"That was close!"

The sensors cut out and everything went black as the nearby blast warped the very fabric of time and space. Then the screens flickered back into life.

"Incoming quark torpedo straight ahead! It can't miss!"

The Captain's voice was tight:

"Jump in two seconds, Mr. Murphy!"

"But we're in the gravity well! We could end up anywhere!"

"We have no choice. Jump!"

The McGonnagle rods groaned under the strain of Jumping in Astrakhan IV's gravitational field. Hank felt the familiar squeeze of the Jump, as if the very fabric of time and space were being warped into a tube and sucking him through it.

The screens flickered back into life. Ahead was an Imperial battleship, impossibly close.

"Fire!", barked the Captain, and Hank reflexively mashed the firing button. The Imperials didn't stand a chance. Cheers broke out all over the Bridge.

"What's happening?"

Everything was fading. Hank could see the controls through his hand. The stars were starting to shine through the walls of the ship. Hank heard the voice of the Professor growing fainter as he explained:

"We Jumped back in time. That was the ship that shot at us, but we destroyed it before it attacked us. So we didn't Jump. But if we didn't Jump, we didn't destroy it, so we must have Jumped. The paradox is warping the very fabric of time and space, and reality itself is rejecting us."

Hank heard the Captain shouting:

"Return Jump, Mr. Murphy!"

They Jumped. Straight ahead was a Federation ship. A translucent hand reached over Hank's shoulder. He couldn't stop the Captain firing, but managed to deflect the torpedo.

"That was close!", snarled the Captain.

Hank understood, and fired again. The other ship Jumped. The very fabric of time and space was safe for democracy again.

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