Location: Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
The mouse darted around corners. Jun followed, squealing and lunging, knife at the ready.
"Here, hand me that spanner." Tripp said to Jenny.
"So, it's agreed. I'll take the first part, where our end begins, and you get the last part, where Hayes arrives?" she asked.
"That's the plan." Tucker said, concentrating on his work. "If Hayes is harboring any kind of virus or whatever, I may hit the floor before we even get to Quarantine."
"Hmm. Seems like it would be monumentally unfair if that were to happen."
"No one ever said this would be fair. Check those levels, okay?"
"Oh, where has that child gone to?" Morgan asked.
Torres looked at him from a bed. "Uh, wha'?"
"You're useless." the doctor said, That damned spoiled brat! I am not responsible for him."
The door opened, but Morgan didn't hear it.
"Uh, what, Doc?" Torres asked, still drunk, still holding his jaw.
"I said as if it mattered to you in any way that spoiled brat is nowhere to be found. That child needs a good whacking."
"Did you just call my son spoiled?"
Pork loin. Side of cauliflower with a light cheese sauce. Bulgur with mushrooms.
Lili showed Brian how to make the sauce. "And not too high a flame."
"Why not? It'll cook faster, he said.
"It'll also burn faster, and it'll get gummy." she explained.
"Uh, thank you for teaching me this. Do you, do you think there are rumors you're going to leave the Enterprise
"That depends how today and tomorrow work out, she said, Right now, I need to concentrate on working. Take my mind off things I'm really worrying about. Okay?"
Tripp hoisted himself into a Jeffries tube. He began rerouting wires and was busy enough with it to not hear Ramirez. He did find something interesting, though.
When Tripp jumped out, there was Ramirez. "Sir, may I ask just what it is you're doing?"
"Doctor, are you ready?" Captain Archer asked through a communicator.
"As prepared as is possible. The pathway to Quarantine will be clear and the door, of course, will be open for the Major's arrival. I have everything ready, including tricoulamine."
"Tricoulamine? Isn't that a neurotoxin?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes, said the doctor. "In case of, well, of Commander Tucker or Ensign O'Day becoming painfully ill. Or of Hayes becoming violent. We are still not confirmed that he will be able to even tolerate the Quarantine delay. A man with such high levels of testosterone is bound to be impatient at best. If he tries to take his frustrations out on, say, Commander Tucker, then I feel we should be prepared."
Doug looked around the transporter room. He was about all set to just lay charges on the pads when he looked more closely. "Ah, yes, he said to himself. "These will do nicely." he laid three charges on the coordinate computer podium area and the other seven went behind the raised pads. "Yeah. These pads are gonna make excellent shrapnel."
"Do you think it will really work?" Treve asked.
"I cannot say." Chawev said, But our government supports it. It looks as if our punishments will be diminished, due to our efforts. That is something at least."
"This," Tripp said, handing Ramirez a cracked sensor that he had found, "is why we don't have working sensors. At least it explains some of them."
"But sir, I have readings that indicate that power is being rerouted." Ramirez said.
"Huh, well, we don't have real working sensors, Crewman."
"Sir, I must insist."
"Look, Ramirez, are you lookin' for a commendation or somethin'? 'Cause I don't hand 'em out and I don't have the time. Uh, get this analyzed. Figure out why it cracked. See if we got others like this."
"You got orders." Tucker departed.
"Okay." Ramirez said to no one. "But I still think it's not just some cracked sensors."
"Doctor, you don't make these kinds of decisions, Jonathan said.
"I am well aware of that, Captain, Phlox said, But I want it to be noted that while everyone else is busying themselves with trying to welcome this man, I want it to be understood that we may be unleashing a monster, and wedging open a doorway through which many more could cross over. This could be an elaborate means of beginning an invasion that we could be powerless to stop."
"Empress!" Dr. Morgan said, pasting on a fake smile. "Didn't see you come in."
Despite his broken jaw, Torres chuckled a little, then winced.
"Of course you didn't. What the hell happened to him?" she asked.
"I'll have to wire his jaw." Morgan said, He won't be able to talk and won't be able to eat anything solid for a while."
"There's almost nothing solid to eat here, anyway." The Empress said, So, tell me about my son being a brat again."
"Well." Morgan said, working on Torres while talking. "If I may speak a bit freely, it's just that he is undisciplined. I feel that Cutler indulges him too much."
"Cutler does what I tell her to do, Hoshi said, At least, most of the time. In any event, that's why I'm here. Have you seen her, or Jun? I can't find either of them, and it's time for Jun to have some supper. You need to come with me and look."
"Yimar, your judgment is simply not well developed, Polloria said.
"No, I think it's very well developed." the young girl said.
"Yimar, you are, you have been rejecting all advice." Chawev pointed out.
"Yes, she said, Mother is dead and I am the High Priestess. I may be young, still, but you will do as I say. I support this, this plan. And my decision is, for the second piece, for amplification, when it comes through our dishes my decision is to throw open the doors and, and to let anyone come and go as they wish, at any time."
Cutler came into the transporter Room. "I've got the Tactical targeting array rerouted completely. Should be a lot of power. Where are the charges?" she asked Doug.
"Over here. And twice as many over there. When they blow, the transporter pads will stay intact, at least for a while. Each one'll whip through the air like a discus. Should be able to do even more damage that way."
"Good thinkin', Old Man."
He opened his bag and emptied it, then started to remove his uniform.
"Don't tell me you're " she said.
"No, no. Just changing, he said. He stripped to his underthings and threw his uniform onto the pads. He put on a blue shirt and a dark jacket, and jeans, and stuffed a few changes of underwear and socks into his pockets.
"You look really twentieth century, she said, Why are you out of uniform?"
Tripp came in. "Time's a-wastin', kids. Hayes, what are you wearing?"
"These are the only really nice civvies I've got, even though they're hopelessly out of style, Doug explained. "And here." he gave his phase rifle to Cutler. "I don't want this."
"Don't want it?" she asked.
"No. And here." He handed over the dagger to Tucker, then took the extra knife out of his boot. "You'll need these where you're going. When you meet up with Jennifer down on the surface, these should be of help to you."
"Don't you need these?" Tripp asked. "I mean, c'mon. At least keep the knife. You don't know anything about where you're going."
"No, I suppose not, Doug admitted. "But I just, I don't want to make war anymore."
"Do you think propping open this doorway will have consequences? Unexpected ones, I mean, Treve said.
"Naturally." Chawev said, But I think it will all be very good for us. And the government agrees with me. Our lives are about to change."
"All right." Tripp took a deep breath. "First coordinates are laid in. Just push down on the levers. Once we're gone and you've confirmed that, change the coordinates to the second predefined and set to auto. When are the charges set for?"
"Seventy minutes from now, Doug said.
"I hope for your sake it's enough time." Tucker said, Bye, Old Man."
They shook hands. "Make sure she gets enough to eat, Doug said. He came over to Beth and kissed her on her right cheek. "Don't get another shiner, okay? And, uh, there's a hospital there. Get him there, maybe they can do something."
"You know he'll never go on his own, she said.
"Well, just try."
Doug returned to the coordinating computer as Tripp and Beth stepped onto pads. "Let's go." Tripp said, and Doug pressed down the levers.
"It's like waiting for a show to begin, Malcolm said to Hoshi over dinner.
"Except we don't know if it'll turn out to be a comedy or a tragedy, she said.
"Or a horror film, Phlox said, Is this seat taken?"
Auto. Check. Coordinates. Check. Check coordinates again. Timer. Check. Check timer again. Sweat sprang from Doug's palms as he confirmed things yet again. He looked around one last time. "I won't miss a thing, he said, stepping onto a pad and waiting for the transporter to send him away.
"Captain, there's been increased activity around the second-largest planet." T'Pol reported.
"More ships are coming, Travis pointed out. "It's even more than were here for the festival the other day."
Doug was, he was somewhere.
Grey. A little warm. Not falling but not really standing. He stood, as best he could, at attention. But that wasn't truly possible, and it was dull. His mind wandered.
He thought of Ganymede, and of being a child. He thought of Kathy Norris. You show me yours, I'll show you mine. Oh, yeah. He had been four years old at the time.
Then Darareaksmey Preap, the Cambodian bar girl who'd tolerated albeit just barely a young officer in Basic Training. She had taught him a few things, but almost no words of Khmer, except for the meaning of her first name: bright star.
He thought of Susan Cheshire, probably the closest he'd come to a real relationship while in his thirties. They had been together for four months when he'd started to realize just how dependent she was on synthbeer to get through her days.
Then Jennifer, sunbathing on Risa. They hadn't been together yet it was just a tease on her part. And she'd gotten badly sunburned. He'd rubbed a salve on her back and that had turned into something far different.
That image was interrupted by his hands around Lucas Donnelly's neck. Then a phaser shot to Ethan Shapiro's belly. And on and on, to knifing Geming Sulu in the gut.
There was a voice. "Funny, you can't remember all the lays but you do remember all the kills."
Doug was nonplussed for a second. "Jay?"
"You will live with the consequences, Yimar, Polloria said, I cannot help you anymore."
"Good, said the young girl. "I never asked for that. Nor did I ask to be the High Priestess. But I am now. And you and Baden have been without justice. If our side will not do it, their side might."
"C'mon, let's go do it on the transporter pad." Deb took Aidan's hand and led him to the transporter Room.
"Huh, there's laundry here, Aidan said.
"It's the Old Man's uni, she said, reading off the name on an arm patch. "I bet he's wandering around the halls in his undershorts, drooling."
"C'mon. Get your things off and you'll see drool, Aidan said.
"You really do have rocks in your head, said the voice. "Jay's dead."
"I know that. And I'm thinking you're not, well, not something supernatural."
"No." the voice laughed a little. "Don't you know what I am?"
The imagery appeared again. Donnelly, Shapiro, Harris, and on and on to Sulu. Surprised or angry, bloody or clean, all at the moments of their deaths. At Doug's own hands.
"How are you going to do it, Doug?" asked the voice. "How are you going to be there, live under their laws? How are you going to take what they might dish out, without exploding? Your track record, it's not so good."
"I'll manage, Doug said.
"And when will you tell her, about the Denobulan village? You know, eighty-six dead Denobulans. Want to see them, too? I've got them all here, said the voice. "And so do you."
"I know what you are."
"Yes, Doug said, You're the, the ultimate sign of weakness. I had thought it was other things. But it's not being sick or hurt and seeking treatment. And it's not apologizing. And it's not even admitting that you love someone. No. The ultimate sign of weakness is, it's having a conscience. It's feeling guilt."
"Yes, said the voice. "And you do feel it."
"I do, Doug said, This is, it's a new start. And a shot at redemption. And I know that apologizing to all of those families, and her forgiving me, I know that it's not all of it. I know that, now, I know that it's, that I will hold this guilt in me."
"And what will you do with it?" asked the voice.
"Lead a better life, Doug said.
The bottom dropped out.
Jun banged on the door to the transporter Room. The mouse was somewhere nearby. He didn't know it was the transporter Room he couldn't read but the mouse was, maybe, in there.
"Go check on that." Deb said, I'll still be here." she was lying back on the pad.
"This better not take too long, Aidan said, pulling on briefs.
"Looks like we're in Act II." Tripp said, communicating to Jennifer.
"Okay, I'm coming." she arrived quickly. "I'll hold down the fort for a while."
"All right. You call me if it gets, er, hairy. I'll be back at oh nine hundred to relieve you."
The Empress and Dr. Morgan saw Jun enter the transporter Room. "See, he has no discipline. Doesn't even come back when you call him." Morgan said.
"He's my son, not a Rottweiler, Hoshi said.
It was a crossroads. Thousands, perhaps millions, of Calafans. Red and white, intermingling. Doug watched them passing back and forth for a few minutes. Then the scene changed again.
There was the faintest of clicks as Aidan leaned over to grab Jun by the scruff of his neck. The last thing he needed was the kid when he was all ready to go. He barely heard the click.
Hoshi looked up to see him lifting up a struggling Jun just as the first of the charges went off.
It was the Enterprise. 2:19 AM read a clock. Then over and over again, the same clock. Doug tried to move, but he was brought back to 2:19 over and over again. Finally he was able to move past it briefly. The time between resets got longer and longer. He could wait for about a minute, then everything would be reset to his arrival time. "Must be some time loop or something." he muttered.
The transporter Room was in flames. More charges went off, and a transporter pad whizzed by their heads. Aidan did the only thing that training required he pushed down on top of Hoshi and Jun. A boot flew past.
"Is there anyone else in there?" yelled Morgan over the din.
"H-Haddon!" yelled Aidan, cowering.
Morgan made his way in and found her body, or at least most of it.
Doug found he could wander as soon as time began to stretch. No one could see or hear him. He could see people going about their days, then everything would reset and he'd be back at Square One at 2:19 and could start all over again. Lili was sleeping, and her breathing was quiet and she seemed to be in a dreamless state. Jennifer was monitoring the transporter. T'Pol was on the Bridge.
People walked around, talked a little. Night shift. Two male crew members were in the Observation Lounge. Doug stopped observing them when he realized they were on a date.
The Enterprise went about its nighttime business as he watched.
"Sir, the cross-over seems to be going smoothly, Jennifer said when Tripp relieved her. "I think we're close to being done; we're starting to get different readings."
"All right. Stand down, Ensign. And tell your roommate."
Tripp checked the settings again as Lili arrived. "Ready?"
"Yes." she smiled. "Just got breakfast done. I hope he doesn't mind I'm wearing chef's whites."
"I don't think he's gonna mind." Tripp said, Here we go."
Doug materialized and staggered a little. He looked up, and this is what Lili saw:
"Can you run?" Tripp asked. Doug nodded and looked at Lili quizzically.
"Let's go, she said, taking his hand.