Time Relative to Enterprise (January 1, 2156)
(-2 years, 1 month)Thy'la?
Trip stirred restlessly at the familiar voice, but he didn't understand it. His mind and body were still lost in a fog that seemed to weigh down every thought. He struggled to open his eyes, but it was like swimming upstream in syrup. “Wha--?” he slurred.
Is that really you? It is not logical...you cannot be here...
A jolt of surprise slammed into him. His eyes snapped open at the maelstrom of emotions that poured into him. Disbelief, wonder, hope, grief. They swirled all around him and paralyzed him to the spot. They were so powerful that he was nearly lost within them.
Vulcan emotions were nearly their undoing. They nearly destroyed themselves, is Surak hadn't intervened. Trip was now on the receiving end of them and he struggled to extricate himself out of the chaos. He imagined a blue light all around him, grabbed onto it and pulled himself up.
Trip sat up abruptly to find himself in his bedroom aboard the TARDIS. How did he end up back in here? What happened? He tried to remember, but the images were fuzzy, as if taken with a bad camera.
Ashayam! Trip! Help us!
He shot out of bed and nearly broke down the door on his way to the control room. The glass column in the center of the console shone brightly like a beacon. Trip glanced over the various buttons and levers, all tagged with their functions. A blinking screen caught his attention and he pulled it towards him for a closer look.
“Trip? What's going on?” Malcolm demanded as he stumbled down the spiral staircase. Like Trip, he was dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt, his hair stuck up in impossible angles, as if he'd slept in a Van de Graph generator.
“Dunno, but I dreamed I heard T'Pol cryin' out for help,” Trip said, as he narrowed his eyes at the unfamiliar hieroglyphs on the screen. The sense of disorientation steadily grew in time with his alarm. He glanced at Malcolm. “You sleep okay?”
Malcolm shook his head and replied, “I woke up in the library, with Ulysses and a cup of tea on the table next to me. I don't remember it, but I must have went there to read and fell asleep.”
Trip frowned. “You too, huh? What is the last thing you remember?”
He thought for a long moment, then answered with a straight face, “Risa.”
A grin split Trip's face. “No wonder you can't remember anythin' after that. You still owe me an explanation of what happened to you and Hoshi over there.”
Malcolm didn't quite roll his eyes, but he only said, “In due time, Commander. Now...where are we?”
“I have no idea what this is tryin' to tell me--” Trip frowned as he tapped the letters. “What language is this, Darlin'? I don't suppose you can translate this into English, can you?”
The walls shuddered once, twice, three times. Trip grabbed the edge of the console as the screen flashed and resolved into a dark starfield with colored dots. The TARDIS was a blue box amid yellow stars. Two of those dots were green, but there were many more red dots swarming around them.
“It's a tactical grid!” Malcolm said. “It appears we've stumbled into the middle of an attack.”
“Who's bein' attacked and who are the attackers?” Trip climbed into the bucket seat and looked over the mess of controls. C'mon, Darlin', give me somethin' to work with here! At least some sorta flight manual!
A set of blinking red lights next to a bank of switches began to hum loudly. He automatically reached out and grabbed the switches and yanked them down. The TARDIS shuddered and changed directions. Malcolm's eyes widened as the tactical grid changed significantly.
“One of the green dots just made a one-hundred and eighty degree turn, back towards the attackers. The second is continuing on its original course.”
“They're going on a suicide run. How about we even the odds?”
“The TARDIS doesn't have any weapons, Commander--”
Trip, we are in danger! Help us!
“T'Pol!” Trip reached out for her purely out of instinct, caught and held her close. “It's okay; I'm comin'!”
Her mind was a unique signature, one he'd felt before, during the Xindi Mission and afterward, with baby Elizabeth. The thought of the Xindi Mission caused a pang deep within his heart, but he shoved it away and concentrated on the thread of T'Pol's thoughts. Yes, it was her, but...not her. There were memories entwined between them, events that Trip knew he had never experienced.
In his mind's eye, he saw her in her darkened quarters, but it wasn't the woman he saw every day on his Enterprise. He fumbled the connection and nearly lost it. The wrinkles, the gray hair, the stooped frame...where had this old woman come from? T'Pol was supposed to live for another century, survive everyone on the ship, even Phlox.
The woman lifted her head as the room shuddered around her in the wake of phaser blasts. Trip gazed directly into the amber-brown eyes and knew he would recognize her anywhere. The corners of her mouth turned up in a radiant smile. His mouth dropped open at the blatant show of emotion. Where was the stiff Vulcan control?
The dark shadows of the attacking ships shimmered in the duraglass window of T'Pol's quarters. Kovalaans, she told him. We need to buy the otherEnterprise...your Enterprise...time.
The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Trip's stomach clenched as he finally realized what was happening...The other Enterprise...Lorian's ship. This is the ship that was thrown into the past, which means that other green dot is...us! The ship that made it Degra's meeting...
Lorian's ship never made it out of the corridor. Trip had never known what had happened to his son and his crew. Now he knew...but he was determined to change it this time.
“She's on one of those ships?” Malcolm demanded. He tapped several buttons on the tactical grid and more information scrolled along the right side of it, this time in English. “Commander, it's Enterprise out there...wait, two of them! We're--”
“That's Lorian's ship and ours, when we were in The Expanse.”
Malcolm narrowed his eyes at the screen. “I knew those raiders looked familiar. Bloody hell! I wish we had a phase cannon or a couple of torpedoes--” The control room dropped straight “down”, nearly knocking him off his feet. “Damn it, Trip--!”
“Sorry. I get the impression the TARDIS doesn't do a lot of her own flyin'. It's like tryin' to steer a sailboat usin' a toothpick for a rudder--” He scowled as he reached for a rubber mallet and smacked a wheel-like contraption that stuck out of one side of the console. “There, that'll help.”
“How?” Malcolm pressed a hand onto the console to steady himself.
“I think I figured out why the steerin' so cranky,” Trip murmured, but his mind was already two steps ahead. “Keep an eye on that plot and lemme know where everyone is relative to each other.”
He saw, without actually seeing, the Kovalaan ships that surrounded Lorian'sEnterprise, and directed the TARDIS in that direction. The raiders didn't expect to see a tiny blue box dead in their sights and scrambled to avoid a collision.
“They're regrouping,” Malcolm reported tersely. “Two are coming after us, the other five are still locked on their primary target--”
Trip's hands moved automatically on the TARDIS controls, slapping buttons, switches, crossing wires, and manipulating slides. He simply followed the strange inner promptings from deep within his gut. Hang on, T'Pol! Let Lorian know we're gonna help! He switched his train of thought to the TARDIS. Show me what I gotta do to save 'em!
Energy surged from the console and into Trip's hands. He reached over and punched several buttons in sequence, then slapped some sort of bell. His eyes passed over the various slides and wires before he realized that what he needed was on the far side of the column.
“Why the hell are all the useful stuff all so far apart from each other?” he muttered under his breath. “Malcolm...third button on the left, next to the typewriter carriage. Hit that down for me?”
“What?” Malcolm found the button, but it wouldn't go all the way down. He ended up mashing it with his fist. A warning light sputtered and died. He kept his gaze on the action on the tactical plot. “I think they're trying to box in their prey--”
“Like a pack of wolves.”
“They're closing onto Lorian's ship at high speed, Trip. If we approach them from here--” he jabbed a finger on the screen, “--we can disrupt their attack run.”
Trip nodded. “All right, let's do it.” He turned several dials as far to the right as they could go. “Malcolm, kick the panel right under your console. Power's a bit sluggish on that side.”
He muttered some choice expletives under his breath, but did as Trip asked. The TARDIS bucked like a bronco and tipped forward nearly forty-five degrees. Malcolm nearly landed on his face against the control column, but Trip stayed in the bucket seat as if he was glued there. The TARDIS streaked directly between two Kovalaan raiders, came within meters of clipping a third's nacelle, and the fourth tumbled in the TARDIS's wake and nearly ran into the fifth raider.
“The Kovalaans just scored another direct hit on the future Enterprise's starboard nacelle. Shielding on that side went down.” Malcolm reported grimly. “They can't take another hit there.”
“Now we know why they never made it out of the corridor.”
T'Pol screamed directly into his mind. Trip, the Bridge has been hit! Lorian--
He fought down a surge of panic at her words. Is he all right?
The silence stretched on for so long that Trip feared Lorian had died and T'Pol with him. Finally, she answered, He is uninjured, but he is the only one left...Karyn and the others...
“Lorian's the only one left on the Bridge. Karyn Archer's dead. We've got to stop this now!” He met Malcolm's gaze from across the control column and the Armory officer nodded. “Think we can wipe out the Kovalaans with one explosion?”
“As much power as the TARDIS is using right now...I'm sure of it.” His mouth twitched in humor. “She's not objecting to your blowing her up to kingdom come.”
“I think she knows it's time.” Trip managed a smile. “Let's kick the door open and go out in style, Malcolm.”
“Agreed, sir.” He turned his attention back to the tactical screen. “The Kovalaans are gathering again for the killing blow--”
“Hang on, here we go...”
A jagged crack of light erupted from the space directly in front of the TARDIS. Trip wrenched the controls to the right, putting every fiber of his being into the movement. He heard T'Pol's cry out his name, then the connection snapped with a fury that physically slammed him back into the bucket seat.
Spots of blackness danced behind his eyes, but he managed to keep from passing out. A familiar wave of warmth flowed into his fingertips and spread over the rest of his body. It was as if he was floating in the warm water of the library pool. He relaxed into it and allowed it to wash over him.
Father? Is that really you?
Trip narrowed his eyes at the figure who stepped out of the white curtain around him. “Lorian?”
“Hello, Father.” Lorian gave him the slight smile that reminded Trip so much of T'Pol. He wore the green vest over gray overalls, but they were smudged with soot and burned in places. “It's good to see you again. I knew you'd come back to help us.”
“I had to.” Trip couldn't speak past the lump in his throat. “You guys all right? Your mom--I heard her--”
“I am here.” Her soft voice startled him. He looked over his shoulder and saw her. She was older, with gray in her short-cropped hair and crow's feet at the corners of her eyes, but nowhere as ancient as he'd originally saw her. T'Pol walked forward and extended two fingers to him. He immediately met it with his own two fingers. The love that surged between them took his breath away.
“I--” He swallowed hard and tried again. “Hey, Darlin'.”
“Hello, Trip. I've missed you so much.” She raised her hand and placed it on his cheek. He felt her conflicting emotions as if they were his own, doubled and magnified. He tried to reassure her, but his own uncertainty derailed his effort.
“Yeah, me too.”
“This is not possible...how can you--”
“It's complicated. I'm not even gonna begin to explain it--”
Lorian raised an eyebrow and deadpanned, “It appears that 'complicated' is quite the understatement.”
He smirked. “You're just like your mom, you know that?”
Lorian took the compliment in stride. “And she says I'm just like you.”
“Are we all dead, and in some sort of weird afterlife together?” Trip didn't feel dead, but as he had learned, that wasn't a valid measuring point anymore.
She shook her head, then gently asked, “Do you remember what happened after your Enterprise exited the corridor?”
He frowned and searched his memory. “I still remember the meeting with Degra, and Hoshi bein' kidnapped, and...so that still happened? But I'm seein' flashes of Enterprise and Jupiter Station, and a colony and the Xindi weapon...so different timelines?”
Lorian chuckled and put a hand on his shoulder. Trip felt it: solid, real and alive. “We're still here, still within your memories, and within the crew's. As long we're alive, you'll all still remember us. In one timeline, we managed to join yourEnterprise. In another, our trip through the corridor put us in another place and time, but in safety.”
“So...that's why we didn't forget you when we reached our meeting with Degra. History didn't completely change...because we didn't want to let you go.”
T'Pol nodded. “You saved us, ashayam, in a manner of speaking. When we emerge from our corridor, we will be safe, wherever we are. And when the time is right, we will all be together again.”
Trip let out a sigh he didn't know he was holding. He closed his eyes and immersed himself in the marriage bond, reveling in the feeling of being completely joined to her, body, spirit and mind. It was nothing like he'd every experienced...it paled in comparison to the tenuous tie he currently had with his T'Pol, weakened by the death of Elizabeth.
Without the bond, they would all die. Trip caught a glimpse of still another timeline, where their relationship had fallen apart and it all ended with his senseless death. That led to an unraveling of the universe, with glaring changes that rang false to Trip:
How can you get through ten years without a single damn promotion? And who is that guy in the Galley...that's not the Chef I remember! And what the hell was I thinking, blowing myself up like that?
His conversation with Donna Noble and Martha Jones came back to him in a rush. The more you correct the timelines, the more you kick Future Guy's arse, to borrow someone else's vernacular. When you fix the timelines, he can't touch them.Trip understood.
“Somehow I knew something was wrong, even if I wasn't conscious of it at the time.” Trip stared at his hands, unmarred by third-degree electrical burns. “When Shran's associates managed to board Enterprise and get past Malcolm's security...the universe was already unraveling and not making sense. Future Guy had already gotten too much power and he ended up winnin' in the end.”
T'Pol nodded in agreement, but Lorian narrowed his eyes. “Future Guy?”
“Before your time, son. Let's just say he's someone with delusions of grandeur that needs a good ass-kickin'.” Trip still thought of his adversary as 'Future Guy', since he was tampering with what amounted to his future.
Lorian laughed at the unexpected humor, even as T'Pol winced at the language. “Ah, I see. In that case, I'm sure you will give it to him. You and Uncle Malcolm.”
“Damn straight.” He took a deep breath and gazed down at his...wife? Yes, it was possible, and Trip hoped it would happen in his universe. The knowledge erased the nagging heaviness in his chest and he was able to breathe freely again.
“It will happen, if you allow it,” T'Pol whispered. She smiled up at him, the smile meant for him alone. “Look for us within your mind and we will be there,ashayam. Both of us.”
Trip looked up at his son. “Take care of your mom, okay?”
“I shall.” Lorian gently put his hand on T'Pol's arm, and she reluctantly dropped her own hand from Trip's face. The mental contact lessened, but didn't disappear. “This is only 'See you later', Father, not 'goodbye'.”
Trip swallowed another lump in his throat as he gazed at them. “Yeah. See you both later.”
Lorian nodded at him and T'Pol smiled, before they faded from sight. This time, Trip actually felt something shift into its correct place. At that moment, he knew that they were getting closer to their goal: Future Guy and the Doctor.
A brief spell of dizziness came over him, then he found himself back in the bucket seat of the TARDIS. His head snapped over to Malcolm. “Hey, you okay?”
Malcolm started in surprise, then snapped his head around to look at him. “What happened?”
“I dunno.” He stared at the console in wonder. “I've never done that kind of fancy flyin'. The Cap'n and Travis are the pilots, not me. I'm just the engineer.”
“Whatever you did, it worked. I'm not reading any Kovalaan ships on the TARDIS sensors and it looks like we're back in some sort of time corridor of our own.” Malcolm put a hand on the glowing column. “Did we save Lorian and his crew?”
“I'm pretty sure we did, and we just set another timeline right.” He blew out a relieved sigh and sagged back in the bucket seat. “Not bad, considerin' I haven't had my mornin' coffee yet.”
Malcolm stared at him, then chuckled. “In that case, we'll need to correct that right away before the adrenaline wears off. Besides, we need to figure out what just went on.”
“No arguments there, Malcolm.” Trip hauled himself out of the bucket seat, feeling sore and battered as if he'd gone several rounds with an Andorian. “C'mon. I need that caffeine before we face whatever comes next.”