“Can I talk to you?” Jonathan asked Al.
“Uh, sure. Step into my office,” he joked, ushering Captain Archer into the hallway.
“I’d like to get outside again. Is that okay with you?”
“Of course it is. I always love taking her out for a spin. Got any specific destination in mind?”
“I want to visit Donna Eleese’s house,” Jonathan said.
“Oh. Did you not hear her? She said she can’t handle seeing you. And I can’t say as I blame her. Frankly, you sometimes give me the willies, too. At least you’re a good guy, not like some of the nozzles Sam leaped into over the years.”
“Noz–? Uh, look, Admiral, you told me that Dr. Beckett doesn’t leap unless he’s accomplished some sort of task, right?”
“Maybe that’s what this leap is all about. He’s got something or other to do in my time period. And maybe that also means that I’ve got something to do in yours.”
Al looked at him and cocked an eyebrow. “You’re not him.”
“Just hear me out, Archer,” Al stated, in a tone that brooked no dissent. “I lost my best friend a decade ago. And she lost the love of her life. But the truth of it is; we lost him maybe five or so years before that. The moment he first leaped, he was effectively gone. Oh, sure, we had communications with him. And there was one time that he and I were switched and he was able to be here for a day and a half. And that was it. She got a day and a half out of a decade and a half.”
“I’m not done yet. See, everybody who was ever in our waiting room, they took on Sam’s appearance, his aura, his, his essence, if you will. They all looked like him. But at least they sounded like they normally do. Elvis sounded like Elvis. Dr. Ruth sounded like Dr. Ruth. Cam Wilson presumably sounded like himself – his voice was changing, poor kid. And on and on. Then we had no one for a decade, and then you. And you come here, and you don’t just look like him, you also sound exactly like Sam. I know that I would lose it under the best of conditions – and I practically have. When I got a text a few days ago, I was overjoyed. But it was because I thought Sam
was back. Captain Archer, you’re a pleasant enough person but you are not Sam Beckett. But me, I get to go home to Beth and try to make some sense of it all. Donna doesn’t get that luxury. She’s been alone and bereft for years. I don’t know what your being here means. But I do know that it’s killing her.”
“I’m not here to try and hurt her. Or you, or Sammy Jo, or anyone else,” Jonathan tried to assure Al, “but if this leap is reciprocal, then I need to fix something. I know I shouldn’t really be changing too much of history. And that’s in my own best interests – if I fix or alter too much of it, I run the risk of never having been born, or losing someone on my crew because of that. They’re good people and they have a war to win and I don’t want any of them gone. I don’t want to risk that. But I think I should be able to talk to Dr. Eleese.”
“Ziggy!” Al bellowed, “Figure out why Captain Archer is here.”
“Now, I don’t know that, Admiral,” Ziggy replied, in mechanical tones that were female in pitch and were spiked with attitude.
“Can’t you at least theorize something?” Jonathan asked.
The computer beeped and whirred and seemed to be weighing the possibilities. “There is an eleven percent chance, Captain Archer; that you are here to save Dr. Eleese.”
That got Al’s attention. “What the hell’s going on, Ziggy?”
“I only know what I can conjecture. Dr. Eleese checks in every single day, several times per day, searching for news of Dr. Beckett. She checks in far more frequently than anyone else has in the past decade, ever since Dr. Beckett’s disappearance and the loss of contact.”
“What times of day does she typically check in?” Jonathan asked. Al looked at him quizzically. “I have an idea,” said the captain.
“The most frequent time is,” the computer paused to check its records, “within five minutes, before or after 2:11 AM.”
“She’s not sleeping,” Al commented.
“Admiral,” Captain Archer concluded, “I get the feeling she’s clinically depressed. Does she ever go out with you and your wife?”
“Does she ever have you over, or go to visit you, or to anyone in the project?”
“No, and I don’t think so.”
“Is she seeing anyone?” asked Jonathan.
“I’m not asking for me.”
“Oh, uh, not that I know of. Dammit, Sam, I mean, Captain Archer, she is
“She’s like, oh, boy, is there a bookstore around here?”
“A bookstore, Admiral. I think I should go to her home, but I shouldn’t arrive empty-handed.”
“What, are you bringing presents now?”
“Just, just get me to a bookstore – it can even be an electronic one – and get me there, okay?”
“All right,” Al finally agreed, “and I’ll charge that as stamps
, too. Sheesh, I hope this doesn’t make things any worse.”