Fragments, Part 8


By Tommyhawk1@AOL.COM

[Sorry, no sex in this episode!]

Paris was beamed into Sickbay and to his surprise, was met by the Doctor and...Seven of Nine! "Seven, when did you get back?" he asked.
*
"Back from where?" she asked blandly.
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"What has happened to cause an emergency beam-over to Sickbay, Ensign?" the Doctor asked.
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"I went time-jumping again." Paris said. "You can pull out this temporal locator and get some readings on it. And do it quick, because one of those was in our future and I mean this future, not an alternate--and we were being attacked by the Cartilians and losing badly."
*
"Very good." the Doctor said. "Fortunately, I have been programmed by Dr. Shudan with the methods of reading the temporal locator. Thank you for your aid in repairing the biomonitor, Seven."
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"You are welcome, Doctor." Seven said and began to leave.
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"Aren't you going to stay and run the temporal fixator?" Paris asked.
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She turned bland eyes upon him. "I am not familiar with Cartilian technology."
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"Dr. Shudan has told me everything I need to know." the Doctor assured him.
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"But Seven was running the temporal fixator the last time." Paris insisted. "She knows more about it than the Cartilians!"
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Seven and the Doctor looked at each other. "You are mistaken." Seven said bluntly. "The Borg have no knowledge of quantum manipulation technology."
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"No?" Paris would have said more, but he had grown thoughtful, and let her leave without further comment.
*
The Doctor found the temporal locator's readings to be consistent with Paris visiting their own future. "You went some thirty hours into our past, and some thirty-five hours into our future. Or one of our futures, I should say, since of course, there are a multitude of possible futures that branch out from this one." he pointed out. "I am saying only that you did not visit a complete alternate. The past and future you experienced are both linked to this universe. You might say we are the progeny of one and the progenitor of the other."
*
"Doctor, what would happen to me if I made this universe impossible?" he asked.
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"What do you mean?"
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"I mean, I visited our past and did a pretty good job of warning Voyager to stay out of the Cartilian array's zone of destruction. Shouldn't we now be...non-existent?"
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"You have diminished the number of alternates that have us being attacked and increased the ones wherein we avoid attack, yes. That far from precludes all alternates, you know. There are, after all, the universes where Captain Janeway did not listen to your warnings."
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"Damn!" Paris said. "Doctor, we need to come up with a way to make all of these futures impossible. How?"
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"I do not know." the Doctor said. "I will consider the situation."
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"Thanks, Doctor." Paris said, but without much hope. While self-aware, originality was hardly the Doctor's strong suit outside his own area of medical expertise.
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"Uh, Mr. Paris?" the Doctor said as he started to leave.
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"Yes, Doctor?" Paris turned.
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"Wouldn't you prefer to be beamed back to your room?" The Doctor gave him an up-and-down look.
*
Paris looked down and found he was quite naked and his cock, while limp, was also still shiny with grease. "Hmph, I see what you mean. Computer, beam me...." He paused, then said, "Computer, where was I when I was beamed to Sickbay?"
*
"You were in the quarters of Captain Chakotay."
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Paris whistled. "Whew! That's a relief. Beam me back there."
*
Chakotay was sound asleep when he returned. Chakotay had been wide-awake a few minutes before but he had had a very hard day. So had Paris. Paris looked at him and decided not to wake him. What he had to say could wait until morning. He was groggy with sleep himself.
*
Paris awoke the next morning without an alarm. It was nearly noon. He slapped the communicator. "Paris to Chakotay."
*
The screen lit, Chakotay was on the bridge. "Good morning, Tom." he said.
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"Why wasn't I buzzed for my shift?" Paris asked. "I've overslept. Badly."
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"I have placed you off-duty until the temporal disturbances have been taken care of." Chakotay said. "Consider yourself on the sick list."
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"All right. Don't you work too hard yourself." Paris said in return.
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"Just maintenance work." Chakotay smiled. "I tried to help earlier and ended up just getting in the way. I never did do very well in the tech fields. So now I'm sitting back and coordinating."
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"Good." Paris said. "I'll let you know if I go time-skipping again. Paris out."
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Paris paused, then said, "Computer, signal Dr. Shudan for me."
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"Dr. Shudan is not aboard this vessel."
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"I didn't think he was." Paris said. "Signal the Cartilians and ask to speak with him."
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"Acknowledged."
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It was another Cartilian on the screen. "Dr. Shudan has returned to his home-world." the voice frostily informed him. "He is no longer assigned to your problem."
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"Then let me speak to the one who is assigned." Paris said.
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"No Cartilian is assigned to your case."
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"I'm still slipping about in time."
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"That is as it may be." the Cartilian said. "We have done all we can for your people, even assigning it to a world we would have taken for ourselves in another few centuries when we needed it. The attack was regrettable but we cannot be responsible for your people forever."
*
"There is one thing you can do." Paris said, crossing his fingers mentally.
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"What is that?"
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"You can return me to my own timeline." Paris said. "They want me back, you know."
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The Cartilian was frozen for a second. "Explain yourself."
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"You didn't revive me from the dead." Paris said. "Nor Ensign Kim. You just stole him and me out of another timeline. Your trouble is, the Voyager I came from has spotted what happened. They've been dumping tachyon streams into your array ever since trying to retrieve me. My guess is that they are coupling that with a transporter beam at full power. Maybe burning out circuits with every attempt. But they won't give up. Our people never give up."
*
"I will get you Dr. Shudan." the Cartilian said.
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"I thought you might." Paris smiled.
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Dr. Shudan arrived on Voyager some hours later. Expecting him, Paris and Chakotay met him in the Transporter Room.
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Paris took the initiative. "Well, Dr. Shudan, are you ready now to start telling us the truth?"
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"I have come for that very reason." Dr. Shudan said. "The alternative I have been warned is for us to destroy your vessel. I have been given one day to satisfy you. After that, Voyager will be destroyed."
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"That's what I thought you'd say." Paris said. "Now, why did you steal me off another Voyager and pretend to have revived me from the dead?"
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Dr. Shudan shook his head. "You misunderstand the phenomenon." he said. "We took you from another timeline, yes. But on that other timeline, you were about to be killed."
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"What?" Paris said. He hadn't expected that.
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"Yes. One of the qualities of temporal manipulation is that of the delayed universes. Since we stabilized our temporal substance, we discovered this effect, while viewing all the universes at one time. The alternates often vary in this manner, so that in one timeline, a ship such as yours is delayed in its journey, while another makes faster time. Thus it is not a matter of a thousand ships arriving at our border at the one moment, each in its own timeline, but of single ships arriving at different times. This is good for us, as it permits us to deal with such ships more easily."
*
Paris' mind swirled. He visualized an infinite number of Voyagers strung out like beads on a wire, approaching in a steady stream, the universe splitting (approach or not?) with each one.
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"Your ship, this one we now stand upon, was the first to arrive and attempt to breach our barrier. Understand that our array was not meant to attack friendly ships, and we have carefully programmed it to simply warn off any of the surrounding species that may approach us on any of the timelines. We thought we knew of and had made provisions for all. But your ship, from across this galaxy, we had never seen its kind before and our array was not programmed to deal with non-identified ships. So the attack occurred. We froze time in order to examine you and learned you were non-hostile. We have since programmed the array to warn away your ships, and to decrease the firepower it wields when the warning is not heeded. But the universes are nearly infinite, and we cannot stop all the potential Voyagers from approaching our array. It cannot be permitted to do that. But we can, and have, decreased the firepower wielded against the Voyagers which decide to approach."
*
"And I was about to die on one of those Voyagers." Paris said. Beads on a wire, each bead containing a Voyager, each bead containing him and his friends. And in this one, he died, in the other, only Kim died, in yet another, Chakotay... "So in some of those ships, they get scorched by an attack and give up."
*
"Yes." Dr. Shudan was pleased. "I wish the attack itself were unnecessary, but you are a very curious species. We have tried to minimize the damage done, and I am pleased to say that in every subsequent case, your ship survives, damaged, but warned away from our space."
*
"Save in my case."
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"We cannot deal with every contingency." Dr. Shudan protested. "Your Voyager heard the warning and did not heed it. The attack was a bit more....successful than most. You were that ship's only casualty among its bridge personnel. So, knowing that your fate in that universe was that of death, we switched you, this living person, for the dead one of this other Voyager's universe, bare seconds before the actual attack, and brought you, who would have died without our intercession, to this Voyager, where you were needed."
*
"And all the talk of essences was just that, talk?" Chakotay asked.
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"I fear so." Dr. Shudan said. "Our temporal technology is our greatest secret. I felt it best to misdirect you."
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"So you snatched me off just before I was ready to buy the farm." Paris said. "Switching me with the corpse of me that you had handy. Except my former ship has spotted that."
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"They have realized you did not die in the attack. They don't realize that you would have died a few moments later, when the array attacked them. Your ship is therefore now bombarding our array with tachyon particles." Dr. Shudan agreed. His voice took on pleading tones. "You cannot conceive of the life we must live here within the array, prisoners of our own technology. We are under a constant state of attack across the many timelines, and all of them concentrate into this one timeline when it approaches our array. Our scientists are working on a means to detach us from the multitude, and so let us live on a single timeline in future, safe within a single bubble of time, our own miniature universe. We dream and work for that day." He sighed. "But that day is still far off. We survive as we can."
*
"Living in a constant state of attack." Chakotay said, understanding. "No wonder you are so paranoid about other species."
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"These tachyon particle attacks are our worst problem. We often have to shift our timeline slightly to repair the damage. Perhaps you have noticed some...minor alterations in yourselves."
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"Like my jockstrap." Paris said.
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"Your what?" Chakotay asked.
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"Never mind." Paris said. "So what are they doing now?"
*
"They wait out there. They are alone in their timeline with their own bombardment, but we are suffering such bombardments from over a hundred thousand other timelines. Some of these are single ships, some are entire armadas out to conquer us. It consumes most of our energies. That is why we have had to give you very little aid in repairing your vessel."
*
"A constant state of war." Chakotay mused.
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"Our alternative is to have timelines in which we are conquered, and the conquerors would turn the technology against our other timelines. It would have a cascade effect with unforeseeable consequences. Even the Borg have realized this and are fortunately not our enemies any longer."
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"What did you do to Seven of Nine?" Paris asked.
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"That was a simple kidnaping, we erased the relevant part of her memories, and used our temporal technology to put her back at the same instant we took her."
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"Then why do I remember all this and nobody else?" Paris asked. "I spent two hours looking for her, only to have her suddenly reappear and everyone thinks she never vanished."
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"You, sir, are a temporal anomaly." Dr. Shudan said. "It's the same thing which has you shifting among the timelines briefly every time we make an adjustment."
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"I see." Paris said. It all fit together.
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"Now that I have explained everything." Dr. Shudan said to him most earnestly, those unblinking eyes stabbing into his own. "Will you help us by contacting this other Voyager and explaining all this to them?"
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Paris cut off Chakotay's agreement. "We'll have to discuss it." he said. "Thank you for your time, Dr. Shudan. Will you stay on this ship or return to your own?"
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"I must return. I am needed at another point on our frontier." Dr. Shudan said. He gestured to the device that had beamed with him over to Voyager. "This will permit you to contact the other Voyager across our array. Please, tell them to leave in peace and we will permit you to do the same."
*
Paris lifted it off the transporter pad and gestured to the Transporter Officer to beam him back. When Dr. Shudan was gone, Chakotay faced his impertinent ensign.
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"What was that all about?" Chakotay said. "You and I may be involved in a personal relationship, but I am in command of this vessel, Mr. Paris." he said.
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"Whoa, you got me all wrong!" Paris said quickly. "There's one little flaw in Dr. Shudan's little explanation. I got rid of him fast before he could think of it himself."
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"What's that?"
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"If this is only one timeline we're in." Paris said. "And we'll be still within Cartilian space in another twenty-four hours from now, then the future I just visited was the only possible future we have."
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"Yes." Chakotay said, still not seeing.
*
"In that future, Voyager was attacked by the Cartilians, enough to kill everyone on board." Paris pointed out. "And we don't even have the alternate timelines to blame. Unless we do something unexpected very soon, everyone on Voyager is going to die."

END OF PART EIGHT

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Fragments, Part Nine