Spoilers ENT: "Desert Crossing", "Home". DW: "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" (Ninth Doctor/Rose, this is the episode where Captain Jack Harkness is introduced)
PS: I believe the TARDIS is definitely alive and has a mind of its own. And yeah, that's a sonic screwdriver.
Trip glanced down at the sehlat in his lap. When T'Pol had described her pet to him, she made it sound like a big yellow Labrador Retriever. Plenty of fur, a huge, wet nose and large paws. This was bigger than a yellow Lab. Hell, it was more like a good-sized Saint Bernard, with a ursine face and long, bushy tail. Trip had the sinking feeling that this sehlat wasn't even half-grown.How big would it be when it was full-grown? No wonder T'Pol had claimed she was never late for her sehlat's dinner. If you were late, you were likely to be its dinner!
“It's just a baby,” he murmured.
Malcolm gaped at it, then whispered, “Good God! When it's an adult---”
“Yeah.” The sehlat blinked and looked at him with large brown eyes, then snuggled deeper into his chest. It yawned and flashed six-inch long incisors. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't hold back an answering yawn. It had been a long day—or was it night? It was hard to tell in this police box.
“T'Pol had one of these as a child?”
“Yeah...the Vulcans domesticate 'em so they're as docile as a dog. They tend to be fiercely protective of whomever they get attached to. No wonder they make good guard dogs and babysitters. No one's gonna want to mess with 'em. Iwouldn't.”
“Well, this one seems quite attached to you.”
He rolled his eyes at Malcolm's words and shifted his weight under the massive bulk. “I guess it knows it's found someplace safe. Dunno about you, but I think I'm gonna hit the sack for a few hours.”
He frowned, and Trip saw his sense of responsibility warring with his need for rest. “You're not going to go out and search for this sehlat's owner?”
Trip sighed and stifled another yawn. “I will, but I'm so tired I'd do a instant face-plant into a sand dune. Not to mention it's about sunrise, and the temperatures in the desert will soar faster than a nuclear furnace turned on high. Don't care much to get another sunburn.”
Malcolm raised his eyebrows. “You'd know, wouldn't you.”
“Being on the run on Zobral's planet wasn't a picnic, especially during the daytime.” Trip waved a hand at the doors. “We can wait till late afternoon, when we still have light and it isn't so hot.”
“Good idea. I'm sure we could find somewhere comfortable to sleep around here---” Malcolm frowned and indicated a nearby hallway with his chin. “Wait. Iknow that wasn't here before.”
Trip narrowed his eyes at the hallway and saw there were doors along one side of it. “You know, it seems this police box knows what we need when we need it. The coffee pot and the tea in the galley, the clothes closet...I bet those are sleeping quarters.”
He was right. Three doors, all leading to comfortably furnished bedrooms. Trip carefully laid the sleeping sehlat on the bed and quickly explored the rest of the room. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and mirror, and a simple chest of drawers and nightstand near the bed. Malcolm's room was the mirror image of his; the third room was meant for a woman, if the cosmetics on the table were any indication.
“How convenient,” Malcolm commented dryly.
“Convenient or not, I'm pretty damn glad of it.” Trip didn't bother to hide the yawn this time. “I'll see you in a couple of hours, Malcolm.”
“Sleep well, Trip.”
He closed the door. The sehlat lay at the foot of the bed, sprawled on its back, pudgy limbs flung every which way, mouth open to show its teeth, but at least it wasn't snoring. He stifled a smile and gently moved the beast to make room for himself. Trip closed his eyes and was instantly asleep.
And began to dream...
“Mother, I have searched the courtyard and the surrounding area. There is no sign of him.” The pitch was too high to be a woman's; it was probably of a young girl, perhaps eight or nine years old.
“Have you made inquiries among your peers? Surely one of them must have seen him.” There was hint of strained impatience in the words.
“Sevuk, T'Lashi and Senek have all told me they have not seen Pok since this morning.”
“You were sure he was in the courtyard as you left for school? Perhaps he slipped out to follow you and had gotten lost.”
“Yes. I have trained Pok not to follow me unless I specifically call him. He would not disobey. Perhaps someone has abducted him---”
The woman's voice held little sympathy as she replied, “What would an adult want with him? If he wandered into the desert, he might have encountered a le-matya. Pok is hardly as old as you are; he might have run into misfortune.”
“Mother---” The girl choked on her words. “I cannot---”
“I will inquire of the surrounding estates, my daughter. Try not to worry too much. If Pok is alive, he will make his way back to you. A sehlat is loyal until death.”
Trip bristled at the coolness of the mother's words. Yes, they were truthful, but to dismiss the girl's concerns about her pet like that...and in such a condescending way! It reminded him of the one time Lizzie lost her cat during a summer storm. The Tuckers spent most of a day looking for Miss Dolly, until they found her stuck in a drainage ditch. Luckily, Miss Dolly was more shaken than hurt.
A familiar wave of warmth seeped into him, and washed away the righteous indignation. This time, he was running hand in hand with a young blonde woman, who proudly displayed a Union Jack flag on her shirt. She smiled at him, and again he was reminded of Lizzie, sweet and innocent, and she laughed with the pure delight of being alive. There was another man, wearing some sort heavy overcoat, with dark hair, blue eyes and a charming grin.
Their names floated at the edge of his consciousness. Rose. Jack. Was this the mysterious Captain Jack Harkness?
He felt a lump in his (leather jacket?) pocket and pulled it out with his free hand. It was some sort of cylindrical device, about the size of penlight. The top of the device glowed blue and hummed like one of Enterprise's scanners. Trip could feel the condensed energy within the device, like a miniature sun, as it flowed through his fingertips, like it was part of him...
The engineer within him wanted to know how this thing worked, whatever it was. The name of it floated just within reach...screwdriver? Nah, it doesn't look like a screwdriver, much less act like one...
And suddenly, he was back in the desert, trudging under the desert sun, with the sehlat under one hand and the device in the other, and just beyond the next ridge of dunes was an adobe brick wall, with an iron gate. He could see the tiled stones of a courtyard beyond, and it looked vaguely familiar to him for some reason...
The device emitted a low purr that definitely didn't sound mechanical at all. Trip opened his eyes to find him nose to nose with the sehlat. It laid its two paws on his chest. For a moment, he was ten years old and his dog was waking him up from a sound sleep. Except now it looked like a huge, cuddly teddy bear, and purred like a kitten.
Trip carefully sat up and whispered, “Pok? That's your name, isn't it?” It purred contentedly as he reached over to scratch its ears. He grinned as it flipped over to expose its soft tummy and Trip gave it a soft pat. “Now I'm getting weird dreams that aren't really dreams. This is startin' to freak me out.”
Pok stopped purring, inverted himself, and gave him a look that was unmistakably Vulcan. If the sehlat had eyebrows, Trip was sure it would be raising at least one of them at him. He shook his head and said, “C'mon, let's go find your mama, okay?”
He managed to get to the bathroom as best as he could with a sehlat clinging to his leg like a limpet. He opened the closet doors, to see a set of Vulcan-style desert robes hung neatly on the hangers. A pair of soft but sturdy boots sat on the floor. Trip put on the clothes the the boots and wasn't surprised to find they fit him perfectly.
He and Pok ran into Malcolm in the control room. The Armory Officer was dressed in similar robes. Trip recognized several items on the control panel: canteens, flares, Vulcan-style communicators, electric torches, trail mix...
“Always prepared, huh?”
Malcolm smiled and answered, “I am an Eagle Scout. Did you sleep well?”
“Out like a light. Pok here woke me up. I think he's eager to get back to his mistress.”
“Pok?” Malcolm inclined his head at the sehlat, then turned and stared at Trip. “Don't tell me he told you his name.”
“It's a long story.” He paused, trying to figure out how to ask this question. Malcolm was a very private person and this qualified as personal. “Um...did you have any strange dreams while you were asleep?”
Malcolm shrugged. “Perhaps, but I don't usually remember my dreams when I awake.”
“None of 'em?” It was Trip's turn to stare.
Malcolm shrugged again. “All I get is a general feeling, like unease or contentment. I must have slept pretty soundly because I haven't felt this refreshed in a while.” He shook his head and changed the subject. “So, did your little friend tell you where he lives?”
“If a sehlat's anythin' like a dog, he should be able to find his way home. All we gotta do is make sure he gets there in one piece. There are a lot of nasty stuff in the desert.”
“Agreed, which is why I made sure we each had one of these.” Malcolm handed him a palm-sized dart gun. “Tranquilizer gun. Just for stun, not kill. There's a small Armory in this ship, but everything in it is meant for disablement.”
Trip frowned thoughtfully. “Hm. Maybe Captain Harkness's crew doesn't believe in violence?”
“Apparently it doesn't preclude defending themselves, which is smart on Harkness's part. Even the ship can protect itself against those with harmful intentions.”
“Like you found out.” He couldn't help but smirk at the glare Malcolm gave him. “Okay, let's pack up and get going, while we still have a little light left.”
It was two hours before sunset. The residual heat radiated from the ground and the outcrops of rocks. The dying glow of Epsilon Eridani still provided plenty of light to see by, although once that faded, the desert would be shrouded in dark shadows. Both men moved carefully through the sand, torches and dart guns in close hand. Pok sniffed the air, pawed at the ground, and continued its trek across the desert.
“Damn, either you bake during the day or freeze at night,” Trip remarked. “No wonder no one goes wandering around the Forge.”
“At least these robes are pretty insulated,” Malcolm said. “I wouldn't spend all night out here, though.”
“Yeah.” He made a face as he shook a spider-like creature off his boot. He swore he felt other creepy crawlies trying to munch on his toes through the sturdy material. Trip hated bugs with a passion, and unfortunately, there were plenty in any desert in the universe. “Deserts rank up there with swamps and snowdrifts.”
“At least it isn't the ocean.”
“I can handle the ocean, as long as I'm not in the middle of a hurricane. We get plenty of those in Florida---” A high-pitch yowl echoed over the sand. “What the hell's that?”
Pok froze in his tracks, ears standing straight up on his head and hackles raised. He sniffed the air with wide eyes. Trip froze in place, his grip tightening on the tranquilizer gun. He saw Malcolm had done the same, mere meters away.
Trip only saw a blur out of the corner of his eye. A large shadow streaked between him and Malcolm, too fast for him to really react to. Pok knocked the shadow sideways as Malcolm dropped to the ground and fired his tranquilizer gun at the same time. Pok dug his claws into the attacker's neck as it thrashed around on the sand, limbs twitching in panic.
Trip caught a good look at the creature: a green-and-gold wolf, with three-toed paws and a long tail. It raised one of those paws to slice into Pok's back; Trip fired his own tranquilizer gun without thinking. The dart pierced the center of that paw, jerking it back with an audible snap. The wolf creature finally went limp, its breath rattling in its throat.
Pok growled and gave the thing a vicious shake. Trip put a hand on his flank and murmured “Easy, boy, I think you've got it. Malcolm, you okay?”
“I'm not hurt, but the wolf's dead,” Malcolm said, his voice quietly grim. His dart was buried in the animal's left side, and Trip's dart in the right forepaw, but its head hung limply on the sand. “Pok snapped its neck.”
Trip whistled low and glanced sideways at Pok, who still quivered with rage. “You saved our lives, Pok.” He remembered a Vulcan expression T'Pol had taught him. “Shaya tonat.”
Pok blinked slowly, then finally relaxed. He nudged Trip's hand with his nose. Trip patted him one more time, began to get to his feet, then paused.
“Commander? Trip? Are you all right?”
“Let me make sure Pok's okay.” He couldn't explain the sudden surge of fear that nearly overwhelmed him. Not for himself or Malcolm, but for the sehlat. Trip carefully patted down Pok's fur, checking for scrapes, cuts and bruises. He picked out strange burrs and dusted sand from Pok's skin, but to his relief, Pok didn't seem the worse for wear. The sehlat stayed still until he had finished his examination.
And that odd panic subsided as quickly as it had come. Trip took a deep breath and let it out. “You're good to go, Pok. We still gotta get you home before nightfall. You know which way to go?”
The sehlat craned his neck, sniffed the air to get his bearings, then trotted off at a good pace. Trip glanced at Malcolm, and scrambled to follow. He glanced over his shoulder at the dead wolf creature and suppressed a shudder at what could have happened.
They climbed a steep bank of sand dunes and paused at the ridge. Trip shaded his eyes from the glow of the sunset and stared at the group of dwellings below them. Tall adobe walls surrounded the houses, separated from each other by a network of cobblestone streets. Torches gave enough light to see people sitting in courtyards, bustling about for the evening meal.
“Raise your hood, Commander. We can't take the chance of being seen.”
Trip nodded and did so. Two Humans and a sehlat coming out of the desert...that would be too complicated to explain to a bunch of Vulcans. With any luck, he and Malcolm would be mistaken for two regular Vulcans from afar.As long as none of them get too close to us, we can get away with it.
“That's home?” he asked Pok. The sehlat whined in response and looked over at him. “Hey, that's okay. That's where you belong, boy. That's where you need to go.”
“Commander,” Malcolm said. “Look over there, at the western gate, closest to us.”
Trip narrowed his eyes. “I think I see...is that a little girl?” Her slender body was backlit by the light of the torches, which threw her features in shadow, but she pressed herself to the gate as if expecting a visitor. Pok yelped, then took off down the ridge at a frightening speed.
The girl gasped, then fumbled at the gate control. It slid open, then she burst out of it as if she was shot out of a cannon. The other Vulcans in the courtyard turned their heads at the commotion, and a woman followed the girl out the gate. Pok leaped into the girl's arms, knocking her back onto the sand. She clutched his head to her chest and held him close. The woman reached her daughter's side and helped her up to a sitting position, with Pok in her lap.
“A girl and her sehlat,” Trip murmured as he grinned at Malcolm.
“They belong together,” Malcolm murmured. “I think we're successful, Commander.”
“Yeah. We're done here.” He started as the girl raised her head to look at them. Those amber-gold eyes, the long, braided blonde-brown hair...Trip blinked in surprise. The air seemed to congeal in his lungs and he couldn't breathe.
“They've spotted us, Commander. I think---”
“All they see are a pair of Vulcans in their robes, Malcolm.” Even as he said it, he knew the girl saw through their deception. Her mouth moved in a slight smile and she nodded at them.
Her mother straightened up and raised her hand in the Vulcan salute. Trip raised his hand and returned it as best as he could and out of the corner of his eye, saw Malcolm do the same with a lot less success. He hoped the mother couldn't see their attempts at it.
“Let's get the hell out of here,” Trip murmured. He turned and carefully half-walked, half-slid down the sandy ridge. Malcolm quickly scrambled to keep up with him.
“Commander! Trip! Bloody hell, wait!” Malcolm reached over and put a hand on Trip's arm. “What is it? What's wrong?”
“I dunno, it's just that---” He shook his head. “That girl, she looked familiar. And her mom---”
Malcolm stared at him for several moments before letting go of his arm. “That's not---it can't be. She's on Enterprise and---”
“---her mom died last year. It's impossible.” He looked up and the blue police box stood there, mere meters away from them. “And speakin' ofimpossible...didn't we leave that on the other side of the Forge? What's it doing here?”
Malcolm frowned at the police box. “Yes. Curious, isn't it?”
“There's somethin' else going on. I think it's time we found out just what it is.” Trip strode across the sand and snapped his fingers. The door popped open just like before, and he entered the box. Malcolm followed and closed the door behind them.
“All right,” Trip directly addressed the control console, and the pulsing green cylinder at its center. “You brought us to Vulcan to bring Pok back to her. He would have died from that wolf-thing if we hadn't been there with the tranquilizer guns. So we were there for a specific purpose, weren't we?”
The console hummed in response and Trip took that as an affirmative. “So we happened to be at the right place at the right time, weren't we?”
Another hum of agreement. Malcolm put a hand on the console and murmured, “We're moving again. It's taking us someplace else. I think we're due for another landing soon, but there's no indication of where we'll end up.”
“Or when.” Trip made a mental calculation, based on what T'Pol had told him about her age. “I'd say she was about maybe eight or nine years old, so that'll put it..maybe...2096-ish?”
“You mean to tell me she's, what, thirty-three years older than you?”
Trip bristled and reminded him, “She's Vulcan. They age slower than we do.” He regarded the time indicator on the console, which was flipping forwards, then backwards as if it couldn't make up its mind. “So this Captain Harkness and his crew---”
“They travel in time as well in space.” Malcolm finished, his voice awed. “Which means that theoretically, we can go back to Enterprise at the exact moment we left.”
“Which means the Cap'n might not even be aware we're gone, much less lookin'for us.” Trip frowned up at the glowing column. “And we can go to any point in time or space, past or future.”
“Sir Issac Newton's spinning in his grave right now.”
“And Stephen Hawking's laughin' at both him and Einstein.”
Malcolm's mouth twitched in humor and he gazed at the bulkhead. “And if we find out how to pilot this thing, we can be more specific as to where and when we land.”
Trip nodded and eyed the control panel. “If I can find some sorta owner's manual, then maybe we can quit jumping around the universe at random and get back to Enterprise. But until then---”
“---we're at the mercy of where this ship wants to take us.”
“Yeah, it seems to have a mind of its own. I bet the next place we end up in, we've got to figure out what's wrong and fix it.”
“Like we're being tested. And once we've finished the test, the box shows up to take us to our next destination.” Malcolm murmured. “Perhaps once we've completed all the tests, it will take us back.”
Trip sighed and settled into the bucket seat. “I'm not sure I like being dragged around against my will, Malcolm.”
“Neither do I, but it seems we don't have much of a choice at this point.” Malcolm nodded at him. “I'll help you look over the ship's systems. There has to be some sort of way to control its flight.”
Trip sighed and glanced over the mishmash of parts on the console. “I have a feelin' this is gonna take us a while.”
The next 12 hours (according to Trip's internal clock) were relatively quiet. Both men methodically tested several buttons and levers individually and in concert, with mixed results. On the good side, they had accessed some of the information databank. Malcolm pointed at a picture on the screen.
'Le-matya,” he said, as he tapped the picture of the wolf creature. “It's a predator in the Vulcan desert, and according to this, its venom is fatal to other living beings. It injects the poison through its claws, and its carried throughout the body through the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Not a quick or easy death at all.”
Trip shivered. If he and Malcolm hadn't been there...the le-matya would have killed Pok. The sehlat would have never returned home. T'Pol had only mentioned her sehlat's eating habits, but she'd never told him what eventually happened to Pok.
“That's why I had that urge to check him for cuts and scratches” he whispered. “I needed to make sure he was okay.”
Malcolm rested his hip against the edge of the console. After a beat of silence, he said, “We saved him, Trip. He didn't die, and he came back to T'Pol and T'Les.”
"Was he supposed to die? Did we just change history?”
He frowned and shook his head. “Maybe, or we just corrected it.”
“You know, this gives it a whole different spin on things.” Trip looked up at the control column. “Who else do you know goes through space and time and tries to correct stuff that shouldn't happen?”
They looked at each other, then said it together: “Daniels.”
Malcolm nodded, his eyes flashing, and said, “Perhaps it's time we try to find him and get some sort of explanation from him."