When Kyle Hicks seemingly shimmered into existence before Dani’s eyes, she only grew more confused by the whole situation. Even after not having seen him in years, she immediately recognized him.
“Kyle?” she said. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m here for you – again,” he said.
“‘Again’? What? Kyle, what is going on?”
“You’re on the Enterprise, the NX-01, under the command of Captain Jonathan Archer,” Kyle said. “To make a long story short, you’re not supposed to be here, especially with that precious cargo you’re carrying, and I’m here to bring you home.”
Dani looked down at the case she’d placed on the bed, then back at Kyle. “How’d you know about that?”
“I know about a lot of things,” was his reply. “It’s part of my job.”
Dani studied the man standing before her, whom she’d known since her freshman year at Starfleet Academy. Physically, he hadn’t changed much. Just over six feet tall with chiseled good looks and blue eyes. But something had changed. He had a sterner look than he’d had when she’d last seen him.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t understand any of this.”
“Don’t try to. It will probably make more sense as time passes.”
“Again,” Dani said. “You said you were here for me again. What did you mean by that?” Before Kyle could answer, another question came tumbling from her lips. “Wait a minute – I know how I got here…but how did you get here?”
“How long have you been here?” Kyle asked, totally ignoring the question she’d posed to him.
“I’m not sure how long I was unconscious,” Dani said, “but I woke up on the floor about fifteen minutes ago.”
“Have you left this room at all since you’ve been awake?”
“No. Trust me – I know what kind of weird stuff can happen when you start messing with the timeline. I’ve been here the whole time, praying that whoever these quarters belong to doesn’t come back. Then you showed up.”
Kyle gave a quick nod. “Okay. Good. That means that no one knows you’re here, yet.”
“Well, what are we going to do? I can’t just hide out here for 200 years.”
“You won’t need to. We’re leaving right now. Grab your case.” He pulled a device from a pocket on his uniform. It lit up in his hand as he studied its screen.
“Where are we going?” Dani asked.
“Back where we belong, if everyone’s doing their jobs correctly,” Kyle said, still staring intently at the handheld.
Dani didn’t know what he was looking at on the device or what he was expecting to happen. She didn’t have time to ruminate on it for long. They both heard the sounds that were immediately on the other side of the door, and they saw the door slide away to reveal Captain Jonathan Archer and a crewman.
“Uh-oh,” Dani muttered.
“Commander Janeway, Mr. Hicks,” the crewman said. “I had a feeling I’d find you here.” The crewman noted the shocked, apprehensive looks on Kyle and Dani’s faces. “Oh, don’t worry about the good captain here, he knows all about you. Both of you.”
Hicks and Janeway looked at each other, exchanging expressions of confused relief.
Janeway turned fully to face Archer and the crewman. “You know who we are,” she said, addressing the crewman. “But who are you? I doubt you’re just a crewman doing his duty.”
“Mr. Hicks knows exactly who I am,” the crewman replied. “My name is Daniels.”
“Daniels?” Dani repeated. She shook her head. If that name was supposed to sound familiar to her, it didn’t. She didn’t recognize it from anywhere.
“He’s a temporal agent from the 29th Century,” Kyle explained.
“That’s correct,” Daniels said. “And I was just explaining some developments to Captain Archer, including the arrival of Commander Janeway on his ship.”
“Daniels, what’s going on?” Hicks asked. “I thought the plan was for us to immediately transport back to the 24th Century? We were just about to initiate the transport when my temporal transporter failed.”
“That’s because I disabled it,” Daniels said.
“What?” Hicks asked. “Why?”
“The situation has changed,” Daniels said. “There has been a Suliban operative aboard this ship. A temporal transport would have emitted signals that would probably have been detected by the Suliban.”
“Is he here for me?” Dani asked.
“No, he’s here on a different mission,” Daniels replied.
“Since I can’t transport out, what do you want me to do?” Dani asked.
“Wait here,” Daniels said. “My job is to find him and prevent him from altering history. Once that’s done, I’ll contact you to let you know it’s safe to transport back to the 24th Century.”
Dani stared at Daniels. It was difficult to take instructions from someone she’d only known for three minutes. She looked to Kyle. She’d known him for years, and he seemed to trust this Daniels guy. She nodded, more to herself than anyone else. Though she hadn’t seen him in years, she still trusted him. If he trusted Daniels, that was good enough for her.
“Okay,” she said. “I guess it’s time for me to get comfortable.”
Dani knew something was wrong when Captain Archer returned six hours later. The man called Daniels wasn’t with him.
Dani and Kyle stood at attention when Archer entered the quarters where they’d been hiding out.
“At ease,” he said.
Dani watched him, studied his face, eager to know what news he’d come to bring her. The grave expression written across his handsome features caused a sinking feeling in her stomach.
“Was Daniels able to locate the Suliban operative?” Dani asked. The timidity in her voice surprised her.
Archer nodded. “He did,” he began. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t fully successful. He wasn’t able to capture him. In fact, Daniels was killed.”
Dani didn’t have to hear another word from Archer. During their wait, Kyle had explained the original rescue plan to her. He was supposed to locate her and immediately transport back to the 24th Century. It had sounded simple enough, but when Daniels disabled the temporal transporter, what would have been a simple mission became complicated by the fact that there was no way to get the transporter operational again without Daniels’s activation code. And since Daniels had been killed, apparently, it looked like she and Kyle would be stuck in the 22nd Century a lot longer than either of them had planned.
“Daniels explained the previous plan to me,” Archer continued, “so, I know that without his code, you can’t use the temporal transporter, and you’re essentially stranded here. I’m not going to pretend like I know how to deal with this situation. But from the beginning of this mission, there have been a lot of situations that I never anticipated I’d have to deal with.”
“Captain, Commander Janeway doesn’t have as much experience with time-travel as I do,” Kyle began, “but she and I can both tell you that when it comes to these matters, there are certain protocols that must be adhered to.”
Archer nodded. “Yes, Daniels explained the basics to me, about not interfering. Any contact the two of you have with my crew presents the possibility of altering history. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem humane to keep you both locked in here like prisoners, considering none of us knows how long you’ll be here.”
“What are you saying, Captain?” Dani asked.
“Before Daniels revealed himself to be from the future, he was working as a steward in the mess hall. Moreover, he served me in my private mess. I had no idea he was anything other than a mess hall steward until the moment he revealed his true identity. His experience here proves that it’s possible for people from the future to exist in the past as observers, without influencing the past.”
Kyle and Dani looked at each other. Archer continued. “The only other alternative is for you to stay locked in this room for who knows how long,” he said, knowing that that wasn’t the course he wanted to take.
“What will you tell your crew?” Kyle asked.
“It may be necessary to let some of my senior staff in on our scheme, but I’ll evaluate each case on a need-to-know basis,” Archer said. “As for the others, I’ll have to think of something.”