Once they were a wanderer among stars.
Once they were a questor of knowledge.
Now that they were one, the one was a Champion, roaming the higher dimensions - higher than where they'd begun, anyway - setting the holism to rights. Of course, "right" and "wrong" were concepts that both the one had moved beyond and of which they had perceived almost infinite refinement.
For instance, look now. Here was another Champion, adrift in the ether. Obviously cut off from the same plane where the one had originated, but not ready for advancement as they had been when the opportunity arose. There was no order in this. Best to remove this misplaced Champion to a place/time in need of such. Look now - here's some continuum out of place in that very plane in which the one and this Champion had originated. Very rare, and in need of correcting. Just the place for a Champion.
Captain Archer grinned. He seemed to like my handshake, even though he'd said over the subspace video link that I looked younger than he'd expect of a 'space tramper'. "You look human yourself. Where'd you come from, if not Earth?"
Oops. I backpedaled. "I am from Earth, uh, originally." True. "Just don't think of myself as human." Not for centuries. "Uh, I've been in space a long time." Most of a century. "My rig's Rigellian registry." True. Rigellian bureaucrats don't ask a lot of questions, besides Where's mine? And their sun's a completely different spectrum.
"Haven't made it to Rigel yet," the engineer, Tucker, piped up as Archer led him and me from the bay lock. "We weren't really supposed to be out here yet. Enterprise pulled out of dock early, on a rescue mission."
"We'll get there eventually," Archer said. "Our planned exploratory mission is on now."
"I'm an engineer, not an explorer," Tucker said. "After all those Klingon fangs and forehead lumps I'm happy to see a real face on a stranger."
I muttered, "I'll try to remember," but they probably didn't hear.
"I can't tell you that," T'Pol said.
The Doctor exchanged a glance with Padme, a princess from some planet long ago and far away, his current traveling companion. I gathered, later, her expression communicated to him that she remembered his earlier statement that the Time Lords recruit native agents in timespace zones of importance.
Padme told me the look he gave her was meant to garner sympathy for him after T'Pol used on him the same disclaimer he'd been giving Captain Archer for days.
"Have it your way, Subcommander," the Doctor said blithely. "Tell me, did I hear Captain Archer speaking of the Suliban being involved in some 'temporal cold war'?"
"Yes. But it's nonsense," T'Pol said. "The Vulcan Science Directorate has declared time travel to be theoretically impossible."
The Doctor shrugged ... and corrected T'Pol's path to the corridor where the TARDIS was parked. "I may know some different theories than they. Rest assured I'll bring any anomalies I may discover to the attention of the proper parties." Depending of course on who he decided that to be, if I know him.
"As you say, Doctor," said T'Pol. If her secret training included any brief on the Doctor's not-always-good relations with his people, she didn't show it. "But I assure you, I haven't observed any such anomalies."
The Doctor, Padme and T'Pol stopped and turned back to whence the call had come, from a crewman in an Enterprise jumpsuit exiting quarters ...
I shrugged. "I've had several."
When I didn't go on Tucker asked, "Got tired of waiting for the Vulcans to cough up the warp factors, did you?"
"Vulcans leave a bad taste in my mouth." Really. Once just before I left Earth there was a mix-up at the Red Cross, and I went to the fridge for a midnight snack, and I didn't turn the light on, and I didn't notice the color till after it was too late.
"So you think," Archer said, "you can identify what it is that's draining Trip's impulse batteries?"
"That's why I'm here." False. I was here because a vision from the Powers That Be to my partner sent me; something about one Champion misplacing another. But I couldn't say that to these guys; and their impulse drain showed up on my sensors when I needed a foot in the door.
"Huh!" said Tucker. "You make it sound like you came looking for us."
"I wondered about that," confessed Archer, trying and failing not to sound suspicious. "There's no way you could have known we'd need help. Yet it's a pretty big coincidence that you'd be right here. And it's not all that big a drain anyway."
I halted in the corridor, at a crossjunction, and shrugged again. I shrug with my arms rather than my shoulders, and without taking my hands from my pockets, so my cloak kinda flaps at people. "I'm just here to help. It's what I do. You've got ..."
I trailed off as my eyes wandered from Archer farther down the cross corridor where something I saw surprised me. There was a Vulcan on the ship, which was odd, since humans seem to think the Vulcans are holding them back; but that wasn't what surprised me. With her was the Doctor, in his black-haired black-coated pointy-nosed snotty incarnation, not one of my favorites; but that wasn't surprising me because a spacetime traveler can show up anywhere, anytime, by definition. With him was Padme, whose presence was totally unsurprising because I only ever saw her with the Doctor because where else would you find a princess from a planet long ago and far away but in the company of a spacetime traveler? But there was a fourth person in the group, who I would have never, ever expected to see on a twenty-second century starship.
"... Buffy?" I finished.
At her name, even at this distance, she looked up. "Angel?" she said.
Archer had arrived at this meeting between the Starfleet brass and the Vulcan delegation to Earth, persuaded for once by his superiors to be conciliatory to the Vulcans. He'd tried everything else. If it didn't work, he didn't have to do it again.
It wasn't working.
"Imagine if you were the commanding officer of a ship - the first of its kind, a historical landmark for your whole people," Archer said to the Vulcan ambassador. "Imagine the frustration of commanding this ship for years on end in theory only, because its commission is continually being delayed in spacedock."
He should have known it wouldn't have any affect on Sival, or Soval, or S'Val (I've seen the name transliterated a dozen ways in the Earth press. To no reaction from the Vulcans, as if they don't mind humans not knowing his True Name.). The ambassador said, "The free rein of imagination is destructive to the logical intellect. So is frustration illogical."
Archer gritted his teeth, shot a quick glance at his admiral to give him warning - if only a fraction of a second - that all bets were off again, and exploded, "You people really think you know everything, don't you? I'd love to see you confronted with something you couldn't logic away!!"
Then there was a young woman lying on the conference table. A moment ago she hadn't been there, but now she was. She was stretched out on her stomach, legs and arms straight backward and forward respectively and head up as if she'd been diving off a board. Yet, instead of swimwear, she had on historical costume, a century or two old.
She seemed less startled to be there than Archer, the brass and the Vulcans were that she was there. Until she took a look around while pushing herself up to a half-sitting position. "Doesn't look too much like hell," she said to herself or to Archer and the brass. Then she turned the other way and saw Soval. "Then again ..."
I felt myself grinning just as stupidly back. "Buffy. ... How?"
"Dimensional portal. Same ol' same ol'."
"I'd just got to the bottom of that when you interrupted," said the Doctor with testy civility. "It's all right."
"You two know each other?" Archer asked.
"We three," corrected the Doctor. Behind him Padme coughed. "Four."
"How can you two know each other?" Archer persisted.
"He's the love of my life, captain," said Crewman Summers. "Oh, I resign my commission."
"Now wait a minute!" Archer snapped, as Buffy came to me and took my arm.
"There's a mystery here, Captain," said the Vulcan woman. Damn clever, these Vulcans.
It was so fantastic for me to see Buffy again after all this time that initially I just accepted it without desire of explanation. And she was in much the same boggled mindset, had been for months on end, it turned out. The next few minutes are only a blur to me now, with both of us lost in each other's smile and in the mutual fantasy that maybe now we'd be together forever. Somehow Archer and Tucker bulled their way through my daze enough to get the whole party following them again toward the impulse batteries that were my supposed reason for being aboard. Dimly I realized I still hadn't found what my real reason was. I should have known.
Most of the way to the engine room Buffy and I cooed at each other nonsense you'll never get me to repeat. Then she said, "I still owe you an apology."
"Oh, I can take a surprise like this. Vamp- uh, Rigellians don't get heart attacks."
"No, silly," Buffy said, doing that girlish slap thing. "About Faith."
I think this was when I started to realize. Buffy had already apologized to me about this, a century and a half ago. "What about Faith?"
"The way I behaved when she first came to you in L.A. I was still all hopped up over the steal-my-life thing, and I was out of line. I didn't work it out till I got here. I apologize, I was wrong. I should have known to trust you and I should have listened."
I kept the smile on my face only with conscious effort, as must have been obvious to anyone looking at me, except no one was looking but Buffy. "Wh - what's the last thing you remember before this?"
"Finding the Doctor and Padme in the corridor."
"I mean, before you wound up on the Enterprise. In this time."
"The gang must have told you." Buffy was bemused, but not enough to demolish her mood as mine'd been. "I had to jump into Glory's portal to save Dawn."
"That's the problem," said Tucker.
I looked up. We'd arrived in the engine room. Archer and Tucker were bracketing the Enterprise's impulse batteries. I looked the batteries up and down. Something was terribly, horribly wrong here and it had fallen to me to see it fixed.
"This is a Lezpyiq impulse configuraton," I said. "Captain Archer, I'm afraid I must place your crew under arrest for copyright violation."
END OF CHAPTER ONE
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