“The mission’s been cancelled,” Archer announced to Trip, T’Pol, Dani, and Kyle, who’d all assembled in Archer’s tiny Ready Room.
Trip didn’t attempt to contain his shock and dismay at all. “Cancelled?” he asked.
“From what the Admiral tells me, Ambassador Soval will use this to convince Starfleet that we need another 10 or 20 years before we try this again,” Archer explained.
“Twenty years?!” Trip was livid. “Starfleet won’t buy that for a minute.”
“Won’t they?” Archer countered sullenly.
Trip turned to Dani. “Tell him he’s crazy! Tell him that’s guilt talking, not Jonathan Archer!”
Dani couldn’t find any words. She was just as shocked as Trip, and that was saying something, considering that she was supposed to already know what happens to Enterprise.
“The Vulcan ship will meet us in three days to get you and Dr. Phlox,” Archer told T’Pol. “Please inform Mr. Mayweather to head for these coordinates.” He handed her a datapad.
“Where does this leave us?” Dani asked. She added, “Kyle and me, I mean. Are you still sending us back?”
“I can’t,” Archer said. “Starfleet Command is taking over your case.”
Trip wasn’t ready to give up. “I can’t believe you’re letting them do this to us. You’ve waited all your life to command this ship.”
“Dismissed,” Archer ordered.
“But sir—” Trip protested.
“I said you’re dismissed,” Archer reiterated. His eyes slid to Dani for emphasis. “All of you.”
Dani, not surprised but disheartened that he would dismiss her so easily, filed out of the room with everyone else.
“If Starfleet Command gets involved on a larger scale, this has the potential to spiral even ore out of control than it already is now,” Dani said. She sat on her bunk in hers and Kyle’s quarters, and he leaned against the desk, facing her.
“I know,” Kyle said. “I think this is going to call for radical action on our part.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know it’s better to do things through the protocols of this period,” Kyle began, “but we can’t risk anyone else finding out about us. I think we should steal the transporter from Engineering and send ourselves back to the future.”
Kyle recognized and sympathized withe the apprehension that clouded Dani’s features. “I don’t want to do it, either, but how else are we going to get home?”
Dani reluctantly nodded. “When?”
“Tonight. We should have no trouble getting access to it. Security protocols during this period weren’t nearly as good as what we’re used to. And no one would think twice about me being in there and handling the device.”
Dani nodded. “Okay,” she said. “Once you have it, meet me here in our quarters, and we’ll make it happen.”
Dani laid down on her bed in hers and Kyle’s quarters. She needed sleep. With everything that had happened over the last day with Archer, the temporal transporter, and Paragan, she was drained, physically and emotionally. She was supposed to meet Kyle tonight after he retrieved the temporal transporter, so she wouldn’t be able to sleep a full eight hours. Even if she’d had the time, she doubted she would be able to sleep that long. But at least she could try for a nap.
When Dani opened her eyes, she didn’t know how long she had been asleep, but she knew that she wasn’t waking up in a bedroom and a bed that she didn’t recognize. Archer was beside her in his pajamas, looking just as bewildered as she felt.
“From the look on your face, I’d say this isn’t where you were expecting to wake up, either,” Dani said.
“I was just in my quarters,” Archer said. “I’d just fed Porthos and laid down for the night. When I opened my eyes, I was here.”
“Do you have any idea where we are?” Dani asked.
“I know exactly where we are,” Archer replied. “This is my bedroom in San Francisco. The question is how the hell did we end up here.” Archer rose from the bed and walked over to the window, peeking at the view of the city.
The comm beeped, and Archer walked over to the unit on the wall across from the bed. “Hello?” he said.
“Sorry to call so late, Captain,” Trip began, “but all three inspection pods are getting their weekly overhauls tonight. They tell me they won’t be ready ’til noon, so I figured you might want to sleep in.”
“What do you say to breakfast at 9:30, space dock cafeteria?” Archer asked.
“You must be reading my mind again,” Trip said. “I was just about to suggest the same thing.”
“See you in the morning,” Archer said. He turned to Dani. “If someone’s trying to tell me the last ten months was a dream, I’m not buying it.”
“Of course not,” Dani said. “That doesn’t even begin to explain how I ended up here with you.”
Archer walked over to the monitor on the desk a few feet away.
“What are you doing?” Dani asked.
“Performing a test. I know where we are, but I need to be certain when,” Archer said.
“When?” Dani repeated.
Archer nodded as he activated the monitor. A woman’s face filled the screen. “IME,” she said. “Can I help you?”
“This is Captain Jonathan Archer, Starfleet authorization alpha-six-four,” Archer said.
“I know who you are, Captain,” the receptionist said with a grin. “What can I do for you?”
“Do you have a Denobulan doctor in the Interspecies Medical Exchange?” Archer asked.
The receptionist momentarily turned her attention to something off-screen, then turned back to Archer. “Yes,” she said. “A Dr. Phlox. He’s assigned to Starfleet Medical here in San Francisco. Would you like me to contact him for you?”
“No, that’s all right,” Archer said. “Thanks for your help.” He ended the comm and, forlorn, turned to Dani. Dani had slid out of bed and was walking towards Archer.
“I didn’t even know Phlox existed before they brought Klaang in,” Archer muttered. “And that was the day after the late-night call from Trip.”
“You’re not dreaming, Captain.”
Dani and Archer turned, both shocked to find that Crewman Daniels had appeared in the room with them.
“Daniels,” Archer said.
“This must be very disorienting,” Daniels said. “I apologize, but I had no choice.”
“Commander Tucker told me told me you were dead, that Silik killed you,” Archer said.
“He did, in a manner of speaking,” Daniels confirmed. “We have to talk, and it’s essential that none of the other factions know about it. I doubt any of them would think I’d bring you here.”
“So, you’re telling me you brought us back, what, ten months ago?” Archer asked. “How about Jonathan Archer ten months ago? Where’s he?”
“He’s you,” Daniels replied.
“Then who just climbed into bed aboard Enterprise?” Archer asked.
“That hasn’t happened, yet.”
“That’s a load of crap, and you know it,” Archer said, growing agitated.
“I’ve had this conversation with half a dozen people,” Daniels said. “It always ends the same way.”
“Can’t you ever give a straight answer?” Archer asked.
“It depends on the question,” Daniels replied.
“Time travel can get really confusing, Jon,” Dani said. “It’s best not to think about it too much or try to figure it out.”
Archer looked at Daniels again. “All right – try this one,” Archer began. “Why am I here? I thought you were supposed to protect the timeline, not screw with it?”
“It’s already been screwed with, Captain,” Daniels said. “That explosion at the Paragan colony – it wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“Of course it wasn’t. It was an accident.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Daniels said. “History never recorded the disaster. Someone violated the Temporal Accord. Someone who doesn’t want your mission to succeed.”
“That’s why I don’t remember reading about it when I was preparing for my mission,” Dani realized aloud.
“Are you telling me that Enterprise didn’t cause that explosion?” Archer asked Daniels.
Daniels responded with another question. “Do you remember the Temporal Cold War I spoke of?”
“It’s kind of hard to forget.”
“Then listen to me carefully,” Daniels said. “We don’t have much time”