“With all of existence at your disposal?”
“So many channels, and nothing on.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I meant that nothing interests me anymore. Not rearranging quantum states. Not bending time and space, not even playing pool with galaxies and black holes.”
"The Humans always amuse you. Go bother Picard."
"I did that already."
"And, really, there's only so many times I can put that cigar in his hands or make Troi's clothes fall off before it's just not funny anymore."
"I don't know what to tell you."
"What good are you then? You're supposed to be omnipotent."
"So are you. Why not visit Janeway?"
"She's mean to me."
"Which one? There's hundreds, thanks to his continual encounters with quantum streams. Besides, I think he'd enjoy it too much. Quite honestly, I think he'd make a decent Q."
"That's a horrifying thought. What about Archer?
"I like Archer."
"You've got to be kidding. Captain 'I saw a gazelle toddle away' Archer? I prefer Commander Archer. Twisted. Tortured. "
"Commander Archer wouldn’t stand a chance against Captain Archer. "
"Commander Archer didn’t stand a chance against Hoshi."
"Neither did Captain Archer with that blond number on Risa."
"Okay, so ... bad example."
"This conversation is doing nothing to relieve my apocalyptic case of the doldrums."
"I already suggested something. Captain versus Commander."
"Oh … Oh! How clever! Go on, on."
"A bet. Captain and Commander - and their respective command crews - tossed into a turbulent time in their species' history perhaps? The first one out, wins."
"You mean the first one out, lives. And I win. Because it'll be Commander Archer."
"Whatever. I get to pick the period in history."
"Oh no you don't. You'll pick something more suited to Captain Gazelle-gazer."
"Then we need a neutral third party to chose one for us."
"The Guardian of Forever? I suppose.”
“So you’ll ask it?”
"Why don't you ask it yourself? Oh, right. Silly question. It would probably vaporize you on sight. Fine, I'll ask. Be right back!"
"Be sure to ask it if ..."
"The Guardian has agreed."
"What took you so long? You were gone for nearly a millisecond!"
"Sorry. We got to talking and lost track of time.”
"It always did like you better."
"I wasn’t the one who rearranged all its portals to point to another dimension."
"I only did that once."
"It has a long memory."
"And no sense of humor."
"Anyway, It said yes, but on three conditions."
"Lame? Really, Q, you've been spending too much time with Humans in the 21st century."
"I like Beyoncé."
"Focus. First of all, it says that once it begins we can't interfere and that once it’s done, we return our playthings to their respective timelines with no memory of what happened."
"A bit prudish, but acceptable."
"Second, it’s agreed to pick the century they get sent to but it also gets to pick which universe the century is in. We can pick the timeline our chosen crew comes from. The Guardian will provide the exit. They just have to find it."
"I suggest you pick your crew from a time period before Sato offs Archer."
"You have a mean streak."
"I'm picking my contenders from the middle of that first kerfuffle Captain Archer was in. The Xindi thing. Before the engineer and the Vulcan went at each other.”
“That gives me an idea.”
“I’m afraid to ask. Oh! Before I forget – the third and final condition: it wants in on the bet."
"Not at all. It wants to bet on both of them - that they make it out together."
"Or make out together. Now that would be worth watching."
"I am serious!"
"I really don't know why I spend any of eternity with you. Is it a bet or not?"
"It's a bet. Now let's get started before I perish from sheer ennui."
"One last thing."
"It said that both Reeds have to make it out alive."
"It thinks he's cute."
"That's ... adorable. And slightly disturbing."
"Why don’t we make this interesting and place the wagers after they've survived their first day?"
"You just want to get out of having to give up anything when your horse croaks at the starting gate."
"I can see why no one ever wants to play with you. Are you ready?"
Captain Jonathan Archer stumbled forward and fell onto his hands and knees into … snow?? He lifted a handful of the fluffy white ice crystals, then looked up and took in his surroundings in shock. Just moments before he had been standing on the bridge of Enterprise, tired and in need of a shower, freshly back from negotiating with V'radian traders on a space station. Now he stared through a blizzard at a dim, snow-covered forest, grey skies relentlessly emptying more flakes onto a landscape that was unnervingly silent.
The sound of Lieutenant’s Reed’s voice against that wall of silence was enough to make Archer startle, but it also had the effect of bringing him back to his senses. He struggled to his feet and peered through near white-out conditions to call out, “Malcolm?”
“Over here, sir,” came the muffled reply. Archer fought his way through the snow, legs sinking at least a foot with each step, towards the sound until he found his tactical officer only a few feet away, clutching the branch of a tree. Ensigns Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather were with him and all three were shivering in the cold.
Travis gave Archer a bewildered look. “Sir? What … what just happened?”
Archer just shook his head; the bitter cold was starting to make his teeth chatter. First things first. Head count. Reed, Sato, Mayweather? That’s all of the bridge crew except T’Pol. Where’s T’Pol? He thought he saw something dark nearby, so he pushed himself away from the tree, barely registering Malcolm’s immediate protest. But before he could go much further, he tripped over – he glanced up from where he’d landed in the snow – well, Trip. And T’Pol.
Commander Tucker looked as cold and confused as everyone else but T’Pol looked positively frozen, despite the fact that the engineer was practically wrapped around her. “Cap’n?” Trip managed to chatter. “What the hell?”
Hell would be a damn sight warmer than this. “I don’t know,” Archer replied as he struggled into sitting position and yanked off his flight jacket to tuck it around T’Pol’s shoulders. “The last time this kind of thing happened to me, it was Daniels who transported me from Enterprise to the future,” Archer added, rapidly thinking aloud. Was Daniels responsible for this? And if so, where the hell was he?
Trip nodded. Or was he just shaking with the cold? “I was in engineering just a second ago.”
“And I was at my station on the bridge,” Malcolm added as he and Ensigns Sato and Mayweather came out of seemingly nowhere to drop into the snow beside the other officers.
“And I was in sickbay,” came the distinctive baritone of Doctor Phlox. Dammit, had the entire crew of his ship been suddenly transported to a frozen moon? “But I’ve detected only two other Humans besides yourselves,” the Denobulan continued briskly as he joined the huddled group, bioscanner in hand.
That means just two more crewmen, Archer thought with relief. He stood up and tried to peer into the whiteout. For a moment there was a lull in the swirl of snow and he thought he could see the outline of two people, a few yards away. He raised his arm to wave them over and, too late, saw the crossbow in the hands of one of them.
A searing pain shot through his arm and shoulder. Archer staggered and, for the second time in less than fifteen minutes, stared in shock at an unexpected sight – an arrow embedded in his right shoulder.
“Captain!” He wasn’t sure whom it was that shouted as he once again fell to his knees but as the snowstorm suddenly dwindled he could see the two figures approaching and they clearly were not Enterprise personnel. He tried to reply, but the combination of bitter cold and searing pain just made him gag. Just as Mother Nature was beginning to lift her white veil, his own vision began to blur. He felt hands gently guiding him down to the snow, Malcolm and Travis’s he thought, and he could just make out Ensign Sato’s voice frantically rattling off a dozen languages before one of the figures responded.
“Mon Dieu! Français. Je parle français.”
He blacked out before he could hear Hoshi’s response.
Commander Jonathan Archer stumbled backwards against a wrought iron gate, just in time to avoid being run over by … a horse and carriage?? He grabbed at the iron bars and took in his surroundings in shock. Just moments before he had been standing on the bridge of Enterprise, tired and in need of a shower, freshly back from imposing terms on a group of V'radian pirates. Now he stared at a busy, dirty and crowded cityscape. Even the evidence of a heavy snowfall that was just beginning to abate could not disguise the grime, or the smell.
Archer could barely hear the sound of Major Malcolm Reed’s voice over the wind howling past the medieval looking buildings. He glared back at a few bundled up passerby who’d stopped and stared at him, then struggled to stand upright again, letting go of the ornate gate. The beings exchanged terrified glances and scurried farther away in the snow.
“Right here, Major,” Captain Maximilian Forrest snapped back, sounding just as unsettled as Archer felt. Reed stood to their left, hidden in the shadows of a wooden beam of an ancient building. Sergeant Mayweather and Lieutenant Sato were close by. Across the street, slightly separated from the group were an obviously confused Commander Tucker and the Vulcan, Lieutenant Commander T’Pol.
“What the hell’s goin’ on here?” Tucker was glaring at passerby too, but T’Pol was attempting to shield her face behind the engineer and had pulled her long hair over her ears. It was then that Archer realized that the gathering crowd was not aliens, but Terrans!
“Sir. You need to see this,” Reed hissed, jerking his head towards a piece of what appeared to be parchment nailed to the exposed wood beam. Captain Forrest paused only for a moment to frown at the sight of a crowd starting to gather around his crewmen across the street before marching over to examine what it was that had caught the attention of the MACO. Archer hurried after him, eager to put additional distance between himself and the crowd slowly gathering steam around the Vulcan and Commander Tucker.
Reed smirked humorlessly and simply pointed to the tattered scrap fluttering in the winter breeze. The language looked French. Archer couldn’t read it, but he could make out numbers, “15, 01, 1789”.
January 15th, 1789?
“It says something about taxes and a promise of arrests, unless paid,” Sato said. Archer started to ask the obvious, how had they come to be here, what was going on, when he heard shouting from across the street.
A small mob had decided they’d had enough of just staring at the oddly dressed pair and closed ranks around Tucker and T’Pol. From the sounds of it, their uniforms – especially T’Pol’s midriff-baring one – and Tucker’s scars had been enough to first arouse interest, then suspicion and now fear as the Vulcan’s ears had been exposed.
Captain Forrest grabbed for his side arm and made a frustrated face. Only then did Archer realize that, he too, was without a weapon. Even Reed and Mayweather were without phase pistols, or knives.
Before Archer could say a word, Captain Forrest grabbed Sato’s arm and quietly snuck into the darkness of a nearby alley, out of sight of the crowd. Mayweather followed, walking backwards, eyes locked on the boisterous mob across the street until he disappeared into the darkness.
Archer glanced once more across the street, Tucker and T’Pol were no longer visible, then turned to follow his Captain. He stopped mid-turn and despite the obviously dire situation, could not help but stop and stare straight ahead. Looming over the buildings across was something straight out of history – the stone towers of the Bastille.
January 15th, 1789. Had they somehow been thrown back in time? If so …
Archer slipped quietly into the alleyway, his mind reeling. Just a few months before the assault on the Bastille. Archer looked back towards the dim light at the end of the alley to catch one last glimpse of the famous structure, then shuddered and turned back to catch up with his Captain.
It wasn’t the sight or the numerous legends of the prison that had made his spine crawl and his skin shiver. It wasn’t even the cold. Major Reed was right behind him and he’d seen the man’s face as the MACO looked up at the Bastille.
He swore he saw the Major’s eyes glitter.
"See there? Captain Archer is already down and Commander Archer got away."
"What? They can't hear me."
"Yes, but I can."
"Oh! Oh! You wound me!"