Log Rhythms - Season Three
Archer feigned sleep and observed. His body told him he was lying on a cot, which made about as much sense as anything else he could determine--which was to say, no sense at all. His body also reminded him, rather insistently, that he'd fought a Xindi Reptilian and he hadn't yet gotten proper medical treatment for his injuries. The claw marks across his upper back throbbed dully and every inch of him ached from the battering he'd taken. On top of all that, his head hurt and the skin along the left side of his face was tight and sore from what felt like a burn--but he couldn't pinpoint when that injury had occurred.
He continued to gather data without opening his eyes. He knew he wasn't alone. He could hear other people shifting on their cots, the creak of wood and the soft shuffling of blankets. Occasionally a cry of pain or a low moan reached his ears, usually followed by a soft feminine voice, sometimes comforting, always efficient. The tones were more familiar than the words; he was pretty sure those were German.
Beyond those sounds, he could hear canvas rustling and boots marching. Beyond that, the noise of large trucks and heavy machinery rolling over dirt-and-gravel ground.
The mingled smells of humanity, antiseptic, and exhaust completed his mental picture: a hospital tent not far off the front lines of a war. The language gave a hint as to exactly which war, and he silently cursed Daniels, for he was certain it was the temporal agent who had sent him here. But why? Was the place and time intentional, or had he simply been flung through time and space toward relative safety as the Xindi weapon exploded?
I suppose I should be grateful I'm alive. But he didn't feel grateful. He felt tired, sore, irritated, and he would admit it, angry.
A commotion caught his ear and he fought to remain still, to keep his breathing even as if in sleep. Someone unexpected or unusual had entered the tent. A deep, male voice spoke clipped German and was answered coolly by the familiar female voice. A quick exchange followed, ending with an alto "jawohl" that he couldn't mistake.
Footsteps approached and a booted foot shook the frame of his cot. "Wach auf."
Archer pretended to wake and squinted up at the soldier looming over him, a stereotypical blue-eyed, blond-haired man in his 30s. The vintage Nazi uniform he wore was unmistakable. Beyond that soldier was a Gestapo officer. This man wasn't so typical. This man was decidedly alien with gray skin and red eyes in a heavily boned face.
Jon said nothing--the safest option until directly questioned. He had no doubt of his status here; he was a prisoner of war. A prisoner of the Third Reich.
"What. The actual. Fuck?"
Reed let out a huff of breath somewhere between amused and nonplussed. He leaned against the armory worktable, arms crossed over his chest. "Yes. That wasn't my exact thought, but the sentiment is the same."
Cormack pointed to the objects in question. "May I?"
"If you like. I doubt there's much useful information we can get from them. Although it wouldn't hurt to run a spectral analysis on the off chance they aren't exactly what they appear to be."
As he spoke, she reached out and picked up the clear polymer dish from where it rested on the work table. She picked out one of the lead slugs he and Tucker had pulled from the hull of Shuttlepod Two and peered at it. "It's... Wow. What caliber did you say they are?"
"Fifty. It was standard for the P-51 aircraft that attacked our shuttlepod. Travis identified the planes and sensor data confirms it."
She looked at him, dubiously raising an eyebrow. "Standard?" She set the slug back in the dish and returned it to the table. "Nothing about this homecoming has been 'standard'."
"Indeed." He dropped his arms and pushed away from the table. "I need to get upstairs for a briefing. I can't wait to hear what T'Pol makes of all this. We all know the Vulcan Science Directorate's views on time travel."
"So, it's that bad? We really are in the wrong century?"
"It certainly looks that way."
"Super. Well," she went on, trying to channel her bunkmate's natural optimism. "At least that means we probably won't be getting shot at."
Reed eyed her dubiously, glancing between her and the dish of bullets.
Cormack quickly amended, "Up here. In orbit. Sorry. This optimism thing isn't my forte."
"You used to be better at it, I agree. While I'm upstairs, I want you to go to the Command Center and monitor broadcasts from the surface. If we are when I think we are, I want all the tactical data we can get."
"Even though they didn't have surface-to-space weapons then?" Cormack was missing something, but she couldn't put her finger on what.
"If we were brought here by persons unknown--and yes, I believe our presence is intentional--then it's likely someone else from the future is here, too. I want to be prepared whenever we come across them."
There it was. "Got it. I'll have Broback get started on that spectral analysis in the meantime."
Rumors were flying and Mae found it challenging to separate the legit from the crap. All of it was equally bizarre. They were home but in the wrong century. They were in a parallel universe. Hostile aliens had taken over Earth. There were a dozen variations on each theme and a hundred more on combinations of those themes. Without hard data, there was no knowing what was true.
She spotted Hoshi at the drinks dispenser, looking like she wasn't going to stay, and leapt at the opportunity to gather some fresh intel.
Ditching her lunch dishes, she grabbed a clean mug and took a spot in line behind the comm officer. "Hey, Hoshi. How was the staff meeting?" Tucker had made no secret where he was going when he'd headed out of Engineering that morning.
Sato glanced at her with a brief smile, then claimed her steaming mug of black tea and stepped aside. "Okay, I guess." It had been quite the event, actually, with Tucker's blow-up at T'Pol, but that wasn't information she intended to share. Everyone was on edge, and while Tucker had been out of line, she could sympathize with his frustration.
Mae put her mug under the spout and ordered a coffee with sugar and cream. "Is it true what I'm hearing?"
"It depends what you're hearing."
"That we're 200 years earlier than we ought to be and it's World War II down there." That was, shockingly, the least outrageous story she'd heard through the grapevine.
"Then, yes, it's true."
"Damn." Mae claimed her mug and let Hoshi's next move lead her own.
Sato headed for the door and out into the corridor. Mae followed.
"Does anyone have a clue how we got here? I mean, we can't get home if we don't know--"
They stopped abruptly at the turbolift. "T'Pol is working on theories."
That was vague at best, but Mae could tell it was all she was going to get. Either Hoshi didn't know anything more or she was being rightfully closed-mouthed about it. Or maybe she's still trying to process the reality of the situation for herself, just like the rest of us. Mae couldn't blame her for that. They'd all had a hell of a week, and Hoshi had suffered more than most.
The lift arrived and Sato stepped inside. "Going up?"
Hoshi let the door slide shut. Mae stood there for several moments, thinking. She wasn't due on duty until Beta-shift. Maybe Stephanie could tell her more. She followed the corridor to the nearest computer interface and queried the system for Stephanie's location.
"The Command Center?" she muttered to herself in puzzlement. "Well, what the hell?" She turned and headed back to the turbolift. She'd never had reason to visit the Command Center. It had been converted from a storage bay for conduit housings at the beginning of the mission. It would be interesting to see what it looked like now. She sipped her coffee as the lift took her up.
Reaching A-deck, she made the quick walk to her destination and opened the door, only then considering that Cormack was probably on duty and possibly not alone. And here I am with no explanation but my own curiosity to have brought me here.
Cormack turned at the sound of the door. She offered a quick, surprised smile. "Hey. What are you doing here?"
"Listening. Under orders, by the way." She cracked another smile. Then she pointed to Mae's coffee. "You didn't happen to bring me one of those, did you?"
"You wouldn't like it. There's sugar in it."
Mae approached where Cormack sat at a console overshadowed by an enormous display screen. "What are you listening to?"
"Radio broadcasts." She tapped the controls and one track rose in volume. An Englishman with a bit of a growl to his voice and a strange mix of mushiness and clarity to his pronunciation.
"Is that...Winston Churchill?" She felt ridiculous saying it, but her World History teachers had taught her well and Mae was nearly positive she was correct.
"Yup. Broadcasting earlier this morning." Stephanie tapped in another command and that voice faded while another rose. "This one is live right now. It's Canadian PM William Lyon Mackenzie King." They listened for a minute or more to the determined tenor urging perseverance against the encroaching Nazi army.
"That can't be right," said Mae. "The Nazis didn't make it to North America in World War II."
Stephanie turned down the volume and Mackenzie King joined the low chatter of Churchill and others. Speeches, news segments, and audio dramas mixed with troop movement reports and other "secure" tactical communications from both Allied and Axis forces, creating a white noise of voices.
"Technically, neither did Starfleet. And yet here we are." Stephanie sat back and sighed wearily. She shook her head. "It's a fucking mess down there. I mean, battles in Virginia and Ohio? Canada's fighting against German troops at the border between Ontario and New York. We've only kept them off our own coast thanks to quick thinking and a fort built in the 1800s, and I caught a report about a sea battle on Lake Ontario, for fuck's sake! Even if we had the technology to get back to our own time, it wouldn't be there. Or, it would, but at this point, we'd need even more technology to find the right thread of reality to move forward into. The timelines have bifurcated all over the fucking place."
She fell silent and they both listened to the low murmur of overlapping voices.
"You know," Mae began, "I never had an opinion on it before, but now I really wish the Vulcan Science Directorate had been right about time travel."
"You and me, both. Look, I need to get back to this. Want to grab dinner tonight?"
"All right. If you see Bonnie, will you send her to dinner with me, instead?"
Mae gave a small chuckle. "I'd be happy to, and so would she. I think she misses you."
"I miss her, too. It's been tough. I mean, we should be home now, eh? Relaxing, celebrating, maybe attending the occasional parade in our honor..." Stephanie grinned.
"Yes. I'm sure she's thinking about parades," Mae deadpanned, then returned her friend's smile. "But seriously, she's been kind of quiet lately. Dinner with you might be just what she needs."
"Good. It's a date. Now, maybe you should go tell her as much."
"All right. See you later."
It wasn't long after Mae left that Malcolm arrived. Cormack promptly adopted a more official demeanor with her C.O. present, rising to her feet.
"What do you have for me, Ensign?"
"Too much. I've collected some of the more interesting stuff for you." She handed over a memory card and gave him the same lowdown she'd given Mae--without the personal commentary. "Mostly these are encoded military communiqués, either among the German troops in North America or among defending U.S. and Canadian forces. Stuff they consider secure rather than broadcast."
"Hurrah for advanced listening technology," he replied wryly, accepting the card. "What else?"
"A few reports on the war in the Pacific against Japan. The U.S. recently deployed another destroyer to defend the coast." She passed him another card. "And there's a hilarious radio program called 'Vic and Sade' if you want to hear it. Even the ads are funny, although I don't think that's intentional."
"I think we can save the comedy for another time, Ensign."
It was possibly the mildest rebuke she'd ever received. "Yes, sir."
"Keep at it. I'll take these to T'Pol and Commander Tucker. Comm me if anything urgent turns up." He turned to go.
She hesitated and then shook her head. "Nothing."
His brows drew together in a brief, puzzled frown, but he said nothing and left.
On her own once more, Cormack retook her seat. She picked up another memory card that she'd set to one side earlier, turning it in her hands and musing over it. Finally, she shook her head. Her speculation was too absurd share. The American prisoner the Nazis had captured could be anyone. The fact he seemed to have arrived at the same time that Enterprise had appeared in the solar system was just coincidence. There was literally no reason to believe it was who she thought it was. No, she corrected herself. Not who I think it is. Who I want it to be. But she couldn't quite convince herself one way or the other. That's why she'd said nothing to Lieutenant Reed.
She turned her chair to face the control console and input a query and request. If anything else came through regarding the injured American prisoner, she wanted to know about it.
Archer still wasn't sure exactly where he was. Earth was the easy part, but without a landmark or a local street map, he figured he could be just about anywhere they had deciduous trees and low mountains. The fact he was currently riding in the back of a truck, under the watchful gaze of an SS officer and a Nazi soldier, strongly suggested Northern Europe, but that didn't sit right with him. The angle of the sun was wrong.
And what about the alien he'd seen in the hospital tent? Was he even real or merely a figment of Archer's confused, and probably concussed, imagination?
The officer was making snide comments about American movie stars and the American war effort. Archer feigned casual disdain as his mind spun. The things the man said implied something far worse than simply Jon's being stuck in the mid-20th century.
He couldn't spare thought for it at that moment. An explosion went off and gunfire erupted from the woods lining the packed-dirt road. The lead car swerved, its driver dead, and the truck in which he road skidded to a halt. The younger of the men guarding him was shot down, leaving only the officer. Archer leapt at the chance, kicking away his captor's gun and knocking him out with a double-fisted back-hand to the jaw.
Hands still bound before him, he kicked over the tailgate and jumped from the truck and raced for the trees.
A shot rang out, clipping him in the arm, and he stumbled. He fought his way into the cover of the trees only to fall again as he slipped on dead leaves. He looked up from his knees at a man in a boxy blue suit and a fedora, like something out of an old gangster movie. But the gun trained on him was real enough. Instead of firing, the man raised the gun and brought the butt down hard. Jon's vision tunneled to black and he collapsed.
He didn't know how much time had passed when he regained consciousness. The surroundings were a surprise as was the young black woman who urged him to calm down and called herself a friend. He gathered the basics as best he could through the pounding headache and confusion. Alicia Travers. Her apartment. The SS guards dead. Insurgents. Sailor.
"Sailor?" he echoed.
"Yeah, that patch on your shirt says 'Enterprise'. You must've made it off before it sank. How'd you wind up all the way over here?"
Jon sat up on the worn sofa, wincing against new wounds and older ones aggravated by his escape. "I've been asking myself the same question."
He looked around the apartment. It was certainly more amenable than the hospital tent, if humble and shabby in the way of a place well familiar with the old saying "Make Do and Mend."
The woman tending to him spoke in a matter-of-fact, colloquial, and above all American voice. Still, Jon kept his cards close to his chest. He couldn't be sure until he had more facts. He rose and walked heavily, painfully to the window where masking tape spread like spider webs over the cracked glass, and looked down into the street below. "What year is this?"
"It's 1944," she answered, sounding as if she suspected a more severe head injury than was immediately apparent.
Jon couldn't blame her. "World War II," he replied absently, pushing away from the window frame. He needed more information. If Daniels had sent him here, surely there was a reason.
"I haven't heard it called that before, but that's as good a description as any." She tidied up the room as he stared out between wooden boards nailed over another window. A pair of Nazi soldiers walked past on the street below. "Used to be a pretty nice neighborhood, even for coloreds. As you can see, it's gone downhill."
A sign on the ground amid the rubble of a bombed building caught his eye. Stop'n Go Cleaners. A chill ran up Jon's spine. "Where are we?"
She looked at him over one shoulder. How hard did Sal hit the man? she wondered. "We in Brooklyn." He turned to her sharply. "New York City?" she added for the sake of his addled wits.
There goes my Northern Europe theory, he thought. It also explained the angle of the sun as well as answering other questions. He wasn't just stuck in the past; he was stuck in a broken version of it.
He looked at his de facto nurse, Alicia Travers. Her young face was serious and determined. Her brown eyes held a depth of steely strength he was glad was on his side. He needed to keep it that way. Without his ship and crew, allies were scarce. If the timeline was as damaged as it clearly was, surely this was where the damage could be repaired. What he wouldn't give for the resources of Enterprise. But no. As much as he would have liked the help of his crew and modern technology, he wouldn't wish them stuck here with him.
"Bathroom's through there." Alicia pointed past the kitchen into a short hallway. "Why don't you take a minute to clean yourself up some?" She held out his shirt, worse for wear like the rest of his uniform, and waited for him to take it.
Finally, he did, saying softly, "Thank you."
"End of the hallway on your right."
He nodded and followed her directions down the hall.
Alone in her living room, Alicia gathered up the bowl of water, bandages, and bloody towel and carried them to the kitchen sink. Her first bona fide POW was turning out to be a little more than she'd bargained for. It was a puzzle and she wasn't sure yet what to make of it.
Trip knelt to roll up the yoga mat he'd been using. "That's the first time you've hit the wall before me," he joked to his companion.
Stephanie took the ribbing with good humor. "Yeah, well. Don't count on that lasting. My leg'll be 100 percent one of these days and then look out."
Trip chuckled. "Thanks for meeting me, anyway."
"I was surprised you asked. I didn't think you had the time to spare."
"I sort of felt I couldn't afford not to. Things are nuts and... Well, this seems to help."
"I get it. I've been missing it, too. It's easier to make the time when someone else asks you to."
He carried his rolled mat over to the bench and set it aside. Then, he pointed to her mat. "You want me to get that for you?"
Stephanie looked up from where she knelt uncomfortably, trying to roll the thing up. "You think I'll say no, but in fact-- Thanks. I'd appreciate it."
That got Stephanie another chuckle. Trip obliged while Stephanie hauled herself to her feet.
"How's the work on the shuttlepod going?" She sat down on the nearby bench to lace on her sneakers.
"You had to remind me."
"You forgot?" she teased.
"Ha. It's my next stop." He brought her the rolled mat and sat beside her to slip on his shoes. "After a quick shower and a change back into uniform, that is."
"Have fun with that. I saw the bullets you and Malcolm pulled out of it."
"Yeah. I don't have high hopes for the EPS manifold."
They rose, and taking the mats and other paraphernalia with them, left the gym. "You forget something?" he asked her as she limped a little beside him.
"Huh?" She looked down at herself. Mat, shoes, water bottle, towel--
"I'll get it for you."
This time, she declined the kind offer of assistance. "You have somewhere to be. I have the time to gimp my way back and get it."
"If you say so. See you later."
He departed while Stephanie went back for the hated prop. Next, she stopped by her cabin to ditch her equipment before her dinner date with Bonnie. In other circumstances, she'd have taken the time to clean up a bit, change from workout gear to real clothes, but somehow those niceties seemed pointless right now.
Geez. Gloomy much? She had a quick, silent argument with herself and opted to change into a fresh shirt but keep the yoga pants and sneakers.
As she swapped tops, she noticed the alert on the computer console. She glanced at the clock. She had a minute to spare. Donning a pullover sweater and taking a seat at the desk, she clicked on the file. It was translated German military communiqués. In the first, the mysterious American POW was ordered transferred to someone named Vosk in New York City. The next said he'd escaped when insurgents attacked the convoy, killing four men. Troops were on high alert, searching the area around the attack without success.
Stephanie was ambivalent. Whoever the man was, she was glad he'd escaped his captors. However, now she had no way of tracking him and so no way of finding out whom he might be.
"Forget it," she ordered herself. "You're being ridiculous. The captain is gone. Go have dinner with your girlfriend. That's a much pleasanter activity than looking for a dead man." She shut off the screen and pushed away from the desk.
Lawless picked up her pace towards the figure slumped against the bulkhead. At the same time, an alert sounded that Launch Bay One was depressurizing. That was her secondary concern. Her primary concern was her unconscious C.O. lying on the deckplating outside the sealed door to that launch bay. She knelt beside him and checked his pulse.
Alive. Good. She was about to hail Sickbay when Tucker shifted and groaned.
"Commander?" she said again.
His eyes opened and he worked to focus them. "Mae?"
"Yes, sir. Are you okay? What happened?"
At her question, he came suddenly alert, though still unsteady. He sat up and hesitated at the headrush. "Silik." He spoke the name like a curse. How the Suliban had gotten aboard, in this century too, was a mystery that could wait. Mae helped him up without his needing to ask and he quickly took the few wobbly steps to the nearest comm panel. "Tucker to Reed. Intruder in the launch bay!"
"Already on it, Commander," came Reed's reply.
The comm closed at Reed's end and Tucker took a moment to gather himself, leaning against the bulkhead.
Lawless asked uneasily, "Sir? Are you okay? Do you need help getting to Sickbay?"
"I'm okay, Ensign." He waited another few heartbeats to make sure he wasn't lying to her, then turned around. "I'm okay," he said again, more convinced and convincing this time. "I need to get up to the Bridge."
"You didn't think it was urgent to tell the rest of us Daniels is on board?" snapped Reed.
"I didn't have the opportunity before now," replied T'Pol.
Trip cut off the argument before it could go any further. "Let it go, Malcolm. Silik's the real problem right now. We need to trace the shuttlepod he stole. Can you get a fix on it?"
"He disabled the transponder. However, we are picking up trace plasma signatures, probably from the damage. I think I can get us within three kilometers of where it went down."
"That will have to suffice," said T'Pol.
"Thing I can't understand," Trip mused. "Why'd he go to the trouble of saving my life? He pulled me out of the launch bay before he depressurized it."
Malcolm didn't look at him as he replied. He didn't care why; he was simply glad Silik had. "Another item on our list of 'Things to Ponder.' I'll determine the coordinates and input them into the transporter system." He made a quick exit, leaving Trip and T'Pol at the Situation Room console table.
"You'll need back-up and clothing that will allow you to blend in should you be seen. Take Ensign Mayweather, and get the quartermaster to find you something appropriate to wear."
"Right. We'll be ready to go as soon as Malcolm has the coordinates set."
Once they were suitably attired, Trip and Travis paused briefly to gather up the minimal tech they needed--flashlights, communicators, scanners. Cormack met them on their way to the transporter with phase-pistols and explosive charges should they be forced to resort to Plan B.
"You can set the timer for delayed detonation, or you can sync the charges to your scanner and trigger them manually from a distance," Cormack said, handing over the devices as they walked. "I recommend the latter."
"I'm hoping we don't have to use them at all," said Travis, tucking two of the small explosive devices into a pocket of the jacket he wore.
"I doubt we're gonna be that lucky," Trip said, doing the same and then checking the phase-pistol had a fully charged power cartridge and was set to stun. "I mean, I hope we can fly it out of there, but I'm not banking on it. Malcolm's a good shot with those phase-canons. We know he did some damage to the pod's plasma injectors. Question is, how much?" Equipment all safely tucked away, he glanced sideways to Travis. "Let's go."
"Good luck," Cormack called after them as she stopped and they continued along the corridor.
"You really think we won't be able to fly out?" Travis asked, not slowing his pace.
"I don't know. I'm just saying we shouldn't count on it. Why?" he asked, trying to lighten the mood. "I didn't think you had a problem using the transporter."
"I don't. I do have a problem with World War II and Nazis."
"Nobody likes Nazis, Travis."
Travis shook his head. "I'm just saying, Commander, even without them, this isn't a good point in Earth's history for someone who looks like me."
At that, Trip finally understood Travis's hesitation. He stopped and the younger man stopped beside him. "You'll be okay, Travis. We'll stick together. We'll get in, find the shuttlepod, and one way or another, we'll get out. Together."
Travis took in his encouraging words and nodded, determined. "Yes, sir."
It was the middle of the night on Enterprise as it hung in geosynchronous orbit over the equally dark New York City. Bonnie stood at the forward obs lounge window and stared down at an Earth that wasn't quite home. She crossed her arms over her chest, pulling her bathrobe close around her. She'd brought her keyboard along, but so far hadn't bothered even unrolling it. She told herself it was because there wasn't a good place in the lounge, what with there being no tables. The truth was she simply didn't feel up to it. Normally, she found an escape in her music. Escape felt impossible tonight.
She'd done her best, kept doing her best, to keep up her usual demeanor. Every time she felt like breaking down, raging against the universe, or just crying in frustration, she forced herself to stop and put her feelings in perspective. So many of her crewmates and friends had it worse than she did. She hadn't lost anyone in the Xindi attack last year. Of all the crew killed on this mission, none were more than friendly acquaintances. Sure, Ensign O'Malley and she had worked together in Stellar Cartography a few times, but Tricia was new and they'd never become more than occasional co-workers before she was lost with the rest of the 18. What right did Bonnie have to complain?
So she focused her worry on the people she cared about. She was pretty sure Mae was doing all right, even after losing several co-workers from Engineering. And Mae assured her that Stephanie was okay, too, although Bonnie couldn't be as certain. She'd looked for signs of distress in her partner over dinner, but observed nothing unusual. Maybe I want her to be not okay so that I can be there to support her, she thought. It was so much easier for her when she could help with other people's problems and not have to think about her own petty upsets.
Someone entered the lounge behind her. Bonnie stiffened instinctively at the intrusion, then forced herself to relax. It was a public space. She shouldn't be surprised. Besides, the silhouette in the window was familiar enough that she had a good idea who it was.
"Hey," Liz said quietly. "Am I disturbing you?"
Bonnie took a breath and pasted on a small, friendly smile before glancing over one shoulder at her friend. "Of course not. Come in. Join me." Maybe company was what she needed to break her out of her funk.
Liz came to stand beside her at the window. Unlike Bonnie, she was still in uniform. Like Bonnie, she crossed her arms over her chest, almost hugging herself in an unconscious attempt to find comfort.
"Did you just come off shift?" Bonnie asked because she felt like she should say something.
"No. I'm stalling. I don't like going to bed when Travis isn't aboard."
"Where is he?" Bonnie hadn't worked a bridge shift that day, so the current goings and comings of the command staff were a mystery to her.
Liz nodded to the planet below. "Down there. He and Commander Tucker beamed down to look for the stolen shuttlepod."
That much Bonnie had heard from her bunkmate. She frowned and it carried into her voice. "Silik."
"As if we needed more evidence that we aren't hovering over 1944 by accident."
Liz nodded and fell silent for several moments. "I'm worried about him." She didn't mean Silik.
Bonnie understood. Shoving down her own melancholy, she did her best to sound upbeat for Liz's sake. "He'll be okay. It's a simple recon and recovery, right?"
"Assuming the pod can be recovered. Travis said Lieutenant Reed did some damage trying to shoot it down before it could reach the atmosphere. Actually, that's how they found it. Plasma signature from the damage."
Bonnie sought something positive and encouraging to say. It was a challenge, not feeling particularly positive or encouraged herself. "If it will fly at all, the right team is down there to do it."
Her effort was rewarded with a smile and a nod from Liz. "You're right. They'll be okay."
Hoshi wasn't sure she believed it at first. The signal was so faint, like an echo or a ghost. But, no. It was real.
Captain Archer was alive.
She cleaned up the transmission enough for T'Pol to respond, then transferred the captain's coordinates to the transporter station and waited.
Tense moments later, there he was, emerging from the turbolift onto the Bridge with an unfamiliar young woman close behind him. Both of them were dressed in worn, mid-century clothes.
Hoshi couldn't help it. She was out of her seat to hug him almost before the lift door closed.
Reed, too, rose and approached, smiling, although he stopped short of an embrace. The relief and elation in his heart briefly overwhelmed his concern that they'd lost communications with Trip and Travis moments before Hoshi picked up the captain's hail. "Welcome home."
Archer smiled, taking off the borrowed jacket and cap he wore. "We're not quite home yet, but it's good to be back. I guess I have some catching up to do. Status?"
T'Pol's astonishment at first hearing the captain's voice over the staticky comm signal turned to a much stronger emotional reaction upon seeing him in the flesh. So strong, she feared she might be overwhelmed, even if only briefly, and she couldn't allow that to happen. She fought down the cresting tide of emotions and responded as evenly as she could manage. "Commander Tucker and Ensign Mayweather are on the surface approximately six kilometers outside New York City. They've been forced to destroy one of our shuttlepods, which was stolen by Silik."
Archer frowned. "Why am I not surprised to learn he's here?"
It was rhetorical, and T'Pol treated it as such. "Multiple vehicles were converging on the shuttlepod's location before it was destroyed. Unfortunately, we lost contact with the landing party when the explosion disrupted their comm signal. We have yet to regain communication with them. Also, Daniels is on board."
At that, Archer tensed, anxious. "Where is he?"
"Sickbay. Phlox has expressed concern for his condition."
Archer easily fell back into command mode and it felt good. It felt right. He turned to Reed. "Malcolm, scan the area around the blast for continued activity. Enemy troops are thick on the ground down there and a blast like that will bring more of them in to investigate. Hoshi, keep trying to raise the away team and monitor all communications. This should help." He pulled from his pocket the device he'd used to contact Enterprise and handed it to the comm officer. "This is one of the aliens' communicators. Take it apart. Figure out how to monitor their transmissions. T'Pol, let's pay a visit to Sickbay."
He turned, only remembering Alicia Travers was there when he suddenly faced her, her expression a mix of wonderment and irritation. He could guess which part was for him. "I'm sorry. Hoshi, hail a steward to meet us on D-deck. We need to find Alicia here somewhere to stay while she's with us."
"Aye, Captain," acknowledged Sato.
Of course he'd been right. It was Daniels who had brought not only Archer but Enterprise and her crew to this fractured version of 1944 Earth. At least now he also knew why and what had to be done to repair the damage to history, although Daniels had breathed his last getting Archer the information.
"He and his people defeated us and launched this war that's destroying all of time. I've sent you to this point because it's here Vosk can be stopped. If you succeed, the war will never happen. The timeline will be restored."
Temporal mechanics weren't Archer's strong suit. He couldn't entirely follow Daniels's explanation of Vosk's stealth time travel and temporal conduit, but it seemed to sync with what the alien he'd interrogated in one of Brooklyn's back alleys had said. They were trapped and the Germans were helping them build the device they needed in order to get home.
At least Daniels's imperative was clear: "The machine would have to be enormous. Find it. Destroy it. He must not succeed. Stop him."
Archer had no idea what planet the alien fanatic and his people came from, but that was irrelevant. What he did have was a goal: find and destroy Vosk's temporal corridor that was being built somewhere in New York City.
And in the meantime, find his missing officers. Without their communicator signal, pinpointing their location was next to impossible; they were simply two more humans among thousands. Logic suggested that, had they in fact been captured, they would be taken to Vosk, as he was supposed to have been. With luck, Reed or Sato would pick up a ground transmission indicating a transfer of new prisoners. Then Enterprise could attempt a rescue. He didn't count on being any luckier than that, nor would he entertain the possibility the men were no longer alive to be rescued.
"What do you think the gray one meant by our 'colleague'?" Trip walked the perimeter of the room he and Travis had been unceremoniously shoved into, looking for any possible escape route and finding none. The place was small and featureless. No windows. One locked and guarded door. It was little more than a closet with an air vent and a bare light bulb glaring down from the high ceiling.
"There's a resistance, right? So, probably someone from that," suggested Travis.
Trip shook his head. "He knows we're not from this time period any more than he is."
"You think he thinks we're temporal agents?"
"Makes as much sense as anything else." Trip stopped his fruitless search and turned to face Travis, who shrugged.
"Maybe he meant Daniels. Maybe escaping him was what caused Daniels's injuries."
"Maybe." Trip knew who he wanted this mysterious colleague to be, but he had zero reason to believe nor evidence to support it. But if Enterprise had been brought to this timeline, why couldn't Captain Archer have been, too? Just whisked off the Xindi weapon moments before it exploded and dropped here in this weird twist on Earth's past? He shook his head. It was too much to hope for. "I don't know."
Both men tensed at the sound of approaching footsteps, then relaxed slightly as the heavy tread of boots passed by and receded down the hallway.
Anxious anticipation twisted Travis's belly. "What do you think he meant by 'ready for interrogation'?" he asked nervously.
"I'm trying not to think about it," Trip replied. "Frankly, as long as they're not injecting parasites into our brains like the Xindi did to Hoshi, I think we're doing okay."
Travis couldn't suppress a shudder. "I appreciate the perspective, Commander, but that doesn't make me feel better about things."
Trip started to reply but whatever he might have said was forestalled by more footsteps heralding the arrival of new guards. Before he could get a word out in protest, Trip and Travis were each pinned between two burly soldiers with vise-like grips. Trip struggled to break free, only to receive a kidney punch for his efforts. He gasped in pain and his knees buckled. Only the iron grasp of his captors kept him from hitting the ground.
"It will be easier for you if you don't resist," stated one guard grimly.
Trip couldn't say anything and didn't try. He gasped in shallow breaths and tried to get his feet under him as the men hauled him up and along the corridor. If this was any indication of what they were in for, he almost would have preferred the parasites.
Archer wasn't gone two minutes when what Alicia guessed must be the doorbell rang. "Come in?" she called uncertainly.
She'd guessed right.
The door slid open and a blonde woman with eyes of two different colors stood on the other side. "Hello. Alicia Travers?"
Even here where she knew there couldn't be any Nazis, the woman's English accent made her wary. Great Britain had fallen three years ago. "Who's asking?"
"I'm Madeline Reed. I heard you'd been brought aboard, rather abruptly at that, and thought I'd see if you needed anything. May I come in?"
"Okay." Alicia stood her ground in the middle of the room, but there was plenty of space for Madeline to join her. The cabin was as alien to her as the gray-faced, red-eyed man Sal had shot down in the alley shortly before being killed himself by a hail of Nazi bullets. She shook aside the memories and eyed Madeline, cautious but willing to recognize a friend if circumstances warranted it. "You're not in uniform like the others."
"I'm not a member of Starfleet."
"But you're on this...spaceship." She still couldn't quite believe it, but hell, it wasn't that much more upsetting to think she was on a spaceship than it was to think that the Germans had invaded her neighborhood.
"I'm a civilian negotiator. But--" Madeline shrugged and offered a smile that bordered on apologetic. "That job's done so I thought I'd appoint myself welcoming committee. Is there anything you need?"
"Beyond an end to this war?"
"We're working on that."
"Archer said something like that, too."
Maddy observed the young woman, took in her worn but cared-for clothing, noticed the set of her jaw and her squared shoulders. Alicia was strong, self-reliant, tough. She was also a woman whose world was in chaos even before she'd been transported to Enterprise. "You're safe here. I hope you know that."
"Yeah. I get it, but I'm having a hard time convincing myself, too. You know?"
Alicia's eyes wandered to the desk and the photograph there of a trio of young women laughing. "Did you know the woman who lived here?"
Maddy's gaze followed and she shook her head. A glance the other way found the framed Starfleet Training certificate* for Ensign Patricia O'Malley. "I'm afraid not. I haven't socialized as much as I'd've liked, and I believe she was lost with the 18."
"The 18," echoed Alicia. "You say it like it's a title."
"I suppose it is, of a sort. We've lost a lot of people on this mission. Eighteen were in a single enemy attack."
"Archer told me about that, too. I'm sorry. I know what it's like to lose people. He said you have two men down there now. You don't know if they're alive or dead or prisoners."
"Mm-hmm." Maddy nodded, her lips pulled between her teeth, an expression of apprehension and concentration.
"Who are they?"
"Our helmsman and our chief engineer."
Madeline looked so worried that Alicia felt compelled to reassure her, although a part of her felt it was absurd to think she could. "We're going to help you find them. I have friends, a whole network of people in New York. I'll put the word out as soon as I get back."
"Thank you. They're both a vital part of the crew. And Trip..." Maddy heaved a small, worried sigh. "He's very important to my brother, Malcolm. And, God, Liz must be frantic about Travis."
Alicia frowned thoughtfully. The name Malcolm rang a bell she couldn't quite place. "I'm sorry. I don't know many people's names here."
"I should be the one to apologize. I'm thinking out loud." Now she'd begun, it seemed only polite to finish explaining. "Liz is married to Ensign Travis Mayweather and Trip is Chief Engineer Tucker. My brother is Enterprise's Tactical Officer, Malcolm Reed."
Suddenly the connection clicked. Archer had addressed the dark-haired man on the Bridge by the name: "Malcolm. I met him, sort of." It had been swift and informal, then she'd been whisked away and ended up here in a dead woman's cabin. "He and your engineer are close?"
"Very. Are you hungry?" Maddy asked abruptly. She didn't want to think any more about what Trip and Travis might be facing down on Earth, nor how bad news might affect Malcolm and Liz. "There's always something to eat in the mess hall now that the galley is up and running again. Even at this hour."
"You know, I have no idea what time it is."
"If I tell you, you might not want to know, it's that late. Come on. I'm up for a midnight snack if you are."
Alicia relaxed enough to smile. The thought of food someone else had cooked, food that wasn't German hand-me-downs, food that wasn't rationed-- "You're sure it's okay?"
"Absolutely. Plenty to share."
"Okay. That sounds nice."
Reed entered the Command Center where Cormack was once more ensconced gathering data as he'd requested. She looked tired and he noted both the cane, tucked under the console, and the empty coffee cup set out of range of any delicate equipment.
She turned in the chair to look up and wave him over. "Lieutenant, you'll want to see this."
"Have you gotten any sleep?" he asked.
She sidestepped the question and deflected with another. "Has anyone? Is there any word on Travis and Commander Tucker?"
Reed shook his head. "Hoshi's scanning every audio channel they're using, and that alien communicator the captain brought back has broadened the spectrum. But there's nothing yet. What have you found?"
Cormack let him change the subject just as he'd let her. She could see the worry he tried to hide and chose not to poke at it. "You're going to love this. It's fascinating. I've been going through historical records and comparing them to what happened in our timeline and I think I've found the catalyst." She turned the chair back towards the console and called up the headlines, articles, and newsreels she'd found.
Reed stood behind her and stared at the images on the large screen on the wall. He hardly believed his eyes. "Vladimir Lenin was assassinated in 1916?"
"Yep. And get this." The image changed to the front page of a Russian newspaper with an English translation along side. "They never caught the assassin. Some witnesses even claimed the killer vanished into thin air."
He leaned over the console beside her, peering at the readouts. "You're right. Fascinating."
She called up another image, this time of what appeared to be a royal family on a summer holiday. "As a result, the Romanovs were never assassinated. Nicholas II reigned until his death in an admittedly suspect boating accident in 1936 that took two of his children as well. The current empress is his second daughter. That's a photo from the vacation they were all on when the three died. It was taken the day before the accident."
Reed peered at the English translation of the Cyrillic text. "Olga and Alexei drowned with him."
"Hence the reigning Tsarina Tatiana." A brief clip of a black-and-white newsreel ran, showing the tsarina cutting a ribbon at an amusement park opening.
"So. No Lenin and no replacement for him meant no Bolshevik Revolution."
"Which meant no slaughter of the royal family." She called up more news articles she'd found in her research. "Russia never became a communist nation and reports show Nicholas wasn't much of a military leader--which is pretty much the only data that matches our own history. Best I can figure, Germany never saw them as a threat and so never invaded."
"Not fighting on two European fronts allowed them to pursue their westward assault across the Atlantic and into North America." Reed nodded thoughtfully. It made military sense. Russia could have been seen as a potentially easy conquest, but why bother when it wasn't a threat? Conquest required follow-up in the form of control, management, and eventually government. Why stir up that sort of hornets' nest when there was a greater threat from the west? Still, it didn't quite add up. "Vosk's people haven't been on Earth long enough to have caused that variation in the timeline."
"Alien leader working with the Nazis."
"Ah. Fucking Nazis."
Cormack shrugged. "Maybe it was another faction. I mean, there's this Vosk guy, there's Daniels's people, there's whoever is handling Silik. Do we know how many others there are in this Temporal Cold War?"
"No, and it's hardly a 'cold' war any more."
"Can you put all this on a datapad for me?"
"Yeah. Just give me a second." She grabbed a pad and began to transfer the data. As it loaded, she asked, "How's Captain Archer?" She still didn't tell Reed how hard she'd hoped the mysterious escaped prisoner was the captain. Now it seemed she'd been right all along. Luck, she thought. Gods bless it.
Despite his many concerns, Reed smiled at her question. "Shockingly well, from what I've seen."
"Good." The pad finished syncing and she handed it to Reed. "Here you go."
He reached to take it, but she held on long enough to make him pause. He gave her an inquiring look that she answered verbally. "We'll find Trip and Travis. They'll be okay, too."
Reed nodded, tight-lipped, and she let go her hold on the pad. He made a quick escape. Her words of reassurance shook his calm more than he could afford to let show. He took a moment's pause in the corridor to collect himself before heading to the captain's ready room to report to Archer and T'Pol.
"Not only do I have to do this again when you promised I wouldn't have to," said Alicia staring balefully at the transporter platform, "but this time I have to do it on my own?"
Archer looked at her sympathetically. "I'm needed somewhere else. But I'll be close behind you, just a few miles away." Vosk's hail that morning had been a welcome surprise. More welcome was the fact he was willing to return Trip and Travis in exchange for nothing more than a conversation--at least for now.
Alicia turned to him. "You're going to get your men back. I know. I'm glad for you."
"This doesn't mean we don't still need your help." He handed her a small device of black and gray that she took with a dubious frown.
"A communicator." She turned her puzzled look on him and he tried again. "A kind of radio. You can use it to contact us and vice-versa. Just open it up and talk. Someone here will hear you. You see? We're not abandoning you and your friends. We need your help as much as you need ours."
"Okay. I get it." She dropped the radio into her jacket pocket and looked up into Archer's eyes. "You let me know what you need from us, I'll do my damnedest to make sure you get it. But you have to come through, too."
"You have my word."
Alicia nodded once. "All right." She turned and again eyeballed the transporter. "Let's do this." She stepped up onto the platform and turned to face Archer and the technician at the controls.
"Coordinates set, crewman?" Archer asked.
"Aye, sir," answered the young man.
Archer offered Alicia a small smile of encouragement. "We'll be in touch."
"You'd better be." The world around her shimmered and was replaced by the familiar surroundings of her living room. "I'll be damned," she breathed. She didn't like the method and she didn't like what her neighborhood had become, but it still felt good to be home.
Silik was shocked to see Archer alive. He kept his borrowed visage under control and let Mayweather's quiet exclamation be his guide. Clearly, the young human was just as astonished as he. He thought he played his own part in the reunion quite well. It was enough to fool Archer into transporting him up to Enterprise with the helmsman, at any rate. Although he would have preferred to stay and listen to whatever Vosk had to discuss with Archer. Unfortunately, his disguise as Commander Tucker meant he needed to follow orders for the moment, and so he allowed himself to be transported.
Taking advantage of the situation once he was aboard, he found the appropriate quarters, cleaned up his temporary body, and changed into one of Tucker's uniforms. Curious, he thought, noting not only the engineer's gold-striped jumpsuit in the locker, but a security member's red-striped one as well. He didn't particularly care, but he made a note of the name badge anyway. One never knew what information could be useful later. Reed, hm? I wouldn't have guessed that.
He was just ready to go do more snooping when the hail came. "Phlox to Commander Tucker."
Silik responded quickly. "Right here, Doc."
"I'm expecting you in Sickbay, Commander. Had you forgotten?"
He had, in fact. Silik frowned but didn't allow it to show in Tucker's voice. "I'll be right there."
Mayweather was already there being examined when he arrived. He took a seat where the Denobulan doctor indicated. Everything seemed to be going well...
He should have known the medical scanner wouldn't be so easily duped by his disguise as Archer had been.
Now, back in his own shape, Silik paced the confines of his cell, as much to work off his frustration as to walk off the lingering ache of the stunning phase-rifle blast he'd taken when he'd tried to escape.
Why hadn't his temporal contact intervened? He'd acquired the data he'd been sent for. He ought to have been retrieved from this wretched century by now. Instead, the data disc had been taken by Archer, who'd proceeded to threaten him most uncharacteristically.
Something else must have happened with Vosk while Silik was trapped here, ignorant and abandoned. Enterprise shook briefly from enemy fire. It had to have come from the surface. His time snooping in the compound's computers had turned up not only information on the temporal conduit's construction but also on the advanced weapons within the facility, and he knew Vosk had no ships capable of leaving Earth's atmosphere.
And now? Now Archer was back and demanding his assistance.
Archer's face and voice were equally intense. "I'm getting my crewman back. You're going to help me get inside the facility."
"And then? Are you going to destroy it?"
This must be why he was still here. Things hadn't gone according to plan, but here was a different chance to accomplish his mission. "I don't care about your crewman, Captain. But I don't want Vosk to succeed any more than you do. I'll help you."
Lieutenant Hess wrapped up the diagnostic she was running. "The fact that the engines are functioning at all is a minor miracle."
"Agreed," replied Reed. "But can you fix them?"
"I'll get teams on it immediately." It was as much as she was willing to commit to at that moment.
"We need someone in the armory, as well. Weapons are completely down and we're running out of time. The captain is counting on us to destroy the aliens' temporal conduit as soon as he and Silik can lower the energy shield protecting it." And find Trip, he added silently. They knew Trip was somewhere in the facility where the conduit was being built. And Malcolm was supposed to blow it up? The thought made him sick to his stomach.
"I'll send a team down there right away. We'll get your weapons back online."
"Keep me apprised. I'll be on the Bridge."
Cormack yawned hugely. She didn't really feel she had time for a break, but if she didn't get some coffee and food, she wasn't going to last another twenty minutes. She'd been up most of the last 48 hours, primarily in the Command Center researching the current fucked-up history. Since the brief but destructive altercation with the alien Nazis, she'd been in the Armory, working with the engineering teams to restore weapons. Leaving Martinez to oversee those teams for a bit, she'd popped up to the Mess Hall, promising to be back in no more than a quarter of an hour.
She scarfed down a breakfast sandwich loaded with egg and sausage and cheese, with a slice of tomato tossed in so she could pretend it wasn't just a festival of protein, fat, and carbs. Then she loaded up a mug with a triple-shot latté and checked the time, figuring she'd have to rush back downstairs with it. She was surprised to discover she still had six minutes before Juliana expected her back.
I actually have time to sit down for real? Damn. Well, why not? It took less than a heartbeat to decide where to enjoy the few brief minutes of rest. She turned, coffee in one hand and cane in the other, and headed to the aft obs lounge where she claimed a comfy chair and sank into it gratefully.
She sipped at the hot coffee and sighed, looking out at the familiar constellations. Part of Earth could be seen in the lower starboard corner of the window, but she chose not to look at it.
When she nearly dropped her drink jerking awake, she figured it was time to go. A quick check of ship's time told her she'd not really fallen asleep, only drifted off for a moment. She still had a minute before she was due below, but a minute was less time than it would take to get to F-deck. She rose, claimed the hated cane from where it lay beside the chair, and headed into the corridor--only to run into Bonnie.
"Hey, hi!" Bonnie smiled at the sight of her partner whom she'd not seen since dinner the previous night. She'd been looking for her just now and was pleased to find that she appeared to be off duty. "How are you?"
"Hi," echoed Stephanie, and smiled apologetically. "Good. Sorry. I'm going to be late. Armory's a mess after that last beating. I need to get back. Catch you later?"
Bonnie's heart sank but she smiled. "Sure."
"Love you." Stephanie kissed her quickly and hurried off, leaving Bonnie alone. Again. She'd spent far too much time alone lately.
A wave of frustration washed over her, followed by a crash of sadness landing like lead in her stomach. She fought off the despair she couldn't convince herself she deserved to indulge in, and gritted her teeth. "I can't do this. I can't do it anymore." But she would. She had to. She took a breath...
She couldn't do it.
Hurrying the few steps to the aft obs lounge before anyone could happen upon her, she locked the door behind her and collapsed into the same chair Stephanie had vacated only a few moments before, and sobbed.
"Gods. I just want to go home!"
She'd been okay up until the moment she'd understood that the Earth below them wasn't the Earth they knew. She hadn't realized until then how much she had been counting on getting home. She had gone through each day of their mission with resolve, facing unknowns, facing enemies, facing danger and death. Racing against the clock to stop the Xindi from destroying humanity.
And then they had succeeded. The spheres were gone, the Expanse returning to normal space. The weapon destroyed by Archer, who was lost and now found again. The recovery of the captain was the one silver lining in their exile here in Earth's broken past, but, gods help her, she'd trade that to be home and safe, with the damned Xindi mission and fucking Temporal War forever behind them.
She forced herself to calm down, take deep breaths, pull herself together.
Eventually, she managed to stop crying and dried her face with the sleeves of her uniform. Sitting there stewing in self-pity accomplished nothing. There were repairs to make. She didn't work in Engineering, but she knew how the navigation, guidance, and propulsion systems worked. She would clean herself up and go see what she could do to help.
Trip regained consciousness in a different place than where he'd blacked out. This room was smaller, with conduits running up to the ceiling, and a different door with a frosted window and a light fixture high on the wall above. He could hear German voices passing in the hallway outside.
Judging by how much of him hurt, he'd been moved before being treated by the doctor the alien guard had ordered brought. His hands and feet had been bound, too, which was a new and uncomfortable discovery. He leaned back and tried to piece together what had happened. He and Travis had been interrogated separately, then dumped together in their cell. The guard ordered a doctor be sent, the guards left, he'd rolled over onto his back and looked up...
The same distortion he'd seen in Enterprise's launch bay had warped the ceiling of the cell moments before he'd blacked out. He knew what caused it and he wanted to curse out loud but kept himself silent. Son of bitch. Silik.
He untied his feet and stood awkwardly. More voices came and went as shadows crossed the window. He had to get his hands free. He bit at the knot with his teeth but it was futile. What else could he use? He assessed his surroundings and came to one questionable conclusion. There was glass in the light fixture. If he could break it, he could use a piece to cut through his bonds. He just had to get up there.
It took some monkeying and a couple of false starts, but eventually he managed to climb the conduit nearest the door and kick out the light fixture. Scrambling back to the ground, he grabbed a shard of glass and cut through the rope at his wrists.
Hands now free, he just had to make his way out through who knew how many enemy soldiers, find some way to contact Enterprise, and get the hell off the planet.
Right, the thought dourly. Easy as pie.
Reed hailed Engineering from his post on the Bridge. "How are repairs to the targeting array coming?"
"They're not. It's completely fried," Hess replied flatly through the comm. "Not even Commander Tucker could fix it with the parts we have on board. It's going to take a complete rebuild by the folks at Jupiter Station."
"What good news can you give me?" T'Pol was going to want a report when she returned, he needed something better to tell her.
"The engines are up to 36%."
"God help us if that's the best news you've got, Lieutenant."
"Sorry. Maneuvering thrusters are down, but we should have them back in the next twenty minutes."
"That's more promising, assuming you can manage it, and if the captain can wait that long." Archer and Silik had transported down a few minutes ago. Time was running out.
"I'll see if we can't step things up." Hess looked around her at the teams already hard at work. "I'll let you know as soon as we have them back. Hess out." She closed the comm and huffed a determined sigh. "Lawless!" She waved the ensign over and Mae hurried to her. "Get Lyle and Rivers. The three of you have one priority now and that's to get the maneuvering thrusters working."
T'Pol left the Armory certain Ensign Cormack had everything there under control--as much as was reasonable considering the targeting scanners weren't coming back on line. The weapons themselves, however, and the other defensive systems were in good hands.
A visit to Main Engineering found Lieutenant Hess in a similar situation. What could be made to work, was being made to work. What couldn't was being worked around as best it could be in the circumstances. Unexpectedly, she also found Ensign Fraser there, assisting with the navigational systems repairs and diagnostics. The human word 'serendipity' leapt to her mind. Fraser was fully qualified and had experience operating the transporter. Her reflexes were above average and she was reliable.
T'Pol waited until the helmsman completed the small welding task she was engaged in before addressing her. "Ensign Fraser."
Bonnie looked up from her work in surprise. She pushed up the guard on the welding mask she wore. "Yes, ma'am?"
"I need you at the transporter controls. You're to run a constant scan for signs of Captain Archer's away team."
"If you're expected elsewhere, tell them you've been reassigned."
"No, ma'am. I mean-- I'm not technically on duty, so yes. I'll go there now." Fraser secured the tools she'd been using and set the welding mask beside them.
"Very good." T'Pol departed. Time was growing short and she was needed on the Bridge.
Bonnie took a second to exchange a glance with crewman Kelly. "Sorry to ditch you, but--"
Kelly shook her head. "Don't apologize. Just bring the Captain and Commander Tucker home safe."
"I'll do my best."
"Status!" shouted Hess from her post atop the warp engine platform.
Lawless answered from her station on the main level below. "Engines up to 41%. Maneuvering thrusters are online."
"Structural integrity and inertial dampers?"
"Both functioning within accepted standards."
"I'll take it."
Lawless raised her voice to be heard throughout Engineering. "We're entering Earth's atmosphere."
"Hang on, everyone," shouted Hess. "We're going for a ride!"
Cormack could feel the shift and checked the sensors for confirmation. "We're in the atmosphere." She shared a look with crewman Martinez standing beside her at the Armory's main control console. Both women were well aware that the targeting scanners were beyond repair. "We're going for a point-blank attack. The captain must have disabled the energy shield. Hopefully this means he's back aboard, too, with Commander Tucker."
Martinez nodded agreement. She checked sensors. "If not, there's no way to contact them now. Ionization's taken out the comms."
Cormack ran a quick check of the ship's weapons. "The phase-cannons and photonic torpedoes are online, anyway. Let's just hope Lieutenant Reed is as good a shot with the torpedoes as he is with a phase-pistol."
"Communications channels clearing," announced Sato.
T'Pol sat forward on the edge of the captain's chair. "Alert the transporter station and scan for hails from Captain Archer."
T'Pol turned to Reed at tactical. "Distance?"
"One hundred kilometers. Targeting scanners still can't get a lock. I'm going to have to do this the old-fashioned way." He turned in his seat to face the panel behind him. "Switching to visual scanners."
Trip held the gun steady. Too much had happened for him to trust the evidence of his eyes. But that sure did look like Silik lying dead behind what sure did look like: "Captain?"
"Good to see you, Commander."
"As long as you don't pull that trigger."
Trip lowered the gun he'd taken off the guard he'd ambushed. He approached Archer, grasping him by the shoulders, peering into his face to be sure he wasn't imagining things. "I can't-- I can't believe it."
Archer skipped the warm greetings. "The building's about to blow up."
It took only a moment for the news to land. "Gotcha."
The men raced along corridor after corridor. The captain seemed to know where he was going, so Trip trusted and followed. One turn brought them under fire, and both men fired back, taking down the soldiers barring the way to the exit.
His stolen gun empty of bullets, Trip tossed it aside and ducked out the door as Archer provided phase-pistol cover and then followed close behind him. They emerged into morning sunshine in an alley where insurgents had German troops pinned down. Trip kept his head down, not wanting to provide the enemy soldiers with a fresh target.
He took cover behind a big man in a gray suit and a fedora who looked to be having the time of his life shooting Nazis. Brutal as it was, Trip couldn't blame him.
Archer addressed the man urgently. "In a few seconds this entire area's going to be bombed."
"Planes?" Carmine didn't hesitate any longer. "Start falling back! We got to get the hell out of here!"
Archer stopped briefly in the shelter of a pickup truck to talk to a young woman. Trip hovered at the corner of the flatbed while the two said their good-byes. Then a squadron of German planes flew over head, drawing everyone's gaze upward.
Archer grabbed Trip's attention. "Time to go!"
Martinez looked up from the Armory central control console. "Sensors are picking up aircraft launching north of Manhattan heading our way. German dive bombers. Stukas."
"That shouldn't be a big problem," replied Cormack. The ship shook from energy weapons fire, startling them both. "I stand corrected." She checked the systems. "Minor damage. We're returning fire."
They all raced to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the German compound. Archer and Trip parted with the resistance fighters a few blocks away and Archer pulled a communicator from the pocket of his borrowed jacket, hoping the ship was past the reentry blackout period.
"Enterprise. Two for immediate transport!" In moments, the streets of New York shimmered and the transporter station appeared around them.
"Status?" barked Archer, stepping from the platform.
"Closing in on the target, Captain," replied Fraser, who'd brought them aboard.
Archer nodded once, acknowledgement and thanks in his tight smile. Then he looked at Tucker. "Are you fit for duty?"
"I can manage."
"Then let's go. We have a time machine to destroy. Ensign?" He turned again to Fraser. "Dismissed. There's no one else coming with us."
"Aye, sir. And welcome back. Both of you."
Tucker smiled and patted her shoulder as he followed Archer towards the Bridge.
Fraser waited several seconds after they'd gone, thinking. No one else was coming, eh? She wondered what had become of Silik. Not that she would be sorry to have seen the last of him.
There was nothing for her to do now but wait. She might as well do that where she could see what was going on outside. She headed for a turbolift and the forward obs lounge. Maybe this time she wouldn't be disappointed at the view.
"Something's happening on the surface," announced Martinez. "Reading increased energy levels in the German compound."
"The photonic torpedo system has shifted from stand-by to active status. We're taking manual aim..." Cormack held her breath and then: "Firing!"
Three torpedoes launched in rapid succession.
"Direct hit!" shouted Martinez.
Time suspended for one heartbeat...two...three...
A wave of white light rippled across the Armory, but without any other apparent physical effect.
Cormack checked sensors, wondering what she would find. Hoping against hope they were finally where, and when, they belonged. "We're back in high orbit over North America. Scanning for a Starfleet time signature..." A grin spread across her face and she let out a slightly manic giggle. She turned to Martinez. "We're home in time for Spring Training."
Martinez looked back at Cormack, joy and relief in equal measure on her face. "Reading multiple vessels on approach. All Earth and Vulcan in design."
Bonnie wasn't alone in the forward observation lounge. She didn't have her partner or her bunkmate with her this time, but once again Ari was there, and Maggie, too, and Liz and a handful of others. A cheer went up around her at the sight of dozens of ships coming to greet them, set against the backdrop of planet Earth. Bonnie was hopeful, but unwilling to celebrate with the others just yet. Not until she knew for sure that this really was home.
The three-tone whistle announcing a ship-wide hail quieted the crowd enough to listen as the captain's voice came over the comm.
"Welcome home, everyone. And well done."
Bonnie smiled through the tears that streamed down her cheeks. Home.
End Log 3:14
Soundtrack: I Can't Do This - Plumb; Going Home - Runrig
I have ideas for S4, but I have no timeline for writing them. All I can say is, "Watch this space."