‘Tis new to thee.
–Shakespeare, The Tempest, act 5, scene 1
I’m somewhere else, though still pressed close against Jim.
My body doesn’t seem to want to detach from his.
I was detached though, passed off like a hot potato to the doctor, who steadied me on my feet as everything around us bucked and reeled, lights flashing, alarms sounding.
Shit. Wherever they’d brought me, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it.
Lightheaded and woozy, I saw Jim go running out of whatever little room we were in. The doc’s arm around my waist pulled me in the same direction, out into some weirdly curving hall. I felt like I was in some nightmare carnival funhouse, and I was pretty sure I was going to throw up. Another huge jolt slammed him against me, the two of us against a wall, hard enough to rattle my teeth.
Then, stillness. The sirens went silent. I could actually hear Dr. McCoy’s breath release, feel it, hot on my face. In the sudden calm, his arm, still tight around me, no longer served any steadying function; it suddenly felt intimate instead of supportive, and he withdrew it, awkwardly. Instead, he took me more formally by the arm as he guided me through the funhouse hallways to what he called ‘sickbay’.
There, I lay down on a stark-looking but comfortable exam table. There was a panel on the wall above where I lay, which started flashing a display the moment my backside made contact with the table. Dr. McCoy patted my arm again, with that reassuring smile, while a nurse on my other side rubbed my wrist. I thought maybe she was taking my pulse; I wasn’t paying that much attention to her. It just felt kind of nice; comforting. But when I asked the doctor if he was going to do the transfusion, he told me the nurse had already completed it. I turned my head and saw the nurse was withdrawing something that looked like a small suction cup from the underside of my forearm.
I didn’t feel a thing. Was that it? No needles? Shit, where were they when Bob was struggling through all those transfusions? All those damned IV ports, his veins shutting down, insertion sites getting infected.
Get a grip, Hani. Get a grip.
But now I realized I did feel better. I sat up and they gave me something to drink that tasted like tea, but was thicker, more viscous. I drank it, thinking for some reason about Alice through the Looking Glass, and that “Drink Me” sign. Whatever it was, it perked me up instantly; physically, at least.
Dr. McCoy looked pleased with himself. “Come on, let me show you something.” And I followed him again – more steadily this time – down more curved hallways, up another elevator, which opened into a large, circular room.
I had a quick impression of workstations all around the edges of this area, blinking lights, a sense of people doing purposeful things, but my eyes were instantly riveted to the scene straight ahead, through a vast window.
We were traveling through stars. Space.
I stumbled down a step or two to stand in front of the wide window; I felt my mouth gaping open like an idiot, but I couldn’t quite close my lips together. I was utterly dazzled. Amazed.
It was all real.
I don’t think I actually believed any of this until now.
Really. Holy shit.
I turned to look at Dr. McCoy. I hadn’t even seen Jim standing there beside him. Jim had thrown on his own uniform coat, though he obviously hadn’t had a chance to fasten it all the way; it gaped open at the neck.
I don’t think I’d quite believed Jim, either, up until now. I’d met too many Washington bigwigs with that same air of natural authority, too few of whom had the goods to back it up.
But now, there was something about how he wore that sharp red jacket, and more, something about the whole aura of this room; you could feel the deference. Feel the trust.
Had I really not realized I was coming onto a military vessel? Is that what they called it? Geez, I didn’t know anything about ships, space- or otherwise. Not even boats. I’d only been sailing twice in my life. I didn’t know my starboard from my Starbucks.
I checked an impulse to throw my arms around Jim, some “Hey! We made it!” hug, celebratory, conspiratorial; the kind of hug everyone tosses around in the South, whether you want hugging or not. I’d thought of him as a pal, a buddy, a literal partner in crime, really. Now I caught myself, stupidly shuffling my feet to cover for that awkwardly aborted move.
I was getting the whole vibe of a hierarchy. Yeah, here was Mr. Spock, too, off to the side, busy waving his Vulcan hands over some screen again. Even though they were smiling at my amazement – I felt everyone’s eyes on me – they were definitely in work mode. Not exactly ‘Hani’s Excellent Adventure’ here.
So. No hugs. Get a grip, Hani. Welcome to Wonderland.
Instead I looked back at the broad window again, now realizing what I was seeing, and what I wasn’t.
“Where are we?” I asked. “Where’s Earth?”
A brief silence descended like a power outage. I turned again, and it wasn’t just me now, but everyone whose attention was focused on Captain Jim, who looked, for the first time in the 18 or so hours I’d known him, distinctly uncomfortable.
It was Mr. Spock who spoke, as Jim gave him a studied “go ahead” gesture. Uh-oh, I thought. Mr. Spock’s answers always seemed to be more complicated than I expected. Or wanted. And yeah, while every ounce of me craved some neat and tidy reassurances, the day was definitely not turning out like that.
“We returned here at precisely the same time we left, according to ship’s records,” said the Vulcan with his usual logical manner. “However, it seems our re-appearance into this time line, and presumably the shifts sparked by our manipulation of events in your former time, caused the anomaly to collapse on itself. That was the cause of the turbulence we experienced as we beamed aboard.
“We are thus precisely when we were. Unfortunately, it also appears that a collateral space/time rift was created by the collapse, which has caused the ship to be spatially… displaced.”
He turned to Jim for the next part. “I am in the process of verifying our present location, Admiral. We appear to be somewhere near the border of the Beta Quadrant, but how far from Earth, we haven’t yet determined. Our presence in the anomaly has slightly affected the power core, thus all instruments are slightly out of adjustment. As soon as Mr. Scott can re-set power core frequencies, I shall attempt to get an accurate reading.”
Jim – okay, I’m thinking I should call him Captain Kirk, now, but I just can’t quite pull it off – was already responding with impressive crispness.
“I want those readings ASAP. I’m going to have to explain all of this, but not until we’ve got our ducks in a row. Can you contact Starfleet, Lieutenant?”
Uhura, now uniformed like the others, had slipped into a seat behind the Captain and taken up an earpiece. She flashed me a quick smile before responding. “I’m unable to establish communications, Captain. Wherever we are, we appear to be beyond normal communications range. Once Mr. Scott has reset the frequencies, I can try to patch something through.”
“Tell Mr. Scott I want a status update in five minutes.” Jim circled the captain’s chair impatiently but managed not to snap at anyone.
I was standing through all this conversation – which I reconstruct for my reader, as at the time I was only following a fraction of it – my mind screaming questions, feeling confused and oddly extraneous to all the goings-on.
Part of me was still buzzed. I wondered if that weird transporter thing had done something to my body, maybe not put me back together quite the way I was before. Looking back at that window again, with stars silently flowing by us, I could hardly contain an excitement, a sense of inevitability that threatened to overwhelm me with wonder.
Then again, the thrill was interrupted by a little stab of something else. I’d trusted my life to these guys, and so far so good, yeah, but now what? I was really here – wherever ‘here’ was – but now there was this little matter of being a stranger in a very strange land. Everyone but me in a uniform. Everyone but me having a job to do.
What had I thought? That we’d all just be hanging together? That life would be just one endless string of adventures with tidy and dramatic episodic endings, like some ‘60’s TV series?
Jim’s next words kind of fed both those emotions.
“Ah, Hanalie. I’m sorry. I know you have more questions, and I promise we’ll get to them. But for now,” he waved to a fresh-faced kid at one of the consoles, “Ensign, would you escort Ms. Surat to the quartermaster? She’ll need… well, Wovaki will know what she needs. And tell Wovaki main guest quarters, please.”
He turned back to me, but I could feel his attention already off in another direction. “Our quartermaster will get you settled, show you to your quarters, get you some fresh clothes.” Though they’d meticulously washed the blood off my hands in sickbay, I was still wearing the bloodstained jacket from… before.
“Take a little while to decompress. We’ll call you as soon as we’re caught up here.” I moved to follow the skinny young man, whose fitted uniform only made him look more like the kid he obviously was, all the while feeling like I was being cast adrift in some epic and unnerving way.
Doctor McCoy smiled benignly. Jim – dammit, Hani, it’s Captain Kirk – was already conferring with the two crewmen who sat at some kind of control deck in front of what was clearly his chair, but then he turned back to where we were stepping into the elevator. “Oh, and Hanalie, welcome aboard.”
Again, that mischievous grin. And I swear he winked at me, which did nothing to ease my general disorientation.