Interlude: And Straight On 'Til Morning…
"Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been fate. People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that's a miracle. But of course, when someone is killed by a freak chain of events – the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there – that must also be a miracle. Just because it's not nice doesn't mean it's not miraculous." – Terry Pratchett, "Interesting Times"
Jhomys Ohini smiled as she looked out over the Mediterranean Sea. Despite being a member of the Andorian species, she always considered herself to be a Terran first. After all, she had been born here, on Earth, a member of one of the various ex-patriot colonies hosted by the Human homeworld. Oh, certainly, she'd been to Andoria. She'd seen the homelands of her ancestors, done the entire "explore your heritage" thing. But to be brutally honest, Andoria had always struck her as being a bigger version of Greenland, the place she considered her true homeland. The place where she'd been born. Andoria was nothing but kilometers and kilometers of tundra, pack ice, glaciers, and snowfields.
Earth, on the other hand, had pretty much everything an appreciator of natural beauty could want. Out of all the major planets in explored space, only Qonos rivaled Earth for the pure diversity of its natural biomes.
Her love of the grandeur of nature had led her to become a biologist, and then to Star Fleet. Forty years later, here she was: back on her home world, a retired Vice Admiral with too much time on her hands.
If her life was less strenuous, and less exciting, than it had been when she was active Starfleet, at least she now had time to take the entire planet in. She'd technically been "on vacation" for five years now. Diving off the restored Great Barrier Reef, hiking through the protected wilderness preserves in the Smoky Mountains and the Alps, hang gliding in California. Not to mention thousands of museums and libraries and theaters and other local entertainment venues.
Of all the places she'd seen on her vacation thus far, her absolute favorite was Ruby Falls, a cave system that featured a subterranean waterfall surrounded by the Atlanta-Charleston-Chattanooga metroplex. But Jhomys had to admit, the view from the terrace here at the Jardín del Sol was definitely worth the effort.
Naturally, when her grand-daughter had called her, excitedly telling her about her new assignment as XO on a Starfleet survey vessel, Jhomys couldn't think of any better way to celebrate it but here. Breakfast in Gibraltar, watching the sun rise over the Mediterranean. Of course, her grand-daughter was running late, but that was no matter. She took another sip of tea – it was one of the blends that was safe for Andorians to drink, and not one of the ones that acted as a narcotic – and stared out over the water.
"Tildwa! I'm sorry I'm late." Jhomys looked up and smiled as Lhatja, her grand-daughter, sat down next to her. The younger Andorian looked slightly out of breath. "Commander Samok called me regarding an issue with one of our crewmen. You know how it is."
"Of course. The needs of the service and all." Jhomys sipped her tea. "Not to mention the fact that, as the newly appointed Executive Officer, you want to impress your captain with your work ethic." Jhomys couldn't help the smirk. "And tildwa? You haven't called me that since you were in high school. Next thing I know you'll have me wrapped in a she'ta'tosh and shaving my head for prayer service." Jhomys watched as Lhatja blushed.
"I see nothing wrong with practicing our native language, grand-mother. It shows pride in our native culture. Would you rather I call you Granny?"
That caused Jhomys to laugh. "Lhatja, you were born in Boston. Your native language is English, and your native culture is American!" Her grand-daughter opened her mouth to protest, but Jhomys just waved it away. "And Granny? Really, Lhatja?" She wasn't here to have the same old argument about the young woman diving head-first into her Andorian heritage. The teasing came naturally though.
"You are so mean sometimes, Tildwa."
"I'm sorry, dear. I couldn't help it. Let's order. I'm famished." Jhomys turned and waved a waiter over. The café actually had waiters and not just an order screen. The waitress, a human girl, began a greeting when something apocalyptic happened that interrupted the meals of everyone on the terrace.
There was a bright flash of light and an explosion of sound, deafening and blinding all at once. The two Andorians screamed as something slammed into them…
Kara Zor-L never had a chance to react, and for the second and a half she was conscious, that was a shock. As a Kryptonian, she was capable of moving faster than the human eye could track. But not this time. This time, she barely had a chance to register that she was no longer in the warehouse, taking apart vampires with her heat vision and her brute strength.
One minute she was burning that annoying blonde douche-bag of a vampire to ash, the next she was in the air and rocketing toward…
She didn't have time recognize what she was rocketing toward. She slammed bodily into a guard rail and bounced over and across two tables. The impact drove her into unconsciousness. Kara's limp and battered body slammed into, rolled over, and knocked down the two Andorian woman and the waitress. One of Kara's heels struck the face of Jhomys Ohini; the impact broke the ankle in question, as well as broke four of the Andorian woman's teeth. The waitress was slammed into the tile of the patio, but surprisingly suffered nothing but a few bruises.
"Well, let us see what there is to see." Nikolao Mikelo, chief investigator for Terran Homeworld Security, trusted his subordinates to do their job. "At or around 1100 hours, in the center of the patio café area of the Gibraltar Resort, there was a flash of light, an enormous crash of sound, and the sudden appearance of a human male out of thin air. The esplosion shattered every glass object in the area and even caused micro-fractures in the transparent aluminum windows."
He took a deep breath and continued. "Twenty-three guests of the restaurant were on the patio, enjoying a light brunch and taking in the view when this happened. All are now in the hospital, being treated for radiation exposure, abrasions, cuts, scrapes, and the occasional broken bone. And every one of them had to have their eardrums replaced because of the sound."
What he didn't mention, because he didn't think it immediately relevant, was that that, in addition, the explosion of light, sound, and radiation had spit a young man, identity still being determined, into the café at high speed. The man had apparently been expelled from whatever it was at a height of about eight feet, had bounced off the ground and impacted several of the tables, chairs, and diners, before coming to rest against the patio's safety wall. The only thing that kept the man from flying off the Rock was the security shielding.
The emergency response team had immediately packed everyone to the hospital. The tourists, were already out of treatment. The man who had seemingly popped out of the empty air was in Intensive Care, and no one knew when he'd wake up, not given the intensity of his injuries. Might be tomorrow, might be the day after that. Doctors weren't miracle workers, after all, and when you had that many broken bones, and were that thoroughly burned, treatment could take hours to heal, maybe even a few days.
One or two of the Starfleet investigators were making noises as if this had been some bizarre transporter accident. All he had to say to that was bollocks. This was something different. He'd seen transporter accidents, and they rarely left intact bodies. No, what happened to this man to cause him to just appear like this wasn't a transporter accident. Not at all.
"So far, people have reported everything from a vehicle crash to a transporter accident to an attempted assassination against a retired Starfleet Admiral, to some sort of weapon of mass destruction being dropped on the mountain. Let's find the truth, ladies and gentlemen."
With that, the investigatory crew spread out into the wreckage of the restaurant's exterior dining area. Abramson was on the particle discriminators, while Terrist and Sukat worked the phase variance locators. The rookie, Peter Su, was imaging the entire scene, while Anna Beckwith, a trained crisis counselor, took witness statements. For his own part, Mikelo began as he always began. By taking a good, hard look at the surroundngs.
The restaurant was picturesque and unique. Since the advent of replicator technology, restaurants had become something of a dying fad. After all, why go to the expensive of having a real kitchen, with real chefs and real ovens and real ingredients, when you can punch a control into a wall and get whatever you wanted? Foodies claimed that the meals just didn't taste the same when they weren't hand made, but Mikelo had never been able to tell the difference.
The interior of the restaurant, with its small dining room and large kitchen area, was entirely unharmed. Whatever had happened here didn't penetrate the building's walls or break any of the glass. Nothing was disturbed inside; it was all out there on the patio.
It looked like a warzone, or at least what he imagined a warzone would look like. There hadn't been a proper war on Earth for three hundred years, after all. The tables and chairs strewn everywhere, along with the tablecloths and little kitchy candles, salt and pepper shakers, and disposable packages of various sweeteners. Brand new cracks made in the antique stone tilework that the restaurant's owner claimed dated back almost five hundred years, to the 19th Century. The fresco on the outside wall of the restaurant, the one facing the patio, looked scorched, as if some great heat had actually cooked the building's masonry.
He sighed. "I really hope this was just some accident and not the actions of psychotics." With that, he turned attention to the vista. He never got tired of the view. The Mediterranean stretched out before him, navy blue and gray. Like millions of people before him since the dawn of human civilization, he once again affirmed the opinion that the view of the sea from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar was one of the greatest panoramas the human eye could witness on Planet Earth.
And someone or something tried to wreck it for everyone here. People could have been killed. One young man came within inches of dying. What could have caused this? How did this happen?
"Chief Investigator? You may want to see this."
Mikelo nodded toward Terrist and a took the padd from her hands. "What have you found?"
"From the subspace thinning and the weird wrangles in the quantum foam, I'd say what we had here was some sort of tear in the space-time continuum. I can't tell yet whether it was spatial, temporal, or a mix between the two, but I'm getting some very odd readings."
"I have to agree with Jacqueline, Chief." Thomas Abramson approached, letting Chelani Terrist know that he was behind her by putting a hand on the woman's shoulder. I'm finding enough strange particle and radiation traces to confuse half of the forensic staff back at base. So far my list includes chroniton particles and anti-chroniton particles, eichner particles, omicron particles, and we're not done with the scan yet." Abramson glanced at his padd. "The final results are about to – what the Hell?"
Mikelo was staring at the readout on the padd. It had blanked out, only to be replaced by a huge green "Omega" symbol. The inscription below the symbol read CLASSIFIED – EYES ONLY – STARFLEET AUTHORIZATION ONLY, followed by instructions to stay where they were, and that Starfleet Security would be there shortly.
"Chief Inspector," Sukat, his Vulcan investigator, approached holding his scanner. "My equipment just shut down abruptly, and I am being instructed to hold in position for Starfleet Security. What is happening, sir?"
"I have no idea."
"Excuse me, Chief Investigator?" It was Jerod Krohn, the owner of the restaurant. "Every screen in the place just locked up with this... oh, you're getting it too."
They were still wondering what was going on when their ears caught the tell-tale whine of an incoming transporter beam. Starfleet security was here.
Eighteen Hours Later
Commander Harris Rosenberg, Starfleet Security Special Projects, waited patiently for the doctor to come out of the active treatment rooms. He was, by nature, a patient man, so waiting for a few minutes wasn't a hardship to him. Besides, this was all involving a very exciting case, and he found that the very exciting cases proceeded best when he was slow and methodical. The investigator who rushed was the investigator who missed details.
More quickly than he expected, his patience was rewarded. An older woman wearing the blue uniform of Starfleet Medical, had entered the hall. Commander Rosenberg spotted Doctor Amelia Lindsey, and instantly reviewed what he knew of her. Her rank in Starfleet was Captain; she graduated 18th out of 254 students at Starfleet Academy, and was 2nd in her class at Medical School prior to joining Starfleet thirty years prior. Her service record suggested she was the kind of medical officer that gave Starship captains ulcers: she brokered no resistance in her own kingdom, and didn't give a damn if the man who thought he ran the rest of the ship disagreed. In sickbay, she was the Queen of the Universe. But she matched her resistance to being ordered about her own medical bay by being hypercompetent and a joy to work with.
He stood and took a step forward. "Captain Lindsey? I'm Harris Rosenberg. I need to speak to you about the John Doe who came in this morning from Gibraltar."
"I prefer to be called Doctor when I'm doing rounds, Commander." Naturally she'd read his rank insignia first thing. "As for discussing the patient, are you a relative or a spouse? Otherwise, doctor-patient privilege..."
"Is waived in this case." Rosenberg handed the doctor a flimsy. She stared at it for a moment, then thumbed the small box at the top. Instantly, the clear plastic sheet went an opaque blue and white lettering filled its surface. "As you can see, this is a matter of Federation Security, and almost all... not all, but almost... of the normal rules have been thrown out the window." He shrugged, almost in embarrassment.
"Hmm. I see. Well, in that case I suppose we should talk." The doctor took a deep breath. "All right, Commander, I've got about half an hour. I'll answer questions to the limits of this order, and no further, as long as you can walk and talk and don't mind me getting lunch while we do. I haven't eaten in about seven hours and this is my first chance."
"That's fine, Doctor Lindsey." Rosenberg followed the doctor this floor's break room, which was thankfully free of other medical personnel. "How did it go, treating the patients that were brought in? Not just John Doe, but all of them. Anything unusual?"
"Not significantly, even for our John Doe. The majority of the patients needed basic treatment for scrapes and bruises and one or two burns. We treated them then sent them on their way." Rosenberg nodded; Starfleet security would be talking to each one of the restaurant's customers who were present during the anomoly, to be sure. "As for John Doe... one moment. Doctor Lindsey approached the replicator and said, "Sixteen ounces Green Mountain apple soda with water ice and a hot Cuban sandwich." A plate with the sandwich as well as the tall glass of a bubbly, brilliant-green liquid poured over ice cubes appeared in the replicator's cubicle.
"Here, let's sit down." She picked her lunch up and sat in the nearest chair. It was obvious to the commander that the doctor didn't care where she ate, as long as she ate. "Where was I?"
"You had just said, as for our John Doe." Rosenberg prompted.
"Right. Sorry. As for our John Doe, he's grievously injured, but there's nothing strange about his injuries."
"Can you go into detail?"
"What sort of details did you have in mind? she asked around a bite of the sandwich.
Rosenberg shrugged again. "Well, how about you give me the basic overview and I'll ask specific questions as they occur to me."
"All right." The doctor chewed for a bit, then swallowed. "He's a human male; according to his dental growth and bone stirations, he's between fifteen and eighteen years old. He was brought in with radiation burns over most of his body, bruising over most of what wasn't burned. Compound fractures in both his arms and both his legs, plus fractures in his skull. He lost several teeth from the impact as well, and six of his fingers were fractured as well."
Rosenberg just nodded, allowing the doctor to continue. She took another bite, chewed, swallowed, and said, "The fractures we sealed pretty quickly, and relieved the swelling on his brain from the impact trauma. We've managed to repair the damage done by the radiation to his eyes, but his hair is just going to have to grow in the old fashioned way. We replaced the broken and missing teeth with new buds, and Doctor Rambeau, our dental surgeon, went ahead and corrected a couple of caries he had in his back molars. Right now, he's in a protein bath, regrowing his skin."
"When do you think I'll be able to talk to him?"
"Maybe another three hours, perhaps four. And I want him to get at least some sleep today, so you can't be too long; he's going to need it."
"Right. Not a problem. Any matches for him in the database?" Rosenberg knew that the doctors would have run the kid's ident chip, and figured it would save him from doing it.
"No idea. He's not chipped." The doctor took the last bite of her sandwich, then drank down the entire glass of soda. "Or at least, he wasn't. We went ahead and chipped him. Also, his fingerprints and retinal print weren't on record, either."
"What do you mean? Everyone's chipped." Ident chips had been standard for all Federation citizens for the past forty years. Every citizen, shortly after birth, was implanted with a nearly microscopic data-chip containing a record of their unique DNA signature. It was used as basic identification, and assisted the individual in dealing with most standardized equipment like purchasing terminals, transportation, and even hospital records.
"Not our mystery man. No ident chip." The doctor shrugged. "Might be from one of the Out Colonies."
"I'd think even the Outies would chip their populace, but hey, maybe he's from a Luddite world." The Out Colonies were those worlds colonized by humans from Earth during the Great Diaspora, but that had absolutely no interest in being members of the Federation. The were mostly worlds populated by religious or political fanatics, or groups of cultural purists. The Out Colonies on the frontier tended to be rough-hewn, lightly populated, and slightly primitive. The ones that were in the heart of Federation Space, however, tended to be as settled and metropolitan as Terra Nova or Hansen's Planet. Personally, Commander Rosenberg couldn't figure out why anyone wouldn't want to be a part of the Federation, given all the advantages of being a citizen. But it was their choice, and he had to respect their freedom to choose to go it alone.
The doctor made an 'mmm' noise while taking a drink. "The Luddite idea is a possibility. Our scans showed that our mystery man is missing the markers for all of the standard package of childhood genetic treatments. We found antibodies for varicella and epidemic parotitis in this man's system, for crying out loud. Those diseases have been extinct on Earth for centuries, so the only way I can think of that he'd have antibodies without the genetic treatments is that he was exposed to them. And this is weird... he actually has old-style amalgam fillings in his teeth."
"Actually, doctor, I think… I think I might know about that." Rosenberg's imagination was combining the concept of a man with no modern medical treatments and no ident chip, with the fact that some of the particle traces they found at the event site were chroniton particles, particles that were almost invariably the product of time travel. "Is it possible that, uh, our mystery man could have slipped through some sort of temporal vortex?"
"A time traveler? From the past?" The doctor's face scrunched up into an expression the Commander had seen a thousand times. The 'wow, that's a neat idea, why didn't I think of it myself' expression. "If the patient was from the past, say, it would explain suddenly appearing out of nowhere, and would certainly explain the antibodies. It might also explain the history of abuse I think this young man suffered as a child."
"What?" Rosenberg couldn't contain his shock. "History of abuse?"
"Yes." Doctor Lindsey got very serious. "Our scans found plenty of evidence of prior bone fractures that were allowed to heal the old fashioned way. Until we repaired the most recent breaks, I'm fairly sure no one used a bone knitter on him in his life. Given the widespread nature of these breaks, I'm fairly sure we're looking at a man who was abused as a child."
Rosenberg winced. Between the constant health moniroting, as well as the easy access to psychological treatment for those with genetic or chemical imbalances that lead to behavioral problems, the pathologically violent behavior behind a physically abusive personality was incredibly rare. That wasn't to say that it never happened, just hardly ever. But "hardly ever happened" didn't mean 'never happened.' "So he'll probably need drug and psychotherapy to handle anger issues stemming from childhood trauma in addition to the fine medical care you're giving him, if he's going to fit in. That is, assuming he's a time traveler." He made some notes on his datapad. "All right. Thank you, doctor. I'll be checking in with you later. I'm going to file an initial report with my superiors. I can be reached at SSI Headquarters. Give me a call when our mystery man wakes up."
Being a Kryptonian, Kara wasn't as used to the physical sensations associated with regaining consciousness as some of her fellow superheroes, but she'd still gone through it enough times to realize that she'd spent time out like a light.
There was no fuzziness. One second she was out, the next she was awake and staring at the lights in the ceiling. Her entire body felt… numb. As if it were only her eyes and brain that had regained consciousness. Without moving her head too much (it hurt; her head hurt, and not in the "frustration headache" sense, but in the physical injury sense. And that happened so infrequently that she wondered what the hell was going on.
The last thing she remembered was being in that weird California town, surrounded by monsters and vampires. A British librarian – Jules? Goyle? – had asked Kara to assist in the elimination of some local supernatural threats – vampires, who knew? – while he searched for the source of a spell that was causing it all. Kara had flown around this town vaporizing every vampire she could find with her heat vision. That one factory alone had dozens of them; Kara had distinct memories of the mouthy blonde prick with his psycho girlfriend going up in a poof of smoke.
And then she was here, wherever here was.
Her first attempt to sit up was a loss. Not only were her muscles seemingly too week to handle the job, the attempt to move hurt, and badly. But it did bring a computer screen to her attention that looked like some high-tech hospital monitor screen. Though weirdly, she couldn't feel any monitors stuck to her anywhere.
Her x-ray vision wasn't working. For that matter, she couldn't shift her perception to any of the higher ranges, and her hearing was strictly limited to what was going on in this one room. And her sense of smell was gone. Just gone.
"Hello? Could someone – what the hell?" It had actually come out sounding like 'heyo, kuh summu waddaheh,' but that wasn't the important thing. The important thing was, that wasn't her voice. That was way too deep to be her voice.
A door sort of whooshed open, and a skinny blonde woman wearing a blue jumpsuit entered and approached. The woman checked the monitor, then opened up one of those fancy folding scanners they used on that show and waved it over her like it would do something.
What is going on?"
The woman finally looked at Kara, smiled, and said, "Hi there! I'm Doctor Joyce Lindsey, your attending physician. I know things are a bit scary right now, but don't worry. You're healing nicely. We had to put you in a protein gel bath to regrow your skin, but all your broken burns and the radiation exposure has been treated. You're probably feeling a bit incoherent, and I'm betting your about as weak as a kitten. Don't worry, it'll pass in a few minutes. It's just a side-effect of the protein gel treatment."
"Now, I have some questions for you about your medical background, but those can wait until you're coherent. Also, there's a Commander Rosenberg from Starfleet Security waiting to talk to you when you're ready for him." She wandered over to a section of wall that featured a small alcove about the size of a loaf of bread and pressed a white button.
Where the hell did that cup come from?
The woman, Doctor Lindsey, carried it over, popped a straw into the cup, and said, "Here, you're going to be thirsty. It's just water."
And again, all Kara could think of was What the hell is going on?
Kara coughed, trying to clear her throat. When she finally spoke, it came out of a croak. A croak that was far deeper than it should be. "Where… where am I?"
"You're in the Recovery Ward of the Clinique de Montchoisi, in Lausanne." The doctor's smile was welcoming, and had Kara not been completely mystified about where she was and how she got here, it would make her feel less frightened about what was going on
"Lausanne?" Kara ran the name through her memory. "Switzerland?"
"That's the one." The doctor smiled again.
"How... how'd I end up in Switzerland?" Kara strained to remember what had happened, but she was coming up empty.
"Oh, well..." The doctor paused. She seemed to be thinking things over in her head. "Well, you were badly injured in an accident, and we were the closest critical care facility to the Rock of Gibraltar."
Kara looked around. "This is a hospital?"
"That's right." Doctor Lindsey picked up a small plastic box from a side-table and unfolded it. "Now that you're awake, I need to ask you some questions. Just to get your basic information down. Okay?"
"Wait! How'd I get here? What's happened to me? Last thing I knew, I was in California, in the United States. Now I'm in Switzerland. I was injured? How'd that happen? And why are you dressed like you belong on the USS Enterprise?"
"Well" The doctor's smile dimmed a bit. "Last question first. This is a Starfleet hospital, so I'm in a Starfleet uniform. You've been on the Enterprise, then? Did you take one of the public tours?"
"What? No. I - I don't understand."
"It's okay. You suffered a concussive brain injury. Its natural for you to be confused. Now, as for how you got from California to Gibraltar, I don't have all the details. From what I've been told, you appeared out of thin air over a restaurant at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. You were moving pretty fast when you appeared, and sort of bounced all over the restaurant's patio. When you got here, you had multiple broken bones, radiation burns, several of your teeth had been knocked out, you were suffering some nerve damage, ruptured eardrums, a concussion." She smiled again. "In technical terms, you were a mess."
"God." Karen dropped her forehead into her hands. "What the… how'd… I don't know what happened. How did… I don't." She swallowed and looked back up at the doctor. "How long have I been here?" She knew that if she'd been hurt that badly, it could well be weeks.
Doctor Lindsey patted Kara on the shoulder. "It's okay. No reason to worry. It's been just over forty hours since you were brought in."
"But I don't understand! What happened? You can't be... Why am I male?"
That stopped the doctor in her tracks.
"What did you do to me? Why am I male?"
"You're not supposed to be male?" The doctor looked at the folded up machine again and pushed a couple of buttons.
"No. "I'm in the wrong body! This isn't me. I'm supposed to have curves and breasts and..." Kara waved vaguely toward her crotch. "You know! And now I'm a guy, all of a sudden. And I have a..." another vaguely directed wave. "A thing!"
"Ah! I see. Sorry, you weren't awake so I didn't know." The doctor's face carried duel expressions alternately: confusion and relief. "Tell you what, I can't help you with not knowing how you got to Gibraltar. But as for the other, I think we can help you."
Author's Note the First: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is owned by Mutant Enemy. Star Trek is owned by the CBS Corporation. All I own is the idea and the words.
Author's Note the Second: Yes, this is a slightly reworked version of the previously independent story, Straight on 'Til Morning. I decided it worked better as an interlude chapter.