Archer and Dani emerged from his ready room.
“I’ve taken the liberty of asking Commander Tucker to join us,” Reed said.
“What’s the problem?” Archer asked, walking over to Reed’s station.
“We’re having trouble balancing the warp field,” Reed said.
Archer studied Reed’s computer monitor. “Looks fine to me.”
“It’s odd,” Reed said. “It’ll be stable one moment, and then, for no reason, it’ll go slightly out of alignment.”
“What are you guys doing to my engines?” Tucker asked, stepping from the turbolift onto the bridge.
“The auto-stabilizers aren’t functioning properly,” T’Pol said.
“The computer ran its last diagnostic on them less than 10 minutes ago,” Tucker said. “They look fine.”
“Well they’re not,” Reed said. “We’ve had to realign the field a dozen times over the last hour.”
“Load torpedoes, and stand by all weapons,” Archer said, alarm rising in his voice. “Deploy the beacons, Travis. Modify the viewscreen, and aim the beacons aft.”
The viewscreen displayed six green blobs in formation just beyond the nacelles.
“Swing them down slowly,” Archer instructed. Another six blobs came into view on the screen.
“It looks like we’re in a swarm of cloaked bees,” Trip observed.
“Charge the phase cannons,” Archer said.
“We’re being hailed,” Hoshi announced.
“Put it through,” Archer said.
Silik’s bumpy face appeared on the viewscreen. “I wouldn’t advise using your weapons, Jonathan,” Silik warned. “Perhaps if we decloak, you’ll understand why.” Silik cut the transmission from his end. The image that replaced him was a view of Enterprise’s hull surrounded by dozens of pods.
On Archer’s order, Hoshi suspended the transmission with Silik. Archer turned to Reed. “Malcolm?” he said, seeking confirmation.
“They’re all armed with high-yield particle weapons, sir,” Reed reported.
“How many could you take out?” Archer asked.
“Before they could open fire?” Malcolm asked. “Not enough sir.”
Archer nodded at Hoshi, who resumed the transmission with Silik.
“One of my ships is approaching your starboard docking port,” Silik said. “I’d like Danielle Janeway to board it immediately.”
Archer and Dani looked at each other before turning back to the viewscreen. Of all the things they’d anticipated coming out of Silik’s mouth, that hadn’t been one of them. “What do you want with her?” Archer demanded.
Silik ignored Archer’s question. “You have five minutes,” he said. “If you don’t comply, I have permission to destroy Enterprise.”
“How do I know you won’t destroy Enterprise either way?” Archer asked.
“You have my word, Captain,” Silik said. “And you also have four and a half minutes left.” He ended the transmission.
Dani looked at Archer briefly before turning and walking toward the turbo lift. She hadn’t said a word, but Archer, knowing the kind of person she was, already knew what she had in mind.
“Dani—where are you going?” he asked, following her.
“You heard what he said,” Dani said. “If I don’t go over there, he destroys Enterprise.”
“So it’s as simple as that?” Archer asked. “You’re just going to go over there, and everything will be made perfect.”
“That’s the plan,” Dani said. The lift doors opened , and she stepped in. Archer was right behind her.
“You don’t know what he wants with you,” Archer said as the turbolift doors closed behind him.
“I have an idea,” Dani said.
“He could kill you,” Archer said.
“I’m not supposed to be here anyway, Jon,” Dani said. “If I die, it’s not going to make a difference.”
“Damn it, it’ll make a difference to me!” Archer said. “I can’t just let you go over there and commit what basically amounts to suicide.”
“Jon, it’s imperative that your mission continue,” Dani said. “I can’t tell you why – one day, it’ll make sense. But you can’t die, and Enterprise can’t be destroyed without serious ramifications to the future of Starfleet. Everything makes so much sense now.” Her eyes welled with tears. “It was never going to be my time to go back home.”
Archer shook his head. “Don’t say that.”
“It’s my destiny, Jon.”
The turbolift came to a halt, and the doors opened. “What if you go over there, and he kills us anyway?” Archer asked. “Have you thought of that? Then you will have sacrificed yourself for nothing.”
Dani paused to consider Archer’s point, but only briefly. “If I don’t go over, then it’s certain death for you, Enterprise, and everything I’ve ever known,” she said. “If that happens, I won’t have anything to go back to anyway.”
Dani stepped out of the turbo lift and into the corridor. Archer stepped out with her.
“There’s another way,” Archer insisted. “There has to be.”
“Tell Kyle to tell my parents what happened,” Dani said.
“I will.” It was Kyle who spoke. Archer and Dani turned to see him rushing toward them. “Trip commed me and told me what was happening.”
“Don’t try to talk me out of this, Kyle,” Dani said. “It feels like it’s something I have to do.”
“I know,” Kyle said. “When Trip told me Silik wanted you, I figured it had to have something to do with your original mission from the 24th Century. And it makes sense to try to do whatever you can to save Enterprise.”
After a brief pause, he said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Dani…for Dukat.”
“No, Kyle, don’t apologize,” Dani said. “You had no way of knowing. You were trying to protect me.”
She pulled him to her and hugged him. “Good luck,” he told her as he let her go.
When Dani turned to Archer, he quickly pulled her into his arms and crushed his lips against hers.
“We’ll always have Risa,” Dani whispered to him before turning and walking toward the airlock. It took every ounce of will that she could muster to raise her hand to the panel on the wall and open the door leading to the airlock. It was like opening the door to her own casket, intending to climb in.
The door opened, and Dani resisted the urge to look back at Archer and Kyle before stepping through. Once she was inside the airlock chamber, she could see the Suliban pod that had been sent for her just beyond the outer airlock doors. She hesitated momentarily as she contemplated what she was about to do. Then, she shut off her thoughts, opened the outer airlock, and stepped into her destiny, waiting for her in the form of the Suliban pod.
In the Suliban pod, Dani found that the vehicle was unmanned and pre-programmed to fly to Silik’s ship. The controls had been locked down, but Dani had had time to study Suliban technology after she’d first arrived on Enterprise. That knowledge she’d gleaned, combined with what information she knew from studying them in the 24th Century, enabled her to hack into the computer.
Once she actually had access to the computer, it didn’t take her long to see that the system wasn’t very sophisticated at all. She had access to weapons, communications, engines…she was faced with three courses of action.
She could try to run, but then Enterprise would be left to deal with the Suliban, and they would likely be destroyed.
She could also try fighting the Suliban herself. It wasn’t a particularly attractive notion, but it certainly sounded better than delivering herself into certain death at the hands of the Suliban. Her sacrifice would ultimately be in vain, though. After she was dead, Suliban would surely destroy Enterprise in this scenario, too.
Trying to communicate with the Suliban likely wouldn’t get her far, so that left her with one viable and effective option. Dani worked quickly as the pod continued to pilot itself towards Silik’s ship.On Enterprise, Kyle and Archer returned to the bridge.
“Travis,” Archer began, “what’s the status of the Suliban shuttle?”
“Still on course for Silik’s ship, Captain,” Travis reported.
Archer desperately scoured his brain for something – anything – that he could do to stop this. But his mind couldn’t produce a solution.
Kyle stepped up beside Archer. “It’s okay, Captain,” he began. “There’s nothing that any of us can do. There’s nothing we’re supposed to do. This is supposed to happen.”
Archer turned to Kyle. “How can you say that?” he asked. “Right now, your friend is marching to her death.”
“Captain, Silik is hailing us,” Hoshi announced.
“Onscreen,” Archer immediately responded.
Silik’s face instantly filled the viewscreen at the front of the bridge. Something seemed…off about him.
“Just what do you think you’re trying to accomplish, Jonathan?” Silk demanded. He was not happy at all.
Archer shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m getting reports from all of our ships that their crews are suddenly becoming violently ill,” Silik seethed. “They’re dying!”
“I assure you, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Archer insisted. “We haven’t done anything other than what you’ve demanded.”
“Captain, the Suliban ships are falling out of warp,” Reed reported.
Archer, astonished at the incredible turn of luck, looked at Reed. Then he turned to Silik on the viewscreen. Archer didn’t know a whole lot about Suliban physiology, but Silik didn’t look well. The skin on his face looked like it was shriveling up.
“Silik?” Archer asked.
Silik looked as if he were about to respond, but instead, he keeled over and fell out of view. The comm line was disrupted, and the image of Silik’s empty seat was replaced by the starfield.
Archer turned to Kyle, not believing what he’d just witnessed but beginning to comprehend what it all meant. “What happened?” Archer asked.
“I can’t be totally certain,” Kyle began, “but if I had to guess, I’d say that this is Dani’s work. Maybe she triggered the release of some kind of toxic agent on the Suliban ships. She must’ve somehow sent a command to all the ships.”
Archer looked to Hoshi. “Can you get her on the comm?”
“I’ll try,” Hoshi responded.
Archer turned back to Kyle only to find that he was no longer standing there. His brow knitted in confusion, and he looked around. “What happened to Lt. Hicks?” he asked.
“Who, sir?” Malcolm asked.
“Lt. Hicks,” Archer repeated. “Kyle Hicks. He was just standing right here.”
The bridge crew, confused, looked at one another, wondering why the captain was acting so strangely.
“Captain, we are the only individuals who have been on the bridge for the last 20 minutes,” T’Pol said. “A ‘Lt. Hicks’ has not entered nor left the bridge.”
“You’re telling me that you didn’t just see Kyle Hicks standing here beside me not more than five minutes ago?” Archer asked skeptically.
“Captain, I do not know anyone by the name of Kyle Hicks,” T’Pol said. “Further, I’m not aware of any member of this crew by that name.”
Archer couldn’t conjure any words. He’d thought that he knew what was going on, but now it was very apparent that he didn’t. Unless…
“You’re not losing your mind, Captain.”
Archer whirled around. Daniels was standing behind him. Meanwhile, everyone else around him was frozen in place.
“Daniels,” Archer said. “Why am I not more surprised to find you standing on my bridge?”
“You know me too well by now, Captain,” Daniels said with a small grin.
“What’s going on?” Archer asked. “What happened to Dani?”
“Let’s just say she completed her mission?” Daniels said.
“Completed her mission?” Archer repeated. “What the hell does that mean?” He didn’t have the patience for Daniels’s riddles today.
Archer watched as Daniels approached. “She went back to her own time,” Archer guessed.
“What she accomplished here has made a significant impact on your time and hers,” Daniels said. “She’s set the course of history straight.”
“I’m never going to see her again, am I?” Archer asked.
“No,” Daniels said, “but it’s not going to matter to you in a few minutes.”
“Why is that?”
“Because you won’t remember her.”
Before Archer could say another word, Daniels disappeared. Archer stood for a moment staring at the the blank space in front of him. Had someone just been standing there? It seemed like someone had been standing there, but there was no one now, and he couldn’t think of anyone who would’ve been standing there or any reason why they would’ve been.
“Captain?” T’Pol asked, walking towards him. His strange behavior was beginning to concern her. Archer turned to her. “Are you well?”
Archer nodded cautiously. “I believe so,” he answered. “It’s just that…I could have sworn someone was just standing here.”
“You just mentioned that you believed a Lt. Hicks was standing beside you moments ago,” T’Pol said.
“Lt. Hicks?” Archer repeated. “The name sounds familiar, but I don’t believe I know anyone by that name.”
“Perhaps you were mistaken,” T’Pol offered.
Archer thought for a moment, then nodded. “I-I guess so.” He walked over to Reed’s work station. “Any sign of any Suliban ships, Mr. Reed?” he asked. They had any encounters with the Suliban in weeks, but Archer couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling he had about them at the moment, like he was expecting them to randomly pop up on their scanners.
“No, sir,” Reed answered.
Archer lingered at Malcolm’s station a few moments longer before he was finally satisfied to some degree that they weren’t about to be ambushed by Silik and his troops. He nodded at Reed and returned to the center of his bridge, near his chair. T’Pol continued to watch him closely.
“Travis, maintain heading and speed…” Archer ordered. Reluctantly, he lowered himself into his chair. His uneasiness was receding, but he still wanted to know what had caused it in the first place. Maybe he would never know. Sometimes, feelings could out of no where for no reason.