Shuttle Down I
by Judy and Jacki
A StarTrek Voyager Novel in six parts
SUMMARY: When Tom Paris and Harry Kim crash on Earth almost 400 years in the past, Voyager mounts a rescue operation with the help of Sam Beckett, who has 'leaped' into Tuvok, and Admiral Al Calavicci, and with the sometime hindrance of Captain Braxton of the 29th Century Time Police.
CHAPTERS 1, 2, AND 3: Chapter 1 details the crash, Chapter 2 describes their rescue by the military, and in Chapter 3, the Voyager crew try to retrieve Harry and Tom.
WARNINGS: RATING: R. Mostly PG-13, but turns into serious R after later parts. The R is for mature themes concerning post-traumatic stress. There's lots of Tom angst. Spoilers for 'Future's End' and any other episode ever shown! Set during end of 5th season.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. Quantum Leap was a Universal television series created by Donald P. Bellisario. We've borrowed all of them with no intent for profit. (Consider the cost of the computer, the software, the Internet connection, etc.) The story is ours, copyright 1997, 1998.
ARCHIVE: Archiving is okay, just ask us. We'll probably say yes. Please keep the disclaimer and our names attached.
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CHAPTER 1 :The Crash
In Voyager's conference room the final discussion took place about the shuttle flight. After a rueful glance at her cold cup of coffee, Captain Janeway planted her captain persona firmly in place and recapped the deliberations of the senior bridge crew. "So. Tom, you'll first engage the shuttle's cloak at half impulse speed for five minutes, then go to warp three for ten minutes in a spiral pattern above Voyager."
"Yes, Captain." Lt. Tom Paris' voice sounded ambiguous. He leaned forward across the table toward his captain. His look was perfectly innocent, but his tone could be that of the perfect crewmember or that of a child hiding impatience with adult perseveration. The Captain's slightly raised eyebrow suggested she preferred the latter interpretation.
She turned her attention to Ensign Harry Kim, a safer target to make sure they knew exactly what she expected. "Ensign, you will monitor the sensor readings. These are critical to our evaluation of the Voth cloaking device for
adaptation to Voyager."
"Yes, ma'am." Harry knew she preferred to be addressed as Captain, but he couldn't help it. Older, authoritative women were simply 'ma'am.' "B'Elanna assured me that they'll work."
Leaning toward him, B'Elanna half growled at the young ensign, "They will work."
"Right." Kim immediately responded. No sense fighting with a half- Klingon today. The upcoming flight required all of his attention.
"Any questions?" A pause stilled the room as Janeway surveyed her officers.
Most pairs of eyes met hers as at least two mini-psychodramas played out in rapid succession. Chakotay's eyes held hers longer than necessary in his own mini-drama. Despite the command situation, Janeway's silent, warm response was as subtle as it was rapid. Then there was Tom. Tom's blue eyes broke off his intensive study of the lines in the palms of his hands and locked uneasily on her grey-blue eyes. In that instant, she saw Tom momentarily without the defenses he used as routinely as he brushed his teeth. As her gaze gave way, his shields were once again at full strength. Also watching Tom, B'Elanna marveled at her love's ability to change the guard on his internal state, ever ready to protect the costly emotions within. Only Tuvok noted and catalogued the behavior of his fellow crew members. He did not even raise an eyebrow, but merely blinked in recognition of the subtle emotional exchanges of humans.
Janeway stood up, a signal to the others to stand as well. Her attention expanded from Tom Paris to encompass Harry Kim as well. She smiled confidently at her two young officers. "You'll both do fine out there. And when you come back, Voyager will be that much closer to having its own cloaking device."
Tuvok's expressionless face revealed the barest hint of something below the surface, momentarily visible if anyone had glanced his way. They had already discussed the ramifications of violating the Treaty of Algernon that prohibited cloaking devices. The argument against his Federation position by Chakotay and Paris was that this was the Delta Quadrant and the treaty didn't apply. Once the Captain decided, the time for discussion was past. Now was not the time to reargue his case.
"Thank you, Captain. I'll do my best." Tom's smile briefly betrayed a cocky grin. It was the grin that Chakotay caught, momentarily reviving his usually dormant hostility toward Tom's behavior. Why did Tom have to be so irritating at a time like this? And Chakotay knew the answer. Because it was a time like this.
"Come on, Harry." Tom cheerfully clapped his friend on the shoulder. "There's a shuttle waiting for us."
Before leaving with Harry, Tom tried to smile at B'Elanna, but his blue eyes never quite caught on to the spirit that his mouth tried to convey. In return, B'Elanna's tight grimace reflected her concern for him. She mouthed 'be careful' at him. He winked and steered Harry out of the room, the seeming cheer not enough to fool anyone.
On the bridge, Chakotay sat at the helm in the place of Paris as B'Elanna stood at ops in Harry's usual domain. Tuvok took up his post at the security station. Janeway walked down the bridge to stand behind Chakotay, her hand on the back of his chair, her fingertips barely grazing the commander's back. With her eyes fixed on the large viewscreen, she almost didn't catch Chakotay's backward glance at her. On the viewscreen, there was no one to comment on the closeness between the captain and the commander. Only stars brightened the black velvet backdrop of this relatively quiet and empty part of the Delta quadrant.
The shuttle cut a diagonal from the lower left hand side of the view screen toward the center of the screen.
B'Elanna alerted the bridge. "The shuttle communication link is secure."
The screen filled with a view of Tom and Harry seated at the controls of the shuttle.
"Captain," Harry informed her and the bridge crew, "all systems normal."
"Cloaking device online, waiting to be engaged. Impulse engines are running smoothly." Tom's words were clipped and businesslike, none of his earlier nervousness or cockiness showed through.
The shuttle disappeared from the view screen to a few cheers from the bridge crew. Tuvok silently monitored the sensors that had been altered to track the cloaked shuttle.
"Chakotay?" The captain asked, the nature of the question clear to the commander.
"Maintaining a steady course."
Tuvok reported next. "The shuttle has completed two spirals."
"Four minutes, 15 seconds . . . 30 seconds . . . five minutes."
On the view screen the shuttle briefly lost its cloak as it went into warp speed. In an eyeblink the cloak returned.
"Caught it, " B'Elanna assured the Captain.
"What's that!" Chakotay pointed to a wavering spot midway up the viewscreen.
Tuvok tracked it on his sensors. "That is a wormhole emerging. It is dangerously close to the perihelion of the shuttle spirals."
"Captain, they're too close!" B'Elanna shouted.
Tuvok sensed disaster. "Paris and Kim are in grave danger."
"Janeway to Paris. Disengage the cloak and return to Voyager. Immediately!" Janeway turned to B'Elanna. "Get a transporter lock on them . . . A tractor beam . . . Anything!"
The shuttle remained cloaked, the wormhole wavering hungrily in space, the snake's mouth of an opening expanding as they watched. B'Elanna's hands flew across her boards with no time to gaze even for a second at the radiating wormhole on screen. "Too much interference from the wormhole!"
"Paris! Disengage! Drop out of warp! Reverse thrusters!"
The shuttle's cloak blinked out and the bridge crew could see why Paris hadn't answered the captain's frantic hails. The shuttle was being sucked sideways toward the maw of the wormhole, now on its side, tilting at an ever increasing angle. Finally, the inevitable flip turned the shuttle upside down as it spiraled down the throat of the wormhole. The bridge crew watched the viewscreen in alarm, helpless to do anything for their friends and fellow officers.
On the shuttle, moments before the flip into the wormhole, Harry and Tom struggled with the shuttle's controls against the backdrop of Janeway's commands. Tom's glance at the counters told him that six minutes into the warp drive test an unidentified spatial disturbance emerged suddenly too close to the starboard edge of the shuttle. "Harry! What's out there?"
"I've got it! There: ten degrees starboard." Harry manipulated the sensors to show the emerging anomaly. "It's a wormhole!"
"It's closing," Harry told Tom calmly. He recognized the inevitable and had already accepted it. "Eight seconds to contact."
Janeway's hard edged command told Tom to shut down the cloaking device.
"Shutting down," Tom gritted out as his hands tried to do four things at once: turn off the cloak, turn the shuttle away, increase the warp speed to escape velocity, and locate Voyager. "Harry! Get out a beacon! Cloak's off!"
"Interference. It's blocking the beacon, blocking the transporter, everything . . ."
"We're going over!" Tom held onto the controls, continuing to try to fly them out of the wormhole. But an upside down and spiraling shuttle craft proved virtually unflyable. The gravity controls failed and sent both he and Harry flying weightless inside the shuttle.
Before communications failed altogether, the bridge crew heard Tom's cry "We're going over" and watched the viewscreen together as the flipped shuttle spiraled nose down ever deeper into the massive wormhole. B'Elanna gasped as the shuttle banged solidly with a shower of sparks against one interior wall of the wormhole. She stared in disbelief. "No! Don't lose it, Tom! Don't lose it!"
Chakotay then saw a maneuver he swore couldn't be done. Tom pulled the shuttle's front end up, breaking out of the momentum of the downward spiral. "He's got it!"
But the shuttle broke out of Tom's control. Tuvok injected a prediction. "The likelihood of his controlling the shuttle throughout the wormhole is only 12.35 per cent."
Janeway asserted, "He has to break those odds"
"If anyone can, Tom can," B'Elanna assured the crew. Her shaking voice belied the confidence of her words.
"B'Elanna's right." Chakotay's calm certainty spread from him to the captain and to B'Elanna.
Tuvok remained unconvinced. "I do not foresee a successful trip through that wormhole."
Janeway cast a thoughtful glance his way, disturbed by his prediction of a doomed shuttle. B'Elanna's voice cut through her thoughts. "Captain, we have no contact with the shuttle."
As the crew watched the screen, their last sight of the shuttle found it still spinning down the wormhole with only occasional moments of helm control.
Janeway sighed. "Chakotay, set a course to follow them in."
"Captain, we know nothing about the nature of this wormhole," Tuvok warned.
She nodded her acknowledgement, her face set in grim lines. Tuvok understood that she would attempt to rescue her young officers no matter what. He willed himself to the silence that he knew was his only logical response.
Under Chakotay's hands, the Voyager banked gracefully and executed a flawless entry into the wormhole.
Haylene sensed the motion through the wormhole and with her peers monitored the sensations. They scanned the tumultuous feelings and thoughts of the two men in the smaller craft. Haylene herself touched the telepathic mind of one aboard the larger craft. Intrigued, she set a mental bookmark to follow that one on his journey.
Despite the severe banging around and disorientation caused by the weightlessness and crash against the wall of the wormhole, Tom struggled to regain helm control over the shuttle. But as the shuttle continued its own chaotic ballet, both Tom and Harry were slammed against the shuttle's interior, first up, then sideways, back up, then hard down. Tom kept his right hand gripped in a death lock on the shuttle panel edges, moving only the tips of his fingers to compensate for the generally downward spiraling of the craft. The rare upwards tip was enough encouragement for Tom to keep trying. As his left hand made intermittent contact with the warp controls, he finally slowed the shuttle's plunge downward as he found impulse control. But try as he might, his left hand had not been able to engage the reverse thrusters. His body waved like a flag in a gale as he continued to stretch to get his hand on the thrusters.
Harry had lost his grip on the control panel and spun in response to the ship's moment to moment orientation. Although they hadn't heard Tuvok's prediction, Harry believed that they were, in fact, doomed. However, in the chaos of the moment, Tom managed finally to get a firm grasp on the warp drive control and slowed the shuttle enough to dampen their uncontrolled ride through the wormhole. With the shuttle movement slowed, Harry's hands successively grasped every object that could bring him slowly forward to the controls. Tom noticed his friend's approach in his peripheral vision as he slowed the shuttle even more.
"Tom," Harry responded shakily, his voice cracking.
"Harry. You got anything on your panels?" His voice edged with tension, Tom kept trying to finger in the reverse controls on the touch panel.
Harry used the brief pause in the shuttle's flight to review his panel readings. "Apart from life support, just about everything's out, including the gravity stabilizer."
"Don't remind me."
Harry chanced a glance at his friend. Wisely, he said nothing about Tom's grey complexion punctuated by a high color across his cheeks. Harry thought his friend might vomit at any time. He tried to reassure Tom, "I'm working now on the gravity stabilizer."
Harry reset its parameters and entered new codes. It was a relief when standard gravity finally returned to the shuttle. Tom's restored complexion was Harry's thanks. Turning to Tom, Harry asked, "What kind of shuttle control do you have?"
"Some." Tom's full attention remained on the shuttle's steering and speed controls. Fingers flying, he fought to restore the helm to his control. In between adjustments, Tom asked. "Harry. Where are we?"
Harry worked on his own control panel before replying. When he had something he turned back to Tom. "It's possible we're headed to the Alpha Quadrant."
Stunned by the news, Tom soundlessly mouthed the word 'no.' His mind had flashed back to the Auckland prison that awaited him. Then quickly turning away from Harry, Tom vomited into the corner.
Janeway turned to B'Elanna. "What about a probe? Can it go through without hitting the shuttle?"
"Only if we have a stable flight signature from the shuttle. It's out of warp drive but shows an erratic course." She turned to the captain. "I don't think so."
"Is the shuttle path stable enough to lock on a tractor beam?"
Chakotay turned his head to look at his captain, now almost at his side. "We had to slow down to enter the wormhole. We can't pick up enough speed to get within range."
"We won't be within range of the shuttle unless this is an unusually long wormhole," Tuvok added.
"And there are too many distortions coming from the wormhole itself."
B'Elanna identified a distortion that altered her voice from worried to chilled. "Captain."
"What is it?"
"The sensors . . . There are time distortions in this wormhole."
Janeway understood the implications immediately. "Then we and the shuttle are traveling in time as well as space."
After a moment of silence that allowed the crew to absorb this new information, Janeway asked, "Which way are we going? Forward? . . . Or
The shuttle bounced around in the wormhole but it no longer spiraled straight down. Whirling around from port to starboard was another matter. The time distortions of the wormhole buffeted the small shuttle like a toy in a draining bathtub.
Tom wearied from his long fight with the shuttle's controls. His arms ached and his fingers cramped, but he had no time to rest or regain his strength. He didn't even try to hide the fatigue he felt. "When do we reach the end of this thing?"
"You sound tired," Harry noted.
"I am tired!" Tom snapped back. He took a deep breath. Then he apologized softly to his friend. "Sorry, Harry, getting sick didn't help. I'm not sure how much more of this I can deal with."
"I wish I could tell you how long. But the sensor readings keep jumping around," Harry complained. "I have no idea when or where we're going to get out of this hellhole -- 'cuse me, wormhole."
Some of the tension eased. "You had it right the first time. I can't keep this shuttle on a steady course no matter what I do and it's driving me nuts."
"Yeah, well I'd like to know how a guy who throws up in a little zero gravity gets to pilot a starship," Harry teased.
"It wasn't the zero . . ."
"Look! That's a starfield out there! It's the end of the wormhole. Tom, we're in the Alpha Quadrant!"
"Engaging cloaking device!" As he did so, Tom saw a brief flash on the viewscreeen, the stars swinging quickly off the viewscreen to be replaced by thunderheads and lightning bolts. The shuttle rocked from the turbulence. "What is this?"
The shuttle bucked, pitched, and yawed wildly in the roiling atmosphere. Tom frantically worked over the controls with a rising sense of desperation. He couldn't let this shuttle get out of his control.
"We're thirty thousand feet above a planet's surface!"
"Which system! Which planet!"
Tom kept up his fight with the controls, a fresh jolt of adrenalin replenishing his strength but nothing helped his sinking spirits. He shouted over the din of the storm, "If I didn't know any better, I'd say we're in a thunderstorm."
"Tom, we are in a thunderstorm!"
"How close to the ground?"
"Twenty-one thousand. Listen, we've got to cut our speed!" Tom's expletive in response caught Harry's attention. He kept his eyes in constant motion from his sensor readings to Tom and back. He rarely saw Tom sweat, but his friend's forehead glistened and a drop pooled together to roll down his forehead.
"I'm trying, Harry!" Excessive speed could mean their deaths if he couldn't bring the shuttle under control. Tom knew all too well the many ways to crash a shuttle and how easily crewmates and friends could die. As the buffeting of the storm intensified, Tom realized he had to get strapped in, but he couldn't risk letting go of the controls. For the moment, he retained his usual cockiness. "Strap in, Harry. It's going to be a bumpy landing."
"What about you?" Harry shouted above the din of the storm.
Tom never answered as he responded to a nearby lightning bolt, neatly steering them away. "Find us a landing spot! Uh -- oh. The cloak's unstable!"
The thunderstorm winds sent the shuttle out from under Tom's control. His hands lost their grasp and bounded him off the wall of the shuttle.
"We're at fifteen thousand, Tom! You've got to strap in!"
"No time," he puffed out between breaths. Tom regained his position over the controls and his hands once again flew over the panel. He needed to deny what was obvious. This couldn't be happening. Not again. Not ever again. "No! Harry, cloak's gone. Oh, God, I'm losing it!"
"Diverting all remaining power to the shields. There's just enough left to land this thing."
Tom made a quick recovery from his moment of panic. "Shield strength?"
"It's not enough!"
A vicious downdraft sucked the craft closer to the surface, sending Tom's head into the control panel. He swiftly recovered his balance before the updraft
hit. Somehow Tom didn't feel the pain that should have accompanied the blow to his head. But he felt the sticky wetness of his blood flowing down the right side of his face. He tried to reassure Harry over the rising clamor of the storm as the shuttle hit a pocket of hail. "It's okay!"
"Ten thousand feet!" Harry's threw a quick glance at the pilot. "Tom! You're bleeding!"
Before he could reply, another strong buffeting and a surging updraft sent Tom's body crashing into the ceiling of the shuttle. The updraft kept Tom's body pressed into place as if lashed against the ceiling. When the updraft lost its power he plunged to the floor without warning.
"Shields have failed!"
Tom registered Harry's words as the reality hit. Shaking himself painfully, he pulled himself upright against the side of the panel. But when he tried to use his left hand, he cried out in shock, a cry that sent a chill through Harry. Tom held his position, letting the pain subside, then made it to his feet. Blood dripped from his face and from his left arm, a bloody white bone poked through his uniform.
Harry blanched and started to unstrap himself in order to help his friend.
"No . . . stay there . . ." Tom's voice had lost its resonance so that Harry barely heard him above the noise of the storm. Swaying with weakness, Tom managed to hover over his controls, his right hand trying to do the work of two.
"We're at four thousand. Tom, please. Strap in or you'll be hurt worse when we crash."
Growling at his friend, Tom's denial kicked into overtime. "We're not going to crash! We can't crash!"
Harry found a look on Tom's face that he'd never seen before: a totally irrational, insane intensity of purpose. Swallowing his knowledge without a word, he accepted that Tom was unreachable. He simply reported the shuttle's position wondering if Tom would even hear that. "Three thousand."
Tom used his good right arm and hand to bring the shuttle around. The reverse thrusters finally engaged.
"We're not going to crash," he intoned, "We're not going to crash."
"One thousand." Harry's heart almost stopped when he saw the object on the viewscreen. "Tom! Tornado!"
"Got it!" Tom and the shuttle merged together as one as he steered them around the tornado's outer winds, all the while rain and hail pelted the shuttle's skin. "If it turns towards us, we can't outrun it at this speed."
"It's veering off."
"See, Harry, I told you. We're not going to crash. Airspeed's at one- seventy and dropping."
Harry could barely watch his friend as Tom alternated between rationality and a panicked dissociation. The bloodied face and arm, the torn uniform, the total concentration on flying the shuttle made Tom seem more a figure from myth than Harry's friend of over three years. Tom clearly refused to allow for the possibility that he would be at the controls of another shuttle that crashed. Harry swallowed hard and hoped they wouldn't crash either. Given their slowing speed, it was likely they would physically survive a crash, but he wondered if Tom himself would be able to survive psychologically if the shuttle landed out of control. Taking advantage of Tom's moment of rationality, Harry once again encouraged him to strap in.
"We're not going to crash," Tom assured him. But his prediction again reverberated with desperation and need. The violent thunderstorm continued to batter at the unshielded shuttle. Giving in to Harry's repeated pleas, Tom tethered himself to one safety line just in case. Briefly, he had to take his right hand from the controls to snap it on.
"The other line, Tom! Do it!" Harry shouted. Tom reached around with his right arm to comply but never completed the action.
A roar like that of a warp core breach filled the shuttle. Harry shouted his warning, "Tornado!" but Tom never heard it.
Tom felt the impact, misidentified it as full phaser fire on an unshielded shuttle. With the violent lurching of the shuttle Tom realized he'd lost control of the helm. The terrifying memory of the crash on Caldik Prime flashed into blinding consciousness. "No! No-o-o!"
The shuttle raked across the surface of rain pelted rocks. It skidded, shuddered, and split apart in the center. The rear of the shuttle tumbled over and over in the high winds, orange sparks spraying out in the darkness. Lightning recorded the total breakup of the shuttle's rear section into jagged fragments. The front end, with Tom and Harry inside, skewed sideways, dipped into a three foot ditch, flipped, and broke apart. Tom flew out, his tether snapping at the apogee of his flight. Gravity did the rest, flinging him into a chaotic mix of rock and shuttle debris. Harry's restraints tore apart more slowly, but he landed up against shuttle debris as the fierce winds blew him two feet above a rocky field. As he came down, his seat skewed sideways and he landed only inches from the edge of the ditch, his head on the broken back rest of the seat.
The rain, winds, thunder, and lightning ignored the victims of their violence.
Voyager plunged out of the shifting end of the wormhole only to be thrust behind a barren moon. Chakotay quickly put Voyager into a stationary obit overlooking the moon's dark side. Janeway hurried from her chair to stand beside Chakotay.
"Stationary orbit." he told her, his words accompanied by an intense sideways look.
"Just keep us behind this moon, Commander, until we find out where we are. Tuvok?"
From ops, Tuvok took a long half minute before answering. "The solar system is Sol. The planet is Earth and we are behind its only moon."
Gasps of breath sputtered around the room. Chakotay and Torres both shot startled glances at the Captain. Through Chakotay's dark eyes Janeway saw a successive wave of emotions: confusion, fear, and longing all demanding his unanswered attention. Janeway herself felt rocked as she absorbed the almost unbelievable information from Tuvok. Impossibly small odds, she thought, that an unknown wormhole had brought them here. Without realizing that she was the only one from Earth still on the bridge, she asked without irony, "We're home?"
Tuvok provided a small correction. "We are at Earth, but not at the Federation's Earth."
B'Elanna's patience snapped. "Tuvok, don't play games with us. Not now."
Janeway silenced her with a look. Nonetheless, her own tone held an edge of menace. "What do you mean?"
"I cannot rule out a phenomenon such as . . ."
"Yes, Captain. This Earth has a satellite indicating that the date is May 18, 1998."
Shocked by the loss of centuries, most of the bridge crew failed to notice the moment when Tuvok's mask disintegrated. He stood helplessly at ops, completely bewildered as he took in his immediate surroundings. Had they looked at him, they would still see Tuvok despite the fact that his essence had been replaced by Dr. Sam Beckett, a 20th century time traveler who leaped into other people's lives at critical moments.
With Janeway's eyes glued to the barren viewscreen in front of her, a view without the familiar colonies and space ports of the 24th century, she missed Tuvok's transformation. Chakotay, eyes on her, missed it as well.
B'Elanna concentrated on her sensors at security. She looked up just when Tuvok's uncharacteristic expression had begun to fade into something more like awe. Awe was just as uncharacteristic. Torres wasn't sure, but something seemed wrong with the imperturbable Vulcan.
Janeway questioned him as B'Elanna's gaze began to return to her own work. "Mr. Tuvok, have you located the shuttle yet?" The captain was surprised when Tuvok did not respond and repeated her question.
Sam looked at her in total bewilderment. He was always a bit disoriented when newly arrived on a leap. But this time it wasn't so much feeling as if his brain was 'Swiss cheesed' as it was sensory overload. Was he on a space station around the moon? Had a shuttle gone down to the lunar surface? His eyes glazed over at the complex instruments and displays in front of him. In total helplessness, he wished desperately for Al, his time-bound companion, holographically linked to Sam. Al had been an astronaut, right?
These uniforms appeared really strange, Sam thought. And the guy who seemed invisibly linked to the woman who had just spoken to him looked, well, interesting. A forehead tatoo. Uh-oh. Interesting just went off the scale. The black haired woman he had not noted previously had just elbowed him aside. Sam's mouth gaped open at the sight of her, at her seemingly deformed forehead, a forehead with all those flaring ridges. She seemed fierce and she seemed very unhappy.
The sign at the entrance had once said "Reese Air Force Base" but now a closed sign slashed across its surface. Underneath an abandoned metal aircraft hangar, a secure complex of offices, control rooms, and all the necessary support services remained hidden from surface and satellite detection. Around a conference room's oblong table were five men and women in military garb. The CO was Colonel Alicia Warrington, a formidable six-foot woman in her fifties, well proportioned, with gelled black and grey hair, large dark eyes, and light brown skin. A City College of New York graduate, the Air Force was her family. Given the location, Roswell, NM, was her nightmare.
Beside her was Johannsen, of Scandanavian heritage with white-blonde hair and eyes the blue of a Minnesota lake, head of the Military Police contingent. Across from both sat Hal Tarani, a second generation Lebanese of blue-black hair and light grey eyes. Hal headed up the Tactical group and served as the resident techno-expert. Warrington stared right at him.
He heard her familiar mantra, "We don't need another Roswell, Hal. What do you have?"
Hal tugged at his uniform cuffs and cleared his throat. "Forty minutes ago something came down about 80 miles from here."
"On the road to Roswell," the CO's voice rumbled ominously.
"Yes, but I believe that just's coincidence." A pause. "I'm sure that's all it is, it's just a coincidence."
Hal Tarani brought himself back on track. "All right. We tracked this object off and on from twenty-five thousand to about ten thousand feet when we lost it in a thunderstorm. At least we believe it was the same object. That -- uh --
thunderstorm spun off a few tornadoes. We think a tornado brought it down."
"So, it crashed?" she checked. "This off and on object. This maybe or maybe not the same object."
Her voice hardened. "Hal, let's have some answers!"
"There's no profile in the computer to fit this object. It's not certain whether it was piloted or not. The object appeared on a fairly straight trajectory, then it would disappear for a time, appear in another area out of line with the previous trajectory. But it arrived under power. There's a fuel signature that's . . . that needs to be studied. Bottom line, some kind of craft. Unknown technology, unknown if occupied or not."
Warrington sighed, visions of another Roswell gathering in her imagination. She turned to the younger man beside her. "Johannsen, how soon until we can get onsite?"
"Well, thunderstorms have kept us grounded, don't you know. But weather says we can be cleared for choppers in twenty minutes."
Dr. Hammond Smith, a sixty year old medical doctor who'd seen duty in Vietnam a long time ago, spoke up. The artificial light of the room bounced brightly off his balding skull. "Any communications from the craft?"
"None we could detect," answered the remaining member of the briefing team, Hernandez. She was a thirty-five year old Native American from Tucson, her dark hair thick and short, her manner an unacknowledged compliment to Warrington's leadership. "But Hal's right. It was something we couldn't identify, we have to call it what it was. A UFO."
The local military had undergone enough embarrassment from the previous year's 50th celebration of the Roswell, NM incident. At the mention of the UFO, Warrington gazed intently from Hal Tarani to Hernandez. Her chill voice suggested that this did not happen on her watch. "What do you mean a UFO?"
"An atmospheric disturbance."
"You mean the tornadoes?"
"No." Hal contradicted. "Something a lot larger. By the time we targeted the satellite it was gone."
Warrington sighed. Nothing good could come of this. "All right. Listen up. Whatever crashed, we find it, deal with it, and whatever it is, we do not, I repeat, we do not call it a weather balloon."
The group began to disperse to carry out its mission. Warrington had a
last word for Hernandez. "No press on this, Rachel."
Rachel Hernandez confirmed the order, but her look suggested that Warrington had just asked her to part the waters, had there been any to part.
The rain had pelted the area of the crash for another twenty minutes after the shuttle's last smoldering pieces settled on the rocky canyon terrain. The chill rain and high winds danced over Harry's unconscious body. His ripped uniform provided little protection; his comm badge glinted as a broken piece of wreckage rapidly swept away by a current of water in the ditch below. Fifty feet closer to the canyon's wall, Tom was a thrown away rag doll in a devil's playroom of rocks and boulders, shrubs and mud. Blood from his many cuts and wounds added a pale pink cast to the rainwater coursing away in rivulets of miniature rapids through the rocky field. Of his comm badge, no sign was ever found.
Almost an hour and a half after the crash, in predawn clear skies, two military helicopters set down, lights flashing eerily across the debris filled canyon. Neither Tom nor Harry had moved as the rescue team set in motion a rapid and well rehearsed evacuation. One team moved toward Tom, the second toward Harry. Smith and Hernandez were at Harry's side and reacted visibly to his ethnicity. "Asian," Hernandez murmured, her words almost inaudible over the helicopter's engines. Harry's eyes fluttered, shut, then fixed without focus on her form. His lips formed the word, "Mom?"
Hernandez and Smith exchanged a glance of relief. He'd spoken English. As Smith worked over Harry to make sure he was stabilized before being moved onto the stretcher, Hernandez turned back to the chopper. The other team was far more active, their movements suggesting some urgency.
At the chopper, Hernandez punched into her secure line to Warrington. "Colonel?"
"Go ahead," Warrington intoned.
"Looks like a plane crash. No deaths. Two injured, Asian male, mid- twenties, thinks I might be his mother. Smith says his injuries aren't that serious, but the usual tests . . . "
"You said Asian? Chinese? North Korean?"
"He said 'Mom' in English and that was it."
"Oh. And the other . . .?"
"White male about thirty. They're loading him now. He doesn't look good."
"None on either, but that doesn't mean much given the crash site."
"Right. Asian male goes to Methodist, the other to UMC. Chopper's are taking off now."
"Get their prints en route. Johannsen'll meet you at UMC."
On Voyager's bridge, Janeway asked again, "The shuttle, Tuvok?"
Sam was still rattled by the strange headed woman next to him. He noted the tattooed man's seemingly casual stroll to the woman who seemed to be in charge. Briefly, the man's hand touched the light-haired woman's back.
"I . . .I . . . uh . . . " Sam stammered, guessing he must be Tuvok.
The deformed woman spoke authoritatively while Sam fumbled. She
basically now possessed the space with all the controls. "Captain . . ."
Okay, thought Sam, progress. The woman in charge is a captain.
" . . . there's a trail here. . . I'm calling it back up for replay . . . Got it. They were dropped out of the wormhole about . . . thirty thousand feet above the planet's surface . . ."
The captain and her compaion moved around to see the controls, displacing Sam even more from the area. "Go ahead, B'Elanna."
"Here . . . captain . . . the cloak was engaged," B'Elanna said pointing.
"Good thinking, Tom," the captain muttered. "Where . . .?"
Hmm, Sam thought, there was a Tom in the mix, a nice normal sounding name. But 'B'Elanna'?
". . . above the planet?"
B'Elanna called up something else on those fancy computers. "A state in the United States. New Mexico. You know it, Commander?"
The tattooed man spoke up. "I've heard of it. That was near my ancestor's home in Arizona, remember Arizona? . . . what . . .six hundred years ago or more."
Uh-oh, mused Sam. So the Native American had to be more than the captain's- -uh - - companion. He was a commander. His ancestors came from Arizona. Interesting that he had 'heard' of New Mexico. Their conversation about New Mexico and Arizona continued for a few moments, as they reminisced about some adventure with extremists in 1996. Sam knew he was seriously and thoroughly confused. All the while B'Elanna's fingers flew across the variously colored boards, finally pinpointing a shuttle crash on the New Mexico - Texas border.
"And the shuttle?" the captain asked.
"Stayed cloaked. Well, off and on. That shuttle was in a violent storm. Captain, these recordings show over a hundred lightning bolts, several rotating funnels . . ."
". . . tornadoes," Sam identified.
B'Elanna scowled at him for interrupting her. "Tornadoes. One had winds up to 180 miles per hour. At any rate, Tom seems to have navigated through that storm until until about a thousand feet. The shuttle went out of control here and here --" she pointed to meaningless points on a trajectory illustrated on a small screen. The captain looked intently at the readouts over B'Elanna's shoulder. Sam seemed to be the only one who couldn't read them.
The captain picked up the commentary. "This is amazing. Tom got back helm control. So, what made them crash?"
B'Elanna pointed to a spot on the screen. "This tornado sideswiped them."
During the exchange between Janeway and B'Elanna, Chakotay handled some of the controls on the console and spoke to a fixed point that Sam had trouble identifying. "Hailing the shuttle. Tom, Harry, do you read? This is Voyager, hailing the shuttle."
"Captain. There's no signal from their comm badges," volunteered the commander. "They're not answering my hail. At this range, there's too many life signs in the area to isolate any that have a high probability of being Tom and Harry."
Janeway remained silent as she absorbed this new information. "With no comm badges to guide us, then we can't lock onto their life signs. If the comm badges are gone . . . Oh, no."
Sam watched the regret and the sadness almost overwhelm them all, even though he felt no emotion at the loss the others had experienced. The captain turned to the tattooed man. "Oh, Chakotay, we can't lose them."
In response, Chakotay's arm tightened around her waist and she let herself accept the warmth and support he offered. Taken up by their intensely private moment, Sam didn't realize B'Elanna had spoken to him, too softly for the others to hear. "And I suppose you feel nothing, Tuvok."
Her glare could turn a mountain lion around in mid attack on its prey. "I. . . I'm sorry," was all Sam managed. B'Elanna's puzzled frown told Sam that he had probably responded out of character for Tuvok.
Behind the three people arrayed in front of him, Sam heard the familiar whoosh of Al as he holographically entered this world. The flashily clad admiral with the ubiquitous cigar made his presence felt. Sam almost smiled in relief but caught himself. This was a moment of sadness that he had leaped into and a smile was clearly inappropriate. More importantly, the captain was speaking, summarizing for all the situation they faced.
"So, here we are. Home. But four hundred years into the past. The wormhole that deposited us here has moved on."
". . . it's past Jupiter, now . . ."B'Elanna confirmed.
". . . two of our crew crashed on a primitive earth, and one of them is our resident expert, however flawed, on the 20th century. If they're still alive, let's hope we can figure out how to rescue them, keep our technology out of the hands of the locals, and our very presence a secret from their powerful nation states."
Both Sam and Al listened to her intently and locked eyes as the import of her words sank in.
When the captain's report wound up Sam thought he had begun to understand the situation he'd leaped into. Then Sam saw an undescribable entity enter the room. It seemed to chatter ceaselessly. "Captain Janeway. Did you know my favorite soap videos are back on? I saw a summary of the plots. Blaine and Jessica have separated and she's married his evil twin. And . . . "
"Neelix," the captain chided.
Sam took one more look at this Neelix and swayed as if to faint. B'Elanna caught him as Al muttered. "Uh-oh, kid. Are you in for a shock. You think that nozzle's bad? Wait'll you see a mirror."
Sam stared glassy eyed at Al, then back again to Neelix. He paled visibly and B'Elanna's grip tightened.
"Tuvok? Are you all right?" It was the captain's voice but she seemed far away.
"I-- uh-- "
"Say 'no', Sam," Al's fading voice told him.
"Uh- -no - -not really." Before he could muster the scant resources he had remaining, the captain hit a shiny pin on her chest and it chirped.
"Janeway to Sickbay. Beam B'Elanna and Tuvok over." Sam didn't hear the rest. But Al watched in detached horror as his friend and the very strange woman simply winked out of existence. Al both tried to speak to Ziggy to identify Sam's new location and to listen very carefully to the Captain at the same time.
The captain turned to the commander, someone Al told himself to keep his eyes on. This commander seemed just a tad too familiar with his captain. "Chakotay. I want Tom and Harry found. If . . . if they're dead, I want their bodies brought back to Voyager. I know it means a close swing by the planet, but that can't be helped."
"Perhaps we could use the cloaking prototype." Chakotay's words were business, his eyes were pools of empathy. The captain sighed. "We don't know enough about it, Chakotay. Suppose the small device on the shuttle caused that wormhole. Imagine what a cloak over Voyager could do. No, we'll have to take the risks without the cloak. You know what we need to do. Beam up every bit of the shuttle that doesn't belong to their time period. I'd prefer to take it all, but they need some debris remaining or they'll get suspicious. We can't have the locals realizing what our shuttle down there means."
"Kathryn." Al saw the tattooed man hold the palm of his hand to her cheek. Definitely too close to the captain. "We'll get them back."
She swallowed hard and nodded. She touched Chakotay's hand briefly with her own, but was interrupted by the chirping sound Al now identified as a communication device.
An impatient male voice told her. "Captain. You'd better come down to sickbay."
With a worried glance toward Chakotay, she left. Al followed her, holding his handlink for dear life.
Harry ignored the voices around him as long as he could. It was the thirst that got to him. He felt aches and pains in his muscles and limbs as damage reports trickled in from seemingly remote locations, but the parched dryness of his mouth, the feeling of a tongue composed of used dilithium crystals convinced him to open his eyes.
A balding, shining head peered down at him. "I'm Dr. Smith."
The man's mouth moved and those words had come out. But it took Harry a moment to put the two together. "Dr. Smith?"
"Yes. I'm Dr. Smith," the man smiled at him. "What's your name?"
Harry registered more of the man in a white coat, a black snake dangling across his shoulders. The man's lined face split into many more radiating lines as the doctor smiled again. Harry whispered, ". . . thirsty . . ."
"Of course." A new figure shifted into view, a dark haired woman in some sort of military uniform. She held out a cup with a bent straw and brought the straw up to his mouth. He eagerly sipped the water letting the moisture ease the thirst in his mouth. She withdrew the straw too soon. ". . . more . . .please. . . "
He drank a little more. It gave him time to remember . . . the shuttle . . . Harry looked around wildly not really seeing his surroundings in his search for Tom. "Tom! Where's Tom?"
The doctor leaned down to him. For all of his panic, Harry's voice had barely registered above a whisper. The doctor assured him, "It's all right. Tom will be all right."
"Where am I?" Harry's alarm hit code red as he realized that his surroundings and these people were totally unfamiliar.
"Take it easy, son. You're in a hospital. Do you remember what happened?"
Harry took stock. He was in a small room, in a bed, with instruments and a suspended, fluid-filled bag nearby just barely visible. Across the room there was a chair, a narrow counter top, a black box hinged to a wall, a narrow open door, a wide closed door. There was no doubt. This room was not on Voyager. These two people were not on Voyager. What should he say?
"I'm Dr. Smith, " the man reintroduced himself, his voice warm and soothing. "This is Rachel Hernandez. You're going to be fine. Nothing broken. But, what's your name? We want to help you, Mr. . . . ?"
Despite the reassurance that he would be all right, Harry's confusion was too great for clear thinking. He struggled internally to figure out what he could and could not say to strangers. He knew that he and Tom were possibly stranded and they might need all the help they could get. Besides, this doctor seemed genuinely concerned for him. Harry tried to tell himself to just act normal. No matter that his heart was pounding. He was pretty sure he was allowed to reveal his name and rank. Could he identify that he was from the Federation? Maybe not. He tried to buy more time with the few words of truth that he could say, "Kim. Ensign Harry Kim. I'm still thirsty."
Seeing that Harry could handle the cup, Hernandez refilled the cup and gave it to him. He moved both hands around its smooth surface, then used one hand to place the straw in his mouth. He drained the cup and gave it back.
Conversationally, Hernandez asked, "What branch?" Seeing his confusion, she clarified, "You're an ensign. What service? Navy? Air Force?"
"Uh, yeah," Harry mumbled. The woman frowned, but then shrugged and without saying anything indicated that the doctor could go next in asking questions.
"So. What happened, Ensign?"
The doctor's voice held the tone of command. Harry wanted to tell him, to tell him what happened and that it wasn't Tom's fault. That was important: Tom shouldn't be blamed for this. Somehow, Harry found that he'd said the words aloud without meaning to.
"What do you mean? 'This time it isn't Tom's fault?'"
"Tom did everything he could. It was the storm, the tornado."
"Tom was piloting your craft."
"Yes, but the tornado . . "
". . . the tornado. . . "
"It came out of nowhere. There wasn't time!" Harry looked around the room. "Where's Tom?"
"That would be . . . ?"
"Tom Paris, Lt. Tom Paris. Where is he?" Harry tried to keep the edge of panic out of his voice. Tom had to be all right.
"Tom was injured when you crashed. He's being taken care of. Now, Ensign, you've had a rough morning, it's time to get some rest."
"But Tom . . ."
"Ensign, the sooner you get better the sooner you can see Tom. Understand?"
Harry's dark eyes latched onto Smith's craggy face, the warm yet firm tone of voice, the seeming concern in the man's eyes. But there were so many unanswered questions.
"You're going to be all right, Ensign." Smith assured him. "Just get some rest."
Harry recognized that he did need sleep, not realizing that Smith had injected a sedative into the IV going into his arm. Truth be told, Harry hadn't understood that an IV was connected to him. His eyes closed, then opened again as he continued to worry about Tom. He couldn't do anything now about his friend. His eyes fluttered shut as the sedative took hold.
Hernandez called Johannsen on her cell phone, asking him to station a few of his MPs discretely outside both Kim and Paris' rooms. She understood that the military ranks of the man she'd just seen and the pilot across town signified something more than a routine civilian crash Although she didn't know yet what had happened, at least she could tell Warrington that it wasn't aliens.
At the same time, a mile and a half away a barely recognizable Tom Paris lay stretched out on an operating table, a surgical team working intensively on him. Bruises and welts pushed his face into a lumpy, discolored mass. It would be four hours before he came to in a recovery room, mute, medicated, a body beginning to knit together, but with a mind more battered and unmendable than his body. The space behind his eyes flooded with pain. The pain, the faces he didn't recognize, all added up to one undeniable fact. It had happened again. Another shuttle down. Another death. Another best friend lost. Another fatal mistake. All because of him. Completely and totally because of him.
When his eyes opened, everything seemed blurry through the tears that had welled up, now flooding out, now coursing uncontrolled down his swollen cheeks. The recovery room nurse smiled at him reassuringly. "It's all right. There, there now. You'll be all right."
He heard her words, but there was no reason to believe her. He wasn't all right. He knew that. How did he crash the shuttle? What kind of stupid, unforgivable mistake had he made this time? Tom found no answers before he succumbed to the blackness of unconsciousness again.
"Who are you?" the holodoc asked. His sickbay was crowded with a creature that was Tuvok but not Tuvok, a creature who didn't look at all well. Holding Tuvok/Sam up, B'Elanna stared at the doctor in surprise.
"It's me and Tuvok. He almost collapsed on the bridge."
"*That* is not Tuvok."
Undeterred, B'Elanna helped Sam to a biobed. Once seated, Sam crooked his head toward the doctor's hostile gaze.
"I repeat: who are you? You may occupy Tuvok's body but you're not Tuvok."
B'Elanna stared at the doctor once again. "You're not making sense, doc."
"What do you see?" Sam asked carefully.
Holding the scanner on Sam, the doctor told him, "Someone else. A human, light brown hair, a grey streak at the forehead, hazel eyes, tall, slender, white skin."
"Where?" B'Elanna demanded and whirled around looking for this 'someone else'.
When Sam leaped into someone, such as Tuvok, most people saw the person they expected to see. A few, such as children, saw Sam himself.
The sickbay doors slid open and Janeway followed by Al entered the room. From her behavior it was clear that she didn't see Al's intrusion. The holodoc clearly saw Al: inappropriate dress, a smelly looking dark cylinder in his hands. Holodoc's nose wrinkled in distaste. "And who is he?"
"Who?" asked Janeway.
"Who?" echoed B'Elanna, baffled by the doctor's attitude.
"Him." Holodoc pointed his scanner at Al. Al reached out as if to stop the doctor from using his weapon. Surprised, Al actually felt contact with the doctor. As if to prove he'd actually connected, Al grabbed the doctor's wrist. With that connection made between the visible hologram and the previously invisible one, all of them could see Al.
"What the . . . who are you and what are you doing on my ship?" Janeway barked, hand poised to call for security. Torres already had her phaser drawn.
"Uh--oh," Sam said.
"Oh, my," Al contributed. "I gather you can all see me now. Thanks to this . . . what are you?
The holodoc drew himself up, ready with his indignant response, but Janeway was captain and she wasn't about to let this intruder forget it.
"I am Captain Janeway," she gritted out to Al. "I'm not going to ask you again. Who are you and what are you doing on my ship!"
Before Al could respond, Sam interjected. "Uh. . . he's with me."
Janeway whirled. "Mr. Tuvok. This had better be good."
Al interrupted before Sam could speak, "Sam, the doctor here is a hologram."
"I know, Al. I figured that out."
Four sets of eyes regarded Sam.
"Sam." Janeway's enunciation left no doubt where she stood. "I'm waiting."
Sam sighed and took a deep breath. He didn't need Al to tell him that this was breaking the rules. "My name is Sam Beckett."
"But I see Tuvok," B'Elanna explained as if to an inattentive child. Janeway motioned her to silence.
"Go on, Mr. Beckett."
"It's Dr. Beckett," Al added helpfully, "several doctorates actually."
"Al, let me tell this." Sam had their attention. "You see me as Tuvok, a crew man? of yours. But he's not here."
"Okay, then where is he? And how is he?" Janeway asked in her 'I'm really trying to be reasonable here' tone.
"In Stallion's Gate, New Mexico. In a waiting room of a secret project called Quantum Leap. He's several years into the future. Al can tell you the year."
"Sam," Al warned.
Sam turned on Al. "Look, Al, you heard them. All the rules of noninterference are off. They came from the future. If I heard it right, four hundred years in the future."
To Janeway, Al used his best placating voice usually reserved for congressional functionaries, "Your Mr. Tuvok is fine, Captain."
She nodded and in her most skeptical voice, said, "Okay. He's fine."
"He is fine, Captain," Al assured her. "Although I can't send him back to you, through me you can send him a message."
She gave him a troubled frown, but turned her immediate attention back to Sam, hesitantly asking, "A secret project?"
"Yes. I invented a time travel device. I go back into my lifetime and leap into other people's lives. I do something, set something right, change something, and then I leap out. Into another person's life. And then another's. There's just one problem. I can't leap home."
Janeway had been watching this man who inhabited Tuvok's skin. She saw the sincerity in his face, heard the crack in his voice on the word 'home'. His story resonated inside her. Someone else who couldn't get home.
"Tell me more. We traveled back in time, but not with a 'device'. How did you do it?"
Sam took a deep breath. She was from the future, maybe what he had to say would sound like kindergarten stuff to her, maybe his theory had been proven wrong. Certainly his own troubles indicated that something was wrong with it. He was grateful that on this leap his mind was fairly clear, not as Swiss-cheesed as it sometimes was. Perhaps this man from the future who he inhabited . . .
"Sam." It was Al.
Sam looked up with a start. He'd gotten a little lost in his own thoughts. "Okay. Here's how it goes. Quantum Leap is based on string theory, the assumption being that time can be like a balled up string . . . and . . ."
Recognition flooded Janeway's face. "Yes. Yes. I remember now. It was one of the theories we studied in the history of warp travel."
"You've heard of it?"
"Yes. So, string theory actually worked. But no one knew that. The story was a whole unit itself in our studies. This Dr. Beckett, I remember that name now, was a famous scientist, a big prize winner, but he disappeared. After that, his theory fell into disrepute. Just a hyperlink in history."
"Fair enough," Sam sighed at her harsh summary of his life and his life's work. "But it did work. I have gone back in time."
"And you actually change the past?" she seemed aghast at this violation of all she understood. "I mean . . . aren't there laws, rules . . .against that?"
"Changing the past is what he's apparently supposed to do," Al interjected.
"This I don't understand." She regarded Al cooly. "And who are you?"
"Admiral Al Calavicci, Captain. Permission to come aboard." He gave her a smart salute that left her smiling.
"Permission granted," she smiled at him. "After all. You're already here."
Quietly, B'Elanna put her phaser down close to hand and began tapping keys on the sickbay computer. For her part, the amenities out of the way, Janeway's tone turned more serious as she sought some answers from Al. "How is it that you're here? You're not in someone else's body. We couldn't see you until you touched the doctor."
"Right. I'm a hologram, just like your doctor there. But I'm a projection. My location is back in New Mexico, in the future. Here it's 1998. Where I live it's 2004. I'm linked to Sam because both of our engrams were used in the computer."
"Wait a minute. You have a biogenic computer, a computer that uses biological materials?" B'Elanna questioned as she looked up from her work. "In . . . what did you say? Nineteen ninety-eight? You can't have . . . "
"But we do. Did. In 1999. Sam invented it. That was before he began leaping. It's called Ziggy, and it's a true hybrid with its own personality. Sort of like your doctor there and just as prickly."
The doctor took affront. "Now just a minute "
B'Elanna confirmed something on the computer as the doctor sputtered. "Captain. Computer records verify there was an Admiral Calavicci, a decorated war hero, a prisoner of war, an astronaut, and director of Star Bright before he . . . "
"And Sam Beckett?"
"Disappeared in 1999 which was kept secret for many years. Holds 7 doctorates, medicine, physics, math . . . music . . . " B'Elanna's voice held awe and she looked at both men with new respect.
Janeway had to turn her face away to hide her smile. In that moment, her eyes linked with Sam's and understanding passed between them.
The smile still lurking on her face, Janeway held up her hand. "I want to get to the bottom of this. Tuvok I mean, Sam, do you know why you're here?"
Sam shrugged. "Usually Ziggy tells Al and Al tells me. But those are just probabilities and they're not always correct."
"Don't let Ziggy hear that," Al muttered.
"As to why I'm here. As Tuvok. I don't know. You said there were two crewmen missing on earth . . . that would be my guess. To get them back."
"And the Admiral will help? After all, he's in New Mexico, right? Near where the shuttle went down?" There was silence from both Sam and Al.
"So? You could stroll over and find them?" Janeway asked brightly.
Al corrected. "I'm in New Mexico, but probably a hundred miles from your shuttle." He sighed, "And remember, I'm six years in the future."
"Damn," Janeway spat in frustration.
Sam added. "I don't know how much information Ziggy will have that'll be of use. We usually use his databanks to help us, but . . . a starship from the future? Al?"
Al gave the handlink a glance. "Ziggy's not saying a word."
"Here's our problem," Janeway explained, "to get Tom and Harry back, we'd have to take the ship too close to earth to remain hidden from view. Now, I'd risk that if we had their exact location pinpointed. We could be in and out, just another unexplained phenomenon. But we can't risk more than one pass. Once is unexplained, twice is . . ."
"Twice is an invasion." Al understood. "Tell me about your boys."
Janeway closed in on Al beckoning him to a computer PADD. She held it up to him and asked the computer to display Tom and Harry's records. She pointed it to the handlink and Al held it in place end to end with the PADD. Al, with Sam looking over his shoulder, saw pictures of the two young men with information that scrolled past. "Got it. Maybe Ziggy can find something in the archives."
Although Al seemed ready to leave, Janeway had an idea. "Doctor would you get one of your spare mobile emitters and give it to Al?"
As soon as the doctor broke his contact with Al, Al winked out for all except for Sam and the doctor. Within moments the doctor returned and put the holoemitter on Al's arm and Al immediately winked back into existence for all to see.
"Good idea," B'Elanna praised.
The doctor beamed as if he had thought of it himself.
"What does this do?" Al asked.
"It allows you to be seen by all of us whenever and wherever you appear," Janeway explained.
"It means you'd better watch your wardrobe," Sam joked.
"And you'd better stay away from mirrors," Al told him. As Al prepared to leave he directed a parting piece of advice to the captain. "Oh, Captain. That fellow who was watching tv. Have him keep watching. If any news breaks, it'll be on tv."
"Wait a minute," B'Elanna ordered a halt to Al's imminent departure, whirling furiously on Sam and Al both.
"Tom and Harry are my friends," she warned them. "If anything happens to them . . . "
Sam held up his hands in defense. "I want to help. Honestly. When your men return, then I'll leap."
B'Elanna was still suspicious. "And the reason you want to leap is because you think you might go home? Isn't there another way home?"
Sam gave her his full attention for a moment and then looked away. "I don't know of any."
Janeway gave B'Elanna 'The Look'. "Lt., if you have more to say we can continue this discussion in my ready room."
B'Elanna glared at Sam but subsided. "I'm sorry, Captain. I'm worried about Tom . . . and Harry, too."
Janeway nodded, realizing that the fiery half-Klingon woman and the pilot with the checkered past had somehow seen past their differences to the core of similarity that attracted them to each other. Sam watched the interplay between the engineer and the captain and grasped the strength of the relationship between B'Elanna and the missing pilot. A small movement on his part turned her attention from B'Elanna to him. He looked her in the eyes and confided, "If I can help you get them back. Maybe, maybe . . . " Sam gulped and continued, "I'm hoping. . .I'm hoping . . . that maybe . . .you're here to help me. I want to go home."
Janeway sighed. "I wish I thought I could help you, Sam. But we -- all of us on Voyager -- may not be able to get back to our own century. And if we do . . . well, we're sixty years' travel from home ourselves if we go back to where we started this journey."
"I don't understand," Sam said as Al watched, pity etching Al's face. Al would give anything to help his friend home.
The holodoc had had all he could take. "I would like to know the nature of the medical emergency."
B'Elanna gave him a 'stuff it' look.
"I'm all right now," Sam said.
The doctor scanned Sam again and sniffed. "He's fine. I think. I was not programmed to deal with time traveling body snatchers."
Rolling his eyes at the holodoc's histrionics, Al set the handlink and stepped through the door that appeared. Janeway raised an eyebrow as she watched him disappear. She said to Sam, "How about if you stay here in sick bay for awhile."
"Whatever you say."
"B'Elanna, brief Sam on our situation. Then see that he eats something."
"How much do I tell him?"
"He's a scientist. A man centuries ahead of his own time. Tell him everything. Oh, and B'Elanna. Show him a mirror."
When Janeway returned to the bridge, the dark side of the moon remained in the view screen, dominating the bridge with its desolate landscape.
"Captain," Chakotay acknowledged her return from his place at the helm. "We've beamed aboard all the pieces of the shuttle that we could. Anything we identified as made of 'our' materials . . . "
"Then anything left down there is composed of materials no one will wonder about."
"That's the theory." Chakotay paused. "We did the beam out when the pieces were on some kind of transport. That way no one should have seen the transport. But we had to move Voyager out from behind the moon. We were exposed for over six minutes."
Janeway nodded. It was a risk she knew they had to take. Before she could frame a reply, Neelix reported, "I've been watching the television signals, Captain. Very diligently for hours. But there was nothing about the shuttle or the crew."
"Thank you, Neelix. Please continue your monitoring." She turned back to Chakotay.
"Where's the shuttlecraft now?"
"Cargo bay 4."
"Let's take a look." Using the comm link, Janeway said to B'Elanna. "Are you finished with Sa . . . Tuvok?"
"Yes, Captain," B'Elanna's voice replied.
"Then meet me in Cargo Bay 4."
Hernandez and Johannsen's angry voices reverberated in the conference room. "What do you mean pieces of the plane just disappeared!"
Johannsen's angry retort was just as in-your-face as Hernandez' challenge. "That's what my guards told me! I wasn't there!"
"Well, maybe you should have been!"
"Yeah. I'm supposed to be in two places at once! Kenisha Lincoln is one of my best and I believe her. The pieces disappeared!"
"No! Pieces of a crashed airplane do not disappear from a locked truck in broad daylight!"
"Hernandez, it was not broad daylight. It was just after dawn. Get your facts straight!"
Warrington's entrance brought the shouting to an end. But the tension remained in the flushed faces and taut postures of the combatants.
"All right, what's going on?"
"Johannsen's team lost major pieces of that plane wreck."
"They were not lost, Hernandez. Lincoln confirmed that the debris was all loaded. When it arrived here, more than half of it was gone."
"They just disappeared?" The colonel's voice was soft like the fur covering the unleashed claws of a cat.
Johannsen swallowed, his face still flushed. "Disappeared. Vanished. There one minute and gone the next."
"Okay, mister, I get the picture." Granted Johannsen had been pressed by Hernandez, but the security head's tone had bordered on insolence. At least one claw flashed out. "Did it all disappear?"
She turned to the fourth person in the room, the quietly waiting head of tactical, Hal Tarani. "Hal?"
"I can't explain it, Colonel."
"Go through everything that's still left of that plane crash." Two claws.
The colonel looked from Tarani to Johannsen to Hernandez. All five claws. "Let's work together."
She let her words sink in, then asked Hernandez, "What's the latest on the survivors?"
"Kim's fine. He's resting and should be released this evening. We'll bring him here. Paris is in serious condition in surgical intensive care."
"What were his injuries?"
"Name a body part it was damaged. Let me see, a concussion, broken arm, broken ribs, collapsed lung, cracked pelvis, hypothermia, blood loss, and a ruptured spleen and bruised kidneys. They removed the spleen in surgery and reinflated the lung. When I left he was conscious but Smith said the concussion had left him dazed and disoriented. Paris hadn't said anything. Smith's worried about pneumonia setting in. That's common in these types of cases."
"I want that man moved here to the infirmary. Today."
Her voice conciliatory, Hernandez explained, "I'm afraid that's Dr. Smith's arena. I'm sorry, but he told me Paris can't be moved. He just got out of the recovery room. Johannsen's stationed his people outside of each man's room."
Hernandez thought, 'give her something,' then mentally shrugged and decided to add, "Smith said something interesting. He thought Kim was in remarkably good health. That neither man had a single dental filling. I got the feeling Smith wasn't as sure about Paris' pre-crash health. He seemed to hedge his bets there, like all wasn't what it seemed. Something."
The colonel digested Hernandez' information and puzzled over the situation as she led the group at finally sitting around the table. "Here's what I don't understand. Kim identifies himself as an ensign and the other man, the pilot, as a lieutenant. Obviously military. But you sent their prints out and there were no hits. No military, no civilian, no criminal records. So, who are they? And where did they come from? Have we inadvertently come across some covert
operation? Or are they from a foreign government, trained to 'fit in'? I want answers."
"So, how does aliens sound? The mother ship's up there circling the globe, retrieving its plane . . ." Hernandez offered.
Johannsen rolled his eyes. Tarani tried to hide his smile. Hernandez had stumbled into it this time.
Ten claws and a distinct hiss to the voice. "I want those men released to us. I want Kim interrogated. I want Paris interrogated as soon as he can talk. If there were a military hospital close by, I'd want them moved there. Unfortunately, the closest one is over 300 miles away. As soon as that pilot can be moved, he will be moved. But let me tell you what I don't want. I don't want any mention of aliens or mother ships or Roswell. Do you understand?"
Hernandez swallowed. It looked as if the colonel's sense of humor was nonexistent this afternoon. The colonel hadn't finished. "Tarani, go over what's left of the salvage of that wreck and report back in two hours. Go over everything thoroughly - and if one more piece of evidence disappears, you'll have some explaining to do."
In the waiting room at Stallion's Gate, Al finished explaining the situation to Tuvok, who pointed out, "Holding me here is not efficient. Returning me to the ship . . ."
"Mr. Tuvok, I wish it were that simple. But the ship is in 1998. This is 2004. I can go to the ship, but only as a hologram."
His fingers steepled in front of him, Tuvok thought about the situation. Finally, he said, "It is obvious that I do not yet have a complete grasp of the circumstances. Your Dr. Beeks explained to me that adjustment to changed circumstances takes time for most people into whom Dr. Beckett has leaped."
Another moment passed. "What do you require of me?"
"Some help in understanding this situation." Off of Tuvok's doubtful expression, Al said, "Yes, I know. You don't understand it either. But your Captain has told me that you possess intellect, experience, and a dispassionate approach to problems. I think you can help us. Two of your crew are on this planet in 1998. Your captain wants them back. I'd like that to happen."
"Because then your Dr. Beckett will make what you call a 'leap'?"
"Right. And you folks can be on your way."
"What do you mean 'perhaps'?"
"Perhaps your project is doing irreparable harm to the time line. We the peoples of my time believe it is wrong to interfere in any way with the time line, with another culture's development . . . "
"I understand. For your information, Sam didn't go back in time to change anything. He just wanted to observe. And to prove his theories right."
"But the fact is that he does change history. In large ways and small."
"Yes. He does. Ziggy and I seem to be the only ones who are aware of the changes and of what went on before."
"He must be stopped."
Al didn't like the sound of this, but he wasn't going to argue with this guy about Sam's actions. Still, if he could bring Sam home for good. "How?"
Once again, Tuvok steepled his fingers as he lost himself in thought. Al's question was one for which he needed to find an answer. He gazed somberly at the flamboyantly dressed admiral. "Bringing Dr. Beckett back is the key, is it not?"
Tuvok's thoughtful gaze turned puzzled at Al's expression. "I do not understand your word 'bingo'."
"It means 'right', 'correct', okay?"
Tuvok barely acknowledged Al's explanation. He stated his terms. "If I'm to help you then I will need to have access to your computer 'Ziggy' and to Dr. Beckett's notes on this project."
Al considered the offer of help. Maybe a man from another planet, from another century, would be able to help. Nothing else had worked. "All right. Let's go. I'll give you the tour myself."
For over an hour Al and Tuvok toured the facility. In that time Tuvok's respect for the admiral and for the missing Sam Beckett grew appreciably. Beckett's computer and imaging chamber incorporated ideas that were ahead of his time. The imaging chamber had a primitive precursor of transporter technology and the computer had biogenic functionality that gave Tuvok pause. To his knowledge, only Voyager had a computer this sophisticated.
His biggest surprise occurred once back in Al's office. Tuvok used Al's work station as Al ordered in food. Al apologized, "They have burritos today."
"Burritos. Yes. I found them quite satisfactory."
"The last time I tried them."
"So you have burritos in the future?"
Tuvok was spared from having to answer as a cafeteria worker knocked and entered. Tuvok's back was to the man, then he turned to watch the trays as they were set down on the desk. There was a shock of recognition and then a clatter of plates.
The blue eyes of the counterman stared in stunned silence at the man across from him. Dr. Sam Beckett had returned.
For his part, Tuvok stiffened, stared, then filed away the encounter. Neither man had said anything, but Al couldn't help but notice the change in both men. Perhaps there was excitement in the face of the cafeteria worker, but Al thought he saw fear in the face of the Vulcan. 'What was that all about?' he wondered.
Tuvok would have denied that he felt fear, but he acknowledged that the body of Sam Beckett could have felt a wide range of emotions cued to his perception of the counterman. The man was someone Tuvok recognized, someone who could possibly mean grave trouble. The man who brought them lunch was Captain Braxton of the 29th century time police.
When Braxton almost fled the office, Al asked, "What was that all about?"
Tom remembered brief periods of consciousness, a blurry haze of light, smells, and voices. He had no idea how many hours had passed or where he was, but at least he could actually put together a coherent thought now. His medical training with the doctor kicked in and he took inventory of his various pains, cataloging and rating them as to quality and intensity. There was the deep throbbing ache from his arm, an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Then there was the sharp, ragged pain, a 10 at least, every time he drew a breath. He'd tried one deep breath and the searing pain soared off the scale. Since then he'd kept his breathing shallow. Then there was his side. Now and then, when he forgot and tried to move his body, he could set up a symphony of pain, the deep bass of his hips, the tympani of his side. The rating? That's right, he was rating them. The hips must be an 8, something like his arm, only there were more of them. And the side, yes, that was only a 6 or 7. Except when he moved. Another one that went off the scale. Where was a doctor with a tricorder? Why weren't they treating him for his injuries?
And had he rated his head yet? Combine the tight band around the forehead, surely an out of tune violin; the pounding in his temples, a full brass section; the tiny flames at the base of his skull, several triangles; the tsunami over the top of his head, french horns. Even the roots of his hair hurt. What was this symphony? Ten wasn't a high enough number. Gods, it hurt.
He remembered pain like this from Caldik Prime. But it hadn't gone on and on. The doctors had helped him. His body had healed and the physical pain had gone away.
Eyes at half mast, Tom warily eyed the woman in the white coat as she wrote down readings off of a machine onto a sheaf of paper inside metal plates. A cuff on his arm, his 'good' arm, periodically inflated and deflated. He watched clear liquids drip through a tube and disappear into a nest of white bandages on that same arm. She pressed something against his forehead and he gasped. Although her fingers were encased in gloves, he felt their coolness on his forehead and his eyes shot open. Her concerned brown eyes matched his wide open stare.
"Mr. Paris. Do you remember about the pain pump? Remember that you can give yourself pain relief?"
He blinked. The pain pump? The pain pump . . . she had pressed a piece of hard plastic into his hand and guided his finger to press down on a button. Like now. The relief. The pain pump. How could he have forgotten it?
Then he remembered the reason for the pain and almost dropped the plastic from his grasp. Pain relief. That was only for those who deserved it. No. This time he'd feel the pain he'd caused. The pain relief medicine would not blot the dream no the memory his memory of the crash. His gift, the one thing he'd always been good at was piloting, piloting anything. And it had turned on him. Again. If he couldn't count on that, then there was nothing he could count on. He'd had his second chance, a chance he hadn't even deserved. And he'd blown it. This time he'd accept the responsibility that was his due. Through the fuzziness of the drugs he held tight to that thought. He knew he'd finally grown up in the Delta Quadrant. He wouldn't trivialize Harry's death by lying about his own role in it.
He'd miscalculated the landing and they'd crashed. That was it. There was no mercy, no forgiveness for incompetence, for failure to deliver when the situation got hot. Unbidden tears welled up again. He realized that he was still the failure his father had hated. And no wonder. Alpha Quadrant, Delta Quadrant, one thing was constant: he failed over and over again. His friends died because of him. And he lived. Each time it should have been he who had died in those crashes. Not the others. Not Harry. The self-loathing closed in and locked out all other views. He was alone inside those impenetrable walls. Alone with the one person he hated the most. Himself. So why did his finger betray him and push the button on the pain pump?
In short, Harry Kim, eager to please and always trustworthy in carrying out the rules, staged a one man sit down strike. In the gaping hospital gown, Harry sat on his bed and refused their orders, the orders of the doctor and the military man. "No. I'm not going with you." Johannsen's eyes narrowed. "Careful son. You don't want to disobey orders."
Harry had thought about it. He knew there were no such orders from Voyager, but he couldn't explain that without explaining Voyager and Starfleet and all the other 24th century things he couldn't divulge to people of 20th century earth. In his hours of rest at this hospital he'd learned a great deal, from the tv bolted to his wall, from the newspaper a nurse or someone official brought him, from his thinking about the readings he'd seen on the shuttle controls before it crashed. He knew he was in a hospital in a town called Lubbock, Texas, and that there had been violent thunderstorms over eastern New Mexico and western Texas. There had been reports of numerous tornadoes, even some damage to a trailer court the video had shown twisted wreckage and a rectangular building much like a shuttle craft tilted on its side, the wall and roof caved in. What he didn't know was this man Johannsen and the people he represented. He said it was the U.S. Air Force, but Harry wasn't sure who they were. Tom Paris would probably know. And Tom Paris was the reason for his sit-down.
"I need to see Tom," Harry said quietly. "Then I'll come with you."
The doctor and the military man exchanged looks. The doctor lost the silent contest as to who would speak next. "Tom Paris is in a different hospital. He's not here."
"What's his condition?" Harry remembered the crash. It couldn't have gone well for his friend.
"It's serious. He's going to be in intensive care for awhile. Then he'll be in the hospital and rehab for weeks, maybe longer."
"He needs to see me."
Smith frowned at Harry's phrasing. "Earlier you said you wanted to see him. Now 'he needs to see you'?"
"He needs to know that I'm all right." Harry was completely clear on that point and he didn't plan to budge.
The two men went into the hall and Harry watched their exchange. From their body language, Johannsen didn't want him to go to see Tom. Smith argued for it.
When they came back inside his room Smith said, "Get dressed. We'll take you over there."
Harry put on the khaki colored uniform they'd given him. It even had a name tag on the breast pocket. 'Ensign Kim.'
It was a sobering sight. Hands on hips, Janeway surveyed the wreckage of the shuttlecraft on the hanger bay floor. "There's not much left."
She and B'Elanna circled the mostly unrecognizable pieces. Janeway stopped at what remained of a chair from the front control area. She pointed to iron colored stains. "That looks like blood."
B'Elanna's tricorder gave her confirmation of the captain's observation. "It is." After punching in a few commands, B'Elanna was able to add, "It's Harry's."
Further around the debris in the shuttle bay, Janeway squatted down over the wrecked helm control panel and pointed out a large smear of blood.
"Tom's. It's Tom's." The chief engineer's voice caught. "Captain, I don't see how . . ."
Janeway's upraised hand stopped the younger woman from finishing her thought. "Don't."
B'Elanna saw a look of determination on Janeway's face that brooked no argument. Harry Kim had seen that same look on Tom Paris' face only hours earlier. Straightening up, Janeway dusted her hands, then started to leave. "B'Elanna, see if you can find the Voth cloaking device. I'll be on the bridge."
Tom's nightmare of losing control of the shuttle played to its audience of one on a repeating loop. Over and over Tom lost control. Over and over the shuttle crashed. Over and over Harry died. He thought he could even hear Harry's voice calling his name. But opening his eyes, he knew he was still caught in his nightmare. He had to be. Harry was alive and talking to him. So, it had to be part of the nightmare.
Strange. Harry was in a uniform Tom had never seen before. Ensign Kim. At least Harry had gone to an afterlife for good ensigns. But Harry's words in this dream didn't make much sense. Harry wanted him to wake up. But if he woke up, the dream would be over and Harry would be gone.
Tom realized that his eyes actually were open in this dream. He blinked a few times just to be sure. Nothing made sense. An eyes wide open dream?
"Tom?" He heard Harry's words. He looked at Harry's face so close now to his own. There was concern and worry in that face to match the soft words and urgent sounding voice. "Tom. Listen to me. I'm all right. Do you understand? I'm fine. I survived the crash. Tom? Listen! You've got to hear me. I'm all right."
Why was Harry saying these things? That his afterlife was okay? Tom concentrated on what Harry was trying to tell him. Harry's voice sounded frustrated. "Tom. Talk to me, say something, please." There was an exasperated sigh. "Oh, Tom."
Tom didn't know what to say. In his mind the words, 'I'm sorry that you're dead' seemed too close to the kind of wise guy remark he might once have given voice to. But not now.
Harry appeared to be still talking to him. "Tom. I can't stay here. I have to go, but promise me that you'll get better. Promise me, Tom." Harry's last words were insistent and demanding.
Tom blinked at the senselessness of Harry's plea. What was there to get well for?
As if reading his thoughts, Harry said, "We'll get back, Tom. I know we will. We'll be back to where we belong. But you have to get well first. Do you understand?"
Tom could hear someone else in the background urging Harry to move on. Time was up. Tom realized then that even ensign heaven had to have its rules.
"Tom, I'll be back." Harry's face leaned down close to his own. Tom could swear he felt Harry's silky hair brush against his face, felt Harry's breath glide across his cheek. Harry's voice was low, but intense, as he whispered, "Tom, you are my best friend. You must get well. I will come back."
Then Harry was gone. The dream was over. Those few minutes of his dream time with Harry had temporarily halted awareness of his physical pain and penetrated the wall of self-hatred that blocked off all other feelings. However, it was too late when he finally mouthed the word, "Harry."
Harry had gone.
Harry left with Johannsen and Smith as he had promised. He couldn't hide from them how shaken he was by Tom's appearance. Even in this primitive time, he'd somehow counted on the forerunner of 24th Century medical regenerators to have fixed his friend's injuries. But Tom had looked terrible, his normally pale skin now a pasty grey overlaid with purple and green bruises. His bright blue eyes had dimmed to a dull, colorless grey. The swollen face hid his friend's fine-boned features. And the pain he saw in Tom's battered face turned his stomach. Only in the Akriterian prison when Tom was dying of a knife wound had Harry seen such pain.
Harry fervently wished he knew what he could do. He would do anything to help Tom. But his options were limited. Staying with Tom meant violating his word to these men. And visiting times were so limited. In his ten minute stay, Tom's response to him had seemed nonexistent. There had been no change in expression, no words spoken, no signs that Tom even recognized him or understood what he'd said. How long before there would be a change in his friend's condition? That question and so many others popped up like targets in a holovid and refused to pop back down. There was no one, other than Tom, that he trusted for answers. And his friend had said nothing. Harry followed the men out of the hospital and to their car.
When Al entered sickbay on Voyager, he found his friend surfing the computer that sat on a desk. There was intense concentration etched in every line of Sam's body. So great was Sam's involvement with the computer that he barely acknowledged Al's return.
"And it's nice to see you too, Sam," Al finally said when clearing his throat hadn't gained Sam's attention.
"Al. This is amazing. You wouldn't believe what this computer can do. Look at this."
"Sam. Sam." Al's vocal expression changed from matter-of-fact to annoyed before Sam finally looked at him.
"We gotta talk."
"What about?" Sam's attention finally reverted fully to Al.
"We got problems. I think that the captain better hear this too."
Sam hit the comm badge located on 'his' uniform. "Sam to Janeway. Captain, could you join us?"
"I'll be right there."
Al indicated his approval of the communication device. "Nice."
"That's just the tip of the iceberg." Sam had trouble keeping his eyes off the computer screen that had become an obsession, like an adolescent's first crush. Nonetheless, he made the effort to pay attention to Al. "What's Ziggy say about this leap?"
"Pretty much what you've guessed. You're here to help get those two crewmen back."
"Have you located them yet?"
"Sort of," Al said waggling his free hand in a 'maybe' gesture. Al now had Sam's full attention but before he could elaborate, Janeway entered sickbay, Chakotay only a step behind her.
"Al," she nodded in acknowledgement, her eyes momentarily widening at Al's pink and green outfit, "Sam. What do you have?"
Chakotay's reaction to Al's sartorial splendor was even less subtle as his mouth formed a moue of disgust at its excess. Although he'd seen worse on some Ferengi he'd met.
Al pretended to be oblivious to the silent commentary. Sam was urging him to tell his story. "Okay. First some 'sort of' good news. A small plane apparently did crash near the New Mexico - Texas border. There were two survivors. One has been treated and released. The other is badly injured in a Lubbock hospital. No names. No name of the hospital. Ziggy found this mention in an old Internet posting on the 55th anniversary of Roswell. The author speculated that this crash was just another continuing government cover-up of any and all events related to Roswell."
Janeway and Chakotay exchanged glances. The commander asked, "What's Roswell?"
"Right. You wouldn't know about that. Supposedly, an alien space craft crashed on a ranch outside of Roswell, New Mexico. The government confiscated the craft and the remains of the aliens who flew it. Then the government is alleged to have lied to the American people about all of it."
"So some writer connected the shuttle crash to this earlier crash fifty years ago?"
"That's it. The writer believed that the reason there was virtually no press coverage was due to a government cover-up. Ziggy says it was more likely that the crash rated almost no coverage because there were no fatalities. And the tornadoes that hit that desolate area stretched up to Oklahoma and Kansas where there were a number of fatalities."
"And that is all that your computer could find out about Tom and Harry?"
"I'm afraid so, Captain. I'm sorry it's not more."
"But they lived," she prayed.
"It looked that way."
"I wish we knew which one was released and why he hasn't contacted us." It would be just like Tom Paris to go off on his own. She sighed. At the same time she wondered which man was badly hurt. She didn't allow herself to wonder for longer than a second if these men were from Voyager. They had to be. "There's more, isn't there?"
Al grimaced. "I'm afraid so. I take it the name 'Captain Braxton' is familiar to you?"
Both officers stiffened. Nervously, Janeway asked. "How did you hear about him?"
"Tuvok recognized him. The cafeteria man who delivered our food."
Sam was confused. "Who is Captain Braxton?"
Al looked directly at Sam. "Tuvok believes that Braxton is at Stallion's Gate to shut you . . . us down."
Sam jumped to his feet. "He can bring me home?"
Al fidgeted and directed his attention to the handlink. Sam pressed. "Al?"
"It's more likely that he'll kill you," Chakotay interjected.
Janeway explained, saddened to see the brief hope in Sam extinguished by her first officer's pronouncement, "He's from the 29th Century Time Police. It seems the authorities of the 29th century take a dim view of time travelers. He tried to destroy our ship and everyone on it a little less than two years ago."
Sam reacted with horror.
"He didn't succeed, of course." Chakotay stated. "But if he's after your project, I doubt if it matters to him whether you leap home or die in an alternate time line."
Now it was Al and Sam's turn to exchange worried looks.
Haylene contemplated the shielded telepathic connection she had made with Tuvok. Although she had been initially intrigued by a Federation vessel violating the Treaty of Algernon in using cloaking technology, additional information provided an even greater challenge to her reasoning abilities. The Vulcan had undergone a transformation that she didn't understand. His body was occupied by someone else while his essence resided in that human's body. Since it had happened without warning she was more than intrigued. She focused her considerable energies on this mystery.
The thirty minute ride by automobile ended at the abandoned hangar. Harry had seen nothing to help him understand what was going on. Apart from some very large buildings such as one labeled Wal-Mart, he'd seen nothing but homes and brown fields. The land itself was perfectly flat. In fact, one of the direction signs indicated that they were headed toward Levelland. The two men in the front seats of the car had said nothing on the trip. Music that Harry thought Tom might like played on the car's audio system. One song reminded him of Tom, something about 'Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain' sung by someone the doctor on Voyager would surely want to examine for abnormal nasal passages.
Another ride in a compartment like a turbo lift took the silent threesome down to the headquarters below ground. Johannsen and Harry waited in a conference room where Smith left them, but returned shortly with the colonel. Johannsen came to attention and Harry followed suit.
"At ease," Warrington directed. "Sit down."
She seated herself at the end of the table and gazed long and hard at the young Asian nervously perched on a chair two seats down from her. "So. You're
Harry Kim. An ensign."
Harry watched her narrowed brown eyes carefully. This woman could be quite a match for his captain. Her voice was soft, yet steely, the kind of voice that was softest just before it erupted. Inwardly, Harry shivered. He would have to be very, very careful.
"Well, 'Mr. Kim'. There's no record of you anywhere. Your fingerprints do not appear in any database. How do you account for that?" She allowed the silence that followed to go on for several moments. "Well?"
"I don't know, ma'am, uh, sir."
"You 'don't know'. And I suppose you don't know why the other crewman's prints are also not on file."
"No. I don't know, sir."
Keep it simple, Harry said to himself. He knew he had to keep their origins a secret and he had to find a way to determine whether Voyager had followed them down the wormhole to this time and place. If she had, then contacting the ship had to be his first priority. But how to find out? And if Voyager hadn't come through the wormhole, then he had to get back to Tom, to help him through his injuries and to figure out how they were going to survive in this strange and threatening century.
Warrington repeated herself. "You don't know. Well. What do you know? Where did your plane take off? Where were you supposed to land?"
Harry resisted the urge to obey the command tone in her voice. She was not his commanding officer. Her voice held a harder edge when she loomed over him, "Who do you report to? You will answer my questions."
He remained polite despite the fact that she really scared him. "I'm sorry, Colonel."
She stepped back a few paces. "Dr. Smith. Go back to the hospital. Do what you have to do to get answers out of the other one."
"No!" Harry panicked. Tom was too sick to know what was going on. Tom hadn't even recognized his best friend. Harry couldn't let Tom be put into a position of inadvertently betraying him. Once Tom recovered physically he would never forgive himself for talking, for telling them everything they wanted to know. No. He, Harry, had to take responsibility here. What had Paris told him about the stories he'd invented in Los Angeles? Secret agents. Would this woman buy it? No, not from him. He wasn't a good liar.
The colonel watched the young ensign's internal struggle carefully. Clearly, he was afraid of what the injured party would say if questioned. At the same time, he displayed genuine concern for the other man as he struggled with his response to her demands. To help him make up his mind, she gentled her voice, "Talk to me, Harry."
He took a deep breath. She'd won. He vowed to keep it truthful but useless. "We're we were on a secret mission." Sort of true.
Harry didn't want to answer. What could he say? Finally, he said, "Testing. We were testing a secret a secret device."
Her interest piqued but she regarded Harry with considerable skepticism. "So. Let me get this straight. You were on a secret mission, testing a secret device? Is that correct?"
He squirmed like one of her five year old nephews trying to get out of being discovered in the ice cream. It was true, Harry thought to himself. Secret in the Delta Quadrant, secret from enemies in that quadrant, if it worked. "Yes. Yes, ma'am."
"Fine. What secret device?"
Sweating despite the coolness of the room, Harry closed his eyes trying to figure out what he could say, how far he could go to keep Tom safe. He couldn't stop his voice from catching as he told her, "It was a device designed to make the plane invisible."
The colonel nodded encouragingly. A new kind of stealth bomber? "How?"
"It's it's very technical. We just flew the plane. Tom did. I helped." Oh, God, thought Harry to himself, shut up now. Shut up. Shut up.
"Without getting too technical, ensign, how did it work? Or does the pilot know more than you?"
There it was again. The threat to Tom. The sweat beaded on his brow threatened to drip and he wiped his hand across his forehead. Calm down, he told himself. He couldn't violate the Prime Directive, not even to save Tom. But what could he say? "It. . . it worked as a phase shifter. From one dimension to another."
She wasn't buying it. "From what dimension to what?"
"I don't know." She gave him a thoroughly Janeway 'look'. They must teach them that. "Please. That's all they told us. I know it's technical. But that's all I know. On the plane you just threw a switch."
The colonel and the others went outside into the corridor. "What do you think?"
Johannsen said, "I actually think he's telling the truth. Whoever sent him on that plane flight told them only what they needed to know. Flip a switch. If they crashed or were captured they couldn't tell anyone anything that made any sense."
"Yes. Need to know."
"And what he said makes a weird kind of sense. Remember about the plane pieces? I told you they disappeared. Maybe this device caused it whatever."
"Doctor? What do you think?"
"I think that young man would say anything to protect the pilot. They're friends and he's worried about you carrying out any threats. He seems quite protective of the other man. But I think he's telling the truth as he knows it."
"I agree. You don't send out a couple of boys on a secret aircraft that could be traced back to you if anything went wrong."
Johannsen added, "But someone's going to come looking for that aircraft. It's gotta be valuable. And I'll bet those boys themselves are also valuable. They probably have special training."
"I expect you're right. No doubt we'll have CIA or NSA or some other initialed suits down here looking for their plane and their men." She came to a decision. "Why don't you send one of your people to let us know when he can be moved?"
The doctor agreed and the colonel issued additional directives. "I'm going to send Rachel Hernandez out to the hospital to monitor his status. Who knows? Maybe he'll talk to her."
The doctor offered to send his assistant and the colonel agreed.
"Johannsen, get Mr. Kim to security. And I want to see Hal Tarani. Some of this stuff is in his area of expertise. If those plane pieces 'shift' back to our dimension, if that's what really happens, we need to have someone watching."
In his quarters at Stallion's Gate, Capt. Braxton used his 29th century tricorder to access Ziggy. He had to know if Sam Beckett had leaped home. Completing the scan, Braxton made a verbal log entry into the tricorder. "Local Date: April 5, 2004. Captain's Log. I saw Dr. Samuel Beckett with Admiral Calavicci in the Admiral's office. However, attempts to confirm Beckett's return with the project computer Ziggy have been negative. Either that was not Beckett or Ziggy does not have awareness of Beckett's return. Since the project's practice is to keep the alter ego in a waiting room area it is unlikely that the man I saw was a visitor from another time line. I plan to scan Beckett the next time I see him. I'll be able to confirm his identity. Then Dr. Beckett and I will have a serious talk."
Not far away in the waiting room, Tuvok used a computer work station that had been installed for him. There were so many problems to solve. How to help Voyager. How to contact Tom and Harry, all of whom were several years in the past. And if he could, how to stop Sam Beckett from his rampage through history. Somehow he was distracted by dark emotions, but put it down to occupying the body of a man who was terribly lonely and desperate to be home. Tuvok tried to put the body he occupied into a meditative state, but the body seemed uncooperative. Another problem to solve.
Hernandez and the doctor's assistant, a civilian 20-something woman, were allowed to see Tom Paris once Rachel displayed her government credentials. The young woman, Rain Robinson, hung back, watching Hernandez examine the chart before Rain had her chance. The doctor had told her only that they were going to check and guard a downed government pilot. Her job was to monitor the condition of the pilot once he could be moved. Hernandez passed her the chart and Rain kicked off from the wall that had held her up to take it. Rain looked at the patient and at the chart. She was struck by something familiar about the man in the hospital bed. Rain looked back at the patient again, wondering if she knew this man. But the name on the chart was all wrong. In puzzlement, she asked, "Is this his real name? John Jones?"
Hernandez gazed back at her, "Of course not. Once Warrington figured out these guys might be important, she got him registered under an assumed name. What's wrong?"
Rain grasped the chart tightly to her chest as she stepped closer to the bed. She stared at Tom's face for a long time. Was this him or not? "Let me guess his real name. If this guy's got blue eyes his name is Tom Paris."
Now it was Hernandez' turn to stare. "How did you know?"
"I didn't know for sure. He's so beat up. Tom was . . . handsome, you know?"
"Rain, how did you know his name?"
Tom struggled to awareness, hearing voices that increased and decreased in volume. Female voices. Not Harry, then. One of the voices seemed familiar. But it was so hard to wake up. His chest hurt with each breath, his eyes felt hot and feverish, his joints ached from fever. But he finally managed to open his eyes. There were two women by his bed. Both were dark haired, but one was a stranger. The other . . . she looked like an old girlfriend. No . . . not quite?
Nice voice. He blinked his eyes, willing the pain to go away. Of course, it didn't. Gradually, he managed to focus her image. He heard her say to the other woman, "See. Blue eyes. Okay, these are bloodshot eyes, but blue. It's him. The rat."
A name came back to him. Rain. Rain Robinson. But how could she be here? Wherever "here" was. Had she died in that desert? "Rain?"
She leaned closer to him. Her flash of anger over events of two years ago began to subside. After all, it was hard to stay angry with a man who looked so pitiful. "Tom?"
He seemed thoroughly confused. "I . . . don't . . . don't understand."
Rain leaned down closer to his face to hear his words. She told him, "I don't understand either. How'd you get here?"
"Crashed." It seemed to take an enormous effort to say the word. She thought she saw tears well up in his eyes.
"Crashed, huh. So, you crashed your spaceship?" She laughed uneasily at her attempt to tease him. She was rewarded with a tentative smile. Or at least that's what it appeared like to her, a smile all but buried in the ruined face with the moist eyes. But she saw what she needed: the young man of two years ago.
Hernandez thought she'd heard the word "spaceship" and leaned in to hear more.
He remembered the last face to face meeting with Rain, out in the desert. "I did it," he whispered.
"What?" she whispered back.
"I said . . . I said hello to Saturn for you." He tried to grin, but it faded quickly as exhaustion overtook him. His eyelids fluttered and closed.
Okay, Hernandez realized, these two had a history. The pilot had done something that had angered Rain, probably something that had ended their relationship, but there was some shared experience that each recalled tenderly. Hernandez watched the young woman's hand reach out and push the damp hair from the pilot's forehead, the hand lingering on his face. When Rain straightened up she pulled up the forgotten chart and opened it.
She shook her head over the notations. "Sheesh. No wonder even Dr. Smith won't let him be moved."
"What do you mean?"
"This guy is sick. Really, really sick." Rain put the chart back in its holder by the door. "Let's go outside his room."
Actually, the cubicle in intensive care was less a room than a windowed alcove like many others that lined two walls of the unit. "The colonel wants us to keep an eye on him until he can be moved."
Rain spread her arms, palms out. "He's not going anywhere."
"I know that," Rachel snapped. "But there may be people who'll come after him. Those two MPs outside of intensive care are here to make sure no one gets to this guy."
"Oh. Sorry." She remembered Starling and the trouble she and Tom and that other dude, Tuvok, had gotten into over stuff she never did figure out. But thugs with heavy duty weapons had gone after them then. "Oh, shit. Not again."
"What do you mean?" Rachel fetched two chairs and posted them outside of Tom's cubicle. She sat in one and indicated that Rain should sit in the other. "What's the story with you and this Tom Paris? You realize the colonel's having fits trying to find out something about this guy and his friend?"
"Hey, his friend's here? Tuvok?"
"Tuvok? No, a guy named Harry Kim. An ensign."
"Black? Funny ears?"
"No. Asian. Early to mid twenties."
"No, that's not Tuvok. Gee, I'd like to meet this other friend of Tom's."
"Rain. Focus here, okay? The colonel's going to want to know all you know about Paris."
"Got it. Met him at the observatory in LA. I was working there part time while I went to college. He and Tuvok got me into this really strange scene. And he left me in the desert in Arizona. Two years ago. I knew him for what? all of thirty hours? Let him sleep in my van. Well, both he and Tuvok, and, uh, me." She blushed. "I mean, nothing . . . Then he Tom and I chased this truck to the desert. He left me with my van stalled out. No one around for miles. But he gave me a nice kiss goodbye." She smiled faintly at the memory. "I think he was a nice guy. You know, one of the good guys, but said he was fighting the Soviets. Got his history all screwy."
"Who did he work for?"
"I never could figure it out. At one point, I decided he came from a spaceship. But I don't know, that was more like a joke between us."
"So he didn't really come from a spaceship?"
Rain wanted to make a flip reply, but Hernandez was really serious. Nonetheless, she didn't want to share what she really suspected. "I don't think so. I mean, spaceships?"
"How did you end up working as Dr. Smith's assistant?"
"Luck?" Rain shrugged, very glad to be off the troubling subject of Tom Paris. "Well, I got my bus started out there in Arizona and decided I really didn't want to go back to LA. So I headed east. Ran out of money in Lubbock and answered want ads. Dr. Smith hired me and encouraged me to continue with grad school. Only I switched my major to allied health. Got my credits transferred from LA. We're on break now. After this summer, I just have fall semester to go and then I graduate from Texas Tech. That's it. A few years later than my peer group, but I'm gonna finish."
"Good for you." Hernandez actually smiled. "So what do you do for Dr. Smith?"
Rain laughed. "I'm still trying to figure that out. I mean he's hooked up with you folks out there who keep looking for UFOs. Don't worry, I'm cleared. But Smith needs someone to organize his papers. He has me helping him with his memoirs. The medical knowledge I've been getting is supposed to help. Plus my bachelor's is in astronomy. But I don't know, I don't think I'll ever know enough. Dr. Smith has had a lot of interesting experiences. But how did you we get involved with Tom?"
"His plane crashed."
"So he wasn't kidding. He crashed."
"Yeah. The other guy, Harry Kim, is out at the base. You know Warrington. If it could be a UFO "
". . .she'd want to kill it with 'The Look'." They both laughed. "I get the impression that Warrington is determined that there won't be any UFO stuff while she's in charge."
"Actually, I think she'd like to have a real encounter. It's the hoaxes, crackpots, and crazies that push her buttons. But the real thing -- she'd give her rank for it."
"You think so?"
Hernandez nodded. "Yeah, I do."
Al located Sam and the captain eating a meal together with the commander in her quarters. Al regarded the strangely textured and colored food on Sam's plate with some suspicion. Then he shrugged. There were some experiences in Southeast Asia he'd rather forget that put this food in perspective. He'd come in on the end of a story that Janeway was telling.
"And then Tom stood right up to Tuvok and told him he was a . . .what was that word, commander?"
"Freakasaurus," Chakotay supplied with a grin.
Sam smiled uncertainly, "I guess, I . . . this body. . . would look . . . it did look . . ."
Al helped out his friend. "Admit it, Sam. You told me you almost fainted when B'Elanna put you in front of a mirror."
Sam shrugged good naturedly and deflected attention to Al. "So. Any news?"
Al sobered immediately. "Yes. That's why I'm here. To tell you personally." Janeway waited, fearing bad news. "When Harry Kim left the hospital it was with two people, a Lt. Johannsen and a Dr. Smith. Ziggy got into some classified military files. Layers and layers of encryption. With Tuvok's help, she's gotten into the easiest level and they're working on the rest."
"Then Harry's all right." Janeway took comfort from that. "But what about Tom?"
"Don't know. Harry's bill was paid by the US Air Force. Ziggy hasn't been able to locate anything in the hospital records yet on Tom Paris."
"Would Ziggy know if Tom had died?" Chakotay asked softly. Janeway looked stricken.
"She hasn't found anything like that."
Sam wondered about the people with Kim. "Anything about Johannsen and Smith?"
"Johannsen's posting at that . . . this . . . time is Reese Air Force Base. But Reese was closed right about now. Texas Tech was moving into it. Ziggy found something on Dr. Hammond Smith. A book was published a year from now about Smith's medical career from med school in Denver to Viet Nam to helping the government with oddball medical cases. Ziggy's scanned the book. There's no mention of either of the crewmen by name. His dedication mentions a few people, Jane and Martin Smith, his parents," Al consulted the link for the rest of the names, "Janet Smith Turnbull, a niece and nephew Turnbull, Colonel Alicia Warrington and his assistant Rain Robinson. That's all."
"Did you say Rain Robinson?" Janeway asked.
"Yes. Does that name mean anything to you?"
"It certainly does. That story I was just telling Sam. Rain was the young woman in LA who helped Tom and Tuvok. I don't get it."
"I don't either," Chakotay echoed.
Sam turned to Al. "Al. That information on Harry Kim what hospital?"
Al checked the link and hit it in his usual fashion which then created an amused exchange of looks between Janeway and Chakotay. Al reported, "Methodist Hospital."
Janeway tuned in to hear Al's answer. "You have the name of the hospital? Its location?"
"Methodist," Al repeated, puzzled by her question.
"Then we can get Tom!"
"I don't follow," Al indicated.
"Harry was discharged. But Tom must still be there. That's the piece of information we need to rescue him." Janeway's excitement about the plan was tempered by her First Officer's reaction.
"We could possibly get Tom because we would have the location. But how do we find Harry?"
"This Reese base. That's got be where they took Harry." Janeway's hand chirped her comm badge. "Janeway to B'Elanna. Report to the conference room in ten minutes."
She turned her attention back to Al. "Can you help us with intelligence on this base and on the city?"
"Sure, maps, floor plans, . . . Ziggy will have them all. And I trained at Reese. Fighter jets: T-38s. But more importantly, I think I know the military protocol at work here." Al explained that as a military man, if he had two unidentified pilots from a craft with disappearing parts that he would separate them and put guards on them as a security measure. He suggested that they scan any major hospitals in the area. "Give me a minute with Ziggy." Al entered his door and disappeared.
When B'Elanna entered the conference room, Janeway filled her in and asked her about the skeletal lock technique she once used in a pressured rescue. Al returned to overhear the last of the conversation between Janeway and B'Elanna. Then he shook his head. "Captain, I'm not sure I've understood a word you've said. But I have the maps you need here on the link."
Chakotay smiled from his seat next to Janeway. Sometimes he didn't understand her either. Unlike Al, he loved her anyway. But, then, Al didn't know her. Once his eyes left Janeway, he noticed Al frowning at him. The Admiral's posture had stiffened and he wore a close-eyed frown as ferocious as any Klingon's. So. The Admiral didn't approve. Or maybe the Admiral was jealous. Chakotay sensed Kathryn's assumption of a stiffer posture herself. He put his mind to the task at hand. Business had begun.
The plan was simple. B'Elanna would preload the needed medical records on Harry and Tom from sickbay. Using the maps transferred from Al's link to a PADD, the shuttle would hover over Reese. With her skeletal lock technique B'Elanna would be able to transport out Harry. Then they would fly over the hospital and she would transport out Tom. Since Tom was expected to be injured, the holodoc would be along to take care of him. With the rescued crewmen on board, Chakotay would return the shuttle to the Voyager. The entire flight would require only minutes.
As the senior crew worked on the rescue plan, Janeway directed Ensign Vorik in engineering to monitor the wormhole. They would need to know how far away it was and how long it would take to reach it. Once they had the crew back, they couldn't spend the next 400 years hiding behind the moon waiting for their century to arrive.
The execution of the rescue plan followed Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
At Janeway's invitation, Sam joined the crew on the bridge. He took Chakotay's usual seat beside the captain. For awhile they watched the shuttle as it arced over to the earth. Then the captain had the viewscreen switched to the inside of the shuttle. They watched the trio inside as the shuttle approached the first hover point over the closed Air Force base.
B'Elanna headed to the back of the shuttle to work the transporter controls while Chakotay held the shuttle in place.
"Computer," B'Elanna ordered, "get a skeletal lock on Harry Kim."
"Working," the computer voice told her. "No match found with Harry Kim."
"Search again." There was an edge to B'Elanna's voice that matched the tension she felt.
"B'Elanna we can't stay here," Chakotay cautioned.
"No match found," the computer voice repeated.
"Again," B'Elanna growled.
"B'Elanna. . . "
"He's got to be there!"
"No match found."
"I'm moving us over to the hospital."
"Damn!" B'Elanna exploded in frustration.
"I don't understand," the doctor complained. "The skeletal lock technique has worked before."
"I don't think it's the technique!" she snapped. "Something's blocking the signal. Dammit, this is supposed to be a primitive time! How can they block our signal?"
On the bridge, Sam looked at the Captain. "What went wrong?"
"I don't know," Janeway told him.
From the shuttle Chakotay announced that they were over the hospital and B'Elanna instructed the computer to do a skeletal lock on Tom Paris. Again the computer told her there was not a match.
"Chakotay. Are we in the right location?"
"We're going by a primitive map of a primitive time," Chakotay grated out. "And we'd better get a lock before we're detected."
"I understand from my extensive computer review of this time period that if we are detected the newsmedia will go into what was called a 'feeding frenzy.'" The doctor made his contribution to the conversation and added, "I don't really know what that means."
"Thank you, doctor," B'Elanna's sarcasm was lost on the holodoc, but Chakotay grinned in appreciation.
The computer still insisted that there was no lock. Chakotay said, "Let's move on to the next hospital" and flew a short distance away.
B'Elanna initiated another search for Tom, to which the computer replied,"Partial lock. No lock."
"What do you mean 'partial lock'?" B'Elanna demanded, her hands flying over the transporter controls.
"There was a partial lock. Then there was no lock."
She stared at Chakotay, her hands wide in a mute plea for help.
Chakotay turned back to the helm, frowning at the readings. More to himself, he muttered, "I don't understand. Uh-oh."
"We've been detected. It's radar."
"We've been found?" B'Elanna growled.
The Captain intervened. "Janeway to Chakotay. Commander. Get out of there. Now."
Chakotay engaged the impulse engines and pulled up and away.
"No! We almost had Tom!" B'Elanna cried out and slammed her palm against the bulkhead in frustration. She hated the thought of losing Tom. And she hated losing at anything, period.
"I don't want to leave," Chakotay called back to her, his concentration focused on piloting, "But we have to. We'll come back later."
"The next step after detection is the feeding frenzy. We wouldn't want that," the holodoc reminded her at his most pompous.
"Stuff it," she told them both and nursed her stinging hand. At the doctor's move to help her she growled him off. "That computer is going to tell me about that partial lock."
Neither the holodoc nor Chakotay risked so much as a glance in her direction as Chakotay piloted the craft back to Voyager.
Janeway and Sam met the shuttle crew in the hangar bay. Chakotay's first words were an apology. "I'm sorry, Kathryn."
"There was a partial lock," B'Elanna pleaded.
"I saw it, Lt." Janeway's use of her rank was deliberate. "I know you tried your best."
Sam asked, "What does a skeletal lock do and what does a partial lock mean?"
B'Elanna explained, "A skeletal lock directs the computer to match a person's bone structure against the bone structure or skeleton of possible targets. When it achieves a lock, then we can use that to beam up the person. A partial lock means that the computer made an incomplete match. Some aspects of the skeleton matched but other parts didn't."
"Okay, I think I understand. But suppose Tom's skeleton has changed: Broken bones, swelling, pins, bone fragments . . .? If he were seriously injured, he could be hard to recognize for a few weeks."
"We're so used to our 24th century medicine: regenerators that heal in minutes for small injuries, only a somewhat longer time that's needed for large ones," the holodoc offered. "Although I never had Paris' complete medical history -- he's been less than forthcoming -- what we had should have been enough. He's been in sickbay often enough."
Janeway became impatient with the doctor's rambles. "Doctor . . . "
The holodoc continued, "But maybe the computer can generate a projection of what Paris would be like after being injured in a shuttle crash."
B'Elanna recast the holodoc's words into engineering terms and applied a solution. "Okay. I can reconfigure the computer to scan for and locate a fuzzy match to the new information. But we can't risk a transport on that kind of a signal."
Chakotay held up a PADD. "Based on this flight information I should be able to pinpoint just where the partial lock came from. But we'll have to take a shuttle down to the middle of a city. I don't think we can risk that."
Janeway contradicted him, her voice thoughtful. "Maybe we can, Chakotay." She thought out loud. "We can probably locate Tom with the flight readings and a fuzzy skeletal lock. But we can't beam him out, we can't let the shuttle be seen, and our only cloaking device has yet to be found. But we face another problem. We need to know why we didn't get a lock on Harry at that Air Force base."
B'Elanna held up a PADD, still in no mood for conversation. As if her meaning were clear, she left with Chakotay saying only, "Transporter log."
Softly, Sam told the captain, "I'm sorry we didn't get your crew back. That shuttle it's amazing. When Al went from the earth to the moon and back it took three days each way. You you did it in minutes. Could you do me a favor? If it's possible?"
"If it's possible. Of course, Sam."
"Al trained at that Air Force base. He could help." Sam took a deep breath. "Would you let Al go on the next rescue mission?"
Kathryn stifled her first negative response. "I'm afraid we don't have room for tourists. But I'm thinking, Al may be useful in our next attempt. We need any inside help we can get at this point. Yes. I think it can be arranged." She was rewarded by Sam's smile as it turned Tuvok's normally dour face into a very human one. "Al must be a very good friend."
She nodded back and sprang a surprise. "You know, Sam, your knowledge of 20th century medicine may be a big help. I want you on that next mission too."
Sam was speechless.
Janeway grinned and tilted her head toward the entrance to the bridge. "Shall we?"
* * *
Tom stirred as if shaking off a flying insect. His skin tingled briefly and he groaned.
Outside his cubicle Rain looked up at the sound. She caught a fleeting glimpse of blue shimmering lights over Tom's body, but before she could identify them, the sparkles disappeared. "What was that?"
"What?" Hernandez asked.
"They're gone. A . . . a light. I think."
Rain went in to get a closer look at Tom with Hernandez trailing not far behind.
Tom's eyes were open. Once again pain and confusion vied for dominance in the clouded blue eyes. "Rain . . .?"
"I'm right here, Tom," she told him softly. "How're you doing?"
He tried to smile at her but it faded before it was ever born. He could only manage a barely audible whisper. "Not . . . not so good."
"You'll be all right soon," she lied. "Hang in there. Hear me?"
Something in her tone reminded him of Harry. "Harry?"
"No, Tom. It's me. Rain."
"Harry," he breathed again, his eyes closing on a frown.
"What's happening?" Hernandez asked.
"I don't know." Rain took in the monitors, noted the low blood pressure, the uneven heartbeat. She didn't need a monitor to tell her that his breathing was labored. The temperature monitor showed 103.7 degrees. "I'm going to get the nurse."
* * *
On Voyager the Captain and Sam were just entering the bridge when Neelix intercepted them.
"Captain. Captain, I'm so glad that I found you."
"Neelix. Is there anything new on the television?"
"No. Sorry. But I've been watching all these program interruptions they're called commercials and there are well, the number of things down on earth that we could use it's staggering." Janeway struggled to find the sentence in this rambling, but thought she had grasped the essence and was starting to speak when Neelix continued. "I know, I know. You're going to say 'Prime Directive', but I think we should send an away team to gather up as many of these items . . ."
Sam's glimmer of a smile turned into a laugh. Neelix wasn't sure how to take the sight of Tuvok laughing. On the one hand, he'd been trying for three years to get the Vulcan to loosen up. But on the other hand, he knew that inside this Vulcan's body was another man. A man from earth. Finally, he asked, "Why are you laughing?"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. But in this time period, it costs money to, uh, have those things."
"Money." Janeway mused. "Hmm. But you know, Neelix has a good idea. It would have to be done without violating the Prime Directive." To Sam she added, "basically, that means we can't interfere with another culture. But if we could stock up on supplies supplies from earth "
"Coffee," Neelix prompted, establishing his worth once and for all in the captain's mind.
"Coffee indeed," Janeway agreed. "Sam. How do we get money?"
Sam stood tongue-tied for a moment. "From a bank. A loan. Uh, in exchange for goods or services. Working at a job?"
"Hmm," Janeway mused again. "Work. I don't suppose there's a great call for starship captains."
"Or Delta Quadrant morale officers."
Sam jumped into the spirit of the exchange, "Or a time traveler in an alien's body."
"We don't have anything to offer," Neelix concluded.
"We must have something, even it can't be 24th century technology."
"Your replicators could make money but unfortunately that would be stealing and would be greatly frowned upon," Sam intoned, sounding uncannily like Tuvok.
"Maybe the Admiral will have some ideas."
"I'll be sure to ask him." Sam had shared meals with these time travelers and knew first hand how desperately they needed supplies.
Neelix parted company at the turbolift and Sam repeated his offer to ask Al, adding, "I know you need earth food up here."
"Tell me about it," Janeway agreed. "But we also need seeds, plants, raw materials of all kinds."
"It's the coffee that you need the most."
"Definitely the coffee. I guess I won't get my hopes up."
As soon as they entered the conference room, Chakotay told her, "We've adjusted the skeletal lock and are ready to go."
"Very good. What about Harry?"
B'Elanna answered, "That compound was shielded, but not electronically. It was shielded materially."
"Shielded materially?" Janeway turned to Sam. "What does that mean?"
Sam thought about the problem. "It's probably from the fifties, a nuclear bomb fallout shelter for the base personnel. Probably lead lined shielding to protect from nuclear radiation fallout. Al would know. Or Ziggy."
Janeway thought she heard another hint of Tuvok coming from Sam in the measured tones he used while speaking. "A nuclear bomb shelter? That's a new one. Those were fission bombs?"
"Very. Although later they developed neutron bombs. The neutron bomb could kill people, but leave buildings intact."
Janeway pursed her lips in a silent whistle. "So how do we get Harry out of there? Assuming he's there."
She did hear Tuvok's voice.
So did B'Elanna and Chakotay who looked at each other in surprise. B'Elanna recovered first. "Captain, we have 24th century technology. Surely no 20th century building," she fairly spat out the term 'building', "could stand up to . . . "
"B'Elanna. We can't go in there weapons first. Harry could get hurt."
"We've got to *do* something. They're down there. Tom's been hurt." Her voice cracked as she spoke Tom's name. Sam heard the anguish in her voice and saw the torment in her face. She cared for these men, particularly the injured pilot.
The captain heard B'Elanna as well. "Lt. We will get them back."
There was no mistaking the complete determination in her voice. Sam thought that if her will power alone could do it, the captain would have already had both Tom and Harry back safely.
The captain told her crew. "I want to try again right away. If Tom's hurt so badly that the skeletal lock barely identified him, he needs our medical care as soon as possible."
"But we'll try with a little different approach." She called for the holodoc to report to the bridge.
The doctor's almost immediate presence startled Sam. The doctor noted Sam's reaction, then B'Elanna's tension, Chakotay's frown. The captain looked grim.
"Doctor. How many holographic emitters do we have in working condition?"
"The one I'm wearing and two others we've replicated as spares, plus the one we put on Al. May I ask why?"
She ignored his question and asked B'Elanna one of her own. "How difficult would it be to modify the spare emitters?"
"I don't know, Captain. What do you have in mind?"
"We need to kill several birds with one stone," she said enigmatically. "Sam, we need your Al now. When can we expect him?"
Sam shrugged. How could he explain Al's seemingly random comings and goings? "Al's kind of on his own schedule."
* * *
At Stallion's Gate, Al and Tuvok once again were served a meal, this time in the waiting room. Tuvok allowed no reaction to show to Braxton as the man put trays down on a table. He and Al were bent over the computer work station murmuring at the readout on the screen. They ignored Braxton, neither having decided yet how they wanted to deal with the time traveler. Unseen by them, Braxton had his miniature scanner fixed on the man he thought was Sam Beckett. Once Al and Tuvok turned away to go to the table with the food, Braxton palmed his tiny scanner and turned away, exiting quickly. Outside the room he checked to see that the corridor was clear, then inspected the readings. "Dear Gods," he barely breathed. "A Vulcan."
In his room, Braxton replayed the scanner's findings three times. Each time it told him that Sam Beckett was actually a Vulcan. Braxton knew that Vulcans didn't make first contact with earth for years yet. "How can this be?" he said aloud. Gathering his wits, he dictated into his log: "Captain's log. Local Date: April 6, 2004. I have discovered that the man who is supposed to be Sam Beckett is actually a Vulcan male over one hundred years old. The outward body of a human male in his late forties is some kind of projection. Despite many unanswered questions, I don't believe this changes my mission to shut down project Quantum Leap. And I believe that I am close to a solution." Braxton leaned back, and thought, 'Then I can leave this gods' forsaken century and return home. To my own time. To my family.'