"Portugal!" Doc yells, the glare of the computer monitor lighting his eyes with a gleeful glow.

The Younger Brother Pear hangs quietly in the night sky 15 days from Earth, their progress halted. Veronica had picked up transmissions from German satellites apparently directing orbital traffic. It's only 1941 and the Germans have an operational space program geared for warfare.

If the Nazi propaganda broadcasts are to be believed, the war is all but over. London and Paris have long since fallen, while the Nordic Alliance barely continue to fend off the looming German invasion of North America. Meanwhile, the Japanese have already landed in California and the Russian population is eating a million tons of high explosives every day from both sides.

Even though the Maria Bochkareva outclasses the German orbital bombers in every conceivable fashion, and not mentioning their total lack of escorts, Veronica has stopped the Pear from heading into the firefight. One stray surface-to-orbit missile could easily rupture the Pear's hull if struck, and even Veronica can't shoot down everything the Germans could potentially throw at them.

Weeks have gone by. The situation on Earth gets worse every day. The crew of the Pear studies and analyzes the war, looking for weak spots in any front, trying to find a source of tungsten readily available and easily retrievable. Every significant supply is being used in the war effort, and every industrial city is well protected by armored patrols and anti-aircraft weapons.

So they've waited and thought and considered and planned and argued and drank and forgiven. Until now.

"Portugal," Doc repeats.

He places an empty wine bottle on the bar before his crew-mates. Wrapped in half-rotted wickerwork, the green glass is labeled "Henriques Alantejo Burgundy" in fluid white script nearly chipped off.

"Yes, yes, I think this will do," Steve says, examining the bottle.

"What's so special about Portugal?" asks Mark.

"Wolframite. It's got tungsten in it, and Portugal has lots of it. Steve, can you refine it?"

"Yes, I think so. However, to get the amount of refined tungsten we require we'll need about 400 tons of wolframite."

"I think that's a bit more than the Jeep can haul," Doc remarks.

"No problem. We can open a wormhole into the Pear's cargo bay and you can just toss the ore back up here once you mine it."

"Yet another problem. Does anyone here know anything about mining?"

Mark speaks up. "Jes' so happens I might know a thing 'er two 'bout it. My ol' grandad used to mine iron way back in Michigan. I may'a picked a bit of it from listnen' to his stories."

"Beautiful. You're our foreman. What will we need?"

"Shovels, pickaxes, horses, wagons, explosives, timbers and rope for tresses and pulverizers. Maybe a canary 'er two."

Steve replies. "The replicator is still broken so we'll have to get what we need there. I do have a chem-sniffer so you don't need any canaries. Explosives may be more difficult to arrange depending on the era."

"When exactly does that bottle lead, Doc" Veronica asks. "What kind of fights will we be getting into?"

"Well, Afonso Henriques was the first King of Portugal, I think, so it seems only right to name a wine after him, especially if its from his home town of Alantejo. I carbon dated the wicker on the bottle and at best guess I would put its origin in the 1530s, a relatively quiet time of exploration for Portugal."

Steve chimes in. "Sounds good. If I set the timed charge on it for eight hours after you go in, you should arrive on some Renaissance glassblower's cooling rack in the middle of the night, assuming they only work in the day. You guys take off for the mountains and start throwing rocks back to the ship."

"How long is this going to take?" Doc asks.

Mark answers, "Well, that's hard t' say. Without a lot of explosives, an' three men workin' like all hell-"

"And a woman who can do as much work as ten of you," Veronica reminds him.

"Right. With all'a us workin' like hell we can pull maybe thirty or forty tons a day. That's if we got a rich vein of the stuff starin' us in the face and all we gotta do is pick it up an' pocket it."

"So, two weeks if we're lucky?" Doc asks.

"Sounds 'bout right. Hell, my pa-paw's gang could do that overnight, but we ain't got forty people. On the other hand, we do got a few a them nukular bombs what we used to dig through that asteroid left. I say we use them to tear the mountain down then pick up the pieces wearin' them EVA suits. Veronica said they protect us from solar radination. We'd be done in no time."

"That sounds ludicrously dangerous not only to ourselves but to Earth's timeline. But maybe we could hire a team," Steve says. "The ARSE isn't damaged, so we can pull some gold out of it, at least enough to get this enterprise started. What do you think, Doc?"

The Journey Continues

Doc, Steve, and Jazelle are still surveying the mess when Veronica arrives.

"What the hell happened here?" she asks.

"Grave robbers from Imperial China fell out of a jar," Doc answers matter-of-factly. "Steve, how many of these artifacts have wormholes in them?"

"Nearly all of them, I think," Steve responds, adjusting his glasses.

"Aha. And they span how many different epochs?"

"Nearly all of them."

"I see. Has this sort of thing happened before?"

"I think so, yes. Once or twice. They usually end up going back the way they came."

"And there's nothing to stop this from happening again, is there?"

"Not really. We should probably just send them back."

"Won't they fall out of the jar before they fall into it?" Veronica asks.

"You're right. We should wait awhile before sending them back. We'll keep them in stasis for a couple days. Then send them back long before they arrive."

They search the thieves carefully for hidden weapons before dragging their unconscious bodies to the elevator. The thieves themselves are dressed in not more than rags and have nothing of value. Most of their weapons are crude and dull. The jade dagger the boss-thief pulled is sharp and delicate like a long flint spearhead, though a bit chipped and dented now that it's seen its only fight. It probably will not survive another.

The booty the thieves brought across the time-hole is much more interesting. Gold and jade necklaces, a silk robe with silver buttons, a tiara set with sapphires, incense dishes carved with dragons and lions, grab-bags of precious gems, rings, and earrings; all incredibly valuable artifacts in pristine condition, a century old and should be centuries older.

Jazelle swoons over a necklace of jade, a maw of green teardrops in various lengths and layers woven together with gold wires and glass spacers. She twirls as she clasps it to her breast and catches Doc's eyes by surprise. Her eyes are as green as the jade.

Doc breaks the contact instinctively. Saying nothing, he picks up the loot and piles it carefully with the other Qin artifacts, and throws Jazelle a glance that expects her to do likewise. She moves gently towards him and places the thing softly on the silk robe. Doc smiles at her and leaves to stitch his cuts.

That evening, with Doc's wounds patched and the thieves stowed safely away in stasis, a party the likes of which have not been seen in many a virtual moon aboard the Younger Brother Pear begins. Many drinks are drunk and Doc's epic battle is recounted many times and in many ways. Each iteration flourishes Doc's skill with a blade and the wild ruthlessness of his attackers while deprecating the role of the sentry bots. The final result is just short of Doc clobbering the apes with a single blow while they bit and clawed at the robots as if they were chew-toys, despite the actual security footage looping on the bar's monitor.