Shuttle Down II
by Judy and Jacki
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 4, 5, AND 6: The crew gets closer to a rescue and the holodoc has a chance to work on some of Tom's injuries. In Chapter 5 the rating is R for intensity of situations and language. The captivity of the crew members becomes more serious as Tom's nightmares endanger his health. Several hankies! By Chapter 6 the showdown between the captain and the colonel takes interesting turns as Janeway works to get her crew back.
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 4 :Plan BHarry tossed restlessly on his cot in the darkened room. He dreamed that Warrington was interrogating him again. She loomed above him. She demanded answers. Hiss. And more answers. Hiss.
He turned restlessly onto his side. More hiss. More questions. And in his dream he answered her. Every question was met with detail after detail. He woke up with a start and sat up on the cot.
Looking around the room, he saw only shadows in the darkness, shadows of furniture, shadows of his imagination. He heard the hiss-hiss of the ventilation system and then he heard himself breathe, in and out, great gulps of air. He felt so alone. Even the first days of Voyager's journey in the Delta Quadrant weren't this bad. There he had a friend in Tom Paris, there he had a role to play, there he had a few familiar reminders of home.
Here on earth in this small underground cell, he had nothing, no friends, no job, no future. He swallowed hard on the bitter taste of his fear, the fear that he would let down everyone who depended on him. But feeling sorry for himself wouldn't help. His friend lay injured in a hospital four hundred years from effective medical care. The fear and defeat were so hard to shake off. Harry hugged himself against the underground chill. He hoped Tom was feeling better, but even Harry's usual optimism couldn't overcome the image of his best friend's battered condition. Harry lay back down on the cot, drawing the blanket up around his shoulders. Despite his fatigue from the nerve wracking and physically punishing events of the past two days, sleep wouldn't come.
Clad in a bright green and iridescent purple outfit, Al had stepped into the Voyager's dining room where Alpha Shift personnel were alternately eating and trying to avoid eating a purplish, vibrating *thing* for their breakfast. Al found Sam confronting the purplish thing on his plate. Sam poked it with a fork and it vibrated in place. He was sure it was not purple Jello. Sam sighed and looked up at his friend, complaining, "We need you, Al."
"I'm here." He nodded toward Sam's breakfast. "Nice color. Matches my outfit. So, who's winning?"
Sam snorted. "It. Whatever it is."
Al floated through the table and sat down across from Sam. "So what do you need me for?"
Sam started to explain about the new plan for a rescue mission. Then he blinked out in a blue light just as if he were leaping and Tuvok took his place. Fortunately, the crew were still battling with their own breakfasts and didn't notice.
"Tuvok? What happened? Where's Sam?"
Before Tuvok could answer him, Sam leaped back in.
"Sam! What just happened?"
"I . . . I don't know, Al," Sam stammered. "It was the strangest thing. It felt like leaping . . . only . . . only it didn't."
"You sound a little confused, Sam."
"I am confused. I don't remember this ever happening before. Has it, Al?"
"No. No. It hasn't."
"Was Tuvok here in my place?"
"Just for a moment."
The silence lengthened between them. Finally, Al asked, "Did you go to the waiting room?"
"I think so. But I wasn't alone in there."
"No. There was a guy there in in a white shirt, khaki pants blue eyes, blonde hair."
"The time cop."
"I'll bet he's trying to bring you home." Al gazed at the younger man.
"Maybe right now isn't such a good time. Al, I've got to help these people and the mission the captain has in mind needs me. And you. Could you talk to Braxton, get him to hold off for a little while?"
"Uh. . . Sam, Braxton doesn't know I know about him."
Sam leaned across the table, upset that his strongest desires, desires to go home and to help others, had come into conflict. "Well, maybe this would be a good time to tell him."
"I will. I will. And maybe you should tell the Captain."
"Let me think about it," Sam hedged. Would Janeway see them as too unreliable to allow them on the trip?
Al knew enough not to push Sam. Instead, he asked, "Now, what do you need me for?"
"We need you to be an Admiral. In dress whites."
"I think I can handle that."
The shuttle pulled away from Voyager once again with Chakotay piloting. B'Elanna and the holodoc were also along. As were Sam and Al. Al wore his admiral's uniform with the mobile holoemitter on his arm. Sam wore slacks, shirt and tie, and a white lab coat. A white gimme cap covered the tops of the Vulcan ears. Stuffed in the pocket of the coat was a stethoscope. The holodoc was similarly attired and held a medical case. B'Elanna had a multicolored kerchief tied around her forehead barely concealing her ridges. Both she and Chakotay wore the uniforms of a paramedic.
As the shuttle moved over Lubbock, Chakotay engaged the modified holoemitters on the shuttle exterior and it transformed the outward appearance into that of a helicopter. B'Elanna used the fuzzy lock algorithm watching for confirmation of Tom's presence. With Al's help, Chakotay talked to the hospital base and identified themselves as a medical transport from Albuquerque. As an apparent helicopter, the shuttle swung over to University Medical Center and set down on the helipad in the noon sunshine. Sam, Chakotay, and the holodoc exited and strode purposefully into the hospital emergency entrance. Al stayed behind monitoring the radio chatter. B'Elanna focused her attention on the holoemitters, praying that the jury rigged system would hold up until they were no longer needed.
Sam asked at the emergency room desk after the location of Tom Paris. The clerk looked up the information on his computer and shrugged, indicating that they had no one registered by that name. As Sam and the clerk talked, Chakotay turned away and surreptitiously palmed his tricorder using it to scan for Tom's fuzzy skeletal signature.
"I'm sorry, doctor," the clerk said.
"He'd been in a plane crash," Sam explained.
The clerk shrugged again. "I wasn't on duty yesterday. If he was hurt badly enough to be admitted you might ask at intensive care. Maybe he was there and has been moved. I don't know. He could be between rooms and not yet logged into the computer. It shouldn't work that way, but . . . "
Sam frowned and looked at Chakotay. He subtly turned his eyes toward a corridor behind them. "Dr. Beckett."
Chakotay's eyes indicated that they should go. Sam thanked the clerk and followed Chakotay to the corridor, the holodoc trying not to stare too blatantly at his surroundings as he trailed behind. The three men kept going down the corridor until Chakotay stopped, frowning seriously at his tricorder. Puzzled, he punched a button. The frown disappeared. "Tom is somewhere above us. Is there a lift around here?"
"I'm sure I wouldn't know," the holodoc sniffed. "I'm a doctor, not an
Sam stopped his smile in mid emergence as he located the elevator. He pushed the 'up' button. "Here. This'll take us up."
They went up one floor and Chakotay indicated that they should get out. In the corridor Sam spotted the signs that directed traffic. One sign read, "Surgical Intensive Care" with an arrow pointing the way. Chakotay's tricorder readings agreed with the sign. "This way."
The men arrived at a set of double doors guarded by two MPs, one reading a newspaper, the other eating out of a colorful sack. Their name tags identified them as Mackenzie and Brown. Behind the men a sign told visitors that they had ten minutes at the top of the hour and that only two visitors were allowed at a time. Sam ignored the sign, ignored the only mildly interested men, and pushed at the doors. The MP with the newspaper, Mackenzie, began to object.
"Hey." Mackenzie stood up, realizing that these were new doctors he was seeing. "Sirs. Who are you visiting?"
"I'm Dr. Beckett, Mr. Mackenzie," Sam said answering a different question. Then he went on the offensive. "Isn't it a little unusual to find an MP, two MPs, guarding the seriously ill? I doubt if they're going anywhere."
Chakotay and the holodoc let Sam carry on as the MP became flustered. The holodoc had to acknowledge that for a doctor Sam Beckett wasn't a half bad intimidator. Having said his piece, Sam pushed open the doors and the three of them entered the quiet unit. The MP's demand for them to stop ended feebly as the doors closed behind them. Mackenzie trailed into the unit behind the visitors.
A stern faced nurse came up to the threesome, diverted from her original path to one of the bays holding a sick patient. She addressed the space between the holodoc and Sam. "Doctor."
Sam picked up the implied challenge. "Dr. Beckett here to see the plane crash patient. These are my associates. And you are . . . Nurse. . . " he read her nameplate ". . . Duran. Where is the man?"
"Room 9, doctor." She nodded toward the back of the unit.
"Thank you, Nurse Duran," Chakotay said flashing his dimples in a warm smile.
The nurse gave him a second look before she continued on her way. For his part the holodoc appreciated how twice Sam had used names of the people he met to good effect. And Chakotay had obviously had an impact on the nurse with his smile. 'Something to remember,' the holodoc told himself. Hanging behind, Mackenzie leaned casually against the nurse's station and watched the three men. Unseen by them, he pulled out a cell phone and punched in a phone number.
The entrance to Tom's cubicle was flanked by two empty chairs. Chakotay remarked, "More guards?"
Sam shrugged. "This level of security is unusual. I don't know what to make of it."
Sam stepped inside the bay and was not surprised to find the patient on a ventilator. But neither the holodoc nor Chakotay were prepared for what they saw. Sam's eyes automatically scanned the monitors and he picked up the chart with the name 'Jones' written on it noting the ups and downs of Paris' recovery. Unfortunately, Sam noted, it was mostly down. The young man on the bed was barely alive; only the life support was keeping him breathing.
Chakotay gasped and the holodoc angrily asked. "What are they doing to him? That's . . . unbelievable."
"They're keeping him alive," Sam told them grimly.
"But that tube in his mouth . . . it looks as if it's forcing him to breathe."
"It is. His lungs have filled with fluid and without the forced breathing he wouldn't be getting any oxygen."
"This is . . . this is. . . " Chakotay finally lapsed into silence, speechless at the sight of the mottled bruised face, the plaster around his left arm, the sheer whiteness of the skin where it wasn't discolored, the chest that rose and fell in time with a noisy machine. "Is it okay if I try to talk to him?"
"Yeah. He's sleeping, not in a coma. That's good news, by the way." Sam tried to keep his voice soft and gentle. These two cared about the young pilot. Now that Sam had seen him, he felt the beginnings of a kind of sadness over a man dying too young. 'Funny,' Sam thought, 'normally I'm a lot more emotional about these kinds of events.'
"I'd better get to work," the holodoc said to no one in particular. He set up his field kit on the portable bed table and began drawing out his medical tricorder, regenerator, and hyposprays. He picked up the tricorder first.
Chakotay stepped close to the bed while at the same time trying to stay out of the way of the holodoc. He was overwhelmed at Tom's appearance. In order to examine the extent of Tom's injuries, the holodoc had pulled down the light sheet and blanket, exposing Tom's battered body covered now with only a thin, too short hospital gown and with a variety of tubes going in and out of various parts of his body. Chakotay thanked the spirits that he hadn't been injured in this primitive time. He could see extensive bruising and swelling all over Tom's body. Tentatively, he touched Tom's unbandaged arm. "Tom?"
The holodoc ran his scan, frowning over the readings and then ran the scan again. He turned a grim face to Sam. As Sam and the holodoc conferred in hushed tones, Chakotay's full attention went to Tom. Tom's eyelids fluttered and Chakotay encouraged him to greater awareness by calling his name again. Tom's eyes managed to open partway and he seemed to stare at Chakotay. The first officer patted Tom's arm and tried to reassure the injured man. "I know you can't talk now, Tom. I guess that's a first." Chakotay thought he'd better clarify his remark, "That was a joke. But we're here. The holodoc's got his tricorder on you and he's going to make you as good as new. It won't be long."
Tom's eyes seemed to register Chakotay's presence, but Chakotay couldn't be sure if the younger man recognized him. There didn't seem to be any real recognition or reaction from Tom. Tom's eyes blinked a few times and then closed. Chakotay turned on the doctor, urging him to do something.
"I am, Commander. Please step aside now."
The holodoc moved into the space Chakotay made for him. Regenerator in hand, the holodoc carefully held it over Tom's head then gradually moved it along Tom's body lingering over each injured site, his arm, chest, side, abdomen, hips, and leg. "This is a preliminary fix, very superficial. None of the broken bones are knit enough to bear weight. But I've managed to heal the surgical scar to decrease the risk of infection, reduce some of the fluid buildup in his lungs and reduce some of the swelling in his brain. I really can't do much more until we get him back to the ship. This should stabilize him enough to get him there."
It was a long speech for the holodoc, but he didn't want the commander to expect Paris on his feet piloting the shuttle anytime soon. The holodoc made another pass over Tom's body and concentrated on Tom's face. Sam stared in awe. The swelling and bruising had gone down and Sam could almost make out the fine bone structure of the pilot's face. Before the holodoc had finished, the group was interrupted by Hernandez and Rain.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hernandez barked.
Rain startled at the sharpness in her companion's tone. Then she saw Sam. "Tuvok! What . . . ?"
"Don't interrupt me," the holodoc ordered. "I need full concentration here."
"Doctor!" Rain exclaimed, recognizing the holographic doctor from his visit to Los Angeles two years earlier. "You're here to help Tom."
Chakotay saw Rain smile at 'Tuvok' and then the holodoc in turn. "You must be Rain Robinson."
Sam tried out a tentative smile on the young woman. "Uh . . . hi."
"What the hell's going on?" Hernandez demanded.
Nurse Duran stuck her head inside the cubicle. "All of you visitors are going to have to wait outside." She waited for a moment. "Don't make me call security."
At the mention of security, the holodoc moved protectively closer to Paris. "I'm trying to save this man's life."
"Nurse Duran, please. Give us a moment." Chakotay smiled at her. She seemed to subside somewhat, but pushed her way toward the monitors. "I need to check him. The patient comes first." The nurse took the chart from Sam's hands and compared the last entries with the readings from the monitors. She looked up finally and stared at the holodoc. She knew what the monitors were showing and she saw the restored face of the injured patient. Her tone held a mixture of curiosity, respect, and a little fear. "What did you do?"
Rain looked over the nurse's shoulders at the monitors. "Holy cow."
"What?" Hernandez barked again. "Will somebody answer me?"
Rain looked in wonder at Tom while speaking to Hernandez. "Look at him, Rachel. When we went for lunch his temp was 104.2. Now it's 101.3. And it looks as if he could start breathing on his own. He's got some color back in his face. I mean, a different color. Not all bruised."
Nurse Duran repeated her question. "What did you do?"
Sam saw the holodoc's chest puff out and feared the truth would come out, so he cut off the holodoc's words after the word "I." Sam told the visitors, "My colleague used an experimental technique we developed."
"Yes," Chakotay picked up the story. "And we're moving him to our 'facility' to finish his convalescence."
"I don't think so," Nurse Duran drawled, folding her arms across her chest. "And don't think of using those dimples, darling."
"For the third time, what in the hell's going on?" Hernandez snapped. She pointed to Tuvok. "Rain, you recognized this man."
"He's Tuvok. Tom's friend. You remember, the one I told you about." Rain's eyes darted back and forth from Hernandez to Tom. When Tom struggled awake, she and the Voyager crew turned their attention to him. No one noticed when Hernandez pivoted in disgust and left the cubicle.
Tom's eyes seemed clearer, his complexion pinker. He motioned for the tube to come out. The nurse looked at the holodoc, who nodded. But she said, "I'll need to get the doctor. For the anesthetic."
"I have just the thing," the holodoc told her carefully concealing his actions from the visitors. He retrieved a hypospray from the table. He adjusted its setting and pressed it against Tom's neck. "This will last only a few minutes. You may proceed."
With their attention focused on the nurse's actions in removing the ventilator tube from Tom's throat, they didn't notice until too late that Hernandez had returned with the two MPs. Hernandez startled them by saying, "If this man is well enough to travel, then he comes with us."
Chakotay reached for a phaser tucked into the medical kit, but Mackenzie drew his gun and leveled it at the first officer. "Don't do it, mister. This man is our responsibility."
Hernandez observed, "Doctor. Your experimental treatment seems to have worked."
"No. Not entirely. He won't fully recover unless he goes to our 'facility'. And even then, he may have gone untreated too long."
Rain looked at Sam. "Is that right, Tuvok?"
"I'm afraid so," Sam told her. "We have . . . we have the most advanced medical facility in . . . in thousands of miles. If my colleague here says he needs to be in our facility, then he does."
"Are you a doctor, too? I mean, you're dressed like one but I thought you were . . . you know," she whispered the words, "a spy."
Sam smiled at her. "I'm many things, Ms. Robinson."
Chakotay cut in, "We need to get Tom moved now. And," he gave Hernandez his full attention, "we need to retrieve our other crewman. Harry Kim."
Rain looked guiltily at Hernandez and Chakotay read the situation right. "So you do have him. We need to pick him up."
Hernandez challenged Chakotay's quiet assumption of authority. After all, her MP held a gun on the man. "I don't think you understand the situation. The Colonel has jurisdiction here."
Chakotay's hand moved slowly, casually across his chest as if to brush off a piece of lint. Instead, he activated his comm badge. "You may have a colonel, but we have an admiral. Admiral Calavicci."
His hand brushed against the comm badge again to shut it off. Hernandez wasn't sure what she had just seen him do -- her eyes narrowed suspiciously, but she couldn't figure it out.
Tom's coughs diverted their attention from the stalemate. Nurse Duran and the holodoc almost collided as they both bent over the patient. Chakotay edged back closer to Tom's bed. "Tom. How do you feel?"
Tom wasn't sure what he was seeing. But he experimented with answering the question that had been addressed to him by the man who looked like Chakotay. His voice croaked, "Hurts. Throat hurts."
"I'll get you ice chips," the nurse told him and bustled out of the room relieved to have an excuse to get away and call hospital security. On her way out, she put her hand on Mackenzie's gun arm. "Put that away. This is a hospital, not a free fire zone."
Holodoc thought he could love that woman, but duty called. He turned his attention to Tom Paris and gave him a pain relieving hypospray. Rain had put a cup and straw to Tom's face and Tom sucked on the straw for a few sips then turned his face away. His voice still weak, Tom asked, "Where am I?"
They all looked at each other and finally Chakotay spoke. "You're in a hospital, Tom. We want to get you well enough to take you home. The doctor and Sa . . . Tuvok are here to help you."
"Harry?" Tom asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"Harry's fine, Tom."
"He died," Tom contradicted, eyes tearing.
"No. He didn't."
Tom swallowed. Why wouldn't they tell him the truth? "No. The shuttle crashed. Harry died."
Chakotay put his hand on Tom's shoulder. "Tom. He's alive."
The tears overflowed and trickled down his face. "But . . . "
Hernandez took pity on the anguished patient. "Your friend is alive. He's in a lot better shape than you are. He came to see you. Don't you remember?"
"He . . . he was an angel." Tom whispered as Chakotay's fingers gently wiped away the tears from his face. Tom tried to reconcile the hallucinatory visit of Harry the angel with the words of both Chakotay and the unknown woman. What had happened to them? He felt confused and unsure of himself. He didn't really remember things clearly. The wormhole and the wild ride through it. The crash. On a planet. But what planet? These people in the room were human. And one was Rain Robinson. "I'm on Earth?"
"Very good, Mr. Paris," the holodoc told him. "I think you're going to make it."
"Was that a test?" Tom asked. He missed the smile that passed between 'Tuvok' and Chakotay and he missed the implications of what it meant that the man he knew as Tuvok had smiled. He winced from the soreness in his throat. Despite the hypospray, it felt raw and scratchy. Closing his eyes, he missed Chakotay stopping the holodoc from using the regenerator on Tom's throat by nonverbally pointing out all the visitors that were watching. Chakotay squeezed Tom's shoulder in reassurance and Tom felt grateful. The commander was like a solid landmark in a cloudy nebula. Although he still hurt, he realized the pains had subsided to almost tolerable levels. And he could breathe again. He remembered vaguely how hard it had been to breathe just a short while ago. But then the thought that he was on earth intruded on his inventory of his aches and pains. If he was on earth, did that mean a return to prison? Pushing through the panic at that thought was the realization that Rain was here. Rain was from the 20th century, wasn't she? But prison . . . he shivered in spite of the fever that still gripped him. "Earth? What happened? When . . .?"
"We'll talk later, Tom," Chakotay told him firmly, eyeing the MPs and Hernandez. "Try to rest for a little while. The rest of us have some things to sort out here."
The nurse arrived with a cup of chipped ice. She edged past the MPs and took up a position near Tom's head. "Here. Let this melt in your mouth."
He opened his mouth and gratefully accepted the ice. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to enjoy the sensation of the cold icy water sliding down his raw throat. It was gone too soon, but before he had a chance to ask for more, he felt another hypospray and heard the doc's words, "This should help him to rest."
Realizing that the holodoc had once again managed to use his body to hide his actions from those present, Sam said, "Good idea. I saw some disturbing fluctuations in his vital signs. I don't think he's out of the woods yet."
"All right. Now, we're going to transfer Tom to our facility and you will not hinder us," Chakotay bluntly told Hernandez.
Hernandez snorted. 'Here we go again,' she thought. "Not likely, mister. I told you our colonel has jurisdiction and we have the upper hand here."
Behind her, Al drew himself up in full admiral splendor and said sweetly, "I'm Admiral Calavicci. Is there a problem here?"
Hernandez and the MPs whirled about to face Al's grim visage. Each executed a salute as they realized that this was indeed an admiral. 'Whoops,' Hernandez thought, 'the Colonel is not going to like this.' That thought was quickly followed by, 'How am I going to tell her this?'
"Put down your weapons, boys," the Admiral told the MPs and they reholstered the guns.
Chakotay requested, "Nurse Duran, would you unhook our friend here from all these machines?"
The nurse wished her hospital security would get here soon. She wasn't sure that it was safe for the patient to be unhooked. And this time, the commander was not smiling at her. His politely worded 'request' had sounded more like a demand. "I'm not sure it's in the patient's best interests. His doctor needs to be the one to decide."
Chakotay looked to Sam and the holodoc for advice. Sam read the monitors. "He's stabilized. I'd leave in the IV and the catheter until we get him back to the . . . uh . . . facility."
"You're not his doctor," Nurse Duran pointed out.
The Admiral intervened. "We all appreciate your concern for this patient, but please cooperate. They don't send out an admiral unless its important. And I want this boy moved. Now."
Chakotay softened, smiled at her. "Please."
"Well, darling, since you put it so nicely. But one of you is going to put on this chart that you take responsibility. And billing is going to want someone to pay for his care before you leave." Feeling that she had covered all the bases, Nurse Duran began unhooking the EKG leads from Tom's chest. Rain watched the nurse comply with Chakotay's request, ready to assist if needed. But the nurse's hands were gentle as she pulled away the hospital gown to get at the leads. Rain couldn't help but notice how bruised Tom's chest appeared under the light dusting of curly golden hair. It had obviously been one hell of a crash.
Sam indicated Hernandez. "She'll take care of all the arrangements. Right?"
Hernandez' dark eyes narrowed dangerously. "We already have made arrangements to pay his bill," she grated out. "Can I come with you?" Rain asked Chakotay. "I'm Tom's friend."
All four men, the admiral, Sam, Chakotay and the holodoc, said, "No."
"Why not?" she whined. She really wanted to see where Tom was going and unravel the mystery behind these men's unexpected arrivals into her life.
Nurse Duran meanwhile finished her work and turned off the monitors. "I've unhooked him from the pain pump; you'll need to take care of his pain management yourselves. Bring in your stretcher."
Chakotay and the holodoc looked at each other in surprise. They were so used to relying on transporters that they hadn't thought of the need for a stretcher. Sam directed Rain, "Rain, there's stretchers down in emergency. Would you please bring one up here?"
"Does this mean I get to go?"
"We'll see," Sam told her. He knew the answer was no, but hoped for her cooperation by the delaying tactic.
Rain glanced back at Tom and went out for the stretcher. As she left the unit, two hospital security personnel, a man and a woman, entered. "Uh-oh," Rain said under her breath as she continued on her way.
When the security detail arrived at Tom's cubicle, they saw two women and six men crowded into the small space. With their presence the bay was filled beyond capacity. Hernandez jostled against the admiral and his mobile holoemitter fell off. At first, with all eyes on the new arrivals, no one noticed that the admiral had disappeared. Then Chakotay realized that Al was gone. He said nothing but his eyes widened in fear. Without the admiral, their authority could evaporate just as quickly as his holoimage. The holodoc and Sam could still see Al. It was the holodoc who first realized that Chakotay was signaling to him frantically and pointing to the emitter now lying on the floor. But Hernandez and Brown were between the holodoc and the emitter. As the holodoc tried to push his way forward, Sam, not understanding what was going on, put out a restraining hand. "Stay with Tom," Sam hissed.
"You don't understand," the holodoc told him sotto voce, "the admiral."
Hernandez whirled around, having overheard the holodoc. She realized the admiral was gone. "Where is he?"
"Who?" Chakotay asked innocently.
Nurse Duran made up her mind. Of the different factions, she rather liked the Chakotay faction better. "I believe he left with Ms. Robinson."
Chakotay almost choked, then turned his full smile on the nurse, fully aware that he was flirting with her. He mouthed the words 'thank you' at her.
The female security detail took in the confused scene and announced, "The nurse and one doctor can stay. The rest of you, out. Now. We'll sort this out in the security office."
Sam stayed behind with the sleeping pilot. Unseen by all but the holodoc, Al also remained behind. Once the traffic had cleared out, Sam retrieved the mobile holoemitter and returned it to its place on Al's arm.
"I guess I went invisible, huh?"
"Yeah. Al, I think . . . " before Sam could finish his thought he was seized by the tingling sensation that had occurred before when he and Tuvok had briefly changed places.
Al watched in horror as his friend seemed to shimmer incorporeal. But Sam didn't disappear. This time a shimmery figure emerged from Sam and both figures fell down. The admiral admonished, "I don't like this, Sam."
Sam gasped from the strange sensations acting on his unconsenting body. Then he began to straighten up. The other figure was Tuvok who stumbled from the effects and dizzily grabbed hold of the bed rails on Tom's bed. The admiral swore softly, "Damn, I really don't like this."
Neither figure had totally escaped the aura of the shimmer. As Sam almost reached his feet, the shimmer intensified and Tuvok melded back into him, both shimmers fusing together. The shimmer dissipated. The whole incident had taken less than ten seconds. Unless Al had seen it with his own eyes, he would not have believed it.
"Sam? Is that you?" he asked of the Tuvok appearing man in front of him.
"It's me. What happened, Al?"
"You became two people all at the same time. You and Tuvok. What . . . what happened?"
"That's my question. You did talk to Braxton, didn't you?"
"Not yet. You don't think that was his doing?"
"Who else, Al?"
"I got your point. Maybe I'd better get back and take care of that little detail. Are you going to need me around here some more?"
"Yes. Wherever they went, an admiral's voice could be what's needed to get Chakotay and the doctor out of security and Tom released to us so we can get him back to the ship."
Rain appeared at the doorway with a gurney. "Hi."
"Good timing," the admiral observed. "I'll head down to security. In the meantime, why don't you just try to wheel him out of here? I think you've got a clear shot now that all the mayhem's been moved."
"Okay," Sam agreed. "We'll take care of Tom, you take care of the others and we'll meet you back at the helicopter."
"Consider it done," Al told him, drawing himself up to full military authority.
Rain wheeled the gurney past the exiting admiral into the cubicle next to Tom's bed. Once out of sight, Al quietly requested that Ziggy center him on Chakotay, then he disappeared. Distracting Rain, Sam let down the bed rails and motioned Rain toward Tom's feet. "On the count of three."
They moved Tom and his various tubes and bags to the gurney. Rain covered him with a blanket. As they started to move out of the unit, four MPs bustled inside. Sam took one look and realized he wasn't going to get the pilot back to the ship on this day.
Haylene noted the attempts to reverse the leap of the human into the Vulcan. Obviously, someone's attempts were going dangerously awry. She searched for this someone and was surprised to find a third entity who was out of place in the time line. A 29th Century time police officer was the source of the abortive reversal attempts. Definitely, this situation had captured her curiosity. Although she searched, she was unable to locate the original source of the leaping.
B'Elanna was an angry woman. Her Klingon side bristled with tactless venom. "What do you mean he was gone!!!"
"B'Elanna, please be calm. We can find him. You have the skeletal lock. Let's use it to track him. He can't have gone far." Chakotay's words sounded far calmer than he felt. The hollow sick feeling he'd had when he'd discovered Tom's cubicle empty was still with him. He took a deep breath trying to center himself and slid into the pilot's seat. Without Al he wasn't sure what he was supposed to say, but B'Elanna had passed the time learning as much as she could from monitoring the airways and she called base. They were cleared to take off and she told Chakotay to go west. Still in the guise of a helicopter, the shuttle banked to the west. She used the shuttle's computer in an attempt to identify Tom's skeletal signature.
"I'm not getting it," she muttered.
The holodoc suggested, "Perhaps his skeletal features have changed yet again. I was able to do some regeneration on Tom when I was in there."
"Of course," she swore and told the computer to set a fuzzy resolution somewhere between the last setting and Tom's original pattern. "I'm picking it up."
"Keep going to the west. I'm setting the small viewscreen to show us the surface traffic." A picture-within-a-picture appeared on their viewscreen, allowing them to see the outside conditions as well as the traffic down below them. "Computer. Superimpose identification of the fuzzy lock of Tom Paris on the surface traffic."
A blinking cursor settled on top of one of the vehicles moving westward. "Okay. Let's see if this lock is stable enough for a transport. Computer, estimate the probability of a successful transport to the shuttle."
B'Elanna swore in Klingon when the computer told her the chance of success was only 28%. Her string of epithets having run their course, she demanded, "Computer. Why is the chance of success so low?"
"Parameters are not sufficiently identified for successful transport."
"What does that mean?" the holodoc asked.
She explained, "This fuzzy lock is fine for locating Tom and quite a bit of his surroundings. But it's the same reason we couldn't beam him out of the hospital. The information is too fuzzy, too imprecise to guarantee that he'd actually rematerialize as just Tom. We beam out an injured man, part of his bed, part of his medical equipment, and if the pattern buffer can't sort it out without significant error we get back a mixed matrix -- he could end up looking like a dysfunctional Borg if he survived at all. Damn! Damn! Damn!"
"All right. We'll follow them, land the shuttle right behind them, go out and physically get him back when they stop," Chakotay suggested.
"Right," she agreed testily. "We go in with phasers blazing and to hell with the Prime Directive. The Captain would kill us."
Chakotay looked over at her curiously. "We go in and we get Tom. And if they've taken him to the same place where Harry is, we get Harry as well."
"Chakotay. Have you noticed it's just the two of us?"
"Excuse me," the holodoc noted, "but I am here as well."
"You're a doctor, not a commando," she told him.
"That's my line, Lt. Torres."
Before the doctor could respond further, Chakotay interrupted their verbal volleys. "B'Elanna, look at the viewscreen," The blinking cursor had disappeared.
"Where'd he go? Computer, locate Tom Paris."
"Searching. Search is unsuccessful."
"It was there. Stationary," Chakotay told her. "I saw it move slightly and then it disappeared."
"Computer. Reconfigure the scanners to maximum."
"Locate Tom Paris."
"Search is unsuccessful."
On a hunch, she directed, "Scan for Harry Kim."
"Scan is unsuccessful."
"Computer, identify individuals with Tom before his signal was lost."
"Four unknown human males. One unknown human female. One human/Vulcan male, Sam Tuvok Beckett."
"Where are they now?"
"What are they using to block our scanners?" B'Elanna stopped just short of slamming her fist into the bulkhead by her side. Her hand still hurt from the last time she'd given in to her frustration. "Damn!"
"Unknown shielding," the computer answered.
"Computer. Zoom in on Paris' last known location and display." Chakotay wanted to see where Tom had disappeared.
The picture-in-a-picture zoomed in on a van parked in front of an airplane hanger. There were two sentries visible on duty, but nothing more.
Chakotay told the computer, "Computer, scan on multiple frequencies and store."
He piloted the shuttle up and quickly away from the scene. B'Elanna asked him in disbelief, "You're leaving?"
"You were right. We'll come back when the chances of getting Tom and Harry back are a lot better than they are right now. We can't go into that situation now. Those guards were armed, B'Elanna. We need more information about this building."
Wisely, she kept her thought 'we've done it before' to herself. B'Elanna realized the difference between an encounter in the Delta Quadrant and the present situation on primitive earth. She had a healthy respect for the integrity of the time line, if not always for the Prime Directive. Slumping into her chair, B'Elanna realized she hadn't seen him since he'd winked at her in the conference room. What she wouldn't give to have both of those blue eyes and the body to which they belonged in the same room with her. Her room, maybe. Hugging her arms around herself, B'Elanna tried to think positively. Despite these setbacks in rescuing Tom, she had to believe that they would get Tom back to Voyager. And back to her.
When Tom woke up, his room was dark and felt different. He kept his eyes closed for a while, trying to sense what seemed different. It wasn't that he was on Voyager. He'd recognize her hum anywhere. There was a 'hiss' 'hiss' sound. Otherwise, it was as quiet as a tomb. That was very different from the hospital where there had been constant noises, including the ones made by the machines connected to him. Now, he wasn't aware of any machine noises. He did tune in to his various aches and pains. It wasn't too bad, but he felt both sluggish and almost dreamy. He remembered some drug concoctions he'd ingested during those long ago, drifting days when he'd worked so hard to obliterate his emotional pain with alcohol and other drugs. And, chillingly, he recalled the Auckland prison. The illegal drugs he'd unwillingly been given so that . . . No. He wouldn't think about that now. Back then he'd felt damped down, dissociated from himself. And that was somewhat like how he felt now. Drugged.
'Something must have gone wrong,' Tom realized. He was supposed to have gone back to Voyager, but he remembered a ride in a van with Rain and Tuvok. Where was he? It didn't seem like Voyager. On Voyager they wouldn't have drugged him like this. Would they? Scared of what he might see, Tom finally opened his eyes. Wherever he was, it was very dark. He saw nothing as he tossed his head from side to side trying in vain to see something, anything. Panicked, he gulped in deep breaths of air as he felt the room and the darkness closing in on him. Tom wanted to scream, but his attempts scraped at his already sore throat and all that came out was a sorry croak. The panic intensified and he hyperventilated, which only increased his terror. He broke out in a clammy sweat and gulped and gulped at the air. Finally, without answers, he passed out.
Rain entered Tom's room in the infirmary area of the underground compound, leaving the door cracked open so that she could see without turning on a light. When she checked on him, she found Tom's fever had returned and his skin felt clammy to her touch. She debated not calling in Dr. Smith, but finally decided she didn't know enough about Tom's condition to treat him herself. In the compound's conference room, Warrington looked over the dark skinned man who'd identified himself as Dr. Samuel Beckett. She'd long ago asked him to remove his cap and now she regarded the slanted eyebrows, the oval forehead, and the pointed ears with a mixture of suspicion and fear. "How do you explain your appearance?"
"What? My black skin? I think that's obvious, Colonel."
"Lt. Tarani ran a computer search on the name you gave Mr. Mackenzie: Samuel Beckett from Indiana, MIT, and other schools. Beckett is white."
Sam winced at her accusation, but said nothing.
"Your ears. How'd they get that way?" She paused for her most damaging charge. "And when Dr. Smith took a blood sample, why was your blood green? Where are you from, Mr. Who-Ever-You-Are?"
Sam remained silent. Her voice was compelling, but he knew there was nothing he could tell her.
"You're an alien, aren't you?" she suggested softly.
Sam looked at her startled. "No. I'm not."
"Then what is your explanation?" Now her voice filled the room, demanding answers. "You're not Dr. Beckett, so who are you?"
Johannsen led Harry Kim into the room. "Colonel. Here's Ensign Kim, as you requested."
Harry's surprise at seeing Tuvok was too easily written on his face for Warrington to miss. Without thinking, the young ensign blurted out, "Tuvok! What . . . "
Harry stopped himself at the stricken look on the commander's face.
Warrington knew this kid had no poker face and was pleased that it worked to her advantage again. She whirled on the young man. "Who is this, Ensign?"
Harry clammed up and she persisted. "You called him Tuvok. 'Tuvok' what? What's his rank?"
Sam sighed. "Tuvok is a commander. There is no need to badger the boy. Is there any chance you'd allow us to talk to each other? Alone."
"Not now. No, I don't think so, Commander Tuvok," she angrily emphasized his name. "And I imagine that when we look there will be no trace of you in any data base. No fingerprints on file anywhere. The whole smokescreen. So, who do you work for?"
"I'm not at liberty to say," Sam intoned, Tuvok's voice carrying the intended measured cadences characteristic of the commander.
Harry smiled to himself. So Voyager had come after them through the wormhole. Tuvok must be here to find him and Voyager would be beaming them out at any minute. Still, he worried about Tom. As Warrington's eyes narrowed on Tuvok's calm pose, Harry asked, "Have you seen Tom? Is he all right?"
Sam gave the earnest ensign a gentle look. "Your friend's doing better."
Harry's relief was palpable. Even Warrington softened to see the happiness in the young man's face. Before Warrington could interrogate Tuvok any further, Dr. Smith hurried into the room and pointedly drew her off to the side out of hearing. Smith was unaware of the heightened sense of hearing of Vulcans or he would have left the room with her.
Warrington demanded to know why the doctor interrupted her. Smith's hushed voice and frowning face conveyed his concern, "The pilot's taken a turn for the worse."
"What's wrong?" she asked checking back at the conference table to make sure they weren't overheard. Harry sat still, staring straight ahead, intent on recovering from his earlier missteps and Tuvok sat impassively as if bored.
"His lungs were almost clear when they brought him here. But their medical technology may be only a temporary fix. Maybe the ride from town . . . He wasn't strong enough. I don't know. The pneumonia's gaining ground with a vengeance."
"How bad is it? Can we treat him here?"
"I've got him on an antibiotic drip. If it's going to work, it should bring about improvement by morning."
"You'll keep an eye on him?"
"'Course." Smith hesitated before leaving.
"What is it?" the colonel asked.
"He was asking for Tuvok."
"Any chance I could question him? I'm not getting anywhere here."
"I don't think now's a good time to question him. Paris seemed disoriented, panicked even. It might help to just let his friends see him for awhile. Maybe later . . ."
She thought over the doctor's suggestion. "When I'm done here."
Smith nodded and left to return to his patient.
When Warrington turned her attention back to the men in the conference room, she found the two sitting stoically, unmoved from how she'd left them. She decided to try another approach.
"Mr. Tuvok. Commander. I'm pleased that I'm finally dealing with a higher up. Apparently your people tell ensigns here nothing of value. But I want an explanation."
Sam folded his arms across his chest and regarded her balefully. Harry watched the security officer confront the determined colonel. To his surprise, he thought he saw an uncharacteristic smile play across the commander's familiar face. "You want aliens, don't you? Flying saucers, little green men from Mars, whatever . . ."
Harry was shocked. He wasn't sure about Tuvok's references to flying saucers and green men. What could the commander be thinking?
"What if you really met an alien?" Sam continued. "What would you do to it?"
Warrington's orders on that subject were top secret. Her lips compressed into a tight line. 'Tuvok' resumed, "You can't tell me, can you? But let me guess. You capture it, subject it to tests against its will, you keep it secret from the world. When it dies from your tests or from opportunistic infections or . . . " his voice broke a little, "from loneliness, you autopsy it. And without any concern for its culture or customs you dispose of its remains into some tank of preservatives. Isn't that what you would do, Colonel?"
Harry felt goose bumps as he listened to Tuvok's dispassionate explanation. For his part, Sam had put to good use the knowledge his photographic memory had captured from Voyager's data banks. If there was to be a successful 'first contact' between earth and another species, then someone enlightened on earth had to influence governmental policy so that his dark scenario did not come to pass. Historical records hadn't told him who would be enlightened enough to prevent the 'capture it, test it, dispose of it' scenario from happening. Maybe it would be someone like Colonel Warrington or her successor.
Warrington sat down across from the man whose skin was as dark as her own, but whose appearance and bearing suggested an origin that was not African. A stray thought tried to insinuate itself. 'What if,' the thought taunted, 'what if Africans had been space pioneers eons ago, populating other worlds and only now returned to earth to investigate the status of their descendants who'd stayed behind? Get real,' she told herself angrily and turned on Tuvok to deflect her momentary fantasy and subsequent self-reproach. "What's your point?"
Sam sighed. For a moment he thought her reactions to his story demonstrated some empathy, some understanding. He guessed he was wrong. He tried another tact. "You have no authority to hold us. Our Admiral Calavicci, is working even as we speak to have us released. And he's real -- check your computers."
Warrington didn't miss the confused expression on young Kim's face. "Yes. My people told me about your admiral. Apparently, he just disappeared. I have you. He doesn't. Tell me about your mission."
'So much for that approach,' Sam thought. At some point he'd have to have a chance to clue in the ensign. Kim's facial expressions were giving away too much. "Colonel, I can't tell you anything and you know it. Neither can Kim or Paris. You know as well as I that secret means secret."
Harry was relieved. This sounded more like Tuvok. But who was Admiral Calavicci?
The Colonel and Tuvok sparred a little longer, but each refused to give an inch. Her eyes hooded in thought, Warrington considered that she might learn more if the commander and the ensign were to spend time with the Lieutenant. "It's getting late. Let's take a break. You can see your lieutenant for awhile. But time is on my side, gentlemen."
Al motioned Braxton to a chair across from his desk. He'd brought the man to his office so that he could safely, he hoped, interrogate this unwanted guest from the future. Braxton was dressed in the khakis of a routine worker at the installation. He even had a name badge, 'Braxton'. Carefully lighting up a cigar, drawing on it and pluming out the smoke, Al let the moments pass and the discomfort level increase for Braxton. Finally, Al addressed the blond crew cut man opposite him. "So. Braxton. From the 29th Century, I understand."
Al enjoyed watching the rapid play of emotions disrupting Braxton's previously placid exterior. Braxton even half rose from the chair, but the admiral's voice and cigar told him to resume his seat. "Stay put. There's armed guards outside of this door. You're messing with this leap and I'm not going to allow it." Al's tone had gone from slightly rough to a full throated gravel. He growled, "You're finished, mister."
Braxton settled back in his chair, rapidly figuring out that somehow the leaper, the Vulcan, must have recognized him. Then the alien must have disobeyed the Prime Directive by giving that information to this early 21st Century admiral. Even as he thought about the Vulcan, Tuvok slipped inside the office and took a seat in a chair off to the side of the admiral's desk. Braxton resumed his impassive expression. He told the admiral, "Your visitor looks like Dr. Beckett, but I've been able to determine that he's a Vulcan."
"My name is Tuvok. I'm from Voyager."
Braxton gave him a humorless glance. "Voyager again? Doesn't your captain have anything better to do than visit this time period?"
"And you?" Tuvok responded raising an eyebrow. Braxton's grunt was noncommittal.
The introductions out of the way, Braxton thought he knew what the admiral wanted and proposed a deal. "Your Dr. Beckett wants to stop leaping. I'm trying to bring him home."
Al stopped in mid-puff. He almost choked on the cigar smoke. Carefully, he placed the cigar in its ashtray. "Why?"
"Isn't that what all of you want?"
"I doubt if you're doing whatever it is you're doing just to help us. Why? Why now?"
"This area, this past half century has seen multiple time-related incursions. The Ferengi in Roswell, Kirk in New York, Florida, California, Janeway and Chakotay, Tuvok and that Tom Paris in Los Angeles, and now your Dr. Beckett leaping into the place of Voyager's Tuvok six years ago in this time line. I came to the source. This project. . . "
"What do you mean 'this project'? We weren't around when Roswell happened. Hell, Sam wasn't even born then." And Al told himself to get a history lesson from Janeway. What were Ferengi?
"There is a space-time anomaly associated with late 20th Century and early 21st Century earth. Your project Ziggy and Dr. Beckett tapped into that anomaly. And got caught."
"What's a space-time anomaly?"
Braxton sighed. It didn't matter, really, what he revealed to this admiral. When he restored the time line as he'd been ordered, the space-time anomaly would close up, Project StarBright would never have happened, and this admiral would have no knowledge of a 29th Century time traveler. 'Might as well tell the man, manipulate him, enlist his cooperation, be done with this assignment,' he thought. Sam Beckett wasn't the only one who'd like to go home.
"Admiral, this is complex, but I'm going to try to explain it so that it makes sense to you. There are many types of space-time anomalies. The one associated with Earth in this period allows for time travel through how to describe this? Engineers, scientists, men like your Dr. Beckett, imagine or design and even build or construct their time travel devices. Or sometimes they're caught up in something like the wormhole that apparently brought Voyager here this time. At any rate, almost anything will work."
Al blinked in surprise. "I don't follow."
Braxton searched for an understandable analogy. "It's hardwired into this space and time like speech is hardwired for humans and most humanoids. The languages differ, but speech is achieved nonetheless."
"Because it's hardwired." Al mulled that over. "So there are many kinds of time and space travel? And Sam hit on one kind?"
"Then why can't he control it?"
Braxton decided to stick with his speech metaphor. "It's like he learned English. But that doesn't mean he understands the nature of language itself."
Tuvok thought he could explain, "Dr. Beckett learned how to leap, but to control leaping he'd have to learn about this space-time anomaly itself. And like someone who only knows English and has never heard another language, he doesn't know there's other ways of expressing space-time. And until he does and can use that knowledge, he can't 'speak' the language for coming home"
Braxton confirmed the explanation. "There you have it, Admiral."
"And you know about space-time so you can bring him home?" Al asked skeptically.
"Close. Space-time still has its secrets and mysteries to us in the 29th Century. But we know enough to have set up a temporal integrity committee, a time police, to prevent unwarranted interference in the lime line."
"But Sam's been helping people, righting what once went wrong. He isn't hurting anything."
"You don't know that, Admiral. His small perturbations in space-time have had some great consequences hundreds of years into the future. Actually, this isn't our first attempt to stop him. We thought an adversary . . . "
"Alia. The Evil Leaper."
"Yes, Alia. She wasn't evil, just taken over by evil forces from our time. It was an unfortunate experiment in trying to stop Beckett that didn't . . . "
"It got away from you," Al speculated. "So. Not everyone in the 29th Century is on board your time police philosophy."
Tuvok found it fascinating to learn about another time traveler like Sam Beckett. And that there was some controversy in the 29th century.
"No. Not everyone is in agreement," Braxton allowed. "There are those who oppose us for their own gain." Braxton's contempt for these opponents was clear.
Al fell back in his chair in surprise. "You're a true believer, aren't you?"
Nodding, Braxton replied, "Yes, I am. And you need me. Admiral, if you're going to get your Dr. Beckett back, you do need me. I'm the 'language expert' who can communicate with the space-time anomaly."
"You've been trying to bring Beckett back, but your two attempts haven't been very successful. Do you have any idea what happened this last time?"
Braxton shrugged. "As you said. I was unsuccessful. Dr. Beckett didn't return."
"More than that. I saw it. Both Sam and Tuvok emerged in front of my eyes. Then they went back to being Sam again."
"Maybe you don't speak to this space-time anomaly in a language it understands, after all." Al tapped his cold cigar. "Now, listen to me. We need your help."
Braxton regarded the admiral coldly. "Yes. I suspect you do. Here's what I can do . . ."
Janeway paced the perimeter of the shuttle remains in the cargo bay. A shuttle had been parked in the background. Both B'Elanna and Chakotay stood outside of the territory she'd staked off. "Why is this so difficult? These are not Cardassians or Kazons. They're humans. On earth. Four hundred years in our past."
Her death glare swept the entire cargo bay.
"Captain. I have a theory about the shielding on their base."
"Yes?" Janeway stood in front of B'Elanna, hands on her hips, just waiting for the younger woman to continue with her idea.
"We thought their shielding might be lead as Sam or Al suggested. But I remodulated the sensors to work through lead shielding. I asked the computer to identify the nature of the shielding. Captain, the computer didn't know what it was."
"I'm not following."
"Virtually anything on earth should be capable of being probed by our sensors. Anything on 20th century earth."
"Of course!" Chakotay thought he caught on. "What you're saying is that since we can't identify it, it's probably from some time ahead of our own future. So someone from the future shielded that base ."
"Braxton." Janeway snapped. "Braxton."
"How could he know . . . ? It must be part of 29th century history. Somehow that bunker went down in history as an important place, a place to be protected." Janeway rubbed her temples. "This time travel stuff is giving me a headache."
"What can we do?" B'Elanna asked. "Tom and Tuvok or Sam and probably Harry are down there. We have to get them out. The doctor wasn't able to finish healing Tom."
The holodoc appeared from the inside of the shuttle carrying his medical kit. "I was just arranging my instruments when I heard my name."
"You were eavesdropping," B'Elanna corrected.
"So I was," he assured her smugly.
"Doctor, about Tom . . . "
"Yes, Captain. As I'm sure you've heard, it was a good thing we got there when we did. Another few hours and Tom would have died. I fixed what I could, but it was not a thorough fix and in some areas probably not a lasting fix. After all, I thought we'd be flying him back to Voyager."
"What's his prognosis?"
"I don't believe he is in imminent danger of dying. But the concussion resulted in some pressure on his brain even in sick bay I might not have been able to reverse the damage due to the great passage of time before treatment. It just won't get any worse." The holodoc provided a summary of what he'd been able to do to help Tom. "He was not a pretty sight."
Janeway turned to Chakotay with a question mark on her face. The commander's hand touched her arm. "Tom was barely recognizable."
"Without treatment in sickbay, doctor, what do you think will happen to Tom?"
"It's the pneumonia I'd worry about the most."
"Can he die from that?" B'Elanna asked anxiously.
"As I said, he's in no immediate danger. Presumably, his captors will see to his medical care, even if it is criminally primitive."
"We've got to get him out of there!" B'Elanna voiced the sentiments shared by them all.
As Janeway and Chakotay continued to discuss Tom with the holodoc, B'Elanna's eyes roved over the shuttle debris almost out of habit. Although her thoughts were preoccupied with Tom's condition and with how much she missed him, her engineer's eye spotted what she'd hoped to find. It had eluded her search earlier, but now she walked over to it, lifted the scorched and fire blackened device and brought it back to the senior officers.
"I finally spotted it, the Voth cloaking device," B'Elanna explained. "Maybe we can modify it enough to get close to the bunker. Once we're close we can go in and get Tom," she suggested, then added, "and the others."
Chakotay looked at the charred device in her hands. "It looks beyond repair."
B'Elanna took his mild statement as a challenge. "If it can be fixed, I'll fix it."
He held up his hands palms out in a gesture of mock surrender. His voice was sincere. "I know you can. It's probably our best chance to rescue them."
"I know you'll do your best," Janeway said kindly. She slipped Chakotay's arm in the crook of her elbow and led him away, the holodoc trailing behind with a bemused expression on his face.
"Chakotay. What if Braxton gave us the sensor codes to break through that shielding?"
"An interesting idea, Kathryn. If we could simply transport them out of there . . . "
"Sam kept his comm badge on?"
"Unless it was taken from him. Of course, it's useless until we can break through that shielding."
Sam and Harry were led to Tom's room by MPs. The lights had been turned on. They saw the doctor and Rain inside. From the doorway they saw a small 8' x 10' room dominated by a hospital bed and equipment. A screen partially hid a toilet and sink. It looked like what it was: a cell converted for medical use.
Smith motioned for them to come in and Harry led the way to the bed where Tom's pale figure lay very still. "Tom. Tom?"
Rain and Smith stepped back to the doorway to give them space and some privacy.
Hernandez appeared at the doorway and indicated that Rain should join her.
"Hi, Rachel," Rain greeted in a subdued tone.
"How's he doing?"
"The Colonel wants to talk to us."
Rain glanced at Smith for his nodded permission and then walked down the hall with Hernandez, all the while wondering what the legendary Colonel wanted.
When he heard his friend's voice, Tom struggled to open his eyes. He could barely speak, he'd screamed his throat raw when he'd awakened earlier, disoriented and panicked in the darkened room. But he could try to smile for Harry. He couldn't maintain it for long, he was just too tired. For some reason his eyes were blurred with unshed tears. Gathering what strength he could muster, Tom managed to croak out Harry's name.
"It's me, Tom. Hey. It's all right. You're going to be okay."
Tom couldn't believe it. This was really Harry and he wasn't dead. Harry's hand found his own and clasped it, Harry's warmth encasing his cold fingers.
"I'm right here," Harry crooned. "Just work on getting well, okay?"
"'kay," Tom agreed. As he closed his eyes the tears spilled out onto his cheeks. Harry brushed them away very lightly. Tom's eyes flew back open in fright with the fears that had been building up through the long evening in darkness. Breathing with effort, he whispered. "Harry. Are we in prison?"
Harry held Tom's hand in both of his own and gave a gentle squeeze. "Don't worry about that, Tom."
But Tom's fears weren't so easily banished. With almost the last of his energy, he asked again, "Are we?"
Harry looked helplessly at Sam. For his part Sam wasn't sure what it was that Harry needed from him. Sam shrugged back as if saying 'I don't know'.
"Tom. Tom, listen to me," Harry urged, "you've been hurt. You're sick. These people here are trying to help you get better."
". . . but . . . this isn't Voyager," Tom told him, desperate to understand.
"No. It's not," Harry agreed and appealed silently to Sam who stepped in. Sam leaned down to speak to the obviously agitated young man. He placed his hand on one side of Tom's face in a gentle gesture of reassurance. Very troubled blue eyes looked up at Sam. Sam told him, "There was a change of plans. Don't let it worry you. You need to rest and get stronger."
This time Tom surrendered, "'kay."
His last thought as he drifted off was that they must be in prison. Neither Harry nor Tuvok wore their comm badges.
Briefly, Sam picked up the emotional disturbance in the pilot. As he let his fingers slide off Tom's cheek now bristling with blond stubble, the sensations of distress disappeared. Puzzled, Sam wondered at the sensations that had been called up merely through touch. Sam put aside his own troubled feelings as he watched Harry pat his friend's hand one last time and place it carefully on the bed. The helpless look he cast Tom touched Sam deeply. He reached out and placed his arm around the ensign's shoulders, squeezing gently. He said, "Come on," and led Harry back to the doctor.
Harry told the doctor, "I'd like to stay here with Tom. He's worried that he's in prison."
Smith frowned, "Is that a problem?"
"It is for Tom," Harry told him. "Before we met, he'd been in prison. He had a rough time."
Smith realized that the pieces of the puzzle that had bothered him had finally fallen into place. That partially explained the signs of abuse, the fractures and scar tissue no more than five years old, that he'd seen on X-rays and in his physical exam of the pilot. "Why was he in prison? And what happened to him in there?"
Sam spoke up, "Classified." He hadn't hung around with admirals for nothing.
Smith nodded acceptance. He told Harry, "We'll have a cot brought in for you."
"I'd like to stay as well," Sam added.
"I'm afraid there may not be enough room for two cots." At Sam's intent look, the doctor shrugged. "Suit yourselves. There's an intercom on the wall. Call me if he needs anything."
Harry smiled. The doctor was beginning to remind him of the holodoc. As Smith left, Sam turned to Harry and said, "I think we have some catching up to do. I know you think I'm Tuvok, but my name is Sam Beckett."
After answering Harry's puzzled, but intelligent, questions about leaping, Sam tried to figure out how to phrase his question. "Does Tuvok have any special abilities?"
"Uh. Yeah. I guess so. Why?"
"When I touched Tom's face earlier - - something - - I don't know what happened. I got impressions. Images. Emotions."
"From Tom," Harry stated matter of factly and sat up on the cot. "Tuvok can see or hear a person's thoughts. Usually he has to touch the person in a particular way. I don't know much about it. Tom once . . . Tuvok melded with him . . . saw into Tom's mind. It helped get Tom out of trouble that wasn't his fault."
Sam frowned. "I wish I knew more. It was kind of scary, touching him and then sensing all this violence."
"Yeah. It was just an impression, not very precise. But it was directed at Tom and it was troubling."
Harry frowned. "I think there's a lot about Tom that I don't know." Harry mulled over the possibilities for the impressions that Sam had gained from his brief contact with Tom. He just didn't know. Finally, he shrugged. "You know, there's a lot about you I don't know either."
Al found Sam and Harry sitting on cots, heads together, talking softly. The young ensign had an astonished expression on his face, apparently at the story Sam had been telling him. Since Al had the holoemitter turned off, Harry didn't see the holographic Al, but he tracked Sam's eyes as he turned towards Al.
"Tuvok? Uh-Sam?" Harry asked.
So Sam had told Harry about leaping. Al looked around the dimly lit room, noted the still form of the young pilot, the absence of others in the room, the door closed. He activated the holoemitter and smiled gently at the startled ensign.
They all spoke in hushed tones around the sleeping pilot. "Hi, kid. You must be Harry. I've heard a lot about you from your captain. I'm Al."
Harry stared at Al, then at Sam, then back at Al. He still couldn't get over a 20th century hologram. "Uh, hi."
Sam turned to Al, all business. "Al. What do you have? Did you talk to Braxton?"
"I did," Al motioned with the handlink toward the hospital bed. "How's the kid?"
Sam sighed. "He's not out of the woods. So far he's awakened twice he was trying to scream, but his voice is almost worn out. A nurse came in a while ago to change his dressing and give him a sponge bath. It was amazing, Al. There was no scar left from surgery. Unfortunately, his fever's up and I suspect that the pneumonia's worse. The doctor here has him on full spectrum antibiotics and after the last awakening, he's added some Valium to his meds schedule."
"You can hardly hear him scream, his voice is so hoarse," Harry added softly, looking back at his friend, concern suffusing his features.
"He going to be all right?" Al asked.
Harry regarded the two men earnestly. "You've got to understand, Tom's - Tom's worst nightmares about the past have been coming true again. First, he thinks he caused another shuttle crash and he doesn't believe me when I tell him that it wasn't his fault. And now he thinks he's been thrown back in prison. We were in prison once. He got stabbed and almost died . . ."
Al shook off a flashback of his own days as a POW in Vietnam and reached out to the ensign. He wanted to reassure Harry, but he knew what Tom was in for after his physical wounds healed. Al ventured, "Maybe when he's better we can find him some help with his demons."
"There's no counselor on our ship," Harry warned.
"I'm not much for counselors myself," Al responded. He knew that Sam was watching him, but he refused to return his glance. "Still," Al said, "there are plenty of people who learn how to put the past behind them. Or at least function around the worst of it."
Each was lost in his own thoughts for a moment, then Sam broke the silence. "Al. What about Braxton?"
Al brightened at the prospect of a new topic and whistled. "Now there's a piece of work. He about fell out of his chair when I told him we knew who he was and then when Tuvok introduced himself, he was surprised that Voyager is back. And get this -- he 'talks' to this space-time anomaly, only his conversations haven't been going too well. If I hadn't seen all of this the last couple of days, I'd think he was nuts and lock him up in the looney bin."
"Al, please. I'm glad you're enjoying this, but will he help us get everyone back to where they belong?"
"I think so. Hard to tell with him. He and Tuvok were working on a plan when I left." Al turned to Harry. "And the last time I saw Chakotay, he was heading back to the helicopter to track Tom. I guess they couldn't get here in time, but I'm sure they're gonna try again."
Harry heaved a sigh. He knew they must have been looking for him, but it was still a relief to hear about it.
Sam mulled over Al's words. "Al, maybe we can help from this end. You can turn off that holoemitter and scope out this place. Then have Ziggy center you on Janeway and tell her what you've seen."
"Will do, Sam."
"And, Al" Sam admonished, "For Janeway's sake, turn yourself back on first. We wouldn't want any embarrassing encounters."
Al gave Sam his best innocent look. "Gee, Sam, I was hoping for an encounter of the third kind." He turned off his holoemitter before Sam could respond. Sam watched him float out the door into the corridor. He was surprised when Al popped back inside a few seconds later. "Brace yourself, Sam. There's a full colonel and a doctor headed your way. And she looks pissed."
Sam updated Harry on Al's observation when they heard the door being unlocked. Colonel Warrington entered and headed directly towards Sam and Harry. Thunderclouds sparked off the Colonel and both men scrambled to their feet. This was just the effect she was hoping for. She signaled Smith in and he went to Tom's bed. Rachel Hernandez and Rain Robinson hung back by the door. Two MPs could be seen through the door's window.
"Okay, no more bullshit," Warrington barked. "You've had your visit with your friend. Now I want some answers."
Sam explained patiently, "You know we can't reveal anything".
"Fine," she snapped and turned to the doorway. "Rachel, you and Rain take these two to the conference room while I have a chat with Tom here."
Harry balked. "You don't know what you're doing. First, he's unconscious. And, second, he doesn't know where he is or what's going on."
Warrington smiled and released a claw. "Do you think you're the only ones with medical technology? Our methods may seem primitive to you, but Dr. Smith is very competent. I'm sure that he can bring Tom to consciousness and a little old fashioned sodium pentothal should do the trick."
"Truth serum," Sam told Harry.
Harry's bravado fell. "Don't . . . Don't do that." He was shocked to see his own nightmare was coming true. "I'll tell you what I can."
Still invisible to all but Sam, Al started pacing back and forth and muttered to Sam. "Sam, she's serious. She's gonna do this." Memories of his own 'pentothal interviews' after his return from Vietnam were vague, but disturbing and he shuddered. "You have to stop her."
Sam spoke up. "What do you need to know to leave Tom alone?"
Warrington released a second claw. "I thought I made it clear. Neither of you interest me any longer. You would tell me anything, any lies, to protect your friend now. I want the truth and I think my best shot is talking to him. We might chat a little later to fill in some details, but we'll see."
Warrington motioned and the two MPs stepped behind Sam and Harry. Sam felt awful about this, and he felt even worse when Harry's eyes pleaded with him to do something. Still, he knew they were outnumbered and there was no winning this one. "I'm sorry," he said to Tom, Harry and Al. Sam looked past Warrington to Al and said, "Still I'd prefer that someone stay with Tom and monitor his condition. His health is still precarious."
As Al nodded, Warrington replied, "Dr. Smith will stay through the interview."
Sam noticed that Smith had turned away from all of them long ago and busied himself with Tom's IV.
At a nod from Warrington, the MPs nudged them forward. The first MP was surprised when Harry slugged him, but the second wasted no time in shoving Harry up against a wall. "If you want to see Tom again, we'll have no more of that," the Colonel stated. Harry began to resist again when the MP pushed him towards the door, but Sam gave him a warning look. "I hate this," Harry muttered. He allowed himself to be pushed to the hall when he turned and threatened Smith "You better not hurt him."
Smith wheeled, his eyes narrowed, and his voice became edged like a dilithium crystal. "I don't hurt my patients."
Rachel led the group towards the conference room and Sam noticed that Rain lingered at the cell door. When Rachel called after her, she quickly caught up, but Sam noticed that she looked deeply troubled. Apparently she hadn't seen this side of her team before.
Al loved a lot of things about leaping. He loved the feeling of relief when he first found Sam in a new place. He loved the nostalgic feeling when one of the leaps reminded him of late night parties or early morning flights. He loved the women. But most of all, he loved it when Sam made things better, even if he teased him for being a Boy Scout.
But sometimes he hated the leaps, and this was one of those times. Sam often asked him to stay with others when Sam couldn't be with them, and Al had always done it. He never told Sam what it did to him when he had to watch bad things happen and couldn't stop them. He just did it. And now for the first time, he had the holoemitter and could effect things, but he couldn't use it. As a military man, he knew that he was most useful as a spy now and his appearance might ruin any further rescue attempts.
As someone who'd been on the receiving end of one of these 'chats', it was killing him to watch it happen again. Even though he knew they couldn't hear them, he swore at Warrington and Smith, told them repeatedly to stop, that the kid had nothing to give them, that he'd seen the 24th century and it was no big deal once you got used to the faces, but they just kept getting ready for the interview. Once he'd exhausted his rage, Al finally settled a little. If they couldn't hear him, maybe Tom could. As Smith made another injection, Al leaned towards Tom's bed. "Tom, my name is Al and I'm a friend of Sam and Harry's. We're gonna get you out of here as soon as we can and you're gonna be okay. But we can't do that yet. There's a colonel and a doctor here and they're gonna ask you some questions. I know that you don't feel like talking, but they make you want to. You won't be able to stop yourself. It's not your fault. I'll stay with you through the whole thing and after they're gone." Al grasped Tom's hand and knew he wouldn't let go until it was done.
Tom stirred slightly at Al's words and opened his eyes, even though he didn't seem to focus on anything particular. Warrington assumed that he was ready for questioning. She had shaken off the military tone she used for Sam and Harry and selected the softer tone that worked so well with her nephews.
"What is your name?" she asked him.
"Thomas Eugene Paris," he answered dreamily.
"Where were you born?"
"When?" Tom was quiet, so she tried again. "What year were you born?"
"Did you say 2344?"
Tom sighed and slowly answered, "Yes."
Warrington and Smith exchanged stunned glances. She turned back to Tom. "Who do you work for?"
"What is Starfleet?"
"Service for space exploration and peace."
She looked at Smith as if Tom had just said 'truth, justice, and the American way'. Taking a deep breath, she asked, "Are you a lieutenant in Starfleet?" Warrington faltered slightly on this unfamiliar word.
"Lieutenant junior grade."
"And what do you do for Starfleet?" "Pilot Voyager." The colonel thought she heard pride in the young man's voice, despite its raspiness.
"Voyager . . . Is that the name of your ship?"
"When did you start flying this Voyager? What year?"
"And how long have you been piloting?"
"Four . . . four years." Warrington shook her head in wonder. She needed to know more and checked with Smith. "You've got a little more time" he whispered. Al winced at these words.
"Tell me about Voyager. How many crewmen does it carry?"
"Hundred thirty five, thirty six."
"Who's in command of your ship?"
"Captain Kathryn Janeway." Warrington saw a little smile play at the corner of his lips.
"And Captain Janeway was born in the 24th century?"
"Yes." 'Well,' Warrington thought, 'at least his story is consistent.'
"Is she from Earth?"
Warrington wasn't sure which answer she wanted to her next question. "Are any crew not from Earth? Are there any aliens on your ship?"
"Where are they from?"
"Vulcan . . . Bajor . . . Klingon Empire -- she's only part Klingon . . . " Another soft expression passed over Tom's face and his voice took on a wistful tone. Al recognized that tone of voice and smiled a little himself when he acknowledged that some things about relationships just don't change. He tried to remember which ones were Klingons. When he realized it was B'Elanna, he mused that Tom had interesting taste in women.
"Is Harry from 24th century Earth?"
"And where is Tuvok from?"
"Okay, how did you get here in the 20th century?" Warrington asked.
Warrington sat back. She thought all of this stuff was just science fiction. But how many times had her NASA friends talked about wormholes? She exchanged glances with Smith, who shrugged. He splayed his fingers and mouthed back 'five more minutes.' Al sighed and told Tom, "It's almost over, Tom. Just a few more minutes. Hold on a little longer."
There was a moment of silence as Warrington tried to think of what she most needed to know. "Where is Voyager, now?"
"What does your Captain want?"
"Go home . . . Take us home."
"Is she going to attack Earth?"
Tom seemed startled at the question. "No."
"Were you trying to attack Earth?"
"Then what were you doing when you and Harry crashed?"
"Testing cloaking device . . . then wormhole . . . tornadoes." Tom's voice became a little more strained and Smith didn't like the rising signs of agitation. He gave Warrington the cut sign.
Warrington thought carefully. "Okay, Tom, we don't have to talk about that now. I just have one more question. If you go back to Voyager, what will the ship do next? Where will you go?"
"Back . . . go back."
"Go back where?"
"You won't try to stay on Earth?" Warrington ignored Smith's gestures. She knew Tom was tiring under the strain, but she needed an answer. She was tiring herself. Still, she was surprised at his reaction to the question.
"No . . . No . . . No . . . " was all he answered, but with each word he became increasingly restless. Whatever else he told her, she knew genuine terror when she saw it. "That's enough," Smith told her and this time she agreed.
She felt genuine pity for the young man. "Alright, Tom, you're alright. Nothing's going to happen to you here. You just need to get some rest." She continued to soothe him while Smith monitored his condition. When Tom was resting comfortably, they both exited the cell in silence.
Al also sat in silence. He couldn't quite look at Tom, but he wasn't ready to let go of his hand either. He was relieved that it was over, for both of them. It was a strange sensation to know that they'd done the same thing to him, but he guessed this side of the military never changes. Still, he felt an indescribable bond to Tom and a little more compassion for himself as a younger man.
Al stayed for only a few minutes when Sam and Harry returned. Harry wanted to know everything that happened, but Sam sensed Al's exhaustion and sent Harry to sit with Tom.
"Al, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Sam. We're both fine."
Sam knew his friend well enough not to press him, especially in front of other people. "I guess this was tough for you, but thanks for staying. It made it easier to go."
Al turned away as he lit a new cigar. "Before we were interrupted, I was going to check out this facility. I better get back to it. I'll have to see you later. Oh, and Smith left an ice pack on the cot for Harry's bruises. I don't think he's very fond of the MPs methods." He glanced once more at Tom and then back to Sam. "Take care of him." Sam nodded, wishing he could do more for all of them.
Smith and Warrington didn't speak until they'd returned to Warrington's office. The colonel was a little more disturbed than she'd like to admit.
Finally, Smith sighed. "Well, that was interesting."
"I don't know, Ham. Could this Paris be programmed?"
Smith asked, "You mean implant a story that would come out under interrogation or drugs?" Warrington nodded. "Sure. It's possible. And if they did it to one, they would do it to all of them. I don't know about Tuvok's physiology, but Harry would probably respond the same way. But Alicia, that's quite a story -- it would certainly make them more suspicious to their captors, not less. I don't see how it works as a cover story."
"Agreed. And who would risk sending someone whose blood is green?"
"Well, I've never seen anything like Tuvok before. On the other hand, we both know that too many of my military colleagues have engaged in medical experimentation for decades. Exposing people to radiation, chemical warfare agents, and who knows what else. I mean, we're on the verge of cloning humans if it hasn't already happened at another facility. Area 51 is just a few hundred miles away who knows what our neighbors are up to?"
"Not only that," Smith continued "but Paris' injuries turned around in the space of what? - maybe a half hour? That just doesn't happen. Either it was a miracle or medical technology that's years ahead of anything I've ever seen."
"Four hundred years ahead?" Warrington asked.
"24th century?" Smith smiled. "I don't know. This whole thing is unbelievable. I just wish I could retain my naive faith that the future is going to be better than the past or the present." He sighed and changed the topic, "Well, what do you want to do now?"
"I'm not sure yet," Warrington replied. "I was angry. I don't like mysteries and I don't like lies. It might be time to call the brass so they can decide how to deal with this. But I'm not about to make an ass of myself telling them that an injured pilot told me that I captured time travelers and aliens. I'd sound like some paranoid TV or B-movie character." She sighed, "Maybe I shouldn't have questioned the lieutenant in the first place."
"It's not the proudest moment in my career either, but you were right: we had to know if they posed a threat, " Smith replied. "If it's any comfort, I don't think Tom Paris will ever remember being questioned." They sat for a few minutes until the doctor changed the subject once again. "Tarani's people never did turn up anything 'alien' in that wreckage, did they?"
"Not a sliver."
Smith smiled, "It's times like these that I'm glad I'm not the boss. Maybe you could just set the crewmen on the surface. See if the mothership lands and takes them away. Film at 5."
Warrington laughed, for the first time in several days. "That's it. I'm gonna find your copy of E.T. and lock it away until this is over." Her grin faded. "Okay, let's get serious. Pull the team together for a meeting first thing in the morning. I want an update from every unit and let's try to figure out what we've got."
"What about our guests?" Smith asked. "Those medical fixes on Paris don't seem to be lasting."
"I want to keep them all here as long as I can. We know that their friends have tried to intercept them before. We'll have to keep security pretty tight. As of now this facility is on lock-down. Unless you have to move Paris back to a trauma center, nobody goes in or out of the complex."
"Okay. I'll check on Paris and the others before I turn in. See you later."
"Good night, Ham."
Al appeared in the conference room where Janeway and Chakotay had been reviewing their options. They sat close to each other, very close, Al thought. Their heads were almost touching, but they jumped apart when Al appeared and cleared his throat to gain their attention.
"Captain, I have an update for you."
"What is it, Admiral?"
"Okay. The good news is that Tom, Harry, and Sam are all being held in the same room and the same facility. There's some security at the Air Force Base, but they're not equipped for World War III either. I've got as much information as I could gather on-site, plus Ziggy pulled up some schematics, and Tuvok made some notations that he wanted me to pass along." Al punched up the information from the handlink, then passed it Chakotay, who downloaded it into the computer.
"Thank you, Al. This may make all the difference in rescuing our crew." Chakotay smiled, but he and Kathryn both noticed that Al did not smile back.
Janeway grew more serious. "I take it this doesn't solve our problems completely."
Al puffed more vigorously on his cigar. "The bad news is that they know about you. They know all of it . . .Voyager, time travel, wormholes, aliens. If you go back to get your men, they'll be expecting you. Colonel Warrington she's in charge there she had a doctor shoot up the Paris kid and . . . "
"Hold it," Chakotay interrupted. "Tom was shot?"
"Oh, no. Not 'shot', shot up. Drugged. They drugged Tom to make him talk. He didn't have any choice." Al didn't realize that he'd begun pacing again.
"Poor Tom. Is he alright?" Janeway asked. "Why did they do this to him?"
"They always pick off the weakest. Harry and Sam tried to step in, but they didn't really have any cards to play. Harry did slug one of the MPs on the way out. Good kid, that Harry. I like his style."
Janeway's anger started to rise. "Damn them! They had no right to do this. And to do this to Tom..."
Al was impressed that she was so protective of her crew. He liked that in commanding officers. But there seemed to be something personal in this reaction. "Is there something I don't know?" Al asked.
Chakotay silently asked and received permission from Kathryn to tell Al about Tom's background. Chakotay described what he knew about Tom's involvement with the shuttle crash, the years of drinking, his stint with the Maquis. And Kathryn added details about the Auckland prison, Tom's later imprisonment with Harry, and the time that Tom was punished by having a murder victim's memories implanted in his brain.
Al whistled softly. He could see all of Tom's experiences in his mind's eye. This helped explain Harry's reaction to Tom's nightmares. Al shook his head and muttered, "Prison is not a good place for a young man in his formative years."
Chakotay inquired gently, "Yes, Admiral. Seven years, wasn't it, that you were a prisoner yourself?"
Al was startled as his own flashbacks joined the picture of Tom in his mind. He was surprised sometimes at how quickly it resurfaced. Al was gruffer and louder than he intended to be when he asked, "How the hell did you know that?"
"I'm sorry, Admiral . . . Al. You could say we have our own version of Ziggy and you made the history books," Chakotay replied.
"We didn't mean to pry into your personal affairs," Janeway added softly, "but we needed to verify Sam's and your identity after you arrived on our ship."
Al quickly wanted to move this conversation in a new direction. "Well, anyway, it's over now. But Paris is a good kid and you give him what he needs when he gets back."
"We know," Chakotay softened the challenge that was rising in his own voice. "We'll do our best for him."
Al nodded. He knew that he was identifying with Tom Paris, but he also knew that he wasn't wrong to do so. "Okay. So what's the next step in the rescue?"
Janeway turned her gaze from Chakotay to Al and gave a resigned sigh. Nothing about the situation had been easy. She chirped her badge to call her chief engineer. "B'Elanna, how's the rehabilitation on the cloaking device going?"
"Five hours, Captain, give or take."
"I don't have to tell you how important this is."
"No, you don't. Torres out."
The three of them laid out a basic rescue mission. Given the failed efforts of subterfuge, Janeway decided that a more direct diplomatic approach might be warranted. They would be prepared for a skirmish if it came to that, but she and Chakotay hoped it could be settled more peacefully.
After reviewing and giving his final input to their plan, Al responded. "I'm going back to the project. I'll return as soon as I can. If I don't make it back before you leave, go without me. Whenever I'm ready, I'll have Ziggy center me on you, Captain. I'll be in full Admiral mode if you need the authority."
"Why are you leaving now?" Janeway asked.
Al smiled. "Ma'am I admire your ethics, that you won't leave the troops behind without another effort. No offense, but given your track record, let me see what I can do in terms of another plan in case this new one doesn't work."
Janeway smiled, "We've tried Plan A and Plan B. I'd like to see one succeed before we run out of letters in the alphabet."
Al chuckled and added, "Also, I can help tie up some of the loose ends in the 20th century. From what Sam tells me, you'd be much happier if no one ever found out you were here in the first place."
"That's true," Janeway said. "So what do you plan to do?"
"Remember, I'm only six years ahead of Warrington's time," Al explained. "I still have a few friends in high places. First, Ziggy can find someone who was Warrington's superior in 1998, I'll find that person in my time, and with a little friendly persuasion have some orders predated to take effect at Warrington's base tomorrow. Second . . . Well, I'm sorry, Captain, but I don't think I can tell what will happen next."
Janeway started to object, but Al was already leaving as he cut her off. "Remember, even though we're centuries apart, I still outrank you. And if things don't work, you still have plausible deniability." And with that he was gone. For the first time, Janeway and Chakotay understood Sam's inability to control Al's appearances.
Chakotay's gaze remained on the Admiral's last position. He muttered, "A 'real' hologram."
"It is amazing."
"And not just his clothes," Chakotay laughed.
Laughing with him, Janeway said, "I need some coffee. We're going to be up all night."
"Kathryn, we'll get them back."
"Damn right we will. I'm going with you."
"They'll be no senior officers left on board."
"It's not as if we're expecting company up here."
"No. I guess we aren't."
Back at Stallion's Gate, Al provided Tuvok with an update. Finally, he contacted Senator Weitzman and called in a favor. Weitzman's first reply found Al holding the phone away from his ear. But after Al gave him the old Calavicci razzle-dazzle, the senator agreed to make the appropriate arrangements. After hanging up, Al said to the empty room, "That went well. Let's see if I can get some cooperation out of Braxton."
Big hands reached toward him, grasping blindly at his small body. The large hands came closer and closer as he tried to stop his breathing, stop the heartbeat that pounded so loudly it must be heard outside of his chest. The hands kept after him and he whimpered. Why couldn't he make himself so small as to disappear? No. They kept after him. He lashed out, flinging his small arms and fists at the danger he knew was there, the danger that was relentlessly after him. He launched himself away, scrabbling frantically in the dark.
"No. No," his hoarse cries tried to turn away the threat, make the hands go away, make the large bulk of the other go away. "G'way . . . Please . . . no . . ."
Sam was the first to hear the muted sounds of the pilot's nightmare. He reached over the few inches between the cots and touched Harry to wake him up. Harry had been sleeping lightly and quickly understood that Tom was having another nightmare. He scrambled to stand at Tom's bedside.
"Tom. Tom. Wake up. It's me, Harry."
Who was Harry? Another threat? "G'way!"
"Tom, you've got to wake up. You've torn out the IV. Tom . . . "
Hands were on his arm. He tried to fling them away, tried to wrestle out of danger. He heard a crack and felt a shock jolt up his free arm. He woke with a start, blinked in the sudden light. Harry. He saw someone else Tuvok and not Tuvok. He screamed, the scream a rasping cry. "Get away! Get away from me!"
Harry was saying something, but Tom's attention focused on the Tuvok/not Tuvok being who was closing in on him.
The being hadn't stopped, had grabbed his free arm. Now Tom was pinned. Harry was on one side holding one arm, the stranger held the other.
"No! Get away. Get away," he broke down sobbing. The stranger startled, briefly let go, jumped back, then returned to hold down Tom's arm with the cast.
"Tom!" Harry's frantic voice finally broke through his fear. "Tom. It's me. Harry. You've had a bad dream. It's just a bad dream a bad dream. Understand?" Tom's bent head nodded as he continued to cry. "We need to help you. You're bleeding where the IV needle broke off. And you've cracked the cast on your other arm." "A bad dream?" he gasped.
"Yes," Harry confirmed. "Yes. A bad dream."
Tom's sobs decreased, his breathing slowed down. The loud pounding of his heart quieted.
"Do you remember any of it?" Sam asked.
He remembered the feelings. "Fear. I was terrified. I thought . . . I thought you were I was . . . I don't know." In a small, scared voice he said, "I don't remember." Tom realized how much his arms hurt. "My arms?"
"Let's take a look."
Sam peeled off the shattered cast. "You really did a number on this."
"What happened?" Tom asked.
"You hit it against the wall."
"Some dream," Tom muttered.
"I'd say so." Sam's fingers and eyes examined the pink skinned arm that had worn the cast. He marveled that there was only a hint of a scar where the bone had broken through Tom's skin.
Harry kept the pressure on Tom's other arm trying to stop the bleeding from the broken IV needle. Tom looked at it curiously, noting the blood on his gown and sheets and on Harry's night clothes of shorts and a T-shirt. "What did I do to it?"
"You yanked out the IV, broke off the needle and now you're bleeding. We called for the doctor."
Tom jerked back out of their grasps, his back to the wall. His breathing had accelerated again and he couldn't stop the shaking that wracked his body.
Tom blinked at his friend. "I I don't know."
"Was it mention of the doctor?" Sam asked.
The fear invaded him again and he took a shaky breath. Tom looked helplessly at Sam and shook his head. Confusion and fear warred each other to a shaky truce. Sam pressed his palm against Tom's forehead. "We need to get in a new IV line. There's still some antibiotics with your name on them."
Carrying his medical bag, a rumpled, sleepy Dr. Smith bustled inside, "What's the problem?"
Tom gasped at the sight of the man.
"It's all right, Tom," Harry soothed. "It's Dr. Smith."
Sam took the doctor aside and filled him in out of earshot as Tom looked on warily. Before the conversation finished Tom began to cough, the kind that seemed as if his lungs were trying to cough themselves inside out. On his side on the bed, he bent over at the waist, unable to stop coughing, temporarily ignoring the pain from his still healing ribs and pelvis.
Tom flinched when Smith touched him. Smith told him, "Tom, I'm going to put on my stethoscope and listen to your breathing. I'm not going to hurt you."
As the coughing fit subsided, Tom lay limply on his side, exhausted and drained. He jerked briefly when the doctor placed the stethoscope on his back. He kept as still as he could, took as deep a breath as possible when asked, but couldn't stop the fine tremble that shook his body.
They helped him to lay back down and Smith ministered to the broken IV, swiftly removing the broken needle and swabbing the bleeding hole with alcohol. Tom flinched and gritted his teeth. He closed his eyes as the doctor palpated a vein further up his arm as the man searched for another IV site.
Tom felt so tired and wanted to sleep, but feared the nightmares would return. He felt a dull throbbing pain in his healing arm and in his hips and ribs. His chest muscles were sore from coughing and his head had tight bands around it that kept squeezing at his brain. It wasn't like before, not nearly as intense. But he hurt and couldn't understand why the pain didn't go away. He groaned, moving restlessly in a futile effort to escape.
Smith called Rain Robinson on the intercom. "Rain. Wake up and call the nurses. Tell them that I want the lab opened in five minutes. Then, get down here to Tom's room. He seems to respond to you and I want you to escort him through the procedures."
"What happened to Tom?" Rain's voice asked over the intercom. "Is he okay?"
"He'll be fine. Just get down here."
Smith turned back to Tom and told him, "I'm going to give you something for the pain. It will also help you to get some rest."
Tom's eyes flew open, another wave of fear drowning him. The nightmares. And something else. Weak as he was, he tried to struggle away from Smith. "No. No. Please." Harry could hardly stand to watch Tom in such pain. He turned his venom on Smith. "I blame you for this nightmare. This wouldn't be happening if you hadn't drugged him, questioned him. What did you do to him? He didn't even know me."
Smith resisted the urge to take a verbal slice out of Harry's hide for that one. He took a couple of deep breaths before he responded. "I told you before that I don't hurt my patients. This is the wrong time and place to talk about this. Right now, I think we both want the same thing for Tom, to get him more comfortable. A sedative is the best I can offer to help him. You've been here all night and this is . . . what? . . . the third time he's struggled with nightmares. Tom needs help: Do you have anything better to offer?"
Overwhelmed by his own helplessness, rage, and frustration, Harry turned away from the doctor. At this point, Rain walked in and sensed the tension in the room. She saw the broken cast, the bloody sheets, and couldn't imagine how things had deteriorated so badly. Although she wasn't clear about what had happened, she did know that she could trust Smith to do his best to help Tom.
Smith took Rain aside and appraised her of what had happened. Then he softly asked Harry and Sam to come over and join them at the door. The MPs watched Harry and Sam's movements carefully, although escape was clearly the last thing on their minds. Smith wasn't optimistic that this conversation would go any better than the one just concluded with the young ensign, but he knew what needed to be done. "I'm going to move Tom to our lab where we have more adequate facilities to assess and treat his injuries from this nightmare. Then, I plan to bring him back here when we're done, unless we run into further complications."
Initially, Sam was surprised that Harry didn't have another outburst until he realized that Harry was desperately scrambling for a way to prevent Tom's removal. Sam, too, recognized the risks in a permanent separation from Tom at this point, but he also knew that any resistance on their part would be met with restraint, sedation, and/or removal. He reasoned that a more diplomatic approach might buy them some time. "What procedures are you planning in your lab?"
"I want to conduct a scan to verify that no further pieces of the syringe are in his vein. I think we got the whole thing, but I want to be sure," Smith answered reasonably. "I need to x-ray his broken bones to make sure he hasn't done any more damage."
"How long will all this take?" Sam queried.
"I won't know until I take a look."
Tom started to moan again and Smith and Rain went over to check on him. Sam was somehow comforted to see the quickness of Smith's response and the compassion on his lined face. Sam decided that he had not seen any dishonesty from the doctor yet and from what he could remember from his own medical training, the treatment plan seemed reasonable and appropriate. Smith started back to Sam and Harry while Rain remained with Tom, speaking softly to him. When Smith returned, Sam finally said, "Okay. On one condition."
Smith was waiting for this. "What?"
"One of us goes with him."
"No." Dr. Smith spoke directly to Harry, knowing that this was the most difficult part for Harry to hear, yet also knowing that his decision to bar them from the lab was right. "If one of you comes with us, that means that two MPs have to come along to watch over you. Between me, my staff, you, and the MPs, the room is going to be too crowded. You've already seen how easily agitated Tom is by people and I don't want to make that worse. Also, I plan to have him sedated enough to sleep through the rest of the night, but when he comes back, he's going to be in full restraints . . . "
Harry could not stand quietly any longer. "No! You can't do that! Haven't you heard anything we've said? Tom thinks he's in prison, he's trying to escape. His panic will be even worse if he realizes you've tied him down!" Harry appealed to Sam, clearly despairing. "Tuvok, you can't let them."
Smith felt sorry for the kid, but he pushed forward. "Look, I don't like doing this and believe me, if I had a better option I'd take it. I know that Tom is terrified of something, here or in his past."
Harry knew the description was true. He stood mutely as Smith continued, "I've seen plenty of kids like Tom before. Between the disorientation that accompanies concussion, the delirium of falling in and out of high fevers, the pain and exhaustion of traumatic injuries, and being moved around from place to place, plus what he claims is time travel," Sam raised one eyebrow slightly, Tuvok style, realizing anew how much Tom had been forced to tell his captors, "no wonder he doesn't know what's going on and he panics."
Smith took a deep breath and looked carefully at both Harry and Sam, "But, we all know something else is happening to him. It would be easy for Tom to just fall into the sedation and exhaustion and sleep through this experience. Yet he's still clawing his way back to consciousness, or semi-consciousness, and that's when he's really at greatest risk to hurt himself. Next time he could do more serious harm." Smith paused, wanting his next words to sink in, "In his weakened state, he could die from what would normally be a survivable injury."
The two men gave Smith their full attention. Finally, they exchanged glances with each other and seemed to come to a silent decision. Smith took advantage of the silence and offered a carrot. "Rain will go with him and keep him as calm as she can, but that's the best I can do. Besides, if you're not there, I get to be the bad guy when he realizes he's in restraints. I am sorry. But it has to be done."
Harry fought with himself over Smith's words. He couldn't believe his ears, but worse, he couldn't believe that he thought Smith was right. As much as he wanted to protect Tom, what if he or Sam didn't wake up fast enough next time? In fact, they hadn't awakened quickly enough this time. No matter what illusory choice they made now, how could he explain to B'Elanna or to Captain Janeway or to Tom what he let happen tonight? How could things have gotten so out of control in just a few days?
Smith recognized the defeat and acceptance growing in the younger man and noted the calm demeanor of the older one. Smith told them, "I want to give Tom another minute or two to settle into the sedation before we try to move him. Tell him whatever you want, whatever he needs to hear to give into it. Then I want the two of you to get some rest while we're gone."
Harry's hackles started to rise once again, but Smith was willing to give some ground. "Relax. I'm not planning to sedate you, just try to get some sleep while you can. I'll come back and let you know how he's doing."
Sam and Harry joined Rain at Tom's bedside and Sam spoke gently to Tom as Smith watched from the door. Smith thought it strange the way the older man held Tom's face, but the patient seemed to calm under that touch. When Tom's breathing became more even, Smith came over and he and Rain quickly moved the pilot out of the room.
Harry started to walk towards the door, but Sam held him back and walked him over to the cots. Harry's strength had reached its limits and he collapsed, defeated. Sam turned down the lights and sat on his cot. It was a moment or two before Sam realized that the young man who had so strongly supported his friend was now crying. He hesitated, then decided that placing a hand on Harry's shoulder and gripping it lightly was the called for response.
When Harry seemed to have quieted, Sam asked, "Harry? Are you all right?"
Harry wiped his eyes, "No." He turned on the cot so that he could make out Sam's shape in the dim illumination.
"I'm sorry. I wish I could do more." They both realized he couldn't, so Sam changed the subject. "I wanted to ask you about something. I know you told me that Tuvok can pick up on what a person's thinking or feeling. And I don't know if this is important . . . " After letting his voice trail off in uncertainty, Sam told Harry, "I -- felt something earlier when I held Tom's arm."
"I think so." Sam took a deep breath. "It was unnerving, Harry. It seemed like someone much bigger than he was hitting him. I got the impression of a little boy being hit by an adult man. There was fear. No, more like panic."
"If that was his nightmare, it's funny Tom didn't remember it." Harry thought about Sam's impressions. "I think I'm Tom's best friend, maybe B'Elanna's gotten closer to him lately. But Tom doesn't talk much about his past. I'd guess if it was a real beating, then it had to have been his father."
"I thought his father was a Starfleet Admiral."
"He is. Was. I guess Admiral's aren't all perfect like your Al."
Sam smiled, "Al's not perfect, but I know he doesn't beat on defenseless children." Harry seemed to wince and Sam apologized, "I'm sorry. I know better: child abuse occurs anywhere."
Harry let a silence float between them, then seemed to respond to Sam's observations. "My guess? I bet he never told anyone and I bet Tom never saw a doctor for injuries his father inflicted. A home medical tricorder could do a lot of patching up and no one would be the wiser."
"I guess all of us, no matter how far into the future, have things we don't want to share with others. Or maybe we do want to share, but just can't."
Harry nodded even though Sam couldn't see the gesture in the darkened room. "Yeah. I know what you mean. It's like we don't really talk about what happened to our ship anymore. Voyager's mission was supposed to take a few weeks. Instead, it's been over three years. My fiancé is probably not my fiancé anymore. And me? I'm definitely not 'innocent' Harry Kim anymore. I'd go home and I wouldn't be the person who left."
"I'm sorry, Harry," Sam apologized again.
Harry thought he heard pain in Sam's voice. "What is it?"
Sam put his head between his hands. "I guess I'm feeling sorry for myself. I'm so tired, Harry. I know I've done some good, helped some people. But . . . it's like whoever Sam Beckett is, he's disappearing . . . leap by leap. Like you, if I were able to go home: would there be a Sam Beckett left to go home to?"
Neither man could answer these questions, so after a moment of thoughtful silence, Sam suggested, "I guess we'd better try to get some sleep."
Warrington sat in the conference room going over updated reports from her team. A cup of cold coffee stood neglected by her hand. Absently, she picked it up, sipped, and almost spit the cold beverage back into the cup. This wasn't her night. She was initially relieved to hear a knock and see Hammond Smith's head sticking through the door, but she quickly sensed he was not bringing good news. Her relief turned to dread.
"Alicia, have you been here all night?"
"I didn't want any surprises at the morning meeting. You don't look too good yourself. I thought you went to bed hours ago. What's up, Ham?" she asked and waved him to a chair.
"It's Paris. He had another crisis episode. He's been thrashing and tearing up the repairs pretty good." Hammond was inwardly pleased at Alicia's look of concern, something she would never allow to happen in front of her staff. "I've got him sedated, restrained, and returned to his friends. I think the antibiotics are finally kicking in. That alone should help him considerably. All things considered, it could be worse."
"Ham, I'm too tired for games. You're leading up to something. It could be worse, but there's more you don't want to say. Lay it out."
"Okay. As officers, I know that we have certain responsibilities and that we have limited authority. I like being part of the military, and I like what I've been able to do for all the wounded kids over the years." Alicia Warrington had seen that look of gentleness before when Ham remembered some of his special patients. She let him sit in silence as he gathered his thoughts. "But that's just it . . . I've always seen myself as a doctor in a soldier's world, not as a soldier. And as a doctor, I'm telling you that you've got to bring this situation to an end quickly."
"Why? Why now?"
"Because I don't like losing salvageable patients. I see some of them I know are going to die and there's nothing I can do. I've learned to live with that, even if I'll never like it. But Paris isn't one of them. He can make a full recovery and lead a normal life." Ham got up, went over to the coffee maker and brought two warm cups back to the table. "But when I treated him tonight, I saw that look in his eye and I've seen it before. If he thinks this is going to be his life, he'll give up and die. He'd rather be dead than in prison."
"Ham, this is hardly Attica," Alicia reminded him.
"Well, apparently this isn't his first experience with confinement. And from what I can tell prison is just as bad in the future. He's as scarred as anybody we'd pull out of, say, your Attica. Anyway, all he has to do is think he'll never be home, wherever that is, and that could be enough to do it."
They both drank their coffee in silence for a few moments. "All right," she agreed, "Paris is 'at risk'. What about the other two? And do they know about the lieutenant's shaky condition?"
Alicia was not pleased when there was no improvement in Smith's demeanor. "Tuvok knows about Paris. He must have had some medical experience himself. He was a real pro in the last crisis. And I think he saw the same thing in Paris that I did. But dammit, Tuvok has problems of his own. The MPs said they've seen him whispering to thin air like he's having a real conversation with somebody. I don't know if he's psychotic or if this is normal behavior for an alien."
"And Harry Kim?" Smith smiled. "Well, Harry's the most stable, physically. I don't think he knows about Tom's risk, and I don't expect Tuvok to tell him. He wanted to rage against me, against any of us, but so far Tuvok's been able to rein him in."
Warrington sat back and sighed. "Let me see if I have this straight. You're telling me I have one man who might die, another who's losing his mind, and a third who's looking to attack us. Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Ham, we must have these little 3 am chats more often."
"Alicia, I wish I had better news for you. But, I know how you feel about surprises and I didn't want to blindside you in the morning." He drank a little more coffee. "What will happen to them if they get passed up the line as alien captives?"
"You probably know that better than I do," she accused. "The protocol for alien examination and disposal is clear. Tuvok was right." He winced. She responded defensively, "Don't look at me like that. This isn't my policy or my decision. You know that I don't personally think this is the best way to deal with the unknown. But I have limited authority."
"You're right. I'm sorry," Ham offered. When he saw her relax a little, he pushed forward. "But you have all the authority here. It's still your choice whether they get passed on. How much have you reported to your superiors?"
"Nothing specific. Crashed plane, injured pilots, investigation underway, the usual. Given the recent bizarre events, I didn't think it was too smart to tell them anything more until I know what's going on. I'm not really willing to lay my career on the line over a broken pilot or a man with green blood and invisible friends. At this point, it's personal I want the truth and I want supporting evidence. Until then, I can stall Washington with the standard paperwork. In triplicate."
Ham smiled, "Well, it's times like these that I'm glad I'm not the boss." He was warmed to see her smile in return. Smith stood, stretched, and yawned. "I'm going to check on our guests one more time and then head back to bed. Are you going to get any sleep tonight?"
"We'll see," Alicia replied. She pulled her chair closer to the table and opened the next file. Ham looked at her for a moment, bent down, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She looked up at him, not surprised by his tenderness. "Okay," she acknowledged, "I'll be there soon."
The grogginess lightened just a little and Tom thought he heard a child crying. He struggled to fuller awareness so that he could find the child. But the room was dark and he heard only snoring. Thirsty and groggy from drugs, Tom worked harder to wake up. As he tried to move, he found he couldn't. He tried to flex his arms and they wouldn't budge, his legs wouldn't move, even his chest was secured to the bed.
'Oh, gods,' he thought fearfully, 'they'll get me now.' All consideration of the crying child that had brought him awake was forgotten. He understood that he was just waiting meat set out for those who were after him.
"No, no," he whimpered struggling hard against the unforgiving restraints. Panic fueled surging protests against the bonds. But nothing worked. He was aware that someone was at his side, a male voice calling his name. He remembered the crying child and cursed at and pleaded with the man at his side. "Damn you, damn you! Don't do this. Please."
Suddenly a bright light blinded him. When he blinked his eyes open he was bewildered to see Tuvok and Harry standing over him. "What . . . ?"
"Tom, you were having a nightmare."
"No," he corrected. He knew it hadn't been a nightmare. Nothing bad had happened to him when he was asleep. It was waking up and finding himself tied down in the dark that had triggered his struggles. "Please. Untie me."
"We can't. You could hurt yourself."
"No," he told them again and took a deep breath to collect himself so that he could try to sound reasonable. "No, you don't understand."
"What don't we understand?" Harry asked, his voice soft.
Tom tried to remember. He knew it was important. It felt almost as if his life depended upon it, but he couldn't remember. What was wrong with him? Why couldn't he remember? His fear turned to unfocused rage and he cursed at them, "Fuck you! Fuck you!"
Their voices told him he would be okay, that everything would be all right. He raged at them. How could they tie him up and keep him helpless? Gods, they had no right to do this. But their soothing voices persisted in telling him nonsense and gradually the drugs reclaimed him to the dark oblivion.
Once Tom had settled down and dropped back to sleep, a very shaken Harry Kim asked Sam, "What's wrong with him?"
Sam called upon his long ago medical residency and his photographic memory. "Head injury and post-traumatic stress result in unpredictable outcomes."
"What does it mean?"
"For Tom? I don't know. We had a case of a young woman. She'd been in an auto accident, but it also turned out that she'd been a victim of child abuse. Well, she'd put up the same kind of fight as Tom, and when she came to and realized she was restrained, she went crazy. Eventually, she exerted so much force against the restraints that she broke a few more bones. It just got worse and worse for her."
"What happened to her?" Harry asked.
"Eventually she was released. I don't know what happened to her after that." Sam tried to pull himself out of the past. "Hey, at least Tom hasn't broken any bones and he's gone back to sleep. Harry, I'm sure that once Tom's back on your ship he'll be all right."
Harry knew he was being fed a line to make him feel better, but he let Sam get away with it. He wanted to believe that Tom would be all right. "Yeah. I guess so. Tom will be fine."
The Colonel, The Captain, and The Admiral
Janeway dozed on the couch in her ready room when her comm badge chirped. "Janeway," she said yawning and stretching.
"Captain. We've got it."
"The cloaking device. It's going to work."
Janeway knuckled the sleep out of her tired eyes. "How soon can we leave?"
"Good work, B'Elanna. Chakotay and I will meet you at the shuttle."
Torres activated the cloaking device as Chakotay piloted the shuttle closer to Earth. All wore their Starfleet uniforms. As Janeway told her first officer, the Colonel was anticipating their arrival so there was no need for subterfuge.
Janeway fretted a little over the Admiral's absence. "He said he'd be here," she muttered.
"Who?" Chakotay asked.
"I'm sure he'll do the best he can. Between Tuvok and Braxton, he's got his hands full too." Janeway nodded thinking that Chakotay was probably right.
From her place at the engineering station, an undisguised B'Elanna hailed Voyager, "Vorik?"
"Yes, Lieutenant. The cloaking device is working at 84% efficiency."
"Let's hope that's enough," she retorted crankily, her sour mood gaining her the holodoc's professional, but unverbalized, appraisal.
"Entering Earth's atmosphere," Chakotay announced.
In the predawn darkness, the cloaked shuttle settled on the tarmac outside the hangar. Phasers at the ready, the four members of the away team silently fanned out from the shuttle. Janeway motioned them toward the hangar and they approached from different angles. Encountering no resistance, they clustered by the elevator door.
Janeway frowned and whispered, "Chakotay, I think they've made this too easy."
He briefly rested his hand on her arm and gave her the full benefit of his dimples. "The welcome mat appears to be out. Maybe we can do this without conflict."
"Agreed. B'Elanna, keep your phaser handy, set on stun. You'll be our first source of defense. Everyone else, put your phasers away." Chakotay pressed the button to the side of the elevator door in imitation of Sam's action in the hospital. The group waited in silence for the elevator to arrive. Torres vigilantly scanned the area as if expecting to be surprised by armed guards at any moment.
Before the elevator doors opened, Al stepped out of his own door, resplendent in his dress whites. He looked around in puzzled silence at the quiet group before him. "Where's the party?"
"Glad you could make it," Janeway replied, with a hint of relief. She didn't quite have a handle on the Admiral at times he was so professional, but he could also be a bit of a renegade, a man clearly used to doing things his own way. Still, Janeway was glad to have someone from the 20th Century on her side. He carried a handlink in his left hand and a rectangular case in his right. Curious, she began to ask about his plan, but he pointed up to a surveillance camera fixed on them and stated loud enough for all to hear, "Security."
Janeway nodded and any further discussion was cut short when the elevator arrived and its doors opened. Janeway motioned the group inside, "Shall we?" Al stepped forward first and led the doctor to the back wall. The others entered and the elevator automatically began its descent. This time B'Elanna pointed out the security cameras mounted in the corners.
To no one's surprise, there was a contingent of 20th Century military police greeting them when the elevator reached its destination. Weapons were pointed at them, but the away team indicated their peaceful intent by raising their hands in the air.
Al just gave them a withering look and made two MPs break eye contact. He didn't smile, but privately, he loved being able to intimidate them so easily. Although well trained, one of the guards gasped audibly upon clearly seeing B'Elanna. She gave the offending MP a mild 'get over it' growl. Janeway flashed her a warning look, but B'Elanna had been up for days and she had little patience left for 20th Century ignorance.
"Lt. Johannsen," the head of security greeted them. "Colonel Warrington is waiting for you. She'll meet you in the conference room. Follow me directly any effort to stray will be met with a forceful response. Don't bother to ask any questions until we're in the room . . ." Johannsen continued giving instructions, but couldn't take his gaze off B'Elanna for very long. Al used this diversion to whisper to the holodoc as he dropped something into the doctor's medpack. The MPs parted on either side of the away team and escorted them to the conference room.
Although Al Calavicci outranked either of the two women, the captain and the colonel spent silent moments sizing up each other. They exchanged not quite full blown versions of the 'Death Glare' as they warily bonded. He sensed there was a grudging respect for the inconvenience each had caused the other. For their parts, Tarani, Hernandez, Smith, Rain, and Johannsen sized up their counterparts. All of Warrington's people gave the admiral covert glances. He truly cut an imposing figure.
Janeway waited for Warrington to break the silence. It was her home turf. Finally, the colonel introduced herself. "I'm Colonel Alicia Warrington. Your appearance here is not entirely unexpected."
"So I gather. Captain Kathryn Janeway."
"And you are from . . . ?" Janeway hesitated briefly and Warrington smiled. "It's quite all right Captain. There's nothing that you can't say in front of my staff. They all have security clearances." Warrington briefly introduced each member and Janeway did the same.
'Warrington must have briefed them on Tom's interview,' Janeway sighed to herself. Maybe the truth was the simplest way to do this. "I'm captain of a starship named Voyager. We were exploring what you would consider deep space when a shuttle containing Tom and Harry got pulled into a wormhole. We followed and we ended up in this time and place. Our goal, our only goal is to gather our crew and return to our own timeline."
"You've mentioned time twice. Then you're really not of this time?"
"No," Janeway responded. "We belong to a different time."
"The 24th Century?"
Rain whispered "Wow!", but Smith quickly silenced any further comments. Warrington made a mental note that she was going to have to talk to Rain about developing a poker face.
"I see," continued Warrington. "And what are your intentions here on Earth?"
"Colonel, I assure we are entirely peaceful. We simply want our crew back and then we'll disappear from your lives. No further -- " Janeway paused to consider the right word. With a slight smile she supplied it, " -- mess."
B'Elanna found this dance of diplomacy unbearably slow. She trusted her Captain to do what's right, but she couldn't stand this any longer. "What are you doing?" she snarled at the Colonel. "You already know all of this. You extracted that knowledge from Tom without his permission!"
The Captain began to interrupt B'Elanna, but the Colonel took up the challenge. "Yes, we did. That became an unfortunate necessity. As I'm sure you can understand, we needed to know whether your people posed any threats to us. No doubt you've been monitoring Earth's communications to protect yourselves." Warrington turned to the Captain. "We may not have the same technologies, but we have the same responsibilities to the safety of our crew. Perhaps you've found yourself in the same position in the past." Kathryn didn't respond, but she couldn't deny the truth of the Colonel's words. The Colonel continued, "What is still not clear is whether your pilot's revelations were a clever ruse or a chronicle of actual events. Either way, his story presents us with interesting possibilities."
"Or a headache that won't go away." Janeway smiled.
Warrington was slightly amused. "I'll admit you've kept us busy."
"What's the status of our crew?"
"Your crew are all right. We're letting them sleep in."
Warrington turned her attention back to the rest of them. "Dr. Smith can tell you."
"As you know, your Lt. Paris was injured in the crash. Physically, he's in fair condition, much better than I'd normally see at this point." Smith looked directly at the holodoc, and couldn't quite keep all of his respect hidden. "I gather we have you to thank for some timely intervention yesterday. But he's struggled a bit and had some crisis episodes. We had to restrain and sedate him to prevent further injury." B'Elanna felt jolted, picturing Tom under those conditions. Chakotay must have glossed over his injuries on the shuttle ride back to Voyager. Smith didn't miss her reaction, but he didn't comment on it either. He looked at her when he continued in a calming tone, "I checked on him a little while ago and he was sleeping comfortably."
"What about Ensign Kim and Commander Tuvok?" Chakotay asked.
They were also up most of the night caring for Paris," Smith replied. "They're in better shape, just experiencing normal exhaustion."
"I believe they would appreciate being awakened for this meeting," Janeway said gazing directly at Warrington.
"I believe we'll let them rest for now," Warrington countered. "We have a great deal to discuss, don't you agree? Perhaps you'd like some coffee?"
'Coffee,' Janeway thought, registering the strong odor of a fresh brewed pot. 'Yes, a little time out for the amenities would be fine.'
Once the coffee and donuts were distributed, for the first time in the meeting, Admiral Calavicci cleared his throat and caught everyone's attention. He stood and placed his briefcase on the table. "Colonel Warrington, I have orders that I believe will expedite matters." He pulled out a large envelope and slid it across the table to her. As she began to read, he summarized, "I'll cut to the chase. These are orders signed by your commanding admiral. You're to turn over the three men to Captain Janeway immediately. The orders also place a black-out on all information related to this event."
Warrington took her time, glancing over the pages. Al knew that she was stalling in an effort to regain authority. Fine with him, he could wait. Janeway had used the time to eyeball the conference room, noting, as did the others on her team, the security cameras placed in two corners of the room's ceiling. She disguised her interest in the room by savoring her coffee. Down through the ages she knew that the military had been notorious for its bad coffee, but after years of replicated coffee and ersatz coffee, Janeway appreciated the beverage in her cup. She had to admit that it tasted very, very good.
As the Colonel read and the Captain sipped, the rest began to squirm slightly under the growing tension. Finally, Warrington gave the admiral a faint smile. "I wonder what would happen if I contacted her for confirmation," Warrington mused.
Well-played, Al thought. "As we both know, Colonel, your commanding officer is out of the country and can't be reached at this time. Her status is classified. I can guarantee that she knows of the special nature of this meeting but she'll feign ignorance at even the most casual inquiry. I now have authority over this matter."
Janeway was unsure how Al was able to pull this off, but she was glad to see it. She never expected Warrington's next reaction.
Warrington tossed the papers on the table, and simply said, "No."
All of her team were momentarily astonished, and only Johannsen risked a glance at the Admiral. The rising crimson in Al's face was a quite a contrast to the white collar. Al's voice was tightly, but barely controlled when he spoke again. "I don't think I understood you correctly, Colonel. You've been given a direct order, with which you will comply. I'm not making a request, I'm simply here to monitor personnel transfer. I'm on a tight schedule, so I want those men here and ready to leave in 15 minutes. Any interference and you'll deeply regret it. I'll squash your career and that of your people as easily as I'd squash week old bananas." Rain winced at that one. She didn't know if he had any authority over her, but she sure hoped not. She noticed that Hernandez looked a little sick too. By way of contrast, B'Elanna nodded in approval.
Warrington, however, was unmoved. She simply repeated, "No."
The silence increased the tension in the room as if they still held weapons on each other. When she thought she saw a slight crack in his armor, Warrington went on the offensive. Leaning forward, she began, "Admiral, I may not have much on these people," pointing to the Voyager crew, "but when you pulled rank at the hospital, I did a little digging and found plenty of information about you. First, I don't know exactly what's going on, but I'm not sure your authority is valid. I got some reports that you retired from the Navy and other contacts said the retirement was fake and you're still on active duty on a secret project. Either way, you have no direct authority over my unit." Crack. "Second , if you really do work on a secret project, then you know my position. I have complete control of this facility until my superior shows up on the doorstep." Crack. Crack. "Third, as they say in the Westerns and cop shows, you're surrounded. This place is crawling with my MPs and they will follow *my orders*. Nobody's going anywhere until I get some satisfaction. Now why don't you take a seat?" Crack, crack, crack.
Janeway was stunned. Maybe she was dazzled by his cockiness, but she really thought Al had something to offer. Why had he interrupted and pushed so hard this early in negotiations? His plan had done nothing. Still, she reminded herself that he wanted Sam back as much as she wanted Tom, Tuvok, and Harry, and there were still some limits on his resources. She felt a little sympathy for him when she noticed a slight tremble in his hands. He looked a bit ashen when he sat back down.
The others could feel the power shift in the room and turned their attention back to Warrington. Warrington gave a Cheshire cat smile to Janeway and waited. She could see the wheels spinning behind the Captain's eyes.
"Colonel," Janeway began. "I understand your position. If someone came onto my ship, even if they were expected, I'd need some answers. I'd probably keep their people, too, until I knew my own were protected." Janeway admired Warrington's poker face. The captain did not look at Al when she spoke again. "Perhaps the Admiral has overstated by a bit the urgency of our situation. Maybe we can slow this discussion down a little at this point and hear what you have to say. And in exchange for our cooperation, I have one small request."
"There's no question that you've tried to provide quality care to our crewman," Janeway said as she nodded towards Smith. "But we still have concerns about them, particularly Lt. Paris, Tom. Please allow our doctor to check on them while we talk. You have my word that we pose no threat to you or to your facility."
Warrington moved slightly, catching Smith's eye. She could see the doctor in him winning out over the soldier again. Now that everyone had acknowledged her authority, she felt she could afford to be cautiously generous. The Colonel let the Captain sit a little longer before responding, "Send the doctor. He'll be accompanied by my personnel and he'll be continuously monitored." Warrington didn't break eye contact with Janeway again. She simply waved a few fingers casually in the air.
At that, Smith rose and nudged Rain. Rain wanted to race to the door, thrilled to be getting out of this room and realizing that she hadn't seen Tom in several hours. But Smith forced her to take a leisurely pace. Johannsen went to the door and signaled for four MPs. The holodoc was almost at the door when Janeway sweetly called, "Dr., I believe you forgot your assistant." She tried to be casual as she turned and said, "B'Elanna, shouldn't you be helping the doctor?" B'Elanna began to jump up, but Chakotay held her arm when he saw Johannsen look to the Colonel. Warrington gave an almost imperceptible nod, and Chakotay let her go. Though neither would admit it, both commanders were happy to have their most volatile crew out of the room.
Smith led B'Elanna and the holodoc to Paris' cell, cautioning them at the door, "They should all be asleep. Please don't disturb them more than you have to." Smith thought that the two seemed ready to enter, but he didn't want any problems inside. "One more thing about Paris. He's still in restraints --" Smith noticed the young woman tense "-- and so long as he's here, awake or asleep, that's how he stays. It's for his own sake, it's not a punishment."
B'Elanna looked through the window first. In the very dim light, she saw a small room crowded with a bed and two cots. Because her eyes were not dark adapted she couldn't make out the identities of the people sleeping in the room. Disgruntled, she growled, "If we're to check on Tom's condition, we need to go inside even if it does wake them up."
Smith told her, "Please lower your voice. They don't need to be rattled to wakefulness."
Smith unlocked the door and led the engineer and the holodoc inside. The light from the corridor spilled into the room so that they could see enough to make their way to the sleeping men. Rain watched as B'Elanna and the holodoc headed straight for the man she now thought of as 'her' Tom. The woman almost draped herself over the pilot when she reached his bedside. Johannsen put a gentle but restraining hand on Rain's arm when the younger woman started to head inside the room.
Rain struggled briefly with Johannsen. "Let go," she complained.
"No. You let go, Rain. He's with his people now."
"They're going to take him away from me."
"He's not yours. Look."
From the doorway, Rain saw Tom briefly surface to consciousness from sleep. He recognized B'Elanna and smiled broadly. It was as though his face was lit from within, glowing with genuine happiness. Then his eyes closed and he fell back to sleep.
Rain bit her lip. "He loves her."
"I'm sorry," Johannsen sympathized.
Inside the room, Smith pulled out his stethoscope and applied it to Tom's chest, while the doctor ran a scan across his head. Smith noticed as B'Elanna gently whispered to him. She had more bedside manner than he envisioned and although he'd anticipated trouble from her over the restraints, the young woman left the restraints in place.
The holodoc finished his scan and turned to walk to Sam's and Harry's cots. He bumped B'Elanna as he turned, but she didn't seem to notice. When he reached Harry's cot, he reopened his medpack and began scanning Harry, gently nudging him awake. Harry began to ask questions, but was quickly silenced when he saw all of the activity in the room. He was surprised when the holodoc started to press his wrist for a pulse like the hospital staff, but it was then that he felt the commbadges the doc had palmed him. Surreptitiously, Harry patted Sam on the back to place the commbadge on him. Seeing this last gesture, the holodoc tapped his badge and spoke softly.
Rain realized too late what was happening. "No. Stop them!"
Not letting himself be disturbed, the holodoc said, "Five to beam up directly to sick bay."
Johannsen and the MPs rushed into the room at Rain's alarm, but they were too late. Smith stepped back in shock as the five Voyager crew disappeared in a shower of blue shimmering light. Shocked, Johannsen held his gun on vacant beds. The restraints that had held Tom Paris now rested on an empty bed.
Haylene understood that Tuvok and Sam were at a critical part in their switched identities. Drawing upon all her powers she monitored the situation carefully. But her curiosity would not be satisfied with passive observation.
Before their discussion had gone much further, a red-faced Johannsen entered the conference room with Rain and Smith not far behind. Rain's eyes were moist with tears. Johannsen pulled the colonel aside for an urgent, whispered conversation. Janeway and Chakotay exchanged glances.
Coldly furious, Warrington turned on Janeway, bringing with her a very large iceberg to sit at the table with them. "It seems your people disappeared into thin air! What the hell is going on?"
Warrington thought that Janeway was a great actress or genuinely surprised. She watched as Janeway glanced sharply at Chakotay, who simply shrugged. Warrington wasn't sure, but Janeway's next words sounded a little taken aback. "Colonel, I did not know about nor did I authorize what happened. I gave you my word that I'd cooperate as much as I could and I intended to keep it. Think about it as hostages, surely the captain and first officer of a starship are far more important than an injured pilot and the others of my crew that you held here. Why would I put us at risk and give you a stronger bargaining position?"
The Colonel and Captain locked gazes, each with eyes narrowed as they tried to read the other. Their respective crews stood helplessly around them in silence. It was only when they heard his lighter flicking open that anyone remembered that the Admiral was still in the room. He lit a cigar and took a satisfying puff. When he looked back at Warrington, he was pleased to see it was her turn to shake with anger. With a flourish of his cigar, Al pronounced, "That, Colonel, is the difference between authority and power."
He began blowing little smoke rings, and waited for everyone to sit again as they began to understand his message.
Warrington looked ready to shoot him herself, but Janeway was the first to speak. "Al, Admiral, what have you done?"
"Captain, I did what was necessary. That's all I can tell you for now."
"How?" Warrington spat.
The Admiral finally faced her. "If I told you, you wouldn't believe me anyway. Suffice it to say that my cook has some interesting recipes." He turned to Janeway and Chakotay. "He asked not be disturbed while he's cooking, but he assures me that everyone will be eating dinner at their own tables tonight." They tried to mask their recognition of the Braxton reference, but their relief was apparent. Al looked to the Colonel and continued, "Warrington, relax. Nothing else needs to happen. Obviously, I can remove the rest of us and you can't stop it. You said you wanted 24th Century evidence and now you have it. I'm sure your security cameras in that little cell captured all you'll need."
Warrington glared at her tactical officer, the iceberg growing in size, a cold blue presence in the now chilly room. Tarani shook his head, "If what they described is real, nobody is anywhere near that technology. Even if there are people experimenting with displacement in time, they'd have no way to control it." 'No kidding,' Al thought to himself. "And to move five biological beings simultaneously . . . ," Tarani continued, "Colonel, this just doesn't exist. It's years ahead of us."
Al let her absorb all of this before he continued. "I did warn you that I was on a tight schedule and gave you an easier way to do this." He then flashed her a smile. "Cheer up, Colonel. You can take pride in the fact that you succeeded for so long. And just so you don't come out of this empty-handed, I'll offer you a fair trade before we go."
Stunned, Warrington recognized an opponent who played hardball. Before Tarani had answered she knew that her moment was over. The Colonel had been in Calavicci's boots on other days and remembered when she had been the one offering the face-saving gesture. "What do you have in mind . . . Sir?"
"Before we were so rudely interrupted," Al glanced at Johannsen, "I was listening to you. You asked smart questions, but you have no way of verifying the Captain's answers. You want the truth, that's what's really driving all of this activity isn't it?" Warrington refused to give him the satisfaction of an answer, but they both knew he was right. "Why don't we talk about it?"
Warrington understood and dismissed all but Johannsen and Smith. "Continue," she said.
Calavicci smiled. "It's simple. I have contacts that can give you the truth. Photos, biological samples, classified reports, all of it."
Janeway was appalled. What was he doing now? "Admiral, the Prime Directive . . . "
"Relax, Kathryn," he replied. Chakotay did not respond happily to Al's overfamiliarity, but he realized that there was no reason that they shouldn't be on a first name basis now. "First, that Directive doesn't apply to me." Janeway's gasp was barely audible, but all heard her. "And second, I'm only sharing what already exists at this time. Remember you weren't the first visitors to Earth."
Admiral Calavicci turned back to Warrington. She successfully concealed her excitement; Smith was almost successful. The iceberg shrank in size as the Colonel asked, "How can you make this happen?"
"An old Navy buddy of mine had a daughter. He's gone now, but she's all grown up and works at the FBI. I've sort of watched over her since she joined the Bureau and we have an understanding. I'll warn you that her partner is kind of a flake and has no sense of military order, but she's a scientist and a straight arrow. Nobody you could trust knows more than these two." Al slid a second envelope across the table to Warrington. "Take this letter of introduction and she'll give you what you need. She'd probably be willing to make a trade. And you *can* call her for confirmation."
Warrington read the letter and passed it to Johannsen, who stepped out of the room. The iceberg still chilled the air, but realizing she had nothing to lose at this point, the Colonel asked, "The truth is a valuable commodity. What does it cost today?"
"Alicia, you're getting the better part of this deal." Al jabbed his cigar at Janeway and Chakotay. "As they've said, our friends here have a long journey ahead and don't expect to be back to Earth for a few centuries -- " Chakotay flinched slightly, "They could use a some supplies."
"Supplies?" Warrington asked. If they really have advanced technology, what could she have that they would possibly need? For a second, scenes from Smith's favorite scifi B-movies flashed across her mind.
"Food, toiletries, all the things that keep a crew functional. Now since you live on an abandoned Air Force base, you can't be running to the supermarket every week, so I expect that you have a little stockpile for a rainy day. In fact, you have a full warehouse three floors down. I bet you could spare a few boxes."
'How does he know this stuff,' Warrington thought. She asked "And how do I account for the missing supplies?"
Before Al could answer, Johannsen returned and whispered to Warrington. Al noticed that she didn't seem quite so stiff. He took another puff on his cigar, watched as she dismissed Johannsen again and then continued, "I hear that people with their own secret projects have some discretionary budgets. A little creative bookkeeping should take care of your problems. Take it out of the car pool funds."
"You hear?" Warrington asked a little sarcastically.
"You know, the Washington rumor mill," he replied straightfaced.
The Admiral, the Colonel, and the Captain all recognized the fudging that command occasionally allowed. For the first time, they shared a smile together.
Only Hammond Smith could feel the experiences of the last days swirling in Alicia Warrington. The conversations about alien extraction, Paris' interview and the risk of his death, the risk to her reputation. He also knew that she recognized that this was the first time that she'd had some bargaining power since the disappearance of Janeway's crew. Warrington's Cheshire smile returned. "*If* I had a car pool fund, I couldn't cover more than $5,000."
"The price of gas has gone up. I think you could cover $100,000," Al countered.
"We still have to cover the up-front costs of this event . . . medical, personnel . . . and I expect there will be some expense to making this situation officially disappear," she complained.
But Al noticed it was a half-hearted complaint. "Agreed, but if you change your own oil for the next year, I bet you can cover $50,000."
Warrington used her poker face to its best effect for a full minute. Finally, she nodded, "Done. But, I want some of the Captain's time, her expertise if you will on what I believe to be an important matter."
The Admiral got up and shook her hand. "Ma'am, you'd be a formidable opponent if we had to drag this out any further. But I respect you." He leaned in a little closer to speak to her and Smith. He knew that Janeway would think he was interfering, but this was still his meeting. Thinking of his project with Sam in the New Mexico desert, Al suggested,"When you and your husband here are ready to 'retire', I know of a little place that you might find interesting. It's real Boy Scout, you know, just your style." His smile disappeared as he said, "However, there are some things that you must never, ever do again no more interviews ," Warrington looked at him a little quizzically, but Smith read him completely. Al continued after taking a deep breath, "You have other talents that could be put to good use."
Warrington couldn't help being intrigued. "Well, if we retire, how do we find you?"
Al gave her his most charming look. "Don't worry, I'll find you." Before she could respond, he turned to Janeway and Chakotay. "Captain, tell your Neelix to throw out that purple wiggly crap. It looks like good eating tonight."
Janeway decided it was time that she contribute to this conversation. "Colonel, you said you wanted to talk to me?"
"Your commander Tuvok challenged me with an important question."
"He asked what my orders were with respect to aliens." Warrington's mouth smirked. "You see my job here is to monitor for aliens. And if I find any, he knew exactly what I was supposed to do about it. But his description, as I saw it from his 'alien' point of view, led me to believe that I may have a new mission."
Smith watched her and realized that she was indeed synthesizing some of her experiences of the past few days and returning to some of the themes he heard her raise in the late night misgivings and musings she'd shared with him before coming to their bed.
"A new mission?" Janeway questioned with a raised eyebrow worthy of her security officer.
"Yes. A mission of education. Your misfortune and that of your crew may have served an important purpose. I'm operating on the premise that you are from the future, that your pilot was truthful, that Tuvok and your chief engineer here have what we call 'alien blood'. This premise means that I must accept the conclusion, however improbable I might have once found it, that there are alien races on other planets. That some of these races are technologically advanced and that it is in our by that I mean Earth's best interests to alter its current policy toward aliens and to adopt a more scientific and less militaristic stance. You *are* our future."
Janeway was taken aback. The admiral hadn't prepared her for this side of the colonel. Yes, the admiral had told her that Warrington seemed to have had second thoughts about the morality of questioning Tom under drugs, but he hadn't conveyed to her any of this more visionary side of the officer.
"I'm pleased to hear you say that," Janeway told her sincerely. "You realize that I'm prohibited by our rules from sharing information about the future with you?"
"I wouldn't expect anything different, Captain. As you are probably aware, our salvage of your shuttlecraft uncovered absolutely nothing that would prove your vessel was a UFO."
Chakotay couldn't keep his smile from breaking out of his control. The colonel noticed and added, "Disappearing shuttle pieces were a source of considerable discussion among my officers. You did your job well."
"Thank you," he murmured.
The iceberg had thawed enough for Warrington to invite her guests to replenish their coffee and donuts. Savoring her second cup of coffee, Janeway asked Warrington, "So. What is your agenda?"
"Another exchange. Admiral Calavicci, who is not from the future," 'little do you know', thought Janeway "was able to secure orders from my superiors who clearly had no idea of your origins and were I able to tell them otherwise, they might change their orders. After all, the protocol concerning aliens was their plan."
Her dark eyes locked on to the admiral's. But he was too good a poker player to give her any satisfaction.
"You indicated an exchange," Janeway reminded her. "We've got our crew back, you have a solid lead to get to the truth about aliens, and you've promised us supplies. So what's to exchange?"
Janeway was fully prepared to deny any request for advanced technology, scientific information, or other kinds of prohibited articles. But Warrington surprised her. "I believe I am called to a new mission. I want your advice on developing a proposal that can gain support in the military and in the political arena so that when, and I emphasize the word 'when', the aliens arrive we're properly prepared to meet with them in good faith to the betterment of all. I don't know which aliens will come calling, but we need to be ready. I believe I need your assistance and that of the admiral, who is so obviously well connected, to develop my proposal. It's clear to me this morning that the admiral already must share my calling for a revised protocol or he wouldn't have spent his clout on assisting you."
Al and Janeway exchanged startled glances. This colonel was proving to be nothing like either expected. Warrington surprised them again. "Of course, it has occurred to me that the admiral could be following the old protocol and that his efforts are simply to gain control of this situation to achieve that agenda for his group. My sources tell me that the admiral is very well connected in Washington. What side are you on, Admiral?" All eyes were on Al to his great discomfort. "You're right. I am well connected. My 'side' is one you know nothing about. But my interests are best served in helping Captain Janeway. If helping you develop your proposal serves to help her, then you have my complete cooperation. I can't tell you much more than that."
"Fine," Warrington agreed. "Now. Other than your crew, I must keep what I have: the so called 'worthless' shuttle debris, the sample we took of your commander's blood, and the tapes from my security cameras. I may need these to show to key people to persuade them to consider my proposal."
"I'm not sure we could do that," Janeway countered. But Chakotay gave her a thoughtful expression that suggested she might consider the colonel's demand. "Excuse me."
Janeway, Al, and Chakotay put their heads together for a whispered conference. Slowly, Janeway began to nod as Chakotay reminded her of their own past. When she pulled away from Chakotay and Al, she offered her thoughts to Warrington. "In my time I've seen the importance of different races, different species, different philosophies coming together to pursue a common goal. The commander and I were once enemies . . . "
'And,' Al judged, 'now you're almost lovers'.
Janeway continued, "but we were thrown together and learned to work together to survive. Any proposal that pushes an agenda of peaceful cooperation has my support. I can't give you anything else as evidence, but I won't take away what you have."
"But is it important?" Warrington asked.
Janeway looked directly into Warrington's dark eyes. "Yes. It's important."
The iceberg finally left the room. Although warmth wasn't fully restored, Janeway's act of trust allowed the colonel to regain face. She looked at Smith, then back at Janeway and sighed. "All right."
After working for several hours they took a break. Hernandez had been invited into the room to enter the elements of the proposal onto a laptop. She left with a floppy disk to get printed copies for them. During her absence, the two groups mingled somewhat uneasily. The Colonel managed to buttonhole the Captain by the coffee pot.
"So, they still have coffee in the future," Warrington observed and managed to elicit a wry smile from Janeway.
The Captain refilled her cup. "Not enough where we are."
"I'm curious, and I suppose you can't tell me, but I have the sense that you and your ship weren't having a very good time of it in the future."
"No. I can't tell you much. But it's not the future itself. It's where we were in the future."
Warrington understood the weariness in the red haired woman's tone and couldn't help but notice the tiredness that permeated her body language. "I gather you're going back anyway."
"We'll be doing our best to get back to where we belong," Janeway told her carefully.
Warrington hesitated, then voiced what was on her mind. "My husband," she nodded toward Smith "Dr. Smith, told me some very disturbing things about the condition of your pilot before his shuttle crashed. I guess I don't understand."
Janeway filed away the information about the relationship between Warrington and Smith for later consideration. She looked straight at her counterpart. Sighing, and thinking about what she knew of Tom's life, she said, "I don't understand either. I wish I did. He's . . . he's . . . Tom is . . ." words finally failed her. Then she finished her thought. "He deserves better than he's had."
"When you have a chance, tell him I'm sorry." Warrington's brown eyes radiated sincerity.
Noting that Janeway was closeted with Warrington, Al walked up to Chakotay. "How are things going?"
"What are you two doing exactly?" His tone was no longer casual.
Chakotay carefully considered the possible meanings of the admiral's question. He could believe that the question referred to his relationship with Kathryn. Or he could take it as a question about their motive for working with the colonel and her group. He chose the question he wanted to answer and replied thoughtfully, "You tell us that Sam Beckett leaps to set things right that once went wrong. I think that's what we're doing. I'm not sure Kathryn would see it that way. But I guess I see a force greater than ourselves at work here."
"You may be right," Al conceded.
Hernandez returned with printed copies of the proposal and passed copies around for everyone. Warrington led the group back to their seats.
An hour later, with agreed on changes made to the proposal, the group wound up its business. Standing by the table, Warrington suggested to Janeway, "I guess your shopping trip is next."
"I'm looking forward to it," she smiled.
"I've asked Hernandez and Johannsen to go with you. They'll take you down, arrange for payment, and see to delivery up to the hangar above us. Then, I imagine you will have your own methods of getting the supplies to your ship. It's getting late now, but a few hours of shopping this evening, a full day tomorrow, and that may do it."
Janeway's smile broadened to a genuine grin. "I think we can handle that. Thank you, Colonel."
"And you, Captain," Warrington smiled back, the warmth reflected in her voice. Hernandez looked on in surprise. Apart from Smith, no one would have remembered seeing her really smile before. She added, "It's been quite educational."