“I think they’re spies,” Travis Mayweather announced. He sat at a table in the mess hall with Hoshi Sato and Malcolm Reed.
“Spies?” Hoshi asked. “For who?”
“Well, maybe not spies,” Travis backtracked. “But maybe some kind of observers from Starfleet?”
“What makes you think they aren’t who they say they are?” Reed asked. “And besides, why would Starfleet want to observe us?”
“Are you kidding?” Travis asked. “The first warp-five ship? Starfleet probably wants to see how we’re handling things, especially since the mission has been bumpier than everyone anticipated.”
“Kind of like how Sub-Commander T’Pol is here as an observer for the Vulcans,” Hoshi said. “Come to think of it, I did think it was strange that we picked up two new crewmembers all they way out here. I mean, it’d make sense if they were high ranking officers or something, but two crewmen? What two crewmen would be so important that Starfleet sends them all the way out here so that Enterprise can pick them up? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until we go back to Earth?”
“Exactly,” Travis said.
“But why this whole ruse, with them pretending to be crewmen?” Malcolm asked. “Why feel the need to hide, why not just announce why they’re here in the open?”
“Because they want to see how we perform when we’re not under a microscope,” Travis answered.
Hoshi started to guide a forkful of food to her mouth but suddenly hesitated. “What if they don’t like what they see? Would they recall us back to Earth?”
Travis and Malcolm exchanged uneasy glances. “I don’t think it would get to that point,” Malcolm said. “If our visitors find anything lacking in our operations, I’m sure they’ll pass their concerns on to Starfleet, who will then offer their directives for improvement.”
The conversation ceased as soon as Kyle and Dani approached, but they’d gotten somewhat used to that happening, as it had begun happening almost immediately after they’d first appeared among the crew. No official introduction or explanation for their presence had been given. They’d simply been ‘picked up’ from a cargo ship they’d rendezvoused with, which, of course, generated lots of gossip and rumors on a ship containing only about 90 crew. It actually worked to Kyle and Dani’s advantage. If no one knew who they were or where they’d come from or exactly why, and several rumors were flying, it would be less likely that anyone would be able to guess the truth. They would remain a mystery to everyone.
Archer wasn’t oblivious to what his crew thought of their two newest crew mates. He’d heard the chatter in the corridors and on the bridge, so he had an idea of what the general sentiment was. However, no one, not even his senior officers, had brought their inquiries directly to him. He was beginning to wonder if they ever would.
Then the door to his ready room chimed. “Come in,” he said, looking up from his computer monitor at the door.
The door slid open open, and T’Pol stepped in.
“Good morning, Sub-Commander,” Archer greeted.
“Captain,” T’Pol said. The door slid closed behind her.
“What can I do for you this morning?” Archer asked.
“Are you aware of the rumors circulating concerning our two newest crew members?” T’Pol asked.
“You mean Crewmen Janeway and Hicks,” Archer said. “I’ve heard a few rumblings. Care to elaborate on what you’ve heard?”
“The most popular rumors suggest that they are Starfleet observers sent to evaluate the crew’s performance,” T’Pol began. “Presumably to determine if Enterprise should be allowed to continue its mission. According to other rumors, they are spies who are here to ‘hide out’ until the next phase of their mission is set to begin. Still, others say that they are prisoners and that they are being transported to a penal colony.”
“Which one do you believe?”
“I reserve judgment until I receive enough evidence to formulate a conclusion,” T’Pol said. “However, I cannot say the same of several senior crew members.”
“What do they think?” Archer asked.
“The prevailing opinion is Starfleet observer theory,” T’Pol replied.
Archer nodded slowly. “I see,” he said.
“Captain, I do not believe it is unreasonable for the crew to be curious about Crewmen Janeway and Hicks,” T’Pol said. “Their appearance on the ship was uncharacteristically sudden, given their low rank.”
“As long as I know who they are and what they’re doing here, shouldn’t that suffice?” Archer asked.
“Indeed, Captain,” T’Pol said.
Archer knew it wasn’t the response she’d wanted to hear. He regarded T’Pol thoughtfully as he briefly considered telling her the truth right then and there.
“Have Trip and Malcolm meet me here this afternoon at 1400 hours,” Archer said. “I’ll need you to be present, as well.”
Trip, Malcolm, and T’Pol were already waiting when Archer entered his ready room. Kyle Hicks and Dani Janeway were right behind him.
Once the doors slid shut behind all of them, Archer didn’t waste any time getting right to the point. “I’m sure you’re all aware of the rumors that have been spreading around this ship about Crewmen Janeway and Hicks,” he began. “You all probably even have your own theories about where they came from and why they’re here. I called you in today to set the record straight. I’d like to introduce you to Lt. Commander Danielle Janeway and Lt. Kyle Hicks. This next part may come as a shock to you but perhaps not, after what transpired when Daniels was here. Commander Janeway and Lt. Hicks are both from the 24th Century.”
Malcolm and Trip, both shocked, looked at each other. Even T’Pol’s cool demeanor faltered slightly at the news. Archer was correct in saying that his crew members had their own theories about Hicks and Janeway, but none of those theories had even come close to approximating the truth.
“How did they end up here, sir?” Malcolm asked.
“I’ll let them answer that,” Archer said, turning to Kyle and Dani.
Dani looked at Kyle and then at Archer and the others in the room. She couldn’t believe she was standing in a room full of historical legends.
“Well,” Dani began. “It was my mission that started it all. My team was supposed to covertly retrieve some biomatter from a Suliban research facility in my time. We found the biomatter, but we unintentionally alerted the Suliban in the process. While trying to escape, we located what we surmised was a temporal chamber. My commanding officer ordered me into it, and I had the biomatter, and he sent me somewhere to keep me – and the biomatter – away from the Suliban. No one on my team could read the Suliban language, so he didn’t know exactly where – when – he was sending me. Then, I woke up here, in a crew cabin.”
Trip, T’Pol, and Malcolm looked to Kyle. “And how did you come to end up on the Enterprise?” T’Pol asked him.
“I was recruited by Daniels to rescue Commander Janeway,” Kyle said. “I was to travel here, retrieve the Commander, and return with her to the 24th Century before anyone here became aware of her existence. Before I could initiate transport back to the 24th Century, Daniels shut down my transporter device. When he found us, he told us that we couldn’t transport because the Suliban might detect it. When Daniels was killed, we essentially became stranded here because we need his codes to re-activate my device. So, that’s my story.”
“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Trip began. “You two are from the future, the 24th Century to be exact, and now you’re stranded here because you can’t use your transporter without codes from Daniels.”
“That’s right, sir,” Janeway said.
Trip looked at Archer. “Cap’n, is this some kind of joke or somethin’?” the engineer asked.
“Unfortunately, Trip, it isn’t a joke,” Archer said. “This is for real.”
“Believe me, Commander, I wish it weren’t true, either,” Janeway said. “But it is. I’m here, and I’m can’t go anywhere else until we can get our transporter operational again.”
“Trip, I’d like you and T’Pol to work together with Lt. Hicks to see if you can possibly decode the temporal transporter and get it operational again,” Archer said.
“Of course, sir,” Trip said, setting his skepticism aside.
Archer turned to Dani and Kyle. “Unfortunately, that’s about all we can do right now,” he said. There was nothing else they could do. There wasn’t anyone they could call in to help them with this, and no one on his crew had enough experience with time travel to offer any significant insight.
Dani nodded. “We understand, Captain,” she said. “Thank you for doing as much as you have.”
Archer turned his attention to his staff. “Until we can find a solution to this mess, Commander Janeway and Lt. Hicks will remain onboard the Enterprise as part of our crew, serving as crewmen. I shouldn’t have to tell you that what you’ve learned here today doesn’t leave this room. Under no circumstances is anyone on this ship to be made aware of Commander Janeway and Lt. Hick’s true origins without my express orders.”
“What about Starfleet Command, Captain?” T’Pol asked.
“You leave that to me,” Archer replied.
Archer watched Admiral Maxwell Forest over their comm link as the older man stared blankly at his desk, processing what Archer had just told him. It couldn’t be easy hearing that two people from the future were onboard one of Starfleet’s ships. Archer imagined that Forest’s mind must be racing, trying to figure out what the next step should be.
“You’re close to finding a solution to the situation, then?” Forest asked, finally looking at Archer again.
“No, not exactly,” Archer said. “Actually, we seem to be as far away as we were when Janeway and Hicks first came aboard. We’ve been working to decode their temporal transporter device for two weeks now, and we haven’t had any success with it.”
“So, what are you telling me, Jon?” Forest asked. Archer’s response was obviously not the answer he’d been hoping to hear. “You just want me to sit on my hands while two people from the future roam around your ship?”
“Admiral, I know it seems like a tall order, but the more people who know about this, the more opportunity there is for damage to be done to the timeline. These people aren’t supposed to be here. Heaven knows what might happen to all of us, to our future, if people start asking questions.”
Forest nodded, conceding the point. But still, there was at least one person at Command who needed to know. “I’ll have to inform Admiral Hart,” he said. “His section is responsible for dealing these types of situations.”
Archer nodded. He had anticipated the need to inform Hart, the head of Starfleet Intelligence, and he found that course of action reasonable.
Forest continued. “But that’s it,” he said. “I’m certain Hart will see the benefit of keeping this information under wraps. It shouldn’t go any further than him.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” Archer said.
“Keep me posted on any developments,” Forest said.
“Forest out.” The admiral ended the transmission, and Archer’s screen went black.