On the Edge of Forever
Jim fought back the wave of dizziness that washed over him as he coalesced above the transporter platform. For a moment, he remained frozen in mid-air above the platform, one hand clutched around Sandburg's arm. Then the world solidified, and Blair's scream pierced the air at the exact moment gravity kicked in. Both men crashed onto the platform, rolling in a tangle of limbs down the two steps to the deck.
Jim landed on top of Blair, realizing instantly that something was wrong. His partner's screams had silenced, and now Blair laid motionless beneath him. Jim pushed himself off the smaller man, frowning when he saw the blank expression on Blair's face and the glassy look in his eyes as he stared vacantly up at the ceiling.
"Blair?" Jim grabbed Blair's shoulder, giving him a gentle shake.
Scotty knelt down next to Blair and gave Jim a reassuring look. "Medics are on their way," he said gently.
"I'm beaming up the rest of the landing party," the young man behind the transporter console announced.
Scotty nodded his acknowledgment, but kept his gaze on the motionless young man on the floor. Jim gave Blair's chin a light slap, his alarm skyrocketing when he felt the cold, clammy nature of Blair's skin.
"Come on, Chief, snap out of it," Jim commanded, unnerved by the hollow, empty look in Blair's eyes.
Jim stretched his hearing, listening to Blair's breathing and respiration. Both sounded slow but steady. He's in shock, he realized, but he didn't know if Blair's reaction was due to the fall or the instrument Skalas had used on him... or both.
The transporter hummed to life, and Jim glanced back to see several figures materialize in a sparkle of light on the platform. He shook his head, still awed by the process. No one had explained it to him, and he figured they wouldn't even if he asked. Though they had been extremely polite and friendly toward him, he already figured out that they wanted to limit the amount of knowledge he acquired about their time and their technology. Too late, he thought. He'd seen far too much already.
He turned his attention back to Blair. And so have you, Chief, he thought grimly. Much more than you ever should have had to. Jim didn't exactly know what had happened to Sandburg on that alien ship, but he knew it hadn't been pleasant. He clenched his jaw as he took in the bruises on Blair's face and the pallor of his skin.
Doctor McCoy knelt down next to Blair, holding the tricorder over the young man's body. He furrowed his brow as he gazed at the read-out. "Hmmmn...." he mumbled thoughtfully.
"What?" Jim peered at the machine's display, but was unable to decipher the meaning of the numbers.
Two medics burst into the transporter room, immediately dropping down next to Blair. McCoy glanced up at them. "Okay, let's get him to sickbay," the Doctor ordered.
Kirk gazed down at Sandburg over McCoy's shoulder. "What's wrong with him, Bones?"
"Well, his heart and respiration are a bit slow, but steady. However, there seems to be some anomalous neural activity. I'm going to have to get him into sickbay to find out for sure," McCoy announced.
"What do you mean 'anomalous neural activity,'" Jim demanded, keeping his ears tuned to Blair's slow heart beat.
McCoy's compassionate blue eyes met the Sentinel's demanding gaze. "I'm not certain, this tricorder only gives a superficial reading, so I'll have to get him to sickbay before I can tell you anything more concrete." He looked up at the two medics and then glanced at the anti-grav stretcher by the door. "Okay, let's get him up," he said.
The two medics reached down to grab Blair's arms and legs, and Sandburg's reaction was electric. The scream caught in his throat roared to life, and he lashed out, struggling against the arms holding him. The sound of Blair's scream was one of agony rather than terror, and Jim reacted instinctively, pushing the two men off of his partner and grabbing Blair's arms in a firm embrace. That contact only added fire to Blair's cries, and the young man arched his back, legs kicking wildly.
"What's wrong with him," Jim yelled, panic touching his voice as he looked to the doctor for answers.
McCoy studied the tricorder briefly, then grabbed his medical pouch and fished out a metallic cylindrical object. Quickly, he placed the cylinder against Blair's arm, and the small instrument released a soft hiss. Sandburg stiffened suddenly, then went limp, his eyes finally closing as his face took on a more serene expression.
McCoy nodded to the two medics, who sprang to life and lifted Blair onto the stretcher, strapping him in securely. Jim rose to his feet, and went to his partner's side, placing one hand on his Guide's forehead.
"They did something to him," Jim said, his voice low. He kept his eyes fixed on the slack, exhausted features of Sandburg's face, noting the deep lines etched around his mouth. "I saw Skalas press something against his face. He screamed like he was in agony."
"The agonizer," Chekov said quickly.
Jim's head shot up and he stared at the young Russian. "The agonizer?" That name didn't reassure the Sentinel.
Chekov nodded, ignoring the concerned glance from his Captain. "Y-Yes," he said, a slight tremor in his voice. "It is a Klingon device used to inflict pain," he explained.
Jim's gaze softened as he stared at the young man. "You've had personal experience with it?" It didn't take Sentinel sight to notice the sudden lack of color in the man's face.
Chekov nodded. "Once. It isn't wery pleasant."
Jim took a deep breath, clenching one hand into a fist. "What does it do?"
"It causes a lot of pain," Chekov stated. "Brief exposure to it is usually enough to keep the wictim's nervous system sensitive to touch for about thirty minutes. Extended exposure leads to more severe consequences. Your touch probably set his entire nervous system on fire."
Jim clenched his jaw, glancing at the empty transporter pad. "Where are they?"
Kirk stepped forward. "Their patterns have been locked into the transporter," he explained, glancing at Scotty. "As soon as we get Mr. Sandburg out of here, Security will arrive and we'll complete the transport."
Jim nodded, glancing down at his partner. "And then what will you do with them?"
"Put them in the brig until we can turn them over to Starfleet," Kirk replied.
Jim raised his eyes to look at the Captain. How civilized,
he thought. If Jim ever managed to get his own hands on Skalas, he would be everything but
Jim stood at Blair's bedside, gazing up at the monitor on the wall that displayed his partner's vital statistics. The heartbeat was slow, that much was evident from the small pulsing light on the display, but Jim didn't need the read-out to tell him what his ears already knew.
"Why don't you go back to your quarters, Mr. Ellison," Doctor McCoy suggested.
Jim tore his gaze away from the display to look at the doctor. "No, I'll stay here."
McCoy shook his head. "You need sleep, Detective. That's a medical order."
Ellison set his jaw and glared at the Doctor. "The only way you're getting me out of here is if you drug me and drag me out... and, believe me, you don't want to try that."
McCoy raised one eyebrow. "I realize you're concerned about your friend, Detective, but there's no need to be hostile. There's nothing you can do for him right now. Just go back to your quarters and get some sleep. I'll inform you immediately if there's any change in his condition."
"Do as he says," another voice interceded.
McCoy and Jim turned to look at Kirk, who stood in the doorway.
"Let's get something straight here," Jim said, walking away from Sandburg to approach the Captain. "You're not --"
He stopped in mid-sentence when the soft beeping of the monitor sped up as Sandburg's heart rate increased. Immediately, Jim was back at Blair's bedside. He desperately wanted to reach out and place a hand on Sandburg's forehead to comfort the young man, but he didn't dare touch Blair... not until the Doctor told him it was safe to do so.
Instead, he opted for verbal reassurance. "Easy, Chief. It's okay," he said, his voice gentle.
Immediately, Sandburg's heart beat dropped back to a normal rhythm. McCoy raised his eyebrows in mild surprise, throwing Kirk an impressed glance.
If Jim had any doubts before about disobeying the officers' orders, they vanished with Sandburg's unspoken plea. Jim glanced up at McCoy and said, "I'm staying."
McCoy nodded, glancing up at the display. "I agree," he said, looking back at the Sentinel. "I guess I was wrong. Apparently there is something you can do for him here."
Jim's gaze softened. "Thank you," he said.
McCoy offered a small smile. "Just because I have a lot of fancy gadgets doesn't mean I underestimate the value of good old-fashioned human contact for a patient's recovery," he said. "But you still need sleep, so, if you want, you can use one of the empty beds in here."
Jim nodded. "Right now, a simple chair would be nice."
"Coming right up," McCoy replied.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a vulcanoid woman sat around the briefing room conference table. Kirk clasped his hands in front of him on the table and gazed at the young woman.
"So Mr. Sandburg was unconscious the entire time?"
The woman nodded. "Yes. I carried him out of the shuttle moments before it exploded. A few minutes later, the Romulans arrived."
Kirk nodded. "Good work, T'Sal. You realize, of course, that we will have to keep you restricted to your quarters until we can confirm your identity with Starfleet?"
T'Sal nodded. "As I expected, Captain."
"They kept you a pretty good secret," McCoy grumbled. "No picture, no history, just a name and a password."
T'Sal nodded. "Which I correctly provided," she said. "Surely you can appreciate the sensitive nature of my former position," she said. "The Romulans have admirable intelligence resources, and any information kept accessible via computer about Starfleet covert operatives would eventually end up in the hands of the Romulan command. Still, I understand your need for proper security measures, and I applaud your efforts, Captain."
Kirk smiled, rising from the table. "Thank you, T'Sal. Your actions in this matter will be duly noted. I'm sure both Mr. Sandburg and Mr. Ellison appreciate the risk you took." Kirk gestured to the guard stationed at the door. "Lieutenant Carter here will escort you to your quarters," he said.
T'Sal raised an eyebrow. "Thank you, Captain. I look forward to catching up on some much needed sleep." She turned to the guard, then stopped, turning to Doctor McCoy. "Oh, Doctor, I was wondering if Mr. Sandburg has regained consciousness yet?"
McCoy shook his head. "No, not yet, though I expect him to come out of it soon."
T'Sal nodded. "I see. I would very much like to know when he awakens. I found him to be a most interesting young man during his stay on the B'aclar."
"I'll let you know when he wakes up," McCoy said. "But I imagine he won't be up for visitors... especially not with Ellison as his bodyguard." A small, wistful smile touched the Doctor's lips and he shook his head. "I swear, seeing Ellison hover over that kid is a strange sight indeed. He's like Jekyl-and-Hyde." He glanced at the Captain. "With you and me he's as hostile as a Klingon in a room full of Tellarites, but with that kid he turns into Mother Theresa."
Kirk smiled. "Don't let Ellison hear you say that, Doctor. Something tells me he wouldn't appreciate either comparison."
"And that's another thing," McCoy added, "I have to watch what I say whenever I'm within a hundred yards or so of that guy. Hell, he might be able to hear us now."
"Unlikely, Doctor," Spock said. "Lieutenant Uhura has modified the communications system of this room to provide a sonic damper."
"So everything's soundproof," McCoy confirmed.
"Yes, Doctor," Kirk said. "You can speak as freely as you like."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Yes, unfortunately that is a
significant draw-back to the modification."
Jim sat in the chair next to Blair's bed, vaguely aware that he was nodding off to sleep. His chin rested against his chest, and he felt himself falling into the steady rhythmic sound of Sandburg's heart beat. He was jarred awake, however, by the soft hiss of a door opening. Ellison jerked his head up, stifling a yawn as Doctor McCoy walked into Sickbay.
"You know, there is an empty bed over there," McCoy pointed out.
Ellison offered a tiny smile. "Thanks, but I'm fine here for now."
"Eventually you're going to have to leave to answer the call of nature... and take a shower," McCoy said.
"Yes, I suppose so," he said, glancing back at Sandburg's sleeping form.
McCoy smiled. "Well, in case you're worried about leaving him, I figured out this little trick to keep the young man here company while you're gone."
Jim raised his eyebrows. "What's that?"
McCoy walked over to the computer console next to Sandburg's bed and said, "Computer, call up Ellison Program."
The mechanical voice of the machine hummed to life. "Working," it said.
Two seconds later, Ellison's voice emanated out of a hidden set of speakers. "WE two boys together clinging, One the other never leaving, Up and down the roads going -- North and South excursions making, Power enjoying--elbows stretching--fingers clutching, Arm'd and fearless..."
Ellison's eyebrows rose another notch, and, though he tried, he couldn't suppress the smile that touched his lips. "Poetry? How'd you do that?"
McCoy nodded, grinning broadly. "Walt Whitman. Your voice print is in the computer, so from there it's a simple matter to program the computer to use your voice as the pattern to recite poetry. I'm sure even the computer technology of your time has such capabilities."
Ellison's own smile widened. "I suppose so." He shook his head. "I think Sandburg will figure something's up if his subconscious hears me recite poetry."
McCoy chuckled. "Well, it might just inspire him to wake up. Has he read Whitman?"
Ellison shrugged. "I suppose so, he's read a little bit of everything," he said. "It is an interesting piece. What's it called?"
"I thought you might like it," McCoy explained. "It's called We Two Boys Together Clinging."
"I'll have to remember that," Ellison said.
"I figured Whitman was safe enough... well before your time," the Doctor said. "Now, why don't you go take your shower while the computer here keeps Mr. Sandburg company?"
Ellison grinned, a hint of embarrassment touching his eyes. "I really need one that badly?"
McCoy nodded. "With your nose, you even need to ask?"
Ellison stood up, raising his hands. "Okay, Okay. I'm going." He walked slowly away from Sandburg's bed, pushing aside the sound of the heart monitor as he listened to Sandburg's actual heart beat. He walked through the inner doorway, breathing a sigh of relief when Sandburg's heart continued its steady beat.
He almost made it to the outer door when McCoy called after him. "Oh, Ellison, I should have someone show you how to work the shower. I'm sure it's a little different than what you're used to."
Jim stopped and turned around. "I haven't actually checked it out yet," he said.
McCoy held up a finger, gesturing for Ellison to wait, then hurried through a doorway leading into the lab. He spotted Chapel hunched over a machine, engrossed in work. "Uh, Christine, could you show Ellison how to work the shower in his quarters?"
Nurse Chapel looked up at the doctor. "Of course, Doctor."
McCoy entered the room and looked down at the machine. "You're working on the lab tests?"
Chapel nodded. "Yes, I should be finished with them within the hour."
McCoy nodded. "Never mind then. I'll show Ellison myself."
Christine smiled. "It's no problem, Doctor."
McCoy waved a hand in the air. "No, I need those as soon as possible. Just keep an eye on Mr. Sandburg."
McCoy walked out of the room and hurried past Ellison. "This way." He walked through the door, and Ellison fell into step beside him in the hallway. "Has anyone showed you how the replicators work?"
"For food," McCoy explained.
Jim shook his head. "The guard offered me something to eat when I was first shown to my quarters."
"Did you eat," McCoy asked.
Jim shook his head. He hadn't trusted them enough to ingest anything they offered. "No."
McCoy shot him an admonishing look. "So you haven't eaten and you haven't slept in over twenty-four hours?"
Jim shrugged. "I haven't really had the chance to."
"Well, after I show you how to work the showers, I'll get you something to eat. Then I want you to get some sleep. The computer's got a virtually unlimited supply of material to work from."
"After I shower and eat, I'll go back to sickbay and sleep on one of the beds," Jim said.
"I'm afraid it might be too noisy for you in there," McCoy said, "especially considering your sensitive hearing."
"Sandburg's taught me some techniques to tone down noise. Besides, I'll sleep a lot better there than I will in my quarters."
McCoy smiled in understanding. "You two are close?"
Jim looked at the doctor, considering the question and its implications. Yes, he was close to Sandburg. He didn't exactly know how or when that happened, but somewhere along the way Sandburg had become an indispensable part of his life. Now, he couldn't even imagine life without his exuberant Guide at his side.
Of course, Jim wasn't about to explain all that to a man he barely knew. "We're partners," he said, as if that explained it all.
McCoy turned into Ellison's quarters, the door hissing open to admit the two men. The doctor walked into the bathroom and stopped near the small shower, which looked more like a phone booth. A nozzle jutted out of the wall, and a row of buttons aligned the panel beneath the nozzle. McCoy slid the transparent wall panel open and glanced back at Ellison.
"This is the control panel," the Doctor explained. "There are several settings, three sonic settings and two water settings. The lower set of buttons controls the temperature." He pointed to the lower button on the right and continued. "This one here increases the temperature. The other one decreases the temperature. The water setting always starts at seventy degrees, and you can adjust it from there. We are on a rationing system for use of water in the shower, so most people use the sonic setting." McCoy pressed one of the upper buttons. "Now the sonic..."
A spontaneous, throbbing headache erupted in Ellison's skull, and a ringing sound filled the air at the same time he felt a bone-shaking vibration pulse through his body. Instinctively, he covered his hands with his ears, falling backward against the wall as the sensation continued to assault him. Then, just as suddenly, the vibration ceased and the throbbing in his skull abated. Jim shook his head, trying to clear away the lingering ringing in his ears. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and found himself being pushed to the floor. He sat down willingly, leaning his back against the wall, his eyes closed.
"Dear Lord, are you okay?"
Jim opened his eyes to gaze into the concerned face of Doctor McCoy. Slowly, he nodded. "Yeah." He shook his head one last time. "That was the sonic shower, I take it?"
McCoy grimaced. "Sorry. I should have thought about that, but not even Spock can hear it. The physical I performed on you gave no indication that you would be able to hear that frequency."
Jim frowned. "I didn't so much hear it as feel it. My ears did start ringing, but it was more the vibration I felt." He brought one hand up to rub his temple. "And it gave me a whopper headache... but that's almost gone now."
"I'll have the Captain provide you with unlimited water access to the shower," McCoy said. "Why don't you come back to sickbay with me and I'll look you over?"
Jim shook his head, pushing himself to his feet. "No, I'm fine. I'll take a shower now -- with water -- and grab a bite to eat. Then I'll head back to sickbay."
McCoy gazed at the Sentinel critically. "You sure you're okay?"
Jim nodded. "Yes, now can I get on with the shower please?"
The doctor held up two fingers and asked, "How many do you see?"
Jim threw the doctor an annoyed glare. "Two. Happy now."
"As a matter of fact, no," McCoy replied. "Touch your nose with one finger."
With a sigh, Jim complied.
McCoy nodded. "Okay, but if you're not back in sickbay in one hour, I'm sending the goons for you. I want to give you a once-over to make sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," Jim insisted.
"Humor an old-fashioned country doctor, okay?"
Jim raised his eyebrows. "I hate to break the news to you doctor, but we're nowhere near the country, and you're not my idea of an old-fashioned country doctor."
McCoy grunted, waggling a finger at Jim. "Watch it or I'll pull out some of the antiques on display and use those 'old-fashioned' tools for your examination."
Jim couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him. Despite himself,
he was coming to like the cantankerous doctor. He raised his hands defensively and said,
"Okay, you win. One hour." Suddenly, he sounded a lot like Sandburg to his own
ears. The elder doctor had a way of making him feel like an ornery adolescent.
He was falling through the air, his stomach practically in his throat. The wind whipped around his face, and he closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable collision. Impossibly, he could still see the ground rising up to meet him... flying toward him with heart-wrenching speed.
Blair slammed into consciousness, vaguely aware of the steady sound of Jim's voice. His breathing came quick and shallow, and his heart hammered in his chair. He kept his eyes closed, trying to focus on Jim's words, but they sounded strange, and his disoriented brain couldn't put them in coherent order. Am I still alive? His body felt numb, but his stomach was clenched in a knot.
As he became more awake, he realized that something was wrong. Jim was speaking, but he sounded strange. His voice lacked inflection.
He swallowed, then opened his mouth to speak. "Jim?"
The droning of Jim's voice ceased abruptly, replaced by an unfamiliar one. "Mr. Sandburg," the voice greeted, flat and cold.
Blair lifted tired eyelids, and a thin, severe face came into focus. He immediately noticed the slanted eyebrows and pointed ears, and his heart jumped into his throat. Frantic, he looked around for Jim, but the room was otherwise empty. Oh my God, he thought. Had the aliens captured Jim? Oh please say he didn't agree to a trade... He swallowed. Please, please let him be okay. He glanced down, just then realizing that he wasn't strapped to the bed. Taking advantage of his freedom, he brought his legs up and kicked, contacting solidly with the alien's midsection. The man stumbled backward, but recovered quickly, straightening even as Blair scrambled off the table.
"Where's Jim?!" Blair looked around wildly. "What have you done with him?"
The alien stood rigidly still. "Mr. Sandburg, please remain calm. Detective Ellison is uninjured."
A second man flew through the doorway and focused his attention on Blair. Sandburg was surprised to realize the older man was human, with blue eyes and dark hair. He wore a blue uniform that looked to be almost a perfect match to the alien's tunic.
"Young man, you're safe here. There's no reason to be afraid," the older man said.
Blair was not inclined to believe the him. Instead, his eyes
drifted to the wall where a display of scalpels and other medical tools hung.
Jim felt remarkably better, even though he hadn't managed a nap. The shower and hot meal had done wonders for his energy level, and he walked down the corridor of the Enterprise at a brisk pace.
"Detective Ellison," Kirk's voice called.
Jim turned around and saw the Captain jogging toward him. He suppressed a frown. He really didn't feel like talking to Kirk at that moment. Although he respected Kirk's authority, he didn't appreciate being held as a "guest" aboard a futuristic space ship under the control of one James T. Kirk. Every time Ellison interacted with Kirk, he found his frustration level rising. He couldn't exactly pin-point the cause, and, at the moment, he didn't care. He just wanted to get back to sickbay and check on his partner.
"I was just on my way to see your partner," Kirk informed him. "How's he doing?"
Jim slowed his pace a fraction as the Captain fell into step next to him. "Doctor McCoy says he'll be okay."
"Doctor McCoy is one of the finest physicians in Starfleet. Your friend is in good hands," Kirk reassured him.
Jim raised an eyebrow. "And of course you wouldn't be biased in that opinion?"
Kirk smiled. "Perhaps, but he's worked a few miracles in his time."
Jim felt his renewed energy waning. Sandburg did NOT need a miracle. Sandburg would be fine... just fine. "The only miracle here is that Sandburg wasn't killed down there," he said. No thanks to you and your men, he added silently.
Kirk's smile faded. "Detective Ellison, I --"
A familiar sound caught Jim's ear, and he raised a hand to silence the Captain. "Shhhh..." he hissed.
Kirk eyes flashed with irritation, but he ended his sentence mid-stream and gazed at the Sentinel impatiently.
"Stay away from me! And I wanna see James Ellison NOW! Don't tell me he's not here, I heard his voice!"
"Damn," Jim cursed, breaking into a run toward sickbay. Sandburg.
Less than a minute later, Jim shot through the sickbay doors. Kirk followed a second later, skidding to a halt near Doctor McCoy. Sandburg stood pressed into the far corner, a steel scalpel gripped in his hand. A red-shirted security guard stood a few feet in front of Blair, holding a weapon pointed at the young man.
"What did you do with him," Sandburg demanded, his voice on the verge of hysteria as he slashed the scalpel through the air. "Tell me!"
Jim stood in the doorway, momentarily stunned by his partner's unusual display of violence. There was a wild, terrified look in Sandburg's eyes that sent a cold shiver down Ellison's spine.
The guard raised the weapon a notch, his finger poised over the trigger. "Just put it down, Sir," the young man ordered.
Hot anger flared within the Sentinel's chest at the sight of his partner pinned in the corner by a towering security guard. He reacted impulsively, flying forward and slamming an arm down against the guard's wrist. The guard spun around in surprise as the phaser clattered to the floor.
"You point that thing at him again and I'll ram it down your throat," Ellison threatened, his eyes blazing.
Kirk pulled the security guard away from Ellison and turned his hazel eyes onto the Sentinel. "Next time you attack a member of my crew, Detective, I'll have you thrown in the brig. That phaser was set on light stun. It would not have injured your partner."
Ellison clenched his jaw, biting back a caustic remark. He turned his back to the Captain and looked at Sandburg. Blair stared at Jim, a mixture of disbelief and teary relief in the young man's eyes.
"J-Jim?" Blair lowered the scalpel slowly. "You okay?"
Ellison forced a reassuring smile. "Yeah, Chief. I'm fine." He glanced at the scalpel in Blair's hand. "You planning on performing surgery?"
"Huh?" Blair looked down at the scalpel in his hand. "Oh!" He released his grip suddenly, letting the instrument fall to the floor. "Sorry," he muttered, looking back up at Jim in confusion. He glanced at Mr. Spock. "What's going on here, Jim? I was falling... Wasn't I?" His face suddenly went white. "Oh God, I was! He threw me off the cliff!"
"Easy, Chief," Jim said. "It's okay. The important thing is that you didn't hit the ground."
Sandburg's knees gave way and he slid down the wall slowly, looking back and forth between Jim and Spock. "He's one of them, Jim," Blair muttered, his breathing coming in fast, shallow gasps. "Oh man, oh man... How...? I mean...."
"It's a bit hard to explain, Blair," Jim said, crouching down next to his partner. Cautiously, he placed a hand on Sandburg's shoulder, relieved when Blair didn't flinch from the contact. He wasn't sure if Sandburg's nervous system had become de-sensitized to touch yet. "You're safe here, Sandburg. Mr. Spock over there is not one of them, he just looks like them. He's a friend. We're with the good guys."
Blair furrowed his brow. "The good guys?"
Jim nodded. "That's right, Chief."
Sandburg gazed at Jim intently, his expression one of serious contemplation. "You bought that stereo from them, right?"
Jim found himself smiling despite the seriousness of the situation. "Uh.... different Good Guys, Chief."
Blair sank back against the wall, his eyelids looking very heavy. "My shoulder hurts," he muttered. "Did I hurt it in the fall?"
Jim pulled his hand back sharply, cursing himself silently for forgetting about Sandburg's injured shoulder and the bandages beneath the younger man's "hospital" shirt. McCoy had told Jim about Sandburg's fractured and dislocated shoulder, but he'd claimed that the injury was well on its way to healing... a medical miracle by twentieth century standards, and something Jim had been too tired to question. At the time, the detective had been more concerned about the effects of the agonizer on his Guide.
"I'm sorry, Sandburg," Jim said. "Did I hurt you?"
Blair shook his head, his eyelids fluttering closed. "It's okay," he mumbled, his voice barely a whisper. He released a tired sigh and, half asleep, added, "I'm sorry Jim. They took my disk, I didn't tell them anything... I don't think." Then his head lulled forward as he gave into the beckoning darkness.
Jim clenched his jaw, wishing he could have five minutes alone in
a room with Skalas. "You did real good, Chief," he told his oblivious partner.
Kirk watched in silence as Jim crouched in front of the limp young man, remembering McCoy's comparison of Ellison to Jekyl-and-Hyde. There's some truth in that, he realized. For all external appearances, James Ellison appeared to be a tough, primitive military man, hardened by the horrors of the twentieth century. Blair Sandburg, on the other hand, possessed a noticeably different quality, one Kirk recognized in the eyes of his own ship's surgeon. Empathy. Passion. Even though Kirk had had very little direct contact with Sandburg, he could see that the anthropologist possessed a much gentler soul than his warrior-like companion... and James Ellison was a warrior, as was Kirk himself. However, there was a significant difference between Ellison's brand of military mentality and Kirk's own.
Kirk silently observed the way Ellison's eyes scanned the unconscious anthropologist. Then, almost tenderly, Ellison reached out and took Blair's chin in his hand, raising the young man's head up as he inspected the assortment of bruises on his partner's face. Kirk found the behavior somewhat curious, wondering why Ellison fixed such intense scrutiny on injuries he'd no doubt had ample time to inspect earlier.
Kirk glanced at McCoy, noticing how the doctor held back, giving Ellison a few moments with the young man. Such behavior was almost completely out of character for the meddlesome doctor, but apparently McCoy was satisfied that Sandburg's health was in no immediate danger and that his patient would benefit far more from Ellison's ministrations than all the medicine the twenty-third century could throw at him. Mr. Spock also seemed interested in the sudden display of compassion by the normally stoic detective. Kirk wondered just what impression Spock was deriving of twentieth century humans from his observations of James Ellison.
Ellison, apparently satisfied that Sandburg would be all right, rose to his feet and turned around, leveling an accusing glare at the doctor. "I was gone for ONE HOUR and you and your goon here --" he jerked his chin toward the security guard "decide the best way to handle a frightened, injured, disoriented young man is by shooting him with that thing you call a phaser?"
Kirk took a step forward, answering for the doctor. "As I told you before, Ellison, the phaser would simply have stunned Sandburg. You saw for yourself that the young man was violent. He could have hurt himself or others."
"Bullshit," Jim spat. "Sandburg wouldn't hurt anybody. Your ingenious first officer there apparently didn't figure out that no one explained the difference to Sandburg between Vulcans and Romulans, a difference I'm not all that clear about myself. How do you think he'd react seeing an alien towering over him after what Skalas put him through?"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Mr. Sandburg's reaction is perfectly understandable; however, that is not the issue here. You seem to think that we meant Mr. Sandburg harm. We did not. In fact, as we have demonstrated, we possess a vested interest in keeping you and Mr. Sandburg alive. It would be illogical for us to intentionally injure him and, thereby, jeopardize the integrity of our own time continuum."
Jim felt a headache growing just behind his eyes. He raised a hand to squeeze the bridge of his nose and released a tired sigh, glancing down at the sleeping figure of his partner. "Look, why don't you just stay out of sickbay until I can explain it to him? I don't want him waking up and freaking out again. He's been through enough already."
Spock gave a terse nod. "Of course. I do apologize for
frightening the young man."
Skalas paced the small confines of the Enterprise's brig, working out the details of his shaky plan. With a small smile, he reflected on his recent success of having Lieutenant Saavan impersonate the deceased (and disintegrated) Starfleet agent, T'Sal. He realized that it was only a matter of time before the Enterprise crew discovered that their supposed T'Sal was a fake, but, by that time, he hoped to have his plan already in motion. The only possible threat to the plan rested with Sandburg. Should the human awaken too soon and recognize Saavan as a fake, Skalas' plan would be severely jeopardized.
Jim sat by Blair's bedside, his mind skirting the edge of sleep. God, he was tired. His back ached, his neck ached, and his shoulders ached. I must be getting old, he mused. He felt his head beginning to lull forward, and jerked it upright. He glanced over at the empty bed a few feet beyond Sandburg and decided that it was time to put it to good use. He was about to push himself out of the chair when his ears caught the sudden rise in Sandburg's heartbeat a fraction of a second before it registered on the monitor.
He was out of the chair in an instant. "Chief?"
Blair jerked awake with a gasp, the monitor beeping frantically in response to the patient's pounding heart.
Jim placed a hand on Blair's good shoulder. "Easy, Chief. You're okay."
Blair blinked, turning his head to look at the Sentinel. "Jim?" His eyes widened with realization, then he sank limply against the mattress and closed his eyes. "Oh man...." His voice was shaky and his face pale. "I was falling." He opened his eyes and looked at Jim as if searching the older man's eyes for confirmation. "I was falling, wasn't I? He threw me over. Oh man..."
Jim hooked the chair with one foot and scooted it closer to the bed, then sat down. "Yeah, he did, but I caught you, buddy," Jim said, removing his hand from Blair's shoulder to brush the top of Blair's head. "But you're okay now." He offered a small smile. "You still owe me ten bucks from last week, remember? Did you really think I'd let you get out of it that easy?"
Blair creased his brow, looking very confused. "You what?"
Jim's smile broadened. "I caught you, of course. All part of the Blessed Protector contract -- Paragraph 4, Subsection C."
Blair's eyes betrayed an even deeper bewilderment. "What do you mean you caught me? Man, I was, like, a thousand feet up. You were standing right there in front of me. There's no WAY you could have caught me."
Jim patted Blair on his good shoulder and said. "Don't worry about it now, Chief. I'll explain it later."
Blair struggled to sit, and Jim helped the younger man up. Shaking his head, Sandburg insisted, "Forget about later, tell me now." Then he apparently noticed his surrounding and looked around, his eyes scanning the room. "Where am I?"
Jim, grateful for temporary reprieve in having to explain the transporter -- a device he didn't quite understand -- eagerly answered Blair's question. "You're on another ship."
"Another ship," Blair echoed.
Jim nodded. "The Enterprise. Sort of like the good-guy counterpart to the other ship you were on." Jim heard the small spike in Blair's still-elevated heart beat and gave his partner's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "It's okay here," he said, then lowered his voice to a near-whisper as he leaned closer to Blair. "Are you okay? I know a little about what they did to you, but not all of it."
Blair stiffened, quickly averting his eyes away from the Sentinel's intense gaze. "I'm fine," he said.
Jim opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by Doctor McCoy's entrance. "Well, I see our patient is awake!"
Jim felt Blair flinch, and the young man looked up at the doctor in surprise. McCoy walked over to a counter against the wall and grabbed a small cylindrical object.
"Let's see how you're doing," McCoy said as he walked over to the two men. He raised the instrument above Blair's head and slowly waved it in front of the anthropologist. Blair pulled back a fraction, eyeing the small object warily. McCoy obviously noticed the reaction, because he offered a reassuring smile and said, "Don't worry, this won't hurt you." He turned his attention back to the scanner, and, after a few seconds, lowered the instrument and returned it to the counter. "Your heart rate's a bit elevated, but your levels of acetylcholine, dopamine, and endorphins are almost back to normal."
Sandburg glanced at Jim, then back at the doctor. "Who are you?"
McCoy smiled, tilting his head a fraction. "Doctor Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer."
Blair nodded, his expression remaining wary. Then he looked back at Jim. "This is a ship?"
Jim nodded. "Yes."
Blair glanced briefly back at the older doctor. "A spaceship?"
McCoy glanced uncertainly at Ellison. "Uh, I'll let you explain this to him," he said. "Meanwhile, I'll inform the Captain that our newest guest has awoken."
"Thanks, Doc," Jim said as McCoy made a hasty retreat.
Kirk scribbled his signature on the pad and handed it back to the young Yeoman. The intercom on his command chair whistled and Doctor McCoy's voice filled the air. "Captain, our new guest is awake."
About time. "On my way, Doctor," Kirk acknowledged, ending the connection as he rose out of his chair. "Spock, you have the con," he said as he entered the turbolift.
The doors closed behind him with a soft swoosh. "Sickbay." Immediately, the turbolift hummed to life. Seconds later, the lift stopped and the doors opened. Eager to meet the young man that had been the focus of so much concern, he hurried down the corridor.
He strode into Sickbay, seeing Doctor McCoy hunched over a computer terminal in the front office. "Hey, Bones," Kirk said, jabbing his chin toward the doorway that led into the interior Sickbay room. "How's he doing?"
McCoy looked up from the monitor. "He's on his way to a full recovery. He's coherent, though a bit confused, and his levels of neurotransmitters are back to normal."
Kirk peeked through the doorway, seeing Ellison standing in front of the young man perched on the edge of the bed. The two men were talking in low voice, and Kirk couldn't make out their words. "So he hasn't grabbed any more antiques off your walls," Kirk said, a twinkle in his eyes.
McCoy grunted. "Remind me to lock those things up from now on. That'd be the second time someone's commandeered the scalpel."
Kirk chuckled. "What can I say, Bones? Maybe it's your bedside manner."
McCoy looked properly insulted. "Careful there, Jim, your physical's coming up next month."
Kirk plastered a sober expression on his face. "Have I told you lately what a wonderful job you do and how fortunate I feel to have a ship's surgeon of your caliber gracing the Enterprise's sickbay?"
McCoy grinned. "That's better."
Kirk chuckled and shook his head. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to meet our infamous anthropologist."
McCoy nodded and rose from his chair. "I'll come with you."
Kirk raised his eyebrows inquiringly.
McCoy shrugged. "Someone's gotta referee you and Ellison."
Kirk ignored the comment and walked into the room. Ellison and Sandburg looked over at his arrival. Sandburg sat on the edge of the bed, his long hair draped around his shoulders, blue eyes sparkling with curiosity.
"Hello, Mr. Sandburg," Kirk said. "I'm Captain James T. Kirk. Has Ellison briefed you on the situation?" Kirk glanced at the detective.
Blair nodded. "That we're in the future and the other ship I was on had traveled back in time in an attempt to alter history?"
Kirk nodded. "That about sums it up."
"And you're from Earth's future?"
"Yes... a little over two hundred years from your time," he confirmed.
Blair glanced over Kirk's shoulder at the doctor, then at Jim, then returned his gaze to Kirk. Slowly, he shook his head. "This is SO not in my job description."
Jim smiled, patting Blair on his good shoulder. "I don't know about that, Chief. You're an anthropologist, here's your chance to observe a whole new culture and see how humanity has developed."
Blair managed a small smile. "True, but the Romulans didn't seem all that interested in academic exchange." He glanced at Kirk, leaning forward a fraction. "But Jim told me a bit about Vulcans and Romulans. So how many species are on this vessel? When did Earth first encounter extra terrestrials?" He glanced at Jim, excitement kindling in his eyes. "God, can you imagine that? Talk about culture shock! Did they come to us or did we come to them?" He turned his attention back to Kirk. "So we can, like, travel to all kinds of different planets?" His face sparked with realization. "Oh man!" He looked back at Jim. "I was on another planet, wasn't I? The sky was, like, all red. Totally not Earth, but I was kind of out of it at the time, so I didn't really give it much thought... But, man, another planet!" His voice rose with excitement, and he turned his attention back to Kirk. "What planet was it? How far from Earth? Does it hold life? Intelligent life, I mean... Is it --"
Jim batted Sandburg's cheek. "Easy, Chief," he said, chuckling. "Don't hurt yourself."
Kirk and McCoy echoed Jim's chuckle.
"I'd love to answer all your questions," Kirk said. "However, as we have to return you two to the twentieth century, it's in everyone's best interest to limit the amount of knowledge you acquire about our time."
Blair's face fell, his eyes betraying disappointment. "Oh... Yeah, I see that." He nodded, offering an understanding smile. "I guess I wouldn't want to travel back in time and tell Caesar about the way the world changed... Not that I'm an historical figure like Caesar, but I can see how you'd want to limit the contamination... Preserve the space-time continuum, and all that."
Kirk was genuinely impressed with Sandburg's immediate grasp of the situation. He hadn't expected a twentieth-century anthropologist to demonstrate such an immediate understanding of the space-time continuum. "So you're an anthropologist with an interest in astrophysics? I must admit I'm somewhat impressed with your immediate grasp of the situation. I hadn't expected someone from your century to have an awareness of the space-time continuum."
Blair smiled, waving a hand in the air. "Oh it's all over the place in sci-fi... one of those techno-buzz words that people like to throw out." He cocked his head. "But I guess it actually holds some validity, doesn't it?"
Kirk nodded. "Obviously, since you're here."
"Cool!" Blair hopped off the bed. "So can I get outta here?" He looked back and forth between McCoy and Jim.
Doctor McCoy nodded. "You're free to go, but I want to see you back here tomorrow for a check-up -- if you're still on board, that is," he said," and if you notice any dizziness or experience sleeplessness, let me know. Okay?"
Blair nodded. "Absolutely."
Jim grunted, earning a warning glare from Blair.
"Okay, then," McCoy said, narrowing his eyes suspiciously as he glanced at Ellison. "I have your word."
"Sure, sure," Blair said quickly. "This sickbay is so much more pleasant than twentieth century hospitals. No IV, no needles, no cold stethoscopes."
"No scalpels," Jim muttered.
"That to," Blair said, obviously missing the reference.
Kirk wondered just how much, if anything, Sandburg remembered of his scalpel-wielding moments.
Blair looked down at the grey tunic he wore and asked, "Hey, what happened to my clothes?"
"They're being laundered," McCoy informed him. "Though I imagine they won't be all that wearable when you get them back. They've been through quite a lot."
"Exactly what do you remember, Mr. Sandburg," Kirk asked, using McCoy's comment as the opening he needed.
Blair hopped back up on the table, obviously prepared to relate a rather lengthy story. "Well, I was walking to my car in the university parking lot -- I go to Rainier University in Cascade, Washington. It was late, dark out, but I'm not sure what time it was. Anyway, so I'm walking to my car and all of a sudden I hear this woman yell for help. I didn't see anybody, but I went to check it out. The next thing I know, I'm in some kind of a room. It didn't have a door on it... just a doorway, all open with no guards or anything. I yelled out to see if anybody was around, but got no response. So, I decided to check the place out. I tried to walk through the doorway and... and... " He furrowed his brow. "I can't really remember what happened then. I do kinda remember flying backward, like something pushed me. Then I woke up in a room a lot like this one," he said with a sweep of his hand. "I guess it was their sickbay. Skalas was standing over me... but I didn't know who or what he was at the time. He started asking me all these questions about...uh..." He glanced uncertainly at Jim. "Well, just stuff about my research, but I don't really remember it all that well."
"It's okay, Chief. They know about my Sentinel abilities," Jim said.
Sandburg's eyes widened. "They do? You told them?"
Jim shook his head. "No. Apparently it's all a matter of public record." He cast a mildly annoyed glance at the two Starfleet officers.
Blair's jaw dropped open. "It is? You mean, I actually published?" His voice rose with excitement. "So does that mean I got my doctorate?"
"No comment," Kirk said.
Blair shook his head. "But if it's all public record, why was Skalas so interested in my notes?"
"They don't have access to our database," Kirk explained.
"Oh." Blair looked at Jim. "Oh man, Jim, I'm sorry. They got my zip disk with all my notes. I didn't --"
Jim raised a hand to silence his partner. "Don't worry about it."
"It's okay, Chief. The Romulans are either in the brig here or dead," Jim explained. "The information won't be any good to them."
Blair blinked. "Dead? What do you mean? What happened?"
"We engaged their vessel in battle," Kirk explained. "Unfortunately, their ship was destroyed."
Jim turned to Kirk. "And just how did they get down to the planet? I thought you said no one could beam down."
Blair looked confused. "Beam down?"
"I said it was risky. Apparently, they took the risk. We sent a landing party back down to search the area after you and Sandburg had been beamed to safety. They found the remains of at least five Romulans... all the result of unsuccessful transports," Kirk explained.
"What are you talking about," Blair interrupted. "What exactly does 'beam down' mean? Is that like some kind of matter-energy transfer thing?"
Kirk and McCoy both looked genuinely surprised. "Uh... yes, it is," Kirk said. "How do you know that? Did the Romulans--"
Blair shook his head. "No. They never told me anything, just asked a bunch of questions and made a lot of threats," he said, an edge to his voice. "But it's not too hard to figure out. I mean, the term 'beam' kind of gives it away. Like I said, these concepts are all over science fiction." He looked at Jim, then back at the two officers. "It's actually kind of interesting. Science fiction has often proved to be a remarkably accurate looking glass to the future. Not all of it, of course. A lot of it is just plain absurd, but then a lot of it is also very well thought-out. For instance, Jules Verne wrote many predictions about the future that actually ended up being true. His fiction is full of remarkable technological insight. It's an interesting phenomenon -- science fiction and science. Does art imitate reality or does reality imitate art? The --"
Blair looked at Jim, stopping mid-sentence. "Yeah, Jim?"
The Sentinel smiled. "I think you answered his question in the first few sentences."
Blair lowered his head a fraction, looking mildly embarrassed. "Oh. Right."
McCoy chuckled. "So you enjoy science fiction?"
Blair shrugged. "Well, it's not exactly a hobby, but I've read my fair share of it... and it's practically impossible to miss the mass-produced Hollywood stuff. Still, I spend more of my time studying the past then trying to predict the future," he said, a self-deprecating smile touching his lips. "Though, really, the best way to see where we're going is to look back at where we've been. The study of anthropology is really a way for humanity to study itself... the varying cultures and societies. Technology changes, society changes, and culture changes, but humanity pretty much stays the same."
Kirk shook his head, beginning to realize that asking the anthropologist any question was a dangerous proposition. He spared an amused glance at Ellison, wondering how the seemingly no-nonsense detective managed to end up working with such an exuberant partner. He looked back at Sandburg, hoping he could get through his questions by the time his shift ended. "Mr. Sandburg, I have just a few more questions. First, how did you get off the Romulan ship?"
"Well, uh, after you and Skalas finished your 'discussion' I was dragged back to my cell. On the way, something happened to the ship. The whole thing lurched and the guards were thrown off their feet. I was too, but I managed to grab one of their firearms." He glanced almost guiltily up at Jim, offering a shrug. "I didn't really think about what I was doing. I mean, where could I go, right? Anyway, one of the guards recovered really fast and had his own firearm pointed at me before I could react. He told me to drop the weapon. I did. Then I guess he pulled the trigger because I remember a flash of light and, well, the next thing I know I'm in some kind of craft filled with smoke."
Kirk threw an alarmed glance at McCoy. "So you woke up in the craft," the Captain asked.
Blair nodded. "Uh-huh. There was an alien women hunched over the front console. I guess that'd be the helm, or something. There was smoke everywhere, and I couldn't see or breath all that well. I managed to get myself unstrapped and dragged her out of the craft. There was some warning about a core breach, or something. It did NOT sound all that reassuring, so I made some serious haste. The thing blew up a few seconds after we got out."
"She was unconscious the whole time?" Kirk threw another glance at McCoy.
"Yeah. She had a nasty gash on her forehead." He looked up at Jim, eyes suddenly wide. "Green blood, man. It was totally weird. Weird but cool. Definitely cool."
"Are you sure about this," Kirk asked Sandburg.
Jim cocked his head in alarm. "Why? What's wrong?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah. I'm sure."
Kirk sighed. Great. Just great. So he had a woman on board who was most probably a Romulan impersonating T'Sal... which also meant that T'Sal was most likely dead.
"Well," Kirk began, looking at Ellison. "One of the people we beamed up claimed to be T'Sal, our contact."
Ellison nodded. "The woman I saw arguing with Skalas just before he threw Sandburg over."
Kirk noticed Sandburg pale a shade. Ellison seemed to notice the reaction as well because the detective absently reached out a hand and grasped the younger man's shoulder.
"So she's not your contact? Tell me you've got her secured," Ellison prodded, his jaw tight.
Kirk nodded. "She's been confined to her quarters under guard. Standard procedure until we can confirm her identity." He glanced at Sandburg. "Which we just have, I believe."
"One guard?" Jim did not look appeased.
Kirk straightened. "We had no reason to doubt her. She provided the correct password."
"How long 'til we get back home," Jim asked, looking suddenly impatient.
"Spock has estimated another window in approximately four hours," Kirk said.
"So your Romulan spy has four more hours to do whatever it is she's planning," Jim said.
Kirk shook his head. "She can plan all she wants in the brig," he said, walking over to the wall intercom. He was just about to press the button when a whine sounded. He hit the button and said, "Kirk here."
Spock's voice emanated from the speaker. "Captain, security has reported that T'Sal is no longer in her quarters. The guard stationed outside her room has been found unconscious. Request a medic. Security is on alert and searching for her."
"Go to Yellow Alert, Mister Spock," Kirk said. "Double security in the brig. She's not T'Sal, and I want her found before she can do any damage."
"Yes, Captain," Spock replied. "I had gathered as much."
"Kirk out." The Captain ended the connection and turned back to Ellison just as the yellow alert sirens came on.
Spock's voice echoed over the ship-wide intercom. "Yellow Alert. Intruder on board. Romulan passenger known as T'Sal is to be apprehended and placed in the brig. She is to be considered armed and dangerous. Approach with caution. Repeat. Intruder Alert. Romulan female posing as T'Sal has escaped confinement and is to be apprehended and placed in the brig."
A moment after Spock ended the announcement, the sirens died. Jim stood rigidly next to Blair, glaring at the Captain. "Good work," he said sarcastically. He glanced at Blair, then back at the Captain. "I think I can guess who she's going to come after. If she kills us, she's affected history. If you manage to go back in time to return us before finding her, you give her an opportunity to escape into my time and change the future."
"She won't get far," he said. "And I'm placing you and Sandburg under guard."
"Wait a minute," Sandburg said, glancing between Kirk and Ellison. "Just how many different species are on this ship?"
"Mostly human," Kirk said. "Mr. Spock is the only vulcan on board."
"And all the Romulans besides T'Sal are in the brig," Blair confirmed.
Kirk nodded. "Yes. Why do you ask?"
Blair offered a small smile and looked up at Jim. "Do Romulans and Humans have different heart rates?"
Jim nodded. "Mr. Spock does, and if the two are as close as I'm told --"
"Then you should be able to use your hearing to hone into T'Sal's heartbeat," Blair said, a glint of triumph in his eyes.
Jim shook his head, frowning. "No can do, Chief. There are hundreds of people on board, I can't sift through all --"
"Yes you can," Blair insisted. "Just filter out all that as background noise and concentrate on finding the beats that are different. All the Romulans should be clustered in the brig, so you can select against those and find the remaining one. Of course, there's that Spock guy on the bridge, but just do the same with him. Filter him out."
Jim still didn't look convinced. "It's too big of a ship and there are just too many people. I can't filter it all out."
Blair fixed a determined gaze on the Sentinel and said. "You can find my heartbeat in a crowd, can't you?"
Slowly, Jim nodded. "Yeah, but that's different--"
Blair shook his head. "No it isn't!" He released an exasperated sigh. "Would you just shut up and try? What can it hurt?"
Kirk stood in awe as Ellison's expression transformed from one of a hard military man to that of a schoolboy being chastised by his teacher.
"Okay, Chief," Jim said. "What do you want me to do?"
Blair's face lit up. "Okay," he began, hopping off of the exam bed. He grabbed one of Ellison's shoulders and steered the larger man to sit on the bed. When Jim complied, Blair released his grip on the detective and said, "Okay, first close your eyes." Jim's eyelids floated downward. "Okay, now take a deep breath... That's good... Relax... Focus on your surroundings. Turn up your hearing. You hear three heartbeats close to you, and several in the background. First, tune out our three heartbeats... Okay?" Jim nodded. "Good. Now there are hundreds of other beats in the background, all beating with essentially the same rhythm. There's some variation, but you want to focus on the sound of the individual beats. There's some that are different. They should stand out underneath it all. Focus in on what's different. Keep breathing... In and Out... That's right... Now, can you isolate the different ones?"
A slow smile found its way to the Sentinel's lips and he nodded.
"Good," Blair continued. "Now, most of those beats should be clustered in the brig. We don't care where the brig is, we just want to drown out the ones that are all together."
"What if she's there," Jim said, keeping his eyes closed. "She could be trying to free them."
"Security's double in the brig," Kirk said. "I doubt she'll try to free Skalas and the others... at least not yet."
Blair waved a hand in the air. "You don't care about that right now. If she's there, we'll know because you won't find her heartbeat anywhere else."
"Okay," Jim conceded.
"Now, tune down the clustered ones," Blair continued. "Got it?"
"How many different beats are left?"
"Three," Jim said.
"Three?" Blair glanced at the Captain.
"But two are roughly the same and one is different from all the others."
"Lieutenant Reighter is half human and half Darian," McCoy offered. "Her heartbeat is probably the different one."
Blair nodded. "Okay, so filter that one out. Now there are only two. Where are they?"
"One is above us and the other behind us," Jim said.
"Above us is the bridge," Kirk offered, hurrying back over to the intercom. "Kirk to security, intruder may be heading to either engineering or the transporter." He clicked another button and continued. "Kirk to engineering, Mr. Scott please respond."
"Scott here, Captain," came the accented voice.
"Mr. Scott the intruder may be heading your way."
"Understood, Captain," Scotty replied.
A high-pitched whine filled the air and Kirk spun around. Blair's head shot up as he looked around for the source of the sound. Ellison stood up, his face registering a flash of surprise as his body began to disintegrate in a beam of light.
"Jim!" Blair's eyes screamed with disbelief, and he
reached out toward the vanishing Sentinel. The beam intensified to encompass the
anthropologist and both men disappeared into thin air.