. Kaleg control."
"Tree fall beneath up," Luke added, pointing to another station. His expression this time was serious and concerned.
"Ah. That's not so good."
I looked over Midas's shoulder. Internal sensors were showing a high status alert. He tapped a few controls to interrogate further and we were able to establish that the Earhart's crew was battling with the Dancers. They were giving them a run for their money, but casualties looked heavy.
"We have to hurry," I urged.
Luke and Midas began to co-ordinate their efforts.
"Right, here goes nothing," Midas suddenly breathed, and his hand hovered over the controls. "Are you ready, Luke?"
The view on the front screen changed focusing in on the station. Annotations began to move back and forth around the edges detailing astrometric forces and other info.
"Kaleg activated," confirmed Midas.
Just off to one side of the station, a smudge appeared with yet more annotations.
"Kaleg to quarter strength ... whatever that is," scowled Midas.
The kaleg grew in size and reformed itself into a straight line that pivoted and twirled on a central axis.
"I'll take it to half strength now."
Midas turned the control and the kaleg began to whip around erratically. Luke scowled furiously as he fought with it.
"Problem?" asked Troy, concerned.
"No," said Midas. "Just learning how to pilot the damned thing."
Beads of sweat began to form on Luke's brow as he struggled against the kaleg, and then, slowly but surely, the kaleg began to calm and move more sedately. Luke began to relax too. He was getting the hang of it.
"Okay, Luke. Ready to take it to full strength?"
"Poker," said Luke, nodding.
This time, as Midas increased the kaleg, it remained steady.
"Great, now I'm going to activate temporal shift just a tweak—just enough for it to stay in this plane of existence, and just enough for it to register in ours ... I hope."
A plethora of new information began to register on the side of the screen, and the view zoomed out so that we could see the whole of the region of space. A set of red crosshairs appeared on the screen where the black hole was located.
"Take us in, Luke. Steady as she goes."
All I could do was stand and watch. Troy, too, could do no more. He came to stand behind me; I could feel his breath brushing the back of my neck.
The kaleg began to move towards the target.
"Tilt forty-three point three-five. Increasing speed point nine-five. Rotate point four."
It travelled quickly and the screen zoomed in on the target area.
"Slowing to one-tenth impulse. Alignment is off point twelve degrees, Luke. Tilt point two."
I could no longer feel Troy's breath, but I knew he was still there. Like me, he didn't dare to breathe.
"Excellent, Luke. Slowing to one-twentieth."
The form of the kaleg was clearly defined on the screen as it zoomed in again, and Luke began to struggle with the controls.
"Steady as she goes, Luke."
"What's happening?" I blurted.
"Nothing unexpected. The black hole is starting to pull on the kaleg," and we could clearly see the kaleg being stretched, long and thin as Luke held it in place. It did indeed remind me of an arrow being aimed at a target, Luke pulling the string back as he aimed.
"Beautiful, Luke. Keep it there, keep it there. Just another point one-two-five. Beautiful, beautiful. Hold it there, Luke. Hold it. Hold it. On my mark, Luke ..."