Fred Wheeler -- bald, pudgy, fiftish -- yawned. "I heard he's on his way. You'd better look after that crazy old man. I don't want him to croak on MY watch!" He took a sip of his coffee along with another bite of his breakfast and turned his attention back to the morning sports news on his monitor. "Damn those Red Sox! They haven't lost a game yet this month!" Jimmie stared, aghast. Fred Wheeler was not the least bit concerned about the health of their patient! "Y'know sumptin', Jimmie? It's real hard to believe that Captain Christopher was once a hot-shot fighter pilot. Hadda be at least a million years ago!" he smirked.
Almost on cue came garbled, strangulated cries from down the hall. Jimmie jumped. "Damn! There he goes again! WHEN did you say the Major would get here?"
Relax! He took the first shuttle up from Canaveral this morning." Fred consulted his wrist chronometer. "Hm. If I remember the schedule right, he should be here by now. Maybe he'll finally get the old man to shut up about that UFO he thinks he saw back in the sixties..."
At that moment, the stern, craggy face of Major Shaun Geoffrey Christopher appeared out of nowhere. Tall, athletic, a man of action & determination, he was not one to be kept waiting. He thrust his face directly into Jimmie's. "How is my father?"
"Same as always, Major, only worse." replied Fred laconically.
"I see," replied the Major, glaring at him. "And he's been in your expert care all this time?" Fred's eyes flashed but he held his tongue. Jimmie found his voice. "Uh, Major, he had another bout of dreams last night, and woke the whole place up at 4 o'clock, demanding to know where you were."
"Take me to him." the Major replied curtly. "Now."
"Right this way, sir." Fred replied thickly. He stood and led the way down the corridor towards the private rooms. At the very last one, the only one on the floor with a view of the majestic Hudson River, he turned and opened the door, ushering the Major through.
90-year-old John Christopher was propped up in bed, moaning and muttering, until he caught sight of his son as he and the nurse entered. His eyes lit up and a measure of clarity returned to his face. "Shaun, you damned bucket of brass! What took you so long?"
The Major smiled. "All that traffic, Pop." It was a lie, of course, and both knew it. "I hear you dreamed of your UFO again."
"Yep! I even got these guys here to let me draw it for you! Wanna have a look?
The Major turned to the nurse. "Would you leave us please?"
"Of course." Fred replied, barely able to disguise the sneer. "You know how to reach me if you need me." With that, he exited, quickly closing the door behind him, grateful for his escape.
"Well, son, if you're really interested, take a look in that drawer." The old man indicated the nightstand next to the bed. The Major reached in and found the sketchpad, and whistled as he saw its contents. "This is what you saw, Pop?"
The old man nodded. "Yep. No one'll believe me, of course, 'cause there was nothing on the film from my wing cameras. But I know what happened, Shaun! I was there! I SAW it!" He stabbed sketchpad with forefinger. "And THIS is what the damned thing looked like!" He paused for emphasis "Everybody saw saucers in those days, Shaun. Mine, of course, had to be special. Had to be, else no one would believe me."
All during his father's tirade, the Major simply stared at the sketch. "And your wing cameras didn't record this?"
The old man snorted, indignant. "I already told you that. And there was no radar track, either - no transmission of any kind! So I must be just a crazy old man, dreaming away what little remains of his demented mind..."
"Now, Pop, I never said that..."
"I know, I know. YOU never would, even if you thought it." He waved him away. "Go back to Florida, Shaun. I know you're in training for some wild space mission you can't tell your old man about. Leave me be."
"Take the damned sketch and burn it, will ya?! Now GO!" He turned away from his son and stared out the window at the river.
The Major paused. "All right, Pop." He said quietly. "I'll go, if that's what you want. But I know something about my father." He leaned over and tugged at the man in the bed until he rolled back and they met eye-to-eye. "All his life he never imagined anything, and he always taught me how important it is to differentiate illusion from reality. And your mind has always been as sharp as a tack, even after you came here. So all this stuff about you going crazy, and dreaming your life away, is just so much bullroy!" He shook the sketchpad. "I don't know what the answer to this mystery is, but I promise you, I am not about to destroy this! I'm keeping everything in a special file, and when I get back, I will not rest until I find the answer! Okay?
The old man nodded but said nothing.
"Good. Now, rest easy, Pop. I'll be in touch." With that, Major Shaun Geoffrey Christopher kissed his father on the forehead, and then exited the room, closing the door behind him.
But as he strode slowly down the corridor back toward the nurse's station, the Major stared again at the sketchpad, frowned and muttered, "Maybe he really is crazy after all. Or at least...confused..." He shook his head and sighed once again, staring disbelievingly at the crude drawing of a saucer with 2 nacelles protruding from its rear section... with a single word printed underneath in plain block letters:
Tucker looked up and managed a wan smile. "Sure, Doc. Have a seat."
Phlox returned the smile and settled into the chair. "What seems to be the trouble, Commander?"
Tucker paused, contemplating the salad at the end of his fork. "I don't know. I've been thinking, and sometimes that ain't too good for someone like me."
"Oh? Why not? Mental activity energizes any living species!"
Tucker looked away briefly. "Not THIS mental activity."
Phlox' expression was a study in curiosity and confusion. "Then what have you been thinking about that has gotten you so wound up?"
"Time travel, Doc. Time travel. The future. The past. Messing up timelines."
"This is a problem?"
"I'm an engineer, not a philosopher. Abstract concepts are not my strong suit."
Phlox chuckled. "Like warp theory?"
Tucker rolled his eyes. "That's different."
"Nonsense! You engage in philosophical discussions with Lieutenant Reed and Commander T'Pol all the time!"
"But time travel theory is different, Doc. How am I supposed to accept the possibility of more than one timeline? And what's worse - what about the idea that you can go to the future, see what's there, then come back, and use that knowledge to make a different future? What happens to the one you've just experienced?"
Phlox shrugged. "I suppose it just....vanishes."
"And that's what worries me." Tucker punctuated his words with his fork, and Phlox instinctively shrunk back. "It's a violation of the laws of physics! How can something that was made, be so suddenly unmade?" He paused, but only to catch his breath. "Y'know, we've done so damned much of it, I'm beginnin' to wonder if we're really in the right universe!"
Phlox stared fixedly at the fearsome weapon being brandished at him. "Commander, I think the questions you are posing simply do not have answers, at least at present. And certainly not from me, I'm afraid." He relaxed and pointed to his tray. "Would you care for some JAMBALAYA? I've recently developed a craving for your Creole cuisine and-"
Tucker smiled. "I'm from Florida, Doc, and I know Creole cooking. No thanks. I'll wait until we get back to Earth for the real thing." He paused. "Thanks for listening, though."
"My pleasure, Commander. I just wish I could have been of more help." Having defused any desire of Commander Tucker to ever again gesture with his fork, Phlox happily tore into his lunch. But neither he nor Tucker, nor anyone else in the Mess Hall, noticed the sub-space vortex opening far behind the ship...
An hour later, however, Reed found what had come through the vortex, and he did not like his discovery one bit. "Suliban cell-ships, Captain! About a half-dozen, coming up on us fast!
"Sound alert!" Archer cried. "Polarize the hull plating! Hail them, Hoshi!"
"They're not responding." Hoshi announced.
"Now there's a surprise." Archer muttered sarcastically.
"Weapons armed." Reed reported. "They're still out of-"
Everyone grabbed hold as ENTERPRISE was rocked by a large explosion.
"Obviously," Reed continued, "We're in THEIR range."
"They must have upgraded their weapons systems!" T'Pol offered.
Archer nodded. "Travis, get us out of here!"
Another explosion, followed by two more in rapid succession. A half-dozen consoles ruptured on the bridge, sparking small fires, and several crewmembers were tossed to the deck in the melee. "Captain," Mayweather called, "I don't think we're going to outrun them!"
Archer shot a glance at his Armory Officer. Reed looked up briefly, then back to his board. "Targeting lead vessel...they're coming within range..."
Again, the ship rocked violently from the force of another explosion. "Steady..." Archer murmured. The command chair intercom beeped. It was Tucker. "Trip! What is it?"
A loud voice, at once angry and frantic, erupted from the speaker. "Bridge! You better make this quick - I've got real problems down here!" Standing at the main control panel of the intermix chamber, Tucker viewed a scene of madness and chaos all around him. The first explosions, felt on the bridge as concussion blasts, had been direct hits on Engineering. Fires, debris, and injured crewmembers were everywhere. "Ensign!" he yelled above the din to the crewmember at the left station. "Is she still stable?"
On the bridge, Archer grimaced as he heard the Ensign's reply: "It's no good, sir! Pressure's going into the red zone!"
Archer looked up. "Malcolm?"
Reed grinned triumphantly. "Got him!"
"Fire!" Archer roared.
Reed's torpedo detonated close enough to the lead Suliban to do considerable damage to it, allowing ENTERPRISE to swing around and bring its phase cannons to bear. Reed fired again, this time vaporizing one cell ship and scoring hits on several others.
"They are moving off, Captain." T'Pol reported, her head bent into her viewer.
Archer nodded. "Good shooting, Malcolm. Mr. Mayweather, take us out of warp. Damage report!"
"Hull breaches on Decks C and E," T'Pol continued. "Minor casualties. Mr. Tucker reports damage and casualties in Engineering. Dr. Phlox is on his way there now."
Archer tapped the intercom switch on his command chair. "Trip! How bad is it down there?"
"Oh, not too bad, Cap'n," Tucker replied sardonically. "We just had a, uh, slight coolant leak, along with a lotta blown-out control panels and electrical fires. We've got things under control for the moment but I'd appreciate it if you could keep those guys off our backs while we pick up the pieces, all right?"
"You got it." Archer clicked off and turned to Reed. "What your status?"
"Hull plating down to 70%, Captain. Torpedoes and phase cannons intact. I think we're okay for now, if they don't come back too soon."
"Good. Travis, park us on the far side of that asteroid. Let's see just how badly we've been hurt."
Archer sat quietly at his desk in his ready room, rolling recent events over in his mind. Suliban again! Where did they come from, and why? What was their purpose? As usual, whenever he tried to concentrate too hard, a reminding whimper came from his bed across the room. He sighed. "No, Porthos, you've had enough cheese for one day. I've got too much on my mind to add a reprimand from Phlox to my problems." Porthos tried one last whine, but caught the look on Archer's face, and immediately laid back down. Archer tapped a switch next to his keypad. "Captain's Starlog, November 24th, 2155. Our pursuers have left the area and we are free at present to conduct repairs. Their motives, of course, are as yet unknown. Commander Tucker is preparing a full report of our damage in the Engineering Section." He clicked off and resumed scrolling through his computer screen as the door chime sounded. "Come in!"
Tucker strode in, a PADD in hand, and handed it to Archer. "Here's the engineering report, Cap'n. Damage looked a lot worse than it actually was. We'll be ready to go in just a few hours."
Archer stared at the PADD screen intently. "Trip, what's this entry about a blowout in an EPS conduit?"
The Chief Engineer nodded. "Well, the conduit just off Main Engineering is the main trunk line, and the energy flow was fluctuating like crazy after the attack. I sent Lieutenant Williams and Ensign Christopher to look into it. The entire unit shorted out while Williams was working on it. If Christopher hadn't pulled him out, we might have lost him."
"Is he all right?"
"Pretty much. Phlox said he has only burns and a concussion. But he should be back tomorrow."
Archer looked up with a relieved smile. "Sounds like you may have a genuine hero in your Engineering crew!"
"Christopher's a good kid, Cap'n," Tucker responded. "He was right beside me all through the attack. I don't think he's afraid of anything. Have you looked at his personnel file?"
"Briefly, when he was first assigned. Why?"
Tucker smiled and leaned against a bulkhead, his arms crossed over his chest. "You might want to take a close look at his family tree, that's all. I think it's in his genes."
"I'll do that, Commander. Dismissed."
As Tucker exited the Captain's quarters, Archer returned his attention to scrolling through his monitor...
Sha'daar, second-in-command of the Suliban attack force, was visibly upset with his superior. "We have lost several of our comrades! And other, irreplaceable ships have been severely damaged! I hope your 'operation' fares better in the future, Voynar!"
Commander Voynar touched a button on his console, lowering the volume. Sha'daar was a good soldier, but tended to be skitterish and nervous at times. Such traits could be most annoying. "It will. You forget, my friend. The Klingon Empire has such a high bounty on Archer that no Klingon warrior can afford to ignore it."
"And of what advantage is that to us?"
Voynar allowed himself a slow smile. "We now have information to sell. Since we know where to find Captain Archer, all we need do is let that fact be known on all Klingon communications frequencies. It won't be long before we are contacted, trust me." He leaned forward, his voice growing deeper in its intensity. "The Man from the Future said Archer is to be eliminated. Why soil our hands when the Klingons can do the job for us? They can be so easily manipulated!"
Sha'daar laughed, then lifted his arm in a mock Klingon salute. "Qapla'!!"
Voynar did not laugh, but the fire in his eyes could not be mistaken. "Qapla'..." he whispered.....
Evening shift. Many of the crew were either in their quarters relaxing or asleep; some had taken advantage of the week's movie. Archer couldn't remember what it was. Some "epic" presentation from the 1950's, perhaps, with the proverbial "cast of thousands". He chuckled. That was long before computer-generated imaging, he recalled. Pity. The studios back then had to feed and pay all those people, too. But he put movie-making out of his mind. He had a far more important purpose for walking the ENTERPRISE corridors this night.
He entered the mess hall and prepared himself a cup of coffee from the wall synthesizer. Only one other crewman was there, staring out one of the windows at the spectacular starfield, and Archer immediately went over to him. "Ensign Christopher?"
The young crewman swung around. "Captain Archer! Sorry sir, I guess I didn't hear you come in."
"Not at all, Ensign. Enjoying the view?"
"Oh, yes, sir! I've been here almost every night since I was assigned to ENTERPRISE. Viewing the stars has always had a soothing effect on me."
"It always does, Ensign. It always does." Archer took a sip of his coffee. "Tell me what happened today."
Christopher shrugged. "Not much to tell, sir. May I presume that Commander Tucker has already briefed you on the incident?"
"He has. But I'd like to hear your side of it."
"Well, sir, the static discharges within the EPS conduit were pretty severe when Lieutenant Williams removed the outer housing. The Lieutenant had donned his gloves and had just begun to work inside when I felt the rumble; before I knew it, I grabbed him and pulled him out just as the unit exploded."
Archer was impressed. "Your have good instincts, Ensign. You may have saved his life."
Christopher blushed. "Thank you, sir."
Archer gave him a moment by sitting down. "I called up your personnel file just now. You're the grandson of Colonel Shaun Geoffrey Christopher, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir, I am. I try not to talk about it too much though."
Archer's expression registered surprise. "Not talk about the man who commanded Earth's first successful probe to Saturn, and who also played a principal role in developing the earliest Martian colonies? Who wouldn't want to talk about him?"
For a moment, Christopher gazed silently at the stellar display. "Well, sir, it's just that I've been teased about it ever since I was a kid. I've learned to deal with it by realizing that most people are simply jealous. But that hasn't made it any easier."
"I can well understand that." He struggled to contain his own surging memories of a childhood spent in the shadow of a famous forebear. "But you must be very proud of him. And Starfleet must be pleased to have you follow in his footsteps!"
"I'm sure they are." He paused. "Captain, did my personnel file also happen to mention his father?"
"No, I don't think so. Should it have?"
"Because Colonel Shaun's father is the real reason I'm here."
Christopher began to pace, gathering his thoughts. "Captain John Christopher was a military pilot in the 1960's, flying the most advanced aircraft of his time. One day, an unidentified ... 'blip'... appeared on the radar screens of his airbase in Omaha, Nebraska, and he and his wingman were scrambled to intercept it. At that time, Earth was almost a century away from First Contact, though for years there had been plenty of bogus sightings."
"So, he saw a...what did they call them? A ...UFO?"
"Officially, no. He thought he did, but then the blip disappeared and he chalked it up to a strange-looking cloud formation. Years later, he began to have dreams - nightmares - about his fighter plane breaking up, and briefly being suspended in mid-air at 60,000 feet. And he was convinced that he HAD seen something, and this something had caused his plane to break up."
Archer shook his head. "He could have imagined it - that was a difficult period for Earth - I know, I've read a great deal about the late 20th Century. Perhaps his imagination ran wild....perhaps he WANTED to be the first human to actually document a confirmed UFO sighting."
Christopher stopped and turned to face Archer directly. "I don't believe so. His record indicates that he was not that kind of a man. Anyway, no one believed him - they all thought as you do. Except one."
Archer understood immediately. "His son."
"Exactly. Colonel Shaun began encouraging him to recall details from his dreams, and wrote down everything he could. It was a fascinating story, Captain. Contrary to the official record, John Christopher not only believed he saw a huge UFO - he swore that he'd been taken aboard it when his plane broke apart!"
"Taken aboard? How could that be possible? There was no transporter technology in that era!"
"Quite right, Captain. Unless, of course, it was a genuine UFO - with the technology to transport him aboard."
"But there was no official sighting! Are you suggesting there was a cover-up?"
"I've found no evidence of one. I think something else happened, something more incredible. Captain, my great-grandfather made a sketch of what he saw, and that sketch, and Colonel Shaun's notebook, have come down through my family to my care. I've seen it. Most UFO sightings from the period describe a large, saucer-like ship. This one, however, was different. It was a saucer - a huge one, in fact - but in addition, there were two large nacelles attached to it at the trailing edge."
Archer was riveted now. "Two nacelles? Like our engines?"
"The configuration is almost identical." Christopher nodded and resumed his pacing. "I thought it only a minor variation on the sightings of the time until I saw the specs for the Warp 5 project when I was still a teenager. That caused me to go back into Colonel Shaun's notebook and re-read it, and look again at the sketch. And what I found THAT time galvanized me right into Starfleet!" He swung around and took the chair opposite Archer's. "Captain, from my very first day at the Academy, I vowed I would do whatever it would take to get posted to our first Warp 5 ship. I worked my butt off, barely missing the final cut. When ENTERPRISE was refitted for the Xindi mission, I was one of the extra personnel assigned. We've come a long way since then, but my goal has yet to be achieved."
"What goal is that, Ensign?"
"As I said, I had to be on this ship."
"But why? Why was it so damned important? Because your great-grandfather's sketch LOOKED like it?"
"No, not just that." Christopher leaned forward across the table at Archer. "Because he NAMED the UFO, Captain....HE NAMED THE DAMNED UFO!!"
Archer's hand began to shake involuntarily. He had a feeling the whole conversation was leading to this. "What...did he call it?"
Christopher paused, took a deep breath, and made eye contact with Archer. "He said its name was....ENTERPRISE, Captain.....and he said it had accidentally been thrown into the past from some future time period."
Archer was on his feet. "He said WHAT?"
Christopher leaned further across the table as he rose to his feet, his words rapidly increasing in intensity, as he stabbed the table top with his index finger. "Captain, I believe that this ship IS that ENTERPRISE......and ENTERPRISE - your ENTERPRISE - will one day travel back into the past, to the late 20th Century. And I want to be there, sir, to meet Captain John Christopher when you transport him aboard....."
For perhaps the first time in his life, Jonathan Archer could not think of anything to say...
Captain Vorok was a most unhappy Klingon. No real warrior should be isolated to patrol duty in this corner of the Empire. And not only had he been given a lousy ship -- a D-5 cruiser which should have been used for target practice months ago -- but the food stank, even by Klingon standards. He was more than willing to kill something -- someone -- for a simple snack of fresh Wistan gagh washed down with sour bloodwine. Even the approaching vessel did not lighten his mood. Suliban. He snorted. This had better be worth his trouble or he would get really upset. He scowled at his forward viewscreen as the image came into focus. "What do you want, Suliban? I'm busy!"
Voynar forced a liquid smile. "I have come to offer you a gift, Captain Vorok."
Vorok spat. "What could a Klingon warrior need from a pathetic Ha'DIbaH like you? naDevvo' yIghoS! Before I blast your worthless little ship into space dust!"
"But I know where to find Captain Archer, the fugitive from Klingon justice." The sudden glint in Vorok's eyes was unmistakable. So, that Tellurian spice trader was right -- Vorok has clashed with Archer before! Voynar thought. Fortune was indeed with him...
"Oh, you do, eh?" Vorok laughed. "I don't believe you!"
"But I do indeed." Voynar straightened in his command chair. "Tell me, Captain - wouldn't you want to be renowned as the Klingon warrior who returned Archer to Rura Penthe? Operas would be composed in your name, Vorok!"
Vorok grinned maliciously, revealing a mouthful of rotten, broken teeth. "So what do you want in return, Suliban?"
"Want? I want nothing, Captain. Only the honor of leading you to the fugitive, Jonathan Archer."
Vorok grunted, then turned to his comm officer and drew his finger across his throat. As his subordinate hit a button on his board, muting the viewscreen, Vorok leaned towards his second officer. "I do not trust this Suliban," he whispered.
K'hlarr grunted. "I do not trust any Suliban, my lord. But Archer is a prize worth going after. And besides, this Suliban is not stupid. He must know how easily we can destroy him, whenever we wish."
"True enough. Then we will allow this miserable nuch to lead us to Archer, and when we capture the human, we will destroy the Suliban anyway!" He laughed and signaled the comm officer to re-open the channel. "Suliban! I have changed my mind! Perhaps you are not so worthless after all! Take me to Captain Archer, so I may show him the meaning of Klingon justice! If you are fortunate, I may even allow you the honor of accompanying me into battle!"
Voynar smiled as he bowed slightly and hit a switch to end the transmission. Falling into formation, the remaining Suliban cell-ships bracketed the Klingon cruiser as they headed off into deep space...
"Captain's Starlog, supplemental. Repairs have been completed ahead of schedule and we are attempting to pick up the trail of the Suliban cellships which attacked us." Archer switched off the log feed on his command chair and turned to his Vulcan Science Officer. "Any luck, T'Pol?"
The Vulcan did not look up from her screen. "We've detected six cellships which seem to be moving in erratic trajectories."
"I hope they're not heading back to the Helix," Reed interjected. "That is not a place I want to see again."
T'Pol pretended not to hear him. "They are most likely utilizing evasive maneuvers, attempting to confuse our sensors. Their course, however, is somewhat surprising."
"Where are they going?" Archer inquired.
T'Pol looked up. "They are heading towards Klingon space."
"Klingon space?" Tucker said. "But aren't they at war with the Klingons?"
"It is likely they have an outpost of some kind close to the border." T'Pol replied. "It would be an ideal cover from which to eavesdrop on Klingon communications."
Archer nodded. "Klingon space is not territory I would willingly violate, but we have to find out why these Suliban attacked us again. Is it something new, or just more of the same?"
"And at last count, you're still wanted by these Klingons, Captain." Reed pointed out "We'd better stay on alert the whole time."
"Agreed. Travis, set a course. Maximum warp."
Archer stood behind the command chair, watching intently as the system expanded on the viewscreen. "T'Pol?"
"It is a Type G star, Captain, similar to Earth's sun; seven planets, two asteroid belts. Most of the planets do not have satellites."
"None that I can detect. However, I am picking up intense energy readings from the vicinity of the fourth planet."
Archer nodded. That, at least, was expected. "Full impulse, Mr. Mayweather. Polarize the hull plating!"
"Weapons ready, sir." Reed reported.
Archer sat. "Let's go in."
The proximity signal on his board lit up and Voynar leaned towards his comm mike. "He is here."
Vorok slammed his fist hard on his console. "You know what to do, Suliban. Now!"
A blip appeared on Reed's panel. But his warning, "Suliban cell ships, Captain!" was drowned out by the explosions. Archer grabbed the armrests on the command chair as his bridge crew struggled to maintain their positions. "Evasive! Return fire!"
The phase cannons quickly blew apart two cell ships and damaged one other, but this time, the Suliban concentrated their fire on ENTERPRISE's engines, armor plating, and life support. Their particle cannons began to take a heavy toll on the ships main systems. At his station, Reed shook his head at his security readings. "Hull plating down to 55%! One phase cannon offline!"
"Three more Suliban vessels have appeared!" T'Pol added.
"Travis! Get us out of here!" Archer ordered.
"They are coming up on our port side, attempting to cut off our escape!" T'Pol continued.
"I'm increasing speed!" Mayweather called. "Hang on!"
For a moment there was dead silence on the bridge, a silence which was rudely interrupted by an unnervingly-close concussion blast. T'Pol glanced at her board. "Captain! Our present course will take us dangerously close to that star!" Another explosion answered her.
"If you've got a better idea, T'Pol," Archer breathed, "let me-"
But Archer never got to finish, as a massive explosion threw everyone to the deck. Several more bridge stations erupted, scattering debris everywhere. Then...an eerie silence.
"What was that?" Hoshi cried, hanging on to her chair.
T'Pol quickly looked through her monitors. What she saw clearly disturbed her. "It's a Klingon battlecruiser. Type D-5."
Hoshi's board beeped. "We're being hailed, Captain."
Archer nodded and Hoshi quickly established communication. The figure that appeared on the forward viewscreen was not unfamiliar, especially to Trip.
"Enterprise!" the Klingon bellowed. "This is Captain Vorok! I promised you that our next meeting would not be a pleasant one! Cease firing and prepare to be boarded! Or you will be destroyed!"
T'Pol's voice was flat, emotionless. "In our current position, Captain, we cannot escape."
Archer was furious, more at his own stupidity than anything else. "It was a damned trap! Travis! Get us around that star before Vorok opens fire again!"
"It's going to be tricky Captain." The helmsman said with more than a trace of apprehension. "The gravity well is unusually strong, and there's a plasma storm nearby. We're closing pretty fast!"
Another massive explosion shook the ship and Vorok roared from the screen. "Enterprise! Stand down!"
"Travis?" Archer whispered.
Mayweather struggled with the controls but shook his head. "I can't break free, Captain - we're being drawn in!"
And Vorok bellowed again, "Fire!" ENTERPRISE lurched and swayed from the force of another direct hit.
"That one took out the lateral controls!" Reed cried.
"Do we still have weapons?" Archer answered.
"Some torpedoes and only one phase-cannon, but they're staying out of range!"
On the Klingon bridge, Vorok scowled and spat as his science officer called out his report: "They've entered the corona! The gravity well is stressing their hull plating!"
"maj!" Vorok gloated. "Now, we shall see if this p'tok knows how to die with honor! Swing around to the other side of the star!"
When they came around to the other side, Vorok bellowed again. "Now scan for debris!"
Klenz, the science officer, dutifully worked his board, then jerked his head up with the most surprised look a Klingon could muster. "There is nothing there! No debris, no energy readings, nothing!"
Vorok spun around. "Nothing? Your instruments must be offline. I tell you the stress should have torn Archer's ship to pieces!"
Klenz stared at his instruments, frantically working dials and switches. "I do not understand! The sensors are in perfect working order!"
Vorok rose and came to the science station, throwing Klenz heavily to the deck in the process. "Then where are they?" He pounded the science station with both fists, crushing one of the monitors. "WHERE ARE THEY?"
ENTERPRISE chose that moment to pop out of subspace, spinning lazily out of control, in orbit around…
Lying face down on the deck, Archer heard Phlox' voice swirling through the misty fragments of his consciousness: "After a concussion shock, the absolute worst you humans could do is to try to clear your head by shaking it...." He blinked. Of course, Phlox wasn't there, but his aura seemed to be. Archer resolved not to try and clear his head......at least, not yet. He pulled himself to his feet, fighting down the surging nausea. "Damage report!"
T'Pol, of course, looked as though nothing had happened. Not one hair out of place. "Coming in now, Captain." She paused to read the data stream. "Environmental controls holding, artificial gravity at 90%."
"Warp drive is inoperable, Cap'n." Tucker added. "Doesn't look good. We've barely got enough impulse power to maintain orbit."
"Orbit?" Archer blinked. "Where are we?"
"Unknown." T'Pol said. "All sensors are off-line."
They could not see outside but the motion of the ship told Archer that they were in serious trouble. Phlox had been wrong -- it wasn't his head that was spinning... "Travis! Thrusters! Slow us down!"
"Trying, sir." The helmsman answered, grimacing as he worked his controls. "She's fighting it."
Archer stepped down behind him. "Stay with her, Travis. Straight and steady, remember?"
He did. And ENTERPRISE responded. Mayweather breathed a sigh of relief. So did everyone else.
"Sensors coming online now, Captain." T'Pol announced. "Main viewscreen operational."
The entire bridge crew stared at the forward screen in stunned disbelief. Reed was the first to speak. "Earth? How did we manage to wind up here?"
"That, Mr. Reed, would seem to be the least of our concerns." T'Pol remarked in the driest of tones.
Archer ignored her. "Hoshi, contact Starfleet. Tell them...."
"I can't sir."
"Why not? Is the comm out too?"
"No, sir. There's nothing on that channel! No static, no interference, just....nothing!"
"What?" Archer started towards her station.
"Captain!" It was T'Pol, urgent.
"What is it?"
"Sensors are reporting highly elevated concentrations of industrial pollutants in the seas and atmosphere." She looked up from her station. "And I cannot locate Starfleet Headquarters."
Archer stopped, fearing the worst. "Any signs that Earth has been attacked?"
"None, Captain. In fact, there is no evidence at all of the attack by the first Xindi probe!" Her eyes met Archer's. He wasn't at all sure what he saw there.
Tucker looked up. "You're joking, right? Please tell me you're joking....."
Archer turned to Sato. "Hoshi, can you give us a close-up view of Florida?"
"I think so." Hoshi worked her board, and in a moment the crew saw a view of an intact Florida. For a second time in as many hours, there was dead silence on the bridge. Tucker's jaw nearly hit the floor. "Don't tell me....."
Next to him, Reed coughed. "Captain, I've been scanning Earth's defenses. They're not what we left behind."
"How do you mean?"
"I-I don't quite know how to say it....but I'm picking up jet aircraft, chemical rockets, and nuclear and biological stockpiles. There is a massive military-industrial complex, as evidenced by the pollutants, but everything seems to be almost 200 years behind us!"
"That can't be! Unless....this isn't Earth after all...."
It was Hoshi who applied the coup-de-grâce. She turned to Archer, a strained and incredulous look on her face, holding her commlink to her ear. "I afraid it is, Captain. I've been searching the entire spectrum of frequencies and...." She took a deep breath. "...I think you'd better listen to this, sir..."
She flicked a switch, and a young male voice crackled out of the speaker: "…and in the highlands of central Vietnam, not far from Pleiku, Marines of the 1st Cavalry Division met with fierce resistance from the Viet Cong as they attempted..."
Archer grimaced. "Turn it off, Hoshi."
But Sato, like the rest of the bridge crew, sat still, stunned and uncomprehending.
"I said, TURN IT OFF!!"
Hoshi started, but hit the cut-off switch. Archer turned to T'Pol, his eyes blazing. "It would seem, Commander, that we have once again traveled backwards in time!"
T'Pol responded with a blank face. "It would seem so, Captain. How do you propose to return?"
Archer leaned over the railing. "I haven't the faintest idea, T'Pol. I'm not even sure how we got here!" He turned to Trip. "Get down to Engineering. See what you can do."
Tucker nodded and had taken just two steps when, without warning, a huge rumble shook the ship, throwing everyone to the deck again. No one saw the huge, gleaming white object as it dashed and tumbled across the viewscreen, then shot out of sight.
Once again, Archer hauled himself into his command chair. "What the-? Malcolm-?"
At her station, T'Pol was already analyzing her display. "Another vessel, Captain, considerably larger, and badly damaged."
"Another ship? Where did it come from? Hoshi! Hail them!"
She shook her head. "Their comm system is out, Captain. They've suffered damage similar to ours."
"Their sensor array is completely off-line." T'Pol answered.
"Then we haven't been spotted." Archer breathed a temporary sigh of relief. "Travis, get some distance between us! And get that ship on the viewscreen! T'Pol, scan for biosigns!"
As Mayweather backed ENTERPRISE away from their previous position, Hoshi managed to bring the other vessel up on the forward viewscreen. Archer stood and stepped down into the well just behind Travis, his eyes refusing to comprehend what they saw. The other ship, which had steadied itself, was now above and somewhat ahead of them; he was seeing its vast underbelly. It looked enormous, and consisted of a saucer and two long nacelles protruding from its trailing edge. He shook his head. Finally, the mist was beginning to clear, and Archer swore under his breath as he felt a light bulb in the middle of his brain click on......
"Captain." It was T'Pol again. "There are over 400 biosigns on board the vessel…all human, some injuries."
Archer was stunned. "Did you say...over four HUNDRED?"
"The vessel's saucer section has three times as many decks as ours, and there is a secondary hull - it could easily accommodate that many."
Archer stared at T'Pol. He didn't like what he was about to do, but there was no way he could get around it. "Malcolm, have Ensign Christopher escorted to the bridge."
It was Reed's turn to stare. "Sir?"
Archer whirled. "You heard me, Lieutenant. Have Ensign Christopher brought to the bridge - now!"
Reed nodded, "Yes, sir." Archer strategically placed himself in front of the viewscreen and waited.
Within minutes, Christopher was on the bridge, flanked by two MACOs. He regarded Arched with a wary expression.
"Ensign Christopher. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I have a problem. I was hoping you could help me."
"A problem, Captain? What kind of a problem?"
Archer stepped aside. "We've traveled into the past, Ensign, and we've encountered another vessel. I was hoping you could identify it for me."
Christopher stared, thunderstruck, at the white ship on the screen, which was now climbing away rapidly. "That - that can't be.....! It CAN'T!!"
"But it is, Ensign, isn't it!" said Archer. "There's another ship out there, and it looks almost identical to mine! Isn't THAT the one you've been after?"
Christopher just stared, unable to speak.
Archer ignored him. "Hoshi, does that ship have a transponder signal?"
"Yes, sir. Strange, it's similar to the standard Starfleet transponder, but there's a far more sophisticated encryption code."
"See if you can isolate the ship's identity."
"Cap'n, what's going on here?" Tucker interjected.
"Easy, Trip. I'll explain in a minute. Hoshi?"
"Captain! I've got it! But...."
"But what, Ensign?" T'Pol said quietly.
Hoshii looked up at T'Pol, then helplessly at Archer. "This is impossible..."
Archer took a breath. "Hoshi, what is the name of that ship out there?"
"Captain, the registry identification is not standard Starfleet. It's....NCC-1701. That wasn't too hard to get. But the beacon reports that it's named ENTERPRISE! Captain, what is-?"
Archer whirled and fixed his glare directly on Christopher. "ANOTHER ENTERPRISE? Your great-grandfather only spoke of one! What haven't you told me?"
"Captain! I HAVE told you everything! I'm as confused as you are. I don't-!"
"Sir!" It was Reed. "There's another craft approaching! High angle of attack, closing rapidly!" At this revelation, Christopher, turned white and clutched the nearest railing.
"Tactical alert!" Archer said. "Where's it headed?"
"It's going after the bigger ship. It doesn't seem to have spotted us!"
"Travis! Get us away from that craft, and keep us out of visual range!"
The interceptor came into view from the bottom of the viewscreen, its needle-nose pointed straight at the white ENTERPRISE. Then, before anyone could react, it was engulfed in a translucent energy beam emanated from the white ship, slowed to a crawl, then came to a dead stop in mid-air, its jet engine still thrusting. Archer stared. "T'Pol! Is that a tractor beam?"
"Confirmed. It is similar to the Vulcan design."
"Captain!" Christopher blurted out. "I've told you - that jet's too fragile! You must-!"
But his warning came too late, for the jet had already begun to break up. Instantly, the tractor beam disappeared, only to be replaced by a blazing-white beam which centered on the cockpit area. After only a few seconds, it, too, vanished, and the remains of the jet tumbled out of sight. The white ENTERPRISE increased its speed and was soon no more than a speck against the cloudless sky. Archer and Christopher stared at the screen, thunderstruck - the rest of the bridge crew looked around in bewilderment. After a moment, Archer broke the silence. "It would seem, Mr. Christopher, that your great-grandfather has been transported to the wrong ENTERPRISE."
"Oh my God," the ensign whispered. "That's not the way it was supposed to happen..."
"Captain's Starlog, supplemental. Several hours have passed since we witnessed the other ENTERPRISE beam Captain John Christopher out of his airplane. I have confined Ensign Christopher to his quarters until we can determine a course of action. Since then, we have witnessed more transporter activity from the other ENTERPRISE, this time beaming to Earth's surface and back. I am unsure whether we should investigate, and have called a meeting of my senior officers in my ready room."
Tucker could barely wait for his captain to finish his log entry. "Are you serious? The pilot of that jet plane was Ensign Christopher's great-grandfather?"
"That's what he told me."
"And we have no idea who those people are on that other ship, except that they're humans like us, and their ship is named ENTERPRISE, right?"
Tucker threw up his hands, exasperated. "Then what are we standing around for? Let's contact them and get some answers!"
"It's not that simple," T'Pol interjected. "That ship is most likely from the future. To contact it in any way would almost certainly damage the timeline."
"I thought you didn't believe in this time-travel stuff!" Trip rejoined.
"I do not. However, logic clearly directs us to be cautious..."
"...just in case," Trip mimicked her. "Look, I'm no expert on this, but you've got to admit that since we're here, the timeline is already in trouble. How could it get worse?"
"That's just it, Trip," Archer added. "We don't know. Why take the chance that-?
The intercom chirped. "Archer."
It was Reed. "Captain! Our transporter's just been activated!"
"What? Shut it down!"
"I can't, sir. Someone overrode the security lockouts."
"Where did they beam to, Lieutenant?" T'Pol inquired.
"The data stream went in the direction of the other ship," he answered.
"Can you tell who was transported?"
Reed hesitated. "Ensign Christopher."
Tucker rolled his eyes. "And that's how things can get worse."
Archer looked up at Tucker. "Trip. Can you locate him over there? Transport him back?"
"On a ship crowded with 400 humans? I don't think our sensors are that sensitive."
"Then someone will have to go and get him." Archer said grimly.
"And how will we find YOU?" T'Pol inquired.
"Keep a lock on my communicator signal - it uses a different frequency than anything we've detected over there."
"You should not go alone."
"I don't plan to. Trip, you're with me. T'Pol, have Lieutenant Reed meet us in the transporter room."
The instant they materialized, Archer, Tucker, and Reed went into a defensive crouch. Tucker let out the breath he'd held from before their transport. "That was pretty good work, finding an empty corridor," he whispered.
Archer nodded. "T'Pol put us in one of the least-populated areas of this ship." He fingered the medical tricorder. "Phlox told me that we should be able to pick out Christopher's DNA with this, if we can get close enough. But we'll have to go carefully to avoid being detected. We don't know how fast these people can repair their sensors."
"Or what kind of weaponry they have." Reed added, tightening his grip on the phase-rifle he carried.
Cautiously, Archer peered around a corner. "Stay on your toes," he whispered. "Let's go."
The trio moved out, taking great care to move as quietly as possible. Archer kept a careful eye on the tricorder. Several times the readings fluctuated, forcing them to backtrack, adding to their anxiety and frustration. But whenever they came to any kind of an access tube leading to the upper decks, the signal would become strongest. They had climbed four decks when a beacon began to flash, indicating their quarry was within fifty meters. Archer nodded to his companions. They slowed their pace, flattening themselves against a wall, and edged forward. They turned a corner and...
"Christopher!" Archer hissed. "What the HELL do you think you're doing?"
He looked up from the tricorder he was carrying. "I'm trying to locate my great-grandfather, sir. We have to get him back!"
"But your being here could change everything!"
"Begging your pardon, sir, so could yours."
Archer took a breath. That was unexpected! And also true. "Look, if we go now, nobody will spot us. The longer we stay here, the greater the chance the timeline will be compromised! And if it is, Captain Christopher-!"
"Get back!" Reed hissed. "Footsteps!" Brushing the others behind him, Reed knelt at the edge of the juncture, his phase-rifle at the ready. Archer began to finger his communicator. From down the corridor, came a double SWISH! sound, and the footsteps muted. "There's four of them, sir," Reed reported. "Entering a room. They don't appear to be armed."
"Let's hope they haven't heard our breathing." Archer muttered. "Come on." But as they began to leave, Tucker, with his ear to the wall, grabbed him. "Shh!! Listen!"
Something in his Engineer's demeanor caused Archer to hesitate, then do likewise. And the voice he heard caused his right eyebrow to shoot up in amazement, for its cadence sounded suspiciously like T'Pol's.
Spock steepled his fingers in front of him, as he always did when deep in thought, or was to deliver a momentous pronouncement, as he was about to do now. "Mr. Scott and I both agree that the only possible solution is a slingshot effect, like the one that put us here. My computations indicate that if we fly toward the sun, seek out its magnetic attraction, then pull away at full power, the whiplash will propel us into another time warp."
"Slingshot effects are fine for you people," Captain Christopher interjected. "How do you propose to return the Sergeant and me?"
Outside, the young Christopher could not conceal his jubilation. "Captain! That's him! My great-grandfather! It's got to be!"
Archer quickly clamped his hand over the younger man's mouth. "Shhh!!!"
"Logically," Spock continued, "as we move faster and faster toward the sun, we'll begin to move backward in time. We'll actually go back beyond yesterday, beyond the point when we first appeared in the sky. Then, breaking free will shoot us forward in time, and we'll transport you back at a point before any of this happened."
Despite himself, Archer muttered, "Sounds good so far..."
"You won't have anything to remember," added another, more authoritative voice, "because it never would have happened."
"What if you CAN'T pull free of the sun?" Captain Christopher asked.
Oh, we'll do that all right, Captain," added a thoroughly Scottish brogue. "We'll not be getting so close that my engines couldn't pull us out!"
Tucker grinned. "Engineers! You gotta love 'em!"
"What I AM worried about, sir," Scott added, "is that we may not have much control when we're thrown forward again."
"Helm control?" the authoritative voice again.
"Braking control, sir. If I can't stop us soon enough, we may overshoot our time. And if I stop the engines suddenly, the strain may tear us apart. Any way we do it, it means a mighty rough ride."
There was a brief pause, as everyone on both sides of the wall contemplated Scott's summation. Archer would remember the next words for the rest of his life, and he knew, instinctively, that only the Captain of the white ENTERPRISE could have uttered them. "Well, gentlemen, we all have to take a chance. Especially...if one is all you have." Kirk paused and looked intently at the faces of Spock, Scott, and Captain Christopher. Steely-voice, he finished. "Assume your stations."
The unmistakable sounds of scuffling chairs announced the end of the meeting, and Reed pointed down the corridor away from the door. Archer, Trip, and Ensign Christopher, with Reed trailing and providing cover, were halfway down the corridor before the meeting room's doors opened.
When they had turned a corner and come to an access tube, Archer breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, it looks like they've got it figured out. Trip! Could we do something similar?"
Tucker's face wore a pained expression. "I don't know, Cap'n. This ship's got a lot more power then we do. And it'll probably handle the stress better, too."
Archer pulled out his communicator. "Run a simulation when we get back. It may be our only chance." He turned to Christopher. "It looks like your great-grandfather is going to be okay. I'm sorry you won't be able to meet him after all."
The Ensign nodded. "Sir, what I've done has put us all in jeopardy. Are you planning any disciplinary action?"
Archer glared back at him. "I'll let you know." He flipped open the communicator. "T'Pol, we've got him. Transport now."
Voynar's voice was tinged with sarcasm. "It would seem, Vorok, that you have lost your prize."
The Klingon was perilously close to losing his temper. He spat directly at the viewscreen. "And what would you know of that, Suliban?"
"We Suliban have technology you do not, Vorok. I know what happened to Archer, but you won't like it."
"Tell me what you know before I-!"
The Suliban commander made sure his shields were at full strength before he answered. "The gravity well you thought tore his ship to pieces has instead flung them into the past, Vorok. Almost 200 years into the past!" His viewscreen abruptly went dark, but Voynar thought he could hear -- and feel -- Vorok's furious roar...
They stepped off the transporter pad of the NX-01. "Status?" Archer said.
T'Pol stepped out from behind the console. "The other vessel is moving off. It would seem we have remained undetected. Ensign Mayweather has kept us in the one area their damaged sensors cannot cover."
"And Earth's defenses? They certainly spotted the other ENTERPRISE easily enough. Why not us?"
"Our scanners have detected a thin metallic film on several areas of the outer hull. Apparently, this film was deposited there when we entered the corona of the star. I suspect this is responsible for our remaining invisible by somehow jamming their primitive scans."
Archer nodded his understanding. "The other ship is definitely from the future, T'Pol, and they think they've found a way to get back to their own time. Let's get to the bridge."
As they entered the bridge, Mayweather vacated the command chair and regained his station. "Captain! The other ENTERPRISE has disappeared from our sensors."
"It'll be back rather quickly, Mr. Mayweather. It's re-entered a time warp."
"I beg your pardon, sir?"
"That will take a bit of explanation, Ensign," Archer added with a wry smile as he settled himself in the center seat.
T'Pol stared intently at her board. "Captain! I've located it. It-"
Simultaneously, they both looked up at the forward viewscreen, in time to witness a ghostly apparition of Kirk's ENTERPRISE appear. Instantly, a white beam shot down to the planetary surface. "T'Pol! Did they just transport something?"
T'Pol stared intently into her viewer. "Confirmed. One human transported to the military base directly below us."
"That might be the Sergeant they spoke of." Archer murmured.
"The jet aircraft has now appeared." T'Pol continued.
The interceptor materialized before them, in the same position they had seen previously, and a second transporter beam stabbed out towards it. But this time, no tractor beam appeared, and within a split-second, Kirk's ENTERPRISE disappeared, and Christopher's jet rocketed forward, intact and under its own power, and began its return home.
"Good luck, ENTERPRISE," Archer whispered, "I hope you make it."
"Captain!" Hoshi called. " I'm picking up air-to-ground transmission!"
"Let's hear it."
Archer chuckled as Captain Christopher's disappointed voice came tumbling from the speakers. "Blackjack, this is Bluejay Four. I could have sworn there was some kind of ship...but nothing could have moved that fast. Mark it down as another UFO! Bluejay Four, returning to base."
As Christopher's jet disappeared, Tucker stared glumly at the viewscreen. "I guess this means we're stranded, don't it, Cap'n."
Archer looked at Tucker. "I guess it does, Trip." Then he looked back at the clear, azure sky on the screen. "I guess it does..."
The next few hours were restless ones for Archer, teetering between the pitfalls of anxiety and depression, and the hell of sheer boredom. He tried to amuse himself by bouncing his water polo ball off the bulkhead, but Porthos had ruined that game by trying to corral the ball. Finally, Archer had grabbed his pet and playfully roughed him up whereupon Porthos had rewarded him with several licks on the nose. He smiled. At least one of his crew was oblivious to the problem they faced...
He seated himself at his desk and clicked on the log with a deep sigh. "Captain's Log...date, unknown. We are stranded in the past, orbiting our home planet, Earth. I am awaiting the results of Commander Tucker's simulations, but there seems little hope that we can return to our own time." He looked up as the door chime sounded. "Come!"
The door swished open and Trip entered, carrying a PADD, and wearing a glum expression. "That bad?" Archer asked.
"Couldn't be worse." Trip answered flatly. "Not only is the warp drive gonna take several days to get back online," he added, handing Archer the PADD, "but those simulations you asked for?" He shook his head. "We don't stand a chance."
Archer groaned and his face assumed a pained expression of its own.
"Yep. If the warp drive doesn't overload when we try to go around the sun, the gravitational stress will tear the pylons off."
Archer stood up and began to pace, then stared out the window of his ready room.
"Any orders, sir?"
Archer thought a moment. "No, just don't tell anyone, Trip - not yet. In the meantime, have Travis take us out of orbit and head for the back side of the moon. We've been lucky not to be detected so far. Let's make sure we stay that way."
Trip nodded. "Aye, sir." But as he exited, Tucker cast a discrete look back at his captain, who slumped in his chair, his head in his hands....
Reed always monitored his board with care concentration, but two days into ENTERPRISE's journey to Earth's moon, he was especially diligent. Not even a bore worm would get by him. Thus, it was no surprise when his board beeped at him. "Commander! I'm picking up a vessel ahead!"
T'Pol, in the command chair, merely said, "Distance?"
"Approximately one hundred thousand kilometers. It's quite small, only a few meters long."
Reed shook his head. "None. It seems to be an automated probe, capable of landing and analyzing soil or rock samples."
Trip Tucker's ears perked up as he entered the bridge. "Did you say you've spotted an unmanned probe, Malcolm?"
"Confirmed, Commander....wait! There's another one. About three hundred thousand kilometers ahead. It's much larger, and far more sophisticated."
Trip fairly leaped over to Reed's station. "There's two of them out there?"
"That's right. See for yourself."
"Where are they headed?"
"They're both on course for trans-lunar injection."
"Malcolm! Check for biosigns on the larger craft! Hurry!"
At that moment, Archer entered the bridge from his ready room. "What seems to be the problem out here?"
Trip looked up. "Problem? Cap'n, we may be in the middle of history here!"
"History, Commander?" It was T'Pol.
"T'Pol, there was only one time in the 20th Century that two probes from Earth were sent to the moon at the same time! One robot, and one manned!"
"You are certain?"
Trip ignored her. "Malcolm, the larger craft should have three human biosigns!"
Reed checked his board. "Three biosigns, Commander. All human. What-?"
Archer looked at Trip, his grin threatening to split his face. "Mr. Mayweather, place us in an orbit around the moon away from these craft so we can't be seen."
Travis turned around, a confused look on his face, but managed an "Aye, sir..."
"Hoshi," Archer continued, "keep a communications lock on the manned vehicle. I think you'll find it interesting."
"You thinking what I'm thinking, Cap'n?" Trip chuckled.
Archer turned . "You know I am!"
At that, all T'Pol could manage was a raised eyebrow....
Twelve hours later, a shuttlepod dropped from ENTERPRISE and as the sleek craft glided away from the larger ship's belly, Archer clicked on the log switch. "Captain's Log, approximately July 20th, 1969. We may be stranded, unable to return to our own time, but as Commander Tucker has pointed out, we are in the middle of history. In this case, humanity's first visit to another world. I've decided that Trip and I should view the proceedings from the lunar surface - discretely, of course." He glanced back at his best friend, then continued. "We plan to land the shuttlepod just beyond a range of hills adjacent to the Sea of Tranquility, and climb a ridge overlooking the plain. This will give us a clear view of Apollo 11's final descent and landing, and later....mankind's first steps on the moon. Commander Tucker has modified one of the sensor arrays from the shuttlepod which we will set up atop the ridge so we can beam close-up views back to ENTERPRISE."
Tucker made a final adjustment on he sensor's control panel, then looked up. "Well, I think this'll do it, Cap'n. Everyone on ENTERPRISE will have a front-row seat."
"Good". Archer peered out the forward window. "I think I'll set down over here. There's a flat space among all these rocks."
Tucker settled himself into the co-pilot's seat and strapped himself in as Archer began a gentle turn, designed to safely lose altitude. Moments later, the shuttlepod gently set down on the lunar surface. Archer shut down the engines and turned to his companion. "Ready, Trip?"
"You kidding? For a chance to witness Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon?" He grinned wickedly. "Naw, I'm gonna stay in here and let you have all the fun!"
"Race you to the top of the ridge?" Trip scowled and Archer slapped him on the shoulder. "Come on, let's get going. They should have separated from the command module by now and...."
"Enterprise to Captain Archer!"
Instantly, Archer was all business. "Archer here. What is it, Malcolm?"
"I've picked up something on the sensors, Captain. But I'm not certain what to make of it."
"It was a momentary blip, sir. Like someone had opened a door and quickly closed it again."
T'Pol came on. "We've tried several full sensor sweeps, Captain. There was nothing to be found."
"Nothing unusual?" said Trip. "No anomalies of any kind?"
"We found nothing." T'Pol responded.
"It almost sounds like a ship decloaking." Trip muttered.
"We could not find any residual trace of a vessel, Commander." This time, T'Pol sounded slightly annoyed.
"Mr. Reed, go to full alert," Archer ordered. "I don't like the timing of this. And keep searching."
"Aye, sir Going to full alert."
"Captain." It was T'Pol again. "Perhaps you should return to Enterprise."
"Trip and I are about to take our moonwalk, T'Pol. If you do find something, let us know immediately. Archer out."
Tucker drummed his fingers nervously on the control panel. "Let's hope it was a just a blip on the radar screen."
"Let's hope," Archer replied, trying to keep his worry from flooding his face.
Donning EVA suits had never been easy, but with two grown men in a cramped shuttlepod, it was almost impossible. Finally, Tucker firmed up his last connection and depressurized the cabin. Then, as he was about to open the hatch, he turned to Archer. "Cap'n, you do realize that YOU are about to become the first human to step onto the surface of the moon?"
Archer grinned. "Why, Commander Tucker, I thought I'd allow you to go first. I'd be real interested to hear what you'd have to say!"
"Honestly, Cap'n, I wouldn't know WHAT to say." Tucker deadpanned.
"All right, then. Open the hatch. I'll go first."
Tucker did so, and gallantly indicated the way for Archer. The captain stepped out onto the lunar surface, pondered a moment, and then turned back to his chief engineer. "Oh, and don't forget the long-range binoculars, ok?"
Trip shook his head. "Man, you are the epitome of elegance."
"I just thought I'd leave the right stuff to Mr. Armstrong."
"True - no sense compromising history." Trip shouldered his equipment bag and tossed the binoculars to Archer. "Here!"
Archer reached up and grabbed the binoculars as they threatened to fly over his head. "Nice catch." Trip commented. The engineer hopped out of the shuttlecraft, and together the space-suited pair began to make their way across the lunar surface.
The lunar gravity was only one-sixth that of what they were used to, and they accomplished their journey without any great difficulty. While Trip unpacked and began to set up the array, Archer knelt behind a small outcropping of rock and began to scour the sky with the binoculars. As he panned the heavens, his thoughts began to drift. His father, Henry Archer, and his designs for advanced warp engines; his close friend and rival, A. G. Robinson, who had broken Warp 2 with him - illegally; Zefram Cochrane, the father of the warp drive; and so many others who had contributed to put humankind among the stars. It had been such a privilege to meet and work side by side with so many of them........and now, to be able to view the one moment of human spaceflight history even more revered than Cochrane's first voyage.....
T'Pol's voice cut into his reverie. "Captain, we are monitoring the descent of the manned landing craft. It should come into your visual range momentarily."
Archer had been unaware that his friend had finished his work and also had been searching the sky. "I see them, Cap'n!" Trip pointed. "Man, that's a weird-lookin' little ship!"
"Archer to T'Pol. We've got the array set up. Have you acquired our signal?"
"Image coming in now, Captain." T'Pol answered. "Telemetry is excellent, and we can see the landing vehicle."
Archer and Tucker stared out over the Sea of Tranquility. "We can see it too, T'Pol." Not far from them, the Eagle lander drifted sideways across the moonscape, slowly descending towards the ground. As it entered its final approach, the engine cut out, and it gently set down on the lunar surface. A thoughtful Hoshi patched them into the lander's communications, and a few moments after Eagle's touchdown, Archer and Tucker heard Neil Armstrong's voice. "Houston - Tranquility Base here....the Eagle has landed."
"Roger, Tranquility - we copy you on the ground!" responded Houston's CAPCOM. "You got a bunch of guys here about to turn blue - we're breathing again! Thanks a lot!"
On the ridge, behind cover, Archer and Trip exchanged smiles and a handshake. The joyous moment, however, did not last thanks to Reed's anxious voice. "Commander! I'm detecting a shift in the orbit of the unmanned probe!"
T'Pol was instantly alert. "What kind of a shift, Lieutenant?"
"I'm not sure what's caused it, but the orbit is no longer stable!"
The Vulcan science officer quickly went to her station. "Confirmed. The probe is beginning to descend."
On the lunar surface, Archer and Trip had heard everything. "What's its trajectory, T'Pol?" called Archer.
A look of shock came over T'Pol's face as she stared at her board. "T'Pol?" Archer called again.
"Captain, the unmanned craft will impact in the general vicinity of the landing vehicle. I cannot predict how close!"
"Dammit!" Tucker exploded. "I knew it! We've screwed with timelines once too often, Cap'n! We can't let this thing come down here!"
Archer nodded. "T'Pol! How fast can you get here?"
"We are already underway, Captain. But we are on the other side of the moon, in high orbit. You and Mr. Tucker are closer."
"Understood! Trip! Let's move!"
Leaving the sensor array behind, they quickly scrambled down the slope and raced to shuttlepod. Once inside, they tossed their helmets away and Archer quickly punched in the liftoff sequence, barely giving Trip time to strap in.
As the shuttlecraft clawed for altitude, Trip worked his navigation board furiously. "I've got it, Captain! It's picking up speed and descending rapidly!"
"How long before impact?"
T'Pol's voice came over the speakers. "One minute, twenty three seconds."
Archer turner to his engineer. "Trip?"
"That's cutting it close, Cap'n. Real close."
Archer stared intently out the forward window. "Come on, come on...where are you?"
Tucker shook his head. "Still out of range, Cap'n! Y'know, they really ought to design these things with a warp drive!"
"Trip, when we get home, I will personally recommend you to Admiralty Wing!" They exchanged glances, briefly having been reminded of their predicament. Tucker suddenly straightened as his board beeped. "Target acquired!"
"Fire!" Archer roared.
The shuttlepod's plasma cannon opened fire and scored a glancing hit on Luna 15, spinning it away at an odd angle. Archer followed it, satisfied only when he saw it crash onto the lunar surface. He nodded to his shipmate. "Good shooting, Trip."
Tucker slumped in his seat and noisily let out a full breath. "It was more a lucky shot. I wonder where that probe hit?"
T'Pol came on again. "Approximately 1000 kilometers away from the Sea of Tranquility, Mr. Tucker. Well done."
But above them, and well behind, a ship in high orbit quietly shimmered out of sight...
"Commander!" Reed said. "I've picked up that blip again!" But as T'Pol turned, about to speak, he quickly added, "But it disappeared. Again."
"With no residual traces, Lieutenant?"
Reed shook his head, clearly miffed. "Not a thing."
But if sounds could travel through the vacuum of deep space, they would all have heard the smirk.....
As the shuttle was lifted into its launch bay, Archer took the moment to click on his log, tying the signal in to the main log aboard ENTERPRISE. "Captain's Log, Supplemental. Commander Tucker's marksmanship has allowed the Apollo 11 mission to continue undisturbed. After the astronauts begin their return to Earth, we will transport our equipment back to ENTERPRISE so that no one will ever know we were here. But there is one more detail to attend to..."
Archer and Trip entered a bridge jammed with as many humans as it could hold, plus one Vulcan and one Denobulan. The rest of the crew, he knew, would be viewing the transmission on monitors in the crew's mess. He came to T'Pol's side at the command chair. "How soon?"
"They are about to open the hatch. You've arrived just in time," she said, smoothly vacating the seat.
Instead, Archer stepped down into the well in front of the helm station, and turned to face his crew. "We're about to witness history, everyone - the moment that began our own journey." He turned back to the viewscreen as Hoshi zoomed the image in on Eagle's side hatch. Moments later, the hatch opened, and the unforgettable image of an astronaut's legs appeared as he slid backwards onto the ladder. Slowly, the spacesuited figure descended, then stopped on the bottom rung. The astronaut spoke. "Houston, I'm about to step off the LEM now." An interminable moment, then with a jaunty hop, he dropped onto the lunar soil. And the crew of ENTERPRISE heard the first human words spoken from another world: "That's one small step for man...."
Gazing at the screen, his eyes moistening, Archer whispered in unison, "...one giant leap...for mankind."
Behind Archer, the crew burst into cheers and applause - all except T'Pol who regarded the proceedings with a bemused expression and a raised eyebrow. Archer continued to watch intently as the human drama unfolded before them…
The next morning found Archer alone in the Captain's Mess, sipping a glass of orange juice and staring out the window at the stars, reflecting deeply on the previous day's events. He shook his head. He was so proud of his crew, how they had held up, knowing that they were, indeed, stranded, yet were able to put that aside for the brief pleasure of seeing Armstrong and Aldrin on the lunar landscape. He sighed. There was nothing now that he could do - nothing. He clicked on his log. "Captain's Log...date...unnecessary. Commander Tucker has just informed me that the warp engines will be online this afternoon, but..... then what is to be our course of action? I am filled with... foreboding for the future." He was dimly aware of another blue-uniformed figure, also with a glass of orange juice, enter and take a seat next to him, but so deep was his thought that for a moment, it did not register. Then he turned, and got the shock of his life. "Daniels?"
Daniels brought his glass to his lips and tasted its contents. "This is really good, Captain. How did you manage the fresh-squeezed taste?"
Archer ignored the remark. "When I last saw you, we didn't exactly part on good terms. I basically told you to get lost and stay lost. And you sounded like you agreed." He paused. "So why are you here?"
"I'm sorry, Captain, but we've picked up a time thread that doesn't fit the correct pattern. It was traced to your ship."
Archer put down his glass. "Someone on my ship has caused a time-line problem?"
"How? And why?"
"Actually, he's not the cause, more of a focal point. Did he tell you how he learned of John Christopher's experience with the other ENTERPRISE?"
"Yes, he did. Why?"
Daniels paused briefly. "Captain Christopher was never supposed to know. No one was." He pretended not to notice as Archer's eyes grew wide. "You see, what you witnessed four days ago was Captain Christopher being returned to his aircraft at the very moment in time he was originally beamed out of it. Therefore, in one sense, the entire incident never happened."
"But apparently, it did."
"Yes, and no. Bear with me, Captain, this is not easy to explain." Daniels paused, choosing his next words carefully. "Yes, the experience did happen, but Captain Christopher was sent back to that precise moment so that he would not remember, and so that the knowledge of his encounter would not be used by others..."
"...to change the future." Archer finished. "That much I can understand. But somewhere in his subconscious, perhaps in his cellular memory, he knew what had happened!"
"Yes, he did."
"So how did he come to remember? Ensign Christopher said that his great-grandfather spent the last few years of his life in a nursing home, and that's when the story came out. Did his advanced age cause the barriers between his conscious mind and his subconscious to break down, causing him remember things?"
"It's a lovely theory, Captain, but we don't think that's what happened here. There are two temporal signatures associated with this thread, and we think they, or rather those who caused them, are responsible."
"Suliban?" Archer asked.
"That's one." Daniels replied grimly.
"And the other?"
"A reptilian Xindi."
Archer was now all attention. "What do you want me to do?"
"Allow me to take your ship approximately 50 years into the future."
"Yes. We don't know if there are others involved, but there might be. My superiors want to guard against all possibilities. Having ENTERPRISE might tip the balance in our favor." He leaned forward and spoke more urgently. "But no matter what happens, Captain, we have to stop Captain Christopher from remembering what happened to him!"
Something clicked in the back of Archer's brain but he chose to ignore it. "But why? Nothing went wrong. The story was kept in Christopher's family for generations! Nobody knew!"
"But you're not supposed to be here, either, Captain! None of THIS was supposed to have happened! And the fact that we know that both a Suliban AND a Xindi may be involved in his awakening, we have to assume that they've taken other steps to insure that the story of his encounter IS used - will be used - to alter the future!"
"Then I guess we have to nip them in the bud, don't we?"
Daniels smiled easily for the first time that day. "Congratulations, Captain. You're really beginning to understand time travel...."
Archer nodded. "Yes - very fortunate." He nodded to Christopher. "He looks so...peaceful."
"And dangerous. You must insure that he never remembers his UFO encounter. You have your phase-pistol, don't you?
"Of course, Daniels. But there must be some other way. Let me get Phlox down here-"
Daniels gave him a suddenly-agitated look. "We may not have that kind of time, Jonathan! He must be...eliminated."
Archer nodded and pulled his phase-pistol, setting it to its highest setting. "I believe you're right." And then turned and pointed the phase-pistol directly at Daniels. "But I've never deliberately murdered anyone before, and I'm not going to start now." He paused for effect. "Except maybe with you."
Daniels stared at Archer, the phase-pistol, then back at Archer again. "What? What do you think you're doing, Archer? I'M not your enemy! HE is!"
"I disagree. Something stinks here, 'Daniels' - ever since you came aboard my ship! First you wanted to take Enterprise through time, when you could have just sent T'Pol and me here...and now you want me to kill a defenseless old man! That's not the Daniels I know!" He advanced on Daniels, eventually backing him into a corner by the window, away from Christopher. "Who are you?"
"Stop this!" Daniels hissed. "You're making a terrible mistake! What's come over you, Captain?"
Archer's face wore a grim smile as he caressed the phase-pistol and surreptitiously reduced the setting. "Sanity. How do I like my eggs, Daniels?"
Daniels stared, aghast. "WHAT?"
"It's a simple question to answer...for someone who was once my personal waiter. How...do I like...my eggs?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Everything, Daniels. It explains...everything." Archer fired, and Daniels collapsed to the floor without a sound. Archer stared down at the crumpled form. "Funny, I thought you knew." He flipped open his communicator. "Archer to Enterprise."
On the bridge, T'Pol, in the command chair, answered. "Captain! Is everything alright?"
"Not really," Archer answered. "I've had to stun Daniels. He was a phony."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me - a fake. I want you to transport us directly to sickbay, right now. And have Lieutenant Reed and a security detail there. If this guy is who I suspect, we may need some help when he wakes up."
Archer looked over to Captain Christopher as the beam enveloped him and his unconscious charge. Fortunately, Christopher had slept peacefully throughout the entire encounter.
Phlox severely disliked having military personnel in his sickbay, but under the current circumstances, he'd had no choice. The Captain had ordered it, and Lt. Reed had appeared with two heavily-armed MACOs just as the transporter beam had begun to appear before him. The Captain and the Lieutenant had helped him get the unconscious "Daniels" onto one of the diagnostic beds and strap him in. As the doors swished opened, ushering in T'Pol, Phlox turned to Archer. "An excellent guess, Captain. This is certainly NOT Crewman Daniels."
T'Pol studied Phlox' diagnostic board above the bed. "Then who, or what, is he?"
"A highly reconstituted Suliban."
"Reconstituted?" said Archer.
"Your species would call it 'sophisticated plastic surgery'. He looks like Daniels, he walks like Daniels, he talks like Daniels..."
"But he isn't Daniels." Archer allowed himself a grim smile.
Archer turned to T'Pol. "We should still have some of the temporal tags the real Daniels gave us."
"They're in Daniel's old quarters, along with the rest of his equipment."
"Good. Tag this guy, whoever he is." He took a breath. "And let's hope the real Daniels is home to receive him."
"Then there were no Xindi or Suliban assassins."
The Captain indicated the unconscious being before them. "Only him. I would imagine that if he couldn't get me to kill Captain Christopher, he would have tried to kill both of us."
"Considering what the real Daniels has said about your future," Reed interjected, "I think you were probably the main target all along."
Phlox nodded. "And with what he was hiding under his fingernails, I'd say you were most fortunate, Captain."
Phlox worked a control on the diagnostic board, magnifying one of the Suliban's hands. "Needle-like implants, embedded in the fingertips, laced with enough poison to bring down a rampaging mugato."
Archer stared at the monitor. "My father always used to say that you had to have a little luck." He paused, weighing a decision. "I'm going back down there."
"For what purpose?" T'Pol asked.
"There's something down there that I need to see." Archer responded. "If I'm right, it will prove that the timeline hasn't been corrupted." He headed towards the Sickbay doors in response to T'Pol's arched eyebrow. "And have Ensign Christopher meet me in the transporter room."
"Captain?" T'Pol swore inwardly that she'd never figure out humans.
Just before the doors, Archer turned and smiled. "There's something down there that HE needs to see as well". Then he touched the door control, and was gone. T'Pol, Phlox, and Reed exchanged very confused glances.
"Careful," Archer cautioned. "You don't want to wake him."
"I won't." Noticing that the drawer of the nightstand was slightly open, Ensign Christopher leaned over and cautiously slid it open, then thrust his hand in. His great-grandfather chose that moment to murmur and roll onto his side, snoring contentedly. Archer and the ensign froze, Archer's hand on his communicator, then both relaxed as they realized that the man on the bed was still asleep. Ensign Christopher pulled out a notebook with a rough sketch on the top page. "Captain!" he whispered. "You may want to look at this!"
Archer took the notebook and softly whistled. The sketch was a simple drawing of a saucer with 2 nacelles protruding from its rear section...with a single word printed underneath in plain block letters: ENTERPRISE. How like my own ship Archer thought. Then he looked closer. Was that a smudge under the saucer? Or a poor attempt to depict the lower hull of the other ENTERPRISE? And yet so unalike... He looked at the ensign, then at the sleeping figure, and handed the notebook to his companion. "Time to go, Ensign."
Ensign Christopher nodded, resigned. "Yes, sir." He returned the notebook to the drawer, leaving it slightly open. Then he and Archer slid away from the bed and Archer pulled out his communicator. "We're ready, T'Pol."
"Thank you, Captain." Ensign Christopher said, turning just as the tell-tale transporter hum began, and caught a brief glimpse of Archer's warp-powered grin just before they dissolved. They never knew that Captain John Christopher was dreaming at that very moment of being visited by a pair of angels...
The next morning found Archer alone in the Captain's Mess, sipping a glass of orange juice and staring out the window at the stars, reflecting deeply on the previous day's events. He shook his head as he clicked on his log. "Captain's Log, supplemental. May 14th, 2025. If I am correct, ENTERPRISE has just successfully foiled a plot by a Suliban renegade to alter the future. At least, I hope I'm right. At this point, I have no way of knowing whether we will ever know...." He was dimly aware of another blue-uniformed figure approaching from his blind side, but so deep was his thought that for a moment, it did not register. Without warning, a plate of scrambled eggs was placed in front of him. "Chef, " Archer called. "I didn't order any..." And as he spoke, Archer turned, and received the second shock of his life. "Daniels?"
Daniels' smile was enigmatic, as always, but emphatically benign. "You like your eggs soft, Captain... and I have never served them to you any other way."
They were in the corridor leading to the situation room, and Daniels was speaking with more emphasis than Archer could ever remember. "...but I will have to stay aboard, of course, and facilitate the removal of your records. There can't be any evidence of this journey through time."
"And the Suliban?" Archer asked.
"He will return with me, don't worry." Daniels stopped just outside the door. "You've never met him, Jonathan, but you've crossed paths before."
Archer understood. "Luna 15."
"Yes, he tried to manipulate Luna 15, to get it to crash into the Apollo lander. He's a renegade Suliban, more dangerous than Silik ever was because he was autonomous, causing random events wherever and whenever he could."
They turned the corner and the door swished open before them. By the faces of his command crew, Archer knew they had been overheard. Trip put their frustration into words. "Did I hear you right? You have to erase everything?"
"I'm afraid so, Commander." Daniels answered. "There can't be anything left."
"Not even of the moon landing?"
"No, not even that. Nothing can be left that might jog your memory." Daniels looked around the room. "Look, you know too much about the future, just like John Christopher did. The captain of the other ENTERPRISE made the right decision with him, and now I must do the same with you."
T'Pol, as always, put it bluntly. "You will return us to the precise moment we were thrown into the past."
"A few seconds before, to be exact." Daniels said.
Phlox spoke up. "But what if one of us begins to remember, like Christopher did?"
"That won't happen, Doctor - the correctness of the timeline proves that."
"And the Suliban and Klingon ships that were chasing us?" Archer added. "If we don't pull away in time, we'll be flung into the past again!"
Daniels smiled, a sly knowing smile. "I wouldn't worry about it, Captain. You'll know what to do."
"You're sure?" Archer pressed him.
"Trust me, Captain." Daniels responded, with an air of finality. "You will know what to do." Daniels turned and stared directly at Travis Mayweather. "All of you."
Mayweather struggled with the controls but shook his head. "I can't break free, Captain - we're being drawn in!"
And Vorok bellowed again, "Fire!" ENTERPRISE lurched and swayed from the force of another direct hit.
"That one took out the lateral controls!" Reed cried.
"Do we still have weapons?" Archer answered.
"Some torpedoes and only one phase-cannon, but they're staying out of range!"
"Lieutenant!" Travis called. "Can you lock onto the battlecruiser?"
Reed nodded. "Targeting scanners are still working...locked in! What do-?"
"Everybody hold on!" the helmsman yelled. With that, Mayweather ratcheted up the thrust, heading ENTERPRISE directly towards the star.
On the Klingon bridge, Vorok scowled and spat as his science officer called out his report: "They've entered the corona! The gravity well is stressing their hull plating!"
"maj!" Vorok gloated. "Now, we shall see if this p'tok knows how to die with honor! Keep firing!"
Vorok's battlecruiser and the Suliban ships pressed home their attacks, firing furiously at ENTERPRISE. The ship shook and rolled from the force of the pounding. More control stations blew up on the bridge and in various areas of the ship, sending crewmembers reeling and flaming debris flying everywhere. In Engineering, Commander Tucker and Ensign Christopher struggled to keep the warp engines from overloading...
"How close are they?" Mayweather called out.
"Five hundred thousand kilometers and gaining!" came T'Pol's answer.
"Stand by on weapons!" Archer ordered, guessing what his helmsman had in mind.
"Mr. Reed!" shouted T'Pol, staring into her scanner. "The Klingon D-5 cruiser has virtually no shielding at the aft portion of its warp nacelles!"
Travis, watching his board carefully, conducted a mental countdown. "Steady.....steady......NOW!" With his hands flying across his board, Travis dropped ENTERPRISE out of warp and held her as steady as he could. On the foreword viewscreen, Archer and his crew watched as their pursuers, caught completely by surprise, thundered past them towards the star. One Suliban cell ship flared in the corona, and Reed's torpedoes and phase-cannon took out most of the others and severely damaged Vorok's cruiser.
As he surveyed the carnage on the forward screen, Archer said quietly, "Secure from tactical alert." The remaining Suliban ships vanished while Vorok's cruiser drifted in space, its left warp nacelle sparking and on fire. "Looks like our Klingon friend won't be going anywhere for awhile. Hail them, Hoshi."
Hoshi nodded, and as she worked her board, discretely disabling the translation on the incoming audio. The main viewscreen flipped, showing the Klingon bridge. Archer was all smiles, like a congenial host. "Captain Vorok! As I recall, I offered to assist you if we ever met again. Looks like you could use our help!"
Vorok spat at the screen and let fly a barrage of unintelligible Klingon.
"I thought not." Archer responded. "Well, we'll be on our way, then. It may not be honorable, but I'm sure you'll understand." Before Vorok could speak again, Hoshi cut him off and returned the forward screen to its normal view. Archer stood and came over to her station. "Hoshi, could you make out what Vorok said?"
She grinned hugely, remembering vividly their visit to the Klingon home world. "You don't want to know, Captain."
"I take it that wasn't a 'thank you'." Archer responded with a wry smile.
Hoshi chuckled. "Not even close."
He returned to the center seat and sat down. "Remind me to take those Klingon language lessons you've been threatening. They might come in handy one day. Travis, lay in a course."
"Yes, sir!" the helmsman replied.
Archer looked up at the screen, past Vorok's cruiser to the starfield beyond. "Let's get the hell out of here."
With a graceful turn, ENTERPRISE swept past Vorok's burning cruiser and jumped to warp. As it did, Daniels sent the renegade Suliban to the 31st Century, then began his scans of ENTERPRISE's logs...
Two days later, Phlox sat at the main computer station in Sickbay, fingering his medical log switch. It was impossible, of course, but the tests he had run were quite clear. He had no choice but to enter the results into his log. Reluctantly, he flipped the switch and began. "Computer, commence recording. Chief Medical Officer's log. I have been feeling rather fatigued lately, and have been so engrossed in my work that I had completely forgotten to enter my sleep cycle. However, after only two nights of rest, I found myself having a great deal of difficulty remaining asleep. The source, as it turns out, was a series of unusually strong and vibrant dreams, so vibrant and life-like that I have concluded that they may not be dreams at all. They feel more like...another reality, one that I have but recently lived through. However odd this may seem, I decided to see if anyone else on board had experienced similar dreams. Today, I randomly selected 25 crewmembers and called them in for their regular physicals. In every case, routine molecular scanning produced a surprising anomaly, one which was duplicated when I scanned myself. If what I suspect is correct, there is only one possible answer..."
He stopped, uncertain what to say next. But if he was right… "Computer, is Crewman Daniels aboard this vessel?"
The computer, of course gave him the answer he had not wanted to hear. "Affirmative. He is in the quarters bearing his name."
Phlox paused, contemplating, then continued. "Computer, beam me into Daniels' quarters. This is a medical emergency. Authorization, Phlox, Alpha-1."
"Confirmed." responded the non-descript voice.
Phlox watched sickbay dissolve before him, to be replaced momentarily by a cramped crewman's quarters, with a blue-uniformed figure with its back to him, who was making entries into a far more sophisticated PADD that Phlox would ever see. "Crewman Daniels, I presume?"
Daniels started. "Dr. Phlox! How did y-?" He looked at the door behind the physician. "You got by the door seal with an emergency beam-in."
"Yes, I knew that was the only way I could get in here without setting off any alarms."
Daniels got up, the PADD still in his hand. "You suspected that I remained aboard! How did you find out? You shouldn't have remembered a thing!"
Phlox shrugged. "Technically, I didn't. But, my subconscious did. Now why should that be? Obviously, that could be only if I had actually passed through the experience, couldn't it?"
"What makes you think so?"
"I took a random sampling of the crew, Daniels, and compared the growth and metabolism of their cell structures to the ship's internal chronometers. In all cases, including my own, there was a discrepancy of approximately one week."
Daniels smiled. "The chronometers are last on my list. Perhaps they should have been first. Very good, Doctor."
"But it begs the question. What is to be done?"
"Done? Doctor, I've been working for the better part of two days to clear your ship's log entries, then cover my tracks. I'm almost fin-"
Phlox stepped forward, his anger rising. "I meant about ME, Daniels! What is to be done about ME? This is not a dream, this is reality! And yet not reality, for I know now I have lived a timeline that no longer exists, and I know things about the future that I should not! You, of all people, should understand my dilemma!"
"I'm sorry, Phlox, I-I simply don't know."
"That's right. Because you weren't supposed to remember. Yes, the body does go through the experience, but somehow, the mind retains no memory when the time-line is restored. I-I've never encountered your particular problem before, Doctor, and I must assume that something about the Denobulan physiology has caused this memory retention. But I simply don't know enough about your species to even begin to suggest a solution! I'm sorry..."
The Denobulan's blood went cold. "Then you're telling me that I will have to live with this knowledge... for the rest of my life?"
"And not tell anyone, I'm afraid."
"So as not to risk anything happening to the restored timeline?"
"That will very possibly drive me quite mad..."
Silence filled the cabin, and Daniels became aware that he was sweating. Which was impossible, of course, for a time-traveler of his stature... "I know. Perhaps, Doctor, this is a problem which you will have to try and solve yourself. Certainly, you're far better equipped to research it than I am."
Phlox gestured to the odd-looking materials strewn across Daniels' desk. "But you have access to equipment that could tell you if anyone ever found such a solution! Can't you help me?"
Daniels face assumed a pained expression. "I'm sorry Doctor, but that would be a violation of my very duty. You already know more than you should, and I doubt if that could be reversed. I cannot exacerbate the problem. Please try and understand this from my perspective."
"I see. Well, goodnight, Daniels, or whatever time it is for you. I'm not even sure what time it is for me." He gazed intently at Daniels, his contorted face barely able to hold his emotions in. "Computer, this is Phlox. Please transport me back to Sickbay, then erase all record of this... journey. Phlox, authorization, Alpha-1." His last view of the crewman's cabin contained Daniels' face wrapped in deep despair...
A moment later, he was seated at his workstation, muttering to himself. He tossed some papers into the air and grunted. "If only MY problem could be as easily erased..."
He dimmed the lights, and for a moment, his muttering grew incomprehensible....then he lay his head down on his arms, and plunged his beloved sickbay into blackness…
|Last modified: 10 Apr 2012