Dani stood at a viewport in the mess hall gazing out at the stars. She knew they were some of the same stars she’d been seeing all her life, back in the 24th Century. But they looked so different. The birthday party for Ensign Sato was going on all around her, but Dani seemed oblivious to it.
“That drink isn’t going to drink itself, you know.”
Dani looked over her shoulder to find Captain Archer stepping into the empty space beside her. She looked down at her drink, which, indeed, had been untouched since she’d picked it up half an hour before.
“I forgot I was holding it,” Dani admitted. She smiled and looked up at Archer. “I guess I was just lost in my thoughts.”
Archer had spotted her when he’d first come into the mess hall, but she’d seemed to be so deep in thought that he hadn’t wanted to disturb her. Still, he hadn’t been able to resist the opportunity to get to know a little more about this mysterious woman who’d fallen out of time and landed on his ship.
“I imagine there must be a lot going through your mind these days,” Archer said.
“I’m sure the same is true for you,” Dani said. “It’s practically a requirement for starship captains, isn’t it? Especially when you’re dealing with problems like me and Kyle.”
“You’re not a problem,” Archer insisted. Dani gave him a highly skeptical look, but he continued. “Besides, when you’re a Captain, you have to learn how to deal with the unexpected.”
“From what I can see, you’ve done a very good job,” Dani said.
“It sure doesn’t feel like it. I still haven’t found a way to get you back home, yet.”
“If you keep saying that, I’m going to start thinking that you don’t want me here.”
“Don’t think that,” Archer said.
“You’ve made things interesting around here.”
Dani chuckled. “The Suliban, Daniels, the Andorians – those are all issues you had to deal with before me, and I’d hardly call them boring.” She finally took a sip of her drink. It was a cold drink that had warmed to room temperature, and it had probably tasted much better 30 minutes ago. “In all seriousness, Captain, you’ve done everything in your power to help us, and Kyle and I are both so grateful. Don’t dwell on it too much. You’re not superman, you’re only mortal. Besides, I think the 22nd Century is growing on me. I kind of like it here.”
“Really? I’m glad to hear it. I’ve been meaning to talk to you and Kyle about how things have been going for you here.”
“Well, of course it’s different from just about everything we’ve ever known, but we’re learning.”
“Good to hear it. If you’re up to it, I’d like to sit down with you over a meal – dinner maybe – to get to know you more, the two of you.”
Dani nodded. “I know I’d love to. I can’t see why Kyle wouldn’t, too.”
“How about tomorrow evening?” Archer suggested.
Dani nodded enthusiastically. “Sounds good,” she said. “It should be fun.”
“It’s too bad Mr. Hicks couldn’t join us,” Archer said. He plucked his napkin from the table and smiled at Dani, his sole dinner companion for the evening.
“Dr. Phlox said that he should stay in bed for 12 hours and get some rest,” Dani said. “Apparently, the cold he’s been trying to fight off has really wiped him out, and he needs time to recuperate.”
“Of course,” Archer said. “Dr. Phlox knows what he’s doing. It’s best to follow his instructions to a tee.”
A steward brought out the first course, a salad, and placed it on the table. As the crewman distributed the salad to Archer’s and Dani’s plates, the Captain looked across at his new crew member. He hadn’t anticipated that this would turn into a one-on-one dinner with her. Frankly, it made him a little anxious. It almost felt like a first date. He wondered if she had similar feelings about it.
After the steward retreated out the door, Archer cleared his throat. “So, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself,” Archer said, gently stabbing at the leafy romaine on his plate.
“You mean besides the fact that I’m from the future?” Dani quipped. “Well…I was born in Indiana, but I wouldn’t say I grew up there. Both my parents were in Starfleet, so I spent a lot of time with relatives when I was little. I also spent a lot of time on starbases and starships waiting to rendevouz my parents.”
“Children on starships?” Archer asked.
“Sometimes,” Dani said. “They weren’t on every ship, but it wasn’t like I was the only kid on every ship I went to. There were usually at least a couple of others. I did that up until the time I was 12.”
“What changed?” Archer asked. “Did your parents leave Starfleet?”
Dani hesitated before continuing. She had to be careful that she didn’t reveal anything that might have far-reaching consequences. The problem with that was that it was impossible to know what would make a difference and what wouldn’t. Her merely being here had already made a difference. Finally, after a short internal debate, she decided that she would only withhold information that blatantly violated the temporal prime directive, such as information about future technology and defining events. She would never be able to say anything if she allowed herself to constantly agonize over every little bit of information that she uttered.
“I sneaked onboard my mother’s ship,” Dani began. “She was a Starfleet captain. The ship…became lost in a distant part of space, something like 70,000 light-years from Earth. We were stuck there, trying to get home for about seven years. So really, that’s where I grew up. I was 19 when we made it back to Earth.”
“That couldn’t have been easy for you,” Archer said.
“I was a little shocked, to say the least, when I found out how far away from home we were. But in a way, I was really lucky. I had both my parents there, and the crew was like a big family. It wasn’t so bad, really. We had a lot of good times on that ship.”
The subject of home seemed to be having a sullen effect on Janeway, which was perfectly normal given the circumstances. Archer decided to refrain from asking her any more deeply personal questions, for now at least.
“So, did you and Mr. Hicks know each other before you embarked on this mission?” Archer asked, switching tracks slightly.
“Actually, we went to the Academy together,” Dani said, a smile returning to her attractive face. “We haven’t seen each other since we graduated from the Academy, but yeah, we were pretty close.” She looked at Archer. “And we weren’t exactly assigned to this mission together, not from the beginning. I was floored when he showed up on the Enterprise.”
“He seems like a decent man and a good officer,” Archer said.
“He is,” Dani said. “I think he needs to relax a little more, though. When we were at the Academy, he was always so laid back. He was the one you could always count on to keep the mood light-hearted and fun when everyone was stressed out. Now…he’s so serious. He looks the same, physically, but his demeanor is different.”
“I’m sure this situation has been difficult on both of you,” Archer said. “We’re scheduled to stop at Risa next week for shore leave. Do you know Risa?”
Dani smiled. “Very well. It’s a very popular vacation spot where I come from.”
“Good. The two of you should join the first group that goes down. I’ll be going down with that group, too. It’ll be fun, and you need the rest as much as anyone else on my crew.”
“You don’t have to convince me, Captain. I love Risa. It’s been one of my favorite get-away spots for years. We’ll be on that transport, believe me.”