Disclaimer: Characters and events don't belong to me, they're borrowed from BE without permission but no harm, no foul, no money made. The exceptions to this are Gina and Ben and assorted minor characters. Gina is mine, Ben belongs to Ekat and the assorted characters belong to themselves -- and many thank yous to you for allowing me to borrow you.
Canon Junkies please note: Because of the way the Identiverse has ended up there are considerable differences between this story and the two episodes 'Reinforcements From The Future I and II'. If I've changed something, it's almost certainly to get it to fit into the universe or to write out a plot hole or to be consistent.
Muchos gracias to Vanessa and Ree for beta'ing this for me. Also thanks to Chris for again spotting my deliberate mistake (!!) and offering me feedback. Lastly -- but by no means leastly -- many, many, MANY thanks to Gamine for being a truly wonderful human being. This story is for you.
Please offer feedback -- it tells me how I'm doing.
Eric slowly made his way along the hallway, crutches clacking as he went.
"Sir, what are you doing here?" Gina enquired, spotting him.
"Walking along the hallway towards my office?" Eric suggested. "Avoiding total boredom? Looking for a mislaid CD?"
"Going against medical advice," said Gina dryly.
Eric managed a careful shrug. "That too," he admitted. Gina just rolled her eyes. "Gina, I do not do 'sitting down doing nothing'. Where's the harm in me doing a little light paper work?"
She just looked at him. "I'm pleading the fifth."
Eric sighed. "Look; I'm just in for an hour. Kim will be here then, she will collect me. What can I possibly do to myself in that time?"
"I'm pleading the fifth."
"You're as bad as Kim," Eric muttered.
Gina offered him a smile. "Is it really so hard to just sit back and let other people take care of you?"
Eric smiled ruefully. "I'm pleading the fifth."
Gina just shook her head. "Heaven help us, I suppose you're a responsible adult. I believe you're even old enough to vote, so I suppose you know what you're doing."
Eric winced. "I'm not that bad."
Gina smiled and headed away, calling over her shoulder, "I'm pleading the fifth."
"I'm not that bad," Eric muttered, heading into his office. Then he reviewed the last year. "And I guess if I say that enough times I might start to believe it."
From his desk drawer he took out the holo-screen. This was the reason he was in -- and the only reason Kimberly had let him out of her sight. He needed to contact someone in the future. While Alex had been careful not to specify a direct time for Wes and Jen's return -- saying that time travel wasn't a completely exact science -- he had made it clear they would be back in three weeks.
It was now four weeks. There was still no sign of them.
No sooner had he set up the holo-screen than it flared into life.
"Where the hell have you been???" Lucas exclaimed. "I've been trying to get hold of you for hours."
Eric blinked. "I thought you could dial up any point in time you like."
"I can," Lucas retorted pointedly, "but it's time consuming and I've been through about eight days of your time period trying to get hold of you. Where've you been?"
"I've been off work," Eric admitted. "It's a long story," he added, stalling Lucas' next question.
Lucas looked faintly amused. "I figured it had to be."
Eric wasn't entirely sure how to take that. "So you've been trying to get hold of me?"
"Yes. To tell you that something's come up here -- Wes and Jen aren't going to be back on schedule."
"Oh." There didn't seem to be a lot else Eric could say. Instead he asked, "So how long do I need to cover for Wes and Jen now?"
Somewhat to his alarm, Lucas shrugged a little. "We're not sure. Hopefully just another couple of days."
"What's going on?"
"It's a long story," Lucas answered wryly.
Eric just looked at Lucas for a few moments. "Do I need to start preparing for chaos here?"
"No -- no, it's all under control."
Eric snorted softly. "Something tells me that's what you people thought about Ransik and Biocon, too."
Lucas had the grace to look sheepish. "Good point." He sighed. "Well -- I have to get going. Unlike some people, I don't have time off to burn."
Eric snorted again. "I have my right leg in plaster. Believe me, I have not been off work by personal choice."
Lucas' eyes widened. "What?!"
Eric just shook his head. "It really is a long story and..." He glanced at his watch. "I'm going to be toast if I'm not outta here in the next five minutes!"
"Too late," said a voice from the doorway of the office, drawing Eric's attention away from the holo-screen. "You're already toast."
Lucas' jaw hinged open. "Is that Kim?" he squeaked.
Eric nodded. "It is -- and as she's supposed to be taking me to Silverhills Hospital so that I can get rid of this flaming plaster..."
"You," Kimberly finished, coming into the office properly, "had better get moving. Hi Lucas," she added.
"Um...hi." Lucas looked a little stunned.
Eric wasn't sure he could blame the other man. Kimberly in full vent was quite something -- particularly if you happened to be in her sights, which, Eric realised uncomfortably, he was.
"C'mon you," Kimberly continued. "Unless you've been lying to me for the last three some odd weeks and you secretly enjoy..."
"I certainly don't." Eric snorted at the suggestion. "Any chance of me finishing my conversation with Lucas first?"
Kimberly grinned. "Make it quick."
"You're...um..." Lucas began.
"Part of that long story I mentioned," Eric replied. "What do you want me to do?"
Lucas blinked a few times and shook his head. "Um?"
"About Wes and Jen," Eric replied. "Do you want me to get in touch with you again?"
"Um...no..." Lucas shook his head, presumably to clear his thoughts. "No -- they won't be much longer than three days more."
"OK. Thanks Lucas."
Eric closed the connection and dismantled the holo-screen once more.
"Well?" Kimberly asked.
"Not well at all," Eric replied smiling wryly. "And just as well I'm getting out of plaster today."
"What do you mean?"
Eric struggled back up onto his crutches. "I get the feeling that hell is about to break loose." He headed towards the office door. "Again."
Katie looked up from the sheaf of notes that she'd offered to collate in time to see Lucas shaking his head.
"What?" she asked. Lucas opened his mouth to say something, then closed his mouth and shook his head again. "Lucas, what?"
Katie rolled her eyes heavenwards. "Lucas, you are such a guy."
"What?" Lucas looked bemused.
"Oblivious to what's right in front of you."
"But..." Katie just shook her head. "But they..."
"Lucas, you remember what Wes and Jen were like?" Lucas nodded slowly. "And you didn't think the way Eric and Kim were acting when we were there was at all familiar?" Lucas shook his head. "Men!" It was her turn to shake her head. "Never mind their love life, did you get to tell Eric the 'good' news?"
Lucas nodded again. "Yeah."
"Good." Katie pointed towards the door. "You have work to do, remember?"
He looked in askance at her. "When did you get so bossy?"
"When I signed up for Civ-ad," Katie answered. "It goes with the territory." He snorted. "Go on -- Dr Bennett might have something for us."
Lucas shook his head and left the office, still muttering about Eric and Kimberly. Katie chuckled softly and turned her attention back to the notes. There had to be something in them somewhere that would help the present situation...
Katie found herself smiling softly at the voice. Looking up, there was Alex standing in the office doorway, an amused light in his eyes.
"Only Lucas," she replied. Alex lifted his eyebrows. "He's just spoken to Eric."
"And that's amusing?" Alex queried.
"Well, Lucas' reaction to Eric and Kimberly being together was."
"They're together?" Alex blinked. "I can't believe I missed that!"
Katie groaned. "And I can't believe you're that oblivious, Alex. Lucas, yes -- you..."
"No...no..." Alex shook his head. "Not oblivious -- thank you. I knew they were together. Just stunned that it didn't occur to me sooner."
It was Katie's turn to lift an eyebrow. "I'll bite."
"The thing that Biocon had prevented." Alex shook his head ruefully. "Although it's not like I could have exactly done anything about it."
"And in some parallel universe that probably made sense," Katie retorted.
Alex had the grace to look sheepish. "Sorry. Basically, when I went to get Wes and Jen for the trial I had a second mission brief: To persuade Eric to stay on in Silverhills rather than walk away, because if he walked away... Look, it's a long, complicated explanation and it involves temporal stuff that I only half understand at the best of times!"
Katie chuckled. "OK -- I'll let you off. For now." Alex smiled. "Do you have news from Director Hawking?"
Katie felt her insides freeze as Alex's smile faded. "Yes and no."
Ben paced nervously, wondering if he'd done the right thing.
He had been covering for Eric while he convalesced from the injuries incurred as bel Abis' captive, and that meant dealing with in coming calls from clients. Unfortunately, that number included dealing with the extremely irritating chief of Silverhills Police Department, Graham Mackenzie.
Mackenzie could -- and regularly did -- reduce Eric to apoplexy with his attitude towards the Silver Guardians. It had been his predecessor in the job who had set up the arrangement with Biolab and the Silver Guardians, and Mackenzie hated it. As far as Mackenzie was concerned, the Guardians were nothing short of criminals themselves, and being forced to work with them was galling.
Ben smirked faintly. Mackenzie did everything he could to avoid having to call in the Guardians on matters, but every now and then a situation arose that he needed their help with. The chrono-sabre gangs at the start of the year had been one such, and this could well prove to be another.
The Mayor had announced a major crackdown on speeding.
And Mackenzie didn't have anywhere near the numbers of cops in traffic to conduct that sort of exercise.
So he had been forced to phone the Silver Guardians and ask for help. Ben almost wished Eric had been around to take the call, just from the perspective of hearing Mackenzie grovel.
The plan Ben had agreed to was simple. Ten Guardians would pair up with ten traffic officers, doubling the number of traffic patrols available, for the duration of the operation. Knowing that none of the other Guardians selected for this particularly onerous duty would be happy, Ben made sure people knew his name had been the first one down for it.
The ploy had worked -- more or less. There were still plenty of grumbles but... That had been Friday. It was now Monday, and the start of the crackdown which meant that Ben now found himself standing outside of the Ninth Street precinct waiting for his partner for the day.
"Hi -- Ben Johnson, right?" asked a voice, pulling Ben out of his thoughts.
Looking round, he spotted the waiting traffic cop. "Certainly am," he answered.
The cop grinned. "Patrol officer Stevens -- I'm taking you out today."
"Nice to meet you."
Katie met Alex's gaze. "What do you mean 'yes and no'?"
He sighed. "We still don't know precisely where they are, but we think we know where they're going."
"Well -- that's good, isn't it?" Katie replied, trying to ignore the feeling of impending doom Alex's words were inspiring. "I mean, if we know where they're going to end up..."
"It's the year 2002," Alex interrupted. "They're going for the same target Biocon was."
Katie felt her stomach tightening. "Which was?"
Alex sat down, grimacing. "There's a moth-balled power plant near San Francisco."
"What're they after?" Katie repeated, wishing there were someway she could comfort Alex and at the same time, knowing there wasn't.
"I think...Hawking thinks that they're after that power plant. And if that's what they want, their goal is...total annihilation of the whole west coast of America..."
"And the destruction of this time," Katie finished.
"...Mackenzie's face turned purple -- I thought he was going to explode!" Stevens finished the anecdote hooting with laughter.
Laughter that Ben matched. "Oh, man!" he gasped. "I'm glad it's not just us he treats like that!"
Stevens snorted. "Nope -- he's as bad with us as he is with... Geez Louise where's the fire, lady!"
Almost before Ben could blink he found Stevens had accelerated the patrol car they were sitting in from nought to something definitely above the speed limit, switched on the siren and set them in pursuit of the mustard yellow Mustang.
"OK, Ben," Stevens continued, attention rooted to the road and the car they were following, "welcome to traffic patrol. She's doing sixty in a thirty zone, she's talking on a cell phone..."
"And she doesn't look like she wants to stop," Ben observed.
"She hasn't seen me yet," Stevens replied, more in sorrow than anger. "Let's see how long this goes on..."
"She's gotta have seen you!" Ben objected.
Steven smiled wryly. "Nope -- you'd be surprised how long it takes sometimes."
Ben was. It took six miles of pursuit before the driver they were trailing came to a stop.
"What we'll do," Stevens said as he pulled to a halt a yard or so back from the now stopped Mustang, "is we'll both go out and have a chat with her and you can make out your first ticket."
"Sounds good to me," Ben agreed.
Collecting the ticket pad from the glove compartment, Ben followed Stevens up to the Mustang. The occupant of the car was, to Ben's mind, a rather pretty blonde in her mid-twenties.
"Ma'am," Stevens began, "do you have any idea how fast you were going?"
"I'm sorry officer, I..."
"Further more," Stevens continued, not allowing her to get an excuse out, "you were using your cell phone and you failed to stop." She opened her mouth to say something, then thought better of it. "License, please."
Mutely, she handed the document over and Stevens passed it to Ben. Ms Taylor Earhardt, according to the license, was twenty-five and hailed from Colorado. Which did rather beg the question of what the heck she was doing speeding through Silverhills' suburbs, but he wasn't about to ask. It wasn't any of his business.
Ben finished writing the ticket, handed it to Stevens, along with the license, who then handed both to Taylor.
"Have a nice day, ma'am," Stevens concluded. "Drive safely, now."
Taylor grumbled under her breath as she carefully pulled away from the scene. That just crowned her day. Sent on a fruitless chase through Silverhills looking for orgs that seemed to be there then not, about the only consolation was the car she'd hired...and now that had gotten her into trouble.
"Some days, you just can't win."
Kimberly couldn't help but smile as Eric finally came out of the doctor's room, sans plaster cast and crutches, although he was leaning rather heavily on a walking stick.
"Well?" she asked.
"Very well," he answered, offering a grin himself. "I'm still signed off from active duty -- and will be for another month -- but at least I can start doing the desk job again. Make me feel useful."
Kimberly chuckled and shook her head. "Most people would have been delighted to be signed off work for four weeks." Eric just favoured her with a look that said 'I don't do sitting around'. "I know, I know. So what about therapy?"
"Case file's being passed to the med staff at SGHQ," Eric replied. "Which suits me."
"More convenient, certainly," Kimberly agreed.
"The down side," Eric continued, grimacing, "is that I'm still at least a week from being cleared to drive again."
"Oh?" Kimberly blinked. "How come?"
"The muscles in my right leg are screwed up from four weeks of no use. It'll take a little time for them to sort themselves out." He sighed. "Sorry."
Kimberly shook her head again. "Sorry for what? It's not like this is your fault. C'mon -- let's get out of here."
Slowly Kimberly and Eric headed out of the hospital foyer.
"So, where now?" she asked.
"Well, I guess we ought to tell Gina I'm not now going AMA. Then...you know what I really, really fancy?" Eric asked.
Kimberly unlocked the SUV passenger door. "No, what?"
"A bath," he replied, carefully climbing in. Kimberly laughed as she got into the driver's seat. "I'm serious," Eric insisted. "You never realise how much you enjoy something like that until you can't do it."
Pulling away from the parking lot, Kimberly considered his words. "I guess you've got a point. So SGHQ and then home?"
"Sounds good." Eric sighed. "Thank you."
She smiled. "It's what I'm here for."
Eric might or might not have had a response to that statement, Kimberly never found out as his cell phone started to ring. She frowned. The only people likely to be calling him on the device were people connected with the Silver Guardians and they wouldn't be doing it currently because it was known Eric was signed off from physical activity. She felt a lead ball start to form in her stomach. Unless it was something serious.
"Myers," Eric answered. Kimberly held her breath. "Gina, what is it?" Kimberly groaned softly. It was something serious. "Mmhm. Get hold of Ben." There was another pause. Eric's next words were in a much more concerned tone. "They're sure about that?" Another pause. "OK Gina. I'll be with you in five." Another pause. "No, I don't know what I'm going to do yet." Eric sighed. "But 'something silly' is looking likely right now."
"Not if I can help it," Kimberly muttered to herself as Eric finished the call. "What's happened?"
There was a long, long moment as Eric clearly debated what to say. "There's been a mutant attack." He sighed. "It was over in seconds after the Guardians got there."
Kimberly turned into the SGHQ parking lot and parked. "What happened?"
"Eight wounded, three serious, one critical. And the end came not because the Guardians dealt with the threat but because the threat teleported -- or something -- out." Eric groaned. "And from the prelim reports, the Guardians couldn't touch them."
Ben put his cell phone away.
"Problems?" Stevens asked.
"Yeah. All Guardians have been recalled to 'guardian duty'." Ben grimaced. "We have mutants back in the city."
Stevens swore. "Where do you need me to take you?"
Almost as if to give Ben's answer for him, one of the CGD SUVs pulled up along side Stevens' patrol car. "My ride's here."
Stevens nodded. "Good luck!"
Ben offered Stevens a smile. "Thanks."
Kimberly followed Eric into the building. She knew, almost as clearly as if he'd told her, what he was planning.
"I've contacted Ben," Gina announced without preamble. "He's been picked up by Miller and Deslaurier."
"What was he doing to be out of the building anyway?" Eric asked.
Gina just shook her head. "Long story. It involves Chief Mackenzie."
"I don't want to know," Eric said hastily.
Kimberly smiled briefly. She'd gotten to hear Eric's unvarnished opinion of the present chief of Silverhills' police department. So had Gina, from the expression on the other woman's face.
"OK, so Ben is out on patrol..." Eric sighed. "Everyone else is on general alert?" Gina nodded. "OK."
"You're not going to do something stupid?" Gina asked.
"Not if I can do anything about it," Kimberly answered.
"And we have exactly what other options?" Eric retorted. "From the prelim reports..."
"Guardian blasters had no effect," Gina confirmed. "Schwartz was commander of the patrol that attended. She's confirmed that everyone went in with fully charged blasters and Zaskin's confirmed the blasters are all but spent now."
Kimberly watched as Eric's shoulders sagged. "I don't have a choice."
"Yes you do," Gina retorted. "Give the morpher to someone else."
Gina made it sound so simple but Kimberly knew from her own experiences that it was anything but.
"It's not that easy, Gina." Eric started for his office. "I wish it was."
"He can't do this!" Gina exclaimed. "I mean...he just can't!"
Kimberly smiled grimly. "It's going to happen over my dead body," she promised.
Before Gina could answer, Kimberly headed after Eric, a plan already forming in her mind.
"Eric," she began, following him into the office, "you can't do this."
"And again, I say, what the hell other choice do I have?" Eric retorted. "We have mutants in the city, who the rest of the Guardians can't hurt with their blasters..."
"Yes," said Kimberly, cutting him off, "the Quantum Ranger is needed. It doesn't have to be you."
Eric groaned. "You know it's not that simple."
"I do," Kimberly agreed, gently. "You need to find someone who you trust and who you know can do it."
"The only Guardian I'd trust like that -- who isn't already a ranger -- is Ben and he's far too good a commander. He needs to be there, on the ground, running the show."
Kimberly nodded -- she'd more or less guessed that would be Eric's response. "What about me?"
"You've got to be kidding!" Kimberly debated whether to be insulted by Eric's comment. "I know you were a ranger but..."
"But nothing," she cut in. "It's not something you forget how to do. I can do this."
"That's not what I'm talking about," Eric retorted. "What about Alice? What happens to her if something happens to you?"
"And what happens to her if those mutants trash this city?" Kimberly shot back. "You've said yourself we need the Quantum Ranger -- and you've more or less admitted you're in no shape to do it. I can do this."
There was a long, long silence. Kimberly stood, arms folded across her chest, watching as Eric wrestled with the idea and with his own fears.
"It's not that I don't trust you with this," he finally said softly. "You're just about the only person I would trust... I don't like the idea of putting you in danger."
"But you're not putting me in danger," Kimberly reminded him just as softly. "I'm offering to do this."
Without saying anything, Eric limped across the office.
"Eric?" Kimberly asked, puzzled.
"You're right." He struggled down into a crouch beside the safe. "I don't like it and I will probably be pissed if you get hurt...but you're right." It clearly took a little doing, to judge from the barely audible cursing, but Eric opened the safe and produced the Quantum Morpher from its place in secure storage. He got back to his feet and limped back towards Kimberly. "Voice identification deactivate."
The morpher bleeped and said, "Voice identification deactivated."
He held the device out to Kimberly. "It's yours."
She accepted the morpher and strapped it to her left wrist feeling both nervous and oddly excited. "Is there anything I should know?" she wondered.
Eric sighed. "It's all pretty much instinctive."
"It'll be OK," she promised. "I..."
But cutting her off, the general alert sounded throughout the building. Expression unreadable, Eric nodded. "You'd better go."
Kimberly took a step towards the door, then stopped. She turned back to Eric and kissed him. "I promise I'll come back OK."
Eric managed a weak smile, although he looked more anxious than she'd ever seen him. "You'd probably better morph here and then join the Guardians at the attack site."
Kimberly nodded. There was good sense in that idea - the other Guardians would know, probably instantly, that she wasn't Eric, but there was no sense in advertising the change to the public. And if you're honest, Kimberly realised, you'd rather morph here in case something goes wrong.
Nervously, she lifted her wrist.
TO BE CONTINUED...