Trip finds out Harper's real persona, but not his real name. And being a Time/Temporal Agent isn't as easy as it sounds.
Later, our duo stumble over the scene of a tragedy. How can they change it?
Spoilers! (Hee!): ENT "Two Days and Two Nights", "Acquisition", "Shockwave I and II", "First Flight", "Similitude", "Twilight".
Doctor Who: "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead", "The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone", "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang"
Torchwood: "Captain Jack Harkness"
Relative time: Infinity (∞) inside the TARDIS
Trip didn't even bother to clean himself up; once he entered the bedroom, he collapsed onto the bed and fell into a deep sleep. The exhaustion and grief melted away and ran off his body like warm rain. He relaxed into it, not caring about when he awoke.
He was in a library, but not the TARDIS library, and saw a glimpse of an attractive, curly-haired blonde woman in a space suit. She raised a finger to her lips and whispered softly, “Spoilers...” There was a surge of dry affection from all around him and the distinct thought of, Exasperating woman...
Then he was looking up at a high cliff, gazing at arcane symbols chiseled deep within the rock. He didn't recognize them; Hoshi would have more success at it that he would. The nagging sense of urgency came over him. I have to figure out what this means. He dug around in his jacket pocket and drew out a PADD. He squinted into the sun as he scribbled the characters onto the screen. After he made sure he copied them correctly, he put the PADD back in his pocket.
He turned and found himself in a museum, with the exhibits protected in glass boxes. Trip recognized parts of Enterprise's hull and some of the ship's electrical components. Mystified, he walked around the room. Here was a part of the transporter buffer, there was a whole drink dispenser, and over there was a phase pistol, with every part neatly labeled.
Is this what's gonna happen to us in the future? Everything will be a museum exhibit?Of course, it also assumed that his ship survived to be featured in a museum...
A hand dropped onto his shoulder. Trip whirled around to see a tall, lanky man who wore a tweed coat, bowtie and suspenders. This man looked even more like a college professor, but his youthful appearance belied the image, at least until Trip looked into his eyes.
“Hello, Charles. I hope I didn't startle you too badly. Can I call you Charles? 'Trip' doesn't sound, well, dignified enough for someone like you. Makes you sound accident-prone, which you aren't, well, not really. All right, maybe a little bit. ” He spoke with an English accent, just like most of the others in his dreams, but his was distinctly different from Malcolm's.
“Uh...hi. Who are you?” Trip realized how dumb that sounded, but the man's smile reminded him of his grandfather's, which was strange considering he looked even younger than Hoshi or Travis.
“I'm the Doctor. Well, a future Doctor, not the one you're going to meet in—oh, I really shouldn't say. Spoilers. Sorry. In any case---” He waved an arm to indicate their surroundings, “---welcome to the 31st century, the main archive of the Federation. You just popped up here, out of thin air, at least from my point-of-view, and I assume the TARDIS sent you? She's very perceptive, the old girl---”
Trip raised up a hand to break into the ramble. “What? Wait, 31st century? You're the Doctor, in the future? Is it a title that's passed down or something? And yeah, a friend and mine are kinda stuck in the—your—TARDIS.”
“Ah...Admiral Reed...oh, wait. 'Lieutenant' in your current time, right?” The Doctor winced. “Okay, forget you heard that. And yeah, you're in a TARDIS, but not my TARDIS. It's complicated.”
“Okay,” Trip said, drawling out the word. Admiral Reed? Malcolm's gonna be an Admiral?
“In any case, I'm in this restricted area for research into your time period. I had a museum guide, so to speak, someone from the Temporal Integrity Commission, but he was called away to deal with a crisis...I'm amazed that they trust Jack with events like that, considering he bollixed up the last couple of times---”
“A Time Agent?” Trip stared at this youthful Doctor. “Jack Harkness?”
The Doctor narrowed his eyes at him. “You know Jack's a Time Agent? Um, very perceptive, but keep that to yourself. Not common knowledge, in any case. I was referring to a different Jack. I wonder why a lot of temporal agents are named 'Jack', 'John' or somesuch. Boring names, but I guess 'Doctor' isn't too much better...”
The chatter was driving Trip crazy. Then his mind caught up with what the Doctor was saying. “Wait. 31st century, Jack...Daniels?” Jack's his first name? That's just too...cruel for words.
“Yes! You've met him by your point in time!” the Doctor beamed. “Nice fellow, but needs a bit of help with temporal issues...means well, but tends to louse it up, make things worse, then I've felt obligated to help him clean up his own mess.” He clapped his hands unexpectedly, making Trip jump. “Right. So, then, since you're here, maybe you can help me with a little thing.”
“Uh...sure, Doc. What do you need?” His head was still swimming with the information he'd been (indirectly) given. If this was a future Doctor, then what kind of person was the present Doctor? Or would that be the past, by this time? Trip groaned and shook his head. Time travel was a pain.
The Doctor hurried to a set of cases along one side of the room. He paused and took out some sort of cylindrical instrument the size of a light pen, waved it over one of the cases. Trip's eyes widened at the whirring, mechanical sound that was so familiar.
“Sonic screwdriver. Quite useful for times like these. Anyway---” he reached into the case and pulled out a blackened component. “Can you tell me what this is?”
Trip's heart plunged into his stomach at the sight. Yes, he knew what it was, and he swallowed hard. “Yeah, it's part of the warp core assembly. The engine of the ship.”
“Do you know exactly where this fits into the whole scheme of things?” The Doctor's demeanor changed from lighthearted to sober, and the contrast was startling. “There are fragments of similar size and shape in the other boxes. Do you think you can fit some of them together?”
“I can try.”
“Good man. I'll retrieve the rest of the pieces and you can see what you can do with 'em.”
So the Doctor went from case to case, opening each one and carefully delivering the contents to Trip. He sat at a nearby table, fitting some of the parts from memory, but others didn't belong. Some of them had been erroneously listed as engine parts, when they actually belonged to the ship's Armory or even Sickbay. Trip put those aside and made a mental note to correct them.
Finally, Trip managed to put together what he could from the exhibits. There were major gaps, but he now had a good idea what had happened. “I think I get it now. This is part of the a warp core injector, and this is a regulator. Judgin' from the stress fractures, they must've underwent one hell of a beatin'.”
“Cataclysmic, you think?”
Trip's tone sank to a whisper. “Yeah. An explosion of that size would have completely destroyed the ship.”
The Doctor nodded. “Some things are fixed points in time, others are variable. And I don't know what Jack's told you, but time can be rewritten. A ship exploding, a fatal accident, a historical event...they can be changed so it never happened, and the consequences can be dire, or they can usher in a new era.”
“Yeah,” Trip whispered. “Like the Xindi attacking Earth.”
The Doctor put a hand on his shoulder again and said, “The Universe is a vast place, Charles, full of wonderful accidents and miracles. Sometimes there's a reason for them...some don't need a reason. As for why you and Malcolm Reed were chosen to traverse the universe in that TARDIS, well...have you asked her?”
Trip blinked. No, he hadn't actually done that, although it was obvious that the TARDIS had a mind of her own. “Uh---”
“I take that as a 'no', then. Ask her. You've been given an important task and an important responsibility, Charles. Use your mind and make the right decisions.” The Doctor patted the table next to the damaged injectors. “And while you're doing that, I can work on this. And...what about those other parts you've set aside?”
“Those? Labeled wrong. Those aren't even parts of the warp core.”
“Ah, thought so. The problem with museums, the half of what they believe is correct, isn't.” The Doctor chuckled and shook his head. “Anyway, you've been such a great help. And remember what I said about the universe. There are many branches, many possibilities, and not just a single one that's the end-all and be-all.”
Trip nodded. He had a lot to think about. “I will. Thanks.”
“I just can't wait until we meet face-to-face...the universe might not take it! Well, then off you get, wakey-wakey and all that, before your friend gets himself into more trouble than he can handle.”
Trip tried to make sense of the rambling statements, spoken at warp nine without a single pause for breath. Wakey-wakey? What am I, five?
“I'll leave you for now, but we'll see each other again. Well, in a manner of speaking, anyway.”
“Wait, Doc--” His surroundings were already phasing out of existence, but he could have sworn the youthful Doctor's clothing had changed to a familiar blue jumpsuit, with red stripes on it...
Someone rapped on the door, hard. Trip jerked up and nearly fell out of bed. His mind still whirled from all the new visions in his head. Most of them were already fading and he struggled to hold on to them as long as he could. Another bang from outside jolted him completely awake. He struggled out of the warm blankets to the bedroom door. Trip staggered down the short corridor to the control room and paused at the sight of Malcolm at the double doors of the TARDIS.
Malcolm looks kinda dazed, as if he's still in a dream. Trip clamped his jaw shut as he watched a slow smile creep over the Armory Officer's face. He didn't want to disrupt this rare moment; it wasn't often Malcolm let his guard down to show the emotion under it. Despite himself, Trip smirked and amended his thought, He looks like a man who's had the best night of his life. Hoshi must've really rocked his world and then some.
Malcolm winced as if he heard Trip's thought and turned to meet Trip's eyes. “Commander.”
“Malcolm.” For some reason, Trip felt like a father who had just caught his son sneaking back into the house at dawn. The image nearly made him laugh aloud. He smirked at the familiar outfit: blue shirt and slacks, the same one Malcolm had worn to Risa the first time around. “Please tell me she didn't allow you to wear that in public.”
Malcolm cocked an eyebrow at him and replied, completely deadpan, “Actually, no, she didn't. In public or in private.”
“You dog! Now I know where you were all this time!” He softened his smile. “Was it all you hoped it would be?”
He blushed a little, and the usual dry humor was absent from his voice. “It was all that and more.”
“I told you so.”
“You did.” Malcolm shook his head. “There's a lot I need to sort out in my mind...eventually. I rather envy my counterpart in that universe. He's a lucky man.”
“Look at it this way...you know what to do when we get back home.” Malcolm was about to comment, but Trip raised a hand. “Tell me what happened later. Get some rest. I doubt she let you sleep in very much.”
He nodded and said, “Thank you.” Then he disappeared into the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him.
Hours later, Trip found himself back in the control room, a cup of rich coffee in his hand. The various levers and buttons on the control column bore tags that listed their functions, as close as Trip could determine in any case. He accessed the database and typed in “Captain James Harper, ECS Torchwood, Risa.” The information came out on the screen. Trip read it and nearly spit out his coffee all over the screen.
“Harper, James Captain (I) US Army Air Force Corps, flew with the Royal Air Force during World War Two, 1941, listed MIA, presumed KIA. Harper, James Captain (II) USAF, observer with Royal Air Force, May 1955. Harper, James Captain (III) United Earth Air and Space Forces, 52nd Air Squadron, World War III, MIA over Augment-controlled airspace 1996, presumed KIA. Harper, James Captain (IV) Starfleet test pilot, killed in test of NX-Alpha, 2145”
“Wait, that's not right. I was there when the NX-Alpha was being tested. A.G. Robinson flew that, not James Harper.” Trip scowled and re-read the listing. “Something's changed.”
Trip glanced over his shoulder at Malcolm, who had appeared on the other side of the control column. “I'm readin' something in the database that doesn't make any sense. I met a guy on Risa named James Harper, who claimed to know A.G. Robinson, and said he was in charge of an ECS ship.”
“But I take it you're seeing otherwise?” Malcolm walked around and read the paragraph Trip pointed out to him. “This Harper flew the NX-Alpha? I thought Robinson did that.”
“In our timeline, A.G did, and we beamed him out in the nick of time. Apparently, in this one, it was Harper and he didn't make it. But if this is right, that means Harper's supposed to be dead.”
“Who the hell did I meet on Risa? It can't be the same guy if he's been dead for almost eleven years.”
Malcolm crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned on the console. “You're not making any sense. Tell me what happened to you on Risa, and don't leave anything out.”
Trip took a deep breath and told him everything that happened from the time the TARDIS had kicked him out. Malcolm's eyebrows lifted higher and higher, especially as he related how Harper had been killed while protecting him from an energy whip.
“You sure it didn't happen to be someone else with the same name? Maybe you can find a picture of this James Harper.” Malcolm smirked as he read the biography again. “Interesting that every man with that name in the database were pilots, and two of them were involved with the Royal Air Force.”
“Yeah, I noticed that.” He looked at the column. “Can you find a picture of this Harper, Darlin'? Or at least one of the other guys?”
The TARDIS hummed and the printer came to life. Again, a single sheet of paper rolled off and Malcolm grabbed it before it hit the floor. Trip looked at it, blinked and stared at it again.
The TARDIS had found two pictures. The one on the left was of the third James Harper, the World War Three Pilot, who wore a USAF flight uniform appropriate for that particular era. The one of the right was the most recent one, who wore the familiar orange flight suit of the early years of the NX program.
They appeared to be the same man, with the same rakish look in his eye and the same military bearing. Trip couldn't shake the feeling he'd seen the man before Risa, but he couldn't remember where. In any case, Trip was sure it was the same one he'd met at the massage parlor.
Malcolm shook his head and said, “You're telling me this man is over a hundred and fifty years old?”
“Someone froze him and woke him up?” Even as he said it, Trip knew it wasn't right. He wondered if Harper was actually a clone, then winced at the memory of Sim.
“And he just happened to be at the same Risan massage parlor that you were at?”
Trip frowned at the implication. “You tellin' me Harper knew I was comin'? Wait...” He searched in the pocket of his jacket until he found the folded up note about the appointment with the Nuvian masseuse. “That's weird. 'Bring a friend'. I think someone thought you might be taggin' along, and didn't know the timeline had been changed.”
“Perhaps he knew and wanted to cover his bases?”
The words floated back to the surface of Trip's memory: “Some things are fixed points in time, others are variable. And I don't know what Jack's told you, but time canbe rewritten. A ship exploding, a fatal accident, a historical event...they can be changed so it never happened, and the consequences can be dire, or they can usher in a new era.”
When Harper had taken A.G.'s place in the NX-Alpha, he had changed the course of that particular timeline. A.G wouldn't have died when it was destroyed, which meant that he survived to take command of the Enterprise, which meant Jonathan Archer would have had the opportunity to form the 'Interstellar Coalition', which meant...
Harper's sacrifice took on a whole different meaning, and the effects were giving Trip a headache. Since Harper had saved him, did it mean that his counterpart in that universe was destined for something special?
He said slowly, “You thinkin' this Harper's another one like Daniels?”
Malcolm shook his head. “He has to be. He saved Robinson's life in that universe by taking his place in the NX-Alpha, and your life by taking that hit from Krem's whip. Harper's got to be a Temporal Agent.”
Trip gave himself a mental kick. “Damn. If I'd known that, I would've asked him all sorts of questions.”
“You didn't know at the time, and if he's a Temporal Agent, he wouldn't have told you. Your chef friend...Tikat? He's actually seen our mysterious 'Doctor' and 'Rose'.”
Trip paused at the mention of the 'Doctor', as a blurry image of a much younger man came to mind. He shook his head to clear it. Of course, Malcolm meant the one in the picture that the TARDIS had printed out for them. Why was he thinking about someone else?
He refocused on the conversation. “Yeah, and Tikat implied that they dropped by pretty often too. I didn't think Risa was a hotspot for Temporal Agents too, but with all sorts of visitors, they'd blend right in. Pretty ingenious.”
“Makes tactical sense. Plus it confirms another thing: the 'Doctor' does work with machines, so he's probably the engineer. We know that they're regulars to Risa, and that we're on the right trail.” Malcolm pulled a folded up piece of paper from his pocket and smoothed it out. It was the picture of the man with the glasses, long coat, and red sneakers.
Trip stared at it for a minute, as his subconscious tried to remember something important. He gave up again and asked,“You think the TARDIS is retracin' his steps, so we can find him? It's a start. If we go back far enough, we'll run into him, eventually.”
“And now that we know what he physically looks like, we can be on the watch for him.” Malcolm frowned and said, “One other thing: if the timeline's changed, why do we remember the old one?
Trip frowned. “I don't understand what you're getting' at, Malcolm.”
“Why do we remember Jonathan Archer as the captain of Enterprise and not the 'great diplomat'? If we changed history, our memories would have changed too.”
He paused as he considered that paradox. “You know, you're right. It's like there are two parallel histories, side by side, and we're aware of both and neither cancels out the other. That's weird.”
Malcolm's mouth twitched in grim humor. “That's understating it a bit.”
“Time Travel 101. Unless...there are many branches, many possibilities, and not just a single one that's the end-all and be-all.” Trip paused again and thought,Where did those words come from? Wherever they did, they sound right.
“Quantum physics, every decision leads to a branch in the tree, every decision splits the universe into two.” Malcolm nodded.
Trip felt a gentle warmth pass through him and the faintest hint of a mental nudge. For the first time, he realized he realized he hadn't eaten anything at all that morning. He chuckled and looked up at the control column. “Okay, Darlin', I'm goin' to grab somethin' to eat. You don't have to nag me.”
Malcolm gave him a crooked smile. “Interesting that she talks to you and not to me. If I was so inclined, I might be jealous that she seems to enjoy your company.”
He shrugged and said, “You just need to know how to talk to her, that's all.”
During lunch, Trip tried to ask the TARDIS, Why did you pick me and Malcolm, out of the entire crew? Why not Jon or Hoshi?She shied away from his question and didn't answer, but Trip knew it was more than just 'because you two just happen to be in the Cargo Bay at the time'. There was something else.
A sudden surge of panic hit him as he was swallowing a bite of his sandwich. He nearly choked on it; he grabbed his iced tea and managed to unstick his throat before he got into real trouble. “What is it?” he demanded. “What's wrong?”
“Trip! Get down here!” Malcolm had referred to him as 'Trip' and not 'Commander', so it must have been pretty bad.
He flew down the hall and down the spiral staircase. “What is it, Malcolm?”
Malcolm turned a screen around so Trip could see. Trip's mouth dropped at the sight of a blackened, charred patch on a planet directly ahead of them. The debris of several ships drifted nearby, as if they'd battled hard to defend that planet...and lost.
“Where are we?”
Malcolm tapped the controls and frowned at the results. “According to this, we're at a place called Ceti Alpha Five.”
“Doesn't ring a bell. It might be that our Enterprise hasn't been out this far yet, depending on what year this is.” Trip narrowed his eyes at one patch of debris. “Darlin', can you zoom in on this bit? I can't see it clearly.”
Obediently, the view changed to magnify the area he requested. Malcolm pointed at one particular piece that drifted past. “Look.”
The piece was definitely a piece of a starship's hull. Intre-
“Intrepid ?” Trip asked, incredulously. “Carlos Ramirez's ship?”
“Something terrible has happened here,” Malcolm said grimly. “If what the TARDIS is showing me is correct, I'm reading at least two other ships in the debris field that are composed of alloys used in Earth vessels.”
“Any signs of life?”
“No, not on the planet. If there was a colony there, it's been completely razed. The dispersal patterns and ionization traces tell me that it was most likely a planetary bombardment.”
Trip didn't doubt Malcolm's assessment; that was his area of specialty, after all. A sense of helpless rage rose in Trip's throat and it was all he could do to throttle it back down. “Who the hell did this?”
“I don't know, but they did a thorough job. It's as if they wanted to make sure nothing---and nobody---survived.” Malcolm's tone was hard steel. “Either they're very tidy or they're a believer in overkill.”
“God.” Trip leaned heavily against the railing next to the control console. “Darlin', can you give us a clue what happened? Is there anythin' we can do?”
The TARDIS hummed, then focused on a different area of the screen. Trip frowned and pointed at an lump of metal hovering at the edges. It was dented in places, but still recognizable. “Is that---”
“It appears to be a log buoy. Someone managed to launch it before they were destroyed. The emergency beacon's not working, which might explain why it was overlooked by the attackers. Fortunately for us. Power levels are extremely low, which means it was drifting out there for a long time.”
“Yeah.” Trip scowled at the buoy, floating in space for God knew how long. “Let's haul it in, Malcolm. If we can download any information from it, we might be able to find out why the TARDIS brought us here.”