The starship Enterprise dropped out of hyperspace, de-accelerating from superluminal warp to orbit a planet … a planet which appeared to be Earth. It had just performed a sling-shot maneuver around the moon to gain the necessary velocity to breach the time-space continuum. Its mission was experimental to prove the theory of dimensional time travel.
Assessing their status, the captain first deployed Enterprise’s long range scanners. She needed precise data to verify Enterprise had indeed passed through time-space and into another dimension. But, equally important, was to be able to calculate the return trip to their own time and their own reality.
Astral charts confirmed the planet was Earth, but, contrary to topographical maps, the surface was severely altered with water now covering over three-quarters of the planet. The land masses were barren wastelands, and the atmosphere was toxic. There were no signs of life … any life.
An away team, dressed in anti-contamination suits, descended to the planet. Archeologists examined crumbled structures, and life-scientists looked for any biological signs. The biologists only discovered the residue of life, while the archeologists found partially preserved digital disks that bore testament to the planet’s demise centuries earlier.
The disks spoke of societies continually in conflict over ideologies and religious beliefs. World governments were dominantly authoritarian. Major global issues were unresolved. The warnings of science were ignored, and technological development was stymied. The seeds of suspicion and hatred were sowed by despots clinging to power, and the harvest was endless war. In the end, they chose mutual destruction rather than co-existence. Theirs was the power.
Thermonuclear detonations destroyed all major population centers, and a nuclear winter suffocated all life on the surface. And, when survivors emerged from underground shelters, the planet was uninhabitable and incapable of regeneration. Oceans were polluted, fresh water was contaminated, and the land was without sun. The remaining scientists could find no solution. Religious societies prayed for deliverance; but in answer, there was only silence. Cultures disappeared; mankind descended into a subhuman state and slowly became extinct.
Enterprise scientists evaluated the data. They confirmed they were centuries into the past and in a parallel reality that mirrored their own. They also warned of a possible dimensional time transference affecting molecular cohesion. Could events in this reality somehow affect existence in their own? They were unsure; they had truly crossed into the unknown.
The captain contemplated options. Could Enterprise travel further back in time to bring about a different outcome? But, as she considered, the Prime Directive sprung to mind and challenged any course of action she might take. It did not allow her to interfere in the development of any species. But, was this not different? In whatever dimension Enterprise was in, was she not obligated to fight for the existence of her species?
The captain made her choice; the people of this dead planet had made theirs. She would attempt to return to her own time and her own reality. The navigator fed data into the main frame, and plotted a course for the time-space maneuver. The captain ordered maximum warp.
As the Enterprise completed the maneuver, it returned to its own time, but not its own reality. The captain was briefly aware of the disintegration of her ship and the atomization of her body. The last two words that went through her mind were not a complete thought; they were simply, “My God …”
The course of human history had come to its end … in another few billion years it would be time for another cognitive species to emerge on another world. Perhaps, they will do better than us.