Author: Alan Decker, Tasha Campagnola
by Alan Decker and Tasha Campagnola
“Captain’s log. Stardate 49862.4. Commander Scott Baird and I are attending a conference at Starbase 42 on Kopax Four. As a general rule, I hate Starfleet conferences. This one, though, has to be the worst one yet. I fail to see the value of my chief engineer and I getting sensitivity training. I’m sensitive enough already, and Scott…well, I think that there are certain things that are just beyond some people’s abilities and sensitivity is beyond Scott. Anyway, if all of this weren’t fun enough, our ‘teacher’ is Dr. Rebecca Singer. I thought Starfleet wanted us to learn sensitivity, not hysteria.”
“Captain, this is the stupidest…”
“I know,” Captain Alexander Rydell whispered, cutting off his chief engineer. “But we have to be here. Orders are orders.”
“Now then, showing your emotions is really quite simple,” Dr. Singer said to the assembled conference attendees. “All you have to do is feel the moment. For example, I am feeling very nervous as shown by the fact that I am trembling.” Actually, she was setting off seismographs on the other side of the planet. “Now, Commander Baird, how are you feeling right now?”
“Nauseous,” he said, sinking lower into his chair.
“That’s very good!” Singer said. “Let’s explore this.”
“Fine, you can explore the depths of my vomit when I cover you with it.”
“Baird!” Rydell snapped.
“Sorry, sir,” he said.
“Commander Baird’s nausea is a good example of showing your feelings,” Singer said. “Why are you feeling nauseous?”
“Doctor, I think you might want to move on to someone else,” Rydell said, heading off a possibly messy situation. Singer took his advice and started harassing some poor, half-asleep admiral.
“You remember when she thought she was a dog?” Scott whispered.
“Yeah,” Rydell said.
“We should have had her put to sleep.”
“Commander Baird, if a subordinate comes to you with a problem, what do you do?”
“Tell ‘em to go see Counselor Webber. Do I look like a fucking psychologist?”
“To help all of you develop your sensitive sides, we have a special treat for you: nine hours of Full House, a twentieth century show that embodies the points that we’re trying to get through to you.”
“How would they like some points rammed through their eyes?” Baird whispered. Rydell laughed.
“Very good, Captain,” Singer said. “Spontaneously showing happy emotions is very inspiring for crews.”
“Does ripping her fucking lungs out count as happy?” Baird whispered. “It’d sure inspire this member of the crew.”
“This is Starbase Control to Captain Rydell.” Alex Rydell rolled over in bed trying to ignore the noise interrupting his sleep. “Control to Rydell.” They weren’t going away.
“What?” he said finally.
“The runabout from the Secondprize has arrived to take you and your people back.”
“Thanks, Control. We’ll be there in an hour. Rydell out.” He pulled himself out of bed, informed Baird and Singer, and climbed into the shower. The sappy music from that damn show yesterday was still running through his head. The only thing this sensitivity training had done for him was slowly drive him insane.
Scott Baird was out cycling around the starbase when he received Rydell’s message. It was about time they were getting off this fucking planet. Unfortunately, he would have to spend the flight back with Dr. Singer. Thirty hours stuck on a little runabout with the poster child of hypersensitivity. He rode on through the compound. Since last night, he’d been having visions of that damn little girl and her dog from that stupid show getting run over or blown up in horrible ways. The only thing this sensitivity training had done for him was piss him off even more than usual.
Dr. Singer woke up sobbing. The conference was over, and now she’d have to go back to treating sick people. They were so depressing. She tried to cheer herself up by thinking about that adorable little girl from Full House. She was so sweet. Everyone should have a daughter like her. She’d probably do wonders for Scott.
Ensign Andrea Carr landed the runabout gently at the starbase landing area. She was relieved that the flight was over. Thirty hours with only the ship’s computer for company was not exactly conducive to an enjoyable flight. At least there would be people on the way back. On the down side, one of them was Commander Baird, who didn’t exactly like her…or her dog. Some people were so insensitive. Who couldn’t love a sweet, adoring Saint Bernard-Collie mix? Too bad Morgaine had to stay on the Secondprize. She would have loved to see Commander Baird again.
Nothing from a lion to a log
Is as loyal as a puppy dog.
Oh God, that was awful. Had she thought of something that… doggerel? She’d work on it while she waited for Captain Rydell and the others. Now what else rhymes with dog? Log frog bog sog cog jog. Maybe if she used canine instead…
Captain Rydell, Commander Baird, and Dr. Singer arrived at the runabout almost simultaneously, with Baird and Rydell practically knocking each other down to be the first into the runabout and get off that damn planet. Singer took one last, longing look at her surroundings and walked into the runabout, tears running down her cheeks.
Rydell headed straight for the cockpit anxious to get underway.
“Asinine!” Ensign Carr said suddenly.
“Excuse me?” Rydell asked, not sure whether he should be insulted or not. Carr whirled around suddenly, sending the padd she was working on flying toward Rydell. He dove to the floor just before the padd flew through the spot his nose had been in seconds earlier and smashed against the rear wall of the cabin. Carr really wished the cockpit had an eject seat at that moment.
“I’m really, REALLY sorry, sir. You scared me and…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Rydell said, picking himself off of the floor. “After four days with those weirdos, it’s nice having someone trying to kill me again.”
Carr winced. “I didn’t mean to,” she squeaked.
“Ensign, get us underway and stop worrying about that. It was an accident.” He moved to give her a reassuring pat on the shoulder, but she whirled back around in the chair, slamming Rydell in the gut and sending him gasping into the back wall. He had a feeling it was going to be a LONG trip, if he lived through it.
Captain Rydell looked up from the story he was reading to see if anything had changed. No. Singer was still sobbing quietly to herself, and Baird was over on the other side of the passenger cabin, as far away from her as possible, watching the holo-projector he’d picked up on the starbase. He didn’t have the decency to watch something that Rydell would like. Who the hell watched bicycling shows anyway? Baird had bought forty-four holo-tapes of bicycles! Bicycling in the Alps, along the Great Wall of China, through the Martian Canals, in the Grand Canyon, there was even one of some idiot in a spacesuit riding a rocket-bike over the rings of Saturn.
Deciding to go relieve Carr and watch exciting starfields go by for a while, Rydell put the padd down and walked up to the cockpit. He knocked before entering, just in case. After waiting a moment, he walked in and rammed straight into Carr, who had gotten up to open the door.
“Sorry, sir,” she said nervously. “I thought the door was locked or something.”
“That’s O.K., Ensign. Why don’t you go take a break for a few hours? I’ll take care of things up here.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said softly, slipping sheepishly out of the cabin. Rydell sat down in the pilot’s chair and looked out at the amazing lack of scenery.
“Runabout log. Stardate 49865.7. Situation normal: boring as hell. I don’t see how Carr can sit in this thing by herself for hours on end. It’s no wonder she writes so much poetry. I’d probably write War and Peace or something if I were stuck here.”
Rydell switched off the log recorder and went back to watching stars. In the last couple of hours, he’d started trying to find shapes in them. So far, he wasn’t getting very far, but he swore that they passed something that looked just like Elvis singing to a turtle with an axe sticking out of its rear end. It was the young Elvis though. He was still looking for the older, rhinestone jumpsuit version.
Rydell had just spotted Ethel Merman in a rhinestone jumpsuit when the sensors detected something. Something was the best word Rydell could use to describe it. The runabout was entering a region where the fabric of space and time seemed to be weak, but Rydell couldn’t figure out why. All of the other readings were normal, but space was still screwed up. The whole mess seemed to be centered at a point in the center of a nearby asteroid cluster. Curiosity getting the better of him, Rydell turned the runabout into the cluster to investigate.
The sensors were still showing the temporal effects emanating from a central point, but he couldn’t see anything there. That changed real fast. A blast of red light lanced out from the center of the phenomenon straight toward the runabout. Rydell tried frantically tried to get the ship out of way. It didn’t work. A moment later, he was bathed in the red light.
The runabout suddenly dove forward, sending Baird, Singer, and Carr rolling to the front of the cabin. They were soon buried in the mountain of tissues that Singer had formed over the course of the trip. Baird and Carr crawled to the front of the runabout to find out what the hell was going on. They heard screaming coming from the cockpit as they approached. Carr entered first and jumped into the co-pilot’s seat to pull the ship out of its dive. This was a very good idea considering a rather large asteroid was filling up the entire front viewport.
“Captain, are you all right?” Baird said.
“I’m going to die!” Rydell screamed. Carr leveled the runabout off millimeters above the surface of the asteroid.
“Land this crate, Ensign,” Baird said. “We need to find out what happened.”
“Who are you?” Rydell said, looking at Baird and Carr incredulously.
“Dr. Singer, get your ass up here now!” Baird shouted.
Singer rushed in a couple of seconds later. “What’s wrong?” she asked, hoping that it was nothing but fearing the worst.
“Who’s she?” Rydell asked. Singer pulled out her tricorder and began scanning Rydell.
“Well…he hasn’t hit his head or anything. I’m not sure what’s causing the amnesia.”
“Amnesia!” Rydell said. “I know exactly who I am.”
“Who are you?” Baird asked.
“Alex Rydell. Now, who the hell are you?”
“Commander Scott Baird. I’m your chief engineer.”
“What is this, Star Trek or something?”
“This is really good,” Rydell said, getting up to look around. “Who hired you guys? Where did you build this? It’s incredible.”
“Singer, would you please…”
“Taken care of,” she said, pressing a hypospray to Rydell’s neck. He slumped to the floor unconscious. “Bring him to the passenger cabin so I can examine him. This is so horrible.” She was on the verge of breaking down again. Baird picked up Rydell and slung him over his shoulder effortlessly.
“Carr, check out the logs and the sensors. I want to know everything that happened while the captain was up here.
Captain Alex Rydell was in the dark. He wasn’t sure what had just happened to him. He was unable to make out his surroundings, but he could tell that he was lying on a bed and there was a weight on his chest.
“Lights,” he said groggily.
“If you insist,” a female voice purred from directly above him. His body started to recognize the…um…items pressing down on him. The weight shifted, and suddenly the lights came on, blinding him. “Well…?”
“What?” Rydell said, rubbing his eyes to clear them. He stopped seeing the spots on his closed eyelids. He opened his eyes and wished that he hadn’t. As his body had surmised, there was a woman on top of him. It hadn’t noticed that she was naked, however.
“Are you going to get those things off? Or do you want me to do it for you?” she asked sultrily. She looked familiar, but not really. It was a strange mix of someone he knew and a complete stranger. The attitude was familiar, though.
“Shouldn’t he be awake by now?” Commander Baird asked impatiently as he paced the passenger cabin.
“He must be having some kind of reaction to the sedative,” Singer said, running her tricorder over Rydell’s body. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Commander,” Ensign Carr said, rushing into the room. “I’ve found something!”
“Don’t just say that! Tell me what the fuck you found. Don’t make me ask questions. This isn’t a goddamn holo-vision show!”
“Sorry, sir.” Jees, she’d managed to get two senior officers mad at her in one day. She was on a roll. One more and she might get a lovely demotion in the bargain. Of course, what was below ensign? Maybe they’d send her back to the Academy. Uggh. She would just have to make sure that didn’t happen.
“The sensor logs show that Captain Rydell was investigating a temporal instability in this region of space centered about two thousand kilometers from us at heading zero zero three mark seven. A red energy emission from the center of the temporal anomaly struck the runabout, enveloping the cockpit and the captain.”
“What?” Singer asked.
“He got shot by a big red light,” Baird said. “Great, so what happened to him? In English this time.”
“I don’t know,” Carr said apologetically.
“Any idea, Doctor?” Baird said, turning to Singer. This was starting to get on his nerves. He didn’t want to command. This was Rydell’s job. He just wanted somebody to tell him how to fix the captain, so they could get on their way.
“I don’t know either, but whoever this is isn’t doing too well.”
Baird figured he was going to have to hurt someone real soon. “What do you mean ‘whoever this is’?!?” he said.
“The brain waves coming from this person do not match Captain Rydell’s,” Singer said. “It’s not him!” She let out a wail and collapsed to the floor crying. Baird picked up her tricorder and looked at the readings. They definitely weren’t Captain Rydell’s but they were really close.
“Is this his body?” Carr asked. Singer nodded without looking up. “So just the mind is different. Well, if he’s not in his own body, whose is he in?”
“Monica, I really don’t think you should be doing this. I mean, I’m your commanding officer,” Rydell said as Monica worked at his pants.
“Oh, so you’re into THOSE games. All right! Well, Captain, I am here to serve,” Monica said, lowering his zipper.
“Hold on!” Rydell shouted. “I need to…use the bathroom!”
“I’ve got protection in my purse, if that’s what you’re going to get. And besides, I’m on the pill.”
“Ahh…no…I’ve got to go to the bathroom. I’ll be back in just a second.” He squirmed out from under Monica and crawled out of the bed. This was Monica Vaughn, but it wasn’t. She seemed…younger, and a little different. Rydell stood up and looked around the room he was in. The walls were a sterile white, broken up occasionally by large pictures printed on thin paper. The one by the bed he’d just crawled out of had a large black bat in a yellow oval. He realized that he’d been a lower bunk of a set of bunk beds. The pictures beside the top bunk were of women and said something about twin peaks, whatever that was. Judging by Monica’s behavior, it was probably a slang term for…never-mind. On the opposite wall were three more pictures. Two showed a man dressed all in black. He wore a mask with pointy tips extending above his head, and he had the black bat and gold oval on his chest. The third picture looked like…a starship, but it was an old style one from the twenty-third century. This was bizarre. Odd devices covered the two desks and two dressers in the room. The things on the desks he recognized as archaic computer systems like he had seen in a museum and books…with paper! Where was he?
Rydell stumbled to the door and slammed into it when it didn’t open automatically. It had a doorknob! He managed to get out of the room and found what appeared to be the bathroom. It had old style, water plumbing, but it still worked pretty much the same; although, he had to pull a little lever to get rid of the vomit he emptied into the toilet. He looked into the mirror and felt like he was going to throw up again. The face in the mirror was his, but not his. He also looked a lot younger, approximately twenty. What was going on?
“Alex,” Monica called from the bedroom. “Come back to bed, O Captain my Captain.” O.K., he obviously was no longer on the runabout. That much was certain. Judging by his surroundings, he wasn’t anywhere near a runabout, or in a time that even had runabouts…or starships. He was still named Alex. She was a Monica. He was young and…in college! Where else did people live in places like this?
He walked out into the kitchen and confirmed his suspicions. The mess there would not have been allowed anywhere else but in the home of two unmarried men. Two. The upper bed and other desk meant that he had a roommate. Oh boy. This could get complicated. Rydell thought back to the books on the desks. This Alex had to take classes. If Rydell didn’t get out of there soon, he’d have to go to them. What kind of stuff was he taking?
He walked back into the bedroom and scanned the book titles on the desks. One desk had all literature and writing books. Hoping that this Alex wasn’t too different from him, he decided that this was NOT his desk. He looked at the other desk. Physics, philosophy, literature, computers, and calculus. Well, the science ones wouldn’t be a problem, but philosophy…and literature? OH BOY.
“Are you coming?” Monica said impatiently. This Monica was naked in his bed which meant that she was…his girlfriend. Oh well, no need to mess up this Alex’s relationship. He pulled off the T-shirt he was wearing and dropped his pants. Monica started moving toward his underwear when Alex heard a scream. He whirled around and saw a short woman charging straight at him.
“You bastard!” she screamed, tears beginning to flow down her cheeks. “How could you!”
“Huh?” Rydell said. Maybe Monica wasn’t his girlfriend. This other woman looked familiar.
“Trina,” Monica said. Trina? Trinian. OHHHH BOYYYY! This just kept getting worse.
“Shut up, you slut! He was mine. How could you come in here and… And how could you let her…” She let out another scream and slapped Rydell forcefully across the face before turning and running out of the room crying.
“Don’t you people lock the doors around here?” Monica said.
“Could we just back up here a fucking minute?” Baird said trying desperately not to rip Singer’s lungs out. “I’m just going to make sure that I’ve got this straight. That’s the captain’s body?”
“Right,” Carr said.
“But it’s not him?”
“Then who the fuck is it!?!”
“I don’t know,” Carr screamed back. “Why don’t you ask her? She’s the damn doctor.” Baird glared at Carr for an instant, then turned to Singer.
“Now, Doctor, who is in Captain Rydell’s body?” he asked slowly.
“I don’t know,” Singer said, trying to compose herself. “The brain waves are so close that it would have to be a relative. Computer, compare the brain waves of the subject to all known relatives of Captain Rydell. For all we know, he could be safely on Earth or something.”
“Yeah, but stuck in someone else’s body,” Baird said. “I’m not sure that that counts as safe.”
“No matches found,” the computer said.
“How far back did that search go?” Carr asked.
“2173,” the computer said.
“Computer, what is the probability that this is a relative of Captain Rydell?” Singer asked.
“Ninety-nine point six percent.”
“That’s pretty damn high,” Baird said. “Can we wake him up and ask him?”
“No,” Singer replied. “That’s what I was trying to tell you. He’s in some kind of coma induced by the sedative. His body just couldn’t take the stress of the energy beam and the medication I gave him.”
“Wait a second!” Carr said. “The energy wave came from a time distortion. Maybe we should scan it for Captain Rydell’s brain waves. This might not be a relative at all. He could have just been sent to some other universe or something.”
“Oh, he was just sent to another universe. What a fucking relief!” Baird said, throwing himself into a chair.
“I’ll just go do that scan now,” Carr said, retreating out of the room.
“So what do we do if we find him?” Singer asked. “We have to get him back here.”
“Well, if Carr can find him, I can rig up this holo-projector to lock onto his brain waves and send a message to him. Hell, I can go there myself if I scavenge a few parts from the runabout’s comm system.”
“But how do we get him back?”
“Very carefully,” Baird said.
“She seemed a bit upset,” Captain Rydell remarked, still not sure which person was actually his girlfriend…if either of them was.
“I guess catching your boyfriend in bed with another woman would do that,” Monica said smiling. Well, that cleared that up real fast. So if Trina was his girlfriend…
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Trying to add a little spice to your life,” Monica said, climbing out of bed. “I didn’t know she was going to interrupt us.”
“Do you think she’ll get over it?” Rydell asked. He would hate to think that he had messed up this Alex’s life. Of course, this Alex was in bed with Monica before Rydell got here.
“I’m sorry about this. I know you weren’t expecting me to come over, and you sure weren’t expecting this.”
“So you jumped me?” Rydell said, feeling better about the whole situation.
“You didn’t seem to be fighting me too much.” Oh boy. She had him there, and she probably wouldn’t believe the ‘this isn’t really my body’ excuse.
“This is really flattering and all, but you’d better go,” Rydell said. “I’m…not in the mood.”
“You sure? There’s no reason that the evening should be a complete disaster.”
“Thanks, but I’m sure.”
Monica shrugged and put her clothes back on.
“Let me know if you change your mind,” Monica said, walking to the door. “Oh Captain my Captain,” she added suggestively.
Once Monica had left, Rydell started rummaging through the pockets of the pants that he’d taken off. He found a wallet. There were several cards inside that read things like Visa and Master Card, but the card that caught his attention had this Alex’s picture on it. It was a driver’s license, whatever that meant. The date of birth for that Alex Rydell was January 18, 1974. 1974! That explained a few things. Actually, that explained everything except for one minor detail. WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING HERE? Until he could find an answer for that and figure out how to get home, he’d just have to try to adapt.
Rydell pulled on his clothes and sat down at the desk to commence learning all he could about this Alex Rydell’s life.
“Carr to Commander Baird,” the comm system barked.
“What is it?” Baird said.
“I found Captain Rydell. He’s on Earth.”
“That’s great,” Singer said. “All we have to do is get back to the Secondprize and go get him.”
“There’s one little problem. It’s 1993 where he is,” Carr said.
“Fuck!” Baird shouted. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. The temporal anomaly seems to be a wormhole in time and space between here and twentieth century Earth. It’s really cool! I was able to scan Earth like we were right there…well, except for the fact that their time is moving faster than ours for some reason. The wormhole opens out in the old United States of America in Norfolk, Virginia. A place called Old Dominion University to be precise. Captain Rydell is there.”
“I don’t suppose we can beam him back,” Singer said.
“No. The transporter can’t beam across time like that,” Baird said. “We can’t lock onto him anyway. It’s not his body, he doesn’t have a commbadge, and the transporter can’t lock onto brainwaves. But, the brain waves are enough to lock a signal onto. Of course, he’ll be the only one able to see it, which is nice. I’m sure that he’d have a hell of a time explaining my presence.”
“Yeah. He’s stuck in a strange time period. If I’m there, I can guide him with the information stored in the library computer. Besides, I wouldn’t fucking miss this for the world. I get to order him around for a change.” Baird walked back to the living quarters and returned a few seconds later with his tool kit. This was going to take a while.
Captain Rydell woke up with a massive headache. He rolled over and quickly discovered that half of his bed wasn’t there anymore. He hit the floor with a thud, which didn’t help his head any. He opened his eyes and looked around. His surroundings reminded him that he was no longer in his nice, plush quarters on the Secondprize. He was in a squalid, college apartment. Stupid twin size bed. Stupid…well…everything.
Rydell dragged himself into the shower and tried to get ready to face the morning. The water felt fantastic. Showers with actual water were a luxury on a starship. Here, he could have one anytime he wanted. Maybe college life wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Suddenly, he heard thumping coming from out in the hall. He turned off the water and wrapped a towel around himself to see what was going on. He entered the bedroom and saw a male figure leaning over a large, black duffle bag.
“Hi, Alex,” the man said without turning around. “I’m back. Have a nice weekend?” That voice. What was that voice? The man turned around. Rydell screamed and hit the floor in a dead faint.
Rydell returned to consciousness a few seconds later. He was afraid to open his eyes to see if the man was still there.
“Travis?” he ventured nervously.
“Last time I checked. Do you want to see I.D.?” Travis said.
Rydell found himself choking back tears. He was here! Was this some weird hell that only looked like a college? What had Rydell done to deserve this?
“Are you O.K., Alex?”
Rydell opened his eyes. Yep, it was Dillon…but it wasn’t Dillon. He was younger. His face seemed more boyish and less obnoxious. Rydell took Travis’ extended hand and allowed himself to be pulled up.
“Sorry, I’m just a little surprised to see you,” Rydell said. Boy, wasn’t that the truth.
“Rachel had to go to work, so I came back early. Oh, my parents said hi, and they want to know when you’re coming back up to the house. You were there so much over the summer that I guess they got used to you,” Travis said. Wait, this meant that this Alex and Travis were…FRIENDS! They spent time together outside of school. “Oh here, I got you something while I was home.” Travis reached into his bag and handed Rydell a book. “You said you wanted it.” Rydell looked down at the title: Quantum Leap. It said that it was based on a television series. Wow, there was television in this time period. He’d studied that in history class. The twentieth century was shaped by shows like The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy and…
“So how was Star Trek?” Travis asked, interrupting Rydell’s thoughts.
“You didn’t watch it. Oh well, I taped it. We can watch it later.” This Travis was definitely different. Dillon would have been much more annoying. Dillon wouldn’t have bought him anything. Dillon wouldn’t have even tried to have a conversation.
“Yeah, fine,” Rydell said. What did ‘taped it’ mean? Travis pulled out another piece of paper from his bag and handed it to Rydell.
“Our engagement announcement was in the paper over the weekend,” Travis said. The clipping Travis gave Rydell showed Travis and a woman holding hands. She was lovely and actually seemed to like him. Of course she did. This wasn’t Commander Travis Michael Dillon, officious idiot; this was Travis Dillon, college student. They were two different people. The woman also looked a lot like one of the sickbay nurses. This was getting confusing. If Rydell was in the twentieth century, what were these people who resembled him and his crew doing here?
“That’s great Travis. I hope you and…” He looked at the clipping again. The woman’s name was Rachel Kelley. Kelley. That was the nurse in sickbay’s name! “I hope you and Rachel are very happy.”
“You still haven’t told me how your weekend was,” Travis said as he continued unpacking.
“It’s been a trip,” Rydell said. No need to bore Travis with pesky details like the fact that he was actually a starship captain from the twenty-fourth century.
“Well, did you get your paper done?”
“The relativity paper you have due in physics tomorrow. You were supposed to stay here, away from Trina, and do it this weekend. You two spent the whole time doing…other things, didn’t you?”
“Not the things that you’d expect, I imagine,” Rydell said, sitting down at his desk. He’d found a physics folder last night, but missed the fact that he had a paper due. How much other work did he have to get done? This college stuff might not be as great as he thought.
“Done!” Commander Baird said fifteen hours later. The reaction to his announcement was not exactly overwhelming; Dr. Singer just shifted her sleeping position slightly. Whatever. Now he needed to find a room to install the holographic imaging system into. He carefully moved the imager to the rear of the runabout and started looking.
Captain Rydell was violently awakened the next morning by a loud alarm. He sat up in bed and jumped to his feet.
“Rydell to bridge. What the hell’s going on up there?” He suddenly remembered where he was. He turned back to the bed and saw Travis looking at him strangely.
“You O.K., Alex?”
“Uh yeah…I’m fine. I was just dreaming, that’s all.”
“Sounds like it was fun.” Travis climbed down from the top bunk and headed to the bathroom. His eyes stopped on the clock. “Aren’t you late for class?”
“Class? Class! Oh great.” Rydell ran over to the desk and dug out the schedule sheet he’d found on Saturday. He was supposed to be in Physics ten minutes ago, and he had to turn in the paper he’d been up until 2AM writing. Rydell dove over to the dresser and threw open the drawers. They contained one pair of underwear and one pair of socks.
“Looks like it’s laundry day,” Travis said as he left the room. Laundry? What did that mean? He threw on what clothes he could find, grabbed his backpack, and ran out the door carrying a map of the campus and a copy of his schedule.
“Baird to Carr.”
“Come back to the bathroom and bring Dr. Singer with you.”
“Yes…sir,” Carr replied hesitantly. She got out of the pilot’s seat and walked back to the passenger cabin, where Singer was asleep on the floor beside Captain Rydell’s unconscious body. She nudged Singer slightly, waking her up, and urged her to the rear of the ship. Orders were orders, but if Commander Baird wanted to take a three person shower or something, she was going AWOL.
Baird was standing in the sonic shower tinkering with a device mounted into the wall. It looked like a camera of some kind. He was going to film them taking a shower together? This guy was sick.
“Come over here and give me a hand, Ensign,” Baird ordered.
“I need you to hold the damn imager in place while I make the final attachments,” Baird said. “Now get over here.” She walked over and held the camera for Baird. “O.K. I’m ready to go,” he said when he had finished. “The shower is going to have to do as an imaging chamber. I don’t think there’ll be any problems with the equipment. At least, I hope not; otherwise, this may be a short visit. Doctor, see what you can do about the captain. We need to make sure that he has a living body to come back to. Contact me on my commbadge if you need me.” He picked up a padd and walked over to the shower.
“Sir? We were supposed to be back at the Secondprize over an hour ago,” Ensign Carr said. “Shouldn’t we tell them where we are?”
“Call them, but don’t tell them the situation. The last thing we need is Dillon rushing in here to fuck things up. Just say that we’re taking the scenic route or something. Also, try to download any information on this university that you can. The runabout’s computer should have just about all we’d need, but just in case…”
“Got it, sir.” Carr and Singer left the room as Baird walked into the shower. He turned on the imager and watched as the light blue shower tiles with the disgustingly cute pink bunnies on them wavered out of existence.
Captain Rydell almost fainted the second he charged into his physics classroom. The older man lecturing couldn’t be who he looked like. Actually, considering everything else that was going on, he could be. A wave out of the corner of his eye drew his attention. A reasonable facsimile of Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins was gesturing him over. He walked over to the desk beside her and grabbed a seat.
“Up too late working on your paper?” Patricia whispered.
“Tulson was wondering if you were going to show up at all.” So it was Dr. Robert Tulson. This was too weird. His academy physics professor was here teaching a college version of Rydell. He’d heard of history repeating itself, but this was ridiculous.
“Captain,” a familiar voice said from behind him. Rydell whirled around and saw Commander Baird standing by the windows.
“Scott!” Rydell shouted. The class stopped and stared at him.
“What?” Patricia said.
“Alex, there’s no scott in ray diagrams,” Tulson said. “The answer is a real image.”
“They can’t see or hear me, Captain,” Baird said. “So just listen to me. We’ll find a place to talk later.” Scott walked right through the desks over to Rydell. “You’re on Earth in the twentieth century.” Rydell mouthed “no kidding” at him. “We’re trying to figure out how to get you back, but in the meantime…”
“Carr to Baird.” Baird slapped his commbadge.
“I think you had better come up here. There seems to be a slight problem.”
“Why can’t you just tell me?”
“Trust me on this one.”
“I’m on my way,” Baird said. “I’ll be back as soon as possible, but it may be a while for you. Our scans show that your time is moving faster relative to ours, but it shouldn’t be too long.” Baird tapped a button on the padd he was holding and vanished.
Commander Baird charged into the cockpit angrily.
“What the fuck is so important that you couldn’t tell me in the chamber?” Carr reached forward and tapped a button.
“Hello, friend runabout,” a voice said. “How can we help our friends?”
“I told you to contact the Secondprize!” Baird said.
“That is the Secondprize.”
“What do we do, sir?”
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
“What?!?” Commander Baird screamed, breaking out of his trance.
“What do you want to do?” Carr said, enunciating very slowly and clearly just to make sure Baird could keep up.
“You’re sure they’re Joegonots?”
“Fairly sure, sir. How many other races do you know that call everyone their friends?”
“So how did they get on the Secondprize? Captain Rydell turned them all into humans a couple of months ago,” Baird said.
“No, he didn’t.”
“Yes, he did. I was there.”
“No, you weren’t. It never happened,” Carr said.
“You know, I’m starting to get real sick of not knowing what the fuck anyone is talking about. Now, I’m going to ask you a question, and you are going to give me a straight, clear, AND concise answer. Understand?”
“Yes. Was that your question?”
“Sorry,” Carr squeaked, sinking deeper and deeper into her chair.
“Why are there Joegonots on the Secondprize?”
“Well, from the information I downloaded from the Secondprize’s computer, I found out that Captain Rydell doesn’t exist in this time continuum. On stardate 49804 Captain Travis Dillon took the Secondprize to Ugilious, where the Joegonots transformed the crew into more Joegonots and swept out to conquer the universe. So far, they’re doing extremely well. Even the Borg are going around asking people to be their friends now.”
“Uggh,” Baird shuddered. “So I’m a… You’re a…” Baird broke into screams of terror.
“Good idea, sir,” Carr said and joined her commanding officer in panic.
Captain Rydell lugged a large bag of clothes into the laundry room of his apartment complex. Between listening to Travis’s comments and watching some things called commercials, he’d been able to pretty much figure out what to do. Having to wash clothes was so annoying. He really missed his clothing replicator. At the end of the day, all he had to do was throw his uniform into a matter reclamation unit and get a new one the next day.
The laundry room was deserted when Rydell entered. He had hoped that there’d be someone in there to help him just in case, but he’d just have to do it himself. He was a starship captain. He’d saved the universe. He could handle laundry.
“Captain,” a voice said from behind him as he was overloading a washer. Rydell jumped and threw the pair of underwear he was holding backwards. Commander Baird considered himself fortunate to be a hologram as the underwear flew through his face.
“Please don’t sneak up on me like that,” Rydell said, leaning against the washer clasping his hand to his heart.
“Sorry, sir. I can’t exactly knock.”
“Fine. Just tell me what’s going on. I was scanning the center of that temporal disturbance and next thing I know, I’m in bed with Monica Vaughn except it wasn’t Monica since she wasn’t even born in the twentieth century. Please explain this to me. Dillon’s here and he’s not a jerk and Tr…”
“Sir, calm down. You swapped bodies with an Alex Rydell who lived in the twentieth century. He was one of your ancestors.”
“How did this happen?”
“We don’t know,” Baird said.
“Can you bring me back?”
“We don’t know that either. We have to figure out how you got there first.”
“Well, you got here,” Rydell said.
“Actually, I’m still on the runabout. That’s why I’m only here as a hologram.”
“Fine. So what am I supposed to do until you masters of space and time figure out how to save my ass?”
“Save your ass.”
“You don’t exist anymore, sir,” Baird said.
“Yes, I do.”
“I’ve had this conversation once today, Captain. I don’t feel like having it again. You’ve changed history somehow and erased your own existence. Because of that, the whole universe has been Joegonoted.”
“Oh no. Wait, then how come you’re still fine?”
“My guess is that we’re protected by the temporal distortions around the anomaly, but I’m not sure how long nature is going to allow two different time lines to exist simultaneously. We have to figure out what you did and fix it,” Baird said.
“But I haven’t done anything,” Rydell insisted. The washer behind him started to ooze bubbles. He didn’t notice. “I’ve gone to class. I’ve been doing this Alex’s homework. I haven’t killed anyone… not even Dillon. I mean Travis. It’s so weird. He’s actually likeable here. If only we could swap his brain with our Dillon’s.”
“Sorry. I haven’t killed Travis. I didn’t sleep with Monica. Trina…Oh shit.” Rydell sat down on the floor in the spreading mass of bubbles. “Trina broke up with me because she caught me with Monica. That’s the only thing I’ve done. This Alex must marry her and start the line that leads to me. I have to get her back, Scott. But how? She seemed really mad.”
“Don’t worry, sir. I’m here to help you,” Baird said.
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better.” Behind Rydell, the washer flew open sending clothes and soap flying everywhere.
Travis Dillon paced the living room of the apartment, talking with his girlfriend on the phone. From his third floor view, he could look out toward the main part of the university’s campus. The arts and letters building towered over the rest of the buildings, reflecting the rays of the setting sun. It was quite scenic. Travis and Rachel babbled sweetness at each other until Travis looked down at the sidewalk leading to the apartment. Alex was returning with his laundry. That was fine except for the fact that he appeared to be having a conversation with… absolutely no one. He was talking along and gesturing as well as he could while carrying his laundry bag, but there was no one there.
“Honey? Sweetheart? TRAVIS!!!!!”
“What? Oh, sorry, Rachel. I was just…watching my roommate,” Travis said distractedly as he continued to watch Alex’s approach.
“What’s he doing that’s so fascinating?”
“Talking to himself.”
“So? You do that all the time.”
“I know, but I don’t usually throw down my laundry in the middle of the sidewalk to yell at the air.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” Rydell shouted angrily.
“What?” Commander Baird said, mystified at his captain’s response.
“I am NOT going to go over there and just throw myself at her naked and beg her to take me.”
“Well if a girl did that to me, it’d work.”
“How come that doesn’t surprise me?” Rydell said. “You aren’t quite getting the sensitive nature of this situation. If I’m going to win Trina back, I have to use romance.”
“My idea was romantic,” Baird stammered, hurt.
“Only in your social deviant corner of the universe.”
“Whatever, Casanova. What course of action does the Alex Rydell Manual of Babe Retrieval recommend?”
“I think we’ll start with…flowers. I hope this Alex has some money somewhere.”
“Why? It’s not like he’s going to have any left when you’re through with him,” Baird said. He pressed a couple of buttons on the padd he was holding and vanished.
Captain Rydell gathered up his scattered belongings and trudged up the stairs to the apartment. He was winded when he reached the top. He never had to climb stairs in the twenty-fourth century. He didn’t realize they could be this tiring. Travis was cooing to his fiancée when Rydell entered.
“Bye, gorgeous…I love you…I miss you…Write me…I love you, too…I love you…bye,” Travis hung up the phone and let out a content little sigh. At least someone’s life was going fine.
“Hi, Travis,” Rydell said.
“Have a nice conversation?”
“You saw him?”
“No one. I was just complaining about doing laundry,” Rydell said quickly. Travis looked at him for a few seconds deep in thought. Rydell could almost hear circuits frying as his roommate attempted to make some sense out of things. That was one thing Rydell had noticed about this Travis: he actually had a brain. Not only that, he used it a lot judging by the papers and stuff Rydell had found in his desk while Travis was away at class. It wasn’t the most honorable thing for him to have done, but he needed to know something about this Travis so he’d know how to act around him. Judging by the last day, he wasn’t doing very well.
Rydell retreated back to the bedroom to put his clothes away. Travis followed a minute later, sitting down at his desk still lost in thought.
“Next time you’re looking for something, try not to tear my desk apart,” Travis said finally breaking the silence.
“Sorry,” Rydell mumbled. “I was trying to…”
“Captain, don’t say another fucking word!” Baird’s voice said. Rydell whirled around and saw Baird standing by the window.
“What’s wrong?” Rydell and Travis asked in unison.
“He’s on to you,” Baird said.
“What?” Rydell and Travis said.
“Captain, just turn around and pretend that I’m not here. Just listen.”
“Alex, what the hell is going on?” Travis said.
“Nothing, Dillon. I thought I heard something,” Rydell said. Travis stared at him again.
“If he figures things out, it’ll change the future, and we’re in enough shit as it is,” Baird said.
“Why are you calling me Dillon?” Travis said.
“I did? Sorry, Travis. Look, I’ve really got to go to the bathroom. I’ll be back in a minute.” Rydell motioned behind his back for Baird to follow him and left the room.
“No offense, sir, but what the fuck were you doing in there?” Baird said after Rydell had closed and locked the bathroom door.
“What do you mean? There’s no way in the universe that he could guess what’s going on. I mean, who would believe that I’m a starship captain from the twenty-fourth century trapped in the body of some ancestor of mine. That’s crazy.”
“Exactly. Do you want him to have you put in some primitive mental health facility?” Baird said. “It’s going to be real fucking hard to win Trina back in a straitjacket. Romance and rubber rooms just don’t mix.”
“Good point, Commander. I’ll try to be more careful. Let’s go.”
“Flush the toilet,” Baird said. “You were supposedly going to the bathroom, remember?”
“Oh yeah. Thanks. I probably won’t do anything else until tomorrow night, so you can go back to the runabout and relax for a while.”
“Yeah right. Relax in a Joegonot dominated universe. Sure.” Baird tapped a few buttons and vanished. Rydell flushed the toilet and walked back into the bedroom.
“You know, these bathrooms aren’t real soundproof,” Travis said holding up a small device that Rydell recognized from his history of technology courses as a pocket tape recorder. “I could have you put away for a good long time just on the basis of this tape, and I’m pretty sure I could find some other people who’ve noticed how strangely you’ve been acting for the last couple of days. Trina perhaps? I’m sure she’d be more than willing to help.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rydell said, using the regulation Starfleet lie.
“Nice try. That line doesn’t work in movies, and it’s not working now either,” Travis said. Rydell made a mental note to advise Starfleet to change the lie.
“So, you’re going to have me committed?” Rydell said.
“No, I don’t think you’re crazy, Captain.”
Rydell frantically tried to figure out how to handle this. According to the Prime Directive, he couldn’t interfere with the natural development of primitive cultures, and twentieth century Earth definitely counted as primitive. Revealing the truth to Travis, well what he didn’t already know anyway, could alter Earth history extensively. Of course, if he didn’t tell Travis, Travis could have him committed and he wouldn’t get Trina back. Then, the Federation would be destroyed by the Joegonots, which would mean no more Prime Directive. Therefore, he could tell Travis everything. So, he did.
“…so I have to get Trina back and find a way to get home to my own time,” Rydell said, finishing his story several minutes later.
“Uggh, I’m almost sorry I asked,” Travis said, leaning back in his chair. He tossed Rydell the tape recorder. “Put that back in Alex’s desk please.”
“Not a problem. I’ll just erase the tape first.”
“What tape?” Travis said smiling. Rydell glared at him, but then started laughing.
“Thanks. I didn’t think of it until you flushed the toilet. I grabbed it out of Alex’s desk before you came back.” Rydell decided that when Commander Baird returned, he’d have to see if there was a way to switch this Travis’s mind with their Dillon. This one was much more tolerable. “So what do we do now, Captain?” Travis said. He’d gotten into the habit of calling Rydell that very quickly.
“Well, I’m going to get some flowers sent to Trina.”
“I thought so too…how do I do it?” Rydell said.
“I’ll take care of it,” Travis said, pulling out the phone book. “What kind of flowers do you want to send?”
“Your discretion, Number One,” Rydell said. This one actually deserved the name.
“Aye, sir,” Travis replied smiling.
At about three the next afternoon, Captain Rydell and Travis walked back up to the apartment after finishing their classes for the day. Rydell had spent an hour and fifteen minutes in a literature class taught by Dr. Donask. Rydell had no idea how she would eventually lead to a Klingon captain in the twenty-fourth century, and he didn’t really want to know either.
Rydell and Travis were talking happily. The flowers were supposed to have been delivered to Trina that morning. She’d see them, forgive Rydell, and everything would be just fine. That nice thought was blasted into oblivion when they reached the top of the stairs. A dozen rose stems littered the floor in front of their door. The buds had been ripped off and thrown against the door.
“Looks like romance didn’t work,” Baird’s voice said from behind them.
“Guess not,” Rydell said glumly, turning around to face his holographic chief engineer.
“Is Commander Baird here?” Travis asked.
“You told him!!!” Baird screamed.
“He blackmailed me,” Rydell said.
“Fuck. What are you going to do about him when you leave?”
“I don’t think that it’s anything we’ll need to worry about,” Rydell said.
“I’m not going to run to the newspapers,” Travis said, trying to guess where Baird was from where Rydell was looking.
“Whatever,” Baird said.
“Travis’s trying to help me get Trina back,” Rydell said.
“Oh, it looks like he’s doing a wonderful job,” Baird said. “The flowers were just such a brilliant idea.”
“The flowers were my idea, Commander,” Rydell said irritated.
“Oh yeah. Sorry, sir.”
“Captain,” Travis said, interrupting Rydell and Baird. “I don’t think Trina is going to be very receptive until she finds out that Monica jumped you.”
“You’re right,” Rydell said. “I’ll go talk to Monica after we go drop off our backpacks. Where does she live?”
“I’ll take you over there,” Travis said. “You need somebody to cover for you if you run into people who know Alex.”
“I’ll meet you there in a minute,” Baird said. “Doctor Singer is banging on the door demanding to use the bathroom.” He vanished.
“Anything new to report, Ensign,” Commander Baird said as he walked into the runabout’s cockpit.
“Nothing conclusive, sir,” Ensign Carr said without looking up from her console. “I’ve been scanning the time rift, but I still haven’t been able to get a lock on its origin.”
“Well, is it natural?”
“Definitely not. The wave patterns are far too regular for a natural phenomenon. I do know that whoever created it is doing it from back then, not now.”
“So all Captain Rydell has to do is find out who it is and…?”
“I don’t have a clue, sir. I’m not Lieutenant Commander Jaroch.”
“No kidding. He would have had this straightened out hours ago.”
Commander Baird wasn’t quite sure whether the chair that caught him in the genitals after that remark was deliberately shoved there or not. He didn’t want to stick around to find out either, so he crawled painfully out of the cockpit back to the imaging shower.
Rydell and Travis took the elevator up to the sixth floor of the Mid-Rise dormitory. The building was only a couple of hundred yards away from their apartment, but Rydell hadn’t had a chance or a reason to go over there yet. Travis didn’t say anything on the ride up. He was taking this whole thing very seriously and probably planning out their next move. Rydell preferred to make things up as he went along, but Travis’s attempts were appreciated. If the plans didn’t work, Rydell would just wing it.
Travis took a right turn out of the elevator and led Rydell down a long hallway. He stopped at the last room on the right and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” a female voice called. Travis opened the door and walked in, followed by Rydell. A woman who looked a lot like Lieutenant Sullivan jumped out of her desk chair and ran up and hugged Travis.
“Hi, Emily,” Travis said. “What’s up?”
“Not a lot, brother dear,” she said. Rydell looked at Travis questioningly. Travis mouthed, “I’ll explain later.”
“Alex needs to talk to Monica. Is she anywhere around?”
“Yeah, she ran down to the laundry room to check on her stuff. She’ll be back in a second.” Rydell saw Commander Baird appear behind Emily. “Come sit down.” Baird’s face clouded as he tried to place the voice. When Emily turned around to go back to her desk, Baird’s jaw dropped six inches.
“Oh fuck, she followed me!” he shouted.
“It’s not her,” Rydell said.
“What?” Emily said. Travis noticed that Rydell was looking over at the wall and figured out that Commander Baird must have returned.
“Uhh…the poster on your wall,” Travis said quickly. “We were trying to remember whether it was Reba MacEntire or Tammy Wynette. He thought that it was Tammy Wynette.”
“And it’s not,” Rydell said playing along.
“Oh,” Emily said.
“I think I’m going to walk down the hall and see if I can find Monica,” Rydell said. He opened the door again and moved out into the hall. A second later, Commander Baird had joined him.
“I don’t believe it. I don’t fucking believe it! I break up with the girl, and she follows me to another fucking century. Get a life!” Baird said.
“It’s not her! It’s only an ancestor. Why can’t you get that through your head?” Rydell said, stopping a little ways down the hall. Hearing a commotion, Sean Russell opened his door to see what was going on.
“Hi, Alex,” he said. “Anything wrong?”
“Nothing, Lieutenant. Go back to your quarters,” Rydell said without noticing that it wasn’t the Russell from his time. Sean shut the door again. He went back to his computer wondering what the hell that was all about.
“That wasn’t Lieutenant Russell,” Baird said. “I guess I’m not the only one having problems getting things through my head.”
“Shut up.” Rydell saw Monica entering the door at the end of the hallway. Upon seeing Rydell, she ran forward and grabbed him in a big, not quite innocent hug. He pried her hands off his rear and held them in front of him. “Monica, just the person I wanted to see.”
“I knew you’d come around,” she said. Rydell could tell by the look in her eye and her hand’s attempt to move to other regions that she was missing the point.
“No, I need you to talk to Trina for me.”
“Why? What do you want me to say to her?”
“I have to get her back, and you’re the only person who can help me,” Rydell said.
“Tell her that you’ll sleep with her if she does,” Baird said. Rydell shot him a dirty look.
“I’ll be forever grateful,” Rydell said, producing as charming a smile as he could muster.
“Probably not grateful enough,” Monica said, pushing past him. Rydell and Baird jogged after her. They walked back into Monica’s room where Emily and Travis were talking. At that’s what Rydell assumed they had been doing. After the way Emily greeted Travis, he wasn’t sure of a lot of things about his roommate. Travis would definitely have some explaining to do. Who knew? Maybe if this Travis was cheating on his fiancee, Rydell could break up the relationship and prevent his Dillon from ever being born… or maybe that’s what happened, and Travis and Emily get together leading to his Dillon. Maybe he’d just better not mess with it.
“Does that mean you’ll do it?” Rydell asked, seating himself at Emily’s desk.
“Yeah, I’ll talk to her,” Monica said. “I won’t like it, but I’ll talk to her.”
“Thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me.” Rydell noticed a postcard on the desk showing the Tower of London. Being nosy, he flipped it over and read the message.
“I’m having a wonderful time, my dear, but I am dying from the lack of your luminous presence. I count the days until we will be together again. Your ever loving and faithful,
Rydell tried extremely hard not to break down in hysterical laughter as he placed the card back down on the desk. Commander Baird was looking at him strangely. Rydell decided that he just couldn’t allow this opportunity to pass by. It was against his principles.
“So when is he coming back?” Rydell asked. It was best to start out a little vague: build Baird’s interest before dropping the bomb on him.
“A little before Christmas,” Emily said wistfully. “I knew that when he decided to study in England for a semester that it’d be rough, but it’s even worse than I thought it would be.” She hugged Travis again for comfort, confusing Rydell even more.
“Well, I’m sure that Scott is having a wonderful time,” Travis said. “England is fantastic.” Commander Baird ran over to Rydell straight through Emily’s desk.
“What did he just say?” Baird demanded. Rydell nonchalantly turned over the card so Scott could see the message.
“I’m sure he’s having a ball,” Rydell concurred grinning. “But I know that he can’t wait to return to his one true love. You two will then be able to spend almost every moment together…FOREVER.” Baird reached for Rydell’s throat, but passed right through him.
“With all due respect, sir, you’re enjoying this way too fucking much!” Baird said.
“And then, you two can have lots of little Scott juniors leading to a whole new generation. And years and years and years from now, they can go out and marry people just like you, Emily,” Rydell said. Baird angrily punched buttons on his padd and vanished.
“Is he O.K.?” Emily asked Travis.
“Under the circumstances, I’d say he’s fine,” Travis said.
“What circumstances?” Emily asked.
“He wants his Trina back,” Monica said disdainfully. “I’m about to go over there and see if I can put the little lovebirds back in their nest.” She grabbed her keys and walked toward the door. “If I’m not back in an hour, she killed me.” Monica left.
“Well, we had better get going, too,” Travis said. “I’ve got homework to do and so does Alex.”
“Yeah,” Rydell said, meeting Travis at the door. “Goodbye, Emily.” She went over and hugged Travis again.
“Bye, Alex. Bye, brother dear.”
“See you later, sis,” Travis said. He and Rydell left.
“Can I ask you a question?” Rydell said as they walked back to the elevator.
“You and Emily…are you?…You aren’t…related…or doing anything with each other…or both, are you?” Rydell asked as tactfully as possible.
“No no no,” Travis said smiling. “We’re just close friends. She’s like a sister to me. Doing anything with her would be incest.” Travis made a face of mock disgust.
“O.K. Just checking,” Rydell said.
Rydell checked the clock every couple of seconds. Monica talked to Trina almost twenty-four hours ago. Why hadn’t anything happened yet? Travis had tried to stay out of the apartment, so that Rydell could talk to Trina alone. Well, not really alone. Commander Baird would be there to offer his unique version of romance. O.K., so they’d be alone. He almost didn’t hear the light knock on the door. Rydell rushed out into the living room and threw the door open. Trina was standing there looking as if she was regretting her decision to come there.
“Say something to her,” Baird’s voice said from behind him.
“It’s good to see you,” Rydell said quickly. “Come in.”
“Monica told me what happened,” Trina said emotionlessly as she pushed past him into the apartment. This was not exactly the warm apology Rydell had been hoping for.
“So you understand that she attacked me, right?” Rydell said hopefully.
“Did she remove your clothes for you as well? When I walked in, you had your pants around your ankles and she was moving toward your underwear.”
“You were possessed,” Baird said.
“I didn’t know she was there. I was getting ready to take a shower when she said something to me.”
“Oh, great one, sir. She’s really going to buy that one,” Baird said.
“How’d she get into the apartment?”
“I had left the door unlocked in case you came over while I was out,” Rydell said.
“I thought that you were going to be in the apartment all evening,” Trina said.
“I had to pick up something for Travis,” Rydell said.
“An engagement present…for him and Rachel, but I couldn’t find what I wanted.”
“Oh.” Trina dropped into silence.
“She’s running your story through her head. Hurry up and do something while you’ve got her off balance,” Baird said. Rydell looked at him questioningly. “Jump her! Jump her!” Rydell shrugged and leapt into Trina’s lap. She gasped for air as he impacted against her. “Good!” Baird shouted. “Now pick her up. Well, get off her first, and then sweep her up, carry her back to the bedroom, throw her on the bed, and…” He didn’t get a chance to finish. Trina had grabbed Rydell and had begun to kiss him violently. Baird just hoped that Trina would perceive Rydell’s muffled cries of astonishment as groans of pleasure.
“Anything yet?” Dr. Singer asked as she walked into the cockpit of the runabout.
“No,” Ensign Carr said, leaning back in her chair and rubbing her eyes. “I’ve been over every inch of the area that we can scan on the other side of the anomaly, but I haven’t found a thing. Whatever caused this is no longer operating.”
“So what does that mean?”
“It means that we’re in deep trouble.”
“I wish you hadn’t said that,” Singer said. She turned to leave the cockpit. Carr could hear her burst into sobs before she even got to the door.
Commander Baird barely even noticed when Singer rushed by him crying. He was used to it by now. Baird walked over to the sofa in the passenger cabin where Captain Rydell’s body lay. He glanced at the readings on the tricorder Singer had set up to monitor Rydell’s body’s condition. Everything was stable. That was good, especially considering that Baird had no idea when or even how they were going to get the body’s correct inhabitant back.
Travis cautiously opened the door of the apartment. So far, so good. No one was in the living room. He entered and began coughing loudly just to make sure that anyone who might be back in the bedroom would know that he was there. The bedroom door opened a few seconds later, and Rydell walked out into the living area.
“Did she come by?” Travis said softly.
“Yes, we…talked…and she left about an hour ago,” Rydell said.
“Oh. Is everything…fixed?”
“I believe so, but I’ll know more on Friday. We’re going out on a date,” Rydell said.
“Not really. I have no idea where to go on this date.”
“Dinner and a movie. That’s where everyone goes on dates.”
“Ah. Where would I find a movie?”
“Oh boy,” Travis said, collapsing into a chair.
“I’m waiting, Mr. Rydell,” Dr. Reginald Smythe said, his head resting in his hands. Rydell glanced down at his Philosophy notebook again as if it could offer him some help. Dr. Smythe had practically ignored him on Tuesday. Why did he have to bug him today? Was Thursday ‘Pick On Rydell Day’ or something? Enough of that. He had to come up with a deductive argument and fast. Dillon and Hawkins had been making fun of Smythe’s twenty-fourth century counterpart for days after the Gulax IV incident. All he had to do was remember what they said he was like.
“Uhh…well…the premise is that…Klingons are mean.” The class was laughing softly. Rydell didn’t care. At this point, any argument was better than none at all. Maybe he could confuse Smythe into going along with it. “My auxiliary premises are that Klingons don’t like anyone, they hurt lots of people, and they kill a lot. My conclusion, therefore, is that it is best for any non-Klingons to stay away from Klingons.” Smythe stared at him blankly for a moment. He appeared to be mulling over Rydell’s logic.
“There are a few holes in your argument, Mr. Rydell. I would recommend that, before the mid-term, you fill in those holes and try to lay off the Star Trek.” The class laughed again. “All right, I’ll see you all next week.”
“I hope not,” Rydell mumbled. This was the second time that he’d heard about this Star Trek thing. First, there was Travis’s poster, and now Smythe mentioned it. What the hell was it? Oh well, it wasn’t that important.
Rydell walked into literature class in a daze. He’d just seen Dr. Donask walking across campus hand in hand with the director of the university honors program, who just happened to look just like Admiral Wagner. Captain Donask and Admiral Wagner together: that was frightening. Rydell hoped that this Donask was a bit less violent than her Klingon counterpart. She sure seemed to be if Tuesday’s class was any indication. Although, she did seem to get a little wild eyed and forceful when she was demanding that the class tell her what genders salt and pepper were. Rydell had always thought they were inanimate spices, and he was pretty sure that they didn’t get together in cupboards and make little salts and peppers.
“Alex, what do you mean we need a repulsor beam to do this lab properly?” Patricia asked from across their table in the physics lab.
“Never mind. I was just mixing realities for a moment.”
Thursday night was uneventful. Rydell made a few modifications to the computer his twentieth-century counterpart owned. It wasn’t anything major. He just increased the memory capacity to one gigabyte, bumped the processing speed up to what this century would call a 786, and he dismantled Alex’s pocket tape recorder and used the parts to make a voice-command module for the computer. Across the room, Travis was lost in thought in front of his computer. Rydell looked over his shoulder once to see what he was doing. It looked like he was writing a story of some kind: something about a flying teenager. He went back to work on Alex’s computer. He didn’t want to see any more of the story. Rydell had had more than enough of people with powers after that crash on Mandicor.
“You’re done?” Dr. Norris asked shocked as Rydell handed in his Calculus test twenty minutes into the period. “I know it’s Friday and all, but don’t you want to look over this a little longer?”
“Why? I haven’t had a math test this easy since elementary school,” Rydell said.
“Never mind. It was…just a bad joke.” Rydell walked out of the classroom wondering if maybe he should have sat there a little longer. This century’s Alex’s professors were going to start expecting too much from him when he returned to their classes, whenever that ended up being.
What eon did Dr. Tulson buy those clothes in? Rydell wondered as he sat through the physics lecture.
“Mr. Rydell, would you kindly tell me just what you have done to this machine?” Dr. Logan said as he leaned over the computer Rydell had just gotten up from. His voice seemed to be wavering between awe and anger.
“It didn’t understand hyperthron, so I programmed the language into it.”
“But it’s now calling me ‘lesser developed life-form’!”
“Is it my fault that your computer has an ego?” Rydell said as he left computer class.
“No, I will not give you control of the world’s nuclear missiles!” Rydell heard Logan shout from the computer lab. O.K. so Logan’s computer was egotistical AND power hungry.
“Are you sure about this?”
“You look fine,” Travis insisted. “That’s Alex’s favorite tie.”
“But it’s got a duck on it. It’s not even an attractive duck. It looks like it’s about to be shot or something.”
“That Daffy Duck tie is one of Alex’s prized possessions. You should feel honored to be wearing it. Now put the sport coat on.”
“I refuse. From what you have said about this mall place, I will be extremely overdressed,” Rydell said.
“Yeah, you’re probably right. I just want you to sweep Trina off her feet.”
“Tell him not to worry about it,” Commander Baird said from the corner of the room. “I’ll be there to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
“I’ll manage,” Rydell said. “If all else fails, I can always use the mate magnet.”
“Uh, sir. That’s in your other body. You can’t use that here.”
“You’re right, Commander,” Rydell mumbled. “I guess charm and wit will have to suffice. Oh well, they’ve always been enough in the past.”
“Alex’s more modest than you are,” Travis said, turning back to his computer.
“Travis, I do appreciate your help,” Rydell said consolingly. “I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far without you.”
“Oh fine. Lie to the kid,” Baird said. Rydell shot him an angry look.
“But I have to do this part alone,” Rydell finished putting particular emphasis on the ‘alone’ hoping that Baird would take the hint.
“I know. I know,” Travis said. “Go have a good time.”
“That’s the spirit. Now, you stay here and have a nice evening. I’m off to save the universe as I know it.” Rydell walked out of the room.
“My plans for the evening suddenly seem extremely insignificant,” Travis mumbled.
Rydell was glad that his twentieth century counterpart put his name on the license plate of his car. It made finding it a hell of a lot easier. He walked Trina to the car, unlocked and opened her door, and closed it after she was inside. He got into the driver’s seat and realized that he had no clue what he was doing. There was a stick in the middle of the floor with numbers on it. The television that he had watched over the last few days at least taught him what to do with the key. He put it in the ignition and turned it. Nothing happened.
“Please tell me that you know how to drive,” Baird’s voice said from behind him. Rydell shook his head. “Hold on for a minute. I’m accessing the information. Stall for time. Complement her breasts or something.” Rydell really wished that he could touch Baird at the moment, so he could strangle the life out of him.
“You look great,” Rydell said, turning to Trina. She smiled and leaned over to kiss him.
“Got it,” Baird said. “This is what’s called a stick shift.”
“A sik shif,” Rydell mumbled from underneath Trina’s lips. She pulled away and looked at him.
“What?” she asked.
“I said that we’d better go,” Rydell said. He turned back to the steering wheel and waited for Baird’s instructions.
“O.K. Put your left foot on the leftmost pedal and push it in. This is the clutch. Now turn the key.” Rydell did as he was told, and the car sputtered to life. “Now move the stick to the R position, but don’t take your foot off of the pedal.” The car died. “I said don’t take your foot off of the pedal!”
“Oops,” Rydell said. He repeated the directions correctly.
“Press your right foot down on the rightmost pedal, gently! This is the accelerator. Do not press it too hard.” The car shot backwards. Rydell’s instinct took over enough for him to turn the wheel so that they didn’t plow into the cars in the row behind them.
“Press the middle pedal! The brakes!” Baird shouted. The car screeched to a halt. “Put the stick at one while you keep your left foot on the clutch, your right on the brakes. Now slowly let up on the clutch as you press down on the accelerator with your right foot.” Rydell attempted to do as he was told, but the car didn’t find his efforts satisfactory. It jerked forward a couple of times and then died.
“Is the car all right?” Trina asked.
“No problem at all,” Rydell said. “I’m just…nervous. I want everything to be perfect tonight.” Rydell tried again. The car jerked forward and kept on going.
“Yes!” Baird shouted. Rydell drove to the end of the parking lot and stalled out at the stop sign. Baird groaned and leaned back in the back seat. This was going to be a long night.
With Baird’s help and a large bit of luck, Rydell managed to get to Lynnhaven Mall without killing Trina or himself, a fact that Rydell was extremely proud of. Seeing the huge number of cars in the mall parking lot, Rydell wondered if this was such a good idea. This wasn’t a college class where he could just listen to the professor and keep a low profile. This was a large social setting with several hundred people he had no idea how to deal with.
“Come on, Alex,” Trina said, pulling him toward the door. “We aren’t going to have enough time to eat and look around before the movie at this rate.” Apprehensively, he entered the mall. He suddenly felt extremely comfortable. It was just like a starbase promenade. People milled about looking in various shops. Some of them even looked like they could be aliens with their bizarre haircuts and large amounts of jewelry hanging from every conceivable place…and a few inconceivable ones. They walked to the center of the mall and went up a moving staircase to a level of almost nothing but food stands. “So where are we eating?” Trina asked.
“How about I just give you some credits…money, and you can get what you want. I’ll get something and go sit down.” Rydell took Alex’s wallet out of his back pocket and gave Trina some money out of it. Travis had told him about how much he needed for dinner and a movie, then had given him some money since neither of them knew the number to get any from the little machine Travis called an ATM. Rydell went to the McDonald’s on the other side of the food court. He’d heard about them in his History class at the Academy, but he never thought he’d actually be eating at one.
Rydell looked at the name of the store they were about to enter. Frederick’s of Hollywood. Hmmm. Hollywood. That was where all the movies were made at this time. His eyes moved down to the window display. It didn’t have a thing to do with movies.
“Trina, what are we doing?” he asked as she pulled him through the racks of pieces of cloth that barely qualified for the name clothing.
“I saw this outfit I liked last time I was out here, and I wanted your opinion.”
“My opinion?” he gasped.
“Yeah, I’ll just put this on. I’ll call you when I’m done.” She grabbed a scrap of green cloth and headed for the back of the store, entering a small, closet-like room.
“Looks like things are going well, Captain!” Baird said from behind him.
“I can’t go back there and look at her,” Rydell whispered.
“Why not? You two were sure getting acquainted the other day.”
“We didn’t do anything,” Rydell replied. “It wouldn’t be right.”
“Hey, for the time being, you’re her boyfriend. Take advantage of it…and her. Could you hold up that little white lace thing behind you? I want to see it, but I can’t touch a damn thing.”
“Don’t you have something you could be fixing somewhere?” Rydell said.
“Only your love life,” Baird replied smiling.
“Alex, come here,” Trina called.
“Yeah, Captain. Come on,” Baird said walking toward where Trina was.
“I’m sure that it looks great, dear, but wouldn’t you rather surprise me with it later…when we’re alone?” Rydell said.
“Aw come on, sir,” Baird said, his head sticking through the door into Trina’s changing area. “Just take one little look.”
“No,” Rydell snapped. “Now get out of there.” Baird stood up indignantly and vanished.
“Did you say something?” Trina asked.
“I wanted to know if you agreed with me,” Rydell said.
“Yes, you’re right. I’ll save it for later when we can do something with it.” A few minutes later, Trina walked out of the changing room and went to pay for her purchase.
“What do you want to see?” Trina asked as they were standing in line at the movie theater.
“I don’t know,” Rydell said uncomfortably. Dinner wasn’t sitting well. Maybe having two large orders of french fries, a large soda, and a double quarter pounder with cheese was overdoing it just a bit, especially since he wasn’t used to that kind of grease in his diet. Suddenly, his system couldn’t take it anymore. He belched loudly, scaring the hell out of most of the people in front of him, including Trina. He did feel much better though.
“Well, how about Sleepless in Seattle? That’s supposed to be romantic,” Trina suggested. A romantic film. That would be perfect. One sappy film, and everything would be O.K. She’d pretty much forgiven him as it was, but this would clinch it and hopefully set the timeline straight.
“Sounds great,” Rydell said. He paid for the tickets and walked with her into the theater. It was nothing more than a large version of the television Travis had in their apartment: no holographic projections or anything.
The movie was sweet, but Rydell spent most of his time trying to figure out what he was going to do about Trina when they got back. He couldn’t sleep with her. It just wouldn’t be right. This was not his girlfriend; it was the other Alex’s. He was going to have to make sure that they weren’t alone when they went back to Old Dominion.
“I’ll be right back,” he whispered as he stood up and walked past Trina.
“O.K.,” she said, smiling up at him. Rydell went out into the theater lobby and found a phone. This one had a slot in it though and demanded money. He dug a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket and appeased the phone. At that moment, he realized he had no clue what his apartment’s phone number was. Luckily, the phone had a number for Information printed on it. A minute later, armed with his phone number, he dialed. Travis answered the phone at their apartment, and Rydell explained the situation to him. Travis said that he’d be there all evening, so that wouldn’t be a problem. Feeling somewhat relieved, Rydell went back into the theater and watched the rest of the film.
Rydell walked Trina back to her apartment when they returned to the university. She invited him inside, causing Rydell to realize he’d overlooked something. She might ask him to stay at her place for the night. He entered the apartment, frantically trying to figure out a way out of this. He didn’t need to bother though. Trina’s roommate was sitting on the sofa watching television.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Alex,” Trina said suddenly and then kissed him.
“Great,” Rydell said. “I’ll see you then.” As the door closed behind him, he heard Trina start telling her roommate everything that had happened that night. No wonder she said goodnight so abruptly. Of course, he didn’t mind at all. It saved him from an awkward situation. He walked back to his apartment, positive that Travis was waiting to hear everything too.
“Try contacting the Secondprize again,” Commander Baird ordered as he entered the cockpit of the runabout.
“Are you sure, sir?” Ensign Carr said. “We’re risking the Joegonots getting a lock on our position.”
“Do it. With any luck, things are back to normal,” Baird replied.
“This is the Runabout Themes to the Secondprize,” Carr said. “Respond please.”
“This is the Secondprize,” Commander Travis Dillon’s voice said. “Where are you guys?”
“Well,” Carr began, taking a deep breath. “We’ve…”
“Been sightseeing,” Baird interrupted. “We’ll be back in a day or two. Themes out.” He closed the channel just as Dillon was starting to argue. “I told you not to tell him anything,” Baird said, turning on Carr.
“I wasn’t going to, sir. I was going to tell him that we were taking a couple of days to study some astronomical phenomena.”
“Oh. Well, my excuse was snappier.”
“Snappier? What kind of criteria is that? Mine was more believable.”
“Shut up, Ensign. I still outrank you.” Baird stormed out of the cockpit. Carr decided that her dog was getting a treat when she got back: a Commander Baird chew toy. At least she had a dog to go back to now. Captain Rydell had saved the universe…again. Of course, this was the first time that he’d had to save it from himself.
The next day, Ensign Carr sat in the cockpit scanning the temporal anomaly while she worked on her poetry. She didn’t actually expect the scans to come up with anything. Why should she? They hadn’t found anything for the last few days. There was no reason for today to be any different.
But it was. She had no idea what was going on when the scanners suddenly started beeping and flashing wildly. She dove under the console, expecting her world to end violently and suddenly.
Carl Jaroch looked at the monitor again. The telescope was still acting funny. Carl was designing an electromagnetic telescope for a physics project. He had only tried it once thus far, and that was almost a week ago. On that test run, the telescope had produced an image of space not even remotely resembling the space above Earth. He figured that something was wrong in the imaging program of the computer and had spent all week going over it to no avail. There didn’t appear to be anything incorrect in his programming or the device’s construction. It was Saturday evening now, and he had decided to try the telescope again. The image was still screwed up. He was starting to get annoyed.
Realizing that her world hadn’t ended yet, Carr crawled out from underneath the console and checked the monitors. Something was affecting the temporal anomaly. She quickly jumped back into her chair and tried to get a lock on the source. A few seconds later, she had the coordinates.
“Commander,” she said into the intercom. “Warm up the imager. I found the source of the temporal anomaly.”
Carl shut down the telescope in disgust. He’d go back to it in an hour and see what he could do. Right now, it was time for him to go watch Star Trek.
Saturday evening, and it seemed to Rydell that half of the planet had crammed into their apartment. Emily Sullivan and Monica Vaughn were on the floor, Rydell and Trina took the bed, Travis was seated at his desk, and Patricia Hawkins was sitting in Alex’s desk chair. Rydell wasn’t quite sure exactly what was going on since Travis had tried to explain it to him so quickly. Rydell had managed to understand that they all got together every Saturday to watch some television show.
Travis shut off the lights and turned on the television right at seven o’clock. People talked through the couple of commercials that were on, but everyone fell completely silent as the show started. Rydell couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a show about Starfleet. The people were wearing reasonable facsimiles of the uniforms, and the ship looked right and everything. He watched in a stunned silence as people claiming to be Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker did stuff while music played in the background. Somehow, starship life seemed so much more exciting with a soundtrack. After about three minutes, the show stopped and a picture of space filled the screen. The voice of the actor playing Picard filled the air.
“Space. The final frontier…”
Rydell watched the rest of the opening credits puzzled. They had made a television show called Star Trek: The Next Generation about people and events that hadn’t happened yet. Somebody had taken this life imitating art concept just a bit too far. He was having a hard time believing that, in the early days of the Federation, someone had decided to model things after an old television show. That didn’t quite explain everything, but it was a start.
“Captain, I need to talk to you for a minute,” Commander Baird said from over by the door of the room. Rydell got up and stepped carefully over and around people until he was out of the room.
“What is it?” Rydell asked when they were alone in the kitchen. He wasn’t about to try having a conversation in the bathroom again. “I want to watch the show.”
“This is important. We found the source of the temporal anomalies.”
“You did? Great, where is it?” Rydell asked excited. He was finally going to get a chance to go home.
“We aren’t sure,” Baird said. “It’s somewhere on campus, but we can’t get an exact fix on it. Our coordinates have placed it somewhere between the arts and letters building and the administration buildings.”
“That’s kind of a large area, Commander. How am I going to search that by myself?”
“Well, if the effect starts up again, we can calculate its position based on its distance from your brain waves. But in order for us to get a precise enough fix, you have to be fairly close to it.”
“So after the show, I’m supposed to go traipsing around campus in the dark, by myself,” Rydell said.
“Take Travis with you then. Just go.”
“Fine, I’ll leave as soon as Star Trek’s over.”
“What’s Star Trek?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Rydell said, walking back into the bedroom.
As soon as the show was over, the apartment emptied except for Rydell, Travis, and Trina. Travis got up and walked out into the kitchen to find something to eat. Rydell joined him a minute later and apprised him of the situation.
“That’s great and all, but what are you going to do about Trina?” Travis asked quietly.
“I don’t know. I’d have her come with us, but I have a feeling that she wouldn’t quite understand all of this.”
“She might beat the crap out of you, too,” Travis said.
“Hold on a second. I’ve got an idea,” Travis said. He walked over to the phone and dialed.
“Who are you calling?”
“Her roommate,” Travis said. “Fran?…Yeah, this is Travis. Could you do me a favor?…Just call here and tell Trina to go back to your apartment. Alex’s working up a surprise for her, but he needs to get her out of the way for a little while….I don’t know what you’re going to do with her. Take her out for ice cream or something….Yeah, I’ll pay you back….Thanks. Bye.” Travis put the phone down. “Five. Four. Three. Two. One.” He pointed at the phone, which obediently rang. He picked up the receiver. “Oh hi Frankie. What a surprise to hear from you! Sure. I’ll get her for you. Trina! Phone!”
“Thanks,” Trina called from the bedroom. A minute later, Trina walked out of the bedroom. “I’ll be back in a while, dear,” she said, kissing Alex.
“Bye, Trina,” Rydell said softly, knowing that this would probably the last time he’d ever see her. She walked out the door.
“Let’s get out of here,” Travis said, grabbing his coat and heading toward the door.
Somewhat calmed by a good episode of Star Trek, Carl Jaroch went back to his project. Hoping against hope that things would work this time, he switched on the telescope.
“We’ve got a reading,” Commander Baird said, looking down at his padd as he walked with Rydell and Travis through the large, open grassy area at the center of campus.
“Which way?” Rydell asked.
“That way,” Baird said, pointing toward Chandler Hall where Rydell’s physics class was held. “It’s fairly close too…about two hundred yards away.”
“Probably in the building,” Rydell said, walking forward.
“Shouldn’t it be locked?” Travis asked.
“I don’t know. You’re the one who goes to school here,” Rydell said. “Besides, someone is obviously in there since it just appeared again.” They tried one set of doors. They were locked. After four more failed attempts, they found one door that was unlocked.
“It’s above you,” Baird said. Rydell started running up the nearest staircase. Travis was right behind him. At the end of a darkened hallway on the second floor, they could see a light spilling out of one of the rooms. Rydell approached it cautiously, carefully inching along the hall. Travis looked at him for a second, then strode past him into the room.
“I should have known,” Travis’s voice said. Rydell entered the room and stopped in his tracks. His science officer was fiddling with a large device in a physics lab.
“Jaroch?” Rydell ventured.
“Hey, Alex. What’s up?” Carl Jaroch said.
“I’m not even going to get into it,” Rydell said.
“That’s it,” Baird said as Travis started talking to Carl. “Whatever is going on is originating from this thing.”
“What are you working on?” Rydell asked.
“Oh, it’s supposed to be an electromagnetic telescope, but it’s not working. It’s supposed to be aimed at Ursa Major, but this isn’t even close,” Carl said, gesturing at the display on the monitor.
“It looks like Ethel Merman,” Travis said. Baird walked over to the device and looked it over.
“I don’t know how he did it, sir, but his telescope is looking at our space and time. I can almost make out the runabout on the asteroid there,” Baird said. “My best guess, judging by his set up, is that he accidently invented a neutrino emission chamber with sufficient power to rip a hole in the space-time continuum.”
“How’d he do that?” Rydell whispered.
“He crossed the red and blue wires,” Baird said. Rydell futily tried to smack Baird, but his hand sailed right through his head.
“How do I get back?” Rydell hissed.
“Jump in front of the beam,” Baird said.
“Great, now go away. I’ll be there in a minute,” Rydell snapped. Baird vanished. “Travis, could you come here a second?” Travis walked over to Rydell while Carl fiddled with his machine some more.
“What’s the problem?” Travis asked.
“No problem at all,” Rydell replied. “If we’re right, I can go home now. I just wanted to thank you for all your help.”
“Not a problem,” Travis said smiling. “Good luck, Captain.”
“Same to you, Number One. You get stuck with the job of making sure Alex doesn’t think he’s going crazy after all of this”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“Good. By the way, after I jump in front of his telescope, tell Carl that he’s got the red and blue wires switched.”
“Will do.” Rydell and Travis shook hands and walked back over to Carl. Rydell suddenly leaped up over the beam emitter and was…
Back on the runabout. He jumped up off of the couch and ran into the cockpit.
“Get us back to the Secondprize now,” he ordered a stunned Carr.
“Y…yes, sir,” Carr said. “Course plotted and laid in.”
“Take us home.”
The runabout lifted off from the asteroid and headed off into deep space.
“Sir, sensors are no longer detecting the temporal anomaly,” Carr said.
“And that’s a problem?” Rydell said. “I, for one, am relieved.” He walked out of the cockpit and headed to the rear of the runabout, where he found Commander Baird in the bathroom, fiddling with some equipment in the shower stall. “Commander.” Baird dropped the device he was working with, crushing his foot.
“Sorry. I just wanted to thank you for getting me out of there.”
“No problem,” Baird gasped, holding his foot.
“I don’t think you’ve quite got the hang of sensitivity yet.”
“Never had it, never will,” Baird replied, forcing a smile.
“Captain’s log. Stardate 49872.3. We have returned to the Secondprize without any more problems. Well, there was that small electrical problem when Dr. Singer cried on the control console, but Commander Baird and Ensign Carr repaired it with a minimum of difficulty. Anyway, I’m back on my ship now, in my century, and in my body. Life is good.”
Captain Rydell sat with Lieutenant Commander Jaroch in Seven Backward enjoying a nice, relaxing replicated meal. Rydell liked not having to cook for himself anymore, or having to rely on grease pits like McDonald’s. Jaroch had been fairly quiet during the meal, only talking about the new past life he’d discovered in Rydell’s absence. This one used to be the Yynsian equivalent of a special forces officer. Rydell figured something had happened since Commander Dillon now had a broken arm and was having three new teeth grown for him.
“Jaroch, mind if I ask you something?” Rydell said after they had finished eating.
“Not at all,” Jaroch said.
“Do you, by chance, have any human ancestors?”
“It’s a possibility. My great grandmother had a brief liaison on a passenger liner with someone. My grandfather was the result. That person could have been human.”
“But not from the twentieth century?”
“Maybe it was one of his descendants then.”
“Never mind,” Rydell said.
“Well, if you will excuse me, I wish to go over the readings taken by the runabout’s sensors.”
“Have fun,” Rydell said.
“Most assuredly,” Jaroch replied in a tone of voice which made Rydell wonder if he was joking or not. He turned and looked out the viewport at that vastness of space before him.
Suddenly, his head was grabbed violently and slammed down on the table.
“That’s for almost sleeping with Monica,” Trinian’s voice said angrily. “I’ve been waiting to for four hundred years to do that!”
“But how? What? You? What? Unnh.” Rydell hit the table in a dead faint. Trinian walked back to the bar, smiling enigmatically.