He materialized six inches from the ground, sitting down with a bump on a cold tile floor. A safe landing, Bogg had to admit, if not exactly a comfortable one. At least it hadn't harmed Jeffrey, who still lay unconscious in his arms. Gathering the boy a little closer, he took stock of their new surroundings.
Pale blue corridors branching off to all sides of them, bright even light shining down from overhead, an atmosphere of antiseptic cleanliness, and, most tellingly of all, the sharp scent of disinfectant that overrode the lingering smell of smoke.
A hospital? Bogg's growing suspicions were confirmed a moment later by the sound of running footsteps in the nearest corridor and the appearance of two large men, wearing surgical scrubs.
"He's here," one man announced, pointing towards Jeffrey. "You take the head, I'll take the feet. Wilson should be here with the gurney any second."
Bogg's hold on his partner tightened instinctively. "Not so fast," he warned as the men approached. "Who are you? And what are you gonna do with him?"
The second man sighed and held up his hands placatingly. "Relax, Voyager Bogg--we're here to help. Now, if you'll just hand the boy over--"
"Not until you tell me who you are!" Bogg snapped. "And how do you know my name?"
"Phineas, it's okay."
Bogg jerked his head towards the new voice and felt a surge of relief when he recognized the petite blonde who had just arrived on the scene.
Susan, the Voyager who'd been his advocate when he stood trial and on whom he'd harbored a secret crush in their Academy days. He hadn't been the only one either; several field workers' hopes had been dashed when Susan had opted for an administrative or legal position after graduation. With her appearance, another piece of the puzzle fell into place: he was back at Voyager Headquarters, most likely the medical unit.
"It's okay," Susan repeated, her tone as gentle as if she were talking to a child. "The medics will take good care of Jeffrey, but he needs to go down to Diagnostic so we can find out what's wrong with him."
"You can help him?"
She smiled reassuringly. "That's why we brought you both here. But, Phineas, I'll need your Omni too--knowing where you and Jeffrey have been will make it easier for us to find the answer."
Bogg hesitated only a moment. "Okay."
Susan stepped aside to let another medic through, this one pushing a gurney, and looked expectantly at Bogg. After a last wary glance at the first two medics, he carried Jeffrey over to the gurney and laid him down carefully.
"It's gonna be okay, kid," he told the boy, although the still face registered no response. "Everything's gonna be okay." Taking a reluctant step away, he unhooked the Omni from his belt and handed it to Susan.
The medic with the gurney had turned to his colleagues. "All right, let's move!" Pushing the gurney, the trio rapidly set off the way they had come.
Bogg automatically started to follow the gurney, but Susan caught at his arm. "No, Phineas--you'd just get in the way!"
"What if Jeff wakes up and asks for me?" he demanded.
"I'll be in Diagnostic with him, so he'll know he's among friends." Susan's hand was still on his arm. "I promise you, he's going to get the best of care. But you need to let the medics do their job now. The sooner Jeffrey's stabilized, the sooner you can see him."
Bogg exhaled, feeling all his instinctive protests deflating like a pricked balloon. There were hundreds of objections he wanted to make, but he had the sinking feeling that Susan had answers to them all.
Sensing his capitulation, she released his arm. "Will you stay here, in the waiting area? I promise to bring you to him, as soon as possible."
"I guess I don't have much choice, do I?" Bogg asked sourly.
"Yeah, so am I." Bogg sighed again. "Just -- look after him, okay? And let him know I'm still here? I don't want him to be scared or think I bailed on him."
"I'll tell him," she promised, before turning away to follow the medics down the corridor.
Bogg had always hated waiting. Patience had never been his strong suit, and waiting gave you too much time to worry, to imagine dozens of worst-case scenarios, to build up doubts until you were no longer sure of anything you'd done in the past or anything you might do in the future. Too much time to fret, pace, and turn yourself into a nail-biting nervous wreck.
Just like any parent with a sick kid.
"Phineas?" Another new voice, but not unfamiliar, broke in on his thoughts.
Once he would have groaned and strode away from that voice as fast as possible. Now, he actually felt his spirits lift when he looked up from his chair and saw the tall blonde, one crutch tucked under her arm, who was limping towards him.
"Olivia," he greeted her with a nod. "What's with the leg?"
Olivia Dunn, his classmate and sometime rival, pulled a face. "One bad landing too many. I'm riding a desk until the cast comes off. The medics say it's coming along pretty well. But what are you doing here?"
"An unscheduled accident." Bogg tried to maintain a noncommittal tone but some of his anxiety must have bled through because Olivia's eyes widened in sudden realization.
"Oh, God, it's Jeffrey, isn't it? What happened?"
Strangely touched by the concern on her face, Bogg found himself telling her about the boy's mysterious collapse and their involuntary return to Headquarters. "Next thing I know, Jeff's being run down to Diagnostic and I'm cooling my heels here, waiting!" He shook his head in frustration. "And I haven't the foggiest idea what made him just -- keel over like that. I know he took in some smoke from the fire but he seemed to be recovering from that--"
"You were in a fire?" Olivia interrupted.
"More like the fire," he corrected with a grimace. "As in, the Great Fire of London, 1666. We kept Samuel Pepys and Nell Gwyn from getting burned to a crisp."
"The Great Fire of London . . . " Olivia's voice trailed off. Bogg looked up to see her biting her lip, her expression troubled.
"What?" He could not conceal the edge fear gave to his voice.
She shook her head. "It's nothing."
"Like hell it is!" he snapped, giving vent to a rare burst of profanity. "Now, are you gonna tell me, or am I gonna have to shake it out of you'?"
Olivia's eyes flashed and her chin tilted up sharply at his threat, and Bogg braced himself for a scathing retort. But then in the next instant, her anger faded and he saw again the concern that simultaneously touched and unnerved him. Perversely, he found himself wishing she was still angry with him, because that was simpler to understand.
"Phineas," her tone was surprisingly gentle. "I know you tuned out a lot of stuff we were supposed to be learning in class, but some things must've stuck. Do the dates 1348 and 1665 ring a bell with you?"
Bogg frowned, searching his memory. He hadn't applied himself much in his trainee days, but even so, there were dates that stuck in one's mind, and these two--niggled at him. Enlightenment struck with frightening clarity. "Wait--weren't those plague years?"
Olivia nodded confirmation. "London suffered an outbreak of bubonic plague the year before the Great Fire. The Black Death."
Bogg shuddered at the words. Even as a pirate, he had known of the Black Death. There were no good ways to die, but that had to be among the worst--the ugliest and most painful. Fever and delirium, black boils and hemorrhaging, days of agony before death brought a welcome release . . .
Not Jeff. Please, God, not Jeff.
He was on his feet before he realized it, striding towards the corridor Susan and the medics had taken. "Where's Diagnostic?"
"Bogg, you can't go down there!"
"Who's gonna stop me?"
"I am, even if I have to hit you with this crutch!" Olivia blazed, grabbing onto his arm even more forcefully than Susan.
Bogg turned a dangerous face towards her. "Try it, and I'll break your other leg!"
"Not before I knock some sense into that thick skull of yours!" she fired back. "Or are you that eager to repeat the mistake I made in France?"
Bogg stopped short, appalled, as the memories swept over him. A rabid dog, frothing and furious, springing past him, Jeffrey's cry of pain as fangs sank into his wrist -- the first time the kid had been seriously injured on an assignment . . .
"Remember?" Olivia pressed on. "I couldn't wait for Dr. Pasteur's vaccine to be ready. I had to play hero--and Jeffrey almost paid the price for it. If he had . . . I don't think I could've lived with myself." She paused, uttered a mirthless laugh. "In fact, I know I wouldn't have, because you'd have killed me with your bare hands and I'd have deserved it!"
She was probably right, Bogg acknowledged. He had never been angrier or more frightened. Until now.
"Phineas . . . " Olivia was still holding onto his arm, though her grip had relaxed slightly.
Bogg swallowed and forced words past the painful constriction in his throat. "He can't have it. He can't."
Olivia exhaled slowly. "Well--in all probability, I would guess he doesn't. Now that I think about it, the plague rate was much lower in 1666."
"The Great Fire killed most of the rats carrying the disease. And even if Jeffrey has been exposed, they can cure bubonic plague now, with antibiotics. I'm sure Diagnostic's got access to whatever meds they need, so he’s in good hands. Now you should probably get yourself checked out too, just in case," Olivia added. "I know how much Jeffrey means to you, but he wouldn't want you to get sick either."
"I'll be all right. I'm a big, mean ex-pirate who probably scares germs away. But Jeff--" Bogg swallowed hard before continuing. "When we're on assignment, working to fix what's wrong, it's easy to forget he's just a kid. Then something like this happens and it's all I can think of."
"He may be a kid, but he's a fighter too," Olivia replied bracingly. "I remember that from France--and from the Titanic. So should you." Her grip slackened further, became nothing more than a light, friendly pressure on his forearm. "It looks like we'll be waiting here for a while, so can I get you a cup of lousy hospital coffee? It's the one drink that time never seems to improve."
"We?" Bogg queried.
"Think I'm letting you do this alone?"
"Olivia," he began, then stopped and made the only reply he could. "Thanks."
The coffee was every bit as bad as Olivia had predicted, but Bogg managed to down a cup and a half of it before his taste buds finally rebelled and he dumped what was left in a nearby trash bin. He and Olivia talked while they drank--or rather, Olivia talked while he listened, secretly glad of the distraction. He learned she had broken her ankle by landing on the edge of a roof --"and promptly falling off," she added ruefully. Fortunately, she'd ended up in a green zone and Omnied herself back to HQ for medical attention. There was no point, Professor Garth had told her sternly, in going back into the field until the fracture had mended, so he had assigned her clerical work, which was dull, and part-time teaching duties, which were proving more rewarding than she would have thought.
"There's something kind of exciting about working with the trainees," she remarked. "This is all new to them, so they're full of enthusiasm and always asking questions."
Bogg summoned up a smile from somewhere. "And do you let 'em think you have all the answers?"
"Hardly. I've learned some humility over the years--as you have, I'm sure," she added pointedly.
Bogg bristled at that, but only half-heartedly. Besides, it had been something of an Academy joke about who was cockier, Voyager Bogg or Voyager Dunn. The honors had been about even too. Back then, he wouldn't have thought that a friendship between them was possible, but time had changed a lot of things. Jeffrey had changed a lot of things.
Bogg looked up to see Susan standing in the corridor again, smiling at him.
"There's a young man in the infirmary, who's wide awake and very anxious to see you."
Relief flooded through Bogg with such force that he was glad he was sitting down, so no one could notice how weak in the knees he felt. "Jeff's okay?"
"Well, he's stable," Susan temporized. "And lucid. We still haven't figured out why he collapsed, but we're hoping we'll know more once some of his test results come back. In the meantime, there's no reason for you not to be with him now."
"Great." Bogg rose from his chair, pleased to note that his legs held him up. "You coming, Olivia?" he asked over his shoulder.
Surprise and pleasure flickered across her face. "I'd be glad to, only--" She glanced questioningly at Susan.
The other Voyager shook her head reluctantly. "I'm afraid the doctors are only allowing one visitor at a time--at least for now. Sorry."
Olivia gave a regretful shrug. "I thought as much. It's okay, Phineas," she broke in, as he opened his mouth to protest. "I can come back later. But Jeffrey needs to see you now."
"Yeah." Almost as much as Bogg needed to see him. "And, um, thanks for the moral support," he added, somewhat awkwardly. Although he and Olivia were no longer rivals, it felt strange having this new almost-intimacy with her. Strange, but--nice too.
Olivia just smiled. "Anytime. Give my love to Jeffrey."
Bogg found himself smiling back. "Will do," he promised, before turning to follow Susan down the corridor.