Fragments, Part Five


By Tommyhawk1@AOL.COM

*
Dr. Shudan was first astonished, and then scornful. "No, I can't send you back into your personal past arbitrarily. It's not possible."
*
"Why not?" Paris asked. "I've been bouncing around time like a child's ball for the past twenty-four hours. Didn't you say you had yanked me out of the past, or something, to fix me up?"
*
"Yes, but...."
*
"Then what's the problem? You send me back to before Voyager encountered the grid, I ride along like I just did in my own body, controlling things for just a couple of minutes, stop Voyager, they send out a probe like they would in a case like this, and we avoid all the deaths."
*
"You persist in thinking of time as linear in nature, because you travel it in a linear fashion." Dr. Shudan said. "But like a scavenger bug traversing a wire, there is more to the temporal plenum than your single timeline even if it is all you can see or sense!"
*
"Well...then explain to me why we can't do it." Paris said.
*
"If the plenum were in fact a universe, we could do it. If time was as linear as you think, we could do it. But the universes of the plenum are continually splitting off, millions of times per second. From the time you and I first spoke until now, this universe has become a multiverse, created a multitude of universes much like this one. As they split up, they alter their quantum states. Your quantum state now is not what it was when you first encountered the grid."
*
"So I'm not asking to go back and live there. Just put me into my past self's body and in enough control that I can speak up. Just a few words at the right time will be enough."
*
Dr. Shudan looked at him long and hard. "If I tell you the true reason, will you let this matter be and accept this universe as it is?"
*
"Maybe." Paris said. "Depends on what you're about to tell me."
*
"It is not possible to travel in the single-sided fashion you describe. The mere act of traveling into a past universe is that the act itself causes that universe to split into two. You travel back in time, and you merely create two universes, one in which you stop Voyager in time, and one in which you do not. You are already in the universe where you did not stop Voyager. You would return, and nothing will have occurred. If you can return, for you will be composed of a single universe's quantum state which is trying to become two, and both will pull at you. You risk your life and you accomplish nothing, merely increasing the number of alternate universes in the temporal plenum. If your body's essence could withstand being distributed among these new universes in the plenum, you would still, one of you, end up right here, with things unchanged. The other would return to a universe in which he was successful. Overall, nothing has been accomplished."
*
"But if I go back...."
*
"Young man, let me phrase it this way. The mere act of your deciding to go back has undoubtedly already caused a split. You argued me into doing this for you, and I have done it...in another universe. Do not compound this state by persisting, my people have enough trouble tracking and dealing with the temporal plenum as it is."
*
Paris was very unsatisfied with this explanation, but he said, "Well, I still have some temporal misalignment. It happened while I was sleeping, but it happened. That or I had some very elaborate, very clear dreams."
*
Dr. Shudan plied his instrument. "Odd, you should have been cured. It is as if you have absorbed additional temporal dislocation since our last scan. We will place you back under the temporal fixator, and I shall provide you with the temporal inertial locator per your Captain's instructions. The Doctor will have to substitute for Seven of Nine, fortunately the procedure is simple."
*
The Doctor and Dr. Shudan used the device on Paris again, who was quiet, thinking about it. Dr. Shudan was puzzled. "These readings are very odd. It is as if...but this cannot be. You are within the Cartilian grid."
*
"What is it?" Paris asked.
*
"Never mind." Dr. Shudan said. "But I must return to my people at once. I will leave the temporal fixator here in case you should need regular treatment with it from now on. It is quite possible, given human's peculiar chemical composition, that you'll need daily treatments for the rest of your life."
*
Paris accepted the inertial locator being attached to his neck, a tiny device smaller than the head of a straight pin. He also selected a tricorder to keep with him at all times. At least they would get some real readings if it happened again.
*
He had to go talk to Seven of Nine.
*
But she was in her Borg regenerator, and would be for the next six hours. Paris went in search of someone to talk to.
*
Chakotay was on the bridge. A Cartilian freighter had arrived, and the bridge was a morass of worker-technicians, human and Cartilian, installing the new bulkheads. The navigator's station and the Jeffries tube he needed to access were both quite blocked, and he was useless here save as a pair of extra hands.
*
He started to go do just that, but Chakotay stopped him. "Tom, sorry I missed you. I was going to comm you to go ahead and sleep, but you were with the Doctor. These repairs will take until tomorrow and there's nothing here you can do."
*
"I already took a nap." Paris said and looked at Chakotay. "In fact, it looks like I've slept longer than you have recently."
*
"I have to stay and supervise these repairs." Chakotay pointed out.
*
Paris looked. "The First Officer needs to supervise. Tuvok's already here. You're sitting in your chair, watching them push plates into position and fasten them into place? Where does this require a Captain's touch?"
*
"Tom...."
*
"Hey, Tuvok, are you able to handle this supervision by yourself?" Paris said.
*
"Certainly." Tuvok replied. "The work is proceeding satisfactorily and is quite uncomplex and fundamental in nature."
*
"That's what I said, though I used smaller words to do it. Then you, O Captain my Captain, should take your own advice and sleep." Paris said.
*
"A Captain has to understand his ship."
*
"Which you can pick up with a briefing from Tuvok tomorrow morning." Paris said.
*
"And where does an Ensign have the authority to tell a Captain what to do, Mr. Paris?" Chakotay said.
*
"In the universe just next door, you know the right I have." Paris said. "I'm borrowing that authority for a moment. I just got back from there."
*
"Well...all right." Chakotay said. Then, after a pause. "Care for a drink?"
*
"Yes, sir." Paris grinned.
*
Chakotay's quarters were the same as they had been, nothing here spoke of the larger room he had seen in his temporal travels.
*
Chakotay pulled out a bottle of synthehol as well as glasses, not from the replicator but from a box he had in his room. "I replicated all this back during our last period of prosperity. Figured I'd better put in a supply for when times got lean."
*
"A wise move." Paris said.
*
"Never know when romancing an alien may save Voyager." Chakotay said and smiled, but his hand trembled when he poured the drinks.
*
"Maybe I shouldn't stay too long." Paris said, seeing that.
*
"No, please, I couldn't sleep just yet." Chakotay pressed him. "I did try, the same time you did, but it was useless."
*
"Why?"
*
"You haven't heard the full status of Voyager. You've been too busy dealing with your own problems."
*
"Go ahead." Paris said.
*
"We took several hits from the grid. All of them penetrated our shields like they weren't there. The Cartilians use a modulated mutiphasic beam that just cut through our bulkheads like, well, you've seen the hole on the bridge."
*
"Yes."
*
"Voyager has twelve of them all over the ship. Three are in the warp nacelles. Voyager has 25% impulse power only, and until we do a complete re-outfitting of her warp core, we're not going anywhere very far or very fast."
*
"So what do we do?"
*
"That's why I can't sleep right now." Chakotay said. "The Cartilians are escorting us to an M-Class planet just outside their grid some distance away. Voyager can set down there until we can effect repairs. If we can effect repairs."
*
Paris was still. "I see."
*
"Trouble is, any M-Class undeveloped world will take a lot of effort, building shelters, planting crops, domesticating useful animals, developing the land and a supply of potable water, preparing for the seasonal changes. It's a full-time job for this small a number. Am I wiser to try to fix the ship, or should we concentrate all our efforts on establishing the colony?"
*
"No way to fix Voyager in orbit?"
*
"You haven't seen the holes." Chakotay repeated. "Even with Cartilian help it would be difficult. And frankly, they don't feel that guilty about the attack. They're right, we should have realized it was a defensive array and would attack us. We depended upon our shields, and they were ineffective. They don't mind putting in new bulkheads, but they're not willing to give us the advanced technology we'd need to fully repair Voyager. They don't even have warp capability and don't want it. Their ion drives are fully capable of travel within their worlds inside the defensive array and they feel no need to travel outside the array. Even Voyager was not helped by them until they opened a hole in the array and we went inside. You nearly died before then. The Doctor says you did die, but Dr. Shudan swore it was not yet too late, your 'essence' was still inside you, he said, whatever that means. So he patched you up with Seven's help."
*
"Yes, Seven of Nine." Paris said. I have an idea of how to help Voyager, but Dr. Shudan won't help me. He just blamed it all on the temporal plenum and the multiverses where everything can and will happen. It borders on fatalism on his part. I want to go back and try to stop the attack on Voyager. I don't see why I can't go back and...and prevent this universe from happening by rearranging things soon enough. Those two futures I keep seeing are enough to make me sure that fatalism doesn't cut it. I say free will permits me to choose which alternate I end up in. I intend to try, anyway, if I can. With the Captain's permission."
*
"Talk with her first, see if she feels it is feasible." Chakotay said. "It'd be worth it to me to get the Captain back in her chair instead of me." He drained the glass.
*
"Now you need to get some sleep." Paris prompted, gulping down his own. Even synthehol, in a fair-size, half-full glass, made him gasp.
*
Chakotay stood up and winced.
*
"Problems?"
*
"Just a stiff back." Chakotay said. "I wrenched it when the bridge bulkhead gave way and it's too minor a complaint to waste our energy on fixing it. I'll be fine in a day or so. Barely held onto my chair arm long enough for the emergency shield to activate, another few seconds and I'd have gone out into space as well."
*
"Why didn't I, if I was pretty much toasted in the attack?" Paris asked.
*
"You weren't burned in the attack. A piece of bulkhead smashed you down to the deckplate. Broke every bone in your body near as I could tell. But it held you down when the air escaped."
*
"And I survived that?" Paris asked.
*
"I thought you were dead. You certainly weren't breathing and your blood was pouring out like...but when the Cartilians arrived, they looked at you and said you could be cured. So I let them. What did I have to lose? What are you doing?" Paris had walked over and was now guiding Chakotay by the shoulders toward the bed.
*
"There are more ways to fix muscle pain than with a regenerator, you know." Paris said. "I picked up the art of massage while in Marseilles."
*
"What sort of massage?" Chakotay asked while unfastening his jacket, letting Paris remove it and the T-shirt beneath. "Swedish, Japanese, Rigellian?"
*
"No. Erotic." Paris said. "For the girls, you know. But it will still work on you."
*
"Just watch your hands, Ensign." Chakotay said as he lay face-down on the bed.
*
"Watch them what?" Paris asked. "I'll need some lubrication."
*
"Tube of hand lotion in my bathroom." Chakotay said.
*
Paris took the lotion and squirted it into his hands, warmed it by rubbing them briskly together, and then plied them over the strong, brown back. "Where does it hurt?" he asked.
*
"A little...ah! Right there."
*
"Here?"
*
"Ah!"
*
"Yep, that's the spot." Paris said. "Right shoulder trapezius, huh? Why there?"
*
"I was using that muscle to save my life at the time." Chakotay said. "I only had one hand holding on. It was closer than I care to remember clearly, my fingers had begun to slip and I had just let go when the shield came down. I flew three feet toward the hole before I landed."
*
"Whoa, bad thoughts." Paris said. "The important thing in massage is to relax. Think about pleasant things. Let's talk about pleasant things."
*
"Like what?"
*
"Oh, my last trip in time, maybe? This last time I was in charge of my body. Both times, but that first time was not a pleasant thing, so let's talk about the other time. Turns out that the alternate is six months into the future. I thought it was parallel because the other you had been looking at an old duty roster when I walked up to you and kissed your neck. The other me, that is, I was a passenger. But I asked and that's what you said. Some time had passed from the last visit, but you remembered it."
*
"How would I remember that?" Chakotay asked. His body was beginning to relax under Paris' careful ministrations. He was careful at first not to press too deeply. Let the muscle relax slowly, by degrees.
*
"Because a short time after that, I was sucking on your big toe. Made it memorable, I guess."
*
"I'd think that was memorable, all right." Chakotay said. "The image of that has been the only thing to smile about for some hours for me."
*
"Well, you'll have to keep imagining that for quite some time." Paris said firmly. "I don't suck on big toes until at least the third date. If then. The taste was pretty grotty. Bleah!"
*
"I'm sorry. I think. Should I apologize for my alternate's feet here?"
*
"Not any reason to that I can see." Paris admitted. "Just be sure to wash your feet regularly when we get that far."
*
"Okay. So, the last time, you were in full control?"
*
"Yeah, and we had a quick talk, that Chakotay and me."
*
"Just talk?"
*
"Well, I thought about more, but it wouldn't have been fair. Kind of adulterous, don't you think?"
*
"Hmph! I don't know. Is it?"
*
"It was for me." Paris said. "If I'm going to have sex with any Chakotay in the, uh, temporal plenum, it'll have to be with you, and that only when I'm good and ready."
*
"Except for the time before last?"
*
"Hey, I wasn't in control there. Just experiencing it. Through the eyes of a Paris in love, no less."
*
"How was it then?"
*
"You asked that already."
*
"I want to hear it again, from this angle. How was it?"
*
"Pretty damned good. Makes me want to try it for myself. But you're too tired now for that." Paris now had the muscle fully pliable. He took more lotion and began to work Chakotay's entire back. "Just relax and go to sleep now if you can. I'll slip away quietly when you do, okay?"
*
"Okay." Chakotay murmured. Paris had just finished his back when the first soft snores began. Paris slipped off, killed the lights manually, and then out the door.
*
His comm badge went off the instant the door closed. "Paris here." he responded.
*
"Dr. Shudan here. Are you still thinking of trying to go back and change things in the past, despite my warnings?"
*
"What do you want?" Paris said instead of replying to the question.
*
"Because if you are, come down to Sickbay and I'll show you something interesting the last ship of my people brought in."
*
"On my way."
*
Paris walked into Sickbay and was dumbfounded. The figure on the table sat up and said, "Hello, Tom. Well, I'm back."
*
Paris' mouth worked like a fish and finally he got out just two words, "Hello, Harry."
*

END OF PART FIVE

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Fragments, Part Six